Disclaimer: The following is a non-profit work of fan fiction based on the anime and manga Neon Genesis Evangelion by Hideaki Anno and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and Studio Gainax. Why? Why are the innocent punished? Why the sacrifice? Why the pain? There aren't any promises. Nothing certain. Only that some get called, some get saved. She won't ever know the hardship and grief for those of us left behind. We commit these bodies to the void with a glad heart. For within each seed, there is a promise of a flower, and within each death, no matter how small, there's always a new life. A new beginning.

Changing Seasons

By: JErosion

Chapter 20


With anger and frustration the door in front of her swung open. Thankfully the door's hydraulic spring cushioned it just enough to keep it from slamming into the cinder block wall. Without pausing she traversed her way to the sinks that lined the wall to her left. There she immediately began to examine the blue-black blob that stained her hand.

"Stupid..." she mumbled with disgust.

She pumped a generous amount of soap into her discolored hand from the nearby dispenser and ran the hand under the faucet. Behind her she could hear the sounds of a toilet paper dispenser rolling from inside one of the stalls. She thought she was alone when she came in... not that it mattered. She just wanted to get this crap off of her hand.

Hikari was not having a very good day. To begin with she had barely made it on time to class. She could vaguely remember her alarm ringing. But instead of waking up, somehow she had managed to turn off her alarm without gaining full consciousness. A feat that was all the more remarkable considering the amount of coordination needed to flip the toggle switch that deactivated the noisy contraption.

Thankfully Kodama had woken her before it had gotten too late. And once she did make it to school she found herself under the assault of one distraction after another. The first of which nearly caused her to retreat out of her class, just seconds after having stepped in... But before she could really take any action, she found herself being calling to an impromptu meeting with one of the school's guidance counselors. At first she had no idea why the middle aged man had called her to his office. She had only talk to him once before, and that was mostly to discuss early college prospects. At first she was a little thankful for the momentary reprieve...

But any relief she felt soon turned bitter in light of the conversation she found herself in. To be honest it really wasn't a conversation. It was more like a 'I talk and you listen' sort of deal. He started off by lectured her about the importance of her grades and attendance. As well as the importance of extracurricular activities. He was particularly adamant on how well her position as class representative would reflect on her college applications. It wasn't anything that she hadn't heard before, but the tone he took spoke quiet differently.

Eventually, however, the true purpose of this meeting came to the forefront. Lately both her grades and her attendance had slipped. Considering the circumstances those little facets could have easily been dismissed on account that Tokyo-3 was in essence a war zone. But it seemed that her teachers and other members of the schools staff had wizened to the fact that she had a boyfriend.

Now, she had seen this sort of thing before, a teacher pulling aside one of the their top tier students and actively trying to discourage them from any romantic relationships. Typically they would stress the importance of academic pursuits, telling them that school work should always take priority. Sometimes they would bring up about how hard their parents worked to provide for their education, hoping they could guilt some of those students into complying.

Truth be told, she was surprised that they hadn't caught on to it sooner. But considering how behind all three of the pilots were, they probably figured that she had just been providing a little extra tutoring to Shinji. They tried to keep their public displays of affection to a minimum, but there had been times... Well sometimes... She had to admit that there were times that she just could not bring herself to wait. They wouldn't kiss in public... Instead they settled for subtler gestures. A quick hold and squeeze of the hands. Or she might lean into him when they sat together during lunch. When they were confident that no one would see them they might try something bolder... but ultimately while they were at school that had to be careful that things didn't get too... interesting.

And with the way things were going, Hikari wouldn't be to adverse to doing something that was a little interesting. Maybe somewhere off in some private corner or some half-forgotten room on campus. She absently noticed that the counter top of the sinks were just at the right height. She could just sit up there and then Shinji could go nice and slow with it... She shook her head as the corners of her mouth cured upwards in what was probably her first genuine smile of the day. As nice as that would be... she wasn't quite that daring. Maybe one day... right now she'd just prefer to play things safe.

Although after hearing that man talk about their relationship, how that maybe now wasn't a good time, that she would have plenty of opportunities when she got older, that she shouldn't let having a boyfriend destroy her chances at getting into a good college or even threating her ability to continue to carry out her duties as Class Representative. Hearing an adult tell her what she should do in her relationship... It caused several rather rebellious thoughts to form in her head. in her. She had been struck with the notion of breaking into the man's office after school one day. And then she and Shinji could fuck right there on his desk... And leave a nice big wet stain on his desk calendar.

It would be both dirty and poetic. Especially after he brought up what had happened with Kodama. Apparently the man had been a part of the Tokyo-3 education system for some time. Or at least long enough that he had been there when her sister was still attending public school. And Hikari found herself growing increasingly angry at the man in front of her, as he blabbed on about how promising of a student Kodama had been. And how she had thrown away her future because or her involvement with a boy. She could tell he was about to go on to some tripe about how unfortunate it would be if she were to fall in to a similar situation, but by then she had heard enough. She stood up from her chair and interrupted his lecture.

She curtly informed him that her sister's academic downturn had also coincided with the passing of their mother. The man looked somewhat flustered at her outburst. He was an older man and more use to children just listen and doing what they were told. She didn't give him the opportunity to apologize, nor did she wait for him to get over his shock. She just made her way out his office door. Fucking asshole.

She had half a mind to give up her position as Class Rep right then and there. But... No she wasn't going to do that... At least not yet. The timing was wrong and ultimately she would rather leave the position on her own terms, rather than be dismissed or forced from it.

That also meant that she would need to be a little more careful of what she did and didn't do. And that meant that instead of eating her lunch with Shinji like she normally would, she had to spend the vast majority of today's lunch period helping some of her classmates with some last minute tutoring on a test they were having later that afternoon.

