Neon Genesis Evangelion: Legacy
Episode IV: The Last Hope


Chapter 9 – Dance Dance Revolution; Israfel Divides
September 1, 2015 – Tokyo–3 Junior High School, Class 2–A

Shinji was sitting quietly in class, while Nebukawa no Sensei droned on about life before Second Impact. No one was even paying attention, even Hikari had given up listening to the endless repeat of information coming from the teacher. Shinji kept nervously looking over at the new arrival to the class, who, just hours before, had sent Toji, Kensuke and himself into a tizzy by showing up quite unexpectedly.

The flurry of boys still staring at Asuka had yet to die down, even most of the girls were staring at her, although for a completely different reason.

'So, Asuka's in my class, with the other EVA pilots…' Shinji thought. 'How very strange. I wish Misato would have mentioned something, but considering she had actually spilled the sake on herself last night, she was probably in no condition to remember anyway, so like usual, she forgets to tell me the important stuff.' Shinji sighed as she glanced at Asuka. 'I mean, Toji and Kensuke have it mostly wrong, she's not that bad… sure she's about as abrasive as extra course sandpaper, but I know that's just a front. I could tell while we were inside Unit–02. She was scared, it was in her voice, God knows I'd recognize fear, I've been afraid far too many times to not recognize it… but it was odd, one minute she'd be angry and yelling, and the next she would be truly afraid. I know she's not a bad person, I just know it. Somewhere under that cute and angry façade is the person she really is… and I don't know why I think that, I just seem to know it…' Shinji sighed deeply. 'And then her EVA felt odd… right before we forced that thing's mouth open, I felt the same sensation I felt before Unit–01 went berserk… did the EVA help us open the mouth, because I don't think we could've done it ourselves… even with our combined strength, I don't think we could accomplished it on our own… I wonder why the EVAs are like that, what makes us able to sync?' Shinji looked over at Asuka again. 'I don't know why, but for some reason, I'm actually glad she's in class with me, not just that there's another pilot here to spread the work around a bit, but she just reminds of the girl from my dreams… that hair… those eyes… its uncanny. I guess if I had to call it something, I'd call it a crush… but I can't really define it. I'm not going to mention it to Misato, she'd never leave me alone about it, and not Mari either, I don't want to be teased or anything from her even if she does have some good advice, and I don't know if I should mention something to Hikari, she would be the best choice after all, I wonder what she'd say. It's not like I can say anything to Rei, she wouldn't understand, or she might, Rei's full of surprises… Jesus… all these girls to talk to, and I can't figure out where to get advice from…'

Asuka was sitting to Shinji's right and was also deep in thought. 'Mein Gott, this teacher is boring as shit. Does he always drone on like this? If he does, I may contemplate jumping out that window over there.' Asuka glanced around. 'Look at that, everyone is staring at me, except for Shinji and his friends… so this class is full of perverts… this sucks… I don't see anyone else here that looks like an EVA pilot, at least not anyone that was with Shinji when I got here besides the two stooges, and Hikari… they must be sick or something, or just afraid of my greatness…' Asuka smirked. 'I can't wait till the next Angel attacks either, I want to go out there and impress Shinji… and show him who the best pilot is. It doesn't really count, that last Angel, he helped me, so I couldn't show him I can kill one all on my own. The next Angel, I'll put it in its place, and Shinji too. I won't let any of these other pilots hold me back.' Asuka glanced over at Shinji. 'I don't know what it is about him… he looks so nice, and I want to be around him now, but I still want to be alone… it doesn't make any sense. But at least I'll get to live with him, which might be nice… why am I thinking about him like that! I hate doing that, I've been doing it since I met him, and it's really annoying! Why do I have to be bogged down by my feelings?!' Asuka shook her head slightly. 'Thinking of feelings, my EVA felt kinda funny the other day, like something else was in there with me, besides Shinji. It seems kinda funny, but the EVA is just a big doll, so why would I feel anything else…'

Ding dong ding ding… ding dong ding ding

Asuka was interrupted from her thoughts by the bell. 'Thank god that's over…'

"Rise… Bow… Sit!" Hikari ordered in her usual tone.

Asuka saw Toji run out of the room to get some food, while Shinji got up and wandered to the window, and Asuka followed him.

Shinji stared out the window worriedly. 'I hope Mari and Rei are alright.'

"Guten morgen, Shinji." Asuka said sweetly.

"Hi, Asuka." Shinji replied.

"What are you looking for?" Asuka asked.

"Just my two friends…" Shinji said. "They weren't here this morning."

"The other two pilots by chance?" Asuka asked.

"Yeah, Mari and Rei." Shinji replied. "I'm just a bit worried about Mari, Rei's sick a lot, but Mari usually drags herself to school, I talked to her last night too… oh never mind…" Shinji left the window and headed for the door.

"What did you see?" Asuka asked.

"Just who I was looking for!" Shinji waived.

Asuka followed Shinji outside to where someone was sitting with a book, a pale blue haired girl was reading a book, and who Shinji was talking towards. Asuka hurried her pace and grabbed Shinji before he made it to the girl.

"So, which one is that?" Asuka asked.

"What are you talking about, Asuka?" Shinji said as he pushed her hand off. "And would you mind letting me go?"

"What are you, stupid?" Asuka smirked. "Is that the First Child, or the Proto Child?"

"Oh, that's Rei, she's the First Child." Shinji said.

"Excellent, let me introduce myself!" Asuka said, wandering over, and inadvertently blocking Rei's light.

"Asuka, wait!" Shinji said, standing frozen in fear at what might happen. He looked on as Asuka walked over.

Rei moved over to get a better view of the book, and Asuka called out to her. "So, am I to assume you're Rei Ayanami, the pilot of Unit–00?" Asuka asked. "I'm Asuka Langley Soryu, the designated pilot of Unit–02!"

Rei glanced at her and saw Shinji frozen in place several feet away. "And I assume you garnered this information about me from Shinji?" Rei replied.

"You're very perceptive, aren't you?" Asuka said.

"I have been known to have moments of clarity, yes." Rei replied.

"Well, seeing as we're both EVA pilots, why don't we be good friends?" Asuka said.

"What is the purpose of being friends with you?" Rei asked.

"Because it would be convenient!" Asuka exclaimed.

"But friendships of convenience are not friendships at all, are they Pilot Soryu?" Rei asked.

"What moron told you that?!" Asuka exclaimed.

"No one has told me anything." Rei closed her book. "My friends have shown me that."

"Your friends?" Asuka asked.

"Yeah, her friends!" Someone else shouted.

"Oh, hello Mari." Rei said. "Did you oversleep?"

"Yeah, no alarm." Mari said, rubbing the back of her head. "Forgot to turn the damn thing on." Mari turned to Asuka. "So, blueberry, is this soulless ginger bugging you?"

"No, she is merely a mild irritation." Rei replied as she opened her book again.

"You think I'm a what?!" Asuka shouted.

Mari smirked. "I think she said a mild irritation."

"And who are you exactly?" Asuka asked angrily.

"That's a good question ginger, who are you?" Mari asked.

"I'm Asuka Langley Soryu, the designated pilot of Unit–02." Asuka said. "And the best Evangelion pilot around!"

'Kyoko's daughter eh…' Mari thought. 'She acts a bit like her mother too, so proud, and she should be… and that hair is something else. But if she's truly her mother's daughter, she can take the sarcasm as well as she can dish it out…' Mari smiled. "Ah, I've heard a lot about you." Mari bowed deeply. "Ah, so the self–crowned princess of the EVA pilots has decided to grace us with her presence, it is an honor to meet you your highness." Mari straightened up. "I am your humble servant, Mari Illustrious Makinami, Proto Child and the designated pilot of Unit–XP."

"Are you fucking with me?" Asuka asked.

"You catch on quick, princess." Mari replied. "You're pretty smart."

"You bet your ass I'm smart!" Asuka said proudly. "I'm a certified genius! I've already graduated from college and everything with a master's degree in engineering!"

'She's just like how I used to be, angry at the world, and everything… she even rushed through school too… what a waste.' Mari thought. "Then why bother us with your glowing and oppressive attitude?" Mari asked. "Can't you go and be an important engineer… oh wait, those don't exist do they. You may as well have gotten a history degree."

"Please, and what degrees do you have, four eyes?!" Asuka shouted.

"None, but at least when I get mine, they'll actually be useful unlike yours…" Mari quipped. 'Far more than you could even imagine, princess…' Mari thought.

"Bitch!" Asuka shouted, as the two girls stared daggers at each other.

Shinji looked over and saw the look on Asuka's face as she stared down Mari. 'That can't be good…' Shinji thought as he ran over.

"Hi guys…" Shinji said nervously.

"Oh, puppy, how are you?" Mari said. "I've just met the flotsam you brought back from your trip to the seaside. I must say she's a bit bossy."

"Well, she's not all that bad Mari." Shinji said sheepishly.

Mari patted his shoulder. "Oh, Shinji, you're just being your kind little self, and it's quite cute." Mari pecked him on the cheek, causing Asuka to look at her angrily.

"Hey, I'm standing right here!" Asuka said indignantly.

"We can't miss you, princess, you have a bright sign on your head, courtesy of that hair of yours!" Mari quipped.

"Is there something wrong with my hair?!" Asuka shouted.

"Yeah, the color." Mari said.

"Mari!" Shinji said angrily. "Don't make fun of someone's hair color!"

Mari's eyebrow raised. "Shinji…"

"You can't make fun of someone for being different, Mari!" Shinji said emphatically. "It's not kind, Mari, people get made fun of for stuff like that very unfairly, I was, and I don't think it should happen to anyone!"

"I'm sorry Shinji…" Mari muttered. "I didn't mean to offend you…" Mari's face fell. 'Wow, I guess he does have some feelings in there for her… even if he was talking about himself…'

'He defended me…' Asuka thought. 'He defended someone he's only know a day… and he said people shouldn't be made fun for being different… it's like déjà vu… for some reason…'

'So Shinji is defending Soryu… he is quite a nice person.' Rei thought. 'He must be that protective of all his friends if it come down to it.'

"It's ok, Mari." Shinji said. "Just don't do it again."

"I'll do my best." Mari said happily.

"Oh great, the pigtailed girl will try her best." Asuka said sarcastically. "Will wonders ever cease?"

"Oh, look, she's a sarcastic one." Mari said. "How cute…"

Rei looked up. "Mari, did Dr. Akagi inform you about the sync tests."

"Oh, shit, yeah, those are this afternoon aren't they?" Mari said. "Yeah, my first one in such a long time too. And my first one here in Tokyo–3 anyway…"

"Wait we have sync tests after school today?" Asuka asked.

"Yeah, no one told me." Shinji said.

"Misato knew, didn't she?" Mari asked. "Dr. Akagi mentioned something."

"I'm sure she did, she got drunk last night, tends to make her forget things…" Shinji started.

"No need to explain more, Shinji." Mari said.

"Yeah…" Shinji muttered. "Thanks…"

"So what time are they?" Asuka demanded.

"Right after school." Mari said. "So we go straight to NERV from here."

Ding dong ding ding… ding dong ding ding

"Wonderful…" Shinji said as the four of them traipsed inside.

–––

Shinji was waiting patiently for the girls to arrive at the Test Plugs, they were still in the locker getting dressed, or that is to say, Mari was still getting dressed while Asuka relished in Mari's struggle to get the plugsuit on. Sure, she had done this before but with a different model of plugsuit, and not this bulky looking piece of shit she had before her.

"So, you've done this before have you?" Asuka said sarcastically as her plugsuit formed around her.

"I said it's been a while." Mari said she struggled into her plugsuit. "Besides, mine isn't as user friendly as yours there, princess." Mari said. "Would you like to trade?" Mari looked down. 'Well it is difficult to get dressed with two attractive girls standing near me…' Mari thought. 'Shame too, I wish I could look at Shinji too, then it'd be a really distracting party…'

"As if!" Asuka exclaimed. "I wouldn't want to be caught dead wearing that thing."

Mari's plugsuit was quite different from the others. It actually looked like a prototype plugsuit, and much different than the one she wore for her test to link with Lilith's Core. It was predominately tan in color, with the tan portions being quilted for some reason, with the torso and shoulders having what appeared to be another layer added on top of the under suit. This was mostly green in color, with pale yellow stripes covering the breasts and accentuating the tops of her thighs. There were two gold disks on the suit, one attached to either side of her thighs. There were also gold connectors on her collarbone, and a large metal looking collar around her neck. Above that was the rest of the neck covering, which matched Mari's blue headband. The non–green parts of the torso were the collarbone and shoulders, which were a deeper green, much closer to black, and a small, blood red orb was situated between her breasts. In addition to the differences on the body of the plugsuit, the gloves and forearms were also green, but also featured large mechanical looking devices on the forearms, each with three fiber optic cable connectors for her Evangelion's synthetic limbs. She also had a bulky looking helmet like she did for the original test. It had a large, oversized, "W" shaped, red visor that said "EVANGELION UNIT–XP" on it. The rest of the helmet was a metallic green, and

Once Mari was able to pull the unruly suit on and activate it she shushed Asuka and grinned as she straightened up and looked in the mirror. "I don't think we could switch anyway." Mari purred. "Our bodies are a lot different, and my tits would be so smooshed by your… flat plugsuit."

"What?!" Asuka said. "My figure looks just as good as yours does!"

"Keep telling yourself that, princess." Mari quipped as she bounced her breasts. "Some things simply need to fill in more to be on par with my… figure."

Asuka flipped Mari off and stormed out, and it looked as though she was covering her chest as she walked outside. Rei stayed behind and looked curiously at Mari.

"Mari, why would the size of your breasts mean anything?" Rei asked.

"Rei, don't call them that." Mari said. "There are so many different names for them besides breasts…" Mari replied with a sigh.

"Such as?" Rei inquired.

Mari smirked. "Well, if you're sure you want to know."

"I did ask, and knowing how you are with… certain things… I am prepared for whatever answers you give me." Rei replied.

"Well you asked for it, blueberry." Mari said, grinning widely. "Well there are so many… boobs, tits, titties, cans, jugs, knockers, melons, Milk Duds, bongos, tatas, chesticles, headlights, sweater stretchers, twin peaks, tater tots, jingle bells, party pillows …" Mari rattled off quickly before she was cut off.

"I believe that is enough for now, Mari." Rei said with a tired look on her face. "I did not realize there were that many…"

Mari chuckled. "Well, a lot of people find them important, but I just think they're here for decoration unless you breastfeed." Mari quipped.

"Seeing as it is their biological purpose, I would agree with you." Rei replied.

"Well, let's get out there and go sync, huh?" Mari said happily.

–––

"That was boring as shit!" Mari exclaimed as she stripped off her plugsuit. "I cant believe we were in there for three fucking hours!"

"It not our fault, four eyes!" Asuka shouted. "So quit complaining! Sometimes the tests take a while!"

"Well they shouldn't, it's not exactly rocket science!" Mari replied.

"I believe Dr. Akagi was trying to gauge our sync ratios comparatively to each other's." Rei replied. "It could have been far worse."

Mari threw her school uniform after simply toweling off.

"That's fucking gross, Makinami!" Asuka said. "You're not going to shower?!"

"Why bother, I'm just going to shower when I get home anyway, why hold myself up here in this stuffy old place." Mari said. "If we hurry, we can leave before tomorrow."

"Please, this is what happens with sync test." Asuka said proudly. "It's a boring part of our job, but a part of the job nonetheless."

"Oh, look, the princess is quoting the great NERV scripture to us." Mari said. "Why don't you give the sanctimoniousness a rest for a while, it's kinda grating on my nerves."

"What's that supposed to mean?!" Asuka asked angrily.

"Well, from what I've heard, Shinji has the best score out of all of us." Mari said. "And I bet that hasn't changed at all, even after today, so stop acting all high and mighty, Soryu."

"High and mighty?!" Asuka exclaimed.

"Well from what Shinji told me last night, you think you're the best EVA pilot around." Mari said. "Go kill an Angel on your own and then go talk to Shinji about being the best."

"Shut up you!"

"Oh, whatever, princess." Mari said walking away. "You'll just have to learn to be number two, and seeing as it's your Unit's actual number, you're already labeled appropriately."

"Mari you do not believe me to be zero o you?" Rei asked.

"No, blueberry, you're worth a lot more than the angry girl over here." Mari said. "It's that kind and pleasant disposition you have that makes you far nicer to be around."

Rei felt her face get warm. 'That was a very nice thing for Mari to say…'

"Are you saying I'm unpleasant?!" Asuka shouted.

