Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion is a Studio Gainax production, its characters created by Hideaki Anno. They say the word, and this story ceases to exist.
Shinji Just Snaps and Totally Wales on Everything: Both of You, Slam Dance Like You Want to Win!
"I like toast."
Misato Katsuragi's directions to Unit-01's current position had been unusually precise, even for a woman who had always put her far better foot forward when on duty as Nerv's Operation Planning Manager. They had to be good directions, because her telling Asuka to just follow the trail of destruction would have been like choosing her favorite picture of Touji Suzahara; they were all staggeringly ugly exposures of someone staggeringly ugly. And stupid. And obnoxious. And boorish. And smelly. And stupid. And-
"Please stop talking about that Touji boy and find the guy that is blowing up our city," Misato impatiently requested.
Damn, did I say that out loud? "I'm not so injured that I can't walk and talk at the same time," Asuka said. She passed a smoldering tower. "You're sure there's an umbilical station close to him?"
Misato sighed. "For the fifth time in the last…" She checked her wristwatch. "…forty seconds, yes. There are two power stations in proximity to his current position."
"Don't snap at me," snapped Asuka. "I'm just being prepared, that's all. In case I have to move real fast real fast."
She passed a smoldering tower.
"You're just going to have to believe me when I say you're not giving yourself enough credit," her guardian assured her. The look on Misato's face, Asuka noted, was not reassuring in the slightest. "I've seen how he looks at you when he thinks you're not paying attention."
"Uh-huh. And you know when I'm paying attention and who I'm paying attention to how, exactly?"
"Asuka, you know that thing I keep saying about evasive action and how it draws attention? Right now, you have the radar signature of a small planet. Playing dumb doesn't suit you."
"Exactly, so you see how walking up to someone who's spent the last two hours screaming some things and burning everything else and asking him to stop in the name of love is only slightly smarter than me getting out and humping his foot."
"I want to hear it," Misato ordered after she stopped gnawing on her fist. "I want to hear this plan you have, that's going to beat Shinji and fix you and Rei up and restore the city. I want to hear how you're going to make things right, right now. Go ahead, Asuka. Go right ahead. I'm listening. I'm open to suggestions. I'm a goddamn sponge. Let's hear it."
The teenager's first response was to just lean back and lightly bang her head against its seat rest. "I know. I know. I have to do this. I'm…I just don't know if I'm ready for this."
"No one is," Katsuragi said, simply, with no heat, yet paradoxically exuding warmth. "Asuka…if you know something else we can do, tell me. Otherwise…what choice is there?"
Asuka sighed deeply.
She passed a smoldering tower.
And on the other side of it was Unit-01. It was kneeling in a half-demolished intersection as though it, or the person in it, was contemplating something vastly more profound than the concrete fingers reaching for the sky at an array of obtuse angles, like yo mama's teeth.
To her surprise, Shinji's voice (but not his face) came over the com first as his war machine looked up. "Hey, Asuka."
She refused to let his absurdly docile tone jar her fledgling conviction. "Hi, Shinji."
"How're you feeling?" She could almost see him discreetly looking her up and down, up and down, the same way he had desperately tried not to that day she came in shivering, wearing nothing but shorts and a thin white t-shirt, completely drenched from running through an impromptu torrential downpour…
"I've been better. I've been worse, too. How are you doing?" She asked the question with sincere but overwrought candor, as she would tell a three-year old their drawing was pretty. Just how smart are you, Shinji? You should know something is up now, that-
"You're not here to fight me, are you?"
"Well, I don't know. You almost out of juice? You still got Gumby arms?"
Unit-01 was standing now. "You can find out for yourself, if you want."
She shook her head even though the Third Child couldn't see it. "I've taken enough chances today. So let's hammer this out diplomatically, for once."
"You're going to try to talk me out of this?" he asked as Asuka chaffed at the naked amusement in his tight-rope steady voice.
"I am talking you out of it. You want me to, or you would've already thrown me into a mountain…again."
She waited for his next answer, her heart racing faster as seconds went by and he said nothing. Asuka drowned the smirk on her face; winning half the battle does nothing to secure half the victory…
"You're going through shit. That…is obvious. I'm giving you some credit, though. I'm assuming that this was just the last in a long line of straws, Shinji. I don't know how many I have left, myself. I know that when people do things like this, there doesn't have to be a real reason for it. It's just…I think it's the body acting out what the mind can't handle. And when the mind isn't overburdened anymore…the body stops."
"So…so you're saying I don't want to do this anymore?"
He's following me. He's paying attention. "How much more is it going to take? Before you're satisfied? You've been talking, lucidly talking with me for a minute now. You can't pretend like you don't know what you're doing. How much more will it take for you to STOP HUMPING THAT BUILDING!"
"Asuka…you're doing real good. Let him hump whatever he wa-"
The command whip-cracked from the German's mind and the terminal with Misato's increasingly apprehensive visage vanished. Righteous, flammable feminine anger began mingling with her warrior spirit and rapidly fading cautious optimism.
"This is pathetic, Shinji, you know that? PATHETIC. I can see you getting back at everyone because they forced you to pilot, or if you had to hurt or kill someone you cared about, BUT IT'S NOT ONE OF THOSE THINGS. You're flipping out, you leveled this whole damn place, and why? Because someone wrecked your shitty SDAT!"
Unit-01 wheeled to face her and her stomach dropped as his A.T. Field exploded. "THEY WERE MY MOM'S SONGS! SHE LEFT IT WITH MY UNCLE THE LAST DAY HE SAW HER ALIVE AND HE GAVE IT TO ME! THOSE WERE HER SONGS!"
The Second Child's heart joined her stomach not because of what he said, but because of what she knew she had to say next. Forgive me, she thought, and braced herself. "Then losing that SDAT was the best thing that could have happened to you."
