Disclaimer- Rei, Shinji, and all other related characters places and things are the property of their owners. I do not own them, nor do I claim ownership. All unrelated material belongs to me. ^-^

Chapter 1: Stranded
By: Spectre

Shinji woke up with his head spinning uncontrollably like a carousel, the blood rushing to his head from the rest of his body. His eyes began to focus to his surroundings which even he was unsure of. As the environment around him came into full contrast, Shinji could see the inside of his entry plug, the fluid half drained, but still engulfing his head. Then he though to himself, how was that possible, but he did not have to wait long for his answer, an answer he did not need, nor want at the time. As he managed to move his head further around from side to side, he noticed he was hanging upside down in the broken down Eva he once had control of. Then all of his feeling cam back to him sores and cuts began to develop the feeling of pain, his head ached from where it had stricken the plug wall. Shinji gripped the sidebars of his seat and pushed himself upward out of his seat. Shinji groaned and gritted his teeth, putting all his strength in the action, making no success. It wasn't until he had used a jagged piece of metal he found floating in the fluid submerging him when he was finally set free from his restraint's steel grip. It was also at this point that his first sense of worry and fear began to develop.
As Shinji pushed the door aside, plug fluid rushed past him, pouring out the door and spilling onto the earth. Finally free from his aquatic prison, Shinji placed on foot upon solid ground and peered outside, his eyes widening as they absorbed the scene playing out in front of him. Before him lay endless rolling hills, scattered along the ground lay several pieces of flaming wreckage. The flames rising as high as to make the night sky seem as bright as day. Being winter, Shinji should have been cold in steeping out, drenching wet into the night air, but instead, the blaze warmed the air so that it actually burnt his skin on contact. He brought his hands up to his eyes, shielding them from the blazing inferno and floating ash, carried by the slightest breeze in the night. He was in a state of disbelief; unable to accept the fact that his and Rei's Evas were that damaged. Then it struck him, a memory sent from his brain all out through the rest of his body. A chill ran down his back, his knees fell weak and a slight fuzzy feeling buzzed his head. Rei! Shinji darted around; searching for any sign of movement that might be Rei looking for him. His head moved back and forth form wreckage to wreckage, getting a better look of the flames more than any sign of life.
His heart began to beat faster in his chest, the rapid pounding becoming an apparent thump in his ears. The systematic pounding thrust itself up against his chest, sending the rhythm through his entire body. The blood in his veins sped through the tiny tubes like cars in a highway, pulsing faster with each beat of his heart. Sweat began to drip from his forehead, his mind beginning to dread the worst possible situation the young girl could be in...that is...if she was still...Shinji shook the thought from his mind. Such thoughts are even worst then the actual thing, he mustn't think of such things. He began to call for her, cupping his hands around his mouth, amplifying the sound as much as he could.
"Ayanami!! Ayanami!!" His words echoed slowly along the hills, only for a few seconds though, to be soon drowned by the raging flames surrounding him. Only the sounds of an endless wasteland of steel and flame responded, leaving him the feeling of emptiness. For some reason the song "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd came to mind. For no particular reason, perhaps the lyrics meant something in this situation, or maybe the slow soft melody of an empty feeling inside you, the feeling he had now. Shinji looked around once again, scanning the horizon all around him for any signs of Rei or her Eva. Nothing, as with his first glance, all he could see was his own trashed Eva, and flaming wreckage for miles. He began to call again, this time, moving closer to the wreckage as he sounded. Nothing. Shinji sighed and let his arms dropped to his sides, and his knees fall from under him, sending him to the cold wet dirt below. His eyes fell to the dirt in which he kneeled, soaking his knees through his plug suit. The empty feeling inside him dwelled and grew, becoming a parasite on his own spirit. Sucking all hope from his body. Then something flashed in the corner of his eye, Shinji immediately shot his head around searching for the light that had grabbed his attention. He waited, scanning over the horizon where the flash originated, two seconds had passed when a second flash pulsed from over the hill just in front of him. "Ayanami!! Ayanami!!" Shinji continued to call as he dashed over to the hill, weaving in and out through the mangled steel and fire that scorched his skin.