"Well, the yelling doesn't help…" Mari said, sighing deeply. "Hey, blueberry, don't take too long." Mari said as she walked out. "Shinji and I will walk you home, an innocent girl like you shouldn't wander the streets alone."

"Alright, Mari." Rei said as she went to the shower.

Asuka followed her and asked her something. "Hey First Child, why do call four eyes by her name, and my by my family name?"

"Because Mari and I are friends, as are Shinji and I." Rei replied. "We are not friends, Soryu, and your attitude isn't the best in those regards." Rei grabbed her towel and left. "Perhaps if you acted a bit nicer, I would be more inclined to want to be your friend."

"What…" Asuka said.

"Perhaps you simply need to adjust to your change in status and accept Shinji is the better pilot, then you may become a nicer person." Rei said as she left to get dressed.

'I'm not unpleasant, that four eyed jerk is just being spiteful.' Asuka thought. 'I am the best pilot. I've been training the longest, I have great simulator scores, and y sync score is really good. So some novice pilot has some luck and got to take out some Angels. If I'd been here, he wouldn't have gotten a chance to kill anything.' Asuka looked out towards the locker area. 'I wonder why Ayanami said that stuff though, it seemed like she was trying to be polite… but it still hurt to be told that stuff… but it's better for me anyway, I don't need people…' Asuka heard the door of locker room open and heard Rei be greeted warmly by Shinji and Mari, and then it closed again, leaving Asuka in the shower all alone. 'Or maybe I do…'


September 4, 2015 – Tokyo–3 Junior High School

Kensuke was sitting in the grass with stacks of photos next to him. He had a small sign next to him that read "Great Deal! ¥30 per photo!" Next to him on the ground were several numbered boxes, each containing a different picture of Asuka. Kensuke had spent the last few days taking the pictures wherever he could. Of her drinking water, walking around, swimming in gym class. He'd even snapped a few photos of the girls changing in the classroom by climbing surreptitiously up the tree next to the window. He was selling the photos he got of the girls in their bras and panties, but he was keeping the photos he shot that were less clothed to himself.

He had sold several dozen photos already, and Toji had declined to help him, but also wouldn't tell anyone what he was doing because he's no rat. Kensuke was just packing up when Mari wandered over. Kensuke went white as he tried to gather the pictures up quickly, but Mari stopped him.

"Why so nervous, pervert?" Mari asked.

"No reason!" Kensuke said worriedly.

"Really, then why are you hiding all the photos of princess?" Mari asked.

"I don't got no photos." Kensuke said.

"Yeah, that's not what I heard." Mari said. "I want the one where you have all the girls changing."

"Why? Are you into girls or something?" Kensuke asked perversely.

"No, I saw I looked pretty good in it and I want a copy of each of the three for myself." Mari said. "Here's your ¥90 to prove I'm serious."

"How did you find out?" Kensuke asked.

"Well, I saw a bunch of guys all hard over something, and I took a peek." Mari said sheepishly. "Besides, I don't mind when people take pictures of me, I'm always flattered."

"You do realize you're not the subject of these photos?" Kensuke said.

"Yes, the exotic redhead is." Mari said. "But I don't care about that. Just take my money and give me what I asked for!"

"Fine, fine, here you go." Kensuke said. "Just keep this quiet, I don't want to die by Asuka's hand."

"Really, and then explain I knew about it?" Mari said sarcastically. "Not likely. Bye pervert!" Mari said as she walked away, leaving Kensuke in complete disbelief.

–––

When Mari got to her small studio apartment that night she was glad. She took the photos out of her bag to look at them.

'Wow, all these girls are so cute… it's weird, I'm attracted to them as much as I am to Shinji, well not exactly anyway… I think… and I still love Yui, so what does that make me?' Mari thought. 'I don't get it, I see them all as attractive… I guess it's nice I could get off to anyone I wanted really… so many options… but where do I find material? These three pictures aren't going to do me forever… I wish I knew where my old stash was from college, I had so many pictures I could look at, and a few pirated VHS tapes from the U.S. too… I mean I wasn't like this when I was a kid, I wasn't really attracted to anyone ever, at least before Yui… hell the first person I ever fell in love with was Yui, she was so nice to me always… and I don't think I love Shinji even though he's a lot like her, and Rei certainly looks a lot like Yui, and seeing her naked always throws me for a loop, and Shinji's seen her too, which is good for him… and then there's Asuka, and she's really attractive too… this is just too much!' Mari shook her head. 'I can't think like that, I don't want to get caught. I remember what they used to do to people like me back when I was a kid. It wasn't pleasant. I just don't want to be found out, so I have to keep this a secret…' Mari looked the photos again. 'I really like the way I look in these too, and how everyone looks really. I know these are a bit perverted, but I don't really care. I haven't masturbated in apparently 17 years, and I've had the urge to touch myself since I came back, but with nothing to look at, it's been a nonstarter… but with these, that might not be a problem anymore…' Mari slid her hand down the front of her skirt. 'Hmm I was right, not a problem anymore… well I guess I have some work to do…'

A short time later Mari slunk off to the shower, and when she got out she gently picked up the pictures and placed them safely in her notebook and went to bed.


September 5, 2015 – Tokyo–3 Junior High School, Class 2–A

Ding dong ding ding… ding dong ding ding

Seeing as it was once again lunch time, Mari grabbed her bag and wandered over to where Shinji was sitting. Rei had gone to get lunch with Toji, and Kensuke had disappeared somewhere again, and Hikari was talking to a few students about having not cleaned the classroom properly, so Shinji was alone.

"So, Shinji, what are you doing?" Mari asked. "No bento today?"

"No, I ate it during class, it was the only way I could stay awake." Shinji replied. "Today was so boring I almost fell asleep."

"Are you tired or something?" Mari asked.

"Yeah, Misato came home really late, and really drunk." Shinji said. "She said something about being alone and hating someone and that Ritsuko was being a bitch, then she threw up all over the floor. I dragged her to the shower and ran cold water on her to wake her up." Shinji chuckled. "She wasn't exactly happy at that, then she was thankfully able to dress herself and go to bed while I cleaned up the puke on the floor."

"That's awful!" Mari said.

"Yeah, so when it came time to wake up, I wasn't exactly happy to go to school." Shinji said. "I even forgot my bag this morning, or at least my laptop and my books… I have a pen, an empty bento, and some gum in my bag. Can I borrow your notebook? I need to write some things down before I forget."

Mari fished her notebook out of her bag. "Here, write as much as you need to."

Shinji flipped open the notebook just as Mari remembered what she had put in there last night… the pictures of Asuka and the other girls changing. Shinji happened to open the notebook to the exact page the picture were on and turned a deep shade of crimson before turning to Mari and looking worriedly at her.

'Shit…' Mari thought. 'That was careless of me…'

"Mari, what are these?" Shinji asked.

"Oh, nothing, puppy." Mari said. "I found them somewhere."

"I don't believe you…" Shinji said sternly. "Are these of… Asuka?!" Shinji looked at her. "Who did you buy these from Mari?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about Shinji." Mari said unconvincingly.

Shinji tucked the photos into the notebook and slid it into his bag and gently grabbed Mari's wrist. "Let's go somewhere else to talk." Shinji said.

–––

Shinji had dragged Mari to the roof to talk. He made sure the door to the roof was latched from the outside so no one could disturb them. He turned and looked at her sternly.

"Mari, why do you have pictures of our classmates like this?" Shinji asked.

'I can't tell him the truth, he may think of me as a freak…' Mari thought. 'I mean Yui was very accepting of things like this, I think, but Shinji might not be… I don't want to lose his respect…' Mari looked nervously at Shinji but didn't say anything.

Shinji's tone changed. "Mari, I'm not mad, just concerned." Shinji said kindly. "I don't care who you're attracted to, I just want to know where you got these from so it can be stopped. This kind of thing is creepy you know."

'Shinji doesn't care who I like? But he said it's creepy…' Mari thought. 'I guess I should tell him after all…' Mari blushed a bit. "You caught me Shinji, I'm attracted to girls… I hope you don't think less of me for it."

"Mari, why would I? We're friends." Shinji said. "It's not like liking girls is a bad thing."

"But you said it was creepy…" Mari said with tears in her eyes.

"Mari, the picture is creepy, not being attracted to girls." Shinji said. "For someone to take this, they had to climb the tree next to the classroom."

"Oh… I thought you meant… me…" Mari muttered.

"Mari, you're not creepy at all!" Shinji exclaimed. "I'm sorry you thought that, I'm not like that! I could care less who loves who, love is really all that matters really."

"You mean that?" Mari asked, wiping the tears from her face.

"Of course I do." Shinji said. "Girls liking girls isn't a bad thing at all, the same goes for guys liking guys, or anything else in between, it's all love."

"But I'm not just attracted to girls, I'm attracted to boys too, well just you, but I just haven't met anyone else I like that's a boy…" Mari stammered.

Shinji just stared at her in stunned silence.

"Oh… I've said the wrong thing…" Mari said as she started to cry.

"No, don't cry, Mari, I was just surprised!" Shinji said enveloping Mari in a hug. "Don't cry, please, I didn't mean to make you cry… I'm sorry!"

Mari shuttered when he spoke, but was glad he didn't yell. "You're surprised?" Mari returned his hug and held him close. 'I can feel his heart beating so fast…'

"That you're attracted to… me?" Shinji asked. "Yeah… I am… are you really?"

"Yeah, a little." Mari said nuzzling his neck. "Are you that surprised?"

"Yeah, no one's really thought about me that way before…" Shinji muttered.

"Well they should." Mari said. "I just have a weak spot for kind hearted people…" Mari smiled. 'Like your mother…' Mari thought.

"Mari, its ok to like anyone you want. You don't have to be afraid or anything." Shinji said. "I'll keep it a secret though, seeing as you're not that comfortable with people knowing."

"That's a really sweet thing to say, Shinji." Mari said happily. "You really are a good friend."

"Mari, why did you get those pictures anyway?" Shinji asked.

"Well, that's a little embarrassing to talk about." Mari said, blushing heavily.

Shinji felt her face get warm, seeing as they were still hugging. "Mari, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

"No… I can't lie to you Shinji." Mari said. 'At least not about this, but the other stuff I know, I have to keep it from you…' Mari thought. 'I don't think you could handle who I really am yet… or ever…' Mari let go of Shinji and sat on the ground. Shinji followed suit. "Shinji, I bought the pictures from Kensuke so I could go home and masturbate to them. I thought it was the only way, since I don't really have access to any other… materials…" Mari blushed. "I lied and told him I wanted them because I was in them… I'm really sorry Shinji, I didn't think they were so bad… the girls looked so pretty…"

"I get it Mari…" Shinji said, blushing himself. "Sometimes the itch t needs to be scratched…" Shinji coughed a bit. "But, these pictures are an invasion of privacy, and if Kensuke got pictures like this, I know he's go even worse one, considering he is pervert." Shinji took out Mari's notebook. "I think the girls in them all look pretty too, but you still need to get rid of them, Mari. I know you'll do the right thing."

"Thanks Shinji, but what will I do for… you know… wanking material…" Mari said blushing again.

"Mari, don't you know there's porn online?" Shinji said.

"Wait, the internet… has porn?" Mari said. 'Shit… a lot has changed in 17 years…' Mari thought.

"Yeah, there's loads of porn online. I can show you after school." Shinji said. "As long as you don't find that as awkward as I do."

"I'd be happy to go on a date and watch porn with you Shinji." Mari said giggling madly. "It sounds like a very sensual experience!"

"No, I didn't mean it like that, I meant…" Shinji blushed. "It's not to watch, just to show you where to find it…"

"Still, it's a sweet gesture." Mari said.

"Yeah, well, it's better than buying photographs from a pervert…" A sudden look came over Shinji, as though he had just realized something. "Wait, you said you bought them…" Shinji got a worried look. "Wait, that's what Kensuke's been doing?!" Shinji stood up. "He's selling pictures of Asuka, isn't he?!"

Mari nodded. "Yeah, he has loads of them, those are the worst however…"

"That doesn't matter, if Asuka finds out, she'll literally kill him, and then she'll assume I'm part of it!" Shinji said worriedly. "We have to go get Hikari and stop this before she finds out!"

"Why Hikari?" Mari asked.

"Because, she's the only one that can really scare him. Apparently she knows some secret about him that would be pretty devastating to him if she told!" Shinji said as he ran off towards the door.

"Hey, puppy!" Mari put her notebook in her bag and ran after him. "Wait up!"

–––

"Hikari, we have a problem." Shinji said rushing up to her while she was eating with Mari in tow.

"What's up Shinji?" Hikari glanced at Mari. "Have you two done something you weren't supposed to?"

"No, it's just, Mari told me about Kensuke…" Shinji lowered his voice to a whisper. "Selling inappropriate photos of Asuka he took."

Hikari's face stiffened. "Shinji, how does Mari know exactly?"

"It's not my secret to tell, Hikari." Shinji said sternly. "But she bought a couple because she was in them… but she didn't mean anything by it don't be mad at her, ok?"

"How could I be mad at her?" Hikari asked. "But if she wanted a picture of herself, why buy it from him?"

"I don't know, she's eccentric at times, you know that." Shinji replied. "But shouldn't we go, I don't know, stop him?"

"Yeah, you're right, we should go and stop him…" Hikari said. "Alright, let's go deal with this…" Hikari got up and left her lunch.

"Uh… Hikari, if you're not going to finish that, can I have some?" Mari asked. "I'm really hungry."

"Sure, Mari." Hikari said. "But you may want to stay here, I don't want you to get caught having told me."

"Sure." Mari said happily.

"Come on, Shinji." Hikari said.

"Wait, why do I have to go?" Shinji asked.

Hikari smiled. "That way he'll be scared I'll tell you his secret, that'll you'll then tell to Mari because you're such close friends, and then he'll be really embarrassed."

–––

Hikari and Shinji found Kensuke under a tree, far from the school building. They decided to sneak up behind him and scare him.

"KENSUKE!" Hikari shouted.

Kensuke jumped so severely, he knocked over several of his boxes, spreading photos all over the ground. He tried to get up, but he slid on the loos e photos and fell back to the ground quite hard.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Kensuke?!" Hikari asked.

"I'm not sure what you're talking about…" Kensuke said.

"Bullshit!" Hikari said. "You're selling picture of Asuka! Pictures you took, like a pervert! Sneaking around and catching her unawares!"

"I did not!" Kensuke lied.

Hikari opened several of the boxes on the ground. "Really? You're a bad liar Kensuke." Hikari said. "So, what are all these, publicity photos? No one does this to my friend!"

"No, they're just a hobby of mine." Kensuke said.

Shinji opened several more boxes until he found the ones he was looking for, the ones of the classroom with the girls changing for gym. "So what about these?" Shinji said, showing them to Hikari.

"You fucking pervert!" Hikari shouted. "You climbed the fucking tree to spy on the girls changing?! You're sick!"

"I am not!" Kensuke dropped his innocent pretense. "I did it to get a good shot of everything! People want to see the hot foreign girl, and If I make a bit of cash off the deal, who cares?! No one's getting hurt, are they?!"

"Kensuke, this isn't alright!" Shinji shouted. "It's very far from it! Do you realize you're invading their privacy?!"

"No, they're in a public place!" Kensuke said defensively.

"No we aren't Kensuke!" Hikari shouted. "We're changing for gym!"

"So, you all look pretty hot naked." Kensuke said blushing as Hikari moved to kick him, Shinji held her back.

"Shinji let go!" Hikari said as she struggled against him. "Let go!"

"No, you're not going to get in trouble for hitting him." Shinji said. "You're going to expose him for whatever secret you know about him, remember?" Shinji looked at Kensuke. "Where are the other pictures, Kensuke?" Shinji said sternly. "The nude ones. I know you took them now, you wouldn't pass up that chance."

"I don't know what you're talking about!" Kensuke said.

"Bullshit!" Hikari shouted. "You did take them, I can see it in your pervy little eyes! I'm going to expose you and beat you up!" Hikari said angrily. "He deserves it for whatever pictures he took!"

Kensuke sat there in shock, and looked very afraid of Hikari. She had never been like this before, and it was quite a scary sight to behold.

"Hikari, stop!" Shinji said forcibly. "He may be a pervert, but hitting him won't solve anything!" Shinji said. "Remember what you said to me that day? Don't be like that, look at him, he's scared."

"Fine, Shinji, you win." Hikari said. "But I want to talk to him alone for a minute. I promise not to hurt him."

