Rei Ayanami

Tokyo-2 – Morning

I step through into the arrivals lounge, my backpack feels heavy on my shoulders and I'm wheeling my pale blue case behind me as I look around for Misato. A group of people move past me, rushing towards their loved ones or just taxi drivers waiting to pick them up as I try to spot her purple hair through the semi busy terminal. I move forward and before long I can hear her excitedly yelling my name.

"Rei!"

I glance upwards and smile as I finally catch sight of my adoptive mother. She quickly moved towards me and nearly knocks me off my feet as she pulls me into a tight embrace, "How was your flight?"

"It was pleasant, although I do not think you should have gone to all the effort to arranging all of that for me. I would have been happy to have done it myself."

She breaks the hug and shakes her head, "It wouldn't have been fair to expect you to do it yourself considering I was the one who asked you to come back so suddenly. Besides it wasn't me who arranged your upgrades."

I raise an eyebrow out of curiosity, "Who was it?"

"Fuyutsuki, after I informed him of what had happened and said you were on your way back he pulled some strings."

"I see, in which case I shall have to think him if I encounter him." I frown in my reply, my business class experience somewhat soured by the knowledge of who arranged it. If I had known it was he who arranged that I would have asked to remain in economy class.

I am not by any means ungrateful for the experience. I am thankful, I found the seating to be far more comfortable than economy and the ability to turn them into an actual bed meant I was able to sleep on the flight. In addition the vegetarian options offered to me on the menu were many.

Still, it also means Fuyutsuki did me a favour and he is someone I do not wish to speak to. It is something I share with Asuka, we both desire distance from that person but for differing reasons. She because she wishes to cut off all contact with that part of her life, me because of what that man reminds me of and what I used to be.

I am of a similar opinion when it comes to Ritsuko Akagi too, something which I know upsets Misato and even Shinji. I know the two of them wish to move on and I will make the effort when necessary. I do not dislike Fuyutsuki or Akagi, I just wish to maintain distance from them.

We finally reach Misato's car and she takes my case and backpack from me and places it in the boot. She eyes my backpack curiously and I can already guess at what she is thinking. I simply shake my head at her, "Yes I did buy you both souvenirs and you can find out what they are later."

She nods and grins at me, "Well that's something to look forward to!"

I climb into the car and put my seatbelt on, she climbs into her side and a few moments later we're leaving the carpark and moving back towards the city and to our apartment. The first part of our journey is silent and so I take the opportunity to speak to Misato about what has happened.

"I presume it was you who contacted Fuyutsuki to ask about Nagisa?"

Misato nods her head, "Yeah, he already knew about Nagisa."

"How?" I lean my elbow on the edge of the window and prop my head up on my hand looking outside at the buildings we pass. So Fuyutsuki already knew about Nagisa but failed to inform any of us.

"Seems Nagisa returned at the start of the year. They picked him up at the emergence facility and treated him initially for emergence sickness. Apparently he was… in quite a state when he recovered his memories."

I scowl at hearing Misato's words and I can't tell if she is feeling some sort of sympathy for what Kaworu has went through. I'm not sure I feel sympathetic at all, in the back of my mind all I can hear is a voice saying 'good.' I keep that voice away though, I don't like

"It seems…" Misato pauses, "That Nagisa is no longer an Angel. They ran tests whilst he was there and he is completely human now."

"I see…" My frown deepens and I wonder if this fact should make me feel any better about the fact that he is out there walking around freely. Regardless of whether he is human now or not it was what he was and what he did that concerns me. He was an Angel, he tried to destroy this world and he broke my brother's heart. He manipulated him when he was at his lowest point and tore his world apart.

The fact that he is just walking around freely angers me. He should not be allowed to do so, I know we have all done bad things in the past, we all made mistakes but what he did was no mistake.

"Why did they let him go? He was an Angel, he tried…"

"I asked Fuyutsuki this. It seems that he was let go because Fuyutsuki offered him a job. Fuyutsuki saw him as a victim of what had happened and offered to help him."

"Kaworu Nagisa is no victim, he is a monster." I state flatly and look at Misato. She too is frowning and I imagine she has very similar thoughts to me.

"Fuyutsuki didn't seem to think so and… urged us to let the thing with Nagisa slide." Misato shakes her head as she speaks, "He didn't go into detail but he told me that Nagisa is as much a victim as you, Shinji or Asuka."

"I doubt that."

"As do I but he said he can provide proof for us should we need it. He also assured me that there will be absolutely no risk to anyone and no one will see or hear from Nagisa should we desire it."

I start to open my mouth to say something about the risk to Asuka but I quickly stop myself. I cannot break my promise to her but I also don't want her to be at risk. She is in the same city as Nagisa, she has already encountered him once and it can happen again. Her wish to have no contact with others and for no one else to know her whereabouts can be so frustrating at times but I will continue to respect that wish.

My only hope is that she is okay, I will make sure to contact her later today to let her know I have arrived back in Japan. I do wish that I could have stayed with her for another night or two. It has been so long since I have seen her, I wished to play games or see a move with her but she insisted I returned to Japan when Misato asked me to. I believe she will be alright though, the chances of her encountering Nagisa again are slim.

