Disclaimer: Don't own EVA. Well, I own one copy each of the American versions of the manga, but that's about it. Please don't sue me over mischaracterization…

Stronger and Stronger by Nathan Yuen

Shinji Ikari, age five, was drawing a picture atop a grassy hill when a shadow crossed over his paper. He looked up.

Asuka Soryu was standing over him, head cocked to one side in curiosity, "What'cha doin?"

Shinji rolled aside the crayons to reveal a black outlined figure with red sticks coming out of its head. He pinched the top of the picture to show it to Asuka at eye-level. "S' you. Whaddya think?"

Asuka wrinkled her nose in disgust. "'S me? Too ugly! You're bad at drawing!" She ripped the drawing out of his hands and tore the picture into tatters, stomping on the remains. She then stalked down the hill to find something that was more her interest.

Shinji gazed at his friendship gift forlornly. He never presented any of his art to her again.

Rei Ayanami, age five, was standing on the lawn when a flock of birds launched themselves into a frenzy above her. She looked up, mesmerized by seeing them pass overhead. Then, she too tried to take flight.

Ritsuko Ayanami, age eighteen, looked on amused when she caught sight of her sister running, jumping, and flapping her arms repeatedly. "Oy squirt," she called out, "What do you think you're doing over there?"

At the sound of Ritsuko's voice Rei turned, an in answer pointed to the flock of departing birds.

Understanding the gesture immediately Ritsuko cackled, and patted her sister's head condescendingly. "You freak! You're too fat to fly! Maybe if you starve yourself to death, you could fly up to heaven!"

She walked away still chuckling, pointedly ignoring the glare that Rei's crimson eyes tried to burn into her back.

Shinji, age seven, sat in the middle of his room, surrounded by crumpled balls of paper.

It's no good, he thought glumly, I need a real model, something I can draw with my eyes.

He ripped a blank page from the tablet and started again.

Rei, age seven, stood atop the hill, the blustery winds tousling her hair as badly as Ritsuko's noogies.

Below her rested 358 certifiable failures at a flight miniature.

I have tried various materials and various arrangements of them, she pondered, yet nothing appears to work. What am I lacking…?

They met in the woods at the age of twelve.

Shinji, satchel and charcoal in his hands, saw her first, spying through the sunbeams the odd blue-haired girl picking up sticks from the forest floor.

Then Rei heard the crunch of footsteps on leaves, and she whipped her head around, fearfully believing it was her sister coming again to smash another one of her projects. At the sight of the dusk-haired boy looking at her, she cocked her head to the side curiously.

It almost made Shinji wince; Asuka would cock her head in exactly the same manner before ripping another one of his works to shreds. But this wasn't Asuka.

Still, he had to force the words out to be heard. "H-hello."

The girl turned to face him fully. "Hello."

"I'm Shinji."

"Rei. Why are you here?"

"I'm looking to sketch a landscape." Noticing the sticks gripped tightly at the girl's side, Shinji asked, "And what are you doing?"

Rei's eyes flickered to the side. "I'm making… a project."

By the embarrassed tone of her voice, Shinji sensed that he found a kindred spirit, and then said the words that would last throughout their lifetime:

"Can I help?"

"'S a good idea," Shinji said after Rei outlined her goal, "But you've tried everything… without a plan. You need t' draw it out on the paper and then build it like how it looks. I'll show you how."
"Your drawings are adequate," Rei told Shinji, "But they have no substance, no basis in the real world. They are difficult to put into perspective, and confusing to the eye. I will supply models for you."
Now age thirteen, Shinji and Rei were at the hilltop, Shinji sitting on his haunches, sketching on his tablet. Rei let her model coast the air currents above them, controlling it like a kite with the line in her hands.

Out of the corner of her eye, Rei caught a flash of red behind Shinji, and stabbed the toe of her shoe into the dirt.

Catching the sign, Shinji folded up several pieces of paper and tucked them inside his shirt.

"So what is the idiot and the doll up to today?" a voice said amused just over his shoulder. "Oh, more kite flying and sketching? How boring! Have you improved any, Shinji?"

Before he could answer, Asuka snatched the remaining paper off the tablet. She walked into his view, making sure he saw that she was scrutinizing the drawing closely.

