Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 36

[15:00] <Raphael> "This could ruin us all," Raphael muttered.-
[15:00] <Raphael> The light caught his face at an angle, exaggerating his sharp features and his grave, desperate expression. "We're making a terrible mistake, but there's still time. We can find a way out…"
[15:03] <Minaplo> ["Not a chance." Said Misato grimly, standing opposite, the top half of her face hidden in shadow. "She'll know. And when she does, she'll find us."]
[15:05] <Raphael> "We could run," he ventured. "Just you and me. Hide away in a little cottage somewhere in Alaska."
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["No good. Rumour has it Rustami will tie us to Prefect Han if we do."]
[15:05] <Raphael> "We've been lured into a trap."
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["There's only one thing we can do." Said Misato. She tightened the knot around Raphael's neck.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> [The tie was black silk, offsetting his white shirt well and contrasting with the black jacket.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["Let's just go and really hope Rei makes it better than last time."]
[15:09] * Raphael looked striken. "I can't survive another Ikari dinner, Misato."
[15:09] <Minaplo> ["It'll be better this time."]
[15:09] <Raphael> "Oh God, I'd hope so."
[15:11] <Minaplo> ["Think about it." Said Misato. "There's no Gendo this time, and Rei and Alphonse won't be preoccupied pretending not to be hopelessly in love with each other…"]
[15:13] <Raphael> "… and we won't be preoccupied with, uh, us." A little spark of hope at that.
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["We could be preoccupied in different ways~"]
[15:20] * Raphael gave her a dark look. "If I screw this up I'll be eviscerated by Shinji and half the Ayanamis."
[15:23] <Minaplo> ["We could find ways to preoccupy them too!" Said Misato. She beamed. "Did you know Go's giving Rustami sexy bathtimes now~?"]
[15:24] <Raphael> "I'm pretty sure they're just plain bathtimes," he said, distracted as he checked his suit in the mirror. "I'm still not clear why she's doing it, but I know that much."
[15:31] <Minaplo> ["I dunno about that~" Said Misato; she wore an elegant black cocktail dress and a pair of matching high heels. "The talk led right into Yanmei and I taking her to find her a sexy swimsuit. And I have to say I think we chose well~"]
[15:33] * Raphael winced. "You and the Chancellor? Misato, that's cruel…"
[15:36] <Minaplo> ["Cruel? Not at all. We're just liberating Go's sex appeal is all~"]
[15:40] <Raphael> "'Liberation' is a very generous way to frame a blitzkrieg like that."
[15:46] <Minaplo> ["Don't worry? She's the one that decided that she wanted Sho to make her a custom-made, fitted, tailored swimsuit based off our sexy designs~"]
[15:52] * Raphael finished fiddling with his buttons and turned back to face Misato, grimly prepared for the worst. "Well, if she's happy I suppose…"
[15:53] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure she is." Said Misato cheerfully. "But not as happy as I am when I realise how handsome you look in a suit~"]
[15:57] <Raphael> "Oh." A smile broke through the thoroughly stormy expression on his face, like a little ray of sunlight. He brushed at his sleeves, although there didn't seem to be anything there to brush away. "… it's been a while. That dress looks amazing on you, by the way."-
[15:57] <Raphael> "… you're sure about the Alaska Option?"
[16:01] <Minaplo> ["It's too cold for my tastes anyway." Said Misato lightly; she walked over and took his arm. "C'mon, you. Let's go out and try to have a good time with a family that we, statistically speaking, like more than dislike."]
[16:02] <Raphael> "Only because they cheated," he muttered, but he took her arm all the same.
[16:13] <Minaplo> […-
[16:16] <Minaplo> [The door opened.-
[16:24] <Minaplo> ["Hi, Raffy~" Said Rei cheerfully. A moment later she was out the door and hugging him tightly.-
[16:44] <Minaplo> [Rei wore a knee-length red strapless dress and a pair of pink high heels; someone had attempted to brush her hair, but had not gotten very far, and so it still fell in the sweetly untidy way that she preferred.-
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["Hi, Rei~" Said Misato cheerfully; a moment later Rei moved to hug Misato as well, although not actually letting go of Raphael first.-
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["Misa-bachan~"]
[16:59] * Raphael laughed and returned the hug with gusto, even as his right arm was pinned between her and Misato. "Good to see you, Rei."
[17:07] <Minaplo> ["I missed you guys so much." Said Rei; her squeeze became even tighter, at this point pushing Misato and Raphael together. "I'm so happy you guys could make it!~ Come in, come in, you're our first guests to arrive."]
[17:15] <Raphael> "Wouldn't have missed it, Rei," he said, although he avoided looking in Misato's direction as he did so.-
[17:15] <Raphael> But the hug still continued. "… so how do we get inside, madame? Should we just shuffle in as a huddle?"
[17:19] <Minaplo> ["That'd be nice." Said Rei warmly. "Hup two, hup two!" She said, trying to drag the two of them inside.]
[17:23] * Raphael did his best to follow along, still laughing.
[17:29] <Minaplo> [They managed just past the threshold before Misato started to slip. "Eek, no-"-
[17:30] <Minaplo> [As she toppled, a sudden firm pair of hands appeared out of nowhere to catch her around the shoulders. "Careful!"-
[17:31] <Minaplo> [It was Alphonse; unlike Raphael, he went more smart casual, with a dark blue dress shirt that was open at the throat as well as a pair of trousers. He had no tie or jacket. His hair was worn back in a long unbraided ponytail.-
[17:40] <Minaplo> [Misato's eyes had widened as she fell, but now that she saw who it was she beamed. "Oho~ I've never been caught mid-fall by a Prime Minister before~"-
[17:41] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, yeah. Don't get used to it." Said Alphonse with a laugh, straightening Misato up. "Raphael, good to see you-" Raphael had a hand thrust toward him, ready to be shaken.]
[17:42] <Raphael> Raphael was freed from Rei's clutches and quickly straightened up to shake his hand. "Mr. Prime Minister, sir," he said, bowing his head. "It's an honour."
[17:44] <Minaplo> [Alphonse promptly pulled Raphael forward and knuckled his free hand into Raphael's scalp. "No no no. Not a chance. Don't you do that to me, Raphael."]
[17:47] * Raphael didn't put up a fight, his expression unmoving as his hair was ruined. "This is terribly undignified, sir," he said solemnly.
[17:57] <Minaplo> ["I hate you so much." Said Alphonse flatly. "If you keep this up, I'll ensure you're stuck on a long plane flight sandwiched between Macquarie and Prefect Han."]
[17:59] * Raphael finally cracked and grinned. "Good to see you too, Alphonse."
[18:01] <Minaplo> [Alphonse released him and gave Raphael a smile. "And you as well, Raphael. How're you doing?"-
[18:02] <Minaplo> ["Where's Shin-chan, Rei?" Asked Misato.-
[18:02] <Minaplo> ["He's in the kitchen, cooking up a feast with mama~"]
[18:10] <Raphael> Raphael glanced towards the kitchen warily. "… oh, you know how it goes. It's nice to be out for once."
[18:16] <Minaplo> ["It is at that, eh? Say, are you and Misato coming to Rustami's 'Peach Banquet'?"]
[18:20] <Raphael> "Is that what he's calling it? But yes, we will be."
[18:22] <Minaplo> ["Excellent." Said Alphonse brightly. "I remember when I was his age, learning how to host dinner parties- stressful stuff."]
[18:30] <Raphael> "… oh," he winced, then made a quick shushing motion with his hand. He leant a little closer, trusting Rei to keep Misato busy. "Don't let the Admiral hear you say that, sir."
[18:34] <Minaplo> ["… No? Why not?" Said Alphonse in a whisper.]
[18:35] <Raphael> "Rustami's actually in his late twenties, he just doesn't look it," Raphael confided.