As he cleared the mound of dirt and grass, Shinji's eyes widened as they fell open the twisted mechanical body of unit 00, also surrounded by flaming steel wreckage. A dry lump formed at the back of his throat, stealing his breath from his lungs. His heart pounded faster and harder, almost feeling like it was going to burst from his chest. "Ayanami!!" Shinji slid down the slope of the hill, kicking up dust and clouds of dirt, tripping over loose rocks. Halfway down he fell, he foot lodged against the side of a stone, twisting his ankle and shattering the bone. Shinji cried out in pain as he felt the bone fragment inside his leg, sending electrifying signals to his brain. The tears began to flow from his eyes and drip onto the ground, soaking in to the dirt. But he did not stop, all he could see was the trampled Eva towering over him, knowing Rei was inside. Through agonizing pain that shot through his entire body, Shinji pulled himself up and stood up. As he shifted his weight back onto his ankle, the pain became so intense it began to diminish. The feeling when the pressure becomes so much you loose all feeling; that was exactly what had happened. But when he lifted the weight off with each step, the pain returned, and stabbed at his nerves. Slowly, Shinji limped over to the back of the Eva, where the entry plug had been ejected and the fluid had been half drained, as what happened with his. As he approached, he could notice where the metal had begun to melt under the tremendous heat that usually accompanied the ejection of the plug. Also, the plug had been covered in the black ash from the flames that lay only a few feet from the hatch.
Finally, Shinji stumbled and collapsed, holding himself up using the solid hatch door. The pain finally became too much for him, he was unable to put any more pressure on it anymore, his body had not the will, nor the strength. Shinji gripped the handles tightly, and with what strength he could muster, he began to turn. The door creaking and cracking loudly with each inch it was turned; sounding much like the rusted hull of a submarine being crushed by the great pressure of the ocean. The strength needed to twist the steel handles was almost more than he could summon. Each second passed on, moving the hatch barely and inch. After what seemed like an eternity, liquid began to pour out from the sides of the hatch, rushing past his legs and feet as hit the ground. The steel hatch finally pushed aside opening the plug to the air. Shinji leaned in and saw Rei slumped in her chair, blood streaked down her forehead and all over her left-shoulder.
"Ayanami!" Shinji rushed in, wading through the liquid still caught in the tube. His ankle hit the side of the seat on his way over to her, sending pain through his body, up his leg and to his brain. Shinji cringed, trying his best to hold back the pain until he got her out of here. Immediately, he unhooked her restraint around her waist and lifted her into his arms. She was limp in his arms, her skin cold to the touch. Shinji looked down at her chest and a great terror shot through his entire body, she wasn't breathing. Summoning all the tolerance he had, Shinji rushed out of the plug, stumbling and slipping on his way. The grass was soft below them, and the fires next to him gave off enough heat and light for them. Shinji quickly laid her down on the ground and gathered back his emergency training. Immediately he pulled off his gloves and pinched Rei's nose, their lips touched and he sent a breath of life within her. Again he sent more air, then placing his hands upon her chest just above her heart and began to press down, counting his pumps. 1-2-3-4-5...1-2-3-4-5...again, another breath of air down her windpipe. "Please Ayanami!! Come on breathe!!" 1-2-3-4-5...1-2-3-4-5. Then a choking cough escaped her lips, forcing the plug fluid out of her lungs and out of her mouth. "Yes!!" Shinji's eyes began to tear as he lifted her head up and placed in on his lap, "Thank you!" Rei's weak eyes fluttered slightly, still adjusting to the light that was suddenly forced upon her.
"P-Pilot Ikari?" Her voice was soft and weak, life starting to take over once again, slowly returning her energy. She looked up at him, the tears bringing back the memory of their first battle together. A night that would never escape her mind...nor his. "Do you cry now because you are glad?" Shinji laughed slightly and brushed the tears away, grateful that once again, he was able to save her.
"Yes." Shinji's mind was now at ease, his heart returning to normal rhythm, his spirit now lightened and filled with sheer joy. For some reason, a reason he himself did not know, Shinji felt a great desire to show her what it means to live, and to be happy. A selfish thought, but then again, maybe not. "Are you ok?" Rei searched herself for the pain accompanied with her injuries. A bruise on the head, a gaping cut in her shoulder, and an unidentified pain in her leg. She was no stranger to pain, the first test run with unit 00 left her in casts and bandages for weeks, maybe even months. It was so hard for her to tell, the time spent in healing felt like an eternity, an endless void in her life. She was about to answer when she noticed his ankle swollen and throbbing to the side of an apple.
