"...And that concludes our discussion for today." Touji closed the textbook he was holding in his hand with a loud 'whap!', making some of the class jump in their seats. Looking over to the wallclock that hung above the blackboard, he turned back to his class. "Now get out of here, all of you, and have your lunches!" The class sighed in relief, and began to fold their terminals and retrieve their lunchboxes.
Seeing the children move too slowly, Touji coughed quite noticeably to get their attention. "I said all of youse get outta here. Or do you want to spend your lunchtime solving tomorrow's physics exercises?"
The class didn't need more prompting. Within a few moments, almost all of the students of his class had filed out the door, their lunches in hand, the beginnings of idle conversation already being heard.
Well, almost all of them anyway.
As he was packing his notes and books into his attaché case, Touji noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Or rather, someone. Glancing over to his side, he saw that one of the girls had stayed behind, and was in the process of cleaning the blackboard.
"I said get outta here and have your lunch. You can leave that for later…" Touji's breath suddenly caught in his throat, as he saw the red hair, and the familiar red neural interface clips tying up the girl's hair. Involuntarily, he began to stutter, getting the attention of the redhead cleaning the board.
"Uncle Suzuhara, is something wrong?" Teri, erasers in hand, looked at her uncle, who was also her homeroom teacher. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Touji stopped stuttering, as realization hit him. Shaking his head clear, he chuckled a bit to himself as he returned to arranging his things. "Oh, it's nothing, Teri-chan." Must have been those damned clips, he thought. 'Coz there's just no way Devil girl could ever have those cute freckles.
He wondered where she had gotten them though. It wasn't like EVA accessories were in fashion or anything, and he certainly didn't think anyone was that crazy to wear something like Hell's Mistress ever wore.
"O-okay." Teri gave him a strange look, before continuing cleaning the board. Was it just her, or did this particular day turn every adult she knew into wierdos?
Touji closed his suitcase's lock, turning to his niece. "You should go and eat your lunch. Everyone else's already down in the schoolyard."
"I can't. I'm on board duty today." Teri slammed the two erasers together, creating a cloud of chalk in the process. She sputtered for a bit, before trying again, this time not looking in the way of the chalk.
"D'you think anyone'll notice if you skipped your chores just once?" Touji shook his head as he headed for the door. "I mean, really? You're the only one here."
"I would." Teri smiled, before slamming the two erasers again. The place on the floor where she was standing was already turning white from all the chalk dust.
Touji sighed. Great, Devil girl's pride and Shinji's sense of duty. Wonderful.
"Well, don't take too long," Touji slid the classroom door open. "Missing lunch can be bad for your health, y'know. I don't want to go to your father and tell him that you've fainted from hunger or somethin'."
"Oh, I won't. Besides, I'm not getting sick today." There was extra emphasis on the word 'today'.
Touji stopped, as he remembered the date. "Oh, right. I almost forgot!" He slapped his hand on his forehead. "I guess I'll have to call your father after all."
"Are you coming later, huh, Uncle?" Teri replaced the two erasers on the table, and walked over to the broomcloset, getting out a small broom and dustpan.
"Hey, wouldn't miss it," Touji waved slightly as he left the classroom. "See ya later."
"Okay. And don't forget my presents!"
Touji just shook his head. Well, at least she got Shinji's personality, he thought, as he headed for the faculty room at the edge of the hallway. God knows that it would be bad enough to have another Asuka unleashed on the world…
As he was walking down the hall, he noticed another person coming down the hallway in his direction. A young girl, in fact. She had her long black hair braided into two long pigtails, while countless freckles speckled her young face.
Touji's face broke into a smile. "Hey there gorgeous. Where ya goin'?"
The girl blushed in response, her face crinkling into what approximated for a frown. Sort of. "Papa!" The girl whined, stomping over to where the teacher stood.
Touji pantomimed having the air blown out of his lungs, as the girl's small fist collided with his stomach. He staggered playfully a bit, as the girl watched in delight. "Agh, ya got me…"
"Well serves you right." The girl's face softened. "I mean, really papa. You promised that you'd call me by my real name. It's Kimomi, remember?"
Touji straightened, dusting himself off a bit. "Well, I can't help it. Not if my daughter's one of the most beautiful girls on the planet." He winced. "Nice punch there. Are you sure you got everything from your mom?" he jested. In truth, the punch probably wouldn't even have rocked Shinji, back when they were still kids, though it helped to patronize the younger Suzuhara every so often.
"Well, mama's been giving me lessons," Kimomi shook her head at her father. "If you didn't embarrass me so often I wouldn't have to hurt you so much papa."
"I'll have to remember that," Touji scratched the back of his head. "So what're you doing up here? I'd thought you'd be down at the yard by now."
"I'm going to have lunch with Ikari-sempai. Is she still at the classroom?"
