DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fan fiction incorporating characters and situations from the Gainax manga/anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion and its related feature film releases. Gainax and its various media distributors hold sole exclusive rights to their use. The author is in no way affiliated with Gainax or its distributors, nor has this story been submitted for any commercial purpose.

ELEGIA
by Ikarus Onesun

Tonight was the night.

It didn't matter to him that tonight, the heavens were threatening to drown the world in another flood of Biblical proportions. It didn't matter that he could barely see twenty feet in front of him as he maneuvered the red Renault Alpine through the torrential downpour, its wiper blades working in vain to keep the windshield clear. He had been waiting for this night for a very long time, and inclement weather was the last thing that was going to stand between him and his objective.

Tonight was the night.

Five years, the driver of the car thought as he turned the car down a single-lane service road which led to a fenced-off area of Tokyo-3, terminating at a guard station.

I can't wait anymore.

He brought the car to a halt as a UN security guard dashed out of the guardhouse, squinting through the slashing rain at the driver's side of the car. The car's window rolled down, revealing the man behind the wheel. He had long brown hair, tied back in a ragged ponytail, and a slight beard along his jawline, although there was no mustache. Slate gray eyes, flat and lifeless, stared at the guard through ragged forelocks.

"This is a restricted area, pal," the guard informed the driver, shouting to be heard over the sound of the driving deluge, "you need to turn your car around and drive back to the main road."

The driver said nothing, but instead reached into the pocket of his coat and produced an ID card, which he held out to the guard.

As he read the information on the blood-red colored card, the guard's eyes widened with sudden recognition.

"I'm very sorry - sir," the guard apologized, as he handed the card back, "we, uh, we don't get a lot of traffic down here, usually just people who get lost. I'll go ahead and open the gate for you."

The man nodded, replacing his ID in his pocket, and rolled up the window.

Within seconds, a heavy steel gate which blocked the road in front of the Alpine began to roll aside with a loud mechanical whine. Once it had cleared the road, the driver of the Alpine put the car into gear and proceeded through, passing underneath a sign which read:

UNITED NATIONS/TOKYO-3 SPECIAL QUARANTINE ZONE
ABSOLUTELY NO UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS
TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED
BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL

The guard watched as the Alpine's taillights disappeared into the gloom. He turned and re-entered the guardhouse, where his colleague sat reading a newspaper. The man looked up from the sports section and regarded his partner quizzically.

"Who the hell was that?" he muttered. "And why does he want to go out into that wasteland, on New Year's Eve of all nights?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," the other guard replied, "but if he's really the guy his ID says he is, then that kid can pretty much go anywhere he damn well pleases."

-----

Five years later, the beach hadn't changed. It was still a small patch of serenity by the ocean, surrounded for miles by a scene of almost total devastation.

The ruins of buildings stood like tombstones against the swirling skies. The single-lane dirt road that led to the beach was lined on both sides with the rubble of a once-shining city, the pride of Japan, now reduced to piles of shattered steel, glass and concrete. And dotting the ruined landscaped, standing like ancient sentinels, the remains of the Mass Production Evangelions still bore silent witness to the passage of time. They were nothing but cracked, blackened armour and bleached bones now, a far cry from the savage, winged harriers they had once been. Their crucified corpses leered at the red Alpine as it passed them by.

He left the car in the middle of the service road, and was careful to be sure that the white envelope he had brought with him was in plain view on the dashboard. The Alpine was still registered to Misato Katsuragi, who'd left him the stock gas-powered model, and he knew that when it was discovered, she would be the first person the authorities would contact. He hoped that she would understand the thoughts and feelings that he had tried to convey in the letter. Most of all, he hoped that she would not feel responsible for the thing that he was about to do.

