In The Embrace Of A Guardian

<Marianne> [It's the last hour of the 9th of March. An eventful, even unusual Monday is coming to an end.]
<Marianne> -
<Marianne> [The apartment of NERV Lieutenant Marianne Amatore-DeForest is quiet. The owner hasn't been home all day. In fact, she had left nearly exactly 24 hours ago.]
*Yanmei was there, at least, conked out on the couch instead of in her bed. There were some text books and notes on the floor beside her, and the living room light was still burning brightly.
<Marianne> [The sound of the apartment door quietly opening could barely be heard- if Yanmei had been awake, of course.-
*Marianne slipped inside, wearily tossing her work bag onto the ground and stowing her keys in her uniform. Marianne- pretty, attractive, well-kept and well-presented Marianne didn't feel much like any of those things. And indeed she looked very tired and even dishevelled. She rubbed her face irritably. "Yanmei?" She called out softly.
<Yanmei> A slight stirring from the couch. "Hmph. Yes, Captain?" Still asleep, judging by the slur in her voice… and the fact that she was addressing the wrong person.
*Marianne unbuttoned her NERV uniform top, throwing it into the corner. Underneath she wore her civilian clothing- a longsleeved white buttonup shirt. She crossed the room, sitting down on the couch as best she could. "Yanmei… It's me, Marianne." Murmured Marianne, her voice shaky and very, very worn out. She reached out to put a hand on Yanmei's shoulder.
<Yanmei> A few more moments until her eyes opened, and a moment more until they stopped darting around and focused on her guardian. "Ah… ?" She bit back a yawn - that was rude - and sluggishly tried to rise. "'m sorry for sleepin' here. Know I'm not supposeda? Ah…" she squinted at her, taking in her face a little more clearly now, sensing a different sort of tension than a mundane 'what do you think you're doing, young lady' sort. "Marianne?"
<Marianne> "Hey, sweetheart." Said Marianne, smiling a little, reaching out to run her hands through Yanmei's hair. "H-h-h-" Marianne bit back a yawn- "How was school?"
*Yanmei bore the hair-stroking quietly as always. "School? School was okay…" slight pang of guilt. So at least Marianne hadn't been informed of today's truancy by the school or Section 2. "Still have too much homework. I made dinner tonight, but it's in the fridge?"
<Marianne> "Yeah? What is it, sweetheart? I might- I might eat it later…" Said Marianne, who stopped with the hairstroking- instead, putting her arms around Yanmei in a half-hug, half-cling. The woman seriously looked as though she was about to fall asleep on Yanmei's shoulder.
<Yanmei> "Cassarole." A quick bean and ham and noodle affair, although she didn't really elaborate on that. She tried to relax into the limp embrace, but this was odd. Something was off tonight. "You're really late today. More overtime?" she tsked lightly and smiled. "I bet it was more paperwork."
<Marianne> "Not really." Said Marianne, resting her head on Yanmei's shoulder. Her legs were hanging over the arm of the couch now. "There was- there- there was a problem."
<Yanmei> "01?" A technician had stopped to tell her about it on the way to the changing room in NERV HQ. Sync test postponed. EVAs acting strangely. Go home. "Was it like the last time? With Aline's EVA?"
<Marianne> "… Yeah." Said Marianne, sucking in air between her lips- a sort of pained sound as if she'd cut herself. Her eyes narrowed. "… Did you know, when I was your age, my mum used to do this? It'd be really late, and she'd come home. I'd be sleeping, but she'd bug me. Wake me up, or get into bed and just hug me. She used to do it when she felt lonely- or… Or scared…"
<Yanmei> "…" she could take the hint. But this was Marianne! Was she really afraid of something this badly? She angled a worried glance at her. "Someone else was hurt this time?" she guessed. "Or… worse?"
<Marianne> "No one was hurt. Except for de Pteres, a little. But… But…" The grip tightened. "01… Went berserk. And… And it tried to break into the command centre. It… It attacked us." She whispered, closing her eyes.
<Yanmei> "Berserk!" She was astonished. Not a malfunction? Was she just phrasing it differently, or…? No, it had attacked something, intentionally. The command centre. 00 had never done that before. "But why…?
<Marianne> "We don't know…" Marianne's closed eyes were starting to fill with the hint of tears. Just remembering it- she'd spent most of the day in shock, and only now was it hitting her what had happened. "de Pteres spoke to it, and it- it woke up. It picked him up and loaded him, then it- we lost control of it. For awhile it just sat still, then it… I don't know. It started to hammer away at the command centre before losing power… Yanmei…"
*Yanmei felt it, then. A flash of anger. At de Pteres for doing something reckless to scare Marianne, and for NERV and the EVA, because those stupid things were always dangerous, and she knew it! She hugged Marianne tightly, trying to be a comfort.
