Disclaimer- I don't own Evangelion, property of Studio Gainax, Anno-san, plus a bunch of other people and associations.
Chapter 6 End Of Days
When Touji woke up in the hospital again, he saw another head of hair, one also familiar and feminine.
And it was not one he wanted to see.
"Oh shit. What the Hell do you want?" he asked tiredly, rubbing his head as he glared up at Asuka.
"I see being shot hasn't affected your manners any, dork." The redhead shot back, raising an eyebrow.
"Just because I got shot doesn't mean I can't kick your ass you Kraut bitch!" Touji snapped, raising his good arm's fist.
Before she could give into her first impulse- to hit the currently incapacitated Touji, Asuka took a deep breath, and stepped back, looking at him seriously. "I need to find the Third. So where is he?"
Touji tried to move his arms and paused, realizing his real one was in a cast as a surge of pain echoed through his body. "Why do you care?" he asked in lieu of answering, staring at her with hard eyes.
"Because I am the Director of Operations, dummkopf." Asuka said in a matter-of-fact tone, glaring back.
"Can't you have your flunkies find him?" Touji challenged, raising an eyebrow in a "I don't believe you" sort of way.
Looking away, the redhead bit her lip and clenched her fist tightly. "Look, I don't have time for this. Tell me what I need to know."
A moment passed, and then three, and then a minute. The only sounds heard were breathing and the ticking of the clock.
Scowling, Asuka released her fist from its hold, and lifted her head up high. "Fine." She said coldly, and moved towards the door.
"Wait." She paused, lingering in the doorframe as she looked back at Touji.
Sighing, the brown haired young man leaned into his pillow. "Kensuke... Kensuke told me that Shinji went up to the mountains when he ran away once. He's probably up there." He said quietly, looking away from the redhead.
"Don't expect a thanks." Asuka said coldly, staring at him with her mismatched eyes.
"Didn't think you would." Touji shot back, staring her eyes down with his own. "I'm doing this for Shinji's sake, not yours and definitely not NERV's."
Clenching his fist, the young man looked down again, biting his lip tightly. "I'm... I'm scared he's going to doing something stupid. And I can't do a thing to help him." Pausing, Touji chuckled ironically. "I can't believe I'm saying this but..."
He looked up, and captured Asuka's gaze with his own.
"Help Shinji, please Asuka. You might be able to get through to him."
"And why would you think that?" the Second Child asked coldly, glaring back with full vehemence and venom. "If you haven't forgotten, that idiot's part of the reason why I have this." She pointed violently toward her paler eye.
"Exactly." Touji replied solemnly, Asuka flinched, actually looking surprised. "He feels he owes you something... and I'm pretty sure that at one point, you two were at least friends." He decided bringing up the "married couple" thing was not a good idea at this plea.
Asuka moved away, sniffing in annoyance as she turned away. But as she reached the door, she paused, and turned her head forwards again, facing away, into the endlessly white hallway.
"Idiot." Asuka scoffed.
"Sir." A man, unshaven and unkempt, stepped forward, a slight, professional smile on his face.
"Any news?" Commander Fuyutsuki asked, staring at him intently.
"It's as you thought. All the anti-NERV terrorist cells I tracked are empty. Their homes, their bank accounts, its as though these people never existed." The man frowned ever so slightly, and moved forward, leaning backwards against the desk, head turned towards the commander. "What does it mean, sir?"
Fuyutsuki sighed. "It means, old friend, that Seele won't be needing the JSSDF to take us out this time. They've got fanatics to do the job."
"And how do you intend to proceed?" the other man asked, a cigarette dancing on his fingertips.
"It is not NERV's survival that concerns me." The gray haired man replied slowly, leaning forward, tense. "When I took over NERV I knew I could not run it as Ikari did, placing my head in the lion's den and dancing on knives. Instead, I chose to make it into a shield, and a sword. This is Seele's last stand. They know it. I know it."
"And so you plan to end it all on the edge of a knife. Clever... but how do you plan to deal with their ace in the hole?" the other asked, bemused as he lit the cigarette, placing it with careful grace in his mouth.
