Neon Genesis Evangelion: Legacy
Episode IV: The Last Hope


Chapter 10 – Deep in the Heart of a Volcano; Sandalphon Matures
October 28, 2015 – NERV HQ

Mari was walking into the Cage while everyone was doing other things. In the Cage, standing side by side were Unit–01 and Unit–02. Mari walked up to both Evangelions, and sat on the catwalk directly in–between them and looked up into their massive faces.

"Hiya, Yui." Mari said. "Sorry for not visiting sooner, I've been kinda busy making sure little Shinji stays out of trouble. I hope you're ok with that."

Unit–01's eyes glowed.

"I'm glad you're good with that…" Mari said as she turned to Unit–02. "Hi, Kyoko… long time no see."

Unit–02's four eyes glowed in response.

"I'm glad to see you too, Kyoko." Mari said. "I've missed you both so much while I was trapped. I wished that I could get out to just show you I was ok, and then I get out and you two were well… you know, that's the way you are right now."

Unit–01 and Unit–02 flashed their eyes on and off in acknowledgment.

"Thanks you two… and sorry about that, I wasn't thinking." Mari said. "But I do want you to know, that both your kids are doing great. I'm keeping a close eye on them, and I think I have a way of making that task easier."

Both EVA's eyes glowed brightly.

Mari looked at them both tearfully. "I know you guys won't be mad at what I'm planning, it's for the best really. I just want to keep a close eye on them both, and seeing as they're living together, there really is only one way to do that." Mari smiled at them both. "It was nice to chat with you two again, just like old times…"

Both EVA's eyes shut down and Mari walked quietly out of the Cage.

–––

Misato was sitting in her office quite against her will. As the Director of Tactical Operations, she was still saddled with paperwork from the battles with Gaghiel and Israfel, one battle which had destroyed a large portion of the U.N. fleet, and the other where the U.N. wasted another N2 mine on an Angel.

Misato had her door closed so she could work in peace, and she'd told Ritsuko to leave her the hell alone as she had a lot of work to do, so when Misato heard a knock on her door, she glared at the door because she had been interrupted.

"Come in." Misato grumbled.

Mari walked in nervously. "Hey, miso, how ya doing?"

"Busy." Misato said curtly. "And didn't I tell you not to call me that?" Misato asked.

"I don't listen so well." Mari smirked. "Besides, nicknames are also fun!"

"Mari, I'm busy, so I don't have time for your cuteness right now." Misato said.

"You think I'm cute?" Mari asked adorably. "Am I kawaii though?!"

"I'm going to regret saying this…" Misato sighed. "But, yes Mari… you're kawaii…"

"YAY!" Mari shouted. "You're the best, Misato!" Mari bounded around the desk and hugged Misato tightly. "Oh, you're so nice.

"And I regret it…" Misato mumbled. "Mari, you're crushing me…"

Mari let go of Misato and blushed. "Sorry, it was just so nice what you said, I got a little excited…" Mari hugged Misato again. "Sometimes I just can't contain myself."

"Yea, its uh… ok, Mari." Misato said. "But why did you come to see me? I am really busy here with all this, well its shit really, but I'm the one stuck doing it."

Mari blushed even more. "Well, I'm just a little embarrassed by asking, but I was hoping that I could ask you something important… like really important."

"Sure, Mari, what is it?" Misato asked.

"I'd… uh… I want to move in with you and Shinji and even… Asuka too." Mari said nervously. "It's just…"

Misato looked worriedly at Mari. "Mari, what's wrong?" Misato asked. "Why do you want to move in? Is something wrong with the apartment you're living in?"

"No it's just…" Mari stammered. "I don't like being alone… and my apartments nice… but it's not exactly a warm and inviting place…"

"Mari, you're just lonely?" Misato asked. "But you're over all the time. Do you really need to move in?"

"Yeah, but it's not the same… I don't want to just… live somewhere…" Mari stammered. "I… uh… um… just want…"

"To be home…" Misato finished. "I know the feeling Mari… all too well." Misato stood up and patted Mari on the back. "Before Shinji, I was pretty much alone, and I only ever lived places, but his apartment, I call it home now because it feels that way." Misato hugged Mari. "You can move in, but I'll have to get permission from, either the Sub–Commander, or the Commander himself."

"Really?" Mari asked. "You'd really let me move in?"

"Of course, but where am I going to put you?" Misato said. "I mean, I could switch rooms with Asuka…" or have Shinji and Asuka bunk together… I'll figure it out."

"I can share with Asuka, I'll be good." Mari said. "I promise!"

"Yeah, but Asuka…" Misato said. "She doesn't… well… she doesn't share so well."

"Don't worry, Shinji will keep us from killing each other…" Mari said. "At least I think so anyway…"

"Oh, that sounds promising…" Misato muttered.

"Well, I wouldn't tell anyone until you're sure I'm, you know, allowed to move in." Mari said. "I don't know how you could break it to her either."

"I'll figure something out." Misato said. "But what do I tell the Sub–Commander or the Commander about the reason you want to move in. I don't think the truth will quite work."

"Well, I wouldn't be late to school much anymore, or it would build comradery between us pilots, these might work as a reason, or that having three pilots under one roof makes it easier to keep an eye on us…"

"That last one could work." Misato said. "I'll use that one and see what happens, ok?" Misato said.

Mari smiled. "Whatever you can do, I'd appreciate miso."

"Yeah, I really don't like that name, Mari." Misato said.

"But, miso, I never give someone a nickname that I don't like." Mari said. "It's like my way of saying we're friends."

"So, you calling Asuka…" Misato said.

"Yep!" Mari replied. "I call her princess because I think she's kinda fun to be around." Mari smirked. "An explosive personality can be fun to be around."

"That's… interesting." Misato said. "Well, I guess the name's ok then. Seeing as it's a friendly thing you do…"

"Thanks, miso!" Mari hugged her again. "I think I'll really like living with you guys."

–––

Fuyutsuki was waiting outside Gendo's office. He had just had a visit from Misato in his own office, and given a very interesting request for Mari to move in with Misato and her two current wards. Misato also wanted to be appointed her guardian instead of Fuyutsuki when she moved in.

'Well, I guess Mari just wants to be closer to those two, but to move in?' Fuyutsuki thought as he waited to knock. 'I think the request has merit, but Gendo doesn't like Shinji and Mari being friends, having them live together would probably give him a coronary…' Fuyutsuki sighed. 'I guess I need to run those by him for his approval…'

Fuyutsuki knocked loudly.

"Enter." Gendo said from within.

Fuyutsuki walked in somewhat nervously.

"Well, Fuyutsuki, what seems to be the issue, you were out there for a while." Gendo said. "It must be quite important."

"It is." Fuyutsuki said. "Major Katsuragi came to me with a request from Mari. She wishes to move into the Major's apartment with Shinji and Asuka."

"Absolutely not." Gendo said.

"But, Ikari…" Fuyutsuki pleaded.

"I do not like them being together." Gendo said. "Mari is a bad influence on Shinji, and I also don't like her being so close to Asuka either."

"Ikari, what are you saying?" Fuyutsuki asked. "Why does it matter if she's near Asuka, she isn't even your child…"

"That's right, you do not know…" Gendo sighed. "Fuyutsuki, you most likely do not know that Kyoko and I were in a relationship before her transfer to Kyoto University."

"But what does that have to do with Mari?" Fuyutsuki asked.

"While I am in love with Yui, part of me still cares for Kyoko, so I will strive to protect Asuka as I would Shinji, and that means keeping her away from them both."

"Ikari, how do you think we'll keep Mari happy if you refuse to let her be so?" Fuyutsuki said angrily. "You can't keep her isolated like Rei! Rei does not know any better, but Mari's a completely independent person!"

"Rei is alone in her apartment for her own protection." Gendo said. "She may have made several new friends, but she still needs to be protected because she is not exactly human, Fuyutsuki. She's clone of Yui, and has some of Lilith's DNA in her too. She is far different than anybody else in this world."

"I'm aware of that, I was the one who made her!" Fuyutsuki shouted. "But why treat Mari the way you do? It's only going to make her tell Shinji the truth, which she promised she'd keep quiet in his best interests, but if don't let her move in there, she will expose everything about her to Shinji, which you know will utterly destroy him."

"Yes, Shinji is not strong enough to handle the truth, but Mari is too kind of a person to intentionally hurt someone that deeply." Gendo said. "And I understand Mari is feeling displaced, but I do not like her trying to be friends with my son, like she's trying to replace Yui with him, and replace Kyoko with Asuka. I do not like it." Gendo explained. "I never liked Mari, even though I know Yui cared for her deeply, I just can't accept someone else who loves Yui as much as I do."

"How do you know that…" Fuyutsuki said.

"Well, I knew you loved Yui, but I could see past that. However, when I read through Yui's diaries after she was absorbed, I saw all these things on Mari, and how much she wished she'd have expressed her love for Mari too, or at least reciprocated the feelings appropriately." Gendo explained. "I did not realize my wife was in love with someone else, and then I realized why Yui had been mad about finding out about my involvement with SEELE. I had joined the people who had killed the woman she loved."

"Yui actually…" Fuyutsuki muttered.

"Yes, Fuyutsuki, she did love Mari, and she even wrote about how it would be nice to be able to love two people, even if those two people would never get along." Gendo said. "Therefore, I do not want her near Shinji."

"Ikari, you can't actually be thinking about Shinji's welfare, if you were, he would never had gone to Atsugi, and you might have even had an actual relationship!" Fuyutsuki shouted.

"Fuyutsuki, without Yui, I would have been a horrific parent, even Rei did not turn out well, she is as poorly adjusted to life as I am, and perhaps that has something to do with the fact she has already died, Shinji and myself could have never had a good relationship without Yui. I decided to spare him the suffering I endured from my own parents by simply abandoning him." Gendo explained. "It was far better for him than causing him to hate me for being neglectful."

Fuyutsuki stared in shock. "You cannot actually believe…"

"I do believe it, Fuyutsuki." Gendo said.

