Chapter 28

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.

Mrs. Amano was standing in front of her class at the start of a new school week. She had all her students quiet down and take their seats as she had an announcement to make. “I know it's unusual for this time of the year but we have a new student in our class.” She then opened the door to her room and the girl who was waiting outside entered. “Everyone, I would like to introduce you to Mai Siratori. Please make her feel welcomed.” That last part was just politeness in action as she had no doubts about this girl fitting in with her class. She knew who this girl was and considering her little sister was teammates with three of the girls in this class she would probably have an easy go of it.

And she did as Asuka exclaimed “What are you doing here Mai?”

“Since swimming season's over my mom pulled me out of my old high school and stuck me in this one so I could get my prep scores up” Mai said back in an outgoing way. She was as happy as she could be right now. She liked her old school well enough but your life revolved around the sport you played and that meant you couldn't really go out and have fun as everyone was busy training. Here she would be able to hang out with other people and be a real teenager. And also this school had one element in it that was sorely lacking in her old one. And it became clear what that element was when she answered her new teacher's request to tell the class something about herself. “…and my hobbies are swimming, baseball, reading, anime, and…” with a huge smirk “…Boys.”

Asuka laughed out “It must have sucked going to an all girls school then?”

“Tell me about it” Mai said back in a rather energetic way. And energetic was the perfect way to describe the girl. You didn't even need to know her background to know this girl was all about sports, it was written all over her. From the way she walked to the way she talked, it was all fast paced. And also another thing that grabbed the boys attention to her even before she blurted out they were one of her hobbies, as a way of flirting of course, her body was incredibly toned. This girl was in fantastic shape and she was not shy about showing off her best assets. Since it was already getting cold outside most of the girls in the school had already started wearing stalkings to stay warm, depriving the boys in the school of seeing bare legs for the rest of the fall and winter. Mai though had nothing covering up her long shapely legs and the way she was standing almost gave you the impression she was showing them off.

With the introduction over with Mrs. Amano told her to go sit down in her assigned seat. It happened to be right next to Kensuke and with a big smile she said “Hi.”

“Hello” Kensuke said back in a friendly manner.

Mai looked him up and down for a second and then said “So you're the kid Asuka tortured for flirting with my little sister.”

“Wha- what?” Kensuke blurted in confusion as that came out of nowhere.

Asuka laughed out “That's the one. Despicable boy isn't he, trying to rob the cradle like that.”

“Don't listen to that psycho” Kensuke said as he thought he was in trouble already with the new girl. “I swear I didn't do anything like that.”

“Who you calling a psycho you stooge?” Asuka challenged back.

“The psycho girl with red hair, a big mouth, and who is incapable of believing not everything's the way her screwy mind makes it out to be. That's who!”

There was a lot of snickering at that one around the class room. Asuka even was a little taken back. She must have done something to upset him for that kind of reply. “Geeze, don't go postal on us Kensuke. We're just teasing you.”

“I know that” Kensuke said back as figured that out the second Asuka started spouting off. “I'm mad at you for that friken orange study book you gave me. That damn thing's impossible.”

“Oh that” Asuka said starting to laugh. “It shouldn't have been that hard.”

Asuka got an unexpected result from her mocking. Rei turned around and started to stare at her. “I looked at the book as well.”

“What'd you go an do that for?” Asuka asked as Rei probably could figure out the joke while Kensuke would just be confused.

“Because after he spent a whole day trying to figure out the first question he finally came to me for help.”

Rei's glaring look got interrupted by a giggly little “Uh oh” as Asuka knew she was busted.

It was exactly like she suspected and Rei continued to glare at Asuka. “Are you even able to do the problems in that book?” She asked that because she knew she herself couldn't. Rei took one look at the problems and noticed that while they sounded simple and even looked like they could be solved by a normal person there was no way that person would be able to. These problems were in fact horribly complex and it took her most advanced knowledge just to figure that out.

Asuka grinned a little while she answered “One or two.”

“There were a hundred questions in that book!” Kensuke exclaimed. “And you gave me a college prep guide where you yourself can only answer one or two?”

“Hold it right there” Asuka said stopping him as he was wrong about what he said. “I just told you I was giving you a study guide. I never said it was a center exam prep guide.”

“What exactly did you give Kensuke?” Rei asked still staring at Asuka.

“Will you stop that!” Asuka groused back as Rei's staring was really bugging her now. It was way too direct. “You're making me feel like I did something wrong.”

“That's the point” Rei replied back still staring at her. She wanted the truth out of Asuka and like usual Asuka was being a brat about giving it up.

“Fine, fine” Asuka said going as far as looking away from the unwavering stare of the red eyed girl. “You want me to spill the beans and ruin the joke I will.” She looked over at Kensuke. “The book I gave you is one of Professor Fuyutsuki's exam books he uses to see if you're smart enough to apply for an advanced PhD in one of the areas he's in charge of. Don't worry about not being able to do any of the problems because most people with normal PhD's can't do them either.” The last sentence of that line was laughed out as Asuka thought what she did was hilarious.

“Why you little….” Kensuke started before getting interrupted.

“Ah-a-a, foul language is a no-no.” That was done with the best impression Asuka could do of the class rep.

This backfired though as the real class rep spoke up. “So is acting like a brat. Technically I can give you detention for what you just did.”

“No you can't!”

And the joke came full circle with that reply as Hikari, Rei, and Kensuke all got a giggle out of how desperate that sounded. This was the first day Asuka didn't have something to do after school since school started so there was no way she was staying after for anything. Today was very much a `I go home with Shinji right after class and we ignore the rest of the world and have fun with each other' day to Asuka. Hikari of course knew that, she just wanted to put the girl in her place a bit before hand for that joke she played on Kensuke. Not that she didn't snicker a little at him as well but that was hidden behind a strategically placed hand. But as she was sitting there she got asked a question by Mai. “Is it always like that in here?”

“Sometimes” Hikari answered her. “Mondays are a little more playful because everyone's back from the weekend and wants to catch up.”

“And the teacher doesn't mind?” Mai asked as during this whole time she noticed Mrs. Amano didn't speak up once. And it wasn't only Asuka, Kensuke, and Rei fooling around. Pretty much everyone else in the class was talking to each other too.

“Not for the first couple minutes of class in the morning” Hikari answered. “She allows us to blow of some steam right away and then she asks if anyone needs any help with their studies. That's the cue that it's time for us to get to work.”

“You mean she will actually help us study if we ask her to?” Mai asked surprised.

“Yes” Hikari answered, herself a little surprised that Mai didn't expect her to. “Didn't the teachers at your old school ever help you study?”

Mai shook her head no. “All the teachers there are involved with the sports programs so they're too busy.”

“Well how about during class? Didn't they help you then either?”

Mai shook her head no again. “We were given textbooks and told to read them. That was the extent of their teaching.”

“How did you guys ever pass tests then?” Right now Hikari was having troubles understanding Mai. She knew academics weren't the top thing at some of the sports oriented high schools but it almost seemed to her that at the one Mai went to academics didn't matter at all.

“You can't fail a test you never take” Mai answered confirming Hikari's current thought processes. “I'm just glad my mom made me take summer prep classes so I don't have to sit out a couple years. Most of my friends already know they have to and are taking extra classes now so they can get into college in two or so years. Well at least the ones smart enough to get into college that is.”

That of course begged the question “What if they aren't smart enough?”

Mai sighed out the answer as a lot of her older friends that had already graduated weren't doing so well. “Then they become waitresses, cleaning ladies, work in a bar, or something else like that. Unless you're Olympic level good there really isn't a job market out there for girls who are good at sports. And everyone knows what our school is all about so a high school diploma from it isn't worth squat.”

“No wonder your mom wouldn't let Yuma go to your old school” Hikari said amazed.

“Actually my parents consider it a huge mistake on their part that they let me go to that school in the first place. And the only reason they kept letting me go was because I was winning and had a scholarship so the school was free.”

“So money was tight for you guys at first too?” This wasn't the first time Hikari had heard stuff like this. In fact this school itself was set up so that it wasn't expensive to go to. That was one of the big reasons she was going to it as with three daughters her dad had to be frugal.

Well at least to her knowledge he did, she had no clue about the money behind the scenes that went to all the Marduk children's families. While the fathers knew what really happened to their wives, none of them ever told their children. The truth was so much worse than the lie that they didn't have the heart to tell them. Someone else had a heart too and early on each of those families got a significant donation of money to help restart their lives. This was done by someone who was starting to understand the difficulties and expense of properly raising children for the very first time in her life. Not only did she have two greatly troubled and traumatized teens with her but also another child growing inside her.

From her teacher's desk Mrs. Amano casually watched what was going on. Normally she would have mentioned that they should get to work by now but she was holding off on that call. Her newest student seemed to be having a real conversation with her class rep and that was something she wanted to see. Hikari would be able to show this girl the ropes and help her fit in at the school. She also would be helpful in fulfilling a request she got from Mai's parents. They were worried about their oldest daughter's education and were wondering if it was possible to get her some extra help. If Mai got in good with Hikari and became friends with her that meant she might become friends with Asuka and maybe even Rei by association. Mai's parents couldn't buy better help than those two.