"Sure, I'll go watch from over there." Shinji said pointing to where he was walking to.

"Ok, listen, Kensuke." Hikari said angrily. "I'm very disappointed in you as a person, and I really do want to hit you right now, but because of what pain Shinji was put though before he came here I won't hit you, for his sake. You owe him for that bigtime." Hikari paused and glared at Kensuke some more. "So, first, I want to ask you one question. Do you think she would approve of this behavior?"

Kensuke's eyes widened in shock. He looked up at Hikari with a guilty look on his face. "I doubt it…" Kensuke muttered.

"Then why do it?" Hikari asked. "Do you think you'll win her over by being a fucking pervert all the time? That doesn't impress girls you know."

"Yeah, but it's all I've got…" Kensuke said.

"Well, you're going to have to act better if you want her to notice you!" Hikari pointed out. "Now, here's what you're going to do. You're going to buy back all those pictures. If it takes more money than you've earned, you'll have to ask me for the rest. It won't be a loan, as long as you get all the pictures back. I'll go with you to each pervert you sold them to scare them into selling them back to you. Mari's are already taken care of, so you can keep that money. Then we go and get the… naked pictures… and burn them and all in the rest, with all the negatives and any copies you have stashed in the incinerator, got it?"

"Yeah…" Kensuke said. "But please, don't tell…"

"If you do all this, then I'll keep your secret safely tucked away." Hikari said. "But it'll be a while, if ever, before I trust you again."

"I understand… thanks Hikari…" Kensuke said, standing up. "I guess I should apologize to you though. I'm sorry I took pictures of you naked, I didn't think anything was really wrong with it, but I guess I was mistaken."

Hikari hugged Kensuke lightly and let go. "I accept your apology, but we have some work to do, don't we?"

"Yeah, a bit…" Kensuke said.

Shinji walked over. "So, Hikari, all set?"

"Yep, we'll buy all the pictures back, and Asuka will never know, as I'll make sure everyone is aware." Hikari said. "And you'll deal with Mari's?"

"Yeah, as soon as we're out of school, I promise." Shinji replied.

–––

Ritsuko was going over the data collected during Unit–02's fight with Gaghiel. She was taking a sip of her coffee when someone snuck up from behind her and wrapped their arms around her which make her gasp.

"Still a world class workaholic, eh Ritsuko?" Kaji asked.

'So, he's still here, eh? Well, I may hate him, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't fuck him, and seeing as Misato is so in denial about her feelings to him' Ritsuko thought. "Ah, Kaji, it's been a long time."

"Yes, it has, and yet you still seem to not have a boyfriend." Kaji said, stroking her face lightly. "Perhaps the men of NERV have simply lost their mind to leave such a rose like yourself untouched and lonely."

"Well, Kaji, it's nice to see you haven't changed." Ritsuko said.

"Perhaps I could be the one to pluck the rose…" Kaji started.

"Oh, it's nice you're putting such smooth moves on me, Kaji, but I think the face pressed against the glass there would disagree."

Kaji looked up to see Misato seething and staring angrily at him.

"Oh, Katsuragi… she's fine." Kaji said chuckling. "She doesn't have any claims to me anymore, I'm a free man."

"That's what you think…" Ritsuko muttered as Misato stormed inside.

"What the hell are you still doing here?!" Misato asked angrily. "You handed over Asuka and Unit–02, can't you just be on your damn way?!"

"Well, I've received orders from the Commander to stay awhile. He needs me to be the Chief inspector I am, so it's all settled. I won't be leaving for a while, so you'll have to get used to me being around again."

"I ain't gonna get used to nothing!" Misato said angrily.

"Oh, and the Commander also gave this." Kaji pulled a letter out of his pocket. "I guess he approved Asuka's transfer into your care. You're the proud new mom of a temperamental teenager. Congratulations." Kaji smiled. "She's a wonderful girl to be around."

"Just go away!" Misato shouted angrily. "I was a teenaged girl once too, I can handle her."

"Why so upset, Katsuragi? Is it about Asuka?" Kaji asked. "I hope it's got nothing to do with poor, innocent Ritsuko over there."

"Seriously, you're barely here a few days, and you're already putting the moves on women?" Misato said angrily. "You're unbelievable!"

"Why are you so mad? I'm single and can do what I'd like with whomever says yes." Kaji said. "I thought there was nothing more between us, Katsuragi." Kaji smirked. "Unless you haven't gotten over me…"

"FUCK YOU!" Misato shoved Kaji into the wall. "Even if I was young when it happened, it was still worst mistake of my life!"

"Et tu, Katsuragi?" Kaji said, feigning he'd been stabbed. "Now, now, don't be so upset with yourself, you'll get wrinkles."

"SHUT UP!" Misato shouted as an alarm klaxon went off.

A message came over the intercom from Aoba. "Level–2 battle stations, a Pattern Orange has been detected, Dr. Akagi and Major Katsuragi, report to Central Dogma at once!"

"You've got to be kidding me… another fucking Angel?" Misato said.

"I guess so, Pattern Orange tends to lead straight to Pattern Blue." Ritsuko said. "Which means more mess to clean up…"

"Well then, I hope it's not really the Seventh Angel." Kaji said. "So soon after the Sixth… how very concerning…."

–––

Misato, Ritsuko, and Kaji rushed into Central Dogma as the report was coming in.

"Cruiser Haruna reports a large submerged object off the Kii Peninsula." Hyuga reported. "It's about 20m below the surface, moving to shore at 25kn."

"Data coming in now, Sub–Commander." Maya reported.

"Analyzing wave form pattern now, sir." Hyuga said. "Confirmed! Pattern Blue!" Hyuga reported. "It's an Angel!"

"Level–1 battle stations!" Fuyutsuki ordered as Gendo arrived in typical fashion, stony faced and unaffected by the events around him.

"Designate as the Seventh Angel, and prepare to sortie Unit–01 and Unit–02." Gendo ordered.

"Yes, sir!" Misato reached for the phones. "Yes, I need an emergency pick up of all pilots, now!" Misato ordered. "Double time!"

–––

Two flying wings were in the air heading for the shore line. Unit–01 and Unit–02 were in the air, pilots waiting patiently to deploy while Misato explained their plan.

"Due the extensive battle with the Fifth Angel, most of Tokyo–3's intercept system is out of commission. As of right now, we're at 24% effectiveness. And for the purposes of killing Angels, it may as well be zero." Misato said over the comm. "We're deploying Unit–01 and Unit–02 to intercept and destroy the target before it comes to shore. So, we'll launch you and power you up on the surface, you'll move to intercept and take turns attacking this thing, is that understood?"

"Yes Misato!" Shinji said.

"You got it Misato!" Asuka replied. "This sucks, it's my first fight in Japan, and Misato won't let me fight the Angel solo…" Asuka bemoaned. "Why do I have to bring baka Shinji over with me…"

"Asuka, its standard procedure, get over it." Shinji said. "Trust me, two on one will be a lot better than one on one."

"Oh, shut up!" Asuka shouted. "And let me tell you something else Third Child, don't get in my way either!"

"I won't do that Asuka, I'll be right there with you." Shinji said sternly. "And Asuka, Angels shouldn't be taken so cavalierly."

"Didn't I tell you to shut up?!" Asuka said shutting off the comm. "Dummkopf… where does he get off telling me what to do?"

"Evangelion Unit–01… Evangelion Unit–02… LAUNCH!" Misato ordered.

Both Evangelions slid out of the restraint racks on their planes, and fell to Earth from 10,000 feet. Near the ground, Shinji activated his retro rockets, deploying them from the shoulder pylons, landing gracefully on the beach and staying crouched awaiting a power cable. Asuka on the other hand did something far more artful, doing several somersaults in the air before throwing the retro rockets on at the last moment, and landing heavily in the sand. She also waited for a power cable, and when Unit–01 and Unit–02 were tethered once again, the stood up straight and grabbed their weapons. Unit–02 wielded a Progressive Glaive, which simply put a larger Progressive Knife on the end of a long metal rod, while Unit–01 was wielding twin Pallet Rifles.

A large burst of water shot up from the ocean, revealing an odd, humanoid figure that stood taller than the Evangelions. Its arms and legs were shaped like crescents which was platinum in color with a lilac hue in the sunlight. On the ends of each of its arms and legs were three spiky looking appendages. Its main body simply looked like the top of an hourglass, and was colored a dark teal. For a face it had a red and blue ying and yang symbol, with eerily blinking eyes. Its Core was situated near where a human's navel would be, with four pearl white ribs pointing towards it. It stretched its arms up in the air as if sending a challenge to the Evangelions awaiting it.

Israfel had arrived.

"Here it comes Asuka!" Shinji said.

"Will you just shut up and just cover me?" Asuka said. "I'll handle this ugly fuck myself." Asuka smirked. 'Now I'll show you who's the best pilot really is…' Asuka thought.

"Asuka, don't!" Shinji shouted. "Don't be so reckless!" Shinji said as he began spreading around suppressing fire. Israfel's A.T. Field deployed, stopping the bullets, Shinji began focusing his attack on the Core to try and cause some damage while Unit–02 crouched down like a tiger.

Asuka gripped the control yokes tightly and pushed them forward. "CHARGE!"

Unit–02 leapt into the air and landed on a small building just offshore, crushing it utterly.. Unit–02 leapt from there to another, larger building, and collapsed the top three floors with its landing, and poised itself to strike Israfel. Unit–02 leapt high into the air on final time and brought down the Prog Glaive towards Israfel. Israfel looked up and blinked as the weapon came swooshing down.

"YAAAAHHHHH!" Asuka shouted as the Prog Glaive sliced Israfel right down the middle, revealing its fleshy pink interior.

"Well I'll be damned…" Shinji said over the comm. "Nice work Asuka."

"I told you I was the best, Third Child!" Asuka said proudly. "See, a quick, elegant fight without taking too much time out of your day!"

Shinji looked on from his Entry Plug as Unit–02 held its weapon triumphantly in the air.

'Great, now she'll be impossible to deal with…' Shinji thought.

Shinji looked at the Angel and saw it starting to move. Out of the pink fleshy stuff on both halves popped a gray mask that resembled a bowling ball, with three equidistant holes. The Angel started to reform into two copies of its original self, their Cores oved to where the sternum is on the human body, and they shrunk in size, now roughly the height of an Evangelion. One was colored gold, while the other was silver, and they were poised to attack Unit–02.

"Asuka look out!" Shinji shouted. "It's not dead!"

From inside her Entry Plug, Asuka spun her EVA around to see what Shinji was yelling about and saw the two Angels staring at her.

'I cut the fucking thing in half and it did this?!' Asuka thought. 'This is not good…'

The gold one moved towards Unit–02, but it was intercepted by a hail of bullets, and no A.T. Field stopped it.

"Asuka, move!" Shinji shouted. "Don't just stand there!"

Unit–02 moved back and brought it weapon to bear. Unit–02 swung at the silver one as it moved forward and sliced its shoulder clean through. Moments later, it healed itself and pressed forward. Unit–01's hail of gunfire on the gold one has left several holes in it, but it too also reformed. They both then moved towards to poor Unit–02.

"ASUKA!" Shinji shouted as he continued to fire at the Angels. "AIM FOR THE CORE!"

"Got it!" Asuka replied as she swung the Prog Glaive at the gold one, and cut its Core deeply, causing it to shoot out blood. "Got him!"

The silver one's Core glowed and then the gold one's healed.

"WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!" Asuka screamed. "HOW IS THIS FAIR!"

"Asuka, you hit the Core, right?" Misato asked.

"Yeah, I did, it bled and everything!" Asuka replied.

"It must mean you need to break both Cores at once, Shinji, move in!" Misato ordered.

"Roger!" Shinji replied.

Unit–01 moved forward, continuing to fire on the Angels. However, Unit–02 struggling against the two Angels who were attacking in perfect unison. The gold one grabbed Unit–02 and lifted it up with ease.

"Put me down you piece of scheisse!" Asuka screamed. "I said put me…"

The silver one grabbed Unit–02 b the legs and began to swing it around her head like some sort of slingshot, its Prog Glaive slipped from its grasp and flew at Unit–01, and Unit–01 rolled to avoid it.

Asuka was feeling nauseous… and afraid. "Misato… Shinji… someone… HELP ME!" Asuka screamed.

Shinji watched in horror as Unit–02 was swung around like a rag doll. "ASUKA!" Shinji shouted as Unit–02 was let go and flung through the air at high speed until it ended up land hard in some fields a short distance away, its red armor still visible from the shore, knocking Asuka out in the process.

Shinji watched as the two Angels approached him and his rifles ran out of ammo. "Misato, I need a gun or something, HURRY!"

A plane from up above dropped a single crate nearby and Unit–01 ran to it and blew its explosive bolts, revealing a Gatling Gun. "This'll do…" Shinji said. "Eat lead… bastards…" Shinji opened fire at the advancing Angels to minimal effect, although it did slow them down, even with the steady stream of bullets, not much could be done as the damage was healed quite quickly, although the time it took to heal increased after flurry of bullets. "YAAAAHHHHH!" The Gatling Gun ran out of ammo and Shinji tossed it aside and opened both shoulder pylons and pulled out his twin Prog Knives. "YAAAAHHHHH!" Unit–01 charged the gold Angel and stabbed it through the Core, causing it to bleed. Unit–01 threw that Angel aside and then sunk both Prog Knives into the silver one's Core. Shinji moved away from both Angels and saw them stand back up, apparently healed and coming at him again. The both landed a synchronized punch to Unit–01's abdomen, stunning Shinji. Then the Angels lifted him up and threw him in a similar fashion to Unit–02.

When Unit–01 slammed into the ground, it too was taken offline by its unconscious pilot.

–––

Asuka, Shinji, Mari, Rei, Kaji, Misato and Fuyutsuki were all sitting in a screening room and re–watching the battle and its aftermath. Asuka and Shinji had just been recovered and were still in their plugsuits.

Along with the film was a commentary recorded by Maya. "At 15:47 Unit–01 and Unit–02 deployed against the Seventh Angel. At 15:53, the Angel was bisected by Unit–02's Prog Glaive. At 15:54, The Seventh Angel split into two identical smaller Angels, a gold one, codenamed Kou, and a Silver one, codenamed Otsu. At 15:57, Unit–02 ceased all functioning after an assault by the dual Angels. At 16:03, Unit–01 ceased all functioning after attempting to destroy the dual Angels alone. At 16:12, NERV gave up the right to command the operation and transferred said command to the U.N. Archangel Heavy Bomber Squadron. At 16:16, Archangel–1 dropped an improved N2 Bomb on the target Angels resulting in a 47% incineration of the targets, effectively immobilizing them."

Asuka stood up. "This is all your fault! You totally screwed up my debut battle!" Asuka shouted. "You were supposed to cover me!"

"That wasn't the plan, Asuka!" Shinji shouted back. "We were supposed to take turns attacking the Angel, but you charged in there like an idiot!"

"How dare you call me an idiot, you sorry excuse for a combat pilot!" Asuka shouted back. "You're just a jerk!"

"I'm the jerk?!" Shinji retorted. "If you hadn't rushed in there so eager to prove how good you and disregard procedure in the process, we wouldn't be in this mess!"

"What?!" Asuka shouted. "You couldn't even shoot at them properly!"

"You kept getting in my line of fire you attention seeking moron!" Shinji shouted back.

"ENOUGH!" Fuyutsuki was standing up and pointing threateningly at the arguing pilots. "NERV has been completely humiliated because of this total and utter lack of professionalism displayed out in the field today! You are both at fault for this, and I will be writing a very detailed report to Commander Ikari!"

"Well, Sub–Commander." Kaji said calmly. "At least we have time to regroup and come up with a counterattack to kill these things."

"The hell I can't, Inspector Kaji!" Fuyutsuki pointed at the two pilots again. "Just to get this clear with the both of you, what do you think your job is?!"

"To… pilot the EVA?" Asuka replied cautiously.

"Wrong!" Fuyutsuki shouted. "It's to beat the Angels at all costs! NERV does not exist to create public spectacles like the one we say today! You two will get your act together and learn to work together as a team!"

"Why should we!" Shinji and Asuka shouted in unison.

"ENOUGH!" Fuyutsuki shouted. "No get out of here and go home! I don't want you to cause any more public relations disasters, this is enough for one day!"

Asuka and Shinji glared at each other and walked towards the door. Asuka walked out first, followed closely by Mari and Rei. Misato wandered out next, but before Shinji could leave, Kaji and Fuyutsuki stopped him.

