His Hand To Take Your Hand Is Overmuch Too Much To Bear

[15:39] <Raphael> A Sunday in Paris-2…-
[15:40] <Raphael> Even with a few days to recover from his emotionally draining excursion to Boston, it wasn’t hard to see that Raphael Guillory was still feeling a little worn down. Perhaps the days following his return to the Superheavy unit hadn’t helped - There’d been a lot to do, even though Mana had done her best to hold to the fort in his absence - and in the end he’d been rather happy to make
[15:40] <Raphael> it to the weekend, and the brief time off-duty that came with it.-
[15:40] <Raphael> And it’d given him a chance to catch up with Suzie, and to reassure her about Rei’s wellbeing. Right now the two of them were crammed into his apartment’s tiny kitchen, building a small pile of sandwiches to share for lunch… with bacon, of course. Suzanne would not be denied.
[15:48] <Ayanami‘Juu> ["Hey, Raffy?"]
[16:04] <Raphael> "Mmm?"
[16:08] <Ayanami`Juu> ["Did Reirei like the chocolate bar?"]
[16:17] <Raphael> "She loved it, sweetheart. I think she really needed something from home."
[16:24] <Ayanami`Juu> [Suzie beamed. "I’m glad!" She leaned forward. "Do you think she and Alphonse shared it~?"]
[16:25] * Raphael grins and begins setting out the bacon. "You never know…"
[16:25] <Ayanami‘Juu> [Suzie grinned.-
[16:25] <Ayanami`Juu> … And there was a knock on the door.
[16:28] * Raphael glances over his shoulder at the door, then down at Suzie. "… Do you think you can get that for me, Suzie? I don’t want this to burn." He hesitates for a moment, then adds. "Remember what we talked about, hmm? Don't unchain the door until you've checked."
[16:32] <Ayanami‘Juu> ["Alright, Raffy!"-
[16:33] <Ayanami`Juu> [She wheeled out, then was out of sight. A second later, the door opened a peep. "He- Rei?!"-
[16:33] <Ayanami`Juu> [Muffled conversation, then Suzanne’s voice, tinged with a hint of disappointment. "Oh, I'll go get him. Raffy!"]
[16:37] * Raphael spends another moment or two finishing his work in the kitchen before heading out into the lounge room, stripping off his apron as he goes. "Is everything ok?"
[16:39] <Ayanami‘Juu> ["It’s one of Reirei's sisters, Raffy. She says she's here to see you."-
[16:41] * Ayanami‘Juu - red Ayanami eyes, but light blonde hair- was standing in the doorway, wearing a black coat over a dark blue long-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans. When she saw Raphael, she straightened up and saluted. She was completely uninjured.
[16:49] <Raphael> … it’s a weird kind of emotional vertigo to meet the other Ayanamis - one that Raphael has yet to get used to. Still, he looks up at that hair for a moment, trying to cross-reference it with his memories of the dossiers Rei had shown him, and his few brief introductions. "Pilot Juu?" He says slowly, returing the salute as he does.
[16:51] <Ayanami‘Juu> ["Group Captain Guillory, sir. May I have a moment of your time?"]
[16:57] <Raphael> "Of course, of course." He says motioning for her to come inside. "Would you like some lunch?"
[16:58] <Ayanami`Juu> [Suzie stares at Juu in a sort of hesitant fashion. She’s so like Rei that it's Suzie's instinct to hug and amuse her, but she's different enough to make Suzie feel shy.-
[16:58] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Is that alright, sir?"
[17:00] <Raphael> "Certainly. We were just about to eat anyway, isn’t that right, Suzie?" He says, givint the girl an encouraging smile.
[17:00] <Ayanami‘Juu> ["Y-Yeah! That’s right. Bacon sandwiches, fresh from the pan."-
[17:01] <Raphael> «Giving*»
[17:01] <Ayanami‘Juu> "I’ve never eaten bacon before…"-
[17:01] <Ayanami‘Juu> ["What? Never…?"-
[17:01] * Ayanami`Juu shook her head. "It isn’t very common where I come from. But if you'll have me then I'm happy to accept."