But as Mrs. Amano sat there and let her students talk a bit longer than normal both Asuka and Rei walked up to her and bowed respectfully while excusing themselves from class. “You're leaving already too Miss. Sohryu?” Typically Asuka didn't have to leave right away on Mondays.

Asuka nodded yes “I have to do some research at the library for a report.”

“Ok then. Have fun at the college you two, I'll see you after lunch.”

The conversation the teacher was having with Rei and Asuka caught Mai's attention. “Where are they going?” She could have sworn she heard the teacher say college.

“Rei and Asuka are only part time students here” Hikari answered. “They're actually in college right now and go over to the university for classes.”

“Which university?” Mai asked as the only one she knew was near them was Tokyo-4 University and it surely couldn't have been that one.

But it was as Hikari answered “T4U.”

“You got to be kidding me?” was Mai's first reaction. “That's the top college in the country. How could high school girls be going to it?”

It was at times like this that Hikari was reminded how unique the situation was when concerning her class. But she also remembered that she couldn't really say why. “They're both just really smart.”

Mai looked at Hikari very strangely. “You mean all those crazy things my sister told me are true?” She had heard a lot about Rei, Hikari, and especially Asuka from Yuma but a lot of the odder sounding things she cast off as her little sister being naïve and believing stories meant to be in jest.

“Crazy things?” Hikari questioned as she didn't know what Mai was talking about.

“Yeah, like…” she skipped the first bit of weirdness about Asuka and Rei being in college as apparently it was true “… both you and your team manager are getting into T4U too. And that Ayanami really does have blue hair and red eyes. And that you and your boyfriend are getting married. And- and well about a hundred other things that Yuma tells me.” If these stories were true then her little sister had some far out friends.

First came a very big smile from Hikari as she showed off her engagement ring. She was more than simply happy to confirm that story. The second thing she did was give Mai a warning. “Rei is exactly as you see her. There's nothing fake about her but please don't act shocked about it. She can be a bit touchy concerning that topic as she knows people make fun of her for it behind her back.”

“That's mean” Mai commented. “I bet they're just jealous of her for being prettier than them.” Even though she looked different Mai could see past that and realize the look worked for the quiet girl.

“I would agree with that” came from the other side of Mai.

“You know, she would probably get embarrassed if she heard you say that” Hikari cautioned.

“But she's gone right now” Kensuke commented. “So I don't have to worry too much.”

“What if I tell her?” Right now Hikari was teasing him. But she was also doing something else, she was testing him. She wasn't blind and had noticed something odd was going on between those two. For now she was keeping her mouth shut but that didn't mean she couldn't try and elicit some information to confirm her thoughts.

“Please don't” Kensuke chuckled, almost nervously.

“And why not?”

“Because then she will lecture me the next time I go over to her place to study.” The oddest thing about that was that Kensuke looked genuinely worried. In the past he would have just joked about this but now it seemed like he didn't want to do anything that would upset the blue haired girl he was friends with.

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Mai spent the rest of the morning talking to the other students in the room, getting to know everyone in the process. She was a total opposite of her younger sister as she wasn't a shy girl at all. She also talked to her new teacher as well who explained a few things to her. Some of it in private as she filled in her new student on some of the odder sounding things, like how some of these students had been together for a very long time. The reason behind it was pretty sad but Mai wasn't going to change how she acted towards any of those kids. She had known plenty of people in the past that lost loved ones and the worst thing you could do was remind them of the loss or treat them differently because of it.

After the talk with her teacher and a few other conversations with other students she found herself talking with Hikari again. This time it was while they were walking around the school as Hikari was giving her the grand tour. “I got a question for you?”

“Go ahead” Hikari said as she showed this particular girl the way to the pool. Just because Mai didn't have to practice swimming anymore didn't mean she wasn't going to. There were a couple good colleges out there that told her if she got high enough exam scores they would give her a scholarship so she needed to stay in shape.

“What's with that Aida kid? He got a thing for Ayanami or something?”

“Kensuke?” Hikari started off in a questioning way as she herself didn't know the answer to that. “I think they're just friends.”

“You think?” Mai jested as the class rep giving her a tour of the school didn't sound too sure of herself.

“I don't even know if we should be talking about this?” Hikari was starting to feel uncomfortable with where this conversation was heading.

But she didn't have to as Mai understood. “Zip my lips?”

Hikari nodded yes.

“Well wouldn't be the first time” Mai commented. “Going to an all girls school I had to stay hushed `bout lots of things.”

Hikari didn't doubt that as she opened the door to the pool. “This pool probably isn't as good as what you're used to.”

“It'll do” Mai responded truthfully. “I'm not picky about where I train. But I do like to swim with other people.”

“You will have to bug your sister then” Hikari told her as she understood what Mai was asking. She wanted to see if she would be swimming with any of them. “After swimming season I become a spectator. In the winter I watch Touji play basketball and in the spring I'm one of the managers for the baseball team.”

“I would love to be a manager of the baseball team” Mai interrupted. She wasn't kidding when she said one of her hobbies was baseball, she absolutely loved the sport.

“There really isn't a position open as we normally pick a second year to be the other manager” Hikari answered. But the look of disappointment on Mai's face made her change her mind. “But if you really want to help out I probably could bend the rules a little.” Actually this would work out nicely for Hikari as having another hand would be helpful since this spring she was going to have to juggle school council responsibilities with being manager of the baseball team and studying for exams.

“What about the other girls on the team?” Mai then asked. “Any of them swim in the off season?”

“I think one or two other girls besides your sister does. But that's about it” Hikari answered. “We're not that serious of a team.”

“Ayanami or Asuka one of the other girls?” This was Mai's hope. She wanted someone besides her sister to push her and those two could.

But this time her hopes would stay dashed. “Oh no” Hikari giggled. “Ayanami does gymnastics in the winter and has a job. And Asuka does cheerleading… and other things.”

“Is Shinji one of those things?” Mai was not blind to that relationship at all. Then again how could you be as Asuka was not shy about linking herself with him.

“Yes, yes, and yes again” Hikari joked back as they left the pool. “But they actually have jobs so once in a while they do have to go there right after school.”

“Where do they work?”

“Shin Seiki's” Hikari answered. “Rei, Kensuke, and I work there too… Well sort of. Rei and Kensuke work a lot but I only work there once in a while on the weekends. I don't really have as much time after school to have a real job. But I worked there over the summer and the couple that run the place are real nice and let me come in when I can find the time so I can earn a few yen.”

“I used to have a job like that” Mai commented. “Then my coach found out about it and made me quit.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Because if I had enough extra time to get a job I was not practicing hard enough.”

“The more you talk about your old coach the more I'm happy Mrs. Kumara was mine” Hikari said.

“Which is why Yuma's staying here” Mai told her while they walked down a hallway. She then changed topics as she was wondering about other things. “So what kind of clubs does this school have?”

“What kind of clubs are you looking for?” Hikari asked as there were too many to list. “Sports clubs, hobby clubs, study groups, school activity clubs?”

“No sports clubs” Mai said right away. “I'm not taking the chance of getting hurt.”

“Well that explains the disappointed looks on Rini and Kotono's faces earlier after they talked to you.” Those two girls were the only ones who didn't seem to look happy after talking to Mai and Hikari was a little worried about that. But she figured she knew why now.

“I felt so bad for telling them no” Mai said. “I mean I would love to be a cheerleader but I can't take the risk of injuring myself and disqualifying me a scholarship.”

“I'm sure they understand” Hikari said reassuring her as Mai did make a wise decision.

“What are the school activity clubs?” Mai then asked. While her old high school didn't really have clubs she knew what all the different groups Hikari was talking about. They were basically the same clubs that were around when she was in junior high.

“With culture fest over it's just the dance committee and the sports fest.” Hikari gave her a little warning. “Avoid the dance committee though, it's a royal mess.”

“I would rather do the sport's fest anyway” Mai answered. “It's more my style and I was on one once in junior high.”

“Then feel free to join” Hikari said encouraging her. “And since you're here to get your exam grades up I'm betting you want to join a study group too?”

“Actually I don't” Mai smirked. “But I know my parents want me to.”

“Then you will fit in nicely with any of the ones out there” Hikari chuckled back. You didn't study because you wanted to, you studied because you had to.

“Which one do you belong to?” Mai asked her. If Hikari was planning on going to Tokyo-4 University she must have been in the highest level group and Mai figured it would help if she hung around the smart kids since she would need lots of help.

“I don't belong to any of the groups” Hikari told her and explained “My schedule's too hectic. I study mostly on my own or with Asuka, Shinji, Rei, and Kensuke on the weekends when I can find the time.”