Asuka is smart and strong, I'm sure she will be alright. So now my attention turns towards my brother Shinji. I wonder how he would react to such news, I look back at Misato, "Have you informed Shinji?"

Misato shakes her head, "No… Not yet. I don't know if I should tell him or if I'm able to. I don't know how he would react to something like this, you know how he feels about Nagisa…"

"Yes I do."

Figuring out exactly how my brother will react is tough. He will of course be shocked by the news at first, I am not entirely sure if he is aware that Nagisa was very much like myself with the potential for spare bodies. I wonder if the news that Nagisa is alive might alleviate some of the guilt he still feels over the Angels' death. At the same time I wonder if that might not just give him something else to fear in this world.

"I think we should be honest with him thought." Misato says to me, "I think Shinji deserves honesty, if we hide the truth then… it might only make things worse should he eventually find out anyway."

I nod, "I agree. It would be best to be honest, he should know."

I go back to staring out the window knowing the hypocrisy of my own words. Knowing that Asuka is well and safe and happy, I wonder what effect that would have on Shinji. I can still remember how miserable he was on the day she left, we were all unhappy with it. She left without any warning only leaving a simple message behind that she had returned to Germany and thanking Misato for taking care of her.

I did not understand why she had left then and I still don't understand. It was one of the first things I asked when I tracked her down and found her and her only answer was that she had to. I disagree with her, I do not think she had to but it was and is her decision. All I can do is respect that and her wishes. Still I do dislike keeping this secret from Shinji and Misato, yet it is the price of mine and Asuka's friendship, a friendship that I value so very much.

Being human is exhausting I think to myself as I feel my eyes start to grow heavier. The days of travelling and the revelations are starting to get to me despite me sleeping on the flight. I am looking forward to returning home where I can take a shower, where I can relax in my pyjamas and I can see my brother. Where I can sample his delicious cooking and I can feel safe and unafraid.

Kaworu Nagisa

Berlin - Morning

My eyes slowly open and the first thing I notice in my semi awake state is the strange pain I'm feeling in my neck. This is closely followed by a dull pain in my head and the realization that this thing my head is against is a solid object rather than my comfortable pillows. The thing wrapped halfway around my body is not my large duvet but is instead a thinner sheet that would be providing me with warmth were it not for it being on the floor now.

I force my eyes to fully open and find myself now looking up at an unfamiliar ceiling. I blink a couple of times and wonder if maybe this is some sort of strange dream I'll wake up from. I pause for a moment, that is strange, I don't remember my dreams from last night. I'm not exactly comfortable here but I also seemed to have slept well for the first time.

This pleasant feeling doesn't last long as the realization of where I am suddenly hits me. It's immediately followed by the familiar feelings of fear that I'm so used to by now. I can remember what happened now. I know exactly where I am now and why I am lying on this sofa on what was, until yesterday, a stranger's home.

Last night she... She invited me to that concert and it was such a wondrous experience. I don't think my heart has ever experienced such joy before. To witness those people playing that music, music I have come to enjoy and love so perfectly was a sight to behold and will surely be one of my most treasured memories.

We left the concert and Asuka asked if I would like to go for a drink with her. I politely declined at first but she insisted upon it. I was uncertain of it, fearful of what would happen if I drank alcohol. I am vaguely aware from the actions I have heard on evenings and the... mess that once littered the pavement near my home of the effect it can have on people.

I think she knew I was scared though and she promised to look after me. I had enjoyed her company throughout the night so decided to take her up on her offer. It would not hurt to try a new experience. The place she took me to was small and quiet. I don't know her very well yet but I felt like we had something in common, I felt like the pain and fear that I feel is something she is familiar with.

Whilst there I drank two and a half pints of beer, much to Asuka's amusement that was enough to affect me. I was giddy, very happy but incapable of walking in a straight line. Asuka laughed me me, I laughed at myself. I haven't laughed like that before, I haven't felt joy like this before.

Asuka on the other hand did not seem to be too affected by what it was she drank. I suppose she is more tolerant of it than I am but she did start to slur her words at one point. When it was time for us to leave the small pub, she declared that I was of course in no fit state to go to my apartment alone. That is why I am now here lying on the couch of Asuka Langley Soryu.

I gaze absent mindedly around the dimly lit room. This place is a far cry from my own and I now start to realize with some sadness just how alien I must seem to anyone else. I can understand now why she was looking around my own apartment so strangely. My place is... It's practically empty and devoid of any colour or life. Her place is decorated, it's messy but it is welcoming.

Ahead of me I spot a television set and an array of games consoles set up underneath it. Either side of the television are two tall bookcases filled with books, DVDs and video games. Between myself and the television is a small coffee table, there is a used plate on it, some empty cups and a half-read book.

Is this how a real human actually lives? Is this what a true lived-in home looks and feels like? Since I returned I've always been hyper aware of just how alien I must seem to others. My way of speaking is not normal by anyone's standards and my appearance is a constant reminder of what I am and was.

I know so little of human ways and customs, I only know what was ingrained into me from my 'birth.' I have this new-found freedom but I find myself at a loss at what exactly to do with it. I am constantly intrigued by things but I don't know where I should start. Asuka's home is a reminded of that, I look again and I see at least three games consoles under her television. I would not know what to do with even one of them. I wouldn't know what to buy and why to buy it, I wouldn't know about the games I should play or what I would enjoy.