"But, why torture Mari?" Fuyutsuki asked. "If you do this, she will think you trust her, and she'll hold up her end of the deal. If you don't, I know she can be extremely spiteful, and I would not want you to cross her."

"Do you still care about Mari as well?" Gendo asked.

"Yes… she is the last of the three students I cared for the most, her loss was just as devastating as Yui's or Kyoko's, and I want her to be happy." Fuyutsuki explained. "She was never truly happy before she died and came back, but now, she seems happy to be around people her own age, people she apparently cares about."

"So, if I were to do this, it would make her happy?" Gendo asked.

"Extremely I imagine, from what Katsuragi told me." Fuyutsuki said. "She may have given me some bureaucratic reason for why Mari asked, but in truth, Mari wouldn't have asked if it wouldn't make her happy."

"Then I will not approve the transfer." Gendo said.

"Why the hell not!" Fuyutsuki shouted.

"I already told you the reason…" Gendo started.

Fuyutsuki cut him off. "But if you do this, Yui will think you the bigger person for putting aside your own feelings and letting Mari be happy." Fuyutsuki said. "If you won't do it for Mari, and if you own listen to me, then just do it for Yui."

"Why dies it always come back to making Yui happy?" Gendo asked.

"Because you still love her." Fuyutsuki said. "And your entire plan is simply to free her from the EVA. That's your whole reason for all of this."

"You are correct, Fuyutsuki." Gendo said. "This is all for Yui. I will approve Mari's transfer. Just reiterate to the terms of our arrangement."

"Understood, Commander." Fuyutsuki said. "I'll inform the Major, and then I will talk to Mari and tell her the good news."

–––

Asuka was having a great day. She had called Kaji to convince him to take her out shopping for something special. Kaji had picked her up in his bright red Ferrari, and they drove off the mall. When they arrived at Mitsukoshi, Asuka grabbed Kaji roughly by the wrist and dragged him, somewhat reluctantly into the store. Kaji was dragged behind her all the inside, and he did not even realize where they were going until they arrived, although he should have, it was of course the women's ware department. Kaji sighed and followed wherever Asuka dragged him.

"Oh, Kaji, I'm so glad you could take me shopping!" Asuka said exuberantly. "It's so nice of you to take time out to help little old me!"

"Well, I told you I don't mind taking you out places." Kaji said. "They just aren't dates like you used to refer to them as."

"I know… you're in love with another women…" Asuka said. "I also have a feeling I know who that other woman is too."

"Oh, do you really?" Kaji asked. "I knew you were bright, Asuka."

"It's Misato isn't it?" Asuka said somewhat sullenly. "I'm right, aren't I?"

"Well… yes, Asuka, I am in love with Misato, but it's a little complicated." Kaji said. "Why don't I tell you about it at lunch? Just promise you won't tell anyone… I want to keep it quiet."

"Sure, Kaji." Asuka said. "I can keep a secret."

"Thanks Asuka I appreciate… hey!" Kaji exclaimed. "Why are you dragging me to the swimsuit section?!"

"To help me pick one out of course!" Asuka said. "I want to pick a nice sexy one for the school trip to Okinawa!"

"Asuka, are you sure sexy is the way to go?" Kaji said. "Some guys like a little mystery to the women they leer at, leaves more for their imaginations to behold." Kaji said.

"Yeah, well, I'm not that subtle, Kaji." Asuka said. "I want to impress them with my feminine wiles you know." Asuka smirked as she dove into the clothing rack. "I want them to see just how much of a woman I am!"

"Oh, Asuka…" Kaji muttered.

Asuka came out from the racks holding up a bikini. The top was red and white striped with a large zipper between the breasts, and the bottom was white with a red stripe along the waistband. Kaji's jaw dropped.

"Aren't you a little young to be wearing something like that Asuka?" Kaji asked, looking at the suit. "Wouldn't you rather wear something else?"

"Oh, come on Kaji." Asuka sighed. "This is what all the girls are wearing."

Kaji rolled his eyes. "If all the girls were going to jump off a cliff, would you follow them?" Kaji asked.

"Of course not, Kaji!" Asuka said. "I'm not stupid! But this is fashion!"

"So is that all you wanted?" Kaji asked.

"It's all I need for Okinawa, Kaji!" Asuka said. "I don't really plan on wearing anything else to the beach!"

"The same swimsuit for the whole trip?" Kaji asked.

"Of course!" Asuka said. "I can't really top this can I?"

"I suppose not, Asuka." Kaji said. "That was a lot quicker than I imagined. So why don't we buy this and go down and get something to eat and you can tell me about this trip of yours."

"Sure!" Asuka said happily. "And you can tell me more about you know who."

After paying a lot for so little clothing, Kaji and Asuka made tier way to the food court, where Asuka ordered a large helping of stew beef and rice, while Kaji settled on a Caesar salad. Asuka had the travel schedule out for the trip to Okinawa, and was rattling on about it.

"So, we leave on November 1st from the airport for the flight to New Kadena, then we'll check into the hotel, and from there, we'll be done for the day. Then the next day we have some lessons or something dumb at the museum there about wildlife or something before Second Impact, then we're free until November 6th to do whatever we please, and the ewe leave and arrive back here on November 7th!" Asuka said quickly in one breath.

"You sound very excited, Asuka." Kaji said. "I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself."

"Of course I will, its Okinawa!" Asuka said happily. "It's gonna be awesome, we even get to go scuba diving if want to!"

"Wow, it's been so long since I've gone scuba diving…" Kaji thought, thinking back before Second Impact with Taichi and his parents, visiting Okinawa the year before it all came crashing down. "So very long…"

"Hey, Kaji… is everything ok?" Asuka asked.

"Yeah, Asuka, just remembering the times before Second Impact." Kaji said. "School trips were always fun before then, but afterwards, the world was deemed too unstable to have kids go off on school trips like before. I'm glad they're letting you all go now though, it shows that times are improving to near where they were in 2000."

"Well, Kaji, I'll make sure to have enough fun for all the times you missed out on because of that!" Asuka said, smiling broadly. "It's not fair they took your trips away either, It's just stupid to deprive children of stuff because adults are being such… assholes!"

"Well, Asuka, a lot of things from back then were unfair…" Kaji said as he thought of his brother laying in a pool of his own blood, his lifeless eyes staring up at Kaji.

"So, Kaji, tell me a bit about Misato." Asuka said as their food arrived.

"Well, we dated in college." Kaji explained. "It was a wonderful relationship, and I really cared for her, but during our relationship, Misato admitted her love to me, and I never… reciprocated appropriately. We got into a pretty nasty fight, things were said by both of us that we didn't mean, but anger led us to say anyway… and I left… I ran away… and I left her all alone." Kaji sighed. "I've regretted it since then, I heard her plead for me to come back, but I couldn't. She had made something up to make me jealous… and I just couldn't believe her… and because I've regretted leaving her then, I see being near her again as a second chance to try and fix things between us, but she still hasn't forgiven me for not telling her that I…"

"Loved her." Asuka finished. "You did love her, didn't you? Don't you?"

"Yes, but for men, sometimes it's hard to say that, we show it in other ways, by doing the small things, or just listening and understanding." Kaji said. "It's the great sexual divide we all deal with, and it can be treacherous to navigate…"

"Well, can't you just tell her?" Asuka asked. "Wont that make up for it?"

"No, it's not as easy as that, Asuka." Kaji said. "I have to convince her that she is still in love with me, even though she says she isn't. I can't be with her again until she admits it to herself. So, I just have to be patient, and wait for her to come to the realization on her own time, that's the best I can hope for…"

"Kaji, I could say something…" Asuka started.

"Please don't, Asuka." Kaji said. "I don't want her to feel coerced. And she'll be really angry that you know, as she doesn't like admitting we dated for some reason."

"Well, that's just stupid on her part." Asuka said.

"Asuka, just promise me one thing." Kaji said.

"Anything for you, Kaji." Asuka replied.

"If you find a boy you like, don't hold back how you feel about them. Mixed signals can be really confusing to a guy. Just follow your heart to the right person, whoever it may be." Kaji said. "Don't make the same mistake I did and wait too long to say something."

"Why would you tell me that, Kaji?" Asuka said. "I can express myself just fine."

"I know you can, Asuka." Kaji said. "I just don't want you to end up like me and Misato did with whoever you fall in love with. You deserve better than that kind of sorrow, and so does she…"

"I promise, Kaji." Asuka said, quietly going back to her food.

"Thanks, Asuka." Kaji said, smiling slightly. "I know you'll find someone perfect too. Just remember, some people take time to catch a hint."

"I'll keep that in mind, Kaji." Asuka said.

They both finished up, and Kaji treated Asuka for lunch, saying it was only fair and they went back to his Ferrari. As thy pulled out of the parking lot, Asuka smiled.

"I can't wait till Saturday, I can't wait to get out of this city for a while, and just go and have fun." Asuka said happily. "No Angels, no EVAs, no sync tests, just plain old relaxation!"

"I know, Asuka…" Kaji said. 'I just don't have the heart to tell her she's not going on the trip.' Kaji thought as he drove Asuka home. 'Sorry, Misato, you'll have to break this news to her. Why you didn't already is totally beyond me… I hope you're still not drinking too much…'


October 31, 2015 – NERV HQ

Misato was standing in front of the pilots in the briefing room after they had arrived back from school. When she had left this morning, she noticed a stack of bags near the door for Asuka, and then remembered what she should have told the pilots a week ago. However, her feelings for Kaji and her muddled thoughts on dealing with the Angels had pushed what she deemed as insignificant out of her head, so she was breaking the bad news.

"What the fuck do you mean I can't go?!" Asuka shouted, pointing accusingly at Misato. "How the fuck is that fair?!"

"Life isn't fair, Asuka." Misato said as the other three pilots sat there quietly.

"Why the fuck can't I go?" Asuka screamed.

"It's part of your job." Misato replied. "You're on call along with the rest of the pilots. This isn't directed at you, Asuka, none of you are going."

"So, I'm on permeant standby?!" Asuka demanded. "What fucking idiot decided that?!"

