Father

Part One.

Asuka woke up with a killer headache. It wasn't the first time, in fact it was the third morning in a row. "I wonder if this is how Misato feels whenever she gets up after a night of drinking," she thought to herself, reeling a bit as her feet hit the floor. The only problem with that thought was she that didn't drink last night, or any other previous night.

"Well, there was that one time…" she thought, remembering that one night a couple of months ago. A blush quickly rose to her cheeks as she tried to push that thought aside, staggering to her feet and leaving her room. The hallway seemed crooked as she slowly made her way to the kitchen, finding Shinji there cooking breakfast as usual. Normally, the smell of his breakfasts were enough to send her stomach rumbling, even though she would never admit that to him. Today, something was different.

"Morning, Asuka," he cheerfully greeted her as he continued to stir whatever was in the frying pan. "How would you like your eggs this morning?"

That was the worst question anyone had ever asked her. "Could he not smell it?" she wondered, "That smell! Those eggs must be rotten! And he expects us to eat them?!" Suddenly, she got really queasy. Her hands covered her mouth as she rushed to the bathroom and emptied the contents of her stomach into the toilet. She continued this for several minutes before she realized someone was standing behind her, rubbing her back and keeping her hair out of the toilet.

"Oh, god," she moaned as she finally relaxed and sat back on her heels. "Thanks, Misato," she said weakly.

"Uh, I'm not Misato, but you're welcome anyway," the reply came back.

"Shinji?" she exclaimed , surprised by the normally shy boy's actions. She turned and saw the concern in his eyes. Those same eyes she could get lost in, if she wasn't careful, and cause her to melt. "Wha…?"

"Sorry," he replied, "but I was worried about you. I know you hate help, but you looked like you really needed it."

"S'okay," she murmured back, "but now I need to clean up. So get out!" Some of the fire was starting to come back to her eyes. Shinji smiled back at her.

"When you're done, come back to the kitchen, I'll have some toast ready for you," he said as he started to leave the bathroom.

"Toast?!" she barked back.

"Yes, toast," Shinji replied as he slowly closed the door, "best thing for a sour stomach." Asuka fumed for a second, thinking about eggs when another wave of nausea hit.

"Okay, so toast it is," she told her stomach as she stepped into the shower, letting the hot water wash away the muscle aches and pains.

Shinji walked back into the kitchen when a voice from behind called out "So, how's she doing?"

"Arrrrgh!" Shinji yelled as he spun around and saw his other roommate standing behind him. His heart was racing like it wanted to tear from his chest.

"Damn it, Misato! Don't do that!" he gasped, taking huge gulps of air as his body did it's best to metabolize the huge amounts of adrenaline that now swept through his veins.

"Sorry," she said teasingly as she sat down. Shinji gave her the usual morning cup of tea. Not as good as beer, but she had promised Kaji she would cut down on her drinking. "Seriously, how is she doing?"

"She's not feeling well," Shinji replied as he cracked open two eggs for Misato's breakfast, "she hasn't called me 'idiot' once."

"Hmm, must be serious," she smirked over the rim of her cup. Shinji hadn't seen her eyes this clear in the mornings, ever.

"I'm serious, Misato! This is the third day in a row," he replied as Misato saw how concerned he really was. "Maybe you should take her to see the doctor today."

"Love to, kiddo, but I have a ton of work that has to be finished today," the Major answered, "Tell you what! I'll make the appointment for this morning and you can take her!"

"Somehow, I don't think Asuka would feel up to a ride on my motorcycle," the young man said as he thought of how he was going to get a sick Asuka to sit behind him and hold his waist as he drove through the streets of Tokyo-3.

"No silly," Misato added as she tossed Shinji the keys to her car, "I'll take the bike!"

"Oh lord, no!" he said sullenly. "Do you know how hard it was to fix the last time you borrowed it?"

"I was drunk then," Misato said absentmindedly, "but I'm sober now! See! Okay!"

"I don't know if that makes it better or worse," he muttered as Misato stuck her tongue out at him.

"Why is Misato taking your bike, Shinji?" a young redhead asked as she plopped down into her chair and started to munch on the dry toast he put in front of her. Amazingly, she did start to feel a little better. Maybe that little turd knew what he was talking about.

"Because he's taking you in the car," was the reply.

"Cool! Going to school in the car! I knew I was glad you got your license for some reason! You may actually be of some use for a change!" smirked Asuka, who then felt a bit bad about the hurt look in his eyes.

"Uh, no, we're not going to school today…" Shinji started.

"Yeah! The Mall!" Asuka cheered as she downed her third piece of toast.

"Not the Mall, either. I'm taking you to see the doctor," he added with a bit of finality.

"Three…two…one…" Misato mumbled.

"Whaaaaat?! The doctor?! Why! I'm in perfect health, you idiot!" Asuka screamed as Shinji calmly deflected a piece of toast hurled at his face.

"Asuka! Be reasonable!" Shinji pleaded as the young German kept getting wound up. "This is the third morning in a row. You're not well and you need to see the doctor! I'm worried about you!"

"He's worried about me?" Asuka thought incredulously, "He cares enough to worry? I wonder if…" she pushed that last thought from her mind as her defensive barriers came up. She opened her mouth to let him know that there was nothing to worry about and that she didn't need him to take care of her when Misato chimed in.

"Yeah, maybe it's morning sickness," she said sweetly as she finished off her breakfast.

"WHAT?!" both teenagers said simultaneously, blushing furiously and turning on her as one. "Shut up, Misato!"

"That sync training really paid off" the violet haired woman thought. "Oh, come on!" she teased, "you're both teenagers, living in the same house, by yourselves quite often. You mean to tell me that you never once…"

"No! Don't be ridiculous!" again in unison. Both turned an interesting shade of red.

"Ha! Both of you have at least thought about it," she mused at seeing their reactions. She grinned as they both turned shame-faced toward each other and then quickly away. "Shinji, call the school and let them know you both will be out today, I'll call the doctor."

"Yes ma'am," came the reply as Shinji left the table. Asuka continued to sit there, fuming.

"Morning sickness? Ha! As if!"

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"MORNING SICKNESS?!?!?!" a very agitated redhead screamed as she leapt from the table, ready to beat the hell out of the doctor that had just gave her the news.

"Yes, morning sickness, Miss Soryu. You are two months pregnant. Congratulations!" the doctor said quietly as he expected his patient to calm down, which she definitely was not doing.

"But…but that's impossible!!" Asuka screamed back.

"Trust me, you are most definitely pregnant. While I don't condone two teenagers having intercourse, I do tend to overlook it. This world needs to be repopulated, after all. I've already had my nurse go out and tell your boyfriend, if that's alright?"

"My boyfriend? Shinji?" Asuka said, somewhat dazed. "Oh, he's not my boyfriend, just my roommate." However, the idea of Shinji being her boyfriend wasn't nearly as upsetting as once it might have been.

"Oh! My mistake!" the doctor replied, "He seemed very nice, I just assumed…" At that exact same moment, a loud yell followed by an even louder thump reverberated through the doors.

"Excuse me, doctor?" a nurse peeked around the door, "We need some smelling salts out here! Miss Soryu's boyfriend has passed out!"

"Shinji?!" Asuka cried out as she rushed from the room and found the young man passed out in the middle of the waiting room. She fell to her knees and placed his head in her lap. "This is stupid! If anyone needs comfort, it's me!" she thought.

"Asuka?" Shinji said groggily as she gently stroked his hair, "I just had the weirdest dream…"

"It's not a dream," she said softly, "It's a damn nightmare!" Asuka looked down into his eyes, and saw them filled with sadness, confusion, and…betrayal? She noticed the wet spots forming on his cheeks and see that he's not crying.

Reaching up, Shinji gently caressed her cheek. "It's going to be alright," he said as she broke down and hugged him tightly, sobbing uncontrollable. Shinji wrapped his arms around her and held her gently until the tears stopped.

"Hmm, if he's not, he should be," the doctor muttered as his nurse nodded her head in agreement.

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The two teenagers sat quietly in the living room, trying to watch TV and doing their best to keep their minds off what was soon to occur. They knew that Misato was going to get a copy of the medical report, seeing how she was their guardian and commanding officer. Shinji was doing everything he could to make Asuka comfortable, which was driving the German girl crazy. Ever since they left the doctor's office, he had grown very protective of her. He had even set a couple of beers on the table, ready for Misato as soon as she came in. He knew that she would need them, even though she was trying to cut back.

Shinji and Asuka gulped nervously as they heard the door slide open. "You two. Kitchen. NOW." the Major commanded as the teenagers quickly got up and shuffled to the kitchen. Asuka's head was bowed, refusing to even look up and her guardian. Shinji, on the other hand, held his head high, and gave Misato a look that threw the woman. It screamed: Watch it!

Misato sat at the table, looking at the beer before her. Grateful to Shinji, she did one of the hardest things she had ever done: she pushed them aside. Glaring at the redhead, she saw the red puffy eyes and the defeated look on her face. Misato's heart softened a bit at Asuka's state, but was still puzzled at Shinji's reaction. A look of absolute and total concern was plastered on his face as he gazed at Asuka across from him.

"How?" Misato asked quietly, trying to remain calm, "How can you two be so reckless? Do you have any idea what is at stake here? Do you understand what you have done?" Asuka started to bawl again. Shinji's jaw set in a hard line.

"Misato, you don't know what you're talking about," Shinji said grimly, shooting daggers into the violet haired woman.

"Excuse me?" Misato shot back, trying to stare Shinji back down and failing miserably.

"Shinji's not the father…" Asuka said softly, trying to take the heat off the young man, sniffling as she tried to stem the flow of tears. Shinji looked a bit sad at this.

"If Shinji's not, just who the hell is?!" yelled Misato, causing Asuka to cringe. Shinji shot to his feet, fists clinched tight.

"Don't yell at her," he growled as Shinji's eyes burned with an intensity that Misato had never seen. He looked ready to take a swing at his guardian.

"Shinji, it's okay," Asuka said gently as she reached over and placed her hand over his fist. The result was immediate, as the young man visibly relaxed and sat back down. Misato was surprised at Asuka's actions. As far as she knew, the young girl would have never let anyone come to her defense, let alone hold that person's hand.

"I don't know who the father is, Misato," Asuka said sadly, "I don't ever remember having sex! Ever!" Misato could see the truth in her eyes and hear it in her voice.

"Okay, I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions," Misato said as she tried to defuse the situation. She swore Shinji looked ready to explode any second. "This is just…the situation…oh god, I'd don't know what to think!"

"How do you think we feel?" Shinji added as he looked longingly at Asuka.

"We?" Misato thought before continuing. "Okay, you're pregnant, but you say you don't ever remember having sex? What can you remember?"

"Not much," Asuka began, "The only thing I can sort of remember is a disturbing dream." The dream really wasn't disturbing before, she actually enjoyed it. But this was an entirely different situation. "It was just a dream."

"Alright. First thing tomorrow, I'm taking you to see Dr. Akagi to have a full checkup to see to the health of you and the baby. We can proceed from there. How far along are you?"

"Two months," Shinji said. Misato couldn't read his thoughts.

"Crap, that puts it right around the time of the Christmas party," the Major mused, as a sudden wave of guilt hit her. "If I hadn't had that stupid party…"

"It's not your fault, Misato," Asuka replied as she cast a sympathetic look toward her, "you never knew anything like this would happen!" Shinji wasn't so sure, though. It was after that party that Kaji asked Misato to cut back on her drinking.

"Shinji, if you would," Misato asked as a very large and painful lump formed in her throat, " please dump all the shit in the fridge down the sink. Please?" Misato started to cry now, guilt washing over her and her horrible addiction. "No more…"

Asuka got up and, doing something that totally would have shocked anyone who knew her, wrapped her arms around Misato and held the older woman and joined her in a good cry. Shinji's heart broke at seeing the two most important women in his life in such pain, and walked over and wrapped them up in an all encompassing embrace.

"It's time to step up, grow up, and be a man," he thought as he did his best to take the pain away from his family.

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Shinji lay on his bed with his hands behind his head, as the music from his SDAT player droned on through his earbuds. Normally, the music would sooth his troubled mind, but tonight was different. Tonight his mind was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Seeing Asuka so heart broken tore him to pieces. The normally strong young woman fell apart, as her carefully constructed walls came tumbling down. He had always cared for the headstrong redhead, but on finding that she was pregnant, something deep and primal awaken inside his heart.

He was hurt and disappointed, at first. He had always dreamed, down in the deepest part of his soul where even he couldn't journey, that he would be the father of Asuka's children. That part shamed him, though. This was not a time to think of his own feelings or needs. This was Asuka's time, and he would do everything possible to help her. His wants and needs be damned.

The need to help her was overwhelming, one that he could not and would not fight. His heart was ready to tear from his chest as he thought of Asuka just on the other side of the wall, thinking that she would have to go through this all on her own. What was going through her mind right now? Despair? Anger? Loneliness? This line of thinking is what was keeping him up, as the seconds and minutes slowly ticked by with no relief in sight.

Growling in frustration, he tore the buds from his ears and turned over to try to force the sleep to come. It was going to be a very, very busy day tomorrow. He pulled the covers over his shoulders when he heard a light scratching at his door and a small voice call out his name. He leapt out of his bed and opened the door as soon as he could.

"Shinji," Asuka said softly, as she sniffed back some tears, "can I come in? I can't sleep…"

"Sure, Asuka. Anytime," he answered as he stepped aside and let her into his room. She staggered over to his bed and sat down on the edge and started to cry again.

