Disclaimer:  Ok, don't you think if I owned Evangelion I would make this into animation instead of posting it as fan fiction??  For the last time, Gainax owns Evangelion – not me!!   (Not that anyone thought I did… I just have delusions of adequacy).  This is the concluding chapter of my Deviance story, and corresponds to Episode 26,' also known as End of Evangelion part 2: My pure Heart for You/I Need you.  Warning: a fair amount of WAFF is coming your way… just feel good, darn it!!

Part 12

(Episode 26)

Unity

By Random1377

Hikari Suzuhara felt like she was floating.  She opened her eyes slowly, and found herself lying naked on a beach.  Shinji Ikari was lying next to her, also naked, "Are we… dead?" she whispered.

"I don't know," Shinji admitted. He sat up and looked around.  Noticing that she was naked, he averted his eyes, blushing, "Sorry…"

"It's ok…" she blushed also, folding her arms over her breasts.

Shinji got to his feet, doing his best to ignore his nudity, and offered Hikari his hand… trying to look the other way while he did so.  She took his hand and stood.

"What is this place?" she wondered aloud, "If it's Heaven, where is everyone?"  She let out a short laugh, "Don't tell me we're the only two worthy of going to Heaven!"

The brown-haired boy looked around. "I don't think this is Heaven…" he said softly.

Hikari's laughter died in her throat. "Well…" she said awkwardly, "let's see if we can find anyone else… I don't wanna stand around here all day."  She lowered her eyes.  "And I want my Touji…"

The Third Child nodded, thinking the very same thing about Asuka, and they began walking, trying not to look at one another.  The sand of the beach was a pure, almost glowing white… though the water that washed up on the shore was a deep crimson.

"Looks like blood…" the girl observed with a shiver, "can we walk further up the beach so we don't have to be so close to it?"

Shinji looked down with some distaste at the liquid lapping up to stain the pure white.  As he opened his mouth to agree, a soft, familiar voice came to him.

"It is not blood… it is sin…"

The two Children looked up with a start, finding Rei Ayanami standing a short distance away.  As Shinji smiled, feeling relieved, the blue-haired girl spoke quietly.  "The sand is Man's spirit," she mused, "and the tide is rising…"

"What do you mean, Rei?" Hikari asked, confused, "where are we?"

Rei looked to her left, inclining her head slightly.  "They are coming…"

As if on cue, Asuka's voice floated over one of the dunes, "You walk in front!" Shinji heard her say, "And don't look back!  Pervert!"

A moment later, she and a very red-faced Touji came into view.

"I didn't do it on purpose!" the Fourth Child was saying, "I'm a married – Hikari!!!"

Asuka frowned. "You're a married Hikari?"

"Asuka!"

The redhead looked up, her eyes widening as she recognized Shinji's voice.

"Now that you have all gathered," Rei began, "we must-"

She was interrupted as the four other Children rushed to embrace one another.

"How did you-"

"Are you ok, I was-"

"What happened to Unit-"

"Touji groped me!"

The First Child watched with mild amusement as Asuka's declaration brought the happy, overlapping chatter to a screeching halt.

"Touji…?" Hikari asked, arching an eyebrow.  Her look might have been menacing, had she not been smiling broadly.

"I didn't do it on purpose," Touji muttered, "when we woke up here, my hand was on her chest…" he looked at the offending hand as if it had betrayed him on purpose.  "How do you live with her, Shinji?" he asked, glaring at the redhead out of the corner of his eye, "she nearly broke my wrist…"

Asuka smiled sweetly.  "Uninvited touches are not the same as-"

"Please…" Rei's soft voice interjected, "there is not much time…"

"What's going on, Rei?" Shinji said softly, keeping Asuka close to him as he looked around, "Where exactly are we…?"

"You are one," the blue-haired girl said softly, looking at each of them, "unified."

"What's that mean?" Asuka murmured.

Rei spoke, looking directly into Shinji's eyes, "You will need to trust me, Shinji, as you asked me to trust them once before."  She hesitated, then went on, "Also, you will need to have utmost faith in her," her eyes flicked to Asuka, "or all will be lost."

"What's happening?" Hikari inquired.  Before Rei could reply, the brown-haired girl's eyes widened. "Rei…" she breathed, "I can see right through you…"

The pale girl ignored the question.  "There is not time," she said quietly, her voice seeming to fade a bit as she spoke, "I have contained her as long as I can, and now the unification is nearly complete.  There is little time, Shinji… so little time…"

"Contain who?" Shinji asked, looking around, "I don't-"

"You must believe in one another," Rei cut him off, growing more translucent, "you must…"

In the blink of an eye, the girl vanished… and as soon as she was gone, the four remaining Children felt themselves growing lighter.

"What's happening!?!" Hikari cried out, trying to hold tighter to her husband, but feeling her hands slip through him, "Touji…?"

Shinji and Asuka said nothing. They simply stared into one another's eyes, concentrating on the feelings that rushed between them.  For a moment, it seemed as if this might work, as they grew slightly more solid – even as Touji and Hikari disappeared, still calling out for one another.

Abruptly, the feeling of lightness intensified, and the two Children vanished, Asuka's hastily spoken words drifting on the light breeze that blew over the now-empty beach.

"I need you…"

**

Shinji opened his eyes with a start.

"Wha…?"

"It's about time you woke up!" Asuka said, looming over the boy's bed, "I swear, I wonder why I even try!  Get your ass out of that bed, or we'll be late for school…"

Shinji blinked in confusion.  "Ummm ok…" he murmured, trying to focus on the dream he had been having – something about giant robots and a girl with blue hair. "I'm coming, don't get all worked up…"

"I'd never get worked up over you," the redhead teased, yanking back the blankets, "now get- eww!!" she cried, "I didn't say get that up!!"

"I can't help it!" the boy protested, trying to cover himself up, "It's morning!"