Shinji expanded the realm of the possible by somehow becoming angrier. "FUCK YOU, YOU HYPOCRITE! I HEARD YOU CRYING FOR YOUR MOTHER IN YOUR SLEEP! I WAS THERE. YOU'D KILL TO HAVE SOMETHING TO REMEMBER HER BY!"
Asuka expanded the realm of the possible by somehow becoming angrier than Shinji. "AND WHEN IT'S GONE AND THERE'S NOTHING I CAN DO TO BRING IT BACK, I WON'T THROW A FUCKING TANTRUM AND ENDANGER ALL THE PEOPLE THAT CARE ABOUT ME!"
"WHO? WHO'RE YOU TALKING ABOUT? THE ONLY THING ANYONE HERE CARES ABOUT IS EVA! EVA EVA EVA! YOU KNOW I'M RIGHT AND THAT THE ONLY PERSON THAT EVER REALLY CARED IS IN A THOUSAND PIECES AND…AND I JUST WANT HER BACK!"
"YOUR MOM ISN'T HERE! I AM!"
He made a sound suddenly, as if he was choking, and the roaring light of his soul dwindled to a withered rustle. Unit-01 slowly sank to its knees. Something sorrowful tried separating her from her breath, but she bit it back fiercely. She almost had him, almost. And all it was costing her was her heart.
"If…" she began, quietly now, "if you want to…we can be…we won't need our mothers anymore. You understand what I'm saying?" Please tell me you understand.
"I just don't want to forget her."
"You don't have to…" Oh so gingerly, Unit-02 stepped forward. There was the slightest of tingles as his barrier met her own, then dissolved. "But there're things you want her to be to you, and she can't, not anymore. It's impossible. There're so many things…and I'm having the hardest time getting by without them, too. It'll get easier, maybe. One day, if I had help. But you're going to have to be a whole lot stronger than this."
There it was. An ultimatum delivered by the whispering heart. Either he'd take it or he wouldn't.
A minute passed between them.
A minute passed between them.
"I'm so tired, Asuka."
Joy, pure unbridled joy seized every fiber of her being as her voice, miraculously, stayed level. "They're waiting for you at Route Twenty. I don't know what they're going to do to you, but after it's over…I'll be waiting for you. Okay?"
Unit-01 rose, and she felt utter triumph, as if the young man beneath its machine exterior had been reborn, and she had done it. She had stopped him without lifting a finger. She had saved the city…well…what was left of it, anyway. She had reasoned with him, and on top of it all, he was now hers. It was all she could do to keep Unit-02 from skipping down the blitzkrieged boulevard, Shinji quietly, obediently following her.
An extremely, insignificantly small thing still buzzed her like a hungering gnat, though.
He had said the SDAT had been programmed with his mother's songs. It wasn't as if the songs themselves had been destroyed, had they? Even if they were all pre-Second Impact songs, there were literally thousands of places –either burrowed in the maze of modern mega malls, small specialty shops, online retailers, downloadable master copies from satellite radio- he could go to get them back. SDATs were a dime a dozen; price was the non-issue of non-issues.
There was some sentimental value in that little digital walkman, sure, but he said songs. All this over that little piece of plastic?
Unbelievable. All this just because I broke your SDAT.
Unit-01 had stopped walking. Why?
Something washed over her and she staggered as if caught in a rising tide of liquid fire. It then occurred to Asuka that in all likelihood, she would not like what she would see when she turned around.
Damn. Did I say that out loud?
"Yes," a malevolent incarnation seethed in Shinji's voice, "You DID."
The Second Child felt as though she was suddenly trapped at the fringes of the unstoppable maelstrom that was Hurricane Beatdown. But she tried stopping it, anyway.
"Shinji…darling…come on, now. Think a sec. What did I just finish explaining? There're two ways you can deal with this. You can either use your freakishly long arms to beat me until I can only say 'chew', or you can ask me why I did it in the first place-"
"THERE'S A THIRD WAY," he roared. "LASER EYES!"
I knew I forgot something, thought Ritsuko as she helplessly watched Unit-01's yellow slits glow with unholy power before dual beams of energy raced from them in a deadly burst of light and sound. Unit-02, in an action that probably called upon a lifetime of synchronization training, anticipated the line of fire and dodged, allowing the killing light to crackle past its right shoulder fin. It continued unabated in the distance before vaporizing a mountain that happened to be in the right place at the wrong time.
She should've remembered this. It upset her that in the heat of the situation it had slipped from her taxed mind. Unsurprisingly, it had upset Misato, too; the woman had not stopped squeezing the trigger of her service pistol in Ritsuko's direction since ripping the weapon from its holster. Akagi silently wondered if Misato even realized the gun wasn't loaded.
"Does this mean we're not going to see that Maggie Cheung movie on Saturday?"
Misato didn't even take the time to scream as she wildly hurled the empty weapon at her best friend.
"OW! MY EAR!"
"Sorry, Maya," said Misato.
"It was an important meeting, Major…you should've been listening…"
"I…I was inspired, Major, alright? We have to continually upgrade…to be prepared for anything-"
"But why would you need lasers in the eyes? The EYES, Ritsuko Akagi! Why. Lasers?"
"Because lasers are sweet, Misato!" Ritsuko finally yelled.
"Correction," said a cool voice from on high, the voice of authority. "They are totally sweet."
Major Katsuragi looked for a moment as if she was wishing for a lathe of some kind, and then half-groaned, half sighed. "Fine. Whatever. We're all in agreement on the…" Her eyelid danced like a swan. "…the sweetness of lasers-"
"Total sweetness," Gendo interjected.
Misato's going to do it. She is. I swear to God, she's going to breathe fire.
