Let Me Be Cared About Kept Out Of Harm

[22:36] <Yanmei> Even with the battle won and the departed laid to rest, the Geofront never ceased being busy. Yanmei passed first countless hospital staff and then countless administrators as she transitioned from her usual haunt to hallways full of offices. The basket she carried was heavy, but she made no sign of it being so until she had reached the office she wanted, knocked… and found no one to answer her.-
[22:39] <Yanmei> It wasn't too surprising. She just thought that she would try it, first. Now, shifting the celophane-wrapped gift basket to two hands, she thought on what to do next.
[22:42] <Alphonse> At that moment she'd spy Alphonse, heading down the corridor towards her- or rather, headed to pass her. His head was down, and he was fiddling with his mobile phone.
[22:45] <Yanmei> "Captain Wellesley? Good morning!" she called out.
[22:53] <Alphonse> "…?" He looked up at Yanmei, throwing her a polite smile. "Good morning, Lieutenant Zhang. Visiting Miss Delacour?"
[22:56] <Yanmei> "That's right." She glanced back at the office door, and then took a step away from it. "She's not in. Probably staying at home for a while."
[22:58] * Alphonse nods slowly. "It's probably best for her, all things considered."
[23:01] * Yanmei nodded too. For a moment, an awkward silence threatened, but she beat it off with more polite words. "How are you holding up?"
[23:02] <Alphonse> "Me? I'm… Handling it, I suppose you could say." Said Alphonse quietly. "It's taking awhile to grow used to not having him around…"
[23:07] * Yanmei nodded again. "Tell me about it," she muutered. "But if you're here and walking around, it must mean that you're up to handling your duties."
[23:09] <Alphonse> "Yes. Well." He chuckled. "Whatever duties there are, at least. I don't really have much to do here. Katsuragi's taking care of the paperwork, so my main task so far has been helping Colonel Amatore-DeForest. She's pretty resilient, though. She doesn't need too much help from me. So ultimately I have a lot of time to waste on thinking about things…"
[23:14] <Yanmei> "I haven't seen her too much lately." She seemed a little bothered by that. "After her last promotion, we had a huge dinner to celebrate, with lots of desserts. This time, though… well." She shook her head. "But I've realized something."
[23:15] <Alphonse> "What have you realised?"
[23:20] <Yanmei> "That I don't know much about you. You used your talents to help us out in that battle, and to help out Colonel Amatore-DeForest, and you and Katsuragi seem to know each other well too. Maybe we're beyond formal introductions at this point? But I still wouldn't mind knowing a little more about the guy behind those amazing talents."
[23:33] <Alphonse> "…" He smiled. "You're quite the flatterer, Lieutenant. But. I have to meet someone topside in two and a half hours. In the meantime, there's a cafe in the 11th Arrondissement that's recently reopened. I'd be happy to tell you about myself over a cup of tea."
[23:38] <Yanmei> "Well, that sounds fine. It will give me chance to put this thing down for a while, at least." She smiled back, jerking her head slightly in the direction of the basket she carried. "Lead the way."
[23:39] <Alphonse> "Of course."-
[23:46] <Alphonse> [The cafe was fairly close to one of the Geofront exits, thankfully. It was on a main road; the area itself had been lucky and taken little damage. In fact, most of the eastern third of the city was untouched.-
[23:46] <Alphonse> [The air felt cool in the cafe, which was wide and open to the air, but nevertheless it was surprisingly busy. They were seated quickly by a waiter, menus handed to them both.-
[23:46] <Alphonse> "So then. Where do you want to begin?"
[23:48] <Yanmei> "Well, you're stationed in the States, right? Born and raised in that country?"
[23:49] * Alphonse shook his head. "I'm surprised you can't recognise my accent. I'm from England, actually."
[23:52] <Yanmei> "Huh. You speak French so well, that the accent isn't as distinctive as I've heard in others' voices. You must have been studying the language for a really long time."
[23:53] <Alphonse> "Ever since I became a Companion."
[23:53] <Yanmei> "…Companion?"
[23:55] <Alphonse> "Ah. It's a special title. You're aware of the NeoSpartan Project, right?"
[23:58] <Yanmei> "All too well…" she muttered. Suddenly, his age made sense.
[23:59] * Alphonse nodded. "I think you understand. I was part of a sister project called the NeoAlexander Project. Participants in the Project are called 'Companions'." He said. "Whereas the NeoSpartan Project was designed to create elite soldiers, the NeoAlexander Project was designed to train elite leaders and strategists."
