It's 1:30 in the morning but that's alright by me
You just waiting by the phone
I should give a little warning but I need the things I need
I'm not proud to need a hand but I just don't understand
So why should you come when I call?
I never say nothing at all
Why do I go when I go?
It's leaving me here alone
You oughta get out on your own
It's ain't necessarily a bad thing to believe the things I say
Cause you can make yourself feel good
You know it's not really a good thing to give everything to me
I'm just waiting for the show
Cause I've got no where to go

Why should you come when I call? - The Counting Crows

"I love you," she whispered into my ear. "Gott, Ich liebe Dich so sehr, Shinji."

Oh Kami, how I've wanted to hear those three words again for so long.

No. Not want, need.

I've needed to hear those words again; to let me know that someone actually does care about me and not only saying them out of mere kindness, to let me know that there's someone out there who needs me as much as I need them. Yet, I don't want to hear them from just any person. I need to hear them from her. From Asuka.

"I love you too, Asuka," I managed to respond after realising that this was real. "You don't know how long I've wanted to say that for," I breathed out, closing my eyes as I inhaled the sweet scent of her recently washed hair. It must be the new shampoo she bought a couple of days ago, because I don't recall either Misato or I having citrus as a fragrance.

"I've been wanting to tell you since Leliel's attack," she confessed adding a gentle giggle.

Opening my eyes once again I was rewarded with the sight of her beautiful features being highlighted by the silvery moonlight and with her hair swaying slightly from the wind that dared threatened to destroy this moment. I suddenly became ticklish for a minute when I felt her lips brush against my bare neck, but somehow I was able to restrain myself from laughing uncontrollably, I also somehow managed to crane my neck around hers to place soft, gentle kisses on the back of her neck.

She was obviously pleased with my actions because I could hear little moans escaping from her throat while her fingers slipped underneath my sweatshirt, almost tracing every inch of skin on my body. I couldn't help myself from shivering with pleasure, enjoying every second of her surprisingly gentle touches yet at the same time, pondering on how someone this loud, fierce & violent could also be so tender and loving at the same time.

"I've been wanting to tell you since I saved you from the volcano," I said, smirking at the acknowledgement that I had outdone her.

Asuka didn't seem to mind, I don't think, but she didn't give any sort of a reply. Instead, she begun to sing whilst also finding sudden interest with playing with my hair, one hand stroking the fine hairs from the back of my neck while the other lost itself the longish strands of dark-brown.

"It's really good to hear your voice saying my name... It sounds so sweet... Coming from the lips of an angel... Hearing those words, it makes me weak... And I never wanna say goodbye... But boy, you make it hard to be faithful... With the lips of an angel..."

"I thought you didn't like that song."

"I'll admit that it has a catchy beat to it, but nothing compares to 'She will be loved.'" I could feel her smiling before she nuzzled herself into my neck and let out a peaceful sigh. As I wrapped my arms around her smaller figure and placed my chin on the top of her head, I couldn't recall ever being this happier in my entire life.

"Asuka..." I started, my voice losing all its confidence from before. "Don't ever leave me," I pleaded, my grip instinctively tightening onto her, yet careful not bring any sort of harm. "Please don't."

"I'm sorry, Shinji," she said, suddenly pulling away from my embrace. Sadness reflecting in her electric-blue eyes as she continued, "But I have to leave. I have to go home."

"This is your home though!" came my objection. I could feel my eyes beginning to water from fear and frustration. "This is where you belong... with the stooges and Hikari and Misato and Pen Pen... and... and me..." I finished that last part quietly before hanging my head in defeat, several tears managed to escape from my closed eyelids and travelled down my cheeks. Despite enjoying the sensation of her hand against my cheek, I felt no actual joy when she brushed the tears away so quickly, like they meant nothing to her at all.

"You know that I have to leave, Shinji. There's nothing here for me... including you."

"What?!" I couldn't believe she just said that. I didn't want to believe that she had just said that.

"I can't be with a pathetic boy like you." All previous warmth I had felt from her before was now long gone and instead, replaced with an icy demeanor, one even colder than what Rei possessed as a fourteen year old.

"You don't mean that," but I was afraid that she did. Because if she did... I didn't want to think about it.