Ritsuko felt oddly disappointed when a torrent of orange torches did not leap from Misato Katsuragi's gullet as though she were a human flamethrower. When the purple-haired woman finally swallowed the last of her beret, she said, "None of this helps, okay? None of this arguing keeps Asuka from getting melted like the Wicked Witch. None of this helps Unit-02."
"Incoming transmission from Unit-02," informed Maya as she cupped her right ear.
Ritsuko was succinct. "Put her on."
Maya did so.
"-IELD, YOU MORONS! WHAT'RE YOU ALL WAITING FOR? SEND ME THE SHUTTLE SHIELD! I HAVE TO GET CLOSE TO HIM!"
I HAVE to get away from him.
That was all Asuka's mind accommodated as her avatar dove for cover behind a forest of steel and glass.
That…that thing was out there, stalking her, melting everything it looked at, and by her last count it had tried looking at her seventeen times. As she crouched and strained her senses, she took a precious second to curse Ritsuko Akagi and H.G. Wells to Hell.
Just how long does it take to prep that damn shield?
Shinji Ikari tsked. "You just have to stop thinking out loud, Asuka."
It was as if an oven was being held over her head. She lunged to the side, Unit-02's right eyes catching the top half of Manko 404 linger upright before collapsing on itself like an accordion and tumbling into her most recent hiding place. Something cut through the ensuing dust cloud, igniting the grey motes of ash into an incandescent incendiary aerosol, and then just as easily cut through a lamp post and three telephone poles, igniting them, too.
Unit-02 crushed itself to the street; the ray beams traced an arc above her head as if originating from a lighthouse built by Tim 'The Tool Man' Taylor. "WHERE IS THAT (The adjectives conceived and spoken by Asuka Langley Sohryu to convey her acute irritation have been deemed inappropriate for persons below the age of sixty-four, and have been replaced with a short monologue describing the author's affection for puppies. Aren't puppies sweet? They're so soft and fuzzy, like hairy quadrupedal Smurfs, except without all the mushrooms and white hot pants. Nothing is more endearing than the boundless energy of a rolly-poly wet-nosed dog-baby, so eagerly curious about the wonders of the world its wide eyes are now privy to. It's not that there's anything wrong with kittens, mind you. In fact, I love kittens. They're delicious. ) SHIELD?"
"We're working on it, Asuka!" Misato informed her. Next to the red giant's face a mailbox, a delivery truck, and a fire station began to spontaneously combust.
"I. AM GOING. TO DIE. BECAUSE EVERYTHING. IS THE FUCK. ON FIRE."
"Move, Asuka! It's ready, Logistical Route Four!"
"Where the hell is that?" Asuka answered, javelin-throwing a flagpole at Unit-01 to stave off disintegration.
"Northwest of you," said Misato. "Six kilometers."
"That's a huge area to cover! Why do you hate me?"
"It's one of the only equipment depots still standing. No choice but to DUCK!"
Death rays lanced overhead as Unit-02 reared back on its heels, its arms flailing outward in a limbo maneuver Neo could be proud of. Then Asuka did what all good freedom fighters do when they find themselves outmatched by ludicrously overpowered machines.
Finding Route Four should have been staggeringly easy, but redundant mountains of smoking debris and the remaining standing structures alternately robbed her of sure footing and clean sightlines, respectively. It should've been just a hop, skip and a jump to…
When the air at her back scintillated, her internal battery beeped and began to count down once more. Good, she told herself. An umbilical cable would only have hindered her as she stepped on a low structure to vault to the roof of a taller one. Light touched the lower building and it burned magnificently. The red mecha's face snapped to the northwest, to a thin white giant shed squatting defiantly in an aggregation of civil demolition; then to a closer building in the foreground.
Asuka ordered her doll to leap from her vantage point, which she knew without looking back was now burning magnificently. It was the Sixth Angel incident all over again, except that she was lily-padding skyscrapers instead of the U.N.'s Pacific fleet, and there was no perverted little boy wearing a female plug suit and fidgeting in her lap as she peered over his thin shoulder to laugh in the face of God's plan…
I shouldn't be enjoying this, she thought.
Then she had to jump again, somersaulting over frozen rope particle beams cutting past her and vaporizing a perfectly innocent cumulonimbus.
"One kilometer, Asuka!" Misato said in the manner a youth-league basketball coach would encourage his team when they were down by thirty-four points with thirty-four seconds to go.
The Second Child touched down on a tower the instant energy blasts gutted its foundation, forcing her to depart its crumbling infrastructure and land on an already collapsing building. Her stomach dropped as her footing crumbled below. Asuka stumbled, unable to adjust course as she tumbled downward, crashing into the newly smoking debris of a third building. She grunted; it was like diving into a pile of jagged.
Fuck, he caught on. She couldn't get away with this anymore.
She didn't have to. She was there. "I'M HERE! OPEN IT!"
Asuka lunged and the door to Logistical Route Four slammed upward like a dozen locomotives. It revealed a black shape, broad at eye level while tapering to a round nose not unlike a dull spearhead, and layered with interlocking fire-scarred ebony tiles. The rectangular glass window jury-rigged a quarter of the way down from its top supported the nickname Nerv's engineers had given it: God's Welding Mask.
As Asuka stared at it from over seven hundred meters away, she knew there was no God, just a jerk with a tarnished trombone, going wah-waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.
"Route Four, Asuka," Misato said. "Not Five."
The German teen could only groan and roll her machine onto its back, an action that afforded her an excellent view of Unit-01's crotch. It was everything above the crotch that worried her; a terrible thought trickled into her tired mind as her wide blue eyes wandered up past lanky, yet powerful arms crossed over the broad armored chest, the thick muscular neck, the gleaming slack jaw lined with steel teeth like the meshing gears of a clock tower, and lastly to the cold eyes shining like twin suns.
The thought was: Shinji has never lost.
