Where Darkness Falls

Chapter 12 – Always Time for One Last Goodbye

As Misato, Ritsuko and Maya walked through yet another of the seemingly endless corridors in the labyrinthine house, Misato turned to Maya, appraising her thoughtfully for a moment before commenting, "You know, there's one thing I don't understand..."

"Just one?" Ritsuko murmured, wishing very much that there were more firearms to go around. A rifle, a handgun, and one shotgun – since I dropped mine – just doesn't seem like enough firepower to fend off half of the demons in Hell...

"Well," Misato said slowly, ignoring the other woman's sarcastic response, "I don't... really understand why Maya's here at all. She hasn't done anything... has she?"

Maya sighed as Ritsuko turned her analytical green eyes on her. "Nothing is exactly what I did," she said quietly. "I never really bothered to try to get to know Shinji, and I never even stood up to the Commander, so-"

"You're not alone on that," Ritsuko cut her off gently, "none of us really did – Shinji's the only one that ever really came close."

"But the dummy plug," Maya whispered, averting her eyes, "I could've stopped that, if I'd had the courage. I could have been the one who... who showed him that he meant something..." Maya trailed off, quickly wiping at her eyes as she remembered the incident with the thirteenth angel.

"Nothing can change what happened, Maya," Ritsuko replied softly, nodding as Misato motioned to a closed door, "I mean look at me – I barely bothered to get to know him, and while he was at NERV... my treatment of him was more like a lab rat than a person."

"But you did care enough to bring him with you," Misato chipped in, placing a hand on her friend's shoulder. "That has to count for something."

"Does it?" Ritsuko said seriously, "I thought everything could be rationalized and everything could be explained with logic and reason... but that was an illusion – a justification to help me sleep at night when I knew damn well what I was doing was causing harm. So tell me, does one little act of kindness negate all the wrong I've done?"

Misato shrugged. "I don't know," she admitted, "but look at me. I was even worse than the Commander while Shinji lived with me. Sure, we had a little bit of a false start, especially after I reprimanded him over that business with the fourth Angel... but after he came back, he was starting to really get casual about expressing his feelings." She sighed. "Until Asuka moved in, that is, then-"

"You had good intentions Major..." Maya cut in, "you cared about him."

Shaking her head, Misato murmured, "No, what I cared about was keeping track of all the tools I could use to get revenge against the angels. I didn't care about what any of the Children wanted." She sighed once more, peering carefully through the door she was standing in front of before continuing. "Asuka would slap him and insult him in every way. Every morning I could hear her shouting 'Make my breakfast!' at Shinji... and I didn't do anything to stop it. Everything he accomplished while he lived alone with me was flushed down the toilet in a matter of weeks, and I just sat by and pretended it wasn't my concern – that it would be good for him to stand up for himself every now and then."

The other women nodded silently as the operations director took a deep, shuddering breath, trying to regain her composure.

"I gave her so many reasons to resent both of us," she whispered, "but the worst of them all, the one that got me in this place, if there was one single thing... was that I told Shinji that he was the best in front of Asuka, pretending I was proud of him."

"What do you mean?" asked Maya, confused, "You... I was there when you told him that – you... I thought you were sincere."

Misato shook her head. "I never really...was...all that proud," she admitted, "not then, anyway. The relationship between me and Asuka deteriorated because I wasn't trying to help her – I was trying to make her...more like me, I guess. Anyone would resent that. Kaji and I renewing our relationship was the last straw even then all I ever did was make things worse and I constantly fell back into the role of my superior as I did with Shinji. I may even have played a major result in Asuka's breakdown." Misato admitted "I even ran away from Shinji in more subtle ways..."

Misato cut herself off as another wave of heat washed over them.

- - - - -

"Hey, Henry," the man with Fletcher's face said nervously, "Where are we??"

Misato, Maya, and Ritsuko watched in stunned silence as a somehow blurry group of five men made their way down the now-grimy corridor – one of them passing right through Maya without breaking stride.

"I have no idea," the man Misato recognized as Alicia's father snapped, "But I told you that damn Jap was hiding something! This place is huge... he's probably got bombs or something down here, so watch your step..."

Unseen behind the group, a figure with long, dark hair calmly picked its way through the dingy dark, absently flicking a cigarette lighter with one hand as the other slowly upended a can of gasoline, leaving a long, damp trail all the way down the hall.

- - - - -

Misato gasped as the world spun around them, and suddenly the trio was standing at the top of a staircase that went downwards, beckoning them forward with its inky blackness. All three were panting and out of breath, their bloodstreams coursing with adrenaline at what they had just seen.

