PS: I never ever remember to write a disclaimer when I post these things, but I think everyone knows by now that I don't own Neon Genesis Evangelion or any of the characters that spring from the show. Duh, right?The Way It Should Have Been
Chapter One: Waking Up
She woke up slowly, savoring the sensation of the sun filtering in through the window and dancing on her bare back, reveling in the comfort she felt upon hearing his soft breathing beside her, letting herself, for a brief moment, forget that anything else existed but the two of them. In those first few moments when her mind cleared away the dreams and she became conscious of her surroundings, just before she opened her eyes, her memories abandoned her, lagging in their attempt to catch up with her journey between sleep and consciousness. For a single instant she was not haunted by memories, she forgot who she was and felt completely at peace with the world. These moments were far too brief and elusive, but she treasured them almost as much as she treasured him.
Finally, she opened her eyes, adjusted to the bright light of the morning sun pouring in through open curtains, and looked down on his sleeping form. His bare, slim, muscular chest moved up and down slowly as he breathed. His lips were parted a little, and dark eyelashes fanned out over his soft cheeks. She lifted a hand and gently brushed his dark hair out of his face and smiled lovingly. She loved him so much she didn't know what she would do without him. Unfortunately, she couldn't stay in bed staring at him all day. With a sigh, she slid out of bed, not caring in the slightest that she was naked and the curtains were open. Silently, she slid a pair of jeans over her slim hips, and pulled a tank-top over her head, which barely covered her full breasts. She glanced in the full-length mirror on the closet door as she left the bedroom and headed to the kitchen. She was proud of her figure, and why not? It was part of the reason, though she was fairly confident not the only reason, that he loved her.
Being as quiet as she could manage, she dug a frying pan out of the cabinet, and then retrieved the last four eggs from the refrigerator. She'd have to remember to go grocery shopping some time that day. Cracking the eggshells on the edge of the frying pan as it heated over the stove, she began the process of frying the eggs for breakfast. To think, a few years ago she couldn't even boil water. Everything she ate came out of the grocery store frozen meals section, or arrived at her door in bags out of the hands of take-out delivery boys. Now she was standing here making him breakfast, and enjoying every minute of it. Fifteen minutes later, there were two plates waiting on the little table in the kitchen, with fried eggs, biscuits, and apple slices. The coffeemaker was almost done percolating, and there was a jug of orange juice waiting on the table beside the plates.
As if on cue, he walked out of the bedroom wearing boxers and a t-shirt. His dark hair was ruffled and fell in his face, his dark eyes were alittle unfocused, still half-asleep, and he shuffled up to the table mindlessly. "Good morning," she greeted happily.
He gave her a weary smile and sat down at the table. "Morning," he muttered.
"You better wake up, you Lazy Bum," she said with a laugh. "You have a class in an hour."
He moaned and resisted the urge to drop his face in his plate. "Don't remind me," he muttered.
She laughed again and came up behind him, leaned down, and kissed him lightly on the neck. A shiver ran through him, and he sighed. "Well, that's one way of waking me up." He turned around and kissed her on the lips. "Unfortunately, if you keep that up, I'll never go to class, and that would be bad." She chuckled and sat down across from him at the table.
"Eat," she told him firmly. Smiling, he did as he was told.
"Shouldn't you be at work?" he asked her after a while.
She shrugged nonchalantly. "Took the day off. I thought I deserved a break."
"Right you are…"
Half an hour later, he was dressed and had his messenger bag full of books slung over one shoulder and resting against his hip. "Good luck in organic chem.," she said as he headed for the door.
"Thanks, I'm gonna need it," he sighed. "God, I hate that class."
"Hey, don't complain to me. You're the one who wants to be a doctor."
He smiled and shrugged. "I'm a masochist."
"This we know."
He sighed. "I better get going," he said.
"I'll be here when you get home, hopefully with dinner on the table already," she told him.
"That'd be great," he smiled. "I'll see you this evening then." He walked to the door and opened it. "Bye, Misato," he said as he walked out.
Just as he closed the door behind him, Misato called out: "Have a nice day, Shinji!"
For almost an hour and half she did nothing but sit on their cream-colored sofa with her feet perched on the coffee table, watching the news and drinking her coffee slowly. But she had things to do that day, and she needed to get to it. So Misato sighed and walked into the bedroom to change into more appropriate clothes for going out in public, and re-emerged fifteen minutes later where her jeans, a black cotton turtle-neck, and her red leather jacket. It was supposed to be cold that day, and she didn't want to risk getting a cold. She was always a complete invalid when she got even slightly sick, and she hated it. Finally dressed appropriately, she grabbed her keys and her little black purse from the coffee table, and left the apartment.
