Chapter 1: Dirty Laundry
Being the operations director of an organization like NERV, Misato understood that the city was not a safe place. Especially for her children, the pilots. She really shouldn't have been surprised the Shinji was gone.
It's his own fault.
Asuka's unforgiving words traveled through her consciousness. But as harsh as they were, Misato could not shake the fact that they were true. He had acted without permission. Engaging the enemy blindly, with no thought as to the repercussions.
I'll have to scold him when he comes back.
These where her words. In the moment they were spoken they had helped to fuel her own anger and thus revive her hope. But now that hope was gone and the anger had cooled to sorrow. She had to accept the fact that he wasn't coming back.
The sphere hovering above the city was not the angel. Its body was the shadow that enveloped the land below: Dirac's Sea. Their mission objective was to destroy the angel and salvage the remains of Unit 1. The operation parameters consisted of dumping all 992 existing N2 bombs directly into the angel and using the two remaining Evangelion's AT-fields to minimize the destructive force on the city. The plan was far from classy or even creative, but it was likely to accomplish the mission objected. The angel would die, and the EVA would be salvageable.
As for the pilot… this was not a rescue mission. Ritsuko had made that clear. Misato also made her feelings clear when she slapped her as hard as she'd ever slapped anyone in her life. Looking back on the instant, she realized she did not regret that decision one bit. It wouldn't bring Shinji back, but it did make her feel a heck of a lot better.
"60 seconds till the bombing commences," said Ritsuko from the command post.
This was it. In less than a minute Shinji would be dead, with or without life support. In a way it would be a relief. After debriefing, Misato would finally be able to go home. She'd offer what little comfort Asuka would allow her to give and when she was done with that she'd be able to cry herself. She thought it'd be nice to cry for a change.
But then the unthinkable happened. She was drug from her fantasy of pitiful tears by one simple question uttered by Asuka. It was the same question that mankind has been asking since the beginning of time.
"What's going on?"
The answer to that question is still a blur in Misato's mind. She remembered seeing a crack in Dirac's Sea. She remembered the shaking of the ground and the murmuring of the crew. She somewhat remembered the splitting of the sphere in the air and she could vividly recall the vision of blood as gallons of it splattered to the ground below. But the sound of Unit one… it's deadly roar… that was what haunted her dreams.
In the moments that followed the return of Unit One, the horror was quickly pushed to the side of Misato's mind. For the first time since her school days, her mind was dominated by thoughts of a teenage boy. If Unit One was alive, then so was Shinji. It was this realization that drove her towards the recently ejected entry plug.
Without haste she opened the entry plug. That's when she saw him sitting there in his plug suit staring blankly as if he were still all alone. He looked exhausted. He had just lived through a fight for his life. Misato couldn't take the sight. She flung herself on top of him.
"Shinji, Shinji, Shinji!" she cried almost incoherently. "Shinji? Are you alright? Shinji!"
He continued to stare at something distant that no one else could possibly see. After a moment he spoke.
"I just wanted… to see them again."
Misato wept uninhibited onto his plug suit. She felt the greatest relief she would ever feel in her life. Her previous thoughts were more than correct: it felt amazing to cry. For her the moment was frozen in time.
"Didn't you say you'd scold him?"
It was Asuka. She was the only one who would dare ruin this moment for her. Misato tried her best to ignore her as she clutched desperately to her returned charge. She thought she'd never let go.
"Fine," said Asuka with a deep coldness. "I'll do it myself."
Misato never let go of Shinji. Not willingly. She felt a great tug on her shoulders. It was a force that seemed impossible for a fourteen-year-old girl. Before she knew it she was on the ground staring at the Asuka's back.
"Shinji," said Asuka in a voice barely above a whisper. This was no greeting, it was a command. Yet the boy would not look up at the girl addressing him. That's when the hitting started. Small balled up fists began to plunge themselves over and over into the boy's body: a cruel punishment in an already weakened state. Asuka began to speak, but the blows never stopped coming.
"If you ever, ever, do that again I'll kill you." Shinji stared into space, unaffected by the pain she caused him and the passion in her voice. "I'll hit you so hard your EVA will feel it! I will beat you like you stole something!"
The more she yelled the greater her rage began.
"I'll freakin' rip your frickin' head off! I'll make you bleed from every pore on your body! I swear Shinji, I swear you'll never walk again."