"Do you mean it? Anytime?" she asked pleadingly as he walked over toward her and knelt down to the floor in front of her. He looked her in the eyes as best he could in the dim light.

"Yes, anytime." It truly hurt to see her this upset. He would do anything for her to make her feel better. How any man could take advantage of her like someone had was completely beyond his understanding. It caused an anger to swell within his chest that he had never experienced before. He fought it down so as not to alarm the sad young lady before him.

"Can…can I sleep here tonight? I don't want to be alone right now."

"Sure, not a problem," he said as he moved to get up, "let me get some spare pillows and blankets and I'll bunk out on the floor…"

"No! Please?" she pleaded as she grabbed the front of his shirt to keep him from moving away, "Don't leave me! Hold me, please?" she sobbed.

"Shh, it's okay," Shinji said in a soothing tone as he gently stroked her hair, "I'll never leave you, no matter what."

"Will you hold me?" she asked again, trembling.

"How anyone could hurt someone so lovely…" Shinji thought before he answered, "As you wish," he said with a smile that Asuka could feel in the dark, even if she couldn't see it. He crawled into the bed behind her as she laid down and snuggled up to him in a perfect spooning position. She laid her head down on his arm.

"You're trembling," she said worriedly. "Is everything alright?" She feared his answer.

"I'm fine, just nervous," he lied as he fought the shaking. It was of rage, thinking about what happened to the girl he cared so much about. He fought to control himself.

"You must hate me," Asuka said a few minutes later. Shinji felt the tears pour onto his arm and it tore at him.

"I could never hate you, Asuka. I care too much for you to do that," he replied without thinking. She stiffened a bit at his answer.

"How could you not? I'm filthy! I'm unclean! I've really screwed things up!" she cried, wracked with sobs. "I'm carrying some scumbag's bastard inside of me!"

" Hush," he said gently as he took his arm from his side and wrapped it around her, holding her lower belly with his hand. "You'll upset the baby. It's not her fault."

His actions and words shocked Asuka. For the first time that day, she thought of the life growing inside of her as a baby. Her baby. His hand was warm on her belly, and a feeling like it belonged there grew within her shattered heart. Then what he said struck her.

"Her?" she asked, genuinely surprised at what he said. "How can you tell it's a girl? The doctors can't even tell yet!"

"Oh, I just have a feeling," Shinji said as he smiled into her hair, "She'll be a little girl, with her mother's red hair, blue eyes, and wild spirit."

"Oh really?" she shot back, "And what makes you the great expert? Lots of experience with babies?" Some of her fiery spirit was starting to emerge from the depression of earlier.

"Not really, but with a mother like the Great Asuka, she wouldn't be any other way!" Asuka chuckled a bit.

"Thank you, Shinji," she said as she tried to relax. It was a few minutes more before she spoke again, as some of the sniggling doubts came back to haunt her.

"Shinji?"

"Yes, Asuka?"

"Did you really mean what you said earlier?" came the soft question, in a voice afraid of the answer. "Do you really care for me?"

"Yes, Asuka, I do. With all my heart." he answered automatically. "Holy crap! Did I just say that out loud?" came the voice of the Coward that hid down in the depths. The Man promptly kicked him square in the face and shoved him back in the shadows. "I more than care, I love this woman"

"Why? I always treated you like crap!"

"Not always. The past few months have been better. And to answer your question, I just do." he answered her, feeling her body get warmer to the touch.

"And…and you'll never leave me?" once more soft and tinged with fear.

"Never. I'll never leave either one of you two," he answered again, as he gently rubbed her belly, causing her to coo a bit. " I may not be this baby's father, but I'll be a father to her if you'll let me."

"What…what do you mean by that?" Asuka gasped, her heart starting to pound like mad. She was shaking like a leaf.

"Just what I said, Asuka. Let's just leave it at that. Now, get some sleep, you have a busy day tomorrow," Shinji replied as he drew her closer, making her feel safe and protected.

"Idiot," she yawned as sleep did it's best to claim her.

"Flattery will get you nowhere," he chuckled as he felt her slowly drift off to the land of dreams. A few minutes later, he followed suit.

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The morning wasn't going really well for anyone. First off, Misato was shocked to find her two charges sleeping in the same bed, but the look Shinji shot her kept her mouth shut.

"It's not what you think, Misato. She was scared," he added apologetically as he carefully slid out from behind the sleeping girl.

"Asuka? Scared? Not likely," Misato said teasingly as Shinji softly closed the door and headed for the kitchen. The tone was completely lost on Shinji.

"Misato! How can you say that?! After all the shit that just happened to her?!" he growled back. The Major took several steps back and held up her hands up in the air.

"I'm sorry! I was just teasing!" she said quickly as Shinji's face softened a bit and his shoulders slumped.

"I'm sorry, Misato! I shouldn't have snapped at you." he said a bit dejectedly. "I apologize for how I treated you yesterday, it was wrong. It's just…."

"I know, kiddo, I know," she said as she placed her arms around the young man standing before her. To her surprise, Shinji didn't breakdown. He just relaxed a bit as he wrapped his arms around her. "Being a mom can be nice, sometimes," she mused.

"I don't know what to do for her," he said softly.

"Just do what you're good at, Shinji. Just be there for her."

"I will. I'm not going to run away, ever. I promised them that." Misato looked Shinji in the eye and wondered when he grew up to be the man she now saw him to be.

"Shinji?!" cried a startled voice from his room. Shinji quickly extracted himself from Misato's hug and ran to the room.

"I'm here, Asuka!" he said as he slid the door open, revealing the terrified girl sitting up in his bed. She was shaking violently.

"Where, where were you?!" she cried out as he went over and took her in his arms.

"It's okay, I just got up to make some breakfast before…arrrrgh!" he said as the redhead suddenly leapt off the bed, throwing him into the floor and running as fast as she could for the bathroom.

"It's going to be a long seven months," he thought as he followed her into the bathroom and took care of her as he had the previous day. Misato just looked at the two teenagers and sadly smiled. She had no idea what was in store for these two when the Commander finds out, but she was sure that things would work out.

"What do you mean Shinji can't come?" Asuka yelled as she munched on her toast, sending crumbs everywhere.

"Shinji needs to head back to school today and take care of things there," Misato replied calmly as she sipped her tea. "He's got to pick up both of your assignments from yesterday, as well as yours for today, Asuka. I also have some paperwork he needs to give the teachers and principle when he's there."

"What?! He's not going to tell everyone about this, is he?!" she screeched and shot Shinji a dirty look. He waved his hands in the air in protest.

"No, I'm not! I'm just going to explain the situation to the administrators and give the paperwork needed. I promise you I won't tell anyone!"

"You're not going to go blab to the Stooges, are you?" she asked nervously, expecting a breach in her trust.

"No, I'm not, Asuka," he replied as he took her hand , "I won't even tell Hikari about it."

"Uh, you can tell her, I guess. Just nobody else." she stammered, wondering what her friend would think of her after hearing the news.

"As you wish," he said with a smile as he stood, placed his right fist over his heart and bowed slightly to her. Shinji then turned and went to take his shower before school. Asuka's and Misato's jaws hit the table, as both stared wide-eyed in the direction of the bathroom.

"He's…changed," Asuka said as she basked in the warm glow that Shinji had left her in. She reached down and rubbed her belly, and smiled.

"Naw," Misato said as she finished off her tea and thought about a line in one of her favorite books, "The sleeper has awakened!" She grinned at Asuka's obvious confusion and sent her on her way to get dressed.

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"Hey, Shinji!" a voice called out to him as he got of his motorcycle and removed his helmet and leather jacket. Shinji looked up to see his friend, Touji Suzahara, limping over to him. "You rode the bike to school today? Sweet!"

"Aw, he just did that to get the chicks! Right, Shinji?" asked his other friend, Kensuke Aida, who was getting lots of footage of Shinji's bike with his new digital camera that his father had given him for Christmas.

"Speaking of chicks, where's the Red Headed Devil? You two newlyweds have a spat or something?" Touji teased as slapped Shinji on the shoulder. Shinji turned and shot him a look that could shatter the armour plating off of every EVA ever constructed.

"Don't ever call her that again." he seethed, causing his friends to take a few steps back.

"Whoa, dude! Chill!" Touji protested, "Just kidding, man! What's wrong?" Kensuke was filming the whole incident until Shinji turned and looked like he was ready to shove the camera up Kensuke's ass. The camera was quickly put away.

"Sorry guys, I'm just tired and a little worried. Asuka's not feeling very well right now. Misato took her to see Dr. Akagi for some tests." Shinji apologized to his friends. "I came to get our assignments from yesterday and let the teachers know what's going on."

"And what is going on?" Kensuke asked, his instincts for trouble were serving him well.

"Just like I said, Asuka's not feeling well," Shinji said with a tone that warned his friend to drop the whole conversation.

"Eh, it's probably that time of the month," Touji added as Shinji slugged him in the fake arm as they walked to class.

"No, we're not going to have to worry about that in the near future," Shinji thought as they entered the classroom and took their seats. Opening his computer, he quickly typed a message to Hikari and awaited her answer.

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"Hi Shinji," Hikari called out as she headed for the tree where she and Asuka liked to eat lunch often. "You're not eating today?"

"Hi Hikari," he answered back, "not today, I'm not very hungry, and I don't plan on being here for too much longer today. I still need to deliver some paperwork to the principle and then go…"

"See to Asuka?" Hikari smiled as she finished Shinji's sentence. He just sat and smirked, his eyes twinkling just a bit. Hikari thought it was cute.

"That obvious?" he said wryly and shook his head. The young lady next to him just giggled.

"You've had it bad for that girl since the day she first showed up here. Besides, you both were gone yesterday, and she's not here today. That means she's not feeling good. How's she doing? It's not serious, I hope!" the pig tailed class rep asked, somewhat worried.

"About as serious as it can get," he thought glumly as he turned to face his friend. "Hikari, I have something to tell you, but before I do, you have to promise me something."

"Not good," Hikari thought to herself. "What do you want me to promise?"

"That you will promise to hear me out. That you don't go flying off the handle. That you won't judge things or jump to conclusions. That you'll still be there for Asuka. Most importantly, that you will not tell anyone, even Touji. Can you promise me that?" Shinji asked, his face a mask of stone, but his eyes pleading for Hikari to understand.

"Definitely not good at all," she mused. "I promise, Shinji."

"Thank you, Hikari," he replied, and felt as if a huge weight was off of his shoulders, "One weight down, eight hundred to go,". Sighing, he sat there for a minute or so, trying to gather his thoughts and figure out the best way to break the news.

"What did you want to say…" Hikari asked gently, before Shinji cut her off.

"Asuka's pregnant," came his reply, not knowing of any other way to soften the blow. Hikari's face went pale as her jaw dropped, eyes wide as saucers. Shinji reached over and took her hand, not in a romantic way, but as a friend trying to comfort another. "She's going to need you, Hikari. She's going to need her friends, more than ever."

"But…but…but how? Who? Not you…" she stammered, shocked completely beyond the ability to comprehend. Shinji's eyes wore a sadness that broke Hikari's heart.

"You promised not to jump to conclusions," he said, not harshly. "No, I'm not the father. I wish…" he said with such sorrow that Hikari wanted to weep for him, before the emotions were clamped back down and he picked up his burden once more. He told her the story the best he could, everything that they had been able to figure out. He even told her of how he promised to be there for her and the baby, and how he would never leave.

"So, what is she going to do? What are you going to do, Shinji?" Hikari asked, blushing slightly when she thought about the responsibility the sixteen year old man had just accepted, and wondering how many others would do the same thing.

"I don't know yet, Hikari, but I have a few ideas," he said as he stood and extended his hand to help his friend up from her seat. Hikari reached over and gave him a big hug before he could leave.

"That was for Asuka, make sure to give it to her," she told the blushing teen, " and this one is for you," she continued as she gave him a small peck on the cheek. He touched his cheek lightly, puzzled.

"Why?" he inquired, somewhat perplexed.

"For being such a nice guy! Asuka's lucky to have you!" she smiled shyly as she looked in his dark blue eyes. "Just don't tell Touji what I did, okay?"

"What, and risk getting myself pummel to death twice over? No thanks!" he grinned as his friend giggled at his reply. She watched him as he shook his head a bit and walked back toward the school.

"Shinji! Let Asuka know I'll call her tonight!" she called out as he raised his arm over his head and waved his acknowledgement back at her. She sighed as she thought about how nice of a guy Shinji Ikari really was.

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After dropping off the paperwork with the school administrators, Shinji mounted his motorcycle and rode to NERV headquarters. He had a lot of time to think as he rode the monorail through the GeoFront. This line of thinking was scaring the hell out of him, but The Man inside of him kept beating the snot out of The Coward and sending him packing. He came up with a plan of action that he hope would take care of as many things as possible. Three things in this plan worried him the most, but he had a family to take of.

He reached the doors of the medical section when he heard a blood curdling scream, followed by a long stream of German words that he had learned from painful experience would make a sailor blush. Several other voices could be heard within, but what got him to moving was the next words the young German spoke.

"NO! I won't let you hurt my baby!!" Asuka's scream caused Shinji to see red. He bolted for the door as a large male orderly did his best to block his way.

"Sorry, sir, but you can't…urk!" was all he got out as Shinji hit him in a place where no man should be struck, then quickly came up with a knee to the man's nose, all within the space of half a second. Shinji burst into the room, seeing a terrified Asuka huddled in a corner as Doctor Akagi and several others were closing in on her.

"Shinji! Help me! They want to kill our baby!!" she screamed as he ran into the room and slid between Asuka and the others. Shinji never had much fighting experience outside of an EVA, but those instincts took over as he dropped into a fighting stance, eyes filled with fire, and ready to go into a berserker mode that would put EVA Unit One to shame.