Her first stop was the bookstore, where she bought a gift certificate for Ritsuko's birthday, and ended up buying a manga and a magazine full of wedding dresses. She hadn't mentioned her thoughts to Shinji for fear she'd freak him out, but she was beginning to seriously think about marriage, and she often wondered if even an inkling of the idea had entered his thoughts yet. With a mental shrug, and a promise to herself that she would talk to him about it… sooner or later… she left the book store and headed to the bank to deposit her last paycheck. By the time she got through the long line in front of the teller's window and finished her transaction, it was almost one o'clock and she was getting hungry. So she stopped at a little café not far from the grocery store, which was where she would be heading after lunch.
The café was one of her favorite places in the entire city, and she came here atleast once a week for lunch, whether she was working that day or not. She slid into her customary booth, the one in the back corner where no one would disturb her, right next to a large window that allowed the bright sunlight to pour onto her face and hands as she ate. A waitress came over and she ordered a chicken salad and a soda. Then she pulled the wedding magazine out of the bookstore bag she had carried in with her, and opened it up to the section covered in beautiful wedding dresses. She loved to look at all the dresses, as much as any little girl first dreaming of her fantastic, fairy-tale wedding and her perfect knight in shining armor. She knew such things didn't really exist, unlike when she was ten years old, but that fact didn't really detract from her pleasure. At the age of thirty-three she had never been married, though she had come pretty close once, and she enjoyed dreaming about it even now.
As she flipped through the pages of the magazine, the waitress arrived with her salad and her soda, and placed them in front of her with a friendly smile and an "oh, that one's gorgeous!" as Misato stared at a particularly elegant wedding gown.
"Yes, it is," Misato answered as she placed the magazine on the table and picked up a fork to eat her salad.
The waitress had walked off again when a new voice, a male voice, asked: "You're getting married?" Misato jumped clear out of her skin at the familiar sound of that voice and looked up to find a handsome, if somewhat scruffy, man with long dark hair tied back from his face, standing over her. "Hello, Misato," he greeted with a smile, obviously amused by her shock. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Kaji?" she gasped, "is that really you?"
The man nodded and sat down across from her as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "Yep, it's me alright. Surprised you, huh? Sure has been a long time, hasn't it? What… Three years?"
"Three years, nine months," she answered automatically, without even thinking about it. Then she blinked. She thought she'd stopped counting ages ago. She hadn't seen Kaji since the day she left Nerv. He had cut off all contact with her from that day forward. And she had been over it for a long time now. So then why was her heart pounding so loudly in her ears? And why was her stomach quickly twisting itself into tight knots?
He nodded slowly. "So it has been…" He glanced down at the magazine on the table and then looked back up at her. "So… You getting married?" he asked again. She could tell he was trying to sound nonchalant about it, and she thought he did a pretty good job of it too, but she had known him too long. The thought of her getting married, to anyone, unnerved him.
"No. Atleast, not right now… I mean… That is to say…" she stuttered. She sighed and took a deep breath, looked him directly in the eye and smiled ruefully. "What I'm trying to say is that I think I'd like to marry the guy I'm seeing right now, but the subject hasn't come up yet, and I haven't had the nerve to mention the idea to him."
Kaji nodded as if he understood, but she could see in his eyes that he felt uncomfortable knowing all this. "So… um… Who's the lucky guy?" he asked.
She paused, unsure if she should tell him or not, unsure of whether he would recognize the name or not. Eh, what the hell do I care, she thought finally. Then she said, "his name is Shinji."
Kaji nodded, and there was no recognition in his expression, but then he froze and his eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Shinji…" he muttered. "Hey, wasn't Gendo's kid called Shinji? Yeah. Gendo brought him in once and introduced him to all of us, about six months before you left. What a coinci—" The rest of the word never came out of his mouth. He looked up at Misato, and she knew she had failed to hide the nervousness and small trace of guilt from her face. "God, Misato… You can't be… He can't be… You've gotta be kidding me!" Kaji exclaimed.
Misato sat there and quietly watched Kaji's expressions of shock and disgust flit across his face. She waited for him to calm down, and stared down at her hands, having long forgotten the salad on the table in front of her.
"You're dating Gendo Ikari's kid?" Kaji hissed, leaning forward over the table to stare at her with fierce intensity. "How old is he now?" he asked.
"Um… nineteen…" she answered nervously, still staring at her hands clutched in her lap.
"You're almost old enough to be his mother, Misato. Are you insane?" Kaji said sharply.
Misato bristled at the comment and her mind flared into anger as her eyes flew up to glare at him. "Yes, Kaji. I'm insane. I'm a fucking, raging lunatic! I'm living with a handsome, intelligent young man who finds me attractive and fascinating, and I'm enjoying every minute of it! I must be completely nuts!" she shouted, half-rising out her seat and leaning forward to yell in his face, her hands braced on the table.
