Disclaimer: I own nothing because PenPen won't let me.
It had been 4 days since the battle with the Fourth Angel and Shinji had been in the holding cell for little more than 3.
Sitting alone amidst the darkness of his holding cell deep within the bowels of NERV, Shinji could not help but wonder if he was going to spend the rest of his life there. From what he knew he had been placed in this dark hole because he had defied Misato's orders. It was to be expected. He was a soldier and soldiers who don't follow orders tend to get disciplined from insubordination.
Suddenly, the door to his cell opened up, letting a flood of lights blind him. Squinting as his eyes adjusted to the brightness, he was not at all surprised to see the familiar figure of his guardian standing in the doorway. And she didn't look happy.
"Captain Katsuragi." he says with all the formality of someone who is addressing and superior officer.
"You've had four days to think about what you've done. Have you reached a conclusion?" Misato asked, hoping that this conversation would help her, at least, reach a decision.
"I... I think so." Shinji replied, not sounding very sure of himself.
"And…" Misato began, letting the word fill the cell and wash over the boy.
"And… will I pilot the Eva?" Shinji replied, answering her question as she knew he would.
"Well, will you?" she asked, deciding – no – knowing that his answer will be the conclusion she has sought since he came to Tokyo-3.
He didn't want to pilot, she knew that, and given the choice he would leave. Two battles and he had already suffered more than anyone had a right to. He was young, inexperienced, poorly trained, this entire situation just thrown on him out of the blue.
"And, is it because you want to be an Eva pilot or not?" she asked, studying his reactions as he hesitated for a moment. It was only a moment but it was enough for her to get her answer. Misato has reached her conclusion and she knew that it was for the best. The hesitation in his eyes as he sought for an answer.
"Honestly, no. I'd rather not pilot. But... it's not fair to Rei or the others..." he started to say, but was overrode.
"Oh, cut the crap!" Misato shouted, shocking him into silence.
"What?" he asked, seeing the anger in her eyes, but not knowing why.
"Drop the whole noble warrior routine! Putting other people before yourself is admirable, but for someone who acts so all together, you're very insecure. And someone like that is just going to bring all of us down. Maybe even getting us all killed." Misato said without thinking, her emotions getting the better of her as she told him her thoughts.
"But, what about Rei, and NERV…" Shinji stated, not fully believing what he's hearing.
"We'll get by Shinji. We'll just rewrite Unit 01 for Rei." She said bluntly, as if reading from a script of sorts. To be honest Misato can't believe this is coming from her own lips.
"But, you can't just... how..." Shinji starts to say, not noticing the crushed look in her eyes.
"I'm sorry for asking so much of you... It was simply too much of a burden to put on you. Go back to your teachers and forget about Eva, forget about us, and just... go back to your old life." she said, not really believing that she was saying it.
Shinji stared at her blankly, not believing what he was hearing. It was like being told, 'just go, don't look back, forget what you've seen, forget your responsibility, and think about what's best for you.'
Misato turned away and started to close the door.
"Misato…?" he yells, jumping to his feet and giving chase as she steps out of the room.
"You'll be released tomorrow and put on a train back to New Osaka. Goodbye, Shinji…" Misato said before she looked away to avoid the before looking away, trying to avoid the hurt in his eyes.
"Wait!" he yells, reaching the door as it closes, separating him from his now former guardian.
The door closed and Misato walked away, not wanting the boy to hear her break down and cry. All the while, the only thoughts going through her head was that is what was best for everyone.
Two months had passed and the situation was, to put it mildly... grave.
Rei Ayanami was killed snipering the Fifth Angel, but was herself killed as well when the energy beams collided with each target. Somehow, she was able to make a miraculous return to the living, but so extensive were her injuries, she was currently in a coma.
Second Child Asuka Langley Sohryu from Germany was killed during the 6th Angel ocean battle. She died due to her over enthusiasm and recklessness. And as a result of her rather low synch ratio, she was still inside the Angel when the two battleships Misato sent to her exploded and took her with the whale-like Angel.
And the Fourth Child Toji Suzuhara was killed by the 7th Angel due to his own inexperience and the fact he was immediately double-teamed, which no one could have expected would happen when the Angel suddenly split into two smaller versions of itself.
Currently, NERV had no ready pilots and only Unit 01 has been repaired. It was one day before the effects of the N2 Mine were about to wear off and the 7th Angel fully rejuvenated itself to attack once again.
The situation: bleak. The odds of survival: zero.
Everyone, even Commander Gendo Ikari, was filled with dread.
The office of Dr Ritsuko Akagi...
"What are we going to do?" Misato asked, her head buried in her hands as the computer on Ritsuko's desk counted down to the Angel recovery time, as predicted by The Magi.