Shinji sat there staring at the stars. He didn't understand why his world had become pain. He was just glad to be back. When Asuka noticed her words were going unheeded she began to hit him harder and harder, throwing all her strength into each swing. It wasn't long until Shinji started uttering sharp exclamations of pain.
Misato and the crew looked on in horror. No one knew how to act in a situation like this. What do you do when your second ranked pilot attempts to kill your first? Misato was the first to recover from the shock and being the closest she rose to take action.
"Leave them," said Ritsuko. For reasons she did not understand Misato complied. Apparently the trust of friendship was a hard bond to break. The brutal beating continued.
"Look at me Shinji!" yelled Asuka in anger and frustration. She grabbed him by the jaw and moved his head in her direction. His vision was focused on her, but somehow he seemed to stare through her. "If you ever do that again I'll never forgive you! I'll… I'll stomp on your… I'll break your… I'll… I'll"
But Shinji never found out what Asuka would do. She collapsed atop him as Misato had done just moments before. Despite herself, her unbidden tears began to flow. She wept bitterly in a matter she had not experienced since she was a child. Shinji stared off into space, as confused as ever. He began to wonder why he would ever want to come back to all of this uncertainty.
"Shinji…" said Asuka in-between heaving gasps. "Don't you dare leave again."
She clutched at him desperately, making him flinch from the wounds she had no doubt just inflicted upon him. It was the closest either of them had physically been to another human being.
But Shinji had no time to enjoy this closeness or to try and comprehend the behavior of his roommate and fellow pilot. Before he could gain his bearings, or even begin to think she threw a curveball at him that he wouldn't have expected in a million years. Through a series of shaky movements she slowly raised her mouth to his ear. She then whispered three little words that changed his life forever.
Hearing those words was the final pull into the real world. He realized that he was, in fact alive. This was no mental trip formed from lack of oxygen in his brain. He was truly alive. His throat went dry and his eyes went wide. He was glad that he was sitting. Had he been standing he probably would have fallen off his feet.
From that moment on, Shinji Ikari, pilot of Evangelion Unit one, was officially whipped.
It didn't take the doctors long to finish their examination of the third child. Besides a few "flesh wounds" caused by "unknown sources" the pilot was in perfect health. He was cleared to leave within an hour.
No one was happier about this than Shinji. After a long, exhausting, and life-altering day all he wanted was to go home and sleep. As he walked out of the hospital wing of NERV and headed towards the debriefing room, the thought of possible rest was the only thing occupying his mind. It was no surprise that he nearly ran into Asuka.
"Watch where you're going," she muttered angrily, but it was easy to tell her heart was not in it.
"Sorry," said Shinji feeling awkward and slightly ashamed. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do or say in a situation such as this. The things she had said earlier instantly replayed in his mind.
"Whatever," said Asuka quietly. Shinji took this as his cue to leave. He didn't get very far before he was stopped by her voice again.
"Don't worry about debriefing. Misato convinced the commander to postpone it till tomorrow."
"Oh," said Shinji, "Where is Misato?" He was hoping to get a ride back home. After the day's events he wasn't looking forward to walking.
"She's got a load of paper work to do. Lots of people and houses disappeared when the angel attacked," Asuka's face darkened at the thought. "Even though it's not our fault, NERV is responsible for the property damage. But at least we don't have to worry about stray cats anymore."
"… I like stray cats…" said Shinji sadly. He couldn't help but picture thousands of baby kittens being washed away by a sea of blackness. A part of him wanted to cry.
"You would," said Asuka with a shake of her head. "Anyways, it looks as if we'll have to walk."
Shinji sighed. It wasn't that he minded walking. It was just that he wanted to get home to his nice warm bed as soon as possible.
"Not feeling up to it?" asked Asuka mockingly, but once again it seemed forced.
Shinji took the question at face value and said, "I'm fine. Let's go."
And so the great uncomfortable walk began. For the first half of the journey the only noise that could be heard was the rustling of leaves as wind blew through the branches of nearby trees. Occasionally there would be a cough or sniffle from one of them, but these instances were so few and far between that they might as well not have happened. At one point a barking dog could be heard in the distance.
"Beagle?" asked Shinji.
"No," responded Asuka, "defiantly a Labrador."
"I see," said Shinji.
Silence was restored.
But as they continued to walk Shinji's mind was ablaze with thought. There were so many questions to be answered.
How did I escape from the angel? Was that my mother in there? Why did Asuka say all those things? Did she mean them? Is that Misato's drool on my shirt, or just a little LCL I forgot to wipe off?