"Shinji." Fuyutsuki said in a calm voice.

"Y… yes…. Sub–Commander?" Shinji asked nervously.

"I am not placing the majority of the blame on this incident on your shoulders. You are only partly to blame, but Miss Soryu clearly did not follow the Major's plan of action, and her actions led directly to an ineffective response." Fuyutsuki smiled a bit. "I just figured you should know that."

Fuyutsuki walked out of the room and Shinji walked out with Kaji a moment later. "See, not all bad, Shinji." Kaji said. "That's certainly a good thing."

"Yeah…" Shinji mumbled. Shinji looked up to see Asuka glaring at him, and Mari glaring right back at her. "Hey, where's Misato?"

"Well, when things like this happen, the person in direct command of the problem gets to be on clean up duty." Kaji replied.

"Shinji, I'm going to keep blaming you for this until the day I die"! Asuka shouted.

"Go ahead! I wasn't the one who disobeyed orders this time!" Shinji shouted back. "It was your stupid ass!"

Mari grabbed Shinji by the shoulders. "Hey, puppy, let's go to the locker room. I'll wait outside and guard the door against any angry harpies, then we'll go to eat somewhere. How's that sound?"

"Better than arguing with her!" Shinji said loudly. 'Why do I even like her… she's nothing like the girl in my dreams, her personality is all wrong…'

"Are you calling me a harpy?!" Asuka shouted.

"Well… when the talon fits…" Mari purred.

"Shut up you four eyed freak!" Asuka shouted.

"Hey, leave Mari alone!" Shinji shouted. "If you need to yell at someone, find a fucking mirror and yell at yourself!" Mari led Shinji away before he or Asuka could yell anymore. Leaving Rei, Kaji, and Asuka standing there.

"What are you looking at wundergirl?!" Asuka said loudly.

"I am simply contemplating how you do not understand you are fault in this." Rei said calmly. "I told you after our sync tests that you do not have friends because you have a poor attitude, and this has proved my point." Rei glared at her. "Do not blame Shinji for your rash actions. Shinji is correct, you have no one to blame but yourself. The sooner you come to terms with that, and the sooner you calm down, the sooner you will be able to make friends." Rei turned to walk away.

"Hikari is my friend!" Asuka shouted at her back.

Rei turned around and glared at Asuka. "Hikari is kind to all." Rei said. "She has not suffered as Shinji has in the past, she is an open and kind hearted person from what has been explained to me, Soryu. If you can make friends with Shinji, who is a bit more cautious, but still just has kind hearted, then perhaps you are not such a mean person after all."

'Why would she say that…' Asuka thought, holding back the tears she knew she wanted to spill. 'Is she saying Hikari is only my friend because she's nice? I can't really be that off putting, can I?' Asuka's face hardened. 'Eh, who needs wundergirl or baka, or even four eyes? I'm perfectly happy on my own!'

Rei walked away, leaving Asuka in stunned silence. Kaji raised his eyebrows at the exchange in shock and walked over to Asuka.

Kaji placed his hand on Asuka's shoulder. "Hey, Asuka, everything ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine"! Asuka said.

"Good." Kaji said brightly. "So, seeing as Misato is busy at the moment, I have some news for you on your living arrangements."

–––

Mari and Shinji were walking back from the karaoke buffet they went to when she arrived. Shinji was still in a sour mood, and Mari was dining her best to cheer him up.

"You know, when we get back to your place, can you show me all the porn you were talking about?" Mari asked. "I'm really interested to see it all…" Mari blushed.

"I don't see why not, at least Asuka can't ruin the apartment too…" Shinji said angrily.

Mari smiled brightly. "See, cheer up, at least you have somewhere safe to go to after school where she can't bother you!"

As the two of them approached the apartment, a DHL truck drove by them. When they got into the apartment, there were dozens of boxes everywhere.

"What the fuck?" Shinji said. "Did Misato have more stuff delivered?"

"I don't know, but there is an awful lot…" Mari mumbled.

"Well, well, well, look who it is, the loser and her sad little dog." Asuka said from behind them.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!" Shinji shouted. "Can't you just leave me alone?!"

"Not likely, seeing as I've been moved in here." Asuka said. "I guess that means you're going bye–bye."

"Shinji's not going anywhere, Asuka." Kaji said. "You asked to move in here with him and Misato, so he's your roommate now."

"But I don't want this little pervert here." Asuka moaned.

"Well, it's not my decision to make, Asuka." Kaji said. "So… Misato asked me to stay the night while she goes through all that paperwork, and she'll be by in the morning to explain our counterattack strategy."

"You actually asked to move in?" Mari asked. "Are you that afraid of being alone you have to bother my poor helpless puppy?"

"Well, I was hoping to have Misato to myself." Asuka said.

"Fine, you're living here." Shinji said as he walked towards his room. "Can I just go to my room now and be alone?"

"No boys allowed, pervert!" Asuka said blocking his path. "Your shit is over there in a box. It's not like you had a lot of stuff, so I'm taking the bigger room!" Asuka pointed to a box on the floor. "I was already kind enough to move your… wardrobe to your new room."

"So magnanimous…" Mari said rolling her eyes.

"You took my room!" Shinji shouted.

"Well, it's not like you were using it properly…" Asuka said. "I mean it's so small, and yet you barely had anything in it, whereas I can't even fit half my stuff in there!"

"Who gives a shit about your stuff…" Shinji muttered as he looked over the contents of the box. "Hey, where's my Mewtwo?!" Shinji shouted. "Did you decide to steal that too?!"

"What?" Asuka asked innocently. "I would never do that."

"I doubt it." Mari said, shoving Asuka out of the way. Mari rummaged through Asuka's' new room and found what she was looking for. "Got it Shinji!" Mari walked back out holding his Mewtwo. "She had it on her shelf next to some stupid monkey."

Pen–Pen wandered over at all the noise and tugged at Shinji's leg. "Wark!"

Shinji looked down. "What is it buddy, are you hungry?"

Pen–Pen shook his head and pointed at Asuka. "Wark!"

"What did she do?" Shinji asked.

Pen–Pen held up an empty package of jerky. "WARK!"

"Asuka, you took his food?!" Shinji asked angrily.

"Yeah, why is a penguin eating jerky anyway?" Asuka asked. "I was hungry and it was the only thing that you had I liked."

Pen–Pen walked over to Asuka and poked her leg with his middle claw and Asuka batted him away. "Get away from me you stupid bird!" Asuka shouted.

"Leave him alone!" Shinji roared. "Just leave us all alone, Asuka! You're not a nice person, I'd rather have Mari as a roommate than you!"

Pen–Pen gripped onto Shinji's leg. "Wark…"

"Hey, there should be some more jerky in the cabinets, I'll get you some in a minute, ok?" Shinji said.

"Wark! Wark!" Pen–Pen replied.

Shinji wandered to the kitchen and brought back another package of jerky. "Here you go, buddy."

"Wark!" Pen–Pen grabbed the package and sped off to his freezer for safety.

Shinji turned to Asuka. "Just stay away from me Asuka, I'd rather not talk to you." Shinji grabbed his box of stuff. "Come on, Mari."

Mari followed Shinji to his room and then Shinji slammed the door.

"Well, that could have gone better, Asuka." Kaji said. "But I'd leave him alone for now. I think you upset him."

"How could I upset him?" Asuka asked. "I need more space, I took the bigger room!"

"I told you to wait and ask him when he got back, but you didn't want to listen." Kaji said kindly. "Perhaps you should think more about what Rei told you that mad you look so upset. It may hold the key to this problem you two are having."

"I was not upset!" Asuka shouted.

"Sure, Asuka…" Kaji said. "Well, I'll be staying on the couch, so if you need me, holler."

As Kaji went to the living room, Asuka was left once again, standing alone.

–––

Mari sat down on Shinji bed next to the heaped pile of clothes.

"Hey, Shinji, are you ok?" Mari asked.

"Not really." Shinji said. "Now I have nowhere to go to where Asuka isn't going to be… she's a pilot, so she'll be at NERV, she's in our class and sits right next to me so I can't escape her there… and now she's here… in my old room!"

"Hey, just relax." Mari said. "Do you want me to stay?"

"You don't have to." Shinji said. "I was only going to hide in here for the night and go out there when I heard Misato was back."

"Well, we can cuddle, like the night we met." Mari said, blushing. "It might make you feel calmer, and the princess out there can't ruin that moment, can she?"

"I guess not, but I have to put all my stuff away first…" Shinji said, looking at the mess.

"Well then, let's get to it!" Mari said.


September 6, 2015 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Kaji awoke on the couch to the smell of something cooking in the kitchen. He wandered over to see Mari sitting at the table and Shinji cooking breakfast.

"Good morning all!" Kaji said brightly. "What's cooking?"

"Oh, just some sausage and bacon. Then there's some scrambled eggs with cheese." Shinji replied. "Hope you're hungry."

"Yeah, a bit." Kaji said. "So, do you have Mari stay over?" Kaji asked.

"Yeah, I slept in his room." Mari replied.

"Are you two dating?"

"No…" Mari said innocently. "He was upset so I stayed to keep him comply. We did the same thing the day we met too."

"Mari…" Shinji said blushing.

"What did you kids do, exactly?" Kaji asked. "Nothing inappropriate I hope?"

"A pervert… eh?" Mari said jokingly. "No, all we did was cuddle like two friends." Mari said. "It's perfectly normal."

Shinji smiled. "Yeah, Mr. Kaji, we're just friends."

"Please, Shinji, just call me Kaji, everyone does." Kaji said. "You two must be pretty close to do that as friends."

"Yeah, we are." Mari said. "I'm puppy's best friend!"

"She is, she's a great friend too." Shinji said happily. "Even with the occasional teasing."

"Well, Shinji, you have a very good friend here in Mari." Kaji said. "You're a lucky kid."

"Thanks, Kaji." Shinji said. "So, was the couch comfortable?"

"Yes, it was. I've slept in far worse places than a couch." Kaji said.

"Oh, that's right, you would have been a kid during Second Impact…" Shinji said. "Sorry…"

"No need to apologize my dear boy!" Kaji said. "That was a lifetime ago." Kaji smiled kindly at him. "So, Shinji, are you less… angry?" Kaji asked.

"At Asuka, or Misato?" Shinji asked.

"Both." Kaji said.

"Well, I guess I'm angrier at Misato than I am at Asuka. I mean Asuka could have at least asked me if it was ok to switch rooms. I don't like being bullied like that, it's just not fair." Shinji explained. "Why neither one of them could tell me about Asuka moving in is beyond me though. I guess Asuka was too busy being on her high horse to say anything, and since we got back from the Over the Rainbow, Misato's been getting hammered on a nightly basis, and she even forgot to mention Asuka would be in my class. I don't know what's affected her so much since then though…"

"Well, sometimes people get upset about things, Shinji." Kaji said. 'So she does still have feelings for me… it's the only explanation.' Kaji thought. 'But why go straight to alcohol, why not come talk to me. I guess she really was upset about me flirting with Ritsuko.'

"Adults are weird." Mari said.

Unbeknownst to the three of them, Asuka was standing out of sight very quietly, listening in on their conversation, having come in when Kaji asked if Shinji was still angry. 'He thinks I was too busy gloating to tell him I was moving in?' Asuka thought. 'And he's mad because I didn't ask permission to use his room? I guess Kaji was right… I should have just asked him instead of moving his stuff. Wundergirl was right, I'm not a nice person am I… No, Asuka, stop thinking like that, he's just used to being coddled like a child!' Asuka shook her head and then walked proudly into the kitchen.

"Guten morgen!" Asuka said happily.

"Morning…" Shinji said.

"Morning, Asuka!" Kaji said brightly.

"Oh, hello." Mari said. "Ears burning?"

"Why would they be?" Asuka asked. "So, I smelt breakfast and was worried Misato was cooking…" Asuka shuttered. "So, what's for breakfast, Third Child?"

"Bacon, sausage, eggs, and toast." Shinji said. "It's nothing very fancy."

"Sausage, how did you know that's my favorite?" Asuka asked.

"I didn't, it's just some Italian and veal sausages I had left over from the past few days. Seeing as there are five of us, I decided to cook what we had left." Shinji said.

"Did you say veal?" Asuka asked. "I can't believe you have weisswurst here in Japan."

"Yeah, they were a treat because the store usually doesn't have veal anything." Shinji replied. "There are a quite a few of them, if you want a couple." Shinji said.

"Yes, please!" Asuka said happily.

"Look puppy, you calm the beast by feeding it." Mari purred. "Who knew…"

"Be quiet four eyes." Asuka said. "Why are you here anyway?"

"To protect Shinji from the angry beast." Mari replied.

"Mari, be nice, she was so calm a minute ago." Shinji sighed. "Don't ruin it."

Shinji made up five plates and divided the food, leaving Misato's in the microwave to keep it warm. They ate in silence, only broken by the clattering of cutlery, and as Misato walked in looked like death warmed over, the other four were almost done eating.

"Hello all." Misato said. "Kaji…"

"Hello Katsuragi, how was your evening?" Kaji asked.

"It was shit." Misato said angrily. "So if you could leave, I'd like to yell at my two wards for screwing up." Misato pointed to Air. "You should be in school, you, get going."

"Hey, Misato, be nice!" Shinji said. "There's no need to be so rude!"

"Shinji, I haven't slept at all, and every fucking idiot who has a problem with the EVAs has been complaining to me since you two got pulled out of your EVAs after that fiasco we went through, all because you two were both careless!"

"We were not careless, Misato!" Shinji shouted. "Even if Asuka hadn't rushed in there like that, the thing split into two and ganged up on Asuka, we have trouble fighting one thing at a time, let alone two, give it a rest, the Sub–Commander already yelled at us for this!"

'He's defending me?' Asuka thought. 'After I was mean to him, he's defending me? Wundergirl was right, he is a really nice person…'

"Well, I haven't yelled at you yet!" Misato yelled.

Shinji slammed his fist on the table. "How about you leave the yelling alone, you're not exactly the most responsible person in the world you know!"

"Well at least I listen to the orders I'm given by my superior officers!" Misato shouted.

"ENOUGH, KATSURAGI!" Kaji roared.

Misato looked at him in shock. "Don't you dare…"

"Katsuragi, these two were just bested by a very tricky Angel yesterday, don't take out your anger about having to field complaints and paperwork on them!" Kaji said sternly. "They did their job! And to be fair, Shinji has done far better disregarding what you've told him to do in the past, that's how he killed the Fourth Angel!"

Misato just stared at Kaji. 'He hasn't yelled at me like that since…' Misato thought back. 'Since the night we broke up…' Misato glared at him. "Fine, I won't yell at them, but you need to go so I can break this plan of yours to them gently."

"Fine, I can take Mari to school in my car." Kaji said.

"No!" Mari shouted fearfully.

"What, its ok, I don't mind." Kaji said.

"No, it's not that, Kaji." Shinji explained. "She's afraid of cars, for… personal reasons."

"Oh, that's fine." Kaji smiled. "I understand, Mari. I won't force you to do anything you don't want to do."

Mari calmed herself down. "Thanks, Kaji, but I can just walk…"

"Sure." Kaji said. "Alright then, Katsuragi, I'll leave you to it." Kaji waived to Shinji and Asuka. "Good luck you two."

"Bye, Kaji." Shinji said.

"Come back soon, Kaji!" Asuka said happily.

Mari got up and hugged Shinji and whispered in his ear. "Thanks, puppy." Mari gave Asuka a look. "Bye, princess."

"Later, four eyes." Asuka said.

"Bye, Mari!" Shinji said.

The trio heard the door close and Misato looked at the two of them. "So, did you cook anything for me?" Misato asked.

"Do you deserve it after that outburst?" Shinji asked.

"I'm sorry, Shinji, I shouldn't have snapped at you." Misato said. "You too, Asuka. I was just frustrated."

Shinji hit the start button on the microwave. "I forgive you Misato." He took the plate out when it beeped and handed it to her. "Here you go."

Misato grabbed a few beers and sat across from the two kids. "So, Kaji came up with a plan to counter the Angels." Misato explained. "According to the MAGI, there is only one way to destroy the Seventh Angel, a perfectly timed and executed simultaneous attack on them both. In other words, you two will need to be perfectly synced up to each other to accomplish this little mission. In order to be in perfect harmony, your biological rhythms must be in perfect sync. To that end, for the next week, you'll both be doing everything together, save for showering or using the bathroom of course, but besides that, you'll get up together, eat together, brush your teeth together, and train together."