"Sure," Touji motioned with his thumb back to class 2-A. "She's on board duty right now, so you'll have to wait for a while…" He saw the face of his daughter suddenly brighten, cutting short what he was supposed to say. Kimomi began waving to someone behind him.
"Kimomi!" Teri, her auburn locks bobbing, ran over to where the two stood, her lunchbox already in hand. "Been waiting long?"
"Not really." Kimomi turned to her father. "Well, we're going to eat now papa."
"Sure gorgeous," Touji ruffled his daughter's dark top, much to Kimomi's added embarrassment.
"Papa! Cut that out!" The girl squealed as she broke free of her father's touch, backing off in a defensive posture, feet spaced wide and arms up. "I'll teach you to stop embarrassing me in front of my friends!"
The older Suzuhara took up a similar pose. "I'd like to see you try, little lady."
Teri shook her head slightly, already used to the antics of her friend and her Uncle. This was going to take a while. At least two minutes, tops.
Well, she could at least enjoy the show, she mused, trying to hide the smile that was trying to force its way to her face.
"Ooh!" Kimomi charged, jabbing repeatedly at her father's midsection, as Touji laughed, trying to dodge his daughter's petite, though quick, fists. Even with one prosthetic leg and arm, Touji was still as athletic as ever, and had no trouble evading the punches.
Still, the girl managed to get him wedged against the hallway's wall. Amidst a flurry of punches, Touji admitted defeat. "Okay! Okay! I give!" he laughed, as Kimomi backed off and nodded at her father's 'rout'. "I won't say anything that'll embarrass you ever again."
"You'd better," Kimomi huffed. She turned to Teri, who was waiting patiently off to the side, with an odd look of suppressed laughter on her face. "Let's go, Teri-sempai, before papa gets any other ideas."
With that the two girls left, the hallway suddenly alive with girlish laughter as the two began to talk on their way down to the school yard. Touji, scratching his head as he straightened his shirt, heard some snatches of the conversation as the words wafted down the hallway.
"Hey what did you get me?"
"It's a secret!"
"Aww…Couldn't you give just a little hint? I thought you were my best friend…"
Touji stood there for a while. Then shaking his head, he smiled in spite of himself, the image of the two girls lingering in his mind. It wasn't very hard to imagine another pair in their place…Of a certain annoying red-headed git, and other girl, whose same pigtails his daughter mirrored now.
"The Demon and the Class Representative." A wistful smile found its way to Touji's face, so rare to see in the face of the big man. It was a strange feeling; so many years had passed, and yet the memory was still clear to him. "They are their mothers' daughters, after all."
With a final look down the hallway, he resumed his walk towards the faculty room.
The smile he had been wearing broadened even more as he slid open the doors to the faculty room. Making his way through the tangle of desks and co-workers, he ambled his way to his own desk. Seated there was one of the reasons that he considered himself to be the luckiest man in Tokyo-3.
"Whoa, hold on there tiger," Hikari breathed, as she broke away from the kiss she had suddenly found herself in. She looked around the crowded faculty room. Most of their colleagues, especially the men, had looked away, some smiling in amusement. She blushed a bit as Touji pulled away, confused. "Mr. Suzuhara," she frowned. "How many times have I told you about not kissing me in public?"
"Too many to remember, actually." Touji grinned as he took a seat by the window. "But that doesn't stop me from doing it anyway, right?" Looking at her from his place at the window, seeing the sun dance over her face, strengthened his belief that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. And he sure wasn't afraid to show the world how much he loved her.
Looking at Hikari now, it was hard to believe that once, long ago, he thought that she was rather plain-looking. Her hair tied up in pigtails, her freckle-smattered face, and her large eyes made her look more cute than attractive, especially if you compared her to the other girls in their class. Not only that, but she had a sharp tongue and a temper that nearly matched Asuka's.
But she had a kind heart hiding behind all that attitude. Kind enough to care for a dumb lug too dense to even notice, understanding enough to try and share the pain of a boy who had just lost use of two of his limbs. He had pushed her away, back then, feeling unworthy of her attentions.
And yet she still tried.
He was such a fool.
"Have I told you that you're beautiful?" He'd said those words so many times, and yet he never grew tired of saying them. He didn't care for the reasons, though, since Hikari certainly deserved the complement. Many times more.
"Be thankful you're good at compliments, or you'd be in big trouble." Hikari smirked, as she proceeded to take out the two bento boxes from her bag, putting them side by side on the table.
The rest of the faculty, those having their lunch that is, stared in jealousy as Touji was once more treated to another sumptuous lunch by his wife.
Touji rubbed his hands in glee, resisting the urge to drool as he wondered what kinds of culinary delight Hikari had prepared for lunch. It was a bad habit, a holdover from his high-school days, but he couldn't help it; Hikari was that good. Taking the bento she proffered, he eagerly opened its lid. He wasn't disappointed; once more, his senses was treated to another masterpiece.