Questions like these stirred in the young pilot's mind until he just couldn't take it anymore. He needed answers and he knew of only one person who might possibly have them. He turned to Asuka and attempted to ask the most important of the questions clouding his thought process.
"How many cats have to give their lives before this war is over?"
"What?" asked Asuka. It took Shinji only a second to realize his mistake.
"I mean… those things that you said… back there… did you really me-"
But Asuka cut him off.
"I meant it."
"Are you sure?" he asked in relative disbelief "because you said a lot of-"
"I meant every single word."
Shinji stopped in his tracks. Asuka stopped as well.
"So you were serious when you said-"
"Yeah, I'll kill you."
"And when you said that you'd b-"
"I swear I'll teach you the meaning of pain."
The look in her eye as she said that was so serious that it made Shinji shudder. It didn't help that it was cold outside. He ignored his discomfort and asked one more question.
"But… did you mean it when you said… when you said that you l-"
"Shinji," she said not quite meeting his gaze. "I don't say things I don't mean."
"Ok," said Shinji.
The two of them continued their trek home. Their silence was returned to them, but not for long. It was Asuka who broke it this time.
"My hands are cold," she said softly, looking straight ahead.
"Mine are ok," said Shinji, not quite sure how she expected him to respond to that.
His eyes widened slightly at what happened next. Without warning or even a glance in his direction Asuka slid her hand into his and intertwined their fingers. It took Shinji all of three seconds to realize that the two of them were in fact holding hands. This realization shocked him for a while and the two of them walked on in silence again, until Shinji's questioning mind acted up once again.
"Asuka," he asked. The girl looked over at him without breaking stride.
He glanced down at their joined hands and asked, "What does this mean?"
Asuka sighed, "It means nothing, Shinji."
But Shinji was not to be deterred.
"Well, isn't this the kind of thing that… dating people do?"
Asuka sighed and looked away from him. Shinji thought he caught sight of a blush, but it may have been his imagination. However, he knew that the blush on his own face was not. Whatever her reason for looking away, it wasn't long before Asuka composed her self and readied an answer.
"Look Shinji," she said in an exasperated tone. "Right now we're just… holding hands… because it's cold. It doesn't mean anything besides that. If you want to let go, you can do so at anytime. I won't get mad. Just like if I were to let go, I wouldn't expect you to get mad either. There's no commitment or anything. That's just the way it is."
Shinji took some time to take this new information in. Understanding hit him. They were in a trial phase. Either one of them could end it at anytime they wanted to without worrying about the consequences. This meant that no one would get hurt… but it also meant that there was no commitment. He decided that he could live with this. He looked down at the ground blushing furiously.
"Asuka," he said lightly squeezing her hand and glancing at her from the corner of his eyes, "I don't want to let go."
This time there was no doubt of the fact that she was blushing. She made no effort to hide it as she stared forward, deliberately avoiding his eyes.
"I don't want to let go either."
The two of them walked on in relative comfort, enjoying the warmth of each other's company. Shinji decided that if the day had to end like this, then maybe it wasn't such a bad day after all.
Of course he decided that before Asuka added one last thing to the conversation.
"But if you tell anybody about this, I'll kill you."
There was little speculation given to the reason why Ryoji Kaji was often seen washing his clothes in the basement of an apartment complex that he did not live in. The women there seemed to find his presence exciting in a way. To them watching clothes being washed was not an interesting activity, but dreaming of the attractive man across the room taking you up into his arms and doing things that your husband wouldn't dream of… well that was a little more exciting. It didn't hurt that the man was quite charming. With his scruffy, uncontrolled beard that probably took hours to cultivate, and that winning smile he flashes you when he innocently asks if it's safe to put bleach in with the colors load... who could resist him?
No, it was not surprising that the man could so easily get away with using a private facility for free and blocking up several machines at once. But when one truly sat down to think about it, they would have to wonder why he would choose this particular apartment. The location was more than a little inconvenient, being numerous city blocks away from his home. And speaking of his apartment, there was bound to be a washer and dyer there as well. So the question is, what was on this man's mind? What was there here that could cause this man to go out of his way to accomplish his menial chores? No one knows for sure. But those closest to the issue, those who knew Ryoji Kaji best, they believed that his reasoning was centered on one thing and one thing only.
