Title:  Doing the Unexpected


Author: Goddess Evie

Classification/Rating: X-Over, Slight HR, Angst/PG

Disclaimer: I do not own Evangelion OR Jonny Quest or any related images or characters.  This story was made purely for personal fulfillment and satisfaction and no money is being made.  If anybody else finds enjoyment through this piece of work, it is through their own expense and I gain nothing (aside from a few reviews that give me the warm fuzzy feeling).

Summary: A Jonny Quest/Evangelion crossover, that turned out angsty instead of lighthearted and funny.

Author's Notes: I wrote this in answer to a fic challenge on the JQ mailing list I'm a part of, and it totally did not come out as I expected.  Reading it over, I realized that it really wasn't that bad, in fact, it was pretty good, so here I am submitting it to you guys to read if you'd like.  Please, enjoy.

Doing the Unexpected

***Tokyo 3: Random Street***

 Shinji and Jonny looked at Toji and Kensaki with uncertainty in their faces.  The two were too busy laughing to return the looks.  Shinji and Jonny sneaked each other a glance, wondering how they could get out of this hopeless situation.

"Don't tell me you two are chicken?!"   Toji exclaimed still laughing.

"NO!" Shinji replied at the same time Jonny was yelling, "You know we aren't!"

"So why won't you do it?" Kensaki teased.

"Cause…well…ummm…"Shinji tried to come up with an answer but found he couldn't.

"Cause you're chicken," Toji repeated.

"Fine, we'll do it," Jonny finally agreed getting a wide-eyed look from Shinji.

Toji and Kensaki froze, their laughter and teasing stopped.  Huge smiles appeared on their faces.

"Wow, we didn't think you'd actually do it," Toji admitted.

"But now that you've agreed it's too late to back out," Kensaki informed, his smile widening.

"What…but…he…I didn't…" Shinji gave up once again, knowing by the smiles on his friend's faces that they weren't going to let him out of this.  He gave a sigh of defeat and nodded his head.

"So, Friday night you two take a girl out on a date," Toji reminded with a satisfied tone to his voice.

"We know, we know," Jonny assured.

The boys laughed.  "We better get going, you two probably have tests or something," Toji excused himself and Kensaki.  Together they walked away, laughing and celebrating their victory.

"WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?!"  Shinji yelled at Jonny as soon as their friends were out of earshot.

"Sorry, but..."Jonny let his excuse fade off, averting his eyes.

"But you can't refuse a challenge!" Shinji finished for him.

"Look, we'd better get going if we don't want to be late.  We *do* have tests today."

Deciding to let it go for now, and knowing he really didn't have a choice anyway one looked at it, Shinji sighed, nodded and followed Jonny.

***NERV Headquarters: Boys locker room***

"So who are you gonna ask?"

"I dunno.  How about you?"


"We only have three days," Jonny reminded slipping into the baggy suit.

"I know," Shinji pressed the button on the wrist of his suit and it tightened to fit like a second skin.

Jonny did the same, his black suit tightening around his body, making his light features stand out.

"You ready?" the blond boy asked.

"Yeah," Shinji replied.

Jonny nodded and they headed out of the locker room.  The walk to the briefing room was silent, neither boy felt much like talking.  Just as they reached the door, Jonny stopped.

"I'm sorry, about getting you into this," he apologized.

"It's okay, they would have accepted all or none anyways," Shinji replied.

"But I shouldn't have agreed to it, not without making sure you were okay with it first," Jonny objected.

"Look, don't' worry about it.  It'll be easier to get through together anyway," Shinji assured.

"Yeah," Jonny agreed with a small smile.

"They're probably waiting," Shinji gestured to the door.

Both boys gave each other a more confident look then strode through the door.

***NERV Headquarters: Debriefing room***

"Gee!  What took you so long?!"  Asuka berated in her high-pitched voice.

Jessie gave the carrot haired pilot a glare over the doll like girl that stood between them, but then turned an annoyed look on the two boys.  "Can't you be on time for once?" she asked in a more normal pitched, but still annoyed voice.

"Well excuse us for having lives," Jonny replied sarcastically.

"There's no excuse for you two," Asuka assured.

"ENOUGH!" Misato's voice rang through the ensuing silence, her glare intimidating all five pilots.

With their heads bowed the two boys moved to stand in line with their female counterparts.

Misato closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths to calm and compose herself.  She opened her eyes and silently watched the pilots, knowing it would make them even more nervous.

"We're going to do another synchronization test," she began.

***NERV Headquarters: Hallway outside locker rooms***

"Those tests are so mundane," Jessie sighed.

Asuka rolled her eyes.  "You know that they are necessary and important," she replied.

"Doesn't make them any less mundane…where are those two?!"  Jessie replied.

Asuka gave a humph and turned away from Jessie, folding her arms under her breasts.  Jessie rolled her eyes and checked her watch, her foot tapping unconsciously.  Finally, the door to the boys' locker room opened and the two boys stepped out.

"Finally!" both girls exclaimed at the same time.

They glared at each other and the boys could feel the sweat drops forming on their heads.  "Hey Jess, we better get home so we can get started on our homework!" Jonny chimed.  "As soon as we're done Misato said we could call our fathers!"

Jessie's face lit up immediately and the spring in her step was quite evident as she walked away with Jonny, leaving Shinji alone with Asuka.

"I guess we better get going, too," she sighed, a very unenthusiastic tone to her voice.

"Yeah," Shinji agreed as enthusiastically as Asuka had.

***Misato Katsuragi's Apartment: Shinji's Room***

Shinji watched Jonny and Jessie talk and laugh with their fathers over the phones from his room, the door cracked open slightly.  He had to admit to himself, if not anyone else, that he envied their friendship.  Sure they argued sometimes, but they were really good friends for the most part and got along quite well.  Shinji didn't have anyone like that.  He was always arguing with Asuka and on the opposite end Rei didn't talk much.  The closest thing he had to the relationship Jonny and Jessie had was Misato.  But she was too old, though he'd never say that to her, and she was his boss.

Shinji sighed and closed the door the rest of the way.  He laid back with his hands clasped behind his head.  He guessed he could count Toji and Kensaki, but the truth of it was they were just a couple of guys to hang out with and tease.  Sure, they were his friends, and he liked them and worried about them whenever an Angel attacked, and he knew they felt the same way.  But he wanted a friend like Jonny had Jessie.

Another sigh escaped from Shinji as he pushed those thoughts from his head.  But new one's appeared.  *Who are you gonna ask?* a voice asked him.

"I don't know," he whined to it out loud.

*What about Asuka?  You've already kissed her.  What harm's a date gonna do?*

"Maybe..." Shinji considered.

***Misato Katsuragi's Apartment: Front Room***

Jonny was silent as he hung up the phone, but he wore the same soft smile that Jessie did.