Now that was a group she wanted to belong to. Two of those people were already in college and the other three were smart enough where they were trying to get into the top college in the nation. “Can I join you guys instead?” She said that half jokingly and half seriously. She was sort of testing the waters at this point. If this was just a small group of friends who got together to study she could understand them not wanting another person around but if they didn't mind someone else showing up to join them she wouldn't pass up the opportunity.

“I don't know” Hikari answered. “Most of the time we study over at Rei's place so you're going to have to ask her if it's ok. Just a little warning though, she might say no. She's very uncomfortable with letting strangers into her home.”

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It was late in the school day before Mai thought she had a good handle on her new situation. This class she was in was quite unique. Not only was there a group of kids that were always together but they were all sort of special. From her conversations with her teacher and other classmates she could classify these students into three categories. One, they were great athletes. Two, they were very smart. Or three, they were both. It wasn't only Hikari, Kensuke, and Shinji trying to get into T4U but several other kids in that class were aiming for it too. All of them belonging to the group. It was almost like there were more kids in this one class aiming for the top than most schools would have in total. And what was even weirder is that they all stood good chances. Well most all, she never did figure out what kind of scores Shinji had. She could tell he was a quite kid to start with but when it came to his test scores he got even quieter. But since no one else ever pushed him to give up his practice scores she wasn't going to either. She was after all trying to get in good with this group. And as for the athletic ones, a lot of those kids could have easily gone to schools like hers. But it seemed like there was more to those kids too. It wasn't that they were really good at a certain sport like her but more along the lines they were very good at almost any sport because their athleticism was at such a great level.

Initially this made her question what was going on with this group but she was clearly told not to think about it by her new teacher. Yes it was weird and strange and there was definitely something more behind it all, but considering all these students were children of parents who worked at Nerv it was better off to ignore the oddness. Like most families that used to live in Tokyo-3 the Siratori family had connections to Nerv as well. Her dad worked for a company that was associated with them and one of her uncles had a job with them directly. He never talked about what he did before third impact and he hadn't since so Mai very much figured this was sort of the same thing. She was just going to have to swallow her curiosity.

But what she did need to know was if Rei would let her study with them. This was going to be difficult as she had noticed since Rei came back she had been with Kensuke most of the time. Around him she seemed like a normal studious girl, but when someone else came by she got sort of shy and almost emanated a `go away' vibe. There were of course exceptions to this and she was hoping to become one of those. But one thing she had noticed is that the exceptions all were very polite when they talked to her and treated her with a lot of respect. Well except for Asuka, the dynamics between those two girls was far out and kind of entertaining to watch. In their conversations you could never tell who really had the upper hand because so much of what they said was inference to something else you didn't know about.

When it looked like Rei and Kensuke were taking a break she walked up to them with a book in hand. “Um Aida, Ayanami. I'm sorry to disturb you but I was wondering if you could please give me a hand with a question? I'm really having problems with it.”

She got mixed results as her feedback as Kensuke said “Sure. And just call me Kensuke, we're not very formal around here.” Rei though clammed up and didn't say anything. Mai was a little worried about this. “So what do you have a problem with?” Kensuke asked her.

“Well this question right here” Mai answered open up her book to a certain page and pointing at a question. “I can't figure out which kanji I'm supposed to use and since the teacher is busy and Asuka has that sign on her desk that says don't disturb her I was wondering if you guys could please give me a hand?” She hoped adding on that second please and her being very polite would help her to get on Ayanami's good side..

Rei did respond to Mai's request with an action this time. But it was looking over at Asuka. She then looked down at her watch. “I didn't know it was that late.”

Kensuke was a little surprised too as he looked over at Asuka and back at his watch. He had lost track of time while working with Rei. “This afternoon sure flew by.”

Mai watched as Rei nodded yes in agreement to that. She took it as a bad sign. “If you guys don't have the time to help, I'll go.”

“There's no need for that” Rei answered. She then picked up her pencil and wrote the answer in Mai's book while also explaining why she wanted to use that one. She did this because Mai was being very polite to her and she was Yuma's big sister. And since all Yuma said were nice things about her Rei figured she had to be a good person. And what she saw during the day, while she was actually there, reinforced that idea. She was a lot like Asuka in many ways but not so bratty and didn't have nearly as big of a head.

Since Rei seemed to be opening up to her Mai wanted to continue talking. “Do you know what Asuka's doing over there?” It almost looked like she was chatting online during class.

“She's talking to her sister over in Germany” Rei answered.

“And she doesn't get in trouble for that?”

Kensuke answered her this time. “Nah. Mrs. Amano's a pretty cool teacher. And with Asuka everything's a special case.”

“Plus this is one of the few times during the day Asuka can talk with her. Mrs. Amano understands that and knows this is good for her.”

“Wow” Mai remarked as all this was just so foreign to her. “If I was in a school like this before I probably wouldn't be having such a hard time studying right now.”

“You're welcome to join us if you would like” Kensuke offered. “I mean we don't study as much as the clubs but if you want you can come over when we are.”

Mai was floored by Kensuke's invite. It was just like that. She didn't even have to ask or beg to join their study group. And even more so Rei didn't seem to look like she had a problem with the invite. “You would really let me study with you guys?”

“Sure” Kensuke said. “The more the merrier.”

While what Kensuke said was good she had to look over to Rei and ask “You don't mind?” Since it was at Rei's place that the studying took place ultimately it was her decision.

And actually Rei didn't mind, but she did have a request. “Please make sure you call or talk with someone else before you come over. I really don't like it when people just come over and pound on my door without notice.”

Mai quickly agreed to that but she wasn't the only one to answer. “Just because I'm talking with my sister online doesn't mean I can't hear you Blue.”

“I am well aware of that fact” Rei said back, almost sounding sassy. “But while you can hear I really wish you would also listen.”

“Well aren't you a feisty one today” Asuka chuckled. “Watch it or you will find yourself in charge of dinner.”

Rei answered with a simple “No.”

But as simple of an answer as that was the reaction from Asuka was great. She stopped typing and looked over at Rei. “Why not? I promise to make it up to you later.”

“I'm sorry Asuka but I'm busy tonight” Rei answered.

“With what?” Asuka asked. Or more like begged for a different answer because she didn't want to have to deal with dinner tonight. Well technically it was Shinji's turn to do dinner but she wanted him to deal with something else instead. Mainly her.

“That is none of your business” Rei told her plainly and even added “In fact I may not even be at dinner tonight.”

“And why not?” This time it was an accusatory tone as Rei was really putting a hamper on her plans. “I know you're not working today.”

“That may be” Rei answered. “But that just means all the other things that have been put on hold due to work and swimming need to be done now before I start gymnastics.”

For that logical answer Rei got a tongue stuck out at her and a snubbing from the red head. She also heard the blond haired boy next to her taunt “Ah… poor Asuka.”

“Watch it stooge” Asuka growled. “Or you'll find yourself stuffed inside a locker after class.”

“That's enough Miss Sohryu” the teacher said putting a stop to this as it was disrupting everyone's studies now. Mainly because everyone was paying attention to the quarrel as it was funny. The teacher then offered “Anyone need any help with an assignment or their studies?” And with that class went back to normal.

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That afternoon Mai took the bus home with her little brother and sister. “I gotta say Yuma, you have some really interesting friends.”

“You think so?” Yuma questioned as her friends seemed pretty normal to her.

“I know so” Mai ribbed her sister. From an outsider looking in she could tell how unique everything was. She guessed her little sister probably had been around those three so long that nothing seemed any different to her.

“I don't think they're strange” Yuma said back.

“Neither do I” Mai said back as she wasn't slighting them with her comment. “It's just that being around them is a hoot. You kinda don't know what's going to happen next.”

Yuma gave her older sister a `whatever' look as she didn't understand what she was talking about before asking “So what study group did you join?”

“None of them” Mai answered.

“Mom's going to yell at you” Yuma's little brother lipped off.

“Shut it Hoshi” Mai told him with a little pound on the top of his head. Her little brother may have been growing but she was still the big sister.

“Ah c'mon sis” Hoshi whined as it was embaressing getting womped on by your big sister in front of everyone else. “I was just kidding.”

“Well it doesn't matter if you were or not” Mai said with a braggarts voice. “I found a better group to study with than one of the school clubs.” She knew the next part was really going to get her brother as he had a bit of a crush on both Asuka and Rei. “I'm going to be studying with Rei, Asuka, Hikari, Shinji, and Kensuke.”

“No Way!” Hoshi exclaimed. “You gotta let me come with you. Please big sis.”

“Yeah, like that's going to happen” Mai laughed at her little brother. And just to rub it in even more she looked over at Yuma. “You can come too if you want.”

Yuma just giggled at that while her brother got a horribly jealous look on his face. What Mai wasn't telling her brother was that Yuma already was allowed to go over and study with them if she needed help with something. In fact she along with her friends Kohama and Tamiko had done that twice this year before some big tests. She just never told her twin brother about it because she knew he would beg to go along.

