Nergal Fan Fiction LLC
A division of Nergal Heavy Industries proudly presents:
The Best Laid Plans
Chapter Seven "Victory"
Disclaimer: Characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion have been used without permission. All characters contained in this work are copyright GAINAX, Project EVA, Movic, AD Vision and Manga Entertainment.
"So you're really going to break up with her?"
Shinji simply nodded at his friend Touji rather than vocalize the words. Not that the other boy would have heard anyway. Making their way through the crowded halls of the school, the two dodged students walking in the opposite direction, splitting apart to allow others to pass between them, merging back together...only to be split apart again. These constant interruptions made normal conversation impossible.
"Why?" Touji said quickly before a larger boy pushed between them.
"It's a long story," Shinji replied, glancing at his friend and running into a group of girls milling about in the hall. "Sorry," he said, bowing a bit as they giggled at his formality.
"I've got time," Touji said, suddenly coming to a halt as they reached a mass of humanity struggling to exit through the small door leading to the sun drenched courtyard beyond. Leaning up on his tiptoes, he tried to look over the crowd and determine what the delay was. "This is ridiculous," he cried out, bouncing along the outskirts of the horde, hoping to find a clear path to freedom.
"Hey, kid come here," Touji growled as he grabbed a small boy by the collar, "you're going to help me." Lifting the child off the ground, the track-suited boy thrust the screaming youngster, who appeared to be about eight, into the pack, effectively using him as a human shield. "Follow me Shinji!"
Pressing forward, the youth now acted more like a plow then a shield. Touji pushing him forward through the mob, the boy's flailing arms and legs effectively parting the sea of humanity while his cries of protest made good impression of a siren. Within a few moments the three of them finally reached the source of the bottleneck, their goal of the courtyard within sight. With one last thrust, they sent the students who had been blocking the doorway sprawling as they fell out into the daylight and cool breeze afforded them outside the confines of the school.
"Thanks," he said, tossing the weeping boy aside, his purpose fulfilled.
"You really shouldn't do that," Shinji said the two began walking toward the group of tables. "You might get in trouble."
"Who me?" Touji said innocently, "I didn't do nothing."
"What?" the track suited boy quizzed, regarding his friend with a curious look.
"Anything," Shinji sighed, "you didn't do anything."
"I know," Touji nodded, "that's what I said."
"No," the Third Child said, shaking his head. "You said you didn't do nothing." He glanced over and noticed the blank stare on his friend. "When you say didn't do nothing," he explained, "what you are really saying is you DID something."
The taller boy reached out and grabbed Shinji's shoulder, bring both to a stop. "So you're saying I didn't do nothing in fact means I did something?" He watched as the Eva pilot nodded in the affirmative. "So it's one of those metaphors."
"Don't feel bad, I made the same mistake," Touji said with a smile. "You see METAPHOR'S are a group of words while a METEOR is the rock thing from space. I can see you confused them too."
Shinji gave his friend a bewildered stare for a moment before deciding to drop the issue. "T...thanks," he reluctantly replied silently wondering exactly what he was thanking him for.
"I'm pretty up to date on that literary stuff," Touji said as they resumed their trek, "I know all about smiles and those anal things too."
"Similes and analogies?"
"Yeah those," the lead Stooge said thoughtfully. "Though the proper pronunciation is SMILES."
"Err...sure," Shinji said apprehensively. The two continued walking along in silence, the Eva Pilot occasionally glancing over to steal glimpses of his friend. "Did you know that the word gullible isn't in any of our text books?"
"It isn't?" Touji questioned, "was it some sort of publication mistake or was it purposely left out?"
"I really don't know," Shinji replied with a smirk.
"That's unexcusable!" Touji said loudly as they came upon an open table. He took one side while Shinji continued around to the other. "There needs to be an investigation or something. How are we ever going to learn what the word gullible means if they don't teach it to us?"
"You've got a point," Shinji said apprehensively, "you obviously don't know what it means." His lame attempt at humor an utter failure, and desperate to change the subject, the Eva Pilot decided to inquire about the absent member of their trio. "Where's Kensuke?"
Kensuke Aida ran across the courtyard, fighting through the tide of students attempting to leave the school premises as quickly as possible. For the first time in his life, Kensuke actually didn't want to leave school and start his weekend. No, this time the freckled boy had other plans, and at this moment going home was the farthest thing from his mind. Finally breaking into the clear, he found himself standing on the center of the basketball court, looking up at his ultimate destination. Jabbing his hand into his pocket he pulled out a delicately folded note within. Holding it up to his nose, a broad smile formed on his face as the sweet smell of expensive, lavender perfume radiated from the letter. Gently he held the paper in front of him as he carefully opened and reread the message inside.
I THINK YOU ARE THE HOTTEST GUY IN THE CLASS. YOUR MILITARY KNOWLEDGE TURNS ME ON. I HAVE WANTED TO TELL YOU THIS FOR THE LONGEST TIME, BUT HAVE BEEN TOO SHY TO SAY ANYTHING. BUT MY DESIRE FOR YOU MUST BE FULLIFILLED BEFORE I BURST. I WANT YOU MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF. MEET ME AT THE POOL AFTER SCHOOL. I WANT TO GIVE YOU THE SCREWING OF A LIFETIME. NOW I KNOW YOU ARE FAR MORE EXPERIENCED THAN ME ABOUT THESE THINGS AND I'M SURE YOU HAVE DONE THIS MANY TIMES BEFORE, BUT FOR ME THIS WILL BE MY FIRST TIME. I AM AFRAID I WILL BACK OUT AT THE LAST MINUTE, SO I ONLY ASK THAT YOU BE IN THE POOL AND READY TO GO AS SOON AS I GET THERE. I PROMISE IT WILL BE THE MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE IN YOUR LIFE.
YOUR SECRET ADMIRER
PS REMEMBER TO BE IN THE POOL READY TO GO OR I WILL BE TOO NERVOUS AND RUN AWAY.
Though the kanji was incorrect in places and difficult to read, he could tell by the strokes and forms that it was definitely made by a girl. And the powerful aroma more than convinced the boy that this was indeed made by a female member of the species. His hand was shaking quite hard as he carefully refolded the letter and put it back in his pocket for safekeeping. Come tomorrow, with that piece of paper he would have the physical evidence required to validate the upcoming event to his fellow Stooges. His heart threatening to jump out of his chest he resumed his journey, tackling the stairs leading up to the pool two at a time, prepared to face his destiny...
"Hey," Touji said, looking a bit troubled, especially for a Friday afternoon. "There's something I've been meaning to tell you."
"Sure," Shinji replied.
"I'm really sorry about yesterday...trying to kill you and all," Touji said softly, looking down at the table in dismay. "I was wrong."
"It's alright," the Third said with a smile. "I knew you didn't want to really kill me."
"But I did," Touji protested, gazing up at his friend. "It was like I was possessed or something. I actually wanted to wring your neck."
"Y...you did?" the Eva pilot stammered, his smile going south.
"Yes, but Hikari and I talked on the way home last night and now I realize I was going to kill you for all the wrong reasons."
"Thanks," Shinji replied. "I think."
"Don't worry," the jock chuckled as he observed an obviously shaken Shinji. "I mean if I ever DID try to kill you, I'm sure your father would sick Unit 01 on me."
"I doubt that," the Third Child frowned. "I'm the only one who can pilot it and I know I sure wouldn't try to hurt you, especially after what I did to Kimiko."
"Yeah...what you did to her," Touji said nervously, rubbing his eyes in an effort to avoid seeing his friend's pained expression. "But I'm sure your father could devise some system to force you."
"If he ever did I would quit NERV the next day!"
Touji remembered something from his Word a Day calendar. "My, aren't you a pendant youth."
"I think the word is petulant," Shinji sighed after his fourth correction of the day, about four thousandth since moving to Tokyo-3. Each time it made more and more sense that Asuka gave him that calendar in the first place. "Can we change the subject, I'd rather not discuss the various ways Unit 01 could hurt my friends."
"Good idea," Touji exclaimed, "let's talk about something else." He stared up at the sky and stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Let me see, what to talk about...what to talk about?" After a few moments of repeating this phrase, he suddenly stopped and slammed his hands down on the table. "I've got it! How about you and Hikari? Are you really going to break up?"
'Subtle',Shinji mused to himself, struggling to hide his amusement at the fellow Stooge's predictability. All that was left was to make it convincing, a task made much easier, given his friend's eagerness and intellect.
"Yes," he said softly, pausing for a moment of perceived remorse. "Hikari is a WONDERFUL girl, and I like her a lot...but just not as a girlfriend."
"That's too bad," Touji said with as much compassion as someone positively gushing could muster, "but you know these things never last." No matter how hard he tried to hide it, his smile was apparent not only to Shinji, but anyone within thirty feet. "Have you told her yet?"
"No," the Third Child replied. "I was going to tell her this morning but I was late and didn't really get the chance."
"Why were you late?"
"Asuka," he sighed, "she had me up half the night."
"You stud," Touji exclaimed, raising his hand and awaiting the other half of the high-five.
Shinji gazed over at the grinning boy, his arm hoisted in anticipation of consummating the male bonding. "Um...it's nothing like that," he said softly watching as his friend's expression began to fade. "In fact the complete opposite. She spent the better part of the night alternating between ignoring and yelling at me. On top of that, Misato locked us out of the apartment so I had nowhere to go."
"That's nice," Touji said proving his attention span was not capable of following Shinji's explanation. Or more precisely, his mind was too focused on someone else. "So..." he said, anxious to get back on his subject, "when are you going to tell her? Can I watch?"
Shinji gave his friend a puzzled look. "You want to watch?"
"Sure," he replied with a smile. Noticing that the Eva Pilot still had the same questioning expression, he elaborated further. "I mean I want to be there in case Hikar...I mean you...in case YOU need support."
"Sure," Shinji said with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "What about Kensuke? I'm sure he could offer some support."
"No," Touji said quickly, his tone almost panicked. "Not him...I don't need his wise-ass remarks."
"I mean YOU," the larger boy snapped, "YOU don't need his remarks. Why would he make remarks to ME? It's not like I'm going to be saying anything to Hikari. Unless she breaks down and stuff, in which case I probably SHOULD console her...if that's okay with you. I'm not thinking of moving in on your girlfriend...but if she talks to me, then it's not my fault, right? Not that I really want to talk to her or anything but..."
"Stop," Shinji said effectively interrupting his friend's rambling. "Just stop. You are more then welcome to talk to her, I don't mind. You even have my complete approval to start dating her..." He watched as the track-suited boy let out a deep sigh of relief. "But can I at least break up with her first?"
"Oh yeah," Touji said, a slight blush forming on his face as he ran his fingers through his hair and scratched at the back of his head, "that probably should come first." He stared off in the distance, gazing around trying to find something remotely interesting. Failing at that Touji put his head down on the table, feigning sleep as he attempted to act as nonchalant as possible. Finally he could bear the anticipation no more. "Let's go find her!" he said excitedly as he jumped up from the table.
"Touji," Shinji replied as the boy began tugging on his arm in an effort to lift him out of his seat. "Why don't you sit down...I have a feeling Hikari will find us."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," the Third nodded as he motioned for the boy to sit back down. Slowly he returned to his seat, but not before scanning the immediate area.
Shinji smiled as he watched Touji fidget nervously. He alternated between straightening his clothing, checking his fly, breathing into his hand to ensure freshness and using his fingers as a comb.
"Hey Touji," he said in an effort to get the boy's mind off the impending meeting before he passed out. "What do you think Kensuke is doing?"
The water was cold.