"W-what is she?" Misato gasped.

"I don't know," Ritsuko replied, wiping sweat from her brow. "I just... I don't know..."

"Could she be an... an angel?" Maya asked almost timidly.

"Could be," Ritsuko admitted, "but I don't think so. I..." she trailed off as a tentative, stealthy footstep sounded from somewhere behind them.

"In here!" Misato hissed, herding the other two into one of the side rooms and quietly closing the door until it was open just a crack.

Well how do you like THAT? she thought, wetting her lip as a very familiar form made its way carefully down the hall. Must be my lucky day.

Grimly, she raised her rifle to eye-level, waiting until the figure neared the door before flinging it open.

"Hello Commander," she said, taking great pleasure in seeing the man's expression sour, "drop your gun...now."

Gendou dropped his weapon, pursing his lips as Ritsuko quickly scooped it up. "Major," he muttered coolly, "Doctor Akagi, what a... 'pleasant' surprise."

"Fancy meeting you here, Commander," Ritsuko said with a smirk. "It really is a small world, isn't it?"

Gendou simply glared at her. "Indeed it is," he muttered, "first that American woman, now you. It really wouldn't surprise me if I ran into Mister Kaji in this place."

Misato blinked. "Hey," she said quickly, "you said 'that American woman.' Did you meet Alicia too?"

"Oh, so you know her," Gendou said blandly, "why does that seem so appropriate?"

"What did she say?" Misato asked eagerly, nudging the man with the barrel of the rifle when he continued staring at her with a small, sardonic smile. "Come on, talk!"

"Temper, Major," the Commander muttered, his grin fading slightly as he noticed the tremor in the woman's grip.

Quietly, he recounted to them his experiences with the strange, dark-haired woman, choosing to leave out the parts involving the bodily harm she had caused him and trying to think of a way to turn his current situation to his advantage.

"Well now that was illuminating," Ritsuko said, thoughtfully tapping her forefinger on her upper lip, "I think I understand now..."

"What?" Misato asked curiously, taking a step back from the Commander, but keeping her rifle trained on him at all times.

"About Alicia and about Shinji's disappearance," Ritsuko clarified. "I think Alicia might be keeping Shinji somewhere here and – and if you think about it, her reasons are pretty obvious." She continued, lowering her voice and speaking mostly to herself as she completed the puzzle in her mind. "But if she thinks Shinji would return to the life he had before he came here, I doubt very much she would hand him over. Hmm..."

"This is irrelevant," Gendou mutterd darkly, "our priority should be to-"

"With all due respect will you just shut up?!" Misato snapped, brandishing the rifle menacingly as the Commander calmly stared her down.

"Don't you understand Gendou?" Ritsuko whispered, blushing as she realized she had accidentally called him by his first name. "Shinji has everything to do with what's going on here. He is the only thing relevant!" She rubbed the bridge of her nose, quietly asking, "Why do you think Alicia keeps talking about Shinji? Honestly... how can you not see it?"

For the first time any of the women could remember, Gendou was silent – and not because he knew more than they did.

"God, talking to him is a waste of time," Misato said flatly. "Come on – we're going down."

Gendou's jaw clenched as the woman stepped behind him, planting the barrel of her weapon firmly in the middle of his back.

"After you, Commander."

- - - - -

They descended the stairs in silence, keeping their thoughts to themselves as the darkness grew thicker and thicker, swallowing the light from their flashlights until only the narrowest of beams cut the blackness. After what seemed like an eternity, they arrived at some type of landing, casting around for any signs of a wall... but there was only darkness, making each one of them feel small and insignificant.

"Kind of reminds me of the twelfth angel," Maya commented, jumping slightly at how loud her voice sounded. "Sorry," she whispered as the others stared at her.

"Look," Ritsuko breathed, squinting at a tiny dot of light in the distance. "What do you think?"

"I think it's the only thing around for miles," Misato whispered back, "literally. So... I guess we have no choice."

Slowly, they made their way towards the speck of light, their silence now enforced by the fear of what might be waiting for them in that little oasis. There was a collective gasp, however, as the indistinct form resolved itself into a lone, white-sheeted bed with a single, naked bulb hanging over it.

And lying on the bed, seemingly deep in sleep, was none other than Shinji Ikari.


The foursome stood transfixed as a woman with long, dark hair materialized out of the darkness, calmly sitting on the edge of the bed and reaching out to gently brush the hair off of Shinji's forehead.

"He won't respond to you," Alicia said serenely, keeping her eyes on the boy's peaceful face as she addressed the group. "I must admit, though, I am impressed that you made it this far. Well done, Miss Katsuragi... well done indeed."