All I have really is my job and my music. My music I have because it was something ingrained into me and Kodama helped me explore more contemporary artists. My job because of Fuyutsuki, even the music tuition I want to do I had to be guided into.

I slowly start to sit up and I let the sheet fully fall to the floor. I look across to a nearby chair and see the clothes I was wearing yesterday neatly folded up for me. I begin to feel my cheeks glow slightly red at my situation. It is strange but in my past life I did not feel much in the way of embarrassment when it came to my body but in my past life I never woke up in only my underwear in a stranger's home.

Also, in my past life I never had to deal with certain urges that come with being human. That is... admittedly something I am still struggling with. It is not that I do not know how nor is it not that dealing with certain urges doesn't feel good it is just something I am unused to and something I struggle to not feel embarrassed or awkward about.

I pull the sheet back up and around my waist as I continue to look around the room. Despite being so visually different to my own apartment the layout is not too dissimilar. On the far end of a wall are two doors, I can see from here one of which leads into a bathroom and the other, closed, door I presume leads to Asuka's bedroom.

Much like my apartment the living room is also combined with a kitchen at the far end. Hers seems slightly larger than mine though. I look towards the closed door and I wonder how Asuka is and if she also slept well last night.

I am still coming to terms with the fact that I am here. After our initial encounter I did not think that I would ever see her again, nor did I think it would be such a pleasant experience. I was certain that I did not deserve any of her kindness, in fact I am still certain that I don't. I cannot comprehend why she would be so nice to be especially now that she knows the truth of what I am. Yet I am grateful to her for it. When she wakes up I will have to thank her, whenever of course it is that she does wake up.

I reach across to the seat and grab my phone from the top of the pile. I smile as I turn it on and look at the time and see that it's nine thirty. I smile and lean back comfortably on the sofa. A second later my smile fades and I look at the phone again... Oh my god it's nine thirty! I should be at work now! I should have been at work half an hour ago! I should be at work but I'm not! I'm in the apartment of someone I barely know, wearing barely anything in a part of Berlin that I barely know!

I leap up off fo the couch, there is a loud band and pain as my toe hits the wooden coffee table. I suppress a yelp and lean over to pick up my trousers from the pile. How could this have happened? Did I sleep through my alarm? Why didn't it go off? Damnit, I wanted to put on fresh clothes as well!

I slide one leg into my trousers and try to put the other one in, no wait that isn't right. This isn't the right leg, damnit I'm trying to put these on the wrong way. I slide by leg back out of my trousers and take a step back to try to reassess this. There is another loud noise as once again my foot collides with the table, this time I can't suppress the yelp of pain.

Nor can I keep my balance as I try to keep hold of the trousers and step into them. I feel them slip from my hands as I stagger backwards and try desperately to angle myself to land on the floor. My backside does not thank me as I land hard against the wooden floor.

I lie there for a brief moment dazed and in pain before getting back up and snatching my trousers off of the floor in anger. I hold them out properly and I'm ready to finally put the damn things on when I hear a door open and a light comes on in the room. All I can do is stand there awkwardly as I feel redness spread to my cheeks. I slowly turn my head to see a panicked looking Asuka staring directly at me.

"Kaworu! Is everything alright I heard a-"

Asuka Langley Soryu

Berlin - Morning

Admittedly of all the things I expected to see when I opened my bedroom door, Kaworu Nagisa stood angrily in just his underwear was at the bottom of the list, in fact I dare say it never even crossed my mind. It was strange enough having him in my apartment but to find him in this particular state even more so.

Kaworu slowly turns his head and looks directly at me, I can see his eyes are wide with fear once again but at least this time I know it isn't because he's scared of me. Instead, judging by how red his face has gone it's probably because of the state I've spotted him in.

I start to feel some redness come to my cheeks now as I realize we've been standing there looking at one another for at least thirty seconds now. I try to focus on his face as I speak, "I… heard a noise… is everything alright?"

His mouth opens and closes in a fashion similar to a goldfish and more awkward moments of silence pass between us. I'm trying so hard to keep me eyes on his face but I can't help but steal glances elsewhere. I look down at his body taking in the sight before me, he's slender but healthy and his pale skin almost glows in the light. I can see the top of his legs too, well toned, he did say that he likes to walk a lot.

My eyes dart from his face to his legs, up to his chest and stomach. I'm doing all I can to not let them wander to other parts. I shouldn't be looking, I really shouldn't, and he's embarrassed enough but… I can't… my eyes look directly at the one covered part of him. His boxers are tight and I can see his rounded backside so well. I feel myself bite onto my bottom lip, it's… for lack of a better word, perfect.

I really have to stop looking. I shouldn't be looking at his body like this. He's a guest in my home, he's a guest and practically a stranger. I… I have to stop, come on Asuka… if you want to look at… things you have websites for that.

My eyes look at his ass once again. I hate myself for this but I guess one quick peek isn't bad, I mean… I am intrigued as to whether or not our former Angel is equipped and his boxers are tight. I allow my eyes to drift for just a second, I bite down harder on my lip.

"I… I tripped…" He finally speaks.

My eyes go back up to his face and I release the painful grip my teeth have on my bottom lip. Instead I suppress a smirk as I realize what must have happened. The noise I heard was Kaworu falling. I can't help but wonder how.

