Disclaimer: All rights reserved by Gainax.
Warning: Mature content.
Graveyards were a place not many were fond of in the first place but she absolutely hated them. There were nothing wrong with wanting to remember the departed but this was never a place for the dead. This was solely for those left behind. This was a garden of angst, a place where sorrow grew next to the weeds.
Ritsuko Akagi was one person who couldn't stand the thought of being attached to the past and a graveyard couldn't have been a more graphic representation of people looking back. With that in mind, it was no wonder why she found herself hating the entire week. There were so many funerals, too many people she knew being buried.
Thankfully, today would be the last day services would be held and everyone would be able to get their lives back on track. In a few more minutes the last funeral would be taking place but people were already leaving.
Ritsuko continued to watch the affair from afar as the small group of survivors started to scatter, some because of the dark clouds gathering above and others for more obvious reasons.
It wasn't surprising that no one wanted to be at the funeral of the man deemed by many as the enemy of humanity, his secret agenda exposed after his death.
Her hatred of graveyards paled in comparison to the scorn she had for Gendo Ikari. Besides being a scheming bastard, he was someone who manipulated her. He used her… He had her wrapped around his finger. She was so attracted to his genius she never noticed she was being used and, when she did, she continued to let him soil her mind and dirty her body.
Ritsuko tried hard to love him but her effort was in vain. Her attempt to find her place in his heart only led her to find out how cold he really was so she was glad that she killed him. She was happy to murder him right before he was able to grasp his goal.
As she predicted, it started to drizzle and no one was present.
The doctor motioned to head back to her car until she caught something out the corner of her eye. She turned around and was mildly surprised to see someone. Despite the rain somewhat clouding her vision, it wasn't hard to make out the figure of the only pilot still alive.
It was fair to think he was the only person who would come but, at the same time, it would make sense if he didn't considering the rocky relationship he had with his father.
No matter what he or she thought of his father, Shinji was the sole reason everyone who survived the initial attack managed to make it out of the incident alive. She didn't know how Misato did it but she got him to pilot and that was exactly what he did.
He destroyed the Mass Production series, remnants of the Evangelions probably still being picked up to this day and it wouldn't be too far off to say he wiped out a good number of the soldiers positioned inside the GeoFront.
At the end of the carnage, Unit 01 was the only thing left barely intact. Lances stuck in its torso, the Lance of Longinus wedged in its eye, one of its arms neatly split in half… Ritsuko sighed knowing the list went on but the important thing was that he did it. He saved the world and the remaining population with it.
Recalling the image of Unit 01 standing in spite of the damage done to it, Ritsuko brandished her umbrella before she moved closer to the boy who piloted it. Dressed formally, Shinji watched as the gravedigger deposited the remains of his father in the ground. He finished his task and, like the others, scampered away as the spring shower started to become a storm.
Seemingly unaffected by the rain, Shinji stared at the grave before him as Ritsuko approached. Neither said anything as she positioned the umbrella so the rain wouldn't drench him, the gesture being the least she could do for the grief-stricken boy. Silently, they both looked down at all that was left of the commander of NERV.
"I… I didn't know him." He said after a few minutes passed, "I think that's why I don't feel that sad."
Ritsuko was never a sentimental person. She always dealt with people like she had to and nothing more but an idle glance at his eyepatch forced her to say something, "He's not someone you have to cry for."
She didn't know she said the wrong thing until she turned to Shinji who looked more troubled than he did before, "He was supposed to be."
The rain continued to fall relentlessly as they stood under the umbrella, the small talk coming to an end with his words but their thoughts centered on the man that wronged them.
Shinji, Ritsuko decided, was right. Gendo was supposed to be a lot of things. Like a father, like a leader, like… a lover but all he did was further the means by which he would one day attain the selfish objective he desired.
"Yeah…" She muttered, if only to say something.
"Is Misato doing alright?" Shinji quietly posed the question, the look on his face telling her that he feared her reply. Somewhat thankful for the change of topic, Ritsuko briefly wondered what she should say but it didn't take long for her to make her choice.