"Back off!" he called out, his voice filled with venom and the promise of extreme pain to any who did not comply.

"Get out of the way, Shinji! This must be done!" Doctor Akagi said as she held a syringe before her, motioning to the others in the room to remove Shinji. That was a mistake, as their dental bills just went up drastically. It was a good thing they were in the medical wing.

"I said to get back!" he barked, turning his eyes toward her, the only adult remaining standing in the room. Doctor Akagi was truly afraid for the first time in her life.

"What the HELL is going on here?!" demand Misato as she stormed into the room, followed by Sub-Commander Fuyutsuki and Maya Ibuki. The state of the room shocked everyone, as all eyes turned on Shinji and Asuka.

"She wants to kill our baby!!" Asuka screamed, as she continued to hide behind Shinji. If he wasn't in fighting mode, those words would have filled him with pride: our baby!

"No one is to touch her!" Shinji growled. The Sub-Commander raised one eyebrow in surprise. Misato's jaw dropped at what she had just heard.

"Ritsuko?" she asked, shocked at what she had just heard.

"What?! It's the only viable option here! She can't pilot an EVA in this condition! There is no telling what this would do to her sync ratios, or what it will do to the fetus! The EVA's are our main concern. Everything else doesn't matter!" The blonde scientist argued as she turned to look at the others.

SLAP!!

Everyone stood there in shock as Maya stood above her supervisor, her hand still in the air from the blow she struck Doctor Akagi. Ritsuko slowly got up from the floor, holding her cheek, which was turning redder by the second. Maya continued to stand there in a rage.

"Doctor Akagi! How dare you! That is her choice, not yours!" she said, tears in her eyes as she trembled with rage. Misato stepped forward and pulled Maya over to the side and then got very close to Akagi.

"Does the Commander know about all this?" she whispered through her teeth, enough anger in her voice to cause Akagi to step back.

"He knows about the pregnancy," she said quietly.

"Does he know about your pre-emptive solution?" Fuyutsuki asked her, his eyes cold as he regarded the doctor.

"Uh, not yet, but I know that he would agree with my assessment!" she spat back.

"So, you took it upon yourself to cause emotional and physical harm to an EVA pilot, with no orders from the chain of command?" Fuyutsuki added, "Do you like causing harm to children?" That question left Doctor Akagi speechless.

"But, what about the EVA's?" Akagi asked, trying to get someone to see her point of view. She would just have to do her best to convince the Commander later.

"Fuck them!" came back a cold voice from the corner. It sounded a little too much like the Commander for anyone's taste. Same intonations, different emotions.

"Shinji," Misato said as she walked toward the couple, "why don't you take Asuka to go get dressed and take her back home. I'll be there later."

"Are you sure, Misato?" Shinji said guardedly, "I won't let anything happen to Asuka and the baby."

"Yes, I'm sure," she replied, as she reached around him and pulled the redhead to her feet, "Nothing is going to happen. I promise." She and Shinji swapped keys.

"Don't make promises you can't keep, Major," Akagi said viciously as Shinji lead Asuka from the room.

"She can't, I can," Fuyutsuki said as he and the others left the room, leaving Akagi in there alone, fuming about teenagers and damn hormones.

"Shinji?" Asuka called out from behind the curtain that separated the male and female portions of the locker room. There was fear and worry in her voice. The shell that she had so carefully created over all those years was gone, leaving only the scared little girl behind.

"What's up, Asuka?" he asked patiently as he waited for her to change from her hospital gown.

"You're not peeking are you?" she called back out, having lost her nerve to ask what was really on her mind. Some off the false bravado came back to her voice. " I bet you are, you perv!" She heard something she wasn't expecting: Shinji was laughing!

"No, I'm not peeking," he called back, still laughing. "The way you dress at home sometimes, why should I have to peak? Ain't much left to the imagination!" Asuka gasped at this, shocked he would say such a thing.

She grabbed the curtain and pulled it open, getting ready to give the young smart mouth a good tongue-lashing. Instead, she froze as he stood before her, a silly grin on his face and a single red rose held out to her. Her heart melted.

"What? One instead of a dozen? What kind of cheapskate are you?" she smirked at the momentary look of confusion on his face, before he grinned and went back at her.

"Well, what do you expect? You ever tried carrying a dozen roses and riding a bike at the same time? I still have thorns in my teeth just from the one!" he shot back, with the same silly grin on his face. Asuka stood there for a second before the thought of Shinji riding through the streets of Tokyo-3 with a rose between his teeth got to her. She started giggling, then laughing uncontrollably. It was infectious, as Shinji joined her a second later.

"Thank you," she said sweetly as she took the rose from his hand and held it close. She had been given flowers before by others, in great bunches and by the dozens. This one single rose meant more to her right now than any of those ever had. She knew this one was from the heart. "And what a lovely heart it is," she thought to herself as she took Shinji's hand and lead him from the locker room.

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The night at home went so much smoother than the night before. Shinji made some Asuka's favorite foods for dinner, after they made a trip to the nearest western food store, and was serving it up when Misato finally made it home for the evening.

"How did the tests go, Misato?" Shinji asked as they all sat down to supper. Misato cradled her cup of tea in her hands, wishing deep down that it was a beer.

"All the tests came back good. Asuka and the baby are in perfect health," Misato said happily as she flashed her best smile at her charges.

"No thanks to that bitch," Asuka mumbled as she took another bite of sauerkraut.

"We had a long discussion about that, the four of us," the violet haired woman said as she bit into her bratwurst which had been covered in curry powder.

"Four of you?" Shinji asked, not liking where this was going.

"Yes. Myself, Doctor Akagi, Commander Fuyutsuki, and Commander Ikari."

"Uh oh," both teenagers said in stereo.

"Actually, it wasn't that bad. Doctor Akagi did her best to get your father to order the pregnancy's termination, but your father denied that request. However," a dark shadow crossed over her face, "he hasn't decided what to do about Asuka. Not to scare either of you, but he could just as easily order her back to Germany."

"What did Commander Fuyutsuki have to say?" Shinji wondered as he tore into his roll.

"Well, he recommended combat training for the orderlies, as well as hazard pay for having to work with a bunch of pissed off pilots, and a better dental plan," Misato grinned as she told them this. Food shot from one end of the table to the other as both children started to laugh uncontrollably.

"Misato, you've got to be joking! Fuyutsuki would never say anything like that!" Asuka finally managed to say after catching her breath.

"On my honor as an officer, he said it word for word!" she grinned as she cast a look toward Shinji, who was now trying his best not to blush. "He also said he was proud of you, Shinji, for standing up for Asuka. Your mother would be proud!" Shinji's blush increased tenfold as he did his best to melt under the table. He wasn't used to praise at all, though he used to yearned for it. All he wanted to do now was make Asuka happy.

"Shinji, my hero!" Asuka said in a most over-the-top way, exaggerating every syllable, as a genuine smile caresses her face. She reached over and patted his hand as Misato smiled. Shinji kept silent, but a small smile did display itself on his ever reddening face.

Later on, after dinner and dishes, Shinji sat on the sofa and was deep in thought. Hikari had kept her word and call Asuka, which picked up the redhead's spirits more than could be expressed. This made Shinji happy, but he still had plans to work out, and was at a bit of a loss at what should be done to implement them. He needed someone to talk to, badly. His answer came into the door, much to the squeal of a certain Major.

"Kaji! What are you doing here this time of night, you naughty boy? Hmmm?" Misato cooed as she fell all over the tall NERV agent. She had given up the pretense of disliking him months ago, it was so much easier that way.

"Ah, my lovely Major," Kaji said in his own, semi-suave way, "as much as I would love to say it was the thought of your shapely legs and lovely bosom that brought me here tonight, that would be a lie, though a great side benefit. I actually came here to talk to someone else, at their request." He nodded his head in the direction of the couch. Misato gave him a look of confusion, but understanding dawned on her. Man-to-man type of talk, kind of hard to do with a house full of females.

"Hey kiddo, what's up?" Kaji said as he vaulted over the couch and plopped down at the other end.

"Hey, Kaji! Thanks for coming!" Shinji greeted, "What some tea?" he asked as he started to get up, but he waved him off.

"Sounds good, but let's allow your roommate get it for us, why don't we?," Kaji said as he waved to the love of his life who was standing in the kitchen, eavesdropping.

"Kaji, her tea isn't much better than her cooking," Shinji warned.

"I'll risk it, I can always put a bullet in my head later if the pain proves too unbearable," he grinned as he heard the dishes in the kitchen scatter as she heard what he said. He and Shinji shared a chuckle.

"Yeah, but what about me?" asked the teenager, loud enough for her to hear.

"You still got that cyanide pill I gave you for just such an emergency?" Kaji replied, waiting for a reaction.

"I can hear you both, you know!" a stern voice called back from the kitchen.

"We know," they called back in unison as they kept laughing. They both knew that as much as Misato loved to tease, she hated being teased herself. "We love you Misato!" Misato just growled back in response as she brought them their tea.

"Well, I'll just retreat back to my little room so you big men can have your big talk," she said sarcastically as she brought them their tea. Shinji thanked her as Kaji blew her a kiss.

"So, what's up? " Kaji said, prodding the young man beside him to open up. Kaji was one of the few people Shinji had ever opened up to in the past, and that bond remain. Shinji found it so easy to talk to the older man, like he was an older brother.

"Well, have you heard what happened?" Shinji started off, not knowing what all the agent had heard through his sources. Seeing how Misato was his betrothed, he knew secrets didn't stay that way for long.

"About Asuka? Or about you going ape-shit on the medical staff at headquarters?"

"Uh, about Asuka," Shinji quickly added, trying to gloss over what happened earlier today.

"Yes, I heard," Kaji said sadly, thinking about his former charge and her dire situation, "it's very sad. Is there something you wish to tell me?" he asked gently.

"It's not that, Kaji. I'm not the father," Shinji couldn't hide the sadness in his voice.

"That upsets you, doesn't it?" Kaji asked, knowing how Shinji felt about Asuka. He was studying the young man very closely, trying to catch a glimpse into the inner workings of his mind.

"That doesn't matter," Shinji replied, "What matters is that Asuka and the baby are taken care of, and that they are protected. I never want to see them hurt. I swore to Asuka I'd protect them both."

Kaji's eyes widened a bit as he thought about what Shinji had just said. "Was Shinji aware at what he just said, and the implications of it?" Kaji thought as his respect for the young man grew in leaps and bounds. "So, where do I come in?"

"I need your help, Kaji," the younger man said, as he looked the older man square in the eye. Kaji was taken aback at how like his father Shinji looked just now, same intensity in the eyes, but guided by love rather than greed and power. "Here is what I need to do…" Shinji said as he laid out his plans to Kaji, and asked him for help in the areas he wasn't quite sure of. When Shinji was finished, Kaji sat back and let out a long breath.

"Damn, Shinji, you could give your old man a run for his money," Kaji replied as he thought about what all Shinji had just told him. The young man shot him a look that would kill, if Kaji wasn't wearing his bullet-proof vest.

"I'm nothing like my father! I don't use people as tools and throw them away, like he does!"

"No, you don't," Kaji consoled, trying to get Shinji to calm down, "and I didn't mean it that way. From what I've seen of you, you do what you do out of love. You don't want to hurt anyone. I meant in terms of tactical planning, you are more than match for him."

"I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing," Shinji replied sullenly, looking at his hands, not daring to look the older man in the eyes.

"In this case, trying to do what you need to do, I think it's a good thing. And a good plan, but let's make just a few modifications here and there…" Kaji said as he and Shinji continued to talk for just a little while longer. Finally, Kaji had to ask Shinji something that was bothering him just a bit.

"Shinji, I have a question about one part of the plan, though. Do you think that it would be fair to Asuka and the baby?"

"What do you mean, Kaji?" Shinji asked, a bit perplexed, "I would never hurt them."

"Okay," he said, "let's try another tact, would it be fair to you? What if you don't get the answer you want?"

"It doesn't matter. Either way, I'll be there for them," Shinji replied, his jaw set in determination. Kaji just shook his head.

"Somehow, I believe you, Mr. Ikari. You are a much better man than I," Kaji said, "and I salute you!" Shinji blushed.

"I'm just a scared kid that doesn't know what to do to help the lady he loves…" Shinji replied, until what he said just hit him, "Aw crap! Did I just say that out loud?"

"I didn't hear a thing, Mr. Ikari," Kaji said as he slapped Shinji on the back. "I promise you, I'll do everything I can to help you out. However, if you'll excuse me, there is a certain Major I need to go have my way with! Goodnight to you!" Shinji just shook his head and chuckled as the older man stood up and rubbed his hands together in anticipation as he headed off to Misato's room. A second later, a rather loud squeal emanated from the closed door, followed by the sound of crashing furniture. Shinji continued to laugh when he felt someone plop down beside him.

"Perverts," Asuka muttered as she rubbed her temples. She had talked to Hikari for two and a half hours on the phone, and though it was a welcome reprieve from the stress of the last couple of days, it took it's toll.

"Have a nice talk?" Shinji asked pleasantly as she leaned up against him. He thrilled at her touch, especially when it wasn't a slap or a punch. Asuka chuckled a bit.

"Yeah. Thanks," she said as she rested her head on his shoulder, "Thanks for everything, Shinji."

"You're welcome, Asuka," he replied, sighing contently as the two of them sat there for several minutes, just enjoying each other's company. Finally, she got up and stood there in front of him, her hands on her hips.