[00:07] <Yanmei> "In other words, you were raised to be a General or an Operations Director since you were little." Yanmei looked down at her menu, but she wasn't really reading much. "NERV really is meticulous."
[00:11] <Alphonse> "Yes, I suppose you could say that." Said Alphonse. "The program wasn't greatly successful at producing the intended result. I'm one of the few who came out the other side as intended. But, do you mind if I ask you a question?"
[00:11] <Yanmei> "Not at all."
[00:13] <Alphonse> "What do you think of the other ODs? Amatore-DeForest and Katsuragi."
[00:20] <Yanmei> "Katsuragi's… enthusiasic. She teases her subordinates too much though. Luckily, -I've- managed to avoid that fate for the most part."-
[00:23] <Yanmei> "The new Colonel is a little harder to pin down. She's pretty competent leading the Dreadnoughts into battle, and she's provided excellent support in previous stations. I'd say she's pretty promising. Why?"
[00:24] <Alphonse> "Curiosity, mostly. I haven't spoken with Amatore-DeForest too much. Katsuragi…" He frowned.
[00:25] <Yanmei> "Don't get along much, huh?" Yanmei was smiling again.
[00:25] <Alphonse> "She dislikes me, and she doesn't take many pains to hide it."
[00:27] <Yanmei> "Why do you think that is?"
[00:27] <Alphonse> "If I had to give a reason, she doesn't like the idea of someone half her age being on an equal footing." He muttered.
[00:29] <Yanmei> "Makes sense. She's probably not alone, either? But there's nothing you can really do about that…"
[00:31] <Alphonse> "No, probably not." He sighed. "It's still very aggravating. No doubt you've experienced it too."
[00:36] <Yanmei> "Well, piloting's a little different? There are no adult EVA pilots. The closest we have are supporting ground troops, and they've been pretty agreeable. Initially, one or two of the NeoSpartans were less agreeable, because we didn't have to work as hard to get to where we were. The other Parisian pilots and myself, I mean."
[00:37] * Alphonse nodded. "They're very proud, aren't they?"
[00:39] <Yanmei> "Very," she agreed. "But after everything they went through, they have a right to be." She looked him in the eye. "You've probably been through a lot yourself. It's just that your young appearence hides that."
[00:40] * Alphonse nodded. "You're right." He looked her straight back. "But, we've all been through a lot by this point. You yourself…"
[00:45] <Yanmei> "Two or three years of playing catch-up can't compare to a lifetime of training. The only thing I can boast about is actual combat experience, but I'm always blown out of the water when it comes to tactics, shooting precision, and hand-to-hand, both in and out of the pilot seat."
[00:46] <Alphonse> "All true, but…"
[00:46] <Yanmei> "But?"
[00:47] <Alphonse> "But you can't deny your pedigree, nevertheless. You hold your own. You were the one to kill Ramliel, after all."
[00:52] * Yanmei laughed quietly. "I was only in that position thanks to a lot of support by others. The rest of the Space Team, the Ground Defense Team, that othe Angel. And you. I never did thank you, by the way~"
[00:53] * Alphonse smiled. "You're welcome. Heh. You're lucky. I'm not sure I'm the one you ought to be thanking at all…"
[00:54] <Yanmei> "Oh?"
[00:55] <Alphonse> "If Rei hadn't arrived to help when she did, I might not've had the strength to do anything."
[00:56] <Yanmei> "So she saved us both, then. Maybe the entire world." Yanmei grinned. "She's really something."
[00:57] <Alphonse> "Yes. Yes she is. She's very…" He paused for a moment, an unusual dreamy expression flashing across his face for a second. "… Anyway, are you ready to order?"
[01:02] * Yanmei was staring at him with an "Oho!" expression on her face, but that soon shifted to something more obviously sweet and innocent as soon as his attention was back on her. "I think so. You?"
[01:08] <Alphonse> "Yes, I do. Excuse me? Waiter?" he gestured the waiter over. "I'll have a cup of hot tea with milk, if you please, and the chicken parmigiana, with the fries as a side."-
[01:08] <Alphonse> ["Very well, monsieur. And for the lady?"]
[01:10] <Yanmei> "Onion soup, with half an egg-salad sandwich. Also, some coffee to drink. Black?"
[01:11] <Alphonse> ["Very well. It will only take a few minutes." He gave them a nod and withdrew to the kitchen.]
[01:12] <Yanmei> "So! Have you met Rei's family yet?" Yanmei settled back casually into the conversation.