[17:05] <Raphael> "Then it’s settled." Raphael says, giving Juu a smile and ruffling Suzanne’s hair. "It’s all ready, so if you girls will just give me a moment…" And with that he disappears back into the kitchen.-
[17:05] <Raphael> … and appears again a few seconds later with a small platter of bacon, a loaf of bread and three plates, quickly depositing the whole lot in the centre of their small dining table.
[17:10] <Ayanami‘Juu> ["Mmm. It smells good." Says Suzie, her spirits lifting as the delicious aroma of her favourite food reaches her nose. She rolls over to the table.-
[17:11] <Ayanami`Juu> "Thank you." Says Juu, giving Raphael a smile as she takes a seat.
[17:14] * Raphael takes his own seat and passes the set of tongs across to Suzanne so that she can make her sandwiches first. He knows the berserker rage that comes from making her wait. "… So what can I do for you, Pilot Ayanami?"
[17:17] <Ayanami`Juu> ["Whee~" Suzanne rapidly grabs two slices of bread, buttering them and applying a slice of cheese, a dollop of ranch dressing and a tiny little scattering of lettuce before finishing it off with a few rashes of bacon. Then it’s carnage time.-
[17:18] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Rei-neesama told us that if we ever had any problems, external or internal, with ourselves or with others, that you would be able to help us. I have a problem."
[17:24] <Raphael> "Well… I’ll certainly do my best to help, at the very least." He says slowly, looking a little more focused now. "Why don't you tell me what's wrong and we'll go from there, hmm?"
[17:29] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Alright." She nodded before she reached out to the plates, copying Suzanne almost identically, although she had a little more salad. "You are aware that I participated in the battle in southern Spain, yes?"
[17:32] <Raphael> "I read the reports." Raphael says, frowning slightly as he recalls the details of the girl’s injuries. And yet here she was…
[17:37] <Ayanami‘Juu> "During the fight, I defeated one of my opponents, a Sergeant Edgar Chevalier, with a blow to his cockpit that left him paralysed from the waist down."
[17:45] <Raphael> "… And that bothers you?"
[17:46] <Ayanami`Juu> "Strictly speaking, sir, I feel it is unfortunate that it came to that, but I do not regret my actions." Her brow furrowed.-
[17:47] <Ayanami`Juu> "However, I was injured also. We took Chevalier captive, and we were both eventually moved to the same room during the healing process, sir."
[17:52] <Raphael> "Ah." Raphael murmurs. Only when when Juu is done with her own lunch does he begin to work on his own, and soon enough he’s laying out bacon, lettuce and tomato in a rather precise fashion. "Hardly the most intelligent move on security's part. So he's been giving you trouble?"
[17:54] <Ayanami‘Juu> "He has… Not, exactly, sir." Said Juu awkwardly. She shifted a little in her seat. "He is- he is trying to- I believe he is interested in me in a sexual or possibly romantic manner, sir."
[17:57] <Raphael> "…" The careful construction of his sandwich is forgotten for a moment as Raphael stares over at Juu. "… Oh. Are you… uh, quite certain, ma’am? That would be quite unusual."
[17:58] <Ayanami‘Juu> [Suzanne bursts into giggles down her end of the table.-
[18:02] * Ayanami`Juu shifts a little more, uncomfortable and reddening slightly. "Very unusual, sir. At first I felt it was simply trauma from the injury, but he seems to be actively pursuing me, sir. He- he serenaded me on Valentine’s Day."
[18:06] <Raphael> "Serenaded…?" Well, he certainly would have liked to be a fly on the wall for that little bit of romance. "And are you… that is to say…"
[18:07] * Ayanami‘Juu didn’t say anything, waiting politely for Raphael to finish. She bit into her sandwich.
[18:08] * Raphael coughs. "Is the feeling mutual, ma'am?"