Not only as someone who had insight on her situation but as one of the people he saved, Shinji deserved the honest truth and she was going to tell him exactly that.
"Shinji," She addressed him while holding back a sigh, "Misato is dying."
His guardian was perhaps one of the few who survived a face-to-face encounter with the soldiers but there was no doubt that she sustained some of the worst injuries. She personally made sure that no one was permitted to visit her especially the boy left in her care. Still, it was amazing that she managed to hold on this long but everyone knew that a chance of recovery was nil.
Shinji stared at his hands, the hopelessness that came with knowing he could do nothing for her something that continued to ebb away at his soul.
"She said she's grateful… that you piloted." Ritsuko voiced before tilting her umbrella to cover him.
It was a lie.
Misato was in no condition to move much less speak. Even if it was a lie, she was certain that his guardian would want to say something akin to that and she could only hope that it made him feel a bit better.
He couldn't describe how he felt even if he wanted to. The only description that could come close was hollow, the dull feeling that he was filled with nothing... He couldn't cry anymore and he wouldn't find any relief in tears even if he did.
How did things turn out like this?
How did someone who was scared to think about tomorrow managed to make it there while so many people who looked forward to the next day died before seeing it? What happened to the faith they invested in him? Where did it go after he failed them?
They were questions a person wasn't supposed to answer, especially a murderer like him.
The only thing he even came close to doing right was killing… He couldn't save an unarmed technician being gunned down while he ran to Unit 01 but he could easily dispatch a division of troops with nothing more than a progressive knife. He couldn't save Misato but he'd be damned if he couldn't turn the Mass Production series into fish food.
Shinji sighed as he remembered there was a time when he completely forgot he was supposed to be protecting people but his unintentional contact with the woman beside him roused him from his ominous thoughts.
Her arm brushing against his almost made him jump but he managed to restrain himself when he noticed she was simply trying to keep both of them dry. Deciding to think nothing of it, he looked up at the doctor.
Unlike Misato, Ritsuko's beauty came not only from her looks but the air of class that surrounded her. Though she was kind of cold at times, she exuded professionalism on a scale that made her so hard to approach that he never spoke to her unless she spoke to him first.
"Shinji," His sight lingered on her just long enough for her to notice, "What are you staring at?"
His head snapped in the other direction, "Uh… the rain."
Even though he was pretty much a veteran, he was still a terrible liar. Thankfully, she allowed it to slide seeing that she had something else to ask him, "What are you going to do now?"
"What am I going to do now?" Shinji echoed. He looked down at his shoes as he realized that he honestly never thought about life after Evangelion, "I… I don't know."
Ritsuko nodded, "That's reasonable given your age but NERV won't be around forever to reimburse us. Anyway, I was talking about the present." She said before switching the umbrella to her other hand.
"Oh, I'm going back-"
"You were seriously thinking of walking back to the apartment in this weather?"
"Forget it," Ritsuko cut him off again, "Come on. We don't have a reason to stay here anymore." She voiced as the rain continued to steady fall.
Shinji took a quick look at the grave of his father before he rushed off to follow the older woman, "Where are we going?"
"To my apartment." Ritsuko replied smoothly, "I still have to talk to you and I can tell you haven't been eating well."
Shinji cringed as her shrewd brown eyes came to rest on him. Ritsuko was always aware of things like that and was critical because of it but her stern look would never cease to unnerve him.
He matched her pace as they walked towards her car, "I just haven't had much of an appetite lately…"
"That's not surprising but you still have to eat regularly even if you're not hungry," Ritsuko folded up her umbrella and pulled out her car keys, "The door is already open."
Contrary to what he thought, his clothes weren't completely soaked but Ritsuko still insisted that he at least put his sport coat in the dryer. While he waited on it to dry, he looked down at one of the cats Ritsuko kept.