"You're hurt Ikari?"
"Just a scratch. Come on, I'll help you up, we need to contact Misato and the others." Shinji stood himself up, slowly easing Rei up, letting her lean on his shoulder as they walked.
"My controls are offline, we will have to use unit 01."
"I was afraid you were going to say that. My Eva is on the other side of that hill. You think you can make it?"
"Do you think you can make it Ikari?" Shinji looked down at her and gave a discouraged look. The pain was almost paralyzing, but he knew if they could contact NERVE they he would be eased of it shortly. Something bothered him though, something he didn't yet want to tell Rei. Usually, NERVE observes every move they make, and whenever they get in trouble, it takes them no longer than a few minutes for them to get out to help him. At this point, it has well passed the reasonable response time for NERVE. If he couldn't contact them, who knows when they will be picked up. "Is it broken?" Rei's words shattered into his thoughts. The emotionless tone to her voice as always, made him feel a little uncomfortable.
"Huh, oh I'm sorry what?"
"Your ankle, is it broken?" Shinji hesitated for a moment, not sure what to say. They were coming to the slope of the hill, and he was almost sure that he couldn't make it up, but he had to try.
"Yeah, I think so."
"Then why are you helping me walk, if you have the broken ankle?" Shinji searched his mind, that question caught him by surprise. He should have expected it, but he never really know what to expect with Rei.
"I can handle it, don't worry. All we have to do is get to my controls and we'll be out of here."
"Shouldn't they have been here already?" Shinji stopped dead in his tracks and looked at her, flashing her and unsure smile. It was now apparent to her as well, NERVE's absence was well unexpected. She only looked back at him, her eyes focused on his smile. This confused her, in fact she was confused about many of his actions tonight. The one thing that confused her the most, is the fact that it meant so much to him that she lived. Then, here they were, him with a broken ankle, and still, he managed to help her. With all that pain and worry, he still managed to smile.
"What's wrong?" Shinji could see the clashing feelings in eyes, staring deep into him. Rei shook her head and turned away. Shinji didn't bother prying, if he knew anything about her, it was that she always kept to herself and barely let herself go. Instead he focused himself purely on mustering the strength to walk up the hill and over to what hopefully would be their ticket home. 'Home.' Shinji laughed to himself, it's funny how he would use such a word to label NERVE sick bay, or even Misato's. At this point, he wasn't able to remember what home was, or even if such a thing still existed in this world. The only thing he knew about home, was that it wasn't with his so-called father, Gendo. Perhaps, one day after the angels, after the Evas, he might rediscover the truth of 'home.'

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN'T FIND THEM?????" Misato screamed at Ritsuko, throwing down her Capt.'s hat to the floor in anger. Standing in front of the towering monitors felt so belittling, but now she had other things to worry about.
"We lost contact in the middle of the battle, they could be anywhere right now to tell you the truth!" Misato grabbed her by the scruff of her lab coat and brought her up to her face.
"THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING!!" Ritsuko shook her head softly and pulled herself out of Misato's grip.
"The only thing we can do right now is start searching where they last had radio contact."
"Well what are you waiting for?"
"A dispatch team is on their way as we speak. A second crew is leaving in ten."
"Good, get me a seat on that truck, I'm going to look myself." Misato picked up her hat and brushed off the dust, placing it back on her head. Grabbing a flashlight and jacket, Misato began to walk out the door when the intercom system sounded and announcement.
*Attention-Attention!! Capt. Katsuragi to Commander's quarters immediately...Repeat- Capt. Katsuragi to Commander's quarters immediately...*
Misato let out a loud groan and her body slumped to the doorframe. Just what she needed, how was she going to explain this to the commander. She already had a bad record with him, but this was going to slip her performance record down even further. Misato turned around and pointed the flashlight at Ritsuko, already on the phone to the transport.
"Hold the team, I'll be back in a few."
"If you ever get back at all." Ritsuko chuckled to herself.
"Don't I know it!"

