Chapter 27

The Swim of Things | By: | Genre: Humor, Romance | Rating: M | Series: Evangelion | Status: In Progress | Tags: Alternate Universe, Post-Series, Post-TI, WAFF | Summary:

This is a classic Rom/Com staring the Evangelion cast. It has just about everything you would expect, and probably read before, but is my latest personal take on the genre. Hope you enjoy it.

The Tokyo 4's high school girl's swim team's end of the season pool party was a bigger bash than usual this year as they had much to celebrate. For the first time in the young school's history the team went undefeated throughout the season. A very fine accomplishment that everyone celebrated in grand style. Even the coach was extra joyous as not only was this her first undefeated season as this school's head coach but the first one in her entire history of coaching. But all that frivolity was over with now as Asuka was standing with her teammates, supporting a serious expression and intense attitude. This had everything to do with it being the start of November and tournament time.

“All Right Girls!” Asuka said in a big voice as she called all the girls on the team together in a circle. “We may have kicked a lot of ass and won our division hands down this year but now we're up against some real teams as this is the sectionals. I don't need to remind you that last year this is where we got bounced as a team. But like hell am I going to let that happen again as we're a much better team this year!” She let the obligatory cheers of agreement roar out from her teammates before she moved on with her speech. “By the end of this day I want our school's name to be at the top of that standing's board…” Asuka pointed over to a big board that had all the names of the schools competing in this sectional tournament that was created to display the current place each of the teams were in at any point during the meet. “… Are You Girls With Me?!”

There was a loud and determined shout of “YEAH!” back at Asuka from her teammates. All the girls then put their hands into the center of the circle they formed and shouted a school cry of “GO EAGLES!”

Asuka's pep talk was echoed by the five other teams at the tournament in some way or form as every one of them there had each won their divisions and earned the right to be here. That meant winning this meet wasn't going to be a cake walk for the girls. Coach Kumara had of course scouted out the other teams and she knew which ones they had to look out for. Four of them were just like her squad, normal teams that had won their division this year. Her team stacked up very well against those schools so she wasn't too worried about them. One of them though was the perennial powerhouse that had won this section ever since its inception after third impact. This was also the team that bounced them last year. It was a private school that recruited its girls from the surrounding area and the main team they had to watch out for.

And not only was it one of those schools that loaded themselves up with talent at the expense of the other schools it was also one that brought Asuka back in touch with of one of her old squad members, Mana Kirishima.

The girl had specifically chosen this school for three reasons. One, because it was elitist and full of rich girls like her. Two, your grades mattered very little at this school. What mattered the most was your parent's bank account. And three, because she wanted to crush her old teammates. They had the gall to kick her off the lead relay team for something she still didn't think was her fault. This was her chance for revenge. And as she so discretely walked by the Tokyo-4 high school squad she said out loud to her teammates. “Why do we even have to be here? We already know we're better than these loser schools. We should like just get a bye or something to the regionals. It's not like any of them are good enough to compete against us.”

That was followed by some pretentious and haughty “I know”s as all her teammates agreed with her. One of the girls even took it a step further as she added on “My daddy already booked me a suite at the Carlton for the regional meets. We should have a party or something.”

All this was of course said rather loudly so the other teams in the swimming area could over hear it. The only thing better than knowing you were better off than the common rabble was to be able to gloat about it in front of them and there not being a thing they can do about it. Or at least that was their way of thinking as everything they said was to demoralize the other teens there.

Those words did not go unnoticed by Asuka. And she knew most of them were directed right at her team. She also knew she couldn't let it go without a rebuttal or her squad would think she had no faith in them. “Sorry girls but this year that's just not true” Asuka smirked instead of scowled. Despite what Mana thought Asuka had figured her out pretty well. Mana wanted Asuka to get all angry and loudmouthed because that would mean she was getting to the red head.

And that is exactly why Asuka said the rest of this in a cordial and friendly way. “Despite what you think I have been paying attention and studying up on your team as you're our biggest competitor this round. And I'm sorry to say that our little Yuma has times none of your girls are even close to in any of the 50 or 100 meter sprints…” Yuma of course started blushing at this flattery, but that didn't stop Asuka any. “…And I have better times than any of you in the 200's. The same goes for our team's freestyle relay squad. We don't even have to do our best and we will still win the 100 and 200 meter events. Plus you have to factor in that Hikari is going to win at least one, if not two, of the butterfly races like she did last year and your place on top starts to look really shaky. Now I could go on as I haven't even got to what Rei or the other girls can do but I'm sorry, I just don't have the time.” And right after that she turned her back to the group of girls she was talking to and looked at Hikari. “Could you give me a hand with my hair? It is such a pain to put it up so it fits under my swimming cap.”

Hikari caught onto what Asuka was doing and went right along with her friend. “You know, you wouldn't have this problem if you cut your hair shorter for the season.”

“But it looks so good on me” Asuka said back in a rather girly way. “Plus Shin-kun absolutely loves long hair.” The most devastating thing about that statement was that Mana had short hair.

“You know, I was thinking about growing my hair out too” one of the other girls on the team said as she knew what was going on as well. “Do you use any sort of special shampoo?”

After that the whole team went into talking about their hair and what kind of products they used as they got ready for the meet. Totally ignoring the dumbfounded girls staring at them with complete contempt as they couldn't believe Asuka just said all that and then dared to ignore them right after wards like they didn't matter or something.

A little ways away coach Kumara was standing with Shinji by her side. “Sometimes I forget how devastatingly mean your girlfriend can be.”

“They had it coming” Shinji answered plainly as he finished writing down a strategy his coach had thought up for this meet so he could go over and tell the girls it.

“You know I wasn't looking for you to condone her actions” Kumara said shaking her head.

Shinji's reply to her was a simple shrug of the shoulders and then he left to go tell the girls what he had written down.

Coach Kumara then looked over at her other manager. “You hang out with those two outside of school, right?”

Tamiko answered “Sometimes. Every once in a while she drags him along when Yuma, Kohama, and I go shopping with her.”

“Is he always like that when he's with her?” The coach was referring to Shinji's odd characteristic of never finding fault in his girlfriend's actions.

Tamiko had to think about that for a second before saying “Yes.”

But in truth the answer wasn't as simple as that to Shinji. It wasn't like Asuka could do no wrong in his mind, it was just that both she and he did things so horrendously wrong in the past that as long as the mistakes or miscues they did now didn't get close to those levels they didn't really matter. It was all a matter of perspective to him.

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The tournament had just started and up in the stands sat some nervous guardians who were more like real parents than their court approved title said. They had several reasons to be nervous for too. The first was they really hoped their kids did well down there in the pool area. Asuka and Rei had worked very hard and gave it their all to get where they were today and they didn't want to see them fail. No parent ever does really. Even though Asuka had grown up a lot since this event last year they both knew she would take losing very hard right now and return to her previous way of blaming this all on herself. And even Rei was no longer a guarantee not to be affected by loosing. She had grown into a girl that was much more affected by events she shared in with others now. Especially lately as the both of them noticed Rei was becoming a touch softer emotionally. It was easy to tell why considering the secret emotional involvement she had with a boy sitting near them.

The second reason Misato and Kaji were nervous had to do with the little girl sitting on her daddy's lap right now. The sectionals weren't taking place at the high school Keiko was used to visiting with her mom but at an aquatic center that was bigger in size and held more people. Keiko had done well with crowds before but that was at an outdoor baseball diamond. This was indoors and the amount of people there was greater due to this being a gathering of six schools and not just two like the baseball games.

“Do you want mommy to get you any snacks?” Misato asked her little one as the girl was already clinging tighter to her daddy than normal and developing an unsure about her surroundings look. She wanted to keep her young one happy as this wasn't exactly an event she could get up and leave from if the girl had a tantrum.

“Daddy” Keiko answered quivering as she held on to him tighter. All these strange people were starting to scare her.

“Okay” Misato said softly. “Why don't you hold onto your daddy for a while and I will get you some ice cream later.” Not even the promise of ice cream erased the scared little sniffle Keiko responded to her mommy with. Thinking fast Misato reached into the bag she brought with her and pulled out Keiko's favorite stuffed animal that she had stashed in there for a situation like this. Luckily this tactic worked as Keiko quickly grabbed the teddy bear and snuggled into her daddy's arm with it firmly in her grasp.

With that little crises taken care of for the time being Misato let out a little breath of relief. She then looked at the two boys sitting to the side of her. “I'm surprised you took today off just for this Kensuke.” Actually Misato wasn't surprised at all, she just wanted to start up a conversation.

