Disclaimer: I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion or any of its characters. They belong to Anno and his crew at Gainax.

"Happy new year!" called out the barman. Shinji Ikari raised his glass weakly, along with all the other patrons of the bar, all in together, some with their friends and family to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Shinji came alone, which is something he did often at this place which was becoming a regular venue for his evenings. Shinji didn't come in because it was New Year's Eve. He just came in because that was what he did. It just happened to be the turning of that year to another that night. Shinji didn't mind. Having lots of people in raised the spirit a bit and seeing the fireworks go was a nice touch for the now 24 year old, but as festive as everybody and everything was, nothing was quite enough to lift the young man out of his sombre mood. As everybody clinked their glasses together in jubilation, Shinji downed the remainder of his whiskey before getting up, zipping up his jacket and leaving to return home.

He stepped out to hear the soft powdery snow compress under his foot as well as feeling the cold immediately bite despite Shinji's thick jacket. It had snowed in Tokyo-4 all through Christmas and hadn't really stopped since. It hadn't been heavy either, proved by the fact that it was barely up to Shinji's ankles but it had been non-stop snow regardless. The winter of Japan was a regular occurrence ever since Third Impact, an event that nobody seemed to be willing to talk about. Shinji remembered being on that beach that day and how people came streaming back into existence and immediately trying to return to their daily lives as if nothing had happened. Shinji hadn't been one of them. He had questioned the events of that day, ten years ago now, ever since if only internally.

He remembered his days as an Eva pilot and despite how much he hated it; those were days he yearned for. Looking back, he had people that cared for him, even if it wasn't so obvious then. He had been too worked up about his own problems to notice. Now, when it was too late, he realised all too well about the bonds he had formed yet never took care of. On the dawn of the year 2016, Shinji had seen both Misato and Asuka die and Rei turn into something so horrible he couldn't bear thinking about. Shinji thought that he would learn his lessons from Third Impact and try to keep the bonds he shared with the people that were close to him only to find that he was still afraid of everybody, including himself. Since Third Impact, he had seen both Asuka and Misato. Asuka was the only other person in the world along with Shinji for a moment and Shinji wondered how it all went wrong. After people began to flood back and tried to get the world back into normality, Shinji found that he could barely speak to the girl anymore. She returned to Germany, leaving no means of contact, effectively severing that bond. Maybe she was afraid as well, but Shinji couldn't help but feel responsible for her leaving.

Misato was a different story. She always left voicemail on Shinji's home telephone every now and then. Shinji got as far as picking up the phone and just beginning to dial Misato's number which he knew off by heart now. However, he never got past dialling 4 digits. After that, he always held the phone in his hand and put it back down slowly and painfully. Shinji never found the courage just to phone her and ask her how things were and simply just to re-establish the bond they once shared. Shinji would occasionally bump into Misato on the streets or while shopping. He found it easy to smile, speaking with someone he knew but always had a tingling fear inside of him. A fear that he would get too close, only to get hurt. Shinji tried to eradicate that fear but it always got the better of him. Misato was always amiable and chatty and pretty much the Misato Shinji always had known, but he could never go past bumping into her and having a quick chat. That was the extent of their relationship now.

Misato Katsuragi was also Commander of NERV, which was still around but in a much different capacity. Instead of possessing super weapons that proved more than capable of ending the world, NERV was now an anti-terrorist organisation aimed at stopping the resurgence of SEELE. That was as far as Shinji knew and what Misato told him. That story could all just be a cover up for another diabolical plot to cause another impact but Shinji was not involved, so he was content in his ignorance. He doubted that nonetheless, because his father wasn't involved in anyway. Gendo Ikari hadn't been seen again by anybody since Third Impact to the extent of Shinji's knowledge. And Shinji was glad that this was the case.

Then, there was Rei Ayanami. The enigmatic girl with blue hair who never seemed to do anything unless ordered was the catalyst for Third Impact. Shinji would have never imagined it until he saw the giant white figure of Rei Ayanami in front of him high up in the sky above the smouldering remains of Tokyo-3. That was a form he never wanted to see Rei in again yet instead, he simply did not see Rei ever again, in any form. She seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth as did countless others who never did return.

As Shinji continued on his way home, he slipped on an icy path and fell flat on his backside as well as banging the back of his head against the pavement. He groaned in pain as he tried to get up, only to feel a dizzy sensation overcome him from hitting his head off the ground. Shinji gave up trying to get up and simply lay there on the pavement, looking up at the violet-tinged night sky with white snow flakes coming down from the heavens. Shinji didn't feel like getting up. He just wanted to let the snow cover him from head to toe and hide him from the rest of the world and more importantly, hide the rest of the world from him. In that moment, Shinji felt like he had enough.