And unfortunately this was the same group of students that she considered the most hopeless. It wasn't that they were stupid... well... ok some of them were. They were the kids that just scraped by doing the absolute bare minimum of what was required by them. Which was also one of the reasons why she was now trying to wash ink off of her hand.

Hikari had to show one particular girl how to do a particular math problem eight times before she said that she had got it. And judging from the dull look in the girl's eyes that was an obviously a lie. Hikari had to fight hard to keep back the comment that, instead of worrying about her grades and what college she was going to be able to get into, maybe she should just consider looking into a career that would involve swinging around on a brass pole - and by brass pole she didn't mean as a firefighter.

But since there was no real way she could say that without sounding like a complete and total bitch, Hikari elected to take out her frustrations on the pen that she happened to be holding. Which of course led to her current predicament of trying to rub the ink off of her hand.

It was fortunate that in addition to just being a cheap plastic pen, the ink inside it also happened to be of the cheap variety. A majority of it seemed to rub away under the warm soapy water without too much effort. As she was absorbed in her thoughts and with her current task she didn't really even register the flush or the soft sounds of clothing being adjusted. Hikari jumped slightly when one of the stall doors behind her opened; and she nearly fell over when she saw who it was.

Rei Ayanami... Of all the people it could have been... it had to be her. In all probability the pale girl had walked into this bathroom just seconds before she had. And that lead Hikari to believe with a degree of certainty that the Kami must be punishing her for her transgressions. This morning was the first day in almost two weeks that she had been back to school. And now that she was here, Hikari had absolutely no idea of what do.

From the moment she saw her in class, Rei had become the most troubling distraction that she had been having to deal with. The pale girl's renewed attendance hung over her head like a heavy storm cloud. Her just being there serve to draw her attention away from just about everything else. She had been needing to apologize to her. But it was hard to apologize to someone when you could barely look at them... Well... Look at them without staring...

And it was clear that Rei found this encounter to be just as surprising as she had. Reflected in the mirror Hikari could see the girl's reddish eyes go wide in recognition. For a moment neither of them moved, the only real sound in the bathroom was that of running water from the sink. And then the initial moment of awkwardness had passed, Hikari found herself looking away and Rei did much the same.

Through her peripheral vision Hikari could see the girl's pale form slowly move around to the sink that was farthest away from her. She began to wonder it it was always going to be like this. Hikari slowly turned her head to observe the girl's delicate profile. She couldn't say they were friends. Most of the conversations that had happened between them were out of courtesy or necessity. But you couldn't call them strangers... not after that incident...

Hikari reasoned that she could try to continue to ignore what had happened... But could she really handle coming to school everyday with this 'thing' hanging between them? She shut off the water at her sink. Rei had done much the same and was now drying her hands.

"I... I'm sorry!" Hikari blurted out suddenly. Rei froze just as she was about to dispose of the paper towel in her hand.

"...about the other day," Hikari continued. "T-that shouldn't have happened. I was... I was a little angry when you asked me about... me and Shinji... being intimate... and you did that thing...you got really close and started breathing on my neck and against my ear... and... I had a reaction... like when Shinji does that... it... got to me and... and you started asking me those questions... so I just thought I would turn the tables on you... and really really I didn't mean to press my knee against you like that... I'm just really sorry and I understand if you're still mad at me, because that was completely-"


Hikari went silent at the softly spoken interruption. Hikari was going to go with 'inappropriate' but 'strange' worked too. Rei had both of her hands pressed flat onto the counter top. She lean in towards the mirror, as if examining her reflection. And then after a second or two she pulled back. Hikari waited, not sure if she would say any more or not, as she had this odd look on her face like maybe she wanted to say more but wasn't sure on how to word it.

"When you took hold of me..." Rei finally began. Her voice was so soft that is caused Hikari to lean in slightly, out of fear that she might miss a single syllable of what the pale girl had to say. "I could almost feel it... the things you described... the way you said Ikari had carried you. And the feeling... of your breath against my cheek and neck and then... when you pulled me closer to you... And pressed your leg into me... I could feel a wave of heat suddenly wash over me."

Hikari watched as she placed a hand over her stomach and then moved it lower, pressing folds of her uniform flat until her hand came to rest over her lower abdomen.

"I have felt it before... sometimes while reading... certain books... or sometimes... after school... when I have stopped to observe some of the older boys that were a part of the school's swim team." Rei spoken in her hushed voice. Rei then turn to a surprised Hikari, her whitish hair swished slightly across her pale face. "I am not as oblivious to such things as many would believe... I can certainly see the appeal of a well-toned body. And I too can feel... those sensations...

"But those feelings... they always fade away given enough time... However that day it was different... after you had touched me... It would not stop."

Hikari blinked. This was all very surreal. Not so much because she was talking to Rei, or because Rei was actually doing all of the talking. No, this was weird because of what Rei was talking about. And unless she was mistaken... and Hikari liked to think that she was not... Rei was actually talking about... being horny?

And that left Hikari wondering why she would even dare to admit to such a thing? And what could she say about it? She had spent the last week or so agonizing on just how she would apologize for what she had done. The last thing she expected was to be in the middle of some confessional.

"I felt uncertain... angry even," Rei spoke once again. "I tried to force it from my mind... But neither my class assignments, nor my duties at Nerv proved to be enough of a diversion... Your description of your time with Ikari... and the memory of your touch would not leave me... Not until..."

Hikari's eyes were drawn down to Rei's right hand. There was a subtle gesture in her movements. Her pinkie curled in as her thumb rolled over the slender tips of her remain fingers. She then looked back up to see a soft flush of pink color the albino's cheeks and a slight tremble of her lips. Hikari felt the heat rise in her cheeks as well. There was no mistaking what the other girl gesture implied.