[18:36] <Minaplo> ["… Oh." Said Alphonse, looking aghast. "I thought- damn."-
[18:36] <Minaplo> ["So it turns out he's not another young wunderkind, he's just a weird little hermit man. Damnit, Linden's going to be disappointed."]
[18:37] <Raphael> "… Ah. You were going for solidarity," Raphael realized, and for a moment it looked like he might laugh.
[18:38] <Minaplo> ["Of course. Three polities ruled by under-twenties would be a mighty good hattraaaagh-"-
[18:39] <Minaplo> [For at that point, Misato had suddenly pounced Alphonse from the side. "Hi~"-
[18:39] <Minaplo> ["What the hell-"-
[18:39] <Minaplo> ["No no, use the other voice! Give me your Good Will Hunting voice-"-
[18:39] <Minaplo> ["No! Leave me alone!"-
[18:39] <Minaplo> ["Raffy~" Said Rei warmly. "Do you want to help me with the dishes, please?"]
[18:43] * Raphael gave a regretful bow in Alphonse's direction. "I'm sorry, sir. I have my orders."-
[18:43] <Raphael> He turned on his heel and followed Rei towards the kitchen, screams echoing behind him.
[18:55] <Minaplo> The smells of the kitchen were a melange of delightful, tempting scents.-
[18:59] <Minaplo> [Shinji and Yui were busy at work, both wearing pink, cartoon-Rei emblazoned aprons. "Hello, Raphael." Said Yui, turning to give him a smile.-
[18:59] <Minaplo> [Shinji just waved over his shoulder; he was clearly concentrating hard on a dish Raphael couldn't see.]
[19:06] <Raphael> He gave her a small, careful smile of his own before loading himself down with plates and cutlery at Rei's direction. "Yui. Shinji. The food smells good."
[19:12] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Yui warmly. "Make yourself comfortable, we'll be ready in about half an hour."-
[19:15] <Minaplo> [Rei directed Raphael to the kitchen table, which had been overlaid with a nice white tablecloth. "So how're you, Raffy? Everything going ok?"]
[19:23] * Raphael quickly started to prepare settings, working his way around the table in the opposite direction to Rei. "Mm, I won't complain. I've missed having you three around, but I suppose I have to share you all with the whole UK now…" He trailed off, then heaved out a dramatic sigh.
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["Aww, Raffy." Said Rei warmly; she gave him a bright, cheerful smile.-
[19:29] <Minaplo> ["It's okay. I'm mostly back here 24/7 now- Alphonse can handle things in the UK by himself."]
[19:36] * Raphael smiled a bit at that. "Eevi's coming back as well?"
[19:40] <Minaplo> ["Hmmm! Sometimes. She's decided she wants to swap between here and being Al's bodyguard for awhile. It's good for her to be with him- the two are so close~"]
[19:44] <Raphael> "That makes sense. I'm glad she'll be here a little, at least; Suzie's missed her."-
[19:44] <Raphael> "… speaking of," he added, "She'll be at your door first thing tomorrow, no matter what I do. We could only keep her away by bringing in Lieutenant Ibuki to run a movie night."
[19:45] <Minaplo> [Rei giggled. "I'm looking forward to it already. I'll take her out for the day and spoil her rotten."]
[19:49] * Raphael chuckled. Their semicircle paths around the table had finally brought them back together, and he nudged her with his shoulder as he worked on the final placement. "How're you going?"
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["I'm great." Said Rei cheerfully. "I mean, the campaign was tiring, but we won it, and Al's gonna do amazing as Prime Minister. We've had some time to catch up and relax, Germany's gonna make peace with us and my grandpa's safe and sound here- thanks to you." She said glowingly. "I almost couldn't be happier."]
[20:08] * Raphael set down the last fork then turned to examine her, leaning his weight against the back of a chair. "… I'm glad, sweetheart. You three impressed a lot of people here, you know."
[20:26] <Minaplo> ["Did we really?" Said Rei, her face lighting up. "That makes me happy. Al was really worried about coming off as a drain on resources…"]
[20:31] <Raphael> "You're safe from that, I think," he said with a smile.
[20:49] <Minaplo> ["Hehe."-
[20:49] <Minaplo> ["Still, I'm happy that I'm back." She said. "I liked being on campaign with Al, but I started to miss you guys a whole lot too. Is Caitlin doing ok?"]
[10:46] <Raphael> "Mm, she's fine," he said, glancing away. "As happy as ever and adapting well. We had a bit of an incident last week, but it turned out to be less serious than I thought."
[10:48] <Minaplo> ["What happened?"]
[10:55] <Raphael> "A few scraps of memory from Roku surfaced, but Blue and your mother helped us. They think it's down to a flaw in the way she was reincorporized, and it'll resolve itself."-
[10:55] <Raphael> "Caity doesn't even remember it, so I suppose the worst it did was frighten me." He let out a chuckle, and the frown that immediately punctuated it seemed to suggest he was aware of just how unconvincing it was.
[10:58] <Minaplo> [And so a moment later she bundled him up in a tight hug. "Oh, Raffy…"]
[11:00] <Raphael> "Hah. It's fine," he said gently, squeezing her back. "Everyone says it's nothing to worry about."
[11:03] <Minaplo> ["Are you worrying anyway?"]
[11:04] <Raphael> "Would I ever worry, Rei?"
[11:04] <Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[11:04] <Raphael> "Hmph."
[11:05] <Minaplo> [She squeezed a little tighter. "You are worrying, and that's not nothing."]
[11:12] * Raphael was quiet at that, but Rei would feel his shoulders relax a fraction.
[11:15] <Minaplo> ["She's your little sister, and you've already lost her once. I think worrying is the most natural thing in the world." She said quietly.-
[11:16] <Minaplo> [The phone rang. Yui came out of the hallway, answered it in English- then switched quickly to Japanese. Raphael would see her speak, her face bright- before suddenly falling for a moment before an expression of calm returned to her face. She said a goodbye, then hung up.]
[11:22] <Raphael> "Mm," he mumbled.-
[11:22] <Raphael> But he could see Yui in his periphery, and the conversation quickly drew his attention. He lifted his head as she hung up, stepping away from Rei. "… is everything alright, ma'am?"
[11:23] <Minaplo> ["O-Oh, yes." She said, quickly giving him a wide smile. "My father is just going to be a little- late, that's all."]
[11:26] * Raphael nodded slowly. "Of course. Let me know if I can help with anything, ma'am."
[11:29] <Minaplo> ["Thank you. I'm sure it'll be fine, though." She said, before returning to the kitchen.-
[11:29] <Minaplo> ["Hmmm." Said Rei, having turned to watch the exchange.]
[11:34] * Raphael just offered a small shrug, absently straightening a few pieces of cutlery on the table. "I tried."
[11:36] <Minaplo> ["Don't worry about it. It sort of happens sometimes with grandpa."]
[11:43] <Raphael> "It's alright. It's none of my business, really."
[11:45] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[11:45] <Minaplo> [But she turned back toward Raphael and beamed. "Thanks for helping to rescue him, Raffy."]
[11:49] * Raphael waved a hand. "I didn't do all that much. You'd be better off thanking Shinji, San and Surov."
[11:50] <Minaplo> [Rei rushed him, jabbing him hard in the ribs. "Nope."]
[11:51] <Raphael> "I was mostly there for oversight!"
[11:51] <Minaplo> [Two more jabs. "Nope-nope."]
[11:53] * Raphael raised his hands, trying to intercept the next jab. "I barely avoided getting stuck in a door, Rei!"
[11:54] <Minaplo> ["It's true." Said Shinji, appearing in the kitchen doorway. "Honestly, he can't even read Japanese, we would've been better without him."]
[11:59] * Raphael spared a moment from grappling with Rei to level a rather intense glare in Shinji's direction. "D- ow- don't you start, sir."
[12:00] <Minaplo> ["Well I'm right, aren't I? What did you actually do?" Said Shinji.]
[12:06] <Raphael> "I unseated the UN presence in Tokyo with sixteen hours of planning," Raphael said hotly, managing to pull out of an armlock, "And I kept five hundred Yakuza in line and achieved our objectives with minimal police casualties."
