Disclaimer: see part 1
Hearken Unto Me, part 2: Lifesong Resounding
Asuka's life had been filled with pain, both physical and emotional.
When she was four, she had fallen down the stairs and broken her leg. Just a simple, clean break… but it had still hurt like hell.
When she was seven, her mother had taken her own life, and very nearly Asuka's as well.
By the time she was fourteen, she had endured more hardships than most people see in a lifetime. However, nothing in her past could have prepared her for the searing pain the Lance's entry into Unit 02 caused her.
The agony was so intense that all the redhead could do was gasp as her left eye was darkened.
As the red mecha went silent all around her, Asuka began to cry. Not tears of sadness or pain… but rather, tears of frustration.
She had lost again. Lost to Shinji in piloting, lost to the fifteenth angel in combat, and now she was going to lose her life to one of those horrible white monsters.
"I don't want to die," she whispered, tears and blood mingling and streaming down her face, "I don't want to die, I don't want to die…"
Over and over she repeated those five words, yanking on the dead controls in the vain hope that somehow her Unit would respond.
She knew that at least one of the mass-produced EVAs had survived – where else would the Lance have come from?
She also knew it was only a matter of time before it came to finish the job.
"Please…" she moaned, "please someone help me. I can't…" asking for help went against everything she had been brought up to believe, but at that moment… all she could think about was how she had failed. Time and time again, she had failed. Why not ask for help now? She was already pathetic, so why not one more disgrace to add to the rest? After all, in a few moments it would all be over.
"I can't do this alone…" she whispered, slumping back in the pilot's chair and closing her remaining eye.
"I don't want to die," she said once more, wondering if the other EVA would make her death quick, or take its time.
"There is no need…" a soft voice whispered, "live… Asuka… live, and be true…"
She opened her eye, struggling to maintain her sanity as her mind identified the voice as… "Mama?"
"Stay alive…" the voice said softly, "remember those that love you…" it dropped to an almost inaudible level, "forgive those who have wronged you…"
"Yes," Asuka replied, her tears coming faster, "I will, Mama… I will…"
She heard nothing more, and for a moment she began to wonder if she had imagined the whole thing… until all of her monitors sprang back to life.
"Asuka!" Maya's voice rang in her ears, "I'm getting a high energy reading from Unit 02, what's happening in there? Asuka? Asuka, can you hear me?"
The redhead checked the screens, her eye widening as she found all nine of the white EVAs back on their feet, spreading their wings as if to take flight.
"They're coming to finish it…" she said softly, ignoring the technician, "to finish me – no, to finish US."
As the mass-produced Units rose into the air, she narrowed her remaining eye, "But I won't let them!"
Grabbing the control yokes once more, she twisted them savagely to the side, at the same time willing Unit 02's hand to grasp the Lance still pinning it to the ground.
In Central Dogma, everyone watched as the white EVAs descended on Unit 02's position, only to be denied as the red mecha suddenly reached up with one hand and yanked the Lance from its eye, then rolled to the side.
As she brought her machine to its feet, Asuka whispered, "I understand the AT field now…"
She braced herself as the mass-produced Units turned as one to face her. "You've been with me…" she continued, "you've been watching over me… you're always here, Mama…"
One of the white machines snarled and charged the red mecha.
"I forgive you," Asuka said softly.
As the white EVA neared it, Unit 02 threw its head back and howled… the mouth restraints snapping like hard candy thrown against a sidewalk.
Asuka deftly sidestepped the charging Unit and buried the Lance in its chest, never looking back as the thing fell.
"Now then," the redhead whispered, "who's next?"
"Asuka," Maya's voice caught her attention as the white Units stood still, seeming to assess her more carefully, "Misato's in the EVA cages, on her way here. She says each of those Units has a Lance, and they all have S^2 engines and dummy plugs. You'll have to destroy the cores or the plugs to stop them, do you understand?"
"Where's Shinji?" Asuka replied, "Did he find Rei?"
It was Misato's voice that answered her a moment later. "I'm afraid… they're both gone, Asuka…" the purple-haired woman answered sadly, "They were both-"
"NO!!" Asuka screamed, "You're wrong! You're lying!"
"Asuka, please!" Misato begged, "I saw Shinji-"
Misato flinched as Unit 02 echoed the Second Child's scream.
"My… God…" Maya whispered, staring at the viewscreen in wonder, "wings – it's got wings!"
Asuka let her rage fill her, allowing Unit 02 to run free. Angelic aspects of the machine, kept in check by the manmade restraints and the human soul within, were finally released, allowing the Unit to achieve its full potential. Though how long it would, or could last, Asuka neither knew… nor cared.
Only one thing mattered to her.
"No," she said again, her knuckles white on the control yokes, "he's not dead until I say so!"
The bridge crew watched in awe as the red mecha took to the sky, carried by six glowing wings.