As he lay with negative thoughts seething, Shinji saw a gloved hand extended out to him. Shinji didn't ignore the gesture of goodwill and took the hand before being helped up to his feet. "Some way to celebrate the New Year," chuckled a female voice that Shinji knew all too well.

"Ah, hello Misato," Shinji greeted. "Sorry, that was a bit embarrassing."

"Don't worry about it," Misato laughed. "Have too much to drink?"

"Maybe," Shinji said, with a weak smile.

"Hell, it's New Year's! Who gives a damn anyway!" Misato said. "I've had more than my fair share, let me tell you that!"

Shinji again could smile but it was only superficial. Maybe there was no hiding what Shinji felt underneath but it didn't mean that he couldn't try and if Misato was under the influence, then maybe Shinji could hide his apprehension and anxiety over seeing her again. However, Shinji himself knew that he had a few drinks too many and it would be hard to completely control everything that came out of his mouth. "Anyway, what are you doing out here on your own in the snow?" Misato chirped.

"Well, I was, uh, just heading back home," Shinji said.

"Really? So early?" Misato asked. Shinji could just nod his reply as he could barely bring himself to speak to her, yet all his yearnings to reform those lost connections he once had as a 14 year old. There were so many conflicting thoughts in Shinji's mind at the moment and another was coming into the mix, fuelled by the alcohol in his system; desire.

Misato was one of those people who never seemed to age and at nearly 40 years of age, she looked as young as she had ever been. It was a small miracle in spite of her drinking habits that she kept her youthful beauty. And one part of Shinji was reaching out to Misato with thoughts that Shinji only just allowed to surface because of the drinks Shinji had consumed. She was quickly becoming the object of desire for Shinji in this state and despite being 15 years her junior; he could not hide the temptation that she presented to him. "If that's so," Misato said, "then how about I walk you home?"

Please no, Shinji thought in horror. Any time but now, Misato. Any time but now! "Uh, yeah, sure," Shinji said, his speech slurring slightly.

"Great! Let's go then!" Misato said, her smile a genuine one, something that Shinji could simply not replicate.

It wasn't far to Shinji's flat, a simple two bedroom design in a medium sized block of flats that suited the 24 year old more than enough. Misato laughed as she shoved Shinji up the stairs to the fourth floor where his flat was situated. "You're more drunk than I first thought!" she said as they made it up.

"Well, sorry!" Shinji said with a laugh, feeling the alcohol overcome him and his actions.

"Or maybe you just hit your head too hard?" Misato suggested.

"All of the above, ma'am!" Shinji called out in a giddy manner.

"Sssh, not too loud, Shinji!" Misato laughed. "You might wake your neighbours!"

"Who cares?" Shinji said with a beaming smile. "Come on, I don't think you've ever seen the place!"

Shinji pulled Misato along by the hand and stopped outside his door, nearly falling over in the process. Shinji then fumbled with his keys and eventually managed to open the door. "On you go!" Shinji said, holding his hand out to the inside of his house.

"I couldn't Shinji, it's getting late," Misato said.

"Come on, I'll make it worth your while," Shinji said. "Coffee?"

Misato hesitated slightly before saying, "Oh, all right. Just one coffee, okay?"

The two headed inside and Shinji got to work switching on the lights to his main living area which was a combined kitchen, dining and living room all in the one room. "Ooh, it's pretty nice," Misato said. "Although I'm expecting a coffee, mister!"

"Coming right up!" Shinji said, getting to work with his coffee machine. It seemed that the booze he drank caught up to him and he was letting go of his inhibitions. It was almost a state of freedom for Shinji were he didn't always think before he acted. It was only almost freedom because alcohol had its ways of constraining and constricting those who abused it.

Shinji quickly fashioned two cups of coffee and handed one over to Misato. "Thanks Shinji," she said with a smile.

"No problem," Shinji said, taking a sip and reckoning that it wasn't half bad, considering he was fairly drunk.

"How's work at the office, Shinji?" Misato asked.

"It's…okay, I guess," Shinji replied. "It's getting boring, but a job's a job."

"As long as you aren't miserable, then all is well," Misato said.

If only you knew, Shinji thought. "How's your job?" Shinji asked in return.

"Now, that's boring! We never have anything to do!" Misato exclaimed.

"God's in his heaven, all's right with the world, huh?" Shinji chuckled.

"Yeah, you could say that," Misato agreed.

Shinji put down his cup of coffee which had been emptied very quickly. Misato lingered over hers a bit more, taking her time with it. She could tell Shinji was drunk yet she was enjoying her time with him now. She almost wished that he was a bit more like this all the time. Ever since Third Impact, Shinji had cut himself off from her and it had deeply hurt her feelings. She wanted to feel like the time they had spent together meant something. Shinji wasn't quite a son to Misato, but she had wanted to care for him in a way only a mother could. Now, she wanted to be friends with him and to keep in contact as he grew older but Shinji had only grown more reclusive. She knew he was ignoring the voicemail messages she was leaving him. She had only wanted to make sure that he was okay, but those messages were never replied to.