"I was in a hurry, I… I fell when…"

I nearly snort with laughter, now I can see the scene. Kaworu in a hurry to put on his trousers must have slipped and fallen. What a sight that must have been. All I can do is nod as I watch him put his trousers on, shame. He then hurriedly picks up his shirt and slips that on. I can't help but wonder why he is in such a rush, does he have to be somewhere? Is it to get away from me?

I wonder if maybe last night was too much for him, he's not used to being around people and at a concert there are so many people then I took him to that bar afterwards. Was that too much for him? Or has he realized he should be afraid of me and wants to get away. I step forward, "Whats wrong? How come you're leaving so quickly?"

"M-My alarm… it didn't… I have to go to work… I… I'm late and…"

"Um Kaworu…" I step further into the room and shake my head, I guess he is a little bit confused.

He doesn't reply as he finishes buttoning up his shirt. He looked around for what I presume is his tie or a jacket. He didn't have either object last night. He looks horrified, "Oh no… I-I haven't got them!"

"Kaworu…"I repeat myself as I walk further into the room. I lean my elbows casually on the back of the sofa and he once again ignores me as he picks up his wallet and phone and stuffs the items into his pockets.

"Kaworu!" I repeat a third time but this time raise my voice slightly, he stops dead in his tracks and turns to look at me.

"A-Asuka I… I have to go, I… work…"

"It's Saturday…" I say to him and I watch as the panic fades from his face only to be replaced once more by a look of embarrassment.

"S-S-Saturday… Are you sure?"

I nod my head, "Well considering yesterday was Friday and Saturday is traditionally the day that comes after Friday I'm at least 99 percent sure."

"Oh… I didn't… I forgot… the… being here and last night I…" He shakes his head and his cheeks are once again glowing a bright shade of red, "I… I am sorry. I did not wake you did I?"

I shake my head, "Don't worry about it, I was already awake. Sit down, I'll make you some coffee."

He relaxes his shoulders and sits himself down on the sofa. I shoot him a grin as he awkwardly smiles back at me, "Thank you."

"How do you take it?" I ask.

"Some milk, and sugar."

I move into the kitchen area and start preparing some coffee for the two of us. I look over to him as he sits on my sofa looking around in an awkward fashion. Finally he speaks, "I… I must thank you once again for last night. The concert was simply wonderful and mesmerizing, humanity is… really capable of wondrous things."

"I'm just glad you enjoyed it." I reply as I finish making our coffee. I bring them over to the sofa and place them down on the coffee table. I move a few things around on the table to try to make space. I try to avoid his gaze as I do so feeling somewhat embarrassed by the state of my front room. I can only imagine what Kaworu must think of this place considering the condition his own apartment is in.

I try to keep the subject on the concert hoping that maybe he won't notice the used plate or empty cups I'm moving around, "I just figured it would be something you'd enjoy and I had the spare ticket."

"I enjoyed it very much, thank you for letting me use that spare ticket. I was not aware there were people performing the music in such a fashion."

"No problem. If I hear of anything else I'll let you know about it."

"That would be most kind of you. I… I still have a lot to learn about finding my way in this world it seems. Fuyutsuki has… helped me in some ways but I feel there is so much more that I cannot learn from him. He is… nice but he is quite a serious man. I do not feel I could ask him about things such as concerts, television or video games."

I shrug, "Probably not. I… I try to have minimal contact with him to be honest. I'd rather not…"

I trail off before finally adding, "I just have my own stuff to worry about and his help isn't something I really need nor want."

Kaworu nods and picks up his cup cradling it in his hands for a few moments, "I see. I forgot to ask but what exactly is it that you do?"

I pause for a moment and wonder what I should say to him. I can't exactly turn around and say I do nothing at all. I don't want people to think I live off of the payout the UN gave me but I also like my anonymity. Very few people know the truth of what it is I do. I look back up at Kaworu, I can't imagine he'd tell anyone. It's not like he knows anyone aside from Fuyutsuki and I can already guarantee Fuyutsuki knows because of his network of security following me.

I get to my feet and go to one of the bookcases and pull one of the promotional copies of the first book from the shelf. I hand it to Kaworu, "I write."

"You write? That is wonderful! I had no idea!" His eyes grow wide with wonder as he takes the book from me. He studies the cover for a few moments because looking back up at me in confusion, "Mari… Makinami? But that… is not your name…"

"It's a pseudonym…" I reply flatly, "I don't use my real name."

"Oh!" he looks at the book again before nodding, "I… I see… I understand."

I wonder for a brief moment if he really does understand but then he looks up at me and gives me a knowing smile and another nod. Of course he understands, he understands why I write under a pseudonym and why I don't want me name to be known. I don't need to tell Kaworu any of that because he'd be the same. We don't want people to recognize us because of the people we were or think we were.

He turns the book over in his hand and starts to read the back of it. I now have to wonder if he'll make the connection, I can still remember quite clearly the look on her face when she did. I tried to hide those feelings of pride I felt when I saw it happen but I couldn't help it. I made Rei Ayanami cry tears of happiness, that was such an achievement and to make her happy like that is the least I could do to make up for what I put her and her brother through.

