I Only Know It Is Not How Or Why My Greatest Happiness

[13:37] <Alphonse> [Once the risk of compromise by LN soldiers had passed, the wounded within Boston's Minifront were quickly relocated to the Medical Division. It would be in here, Raphael would be told, that Ayanami Rei (along with Ban-Ban and San (who had been discharged a day after)) had been relocated.]
[13:57] <Raphael> Raphael had been absent for a good deal or the day, finding himself swamped under the pressure of reports to Captain Gosselin and supervising the recovery of the Dreadnoughts. It was a bit after lunch before he made it to Medical, but when he did he came bearing the last bunch of flowers the medical ward’s tiny gift shop had to offer. They’re a little wilted - it’s been a while since
[13:57] <Raphael> the little shop was able to find new stock - but it was the thought that counted, right…?
[14:00] <Alphonse> [Of course.-
[14:02] <Alphonse> [It wouldn't be hard for him to be directed to the proper room. As he'd approach the door, he'd hear the telltale sound of Rei giggling madly.]
[14:09] <Raphael> The sound alone is enough to make him smile, even making him quicken his stride. He hadn’t been expecting to hear that sound today… or in the near future, if he was to admit the truth. But as always, Rei seemed determined to surprise him.-
[14:09] <Raphael> He reached up and knocked gently on the door, brandishing the flowers before him.#
[14:19] <Alphonse> [The giggling came to a sheepish, halting stop.-
[14:20] <Alphonse> The door opened, revealing Alphonse standing in the doorway- out of uniform for once, with a neat white shirt and jeans. "Oh, Raphael!"
[14:22] * Raphael eyes Alphonse and glances over the Captain's shoulder towards the bed as best he can. "Good day, Captain. I hope I'm not interrupting."
[14:28] <Alphonse> "Hm? Oh, no, we were just playing. Come in, come in."-
[14:35] <Alphonse> [Rei was lying on the bed in a hospital gown, thick wrappings of gauze around her arm and brow, and her wounded leg. She was, however, magnificently red-faced, which clashed all too harshly with her pale complexion and hair. "H-He was tickling me, Raffy-kun. And I couldn't fight back- isn't he mean?"]
[14:37] * Raphael gives the Captain a magnificently disapproving look, practiced enough to even overcome the hurdles of his utterly unintimidating features. "Torturing your subordinates, Captain? You should be ashamed."
[14:45] <Alphonse> "Hmph. It is all for the greater good." Says Alphonse, peering down his nose at Raphael in what is clearly a look of aristocratic disapproval. But it's all too quickly gone- he grins, and steps aside. "The reports told me to be prepared for this, Raphael, but even so…"
[14:49] <Raphael> "Somewhat different to seeing it in person, isn't it? I'm still working rather hard to adjust, to tell the truth. I hope it's not too unsettling for you, Captain." Raphael says with an apologetic smile, before stepping closer to Rei's bed and offering her the bunch of tired-looking flowers. "These are for you, sweetheart."
[14:56] <Alphonse> ["Aww, Raffy-kun. You didn't have to…" She smiled warmly, taking them from him and giving them a sniff. "Oh, they really do smell wonderful. I'm surprised you could find flowers at all…"-
[14:56] <Alphonse> Alphonse offered Raphael a chair. "No, I can't say it is. It's intriguing, though…"
[15:00] <Raphael> "Yes, people keep telling me so." Raphael says blandly, accepting the chair with a smile and a little mutter of thanks. "How are you two recovering?"
[15:14] <Alphonse> ["I'm alright." Said Rei happily. "It hurts, especially if I move it, but it's nothing I can't handle. Al-chan's been really good! He's been visiting and bringing me food and keeping me company…" She gives Alphonse a look of obvious affection.-
[15:15] <Alphonse> "Ah, it's nothing." Alphonse smooths down her hair, leaning over to kiss her on the top of the head. "And I'm alright. How's yourself, Raphael? I daresay you were more in the thick of it than I was."