The large steel door let out a loud hiss as it slid into the wall, out of her way and sending a burst of steam in it's wake. A blast of cold air hit her as she took her first trembling step inside, the lights all darkened. Even though she had been there so many times before, it still creeped her out. Her shoes echoed against the walls as they clocked along the floor, steel, as like the door. As she looked around, only shadows greeted her, no light besides the light from the hall had entered the room. Misato jumped as the loud hiss returned, sliding the door back into place behind her. Now she was all-alone in the dark of the Commander's quarters. Usually she would be sent to his office, but sometimes, she would be sent here where Gendo would be waiting for her. As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she was able to make out small objects around the room, outlines of furniture and desk.
"What happened with the Evas Captain?" The strong voice startled her and made her jump slightly, sending a small chill down her back. The sounds echoed in the small room, against the walls and floor, no windows. Then a bright flash of light nearly blinded her as Gendo switched on the small lamp on his desk. Misato could barely make out her commander in the dim light, what she could see was the very vague outline of his facial features, and the reflection of his glasses. What she could see in his face was a small frown stretching over his face, piercing into her soul. Misato gulped back, trying to get the dry feeling out of her throat.
"W-We lost contact in the middle of the battle sir. We're not sure what happened."
"Do you have any form of radio contact with units 00 or 01?"
"No sir, but a search team is already under way. I am leaving on the second crew in a few minutes to lead the search myself." Gendo pushed his frames back up on the bridge of his nose, staring into Misato, still making no other physical response besides the downward curve of his lips.
"Very well. Keep all communication lines open and listen for any kind of signal."
"Already done sir."
"Good. Continue with the search Capt. Katsuragi, and keep me posted with any news. We need those Evas back in one piece, we can't afford to make others." Just as Misato turned her back, his emotionless words sunk in and penetrated her. How could this man be so cold.
"What of the crew sir? Surly you want them back alive?"
"If they survive, then they can continue to pilot. If not, we can always find others. Pilots are disposable Miss Katsuragi, Evas aren't cheap!" Misato stood there, shocked, the blood running cold in her body sending chills further down her back. Her heart beat rapidly, sweat pouring from her brow. She couldn't move, all she could think about was poor Shinji. Now she knew what made him so cold, so sad inside. Still, the rage swelled up inside her, if she had the strength, she would turn around and hit him right there, turn in her ID card. Instead, she just froze, standing in attention at her place on the cold steel floor. "Well, what are you waiting for Capt.? Begin with the search." Misato's fists clenched at her side, his words still burrowing themselves deep into her soul, fueling the flame within her.
"Yes sir."

Shinji climbed out of his overturned entry plug with a slight frown planted on his face. Minutes before he had left Rei by a small fire of wreckage to keep her warm so he could check the transmission. As he approached, Rei could tell by the look on his face that what news he had wasn't good. Sitting by the warm fire, the pains in her chest began to grow more intense; before they were so minor she shrugged them off as a small bruise. But now, they began to shoot through the rest of her body, tingling every nerve she had. A sharp stab jerked her forward and automatically shifted her arms across her chest, cringing with the pain.
"Ayanami!! Are you ok? What's wrong?" Shinji ran up to her side, setting aside his ankle once again for her. The pain had taken her breath away, hunched her over, which might have been a sort of relief. For with each mouthful of air she drew in, the more the pain grew in her chest, just between her breasts. With all the strength that she could gather within her, she managed to acknowledge the stabbing pain that haunted her so.
"Ahhh...m-my chest. I-Ikari, it hurts when I breathe." Shinji looked down at her and slowly laid her down on his legs, peeling away her arms. With a concerned face, Shinji gently pressed against her chest with his fingers, softly feeling the bones beneath her skin. From what it sounded like, what he was looking for was not something he wished to find. As his fingertips passed over the small area of flesh just under left corner of her right breast, a twinge of pain and a sharp gasp escaped Rei lips. Shinji took his hands away and passed his fingers through her hair, trying to sooth the pain that shot through her body and let out a loud sigh.
"Just as I thought, looked like you have a broken rib. You should be fine if you just lie down and try not to breath too hard until they get here." Rei nodded and closed her eyes, regulating her breathing to a slow, soft pattern, belittling the pain just slightly. Shinji slowly lifted her upper body up to place it on the pillow he had found in the emergency compartment when Rei's eyes slowly pried open and stared into his, cold and frightened.