Shinji kneeled to take a better look at the kitten that pawed at his pants. He remember Misato mentioning something about Ritsuko owning cats but this was the first time he actually seen them for himself. There couldn't be more than four or five or them, a fact his guardian exaggerated greatly.
The brown kitten purred as the pilot scratched it behind the ear and he couldn't help but smile as it rolled over on its back. Another appeared and playfully pounced on top of it. He was so fascinated with the cats that he almost missed the faint scent from the kitchen even though he was in the doorway.
The stood, leaving the playing cats behind, and entered the kitchen. The sight that greeted him wasn't at all familiar but interesting nonetheless.
Ritsuko was standing in front of a chopping board and was quickly dicing onions. With complete concentration on the knife in hand, she quickly brought the knife down on the vegetables. Finished, she lifted the board and slid the ingredients into the pot on the stove.
It was only then that he noticed she had something in the oven, the aroma the reason he came into the kitchen in the first place. Curious, he found himself moving closer to stove to see exactly what she was making.
"Can you reach in the refrigerator and get me a green pepper?"
"S-Sure," He stuttered, surprised that she noticed him, "Anything else?"
"Well," Ritsuko paused to reach a spoon into the pot, "I have something important to talk to you about." She stated before bringing the spoon to her lips.
"What is it?" He asked, fearing the worst as he opened the refrigerator.
Normally that was something she would only say in regard to his piloting but, now, it was a completely different matter at hand. While he searched for the pepper she wanted, the blonde took a deep breath, "Shinji, would you like to live with me?"
He nearly dropped the bell pepper he just picked up, "Huh?"
Ritsuko stopped chopping and turned to Shinji who stared back at her, "I won't pressure you if you don't want to but Misato did want me to ask."
"She said that?"
He placed what she wanted on the counter and thought about it, "Okay but…"
Ritsuko grabbed the bell pepper and started chopping, "But?"
"The next time you see her can…" He paused and she almost thought he trailed off until he suddenly spoke, "Can you tell Misato that I love her?"
A pang of envy hit Ritsuko.
To this very day, no one ever said that he loved her and actually meant it. Foggy memories of a couple of one night stands were the only intimate moments she could recall besides the time she spent with the commander and none of that had anything to do with love.
Socially, she was incredibly inapt. She knew the value of things like friendship but, in the end, she only saw it as a sugary word to describe associations that were common. She knew it was important to have someone there for you but no one ever really was… When everything was good, people from all around wanted to smile with her but, when things couldn't possibly get any worse, she was alone in her misery.
At the root of her despair was a single man. The first person to say he loved her but didn't mean it at all. Gendo Ikari was one person she was glad she shot dead but, in killing him, she realized how alone she really was.
With her concentration broken by her train of thought, Ritsuko loosened her grip on the knife too much and put a shallow cut on her finger. It didn't take long for the blood to start flowing but she simply started at the wound without moving.
"Where do you keep the bandages?" Shinji asked upon noticing she hurt herself.
"I don't have anything like that here…" Ritsuko responded causing him to stop his search.
It was the truth. She rarely came home and that was only to feed the cats. Everything she needed was at NERV. Mundane things like bandages weren't important since she didn't make careless mistakes like this.
Shinji gently lifted her wrist and brought her finger closer to his face, "I'm glad it's not serious…" He said before licking the trickle of blood off her finger.
Immediately, she snatched her hand back, "W-What are you doing!?" Ritsuko exclaimed, taking on a blush as she realized that he did indeed lick her finger.
"Sorry," The former pilot replied by reflex, picking up the knife to start where she left off, "It's what I do when I cut myself."
"D-Don't be silly! People don't do things like that to each other!"
Shinji nodded before muttering another apology but the fact he thought nothing of it only succeeded to make the situation more awkward than it already was.
She was rarely embarrassed and never to this extent. Even with her cool logic, it was hard to dismiss it like nothing happen but that was exactly what she did in the process of regaining her composure, "You don't have to apologize. It's just…. Well, you don't want to make a habit out of licking old women do you?"