[15:23] <Raphael> "Perhaps, but I took minor injuries at most. A bit of a gash in my side from the crash, but other than that…" He shrugs slightly. "There are people in the Superheavy Regiment who have it far worse. Sergeants Hugues and Martins both took rather heavy wounds, and Sergeant Kirishima in Dreadnought 04 is still recovering from a concussion."
[15:26] <Alphonse> "Mm." Alphonse frowned a little.-
[15:27] <Alphonse> ["I'm sorry I couldn't help more…" Murmured Rei.]
[15:34] <Raphael> "You did all you could, Rei." Raphael says firmly. "You’re safe, and we succeeded in holding Boston. You’ve got nothing to feel guilty for, alright?"-
[15:34] <Raphael> Still, as he speaks a slow frown forms on his face, and as he finishes he shoots a glance at Alphonse. "Speaking of her safety… Captain, did your Technical crew recover that damned cyborg that injured Rei fought?"
[15:36] <Alphonse> "Yes, we did. Along with the other cyborgs."-#
[15:36] <Alphonse> ["He was fast. And strong. And…" She shook her head. "At one point it was all I could do to keep up…"]
[15:36] <Raphael> «That injured Rei."*»
[15:41] * Raphael nods to Alphonse. "The Technical team in Paris is asking we ship back the remains. They're looking to design infantry armour based on the cyborg designs, but they need further samples." He reaches out to take Rei's hand in both of his, giving her a sympathetic smile.
[15:42] <Raphael> «are asking*»
[15:45] <Alphonse> "I see. That makes a lot of sense. My men reported that conventional small arms had nearly no effect on it."-
[15:46] <Alphonse> [Rei looks at the hands, then up at Raphael, giving him a bright smile. "Thank you, Raffy-kun."]
[15:49] <Raphael> "Think nothing of it." Raphael says gently. He seems to hesitate for a moment, even glancing over at Alphonse, but a moment later he leans over and gives Rei a quick kiss on the top of her head. He’s careful to avoid the gauze. "I'm just glad you're safe."-
[15:50] <Raphael> "You may want to give Suzanne a call when you feel up to it. She was worried about you."
[15:51] <Alphonse> ["Oh, Suzie… How is she? Is she still doing ok at school?"-
[15:51] * Alphonse doesn't seem to mind one way or another, smiling gently.
[15:59] <Raphael> "Mmm. I’m sure she told you about that spelling bee she was preparing for? Well, they held it while I was in hospital. She placed fourth out of her entire grade." His smile has that hint of fatherly pride again…
[16:01] <Alphonse> ["Oh, that's really good!" Says Rei, genuinely proud. "I'll have to send her something from Boston. Something nice…"-
[16:02] <Alphonse> "So, Raphael…"
[16:02] <Raphael> "Captain?"
[16:05] <Alphonse> "If you don't mind my asking, how are you going? I imagine your current situation has a lot of unique problems associated with it."
[16:12] * Raphael shifts a little, looking suddenly uncomfortable. "… It’s problems are small in comparison to the shape the Nineteenth froze me in - There’s no psychological impact, and whatever Aline did it allowed me to adjust my motor skills straight away - but I can’t say they’re not there. It’s… uh, mostly small issues, sir. Nothing important."
[16:13] <Alphonse> "Good, good." Says Alphonse quietly. "How's Major Katsuragi handling all this?"
[16:15] <Raphael> "She's… handling it as well as can be expected, Captain."
[16:18] <Alphonse> Alphonse frowns, slightly puzzled, as if in his mind's eye he's seeing that same Misato from hot springs. Or in this case, specifically, a shuddering wooden wall, hammer-like bangs, and shouts of the damned.-
[16:19] <Alphonse> ["It must be hard for her." Murmured Rei. "Having to deal with Shin-oniichan, and a Raffy-kun who looks like him…" She frowned.]
[16:21] <Raphael> "That's one of the problems, yes." Raphael says, and there's a little bit of dismay showing through. "I can also understand that she's a little uncomfortable with dating someone who is, to all appearances, a teenager."
[16:22] <Alphonse> ["Leenie-chan said that that wouldn't be a problem, though."]
[16:23] * Raphael glances up, confused. "… Hmmm?"