"What have you done to him?" Ritsuko demanded sharply, trying to angle for a better look at Shinji.

"Shhh," Alicia replied, smiling warmly down at the boy, "he's dreaming."

"Why?" Misato asked hesitantly, taking a hesitant step. "Why are you doing all of this?"

Alicia said nothing for a moment, continuing to stroke Shinji's hair in silence before finally whispered, "It's been 75 years, Miss Katsuragi... 75 long, long years since that day..."

Misato shivered. "It... it was you in that picture," she breathed.

"Yes..." Alicia replied, nodding minutely as her face fell into a sad frown. "Me and the man I loved. His name was also Shinji..." Her eyes took on a hazy, far-off look as her hand slowed and finally stopped on the sleeping boy's forehead. "He was murdered because he was Japanese. It was a dark time, full of hate and mistrust... but his only crime was being born in a foreign country. I cried every single day for what happened to him – and for being unable to stop it – and I cursed God, swearing that somehow... someway, I would find a way to set my Shinji's soul at peace."

The group waited in breathless silence as Alicia trailed off, slowly bringing her eyes back up to meet Misato's as she continued. "But then," she whispered coolly, "God felt the suffering of this boy – a boy who was exploited in the most inexcusable manner possible for the selfish reasons of those above him. A boy hurt by everyone in his life because they saw him as nothing but a tool, a means to an end. After the fourth Angel all the progress he made while living alone with someone who was supposed to be his guardian..." Alicia snapped her fingers, making everyone jump. "Gone, just like that. He was just starting to feel accepted, Miss Katsuragi, but after Asuka moved in, all that progress was slowly, inescapably taken away from him."

"I... tried," Misato said softly, finally finding her voice as the woman trailed off once more. "I tried to be a good-"

"You're still lying to yourself?" Alicia cut in softly. "Even after everything that's happened... you can stand there, straight-faced, and tell me that you tried...?"

Ashamed, Misato averted her eyes.

Alicia's eyes slid over to Gendou. "And you," she murmured, her lips quirking down at the corners. "Offering up your own flesh and blood in the vain hope of taking the angels' place at the right hand of God – how audacious... how utterly pretentious of you to assume that you could aspire to godhood."

Gendou cleared his throat, his eyes hard and flat as he rumbled, "The Dead Sea Scrolls-"

Alicia interrupted with a laugh. "Fool," she hissed, "the prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls are false!"

Taken aback by the contempt in the woman's voice, the Commander fell silent.

"You were about to interfere with the natural order of everything," Alicia whispered, her voice low and full of disgust. "What is contained in those scrolls is not another evolutionary step for humanity but simply another false ideal – Humanity's evolution is not at a dead end, it simply does not move as fast as you and your SEELE associates wish it would. The true ascension of Man is still thousands of years away... or did you truly believe that a single consciousness – the absolute loss of all that makes mankind unique and beautiful – was the be-all and end-all of our existence?"

In the ensuing silence, Maya slowly raised her hand. "Ummm... ex-excuse me?" she said meekly, drawing all eyes to her. "Umm... if this isn't about... about the scrolls," she said slowly, feeling very self conscious as everyone stared at her, "what... what is this all about, ma'am? Why are we all here?"

Alicia tilted her head. "You honestly don't know?" she said, her voice gentle and holding just the faintest bit of pity. When Maya shook her head, Alicia sighed. "There is a... resonance, between your Shinji and mine," she said quietly. "An echo of unjust suffering that ties them together in ways only gods can see. The god of this place felt it the moment Shinji set foot in this town, and he woke me from my long sleep to grant me the task of making sure all of you faced up to the sins you have committed against him. All of you have that disgusting mentality of 'it wasn't me,' and God told me that until you have owed up to your responsibilities, your torment will be unending."

She turned to them one by one, unflinchingly naming their sins for all to hear.

"Miss Katsuragi... you hardly ever took your responsibilities as a guardian seriously. Looking after children is a very big responsibility, yet you reprimanded without justification and you never really understood that he, Rei, and Asuka were the ones out there risking their lives and giving everything they had while you sat safe and secure in the command centre. You continually prodded and twisted his emotions, using him any way you saw fit in order to satisfy your own personal hatred."

"Doctor Akagi... you barely took any notice of him except on a professional basis, and even then you treated him as an experiment to be studied and psychologically dissected. You spent so much time walking your mother's path and deluding yourself into believing that Gendou loved you when deep in your hear you knew that you were just a pawn and, when he permitted it, somebody to warm his bed. In one way it was admirable that you were trying to surpass your mother... but you spent more time trying to surpass her as a scientist when you could have easily surpassed her as a woman."

