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Shinji Ikari watched as the countryside whipped past his window as the bus bounced its way down the cracked and pothole-ridden road. The scenery outside was one of unbroken forests and grassy meadows. It was amazingly beautiful after having seen only war zones for the past several years. "Hey Mister?" Shinji turned and saw the young boy who had been sitting in the seat in front of him had turned around to stare at him.
"What happened to your eye?"
"Ichigo!" the boy's mother cried. "Don't ask strangers questions like that." Shinji chuckled and tugged at the plain black eye patch over his left eye.
"It's fine," he stated to the woman. He turned back to the boy. "I got into a fight with a lady." The boy's eyes widened.
"Really?" he asked in an awe-struck voice.
"Yeah," Shinji replied seriously. "Never fight with a woman. They don't fight fair." The boy's mother chuckled as Ichigo sat down quietly. She turned more fully in her seat and offered her hand.
"Shinji," Shinji replied as he shook her hand.
"Good story," Marie commented. "I haven't seen someone shut him up that fast in a long time."
"It wasn't a story," Shinji stated truthfully. The grin dropped off Marie's face and her eyes widened just like her son's. Shinji laughed at the similarities. They hadn't spoken since they had left Sendai, but apparently several hours with only a young child to talk to wore on a person's nerves. "So, are you staying in Tokyo-3 or just passing through?"
"We're staying there," Marie stated. "My husband just got a job there. He went on ahead while Ichigo and I packed up back in Sapporo. What about you?"
"I'm staying in Tokyo-3 too," Shinji replied. "I used to live there and I'm trying to find a few old friends I haven't seen in a long time."
"Where have you been?" Marie asked.
"Europe," Shinji stated. Marie's eyes widened.
"Did you see any of those new Angels?" she asked.
"No," Shinji replied quickly.
"It makes my skin crawl," Marie stated. "I thought it was bad when they were hundred-meter tall monsters, but the thought that they can look like anybody now is horrifying."
"What are the Angels?" Ichigo asked, finally overcoming his shock.
"The Angels were humans who came back from the Third Impact as monsters," Marie explained. "They've been attacking Europe to stop the world from coming together again."
"Yeah," Shinji agreed, a strange feeling welling up in him. "That's mostly happening in mainland Europe, Germany especially. I was in the United Kingdom." Marie seemed to pick up on his change of attitude.
"I'm sorry. Did I bring up something bad?"
"It's nothing," Shinji replied. He forced a smile for her. Marie nodded awkwardly and sat back down. Shinji returned to staring out the window. Derelict buildings were beginning to appear amongst the trees, the first signs that this had all once been infill between Tokyo-3 and the next city along, what was once, a major thoroughfare road. It was amazing how fast nature moved to reclaim its territory once man was gone.
Shinji glanced at his watch. They still had a few hours to go. He leaned up against the window. Following through on poorly planned out, fairly rash life decisions was much more tiring then he had though.
Shinji adjusted the strap of his duffel bag and stared at the sun rising over the decimated city of Berlin, a city he had spent many years in. The colors of the sunrise were actually kind of pretty, he had never really noticed before. He took it all in, everything he hadn't paid attention to before, for a minute before reaffirming his decision. "Fuck this place." He started walking, walking away from this place, away from himself, and away from everything that had mattered to him for the past several years. It wasn't long before he could feel someone's presence stalking him. "Are you being that loud to humor me?"
"Where do you think you're going?" Shinji stopped and turned to stare at the redhead standing behind him.
"Away," he answered.
"You can't leave Shinji. I won't let you."
"It's over Asuka," he replied as he adjusted the strap of the heavy bag still slung over his shoulder. He needed something to do with his hands. If he had had nothing, he was sure he would try to attack the redhead more out of habit than anything. "You won. Congratulations." The German redhead looked absolutely furious as her blue eyes flashed crimson and her pupils turned diamond shaped.
"It can't end this way. I won't let it."
"Neither of us has a say in it," Shinji replied. "We can't carry on with me like this and you know it." Asuka was trembling now.
"You can't leave me!" she shrieked, pulling back her hand to strike him. Shinji's remaining eye slipped shut. So this was how it ended, was it? It seemed right. All the years they had spent trying to kill each other, to die by her hand just seemed as it should be. The killing blow never came and Shinji opened his eye. Asuka's fist had dropped and there were tears in her eyes. She slammed into him and clutched at his shirt as she began to sob. "I didn't mean for this to happen." Her blue eyes looked up into his. "You have to believe me."
"What did you think was going to happen?" Shinji asked.
"I just wanted to get rid of the last bit of her," Asuka moaned miserably. "I could always see her there and I hated it."
"Well now you don't have to see her or me," Shinji stated. He took the redhead by her shoulders and pushed her back gently. "Goodbye Asuka."