For a moment, the world seemed to fade away, and he could picture the redhead lying naked at his side, whispering his name over and over again.

He shook his head. –What the hell…?-

"What's your problem?" Asuka inquired, her tone sounding slightly warmer, "Are you sick?"

The brown-haired boy tried to concentrate on the image… but it was already gone. "No," he said slowly, "just tired and-"

"Get up!" the redhead shouted, her smile returning, "And try to do it without flashing me, Ikari…"

Shinji nodded, slipping out of the bed.  -Oh well…- he thought, dismissing the dream.

Thoughtfully, he dressed for school, listening to his childhood friend regale him with tales of who was now dating who… and trying to shake the feeling that something was not quite right…

**

"Take the shot, Suzuhara!"

Touji gave a small start, nearly dropping the basketball.  "Right!" he said, shaking his head.

He turned, avoiding the searching hands of the opposing team's forward and dropped back, releasing the ball and watching it arch smoothly through the hoop.

"Good shot Touji!!"

He smiled, turning to look at the sidelines, where Kimiko and Hikari, his sister and girlfriend, respectively, were clapping.

-Where's her wheelchair?- the boy thought, looking at his sister.  He shook his head, -What am I thinking? She doesn't have a wheelchair…-

"Halftime!" the referee called, "Both teams back here in ten minutes."

"Touji!" Hikari called, gesturing the boy over, "Don't forget that we're going to the movies later with Kensuke and his new girlfriend."

Touji shook his head again. "Souryu?" he said, confused.

"Of course," his girlfriend replied, looking at him as if he were dense, "they've been going steady for two weeks…"

-But she can't stand him…- the track suited boy thought.

"You alright?" his sister asked with a frown.

"Yeah," Touji said, dismissing the odd thoughts, "fine.  When are we going?"

"Seven o'clock," Kimiko answered, her frown becoming a faint smile.

"Right…" the boy answered, looking over the Okinawa Municipal junior high's basketball court, "seven…"

"You're coming to my house after, right?" Hikari asked, taking his hand with a blush, "I was thinking… tonight… you and me…"

"You're shameless!" Kimiko teased.

"Not that!" Hikari exclaimed… though Touji had a vague suspicion that was exactly what she meant.

He watched the two bantering back and forth with a small frown and wondering why he was uneasy when everything seemed so perfect…

**

"Hikari!" Nozomi Horaki shouted, "Hurry up!"

Hikari gave a start. "Almost done," she said, closing the lipstick she had been applying and setting it to the side.

"Just because you have a date doesn't give you the right to hog the bathroom!" her younger sister called through the door, "I swear! You're just like Kodama!"

The brown-haired girl blushed, giving herself a critical glance in the bathroom mirror.  –Tonight…- she thought, -maybe tonight I'll ask him…-

She had been seeing Touji Suzuhara, the star of the Tokyo high basketball team, for just over two months… but she had so far been afraid to ask him to see just her.  She was scared he would laugh, or just say 'no' flat out.  She grinned, thinking not for the first time that she had gotten lucky with him.

"Hikari Suzuhara," she mused, "has a nice ring to it…" she frowned. –Isn't that already…-

"I have to go, Hikari!" Nozomi's voice interrupted her thoughts, "Like – now!!"

"Ok, ok!" Hikari muttered, shaking her head, "I'm coming…"

As she opened the door, her sister pushed past her. "Geez!" the younger girl muttered darkly, "You think I can hold it all day??"

The older Horaki girl shook her head, "We do have another bathroom…" she grumbled.

"Mom's taking a bath," Nozomi shot back, unzipping her pants, "can you excuse me?"

"Mom's always taking a bath," Hikari said, rolling her eyes as she closed the door. -Mom…- she thought, standing in silence outside the bathroom as she looked around the house, -why did I think she was gone…?-

The doorbell rang, and her dark thoughts were pushed away… but not forgotten.  Even as she headed towards the front of the house to answer the door, she knew she should not forget what she had been thinking.

Because – somehow – it felt right.

**

"Mmmm… that was incredible…"

Asuka stared up at her familiar ceiling, feeling slightly confused as she felt a hand gently caressing her stomach.  "Shinji…?" she whispered.

"Hmmm…?

"It's nothing…" the redhead murmured, turning to look at her boyfriend in the near dark of her room.

"I should get going soon," the brown-haired boy said reluctantly, "your mom would be pissed if she saw us like this."

Indeed, Asuka's mother Kyoko was not a fan of sex before marriage.  She liked Shinji just fine, and she had commented several times how they made a cute couple… but if she knew what they had been doing for the past four months, she probably would not have approved.

"Shinji," Asuka said softly, pulling her blanket up to cover herself as the boy slid out of bed, "what's it like in Japan?"

"That's the third time you've asked me that," the brown-haired boy said with a grin, pulling his shirt on before continuing, "I told you… it's just like here – cold in the winter, hot in the summer," he shrugged, "of course, not as cold in the winter…"

The redhead nodded, biting her bottom lip pensively.  "Do you have a picture of your hometown?" she asked, wondering why it was suddenly important.  They had not known each other very long, but since Shinji had come with his father and mother to live in Germany, they had fallen quickly and deeply in love.

-So why do I want to see where he came from all of the sudden,- she thought, confused, -I've never been curious about it before…- She closed her eyes, imagining that she could see a huge, sprawling city with immense buildings that could… "Lower into the ground…?" she whispered.

"What's that?"

"Nothing," Asuka sighed.  –There's no place like that in Japan…- she thought.  She became aware that Shinji had stopped moving, and she looked up, "What is it?"

"Just realized," the boy whispered, slowly kneeling on the bed, "today is your mom's late day… we've still got four hours…"

The redhead sighed as her boyfriend kissed her, dismissing thoughts of the city and the huge robots that protected it.  –Robots…- she thought, trying to hold the thought as Shinji ran his fingertips over her skin, -what… robots…?-

The thought was soon banished from her mind as her boyfriend reminded her that he was here, now, and had not been in Japan for over a year.