[12:08] <Minaplo> [Shinji laughed.-
[12:08] <Minaplo> ["See, sis? There you go. If you want Raphael to be honest about his achievements, you just have to insult him a little first."]
[12:10] <Raphael> "… I knew this was a trap," Raphael muttered.
[12:13] <Minaplo> ["Minimal police casualties?" Said Rei glowingly. "That's really good, Raffy. I'm proud of you."]
[12:15] <Raphael> "They were just doing their jobs. I don't enjoy seeing good people hurt, you know."
[12:16] <Minaplo> ["I know that, but it would be tough to handle five hundred Yakuza. They don't like cops, and they're not soldiers who know discipline either." Said Rei.]
[12:19] <Raphael> "That's true. They were fairly frightened of your grandmother, though, so she helped to keep them in line…"
[12:20] <Minaplo> [Rei lit up. "Grandma Chisato is great, isn't she~? I really wanted to be like her when I was a kid…"]
[12:26] * Raphael smiled. "She is. San seems to adore her too."
[12:34] <Minaplo> ["Grandma Chisato was one of our instructors, but she also was a big help with us early on, too." Said Rei. "She's kinda like you in that way, Raffy."]
[12:46] <Raphael> "Well that's certainly a mark in her favour."
[12:46] <Raphael> "… helping you, not being like me," he added quickly.
[12:47] <Minaplo> ["Too late." Said Shinji. "You've been outed as the self-centered solipsist we've always suspected you of being."]
[12:48] <Raphael> "You're in fine form tonight, sir."
[12:50] <Minaplo> ["Just trying to make you feel at home, Raphael."]
[12:54] * Raphael smirked. "Of course, sir."
[12:55] <Minaplo> [Shinji gave raphael an honest smile.-
[12:55] <Minaplo> ["My mother wanted to-"-
[12:55] <Minaplo> [("DO THE APPLE THING, WELLINGTON!") ("NO, GO AWAY!")-
[12:56] <Minaplo> ["… Wanted to say that grandpa is probably going to be around twenty to thirty minutes late, so we should probably start without him."]
[13:04] <Raphael> "Alright. Can we help you with anything?" he asked, then glanced back at Rei. "… and should we help Alphonse?"
[13:07] <Minaplo> ["You handle Al. I'll see about dishing up." Said Rei.]
[13:10] <Raphael> "Of course, ma'am. Give me the hard job."
[13:11] <Minaplo> ["You are SOS." Said Rei happily before she skipped into the kitchen with her brother.]
[13:13] * Raphael shot a sour look at her back, then headed in the direction of the shouting, straightening his jacket and hair - now thoroughly ruffled - as he went.
[13:16] <Minaplo> [Raphael arrived just to see Alphonse duck his way past Misato- who had been trying to bail him up in a corner.]
[13:29] <Raphael> And Raphael smoothly positioned himself between then with a wide smile. "Admiral, Prime Minister. I'm told we're about to start dinner."
[13:29] <Minaplo> ["But he hasn't done his voice yet!" Said Misato hotly.-
[13:29] <Minaplo> ["It's not one of your toys, Misato!" Snapped Alphonse.-
[13:29] <Minaplo> ["Awwwww, c'mon!"]
[13:32] <Raphael> "Mr. Prime Minister, the UEF would like to request that you at least do the Hahvahd Yahd routine," Raphael said solemnly. His accent made something of a mess of the phrase, but it was a valiant effort nonetheless.
[13:33] <Minaplo> ["On one condition."]
[13:34] <Raphael> "Sir."
[13:34] <Minaplo> ["You have to ask me 'where do I park the car' in Japanese."]
[13:35] <Raphael> "Why does everyone know that?"
[13:36] <Minaplo> ["No idea." Said Misato, just as Alphonse said, "Misato told me."]
[13:37] <Raphael> "…"
[13:38] <Minaplo> ["How do you like them apples?" Said Alphonse cleanly and easily in his Bostonian accent- before turning on his heel and walking off.]
[13:43] * Raphael stared at the wall. "I'm being trounced tonight, Misato."
[13:44] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Misato, who was staring off at the same wall, her eyes wide. "You and me both. Goddamnit, that was pretty good."]
[13:44] <Raphael> "It was," he muttered. "Damn it."
[13:45] <Minaplo> ["Fine. Fine, I see how it is." Said Misato, her eyes sharply narrowing. "We're gonna have to bring our a-game."]
[13:47] <Raphael> "No," he said, hurriedly shaking his head as he looked her way. "No we're not, we're following the plan. This is a stealth mission."
[13:48] <Minaplo> ["We've been engaged. We have to escalate hostilities." She said, pounding her hand into her fist.]
[13:51] <Raphael> "This is exactly how it happened the last time!"
[13:52] <Minaplo> ["I-Is it?"]
[13:53] <Raphael> "You and Alphonse got at one another's throats and couldn't stop."
[13:54] <Minaplo> ["This is different!"]
[13:55] <Raphael> "It really isn't," he said firmly. "You should really try -de-escalating hostilities, ma'am."
[13:56] <Minaplo> ["But we like each other this time!" Said Misato. "Last time he was a rude upstart putting moves on my niece, this time he's…"]
[13:58] <Raphael> "An upstart who's successfully put the moves on your neice," he said drily. "Correct, ma'am. Very different."
[14:01] <Minaplo> ["W-Well I mean, I had to test him to make sure he was worthy of her, that's all! He's obviously proven he is, so…"]
[14:04] <Raphael> "Uh-huh," he replied, giving her a knowing look. "Let's go sit down, hmm?"
[14:04] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, yeah, alright…"-
[14:09] <Minaplo> [After a few minutes, they were all seated, with a wide and colourful variety of dishes before them- plates of fluffy white fried rice as well as coconut rice, bowlfuls of rich, simmering curry, strips of grilled fish, fried pork cutlets, tempura-battered calamari, fresh king prawns, fat, swollen crabs and lobsters alongside beakers of butter and sauce, mounds of unshelled oysters and even
[14:09] <Minaplo> a roast duck in a marmalade sauce.-
[14:10] <Minaplo> [Yui sat at one end of the table, with Misato to her left and Rei to her right; next to them were Raphael and Alphonse respectively. Shinji sat next to Raphael. Two spots at the other end of the table had been saved for Yutada and Chisato.-
[14:11] <Minaplo> [They said the quick prayer of thanks for the food, then Shinji said, "Alright, help yourselves!"]
[14:20] * Raphael looked taken aback by the sheer scale of it, but he said his thanks and grabbed a plate. Once the initial rush was over and they were all seated again, he was left with a plate of fried rice, calimari and pork cutlets.
[14:32] <Minaplo> ["Mmm." Said Misato, sticking some curry and rice into her mouth. "This is really good, Shin-chan!"-
[14:33] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Shinji happily.-
[14:33] <Minaplo> ["You know, you could probably go into business with this." Said Alphonse. "After the war, perhaps."]
[14:39] <Raphael> "It really is good," he said, before Alphonse's comment had time to land. "Thank you both for going to all this trouble."
[14:44] <Minaplo> ["It was my pleasure." Said Yui. "I know you've all been extremely busy recently, especially you, Misato and Raphael."]
[14:57] <Raphael> "Yes, ma'am. It looks like this weekend might give us some time to recover, though, so I suppose that's something."
[15:06] <Minaplo> ["Oh yes, I heard something about that, some kind of peach banquet?"]
[20:56] <Raphael> "Mhmm. Prime Minister Rustami intends to put on dinner for Command on Sunday, after the fair," Raphael said as he sliced off a piece of cutlet. "And he's been kind enough to take on a good deal of our logistical work for a few days so that we can actually attend."
[20:59] <Minaplo> ["No kidding?" Said Shinji. "How's he able to manage that?"]
[21:04] <Raphael> "Extensive delegation, I presume."