He picked his way through a field of crumbling cinderblocks and rusting girders as he walked to the water, the fierce gale pulling his ponytail apart, and he blinked as his hair was suddenly whipped into his eyes. He lifted a hand and brushed it away from his face, running his fingers across his thin beard as he did so. The last time he had seen Misato, she had told him only half-jokingly that she hated his hair long, and that the beard had to go. Later, after she had driven away in the blue, electric-powered Alpine to return to her new place - and her new life - in Tokyo-2, he had looked in the mirror and noted his uncanny resemblance to Ryouji Kaji, and understood. He liked the beard, but when his hair was shorter, he thought he looked too much like his father.

It's odd.. the things you think of at a time like this, he thought to himself.

Broken brick and scattered shrapnel eventually gave way to tufts of long grass, bowed by the blustery rains and wind, and finally, he felt the heavy softness of the sodden sand beneath his feet. He continued down to the water's edge, stopping just short of the high water mark as the smell and the taste of brine invaded his nose and mouth. The reddish taint of LCL had long since dissipated from the sea, and now the water was the colour of iron, roiling angrily in the grip of the storm. Huge, threatening white-capped swells advanced toward him like charging bulls before smashing into the shore, each one showering him in a spray of salty foam.

He checked his watch.

11:52 PM.

Not long now, he thought.

A brilliant white tendril cracked the sky, and almost immediately a deafening rumble seemed to shake the air all around him. The storm was directly overhead now, seeming almost if it were centered on the young man who stood on the shore.

He knelt down in the sand, ignoring the sensation of water seeping through the knees of his jeans - he was nearly soaked to the skin now as it was - and closed his eyes as the hard rain continued to fall.

Solitude.

It had been his haven for so long, his hiding place when the world became unbearable to him.

Now, it was the solitude that had become unbearable.

Misato...

Misato was gone, after being reassigned to the UN and transferred to its headquarters in Tokyo-2, where she now served as a special military advisor to the Secretary General. He remained behind in the old apartment, which was located in one of the few boroughs of Tokyo-3 to survive the Event intact, but it wasn't a home anymore. Now it was just a place where he ate, and slept... and waited.

And waited.

His friends...

Touji and Hikari were now engaged, and were to be married in June in Osaka, where Touji was coaching wheelchair basketball and Hikari was working on a degree in physical therapy. He had received the invitation just the other day, and had RSVP'd his inability to attend with his sincerest regrets.

Kensuke was dividing his time between Tokyo-2 and Palo Alto, California, as a systems specialist for the JetAlone Corporation. When his poor eyesight had robbed him of his dream to serve in the military, he had decided that if he couldn't fight himself, he would build the weapons for those who could instead. He'd fallen out of touch in the last year or so, being on the road so much, and probably wouldn't get the news until well after everything was over.

All of the others he had known so long ago were gone too. Kozou Fuyutsuki was in prison, serving a life sentence in a UN supermax facility in Berlin. He'd heard recently that the old man was severely depressed and had fallen sick, and that his sentence would be a short one. Makoto Hyuga and Shigeru Aoba were in prison as well, receiving ten years each from the special tribunal that had been set up following the Event. It was determined that they both possessed enough technical knowledge to have anticipated the true aims of Project E, but that their culpability in terms of the Event itself was minimal. Maya Ibuki, however, received a twenty-five year sentence because of her extensive knowledge of the Human Instrumentality Project and her unswerving loyalty to one of its chief architects, Ritsuko Akagi. Ibuki avoided the fate of her colleagues when she suffered a massive nervous breakdown during the trial, and was now catatonic in a guarded mental institution in Geneva, Switzerland, her prognosis for recovery poor.

Her mentor had also escaped incarceration. Ritsuko Akagi had committed suicide within hours of hearing she was to be arrested, but not before she had destroyed all the information in her possession concerning Project E, the Human Instrumentality Project, the development of the Evangelion Dummy Plug system, and the technical plans for the MAGI supercomputer, which was considered a grievous loss to science. All she left behind was a note that read simply, "Go to hell, Ikari!"

