True Love Waits chapter 15
Disclaimer: thank you all for reading, putting up with me, and dropping a line now and then. And thank heavens I don't own Evangelion or Radiohead.
Breath. Drawing life into the body. Filling the fragile form to the apex of humanity, refresh and revive. Restoration. Cycle. Life to loss, inhale to exhale. Use and release. Death and rebirth.
Misato awoke. She immediately regretted it. Her mouth was full of acrid copper, her lips were dried together, her eyes were twin deserts on her aching face. The pain wasn't doing anything for her either. Like someone had taken an ice cream scoop to her side and legs, digging out a couple pounds of flesh. She could almost feel the deep gaps in her skin, imagining all sorts of ugly things.
She gave a monumental effort and turned her head, letting the side of her face sink into the pillow. She wasn't going anywhere for awhile. She frowned in revulsion. Her hair was in her mouth. It tasted like smoke and fire.
What the hell had happened? She was obviously injured, but… God, what happened? Eyes finally adjusting to the darkness, Misato found someone sleeping in a chair outside her room, beyond an observation window. She shifted in her bed, trying to see who it was.
Bed. She was in a bed. Not her futon, not Shinji's tiny double. That was a little disconcerting. She calmed down when she realized it was Rei sleeping near her. No mistaking that blue mop top.
Misato smiled, even as her lips cracked. She knew she shouldn't be surprised to find Rei here, but it still made her feel good. Like a parent. That in itself was odd. Lying, apparently paralyzed in a strange bed, giving herself a pat on the back as her charge sat in a chair dead to the world.
However, it begged the question: if Rei was here, where was Shinji?
He was out in the hall, staring open-mouthed at the woman who had months ago shattered his heart. Even as the deceit and humiliation rushed back to him, he could not summon any of the anger he had felt so strongly back then. He just felt a subtle, nagging tug on his abused heart. Like poking a developing scab.
"You remember me. I'm glad." She smiled. She was glowing in the moonlight, her curves radiating beauty. "Hello, Ikari Shinji."
Her smile widened.
"Can we move beyond names? If you don't mind?"
He nodded faintly, and grabbed hold of the rail on the wall. His feet seemed to be rather light at the moment.
"Is she alright?" she asked him.
"Yeah… yeah. The doctors said she'll be okay, uh, in time. What… what are you doing here?"
"I was involved in the operation today," she said, turning to the window. She looked impossibly soft and fragile. "I stuck around when I heard she got hurt. I wanted to know she was going to be okay. Since you love each other."
Shinji felt ashamed, and was angry for it.
"… what happened, Mana? How did she get so injured?"
"You really love her, don't you?" Her eyes softened. "I'm sorry. I can't tell you. I don't know if she'll be able to tell you, either. I know that's not what you wanted to hear, but it's all I can tell you."
"Thanks anyway…" He glanced at her, still gazing out the window. He tried to say more to her, but words failed him. He couldn't think of anything else to tell her. He found he didn't want to tell her anything else.
"I'm sorry, Shinji," she said, at length. "About everything. You left before I could apologize."
Courtesy he did not know he possessed commanded his tongue.
"… I'm sorry, too. I was just so… angry. I felt like I'd do something I might regret."
"It hurt," she admitted, still smiling. "You hurt me too, you know. I know it's poor of me to say this to you, but you broke my heart too, Shinji. I truly loved you, more than any job, more than anyone on earth. I forgot… somewhere along the way, about the reasons they had me approach you, about all the lofty ideals of the military. It stopped mattering to me why I was with you. It only mattered that I was with you."
Shinji shifted in discomfort.
"It's… it's too late for stuff like that, Mana. You know that."
"Yeah," she said, very softly. "I do." She looked at him, just like he had looked at her so many times, letting her eyes communicate all the love, all the adoration he held for her, a look she had never cherished as much as she should have. Mana slid her hand next to his on the rail. "Would you do me one last favor? I will never ask anything of you ever again, Shinji. I swear on my life."
He shut his eyes. What did he owe her, anyways? If anything, she owed him. He sighed, unwittingly letting her scent into him. She still smelled the same, he marveled. But he wasn't aroused, not like he used to be, like he should be. Her face, her body flashed in his mind, but only for an instant. They dissolved, pushed back into the murky depths of his consciousness, allowing another to replace it. The woman he would die loving.
"Just one more favor," she whispered.
Then he felt her lips against his.
True Love Waits
This was not how Shinji imagined the day would end. Not only had he received the worst scare of his young life today, but he might have violated Rei, and to top it off, his ex had shown up out of the blue, forcing him to recall all sorts of recently forgotten emotions. And now?