"Miss Ibuki... though your sins were comparatively small, you still did your share of harm by doing nothing at all. Your inaction hardly becomes a woman whose courage runs as deep as yours. You assisted your Sempai in eluding capture when an entire highly-trained division of security officers was hunting her, helping her avoid capture when you knew full well the consequences of your actions... yet when Shinji was in agony, and you held the power to help him at your fingertips, you did nothing. Harming another for pleasure is the definition of evil, but allowing someone you know and care for to be hurt out of fear for your own position is almost as bad."

"And you..." Alicia's nostrils flared as she turned to Gendou. "Committing unforgivable sins in the name of salvation and love – what would your wife say if she could see you now? Your actions have disgraced and degraded her sacrifice. She gave her very life for her son, not you, and that... angered you. You hated her for giving herself away, not because she left you alone, but because she chose to do it for him. You could not stand the idea that her love for a mere child was stronger than her love for you... so you transferred your hate for her onto him, abandoning-"

"I loved her," Gendou interrupted, unable to remain silent any longer. "Yui was everything to me – that is why-"

"Mister Ikari," Alicia cut in flatly. "You hated Yui."

"I did not!" Gendou raged, his composure slipping as Alicia ignored him and kept talking.

"You hated Yui because she wanted to raise a family and you didn't...you hated her because she was loved by everyone...you hated her because she surpassed you as a scientist and as a person, and you hated her because she made the sacrifice for her son and not for you! All you know is hate, Mister Ikari... it's all you've ever known."

Gendou's fists clenched, but his anger was so complete that it held his tongue.

"That is the real reason you're doing all of this," Alicia said levelly. "Abandoning your son... changing the 'scenario'... doing everything you could to bring Yui back, even though she willingly sacrificed herself to provide her son a surer future. Now tell me, Mister Ikari... do you honestly still believe that Yui would forgive you for all you've done? Did you really think that after drawing all of mankind unwillingly into one being that she would welcome you with open arms and-"

"Shut up!"

So intent were the three women on paying attention to Alicia's warnings and condemnations that they had entirely forgotten that the Commander was a creative, dangerous man. Ritsuko barely had time to gasp as Gendou dropped to the ground and swept her legs out from under her, sending her onto her back with a startled cry and wrenching the shotgun from her numb hands.

Without pausing to get up, Gendou brought the shotgun around and pulled the trigger, catching Alicia off-guard and sending a full load of double-ought buckshot into her stomach.

Alicia blinked, glancing down at the gaping hole in her midsection. "Why Mister Ikari," she said almost conversationally, "that was most... rude..." She frowned as she felt a soft tug in the pit of her ruined stomach. "M... my lord...?"

Misato's eyes widened as instead of blood, thick, black fluid began oozing from the wound, spreading in every direction in clear defiance of the laws of gravity. "What the...?"

"N-no, my lord," Alicia gasped, holding her stomach and shaking her head from side to side, "Don't. I can... please, let me finish this, I can- ahhhh!!"

"God," Maya gasped, covering her mouth as the dark-haired woman doubled over, the flesh on her back rippling as if something was trying to get out. "What's happening to her??"

Alicia's face contorted in pain. "H-he's coming..." she gasped, "s-sorry... t- tried to... k-keep him in... sor... ry..."

"Who?!" Misato demanded, her eyes riveted to the horror unfolding in front of her, "Who's coming, Alicia!?"

The woman looked up at her, barely managing to gasp, "Sa...mael..."

All at once, her cry of pain became a deafening roar as blood red mist exploded from the wound, entirely surrounding her. All four of the NERV people stepped back, glancing around nervously as the darkness all around them suddenly shifted, cutting off every avenue of retreat and leaving them in a forty by forty room with endlessly tall stone walls.

"What is that?" Maya moaned, backing up until she hit one of the walls. "WHAT IS THAT??"

The mist slowly dissipated, leaving a nightmare standing where Alicia had been. Twelve-feet tall, with leathery, six-foot wings, the creature regarded them all with three, burning green eyes. Its skin was a dull, reddish brown – like a piece of meat left to rot in the sun for a day or two – and all of its long, almost delicate fingers were tipped with razor- sharp talons, looking as if they could tear the flesh from a man's bones with minimal effort on their owner's behalf.

Misato summed up everyone's thoughts in one, single, eloquent word.


"Everybody down!" Ritsuko shouted, following her own advice as a bolt of red lightening shot from the creature's third eye, raking the wall she had been standing in front of less than a second before.