And fueled by Asuka's fury.
"Something's coming," Hyouga reported quietly, "I've got massive energy readings."
"Where?" Fuyutsuki replied, leaning over the tech's desk.
"Terminal Dogma," Hyouga answered, sounding confused, "the reading is… human?"
Fuyutsuki bowed his head. –So you finally got your wish…- he thought with an odd mix of sadness and relief, -Soon it will all be over…-
He looked up to the main screen, where the now-aerial fight between Unit 02 and the mass-produced Units was still raging.
His eyes widened as the huge form of the second angel, bearing the face of Rei Ayanami, rose from the depths of Terminal Dogma.
The reactions were varied.
Maya Ibuki screamed, covering her eyes and shaking her head in terror as the hand of the creature passed through her body.
Shigeru Aoba and Makoto Hyouga merely stared in mute wonder as the creature continued its ascent.
And Misato Katsuragi drew her pistol out of pure instinct, nearly firing a round before realizing it would do no good.
Together, they watched the being rise out of the building, heading towards ongoing war in the sky.
Asuka could not recall a time in her life when she had been angrier than she currently was.
The initial spark of anger had not subsided, instead growing in her breast until it was nearly a white-hot flame.
"Come on!" she growled, making the mecha climb higher, "You think you're better than me? You think you could EVER beat me!?"
She bared her teeth, looking back over her shoulder at the pursuing EVAs.
"Weapon…" she muttered, "need a weapon…"
She grinned suddenly, and willed Unit 02's wings to fold in on themselves.
"Now I'm going to show you how it's done."
The dummy plugs installed in the mass-produced Evangelion Units contained the thought patterns of the Fifth Child, Kaworu Nagisa. SEELE had felt this would be a better course of action, as the Fifth had been angelic, and therefore had a thought process almost identical to the EVAs themselves – thus allowing them an unprecedented level of control over the Units.
What they did not account for was combat experience… something Asuka had in spades.
The EVA that was leading the pursuit barely had time to squawk in surprise as the red Unit it was chasing suddenly stopped climbing… and dropped on it like a stone.
"Give me that!" Asuka snapped, yanking the white EVAs Lance from its hands before it could so much as twitch, "Let me show you how to use it."
The white machine dropped from the sky as Asuka rammed the weapon through its core, then spread Unit 02's wings again, using the falling EVA's momentum to wrench the Lance free.
"Thanks," she said contemptuously, hefting the weapon over her mecha's head and trying to decide which white Unit would fall next.
Her triumph was short lived as two of the remaining EVA's Lances shot forward, catching Unit 02 in the hands.
"Ahhh!!" Asuka cried out, looking down in shock as her own hands began to bleed… and watching in horror as the Lance tumbled from her grasp.
The Units that were holding her flew in opposite directions, forcing Unit 02's arms to spread out and leaving it effectively helpless.
"Give me power," Asuka panted, the pain in her hands and eye pushing her to the threshold of her endurance, "I don't care what I have to do, Mama, but help me… help me win…"
She gritted her teeth as another Unit began heading towards her… the level of its Lance perpendicular to Unit 02's chest. She held her breath, her lips moving in a silent apology to Shinji as the white machine approached. Its face, she noted, was lit with a grotesque, almost feral smile.
The smile of a predator that knows its prey has nowhere left to run.
In the near-silence of the entry plug, Asuka became aware of a whistling sound… starting out soft, but rising quickly in pitch until it was almost a scream.
The mass-produced EVAs must have heard it also, because they paused, their eyeless heads swinging around in confusion.
Until the source of the sound made itself known.
"YES!" Asuka cried as the original Lance arched down out of the sky like a bolt of red lightning, burying itself in the chest of the EVA that had her right arm pinned.
The white mecha went motionless and began to drop from the sky.
"Thank you, Mama," the redhead said, "I won't let you down."
Quickly she extricated Unit 02's hand, grabbing the end of the Lance that had pierced it and swinging the EVA (which still had its hands wrapped around the haft) around in a tight arc… aiming directly for the Unit that was restraining her other hand.
Asuka nearly laughed with glee as the two Units collided, and before they could recover, she willed Unit 02 to rush them, slamming its shoulder into the midsection of the one that was still active.
Grasping the true Lance, she risked a quick look around. "Where are the others?" she muttered, "Can't lose track of… of…" her voice dropped to a whisper, "Mein… Gott…"
The remaining white Units had arranged themselves in a circle around her… or rather, in a circle around her and the giant white creature rising up from NERV headquarters.
The Unit that had been pierced by the Lance fell to the ground unnoticed as Asuka's eye widened.
The Second Child slumped back in her seat as the immense being raised its head… and she barely managed to breathe a single word,
The creature's black eyes regarded Unit 02 for a moment… then slowly, its hands reached out, cupping the mecha between them gently.