"You're living with him!" Kaji gasped, his voice squeaking alittle on the words.
"Yes. He moved in with me three months ago. What's it to you?" she hissed.
Kaji placed his hands over hers and his expression softened as he said: "Misato. Sit down. You're making a scene." Reluctantly, she did as she was told. "I'm sorry I upset you," he said after a moment. "It's just… It's quite a shock to hear an old lover is dating some one fifteen years younger than her. It's a lot to absorb. Especially when he's an old boss's son, you know?"
"I know," she whispered softly. "Don't you think it's weird for me? Don't you think I feel like a cradle-robber sometimes? Don't you think I feel guilty, like maybe I unconsciously seduced him because I'm so much more experienced and he's so much younger and he doesn't understand about these things yet? Don't you think this stuff worries me, Kaji?" Misato shook her head and stared out past him, out the window and onto the street outside. "But… he makes me happy, Kaji. And I think I make him happy. Is that really so wrong?"
Kaji sighed and shook his head. "No, I guess not."
After a silent moment, Misato stood up. "I have to get going. I have some more errands to run before Shinji gets back from class."
"Yeah. He's attending Tokyo University. He wants to be a doctor." Misato gathered her purse and placed some money on the table for her meal. Then she picked up the bookstore bag and slid the magazine back into it. "See you around, Kaji," she said with a nod. And she walked out.
After her trip to the grocery store, Misato headed back home to the apartment. On the way there she saw a florist's shop in a shopping center strip, and could not seem to help herself. She pulled into the strip mall and slid carefully into a parking space. Momentarily, the run-in with Kaji was forgotten. She whistled happily as she walked into the shop, smiled at the bell that ran over her head, and drank in the sight of the flowers. She came out with a large flower arrangement. The bright blue vase was filled with orange, red, and yellow dahlias, violet irises, and perfect white roses. It was a beautiful arrangement, and it didn't matter in the slightest that it had cost her almost fifty bucks. Feeling content, she finally drove to the apartment. It took alittle juggling to get her six grocery bags, her bookstore bag, her purse, and the vase bursting with flowers out of the car and into the elevator, but she did manage it.
After putting the groceries away and placing the flowers cheerfully on the coffee table, Misato collapsed onto the sofa and closed her eyes with a sigh. She suddenly, felt very tired, and now that the initial contentment of a day well spent and beautiful flowers happily bought had dissipated, she was remembering the encounter with Kaji. She didn't really want to think about it, it would only make her depressed, make her worried, make her remember other things, but she didn't seem able to banish the meeting from her thoughts now. She sighed and draped on arm over her eyes. Kaji had looked good. His hair was still long, which she had always found attractive, and he was still a bit scruffy and unshaven, which she had always found rather charming despite her insistence that it made him look like a homeless ruffian. His eyes were bright and animated, his smile quirky and boyishly handsome. Yep, he definitely looked good.
And it had been so painful to see him. Suddenly, she was remembering things she didn't want to remember. Years of working for Nerv, ruining her health, her social life, her love life, and her soul for that secret society of ghouls and dead men and dark, silent women and machines that seemed more alive than the people did. When her father died in the Second Impact, she had nothing to live for but the goal of keeping it from happening again, and she had geared her entire life to that purpose. And the only thing she had outside of this all-consuming purpose was Kaji. He was childish and immature and commitment-phobic, but he also full of life, full of color, full of care-free fun and boundless freedom. Once, Misato thought she would marry this man, and spend the rest of her life basking in the glow that he gave off.
Then she realized that the Angels weren't coming back, that a Third Impact was never going to happen, and that she was slowly killing herself while she waited for disaster in that underground mausoleum. And she knew she wanted to leave, needed to leave, for her sanity, for her chance at a real life, for what was left of her jaded, broken soul. And when she told Kaji, he refused to go with her. The care-free, nonchalant, rebellious man she had counted on to understand why she needed to escape, was even more tied to this life than she was. Abandoned, betrayed, heart-broken, she left, and he never once tried to stop her, or come after her, or contact her.
Misato suppressed a sob and clenched her eyes shut tighter. And before she even knew what was happening, she had fallen asleep.
"Misato…" came a soft voice an eternity later. "Misato, wake up…" Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled happily when she found Shinji's slender, handsome face looking down at her. "Good evening, Sleepy Head," he said with a smile.
She stretched like a contented cat on the sofa, and yawned as she said: "Hey there. What time is it?"
"Almost five o'clock. I thought you said you were gonna have dinner on the table by the time I got home," he said, but he was smiling and Misato knew he didn't really care. He liked to cook more than she did anyway.
