True Love Waits

Adam Kadmon

Disclaimer: I don't own Neon Genesis: Evangelion. None of it

a/n: AU


"Hey there, gloomy."

"Huh?"

Shinji raised his head from his desk, blinking. Despite his young age, by fourteen he had learned that his interaction with people was limited to awkward confusion and spiteful belittling. Being a new transfer student at a big school was only reinforcing this for him. Some rules were not meant to be broken.

As it was, he was only slightly surprised when his summoner turned out to be a cute girl.

"Why so down? You are the famous Ikari Shinji, aren't you?"

"Famous?" he asked, bewildered.

"Yeah. The famous third seat cellist who outshone our school's own prodigal star at the recital last week."

Shinji scratched the back of his neck.

"Oh, that was just…"

"Raw talent?" The girl smiled and sat down next to him, scooting her chair close. "I may not know, you know, classical music and stuff, but I can see talent from a mile away."

Shinji blushed at the open compliment.

"It wasn't anything special, really."

"Hmm, modest, too," the girl said, as if checking off a score card.

"Well, I'm, um, glad you enjoyed it," he said.

The girl blushed.

"Actually, I kind of missed the whole recital." She rapped her fist against the side of her head. "But I heard you were really outstanding."

Shinji felt warm and dizzy.

"You're being so nice to me, and I don't even know your name."

The girl grinned.

"I'm Mana. Kirishima Mana."


True Love Waits

Chapter 1


Shinji rushed to the front hall of his modest apartment to keep his visitor from knocking the door down.

"I'll be right there," he called out. He wiped his hands on his apron, unconsciously giving himself a quick check in the mirror by the door. By no means vain, he had developed a subtle sense of aestheticism, though it was not cultivated by his own tastes. He ran a still-soapy hand through his short hair.

Waiting at the door was a suited middle-aged man, balding, with a severe air of authority.

"You Kirishima Mana?" he demanded, thrusting an envelope towards him.

Shinji flustered a bit.

"Ah, no, but I can see she gets it."

"She'd better."

The man gave a final look at Shinji's apron-clad appearance and smirked. He turned smartly and left.

Shinji sighed. Despite his young age, at twenty-one he was resigned to the fact that his interaction with people was limited to awkward confusion and spiteful belittling.

Well, with most people.

There were always exceptions to the rule. His was a girl he'd known for seven years. The girl he loved. His hand slipped into his pocket, toying with the box he found there for the hundredth time that hour. The girl he was going to spend the rest of his life with.

Look at me blush like an idiot, he thought as his face heated up. We already live together, for God's sake.

He closed the door and made his way back to the kitchen. Someone was waiting for him.

"Why are you blushing?"

"Oh, uh, n-no reason."

Mana planted a hand on her hip.

"Even after all these years you're a terrible liar."

"Would you rather I was a great liar?"

"I'd rather you get back to the dishes, Ikari." She crossed her arms, and almost as an afterthought, asked: "Who was at the door?"

"Oh, I don't know. He had a letter for you."

"Really?"

Shinji gave her the envelope. She playfully turned from him, unsealing it. Her mood turned somber.

"I have to go to Tokyo," she said. Mana folded the letter and went to the bedroom.

"What? So sudden?" Shinji trailed after her.

"Sorry, Shinji. Official job stuff."

"Oh." He watched with growing melancholy as she began to pack. The trials of living with a civil servant, I guess. "When will you be back?"

"Don't know," she said, not looking at him. "Maybe a few days, maybe a couple weeks." Mana leaned onto her suitcase until it closed. She made her way to the bathroom.

"I'll miss you," he said shyly.

She stopped and smiled.

"Don't get all mushy on me, Ikari. I'll be back before you know it."

"Will you be back for your birthday?"

She gave him a tired smile.

"Don't know." She proceeded to gather her toiletries. Mana returned to the bedroom to finish packing. Shinji watched her, fidgeting. His hand went to his pocket.

"I love you," he blurted out suddenly.

Mana glanced over her shoulder.

"Love you, too."

She watched him for a moment and gave up. She crept over and gave him a peck on the lips.

"I'll be back before you know it."

Shinji gently encircled her waist.

"You really can't tell me anything, huh?"

"I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." She shot an imaginary bullet from her forefinger. "And I'd hate to do that. I've actually grown quite fond of you."


"Operations over. Mission incomplete."