[16:29] <Alphonse> ["Leenie-chan said that someone told her that Misa-bachan likes to date young boys." Says Rei innocently.]
[16:31] * Raphael 's jaw drops open just a little, his eyes widening. Rumors around NERV don't surprise him, but to hear Rei say it…-
[16:32] <Raphael> "I… I don't think that's true, Rei."
[16:33] <Alphonse> ["No, I don't either." Says Rei. "We were talking about Al-chan at the time, so-"-
[16:33] <Alphonse> "…"#
[16:36] <Raphael> "I-… uh." Raphael coughs, and tries to settle on something neutral. "Mmm."
[16:37] <Alphonse> "Such irresponsible rumours. Rei, my love, Major Katsuragi would never ever do something like that, ever." Says Alphonse firmly.-
[16:37] <Alphonse> ["Alright, Al-chan." She replies warmly. "But what if she makes a special case for you, Raffy-kun? Since you have to marry her one day."]
[16:39] <Raphael> "Well…" Raphael tries to relax back into his chair now that they're back on somewhat firmer ground. "I'd be happy if she did. But if she didn't… well, I understand her reasons."-
[16:39] * Raphael firmly ignores the mention of marriage.
[16:41] <Alphonse> ["But…" Rei frowns. "Maybe she will wait until you're not so young? But then…" She frowned deeper. "What if then, Misa-bachan wants you but you think she's too old? That would be -terrible-." She shoots Raphael a dark look, as if to punish him for even hypothetically being possible of that.]
[16:42] <Raphael> "… I'm older than she is, Rei." Raphael says flatly.
[16:44] <Alphonse> ["But you don't -look- old…"]
[16:46] * Raphael rubs his jaw with one hand, taking a moment to consider this. "This situation does not mix well with logic."
[16:51] <Alphonse> "Well, I'm sure you'll come to some agreement. You'll probably be seeing her in person soon."
[16:51] <Raphael> "… Really?"
[16:58] <Alphonse> "Really. With the Second Regiment destroyed or surrendered, we've now hit a real tipping point in the war. We now have the advantage, since I've been told that Beijing's Eva contingent needs only two more weeks. At that point we'll be able to bring roughly 10 Evas each against the last two enemy Regiments, and we need to figure out our plans."
[17:02] <Raphael> "Of course." Raphael nods. "So she'll be in Paris…" Even with a smile on his lips, his eyes seem to hint at as much worry as excitement about that fact.
[17:03] <Alphonse> ["You will have to try extra-hard to romance her, Raffy-kun." Says Rei firmly. "Ask Al-chan for help!"]
[17:07] <Raphael> "Ah yes. I remember Alphonse's mastery of romance." Raphael says with a slow nod.
[17:09] <Alphonse> "… You're making fun of me."-
[17:10] <Alphonse> ["I am not, Al-chan! I think you're very romantic." Says Rei sincerely.]
[17:13] * Raphael is grinning now, but it's a good-natured expression. "Still, maybe I will talk to you before we leave, Captain."
[17:15] <Alphonse> "… Well, then." Alphonse tried to look dignified. "I shall do my best to assist you in this endeavour."-
[17:15] <Alphonse> ["Hey, Raffy-kun?"]
[17:15] <Raphael> "Yes, Rei?"
[17:18] <Alphonse> ["What would Misa-bachan look like if she were sixteen, do you think?"]
[17:27] <Raphael> "… I don’t know, Rei." Raphael says after a moment of consideration. "I guess I’ve never really thought about it."
[17:32] <Alphonse> ["I bet she'd be really pretty." Says Rei happily. She reaches out to ruffle Raphael's hair. "And because you're super-adorable, it'd be a good match."]
[17:35] <Raphael> "Yeah, she… uh, she probably would." Raphael says awkwardly, rubbing at his neck.
[17:36] <Alphonse> "Hey, Rei? Why don't I go see if the cafeteria has any of those noodles you like, yeah?"-
[17:36] <Alphonse> ["Oh, please, Al-chan! I'm actually pretty hungry…"-
[17:38] <Alphonse> "Hehe. Do you want to come along, Raphael? You look like you could do with some food yourself."
