-- an Evangelion/Love Hina crossover
by Project Cala
- flashback: Hinata House, eleven years ago -
A man, dressed in black clothing that exuded an aura of cold authority, stood at the base of a tall flight of stairs. Clinging to his legs was a small boy, three years of age, crying loudly. A woman, a teenager and a small girl also stood, for now simply staring at the sight in front of them, with unspoken sympathy for the poor little boy.
"Will you take him?" the man, Gendo Ikari, asked simply.
"Yes," came the equally simple reply from the woman, who was short and graying with age.
Gendo looked down impassively at the boy through orange-tinted lenses. "Shinji."
The young Shinji Ikari stifled a sob and met his father's gaze with teary eyes. "Daddy?"
"No," Gendo's tone was quiet but forceful, containing the effect of a shout. "I'm not."
Ignoring the pleas, Gendo reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope, handing it to the older woman. "You'll find all the proper documents in their place."
"You heartless bastard!" The teenager, who had been glaring at him all along, suddenly spoke up. Her hands were clenched into fists, and there were angry tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. "He's your son, for crying out loud! Not some item! Does he mean nothing to you?"
"I am not his father." With finality in his voice, Gendo turned away. Before he walked over to the black unmarked car and darkly-dressed agent that waited, he pried Shinji off him. This he did gently, almost a fatherly way. But once it was done he stepped into the sedan, closing the door and signalling the agent to drive off without sparing a second glance at the little boy who had started crying once more.
"Daddy! Don't leave me! I'll be a good little boy..."
The teenager rushed to his side and wrapped him in a hug, facing him away from the rapidly shrinking black dot in the distance. "Shh, don't cry," she whispered soothingly. She stroked his hair and wiped away tears-- old and new --from his face. "Don't cry..."
"Let's bring him inside, Haruka," the woman beckoned. "Come along, Kanako."
Chapter Zero: Hinata Goodbyes
- Room 203 (Shinji's), Hinata House, year 2015 -
It was a nice day. For a country put into eternal summer by the disaster called Second Impact, it was actually a very nice day; sunny but with lots of cloud cover and a cool breeze blowing through the trees.
Sunlight streamed in through the large open windows of the room and danced along a teenage boy's face, teasing and taunting until he began to stir awake. A lazy yawn overcame him, and he stretched his arms back, working the kinks out of his shoulders. He rubbed the tiredness from his eyes and lifted himself from his futon. 'I should go down and make breakfast,' he thought. 'If Shinobu hasn't already beat me to it.'
The door to his room slid open, and an energetic girl with a distinctly foreign appearance waved cheerfully at him from the doorway. "Heya Shinji!"
Shinji finished rolling up his futon and smiled back. "Morning Su. Has Shinobu started breakfast yet?"
"Nope, can't smell anything." Su emphasized this by sniffing the air in a comical fashion. "What are we going to have today, Shinji? Can we have bananas? Su loves bananas!"
"I don't think everyone can live off bananas as well as you can, Su," the boy said with a chuckle. "But I'll see what I can do just for you," he added.
- First floor lobby, Hinata House -
The letter was addressed to a 'Mr. Ikari, Shinji'. Kanako held it in her hands and tried glaring holes into it. She knew perfectly well who had sent it-- him. It couldn't be anyone else. The recipient's name was written in the same handwriting as the simple envelope that had been coming to Granny Hina every three months for the last eleven years. 'But he had never sent Shinji anything before, so why now?'
"Good morning, onee-chan," a voice said into her ear.
Masking her surprise at being sneaked up on, Kanako forced herself to smile and turned around to give the person a warm hug. "Good morning to you too, Shin-chan."
Kanako felt Shinji return the affection without hesitation, and couldn't help but feel her smile become more natural. She never knew why the boy always made her feel so loved, even after all the years they'd grown up together under the same roof, treating each other like brother and sister, if not something closer. She gave Shinji a last tight squeeze before releasing her hold on him.
"Hey... What's that in your hand?"
The mention of the letter re-froze Kanako's expression. "It's... from him," she said, handing him the letter. She watched him as he slowly tore off the top of the envelope. A folded sheet of paper was pulled out of it, accompanied by a monorail ticket and a small photograph. "What does it say?"
