Disclaimer: see part 1

The Lifespan of a Love Affair.

By Random1377

Week 14: Crying Aloud

"I'm here… because…" Gendou barely contained a smirk as his son raised his head, defiance all over his face as he finished, "I'm the pilot of Evangelion Unit 01 – Shinji Ikari!!"

"I see," the Commander replied levelly.

So much had happened over the last week.  In his mind, he could still hear the Third Child screaming at him, demanding that he stop the dummy plug system as it rent the angel-possessed Unit 03 to pieces.  Where was that strength when you needed to fight, he thought with some amusement, where was this strength you're showing me now?

"Eject the entry plug."

Shinji's hands clenched at his sides as Unit 01's head tilted forward, the entry plug spiraling out with a soft hum.  I promised I would never pilot again, he thought tiredly, the rage of his exterior concealing the depth of his sadness within, Touji's leg is… gone – just gone.  I could have stopped that from happening if I'd fought.  I could have found a way to get him out, but I was too much of a coward.  And… and he didn't even tell me – I stayed with him a whole week and he never even told me…

Gendou watched closely as the boy shook his head as if to clear it, then dashed to the waiting hatch on Unit 01.  "The angel is nearing Central Dogma," he said coolly, "there is no clear route between here and there."

"It doesn't matter," Shinji said flatly, "I'll get there."

The Commander nodded.  "Insert the plug," he ordered, "synchronize immediately – there is no time for safety procedures."

"Understood."

As the plug spun in, Shinji took a deep breath.  Misato was injured, he thought distantly, trying to separate himself from his feelings as Rei taught him that night he stayed with her.  I should have seen her… but I was so angry for her not telling me about Touji.  I'll protect her, he thought firmly as the plug began filling with LCL, I'll protect her and then… and then… I'll leave.  His shoulders slumped as he inhaled the amber fluid, for once barely noticing the taste.

He stared straight ahead as the plug's walls flashed through the colors of the rainbow.

"Or maybe," he whispered softly, "the angel will kill me."

 "Unit 01."

"Yes sir."

His father's voice was as cold as ever.  "Lift off."

Shinji nodded.  "Yes sir."

Pushing the dark thoughts aside, Shinji allowed himself one brief second to reflect.

"Do you want to go out with me, Shinji?  Kinda… see what happens?"

"There… guess now you're my boyfriend."

Bits and fragments came to him as he drew in another breath, and he tried to hold them – to let them lift him… but the tighter he held, the more they slipped through his fingers.

"It's no big deal, Shinji, it's not like I'm your… mother or anything."

"I'm sorry… Shinji, I'm so sorry…"

"Evangelion Unit 01," he called.

"I'm sorry…"

"Lift off!!"

"I'm so sorry."

Shinji thrust forward on the control yokes as the distance he had been trying to summon flooded his mind and heart.  Due to the consistency of the LCL all around him, the tears never even fell from his eyes… they simply dissipated into the electrolyzed fluid as if they had never been – vanishing without a trace, like the love affair he thought would save him from loneliness and pain.

I'm sorry too… he thought. He clenched his teeth as Unit 01 smashed its way through one of the four walls separating him from Central Dogma.  I thought we could make anything work… another wall crumbled before the giant machine.  I thought we could be happy together… the third wall fell, leaving only one between him and the bridge.  I thought no matter what happened, I would protect you… and you would protect me…  the last wall was before him, all of Unit 01's sensors going wild as they reported a large energy source on the other side, growing in intensity.

"I thought…" Shinji whispered, drawing his mecha's right fist back, "that you cared…"

At seven twenty six on a balmy Thursday evening, Shinji Ikari willed Unit 01 into motion, swinging its gargantuan fist through the last wall and into the invading angel's jaw… all the while keeping himself from feeling the terrible, icy chill of loneliness within him.  There was no point in feeling sad… no point in feeling angry… no point in feeling anything.

Screaming as he forced the angel back through the breach in the wall, Shinji's last rational thought before battle rage consumed him was this: the lifespan of a love affair must be indefinite… because in spite of all that she had said and done to push him away, she was still the only person he thought of when the word 'companion' was mentioned.

And she was only person he thought of when Unit 01 went berserk and consumed him.

**

Silence.  All-powerful, unbroken silence… filling in every crevice in the EVA cages, where not 24 hours before, chaos reigned.  Footsteps echoed across the void, disturbing the stillness in the harshest manner possible and drawing the attention of the sole occupant of the observation catwalk.

"Hello, Katsuragi," Kaji whispered, keeping his voice low as if to preserve the hush all around.  "I thought I might find you here."

Misato turned away from Evangelion Unit 01, revealing the dark circles under her eyes as she gave him a cursory, listless glance.  "Kaji," she replied coolly, turning back to face the mecha.  "Well," she murmured, "I guess you must be happy… the competition is gone, and-"

"I'm not here to gloat," Kaji cut in quietly, "in fact… I just came to say goodbye."

"Goodbye?" Misato said sharply, spinning to face the man.  "Where…?  Why?"

"Not sure," Kaji shrugged.  "But after what happened to him," he nodded to the bandaged form of Unit 01, "I realized… I can't do this anymore."

"Oh so that's it huh?" the woman snapped, "You came to say, 'Hey, it's been fun, but now that things are real, I'm outta here.' You dick!"

Kaji shook his head in wonder.  "You are so full of shit," he mused, "if I remember correctly, it was you that didn't have the guts to tell Shinji that his fucking best friend was about to be made pilot – so who's the one that ran, Katsuragi?  You wanna know the reason I'm leaving?  Huh??  Fine!"  He folded his arms over his chest, staring at the woman as if looking at something that disgusted him.  "I talked to Shinji."