She sighed though, as if it was the worst thing in the world, and said: "I know. I'm sorry." She lifted the sad eyes of a martyr to Shinji's face, fighting back the smile that was trying to stretch along her lips, and added, "I'll get started right away."
Shinji laughed. It was a beautiful sound. "Don't bother," he said, and he kissed her lightly on the nose. "I'll make something. You went shopping, right?" he asked as he turned away and headed into the kitchen.
"Yeah, the fridge and pantry are full again."
"Good, what do you want?"
Misato stretched again and stood up. "I don't care. You pick," she answered. She followed him into the kitchen and saw her wedding magazine peaking out from beneath her purse. Surreptitiously, she slid it off the counter and held it in one arm with the back of the magazine facing Shinji.
"What's that?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Just a magazine," she told him, and she turned around, walked into the bedroom, and shoved it into her underwear drawer. She sighed as she hid it, and was reminded again of Kaji. Getting married, he'd asked her. She wished. When she emerged from the bedroom and walked back into the kitchen, Shinji was digging around in the refrigerator in the vegetable drawer. Silently, she watched him pull out a green bell pepper, an onion, and a few carrots.
"Stir fry sound alright?" he asked without looking at her.
"Uh-huh." She continued watching him as he started slicing thin strips of beef and placing them on a sizzling frying pan. She was amazingly distracted… by two completely different things. The shock of seeing Kaji again and being reminded of her un-life with Nerv, and her growing fantasy of marrying Shinji Ikari.
"You alright?" she heard Shinji asked suddenly, his voice full of concern. She blinked and looked up at him, realizing that he must of asked her something without her hearing it.
"Huh?" she asked intelligently.
"You seem really distracted… and alittle upset. Are you alright? Is something wrong?" he asked.
She took a deep breath and tried to think of something to say. But when she opened her mouth and spoke, what came out was not what she had planned. "I saw Kaji today." It came out blunt, almost cold, and yet somehow terrified.
Shinji froze. His hand was still halfway through slicing the bell pepper, but his eyes were fixed on her. He swallowed. "Really…" She nodded but couldn't manage to elaborate yet. "And… uh… how is he?" he asked. Misato noted he sounded nervous, unsettled. She'd told him alittle about Kaji, at his insistence, not long after they'd first started dating. He knew how in love she had once been with the man. She couldn't really blame him for sounding unsettled.
"He was… uh… fine," she said slowly.
Shinji nodded. "When did you see him?"
"He just kinda showed up when I was having lunch at the café."
Misato swallowed hard and shrugged. Shinji looked downright terrified. "And nothing…" she said at last. "It was just… alittle unsettling, I guess… It made me remember things I didn't really want to think about," she told him.
Shinji nodded and turned stiffly back to his bell pepper. Misato smiled softly. He was trying so hard not to panic, not to jump to conclusions or accuse, not to be jealous. Silently, she stepped up next to him and fitted her body against his side. He froze again, then relaxed as she kissed his neck. A slow smile spread across his face, and he turned to face her completely, dropping his knife on the counter and wrapping his arms around her waist.
"I love you," Misato whispered. "You know that, right?"
"I love you too," Shinji whispered back. Misato felt comfortable and happy in his arms, she felt right here, and besides, Kaji had never been able to say those words as easily or honestly as Shinji did. Shinji's lips descended to hers, brushing against them with feather-light touches, caressing them gently, coaxing them open with an expertise he had not had before he had started dating her. Misato felt a strange surge of pride at the thought that she had been the one to make him a man, but then all thought fled from her mind as his tongue stroked hers passionately, and his warm, gentle hand, snaked under her shirt to massage her breast.
"Hmm… Shinji…" she murmured in her rising passion.
And then Misato bolted upright on her pallet, flung the sheets off her heated, sweating body, and leapt from the pallet to stand near her door, all before she even fully comprehended that she had been dreaming and she was now awake. She looked around her frantically, her eyes darting back and forth, gasping for breath as panic rushed through her. The room was dark and empty except for her and her sparse belongings. She was in her apartment, the one that her Major's salary and her employment with Nerv paid for. The one she shared with fourteen-year-old Shinji Ikari – her boss's son, the Third Child – and Asuka Langley Soryu – the fiery red-head, the Second Child. Everything was the way it was supposed to be. But then why could she still feel his lips caressing hers in a gentle kiss? Why could she still feel the electric thrill of his warm hands cupping her breast possessively? And why did she miss his touch now that it was gone; why did her ears yearn for the sound of his voice whispering her name; why did her skin long for the sensation of his breath on her face?
"Oh God," she gasped, still panting frantically. "What the fuck…"