Even though the thermometer dangling loosely from the stainless steel ladder claimed a temperature of twenty-four degrees Celsius, it had to be wrong. Kensuke sighed as he dropped the measuring device back into the depths. What other explanation could there be for his shaking arms, racing heartbeat, and goose bumps? His trembling hand barely able to grasp the frames, he removed his glasses and placed them upon his folded uniform next to the pool. His arms supporting him, the boy hung tight to the edge of the pool as his legs kicked every so often, just to experience the freedom they were afforded. His nudity only broken by a jungle camouflage pair of Fruit of the Loom size thirty-one briefs, he felt a strange mixture of both arousal and fear as he heard the gate at the bottom of the walkway stairs open and close.
"Are you there...lover?" he heard an unfamiliar voice call out. Squinting hard, he was only able to make out the girl's silhouette as she approached the final gate leading into the pool. Silently he cursed the fact that laser eye surgery had been banned in the year 2004 because of intense political pressure from LensCrafters and the Consortium of Glass Producing Nations. Their strong armed tactics had lead to the passage of the National Eyesight Restoration Declaration, also known as the NERD initiative, because of which, he was forever condemned to a life of aided vision or none at all.
On the positive side, at least he was sure it was a girl, her long hair playing lightly in the breeze as she stopped just inside the fenced in area. "Are you...alone?" she said softly, her voice sounding vaguely familiar but still not one that he could immediately recognize.
"Y...yes...I...a...am," Kensuke stuttered, the excitement of the situation getting the better of him.
"But you didn't follow my instructions," the girl pouted, placing her hands on her hips, "you're supposed to be naked."
"I...I'm pretty close," the boy protested, lifting himself up a bit higher out of the water as he continued to try and get a better look at the female. "It's just my underwear."
"You have to be naked before I'll come in," she said as she started to slowly walk around the perimeter of the pool, still maintaining a considerable distance between them. "I'm too shy."
"Nothing to be shy about," Kensuke said, trying to sound as manly as he possibly could, and failing miserably as his voice cracked. "Just jump right in."
The girl hesitated for a moment, then swiftly turned and began walking away. "If you don't want to do this my way, then you can just forget it."
"NO WAIT!" he shouted, absently holding his hands out to protest her departure and slipping under the water. Quickly resurfacing he wiped the liquid from his eyes. "Don't go...I'll take them off...it's just that I want to make sure you are serious."
"I'm serious," the girl replied turning to face him again, not that he could tell as his poor vision, the combination of chorine from the pool water, and the fact the girl had chosen to stand directly in line with the sun had effectively blinded him. "Too prove it, I'll start stripping myself."
Narrowing his eyes as much as possible, Kensuke was able to just make out the image of the shadowy figure beginning to unbutton her uniform. Even with his terrible eyesight and vantage point, he could make out the fact that the girl was quite petite, long legs which didn't look like they could support her and either reddish or light brown hair. Best of all were the large breasts that seemed to block the sun each time she turned just the right direction. His heart threatening to burst free from his chest, he reached down and kicked off his last shred of modesty. "Here you go," he said loudly as threw the dripping cloth up next to her. "Naked as the day I was born."
He watched as the girl carefully picked them up, pinching them between her thumb and index finger as she held them out at a full arm's length. 'She'll probably want to keep them to show her friends,' the boy thought as he observed her walk around the pool toward the ladder. His nakedness fueling his ego, Kensuke contemplated doing the backstroke to further entice his prey, but thought better of the idea as he remembered a similar stunt last summer and the laughter that the cold water shrinkage had incurred. Rather then repeat the incident from the Hello Kitty 13 and Under Summer Fan Camp, he chose instead to doggy paddle after the girl and as she continued walking around the pool.
Placing the underwear on top of his uniform, she gathered up the entire bundle, clutching them tightly to her chest. "Why hug the clothes when you can just jump in and have the man," Kensuke said trying his best to be smug, but failing miserably as he gazed up at the girl from the base of the ladder. The thought of those luscious breasts pressed against his skin convinced him that shrinkage would not be a problem this time.
"In your dreams," the girl snapped.
Kensuke's mouth fell open as he immediately recognized her voice. Reaching up he grabbed his glasses, which she had so kindly left behind. "It's you!"
"Yes, it's me," Asuka said, a triumphant smile on her face as she buttoned her uniform. "And YOU are a pervert."
Kensuke finished adjusting his glasses and reached up to start climbing the ladder, determined to retrieve his clothes. "Not so fast," she said with a smile, "unless you want pictures of your little sausage posted all over the school." Glancing down he noticed the small minicamera, complete with NERV logo in her hand. "Now you get the idea," she said as she watched him sulk back down beneath the waves. "Of course without a zoom I doubt much would show up."
"Very funny...bitch," Kensuke grumbled, gritting his teeth as he watched the girl start to walk away, carrying his entire outfit with her.
"Now don't get all excited," she quipped as she opened the chain link door leading to the stairs. "You might poke somebody's eye out with that thing."
"I'll get you for this," he screamed, defiantly shaking his fist in the air at her.
"You've got the motion," she said with a smile, "and I know about your jerk-off fantasies of me. Do it again like usual...I'll even stand here and watch. I've got thirty seconds to kill."
"Just leave me alone," Kensuke said dejectedly, quickly pulling his hand under the water. "I can't believe you lied to me."
"Lied?" Asuka frowned, curious at his choice of words. "How did I lie to you?"
"You said if I came to the pool and followed your instructions...which I did...I would get screwed."
A broad smile appeared on her face as she addressed him. "Kensuke, you may call me many things...and in fact you have, but never...I repeat NEVER, let it be said that Asuka Langley Sohryu is a liar. I promised you would be screwed and dammit all I'm going to keep my end of the bargain." That said she turned and addressed the figure walking up the stairs. "Good afternoon Rei."
"Good afternoon, Pilot Soh...Asuka."
Kensuke felt his anger dissipate in a moment as he watched the blue haired beauty walk past the redhead and into the pool area. The towel slung over her shoulders perfectly framed her breasts as she made her way around to the diving board. Kensuke swallowed hard as she carefully placed her towel on one of the deck chairs. He couldn't help but notice how stunning she looked in her one-piece swimsuit, her red eyes and pale skin contrasting perfectly with the black fabric… the fabric that left just enough to his suddenly fevered imagination.
"Wondergirl," Asuka called out as she watched the girl prepare to dive. "I'll leave you two alone...play nice." The First Child didn't respond but rather gave her fellow pilot a curious stare as the Second turned and prepared to walk away. Stopping short and not bothering to turn around, she called out in a much less jovial tone, "and I need to talk to you tonight after the sync tests."
"I understand," Rei said, even though Asuka had already disappeared from view.
Kensuke gazed up as he watched the First fly effortless through the air, parting the water without so much as a ripple forming from the entry. Surfacing next to the shaking boy, she turned and regarded him with a curious stare. "Are you ready?"
"Y...y...yes," Kensuke stammered, words failing to come easily as the chain of command in the rational part of his brain was being hijacked by a far more primal instinct. Easing a bit closer to girl he stared deeply into her crimson eyes. "I...I'm...r...ready."
"Good," Rei replied, readily giving up the distance between them as Kensuke approached. "I trust you are in good enough shape?"
"S...sure," he said, surprised he was still conscious at being this close to a semi naked girl while nude himself. "I can do it."
"You will be the first."
"T...the...f...f...first?" Kensuke said nervously as he pondered his own virginity. "I...isn't this a bit, sudden?"
"It is time to begin," Rei said flatly as stared into his eyes. Or more precisely stared past them. "They are here."
"They?" the boy said curiously as he finally noticed the girl watching something behind him. Slowly he turned to find out, deep down already knowing what was happening as he heard the chatter of the other members of the swim team approach.
In another place and time, the sight of ten scantily clad girls would have been a wet dream come true, unfortunately in this place and time they were an all-too-real nightmare.
"We have always desired an experienced training partner," Rei said as she edged by him and climbed the ladder out of the pool. "And according to Sohryu," she said grabbing her towel and drying herself off, "you are quite adept because you practice your stroke each night." The other girls made their way over and as a group they began stretching and chatting amongst themselves in preparation for the day's training.
Kensuke realized that, for the moment at least, he had not been observed by any of the other members of the team. Keeping his head as low as possible in the water, he silently worked his way around the edge of the pool, all the while reviewing possible escape routes. Spying a discarded towel lying within arm's reach, he let out a little sight of relief and prepared to grab it. Springing out of the water, he made a desperate lunge for the cloth only to realize that like many men, he had greatly exaggerated the length of an appendage on his body. Now halfway out of the water, the naked boy groped desperately, stretching his arms as far as they would go, his fingers tickling the soft white cloth but not enough to grasp it.
"Hey, what are you doing?" one of the girls called out, finally noticing the commotion at the far end of the pool. Observing his swimming attire, or lack thereof, she quickly screamed, only to be joined by a chorus of screaming as the rest of the girl's swim team was clearly not as comfortable with the concept of nudity as the Eva Pilot. Sliding back into the water, the boy dove to the bottom of the pool and sat there contemplating as to exactly how he ended up in this position.
'Asuka's right,'he thought to himself, dreading the fact he would eventually have to surface for air. 'I'm screwed.'
"Hey Asuka," Hikari called, raising her hand and waving it to ensure she was noticed. The redhead had finished dropping some items into a garbage can as her friend came up next to her. "Where have you been?"
"Let's just say that I had a little problem to take care of," she replied with a smirk that proved there was much more to that comment then she let on. "A very little problem."
"I don't want to know." Hikari had been friends with the German girl long enough to know what that look meant, but she also knew enough not to ask. Whenever she acted like this, it wasn't long until the truth came out anyway…usually in the form of some type of destruction, be it physical or mental, followed by lots of crying or swearing. Such was the nature of the Second Child. "Come on," she said, taking a few steps toward the courtyard as the Eva Pilot fell in next to her. "We were supposed to meet Shinji ten minutes ago."
"What's the hurry?" Asuka said as the two walked at a brisk pace across the empty basketball court.
"Nothing," the class rep replied.
"Really?" the Second Child said curiously as she glanced over to the girl. "What's the matter?"
"I told you, nothing."
Asuka reached out and grabbed her friend by the shoulder, pulling her to a stop. "Are you okay?"
"Actually, I'm doing great...wonderful in fact," Hikari said quickly as she tried to start moving again though Asuka held her firm. "I don't want him to leave before I get there."
A slight frown inadvertently formed on the redhead's face as she lamented the fact that the unsuspecting girl was about to be cast aside like last night's leftovers. "Shinji's not going anywhere," she said, knowing full well that he was going to be at the table, as per the plan discussed that morning.
"I just wanted to make sure, that's all," the pig tailed girl replied, "today is a very important day."
"Can I ask you a question?" Asuka said, even as the first pangs of guilt began to eat at her. Watching her friend's cheerful expression she began to worry how her friend would take the impending breakup. Would she simply cry? Would she slap his face and get angry? Would she do both? Asuka knew what she would do, but her friend was a completely different story. She figured Hikari would most likely break down and require near constant support to overcome the crisis. Which begged an even bigger question...was toying with people's emotions such a good idea in the first place? Not only did it get her in trouble with Misato, now her best friend was going to be an emotional wreck for weeks, and on top of all that, she still had to set up a date between Rei and Shinji. All this because she wanted to prove a point to Misato...that was the real reason this whole saga began...right?
"What do you see in him anyway?" Asuka said, attempting to break down her friend's image of the Third Child to soften the blow. "Shinji is nothing but a miserable little boy. I can't see why you should make such a big deal about it."