Shinji and Asuka jumped and then looked at each other, shocked at what they were hearing.

"Absolutely not!" Asuka said angrily. "Boys and girls can't live together! It shouldn't be done after the age of seven!"

"Asuka, I can always replace you with Rei are Mari." Misato threatened.

"But…" Asuka bemoaned. "Even if we do train it's impossible!"

"Nothing is impossible, Asuka, now sit down!" Misato said sternly.

Asuka sat down in a huff and glared at Shinji like it was his fault she got yelled at.

"So, the Angel is currently regenerating itself, so we have five days to get you two ready to attack this Angel the moment it wakes up." Misato continued. "And we do have a way of making it possible, Asuka. Thanks to Kaji, the master attack pattern will be coordinated to this piece of music. If you follow it exactly, you'll be able to work in sync and completely destroy both targets. We'll begin your training now and we attack in six days."

Asuka and Shinji continued to stare at each other until Asuka looked away in a huff.


September 7, 2015 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Asuka and Shinji were training hard in the living room while Misato watched intently. They were wearing matching outfits, a leotard that was like a tank top combined with shorts, and a loose fitting shirt with two eighth notes beamed showing a decreasing pitch, and a separate eighth note. Shinji's shirt was light blue with green notes, while Asuka's shirt was pink with red notes. They were using two electronic mats with light up dots that were hooked up to digital displays and a sound system. They were two days into training, and had made little progress. Shinji appeared to have the steps down, as he constantly scored perfect going into the steps, while Asuka was usually a few beats too fast, setting her own pace, and disregarding both the music and Shinji. However, her stubbornness kept her from realizing she was the problem, and she berated Shinji when the buzzer went off behind her with the "ERROR!" message.

"Scheisse!" Asuka shouted. "What are you stupid or something, Shinji?!" Asuka threw her headphones towards the Misato. "He's a fucking idiot, he keeps messing up the steps!"

Shinji simply ignored her and continued to practice the steps while Asuka complained.

"Why can't he get it right?!" Asuka shouted at Misato.

"Have you ever considered matching Shinji's pace instead of going as fast as you do?" Misato asked, trying to sound as diplomatic as possible.

Considering the shitty mood Asuka was in because she was forced to be with Shinji all the time, Misato had to be careful not to blame her. Even though it was Kaji's plan, that was only going to work for so long before Asuka called it quits. Shinji had been good, and left the subject of Asuka fucking up alone while he focused on learning the steps in tune with the music.

"Why should I match his glacial pace?!" Asuka growled. "Shouldn't we beat this Angel as quickly as possible, before our power runs out?!"

Shinji slipped on some sweat on his mat and fell, causing an "ERROR" message to pop up behind him as well. Asuka pointed at him and laughed.

"See, this dummkopf is so uncoordinated, he tripped himself up!" Asuka said loudly. "I may as well fight with a trained dancing bear, it may even do a better job!"

DING DONG

"Saved by the bell…" Shinji muttered.

"Why don't I get the door while you two reset for another try?" Misato said.

"Asuka, just stop complain and let's try this again, ok?" Shinji asked.

"Whatever Third Child." Asuka said.

As Shinji and Asuka began again, in walked Shinji's five friends.

"Heya, puppy!" Mari said. "Some folks were worried about you, even blueberry here, and especially freckles too."

"Hey guys."

"So, you're stuck training with her, huh?" Toji said sympathetically. "You poor bastard!"

Hikari looked at the both of them sternly. "You two haven't been fighting have you?"

"Well, its more she yells and I try to ignore her." Shinji said, letting out some much needed sarcasm.

"Hey, who asked you, Third Child?!" Asuka shouted, until she composed herself a bit as she saw Kaji walk in.

Kaji smiled brightly. "Heya guys, I hope my plan isn't wearing you out yet?"

"Well, it hasn't killed me yet." Shinji joked. "And neither has Asuka."

"Good to hear Asuka's temper isn't hampering the war effort!" Kaji said.

"What's that supposed to mean, Kaji?" Asuka asked.

"Well, I'm guessing he means you can be a royal pain in the ass, princess." Mari purred.

"Shut up, four eyes!" Asuka shouted.

"Hey, what did I tell you, Asuka?!" Misato said loudly. "Get back to training!"

"Fine!" Asuka shouted in response. "Baka! Get moving!" Asuka barked.

"Yeah, keep blaming me for your mistakes…" Shinji muttered.

While Asuka and Shinji got down on the mat once again, Shinji with a grimace, and Asuka with a face full of determination, the music played in their ears while the counters behind them racked up how many steps they were getting correct. As that was happening, the others began to chat.

"So, Misato, why did you tell us all to come here?" Mari asked.

"Well, I figured an audience might make Asuka do a bit better with keeping the right pace." Misato explained. "She keeps going too fast and setting her own pace, while Shinji has been doing perfectly, but getting blamed for her messing up."

"It appears her behavior and antics during the last battle have also translated to this training as well." Rei said glancing over at the two of them. "I do not think your psychological methods will work on Soryu, she is too… what is the word…"

"Stubborn…" Kaji said.

"Arrogant." Toji chuckled.

"Self–centered." Kensuke said quietly.

"Proud?" Hikari asked.

"Egotistical!" Mari said happily.

"Ostentatious…" Rei finished. "She will never see herself at fault because she believes herself to be perfect, and when she is shown otherwise… well we saw her outburst in the media room did we not?"

"Wow blueberry, you should be a psychologist, or psychiatrist, I don't know, I can never remember the difference." Mari said.

A loud beep emanated from the machine behind Asuka, once again displaying the "ERROR" message.

"Try again, baka!" Asuka shouted. "And stop fucking up already! Two days of this shit is enough!"

"You can say that again…" Shinji said.

The two took their marks again and began again.

"See, that's pretty much the last few days in a nutshell…" Misato said sadly. "The next time they fuck up, Rei, Mari, I want you each to sub for Asuka." Misato said. "I'll listen to what Rei said, I may as well embarrass the hell out of her and maybe she'll realize it's her fault, and then she'll try harder!"

"That is not what I said…" Rei said. "What I meant was…"

"No, no!" Misato said. "You gave me an idea, so just sit and wait your turn."

"Don't bother, blueberry, once she's got an idea, we can't stop her." Mari said sadly. "You know that."

"Man, this is almost sad to watch…" Toji said. "I mean she thinks she's doing perfect when she's like four step ahead of him."

"I hate to say this about my friend, but Toji's right, she really is messing this up." Hikari said. "Maybe I should try talking to her…"

Kensuke snickered. "Don't bother, I doubt she'd listen."

Hikari glared at him. "Kensuke, everyone listens, it just takes the right…"

"No, Hikari, he's right." Kaji said. "Asuka only follows the beat of her own drum. It's just her personality, and it's a very strong one." Kaji looked over at her. "She'll figure it out eventually, and Katsuragi's plan may actually be the thing to do it."

"I guess…" Hikari muttered as the buzzer went off again, and Asuka threw another fit.

"This is fucking impossible!" Asuka threw her headphones at the wall. "Why can't we just snipe them simultaneously or something!"

"Asuka, we have to hit them simultaneously, even the slightest difference in timing would allow them to recover and kick your ass again." Misato said.

"Yeah, well, even if it is Mr. Kaji's plan, it sucks!" Asuka shouted.

"So…" Misato said. "Does that mean you're giving up?"

"Not likely." Asuka said. "I'm all you've got, Misato."

"Not exactly, Asuka." Misato said. "I told you the other day I could replace you."

"Wha…" Asuka said as Misato pointed to Rei.

"Alright Rei, give it a try and see how you do." Misato said. "Asuka, get out of the way and let Rei and Shinji have a go."

"But…" Asuka said in hurt voice.

Shinji and Rei took their positions, and when the music stated they moved in almost perfect harmony, with Shinji being a bit ahead at first, but adjusting his place slightly to allow Rei and him to move effortlessly together. When the minute was up, the buzzer had not gone off and Asuka just stared at them.

"Good job you two!" Misato said. "Now, Mari, go try it out."

'Impossible…' Asuka thought.

Mari stood up and patted Rei on the head as they passed each other. Shinji smiled at her, and they took their positions. When the music started, and all the way to the end of the song, Shinji and Mari were in perfect sync, and moved together as though it had been them who had been practicing for two days. Asuka just glared at them.

Asuka watched in utter horror as the pair moved together in perfect harmony. 'How did they do that?' Asuka thought.

"Well, that settles it, I'll just alter the operation to have Mari use Unit–02." Misato said.

"What…!" Asuka gasped. "Oh no…" Asuka looked close to tears as she looked at Mari and Shinji smiling happily, the first time Shinji had been happy in several days. "No… No! I can't stand this! I can't take this stupid shit anymore!" Asuka ran out of the room in what appeared to be tears. "Fuck you, Misato!"

Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at the door. Everyone then looked over at Shinji.

"What, Asuka!" Hikari said loudly.

"So, even the devil can cry…" Toji muttered.

'Yeah, I didn't think that was possible…' Mari thought. "Shinji, go after her." Mari said.

"Why, she's been yelling at me non–stop for two whole days!" Shinji said angrily. "I can't stand her anymore!"

"Shinji…" Mari started.

"No!" Shinji said forcibly.

"Shinji!" Hikari said loudly. "You don't mean that! You're not a mean person, and neither is Asuka! Just go talk to her!"

"They're both right, Shinji." Kaji said. "Asuka's just frustrated with all this, and she's also not used to someone besting her at something." Kaji smiled. "She's not used to expressing herself constructively is all. Now just go and talk to her and make her feel better. I noticed that's another one of your traits we learned in your fight with the Sixth Angel. Every time you comforted Asuka with your words of advice or anything, her blood pressure and heart rate lowered. She trusts you."

"Idiot!" Misato shouted. "You shouldn't be sharing that data!"

"So, it's true?" Shinji asked.

"Yep, no go work your magic, kiddo." Kaji said. "She'll listen to you, the more abrasive she is, the more you push, it's as simple as that."

"Alright…" Shinji said. "I'll go…"

–––

Shinji looked around outside for Asuka, as she couldn't have gone very far.

'Where would she hide exactly…' Shinji thought. 'All I know about her is that she loves being difficult and loves jerky…'

Shinji looked towards the corner and saw the closest convenience store to the apartment. The one Shinji went to for most of the food they ate in the apartment. 'She has to be in there. Otherwise, I don't know where she went…'

Shinji walked into the store and saw the only other person in there besides the clerk was Asuka. There was a pile of food on the counter already. She was crouched in the refrigerator case looking for something to drink. Shinji crouched down next to her.

"Asuka…" Shinji said.

"Go away, Shinji." Asuka said. "I don't want to talk to you right now…"

"I'm not going anywhere, Asuka." Shinji said. "Remember I told you that the other day?" Shinji smiled. "We're comrades, I'm not going to abandon you."

"Is that all I am to you?" Asuka asked.

"What do you mean, Asuka?" Shinji replied.

"What I mean is why didn't you say friend?!" Asuka said in her hurt voice. "Why did you say comrade?! You're friends with four eyes and wundergirl, but not me!"

"Asuka, you haven't exactly been nice to me since we met." Shinji said. "Haven't you ever thought that might be the reason? Rei I don't think can even be unkind, just extremely truthful with her opinions, and Mari's just a big goofball. You're not exactly easy to talk to. One minute you're yelling and the next you're calm and sweet, it's hard to get a read on someone when their mood changes at the drop of a hat."

"So, you can make the effort!" Asuka said angrily.

"So could you, Asuka." Shinji said calmly.

"Just leave me alone, Shinji!" Asuka shouted as she ran out.

"Asuka, wait!" Shinji shouted as she ran down the street.

Shinji went up to the counter. "Can you put this on my account please, and hurry."

"Sure thing, kid." The cashier said.

Shinji took the bags of food and ran after Asuka who was a few blocks ahead of him, and clearly sad because she was standing still and looked as though she was crying. Shinji rushed as quickly as he could to see if he could fix what made her run out this time.

"Asuka!" Shinji shouted.

"What do you want?!" Asuka said, glaring at him. "Why did you follow me?!"

'Not even a tear…' Shinji thought. "Sorry…" Shinji mumbled.

"Why are you apologizing?!" Asuka shouted at him. "Because you're not my friend, or because you suck at that stupid thing Misato has us doing!"

"I'm sorry because I didn't mean to upset you with what I said!" Shinji said empathically. "I was only telling the truth! You ran out before I could say that I want to be your friend, Asuka, you just don't make it easy!"

"Yeah, sure, you say that now…" Asuka said angrily. "Why do I keep getting yelled at for your mistakes anyway? You're the one that messed up the battle, you're the one who keeps messing up that dance. I did everything I was supposed to!" Asuka shoved Shinji. "Why do they always take out their anger about everything on me?!"

"Because you are to blame, Asuka!" Shinji exclaimed. "If you can't see that, you're nowhere near as smart as you claim to be!"

"I am smart!" Asuka shouted. "I'm smarter than you, Third Child!"

"Then prove it by accepting responsibility for your actions!" Shinji said.

"But I didn't…" Asuka said.

"Asuka, stop it." Shinji said. "I know you're mad at me about something, and I don't really care what, I'm just trying to help, but if you don't want it, then so be it." Shinji turned and walked away. "See you around, Asuka…"

"Shinji, wait!" Asuka ran and grabbed his shoulder. "I… uh…"

Shinji looked at Asuka's eyes. 'They look so sad…' Shinji thought.

"I… I know I messed up, and I know, I have to pilot the EVA, I don't have a choice…" Asuka said dejectedly. "But I just wanted to make a difference…"

"Asuka, just try to relax a bit, and then maybe things will get easier." Shinji said. "You don't have to act like so serious all the time, you're still just a kid you know."

'Why I he still trying to be nice to me?' Asuka thought. 'Does he really want to be my friend? It's not like I need friends or anything though…'

"Aren't you tired of being so serious?" Shinji asked. "I mean, it has to be pretty tiring to be that wound up all the time." Shinji sighed. "Look, I'm going to go back to the apartment now, if you want to come with me, I'll be very glad, and we can keep training and beat that Angel, but if you don't I'll understand that too. I used to want to run away too, and it never worked. Then Misato made me realize I wanted to pilot the EVA for one thing, to protect my friends. Maybe if you come with me we can become friends, and pilot the EVA to save the rest our friends from danger…"

Shinji started to walk away and Asuka stood there frozen and not knowing what she should do. 'Should I follow him?' Asuka thought. 'He pilots the EVA to protect his friends? Compared to him, I pilot it for selfish reasons, to be praised by people I don't even know, but I also want to make momma proud…' Asuka looked as Shinji kept walking away. 'Why does he make me think so much?! No one has ever had the effect on me, only my mother could make me see how silly I was being… maybe Shinji does care…'

Asuka ran after Shinji. "Wait, Shinji, don't go!"

Shinji turned around, and his face split into a smile. "So, you're not leaving then?"

"No…" Asuka said. "But if you want me around, then I'll stay."

"I'm glad." Shinji said. "I do want to be your friend, Asuka. Don't forget that."

"Yeah, well, I'm not staying for your friendship, Third Child!" Asuka said forcefully. "I don't want you or four eyes to get all the credit for killing that Angel!"

"Sure, Asuka." Shinji said.

"Now give me my bags, I picked it out, I can carry it myself!" Asuka said grabbing the bags from Shinji.

Shinji grabbed a bag back. "If you want to be my friend, then we can each carry a bag, Asuka." Shinji said. "You don't have to do everything on your do you?"

Asuka looked at Shinji and said nothing, but her smile had faded a bit. 'Do I need to be near people or can I truly be… alone?' Asuka thought.

–––

Shinji and Asuka had their snacks in hand, and when they finally got back to the apartment, everyone had gone, save for Kaji.

"Hey guys, Misato had to run to HQ so I'll be in charge for a bit, ok?"

"Sure, Kaji." Shinji said.

"Yeah, whatever…" Asuka muttered.

"Asuka, are you feeling any better?" Kaji asked.

"Kinda…" Asuka said. "I'm willing to keep trying as long as Shinji is." Asuka said.

"That's the spirit, Asuka!" Kaji said happily.

"Let me just put this stuff away." Asuka said.

Kaji glanced at Asuka as she walked away. "Well, Shinji, whatever you said worked. She seems calmer at least." Kaji smiled. "So, what did you do?"

"I just talked to her." Shinji said.

"Well, whatever it is, you did good, kiddo." Kaji ruffled his hair.