"Like hell I do!" Asuka growled, pulling herself out of my grip and putting as much physical distance between us as possible. "You're weak, Shinji Ikari! You're nothing but a broken little boy who can't even love himself! I have no interest for guys like you."

Hearing that was like a stab to the heart. Why was Asuka saying this? I thought she loved me! She said she did so why was she saying all of this now?!

"Please Asuka... I... I need you..." To my horror, I could feel my throat tighten against its own will, making it almost impossible for me not to stutter. "Don't leave me alone..." I wanted to scream it out but it turned into a whisper. "Don't abandon me..." I wheezed out. "I'm begging you," I finished, my plea turning into nothing more than a whimper.

I thought by taking a risk, showing her just how vulnerable I was without her love, by showing just how much I needed to hear her say "I love you" then she would maybe reveal her true self to me. Man, was I stupid for thinking that.

She looked at me with a blank expression almost disturbed me because I couldn't help but think just how such a lack of emotion could ruin such a beautiful face, in fact, she didn't even look like the Asuka I knew at all. Then she spoke, her voice cold and unfeeling, it almost brought tears to my eyes when she said that one word I dreaded the most.


A gasp was what woke me up. Forcing my eyes to open and search round the entire room for whom was responsible for the sudden sound until the panting that reached into my eardrums and my heaving chest, to which I realised that it was I, who was responsible for the gasp that claimed my slumber.

Falling back onto the mattress, nothing could be heard except for the continuous heavy pounding of my frightened heart. Dreams about her again...

Well that's just fucking fantastic!

Why does this always have to happen to me? Why do I always get punished for my deeds? Can't karma ever give me a damn break?! Thinking about I just said to myself, I couldn't help myself from letting out a humourless chuckle before saying, "Why do I keep doing this to myself?"

Of course I know the answer and it has nothing to do a higher being, it's just that I've decided to put the blame on someone else. Just like I always do. I know it's my fault that I've been having these dreams, but it doesn't mean that I want to. I keep trying to block thoughts of her out of my mind, yet she still manages to plague my dreams

Does my subconscious get a kick out of this? If it does then it appears to have a very sick obsession with it, because it's almost leaving me to the breaking point. Or maybe I am a masochist and just won't admit it to myself.

Either way, I'm clearly a very fucked up person.

Just keep running. Just keep running.

This was the mantra repeating inside my brain as I forced my body to continue jogging on the treadmill. I have to keep going. No, I need to keep going! Because if I don't then I've failed, I'll have been defeated by a mere machine and strangely, my pride won't allow that. How odd.

Keep going! Keep going! You're almost there, Shinji.

Am I though? Am I really? The ends seems so far away and every part of me feels exhausted. Can I actually reach it? Can't I just stop and call it a lose?

No. If you give up then everything Asuka ever said to you is true. Don't give her the satisfaction of letting her know that she was right.

But she wouldn't know. We haven't spoken in five years. I don't miss her. I'm glad she's gone. I never been better off.

Why do you keep doing this to yourself? Pretending that everything is alright when it isn't? You're falling apart but you don't seem to care.

But everything really is going fine. I've never been better. Just like I told Touji.

Shinji, it's okay to admit that something's wrong. No one's going to think any less of you.

Shut up, I don't care! Why should I?! No one cares about me anyway.

Wow, now why does that sound incredibly familiar? Oh that's right: you're sounding like you're fourteen years old again!

If I weren't busy running, I would've sighed.

I hate hearing those words even if they're only being played inside my mind, because they're like salt being rubbed into old wounds, agonising reminders of how I've barely changed over the years and not being able to mature into the man whom I had always hoped to be.

I wonder what Kaji would say if he saw me now with shoulder-length hair and an unshaved face. He probably would've smiled and given a small laugh. He maybe have even seen it as a compliment, yet... I can't delude myself with assumptions. I will never get to know how'd he react and it hurts a little to be reminded of that. Even more than receiving the news about Gendo's departure.

Two more minutes, Shinji. Then it'll be all over.

Words of encouragement are so rare for me to hear, even if they're only inside my head. I'm only use to hearing demands or shouting or screaming or taunts, not compliments or the words "You can do it." It's far easier to follow a command than achieving a goal.

How very deep and philosophical, Mr Ikari.