Now she was pressed against him, her hands tenderly caressing his chest, her lips and tongue trying to find the right combination of spit and pressure that would spring his mouth open. All within shouting distance of his injured girlfriend.
No, this was not right at all.
He grabbed her shoulders and pushed hard. Mana simply bounced back into him. He'd forgotten how strong she was. With a quick pivot of her hips she pinned him against the window, scraping her pelvis along his. She trapped his left leg between hers, making it do very friendly things to her. He was helpless; the small of his back was grinding against the rail, liquid pain swimming up his spine. All he could do was moan in agony into her mouth. Ineffectual, as she was moaning, too.
Finally, finally, she eased up on him, letting her finger tips trail down his front. Her lips broke from his, denied access, and she gazed into his eyes, the magnificently deep blue she had almost forgotten.
He pried her away from him, shaking his head in confusion.
She smiled, but it was one of complete sadness, like the last look you give to the dearly departed. It almost made him forget the kiss.
"I just… wanted to feel you… one last time…" Mana held his gaze with no visible effort. "I will always love you, Ikari Shinji."
She stumbled backwards, not willing to let his form escape her vision. Her eyes blinked, many times, then descended to the floor, watching her feet carry her away, far away.
Shinji gazed after her, holding his head, wiping his mouth. He shuddered, and fell to his knees. He stayed there, in the hall, in the dark, alone, until Rei silently found him, and told him Misato had woken up. He nodded to her, and forced a smile.
They walked to Misato's room. They saw her grin weakly beyond the observation window.
"Welcome back," Shinji whispered, greeting the woman he loved back to the world of the waking.
A week passed before Misato was moved to a normal room, one fitted to allow visitors. She was still confined to a bed, much to her dismay, but far fewer machines littered her bedside. Though the IV continued to make Shinji slightly dizzy.
He and Rei made a second home out of Misato's room, spending every second they could steal from the rest of the world with her. The hours they were allowed to visit were extended, by special order of commander Fuyutsuki. Shinji made sure to remember to thank him if he ever saw the old man again, right after he punched him in the face.
He, like most days now, was sitting beside Rei in Misato's room, facing her slumbering form. Though there was literally nothing to do but stare at the woman, both were accustomed to long expanses of doing little, and indeed they appreciated silence and solitude. For Rei, it was time to be alone with her thoughts or a good book. For Shinji, it was simple reinforcement of the innate belief no one would ever enjoy his company.
But being with a woman like Misato for so long, his inner voice had been muzzled to a degree, and he discovered himself desiring some sort of socialization. Not a great deal, but enough to disrupt the quiet of the hospital that was slowly driving him mad. He turned to Rei.
"So," Shinji began, "how are you?"
"I cannot complain," the pale girl replied, not looking up from her book.
"Sure you can. I'm all ears." He sat forward. "Lord knows if anyone needs a sympathetic ear it's you."
"What exactly are you implying?"
"Uh, nothing. I mean n-nothing. Just that, ah, you know… you seem to have had your share of bad luck. Especially lately."
"I believe Misato's luck has been worse than mine as of late," Rei stated. She glanced at the man beside her. "I would wager yours has not been exceedingly good either."
"Am I mistaken?"
Shinji shrugged in a defeated manner.
"Just making conversation."
Rei understood, but did not fully comprehend, adults' need for idle talk. She did not hold it against Shinji, but merely added it to the list of peculiarities grownups possessed.
She gave him another sidelong glance and saw his face, a look of restrained desperation. She supposed he must still be on edge after the accident. She shared his unease too, but to a far lesser degree. Not knowing how her guardian was so grievously injured was weighing heavily, even on her mind. She had trouble imagining how Shinji was taking it.
"My performance at school has been diminished since… this happened," Rei relented. She knew he was looking at her again, but she kept her eyes on her book. "It has been difficult to concentrate."
"I imagine," Shinji said softly. He waited, hoped, for more. "Um… it's hard at work too. Not, ah, I mean not that you have it easy, just…"
"Thanks," he mumbled. "Hey, ah, how are your friends doing?"
You mean the Ikari fan club?
"Well… they're obviously important to you. Right? They're your friends."
Rei finally tucked her book away. She sighed gently.
"I suppose," she replied. She began to regret initiating this conversation. "Our… interests do not seem to coincide with one another as often lately."
"It would be boring if everyone had the same interests." Shinji smiled. "I mean, it's great to find someone who thinks like you, but variety is the spice of life. Plus, I'd hate to be stuck alone with someone exactly like me."
"We're getting off topic. How are your friends?"