"What?" Misato gasped, "When did-"

"When he was about to leave," Kaji cut in coldly, "when he was standing on the train stop, crying and alone."  He leveled a finger at the woman.  "I was going to go water those stupid melons I've been growing," he told her, "but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to see where he was – so I went looking for him."

"What, ummm… what did he say?" Misato asked timidly.

"Oh, he told me all about you and him," Kaji said dryly, "how you kept pushing things further and further, then backing off… how you finally broke down and told him about us… how you used him, got as close as you could, then dropped him like he was a roach you found crawling around in your cupboards… and how he still couldn't keep from falling for you."

Misato put a hand on the railing to support herself as the world went gray around her.  "He… he said he loved me?"

"No," Kaji replied, his lips threatening to quirk up into a derisive smile, "he said he was falling for you – I don't think he knows what it's like to be loved… and you sure didn't show him."

Misato flinched.  "That's not fair."

"Fuck fair," the man replied flatly.  "You don't know the meaning of the word."

"What… what happened then?" she asked… already knowing the reply.

"Then the angel attacked," Kaji whispered intensely, "and I told him, 'You need to go fight – for her, if you won't do it for everyone else.  Don't make others suffer for your personal pain.'"  He pushed his hands into his pockets and looked up into Unit 01's brooding, half-concealed face.  "So when it comes right down to it," he said slowly, "I called him a coward… used his love for you to manipulate him… and sent him to his grave – and the whole time I was talking to him, I had my arm around his shoulders, treating him like he was my goddamn son."

Misato could not speak.  Never, in her entire life, had she ever heard such an outpouring of pain and self-loathing.

"So," Kaji said briskly, turning away from the purple robot and giving the Major an ironic smile, "there you have it.  I did what I had to do, I protected my country – and my species – and I killed the nicest, most vulnerable kid in my species by using his love as a weapon…" he shook his head.  "I've done more damage in three minutes than some people have in a lifetime, Katsuragi… and I'm… done."

"He'll… come back," Misato said unevenly.  "Ritsuko said-"

"They tried it once before," Kaji cut in flatly, "with the first pilot."  He turned away from her.  "He's not coming back, Misato."

"You fucking bastard."

Kaji turned back, blinking at the cool, collected tone in the woman's voice.

"You're a bastard," Misato said calmly, rising to her full height and staring him down.  "If everyone gave up on him, he'd never make it back…" she lowered her voice to a whisper, her body shaking with rage.  "You should be ashamed of yourself.  You say you're leaving because you killed him?  You're killing him because you're leaving – and I hope you burn in Hell for it!"

Kaji blew out a gusty breath.  "Well," he said lightly, "think that if you like… but I can't be here."

"I wish Asuka was seeing this," Misato said suddenly, "she always went on and on about how cowardly Shinji was… but I think it would be a real eye-opener to see a genuine coward running away with his tail between his legs."  She raised a hand as the man opened his mouth.  "Save it," she said coolly, "goodbye, Ryouji."

Kaji nodded.  "Goodbye, Misato."

She watched as the man walked away, and then turned her attention back to Unit 01.  "Alone at last, huh?" she said softly, looking up at the mammoth machine.  "Well, I don't care what he says… I believe in you, Shinji.  I believe that you'll come back, and when that happens, I have some things I need to say to you."  She took a deep breath.  "I'll say them now," she sighed, "because I think, when you get back, I'm going to be saying them a lot, so I'll need the practice."

Slowly, she straightened her back, putting her arms at her sides and bowing formally.  "Shinji," she began quietly, "I want to apologize for the way I treated you, and for behaving like a scared, spoiled little girl.  I want to try again, because I know that we can be good together."  She straightened, but kept her back stiff.  "When you get back," she said quietly, emphasizing the word 'when,' "I want you to live with me again, and I won't take no for an answer.  I've agreed with Asuka's request to have some time for herself and made arrangements for her to live with her friend Hikari for a while, so it will just be you, me, and PenPen at first," she managed a smile.  "And I don't think PenPen will mind the extra company."  Her smile fell away as she lowered her head, staring at her feet as she concluded, simply, "Come back to me, Shinji… I need you."

She left the cages and returned to her apartment to wait… and wait… and wait, trying to keep hope alive as minutes rolled into hours and hours rolled into days and days rolled into weeks.  And as she waited, she dreamed of the day Shinji would come back to her, her throat aching with all the words she wanted to say… her heart aching with all the things she wanted to feel.

In silence, Misato waited…

The End

Author's notes:  Yes, that's the end.  The original ending was, 'Five months later, she was still waiting…' but I thought that was a little too definite… a little too sad.  Will she see Shinji again?  I don't know… in the show, Shinji convinced himself that life was worth living, but in here, well, he might have a different view, so for now, I leave it to your imagination.  And besides – this story was started under the heading, 'A dark romance,' so you can't honestly have expected that everything would come up roses…

Technical notes:  This story was started on February 26, 2003, and completed (except for pre-reading) on April 21, 2003.  It weighs in at approximately 34,500 words comprising about 93 pages, according to MSWord.  This total includes all disclaimers, titles, and notes.  For anyone that's interested in that kind of stuff.  *shrug*  This total does NOT include the alternate lemon epilogue, because, well… it's an alternate.  Duh.  :P

Pre-read on this week was by LeperMessiah, who felt the need to scream,  \m/ "Sllllaaaaaayyyyyeeerrrrr!!!!"  \m/ Don't ask me why.  *shrug*

Feedback is always welcome at random1377@yahoo.com