To my surprise, I noticed a woman: a little older than me- very attractive with dark hair & eyes- wink at me. I almost tripped over when I saw it, though I shouldn't have found it to be that shocking. It's not like it's the first time its has ever happened, lots of girls on campus have done it before, giving me that look to show that they were interested. Sometimes I accepted the offer, walking straight up to them and ask if they wanted to do something, other times I would just ignore it and walk onto my tutorial.

Today, I decided on choosing the latter.

As another minute passed and the treadmill let out a short beeping noise, I looked down to realise with great satisfaction that my time was up: I had completed my goal. I smirked, but it was only momentary before getting off the electronic contraption and moving to the men's showers. I walked straight past the woman without giving her a second glance.

She was probably disappointed, but I didn't feel guilty. Even if I had given her a chance, it would've just ended up the way it always does- her nursing a broken heart and trying to pick the remain of her self-respect whilst giving me an meaningless apology for the way things turned out.

Besides, she seems too nice to mess around with anyway.

"Every time we sleep together, I wake up in the morning alone."

I should have felt bad when Mana said that, or at least felt a little guilty everytime I did it to her, but I didn't and I don't think I ever will be. I'll admit that Mana isn't the first woman I've ever walked out on after having sex with them, actually I've done it so many times to so many women over the years that it's almost like some perverse sort of routine. Usually I would pretend that I'm sleeping while I wait for my current girlfriend to have fall asleep, before I would get dressed and leave their apartment.

"Kami, where do you go at 3:00 in the morning?"

By then I'll be wandering around the streets of Tokyo-3. I almost laugh at the irony of how I always manage to find myself back in the park, the one near Misato's place... the one where I last saw Sohryu. I would sometimes stay until the early hours of the morning, doing nothing in particular, just thinking.

I would think about my mother and how I must be looking more like her than father because I sure as hell don't have the some traits as him, except for his height and eyes. Then I would begin to wonder if I would still have been the person I am if I stayed with my teacher instead of piloting Eva, or how Rei feels living everyday with the acknowledgement that her genes were composed from traces of my mother's DNA inside Unit 01's entry plug.

Sometimes I would even ponder on whether or not my mother and the other souls residing within the Evangelions were truly resting now that they've been destroyed. After which I had done all that, I would then go back to my apartment and have a shower, scrubbing vigorously until my skin was raw and almost bleeding. Well at least until I had convinced myself that I had managed to rid myself of my sins from the night before.

Every woman that I've ever been with has been nothing but a convenient fill, something for me to take comfort in even if just for a little while. If I was told nearly ten years ago that I would've turned out to be exactly like Kaji- the ultimate ladies' man, then I would've probably passed out from shock.

I suppose apart of me should feel disgusted for using these innocent females for my own personal satisfaction but everytime I do so I just tell myself that they're using me just like I using them. I'll admit it's a horrible way to live your life; filled self-hatred and hollow joy, of seeking comfort in another person's warmth and licking each other's wounds, yet I can't bring myself to stop. The habit's grown onto me.


"Ikari?" Most people would not have heard it given how quiet the voice was, however, after being an Eva pilot for over seven months, I was accustomed to detecting the slightest of sounds. And knowing Rei for almost nine years, you become very quick to decipher the difference of sounds between the blue-haired female's voice and the wind.

"Coming!" I called out from the living room, doing finishing the touch-ups of tidying up before heading to the door. "Hey Rei," was the first thing to come out of my mouth when I opened the door.

"Good afternoon Ikari," she countered politely.

"Rei, how many times have I told you to just call me, Shinji?" I said somewhat bemusedly.

"I have lost count," Rei spoke in a monotone fashion, but I manage to notice that the corner of her lips were turned up slightly.

"Come in," moving to the side to let her enter. "So what's for lunch?" Though it wouldn't be anything involving meat, I knew that whatever she cooked would be delicious, it always is. Who would've thought that Rei Ayanami could cook?

"Your favourite." This time, she let out a proper smile.

"Thanks Rei, you don't know how much I needed this," I admitted sheepishly.

She did, however, she must've decided against acknowledging my comment. Instead, she walked into the kitchen and as I watched her open the three plastic tubs that contained our food and placed them individually into the microwave, I couldn't help from feeling a little awed. Somehow it reminded me just how much of a great mother that she would be one day.

But it certainly won't be for my children.