The field commander's voice crackled over the com link. An anguished sigh worked the cramped JSSDF mobile command room. Captain Katsuragi Misato stood tight-lipped, not allowing herself to show any emotion yet.

"Primary target status?" Misato asked.

There was a slight pause.

"Escaped."

Captain Katsuragi cursed silently.

"Secondary target status?"

"Dispatched."

When no response was forthcoming, the field commander spoke again, explaining.

"She pulled a gun. A small revolver."

Misato bit her lip.

"We, ah, we had to—"

"I'll read the report," she snapped. "How's our agent?"

The answer came quickly.

"Fine. No harm done. She's returning now, captain."

"Secure the area and return to base." Misato turned to Hyuuga Makoto. "Take over for me here."

The lieutenant gave a solemn nod.

"Yes, ma'am."

Misato left the mobile command center, navigating through the sea of soldiers returning to base. She quickly spied a black humvee and waved it over. One of the tinted windows rolled down and a cross-looking man in body armor met Misato's glare.

"We need to debrief her first, captain," he said, cutting her off. "Whatever you have to say, it can wait."

"Do I need to remind you who is in charge here?" Misato frowned. "Let her out."

The man gave a low, guttural sigh.

"Ma'am, command's orders were very clear on this and—"

"I'll take responsibility, so stop trying to cover your own ass."

The back door of the humvee opened and a woman stepped out.

"If you two are through throwing your weight around, I could use a smoke."

"Hey! You can't just—"

Misato leaned across the man and shot the driver a deadly glare.

"Take off."

The driver did.

Misato grinned mentally at how intimidated of her some of the grunts were. She turned and found the woman against a building, fumbling in her pockets for a lighter. A crooked cigarette hung from her lower lip.

"Ritsu, I'm sorry. I—"

Ritsuko shrugged.

"I signed up for this knowing she might die." She leaned against the wall, lighting a cigarette. She took a long drag. "She would have been imprisoned anyways. I'm sorry it happened, but it was her own fault."

Misato fidgeted.

"I'm still sorry."

Ritsuko stared at something Misato couldn't see.

"Look, maybe, maybe you should take a couple days off. Take a break, huh? You've earned it."

"Yeah, maybe," she said absently.

"I mean it."

Ritsuko made no response.

"Don't make me make it an order," Misato said, trying to smile.

The gesture wasn't returned.

"The higher-ups want this Ikari guy put away fast. I can't take off, not now that he's out there," Ritsuko said. She pursed her lips. "God, the things he was doing in that lab…"

"I know," Misato said.

"No, you don't." She blew out a lungful of smoke and crushed the butt under her heel. "You might have read the reports but you didn't see it."


Field report summary 10/21/15

Primary target Ikari Gendo:

Whereabouts unknown

Secondary target Akagi Naoko:

Killed


Ayanami Rei struggled to stay awake for the remaining four minutes of school, watching with detached interest as the clock refused to reach three. She turned her gaze out the window. Cotton-ball clouds crawled over the blue sky, playing hide-and-seek with the sun. Below her the sakuras were still in season, and a gentle breeze shook them free, carpeting the ground with colorful petals.

Another gorgeous day, she thought with mild disgust.

Gradually she became aware of someone gently shaking her arm.

"—just leave her, Hikari. If she wants to space out again, I'm not waiting for her."

"Don't be mean, Asuka. We all agreed to go out today, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah. Just don't whine when all the shops close up." She made a show of checking her watch.

Rei stretched and yawned, deciding it was pointless to try and avoid Asuka's bad side. She looked around at the empty classroom.

"Sorry," she said without meaning it, "I zoned out for awhile."

"What else is new?" Asuka snorted.

Hikari squirmed.

"Come on, guys, keep it civil today, okay?"

"I'm always civil," Rei lobbed at Asuka.

"Don't get all high and mighty just because you're first right now, Ayanami." Asuka crossed her arms. "On the next exam, I will beat you."

"It's always good to have goals in life, Second," Rei said.

"I mean it, First," the redhead threatened.

"Please," Hikari pleaded, "can't we go one day without a fight?"

"I'm not fighting," Asuka said. "You'll know when I'm fighting."

The great Soryu Asuka Langely, daughter of the great Soryu Kyoko Zeppelin didn't settle for second place. Not in anything. Certainly not in school, where, like everything else, she excelled. And certainly not to Ayanami Rei. Besides, who cared if she slipped a little on the last test? It wasn't the end of the world. Not as long as she made it up next time. As long as she beat wondergirl.