Asuka Langley Sohryu could not rationalize away this fact anymore than she could increase her bust size by Zen-meditating in a bath of smelling salts and poinsettia seeds…n-not that she had ever tried. She had seen the vids of his encounters with the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Angels. She had sortied with him to successfully take down the Sixth and Seventh, Ninth and Tenth. Oh, she had defeated the Eighth Angel all by herself…and would have died had he not jumped into a live volcano to save her.
Asuka had been ambivalent when Kaji had kissed Shinji's scrawny ass for a week straight as they steamed to Japan on the Over the Rainbow. But now the man's words echoed around her head; he had defeated two Angels, all alone, with little or no prior training. The Third Child was like a champion boxer that suffered a flash knockdown only to inevitably rise, get serious, and then pummel his poor challenger into bloody submission. It was not always pretty –it never was, in fact- but the result was always the same.
Shinji Ikari wins. Shinji Ikari always wins.
Shinji Ikari was Ender Fucking Wiggin.
Asuka should have been terrified, drowning in despair, but fear and hopelessness were mere satellites orbiting something infinitely more massive.
She was angry.
It wasn't fair, at all. It just wasn't. She trained for years to get this good; he trained for weeks. She lost her mother forever years ago; until today, he had a small piece of his own mom in the palm of his hand, whispering in his ear in the blue-black of his lovely suite. She had broken it, had a very good reason, and he didn't even want to hear it. Even now he stood over her, ready to smoke her like some ant under a magnifying glass. And he didn't care. She had poured her heart out to him, and he didn't care…
Asuka Langley Sohryu thought, and spoke. "It isn't fair, Shinji. You're going to do this, and I can't even see your face."
There was silence, and nothing, then a chime, and he was there. For a minute turbulent cobalt blue mechanically roamed her as though there were infrared scanners implanted in his retinas. She knew better, and knew this was going to work.
"Misato," she said, her tone pillow-soft. "Switch off visuals for a sec."
Asuka did not miss the silent plea as her guardian's image collapsed on itself. The red head cupped the wrist of one hand with the other and rubbed the pressurization ring on her plug suit.
"So what happens when you talk me out of blasting you? You're going to tell me you were the one that put my cello in the furo, stuck a sail on it and carved 'H.M.S. Dork' in the wood?"
Thank Gott. He still thinks PenPen did it.
"I'm not going to talk. We're past that." Her thumb found a crease in the small plastic, a section of the ring that felt spring loaded. She depressed the button and watched him watch the snug contours loosen on her skin. "But there's no way in hell I'm letting you beat me, Third."
"That's what I liked so much about you, why I looked up to you. Quitting's never an option, is it? Not like me. You never run away. You…"
He tried, but ultimately failed at hiding the lump in his throat as her hands went to the fringes of her suit collar and lightly tugged. His starving eyes seemed almost to throb when she slowly…slowly…shucked the red neoprene from her slim, round shoulders. Shinji had to shake his head just to be able to talk again. He cares. This was going to work.
"You should've ran away today, Asuka. What other choices are there?"
"Here's two of them," and she showed him what they were as her hands violently ripped the front of her plug suit away from her lithe body, baring to him a perfectly-
"Nice sports bra."
Yes. Yes, it was a very nice sports bra.
The one she just had to break in today.
"FREEBIES!" Asuka yelled, launching Unit-02's foot at and connecting with the Test Type's purple groin. He predictably screamed as his liquid HUD wobbled.
She commanded Unit-02 to propel itself from beneath him, to stand and sprint while she hoped and prayed. His Eva isn't the ONLY thing that's purple, now, she thought, inwardly smirking. The Second ignored the internal battery clock counting down to her doom. She would be at the shield in just a second. She'd have her defense and enough time to get to a power station…or to an extraction point-
NO. His ass is MINE…somehow.
She dare not look at him, but she realized the boy was no longer screaming, just making seething, angry noises, focused noises…
It was about then Asuka decided leaping for the shield was a good idea. She soared, landed, and then skidded into the steel base of Depot Four, without delay ripping her salvation from its latches to meet the retribution bearing down on her at the speed of light. The German pilot barely felt the beams shove against the black wall before they bounced off and careened into the stratosphere, the ionosphere, and then harmlessly into the endless chasm of deep space, far, far away…
"Are you alright? What's wrong?"
"I felt a great disturbance in the Force…as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. You'd better get on with your exercises."
Never in Asuka Langley Sohryu's life had she wanted so badly to say, 'It's on now, SUCKA!'
So she did.
Shinji did not seem amused, if the way he kept trying to murder her was any indication. Too bad for him. She had some things to say to him, and she only had two minutes and fifty-one, fifty, forty-nine seconds to say them.
"You idiot!" she scolded, lunging behind an apartment bloc as something behind her became a million degrees, "You still can't figure out why I broke that piece of junk, can you?"
"BECAUSE YOU'RE A COLDHEARTED MISERABLE BITCH WHO CAN'T STAND OTHER PEOPLE BEING HAPPY AROUND HER!"
That's NOT fair…
His ignorance generated the white-hot ball of fury in the pit of her roiling stomach; the half truth in his words allowed her to focus on the ball, and either dodge his deadly light or deflect it with her black barrier. She closed in on his form now, Unit-02 holding the shield with one hand, her prog knife poised to strike behind it as though she were a Roman gladiator.
"YOU'RE FINISHED, SHINJI! NOW SHUT UP AND LISTEN BECAUSE I'M NOT GONNAAARRRRRKKK…"
He did not so much tell her to shut up as he did choke off her words with the hard purple claw that tore through the shuttle shield as though it were wet tissue. Her breath found her only as she reached the apex of her flight above Tokyo-3, courtesy of Air Shinji. Didn't he ever get tired of throwing her? Wasn't there any place in this city that was soft to land on? Was there any place on her body it wouldn't hurt if Unit-01 charged her horn-first and gored her Eva…
Asuka's second instincts scanned each and every one of her catalogued martial skills, instructing her hands to clasp Unit-01's protrusion while her feet crashed into its ribcage. The red giant kicked upward with all its might and added to its attacker's own momentum.
