...sometimes, I wonder why I was born with what I have. Why should some random Tokyo girl be able to read minds, and hold a connection with the most powerful being on Earth? Did I ever tell you a nickname they had for me? The Armageddon Girl. Because if something happened to me, then that'd be it. It'd be the end, because even now we can't stop him. Douglas once even told me that I had the Soviets and Americans by the balls. His words, of course.

After a while, I had a realization, while watching the moon rise over the waves.

There was no divine plan for my powers, no rhyme or reason for why I had them. It was nothing more than pure chance; just the right genetic combinations. I wasn't chosen to become a psychic, and I didn't choose to be one.

But that didn't mean I couldn't do the right thing with them.

With infinite tenderness,
Miki


==/*\==


Asuka didn't know how long she spent kneeling by his side, watching his chest rise and fall with increasing difficulty. The rain had soaked her to the bone before it finally ceased, but she didn't notice.

This... this can't be real, she thought. This can't be happening. He can't be...

And yet, no matter how many times she rubbed at her damp eyes, the same dying boy greeted her.

The cold finally seemed to seep in, and she sat down, hugging herself and rubbing her arms. A sob wracked her body as she squeezed her eyes shut, and she could feel her stomach turn as she tried to make sense of what was happening.

"No," she muttered to herself, rocking gently. "No, no, no."

"Pilot Soryhu."

Asuka opened her eyes, and looked up. Standing upon a piece of rubble, the sun behind her, was Rei. The blue-haired pilot slowly descended the rubble and approached, almost catlike in movement. Something had changed about the girl, now. Her posture had changed, almost becoming... relaxed. Though her face still revealed little emotion, it was no longer the withdrawn blank stare, but rather a placid, almost tranquil, countenance.

What had changed the most, however, were her eyes. The blood-red color had vanished, and a bright orange had taken their place, looking almost like twin coals.

A chill ran up Asuka's spine. She'd seen those eyes before, but on someone else entirely.

Rei glanced at Shinji's prone form, then back at Asuka. "Pilot Soryhu, we must move quickly."

"Move?" Asuka echoed. "Didn't you see? Shinji's..."

The words died in her throat, threatening to turn into a sob.

"I know," Rei replied. "I think I have known for some time."

Asuka stared. "Y-you knew? You knew that... that..."

"Now is not the time, Pilot Soryhu. Questions and answers will come later. For now, we must do what we can to help him and prevent discovery."

"H-he lied to me," came a whisper.

"And do you want him to die for it?"

Asuka closed her eyes and shook her head, fresh tears flowing down her cheeks.

"Good," Rei said. "Now, help me get him up."

Rising on shaky legs, Asuka gently placed her hand under Shinji's head, and slowly got him into a sitting position. Gently, she pressed her fingers against his neck, and let out a long breath when she felt his pulse. She studied his face for a few moments, taking note of where Godzilla's claws had slashed across.

You stepped in before he could kill me, and he did this to you. And you knew what would happen, didn't you?

There was a sound of shifting rock, and she looked up to see Rei pull out a piece of rebar from the rubble. The blue-haired pilot knelt down and tore off part of her plugsuit, using it to make a poor man's splint around the boy's shattered arm. Then, they carefully hoisted him up over Rei's shoulder in a fireman carry. Asuka recoiled when Shinji winced, and looked down at the drying blood on her hands.

You never told me, she thought to herself. All this time, and I never knew. How? Why?

"You need to stay here and clean your hands," Rei said, seemingly unperturbed by the weight on her shoulders. "It would be suspicious if the recovery teams do not find you here, and that blood is telling."

"Where are you taking him?" Asuka asked, silently.

"To..." The blue-haired girl frowned for a moment. "To friends."

Rei then turned around, and began to run away, moving inhumanly fast as she carried Shinji away.

Asuka numbly watched the two disappear behind a mound of rubble, then slowly began to head back to Unit-01. There was a first-aid kit bolted to the wall of the plug, and she pulled out some alcohol wipes, furiously scrubbing at the blood on her palms.

Once it was done, she threw the wipes away, then curled into a ball. Idly, she noted the crumpled edges of the Eva's armor, where strong hands had pried the plug free.

After everything that'd happened to you, after how badly you'd been hurt... you still went to get me out.

The sun was finally beginning to peek over the mountains, and she watched it slowly rise. And yet, she did not see it.

All she could see was Shinji's bloodied face.

"Why?" she whispered, her voice scratchy. "Why did you do it?"


==/*\==


NERV HQ

Maya leaned against the wall of the meeting room, watching the group with tired eyes. Ritsuko and Major Katsuragi were looking at a holographic map of Tokyo-3, with patches of it highlighted in red. Makoto and Shigeru were sitting nearby, equally exhausted looks on their faces.