His father...

His father was now considered the most heinous war criminal in recorded history, eclipsing even Adolf Hitler. Shortly after the Event, he had been captured, tried and convicted, and he had met the fate that such men deserve.

And Asuka...

After the Event, he and Asuka had become involved romantically, finally free of the EVA project which had set them up as rivals from the start. Things went well for awhile, but eventually cracks began to show in the relationship. As time went on he had become more and more withdrawn, as if he were afraid to become more deeply involved with the tempestuous redhead. Asuka was becoming frustrated, not only with his hesitations, but with the Japanese lifestyle in general. She still had difficulty with kanji, and her poor reading and writing skills were hampering her attempts to pursue graduate studies in her adopted homeland.

When she eventually accepted an offer to enroll in a prestigious medical program in Tübingen, Germany, they had fought bitterly. He accused her of abandoning him, just like everyone else in his life had done, and she had shot back, "You abandoned me a long time ago. After all this time, it's still her you think about when you go to sleep at night, not me. I thought... I hoped... you'd change. But I don't think you ever will."

The next day, she was gone.

He had been alone ever since. Alone in his familiar solitude.

There was a time in his life when he had yearned for nothing else.

Then, when it had been offered to him, he had rejected it.

Now, he hated it.

But this was what he had chosen. He chose to return to this world, this life, this solitude.

Asuka had been right. He would never change.

He couldn't stop thinking about her.

Everybody he knew had come back following the Event - everyone but her. He had done the best he could to try to rebuild his life in the months and years that followed, but nothing he did could help him to shake his preoccupation with her. He had dropped out of school, attempted to hold down several jobs - not that he was wanting for money, as a recipient of a generous lifetime stipend from the UN - and had tried to pursue a normal relationship, all without success.

He had tried filling the void within him with alcohol, but drink could not erase her from his mind.

He even attended therapy, at Misato's suggestion, but talking about his pain did nothing to alleviate it. He took the drugs that they gave him to help with his depression, but the drugs didn't work. They just made him worse.

No matter what he did, she was still there, whispering in his thoughts.

So he waited, and waited, day after week after month, remembering the words he had heard in that place where everything and nothing became One, so long ago.

All living things have the ability to return...

Anywhere can be Heaven, as long as you have the will to live...

Perhaps she did not desire to return. Perhaps she felt she had no longer had any reason to exist, and was content to remain in limbo. Perhaps she had spoken the truth, so long ago, when she had told him that without EVA, she had nothing. That she was nothing.

Perhaps she did not have the will to live.

He had done his best many times to try and convince her that she had much more to live for than EVA. But five years had now passed, and she had still not come back.

He had failed.

He couldn't wait anymore.

He opened his eyes, squinting against the howling winds and the acrid spray from the ocean, and glanced at his watch again.

12:04 A.M.

Happy New Year, he thought mirthlessly.

It was time.

Thunder rumbled menacingly across the leaden skies once more. He turned his face to the driving rain, savouring the sting of the raindrops like a million pinpricks on his skin, and chuckled at the cruel irony of his situation.

He had been the first to return, the first to tear himself away from the collective and regain his individuality. The first to discover the reason for his existence.

He had turned away from solitude, and embraced companionship, only to be left completely, utterly, desperately alone.

But tonight, it would end.

He was so tired of waiting.

He was so tired of being alone.

If she could not - or would not - come to him, then he would go to be with her.

Slowly, deliberately, he reached into the inside pocket of his jacket... and pulled out Misato's Heckler & Koch USP.

Before departing for Tokyo-2, she had left her old NERV-issue sidearm behind for his protection - Tokyo-3 wasn't nearly as safe now as it had been before the Event - but now, it would become the instrument of his salvation.

The magazine was full - thirteen .40 caliber S&W rounds. Lucky thirteen, he thought wryly.

He'd only need one.

