I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion or the rights to anything associated with it. Gainax created this world, I just play in it.

When I first wrote Letters I doubted that I would ever add to it because I felt that it could stand on its own as is. I still believe that, but after giving it much thought I decided, 'what the hell' and figured I'd give it a shot. I can only hope that this second chapter lives up to the first. The reviews for this story have been great and I really appreciate the kind words. I hope you like Chapter 2.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who have read and reviewed my work and I hope you will continue to do so. The excellent reviews I have received have made me try my best to keep up a high standard of work and I hope that I have done so. I know I haven't done a good job of saying thank you, but believe me, that is not on purpose. Time and opportunity often conspire against me. I'll try to do better in the future.

I'd like to offer a huge thumbs up in particular to three 'anonymous' reviewers, X.S., AnimeDestiny, and Mr. Lee.

Please read and review, I hope you enjoy it.


Chapter 2:

It was just past 0800 and Shinji was sitting on a bench in front of a row of vending machines down the hall from the command bridge, a small bottle of orange juice clutched in his hands. He was waiting for Misato to arrive and he was very, very, nervous. Since he was on standby in case SEELE launched an attack against them, he was still wearing his plug suit. Although, he had taken the time to run down to the locker room and shower away the persistent, cloying stench of LCL before putting on a fresh one. The last thing he needed was to try and talk to Misato about the letter he left her while smelling like sweat and decaying blood.

The last few days had been a hectic blur for him. The things that he had learned about Rei and NERV and the Angels and his mother, had left his mind reeling. The catalyst for it all had been the dream. It had completely changed his perspective and it made him see himself, and life in general, in a different way. He kept playing it over and over in his head, gaining more insight and meaning from it every time he did so.

He found himself actually wishing that something like that dream had happened to him a long time ago. It had given him the courage to stand up and do something instead of running away or cowering and he liked the way that made him feel. It had given him the resolve to go and talk to Rei, even though he had become afraid of who and what she was. It had allowed him to stand up to an angry and broken Ritsuko Akagi and convince her to help with their plan, and it gave him the strength to seek out his mother's soul within the Eva.

It also gave him the courage to tell Misato that he loved her. Well, at least enough courage to write her a letter telling her that he loved her.

But now that things had slowed down and he found himself with time to think, he felt the shadow of self doubt start to creep in on him. Telling Misato how he felt, even if it was in a letter, was an enormous step for him. In a way he had been caught up in the moment and the words and feelings had just seemed to flow out of him and onto the page. He had never been so honest or open about what he was feeling at any other time in his young life and his anticipation of her answer had him not only nervous, but scared half to death as well. He had told her that he would understand if she couldn't wait for him, and he hadn't been lying.

However, understanding it didn't mean that it wouldn't hurt if she said no.

Deep down he had an irrational fear that not only would she say she couldn't wait for him, but that she would reject him entirely. In his rational mind he knew that Misato wouldn't cast him aside like his father had, but he had known little else in his life but rejection and it was a hard notion to remove from the depths his subconscious.

But as anxious and as scared as he was, he was determined not to run. He had spent far too much time in his life running and hiding from things rather than dealing with them. He was finally beginning to learn the hard lesson that no matter how far you ran, your problems would always be there waiting for you. You could either let them bury you and consume you whole, or you could stand up and face them head on and refuse to surrender to them. He didn't want to run anymore.

Maybe he was just being foolish in hoping that Misato would actually agree to wait for him. Just because he loved her didn't mean that she felt the same way about him and even if she did, it didn't mean she'd be willing to wait three years and three months until he turned eighteen. It was a lot to ask of anyone, but especially someone with an already wounded heart.

Besides, he was fourteen, what the hell did he know about being in love anyway? Probably nothing, but he wasn't going to run away from his feelings for her. He couldn't if he wanted to because the one thing he was absolutely sure about in his life was that he was in love with Misato Katsuragi.

He had felt something for her the first time he saw her picture and it only intensified when he saw her the day she picked him up at the train station. He admired the strength she showed when she was directing the battle against the Angels, and he had even come to like the immaturity she displayed the rest of the time. Sad or serious didn't fit her nearly as well as playful and teasing and happy did. She was so beautiful and her face lit up when she smiled and laughed and that was how he always wanted to see her. Her sadness and her tears were painful to him and he would always have to live with the shame that he had done nothing to console her the night Kaji left his last message. Even if she forgave him for that, he would never forgive himself.

He knew that Misato felt she could have been a better guardian to him, that she could have done more to help him along and to feel better about himself. But the dream had shown him the things that had shaped her into the person she had become, and with the Angels attacking them, it wasn't like they were living in a safe and stable environment to start with. She had heavy responsibilities to deal with besides her own considerable pain and loneliness and she was always on the verge of being crushed by it. He knew it hadn't been easy for her but she had done the best that she could under those circumstances.