“Yeah” Kensuke responded. “I figured since I sat through all their practices and bugged them enough that I should at least support them when they do good.”

Misato then gave him a little nudge and winked “See anything you like down there?”

What Misato found funniest was that she noticed a scared look for a microsecond on the boys face before he changed over to a joking “Just about all of them.”

“You have to at least be a little pickier than that” Misato snickered. But her snicker was more for that she knew when she asked him that question the answer to that was Rei Ayanami and for a split second the boy might have even thought about saying it.

“Eh” Kensuke said joking back. “I think I know what I like.”

“I'm sure you do” Misato laughed before turning her attention over to Touji. “Did I hear Hikari right when she said she was thinking about putting Keiko in her wedding?”

“Yup” Touji answered. “We need a flower girl and we don't got any girls on either sides of our family around that age.”

“What about your sister Mari?” Misato wasn't asking this because she didn't want Keiko to be the flower girl, in fact she was felling rather proud about them thinking of letting her be that right now, she was just curious as to why his little sister wasn't going to be it.

“She's too old” Touji answered. “Hikari's gonna make her a bridesmaid for the wedding.”

“I suppose she's old enough to be one of those now” Misato stated. The girl was almost a teenager already.

“Don't remind me” Touji grumbled.

Kensuke ribbed him for that complaint. “Ahh… did big brother not like it when she brought a boy home from school with her?”

“It was just to study!” Touji quickly stated. Probably more to himself than anyone else though.

“You know girls Mari's age are awfully curious” Misato teased.

“That boy even thinks of touching her I will pop his head like a grape!” Touji bellowed, completely showing that overprotective big brother side of himself.

Both Misato and Kensuke laughed at Touji for that outburst. It was very clear to everyone that Touji was having a hard time handling the fact that his little sister was growing up on him. She was going from that small little girl that was always clinging to him for protection to a girl that was pushing him away because she wanted some privacy in her life now and the big meathead was reluctant in giving her some. Then again she had that problems times three as Touji wasn't the only one protective of her. Her father and grandfather were as well.

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Asuka was having a very good day as halfway through the sectional meet her team was in first place and the name Tokyo-4 High being on top of everyone else's seemed to look so right to her. The other teams, well they weren't looking at the leader board, they were looking at Yuma. That young girl was beating the living daylights out of them. Most of them were standing around thinking what in the hell was she doing going to a normal school and being on a normal swim team. A girl that fast should be going to one of the top swimming schools in the nation. And they didn't mean the private school that usually won their section, she was way too good for them, they were wondering why she wasn't on one of the national level powerhouse teams.

During a break in the event one of the captains from another team came up and talked to Asuka. “So that girl really is Mai Siratori's little sister.”

“Yup” Asuka smirked. “It gets more noticeable every day.”

“Why isn't she on her sister's team then?” the girl asked.

This was a very valid question so Asuka knew better than to take it as a slight against her school. “Actually it's because of Yuma's big sister Mai. She told her to stick with her friends or she would regret it no matter how good she got at one of the top schools.”

The girl Asuka was talking to was pretty level headed so she could understand where Asuka was coming from. “Wow. You guys are so lucky.”

Asuka had to nod her head yes at that. They were very lucky that Yuma chose to stay with them as there wasn't a swimming school in the nation that didn't offer her a full scholarship.

“So is she going to stick around?” The girl asked. “I mean after this year she's probably going to get pressured even more to join one of the big schools.”

“Oh she'll stick around” Asuka answered. “If it won't be because of her friends, it will be because my coach will crucify anyone who seriously tries to take her away. She's super protective of that girl.”

“If I was your coach so would I” The girl said back.

“The only thing I regret is this is my last year” Asuka then commented. “Yuma's still no where near her full potential and I would love to be around when she finally gets there.”

The other team's captain looked over at Yuma for a second. “I know. It's hard to believe she's only a first year. Give her two more years and I bet she sweeps the 200's and maybe even the 400's as well.” This was in reference to Yuma having won all the 100 meter events already.

“I can see the two hundreds but I don't see her ever winning the four hundreds” Asuka replied back. “She's a pure sprinter. That's why she isn't even entered in any of the four hundreds right now.”

“Really?” the girl questioned and then commented. “So that mean some of us other girls are actually going to be able to win something.”

Asuka chuckled at that. “I know the feeling. I love Yuma to death and am very grateful she's on my team but never winning any of the hundred meter events in this division like I used to was a hard thought to swallow.”

“I'll bet” the girl said agreeing with Asuka. This girl was the captain of her team because she was good and in the past she used to win the hundred meter breaststroke all the time. This year though she came in second so she knew how Asuka felt. “Well at least this means the rich bitches won't win this year” the girl finished up as if her team wasn't going to win she wanted one of the other normal schools to. That way that private prep school would get knocked off their snooty pedestal.

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Up in the stands Misato was now the one with Keiko in her arms. The situation was getting better but the near three year old still was not sure enough about her surroundings to venture more than an arms length away from her mommy or daddy. And speaking of her daddy, he was off right now in search of some food and a treat for her so that was a good thing. “Rei-Rei swimming” Keiko said to her mommy.

“Yup” her mom said back as right now Rei was in the middle of a 400 meter race.

“She win?” Keiko asked hopefully.

“If she comes in first she will” Misato explained to her little one.

And there was a good chance at that happening as right now this was the finals for the 400 meter backstroke and that was by far Rei's best event. While Rei was proficient in all the different swimming techniques the backstroke was her strongest. She was even better than Asuka in this style of swimming when it came to the longer distances. Then again Asuka was a lot like Yuma in that she was all about bursts of speed. Rei had speed as well but not as much as Asuka and Yuma. But what she did have that made her better than those two in longer swims was a patient style of swimming that let her swim at a high speed for a longer period of time. And the 400 meter backstroke was an event that was the perfect mixture of speed and endurance that seem to uniquely fit the blue haired girl. This was very similar to why Hikari was better than Yuma and Asuka when it came to the longer versions of the butterfly.

The one paying the closest attention to Rei though was not Keiko or Misato. It was the blonde haired spectacled kid sitting beside them. He was even cheering her on quite loudly. Not that he stood out doing this in any way as there were many other people from Tokyo-4 High cheering her on as well. The team was doing very good right now and it looked like this meet would be in the bag if she won this race. But none of that mattered to Kensuke as he couldn't take his eyes off of Rei as she swam her race. She just looked so graceful and beautiful down there. This was the hardest part about his relationship with her, he had to pick his times when he could look at her in public. Too much or at the wrong times and people would figure things out.

In private though he stared at her quite a lot as he found her so incredibly beautiful. And not just on the outside either. She was so sweet, understanding, patient, and had an aura of serenity that just made you feel relaxed when you were around her in private. And there were other things about her too that he liked. The love of aimlessly riding around on their bikes showed she had a curious side to her just like him. He had the utmost respect for her when it came to her work ethic. Rei even had a hidden side to her that craved romance and he found himself giving her whatever she wanted. I mean how could he not? Those cute little blushes she had on her cheeks when they made out were just so adorable while at the same time so incredibly hot. And the best thing about Rei was that he knew she wanted to be with him. She didn't want be with Kensuke Aida the foreign looking kid, Kensuke Aida the safe hentai boy, Kensuke Aida the former close friend who suffered a great tragedy, or even Kensuke Aida the boy with a promising future. She wanted plain old Kensuke Aida. And that right there was very important to him as he yelled out “GO REI! You can do it!”

And what else was important was seeing the name Rei Ayanami flash up on the board above the pool a couple seconds later as she had won the race. He cheered very loudly for her but actually was wishing he could go down there and give her a congratulatory kiss. And he wasn't the only one wishing that as while Rei was happy that her teammates were congratulating her on her victory, she would rather get congratulated in a more private way. The only thing she could do is look up in the stands for a second and give the person sitting there a smile that said much more than its simple appearance. And she was only able to do that because Misato and Kaji, he got back in time to see her win, were up there so if anyone questioned her about looking into the crowd and smiling she had an alibi.

But her alibis in this case knew the truth. That blue haired girl down there was not looking up at them and smiling but looking up at the boy sitting next to them and smiling. And the best part about all of this was that he was smiling back at her. In this case they had no problems being second fiddles. But that didn't mean the boy wasn't going to get harassed about what just happened in some way as while Misato really wanted to tease him by saying something she instead forced him to hold Keiko's popsicle. Even Rei had to giggle a slight bit at that sight as she knew from personal experience that her boyfriend's hand was about to become a sticky mess.