Rei then took a full step towards her, the girl's red eyes seeming to bore into hers. Forcing her to stay were she was and preventing Hikari from looking away.

"I replayed a version of that day in my mind... I opened my bathroom door... and I see Ikari standing there alone in my room. I walk into the room with my towel barely covering myself. Then he turns and notices me... and then looks away apologizing for his intrusion... But I find that I am not bothered by his presence... Actually I feel the opposite. It feels pleasant. Even more so after I walk past him... and allow the towel fall off my shoulders... I let it fall because I want him to look at me... I know that he adverts his gaze... I know that he tries to be highly respectful of others... but I know that he would not be able to help but look...

"And knowing that he is looking... it fills me with that warmth and... a growing need... And then I see a book that had been carelessly dropped... so I bend over and pick it up... knowing that behind me he was openly staring now... I can feel his eyes... sliding across my skin, tracing the curves of my figure... and boring into every crevasse." she spoke. Her voice slowly grew rich with what could only be described as anticipation.

"I hear movement behind me... gentle hands touch my hips... a warm breath slides against my skin... and then I feel him touch me with his lips... and then with his tongue... he tastes me. I cry out... I moan... my knees begin to fail me... But before I would lose myself... I ask him... I beg him... to fill every empty inch of me."

Rei staggered backwards. She would likely have fallen, yet her hand caught the counter top and she was able to steady herself. In front of her Hikari stood shaking, her hand still extended out from where it had just struck out at the pale girl's shoulder. Her face was red, her features were a confused mixture of rage and something else.

"w-Why... Why are you saying these things to me?!" her shout echoed against the bathroom's tiled walls. She was angry and confused at what was happening. She had been so mesmerized by the look in her crimson eyes and by the soft movements of her beautiful pale lips, to really react to what was being said to her. I wasn't until Rei began to express her desire to have Shinji... penetrate her, that she caught up to the words coming out of Rei's mouth.

"I wished to see your reaction."

"M-my reaction?!"

And instead of answering her demand, Rei slowly stood up straight. She leveled her gaze at Hikari and then did something that caused a greater sense of unease in the dark hair girl. Rei smiled. A soft almost imperceivable smile, but a smile none the less.

"You are angry now... but I wonder if it is really because of the things I said... Or is it because... you wanted to feel him do those things to you just then? Or is it..."

Rei paused her eyes narrowed. Hikari could see the thoughts churning in her head. And then there was a flash of something else in her features.

"Or is it." Rei continued her in speculation. "That you want to do those things to me yourself?"

"What?!" Hikari took a step back, almost as if Rei had retaliated with a physical strike of her own.

"It can be confusing when you start feeling something, that you are not sure you should be feeling."

"W-what are you talking about!"

"Desire. I have seen it on the faces of others..." Rei said, her eyes seem to become slightly unfocused and... slightly disconcerting. But then she returned Hikari's glare with a look of equal strength. "And I saw it in your eyes when you were in my apartment and again just a moment ago."

"N-no! I-I'm not feeling anything! I'm just... I'm just pissed off!" Hikari stammered. She said she was pissed, but even to her ears she didn't sound like it. Her voice was scared and panicked.

"You did," Rei pressed. She stepped forward again. And Hikari recoiled back even further, but she stopped before she went too far. She didn't want to find herself trapped against a wall. "Lying to yourself, will not change what you did. I spent nearly a week trying to comprehend what you had done to me... and then what I had to do to make it subside... And now that I understand better... you have my gratitude."

"G-gratitude?" Hikari repeated in shaky voice. She blinked a few times. Despite her anger and everything else she was feeling, she found her gaze refocusing itself on Rei's lips.

"That ecstasy... Before you touched me... There had never been a reason for me to seek it out... I was aware of it... I just lacked the motivation and the need to explore that aspect of myself... And now that I have... I have no intention of giving it up."

Hikari was so confused now. Part of her wanted to yell and scream every ounce of her anger at the pale girl, yet the other half of her... this traitorous and perplexing half of her hungered to hear more of that husky and melodious voice. Hikari's eyes shifted involuntarily back to Ayanami's lips. She then promptly tore her gaze away.

Damn it! she screamed mentally. She didn't want to accept it... but Rei was right in her observation. Her elevated heart rate and reddened face wasn't just anger. And neither was that heated twinge that blossomed between her legs. Now she wished she had never shown up to school.

And then the silence of the bathroom was broken by the electronic chirping of a phone. And a sort of horror descended on Hikari as she realized that it wasn't hers. She watched as Rei's slender hand rose and then disappeared into the pocket of her uniform. She pulled the ringing device out and with just a quick glance a the display she opened the phone.

"Yes," Rei Ayanami spoke. Her voice was neutral, the sexual undercurrent that flowed with it moments before had washed away. "I understand. Has there been any contact with the Matsushiro staff?"

She couldn't hear the response that was given but she could see by the subtle twitch of the pilot's eyes that the reply was not a positive one.

"Yes sir. I will be ready," she said again. The phone closed with a clap, and soon disappeared back from whence it came.

"Is it an Angel?" Hikari asked in a far away tone.

"There has been an emergency at a remote NERV facility, the presence of an Angel is unknown," she said. "I must leave now."

Rei stepped away from Hikari, leaving the girl to her turmoil of fear and confusion. Hikari turn to her retreating form. She opened her mouth but closed it again as she wasn't sure what to say to the pilot. Wish her luck? Ask for her to keep Shinji safe? Hikari frowned. Tell her to stay the hell away from Shinji? But as Rei placed a hand on the door handle she stopped and cast a final look at Hikari. There was a pause where neither girl said a thing. But after a moment had passed Rei gave Hikari both an assurance and a warning.