"That is why I brought Shinji back. We will need every Child to get through this alive." Fuyutsuki's eyebrows knitted together, his mouth drawn into a taught line.
"So what do we do? I could help you find Shinji." The man offered, a smile playing behind the cigarette smoke.
"No... Shinji knows just as well as I do what is going to happen. It's why he came back." The Commander responded, a note of regret in his tone. "But somehow... I don't think Shinji plans to survive this."
The younger man gave a slight incline of his head, and the cigarette moved to a curled edge of the lip. "Kid's always had a bit of a death wish, if you ask me." He removed the cigarette, sighing as he flicked some ashes away.
"A bit like you, if you ask me." Fuyutsuki countered, smirking slightly as his eyes darted to his friend.
The other man grinned easily. "I never planned on getting old. Not like you."
"That might be best." The Commander said wearily, shaking his head. "Survivor's aren't the happiest people."
"Don't I know it." The younger man agreed, and flicked the cigarette away carelessly to land on the edges of an ashtray on the desk. "Well, if you won't be needing me to find your lost Child, then I suppose I'll see if I can't muster up some last minute support."
"Thank you. And be careful, old friend." Fuyutsuki cautioned, smiling slightly.
"Careful is my business." The other replied sardonically, chuckling as he turned, and waved his hand carelessly in goodbye.
"One more thing." The younger man paused at Fuyutsuki's voice, but didn't turn. "Will you come out of the shadows, when this is all over?"
The man shook his head and laughed with a bitter edge. "I'm dead already. And the dead don't need to disturb the living, Commander." With nothing else, he stepped out of the office.
The camera's would never see him leave the Geofront.
Sighing, Fuyutsuki leaned back into his chair. With a deep sadness etched on his frayed features, he looked up into the Systema Sephiroticum, its complicated patterns that wove and intertwined to form the outline of Creation itself.
"I had to try, Kaji. I had to try."
Misato sighed as she drank the lukewarm coffee, which slipped slowly down her throat. "The Commander's having us run alert one scenarios again and again... what's going on?" she looked up, frowning as the artificial lights bore down on her. "I thought this cloak and dagger stuff was over."
Footsteps rebounded across the room and she turned her head. "Oh, hey Rei." Misato greeted tiredly.
"Sub Commander Katsuragi." The First Child replied slowly, inclining her head. "Here are the results from the Eva evaluations." The pallid young woman handed over a set of papers that was filled with statistics and comments.
"Thanks." Misato said, taking the papers and leaning into her wheelchair.
Rei moved forward, until she was facing the display screen with sharp intent, and her back was to Misato. "He's coming." She whispered softly.
"What was that?" the Sub Commander asked curiously.
Instead of answering, Rei continued, "Once again... it will be his choice."
Once more, the Twelve convened, the Throne of Souls.
"The time is now." Seele 05 stated.
"Our forces are gathered, our dragon is leashed." Seele 02 agreed.
"Let loose the dogs of war, and let us burn NERV to the ground." Seele 10 added.
"And now, call forth our herald." Seele 12 rumbled.
A beam of light struck in the center of the Throne of Souls, and a gray haired boy stood there, clad in the simple attire of a white shirt, an orange undershirt, and black slacks.
"Your time is at hand." Seele 03 announced.
The boy's lip twitched slightly, curling into a hint of a grin.
"This is the end for you, Fuyutsuki, and the end of this existence as mortals." Keel mused, his hands folded and a small, tight victorious grin on his face.
"Only God Himself could stop us now." Seele 10 agreed darkly.
Keel nodded, a sardonic grin on his weathered face.
"We are the only God this world has now."
"The word has come down from Seele."
"At last... at last, the Promised Day has arrived. Humanity will be one with God, and all will be right with the world."
"Are you truly sure we can trust those men, leader?"
"Dishonorable, cowardly they may be, we are the righteous. Our purity of belief will wash away their sin. They have given us the chance we were denied seven long years ago, by that heretic Ikari and his blood."
"Then we have our orders?"
"Slaughter the sinners of the wicked NERV. Leave none alive, so that the Lord might judge them swift and without mercy, as we will."
Keeping his head low and avoiding eye contact, Shinji made his way down the mountain, not really in any hurry to return, ambling about pointlessly.