Misato whipped her rifle up and opened fire, catching the thing in the shoulder with one of the heavy rounds and making it stagger. "Yes!!"

"Oh, no – Major look out!!"

Before she could react, Misato found herself being tackled by Maya... and as she hit the ground, she saw another bolt of the same, red lightning tear through the space she had just vacated. "Th-thanks," she gasped.

A heavy boom sounded from the other side of the room, signalling Gendou's entry into the fray.

"Hit it again!" Ritsuko cried, scrambling to her feet and hurrying to Misato's side to help the woman up. "Come on! Don't let up!"

Misato drew the bolt on the rifle as Gendou pumped the shotgun, and together, they opened fire once more, making the monster shriek as the lead hammered its body... but no matter how many rounds they sent into it, the holes simply closed back up, and much to Maya's horror, she noticed that it was getting faster.



Misato dropped to one knee as two bolts of lightning sizzled past her on the right. "Ritsuko!" she called. "You alive??"

"T-think so," the blonde gasped, clutching her smoking chest, "Can't... take another one, though..."

"Give me a solution!" Misato demanded. Blinking as the creature folded its wings around its body and went entirely motionless. "Oh, this can't be good..."

They watched in silence as energy began to crackle all around the creature, building to an obviously violent crescendo. "Damn it," Gendou snarled, throwing the shotgun to the ground after one final, ineffectual shot. "I'm out."

And I've only got three rounds left, Misato thought grimly, maybe my handgun...? No – not a chance that thing will-

"Look at the floor!"

Misato glanced down, frowning as she spotted a glowing pattern on the stony ground. "A star...?"

"M-Major?" Maya said hesitantly, flinching as the crackling around the monster grew more pronounced. "I've... I might have an idea."

"Well?" Misato demanded, never taking her eyes off the creature, "Spit it out, woman!"

"But I might be wrong!" Maya protested, wiping sweat from her brow as she helped Ritsuko to her feet. "What if-"

"We're out of time!" Misato roared. "If you know something, tell me!!"

"It's... if it's electric," Maya said hesitantly, "maybe we could... could ground it or something. We just need something metal to-"

"Wait!" Misato cried, snatching the little sheriff's star off of her jacket. "Wait..."

Everyone fell silent as the woman stared at the little tin star, turning it over and over in her hands. It's... why didn't I notice how heavy it was? she thought, slowly looking from the toy star to the one on the floor, and it's not a sheriff's star – it's got six points. God, I just realized – Fletcher never took it off, even though he wasn't on duty when all of this got started! It must be impor-

"Too late!!"

Instinctively, Misato thrust the star forward like a shield, screaming as the creature unleashed an enormous bolt of lightning. Time seemed to stand still as the bolt raced towards her, leaving Misato's overtaxed mind a fraction of a second to contemplate all that she could have done differently. Then the moment was over, and the bolt was slamming into her.

Or rather... the bolt was slamming into the star.


Misato was only vaguely aware of Ritsuko's startled cry. Most of her attention was focused on the buzzing sound in her head and the unbearable burning in her fingertips. She tried to drop the star, Burning – it's burning me!! but she could not will her hand to open. Somewhere between her brain and her muscles, something had shut down or shorted out, leaving her no choice but to stand rooted to the spot and endure the pain.


Finding her voice once more, Misato screamed, tears streaming down her face as the massive bolt of lightning somehow – impossibly – bounced off of the star and rebounded back to its sender, slamming into the creature and hurling it back into the wall twenty feet behind it.

"Major!" Maya's voice reached Misato through the noise and pain that dominated her mind. "Its third eyes – shoot its third eye!!"

Groggily, Misato dropped the star and brought her rifle up, pulling the trigger as the creature shook itself and tried to stand.


The first shot went high and wide, smashing into the wall behind the creature. Misato shook her head, chambering another round and quickly taking aim.


Again, the bullet went high and wide... but this time, the creature managed to rise to its feet, its eyes burning with rage as it folded its wings around itself once more.

"Major, it's going to do it again!"

Daddy, Misato thought desperately, drawing the bolt back and bringing her last bullet into the breach. Help me, Daddy... please...

"Misato," Ritsuko screamed, "Get down!!"



Everyone held their breath as Misato fell to her knees, letting the rifle clatter to the floor... but all three of the creature's eyes burned bright and unharmed as it threw its head back and let out a shriek of triumph, the lightning coiling and writhing around its body like a living cloak.

Then, in the span of a breath, Maya released her superior and dove forward, snatching the star from where Misato had let it fall and hurling it with all her strength towards the creature's open mouth.