The bottom line to him though was that she had made the attempt. She had reached out to him and she had given him a home. She cared about him, worried about him, and she had shed tears for him. He knew that no matter what happened today, that would never change. He would always love her, no matter what.

He was snapped out of his thoughts by the click-clack sound of heels on the tiled floor of the hallway. Turning his head to the right, he saw the object of his affections walking towards him. She was dressed the same way she was the day he met her and she was just as gorgeous. He swallowed hard to get the lump that he was sure was his heart out of his throat and stood to face her, setting his juice bottle down on the bench. She looked happy and seemed to have a little extra swing in her step, something that had been missing lately. He felt his hopes soaring and he had to try very hard to remain calm.

She saw him sitting in front of the vending machines, looking like he was deep in thought. He was probably worrying himself half to death about what she was going to say to him. Even so, she could see a certain strength about him as he sat there. He wasn't slouched over and staring at the floor, he was sitting up and looking straight ahead. He was probably nervous and scared but she could see a hint of the inner strength that he possessed, but could never see for himself.

By sitting there and waiting for her he was taking another step forward. It would have been easy for him to stay on the command bridge or to sit in the pilot's locker room, but he didn't. In a small but significant way, he was standing his ground and not running away. First steps, whether large or small, were often the most important.

Only just short of fifteen years old or not, she felt even more strongly now that her decision was the right one. She was hard pressed to explain it, but something just felt inherently right about it. There was a stronger and happier Shinji Ikari to be found within that thin body and he might just be on the verge of truly discovering it. She wanted to help bring that out of him just as much as he wanted to make her happy. He was already kind, considerate and caring, all things that any woman would find attractive. And, from a purely selfish and aesthetic viewpoint, he was pretty cute too. He was going to grow into a good looking young man.

At the sound of her approach he stood and turned to face her. She stopped a few feet in front of him and removed her sunglasses, sliding them up on top of her head.

"Situation report, Pilot Ikari," she ordered gently. She was smiling.

"Huh?" he started. "Oh… right. The first and second Angels have been destroyed and the Commander is in a holding cell until the UN sends an investigation team. We're waiting to see if SEELE launches an attack."

"Good work." She pulled him to her and hugged him tightly. "Are you okay Shinji? I was worried about you."

"I'm fine Misato," he assured her, returning the hug. "I'm sorry I made you worry."

She broke the embrace and looked into his blue eyes. "Don't apologize. I'm proud of you and I always have been. I should have said that more often. You've done something very brave. You found the truth, stood on your own, and put an end to this madness. And I accept your apology for not telling me in person. The rose was beautiful."

He blushed furiously. "Was dinner okay?" he asked expectantly.

"I thought I had died and gone to heaven," she said. "And I followed your instructions so I didn't wreck it."

He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "Sorry, I probably shouldn't have worded it like that."

"That's okay," she grinned as she sat down on the bench. "I can admit defeat, I know I'm a lousy cook."

A strained silence settled in, neither of them sure what to say next. It was finally Misato that broke the silence.

"Your second letter hit me pretty hard," she said quietly. "I've never had someone say those kind of things to me."

"I…" He had to swallow that persistent lump in his throat again. "I meant everything I wrote," he said shyly.

"I know you did," she smiled. "You showed me what was in your heart. But I'm not the good little girl you dreamt of meeting Shinji, I haven't been that girl since Second Impact. I defiled her and made her filthy. You saw that in the dream we all had. Can you love someone who did that to herself?"

"Yes," he answered without hesitation, surprising her and himself a little. His voice got a little quieter. "I felt this way before I knew any of that. Nothing's changed."

She could see that trying to express his feelings for her was hard for him. She didn't want to make it any harder, but she had to be sure. "And you're sure this isn't just a crush?"

His posture sagged and he looked like he had just been punched in the gut. The nervousness had been feeling earlier turned to dread and he found himself looking at the floor.

"You're trying to talk me out of this aren't you?"

The dejection in his voice stung her heart. "No Shinji, I'm not," she reassured him, making him meet her gaze again. "But I can't give you an answer to the question you asked in that letter until I look into your eyes and hear you say the words."

His change in posture and the look in his eyes made it obvious that he was relieved that she wasn't trying to dissuade him.

"Shinji, what you wrote about how you wanted to treat me and the dreams you described sounded so nice. No one has ever wanted to be like that with me."

Her voice started to waiver with the weight of her emotions.

"No one ever wanted to just go out with me simply because they wanted to spend time with me with no expectations attached. I was just an object to be used and tossed aside and I allowed myself to be treated that way. I cried about that a lot when I read your letter and I don't feel that I'm nearly good enough for someone with your intentions. But if you still want me after knowing that, and if you can look me in the eye and say what you need to say, I'll give you my answer."