"You're not old."
Ritsuko nodded, "I'm glad you- Wait, you know how old I am?"
"Yeah," Shinji looked up in thought, "I think Misato brought it up one day when I asked when her birthday was."
For once, her eyes widened in surprise and Shinji smiled. While he did forget how old she was, Misato made sure to mention that she was extra sensitive about her age. After the shock wore off, she narrowed her eyes at him with a faint smile coming to her face, "Don't forget I know some things about you too Shinji."
It felt good to see the gloomy expression she had before was replaced with a smile and the day continued. For the first time, they causally spoke to each other. They ate the beef stew she claimed was her best dish and talked to each other just to pass the time.
In a single day, they learned things about each other they wouldn't have known otherwise but the one thing stood out to the blonde as she chewed on the meat.
"…and Misato used to stack the empty cans as high as she could until Pen-pen knocked them down."
Ritsuko placed her chopsticks on the side of the bowl, "You talk about her a lot." She remarked, the words he wanted her to deliver to his guardian still fresh in her mind.
"Yeah," Shinji sighed, "I miss her… and everyone else too."
Countless people died and to sum them up as everyone wasn't even a fair estimate. Still, it was only when he thought of them person by person did the fact that they were gone forever really hit home.
She felt the same way but she wouldn't let that stop her from finding out what she wanted to know, "How did she get you to pilot? No, why did you pilot Shinji?"
"She asked me to…" Shinji whispered, the shaky look in his eyes let her know what she wanted but she couldn't stop now.
"What is your relationship with Misato?"
He blinked the moment she posed the question and started to squirm under her gaze, "S-She's my guardian."
Ritsuko narrowed her eyes before lifting the glass of water to her lips.
It wasn't at all hard to tell that he was trying to hide something. Everyone knew that she was his guardian but there were signs that she was much more than that to him. Before she could even pose the question she really wanted to ask, Shinji was already heading to the sink with their bowls in hand.
"Thank you for the dinner." He said quickly before rushing out of the kitchen.
The doctor almost laughed when she heard him trip over one of the cats but her eyes were locked on the small cut on her index finger, "Tell Misato that you love her huh…" She whispered before getting up from the table.
"I should have at least got my SDAT from the apartment."
He turned to lie on his stomach in an attempt to get comfortable, grumbling as he recalled that Ritsuko reminded him she had a guest room but he knew he wasn't getting up the moment he laid down on the couch.
The couch wasn't all that bad. The reason he couldn't get to sleep actually had nothing to do with the furniture he laid on. Sleepy eyes looked at the glass doors that lead to the balcony and the gentle patter of rain seemed to become even louder than before. Ironically, he liked watching the rain. It was just the sound, though soft, was still enough to bother him and it made it hard to fall asleep.
Instead of trying to get the rest he needed, Shinji rolled on his back and looked at the ceiling before his mind skipped back to a question Ritsuko asked him earlier in the day.
What was he going to do with the rest of his life?
He slipped into a moment of quiet reflection. He thought about and made a list of things he could do, some of them straight impossible while others just wouldn't be a good idea at all.
It was only when she asked him what he planned on doing that he realized he never thought about the future, that he never expected to survive. Honestly, he would have rather traded places with one of his classmates. Everyone except him was always seemingly looking up at things he couldn't see but now their potential was forever lost.
Evangelion was something that introduced him to those people but, at the same time, it was the gateway to misery. He was the least likely person to have a future and he finally had one albeit at the cost of others.
Shinji dangled his eyepatch above his face, "Maybe I should have died…"
A murderer didn't deserve a future.
It was no wonder why he was crying.
Idly, he reached up to wipe his tears away until he realized that he wasn't crying. Sitting up, he heard another sob and knew that it could only be coming from one person.
Getting off the couch, he made his way through the dark apartment towards Ritsuko's room and peaked inside. It was hard to make out but, as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see the older woman crying into her pillow. Even though the pillow under her muffled her cries, it did little to stop the sound of her anguish from leaving the room.