"You didn't get a hold of them did you Ikari?" Shinji looked down at her and didn't say a word, nor did he move. But somehow, she knew, the way his arms trembled as he cradled her, the stone look on his face, somehow she knew.
"I'm going to set up the tent I found in the emergency compartment right after I clean up some of these cuts." Slowly he set her down on the pillow and moved to the small tin box laying on the grown next to him, battered and dinged by the rough landing. Inside he found a roll of bandages, alcohol, a needle, antibiotic, and some medical tape. As he looked over the contents, Shinji noticed they were only made for one person, naturally since only one person can pilot an Eva. There was another tin in unit 00, but neither of them could manage another trip, his ankle had began to swell as the size of a grapefruit, reeking of the familiar copper smell of blood. Shinij immediately scanned himself over, besides the ankle; there were no serious injuries. Without any second thoughts, he began to rip a piece of cloth off his plug suit to use as a rag and started to apply the alcohol to Rei's forehead. The liquid stung at touch, but was drowned by the throbbing pain in her chest. With her eyes closed, her only reaction was a slight twitch of the eyelids as the blood was wiped away. Soon, after the alcohol was set aside and the familiar caress of cotton bandages came back to her skin, Rei could hear Shinji struggling to set up the tent, working with an effort to not put any weight on his ankle. Her eyes opened and her head turned slightly, and the haunting question returned to her, plaguing her mind….Why does he care so much?

The dark sky rolled over their heads, scattered with the many stars of the eternal universe. At the first look, the sky would seem endless, an ominous black abyss covering the small sphere of land and water. As Rei lay there surrounding the fire with Shinji resting next to her, she couldn't help but wonder what secrets it knew, how many lives it had witnessed. As the endless darkness drifted over her, a deep silence fell between the two pilots, and had since the tent had been set. But still, the question moved through her mind, ready to be released, but was she ready for an answer? She looked over at her fellow pilot, sitting cross-legged in front of the fire poking at it with a stick. Now would be the perfect time to ask, even if she wasn't ready. Before she knew it, her words that she had though of so long ago had flown smoothly out of her mouth.
"Pilot Ikari?"
"Could you answer me one question?"
"Uh, sure. What is it?"
"Well..." Her mind stumbled, her lips trembling, the only real emotion she had expressed besides pain. But then, she did remember that night they had first worked together, the first time she really remembered smiling. "Tell me, why do you care so much?"
"Care, about what?"
"About me." Shinji nearly dropped the stick he was holding, that was the one question he had not expected, nor would he ever. A slight flush of red colored his dirty cheeks, sending a slight hint of heat through his skin.
"Well, you always seem so...so..."
"So what?"
"So cold. Whenever I see you, you barely show any sort of happiness. You never seem to show an appreciation for the life you have, and I always see that as being so sad. I guess I want to help show you what it means to love life, I want to help you to become happy." Rei looked at him, the words still sinking in and finding meaning in her soul. Help you become happy. She searched within herself and brought back that nigh once more, and remembered what she felt when she smiled. The emotion that she could not yet explain or define within her, was that the happiness he spoke of? She did not know, she could not tell, but what ever that feeling was, she could remember how it felt. And in remembering, she wanted so badly to feel it again, to become happy. Her feelings could not comply nor be expressed in words, no matter how had she would try, there was no way to explain it.

The tires of the transport slowly crunched the undergrowth that lay beneath them as it came to a stop. Inside, a search team lay in wait, ready to begin their mission. With them Misato sat with her clipboard resting on her lap, slowly tapping it with a small pen impatiently. Soon, Misato sprang to her feet as the transport intercom sounded their arrival. Misato slid the door open and jumped out with her clipboard, surveying the area around her. The night had darkened the environment, making it hard to see anything. Soon the search commander walked up to her and gave a quick salute.
"Capt. Katsuragi, our teams are ready to begin the search."
"Good, do you have the electromagnetic scanner ready?"
"Uh, no Capt., unfortunately there has been a problem with the scanner and it needs to be repaired before we begin." Misato slapped her forehead in disgust and slowly slid it down her face.
"Ugh! How long will this take?"
"Uh...about an hour, maybe two." Misato threw down her clipboard and nearly tore out her hair. Shinji could be out there hurt for all they knew, and what was worse was that his "father" couldn't care less about his turnout, nor Rei's.