"Ouch! You idiot, you pushed me!" a boy's voice rang out, angry.
"Not my fault your so clumsy!" a girl responded tartly.
Shinji turned his head slightly, and spied two children, playing near a creek, just outside of the woods, in a sun filled meadow.
"Don't call me clumsy!" the boy, a brown haired, mousy looking child shouted.
"Well that's what you are, stupid!" the girl, a reddish brown head of hair that, for a moment, looked bright, defiant red, yelled back.
Shinji's lip twitched ever so slightly. How long was it that he could have been like that? Been a kid? Played with other kids, laughed for real, smiled for real? Came home and felt good about it, had someone there?
God... he was tired. So tired... These kids could die tomorrow, be swept up into a hellish moment that pure sadness and despair could create.
Twenty one, and already dying inside.
The sad part was, Shinji really couldn't bring himself to care.
Shinji didn't start or flinch... he didn't have the strength anymore. He was tired. "Asuka..." he greeted wearily, inclining his head without turning towards the redhead in the shadow of the trees.
"It's creepy for a grown man to be watching little kids like that." Asuka chided airily, stepping lightly until she stood next to him, facing the river and the children.
"I was about to come back Asuka. You didn't have to come." Shinji said quietly, placing his hands in his pockets.
Asuka turned towards him, and looked at him, truly for the first time in a while. Not with anger or bitter memories, but actually looking. He was taller, had filled out but wasn't quite slender, still skinny. The mousy, meek little boy was now a man that was old before his time.
"You look like Hell." The redhead commented softly, but not gently. "What happened to you?"
"You know what happened." Shinji replied tersely, but his voice hinted at some dark fear, some buried memory.
"No..." Asuka began, staring at him piercingly.
She could always see through me, Shinji thought darkly. The blood... the pain... there was so much that happened all at once.
"Something else happened that day. If it had just been you killing those soldiers, you would have broken down and gone catatonic, or started crying like a little girl to Misato." Asuka said seriously, crossing her arms as realization hit her.
It was making sense now. Shinji was a coward, prone to running away from his problems. But the sight of all that blood should have at least put him into shock, and there was something... troubling him.
Like he had glimpsed the End of the World.
The thought came unbidden, unwanted, but suddenly it clicked in Asuka's mind that Shinji had been acting as though he knew something, just like the Commander, both the late Gendo and the current Fuyutsuki had been the same.
"What do you know? What has the Commander been hiding!" Asuka demanded roughly, and grabbed at Shinji's shirt without thinking, pulling at a fistful until she looked him in the eye.
He looked away, but from that one second, Asuka thought she had glimpsed some unimaginable knowledge, like looking into the Gates of Heaven.
"I saw it... I saw it all for one moment. It was just once, just a glimpse, but I will never be able to erase that moment from my memory." Shinji said quietly, and the tone in his voice forced Asuka let him go.
Without bothering to straighten up, he looked away, away from the light and into the shadows of the past.
"I saw Instrumentality."
"Commander Fuyutsuki. I need to speak with you." Misato's voice was icy, and she wheeled herself in without an invitation.
Waving his hand in an irrelevant acceptance (his subordinate would force him to talk with her eventually), Fuyutsuki turned away, place his right leg on his lap and looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "Yes, Katsuragi?"
"I need to know what's going on. The drills, the Evas... Shinji." Misato's eyes were rock hard, and her hands gripped the handles on her chair so tightly the knuckles were white.
"For seven years Seele has been rounding up the last of its resources to challenge us." Fuyutsuki began, without any sort of acknowledgment to the request. "I knew tracking them down individually would be nearly impossible, and the United Nations was convinced they had 'defeated' Seele." He chuckled darkly.
"Seele is an organization far older than any government. They would not be deterred that quickly." The Commander continued. "Our only chance lay in them revealing themselves, in convincing them they had the upper hand and could realize their goals."
"Instrumentality." Misato whispered, and her grip, if possible, tightened.
"Exactly. There are many paths to being one with God, and Seele would not be defeated after just one try." Fuyutsuki replied, sighing quietly.
