In The Presence Of An Enemy

[22:33] * Yanmei was tired of doing situps. She had thought that if she could tire out her body, the rest of her would follow, and she would slip into a deep, satisfying sleep. So she had spent the last hour or so practically climbing the walls of the guest suite where she had been assigned to sleep for the night in the midsts of NERV HQ. Pushups, jumping jacks, chinups… her muscles ached, but her head was a whirl of waking nightmares and adrenaline. -
[22:38] <Yanmei> Finally, after sprawling on her back and staring blankly up at the lit ceiling for a while, she stood and went for the door. The dress she had worn for the evening was draped haphazardly over the room's lone desk, replaced by a spare workout outfit consisting of red and white shorts and a plain white t-shirt with the NERV logo stamped on its front.-
[22:42] <Yanmei> There were new slippers too, also red and white. She knew she had seen them before while staying in the Medical Department. Undeniably comfortable when compared to the heels she had been wearing. And quiet, too. She could barely hear her own footsteps as she meandered through the corridors, finding herself drifting ever closer to the Cafeteria. Hmph. As if it would be open at this time of night…
[22:46] <Alexandre> [The cafeteria was, in fact, open. With so many people working at NERV, and so many different shifts, there were always people working at HQ- and thus the cafeteria was always open. It was nearly empty, however, except for a few people…-
[22:48] * Alexandre was sitting at a table. He was still wearing- in bits and pieces- the outfit he'd worn to the ball. His jacket was missing, and his vest was open; the collar of his white shirt was undone, too. His eyes were redrimmed, and he looked weary and exhausted. He toyed with a toasted sandwich dully.
[22:52] * Yanmei frowned at him from the doorway, unsure if she should turn right back around. There was still a sense, left over from the ball, that she should be avoiding him. Anyway, she wasn't all that hungry herself. Just… restless. -
[22:55] <Yanmei> But seeing him without that haughty air around him was… well, weird. She knew why it wasn't there. She wasn't stupid. But it bothered her. She closed her eyes briefly, trying to make up her mind, and then approached, detouring by the vending machine. -
[22:56] <Yanmei> "You're still here?" She placed a canned soft drink on his table, and half-turned away, popping the tab on one she had gotten for herself, making no attempt to sit down. "Why don't you go home or something."
[23:07] * Alexandre looked up at Yanmei, staring at her with horrifyingly glassy eyes for a moment, before the stare broke. He looked down at his sandwich. "I can't sleep here. I tried. So going home isn't much good."
[23:12] * Yanmei took a long swig to hide her discomfort and glanced aside. "NeoSpartan Program. You could have mentioned it before? If Langley-Soryu hadn't brought it up the last time she was here, I would've thought you were being melodramatic."
[23:15] * Alexandre let out a sigh, glowering up at Yanmei. "I wasn't aware you cared so much about my life story, Zhang."
[23:24] <Yanmei> "What makes you think I care?" She swirled her can. "I don't. Not even a little."
[23:25] <Alexandre> "Then why do you expect me to tell you?"
[23:30] <Yanmei> "I don't expect that either?" A thin note of annoyance was starting to creep into her voice. Normally, she would have taken pains to hide it, but it was late, and… whatever. "Honestly. Even you can't be that dim, Mr. Fontaine. I'm trying to say that I know you're not being melodramatic, and…" she grimaced on the verge of the next part. "I understand that you two had a tight bond of sorts.-
[23:31] <Yanmei> Brother and sister in arms and all…" The grimace faded a bit. "And that I'm sorry for your loss."
[23:37] <Alexandre> "Really. Well, isn't that something." Said Alexandre quietly, staring down sullenly at his sandwich. "You actually feel sorry for me?"
[23:45] <Yanmei> "Well you -do- look fairly miserable," she pointed out. "Sitting here alone, in this state. I haven't lost a family member - and de Pteres and Blanc are still standing strong with me. But I can imagine the worst, especially with this next fight. It hurts a lot, even if it isn't real."
[23:47] <Alexandre> "It…" Alexandre frowned darkly. He looked miserable, but he felt utterly moreso. His hand shook slightly as he pushed away his plate. He wanted to snap at her for being so… Unaware. She didn't know a damn thing, but… Some part of him pulled him back. She -was- being… Accomodating, after all.-
[23:48] <Alexandre> "It aches." He mumbled. "It's like… There are things you don't expect to happen, or things you don't expect to lose. Sacred things, you know? People… Relationships. Places. It's… Something's just come and utterly violated that, and…" He paused again, shuddering slightly. He was fairly controlled, all things considered.-
[23:49] <Alexandre> "I never expected her to die like that. I still can't really believe it."