"I will not actively seek to take Ikari away from you. For the time being, I am content with fantasy. However... if he were to ever seek me out, I will not deny him anything." And with those parting words she opened the door and stepped through.

Hikari slumped backwards, bracing herself with the bathroom counter top. After the door closed, Hikari turned to her reflection in the mirror. She was trying to figure out everything that had just happened. But then her eyes narrowed. What did she mean by 'For the time being'? Like Asuka, it seemed that Rei had designs on Shinji as well. And honestly how much could she trust Rei to honor such a pledge? And just how long would it be before she was no longer satisfied with her own touch?

She glanced down at her hand and to the thin lines ink that remained in the valleys of her finger and palm prints. Would Shinji ever...? No. He wouldn't. She shook her head. He's not that kind of guy. As long as they were together he wouldn't do anything like that. But then another little thought occurred to her.

Could she? She loved Shinji. Sure there were better looking guys out there, but Shinji... he just had a way about him. Honestly she could understand why Asuka and Rei would be attracted to him. Any girl who had really spent the time to get to know him might just walk away with similar feelings. And aside from Shinji there really weren't any other guys that grabbed her attention.

What about another girl? That same questioning voice asked her. No. No. No. She had no interest... Hikari hung her head. She had no interests in any girls... except for one... maybe. As much as it pained her to think it... She recognize that measure of attraction to Rei. Much like her perception of Shinji, Rei Ayanami had this allure. Her delicate proportions. Her perfect complexion. The reddish color of her eyes. Her soft voice, along with the sweet melody of her moans.

"Damn it Hikari," she chided herself. At the moment she couldn't even meet her own reflection.


Hikari frowned as she listened to the voice on the other end of the phone. It was Mrs. Takimoto from across the street. She was this busy-body of a housewife, who spent a good deal of her time spying on her neighbors, since her kids had moved out. And as long as Hikari could remember, the nosy woman had always seem to look at her whole family with nothing but a disapproving glare.

Hikari knew that part of it was because their father was a widower. And honestly Hikari could agree that if it weren't for Kodama and herself being as old as they were when their mother died, she doubted that their father would have been able to manage as well as he did. She recognized that as been part of the reason why he buried himself in his work the way he did.

And then there was Kodama and her insatiable needs. Not that Hikari could play innocent herself, she had brought Shinji into her house several times for certain... actives. But her older sister... Well, Kodama did tend to slut things up a bit. Hikari could understand the need and desire for intimacy, but Kodama never kept any of her... boyfriends for long.

Oddly enough, for all the years that Mrs. Takimoto had been spying on them, she had never bothered to report these incidents to their father. Kodama had the theory that the reason behind that, was that the woman liked having such a scandalous thing happening in the neighborhood. Either that or she was trying to live vicariously through their actions. The woman had been married for at least twenty years, so it stood to reason that things may have gotten dull in the Takimoto bedroom.

Hikari walked to the front door and pulled the curtain aside to peer out the front door's small window. Sure enough, just like Mrs. Takimoto had claimed there was a boy sitting on their front steps. With the help of the light that hung over the steps, she was able to quickly identify the familiar crop of dark brown hair. But even though she knew who it was, she found herself filled with a certain sense of anxiety.

Earlier she had witnessed all three of the pilots get pulled out of school that day. She spent the next couple of hours waiting for an evacuation alarm that never came. She didn't really settle into a sense of ease until school had let out. At least that was until she when she got home and turned the television on to the local news station.

They reported that there had been an explosion in the city of Matsushiro at around noon and then later there had been a NERV military action in a small town named Kurosho that was just five kilometers to the northeast of Tokyo-3's city limits. That entire town was still in a state of lock down. Since she saw the report she had been waiting for him to call her and tell her that he was alright.

"Well, is it someone you know? Should I call the police?" crackled the voice on the other end of the phone. For a moment Hikari had forgotten all about the nosy neighbor.

"No, that won't be necessary," she assured the woman. "It's just a friend from school."

Hikari could hear Mrs.Takimoto start to make a derogatory sort of comment, but it was lost as Hikari hit the 'END' button on the phone. She just set the phone on the floor and unlocked the door. Shinji didn't even react to the sound of the door opening. He just sat there hunched over, his hands drawn up over his face. It was almost night outside. In the west there was only a light brush of color still lingering on the horizon.

"Shinji?" she tried as she knelt down beside him. His hands slowly slid down his face to reveal a pair of red rimmed eyes. She could feel her chest grow heavy and knot up on the inside. Like a hand had slipped past her ribs and was now squeezing her heart. It looked like he had been crying. In all of the time that she had known him, Hikari had never seen him shed a single tear. He had been though some tough situations, but to... cry?

"Hey what's wrong. What happened?" She asked him, in the most soothing tone she could manage. She reached out and placed a gentle hand on his arm.

He flinched at her touch and looked away from her. She heard him say something, but she couldn't quite hear it. She knew what it sounded like... but it was the sort of thing that when you hear it... you don't want to have heard it. She reached over to him, her right hand sliding under his chin, across his neck and then back up over his cheek.. She slowly forced him to turn her way, but she was disturbed to find that even though he was facing her, he seemed unwilling to look at her.

"Shinji, what did you say? What happened?"

"He's dead," he repeated in a whisper that sent a chill throughout her body.

"W-who... who's dead?" she breathed.

He shook his head, his eyes were still unfocused and were set mostly towards the concrete steps.

"Shinji... who died?" she asked him again. It was then that Shinji seemed to lose it. He slumped forward into her arms, planting his face in the crook of her neck. He exhaled a choking breath onto her neck.

"I... it was... it was Touji."

"...W-what? What do you mean?"