[17:40] <Raphael> "Mmm. I /am/ a little hungry…" Raphael glances between the two for a moment. "Do you mind, Rei?"
[17:43] <Alphonse> [After Rei gave her acquiescence, Alphonse and Raphael quickly headed off towards the cantina, which was a little less crowded than usual…]
[17:50] <Raphael> "NERV's interests obviously don't lie in architectural innovation." Raphael says as he glances around the cafeteria. Like the hospital rooms, there was almost no variation between the design of the Parisian cafeteria and the one here in Boston. Even the menu was near-identical, aside from a few bits of local cuisine.
[17:55] * Alphonse chuckled. "You're right, although you'll notice that you've probably never gotten lost yet, have you? Despite not being here before for long."
[17:57] <Raphael> "Quite right. It certainly helped during the battle."
[17:58] <Alphonse> "I can imagine."-#
[17:58] <Alphonse> "… I really am very grateful. Rei told me the full story." Said Alphonse, his tone grave. "A minute later and it could've been a very different story."
[18:01] * Raphael folds his hands, keeping his attention fixed on the menu board above the counter. "It could have been, yes." He admits quietly. "… If you owe your thanks to anyone, though, it's Tobias Linden."
[18:02] <Alphonse> "Linden?"
[18:05] <Raphael> "He caught me at gunpoint on my way to the minifront - a foolish mistake on my part." Raphael mutters, suddenly sounding rather tired. "He was ready to take me as a POW until I explained I was on my way to protect Rei. Only then did I 'escape'." Raphael finishes, glancing over at Alphonse. "He let me go, Captain. He's the reason Rei's alive."
[18:07] <Alphonse> "Hmm." Alphonse frowns. "He's a good man, Captain Linden. I'll have to have a word with him at some point."
[18:09] <Raphael> "Yes sir." Raphael nods. "… I tried to thank him after the battle, but I had to make do with leaving a message with President Linden."#
[18:09] <Alphonse> "Oh? You spoke to Minerva?"#
[18:10] <Raphael> "Uh… briefly, sir, yes. There was pie."
[18:11] <Alphonse> "Pie? You had lunch with her?"
[18:11] <Raphael> "At her insistence, yes."
[18:15] <Alphonse> "What did you think of her?"
[18:24] <Raphael> "Mmm." Raphael murmurs, folding his arms. "She’s a clever young lady. Even if I don’t believe she was right in what she’s done, I can’t deny that she genuinely believes what she was simply trying to do what she perceived as the right thing. And I doubt she plans to stop trying to enact those plans simply because she’s lost her military backing."
[18:27] <Alphonse> "I agree. In fact, technically speaking her role in Boston now is identical to that of a diplomat negotiating a ceasefire." Said Alphonse. "She'll be heading along with you and the others back to Paris-2."
[18:30] * Raphael nodded slowly at that, his gaze slowly drifting backtowards the menu as he considers something. "… Captain, may I ask your opinion on a very delicate matter?"
[18:30] <Alphonse> "You may."
[18:31] <Raphael> "This form seems to be attracting a great deal of… erm, interest." Raphael says, every word coming out slowly and carefully like someone picking their way across dangerous terrain. "Interest that’s not necessarily wanted."
[18:35] <Alphonse> "I thought so."
[18:36] <Raphael> "You did, sir?"
[18:39] <Alphonse> "Your new form is young, lithe and particularly attractive. Particularly around the eyes and lips, actually. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't blame a young lady or two or three for harbouring thoughts or dreams as to the nature of your affections."#
#6[19:27] * Raphael stares. "… That was quite a bit of detail, Captain." Raphael mutters, and he -is- blushing now and cursing this ridiculous shape for every moment of it. "Possibly too much detail, in fact."#
[19:44] <Alphonse> "Indeed. Do forgive me." He says, with a smile. "But as I said, it's to be expected. I read the reports and it's obvious what happened."
[19:46] <Raphael> "And what's that, sir?"