"This fucking idiot, the Director of the Tactical Division." Misato said calmly. "Seeing as Mari's Unit–XP isn't here yet because someone misplaced some parts or something, and Unit–00 is still undergoing its refit or repairs or whatever after your battle with the last Angel pushed its schedule back almost a month, you four are all on call, even though we only have two fully operational EVAs available. Even if we had all four, id still keep you all here to deploy against any Angelic threat that comes at us."

Asuka turned to Shinji, who was sitting next her and glared at him. "Shinji, you're the only voice of reason she'll listen to, why don't you talk some sense into this woman!"

"Well, Asuka…" Shinji said. "I already kind of expected we wouldn't be able to go. Who would protect the city without us here?"

"No one, puppy." Mari said. "Jeez, princess, are you that dense? Did you really think that we'd be leaving to go on a trip while the city fended of itself from these crazy fucking Angels? You're either insane, or just plain stupid, I'm not sure which."

"Shut up four eyes, I didn't ask you!" Asuka shouted.

"Shinji is correct, Soryu." Rei said. "The Angel Intercept System does nothing more than distract an Angel before the Evangelions can intercept and destroy them. Without us pilots present, the EVAs will not be able to function, ergo, the city is defenseless without us."

"Thank you for the long winded explanation wundergirl!" Asuka shouted.

"Asuka, please calm down." Shinji said. "Misato's at least being fair. She could let Rei and Mari go as their EVAs aren't even read yet. But she didn't, she kept us all here to make sure no one got special treatment."

"But I wanted to go on a vacation!" Asuka bemoaned.

"Asuka, do you really think we don't all want to go on a vacation?" Shinji asked.

"Yeah, if anyone deserves a vacation, it's the puppy here!" Mari said empathically. "He's gone into combat against five separate Angels, he should be let off the hook, but he's taking it like a trooper because he knows it's his job!"

"So what?!" Asuka said. "We should all be given a break from this, we all deserve it, combat or not! This job is stressful! We always just wait for the fucking Angels to attack us! Every good tactician knows that the best defense is a good offence! Why can't we search out one of these stupid fucking Angels and kill it before it even has a chance to attack us! Take the fight for them once in a while! It would be a nice change of pace, Misato!"

"If we could find the Angels before they attacked we would, but right now we can only find them if they're coming towards us. Plus, we have plenty of recreational facilities here at NERV, Asuka." Misato replied. "I've cleared out an entire facility for you four to use while your friends are in Okinawa." Misato's eyes narrowed. "However, Asuka, Shinji, and Mari, perhaps your time would be better spent catching up on your assignments rather than relaxing. I've been getting your grades sent to me, and you're all quite far behind."

"What?" Asuka said.

"Oh crap…" Shinji muttered.

"Whoops…" Mari smirked.

"Did you all really think I wouldn't notice?" Misato asked. "Well, I made sure all your test scores and grades were sent directly to me from the school, and I can honestly say I was shocked by what I saw. I'm very disappointed in you three. Somehow, even though Rei misses more school than the three of you, she has wonderful grades… something you three should be trying to strive to."

"I'll try harder, miso…" Mari muttered.

"Sorry…" Shinji said with his head down.

"Well, this is so silly, Misato?" Asuka said. "This school's grades are so dumb! That old fashioned numerical grading system you people use is stupid."

"When in Rome, Asuka." Misato said. "You could at least try to adjust to Japanese schools, Asuka. You're a smart girl, I know you can adapt."

"Well, it's still stupid!" Asuka shouted.

"Oh, shut up, princess and just deal with it!" Mari shouted.

"Yeah, Asuka, it could be worse." Shinji said.

"ARRRRRGH!" Asuka shouted. "This sucks!"

"Yeah, well, this will suck more for you, Asuka." Misato said. "You all have a sync test in 30 minutes, get suited up and go to the sync bay."

"See, Asuka." Shinji said as Misato left. "This is worse."

"Shut up, baka!" Asuka said as they filed out.

Misato saw them leave the briefing room and caught Mari by the arm. "Mari, a word?"

"Sure, miso, what's up?" Mari asked.

"So, your request came though." Misato said. "You're cleared to move in today. Do you have yours stuff, I don't know, packed?"

"Yeah, I never really unpacked when I got here, I've been living out of boxes." Mari said. "I can have my stuff moved over there tonight."

"No need, I'll send Section 2 to move your things, and you can double check the apartment tomorrow for anything we missed." Misato said. "Here's a key to my apartment, just go there straight after the sync test. Asuka and Shinji have a checkup with Ritsuko, so you'll be able to move in without interruption."

"You didn't tell her did you, miso?" Mari asked.

"No, I just go the approval today, and I haven't had time to tell her." Misato replied. "But seeing as she's already pissed about the school trip, she won't get that much angrier at this news, so it's the perfect day to move in."

"Sure, miso, that's a logical argument…" Mari said sarcastically. "Because Asuka's moving in as a surprise was such a success…"

"I know, wasn't it?" Misato said. "They got along great!"

'Oh, man, it'll be so much fun to mess with miso when I move in…' Mari thought.

–––

Asuka and Shinji were walking home after their physicals. Asuka's physical was first, and she was nice enough to wait for his to be finished. As he came out of the room, he had been surprised to see her waiting there. On their walk back, Shinji decided to ask Asuka something to break up her complaints about not going on the Okinawa trip.

"Stupid Misato, telling us we can't go, I hate her!" Asuka shouted again as they kept walking towards the apartment. "Just because she's stuck working doesn't mean we all have to suffer like her!"

"I know, Asuka…" Shinji said. "It sucks, but we have to do it, we're all that stands between the Angels and the city…"

"Yeah, and that's super stressful!" Asuka said. "I could get wrinkles from all this stress! I'd look hideous!

"I highly doubt that…" Shinji muttered.

"What was that?!" Asuka asked angrily.

"I just wanted to… uh… ask you something." Shinji said.

"What?" Asuka asked.

"Why did you… wait for me?" Shinji asked.

"Why not?" Asuka said. "We're going to the same place, and I didn't feel like sitting in the apartment all alone. It's too quiet being in there alone."

"But Pen–Pen is there." Shinji said stupidly.

"Oh, I meant…" Asuka muttered. "Never mind baka…"

"Oh, crap…" Shinji muttered. "I'm sorry, Asuka…"

"It's ok, Shinji." Asuka said. 'Does he really not think of me that way, does he not want to be alone with me? Why do I want to be alone with him though… I like being alone, I've always been alone…' Asuka thought. 'Ever since the cemetery, I can't stop thinking about him… it's almost like I care about him… and I haven't ever cared about anyone besides my momma…'

'I wonder why Asuka got quiet all of a sudden?' Shinji thought. 'She does this a lot lately, she gets mad and then she quiets down… it's almost like she's thinking about something… but what? And why does she want to always spend time with me. I mean I like spending time with her, but she still acts so weird around me, sometimes I thinks she likes me, and others, I think she despises me…'

As the two approached the apartment, the elevator had a sign listing it as out of order, so, after their long day, they had to climb 12 flights of stairs to get to the apartment. This aggravated Asuka even more so than not being able to go on the trip, as she now had to walk to the apartment instead of the easy ride in the elevator. When they got to the door, they both noticed it was unlocked. They were confused, as they saw Misato was still at NERV when they left, so she can't have gotten in.

"Asuka, we should call the police, right?" Shinji asked. "Or maybe Section 2."

"Or we go in there and kick this person's ass ourselves." Asuka said. "This dumbass picked the wrong apartment…"

Shinji shook his head and silently followed Asuka inside. As they rounded the corner, they noticed a stack of boxes outside Asuka's room, and heard a lot of noise from her room.

"The fucking pervert of course goes into the innocent girl's room." Asuka muttered angrily.

Shinji chuckled, and followed Asuka to her room. Asuka flung open the door open to reveal… Mari.

"WHAT… THE… FUCK!" Asuka screamed. "WHY ARE YOU IN MY ROOM FOUR EYES?! WHY DO YOU HAVE BOXES?!"

"Heya, princess, why s serious?" Mari purred. "Well, you keep saying you're so smart, I'm moving in."

"WHAT?!" Asuka roared. "WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?!"

"Well, I asked miso a few days ago, and she got the permission today, so she said to just move in…" Mari explained. "I was under the impression she had told you guys, or would tell you before she got home."

"Well, she fucking didn't!" Asuka screamed. "She drinks and forgets things all the time! Which is probably why the bitch didn't tell me last week that I couldn't go on the fucking trip!"

"Yes, yes… we heard all about that when we were in the briefing room…" Mari muttered.

"Yeah, well, just because your EVA isn't here and you've been slacking in the combat department, simply means you don't get to complain about not getting a vacation!"

"Oh, yeah, because doing sync tests isn't tiring…" Mari said. "Jeez, you're so damn self–centered, princess. We're all tired, and the puppy and blueberry have dealt with far worse than you have. You're pride's only been wounded. Apparently, the blueberry's EVA almost killed her in its first activation, and then her stunt with protecting the puppy… you barely need a vacation, you've been sitting on your ass in Germany for so long, you don't need a vacation any more than I do."

"Shut up four eyes, I didn't ask for your sanctimonious opinion!" Asuka shouted.

"Yeah, well you're stuck with it from now on, seeing as I'm moving in." Mari said.

"Yeah, well, why did you move in here anyway?!" Asuka shouted. "Why the fuck did you have to move into my room?!"

"Well, miso said I couldn't move in with the puppy, so this room was the only option!" Mari said happily. "So, how does it feel to be surprised by someone moving in?"

"It sucks!" Asuka shouted. "I can't go on the trip, and I can't be alone anywhere, and now the last place I have has been spoiled by YOU!"

"Yeah, well, your attitude tends to spoil things, princess." Mari said angrily. "It's like sour milk, it just smells awful, looks like shit, and tastes even worse."

"Yeah, well… FUCK YOU"! Asuka shouted. "I FUCKING HATE YOU!"