[18:14] * Ayanami‘Juu coughed slightly as she swallowed, putting her sandwich down and frowning heavily. "Sir! For the past eight months I have tried my hardest to learn all I can about love, romance and relationships of that nature. This is not something I am familiar with. He is… He is not doing it -properly-." She said firmly. "He is condemned to a wheelchair for life thanks to my actions! He should be bitter and angry, not attempting to romance me! And how! He’s supposed to- to-" She frowned deeply. "Fight side by side in a life-threatening situation, depending on each other, or we were supposed to grow up together as childhood friends, with one of us always harbouring affections for the other, or one of us would have had a makeover, allowing the other to see how beautiful they truly were, or we would have met on a dating site, or through work, or see each other across a crowded room, or meet beneath a swollen full moon. This is not how it is supposed to -go-."
[18:22] * Raphael stares blankly for a few moments, trying to control both his bewilderment and his near-overwhelming urge to laugh. The latter would certainly not do. "… If you don't mind my asking, ma'am, where did you learn this information?"
[18:23] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Empirical observation and use of reliable second-hand sources, such as the internet, my mother, my father, Lieutenant Makoto Hyuga, Captain Misato Katsuragi and Pilot Tsubaki Akagi."
[18:27] <Raphael> "… Naturally." Raphael says, reaching up to rub at one temple. This was going to take some work. "Alright. For a moment why don’t we lay aside these perceptions of… proper romantic protocol, shall we say. Do you have any feeling for him?"
[18:43] <Ayanami‘Juu> "I’m not sure how I feel. I don't know how to feel in response to this!"
[18:45] <Raphael> "Because you haven't been able to find the proper protocol?
[18:45] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Because- because I don’t know."
[18:48] * Raphael nods sympathetically. "That's ok, Juu. Real romance… it's a difficult thing. And it rarely plays out in the way you expect it to… even if you've done your research." He says with a small smile. "How would you like me to help you with all this? If it's making you uncomfortable, I'm quite happy to ask this boy to stop on your behalf."
[18:49] <Ayanami‘Juu> "I just… I need you to help me make sense of it all. Why and how. And what to do."
[18:52] <Raphael> "I can try." He nods. "Why don’t you tell me a little about this fellow? I'm afraid I only know him from what I've read in the reports."
[18:59] <Ayanami‘Juu> "He is tall and well-built, with red hair and brown eyes. He is… Strange." Juu frowned. "He does not take offense to what I did at all, and he seems to see his injury as nothing more than a challenge he will overcome. He almost seems to look forward to doing so. He seems incapable of being sad or angry or anything."
[19:00] <Raphael> "The reports said he was one of the NeoSpartan children?"
[19:01] <Ayanami`Juu> "Yes, that’s correct. He's a very well-trained combatant."
[19:08] * Raphael drums his fingers for a moment, looking over at Suzanne for a moment as though he'd almost forgotten she was there. "I saw the comms logs, too. From the looks of it, by defeating his unit you were only doing what he'd asked."
[19:09] <Ayanami‘Juu> [Suzanne stared at him and Juu avidly, quickly making a second sandwich as she absorbed this fascinating conversation as best she could.-
[19:09] <Ayanami`Juu> "But that does not make sense…"
[19:13] <Raphael> "Perhaps. The thing you have to understand, Juu, is that not everyone enters battle purely for honor or duty or to protect others. Some people are looking for a challenge… an equal, even. It doesn’t seem to me like Mr. Chevalier was someone who entered battle afraid of the risks."
[19:17] <Ayanami‘Juu> "No. He seems to be someone who finds it hard to ever feel afraid." She frowned slightly, thoughtfully. "An equal…"
[19:18] * Raphael nods. "It’s possible that you impressed him by defeating him so thoroughly."
[19:24] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Then… Decisive defeats also lead to romance?"
[19:49] <Raphael> "… Potentially?"
[19:52] <Ayanami`Juu> "Hmm. I suppose that does make sense…"
[19:56] * Raphael fell silent for a moment as he attempted to put the whole affair into context for her. Something a little easier to process. Rei had trusted him… "… Imagine two brave warriors on the opposite sides of the battlefield. Though they fight, they bear no ill will towards one another, but that mutual respect and admiration slowly transitions…" He dropped his voice to what he believed
[19:56] * Raphael to be the correct tone, as taught by film trailers. "Into something more."
