MISATO'S CHRISTMAS PARTY

by Steve Pardue


Shinji and Asuka stood in the door, staring at the fir tree in the living room. From the hall closet came the sounds of boxes being moved. Misato emerged in her usual after-work attire, cutoffs and a tank top, carrying several boxes stacked precariously in her arms.

"I knew I kept these decorations when I moved! Shinji - you better hurry and get this place cleaned up. Our guests will be here in a couple of hours." Misato picked up a beer from the table and took a long swallow.

Shinji's face dropped. "Guests? When did you decide to have a party?".

Misato finished off her beer and wiped the foam from her mouth, and smirked. "Why yesterday of course, when my three pilots told me how much they needed one!" She lowered her voice and stared at Asuka and Shinji. "You didn't seriously think I was going to let the three of you get away with that 'I don't want to celebrate Christmas' crap did you? Besides, you can't trim the tree without a party. Say - where's Rei? Why isn't she here to help?"

Asuka - who had been silently staring at the tree - turned and gave Misato a disgusted look. "How much have you been drinking? She doesn't live here, you know! And we just found out about your stupid party!"

Misato hiccuped and lifted her nose at Asuka. "I haven't had any more to drink than usual." She had a hurt look on her face. Shinji and Asuka both rolled their eyes.

"Hey - why are you two doing that!" Misato put her beer back on the table and placed her hands on her hips. "Stop goofing off and get to work! Shinji, clean this place up! And Asuka - go call Rei!"

"She said she had something to do tonight."

"Then go find her!"

"But why should I have to go get her! I'm not the one who's always mooning after her and peeping at her in her swimsuit! That's what Shinji's for!"

"Uh-hey! I don't do that! I do not peep at my fellow pilots in their swimsuits!"

Asuka narrowed her eyes. "Oh! So you peep at us without our swimsuits?"

"Yes - I mean, no! No!"

Misato got another beer out of the refrigerator. After living with the two of them for a while, she was used to their bickering. "Now, now Asuka." She flourished her hand in the girl's direction. "If you don't hurry and get Rei,you won't have time to get ready before Kaji gets here."

"Kaji? Kaji! He's coming?" Asuka asked excitedly.

"Well of course! And so is Ritsuko, Hikari, Touji, Kensuke..." Asuka was out the door before Misato could finish. Shinji had been picking up Misato's empty beer cans from the table. His face got gloomier as her list of guests continued to grow.

"Do you think you have enough alcohol in the apartment for that many guests?" he asked sarcastically.

"Don't be silly, Shinji. Of course not! I'm having more delivered." She looked guilty for a moment as she handed Shinji a slip of paper and said, "Oh yeah, by the way, this is your portion of the expenses. Don't worry about paying me now, you can give it to me next payday!"

Shinji groaned. He was glad that Asuka had already left the apartment.

* * *
Shinji knew the party would be bad when Misato came out of her room dressed as a reindeer. Shinji thought that Misato's everyday outfits were very daring, and she wore even less at home, but the reindeer outfit... the horns... the tail... was, well... disturbing. He usually tried not to think about that sort of thing too much, especially about Misato, Asuka or Rei. There was too much potential for embarrassment, and he had been ridiculed enough as it was.

Shinji figured that Misato must be pretty loaded, even by her standards, to wear that outfit. Her face was red enough to confirm his fears.

"Shinji! What do you think?"

Misato stood in the middle of the room posing.

"Well?"

Shinji looked at her, and then quickly looked at the floor. A slow blush began to spread across his cheeks. "Do you have to embarrass me like this?" he asked quietly.

Misato leveled a frank stare at Shinji and said: "Why? Don't you like my outfit? Don't I look good in it?"

"Well, yes... but..."

Misato held Shinji's gaze as she slowly sauntered over to where he was standing. She slowly leaned forward until her eyes were looking directly into his, their faces only inches apart.

"Shinji, Don't you like to look at me in it?" Misato's voice was low and sultry.