But she tried to make a mental note to ask him again later… after… yes, later…

**

"Hey Shinji, we're still going to the arcade, right?"

Shinji looked up from his desk as Kensuke and Touji leaned over him.  "Yeah," he said slowly, "I guess.  My dad said I should be home before dinner, though, because my mom is working late again and he wanted to take me out."

"You're dad is always taking you out," Touji grumbled sourly, "lucky bastard – he spoils you."

-Spoiling me,- Shinji thought with a faint frown, -He does spoil me… why doesn't that sound right?-

"Hey Ikari!"  Shinji raised his hand as one of the seniors peeked into the classroom and waved at him.  "Saw that catch you made in yesterday's game – nice one, man!  Keep it up!"

"Th-thanks…" the boy murmured, smiling even as a light blush crept over his cheeks.

"So modest," Kensuke laughed.

"That's how a captain should be," Touji nodded proudly.

Shinji grinned, pushing the sudden, confused thought that he could never be captain of anything away as he leaned back in his chair.  "Captain's only as good as his team," he said happily, "and besides, I…" he trailed off as he glanced out the window.

"What's up?" Kensuke asked sharply, following the boy's line of sight.

Shinji shook his head.  "It's nothing," he whispered.  "I'll be at the arcade."

Touji and Kensuke exchanged a glance as Shinji continued to stare out the window.

Abruptly, Shinji rose from his desk and headed for the door.  "Gotta do something," he said quickly, frowning as he made his exit. "See you guys later."

In his mind's eye, all he could see was the briefly glimpsed, angelically pale image of a girl with blue hair and red eyes.  She had only been there for the briefest of instants, but Shinji knew that he had seen her, and knew that he needed to see her again.  Sprinting across the school grounds, he found himself at the lower school's sandbox, looking past the empty swingset to where the girl had been standing.

And finding nothing.

"Going crazy…" he whispered, clenching his eyes closed and trying to recall the girl's haunting red eyes.

"Ik… ari…"

Shinji's eyes flew open, but still – he was alone.  Closing his eyes once more, he concentrated harder than ever before, breathing, "Who are you?  Are you a ghost?"

The voice came to him again, sounding like a spring breeze.  "I do not have time," the voice whispered softly, sounding truly sorrowful, "so you must listen carefully, Shinji…"

"Ok," Shinji nodded.

"This world," the voice told him, "is only in your mind.  All souls are still uniting, Shinji, it is not too late to stop that… if you want.  If you choose it, everyone will have the ability to return, if they desire to."

"I don't understand," the boy said softly.

"This place," the voice whispered, growing weaker, "does not have to exist, Shinji.  It is only a false paradise, and will fade like a shadow at dawn once the union is complete.  There will be no more individual thought… no more you, or Asuka… there will only be Lillith."

"Who?" Shinji asked, feeling sweat break out on his brow as he struggled to hear.

"It does not truly matter," the voice said, now barely even audible.  "My time is gone, Shinji, I must leave now."  The voice grew warm and soft, fading away as it concluded, "I love you, Shinji… any place can be Heaven, if you allow yourself to be happy.  Remember the one you care most for – remember her and do not let the memory of her true self go…"

Shinji stood in perfect silence for three minutes, straining to hear more… but there was nothing.

Slowly opening his eyes, he looked up to the sky.  "'Her true self…" he murmured hesitantly.

He stood quietly considering the voice's confusing words, trying to sort out the oddly conflicting images floating through his mind.  He was still there when the lower school let out for recess, and he could not help how all the children seemed so happy and carefree...

Even though none of them paid him the slightest bit of attention.

**

Touji frowned as he opened the door to his house, the sound of voices in conversation reaching him from the living room.  "Souryu?" he mumbled.

Making his way to the other room, he found that Asuka was indeed there, talking calmly with Hikari and Kimiko.

"Hey hun," Hikari said happily, rising to her feet and making her way over to the boy and kissing him on the cheek.  "Missed you…"

Touji grinned foolishly as the girl's hand settled discretely against his side.  "Missed you too," he murmured.  "What are you guys up to?"

"Talking about sex," Asuka said boldly.  "Well… not sex," she admitted after a moment of stunned silence, "we were just talking about sexy words."

"Sexy words?" Touji mumbled.

"Yeah," Hikari whispered, turning her head so the others could not see her face, "like Touji…"

Before Touji could reply, Asuka piped up, "Not that you would know a sexy word if it bit you."

"Oh shut up," Touji growled, "you've never even been kissed – what would you know?"

He waited for the scathing retort he felt (instinctually) would be coming.  An odd sense of disquiet overtook him as the redhead mumbled an apology.

"Don't be mean," Hikari murmured, pausing to subtly run her lips over his ear, "or you might not get lucky tonight…"

Touji gaped at her, stunned as she slowly nodded.

"Yeah," Hikari confirmed softly as Kimiko and Asuka struck up a conversation about cooking, "I think we've waited long enough, Touji… I want to go all the way tonight."

"You don't… want to wait until we're married?" the boy asked with some difficulty.  -Where'd that come from?- he thought, shaking his head, -Am I just that stupid?  She wants to do it, and I'm offering to hold off for years!-

"I can't wait anymore," Hikari breathed, sliding her arms around him.  "All I think about is you."

-Why am I fighting this?- Touji thought suddenly, trying not to notice Hikari's left hand as it slid around to his backside.  –It's kinda fast… but…- 

He gasped as Hikari put her right hand against the side of his head as if she was going to whisper something… and slipped her tongue gently into his ear, whispering, "I want you…"

-When did she get that bold?- he thought dizzily, -She was always so straight-laced and uptight…-

But was she?  The more he thought about it, the more he found that Hikari had always been a touch wild.  They had been going out for some time, and as he considered it… he realized that she had always been subtly pressuring him to sleep with her.