At last, it was Shinji's turn to fly.
Unit-02 wheeled onto its stomach and rose just in time for Asuka to see her opponent land with an earth-jarring thud in the center of Tokyo-3 International Zoo (fortuitously crushing a bronze statue erected in the memory of Explody the Suicide Donkey, a Kerosene-swilling beast of burden that rammed a C-4-laden van commandeered by animal rights extremists attempting to 'liberate' Ling Ling Ling, the world's only recorded three-testicled Panda).
A grey boulder from one of the exhibits he landed on plunked him in the head. It was a boulder he obviously took exception to as Unit-01 snatched it and shot to standing.
"FUCK YOU, DUMBO!" Shinji spat over the com. "YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME?" Asuka watched as the giant then reared back…baaaaaack…and follow through as it hurled the rock far…faaaaaaaar…over the horizon. Shinji stood frozen in profile as if admiring his…HE'S OPEN!
That was odd, Asuka absently thought as she rushed him, I could've sworn I heard trumpeting.
Ritsuko jumped as Maya screamed. "NO! SERGEANT TRUMPY!"
"We lost our tracking station on Mount Futago so we can't keep up with objects moving faster than Mach eighteen," Hyuga said. "Caspar predicts Sergeant Trumpy's present course as a south-southwesterly trajectory and his location as somewhere over the East Sea." He shook his head. "Someone in Jiangxi Province China's going to have a real bad day."
"Sergeant Trumpy," Maya sobbed. "Why? You were so full of life and peanuts…"
She didn't even give him time to look at her before her colossal red fist collided with the cold purple carapace in a shower of sparks, again and again. Once more. Then again. Another for good luck. One for Rei. Hmm…she seemed to be enjoying this.
One opening. That was all she had needed. She was in his guard now, and no Mr. Fantastic appendages or optical beam weaponry was going to get her out of it. As he grabbed her wrists and began to grapple, the eyes in question ignited. Asuka knew instantly only a second and the wrong decision stood between her and the Worst Tan Ever ©.
A second passed.
Unit-02 stopped resisting the enemy, allowed him to surge forward and past like a crashing wave…wrenching his arm so that the ventilated shield at the crook of his elbow floated between her and the eyes shining with barely-contained power…
Blinding light exploded behind the black buffer, and when the Third Child screamed the girl's eyes darted to the feed from his entry plug. Relief and dread and elation and guilt and maternity crashed down on her as he clutched the top of his head and roared in pain.
As Evangelion Unit-01 mirrored him and slowly sank to the ground, Asuka, for the slightest moment, also felt pity.
Then it was gone.
"YOU'RE RIGHT, SHINJI! I WAS BEING SELFISH! YOU SPENT ALL THAT TIME FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF AND THAT THING WAS YOUR CRUTCH! WHERE WAS MY CRUTCH? WHY DIDN'T YOU EVER PAY ATTENTION? WHY DIDN'T YOU EVER LOOK AT ME? WHY DIDN'T YOU HOLD ME? TOUCH ME? WHY DIDN'T YOU TRY? ONCE?"
Shinji didn't say anything. He didn't have to. Asuka could see the symbiotic pain drain from him as his shoulders rose and sank with his increasingly even breaths. Finally, beaten, subdued, domesticated, he was forced to listen to her. He was forced to think, to understand.
Finally, Shinji Ikari understood.
"I don't understand."
"Dr. Akagi," Maya called, wiping at puffy eyes, "you need to see this."
The woman in question was immediately at her sniffling protégé's side. As she stared at the Second Child's psychograph, the full-blown migraine that had been threatening to slam into her brain did just that.
"Sempai…why does it say 'LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa'?"
Asuka didn't hear herself screaming. She didn't notice Shinji's wide eyes suffusing with lucidity attainable only when one is staring at the abyss of their own imminent death. The mental order for Unit-02 to reach behind its back and grip the haft of something that shouldn't be there only registered subconsciously, filed under 'things to remember when Asuka Langley Sohryu returns from holiday'."
She didn't take inventory of her rapidly shifting center of gravity as Unit-02 pulled the thing that shouldn't be there from a place that shouldn't exist, and swung it over its head in a screaming arc, its fingers laced around the handle (on which was engraved 'Hurt Baka Now' in flaming kanji).
Over the audio feed in Central Dogma there was a deafening CRACK, not unlike a thunderclap in the inner ear. When after five minutes the static had cleared, the dust had settled, and the lightning had dissipated, Evangelion Unit-02 stood, slouched at the epicenter of concentric shocks even now rumbling through neighboring prefectures.
"Unit-02's energy reserves are depleted," Maya said.
"What about Shinji?" Ritsuko heard Misato query.
The young tech's eyebrows rose. "The pilot's life signs are stable even though Unit-01 has gone silent." Maya's terminal presented her with new information, and she cringed as if she had walked past week-old road kill. "Way, way silent."
"That," Misato began, "is a Big. Fuck. Mallet."
Ritsuko could not deny this, and nodded. "Thank God we hired that Tendo girl."
Shinji Just Snaps and Totally Wales on Everything: Episode IV, Revenge of the Attack of the Return of the Phantom Epilogue Strikes Back…A Holiday Special
"My head hurts."
"So does mine. And my neck, my back, my arms, my p…special no-no place."
"I just don't get it. Your mom was a world-class scientist. So is your dad, and he runs Nerv. How could you have turned out so dense?"
"I'm not. I just… I think I didn't want to believe you."
"Because I'm pathetic, that's why. You should know that, you remind me every chance you get."