Now, she was content with Shinji the way he was. Misato knew that tomorrow, Shinji would sober up and go back to normal, severing all links between him and anyone that once was close to him. However, she could not say she was fine with that. She wanted someone like Shinji who she could speak to. She wanted it to be like old times when she would wake up, have a beer and be looked at scornfully by Shinji. She wanted everything to be like how it was and the more she wanted this, the more the real motive behind her attempts to get closer to Shinji was painfully revealed.

Misato was lonely. Kaji was dead and was never coming back. Her work was unfulfilling and she worked with people that would only ever remain people that she would work with. Misato's once close friend, Dr Ritsuko Akagi had severed all links between herself and the world and was in Africa, doing humanitarian work. It seemed a noble enough cause for Ritsuko, but Misato knew that she was only there because she couldn't face up to Misato or anyone else, for that matter. As much as Misato began to loathe Ritsuko as Third Impact approached, she couldn't help but want to reconnect to her. Misato wanted that friendship they once shared. Yet another painful reminder of how lonely she truly was.

Misato finished the last remnants of her coffee and placed the cup, stained with her lipstick, onto the coffee table in front of her. "Thanks for the coffee, Shinji," she said.

"It's no problem," Shinji said, managing a weak smile. They both sat on the sofa in an awkward silence, neither of the two really wanting to say or do anything. They sat like that for a few seconds, before Misato turned her head to face Shinji and opened her mouth to say something. However, no words ventured out of her mouth. Instead, she and Shinji were left staring at each other, straight into each other's eyes. It was then the alcohol-fuelled Shinji began to advance towards Misato's face and the woman made no resistance. Their lips locked together and they engaged in a kiss that both of them both didn't want yet wanted so much at the same time. Still, it was happening nonetheless and the kiss was quickly becoming deeper and more intimate.

Suddenly, Misato pulled away and said, "No, I can't do this Shinji." She turned her face away from Shinji and promptly stood up. Shinji said nothing and simply looked at his feet with his hands clasped together. Misato headed towards the door and before leaving, looked back and said, "I'm sorry Shinji. We would have both regretted doing this. I'll…I'll call, okay?" And with that, Shinji heard his door open and then shut, leaving him as he always was; alone. He slowly got to his feet; feeling like the whole incident had left him sober. He then trudged towards his kitchen with his head down the entire way. Once there, he pulled out a bottle of cheap whiskey out of his cupboard and immediately took a slug straight out of the bottle. It burned and tasted fairly dire but it was hardly something Shinji cared about at the moment. He took another deep swig before slumping downed against the kitchen counter before sliding slowly to the floor.

Shinji took several more drinks, sat on the floor and slumped against his kitchen counter before putting the bottle down on the cold tiled floor beside him and placing his face in his hands. "What the hell am I trying to do?" Shinji asked out loud, absolutely disgusted with what he had tried to do with Misato just there. It may have seemed innocent enough, simply trying to kiss her feeling slightly tipsy on New Year's night, but Shinji knew his true intentions. He wanted to kiss her and then have sex with her before cutting off all links with her, causing himself and her so much pain in the process. Shinji didn't blame the booze. He couldn't. The only person he could ever blame these days was himself. "You're a fucking idiot," Shinji cursed. "I…I hate myself." And with that declaration, Shinji Ikari drank himself to sleep in the first few hours of the year 2026.

Shinji woke up to find himself a mess with whiskey spilt all over his kitchen floor. That sight and the screaming headache he had were only painful reminders of last night's events. As he sat up, Shinji couldn't believe what he had tried to do with Misato. He was glad that she stopped him when she did, or else Shinji would have really done something he had regretted like she had said when she left. Shinji knew he would have to apologise to Misato but he wondered if he could ever bring himself to see her after what transpired the previous night. It would be difficult for Shinji, but he knew that what he did was unacceptable and he needed to try set things straight. However, that was easier said for Shinji Ikari who had successfully cut himself from all he held dearest. He had almost locked the door and thrown away the key. However, he knew his situation was at least salvageable. He just needed to find the courage to approach Misato.

Shinji got up and took him his jeans and his shirt, both of which were stained with whiskey. Shinji opted just to throw the two away before mopping up the foul smelling cheap liquor off the floor. Once he had that done, Shinji went away for a shower, feeling he needed a cleansing of all sorts. As the hot water sprayed over his body, Shinji began to delve deep into thought, as he always seemed to do when he bathed. It was something he welcomed as much as the hangover he had.

Misato…why did you let me kiss you? You should have just slapped me, called me an idiot and never spoken to me again. Why do you try so hard to speak to me and to find me? I don't understand. I'm not worth the effort.