"Well, I think we should try and find Shinji." the blond doctor said in a fluster, trying to keep herself busy with something called the Dummy Plug System.
"But... we can't..." the female Operations Director started to say.
"SHUT UP, MISATO!" Ritsuko shouted. "We've lost two pilots since Shinji left and Rei's still in recovery!" she fumed and pulled another cigarette from her labcoat. "God! Shinji takes out two Angels by himself, comes out with only a couple scratches and you convince him to leave! Luck or talent We Need Him! Rei could have died stopping the 5th Angel, Asuka died fighting the 6th, and Toji was killed by the 7th. To say nothing about the JetAlone incident that destroyed Old Tokyo. God, we really could have used the Eva's to stop it."
Misato didn't need to hear this. She didn't need to hear that she was responsible for all this. She was sad enough that Shinji was gone.
"We were lucky that N2 Mine slowed down the 7th, but according to the Magi we've only got 27 hours before it's fully regenerated, and we don't have any pilots! What the hell are we going to do?"
Just then, Ryoji Kaji entered the room.
"Hello, Misato. Ritsuko. I've brought you something you're going to like." the unshaven man said with his usual cocky smile.
Misato wasn't in the mood for his flirting, in fact considering how bad she felt now she was seriously considering pulling her gun and shooting him. That is until she saw a young man emerge from behind him.
Ritsuko's cigarette fell out of her mouth. Misato could only stare in shock.
"So tell me Misato, are you going to let me put other people before myself, or do you want to die?" The boy said with a grimace.
Kaji ushered Ritsuko out of the office when she started coughing up smoke due to her cigarettes and Shinji's sudden reappearance. This left Shinji and Misato to head down to the Eva cages.
"Shinji, I just..." Misato started to say.
She gasped as he snapped at her.
"I know why you did it, Misato. I know why you told me to go. You thought you were helping. For that I want to thank you, for thinking of me. But like the commander said, there's no one else. Mr Kaji told me you've lost two pilots since I left, and Rei hasn't even woken up yet. He also told me what happened with the JetAlone robot that was supposed to replace Eva. I don't know if my being here would have changed anything, but I can't undo the past. However, I'm not running anymore, Misato, because I don't want others to die because of my inactions. I don't care if I do sound like a noble warrior, or if I do come off being selfless. This is my job. So just wish me 'good luck', stand aside and let me put an end to this."
Misato stood to the side as Shinji marched past her.
"Good luck, Shinji." she said, tears threatening to fall down her face.
Shinji was easily victorious over the still recovering 7th Angel. The main trouble had been to find someone to pilot the Eva's, and they had that now.
"This is Shinji Ikari." the boy said into the communicator. "The Angel is dead. Am proceeding to dump the body in the ocean and then return to base."
"Understood, Shinji. And welcome back." Ritsuko said.
"Good job, Shinji." Ritsuko said, greeting the boy as he emerged from the entry plug.
"Thank's Dr Akagi." the boy replied with a weak smile.
"So, I guess this means NERV's best pilot is back in the saddle." she said, trying to cheer him a little. Maybe even herself.
"I take it Rei still hasn't woken up?" he asked, as he shook the LCL out of his hair.
"No. And without her, it's just you until she does, or until we find the Fifth Child."
"Don't." he said simply, not looking at her.
She blinked. "What?"
"Don't look for them."
"What are you saying, Shinji?" the confused scientist asked.
"I'll fight all the Angels, by myself if I have to." he declared.
"Shinji! You can't do..."
"Two Months, Ritsuko!" he cut her off. "For two whole months I let my anger, my frustration, my fear, my cowardice, and my indecision eat away at me. It nearly consumed me. More so than when I lived alone for ten years after father abandoned me! And the cost has been devastating, hasn't it?" he asked, nearly spitting as he did. "That's when Kaji came and laid out the facts before me. I've taken down two Angels by myself and only got a few bruises. Rei's in a coma, and the other two pilots are dead. I told him it was luck, he said it was part of my destiny. That I was the best one. Now... I'm the only one. Maybe if I'd been here instead of running away things would be different. Maybe those pilots would still be alive, maybe..." he fumed, but stopped him, slowly unclenching his fists. "It doesn't matter now. This is my job, this is what I have to do, and no matter what... I'm not going to run."
Ritsuko looked at the boy, feeling herself getting hot just by listening to him.
"It's all on my shoulders now. So I guess the only thing to do is just plant my feet, dig in, and use everything I got. Nothing else to do, right?"
Shinji turned away from her and headed towards the showers.
"Shinji?" Ritsuko called to him, stopping the boy in his tracks.