"Clean-up is going to be a nightmare," Katsuragi groaned. "We've lost three quarters of automated defenses, a seventh of our protective infrastructure, and that hole in the armor plating is going to be a bitch to fix. And that isn't even counting the number he did on the Evas."

"You're preaching to the choir, here," Ritsuko said, sipping at her coffee. "There's no telling what effect Godzilla's atomic ray had on their tissue. It's possible that we may have to remove the affected flesh before we can begin regenerating the damage, otherwise we may get cancerous lumps instead of usable tissue."

"If that's the case, how long would it take to fully repair Unit-01 and Unit-02?"

"Unit-02 might be ready in a week or two," came the tired reply. "Unit-01? That might be up to a month."

"So you're basically saying that the only defense we have against Angels for the foreseeable future is Unit-00," Katsuragi finished. "Shit. Have we at least gotten news on the pilots?"

"Recovery teams are on their way, Major," Makoto answered, rubbing his face.

"Is no one going to talk about what just happened between the First Child and Godzilla?" Aoba blurted out.

"Now's not the time," Makoto said in a hushed tone.

"When's the right time? Am I taking crazy pills, here? She just... she just talked him down. He tore through us like tissue paper, and now all of a sudden he's carrying the First Child in his hand like she's his little pet human!"

"We can freak out later," Katsuragi said, her voice hard. "Now, we do our job."

Maya watched the conversation for a few more moments, then jumped in her skin when her internal transponder silently pinged. She closed her eyes, letting the message visualize in her mind.

You are needed at this location. Coordinates coming in.

Maya opened her eyes again, then yawned, even though the fatigue had long faded. As predicted, Ritsuko looked over her shoulder, a sympathetic look in her eyes.

"How long have you been on shift, Maya?"

"I think it's been sixteen hours, sempai."

"Go get some rest; you've earned it."

Maya nodded, then ducked out of the room, feigning a stretch as she walked into the hallway. Once she was in the elevator, she stood straight, her countenance shifting to something more focused.

She was needed at the outskirts of the city, in one of the agreed surveillance blind spots. Whatever the reason, it couldn't be good.


==/*\==


The Shobijin were waiting for her, standing on the foot rail of what looked like any other relief truck. Rei slowed to a halt, standing a few feet away from the truck. On her shoulder, she felt Shinji shudder a little as he coughed up some blood onto her back. Once again, she felt Godzilla's guilt caress the back of her mind.

"Why can you not heal him yourselves?" she asked. "Why go through all of this trouble?"

"The presence within him is not of this world," the Shobijin replied.

"It clouds the Goddess's magic," said one.

"It makes interaction difficult beyond words," finished the other.

Rei felt through the link, and realized they were telling the truth. Godzilla had known this being before, millennia before even Göbleki Tepe was built.

The back of the truck opened, and a very average-looking man stuck his head out. His gaze fell on Rei, and his brows raised in surprise.

"Her?" he asked, then looked at the body over her shoulders. "Him?"

"Yes," the Shobijin replied.

The man blinked. "Very well. Let's get him inside."

Rei trudged forward, then carefully laid Shinji down on the bed of the truck. The man knelt down and took his pulse, then reached for a first-aid kit.

"We'll take it from here," he said. "You, on the other hand, have somewhere to be."

Rei nodded, then spared Shinji another glance. "Take care of him."

"Don't worry," the man replied, offering a smile. "We will."

The back of the truck shut, and Rei turned around. Unit-00 was a few hundred meters away, behind a half-slagged blast shield; she could make it over before the recovery teams.

And so, she began the run back, leaping over rubble towards her Eva.


==/*\==


Maya pulled the hood of the parka more closely over her head as she navigated her way around the rubble. It'd been easy so far, avoiding detection; all the recovery teams were focused on retrieving the Evas and their pilots. There had been a close call with an envoy as it raced down one of the least damaged streets, but overall things were running smoothly.

The disguised truck was there, as expected. She hurried over and knocked three times on the back doors, then pulled back. The doors slowly opened, and a familiar head poked out.

"It's good to see that you made it, Maya," her father said.

"I knew it couldn't be good if you needed me here," she replied, trying to look past his shoulder. "What's wrong?"

The Shobijin came into view, floating in the air. "Show her."

Her father sighed, then swung the doors open, prompting a gasp from Maya as her eyes fell upon the bleeding figure on the floor. She took a step inside, then looked back to her father.

"Him?" she whispered.

"I had the same reaction."

May shrugged off her parka, then knelt down by Shinji's side. She carefully laid a hand on his chest, the artificial skin parting as she performed a rough ultrasound of his body. Her eyes switched to infrared sensors, then to x-ray, and she began to take note of his injuries.

"He's hurt bad," Maya said. "Six fractured ribs, punctured lung, severe contusions... there's healing fractures on his vertebrae, too. His regeneration is astonishing by most standards."