[01:13] <Alphonse> "Only officially." Said Alphonse.
[01:14] <Yanmei> "You should really try to get on their good side. She's going to be working under you, after all, and it would probably make things easier."
[01:16] <Alphonse> "You're right. Especially since Ikari's now the head of NERV…" He furrowed his brow. "Rei's invited me to Japan for Christmas. With any luck I'll have the opportunity to 'get on their good side'."
[01:18] <Yanmei> Christmas! One of the most romantic times of the year. Good work, Rei! "Do your best, okay? Ikari himself can be a bit… Ah, well, you still shouldn't have trouble with the rest of the family, I would think?"
[01:19] * Alphonse tilted his head. "What do you know about them? It'd be best if I knew how to act before meeting them in an informal situation."
[01:26] <Yanmei> "Well, she has eleven sisters. I don't know if you'll see them all while you're visiting, but be sure to treat them gently. Her brother's the pilot of 05, nice guy, kinda quiet, currently putting up with Misato's reign of terror in Japan's mini-geofront."-
[01:26] <Yanmei> "Her mother is… nice."
[01:27] <Alphonse> "… Nice?"
[01:28] <Yanmei> "Smiles a lot, seems generally pleasant and polite, etc. Pretty much the exact opposite of the guy she married."
[01:28] <Alphonse> "Hah. So Ikari himself is less pleasant?"
[01:31] <Yanmei> "Yeah, but you'll probably find that out for yourself. Maybe? He's not put on many appearences since he took over as the Big Boss."
[01:32] <Alphonse> "Surely he'd come home for Christmas though, no?"
[01:36] <Yanmei> "Um." An image came to mind. It was from an illustrated edition of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol," and it depicted the main protagonist hunched over his desk, scowling and no doubt grumbling of the fools who would waste a perfectly good working day on family and joy. "…sure?"
[01:37] <Alphonse> "… You don't seem too sure." He frowned, staring down at the table. "I'm sure it'll work out one way or another."
[01:40] <Yanmei> "It's probably be easier for him if he just went home with the rest of the NERV Japan, and appointed someone to be a figurehead Director of the Paris branch while he ruled from afar."
[01:40] <Yanmei> ^It'd
[01:41] <Alphonse> "I suppose so. Someone like Thomas, perhaps."
[01:46] <Yanmei> "Right! I mean, why not? Many other branches have something similar going on."
[01:48] <Alphonse> "Yes, I suppose you're right. I do wonder who'd fill his spot in Tokyo-2 if he remained here…" He was quiet for a moment, tapping his fingers together.-
[01:49] <Alphonse> "Have you had the chance to meet Rei's sisters?"
[01:51] <Yanmei> "Yes. They're all here in Paris right now. In fact, we were holding a welcome party for them when that last Angel first appeared. Isn't one of them going to be sent to the States, along with Rei and the new pilot for 08?"
[01:53] <Alphonse> "Yes, actually. San, the green-haired one who likes to observe people."-
[01:54] <Alphonse> [If either of them had bothered, at that point, to look across the cafe at a table at the far end of the room, they would've, in fact, spied that very same girl, currently busy observing everyone in detail and sipping a glass of water.-
[01:55] <Alphonse> "I haven't spoken to them all, but I've spoken to a few. Rei's very proud of them, so she liked to introduce them to me."
[01:56] <Yanmei> "Oh yeah? Then you do know a little about them, then. What do you think of them?"
[01:58] <Alphonse> "They're quite curious. The ones I spoke to are surprisingly different from one another. None of them are quite as mature as Reirei is, however…"
[02:06] <Yanmei> "…Reirei's grown pretty quickly," she admitted with a little smirk. "Give the others time, though. I'm sure San and the other pilot will grow quickly under your command."
[02:11] <Alphonse> "Let's hope so." He said quietly, rubbing his chin. "The other pilot… I wonder who it'll be, eventually. Rei has told me an awful lot about the original candidate- your partner, Isaiah Gabriel-Wei?"
[02:13] * Yanmei felt a faint stirring of protectiveness. "That's right. I've been wondering who his replacement will be, but I still haven't heard anything about it. Heh. Your bosses and affiliates must be getting pretty impatient about it by now."
[02:15] <Alphonse> "From what I recall, there's actually been a lot of hassle caused by the Committee rejecting him. It's a shame that they did. From what Rei told me, he seems like a fine young man."
[02:19] <Yanmei> "He is." She smiled warmly at him. "But I'm sure the Committee had its reasons? I'm not too sad about him having to stay in Paris, though, as you can imagine."