"Zero… A young girl brought up in isolation and unsure of her humanity. She is sent out to fight a great evil that threatens her race… Is this…"

I take the book from him and nod, "Yeah… It is… It's Rei."

"D-Do you… have contact with her?" he averts his eyes as I silently nod my head.

"Yes I do, she was the one who told me who you were actually. She saw your name on that form and filled me in on the details."

Kaworu leaps to his feet, "Rei is here?"

I hold out my hand to calm him, "Relax, she went back to Japan yesterday."

"Oh…"

He sits back down and relaxes somewhat. I wonder if I should tell him that it was Rei's ticket he used yesterday to go to the concert. I should probably tell him he has nothing to be afraid of when it comes to Rei but then I remember how she reacted to news that he was alive and wonder if that is true. Maybe he should be afraid of her.

"Rei is… actually one of the few friends I have… Probably the only friend actually. She is one of the few who knows who I am… where I am…" I let out a laugh, "Not that I made it easy for her of course."

I can still remember the moment Rei turned up on my doorstep as if it was yesterday. At that point in time I had only just started writing and I had settled on using Rei as a template for the main character. Why did I pick her at a template? Guilt I suppose, I felt a lot of guilt for everything I did back then and I still do feel it but Rei... she got the brunt of it. She was the verbal punching bag, I called her names and called her out in front of others.

I had no idea of course what she was and what she had been through. The worst thing is with how I was back then I don't think I'd have cared. I wanted to somehow make it up to her. Naturally I couldn't just pick up the phone and apologize, I had to make a grand gesture even if she didn't know about it. So I used her as a basis for the main character in my story.

At the time I started this I had been living on my own for a year and a half. They had initially tried to put me back together with my father and his wife. For a moment I was tempted to go back. To try to have a normal family life and pretend nothing had happened but some of that old stubbornness and need for independence was still within me. I insisted that I be placed on my own and that I'd be more than capable of looking after myself.

Besides I don't fit in with that group anymore, I never have done. I rebelled against the two of them from the moment my mother died through to leaving for Japan. I never gave them a chance to help me or be my family. I blamed my dad for my mother's death and whilst I got on with my stepmother I never really wanted her around. They have their own life, their own children now and whilst I do see them occasionally I try to keep my distance.

At that time my father and Fuyutsuki were still trying to maintain regular contact. When I heard the knock on my door I did think it'd be either of them. You can imagine both my surprise and horror when I saw that it was in fact Rei Ayanami. It turns out that she had been talking to Fuyutsuki about wanting to find me for some time. He had not told her where I was but she was smart. She knew that I'd have gone back to Germany and travelled there on her own.

From there she had found my parents and they had told her where I was. I wasn't angry at them, I understood why they did that. This person had just travelled thousands of miles to see me, they couldn't exactly turn them away.

My first thought was that Rei was here to yell at me or give me what it was I deserved for being such a horrible person to her and everyone else. Instead she looked at me across the doorstep for a few moments before saying my name and throwing herself at me. She bawled about how much it was she missed me. It was the first of many hugs I would receive from Rei.

She told me about how she had travelled all this way on her own under the guise of taking a holiday. She wanted as few people to know she was looking for me as possible. That suited me just fine, I wanted as few people to know where I was as possible. I made her promise to me that she wouldn't tell anyone she had been in contact with me. I told her why I left Japan and why I had to stay away, I don't know if she approved of my reasons or fully understood them but she has respected them and that is good enough for me. Both myself and Rei have been good friends ever since.

Me and Kaworu sit drinking our coffee and another hour passes as we sit and talk about the concert last night and Kaworu tells me some of his experience in the emergence facility. Not long after that he excuses himself to go back home. We exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses and make that promise to stay in contact with each other. I give him a copy of my book, signed of course, and he asks eagerly when the second one will be released.

As I watch him leave I take my phone out of the pocket and see I've received a message from Rei. It's an apology that she didn't get in touch sooner but she is now back in Japan and is alright. She tells me that she ended up going out with Misato and her brother for dinner and she was too tired to do anything when she returned. She warns me to be careful and reminds me once again about how dangerous Kaworu is.

I read that last sentence over again and feel a pang in my stomach. Kaworu slips out of view and I stand in my doorway for a few moments thinking over the strange situation. That person that Rei thinks Kaworu is... is not the person I met last night and went out to a concert with. Kaworu is just like me... He's just like all of us, he's afraid and trying to figure things out. I understand Rei's concerns and worries and I wonder just how I'm going to explain to her that I didn't just not follow her advice but I spent the night at a concert with him and let him crash on my sofa.

Shinji Ikari

Tokyo 2 – Afternoon

I feel exhausted as I navigate the shopping bags set down around me in an attempt to place my tray on the table. I slide the chair out and sit down, grateful for the opportunity to take the weight off of my feet. Around me others are doing the same, Touji and Hikari taking up a position opposite me, Kensuke takes the seat to my left and Rei the one to my right.

Myself, Hikari and Kensuke all seem to have gotten the same thing. Rei has opted for a salad, one of the few vegetarian options in this fast food place. Touji, as expected has gone for one of the 'deluxe' burger options and as I glance as his tray I wonder how a human is even supposed to fit that in their mouth. Yet I know that somehow Touji will manage it.