Shinji's face reddened even more, it was all he could do to stare at the floor. "Why do you always do this to me?"

Misato laughed and gave Shinji her brightest smile and ruffled his hair. "Because it's fun!" With a toss of her hips she disappeared into the kitchen. "What! No more beer?! I guess I'll just have to drink something else until the liquor people arrive. Have you ever had egg nog Shinji? I've got a great recipe for it here, you'll love it! Especially with my secret ingredient. I bet you can't guess what it is!"

Shinji groaned.

* * *

Once the party began, Shinji found himself paired up with Rei. He thought it was rather odd to begin with. After all, he was a quiet person, and Rei was a positive recluse. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that there was really no one else at the party for either one of them to pal around with. Of course, Shinji's friends were present, but they were busy mooning around after Misato. Shinji didn't want to watch her flirt any more tonight. No one, it seemed, was safe.

They had started out by trimming the tree. Some guests had brought ornaments as gifts, and several of the boxes Misato had pulled from the closet had ornaments in them. But, by the time all of these were hung, the tree still had several yawning bare spots. Then Misato had the bright idea of wrapping wire around the necks of her empty liquor bottles and hanging them from the tree.

Ritsuko had pointed out that the heavy bottles would probably break the branches. But Misato had countered by retrieving a box of empty miniatures from her room.

"Don't you ever throw away your empties, Misato?" Kaji asked.

She stuck her tongue out at him. "That's what Shinji's for!"

Surprisingly, the empty miniatures actually looked quite good on the tree. Misato insisted that the Americans did it all the time, but no one believed her.

Eventually most of the guests left, leaving only Ritsuko, Kaji, Hikari, Rei and Shinji's friends.

Asuka was stalking Kaji, who was trying his best to avoid her. Ritsuko seemed to be amused by the whole thing, and kept trying to tease Misato about losing Kaji to Asuka. So the merry band simply floated in circles around the room - Touji and Kensuke chasing Misato, who flirted with the boys and bantered with Ritsuko, who was protecting Kaji from Asuka. Shinji and Rei sat against the wall, watching the whole sordid affair unwind before their eyes.

Shinji watched Rei as she followed the increasingly drunken movements of Misato with calm disinterest. When Asuka had returned with Rei, she had not expressed any opinion about the party. Rei had done as she was asked, and had helped set out the refreshments, but then she had taken a cup of punch and sat where she was now. No amount of inducement had led her toward conversation, and eventually the others had given up trying to talk to her. Asuka had been more derogatory than usual about Rei's attitude. But, as usual, Rei had simply ignored her. Now Shinji watched her closely, wondering about her silence.

"Umm, are you enjoying the party Rei?"

"No."

"Really? Why not?"

"I... dislike holidays."

"Huh! You do?"

"Yes."

"Didn't your family celebrate any holidays?"

"..."

Shinji didn't think it was possible, but Rei seemed to draw even more into herself, exuding a cold aura which discouraged conversation. Shinji mentally kicked himself. Family was a sore point for the Eva pilots. He pressed on though, determined to talk to her.

"My father never celebrated holidays with me. Never. Even my earliest memories of Christmas, with my mother, have no images of my father. It almost seemed like he didn't exist for me until my mother died. Not that he did anything after her death either." Shinji's voice was filled with bitterness and self-pity.

Rei turned her head to look at Shinji. Her eyes softened a little, but otherwise her face showed no change in expression. He continued speaking.

"The first Christmas I really celebrated was after I left home. That was a few years ago. The school I was at arranged for me to spend Christmas and New Years with the family of another student there. I was uncomfortable, watching people who love each other express their happiness, when I was alone. That's why I didn't want to celebrate Christmas this year - I didn't want to have and try to reach out to others, knowing that I'm not really a part of their family, that I'm an outsider."

Rei considered Shinji, without changing her expression. "What about Major Katsuragi and Asuka?"

Shinji noticed that she did not include herself. It was just like her to exclude herself from the group.