The pistol's black oxide finish glinted in the sudden flash of lightning that forked across the sky above him, and the ground beneath his feet shuddered from the shock of the booming thunderclap that instantly followed. The rain had intensified, and was now coming down so hard it was painful.

In a few moments, the pain would be gone. The loneliness would be gone. The despair would be gone.

He wondered how many times he had thought about doing this, as he considered the cold steel weapon in his hand. He'd lost count by now, but he did remember the first time he'd seriously thought about it - after he had watched Evangelion Unit 00 and its pilot disappear in a blinding white flash which leveled everything around it for miles. Moments before, the Angel they had been fighting had briefly merged with both of them simultaneously, and in that short span of time, her mind and soul had been an open book to him - every thought, every feeling, every emotion, every desire, every hope she held so deeply in her heart was his to read.

He had wondered if she had been able to look into his soul, the way he had looked into hers... and if she had known how similar his own feelings and desires were to her own.

And then, she had been torn away from him.

He couldn't have been hurt worse if the Angel had punched a hole in his chest and ripped out his heart. He would have preferred it to watching her die.

Afterward, he had sat in his room, staring blankly at the ceiling, his body and mind numb. Misato had tried to console him, but he wanted no company. The music he had so often turned to in troubled times no longer offered him any solace. He wanted isolation. He wanted silence. He wanted oblivion.

He wanted death.

He had thought about it again after he had used Unit 01 to crush the life out of one of his best friends. The fact that he was an Angel did nothing to temper the guilt, the shame, the self-loathing he had felt afterward. The gray-haired boy had essentially traded his life so that mankind would have one last chance for survival. The fact that he did this of his own free will had made killing him even more difficult, even as the boy had thanked him for giving his life meaning. In the short time between the death of his friend and the beginning of the Event, he had sunk into a deep depression, and had wondered if his own life had any meaning at all anymore.

In the endless nothingness, though, she had shown him that his life did have meaning. She had shown him what the solitude that he yearned for was truly like, and he had rejected it. She had reminded him of all the reasons that he had to exist.

And then, she had left him again, on the very spot where he now stood - the last place he had seen her on this Earth.

The same place where he would finally return to her.

As the rain lashed at him, he felt a strange calmness as he closed his eyes and slowly raised the gun.

All he was aware of in the last seconds was the rumbling sound of the thunder overhead, as if the sky was being ripped apart, the sensation of the rain spattering against his face, the wind howling in his ears and sending his long hair flying out behind him, and the taste of metal and oil in his mouth.

Rei...

The wait was finally over.

He smiled serenely as he pulled the trigger.

CLACK.

The smile turned into a puzzled frown as his eyes shot open in surprise, darting down to the weapon that he was holding in his hand and between his teeth.

CLACK.

CLACK.

CLACKCLACKCLACKCLACKCLACK...

No...

A sick feeling gripped him as he realized that the gun had jammed.

No... God DAMN it... no...

Panic overtook the young man as he tried desperately to clear the weapon. He pulled the pistol's steel slider back, cocking the hammer manually, and pointed it at the sand as he pulled the trigger to test it.

CLACK.

He released the magazine and then re-inserted it into the pistol's handle, and tried again.

CLACK.

He took the pistol by the barrel and smacked the handle against his palm several times, and then turned the weapon around and jerked frantically on the trigger.

CLACKCLACKCLACK.

He yanked the magazine out again, sending loose rounds flying, and tried in desperation to insert a single bullet into the pistol's chamber manually, but try as he might, the slider refused to pull back far enough to allow for this.

It was no use. The pistol was well and truly jammed. He would have to disassemble it to fix it - and he did not know how.

He was trembling uncontrollably as he stared at the uncooperative weapon in his hands. Raw emotions cascaded over him like the rain pouring from the skies - despair, frustration, and terrible, unbridled anger. The veins of his neck swelled as he screamed his outrage into the face of the gale whipping in from the ocean, and flung the pistol with all of his strength into the churning waters.