"I miss them so much," the red head sighed.

"Yeah me too, but what we're doing is important," Jonny reminded.

Jessie nodded.  "I just wish we could go visit them.  But we never know when the next Angel will attack."  Jessie waited for Jonny to say something, but when he didn't she turned on him with a concerned frown.  "Are you okay?"

He looked up at her, surprised from his thoughts, and gave her frown a reassuring smile.  "I'm fine, I was just thinking."

"About what?"  Jessie asked congenially, a friendly smile having replaced her frown.

But now Jonny was frowning at her in a thoughtful way.  Suddenly his eyes lit up as if he had just gotten an idea.  "Hey, Jess, how would you like to go out Friday night.  We could get some dinner than catch a movie or something."

Jessie raised her eyebrow at the blonde.  "Are asking me for a date Jonny Quest?"

"No!" Jonny assured a little too quickly and vehemently.  "I was just thinking we should do something that normal teens would do."

"Like go on dates," Jessie suggested, wearing a sly grin as she hugged her knees to her chest.

"We can ask Shinji to come with us if that'll make you feel better," Jonny offered.

Jessie laughed.  "Alright, sounds good to me," she finally agreed.

***Tokyo 3: Classroom***

"So what made you decide on Jessie?"  Kensaki asked in a soft voice during the lunch hour.

Jonny shrugged.  "I dunno.  She's my friend and I thought it would be fun."

"So it's not because you like her?"  Toji asked with a knowing smile on his face that was reflected on Kensaki's face.

"No," Jonny replied giving the two a disgusted look.

The two boys snickered as they turned on Shinji.  "So how about you?  Have you asked anyone yet?"

"Well...I was sort of kinda thinking of asking Asuka," Shinji replied meekly.

"What?!?!" the two boys exclaimed together attracting the attention of the rest of the class.

"Shhh," Shinji hissed at them.

The four boys looked around the room with their eyes, waiting for the other students to lose interest.  As soon as they weren't the center of attention any longer they continued in hushed voices.

"Are you crazy?!?!" Toji hissed.

"That's like sleeping with the enemy!" Kensaki added.

"Well, I can't think of anyone else!" the excuse sounded weak to even Shinji.

Toji and Kensaki got a familiar twinkle in their eyes.  "There's always Misato....." they said in unison.

Both Jonny and Shinji gave the boys unbelieving looks.

"No thanks," Shinji replied.

"You two are hopeless," Jonny told them.

But the two were already lost in their dreams of Misato Katsuragi.

***Tokyo 3: Classroom Halls***

Shinji peeked around the corner of the hall at where Asuka and the class Rep were talking.  They were standing by the entrance to the school, a bright sunny day making them nothing more than dark silhouettes.  He pulled his head back around and leaned against the wall wringing his hands.

"I mustn't run away, I mustn't run away..." he chanted his mantra trying to build up the courage to walk down the hall and ask Asuka for a date.

He turned to peek around the corner again, but found only an empty hallway.  He returned to his wall with a sigh.  He then gave a yelp.  Rei Ayanami was staring at him with those blood red eyes set in an expressionless face.

"Uh, hi Rei," he greeted her a bit nervously.

No answer, just a blink of the eyes.

"What are you doing?" he asked her tentatively.

Another non-response, and she didn't blink this time.

Shinji glanced over his shoulder as if he could see Asuka, then slowly turned to look at Rei.   His eyes widened as if getting an idea and a shy smile came to his lips.

"Umm Rei?  Would you like to go to dinner and a movie with me Friday night?" Shinji asked feeling ten times more nervous than when he was merely contemplating asking Asuka out.

She sat there, staring at him, blinking every so often for a few minutes.  Shinji's nervousness rose steadily during those few minutes.  Then, without warning, Rei gave a crisp nod before turning and walking briskly away down the hall.

Shinji stood blinking at her for a few moments before he finally realized he was depriving himself of oxygen and started breathing again.  He watched as Rei disappeared at the end of the hall, then realization hit and he almost hit the floor.

"I just asked Rei out," he whispered to himself.  There was a pause before he continued in an incredulous tone, "And she said yes!"

***Misato Katsuragi's Apartment: Front Hall***

Misato looked the four pilots over with a huge smile.  Shinji, Jonny and Jessie were all wearing casual clothes: Jeans and T-shirts.  Rei was dressed in her school uniform as always.  Standing behind them was Asuka, her arms folded beneath her breasts, glaring at her fellow children.

"I guess we should get going," Jonny suggested smiling at his companions.

Jessie and Shinji nodded.  Rei made no reply.

"Have a good time!"  Misato bid as she held the door to the apartment open for them.

"Yeah, have a great time," Asuka muttered sarcastically.

Misato closed the door behind the four teens and turned toward the one remaining.  "Well, it looks like just you and me tonight, Asuka," she said cheerfully.

"Don't remind me!" Asuka wailed as she fled to her room.

Misato gave a sigh, her cheery mood gone, and headed after the German girl.

***Tokyo 3: Random Restaurant***

"So, are you enjoying yourself?" Shinji nervously asked Rei.

He listened to Jonny and Jessie's chattel as he waited for Rei to answer.  She finished what she was eating, her eyes gazing at her bowl of noodles, before looking up at him.

"This is nice," it sounded more like she was stating a fact than expressing an opinion.

"I'm glad you like it," Shinji thanked with a nervous laugh.

Rei gave a slight nod and returned to her noodles.  Shinji sighed and began sipping at his soup.

"You two are so quiet. Come on, you gotta have something to say!" Jonny interrupted the couple's eating.

Rei and Shinji looked at him while Jessie giggled.  "Yeah, if you want you can join in on our conversation."

Shinji sent a nervous glance at Rei who was staring at the two Americans.  "Umm, what are you talking about?" Shinji inquired.

Jessie smiled softly at Jonny, who returned it with a trademark grin.  "Actually we were reminiscing about home," Jonny admitted.

Jessie wrapped her arms around herself and sighed.  "We miss our family so much," she breathed.

Jonny put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.  She laid her head on his shoulder.

"Tell us about your home," Rei requested quietly.

Jonny and Jessie looked at each other again, another smile passing between them.

"Well," Jonny began, "we lived in Maine..."

***Tokyo 3: Outside a Movie Theater***

"Anything look good to anyone?"  Shinji asked.

"Not really," Jessie replied unenthusiastically.

"Nothing looks good from my point of view either," Jonny admitted.

"What about you Rei?" Shinji asked, turning to her.

Her eyes were scanning the movie titles, but she shook her head no.  It was just the slightest motion of her head, but Shinji caught it just the same.

"Maybe we should find something better to do," he suggested.

"It's a nice night," Jessie said, looking around.  "Why don't we just take a walk?"

