Gendo stands at the entrance, arms crossed, impassively watching Rei as she approaches.
It is always difficult to find emotion in Rei, and that has not changed. She walks slowly, does not seem to acknowledge that she has no passcode of her own, and meets his face with blank eyes, silent.
Gendo hands her a card, marked "GUEST," and turns, swiping his own card against the scanner and walking inside without a word.
Rei nods a brief acknowledgement, not quite a thank you, and follows him, swiping her card through.
She may notice (or may not) that her information lights up as normal when she swipes her card, with the single change being to her status, which now reads "Pilot--Reserve Status."
Gendo leads the way through the eerily-quiet halls, the absence of most of the staff these days very apparent. She notices right away that instead of heading towards Gendo's office, they are taking a downward route, toward the Evas.
She notices, but says nothing. Rei has realised, somewhere in the past few weeks, that she has nothing to say to Gendo Ikari anymore.
Gendo continues on without a word, barely checking to make sure that Rei is still following him--whether because he assumes their usual rapport is still in place, or whether he has nothing to say to the "disgraced" pilot, is unknown. At last, however, they reach the Eva bays.
Rei looks about her, at the so-familiar place, but stands impassively, her eyes flickering about the room without giving real notice to it. It is familiar, comfortable even, but not...welcome.
The cavernous room is dimly lit, its charges concealed in the shadows, visible only as huge shapes, blocky within their crystal prisons. Gendo continues to lead the way through the gloom, along a walkway that seems somehow out of place, heading towards one shadow in particular.
And then suddenly there it is--Unit 01. Shrouded in red crystal, yet this walkway goes right up to the behemoth--and now that you're closer, you see that a small portion of crystal has been drilled away, leaving a small portion of the Eva's skin exposed.
Gendo stands for a moment, lost in thought, regarding the Eva with an unreadable expression. He then reaches out a hand, and lays it flat against the purple surface. His head bows for a moment, and his lips move as if murmuring a word, though you hear nothing.
Rei winces, before she has time to measure her reaction, staring up at the Eva, and the man resting his hand against it.
Gendo raises his head, his eyes seeming to pierce the crystal to gaze at the form within--and perhaps even deeper still, to the force that is hidden at the center of it all. "I come here, from time to time. To take readings is the official excuse when any dare ask why. to make sure the stasis is not damaging the units."
Gendo's voice remains calm, almost his normal tone--but there's a trace of something there, detectable only by someone who has spent so much time with the man. "But you and I both know that's not why I'm here, don't we Rei?"
Rei's voice is cold and quiet. 'I do not know why you choose to do anything you do.'
Gendo drops his hand and turns, gazing at Rei for the first time since her arrival. "I find that hard to accept, Rei--unless you're going to tell me you wouldn't do anything for one you...loved." that last word seems to almost require physical effort for Gendo to say.
'I wouldn't.' She can say this with surety, now. 'Not anymore.'
A slight smile curves the side of Gendo's mouth. "The Angel might disagree with you. Or did you violate NERV's trust--my trust--on a whim?"
Rei stiffens. 'The Angel,' she repeats, flatly. 'That is exactly the reason, because you call him that. You forget that he is human. As am I.'
"So it was for spite, then? To right an injustice, that is why you rescued...Kaworu? Nothing else?" Gendo leans forward slightly, his eyes boring into Rei's, as if looking for something.
Rei's chin lifts, her eyes cold and dismissive. 'You do not really try to understand, so you will not.'
Gendo shakes his head, a flash of anger lighting them, quickly gone. "No, Rei, it is you who do not understand, though I had thought you might, at last. Shinji does, though I would rather he had arrived at enlightenment...differently."
Her lips tighten into a thin line. 'Ikari-kun is not interested in your enlightenment. Nor am I.'
Gendo smiles thinly, and shakes his head, turning back to the Eva. "You see a means, when I am referring to an end. Shinji has reached it. I had thought you had reached it. But perhaps you are not as...human as I'd thought. Perhaps you are as cold as the others say you are, after all."
Rei lets out a quick breath, her arms limp at her sides. 'Commander. Have you something to say? I do not belong here anymore.'
Gendo strokes the Eva again, his voice once more his calm cadence. "You have the data before you, Rei--it is up to you to put it together. Why do I come here? Why did Shinji risk his life--continues to risk his life, and that of his friends, with his stubborness--to rescue Kaworu? Why did you? When you can answer these questions honestly, Rei, you will find that our paths have not diverged as much as you seem to believe."
Rei is silent for a moment, as if taking it all in. When she speaks, quiet as ever, there is an undertone of anger in her voice. 'You have turned your son into a creature who cannot love himself,' she accuses softly, 'and say he has reached what you wished him to. You took a boy who chose to be human and told those who watched him to study him like an object, that his life was not a priority. You would have chosen to end the world for everyone, to ease your own pain. Yes, Commander, our paths have diverged. You made me, but I do not belong to you.'
"Shinji," Gendo replies, dismissively, "may not love himself, for whatever reason--however, he has learned to love another. He is willing to do anything--risk himself, his friends--for that person. In that way, he is truly my son. Kaworu," and here his voice turns weary, "was a situation that slipped out of my hands and into the control of others. It is possible you and your allies did me a favor by acting as you did. But you say that Kaworu chose to be human--this is true, he made that choice for love, for lack of a better word.. How long will that love last? Shinji is just a boy, as is he, whatever else he may be. What will happen to us all should childish issues end that love?"
'You underestimate him,' Rei spits out. 'And you should not.'
"And you think him perfect, and you should not," Gendo replies quietly. "But it is out of my hands for now. As for the rest," and here his voice returns to his usual authoritarian tones.
Perfect? No. Human. The difference is very, very large. And Rei does not want to be here anymore.
"The Magi, after receiving all the data, compute that there is a 90% chance that you could not have performed your rescue on your own. Despite your gifts, Rei, the others are not so gifted. Ergo, it is highly likely that you had help on the inside."
A little smile. 'We have accomplished things the Magi have given a less than one-tenth of a percent chance to. If they have allotted me ten, how can you doubt me?'
Gendo lets loose a surprised bark of laughter, quickly covered up by his hand against his mouth.
"This is correct. And so, I am faced with two scenarios: one, that you once again exceded expectations, and masterminded the entire event. Two, that you had help that you are now protecting with a loyalty that is almost as revealing as if you were to name them yourself." "In either case, the outcome is the same--as I said, it is quite likely you did us all a favor by freeing Kaworu from SEELIE hands. I had hoped this act would bring about a new level of understanding on your part--that doesn't appear to be the case. Regardless, it is no longer in NERV's best interests to pursue this matter further."
'Hn.' Rei does not actually say anything, but readjusts her schoolbag on her shoulder and makes a little bow to the Eva units. 'You can speculate without my presence. Have we finished?'
"Feel free to inform Shinji--and any others who might or might not exist--that there will be no further sanctions taken. This time. That is all. A guard will escort you to the surface."
And as if summoned, a solitary NERV guard is revealed in the distance, waiting by the exit.
'Hai.' A little bow to Ikari as well, politeness more than respect, and Rei follows the guard who appears to lead her away without ever really acknowledging he is there.