Touji once asked me why I had never asked her out one day, I may have been fifteen or something at the time, and I remember what went through my head as I thought of the reasons. I'll admit, I've always been attracted, after all, she had such a mysterious aura surrounding her... it was what made her real.

Just her sheer presence always made it easier for me to be myself, and she never made me feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when I told her my problems. Rei's one in a million, and now she's grown into an even more beautiful woman over the years, but that doesn't I'm love with her or anything. We're friends, yet we're not. We're not 100% biologically related, but she almost feels like a sister to me. Technically, we could date yet the thought feels wrong. Especially when considering that Gendo had been a father to her and treated her more like an offspring than he ever did with me.

"I have nothing else."

I used to feel jealous everytime I saw them together. "How come he'll talk to her but not me? What's she to him anyway?" I used to ask myself but after that night during Operation Yashima, I realised that she had far much less than me. So even though I still wanted to make a connection with my father, Rei would always have the one thing I could never have and I never hated her for it.

"It's not polite to stare," Rei spoke. While she had been focusing all her attention on the microwave as she said that, how she knew is still a mystery to me, but it instantly pulled me out of my thoughts.

I could feel my face flush with shame. "My bad," came out as I grabbed a beer from out of the fridge.

"Do you really have to drink that?" she said as I popped the can open.

I was surprised when she asked that and if I didn't know better, I would've thought that she almost looked upset to see the yellow metallic object nestling comfortably in my hand.

"I'm thirsty," was my only reply and I then took a massive gulp of brain-cell killing beverage.

She didn't respond. Instead, she took out the final plastic tub from out of the microwave and begun organising the food onto our plates. Not wanting her to do all the work, I grabbed two pairs of chopsticks from out of the drawer and poured water in the teapot which had been boiled prior to Rei's arrival. Neither of us spoke a single word while we focused on our tasks, or when we walked over to the kitchen table, but it was a comfortable silence.

"Thank you," was the first thing to come from Rei's mouth after I finished filling her cup with green tea.

"No worries," I replied and took another gulp of my beloved Yebisu. Well sort of... it took me a few seconds to realise that the can was empty. Trying to peer into it, I tried shaking it slightly to see if there was anything left only to find- much to my disappointment- nothing.

Instead of going for another one, I decided to eat anyway. "This is great, Rei!" I complimented with a mouthful of rice.

The blue-haired woman raised an eyebrow. Obviously she wasn't impressed with my current mannerisms, I think.

"So how's Panther?" I started, though I was trying my hardest not to laugh at the chosen name for her cat, but a chuckle managed to escape anyway.

"She's doing very well. Though I do not understand why you find her name so amusing." I was still chuckling as she said that.

"It's just that it's so random that you would name your pet after a member of its family."

"I don't see why it would be. Panther is a black cat. She reminded me of one," she reasoned. "And panthers are known to be quite powerful creatures."

I'm sorry. I'm sorry. But her explaining her reason of naming one black cat known as Panther, with such a flat tone and stoic expression... well fuck, think of me as an idiot, but damn if it isn't funny!

I'm not quite sure how long I laughed for but it must've been a while because I could soon feel my sides aching and I was close dealing with an extreme case of the hiccups, yet I couldn't help myself. In my blurry vision I was almost certain that I saw Rei smiling at me, or it could be my eyes playing tricks on me, who knows.

"Well," I started after managing to calm myself down, "it's good to hear that she's doing okay. I know you've been taking good care of her."

"If it weren't for your help, she would have never existed."

Now hearing that sent chills down my spine, removing the pleasant mood I was in prior. I'm sure many of you will probably wonder how Rei would've even come to possess a cat in the first place, it's a long story but I'll give you the short version, or at least to what I know.

Basically it all started during one stormy night; a fortnight after the dismissal of NERV, Rei was at home when she suddenly heard a scratching sound coming from her door. Of course, the sound continued until it eventually led the fourteen year old to become slightly irritated and more than interested at discovering the source, so after opening the door, Rei was more than surprised to find a stray cat sitting there.

At first she tried ridding the cat by, uh... talking to it. Then she tried scaring it (though she would not explain to me how), before finally giving in and allowed the cat in. The day after that she rung me and told me about the situation so I immediately went to the apartment and showed her how to take care of the creature.