As his sister and Hikari's friend talked idly about cooking, and his girlfriend continued to explore his ear canal and tell him about all the things she planned to do to him, Touji could only think,

-This isn't the way it's supposed to be…-

**

"Hey," Hikari called as she came into the living room, "Where's mom?"

"Just left," Kodama replied absently, never looking up from her magazine, "there's a note on the table."

Hikari frowned, glancing down at the note,

Girls – I've got to run out and do a few things, but I'll be back real soon.  Maybe we can rent a movie or something, huh?  See you soon!

                                                                                    Love – Mom

"Did you see her leave?" Hikari asked impulsively.

Her sister shook her head.  "Nope," she yawned, "she was gone when I got up."

"When was the last time you saw her?"

Kodama looked up finally.  "What are you talking about?" she asked, confused, "She made dinner for us last night!"

"No," Hikari replied, taking a seat on the couch, "she left dinner for us and went to a meeting…"

"Yeah," Kodama shrugged, "and?"

Hikari sighed.  "And… I don't know," she muttered, "I just… I wanted to talk to her."

"Call her cell."

Hikari leaned forward, her expression intense.  "I did…" she whispered, "I got her voice mail."

"Why are you getting all freaked out?" Kodama grumbled, folding her magazine and throwing it on the end table.  "Mom's busy – didn't you read the note she left on Saturday?  It said she would be done with her project in three days, and after that, she'll always be with us."

Hikari shivered.  –Why don't I like the way that sounds?-

"Oh yeah,"

"Hmm?"

Kodama nodded to a small box on the end table.  "Loverboy dropped that off when you were napping."  She snorted, rising from the couch and heading into the kitchen.  "I think he wanted to go to your room and sprinkle it with rose petals, too."

Hikari pursed her lips.  "Don't be stupid," she retorted, "why would you think that?"

Kodama rolled her eyes.  "He had the roses with him."

As her sister departed, Hikari sat back on the couch.  –Why does the idea of Touji with roses seem so… so… wrong??- she thought.  –He's a really sweet guy – always going out of his way for me and buying me little presents…-  She closed her eyes, trying to imagine what it would be like to have her boyfriend be a little rougher around the edges.

"But he's not like that…" she whispered, keeping her eyes closed and grinning as an image of a scowling Touji materialized in her mind, wearing, "a tracksuit?  He's got more taste than that."

Hikari sat on the couch for another hour, her expression growing slowly darker and darker as she struggled to hold on to the image of Touji wearing two oddly-shaped hairclips… and trying – unsuccessfully – to remember what her mother looked like.

**

"Hey sexy."

Asuka smiled as Shinji walked up to her desk.  "Hi, hi," she sighed.

"Something wrong?" Shinji enquired, leaning down and helping himself to a kiss.

The redhead shrugged.  "I dunno," she said uneasily, "just this note I got from my mom."

"'Project's almost finished,'" Shinji read out loud, "'should be back in a day or two, then I promise I'll never leave again. –K'"  He handed the note back to her.  "Couple more days," he said approvingly, "that's pretty cool."

"I guess…"

"What?"

"Well," Asuka replied slowly, "it's just that – I haven't seen her for days.  It's kinda strange."

"Didn't you say you went to the movies with her last week?" Shinji asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Did I?" the girl replied, honestly uncertain, "I don't remember it… but what bothers me more is that I keep..." she took a deep breath, "I keep seeing this image," she gestured to her temple, "up here – of her hanging in a hospital room."

"Wow," Shinji exclaimed, "that is pretty messed up…"  He couched by the side of her desk, running his hand discretely up her thigh.  "Maybe I can take your mind off of it…?"

"Mmmm," Asuka hummed, almost managing to lose the hideous image, "tempting…"

"Hey," Shinji whispered, still stroking her soft skin, "if she's out of town for a few days… let me stay all night tonight."

"Why Mister Ikari," Asuka retorted, feeling her breathing starting to deepen, "how bold of you."

Shinji chuckled.  "I'll be over at seven," he promised, taking another kiss and standing, smiling as the redhead complained at the loss of attention.  "I'll make it up to you tonight."

Asuka smiled.  –It's just a couple days,- she thought reasonably, -I don't know why I'm even thinking about mama… she's always there… always with me.-  Her smile faded as Shinji took his seat (the one next to her – by his insistence) and the image of her mother, clutching an odd doll, resurfaced.

"Miss Souryu?"

Asuka shook herself, looking up to reply to the timid voice.  "Yes?" she asked.

The boy standing in front of her desk was obviously younger, and she wasn't sure what class he was from, but he seemed to be very nervous, as he kept fidgeting with a small box in his hands.  "I… thought this might look, ummm pretty on you…" the boy mumbled, thrusting the box out in front of himself.

The redhead blinked, then slowly smiled.  –That's… kinda cute,- she thought, reaching out to take the gift, -looks like he psyched himself up for a while to even come in here.-

"Thank y-"

"What are you doing?"

Asuka glanced up, surprise defining her features as Shinji pushed himself between her and the boy.

"I said what are you doing?" Shinji demanded, slapping the box out of the boy's hands.  "She's mine – do you understand?"

"Shinji!"

"I'm… sorry sir," the boy squeaked, taking a step back, "I didn't know!"

Shinji brought himself up to his full height.  "You're going to be sorry," he promised coldly.

Asuka could only stare in horror, whispering, "This isn't happening," over and over as Shinji… made the boy sorry…

**

"Hey Shinji," Asuka called, looking up from her textbook as Shinji came into the school library, "What's up?  You left class in a hurry… I was worried…"

Shinji sat down opposite the girl, meeting her gaze head on.  "Hey Asuka," he said quietly, "do you wanna kiss me?"

"What?!" Asuka gasped, blushing as her jaw fell open.