"But it is not enough," the Shobijin said.

"We cannot heal him ourselves," one said.

"Your expertise is required."

Maya nodded. She pulled her hand back, and the fingers delicately unfolded like a blossoming flower, revealing a wide variety of medical tools. She went to take care of the punctured lung first, before the pressure became too dangerous. A needle extended from her finger, and she plunged it into Shinji's chest. Blood sprayed out, peppering her face, but she paid it no heed.

Her other hand dispensed a special seal over the wound; it would allow air to leave the wound, but not enter. Once that was taken care of, she carefully began to treat and dress his other wounds, occasionally snipping away burnt skin or removing pieces of dead tissue as to prevent infection. Her middle finger split wide open, and she applied binding adhesives over the claw marks. Thankfully, there were no bone fragments to worry about.

The eye was the hardest part; once she'd cleaned out the wound as much as possible, she snapped an eyepatch over it. Before her eyes, she saw the wounds slowly begin to heal, and the boy's breathing became more regular.

Maya pulled back, sighing with relief. She washed the blood from her equipment, then folded them back into normal hands. Flexing them a few times, she got to her feet and looked at the Shobijin.

"He should be waking up in a few minutes, based on what I've seen of his healing." She rubbed her face, the weariness coming back. "This... I can't believe the commander's own son is..."

"We knew."

"This changes things. His blood's all over the city; once they find out..."

"There's more than just that," her father interjected. "I analyzed his blood pattern, and it's... it's what we predicted."

Maya's eyes widened.

"We've already alerted Deucalion. The plans are being suitably altered."

Maya looked back at Shinji's unconscious form. "What do we do about him?"

"We must walk the only path available to us," the Shobijin. "We must tell him what he needs to know."


==/*\==


Commander Ikari's Office

It felt even colder than last time. The fact that she'd been in the cold rain without any time to dry off probably helped.

Asuka shivered, keeping her fists balled at her sides. It took every remaining ounce of her willpower to keep from hugging herself as she stood before the commander's desk. Rei and Toji stood at each side of her, all at attention.

Commander Ikari simply stared at them for a few moments, looking more like a statue than anything else. As another shiver wracked her, Asuka wondered just how he and Shinji were related.

If they even are related, a part of her said, mockingly. He lied to you about everything else, didn't he? Maybe he's just some thing pretending to be a boy, who's slipped himself into everyone's life without them realizing what's going on. Did you ever think of that?

"This operation was a near-total disaster," the commander said, interrupting Asuka's thoughts. "Damages are estimated at six trillion yen. Our defenses have been crippled, and two Evas have been rendered unusable for weeks."

Asuka hung her head.

"That being said, there was little that could have been done to change our current situation. The First Child will maintain her usual schedule, with slight extensions. The rest of you will begin more intensive training, so that we will be better prepared for the next attack."

"Understood, commander," they all said at once.

"Second Child."

Asuka looked up. The commander looked directly at her, orange lenses almost shining in the low light.

"Our last sighting of the so-called 'Ultraman' indicated that it was flying towards Unit-01. I have also been informed that there is evidence of it opening up the plug. Did you have any interaction with it?"

Go ahead, tell him, that same part of her said. Let him find the boy and cut him up and smear his guts over slides so they can figure out what makes him tick. Wouldn't that be a sight to see? The oh-so-mighty Ultraman on an operating table.

"No," she said. "When I got out of the plug, he was already flying away."

The commander's face remained impassive. "Very well. You and the Fourth Child are dismissed."

Asuka gave a slight bow, then left the room as quickly as she could without making a scene. Once out in the hallway, she let out a long sigh, then rubbed her arms.

"I heard Godzilla whooped Ultraman's ass after we got thrashed," Toji muttered, appearing in her peripherals. "One of the recovery crew guys said the lizard broke his back over his fuckin' knee. Said it'd be a miracle if he survived all that."

Asuka said nothing. The jock looked over, an unhappy look on his face.

"Bet that makes ya happy, huh? Knowin' that he tried ta help us out and got crushed for it. You're probably hopin' that he bleeds out somewhere and never bugs ya again-"

She shoved him against the wall, pushing her forearm into his throat. A wheeze escaped him, eyes wide. Then, she took a step back, clenching and unclenching her fists. Toji bent over, gasping, then straightened, a hand rubbing his throat.

"I don't want to talk about Ultraman," she hissed. "Not with you, not with anyone."

The jock opened his mouth, as if to say something, but she was already brushing past him and making for the elevator. The door slammed shut, and she leaned against the wall, hugging herself.

"I'm not happy, you idiot," she mumbled to herself.


==/*\==


Rei stood alone in the office, staring at the commander. For his part, he stared impassively back at her, keeping his hands folded in front of his face. For a moment, there was a poignant silence between them.