He had been afraid this moment would come, that she would ask him to actually say the words. A letter was one thing, but looking someone in the eye and saying the same things to them was something else entirely. He was afraid that he would mess it up or not be able to get the words out at all. He could feel the perspiration seeping out of his skin within his plug suit and he was so nervous that he was actually beginning to shake. His heart was pounding and he couldn't seem to make his mouth work. He was beginning to panic.

He almost jumped out of his skin when Misato took his hands in hers and gave them a gentle squeeze. She gave him a warm smile that was reflected in her now moist brown eyes, eyes that he thought were so beautiful when he found himself courageous enough to look into them.

"It's okay Shinji," she said gently. "I know you can do this. I believe in you and I always have. I'm not trying to make this hard for you, but I need to hear you say it and you need to be able to say it." She chuckled lightly. "Hey, its not like we're seeing each other naked for the first time or something. We've already done that so how hard can a few words be?"

In spite of himself, Shinji found himself laughing. That was so typically Misato and it was one of the things he loved about her. 'I truly do love her, so how can I not ask her face to face.' He sat down beside her, took a deep breath to steady himself, and forced his eyes to meet hers.

"Misato…I love you. It's not a crush or anything else like that. I love you." He swallowed that annoying lump again. "If you'll let me, I…I want to be the one to make you happy like you deserve to be. I want you to be happy and I want to be happy with you. When you say you're not good enough for my intentions, you sound like I do because I'm afraid that I'm not worthy of being loved by you. Even if I'm not, I'm going to ask you anyway." He took another deep breath. "Will you let me love you and treat you like you deserve to be treated? Can you wait for me Misato?"

She silently held his gaze for a moment before giving her answer. "Yes Shinji. I can wait for you. I don't care if it's right or wrong or who doesn't like it or what they might think of me for it. It feels right." She gave him a bright and genuine smile. "I will wait for you Shinji Ikari, because I love you."

Hearing her say those three words sent a euphoric feeling through his body and gave him goose bumps. The tension seemed to drain out of him all at once and he practically fell into her, hugging her fiercely. Tears came to his eyes but for once they weren't tears caused by pain or heartache. He was relieved and he was happy. When he was able to compose himself he broke their embrace and looked into her eyes again.

"I have to ask you something else," he said seriously.

She knew what was coming and she nodded, prompting him to continue.

"The night you got that message from Kaji…I hid like a coward from your tears. I should have tried to comfort you but I was afraid and I'm ashamed of myself. Can you ever forgive me for that Misato?"

She placed her hands on his slim shoulders. "I forgive you," she told him. As far as she was concerned there was nothing he needed to be forgiven for, but it was clear to her that his heart needed her to say it. Judging by what he had said in the letter, she knew that even after saying she forgave him he would never forgive himself for it. At least, not right away.

She leaned forward and gave him a light, feathery kiss, their lips touching only briefly. She laughed when she saw how red his face went and she could swear his eyes had glazed over for a second. He really was adorable when he was stunned and blushing like that.

"That'll have to keep us both happy for the next three years," she told him. "But on your eighteenth birthday, I'll give you a kiss that you'll never forget."

Between Then and Now

The first year after the best day of his life was hectic, but seemed to fly by. NERV was investigated by the UN and they left no stone unturned. Every single person in the organization was interviewed, scrutinized and put through the wringer until the investigators were satisfied. Misato had been given an extra hard time by them considering what her rank and position in the command structure was. The investigators didn't want to believe that she had been in the dark about so many things right up until the end. Shinji was the friendly face she saw when she went home every night that helped to keep her sane through it all.

They had decided to keep their distance physically until he was an adult, but they spent a great deal of time talking and getting to know each other on a deeper level. They wanted to be able to talk to each other about anything and everything, no matter if it was painful or not. They wanted to have an understanding of what had shaped them into the people they had become and how they could make themselves better, both individually and for each other. They told each other things about themselves that they had never told anyone else. It helped to heal them and it served to bring them closer together, as did all the time they spent just having fun and simply enjoying each other's company.

They also spent a great deal of time trying to help out those who were close to them and who needed that help the most. Rei had been placed under intense scrutiny by the UN and was essentially held under house arrest until they were finally able to convince them that she was not dangerous and only wanted to live a normal life. Misato became her guardian and moved her into an apartment next to theirs.

Rei had spent most of her young life isolated and alone. Sadly, she was used to it and wasn't comfortable with the idea of sharing accommodations with anyone and it would take a while before she was willing to give it a try. But, they were right next door if she needed them and her new apartment was a castle compared to the dump Commander Ikari had made her live in. She was grateful and initially her progress towards normalcy was slow, but it was noticeable and with her new 'brother' helping her, she would be okay.

Asuka on the other hand, had been quickly taken back to Germany by her father and it would be almost two years before they would see her again. When she returned she was a very different girl from the one they had known. She could still be the 'Red Devil', but that was not often seen. Some of her old impatient nature was still there, but she didn't flaunt her perceived superiority so much and didn't turn everything into a quest to prove how great she was. When she did that now it was more of a put on.