[19:46] <Alphonse> "You have been transformed not into Shinji Ikari, but into the personified wet dream lust figure of a teenage girl. You are as ambrosia to them. All of them."
[20:01] <Raphael> "…" Raphael is silent for a long time, his stare taking on a hard edge as he tries to watch Alphonse for any hint of deceit. He found none. And yet, he was wrong. He had to be wrong. And Raphael tried to force that certainty into his voice, because he refused to be taken in. "That's ridiculous, sir."
[20:02] <Alphonse> "Alright, perhaps a little. Not -all- of them. But many of them, yes. Admit it. Search your feelings. You know it to be true."
[21:15] * Raphael keeps up his stare for a few seconds later, and then his shoulders slump sharply. "This is absurd."
[21:20] * Alphonse pats Raphael on the back, sympathetically. "I am sorry, Raphael. I can… Try to help you handle it."
[21:28] <Raphael> "I’m not sure what you plan to suggest." Raphael mutters, attempting to be gruff with a voice that can’t quite manage it. "My assistant is damn near throwing herself at me, half of my damned squad avoids eye contact and President Linden spent half of our meeting blushing. Meanwhile my -actual- partner is uncomfortable around me, and this ridiculous body has thrown everything else in my
[21:28] <Raphael> head out of alignment." He trails off into uncharacteristic grumbling.
[21:33] <Alphonse> "You know what you need?"
[21:34] <Raphael> "What?" It's a very grumpy, teenage 'what', it must be said.
[21:37] <Alphonse> "Chocolate." Says Alphonse. "Once you have a bit of chocolate you'll find yourself feeling much better about things. After that, we'll look into giving you a new perspective on things that'll make it easier. Rei still treats you the same. -I- still treat you the same. That's a start, right? From then it's little steps into making this whole situation manageable."
[21:41] * Raphael sighs, nods and tries to stand a little straighter. It takes effort to return to the level of composure that used to come so naturally. "… Alright, sir."
[21:42] <Alphonse> "Also, don't take that thing about Linden blushing personally. She's… Erm, like that."
[21:42] <Raphael> "It was more than blushing, sir."
[21:43] <Alphonse> "More than blushing?"
[21:44] <Raphael> "… Nevermind, sir. Let's see about that chocolate."
[21:46] <Alphonse> "Alright, but if you need to talk about it… I'm willing to help."
[21:48] <Raphael> "It's nothing, Captain. Really."#
[15:53] <Alphonse> Not long after, they're at the cafeteria, waiting on a delivery of two boxes of fried chicken noodles, a bowl of vanilla ice cream, and whatever Raphael wanted.
[16:05] * Raphael ‘s order had been rather simple: Another bowl of vanilla ice cream, along with one of the large, individually-wrapped chocolate chip cookies that seemed to be served exclusively at cafeterias. "I understand that it might be strange for me to come seeking your opinion on all this, Alphonse, but the truth is I’m not really sure who else to discuss it with. And I trust your
[16:05] * Raphael judgement."
[16:09] <Alphonse> "No, I understand. In all honesty I think you've made the right decision." Says Alphonse quietly, putting the noodles into one bag to carry back. "After all, if I were in your position, but reversed, perhaps, I think I'd be asking you for advice, anyway."
[16:20] * Raphael nods slowly. "The truth is, I can’t seem to find any balance in this shape emotionally." Raphael says. "It’s not as though I was never a teenager, sir. I know about the mood swings that come with it, but this is more than I expected."
[16:23] * Alphonse nods slowly. "Of course. Alright, perhaps we should do a thought experiment."
[16:24] <Raphael> "If you say so, Captain." Raphael says, collecting his own items.
[16:25] <Alphonse> "What would Shinji Ikari be like if, for example, he had been turned into 30-year-old Raphael Guillory, as shaped by the mind of Major Katsuragi?"
[16:30] <Raphael> "… You're saying that she reshaped my emotions as well?" Raphael says cautiously, some worry creeping into his voice.
[16:31] <Alphonse> "It's definitely possible." Says Alphonse quietly. "After all, your body has changed completely, has it not? And emotions stem from the brain and the like."