"You really don't know him," Hikari said sharply, "do you?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
The class rep shook her head slightly back and forth. "It pretty obvious to me...if you understood Shinji in the slightest, you wouldn't say half the bad things you do about him."
"I live with the idiot," the Second protested loudly, "don't tell me I don't know anything about him. I can tell you for a fact he's annoying, spineless, immature, weak...
"Caring, compassionate, loyal, handsome..." Hikari said as she interrupted her friend, "and most of all he is a good person that I am proud to call my friend."
"Even if he's about dump you?" Asuka smirked, determined to stem the tide of compliments.
The redhead stopped short as her friend reached out and grabbed her shoulder, spinning her around to face her. "Who told you that!"
"Nobody," the Eva Pilot said defensively, "I was just saying that IF he dumped you...your attitude toward him would change, that's all."
"It might," Hikari said, still eyeing her friend curiously over her previous statement. "Depends on the circumstances. Sometimes people do rotten things for the right reasons." She paused a moment, searching her friend's face for some sign of hidden knowledge. "Are you SURE Shinji didn't say anything to you?"
"He didn't mention anything to me," Asuka said innocently, waving her hands in protest of the accusation.
"Fine," Hikari sighed, knowing the girl wouldn't crack. "Let's get going."
"Sure," Asuka replied as the two resumed their trek. Walking along, the Second Child couldn't ignore the fact her conscience was in overdrive, riddling her ego with constant reminders of the pain she was putting everyone through. "Hey, Hikari?" she said to break an uneasy silence that had fallen over them. "How about tomorrow night we go to that festival downtown?"
"Why not?" the Second asked, then realized the girl must be thinking that Shinji was going to take her. An event destined not to happen once they finally reached her roommate. "Forget about Shinji," Asuka said, anxious to quell her rising inner voice, "you can do something without him for once."
'And it will give you a chance to get used to it after he dumps you,' the German girl thought to herself, proving her sardonic wit was insurmountable.
"Oh, I'm not going with Shin..." Hikari said quickly, her expression fading as she realized she had said something wrong. "What I mean to say is that I don't want to go."
Asuka gave her friend a questioning gaze, but simply shrugged off the unusual exchange as they rounded the corner of the school and spied Shinji and his fellow Stooge sitting at the predetermined meeting ground.
"Here she comes," Touji said excitedly as he caught sight of Hikari and Asuka approaching. Like a puppy watching his master's arrival, the boy began twitching and gyrating enthusiastically in his seat.
"Calm down," Shinji sighed as he watched his friend's animated behavior. "This is a very delicate situation that needs to be handled with care and tact."
"Care and tact, got it!" he replied with a nod. "What do you want me to do?"
"Just sit there and don't say a word," the Third said, looking quite serious in the process. "Let me do the talking."
"Don't say a word, I can do that," Touji said, running his finger across his mouth to simulate a zipper. "If there's one thing I know, it's when to shut up. In fact, one time my father had worked late and told me to keep it down so he could sleep. I did just like he said. I didn't say a word even though the toilet started overflowing and my sister had snuck a boy into her room. But did I make a peep? No way. In fact Dad was able to sleep all the way until the firemen broke in the door."
"What were firemen doing there?" Shinji quizzed.
"Do you know you can't put metal in a microwave?" the lead Stooge said awaiting an affirmative nod from the Eva Pilot before continuing. "Well, apparently the same is true for Tupperware and a convection oven."
"So you called them to put out the fire?"
"Actually it wasn't me," Touji said shaking his head, "the police called the fire department."
"The police!" Shinji cried out.
"Yeah," his friend said with a smile, "they got there shortly after the first shots were fired."
"Kimiko doesn't take rejection well," Touji said nonchalantly, as if his sister's temper was common knowledge. "But the key thing is that I never said a word the whole time. You can count on me to shut up. I'll be so quiet you'll never even know I'm here. You'll think I'm dead, except the fact I will breathe every couple of minutes, but other than that…"
"You could start NOW!" Shinji said as he glanced up and saw that the girls were standing over them.
"Hello Shinji," Asuka said giving the boy a slight grin. "What the hell is THIS dork doing here?" she said after turning and pointing toward the other boy at the table.
"I could ask the same of you," Touji replied defiantly.
"Can we sit down? Hikari said, already slipping into one of the open seats.
"Sure," Shinji said as he watched Asuka take the final unoccupied spot.
"What were you talking about?" the class rep said, looking at the track suited boy.
"Nothing really important," Touji said, smiling back at her. Something in his earlier story was sticking with him, suddenly feeling a bit uneasy about Shinji's task at hand. "You don't own a gun…do you?"
"Guns?" Hikari frowned as if the word had left a sour taste in her mouth. "I hate them! They are so dangerous. I would never use one." She could hear the sigh of relief that the jock let out at hearing those words.
"Knives are much better. You can see your victim. In fact…" she said, pausing as she slipped her hand up the skirt of her uniform she whipped out a shiny silver object. Handling the butterfly knife with the expertise that could only be honed after years of practice, she rolled it about in her hand, the stainless steel blade periodically reflecting the rays of the sun as she flipped it about faster than human eyes could follow. With a final thrust she jammed the cutting instrument into the table, mere inches from Touji's hand. "I have that one in case someone doesn't rise, bow, or sit down when I tell them to," she said, her tone whimsical, but with just enough seriousness to prove she might use it.
"Shinji…you're on you own," Touji said softly as his eyes followed the pendulum like motion of the knife handle as it rocked slowly in front of him.
"You wanted to talk to me?" Hikari smiled as she turned toward the Third Child, his eyes also transfixed by the shining killing instrument imbedded in front of his friend.
"Y…yes," Shinji replied, shaking his head in an attempt to clear the images his girlfriend's surprising display had left. "Yes, I have something to I need to talk to you about."
"Sure," she said, reaching out and extracting her knife from the table and repeating the elaborate spinning and flipping motions as she returned the object to its original concealed location. "What's up?"
The Eva Pilot leaned in towards the girl, attempting to provide them the most privacy possible given the fact that Asuka and Touji were hanging on his every word. Inching still closer, Shinji glanced to his left and right and noticed that the closer he got to Hikari, the closer the other two got to him. "I just wanted to tell you that," he whispered, the redhead and the jock now almost on top of him. "I just wanted to tell you that…" he said softly, "A LITTLE PRIVACY WOULD BE NICE!"
His unexpected outburst sent the two unwanted observers scattering. Asuka leaned back and tried to act indifferent to the whole situation, while Touji, who had fallen off his seat, was busy using his finger to probe the depths of his ear canal in an effort to ascertain the extent of his hearing loss.
Shinji cleared his throat and carefully held Hikari's hand within his own. "H…Hikari," he stammered, obviously struggling to formulate the words he wanted to say. "T…There comes a time in every relationship when tough choices have to be made…and we have reached that point."
"What are you saying?"
"You're such a jerk," Touji said, jumping up and putting a comforting arm around Hikari. "I can't believe how you dragged his poor girl's emotions through the mud, tossing her aside like…"
"I didn't break up with her yet," Shinji said through his clenched teeth, pretending to smile as he tried to stop his friend's premature proclamation.
"Oh," Touji smiled and reluctantly pulled his arm off the very confused young woman's shoulder. "Never mind."
"Now, where was I?" the Unit 01 pilot sighed before remembering where he left off. "Oh yeah…Hikari, I think that it would be best if we…"
"SHUT UP!" Shinji and Asuka screamed in perfect synchronization at the Stooge.
"Sorry," Touji mumbled as he sat back down in his chair.
"Shinji," Hikari said staring into his deep blue eyes, "just come out and say it."
"Hikari," the Third Child said, taking a deep breath before continuing, "I think it would be best if we didn't go out anymore."
Asuka, Shinji and even Hikari glanced over at Touji awaiting his response. However he was far too engrossed watching a pair of dogs mating in the distance to hear his cue.
"Touji?" Shinji called out softly, raising his voice just a bit as he called again. "Touji?"
Asuka groaned as she noticed the hypnotic effect the amorous dogs had on the Stooge. "IDIOT!" she shouted, "looking for pointers… or are you hoping if you bring them a bone they'll let you join in?"
"Huh?" Touji said, tearing himself away from the canine spectacle and realizing that everyone was looking at him. "What happened?"
"Shinji broke up with me," Hikari said calmly.
"That jerk!" Touji said loudly, "I can't believe that…"
"We know," the class rep interrupted, ducking her head under Touji's arm and forcing him to hold her. "Just comfort me in my hour of need," she wailed.
"What should I do?" Touji said baffled at what to do next. The entire 'weeping girl on the chest' experience was new to him. "I could punch him in the face again."
"No," Hikari said quickly, looking up at him. "Let's sit and talk."
"O...okay," he replied, cautiously patting her shoulder as she wormed her head in tightly against him.
"Thanks for being here for me," she said.
"Um...Hikari," he whispered, "I was wondering if...well...you wanted to go with me to the street festival tomorrow?"
"Why Touji," she said excitedly, "I just broke up about a minute ago and you are already asking me out on a date?"
"I...I...I...I'm sorry," Touji stammered, "I thought that you might...I didn't think that..."
"I'd love to," Hikari smiled, squeezing the jock's arm tightly. "I was afraid no one would ask me to go."
"Hey," Asuka protested, her words falling on deaf ears. Glancing over she noticed her roommate motioning for her to follow him as he slowly backed away.
"Let's leave them alone," Shinji said, motioning to the young couple now in a tight embrace behind them.
"I have no idea what she sees in that moron. Another minute and I would have punched HIM in the face," the redhead grumbled as the two began walking toward the entrance to the schoolyard. "And what exactly just happened? Either you and Hikari are the two most emotionless people in the world...and that IS a possibility. Or that was the worst staged break up in recorded history."
"Was it that obvious?"
"That's the worst acting job I've seen since Misato made us watch that old movie, Glitter."
"That was some awful punishment," Shinji replied with a frown, "talk about 'cruel and unusual.' I'll never get her that mad again."
"I think Geneva Convention specially lists viewing that as torture," Asuka said matter-of-factly. The pair enjoyed a joint chuckle before she continued. "That would have been funny if it wasn't so pathetic," the Second smiled, "but luckily for you, that Stooge is so dumb he could get lost in an elevator. Now I can see why you wanted me to keep the little pervert Stooge occupied. He would have blown the whistle on that debacle in a second."
"You're right," Shinji said, nodding knowingly. "Did you tell him to meet me at the arcade like we talked about this morning?" A feral grin formed on Asuka's face, making the boy feel uncomfortable as her realized she had decided on a difference plan – one that was without a doubt far more drastic and degrading than the one previously agreed upon.
"Let's just say that your friend got to live out one of his greatest fantasies."
"I don't want to know," Shinji said, shaking his head. Evidently Asuka got that response a lot when she was scheming. "But thanks for helping me."
"I told you," she said, "I was helping Hikari. I wasn't doing it for you."
"Well, thanks anyway," he replied, digging his hands deep into his pockets and hanging his head.
The Eva pilots continued down the concrete walkway, neither saying a word until they reached the gate that dictated the bounds of the school, beyond which the hustle and bustle of a typical Friday afternoon in Toyko-3 awaited them. Stopping just inside the ingress, it seemed to be Asuka's turn to mope, as she was more interested in staring at her shoes than continuing on their journey.
"About Ayanami," she said softly as if hoping he wouldn't hear. "Do you still want me to...well you know."
Shinji turned and regarded the brooding Second Child. "You did make a promise," he replied with a frown. "But since you helped me with Kensuke and you didn't let on that you knew we were faking just now, I'll understand if you are afraid to talk to her."