"You forgot to tell me something, though," she said scowling, looking down on him with those radiant blue eyes. Shinji gulped.

"What did I forget to tell you, Asuka?" he stammered, wondering if she found out about the kiss Hikari planted on his cheek. She reached down and grabbed him by front of his shirt and pulled him up from the sofa to where he was standing just inches from her.

"Actually, you forgot to give me something," she purred as she slid forward and wrapped her arms around his waist. Shinji smiled as wrapped his arms around the woman he cared so much for, remembering what it was he had forgotten to do.

"Well, I didn't feel like getting beaten within an inch of my life," Shinji said as he pulled her close and buried his nose into her hair. She smelled of strawberries.

"Just don't get any ideas, perv," she said mock-seriously. Shinji laughed.

"With you dressed like that, it'll be hard to control myself, but I'll try!"

"What the hell do you mean by that?" she asked as she pulled back to look in his eyes, trying hard not to get lost.

"Like I said before, it doesn't leave much to the imagination," he grinned as peeked down her oversized yellow top, and then looked down at her shapely legs barely covered at all in her extremely short blue shorts. "After all, you're every man's dream!"

"Ach! You pervert! You jerk! I'll get you!" she said as she started to beat the snot out of him with the closest thing she could find, which happened to be a cushion from the sofa. Shinji was laughing hysterically as she continued to pound him with the not-so-serious weapon. He let go of the furious German and leapt over the sofa and started to run back to his room, laughing all the way.

"Shinji Ikari! Get your ass back here!" she yelled as she chased him across the room, just as he reached his doorway, "You coward!"

"He who fights and runs away…" was all he said before the cushion caught him squarely in the face, causing him to fall backwards as he closed his door. Maniacal laughter was heard coming from behind his door as the redhead stood there, breathing heavily, before she too, started giggling like crazy. She shook her head and walked back into her own room and slid the door closed. Unknown to the teenagers, three pairs of eyes watched them from behind Misato's door, jaws dropped in wonder.

"What the hell was that?" Misato said, stunned at the behavior of her charges.

"Warrk!" Pen-Pen agreed with his owner.

"Foreplay," Kaji replied as he reached over and pinched Misato's shapely butt, causing her to squeal a bit.

"Warrk!" Pen-Pen said in surprise as a foot connected to his butt and booted him out of the room. The door quickly closed behind him.

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It was a few hours later when Shinji felt a warm body crawl into bed beside him and snuggle up, sniffling. He put his arm around her as she put her head on his chest. Asuka held him as tightly as she could, as the terrors of the dark had come back to attack her. Shinji was her lifeline now, and she wasn't afraid to admit it.

"I'm sorry if I'm bugging you," she sniffed, fresh tears trying to force their way out of the corners of her eyes.

"You're not bugging me, Asuka. You're always welcome," Shinji replied as he felt some of the tension in her melt away, "That didn't come out quite right," he added, causing her to snort just a little, as more tension bled away.

"Thank you for earlier," she said, "I really needed that."

"I know," he replied as he stroked her hair, making her coo just a bit. "God, I love it when she does that ," he thought, then felt guilty about it. "You're welcome."

"I...I had that dream again," she said after a few minutes.

"The one you were telling us you were having before all this happened?" he asked as he felt her nod her head.

"Yeah, that one," she answered, shivering somewhat. Shinji held her tighter.

"Want to talk about it?" he asked as he stroked her hair again.

"You…you'll think badly of me," she replied, starting to sniffle again. Shinji was quick to reassure her.

"I could never think badly of you, I promise," he said.

"Promise?"

"Promise."

Asuka told him of how the dream always took place after a party of some sort. The guy in her dream treated her so good, and made her feel better than she ever had before. The dream got graphic after that, and she told Shinji how she had always thrown herself at the guy in her dream, acting like such a slut. But whenever she tried to see his face, she'd always wake up all hot and bothered. It used to be such a pleasant dream for her, until this happened. Now she wondered if really was a dream, and why she couldn't see the guy's face.

"Shinji, are you okay?" she asked as she felt his breathing increasing, his chest heaving almost violently.

"Yeah, I'm fine, Asuka," he lied as he tried to keep his voice from cracking, tears streaming out of the corners of his eyes.

"Don't lie to me, Shinji. What's wrong?" she asked once more as she propped herself up on an elbow and stroked his face and came away with wet fingers. "Tears?"

"I…I can't tell you Asuka, because you'll end up hating me. You probably do any, seeing how weak I am." he continued, as his voice betrayed him and cracked. "It's stupid and it's selfish! I don't want to be any of that, I just want to be here for you!"

"Tell me, please?" she pleaded, fearing she was about to lose him.

"I'm sorry," he said, knowing that he could never resist her, and knowing too that he was about to lose her, " but I always dreamed, deep down and secretly, to where I couldn't even think about it when I was awake, that…that I would be the father of your children! I am so fucked up. You probably hate me now more than you ever did before."

Asuka was shocked, totally and completely. Here was a great guy that she had treated like shit since they had met, and he had dreamed he would father her children? What the hell kind of man was he? He cared for her enough that ,even though his dream was shattered, he wanted to still be with her and take care of her and her baby? She didn't deserve to be with him, but she wanted to be with him so much that it hurt at times. What the hell has happened to her? What the hell has happened to him?

"I don't hate you, Shinji, and I never have," she said, "that was just my fear talking before. You really are a very special man, Shinji Ikari." She could feel him blush.

"I couldn't protect you, so that you'd never have to go through this," he cried, feeling more like a failure now than he ever had before in his life. The stress of the past few days had caught up with him as well. " I suck!"

"Hush now," she said firmly, but lovingly, "I'm not going to let my baby's father talk about himself that way. Do you understand?" She felt him calm down almost instantly.

"Do you mean it?" he asked softly. "You still want me around?"

"Yes, you idiot," she replied as she gently beat him on the chest, "you promised that you would never leave me, and I'm not going to let you chase yourself off . Now, let's get to sleep, your daughter needs her rest." With that, she snuggled back into his chest and quickly went to sleep. Her words made Shinji feel happier than anytime before in his short life. Slowly, he fell asleep, with a smile on his face.

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The next several weeks flew by quickly, usually following the same routine as the first two days. The biggest difference was Asuka was now going back to school, with Shinji and Hikari watching after her. There were many people in school that really didn't like Asuka's attitude before, and now that she seemed to calm down quite a bit, they went out of their way to egg her on, or be cruel. It didn't help much that she had been excused from Physical Education classes, which drove several of the girls crazy. They went out of their way to be especially cruel to her. It didn't help much that her hormones decided it was time to go completely out of whack. No matter how hard she fought it, the slightest thing would set off a torrent of tears.

"This sucks!" she screamed as Hikari did her best to comfort her friend one day, glaring daggers into the girl that set off the tears, who stood there smugly with her arms crossed and completely pleased with herself. This girl was mad at Asuka because Asuka was Shinji's roommate, and Shinji was spending way too much time with her and not noticing the other girls, like the offender. She turned to walk away and came face to face with the object of her desires.

"Oh, Hi Shinji! How are you doing today?" she said sweetly as she batted her eyelashes at him, "Say , do you wanna go catch a movie Saturday night? I'll make it a night you'll never forget."

"What did you say to Asuka, Kiki?" Shinji inquired, as his blue eyes locked onto her brown ones and staring into her soul deeper than any laser could ever burn.

"Who? Her?," she made a derisive noise at the mention of Asuka, who continued to bawl in the corner of the hall. " I just told her what a tramp she really was for taking up all your time and such! The nerve of that little bitch, thinking she owned you or something!"

"Listen to me and listen good, Kiki," Shinji said in his deadliest voice, "You are one of the sorriest excuses for a human being I've ever met, and you are never to speak to Asuka or myself ever again! Is that understood?"

"What?! How can you defend that little tramp!" Kiki shot back with tears in her eyes, "You're supposed to like me! Not her! That little bitch has been cheating on you, Shinji! Hoju says he's been dicking her every night for a month now! How can you trust that slut?!"

"Leave. Now." was his reply, as the girl started bawling her eyes out and running down the hall. Shinji walked over to Asuka and wrapped his arms around her, which calmed her greatly. He held her for a minute or so before he took her by the hand and lead her back to class. This didn't go unnoticed by Shinji's two friends, who thought it best not to say anything to him just yet.

Lunch was when all Hell truly broke loose. Asuka was in the hallway waiting for Shinji when a hand clasped on her shoulder roughly. Before she could turn around, a deep voice called out to her.

"Hey Soryu! Where's your boyfriend, Ikari? Does he know that you're carrying my bastard?" the voice barked as several other voices joined him in a laugh.

"Oh mein Gott! They know! Is…is he the one who…" she thought furiously as she went deathly white before the hand suddenly vanished from her shoulder in what felt like a whirlwind. Turning around, a shocking sight greeted her.

Hoju, the biggest boy in the senior class, was pinned to the wall by Shinji. One of Shinji's hands held the wrist of the offending hand, which now hung at a strange angle and was turning blue. The other hand was wrapped around Hoju's throat and holding the boy off the ground, so only the tips of his toes were touching the floor. Hoju was making strange gurgling noises as he tried his best to remove Shinji's hand from his windpipe with his free hand, and having very little success. Shinji just grinned in a very feral fashion.

"Hello, Hoju," Shinji said, every word dripping with malice, "how's it hanging?"

"Urk…" was all Hoju said. No surprising, since Shinji was closing off his windpipe.

"Not much to say? You seemed to have had plenty to say earlier. What was that you were telling everyone in school?" Shinji asked as he released some of the pressure from Hoju's windpipe, just enough to let him talk a bit.

"Been…dicking…your…girl…month…" he got out before the vise-like grip tightened once more. His eyes looked pleadingly to the folks behind Shinji, waiting for something to happen.

"Looking for backup? Nice bunch of friends you have, Hoju. They're afraid of a few sophomores?" Shinji said, which startled Asuka. Looking behind Shinji, she saw Touji, Kensuke, Rei, and Hikari standing there between Shinji and three other seniors who balked at the look in everyone's eyes.

"We gotcha back, Shinji, just do what you need to do," Touji called back behind him. Even Hikari was in agreement there, which truly surprised Asuka. And Rei looked ready to tear someone's head off if anyone took a step closer to her brother.

"Hmm, four seniors versus four EVA pilots. Who do you think would win, Hoju?" Shinji said as he released Hoju's broken arm and cocked his fist, ready to plant it squarely in the senior's face. Before he could let the punch fly, a pair of hands gently encased his fist.

"It's okay, Shinji, let him go. He's not worth it. Please, baby?" Asuka pleaded with him, which immediately calmed the fire within his belly. He could never deny her. Releasing his grip, the senior slid to the floor at Shinji and Asuka's feet.

"As you wish," he replied as he stared at the pile of human garbage at his feet. "It's your lucky day, Hoju. You're getting off easy. Now apologize and you might get to walk away from this."

After Hoju knelt and profusely apologized for being such a total ass, his buddies helped him up and took him to the nurse. Hikari had already reported the incident to the school officials as a case of self-defense and coming to the aid of another. Hoju and his friends were immediately suspended from the school.

Walking to the tree where they always ate lunch, the six classmates stood around, not a one trying to eat until they got some things straightened out.

"Damn, Shinji! What the hell is going on? What has been up with you lately?" Touji asked as he stood in front of his friend, trying to pry answers from him. "You snap at girls and you put seniors in the hospital! What gives?"

"I can't tell you," Shinji said with regret, " I swore to someone special I wouldn't tell."

"Damn dude! That sucks! We could have been suspended! We could have gotten hurt! What the hell could be so important…" Touji ranted before hitting a brick wall named Asuka Soryu.

"I'm pregnant," she said softly as she sat in the grass, tears once more streaking her face as Shinji and Hikari knelt down beside her to comfort her. Three other bodies promptly hit the ground, almost as fast as their jaws did.

"Is this true, Shinji?" Rei asked as she crawled over to look him in the eye, never once blinking. Shinji looked her squarely in the eye and replied.

"Yes, it's true."

"Damn, Shinji! You and Asuka are having a kid, and you never even told us you were dating or anything! I thought we were your friends," Kensuke complained, sounding just a little hurt at his friend keeping secrets.

"Shinji's not the father," Asuka hiccupped, trying to stop the flow of tears, " Damn hormones!" Once more, jaws dropped.

"Uh, then who is?" Rei asked, actually blinking in confusion. Her eyes pleaded for answers from her brother.

"We don't know, Rei," he told his sister honestly, "but I plan on being there as a father to this baby." Touji and Kensuke's eyes widened with shock, but Rei crawled over to Asuka and sat beside her.

"Asuka? What…is it like? Having a …child…inside you?" Rei asked, honestly wanting to know. There was something primal and pleading in her voice. Asuka found herself wanting to answer, but Shinji cut everyone off.

"Look, guys, this has to stay our secret! We can't have everyone in school knowing about this. Some people are already giving Asuka hell, it would just get worse if they found out the truth. So please don't tell anyone! That includes websites, emails, text messages, anonymous phone calls, letters to the editor, letters to anyone, banners or signs of any kind, video messages, recorded messages, scrolling marquees, notes in a bottle or even carrier pigeons! Nothing! Got it, Kensuke?" Shinji said as he paused to gather his breath from the long line of items he just rambled off, hoping that he hadn't skipped anything. He knew his friend too well, or so he thought.

"I understand, Shinji," Kensuke said, looking a little hurt, "Don't tell anyone. I may be a jerk, but I'm not heartless…" Thus the secret of Two, which became the conspiracy of Three, now became a fellowship of Six.