[21:06] <Minaplo> ["Yup. He's in charge of building the federal bureaucracy, so he's probably shunting it off to a bunch of mandarins as we speak." Said Misato.-
[21:07] <Minaplo> ["If only it were that easy all the time." Said Alphonse with a sigh.-
[21:08] <Minaplo> ["You know who I'm jealous of?" Said Misato, a moment before gobbling down a hunk of duck.]
[21:13] * Raphael smirked, but his response was limited to a polite, "Who's that?"
[21:17] <Minaplo> ["Sarasvati. She does like a whole hour of logistics work a week."]
[21:19] <Raphael> "I know," he said, looking momentarily sour. "She says that's often what she's doing when Suzie's there."
[21:28] <Minaplo> ["Must be nice to have so much free time." Said Alphonse enviously. "What would we all do with it, though?"]
[21:35] <Raphael> "Family time's obvious," Raphael said as he toyed with his rice. "I suppose, I'd like to read a real book again. And maybe it'd be good to find a hobby…"
[21:35] <Minaplo> ["Did you ever do rugby in high school?" Asked Shinji.]
[21:38] <Raphael> "Sure, here and there."
[21:39] <Minaplo> ["Maybe we should start a league." Said Shinji. "Could be fun."-
[21:40] <Minaplo> ["Hm." Rei frowned thoughtfully. "There's one thing I remember us doing once and really liking, though, sports-wise."]
[21:41] * Raphael blinked at her, then let out a short, sharp laugh. "Paintball?"
[21:41] <Minaplo> ["Paintball!" Said Rei brightly. "Everyone loved Paintball!"]
[21:42] <Raphael> "Paintball didn't love us," he grinned. "I had bruises for a week."
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["Lots of fun things leave bruises." Said Rei.]
[21:44] <Raphael> "Wise words, ma'am."
[21:44] <Minaplo> ["I'm not very good at paintball, though." Said Shinji.-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, but look on the bright side." Said Alphonse. "At least we can play Paintball with the Iron Guard. Imagine trying to face those bastards in rugby? I can just see Terry running for the try line now, trailing four SOS crewmen behind him like tin cans on a wedding car."]
[21:49] <Raphael> "We could do it," he insisted. "I'd need to give our back row access to a positron cannon, but we could do it."
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["Positron Rugby…" Muttered Yui, clearly horrified.-
[21:51] <Minaplo> ["Ugh. This is the exact sort of thing Norling's always on about, isn't it?" Said Misato.]
[21:59] <Raphael> "Mmm, more or less. I've tried to explain that it's a very solveable problem in sports, at least…"
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["Oh?" Asked Shinji.]
[22:03] <Raphael> "Instituting extended weight classes for Bioexotics doesn't seem all that hard."
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["Hmmmmm. True…"-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["Wait, where would I fall, then?" Asked Rei. "Does that mean I wouldn't be able to play with you guys?"]
[22:07] <Raphael> "I only mean in serious competition, Rei. I don't think we'd be that fussy here."
[22:07] <Minaplo> ["You'd have to not use your AT Field, though. That'd be really cheaty." Said Misato.-
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["Well obviously." Said Rei, poking her tongue out at Misato. "But, hm. I guess that's alright…"-
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["I think a paintball league could really work." Said Alphonse.-
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["It could. I wonder if it's too close to our day jobs, though…" Murmured Shinji.]
[22:15] <Raphael> Raphael reached for the water carafe in the centre of the table. "I'd be happy to practice something other than weapons handling, but I still think it'd be enjoyable."
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["What about baseball?" Asked Yui.-
[22:16] <Minaplo> [Alphonse made a split-second grimace, which he expertly hid with a mouthful of rice.]
[22:20] * Raphael glanced between the two curiously as he filled his glass. "… I can't say I've had much experience with it, but I wouldn't have a problem with learning."
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["I bet you were a footballer back in the day, right, Raphael?" Said Alphonse.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["He means soccer." Added Shinji to Misato.]
[22:38] <Raphael> "He means football," Raphael said instantly. "And I suppose I was, at least on balance. I can't say I was amazing at it, but I played plenty in school and even a bit while I was with the Valentine forces."
[22:38] <Minaplo> [Misato and Shinji both gave Raphael a dirty look.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["I thought as much. We played football a lot in the programme." Said Alphonse. "And it's popular all over the world- which is why the Valentine forces loved it, I imagine. If I'm really thinking about it, I think paintball or football are our only options."]
[22:42] <Raphael> "Hmm, that could work. Most of us should have at least a bit of experience with it…"
[22:44] <Minaplo> ["Paintball would allow for smaller teams, on the other hand." Said Yui. "But if I had to pick I'd choose soccer myself- I played it in school, but I'm not very good at Paintball."]
[22:45] * Raphael nodded. "Maybe we should ask some people and see what the preference is?"
[23:00] <Minaplo> ["A poll, huh?" Said Shinji. "Well I already know what Asuka's gonna say…"]
[23:03] <Raphael> "… it seems to me like that could go either way, sir."
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["It's soccer for her. Definitely soccer." Said Shinji. "She's always going on about how amazing Germany's soccer team is, and a lot of the time she goes around wearing soccer jerseys and stuff-"-
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["Hey," Said Misato, turning to Raphael. "Has she told you the story about when Alex bought it for her-"-
[23:05] <Minaplo> ["Misa-bachan, not at the dinner table!" Said Rei quickly, her cheeks flushing pink.-
[23:05] <Minaplo> ["You know who I'm sure is sickeningly good at football?" Asked Alphonse of Raphael.]
[23:10] <Raphael> Raphael shot Rei a thankful look, swallowing the mouthful of food that had rendered him momentarily defenseless. "Is it Sergeant Holmstrom, sir? That seems like a fairly safe bet."
[23:12] <Minaplo> ["You're right, but I was actually thinking of Asari."]
[23:18] <Raphael> "Hmm. That's probably true too," he said thoughtfully. "Speed, coordination and a low centre of gr-… that is to say, er, a suitable build."
[23:21] <Minaplo> [Rei giggled.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["Exactly my thought." Said Alphonse.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["Do you know what I wanna see?" Said Shinji. "Him and Herriot play soccer against each other."]
[23:27] * Raphael winced. "That's one of us. Really, those two have been intolerable since they met…"
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["That's kind of why I want to see it." Said Shinji.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, we could call it the Dumbasses Fighting Over Kirishima Cup." Said Alphonse drily. "How is your aide these days, by the way?"]
[23:37] <Raphael> "Oh… she's fine, thank you, sir," Raphael said, suddenly very interested in his meal.-
[23:37] <Raphael> "You know, Euphrasie Beringer used to be a real terror in a football match," he continued in a conversational tone. "Certainly better than I was. She'd probably jump on a league."
[23:38] <Minaplo> [Rei eyed Raphael curiously for a moment before returning to her food.-
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["Unsurprising." Said Alphonse. "Now that I think about it, it seems like most of your lot would be rather good at football- Monette as goalkeeper, even."]
[23:44] <Raphael> "I think an SOS team would be rather competitive, sir," he agreed with a hint of pride.
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["How would the teams be divvied up, anyway?" Asked Rei. "Do we just stand in a big group, pick captains and let them pick one at a time?"-
[23:49] <Minaplo> [Shinji flinched.]
[23:53] <Raphael> Raphael didn't seem to notice. "That seems like the fairest and least complicated way to do it…"
[23:53] <Minaplo> ["Except for whoever's chosen last." Said Shinji sourly.]
[23:58] * Raphael stared for a moment, then smothered his smile before it had time to form. "I guess that's true, sir. We could do the same thing with a list of names rather than the people themselves?"
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, that might work better." Said Shinji with a short sigh of relief.-
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["So long as I'm on Al's team." Said Rei firmly.]
[00:11] <Raphael> "Of course, if only because both your teams would be one player down if we set you on opposing sides," he said, spearing a piece of calamari with his fork.