Misato and Kaji weren't the only ones that noticed what was going on. Asuka had noticed it too but she kept her mouth shut. Not that she didn't want to say something as she still didn't know if she was a hundred percent sure of this relationship but seeing something like this did put her thoughts a bit at ease. Maybe they were a good match for each other and could make the other happy, but as much as she thought that she prayed nothing bad happened. She did not want to see her friends mad at each other and she did not want anyone to have to take sides if a nasty split up occurred.

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The swim meet wasn't even over when the complaining started. The school Mana belonged to was not taking getting its ass kicked by some normal school lightly. They had gone up to the officials and complained about everything from the pool being the wrong temperature to the electronic sensors malfunctioning. There was simply no way that this low ranked school, that didn't even recruit its members of all things, could be beating them. It had to be something else's fault.

Sadly for them most of their complaints fell on deaf ears as the officials checked up on all the complaints but couldn't find anything wrong. And after the relay races were done the winner of the sectionals was official. Tokyo-4 High was the new Kanto Region Section 2 champions. There was much cheering by the Tokyo-4 team and truthfully the only team at the tournament disappointed by the results was the private school. Just seeing those snooty girls stomp off and refuse to take the second place trophy was enough to make up for not winning. Well that and the realization of which schools they would have been up against next in the regional tournament if they had won.

While the private school that usually one their section did recruit swimmers they only recruited swimmers from affluent families in the Kanto area of Japan. The next level up would pit you against teams that recruited from throughout Japan based entirely on how good of a swimmer you were and little else. And one of these schools in particular was the top swimming school in the nation. The school Yuma's big sister went to was not only the Kanto region champions three years in a row but national champions for the last two. They were the preverbal buzz saw and one of the teams they had to compete against next.

But none of the foreboding future was any concern to the girls on the Tokyo-4 high school girl's swim team as they delighted being champions in their small section of the world for now. They even had a big party afterwards at a local restaurant to celebrate it, courtesy of their team captain even as she was very proud of her whole team and herself. Well sort of courtesy of Asuka as it was actually Misato who picked up the tab for the party but to her it was better to spend a lump of money on a victory celebration than to deal with a crabby and disillusioned teenager who lost for the next month or so. That was the real victory here in Misato and Kaji's opinion.

When all that fun was over with and everyone got back to their homes some other types of celebrating were done. With a quiet and true voice that made a true blue haired girl blush Kensuke whispered into Rei's ear “You looked so beautiful out there today. I couldn't take my eyes off you.”

She moaned back a soft “Thank you” for the precious compliment before surrendering her lips to him as he gently kissed her, opening his mouth halfway through the kiss to caress her tongue with his only to have her return the caring touch. Both surrendering themselves to the romantic moment in time they had created as most of the lights in the apartment were turned off, except one. And the one in question was muted with a thin blue veil draped over its lamp shade casting a calming atmosphere throughout the room. And in the background you could hear some soft and romantic music emanating from a stereo. The romance didn't stop there as in a vase on Rei's kitchen table was twelve long stem roses. All this was Rei's reward for doing her best as Kensuke made her place as romantic as he could to please her. As he had learned, she was a very big fan of romance and he planned to spoil her tonight.

Rei was very appreciative of her boyfriend's effort and showed that feeling as she let him pull her down on top of himself while lying on the couch, pressing their bodies close up against each other in the process. There they continued to kiss each other intensely while also teasing each others with gentle caresses.

And when Kensuke kissed her as he slid his hands under her sweater so he could feel the bare skin of her back Rei cooed out as his touch felt so good to her. The feeling of someone that cared deeply about you touching you in sensual ways was something Rei had longed for. She had lived way too long without knowing what this really felt like. Books and stories were no substitute for it either. This was real and it caused her to speak straight from her heart as she looked deeply into his eyes and whispered “I love you” in-between a kiss.

Rei then froze as she realized what she had just said. The “L” word was something they had both decided to hold off on using. They wanted to make sure what they were experiencing with each other was true before they started throwing that particular word around and she had just went and used it. It was a bit of a big thing and caused some worry in her mind.

But on the same note not using that word was a difficult thing to do when your heart screamed it. And Rei wasn't alone in that matter as Kensuke broke that rule they had made together when he looked back at her compassionately and whispered “I love you too.” And after he kissed her another time to show her it was the truth he continued to whisper to her. “I can't help but say it… I know we wanted to wait but I think it's too late now. Rei Ayanami, I have fallen completely head over heels in love with you.” He then had to wipe a little tear from Rei's eye as her emotions got the better of her when he confessed his feelings.

Rei blushed a little more at her outpouring of emotion but she couldn't help it, what he had just told her made her feel so happy. She looked deeply into his eyes again and told him “If you're going to break our rule too then you must break it ever day from now on.” Rei had a demanding side to her too, and it was demanding to be loved in this instance.

Kensuke smiled at her as that was more than an acceptable term. Another “I love you” was followed with a kiss.

Their relationship had taken another step forward and Rei was happy for that but also a little confused. Both of them wanted to take things slowly to make sure everything they were feeling was real but for some reason it never worked out that way. Right from the start they couldn't keep from kissing each other and ever since the dance those kisses got deeper and more passionate. Kensuke was even sleeping over a couple times a week now. And any restrictions they set up to slow down their relationship, like the one involving the word love, faltered sooner rather than latter. Oddly enough though there wasn't a thing either of them could do about it. Things just happened between them.

Part of that problem may have also been that there wasn't a thing either of them would do about it. The emotions expressed with acts of love tended to override any technical thinking and planning they did concerning their relationship. And with love being expressed freely and openly while kissing another thing happened. Kensuke already was allowed to touch her bare back whenever he wanted to. And that luxury went for most of the rest of her body as well as she enjoyed his gentle touch. And as long as his hands didn't cross onto one of her private areas he was allowed to kiss and tease and tickle those areas as much as he wanted to. For him she didn't mind showing that she was much more ticklish than even that egotistic redhead across the hall knew. But this time around while telling her he truly loved her Kensuke's hands stopped moving in the middle of her back. In fact the exact location was on top of the clasp to her bra.

This was probably something they should hold off on but Rei's heart clearly wanted more romance and intimacy. There was just something inside her screaming for more. And that voice pushed aside her rational thinking and she found herself reaching back and using his hands to unclasp her bra. Then in continuance of the action she stripped off her sweater. Her body shivered as her bra fell from her body right afterwards, and it had nothing to do with being cold. She knew exactly what she had just done and how big of a step it was.

Kensuke got a goofy grin on his face as he looked at those two beautiful perky mounds in front of him. “You're full of surprises aren't you?”

Rei crossed her arms in front of her breasts to hide them while letting out an embarrassed “Kensuke!”

Kensuke reached out and uncrossed those arms though. “Too late now. I know your other secret” he smirked at his blushing girlfriend.

It seemed that Rei was different from most other Japanese girls in more than just hair and eye color. Unlike most Japanese girls who had a double set of brown eyes Rei had a pair of red ones and a pair of pink ones that contrasted stunningly with her light colored skin. This was another thing she always felt embarrassed about and one of the reasons when she changed for gym or swimming it was with her back to most of the other girls. It wasn't like she was the only girl in the locker room with pink nipples but unlike Asuka she didn't have a predominant Caucasian background as her explanation why. It was just that her mixture of genetics caused her to have these pretty little pink buds.

With red cheeks Rei squeaked out “Please don't stare at them.”

“And why not?” Kensuke quickly questioned. “They're so beautiful.”

“Really?” Rei questioned proving she was as insecure of her body as any other girl on the planet.

“Really, really” Kensuke smirked back reaching up and slightly pinching one of those perky pink nipples.

This elicited and excited little “Eeeep” from Rei as a sensitive feeling surged through her body. It was very much different from the feeling that came forth when she touched herself.

“Pink, brown, purple, It doesn't matter” Kensuke teased his girl. “I bet they react all the same way no matter what color they are.”

Rei would have chided him for his silly teasing way if it wasn't for the second he stopped talking he leaned forward and took one of her excited buds into his mouth and flicked it with his tongue. It was at this point that Rei knew her boyfriend was going to be at second base from now on. This wasn't going to just be a special one time thing and then they would go back to a less intimate level in their relationship. This felt way too good for her to give up. It felt so good that she even found herself giving him instructions on how to make it feel even better. Kensuke of course listened and the pleasurable results made Rei forget she was being really bold. Her life was moving really fast it seemed but at the same time she was enjoying the ride.