[02:23] <Alphonse> "I -can- imagine, yes. The two of you seem very close." A light smile came to his lips.
[02:27] * Yanmei almost looked away. For a moment, she had the slightest feeling that Misato had been spreading stories about them, that terrible gossip. "We're going to Italy for Christmas, if everything goes well. Colonel Amatore-DeForest promised to take us."
[02:28] <Alphonse> "Italy? That's lovely. Christmas is supposed to be one of the most romantic times of the year, after all." He said without a hint of self-awareness. "I have to admit, I think Rei's a little envious."
[02:29] <Yanmei> "Hm? Of what?"
[02:33] <Alphonse> "From what she's told me, she feels… Lonely, in a sense. Like she wishes she had someone she could really trust and be with, like you do."
[02:34] <Yanmei> "Well, isn't that something you could help her with? You two already have a bond of sorts, and eventually you'll be working together regularly."
[02:35] <Alphonse> "…" Alphonse stared at Yanmei silently for a second.-
[02:36] <Alphonse> "… So anyway, the problem with EVA-08 is that they already configured it for Isaiah's use." He said abruptly, pushing a loose strand of hair back behind his ears as a way of camoflaguing his light blush.
[02:37] <Yanmei> "Did they, now? That was premature." Yanmei was playing along. "When you say 'configure,' you mean…?"
[02:38] <Alphonse> "As in, it's completely finished. Limbs, armor, core. The reason they haven't found a pilot for it yet is because it's systematically rejecting anyone who tries to synchronise with it."
[02:39] <Yanmei> "Completely finished? It's been activated and everything…?"
[02:40] <Alphonse> "Yes. It's completely combat ready, except that it lacks a pilot."
[02:40] <Yanmei> "…"
[02:43] <Alphonse> "It's somewhat annoying." Alphonse continued on. "EVA-09- Rei's Eva- and EVA-12- San's- were both in Beijing when the Branch was destroyed. It'll take months to repair it. The entire Master Evangelion line is behind schedule. At this rate, Boston is completely defenseless. We were supposed to have three fully operating Evangelions by Christmas, and we won't even be able to sortie the one we have." He frowned.-
[02:43] <Alphonse> "It's just not cricket."
[02:46] <Yanmei> "I'm sorry. It must be really unfair," she said. "I know the Americans have been concerned about the slowness with which they were recieving EVAs for a really long time."
[02:51] <Alphonse> "Director Launceston is a bit annoyed about it, yes." Said Alphonse wearily.-
[02:51] <Alphonse> [At this point, the waiter returned, bearing their orders.-
[02:51] <Alphonse> "Ah, thank you very much."
[02:52] <Yanmei> "Yeah, thanks." Yanmei smiled down at her meal as it was placed in front of her, and picked up her coffee. Somehow, eating was no longer on her mind at all…
[02:55] * Alphonse sipped his tea quietly, not saying anything for awhile.-
[02:56] <Alphonse> "It's been an eventful few months…"
[02:57] <Yanmei> "Maybe it will quiet down for a little while now."
[02:58] <Alphonse> "I hope so. It'd be nice to have a quiet run-up to Christmas…"
[03:03] <Yanmei> "I'd be happy for just a weekend of peace and quiet," Yanmei chuckled. She lifted her coffee mug. "Here. To peace and friendship?"
[03:05] * Alphonse clinked the mug with his teacup. "To peace and friendship, then."-
[03:06] <Alphonse> [The next hour and a half or so passed pleasantly enough. Eventually, however…-
[03:07] <Alphonse> "Well, then. It's been an enjoyable morning, Miss Zhang. But, I have to meet someone in a minute or so…" He stood up.
[03:08] * Yanmei stood up politely with him. "I should get back to HQ myself. Thanks for the meal, though! It was fun. Maybe we could do it again sometime?"
[03:10] <Alphonse> "It sounds good to me. Visits to Paris-2 will be few and far between, sadly, but I'll try to make the effort…"-
[03:13] <Alphonse> [It was at this point that a particular blue-haired young lady peeked through the front of the cafe, waving over at Alphonse enthusiastically.-
[03:13] <Alphonse> "Ah, there we are. And not a moment too soon. Have a good day, Miss Zhang." He said cheerfully, heading off towards the exit.
[03:15] <Yanmei> "Well, well," she muttered as he passed out of earshot, keeping her smirk subtle. She gathered her own things and began to depart as well.

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