[00:12] <Minaplo> [Rei beamed.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [At that moment, there was a beep from the doorbell.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> ["Oh, that must be- I'll be right back." Said Yui, leaping to her feet. She hurried over to the door and opened it.-
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["Hi, dad, Chisato. Come in, come in-"-
[00:13] <Minaplo> [Yutada came in first, wearing a perfectly tailored dark blue suit and tie. "Yui, Yui, your room smells wonderful- has Shin-chan been cooking again?"-
[00:13] <Minaplo> [Shinji blushed. "Hi, grandpa."-
[00:14] <Minaplo> [Chisato came in after, wearing a long sapphire evening gown, her hair done up in an elegant bun, pinned back with blue butterflies. "Good evening, Yui. I've brought along some wine-"-
[00:14] <Minaplo> ["Thanks, Chisato, I'll just put it away-"-
[00:15] <Minaplo> [Rei quickly rose and rushed over to give both her grandfather and grandmother a hug. "I missed you guys-"-
[00:15] <Minaplo> [Alphonse watched on in dry amusement.-
[00:16] <Minaplo> ["Come on, come on, settle in-" Said Yui. A minute later, both Yutada and Chisato had been sat.-
[00:17] <Minaplo> ["Hello, Mr. Guillory." Said Yutada cheerfully. "And Ms. Katsuragi, too, so good to see you both…"-
[00:17] <Minaplo> ["Hello, Alphonse." Said Chisato. "It's been awhile, hasn't it?"-
[00:17] <Minaplo> ["That it has, Chisato. You're looking well, considering." Said Alphonse.-
[00:17] <Minaplo> ["Hah, better than ever! If only you knew…"]
[00:25] <Raphael> Raphael's hand had subtly found a way onto Misato's free one, but he smiled as he set his cutlery aside. "Hello, Doctor Ikari. You've been well, I hope?"
[00:34] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you know how it is." Said Yutada with a tiny shrug. "As well as can be hoped…"-
[00:34] <Minaplo> [Chisato glanced at Yutada, but quickly returned to her conversation with Alphonse.-
[00:35] <Minaplo> ["How are you?" Asked Yutada gently. "I hope you had a chance to rest after that heroic effort in Tokyo…"]
[00:48] <Raphael> "Time enough. And I'm fine, thank you for asking." The smile held, and he seemed at ease as he glanced Misato's way.
[00:53] <Minaplo> ["Good, good, ah…"-
[00:53] <Minaplo> [Misato glanced at Raphael, and for a moment their eyes met. Then Misato turned quickly-
[00:53] <Minaplo> ["Shin-chan here was just discussing a pretty cool idea, Dr. Ikari." Said Misato brightly. "Why don't you…?"-
[00:54] <Minaplo> ["Oh? What idea was this?" Asked Yutada lightly, turning toward Shinji.-
[00:54] <Minaplo> ["Oh, well, it was just a sport thing…"-
[00:57] <Minaplo> [And so with Yutada speaking with Shinji, and Chisato speaking with Rei and Alphonse, Raphael and Misato had effectively paired off.-
[00:58] <Minaplo> [Until a moment later, when Yui returned. "Would anyone like some wine? Raphael, Misato…?"]
[01:02] <Raphael> She caught Raphael mid-sigh of relief. "Uh, yes please, ma'am."
[01:07] <Minaplo> [And so Yui went around the table, topping up everyone's glasses before sitting back down.-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["Are you enjoying the meal, Raphael?" Asked Yui.]
[13:39] <Raphael> "Lovely, thank you," Raphael said, casting his eye over the still-heaving table. "… I might have to stretch myself if I want to try everything, though."
[13:49] <Minaplo> [Yui chuckled. "Yes, it's quite the spread- Shinji was quite invested in making this as good as possible…"-
[13:58] <Minaplo> [Shinji was still speaking to Yutada. "That actually reminds me, grandpa. Has Dr. Surov had a chance to draw up his synthetic replacements for your injuries yet?"-
[13:58] <Minaplo> [Yutada sighed. "He said he'd look at my files and get back to me, that was… A week ago. It'll probably be awhile."-
[14:00] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure he'll find a way." Urged Shinji. "Raphael's daughter Suzanne went through it herself awhile ago, I think… Isn't that right, Raphael? Surov operated on her leg, right?"]
[14:06] * Raphael nodded as he took a sip of his wine. "At the start of March, yes. She needed muscle and nerve grafts to compensate for some older damage."
[14:07] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." Said Yutada gravely. "How is she doing…?"]
[14:10] <Raphael> "Quite well. They were… rather overconfident in their estimates for her recovery time, but it's still a new procedure. It's still let her come a long way since."
[14:11] <Minaplo> ["That's wonderful." Said Yutada, smiling. "What's her name?"]
[14:14] <Raphael> "…" Another sip of wine, then a smile to match Yutada's own. "Suzanne, sir."
[14:14] <Minaplo> [Yutada frowned curiously.-
[14:15] <Minaplo> ["Suzanne… Suzanne… She doesn't happen to have black hair, does she? About this tall?" Asked Yutada, holding his hand around three and a half feet off the ground.]
[14:18] <Raphael> "That would probably be her. Was she lurking around Technical?"
[14:19] <Minaplo> ["That's right." Said Yutada with a laugh. "I was asking questions about the suzanium alloy-"-
[14:19] <Minaplo> ["Of course…" Muttered Yui with a small smile.-
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["And she appeared practically out of nowhere to tell me all about the G-Defiant. She, ah, was quite the expert. She even knew a great deal about the forging process of its armour… I was blown away."]
[14:26] <Raphael> Raphael's smile widened into something more genuine, though he didn't seem to be aware of the slip. "That's Suzie. She knows the specs of most non-classified Superheavy tech by heart, but she has a particular fondness for the Peacecraft."
[14:27] <Minaplo> ["To be fair, it seems to be mutual." Said Misato lightly.-
[14:28] <Minaplo> ["That's fantastic." Said Yutada with a laugh. "I envy her, truly. Or rather eight year old me envies her- growing up around these machines- incredible things it does to the imagination. Is it true that the alloy is named after her?"]
[14:35] <Raphael> "… Yessir. She was friends with one of the lead engineers on the project."
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["I see…"-
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["Children truly are a blessing, aren't they?" Said Yutada quietly.-
[14:36] <Minaplo> [Chisato gave Yutada a seemingly cautious look, but before anyone could say anything, Alphone began to speak.-
[14:37] <Minaplo> ["I'm not supposed to tell just anyone." Said Alphonse. "But I've heard that Rustami's planning something special for Suzanne, Raphael."]
[14:39] * Raphael raised an eyebrow, Chisato and Yutada still held in his periphery. "Really?"
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["Mmhm. I think the idea was floated somewhere after Mars, but it got forgotten in the chaos… Long story short, Rustami is going to hold a ceremony honouring the Crystal Massacre victims, and he was going to formally make Suzanne a Staff Sergeant in the AEC in recognition of her efforts."]
[15:04] <Raphael> His eyes widened sharply, the Elder Ikaris quickly forgotten. "I knew the Chancellor was planning on giving her a medal, but that's…"-
[15:04] <Raphael> "… I hope she'll accept it."
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["I hope so, too." Said Yui. "That little girl was so, so brave… It would be good for her, I think."-
[15:07] <Minaplo> [Rei smiled. "She might angle to make Zeruel a staff sergeant too first."]
[15:09] <Raphael> "And the Peaceknight," he added quietly.
[15:12] <Minaplo> [Misato chuckled softly. "That's exactly what she'd do, huh? That'd be one hell of a ceremony…"-
[15:12] <Minaplo> ["I wonder what the rules are on giving that sort of thing to Angels and AC Suits." Mused Chisato. "Is it even legal? Not that I care if it isn't, just wondering."]