Then she ripped it up, as usual. "Terrible. Absolutely terrible, Shinji. You haven't improved since you were three. Maybe if you studied more instead of practicing doodles, you would have a chance to beat me in grades."

Asuka looked at them imperiously, expecting some sort of vehement denial. When neither of the others said nothing, her eyes widened for a second, then said, "Hmph! You two are so boring! I'll find somewhere else to hang out!"

After she was gone, Shinji grinned at Rei. "Thanks for the save," he said as he pulled the sketches out of his shirt.

The next day, Rei was at home, gazing out the window. She sighed when the inevitable familiar reflection appeared in the window, signaling the most unwelcome presence behind her.

"Looking for your boyfriend, freakzoid?" Ritsuko queried, calling Rei by the "pet" name that Rei was so familiar with.

"Merely observing the weather conditions," Rei commented, sidestepping the question.

"You know, you really shouldn't hang out with that Ikari boy so often. Sooner or later, he'll convince you that you can fly with just your arms… and send you off a cliff."

Rei defiantly remained at the window. "At the very least, he believes in what we do. Which is more than what could be said about my own family."

Ritsuko snorted behind her. "Dreams are for idiots and children. You'll realize that as you cry over the ashes of your own."

"One of these days, you will be proven wrong, Ritsuko," Rei said with an undercurrent of steel in her tone. "And dreams can persist, no matter what."

"Uh – huh. You tell that to reality, and see where you-"

"I must go," Rei said, and left the window as Shinji walked up the walkway.

Four years to the day they first met, Rei and Shinji climbed to the top of the hill to test Rei's final flight model. It was a squally day – the trees bent to the breaking point as the wind did its best to blow the two of them off.

Over the roar of the wind, Shinji asked, "Are you sure about this?"

"These are the optimal conditions to test the model," Rei yelled back, "It is the true test of durability and aerodynamics. Here, we will succeed or fail."

She set down the model – a thin, streamlined fuselage – and unwound the line a few lengths. She looked at Shinji and saw that his face was set with determination. "Are you ready?" she asked.

Though the wind blew around her, she felt warm as he answered, "as ready as I'll ever be. Let's do this."

At her nod, they started running down the hill, the model trailing after them. Rei, looking over her shoulder as she ran the line from her hands, saw with satisfaction as the model rose into the air, flying ever higher, higher than any model previous had flown.

But as they stopped at the bottom of the hill, the model started to buckle, whipping around in the air like a wild stallion.

Rei's eyes widened as the accumulation of eleven years of dreams and effort dashed in front of her eyes. There is no more slack in the line! She thought in horror, If I let go now…

Then for a heart stopping moment, the wind made a choice for her by yanking the line right out of her hands… and Rei Ayanami despaired of dreams.

Until a pair of warm arms wrapped around her and grabbed the line in mid-air. "Don't give up yet," Shinji murmured into her ear, "I'm here to help you. We will be stronger together."

Blushing with embarrassment, bliss, and… other emotions, Rei placed her hands atop his clasped ones, adding her strength to his to grip the line.

There among the howling, frustrated winds, they waited for the proper moment. Shinji's eyes narrowed, concentrating while the model tumbled and turned, somersaulted ant flipped –

and then straightened.

"Let go now!" Rei yelled, and they flung their arms wide as if they were the ones in flight. And the model took off all on its own, steady and defiant against the wind.

Rei whipped out a remote control from her side and pushed one of the joysticks to test the steering capabilities, but it was obvious that the test was a success. "It works… it really works," Rei said, astonished for the very first time in her life.

"You did it!" Shinji crowed.

Rei turned to him. "No… we did it. I would never have come this far without your help."

Shinji scratched his head bashfully. "Thanks. I'm honored to be here with you for the finish." He looked out toward the plane. "Now… from here, everything will be easy."

It was the day that dreams took flight.

A year later, Ritsuko spewed coffee all over the daily newspaper as she read the headlines. On the left column, she read, "Rei Ayanami Begins New Venture Into Personal Air Transportation." On the right in equally bold headlines, she read, "Shinji Ikari Presents New Portrait to City Hall."
Asuka stumbled through the crowd gathered around City Hall, half in shock, half in outrage. She read the articles, but she simply would not believe what was happening. Not until she saw it with her own eyes.