Silence fell with the rapidity of a thunderclap as the tiny star whizzed through the air and buried itself neatly in the back of the creature's throat, slicing through the lightening as if it did not exist. Immediately, the monster began shuddering and thrashing, trying desperately to loose the projectile from its skin... but even as it tried, the flesh around the star began to smoke and peel, pulling back as the creature jerked and danced, letting out rough, bird-like caws of pain.


The faint hope that this might be over were dashed from Misato's mind as the walls around them erupted into flames, the stone burning impossibly hot and making her sweat – even from fifteen feet away... but she could not help smiling vindictively as the creature pitched forward onto its face, giving one final shudder before going still.

"Sayonara, motherfucker..." she whispered.

"Major! Sempai!" Maya called, coughing into her fist as she glanced around, her eyes wide and terrified. "Commander...? What can we do!?"

Gendou shook his head, his lips curving into an ironic smile as he replied, "Die, I suppose."

"Unac...ceptable," Ritsuko coughed, staggering to Shinji's bed and hoisting him to his feet. "There... there has to be a way out!"

"Do you see one, anywhere?" the Commander asked coolly, gesturing to the flames surrounding them on every side. He lowered his voice, whispering, "Honestly, Doctor Akagi, I-"

The roar of the fire swallowed his words, making them impossible for Maya to hear... but she thought that Ritsuko understood, since her lips quirked into a disgusted sneer as she threw Shinji's arm over her shoulder and replied, "Liar..."

Misato bowed her head. Well, she thought tiredly, I finally found you, Shinji... I just wish-


Her head whipped up as Maya pointed to something on the far wall. "What...?"

Right in the middle of the flame, a small blue light was glowing. The three women stared at it as Gendou threw his head back and laughed. "Seeing things?" he asked snidely. "There's nothing there!"

The light flickered for a moment before fading... then flaring brighter. "Hurry!" a voice whispered in Misato's ear. "Hurry into the light..."

"Amber!?" Misato gasped looking around to see where the voice was coming. "Amber, where are you?"

"Hurry!" Amber's voice called, sounding as if it was coming from a great distance. "There's not much time, Miss Katsuragi... please hurry..."

Misato turned around and saw Ritsuko and Maya nodding, their faces feverish with hope as they cradled Shinji between them, stumbling as fast as they could towards the spot of blue in the raging inferno.

"Wait!" Gendou called, hurrying to his feet as the women rushed headlong towards what looked to him like a solid wall of fire. "What are you doing?!"

He took a step to follow them, but before he could take another, he felt a light tap on his shoulder.

"Y-you!" he gasped, his eyes wide as he glance back into a face he had not expected to ever see again.

"Me," the figure confirmed with a broad grin. "It's been a while, Commander..."

"Get away from me," Gendou hissed, fumbling for the shotgun, "Get away from me!!"

"Where you going, sir?" the man asked softly, his smile staying fixed and immobile as he reached out and swatted the empty shotgun from Gendou's hands. "There's no need to rush... you and I are going to be together for a long... long time..."

"No!" Gendou screamed, stumbling back as the apparition reached out and grasped him with superhuman strength, pulling him inexorably towards the fire. "No, no, NO, NO, NOOOOOOO!!!"

Taking a final look at the spot of blue, the figure shook its head, ignoring the slowly weakening screams of the doomed man in his grip.

"Take care of yourself, Katsuragi."

- - - - -

News Flash!
"The Brahms Exposer has the scoop!"

Divine Flame?
By Eric 'The Ear' Kolinsky

Two men are confirmed dead this morning following a bizarre, isolated fire in the woods outside of the neighbouring city of Silent Hill. Local police started receiving reports of smoke and a bright orange glow at 2:35 yesterday morning, and by 3:00 they had managed to contain the blaze.
Sifting through the wreckage, fire-fighters uncovered the bodies of two men, whose identities will be withheld pending notification of their families.
"Damndest thing I've ever seen," veteran Silent Hill reserve fireman Ted Bronson reported, "it was one of the hottest fires I've ever seen... but those guys we pulled out? Not even singed! Looks more like some wild dogs'd been at 'em to me... course, I'm no doctor, I'm just saying..."
Other firemen on the scene refused to comment, but this reporter noticed more than a few men holding silver crosses and looking up at the sky, which leaves us with the question – was Silent Hill visited by a vengeful god??
Laugh now! But everyone from Springville to Ocean View will tell you that the so-called 'Quiet Town' has never been that quiet. Many long-time residents will tell you, if you can get them to, of the rash of murders perpetrated by a wandering vagrant not five years ago! And there have often been times when the town lives up to its name – going entirely silent for up to fifteen minutes at a time, with no phone or radio contact at all – which makes this reporter ask, "What, exactly, is going on here?"
Was this fire REALLY an accident? Who were these two mysterious men – one of whom, it has been hinted, is a prominent local official? Why is it that local police are still unable to uncover the whereabouts of missing local teen Amber Donnelly? Is there a conspiracy behind the scenes of this sleepy little resort?
Rest assured this reporter won't sleep until the full truth is uncovered!
For now, Eric Kolinsky, reporting from Silent Hill... out.