<Marianne> "Y-Yan…Mei…" Marianne herself hugged even tighter in response to Yanmei, tears starting to roll. "It- it was so… I was afraid I was going to die. I- I didn't think I'd see you again… P-Poor Sophie is shattered. She idolised the EVAs… M-Merde…" Marianne shook her head. "I'm so sorry…"
<Yanmei> "Shhh…" She didn't have her own mother to draw her actions from, but she knew what her friends back home would have done. She knew what Marianne would do if the roles were reverse. "It's ok, it's ok. It was scary. I know, I know." Soothing voices.
<Marianne> "I-I keep- I keep letting them put you in there, and…" Marianne was shaking. "I'm- I'm a worthless guardian…"
<Yanmei> "You're not! You're not to blame for that. No one is." Except for NERV. Her leg started to throb at a memory she would have rather kept hidden, and she pulled back a little, trying to look Marianne in the eye. "You're a wonderful guardian. A thousand times better than any other."
<Marianne> "Sniff… Yanmei…" Marianne started to quiet a little, the tears continuing to pour down her face. "Y-… Do you… You really… You really think so? Am I…?"
<Yanmei> "Absolutely!" She nodded with firm conviction. "I'm surprised you would even question it? But you've… you've had such a hard day."
<Marianne> "…" Marianne squeezed Yanmei tightly. "I-I wanted to hear that." She said, wiping at her eyes. She seemed to be slowly calming down. "I was afraid… I've been trying so hard, Yanmei, because- you're like a daughter, and I love you so much like a daughter, but I- I keep wondering, what sort of mother w-would I be, letting you pilot that thing? But… I'm glad…"
*Yanmei nodded, still wrapped up in the hug. What sort of mother… "It's one of those things that can't be helped. You know that. We both do? But… you're a good mom, Marianne! Really you are."
*Marianne nods slowly, lifting herself up a bit, rubbing at her red-rimmed eyes. "I guess… It can't. But. But one day, sweetie, I promise you we won't have to do this. But… I really wanted to hear that. I- you're such a joy." A smile, a suppressed sniffle. "… Merde. So tired. Haven't been asleep in 24 hours." She gives Yanmei a crooked smile. "I should've been home 'round midday, but they wanted me on-
<Marianne> "To figure out the whole 01 thing… But we need to talk to de Pteres."
*Yanmei started to rise. "Let me get you a drink, okay? Is de Pteres going to be in trouble?"
<Marianne> "Okay." Marianne let Yanmei go, a little reluctantly. "I don't think so. Dorian was incredibly angry and worried but from what I heard, the Commander isn't going to let de Pteres be punished."
<Yanmei> "Was the Captain around when it happened?" Her voice drifted from the kitchen; she was collecting information now. Why was the Commander so eager to defend de Pteres? Was it like the incident with 00? Aline certainly hadn't been responsible for that. In fact, even thinking of Aline made her anger at de Pteres turn to a sort of exasperated worry instead.
<Marianne> "No. It was around 6 AM when it happened. de Pteres had spent the last day or so apologising to 01. The only people on duty in command were the Bunnies… And the Commander." Marianne was sort of spreading out on the couch now, flumping tiredly onto a cushion.
<Yanmei> "Don't tell me she just stood by and let it happen?" Yanmei emerged from the kitchen, a glass of wine in one hand, and an open bottle in another. The former she offered to the reclining Marianne, and the latter she placed on the coffee table nearby. And that guy. She'd -warned- him not to get too flippant with the EVAs. Why hadn't he listened? Her shoulders sagged a little.
<Marianne> "Thanks, sweetie." Marianne sat up and took the wine, taking a mouthful a little too quickly. "More than that. She gave permission for de Pteres to synchronise. Frédéric wanted to deny him, but he was overruled."
<Yanmei> "She what?" She stared. "And Frédéric was the voice of reason…? I think I'm a little confused?"
<Marianne> "I… Am a little confused myself." Said Marianne, frowning, and pouting a little. "The Commander is a scientist first and foremost. A rational, logical person who, you'd think, would not let such a bizarre thing happen. But…" The rest of that glass is drained. "She was one of the Evangelion scentists. She… It's possible she let de Pteres do it to see what'd happen.-
<Marianne> "01 was moving around of its own volition before it went berserk. It might've made her curious. All I know is, she let it go, and she was the first people to reach the Entry Plug when it landed."
<Yanmei> "…" Definitely wary now. Yanmei kneeled and scooped up her spilled homework, stacking the books and papers neatly on the coffee table next to the wine bottle. "How reckless…"
<Marianne> "Yes. Dr. Riel said so as well, but she also said that she and the MAGI, if they can analyse the readings from the incident, might gain a greater insight into what happens when Evangelions… Well. Go berserk."