Watching her, Shinji instantly felt his heart tighten in his chest.
Just like the woman before him, he was crying in the confines of his room when Misato came. It was difficult to remember, pieces of that night lost in a dream like haze but the importance of it was something he would never forget.
Along with that memory was a mistake, a clear lapse in his conscience. She was there when he needed her but, when she needed someone, he was too scared to give her the comforting touch she gave him.
The blonde didn't notice him enter her room and continued to cry as he neared her bed. Squeezing the pillow with her arms, she buried her face in it after another sob escaped her.
Shinji gulped. It wasn't if he should pretend he didn't hear her or not anymore. The real question was what he should do. Taking a deep breath, he moved to the edge of the bed with his mind made up, "Doctor Akagi…"
She didn't respond but instead buried her face deeper into the pillow. Not knowing if she noticed him and just decided to ignore him or if she was trying harder to keep from being heard, Shinji started to see that calling out to her wouldn't result in anything.
Warily, he reached out and touched her back.
He could feel his heart thumping in his chest as her crying abruptly ceased. Ritsuko slowly withdrew her head from the pillow and turned towards the side of the bed, "Shinji…?"
The doctor blinked out tears as she looked up.
Shinji, his eyepatch left on the couch, looked down at her as he returned his hand to his side. Even though he was staring at her with different color eyes, her mind was not on the vermillion eye that shared the same concern as the navy blue.
Again, he was witness to her weakness.
This wasn't like the incident involving the clones of Ayanami. This time she was both emotionally and physically drained. She knew that if she kept her secret any longer that she was going to eventually lose her mind…
Shinji broke eye contact with her as he realized how vulnerable she looked.
Ritsuko was always so professional about the way she looked and acted so, when his eyes fell on the disheveled hair, puffy red eyes, and the way the strap of her nightgown loosely slipped down her shoulder, the least he could do was spare her the shame of being seen like that.
"I didn't mean to bother you, I-"
"I killed him." She gripped the pillow tighter, "I killed him and Rei."
He couldn't hide his shock after her admission. Even though he knew fully well who she was referring to, he couldn't bring himself to say anything before she continued.
"I hated both of them," She whispered as she laid back down, "He was only concerned with getting what he wanted. I didn't even care that he used me… I just wanted to mean something to him. I just wanted him to know I was there but he never really saw me."
"I miss him though…" She held back tears as she continued, "I miss everyone."
To say she was lonely was an understatement.
All the people she considered close were either gone or were about to be and she murdered the man she loved with her own hands. Nearly every night, she cried and tried to pretend she didn't. She successfully managed to fool herself sometimes but, in her heart, she knew she was growing more depressed with every passing hour.
Why did she deserve this?
Of course she wasn't the friendliest person around but she was just like any other woman. All she wanted was the occasional compliment and someone that loved her not because of her knowledge or her dedication to her work.
As the tears stared to come again, she couldn't help but feel horrible.
She turned towards him with the idea of asking him to leave but gasped when she realized how close his face was.
He kissed her.
Though sudden, it was nowhere near forceful. As he managed to get on her bed in the process of extending the kiss, her mind was on fire. Questions about why he was kissing her were disregarded but, even if she appreciated the thought, she knew she had to put a stop to this before it went any further.
Her honest intentions were lost when he touched her…
With his tongue roaming her mouth and his hand exploring places best left unmentioned, her mind traveled to a place where right and wrong didn't exist. She struggled with the thought of asking him to stop but she knew she wouldn't even be able to do that…
That was perfectly fine seeing that she didn't want him to stop.
For the first time, someone was being delicate with her. It was so different from what she was used to. The way he did things were so soft and the affection clearly there. She had to be dreaming… There was no way Shinji would or even could do something like this.
The feeling of his hand on her leg promised that it was more real than she thought, the intention of begging him to stop vanishing with the conclusion that this was a fantasy.