You are so sure you want to know?
"Very little has changed," Rei said. For the better. "Actually, they speak of you quite often."
"Why?" Shinji laughed.
Yes, very little had changed.
"Both the quality and quantity of men in their lives leaves much to be desired. For them."
"Don't be ridiculous," he said nervously. "That's just creepy."
"I am never ridiculous."
The urge to draw her book out, to end this, was staggering. If this mindless blather was what adulthood promised her, Rei would happily wave her right to old age now.
"S-sorry," Shinji said, right on cue.
Damn her compassionate heart.
"Horaki's role as class representative appears to be a strain for her nowadays," Rei offered. "She never used to be this easily distracted." She threw a meaningful look at Shinji, which he completely missed.
"That's a shame," he said.
"Soryu too, is not herself. She is generally unpleasant to be near. More so."
Shinji grinned, entirely lost within a discussion of teenage girls.
"How about you?" he asked. "You never did answer me. Honestly, how are you doing?"
"I will be fine," Rei said carefully. She wanted him off her trail. "My life has taught me to be what some call indifferent. I will be fine."
"Tough maybe. I wouldn't say indifferent."
Rei gave him a noncommittal hum.
"Perhaps I should be asking how you are, Ikari-san."
Shinji laughed through his nose.
"I'm kind of longing for my cello. It helps me unwind. Other than that…" He stopped suddenly and chuckled. "You know, you never did play for me. That hardly seems fair."
He remembered that?
Rei blinked in quiet astonishment. She didn't know why she was surprised. Shinji tended to remember all sorts of strange things. He would continually surprise Misato with little gifts celebrating obscure anniversaries, and had the uncanny ability to recall his lover's favorite colors, meals, films and other such nonsense. And he did it all with a small, private smile on his face. Not quite like it was expected of him, but rather that he expected it of himself.
He was definitely an odd one. He did so many things for Misato, for her as well, and he did it without any expectation of reward. Rei wasn't particularly well acquainted with charity, but it was something no one bothered to show her. The cardinal law of the world was equal exchange; no one did something for nothing. But unless Shinji was receiving a payment under the table, he was breaking the rules. Blatantly.
Was that why Misato liked… loved him so much? Why she continued to battle the odds to keep what they shared? She had never been so serious regarding males before. If and when a problem arose she used it to end the relationship, and move on to the next one. It was a natural evolution from man to man.
It allowed Rei to keep her distance, to stay aloof. It gave her an out from making friends or getting attached to anyone Misato brought home. It was safe, and comfortable, and static. It was something she missed only in her weaker moments.
For the first time in so long she felt she was approaching what others called happiness. It was hard, time consuming and emotionally draining, but she did not mind. Looking back from a safe distance she did not mind her new life, or where it seemed to be headed. She was becoming familiar with feeling light, hopeful, and she liked it.
She liked him. She truly and genuinely liked him.
"I will try to make good on our arrangement," she said.
Shinji smiled back.
"I'll look forward to it."
This was what she liked. The small moments encased between blocks of awkward stumbling. If this was the payoff, it was all worth it.
Rei continued to smile as she took her book out.
"Definitely jealous," Misato croaked out.
"Misato!" Shinji was by her side in a flash. "How are you feeling today?"
"Lousy," she said. She gave a tired smile from the confines of her pillow. "I've definitely been better."
"The doctors said you'll be out of here soon."
"Great. No more drugs. Can't wait." Misato sighed. "Hey, Shin-chan? Could you get me some more of that divine gelatin they've been serving me? Cherry, please."
"Oh, uh, sure. Of course." Shinji rose from her bedside and left the room. The two remaining sat in silence for a moment.
"How are you doing, kiddo?" the woman finally asked.
"Must I have this discussion again?" The pale girl huffed a little, embarrassed.
"Sorry. You just looked so cute with Shinji." Misato grinned. "It's nice to know if anything ever happens to me you'll take care of him."
Rei cursed the heat in her cheeks.
"Do not be absurd."
"Oh, no. I'm serious. Poor little Shinji can't live alone. And without anyone else you'd wind up in a cave or something. I'm just saying it's good to know you'll take care of each other."
The pale girl grumbled something. The woman laughed gently.
"Don't worry," Misato said. "I'm not going anywhere."
Rei looked away in discomfort. Her mind refused to refocus on her book. She finally shut her eyes and savored the moment.