She snorted softly. This whole "friendship" thing? Just a convenient façade. Best to keep your enemies close, Asuka reasoned. Even if it was Rei.

"I'll know when you're fighting?" the albino asked. "I guess you weren't fighting on the last test, then."

"Watch it, First."

"Guys!" Hikari nearly shouted.

Asuka flung her book bag over her shoulder.

"Fine, fine. Come on, let's go."

The trio made their way out of the school, Asuka and Rei not bothering to grace anyone with their attention, albeit for completely different reasons. Hikari padded along after them, trying vainly to smooth over any hurt feelings left in their wake.

It was on the streets, as the girls waited at a crosswalk, when a frighteningly familiar blue alpine Renault screeched to a halt at their feet.

"Heya, gals. Want a ride?" Misato tested the horn twice, grinning like a toddler.

"She seems to be in a good mood today," Asuka said.

"You'd think that," Rei said.

"Thank you, Katsuragi-san," Hikari said, bowing slightly, "but we—"

"How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that? It makes me feel old." Please oh please don't think I'm old.

"But you are old," Rei stated.

Misato growled.

"Look, do you want a ride or not?" She gracefully ignored the mounting line of cars behind her.

Rei opened the side door and slid in.

"I don't really feel like walking."

"Glad to be of service, princess."

"But we were all going to go shopping, Rei," Hikari pouted.

Asuka scoffed.

"If wondergirl wants to take a trip in the blue coffin, let her. No skin off my nose."

Misato leaned out of her window.

"Your mama says hi, Asuka-chan," she said. "She told me to tell you to stay out of trouble." She gave her a toothy grin.

Asuka bristled. Hikari swooped in to pacify the situation.

"Um, maybe we'll stop by later, okay?"

"Sure," Rei said without looking at her.

Misato gunned the engine and the Renault was soon out of sight.

"Drunken whore," Asuka spat.


"So… how was school?"

"It was."

Misato frowned at her familiar succinct response.

"Oh, okay. How was that math test? The one you were studying so hard for last week?"

"I passed."

Misato waited for more and was disappointed.

"What did you get?"

"I can't remember."

Misato sighed.

Calm down, it wasn't so long ago you were a teenager.

"How are Hikari and Asuka. Well, I know how Asuka is."

"Fine."

Misato grinned.

"How about guys? Any cuties talk to you today?"

Rei didn't bother to dignify that with a response. They drove in silence for a time.

"Look, ah, work is kind of crazy right now, so I won't be around for dinner, okay?"

"Sure," Rei answered.

"I know I've been out a lot lately, but I promise I'll make it up to you, alright?"

"Sure."

"We could go shopping, or hit a movie, maybe eat out someplace fancy. You know, just the two of us. Like old times. How's that sound?"

"Sure."

Who am I kidding, Misato thought. I'm just avoiding her. She sighed again. I just don't know how to act around her anymore. I mean, sure, she's always been serious, but lately… Maybe it's time to see a therapist or something. God, how would I tell her that? 'Gee, Rei, I know I've looked after you for almost seven years now, but I think you're mentally ill.'?

She swerved around a slow car almost unconsciously.

She could picture Ritsuko's smug face, asking her if she's hit her limit.

'You agreed to take her in after her parents died. Can't back out now, kid.'

Maybe I could get a pet for her, she thought suddenly. Hmmm… dogs are too messy. Cats are too bitchy…

A passing billboard caught her eye.

Maybe a penguin. They had some cute ones at the research facility where I met Rei. Sure, a penguin will make all our problems go away.

"What do you think, Rei?" she asked flatly. "Want a penguin?"

Rei did not answer.


She won't be angry, Shinji told himself. Okay, she probably won't be angry.

Granted, he hardly ever surprised her at work before, and never when she was away on business. Actually, he'd only done it once, and he could still remember how angry she'd been with him. Livid, really. Shinji had honestly thought the bouquet of roses and picnic lunch were romantic ideas, maybe not entirely original, but Mana had not. Shinji wouldn't forget sleeping in the hall for the following week like a disobedient dog. He'd quickly learned that business and pleasure do not mix.

Mana worked as an assistant at a local law firm, one with branches throughout the country. While she talked of it often, after that failed lunch date she had all but forbade him from visiting.