[16:42] <Raphael> "And her view of Pilot Ikari is from the position of…" Raphael falls silent and lets out a quiet sigh. "Damnit. That would explain a great deal."
[16:44] <Alphonse> "Yes, it would." Says Alphonse. "Have you spoken to Pilot Blanc since the transformation?"
[16:45] <Raphael> "I've been avoiding the issue, sir."
[16:45] <Alphonse> "Probably for the best.'
[16:46] <Raphael> "Is that so? Here I was expecting you to suggest I ask her about it all." Raphael says with a smile.
[16:46] <Alphonse> "Goodness no. If my theory is correct, there's a good chance, I believe, of you having a strong unconscious attraction to her, which can only end in tears."
[16:47] <Raphael> "Oh." Raphael says quietly, voice suddenly quite flat. "… Oh."
[16:49] <Alphonse> "… In fact, if you have, er… Hypothetically speaking, been finding yourself… *cough* attracted to other girls of her… Age group, unnaturally, then now you know why."
[16:52] <Raphael> "Which would be a problem with the aforementioned larger than life emotions." Raphael muttered, that blush rising again. "Hypothetically."
[16:55] <Alphonse> "Indeed. Have you? Be honest. I just want to make sure I'm on the right path here."
[16:56] <Raphael> "…"-
[16:57] * Raphael gives Alphonse a pleading look. He doesn't want to have this conversation, not now, not ever. And yet he understands the importance. "…Not on purpose, sir. But sometimes it catches me off-guard."#
[17:00] <Alphonse> "Alright. Now Raphael, remember that this is completely natural."
[17:02] <Raphael> "… Are we really going to have this conversation, sir?"
[17:04] <Alphonse> "Absolutely, because if you're in a situation where you're ashamed of what you're feeling, then that isn't helping anyone except the chocolate industry."#
[17:13] <Raphael> "… If you say so, sir." Raphael mutters, turning his gaze away. He sighs, realizing that they may be talking for a while yet and leading the way towards one of the tables. "So what do you suggest?"
[17:16] <Alphonse> "Let's stick to things we can control first. First and foremost, your emotions. Now, I don't know how you controlled them before, but whatever techniques you use might not work this time. So I'd suggest you speak to the one person who -would- have some idea- Shinji Ikari himself."
[17:19] <Raphael> "… Is -that- a good idea, sir? I can imagine he might not take all of this well."
[17:21] <Alphonse> "Ikari's a reasonable person. I'm sure if you explain everything to him fully he'll help you."
[17:22] <Raphael> "Including the possible subconscious attraction to his partner, sir?"
[17:24] <Alphonse> "I hardly think he's the kind of person to hate you for that…"
[17:26] <Raphael> "… If you think so, Captain."
[17:28] * Alphonse nods slowly. "I do. Secondly, do you know anyone of your 'age' who shares similarities with your situation? Provoking unwanted attention, I mean."
[17:29] <Raphael> "Not… Not really, sir. Or if I do I don't know about it."
[17:31] <Alphonse> "That's a shame. In that case, then, I think the best thing you can do is simply get used to that facet of your situation. You can't really help it."
[17:37] <Raphael> "I suppose not, sir." Raphael says, breaking his cookie out of its plastic wrapper and beginning to crumble it into his ice cream, stirring as he goes. "It’s exceedingly uncomfortable, though."
[17:39] <Alphonse> "Because you're unused to it, or because you think it's wrong for teenage girls to find you attractive?"
[17:40] <Raphael> "Both." Raphael says, with very little hesitation.
[17:46] <Alphonse> "The first will go away over time. The second is important to handle, because… Well. It's not at all a fair mindset."
[17:50] <Raphael> "With due respect, sir, I think it's perfectly fair." Raphael says, a little more forcefully. "No matter what shape I've been forced into, or what physical age that shape may take, I'm still thirty-four years old and it's important to keep a hold on that fact."
[17:55] <Alphonse> "Yes, of course, but it is important to keep a hold on the fact that you -have- been forced into a shape, against your own will, that girls find ravishingly attractive, and that is not your fault, and it is not fair to feel as though you are doing anything wrong by -being- attractive."