The big and burly Osakan didn't even bother taking a seat, leaning against the window-sill as he took out his chopsticks and began to wolf down the bento box's contents. Hikari merely shook her head in delight, as she proceeded to eat lunch herself.
The minutes passed in silence as they ate, while sounds of the office permeated air around them. Sounds of good-natured ribbing amongst coleagues mixed with the sounds of the children eating lunch and having fun on the outside-the office windows were left open for once, letting the now breezy December wind cool the room's confines, as well as the sounds coming from the school yard-pervaded Hikari's ears, turning into a strange kind of symphony that she welcomed.
It was the sound of life. Something lacking years ago, when she walked these same corridors as a student, back during the Angel war. Sure, the place had some life to it, but it was guarded closely, like a greedy man clutching at the smallest dime. It wasn't like the vibrancy of today, the sounds of normalcy surrounding her, filled instead with the harsh resonance of the Angel attack sirens and the hushed and frightened whispers said as everyone filed into the shelters.
Hikari looked up from her box, having already finished all of its contents. She was about to ask her husband for his bento, but stopped, surprised at what she saw.
Touji stood there, leaning against the windows, chopsticks in hand, but it didn't look like he was eating. Or rather, it looked like he was eating, only that he stopped, as if something more important took away his attention. He looked deep in thought, his eyebrows furrowed in a way to suggest that whatever it was he was ruminating on was more vital than the lunch he held in front of him.
"Touji? Honey, is there something wrong?" Hikari asked again. It wasn't like Touji to not eat lunch, especially one she had made.
Touji sighed, his broad shoulders slumping a bit, before he put away his chopsticks and closed the lunch box. "It's nothing, dear. I just don't feel like eating anymore." He closed the lunch box, and placed it by the windowsill beside him.
Hikari stood up and went to stand beside her much taller husband. "If there's a problem, you know that you can talk to me about it." She noticed Touji's distant gaze, so she followed his line of sight, until she found what it was he was looking at. It ended at the side of the school yard, near the stand of oak trees that provided shade for some benches there.
Touji was looking at the shade of a particularly large oak tree, under which were seated a small number of students. Hikari shook her head, realizing that it was the same oak that she and Asuka used to sit under so back when they were still students themselves. "You know me like a book, inchou," he smiled, using the petname he came to call her ever since they were teenagers.
"So, what is it this time? The kids being too noisy during class again?"
"It's not that."
"So what is it? You'd better spill it now, buster." She mock-elbowed him in the ribs.
Touji smiled at his wife's bluster. Even after all these years, Hikari's tongue was still as sharp as ever. "D'you know what day it is today? Do you still remember?"
Hikari's face suddenly took a more serious look. She shook her head, her long brown hair, uninhibited by the pigtails she used to wear, catching a bit of the breeze as she did. "How could I forget?"
Touji looked back, his gaze back to the huge oak, or rather, the kids that sat under its shadow. "Well, it's connected to that. The problem, I mean. But I think it's got more to do with Teri-chan."
"Why? Is she having problems with her grades?"
"If that ever happens, then it'll be a big problem."
Hikari began to laugh softly as she recognized her husband's point. Teri-chan having low grades was like a snowstorm in the middle of summer: it just didn't happen. There was just no denying how intelligent and gifted Shinji and Asuka's daughter was. If she didn't underachieve so much, she would probably be in university right now, studying for a degree.
"Well, you got me there. So, what is it that's wrong with our dear niece, hmm?"
"It's just too silly, but have you noticed how much she looks like Asuka?" Touji turned to her. "I mean, Teri really looks like her now."
Hikari nodded. If it wasn't for the ever-present freckles on Teri's face and her short reddish-brown hair, she would be the spitting image of her mother. Even down to the way she walked, it was with the unmistakable unconscious grace and vitality of the girl, no, young woman that Hikari had come to call her friend.
Still, she couldn't see what it is that bothered her husband. They shouldn't be so surprised by this fact, and should even be expecting it. Even as a baby, it was obvious that she took more from her mother than from her father. As if the rich auburn tone of her hair wasn't telling enough.
Personality-wise, Teri had very little in common with her mother. She was a kind and quiet girl, not prone to anger or the loud outbursts that Asuka was used to doing. Although she was clearly smarter and more capable than most children her age, she didn't go around shouting it to the world, actually downplaying herself so that she wouldn't be the focus of attention.
It was that shyness, that self-effacing humility, that made the younger Ikari seem more like her father than her mother.
"It's really creepy, y'know," Touji continued, his gaze once more at the shadow of the oak tree. "Everday, I'd half-expect her to hit me, or call me a pervert or stooge." He shook his head at the foolishness of the thought. "Or the very least cuss me in Kraut."