Now that he thought of it, Shinji realized how odd a law firm it was. It all looked very bureaucratic, like a company or a government organization. He did get to meet her boss that one time though. An elderly gentleman, very distinguished looking. Fuyutski, if Shinji recalled correctly.

He gazed out the window of the train and beheld Tokyo under a hazy twilight and was strangely unsettled. It wasn't the cramped buildings or the sheer volume of people that preyed on his mind; it was something almost primal, instinctual, as if here was someplace he should not be.

He frowned, telling himself how silly he was. Of course he belonged here. Well, maybe not belonged, but here was where he was supposed to be. He was sure of that. This was where Mana was. This was where he should be, too.


Shinji put down the phone book. It was the third he'd tried and still he could not find any listing of Mana's law firm. There weren't any Fuyutskis who were lawyers listed either. He was beginning to get discouraged.

Tomorrow would be Mana's birthday and if he couldn't find her in time his plan would be ruined. Granted,this wasn't the place he wanted to propose to her, but it would have to do. He began to sweat, even as he told himself she'd accept.

I mean, we already live together. We're practically… He blushed as he thought of it.… married.

He shook his head, trying to keep his color down. It didn't work. His fingers touched the engagement ring box through his pants, and his imagination swam in fantasies of flower arrangements and bridal dresses. He thought how beautiful Mana would look wearing a flowing white gown.

Well, maybe not totally white.

His cell phone rang, dispersing his daydream.

"Hello?"

"Shinji, where are you?"

It was Mana. Shinji panicked a little.

"Um, out. Why?"

"I called the apartment and you weren't there. Where are you?"

"Just… out shopping." He paused. "How are you?"

"Fine," came her instant response. "You're not doing anything… stupid, are you?"

"No, I don't think so." He waited for her to speak again. "Um, are you okay? Is everything alright?"

"Fine, just… just stay on the line a sec, okay? Don't move."

Shinji sighed and glanced at his watch. He'd been on hold for a good five minutes now. Just as he was about to hang up and redial, a black van pulled up beside him. The side door slid open and two large men came out.

"Are you Ikari Shinji?" the larger man asked, flashing some sort of badge.

"Um, yes?"

"Please come with us."

Shinji backed up a step.

"Who are you?"

The men advanced slowly, from either side. Shinji noticed the man not speaking to him was scanning the streets.

"Friends. We're here to take you to your father."

Shinji froze.

"My what?"

"Your father, Ikari Gendo." The man paused. "You want to see your father, don't you?"

"But… Mana—" he started lamely.

The man laughed at him.

"Oh, sorry. That's right; you wouldn't know. Your father knows all about Mana." He stepped closer to Shinji. "Come along now. Your father is waiting."


Ritsuko stood beside Misato in the mobile command center, chewing on her lip in place of a cigarette. She cracked her knuckles.

"I thought I told you to take a few days off," Misato said gently.

"Not until he's put away."

Misato didn't bother for clarification. There would be no speedy trials for Ikari Gendo. He'd be locked up and the key would be thrown away.

"I never knew Ikari had a son," Misato said, idly flipping through a file. "Ikari Shinji, age twenty-one, employed as a software designer for Ichiban Industries."

"He was a closely guarded secret," Ritsuko explained. "I didn't even know about him until I went undercover."

"But shouldn't we have known about him?"

Ritsuko shrugged.

"He's been under heavy surveillance since he was a teenager. I think Section-2 was handling it."

"Those incompetent buffoons?"

Ritsuko smiled in agreement.

"Well, thanks to those incompetent buffoons we have another chance at his old man. The agents lost track of him as he entered the city, but eyewitnesses report seeing a young man fitting Shinji's description being dragged into a van by two men." She pried the file away from Misato. "They tracked his cell phone for about a half mile before it was deactivated."

Misato leaned against Hyuuga's chair. He pretended not to notice.

"But why would Ikari go after his son now? Was it just convenience?"

Ritsuko flipped a few pages.

"Unlikely. It seems a couple guys tried to break into his apartment. They're been interrogated already." She paused. "They've been… surprisingly cooperative."

Misato frowned.

"I don't need to remind you that even in this day and age the Geneva Conventions still apply, do I?"

"Those rules are only for prisoners of war."

"Captain," Aoba Shigeru announced, "reports are coming in now. Patching audio through."

"Operations over. Mission complete."