Wordlessly, Shinji slumped down on a couch. Kanako sat beside him and waited, not repeating the question, but obviously expecting an answer nonetheless. There was a short period of tense silence between the two before: "He wants me to come," Shinji said finally. "To New Tokyo-3."
Kanako wanted to ask 'Why? Why, after all this time...?', but she highly doubted that Shinji had any fraction more of an idea than she did. If anything, he would want to know exactly the same question. Instead she asked the next thing on her mind. "So, are you going to go?"
As soon as the words left her mouth, the emotional turmoil in Shinji's mind became outwardly visible. His eyes stared downward at the monorail ticket, and his hands fidgeted with the letter, folding it then unfolding it repeatedly. 'Do I want to return to the man who so carelessly abandoned me? Do I want to leave this place-- my home of eleven years --just so I can face him once again? He can't possibly want me back to be a family! But... what if? What if he does...?'
"Shin-chan, you know you don't--"
"Come on, everybody!" Shinobu's cheerful voice called. "Breakfast is ready!"
- flashback: Tokyo-3 cemetery, year 2012 -
Rows upon rows of black headstones decorated the otherwise bare and barren landscape of the graveyard. A twelve-year old Shinji Ikari somberly navigated his way through the thousands of identical obelisks, a backpack in one hand and a cello case in the other. He was flanked by the Hinata girls, as well as Granny Hina and Haruka following not too far behind.
"You guys didn't have to come along," Shinji said, trying to sound annoyed but failing. "But... thanks."
Six heads nodded in solemn acknowledgement.
Shinji glanced up, and suddenly froze in his step. Someone bumped into him from behind, but he didn't turn to see who. He was too busy staring five stones ahead, at the person kneeling down with a single flower in hand.
"Hey, why'd you-- oh..."
So there they stood, father and son, for the first time in eight years. Not a word passed between them, but their gazes told the girls more than any words ever could-- they all knew Shinji's story, as he knew theirs. The silence was tangible, so thick in the air it could almost be tasted.
Then, as abruptly as he had stopped, Shinji strode forward. He quickly made his way to the headstone marked 'Yui Ikari, 19772004' and, completely ignoring Gendo's presence, set himself up to play his cello, which had once been his mother's.
The way Shinji's hands moved over the strings of the cello mesmerised the girls as much as the melancholic melody that was replacing the earlier moment's tension with sorrow. A few tears leaked, and their owners quickly dabbed at them with a handkerchief or sleeve.
"Well done Shinji," Gendo said as the last note faded away. "She would be proud."
Shinji tensed visibly at that small comment from his father, but he stared rigidly down at the ground, refusing to otherwise notice the man standing beside him. Only when Gendo turned to leave did Shinji say anything. "Was it because you hated me?" he murmured, almost too quiet to hear.
No reply came.
"I thought so."
- Annex rooftop, Hinata House -
Motoko parried the stroke with ease, and returned the attack with a sharp hit to the abdomen. Her opponent jumped back slightly and thrust out with the bokken again. The wooden training sword was knocked out its wielder's hand, sending the weapon clattering across the balcony.
"Yield," she commanded, holding the tip of her own bokken to her opponent's chest.
The person knew they were helpless, but stared defiantly back at Motoko. A sense of personal pride needed to be maintained, after all. For a few seemingly long seconds, the two combatants simply stood there, eyes locked with one another.
"That's enough for today," Motoko sighed, lowering her arm. She retrieved the fallen sword and handed it back to her sparring partner. "You cannot continue training like this, Shinji-kun. You are lacking focus."
"I'm sorry..." Shinji ran a hand through his hair. "I've just... got something on my mind right now."
Motoko sat down in a meditative position, facing a sky that was beginning to bleed, and motioned for the boy to sit at her side. "If it may provide any help, I would gladly hear you out on whatever dilemma you are facing."
"Sometimes... I wish," Shinji flipped the bokken over and over in his hands, taking note of every little dent and notch in the worn wood. "I wish that I could cut away what remaining ties I have with my father... Erase every memory to do with him, just forget it all completely..."