"It was Touji..." he quietly sobbed.

"Suzuhara?" she asked him. He replied with a single nod.

"B-but how?" she asked him. How could Touji be dead? She saw him just the other day. She could feel a knot form in her chest; she was starting to get upset. He placed his hands on her sides and pulled her into a light hug.

"T-they... they picked him..." He told her. But she didn't know what he meant.

"Who picked him?"

"NERV..." he said. "They... they made him into a pilot."

She couldn't help but gasp. She then thought of the news. The NERV military action in that town to the north.

"I... I told him... I told him he... he would be alright. But I couldn't... I couldn't... there wasn't a thing I could do..." he shook his head unable to finish the sentence.

He felt her hands travel around to his back and then up to the back of his head. Her fingers wove through his hair, pulling him closer to her. In a quiet voice she asked him how... how had such a thing come to pass... or maybe he just imagined that she did. Or maybe.. it was that he needed to tell her... he needed to tell somebody. Someone else needed to know. Someone who could look in from the outside... so he slow deep breath and closed his eyes as. His squeezed her hips as he began to recount what had happened six hours before.

When his eyes opened he was no longer sitting on the front steps of the Horaki residence. He was no longer in the comforting arms of Hikari. He was in Unit-01's entry plug and his hands were firmly gripping the control yokes. He was trying to calm himself. It had been well over an hour since they had received the call. He, along with his fellow pilots, had been briefed as the details came in. There had been an explosion at the Nerv test facility in Matsushiro. And then there was a report that followed that something had emerged from the fire and wreckage of the base.

Touji's test was suppose to have been today. He was pretty sure of that. Of all the days for an Angel to attack. The later reports indicated that the Angel was moving towards Tokyo-3 and rather than wait for it there, it was decided that they would attempt to intercept it before it could react the city limits. But even with an Angel on approach, his thoughts were divided. He was worried about both Touji and Misato, another part of his mind occupied by the troubled look he had seen on his girlfriend's face.

"Target is coming into visual range," a male voice sounded on the radio. A red dot appeared at the edge of the map that was displayed on the wall in front of him. There were two blue dots marked on the map as well. The dot marked as Unit-02 was stationed on a hill up ahead of him. The other dot representing Unit-00, was off to his left, laying low in a concrete-lined waterway.

Shinji squinted his eyes as he saw something black on the horizon.

"That!... it's an Eva! What the hell is this?!" Asuka screamed. She was much closer that he was. But as the thing moved its exact shape became frighteningly clear. The elongated humanoid form, as well as the two armored support braces that rose from its shoulders. It was an Evangelion.

"Confirmed! The target is Evangelion Unit Three," called a male member of the command bridge.

"Hail the pilot," ordered a female voice, Shinji recognizing that it belonging to Doctor Ritsuko Akagi. With their Operations Director currently missing, Ritsuko had to take over tactical operations.

"No response to hails, nor can I get any visuals from inside the plug." said another member from the command bridge.

"Life signs?"

"We are registering a faint heart beat, but... brainwave patterns are flat-lined. The entry plug's life support systems are not fully functioning either," replied the same voice from before.

"We'll take no chances then. Send the eject signal and termination codes," Ritsuko ordered.

Even from this distance he could see a burst of smoke rise from the Evangelion. The machine seemed to stop for a moment, only to resume trampling through a house a second later. Shinji's eyes scanned the skies, looking in vain to find the entry plug as it descended via parachute from the sky.

"Plug misfired, we only have a partial ejection. Unit Three is rejected the termination codes."

"Its still moving," Shinji heard her whisper over the comm. "Have the plugs connectors been severed?"

"Yes ma'am. The plug is no longer connected."

"Spectrum Analysis?"

"Sensor's indicate an Orange Pattern."

"Doctor Akagi," a male voice interrupted the panicked questions of Doctor Akagi. It was his father. "Designate the target as the Thirteenth Angel."

A terrible silence followed. On the screen in front of him, in the windows that provided a visual communication with the other pilots, he could see Asuka's mouth open in protest. But she made no sound. In the window next to Asuka's was Rei's. Her brow furrowed, her face uncertain.

"A-Asuka." Doctor Akagi addressed. "You're on point. Prepare... to intercept and engage the target in... thirty-five seconds."

Ritsuko's voice was hesitant. This was different. This wasn't an Angel, this was one of their own... but...

"Y-yes ma'am." Asuka acknowledge. But the tone of her voice was flawed, lacking the full confidence that he was so used to hearing. Even in the window that displayed her image, her face bore traces of uncertainty. Shinji took a deep breath, or at least as deep of one that LCL would allow. She could do it, he was certain of her skills. She could bring the Eva down and then they would be able to get Touji out of there.

And then all certainty was shattered as Asuka screamed. Her Pallet Rifle cried out in equal ferocity, the sounds of its fired rounds echoing out through the whole town. But the shells from her weapon only shattered the streets and blew apart what were hopefully evacuated homes. The black eva... it was gone... It was just there. He just blinked and it was gone. Where had it...

And the answer came in a swift and furious moment as the hill that Unit Two had been perch upon exploded into a spectacular rain of dirt and debris. Asuka's scream hadn't been a battle cry, it was fear and surprise. And it died off in a hideous choke. Her evangelion flew backwards from the hill, sections of its armor flying off in other directions. And before the red giant could even hit the ground, there was a flash of smoke and then Unit Two's entry plug went sailing through the air.

Slowly Shinji saw the tall black figure rise from where Asuka had been stationed. The Eva... no, the angel... this thing was fast. He didn't even see it move. In less than a second it had traversed several city blocks and had taken...