She was a lot more 'normal' now and seemed like she was a little lost and was trying to make up for the things she had missed in life by pushing herself so hard and bypassing her childhood. She still had her rough spots and bad days, but she was learning to open herself up to her friends and allow them to help her. It was really tough for her sometimes, but she was making her way. She didn't talk about the intense psychotherapy she underwent in Germany and they didn't push her on it. If she felt like talking about it or the past, she would do so in her own time.

Misato was able to rebuild her friendship with Ritsuko. NERV's 'resident mad scientist' as she jokingly referred to herself now, had suffered a nervous breakdown after the avoidance of Third Impact. Shinji felt a great deal of sympathy for her since the root cause of her breakdown was his father. Maya Ibuki had stood by Ritsuko the entire time and was instrumental in getting the two friends back together.

Between them they helped her to deal with the guilt she felt for all of the things she had been a part of while under Gendo's sway. She was back to being much more like the person Misato had met and made friends with in college, and since she was often a frequent guest at the apartment, Shinji suffered double the usual amount of teasing. He didn't really mind since they were both happy.

The crux of her recovery was when she sought the forgiveness of those around her for the things she had done, the pilots especially, and Rei in particular since she had suffered the most at her hands. The two of them spoke privately for nearly two hours one day and never revealed what was said to anyone. In the end though, Rei forgave her. The thanks Rei and Shinji got back from Ritsuko for their forgiveness and their understanding was priceless. What they got was Yui Ikari.

When she was deemed fit to go back to work, Ritsuko immediately went to work on removing Yui from the Evangelion. Shinji synched with Unit 01 several times leading up to the day and talked to her a great deal while Ritsuko gathered fresh data for the upcoming separation attempt. He hadn't been able to do so very often after the UN had taken over so he made good use of the opportunity.

Unlike the first time the separation had been attempted shortly after she was taken into the Eva, Yui wasn't going to resist this time. The Angels and the threat they posed was gone and she wanted to be with her son again. So, two years almost to the day that Shinji asked Misato to wait for him, he found himself sitting in a NERV hospital room, hugging his mother tightly and crying tears of happiness.

By his seventeenth birthday he and Rei had moved into an apartment with her. Rei had often wondered what it would have been like to have a family and she was very happy when Yui asked her if she could be her mother. He and Misato thought the move would be good for them since they were having an increasingly difficult time keeping their hands off of each other and keeping their promise to wait. He had grown and filled out and being the late bloomer that he was, his hormones were catching up accordingly.

As for Misato, she had started taking better care of herself. He thought she was hot before, but now she simply drove him to distraction. She had cut way down on the beer and the junk food and spent time at a health club as a stress reliever rather than sitting around drinking. She felt better than she ever had and looked like she had lost a couple of years along the way.

She also had plenty of energy to spare now and considering her mischievous personality, that meant trouble for everyone else. The time was right for them to put a little bit of well intentioned space between them. And besides, Shinji needed the time with his mother.

One thing that left him feeling pleasantly strange, was the relationship Misato and his mother had developed. They had become very good friends. Actually, his mom proved to be someone that everyone liked. She had also become friends with Ritsuko and Maya, and she even acted a bit like a surrogate mother to Asuka, who had returned to Japan shortly after she came out of Unit 01 and now lived with Misato.

When she had been absorbed into the Eva, his mom had been about the same age as Misato and she returned looking no different. Despite his assurances otherwise, Misato had been afraid that Yui would not approve of their relationship, largely because of the age gap. She was surprised to find that Yui was very supportive of it.

Through her synchronizations with him in the Eva, she had seen the state that Shinji was in. She also saw that his feelings for Misato were one of the things that had kept him going and that they were genuine. She had seen that his love for her had helped him to make the choices he did in preventing Third Impact. She was willing to give them a chance because she wanted him to be happy above all else, and once she got to know the woman he had fallen in love with, she had approved wholeheartedly.

The Present

As Shinji sat in the shade of a tree on the campus of his high school, on the day of his eighteenth birthday, he had to wonder if he would still get that kiss that Misato had promised him that day. Nearly a week earlier they'd had a fight. Well, not so much a fight as a mutual psychological breakdown. They'd had a few tiffs before, but nothing like this one.

They hadn't spoken since, mostly because she had left the next morning for Germany to attend a work related conference. She was the Director of Security and Intelligence for the Tokyo 3 branch of NERV. She should have been back yesterday morning, but she hadn't called and he didn't want to disturb her, knowing that she would be jet lagged from the long trip back and would have gone face down on the bed as soon as she got in.

His lunch sat untouched on the ground beside him, his appetite seeming to have left him as soon as he sat down and became lost in his thoughts, thinking back over the time that had passed since 'the day'. He sighed heavily.