The girl placed a hand on his shoulder. "You should not let your heart be burdened by hate. It acts like a parasite, denying you of life's joys while it eats your soul out from the inside. You suffer slowly and painfully until something breaks-- physically or mentally."
"I suppose you are right, Motoko-san." A wry smile crossed Shinji's face. "You know, I occasionally wondered how different a person I might be if I'd not grown up here in Hinata. I think I'd have turned out to be very depressed and anti-social with a total lack of aspiration to achieve anything in life."
A thoughtful silence washed over the teens as they processed this possibility.
"That doesn't sound like you at all," Motoko remarked.
"But it seems like a good character for an anime or manga," Shinji countered.
"So, what was it that you were distressed about before?"
"I, uh... It's nothing. I'm alright now, thanks..."
- Shinji's room, Hinata House, the next day -
The room had been totally cleaned out overnight. Empty and desolate, it symbolised how Shinji was feeling right now, on the prospect of leaving Hinata House. He'd decided that it'd be best that he didn't openly tell everyone about his departure.
Shinji skim-read a particular letter one more time to himself. 'This should do it,' he thought, sealing it in an envelope and placing it on the desk-- slightly separate to the others --where it was clearly visible. 'I hope that it takes well...'
He hitched his bag on his back and gazed once more around the room that had been his for the last eleven years. 'I'm really going to miss this place...'
'You don't have time to get sentimental Ikari,' he berated himself. He stood with his ear to the door and listened to the happenings of the House. Everybody was occupied with something, but the only 'danger' was Shinobu, making lunch preparations in the kitchen.
As quite as he could manage, he slid out of the room and tiptoed his way downstairs. That successfully done, he'd made his way halfway to the sliding doors when a voice called out from behind him. "Shinji?"
Frozen in his tracks, he slowly turned around, wiping the mask of guilt from his face; silently thanking Kanako and the impersonation skills she taught him. "Y-yes, Shinobu?"
"Are you going down to the teahouse?"
Another silent thanks; this time to Shinobu for unwittingly providing him with a plausible excuse. "Yeah, I thought I might go help Haruka-san with lunchtime customers."
"Okay, see you later."
The girl promptly disappeared into the kitchen, letting Shinji reduce his 200km/h heartbeat to a figure more normal for human beings. 'Whew, that was much too close...'
Gripping the straps of his backpack, he ran out of Hinata House. Behind him, the glass doors slid quietly shut.
- Streets of Hinata City -
"Phew," Keitaro Urashima wiped his sweaty face with a handkerchief. "That's strange... I thought it was--"
He was suddenly knocked over by a blur of white and black that came running down from a tall set of stairs. Both Keitaro and his 'assailant' found themselves tangled with each other on the ground, when he flailed and grabbed the person's shirt in the process.
A synchronised groan of pain was uttered. "Ow..."
"I'm sorry," Having got to his feet first, the stranger, a boy in his mid-teens, offered the still-prone Keitaro a hand. "Are you okay? That was my fault, wasn't it?"
Shakily, Keitaro took the boy's hand and was pulled up to a dizzy stand. "No, it's alright. I'm just naturally clumsy-- whoa!" Trying to walk, he stumbled on his feet and tripped over again. "Heh, I'm fine. Really..."
The teenager looked down skeptically at him, rolling his eyes-- they were blue, Keitaro noted. "I should take you to the hospital... I'm sure they have a cure for the directionally challenged..."
"Hey, that's not a nice thing to say!"
"Uh, sorry..." He looked away, muttering, "That's Naru-san's sarcasm, I swear..."
"'Naru-san'?" For a reason Keitaro couldn't fathom, the name struck a bell in his head somewhere-- emphasis on 'somewhere'. "Who's that?"
"A person I... knew... while I lived in Hinata House."
Keitaro jumped up at the mention of Hinata House. "Really? That's where I need to go!"
He was apprehensively scanned up and down by the blue-eyed boy. "You don't look like a girl to me," he said finally.
"Didn't you know? Hinata House is a girls dormitory. Well, only for the last four years, but--"
"WHAT?" Keitaro curled up into a ball. "Oh man, I'm so screwed..."