Shinji awoke in bed. The last memory he held was seeing a tall bearded man with tinted glasses calling him by name, and then…

He became aware of pain throughout his lower back and behind his head. It felt like they'd swelled to four times their normal size. He reached down and discovered his waist wrapped in gauze. A touch behind his head revealed the same.

He groaned.

He was about the close his eyes again when he realized he wasn't alone. Eyes adjusting to the harsh light, Shinji made out a woman he'd never seen before, with long lavender hair dressed in a military uniform. Next to her stood an elderly man he knew.

"Fuyutski-san? What are you doing here?"

The old man smiled.

"I'm surprised you remember me. Please, call me Kozou, Shinji-kun."

He tried to sit up and found he could not.

"Am I dreaming?" he moaned.

"Quite the contrary. You are very much awake. Be thankful that you are."

"Fuyutski-san," Shinji addressed the old man. He didn't bother to correct him. "Where am I?"

"In a military hospital in Tokyo."

"Why am I in a military hospital in Tokyo?"

Fuyutski hesitated.

"What do you remember?" he asked instead.

"I remember…" His memories became muddled, hazy. Something was wrong here; he just couldn't figure it out. "I can't remember what happened."

"That's to be expected," Fuyutski said, nodding. "You were kidnapped."

"My father," Shinji said. "They told me I could see him. Where is he?"

Fuyutski stood gaping a moment, then sighed.

"Shinji-kun," Fuyutski began, but abruptly stopped and sighed again. "I'm sorry, Shinji-kun. Your father is dead."

The two men stared at one another.

"No," Shinji stated. "My mother died. A long time ago. My father is still alive, somewhere. He left me to my uncle." The pain was getting to him. "My father is alive."

He tried to sit up again and failed.

"What's wrong with me?" he all but shouted.

The woman started towards him, but Fuyutski stopped her.

"Calm down, Shinji-kun."

"No! What the hell's going on?"

Fuyutski frowned.

"An… amount of spinal fluid was drained from you, rather sloppily I might add. You won't be able to move for awhile." Seeing Shinji's ashen face, he continued quickly. "But you will recover, as long as you rest up. Don't worry."

Shinji's mouth worked for a few minutes, but no sound came out.

"Why…?" he finally managed.

Fuyutski glanced to the woman and coughed.

"We're not really sure why," he lied. "We're investigating the matter now."

Shinji's eyes darted around the room. He began to pant.

"What's going on? Those men, th-those men said I could see my father again. My father isn't… he isn't dead."

"Those men kidnapped you," the woman said. "They worked for your father."

"What?"

Fuyutski turned on the woman, looking as if he was going to strike her. He muttered something Shinji couldn't hear and turned back to him.

"Your father was involved in some serious crimes against humanity, Shinji-kun."

The casual and continual use of his first name began to irritate him.

"He hired men to find you," the old man went on.

"Those men… Mana…" He shook his head.

Fuyutski twitched.

"But my father, he isn't dead," Shinji spoke. "You're mistaken. I saw him. He called me by my name."

"Ikari Gendo is dead," Fuyutski said. "I'm sorry, but he died when we were saving you."

"That isn't true."

He looked to the woman, hoping to find an ally.

"I'm sorry," she said, "it is true."

Shinji's face crumpled and tears threatened to spill out.

"It's okay, Shinji-kun," Fuyutski said.

Shinji cried, too weak to even cover his face. He cried, and they let him cry. At length he remembered he was a man, and made an effort to calm down.

"You're not a lawyer, are you?" he asked.

The old man straightened slowly.

"No. I'm a commander with the government. In the JSSDF."

Shinji struggled to comprehend.

"The military?"

He looked at the woman. She stared at him, mouth open a little.

"Yes," Fuyutski said. He closed his eyes. "And there's something else you should know."

The old man spoke and Shinji heard, but he did not want to hear. His weary mind assaulted by so much in so short a time at last exacted a toll and the light vanished from his sight. As consciousness faded, Shinji remembered seeing the lavender haired woman looking at him with eyes full of pity.


Mana inhaled deeply, preparing to enter the hospital room. She knocked twice, and went in. She found Shinji staring at the ceiling. His eyes were bloodshot.

Despite herself, Mana smiled.

"Kind of like old times, huh? Staring at the ceiling, I mean."

"I had a nightmare," Shinji said. His voice was low, soft. "I dreamt that all these different people were saying terrible things about you, Mana." He almost smiled. "It all seemed so real."