Shinji groaned as he felt shampoo start to seep into his eyes. He began to furiously rub at them and trying to get the spray of water over them. It was the last thing he needed along with the searing headache.

Misato Katsuragi. Nearly 15 years my senior, but still as beautiful as ever. She is the last person I'd think to be in a relationship in, being my former guardian yet last night she was the first person I turned to. I wanted to have sex with someone who used to look after me as a teenage boy! I can't believe myself! Only I could want to do something like that! What the hell are you Shinji Ikari? Why haven't you just wiped yourself from the face of the planet?!

And that seemed to be a very good question. Shinji had been miserable for years so why hadn't he just ended it by leaping off one of Tokyo-4's skyscrapers or hanging himself from a self-fashioned noose? The answer was deceptively simple for Shinji. During Third Impact, his mother had told him that everybody had a chance to be happy, as long as they had the will to live. Shinji had ever since longed to find his happiness and could only do so if he was alive. It was that simple. However, Shinji had done nothing to help the state of his relationships with people he knew and he had a long way to go if he ever was to achieve happiness through other people.

Shinji stepped out of the shower and quickly dried himself before throwing on a pair of jeans and a dark blue t-shirt with some brand logo Shinji never cared to notice. He also pulled out a jacket and put it on before heading out to get a late breakfast. His first impression as soon as he had stepped foot outside was the magnitude of the snow. After about 2 in the morning, conditions became blizzard like, coating Tokyo-4 in over a metre of snow. Shinji had wanted to drive into town but saw that it would be next to impossible with the amount of snow out there. It looked like today would be a day on the subway.

"To all passengers on this train. Please expect delays of up to ten minutes due to snow clogging up some of the external lines. I repeat, please expect delays of up to ten minutes due to snow clogging up some of the external lines. We are sorry for any inconvenience. Thank you," announced the driver of the subway train over the intercom. Shinji sighed, along with many other users of the mass transit system. It meant Shinji could possibly go an extra ten minutes without food which wasn't an appealing prospect but one that Shinji would have to face anyway. They train set off, taking Shinji deeper into the city and ten minutes later, Shinji got off at his intended stop before they train had reached any point of delay which was thankful.

Shinji found comfort in riding the subways and being in the subway stations. All the people he didn't know seemed to emphasise in his mind his state of reclusion. He didn't know anyone, therefore he was alone here and he found comfort in that. However, it also acted as a reminder of how much pain isolation and loneliness can cause. One some days, Shinji found the later more prominent. Today was one of those days. Shinji walked through the station as quickly as he could and went up onto the streets to a restaurant he often went to alone.

Shinji went inside and ordered a western style fried breakfast, despite it nearly being noon. He felt like he could use it. Shinji soon got his food from a waitress that he recognised but didn't know. She seemed nice enough but Shinji was afraid of even meeting new people. As soon as he got his food, he began to ravenously devour it as was the scale of his hunger. As quickly as he had gotten it, his food was gone and Shinji ordered a coffee to hopefully help his meal to settle. He also made a mental note to buy some painkillers to help against the raging hangover that still persisted.

As he waited for his coffee, Shinji looked up to the TV in the corner which was tuned to the news. Shinji couldn't remember the last time he watched TV so indulged this morning. "…and in other news, NASA had stumbled across what has been described as a large, humanoid shaped object in space several days ago. Upon bringing back the object to Earth, UN authorities immediately took hold of it and brought it right here in Japan. The dispossession of the object has caused outrage among US officials and has currently raised tensions between Japan and the US to record high levels since WWII. The UN though, has been firm in their choice and has already given the US its first formal warning. The UN has even gone as far as to threaten to temporarily suspend the US's status in the UN if it does not comply with the UN's decision and back down the pressure it is putting on Japan. As well as that, many groups in the US believe that it is a conspiracy to cover up what has been claimed as an obvious indicator of alien life. However, a NASA official made the following statement, 'The object found in space is claimed to be of an alien origin. This is simply not the case. There is English writing on the object and we believe that this is one of the Evangelion Units used in the struggle against the angels in the year 2015. That would obviously lead to the conclusion that this is a man made object, not alien as some would seem to claim.' However, it hasn't made the conspiracy theorists any quieter, some who even go as far as saying…"

"Some story, huh?"

"Huh?" Shinji asked, wondering who just said that. When he turned, he saw none other than Misato Katsuragi, who had managed to walk in and sit next to Shinji without him noticing. "Ah, Misato! Sorry, I didn't notice you there!" he said.

"Intended effect," Misato said with a smile. Suddenly, Shinji became incredibly nervous and felt his throat begin to dry up. This was far too soon after the events of last night and he was far from ready to see her again. "Misato…about last night…" Shinji began to say.