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The rest of the day passed somewhat normally, as the teenagers continued to tease one another and hurl verbal barbs, all in good fun. It wasn't until after they got home and had dinner before tension began to fill the air. Asuka could sense it, but the emotional stress of the day had taken it's toll. Excusing herself, she went to her room and tried to go to sleep. Unfortunately, her mind was in such turmoil that sleep wouldn't come. Laying there on her bed, she was able to hear Shinji and Misato talking in rather loud voices. Not quite shouting, but not normal tones, either.

"Just what the hell do you think you were doing, Shinji! That Hoju boy ended up in the hospital with a broken arm!" Misato fussed. Asuka got up and slid her door open just a bit so as to peek and see what was going on. Shinji's reaction to Hoju had frightened her some, which was why she was so glad he calmed down when she asked him to. She had never seen him so intense before.

"That doesn't matter, Misato! I was protecting Asuka! He grabbed her and…" Shinji stopped before he could tell Misato the rest.

"And what?!" she said exasperatedly. This was driving her nuts.

"Misato," Shinji sighed, "we need to get a DNA test on Hoju and run it against the baby's DNA when we finally get a sample." Asuka and Misato's jaws both dropped.

"You don't think that…?" Misato gasped.

"No, not really," Shinji replied, which caused Asuka untold relief, "but some of the things he said struck a little too close to home. We just need to make sure."

"Okay, Shinji. If you think that's what's best."

"No, I don't! But whomever hurt Asuka needs to pay! I aim to see that happen! They will not be allowed to harm her again!" he snapped, then softened his tone. "I'm sorry, Misato."

"Understandable, kiddo. She really means that much to you?" she asked, knowing the answer. Asuka waited for the answer as well. She knew what he had told her, but she wanted, no she needed confirmation.

"More than I can possibly say. She always has, and even if she decides to reject me, I always will." Shinji smiled warmly as he thought of that conversation weeks ago.

"What are you smiling about?" Misato teased as she saw the expression on his face.

"Just something she told me a while back, which I probably shouldn't tell you," all he got from that was a look of more promised teasing, " Oh well! She called me the baby's father. You can't have any idea how good that makes me feel!" A small tear tried to force it's way out of the corner of Misato's eye

"I have a pretty good idea, seeing how happy you look whenever you two are together. By the way, I was talking to Kaji the other day and he mentioned a few things…"

"Uh oh," he thought, "Oh, talking, that's what you two call it! I'm sure that's not what the medical journals call it…OWW!" he yelped as Misato smacked him on the back of the head, good naturedly.

"Now, now, no need to be rude," she said as he rubbed his sore head, " Kaji was telling about some interesting plans you have made. Care to fill me in?"

"Hmm, he must not be able to deny you, like I cannot deny Asuka," said Shinji, as the mentioned young girl heard this and filled it away for future reference, " Let's just say that it concerns looking after my family, all of my family: Asuka, the baby, you , and Rei."

"Warrk!" came an indignant call from the kitchen.

"Yes, you too, Pen-Pen. Can't forget you either!" the young man called back. Misato just stood there stunned, before retreating to the sofa. Shinji followed and took a seat close to her, as Asuka cracked the door open a bit more to hear.

"You consider all of us your family?" was her shocked reply. "Shinji, you don't need to look after me, I am a grown woman, after all. And you, you're just a …"

"What, Misato? Just a kid? Just a boy? I haven't been one of those for a long time now. I'm just a guy who wants to take care of his loved ones. Yes, you included!" he said as Misato leaned against him and put her head on his shoulder and sighed.

"Are you going to do what Kaji told me?" she asked, hoping that she wouldn't be disappointed.

"Yes, if she'll have me," this caused Asuka's heat rate to sky rocket as Shinji said the words.

"What does that mean?" she wondered nervously, her mind refusing to make the connection.

"… and if she doesn't, it won't matter. I promised to never leave, and I mean it!" Asuka's heart soared at this. What he had told her was true!

"Shinji," Misato said softly as her heart burst with pride, as he was contemplating something many grown men would refuse to even think about, "You really are a special guy! Asuka is so lucky!" Shinji blushed.

"No, if she was lucky, then this mess would have never happened and she wouldn't be in such pain." he said sadly before continuing, "Misato, I'll need you to call the school in the morning and tell them I'm not coming in. Hikari, Kensuke, and Rei will look after Asuka tomorrow. I have some…business…to attend to. I should be back before school let's out. I'll have something ready for you and Pen-Pen when you come in."

"Rei and Kensuke know?" Misato gasped, both at the news and how much like his father Shinji sounded. Not in a heartless way, just focused.

"Touji, too. We told them today after they backed me up in school. They deserved that much."

"I understand. Good luck tomorrow." the violet haired woman said as she got up and made her way to her room. "Don't stay up too late, okay?"

"Gotcha, Misato. Sweet dreams!"

"You, too!" she replied as she closed her door, leaving Shinji in the room with his thoughts. Tomorrow, all of their lives would change, hopefully for the better. It was taking every bit of his courage just to face what he had planned for the next day, but he would not falter. Slowly he got up and made his way to bed.

It wasn't more than five minutes after he hit the sheets before a familiar shape plopped in bed beside him and snuggled up to him. His smile could have lit up all of Tokyo-3 for a year. There hadn't been a night since Asuka found out she was pregnant that she hadn't sought comfort in Shinji's bed, but it was usually in the middle of the night, never so early in the evening.

"What could this mean?" he asked himself, then felt ashamed at the selfish feeling that washed over him. "Evening, m'lady!"

"M'lady, hmmm? Does that make you my knight in shining armour, now?" she cooed as she propped up on one elbow, looking at his face in the dim light. She had never realized how cute he was when they first met, and now he was growing into a very handsome man.

"Purple and green, actually," Shinji chuckled, drawing a laugh from the woman who owned his heart. "Damn! Does she know how much cooing drives me wild?"

"So, what were you and Misato talking about? The tension this evening was thicker than a loaf of pumpernickel. I know you two talked after I went to bed." she said as she stroked his chest.

"Oh, just about stuff. She chewed me out for hurting Hoju today and such," he replied, not wanting to let her know too much of what was about to happen.

"Come on, I know it was more than that!" she purred in his ear "I know you can't deny me, you told Misato so,"

"Sneak," he said as he tried to gather his thoughts. Unfortunately, with Asuka being so close and working her magic, it was very…difficult…to concentrate on anything but her touch and closeness. He knew she was counting on that. "Not fair!"

"I never said life was fair," she continued to purr.

"I'm going to go talk to someone tomorrow, to see what I can to help secure our baby's future, and yours as well."

"Do you really consider all of us your family? Rei included?" she asked, a little timidly.

"Yes, Asuka, I do. Misato is like a mother to both of us, and Rei is my sister. You and the baby, well, you both occupy a very special place in my heart." he replied. He could feel warmth coming from the lady laying next to him.

"Do you really think Hoju…?" she whispered quietly, her voice shaky.

"No, I don't. I don't think he came to the party, but it's best to rule him out," he said softly.

"And…if he is?" she was almost crying now. Shinji reached over and caressed her face, calming her greatly.

"It doesn't matter," he said, "he'll never touch you again, and he'll never know the baby. As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't exist. I care for you and the little one, Asuka. That will never change."

"Shinji?" she asked a few minutes later, after she calmed down. "I have to know," she thought desperately.

"Yes, hon?" he replied absentmindedly, not realizing what he just said.

"Since when do you call me 'hon'? " Asuka said teasingly, knowing he had let something slip. Score one for Asuka.

"Since when do you call me 'baby'?" he asked, which drew a gasp from her.

"I never called…oh, wait…I did, didn't I?" she replied sheepishly, recalling the fight at school. She giggled a bit. He joined her.

"Yes, you did. And thank you," he said from the bottom of his heart.

"How do you really feel about me?" she asked, looking at his face once, "Please tell me?" She wasn't sure if she looked forward to his answer or not.

"Asuka," he said, letting out a long sigh, knowing this was the time, "I love you. I always have, and I always will."

"Really?!" she squeaked, not trusting her ears. It was too much to hope for.

"Yes, really," he said with a smile, grateful that she hadn't pulled away from him and bolted into her own room. What happened next shocked him beyond words, beyond thought. Asuka gently kissed him, this time a real kiss, without a nose pinch. Her lips were intoxicating, and he felt himself melt into the bed. All too soon, it was over and she lay next to him once more.

"When you told Misato 'if she'll have me', what did you mean?" Asuka wondered, needing to know the answer to that question. She still hadn't made the connection.

"I promise, I'll tell you tomorrow, Asuka. I have to get a few things straightened out tomorrow, then I promise I'll tell you everything. Okay?" he said, trying to dodge the question, and let her get some rest.

"Please?" she said in her most pleading voice.

"Hush," it was now his turn to say it, " you and our little one need to rest . You have school tomorrow." A few minutes later, he felt the relaxed breathing of the fiery redhead as she slept peacefully on his chest.

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The next day, Shinji stood before NERV headquarters, waiting for his backup to arrive. He paced nervously, for even though he was firm in his resolve, years of avoiding conflict had instilled the 'flight' part of the 'fight-or-flight' mechanism deep within his psyche. It was difficult, but Shinji would stand his ground. This was for Asuka.

"Looking sharp, Mr. Ikari. I see that you took my advise," his backup called out as he approached.

"Thanks, Kaji" was Shinji's reply as he looked down at what he was wearing. His clothing was almost entirely black, as Kaji had told him to dress as intimidating as he could, as if for battle. His new black suit was perfectly tailored to give him the most imposing look possible. His jacket was unbuttoned, revealing the black silk shirt beneath. Black leather driving gloves covered his hands like a second skin and his black boots held the perfect spit shine. The only trace of color anywhere was the blood red silk tie that hung from Shinji's neck, and knotted perfectly. Kaji was astounded at the look Shinji had, a younger version of his father. Same intensity of the eyes, different drive. The statement was almost complete.

"Nice touch," Kaji said as pointed to the tie. Shinji blushed a bit at the complement. Kaji held out a small box for Shinji to open. "Here's the finishing touch!"

"Whoa," Shinji replied as he opened the box, and pulled out a pair of red tinted glasses with wire rims and round lenses. He put them on, worrying whether he would be able to see out of them properly, but was surprised when he discovered they seemed to make things a little more sharp. "Thanks."

"And now the image is complete," Kaji said as he patted Shinji on the shoulder. "The eyes are the window to the soul, and a master tactician never allows any opening to be revealed. Ready?"

"Is everything in order?" Shinji asked in a controlled way that made Kaji shiver. "Too much like Gendo" he thought.

"Yes sir, Mr. Ikari! All is in readiness and everything is set. Here is the documentation you requested," Kaji said as he passed a thick envelope to Shinji, who flashed him a smile in thanks.

"Shall we proceed then?" Shinji said as he slid the envelope into his jacket pocket and turned. He and Kaji proceeded to enter NERV HQ.

The reactions Shinji received when he traveled through headquarters was the exact one he wished to achieve. Jaws dropped, people stared, and crowds parted before him. He never noticed, as his focus was directed toward the office that was his end destination.

Misato looked up from her desk, wondering for the hundredth time why in hell so much paperwork was require to be filled out when there hadn't been an Angel attack in months, when something strange caught her eye. Jumping up quickly, she rushed to the door to just in time to see a very different Shinji marching down the hall.

"Shinji?" she called out as the young man stopped and turned to greet her.

"Good morning, Major," Shinji replied in a cool, controlled voice which startled the hell out of Misato, "Is your day going well?"

"Uh, yeah, it is. But, what are…" she asked as Kaji caught up with her and lead her into her office.

"Not now, Misato, this is something Shinji must do," he whispered to her as she stared at her charge as he walked back down the hallway toward an office that most people in NERV avoided like the plague.

"Commander?" the secretary called out over the intercom, "You…you have a visitor." Gendo Ikari growled at the intrusion, which drew a small chuckle from Fuyutsuki.

"Tell them to go away," he snarled as he and Fuyutsuki turned back to the plans they had been making.

"Sir, he refuses. It's your son…" the secretary called back again. Gendo sighed with irritation. Fuyutsuki raised an eyebrow in surprise.

"Send him in, and clean out your desk. I will not tolerate failure to follow my instructions," Gendo replied as he grinned viciously at the startled cry that came from the intercom. The door opened and Gendo listened to the footsteps steadily making their way across the room. There was no hesitation in the stride, which surprised Gendo. He looked up at Fuyutsuki's face, but his old sensei's expression was unreadable.

"What is it?" Gendo said dismissively, not even bothering to turn to face his son.

"Father," a cold, controlled voice called back, freezing Gendo on the spot, " was that truly necessary?" Gendo spun around slowly.

He came face to face with a younger version of himself. Shinji stood like a wraith before his father's desk, blending into the shadows perfectly, with the exception of his face, glasses and tie. For the first time in a long while, Gendo felt a shiver run down his spine. Shinji's face was unreadable, and the light reflected eerily off the blood red glasses. Shinji's manner was completely foreign.

"I will not tolerate failure, as well you know."

"Then how do you tolerate yourself?" Shinji replied, causing Gendo to pause and Fuyutsuki's jaw to drop. No one ever spoke to the Commander that way. "I refused to leave, she was not to blame."

"A man must take responsibility for his own actions," Gendo replied, making no sign that he had even heard Shinji's insult..

"Indeed, and so I shall," came the cold reply, shocking the two older men somewhat. This was definitely not the Shinji either of them knew. "Let me come to point."

"Please do, my time is not to be wasted," the elder Ikari said smugly. Shinji smiled coldly.