"Well, I live with them. Misato has been very kind to me. And I even get along with Asuka some now, but they're not family. I'm not sure I've ever had a real family." Shinji placed his hands in his lap and stared at the floor glumly.

Rei looked out at the party again. Misato was teasing Touji mercilessly, and Hikari's face was getting red as she tried to drag him away. Asuka had her hand over her eyes and shook her head as she stood by Hikari. When Rei spoke, her voice was soft, barely above a whisper.

"My first memory is of Commander Ikari, watching me. Family makes me uncomfortable." Rei continued to watch the rest of the party goers while she spoke.

Shinji stared at Rei. He didn't think that his father had real feelings for Rei. It might appear that he did, but Shinji's own bitter experience told him that his father only used people. Rei continued to watch the party, but despite her outburst, she betrayed no emotion.

"I don't know what to say, Rei."

"Then don't say anything."

* * *

Asuka was tired of chasing Kaji, and tired of watching Hikari get jealous of the attention Misato was giving Touji. She was more or less resigned to the fact that Kaji wasn't really interested in her as a woman. Why would he be when he had a woman like Misato to chase after? Not that Misato was all that hot. Men were just idiots. Tokyo 3 wasn't what she had expected.

Bored, she wandered away from the main group. Then she saw Shinji and Rei sitting together under the mistletoe.

Now, Asuka knew that they weren't sitting there on purpose. The two of them were so dense that they probably didn't even know that the mistletoe was there. Heck! The two of them probably didn't even know what mistletoe meant! Asuka thought about the situation for a minute, and struggled with her conscience. She wanted to make a scene. Shouldn't she feel some guilt about it? Probably, but she didn't! Oh well, she couldn't live with herself if she let this opportunity slip by.

"Say," she said brightly, "when did this start?"

Rei looked at her for a second, and then asked in a soft voice, "What do you mean?"

"When did the two of you become an item, eh?"

Shinji looked away from Rei quickly. "What?" His voice cracked as he spoke.

"When did the two of you get so cozy? I mean, you've spent the whole night together, ignoring everyone so that you could sit alone in a quiet corner under the mistletoe."

Shinji's face began to redden. "M-m-mistletoe?" He slowly looked up.

Everyone else had started to gather around the three of them when they heard Asuka's first exclamation. Now they began to encourage Shinji and Rei to kiss. Misato was at the front of the pack. "Yea Shinji! Kiss 'er! Go on! Be a man about it!" She slammed down the rest of her beer. "Kaji, gimme anudder beer!"

Rei looked at Misato, who was listing dangerously, then Asuka. Asuka began to sweat under Rei's cool gaze. Deciding that she preferred to be in control, Asuka took the offensive again.

"Well, what's the matter? Don't you believe in the holiday spirit?" Asuka arched her eyebrow and looked down her nose at Shinji and Rei, her hands on her hips.

Rei's eyes bored into Asuka's. Then she turned toward Shinji and placed a hand on his cheek. His eyes began to dart from Rei to Asuka to Misato and back. Then Rei leaned forward and kissed him gently on the lips.

Asuka snickered.

Rei parted her lips slightly and pulled Shinji's body closer to hers. Shinji, who had been very still from the time Rei had placed her hand on his cheek until now, began to squirm and make muffled noises. Rei let her tongue slip into Shinji's mouth, where it soon encountered his. Shinji stopped squirming and stiffened. His eyes rolled up into his head as his mind shut down.

Asuka stared at the two of them with her eyes wide and her mouth gaping open. "Arrrrrrgh! She's giving him tongue!" she yelled in disbelief.

"Awww-right Rei! Yeah! Finally, some action!" Misato screamed, then passed out. Kaji laughed and caught her as she collapsed, then he and Ritsuko began to carry Misato to her room.

Rei broke the kiss and pulled back from Shinji.

"Good night, Shinji."

Rei's voice was soft, for his ears alone. Shinji could hear the emotion in her words, though her face betrayed none. Then she stood and left, ignoring the others.