She watched the others for a reply.  The other three nodded their consent and they were on their way.

***Tokyo 3: Random park***

The conversation had turned back to Jonny and Jessie's home. They didn't mind sharing their memories as they walked along, arms around each other's waist.  Shinji found himself both enjoying the stories and being envious of the close friendship the two shared.

He sighed and glanced at Rei.  She walked at his side, eyes looking straight ahead, hands clasped behind her.  He'd always wished he could get her to open up, but the most emotion he'd seen her show was the lighting of her eyes whenever his father was near.

A claxon blared nosily, ripping Shinji from his thoughts.  The four teens became alert immediately.

"It's an Angel!"  Shinji cried.

In the city the four could see buildings lowering into the ground.  People were running for shelter, even if it was just the few late nighters.

"We have to get to NERV!"  Jonny yelled, already off and running, towing Jessie along behind him.

Shinji looked at Rei, then dashed off after them with a, "Come on!"

After a small pause, Rei followed.

***Misato Katsuragi's Apartment: Front Room***

"Angel!"  Asuka cried.

Misato grabbed the girl's hand and hauled her out the door, not even bothering with shoes or decent clothes.  She pulled the girl down the stairs, ignoring her rants and screams, and out into the night.

 "Hurry!" she ordered, finally letting go of the pilot's hand to enter her car.

Misato started the engine just as Asuka jumped into the passenger seat, and sped off even before she could close her door.

"Misato!  Don't kill me!"  Asuka yelled.

"Sorry," Misato replied.

But Asuka could tell she was already in "Major" mode.  Asuka gave a sigh and leaned her forehead against the window.

***NERV Headquarters: Locker Room***

Asuka hurried into her flight suit.  It was quite baggy as she put it on, but once she pressed a certain spot on the left wrist it tightened to conform to her body like a second skin.  She took no time to admire herself in a mirror.  Going into an immediate run she headed for her Eva.  An angel had arrived and at the moment, she was the only one who was there to battle it.

"I'll show Shinji what it *really* means to fight an Angel," she promised herself in a low grumble as she climbed into the entry plug for Eva unit 02.

***Tokyo 3: Headed Toward Nerv Headquarters***

"We'll never make it!" Jessie called as she retightened her grip on Jonny's hand.

"We have to!" Shinji cried.

All though they were all long past out of breath they continued to run, keeping a close lookout for the angel that they knew was there, but hadn't seen yet.  They tried to stay as quiet as possible, but the lack of talk made the stress level too much and they couldn't help but let a little conversation flow.

"How much longer?"  Jessie asked quietly.

"We have to be coming upon Nerv soon," Jonny replied, his voice solemn.

"Ten minutes," Rei's faint voice calculated.

The three other children nodded, no one doubting that she was correct.

***Evangelion Unit 03: Entry Plug***

"Launch Eva!" Misato's voice rang out.

Eva unit 02, with it's pilot Asuka, shot up the launch tracks, sparks flying.  A hole opened up moments before the Eva emerged from it, and it lifted into the air a few feet before landing on the now closed hole.  Asuka looked around the night-darkened city, searching for the Angel.

"I don't see it!" she yelled.

"It's coming at you from behind!" Maia's voice assured.

Asuka spun her Eva around, but there was no Angel to be seen.  "Where?!" Asuka demanded.

"It's one thousand feet away," Ritsuko informed.

"I don't see it," Asuka replied nervously.

"Well, raise your AT field just in case," Misato ordered.

"Right," Asuka said with a nod, her AT field coming up.

"Five hundred feet away," Maia said,

"I still don't see it," Asuka replied, narrowing her eyes in an attempt to see better in the darkness.  "Are you sure it's there?"

"Two hundred feet, it's there," Maia again.

"Misato!  Ritsuko!  It's not there!" Asuka insisted.

"The scanners are picking up an Angel," Misato assured.  "It's there....whether you can see it or not."

"You mean it's invisible!"  Asuka shrieked.  "How am I supposed to fight an enemy I can't see?!"

"Calm down Asuka, we'll figure something out," Ritsuko promised.

"And we better hurry because-" Maia's voice was cut off as something hit the Eva's AT field, causing a crackling sound.

Asuka watched as a shape phased in and out of visibility.  Whatever it was, and it had to be that Angel, it was trying to get through her AT field.

"Oh no you don't!" Asuka cried increasing the strength of her AT field.

***Tokyo 3: Five Minutes from NERV Headquarters***

"Asuka," Shinji breathed, stopping dead in his tracks.  He heard Rei stop behind him, and in front of him Jessie and Jonny slowed and stared at the Eva.  At first it just stood there, though it spun around once.  It's AT field rose, and then there was more waiting.

And then suddenly there was a crackling sound, and the Angel was pushing against the AT field.

"We have to hurry!" Jessie took off running again, Jonny right behind her.

Shinji paused for a few moments longer to watch Asuka and the Angel before following.  He could hear Rei behind him; hear her breathing, her footsteps.  He wondered how she could be so calm all the time, even in times like the present....

A loud crash and a scream brought him from his thoughts.  His gaze raced forward toward where Jonny and Jessie had been running.  They had been so close to the entrance to the headquarters, but now it was strewn with rubble and debris thanks to the Angel throwing Eva unit 02 across it helping to block the entrance even more.

But even worse was than that, Jessie was trapped beneath the rubble.  And as Asuka manipulated her Eva to a standing position, the rubble shifted trapping her even more.  But Asuka didn't even seem to notice as she flew to engage the angel in combat once again.

As Shinji approached he could see that Jonny was doing his best to dig Jessie out, calling out her name as he did.  But the only response she gave was painful moans.  Shinji joined the blonde in his effort, even though he knew it was hopeless.  But he couldn't say anything.  Jonny looked so determined…

"Stop," Rei's voice was soft, but both boys froze.  "It's hopeless.  We have more important things to worry about."

"NO!"  Jonny objected.  "I have to help her!"

"You have to help humanity.  That is your job as an Eva pilot," Rei reminded.

"NO! I'm not leaving her!" Jonny yelled determinedly.  He turned back to the pile of rubble and began to dig at it once more.

Rei watched him for a few moments before turning and walking away.  Shinji looked between the two, before finally following Rei.

"Hey, Rei, wait up, where are you going?" he called to her, jogging to catch up.

"I'm going to help Asuka," Rei said matter-of-factly.

"How are we going to get in?  The entrance is blocked off," Shinji reminded.

"There are other ways in," Rei assured in a voice that wasn't too assuring.

Shinji couldn't think of anyway to reply to that, so he just followed Rei to wherever she was going.

***Eva Unit 03: Cockpit***

Asuka made a frustrated noise as the Angel flung her away from it.  She never noticed where she landed, or what damage she did.  She was up and back in the fight before she could take stock of anything that had just happened.