Asuka's will to fight left her as she was faced with the impossibly huge incarnation of Rei Ayanami, and Unit 02's hand opened, releasing the Lance.
Instead of falling, though, the Lance hovered next to the red machine… floating alongside it.
"What's… happening?" Asuka whispered, her mind unable to cope with what her eyes were telling her.
The creature made no reply.
Pain flashed through Asuka's chest, and she looked down, fighting the rising tide of panic that threatened to overwhelm her as Unit 02's core expanded, cracking the chest armor.
"Is this how it all ends?" she asked softly, unable to look away as the true Lance began aligning itself with Unit 02's core… then slowly started to sink in.
'No,' a gentle voice whispered in her mind, 'this is how it all begins…'
Misato stood stock-still, barely daring to breathe.
All around her, the members of the bridge crew began to smile… their bodies breaking down one by one.
She blinked in surprise as Hyouga whispered her name, smiling as his body turned into LCL.
She watched in mute horror as Maya clutched at thin air, crying, 'Sempai! Sempai!' over and over again until she finally ceased to be.
She looked up to the command dais, desperately hoping for guidance… but Fuyutsuki was already gone.
When she turned back again, her breath caught in her throat, and slowly her gun slipped from her fingers.
"Shinji…?" she whispered.
The boy smiled at her, opening his arms.
She went to him willingly, embracing him and crying tears of joy even as her body lost its ego-border and disintegrated.
And so it went… all over the world. Men, women, children – all souls were called to the giant white creature.
Asuka Langley Souryu was the last human to enter, as Unit 02 and the Lance of Longinus slowly fused with Lillith's head.
As the red mecha disappeared, all was silent on Earth, as Instrumentality – the merging of mankind into one, perfect being – TRULY began…
"Where am I?"
Shinji looked once more around the deserted auditorium, half expecting to see a string quartet waiting patiently for him to leave the stage.
He bowed his head. "I shouldn't even be here," he murmured, "I should be dead…"
'Leave then!' Misato's voice suddenly came from nowhere, 'If you want to go, then go! I don't want someone with you kind of attitude piloting!'
Shinji flinched, remembering how mad his guardian had been.
"I stayed, though…" he whispered, "I stayed… and I fought… and I…"
'Love me instead!'
Shivering, Shinji rose from the single folding chair. "I did…" he said softly, "I did love you, Rei." He let out a miserable sigh, "And then you died – you were taken from me, and I couldn't do anything to save you…"
The memory of his father's stern voice… telling him (so calmly) that Rei had been gunned down.
"Why am I here?" he muttered, "Did Misato save me?" He bowed his head once more, closing his eyes, "Why…?"
"Do you love her…?" Again… Misato's voice, stronger this time.
"Don't you want to see her again?"
"Of course I do! But she's… she's gone…"
"She's waiting for you."
"She's GONE! Even if I wanted to go to her – even if I'm dead, and this is Hell… I'd only fail… I'm too weak…"
"If I go with you… will you be strong…?"
"If you were with me… I could try…"
Slowly, the Third Child looked up, his eyes opening wide.
Asuka slowly opened her eyes, the pleasant sensation of motion greeting her return to consciousness. Remembering the fight with the white EVAs, she sat up quickly – or she would have, had she not been held so tightly.
"Shhh…" a soft voice soothed her, "it's alright, Asuka… it's alright…"
A hand slowly began stroking her hair, which (she noticed) was no longer bound by her neural connectors. "Who are you…?" she whispered, feeling too weak to fight anymore, "Are you an angel? A REAL angel…?"
The woman – she could tell it was a woman by her voice – laughed quietly. "Well… I was once compared to an angel," she replied, her tone conveying amusement, "the man who made that comparison ended up asking me to marry him."
Asuka closed her eyes, her body shaking as an old memory surfaced in the back of her mind. "Mama…?"
Carefully, the hand that had been caressing her hair slid down and came to a rest on her cheek. "I think he would be proud if he saw you now," Kyoko Zeppelin Souryu whispered gently, "I KNOW he would…"
The redhead slowly looked up, afraid that any sudden movement might wake her – for she had to be dreaming.
"You said you knew the secret of the AT field," Kyoko said gently, "I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you for real, Asuka… but I had to make sure I could protect you when-"
"You're here now," the redhead cut her off softly, her heart swelling with joy, "I missed you…"
As the girl began to cry quietly, Kyoko smiled. "I missed you too," she murmured, hugging the girl tight, "even though I was right there… I couldn't ever touch you… but…"
"What's wrong?" Asuka asked, frowning slightly as she noticed something odd, "And why are you… faint…?"
She couldn't think of any other way to describe what she saw. Her mother was there… Asuka could touch her, see her – smell her (violets and honeysuckle), but she was vaguely translucent – as if she wasn't entirely real.