Mari heard Asuka's words, and her face fell and lip started to quiver, Shinji noticed this as Asuka stormed out of her room.

"Asuka, please, calm down." Shinji said as Asuka stormed out of the room. "Asuka!" Shinji turned to Mari. "I'm really sorry, Mari… she's… just…"

"I know, Shinji…" Mari said. "She's just not a nice person, is she?"

"She's not that bad…" Shinji said. "She's just angry about other stuff, Mari. She was really looking forward to that trip you know."

"Yeah… well… it would be nice to have a vacation though, you can't fault her for that." Shinji said.

"Well, I guess so, Shinji." Mari said. "Any way you can kind of calm her down?"

"I can try, but you'll have to be a bit nicer to her, especially if you're going to share a room." Shinji said. "I may not know her too well, but I do know she doesn't like to share."

"Yeah, no shit…" Mari replied. "I'll just unpack here, and maybe you can help me, I don't know, separate the room up so she can her own… space I guess…"

"Yeah, ill go talk to her…" Shinji said.

"Hey, Shinji…" Mari said. "You're a nice guy."

Shinji smiled. "Thanks, Mari."

Shinji looked around for Asuka. Her shoes were still in the apartment, and she wasn't in the kitchen, living room, or bathroom. Shinji knew she wasn't in her room, so he went out onto the veranda, and there she was, leaning on the railing, and she looked pissed.

"Asuka…" Shinji said.

"What the hell do you want?" Asuka said angrily.

"I just wanted to make sure you were ok." Shinji said. "You seemed pretty angry, and I don't like seeing my friends upset…"

"Shut up, baka!" Asuka shouted. "You obviously knew she was moving in!"

"No, I'm just… just as surprised as you are!" Shinji said. "If I knew, I would have told you! I know how… uh… surprising it can be!"

"Yeah, just like when I came in and spoiled your day." Asuka said angrily. "Just leave me alone, Shinji."

"No, Asuka." Shinji said. "I'm not going to leave you alone. You can't just hide out here. It's supposed to rain tonight, you'll get sick."

"Like you care…" Shinji said. "Just go away."

"Asuka, just come inside." Shinji said. "Mari said she'd help rearrange the room so you can have your own space. I'll even help, Asuka."

"We're not moving anything, and I don't want her there!" Asuka shouted. "I want my own room!"

"Well, we can't all have what we want, can we!" Shinji said.

"Well, why can't she live somewhere else?!" Asuka shouted.

"I don't know, Asuka." Shinji said. "But she must have wanted to move in here."

"Yeah, to be closer to you…" Asuka said.

"Asuka, she wouldn't want to share a room with you if she didn't like you." Shinji said. "And she wouldn't have given you a cute nickname if she didn't think of you as a friend."

"Yeah, I doubt she thinks of me that way, the way she teases me all the time." Asuka said snarkily. "And I certainly don't like her…"

"Asuka, don't say things like that!" Shinji said admonishingly. "Look, if you want to be mad at someone, be mad at Misato, Mari said she thought Misato told us, and she clearly didn't, so it's her fault you're mad! She won't let you go on the trip, and now you're taking out all your frustration on Mari!"

"Yeah, well, I hate Misato too!" "And I hate you too!"

"Well, fine, be that way!" Shinji said turning back inside. "I'm done with this, sleep out here for all I care!"

"Wait, you'd actually leave me out here?!" Asuka shouted.

"It's better than butting my head against the wall arguing with you." Shinji said.

"Typical male, give up when things get tough." Asuka said.

"No, it's more like give up when things are impossible to change." Shinji said walking away again.

"Shinji!" Asuka shouted. "Wait!"

"What?!" Shinji said.

"Don't… go." Asuka muttered.

"Give me a reason." Shinji said.

"I shouldn't have yelled at you." Asuka said. "I'm… I'm…"

Shinji sighed. "You don't have say it Asuka. I accept your apology." Shinji smiled. "So, will you just come inside, and act… less angry? For me as your friend?"

"Yeah, I'll try…" Asuka said.

"Good, now let's go inside and fix up your room." Shinji said.

"Whatever, just don't tell me it could be worse." Asuka said.

"Tadaima!" Misato shouted. "Where is everyone, I have some news!"

"See, Asuka… it could have been worse." Shinji quipped. "Misato could have been home while you were shouting, and then made things worse."

"Shut up, baka!" Asuka said. "Now, I'm going to yell at Misato for being a complete and utter dumbass and not telling us about this!"

Misato rounded the corner to see Asuka storming towards her. She turned around quickly to see Mari coming the other way.

"Miso soup!" Mari shouted.

Misato you dumbass!" Asuka screamed.

"Oh shit…" Misato mumbled.

"What the fuck were you thinking forgetting to tell me four eyes was moving in!" Asuka shouted.

"Yeah, I just got yelled at because of you, miso!" Mari shouted. "Why didn't you tell her? I don't like being yelled at because of an oversight!"

"I… uh…" Misato mumbled. "Oh boy…"

"Well, do you have an answer, miso?" Mari asked.

"Yeah, any explanations at all?" Asuka demanded.

"I… uh… forgot…" Misato muttered. "Sorry…"

"YOU FORGOT!?" Asuka and Mari shouted in unison.

"What are you, stupid or something?" Asuka yelled.

"You make the puppy the responsible adult in this place, you know that right?" Mari pointed out.

"I do not!" Misato said defensively. "Shinji is not the adult."

"Sure, he cooks, cleans, and wakes us up…" Asuka quipped. "And he's not the adult… unbelievable."

"Jeez, he even wakes you up, miso?" Mari asked. "Don't you have an alarm clock or something?"

"I work a lot! I'm tired all the time!" Misato said.

"More like drink a lot…" Shinji muttered.

"What was that?!" Misato shouted.

"I think he said you DRINK!" Asuka said

Instead of defending herself further, Misato stormed off to her room and slammed her door.

"Yeah, very adult, miso!" Mari called after her. "Nice call, puppy."

"So, can we go arrange your room, guys?" Shinji asked. "I'd like to get to bed so I have enough time tomorrow to work on my class work."

"Sure, puppy!" Mari said happily.

"Yeah, I don't see why not." Asuka said.


November 1, 2015 – NERV Recreational Facility

The class had left that morning for Okinawa, leaving Asuka in a sour mood. Hikari, Toji, and Kensuke had told them all to be careful, and hoped they didn't have to deal with any Angels. So, as a group, the three roommates went to the facility and met Rei on the way. Asuka and Mari hadn't brought anything with them to work on their school work, so when they arrived, the girls went to the changing room, and Shinji went next to the pool to start working.

Rei and Mari came out at the same time. Rei was wearing a nice one piece in bright blue and dived right into the pool, while Mari came out in a skimpy two piece that emphasized her assets quite nicely, and was in her favorite color, pink, and she had a towel wrapped around her shoulders to cover herself a bit.

"Hey, puppy, working hard, or hardly working?" Mari asked.

"Oh, just finishing my trigonometry work, nothing special." Shinji replied, not looking up.

"Good puppy!" Mari said. "So, no swimming then, I guess, right?"

"Yeah, can't swim, too afraid to learn." Shinji said.

"Well, if you change your mind, I'll still teach you." Mari said.

"I know, but I don't want to keep disappointing Misato with my grades." Shinji said. "What about your work? Didn't you bring it with you?"

"No, I did it all last night after we rearranged the room." Mari smiled. "I'm not dumb you know, just not motivated."

"I know that, Mari." Shinji said.

"Alright, well, I'll be over here in the water when you're done." Mari said. "Maybe you could just stick your feet in the water and just sit on the side and we can chat."

"Maybe, Mari." Shinji said.

"Good!" Mari said as she took a running leap into the pool, making a big splash when she hit the water.

Shinji finished his trigonometry work and then began the subject he hated, physics. Asuka then came out as Mari started to mildly harass Rei by swimming in sync with her as she did her laps. Asuka looked over at the pool, then decided to go and bother Shinji first.

"What have you got there, Shinji?" Asuka asked.

"Oh, just basic physics." Shinji said.

"Oh, you're such an obedient student, Shinji." Asuka said sarcastically.

"Well, I have to study it anyway." Shinji said as he looked up. "Wha…" Shinji saw Asuka dressed in her red and white bathing suit standing proudly in front of him.

"Well, you look impressed." Asuka said.

"I…" Shinji muttered.

"I figured if I'm not going to Okinawa, I may as well do some diving here." Asuka said.

"What?" Shinji asked, dumbfounded as Asuka leaned towards his computer, knowingly exposing her breasts to him in the process.

"I said, I'm going diving, baka." Asuka said as she typed on Shinji's computer. "All set, Shinji." Asuka said. "How did you have so much trouble with such a basic physics problem? It so easy when you know how…"

Shinji blushed at the sight he had in front of him. "Asuka… how do you… how did you do that problem so quickly, and not get good grades on your tests?"

"Oh, it's not that I don't know, it's that I have a lot of trouble figuring out the questions on the test." Asuka said with a slight frown. "I never finished learning all the kanji."

"You can't read the questions in Japanese?" Shinji asked.

"That's right…" Asuka said. "I can speak fluent Japanese, but I can't read the kanji…" Asuka pointed at Shinji's laptop. "So, what's this one say?"

"Oh, it's a question about thermal expansion." Shinji said.

"Thermal expansion? Oh, that's an easy one, it's like child's play…" Asuka said, smirking. "To put it in terms you understand, most things expand when they get hot and contract when they get cold."

Mari pulled herself out of the water while Asuka was giving Shinji his lesson, and listened in.

"Well, that seems simple enough." Shinji said.

"Look…" Asuka put her hand on her breasts. "If I were to warm up my breasts with my hands, do you think they'd grow bigger, or get smaller."

"I don't know!" Shinji said, as he turned away from Asuka. "I don't think like that all the time!"

Asuka looked disappointed. "Such a boring little boy…"

"Hey, princess, you'll need more than some heat to make those hush puppies of your grow bigger!" Mari called over as Asuka walked away. "Things like that are just a natural process, unless you get implants anyway!"