"You're really going to just leave this, leave me?" she demanded. "You aren't my Shinji! My Shinji would never walk away from me! My Shinji is a warrior, you aren't him; you can't be!"
"Not anymore." Shinji turned his back on the woman he had tried to kill and almost been killed by a hundred thousand times over. It was surprisingly easy. Maybe he was hoping that she would attack and put him out of his misery.
The attack never came. That figured. Asuka always knew just what he wanted and than did the exact opposite.
Shinji jerked awake and looked around the bus sharply. He wasn't used to being awakened by other people. Hell, he wasn't too used to sleeping. "Are you okay?" He glanced up and saw Marie looking back at him over her seat.
"Nightmares," he replied truthfully.
"Does it happen often?" Marie asked.
"Too often for my tastes."
"What are they about?" Shinji felt his eyebrow rise and Marie had the good grace to blush and look embarrassed. "Sorry. I'm a psychiatrist by trade. Sometimes I can be a little nosy."
"Its fine," Shinji stated. He wondered what she would say if he told the truth. "They're about the woman who did this to me," he stated, touching his eye patch.
"Were you two close?"
"Extremely," Shinji stated. That was true enough. He and Asuka had been close.
"No," he replied. "I'd rather not talk about it."
Misato Katsuragi scowled as she shuffled towards the front door. Whoever was out there obviously didn't know that she was not to be bothered before noon. She glanced at her watch. They still have another ten minutes before they could bug her. "Who is it?" she demanded.
"I'm looking for Misato Katsuragi," a man replied from the other side of the door. "She used to live here a long time ago."
"She still does!" Misato snapped. "You're talking to her, now who the hell are you?"
"An old friend," the man replied. Misato's scowl deepened and she ripped the door open.
"Well then, look here friend. . ." she trailed off as she stared at the man. He was quite a few inches taller than her with short black hair and an eye patch over his left eye. For the life of her, Misato couldn't figure out why she had stopped until she saw his remaining eye. The bright blue orb was so familiar it took her breath away. He stared down at her and smiled.
"Hey Misato." Misato's eyes widened as she finally recognized him. "You're looking very good."
"Shinji!" Whatever he had been expecting, being tackled to the floor by a shrieking woman wasn't it.
"It's okay," Shinji stated soothingly as he awkwardly wrapped big, warm arms around her and held her as she sobbed and clutched him tightly.
"Where have you been?" Misato wailed. "After the Impact, everybody started coming back. I kept waiting and waiting for you, but you never came. You never came back Shinji!"
"But I'm here now," Shinji replied. "Calm down." He climbed to his feet and brought her along with him. "What do you say I make us some breakfast?"
"That sounds great," Misato sniffled.
Misato watched quietly as Shinji moved easily through the kitchen. She liked this new model Ikari, oh yes she did. The old one had been fine, but she did enjoy this version's updated chassis. "Where have you been Shinji?"
"There were things I needed to take care of," Shinji replied.
"What things?" Misato pressed.
"Things I'd rather not discuss," Shinji answered. He turned off the stove and walked to the table balancing a tray carrying a massive Western-style breakfast in his gloved hands. "Time's been very good to you, Misato." Misato's tactician side stomped down ruthlessly on her feminine vain side.
"Why didn't you ever contact me?" she demanded. "I was worried sick about you for years. I tried to find you, but no one had any clue where you were. Do you know how hard it is to hide from NERV?"
"I managed to do it when I was fourteen," Shinji commented.
"They still caught you," Misato pointed out crossly. This answer dodging was getting most annoying.
"Only cause I slowed down," Shinji replied somewhat flippantly. "As for why I never called, I just got too wrapped up in things."
"Ah yes, these things you'd rather not discuss," Misato commented dryly as Shinji divided the meal onto two plates. "Do you know how hard it was on me, Shinji? I thought something horrible must have happened to you. To you, Asuka, and Rei." Her eyes widened as the plate Shinji had been holding hit the table, sending sausage rolling everywhere.
"God damn it," Shinji growled as he chased the linked meats down before any could wind up on the floor.
"Did these things have something to do with Asuka and. . ."
"Enough!" Shinji roared, making Misato jump in surprise. He turned on her and, for a moment, Misato could have sworn that his remaining eye was purple. It, if it was real, was gone almost before she could comprehend what she was seeing, or if she had seen anything at all. "I asked you to leave it," Shinji growled, his tone suddenly quite sharp and demanding. "I came here to see you, Misato, not to get a God damned third degree, understand?"
"I'm sorry," Misato managed to squeak. In an instant Shinji seemed to shrink back on himself. He walked quickly to the fridge and grabbed a dozen beers. Neither of them felt like bringing up the fact that there was only one fridge now. He sat down heavily across from her and opened one can. The silence in the room felt like it was suffocating Misato. "I'm really sorry, Shinji." The younger man took a deep breath and sipped his beer.