"Listen, Shinji, forget about it, okay? It never happened, so we move on, all right?" Misato asked.

"Uh, okay," Shinji said. "I'm just…I'm just so sorry, I didn't know what got over me and…"

"Shinji, you were drunk, I was drunk. It happens. There is no need to apologise," Misato said. "Still friends though, right?"

Shinji managed a smile and said, "Still friends."

"Good to hear," Misato said. "Now, you may be wondering why I've interrupted you during your breakfast. Well, it's just that we have something at NERV that we want you to see." Shinji looked over to the television screen that displayed the story about the object they discovered in space and then back toward Misato in a very telling way. "Yup. You guessed as much," Misato said. "Come with me, Shinji. NERV will take care of your bill for this one."

"Come with you?" Shinji asked nervously. "To NERV? I don't know."

"Shinji, it isn't the same place as it was 10 years ago," Misato said. "We don't expect you to do anything. I just thought that maybe, like me, you would be interested in seeing Evangelion Unit 01 after all this time."

"I just…I just don't know," Shinji said slowly, his head still in a mess from both the alcohol and the events of the previous night. "How did you find me anyway?"

"I work for NERV. If I wanted to find you, I have the means to do so," Misato said.

"Why didn't you just find me before?" Shinji asked.

"Because that wouldn't have been right," Misato answered with a stern face. "Now, are you coming or not? I don't have all day."

Shinji stared outside the passenger side window of Misato's car as they left the city of Tokyo-4 and headed towards the remains of Tokyo-3. The only think left was a lake with the scattered remnants of old buildings littered about the area. It wasn't the sea of LCL that Shinji saw just after Third Impact, but rather a freshwater lake that filled up as the LCL disappeared over the years. The Japanese government had made the area a historical monument but barely anyone paid visits to the area. It was something they'd all rather forget. Shinji sighed, because he didn't want to forget. He wanted to remember everything he had learned that day and put it into practice, someday and somehow.

"Is NERV still where it used to be?" Shinji asked, breaking a silence between the two that was only occupied by j-pop music playing softly out of Misato's car radio.

"No, we've had to relocate," Misato answered. "The GeoFront now forms that lake that they're still yet to name."

"I see," Shinji said, before turning his attention back out of the window. Misato was speeding along the highway, overtaking cars left, right and centre. She even flew past several police cars that all could do nothing because her licence plates were official government plates, signifying that her person was infallible. Misato savoured the power of her BMW M6, using all 500 brake-horsepower to the fullest possible use. Shinji wasn't one for fast cars and if he was honest, Misato was currently scaring him, driving at speeds in excess of 150mph despite the snow still falling.

He was glad when Misato pulled off of the highway and headed done a two lane road that led them up a side of a hill, one of the hills that surrounded that lake which was now in clear view. Shinji looked to his right at the seemingly frozen body of water surrounded by the white cover of snow on all sides. It would have seemed perfectly natural had it not been for the shards of old building sticking up from the lake. Shinji shuddered when he saw it all. It just gave him a chilling reminder of the events that transpired ten years ago. Misato was driving at a reasonable speed now because of the snow that had found its way onto the road. She kept driving up the winding road before taking a turn off to the left and heading towards a guard post. Shinji saw that all the guards there were armed with assault rifles so they obviously thought that this place was worth protecting. Misato stopped in front and flashed her NERV ID to the guard who let her through. After that, they literally headed inside the hill where Shinji presumed the new NERV headquarters was located. The first area he saw was a dimly lit car park. Misato headed off to her spot and stopped her car. "We're here," she said, looking over to Shinji. He nodded, before getting out of the car.

Misato led Shinji towards large metal gates that Shinji was all too familiar with. They were the same kind Shinji used to enter the old NERV HQ with. Misato used her ID card before saying, "Also present, one guest."

"Name authentication, please," said a computerised voice.

"Misato Katsuragi," she said.

"Welcome commander and guest," the computerised voice said before the gate in front of them opened.

Misato turned back to look at Shinji and said, "Come on, let's go." However, Shinji felt apprehensive about his first steps into NERV, a place that only ever brought back negative memories for Shinji. If there were any positive ones, they were superseded by the bad. Misato began to hastily walk inside before turning around once more to see that Shinji hadn't moved. She immediately saw the unease in his face. "Shinji, this isn't the NERV that you once knew," Misato said. "So are you coming in or not?"

Shinji took several steps forward, slowly and painstakingly before he found that he was inside the new headquarters. Misato had said it wasn't the NERV he once knew yet everything about it, from the appearance to the feeling Shinji got by simply being inside just reminded him all too much of the old NERV. There actually seemed like there was no difference to Shinji. It had been ten years, but it was a ten years that Shinji lived in fear of ever seeing this place again. Now that he was here, he didn't know what to expect. Misato led him through what seemed like a maze of corridors before reaching a large steel industrial style elevator. Once inside, Misato picked up two hard hats and handed one over to Shinji. He looked at the hat and then Misato with a concerned look on his face, to which Misato said, "Regulations, Shinji. I doubt we actually need them."