Misato hobbled into her apartment on crutches, sorry she hadn't taken Shinji up on the wheelchair offer. It was late when they arrived home, well past dinner. That was fine; Misato had insisted on eating out, desiring something hot and full of carbs, and not originating from the cruel joke the hospital called a cafeteria. Rei and Shinji readily agreed to her demands, hoping to ease her in any way possible. But the car ride had, despite his best efforts, only added to her misery. The few lessons Misato had given Shinji routinely ended as soon as they reached some deserted park, where she'd all but throw him into the backseat for a cramped, but mutually agreeable session. As it was, he drove well under the speed limit, and Misato yelled at him the whole way back for it.
It was not his fault the prescription painkillers were woefully weak.
"Finally here," she moaned, throwing a dirty look at Shinji. "Ugh, no calls, Rei. I need some sleep." She made it to her room, not accepting any help, and unceremoniously collapsed onto her futon. "Shinji," she whined. "Get over here and get my shoes off."
"Yes, Misato-san," he called back. He turned to Rei. "Is she always like this when she's hurt?"
The albino nodded gravely, memories of her appendectomy making her shiver.
"I am glad you are here to tend to her." She retired to her room. "Goodnight, Ikari-san."
"Goodnight, Ayanami," he said with a sigh.
"Shinji, where are you?"
"Coming." He locked up, flipping the lights off as he walked to the bedroom. He shut the door behind him, smiling at her. It was wasted. She was face down on the futon, wiggling her feet in an ineffective attempt to get her boots off. "Don't worry, I'm right here." Shinji gently freed her feet. "Do you want anything else before we go to bed?"
She looked at him over her shoulder.
"Oh, no. You think you're staying over tonight?"
"What? It's past eleven. I'm tired. I'm not going home now."
"Eleven, huh?" Misato frowned. "And whose fault is it we're home so late? Get your shoes back on, buddy."
"Misato-san, I'm not leaving you alone tonight. My mind is made up." Shinji stepped over her, prying her jacket off.
"Stop it. I'm not in the mood." Her arms flailed at him. "I feel like shit."
"You'll be uncomfortable if you sleep in your clothes. Come on now, turn over."
Misato groaned as loud as she could, and moved on her good side, away from Shinji.
"Don't be so difficult." He untucked her shirt and slipped her skirt down. "I'm trying to help, you know. Would you rather I wake Rei and have her look after you?"
"No," she pouted. "I want to be alone."
"The doctors said you shouldn't be alone, not for awhile."
"Screw the doctors. They don't know how I feel."
Shinji sighed, giving up on her shirt. He sat beside her on the futon, feeling lightheaded as he looked at her bandaged thighs.
"Do they still hurt?" he asked.
"Of course they hurt, stupid! I had burning shrapnel inside me for like, hours. That doesn't exactly feel good." Misato huffed. "You're one remark away from a kick in the ass, mister."
"I don't think you could kick me."
"Shut up!" She hugged herself, and threw her shoe at the light. Remarkably, it turned off. "I'm tired and I want to sleep. And don't get any weird ideas just because I'm hurt. I still have my gun."
"I won't." Shinji lay down behind her, watching her body rise and fall in the darkness. She was still grumbling under her breath, something about stupid Shinji is a sex fiend. He sighed. "Misato-san…"
"I know… we can't do anything, but… can I hold you? Can I still hold you?"
She was silent for a long time, and he thought she might have drifted asleep. Finally she eased onto her back. She didn't face him.
"Fine. Just… be careful, alright?"
He shimmied next to her, letting his stomach contact her side, taking care to make his legs avoid her injured ones. One hand cradled her head. The other searched for an unobtrusive place to land on her torso. He wracked his brain for the exact location of her abdominal injury.
"Just… here." Misato forced his hand down between her breasts. "But remember, no funny business."
"I know." He gazed at her, fighting the urge to kiss her, to wrap her in his arms and tell her how much he loved her. The fear had subsided a little, letting him think rationally again. But every time he realized she almost died, that she was nearly taken from him, he felt a lump in his throat, and his lips wavered. "I love you."
"Love you too," she answered, absently.
"I was so scared," Shinji said.
"It wasn't a walk in the park for me, either."
"I know, but… God, I don't know what I would've done—"
"Forget it," she said, not liking the tremor in his voice. "I'm alright. I've had worse."
"When?" he asked, incredulous.
"Well… did Rei ever tell you about the time I had my appendix out? That was pretty touch and go for awhile. Even I was scared."
Shinji laughed, despite the tears in his eyes.
"I love you," he told her. His brow furrowed. Even saying that with as much passion as he could muster didn't seem enough. Nothing he could do, even showing her physically, didn't fulfill his heart. The hand on her chest rose to her chin, and he gently turned her to face him. "I love you."