"I have come to discuss the Second Child." Shinji said, as if it was the most obvious thing, and only an idiot would miss it.

"Of course. You are transparent, you know," Gendo said, smiling. Section 2's reports were accurate after all. He had doubted Shinji would act the way they had reported.

"No more so than you," Shinji shot back, causing Gendo to drop the smile. "I have need to know what you plan to do with Miss Soryu. She is in no condition to tolerate the stress of uncertainty. Her future must be assured." Fuyutsuki's eyes shot open wide as saucers. Gendo just sat there.

"I have yet to decide her fate, Pilot Ikari. I fail to see how that concerns to you. After you're little escapade in the medical wing, it should be your fate that you should worry about. "

"Ah, I see," Shinji said as he pushed his glasses up his face exactly like Gendo. "It does concern you, and everyone else, Father."

"How so? What is to keep me from shipping her off to Germany, broken and destitute?" his father asked, not used to being questioned by a subordinate.

"I am," the young pilot replied, "if you wish for me to pilot Unit One ever again.

"What?!" his father barked, standing up behind the desk. "What makes you think we need you to pilot Unit One? We can use any pilot, or the Dummy Plug System! I should ship you away, as before. We have no need for you."

"You lie poorly, Father," Shinji said calmly as he produced the envelope from his jacket and pulled several document from it and threw them on Gendo's desk. "As you well know, Unit One will not accept another pilot. Nor will she accept the Dummy Plug System. I, and only I, can pilot Unit One. She will reject everything else."

"She?" Gendo asked blankly, praying that Shinji hadn't discovered the secret of his EVA's power.

"Mother." he said simply, causing Gendo to blanch.

"How? How did you know?" Gendo asked with genuine interest. He looked at the documents on the desk. Fuyutsuki went deathly pale. "Yui."

"You're not going to find it in any document there, Father. You did too good of a job purging all files. You, however, cannot purge her. She tells me, every time I sync with Unit One. I even know the secret of how she became one with the EVA." Shinji added with a sinister smile. "Doctor Akagi's mother was an …interesting…woman, to say the least. Evil, to say the most. I can see the experiment in my mind every time I climb into that entry plug, I can see how the previous Doctor Akagi purposely set the controls to keep mother from escaping, to cause her death. Do you think that Project E's top scientist couldn't spot sabotage to the systems she carefully crafted, right down to the fail-safes that didn't kick in. That was an inside job, and she knew it."

Gendo plopped into his seat, deflated. He had always suspected it, but Doctor Akagi had covered her tracks very well. No proof existed. Shinji had him over a barrel, because without Unit One, any plans for the future he would create would vanish like the morning dew in the heat of day.

"What do you want, Shinji?" Gendo asked, causing Shinji's heart to skip, but showing no outward sign of it.

"First off," Shinji stated as he read off the list he had memorized over the past two weeks, "Asuka and baby are to stay here in Japan, under mine and Major Katsuragi's care, and no harm is to come to either one of them. This is paramount."

"Understood," Gendo replied, his hands propped up on the desk and hiding the lower part of his face.

"Next, she is to be taken off the current combat rolls and put on indefinite paid leave until such time as I and her doctors see fit to release her," Shinji stated firmly, This was not up for discussion, as far as he was concerned.

"What if we need Unit Two to battle the Angels?" Fuyutsuki asked, wondering if the young pilot had thought that far in advance. Gendo nodded in agreement.

"Indeed. We cannot leave ourselves defenseless due to some child's whim," Gendo added, trying to get a reaction from Shinji. He got one.

"That problem has been solved," Shinji said as he held up a small device and clicked a button. The doors opened once more as another figure walked into the room and stood beside Shinji.

"Pilot Suzahara reporting in for duty, Commander," Touji said as he snapped to attention before Gendo and Fuyutsuki. Both men were taken aback.

"With the modifications specified in this file made to Unit Two and the Dummy Plug System, Pilot Suzahara will have no trouble piloting the EVA. His injuries have healed nicely and he is ready to do his part." Shinji said as he placed the file before the Commander. "A copy of this has been given to Lt. Ibuki for implementation."

"Anything else?" Gendo asked, know this wasn't the end.

"Indeed. Major Katsuragi, Pilot Soryu, and I have need of larger living accommodations, seeing how a new member of the family is on it's way," Shinji saw Gendo flinch at the word 'family', "We also have need in a large increase in our allowances and pay. I also request that my sister is to removed from the horrid conditions in which she currently resides and have her moved next to us."

"And?" the elder Ikari wondered.

"Pilot Soryu is to be escorted to and from her prenatal checkups at the hospital. Doctor Akagi and her staff are not to come close to Pilot Soryu unless it is a life threatening emergency. Also, Major Katsuragi is to be assigned an assistant to help her in her duties as Operations Director, and given a larger office. I have someone in mind for her assistant."

"Understood."

"We also need to start a search for the father of the child. I suggest DNA testing and comparison with a sample that shall be provided by the doctor in the future. The father is to have nothing to do with the child, and punished appropriately for his transgressions. This needs to start immediately. I suggest starting with every male who attended Major Katsuragi's party, as well as all males currently going to school with myself and Pilot Soryu."

"Agreed," the older men said in unison. They could not believe the change that overcome Shinji.

"Thank you, gentlemen. By your leave," he bowed as he and Touji turned to leave. They got about three steps before Commander Ikari called back out.

"Do you need a ride back home, Shinji? I heard that you have sold you motorcycle." Shinji stopped in his tracks, as Touji's jaw hit the floor.

"Dude? Your bike?" Touji stammered as Shinji waved him quiet.

"That would be appreciated, Father," Shinji replied, not knowing what to make of his father's sudden interest. "Thank you."

"Why did you sell your bike, Shinji?" Fuyutsuki asked gently. He had always had a soft spot in his heart for Yui's son.

"Expenses, sir. Unexpected expenses." was the reply.

"Was it expensive?" the older man asked. Shinji stiffened at the question. Touji was completely clueless.

"Not unduly so, sir," he answered, recovering somewhat. Never show weakness, Kaji had told him.

"Do you love her?" his father asked, shaking Shinji to the core, but not showing any outward sign of such, merely a cocking of an eyebrow.

"Yes," Shinji replied with conviction, as if that was the dumbest question in the world. Touji looked like he was ready to hit the floor. Before he could turn to leave, his father spoke once more.

"I have met your requests, now you will meet one of mine."

"Aw crap," he thought, "here it comes…"

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"Commander on the Deck!" Fuyutsuki called out as everyone stood. Gendo strode out onto the command dais and turned to face the assemble crew.

"As many of you may know, there is a current crisis concerning the Second Child," the elder Ikari stated, "effective immediately, all male NERV personnel will submit to mandatory DNA testing to determine the perpetrator of this crisis. Any and all personnel refusing to be tested will be terminated and subject to criminal investigation and or prosecution. Medical personnel will be around shortly to collect the samples. This is NOT optional!"

There was a general mood of discontent at the commander's announcement, not wanting to believe that they were suspects in harming the Second Child. Some were outright hostile to the idea. Aoba was the most vocal.

"What the hell is this, Commander? Who the hell came up with this Machiavellian dictate? I find it extremely offensive that we are accused of a crime without proof!" Aoba shout toward the dais, not caring what either of the older men thought.

"The idea was mine," a controlled voice replied from behind the Commander, " Is that an admission of guilt, Lt. Aoba?"

"Who the hell is that?" Aoba barked. The voice sounded somewhat familiar.

"The new Commander of Combat Groups, Captain Ikari," Fuyutsuki announced as Shinji stepped from behind the two men, brand new captain's bars pinned to the lapel of his jacket. "Captain Ikari will be in command anytime the operations director, Major Katsuragi, is indisposed. His main purpose is to command the operational combat groups in the field. If the Major isn't here, you will report to the Captain."

"Do you have a problem with this, Lt. Aoba?" Shinji asked, sounding too much like his father for anyone's taste. "If not, I suggest you volunteer to be the first one to be tested to prove your innocence."

"Uh, yes sir," Aoba replied as the medical teams entered the bridge and started to do their job. Gendo and Fuyutsuki glanced at one another as Shinji stepped forward, hands clasped behind his back.

"Sleeper, indeed," the elder Ikari thought as a small smile etched itself on his face, as he watched Shinji observe the medical staff collect their samples. Many of the medical staff on the floor would glance toward Shinji and shiver as the cold stare he gave them spurred them on their way.

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Misato Katsuragi was beside herself. One moment she was working on some paperwork as she was speaking to Kaji. Next, an army of NERV personnel descended on her office and began to gather up files, boxes, reports, and such. She just stood, shocked, before she was able to find her voice once more.

"Kaji, what's happening here?" she blurted out, as drones continued to see to there tasks, oblivious to her outburst. Commander Ikari had given them their orders, and they were definitely going to carry them out.

"You're asking me, doll?" Kaji replied as he scooted out of the way of a swiftly moving drone. "I'm just as much in the dark as you."

"Bullshit," Misato snorted, knowing the man was up to something.

"However, I wonder if this has to do with…" he started.

"Knock, knock," a familiar voice called out, as Shinji walked in and took a seat on the other side of the desk from Misato. Kaji threw him a mock salute, which Shinji returned before stripping off the gloves and glasses. "I hope to God to never have to do that again!" He blew out a long, relaxing breath.

"I take it the meeting went well?" Kaji grinned as Shinji couldn't hide the pleasure on his face.

"Can't you tell?" he gestured at the slowly thinning crowd. "They should have your new office ready in an hour or so, Misato."

"New office?," she asked suspiciously, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow. Kaji reached over and pinched her butt, breaking the serious pose. Shinji snickered.

"Yep! New office, and this to go with it," he added as he tossed a set of car keys to Misato. "Company car. The Commander said something about 'reliable transportation', and 'death trap'"

"Guess you expect to drive my old one, then?" she teased, getting ready to toss Shinji her own set.

"Uh, actually, it's a matching set," he replied as he produced his own set, enjoying the shocked looks on both of their faces.

"Just how the hell did you manage that?" Misato gasped. She had been trying to get The Old Man to cough one up for years, and now there were two.

"He claimed it was 'to help look secure the welfare of the pilots and the unborn child.' Something to do with your driving, I think." Shinji said with a wide teasing grin on his face. Kaji smirked as Misato fumed. She hated being teased. "But seriously…"

About that time, a new drone arrived and removed the board on the desk stating 'Director of Operations' and replaced it with one stating 'Commander, Combat Groups'. Shinji's eyes widened somewhat as he saw that. He hadn't expected an office, to go with the rest. Misato snatched it up and scowled fiercely. Kaji took a step back.

"Who the hell is that? What in the world is going on here?" she yelled, quite flustered. It was then that Kaji noticed Shinji's lapel, and opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off.

"Captain Ikari!" a young female voice rang out down the hallway. Shinji stood up just in time to be caught up in a huge hug by a small, dark haired girl, looking little older than Shinji himself

"Captain Ikari?!" Misato yelped, utterly stunned.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!" the girl squealed as Shinji did his best to extract himself from the hug before he would pass out.

"Welcome…Mariko…can't…breath…" he gasped as the young NERV tech relaxed her grip, blushing severely.

"Crap! It looks like Asuka's got some competition. Damn, she's cute, too!" Misato thought as she sized up the newcomer. "Aren't you Commander Ikari's secretary?"

"Yes ma'am, but he was going to fire me, until Captain Ikari put in a good word for me! This means so much to me and my little brother. This job is the only way we can pay the bills!"

"Ah! Shinji the hero to the rescue!" Kaji teased, causing Shinji to blush. "Amazing! After facing down his father, he can still blush!"

"Uh, it was my fault she was terminated. I was able to get my father to reassign her as someone's assistant."

"She wouldn't happen to be yours?" Kaji asked, amused and just a little concerned. The girl was cute and looking to Shinji with such gratitude. She wasn't much older than he was.

"Nope, actually she's now hers," Shinji replied with a grin as Misato's jaw dropped again. "It is such a treat to find the Major speechless, for once," he mused. "Misato, this is Technician Third Class Mariko Toranaga. Mariko, this is Major Misato Katsuragi, Director of Operations."

"Pleased to meet you, Mariko, " Misato said as she shook the young woman's hand. Mariko just beamed.

"You too, Major! The Captain told me all about you when he briefed me on my new assignment," Mariko gushed. Misato cocked an eyebrow toward Shinji, who just shrugged.

"Have you eaten yet, Mariko?" Misato asked as the young girl nodded her head. "Okay! Well, if you wouldn't mind, could you find my new office and start setting everything up? Come find me in the cafeteria in an hour so you can show me where it is. This was a bit sudden," she said with a sigh.

"Yes ma'am!" the girl chirped and followed the last of the techs, leaving a bare office with no sign of it's previous owner.

"Come on, you two!" Misato said as she grabbed both men by the arm and dragged them out of the office. "We need to talk!"

"What did we do?" they protested in unison, causing Misato to growl and increase her grip on their arms, causing both to wince as they were marched down the hall.

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"Okay, I take it this all has something to do with Shinji's meeting with his father," Misato fumed as she sat her tray down with a clatter, as the two men in her life joined her. "However, the first thing I want to know is: who is this Commander, Combat Groups? Sounds like they're trying to take my job! I've done a good job, damn it! Why should someone come in and try to replace me? Got any ideas, Kaji?"

"Not a one, Major. Perhaps if you ask the Captain…?" the older man replied.

Shinji almost choked on his drink before he could answer, shooting Kaji a dirty look. "Um, well, I mean, uh, I guess that would be me?" he stammered as the older couple sat in shocked silence. Kaji recovered first and congratulated Shinji.