"Asuka!  You've got to get the Angel away from here!"  Misato's frantic voice ordered.

Asuka nodded, giving a "Mmm, hmm."

She charged the Angel, intent on attacking it, but only hit it's AT field.  "Argh!" Asuka gave another roar of frustration.  She backed up, grabbed the assault rifle that had been supplied for her and began shooting at the field, not knowing what else to do.

***Tokyo 3: Outside NERV Headquarters***

Jonny hadn't noticed Shinji and Rei leave.  All he could focus on was the low moans that were coming from underneath the rubble.  He kept digging at the heap, calling comfortingly to Jessie.

So deep in concentration was he that he didn't notice the hands on him until he was being pulled away from the wreckage.

"NO!  I've gotta save her!" Jonny fought the people trying to take him away from Jessie.

"We'll get her out, we promise," a voice said to him.

Jonny looked up to see Kaji giving him a sympathetic look.  He handed the boy a small radio, and gestured for him to use it.

"Hello?"  Jonny's voice was shaky, and uncertain.

"Jonny, we need you to come pilot your Eva," Misato's voice soothed.  "I know you're worried about Jessie, but you must let someone else take care of her.  Someone else who can better handle it."

Kaji watched the boy's eyes trail back to where Jessie was still buried, before returning to the radio.

"All right," he agreed, sounding like he had just given up.

Kaji watched as Jonny allowed himself to be led away, wondering if the boy was going to be any help in this fight.

***NERV headquarters: Eva launch pad***

Shinji and Rei had been picked up by a couple of staff members and led inside to change and get ready for launch.  Misato gave the orders right away, and soon the three had joined Asuka up on the surface.  Asuka had pulled back as ordered a while back, and now the four pilots waited for the orders to attack.

"Shinji?"  Jonny's voice came over the radio.

Shinji had the feeling this was a closed comm-link.  "Yes?" he responded.

"Do you think Jessie's gonna be alright?" there was a note of hope in the boy's voice, and it was obvious he was looking for conformation.

"Yeah, they're gonna take real good care of her.  NERV has the best medical facilities in Tokyo 3, Japan even," Shinji assured.

There was a pause on the other end, before Jonny spoke.  "Thanks."

The comm-link was broken off before Shinji could respond.  He sighed and hoped he'd done the right thing.

"All right guys, we're gonna take this thing on from every side.  It can't hold off four attacks at once.  So, spread out!  Shinji, you go south, Asuka, you got east, Jonny, take west, and Rei you're north," Misato's voice finally rang out.

"Right," four voices replied in unison.

"For Jessie," Jonny uttered softly to himself.

"Get in position and wait for my order," Misato commanded.

The four Eva's slowly moved around the Angel, watching it warily.  It hadn't' moved since Asuka had stopped attacking it.  And Ritsuko's team had been monitoring it constantly, on alert for any signs of attack, but it was like the Angel was hibernating.  It hadn't even lowered it's AT field.

"How are we going to get past it's AT field?"  Shinji asked.  "We can't just expect to out wait it."

"You guys are going to have to try and force your way through it, much like the way Shinji did on his first excursion in his Eva," Misato explained.

The pilots all took a deep breath.  None of them had actually witnessed what had happened that night, but they had all heard about it.  Shinji himself didn't remember what happened, it was a part of his memory he couldn't recall.  And he hadn't been told much, but he knew that it hadn't been pretty.

"Is everyone ready?"  Misato asked.

There were uncertain replies from everyone, but no one said no.

"Then, let's do this," Misato ordered solemnly.

***Tokyo 3: Facing off with the Angel***

At Misato's word, the four pilots had begun their advance on the Angel.  All four pilots sped their Eva's toward the Angel, pouncing on it's AT field.  But just as they were about to hit, the Angel disappeared again, and the Eva's landed in a jumbled heap.

"UP!  GET UP!" Misato yelled at them!

The four scrambled to do just that.  Maia was belting out the Angel's location.  The Eva's were disentangling themselves, but slowly.  Maia screamed a location right before Asuka's angel was lifted into the air.  The Pilots watched, frozen, as it was twisted into painful positions, Asuka's screams blaring at them over the comm-link.

"Stop staring and move!" Misato's voice yelled at them.

With more haste the Pilots began, again, to try and get up.  But they were still too slow.  Asuka's Eva was discarded, and Rei's taken up.  It too was twisted up, Rei's screams of pain now blasting over the comm-link.

Jonny and Shinji finally got their Eva's to a standing position, just in time to see Rei's Eva strewn aside.

"Where is it?!"  Jonny screamed into the comm-link.

"It's coming right up on you Jonny!"  Maia yelled back.

"From which direction?!"


Jonny spun his Eva around in that direction.  Shinji watched as he jumped at what they both hoped to be the Angel.  But he landed on the ground, sprawled out flat on his stomach.  Moments later he too was picked up into the air, the Eva beginning to twist Jonny's Eva around like it had the first two.

Shinji knew he couldn't hesitate.  Jonny's screams yelled at him to help.  And he knew where the Angel was, even if he still couldn't see it.

Without waiting for any orders, Shinji charged his Eva at the air beneath Jonny's mangled unit.

It hit sending the three to the ground.  The Angel fizzled into view, as Jonny's Eva skidded along from the impact.  Shinji pulled out his progressive knife and began to strike it at the Angel's core.

The Angel screamed, pushing Shinji away.

"NO YOU DON'T!!!" Shinji screamed at it as he jumped it again.

The crackling sound that was coming from the Angel was obviously it trying to go invisible again, but somehow Shinji had disabled its ability to do so.  As he landed on the Angel, the progressive knife once again came down on the core.  Again and again Shinji allowed the weapon to fall, watching cracks spider web across the smooth, glass-like surface.

Finally, the tip of the knife sank into the core and Shinji pushed and twisted the knife with all the Eva's might, while the Angel screamed desperately, until finally it fell silent.  In the entry plug Shinji sat breathing heavily, his Eva still holding the knife in the Angel's core.

"Good job, Shinji," Misato's quiet voice told him.

***Nerv Headquarters': Hospital Room***

Even though he knew he should be in his own room, with all the injuries he had accumulated during the Angel attack, Jonny just had to see Jessie.  She lay motionless in the hospital bed, her red hair scattered across a pillow as pale as her skin.  The many bandages did nothing to mar her beauty, at least not in Jonny's eyes.  Ignoring the pain it brought him, the blonde pilot reached forward with one arm and ran the back of his fingers along her cheeks.

"Oh Jess," he murmured, tears slipping from his eyes.

He didn't see who it was that pulled him into a loving embrace, but he knew, and that only made him cry harder....