"Afraid?" Asuka cried out, "I'm not afraid to talk to her."
"You aren't acting like it," Shinji said coolly. "If this is going to be too hard, I'll get someone else."
The redhead balled her hands into fists, her arms shaking violently as she spoke. "FINE...I'll set up a date with your precious doll. Never let it be said that Asuka Langley Sohryu doesn't keep her word!"
"Great," the Third Child smiled broadly. "Some time tomorrow afternoon would be perfect."
Asuka raised her hand, finger pointed squarely at the boy, and was about to enter into a long monologue about why he and Rei shouldn't go on the date, when she found herself focusing on something else. It first appeared in the distance, catching her eye only because the sun seemed to almost reflect off its whiteness. Noticing that Asuka was not focused on him anymore, Shinji turned to also view the approaching object.
At first glance it appeared to be nothing more then a bright white streak, almost like lightning, darting back and forth using whatever cover was available. Finally reaching the last tree in the courtyard, and thus the last opportunity for concealment, it made a desperate dash to freedom. Now out in the open, it became clear to both that the phenomenon was neither Angelic nor supernatural. But rather a boy, about their age, trying his best to outrun an unseen foe. The only thing that set this particular boy apart from any other was the fact that he was not wearing any clothes.
"ASUKA!" Shinji cried out as he finally recognized the nearing image of his friend Kensuke. "What did you do?"
At that moment the members of the girls swim team, adorned in nothing but their swimsuits, rounded the corner of the building. Quickly catching sight of their prey, the posse took off in a mad dash after him. Kensuke looked back over his shoulder and immediately knew he had been spotted. Pumping his arms furiously as he ran, he looked the part of an Olympic sprinter on pace to win the gold as he drew near the pilots.
"Hide your shame!" Asuka called out as she couldn't help but notice the flopping appendage on the boy.
"And run faster!" Shinji yelled as the other boy hastened past them without so much as a greeting. "They're gaining on you!"
Turning right, the nude Kensuke continued running down the sidewalk, eliciting hysterical screams and catcalls as he fought through the crowd. Within seconds of his flashing by, the horde of upset young women ran past Shinji and Asuka, their bare feet slapping on the concrete as they continued the pursuit. As they passed, the teens could distinctly hear about the consequences if they caught their quarry, most of which involved removing and hanging his testicles on the flagpole. After a few moments the excitement was over, a steadily retreating chorus of honking horns, screams and car crashes the only evidence that the chase was still on.
Shinji looked over at Asuka, who was doing her best not to double over in laughter as she noticed the shocked appearance on her roommate. "What?" she said angrily. "I suppose you think I had something to do with that!"
"Asuka, these test scores are an abomination!"
Ritsuko paced back and forth in front of the girl in question, trying to think up other putdowns to accurately describe the Unit 02 pilot's slipping sync ratio. "For the past month your test scores have been varying widely, and I have given you the benefit of the doubt. Believe it or not I was fifteen once and I know how difficult that time in life can be." The blond scientist gave the girl a slight nod and smile before bringing her clipboard up and reviewing the day's data contained on them. "But for the past week your scores have steadily fallen…and now we reach this," she said crossly, flipping the clipboard down so the girl could see the charts and graphs for herself. "Just look at these!"
Asuka slowly lifted her head and gazed at the brightly colored lines and numbers, immediately noticing the preponderance of one color and downward sloping trends on each of them. Not that she knew exactly what each criterion meant, and not that she really cared either…but the point was clear. Her lips turned up ever so slightly as she thought about the irony of despising the color red for the first time in her life. Her failure sufficiently documented and on display for all to see, she turned away and caught sight of the third occupant in the changing room, the First Child. She had finished buttoning up her blue school uniform and was preparing to put on her shoes as she sat a few feet from them. Normally Asuka would have lashed out at the Doctor's comments, especially being dressed down in front of Rei, but for some reason lately, she found herself having less and less will to fight.
This fact was not lost on the good Doctor Akagi, as she immediately noticed some of the fire had left the Second Child. "I don't know what the problem is…but you need to get it squared away and soon. Just because the Angels haven't appeared in a year does not mean they won't return. The Commander has been very forgiving of your problems, in fact I'm surprised he has let it go this far. But rest assured, this is not a game, pilot, and if you don't start improving I may have to look for a replacement."
"I understand," Asuka said softly.
Ritsuko's mouth dropped as she watched the redhead droop her head and frown. Something was obviously troubling the Unit 02 pilot. Normally the mere mention of replacing her would have sent Asuka screaming at the top of her lungs, always with the potential for physical violence. But here she was almost accepting the fact that she might lose the one thing most precious in life to her. Given the girl's current state, further discussions would have proven meaningless, the Doctor mused. She would have to work the problem out for herself. "Tomorrow is Saturday, why don't you take the weekend off from Eva and just relax."
"I'll be fine," Asuka replied.
"It's an order," Ritsuko said with a smile. "In fact," she added turning toward Rei, "that goes for you and Shinji too. I want all three of you to take the weekend off."
The blue haired girl didn't reply but rather turned and nodded before resuming her previous task of arranging her uniform.
The Doctor regarded both girls for a moment, before turning and walking toward the door. "I guess I better let Major Katsuragi know she has the weekend off too…God help us all," she said as the door slowly closed behind her.
Asuka watched as small drops of LCL randomly fell from the bottom of her plugsuit, landing on the Type D suit carelessly lying at the bottom of her locker. Grasping the door she prepared to slam it closed when she caught sight of a tattered picture hanging there. She had seen it a hundred times before, but for some strange reason she found it captivating. The image was of her as a young child, large red ribbon holding up her hair and holding a large stuffed toy, with her mother and father standing behind her. She remembered it was one of the only pictures she still had of her real mother. It was as if it was the first time she was looking at the picture as she carefully studied each and every nuance and expression of the three. Although the exact circumstance and date of the photo were long since forgotten, she did remember that it was before any of them had ever heard of NERV, much less an Evangelion. Taking careful note she realized for the first time how happy the three of them looked.
"She is quite…beautiful," Rei said, startling the redhead as the blue-haired girl peered over her shoulder.
"Was," Asuka said softly, throwing the locker door shut. "That's ancient history now."
"I am…sorry," the First replied, uncomfortable with how to express her feelings toward the loss of a loved one.
"I don't need your pity," Asuka said sharply as she turned and glared at her fellow pilot.
"You looked quite pleased," Rei said flatly as she returned the stare.
"What?" the Second Child snapped.
"You appeared to be enjoying yourself in the picture."
"So what if I did," Asuka said, breaking the gaze and turning away. "I can be happy every once in a while."
"Can you?" Rei quizzed.
"What's that supposed to mean?" the redhead exclaimed as she turned to face her nemesis. "Make your point."
"Are you happy?" the red eyed girl said calmly.
"What are you, stupid?" Asuka chuckled, "of course I am. I'm an Eva pilot."
Rei stared at her for a moment, viewing the forced smile on the other girl's face. "Is that only thing that gives you enjoyment in life?"
"No. I don't need Eva," the Second Child exclaimed, raising her hand up and pointing at the blue haired girl standing beside her. "I don't need anyone or anything to make me happy. I can do it all by myself."
"Is that true?" the First Child said, her eyes sliding down to gaze at the floor below.
"Yes," the Second said as she nodded her head slightly for emphasis. Deeming that for once she was finally winning one of these pointless arguments with the strange girl, she grinned broadly.
Rei slowly raised her gaze until she was staring directly into the gloating visage of the Unit 02 Pilot. "Then why are you waiting for someone to bring you happiness?"
"Why are you are trying to find yourself within others?" Rei added.
"Shut up, shut up!" Asuka screamed. She turned and started to walk away, only to spin around and march back to roughly her original position. "I don't want to be told that by an emotionless windup doll like you!"
"I am not a doll," Rei said, her mouth turning down ever so slightly. "And I would appreciate you not calling me that again." Pausing for a moment she continued. "Unlike you, I am not afraid of happiness. I just have not discovered it...yet."
Asuka watched as the First's mouth seemed to form a grin, a sight that she never thought she would ever see in her entire life. "Why are you still here?"
"Because you told me you had something to talk about," Rei said, her appearance never changing as she seemed to be almost enjoying the exchange. "Are we finished?"
"No," the Second Child said dejectedly. She paced back and forth in front the lockers, contemplating whether or not to keep her word. With a sigh she walked up to her teammate. "Follow me."
Rei fell in step behind Asuka as she walked out the door and headed down the dimly lit hallway. "What do you think of Shinji?"
"Ikari is an excellent pilot," the pale skinned girl said quickly.
"Not that," Asuka groaned, "what do you think of him on a personal level. Do you like him?"
Rei thought about the question for more then a few heartbeats before answering. "I…like Ikar…Shinji very much."
Approaching the elevator, the German girl reached out and pressed the up button. "Exactly how much?" she inquired, a slight frown now present on her face.
"I do not know how to quantify it," Rei replied, a bit surprised at the nature of the question. "I enjoy the time we spend together. How would you categorize it?"
"Never mind," Asuka said realizing she didn't want to pursue this line of questioning anyway. Taking a deep breath she decided to stop delaying the inevitable. "Would you like to go on a date with him?" she said, expressing no relief even though the question had been haunting her all day.
With the ring of a bell, the elevator opened and the two girls entered. Asuka pressed the ground level button and then walked to the back corner, while Rei took one step and turned around, her body narrowly missing the sliding doors as they shut just in front of her.
"I thought he was betrothed to Hikari Horaki?"
"They broke up today," the Second said softly, still fighting with the realization that she had actually asked the question in the first place. "He was wondering if you would like to go on a date with him."
"Why did he not ask me himself?" Rei inquired.
"How the hell should I know?" Asuka barked, becoming frustrated with the fact she not only had to ask once, but now twice. "What's it going to be?"
Rei did not reply, but rather stared intently at the door of the elevator. Asuka stood in the corner and crossed her hands on her chest, not looking at the other girl as she awaited some response from the First Child. Seconds threatened to drag into minutes, the only sound that could be heard was the rhythmic clicking of the floor indicator as each number decremented.
"What the hell are you doing? Asuka said impatiently, "trying to build up the scene with some kind of dramatic pause?"
"No," Rei said quickly, "that would be childish and cliche."
"Wait a minute," the redhead said, her tone a bit hopefully for the first time in the conversation. "If it's taken you this long to decide, you must not want to go."
"I did not say that…I am just unsure."
"Let me give you some friendly advice," Asuka smiled. "Shinji's not your type. You could do much better then him. What about Kensuke…you seemed to hit it off in the pool today."
"I am not interested in Aida," Rei said quickly. "And he is a pervert."
"I'll agree with that," Asuka nodded approvingly, "but Shinji isn't any better. He's annoying, boring, stupid, and not much to look at."
"I find him…attractive," the blue haired girl said, a slight blush forming on her face as she said it.
"Whatever," the redhead muttered as she noticed Rei's reaction. "I'll tell Shinji you're not interested in him."
"On the contrary…I would like very much to go on a date with Ikari."
"Didn't you hear a word I said?" Asuka cried, throwing her arms up in protest.
"I did," Rei nodded in agreement, "but other's perceptions are not my own."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I desire to find out the truth," the First Child said softly. "To do that I need to spend time with him."
"Fine," Asuka said, frowning and staring down at her shoes. She remained like this for a few moments before suddenly looking up, a conceited smirk now dominating her expression. "How about a nice lunch with him tomorrow?"
"I was under the impression that a usual date involves dinner accompanied by some type of entertainment," Rei said matter of factly.