"Your mutation has stabilized," the commander finally said.

Rei nodded.

"Only one other person who's been exposed to G-cell serum shares that honor with you. You know who I am speaking of."

"Yes, commander."

"Then I can assume that you now have a connection with him."

Godzilla's mind bristled at that, as though desiring for her to declare "And you wouldn't believe what he has to say". Rei could feel his anger bubbling in her chest, screaming to snap the commander's neck while she had the opportunity.

"Yes, commander," she simply replied.

"Though his attack was highly undesired, it has also opened a new opportunity for us. It is not every day we have a lifeline to the most powerful being on Earth."

The commander leaned forward, ever so slightly. "Now, I ask you a simple question, Rei. Has your mission changed at all, now that your connection with him has been fully solidified?"

Rei straightened. "No, commander."

"Very well. You are dismissed."

Rei bowed, then left the office. Once outside, she let out a breath she didn't know she was holding.


==/*\==


All he could see was water, swirling about him, hiding everything else from sight. Occasionally an image flashed by, more of an impression of an image than anything else. Blue eyes looking at him with worry. Fiery orange ones looking at him with fury, then concern.

The shadows in the water seemed to coalesce, until he found himself standing before a massive figure that seemed almost wholly shapeless. It loomed over him, bigger than the sky, and once again he felt as though a great drum was sounding...

Shinji sprung up, a hand on his chest. Looking around, he saw that he was in a van, with bloodied bandages and first-aid supplies strung about. It was then that he realized there was a patch over his eye. Slowly, he reached out to touch it, then stopped. The pain had lessened, becoming more of a nuisance than anything else, but he feared what he'd find underneath.

He tried to remember what had happened, after he'd flown over to Unit-01. He got the vague impression of more pain, followed by a tender touch...

His eyes widened when he realized his helmet was off. Looking to the side, he saw it had been removed, staring back at him with it sole remaining lens.

"No," he whispered. "She..."

He closed his eyes. Hayata, where are we? What happened?

I don't know, Shinji.

"It is good to see that you are awake, young Ikari."

Shinji jumped at the voice, then turned to see a pair of tiny women standing before him, perched atop a box. They smiled warmly at him, clasping their hands together.

The Shobijin, Hayata said, sounding pleasantly surprised. It was their singing we heard before we fought the Seventh Angel. They are to be trusted.

"W-what..." Shinji licked his dry lips, wincing at the dull pain in his jaw. "What happened?"

"It's a long story, Shinji," another voice said.

Now, he could see that behind the tiny women were an average-looking man in a jumpsuit, and...

"Miss Ibuki?"

"You can call me Maya," the technician replied. She gestured to the man at her right. "This is my father. You've already met him before."

Shinji's brow furrowed. "I don't think I've ever seen him before."

"You saw me in the Jet Alone," the man said, offering a sly grin. "Of course, I looked different then..."

For effect, he pulled open his shirt, revealing a bare chest. Then, the skin parted, revealing delicate machinery within.

No, Shinji thought.

It seems so, Hayata remarked, wryly.

"Y-you're... you're..."

"Jet Jaguar, yes. This is a humaniform model I've put my consciousness for the time being."

"Then how-"

"Goro Ibuki never had any children," Maya said. "Neither did his brother, or his nephew. Jet made me, after ten attempts to replicate his father's work. I was M-11, and the Xilien word for eleven is aya, so..."

"Maya," Jet finished.

Shinji blinked a few times, as though expecting to still find himself unconscious, bleeding out from his injuries.

"W-what's going on? Why am I here? Is Asuka alright?" He put a hand to his head, groaning. "I'm so confused right now."

"It is to be expected," the Shobijin said. "Which is why we are here."

Shinji looked to them, then to Jet and Maya. All of them had suddenly quieted, a subdued look on their faces.

"Shinji, it's time to tell you some things," Maya said, softly. "Things that you need to know about your father and NERV..."


==/*\==


NERV HQ

"The roads should be clear by the time we get to the surface," Misato said, leaning back in the car seat as they were carried upwards. "Traffic's still probably going to be a nightmare, with everyone getting out of the shelters."

"Okay," Asuka muttered, arms still crossed over her stomach.

"It'll be good to see Pen-Pen and Shinji again, huh?"

A pause, then, "Sure."

Misato frowned, and glanced over. Asuka was staring out the car window, an unusually dour look on her face.

"I know that fight must have been upsetting," she said, trying to sound soothing. "It's not every day we get our butts handed to us like that."

"It's not the fight," Asuka said, not looking away. "I mean, it is, but it's not."

"Care to talk about it?"

"No," Asuka said, tersely. "Please, stop talking about it."