“No Fair!” Hoshi shouted. “Why can't I come too?”

“Because you will spend the whole time trying to look down Asuka and Rei's shirt you big perv” Mai teased.

“I would not” Hoshi said turning red. Actually he would spend the whole time trying to look down Rei's shirt and up Asuka's skirt. Rei had slightly bigger boobs but Asuka had a hotter ass so he would have to split his time.

“Sure you wouldn't” Mai kept up teasing before looking back over at Yuma. “At the end of class Hikari said I should wear light clothing when I went over to Rei's place. Do you know what that's about?”

Yuma nodded a big yes. “Rei hates to be cold so she turns her heat way up.”

“So they all sit around wearing their summer clothes? Even in the winter?” Hoshi questioned as his eyes got big.

While the answer to that was yes Yuma let out a “Ewww… don't think about my friends that way.”

“I wasn't” Hoshi quickly lied and begged again “Please just let me go with you… pretty please.”

“No” Yuma told him. “You'll embarrass me in front of Miss Asuka.”

“No I won't. I Promise.”

After that he got another womp on his head from Mai. “Stop begging already. You were told no and that's that.”

Hoshi responded with a sad whine and regrettably stopped begging. His older sister was really stubborn at times.

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

Rei's ears were tingling. But the last thing on her mind was that someone was talking about her. Mostly due to the pleasurable fact that the tantalizing tingling sensation had everything to do with Kensuke nibbling on them. Normally something like this would elicit some simple giggles of the making out variety but not today. Today those cute little giggles of hers were being trumped by soft sensuous moans. And like the tingling in her ears this too had do with her boyfriend. As well as her state of dress, or undress in this case, and her current position.

The real reason Rei was not able to take over dinner duties for Shinji like Asuka wanted was that she had to do a single errand. And that errand was to turn up the heat in her apartment when she got home from school with Kensuke. And why was this errand so important? Well, it had to do with the fact that she wanted to be warm and comfortable sitting around her apartment wearing nothing but a satiny thin pair of panties. And also she had to be a gracious host and make sure her boyfriend would be comfortable too as he was only wearing a pair of boxers while she sat on his lap with her back to him. After all the more comfortable they were the more heat they could generate.

Kensuke whispered a simple, but true, “I love you” into Rei's ear as he gently nibbled and kissed a lobe.

To him, Rei was very open with expressing her true feelings as she softly moaned “I love you too” back. And after she said that she let out another soft moan as her boyfriend had wrapped his arms around her body when she sat down on his lap and was now fondling her breasts while amorously massaging those sensitive pink nipples of hers. Rei secretly loved that curious and inquisitive nature of his as when her blonde haired boyfriend applied those traits to touching her body it caused a rapid learning curve that what made her feel so very good. And as he teasingly pinched a quiver inducing nipple between his forefinger and thumb she started to feel and interesting sensation. Basically she stared to feel hot.

Oh so very hot as the fondling, and nibbling, and heat inducing pinching with some gentle tugging continued. In fact for the very first time in the relationship she got too hot. And this had nothing to do with the elevated heat settings in her apartment but everything to do with how good Kensuke was getting at manipulating those sensitive parts of her body. In fact he was getting so good that it was causing a problem for her as of late. The hotter she got the more her body wanted a full release of that heat. Unfortunately they weren't doing that sort of full thing yet as the rules said they had to stay at second base for a while.

Both of them decided that their relationship was moving much too fast in the physical department and that it needed to be slowed down a bit. Sure there had been instances of slight infractions of their rules. An accidental touch of the most private body part here, and innocent peak at parts there. But nothing like what was about to happen as Rei was finding the ability to hold off impossible. Normally she could wait till she had some alone time to finish herself off but not this time. Kensuke had pushed all the right buttons along with her body too far. She needed that sweet release now.

Rei turned her head slightly so she could look at Kensuke. And with a hot whispered breath she told him “I- I have to break the rules.”

At first Kensuke was baffled as to what that meant and the fact it came out of nowhere. That confusion disappeared though the second Rei slid one of her hands beneath the satiny pair of white panties she was wearing. She was going to rub herself off while sitting on his lap. She didn't know what was going to happen from doing this. All she knew was she had to have it, and have it now.

Kensuke didn't help any in sticking to the rules either as right after she started pleasuring herself he placed a hand over the outside of her panties and whispered back. “If we're going to break the rules, let's do it together.”

And with only a flimsy film of satin separating their hands Kensuke felt Rei finger herself to an orgasm, releasing some of that uncontrollable heat stored up in her body in the form of deep moans and sensuous whimpers of bodily delight. The whole time with Kensuke feeling it all. Every rub, every pinch, every quiver of her body, every breathless cry of pleasure. Everything.

The first thing that went through Rei's mind when she finally came to her senses was `Oh god… we made another mistake.' The second thing was `What did I just do?' as she noticed Kensuke was looking at her with a sort of proud sort of embarrassed smirk. The answer came to her quickly as she realized `I moaned out his name as I came again!' Her cheeks turned to a bright shade of pink as the gaze continued. She was having many fantasies now about being pleasured by him and in her private times was even calling out his name as she came. By this point it was instinct.

But those embarrassed pink cheeks turned to a crimson red as she heard him say. “Wow!.. That was the hottest thing I've seen… Ever! You practically glow when you come. I have to see it again.”

Rei responded with an embarrassed “Kensuke!…” but the rest of her words were silenced by a kiss. And more than a simple kiss too as during it Rei felt him press one of his fingers against hers. It was sort of a chain reaction as when his middle finger pressed against her middle finger she ended up rubbing it against her clit. That of course started a pleasurable feeling that began to get her hot again. This caused Rei to pull away from the kiss and say something she couldn't believe she was saying. “Ok… one more time. But we stop after this, agreed?”

“Agreed” Kensuke said back as he was fully aware that they had already let this situation go too far.

But any awareness or agreement went right out the window as since Rei was starting from the beginning she took things nice and slow. Leisurely she fingered her pussy and gently warmed herself back up before she really went after her pleasure button. She wanted to take this nice and slow so Kensuke could feel the whole thing.

The slowness was supposed to instill a sense of control but as usual the attempt at control of physical pleasure backfired against them both. She could feel Kensuke's hardness growing against her as she sat on his lap and that helped in getting her very hot. Hot enough to launch them into another hot and heavy kissing session, with plenty of heavy petting. Rei's reaction to that was another bold move on her part. She encouraged Kensuke's hand to join hers without the fabric barrier between them.

Kensuke soon got a very direct lesson in just how his girlfriend liked to be touched. And so much more as when one of his fingers would slip off one of hers and touch Rei directly she would moan out that much more while they kissed. Soon after some gentle rubbing and even pinching of a nerve filled excited bud Rei had another orgasm, except this time it was bigger than the one before.

The first orgasm was simply to release enough heat in her body so she could concentrate on being with Kensuke. This one was to release all her heat. Which was impossibly hard to do as Kensuke touching her in such an intimate way only recreated more heat causing her to arch her back as she let out a cry of pleasure.

The only thing Kensuke could do was watch how beautiful Rei looked as her whole body shook and trembled on his lap while telling her how much he loved her. He also had to question for a second if this was reality. The feelings and sight he saw were way more intense than anything he could of imagined. This caused him to wonder what else was different from what he thought.

Probably because that was a more intense orgasm than the one before Rei at first at first missed what her boyfriend did right afterwards. He had taken her hand out from between her legs and now was ticklingly sucking on one of her fingers. It was a very kinky thing for him to be doing while at the same time quite erotic. She was having a hard time condoning this action in her head because of those mixed feelings but before she realized it she let slip a cute giggle. That of course meant she was enjoying this slightly perverted act and there was no way she could stop him without making herself hypocritical.

Plus during the time she spent looking at him and pondering his actions he had already finished licking her own juices from two of her fingers and was starting on the third. “You're a naughty boy.”

Kensuke smirked at her while continuing his actions. He wasn't going to respond till he was done teasing and tasting that finger. And when he popped it out from his mouth he looked at her with a boyish grin and said “Sorry… I was curious.”

“I can tell” Rei purred back and stuck her pinky finger in his mouth. After all he might as well finish what he started. Now this proved Kensuke wasn't the only one with a kinky side to them in this relationship. Rei didn't enjoy reading those steamy romance novels because she was a totally innocent and naïve girl in her innermost thoughts too. She had just as many dirty thoughts and fantasies swimming around in that head of hers as everyone else.

She waited till Kensuke was done with her little finger before she acted on her next thought. It was anything but innocent as she got up and walked over to the nightstand beside her bed. She returned with a bottle of lotion and sat down back on his lap. This time she was facing him and had straddled him with her legs. This also meant her breasts were right in his face.