- - - - -

Misato set the tabloid down, rubbing her eyes tiredly and glancing around the small hotel room. Brahms, she thought, shaking her head at the irony, Shinji loves Brahms...

She sighed, pushing aside the similarities to the town they were staying in and one of the composers Shinji favoured. "You... want to have a shower...?" she asked hesitantly.

"No," Shinji replied, keeping his eyes on the ceiling.

"Well... I'm going to have one, ok?" Misato said, trying to sound light and casual, "be out in a second."

When Shinji made no reply, her shoulders slumped. Did you really think he would just bounce back? she berated herself, starting towards the bathroom. Honestly... you're no better than before! Misato glanced at the wall separating their room from Maya and Ritsuko's, idly wondering what the two were talking about. That's right... anything to keep from thinking about 'what happens now?'

With a sigh, she turned on the water – fully prepared to find blood flowing from the tap as she adjusted the hot and cold to a comfortable mix. "Stop it," she told herself firmly, "it's over damn it!"

Stepping under the water, she groaned, finding several bruises and scrapes she had not previously been aware of. Gingerly, she reached into the mouth, disturbed to find that one of her molars rocked rather easily in its socket, sending a cruel jab of pain along her jaw line with every wiggle.

I feel like I just went ten rounds with a heavyweight, she thought, spitting out a mouthful of blood. So why does it seem like the hardest is yet to come??

For fifteen minutes, she stood motionless under the pounding water, her mind running over everything she had gone through – both at NERV, and Silent Hill. As the water flowed down on her she knew that the time for running was over. She had not gone through that horrid nightmare for nothing, had she? No... change must take place, and it must take place immediately.

As she turned off the water, she remembered Alicia's words. "My Shinji," she said softly, "I don't want to lose my Shinji the way she lost hers. I won't give up!"

Finding that this declaration did nothing for her resolve, Misato quickly towelled off and changed into the spare clothes they had bought from a rather perplexed-looking shopkeeper in downtown Brahms.

"Looks like you folks had a helluva night!" Misato could hear the man's awed voice echoing in her mind.

"You have NO... idea..."

Throwing the towel over the curtain rod, Misato stepped back into the room, thankful that Shinji had not fallen to sleep yet... and wondering if either of them would ever sleep again. She did not know, exactly, how much Shinji remembered of Silent Hill, or even how aware he had been of anything after witnessing Amber's murder, but she was sure that there were some long nights ahead for both of them.

"Hey, Shinji...?" she said hesitantly, "can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure." Shinji said quietly, keeping his eyes heavenward.

"I just wanted to say... that I'm sorry..." Misato said slowly. When she got no immediate reply, she pressed on. "I'm sorry for what I said about Kaworu...you did what you had to do Shinji, and I understand how hard that must have been for you."

After a moment of quiet, Shinji finally glanced her way. "Misato, I-"

"I'm also sorry about the way I treated you," Misato cut in quickly, feeling her nerve starting to slip, "about how I was never was there for you when you needed me..." Misato clenched her hands into fists. God, I've got so many things to be sorry for! "I'm sorry about...everything. For letting Asuka move in, for making you pilot, for treating you so bad... I'm sorry, Shinji – truly, and deeply sorry..."

Shinji bit his bottom lip, clearly trying to decide how he should feel about this torrent of apologies... but before he could say anything, Misato let go of the words she had been holding onto since her second encounter with Alicia.

"I love you."

Shinji drew in a sharp, hissing breath. "M... Misato..." he managed, averting his eyes to hide the sudden dampness in them, "you shouldn't... say that just because... you think I want to-"

"I love you, Shinji," Misato cut in, slowly kneeling at the side of the bed and carefully taking his hand in hers. "Come home with me – to Tokyo-3, or any place that makes you happy. I'll go anywhere with you, Shinji... anywhere at all. I know... that I can't make up for everything I've done to you, but if you'll let me, I'll spend the rest of my life trying. You're all that matters to me now... please let me stay with you."