[15:16] <Raphael> "Frankly we're playing fast-and-loose with regulations at the best of times, ma'am. It probably wouldn't earn that much of a raised eyebrow…"
[15:34] <Minaplo> ["If AI are allowed to run the US Congress at the present then it's probably fine." Said Alphonse with a smile.-
[15:34] <Minaplo> ["True." Said Chisato with a light laugh. "But it's a topic of- interest for me, that's all."]
[15:45] * Raphael nodded, met her eyes and made an effort to bring himself back to the conversation in full. "May I ask what you think? Not just about this instance, necessarily, but the broader question."
[15:57] <Minaplo> ["Hmm. It's more a future hypothetical, I suppose- less about the Thruster AI and more about people like Sarasvati." Said Chisato. "In a sense it's part of a wider question regarding artificial humanity- which includes myself. I have what I need to legally pass as a biotypical, but in reality…" She put an arm around Rei's shoulders, who beamed- "I'm a bioexotic. I'm including Sarasvati
[15:57] <Minaplo> and those who'll follow her in that category as well for now, and it's fairly clear to me that if we're going to possess equal rights, then we need to cover all types of bioexotics and not just one or the other."]
[16:14] <Raphael> "I agree," he replied. "So long as they hold to our laws and expectations, they should have the same freedoms. I know there's some… very extensive security concerns when it comes to AI, but they're largely outside my area of expertise."
[16:24] <Minaplo> ["Agreed." Said Yui. "Actually, has Surov told you about his grand idea for Spiritual Intelligence?"]
[16:25] <Raphael> "No ma'am."
[16:29] <Minaplo> ["Surov's aim is to see if he can create a type of AI that spontaneously develops an AT Field. Not necessarily an active one like Rei's, just a normal human-scale one." Said Yui. "Ideally, his hope is that in the future, each human being would be paired with a Spiritual Intelligence from birth, and the two would grow up together- human informing the SI on the material world, whilst the SI
[16:29] <Minaplo> informs the human on the digital. Each serving as a companion to the other."]
[16:44] <Raphael> "As an effort to promote coexistence?" he asked, looking curious.
[16:46] <Minaplo> ["Yes, but also as a way of making everyone happier." Said Yui.]
[16:55] <Raphael> "Hm. How would that work?"
[16:58] <Minaplo> ["I think Surov felt that if everyone grew up with a companion- a sort of digital twin sibling- they'd be less lonely and more self-aware."]
[17:14] <Raphael> "Perhaps…" he nodded. "It's a fine theory."
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, it has a certain type of appeal."-
[17:19] <Minaplo> [Yutada tapped his plate a few times. "Perhaps we shouldn't be attempting to redefine human rights to cover Bioexotics?" He said.-
[17:20] <Minaplo> ["It might be much easier and more sensible to just redefine human rights as sentient rights or AT rights instead- it's easier to prove and more inclusive, especially when we consider non-human intelligence."]
[17:32] <Raphael> "It's the sort of move that could promote pushback," Raphael noted as he moved to refill his wine - and Misato's, if she asked. "Not that I think that's a valid reason to avoid it. Sentient rights seems like a more useful term."
[17:33] <Minaplo> ["The best example we have of definitive non-human life is the Angels." Said Shinji. "Lots of people still think they came from space- there's a lot of people who'll balk at the idea of extending rights to Angels of all things."]
[17:42] <Raphael> "I know. And… they have cause, unfortunately. I suppose that's a case we'd have to make," Raphael said. "That said, if we don't make them universal we encourage the idea that a species has to be arbitrarily similar to biotypicals to be worthy of respect. We're going to have enough trouble with people thinking that way as it is."
[17:49] <Minaplo> ["Agreed." Said Yutada. "It's a luxury we can't and shouldn't tolerate."-
[17:49] <Minaplo> ["This discussion sure is a lot of us agreeing." Said Misato lightly. "Maybe we should invite Norling in to balance it out?"]
[17:53] <Raphael> "Lieutenant Norling and I have spoken on the subject before," Raphael said. "She's actually quite willing to listen and she has some legitimate concerns, she just… doesn't phrase them very well."
[18:03] <Minaplo> ["Mmm, unfortunately there are some legitimate concerns to be had." Said Yutada sadly. "You all saw in the news- those Iron Guard burning the Australian capital?"]
[18:07] * Raphael joined plenty of those around the table in nodding as he scraped up the last of his rice.
[18:10] <Minaplo> ["It was really horrible." Murmured Rei. "And it makes a lot of people wonder if we can be trusted…"-
[18:12] <Minaplo> ["I suppose we're fortunate that the Iron Guards' numbers are fairly limited." Said Alphonse. "Without the LN technology, they can't exactly reproduce."-
[18:13] <Minaplo> [A dark look crossed Yutada's face. "… Yes. It… It's not good, what's happening in Australia. It's been a bad century for them so far- Impact, the wars…"]
[18:21] <Raphael> "And the Ferals," Raphael added.
[18:22] <Minaplo> ["Yes, those too." Said Yutada with a sigh. "I'm afraid we and the next generation both have a lot of work to do in the future ahead."]
[18:40] <Raphael> "We do, but at least we have some of the tools. The plans to use Evangelions for terraforming and rebuilding seem promising, for example."
[18:41] <Minaplo> ["Yes, that's true." Said Yutada. "But I wonder…"-
[18:42] <Minaplo> ["… Nevermind." He said, shaking his head. "I've spent so much time talking that my food's starting to cool. How rude…"-
[18:43] <Minaplo> [And so Yutada began to focus on his food, ignoring the lingering looks from Chisato.-
[18:44] <Minaplo> [It was obvious around twenty minutes later- after people had started visibly slowing down- that Shinji had made enough food for twice as many people as had actually come.-
[18:45] <Minaplo> [Misato had given up fifteen minutes in, Yui and Chisato were taking one bite once every minute if that in between talking about the state of Japan, and Shinji had vanished into the kitchen at some point, muttering about 'dessert'.-
[18:45] <Minaplo> [Yutada ate slowly and quietly, now keeping to himself.-
[18:46] <Minaplo> [Rei and Alphonse, however, continued to eat steadily away, occasionally dissolving into such sickening behaviour as attempting to pop a sweet morsel of duck or calamari into the other's mouth.-
[18:47] <Minaplo> [Eventually Shinji ducked his head back out into the living room. "Raphael, are you nearly done?"]
[18:49] * Raphael had added a few slices of duck after he'd finished his first plate of food, but it was clearly out of a sense of grim obligation. They were more-or-less untouched as he paid attention to the conversation.-
[18:49] <Raphael> And so he didn't seem too concerned when Shinji reappeared. "I am, sir. Do you need a hand?"
[18:50] <Minaplo> ["If you don't mind, can you help me clear the table?"-
[18:50] <Minaplo> ["Hey!" Said Rei hotly. "We're still eating!"-
[18:51] <Minaplo> ["You and Alphonse don't count." Said Shinji flatly. "You'd both eat until midnight if we let you. I'll put the leftovers in containers and you can take it home, alright?"-
[18:51] <Minaplo> ["The Prime Minister of the UK, subsisting off leftovers. What has the world come to?" Asked Misato, ignoring Rei's delighted expression.-
[18:51] <Minaplo> [Alphonse rolled his eyes.-
[18:53] <Minaplo> [And so Shinji and Raphael went to work, clearing the table, scraping some of the morsels too small to bother with into the bin whilst sealing away the significant portions remaining.-
[18:53] <Minaplo> [A few minutes into this, Shinji sidled up to Raphael, an empty container in hand. "Something's bothering grandpa." He said quietly.]
[18:57] * Raphael was by the sink, running dishes under the tap and cleaning them of grease.-
[18:57] <Raphael> "It would seem so," Raphael agreed as he added another damp plate to the stack on the drainboard.
[19:00] <Minaplo> ["I wonder what it is." Muttered Shinji, filling the container with curry, sealing it and putting it aside. "It might be the pain, but he's been pretty depressed recently over the Drive stuff… It might be something else as well."]