"Excuse me," asked the boy not looking up from the task of folding his recently washed collection of clothes. He himself was wearing a plain white button up shirt and a blue pair of slacks that seemed to complement his overall look of mediocrity. Kaji had to give it to the kid. He had absolutely no style, yet somehow he had managed to gain access to the one true treasure that most women guarded greatly.
"I'm just congratulating you, kid," he said as he threw his award-winning smile at the young man's unheeding back. "I've never seen a man surrounded by so many… and at such a young age too. You must knock'em dead kid."
"Knock who dead?" asked the confused boy. This whole conversation seemed to be going straight over his head. "And surrounded by what?"
If he had been more observant, the man might have noticed something familiar about the boy's slumped posture, and the tense manner in which he conducted the conversation. He might have recognized the boy's whinny, nasally voice and stopped this line of communication before things got out of hand. Needless to say, Kaji was not an observant man… at least not when off duty.
"Panties," he whispered somewhat excitedly. The boy's shoulders went rigid and he let out an audible squeak. Even though he was fairly sure he had heard it before, that had not been the answer he was expecting.
He slowly turned around to face the creepy man who was disturbing his work. "Listen sir, I don't really feel comfortable talking about that kind of…" But he slowly trailed off when he realized that that creepy man was someone who he knew.
"Mr. Kaji?" he asked in disbelief.
"Shinji?" asked Kaji in an equal state of shock.
For a moment, the two of them stared at each other as if they were willing the other to disappear. The awkwardness was so think in the air that you could cut it with a spoon (a knife would be to normal). It was a while before Kaji spoke, breaking the silence.
"Eh… what brings you here today Shinji?"
"I live here," stated Shinji flatly.
"I see… and how is that going."
"It's going fine, sir," said Shinji looking down at the tiled floor.
"Misato's not keeping you up late is she?" asked the man with a weird glint in his eye.
"No, sir," said Shinji, not quite catching the meaning behind his tone.
"That's a shame," said Kaji shaking his head slowly. He motioned towards the pile of clothing on the folding table and said, "She has you washing them and she won't even let you in them."
"In them?" asked Shinji once again confused. "Why would I want to be in them?"
Shinji merely watched in amazement at Kaji's lack of shame as he discretely picked up a bright red pair and twirled it around his index finger.
"There's more joy in these little pieces of cloth than you could ever imagine, kid."
"I'm sorry Mr. Kaji, but I'm not following you."
"You really need to get out kid…" said the scruffy bearded man, once again shaking his head, but his face turned gravely serious in an instance. "Shinji, I want you to listen to me and listen well."
"Yes Mr. Kaji," said the boy. The man's sudden change of countenance had him more than a little worried.
"Please just call me Kaji. Mr. Kaji makes me feel old."
"Ok, Mr. Kaji…" said Shinji quickly. Kaji sighed.
"Anyways… I'm worried about you kid."
"Why's that Mr. Kaji?" asked Shinji nervously dropping a blouse he had been folding.
"I'm worried that you're getting nothing out of this."
"Out of what?"
"This" said Kaji gesturing toward the pile of clothes once again.
Shinji blinked several times before saying, "Huh?"
The man paused to scratch idly at his beard. "Asuka was right about you…"
"What did she say?" asked Shinji a little too eagerly, an action that did not escape the older man's attention.
"Never mind… back to what I was saying. You can't let women push you around like this." Shinji opened his mouth to protest, but Kaji held up a hand to silence him. "No, not even a woman as sumptuous as Katsuragi. You see, Shinji, women are like cows. And you know what you get from cows?"
Shinji cast his eyes to the corners on the room.
"Milk, Shinji, you get milk."
"Oh…" muttered the boy, feeling rather stupid.
"But the problem with cows is that in order to get the milk you have to work for it. You have to get down in the mud and pull on those utters until she gives you what you want."
Shinji visibly paled.
"Yes, I know it seems like nasty work. But if you do it right, both you and the cow will be happy. The cow experiences relief and you have your milk. But what you're doing now… well you're not getting any milk. If the cow's not willing to give it up, you can pull on those utters all day and make her happy, but at the end of the day you're still pouring water in your cereal. You understand?"
"I think so," said Shinji hesitantly, "but I don't get why you'd eat cereal at the end of the day…"
It wasn't often that NERV Special Inspector Ryoji Kaji groaned, but under the circumstances he was hardly to be blamed.
"Forget about the cereal… just don't let Katsuragi order you around, alright?"
"Ok," said Shinji quickly, "But these aren't Misato's clothes."