[00:11] * Yanmei couldn't either. And she barely even knew the girl. "I see." She placed her own drink down now. "It's probably little consolation now? But you're not alone in this. Even though they barely knew her and never fought with her, de Pteres and Blanc considered her one of their family too. I'm sure they're also in a state of shock…"
[00:17] <Yanmei> "Considering how long you knew her, though…" she frowned. "It's a little hard to compare the bonds?"
[00:38] <Alexandre> "A little hard?" Repeated Alexandre hollowly. "… Ugh." His head fell into his hands. "I understand that they're upset. But you have no idea how hard I'm trying to restrain myself from snapping here. W-w-" His voice wavered, for the first time in the conversation. "W-what I just lost was… It was more than family."
[00:43] <Yanmei> "…" She wished she had offered him something stronger than a soft drink now. Surely the cafeteria served wine as well? She nodded at him in any case, bidding him to continue or to leave it as he pleased.
[00:47] <Alexandre> "D-did you ever have any friends when you were a kid, Zhang? Like, when you were six or seven?" He asked quietly. He took a sip of that drink.
[00:50] <Yanmei> "Of course I did?" She nodded again.
[01:03] <Alexandre> "Name one."
[01:07] <Yanmei> "…" It took a moment to come up with one, navigating the fuzzier parts of her memory. "Bai," she said finally. "Liang Bai. Stocky kid. Good at ball. We used to live near each other, but we grew apart?"
[01:10] <Alexandre> "Grew apart, huh?" Alexandre took another mouthful of drink. "You guys never made any kiddy promises, like being friends forever or anything like that?"
[01:12] <Yanmei> "Even if we did, times change. People change. We went to different schools, started hanging out with different people. It happens."
[01:15] <Alexandre> "Heh." Alexandre cracked a little smile for a moment. "That it does."-
[01:16] <Alexandre> What little mirth he might've had faded, however. "Y'know, Asuka only ever really made one promise to me that I ever remember."
[01:16] <Yanmei> "And what's that? To be friends forever?"
[01:17] <Alexandre> "Hahaha." Alex really did laugh that time. "You barely knew her, but even you don't really believe that, do you?"
[01:19] * Yanmei cracked a faint grin herself. "Not really? Let me guess again. Something Eva-related?"
[01:23] <Alexandre> "Closer." Said Alex. "She always did say she was going to be the best Eva pilot. I mean, here was this school, with a bunch of kids who didn't want to be there and others who were just terrified, and we had this one little redhead-" He paused for a moment, staring at his drink. "… One little redheaded kid who just tackled everything with endless gusto."-
[01:25] <Alexandre> "So one day, it was after training. We'd… We'd been given an hour of free time at the end of the day. And we watched some movie… I don't really remember what it was. They were all war movies anyway." He shrugged, and for a moment it seemed as though he never stopped shrugging- he was shuddering, now.-
[01:26] <Alexandre> "And she made the most stupidest- the stupidest promise that only she'd make. She told me, 'Alex, if I die, I promise you I'll die laughing, because I'll die knowing I was -the best-.' It was such a ridiculous boast. She was gonna laugh in the face of death, and be happy about it, because she'd be a legend… B-B-ut…"
[01:38] * Yanmei almost turned away at that. It felt as if this should be a private moment. "She may not have been laughing, but I don't think she broke her promise? Based on the footage, in terms of technical skill…" she trailed off, and shook her head. Such a clinical thing to say! She sunk into silence, waiting for him to get it out of his system.
[01:41] * Alexandre shook his head, an almost frantic edge to it. "N-no. She wouldn't have… Thought so. Not like that. Not after her very first battle. Not after hearing about you and the others. She… She would've died, wondering why she… Why she wasn't good enough and why you guys -were-."
[01:52] <Yanmei> "Good enough?" Yanmei almost slipped on a sulky look. They were the ones who were 'good enough,' now? "This isn't a damn contest."
[02:24] <Alexandre> "It was!" Said Alexandre, and he smashed his hand down onto the table with enough force to knock the drink over, spilling onto the ground. "It was to her! Everything was a contest, no matter if she hated or loved the person! Every damn second was a chance to prove she was better than everyone else. And she…" Alex slammed the table again, sudden tears filling his eyes. "She was so desperate… Asuka didn't think… That… That idiot…"
[02:30] <Yanmei> The slamming had made her jump ever so slightly, even though she tried to play it off after by shifting in her chair. She waited a few moments to see if he would calm down and compose himself.