I knew at the time that she had been reluctant to take on the responsibility, but I couldn't do it; Misato was struggling to find a way to pay the bills, Asuka was going back-and-forth to the hospital to deal with her own problems and I was still trying to deal with my depression, not to mention I was still finding it difficult to face her.

However, the next two months I noticed a change within Rei. She soon started becoming more talkative and smiled a lot more, she also named the cat, Neko. She finally found a purpose to her life apart from NERV and even told me that she wanted to go to university to do study on animal species. I was happy for her; that cat had been a blessing. Yet sadly, a week later Neko died due to illness, but before the creature passed away, the veterinarian taking care of it had discovered that she was pregnant and managed to deliver the only kitten Neko had managed to conceive. Its name: Panther.

I know that it had been hard for Rei to accept Neko's death, she had never experienced such a loss, but after the veterinarian asked her if she wanted to take the kitten with her, I knew that Rei was able to gain some closure by being given the responsibility for Panther.

I decided it was better if we dropped this conversation. "So what have you been up to lately?" changing the subject, I finally decided to go to the fridge for another beer.

"You drink more than Misato." She said, ignoring my question.

I wish she hadn't said that. It wasn't the words themselves that made my heart feel as though it were sinking with disappointment, but it was how she said them with that voice of hers. While it was expressed so softly and gently that it numbed you with comfort, you could feel the sadness laced into it. The feeling? Being driven to the brink of insanity and you can't help yourself from wanting to lash out.

Damn it! I thought irritably. I hate it when she makes out likes she's the victim! Even if she isn't intentionally doing it.

"So how's school?" I asked, sitting back down. I prayed that the blue-haired woman would oblige to my silent request.

"Unpleasant," she replied coldly. "Mana does not wish to talk to me right now."

Shit! Bad question, Shinji. Really bad question.

"So are you going to take-"

"Please stop avoiding the subject," Rei interrupted. Her eyes were pleading for me to talk to her, but I couldn't. Not with her. Not with anyone.

"I don't want to talk about it."

"You don't want to talk to anyone." Though her face didn't show it, I could hear the hurt in her voice.

"You wouldn't understand."

"Then make me understand."

Am I having deja`vu or did I hear those exact same words said by Misato from only just yesterday?

"Look Rei," I started, pinching the bridge of my nose. "I know what you're going to say and I'd rather not hear, okay. Just drop the subject. Please."

Although I was looking at her with pleading eyes, she did not back down. "Why don't you want to talk about it with me? Don't you trust me?"

Goddamnit! She's done it again- making herself look like hurt little girl while making me feel like the bad guy. Why do you do this to me, Rei?!

"Of course I trust you, Rei," I replied evenly despite my frustration steadily increasing. "But it still doesn't mean that I want to talk about it."

Hearing that, the blue-haired woman gave no reply. I should've felt bad for shunning myself away from her, however, after having to put up with this kind of crap for five years now, you tend to get good at ignoring the guilt.

For the next fifteen minutes neither of us spoke a single word whilst we finished the rest of our lunch. Unfortunately, the silence hadn't been as comforting as it had been before and I was beginning to feel a little uneasy. So much so, I was even considering the idea apologising (despite how much I loathe it), until Rei decided to break the quiet revere.

"We will never be lovers."

Okay, now that certainly grabbed my attention.

"Or husband and wife," she continued, not bothering to notice the "What the fuck?!" look I was giving her. "Despite what I am, I am not her."

My face softened when I realised what she meant and a part of me felt disappointed. Believe me, I'm glad that she isn't biologically my mother, yet at the same time, something deep inside of me really wished that she was. How selfish of me, not to mention severely fucked up.

"Nor the First and the Second."

Despite the trace of sadness in her voice, Rei smiled a little before it disappeared and was replaced with anger? "I am merely called Rei Ayanami because I take on the form of her, but I'm not her. I'm neither of them, yet everyone thinks I am. So they treat me as if I were the First Child."

It must be hard for her having to deal with that everyday. It's especially worse when someone from the gang would bring up an event that had occurred during the days when Angels roamed the earth whilst the Evangelions were humanity's only salvation. Whether they be memories of joy, laughter or death, they always left the atmosphere feeling grim when everybody finally remembers that Rei is the only one who cannot recall any of those times.