"Shut up four eyes!" Asuka shouted. "My breasts are perfectly fine!"

"Is that why you were massaging them in front of the puppy?" Mari asked. "Did you hear massaging them gently can make them bigger?"

"Fuck you, four eyes!" Asuka shouted.

"Maybe later!" Mari called innocently, causing Asuka to storm off to the supply closet in a huff.

While Asuka was in the closet, Asuka was both angry and sad. "Stupid Shinji…" Asuka muttered. "He never even looks at me the way I want him too… I bought this so he'd notice me that way… the way boys are supposed to look at girls… what a jerk…"

When Asuka came back with her scuba gear and leaned over at the pool's far side, Shinji kept glancing at her and blushed. 'Why does she flirt so much, when she calls me stupid and baka the other half of the time… it's so… confusing…' Shinji thought.

Shinji the heard the water break and looked to see Rei getting out of the pool and drying off. She smiled at him and waived.

Asuka then shouted to Shinji to get his attention. "Hey, Shinji, lookie, lookie! Back roll in three!"

"Man, this day is going to be distracting…" Shinji muttered.

–––

In Central Dogma, it was business as usual. There wasn't much to do outside of Angel battles, besides doing some basic research work, and monitoring the repairs to AI and the city itself.

"Aoba, what's the status on the AIS?" Misato asked.

Aoba quit his air guitar and checked his console. "Repairs are a week ahead of schedule. AIS is currently 78% repaired, and 45% armed. Given another three weeks or so, the system can be somewhere in 80% range, with all available weapons loaded. Mobile defense system have been replaced however, and the VTOL squadrons are ready to go in case of emergency."

"Good, thanks, Aoba." Misato said. "Hyuga, what about the EVAs? Any status? I'd ask Maya, but she's got that data from Mt. Asama to deal with."

"No problem, Major." Hyuga replied as he put his manga down. "Unit–01 and Unit–02 are combat ready. Unit–00 will be ready by the end of the week, and we have the Core and cybernetic limbs for Unit–XP, as well as the Entry Plug, and its very unique weapon, some kind of ten barreled, 20,000 round Gatling gun… but its main biological body has yet to arrive…"

"Well, at least we have most of it." Misato quipped. "Maybe when the next Angel attacks, we'll just throw the limbs from Unit–XP at it… Thanks Hyuga."

"Alright, Major." Hyuga said as he went back to his manga.

"Uh, Dr. Akagi, could you come here for a minute?" Maya asked.

"Sure, Maya, what is it?" Ritsuko asked.

"Well, this sensor data from Mt. Asama is… concerning… it says there's a large Pattern Orange, but not at the levels we're used to…" Maya said. "Almost like it may be a baby Angel…"

"You're not kidding, Maya, good catch." Ritsuko said. "Misato!"

"Yeah!" Misato said wandering over and seeing the screen. "Oh… shit…"

"Yeah, you should get up to that research station, like now…" Ritsuko said.

"No, kidding." Misato said. "Maya, Hyuga, let's move! Aoba, you have tactical command here until I return!"

"Yes, ma'am!" Aoba replied as the three officers left the room.
–––

Shinji was finishing his work and closed his laptop and got ready to leave when Mari beckoned him over. Shinji left his bag on the table and walked over.

"Hey, Shinji, you leaving?" Mari asked.

"Yeah, I want to get work done without so many… distractions."

"So, three distractions in all then?" Mari teased. "Do you find our bodies so distracting and alluring, you can't work around us?"

"No, I just…" Shinji muttered.

"Oh, stop, its ok…" Mari said. "I've seen the porn you watch, I know what turns you on…"

"Mari!" Shinji shouted.

Mari giggled. "Relax, I said I wouldn't say anything… stud."

Asuka wandered over at the commotion and butted in. "Shinji will you stop yelling, you're voice echoes in here!" Asuka said.

"Sorry." Shinji said. "I'm just leaving though, so it won't happen again."

"You're not even going to swim?" Asuka asked.

"No, I don't like swimming." Shinji said.

"You're so boring…" Asuka said. "You should go for a dip!"

Asuka playfully pushed Shinji into the water, which was deeper than he was tall, and he began struggling, and Asuka looked horrified, and was frozen in fear.

"Shinji!" Mari screamed as she dove back in and came up along his side, with Rei popping up next to him and helping out of the shallow end of the pool. When Shinji got out of the water, he took his things and stormed off without a word, and Mari turned on Asuka.

"What the fuck, Asuka!" Mari shouted. "Why did you do that?!"

"I was only joking… I didn't think it would be an issue." Asuka said.

"He doesn't know how to swim!" Mari shouted. "And you call him the idiot!"

"He can be!" Asuka said. "And I tell it how it is!"

"Well, you can be a bitch at times, but I bet you don't like to hear that!" Mari retorted.

"I am not!" Asuka said. "And what idiot doesn't know how to swim!"

"One who is afraid of the water because they nearly drowned when they were a child!" Mari shouted. "If you ever bothered to talk to Shinji and not bitch all the time, you might learn something about him!"

"Well, he should act more like a boy should!" Asuka shouted.

"Asuka that is so narrow minded of you!" Mari shouted. "He's plenty man enough! Or are you talking about him showing a fucking emotion?!"

"He's too emotional at times!" Asuka shouted. "Boys are supposed to be stoic and silent!"

"Well, men are allowed to express whatever feeling they want!" Mari said. "It shouldn't just be focused around anger and sex, like everyone seems to think!"

"Well, he should hold them in like everyone else does!" Asuka screamed.

"You mean like you do?" Mari shouted. "Because you're so fucking perfect!"

"I'm more perfect than you!" Asuka shouted.

"Whatever, princess…" Mari said. "You just don't get it do you? Shinji is more than enough of a man and should be treated better by you!"

"I treat him fine!" Asuka shouted.

"Yeah, he cleans your clothes, wakes you up, and cooks for you, and you yell and bitch and moan at him all the time." Mari quipped. "And you call that fine?"

"He's more than happy to do it!" Asuka shouted.

"Well, maybe you should help him out!" Mari shouted.

"Why, I don't really want to, and he already does it because he likes it!" Asuka shouted.

"So, he does the womanly duties of the house, and yet you say he isn't manly enough!" Mari shouted. "You fucking hypocrite!"

"I am not!" Asuka said. "He's just… domesticated!"

"Well, he certainly more man that you'll ever get!" Mari screamed. "He was man enough to kill two Angels alone while Rei was injured, killed another one with her help, and then when your lazy ass finally got here, he helped you kill the next fucking two Angels we've come across. Way to go, Asuka, he does all the work, and you try to take all the credit! I think he's plenty manly enough as he keeps facing these things even though he's almost died a whole bunch! You're just some stupid loser who can't kill an Angel on your own!"

"Wha…" Asuka mumbled, shocked into silence.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go see if my best friend is ok." Mari said angrily.

As Mari stormed out and Asuka stood there in a stunned rage and stormed out as well, Rei looked on and had nothing to say.

'Why is what Mari did seem… familiar to me… like I've done something similar for her in the past… but I couldn't have… Mari is more than capable of defending herself…' Rei thought as she toweled herself again. 'I feel the same way for Mari as I do Shinji… its odd… I feel a connection to her as well… another connection I cannot explain… how intriguing… I just wish I knew where these feelings were coming from…'

–––

Hyuga, Maya, and Misato were at the Mt. Asama research station and were using the research team's volcanic drone to look into the Pattern Orange that had been detected.

"Depth is 650m, and we're getting a reading, ma'am." Hyuga reported.

"It's not very strong…" Maya said.

"Keep going." Misato said.

"Ma'am, the safe depth is only 1,000m, we can't go much further than that." Maya said.

"Push it as far as it will go." Misato said.

"Depth is now 975m, still no clear reading." Maya said.

"Keep going…" Misato ordered.

"Depth is now 1,120m, probe hull is buckling from pressure."

"Depth is 1,250 m, I'm getting a reading!" Hyuga said.

"Probe hull pressure critical!" Maya reported. "It's imploding!"

"Probe signal lost, Major." Hyuga said.

"Did you get it through?" Misato asked.

"Yeah…" Hyuga pulled up an image of an embryonic skeleton in what looked like a translucent egg. "We had 6.8 seconds of clear data, and it's enough to confirm the Pattern Blue… it's an Angel."

"Good job you two." Misato said as she stood up and addressed the room. "This entire research facility is now under NERV jurisdiction!" Misato announced. "There will be no unauthorized phone calls to anyone and all access to the outside world is prohibited until further notice. All records pertaining to these events and any data therein are now classified top secret. You will all be required to sign on–disclosure agreements about these events. Please cooperate with us, and we will return control of your facility to you forthwith."

Misato then walked away to make a phone call.

Brrring… brrring… brrring…

"Central Dogma." Aoba said over the line.

"Aoba, I need an A–17 from Commander Ikari, top priority!" Misato said.

"Careful what you're saying, Major, this isn't a secure line." Aoba replied.

"I know that, switch me to a scrambled line immediately." Misato ordered. "And then transfer me directly to the Commander."

"Yes, ma'am." Aoba replied. "What should I tell him?"

"That the enemy is in the nest." Misato said happily.

–––

Mari got back to the dark apartment, and didn't see any lights on. She was carrying her bag with her clothes, and still wearing her bathing suit.

"Shinji!" Mari shouted. "Shinji, where are you?!"

She didn't get a response, so she went inside and looked around, and heard something coming from Shinji's room. "Shinji?"

She opened his door, to see the still soaking wet boy laying on his bed, crying. Mari walked over t him and laid down next to him and held him tightly.

"Shinji, why are you crying?" Mari asked.

"Why does Asuka hate, me?" Shinji asked. "Why can't she just be friendly like you and Rei and everyone else? Why can't she just act normal?"

"Shinji, don't worry about it." Mari said. "You shouldn't let yourself cry over someone like that. She doesn't deserve your friendship."