***NERV Headquarters': Hallway outside Jessie' Hospital room***

Shinji watched Jonny cry into his father's chest while Jessie's father slipped a hand into one of hers, gently patting it with his other one.  His gaze shifted to his own father, who was standing to one side in the doorway, watching the same scene unhappily.

*Why can't you love me like that?* he silently asked his father.  *Don't I deserve to be held when I cry?  To be comforted when I hurt?*

A figure moving out of the corner of his eye caught Shinji's attention.  He turned and watched Rei move up the hallway.  She paused when she too stood in front of the door, turning toward it and watching for a few moments.  She then let her gaze rest upon Dr. Ikari for a few more moments before she turned back around and went the same way she had come.

Feeling a mixture of emotions that he couldn't even begin to unravel and put labels to, Shinji pushed off from the wall he was leaning against and took the opposite direction Rei had.

***NERV Headquarters': Ritsuko Akagi's office***

"Did you hear about Jonny and Jessie's fathers coming to see them?"  Misato asked, as she stared at her cup of coffee.

 Ritsuko nodded, her short blonde hair bobbing a bit.  "Dr. Ikari didn't want them to, but Dr. Quest has a lot of influence and wherever he goes his bodyguard does too."

"How *is* Jessie doing?"  Misato asked.

"She woke up from her coma this morning," Ritsuko informed with a smile.  "Woke up to see her father smiling down at her.  There wasn't a happier girl anywhere in the world."

Misato too smiled.  "Jonny's happy too, isn't he?"

"Elated," Ritsuko assured.

"How much longer do Dr. Quest and Mr. Bannon plan on staying?"  Misato wanted to know.

"Now that Jessie's woken up, Dr. Ikari is only giving them a couple of days."

Misato nodded.  "And how about Asuka and Rei?  How are they doing?"

"Rei's…Rei.  And Asuka?  Well...."

"What?" Misato demanded.

Ritsuko shook her head, a sad look passing over her face.  "She's listless, won't respond to anyone.  Hasn't spoken since she was pulled from her entry plug.  Barely eats.  The nurses say she hasn't slept a wink."

Misato sighed.

"And I'm predicting that next time we do sync tests, her level goes down again," Ritsuko added.

Misato gave Ritsuko a grim looking, knowing that what she had said was right.

"Do you think we're working them too hard?  Expecting too much of them?" Ritsuko asked contemplatively.

"I know we are.  But we also don't have a choice.  Those kids are humanity's only hope. If they don't fight the Angels and prevent Second Impact, then there's no chance for us," Misato reminded.

"I know," Ritsuko sighed and rested her head in one hand, elbow propped up on her desk.  "I know."

***NERV Headquarters: Asuka's Hospital Room***

Asuka didn't look up as the door to her room slowly creaked open.  She didn't look to see who had come to visit her, who had intruded upon her.

"You almost killed her," came the low, cold voice, startling her.

Asuka's head jerked up, her eyes locking on Jonny.

"You're a heartless bitch.  You don't even care.  You sit there and wallow in self-pity.  YOU ALMOST KILLED HER!!"

Asuka just sat staring at Jonny, staring into his angry blue eyes.  And finding herself not caring.  She felt horrible for what happened to Jessie, for what she had done to Jessie, but right now she couldn't feel anything.  She was just numb.

"You're too worried about yourself looking good, about being the best, about showing us up, that you don't even care if one of us gets hurt.  That's just one less person you have to compete with.  One less person to get in your way of being the best.  Are you happy?  Happy that you've eliminated one of the contestants?"

"She isn't dead," Asuka reminded.

"As good as if she can't pilot her Eva!  And that's what the doctors are saying.  That there's a possibility that she might not be able to pilot.  And that's one less of us around to help prevent Second Impact.  And it's *ALL* *YOUR* *FAULT*!!!!!"

Asuka continued to stare at Jonny, him staring back, until finally he fled the room.  Then she slowly lowered her head.

***NERV Headquarters: Synchronization Testing Lab***

Misato and Ritsuko glanced at each other with grim faces.  Every pilot was in the dummy plugs except Jessie, who was still recuperating.  Jonny and Jessie's father had been gone for a week and in that time Dr. Ikari had worked the four children as hard as he could and harder.  They spent all day everyday doing tests, and it was rumored that Jessie would be joining them tomorrow no matter what her condition was.

"*ALL* of their sync ratios are down," Ritsuko mumbled.  "And they just get lower everyday."

Misato bent her head to a microphone.  "Come on you guys, you can do better than this.  I know you can," she tried to be as uplifting and positive as possible.

There was no response from the pilots physically or mentally.

"Alright, that's enough for today," she said with a sigh.

She turned and headed out of the room as the entry Plugs were removed from the pool of solution they'd been immersed in during the test.

***NERV Headquarters':  Boys Locker Room***

"They shouldn't be making Jessie do this tomorrow.  She isn't ready.  She's still hurt," Jonny sighed as he sat on the bench in front of his locker.

"I remember…" Shinji began.

Jonny looked at him expectantly.

"The first time they wanted me to pilot Eva 01, I had just arrived.  Didn't even know what it was exactly.  And I refused to, because I didn't want to be used as a tool by my father.  So they brought Rei out to pilot.  They had to bring her out on a stretcher, she couldn't even walk…But he was gonna make her pilot anyway," Shinji's voice had taken on a bitter tone.

"How can he be so cruel?"  Jonny asked in a whisper.

"I've always wondered that myself.  I don't think I was anything more to him than an experiment, and now a tool to pilot his Evangelion..."

It wasn't hard to pick up on the hate in his voice.  Jonny winced in sympathy for the boy.

"Hey, maybe when this is all over, after we've prevented Second Impact, you could come back to Maine with Jessie and me.  I'm sure Dad would agree to let you stay," Jonny offered timidly.

Shinji turned to Jonny, tears shining in his eyes.  "You mean that?"

Jonny nodded eagerly.  "Everyone needs a home.  And you can really get to know my dad and Race, and meet Hadji!"

Shinji smiled deliriously.  A home…he was being offered a home…with a real family…people he might grow to love, and might learn to love him in return.

Jonny sighed again, rising to strip the rest of his flight suit off and throw it into his locker.  "Still, Jessie is in no condition to be doing tests all day.  Or to be stuck in an entry plug," he urged.

The smile faded from Shinji's lips.  "That's something you'll have to take up with my father," was all he could say.

***NERV Headquarters: Dr. Ikari's office***

"Yes, Jonathon, what did you want to see me for?"  Dr. Ikari asked, hands folded in front of his face, sounding annoyed.

"I wanted to ask you…about…about Jessie," the blond youth replied.

"Yes, she'll be joining you in your tests and training tomorrow," Dr. Ikari commented.

"But she's still injured.  She hasn't had time to properly recuperate yet!" Jonny exclaimed.