"Well you're wrong," the Second Child retorted. "Listen here, Wondergirl…I promised to set up a date between you two…and that's what I'm doing. Lunch, take it or leave it."
"That will be acceptable."
"Great," Asuka said, letting out a sigh of relief. "Noon at the food court in the mall."
The elevator lurched to a halt, it's ascent to the surface now completed. Slowly the doors slid open, and not waiting for a reply, Asuka pushed past Rei, still standing like an ashen statue in the opening. The blue eyed girl was almost out of earshot when she heard the other girl speak.
"Ikari and I both dislike crowds. A private lunch in my apartment would be more…intimate. Please tell him to arrive at eleven."
Asuka didn't respond but quickened her pace to a sprint as she darted out of sight, not stopping until she was sure the First was far behind. Falling back against the wall, her legs gave out and she slowly sunk down until she was seated on the floor. Her deep breaths interrupted now and again with sobbing as she pulled her knees up to her chest and watched the steady stream of tears fall below.
"I'm home," Shinji called out as he kicked off his shoes and proceeded down the entrance hall toward the kitchen. "Not that anyone cares," he whispered after he heard no reply.
Rounding the corner he stopped short as he caught sight of the Second Child sitting at the table, reading a magazine. She didn't bother to look up or acknowledge him, finding the upcoming summer fashions apparently more interesting than anything he had to say. Pausing for moment to watch her, he walked over to the refrigerator and took out a soda for himself. Popping the top, he contemplated sitting down at the table, after all he was a resident there, but thought better of it as Asuka quickly flipped a page, nearly ripping it out in the process. Leaning back against the countertop, Shinji decided to finish his drink there, rather than get within the redhead's range. Guzzling as fast as he could, he watched out of the corner of eye as the girl continued flipping pages, obviously not even looking at the pictures, much less reading them. Throwing the now empty can into the garbage, the Third Child was nearly out of the kitchen when a voice broke the silence.
"So, how was your...date?" Asuka seemed to struggle greatly with the last word.
"Fine," Shinji replied turning and smiling at the seated girl. Satisfied with his response and anxious to leave the potentially hostile situation, he turned again and started to walk away when he was stopped again.
"You have been gone for..." the Second Child began, glancing over to look at the clock to ensure she had the correct passage of time, "two and a half hours, and all you can say is, fine?"
"I don't know," the boy said shrugging his shoulders. "What more do you want me to say. We had a nice time together."
"Details," Asuka said closing the magazine in front of her. "Give me some specifics on your wonderful rendezvous with the ice princess."
"You promised to be nice to her," Shinji protested.
"All right," Asuka snapped. Clearing her throat she began again. "How about some specifics on your date with...REI?"
"That's better," he smiled, receiving a sarcastic grin in return. "Not much to tell. She had made a nice lunch and we sat and talked about school and stuff."
"That's it?" the redhead sighed, standing up and walking to the refrigerator. She opened the door and began rummaging around. "That sounds boring even for the likes of you two." Emerging with a candy bar in one hand, a soda in the other and a sandwich crammed in her mouth, she used her hip to slam the door closed. "Y...f can dof betfer then thft."
"Huh?" Shinji replied.
Asuka placed the soda can down on the table and pulled the sandwich out of her mouth. "I said, 'you can do better then that'. Are you deaf in addition to being stupid?"
She stared at him for a moment, her face an emotionless blank. Using one hand she popped the top to her soda, the hiss from the escaping can the only sound in the room as she gazed over at him, searching his expression for any clue, any hint of what really took place in Rei's apartment earlier. In the past the boy was as easy to read as the morning newspaper, but lately he had a certain air of confidence around him, a new way of carrying himself around others that made obsolete her earlier methods of detection. "There must be more to the story than that," Asuka smirked as she stepped forward and approached him. "I mean, did you make out before lunch...or after? Better yet did she do something like greet you wearing nothing but a towel...and then the two of you tumbled to the floor in the heat of passion."
Shinji gave her a bewildered look before replying. "That's exactly what happened," he said with a not too subtle amount of sarcasm. "You figured it out. In fact I spent the afternoon tying Ayanami up and having kinky sex with her."
"Pervert!" Asuka screamed, throwing her sandwich at the boy. "You men are all the same!"
"I'm kidding," Shinji chuckled, quickly dodging to his left to avoid the flying bread and meat combination.
Asuka fell back into her chair. "Why don't you just move in with her and get it over with?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You know exactly what I mean," the redhead exclaimed, taking a quick sip of soda to cool her inflamed vocal cords. "I knew it was only a matter of time before the two of you got together," she said knowingly, "it's so obvious. I bet you only pretended to go out with Hikari to make Rei jealous. You will do anything to get the girl of your dreams...won't you!"
She glared at her fellow pilot, grinding her teeth and clenching her fists in a fit of anger. "Hell, you both are so much alike I would swear you are related somehow."
"And what's so wrong with that?" Shinji replied sharply, having heard enough.
"It's called incest, you moron!" Asuka cried.
"Not that," the Third Child grumbled before taking a deep breath to calm down and allow the situation to defuse slightly. "I meant what's wrong with caring enough about someone to do whatever it takes to be with them?" he said softly.
"You're pathetic, Shinji!"
"No, I'm not," he protested loudly as he watched the redhead cross her arms on her chest and look away. "Listen," Shinji said, his tone much softer and calmer than before, "for the first time in my life I really think I know how to find happiness."
"Enlighten me…" Asuka said coldly without bothering to turn around.
Shinji looked down her and smiled, though she could not see it with her back to him. "I don't want to be alone Asuka. I've spent most of my life like that and I hated it. Now I've realized that I can't be happy if I'm alone."
"Being a little insecure, aren't you," Asuka said, turning around and raising an eyebrow as she cast a probing gaze on her roommate.
"I don't think so," Shinji said, shaking his head a little for emphasis. "What if one of those Angels kills me someday? I don't want to die all alone."
"You're the Invincible Shinji Ikari, famous pilot of Evangelion Unit 01," Asuka said derisively. "You have nothing to worry about, it's only us lowly girls who have to worry about dying."
"What if you were hurt really bad," he questioned, "wouldn't you want someone to care enough to come and visit?"
"Shinji," Asuka said, her expression matching the seriousness of her tone. "That would never happen because I'll fight to the death before I accept defeat."
"You can't mean that," Shinji gasped, not wanting to believe it but realizing from the look on her face that it was probably true. "Do you really think your life is that worthless?"
"I can't believe this," Asuka said loudly, slamming her fist down on the table for effect. "First I have your girlfriend, Rei the emotionless Wonderdoll, try to tell me how to be happy and now I have you, the Original Lonesome Loser, explaining to me that MY life isn't worthless." Looking skyward, she cried out in apparent agony. "Please, Angels, please...cause Third Impact and take me away from this crazy place!" Turning, she gazed over and smirked at the boy.
"Okay, fine," the Third said knowing his current approach was going nowhere. "What if the Angels never come again…what then?"
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"What if the Angels never come back and you have to become just a normal person again?" Shinji said, returning her grin with one of his own.
"But that's never going to happen," Asuka said nervously.
"Why not?" Shinji returned. "There hasn't been an Angel attack in a year. You've seen the way my father is acting. Isn't it obvious to you that something isn't right?" Judging by the concerned look on her face, he deemed that she had also noticed the signs. "So I'll ask you again, what if there were no more Evangelions, no more NERV, no more Second Child…just you."
Asuka put her hand on her chin as she thought about his words. For the first time in her life she actually began to think about life without Eva. What would she do? Where could she go? Since she was seven, her entire life had been focused on one purpose and one purpose only. Pilot the Eva. What if that purpose was taken from her?
"It's a tough question," Shinji said softly as he observed her introspection, "and not something that can be answered very easily." Pausing for a moment he watched as the blue eyed girl seemed to nod almost imperceptibly at the comment. "Personally, I don't know what life will bring me but I know that I don't want to be alone when I face it."
"So that's where the good Miss Aya-nopersonality fits in," Asuka grinned knowingly. "She's going to fill in the gaps of your pitiful little life."
"Maybe," he said, lowering his head to avert her mocking stare.
"What do you see in her, anyway?" the Second Child quizzed. "That albino skin and crazy eyes? She looks like an escapee from some test lab. You know the type with the giant tanks filled with bodies and stuff."
"Why do you always have to put Rei down?" Shinji frowned. "She's never done anything to you."
"I'm not putting her down," Asuka objected, "I'm just pointing out a few things. If I wanted to make fun of her I would comment about something like her fashion sense, a personality one notch below the Magi or her atrocious piloting skills." She grabbed at her soda and prepared to take a drink when a broad smile appeared on her face. "Or her choice in men."
"Whatever," he sighed shaking his head. "Are you finished?" he asked while taking a couple of steps back out of the kitchen and beginning his retreat.
"No," she replied sharply, halting him in his tracks. "I want to know why you like her."
"Call it curiosity if you wish," she said smugly, looking up at him.
"I don't know," Shinji said shrugging his shoulders, "and I really don't have time for this."
"What's the matter?" Asuka said coyly with a smirk matching her tone. "Another big date tonight?"
The Third Child lowered his gaze to the floor and stared at his shoes for a moment before again looking at her. Clearing his throat he spoke very softly, "well…um…actually…yes."
"Isn't that just grand," the redhead exclaimed, "you and that bitch are just about inseparable now, aren't you!" Asuka jumped up and stood in front of him menacingly. "You disgust me!"
"What are you talking about?"
"I can't believe you picked her," Asuka said loudly.
"Who would you rather have me choose?" Shinji replied quickly. "Huh?"
The two Children stood toe to toe, staring intently at one another, neither expression changing in the slightest as their eyes locked on one another. For more then a few heartbeats they each waited for the other to make a move, a sign of some type to signal what the next step in the confrontation would be. Finally Asuka blinked and ultimately turned away in defeat.
"I'm going to take a nap before tonight," Shinji said as he began walking toward his room down the hall. "Try to keep it down."
He hadn't taken more then a few steps before she called to him. "It's all going to change after tonight, isn't it?"
"Excuse me?" he said puzzled by the question.
"I realize that after tonight you and Rei will be together," Asuka said softly, "and that you and I will never be the same." He could both see and hear the hurt in the girl as she spoke. "I guess I should have expected it…everybody is different since this all started a year ago. Misato, Kaji, Hikari, Touji, you…Rei. Everyone moving on and leaving me behind."
"We're not abandoning you," Shinji said as he reached out to grasp his door. "I'm not abandoning you. We're all just…living."
"But I liked things the way they were."
"Did you?" he said as he slid his door open.
"Of course I did," Asuka replied immediately, "I was piloting Eva and battling the Angels. Because of that everyone respected me, everyone needed me…everybody liked me."
"There is more to life than piloting Eva," Shinji said, "If you can't see that then I'm afraid you may end up alone for the rest of your life." With that he slowly slid the door shut behind him. Standing there for a moment he heard a few choice German swears and the distinct sound of a pair of A-10 Neural Connectors hitting the wall at the far end of the hall.
Shinji's image stared back at him from the mirror as he made one final check. Teeth brushed, hair combed, face washed, deodorant applied…he mentally checked off each item the same way he ran through the prelaunch routine in the Eva. Straightening the collar on his white shirt and tightening his belt one more notch, he smiled and turned away from the mirror. 'All systems go,' he thought to himself as he prepared to open the bathroom door. Taking one final deep breath, he slid the door open and walked down the hall.