Shinji swallowed. "I don't... I don't know what to say," he whispered, glancing down at the back of her hand, "I... you've always... treated me like a child, so I don't-"

"That's because I thought of you that way," Misato interrupted quietly, "I didn't want to see you as a real person, Shinji, but I do now... if you'll let me."

"I don't know..." Shinji said awkwardly.

Misato nodded. "Then let's... try, ok?" she said slowly, "I'll try to treat you the way you deserve to be treated... and you... you try to put up with me while I get used to it. I know it won't be easy, Shinji, I know that, but at least give me a chance...?"

Shinji regarded her hopeful, weary face, noticing for the first time just how haunted her eyes were. She had proven that she cared by coming after him, and she said she loved him... though he was not quite sure he believed her yet. But all she's asking for is a chance, he reminded himself, if it doesn't work out... it doesn't work out, end of story. And-

He cut the thought off, unnerved by how 'grown up' it sounded.

"Alright," he said finally, unable to meet the woman's eyes. "We'll try."

Misato's face broke into a relieved smile. "Thank you, Shinji," she said, wiping quickly at her eyes. "I'll do my best."

Her heart clenched in her chest as Shinji put his free hand over hers, giving her a small, tentative smile. "I know you will, Misato..." he murmured, offering her a small, clumsy absolution with his kindness and honesty. "I know you will. You always have."

- - - - -

Three days later, Shinji Ikari, Misato Katsuragi, Ritsuko Akagi and Maya Ibuki returned to Tokyo 3. The day before their departure, the Brahms Exposer revealed the identities of the two men killed in the fire as one Gendou Ikari, a Japanese National, and Aaron Fletcher, the Chief of the Silent Hill Police Department. The paper reported that both men had been badly mutilated – one of them to the point that he could only be identified by his dental records – but that no evidence of foul play had yet been uncovered. The paper blamed the attacks on a wild animal of some sort, as the forensics experts agreed that no human could possibly have inflicted the kind of damage the two men had suffered.

The investigation, the paper noted, was still open.

Shinji Ikari and Misato Katsuragi dated for some time, in spite of some disapproval by several of their co-workers, and were eventually married in 2019. Their first child was born in 2022. It was a girl. They named her Yui. They lived happily, for the most part... though Misato was never quite able to forget her experiences in the small town of Silent Hill, and found that she was unable to sleep alone without revisiting the quiet resort in her dreams.

Ritsuko Akagi came back to Tokyo-3 and surrendered herself to NERV authorities, determined to plead her case before sub-commander Fuyutsuki. Upon her arrival, however, she found that somehow, the details of the charges against her had vanished from the MAGI system, and as all evidence against her was absent, she was released from the organization without incident. With most of her ties severed, she moved on to other scientific work and was ultimately awarded the Nobel Prize in 2019 for her theoretical essay on the use of recombinant DNA therapy to cure Klienfelter's disease. She was absent from the awards ceremony, though, as it conflicted with the wedding of one of her oldest friends. Those who had come to know her were not surprised.

Maya Ibuki remained at her Sempai's side, working closely with her in all of her research, but refusing to share in the limelight the other woman enjoyed. Finding upon her return that her apartment seemed rather empty, Maya invited the Second Child to stay with her, and while the two did not always see eye to eye, they both agreed that there was a certain comfort to be taken from living with someone that knows exactly what you've gone through. For the rest of her life, Maya remained a gentle, warm-hearted woman... though following the events in Silent Hill, she did learn to be stronger and express her opinions more openly.

The day after word of her son-in-law's death reached her, Missus Dorothy Calhoun reluctantly signed the papers to have her daughter Edith committed to a psychiatric hospital. She has since taken her grandson Charlie into her custody and quietly relocated to a town that is not quite as familiar with her daughter's husband and his recently discovered, highly illegal exploits in the local drug trafficking scene.

And in the town of Silent Hill, they say, you can sometimes see a woman with long dark hair and emerald green eyes watching you from the forest on the outskirts of town. Her smile, they will tell you, is sad and nostalgic... and if you meet her eyes for too long, you might just find yourself with an irresistible urge to find the person you love the most and hold them like you'll never let them go.

Because in the end, these wise souls insist, all that matters is who you love, and who loves you. Nothing more... nothing less.


Author's Notes: Well this it the conclusion of Where Darkness Falls, this was a fic about facing up to the things you did to someone.

Random's notes: This was fun. I've been wanting to do a Silent Hill fic for a while, so when Greywolf approached me with his idea for a crossover with EVA, I jumped on it. We might work together again at some point in the future, so if you liked this story, keep your eyes open. And thanks for reading! -Random