"But… she does!" Shinji said. "You didn't see her the night before we fought the Seventh Angel. She was so vulnerable! She just wanted to be close to me, she was so nice then… but she's only ever like that when we're alone…"

"So, she's not really as mean as she pretends to be." Mari said. "Is that why you're so upset, because she's so nice to you when you're both alone, but in front of people, she treats you like crap?"

"Yeah… I think she's really kind, she just has this front up for her own… reasons…" Shinji said. "She's no different than me… she's alone too… and she only wants a few friends…"

"How do you know?" Mari asked.

"Well, she talked in her sleep that night… and I heard… she just wanted her mother…" Shinji said. "She wanted to know why she had to die…"

"Oh, that's why you said…" Mari said.

"Yeah, she's just like me, she's lost someone too…" Shinji explained. "She knows about my mother too, but she doesn't know I know about hers… she followed me to the cemetery on the anniversary of her death. She held me while I cried… that's why I don't understand why she acts the way she does around me…"

Mari hugged Shinji tightly. "Shinji, you're so kind, this is why I like you so much."

"Thanks, Mari…" Shinji said. "At least someone admits how they feel about me openly…"

"Well, it's stupid to hide how you feel, puppy, she'll figure that out eventually." Mari said. "You know, you're still wet, Shinji… why didn't you change?"

"I was too upset to care…" Shinji muttered.

"Well, why don't we just cuddle, so I can warm you up, then you can go shower and change, ok?" Mari asked.

Shinji smiled. "Yeah, that'll be nice."

"Hey, Shinji?" Mari said as they snuggled.

"Yeah?" Shinji said.

"Asuka will come around eventually." Mari said. "She's just got to work through whatever is blocking her from expressing herself properly."

"I know…" Shinji muttered.

Unbeknownst to the both of them, Asuka had gotten home moments after Mari, and listened in on their conversation and then went to the bathroom quietly to shower, and to do something she had promised herself she'd never do again… cry.

'Shinji knows about my mother…' Asuka thought as the shower ran to hide her crying. 'He still wants to be my friend, even though I treat him poorly… I need to try and act nicer to him… but why do I need his approval? I've never wanted that from anyone but Kaji… and Shinji's just a boy…' Asuka wiped some of her tears from her face. 'And why am I crying? Why does his sadness make me feel so empty inside?'


November 2, 2015 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Shinji woke up the next morning to smell something from the kitchen. Shinji wandered out to see Asuka was cooking.

"Asuka?" Shinji asked.

"Yeah?" Asuka replied.

"What are you doing?" Shinji asked.

"Making breakfast, baka." Asuka said. "Something German, to change up all this monotony you have."

"Why?" Shinji said, still dumbfounded.

"To say that I'm… that I'm…" Asuka struggled with the word. "That I'm sorry… I shouldn't have shoved you into the water… Mari… uh… told me why you don't swim… I didn't know…"

"You actually said it…" Shinji muttered.

"I heard that." Asuka said. "And yes, I don't say it often unless I really fucked up."

"It's ok, Asuka, you didn't know I couldn't swim…" Shinji said.

"Well, I should have!" Asuka said. "We're friends, and I had to hear that from four eyes of all people! She ripped me a new one because of how I treated you, and she was right…"

"Asuka… I accept your apology." Shinji said as he walked behind her and hugged her. "And thank you for cooking… that was thank you enough."

Asuka blushed. "Baka, I don't remember giving you permission to hug me like this."

"Don't ruin the moment, Asuka." Shinji said.

"Fine…" Asuka said reaching behind her and patting Shinji in the head. "Thanks, Shinji, for always being so nice to me."

"Awww!" Mari said from the door way. "Puppy love!"

"Mari, don't…" Shinji said.

"Sorry puppy, I wouldn't want to ruin the moment…" Mari said sarcastically.

"How long have you been standing there?" Asuka asked.

"From when you uttered the s–word" Mari said. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone how nice you are, princess, I know how tough it is to cultivate an image for yourself."

"Thanks…" Asuka said.

Brrring… brrring… brrring…

Mari went and picked up the phone.

"Yo!" Mari said. "What?! Yeah, we'll be there in 20." Mari hung up the phone. "Come on kids, they found an Angel."

"Wait… found?" Asuka asked.

"Yeah, apparently it's a big deal." Mari said. "Come on, shut off the food, and let's go!"

"I'm gonna kill that fucking Angel…" Asuka muttered.

"Of course we are, Asuka, it's our job." Shinji said.

"Not that, baka." Asuka said. "The fucker ruined my breakfast!"

–––

The four pilots were standing in front of a large display. There was an image of the embryonic Angel displayed as a reference for the briefing Dr. Akagi and Sub–Commander Fuyutsuki were giving.

"So, that's what a bay Angel looks like?" Shinji asked.

"Yes, Shinji, that's its larval state." Ritsuko replied. "We're in a unique situation, finding the Angel before it finds us. So, we will capture and study it if possible."

"What if it hatches or something?" Mari asked.

"Then it is to be killed with all due haste, Pilot Makinami." Fuyutsuki said.

"So, who's doing what?" Asuka asked.

"Well, With Unit–02 being the only one fully operational and compatible with the Type–D Equipment, it will be you, Asuka." Ritsuko said. "Unit–02 was outfitted last night for the lava, and you're Type–D plugsuit is ready for use. Just to warn you, it's not as fashionable as your standard one, but it's meant to insulate you from the extreme environment. A Prog Knife will be strapped to your leg, and you will be using an electromagnetic cage to contain the Angel."

"Whatever, I just want to kill that Angel." Asuka said.

"What about the other pilots, Dr. Akagi?" Rei asked.

"Well, Shinji and Unit–01will be present at Mt. Asama as a backup to Unit–02, while Rei and Unit–00 will be on standby here. It's being rushed to readiness so we can defend the city while you're away."

"Can I go with Shinji and Asuka?" Mari asked.

"I don't see why not, you should see the operation up close, Makinami." Fuyutsuki said. "What do you think, Dr. Akagi, is that appropriate?"

"Yes, she can see everything up close before her EVA gets here." Dr. Akagi said. "So, Mari, do you want to hitch a ride with one of the pilots?"

"Yeah, I'll go with Shinji." Mari said. "So, I guess we'll all need our plugsuits."

"Yes, all of you, go change, you leave in 30 minutes." Ritsuko said.

–––

Asuka had finished putting on her insulated plugsuit. After activating the LS Pack and sucking the air out, an inner membrane filled between an inner suit and the outer suit with what seemed to be LCL.

"This plugsuit makes me look fat!" Asuka bemoaned. "I look like Violet Beauregarde!"

"Princess, it could be worse…" Mari said kindly.

"Asuka, you look fine." Shinji said. "It doesn't matter what your plugsuit looks like as long as it keeps you safe in there. None of us want you to die from being in a volcano."

"Thanks, Shinji…" Asuka said. "So where is my… Unit–02!" Asuka exclaimed. "Oh my, it's awful, it's covered in that awful armor, and it's not even red!"

Asuka was refereeing to the fact that Unit–02 had been outfitted in what looked like rigid white old time scuba gear from the 1950s, with the only transparent section being where Unit–02 somewhat sad looking face could be seen.

"Asuka, it's only to keep you and Unit–02 safe." Shinji said.

"Yeah, I don't want my roomie getting par boiled in LCL." Mari said.

"Soryu… it would be quite unfortunate if you were to perish from not using safety equipment." Rei said.

"Really?" Asuka said.

"Yeah, we don't want you to die, and I'll be right there if you need any assistance." Shinji said. "But I know I just have to watch this time, because you catch or kill that Angel without any help."

"Thanks, Shinji." Asuka said.

"Alright you three, get ready to move out." Ritsuko said.

–––

Unit–02 was attached to a crane apparatus hanging over the lava. The crane had been hastily erected, and was being used to lower the immobile Unit–02 into the molten lava below. Unit–01 was off to the side and standing ready, not that it could give much assistance unless the Angel leapt out of the lava. Asuka was anxious and waiting in her Entry Plug for the mission to start.

"Hey, Shinji?" Asuka asked.

"Yeah, Asuka?" Shinji replied.

"You have my back, right?" Asuka asked worriedly. "Even after yesterday?"

"Of course, Asuka." Shinji said. "We're friends, and I always protect my friends, and I already told you I forgive you Asuka, you apologized and everything."

"Thanks, Shinji." Asuka replied.

–––

Mari was in the control room, after drying off her plugsuit to watch everything happen in real time. She was sitting on a stool looking at Hyuga and Maya tapping away on the console in front of them, and at Misato, who looked like she was constipated.

"Hey, miso, when is this shit starting?" Mari asked.

"Soon, we just need to double check everything so that we can get this thing." Misato said. "Hyuga, Maya, make final checks and prepare for the operation."

–––

Shinji was in his Entry Plug and was looking around while he was waiting. He looked up and saw several large planes flying high above them in circles.

"Hey, why are the jets circling around? Are they here to help us?" Shinji asked. "Or are they just here to wish us luck?"

"No, they're here to clean up the mess…." Ritsuko replied over the comm. "If we fail, Archangel Squadron has permission to drop its load of N2 Depth Charges to kill the Angel, and us along with it."

"Bullshit!" Asuka shouted. "You're saying they're going to nuke us too?!"

"Yes, Asuka, that's the plan." Ritsuko replied. "We are ultimately expendable."

"The hell we are!" Mari shouted.

"What kind of person orders that?" Shinji asked.

"Commander Ikari of course."

"Fucking typical…" Shinji said. "Can't even trust us to do this after we've killed all those other Angels…"

"Well, I guess he is an ass." Asuka replied. "And all those other Angels didn't count apparently!"

"Enough you two, we're beginning the operation." Misato reported. "The laser bore has been fired, and the lava disrupted. Asuka, we're sending you in, good luck."

Asuka sat in her Entry Plug as her great white Evangelion was dropped into the lava below.

"Hey Shinji, look at this!" Asuka said as she moved her control yokes. "A prefect scissor dive!"

Unit–02 responded to Asuka's inputs and did execute a perfect scissor dive into the lava.