[18:00] * Raphael lapses into grudging silence, taking the time to shovel out a few spoonfuls of ice cream. "… Alright, sir. I'll try."
[18:04] <Alphonse> "Good." Says Alphonse. "Lastly, we have to talk about Major Katsuragi."
[18:13] * Raphael stops at that, glancing up at the Captain with a suspicious look. "… What about her?"
[18:14] <Alphonse> "This situation will be far more bearable if as little changes between the two of you as possible."
[18:18] <Raphael> "Well yes, it will, but I think that's her choice to make, Captain Wellesley." Raphael says slowly, his free hand now drumming gently on the table. "I have no intention of forcing the issue before she's ready."
[18:28] <Alphonse> "I understand." Says Alphonse. "However, you have to also be prepared to talk to her as well."
[18:37] * Raphael eyes down at the table, his drumming picking up speed for a few more moments before stopping suddenly as he lets out a sigh. "… I would like very much for it to work out between us. I care about her very much." He says quietly, looking up at Alphonse with a small, tired smile. "If I’m honest, as embarrassing as it is these altered emotions show most clearly when she’s involved.
[18:37] * Raphael All the jitters and stress… It’s ridiculous. No wonder she’s unsure."
[18:39] * Alphonse smiles. "Ridiculous for -you-, maybe. Not so long ago the idea of even holding Rei's hand was this magical, mystical thing that would make me all a-shudder."
[18:43] <Raphael> "Well certainly, and most of us have been there, Captain. But it's a little disconcerting to suddenly return to reacting that way when you've left that part of your life behind decades ago. Logically I don't perceive the idea of hand-holding as mystical /or/ magical."
[18:46] <Alphonse> "Naturally, Raphael. I wouldn't expect you to, but clearly your body does and that's where a lot of the problem comes from- there's a clear dissonance going on." He says. "However, beyond that… The Major has every right to be unsure, honestly. However, perhaps she'll be a lot less worried about it if you take the time to talk over it and set out a few rules or parameters, mm?"
[18:55] <Raphael> "She certainly does." Raphael nods. "And yes, I agree. I just worry about what those rules and parameters might consist of, sir."
[18:56] <Alphonse> "What do you mean?"
[19:03] * Raphael shakes his head. "Mmm… nevermind, sir. In the end I just…" He really did hate talking about this. To spell out his feelings went against his every instinct. But really, how else could he say it? "I just want to be with her, that's all. Misato Katsuragi is the first person I've opened myself up to in a very long time. I don't want to lose her to this mess."
[19:04] <Alphonse> "I understand." He smiles, and reaches out to pat Raphael gently on the hand. "And if my hunch is correct, she won't want to lose you either."
[19:05] <Raphael> "I really do hope so…"
[19:06] <Alphonse> "You know what Rei would say if she were here."
[19:07] <Raphael> "What's that, sir?"
[19:07] <Alphonse> "She'd think you were just the most adorable thing since Nene to hear you say that."
[19:09] * Raphael gives him a hard look. "… But she will never find out, sir. Right?"
[19:12] <Alphonse> "I wouldn't dare break confidentiality. I'm just saying that she and I are of one mind here. It's really good to see you open up to someone. Rei doesn't try to look overly concerned, but she really wants you and Major Katsuragi to work out."
[19:19] * Raphael smiles again, but this time it’s that warmer, fonder look that only seems to come out when Rei and Suzanne are mention. "I know she does, sir. She’s a good girl."
[19:21] <Alphonse> "She is. The best, even…" There's a misty-eyed look to Alphonse's eyes and suddenly it looks as though he's staring off at a lovely painting on a nonexistant wall, somewhere behind Raphael's left shoulder.
[19:24] <Raphael> "Hmmm. While I’m making notes on how to deal with this shape, I believe I’ll try to avoid looking so catastrophically lovestruck when my significant other is mentioned." Raphael says with a wry grin.