"Yeah?" He asked, turning to look at her.
"Where... how... who are you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well... two months of letting your emotions stew and you're like a completely new person. I just... how did this happen?"
Shinji looked at her, his face baring virtually no emotion. "Lets just say that I got disgusted with myself for being a coward." he said as he turned and walked away.
Ritsuko could only watch him go. Damn! I'm loving this new kid!
After his shower, Shinji walked into Rei's room and stood by the side of her bed.
"Hello Ayanami." he said. "It's me, Shinji. I don't know if you can hear me, I don't know if you would even care to listen. But since you can't complain, I'll just tell you anyway. I'm back and I'm going to stay. A lot has happened since I left, and I just... You and I don't know each other very well, but we're all that's left. Two pilots against who knows how many more Angels. Until you get better, I'm on my own. I guess in a way, I've always been on my own." he sighed heavily at that. "My job is to pilot Eva so that I can protect the world. I don't know if I can do it alone, but I'm sure as hell going to try. I have to. Now I'll never get to know Toji or that German pilot Asuka, so that means you're my only friend and comrade. Wake up soon, Rei Ayanami. I have a feeling I'm going to need your help."
He leaned down and kissed her forehead gently.
As he left, he didn't notice the thin smile that mysteriously spread across her lips.
"Misato." the boy said after an endless search for his former guardian.
"Shinji!" the surprised woman gasped.
"So, have you rented out my old room yet, or is it still available?" he asked.
"You... want to live with me?"
"Why not? You're the first person who took me in."
"But, after everything that I said, that happened, I mean..."
"Forget it." he waved her off.
"You can't change the past no matter how much you want to. And as bad as I feel about how things have gone, I'm not totally responsible."
"Wait, let me finish." he said, holding up his hand.
Misato shut up as he put his hand down and continued to talk.
"In a way, you do share some of the blame. But if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to share it with you."
"You... what do you..."
"Misato, I consider you closer to being actual family than my own father. And last time I checked, families carry each others burdens."
Misato smiled at that little confession.
"But I told you to leave, Shinji." she protested.
"And I chose to do it, Misato." he gave her a lite smile.
"But I made you leave because I thought it was best... for you."
Shinji just shook his head. He held out his hand to her. "Misato! Are you going to stand there just talking in circles and let me make another mistake, or are you going to take my hand and give me a hug before you start crying?"
Misato took his hand and pulled him to her, throwing her arms around the boy and hugged him tightly.
"I missed you, Shinji-kun." she said, crying heavily now.
"I missed you too, mommy Misato." Shinji smiled as he held her tightly.
The pair had held each other for who knows how long, eventually Misato's tears had stopped.
"You've really matured, haven't you, Shinji-kun?" the older man said as she lead the young man out of NERV and back to her car.
"After everything that's happened, trying to remain a scared child would be kinda stupid." he replied, liking the feel of Misato's arm around his shoulder.
Funny. That sounds like something Asuka would have said. I wish you could have met her, Shinji. Misato thought.
"Oh, and Misato?" Shinji asked as soon as they got to the car.
"I want Rei to come live with us."
"Really?" she asked as the pair got into the blue Renault.
"We're the only two left. We're going to need someone else to rely on if we're going to pilot together and all."
Misato smiled. "I'll see what I can do."
Shinji would need an ally, Rei would need a friend, and Misato would need a family if they were going to survive this whole bloody, and thus far semi-successful war.
It may not have seemed like a selfless action, wanting something for themselves, but need and want are two different things. But to put others before yourself, to fight for them, to have them as your reason to live, was something that could give you such strength. And it was this strength that Shinji would need to see this war through.
He would fight the Angels, maybe on his own, maybe alongside others, but he would fight.
He would fight for Misato, for Rei, for Ritsuko... and everyone else on the planet Earth.
This is who he was, and he wasn't going to run from it.
I hoped everyone enjoyed this little story. For awhile I was wondering what would have happened if Shinji had left NERV after the Fourth Angel battle. So I wrote my own story as to what might have taken place.
The real kicker was what would I do with Shinji. Would I have him still be the same introverted and meek young man who would come crawling back to NERV because he had nowhere else to go, or would he be stronger because of the selflessness he originally felt before he got on that train?
I decided to go with stronger. Believe me, letting your emotions churn and build up inside you for a long period of time can make you see things differently, and even give you inner strength you didn't know you possessed.
I don't know if I'm going to write a second chapter or just leave it. I also don't know who I'm going to pair Shinji up with in this story. Maybe Rei or Misato, maybe no one right away. I'm also considering redoing this story as I feel it's probably missing something.
So, for now, just be happy with what you have here.
And as always, read and review.