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Earlier in the evening on the Friday after coach Kumara's team had captured their sectional championship she had called all her girls together and they had a team dinner at the hotel they were staying at. She wanted to tell them she was proud of them and to try their hardest tomorrow. She didn't try and fill their heads with baloney though with speeches of they can do it and to fight hard as victory was in their grasps, because it wasn't. She knew damn well, along with every girl on the team, that they were going to get destroyed. That was the whole point of the regionals. Separate the wheat from the chaff and unfortunately for Tokyo-4 High, they were the chaff. But just because the team wasn't going to go on didn't mean they were going to phone it in as single events were on the line too. If you personally did well enough yourself you could be going on to the national tournament next week. And coach Kumara had several girls on her team with that potential. Yuma in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle dashes was almost a sure thing. Asuka probably would make the 100 too if she got close to her top time. And as a relay squad Yuma, Asuka, Rei, and Hikari had a chance to go on to next week as well.

Right now though Asuka was sitting in the lobby talking to an unlikely individual. She was the enemy so to speak. She wasn't alone in her actions either as Hikari, Yuma, Rei, and her coach were sitting there doing the same thing. The enemy in this case was Mai Siratori.

“Are you sure it's ok for me to be talking to you?” coach Kumara asked. “I mean I know your coach and he's a little… intense.” Kumara was being very polite as there was a different word she wanted to use.

Mai though used it for her. “Yeah… he's psycho. Everything to him is about winning and nothing else is acceptable. And I'm pretty sure if he saw me sitting here he'd have a royal fit but I don't care. Yuma's my little sister and despite what he thinks I'm allowed to talk and hang out with her, even if she is the so called enemy.”

There was some snickering for that one. The only one who didn't snicker at that last comment was Yuma. “He isn't still mad at you that I didn't join your school?” She was sort of feeling like her sister's problems were her fault.

“Well yeah he is but that's his problem” Mai told her little sister. “This has nothing to do with you…” Mai knew how her sister thought so she was quick to point that out. “… and now I'm especially glad I told you to stick to a regular school.”

“You're not the only one” coach Kumara chuckled.

“Actually it has nothing to do with swimming” Mai clarified. “Going to a school that emphasizes athletics over academics is not making getting into college easy.”

“I suppose you have to do most of your studying on your own” Hikari guessed.

Mai nodded her head yes to that. “There are very few girls from my class moving on to college. I mean I do have a study group with a couple other girls but the rest of them think they don't need to go to college as they can make a living playing the sports they're at school for.”

Mrs. Kumara shook her head at that. That was so wrong and one of the things she felt was incorrect with the Japanese school system. Yes it was nice that some schools specialized to give kids with unique abilities a chance to succeed but it should never be at the cost of an education. The world more than ever was based on it now. “So are your practice scores ok?”

Mai made an iffy motion with her hand. “Some of the colleges I've talked to say I could get in with my scores when factoring in I'm a good swimmer but my top two both say I need to do better.”

“Have you thought about switching to a different school once the swimming season is over with?” Mrs. Kumara asked. “There are some out there that can help you get your grades up before you have to take the exams.”

“Sorta” Mai answered. “But I think my mom has been thinking about it more than me. She's not exactly happy with my school's resources when it comes to getting me ready for college.”

Mrs. Kumara's answer to that was what you would expect. “You should listen to your mom.”

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

The morning before the regional tournaments Misato was talking to Asuka. She wanted to try and figure out what state of mind the girl was in and if she should be preparing herself for a week or two of the return of the red headed menace. “So Asuka… has the coach said anything about your team's chances yet?”

“Yeah she talked about it” Asuka answered. “We all need to do our best.”

“Yes but…” Misato started feeling a touch uneasy. “…You know your best may not cut it, right? And it's no fault of your own…”

“If you're trying to prepare me for the thought of loosing, you can stop right there” Asuka said interrupting. Misato was acting really strange and concerned and Asuka had picked up on it. “I already know as a team we don't stand a chance in hell of winning this thing.”

Misato let out a big sigh of relief at that. “I was worried you thought this was a battle you could win and were going to be upset afterwards.”

“I would've been if we lost last week because I knew we could beat those rich bitches. But now I just want to see how we do against the real schools” Asuka said. “While I know we don't stack up against them very well I don't think we are so far away that it's guaranteed we're going to be last. I think if we try really hard we can surprise some of them.”

Now those goals were ones that Misato could live with. Asuka wasn't expecting to win but still she did want to make her underdog of team's presence felt. “Good luck then” Misato said giving her a hug. “But know this we're proud of you whatever happens.”

“Misato!” Asuka griped while blushing in embarrassing. “I'm a little too old for this kind of thing.”

“Rei didn't seem to mind” Misato answered letting her go.

“Well I never said I minded” Asuka grumbled back. “Just pick somewhere more private next time.” Right now they were in the middle of the lobby of the aquatic center the meet was taking place in.

Misato only smiled at her as she didn't care. If someone saw her hugging one of her kids that was no big deal to her. But then again Misato was a grown up and not a teenager so she wasn't coming from the same place as the red haired teen. “You worry too much.”

“And you're too comfortable being a mom” Asuka sassed back. “Whatever happened to that hot sexy woman that could get every guy here to stare at her if she wanted to?”

“What? I'm still sexy” Misato said. But there was a little snivel with that as she was worried she was losing it.

“Look at your clothes” Asuka simply told her. Misato rarely wore her old mini skirts or tight tops anymore and right now she was wearing a long skirt that went down to her ankles and a bulky sweater.

“I'm only wearing this because it's cold outside” Misato explained.

“You know cold weather wouldn't have stopped the old Misato from dressing sexy.”

Asuka's teasing got interrupted by Kaji as he said “The old Misato didn't have a kid and a bunch of demanding and bratty teenagers to take care of because some of them can't even take care of themselves.”

“Sure take her side” Asuka laughed totally blowing off that last part of his statement. Mainly because she knew it was true. She may have grown up a lot of this last couple years but she also knew she still needed Misato and Kaji to be prominent people in her life. Shinji and her weren't ready to be making decisions on their own yet. Not that they really wanted to mind you, the past had made them gun shy in that area.

This teasing was affecting Misato and she looked at Kaji with pouty eyes. “You still thing I'm super sexy, right?”

“The sexiest” Kaji said back with his signature smirk. And then with a wink he added on “Especially when you wear that black teddy like last night.”

“He's just saying that because he wants to get laid” Asuka said continuing on with her teasing.

“Well he's doing a good job of it” Misato quipped at her as she was appreciative of his words.

“Yeah whatever” Asuka laughed at the flirting going on between her two guardians. “So where's Keiko?” Asuka then asked as it was unusual to see both Kaji and Misato and no little girl with either of them.

“I dropped her off at Maya's place” Misato answered. “There's too many people here. She wouldn't do well at all.”

“I suppose” Asuka said agreeing with Misato as she was right. The regional competitions were very big events and had many more people in attendance than the sectionals. Keiko did ok at the last event but even Asuka knew that was pushing it for the little girl. But still a part of her was sort of sad Keiko wasn't their as she was a face in the crowd Asuka really liked to see. “Well I guess I should get going” Asuka sighed. “The coach probably wants to talk to us before everything starts.”

“Good luck” Misato and Kaji told her. And also sort of embarrassed her again as they both gave her a corny thumbs up as she walked away hurriedly and tried to act like she didn't know who they were.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

The end result of the regional competition was better than what the coach expected. Out of the dozen or so teams they came in third to last, which meant they beat two powerhouse teams that no one expected them too. She was so proud of her girls. And some of her girls were going to go to the National competition too. Asuka was going to be racing in both the 100 and 200 meter freestyle races. Yuma qualified for the 50 and 100 meter freestyle races. And as a team Asuka, Yuma, Hikari, and Rei were going to be representing Tokyo-4 High School in the 200 and 400 meter relay events. Her small little team turned many heads.

And thanks to the extra money the team made from Asuka's escapades with the dunk tank the coach was able to take them out to a restaurant afterwards to celebrate their successful season. Oddly enough if you listened to them you would have thought they won the event as they were pretty joyous. They even invited one of the girls from the team that did win the tournament to party with them, Mai Siratori. And she was more than happy to attend as her team wasn't doing anything to celebrate their victory. They were expected to win and if anything actually underachieved as they didn't win by as much as what everyone said they should have. Unfortunately her coach felt this way too and he chewed out his team after the meet for not trying hard enough.