"I really am an Evangelion sized idiot."

Misato had been acting a little strange for a couple of weeks. At first he thought that maybe it was just something at work that was bothering her, but more and more it seemed like it was something between them. She seemed nervous and apprehensive around him all of a sudden. He went to visit her one evening and he found her very drunk and crying. It had been a long while since she had been that drunk.

She was scared. She had wanted to be happy the way he wanted to make her happy. For three years she had waited, anticipating the day when she could openly express her love for him, a love that had only grown over the course of their wait. But her insecurities had reared their ugly heads. As the date of his eighteenth birthday grew nearer, she had begun to feel panicky and anxious. She wanted it so badly, but she was also afraid of it. She had been a prisoner to her loneliness and pain for so long, it was as if she couldn't let go of the last vestiges of her long worn misery and allow herself to be happy.

It was the same kind of irrational fear that he had experienced three years earlier as he waited for her and her answer. It had lain dormant within her and had been brought out by the fatigue and stress of a couple of particularly stressful weeks at work wearing her down. All of her self loathing and self doubts had resurfaced as her nerves frayed. She got drunk and acted pitifully, feeling sorry for herself and ranting that he could do a lot better than her.

He reacted badly to it. It brought out a part of the old Shinji he thought he had overcome. It was his biggest fear and the hardest one to lose. It was the part of him that felt like he kept being abandoned by everyone around him, like he wasn't worth their time. That old fear still had a grip on him and it didn't seem to want to let go.

After all of the things they had talked about, after baring their souls to each other, and after thinking they had managed to exorcise their demons and healed each other's pain, it seemed that they still hadn't completely escaped their fears. Live in pain and loneliness long enough, never knowing happiness, and happiness becomes something to fear. It was the polar opposite of what they both knew and it scared them.

Due to his panicked state, he couldn't recall half of the things they had said to each other, but he definitely recalled what he said before he ran out of her apartment.

'If you don't want me then why did you say you would wait?'

It had stopped her dead in her tracks and he couldn't get the hurt look on her face out of his mind.

"It's pretty pathetic when two people want so badly to be happy, but can't seem let themselves be swept away by it," he said to himself. "How could I be such an idiot and say something so stupid to her! If I lose her because of this…"

The sound of approaching voices brought him out of his thoughts. Still a ways off but walking towards him were Rei and Asuka. He still had trouble wrapping his head around the fact that they had actually become friends. It hadn't started out well, but they got along pretty good now.

Proving that she was indeed a different person, Asuka had actually apologized to Rei for the way she had treated her after having the blue haired girl's origins and upbringing explained to her. He wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't heard it and seen it for himself. Asuka had also apologized to him and asked him if he could forgive her and be her friend like he had always tried to be. He had no trouble granting that request.

She still called him baka, it was her pet name for him, and she still teased him about being Invincible Shinji, but there was no venom in it and it was okay with him. He was just happy to see her getting on with her life and beginning to enjoy it. They all had developed a tendency to tease each other which they promptly blamed on Misato's influence, which she of course had happily accepted.

As they came up to him he could hear that the conversation they were having seemed to be centred on what an immense baka they thought he was. He leaned his head back against the tree and let out a long, slow breath.

"As if I didn't already know how stupid I am," he muttered.

"Good," Asuka huffed. "It'll save me the trouble of telling you."

"Never stopped you before," he quipped.

"Don't start with me baka!" she threatened. "Why the hell didn't you call Misato yesterday after she got back?"

"Because she's always exhausted after those long trips and I didn't want to wake her up."

He knew as soon as he said it how lame it sounded and he knew that she wasn't going to accept it. Hell, he didn't accept it and he was the one that said it. It was true, but he was also just afraid to talk to her.

"Don't make me call you a coward and slap you upside of your head Shinji," Asuka warned him. "I don't want to be like that because I happen to like you, but I'm so pissed off at you right now that I could."

"As could I," Rei added, for effect if nothing else. She did however have a much better understanding of how people's emotions worked than she used to.

Hands on hips, Asuka glared down at him, pinning him to the tree with her eyes. "She slept on the couch with the phone clutched in her hand, hoping you would at least call her if not come and see her. She poured her heart out to me last night and she's afraid that she's driven you away. I had to listen to her cry herself to sleep. You know I'm not good at that kind of stuff Shinji, so you owe me big time."

Rei sat down next to her 'brother'. "He has come a long way Asuka, but he still has problems sometimes concerning his happiness. He is afraid it will disappear."

"I know," she admitted as she sat down in front of him, her small tirade spent quickly as they usually were now. "I'm the same way, I think we all are." She looked at Shinji again. "You know as well as any of us that Misato's emotions have always been close to the surface and it takes very little to get a reaction out of her, good or bad. You pretty much punched her in the gut and left her there."