"A-Asuka!" he cried out, but it was already too late. The window that allowed communication between himself and her had closed. And even if he tried to reestablish a link with her plug, he knew it would be useless. As it was the comm lines were already choked with all sorts of chatter.

Unit-02's entry plug ejected! Pattern Blue Confirmed! Recovery team is already in route. Extensive damage...

But soon those voice faded into the background as he stared at the black eva as it turned in his direction. It seemed to no longer have any interest in the deactivated Unit Two. Slowly it began to walk again, moving along a similar path that it had walking before.

"... Shinji!"

"Y-yes!" he stammered.

"Shinji, I need you to pay attention! Now listen! The angel's current path places it heading directly at you. I want you to wait until the target has crossed the river. Once it has stepped onto the opposite bank both you and Unit Zero will engage the angel at the same time. Be prepared in case you have to dodge..."

"Wait! W-what did it... how did it take... how did it take Asuka out?!"

The explanation came, but he didn't want to believe it. It had propelled itself into the air with its own A.T. Field and then dropped itself right on top of Asuka. She pulled the trigger on her rifle, but couldn't raise it in time to hit the Angel. He had to be ready just in case it tried to do the same to him.

He raised his pallet rifle and took aim at the lumbering beast. The cross hairs appeared on the screen in front of him. The ghostly dashed circle grew and shrunk as they focused on the black Eva. With every step the angel took the outer circle around the cross hairs slowly shrunk to accommodate the distance. He could go ahead and fire at it. But as the dashed circle on the screen showed him, his bullets would go wild at this distance. Not to mention... Touji was still in there.

But could he do it? Even with all that armor it was risky. He could try shooting its legs out and limit its mobility. But what if it launched itself into the air again? What if that wasn't the only thing it could do!? This angel had somehow gotten itself inside of an evangelion, what was to stop it from doing it again!?

"Shinji you have to stay calm and focused. Your sync ratio is dropping," the doctor scolded him. And she was right, his heart was pounding in his chest. But he couldn't help it. This wasn't just an angel.

But exactly what he could call it escaped all of his comprehension as the black eva reached the waterway. Now that he was really looking at it... there were so many thing that were wrong with it. Despite the mid-day heat, the whole thing looked wet. The black armor had a shininess that not even a cleaver paint job could ever hope to duplicate. In fact as he looked he could see water collecting and dripping from the chinks and low points of its armor. Or at least it looked like water. And regardless it couldn't have been something that the machine was originally designed to do.

And aside from liquid literally raining off of its armor, there were things that looked off. The arms hung loosely at it sides... and oddly they looked dislocated and stretched. The black eva shifted forward as if it was trying to look at its own feet. It jaw hung open, revealing jagged and widely spaced red teeth and a long purple tongue. And its sudden shift in posture had another effect as thick ropes of clear mucus seemed to drain from behind a panel of armor that was right above its mouth.

Then the eva's whole body bent forward. The concrete slopes of the waterway cracked under the weight of the dark machine. And then Shinji saw it. The ground around its feet began to shimmer and become wavy, like the streets do in the heat of the noonday sun. No! It was about to do it!

Shinji braced himself, his legs tensed as he readied himself to jump backwards or to the side. The Angel's A.T. Field flared and then suddenly the angel was propelled upwards as a black streak. But unlike the last time, Shinji's eyes stayed with it as it arced through the sky. Shiji's heart sunk as he saw its intended course. The wasn't coming for him. No. The angel flew sideways, towards...

"Ayanami! Move!" he screamed all too late. She had Unit Zero laying just on the other side of a bridge, she had been using the low ground as a cover, but the angel had sensed her anyway. He could see the blue eva shift and try to dislodge itself from the heavy sniper rifle it carried. But before Rei could get her eva out of the way, it was slammed back into the ground as the black angel landed on top of it.

"Shinji! Give Rei some support!" he heard Akagi command.

He didn't needed to be told, he was already moving his eva forward. He leaped over a small hill and trounced through an empty field before he came to a skidding halt in the parking lot of a roadside diner. Several compact cars went tumbling end over end into the street.

Shinji could see the disheartening scene beyond the bridge now. Unit Zero bucked and jerked, trying to dislodge the the weight that clung to its back. But the black angel held itself almost flat against the blue eva. Shinji brought his rifle to bear, the cross hairs focused on the screen in front of him. But... he couldn't squeeze the trigger.

Amidst the glimmering wet panels of black armor there was the tip of white ceramic. The entry plug... Touji was still in there. Doctor Akagi was ordering him to fire. But he couldn't.

"I-I can't get a clear shot!" he yelled back. "I'd hit Rei too!"

That was the truth. Even at this distance the recoil of the pallet rifle could easily send his shells into Rei. He wouldn't risk doing that to her, no more that he would be willing to risk hitting Touji while he sat helpless within an entry plug.

"Ayanami! Try to twist and push it up!" He cried out to her. He hoped she understood and she hoped that she could manage to do it. Rei didn't have to throw the angel off of her, she just had to push it up enough to give him a clear shot. If he could hit the angel in the chest, Touji should still be okay.

He could see Unit Zero begin to turn and twist... but something... from the black eva's shoulder... something white began to bubble and ooze out from the joint of the armor. It shimmied and stretched before it reached down and grabbed the forearm of Unit Zero.

Rei cried out. Shinji could see her try to pull the arm away from the descending ooze. 'Infiltration in Unit Zero', someone said. Unit Zero's arm jerked violently as the veins began to visibly swell. 'Contamination in sync graph' yelled someone else. The whole arm began to swell and bloat... The infection began to visibly crawl up the limb.

"Sever the arm," came his father's commanding voice.

"Her sync ration... if we do that it will..." came the protesting voice of Doctor Akagi.