Kensuke was no dummy about this action and he did what any girl expects when she shoves her tits in a boy's face, he started to suck on her nipples. He also raised his hands up so he could fondle them as well. But one of those hands got stopped by hers and was redirected to a different area further down south. And after a quick stop for a squirt of lotion it kept going down until it was beneath the waistband of his boxers and he was grabbing his own manhood. His hand wasn't alone in this action as Rei kept her hand on his much like his was on hers before. He looked straight into her eyes and said “I love you.”

Rei giggled out an “I know” at those eager eyes looking so deeply into her own while starting to stroke.

Kensuke was very much worked up from everything that had happened before so this was not going to take long. Especially since Rei wasn't very good at keeping her hand on top of his, most likely intentionally from the feel of it. But that didn't mean he didn't have time to drop his other hand south as well. He was plenty good at playing with her tits with only his mouth and now since he thought he was allowed to touch down there too he could resist a grope of her ass.

While still stroking him she smiled and changed her position just a smidge in response. She sort of stuck her ass out a little so if Kensuke wanted to touch her between her legs again he could. He didn't disappoint his girl at all as he started to rub her pussy.

Rei showed her appreciation by sort of grinding against his hand to make it feel better. She also started stroking faster as she wanted to make him as happy as she was right now.

It didn't take Rei very long to get what she wanted and when the hand job was finished and Kensuke came he couldn't help but notice more of Rei's hand was grasping and stroking him than his. In fact for the last minute or so it was almost entirely her hand doing any action as his was doing nothing more than sitting on top of hers. That was what pushed him over the edge.

In an act of two can play this game when Rei took her hand out of his boxers and noticed some sticky white cream on a finger, she licked it off that pretty finger of hers.

“Oh Rei…” Kensuke said with a fluster to his breath “...You're so damn hot!” And then with a sigh he added on “And you really shouldn't have done that.”

“And why not” Rei asked while grinning. If this was another sexy game she was up for it. That finger he was diddling around in her pussy below was definitely getting her in the mood for more fun.

“Because now I have to do this” Kensuke answered. And with a quick move that caused Rei to elicit a little “Eep” he picked her up of his lap and laid her down on the couch. Another “Eep” followed as he stripped her panties off and spread her legs wide open.

But as he leaned forward she clamped them back together quickly. “Wh-what are you going to do?”

“Eat you out” Kensuke answered but at the same time thought to himself. `I went too far. I better pull back.' That thought though got cancelled out by Rei's response.

“Oh… okay” and while blushing she spread her legs back open.

“What did you think I was going to do?” Kensuke asked now confused about what was happening. Did she want this or not?

With a deeper blush and a quiet nervous tone of voice Rei answered “Make me a woman.”

“Well… I… Uhhh… Y-you don't want me to do that now?.... Do you?” He was more than just a little lost now. He didn't think Rei wanted to go that far, and he wasn't sure he wanted to either, but if she did… Well he didn't know what was going to happen.

He was right about his first thought of Rei not wanting to go that far as she quickly answered him with a head shake no. But she also told him “But if it does… happen…” Rei gulped as this was hard to say. “If it's with you I will be happy.” Rei was protecting herself right now. She was well aware of what was going on and the possibility of them having sex tonight was not out of the question. They were very much letting their emotions carry them away right now and she just wanted to make sure he knew how she felt if “it” happened.

Instead of going down on her right away after that Kensuke smiled. He crawled up between her outstretched legs till his face was over hers and gave her a kiss. He could tell Rei didn't really want to lose her virginity right now but that sometime in the future she was going to give herself to him. “Don't worry Bella. I will wait until you're ready.”

Rei smiled back and told him she loved him again. That was of course followed by some more close kisses. Which suited Rei just fine as she was a big fan of kissing and in private wanted as many as Kensuke could give her. She now understood why Asuka was such an attention hog when it came to Shinji. It probably had less to do with that girl's inner demons of loneliness and more to do with how good it felt.

But after the emotional involvement/love reaffirming period was over with Kensuke went back to being naughty and Rei found herself gasping as just stopping at the oral stage wasn't exactly a bad thing. In fact it was a better thing than she imagined and the two lovers spent the rest of the afternoon learning each other in very intimate ways.

Kensuke was even nice enough to indulge her in a little fantasy she had. It involved sitting at a kotatsu and reading one of her romance novels. She had often wondered what it would be like to read one of the sexy parts while Kensuke ate her out. If it was like she thought it would be, reading those books and letting him do that might become a common event.

Unfortunately it didn't work out like she planned. Not because Kensuke didn't do his part but more because she couldn't concentrate enough to read the book. Some of the things he was doing to her under the table were way too distracting. That was good too though. And it wasn't like just the omission of one part of the fantasy was going to change anything. This was not something they were going to go backwards from.

Afterwards though Rei did have him try to read something while she returned the favor. Like with her he wasn't able to read anything either. In fact he barely even tried as three seconds after she started sucking she saw him lift up the blanket so he could watch her do it. That was a very naughty thing for him to do in her opinion and she decided if he wanted to look at her so much while she gave him a blowjob he might as well do it under the kotatsu as well so none of the heat would escape from his lifting it up and peeping. After all they were both completely naked by now and needed to keep warm.

Kensuke didn't care one bit about that excuse to snuggle under the heated table. She was offering a blow job and he wasn't going to say no to that.

And the two of them stayed under that heated table playing with each for so long that the heat actually made them both a touch dizzy. But it was nothing a slightly cool shower together couldn't fix. Followed by a nice warm one to heat things back up.

Any other obligations those two had today were completely forgotten about as the two spent the rest of the evening and almost the entire night playing with each other. The more they played the better it got. The better it got the more they wanted to play. A viscous cycle really that neither of them seemed to mind falling prey to.

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

Misato and Kaji were having a nice quiet dinner at home that night. This was something that hadn't happened in quite some time, mind you. Asuka and Shinji came home from school and Asuka told Misato she could have anything she wanted for dinner tonight. Mainly because she was in charge of providing it. After that bratty way of saying hello Asuka disappeared with Shinji into her room. Misato just rolled her eyes at the teens and decided she would get back at Asuka by ordering sushi for dinner tonight. Well sort of, Misato was a smart cookie and knew the chances of seeing either of those two at the dinner table tonight was mighty slim. But at least Rei would be happy when she came over for dinner.

Well she would have been if she showed up. Curiously she was a no show and even of the more curious nature she didn't even let them know she was going to be a no show at the dinner table tonight. This meant Misato and Kaji waited for about a half hour longer before they started eating. And in this time Keiko had her dinner as she wasn't one to show patience. But when it became obvious that Rei wasn't coming the two decided to start.

“I wonder what's going on?” Misato questioned.

“An opportunity” Kaji grinned as he picked up Keiko from her booster seat and carried her over to the couch. He then put in one of her longer movies and hit play.

“You mean an actual dinner all to our selves… here?” Misato kidded back while playing along.

“That's the way it looks to me” Kaji replied and even took things a bit further as he grabbed a candle and put it on the table. After lighting it and turning down the lights the mood was set.

“Wow” Misato tittered lightly and teased “Is this that thing they call romance?” An obvious reference to how limited of an experience as this was now that they were parents.

“It's been a long time” Kaji admitted. “But lets enjoy this rare moment while we can.” And with that the two were able to have a candle lit dinner all to themselves.

But being the parents they were it didn't stay romantic as the conversation of course meandered from sweet nothings to the kids. There was some talk about Keiko and what was going on with her at first and then that progressed to stuff about Shinji and Asuka. And finally they started talking about Rei.

“It's not like Rei to leave us in suspense like this” Misato stated while dipping a piece of tuna into some wasabi.

“She must be doing something distracting” Kaji said back with a smirk.

“So was Kensuke's moped by hers when you got home?” Misato asked as she guessed that was what that smirk was about.

Kaji nodded yes to that. “Well whatever those two are doing lets hope they're having fun.”

“Yes lets” Misato smiled back. And after a few moments of delightful silence she added on “And I hope she tells me all about it soon.”

Kaji simply chuckled at that. Motherhood had done nothing to cut his wife's curious nature, if anything she was an even more curious person now when it came to things concerning those she cared about.

It also showed that there was some communication now about Rei and Kensuke's secret relationship. Rei really needed someone to talk to as she went through all this. Her emotions were all a flutter and at times she was really confused about what was happening. She had to talk to someone and Misato was naturally that person. She wouldn't have minded talking about this with Hikari and Asuka but that was a risky idea. She trusted the both of them but Asuka might out the relationship by accident the way she did hers and Shinji. And Hikari, well if she knew she would probably try to skirt around the issue if anyone ever joked about it and that would probably clue people in. So that, and the fact Rei very much saw Misato as her surrogate mother, was why Misato became her confident.

Kaji knew as well but not because Misato told him. It was because Kensuke asked permission from him if he could date Rei. Sure it was in secrecy but he didn't feel right keeping this from who he viewed as Rei's father. Kaji in return thought this showed great respect and happily granted permission. He also gave Kensuke some advice from time to time if the boy ever looked like he had some questions. All under the table of course as this was a big secret. And who better to trust with a secret this big than Kaji, the ex-spy extraordinaire.