"When did I ever-"
"Do you want me to write you a list?"
"I don't think you're gonna be writing anything with that straight jacket on."
"I forgot…whose fault is it I have a straight jacket on in the first place?"
"Look, I only said all those things to get you to pay attention to me…don't you see that, now?"
"Wha…no! Why would I? How's that obvious? What kind of sense does that even make? You should've just been nice-"
"Well, I don't do nice, okay? Nice is what happens when you can't deal with the real world and you put on a happy face so people won't see you as a threat. I can't relate to nice."
"Then you can forget about relating to me. That's just how I deal with the world, and if you can't accept that…then you can just go die."
"You do realize that wasn't very nice, don't you?"
"I guess that's just me trying to relate to you."
"Which pretty much proves that you weren't serious about the dying part."
"I'm really that easy to read?"
"No. But I pretend you are…and that's why you love me."
"Are…are you being ironic?"
"Are you crying?"
"No. You're seeing things. I never cry. Ever."
"I …think I get it, now. I do."
"Good. Now, get this itch on my back for me."
"H-how am I supposed to do that?"
"You have a chin. Use it."
He sat, and only watched long enough to see his son awkwardly lean in until his naked chin nudged the Second Child between her shoulder blades. When Shinji noogied Asuka Langley Sohryu and her face showed undying gratitude, Gendo Ikari flicked the video feed to their white cell off. As the kiosk folded seamlessly into the ebony surface of his desk, he steepled his gloved hands.
A wizened, powerful voice behind him rippled through the black expanse of his gigantic office until it seemed as though many people were speaking the same words at staggered and infrequent intervals. "Unusually benevolent for Nerv's Supreme Commander, allowing those two to share a cell until the Third Child's extradition."
It was only by the grace of Ikari's respect for Kouzou Fuyutski (born from a promise made to his late wife and nurtured through a decade of professional camaraderie) that Gendo did not snort at the older man's assumption. Also, Fuyutski was right. That was benevolent. He was slipping.
"He should enjoy the peace he currently enjoys with the Second Child. By this time tomorrow his world will be significantly more unpleasant."
Commander Ikari could, in his mind's eye, see his wife's teacher nodding sagely over his shoulder. "Of course. One can only expect the most severe of retribution when one has wrought the level of carnage so brazenly perpetrated…no matter how irreplaceable one is."
Ho ho. "I assure you that Unit-01 will be operational, irrespective of the Third Child's operational capacity…or lack thereof. Do you not agree, sensei?"
"I need no convincing," the sub-commander assured his (subtly chaffing) superior. "I have no doubt that Unit-01 will perform adequately, that she'll unfailingly accept the dummy plug under any and all extenuating circumstances, regardless of the fact that Ritsuko Akagi has not completed the prototype and has no real world data to validate its effectiveness, and that if Unit-01 does not activate in the midst of an Angel attack, we would only have one other pilot that has emerged victorious in one-on-one combat against an Angel, one only minutes matured from an inert, harmless embryo, and that Units-03 and 04 are still under construction with no currently assigned pilots whom, when found, it will take months to adequately train, and mentally prepare for the inevitable onslaught from an enemy that has become increasingly more powerf-"
"A simple 'no' would have sufficed."
"Tell me, Ikari…just who is your daddy?"
"What's that face for? Don't worry about Shinji. From what I'm hearing now he's only going to spend some quality time in the psychiatric ward. For now, at least. He and Asuka will be evaluated for the next week. No one seems to think Shinji is going to face any charges."
Ritsuko truly believed her own words. She had first asked about the fate of the Third Child when she had met earlier with Commander Ikari, who had uncharacteristically muttered like a petulant child…something about old fart know-it-alls. The blonde woman put the cubed root of five-thousand and thirty-two together with the hyperbolic tangent of the cosine of sixteen radians and realized Shinji Ikari's mother had saved her son again.
More than a decade after her 'death', Yui Ikari still had such a hold on everything in Nerv that mattered, and that included Kouzou Fuyutski. Something incessantly vile lanced through her when she thought of the woman who, no matter how hard Ritsuko Akagi tried ignoring it, was everywhere. She wanted desperately at that moment to forget about Yui, so she turned her black thoughts away from Commander Ikari's wife, to finish her teleconference with…Rei Ayanami.
Ritsuko could only shiver internally at the red eyes staring out at her from that tousled blue mop. It wasn't apathy in those bloody pools that frightened her; it was the concern, a thing so painfully understated a woman unfamiliar with the First Child's face would have mistook it for confusion. Or perhaps constipation. But it was there. It was new. It was creepy. It was something Commander Ikari need not know about, lest Shinji's current status as 'alive' was to remain unchanged.
"That is good for him," the First Child said, her image briefly flickering before stabilizing in the briefing room Ritsuko, Misato, and the technicians currently occupied. "I am glad."
"You could probably visit him tomorrow if you like, if you're feeling good enough to move around."
The chill in Dr. Akagi's spine deepened, because now Rei looked almost…hesitant? "I…I will consider it."
"You don't need to feel nervous around Asuka," said the blonde woman as she quickly grasped the source of Rei's apprehension…and then pounced on it like a jaguar. "Ever since she and Shinji made up she's been as gentle as a kitten."
Rei's nostrils flared, tried hiding it, utterly failed.
"As long as you don't make any passes at Shinji, you won't have to worry about getting into a cat fight."
For a moment, Rei Ayanami looked for all the world as though she was consulting someone that wasn't there. Then, with the premeditation of a master brain surgeon, raised the arm that was not in a sling, and then slowly, precisely, extended her middle finger from her closed fist.
The briefing room video projector went black.
Behind where Ritsuko sat, Misato Katsuragi stared, finally re-hinging her jaw when she realized it was hanging open. "Wow, Ritsu. I guess that proves even Rei has her limits."