Rei, sensing my exhaustion turns to me and smiles warmly, "Are you feeling okay Shinji?"

I give her a nod and smile back, "I'm alright Rei, just tired. We've covered a lot of ground today."

I look at the amount of shopping bags we all have between us and that seems to be a bit of an understatement. It's been a long time since we've all been out together like this. It means we all had a bit of extra money to spend too.

"Good, I would not wish for you to be uncomfortable."

My smile grows wider, "I know Rei, don't worry about me though. I'm... I'm fine when I'm with all of you."

There is a brief moment of silence as people get comfortable and begin to eat their food. Touji greedily picks up his burger. It's huge and I dread to think what is inside it. He takes a bit from it and makes a satisfied noise after doing so. Hikari shoots him a disapproving look as she politely bites into her food.

Contrary to Rei's concernts I have had a good day. I always do when I'm with them all. It's one of the few times I never feel afraid. I never have to worry about anything when I'm around them. I can just be myself and enjoy it all. They're all my friends and being with them somehow manages to alleviate all my fears and concerns.

Yet as I look at the empty sixth seat at our table I am hit with something of a bittersweet feeling. I feel like I shouldn't be bothered by it now, it's been years but she was a part of this group and in a way, she still is. I feel like she should be here shopping and laughing with us. Calling us idiots and marching us from place to place.

I shake my head and try to focus on my food. I do still wonder about her from time to time. It was upsetting when she left and I naturally blamed myself, I still do blame myself. I miss her a lot but at the same time I think I understood why she left. I know she wasn't happy here in Japan and I just hope wherever she is now that she is happy. She deserves that.

"How was America Rei?" I hear Hikari ask.

"America was good, I was unfortunately unable to view everything I wished to whilst I was there so I will have to visit again in the future." Rei tells her, "I was however quite fortunate to be able to witness a live dinosaur bone excavation."

"A dinosaur excavation! That must have been amazing!" Kensuke exclaims loudly, "What sort was it? Was it a T-Rex? Was it something huge with big teeth?"

"It was a Triceratops." Rei replies cooly.

"You know…" Touji speaks with his mouth half full of his food, an action that earns him a stern glare from Hikari, "I find it hard to believe that creatures like that roamed around once. I mean can you imagine something that big just walking around?"

One by one each of us raise our head and stare at Touji in mild disbelief. He sees us all staring and shrugs, "What?"

Hikari shakes her head, "You can be so dense sometimes Touji!"

"What… What did I say?" Touji asks.

"The Angels Touji…"

"Oh!" He finally realizes, "Yeah but they were different like… the dinosaurs were really big right?"

"The dinosaurs weren't bigger than the Angels of the Eva's Touji!" Kensuke informs him, "The Eva's must have been like a hundred metres tall! No Dinosaur was that big…"

Kensuke trails off when he sees the glare that Hikari is now shooting him. He turns around to me and Rei and shrugs, "Sorry guys… I guess… not really a suitable subject is it?"

"I don't mind but… Rei?"

I look towards me sister, "Aida is quite correct, the Eva's were much taller than any known dinosaur. The Angels however did vary in size, some of the dinosaurs may in fact have been larger than them in fact I can think of at least two."

"Well what about Godzilla! That was a dinosaur right and that was pretty big."

Hikari groans as Kensuke gestures wildly in his reply, "Godzilla was fictional Touji! Besides Godzilla varied in size depending on the film. Film companies could never keep it consistent, sometimes it was 50 metres and in the new one it was 150 metres!"

"So it could have been the same size as an Eva!" Touji replies, "So could it have taken on an Eva? Imagine that, Godzilla vs an Evangelion!"

"An Eva would crush Godzilla Touji! I mean did you see the Eva's?"

"Guys!" Hikari tries to interject.

I laugh it off, "I don't mind, besides can't really stop them can we?"

It's such an absurd conversation I can't help but laugh at it. Besides I don't mind them talking about the Eva as much anymore, I still associate a lot of painful memories with it but I can't hide from it. On the other hand I do wonder if I should stop it, Rei looks quite angry as she glares between the two of them.

"Yeah but Godzilla has near impenetrable armour AND is has the nuclear breath! I bet it could do some damage to the Eva's."

"Suzahara, stop this!" Rei speaks quietly but firmly. I should have asked them to stop, clearly Rei is uncomfortable with what is happening. I start to hand my head but then she speaks again and my jaw nearly drops, "You are mistaken, such a creature would not pose any sort of challenge for any one of the Eva's. It lacks the A.T. Field and the array of weaponry that each of us possessed, therefore we would eventually prevail."

Asuka Langley Soryu

3rd September 2021

Asuka's Apartment – Afternoon

Two weeks have now passed since I saw Kaworu Nagisa. We've kept in contact with one another since then, a few messages here and there but we haven't seen one another in person. I guess I feel… nervous about him and our friendship. After he left on that day my thoughts were occupied by him and him alone. It gave me a warm feeling but also one I'm afraid of.

It was nice to sit alongside him at that concert, to know he was smiling because of me and for us to cheer as we watched that band play some of our favourite music. I even think about how cute he looked on that Saturday morning. It was nice to just, for a short period of time, not be plagued by the constant guilt and worry that I always feel.