"I got scared and I panicked," he said glumly. "I should have called her as soon as she got to Germany, maybe had the hotel send some flowers to her room or something. Anything would have been better than doing nothing and tearing myself up all week."

"It would have saved you both a great deal of pain," Rei told him. She had seen first hand how hard he had been on himself.

"Lucky for you baka, she loves you," Asuka added with possibly a hint of self regret in her voice. "And she'll be at your place helping your mom set up for the party. If you hurry home after the final bell, you'll have a chance to talk to her before the rest of us get there." She raised her fist towards him. "And you'd better straighten this out or I'll clobber you!"

'Nothing like Asuka threatening you with physical violence to keep you motivated,' he thought. Not that he needed the extra incentive. The hurt he had caused Misato that night was more than enough.

The final bell hadn't even finished ringing when he bolted out the classroom and jogged for home. He made one necessary stop along the way at a flower shop, procuring the single red rose that had become a part of every apology he had made to Misato from the day he left her the letters.

The moment he stepped into the apartment he shared with his mom and Rei, his nose was gently assaulted by several wonderful smells. His mom had cooked a variety of dishes that the guests could sample at their leisure during the course of the evening. The apartment was colourfully decorated with streamers and banners wishing him a happy birthday.

"I'm home," he called out as he took off his shoes.

"Welcome home," his mother greeted him with a bright smile as she stepped out of the kitchen. She was just removing the apron which had obviously saved her green, summer dress from a couple of food related mishaps. She was a pretty decent cook, thanks to his help, but she was prone to make a mess or have the occasional kitchen disaster befall her. She was far more used to working in a biogenetics lab, or being the soul of an Eva, than working the kitchen.

She gave him a warm hug and kissed his cheek. "Happy birthday Shinji."

"Thanks mom." He never got tired of the affection she showered upon himself and Rei. "Everything looks great. Smells great too."

"Misato helped," she told him. "We both have a good teacher after all. And she did most of the decorating."

"Where is she?" he asked, nervousness creeping into his voice.

"She was getting a little nervous so she went out onto the balcony to get some air." She gave her son's shoulders a reassuring squeeze. "I love you so much Shinji and I want you to be happy. I want both of you to be happy. I really like Misato and I think the two of you are good for each other and its obvious that she really loves you. I know you both feel pretty bad about what happened, so go and talk to her and straighten things out between you."

He gave his mom a hug and a kiss on the cheek and went to see the woman he loved.

She was leaning on the railing, looking out at the still rebuilding city. She was dressed simply in a pair of blue jeans and a sleeveless white blouse, her casual attire not reflecting her visibly tense mood. He watched her for a few minutes taking in her beauty as he often liked to do, admiring her as the light breeze gently played with her hair.

He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath to steady himself. Slowly exhaling he walked out onto the balcony and stood to her right.


She started slightly at the sound of his voice. "Shinji." In her voice was a mix of relief and nervousness. She actually looked shy and vulnerable, a look he had never seen on her before. It would have been cute if the situation wasn't so serious.

"Sorry if I startled you," he apologized.

"That's okay," she said. "I never heard you come home. I was kind of lost in my thoughts."

"Thinking about what a huge idiot I am?" he teased lightly.

"Shinji, you're not…"

He raised his hand to cut her off. "Yes, I am. What I said to you was horrible. I panicked and the old me came out and I acted like a coward. I was finally getting to know what it was like to be happy and I was afraid that it was going to disappear. I was afraid that you didn't want me anymore."

"I wouldn't do that to you Shinji." Her voice was almost pleading.

"I know and I should have stayed with you and talked to you, but I let my fears take over and I ran away from you. I never, ever want to do anything that will hurt you Misato, but I did and I'm ashamed of myself." He offered her the rose. "Can you forgive me for being so stupid?"

She took it, a slight smile coming to her lips. "I forgive you Shinji. Can you forgive me for being so weak?"

"You're not weak Misato," he assured her.

"Yeah, I am," she sighed. "If I wasn't I wouldn't be so afraid to be happy. I've been miserable and lonely for so long that I didn't know how else to be. The morning after I read your letter I realised that I really did love you in the same way that you said you loved me and I decided to try to reach for that happiness. I knew that you honestly meant the words you wrote, I could feel it in my heart."

"I still feel the same way," he told her.

"So do I," she admitted. "It sounds pretty sappy, but I think I fall in love with you a little more every time I see you because it reminds me that I made the right decision and for the right reasons. But in the back of my mind that loneliness and fear sat there just waiting to pounce on me. Maybe it's not so much a fear of being happy, but the old fear that no one will love me. Or that I'm not worthy of being loved, by you or anyone else, and that the happiness I've been feeling these last three years will go away and I'll be all alone again."

"We're a lot alike that way," he said softly. "I've been afraid that with my nervous bumbling that I'd do something stupid and disappoint you and drive you away. Or, that this has all been a dream and I'd wake up and be staring at the ceiling of a hospital room because I'd been smacked around by an Angel again."