[02:34] <Alexandre> "I should've been there." Muttered Alex as the tears started to run down his face. "If I'd… If we could've fought together… We would've won…"
[02:40] <Yanmei> It was in her to say something really cruel at that moment. She went with the rational, which was perhaps equally cruel. "The higher ups were aware of what was happening. You saw Major Lachapelle at the ball? Or maybe you didn't. He was distracted. Said he wanted to be somewhere else." She eased away from the table to keep the soda from dripping onto her NERV brand shorts. -
[02:42] <Yanmei> "Even if you had been able to pilot, say, EVA-04? They probably wouldn't have let you in on it. They certainly didn't for us, risks or not."
[02:44] <Alexandre> The logic was sound, which infuriated Alexandre. He searched desperately for some outlet, and found it. "Then why the hell was there only one Evangelion there?!"
[02:49] <Yanmei> "I don't know? Aren't there distribution rules or something?" She closed her eyes thoughtfully. "Anyway, they said that Germany refused backup? Hopefully Tokyo-3 and other branches won't do the same."
[02:51] <Alexandre> "It'd be hard to reinforce Tokyo-2." Muttered Alexandre. "What we need are more Evas. The Vatican Treaty says three Evas max, per country. But have you never asked yourself why you have three in Paris-2 and only one in Germany and Japan?"
[02:53] <Yanmei> "That's a question I've heard going around before? Most of the Angels have attacked this place too."
[02:55] <Alexandre> "They never expected an attack on Berlin-2." Said Alexandre, his throat dry. "EVA-02 was a contingency, but they never -really- thought there'd be an attack there."
[02:58] <Yanmei> "So what? They were keeping her out of the way? Same with Akagi?" And you. Those words hung in the gap between her sentences. "-Awfully- strange. Why would they put the three most experienced pilots on the sidelines?"
[03:00] <Alexandre> "Three?" Alexandre paused. He gave her a hollow look. "I was never a pilot."
[03:01] <Yanmei> "You were supposed to be? Langley-Soryu and Akagi let me in on that secret too."
[03:03] <Alexandre> "Supposed to." Growled Alexandre. "EVA-04 was to be mine, did they tell you that, too?" His voice grew rougher, ragged, as old injuries were raked up over new ones. "But I was found wanting."
[03:10] <Yanmei> "So I heard," she said wryly. "Was it based on talent? Or did Commander find some other lamb to sacrifice instead of her little boy? Maybe, there was some other reason altogether?" She smiled. "I'm afraid I couldn't tell you either."
[03:16] * Alexandre shot her a look. Her words were coming off as infuriatingly incendiary to him. "Evangelions are temperamental things. Surely -you- would know that, Zhang. It wasn't talent. At least, not any measurable talent. And it wasn't because the Commander found someone else." He glowered. "EVA-04 rejected me. I don't know why. But I was never able to get a Synch Ratio above 2% with it."
[03:26] <Yanmei> "Oh," she said flatly. Was it her imagination, or did she sound vaguely disappointed. "Oh well. Maybe you'll have better luck with the new machines being built? If you did, you could transfer to the States, or maybe even Japan."
[03:29] <Alexandre> "Maybe." Said Alexandre, sitting down heavily. He looked… Well, now he looked deflated. Defeated. "Why're you still here, anyway? Why didn't you go home?"
[03:33] <Yanmei> "What for?" she looked vaguely annoyed. "'Go home and tell your loved ones goodbye,' they said. I have no intention of dying or letting Paris-2 explode, so there's no -point-. We're going to win." She echoed her words from before.
[03:34] <Alexandre> Immediately, with a near-clinically sharp, cold tone that seemed almost beyond the despondent boy, Alexandre replied. "Asuka didn't intend to die either."
[03:37] <Yanmei> "It won't happen twice," she snapped. It took a second or two to recollect her composure and to relax her shoulders again.
[03:40] <Alexandre> "You sure are eager to fight." Snapped Alexandre back, getting to his feet. "Why do you even fight, Yanmei? Do you fight because you choose to, or because you were chosen to do so?"
[03:43] <Yanmei> "Why does that matter? I'm fighting, aren't I? Just be happy with that. Everyone else is?"
[03:45] <Alexandre> "I'm not!" Snapped Alex, and with a massive sweep, he threw the table aside, the sandwich and plate smashing onto the ground. The other people, as few as there were in the cafeteria, looked around at the disturbance. Some of them looked as though they might rebuke Alex… But thought better of it.-
[03:46] <Alexandre> "It matters because if you don't have the right mindset, Zhang Yanmei, it's going to get you killed, and you sit there, as arrogant as you please, deciding you're too good to have to say goodbye to people?! Where the hell do you get off?"