It was just for that one day though, the very next day the nightmares returned and along with it all the doubt and worry. That realization returned that I was a bad person and I don't deserve to be happy. It was such a crash from the highs I felt the previous day. I even managed to feel disgusted with myself for enjoying the sight of his mostly naked body.

I, Asuka Langley Soryu, do not deserve to be happy nor do I deserve to have anyone nearby who makes or tries to make me happy. I know exactly what will happen because I know who I really am. I know what I'll do if they get close, I'll just end up hurting them. Like I've hurt so many others in my life. I was tempted to do it to Kaworu, to angrily message him and tell him to never come near me again.

I didn't do that though, I couldn't do that because I want to see him again, I need to see him again. A stronger part of me is pushing to keep up this friendship because maybe, just maybe I do deserve to be happy.

Of course adding to my guilt is the fact that I couldn't bring myself to tell Rei about my encounter with Kaworu. She should know, she is and has been my only friend over the last couple of years but I don't know what I should say to her. What can I say? I heard what she said about Kaworu, about how dangerous he is. I can't exactly turn around and tell her I went to visit him, took him to a concert and let him sleep on my couch.

The only saving grace is that I've been kept quite busy these past two weeks so not had as much time to become absorbed in my guilt. My publisher decided to send out the press releases and set a date for my second books release, without consulting me first. Fourth of December it'll come out, my Birthday. It's not really a date I enjoy being reminded of, nothing good has ever happened on my Birthday.

I push that thought aside, last year was pretty good. I got a nice e-mail from Rei and she sent me a package with a cuddly toy rabbit. I bought myself a cake, it was nice.

The publisher's decision meant I've had to do a bit of extra work on the book as I want it to be ready in plenty of time. I finished up the ending and went through the entire thing altering and correcting the sections I wasn't happy with. It didn't take me too long to do, if I've retained anything good from my past-self it's that I tend to be quite good at what I set my mind to and I make minimal mistakes. So when it comes to the release of Mari Makinami's second book, things should go smoothly.

I now find myself bored and wondering what I should do tonight. I've been irritating myself throughout the day with the idea of messaging Kaworu and asking if he would like to do something. Yet I know I should probably stay far away from him. Sending texts or e-mailing is fine, there is no contact or risk there but seeing each other in person. I just know if we continue to be friends he'll eventually realize who I am and leave.

Yet I really want to see him again. I'm at a loss on what to do and even what to say. I have my phone in my hands, our conversation open and ready for me to type something. It's not like I've invited anyone out before. The concert was a spur of the moment thing because I felt bad for him. If I ask him out again then how will that look? What will he say? Will it be a... one of those d-words?

I've been on a grand total of one of those in my life. I ended up leaving the guy in the queue for a rollercoaster because he bored me. After that I went home and made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I have very little faith in myself as to how things would go on another date.

Still, I'm certain he would be interested. We have have been messaging each other a lot. He even asked me for advice on buying a games console. I was happy to advise him on which one to get and a number of games.

He's been informing me of his progress since then. It's been quite funny, even cute to see him go from not understanding anything to learning the games and enjoying them. He's been sending me screenshots of progress in levels or whenever he's won a match on a football game. Maybe that's what I could do, invite him over to play games together.

I let out a sigh and go back to the home screen of my phone. Why is this so difficult? I'm Asuka Langley Soryu damnit, I'm not supposed to have difficulty doing things. I'm a published author, I was an accomplished pilot and I got a damn college degree before I was fourteen. I shouldn't be having difficulty contacting someone because I want to hand out with them.

I know why it's difficult though. It's difficult because I'm Asuka Langley Soryu. The petulant bratty girl who exists only to hurt others. Who should stay away from other people lest they see through me.

I'm midway through my mental assault on myself when I suddenly see my phone start to ring. My heart leaps into my mouth thinking it could be him but I feel only disappointment when I don't recognize the caller ID. I'm prepared to ignore it but realize with the book stuff it might be important. On answering I'm greeted by a voice I haven't heard in years.

"Hello, is that Asuka?"

I almost hang up on him, the only reason I don't is because I can detect the hint of panic in his voice. Knowing his relationship with Kaworu he's earned at least a minute of my time.

"It is." I reply sharply, "Can I ask why you're calling, I thought I said I-"

"Yes, I know and normally I would not have contacted you but you are the only person I could contact, it's Nagisa he-"

My heart leaps into my mouth again although unlike last time it doesn't feel quite as good, "Kaworu? What happened?"

"There has been an incident. I know you and he have been in contact and I didn't know who else to contact. Do you think you could come over?"

I don't hesitate in my reply, instead I leap up off of my sofa and hastily put my jacket on, "I'll be right there."-

Kaworu's Apartment.

My heart is beating rapidly in my chest as I turn the corner onto the street where Kaworu's apartment block is. I get to his building and lean against the wall for a moment to try to catch my breath. I regret having ran so much but I couldn't delay in getting here. I had to find out what had happened to Kaworu.

I push the door to the lobby open and move through the corridor towards Kaworu's door. I knock a few times and barely any time passes between me knocking and the door opening. I ignore Fuyutsuki's greeting as I push past him and move into the front room. The curtains have been closed letting in only a small amount of light, a lamp is on next to the TV and I look around for him.