[19:58] <Ayanami`Juu> ["Smooches and marriage and lots of kids!"-
[19:59] * Ayanami`Juu stares at Raphael, then over at Suzanne, then back at Raphael, then down at her sandwich as though it, too, had voiced an opinion. "If I had recognised his challenge as an opening to courtship I would have been more thoughtful about it." She muttered.
[20:03] * Raphael lets out a gentle chuckle. "Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn’t. I can't really speak for Mr. Chevalier, ma'am. I can only make an educated guess."
[20:05] * Ayanami‘Juu thought about this. "It does sound accurate, though. He is quite… Like that, actually. Perhaps this is something I should pursue…"
[20:06] <Raphael> "… Are you pursuing it because you wish to, or because you feel that’s what you 'should' be doing?"
[20:09] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Because I wish to, of course." Said Juu as though it were obvious. "I do not know how I feel about him. He is confusing and unexpected and a mystery to me, but I feel as though I want to explore him -and- this a little more before I make up my mind."
[20:14] * Raphael ’s smile brightens at that. "That's good, Juu. I hope I managed to make things a little clearer for you. Just remember that, in the end, he -is- still a ranking officer in the LN and a prisoner of war."
[20:15] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Of course, sir. Although all things considered I doubt he’ll be going anywhere."
[20:18] <Raphael> "… Unfortunately so."
[20:19] * Ayanami‘Juu nodded. "Thank you for your help, sir. Do you mind if I stay to finish my lunch?"
[20:22] <Raphael> "Absolutely not." He says, eyeing his own uncompleted sandwich. "All of you girls are quite welcome here whenever you’d like. Rei's orders."
[20:24] <Ayanami‘Juu> "I’m glad. Although not many of my sisters are in Paris-2. There are some things I would certainly like to talk to them about."
[20:27] * Raphael nods, putting the final slice of bread onto his long-forgotten lunch and taking a bite of rapidly cooling bacon. "I'm sure it's difficult. I'm quite happy to hear you out on any matter, but I'm sure there are more private things…"
[20:30] <Ayanami‘Juu> "In all honesty, what we discussed today was as private a concern as I have." She said, smiling. "Mostly I am curious to see what my sisters are doing and how they’re coping. We are a close family. … Outside of Hachi and Juuichi."
[14:21] <Raphael> "They're the two who fought at Rei's party?"
[14:25] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Oh, yes, I heard about that. They wore the same costume. It was bound to happen."
[14:27] <Raphael> "What’s the point of contention between them?" Raphael asks curiously, finishing his first sandwich with one last bite and grabbing more bread to assemble another. "Simple sibling rivalry?"
[14:30] <Ayanami‘Juu> "We are all trained in combat, but for quite some time we trained ourselves by sparring one another. Juuichi and Hachi participated in the very first sparring match, and it was hard-fought. Juuichi won, and Juuichi designated herself as ’The Winner', and continued to call Hachi the 'Loser'. Hachi refused to accept this as a part of her identity and started fighting Juuichi every chance she had. However, because Juuichi was the first winner, she felt as though she was someone who demanded respect from others, and thus she attempted to become a leader of sorts. Hachi refuses to accept Juuichi's authority, and thus -she- is also trying to become a leader."
[14:37] <Raphael> "Hmm…" Raphael struggled to imagine a part of Rei growing that aggressive, but the memories of the brawl were clear enough proof. "What do the rest of you girls think?"
[14:40] <Ayanami‘Juu> "I think it’s a little silly. If they keep it up they're going to get a reprimand from Rei-oneesama." Said Juu firmly- before glancing away. "Or a thrashing from Little Princess."
[14:41] * Raphael gives Juu a blank look from across the table. "Little Princess?"
[14:46] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Ayanami Shi is her official name, but she refuses to answer to it." Said Juu. "There is a sister named Sho, who adores clothes. She wanted to see how a dress she made would look on someone of her own build, and as our builds and measurements are almost all identical, she used Little Princess as her model. Little Princess was taken with the dress, and took to wearing it- and eventually Lieutenant Hyuga referred to has the Little Princess. The name stuck, and she…" Juu coughed abashedly. "Lives up to the name. Extensively. She is rather fearsome."