She smiled lightly. "I always thought your nervous bumbling was kind of cute."

"Did I bumble my way into something to get you so upset last week?" he asked.

She shook her head. "You didn't do anything wrong Shinji, it was all my own doing. The closer we got to this day, the more anxious I was for it to arrive. I started to get nervous and the irrational fear that it would turn out to be an illusion started to creep in. I fell back into my old habits and got drunk, which only made it worse. I was beating myself up pretty hard before you came over that night."

"And then my fears came out," he said glumly. "My fear of being rejected and abandoned took me over and I said something so hurtful to you."

"I stumbled through that week in Germany like a zombie," she continued. "I was afraid that I had lost your love and the friendship of your mom and the trust she put in me. When you got her back I was afraid of what she would think of me and that she wouldn't approve of our relationship."

"You'll never lose my love Misato. As for mom, she was okay with it from the time I told her that I was in love with you," he reminded her. "She always knew how I felt about you. She could read my mind like an open book every time I synched with the Eva and when I was finally able to speak to her she told me how she felt about it. And she really likes you."

"I know," she agreed. "We had a long talk today and she reminded me of all that. But Shinji, you have to remember that I can be a little thick sometimes and I had to hear it for myself before I could truly believe it."

"I think she understands our fears about being happy better than we do," he speculated.

"You may be right," she agreed. She reached out with her right hand and grasped his left. "Can you forgive me Shinji?"

"You're forgiven," he said, squeezing her hand.

She let out a happy and relieved sigh. "So the day we've been waiting for has finally arrived. Despite our best efforts to ruin it."

"We survived the Angels and we're surviving our own fears," he said. "We can only get stronger. I think we'll be okay."

She hugged him tightly. "You've come so far from the boy you used to be Shinji. I always knew you were stronger than you gave yourself credit for."

"It was because you believed in me and convinced me that I could be stronger," he told her as he loosened their embrace so he could look into her brown eyes that he loved so much. He kept his arms wrapped loosely around her slim waist.

She draped her arms loosely around his neck and looked deeply into his blue eyes. "I've always believed in you Shinji, I just didn't say it often enough. I believe in you and I love you."

He smiled. "Three years later and I still get goose bumps when I hear you say that."

"Get used to it because you'll be hearing it a lot."

"You know, I seem to recall a promise you made about three years ago," he said.

"What was it again?" she asked with a mischievous smirk.

He smiled at her playfulness. "I believe you promised that on my eighteenth birthday you would give me a kiss that I would never forget."

"I believe you're right," she agreed. "And I always keep my promises. Happy birthday Shinji."

She pulled him to her and pressed her lips to his, lightly at first but with a growing passion and intensity. She projected all of her love and care for him into the kiss and he gratefully took it all, accepting the precious gift she was giving him. Her love, her heart, and her soul.

They were both breathless by the time she broke the kiss. It was then that she became aware that they had an audience and they were being applauded. The guests, Ritsuko and Maya, Kensuke, Touji and Hikari, along with Asuka and Rei, had all arrived at the pivotal moment. She looked back to Shinji and laughed. He had a contented smile on his fully blushing face and his eyes were glazed over.

Yui stepped out onto the balcony, apparently quite amused by her son's reaction. She laughed and looked at the now blushing Misato.

"I think you broke him."

Three Months Later:

Entwined in the damp and twisted sheets of her bed and with the heat of their lovemaking radiating off of their sweating bodies, Shinji stared at the ceiling as he tried to catch his breath. Misato lay on her side next to him, one leg lying across his and a hand resting gently on his chest as she too tried to recover. Being someone who was only just learning about the more pleasant aspects of life, the intimacy they had just shared had completely blown his mind. He never knew that anything could make him feel so damn good. So wanted. So alive.

The evening had started off with a nice dinner and pleasant conversation. Afterwards, just like in one of the dreams he had described to her in his letter, they went to see a movie. It sucked horribly so they engaged in the preordained popcorn fight and, much to their delight, they succeeded in pissing off the rest of the patrons. Next came the karaoke club and while they did indeed sing badly, they had a riot doing it. They walked back to her place hand in hand, laughing at themselves and just enjoying the simple act of being together.

When they got back to the apartment they found that they couldn't keep their hands off of each other. They had discussed it before that they wanted this moment to come on its own and be spontaneous. They wanted it to just happen without either of them pushing it along and they got their wish. Their simple enjoyment of just being together and their easy, natural interaction with each other led them into the moment and they let it carry them along.

Being his first time doing anything like this, Shinji was nervous and he was surprised to find that Misato was as well. He was nervous because it was his first time, while she was nervous because it wasn't hers. It was the last vestiges of her self loathing trying to stick its nose where it didn't belong, making her wonder what Shinji would think of her later. She sincerely wished that it was her first time, it would have been a better and more cherished way to lose her virginity than the way she had given herself to Kaji.