Dr. Akagi shook her head and fully swiveled in her seat to meet the gaze of her best and most annoying friend. "The only thing it proves is that this day needs to end as soon as possible, so I'd like to get this meeting started before it has a chance to get any weirder. Maya, why did you take off your uniform?"
The young short-haired woman in question looked down at her t-shirt, which was faded, and judging from the stretching in the chest area perhaps two sizes too small. Pulled taut over her breasts were the words 'Trumpy's Troops' in a large bold font, making Ritsuko's protégé look all the world like a sorority girl gone wild who had spent spring break at the Nairobi Wildlife Refuge.
"I-I apologize, sempai. I just wanted to honor Sergeant Trumpy's sacrifice."
Ritsuko was incredulous. "What? What sacrifice? What did he accomplish by being thrown into mainland China? He was just. An elephant. What the hell was he even sergeant of?" She loudly sighed. "Can you at least take off that ridiculous hat?"
Maya Ibuki's trembling digits fingered the foam elephant trunk drooping slightly over her forehead. Her lower lip quivered…
"Okay, okay! You don't have to take it off…" She couldn't stand yelling at her kohai anymore; it was like kicking a puppy…a puppy with diseases. "Just, just give us your update of the damage report; it's already past twenty-three hundred hours."
The younger woman was visibly relieved as she primped the stack of papers she loosely gripped. "No new information about the Eva's, I'm afraid. Unit-00 sustained the heaviest damage. Repairs will begin tomorrow on the left and right side of its…everything. Unit-02 incurred only slight damage in the head area, as well as the neck and back. Intermediate damage was sustained in the groin region. Unit-01 is almost entirely unharmed, save for the head, of course."
Maya looked up and into Ritsuko's green eyes. "I talked to the engineers in person. They're really at a loss as to how to remove the Progressive Mallet from Unit-01's crown, let alone how to get it back into Hammer Space."
Her superior waved a hand at that. "They asked you to put that last part in there, didn't they? Well, I don't have a clue how to do that, they're on their own."
"I do have some good news about Tokyo-3. The first teams from the Civil Planning Department came back, and they're saying the city only really sustained moderate damage to its infrastructure."
Misato looked up at that, mildly surprised. "So it's not as bad as it looks?"
Lieutenant Ibuki shuffled her paper stack until she came to the appropriate page. "If you break it down by district, the destruction was usually in the range of thirty-one to thirty-eight percent. District thirty-six was almost entirely untouched, at two percent, while district twenty-seven was totaled, ninety-three percent. That includes the Mimura Third Man Sports Complex, the Tokyo-3 book and gaming sectors, and…" Maya blinked. Her eyes became liquid bowling balls as she inhaled shakily. "…and the Tokyo-3 International Zoo, where…where…"
And then the waterworks came.
Ritsuko could only shake her head as Lieutenant Maya Ibuki sprawled over the conference table and soaked her status report in what looked like pints of liquid. Misato rolled her seat over to the distraught woman's side, laying a comforting hand on the back of Maya's neck. "Oh, there, there. It's okay. Let it all out." The hand moved to the base of Maya's skull. "Just go home for the night and rest that sad brain of yours."
Ritsuko Akagi just threw her hands up. "Yeah, Major Katsuragi's right. Go ahead. You're not going to be any good if you're fiddling with Caspar and you start bawling about dead elephants."
Maya wiped at her wet eyes as she finally sat up and nodded, giving a sloppy salute before picking up her now squishy analysis and turning toward the exit.
"Well, so much for our update," said Ritsuko when her kohai had finally escaped the briefing room with a drunken shamble. She turned to Misato. "So what're you doing now?"
"I…am getting hammered."
"Ah, the bar."
And suddenly Makoto Hyuga burst into tears and hurriedly dashed to the door.
"Hyuga!" Misato yelled after him. "For God sake, it was just a dirty joke!" She looked apologetically at her college buddy. "Why do I feel obligated to calm him down?"
"I guess you're just that nice a girl."
The violet-haired woman rubbed her neck as if she had strained it, and then motioned with a head nod to the door. "Yeah. Look, I'll see you tomorrow. And sorry for the whole trying-to-shoot-you-in-the-stomach thing earlier."
"I almost wish you succeeded," and Ritsuko immediately made a face as she realized how truly morbid that sounded. As she waved to Misato, she began to feel that this place was finally getting to her. That was because she heard more crying, even though the room was now empty, and she was fairly certain it wasn't her. She compared her mental inventory of those who had entered the room with those that had left, then sighed and muttered something about crybaby bridge bunnies.
Ritsuko Akagi bent over slightly at the waste as she looked down and past the edge of the table, beneath it. "Aoba? Aoba, is that you?"
"Uh-huh." He sniffled like a four-year old.
Well, she couldn't yell at him anymore than she could yell at Maya the elephant girl. "What's the matter?" she softly, sweetly asked, kneeling all the way down so that she was at eye level with his huddled form.
He sniffed again and pulled his knees closer to his chest. "Nuthin'."
"Are you sad?"
"Why are you sad?"
He shrugged. "Don't know."
"Are you sad because Maya and Hyuga are sad?"
He shook his head and rubbed his snotty nose and pouted.
"Are you sad because Shinji and Asuka were mad? 'Cause you know they're not in that much trouble…"
Hmm. "Are you mad because I tried choking the life out of you in a fit of primal rage?"
"Well, I'm sorry. And I'm not mad anymore."
Much to the woman's relief, his sniffling began to subside. "Y-you're not mad?"
"Nope! And here…" Ritsuko fished in a pocket of her lab coat and pulled out a green lollipop. "You like Jolly Ranchers?"
He looked at it guardedly and blinked. "Is it…is it sour apple?"
"Well, is there any other kind?" she asked motherly. "You can have it if you come out from under there."