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

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Rei was having problems today. It was cold and a regular blanket wrapped around her legs just was not cutting it anymore. She needed something warmer. But the problem with that was she was not going to get it. While Mr. Ohta let her get away with bringing an electric blanket to class, Mrs. Amano wasn't going to. Not because she didn't feel for the girl but because of where Rei sat meant a cord would have to be stretched along a walkway in the room. Several people in the room, most prominently her, were big klutzes and the teacher could easily imagine someone taking a nose dive thanks to that cord.

Unfortunately this left her feeling guilty as every time she saw the girl Rei was shivering. Plus, like Mr. Ohta had said, Rei became one of her favorite students. Rei showed her respect, was very nice, had great manners, and was a student that tried hard. While her speeches weren't the best the teacher could see she was putting in effort. But getting over a big introversion factor wasn't easy for anyone and Mrs. Amano always factored that in this when reviewing her speeches. When it came to the reports though, that was a completely different story. Mrs. Amano actually looked forward to reading those as they were so beautifully worded and written in a way that drew your utmost attention. Sometimes she could swear it was the same guilty pleasure she got from reading romance novels. That chilly girl shivering in her seat had a great literary talent.

The guilty feeling from reading her reports and the current guilty feeling were polar opposites though and she decided to help Rei out a little. Rei had just coming back from the college and she asked if she could talk to her out in the hall. “Miss Ayanami, could I get a minute of your time?”

“Of course” Rei replied to her teacher with a little bow showing respect. In actuality though she wanted to get back to her seat as quickly as possible because she was freezing. While this school had an adequate heating system now, it was set at 20º C and that was still too cold for her tastes. And having to wear those short uniform skirts made it even worse. And those leggings she wore didn't help one bit either. In fact all the cold did was make her happy she was in an advanced situation considering her education now. The university didn't have a dress code so she could change into whatever warm outfit she wanted while attending classes there. Unfortunately she had to change back when she was at the high school.

“I've noticed you seem to be having a hard time of it lately” Mrs. Amano started. “And I really wish I could let you bring in something that would make you more comfortable but...”

“I understand why I cannot bring in an electric blanket” Rei stopped her. She could tell her teacher was feely guilty and she didn't want that. While she would like to bring in her electric blanket she understood why the teacher wouldn't let her. Even last year people were tripping all over the cords in the room so she could recognize the danger.

“Good, but I might have another option for you.”

Rei was all ears upon hearing that line. Any option that kept her warm was a good option.

Mrs. Amano then started to explain something while handing Rei a slip of paper. “You're not the only girl in this school who has trouble with the cold. I'm almost embarrassed to say this but I got very used to the high temperatures too and not even wearing pantsuits keeps me warm during class. But a couple months ago while surfing the net I stumbled on this new company. They make thermal underwear that look exactly like stockings and pantyhose.” And as the teacher said that she pulled up one of her dress pant legs. It looked like she was only wearing some pantyhose under her slacks but the truth was these were thermal underwear.

“I didn't know something like that even existed” Rei said with amazement.

“Well according to the company's website they're brand new to the market” the teacher told her. “But one little warning, they're an expensive item.”

“Are they worth the cost?” Rei then asked. Even if they were expensive Rei could see her spending her hard earned money on a product like this.

“I haven't been cold yet this year” Mrs. Amano smirked.

That was the end of the conversation but not the end of Rei's dealings with the information she was given. Immediately when she sat down at her desk she launched into the internet and searched for the name of the company written down on the piece of paper. Oddly enough the products on their website looked familiar. They were all high tech and had batteries that could last a whole day, adjustable temperatures to suit the wearer, detachable sleeves for the arms, and made with a type of fiber that while very thin had incredible durability. You could even wash the things like regular laundry. This was a bit too good to believe and she decided to send an IM over to Asuka.

Rei: Asuka. Does this look familiar to you too? - Rei also sent the address of the site to Asuka.

Asuka: Weird. It's like a hosiery version of our plugsuits. This has to tie back to Nerv somehow. -That was Asuka's gut feeling. What she was looking at was way too high tech not to be.

Rei: That is what I was thinking. But they do look like they would be warm.

Asuka: For how much they cost they better be.

Rei: I think the price might be worth it.

Asuka: Hey it's your money. If you want to buy a pair go right ahead. But I would talk to Misato first. If she knows who these guys are you might be able to score a discount.

Not a bad idea at all and Rei thanked Asuka for the advice and let her go back to talking with her sister.

Rei: Are you there?

Misato: You need something sweetie?

Rei: That was quick. -Misato responded to her almost instantly. Usually you had to wait for a minute or two to get a reply from her.

Misato: I was already online talking to Maya about baby stuff.

Rei: I was wondering if you know any of these people? -and Rei sent Misato the address for the site.

Misato: Wow! Those look familiar.

Rei: Asuka said they looked like hosiery versions of our old plugsuits.

Misato: She's right. But I don't recognize any of the names. Let me check with Maya though. She knows more about this type of stuff and who made it.

Rei: Ok. -And Rei waited patiently for Misato's reply. But she didn't have to wait too long though.

Misato: Maya said she recognizes one of the names. One of the company's founders used to maintain your guys' plugsuits.

Rei: That would explain a lot.

Misato: Yup. But they do look nice and toasty. You interested?

Rei: I was thinking about getting a pair.

Misato: You would probably need more than one.

Rei: I can only afford one.

Misato: I think you need five. Three of the white hosiery style for school and two of the tan kind that look like pantyhose.

Rei: I can't afford that.

Misato: Who said you were paying for it?

Rei: I appreciate the generosity but no.

Misato: Sorry sweetie but you have no say in this. You're getting them and that's final. Understand?

Rei: Yes Misato. -Rei could only shake her head in defeat at the computer screen. This is not what she was planning and maybe she shouldn't have asked Misato about this after all. While she didn't mind a discount here and there she was still unaccustomed to Misato spoiling her like this.

Misato: Ok sweetie. Have a good day at school.

Rei: Bye. -And Rei signed off before Misato bought her any more stuff. But despite the spoiled rotten feeling she was happy and appreciative.

Rei had made a good discovery and Misato decided to take advantage of the discount the sight was offering for large purchases. Most likely this was an invite to get large consumer stores to purchase their products and sell them in those stores but that didn't mean she couldn't take advantage of the situation too. And anyway, this was a way of supporting a fellow ex-Nerv employee who was venturing out into the business world with a product. She was honor bound to help. Or at least twist the facts anyway she wanted to make her purchase sound noble because she was getting some of the thermal bodysuits for herself too. But not only herself as she questioned other people.

Misato: Hey Asuka.

Asuka: Hey Misato.

Misato: I'm getting a bunch of those thermal suits. You want any?

Asuka: If you're paying, sure. How about one in white and one tan?

Misato: That's it? I'm buying Rei five, five for me, three of the guy ones for Kaji, and three for Keiko in a couple sizes.

Asuka: You can buy me more if you want but I'm probably not going to use them all that much. Remember you guys are the freeze babies, not me.

Misato: I suppose that's true. You sure you don't want anything else they sell on that site? -There was no sense in buying Asuka that many if she wasn't going to use them.

Asuka: Well if you really want to spoil me so bad there is something else that I want.

Misato: What? - Since she was already in the spoiling mood she might as well give into one of Asuka's request. Well as long as it was reasonable that is.

Asuka: Open up another window and go into my favorites.

Misato: Ok.

Asuka: Go all the way to the bottom to the one labeled Victoria's Secrets.

Misato: That's a sexy little Santa suit. -Right now she was looking at a different kind of bodysuit. It was made of satin and lace and had little faux fur around the cuffs of the wrist and neck collar. It was even modifiable like the thermal suits they had been talking about. But in this case the modification was in the form of three strategically placed slits in the cloth. And the kicker, the suit came with a little Santa hat.

Asuka: I want to get that as a Christmas present for Shinji.

Misato: I'm sure he will love it. I have a black one just like that and Kaji drools every time I put it one.

Asuka: That's the reaction I am looking for.

Misato: You think I should ask Shinji if he wants any of those thermal underwear?

Asuka: Nah. Just get him two of the guy ones that look like long johns. You will never get him into any of the ones that look like tights.

Misato: LOL. Have a good day at school.

Asuka: Ok Misato. Bye.

The buying didn't stop there. Misato was thinking this would make very good Christmas presents for all her friends this year so she bought a bunch more. During this time of the year Misato was much more prone to spending money. It was after all the jolliest time of the year. And considering for the last couple of years it really was jolly, and not horribly sucky like for so many years before, she was going to take full advantage of the saying.

Plus now she could say “Looks like I'm done with my Christmas shopping already.”