"Kissing," Shinji whispered, leaning across the desk until he could see his own reflection in the girl's confused sapphire eyes.  "Have you ever been kissed?"

"N-no," the redhead stammered.  She swallowed as the boy continued to stare at her.  "Can you… stop?" she murmured, blushing brightly.  "Please?  I like you, Shinji, but I don't want to… go that fast."  She smiled timidly.  "I didn't know you liked me that way."

Shinji leaned back in the library chair, studying the girl's face closely.  "Are you scared?"

"No!" Asuka snorted, still blushing, "But I think we should go out first," she lowered her eyes from his intense gaze.  "I've waited for you to ask me out for so long."

"Really?" Shinji asked softly.  "How long?"

The redhead looked confused.  "Why does that matter?" she asked.  "It's been a long time – since we moved here from Germany.  Are you feeling ok?  You don't look so good."

"Where are you?"

Asuka frowned.  "I'm right here, Shinji," she said quietly.

"Where are you?" Shinji repeated, ignoring the redhead and looking at the ceiling.  "I want to see you… I want to see you as you truly are – I don't accept this world."

"Shinji?" Asuka asked, her voice tinged with worry, "What's wrong?  I'm right here, Shinji… I've always been right here, all you have to do is look at me and I'll always be here with you."

Shinji shook his head, keeping his eyes turned heavenward.  "I don't believe in this place," he said levelly, "I don't believe in this her."

"Shinji…?"

The boy closed his eyes, not listening to Asuka's desperate voice.  "Talk to me," he said firmly.  "Asuka isn't that timid!  She's bold, and confident, and she hasn't been with me all my life!"

"I am real!" Asuka protested desperately, "Shinji – look at me!!!"

Shinji kept his eyes closed and focused on the elusive image of Asuka softly smiling at him, running her fingers over his cheek and whispering that she cared.  Taking a deep breath, he made that image the only thing he could see.

"No."

**

Hikari sighed and leaned back on the couch, letting her head rest against Touji's shoulder.  –This is nice,- she thought, smiling as he kissed her cheek, -see? This is how it should be.-

But a moment later, she shifted again, feeling simply… uncomfortable.  Her eyes kept roaming around the room, invariably coming back to the pictures of herself, her sisters, and her father that lined the mantelpiece that dominated the south wall of the living room.

"Hey Touji," she murmured, "have you met my mother yet?"

"Mmmm, no," Touji laughed, "every time I'm over, she's not here.  You keep saying she'll be done with her work thing soon, but I haven't seen her."

"Why aren't there any pictures…?" the brunette asked, gesturing to the mantel.

"You told me she doesn't think she's photogenic," Touji shrugged.

"I did?"

"Uh huh."

"But… but," Hikari stammered, "why can't I think of what she looks like?"

"Easy," Touji said gently, "you're getting all worked up over nothing.  I'm sure you can imagine her if you think about it for a minute."

"No!" the girl said frantically, "I can't even picture it in my mind!"

"Hey," Touji murmured soothingly, "it's ok, Hikari… she said she'd be back soon, right?"

"Yeah," Hikari replied, leaning against him for support, "there was another note this morning saying she was almost done with her 'project' and then she'd be with us forever."

"See?" Touji said succinctly, "Won't that be great?"

-Too quiet,- Hikari thought, feeling slightly dizzy as she closed her eyes and imagined Touji in a tracksuit again, -he's too damn quiet!-

"Kiss me…"

"Sure."

Hikari shivered as she felt his lips pressing softly against hers.  "Harder," she whispered, sliding her arms around his neck, "kiss me harder, Touji."

"I don't want to hurt you," the boy replied gently.

Clenching her eyes more fully closed, Hikari pushed, throwing the unsuspecting Touji off balance and knocking him onto his back on the couch.

"Hikari!  What are y-"

-Just a little hard,- Hikari thought desperately, finding the boy's mouth with her own and kissing him deeply, -he always wanted it just a little tiny bit hard… he said it was because he liked it that way, but it was really because he was always just… barely… on the verge of losing control with me… because he wanted me so badly… because he loved me…-

Hikari allowed her boyfriend to push her off of him, trying to divide her attention between his quiet, slightly stunned observation that she was not herself and the faint, almost inaudible echo in her mind of him telling her, 'I love you.' 

-He was never quiet,- she thought over and over again, -he was always a bit too loud, and a bit too coarse… but I loved him anyway.  I love him that way!-

Trembling with uncertainty, she took a deep breath and screamed, "You're not Touji!  This isn't real!  Where's my mother??  No one's gone ALL the time!  This isn't real!!!"

Silence was her reply.

**

Touji awoke from a strange dream, all of his senses alive and jumping.

"Hikari?"

The girl sharing his bed stirred, pressing her bare chest against his side and murmuring his name.

-She's asleep,- Touji thought with some relief.  –Man, Kensuke would never let me live it down if he knew I was in bed with a hot girl and didn't do anything!-

He had been sorely tempted, though.  His mother and father were out of town, and Hikari had been adamant about spending the night with him, complaining, 'We've been together too long not to do it!' as she undressed. 

What perplexed the young man the most was the fact that he could not say why he had convinced her to just sleep with him that night.  –Maybe I'm gay,- he thought dismally, frowning as he felt Hikari's breasts brushing him with every indrawn breath.  –Man, she wanted to do it, though…-

His frown deepened.

Hikari had wanted to have sex with him… badly.  But no matter how she pleaded and teased, Touji just felt wrong about it.

-Maybe it was because she wanted it so bad,- he mused, -or maybe it was like Rei said: this isn't the real…- his eyes flew open.  "World…"

For the life of him, Touji could not recall ever having met a Rei.

Closing his eyes, he tried to recall the strange, vivid dream he'd been having.  "She's got… blue hair…" he whispered, unconsciously tightening his hold on the girl at his side, "and… red eyes, and she told me this was the dream…"

"Mmmm…"

Touji's eyes opened once more as Hikari sighed.