Only a second passed before he gently grabbed the sucker from her soft hand. Ritsuko pulled back as he crawled out and stood, hands fidgeting at the fringes of the plastic wrapper. She also stood, but with a soft grunt.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Oh, I'm fine. Just getting old, I think. Now run along home, okay?"
"See you tomorrow?"
She beamed. I'm beaming. I'm actually beaming. "Tomorrow."
He responded with a smile of his own, and he very nearly skipped out of the conference room, humming some poor tune while enjoying his candy treat.
Ritsuko Akagi finally sagged with relief.
At last, at long last, she was alone.
And she could finally cry for Sergeant Trumpy.
One month later…
Shinji watched Misato eye the meaty chunks in her bowl, poked them with her chopsticks, and then looked up to eye the First Child with a raised, but kind brow. "Rei, I thought you didn't like meat."
"I do not. However, it was…kind of you to invite me to your apartment for dinner. Assisting Pilot Ikari in preparing the food is not appropriate compensation?"
The young man budged slightly in his seat at the table as Asuka threw her hands up and bumped into him; it was easy, seeing how closely she was sitting to him. "Do you ever listen to yourself talk, First? 'Compensation'? You make it sound like some dowry."
"It does not surprise me that you are knowledgeable in methods of compensation. I do not know how else to explain why Shinji tolerates your company."
"Oooooooooooooooooh," Misato helpfully instigated between mouthfuls of food, "burn."
Shinji could feel his girlfriend's shoulder tense, though her face remained tenuously placid. "Very funny, Rei. I'm not mad at you. I kinda like having you this way, to be honest. I feel much better knowing that when the next Angel comes, I won't have some pussy covering my back."
It became clear in the time that had passed that there were at least three things that you most certainly did not do in Post-Postal Shinji Nerv. You did not offer to share your bag of peanuts with Lieutenant Maya Ibuki. Poor Aoba. You did not eat the last of the Butter Pecan ice cream in the dining hall unless you were certain that the Supreme Commander already had his fill. Poor Aoba.
And above these, most importantly, you did not, under any circumstances, whisper a word pertaining to cats with Rei Ayanami in the immediate vicinity, immediate being eight kilometers.
"So, Shinji," Misato loudly interjected, trying as he and Asuka were to ignore the blue glowing wisps convecting from Rei's frozen form, "your session today, how'd it go? Are you less crazy than you were yesterday?"
He shrugged, discreetly inching from Rei's growing aura of canned whup-ass. "I think Dr. Ueto's advice is helping. As long as I find an outlet for the things that bother me, I'll be okay. It's easy now. Sometimes," he laughed, perturbed at how uneven it sounded even after four weeks of therapy. "Sometimes I vent and I don't think I even realize it."
"Oh…" was all Misato could say at first. "Well, everyone at Nerv has got your back, this time. Asuka's not the only one that cares about you, and as long as you remem-" And then Misato Katsuragi's face tried collapsing on itself. Her hands went to her stomach, which began making…noises. "Oh…God, my…what exactly are we eating?""Just some stuff that was sitting around. It was still good, a little bland, so I put some shichimi-"
His guardian's eyes flew open at the mention of the spice, "I-I thought I told you I…can't h-handle…" The table rocked upward on two legs as she pushed away and stumbled from it. She can bob for apples in a bathtub of one-hundred proof moonshine but she can't take shichimi? Shinji thought, tracking Misato shuffle to the bathroom like a grandmother hopped up on pixie straws.
"You weren't kidding about subconsciously venting, were you?" Asuka asked, turning away from Misato as the woman devoted one hand to clasping her rear end before tearing open the shoji to the restroom. Rei, no longer glowing, silently chewed her noodles.
"At least I didn't do it on purpose."
"IT'S EVERYWHERE!" Misato screamed. "I DON'T REMEMBER EATING THAT…"
The German pursed her lips and nodded approvingly. "Well, I'm sure she appreciates that, Shinji."
"IT WON'T STOP COMING! IT'S LIKE THAILAND ALL OVER AGAIN!"
"I hope not…I worked pretty hard on this one."
"It shows," Asuka said after swallowing another bite. He was happy she was enjoying it. He wanted it to be the best penguin she had ever tasted.
That'll learn'em to mess with my cello…
A/N: Wow…that was kinda long. Oh well. Thanks to everyone for reading and reviewing. This was a much harder story than In the Dark Room, if only for the fact that I did not know whether or not I could make people laugh. As of this writing, exactly twice the number of people has read this story that has read ITDR. Funny what a little humor will do. It probably also has a lot to do with the facts that this story has no ACC's, and has a significant portion of it devoted to Rei. And on that note…
I know that Rei had very little play in this chapter. I know…I know…
I want people to consider the following, and here I am assuming that Rei lovers are by extension, Asuka haters. Not an all encompassing assumption, but I'm using it, nonetheless:
No part of the story was told in Asuka's perspective until the second chapter. Until the third chapter, Rei had more airtime, and a significant portion of the humor was devoted to her character. On top of that, she gets to put the screws to Asuka, and then gets the opportunity to rub her vengeance in the face of the German. And by the end of the chapter two Shinji was still skull-fucking the city. That shit…needed to be resolved. Besides, the story is Shinji Just Snaps and Totally Wales on Everything, not Rei Ayanami: Queen of the Deadpan Quip.
And the two scenes in the Epilogue with Rei were not planned for originally. I put them there because I know how popular she is, despite the voice in my head telling me not write them. I won't make a habit of this, but the story has been fairly popular, readers have been very nice, and I wanted to thank them.
Random A/N: I am waiting for someone to give me an excuse to parody the SHIT out of pairings. Please, give me a reason.
Thousands of animals were harmed in the making of this fic.
Thank you for reading and your criticism. Ja.
Next Project: Normal to Reality