"I know you said you wanted to take of us, Shinji, but taking my job isn't the answer!" she seethed a Kaji put a hand on her shoulder to calm her.

"It's not like that Misato!" Shinji protested, waving his hands in front of him. "You're still my boss! You still have your job…"

"The Commander thought it prudent to put an experienced combat pilot in charge of the active forces during a battle," another voice added as he took his place at their table. All three gaped at Commander Fuyutsuki as he proceeded to partake in lunch. He never ate in the cafeteria before, as far as they knew. "Major Katsuragi is still the operations director, and in over all charge of any and all operations. Captain Ikari's roll is to act as an extra set of eyes on the battlefield, and direct any attacks to any opportunity he may see. He is your backup, Major, your right hand man. Not your replacement."

"Oh," came Misato's reply, a bit shamefaced at jumping to conclusions, again.

"Much to the Captain's credit, he never asked for any rank or position," Fuyutsuki continued, "in fact the only thing he really asked for himself was an increase in his allowance and pay, as well as those of yourself and the other three pilots."

"Three pilots?" came Misato's startled reply. The only other pilot before was…

"Touji volunteered to pilot Unit Two while Asuka's on leave. With modifications to the DPS, he can pilot it with no problems," Shinji added as he munched on a rice ball.

"The Commander asked for one thing in return to answering Shinji's requests: That he take the rank of Captain and assumed the CCG position. He still must go to school, but on Summer vacation, he must come in and work a full shift every weekday. He is to also join you every once in a while to learn necessary procedures and protocols.

He is to be your backup as well. If you are indisposed or incapacitated in any way, the Captain will take command.

"Gendo said if Shinji was ready to assume a man's responsibilities, then he could assume a man's employment. It greatly increased his pay, as well his housing allotment. Between Shinji's, Asuka's and yours, Major, you can move into much larger living quarters, per the Captain's request." Fuyutsuki told Misato, who still hadn't touched her meal yet.

"So, I take it Asuka's staying in Japan, then?" Kaji asked, grinning at his protégé.

"Yes, she is. The Commander and I came to an…understanding," Shinji said with an evil grin. Fuyutsuki chuckled.

"I can tell you this, Shinji. I am very proud at how you handled your father. There are not many people on this planet who can stand up to Gendo Ikari and live to tell the tale, let alone get what they want. Good job, son!" the older man said as he picked up his tray and bid them good day. All three just sat there in silence.

"Uh, Shinji," Misato finally was able to ask, as her appetite slowly came back to her, "what all did you request from the Commander?" Shinji ran off the list of items and why he asked for them. Right then and there, she knew he had grown up. He hadn't asked for anything extraneous or extravagant, only what he needed to support and tend to his family.

"So, why did the Commander really offer you and Misato a car each?" Kaji asked nonchalantly, as he took a sip of his tea. Seeing Shinji sitting there, Kaji had the subconscious desire to straighten and tighten his own tie, so as not to be outdone by the younger man. He fought it though, and as usual, won.

"Yeah, it's not like him to consider the welfare of others, and Fuyutsuki said you didn't ask for it. So, what's up?" Misato was curious.

Cursing under his breath, Shinji took a deep breath. "I sold my bike."

"WHAT?!" Misato screamed , causing others in the cafeteria to look her way. A look from her told everyone else that this was none of their business. Kaji just sat back and smiled. "Are you nuts? Why?"

"Well, this suit wasn't cheap, Misato," Shinji said as he finished off his drink, "and neither were the dinner reservations I made for Asuka and myself."

"Come on, Shinji, spill it!" Kaji urged, guessing what was next. Misato shot him a quizzical look.

"And, uh, this was worth it…" Shinji stammered as he pulled a small object from his pocket and placed it on the table for his two friends to see. Misato's eyes shone with tears as she looked at it, then glanced at Kaji. Kaji looked visibly nervous, like it was a deadly cobra ready to strike.

"Oh, Shinji…"

"There were three parts to my plan. First was securing Asuka and the baby's future. Second was to provide security for our family. The third," Shinji gulped, "is the hardest part of all. To tell the truth, I'm scared shitless. Tonight, one way or another, everything is going to change…"

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Asuka, Rei, and Hikari were talking amongst themselves as they left the school when they saw a crowd of girls surrounding a sleek black car. The driver of the car leaned against the front fender, doing his best to answer their questions. He seemed to be trying to ignore the girls without hurting their feelings. The driver was wearing a black suit with a red tie, which nicely matched the red sunglasses he wore.

"Damn, he looks hot!" Asuka thought to herself, before feeling a little ashamed at the thought. Her heart belonged to Shinji, whether either one of them knew it or not. She saw Hikari whisper something to Rei, as both girls broke into giggles. Asuka realized she was blushing, and she was sure the others had seen it.

"Okay, you two! Just what is so damn funny?" she demanded as the other two kept giggling, infuriating her further.

"But Asuka," Hikari teased, "isn't that guy with the car just so cute?" Rei kept giggling.

"What? Are you nuts? Just because he's got a cool car doesn't make him cute! I bet he's just a big…." Asuka was saying until she faltered. The driver was walking toward them now, much to the dismay of the crowd. His glasses slipped down his nose, and looking over them were the deepest, most adorable set of blue eyes she had ever seen. "Shinji?"

"M'lady, your chariot awaits," he said with a flourish that would have made Kaji proud. Asuka stood there in shock, as the crowd of girls began to depart and give Asuka a wide array of dirty looks. Shinji took Asuka by the hand and lead her to the car.

"What? How? Who's car is that?" she stammered.

"Come, I'll explain on the way," he said as he opened the door for her.

"Asuka, thank you for allowing Shinji to take us home," Rei said from the backseat as Shinji drove through the streets of Tokyo-3. They had just dropped Hikari off at her home.

"No sweat, Rei! What are friends for?" Asuka replied. Even though she and Rei had never gotten along real well in the past, the past couple of days have shown an amazing change. The two girls had a long talk about life, especially babies, and Shinji. Rei took the idea of protecting and helping Asuka seriously. She also looked forward to being an aunt.

Asuka glanced at the man sitting beside her, escorting her throughout the city. Shinji explained everything that had happened that day to them all as he drove. While she wasn't too happy about Touji piloting Unit Two, she understood the reason. The rest made her as happy as a clam.

"It shouldn't take too long for NERV personnel to have our new living quarters ready, Rei. You may want to pack and be ready to go when they arrive. It might take a couple of days, max.," Shinji said as he pulled in front of the rundown apartment complex she called home.

"Shinji, I …don't know what to say," Rei said softly as she leaned forward and gave her brother a kiss on the cheek.

"Well, say 'thank you'! Duh!" Asuka said with a smirk as Rei turned and gave her an over-the-seat hug.

"You don't mind me moving in next door?" Rei asked.

"I don't mind, Rei. After all, we're all family, and family needs to be close and look out for one another," Asuka replied. She knew Shinji wanted to look out for his sister, as well as have her close in case anything happens to herself or the baby. The idea of Shinji thinking of them all as family was really heartwarming.

"Alright, mister," Asuka growled as Shinji pulled away from Rei's place, "What the hell were all those girls doing crowding around you when I came out? Hmm?"

"Relax Asuka," Shinji said, somewhat nervously, "they were just asking about the car. That's all."

"Bullshit!" she seethed, "You mean to tell me that even though you stood there looking all cool and sexy, that those tramps were just interested in the car?!"

Shinji almost drove off the road in surprise at what Asuka just admitted. "She thinks that of me? Wow!"

"Aw crap, did I just say that? Damn hormones!!" she thought, blushing beyond belief. "Hey watch it, you idiot! Are you trying to kill us?"

"Sorry! Pothole," he lied, hoping that Asuka wouldn't see how flustered he was. Being so flustered herself, she didn't notice.

"Like I said, Asuka, relax!" Shinji reasoned with her, as he started feeling a bit crest fallen, "No one in their right minds would ever think that of me. I'm just plain old boring Shinji," he said a bit sadly. It broke her heart, for him to feel so down about himself.

"I do," she said softly, as she reached over and patted his leg. She saw him blush, but his face still lit up brighter than she had ever seen it before. She was blushing as they pulled into the parking lot of their building. "Damn, he does look sexy!" she mused as he came around and opened her door. The two teenagers walked hand in hand to their apartment

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"Asuka, are you done yet?" Shinji asked her through her bedroom door. He had finished Misato and Pen-pen's dinner and had it in the refrigerator for them. Now he waited for Asuka to finish. And waited, and waited.

"Hold your horses! You can't rush perfection, you know!" she called back as he shook his head and sighed.

"You can't improve on it either!" he replied, having the desired effect. She slid her door open and looked at him with dreamy eyes.

"Really?" she beamed, a beautiful smile on her face.

"Wow!" he thought as she stood before him. She had her hair pulled up on one side, coming up above and behind her ear, as the other side hung loose. Asuka wore a red dress that fit her perfectly. It was slightly pleated and came to just above her knees, and while the sleeves were long, they left her shoulders bare. Her tan hose and red heels completed the outfit perfectly. "Really! You are so beautiful!" he replied, awestruck.

"Good! I wouldn't have it any other way!" she said as she took his arm. When he had told her that he had made dinner reservations for the two of them that evening, it came as a total shock. She couldn't understand what had happened to Shinji, but for the most part, the changes were for the better. She knew which dress to wear, because she had bought it a couple of months back, in case he had ever got enough courage up to ask her out. "So, where are we going?"

"You know that restaurant you keep telling me that you're wanting to try?" he asked with a smile as he led her out the door.

" The Skyline? No way!" she gasped.

"Way!" he said as he closed the door.

"Warrk?" Pen-Pen said, watching the young couple leave, and hoping that Misato would come home and not forget about his dinner.

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"May I help you?" the host asked haughtily as Shinji and Asuka stood before him.

"Ikari, party of two," Shinji replied smoothly.

"He must be taking Kaji lessons," Asuka mused.

"I'm sorry, but we don't serve children here," came the drab reply. Asuka was stunned, as tears started to form in her eyes.

"Please check again. It's under Captain Ikari," Shinji replied calmly.

"Sir, making reservations in your father's name and bringing a date does not count, and reeks of betrayed trust. Please leave now."

"Now, wait a second here!" Asuka started to complain loudly, when a second man arrived on the scene, having been summoned by the first.

"Is there a problem here?" the newcomer asked, and before the host could reply, Shinji cut him off.

"Are the manager, sir?" Shinji asked politely, much too politely for Asuka's taste, and drawing a searing look from the host.

"Yes, sir. My name is Thomas Sky, and I own and manage The Skyline. How may I help you?" Shinji took Thomas over to the side.

"Yes, sir. My name is Captain Shinji Ikari," Shinji said as he handed his NERV ID and his business card to Thomas, "Commander of Combat Groups and designated pilot of Evangelion Unit One. In case you are wondering what that is, it is the rather large purple and green EVA that has saved this city time and time again."

"Yes, sir," Thomas said with a gulp. He had seen the EVA in action before, and heard much of it's young pilot.

"I called up here earlier in the day and made reservations for this evening. Now, do you see that lovely young lady right there?" he said, motioning to Asuka.

"Yes, sir. She's very beautiful," the manager replied, still a little shaken by standing next to the young man who could make a giant dance on a dime. Shinji's NERV ID didn't help much.

"Indeed. She is very near and dear to me, and tonight is to be a special evening for her. I would hate to see it ruined because one man thought we were not good enough to dine here. It might not be good for business if NERV personnel aren't welcome here." Thomas went pale.

"Understood sir! If you like, dinner will be on the house tonight for all that you have done for us," the manager said with genuine respect. Anyone who would fight against the giant monsters that kept attacking was a hero in his book.

"That is most generous," Shinji said in thanks, as he and Thomas returned to Asuka.

"Not a problem! In fact, I believe our best table is ready as we speak," the manager replied as he motioned toward a cozy little table for two right by the windows The Skyline was known for. The view of Tokyo-3 and the mountains was perfect.

"Maurice, you are to go home for the rest of the evening," Thomas said as he led Shinji and Asuka to their table.

"But, sir! Who is to work my place tonight?" the host protested until a look from Thomas shut him down. "Yes, sir."

"I'll take care of my guests tonight, since you seem to lack the desire to do so!" Thomas shot back. He showed the couple to the table, where Shinji held Asuka's chair for her as gentleman should. "I'll send my best waiter over as soon as possible to take your order."

"Thank you, Mr. Sky," Asuka said with gratitude. "This is a lovely place you…oh my!" she gasped as she looked out the window for the first time.

"Breathtaking, isn't it?," Thomas said at her reaction, smiling. "Please, call me 'Thomas'. If there is anything you need, please let me know." With that, the manager left the two teens alone.

"The view is absolutely beautiful," Asuka beamed as she looked out the windows and over the bright lights of Tokyo-3, with the mountains in the background. It was like it was specially crafted to get hearts going.

"Yes, it is," Shinji replied, not look out, but rather toward the woman he loved. To see her so happy and alive was all he could ask for. She turned and saw him staring. Asuka blushed.

"Quit that! Your going to get sap all over your suit!" she teased, as she playfully slapped at him. He just sat and laughed, drawing giggles from her.

Thomas made good his promise, as the waiter that helped them was very professional and experienced, and served them warmly. He complemented the couple on their appearance and their choice of dinner, and made sure he personally took care of anything they needed. By the time the evening was over, he and the couple laughed and joked like they were old friends. Shinji made sure to leave him a large tip, as well as a recommendation of a raise in pay.