6[14:57] * Raphael snorts with laughter, grinning broadly as he looks over at Suzie. "… Interesting. Where’s she stationed now?"
[15:04] <Ayanami‘Juu> "Beijing-2, although because her unit is not yet ready she has a degree of freedom in how she moves. She has recently been in Germany and the United Arab Emirates, where apparently, according to Mother, she broke the heart of the Prince of Dubai."-
[15:05] <Ayanami`Juu> ["Raffy. Can we meet her?" Asks Suzie firmly.]
[15:06] * Raphael chuckles. "We’ll invite her to dinner next time she's in Paris. How does that sound?"
[15:07] <Ayanami‘Juu> [Suzie beamed. "Yay! I bet she’ll be awesome~ A real princess!"-
[15:07] <Ayanami‘Juu> "If she accepts."
[15:10] <Raphael> "Indeed." Raphael agrees. "She sounds as though she may have some… high standards, as it were."
[15:11] <Ayanami`Juu> "Yes. Although, you are a Chevalier of France, so she will probably permit you to kiss her hand…"-
[15:11] <Ayanami`Juu> [Suzie burst into giggles. "Now I -really- wanna meet her."]
[15:13] <Raphael> "Quite an honour." He says with a smirk.
[15:14] <Ayanami`Juu> "It is." Says Juu seriously, before finishing off the rest of her sandwich. "Bacon is delicious."
[15:19] <Raphael> "It most certainly is." Raphael agrees, laying down the last scraps of his own meal and giving their guest a thoughtful look. "… If you don’t mind me saying so, it's very odd to meet you girls after spending so much time with Rei."
[15:20] <Ayanami‘Juu> [Suzanne is emphatically nodding, although it could be about the bacon -or- the oddity…-
[15:21] <Ayanami`Juu> "Oh?"
[15:31] <Raphael> "I don’t mean it in a negative way." He clarifies. "It's just… the way you all share her looks, some part of me expects the rest of your personalities to match as well. Even the smallest changes can come as something of a shock. But that you've all developed your own interests and tastes… that's good. That's what I'd hoped for."
[15:33] * Ayanami‘Juu smiled. "You and Mother both. In all reality, I am glad as well. It feels good to be special."
[15:36] * Raphael hesitates at the mention of their mother, but his smile doesn’t falter. "Rei is always telling me how proud she is of all of you, too."
[15:38] <Ayanami‘Juu> "The feeling is mutual. Rei-neesama makes us all proud."
[15:47] <Raphael> "She does. Have you spoken to her since the attack on Boston?"
[15:53] <Ayanami`Juu> "I haven’t. Is she alright?"
[15:56] <Raphael> "She's… coping." Raphael said, trying not to look over at Suzanne as he said it. "I'm sure she'd be happy to hear from you if you could spare the time, though."
[15:56] * Ayanami‘Juu nodded. "I’ll make time."
[15:58] <Raphael> "I'd appreciate that. She's feeling very far away from us all right now."
[16:00] * Ayanami‘Juu nodded. "I understand."
[16:25] * Raphael nods slowly, smiling faintly. "Thank you, Juu. I hope you’re feeling a little better about your little problem?"
[16:27] <Ayanami‘Juu> "I am. You’ve been very helpful." She smiled, standing up. "Thank you for lunch."
[16:28] <Raphael> "Not at all. You're welcome here any time." He says, pushing his own chair back as he stands.
[16:31] * Ayanami‘Juu bowed. "Please have a good day, Sir Guillory. And the same to you, Miss Suzanne."-
[16:31] <Ayanami`Juu> ["You too, Juu!"]
[16:33] * Raphael returns the bow in a slightly less practiced - but no less sincere - fashion. "And the same to you, ma’am. Please wish your sisters well for me next time you speak to them."
[16:34] <Ayanami`Juu> "I will. Good day, Sir." She smiled- and then she was out.

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