Standing in the entrance to the kitchen, the sight that met his eyes was beyond anything he could comprehend. Sure, Asuka was prone to outbursts and the occasional broken dish, in fact the last thing he heard was one of these eruptions before his SDAT and sleep drowned out the rest. But he could never have imagined this. Looking down he saw her magazine had been ripped to shreds, pieces strewn about on the floor. The chairs were upended and broken and the table looked as though it had been kicked to the far side of the room. Turning around he quickly glanced into the living room and noticed it hadn't fared any better. The cushions on the couch were thrown about the room, the entire CD collection was in shambles and the wall appeared to have several foot shaped holes in it. Stepping back into the kitchen, Shinji picked up a torn piece of paper off the table. Holding it up he realized it was part of a picture and flipping over a couple more, it became clear he was looking at the remains of a picture of himself and Asuka that Misato had recently taken. Piecing the photo together like a jigsaw puzzle, he frowned as the enormity of the situation set in. As temperamental as his roommate could be, she had never come close to this level before. It was clear that she was very upset, and he knew why. The only question left unanswered was what would happen next. She was right…things were going to change after tonight, that was certain. His silent deliberation was broken by the sound of the doorbell. Noticing the clock on the wall was broken and hanging by its cord, he glanced down at his watch and smiled as he saw it was exactly five o'clock.
"That's for me," he called out, more out of habit than worrying if anyone was there to hear it. "It's probably Rei." Pausing for a moment he waited for some type of response, feeling a bit surprised to get none especially how he knew that name affected his fellow Eva Pilot. "I'm going to the festival…I don't know when I'll be back."
Getting no reaction other than continued silence, Shinji walked down the entranceway and prepared to open the door. Reaching up his finger was just about to push the button, when he noticed a hand reach over his shoulder and turn the lock. "What are you doing?" he said as he turned to face its owner.
"Don't go," Asuka said, her voice sounding quite reserved and hollow. She looked almost as bad as the rooms she had destroyed earlier. Her usually perfect crimson locks were now stringy, half of them drooped over and covering her face. Her eyes were red and puffy; the mascara stains on her cheeks testimony to the many tears had been shed. The light yellow tee shirt had spattered bloodstains, no doubt from her torn and battered knuckles that even now still had touches of fresh blood on them. The girl, who had fought and won battles with Angels, had finally found an opponent who was her equal.
"Please don't abandon me."
"Why?" Shinji said quickly, "you're only doing this because you hate Rei."
"That's not true," Asuka protested, taking a deep breath as she fought back her tears.
"Yes it is!" he replied, sounding frustrated with the entire situation.
"No," she said, her trembling mouth barely able to form the word. "This is not about her. This is about…"
"What Asuka?" Shinji said staring into her bloodshot eyes. "What do you want?"
"I can live alone," she said hastily, "I don't need you. I'll live alone. I won't cry anymore."
"Then why are you crying?" he said softly as he listened to the redhead suck back the tears.
"NO!" Asuka screamed, wiping the moisture off her cheeks. "I don't like boys. I don't like you. I don't like mommy and daddy. I don't like ANYBODY!"
"Then what do you want?"
"I'll live alone," she whimpered, tears again freely flowing down her cheeks. She looked into his deep blue eyes and searched for her answers. "No," she said shaking her head back and forth, "I don't want that."
"Then what DO you want?" he reiterated, never moving his gaze as their eyes remained locked on one another. As if by some divine providence, the doorbell rang yet again, adding yet another factor of desperation to the situation.
The girl took a deep breath, gathering up all the strength she had left for one last desperate act. "I don't wanna be alone," she cried, the weight of eight years of denial and self-persecution falling off with those five words. Suddenly the fear was gone, the walls had been broken, and she was free. "I don't wanna be alone," she repeated, falling forward and embracing him tightly as she began sobbing onto his shoulder.
"Asuka…I…" he stammered as she squeezed him as if her very life depended on it. He never got a chance to finish his comment as she started again.
"If you go, then nobody will protect me," she sobbed, "nobody will be with me."
"I will protect you," Shinji smiled, pushing her back so he could look into her tear filled eyes. "I will be with you. You will never be alone again."
"B…b…but, you…" Asuka stammered, her emotions flowing out at an uncontrollable pace after years of repression. "Why?" she was all she could say before she pulled him back into an embrace, tears of pain replaced with those of joy.
Touji glanced down at his watch and groaned. "It's been five minutes since we rang, where is he? I don't want to miss the food."
"Well what did he say?" Hikari said as she looked up at him. The smartly dressed pair stood in front of the Katsuragi apartment, arms entwined as the girl rested her head on his shoulder. She was wearing an elegant white spring dress, cut a bit lower then she would have liked, but not low enough in her new boyfriend's opinion. Her hair was not in its usual pig tail configuration, but rather was pulled up into a tight bun, giving nice exposure to the white choker she wore.
The tall boy fidgeted nervously as she held him close. Surprisingly his turquoise blue pant and suit combination was not the source. Nor were his bright red shoes and white socks. "He told me to be here at five o'clock on the button. Not one minute before or after."
"Then I'm sure he'll be out in a minute…he's probably finishing getting ready."
"Let me try again," he replied, pressing the doorbell.
"Hello?" a voice called out behind them. Turning around the pair saw Misato and Kaji walking toward them from the elevator. "Oh, it's you, Touji…Hikari," the Major said with a wave of her hand. Within moments the two couples were exchanging pleasantries in front of the door.
"You look gorgeous!" Misato said, holding the class rep out an arms length as she studied her from head to toe. "Shinji is a lucky man."
"Actually," Hikari blushed, "we aren't going out anymore. I'm with Touji now," he said motioning toward her new boyfriend.
"You...Touji...Shinji…" the purple haired woman started before shaking her head in distress. "I need a damn scorecard to keep track of who is going out with who."
"I'm sure he'll explain it to you," the girl said confidently, "it's really ok between us."
"What brings you here?" Kaji said, shaking Touji's hand as he spoke. "Hey, I have that same ensemble at home," the older man said as he noticed the boy's clothes. "Of course SHE never lets me wear it in public," he said pointing at the Operations Director.
"We're supposed to meet Shinji here at five," Touji said, "but he's not answering the door."
"I'll take care of that," Misato smiled as she pulled her key from her purse.
Like the curtain at a theater, the door slid open, its retreating form slowly revealing the scene beyond. And on that stage, there stood the two Pilots, locked in an embrace and so captured in the moment they didn't even notice the audience.
Or they didn't care.
"Shinji? Asuka?" Misato called out, not really sure what was happening but feeling the need to make some connection with her Children. When they didn't immediately respond she prepared to step forward when Kaji grabbed and held her arm. Turning her to face him, he shook his head slightly and smiled.
Reluctantly Asuka broke free, taking a long hard look into Shinji's eyes before wiping the newly formed tears out of her own.
"Sorry," Shinji said as he and Asuka stepped aside so the others could enter. Touji gave his friend a frown as he stepped by, but Hikari's expression was much more supportive. She smiled first at the boy, taking a long look in his eyes, unspoken words obviously passing between them. Shinji smiled back as the class rep stepped over and hugged her best friend.
"That was…unexpected," Kaji smiled as he addressed the Third, "good job." He turned toward his partner. "I think you are going to need a beer," the pony tailed man said as he followed Touji down the entrance way into the kitchen. "I know I do."
"Tomorrow we are going to have a LONG talk," Misato said loudly, speaking to Shinji but making it all too clear that Asuka was going to be part of it also. "I need to find out exactly what the hell is going on."
The boy gulped loudly as she glared at him. "Y…yes," he nodded.
The violet haired woman started to walk away, but stopped and whispered into his ear. "I always knew you two had feelings for one another. The real question was whether or not my apartment could survive you two denying it much longer." She winked and took off down the hall after her boyfriend before Shinji had a chance to reply. "OH MY GOD!" she screamed upon entering the shattered remains of the kitchen.
"You aren't going to the festival looking like THAT," Hikari said as she continued to hold her trembling friend in an embrace. "Bad enough I have to be seen with that…outfit…Touji has, I don't need you trying the 'haggard' look as well."
Asuka broke free and wiped the last remnants of saline from her eyes. Forcing back her last fit of tears, she turned them into laughter at her friend's comment.
"Let's go get you dressed to impress."
The two girls turned and started down the hall when they found their way blocked by their respective Stooge boyfriends.
"I was here at five o'clock, just like you asked," Touji said, grinning as he finished. "Why'd it take so long to open the door? Were you getting some action?"
Shinji glanced over and noticed that the girls were standing behind them. "Never mind," he said nervously, calling out in the direction of the kitchen he tried to summon his guardian. "Misato…Kaji, are you ready? We don't want to be late."
"I still have to get ready," Asuka said, giving the Third a very curious gaze as she spoke. Finding him surprisingly elusive, she turned and set her sights on the more vulnerable of the targets. "Nice suit," she said to Touji with a sarcastic smile, "raiding the lost and found at the homeless shelter again?" The larger boy clenched his fist and brandished it menacingly, Hikari and Shinji forced to immediately step between them.
"Don't worry," Asuka joked to her friend as the girl fought to hold her boyfriend back. "I just wanted to ask the used car salesman here what he was just saying to Shinji."
"Nothing," the Third Child interrupted as he and Hikari did their best to force the larger boy down the hallway. "Would you like a beer Touji?"
"Hey, I'm talking to him," the Second protested as she followed them. "What about being here at five?"
"It's really not important," the Unit 01 pilot said uneasily as they finally reached the kitchen. Misato was on her hands and knees crying in the center of the room, while Kaji gently rubbed her back and mentioned that insurance would cover most of the damage.
"Shinji told me and Hikari to be here at five on the dot, not one minute early or late," Touji yelled to the redhead. "Now where's my beer?"
"He told us the same thing," Kaji added, looking up at them while his soon to be fiancée swore never to have children of her own. "Get me one," he yelled to Touji before glancing down as the woman at his feet amended her earlier statement by deciding to kill the Children she already had. "Better make it two."
"Wait a minute," Hikari said as she reviewed the facts. "How come you were late then? You were nowhere to be seen at five, you got here at like five oh five."
"I know," Kaji replied, "we were late because I have all my clocks five minutes fast."
"In that case," the class rep continued, "you should have been here five minutes EARLY, not late."
"Hold on," Touji said as he handed two beers to the eternally unshaven man. "The way I figure it," he said thoughtfully, pausing for a moment to check his mental arithmetic with his fingers. "He set his clock five minutes FAST, so really he was like ten minutes early."
"Check your math again," Hikari admonished.
"Fifteen minutes early?" he said quickly, cracking open his beer can in the process.
"Shut up," Hikari snapped, "and give that beer to Mr. Kaji. You're not old enough to be drinking."
"Oh man," Touji sighed, giving his best despondent look as he argued his case. "Come on, its only ONE beer. And it's with the guys."
"I hate the taste of beer," she replied, frowning as she spoke. Pausing for a moment she turned the frown into a smirk as she continued. "And I would never think about kissing anybody with beer breath."
"Here," Touji said quickly, shoving the open can into Kaji's face. "I hate beer."
"Can we get back to the original question?" Asuka shouted, grabbing Shinji by the arm as the boy tried to slip away. "You stay right here with me."
"Shinji told us all to meet him here at five o'clock," Misato said as she rose to her feet, leaning on Kaji for support. "Now can someone please explain what the hell happened to my kitchen?"
"Wait a minute," the redhead exclaimed, choosing to ignore her guardian's request. "Where is Rei?"
"Rei?" the Major questioned, "what would she be doing here?"
"Because she and Shinji are supposed to be going on a date right now."
"We really need to get going if we want good seats," Shinji whined as he struggled to free himself from Asuka's grip.