“So you actually got in trouble for wining?” Hikari asked as that sounded stupid.

“Yup” Mai answered. “We didn't beat the other teams badly enough and I apparently was loafing around and not trying because I only qualified for six individual events at the nationals and my relay team only qualified for five. Apparently I was supposed to qualify for eight personally and my team was supposed to make six races.” That whole comment was dripping profusely with sarcasm.

Yuma knew what events her big sister was best at and she couldn't figure out what other two she was supposed to win. She ended up asking out a confused “What else where you supposed to win?”

“The four hundred butterfly and the four hundred backstroke” Mai answered her little sister. “Only god knows why he thought I would win those. It's not like I have every won either event before.”

“Aren't both of those races a little to long for your style of swimming?” Coach Kumara asked as Mai and Yuma were very similar swimmers. Very fast and uniquely honed for the shorter races.

Mai nodded yes to that. “I haven't won a four hundred race more than once in three years. But for some dumb reason coach still makes me race in them and he still yells at me for not winning.”

“That's stupid” Asuka said. “You should tell him to go shove it.”

“Me being here is doing that” Mai smirked.

“You're not supposed to be?” one of the other girls on the team asked.

“Nope” Mai answered. “I'm supposed to be practicing right now for next week.”

“You gals practice after meets?” coach Kumara questioned as that sounded a bit too fanatical to her.

Mai nodded her head yes to that as well. “He says it makes us better but I say it does more damage than good.”

“You can permanently injure a girl doing stuff like that” Kumara said in agreement. She had been coaching for a long time and she knew what happened when you pushed your athletes too far. They break. And when they break that way the results can be long lasting as too much toll placed on a young body can take some time for it to recuperate.

“I know” Mai said back. “Every year we lose three or four girls to exhaustion related injuries. Last year one of my friends got pushed so badly she had to go to the hospital and was on IVs for a week.” Mai then looked over at her little sister. “That's why I didn't want you on this team because I know he would have pushed you that far.”

Yuma didn't say anything to that. She just gave her sister a look that said thanks. And Mai wasn't alone in thinking that Yuma would have been seriously injured if she swam on her big sisters team, coach Kumara was thinking that way too. While Yuma was the fastest swimmer on the team she was in no way the best conditioned. And pushing her to a point of exhaustion over and over would have disastrous results on the young girl. Yuma had more potential in her than you could imagine but with her body type you were going to have to be patient. Unlike her big sister she was a slow maturer and would probably not hit her peak till her senior year or even college. Coach Kumara understood that and that was the main reasons Mai wanted her little sister to stick with her. Mai realized Yuma had the potential to be better than her but only a patient coach would be able to bring that potential out. A coach like hers would only burn her little sister out and make it so the girl would never want to swim again.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

Asuka was at home with Shinji on the Thursday before the national competition. In his own way he was getting her ready for the event that would take place on Saturday. Because of the special circumstances Asuka didn't have to go to school tomorrow. None of the girls on the swimming team who were going to nationals did as they were traveling on Friday to the aquatic center where the national event was being held so they could check it out and get in a little practice before the actual meet. And so there would be no troubles with getting back there the next day the girls were going to be put up in a hotel across the street.

This event was only limited to the girls on the first relay squad as they were the only girls this year that qualified for the nationals. And unfortunately for Shinji the coach did not need her manager to help her out with that small number so Shinji was not going along. This caused a deplorable situation for Asuka as Shinji and she were going to lose one of their precious Friday nights. That was absolutely unacceptable so she decided tonight was going to be Friday night instead.

Shinji completely agreed with her on this point and he looked up from his task to gaze at her beautiful face while she giggled at his ticklish actions. He had to look up because currently his face was between her legs and he was tickling her in a very exhilarating way. So what if what they were doing would cause them to lose sleep and be tired tomorrow, it was no big deal. Asuka could always sleep in the car while they traveled to make it up. And as for him, he already was done with his weekly report that was due tomorrow and it's not like him being tired would affect his oral report grade. It wasn't going to be that good in the first place.

So with worries about tomorrow thrown out the window Asuka and Shinji spent most of the night pleasing each other in many ways. Things started off with a bit of straight oral action. Bodies moved around and migrated into a couple fun 69s. And the night was continued with several hours of pushing, grinding, thrusting, and riding. And it was finally finished off with one very romantic and sensual love making session that caused Asuka to cry and Shinji to kiss away each of her tears of love. If she got into a bragging mood tomorrow she would probably leave off that last part as it would make her sound all soft and mushy but for now it was what she desired.

\\\\||||////

*********** OOO ***********

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The trip over to the aquatic center was a relatively short one as the finals were being held near Tokyo-4. The city and its surrounding suburbs were currently the most rebuilt areas in all of Japan so it made sense to hold it there. The resulting short trip meant Asuka only got in a forty five minute nap before arriving at the center. She let out a yawn “Are we here already?”

“Yes” her coach told her. “And that means you have to wake up.”

Asuka let out a bigger yawn this time. “Why don't you guys go on ahead and check the place out. I'll catch up later. I didn't get enough sleep last night.”

“I wonder why?” Hikari asked in a totally facetious way with the other two girls in the van tittering silently to themselves. Even the coach had to restrain back a chuckle as Asuka had a dream on the way over and they all heard her moan out Shinji's name in her sleep.

But the coach actually expected this and that was why they were staying in a hotel for a night. It being easier to get too and from the aquatic center tomorrow was only one of the reasons, the other was to make sure her girls were well rested. While the coach didn't mind Asuka being tired today she didn't want the girl to be tuckered out tomorrow. And as she had learned this season, while Asuka tried to be a good girl and rest up before a meet she did have one or two slip ups. Granted they were both early in the season, coach Kumara still wasn't going to leave anything up to chance. “Let's go Asuka.”

Asuka let out one more yawn and stretched herself out in the van for a second before getting up and following the other four into the aquatic center. She blinked a couple times while looking at the building. “It's certainly big enough.”

“Well it was built for the Olympics” her coach explained. “You need something big and extravagant for that.”

“I suppose” Asuka responded walking into the place. Personally she didn't give a rat's ass about all that fancy shmancy crap. As long as the place had a nice pool it didn't matter what the place looked like. “So where's the locker room?”

“Which one?” the coach asked.

“The one we change into our bathing suits” Asuka sassed. Her attitude tended to flare up much more when she was tired.

“For as good of a swimmer as you are Asuka you should really know more about this place” Hikari chimed in. This was where the nationals had taken place for the last three years. And as the nationals were her big goal she figured Asuka would at least know what she was walking into.

Asuka just responded with a “What?” as it wasn't her fault she didn't ever bother to find out what this place was.

“So which pool are we assigned to?” Yuma then asked her coach.

Coach Kumara ruffled though one of her pockets for a piece of paper. After looking at the note she wrote down she answered “Pool four.”

“There are four pools in this building?” Asuka asked. This place was bigger than she thought.

“Actually there are five full size pools, several warm up pools, and the main competition pool” Rei answered her.

“Talk about going overboard” Asuka chuckled. “All this for a two week event that this place is only going to host once in its lifetime.”

“Just because the Olympics don't involve you doesn't mean you have to be all snippy about it” Asuka was told by her best friend.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever” was Asuka's less than amiable answer.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

After getting changed and ready for a light swim the girls and their coach walked out to the pool that they were assigned to use for today. Asuka found the sight in front of her quite odd as the pool was already full of girls swimming. “We go to the wrong pool or something?”

“Nope” her coach explained. “We have to share pool space with other teams.”

“With five pools in this place we still have to share?” Asuka questioned with a little surprise. “Just how big are the nationals?”

“Big” the coached chuckled. “You're really not all here today are you?”

“Nope” Asuka answered sounding almost proud of that fact. “Until you let me go take a nap I'm probably gonna be all bitchy and apathetic about everything.”

“Not to mention constantly daydreaming about last night” Hikari ribbed.

Asuka stopped and smiled about that. Some very good thoughts were surging through her mind because of that statement. But enough was enough and she stopped playing around. While she wasn't planning on a hard swim right now she did want to at least jump into the pool. “So should we start?”

“Please do” her coach answered in a sarcastic way. Her girls were being extremely lazy right now. While Asuka looked the most tired she didn't fail to notice big yawns form both Hikari and Rei as well. In fact the only girl on her team that looked like she was ready to go was Yuma.