Asuka walked back in the room. "All set, Kaji."

"Great!" Kaji smiled. "Now get yourselves set, you guys have some catching up to do." Kaji said as he turned the machine back on. "On your marks then…"


September 9, 2015 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Shinji and Asuka were still hard at work to days after Asuka stormed out of the apartment. Shinji's chat with her had done something to make her more motivated, if only to show him she was worthy of being his friend, which, for whatever reason, Asuka wanted desperately.

They were taking a break from the mats and were sharing Shinji's SDAT and listening to the music on the veranda. They were leaning against the wall and tapping their fingers on their knees in tune with the music, memorizing the beats and visualizing their EVAs in combat against the twins, Kou and Otsu. When the song finished Asuka stretched and yawned loudly.

"Well, at least we're getting somewhere, Shinji." Asuka said

"I am trying, Asuka." Shinji replied.

"I'm not criticizing you, baka!" Asuka said. "I was only saying we're getting better!"

"Oh…" Shinji said. "Sorry…"

Asuka shook her head. "Baka, Shinji…" Asuka said as she stretched again. "Hey, Shinji, can you make me something to eat?" Asuka asked. "I'm hungry."

"Sure." Shinji smiled. "Anything in particular?"

"No, just avoid noodles and rice." Asuka said. "You Japanese have no sense of variety, do you?"

"Not really, but I'll see what I can do." Shinji said as he went to the kitchen.

Asuka followed after him. She walked by Misato laying on the couch, snoring and drooling slightly in her sleep. Asuka smiled widely. "Wunderbar…" Asuka snuck up close to Misato. "PATTERN BLUE!" Asuka shouted.

Misato was so startled, she fell off the couch. "Oh my god! It's an Angel!" Misato looked up at Asuka, and saw her trying hard to contain her laughter, which didn't last very long. "ASUKA! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!"

Asuka spoke between fits of laughter. "I… just… wanted… to… see… your… reaction!"

"Asuka, that is not funny!" Misato shouted. "How could you think that's funny?!"

"How can you not?!" Asuka cackled.

Misato grimaced. "How would you like it if I snuck up while you were sleeping and told you Mari was in Unit–02?"

"I'd kick you so hard, I'd knock your ass into next week." Asuka said angrily. "I don't want that four eyed bitch in my EVA, ever!"

"See, now how is what you did funny?" Misato asked.

"Because, instinctively, you shouted "It's an Angel!" like it's some sort of tagline." Asuka joked. "So they really say that every time? Like do you need to be reminded of it every time?"

"Yes, they do, and this is the fifth Angel we've faced since Second Impact." Misato said.

"So, they still act surprised?" Asuka asked.

"Yes, because each additional Angel is a shock, we always hope the one we beat is the last one." Misato said solemnly.

"Do you really, Misato?" Asuka inquired. "I mean, every time an Angel appears, you come up with an even stupider and insane plan liable to get the pilots killed, like it's some sort of game to you."

"Hey!" Misato shouted. "What's that supposed to mean!"

Shinji walked out from the kitchen. "Asuka, if you're done tormenting Misato, lunch is ready." Shinji said.

"What is it?" Asuka asked.

"Caesar salads." Shinji said. "I had all the ingredients, and it's not noodles or rice."

"Good job, Shinji." Asuka said. "You listened."

Shinji smiled. "I try."

"Ugh, Shinji, I don't want to eat healthy!" Misato moaned.

"Yours is smothered in dressing, Misato." Shinji said. "And it has less lettuce."

"You're the best kid ever, Shinji!" Misato said happily as the three of them walked into the kitchen to eat.

"So, Misato, where's Kaji?" Asuka asked as the three of them sat down. "He left the other day so quickly when you got back, he got a call and just shot out of the door."

"Oh, that…" Misato said as she dug into her salad. "Apparently he's on some errand for the Commander." Misato replied.

–––

Deep in the desert in the wastelands of China was Kaji. He was in an old Range Rover and was driving to the site of a small building complex deep in the dunes. Kaji pulled up close and turned off the SUV, getting out slowly and moving stealthily towards the building.

As Kaji got to the door, he pulled out a black FN Five–seven and then turned the nob and pushed the door open quickly.

Kaji swept the room quickly to see it was abandoned. There were only two, old, rusted desks, a few dented and empty filing cabinets and drawers, and two very basic rolling chairs, one of which was on its side. There was an old business phone on one of the desks. It wasn't even plugged in, it just had part of its long cord wrapped around it.

Kaji sighed and flicked the safety of his gun pack on and holstered it. He sat down in the upright chair and pulled out a cigarette. He lit it and took a long drag.

"Just like the other 106…" Kaji said to himself. "So, there are 108 companies linked to the Marduk Institute. The first 106 were just as empty and abandoned all around the world in countries where NERV has a base. It's almost like someone is hiding the fact these are front companies in plain sight."

Kaji took another drag of his cigarette. "The Marduk Institute is an advisory body for the ostensible United Nations Human Instrumentality Committee for the Betterment of Mankind… the committee in charge of funding NERV and providing oversight the Commander. That entire Committee is SEELE… they have a great shadow puppet show going too, I just wish I knew what their plans were…"

Kaji took another drag and looked around. "But why set up such an elaborate ploy to select pilots? Rei's file is so scarce on information, it's almost disturbing, and Shinji and Asuka are descendants of two of the Evangelion's creators, with the third person's name redacted from all official documents, she's only referred to as a female… Mari's selection is even odder as she doesn't even show up in any of the old documents I was able to lay my hands on, like she literally appeared out of nowhere…"

Kaji took one last drag from his cigarette and flicked it out into the sandy wasteland from the chair. "What strings is Marduk trying to pull? 108 strings picking pilots seemingly at random… I may not know why those strings are being pulled, but I think I know who is doing the pulling… Gendo Ikari."


September 10, 2015 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Asuka and Shinji had finally completed their training. After their friendly lunch the day before, Asuka and Shinji were finally able to complete the dance without messing up. When they got up this morning, thy decided to practice until they knew they had the dance down pat. So all day long they practiced and practiced and practiced. Once they had done the dance over 100 times without an error, they both felt confident they could fight Israfel tomorrow and win. So, while Asuka told Shinji to shower because he smelled like "a jock strap", she rushed in as soon as he was out and disappeared for a good hour before emerging in a cloud of steam. Asuka had a loose fitting towel wrapped around her breasts, and another one for drying off her hair. Asuka noticed the towel around her slipping and rushed to grab it before Shinji saw anything. Asuka wandered towards her room and didn't hear anyone, so she called out.

"Shinji?!" Asuka called. "Misato?!"

"Yeah!" Shinji replied. "I'm in the living room." Shinji was laying there looking at the ceiling. 'It's nice, this is the first time Asuka and I have really started to get along. Maybe we can finally become friends… maybe after the fight we can just hang out and relax together… that would be nice…'

Asuka peeked out of her room and saw him lying there. "Is Misato here at all?" Asuka asked while she got dressed. "Did she leave or something?"

"Oh, she's at work, she left while you were showering." Shinji called to her. "She said something about making sure the EVAs were ready for tomorrow. She said she'll be there all night, but that she'll be here early to pick us up… or more likely, she'll send Section 2 to get us…"

Asuka emerged from her room in a loose fitting yellow t–shirt and blue short shorts that were entirely hidden by her shirt. "So… that means we're all alone tonight then." Asuka said happily. "You know what that means, don't you?"

"Not really, Asuka." Shinji said. "All I intend to do tonight is sleep, and hope everything goes well tomorrow."

Asuka just looked at him, with a sad look on her face. 'He… didn't get it?' Asuka thought. 'Does being alone with me not even make him… curious? That fucking bastard! I'll show him what he's missing!'

Asuka walked into the living room smiling widely and picked up her bedding and walked to Misato's room only a few feet from where Shinji was sitting, looking very confused as to what she was doing. Asuka dropped her bedding down and slammed Misato's door shut with her foot. Moments later she was on her hands and knees, her breasts entirely exposed from the wide open neck of her t–shirt with a scowl on her face.

"This is the Impenetrable Wall of Jericho, Third Child." Asuka said angrily.

"What?" Shinji said.

"One step over this wall, and you're a dead man." Asuka said angrily. "Now, it's time for children to go to bed!" Asuka slammed the door to Misato's room hard.

Shinji just sat there and stared at the door. "What was all that about?" Shinji muttered.

Inside the door, Asuka looked at it, forlornly. "Why doesn't he get it…" Asuka mumbled. "Why can't he see I need him? Is he that dense? I thought he'd know the Wall of Jericho fell… Shinji why can't you see I was excited to be alone with you, all to myself… I don't like sharing things… I know I'm selfish like that… this is the first time we've truly been alone together, and you had to ruin it…" A single tear ran down Asuka's face. "Why am I crying?" Asuka asked herself quietly. "He can't have affected me this much… could he?"

Shinji was still staring at the door. "Walls of Jericho… why does that sound so familiar, like I've heard it somewhere before…" Shinji muttered as he laid down and looked at the ceiling. "Wait, now I remember…"

Flashback

"Morons." Shinji said. "I guess I was right, because you didn't understand me the first time. Now please just leave me alone."

The entire class was paying attention to the fight now, but no one did anything, lest they draw the ire of the two obnoxious bullies.

"Hey, look at this tough guy. He never ever speaks, and when he does, he's just insulting. This freak's father killed his mother, and he thinks he can act like some sort of arrogant ass who thinks he's better than us." Hayato said angrily, throwing Shinji's SDAT across the room. "He thinks we'll just leave him alone if he asks nicely. Well, your words are no Wall of Jericho, freak."

"Hayato, the Walls of Jericho fell…" Kou whispered quietly.

"He doesn't know that, he doesn't pay attention in class." Hayato whispered back.

End Flashback

Shinji shuttered at what happened after that, and then rolled to look at the door Asuka disappeared behind. "Wait… she's smart enough to know that those fell… then why say it…" Shinji breathed in sharply at the realization. "She's worried about something, and wants me to take a hint. Why not just come out and say it." Shinji rolled his eyes. "Because, she's too proud to ask for help…" Shinji got up and walked over to the door. He took a deep breath and opened it. "Asuka, are you ok?" Shinji asked.

'Shinji, you came to check on me…' Asuka thought as she looked up at him, eyes red and puffy. "What do you want, Third Child!" Asuka said angrily. "Just leave me alone!"

"Asuka, I'm not leaving." Shinji said sternly. "I know you're smart enough to know the Walls of Jericho fell, so clearly you wanted me to come talk to you."

"What are you, stupid?! I did not, stop reading into things!" Asuka said. "I should have said the Gates of Troy!"

"Also fell…" Shinji said. "So, what's wrong, Asuka?"

"Nothing!" Asuka said defensively.

"I know that nothing." Shinji said. "It's when you don't want to talk about something uncomfortable."

"How would you know?" Asuka asked.

"Because, I used to want to be alone all the time too." Shinji explained. "I used to hate people, my only friend I ever had left me… I felt abandoned by my mother when she died, and I felt abandoned when my father ditched me in Atsugi… then I was afraid of them because I was bullied all the time, and no one ever stopped to help me. I was alone until I came here and met Hikari. She defended me when Toji punched me out for hurting his sister during the fight with the Third Angel. He was mad at me for that, and Hikari got him to leave me alone, and then she cleaned me up. That's why we're friends. She protected me."

"So what?" Asuka said. "I don't really care why you're friends with anyone."

"Asuka, before Hikari, I had one friend who I can't even remember, that's how long it was between them." Shinji said. "I didn't realize I was lonely until after I became friends with her, and then I just kept making more friends."

"So… Hikari is my friend too." Asuka said.

"Have you hung out with her at all since you arrived, or said more than a few words to her?" Shinji asked.

"No…" Asuka said. "But…"

"No, Asuka, you're not friends, just acquaintances." Shinji said.

"Oh, who asked you, Third Child?!" Asuka shouted. "Now leave me alone!"

"NO, ASUKA!" Shinji shouted. "Your eyes were red and puffy when I came in here, something is wrong, I want to help, and I'm offering you my help, my support, and even my friendship if you'll just talk to me!"

'Why can't he just be nice to me like he is with everyone else…' Asuka thought as she glared at him. "I don't want to!" Asuka said. "You… jerk!"

"Why am I a jerk?" Shinji asked.

"What are you, stupid?! Because you are, baka!" Asuka said angrily. "You just barge in here and tell me your opinions about shit I don't give a flying fuck, then you say I look sad, when I'm not! I just want to go to bed!"

"No, I'm not a jerk Asuka! I was just concerned for someone I thought I cared about!" Shinji said angrily, storming out of the room and slamming the door behind him. 'Jeez, how ungrateful can a person be…' Shinji thought. 'She looks all sad one minute, then yells the next… like a lunatic!' Shinji dropped down onto his mattress and stared up at the ceiling. 'Why do I even like her? She only ever yells at me. I guess I jinxed myself thinking we could get along…'

It was now Asuka's turn to stare at the door. 'Shinji… cared about me?' Asuka thought. 'So he really was concerned… and I just pushed him away… again…' Asuka's face turned a deep shade of red. 'But what did he mean thought he cared about… did I make him hate me?' Once again, another tear rolled down her face. 'Why does this keep happening?! I promised myself I would never cry again! Why does he make me feel this way?!'

Asuka got up and rushed out into the living room, but didn't see Shinji laying there on the floor and tripped over him, kicking poor Shinji right in the side in the process, and causing her to fall down hard on her knee. "Owww!" Asuka yelled as she felt her knee and saw the blood.

Shinji caught his breath after taking Asuka's foot to his ribs to see Asuka on the floor. "Asuka, are you ok?" Shinji asked.

"No, I'm not, baka!" Asuka shouted. "My knee hurts and I'm bleeding!"

Shinji got up and rushed to the bathroom, coming back with a small white box. "Here, sit up, Asuka." Shinji said kindly. He pulled out a bottle of something and poured it generously on her knee.

Asuka shuttered at the stinging sensation. "Baka, Shinji!" Asuka shouted. "Now it hurts more!"

"Well, at least you won't get an infection then, Asuka…" Shinji said as he wiped off her knee and put an ointment on the cut, followed by gently placing a fresh Band–Aid on her wound. "Better?"

"Yeah, a bit…" Asuka muttered.

"Do you need some help up, Asuka?" Shinji asked.

"Yeah…" Asuka muttered as the Shinji helped her to her feet. "Thank you… Shinji…" Asuka said kindly, smiling at him.

Shinji smiled back. "You're welcome, Asuka."

Then a thought crossed both of their minds. "Déjà vu…" The two of them mumbled. They looked at each other for a moment, but the feeling passed.

"So, Asuka, what were you in such a rush to talk to me about?" Shinji asked nervously as he sat back down on his bed.

"I…" Asuka said quietly as she sat down next to him. "I just wanted… to say…" Asuka barely said the last part. "Sorry…" Asuka couldn't look up at Shinji. 'I have to tell him why… that I'm afraid about tomorrow, and I want him to keep me safe… like he does to all his friends…' Asuka thought. 'But why do I even want to tell him? Does his opinion really mean that much to me? It can't, the only opinion that matters is my own…'

Shinji smiled. "It's ok, Asuka."

"No it's not, you did what I wanted you to do!" Asuka said angrily without thinking. "You came to see if I was ok, and all I did was yell at you!"

"It's no different than usual…" Shinji started.

"That's the problem!" Asuka said. "I want you to be my friend, but I keep messing it up!" Asuka then gasped and covered her mouth.

Shinji blushed. "Wait… you wanted me to check on you?" Shinji asked.

Asuka blushed heavily while she thought of something to say. 'I can't believe I blurted that all out without thinking, what am I, stupid?!' Asuka thought angrily. 'Well… I can't fix what's been said… what does Kaji always tell me, and it's the same thing Shinji said the other day… take responsibility…' Asuka looked at Shinji's red face. "Yeah… I want to be your friend, Shinji…" Asuka muttered. "I've only ever had one friend too before now, I don't remember them either, just they were really nice to me and made me feel like I was wanted… they were the first kind person I ever met…"

"Oh…" Shinji said. "I'm sorry…"

"What are you apologizing for, baka?!" Asuka snapped. "You didn't abandon me did you?"

"No, just, I know how that feels…" Shinji said. "It makes you sad and angry at the same time."

"Yeah…" Asuka mumbled.

"So, Asuka, what is wrong?" Shinji asked. "You don't seem as confident as you always seem to."

"I'm… um… uh…" Asuka started.