As if a dam had suddenly burst within him, he collapsed onto the sand and began to cry, his body shaking with heavy, wracking sobs. Hot tears streamed from his eyes, mixing with the rain that coursed down his face as he crouched on all fours, rocking back and forth, his hands clutching involuntarily at the sodden sand as years of pent-up feelings bubbled to the surface and overflowed.

He had failed. Again.

It seemed like his whole life had consisted of nothing but failures. Miserable, crushing failures.

He had failed Rei. He had failed Kaworu. He had failed Asuka, and Misato. Now, all he'd desired was an end to his pain, and he'd even failed to accomplish that.

His was a meaningless life, a meaningless existence, but it seemed that he was doomed to endure it until whomever was responsible for his suffering decided that he'd had enough, and not a moment before.

He'd taken that chance when he chose to return to the life that he'd known, five years ago. She had warned him that other people would be able to hurt him again if he chose individuality over Oneness, and he had said that it would be all right.

He didn't realize at the time just how deep the hurt would run, or how long it would last.

Or that he might never see her again.

He had no idea how long he had cried, hunched over on the shore, before he eventually realized that the rain had stopped. His trembling slowly subsided, and he looked up to see that the clouds had parted, and a brilliant full moon was sending its silvery rays streaming through a patch of clear sky. The moonbeams seemed to physically push the retreating clouds aside, making room for the winking stars which eventually came into view.

The sight was breathtaking, but it only served to fill him with bitterness.

The last time he had seen a moon so full, so beautiful, was that night on Mt. Futago, so long ago, when he had pulled her entry plug from the superheated torso of Unit 00, saving her from a certain death. When he had opened the plug to see if she was all right, she said that she had no idea how to react in such a situation, so he had suggested that she smile, and she did.

It was a small, hesitant smile, and it was very brief. But it was also genuine, and pure, and it had almost stopped his heart to see it.

Whenever he saw a full moon now, he was reminded of her smile. It was never a happy remembrance, because it was something he was certain that he would never see again.

For long minutes he gazed up at the shining satellite, his clothes drenched and his long hair now hanging in ragged hanks around his face. His expression was one of absolute desolation.

"I miss you," he murmured quietly to the moon.

There was no reply.

He was completely drained. He had no idea what to do with himself now. Part of him wanted to get back into the Alpine, drive home, and spend the next three days in bed. Part of him wanted to throw himself into the sea - he still could not swim, and though drowning seemed like a grisly death to him, at least in his case it would be virtually foolproof. But the part of him that feared the water overrode his impulse to run to it.

Finally, he sighed wearily, and began to make his way back to the car, his shoulders slumped in defeat.

It seemed that he would simply go on, even though he did not want to, even though a continued existence was meaningless to him.

He would live out the rest of his life knowing that his life was already over.

He only took several steps before the beating of wings caught his attention. Glancing up, he was surprised to see a white bird - a dove - flitting across the beach, before coming to rest on a pile of crumbling concrete directly in front of him. The bird seemed to be carrying a green leafy twig in its beak, perhaps to use in building a nest. It tilted its head in the young man's direction and regarded him quizzically.

Just like she used to do, he thought.

He advanced a few steps, suddenly intrigued, but the bird did not dart away in fear. In fact, it seemed quite calm in his presence. He managed to come within a few feet of it before it finally began to show some signs of nervousness, and he halted immediately to keep it from flying away.

"Hey... would you give somebody a message for me?" he asked the bird, which cocked its head again at the sound of his voice.

"If you see her... tell her that I'll keep living, if that's what she wants. Tell her that I'll spend the rest of my life alone, as long as she'll be waiting for me when it's over. Tell her... I can wait - I'll wait forever if I have to, as long as I know I'll see her again."

The bird's head twitched from side to side, and then with a flick of its tail, it launched itself off of the rubble and disappeared into the gloom.