With that the four girls walked over to the pool. But there was a little problem when they got there, all the lanes seemed to be taken. “Umm coach…?”

Asuka didn't even get to finish her question before a portly guy with a whistle around his neck blustered out “All teams were supposed be here by eight. You guys were late so you lose your lanes.”

“Sir” Mrs. Kumara started, being polite and formal. She knew who this guy was and the nicest way to describe him was jerk. Hopefully by being nice to him and explaining the situation he might be understanding. “I was told there was no check in times for practices by the manager of this center himself, and also that we were granted two lanes. I don't mind if your team uses them when we're not around but when we are I would like to be able to.”

Asuka let out a smug little “Way to tell him off coach.” While her coach was being nice what she just said could be interpreted as putting the guy in his place if your mind was twisted in that direction.

While she got a curt “Behave yourself Asuka” from her coach the guy took great offense to that putdown and got right in Asuka's face. “Just who do you think you are young lady?”

“I am Asuka Langley Sohryu” Asuka challenged right back. “And if you don't get out of my face you're going to end up taking an impromptu swim.” Of course that wasn't the end of it as since she was tired and cranky she was more prone to pushing things too far. And with a poke to his belly she added on “And trust me, no one here wants to see you wet.”

After that there were two exasperated “Asuka!” as Kumara and Hikari knew the temperamental redhead had just pushed this situation much further than she had to. Yuma was fretting about what was happening as well because she also knew who this guy was. And the fact that her older sister was wincing at what was happening from the lane she was swimming in made her worry even more. The person Asuka was arguing with was in fact the coach of the reining champions. The only one not worried was Rei. This situation was not as out of control as everyone thought. While Asuka was a temperamental girl whose emotions carried her away at times she was also a very smart one. Rei was pretty sure Asuka knew exactly what type of situation she had got herself into.

And Rei was right. Asuka was well aware that this was as far as this argument would go, not that she didn't want to slug this jerk mind you. It was just that right on cue a voice from the bleachers spoke out. “Mr. Yamato. What is it that you think you are doing?” There were two gentlemen in expensive looking suits standing up there. It was the one who looked like his suit was more expensive that asked that question with his booming voice. And the reason why he was able to wear such an expensive suit was because he was the owner and operator of this aquatic center.

“Well I uhhh…” Mr. Yamato stammered as he knew this didn't look good. “I was just trying to teach this young lady some manners.”

“Miss Sohryu does not need lessons in manners from the likes of you” the man with the booming voice said walking down the stairs along with the other guy behind him. “And I thought I talked to you about this sort of thing last year. You are forbidden from trying to push around and intimidate the other teams' swimmers.”

“But she said…”

Mr. Yamato's excuse was cut off by a curt “You are a grown up and she is a teenager. It doesn't matter what she said because you are supposed to be an adult.”

Most of the people in the pool area were surprised at what was happening, the biggest being Mr. Yamato as it seemed no mater what he said he just got himself in hotter water. “I understand that” he tried. “But they are trying to interrupt my squad's practice time and take away lanes that rightfully belong to me.”

“I count 16 lanes in this pool” The deep voiced gentleman rebutted. “I believe you were allocated only fourteen. Which by the way is a special privilege as that is two more lanes than any other school here for the team competition.”

“But they showed up late and forfeited their lanes.”

“It does not matter when a team shows up” he was derided down by the booming voice. “Every thing, including lane allocations, was meticulously worked out by my fine staff so that all the schools with swimmers would be able to practice when they choose to. If that is not good enough for you I think we need to have a short meeting to discuss this issue.”

There wasn't a person there that didn't know that was a line of doom. Mr. Yamato was in for a talking to by the owner of the biggest aquatic facility in the country. Not to mention also one of his school's corporate sponsors. Mr. Yamato may have been a successful coach but right now he was running up against a shadow that cared more about associations in the past than what was happening in the present. That man was in trouble the second he raised his voice to Asuka.

And as a dishonored coach walked off with the owner of this establishment Mrs. Kumara was left standing there with a dumbfounded look on her face. It would be no lie to say that this expression was the same one found on most of the other girls in the area too.

As for the other man in the business suit, he was the manager of this place. And he walked up to Asuka and Rei and bowed respectfully in front of them. “I apologize Miss Sohryu and Miss Ayanami for the inconvenience. In the future if there is any more problems please do not hesitate in getting a hold of us immediately.”

Rei was polite and bowed back while thanking the gentleman for the hospitality he was showing them. Asuka just said “Thanks” and that was it.

The gentleman looked up at Asuka. “You're welcome and please behave yourself or I will have to call Misato.”

Asuka let out an offended “Hey!” as that was a mean threat. She also threw a glare over at Rei because the blue haired girl was snickered at her.

After ignoring Asuka's glare Rei walked over to a bag she had brought in the pool area that had her towel and stuff in it and took out a letter. She gave it to the gentleman and said “This is from Misato.”

The man opened the letter right away saying to himself “I wonder what boss wants?”

Asuka answered “Kaji and her are stuck in a little bind. Keiko isn't good with big crowds and for obvious reasons she can't leave her with Maya and Makoto like last week.”

“Ah yes” the fine dressed gentleman said with a big smile. “The pictures of little Ritsuko have been circulating throughout the office. She's a real cutie. You wouldn't happen to know what room Maya is in as we would all like to send her flowers.”

“264B” Rei answered.

“Thank you” the kind gentleman replied for that help. And then said “I will get right on this” while referring to the letter.

Coach Kumara looked at both Asuka and Rei with complete confusion. “Do I even want an explanation for all this? And why in the world do both those gentleman know you?”

“The only thing you're going to get out of me is sarcasm and sassiness” Asuka chuckled and then jumped into the pool. That little spat had woken her up a bit and she was ready to swim a lap.

Mrs. Kumara of course then turned to Rei for an explanation. And with a quiet voice Rei posed a query. “You have been a teacher at our school since the beginning so you probably have heard certain things. This center is rather unique as while it is big and extravagant it's also three years old already. Which means it was built very quickly and almost immediately after third impact. How many organizations in Japan do you know that would be able to do such a thing?”

There was an immediate name that flashed through her mind, Nerv. While she didn't know much about that shadowy name she knew a lot of the movers and shakers who started rebuilding right away were in some way connected to it. So were Asuka and Rei. “I think I understand” Mrs. Kumara said and left it at that. She knew it wouldn't be smart for her to ask anything else.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

After a morning warm up swim coach Kumara let her girls take a break for lunch and get a good nap. She did this for several reasons.

One, Asuka wasn't the only girl on her team that was dogging it out there. It seemed Rei lost track of time and was up late studying and Hikari was up late because her baby brother had an ear ache and was crying throughout the night. Oddly enough she spied Asuka biting her lip when the other two girls gave their excuses. Obviously one of the girls was lying about why they were up too late but the coach let it go. It wasn't that important if Hikari didn't want to admit to being romantic with her fiancé long into the night. She was allowed to have her privacy just as much as the next girl. But while the coach was right about what she thought Hikari had been doing the night before, Asuka was actually biting her lip about what Rei said. Asuka and Shinji had just wrapped up their love making when she looked out the window at about 5:30 am. She saw a rider on a mismatched looking moped with a green helmet and a Shin Seiki's delivery jacket leaving the building.

Two, the coach was a realist. No matter how much they practiced today her girls weren't going to get any faster by tomorrow. In fact working them out hard today probably would screw them up as they would be fatigued tomorrow.

And three, only one of her girls was really doing anything. Since they only had two lanes her girls would have to share and switch off. Unfortunately because three of her girls were already tired from late nights they decided to share one lane and let Yuma have the other all to herself. Which wasn't half bad as Yuma was looking super fast out there right now. This of course caught the attention of the other coach and he tried to demoralize the young girl by switching up who swam in what lanes. He put his fastest girl in the lane right next to Yuma to try and show her up.

All this really did was make coach Kumara shake her head. While that was a mean trick that could work considering how young and impressionable Yuma was, the other coach needed to work on his dastardly plan follow through. Mai Siratori, while very fast, was not going to intimidate her little sister. In fact the whole time they swam next to each other Yuma's big sister was encouraging her.