Asuka stood staring at Shinji, a look of pure amazement on her face. "The First Child is weird Shinji, very weird. Who would ever want to kiss you? I mean, you weren't very good when I did..." The gasps from behind made her stop, and she realized what she had just said, and whom she had said it in front of. She stared in horror at Hikari, who was trying to stifle a laugh.

"Ach, Mein Gott!" Asuka screamed, then ran to her room and slammed the door shut.

Touji and Kensuke stood around Shinji and slapped his shoulders. "Shinji! You've kissed them both, you dog! I never thought you had it in you!" Touji exclaimed.

Kensuke couldn't hold in his excitement. "Yeah! Why didn't you tell us? That's quite a coup! I wish I'd brought my camera."

Shinji ignored them both, and stared at the door Rei had left through.

* * *

Shinji sat alone in front of the Christmas tree. After Rei left, with Misato passed out in her room and Asuka barricaded in hers, the others had left. As usual, it had been up to him to see them out and thank them for coming, then clean up the mess everyone else had made. Still, staring at the tree shining softly in the corner made him think of the good things that were in his life, even if there were few enough of them.

Despite the horror of the Angels, Shinji realized that these past months had been the best in his life. He could finally see the worth in himself, that he was valued by others. Although awkward at first, he really enjoyed living with Misato and Asuka. They did pick on him a lot. Misato was always making him cook and clean, and Asuka insulted him as much at the apartment as anywhere else. Yet Shinji thought that this must be what a real family was like. He had told Rei that he didn't consider the two to be his family, but now, as he thought back to the party, he realized that Misato, Asuka, and even Rei, might be the only family he would ever have.

The thought made him sigh.

The door buzzed as someone rang the bell. Shinji glanced at the clock, and wondered who it might be. He stood up and went to answer the door.

* * *

Rei walked slowly back to the door of Shinji's apartment. In the shadows she had waited until the others left, watching them disappear into the night. Then she had returned to the apartment. She rested her head against the apartment door and breathed slowly, a faint blush spreading across her cheeks. In her mind's eye, images flashed.

Rei, kissing Shinji.
-Why?-
Asuka, staring down at Rei.
The Second Child.
Rei, on a stretcher in front of Eva-01.
You are expendable.
A woman, kneeling over Rei, her hands on Rei's throat.
You can be replaced.
Blurred bodies, floating in yellow fluid.
-Can I die?-
Students at the school, laughing.
-If I cannot die, can I live?-
Shinji, staring at Rei as she leaves.
-If I cannot live, can I love?-
Commander Ikari, smiling at Rei.
-If I cannot love, can I be loved?-
Dr. Akagi, standing behind Commander Ikari.
-What is love?-
A blurred woman, holding her child.
Misato, crying into Shinji's empty plugsuit.
Hikari, handing a box lunch to Touji.
Rei, kissing Shinji.
-Is this love?-
Rei, standing behind Touji on the school roof.
-What is love?-
Love is when Two are One.
One Body.
One Mind.
One Soul.
Eva-00, standing in its berth.
-Do I love Eva?-
You are One with Eva.
Rei, kissing Shinji.
-I will be One with Shinji.-
Yes.
We will be One with Shinji.

Rei rang the buzzer on the apartment door and waited.

* * *

When he opened the door, Shinji was surprised to see Rei standing at the rail, looking at him. Rei's eyes seemed to be glowing in the dim half-light coming from inside the apartment. Her eyes locked with his, and Shinji could not look away.

"Ahhh..."

Shinji swallowed. He could feel his hands trembling. Rei's stare held his eyes.

"Oh, ummm..." Shinji could feel chills running up his spine from Rei's gaze. "C-come in..."

Rei held Shinji's eyes for several long seconds. Then she walked past Shinji into the apartment.

* * *

Rei stood in front of the tree, watching the blinking lights. She could hear Shinji in the kitchen. Soon he reappeared, carrying two cups of steaming tea. He handed one to Rei, then sat on the couch.

Rei sipped her tea. "It's good."