The elevator took them deeper and deep underground, making Shinji feel like they were heading in a mine. However, after a moment of descending in darkness, the elevator entered a huge cavern that was most obviously man made. And in the centre of it all was none other than Evangelion Unit 01. Shinji felt Goosebumps pop up all over his body at the sight of the purple and green goliath. The elevator quickly stopped and Misato and Shinji headed out on a platform that was set to the height of Unit 01's head. Misato began her walk at a brisk pace while Shinji walked slowly, looking around and taking everything in. I can't believe it, Shinji thought. It really is Evangelion Unit 01.

Shinji soon joined Misato who was stood right in front of the mask of the behemoth. Shinji looked over at Misato nervously but her eyes were fixed on the Evangelion. "I never liked the Evangelions," Misato said. "There was always something about them that made me uneasy. Seeing Unit 01 after 10 years and I feel no different." Shinji looked away from Misato and then towards Unit 01, feeling all those horrid times he had spent inside this beast come back to him all too familiarly. It was just like he remembered it with the majority of its armour still intact. The red core was exposed for all to see but apart from that, it was just the Evangelion that Shinji remembered so vividly.

"What now?" Shinji asked.

"Huh?" Misato said, slightly surprised by Shinji speaking.

"What now? What's going to happen to it?" Shinji asked once more. Misato frowned as she looked away from Shinji and back toward the Eva. "To be honest, Shinji, I have no idea. I'm sure the science team here want to get their hands on it to see what they can find out but apart from that, I can't see Eva Unit 01 being used for anything," she replied.

"I see," Shinji said. "Well, I think I've had enough."

"You've had enough?" Misato asked. "Well, I understand. Do you want a lift home?"

"It's okay. I've taken you off your job for long enough. I'll just take the train, thanks," Shinji said. And before Misato could say anything, Shinji about faced and headed for the exit alone. Misato leaned over onto the railings of the platform and sighed. "Why is it, Shinji, that you try so hard to be alone?" she asked aloud.

Shinji had noted a train station not too far from NERV HQ so he walked there, taking 15 minutes in the cold air of the late afternoon to reach it. Shinji boarded the next train back into Tokyo-4, made sure that he had a seat to himself before pressing the side of his head against the chilly glass of the window. Shinji almost wished that he had a music player of some sort to further shut himself off from the world. The train soon got moving and went at a pace slower than usual because of the amount of snow that lay on the ground. It was the last thing Shinji needed.

I just don't know what to make of seeing Unit 01 again, Shinji thought. What was I expecting? What was Misato expecting me to do, or to say? Did she expect me to be happy after seeing something I hated for so long? Or did she expect me to lash out in anger? In the end, I just wanted to leave and never see that place or that thing again. But why don't I want to see it again? Is it fear? Is it hatred? I just don't know. I just don't know anything anymore.

The train began to pick up speed slightly while Shinji continued to stare out of the window, his mind lost with his thoughts. Everything was just so confusing to the 24 year old. Misato was there, ever present, trying to be a friend, yet Shinji never accepted that friendship. He had even tried to take advantage of that, which disgusted him more. Shinji hated being lonely and he hated the pain that came with it yet he knew he was only shooting himself in the foot with the way he was. He could never bring himself to not wanting to be lonely. Shinji knew he was a hypocrite, but it was hypocrisy that he felt that he could do absolutely nothing about.

Shinji got off the train in the city centre and went to another place he knew for lunch. The only words he spoke were those of his order and a 'thank you' after he had finished his meal. Shinji headed back out into the streets to have snow fall on him as he walked towards another place he often visited. It wasn't so cold now, but the snow was definitely getting heavier and less pleasant. Despite the weather, people were out in the city in their thousands and there were still the usual deadlock of traffic. Shinji trudged along to the bar he made regular appearances to. Once inside, he took off his jacket and took his seat in front of the bar. "What can I get you, sir?" the barmaid inquired.

"A beer, please," Shinji said, not specifying any brand.

"A Yebisu?" the barmaid asked.

"Yeah," Shinji said, not really paying attention.

"Coming right up."

Shinji received his drink and paid the appropriate amount of money for it before grabbing a newspaper so that all his attention was off anything else. Shinji began reading an article about the discovery of the object in space before being reminded of everything he once experienced as an Eva pilot. He quickly turned the page and began reading some other story about politics. Shinji showed no real interest in the articles in the paper, but it was the only thing he felt he could do if he was to avoid people in generally. However, despite all his efforts, there were always people out there willing to connect to Shinji. Shinji would have savoured it had he not been so afraid.