This of course didn't sit well with Mr. Yamato but there was very little he could do as the manager of this facility was hanging around. It seemed the manager knew two of those other girls and was talking to them when they weren't swimming. Something about pictures and a girl named Ritsuko, the other coach couldn't make out the conversation clearly. But he was sure it was some sort of plot against him.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

After everyone was rested up and given a good dinner coach Kumara took her girls back to the pool and this time they practiced in earnest. This led to Kumara having a big smile on her face as the other coach started to look worried. He knew about Yuma and sort of knew about Asuka but those other two girls on that team were fast enough to make his squad too. This rinky-dink school was a serious challenge to him now. And as he secretly timed their relays he saw they were only a faction behind his top squad's times.

Coach Kumara only worked her girls out for two hours. Just enough time to get them warmed up for tomorrow but not overexert them. That's all she wanted to do from the start, freaking out the obnoxious coach she shared her pool with was simply a bonus. And after a good practice she sent her girls up to their hotel room early so they could get a good night's rest. She herself, well she stayed up a little late as she met up with some of the other coach's of the various teams that were at the national tournament at a bar. Not all of them were obnoxious like the one she got paired up with earlier and she stayed up with them as they each told stories about their adventures in coaching.

Asuka, Rei, Hikari, and Yuma were all sharing a hotel room. It was your typical room with double queen size beds and a bathroom. Nothing fancy or extravagant but to the girls this was fine as they were just here to sleep for the night. Rei was sharing a bed with Hikari and Asuka was sharing a bed with Yuma. And as Rei read one of her books, Hikari looked through a bridal magazine, and Asuka flipped through the various TV channels, Yuma fretted. She couldn't understand how the other three girls could be so calm. Tomorrow was a really big day and they were acting like it was nothing nerve wracking at all. And worse yet she didn't want to bug their serenity so all she could do was lay there and worry.

After a bit Asuka said while flipping channels “So Yuma, you just going to lay there worrying or are you going to tell us what's wrong?”

“I… uh… well” Yuma said back nervously at being busted. But she also tried to back out of the conversation as she finally said “Nothing.”

“It's not nothing” Asuka said not letting her escape. “I can literally fell you shaking in bed. If you're that nervous about tomorrow you can say it… I mean we all are.”

“But you guys don't look nervous at all” Yuma rebutted.

“Sure we are” Asuka said trying to assure the girl next to her that it was ok to be nervous. She wanted Yuma to stop fretting about everything and relax a little before they turned off the lights to go to sleep. “Just look at how long it's taking Rei to read her book. If she wasn't nervous she would be tearing through it right now.”

“You're nervous too Miss Rei?”

Rei smiled at Yuma and nodded her head yes. “I'm a little nervous but reading helps me relax.” While what Rei said was true she was very happy Asuka moved on and didn't push any further into her business. While she was a touch nervous the reason she was reading slowly was because she had someone in her life that she could imagine doing some of those things that occurred in her romance novels with. It made reading fast harder because your mind tended to wander on you quite frequently.

Asuka moved onto Hikari next. “And Hikari's channeling her nervousness into something that doesn't really matter at all.” Asuka was well aware of what Hikari was doing.

“I am not.” Hikari said back putting down her magazine. “This is very important.”

“No it's not” Asuka chuckled back. “Rei and I will look fine in whatever color you pick for the bridesmaids dresses. You're making way too big of a deal about it.”

“But I want everything to be just perfect” Hikari argued back. This was her wedding after all.

“It will no matter what you decide” Rei interjected as she heard a rant or two from the brown haired girl about this subject before as well.

“I know but…” Hikari then showed Rei a picture in her magazine. “Do you think this dress would look better in pink or teal?”

“Either one is fine with me” Rei replied and then flipped Hikari's bridal magazine to a particular page. “What we look like doesn't matter because everyone will be looking at you in this.”

Asuka didn't need to see it to know what page Rei flipped to. It was obviously the one with the bridal dress Hikari had picked out for her wedding. “See, in the end it doesn't really matter.”

“I know” Hikari said surrendering the argument to her two friends as her mind drifted happily away. No matter how many times she looked at that picture her mind still got flooded with pleasant thoughts and images of her wedding day. She then let Rei go back to her book and she went back to flipping through her magazine, but not without an “Hmmm?... what about cream?” to herself.

What happened did start to make Yuma feel a little better as she realized she wasn't alone. “What about you Asuka? Are you nervous?”

“If I wasn't I wouldn't have skipped by Jeopardy twice already” Asuka told her. “You just need to do something that gets your mind off of tomorrow.”

“Like what?” Yuma asked as her mind was still racing and she felt like she had a pit in her stomach. With how she was feeling she was worried she would never get to sleep.

“How about music?” Asuka offered getting up out of bed and going over to her travel bag. She pulled out her i-pod. “I got all of Nerv's of Steel's greatest hits on here.” Not that she ever listened to them.

“I got all of those on mine too” Yuma quickly replied.

“Yes but do you have the test versions of their newest songs they haven't released yet?” Asuka asked with a big smile while throwing her i-pod to Yuma.

Yuma's eyes went wide as no one had those songs yet. Sure there was bits and pieces of the songs floating around the internet but no whole songs. And as she quickly put the plugs in her ears and queued up the new songs she questioned “How did you get these?”

“Shigeru gave Shinji and me some demo tracks and asked us our opinion the other day” Asuka answered. “You're opinion probably would be better though as neither of us are big fans of the eighties style.”

“My- my- my opinion….????” Yuma stuttered nervously.

“Yup” Asuka said back. “And who knows, if you do a good enough job maybe you can get backstage passes again?”

That preplanned gambit worked like a charm as instead of worrying so much about tomorrow Yuma tore into the new tracks on Asuka's i-pod. In fact she listened to them so many times that three hours later she fell asleep while still listening. Asuka carefully took out the earplugs so Yuma wouldn't wake up and then turned out the lights as everyone else went to sleep then too. They had a big day ahead of them so they all needed their sleep.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

Asuka didn't do so well on the national level when it came to her individual events. She got bounced in the second preliminary finals for both the 100 and 200 freestyles. She was a little disappointed about getting bounced in the 100 as she thought she was good enough to make it to the finals for that one, the 200 she didn't really care about. She had seen the times of the other girls she was competing against for the 200 and she knew she didn't stand a chance.

But while Asuka was disappointed about not making the finals for the 100 it was Yuma who took it the hardest.

“So I didn't make it Yuma” Asuka said trying to calm down her teammate. Yuma was on the edge of tears she was so distraught over Asuka not making it. It wasn't so much that Asuka didn't qualify it was that Yuma realized that was the last time she was ever going to be able to race against Asuka. “That just means you have to try your hardest in the finals and make me proud.”

“But Miss Asuka” Yuma sniveled. “I want to race against you.”

“I know, I know” Asuka said comforting Yuma with a little hug. “But you won't be alone out there. Your big sister is in the finals too and you want to race against her, right?”

“Yeah” Yuma said back still with a little sniffle. “I-I will try and make you proud of me.”

“I know you will” Asuka said back letting her go so Yuma could report in for the finals in the 100.

As Yuma walked away she got a friendly nudge from her coach “You softy.”

With a small pout of her own she looked at her coach “I kinda wanted to race against her again too.”

“I'd give you a hug and say it's alright but….” And the coach left of there so Asuka could finish the statement.

“But if Yuma saw you do that she would start crying on the blocks because she would feel so bad for me.”

“Bingo” her coach smiled.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

The 100 meter freestyle ended pretty much the same way as the 50 meter freestyle, with the name Siratori posted on top twice. Mai won the 100 by a hairs length and the 50 by even less. Although it was hard to tell who really won it as Yuma was really happy she did good and even happier her sister won. And after both races she swam over from her lane and gave her sister an excited hug.

As for Mai, her little sister was blowing her mind with how good she was. She had barely beaten her both times and her little sister was much better than she was when she was a first year. Her sister was going to make her so proud in the future so when Yuma swam over to give her a congratulatory hug while exclaiming “YOU WON ONEE-CHAN!” she in return hugged her back while saying “You are so awesome.”

This happened again during the 200 meter relay event. Asuka, Rei, Hikari, and Yuma made it to the finals as a team, a lot of it thanks to Yuma as in both preliminaries they were behind on the lest leg only to have Yuma take off like a rocket and win it for them. And she might have done it again in the finals if they weren't up against Mai's team. The final leg pitted sister against sister for the third time but unfortunately for Yuma she had to play catch up. And against Mai that was impossible. But she did raise their placing from fourth to third so they, along with their coach, were ecstatic about it.