"There's not much time," Kyoko replied, her smile growing sad, "for me – and everyone else. Asuka, listen…"
"What are you doing here?" Shinji asked finally, feeling slightly dazed as he and his guardian walked through the deserted streets of Tokyo-3.
Since leaving the auditorium via a side door Shinji had not seen, he had been unable to speak. The shock of seeing Misato standing in front of him had been far too great.
"I have NO idea…" the purple-haired woman admitted, "all I know is that I was warm… and safe…" she smiled, "and happy…"
"Where were you?" the Third Child asked, "And where is everyone else?"
"Don't know and don't know," Misato answered, "I just…" her voice grew soft as they came to an intersection, "I heard your voice… and I heard Rei telling me to go to you – so I went…"
"Rei…" Shinji murmured, "Father said she was-"
"I know…" the Operations Director cut him off gently, "and I know that you were, too…"
"None of this makes sense…" the boy whispered, "how did we get out of Central Dogma? Where is everyone?"
"Why IS the sky blue?" Misato grinned, "I don't know, Shinji…"
"Where are we going?"
The purple-haired woman's smile fell away. "I'm not really sure," she murmured, "but I think… I think it's important…"
Shinji nodded. "Ok…"
They walked on in silence for a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts. As they reached another stoplight, both shaking their heads as they realized they were waiting for it to change, Misato sighed. "Asuka was furious when she found out you got hurt…"
The brown-haired boy frowned. "You mean that I got killed…"
"Yeah… I guess… but if you're dead, does that mean I'm dead too? Is this Heaven?"
The twosome looked left, surprised to hear, "Asuka??"
"You know anyone else that looks this good?" the redhead replied sarcastically, putting one hand on her hip as she walked up to them, "Like I said… this ain't Heaven…"
"Who are you?" Shinji asked curiously, taking note of the fact that Asuka was not alone.
"I think your guardian knows," the strangely pale woman replied, smiling faintly, "don't you, Major?"
Misato shrugged, well past the point of being surprised. "I've seen your picture," she said coolly, "do you prefer Doctor, or Misses Souryu?"
"I prefer Kyoko," the woman laughed, "and I hope, considering the circumstances, that I can call you Misato," she turned her eyes to the gaping, brown-haired boy, "and you… Shinji…"
"What ARE the circumstances?" the purple-haired woman asked softly, "You seem like you know what's going on."
Kyoko nodded slowly, turning her attention to the Third Child. "Where is she, Shinji?" she asked gently, "Where is your girlfriend?"
Shinji swallowed, looking at the three women – all of whom looked as if they knew TONS more than he did. "She's… dead, ma'am…" he whispered.
"So are you," Kyoko answered immediately, "so am I… but she's not gone."
"I don't understand…"
The older Souryu sighed. "I know you don't… and that's ok, I barely understand the theories myself." She shook her head, "I'm afraid I can only explain a little bit of it, but for now… can you just think about Rei? Just… try and picture her face… try and imagine where she is, ok?"
Shinji nodded, closing his eyes.
"We don't have a lot of time," Asuka prompted after a moment of silence, "we have to find her quickly…"
"Hush…" her mother admonished as Shinji's brow furrowed, "let him be…"
For several minutes, no one said anything. Then, Shinji's arm slowly raised… and he pointed south. "There…" he breathed, his voice shaking as he opened his eyes, "she's that way…"
"Where is she, Rei?"
"I… do not know, Commander…"
"Don't lie to me. You are bound to tell me the truth – that is what the scrolls said. Fight it all you like, but you are MINE."
"I am so bound… but I do not know where she is…"
"Find her… now."
"I will… try…"
"So you're saying… this IS Heaven?"
Kyoko frowned as the quartet stared at the main entrance to NERV. "Well, Shinji…" she said after a moment, "kind of."
"That's very clear," Misato said dryly, wondering if ALL higher NERV employees were given an obscurity test before being hired, "how about explaining it for those of us that don't have a degree in abstractology?"
Kyoko laughed, shaking her head and holding out her hand for Asuka. "It's actually kinda simple," she said as her daughter took her hand, "Third Impact – or Instrumentality, if you prefer calling it that – is the merging of all souls on earth into one, single being."
"With you so far," Misato replied as they headed through the open door, "but why are we still separate? And where is everyone else?"
"Well…" the scientist answered softly, "we're not separate…"
Kyoko sighed. "I'll try and explain as best I can…" She took a deep breath. "Imagine that all of humanity is an ocean, right?" She waited for the others to nod before proceeding, "Well, at its most basic, even the ocean is just a collection of drops of water."
"And we're the drops?" Asuka offered, beaming as her mother smiled and nodded, "Well, ok… but why are we still… ummm… drops? Why aren't we part of the ocean?"