"Touji," Hikari smiled up at her husband. "Asuka wasn't that bad."
"You weren't on the receiving end of her insults, hon," Touji's brows knotted as a sudden thought came to him. "Which makes you wonder how Shinji and her ever ended up together…"
The expression on the big man's face was funny enough to bring chuckles from Hikari. "Hey, I'm serious about it," Touji continued, feigning a hurt expression. "Have you honestly never thought of how those two, of of people, could fall for each other?"
"Now that I seriously doubt."
Hikari merely smiled at her husband's statement, and chose not to respond. Instead, she refocused her gaze on the grove of shade-trees, a glee sparkle in her eyes subsiding into a look of wistful remembrance.
"But I can understand the feeling," Hikari stated, after a few moments of silence. Touji remained quiet, looking at her as he waited for what she was going to say. "About our niece, I mean." There were times that she looked upon Teri, she'd almost hear the voice of her friend, asking her for the latest school gossip and the like. "But she's not Asuka; she never will be." The woman looked up at her husband, the smile she had tinged by a strange kind of sadness that made the man a little uncomfortable. "She's her own person."
There was a short period of silence between them, as the pair continued their study of the stand of trees beyond the school yard, the beginnings of a slight afternoon breeze making the branches sway, rustling the leaves in their eternal dance.
"Well, it still creeps me out." Touji broke the silence, a sigh escaping his lips. "D'you know that she came into class today wearing those clips, like the ones Asuka used to wear? It almost gave me a heart attack just looking at her." Hikari put her arm around his waist, giving him a measure of comfort. "Maybe it's just because of today. Maybe not. You'd probably think I'm silly…"
"I always think you're silly," Hikari smiled, hugging him. "It doesn't take a particular day in the year to make me do that."
"Yeah." Touji wrapped his right arm around his wife's delicate shoulders.
The two stood like that for a while, staring at the smiling faces of the kids playing down at the yard, taking advantage of the extra time after eating to relax, before the inevitable ringing of the school's bell calls them back to class.
"Though you'd wonder…" Hikari suddenly spoke, breaking the contemplative mood of their moment together.
"Well, I was thinking how Ikari's taking this? Especially now, that his daughter is beginning to look more and more like the woman he fell in love with."
"Like he's been doing it for almost fourteen years." Touji stated simply.
Hikari broke off their embrace. Walking over to the table, she slung her bag over her shoulder, and started to walk towards the door. "Hey! Where ya goin'?" Touji called out to her as she reached the door. He was enjoying having her close by.
She smiled as she looked back at him. "Shopping, silly. You don't really expect Misato-san to cook the food at the party later, do you?"
A grin plastered Touji's face. "I guess." Most of them hadn't quite recovered from Misato's last gastronomic endeavor, during that NERV reunion a few months ago. That Doctor Akagi lady actually said that anything that Misato had cooked might have been used as a weapon against the Angels. He had to hand it to Shinji and Makoto-san, that they were able to actually keep their food down for so long. Either that, or they had stomachs of cast-iron.
Certainly, they didn't want to have a repeat of that particular incident. Ever.
"With any luck, she hasn't arrived at Ikari's house yet. That'll give me some time to prepare. And to buy some gifts." She winked, then waved at her husband as she slid open the door. "Don't forget to bring the kids along with you later, okay?"
"Oh, and Touji?"
"You better show up later with gifts or else I'll have your Osakan ass hung bare for all to see. You got that?" Hikari smirked to her husband's embarrassment, as the other men in the room burst out laughing. "See you at the party." With that, she stepped out.
"Okay," Touji flushed in awkwardness at his beloved's departure, before his face turned into a frown. "What're youse guys lookin' at? Haven't you got better things to do?" he said to his other male coleagues, crossing his arms in front of him. The laughter quickly abated, but the smiles on their faces didn't.
Sitting down, Touji sighed as he began to busy himself checking the exam papers that sat in a neat pile in front of him. "Bachelors!" he muttered under his breath. As his eyes began to scroll through the answers of the first test paper, his mind was already focused on finding out what kind of gift he was going to buy for later.
A few papers later…
Try as he might, Touji found that he was stumped. He had a thousand and one ideas for the perfect gift for Teri, and he couldn't decide on a single one. Almost snapping the pencil he was using to check the papers in annoyance, he pushed himself back from his table, rubbing his forehead a bit with his right hand. Thinking about presents and science exams always gave him headaches.
"This is pathetic," he muttered to himself, giving a quick glance at the faculty room's clock. On cue, the school chime rang out, signalling the end of the lunchhour. Sighing, Touji re-arranged the papers, and retrieved his attaché case, standing up and heading for the door as the other members of the faculty left for their respective classes as well.
Stepping out of the faculty door, Touji said with a finality, "Heck, maybe even Ayanami could think of a better gift for Teri." With that, he slid the door closed behind him.