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

Things got a bit peculiar for Rei later on in the day. Like last year she was on the gymnastic team again. Same set up even, despite what the coach wanted. Rei was coming along nicely in the other events and the coach was hoping she would continue practicing them and maybe become more of a contribution to his team. He also hoped that this year she could talk Asuka into joining the team. Both hopes were completely squashed as Rei wasn't even willing to talk to Asuka and she said she was quite content on sticking only to the balance beam.

But the coach wasn't the only one having problems. Kaede was back on the team too and she was in a grumpy mood today. The reason why was the person she went after right away as she saw him sitting in the stands.

“Well if it isn't Mr. I'm Too Busy Studying To Do Anything Anymore.” There was, as you can guess, much testiness in that voice. “You think showing up at practice is going to make up for ignoring me all summer and the first trimester?”

Considering Kaede was not violating his personal space like usual Kensuke figured she was mad at him for real. “I wasn't ignoring you” he quickly said back. “I mean we talked on the computer a couple times.”

“Big whoop.” Kaede chided back. “You used to be on the chat boards everyday. Now you're almost never on. And even when you do show up it's for only like an hour and I have to wait on every response because you're doing something else at the same time.”

“Well I'm busy” Kensuke replied.

That got horribly twisted by his old friend as she exclaimed “Are you telling me you would rather spend your whole time studying than talking to me?”

“Huh?... What?” that caught the bespectacled boy completely off guard. “No it's not like that.”

“Then what is it like?” Kaede demanded. The reason she was so steamed is that during the summer and many times during the beginning of the year she had tried to call him but never got an answer from his home phone. She had even gone over to his place a couple times, only to get no answer when she knocked on his door. She was starting to get the feeling he was ignoring her. In fact the most she had seen him was during the memorial get together for his mother. And that wasn't exactly a time you could have fun.

“Well…” Kensuke hemmed and hawed. “You know I have to study a lot to get into college.”

“Yeah I know that” Kaede said back. “But do you have to study over at Ayanami's place all the time? I know she's smart and all but you could study with other people once in a while. I'm trying to get into college too you know.” That came out exactly like it sounded. Kensuke had hurt her feelings.

In the past Kensuke would have folded and agreed to study with her. But that wasn't an option anymore and instead he said being very blunt “I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings Kaede but we can't study together. You know as well as I do you will get bored after a half hour and want to go do something else. I can't afford to do that.”

“No I won't” Kaede said back with more hurt feelings. But her only reply was an unbelieving look from Kensuke. Even though the kid had a very real point, and that was what probably would happen as she hated studying, she still took offense to his look and sulked away. She basically just got told off by him and that was not what she wanted or was expecting. He was supposed to be nice to her and maybe even a little intimidated by her boldness. The Kensuke she thought she knew wasn't the Kensuke she was talking to.

Rei of course had paid very close attention to that conversation, even if it looked like she wasn't. While she did feel bad for Kaede as she watched the girl mope away with a dejected look on her face she was happy with how everything turned out. Sure Kensuke was a bit mean to Kaede but he did it because he was thinking of someone more important to him that would have taken a greater offense if he caved in to her demands. Rei was well aware that her feelings were based greatly on jealousy right now but she didn't care. Kensuke was her boyfriend so Kaede was very much seen as a threat in her eyes. Love wasn't always pretty.

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

Kaede was brooding for most of practice. She didn't like getting told no like that and this time she wasn't going to accept it. One of the reasons why had to do with her current love life. She had just broken up with her boyfriend a month ago and was in search of someone she could be close with. For obvious reasons Kensuke was her first choice even if he was unwilling. And truthfully he was always her first choice but she learned over time that if she wanted any romance she was going to have to get it from other boys as he was never willing. And right now he seemed very unwilling. But that didn't mean she had to accept what he said and at the end of practice she marched right up to him and got in his face, this time very noticeably violating his personal space. “What does Ayanami's place got that I don't?!”

Some of her friends from the team were with her and they added on in the background. “Just go over to her house would you.”

While that was the easiest way out of this situation it was not an option anymore. “Stop it Kaede!” The voice that said that was quite stern.

“Wh-what?” Kaede replied taking a step back. She wasn't expecting to get scolded.

“Listen Kaede” Kensuke said trying to explain himself again. “I need to study over there because all my friends that are trying to get into the same school as me do too. If I came over to study with you all that would happen is you would be asking me how to do something and then I wouldn't get any studying done myself. I'm sorry if you don't like that answer but that's how it is.”

Kaede didn't react well to getting told the truth. In her opinion it wasn't nice at all and sort of degrading even. She let out a terse “You've changed” and stormed off towards the locker room.

Kensuke felt horrible about what he just did but it was the truth. Yes part of the reason he studied so much at Rei's place was due to his relationship with her but it was also because of what he just told her. He really did study a lot with Hikari and Shinji. And Rei and Asuka also did help them greatly in their studies. And what he said about Kaede was also true. And while it wouldn't really hurt him that much to go study with her once in a while he wasn't going to do that because he felt that would be betraying Rei. And unfortunately for Kaede, Rei was more important to him in his life than her.

In the locker room Kaede was not taking this well. “God why is he being so cold to me now?”

“Just let it go” one of her friends told her. “He's not worth it.”

“But he can't act like that to me” she said back.

“Why are you so hung up on that dork?” her friend asked.

“Don't call my Ke-kun a dork” Kaede said back not even knowing why really as he was acting like a dork to her right now.

“I know he's been your friend since you were young” another one of her friends started. “But he's not like he used to be. I mean ever since the start of this year he has been one of those intense study people. Those guys aren't any fun to hang out with you know.”

“I know” Kaede pouted at the reality of the situation. “He won't have any fun with me anymore. He doesn't respond to my flirting. He's not who he used to be. What's wrong with him?” While she said that she looked over at Rei. Kaede wasn't really blaming her but at the same time she was part of the problem. And since she was a little pissed off right now she marched over to Rei and said “I'm coming over to study with you guys from now on!” in a rather demanding way.

Right now Kaede was to her back. And what Kaede had just said very much ruffled Rei's feathers. There was no way that was happening and she looked over her shoulder and gave the girl the mother of all icy stares. She didn't say anything, she only stared at the demanding girl.

It took less than five seconds for Kaede backed down. Rei did not look happy with her in the least and she actually ended up bowing slightly and apologizing to her for what she said as she backed away.

Rei didn't respond and simply walked off with her book bag. And to Rei that was the polite thing to do as if she opened her mouth the last thing that was going to come out was “apology accepted.” In fact she was tempted to yell at Kaede to stay away from her boyfriend.

As Kaede watched Rei walk away from her, not even looking at her, she got a chill throughout her whole body. She also placed her hand over her heart as it was beating rapidly. If she didn't know better she could have sworn she was scared of Rei right now. And while looking over to her friends she asked out a confused “Did I make her mad?”

All her friends nodded yes with one of them saying “Getting in Ayanami's face is like really stupid Kaede.”

“Well I didn't mean it like that” Kaede answered back. But at the same time she was feeling very worried. If you weren't one of her friends Rei came off as a very standoffish person and had an air about her that said `don't bug me.' Kaede was left feeling like she just did that, and in a major way. That girl was till really scary sometimes.

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

Hikari was standing outside the locker rooms waiting for Touji to come out when she saw Rei. The blue haired girl was looking noticeably upset. “Is something wrong?”

Rei stopped and let out a big sigh. “Yes… and it's mostly my fault.”

“What happened?” Hikari asked in a concerned way.

“I - I think I lost my temper” Rei said not feeling very good about herself.

“Did someone say something bad to you?”

“Yes…” Rei started and then looked back and the door to the girl's locker room “… well no… I don't really know to tell you the truth.”

Rei seemed pretty confused about the situation to Hikari so she asked what happened again. This time Rei went into more detail and explained the confrontation she had with Kaede in the locker room. Hikari knew there was so much more to this than what Rei was telling her. She may have been on the other side of the gym watching Touji practice but she didn't miss the confrontations between Kaede and Kensuke. Nor did she miss the very slight expressions Rei had on her face during these talks. While most people would miss them completely, being her friend she was able to pick up on the slight nuances. That made discussing this a little difficult as Hikari didn't want to clue Rei in on that she knew about her and Kensuke. “It's ok Rei. You overreacted a little bit but Kaede shouldn't have pushed you like that.”

“I know” Rei sighed back. “But normally I can control situations like that. It's just that….” Rei had to stop herself for a second and think of another way to say what she was feeling. “… Due to some things that are happening lately I feel like I'm not in control of myself at times.” Rei's biggest worry was that right now Hikari was going to press her to explain what some of those “things” were.

Hikari of course didn't. “Every girl has times like that. When everything feels like it's spinning out of control and you react in ways you wouldn't normally. It's no big deal. I'm sure by tomorrow it will all be blown over.”

“You think so?”

“I'm sure of it” Hikari said back. “Why don't you go home and relax tonight. We can go study some other time.”

Rei nodded yes to that and thanked Hikari for her words. They really did make her feel better.