"Better to lose an arm, than risk a whole Evangelion. Do it now!" the commander roared. And following just seconds later... an explosion... a spatter of blood... and her screams... it was retched sound... unnatural... unthinkable... the sound cut through him like a burning knife, scorching up his insides.

"Rei!" Shinji called out to her. His hand left his controller as he reached out to her image in the comm window. She was rolled into a tight little ball, clinging to her right arm. Her face was pained, her tears momentarily floating away from her eyes before they dissolved into the LCL.

"Ikari... S-Shinji... I-I'm sorry." She whispered faintly before consciousness slipped away from her. In another world and in another time he would have been happy to hear her call him by his name. Or to even hear her speak with such genuine emotion in her voice, even though it would have been been barely noticeable to most everyone else. And her apology... it was something that was more likely to come from his own mouth than from her. But regardless he was now alone.

With a crack and pop the black evangelion rose up from the deactivated Unit Zero. The arm that his father had order to be severed dangled for a moment, before gravity reasserted its authority and cause the bloated and still twitching limb to fall away. As the possessed machine became fully upright the infectious appendage which had seeped out of it moments before began to retreat back into the crooks of armor that it had emerged from.

He should have fired on it. But it happened so fast that he couldn't even aim his rifle. The ground around the black angel shimmered like before, Shinji back pedaled away just in time to avoid the impact of a dark blur. The rifle he held wasn't so lucky, it had been ripped from his hands and shattered by the impact of the former Unit Three. But even though it had missed, the angel was not yet finished. The beast had landed in a tightly twisted ball and its arm lashed out as it quickly uncoiled itself.

Unit One went flying backwards, crushing the diner and leaving a deep furrow in the field that was in back of it. The warning alarm for his power supply beeped dangerously as he impacted. The warning screen flashed with a five minute countdown before it changed back to the infinity symbol. He had nearly lost power.

Shinji twisted around and sent his gaze towards his attacker. It was hunched over for a moment, before it twisted backwards into an unnatural angle. Armor panels along its side broke under the strain, a veritable waterfall of liquid beginning to cascade down the now fully exposed portions of the eva. But then the angel untwisted, its arm shooting out with the force of a coiled spring.

The distance was impossible, but none the less Shinji found his head being slammed backwards into his seat, in response to the sympathetic sensations the his eva experienced. He gasped, his hands moved hopelessly to his neck as he tried to pull away the invisible fingers that clasped his neck. The angel was choking his eva and due to his high sync ratio, he was being choked as well. Another strong hand joined the one already strangling him.

His vision began to swim as he struggling to breathe. He could hear Doctor Akagi pleading for him to get up, begging him to fight. But he wasn't listening. He willed Unit One to shift from side to side, in a half-heart effort to shake the black eva's hands from its throat. But even these movements did little to break the vise like grip from his neck. Unit Three's arms hand stretched out an unnaturally distance. Had they still been at the beast's sides they would have been dragging across the ground.

The dark eva was stepping closer to him, its arms growing thicker and shorter as they adjusted to the shrinking distance between them. But with each step it took the angel's grip grew tighter and stronger. It would be only a matter of time before his throat closed completely.


The Third Child blink for a moment. Despite the desperate orders being issued by Akagi and the ever growing constriction on his throat, his eyes drifted away from the angel in front of him. The familiar voice drew his attention to a black comm window that had opened on his screen. It read 'Audio Only - Commander Ikari.'

"Why are you not fighting back? I know you can do better than this," his father asked him, in a voice that seemed remarkable clear despite all that was happening around him.

"I c-can't..." Shinji choked out.

"Yes, you can. You must."

"...but... Touji..."

"Shinji you must fight. If you don't there will be nothing to stop it from reaching the city."


"There will not be enough time to prep the bombers before it reached the city. We would have to drop an N2 Bomb directly on the city. She could die."

She? Hikari. It was a sobering thought. If he stopped now... if he just rolled over... there would be nothing to stop this angel. Unit Zero just lost an arm, and who knew if Unit Two was even serviceable? That just left him. And that meant he couldn't just sit there... he had to break free.

Try as he might, he couldn't wrench the angel's hands off his neck... He couldn't go around the angel's arms... no, he had to go up through the inside. He rocked his Eva from side to side, pulling himself up almost into a sit up. The motions forced the elongated arms of Unit Three to bow outwards. Before the Angel could adjust, his arm shot through the opening. Unit One's hand slammed into the Angel's gapping jaw.

its mouth shut with a crunch and there was a splatter of blood as its teeth clamped down on its tongue. Shinji pushed up further, forcing the angel's head back. The effect was immediate, the black angel's grip loosened and it... the angel... it made an odd tittering sound. But Shinji just pushed further... The sound grew louder as mucus began to pour out from the vented armor above its mouth, the slime ran down its face and then across Unit One's hand.

Shinji's tried to push further.. but then the Angel began to struggle... it began to retreat... and then it clicked... it tried to pull back... the evas were like an upscaled human being... complete with a respiratory track... it couldn't breath. The damn thing couldn't breath! The Angel tried pull back again, but the Third Child would not allow it. He brought Unit One's left hand up, its finger finding purchase along the top potions of Unit Three's chest armor. He wouldn't let this thing have a chance to catch its breath. His fingers dug in and he pulled the angel towards him, while his other arm pushed the angel's head back.

It happened fast, like everything else with this battle. The armor plate that Shinji gripped popped and gave way... but not before the Black Eva's neck snapped. Like dominoes its bodily control fell away piece by piece. Its fingers loosened and then it hands dropped from Unit One's neck. Its legs then collapsed underneath it. The creature's weight pried its face away, and the armor panel Shinji held in his other hand gave one last wrench before it came free. The angel collapsed in a heap. It was over.