"Afraid?" Shinji asked.

Asuka only nodded.

"It's ok, Asuka, I'm afraid too, I have no idea what might happen tomorrow, but as long as you're there with me, we'll be fine." Shinji put his arm on her shoulder. "It's ok to be afraid you know. It's natural."

"For kids maybe, but not for fearless EVA pilots!" Asuka said proudly. "And you better not tell anyone other, baka!"

"And risk our friendship?" Shinji said. "Not a chance."

"Wait, we're… friends?" Asuka asked, confused at what Shinji had said.

"Yeah, I told you I wanted to be your friend too Asuka, the other day, and a little while ago." Shinji said. "I'm just glad we're friends Asuka."

"So am I." Asuka said. "But don't tell anyone!"

"Why not?" Shinji asked. "Are you embarrassed or something?"

"No, it's just…" Asuka said, unsure of herself. "I just… don't want people to get the wrong idea like they do about you and four eyes dating!"

"Asuka, me and Mari are not dating." Shinji replied. "We're just really good friends."

"Really?" Asuka said, a small smile forming on her face. "Why not tell people that?"

"We've tried, but everyone seems to think differently about it…" Shinji said.

"Oh…" Asuka said. "I thought the other night when I moved in… you two…"

"No, Asuka, she just stayed over because she was concerned about me." Shinji chuckled. "You actually thought we were dating?"

"No… I just hate taking rumors as truth." Asuka said. "So, does that mean she won't mind if I sleep out here next to you, will she?"

"No, I can go get your bed if you want." Shinji said. "Why did you move that anyway?" Shinji asked.

"I just…" Asuka stammered. "I just thought you didn't want to spend time… alone… with me."

"Asuka… that's what you meant by us being alone?" Shinji asked. "You just wanted to spend time with me?"

"Yeah, we've never just talked, alone, without anyone listening or watching us…" Asuka mumbled. "I thought if we could get to know each other better, then we could become friends…"

"Well, you were right, Asuka." Shinji said. "The two of us being alone did make us friends."

Asuka smiled. "So, you don't mind if I sleep next to you, right?" Asuka asked. "I think Misato was just separating us because she couldn't trust you with me."

"Well, Misato's a pervert." Shinji said. "And I don't mind at all. So, I'll just go get your bed then…"

"No!" Asuka blushed. "Why bother I mean… we can just share, right?" Asuka asked.

Shinji was stunned. "Sure, Asuka… we can… share…" Shinji said as he went to shut off the lights. When crawled back onto his futon, Asuka was waiting for him. When he laid back down, she turned and pressed her back against his.

"I'm not too close, am I?" Asuka asked. 'He's so cozy…' Asuka thought.

"No, you're fine." Shinji said, adjusting himself so he'd be comfortable. 'She's so warm…' Shinji thought.

"Goodnight, Asuka." Shinji said.

"Night, Shinji." Asuka replied.

The pair fell asleep quickly, both calmer about tomorrow then they were before their chat, but they both knew they had a rough day ahead of them.

–––

Misato was waiting patiently for the elevator. The last few days she'd gotten almost no sleep what so ever. With the EVAs prepped for tomorrow's battle with the Seventh Angel, Misato needed to be ready for anything. The elevator dinged and instead of an empty car like she was expecting, she was greeted by Kaji.

"Ah, Katsuragi… working hard, or hardly working?" Kaji asked.

"Oh, so you're back already?" Misato said.

Kaji smiled. "I'm touched that you noticed I was gone."

"Yeah, you're touched alright." Misato grumbled. "I was just glad to be rid of you for a while."

"Such harsh words, Katsuragi…" Kaji said. "And, it certainly has been a very long time since we've been alone like this."

"Yeah, I don't like being this close to you." Misato growled.

"Katsuragi, why so angry?" Kaji asked. "I'm sure whatever Shinji told Asuka has worked out in the past few days. How are they doing?"

"They're as ready as they'll ever be." Misato replied. "And my anger has nothing to do with them."

"Fine, why are you always so angry around me?" Kaji asked.

"Because you piss me off!" Misato said.

"What could I have done to piss off such a beautiful flower?" Kaji asked.

"You left me!" Misato shouted. "You accuse me one night of cheating on you and then you leave me all alone! Didn't you hear me call out to you?!"

"Of course I heard you Misato…" Kaji said. "I keep hearing those worlds every night in my nightmares, the second worst night of my life was leaving you there… alone…"

"What was the first?" Misato asked. "What could possibly trump leaving your girlfriend alone when you'd just had a fight, you never even called me!"

"My brother, Misato… Taichi…" Kaji said. "Or had you forgotten?"

"Oh… no I didn't mean…" Misato mumbled. "I'm… I'm sorry, Kaji…"

"It's fine, I know that night was rough on us both…" Kaji said. "I'm…"

"No, you don't get to be sorry!" Misato snapped. "You left, and sent a fucking box for me to send your stuff back in! You made cry for two days after I sent that stuff off, and you never spoke to me again! I don't see you for seven fucking years, and you act like nothing's happened! What the fuck is wrong with you!"

Kaji flipped the stop switch on the elevator, stopping it and plunging the car into a red, dimly lit ambiance. "Misato, do you remember what you said that night?" Kaji asked. "You had just told me you cheated on me, something I still don't believe you did. I was mad you were lying, mad you were keeping something from me. I told you everything about myself, even the parts that would make most people run away, but you stayed, and then something changed you… I don't know what, but you changed, and whatever you tried to do that night, I've forgiven you a long time ago, Misato…"

Misato's anger vanished from Kaji's explanation. "But…" Misato mumbled. "I just wanted…" Misato struggled to find the words to describe what she wanted, but settled for something else instead, she dropped the files in her hands, and gave a passionate kiss to the man she still loved.

Kaji returned the kiss just as passionately, and he lifted her against the wall, and Misato wrapped her legs around his waist, immensely enjoying the moment, until she came to her senses, she was still angry over the face he never admitted his love for her. Misato jerked her head away from Kaji and pushed him away.

"Misato…" Kaji said. "Did I…?"

"Yes, you did…" Misato said. "You left me all alone…" Misato flipped the switch on the door and the elevator moved again, with Misato standing with her back against the door. When the elevator dinged, Misato backed out of the elevator quickly and fixed her mussed clothes. "Forget it Kaji, there isn't anything between us anymore. Don't ever do that again."

"But, Misato, you might be saying no, but your heart and your lips don't agree with your mind." Kaji said picking up Misato's files. "Tell me, Misato, which truth should I trust?" Kaji extended the folders to Misato. "Your lips, or your words?"

Misato slapped the files onto the ground, and Kaji bowed slightly. "I understand, Katsuragi…" Kaji said as the door closed once again.

Misato picked up her files and stared at the door angrily, and then her face turned to a sad one. 'That's twice I've pushed him away…' Misato thought. 'Why can't I just be honest with him? And why can't he just admit he still loves me? And now that son of a bitch left me alone…' Misato through the files at the elevators doors and vocalized the last words of her thoughts quite loudly. "AGAIN!"

–––

Misato was now relaxing and thinking over what had just happened in the elevator. She was all alone in the observation lounge that looked out over the Geofront. Misato was startled when someone put a cup of coffee down next to her. She was about to bite their head off when she realized it was only Ritsuko.

"Oh, thanks, Ritz…" Misato said.

"Well, it looks like you could use it, Misato." Ritsuko replied. "So, what's troubling you? Is it Shinji and Asuka?"

"No, they're fine." Misato said. "They both did great today, they're even in sync, it's just something else is all…"

"Would this "something else" involve a certain, unshaven man in your life?" Ritsuko asked.

"He is not in my life!" Misato shouted.

"Sure he's not, Misato." Ritsuko said condescendingly. "That's why he looked so sad when I saw him a few minutes ago. I figured you had something to do with it." Misato just drank her coffee and ignored what Ritsuko was saying. "I mean, I'm sure he's still in love with you, at least that's what his frown said."

"He isn't any of my concern anymore, Ritz." Misato said coldly. "He hasn't been in a really long time."

'So sad, she still loves him, even after that messy breakup…' Ritsuko thought. 'How pathetic, at least Gendo tells me he loves me, unlike… Kaji… the man who's afraid of his feelings. It's all so pathetic, what does she even see in him anyway?'

Misato was sitting and drinking her coffee quietly while Ritsuko stared intently at her. 'Please, I'm not still in love with Kaji, at least, I don't think I am… was he right? Did my heart override what my mind keeps telling me?' Misato thought. 'No… I was just tired and lonely, I only kissed him because it was… convenient… right?'

"So what did you two do that made him so sad, did you turn him down, or did you kiss him and tell him it didn't mean anything?" Ritsuko asked knowingly.

Misato promptly spit out her coffee. "WHAT?!" Misato shouted. "I did no such thing!"

"Sure, Misato." Ritsuko said. "But I can tell he still likes you, but the question remains, what feelings do you still hold in your heart for him?"

"Absolutely none!" Misato said angrily. "I fell out of love with him that night! He couldn't return my love, so I took mine back!"

"Well, the way you're reacting says you still feel something towards him, who knows why, but you seem to…" Ritsuko said. "You'll have to face those feelings eventually, you know. You can't run away from them forever, what example would that set for Shinji?"

"But I'm not running from anything, except his smug face!" Misato said.

"See, it's that kind of talk that makes me not believe you're telling the truth about how you feel." Ritsuko said. "Perhaps you should try thinking about why you react that way around him, it's probably just as simple as a disagreement between you heart and your mind." Ritsuko stood up. "Goodnight, Misato, I'll see you in Central Dogma in the morning."

"Goodnight, Ritsuko." Misato said. 'Ritsuko and Kaji had the same thought… maybe they're right...' Misato thought as her friend walked away.

–––

Shinji awoke in the middle of the night to Asuka trembling heavily in her sleep. She had repositioned herself since falling asleep to have her arms wrapped around him, and she was holding him tightly.

"Asuka…" Shinji said as he struggled free of her grip. He turned to face her and saw what looked to be a face full of fear. "Asuka?"

Asuka didn't respond, but her body stopped shivering at the sound of his voice. Her face calmed down, but a few tears escaped her closed eyes.

'I wonder what's wrong with her?' Shinji thought. 'She looks so peaceful though…' Shinji looked at her face, and her lips. 'She just looks so beautiful…' Shinji moved slowly towards Asuka's slightly puckered lips with his own. But before he could kiss her, Asuka muttered something.

"Momma…" Asuka muttered quietly.

Shinji stopped himself. 'What was I thinking?' Shinji thought. 'I can't do this while she's so vulnerable… thinking about her mother… and crying? Why is she crying, did her mother die too?' Shinji looked at Asuka's face again. 'I know I want to kiss her, like the girl in my dreams, but I know she'd never forgive me if I did… and she wouldn't understand either…'

"Why… did you have to die?" Asuka murmured.

'Now I know why she's crying…' Shinji thought. 'She lost her mother too…' Shinji looked at Asuka's face. 'And I was going to try and kiss her… she was right, I can be a real jerk at times…' Shinji brushed the hair out of Asuka's face. "Sorry, Asuka…" Shinji whispered.

"Baka, Shinji…" Asuka muttered in response.

Shinji stared at Asuka. 'Is she awake?' Shinji thought, but Asuka's slow breathing however proved otherwise. 'It's like she knew…'

Shinji rolled back over, his back facing Asuka once again. As if she unconsciously knew he moved, Asuka snuggled back up to Shinji and wrapped her arms around him once more, her hand brushing Shinji's cheek very slightly. 'Her hand is so soft…' Shinji thought as he once again drifted back to sleep.


September 11, 2015 – NERV HQ

Both Evangelions were on the launch pads, waiting for the command to intercept and destroy the Angels. While the two were waiting anxiously, Shinji was sitting in his Entry Plug and trying to relax when a private comm line beeped, and Shinji answered it.

"Hey, Shinji." Asuka said over a visual comm line.

"Hi, Asuka." Shinji relied. "What's up?"

"I just wanted to remind you to keep our… compromising position a secret." Asuka said. "If I even sense anyone else knows about last night I'll castrate you with a blunt rock."

"Asuka, I told you this morning its ok, I won't tell anyone." Shinji said calmly. "Besides, you were really comfortable to be near…"

"Baka!" Asuka shouted. "You can't talk to a girl like that!"

"Sorry…" Shinji said. "But I was just telling the truth…"

Shinji saw the holographic Asuka blush. "Oh…" Asuka then glared at him over the line. "Don't be getting any ideas, baka, we're just friends!"

"I would only dream of it, Asuka." Shinji said without thinking.

"What was that?!" Asuka said loudly.

"I said I wouldn't dream of it, Asuka." Shinji corrected himself.

"That's what I thought." Asuka said before she closed the line and Misato contacted them both.

"Ready you two?" Misato asked.

"Yeah, Misato, I'm ready!" Asuka said proudly.

"Ready, Misato!" Shinji replied.

"You two know the plan?" Misato asked.

Asuka scoffed. "We launch and then deploy our A.T. Fields immediately when we reach the surface, then we execute the choreography we've been practicing."

"We'll be working in full operational mode at maximum output, and will only have 62 seconds before the internal batteries run out to accomplish our goal of killing the Angels." Shinji finished.

"Glad to see you two are prepared." Misato said.

"Hey, miso soup, can we wish them luck yet?" Mari asked.

Misato grumbled. "Fine, Mari, but make it quick, the Angels will be moving soon." Misato paused. "And you are to never call me that again, Mari!"

"That's what you'd like to think…" Mari muttered. "Heya, puppy, princess, we're all wishing you luck out there… me, miso, blueberry, even scruffy!" Mari said happily.

"Mari, who's scruffy looking?" Shinji asked.

"Kaji of course!" Mari said. "Silly puppy…"

"Of course he is…" Shinji said. "Thanks, Mari."

"Yeah, thanks I guess…" Asuka said. "Not that we need luck!"

"Ok, Mari, you got to tell them good luck, but we have to deploy them now!" Misato said.

"Yeah, yeah, give it a rest miso…" Mari quipped. "Bye, puppy!"

–––

Several squadrons of VTOLs were hovering around the immobile Kou and Otsu. Their damaged and partly melted bodies from the N2 attack had healed, and they stirred. Kou moved first, followed by his sister, and they began to move in sync towards Tokyo–3 once more. As the moved forward, their Cores resonated with each other and they recombinant into the larger Israfel.

The VTOLs followed the creature and reported back to NERV that Israfel was on the move. The AIS had been activated in advance of Israfel's awakening, and opened fire, leaving very little damage behind on the fully healed Angel.

–––

"Major, the Angel has recombined and is on the move!" Aoba reported. "ETA is 120 seconds!"

"The Angel appears to be fully healed." Maya reported. "The AIS is having minimal effect, ma'am. It's moving at a steady pace. MAGI predict their final destination is NERV HQ."

"Understood." Misato said. "Get ready you two."

"Roger." They both replied in unison.

"The Seventh Angel has passed the inner defense line, intercept is now possible!" Hyuga reported. "Dual intercept path laid in and ready, Major."

"Well, it's now or never." Misato said. "Purge external power lines! Release docking latches!" Misato ordered.

The power cables on the back of both EVAs fired their retro rockets and released, displaying a timer reading "1:02:00" which immediately began to count down. The restraints holding the Evangelions released at the same time, freeing the Evangelions for immediate combat.

"Evangelion Unit–01… Evangelion Unit–02… LAUNCH!" Misato ordered.

The music started to play and the launch pads shot up towards the surface, when they locked in place, both Evangelions leapt into the air, staring down as Israfel. At the apex of their leap, they both deployed extendable poles they threw down that Israfel deflected. The poles landed front and behind and activated an energy field that bisected Israfel, splitting it into Kou and Otsu.

Both Evangelions landed on their knees, and each stood up to face see an armory building hand them a Pallet Rifle. They both shot at an Israfel. Unit–01 taking on Kou, and with Unit–02 taking on Otsu. The bullets only harassed the Angels and they fired back with weak energy blasts that the EVAs dodged by somersaulting backwards until the reached a point in the road that was triggered to shoot up an armored plate to block the blast. Unlike Ramiel's massive blast, this twin blasts only warped the armor. Both EVAs popped out from behind the armored plate and returned fire as the Angels jumped forward and slashed through the armored plate as the EVAs dodged sideways and a focused barrage from the AIS held the Angels in place while Shinji and Asuka prepared for their next strike.

"YAAAAHHHHH!" They both shouted as their EVAs crouched and spread their arms wide, and readying themselves to strike.