"The Angel's don't care about that.  They will attack whether she can pilot her Eva or not," Gendo informed, calmly.

"But there are four of us to battle them.  We don't need to risk hurting her even more!"

"We need all the resources we can get."

"RESOURCES?!?!?!  YOU BASTARD!  Jessie is *NOT* a "resource".  She's a human being!  She's my best friend, my… You can't treat her like this!!  You can't treat *US* like this!  What about Shinji!  He's your son!  Don't you even care about him?!"

Gendo waited, seemingly patiently, for Jonny to finish his tirade.  He sat and stared at the seething pilot for a few moments before making his response.

"I have more important things to worry about than my son," he informed.

Jonny was so angry he couldn't speak, just stood, glaring at Dr. Ikari, feeling ready to rip him to pieces.

"If that is all, Jonny…" Ikari raised an eyebrow at him.

Slowly, Jonny turned, wanting with each step to launch himself at Gendo Ikari, and do to him what Asuka had done to Jessie times ten.  But instead he walked stiffly to the door, pausing only once when he almost lost control and *did* attack Ikari, before exiting.

***Misato Katsuragi's Apartment: Shinji's Room***

"I didn't know anyone could be so cruel," Jonny babbled.  "The way he talked about you and Jessie, and *all* of us.  I don't even think he's doing this for the good of humanity."

Shinji sighed, as he listened to Jonny.

"How can you stand a father like that?" Jonny asked incredulously.

Shinji shook his head.  "He isn't my father."

Jonny looked like he was about to cry at that comment.  "You *will* come live at the Compound when this is all over with," he said determinedly.

Shinji couldn't help but smile at that.

They both paused when they heard a nock at the door, listening.  They heard Misato answer it, heard Kaji's familiar voice, but the voices were too low to make any words out.

***Misato Katsuragi's Apartment: Asuka's Room***

"Hey, you!"  Kaji said lightheartedly as he entered Asuka's room, sliding the door shut behind him and flicking on the light.

"Turn that off," she requested coldly.

"But-" Kaji began.

"Turn-It-Off-" she interrupted him before he could get any further.

Slowly, Kaji raised his hand back to the light switch and pulled it down.  He stood, staring at the young female pilot for a short while before taking the few steps forward and sitting down by her.

"What's wrong Asuka?" he asked.

He waited for her answer, watching silent tears roll down her face.  She just continued to sit and stare into nothingness.


She cut him off again.  "Go away Kaji.  Just leave me alone."

Kaji stared at her for a few more moments before rising with a sigh and leaving as she had asked.

***Misato Katsuragi's Apartment: Front Room***

"You weren't in there for very long," Misato commented as Kaji came out of Asuka's room.

He turned to see her standing with her arms folded at her stomach, her weight supported by her back foot, looking straight at him.

"The Kaji charm just works that quick," he smiled at the buxom brunette.

Misato's look was enough to tell Kaji that she didn't believe him in the least.

He shrugged.  "She wanted to be alone."

Misato rolled her eyes, turning away from him.

"What?  What did I do?" he exclaimed, following her into her kitchen.

"You were supposed to talk to her!" she reminded as she opened one of the fridges and pulled out a can.

"I did!  She didn't want to talk," Kaji replied.

Misato gave a frustrated growl as she popped open the can and took a long swig.

"I still don't-"

Kaji was cut off by Misato slamming her can down on the table and taking a seat, resting her feet up on the table.

"Don't women ever let me finish what I'm saying?" he sighed as he took the seat opposite her.

Misato gave him a glare.  "Would you please focus?!"

"Sorry," Kaji replied.

"You better be...."

Kaji rolled his eyes.  "So what do you think we should do?"

"*WE*?  *YOU* said you were gonna talk to her!" Misato reminded.

"Yes, and that obviously didn't work, so we need a new plan of action," Kaji reminded back.

Misato groaned, letting her head loll over the back of the chair, rubbing her face with her hands.  "It's not just Asuka.  It's all of them."

Kaji opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted this time, by a knock on the door.

"I'll get it," he offered, rising quickly and heading for the door.

He opened it to find Ritsuko standing there.  She gave him an unreadable look, then swept past him to take his seat at the table across from Misato.

"Hello to you too, Ritsuko," he mumbled to himself as he shut the door and went to lean on the wall behind Misato.

"So…" Ritsuko intoned, raising an eyebrow at Misato.

"Mission failed," Misato told her with another swig from her can.

Ritsuko turned her raised eyebrow on Kaji.

"She didn't want to talk!" he exclaimed at her.

She sighed and shook her head.

"Look, we're already past that.  What we have to do is figure out what to do *now*," Kaji told the two women.

"And not just about Asuka.  All the kids are suffering," Misato re-iterated her previous point.

"It would help if we knew why they were all so upset," Ritsuko added.

"I'm sorry!  Now can we please stop picking on Kaji and get down to what's important!" the man requested.

"We gotta get them to talk somehow," Misato said.

"Yes, but how?  Asuka won't even talk to *me*," Kaji reminded.

"We're gonna have to make them talk," Ritsuko decided.

"We don't want to push them," Misato objected.

"We have no other choice.  They aren't going to say anything willingly.  And we all know how risky things can be if they pilot their Eva's in the kind of mental condition they're in," Ritsuko explained.

"I hate to say it, but I have to agree with Ritsuko," Kaji sighed.

Both women looked at him.  "WHAT?!?!"

"I can't believe you're taking her side," Misato grumbled under her breath.

"Thank you, Kaji," Ritsuko was very polite.

"Your welcome," Kaji returned.  He glanced at his watch. "Look, we can finish this later, I gotta get going."

"Good riddance," Misato mumbled.

"Bye Kaji," Ritsuko added.

"Later ladies," Kaji returned, before leaving in a flourish.

***NERV Headquarters: Random Hallway***

The doctors walked along behind Jonny and Jessie, following the two to where the testing would take place.  Every so often they would make some comment about how they should be aiding Jessie.

But the comments were ignored as the two talked quietly, Jonny's arm around Jessie's waist, her arm slung around his shoulder.

"You shouldn't have to do this," he pouted to her, eyes full of sympathy

"I agree with you," she said, shifting a bit and biting down a wave of pain.

She watched as Jonny's face showed a mix of worry and anger, and smiled softly at him.  "Don't worry, I'll be fine," she assured.

His grip tightened briefly around her waist and she smiled at him again.

"You sure you're gonna be okay?" Jonny asked sincerely.

"No," Jessie replied truthfully, "but I'll make it with you by my side."

Both teens were smiling as they leaned their heads together and continued to talk quietly.

***NERV Headquarters: Testing room***

The five teens all sat silently in their entry plugs, which were immersed about halfway in L.C.L.  Every one of them had their eyes closed, their heads bowed, concentrating hard.  A monitor was split into five shots, one of each child, their synch ratios imposed over the views of them.