"Look, I don't know what business you have with Hinata House, if any, but why don't I take you up there?"
Keitaro had been going through several stages of self-contortion, but he quickly stopped. "Would you really? Thanks a lot!"
"By the way, I'm Shinji." He began climbing the stairs he'd come down only a few minutes ago. 'So much for getting away quietly,' he lamented.
"My name's Keitaro Urashima. Nice to meet you."
Shinji bug-eyed. 'Wait! Did he just say his name was...?'
- First floor lobby, Hinata House -
Kanako held the squirming young Ikari in a tight headlock in her arms, while the other girls and Keitaro watched in horror. Or curiosity. Maybe even horrified curiosity. "I. Can't. Believe." she growled menacingly into the boy's ear. "That you tried to go without telling any of us. Haruka and myself especially."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Shinji continued to writhe in the girl's clutches, attempting to break free, but only succeeding in creating friction between his back and her breasts-- not that he was aware of the fact, nor would someone else point it right now, for fear of their own lives.
Shinji began to wheeze and cough, grabbing the arm around his neck to indicate that he was running out of air-- though he was only faking it. However the act seemed to work, and he was let go, to which he completed his facade by slumping to the floor and gasping for breath. "But I thought you'd understand..."
"Of course I understand," Kanako retorted sarcastically, masking her slight embarrassment-- physical contact like that is difficult to ignore. "'Oh, look! Shinji's not here! He must have headed off for Tokyo-3 already! But that's fine, because he left a letter behind!'"
"Okay, I admit that wasn't one of my brightest ideas," he said, seating himself on a couch and silently cringing how she'd inadvertently struck the truth dead-centre. "But I... I just didn't want it to become a big deal, that's all..."
"And running away would've made a difference?"
No answer was given; the girl turned her attention to someone else, folding her arms over her chest. "So, onii-san. What brings you here?"
Keitaro scratched his head sheepishly. "I, uh, kinda... left home-- well actually, got kicked out..."
"Don't tell me you--"
"Yeah... I failed. Again."
"Now you need a place to stay..." Kanako gave the other girls a sweeping glance. 'I think getting into Tokyo-2 University would be easier than convincing--' Her gaze lingered over Naru and Motoko in particular. '--them to let onii-san live here...'
(Reformatted and minutely re-touched for its EFO debut.)
A/N: To all and any new readers, first of all I'd like to thank you for your time. Even if you didn't like it, I'm still very appreciative of the fact that you actually read my story. I would, of course, also much appreciate it if you left me any comments or constructive criticism about what you think I could improve on in general, and for when I eventually rewrite this fic completely.
And likewise with those fair few of you who enjoyed it: again, thank you so much for reading, and feel free to tell me anything about things you liked or good suggestions for the second version. All opinions are welcome, through reviews and/or e-mail to "cala1019" at Gmail.
- Omake: Shinji's letter to Kanako -
Sitting in her darkened room, Kanako wiped the tears from her eyes and read the letter once again. She'd found it on the desk of Shinji's empty room, along with all the other envelopes personally addressed to every resident in Hinata House, as well as one for Haruka.
Dear Kanako, it read.
I just want to start off by saying 'I'm sorry'.
This was a very difficult decision that I made for myself,
and I thought long and hard about it-- though maybe
not as long as I should've. To be completely honest,
I... need to seem him again. All my life I've hated him,
but I just can't bury that little spark of hope in me that
I've carried with that hate. This is my chance to put all
this enmity to an end, for better or worse. I know we
can't be a family again, but I don't think I'd prefer any
thing other than the family I've been living with for the
last eleven years - can you believe it's been that long?
I would reminisce about all the good times you, Haruka
and I have had, but that'd take me more than just one
night-- I have more than just this letter to write, and this
is already the longest. You've always been like an older
sister to me, and in recent years I couldn't help but
wonder if my feelings were more than just simple kinship.
I love you, Kanako. I'm not quite sure what kind of love
it is, and I guess I won't know for a few more years yet.
But in any case, as a sister, as a friend, as a person...
I love you. I'll... miss you.
That night, for the first time ever, Kanako Urashima cried herself to sleep.