Silence. The car jolted to a halt, then was elevated to street level. Now that she was on the ground and could see the buildings rise upwards, Misato could appreciate how much of a literal life-saver Tokyo-3's defense systems were.

This could have been worse, she thought. A whole lot worse.

Then she shifted the car into drive, and began to head back home.


==/*\==


The silence in the van was unbearable. Shinji's eyes darted back and forth between everyone in the van, a chill forming in the pit of his stomach. Hayata was silent, as though to try and make sense of what was happening.

"What... what do you mean?" he finally asked.

"Have you ever wondered why the Angels are coming?" Maya asked, kneeling down to be at eye level. "Where they come from, what their motives are?"

"I mean, I have," Shinji said, quietly. "But I thought they were just a new type of kaiju."

"They are not like any of the beasts Man has encountered before," the Shobijin said. "They are not of this world, and yet they are as closely tied with it as you are."

That... makes little sense, Hayata said. Your species clearly evolved here.

"Think of the AT-field," Jet said. "Both Angels and Evangelions can produce them, and both are ultimately biological nature in nature. Did you ever consider why there was a link between them?"

We have, haven't we? Hayata piped up.

"The Evas are made from Angels?"

"Not exactly," Maya interjected. "We think they're made from some kind of progenitor being, except for Unit-01."

A shudder ran up his spine at the thought of what that could mean. "Then what's it made from?"

"That is a point for a later time," the Shobijin said. "We cannot tell you everything yet, young Ikari."

"We have placed trust in you, and now you must trust us," began one.

"Soon, you will receive all that we know, but today is not that time," finished the other.

"You need to trust us on this, Shinji," Maya pleaded. "Your father and NERV are directly connected to all of this. They're connected to the Angels, and to Second Impact."

For a few moments, he simply stared at her. He opened his mouth, but no words came out.

"W-what? I thought the Angels were the ones who caused Second Impact."

The uncomfortable silence that followed was damning enough. Shinji closed his eyes, forcing himself to take even breaths.

This can't be real. They have to be lying, right? Right?

I wish for it to be a lie, but it seems more and more unlikely. This would answer many things about the situation your world is in.

"We've told him too much already," Jet admonished.

"We have told as much as we need," the Shobijin said, turning to Shinji. "Young Ikari, we ask that you place your trust in us."

"T-trust?" Shinji echoed. "You're telling me that my father is responsible for all of this... how can I believe you?"

"Young Ikari, what does he think?"

A moment's silence. Shinji's breath caught as he realized who they were talking about.

"What do you mean?" he asked, trying to sound confident.

"The one who has bonded his life to yours; the one who has given you your power."

Shinji let out a long breath. "He trusts you."

"We aren't expecting you to suddenly jump on our boat," Maya said. "This... this is going to take time for you to process. But there is a crucial time coming soon, and we hope you make the right choice when it comes."

Jet knelt down, and handed Shinji back his helmet. He accepted it, and looked down at the battered visage.

"How will you know?"

"Follow Ayanami's lead, if you so decide," the Shobijin said. "She will know."

Shinji slipped his helmet back on, and slowly stood up. His body ached as he did so, but it was trifling compared to the agony of before.

"It's best that you get going," Jet said. "I'm sure there's someone who'd notice if you weren't there."


==/*\==


Misato's Apartment

Asuka walked up the steps in silence, trailing behind Misato. The sun was up, shining brightly, but its warm light on her skin did nothing to make her feel better. Her throat hurt, and her eyes felt as though they had been filled with lead; she practically dragged her feet up the stairs.

A knot began to appear in the pit of her stomach as they approached the door to their apartment. She quickened her pace, following after Misato, and tried to formulate possible explanations if no one was inside.

Do you even want to? That part of her asked. Why should you lie for the sake of a liar?

When Misato went to open the door, Asuka suddenly grabbed the woman's hand. Her guardian looked back to her, a confused look in her eyes.

"Something wrong?"

Asuka looked away, and pulled her hand back. "Nothing."

Misato frowned, then thumbed in the passcode. Asuka closed her eyes and flinched as the door slid open, then forced herself to look inside. When she did, a wave of... something washed over her.

Shinji was sweeping the floor, dressed in his school uniform. Aside from a trio of scratches across his face, he seemed fine; he was definitely looking far better than the last time she'd seen him. The boy glanced her way, seemingly caught off guard.

"Shinji, what happened to your face?" Misato exclaimed, rushing over. She forced his head to the side, eyeing the scratches. "Did Pen-Pen do this to you?"

"Y-yeah," he replied, averting his eyes. "When the fighting started, he got all startled, and I tried to hold him, b-but he managed to get me."

Misato glared over at the penguin, who'd just walked into the room with a confused look on its face.

"You are in a lot of trouble, buster."

"Wark?"