Finally, I see him, lying on the sofa his eyes wide open in terror. He looks just as bad, if not worse than he did when I first met him. Only this time I can see the reason why. I try to not gasp at the sight of him. He's hurt and I don't even mean a little bit. Even at this distance I can make out the bruising around his eye, I can see his lip has been cut and there are little smudges of blood under his nose and on his cheeks.

I step further into the room and see that his shirt has been ripped and bloodied as well. The poor guy is an absolute mess. I quickly make my way over to his side and kneel down next him. I take his trembling hands in my own. As I look back up, I see Fuyutsuki has entered the room now.

"What the hell happened to him?" My voice is shaking as I speak. I try to keep it steady, I try to keep myself from yelling. I can feel rage building inside of me but I need to keep it in check. Kaworu is terrified enough without seeing me explode.

Fuyutsuki stands near to the sofa and merely shakes his head, "He was attacked."

"Yes, I can see that." I snarl at him, "Who by? When? How?" I though the UN goons were watching us all the time, how did they let something like this happen?"

Fuyutsuki says nothing for a few moments and merely bows his head. I can see the sorrow in his eyes but a part of me doesn't care. I'm not going to feel sorry for that damn old man, not when Kaworu is lying here shaking and hurt. I ask him again, "His security, what the hell were they doing?"

Again, I get no reply and it slowly starts to dawn on me what has happened. I open my mouth in shock as I look forwards Kaworu and once again at Fuyutsuki. I don't even need to be told but I ask anyway just for confirmation.

"It was them... Wasn't it?"

Fuyutsuki nods, "Our security are checked and vetter, this shouldn't have happened."

"Well it did!" I snap back, "Where the hell are they?"

"Both of them have been relieved of their jobs and are with the appropriate authorities. I will be making sure they are dealt with as strongly as possible."

"Not good enough." I get to my feet, "Where are they, I'll deal with them."

I start to move forward but I'm stopped when I feel Kaworu tugging at my hand. Fuyutsuki looks at me, "Miss Soryu, please..."

"Those goons are supposed to be protecting us! They're supposed to be protecting him! You are supposed to be protecting him! You promised him that much! What sort of pathetic excuse for protection is this is they're the ones hurting him!"

I try to move forward again and break myself free of Kaworu's grip. I wonder if Fuyutsuki will try to stop me. I don't care, if I have to deal with him then I will but I won't let those bastards get away with this. I don't care what Kaworu is or what he was, he didn't deserve this to happen to him.

"Soryu please."

I stop still again and fix the former professor with an ice-cold stare, "What exactly is the purpose of the people who watch and follow us Fuyutsuki?"

He bows his head again, "I know..."

"Their purpose is to make sure that people like me and Kaworu don't come to any harm. I didn't ask for their protection but I know they're there. I know he was promised it though, I know he was assured it and they have failed... You have failed! You-"

"A-Asuka... please..."

I'm stopped mid rant by Kaworu's weakened voice. It pulls me out of my anger back to reality and I turn to see he is sitting up now.

"Please... I... I do not wish for you to fight nor for anyone else to be hurt. What happened to me... I... I deserve thi-"

"Shut up!" I snap back at him, "Don't you dare! Don't you dare tell me or dare to think that you deserve this. No one deserves this."

I shake my head one more time and slowly move back to Kaworu's side. I sit myself near to him and bring him down to rest his head on my lap. I gently run a hand through his hair and try to calm myself down. I can't let my anger get the better of me, if I storm out then what does Kaworu have? When I can though, if I can, then I'm going to make those bastards pay.

"What happened Kaworu?" I try to soften my voice and he looks back up at me, his eyes wounded and tearful.

"I was coming back from work... They approached me and they... attacked me in the lobby of my block. I... I couldn't fight back... They..."

I hush him, I don't need to hear anymore. It's not like many people would have been able to put up much of a fight against two trained members of whatever the group is that is trailing us. Even if he had it probably would have ended up being worse for him.

"They've been identified?" I ask Fuyutsuki.

He nods, "Yes, they're with the authorities now and have been relieved of their job. You have my word that they will be punished for this."

"And what exactly does that mean Fuyutsuki?" I snap back, "Your word? Why should I..."

"A-Asuka... please he... he wants to help, this isn't his fault."

I stare a hole through Fuyutsuki. From here I can see he looks ashamed and maybe even a little bit angry himself. Good.

"I know you don't have a high opinion of me Soryu and I don't blame you. You have every right to hate me but I promise you I will deal with this."

I look back towards Kaworu, fine, I'll try it their way.

"Alright, I won't do anything but you promise me... you promise both me and him... You make a promise Fuyutsuki that you will deal with the two bastards that did this."

"I promise you that Soryu, you too Nagisa. I will deal with this." He bows his head towards us, "I will take my leave now. It seems I am in for a busy night. You will both be alright?"

"Yes. I'll take care of him." I reply coldly.

He says his goodbye and leaves the room. I hear the front door close and I let out a sigh before looking once more at Kaworu. I hear him let out a sniff and a tear rolls down his cheek. I squeeze his hand and continue to run my other hand through his hair. I guess I got what I wanted, to see him again only not exactly as I'd have wished it.

"I'm here Kaworu, I'm here as long as you need me to be. You're safe now, I promise."