Misato opened her mouth a sliver, the hair falling over her eyes. He brushed it away, reverently, like he was worshipping her. His fingers caressed her cheek, entranced with the way she felt. They stayed like that for some time, staring into each other, his words floating between them.
"Alright," she said. "Just a little kissing. But that's it."
He smiled, and moved closer. His lips brushed her forehead. Misato could only stare at his neck. The anger, the frustration at having to be cared for like a child, suddenly vanished. It dissolved for his kiss. Everything, it all faded, slowly, gently, surely, it all seeped out of her, and she shut her eyes, falling asleep, the sensation of his lips on her brow sending her deep within a peaceful, serene slumber.
It was the first day she was on her own. Rei was at school, Shinji was doing whatever it was he did at the job he couldn't get fired from, and Misato was reclining on her couch, trying to relax in spite of the hospital's temporary ban on alcohol. Shinji's tea just wasn't cutting it.
It was one fifteen, exactly, when her doorbell rang. She knew the time because her favorite game show she never got to see because of work just reached its mid point. Something about shoddily constructed automobiles given to over enthusiastic morons appealed to her.
Misato hobbled to the front door. Too exhausted by the trip, she didn't bother to ask who it was, or check the peephole. She opened the door with a curse.
"Pleased to see you too, sunshine," Ritsuko said on the threshold.
"Another doctor," Misato grumbled. "Terrific."
She led the blonde inside, and deposited herself back on the couch. Injury prevented any nicety that called on making the guest more comfortable. Misato was having a hell of a time with just herself.
"How are you?" Ritsuko asked. "Really."
"I'll live. It'll take more than a crazed military unit under orders from a dead psycho to kill me."
"Glad to hear it. Honestly, I am."
Misato glanced away, letting her fingers dance on the fabric of the couch.
"How many did we lose, total?" the captain asked, tight lipped.
"Thirteen," Ritsuko said with a sigh.
"Yeah. Most were in the first wave that hit the lab." The blonde hesitated. "Kirishima was there."
"She has amazing follow through." Misato snorted. "I knew she was there. But I have no clue why she wanted to become a field officer. She wasn't trained for these kinds of operations."
"I heard she wanted a fresh start," Ritsuko said. "Of course, a fresh start within the military is never a fresh start." She paused again. "She's still alive."
"Did you come over here just to ruin my day? Thanks. I appreciate it." The lavender haired woman waved her away. "I was already debriefed in the hospital between visiting hours. I'd rather not recall our failure again, thank you."
"So you know the lab was lost," the doctor said, mostly to herself. She shook her head. "It seems there are several dozen labs like that one scattered throughout the country, all at varying levels of readiness. We found two more while you were out."
"Did you get anything?"
"Nothing concrete." Ritsuko stopped to clear her throat. "We did unearth a few codes from the labs we took. Programming bypasses. We used them to uncover some hidden texts within the MAGI. Certain files were so heavily encrypted it would have taken months to figure them out. I'll spare you the techno babble."
"We found some texts," Ritsuko repeated. "They're at least several centuries old." The doctor clenched her jaw shut.
"… well, what did these old books say?"
"Sorry," Ritsuko deadpanned, "but my ancient Hebrew is a little rusty. The texts were written in a dead dialect, and we had a hell of a time translating even small portions. We've been forced to cooperate with European and American databases for help. Needless to say, the commander is up in arms."
The doctor hesitated.
"What we translated is metaphorical, but certain terms and dates are relevant to modern day occurrences. It speaks in great detail of… the end of man's world."
"Wait. Wait. You're… you're telling me the end of the world… is predestined? That some old guys a few thousand years ago prophesized the apocalypse… and it's some time this year?"
"Not the apocalypse… the closest translation we got was 'rebirth.' It could mean any number of things. But based on what we saw in the labs we aren't taking any chances.
"The JSSDF had frozen nearly every account in the nation, and international flights are being screened or halted. If… I'm… sorry, but you're too far up on the totem pole to leave the country at this point. Your clearance is still below mine, and you'll be off active duty for some time, but…"
"I know too much," Misato stated. She pursed her lips.
"To be blunt, yes. You do." The doctor sighed and ran a heavy hand over her eyes. "Ikari too, he's—"
"He doesn't have anything to do with his father," she snapped.
"I suppose you'd know," Ritsuko said. She sighed again. "Why do you think the JSSDF has been watching him for so long? Why we still watch him? He's a security risk. His name alone is a threat. We can't take any chances, not now."
"This is insane," Misato hissed.
"I'm not debating that."
"You honestly think this… thing is so dangerous that we should leave the country? Are Ikari's men planning some kind of strike on the capital?"