<Yanmei> "Even so? Someone who acted so concerned about him afterward should have realized that he could have gotten hurt during that stunt. Bad things happen inside the entry plugs too, after all!" And that… was not something she would have liked to admit aloud in hindsight. Her memory tickled with unpleasant half-dreams. Illusions? She tried to forget them. -
<Yanmei> She sighed. "Maybe I don't have the sensibilities for this sort of thing? Maybe someone like Aline would be able to get it."
<Marianne> "No. I agree…" Marianne pulled her knees up to her chin, her eyes on Yanmei. She allowed a little smile come to her lips. "Vice-Commander Thomas found out."
<Yanmei> "…did he?" she couldn't help but wince a little at that. "Oh my. Headquarters might be a bit turbulant for a while, I suppose?"
<Marianne> "Hahaha. It's awkward in the command centre. Have you ever been in a room where two really important, strong-willed people have just argued, and you can feel the tension in the air? It's like that. The Vice-Commander wanted all of the Evangelions temporarily deactivated and all synch tests suspended for two weeks.-
<Marianne> "He went so far as to suggest restricting 01 and 04 from combat until today could be explained. The Commander flatly denied him and went so far as to suggest that the event would, in the long-term, be a positive event. He called her a nutcase. It was amazing."
*Yanmei didn't exactly laugh. Doing so aloud at the head of NERV would be -improper- after all. She hid them behind a series of polite coughs instead. "It… certainly does sound like something!" 04 too, though? That little detail was fleeting and confusing and a little alarming all at once. It was also overshadowed by the idea of going without Sync Tests for another two weeks. If only the Vice Commander had prevailed!
<Marianne> "That it is." Said Marianne, on her second glass of wine. … Well, now on her third. She drank fast. "-Sigh-. I don't get the Commander. I don't think anyone does. What sort of person acts so cold all the time but goes and burns her hands for a kid like de Pteres?"
<Yanmei> She *was*drinking a lot. Yanmei was tempted now to get a glass or two for herself to see if Marianne would notice. "It is unusual," she agreed. "Troubling?" She closed her eyes briefly. Should she step in? Try to protect Sept from Commander Fontaine? But she wasn't sure that she could handle it the way that she had handled Ansel at school. She wasn't like the Vice Commander.
<Marianne> "Well… I dunno about Troubling." Glass number four. "… Mmf." Marianne shook her head. "Maybe she just feels protective about him- or indulgent, even. Like he's some kid that she feels she has to spoil."
<Yanmei> "She already has one of those," Yanmei muttered under her breath. Then, audibly. "Yes. Maybe you're right? It's hard to know for certain without knowing what her thoughts are."
<Marianne> "Yeah. But she's so private… Oh." Marianne nudged Yanmei's arm. "I wish you could ask Alexandre, but… Well. Do you know any of his friends?"
<Yanmei> "Not especially," Yanmei admitted. Who would want to be friends with that jerk? "Anyway, it's probably none of our business? More importantly, how are you feeling, Marianne?"
<Marianne> "Sleeeeepy." On cue, Marianne puts her head on Yanmei's shoulder. "Probably- shouldn't have had so much to drink…"
*Yanmei suppressed a laugh, and then lightly patted her on the head. "Sleepy is good? It's better than being sad. Here, I'll clean up here if you want to take a shower and go off to rest?"
<Marianne> "Mmm, you'll do that? Okay." Marianne reluctantly stands up, stretching into the air. "G-goodnight, sweetie. Do you want me to tuck you in?" She said, giggling to herself.
<Yanmei> "Shouldn't I be asking you that~?" she grinned back. "Have a good night. I hope you don't have to go in early tomorrow…"
<Marianne> "I go in at 11. So I can take you to school tomorrow, I think." She said, holding out her arms.
<Yanmei> "No, no. You sleep in, okay?" Noticing the cue, she rose and went in for a parting hug. "Don't worry about me, Marianne. I can walk."
<Marianne> "Okay." Said Marianne, hugging Yanmei tightly. She didn't really take a lot to dissuade because sleeping in sounded like an -amazing- idea. "Love you, Yanyan. I'll grab some dinner on the way home tomorrow." She yawned.
<Yanmei> "Sounds great!" she beamed. She didn't mention that her postponed test was being held tomorrow. In all likelyhood, she would probably still manage to beat Marianne home. And anyway, that was something she didn't need to hear right now. "I'll buy some pastries too, if I can."
<Marianne> "Alrighty." One more hug, and a hand through the hair. "G'night. Thanks for… Thanks." She mumbled, heading off with a little smile.
*Yanmei waved her off with her own smile, but as soon as she heard the bedroom door close, her demeanor shifted. Stalking over to the leftover wine, she poured some for herself, and downed it quickly, her free hand on her hip. It made her head buzz, although that could have just as easily been a mix of her own tiredness and confusion. Finally, she lowered the glass with a disappointed sigh. "Bitter," she remarked, and dutifully began to clean.

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