"Make it thirty minutes! We got two pilots out there, and they could be dead for all we know! No get cracking and start the search!"
"Yes sir! No wait I mean..."
"Just shut up and get going!" Misato picked up her clipboard and leaned up against the side of the truck, letting out a long sigh. Looking out over the horizon, watching the search party begin it long and arduous journey. All around her the darkness had developed into an impenetrable cloak of black, making it hard to even make out the horizon at which she was looking. Her eyes drifted into a soft stuper, filling with worry and anxiety. 'If only', she thought, 'if only she had been better at her job...' Misato shook the thought from her mind, shameless self-blame was no way to find Shinji. Nothing she could have done would have prevented the communications black out, nothing at all. But still, the guilt swelled inside her, with none of his own, perhaps she felt guilty for Gendo. His cold words still ran down her spine, feeling like it had frozen by the thought of them. How could he be so damn cold, about his own flesh and blood? How? A lone tear ran down her cheek, quickly she brushed it away without anyone noticing. "Shinji, where are you?"
Just then, she turned her head to the west, facing away from the search team, hiding her tears and shame. As she lifted her head to the horizon a soft orange glow poked out of the black cloak covering the sky. Misato's eyes shot open in attention as she grabbed for the binoculars hanging from her neck. As the lenses rose to her eyes, in peering through she could see the glow was changing in brightness, changing from a bright red to a soft yellow. It looked as if it were moving or waving back and forth, as in fire. The binoculars fell from her trembling hand as it came to her, fire! Fire was not unusual here, many natural fires had been started by lighting in this vast plain. It was a chance, but it was a chance she had to take. Immediately she jumped atop on of the trucks and cupped her hands over her mouth, yelling towards the deploying troops.
"Head to the west!! I see fire, it may be from one of the Evas!!" The commander looked up at her from his position in front of the truck, scanning over a map of the area.
"It's probably a lightning fire, don't worry about it."
"Commander we have to check!"
"Capt.. this is a vast area, we can't just go off on a whim. We don't have much time if the pilots are wounded."
"Exactly my point! Besides, I am in charge of this search and I say we head for the west!"

It was getting close to the morning hours, and somehow it got colder, nearly freezing the two in their cold, wet plug suits. At this point, Rei was moved into the tent to shield her from the chilling breeze that gently floated through the air. The bandages over her head and shoulder had started to become saturated with the copper smell of blood that soaked into them. This smell, this feeling of pain, was all too familiar to her. The testing of unit 00 had left her in bondage for weeks, it seems that those memories had been coming back to her all night. Those and of course, the memories of that other night… So many times that night had she slipped back into her memories, letting them consume her, drinking every sense in. But, tonight would be another night that would be burned in the back of her mind, that night she had gotten her answer. Ever since that night they first fought together, she had wondered why he cared so about her living, now she knew.
Outside, Shinji sat, poking the fire with the same stick he had almost dropped before. The question had taken him by surprise, not even he had ever thought about it. But when she finally asked, it seemed to come to him as quickly as if he already knew. Truthfully, to himself, he always hoped he could have a chance to make her happy. But his hopes were always discouraged by the uncomfortable events that seemed to push them further from each other. Like the day in her apartment, Shinji's face flushed at the thought. Seeing her like that, naked, vulnerable, made him think less of himself; nearly killing himself over it. As she walked in out of the shower, Shinji could only turn around, unsure of what or who it was. Immediately in seeing her soft pale skin exposed to him, his spirits were crushed and his self-pride as a person was set aside to make room for the terrible shame that he felt. Those events, crushed him, making him feel so distant from her, loosing all hopes to help her. But for some reason, tonight made all of those things better, he could here it right form her that she knew what he wanted for her. He knew that being distant would be the last thing they would be. Even though her face didn't show it, this night somehow made them closer.

Well folks, the first chapter is under way! Now keep in mind, I did my best to keep Rei in character, and I think I did a fairly good job of it. She still doesn't show much emotion, and she still calls Shinji "Pilot Ikari" so BACK OFF!!! Well, anyways, here's the deal on further chapters. Right no I am juggling back and forth between this and a Tenchi fiction, doing one chapter of one then switching to the next so please keep this in mind and enjoy the rest of my fics! ^-^