"… I'm not sure."
Misato knew enough not to badger her with questions, and that this visit was not meant solely to give her a heart attack. It was obvious Ritsuko knew more, but she could not disclose anything else. Though she was worried enough to warn her friend.
"What about Rei?" Misato asked quietly.
"It'll take me a few days, but I think I could get her out. Maybe to an embassy. I'm not sure where your father is right now, either. If I knew—"
"I don't want her with that man." The captain shook her head. "Sorry. Just… not with him, okay?"
More aware of conflicts with parents than she let on, Ritsuko nodded. She stood to leave.
"I'll see what I can do, alright? In the meantime… I don't even know if telling you this was such a good idea. But for awhile now I don't think I've been as good a friend as I should have been. The friend you deserve. I've kept so many things from you and even now I—"
"Have a job to do," Misato finished. She bit her thumbnail. "Sometimes the truth is too painful to tell. Sometimes it's best not to know."
Ritsuko looked utterly haunted.
"Ritsuko… thank you." The major struggled to her feet. "Just… for me… make sure you do your job, okay?"
Misato showed her oldest friend out. She waited by the door, resting her forehead against it. She spent another second postponing her decision, then grabbed her keys and left.
"Oh, hi, Misato-san. Is everything okay?"
"No. I'm… I'm almost outside your building. Please… please meet me, okay? Let me take you home."
"What's wrong? Are you hurt?"
"Shinji… please… just… take the day off, okay?"
"Um, okay, I guess. I should talk to my manager—"
"Forget your job… I need to see you now."
That was how it began for him. He left, mumbling an excuse to his neighbors, hoping they'd cover for him. Misato met him in her car, not bothering to get out. Her eyes were focused straight ahead, her hands strangled the wheel. She didn't even look at him as he entered.
"Misato-san… what's wrong? You look…" Awful. "… tired."
She gunned the engine.
The trip home was fast and silent. The trip up the elevator was much the same. Shinji's feeble attempts at explanation went unheeded. Misato was deep within herself. Her hand shook as she opened the door. She swept in, forgetting her shoes, stripping off her jacket.
"Misato-san, please, talk to me. What's going on?"
She turned on him, searching his confused face. She lunged at him, kissing him hard. He fumbled with the door, finally opting to kick it closed. Her touch and attitude made clear what she wanted from him. She led him to her room with her eyes, peeling off their clothing as they went. Shinji knew better than to argue with her at times like this, but he couldn't help himself.
"Mi-Misato-san, wait. Stop." He held her arms. "You dragged me out of work just for sex? I know we haven't in awhile, but…" He shook his head. "We… well, okay I probably won't get fired, but come on. Please, tell me, what's going on? You're scaring me."
She shook, and all but threw him on the futon. He landed with a grunt, while Misato let her skirt fall to her feet. Soon, all she was wearing were bandages.
"But… the doctors said we shouldn't…"
"I don't care," she said. Her voice was clear, strong. "I don't care… even if it hurts… I need to be with you." She climbed on top of him. "I love you, Shinji." Her kisses were rough, and she tore his shirt open. Buttons flew. He halted her, with great effort, demanding an explanation. "Please," she begged. She'd never begged before. It made him feel… uncomfortable. "Please. Let me have this."
Shinji sighed, and swallowed his refusal. He kissed her.
"Alright." She pushed him down, but he deftly moved to the side, and let her lay on her back. "Don't push yourself," he whispered. He read her need for swiftness, and abandoned his normally slow ministrations. His line of kisses sheepishly trailed down her body, his hands gently prying her legs apart. He had clocked quite a few hours down there, and she adored him for it, but today it was not to be.
"I'm ready," she said. "Please…"
Shinji, used to doing what he was told, complied. He reached to the small bureau by her bed, searching for a condom. She grabbed his wrist, bringing it back to her body. He questioned her with his eyes.
"Not today," she said. "Please…"
He nodded, albeit reluctantly. Shinji told himself he could always run out to the pharmacy later. He had no idea why she was acting so odd, but he didn't want to upset her any more. And it had been a long time. He kissed her.
He was over her, keeping his mouth to hers, when he heard her quick sob.
"Does it hurt?" he asked, freezing.
Sex was always amazing for Shinji. Not so much the physical aspect, as much as it was the concept someone liked him enough to freely present themselves in such a vulnerable state. It boggled his mind. In his youth he never once allowed himself to believe he would participate in such things. He grew up with the unshakable knowledge he would die a virgin. The level of exposure, the loss of control, terrified him.