Misato and Ritsuko watched the monitor intently, observing the slight wavering of the synch ratios.

"Jonny is up," Misato pointed out optimistically.

"But Jessie has dropped dramatically," Ritsuko countered, "And Asuka is lower, too."

Misato closed her eyes and shook her head.

"And if Jessie's synch ratio goes down any further, she won't be able to pilot anymore," Ritsuko added.

"She'll raise her synch ratio.  She'll pilot.  They all will," Misato stated determinedly.

"How are they doing?"

The voice of Gendo Ikari startled not just everyone in the room, but the five Eva pilots as well.

Jonny glared disgustedly, as if he could see the face of Dr. Ikari, while Shinji and Asuka both averted their gazes from the cameras they knew were watching them.  Rei only raised her head and looked forward, and Jessie merely concentrated harder.

Misato and Ritsuko glanced at each other.

"They're synch ratios are still in the acceptable range," Ritsuko replied, moving out of the way to give Gendo a better look.

Gendo's eyes scanned the five meters measuring the status of synchronization for a moment before speaking again.  "Good, make sure they stay that way," he commanded before leaving.

Misato leaned in close to the microphone that was keyed into the entry plug of each pilot.  "All right you guys, that's enough for today," she told them.

Each pilot nodded at her before the monitor went blank.

***NERV Headquarters: Ritsuko Akagi's office***

"We have to raise their synch ratios!"  Misato exclaimed slamming a fist down on the corner of Ritsuko's desk and then letting herself lean against it.

"You ladies aren't starting the meeting without me, now are you?" Kaji's carefree voice asked as he waltzed in.

Misato glared at Kaji.  "Don't say anything unless you have something helpful to add."

Kaji sighed and sank down into a chair.

"Anyone come up with anything?"  Ritsuko decided to get started.

"I'm gonna take Asuka out to lunch today and see if I can't get her to talk," Kaji admitted.

"Can't.  She'll be testing all day with the rest of 'em.  No breaks for any of them," Misato replied.

"Come on, just for today. Don't you want to see this problem solved?"  Kaji persuaded.

"Of course I do, but I can't go against orders and my orders were to keep them all for training no matter what," Misato explained through gritted teeth.

"It's nice to see you following orders for once," Ritsuko muttered, sipping at her coffee.

Misato groaned.  "Can we please get down to business?!" she demanded.

But her only answer was the sound of an emergency klaxon.  She pounded her fist once again on Ritsuko's desk, uttering a "Damn!" before flying out the door, Ritsuko seconds behind her.

***NERV Headquarters:  Cafeteria***

All of the Eva pilot's heads snapped up, minus Rei's, when an alarm klaxon sounded.

"Another Angel," Jessie gasped.

"Shinji, Rei, Asuka, Jonny, Jessie, get to your Eva's now!" Misato yelled at them from where she was panting in the entranceway.  They all rose, some faster than others, Jonny pausing to help Jessie.

"Leave her," Misato ordered.

Jonny's gaze locked onto Misato, surprise in his eyes, then looked down at Jessie.

"She can still pilot," he responded adamantly.

"You need to get to your Eva as fast as you can.  She'll only slow you down," Misato replied, hiding the pang of guilt she felt.

Jonny pursed his lips, then gently lowered Jessie back to her seat before stiffly marching out of the cafeteria under Misato's stern gaze.  Jessie watched as Misato's gaze continued to follow Jonny down the hallway, then as it turned to look at her.

"The doctor's will be here shortly to aide you to your Eva," Misato told her.

There was a small pause before she turned and left Jessie by herself, sitting at the cafeteria table.

***NERV Headquarters:  Control Room***

"Come on, Misato, when are we gonna attack?!" Asuka demanded impatiently.

"When I say you will," Misato responded in a warning tone of voice.

Misato's gaze returned to the monitor bearing the image of the Angel.  It's glaringly white form just hovering over a spot directly in the middle of Tokyo-3, looking like a giant monolith, the core half-way immersed into the base underneath the Angel.

 "Units-00, 01, 02, and 07 are ready for combat.  Unit-08 will join them on the surface in approximately eight minutes," Maya reported.

"Rei, I want you to shoot a volley at it.  Let's try and find out what we're up against," Misato ordered.

"Right," Rei's quiet voice replied.

A different screen showed Unit-00 step out from behind the block of buildings it had been hiding behind and shoot a few rounds at the Angel.  The bullets from her rifle flew at the monolith, but instead of hitting the Angel with explosions and smoke, they were absorbed by the Angel's body.

"WHAT?!" was everyone's reaction.

"Report!" Misato ordered the lieutenants.

"It just absorbed the bullets, no harm done to the Angel!"

"Wait, something's happening.  There's activity coming from inside the Angel!"

"What is it?"  Misato demanded.

"I don't know!"

Suddenly, the four pilots gasped as the shots that had been fired into it blasted out of the Angel's body, directly at Rei.  The first child pulled at her dual control sticks, maneuvering her Eva out of the trajectory of the bullets.

"Rei, are you okay?" Shinji asked immediately.

"I am fine," she returned blankly.

"Damn!"  Misato's voice rang out, "how are we gonna fight that?"

"That's what you're supposed to figure out," Ritsuko reminded.

Misato's face vaulted for a moment, but she quickly re-gained control.  "Let's try some close combat.  Asuka, I want you to charge the Angel."

"Finally, some *real* action," was Asuka's response before she began a high speed run directly toward the ivory monolith.

Just as she was about to strike out at it a tentacle shot out of the monolith, wrapping itself around Eva Unit-02's neck and lifting it from the ground.

"What the-?!  Let go of me!"  Asuka yelled in frustration as she tried to pry the tentacle from around her neck.

But the Angel only tightened its hold on the Eva.  In the cockpit, Asuka's hands came to her neck, her breath coming in short gasps.  "I can't breathe…" she choked.

"Shinji, Jonny, Rei, help her!"  Misato ordered them.

Units-00 and 01 immediately rushed in to aide Unit-02.  But 07 stayed standing where it was.

"Use your progressive knives," Misato continued to shout out orders.  "Jonny, what's wrong, help them!"

 But inside his cockpit Jonny sat with his head lowered, speaking softly to himself.  "I can't help her, not after what she did to Jessie.  She deserves this.  She deserves to be hurt like Jessie was, worse than Jessie was."

He could hear Asuka's choking sounds over the comm-link, hear Misato yelling at him to help, hear Shinji pleading with him that they needed him to free Asuka.

"No! She deserves to die!" he yelled at all of them.

"Unit-08 has been deployed," Maya reported.