[19:02] <Raphael> "It could be, sir," he nodded, eyes on his work. "I'm sure your grandmother is helping as best she can."
[19:04] <Minaplo> ["Yeah."-
[19:05] <Minaplo> [Shinji finished up with the leftovers and took a kitchen lighter out of the cupboard. He clicked it a few times, the blue-orange flame flickering into life.-
[19:06] <Minaplo> ["I'm going to finish up here. You should get back- I'll be out in a minute."]
[19:09] <Raphael> "Alright, Shinji." He washed his hands quickly and dried them on a dishtowel, patting the boy on the back as he exited the kitchen.
[19:10] <Minaplo> [A few minutes later, Shinji returned, bearing a plate of creme brulees; their tops had crystallised perfectly into a hard caramel shell, whilst within a delectable warm thick cream awaited.-
[19:11] <Minaplo> [Everyone ate the brulees, and settled back into comfortable discussion. It was about fifteen minutes later when Chisato- who had seated herself over with Yutada at some point- cleared her throat. "Excuse me."]
[19:22] * Raphael had made rather slow-going on his own. While that was partly to blame on the size of the dinner proper, it was largely due to his focus on Rei and Alphonse's stories of Eevi on the campaign trail.-
[19:22] <Raphael> Still, when Chisato spoke up he quickly fell silent and turned his attention her way.
[19:26] <Minaplo> [As did the rest of the table.-
[19:26] <Minaplo> [Chisato and Yutada looked at each other; then she stood, and for a moment it seemed to Raphael as though terror flickered across Yutada's face as she did so.-
[19:28] <Minaplo> [Chisato looked over at them all, and gave them all a wide smile. "I'm pregnant!"-
[19:28] <Minaplo> [Yui, Rei and Shinji were stunned. In unison their eyes widened; Yui's jaw dropped.-
[19:28] <Minaplo> [Alphonse went stock still, as though he'd heard danger.-
[19:29] <Minaplo> [And Misato clapped a hand to her mouth.]
[19:36] * Raphael did nothing so overt. Perhaps, then, his very slight frown would be lost amidst the furor.-
[19:36] <Raphael> In any case, it was gone by the time he spoke. "Congratulations."
[19:40] <Minaplo> [A moment later Misato chimed in as well, clapping furiously. "Wow, incredible-"-
[19:41] <Minaplo> ["Eeee." Said Rei, clearly finding her voice. "I'm gonna have an uncle or auntie~"-
[19:41] <Minaplo> ["I-I didn't think you could-" Stuttered Yui, still clearly shocked. Shinji shot her a bewildered look.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["I know. It's a real, real surprise to us as well!" Said Chisato, her delighted smile lighting up the room.-
[19:46] <Minaplo> [Yutada was smiling as well, even chuckling. But there was a look in his eyes, one that Raphael felt was a sort of emptiness to them, an almost hopelessness.]
[19:54] <Raphael> Raphael's eyes were sharp and clear as he watched Yutada and sipped at his wine… but when he set his glass down he fixed Chisato with a sunny smile instead. "You've only just found out?"
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Chisato. "Usually I wouldn't bother checking, but I'm glad I did."-
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["Do you know how long…?" Asked Shinji.-
[19:57] <Minaplo> ["Not yet. I'm going to visit the medical wing tomorrow and see if they know." Said Chisato. "Hopefully that injury I took in Tokyo won't affect anything…"-
[19:57] <Minaplo> ["You'd assume our medical people would've found out if it were that long ago." Said Misato.-
[19:58] <Minaplo> ["They were pretty busy at the time." Said Chisato. "They did the basics and more or less left me, so."]
[20:15] <Raphael> "Even so, that's lovely news."
[20:22] <Minaplo> ["It is." Said Yutada, rousing himself. "I- have some worries, I'll admit, what with my age and my… Well. But I'm going to do my very best." He said, his smile widening. "I suppose you weren't expecting a little sibling, were you, Yui?"-
[20:23] <Minaplo> ["Not in a million years." She said; finally she cracked a small smile. "It's a pretty surreal thought."-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["No kidding." Said Shinji. "If anyone here was gonna announce that I figured it'd be Misato…"-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["Hey." Said Misato, giving Shinji a dark look.]
[20:34] <Raphael> She was quickly joined by Raphael in a show of solidarity.
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["I'm just saying." Muttered Shinji. "It'd be either you two or these two-"-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["Not yet." Said Rei and Alphonse in unison, Rei's cheeks growing pink.-
[20:42] <Minaplo> [The conversation quickly dissolved into good-natured teasing, and then back into general conversation. Shinji cleared the table again, and for the next half hour, convivial talk was shared.-
[20:43] <Minaplo> [But eventually Yutada waved his hand. "I know we arrived late, but I'm starting to become quite worn out. I think it's tuck-in time for us." He said.-
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["Awww." Said Rei; and for the next few minutes there were goodbyes and hugs aplenty as they prepared to leave.-
[20:45] <Minaplo> [Just as they were making it to the door, however, Yutada stopped and turned. "Mr. Guillory, may I have a word with you in private?"]
[20:58] * Raphael had shaken hands and said goodbyes and exchanged the proper pleasantries, but by the time Yutada crossed the threshold he was a few steps behind the others, his body turned at an angle to the door as he spoke to Misato. She'd be treated to the brief sight of him gritting his teeth in frustration before he turned to face the Ikaris properly.-
[20:58] <Raphael> He smiled, but it was thinner and less convincing than earlier attempts. "… of course."
[21:06] <Minaplo> [Yutada took Raphael out into the hallway. He led Raphael down it for about half a minute before finally speaking.-
[21:10] <Minaplo> ["I never thought I'd be a father again." He said with a sigh. "Never planned for it. It doesn't even seem real. Here I am, though. Here we are."-
[21:11] <Minaplo> ["I'm terrified." Said Yutada quietly.]
[21:26] * Raphael posted up against a wall, his hands in his pockets as he examined the man and tried to work out what response he was expected to give.-
[21:26] <Raphael> "I'm sorry you feel that way, Doctor."
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["Thank you, but, heh. Nothing to be done about that." Said Yutada. "It… Means the world to Chisato, though, and so it doesn't matter how I feel. We all have our hangups, and it isn't fair when we make our loved ones suffer for them, especially not her."-
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["Chisato chose to share her life with me, and as incredible as that has been, I've always worried." He said. "I couldn't give her a normal life. There'd be things she'd miss or have to deal with because of who I am, how old I am, my decisions through life…"-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["So this really is like a sort of miracle." Said Yutada, and he smiled slowly. "And it would never have happened without your help in Japan. You saved us both, and so… I wanted to say how very grateful I was for the help you gave us. I know-" He said, holding up a hand. "It was only you doing your duty, but I don't care. Chisato's alive because of you, and- that means the world to me."]
[22:02] * Raphael nodded slowly. "Well you're welcome. I'm glad we could return you both to your family."
[22:03] <Minaplo> [Yutada nodded a few times in return.-
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["Grateful, very grateful." He said. "I-I also know that my… My actions have caused you and yours harm and distress."_
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["S-So if there's anything I can do for you and yours… Anything whatsoever, please let me know."]
[16:12] <Raphael> Raphael stared, the attempt at polite, pleasant engagement curdling in an instant.-
[16:12] <Raphael> "… Right," he said evenly. Gradually a more neutral expression reasserted itself. "It's important to Rei, Shinji and the rest of the Ayanamis that I remain on good terms with you, they've made that clear. Avoiding the topic of the Drive in future would make that easier. Is that fair?"
[16:31] <Minaplo> [Yutada's expression became distant, even vacant for a few seconds before he shook his head. "Yes, of course. That's fine…"]
[16:48] <Raphael> "Good. Thank you. I… I know you-"-
[16:48] <Raphael> He stalled, words dying on the tip of his tongue. The two of them were left to stare at each other in the empty, silent hallway, and in that moment Raphael looked completely lost.-
[16:48] <Raphael> "…"-
[16:49] <Raphael> "Nevermind. We probably shouldn't keep Ms. Sanada waiting, sir."