Kaji's face fell. "They aren't?"
"No," said Shinji with regretful undertones.
"Then whose are they?"
The pair of panties still twirling around Kaji's finger fell silently to the floor.
"I see," said Kaji with an almost pained look on his face. But he quickly sobered as he realized what this knew information meant.
"Shinji, you lucky dog," said the man with his ever-empowering grin. "I was beginning to think you were a prude! You live with two beautiful women, I should have known you were getting in one of their panties!"
"Mr. Kaji, I don't know what you heard, but I am not a cross-dresser!" exclaimed Shinji a bit too loudly.
Several of the other occupants of the room stared at the two of them. The women of the laundry mat couldn't believe that such a nice man as Kaji would be involved in such a derogatory conversation. Kaji flashed them all a smile that easily convinced them that nothing happened.
"That's not exactly what I meant," said Kaji scratching at the back of his neck.
"Oh," said Shinji in embarrassment. "What did you mean?"
"I mean, you're getting busy with Asuka."
"Busy? Busy doing what?" asked Shinji much too innocently for a boy his age.
"You know… the hokey-pokey, the horizontal-tango?"
"I don't know how to dance," confessed Shinji sadly.
"I'm not talking about dancing!"
"Well, I don't know what you're trying to say…"
Kaji sighed again. This had turned into one of the most difficult conversations he'd had all week. And that's saying something with a job like his. The man leaned close and whispered one three letter word into the boy's ear. Shinji's eyes widened.
"Asuka and I… w-we don't do that!"
"I see," said Kaji quietly. "So you're still not getting anything out of this? What a shame."
"No," said Shinji defensively. "I'm getting loads out of this!"
"Somehow I doubt that, kid."
"It's true!" said Shinji persistently.
"You said it yourself, you're not getting any."
"Getting any what?"
"Let's not start that again."
"But it's okay kid," said Kaji comfortingly. "Some men just don't know how to milk the cow."
"I know how to milk the cow!" said Shinji in an irritated tone.
"Then why are you still eating your cereal with water?"
Shinji wasn't sure what it was about this conversation, but Kaji's words were really getting to him. He took deep, angry breaths to steady himself, but failed.
"I'll have you know that my cereal is very milky!" he said between clenched teeth.
The older man merely chuckled.
"I didn't know you felt so strongly about it," he said flashing Shinji his most disarming smile. Shinji came to his senses. "Tell me, how milky is your cereal?"
"Well…" said the boy hesitantly "It's not that milky… I mean there's milk there, but… you know…"
"Would you say it's whole milk?"
"Well... no… maybe two percent…."
Kaji laughed again.
"If you don't mind me being a little forward, how far have you gotten?"
"I probably shouldn't say…"
"Come on," Kaji persisted. "We're both men here. You can tell me."
"Well I would… but Asuka said I shouldn't… so…"
"So you're whipped," stated Kaji plainly
"I'm not whipped!" Shinji almost yelled.
"Then tell me."
"I… I can't."
"Wha-chi!" exclaimed Kaji.
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Shinji.
"Oh, that?" asked Kaji innocently. "That's just the sound of you being whipped."
"I'm not whipped!"
"Then name one thing she's let you do."
Shinji's face colored again. "Well there's the time when… I really shouldn't say this."
"Wha-chi!" exclaimed Kaji this time adding a theatrical flick of his wrist.
"But I'll be in serious trouble if I tell anyone."
"I'm serious Mr. Kaji, she said she'd kill me!"
"Wha-chi!" exclaimed Kaji.
"Alright, alright, just stop making that stupid noise!"
The man shrugged at the boy's insult of his patented whip noise and made a gesture with his hand that indicated the boy should continue.
"Well…" said Shinji.
"Yeah…" said Kaji encouragingly.
"You know that night… when the angel attacked…"
"Uh-huh," said Kaji impatiently.
"Well, me and Asuka were walking home…"
"And she was talking about how she'd hurt me if I ever put myself in danger again…"
"That's not good," said Kaji frowning. "But continue."
"And then she said her hands were cold…"
Shinji then blushed and Kaji knew he was going to deliver the goods.
"She grabbed my hand," said Shinji in a state of excited-embarrassment.
Kaji blinked and waited for the boy to continue.
"Is that it?"
"Well, no. I mean we walked home holding hands the whole rest of the way."
Needless to say, Kaji was quite disappointed.
"So you mean to tell me, that you never even kissed her?"