She pushed her way through the wall of people, ignoring the disgruntled mummers and cries from her victims, until she found a good spot to view the proceedings.

And what proceedings they were. To one side, Rei Ayanami stood in front of a white smooth-bore fuselage the size of a small car. On the other side Shinji poised himself in front of a large drape, obviously covering something.

From the crowd, a reporter asked, "Miss Ayanami, what is this new invention that the Jet Alone Coporation is going to support with it's funds?"

The blue-haired girl responded, "It is a PAT, short for Personal Air Transport. It is the next logical step in transportation, and it will replace motorized ground vehicles."

"What influenced the design of this aircraft?"

Rei considered this question carefully before answering. "Many things, up to and including a final test of a miniature which, with Shinji's help, proved the success of the design, maximizing lift with a minimum of thrust."

"So this design is environmentally friendly?"

The two on stage exchanged looks before Rei spoke again. "Yes. We had the environment in mind, since the forest played a significant part in our meeting – "

"But that's really a story for another time, perhaps the memoirs," Shinji joked, eliciting a few laughs. "For now, we have something to present Jet Alone to thank it for sponsoring our idea: a mural." And in a flash, Shinji ripped off the drape.

In nearly lifelike quality, it showed Rei guiding the final miniature into the air while a storm was brewing. In the mural, the clouds seemed to roll in rage and frustration, while the figure of the girl was done so well that she looked like she was going to run and burst out of the side of the frame at a moment's notice.

The crowd gasped at the quality and started taking pictures, while the reporters took down notes. Shinji and Rei stepped down, concluding the conference.

When Asuka saw Shinji in a clearing with a small group, she marched towards him. "Now, wait just a minute!" she screeched, sending the group scattering in a less than dignified fashion, "You can't tell me you did all this at a moment's notice!"

Shinji smiled sardonically at her. "But we didn't, Asuka. It took us years to bring everything to perfection. You were just blind to it."

"What do you mean? I checked up on you almost every day! You couldn't have pulled this off without my noticing!" She demanded.

He shrugged. "Well, to you we were just entertainments. But to us, we were following our dreams, and getting stronger with each passing day. You just chose to ignore that strength, and figure that our dreams were going to fail. Never once did you think we were going to succeed." Shinji looked over to his right. "Ah, here's my ride."

With barely a whisper, the PAT landed behind him. The fuselage popped open to reveal Rei Ayanami, wearing a leather cap and aviator goggles. "Are you ready, Shinji?" She asked.

Shinji grinned at the familiar line. "As ready as I'll ever be. Let's do this."

Rei looked past Asuka to see a familiar blonde woman running towards them. "Yes. It appears that we have outstayed our welcome."

"All right," Shinji said. "Oh, wait." He turned around. "Asuka? One more thing." He pulled down his lower eyelid and stuck out his tongue. "Nayh nayh ni nayh nayh!" Then without another sound he hopped in. Rei gunned the engine, and they were in flight, high up and away from Ritsuko and Asuka's reach…

and ready to face the wide world ahead.


Author's note: #19 of "100 ways you know you've watched too much Eva" – "You imagine music videos made of your favorite songs… and Eva characters are the main characters in the videos." That is what this is; I was listening to "Stronger and Stronger" for the first time, and images of Rei and Shinji popped into my head, resulting in this fic.

Asuka and Ritsuko had to become total antagonists in this piece, because Rei and Shinji needed something to act against in accordance with the song. And for some reason, I don't see Gendo actively shooting his son's hopes down... hope no one's noses is put out of joint by the OOCness.

I believe that this is what you call a "crackfic – " only wrote it once, and it's never been preread. It's quite rough around the edges, with logic issues and OOCness, but I'll probably write up a second version later. For now, I need to get some stress off my back and submit this.

This was inspired by Daniel Ho's song, "Stronger and Stronger." You can find the song for free on his website, which I have linked to my profile. Yes, I know that the free version is sung by a girl. The lyrics are exactly the same… but I still suggest finding Daniel's version and checking that out too.