"A date?" Misato said bewilderedly, "that would be kind of difficult since she is in Okinawa with the swim team." She took a long pull of her beer before continuing. "I had to do all kinds of paperwork to get her permission to go."
Asuka turned and faced her new boyfriend, who was trying his best to look away from her glare. "So you're telling me that Rei is not in the city."
"Not even in this country," Touji said smartly, "didn't you hear? She's in Okinawa." Hikari tugged on his arm as a signal to shut up.
"She put in the request over a week ago," Misato said nonchalantly. "Ask him," she said pointing to Shinji, "he was with her when she handed it to me."
"A week ago!" Asuka grumbled, "that's it!" Modifying the grip she still held, Asuka twisted the Third's arm behind his back and began pushing him across the kitchen, completely disregarding the boy's panicked struggles. "You will have to excuse us for a moment," she said, looking back and smiling as she shoved Shinji toward her room. "We need a moment or two alone."
Within seconds the sound of a door slamming shut resonated throughout the apartment. The four remaining members of the party stood frozen in stunned silence at the turn of events. "Well," Misato said softly, "this may be a while." Looking around at the disaster area formerly known as her kitchen she continued. "I'd offer you a seat, but it appears all of mine are broken."
"That's okay," Hikari smiled.
"Come on," Kaji said motioning for Touji to follow him. "Let's carry this junk out to the dumpster."
Touji prepared to protest, but noticed that the older man was discretely pointing to a beer can he had stashed in his pocket. "Sure Mr. Kaji," he smiled, picking up a shattered chair and following the former spy towards the doorway.
"Tell me," Kaji whispered to the boy when they were safely out of earshot of their mates. "Have you ever tried smoking?"
"What do you think is going to happen?" Hikari said, sounding quite concerned.
"I have no idea," the violet haired woman returned, placing her now empty beer can on the counter top.
The two stood in the quiet stillness, straining to listen for any sound coming from Asuka's room but hearing nothing but the sounds of their own heartbeats. After a minute of waiting, Misato broke the calm.
"Let's go in the other room," she said to the girl, "then at least we can sit down."
"And we might be able to hear something," Hikari smiled as she fell in behind the older woman.
"OH MY GOD!" Misato screamed as she stepped into the living room and caught sight of Asuka's redecoration efforts. "I'm going to kill that girl!" She turned and grabbed the class rep by the shoulders. "Can Asuka go stay at your place? PLEASE?"
"No way," Hikari said shaking her head in objection as she stepped cautiously over a broken vase. "You know how she is. Once you let her stay over for one night, you can't get that girl to leave. Plus she hogs the tub, just lying around in it for hours on end."
"Well, I know for sure that I'm not cleaning this mess up," the Major said coolly, "she and Shinji can do it and I'll stay at Kaji's until they finish."
"That is if he is still alive," the class rep frowned, "I haven't heard a sound come out of that room."
"I know," Misato nodded, "even if she was killing him we would have noticed a scream or two."
"Maybe we should check on them...just to make sure they are alright."
"My, my aren't you nosy," the Operations Director smirked.
"No, I'm not," the girl protested, "I figured that..."
"Me too," Misato smiled as she motioned for the class rep to follow. Tiptoeing as quietly as possible across the floor they soon found themselves standing in front of Asuka's door. Holding their ears against it for a moment, they looked at one another curiously.
"I still can't hear anything," Misato whispered, the girl nodding in agreement. "What should we do?"
"I don't know," Hikari said softly, shrugging her shoulders at the comment. "You're their guardian."
"That I am," Misato frowned, "and as such I need to make sure one or both of them isn't seriously injured or dead." Reaching down she grasped the handle to the door. "One...two...THREE!" she said, flinging the door open on the last numeral.
Much to their surprise, neither Child was injured or dead. In fact much the opposite was the case. The Eva Pilots were lying on Asuka's bed, she on top of him, holding his arms up above his head though he showed no signs of resisting. They were so immersed in their kiss that neither even noticed the two observers now watching their every move from the doorway. It was apparent to everyone involved that Asuka showed no signs of finishing any time soon.
Misato smiled and slowly shut the door and she and the girl walked back into the kitchen.
"That was so romantic," Hikari gushed before noticing the exasperated look on the Major's face. "What's the matter? I thought you would be happy?"
"In a way I am," Misato sighed, opening a small cupboard door and rummaging for something in the back. "But in another way, I'm not."
"What?" the class rep questioned as she watched the older woman pull a large bottle out of the cabinet and remove the cap.
"You see," Misato said as she held the container up and smelled the clear liquid within. Scrunching her nose in obvious displeasure she held the bottle out and prepared to drink it. "It was bad enough the past year with them hiding their feelings toward one another." She took a very long drink of sake, pulling the bottle down and shaking violently from side to side. "WOOOOOWWWW!" she screamed. "Now try to imagine," she continued, her voice strained and a bit hoarse, "what my life is going to be like." She took another long guzzle. "I am going to be in charge of two kids, who live in the same house, and are madly in love with one another...two hormone filled TEENAGERS no less."
Misato started to lift the bottle yet again when Hikari ripped it out of her hands. "Give me that!" she shouted and began swigging it herself.
"What are you doing?" Misato protested, "you don't drink!"
The younger girl pulled the container from her lips, her face instantly contorting as if she had drank gasoline, which might have tasted better than the low grade, low cost, sake that Misato bought. "I know," she wheezed, fighting hard to keep the contents of her stomach in place. "But I thought about what you said and remembered that I'm Asuka's best friend. Do you think MY life just got any easier?" The two shared a laugh, and passed the bottle between them as they waited for the others to return.
The laughter permeated the room, escaping out an open window and mixing with the sounds of the bustling city of Tokyo-3, joining with the rest in creating the symphony that was life. Sure, nothing special had happened that night, and in the grand scheme of things, nothing really did. The street vendors set up their wares for all to see. The bars and restaurants began filling as patrons shuffled in; anxious to put the past weeks troubles behind them. Arcades were filled with the sounds of happy children, each glad for two days of freedom; and the malls burgeoned with shoppers all to eager to relieve themselves of their hard-earned pay. Nothing very different then any of a thousand other cities in the world. And yet, in this city, at this time, six lonely people found the truth within themselves that they had each so desperately avoided. And for that one shining moment, all seemed right in the world.
Deep within the cavernous Geofront, buried far within the confines of NERV, the dimly lit Evangelion hanger remained silent. The workers had long since departed, their work finished as they rushed home to friends and family. The light hum of electrical equipment the only reminder of their earlier presence. On one side the stoic visage of Unit 01 stood, staring endlessly at the bright red visage of its counterpart, Unit 02. For an instant, and Doctor Akagi was never able to understand why, nor even confirm it ever happened, both biomechanical beasts activated without the benefit of a pilot. Sensing something wonderful had happened, they expressed their relief the only way they knew how. Eyes lit up in a brilliant display, burning off the excess energy they had generated before dimming and returning to normal, as they awaited a call to defend their Children. A call that may never come again...
And several hundred miles away, a beautiful young girl, sat in a plane as it began its final approach to land. She gazed out the window, her red eyes searching for home as she looked out over the sea. In the dim reflection that is cast back to her, she noticed that she was smiling.
Authors Notes: (Epilogue immediately after)
And so it ends…They say you can't please everybody, and I know that some people probably aren't happy with the way this ended. But the funny thing is I had the ending of this fic finished long before I had anything else written. Watching episode 9 one day, I began to think about what would happen if Asuka was pushed to her breaking point, not in terms of battle training like the series, but what about life in general? What if she had her back to the wall and thought she was about to lose Shinji. What would she do? Then it was only a matter of getting her into that position, a problem solved when I thought about the fact that Shinji's mother and father were schemers, why not him too? I tried to keep an episode 9 feel to the fic, hence the humor and lightness as opposed to seriousness seen towards the end of the series. Anyway, that's the history. I'm did my best to keep the characters true to the series, I kept the same problems they had, just tried to think about how things would have changed if the Angels stopped coming and they slowly returned to normal lives. And I tried not to bash or treat any characters unfairly, well; I did beat up on Kensuke. And as many people have noted, there are a lot of references to other fanfics and also references to events that actually happened in the series, but in this timeline will never happen. If anyone wants, drop me an email and I will count all the references. Finally let me say that I could not have done this story without the help of Random, Rhine and 20eva. They are the best prereaders / idea suppliers / motivators anyone can ask for and I can't thank them enough.
In lieu of the usual omake, I have included an epilogue to hopefully answer some questions and give just a bit more of the story. One last thing…in writing this fic I came up with some good ideas for a sequel. Let me know if you would like to see this story line continue. As always, C & C are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org and on darkscribes.org
Epilogue- "Because I Need You"
Sweet sounds filled the air in the Tokyo-3 Municipal Park, as all around happy people moved and swayed to the rhythm of the music. The expansive lawn had been transformed into an open-air arena and a large, well-lit stage now dominated one end of it. Directly in front of it, large groups danced, their shifting bodies looking like waves in an ocean each time the spotlights scanned the crowd and illuminated them. Set back a bit from the crowd and somewhat out of range of the deafening music, large tables and vendor booths had been set up to provide a place to rest, along with food and beverage for the night's festivities.
Of course the term 'sweet sounds' did not necessarily represent the opinions of everyone in attendance.
"I can't believe we have to listen to this crap!" Touji lamented as he took a bite out of his cheeseburger.
"I know," Shinji nodded, "this is just bad."
"You two can't appreciate the classics," Kaji smiled, his own body swaying in time with the music as he took a long sip of his beer.
"Classics?" the Third questioned, giving the man a bewildered stare. "If this stuff is classic then your generation had some pretty awful music."
"Retro shit sucks!" Touji clamored, sending bits of cheeseburger spraying on the table. "Who the hell booked N'Sync anyway? These clowns are practically fossils." Any further complaints from the boy were squelched as he jammed a handful of french fries into his mouth.
"They seem to be enjoying it," Shinji observed, gazing over to where their respective girlfriends danced a short distance away. A more accurate description would be that Misato gyrated like a crazed, drunken fangirl, while Asuka and Hikari stood in the background and laughed at the older woman's display.
"Katsuragi always loved these guys," Kaji explained, "in fact she credits the words in their songs with giving her the courage to speak again."
"Half the world's population dies during Second Impact and these losers survive," Shinji grumbled, "life's not fair."
"Life's not fair?" Kaji replied curiously, "Shinji Ikari, I would have expected you to say something like that a few months ago...but not now."
"What do you mean?"
"It's obvious, isn't it?" the older man smiled, "you're truly happy for the first time in your life. You have the girl of your dreams, your friends and loved ones are no longer on a path of self-destruction and the future for everyone could not look brighter." He lifted his glass and polished off the rest of his beer before placing it back down. Staring at the empty container as the foam slowly slid down the sides, Kaji's mind raced as he reviewed what he just said.
"And all within the space of a month," he mumbled softly, more for his own edification than anyone else.
"Mr. Kaji," Hikari called out exasperatedly as she ran up to their table. "Misato ripped her bra off and threw it on the stage." The girl doubled over as she fought to regain her breath from all the excitement.
"Again?" Kaji frowned, shaking his head back and forth. "I thought she would outgrow this when she hit thirty. Was anybody hurt?"
"Asuka is keeping the crowd back," the class rep panted, "but it hit the lead singer in the head and knocked him out."
"So that's what all the cheering was for," Touji said, straining his neck to see if he could catch a glimpse of the unbound Major.
"But she's still dancing like crazy, Asuka and I are worried she's going to knock herself out," Hikari said, her elbow finding her boyfriend's stomach as she noticed his keen interest in Misato's predicament. "Or anybody walking by within five feet."