"That's where it gets interesting," Kyoko muttered, "or rather… that's where our problem lies – and our opportunity." She stopped walking for a moment, making sure they were all listening. "Someone is holding it back," she said softly, "through force of will, and the power of Adam itself…" she nodded at Shinji, "your father is keeping the project from completing – even though he started it. That's why things appear as they do, because Tokyo-3 is the place he associates with his pain – and though we're all united, there still needs to a be a focal point for the energy… might as well manifest as the center stage of the war with the angels," she shrugged.
"But why is he doing this?" Misato inquired, confused, "I thought he wanted to STOP all this from happening?"
"Don't know," Kyoko admitted, "but he's got almost all the cards right now, since he's got Adam – quite literally – in the palm of his hand."
"How do you know all this?" Misato asked, "I mean, you were in an EVA, right? So how do you know that?"
"The Instrumentality stuff," the other woman answered, "I knew because I was part of the E project. The Adam part," she shrugged, smiling faintly, "I knew because I watched him show it to Yui when I was in Unit 02, so-" Her eyes widened, and her breath caught in her throat.
"What is it, Mama?" Asuka asked, blushing slightly as the others blinked in surprise at the term of endearment.
"Hurry," Kyoko replied, breaking into a run, "I just realized why he's holding back. We have to get to where they are. Fast."
The others followed her lead, confused but trusting in her urgency.
-Rei,- Shinji thought as he ran, -I'm coming…-
"Where IS she Rei?" Gendou asked flatly as he stared the blue-haired girl down, "Stop stalling!"
"I… do not know, Commander," Rei replied, her face downcast, "I cannot find her."
"She must be here!" the man grumbled, "All souls were called – she could not refuse!"
"I do not feel her," the First Child whispered, her voice hollow, "she is not here. But Shinji-"
"I don't care about Shinji," Gendou cut in coldly, "Find HER!"
Rei closed her eyes. "I will try again," she said softly.
Terminal Dogma, the focal point of the entire world, lapsed into silence as the young girl concentrated. –She has to be here,- Gendou thought angrily, -All that I have strived for… all the sacrifices… all to see her again. She HAS to be here!-
"Well?" he asked as Rei's crimson eyes slowly opened. He narrowed his eyes as she shook her head. "Don't lie to me, Rei," he said threateningly, "all of mankind is within Instrumentality. Yui-"
Gendou closed his mouth, his face becoming a cool, collected mask as he turned to face the intruding voice. "Zeppelin," he said calmly, "it's been a while."
"Hello, Ikari," Kyoko said levelly, striding into Terminal Dogma with an air of familiarity and certainty, "You've certainly changed this place a lot… though I see you still have the old decorations," she nodded towards the giant white being on the cross.
"Very amusing," Gendou replied dryly, holding his hand up as Rei took a step forward, willing her to stop even as a disapproving frown appeared on his face, "and I see you've managed to free yourself of Unit 02's chains, and find your daughter. How touching."
Kyoko grinned mirthlessly as Asuka entered Terminal Dogma, followed by Misato and Shinji. "Not entirely," she said quietly, gesturing to her chest, "as you can see, I'm not all there."
"What an interesting choice of words," Gendou smiled, "I'll bet your daughter has a lot to say about that."
Kyoko flushed, shrugging uncomfortably. "I was only trying to follow in Yui's footsteps – to make sure the future was certain." She sighed, "But this… Ikari, what are you trying to prove? This isn't what she wanted…"
"She couldn't see," the Commander said softly, shooting Rei a narrow glance as she took another shaking step forward, her eyes fixed on Shinji's, "she couldn't see that this way, we could ALWAYS be together." He shook his head, "It doesn't matter now anyway, what's done is done. Now where is she? I simply need to find her, and then I can proceed, living an eternal Heaven with her."
Kyoko looked to Rei, who had her gaze riveted on Shinji's, though like him, she seemed unwilling to interrupt the conversation currently taking place. "She's where she has been for the past eleven years," she said quietly, turning her eyes back to Gendou and containing a smile at the look of pure adoration on the young girl's face, "she's in Unit 01, waiting for her son."
The use of 'her' instead of 'your' was not lost on Gendou, and he sneered. "Impossible," he said flatly, "Instrumentality calls ALL souls to-"
"You never understood," Kyoko cut in sadly, "you could never QUITE grasp everything, no matter how hard you tried, you never got that one detail."
"What are you talking about?" Gendou demanded.
"Yui's soul is bound to Unit 01," the elder Souryu explained, her tone conveying pity, "Unit 01 is the clone of an angel," she lowered her voice, "and angels, except those directly touching Lillith and Adam, are exempt from Instrumentality." She nodded as Gendou paled, "Now you understand. I'm only here because Unit 02 is merged with Lillith – and even still, I'm not entirely free of his bond."