He stood there for several moments, staring blankly at the spot where the dove had been.

Figures, he thought morosely.

I'm on a roll today...

And then, he caught his breath as he suddenly felt something brushing softly past his waist.

He glanced down in confusion and was dumbstruck to see a pair of pale, slender arms encircling him.

Through his rain-soaked jacket, he could feel the comforting warmth of a body pressing up against him from behind.

As if in a dream, he turned his head slowly and glanced back behind him, afraid of what he might - or might not - see, and his heart suddenly leapt into his throat.

The soft moonlight picked up the highlights in her light blue hair, as her head nestled against the back of his shoulder.

No.

It wasn't possible.

It was all in his imagination. It had to be.

And then he heard the voice. It was soft, and quiet, barely audible over the sound of the wind, but to him it was powerful, and riveting, and completely, utterly devastating.

"I am home," she whispered.

Only then did he finally turn around, to meet her wide crimson eyes - eyes he thought he would never see again - and her small, pure smile. His own eyes instantly brimmed with tears once again at the sight, still not daring to believe what he was seeing. Her smile turned into a concerned frown as she wiped his tears away with her slender fingers, searching his face with those mesmerizing, fathomless eyes as she caressed his skin, before she reached up and embraced him. He trembled at her touch, and pulled her close, fearful that she would simply disappear like the dove had, as he ran his hands through her hair and drew his lips close to her ear.

"Welcome home," he replied, in a voice shaking with fear and doubt and relief and utter joy, all at once.

For what seemed like an eternity, the two continued to hold on to each other as if for dear life under the light of the full moon, the only sound coming from the tide which lapped lazily now against the sand, and the soft, gratified sighs of the young man as he finally allowed himself to believe what his eyes and ears and nose and hands were telling him was the truth.

Eventually, he removed his coat and placed it over her naked shoulders, before scooping her up in his arms and picking his way carefully across the scattered wreckage toward the Alpine parked above the beach, keeping his eyes on hers the whole time.

As they drove away, the driver's side window of the Alpine abruptly rolled down, and the moonlight caught the fluttering of a white envelope as it was tossed from the vehicle. It tumbled and twisted in the ocean breeze for several seconds, before finally landing in the water, and disappearing forever...

-----

Author's notes: The idea for this story came to me after listening to "Electrical Storm," by U2. I'd done a very brief, basic draft of the story a while back just as an exercise, and then I started listening to this song and it kind of took off from there. The title, however, comes from a song by New Order, which is an instrumental piece, and kind of captures Shinji's mood at the start of the story.

I don't know anything about guns, so I don't know the proper procedure for clearing a jammed Heckler & Koch USP .40 S&W. But then again, I didn't figure Shinji would know either, so I hoped my ignorance actually ended up serving the story in this case.

The relatively small town of Tübingen, near Stuttgart, is home to Eberhard Karls University, one of the top medical schools in Germany. It boasts several specialized research facilities, including the Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research. It also has a lovely old castle, as well as a nice open-air market in the summer (fresh cherries, anyone?), a cool place where you can buy obscure, locally made wines and spirits (and sample them in the store, too!) and a great pizza place with a nice view of the river, which I highly recommend if you're ever there. :) I always thought that after EVA, Asuka would have been interested in pursuing a career in neurology, or perhaps in clinical psychology, given that mental illness runs in her family. Just something that seemed reasonable to me...

Finally, I started writing this story in Los Angeles, California, completed it somewhere over Canada's Hudson Bay at approximately 35,000 feet above sea level aboard a Lufthansa 747, and uploaded it to the Internet in Civitavecchia, Italy. This may be fan fiction's first transcontinental oneshot:) I don't really do darkfics, but I hope it was still an entertaining read for you all...

Love it? Hate it? Please feel free to leave a review, or drop me a line at ikarusonesun(at-sign)gmail(dot)com.

Cheers,

IO