The coach was in heaven right now. Not only was she bringing home two national runner up trophies thanks to Yuma but also a team trophy for a third place finish in the 200 meter relay. But as happy as she was she was even more optimistic about the girl's next race. All year long her relay team had excelled at the 400 meter race. It was by far their best event as a team and the one she originally thought they would be taking home a trophy for out all the different events her girls qualified for. She was wondering right now if she dared dream the impossible. An even bigger trophy than the other three.

As for the girls of the Tokyo-4 High's first team relay squad, they were getting closer and closer to making their coach's dream a reality. They won their first qualifying event and then followed up that victory with another close one in the second preliminary. They ended up going to the finals with the third best time. Unfortunately the two best times belonged to Mai's squad, the second one in the first prelims and the top time so far today in their second prelim. And in both of Mai's team's prelims they beat their competition handedly. They were looking pretty unbeatable and even more psyched up than ever right before the race as their team cheer was by far the loudest of any of the other teams. And if you looked around most of the other teams were definitely intimidated by them right now.

Asuka wasn't going to compete with that. She wasn't going to give her relay team some sort of rousing pep talk in an effort to top the others. Instead she decided she wanted to do something she rarely did, express exactly what she was feeling. “Hikari, Rei, Yuma…” Asuka started as they all formed a small circle. “…I don't care what happens or what place we get. I just want to tell you how happy I am that we got here as teammates and most importantly as friends… This is going to be the last time we can swim together” and as if those words were a queue Yuma started crying a little. But this time she wasn't alone as Hikari had watery eyes too and even Rei and Asuka were finding it hard to fight back a tear or two. “Let's just do our best and leave everything we have in that pool. No regrets, okay?”

What Asuka got back was three “No regrets” and a tight embrace as the team huddle turned into a group hug. They were ready for this thing now.

Hikari was the first to go as she gave it everything she had while her teammates cheered her on. And from the stands she was getting cheers from friends, family, and classmates. The loudest being her fiancé who was sitting with Shinji and Kensuke. The big goof was even standing up and waiving a big banner with her name on it that said `GO HIKARI HORAKI!!!'.

While swimming Hikari could see the girl in the lane beside her when she turned her head for a breath. This was the girl she had to match or beat if her team wanted to win as it was one of Mai's teammates. But as she got to the wall after the first fifty meters she saw she was a quarter of a body's length behind this girl. There was no way she was going to let her friends down and as she turned she pushed off from the wall as hard as she could with her long legs and went beyond everything she thought she had. The only thoughts she had racing in her mind was `I want to win this with my friends.'

Hikari touched the wall with the tips of her fingers neck and neck with the girl beside her and tied for first place. And as she did this she could see the shadow of Rei as the blue haired girl took off from the block. Rei had absolute determination and zoned out everything as she poured her all into this single 100 meters. She was not going to let that girl beside her pull even one inch in front of her. It didn't matter if this girl was the third runner up in the hundred meters final and had better times than her. She wasn't going to lose ground.

And from the stands Kensuke shouted out “GO REI AYANAMI!” as loud as he could to show her his support. His cheer easily out volumed the ones of his friends and classmates. He knew he should have been holding back but he couldn't, he wanted his girl to know he was completely behind her even if no one else knew she was his girl.

It was probably a good thing Rei had everything but her swimming zoned out or she might have been blushing while she swam. But as she touched the wall 50 meters from where she started only one thought surged through in her mind. `I want to win this with my friends.'

And Rei did her part as she touched the wall at the same time as the girl next to her and saw the shadow of her friend above her as the red headed girl took off. She felt the gaze of another directed at her and she turned her head while trying to catch her breath. The girl in the row next to her had the total expression of `How?' That girl's expression was answered verbally by a clam voice that had no hint of ego, or competitiveness, or bragging. “Because we need to win this more than you.”

The girl was absolutely shocked by that unexpected answer and she looked up at Mai, her team's anchor and captain. She was expecting the girl to say something back but the fastest girl on her team had her eyes glued on the race. And as the girl got out of the water she could see why. That multi-ethnicity girl with the blazing red hair was swimming stroke for stroke with her teammate. That didn't make any sense as that Asuka girl didn't even make it to the finals of the hundred meters freestyle and yet she was keeping pace with a girl who took second runner up overall in the event.

And not only did Asuka stay stroke for stroke with this girl but she actually surged ahead just a tiny bit when they both pushed off the wall at fifty meters. She didn't want to win this for herself but she wanted to win this for her friends. And as her boyfriend cheered loudly for her from the stands she said to herself “I want to win this with my friends.”

For the first time Mai was worried. Her team was incredibly strong team this year and had pretty much wrapped up the team title as they were far ahead of all the other team in points with only a handful of events left. But this particular event was so much different. On paper they should have been far ahead of all the other relay squads but here was this other team not only keeping up with them but now actually ahead of her squad. She was going to have to give this everything she had if they were to win as she could see the absolute determination in her younger sister's teary eyes when she spied over for a second.

Yuma may have been teary-eyed but she did not miss as Asuka touched the wall ahead of everyone else. Everything was up to her now and she jumped off the block with perfect form. This was going to be the last time she was going to be teammates with Miss Rei, Miss Hikari, and Miss Asuka. These three girls, especially Asuka, had such a profound impact on her swimming and life that there was no way she was going to let the pressure of it all being up to her get to her. Yes she loved her sister very much but this was one time she wasn't going to let her win as Yuma swam as hard and as fast as she could with the thought `I want to win this with my friends' rushing through that emotionally charged mind of hers.

And with tears still in her eyes she touched the far wall of the fifty meter mark still ahead of her sister.

Mai knew she was behind from the start but she wasn't going to give up. If her sister wanted to beat her she was going to have to give it everything she had. Because that was exactly what she was doing. If Yuma's team was going to win this it was because they earned it, not because Mai was going to give them the victory.

Her big sister's ferocity was noticed by Yuma but sadly she wasn't going to reward her sister for it and Yuma's hand touched the wall a full hands length ahead of her and the names “Siratori, Sohryu, Ayanami, Horaki” flashed above everyone else's on the score board.

The first thing Yuma did after taking a big breath was look over at her older sister and say “I'm sorry.”

Mai though only told her with a smile “Why? I'm not. You deserved that win.” She then moved out of the way as three girls jumped into the pool with Yuma. All very happy with two shouting “We Won!” while the red headed third member shouted “Wir Gewannen!” a couple times before switching over to Japanese. And that four girl relay team got joined by a fifth member. She didn't care if she was in regular clothes, coach Kumara jumped into the pool and celebrated with her girls. They had won a national title and made her so proud.

They weren't alone as in the stands three boys were yelling their fool heads off in congratulations. And in one of this facilities private sponsor boxes Misato, Kaji, and Keiko cheered away as well. But they weren't alone as Misato felt guilty requesting one of these private boxes, even if it was for Keiko's comfort, so she brought along someone who the outside world would expect to see up there.

Shigeru Aoba had nothing else to today so he welcomed the invite from his friends and thoroughly enjoyed the competition. Maybe he would even have to write a song about what he saw later on. It was rather exciting and already he could envision some quick and powerful guitar rifts to describe it all.

But first he had to leave this private box as he had volunteered to be a special guest that was going to hand out the medals for this particular event during the awards ceremony. After all since he was there and they were giving him special treatment it was the least he could do.

He also had to do something else while performing his special duties as he had to catch a feinting Yuma. It seemed that after he slipped a medal around your neck and handed you some flowers he also gave you a congratulatory peck on the cheek. While her teammates handled this well, she didn't. And for the second time in her life she came to in the arms of her most favorite singer in the whole wide world. If it wasn't for her big sister fanning her she probably would have feinted again.

 

 

Author's Notes: 

(A/N: This chapter has been boiling away in my mind since the start of the whole story. A little different with some extra characters I wasn't thinking about when I first started writing this thing but I think it still turned out ok. And for those of you who aren't sports fans, sorry to dedicate a whole chapter to swimming but what did you expect? The title of this story is The Swim of Things and swimming has been a central theme for much of the story. Plus I think this chapter shows how much Asuka has grown up since the beginning as instead of wanting to win this for herself she wanted to win it with her friends. See you next time around… Oh, and sorry this chapter is so late. Life got busy, what can you do? I Re-re-edited. Changed a few words around. Fixed some grammar. Broke up some of the bigger blocks of text. And expounded on some parts to make them clearer. Basically gave this a good once over to improve its quality.)

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