[03:56] * Yanmei was not expecting -that-. For an instant, she froze up, blinking down at the smashed meal and overturned table. And then… anger. Anger to cover her latent fear… "… you're giving me lectures?" It wasn't as loud, certainly, and it lacked the dramatic crash that Alexandre's yell had been accompanied with, but her eyes narrowed dangerously, a coldness glinting in them.-
[03:59] <Yanmei> "Where the hell do -you- get off?! It's none of your business what I admit to or not!"
[04:05] * Alexandre reached forward immediately, grabbing the top Yanmei's outfit and pulling her to her feet. "Right now, I don't give a damn if it's my business or not! Right now, you're driving me insane with your sheer arrogance. To -dare- to think you're better than her! To -dare- to make such a mistake! Are you really so self-centred that you haven't spent -a second- thinking about how people will remember you?-
[04:06] <Alexandre> "Haven't you spent even a second thinking about the people you might leave behind? How will your mother feel, knowing you never even -tried- to call her?! How will Gabriel-Wei feel, knowing he never- he- he never got a chance to say goodbye…?" The last words were spoken, not with anger…-
[04:06] <Alexandre> But with agonising grief.
[04:15] <Yanmei> "…" Standing precariously off-balance thanks to the hand gripping her shirt Yanmei took a few ragged breaths of her own. So that was it. "This isn't about her." She tried to make her voice sound even, focusing aside so that she wouldn't have to face him completely, even at this close distance. "It never was. But…" Her eyes narrowed again, difficult to read with the expression in them now shifting to and fro.-
[04:20] <Yanmei> "How am I supposed to say 'we will win' in one breath, and then 'goodbye' in the next? Who's going to belive in our chances then? How am -I- supposed to believe in them?" For an instant, it looked as if her eyes had settled on one emotion - a thick glaze of deep and profound terror.
[04:26] * Alexandre didn't see the eyes for anything more then a momentary glimpse. Not long enough to even be consciously aware of the emotion written across her face… Yet… Leaving an impression, nonetheless. "Listen to me." He said now, his tone almost consoling. He moved his hands- he was now gripping her shoulders, in a companionable way, instead of gripping her shirt. "You don't have to -say- 'goodbye'.-
[04:27] <Alexandre> "Just… say what you need to say. What you feel should be said. Even if it's like 'Don't worry, I'm going to win and I'll see you at school'. Or 'Do you want to go out when this is done?' Or 'I love you', or 'I left the million-dollar briefcase under the doghouse'." He tried cracking a wan smile, despite the fact that he was now fully weeping.-
[04:27] <Alexandre> "Just don't leave those people without saying something. They care about you and so help me God, if you care about them, you'll say something to them. Do you understand?"
[04:35] <Yanmei> "That… th-that simple, huh?" Her voice sounded a little hoarse. She'd stopped averting her eyes, at least, when he shifted his hands. And now… screw it, she moved into him, pulling her arms around him as if he was a crying Isaiah or Marianne. "I got it, okay? I understand."
[04:41] <Alexandre> "…!" Alexandre was taken aback by the action. It was unexpected, and once upon a time Alexandre's reaction would've been to jump backwards. But right now, he was too weak, too vulnerable… He moved his own arms, embracing her as well. The tears redoubled at this point.-
[04:42] <Alexandre> "Thank you." He managed to mumble in between the sobs.
[04:45] <Yanmei> "Mmph." She wouldn't admit it to anyone, and she certainly didn't want to give it away by talking with a shakey voice, but her own eyes were misting up now too, even though it wasn't to his extent.
[04:49] * Alexandre was far too pained to consider breaking it. "W-what grief does, huh?" He murmured shakily, grasping just that little bit tighter.
[04:50] <Yanmei> "T-tell me about it." Whoops. Slip up. She tried to swallow back the lump in her throat.
[04:59] <Alexandre> [It persisted for a while, the rare embrace, brought about by grief and a simple desire for comfort. But eventually, perhaps when they'd both grasped a hold over their feelings, they might realise the lunacy of the situation and break apart, Alexandre's face tear-streaked; and maybe Yanmei's too.-
[05:00] <Alexandre> [Despite the anger and heat that'd been aired during that fitful conversation, the two of them would leave quietly, perhaps giving each other a quiet nod. Maybe the nods would be respectful, bashful, or simply… Understanding. But sooner or later, they'd go their separate ways.]

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License