Nearly nine years ago Professor Kouzou Fuyutski, Doctor Ritsuko Akagi, Major Misato Katsuragi and myself all made a silent vow between us that the origin of Rei Ayanami would forever remain as a secret and to never be spoken of again or revealed to anyone else- even from Asuka.

It only seemed the right thing to do after what that bastard did to her and the others. So to keep the secret hidden, we explained to everyone else that she had severe memory loss due to the explosion of Unit 00 and it was very unlikely that she would ever regain any of her memories again.

People were understanding of her condition and had even sometimes tried to revitalise them by recounting events of her days as an Eva pilot or showing her an item or photo from the past- hoping for a miracle. Only to have it be crushed when Rei would say the dreaded words, "I don't remember."

"I saw myself for the first time after I had been admitted back to the apartment." She resumed after remaining voiceless for several minutes, a thoughtful look apparent on her face during that time. "When I removed all the bandages and saw myself properly in the mirror for the first time, I felt like I was staring at someone else. This face isn't truly mine, yet I am to bear it. Then and now- until the day I die."

Hearing that really did surprise me. Though each Rei has always looked the exact same, it never actually occurred to me just how it would affect the present Rei now; I simply assumed that she accepted who she was and that it didn't bother her the slightest. It never hit me until now that she may have hated being forced to see herself each morning- another selfish assumption I can now add to the list.

"When I saw his glasses on the desk, I knew straight away that they were his. I'm still uncertain how I knew, but something told me that he was responsible for this."

Unfortunately I was no longer able to read the expression on her face (or at least try to) as it was soon curtained by fine strands of icy-blue hair, which had grown to an incredible length over the years and now almost reached to her waist.

"I..." Her voice seemed so distant, even a little confused. "I tried crushing them with my hands, but the thing inside of me that wished to rid those glasses also wanted to stop. I cried. Though I didn't know why- it didn't feel like it had been my first time. It made me feel like a real human being- I could understand what it was to feel sadness. But now, I realise that I was crying someone else's tears."

Raising her head back up I could see the glimmer of tears building up in her ruby-like eyes. I really wished that I had known what to say at that time, but I had been so stunned by such a display of sadness, that I was at a complete loss for words.

"There are moments that I'll have glimpses of past. Feelings and sensations I do not recall ever having, yet I'm almost certain that they are memories which I've simply locked away inside my mind. I try searching through the deepest, innermost depths of my heart- trying to search for my answer. It is a place so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face, until eventually I find what I'm looking for. And I remember that they're aren't mine."

"Rei..." I was stunned.

"I'll never get to be one of those people who will remember their first day at school, or recall the dreams they have each night." She said as if she were in a trance and completely unaware of the sympathetic look my eyes were reflecting. "However, I'll always remember the first time that I cried. And that's enough for me."

While I couldn't help myself from feeling sorry for the blue-haired woman, another part of me wondered how the hell this had to do with us never being lovers.

As if she could read my thoughts, Rei continued, "Despite what I am and what I am not, you have still treated me with kindness and generosity." She paused for the briefest of moments, looking as though she were having a epiphany, or maybe remembering something. "You made me feel like I didn't have to be made out of straw."

For some reason saying that brought a smile upon her lips and reached all the way to her eyes, however, like the blink of the eye, it instantly vanished. Yet unusually, a faint blush swept across her pale cheeks. "Though I am still unsure what love is, I'm certain that I do love you. But I know that the love I have for you is not the kind shared between a man and a woman, yet not of a mother. It is more like of a sister."

"I feel the exact same way," I said, grateful that I was finally able to contribute something to this parley other than looking like an idiot.

Her smile returned. "I'm glad." And once again it went away and was replaced with an almost bitter look. "Yet you are still avoiding the truth."

Sighing out loud, I regrettably knew where she was getting at. If I was stronger I would've continued to dodge the bullet and kept the conversation light as possible (whilst praying to whoever is in charge of my fate) until Rei would finally realise the time and then leave.

Unfortunately for me, I couldn't hide my heart anymore from human reach.

"Forgive me, Rei." I started with my head hung low. I had never felt so ashamed of myself. "All I've ever done is piss & moan about my life but you've never once complained about your own. You have so much less than I do... It's like the saying goes: Regardless of how terrible your life may be, there's always someone much worse off than you. Yet despite all the pain you've gone through, you've still had the compassion to worry about me!"