"But why Shinji?" Misato demanded roughly, leaning forward angrily. "You didn't need to get him involved again."
"That's where you're wrong, Sub Commander Katsuragi." Fuyutsuki said coldly, using the full title as a reprimand as he turned towards her, staring her down, hard. "Shinji Ikari is perhaps the most able to combat this enemy. He knows what we're up against, what we're trying to prevent."
"But Shinji's never known about Instrumentality! He ran away, remember!" Misato shouted, knowing full well she was out of line but not giving a damn at the moment.
"But he does."
Misato stopped cold, and gaped open mouthed, her words dying on her lips.
"There was that brief moment of blinding light, after Unit 01 destroyed the last of the Eva Series. Do you remember?"
She remembered it, clear as day, impossible to forget... it was... it was...
"It was exactly like Second Impact, wasn't it?" Fuyutsuki asked rhetorically, smiling without humor. "You thought the world had ended in that moment."
The elderly man stood, arms crossed behind his back and he looked out of the windows of his massive office. "It almost did. But Shinji, blinded by hate and rage, was still able to see how wrong, how utterly wrong and despicable Instrumentality was. He felt the presence of an Angel, how close Lilith was to awakening, to cradling us all in her Black Moon again.
"But he refused it. Rei's defiance of Ikari helped to dampen Lilith's effect, but it was Shinji who made the conscious choice not to destroy humanity before Lilith could influence him entirely. Why, I don't know." Fuyutsuki sighed, rubbing his temple tiredly.
"He can be trusted to make that choice again. That's why I chose him." The Sub Commander said quietly. "Now do you understand?"
"Yes... except one more thing." Misato whispered, nodding her head and releasing her tight, choking grip on her wheelchair. "Why did he run away..."
Fuyutsuki chuckled a bitter little laugh, and inclined his head so one of his eyes met her's. "Shinji had just been tempted by the Devil, saw the End of the World in a single moment, and was now standing in a field of corpses that he created. Do you think you could cope with it?"
Misato didn't answer, and let the bitter silence reign.
Asuka didn't speak, couldn't speak. What was there to say, after such a pronouncement.
Shinji kicked a rock, letting it tumble forward slightly. "I woke up, after seeing all of that... seeing exactly what they were planning to do to us... to all of us... I woke up and all I could see was blood."
He looked at her, and the anguish there softened Asuka's heart, even if only for a moment. "Seele wanted to destroy humanity... how was I any different, using the Eva to kill all those people?" Shinji choked, biting his lip until it bled.
"I didn't want to live like that. I thought you were dying... I thought Misato was dead. There was no one left to fight for."
"Then why did you come back?" the Second Child asked cuttingly, staring him down again.
Stepping forward, until his feet were at the borders of the pure light, Shinji looked tragically sad as he turned towards her. "Asuka... have you ever felt that, if there was even just one thing you could do to help make up for a mistake, you would do it? Even if it killed you?"
"I'm no martyr." Asuka said coldly, crossing her arms once again.
"And I'm no saint. But if there's even a chance I can make up for what I've done... I'll do it." Shinji said softly. "For Misato... for Rei... for the families of the soldiers... for you."
"I don't want your help, or your pity." Asuka replied defensively, but she knew it wasn't either of those things. This was redemption.
She could feel it... this was a moment that, if she reached out right now and comforted him, patted his shoulder, or, God forbid, hold him, Shinji Ikari might live to see twenty two, and humanity would not perish in the coming night.
Asuka stayed where she was, and the moment passed.
"Let's go back." Shinji said quietly, smiling with no feeling whatsoever.
With just a bit of regret hanging in her heart, Asuka nodded silently.
To those who read Chapter 5 when it was first released, I'd advise you to go back and re-read. I had forgotten to add in Rei's section for chapter 5. Doh.
Kaji's being alive. Well, I didn't want just a faceless agent to dig up this dirt and help set up the finale. Besides, its plausible he could escape. It was ambiguous, and this is my interpretation for this story.
Everything's cleared up. There's nothing more to be said, and nothing more to do.
This is the end.
Finale next chapter. The story is shorter than my usual, but this is more of an epilogue than a true story.