She beat down that self loathing and decided that she would always think of this as her first time because she was no longer the same person she had been when she met Kaji. She was a different person now. She was stronger and she was no longer seeking to make herself dirty. She was giving herself to Shinji because they truly loved each other and neither of them were afraid to admit it.

Their clothes were left strewn around the apartment as roaming hands and deep, soul touching kisses ignited their passion. Shinji found himself in awe of the unclothed beauty before him. True, he had seen her naked before, but those times had been accidental. This time around it was because he had removed the clothes from her gorgeous body with is own two, nervously shaking hands and she had been so understanding of his nervousness.

He had removed her shirt and was about to unhook the front of her bra when he froze up. Touching her through her clothes had been one thing, but touching the flesh itself was a different game somehow. It was more real. She already had his shirt open and placed her hand on his bare chest, over his heart, and assured him that it was okay for him to touch her. She wanted him to touch her. It calmed him and he continued to undress her.

He found himself filled with a sense of disbelieving wonderment. She was so beautiful, warm, and soft. He was touching and tasting her, his hands, lips and tongue going places he had only dreamt about. And the kicker was that she was doing the same thing to him. It hit him like a bolt of lightning.

'My god, I'm actually making love to Misato!"

And he thought that he must have been doing something right because if the sounds she was making were any indication, she was enjoying it.

She made him feel sensations that he didn't even know existed. It was so incredible that he was at a complete loss to describe it. He was engulfed in a euphoric fog of heat and pleasure as their sweat soaked bodies moved against one another. He had no idea if she thought it was anywhere near as good as he did, but he did know that he never wanted to not feel this way. He knew that he would never be able to get enough of this or enough of her. When he eventually began to convulse within her, he nearly blacked out from the sensory overload.

When Misato reached her orgasm, it hit her like a runaway freight train. Shinji was no idiot, he knew that it wasn't likely that his raw and unrefined skills as a lover had made her go off like that. But it sure as hell was exciting and immensely gratifying to see and to think that he had some part in it. He knew she hadn't been with anyone in over three and a half years, not since Kaji, and that her anticipation of this day's eventuality had left her primed to go off like an N2 bomb.

But that didn't mean that he wasn't going to take a certain sense of pride out of the experience. After all, it was his name that sprang from her lips when she cried out in ecstasy. It was his shoulder that bore the marks of her teeth, and it was his back that she dug her fingernails into. It was him that she said she loved with all of her heart.

His recollections were pleasantly cut off as his beautiful, purple haired lover, rolled over onto him and kissed him deeply.

"I guess what they say is true," she said. "The shy ones really do make the best lovers."

He chuckled lightly. "Thanks for stroking my ego Misa-chan, but I know I wasn't that good."

"Then you must have natural talent," she smiled as she began to run the fingers of her left hand through his damp hair, which seemed to make a pleasant little feeling run down his spine. "Because for it being your first time, you were pretty good."

And she wasn't lying.

Sure, he was nervous and maybe a bit clumsy at first, but what he lacked in experience he more than made up for with the depth of his feelings for her, his gentle nature, and his apparent and enthusiastic willingness to please her, even as she gently guided him along. She considered herself a lucky woman. Shinji loved her deeply and she knew that he was going to be a generous and caring lover. It meant more to her than she could put into words.

She kissed him again and slowly worked her way down his neck and to his left shoulder where she had accidentally bit him. She kissed the wound lightly.

"Sorry Shinji," she apologized. "You were so gentle with me and I kind of roughed you up." She hadn't broken the skin, but he was going to have a pretty good sized hickey on top of his shoulder for a while. Not to mention that she knew she had raked his back pretty good with her fingernails.

He wrapped his arms loosely around her waist. "I'll wear my scars proudly. You once told me that chicks dig scars, right?"

"You don't need to have scars to turn me on or make me love you Shinji," she whispered in his ear. "You just have to be you. I love you."

He kissed her neck. "I love you too Misato, just the way you are."

"Sweaty and naked?" she asked teasingly, as she wiggled her hips against him. Much to her delight his face turned red as she felt his body begin to respond.

His voice cracked as he responded. "That too."

If anybody had told them when they first met that they would end up together and so deeply in love, they would have told them they were insane. At the time, neither of them knew much else but pain and loneliness and saw little else in their future. They were both broken in their own way and were just feeling their way along through the miseries of their lives.

But, love was indeed a powerful thing. It could mend a broken heart and a broken soul and it could allow two people to bring out the best in one another. It could bring people together under even the most trying of circumstances. Sometimes that's what it took to make true love shine through and bring people together and let them heal those wounds of the heart and soul.

And maybe, some souls were just meant to find each other and be together.

A/N: How was that? I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing both chapters of this.

Let me know what you think, and go ahead and please check out my other stories. You know how to find them.