A young woman with a slender, elegant figure sat beside Shinji at the bar and ordered herself a drink. She pulled back her black hair then looked over to Shinji and smiled. Shinji smiled back, if only as a gesture. The woman edged over closer to Shinji and said, "Hey there."

"Hi," Shinji said.

"Whatcha reading?" she inquired.

"Some story about political reform," Shinji replied. "I've got nothing better to do."

"I see," she said. "I never got politicians. They never seem to be in the real world."

"They try their best, I'll give them that," Shinji said.

The woman laughed and took a sip of her drink. Shinji glanced over and saw a highly attractive woman who couldn't have been much older than 20. Her straight black hair went down to her shoulders and Shinji could smell the scent of the sweet perfume that she wore. "So, what are you doing alone in a place like this?" Shinji asked.

"Me? Well, I just saw the place and I thought I could use a quick drink before I head on to a party," she explained.

"A party, huh?" Shinji said.

"Yeah, university 'first day of the new year' party," she answered.

"Been there before. Any excuse to have a party," Shinji chuckled before taking another drunk of his beer.

"Too true," the young woman agreed.

"Are you a student?" Shinji asked.

"Yeah, I'm studying law," she replied.

"Oh, cool. I did law as well," Shinji said.

"Really? When did you graduate?"

"Two years ago."

Shinji began to feel uneasy. He felt a connection growing between him and this woman whose name he didn't know. One part was telling him to strengthen that connection. Another was telling him to get up and leave. The latter was always the stronger of the two. Shinji felt like he had no resolve whatsoever. "From Tokyo-4 University?" she asked.

"Yeah, I did. Small world, huh?" Shinji chuckled.

"Uh-huh. I'm only into my second year though," she said.

"Time will fly, trust me," Shinji said.

"I wish and I don't wish that at the same time," she said with a sigh.

"The social life, huh?"

"You got it," the woman said before taking another drink. "So, what's your name…?"

"Listen, I've got to go. It's been really nice, speaking to you though," Shinji said.

And like that, Shinji left that woman alone who had truly wanted to get to know him. Shinji couldn't give himself any explanation for it anymore. It was just something he did to people. He would meet them but never get to know them. Sometimes he would see these people again and he would have another quick chat, but that was it. He hardly ever got to the stage of knowing names. In one case, Shinji had slept with one woman he had met but after that he distanced himself from her and eventually, she forgot all about Shinji. He saw the destructive impact this was having on his life but Shinji just felt like it had snowballed beyond his control. Shinji decided to walk home and drink himself to sleep again. He knew that his over indulgence of alcohol was fast becoming a problem for him but he didn't care. It was just another facet of Shinji's broken life.

As he ventured through the deep snow, he looked up to see someone lying on a park bench. As Shinji moved closer, he saw that the person was a woman and that all she had covering her was a thin, rugged blanket. Shinji moved forward to check on her to see if she was okay and when he saw her face Shinji took several steps back before falling into the snow. Shinji got up again and moved toward the woman and looked at her face one more time to see if his eyes hadn't deceived him. It was the pale face and the blue hair of Rei Ayanami, someone he hadn't seen since Third Impact. Shinji tried to shake her awake but received no response. Shinji checked her pulse and was relieved to find she had one but on the other hand was terrified to find that it was so slow. Shinji then lifted her limp body off of the bench and went as fast as he could to his car. He placed her inside along the back seat before running out to check the streets. However, there was absolute deadlock and it would take too long for Shinji to reach a hospital. Instead, he took Rei's body out of his car and up to his flat.

He laid her along the sofa before getting more blankets, towels and covers to cover Rei with and making sure that she was dry. Along with that, Shinji pulled out some electric heaters and placed them around her at a reasonable distance. Shinji knew that she could possibly be suffering from hypothermia so he needed to warm her up slowly and gradually. Once that was done, Shinji constantly checked on her as well as seeing if traffic was getting any lighter outside. However, the snow was causing widespread delays on the roads, giving Shinji no chance of making to the hospital.

After about half an hour, he saw Rei opened her eyes and Shinji immediately jumped to her side. "Where…where am I?" she asked weakly.

"You're fine, Rei. I found you outside in the snow with nothing but a think blanket. You're inside my flat now," Shinji answered.

"Who…who are you?" Rei asked.

Shinji was slightly surprised by her question, but answered regardless, "I'm Shinji. Shinji Ikari."

"Shinji Ikari?" Rei asked. "I do not know who you are."

Shinji's head dropped when she said that. Rei had no memories of him, it seemed. "And Rei…is that my name?" she asked.

"Yes, that is your name. Rei Ayanami," Shinji answered.