And she's never asked for anything in return- except for your trust.

It only seemed right to allow her to get a glimpse inside my heart. After all, she did let me get a glimpse into hers and I know that it hadn't been one of the easiest things for her to do. Besides she deserved to know, because even if the circumstances have changed a lot since we were children, she still has far much than I do.

"I... I am..."

The words were stuck inside my throat, I couldn't get them out. My heart, mind & soul wanted to nothing more than to let them out, to let them be heard by Rei, yet my pride wouldn't allow such a weakness to occur. Goddamnit, they were so hard!

"But most importantly: Apologise when you know you were wrong. Don't ever think saying "I'm sorry" is a weakness, Shinji. It takes a lot of bravery to admit to someone that you were wrong and then ask for forgiveness. But don't say it unless you actually mean it."

Words of wisdom. Words of one Kouzou Fuyutski who had currently decided to remind me of the significance of his self principles. They may have been said only less than twenty-four hours before, but already they were having a profound impact on my life. Goddamnit.

Come on, Ikari. My mind edged. Say it!

"I'm sorry." I was finally able to blurt out.

Rei was stupefied, that was for sure, however, I had to keep going or else I'd never have the courage to talk about this again. "I shouldn't have pushed you away like I have these past few years. Not you of all people. You're one of my best friends, but I sure haven't as Hell shown it. It's just that..."

Biting my pride and with (almost) gritted teeth, I confessed: "After Asuka left, my heart felt as though it had been ripped out of my chest and thrown to the fucking ground! I mean what right did that self-centered, cold hearted, arrogant bitch think she had to just leave like that?! No fucking mention, or note, or good-bye. Jack-fucking-squat!"

Although Rei highly disapproved of swearing, she still listened to it without any complaints, or objections. While I was extremely grateful for her ability to sweep things aside and focus on the main issue, I couldn't help from cringing at the level of cussing I had been using at that point and I even felt a little guilty about it.

"Didn't she care, Rei?" I found myself almost yelling. "Or did she just see me as some fucking play thing she could toy with and torture and abuse for fucking four years and then decide to drop and forget about me so easily?!"

I'm really sorry, Rei. My heart cried gently. But you wanted to know the truth.

"I didn't have to care about her, I didn't have to even acknowledge her! I could've just moved out of Misato's and gone back to the country, but I didn't. I stayed with her and put up with all of her emotional shit, but what did I get for it? Nothing! I hate her! And I'll never forgive her." Finishing off with a growl, I could feel my entire body tremble with rage.

Even at thousands of kilometres away, that narcissistic bitch is still able to get me worked up!

I said nothing for a while, being too pissed off to think about anything else except for going over what I just said. So much so that I didn't even bother to notice Rei's expression as she replied, saying something that shook me to the core.

"No. You don't."

My head snapped up from hearing that; fear and confusion freely naked in my eyes, completely powerless to avoid those inquisitive eyes of ruby red. She continued as if she couldn't see my silent begging to stop. "I do not believe you are capable of hating another human being, even for your father. You may feel great resentment towards Sohryu and pain, but you do not hate her. I know that you care for her deeply, even though she has hurt you deeply."

"HOW WOULD YOU KNOW?!" I found myself standing after banging my fist against the table as I yelled at her.

In spite of my violent outburst, the blue-haired woman remained poised. Christ, she didn't even blink! Instead, she resumed speaking with a calm & even voice. Damn her. "I know that you still listen to the red Sdat tape she had given to you."

I gasped in shock. How did she find out?

The tape had been given to me as a gift a couple of months after I turned fifteen; it was basically a mix of all greatest songs by the string quartet group, Bond. When I asked her the reason for such a kind gesture she simply rolled her eyes and called me uptight for wanting an answer before finally replying that it was a late birthday present- nothing more. Yet her reason didn't justify my suspicions but I decided to drop the subject and be grateful for her thoughtfulness.

"You have also kept several photos of you and her together, but you have hidden them to prevent yourself from being hurt furthermore. And..." she paused, looking as if she didn't want to step over the boundary any further. "I know that you were going to ask her to the Senior formal."

Ouch! Now that hurt.