She didn't want him to stop.
Sunlight filtered through the blinds and landed directly on her face. Turning her head away from the light, Ritsuko opened her eyes. Judging from the rays entering from the window, the weather must have changed to the same extent of her mood.
Yesterday she couldn't have been more depressed but, today, she felt refreshed. Sitting up in the bed to stretch her arms, she suddenly remembered what transpired thanks to the state of her night gown and bed…
Instantly, she looked beside to see if Shinji was still there only to discover that he wasn't.
Was it wrong? Did he hate her? Was he gone? Was he still here? Was he scared of her? Did he think she was dirty? Was he thinking about her now? Did he want anything to do with her? Why did he leave?
Questions assaulted her from every direction and continued to do so until one of her cats jumped to avoid the opening door. Humming a song, Shinji walked in completely dressed with a tray in hand. Looking closer, she could see that he made breakfast for her.
"Sorry," He placed the tray in her lap and then adjusted his eyepatch, "I didn't mean to let you see it. It bothers people so-"
"It didn't bother me." Ritsuko cut in, blushing as she picked up the chopsticks. Even if she wasn't used to seeing people with eyes that were different from each other, something she wasn't used to at all was general kindness much less breakfast in bed.
As Shinji fought to get his eyepatch on right, she took a good look at him before returning to her breakfast. His relationship with Misato was clear now. It wasn't hard to see that something was going on but for her to turn to her charge to get what she wanted was…
'Was what?' Ritsuko thought as she bit into the toast.
Indecent? Morally wrong? Illegal…?
Again, she took a glance at Shinji who gave up on the eyepatch and decided to play with the kitten. He smiled as it chased after the toy he rolled to the other side of the room.
If Misato was wrong then what was she? Evil?
"I'm sorry about the things I-"
"It's okay," It was his turn to interrupt her, "Do you feel better now?"
"Yes but…" She turned away from him, her sight falling on the food in her lap, "Don't… Don't you hate me now?"
She honestly wouldn't be surprised if he nodded the positive. Not only did she reveal secrets to him that he would have been better off not knowing, she admitted that she murdered not only one of his fellow pilots but his own father. It would have been a chance she wouldn't have felt as bad if he had pulled a gun on her first but she didn't bother to think about details when she shot them.
"I don't hate you at all." Shinji lifted up the kitten with both hands, "I like you."
"Is that why…?"
"No… Well," He turned towards her with the cat in hand, "That's part of the reason I guess. I just couldn't leave you without doing anything and Misato said that was a good way to make someone feel better."
"You shouldn't… do that with people like me." Ritsuko whispered.
"You're not at bad person or anything." He placed the cat back on the ground, "We both did some bad things but I think it's alright enough if you regret it… At least you can feel something."
Shinji watched the kitten run off to play with the other cats, "If you want to think about it like that then I killed Misato when I ran away from her, I killed Mana when I let her leave, I killed-"
The tray was pushed aside and she got up. Her arms wrapped around the former pilot as she hugged him from behind, his list of regrets coming to an end as she embraced him. Again a hug was something she was unfamiliar with but the important thing was that it came from the heart.
"It's definitely not alright but don't say things like that…" She pulled him closer to her as she spoke, "You were just trying to protect everyone."
Even though she was trying to cheer him up he couldn't deny that she, without question, failed. Still, her touch and the fact that she was even trying was enough to make him feel better.
Ritsuko clung to him, her eyes still misty but her smile was proof that she was happy. He made love to this unlovable murderer and brought her breakfast like she was a queen but she was no such thing. She was only a petty woman who killed a man out of spite.
"It's alright…" He said, a sad smile touching his features as he gently squeezed her hand. He had no place to talk about being wrong or right considering the things he did, "Because I'm a murderer, too."
Author's note: How many Ritsuko stories have you read lately? Thought so… but do you like her don't you? That's cool. Huh? You want me to stop making small talk already? O-Okay, to the next chapter we go…