Gendou shook himself, focusing on Shinji. "Then he will bring Unit 01-"
"I can't," Shinji spoke up softly, interrupting his father for the first time that he could recall, "I'm dead."
"No…" Rei breathed, taking a third step towards Shinji as her face fell, "then I DID feel…"
"Yes," Kyoko said softly as the girl trailed off, "I'm sure you felt his soul as it came to you." She smiled, "If Instrumentality ends, he may return – as may everyone that died during the joining of Adam and Lillith. All that is required is the will to live and the time to find ones way back." She sighed. "But as for Yui… I'm afraid she is forever beyond the bounds of Complementation."
"NO!" Gendou declared, "She is NOT!"
"You poor man," Kyoko whispered, approaching the Commander at a slow pace, "how alone you must be. How scared and confused, to give up so much in the vain-"
"Shut up," Gendou interrupted, his voice once again cold and level, "don't lecture me about being pathetic – I'm not the one who tied a rope to the ceiling and hung myself."
Kyoko flushed, but continued walking until she was standing right in front of the man. "I did that so I could be with my daughter," she whispered, her voice growing even more pitying. "I did it out of love – a feeling you once knew, but now can only dream of because you let it grow so twisted and perverted that you would use your own SON to try and regain what was forever lost." She tilted her head to the side. "You're afraid of him, aren't you? You fear him because he is not bound by your will. He does what he feels he must – even defying you – to make sure those around him were happy and safe. You can't comprehend him, so you're terrified."
"It's true, isn't it?" Shinji whispered, keeping his eyes on Rei as he walked towards his father, "I have something you wish you had… right?"
"You know nothing," Gendou answered, his voice barely a whisper, "nothing whatsoever." His eyes held a mad gleam as he added, "But you understand, don't you?" he said softly, focusing on his son, "When I told you she was gone, I could hear it in your voice – you understand me."
"I don't," Shinji answered softly, holding his hand out, palm down, to Rei, "I thought maybe I did, at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I COULD live without her." Rei tilted her head to the side, considering this as he further explained, "I love her… but if she was taken from me, I would try and keep going – because THAT is what love is. She wouldn't want to see me miserable and in pain, she would want me to be happy."
He lowered his voice, concluding, "I don't know if I can be happy without her, but the thought of her, in Heaven – if there is such a place – looking down and being sad because I'M sad," he shrugged, "it just doesn't seem right. So I would try to stay happy… for her."
Rei nodded thoughtfully, smiling and raising her hand in a perfect mirror of Shinji's stance, though due to her bond to Gendou and Lillith, she was unable to get any closer. "I did not understand at first," she whispered, her voice soft but firm, "but I see now." She bowed her head, closing her eyes. "I may not be able to stop what is to come," she said quietly, "but no matter what, Shinji, know that I love you. You are my voice."
"You're right," Gendou said coldly as the blue haired girl once more raised her eyes, still smiling as she looked to her boyfriend, "you cannot stop it. Now, Instrumentality will be completed. If I cannot have Yui, I will let all the other souls fill the void – and man will be one!"
Kyoko shook her head, taking a step back. "No," she said levelly, "you've forgotten something."
"And what might that be?" Gendou asked sarcastically, "That Rei has some small amount of power? That she had the strength of will to let you and those three be exempt from Instrumentality? I still have absolute control over the OUTCOME – she must finish the process!"
Kyoko sighed. "Asuka," she whispered, "take my hand."
Asuka stepped forward uncertainly, hoping her mother truly did have some sort of trump card up her sleeve.
"What now?" Gendou said menacingly, "You're going to try and use Unit 02 to wrest control from me? Come now, Zeppelin, even you-"
"Think about the entry plug," Kyoko told her daughter gently, ignoring Gendou entirely, "think about the controls."
"Fools," Gendou spat, looking contemptuously from them to Shinji and Misato, who were still standing at the entrance to Terminal Dogma, hand in hand. "Try what you want… Rei," he turned to face the First Child, "Now."
Rei's entire body shook as she tried desperately to resist the command, but his control over her was soul-deep, and it was ever a losing proposition. Sweat appeared on her young face as she kept her eyes on Shinji's, trying to say anything but the words that were all but torn from her throat as she was forced to comply.
Gendou shook his head as Kyoko continued to remind her daughter of the butterfly controls, the foot peddles, and the view screens in EVA Unit 02, telling her to visualize them as best she could… but his smile collapsed as the word 'Lance' was mentioned. "Lance…?" he whispered, whirling to face them once more, "NO!"
"Too late," Asuka said with a grin, her body fading slightly as she closed her eyes, "and no one talks to MY mother that way!" She wavered for a moment, and was gone.
The world outside of Instrumentality was cold and empty, devoid of life and sound as every being on Earth was slowly being bound to the giant white creature with the face of Rei Ayanami. Silence and stillness dominated the environment, the only witnesses to the spectacle about to unfold.