He looked at her, his lips quivering.

"But it isn't, is it? It's not true, right?" His hands balled into fists. "It's just some joke. You're mad at me again for seeing you at work, right? Mana?"

She looked away and stayed silent for a time.

"I'm sorry," she said finally.

"Sorry," he said, as if hearing the word for the first time. "Sorry." He gave a short, strangled sob. "You're sorry for what?"

Mana bit her lip.

"Don't make me say it," she whispered.

"You're sorry for pretending to like me? For spying on me?"

She watched tears fall down his face.

"I hope I made a good report," he said. "I hope everyone had a good laugh watching my life."

"It wasn't like that," she said automatically. "I swear it wasn't."

Tears crawled out of his eyes.

"God, Mana, God." He struggled to sit up.

"Don't—"

"Shut up."

Mana stepped back like she'd been hit. She stood awaiting the next blow.

It took Shinji over five minutes to sit up. He braced himself against the bars on either side of the bed, panting and crying.

"Did you ever even care at all about me?" he cried, tears streaming down his face now. He rubbed them away roughly. "Damn it."

"Of course I did, I just…"

"It was all a job for you! Playing like you liked me, that you loved me!" His voice and demeanor suddenly became pleading. "How could you? How could you do this? You've lied to me for seven years, Mana. I wasted seven years with you."

"Don't say that. Shinji, God, I… I can't—" She wrung her hands in the air. "I am sorry." She slowly walked to the edge of his bed, touching the sheets. "I'm sorry, okay? I can't… I can't go back and change anything. I can't. But don't say you wasted our time together. I do love you, you know I do. I don't care about some job, I care about you."

"But you kept reporting!" Shinji yelled. "You kept telling them everything." He tried to look angry, threatening. "Did you tell them all the times I cried? Every time I was beaten up? All the clumsy passes I made at you? You should've just told me you'd sleep with me. It would have saved us a lot of time!"

"Shinji…!"

"How about how nervous I was in bed those first couple times? Huh? You and your friends have a laugh over how pathetic I am?"

"I love you, Shinji! I—" She stopped, and crawled beside him, groveling. "What can I do? What can I do to make it right?"

"There isn't anything you can do, Mana!

"Please," she begged, "tell me!"

"You can give back the last seven years of my life. You can take it away from those military bastards who watched my every move. I don't care what my father did. I don't even know what he did! God…" He bowed his head. "It isn't fair!"

Mana reached out for him. He swatted her away.

"Don't touch me!"

"Shinji…"

"To think I was going to marry you."

"What?" she gasped.

"Forget it. Forget it." He squeezed his eyes shut. "I never want to see you again."

Mana did not move.

"Didn't you hear me? Get out! I never want to see you again!" He gritted his teeth. "Get out!" he screamed into his lap.

He looked up at her as she started crying.

"No! You don't get to cry, Mana! You do not get to cry!"

Through tear-filled eyes she saw him. He was furious. It was the first time she'd seen him angry, truly angry. He'd always been so careful to hide any displeasure, to keep her happy and content. He had never raised his voice at her, never mocked her, even in jest. And now…

He hates me. I made him hate me.

By instinct, she thought of a million intimate jokes the two of them shared, private, sacred moments that would weaken his resolve. But in the end she could not call upon any of them. He was already so far away. She did not leave, but sat on the cold floor and wept.

Behind the one-way mirror looking in on Shinji's room, Misato stood alone, frowning, and deep in thought.


End of Chapter 1

Author notes: Phew. First fic, so please review it harshly. No pre-reader, as if you couldn't tell. Hopefully this is part one of a longer story, though I don't really know where I'm headed with it. The mystery of what Gendo was doing (I think it's obvious) will be revealed in the next chapter, maybe in number 3. Who knows, right? Also, I apologize in advance to all the Mana/ Shinji fans, but no, they will not be reconciled in this. Mana will pretty much be phased out after this chapter. Oh, and those of you with good taste in music will recognize the story's title; it's from a real pretty Radiohead song by the same name. Which I don't own, either.

I'll be the first to admit this is a little rough. I blame the fact that a lot happened in this chapter. The next one won't be so packed. Sorry.

Had a little trouble with the formatting. Please bear with me on this. Thanks.

Big thanks to E S Posthumus' Unearthed and the Gitaroo-Man soundtrack. You help me write good.