After Rei had turned a corner Kaede came out of the locker room and headed straight towards Hikari. “Umm… Horaki? Is she really mad at me?” Kaede had wanted to come out of the girl's locker room earlier but stopped when she saw Rei talking with Hikari. She was very weary of approaching Rei right now so she waited till she was gone.

“A bit” Hikari answered truthfully. Although the situation was a different from what Kaede knew. Rei wasn't mad at her for what she did, she was mad at Kaede for being a threat to her relationship.

“I know I shouldn't have been so demanding when I talked to her, and I did apologize, but she really reacted really badly.”

“It's because she's a very private person” Hikari answered trying to explain. “And you tried to force yourself into her privacy. She's not big on intrusions like that.”

“I guess I wouldn't be either” Kaede answered sort of understanding things better. “Should I apologize to her again?”

“Actually I would just forget about this whole thing” Hikari told her. “With Rei it's not forgive and forget, it's just plain forget.”

“I can do that” Kaede said liking that answer. Apologizing again would be very embarrassing.

But before Kaede could walk off Hikari stopped her as she wanted to talk to the girl about another person. “I'm not telling you to back off or anything but you might want to go easy on Kensuke right now.”

“Why?” Kaede asked. She clearly noticed that Hikari wasn't threatening her in any way and sounded a touch concerned.

“He got a practice exam from the school he's trying to get into the other day and it's pretty hard. I think he is really stressed out about it right now. It might be better to let him be for now.”

“I suppose” Kaede sighed as it was hard to argue Hikari's point. She wasn't necessarily happy to hear that but at the same time it explained why Kensuke was so curt to her before. He must have been really stressed out right now.

Hikari hoped Kaede really did listen to what she said. Because if she didn't it would lead to a real confrontation between Rei and Kaede and something told her that wouldn't be pretty. With something precious to fight for Hikari suspected Rei could be a very dangerous opponent, much more than what anyone would expect. She also hoped that Kaede didn't go talking to Kensuke about the test thing as it was all a big lie she made up to protect her friends. While Hikari wanted to know what was going on she wasn't going to be nosey. If those two wanted to do whatever they were doing quietly that was their decision to make, not hers.

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

Kensuke spent the rest of the day and the whole night too holding Rei after that. There was no intimacy either, just simple holding. Rei was feeling very shaken about what happened and needed the reassuring feeling you get from being held by your lover. They both needed it to be a quiet night for the two of them and he simply watched a ballgame with her in his arms while she read a book with a kitty snuggled up in her lap. This made both of them feel much better. It was hard keeping quiet about everything but both of them were worried about how much worse the situation would have been with Kaede if she knew the real reason for the cold shoulders. Both of them were thinking it was right of them to stay quiet. Even to the point of never saying anything till they graduated from high school.

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

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

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

Hikari was standing up in front of the class going over the class assignments for the class's field trip. Most people were looking forward to this trip as it was the last school trip they would ever take since this was their senior year. Plus it would be a nice break from the norm while also adding a week onto their winter break as it was going to take place the week before. That of course meant they had to take some tests early but even that was no big deal. Most of the class was studying for college exams anyway so it wasn't like they didn't know the stuff that would be on the test. And those that weren't going to college, most of them weren't really sweating too many bullets either. The workload was much less this year and if they felt like they were falling behind they could always go over to one of the study groups and work with them.

Originally when the school first started back up the class field trips took place at the normal time around summer. Unfortunately so did every other school in Japan and that caused a huge problem. The population of the world wasn't even close to what it once was so there was a shortage of workers. Most resorts depended more than ever on students working over the summer so you can guess things didn't go all that smoothly that first year when all those students they needed to help run the places were themselves off on field trips. So some changes were put in place and now schools varied between trips in the fall, winter, and spring. The consolation for such changes was an extended summer break and the changing around of the school year to fit that time system better. Of course the unwritten reason behind that longer summer break was many business owners needed the kids that would otherwise be students to work at their places. Most students didn't really mind the changes though as they weren't all that drastic. Plus so much else had changed since third impact that something as trivial as this didn't really even matter. As for Tokyo-4 High, obviously they took their class trips during the winter time. And Mrs. Amano always took her kids to a ski resort up in the mountains for a week of skiing and observing nature.

“So do we know if there is actually snow up there yet?” one of the students in the room asked.

“Yeah. It would kind of suck if we went up there to ski and there was no snow” another added on.

“Don't worry about that” Mrs. Amano answered. “There's plenty of snow up there right now. And the resort we're staying at has already been open for three weeks.”

Another voice spoke up. This time is was Kotono's. “What if we don't know how to, you know, ski?” This was actually a valid concern of quite a few students in the room. They had grown up in an environment where there was little to no snow even in the mountains. That meant most of them had no experience with this winter time activity.

“The lodge does have instructors present” Hikari answered. “They should be able to help you out. And all the trails and slopes are marked so you shouldn't have any troubles staying in the beginner areas.”

“And if you are a beginner that's were I expect you to stay” Mrs. Amano stressed while looking around the room. “There will be no going off on harder trails or runs for purposes of showing off. I don't want anyone breaking a bone.”

There was the droned out group reply of “Yes Amano Sensei” to that preeminent scolding.

“What about those of us that do know how to ski?” Asuka asked. “Are we allowed to go where we want?”

“As long as you don't go on a trail rated above you abilities, sure” Mrs. Amano replied.

Rini looked over at Asuka “You know how to ski?”

“Uh huh” Asuka said nodding her head yes. “When I was in Germany and America there were places that still had snow.” Asuka deliberately left it off there as the real reason she knew how to ski is that it used to be part of her training procedures. It helped with leg strength, balance, and dexterity.

“So does anyone else here know how to ski” Hikari then asked out of curiosities sake. Maybe some of the students that did could help those that didn't.

A couple hands did go up, one of them being involuntary due to prodding by a pushy girlfriend. “You know how to ski?” Touji responded looking straight at Shinji. In all the time he had been friends with him Shinji had never once mentioned that ability.

“A little” Shinji replied back.

“A little my ass” Asuka cussed. “Last time Misato took us skiing you followed me down a double black diamond trail and beat me to the bottom.”

“That wasn't a double black diamond trail” Shinji argued back.

“Yes it was” Asuka corrected.

“You said it was another bunny trail” Shinji responded looking at her suspiciously.

“I lied” Asuka answered back and stuck her tongue out in a playful way.

“Dude” Touji laughed. “You do know how to ski then.”

“I guess I do” Shinji said back in a questioning way. He then looked over at Asuka again. “Are you sure that was a double black diamond hill?”

“Considering I was the person standing in front of the sign so you couldn't see it. Yeah, I'm positive it was a double black diamond” Asuka chuckled back.

And she wasn't the only one chuckling at this. This was typical Shinji. The kid was good at something yet he refused to believe it. And in his case this went way beyond him just being humble, it was simply an integral part of him. He always had self doubt about his abilities.

Shinji wasn't the only other person Asuka picked on though. She noticed Rei did not raise her hand. “You know how to ski Blue.”

“I have never gone skiing in my life” Rei responded.

“Why do I find that hard to believe?” Asuka suspected she was being lied to.

“I doesn't matter to me if you believe it or not” Rei answered. And in some technicality it was true. Rei I had some experience with skiing as a part of training. So did Rei II. But Rei Ayanami as she was now had no experiences with it.

“I bet you would learn fast if you tried.”

“That is only your opinion” Rei answered. And from the way she said that the rest of the class could tell she wanted nothing to do with skiing.

“I hope you're not planning on staying inside by some big fire and reading books the whole time.” This was said in a very warning type of way.

Rei didn't even acknowledge that threat. She had already made up her mind on how she was going to spend that week.

Ignoring her didn't stop Asuka. “I will get you to go outside.”

This time Rei did answer her. It was a very clear “No.”

Mrs. Amano hated to do this to Rei but she had to correct the girl. “I know you don't like the cold Miss Ayanami but you will have to go outside at least once.”

There was almost a pout to Rei's “Why?”

“Because the assignment for that week is an ecology report based on what we will observe during a class outing on the trails.”

Asuka let out a supremely smug “Ha Ha” towards Rei.

But her victory was short lived as Mrs. Amano answered her taunt with “And that just got you detention young lady.”

“Damn!” Asuka resting her chin in her hand. “I knew that was going to cost me even while I was saying it.”

“Then why did you?” Hikari asked as that was pretty stupid.

“I guess I can't help being a brat” Asuka simply replied.

 

 

Author's Notes: 

(A/N: And on Asuka's prolific statement we end this chapter. And as for Rei, looks like her education in love is progressing. Sometimes it makes you change your plans and alters your reality. And it can range from being delightfully fun to horribly messy. You can find out just how much messier or more fun it gets in the coming months. Also the decision to add Mai to the class was to show an outsiders view for a bit. She's not going to become that big of a character really. More like just a friend who is around and interacts with them on occasion. Hope you gals/guys enjoyed the chapter. 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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