"You heard me." Misato scooped the penguin up, and walked out of the room, muttering, "I think some time out in my room will do you good."

"Wark!" Pen-Pen shrieked, a panicked look in its eyes.

Misato ignored her pet's protests as she ducked into her room. The door shut, and suddenly Asuka was alone in the room.

No. Not alone.

She turned back to Shinji, staring at him. He looked back at her, their blue eyes gazing into each other. They didn't break eye contact, even as she slowly walked towards him. The room had turned as silent as a tomb; it was as though everything else had faded away, just leaving him and her.

What lie is he going to tell you? That part of her whispered, mocking. What is he going to say, to try and hide from your anger?

Shinji began to step back from her, eyes widening as she came ever closer. When his back bumped into the sink, she finally stopped, standing closer than arm's length from him. He raised his hands to his chest, revealing bruised and scarred knuckles. That, she realized numbly, was from punching Godzilla in the face.

Though he had showered, she could still smell the last few hours on him. Blood, sweat, mud, and more than a hint of smoke. The marks across his face had faded from the angry red gashes they had been earlier, but she could still see the faint mark on his iris where Godzilla's claw had sliced through.

For a few moments, she simply stood before him; staring, watching, waiting. Her body trembled with emotion, and she slowly raised a hand.

"Asuka..." Shinji said, softly. "I'm sorry."

The words hung in the still air.

Then Asuka closed her eyes, and turned away, refusing to let him see the tears. She ran to her room, shutting the door after her. Leaning against the wall, she slid to the floor, and pulled her legs close to her chest. Soft footsteps approached, and she heard a single gentle knock on the door.

When she didn't get up, the footsteps retreated, and Asuka finally began to cry.


==/*\==


The SDAT track repeated, but Shinji didn't notice as he laid on his sleeping mat. He simply let the music pass through his mind, as though he could lose himself in it and be taken far away. Hayata had fallen silent, only occasionally murmuring something about what they'd been told in the van.

Shinji rolled over, closing his eyes as he tried to fall asleep. He'd drawn the curtains and turned off the lights, but the circadian rhythm was not something to be easily dissuaded. He finally laid on his back, staring at the ceiling.

You haven't said anything since she went to her room, Hayata finally said. Are you alright?

You know I'm not.

It... it has been a trying day. That horrific fight with Godzilla almost feels like the least of our worries, does it not?

Shinji didn't reply.

I understand if you wish to try and make sense of everything that's happened in silence. It's a lot to take in. Part of me wishes that what they said was a lie, that... that your father... Hayata fell silent, then continued. It's times like these that I regret not having a physical form to give you a hug with. I'm always here if you need to talk.

The door slid open, and a figure silent entered the room. Shinji craned his head in time to see Asuka kneel down on his sleeping mat, looking down at him with slightly puffy eyes. She placed her hands on her lap, twiddling her thumbs as she stared at him.

Shinji sat up, looking at her. He wet his lips, and his throat suddenly felt dry.

"Do..." he began. "Do you hate me?"

She suddenly wrapped her arms around him, squeezing him tightly. Shinji's back groaned in protest, but he didn't dare to make a sound as Asuka leaned her head against hist chest. Her hair tickled his face, and it took all of his willpower not to sneeze.

"You're okay," Asuka said, almost too quiet to hear. "Gott sei Dank, es geht dir gut."

She finally let go, and Shinji found he could breathe again. Asuka scooted back slightly, looking at him expectantly.

"We have a lot to talk about," she said, sounding rather restrained. "You first."

Shinji sucked in a deep breath. "What did you want to know?"

"Why did you lie to me?"

"I... I wanted to tell you, before all of this. I really did."

"You didn't."

Shinji looked down. "I was scared."

"You, scared? What could possibly scare the mighty Ultraman?"

"This."

Silence.

"I saw how angry you were at... him, when he first killed an Angel, and I didn't want that. I didn't want you to hate me. I just wanted you to see me as me."

"And are you?"

Shinji blinked at her. "What?"

"Are you..." Asuka motioned with her hands. "You?"

"I'm just Shinji. I... I wasn't born Ultraman. I just found him."

"Found him?"

You're actually dragging me into this, Hayata groaned.

Shinji held out his hand, and let the capsule materialize in his palm. Asuka stared at it, eyes wide.

"I found this before the first Angel attack. It fell from the sky, right next to me, and I just picked it up and he told me that I could save the world."

"So... Ultraman's an..."

"Maybe? No. He's in my mind, and he gives me the power to be Ultraman, but it's my choice. He always lets it be my choice to become Ultraman. When... when I fight an Angel, or help people out, it's me doing it."

Asuka regarded him for a moment. "The truffles. You got actually went to Germany for them, didn't you?"

Shinji nodded. "Hayata didn't want me to do it."

"Hayata?"