"Thanks. I've gotten a lot of practice in the kitchen recently. Misato and Asuka don't cook much." Shinji looked at Rei, who was still staring at the tree. He placed his cup back on the saucer and held it in his lap. He watched the steam rise from the tea.

Rei looked out the window. In the crisp winter sky she could just make out the sparkle of stars over the glow from the city.

"Ummm, what did you want?" Shinji asked.

Rei still stared intently out the window. "What am I?"

Shinji watched Rei quietly. Her voice was calm and impenetrable, as always. "What do you mean?"

"What am I, to you, Shinji Ikari?"

Shinji was getting worried about what Rei's question. It seemed like the conversation was sure to result in his embarrassment. "You're a friend, Rei."

"A friend?" There was still no change in Rei's voice.

"Y-yes."

Rei turned and looked at Shinji, meeting his eyes with hers. "What is friendship?"

Now Shinji was unnerved. "What do you mean 'what is friendship'?"

Rei's gaze continued to bore into Shinji. He thought that he had never seen Rei look so... hungry?

Rei spoke, in her usual voice, but did not meet Shinji's eyes. "Can friendship be... love?"

Shinji stared at Rei. He was worried about this conversation. He didn't think his father would approve of this. Shinji stood and nervously wiped his hands on his pants. "I'm sorry, I don't understand..."

Rei walked forward until she stood in front of Shinji.

"Love is..."

She wrapped her arms around his neck.

"One Body..."

She rested her head on his shoulder. She could feel Shinji tremble.

"One Mind..."

Rei smiled her small smile, and whispered into his ear.

"One Soul..."

Shinji could not stop trembling. He could feel Rei's body pressed against his. He slowly lifted his arms and placed them around Rei's waist. She squeezed him tightly as she softly spoke.

"We will be One, Shinji."

Rei lifted her head and gazed deeply into his eyes. Shinji was really worried now. "Ummm... Rei..."

Rei pulled Shinji's head down and kissed him deeply.

Shinji was stiff at first, but gradually relaxed and began to return Rei's kiss. After a long while, Rei broke off the kiss and took Shinji's hand. He still trembled, but followed her willingly.

* * *

Asuka silently slid her door shut and fumed. First Kaji chased after Misato. Then 'Wonder Girl' actually kissed that idiot Shinji, and now this.

"Asuka, " she thought, "your life is crap."

* * *

When Misato dragged herself out of bed the next morning, she had a terrible hangover. "Why did I let myself go off and drink like that last night?"

Misato pulled a housecoat on, and stumbled into the hall. "A hot bath and an ice cold beer are what I need," she thought to herself.

She walked to the kitchen and pulled the refrigerator door open. She could see that Shinji had already wrapped the party leftovers and put them away. "Damn, I hate neat freaks," Misato thought to herself. She took a beer and shuffled toward the bath, still only half-awake.

She saw Shinji coming out of the bath drying his hair. When he saw Misato, he quickly slid the door shut behind him.

"G-g-good morning," he stuttered.

Not in the mood to talk, Misato grunted and waited for him to move out of her way. When he still stood frozen in place, she placed her free hand on his shoulder and started pushing until she could get to the door.

"Let that be a lesson to you Shinji," Misato said. "Never come between me and my bath when I have a hangover." She turned and entered the bath, shutting the door behind her, ignoring Shinji's wide eyes and trembling body.

"Good morning, Major."

Misato screamed and spun around when she heard the disembodied voice floating out of the steam. She saw a shape emerging from the mist. The figure paused and looked at her intently as she pressed her back to the tile wall.

"Are you feeling well?" the blurry figure asked in an emotionless voice. Misato just nodded quickly. The figure watched for another few seconds before exiting the bath.

Misato slumped down against the wall and sipped her beer. She must have had a lot more to drink last night than she thought. She could've sworn that was Rei!

Half a beer later, as she relaxed in the steaming water of the bath, Misato decided that she had just imagined the entire affair.

Rei wouldn't have stayed last night.

Would she?


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Misato's Christmas Party, 11 June 1998