Shinji sat back in the seat of his entry plug, he coughed a few times as his lungs demanded fresh oxygen. The chunk of steel and titanium armor he held slipped from his fingers as he gazed down at the Angel. It chest was exposed to his eyes. The torso was a slimy mish-mashed web of white and gray. If Shinji had to compare it to anything, it was like he was looking into the smashed insides of an oyster. And strangely like an open oyster he could see a dull red-black pearl in the middle of its chest. Steam was rising off the S2 organ. He could even see its ribs... or at least what was left of them. They were nothing but porous strips half circling its chest. An eva wasn't suppose to look that way on the inside. Apparently, the angel's possession of the Eva did not agree with its anatomy. Nor had it agreed with the metals and ceramics that made up the eva's armor.

Shinji stood watching the angel, waiting to see if it might move or do anything else. Someone over the comm system said that its wave-form pattern had shifted from blue to green and then finally to orange before disappearing all together. Shinji continued to watch the broken eva, the water it seemed to have been excreting was still flowing away from it, although the amount that poured from the cracks and crevasses of the armor had diminished from a vigorous flow, to nothing more than a low trickle. Further the remaining tones of red in the S2 organ faded away, leaving nothing but a burned looking sphere. Over the radio Shinji heard someone sat that the recovery teams were in route.

"I - I'm going to try to pull out the entry plug," Shinji called out to anyone who might be listening. "The recovery team won't be able to get to it."

"Alright Shinji. Just... proceed with caution," Doctor Akagi agreed, but to Shinji's ears she sounded hesitant. It wasn't a roll that she was use to playing.

Carefully Shinji moved his Evangelion over the fallen angel. He took a moment to wipe Unit One's hand against the tall grass of the field, the sludge that had poured from the angel's face still covering his Eva's right hand. Then, with exceeding care, he cradled the dark head of Unit Three and pulled it to the side. In a way, it was almost a respectful gesture. This body he stood over... It had been an Evangelion once. Now it lay warped and defiled. Shinji eased forward, he could now see the entry plug. It looked intact, but it was covered in a web of muck that was very similar to what was woven across the torso of the fallen eva.

Shinji grimaced. Touji... he had to be okay. There was a sense of doubt in Shinji, even when he thought that. But there was still time. He was sure of it. The recovery teams where in route. Even though someone have reported on the impending failure of Unit Three's life support systems. This battle... it hadn't lasted for long... there was still time.

He craned himself over even more. The prodding of his fingers caused the plug to slowly shift and turn. A moment later the tube was free. He laid it aside, gazing over at the fallen form of Unit Zero. A VTOL recovery ship was hovering just a few feet above it. They were about to get Rei. It wouldn't be long before another team would make its way here.

He signed in relief. Everything was going to be ok...


His eyes opened. His eyes meet hers for the first time since she had stepped out of her home. Her gray-brown eyes looked at his with both sadness and a question.

"What happen?" she asked him, her voice little more that a hushed whisper.

Shinji just shook his head. He didn't want to say it. But denial did nothing to save his friend. It did nothing to quell the guilt of having told him that everything was going to be all right. That he was going to be fine...

"He was already gone," he told her finally. His voice was a harsh croak by then. But it was all that he could manage. In the end it hadn't mattered that had tried to be careful; in the end there was nothing that he could have done.

He couldn't tell her the rest. He couldn't tell her about what he had seen when the rescue teams had finally opened the emergency hatch to Unit Three's entry plug. What the angel had done to him. The plug's contents spilled out, but instead of LCL there was nothing but a thick whitish sludge. And the body... it didn't even look like him... it was more like a skeleton wrapped in cellophane. But the traces dark hair that remained plastered to its scalp and the plug suit that clung to his whithered remains left little doubt to what he saw.

The heartbeat that the bridge crew reported was nothing but a final act of stubbornness on Touji's part. A tiny part that refused to let go. One that believe that he was going to make it.

A harsh shiver coursed through him. Hikari pulled him into an even tighter embrace. They remained there on the steps long after the last embers of color had drained from the sky. Eventually Hikari's arms loosened and she slipped away from him. He gazed up at her, and found her giving him a sad, yet reassuring smile. Her hand came down and with a single tug she seemed to pull him to his feet. He wasn't sure how, his own energy had already been spent. But since they had been together... she had always been able to lift him up, no matter how low he had fallen.

And slowly she guided him through her front door, and away from the outside, where spying neighbors or anyone else that might look on with judging eyes.


Author's note: What has it been? Five months? Yep, it sure has. Some of you may ask what took so long? And the answer is real life. A change of jobs, some illness and a hurricane have all conspired to take up my time.

As for this this chapter we finally have a little resolution to that thing that happened a couple of chapters ago. But I couldn't let things just drop, I had to make things a little more complicated for Hikari. Also I think it was time to see another side of Rei. Cause sometimes you just never know about the quiet ones.

As for the second part of this chapter I felt like doing something different, with the confrontation with the thirteenth angel. I did same sort of thing with the twelfth by adding in details and observations that just didn't exist in the anime or the manga. And then there was Touji. I always knew I was going to kill him at this stage, but I was a little sketchy as to the how. This potion of this fic was largely influenced by the manga, specifically one panel that shows Touji in the entry plug covered in a web like goo. The thirteen changed to body of unit three so it could do all stretching and twisting that it did while in the battle, so to take it a step further, I just allowed the angel to seep into the entry plug and do the same to Touji. It's a horrible way to die. I'm kinda sad since I liked the way I had been writing Touji... oh well.

A special thanks goes out to Alpha Zulu and to Nairit for betaing this fic and instructing me on the difference between its and it's. And to take it a little further Alpha Zulu deserves a cookie for reading and editing this chapter faster than I can blink... twice.