"Well… this one time… but I don't think it counts because she brushed her teeth afterward."
"And you call that two percent? Kid, I wouldn't even call that soy milk."
Shinji's old irritation with the man returned.
"She let's me hold her hand all the time!… I mean as long as no one else is around."
"Stop that! She's very nice to me… and she says I'm special to her... and…"
"And you wash her clothes," Kaji pointed out.
"Well yeah… I mean we both decided that it'd be a good idea for me to take care of these kinds of things… she's really bad at housework… and…"
"And she does nothing for you in return."
"Well sometimes she helps me with homework… if she's not too busy… or if she feels like it… or if-"
"Wha-chi!" exclaimed Kaji, pushing Shinji to a place he didn't want to go. In that moment his anger and irritation overcame his better judgment and he let his biggest secret slip.
"SHE TOLD ME SHE LOVES ME!" he yelled.
The whole room froze. All eyes were focused on the boy. Shinji slowly brought his breathing back under control and looked around the room to see everyone staring at him. His cheeks were flaming. Luckily Kaji was there to flash them all his "sorry about that" smile. One-by-one the occupants of the laundry mat began to return their attention to their clothing.
"You can't, burst out like that kid… the smile only works so many times."
"I'm sorry," said Shinji quietly staring at his shoes.
"No, I'm the one who should be sorry," said Kaji with a shake of his head.
"I didn't realize it was that bad for you, kid. I mean I knew she had you whipped, but man… she's masterful."
"Didn't you hear what I said?" asked Shinji. "She loves me. I'm not whipped. She thinks I'm special."
"Then how come she only lets you hold her hand?"
"Because… we're taking things slow."
"Then why is she afraid to let anyone else know you're going out?"
"She wants this to be easy for us… just in case things don't work out… you know?"
"But if she loves you and you obviously care for her, why wouldn't things work out?"
"It's not that she doesn't think it'll work out…"
"Then what is it?" asked the man almost wearily
"It's like this. Right now, we're just doing what we're doing. If either one of us wants to stop it's okay, and neither one of us will get mad. She's just leaving us a way out, you know?"
"That's where you're wrong, kid," said Kaji sadly. "She's leaving herself a way out. Because you don't want out and she knows it. You adore her. You worship the ground she walks on. You wash her dirty underwear. But girls like her… even if they find a guy like you who wouldn't dream of hurting them, they'll always want to make sure there's an easy way out of the situation."
"You're wrong," said Shinji passionately. "Asuka's not like that."
Kaji smiled sadly. "Kid, she's been trained to have an exit strategy since before you were riding bicycles."
"Asuka wouldn't… I mean she…" The boy frowned for a moment before his face darkened. "I don't have to talk to you about this."
There was a tense moment in which the two men stared into each others eyes. A beeping sound went off and Kaji looked down at his watch.
"You know, kid, you're right. You don't have to talk to me or anyone else about this. You can go on doing her chores and holding her hand until she dumps you, and expects you to be happy about it. Or maybe you're right, maybe she won't just leave you. Maybe she really does love you." The man paused and scratched at his beard, never breaking eye contact. "But as long as you let her run your relationship like this, she'll never respect you. And even if one day she lets you in those panties you're folding, it won't even matter. Because she'll always treat you like dirty laundry."
There was silence again, but neither man was willing to break eye contact. The two were engaged in some sort of macho staring contest and testosterone was flowing between their sockets.
"Well, my clothes are done," said Kaji plainly. Shinji watched as the man walked to the other side of the room, opened up a dryer and threw all of his clothes unceremoniously into a laundry basket. The man then walked back over to the folding table, basket in hand, and set his clothes on the table as he fumbled through his pockets, producing a rectangular white card.
"Here's my card, kid. If you ever need some help, or you just want to talk about it, ring me up, ok? Believe it or not, I've been where you are and I know it's not an easy place to be."
Shinji merely grabbed the card out of the man's hands and nodded. Kaji then grabbed his basket and climbed the stairs out of the basement without so much as a goodbye.
Shinji let out a breath.
He went back to the task of folding clothes without any further distractions.
When he was finished, he returned upstairs to his room and spent the rest of the evening contemplating the best way to loose Kaji's card.
AN: Not really much to say here. I mean, I like this story a lot. I got some pretty good ideas as to where this is going and I hope you all like it as well... I just wish I didn't feel like I was stalling on my other stories. Ah well... catch you later.