"Here," Kaji said, pulling a large, bright red bra from the inside pocket on his jacket. "Give her this."
"Thanks," Hikari said, grabbing the lace trimmed item and running back into the crowd.
The pony-tailed man noticed the astonished looks on the two boy's faces. "When you go out with someone long enough, you learn to be prepared," he smiled.
"I'm starving," Touji sighed as he rummaged through the pile of empty food containers in front of him. "Do you guys want anything?"
"Get me a couple of beers," Kaji replied, passing the boy a handful of cash in the process.
"But Mr. Kaji, I'm not old enough to buy alcohol."
"Try this," the super spy winked, handing the jock a small, laminated object.
"A fake ID!" Touji shouted with joy, "you're my hero." He read aloud the specifics of the person he would be imitating. "Tomokazu Seki, age twenty two, blood type B, ...kind of a stupid name, but I ain't complaining."
"Keep it," Kaji smiled, "I have a whole bunch."
"Thanks," Touji said as he ran off to the beer vendor.
"Shinji," the older man said seriously as he turned to face the Third Child. "Now that he's gone there's something I wanted to talk to you about."
"Sure," the dark haired boy nodded.
"Something about the past month has been bugging me...and I couldn't put my finger on it until now."
"What's that?" Shinji replied curiously.
Kaji pulled a newspaper out from his jacket and slid it in front of the boy. "Read me that article on top."
Shinji did as he was told. "Body discovered. Thursday morning Tokyo-3 police discovered the body of Yoko Miyamura floating in Lake Ashino number 2. Forensic evidence gathered at the scene indicate that Miss Miyamura had been strangled with a bright red cloth object that, based on the forces exerted, was capable of supporting a great weight. Miss Miyamura had recently been elevated to rank of Master Melon Grower in the district. Police had no comment on the recent rash of melon related violence..."
"Give me that!" Kaji bellowed, ripping the paper out of the boy's hands. "This one," he said, returning the paper and pointing to the article in question.
"Billionaire wed." The Third Child cleared his throat before he continued. "Local billionaire and man about town, Koichi Yamadera, was married this past weekend. The bride, Megumi Ogata, and Mr. Yamadera exchanged vows on the Yebisu Brewery owner's personal yacht. Unconfirmed reports claim the ceremony did not go off as planned. Sources say that Miss Ogata repeatedly chanted that she 'mustn't run away,' on the altar before jumping over the side of the ship and almost drowning because she could not swim. After she was rescued and heavily sedated, the service continued unabated. They will be honeymooning in Fiji for the next month."
"Notice anything unusual in that piece?" Kaji questioned sternly.
"Yeah," Shinji replied knowingly, "wouldn't Fiji be underwater because of Second Impact?"
"No!" the older man said loudly, "not that." Kaji leaned back in his seat, placing his arms behind his head as a confident smile grew on his face. "Don't you think it's strange that Yamadera would be asking Misato out for a romantic rendezvous on his yacht the same weekend he was getting married there?"
"Yes," the boy nodded in agreement, "that is strange."
"And?" Kaji pressed, frustrated with the Third's stalling tactics. "Care to explain what's going on?"
"I can't believe that Mr. Yamadera would be cheating on his wife so soon after getting married," Shinji said dejectedly, "and he sounded so nice on the phone too."
"Don't play games with me," Kaji said sternly, "Koichi Yamadera never called Misato, did he?"
"Yes he did."
"Fine," the unshaven man said smugly, "then we should call his new wife and inform her about her husband's infidelity." Pulling out his cell phone, he held it out in front of him and prepared to dial. "What's the number?"
"I don't know," Shinji shrugged.
"That's because you never had it," Kaji smiled, "did you?" The Third Child returned a blank stare to the man as the interrogation continued. "Tell me something...that night when you left the restaurant, why did you go to NERV and not straight home?"
"I...I forgot something," the boy stammered.
"Are you sure it wasn't to talk with someone," Kaji said coolly, "someone who could help you figure out a way to right the wrongs in your life?"
Shinji looked down at the table as he hung is head in apparent despair. Slowly he pulled his hands out and placed them in front of him. Interlacing his fingers he brought them up, ultimately resting his chin on his steepled hands. Shifting his gaze to stare directly at the man, Shinji spoke, his tone soft yet deliberate. "Are you implying that I went to visit my father and that together we devised this intricate plan?"
"Y...yes," Kaji gulped, the image sitting across from him too familiar, if not quite as menacing.
The Unit 01 pilot smiled, the corners of his mouth just visible his hands. "I am pleased with the outcome. Everything went according to the scenario." The two stared at one another for a moment before Shinji continued. "As for this matter, I trust that nothing will ever be heard again, much like a bell which does not ring."
"Beers here!" Touji said excitedly as he slammed the containers on the table, spilling some of the amber liquid in the process. "What bell? And what's with the creepy pose, Shinji?"
"Who me?" Shinji said innocently as he dropped his hands back to his side. "I was just doing my impression of my father. Pretty good, huh?"
"Remarkable," Kaji said softly, shaking his head as he tried to clear the image of the Gendo from his mind.
"Mr. Kaji!" Hikari called out as she approached from the raucous crowd. "Misato's done it again."
"She threw her bra up on the stage again?" Touji said excitedly, eliciting a frown from the girl as she stormed over and stomped on his toe.
"No!" the class rep exclaimed as she watched her boyfriend hop around in pain in front of her. "Actually...yes," she said turning to Kaji as he guzzled one of the beers.
"Oh great," he sighed after placing the glass back on the table. "Based on what happened last time, I brought three pairs of panties but that's it for bras." He took another sip of his beer while contemplating a solution. "Anyone have some masking tape?"
"I've got good news and bad news," Asuka said as she sat down next to Shinji at the table. "Which do you want first?"
"The good news," Kaji replied.
"Well the good news is Misato has her bra back," the Second smiled. "The bad news is she went up on stage to get it."
"WHAT?" Kaji screamed.
"There she is!" Touji said, pointing at the stage beyond the mass of humanity. "And she's attacking the band."
"Looks like she didn't put her bra back on either," Hikari said matter of factly as she discretely slipped her arm through his to ensure that he would not join the inebriated Major onstage.
For the next few minutes, the five of them watched Misato run back and forth across the stage, dodging security officers and roadies as she attempted to molest each member of the musical group. The crowd was fervently behind her endeavors, cheering loudly each time she succeeded in kissing or groping one of the band members, or each time she successfully evaded capture, one time resorting to punching out an overzealous security guard. But they saved their loudest cheers until after her eventual capture, seven men carrying her kicking and screaming off the stage.
"Kaji!" Misato's voice boomed out over the loudspeakers as she yelled into the cordless microphone she had swiped. "I love you!" The sounds of a struggle came over the sound system before the Major's voice returned. "Let go…get your hands off my ass, buddy…Kaji…will you marry me? Watch those hands, Mister!" The next sound was that of a microphone hitting the pavement below.
"I'll go post her bail," Kaji said nonchalantly, "and meet you back at the apartment." He noticed that everyone was looking at him. "What?" he whined, knowing immediately why they found a sudden interest in him. "Fine…I'll marry her."
"That's great," Shinji replied as he and Touji shook the older man's hand. Hikari and Asuka each gave the man a congratulatory hug.
"Not exactly your traditional proposal," Kaji chuckled as he turned and began walking away. "Nothing like getting a proposal from your drunken wife to be as she is being arrested for rushing the stage of an N'Sync concert."
"Goodbye," Shinji called out as the man walked off in the direction of police station.
"We had better get going too," Hikari said, her arm wrapped around Touji's waist. "Good night."
"Good night, Hikari...I'll call you tomorrow," Asuka said, "good night moron...and don't get grabby with my friend."
"Good night, Devil," Touji grumbled, "and don't YOU get grabby with my friend."
The Children watch as their friends walk away, hand in hand, at the last moment detouring to the pizza line for a quick snack.
"So..." Shinji said as he turned back toward Asuka. "What do you want to do?"
"This music sucks, but it's a beautiful night," she replied, "let's go for a walk." She reached over and gently took his hand in hers, pulling him along.
Within moments the music had faded into the background, along with the din of the as they made their way through the streets of the city. "Where are we going?" Shinji questioned.
"It's a surprise," Asuka said, tugging on his arm as she quickened her pace. "Come on we're almost there." The pair ran through the crowded street, dodging in between the slowly moving cars as they made their way across. Finally they reached their ultimate destination. Shinji gave the girl a curious look, but she only smiled and pulled him through the revolving front doors of the lavishly decorated lobby and into the closest elevator.
"Top floor please," she told the uniformed operator.
"What are you doing?" Shinji said, receiving no reply. Instead, the redhead simply tightened her grip on his hand as she stared up at the floor indicator as it incremented.
The trip took less than a minute, as fate would have it they had taken the express line to the top. As the doors parted they stepped out into the dimly lit lounge of the Second Impact Bistro.
"Wait here," she instructed the boy as she walked over and spoke to the hostess for a moment. "Come on," she said, grabbing his hand and pulling him through the busy restaurant. The band was playing a soft tune as they reached the windows over looking the city. Taking his free hand with hers, she gazed into his deep blue eyes. "I wanted to say…thanks."
"For what?" Shinji replied.
"For not giving up on me," she whispered, pulling him into a tight embrace as she rested her head on his shoulder. "I can't promise it's going to be easy from now on."
"That's alright," he said softly, hugging her even tighter as he spoke. "We'll get through it together because you mean everything to me."
"That's the corniest thing I have ever heard," she chuckled.
"I'm sorry," Shinji sighed, "I won't say anything like that again."
"Like hell you won't," Asuka exclaimed as she pushed out of the embrace. "Corny or not, I WANT you to say things like that to me. Every day." She smiled at the dark haired boy as she continued. "Just don't say them in front of anyone else, especially your dorky friends."
"I'll try to remember that," the Third smiled, "but why did you drag us up here to tell me that?"
"Oh, I came here for a different reason," Asuka said, wrapping her arms around his waist and pulling him a bit closer. "I need to fix a mistake I made."
"Yes," she said, blushing a bit as she spoke. "I should have kissed you that night Misato found out we were faking."
"It's alright," Shinji said softly, "I understand why you didn't."
"But I wanted to…I really did," Asuka protested, "except my damn ego got in the way. I want to make up for that right now." With that, she pulled him to her and kissed him deeply. It started out slow… neither of them wanting to rush, but before either of them knew it, it had grown from a simple kiss into a fiery, passionate embrace, their lips and hands trying to say everything that their mouths had wanted to for so long.
"That was incredible," Shinji breathed as they reluctantly parted.
"Come on," Asuka said quickly as she took his hand and began leading him through the tables.
"Don't you want to stay?" he cried as tried his best to keep up with the girl.
"Are you stupid?" the redhead replied, "I'm not giving these old geezers a free show. We're going to continue this at home."
Shinji nodded, a dazed, happy smile lighting his face as his girlfriend led him out of the bar. As they got into the elevator, he noticed that her hand was still linked with his. He stole a glance at her from the corner of his eyes, but she was looking away. He began to turn, but stopped as he caught sight of her face, reflected in the mirrored surface of the elevator's wall.
His heart seemed to stop beating as he noticed that Asuka was smiling, not her usual forced expression of joy, but rather a heartfelt and sincere manifestation of the true feelings within her heart. Something the boy had never seen in all the time that he knew her.
But she had. It was the same expression she had in the picture that hung in her locker.
Silently… the elevator continued its descent…
END OF EPILOUGE
Coming Soon: The Best Laid Plans Lemon OVA (co-authored with Random)