[16:52] <Minaplo> ["Y-Yes, no, of course not…"-
[16:53] <Minaplo> [Yutada wasted no time in returning to the apartment. There, after saying their final goodbyes (and final hugs), Chisato and Yutada left, the latter carrying a small stack of leftovers on his lap, given to him by a watchful Shinji.-
[16:53] <Minaplo> ["Until next time," Said Yutada to the room, giving them all a very tired smile before he left.-
[16:54] <Minaplo> [Misato had found her seat and had started on a final glass of wine, although she kept a concerned eye on Raphael as he returned.]
[17:00] * Raphael sat without comment, but he looked nearly as exhausted as Yutada as he made a half-hearted effort at picking the remains of his creme brulee clean.
[17:01] <Minaplo> [Misato leaned forward, her eyes gentle. "You ok, hon?"]
[17:04] <Raphael> He offered a beleaguered smile, even as he made a tiny see-sawing motion with his free hand. "Just tired, I think."
[17:06] <Minaplo> ["Just tired?" Said Misato, smiling in return.-
[17:06] <Minaplo> [Rei, sitting opposite, perked up; suddenly she was up and around the table, throwing herself around Raphael's shoulders. "Time for an energising cuddle, Raffy~"]
[17:12] * Raphael chuckled and gave her arm a squeeze. "Thanks, Rei."
[17:13] <Minaplo> ["They really work, you know." Said Rei, nestling her head atop Raphael's.-
[17:14] <Minaplo> ["I bet they do." Said Misato. "Considering how hard the campaigning was, I'm sure Al and you cuddled energetically all the time~"-
[17:14] <Minaplo> [Alphonse rolled his eyes.-
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["If you want to know what it's like to be tired, try cooking all this instead of just eating it." Said Shinji drily from the kitchen door. "Did you like the creme brulee, Raphael?"]
[17:19] <Raphael> "Yes sir," he nodded, setting Rei's chin bouncing into his scalp. Indeed, he'd just pushed his empty bowl aside. "You all went above and beyond with the hosting tonight, thank you…"
[17:30] <Minaplo> ["It's not that much." Said Shinji with a small laugh. "But if you're really truly thankful, maybe you can come and help me wash up again."]
[17:43] * Raphael nodded. "Of course."-
[17:43] <Raphael> Despite the awkward position, he reached up to put his arms around Rei's neck in a makeshift hug before he disentangled himself and removed his jacket. He headed for the kitchen, the remaining plates from the table stacked in his hands.
[17:43] <Minaplo> [Shinji already had the water running.-
[17:45] <Minaplo> ["Well. Evening's nearly over." Said Shinji. "No disasters or arguments or anything, huh?"]
[17:53] * Raphael collected a dishtowel and started drying a few clean cups. "There's still time if we try, sir."
[17:54] <Minaplo> ["People are too sleepy from all the food, I think. My mother's just about ready to fall asleep in her chair."-
[17:55] <Minaplo> ["… My grandfather wanted a word with you. Did it go alright?"]
[18:03] <Raphael> He set a wine glass aside. "He just wanted to say thank you."
[18:04] <Minaplo> [Shinji nodded. "Not surprising. He thinks very highly of you."]
[18:11] <Raphael> "Mm."
[18:12] <Minaplo> [And so they worked in silence for another minute or so before Shinji continued.-
[18:14] <Minaplo> ["I understand that you hate my grandfather." Said Shinji. "And I know that dinners like this are pretty uncomfortable for you. So thanks for coming and handling it."]
[18:30] <Raphael> "It's important," he shrugged. "I shouldn't get credit for acting like a mature adult, but I appreciate the intent."
[18:35] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[18:36] <Minaplo> ["I've been thinking about what we discussed earlier, about the Angels." Said Shinji. "Did you know Suzie still tries to give me letters to give to Zeruel?"]
[18:37] * Raphael finally looked Shinji's way. "I didn't, as a matter of fact."
[18:41] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. Less than she used to- I think she's busier nowadays- but she still does it." He chuckled. "I read them out to Zeruel, I suppose, feel really dumb doing it… I think Zeruel appreciates it, but it's hard to be certain."]
[18:46] <Raphael> "How does that work? Can you sense something, or is it just a guess…?"
[18:48] <Minaplo> ["I can sense certain things." Said Shinji. "Zeruel 'speaks', but not just with words. He speaks with… Memories, emotions, images, and I usually have to discern the context from that. I think it's a little harder for me than it was for my father."-
[18:48] <Minaplo> ["I read the letters to him and usually I get images of sunny fields or such things, but I have no idea if Zeruel's saying that it makes him happy or if he just really likes sunny fields."]
[18:51] <Raphael> "I think that would make her happy in either case," he said with a smile. "Thank you for going to the trouble. I'm sure she's already thanked you herself, but still…"
[18:53] <Minaplo> ["She has, but I appreciate it anyway." Said Shinji. "It… Gives me hope in a way."-
[18:54] <Minaplo> ["Suzanne's suffered a great deal of loss at the hands of the Angels." Said Shinji. "Whether by Angels themselves or by the Solomon Primes. But she sees Zeruel as an individual, independent of his label- and that's not something you see a lot."]
[19:06] <Raphael> "It takes a very strong person," he said quietly.
[19:07] <Minaplo> ["It does." Said Shinji.-
[19:08] <Minaplo> [And then he laughed and clapped Raphael on the back. "She's a wonderful person, Raphael, and she's gonna do incredible things when she grows up. I'm really wondering what's going to make your name- being the legendary Red Meteor, or being the father of Suzanne Sartre?"]
[19:21] <Raphael> It left a wet, translucent handprint on the back of his white shirt, but he didn't pay it much mind. "That latter would be better a bigger honour."
[19:23] <Minaplo> [Shinji laughed.-
[19:24] <Minaplo> ["That doesn't mean you should just coast by, though. You have to work hard to give her a legacy to beat."]
[19:24] <Raphael> "Hm. I should probably get started on that soon…"
[19:33] <Minaplo> ["Heh."-
[19:33] <Minaplo> ["Alright, I should be able to take it from here. Are you and Misato going to stick around?"]
[19:35] <Raphael> "I'd assume so. Unless you think it'd be better to let your mother have some peace?"
[19:35] <Minaplo> ["It might be an idea. I'll give you guys another half hour and see."]
[19:36] <Raphael> "Yessir. Just say the word and we'll be out of your hair."
[19:37] <Minaplo> ["I'll keep that in mind."-
[19:38] <Minaplo> ["It might end up being Rei's decision, honestly. I think she's missed us- and I know you've missed her."]
[19:45] <Raphael> "I have no idea where you could've picked up that impression, Pilot Ikari."
[19:47] <Minaplo> ["You actually become visibly mopey when separated from her for more than two weeks."]
[19:49] <Raphael> "Just no idea."
[19:50] <Minaplo> [Shinji rolled his eyes. He looked out through the doorway, where Rei had returned to her seat- albeit now sitting on Alphonse's lap. "It's a weird world where your de facto brother-in-law is the Prime Minister of England."]
[19:54] <Raphael> "I know what you mean," he muttered, towel slung over his shoulder as he looked back. "He'll do well, though; They both will."
[19:54] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, they will."-
[19:55] <Minaplo> ["Alright," Said Shinji, snatching the towel. "Out you get."]
[19:56] <Raphael> "Alright, alright, if you're sure," he muttered.-
[19:56] <Raphael> "Thank you again for dinner, Shinji."
[20:09] <Minaplo> ["You're welcome." Said Shinji. "Maybe next time, you and Misato c- actually, nevermind, I'm fine."-
[20:10] <Minaplo> [And so Raphael would head back out into the living room, where awaited a warm reception, cool wine and Misato's gentle, sleepy head resting on his shoulder- until it was time to head back home in quiet and calm.]

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