It still did, in a way. He was still far from confident, far from being considered a suave ladies' man. He was just so unsure. No one ever taught him how to act around women. People in general were difficult. Sex was nothing but a complicating factor.
And Misato was just so… experienced. She knew what she liked, and never said otherwise. Shinji often felt like he was playing catch up just to keep pace with her.
But this time…
She barely spoke. Her usual loquaciousness was silenced. Gone were her verbal commands, her dirty talk, her shuddering pants and screams. While hearing her enjoy herself to such a degree was undoubtedly arousing, he felt the quiet moments could communicate emotions no words could ever hope to convey.
Her eyes were either locked with his or screwed shut. And he had never seen the deep brown of her eyes so filled with emotion. Nameless, unutterable feelings that dwarfed what he was used to.
He'd lost count of the number of times they'd had sex, but today was the first time he truly felt Misato made love to him. He achieved such a deep connection this time he could nearly see things from her point of view regarding intimacy. An affirmation of life.
Shinji stared up at the ceiling of Misato's bedroom. Her futon conformed like putty beneath his back. Somewhere, possibly on her desk, a small fan was sending the yellowy scent of their completed act through the crack in the door and out into the apartment. Rei would no doubt crinkle her nose at it, but stay silent, like she always did.
Shinji smiled gently. He felt good. He did not feel awkward, the normal afterglow of sex he was accustomed to. The moment was unspeakably natural. Like a fish slipping through a placid current. He did not want to let it go.
Misato moved slightly, faintly rubbing her cheek across his left shoulder. It thrilled him like nothing else.
"Shinji," she said. Her voice was soft, softer than he ever remembered hearing it. "Shinji… have you forgiven me yet?"
He admonished himself for not somehow expecting this. But an afternoon delight was hardly a basis of mercy concerning infidelity. He wished he could tell her there was nothing to forgive, that it was all in the past and not to worry over it anymore. Shinji knew, without any doubt in his mind, that someday he would forgive her completely. But it was so far in the distance he couldn't even see its shadow.
"I love you," he whispered.
"That isn't an answer," she whispered back.
Shinji was feeling some genuine confusion. Did he forgive her? Was that why he agreed to sex? He didn't want to think of himself as someone who did that without love. But he realized love is not always a panacea. It does not always mean forgiveness.
Lies, cheating, Mana, Misato… why couldn't life be simple? Why couldn't it all be easy and joyful and free of pain? Why the hell couldn't he just be happy, for once in his life? For once in his God damned life.
Every time he felt poised to absolve her of all blame his mind created sordid and disgusting images of her with that man Kaji, and his emotions churned and boiled until nothing but helpless fury remained. He hated not being in control of his own feelings. He hated not being able to reach a point free of second guesses. For once in his life he wanted to set a goal and reach it.
But he couldn't. He just could not. He couldn't forgive her, but he couldn't lie to her either. He hoped it was behind her. He sincerely did. Even though it would never be behind him.
He had already forgiven her for associating with the JSSDF. Misato was quite skilled at separating her private and personal lives. So much so that he was good at it too. The differing realms of her personal and professional life never intersected around him, even when it did for her. It wasn't that she was two different people. It was just that she was extremely good at managing the various aspects of her existence.
It was something Shinji was traditionally terrible at. Whereas he saw parts of the whole, Misato saw whole parts. It has caused surprisingly little trouble up to this point.
"I… please, I…" Her body hitched. "I need to hear you say it. Even… even if you don't mean it…" Tears crawled from her eyes. "I am so sorry, Shinji."
She had never cried in front of him. Not truly, not so openly. It terrified him. Tears, pain that made her cry, were the one thing he never wanted on his conscience. He could live with making her wait. He could live with ambiguity and half truths. But to make her weep...
"Misato… I love you. I love you more than anything, or anyone. My entire life I have waited for you. And… I want to be happy. For once, I want to be happy… with you. You make me happy. You make me whole."
His finger tips absently trailed down her back.
"My entire life I was missing you… I don't want to give you up now."
"I may not be a smart man, or an important man, or even a good man… but I'm your man. I am yours. I love you, and I will never leave you, so long as you'll have me."
He could still feel wetness seeping onto his chest. His mind was divided. It was tearing him apart.
The fan continued to blow.
"Could… could we just stay like this?" She hugged him gently to emphasize her words. "Just… for a little longer?"
"Always," Shinji said.
Rei exited the junior high school alone and began the walk back to her house. Despite the quantity of time she had been spending away from her friends as of late, she was not yearning for their company. She had not told them Misato was out of the hospital, and saw no real need to do otherwise. It wouldn't matter.