Thank you, Rei Ayanami, I thought bitterly as I diverted my gaze to the wooden floors of my kitchen. You've just opened another can of Shinji Ikari's famous home-made dead worms, created with the finest ingredients of hurt, misery and inability to let go. Warning: Contains high levels of alcohol & may cause severe depression! Not suitable for children, pregnant women or people with a medical condition.

Seeing my vulnerable form, Rei must've felt pity for me because the only thing I heard for the next thirty seconds was the echo of nothingness until the sound of gentle thud soon tapped my eardrums. Grabbing my attention, I looked up to the source and was surprised to find a can of Yebisu sitting right in front of me.

The ex-First Child nodded to me as a silently encouragement, though I could see the disappointment in her eyes.

For a few moments I looked at her, briefly wondering if this was some sort of a test. While the guilty part of me didn't want to scull the entire beverage in front of my friend, the rest of me said, "Screw that!" and go for it. Good enough, I reasoned before popping the lid open and draining its entire content within a matter of seconds.

"YEE-HA!" was my war cry as I slammed the empty can against the table. Damn, I've inherited Misato's annoying habit! Kami, what else have I picked up from her over the years?

"Now I understand."

"Hmm?" I said, partially wondering what she meant.

"I have to go now," she announced, rising up from her seat.

"What?" I asked, turning my head around to look up at the clock behind me. 1:52 P.M. it said- barely an hour since she arrived! "You have to leave now? It's Saturday." Although she had been charting into forbidden waters before, I was still disappointed to see her leaving.

"I'm sorry, Shinji." Rei apologised whilst bowing deeply in respect. "However, I have something important to attend to. Thank you for allowing me to visit."

"No problem, Rei. You're always welcome here." I'm all alone anyway, but I'll never admit that to her.

"I'll clean the containers and give them to you the next time I see you." I added after walking with her to the door.

"I'd appreciate that," she thanked.

Sliding open the front door, I leant against the metallic door frame as support; staring at a partial of clear blue sky that wasn't being blocked by concrete or railing.

"I'll see you later," my companion said after doing up the zips of her tan knee-high boots.

"See ya," giving a short wave and then watched her walked away. However, for some reason she stopped and turned around to face me. "Is something wrong?" I found myself asking.

"No." She replied, shaking her head in response. "I just wanted you to know that... it's true; there will always be someone else out there worse off than you, but it does not mean that your own pain doesn't count."

"Thank you, Rei. I'll remember that."

A swift nod and a short smile were present before the blue-haired female added, "Also... I hope you know that you are alone."

"What?" How did Rei know? "What do you mean?" Could she read me that easily?

"I said: "You are not alone."" Rei repeated, shooting me with a look of concern. "What did you think I said?"

"Oh, nothing!" came out as a nervous laugh as I tried to cover up my blunder. "Take care of yourself and Panther."

"I will. Good-bye."

Though Rei was already gone I still remained in my spot, just thinking. Nothing in particular (the alcohol saw to that) except I couldn't help but think about what Rei had said earlier.

"You are not alone."

I really wish I could believe that, but I can't delude myself with foolish hopes as I may have as a child. I know that I'll never truly find happiness or find peace with myself or ever be able to rid myself of my inner demons, but it's okay- really.

Sometimes it sucks trying to accept it and I've even during my weakest moments, have wished that I could scorn my mother for being so caring and self-righteous and deciding to sacrifice herself for my sake rather than let the future be bleak. Yet eventually during this mulling, I'll eventually manage to find a way of looking on the brighter side; that silver lining from a cloud which almost seems too bleak and distant to find anything positive about it.

"Well," I started with a pathetic chuckle. "At least I'm not afraid anymore." Though I'm not sure why I even bothered saying that. Who was I trying to convince, anyway?

"If you are told this is so, then you will believe this is so."

AN: Alright now how many of you want to kill me right now for taking WAAAAAAAAAAAAY too long to update? Please raise your hands (Water-Star included) - wow, that many!

I'd like to apologise for updating so late when you're all probably sick of waiting, but I hope you'll keep reading despite how lazy and unmotivated I am. (Also, I'm more in a Death Note mood above everything else.) *Shakes head* Will I ever complete my fanfics?

Again, I want to thank you all for always reading, reviewing and telling me where I can improve as a writer. Until the next time, Water-Star.