"I see," she said, before drifting back off into sleep. Shinji stood up in front of her and wondered how Rei suddenly appeared on a park bench with next to no clothes on as well as how she had no memory of anything, including her own name. One thing was for sure, and that was Rei was incredibly exhausted and was barely awake for a minute before succumbing to sleep. Happy that she was warm enough, Shinji himself went off to bed and he forgot all about ever wanting to drink himself to bed. However, the sudden reappearance of Rei Ayanami brought along new trials and tribulations that Shinji would have never thought to have to expect.

Thousands of miles away in Munich, Germany, Asuka Langley Sohryu returned home to her Munich flat after a long day of work. She brushed the snow off of her jacket before hanging it up and heading inside. Asuka worked as a researcher at the physics faculty of Munich's Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Upon her return home from Japan, Asuka was hailed as a child prodigy and given a post in research at the physics faculty at the age of 16. Since then, she had received acclaim from several professors for her work in both theoretical and experimental fields. However, it was far from fulfilling to the 24 year old who felt bored and unchallenged by her work. Despite her misgivings, it was all she had and didn't really see any alternative at the moment.

Asuka was in a mood she couldn't really understand at the moment. She had heard the stories of the object found in space and she immediately knew that it was Evangelion Unit 01. Initially, she had just taken it as an extra piece of information but as time went on, she became increasingly intrigued with the discovery and found her attention straying from her work. Asuka's nights became filled of dreams with the memories of 10 years ago. Times when she was with other people that she could connect to. She hadn't known it then but now, when it was too late, she realised how similar some of those people were to her. Especially Shinji Ikari. They were so alike, it was almost unbelievable. However, Asuka had been afraid of that similarity and had even grown to hate the boy. Now, she wondered if there was ever to be any reconciliation.

She entered her living room and saw a flashing light on her answering machine. Asuka pulled out a cigarette from her pocket, pressed the play button before heading out onto the balcony to smoke. "One new message," said the voice of her answering machine. "Left, 1st January 2026, at time, 11:22." Asuka took one pull of her cigarette before hearing the voice of her boyfriend on the line. She expected some useless message about when their next date was or something along those lines. Instead, she heard, "Hey Asuka. It's Hans. I've been trying to call you all morning, but you're at work, aren't you? Listen…I've said for the past while we needed to talk. And now, it doesn't even seem like I can string a sentence to you anymore. Asuka…after six months…it's not working. You managed to put so much distance between us even though we've been standing right next to each other. I'm sorry…and goodbye."

"End of message," her answering machine conveniently announced.

Asuka tossed her barely-smoked cigarette off the balcony and headed back inside. She stood in front of her answering machine, simply staring at it with blackened eyes. Finally, she snapped. "AAAAGGGH!" she screamed, swinging her foot at the small silver object. Her kick connected with the answering machine, sending it flying across the other side of her living room and smashing into pieces on the opposite wall. She threw herself onto her sofa and grabbed her head with her hands. "I CAN'T FUCKING BELIEVE IT!" she cried.

Yet, the more she thought about it, the more it seemed her now ex-boyfriend was right. Asuka calmed down incredibly quickly and sat up with his words playing through her mind. You managed to put so much distance between us even though we've been standing right next to each other. That's what he said. Was that…my fault? Asuka thought. Is everything that hurts me my fault? Why can't I blame anyone else? It always comes back to me! Asuka sat with her head down and waited for tears to come. However, she knew that she couldn't cry. She wouldn't let herself cry. It was something Asuka just didn't do.

As she sat there, something began to overtake her thoughts. She immediately got up and set up her laptop. As she waited for it to load, she pulled out another cigarette and shakily attempted to light it. After flicking her lighter another four times, her cigarette was finally lit and she inhaled deeply, hating herself for doing so. Smoking was something she picked up from her boyfriend and now she just wanted to stop to disconnect herself from him. Yet, from his words, maybe that was something Asuka already had managed to do. At first, she really liked the guy, believing that this could be a true relationship. Then, it just turned into gratification from sex. And afterwards, Asuka even received nothing from the sex. It just became another thing with him. She had grown cold and distant to him. She was happy to admit that to herself.

Once her computer was loaded up, Asuka went on the internet and bought herself a ticket for the soonest flight from Munich to Tokyo-4. It would be tomorrow. Once that was done, Asuka phoned her lab and left a message, "Hello, this is Asuka Langley Sohryu. Just to say that I am leaving the country for personal reasons so I won't be in for the next few weeks, possibly. And don't try to contact me; my answering machine is broken." Once she hung up, Asuka pulled out another cigarette and placed it in her mouth before heading out to the balcony. However, she stopped as her hand reached up to light the cigarette. Instead, she took the cigarette out of her mouth and threw it over the balcony, shortly followed by her lighter. Next, she pulled out the packet from her pocket and tossed that over as well. With that done, she stood there and watched the snow begin to envelop the city of Munich on this day, the first of the year 2026.