"That's his name," Shinji replied, sheepishly. "He didn't have one, and I gave it to him. He... uh... he doesn't like you too much."

You don't have to say it, Hayata said.

Asuka didn't seem to acknowledge that. She simply peered at him with curious eyes.

"So, when you spoke to me after the Seventh Angel, that was you. And when you came to save me on Skull Island, it was all you."

Shinji nodded, his cheeks burning.

"And it was you who fought Godzilla, even when he did-" Asuka gestured to his scars. "That?"

Shinji looked away. "Hayata just wanted me to find a place to heal, but I had to see if you were okay."

"But why did you wait to fight him?"

"Because I knew I was probably going to die. I-I froze up. It was only when he was about to kill..."

Asuka stared. "You risked your life against the King of the Monsters... for me?"

I'd say we also risked it for everyone else in Tokyo-3, Hayata muttered.

Shinji looked back at her. "I did."

Asuka studied him for a few more moments. Then, she laid down on the sleeping mat, and pulled the covers over her.

"I'm sleeping here for the night. I don't think I want to be alone right now."

Shinj nodded, his blush growing deeper. "O-okay."

He awkwardly lay back down, trying to forget the body heat between them.

"I'm still mad at you," Asuka murmured. "But I don't hate you."

"O-okay."

Asuka chuckled softly. "Heh. I just realized that joke of yours after the Seventh Angel wasn't actually a joke, huh?"

"N-no."

"Goodnight, Shinji."

"Goodnight, Asuka."

Shinji closed his eyes, and tried to get some sleep.


==/*\==


Elsewhere

The phone rang, and a large hand picked it up.

"Report."

"This is Pinocchio speaking. Izanami has stabilized her link with Ōwatatsumi ."

"Then pray tell, did the predicted result play out?"

"It seems so, considering that there's still a city left. She helped conceal Susano-o and brought him to us for treatment. He should be fully recovered by now."

"How much did you tell him?"

"Enough. Hopefully, he'll follow Izanami's lead when we go in for our pick-up."

"And you were able to confirm that he is Susano-o?"

"The pattern matches, but there's more. It's the boy, sir."

"Mon Dieu." A few moments of silence. "Then swiftness is of the essence. We must pull them out before any more traps are sprung."

"Shouldn't be too hard, considering we now have more options to, ah, coordinate with."

"Indeed. Make the necessary preparations, and inform me when you are able."

"Understood, sir."

The call ended, and the hand returned to its work.


==/*\==


Commander Ikari's Office

"And so, the Leviathan brought a flood of his own, and has nearly washed away the sins of Man," SEELE 05 said, an icy tone to his voice.

"Yes, along with trillions of yen and much of the city's defenses," SEELE 04 added. "I would regard this as a failure."

"Failure would entail the loss of our Evangelions, or the Leviathan delivering a final judgment upon Lilith," Gendo replied, sitting calmly before the gathered holograms. "We are vulnerable for the time being, but that is only temporary. The UN, however, will be forced to wholly rely upon us, now. The damages incurred are mild, when compared to the alternatives."

"I concur," SEELE 01 said, practically a wheeze. "Our path to complementation is not yet lost to us. The floodwaters have receded, and now we can press forward once more."

"And what of this Ultraman?" SEELE 09 interjected. "Though we can now take pains to avoid the Leviathan's wrath, there is no telling what this interloper may attempt next. He has managed to infiltrate NERV itself; who is to say that it cannot approach Lilith herself?"

"That is assuming that the Leviathan did not finish it off, according to the reports," SEELE 02 said. "Even it was no match for the beast."

"I assure you, the situation regarding this Ultraman is now firmly under control," Gendo said. "The Leviathan's arrival proved most useful in that regard."

"So it is dead, then?" SEELE 07 asked.

"It will no longer pose a threat to Instrumentality."

There was a half-moment's pause at that, then SEELE 01 broke the silence.

"Very well, Ikari. You have proven yourself invaluable thus far," he said, his authoritative tone silencing any form of protest. "This meeting is dismissed."

One by one, the monoliths vanished, until only SEELE 01 remained. The hologram shifted, revealing Kihl's grim countenance. His skin was rather flushed; evidently, he'd taken an LCL bath recently.

"It was bold of you, Ikari," he rasped. "What you did to the girl. One would have to either be mad, or a genius, to give her the blood of the King of Earth."

"The fact that we hold this conversation points towards the latter."

"Perhaps." Kihl's wrinkled lips peeled back, revealing crooked yellow teeth. "A line to the mightiest being of this world. We would be fools to try and rein in the girl ourselves, lest we have his fury crush us to radioactive dust. You planned this, Ikari."

"Indeed."

For a moment, neither spoke as they studied each other's expressions, looking for any chinks in the masks they wore.