"Hey," she whispered, rubbing her eyes and smiling as she leaned up on one arm to look at him.  "You ready now… hmm?"

"H-Hikari," Touji stammered, fighting to hold the image of the blue-haired girl in his mind, "Ummm… I'm still really tired, so-"

"Then just relax," the girl whispered, sliding over until she was straddling him.  "I'll do all the work tonight, Touji… you just enjoy the ride…"

-No!- the boy's mind cried, finally locking on the red eyes from his dream, -Hikari's not this… this… slutty!!-

"Can't believe you made me wait this long," Hikari purred, stroking his chest with her palms, "Basketball all-star like you… I thought for sure we'd do it on the second date."

-What was that name?- Touji thought, pushing back at the physical sensations that threatened to overwhelm him.  –She said… Mother of All, and… oh my god, Hikari's hand are soft!  No!  The Mother of All… she's…-

"Lillith!"

Hikari's hands stopped moving.  "Well," she whispered seductively, "that's a new one.  Usually guys yell my name… guess I'll just have to work a little har-"

"Rei's in my class," Touji whispered, ignoring the girl atop him.  "She's a pilot like me… me and… and Shinji!  He's a pilot too, and so is Souryu!"

"What are you talking about?" Hikari muttered.  "I mean… I know I'm good, but you're like, delirious – and I haven't even gotten started yet!"

"Hikari…"

Hikari grinned, leaning closer.  "Yes, lover?"

"Hikari's a pilot too," Touji continued, "and we just got married… and she got sick… and Kimiko – Kimiko's in a wheelchair!"

"Touji," the girl murmured, "you're kinda freaking me out… open your eyes."

"I don't believe this is real."

"Huh?"

"I want it back the way it was!" Touji shouted.

**

Asuka frowned up at her ceiling, subconsciously stroking the back of Shinji's neck as he slept.  –That kid,- she thought uneasily, -why?-  She glanced at the boy's profile, amazed that could be so reposed after inflicting such harm on another. –He's always been protective,- she thought sadly, -but… but that was…-

She shivered, recalling how the younger boy had whimpered… then cried.

"I thought you were going to bite him," she whispered, "the way you were crouching over him… God…"

Then… that night.

Asuka closed her eyes.  –I guess it's good that Mama wasn't here,- she thought, blushing brightly, -you can't really make excuses for that kind of scream…-

With her eyes closed, everything seemed easier to focus on.  Slowly, she turned the day's events over in her mind, going from her mother's note to Shinji's display of violence, the redhead analyzed it all. 

"It just feels weird," she muttered, squeezing her eyes tighter closed.  "You should be…" she struggled for the right word, concentrating on the idea that something was off.  "Nice," she finished, feeling as if she had made a breakthrough, "You should be nice, Shinji – you being mean like that… I don't know, I guess I've always known you were like that, but it still feels wrong."

She took a deep breath.  –I want… Shinji…- she thought deliberately.  –I want it to feel right… I know this is wrong…-

Keeping her breath in, Asuka tried to imagine Shinji touching her gently.  It was not that he was generally rough with he – actually, he was almost always gentle, last night being the exception – but she felt that softness, gentleness, and sweetness were traits that should be focused on. 

Exhaling slowly, the redhead whispered, "I want to see my mother… right… now…"

There was no brilliant flash of insight as such, but a strange image of a giant, red machine, superimposed over a coffin passed through her thoughts.  Taking another deep breath, Asuka willed the image to return, driving all other thought away until another image appeared.

"Shinji…" she whispered, her voice shaking.

This time, the image stayed, allowing her to drink in the details.  Shinji sat in a kitchen chair, a large, stringed instrument cradled against his shoulder.

"Hey!"

Shinji grumbled his disappointment as he was roused from a deep sleep.  "S'wrong…?" he mumbled.

"Shinji, wake up," Asuka shook him again, "I need to ask you something."

"Wasn't once enough?" the boy groaned, smiling tiredly and rolling onto his back.  "Alright… but slow this time, ok?"

"I didn't mean get that up!" Asuka growled.  "Come on, this is serious!"

"Ok, I'm up…" Shinji sighed.

"What do you play?"

Shinji blinked.  "Like… sports?"

"No, no," Asuka clarified, "what instrument do you play?"

"Guitar," Shinji shrugged.

"Not the cello?" Asuka asked eagerly, leaning closer to him as the image in her mind became clearer and clearer.

"No," Shinji frowned.  "Why would I play an instrument like that??"

Asuka nodded, mentally grasping the image of the cello and holding it to her heart.  "This Shinji," she whispered, her heart soaring as she realized what was wrong, "I want this Shinji!!"

"What are you talking abo-"

"Give him back!" the redhead demanded suddenly.  "The gentle Shinji… the kind Shinji… the Shinji that would never, ever hurt someone!"   She took a deep, deep breath, holding it for a moment as Shinji continued to try and ask her what was wrong before screaming, "GIVE HIM BACK TO ME!!!!"

**

In all four of the illusory worlds, cracks began to form.  They ran from the corners of the Souryu residence in Germany to the halls of Tokyo High, and beyond.  Cracks of doubt, fragmenting the façade until it was unrecognizable before shattering it into oblivion.  Places that never existed… places that were only dreamed… places that were not… proper, ceased to exist.  Phantasms of people winked out of being as if they had never been, and all four worlds collapsed in on themselves, leaving one, unified whole.

Shinji Ikari opened his eyes.  "Ayanami…" he whispered.

"Look again, idiot."

He blinked, his brow creasing as he found not Rei, but Asuka straddling his waist.  "What happened?" he asked, trying not to notice that the girl's hands were partially buried in his chest.  –It doesn't hurt,- he thought distantly, -and it sure isn't any stranger than anything else that's happened.-

"I needed you," Asuka replied, studying his face intently.  "I needed you just the way you were."