Both EVAs moved forward and delivered a devastating right uppercut to the Angels quickly followed up with a roundhouse kick from either side that forced the Angels to recombine into a very pissed off looking Israfel, but leaving the Cores separate for the time being. Both Evangelions then got ready to strike the finishing blow.

"HERE WE GO!" They both shouted triumphantly sending their EVAs into the air, as they twirled into the apex of their jump, they both lined themselves up for the final strike, a directed kick at the twin Cores.

"TAKE THIS YOU SON OF A BITCH!" They both shouted as the EVASs came plunging down to Earth, Unit–01's right foot against Unit–02's left, and they delivered the final blow, each putting a foot right through a Core, shattering them utterly and causing Israfel to dissolve into a pile of blood on the ground.

The fight ended with "0:01:18" left on the timer, allowing both EVAs to land and crouch appropriately before the power shut down.

Shinji was smiling widely at the blank Entry plug walls, and Asuka contacted him, voice only. "Heya, Shinji, you ok?"

"Yeah, how about you? Your EVA still standing?" Shinji asked.

"Of course, baka!" Asuka said. "Do you expect anything less?"

"No, just making sure my friend is ok." Shinji said.

"Awww, puppy!" Mari said loudly into the comm. "You made a new friend?"

"This was a private line, four eyes!" Asuka shouted.

"For what?" Mari purred. "Pillow talk?"

"Pervert!" Asuka shouted. "Get your four eyed head out of the gutter!"

"Hey guys, stop arguing…" Shinji muttered.

"Enough you two, stop bickering!" Misato said angrily. "Good job you two! You executed everything perfectly!"

"Thanks, Misato." Shinji said.

"Yeah, well, we're the best." Asuka said.

"So, you're admitting Shinji's as good as you?" Mari purred. "Puppy, what did you do to the lonely German? Did you ease her tension in some way?"

"Mari…" Shinji warned.

"Well, did you?" Mari purred seductively.

Shinji grimaced. "Mari… just stop."

"Oh… you did puppy!" Mari squealed. "You popped the princess' cherry!"

"Fucking pervert!" Asuka screamed. "When I get out of this Entry Plug, I'm going to kick your ass!"

"I'd love to see you try…" Mari said.

"Enough!" Misato said. "I'm going to send a power cord to you guys so we can recover you easily. See you back in the cage."

"Misato, you may want security on standby for when we get back…" Shinji joked. "It could get messy in there…"


September 14, 2015 – Tokita Apartments

Mari sat in her dark apartment. She had drawn the shades and shut off her cellphone and unplugged the landline from the wall. Mari sat quietly in the darkness contemplating the anniversary of her own death.

"How do I deal with the fact I was presumed dead and gone seventeen years ago today?" Mari asked herself. "Well, that's not so hard, I just have to keep lying to Shinji. But how do I keep this secret from Shinji… I don't want to keep lying to him forever, but I don't really have a choice, do I? If I tell him, he may hate me, and I don't want that, I care about him too much, I don't want to lose him because of my past… my real past with his mother… and Asuka's mother… he doesn't need to know does he?" Mari asked again. "No, he wouldn't be able to handle it, and I can't protect him effectively from things if he knows who I am… but that doesn't mean I love him any less. He makes me feel happy, like I used to, and so does Rei, but for different reasons…"

Mari stood up and put on her school uniform, and grabbed her backpack. "I'm sorry, Shinji, I won't be at school today, I have somewhere to go…"

–––

Mari was walking in a graveyard, carrying a bouquet of flowers.

"Hello mom, hello dad. How have you been?" Mari said quietly. "It's been 23 years since I was last here… there's a lot I have to catch you up on." Mari looked at the gravestones. There was a new one in between her parents, marking her own death.

"Well, I don't feel a shiver on my spine, so I guess I'm not walking on my own grave." Mari joked. "But that headstone isn't entirely wrong. I did die that day 17 years ago. The old me died slowly in the Core with that utter bitch Lilith… And I know I promised you guys I would never come back, but that was 23 years ago, and I'm still only 16… it's been pretty fucked up lately, I can tell you that much. But dying isn't so bad, I have a second chance at life, the life I never had when I was a child after the accident. I ignored my childhood to make you guys proud and to escape the bullies. I shouldn't have done that. I should have just been a fucking kid. But I wasn't, but at least the accident gave me a chance to be again. I have some wonderful friends now, they treat me so nicely, and I'm happy for the first time in a long, long time."

Mari smiled down on the three headstones. "So, I know I said this the last time, but I'm here to mark my own death, to mark the death of the girl who was lonely and afraid of her feelings." Mari laid the flowers down. "Thanks to Shinji, I'm not like that anymore, I can be… myself." Mari stood back up. "Goodbye mom, goodbye dad, goodbye Mari…"

Mari walked away, back towards the relatively unharmed city of Sapporo. "It's amazing that the city was unharmed. I know I saw my old favorite restaurant back there, and it was still open… I guess one more time won't hurt, this time in memory of the old me… and then I can move on from who I once was and begin my new life with a clean slate…" Mari said as she walked towards town, and away from who she used to be.

–––

Shinji was sitting quietly in his room looking nervously at his cell phone.

'I wonder where Mari was today?' Shinji thought. 'Well, I can't think about that now, I have to make this phone call before I lose my nerve…'

Shinji picked up and dialed the phone.

Brrring… brrring… brrring…

"Yes…" A male voice replied.

"Uh… father?" Shinji said nervously. "I was wondering if you were…"

"Spit it out, Shinji, I am very busy." Gendo replied.

"Do you remember what day tomorrow is?" Shinji asked.

Gendo was silent for a moment. "What… day?"

"Yes…" Shinji replied nervously.

"What about tomorrow?" Gendo asked.

Shinji lost his nerve. "Nothing…"

"Do not call me unless it's important." Gendo said.

CLICK

"It's the anniversary of my mother's death…" Shinji muttered to the phone. "Father…"


September 15, 2015 – Outside Tokyo–3, Mass Cemetery

Mari was walking in the cemetery near Tokyo–3, the cemetery where Yui was buried. She didn't have anything with her other than her backpack. Mari had just come back from Sapporo on the train and was exhausted. It was just Dawn outside, and there was barely enough light to see the grave markers, but Mari found Yui's without a problem.

"Hey, Yui." Mari said. "I know you're not here, but seeing as I was already at my fake grave, I may as well come to yours too. I know it's been 14 years since you were absorbed, and I'm sure Gendo and Shinji will be by here later…" Mari looked around. "I don't know why I came here, I just wanted to see it I guess… I'm just eccentric like that." Mari said happily. "At least that's what Shinji calls it anyway." Mari looked at her watch. "Well, if I don't want to miss another day of school, I should get going… bye Yui!"

–––

Shinji and Asuka left for school a little earlier than usual. Toji, Kensuke and Hikari said they'd meet them at school, as they had do something when they arrived. However when they reached the first corner, Shinji turned to go the wrong direction.

"Hey, baka, you're going the wrong way!" Asuka said.

"No, I'm not going in today." Shinji said. "Just tell Hikari I wasn't feeling well."

"What are you doing?" Asuka asked.

"I just have something to do." Shinji said glumly. "Bye Asuka…"

Shinji began walking away and Asuka stared at him. 'I wonder what's wrong with him?' Asuka thought. 'I wasn't even mean to him today and he looks all depressed.' Asuka looked at Shinji's retreating form. 'I should follow him and see what he's up to.'

Asuka began to follow Shinji stealthily on his long walk out of the city. They came to a massive field where tens of thousands of grave markers could be seen. Asuka kept her distance, but still made sure she could see him.

'He's going to a cemetery?' Asuka thought. 'Who does he know that died?'

Asuka followed him just past the entrance in the cemetery, and crouched down near the gates and watched where he was walking. He was heading towards the only other person in the place at the moment. A figure that looked awfully familiar.

'Is that… the Commander?' Asuka thought. 'Why would they be meeting here?'

Shinji, still unaware he had been followed walked towards his father. "Hello… father."

"It's been three years since the last time we came here together." Gendo said plainly as he placed a bouquet of flowers on Yui's gravestone.

"I know… I ran away then, and haven't been back since." Shinji said. "It still hasn't sunk in that mother is resting here. I don't even remember her face."

"Man survives by forgetting his memories, but there are some things a man should never forget. Yui taught me about the irreplaceable things. I come here once a year to confirm that." Gendo said. "I could never forget her…"

"Father…" Shinji asked. "What was mother like? Do you have any pictures of her you could… show me?"

"Yui was the kindest and sweetest person I ever met, nothing in the entire universe could ever hope to replace her, and there are none left, Shinji." Gendo replied. "And Yui is not here either, Shinji, this grave is only a decoration to honor her memory even after I am gone. There is no corpse here, there never was."

"So sensei wasn't lying, you threw out everything regarding my mother… even me!"

"I keep everything in my heart, Shinji… that is enough for now." Gendo replied. "I will see your mother again, one day…"

Shinji stared at his father as the sound of a VTOL could be heard, and Shinji looked up to see one approaching.

"It's time for me to get going." Gendo said. "I'm leaving now."

"Father! Um, I'm glad I got to talk to you today."

"I see…" Gendo grimaced. "Shinji, don't look for me anymore."

"What?" Shinji asked.

"People only live by their own strength. They only grow by their own strength. Only infants need parents, and you are no longer an infant." Gendo said as he walked towards the landing VTOL. "Stand on your own two feet, and walk. I learned to do the same."

"But…" Shinji stammered. "I…"

"Shinji." Gendo turned to look at his son again. "Don't think we can try to understand each other. For some reason, people think they can do that." Gendo turned and walked towards the awaiting VTOL. "Remember that they cannot, never completely, and never enough." Gendo walked onto the aircraft and stared directly at Shinji. "People are such sad creatures."

As the VTOL took off, Shinji noticed someone in the window, Rei, who was staring down at him with a gloomy look on her face.

'What's Rei doing here?' Shinji thought. 'Why would he bring her here?'

–––

Gendo was onboard the VTOL with Rei, he watched the figure of Shinji from afar as the aircraft flew away. He then turned to Rei to see her staring intently at Shinji.

'How odd for her to be interested in looking at other people, even if she is in all essence, his sister. I wonder if she can sense that innate kinship…' Gendo thought. "How are things going, Rei?" Gendo asked. "How do you feel?"

"Oh…" Rei said as she looked up. "I am doing well, Commander. Tomorrow evening I go to see Dr. Akagi again for a checkup. The new medication she's given me is working much better than the old one. Then I go back to school the day after tomorrow."

"I see." Gendo said. "And how is school?"

"There are no problems." Rei replied.

"I'm glad to hear that, Rei." Gendo said.

Rei looked over at Gendo with a blank stare. 'Why does he bring me here? What significance could it hold to me?' Rei thought. 'It seems illogical for him to bring me here if we only ever talk about work or school. There must be some reason he is hiding from me. Whenever we leave here, a part of him stays in this place, like whoever he was visiting holds some special significance… I just wonder who this person is.'

–––

Shinji watched as the VTOL flew away with Rei looking down solemnly at Shinji. As it flew away, Asuka came up behind Shinji and placed her hand on his shoulder, making him jump.

"Asuka?!" Shinji shouted. "What are you doing here?"

"Hey, Shinji, is everything ok?" Asuka asked. "You look worse than you did when we left this morning."

"It's nothing to worry about Asuka." Shinji said dejectedly.

"The hell it's not, you look like you're going to cry!" Asuka said. "Just tell me what's wrong! I told you the other day!"

"Today is the anniversary of the day my mother died…" Shinji muttered. "The last time I came here, I ran away back to Atsugi, because my father called me here and he didn't want to take me back."

"Why were you in Atsugi?" Asuka asked. "Is that what you meant when you said he abandoned you?"

"Yeah… after my mother died, he left me with someone." Shinji said. "I didn't see him again till I came here three years ago, then I ran away and the next time I saw him, he told me to get in the EVA, and he never speaks to me, he treats me like some sort of reminder that my mother is dead, like I'm the one who killed her." Shinji's eyes welled with tears. "Why can't he just be a father to me? Why can't he just say… hello?" Shinji broke down crying. "I hate him, Asuka, I hate him for abandoning me!"

Asuka wrapped her arms around him and hugged him. "Shinji, will you man up?" Asuka said. "You don't need to cry, he's just a jerk." Asuka then realized what she was doing. 'Why am I hugging him? What made me do that?'

"But…" Shinji started.

"No buts, Shinji!" Asuka said. "You can't think about him like that anymore. Just look at him as some weak man who abandons children because he sees them as inconvenient. He's not worth your time."

"But he's still…" Shinji started again.

"Shinji, can you just shut up?!" Asuka said loudly. "I don't think your mother would like her son crying on top of her grave like that."

"I don't think she'd mind…" Shinji said.

"Shinji, you can really be dense sometimes." Asuka said. "So do you want to go home, and just talk? School kinda blows, so we can just act like we were both sick."

"Sure, Asuka…" Shinji replied, wiping his nose. "But, I have a question before we go."

"Go for it." Asuka said, letting go of him.

"Why did you follow me here?" Shinji asked.

"Well… I was…" Asuka started. 'Why did I follow him here? I followed him because he looked so sad, I wanted to make sure he was ok…' Asuka thought. 'Why do I do such strange things around him, like I'm… attracted to him or something…'

"Asuka?" Shinji asked.

"Yeah, uh I followed you here because I was worried about you." Asuka said. "We spent all that time together training, I just wanted to make sure you were ok…"

"That's very sweet, Asuka." Shinji smiled. "Thank you."

"You're welcome… I guess." Asuka said. "Consider yourself lucky though, I don't take pity on many people you know."

"Well, lucky or not, why don't we head back." Shinji said. "Just, one thing first…"

"Sure…" Asuka said as Shinji walked to his mother's gravestone and knelt down. "Mother, I'm sorry, I do hate father so much. I know you loved him dearly, but please understand why I hate him so…" Shinji teared up again. "And I'm sorry I haven't visited in so long, I promise to stop by again, and I won't run away either…"

Asuka looked at Shinji and felt like she wanted to cry. 'Why am I empathizing with him? I don't care about him like that, I'm independent, and I don't need anyone.'

Shinji stood up and walked back to Asuka. "I'm ready…"

"Alright, Shinji." Asuka said. "But are you sure you're ok?"

"No…" Shinji replied. "But I will be… eventually."

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 – 58.3% (+6.5%)
Asuka – 46.1% (+0.8%)
Mari – 41.9% (New)
Rei – 41.6% (+5.2%)

So, this chapter is based on Episode 9 of the anime, if you couldn't already tell. Also, used a lot of the manga for this as well. That episode is my favorite of the series, as they seem to train using the game *cough* Dance Dance Revolution *cough* and I was disappointed that Rebuild left out this awesome Angel.

Holy shit, long chapter, but lots to go over. Everyone meeting for the first time, Israfel, and of course, the Impenetrable Walls of Jericho (my ass…). Now, the Walls of Jericho changes had a good breadcrumb way back in the beginning of Chapter 3, showing that Shinji already knew that the walls fell, and he happened to remember this little factoid that changed so much. So, those changes should have been at least expected if you noticed it. Also if you notice the conversation of Shinji and Asuka after she falls, it may seem quite similar to an earlier one they had…

The reason I went over Kensuke taking the pots in detail is that no one seems to care he took photos of the girls changing. Sure, to me, all the pictures were a bit creepy, like telephoto lens creepy. But the fact he climbed a tree or something to get the shots of them changing was just gross, and no one in the show points it out, which is even more disturbing. So, he's set straight here, by Shinji and Hikari. As for the secret she knows about him, it will be revealed much later in the story.

As a note, Mari is a mix of bisexual and omnisexual, basically, she sees people's gender, but doesn't really care, as she's attracted to both, and tends to follow her heart to whomever she likes. She already loves Yui, and has a crush on Shinji for varying reasons, and she finds both Asuka and Rei attractive, so she's not exactly set in her ways, as she is still discovering her sexuality. Also, Shinji talking to her about it being ok and explaining internet porn was more to show her she doesn't need a VHS player and a subscription to Penthouse to get off anymore, it's not the 80s or 90s.

As for the scenes after the Angel, well, the timing fit this chapter far better than the next one, so it was added onto the end. I couldn't leave out the cemetery scene with Gendo, could I? And then Mari is contemplating her own issues with having been displaced in time by being absorbed into the Core, and also dealing with the anniversary of her death (and rebirth…) is also not something to be looked over.

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