"My old friend will attempt to capitalize on the chaos. Do not let him compromise the girl, or all we be lost."

The image of Kihl disappeared, and Gendo straightened in his seat, unclasping his hands. He drew in a long breath, then rose from his seat. He turned to Fuyutsuki, taking note of the old man's worried expression.

"It's possible that she's already been compromised," Fuyutsuki said. "Gojira likely remembers more of that time than we can ever hope to reconstruct. If she saw all of it..."

"It is of no concern. Regardless of whether she stands with us or against us, the Scenario proceeds. We may have not been able to pull the Leviathan in with a fishhook and tie down his tongue with a rope, but there is now a cord through his nose."

Gendo pushed up his glasses. "I'm heading down to Terminal Dogma, to inspect any potential risks done to its structural integrity by this latest attack."

Fuyutsuki nodded, but said nothing.

With that, Gendo left the room, and the door shut behind him.


==/*\==


Berlin

The holographic emitter folded back into itself, and Lorentz Kihl reached for his tea. Through the visor grafted into his skull, the fine porcelain cup was shown in basic hues of white and blacks, looking more like a painting of a cup than anything real. His arthritic fingers fumbled for the handle, and the lid clattered as he tried to lift it.

"Allow me, father," a gentle voice said.

Soft hands the color of marble took hold of the cup and saucer, gently lifting it to Kihl's lips. He took a sip, then motioned for it to be placed back down.

"You will be sent to Japan in short order, my son."

"I am aware, father."

Kihl smiled with thin lips. "Be wary of the Bride in the East. Be wary of the other girl, whose despair must bring about our union with the Mother."

"Yes, father."

"But be wary of the boy, most of all. If what is feared is true, then it is he who has destiny of God in his blood."

Kaworu Nagisa managed a smile of his own. "Of course, father."


==/*\==


The last set of elevator doors opened, and Gendo closed his eyes as a gentle breeze rolled across him, ruffling his hair. Bright light assailed his eyes, and he forced himself to adapt to it. Spending all day in an underground base was not healthy for his sight; at least this little sojourn would do him well.

He stepped into the chamber, and looked around. The inner cavern of Terminal Dogma was massive, enough to give the impression of an open sky, much like the Geofront proper. Clouds even drifted about the ceiling of the chamber, wafting over the very top of the Tree.

The Tree...

No matter how many times he visited it here, in the bowels of the Earth, it never failed to strike him with indescribable awe. It simply towered over him; according to the surveyors when they'd first uncovered the Black Moon, it was more than two kilometers high.

He began to walk up the hill, taking care to avoid stepping in the rivulets of LCL that snaked their way through the various plants that dotted the landscape. No two sprouts were alike; each one was representative of a species of grass or shrub or bush, living and extinct.

Of course, he didn't care for those. What his attention was focused on was not the Tree itself, but rather what rested against its trunk.

He ceased walking, and looked up at the female figure crucified to the Tree. When compared to the source of all life on Earth it was pinned to, the slender body seemed tiny, but even it was half the size of an Evangelion. LCL trickled from between the stumps of its legs, washing over the Tree's roots as it flowed into the collection tank they had made, and its white flesh seemed to practically glow in the morning light.

It was still secured to the tree, unmoved by the titanic battle that had raged above. Gendo studied its seven-eyed mask, as though waiting for a sign of movement, then gave a satisfied nod.

He began his trek back to civilization, and let Lilith be.


==/*\==


You have been reading:

Leviathan, Chapter Seventeen: In the Wake of a Storm


==/*\==


A/N: I hope you guys liked this chapter. Once more, I'm responding to some repeated comments that I wish would stop being repeated.

Firstly, some have stated their disdain for how I changed Godzilla's origin, claiming that I weakened the nuclear bomb allegory that accompanied the original Gojira. Others have been making requests that I cram in characters that they want to see.

For the first point: Godzilla is still tied to the nuclear bomb in this story. It may not have made him, but it is what woke him up and introduced the modern world to his existence. So, nuclear tests are still the reason human civilization has been, er, graced by his presence.

Secondly, almost all the kaiju that will be in the story have already been shown. There will be a few more (mainly villains), but for the most part, what you see is what you're getting. Even if Godzilla and the tougher kaiju survived Second Impact, that cataclysmic event was still the end of an age.

A major element of Evangelion is trying to pick up the pieces after a big change, and it's been my intent to show that here. Kaiju basically became boogeymen for the younger generations; many lost technologies are only now being recovered; magic and psychics and many of the more outlandish elements are either completely forgotten, or believed lost.

That message would be rather diminished if every single last kaiju wound up in this story, eh?

Don't worry; there's still going to be plenty of monster action. But don't go expecting absurdly large monster mashes with dozens of kaiju on either side.

Until next time,
Thuktun Flishithy