Shinji nodded slowly.  "I need you too," he said quietly, reaching up to caress her cheek.

"What happens now?" the girl asked, tilting her head into his palm.  "This… isn't so bad…"

"I don't think this is real," Shinji answered, giving a significant glance down at her arms.  "I think… damn, Doctor Akagi never explained it right… but I think our AT fields are gone."  He smiled.  "Rei told me that we're all one…"

"One," Asuka whispered, savoring the word.  "Yeah, that feels right."

"It isn't," Shinji told her, glancing up at the empty sky overhead.

"Why?"

He turned his attention back to his lover, staring deep into her frightened blue eyes.

"I don't want to be apart from you anymore," Asuka said quietly, "can we… stay here…?"

Shinji shook his head, slowly reaching down to pull Asuka's hands free from his chest.  "No," he said gently, "even if it's ok for you and me, what about everyone else?  There's so many people in the world, Asuka, I don't want to force everyone to be like this…" he averted his eyes.  "Even for you."

"Why?" Asuka whispered.  "If we bring back everyone's AT fields… there will be more pain… more loneliness…"  She leaned forward and kissed him.  "Wouldn't it be better," she breathed, "if everyone died?"

Shinji sat up, hugging the redhead carefully.  "Don't you think that's a little selfish?" he asked softly.

"So what?"

"Asuka!"

"I mean it," Asuka sniffed, "I'm sick of a world that does nothing but hurt me… I'd rather be here… with you…"

Shinji pulled away, smiling softly.  "I'll always be with you," he promised, kissing her lightly.  "But if we stay here, like this, it won't be me and you… it'll be everyone… and some people might not want that."  He sighed.  "You can hate me if you want," he told her, "but I'd rather not know we'll always be together than know it… and know that there were others that had no choice."

"God," Asuka grumbled, a tear of frustration running down her face, "I hate it when you make sense!"

"Sorry," Shinji grinned.

"Hey," the girl said suddenly, "why do you think you have any say in this anyway?"

Shinji offered her a half sad, have amused smile.  "Because Rei said so."

"And everyone knows that Wondergirl is omnipotent," Asuka retorted dryly.  She frowned suddenly.  "I wonder if Hikari and Touji are talking like this…"

"What do you think they would choose?" Shinji inquired.

There was a long silence between them as Asuka considered his question. Finally, she closed her eyes.  "One more minute, ok?" she asked quietly.

"Ok…" Shinji smiled.

**

The Heavens and the Earth were still for the span of three-score minutes, and all was still.  Into the silence, a muted sound was heard, echoing across the empty void and signaling the beginning of the end.  The giant form of the second Angel began to tilt her head backwards, the soft sigh of regret growing weaker as two forms, one silver and one purple, broke free of her flesh, pausing only to cry in feral joy before taking to the skies, borne on wings of light.

Four stars fell from Heaven.  Four stars parted company and returned to the world they had been forced to leave.  Each of the four recognized the loss of the others, but felt that this was right.  They rose up, struggling to reach the light of the world they once knew.

Shinji gasped as his head broke the surface of the water, -Good thing it's shallow,- he thought gratefully. Looking around, he noticed the other three bobbing gently in the soft current.  He gestured with his head toward the shore, not more than ten feet away, and the others nodded, all making their way slowly there.

They all lay still for a few minutes, reveling in the joy of being individuals once more.  They all embraced one another, weeping.

After much kissing, tears, and exchanging of I love yous, they all sat together, considering the water.  Each too wrapped in their own thoughts, and too comfortable with the silence, to speak.

"We… we're the last four people on Earth…" Hikari's voice was sad as she spoke, looking down at her plugsuit.

They sat considering the waves for a moment, then Shinji spoke slowly, "No… I don't think so."  Three pairs of eyes focused on him, so he continued, blushing, "Well… Rei told me when we were… inside… that anyone can return, they just need to choose to come back."

Asuka looked sadly at the water, "Then… then why hasn't anyone besides us returned?"

As if on her cue, a head rose slowly above the water.

Shinji was on his feet in a flash, "Misato!!"  He waded into the water with Touji close behind.  Together, they pulled the bedraggled woman up on shore.

She looked around in confusion as they gently helped her sit, each boy going to the side of his respective love.  "What happened?" she whispered, "I remember being shot… then I was with…" her voice thickened, but she went on, "Kaji… but he said I couldn't stay."  She sniffed, quickly wiping her eyes. "Shinji… I wanted to be with him so bad… but he said…"  she took a deep breath, forcing a smile.  "He said you needed me right now… is that true? Do you need me, Shinji?"

Silently staring at her, Shinji realized how much he did need her, and how much she needed him in return.  He squeezed Asuka's hand, gently letting it go, and reached out to lay a hand on the woman's shoulder. "Yes…" he whispered, "I do need you – we both need you, Misato."  He looked to Asuka, who was nodding slowly. "Thank you for coming back to us."

Though she was not usually one for such open displays of affection, Misato found that she could not help herself.  Laughing and crying at the same time, she embraced the boy, trying not to see the surprised stares of the other Children.

Shinji felt Asuka's arms encircle his waist, and he realized that he had two of the women that he loved most in the whole world, right there with him.  –Two, not three…- he thought sadly as more and more people he did not know began to make their confused way from the sea.

Hikari's stunned gasp drew his attention.

"Rei?" she whispered, not believing her eyes.

The girl walking towards them did bear a striking resemblance to Rei, Shinji thought, but her hair was black and her eyes were a deep blue, -Like mine,- he thought.

Instead of walking past them in confusion as the others had the girl stopped in front of them.  "No, Hikari Suzuhara, The Rei that you know died when Unit 01 and Unit 04 freed themselves from Lillith."  They looked at her, wide-eyed as she continued, "However, everything that she was…" she put a hand over her heart, "is in me."