Shinji chuckled. "Well, Asuka, if it was the Olympics, I'd give it a 10."

"Thanks, baka…" Asuka said. "Now shush… I'm hunting Angels."

The visibility was poor, Asuka could barely see the cage apparatus she was carrying a few feet in front of her. Also, with the lava, Asuka was starting to get hot.

"Ok, Misato, depth is currently 175m, rate of decent is steady at 5m/s." Asuka replied. "And is it me, or it getting toasty in here?"

"Asuka, cut the crap." Misato said. "This is serious, you have to find and catch that Angel immediately. So just stay focused on that objective."

"Whatever…" Asuka muttered. "Can't see shit anyway, it's so fucking murky down here, I mean, visibility is nada…"

"Switch to external monitor and set for visibility enhancement."

"Yeah, switching now…" Asuka muttered. "Still barely 15m, maybe 20m if I squint… I may as well just use a long stick to find the damn Angel."

"Asuka, just focus, can you see anything with the limited vision you do have?" Misato asked.

"Nope, just staring at lava flows here." Asuka replied.

"Temperate 1,050°C, depth 700m." Maya reported.

Asuka continued to search and couldn't see anything at all. She grumbled quietly so Misato wouldn't snap at her again, and Asuka was beginning to get nervous, as it was taking far too long to find a stationary object.

"Approaching target depth of 1,500m." Hyuga reported. "Depth at 1400m… 20 seconds to contact."

"Good, Hyuga, Asuka keep your eyes open!" Misato ordered.

"I know, Misato!" Asuka said angrily. "Target depth reached, but there isn't anything here!" Asuka said angrily. "Where the hell is this thing? We can't have lost it, can we?"

"The lava flows must be faster than we thought…" Ritsuko said.

"We'll just have to go deeper." Misato said. "Continue decent."

"Ma'am, we're already at the absolute limit of what the armor can take for pressure." Maya protested. "Any further down, and we risk the loss of the EVA and its pilot!"

"Asuka knows the risks…" Misato said.

"Miso, that's insane!" Mari shouted. "Safety limits are there for a reason!"

"I appreciate the concern four eyes, but don't worry." Asuka said. "And I do know the risks, but Misato, how deep can this armor really go?"

"It can theoretically go to 2,000m, but that's an extreme and untested limit, plus the heat on the armor will also make it less resistant to pressure." Ritsuko explained. "We'll leave it up to you Asuka."

"I'll keep going." Asuka replied.

The decent continued, as the EVA went deeper, the outer armor began to creak, the transparent faceplate cracked, and the leg deformed so much, that her Prog Knife fell free and drifted away.

"Shit, I lost my Progressive Knife!" Asuka said.

"Just find the Angel and catch it, and you won't need it." Misato said.

On the continued decent, the heat inside the Entry Plug continued to rise, that is until Asuka came across something.

"Depth is 2,125m, I've found the bastard!" Asuka said proudly. "I'm moving in now, I'll only have one shot at this… 40m to contact, 20m… 10m… 5m… extending cage arms… egg is in the capture zone… activating EMF capture net… capture complete."

"Good job, Asuka!" Shinji said.

"Yes, well done, Asuka." Misato said.

"I'm beginning my ascent." Asuka said. "Setting speed to 15m/s."

"Asuka, is everything ok down there?" Misato asked. "You feeling alright?"

"Well, I have the Angel, but I'm all sweaty in all the worst places, I'm also hot and uncomfortable, so I'm not doing that great overall." Asuka said.

"Gross, princess…" Mari quipped.

"Well, there's an onsen not far from here, we can all go there after the mission is complete."

"Sounds like a plan." Asuka replied. "Depth is now 600m and rising… what the fuck?!"

Loud moans were emanating from the cage, and I was starting to shake violently.

Sandalphon was awake.

"It's hatching!" Ritsuko shouted.

"Jettison the cage and prepare for combat, Asuka!" Misato ordered.

"Roger!" Asuka said as the cage was blasted away from Unit–02's clamps, and fell away, allowing Sandalphon to move about freely. Unit–02 reached down to its leg to find that is weapon was not there. "What, shit! I lost my Prog Knife, remember?!"

"Hold on, Asuka, I'll throw mine down! Get ready!" Shinji cried out.

"GO!" Asuka shouted.

"YAHHHHH!" Shinji shouted as the Prog Knife was thrown into the lava.

Asuka looked up as Sandalphon circled around in the murky lava. "Come on you stupid knife!" Asuka shouted. "Stupid viscous liquid!"

Sandalphon charged, as it got closer, Asuka got a clear look at it. It was brown–ish and shaped roughly like a fish on its side. It had a fin for a tail, and smaller, streamlined fins along her sides. It had two giant mushroom protrusions on either side of its dorsal surface, and two eyes on its dorsal surface that were grouped off to the left side of its head. There were also tow antenna coming off of its nose, and a pointed dome on its ventral surface. It also had two long arms that ended with ugly, five fingered hands.

"Jettisoning counterweight belt!" Asuka said as Unit–02 immediately floated out of the way of the charging Angel, buying another moment for the Prog Knife to arrive. Sandalphon circled around for another pass, and attached itself to Unit–02, with its mouth opening wide exposing several tentacles from its mouth, one arm being intercepted by the Prog Knife, and the other grabbing the left leg of the EVA.

"Fucking gross!" Asuka shouted. "Take this, fucker!"

Unit–02 plunged the Prog Knife into the Angel, but it only glanced off the targeted eye, and did absolutely no damage. However, Sandalphon retaliated by ripping the armor off Unit–02's left leg below the knee, causing Asuka intense pain.

"AHHHHH! IT HURTS!" Asuka shouted. "IT BURNS! MY LEG, IT BURNS!"

"Severing nerve connection below left hip… EVA compromised, severe damage imminent!" Maya reported.

Asuka calmed down once the nerves were shut down, but there was still a big problem. "Scheisse!" Asuka shouted. "What do I do, its armor is to strong!"

"I don't think you can do anything, Asuka!" Ritsuko said. "The heat of the volcano clearly does not effect it, so I doubt anything will really penetrate it."

"What if I could shove the Knife in its mouth?" Asuka said.

"Well, that could work, but you need to find a way to stress its body in some way." Ritsuko explained. "But that doesn't seem possible…"

"Unless you use basic physics, Asuka!" Shinji shouted. "Like thermal expansion!"

"I'm so glad I taught you that, baka!" Asuka shouted. "Come on, time to have a snack you stupid Angel!"

Unit–02 severed a coolant hose on its arm and shoved the thing inside Sandalphon's open mouth. "Transfer all coolant pressure to hose number three!" Asuka shouted.

"Roger!" Maya replied, pumping all the coolant into the Angel, and distending it in such a way, Asuka was able to slide the Prog Knife in like a hot knife through butter, puncturing its eye, the Angel trashed, and severing the coolant tubes suspending Unit–02 from the crane above, as the Angel dissolved in the lava.

"ASUKA!" Shinji bellowed. "HOLD ON!"

"I did it… but without those coolant pipes, I'm done for…" Asuka muttered as the armor around her EVA was crushed by the pressure. "Sorry, Shinji, there isn't anything you can do, I guess I'll see you around… take care of him Mari…"

"Shinji, what are you doing!" Misato shouted.

"Shinji, go for it!" Mari shouted happily.

"What's going on?" Asuka asked as the last bits of piping broke apart and Unit–02 began a free fall, a hand shot out of the darkness towards Unit–02, and grabbed it, stopping the decent as abruptly as it started.

Asuka looked up to see the form of Unit–01 holding onto the damaged coolant pipes and to her EVA, keeping her from falling to her death, and also injuring himself in the process.

"AHHHHH!" Shinji screamed. "JUST HOLD ON ASUKA!"

"Shinji!" Asuka screamed. "Shinji, just let go, you're getting hurt!"

"I'LL BE FINE!" Shinji shouted weakly. "JUST HOLD ON!"

As the tow EVAs were pulled out of the lava at great speed, Shinji's grip never slackened until after they were safely on the surface. It took some doing, but Shinji was pulled out of his Entry Plug as Asuka was able to eject hers manually. She ran over to him as Mari ran out from the command center to see him red and slightly blistered from his actions, he was writhing in pain, and crying softly.

"Shinji!" They both shouted.

"Get them back, Major!" The medic shouted. "Get Soryu to another medic as soon as you can, but we need to work on him to make sure he'll be ok… these are some pretty nasty burns… at least I think they're burns…"

"Whatever you have to do." Misato said as she dragged the two girls roughly but the arms away from Shinji "Stop struggling you two! There isn't anything you can do to help but wait and hope for the best!"

"But he got hurt because of me!" Asuka shouted. "I don't want him to be alone!"

"Yeah, miso, she's right, let us go so we can watch him!" Mari protested.

"No, Asuka has to be checked over, as I bet your leg has some of the same injuries he does… just to a lesser extent…" Misato said.

"But…" Asuka protested.

"NO, ASUKA!" Misato roared. "Just go with Mari to the medical tent, and as soon as Shinji has a room in the research facility, I'll let you two sit by him, ok?"

"Fine!" both girls said in protest as Mari led Asuka away.

"It's all my fault…" Asuka said.

"No it isn't, Asuka." Mari said. "Shinji knew what was going to happen, but he did it anyway. He cares a lot about you, you know."

"I guess he really does…" Asuka replied.


November 5, 2015 – Mt. Asama

Shinji was still in bed, resting comfortably. Asuka and Mari were at his bedside, making sure he was safe. They had been there for three days, getting very little sleep while they watched over him constantly. Asuka had minor burns on her leg, which had dissipated, but Shinji's bur like wounds were much worse, as his whole body was exposed. The redness of his skin had disappeared and he was returning to a normal shade, but he was still in a coma, and the doctors did not know when he'd come out of it.

"Mari… I'm sorry he got hurt…" Asuka said yet again. "It's all my fault…"

"Asuka, stop it, he did that all on his own." Mari said. "He cares about you, and he just wanted to protect you, like he would have done for any of us. He's just that nice of a guy."