It began with a sound, one reminiscent of the growl of a dog locked in a basement – subdued, but dangerous nonetheless. The silence returned for a moment longer, broken once more by an unearthly scream.
The being known as Lillith tilted her head back, her mouth gaping open as a thin line of red appeared at her throat, loosing a torrent of LCL onto the world. Her head continued to tilt backwards as the wound widened, growing with each passing second as something within sought egress.
As her head slowly detached from her body, another wound appeared, this time originating from her right eye.
With a savage, and far less muted growl, Unit 02 tore free of Lillith's now disintegrating body, its four eyes glowing with green fire as it once more sounded its mournful cry. It pulled its way free of confinement, stumbling slightly on the irregular surface of the angel's face for a moment before leaning forward and collapsing. As it fell towards the earth, its power reserves spent, the back panel ejected, releasing its precious cargo.
In a place far removed, yet less than a breath away, Shinji, Asuka, Misato, Rei, and Kyoko floated, no longer bound to the illusion of Terminal Dogma and Tokyo-3 that was Gendou's province.
"Well done," Kyoko said tiredly, her image fading ever more, "well done… my Asuka. Now go," she smiled, caressing the girl's face gently, "go live…"
"What about you?" Asuka asked hesitantly, holding the hand against her face, "What's going to happen to-"
"Shhh," Kyoko whispered, averting her eyes, "Go now, Asuka."
The redhead's face crumpled. "But… but – that's not fair!" she managed, scrubbing angrily at her eyes, "Shinji and Rei get to come back – and they were dead! Why can't you, too?"
Kyoko smiled gently. "What's all this crying business?" she said softly, "Where's my strong little Asu-"
"I'm tired of being strong!" Asuka shouted, her voice cracking, "Everyone else is happy! Everyone else has someone to love them – but not me! I have to be all alo-"
"Look around you," Kyoko interrupted, her tone indicating that it was not a request.
Asuka did as she was told, frowning as she looked at the three others, all of whom were watching the exchange with varying degrees of curiosity. "What about them?" she asked finally, "Like I said, they all have someone! Shinji has Wondergirl… she has him… Misato has BOTH of them, and I've got-"
"All of them."
Asuka's tirade ended abruptly. "Huh?" she frowned, "What do you mean?"
"Look again," Kyoko said quietly.
Uncertainly, the redheaded Child reviewed the others one more time, looking slowly from face to face and trying to see anything she hadn't seen the first time. It was in Shinji's eyes that she spotted it first, but it was present in the other two as well, to a lesser degree. "What's this existential crap?" she breathed, blushing slightly and lowering her eyes as Shinji smiled at her, "You're going to try and tell me they ALL love me??"
"I'm not telling you anything," Kyoko grinned, "I'm just saying maybe you should look at the people around you – that's all." Her voice grew softer, and her image seemed to fade a bit more. "I will tell you that I love you, and I wish I could be there to say it every day." Her words became mere whispers as she sighed, ethereal tears finally slipping down her cheeks as she looked at Rei and Shinji, locked in a tight embrace and whispering words of love and comfort to one another.
She inclined her head slightly towards them, closing her eyes and whispering, "Any place can be Heaven, if you let it."
Asuka closed her eyes as the world around her began to fade away, Instrumentality's power finally breaking. Slowly, she opened them once more, ignoring the others and focusing on her mother one last time, whispering the words she held onto for so long… before it was too late.
"I love you too, Mama."
Unit 02 continued its unceremonious plummet to the ground, crashing into the ocean of LCL left behind by the rapidly decaying body of Lillith and sinking to the bottom with barely a ripple to mark its passing. Its eyes, once glowing with fire and power, were black… the soul that once resided within having chosen to ascend to the heavens.
On the banks of the ocean sat four individuals, blinking as they found themselves suddenly free of the merging of souls. "Is it over?" Shinji asked uncertainly, looking away as the remaining white EVAs crashed lifelessly into the LCL, "I mean… really over?"
"Looks like it…" Misato managed, shaking her head in confusion, "but I don't get it – what happened?"
"Unit 02 had the Lance of Longinus," Asuka murmured, staring into the LCL and running her hand absently over her perfectly undamaged face, "the real one. It had the power to destroy an angel… so I used it." She sighed, slowly reaching up and pulling the neural connectors from her head.
Misato gasped as the redhead considered them for a moment, then threw them as hard as she could, watching them flip end over end before landing in the LCL with a small, barely audible splash.
"So what now?" Shinji asked the redhead cautiously, still holding Rei as if he expected her to vanish any moment, "Since the EVAs are gone, are you going to leave?"
"Please do not," Rei added quietly, gently freeing herself from Shinji's embrace so she could fully face the Second Child, "we… I would like you to stay."