As for Shinji and Asuka, they just enjoyed the evening and each other, letting themselves forget about the problems and troubles that had plagued them the past month. They talked about everyone and everything under the sun, neither of them becoming nervous, nor allowing any moment to become awkward. Asuka filled him in on the gossip that floated around school that day, as well as what all had been said about the two of them this past month. Shinji didn't care what was said about him, but he wouldn't allow anyone to say a cross word about Asuka. She even told him how Rei had read one girl the riot act in the classroom when she claimed Shinji was out because of what happened with Hoju. Shinji laughed at the thought of his sister standing there in class, hands on her hips, and chewing this girl out.

Asuka realized how comfortable she was with Shinji, and how she could never think of her life without him. After all, he was such a sweet guy, kind, caring, and down right good looking to boot. He seemed to be totally devoted to her, which really threw her for a loop. All in all, she was happy, and happy to be with Shinji. She looked at him, and saw the happy, content smile on his face.

All too soon, the dinner was over, and they thanked their server and Thomas. Shinji promised to tell everyone at NERV about the great time they had in his place, to which Thomas thanked them profusely. If you can get in good with NERV in this town, you're set. The two men waved to the young couple as they left the restaurant.

"Well, what's next, Shinji?" Asuka wondered as the two of them strolled out of the building and onto the sidewalk. "It's still early, and I really don't want this night to end."

"Let's take a walk in the park," he said as he led her across the street. She clung to his arm as they strolled down the paths, two teenagers clearly in love. The moon was full, which lit up the park in a heavenly glow.

"Wow, that is so beautiful," Asuka said as she looked up at the moon, it reflecting brightly in her blue eyes. Shinji looked at her and felt his heart skip a beat. The moonlight in her hair and on her face was magical.

"Not as beautiful as you," he said, meaning every word. She looked back at him and smirked. "I know, really sappy," he said with a grin.

"Yeah, but you better not stop!" she teased, as they both started to giggle. They found a bench and sat down, holding each other, relaxing and enjoying the night. A little while later, Asuka asked, "Shinji, do you ever think about the future?"

"Lately, it seems that is all I think of," he replied honestly. "That was what the meeting was about today. I had to make sure your and the baby's futures were secured. I hope that didn't upset you too much, like I was overstepping my bounds."

"I'm not upset," Asuka answered, "I was a little surprised, but not upset. I was so used to taking care of myself before, but I can't think just about me any more. I have someone else to think of now. Besides, you promised to take care of us, and I just saw that as a part of that promise." She smiled sweetly and gratefully. Shinji saw something in her eyes, but he wasn't sure what it was.

"That's exactly what it was," he said, glad she wasn't mad.

"I only worry, though, about whether this is fair to you," she replied, sounding a little sad, "I mean, you have told me that you are going to take care us and never leave. But what if you find someone else, or you grow tired of me? What if you start to resent being tied to us when you want to lead your own life? I am so grateful to you, and don't want to lose you, and…and…I care for you so much, Shinji! The thought of being without you scares me, and the thought of you growing to hate me is horrible!" She started to sniff back some tears.

"Now, now! No tears, not tonight!" he said gently as he wrapped her up in a hug. "I could never hate you, or resent you, or grow tired of you. I love you, Asuka. Never forget that!" He knelt down in front of her, looking her in eyes and taking her hands.

"I want you and the baby in my life! It scares me so much that you may leave one day, after finding some guy who can take care of you two they way that you should . Some guy that will come in and sweep you off you your feet, and charm you right out of my life. I wake up at nights, with that thought in my mind. I see you next to me, and that makes it all better. I can't even think of you not being in my life. I…I never thought you would feel the same! That was a dream I never thought possible."

"No guy is going to come sweep me off my feet, you idiot!" she said softly and without malice. She reached up and caressed his face, "Somebody already has! I'll be with you as long as you'll have me! If you ever find someone else who can treat you like the great guy you are, I won't get in your way, even if it tears me up. I just want to be with you. I love you, Shinji Ikari!"

Shinji felt like he had just been hit in the head with a hammer. "She loves me? She really said she loves me? She wants to be with me? I have got to be dreaming!" He started to tremble ever so slightly as he reached a hand into his pocket and wrapped it around the small object in there.

"I love you, Asuka. I always have, and I always shall! I know there are better men in the world out there than I, but I can promise there is no one out there who will love you more than me. I want to spend the rest of my life making you happy, and taking care of our baby." He pulled a small velvet box out of his pocket and opened it up, revealing a gold ring with several small diamonds.

"Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod…" she thought as she saw the ring in his hand, as her heart started pounding in her chest, her breathing becoming labored, "This is got to be a dream! This shit doesn't happen in real life! He's going to ask, oh my god, he's going ask…"

"Asuka Langley Soryu, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife? Will you marry me?" he asked, looking her straight in the eye. She could see the love in his eyes, hear the conviction in his voice, and feel the slight tremor in his body. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped, never thinking this man would love her enough to ask that question, pledging his entire life and purpose to her. She stayed silent for several seconds, shocked, as her mind tried to process the question.

Doubt flooded Shinji's eyes after she didn't answer, "If you don't want to, I understand," he said, trying to keep the lump in his throat from choking him, " but I will still be here.." He was cut silent by fingers gently pressed against his lips.

"Yes," she said gently, a radiant smile on her face, "I'll marry you." She reached around and hugged his neck. "You'll never know how long I've wanted to hear that from you!" she whispered in his ear.

"You'll never know how long I've wanted to ask that!" he replied as he hugged her gently. Gently, she broke the embrace, as he sat back on his heels and placed the ring on her finger. It was a perfect fit.

"How did you know?" she wondered about the fit, as she admired how the ring shone in the moonlight. Tears of joy streamed down her face.

"I just knew, must have been our sync training still hitting us when we least expect it," he replied as he looked at the woman in front of him, the woman who agreed to be his wife. He got off his knees and sat beside her once more, taking and holding her hand. His heart was still beating like mad, and a small, happy tear slid down the corner of one eye.

"Shinji Ikari, are you crying?" she said through her own tears. She reached over and touched it.

"Not very manly, huh? Guess you now know you're marrying a wimp," he said sadly, as she leaned over and kissed him gently on the lips.

"Hush, you're not a wimp. That's a happy tear if I ever saw one," she smiled, making him feel so much better. The two of them continued to sit on that bench for quite a while, enjoying the night and each other's company. They thought about the future, and the enormity of what they had just done. They had no regrets. Finally, Asuka stood and took her fiancé by the hand.

"Come on, baby, let's go home." she said with a smile at thinking about going home with the man she loved.

"Yeah, we should get home and let Misato off the hook!" he said with a mischievous grin as they walked hand in hand back to the car.

"Misato knows?" Asuka asked, taken aback. "She knew you were going to ask me to marry you?"

"Well, I had told Kaji, who of course told Misato. I showed her the ring today when she asked me why I sold my bike…"

"Whoa!" Asuka said as she stopped dead in her tracks, "You sold your bike?! Why?"

"To buy your ring," he said simply. Asuka was stunned.

"But, but you loved that bike!"

"I love you more, Asuka," he replied, as her turned to face her, " that was just a toy." Tears started anew as she wrapped him in a big hug.

"You idiot," she said fondly, "I never got a chance to ride on it!" she teased as they started walking again.

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"THIS IS DRIVING ME CRAZY!!" Misato screamed as she continued to pace her small apartment. Kaji just made sure to stay out of her way as she prowled around, looking like she was wanting to hit something. He refused to give her an easy target.

"Misato, try to relax, will you?" he said, trying to sooth her troubled brow. Kaji knew how much those two kids meant to her, and like Shinji said, tonight would change everything.

"How can I relax?! You know what he has planned! I'm so scared one or both of them are going to get hurt by this! Oh hell, why couldn't Shinji be like most men and run screaming from this situation?" Kaji looked hurt at what she said.

"I'm not the one who ran, Misato," he said sadly. That stopped her cold, as she walked over to sofa and plopped down, with Kaji right beside her. She took his hand and sat quietly for a second or so.

"I know," she said softly, "I'm the one who ran from commitment, not you. I was scared. Like I am now."

"I understand," Kaji soothed, "Those two mean an awful lot to you, don't they? To both of us."

"Yeah, they do," she added, lost in thought, "it's like I got a second chance to be a mother, after we lost…" Kaji gently touched her lips to silence her.

"Not now, not tonight. Please?" he asked. Misato just nodded. Pen-Pen waddled through the living room, giving the two humans a strange look, before running off with the beer he had kept hidden from everyone. Misato's eyes followed the beer longingly.

"Been hard?"

"Very," she replied as she tried to keep her hands from shaking. She was going to fight this and win. Just then, the front door slid open, as Shinji and Asuka walked in, arm-in-arm and smiling more than she had ever seen them smile before. "It about time you two got home!"

"What? It's not even ten yet!" Asuka said mischievously,as Shinji shook his head and laughed as two of the women he loved gave each other mock glares, before they broke in giggles as well.

"Well? Did you two have a good time on your date?" Kaji asked teasingly, hoping beyond hope he would get the right answer.

"Oh, you could say that," Shinji replied nonchalantly as Asuka raised her left hand and wiggled her finger, letting the light flash of off the diamonds. An ecstatic smile lit up Asuka's face as she thought about what that meant.

"OH MY GOD!! YOU REALLY SAID YES?!" Misato screamed as she leapt off of the sofa, knocking Kaji to the ground and trampling poor Pen-Pen as she rushed the two teenagers and wrapped them up in her patented Misato-sized hug. "Oh God! I'm so happy for you two!!" she gushed, tears streaming from her eyes.

"Congradulations, Shinji!" Kaji said as he slapped the young man on the shoulder, then whispered in his ear, "You have got a bigger set of balls than any man I know!" Shinji blushed. "When's the date?"

"We're not sure yet. We still need to get moved into the new place, then get her dress, send out invitations…" Shinji was saying, before getting cut off by Asuka.

"As soon as possible, after we move!" Asuka said as she grabbed Shinji by the waist, "You're mine now, Ikari! I'm not going to give you any chance to run and escape!"

"Lord, I'm in trouble now," he teased as she playfully slapped his shoulder, as all four of them went to the living room to talk about the future.

It was hours later when Kaji excused himself and went home, and Shinji and Asuka retired for the night. Misato sat in the living room, sipping her tea, as her heart swelled with pride concerning the events of this evening. Shinji and Asuka looked so happy together, and Asuka's eyes just lit up as she and Misato sat and discussed plans for the wedding. Misato caused Asuka to blush when she brought up the fact she needed to throw the young German a bridal shower. Knowing Misato, it would be as embarrassing as hell to Asuka. Shinji chuckled at Asuka's predicament, until Kaji mentioned that he would be planning Shinji's bachelor party. Shinji blushed ten shades of red at the thought of what Kaji would cook up.

Misato was getting up to go to bed herself, knowing tomorrow would be a busy day. They were going to see their new place, and then they had to start making preparations for the wedding. Misato passed Asuka's door when something made her stop.

There were moans of ecstasy coming from Asuka's room. Misato's face flushed. "Surely, they're not…" she thought to herself, not wanting the images flashing in her mind to come. "It's got to be something else! They're not even married yet! Shinji's not that way! He would wait! And...and Asuka's pregnant! Wouldn't that hurt the baby?" she thought, as the moans became louder. Misato finally convinced herself that it wasn't her business, when she heard two words shouted out.

"Oh, Shinji!"

"All right, you two!" Misato yelled through the door, "Cut that out! I know you two are engaged, but really! You just can't…"

"What's wrong, Misato?" Shinji said as he opened the door, perplexed.

"What do you mean?" she barked "Just what the hell are you two doing?"

" What? All I'm doing is rubbing…" he started, before Misato scrunched up her face.

"ACK! No! NO! NO! I don't wanna know!!!" Misato screamed as she tried to keep the images from flooding her mind.

"…her feet?" Shinji said, puzzled at his roommate's reaction. Misato stopped making faces and strange sounds and looked at him with genuine confusion.

"Her feet?" she stammered.

"Yeah, she doesn't wear heels very often, and she had those on for so long her feet hurt. Just what did you think we were doing?" Shinji asked, before it dawned on him what she had been getting at. "Misato!" he scolded, as his blush covered his whole body.

"What's going on?" Asuka asked as she stood next to Shinji. Misato saw she still wore her hose,but now she wore a long, pink, oversized sleep shirt that ended about halfway down her thighs. It was the same shirt Shinji had bought her a month ago when this started.

"You're still dressed up a bit," Misato grinned as she saw how cute they looked together.

"What? The hose? I just haven't taken them off yet. I told Shinji my feet hurt, and he started rubbing them for me. I was tired and sore, and didn't want to wait any longer. Why were you yelling through the door?"

"She thought we were…" Shinji stammered, before Asuka caught on.

"Misato! How can you think such a thing?!" Asuka exploded, causing the older woman to cringe. "Shinji is too much of a gentleman to try anything like that! I besides, we're engaged! If we wanted to…."

"Okay! Okay! I'm sorry!" Misato apologized, "I should have trusted you not to do anything! Sheesh!"

"That's okay Misato," Asuka said, sounding very tired, "It was probably a natural assumption after tonight. But if you'll excuse me, I'm ready for bed," she added as she walked out of her door and grabbed Shinji by the shirt, pulling him to his room. The door closed, leaving a befuddled Misato to stand before an empty room. She knew they had been literally sleeping with each other since this started, but this was the first time she saw Asuka go into Shinji's room without trying to sleep in her room first. Shaking her head, Misato walked to her room to try to get some rest.

"God, I could use a beer!"

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End of Part One.