Asuka was on a one-woman crusade against all things that were male and not an Ikari it seemed, and Hikari had difficulty carrying even the barest of conversations. Not that Rei was in a talkative mood these days. She was quietly thankful for her friends' petty distractions, and even though their paths in life seemed to be deviating more and more, she was not worried by it. Living with Misato and Shinji took enough out of her.
She reached her home in relative peace, with the belief only Misato would be waiting for her. Rei opened the front door. She glanced at the floor as she took her shoes off, seeing Shinji's beat up old sneakers. A little surprising, but not unpleasant. Although what he and Misato were both doing home from work so early led to… unfavorable thoughts. Sweaty, naked, screaming thoughts. The image of Shinji in his boxers came back to her, unbidden.
Misato came out of her bedroom, her eyes wet. Shinji followed, barely standing up.
Ah, Rei thought. I was correct. How unfortunate.
"Rei," her guardian said again, biting her lip. "We… we have to talk."
"About what?" Certainly, they weren't breaking up. The subtle odors wafting from the bedroom were testament to that. Perhaps she was pregnant. That would be the natural outcome of so much—
"You… maybe you should sit down. B-both of you."
So she was pregnant. Big surprise. Should she be stunned, or amazed? Well, Ikari was taking it well.
"Rei…" The older woman grabbed her shoulders, barely able to halt the tears in her eyes. Shinji stared at her in confusion. Misato kneeled before her, holding her hands. "Rei… there's something I have to tell you."
Then they heard the bombs.
So this is how the world ends, Rei thought as the three of them stood on the balcony. Not with a bang, or a whimper… with us watching it from Misato's rent-controlled apartment.
Shinji stood between them, and silently sought out their hands. He felt Misato return his touch fiercely, almost clawing into him. It took a little coaxing for Rei to accept him. But she did.
Out, far away a giant of light was rising on slender limbs. It was slightly hunched over, its long hands reaching for something unseen. Around it filling the sky VTOLs and jets swarmed, the missiles and bullets they poured onto the giant all bouncing away, harmless. The three on the balcony could barely make out strange, hexagonal fields appearing and disappearing with the attacks. It looked like nothing more than an annoyance.
Then there was a flash, and a boom, and the earth shook. All around the giant the ground caved in and fell away, and strange occult symbols and signs burned themselves into the sky. When Shinji blinked, he saw it within the darkness. It filled him with absolute terror.
They gasped, even Rei, as the hole around the giant became white, a pure, perfect white, and slowly a head grew out of it. Then a neck, shoulders, arms and breasts. It was a woman, a goddess, rising from the earth. Jets vanished as they neared her; no explosions, nothing. It all seemed incredibly peaceful. Like it was meant to happen. The goddess was stunning, far exceeding the two women and one man on the balcony, far exceeding any living creature on the planet. It was not a sexual beauty, or even an artistic attractiveness. It was simply beyond all comprehension, all definitions, all comparison. It refused to be confined within words or ideas, unwilling to allow any human mind to imprison it. It was the most humbling thing anyone could ever dream to see.
"I love you, Misato."
She kissed him, touching his face with her free hand. She cried as she embraced him. He bowed his head, pressing their foreheads together.
"I love you, Shinji," she whispered.
The floor shook. Windows shattered. The giant of light and the white woman embraced, their limbs and forms intertwining with each other until nothing of their original shapes could be seen. Then they vanished in a ball of energy. It blossomed like a flower, until it covered the horizon, creeping over the surface of the planet. Buildings did not explode, or implode, they simply ceased to be. Then the sound hit them like a wall, a throttled, primal scream that forced the hair up on their bodies. Not out of fear, but out of awe. It was the most perfect sound any of them had ever heard.
Shinji turned to his other side, and gave the fourteen year old girl's hand a tender squeeze.
"I love you too, Rei."
The last thing Ayanami Rei felt was a miraculous warmth spreading from their interconnected hands, rushing through her entire body, making her gasp.
When the shockwave reached them, it hurt for only a moment.
True Love Waits End
Author notes: no, really, this is the end.
I had the balcony scene in my head since chapter six. I hesitated in fleshing it out, but in the end every other conclusion I thought of, from Shinji proposing to Misato (lame), to Misato dying and Rei hooking up with Shinji (sad, creepy), felt wrong. I suppose this is sad, but I hope the overall impact (no pun intended) is one of happiness. Love survives in spite of loss.
I'm sure a few of you are disappointed (ha ha! Shinji didn't have anything to do with the Impact!), but this is the only way I feel it should end. Besides, just like the title promised, true love waited, right to the very end.
Thank you for reading.