Jonny looked up in time to watch Jessie's Eva run past him, joining Shinji and Rei in rescuing Asuka.  Her progressive knife popped out of her shoulder blade and she reached back and grabbed it, her hand hanging in the air for a second before starting it's decent.  But she never made contact with the Angel, another tentacle shooting out and grabbing her by the wrist, then starting to pull her unit inside itself.

"Jessie, NO!"  Jonny responded immediately.

He was running at the Angel, pulling out his progressive knife, slicing it through the tentacle that held onto Unit-08, severing it.  The Eva dropped to the ground, the tentacle flopping around beside before it disintegrated.

"Unit-02's pilot has gone unconscious," Maya reported.

With a scream, Jonny attacked the tentacle that continued to strangle 02, also severing that tentacle.

"Retreat, back off!" Misato ordered.

The four conscious pilots jumped back, Unit-02 lying motionless on the ground beneath the Angel.

"What about Asuka?"  Shinji wanted to know.

There was tense silence as everyone watched the Angel, waiting for it to again attack 02.  But it seemed to decide that the Eva was harmless and ignored it.

"What do we do now?"  Rei's quiet question came.

"Just stand back for a few minutes while I think of something," Misato replied, and everyone could hear the calculation in her voice.

***Eva Unit 02: Cockpit***

The black came so suddenly for Asuka and it was absolute.  So complete that she didn't even notice it, not until she began to hear noises and see little flickers of light.  They made no sense to her, but they made the black noticeable.  It took her a while just to realize that no, she wasn't dead, then after that to remember who she was and where she was, while the lights and noises began to infiltrate that black, becoming small reminders of everything that was, is and could be.

After that it just took some concentration to ignore the signals of pain that were coming from her Eva and to re-orient herself with what was going on around her.  Not that she was really listening to any orders Misato-that's who was making most of the noise-was saying.  She was more concentrating on the dance of the Eva's around the Angel that was floating above her.  It was guerrilla warfare, at least an attempt at it.  The pilots were trying to strike at the Angel without getting in the way of its tentacles and without using any projectiles that could be turned against them.  All of them were wielding progressive knives, and not having much luck with them.  Jessie was already down, and Rei was soon to follow, leaving the two boys who really weren't faring much better.

Asuka knew she didn't have any time to think, just to act, and she knew she was the one in the best position to strike.  The Angel was acting as if she wasn't even there.  And Asuka already knew what she was going to do.

***Tokyo 3:  Fight with the Angel***

With all their attentions focused on the Angel, it came as a shock when Unit 02 suddenly moved.  A surprise to both the Eva pilots and the Angel itself.  And then they were all jarred back to reality when Asuka's progressive knife struck the underside of the Monolithic Angel, causing all its tentacles to quiver uselessly.

"What are you waiting for?!"  Misato yelled to all the pilots.  "Get in there and HELP her!!!"

That was all the three remaining pilots needed before they jumped into the fray, ganging up on the now overpowered Angel.  And it was only a few moments later that the Angel crashed to the ground, dead.

***Nerv Headquarters: Hospital wing***

Asuka walked slowly along to the hallway, ignoring the passing doctors, who in turn ignored her.  She didn't know what to think.  She'd been summoned by Jessie, who was in here again, recovering from the last Angel attack.  Asuka didn't know why, unless it was to yell at her like Jonny had last time.

Asuka shrugged, trying to act nonchalant at her own thoughts, and lifted her chin a little higher, putting on her usual "I don't care because I'm above everyone else" air.

Soon, too soon for Asuka, she reached the door to Jessie's room.  Her confidence left her for a few seconds as she contemplated leaving.  But she forced it back and knocked on the door loudly, as if to prove that she wasn't afraid.

"Come in," Jessie's voice called to her.

Tentatively, Asuka placed her hand on the knob, turning it, and putting the slightest pressure on it.  It slowly swung inward and the carrot haired pilot looked inside to see Jonny and Jessie chatting away, both wearing fond smiles for the other.  She stifled a wince and entered as she'd been bidden to do.

Jessie glanced up at her and was surprised to see her smile at her, then she turned back to Jonny.

"If you'll just give us a few minutes?" her smile was warm and reassuring as she asked the favor of him.

Jonny nodded, rising from his seat, joking not to take too long or he'd miss her too much, then left the room, without even a glance for Asuka.  The pilot of Eva Unit-02 couldn't help watching the blonde leave, making sure the door was securely closed before approaching Jessie and taking the seat that Jonny had vacated.  She opened her mouth to say something, but Jessie began speaking before she could.

"I'm not mad at you.  I never was.  I know Jonny was.  But I want you to know that I don't blame you for what happened to me.  Accidents happen.  And especially fighting an Angel you can't be expected to be alert for every single little thing."

Asuka sat there with her mouth hanging open, her eyes wide with surprise at what she was hearing.

"And besides, you saved us all from that last Angel."

From the way Jessie said "all", Asuka had a feeling she didn't just mean that rest of their fellow pilots.

"I just did what I had to," Asuka finally replied arrogantly with a flip of her hair.

Jessie's smile didn't falter, she just nodded and responded quietly,  "And I thank you for that."

There was a silent pause, neither girl saying a thing, then Asuka rose.  "If that's all…?"

Jessie nodded.  "Thanks.  I just needed to say that."

"Then I'm outta here," she exclaimed striding toward the door.

Jessie continued to watch her with that warm smile as she exited the room.  As she closed the door behind her, a soft voice startled Asuka.

"I'm sorry," Jonny apologized meekly.

Asuka looked up to see Jonny leaning against the wall across from the door to Jessie's room.

"I guess I shouldn't have blamed you.  I just, I was so angry with Jessie getting hurt, she's so important to me, and I didn't know what to do with that anger.  I had to find a focus for it, somewhere, or one, to place the blame.  And you were the easiest target…"

"I'm sorry too.  I should have said that immediately.  I should have apologized to her a thousand times over…"

Asuka was surprised at her words.  Felt like she was watching herself from a third person point of view.  But at the same time she was glad to hear herself say those words.

A silent pause between the two stretched out until Asuka finally just walked away again.  Jonny gave his head a small shake, then let the smile return to his face and opened the door to Jessie's room.

***Tokyo 3: NERV Headquarters***

            "KAJI!  How would you like the pleasure of taking me out to lunch," Asuka asked as she sailed into his office wearing the yellow sundress she'd worn the day she'd first met Shinji and Misato and that annoying Kensaki and that pervert Toji.

            Kaji began to hesitate, then stopped himself, smiling, and wondering to himself why Asuka was suddenly in such a bad mood.  But he wasn't going to obsess over it.  She was definitely feeling better and that's what mattered.  His smile broadened as he set aside whatever it was he was working on.

            "I'd love to.  What did you have in mind?" he asked as he escorted her out of the office and down the hall.

            "Well, there's this lovely little German place…"

The End