[19:25] <Alphonse> "Hm?" Alphonse looks over, slightly puzzled, then blushes a fine red. "Oh hush. I can't help it…"
[19:27] <Raphael> "Oh I know, sir, but I will take amusement wherever I can find it today." Raphael says, laughing a little now.-
[19:28] <Raphael> "So, should we return to the object of your affections? I believe those noodles will be getting cold."
[19:29] <Alphonse> "Oh, yes, we should." Alphonse clears his throat and gets to his feet. "And madame's ice cream will be going soft."
[19:30] <Raphael> "Yes, sir." Raphael says, standing quickly and stretching his back. "… Alphonse?"
[19:31] <Alphonse> "Yes, Raphael?"
[19:32] <Raphael> "Thank you for your advice, Captain."
[19:32] <Alphonse> "Not a problem. I'm always happy to help you out, Raphael. I owe you, in any case." He grins.

<Raphael> "… I suppose you do at that, sir." He says with another quiet laugh. "Now then, let's get moving."
<W> Click, clack. The sharp sound echoed through the cafeteria even before anything came into sight.
*Alphonse was already heading off, however, and didn't really pay any attention to the sound.
<Raphael> Nor did Raphael. They were in a hospital, after all, and though he had plenty of other things on his mind as they headed towards the exit, a certain Wizard was not one of them.
<W> "Group Captain." Came the voice from behind him, soon enough. W leaned on the cane in front of him with both hands, standing up straight. "I thought I warned you about other wizards. We are a fickle lot," he said, quite seriously.
<Alphonse> "Friend of yours?"
<Raphael> So occupied with his own thoughts is he that it takes almost a full second of staring for Raphael’s mind to catch up to this new arrival. When he does, something about his posture becomes instantly more rigid and defensive.-
<Raphael> "… Agent Wizard." Raphael says, in a polite tone that nonetheless manages to dispel any notion of them being friends. "I wasn’t expecting to see you in Boston, sir."
<W> "To limit my investigations to Paris would be folly greater than anything previously known to man." W glanced at the table. "Ice cream. I suppose now that you are young again, your 'sweet tooth' is back, as well."
<Alphonse> "Oh right. I've heard of this chap…"
<Raphael> "Something like that, sir. Captain Wellesley felt that what I needed was a ‘no-risk stimulus for the animal part of my brain’." Raphael said mildly, before turning to Alphonse. "Captain, this is Agent W with S2 Internal Inspection."
<W> "He'd do that, yes. Regardless, I don't have much time to spare. You are still well-acquainted with the Ayanamis. My current project involves ensuring their safety. You can help me with that."
<Alphonse> "The infamous 'Double-chan'…" Murmurs Alphonse, although he quirks an eyebrow as W mentions the Ayanamis.
<Raphael> "…" Raphael’s head tilts as he tries to judge W’s expression, but he’s not yet adept enough to hide his own surprise with this face just yet. "If that’s your goal, sir, then I will do my best. Let’s hear what you need."
<W> "Introductions, or letters of such, mostly. I don't have time to play out all of their little games myself. I just need some information out of them."
*Raphael is silent for a moment, sending a momentary glance Alphonse's way. "I don't suppose you'd be kind enough to let me know what purpose that information will serve?"
<W> "Technically, it'll be used to assess their potential value as targets for kidnapping and such. It's never just that, naturally, but that's the general idea."
<Raphael> "Ah, is that all? Well that sounds like a fairly simple process, sir." Raphael says brightly, giving the Agent a smile. And yet beyond that there’s an odd, hard edge to his gaze.-
<Raphael> "I’ll introduce you to whichever of the Sisters you need to speak with, Agent, but that’s conditional on being allowed to sit in on the meetings."
<W> "I'll allow it. Then, Group Captain…" W nodded to Raphael briefly, and began walking. "And Wellesley, if you could stop trusting that needy, unprofessional excuse for an agent's stories so blindly. It's not healthy."
<Alphonse> "Which agent was this?"
*W kept walking. "Nagisa, or whoever he's converted."
<Alphonse> "Oh, that was his rumour…?"
*W didn't bother answering, just kept walking at that same, measured three-step pace on his way out.

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