She held her hand out to Shinji, who took it, allowing her to bring him to his feet, "A-are you another clone?" he asked, feeling stupid as the words left his mouth.

The girl smiled, slowly pulling him into an embrace and laying her head on his chest.  "No, Shinji…" she whispered, "I'm your sister."

**

Quite some minute's worth of explanation later, they once again sat quietly watching the water.  The trickle of people was slow, but steady, and everyone present was overwhelmed with happiness as one of the people to return was Touji's sister.  The normally stoic athlete had wept quite openly, carefully cradling the girl in his arms and carrying her back up to join them.

"I was under my bed," she explained, reaching out to Shinji until he took her hand and smiling softly at him.  "The next thing I knew… I was with my mother and my father, but it was all wrong.  I wanted my Touji…" she blushed, hugging her older brother – who now looked embarrassed – and sighing happily.  "That's all I need."

Holding his sister tightly, Touji murmured, "Maybe we should… find a place to sleep.  It's gonna be dark soon."

The others nodded reluctantly, and they all got to their feet, Kimiko resting her head on her brother's shoulder and smiling softly.

"I guess we should head for Tokyo-2," Misato said calmly, "I don't think… umm… I don't think Tokyo-3 is still there."

The others nodded.  "It is unfortunate," Rei whispered, hesitating as she looked back to the LCL ocean.  "But I do not believe that Doctor Akagi or the Commander will be returning."

"Why not?" Kimiko asked curiously.

Rei shook her head, turning back to face the little girl.  "They lived for EVA," she replied calmly, "EVA is gone… there is nothing for them to return to."

Kimiko thought about this for a minute.  "You're weird," she muttered, clinging to her brother a bit tighter.  "I don't think anyone lives for just one thing…"

Rei smiled at her.  "You are young."

"Let's go," Touji said gruffly, "if they didn't want to come back, well… I guess we can't help them, can we?"  He waited for Rei to shake her head before shrugging.  "Then let's go."

"Alright."

As they started for the city, Asuka held Shinji back.  "Shinji?" she asked hesitantly, "Did we make the right choice?"

"What do you mean?" Shinji inquired.

"Don't play dumb," Asuka whispered, lowering her eyes.  "Did we do the right thing?  Everyone could have been happy…"

Shinji smiled and took her hands in his.  "Yes," he said simply.  "We made the right choice.  We gave everyone a choice…"

"But-" Asuka tried to speak, but Shinji put a finger on her lips.

"I wasn't finished," he said.  "Rei told me, 'Any place can be Heaven… if you let it.'"  He looked into her eyes, then gently replaced his finger with his lips, kissing her deeply.  When he pulled away, he whispered, "As long as we keep trying… no matter what happens, we can make it right."  He pulled her into a tight embrace, "I love you."

She wrapped her arms around him, holding him fiercely, "I love you too."

They kissed once more, softly… tenderly… putting everything they were into it.

"Let's go catch up to the others," Shinji whispered as they parted.  "You said you wanted to be together forever, right?"

Smiling, Asuka nodded.

"Ok," Shinji said firmly, taking her by the hand.  "Then let's get started."

Hand in hand, they started towards the future.

The End.

Author's Notes (or, good gravy did it really take me this long to finish??): The idea for this story came to me as a result of numerous discussions with the other members of Animeboards.com – thanks for the inspiration, people!  But it was mostly a result of my dissatisfaction with the way that certain events were played out in the Neon Genesis Evangelion story – and the awful empty feeling I had after watching End of Evangelion.   Due to that fact, this is kind of a "happier" telling of the events of Episodes 15 – 24 and the movie End of Evangelion with some modifications, so don't be surprised at how sugary and happy-happy (especially near the end – though I tried not to go overboard) it ended up.

I called it Deviance because it deviates from the original story near the end of episode 15.  I tried to stay true to the characters in terms of how I think they act, and the events as they transpired (you should be able to pick out the changes – or else I've failed quite badly).  Why did I make it so happy?  You may have noticed that only Kaji truly dies – even Rei is still alive, to some extent, in the form of Rei Ikari (I went with this since, well… no one knows who's soul is in 00, and it seemed to fit pretty nicely).  Well, though I sometimes do write for that Warm And Fuzzy Feeling, I try to get a good amount of angst in… but in this case the reason that I chose to go so far is because the original show and movie are so damn sad!  Every time you thought the other shoe had fallen… another one falls. 

From Kaji's death, to Asuka's mind-rape, to Rei's Death and Rebirth (hehe), to the death of everyone in EoE… things just kept getting worse!  And the two characters that I thought had the hardest time (Asuka and Shinji) only had one single moment –one!- where there was even a hint of redemption… and that was at the end of the movie, so you never even get to find out if it turned out well or not (Side note here, I was going to call the story Redemption, for just that reason… but someone beat me to it). 

In the end, the real reason I wrote this was so I could feel better… Evangelion left me sad and confused, and I felt the only way I could rectify that situation was to take control and imagine how it could have been better – then share it with others.  Ironically, this is exactly why Anno Hideki created Evangelion in the first place – to deal with his own depression.  So if any of you felt the way I did after EoE, I hope this little piece of work helped you feel better.  As for me… the closer I got to the end, the better I felt… and I no longer cry when I think of Asuka and Shinji alone on that beach…

Ok… maybe I cry a little…

Random1377

Technical notes:

This fiction was started on approximately April 12, 2001 (I – foolishly – didn't write down the exact date, but it was right around there), and was finished on March 04, 2003 (now I made sure to note the end date! :) )

According to MSWord, it weighs in at roughly 224 pages, consisting of about 81,100 words – this includes the side-stories as well as all of the author's notes and disclaimers.

I had one, truly dedicated pre-reader on this one: Ryoma, so I want to take a moment to thank him for all of his input and feedback – THANKS!! :)

As always, feedback is welcome and encouraged.  Send to random1377@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading!!