"But…" Asuka muttered.

"Look, I've been telling you for three days. It's not your fault." Mari said. "Just let it go."

"Ok…" Asuka said. "But when will he wake up?"

"They don't know, Asuka." Mari said. "But he does look a lot better than he did. I'm sure he'll wake up soon."

"Yeah… he does look better…" Asuka muttered.

Mari wrapped her arm around Asuka and patted her shoulder. "Don't worry too much princess. He's a tough kid, this isn't the worst thing that's happened to him."

"Somehow that's not as comforting as it sounds…" Asuka muttered. 'Why do I feel so guilty about his condition?' Asuka thought. 'Why does it matter if he's hurt… I know I've been fighting this for a while, but I must like him a little bit, right? I know I told myself I wanted to be alone, but being with him seems… natural.'

–––

Shinji was sitting in a train car, alone as an endless landscape kept going past outside. He was bathed in an orange light from the perpetual sunset outside the windows.

"Why am I here again?" Shinji said aloud. "I feel like I've been here forever!"

Rei appeared in front of him. "You are here because you want to be."

"No, I want to go back!" Shinji shouted.

"You can only exist here if you wish it, Shinji… so somewhere within yourself you need to be here for some reason." Rei said.

"But I don't like existing here!" Shinji said. "I just want to go back to my real friends, not these damn apparitions!"

Rei disappeared and Mari appeared in front of him. "Awww, puppy, you don't like us?"

"I like the real you, not these fakes!"

"How do you know we aren't real?" Mari asked.

"I can feel it! I know you're not the real Mari, I know that wasn't Rei!" Shinji said angrily. "I don't feel like I do when the real Mari is around, and that Rei was a joke, she doesn't have dead eyes, not since the day we became friends!"

The form finally changed to Asuka. "What about me, Shinji?" Asuka asked. "How do you feel around me?"

"You should know how I feel around you, you're just in my head!" Shinji shouted.

"Come on, baka, just tell me." Asuka said. "I won't hurt you… at least not the way you think I will."

"Why should I say it, you're not the real Asuka!" Shinji shouted.

"It'll make you feel better…"

Mari and Rei both reappeared on either side of Asuka.

"You must tell her, Shinji." Rei said. "You must tell her before it's too late."

"Come on puppy…" Mari said. "Just tell the princess how you feel…"

"Please, Shinji?" Asuka asked sweetly. "I just want to know…"

"You're not the real Asuka!" Shinji said. "You're not the one I've fallen in love with! The one I'd give my life to protect!"

"So, it's true…" Asuka said. "Shinji loves me…"

"So, what!" Shinji shouted. "I'm allowed to love anyone I want, and I fell for you!" Shinji shouted as he heard a loud, passing train.

–––

Asuka and Mari were asleep, having finally lost the will to stay awake after over three days without sleep. Shinji's eyes opened up slowly, and he looked over to see the two of them supporting each other.

"How cute… they're getting along." Shinji said quietly. He groaned loudly as he tried to move, as his body was still sore from being in the volcano. "Oh, it was a mistake to do that… now it all hurts…"

Asuka and Mari stirred and looked over to see Shinji staring back at them both.

"SHINJI!" they both shouted as they boned out of the chairs and hugged him, causing him to cry out.

"Oh, puppy, I'm sorry." Mari said. "We're just so glad you're awake!"

"Yeah, Shinji, I'm sorry too." Asuka said. "But what the hell were you thinking, worrying us like that!"

"Sorry…" Shinji muttered. "I just didn't want to lose you Asuka…" Shinji said. "I…"

"It's ok, puppy!" Mari said. "Just don't do that again. I don't like being worried like that."

"I'm just glad you're ok, Shinji." Asuka said.

"I'm feeling fine." Shinji said. "A bit sore, but I'm otherwise ok. How long was I out?"

"Oh, three days or so…" Mari said.

"Were you two here the whole time?" Shinji asked.

"Yeah, we barely slept worrying about you." Asuka said.

"I'm guessing mostly because your laundry won't do itself, right, Asuka?" Shinji joked.

"No, I can wash my own clothes, thank you very much!" Asuka said. "I just… didn't want to lose… a friend…"

"Thanks, Asuka." Shinji said. "That's why I jumped in to save you. I didn't want to lose a good friend, even if we do fight and argue at times."

"Really?" Asuka asked.

"Yeah, I don't ever want to lose a friend again." Shinji said. "One was enough for a lifetime."

"Baka…" Asuka muttered.

"Hey, when you feel better, let's all go to an onsen and relax. Misato said there's one not far from here." Mari suggested. "The water might make you feel better."

"Yeah, that sounds nice…" Shinji said as he glanced at Asuka longingly.


November 7, 2015 – Nagano, Japan

After a few more days of rest, Shinji was cleared to leave the medical ward of the research center. And the four of them went to an onsen not far from the mountain. Shinji was sitting alone in the men's bath and Asuka and Misato were in the women's while Mari was signing for a package at the door. Inside were Asuka and Mari's swimsuits, one that appeared to be for Shinji, and a very disgruntled, but now pleased, Pen–Pen.

Mari sent the bird to the women's bath and walked in herself, dressed in her bathing suit.

"Well, look at this, four eyes isn't naked." Asuka said.

"Well, Kaji sent these along with the penguin." Mari said. "I think it was his way of telling us not to leave Shinji sitting alone in the other bath."

Asuka saw her new bathing suit and smiled. "Yeah, but Shinji doesn't have one."

"No, Kaji sent one for him too." Mari said.

"Sorry, Misato, but Shinji shouldn't really be alone." Asuka said. "I owe him that much for saving me."

Asuka walked to the changing rooms with her suit leaving Misato and Mari alone.

"Oh, that's fine." Misato said as Asuka disappeared. "I don't mind being alone."

"Hey, one question Misato." Mari said. "What's with the scar?"

"Oh, it's my souvenir of Second Impact." Misato said. "I go it that day, is a reminder for why I joined NERV."

"That's nice." Mari said. "At least now we can try and understand why you hate the Angels so much. You were hurt pretty badly… you must have lost a lot."

"I did, Mari." Misato said. "But I've also gained a lot since then… a family of sorts."

"Something we've all been looking for I bet." Mari said. "Don't worry, we won't do anything inappropriate with the puppy. He just needs lots of cuddles right now."

"Cuddles?" Misato asked. "What are you, ten?"

"Maybe on the inside sometimes." Mari smirked. "But you can't deny, what Shinji did was selfless. He could have died, but he still wanted to save her."

"That's more than many thought possible from him if his earlier actions in the EVA were any indication." Misato said. "But I'm proud of him nonetheless. I didn't want him to jump in, but he did. He saved Asuka without any hesitation…"

"Yeah, well, maybe he likes her or something." Mari thought aloud.

"Doubt it, the way those two fight, it's impossible for them to like each other."

"Talking about them… or you?" Mari said.

"Why would I be talking about me?" Misato asked.

"Oh, no reason." Mari said as she walked off. "Later, miso!"

Asuka and Mari stood at the entrance to the men's bath in their bathing suits, as neither wanted to walk in on Shinji naked. So Mari devised a solution.

"Hey, puppy, you there?" Mari shouted.

"Yeah?" Shinji said.

Mari threw the suit out towards the bath from the entrance. "Put those on, and then tell us when it's safe."

"Us?" Shinji asked. "Who's us?"

"Oh just me and princess." Mari said. "Kaji sent us these so could still socialize."

"But isn't it inappropriate for women to be in the men's bath?" Shinji asked.

"It's less inappropriate than you sneaking in to look at us!" Asuka said.

Shinji got out and covered himself with the small towel and pulled on the bathing suit, which was surprisingly the correct size. "All set."

Asuka and Mari emerged in their own suits and smiled at him.

"So, is our little hero doing ok?" Mari asked as the three of them went into the water. "I thought the baths might make you nervous."

"No, it's not very deep, so I don't get nervous like I do at a pool." Shinji said. "Or a lake…"

"Well, Shinji, it's silly for you not to know ow to swim." Asuka said. "I can teach you if you want. That is as long as you won't be too afraid."

"Yeah, Shinji, you have to face your fears head on." Mari said. "You told me that once."

"I guess I could try to learn." Shinji said. "Maybe in exchange I can teach you the kanji, Asuka. You should be able to read the test questions, and be able to pass a test, and Misato will get off your case."

"Sounds like a fair trade." Asuka said. "We'll start whenever you're ready."

"Yeah, maybe next week." Shinji said. "Once things have settled down again."

"I'd like that." Asuka said quietly.

"Awww, look, you two are so cute together." Mari said.

"Oh, be quiet four eyes." Asuka said.

"Yeah, don't ruin the moment we're all having." Shinji said.

"Fine…" Mari said hugging the both of them tightly. "You know this hug would be far more inappropriate if we were all naked, right?"

"Pervert!" Asuka shouted.

"Oh, there goes the quiet…" Shinji said.

To Be Continued


A/N: I do not own Evangelion or any of the characters, GAINAX and the other distributors of NGE related material do. I am simply using them as a backdrop for my fanfic.

Sync Score Rankings!
Shinji – 62.5% (+4.2%)
Asuka – 50.8% (+4.7%)
Mari – 50.4% (+8.5%)
Rei – 48.5% (+6.9%)

Ok, to note, Mitsukoshi is a Japanese department store, and I figured I'd use a Japanese one, rather than an American one (Macy's or the like) for realism, as the story is set in Japan after all.

Now, Shinji did get injured in the show, they simply left it out. Let me explain… he jumped into a volcano, without Type–D Equipment, and went down to Asuka's position to save her. Now even with an A.T. Field, it would not have protected him from the heat, so he would have suffered, even with a low sync rate, it would happen. You feel what the EVA feels, and the lava is fucking hot, so you're going to feel something.

As I said before, and will always say at the end of chapter, please leave comments, as I would like to try to improve the story going forward any way I can. And, hell, constructive criticism is a good thing.


つづく