Asuka pondered this for a moment, looking up at the gigantic, broken form of the second angel as the others waited for her reply. "Don't really have any other place to go," she shrugged finally, "don't really want to go back to Germany – I don't even know if my father survived, and we haven't been too close lately, so I don't think I'd want to go there anyway… so I guess I'll hang around." Slowly, she rose to her feet, offering Shinji her hand and smiling softly. "Besides," she said mischievously, "I have to make sure I'm there when Wondergirl messes up and loses you."
"You will have a long time to wait," Rei whispered softly, blushing in spite of herself as her boyfriend was helped up, "I will not lose what I have so recently found." She blinked as Asuka leaned forward, offering her a hand as well.
"Better be sure," the redhead murmured seriously, "because I'll be around. And even if I'm married, have five kids, and live in the suburbs, I'll always hold a place for him."
"Five kids?" Misato asked skeptically, "I thought you hated kids."
Asuka stuck her tongue out. "Ever hear of a hypothetical?" she grumbled, practically yanking Rei to her feet, "You know what I mean… tramp."
"What did you say?" the purple-haired woman asked dangerously.
"I said, 'Damn,'" Asuka said immediately, "like, 'Damn, it's getting kinda dark – let's find a place to stay."
Shinji laughed as Misato rolled her eyes, brushing herself off as she got to her feet.
For a moment, no one said anything, they simply gazed off into the red ocean, remembering Kyoko's reminder that anyone could come back if they wanted to. It was just a matter of time. As a moment grew into a minute, Asuka reached out and took Shinji and Misato by the hand, smiling as they each took one of Rei's hands, forming a rough circle.
Each felt that something should be said. Some words of remembrance for those that they knew would not choose to come back, or some kind of promise that they would remain true to one another. But no one spoke. It was Misato that broke the circle first, pulling Rei towards Shinji and stepping back to allow them to embrace, motioning for Asuka to do the same.
The First and Third slowly wrapped their arms around each other, closing their eyes and forgetting the world around them as their lips gently pressed together.
It wasn't an earth-shattering kiss by any means. It was the kiss of two people who are familiar with one another and know exactly what they want from life – and more importantly, each other. It was an everyday kiss… a simple kiss… and as such, it was one of the sweetest either of them would ever experience.
And then it was over. Rei and Shinji parted, blushing fiercely, Misato and Asuka refrained from commenting, though they did smile rather widely, and the four of them, together, began walking away from the beach that could have so easily been their final resting place.
Anyone watching them leave could have easily picked the four out of a crowd. There was a young man with brown hair, an older woman with purple hair, and two young women – one with hair of brilliant crimson, and the other with hair of deepest azure.
Author's notes: well, there you have it – the end of Crimson and Azure. Sorry it took so long to finish… but real life jumped all over me and limited my writing time, and I lost that 'overall WAFFy' feeling I had when I wrote the other parts. Be thankful, though – because I briefly toyed with the idea of having Lillith rise with Gendou's face… but the mental image scared me so bad that I couldn't bring myself to do it… hehe As to the epilogue, I've decided not to do it because, well… the idea sucked. It was going to revolve around Asuka visiting Shinji and Rei after their wedding. ((shrug)) I scrapped it because it just never came out right, and I thought it was kind of a sugar overdose. I think the most interesting part of writing this story was the fact that it started out as a time killing fic. The first few chapters were about two pages each, and were meant to be just a bit of character development and interaction… obviously, it grew a bit. ;) The hardest part of writing this story was the last two chapters, for what that's worth to anyone. ((shrug)) I just couldn't make all the pieces fit at first – and even though I had the fifteenth chapter STARTED when the fourteenth was finished, a number of circumstances made it very difficult to finish. I just hope that I got it right in the end. Anyway, thanks for sticking with me this long, and thanks for reading.
Oh, two last notes – yeah, I know I said Crimson and Azure referred solely to Rei, but that ending seemed so fitting I just couldn't pass on it. ^_^ Also, on Asuka's father, since several pre-readers felt that Kyoko and Asuka's attitudes were both too kind towards him. Consider that Asuka never says she hates her father anywhere in the series. She DOES say, after becoming a pilot, that they won't have to worry about daddy being gone anymore, but this doesn't indicate that she hates him. ALSO note that nowhere in the story do I say that either of them LIKES him. Kyoko relates that he called her an angel once, and that she thinks he would be proud of Asuka… but that doesn't mean she'd forgiven him. Remember that she's seeing her daughter for the first time in seven years or so – would she WANT to focus on negative things? And at the end, Asuka doesn't seem too put out at the thought that her father might be dead. ((shrug))
See you next story. ^_~
Pre-read was done by Major Mayhem, Ryoma, NPH, Kriegsherr, wutdaheck, and Marzee. Thanks guys, it's been, er… complicated. Hehehe No, seriously – thanks. I couldn't have done it without your feedback.
Feedback is always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org