"Just drop it," he ordered again, much weaker than the first time. "I don't want to think about any of it. I just want to be here and now with you not there in the past with them." With that said he tucked into his meal. Misato felt her cheeks burn at the wording to his statement. She felt the sudden desire to do something she hadn't done in a long time.
"So you want to be with me now, eh?" she asked. "My bed isn't very big, but I don't see anything wrong with using the kitchen table as a multi-tasker." Shinji gagged and coughed roughly. Misato grinned. She still had it. "I guess I can be mad at you later if you want to go have a role in the sack now."
"Misato!" The older woman broke down in a fit of giggles, the angry silence of only a few minutes ago a thing of the past. "You never change, do you?"
"Not when I can help it!"
"Speaking of changing and helping it," Shinji began, "did you get a face life?"
"No!" Misato shrieked.
"Tummy tuck?" Shinji pressed before Misato could properly express her anger.
"You little. . ."
"These are all mine!" Misato roared, pulling down the neckline of the tank top that she wore to sleep in. That quite effectively cut off Shinji's line of questioning. It was several more seconds before Misato realized exactly what she was doing. "Wah!"
"Meh," Shinji grunted and returned to eating.
"Meh?" Misato wailed, her vain side beginning to hyperventilate. "What do you mean 'meh'?"
"What do you want me to say?" Shinji asked. "Nice boobs? It's not like it's the first time I've seen a pair." He paused and thought about that for a moment. "Although, they might have been the first pair I ever saw. I seem to recall you flashing me when I first came to live with you."
"That was an accident!"
"It was!" Misato insisted.
"Mm hmm," Shinji hummed as he returned to his eating. Misato pouted and glared at Shinji for a few seconds before the food in front of her simply became too tempting.
Ritsuko Akagi paused and stared at the door in front of her. After a moment of deliberation she carefully pressed the side of her head to the door. Yes, no doubt about it. Misato was laughing and very hard too. The door opened suddenly and Ritsuko cursed as she stumbled into the apartment and slammed into something solid. "Listening at the door is rude, you know?" Ritsuko looked up and gawked at the man staring down at her. "Staring is rude too."
"Sorry!" Ritsuko yelped as she leapt back. For a moment, just a moment, she thought the man was Commander Ikari.
"How did you know she was there?" Misato asked.
"I just know these kinds of things," the man replied as he closed the door and made his way over to the kitchen table to grab a beer. "You want one?"
"Isn't it a little early for alcohol?" Ritsuko asked.
"Never too early," the man replied.
"I raised him well," Misato replied fondly.
"Is this a bad time?" Ritsuko asked. Misato's previous statement hit her like a sack of potatoes. "Wait, raised?" She spun and stared at the man. "Shinji?"
"Yo," the man replied. He tossed her a beer. She caught it and knocked it back before collapsing onto the couch next to Misato.
"Shinji?" she repeated.
"Me Shinji," the man greeted. "You Doc Akagi. Needle lady. Cat lady. Make-kid-wait-in-fucking-test-tube-for-hours lady." He sat in the easy chair across from them. "Now that we have firmly established our identities, how have you been Doctor Akagi?"
"Just fine, Shinji," Ritsuko replied absently as she studied the man carefully. There was no mistaking it. He was either an older Shinji or a younger Gendo. Of course, with all the oddness that had come after the Third Impact, she couldn't rule out the later as a possibility. "When did you arrive?"
"A few hours ago," Shinji replied.
"Where have you been?" Ritsuko asked after a moment. "You've been gone for years, Shinji. I figured that you had just decided not to come back like so many did."
"I didn't get a say in the matter," Shinji replied quietly as he stared down at his beer.
"Everyone got a choice," Ritsuko replied. "After the Third Impact, if an individual had strong individualistic traits and a will to return, they came back from the LCL. Japan, with its cultural placement of importance on the group rather than the individual, had one of the lowest return rates. Western countries such as the UK, Germany, and the US had much higher percentages with the US having sixty percent of its population returning."
"You think you understand Third Impact," Shinji commented absently. "You don't know a God damned thing, Doc." Ritsuko scowled and Misato sighed. The raven haired woman had long known that the fastest way to draw the blond into an argument was to tell her that she knew nothing about the topic at hand.
"Why don't you enlighten me?" Ritsuko gritted out.
"You don't know because you aren't meant to know," Shinji stated.
"And you are?" Ritsuko demanded.
"Yes, I am." Ritsuko was rather taken aback by the matter-of-fact answer. "I wish I wasn't, but I am."
"I see," she replied. She turned back to Misato. "I just came by the check on you. I really do have to be going, Penny just had kittens."
"That's fine," Misato replied.
"It's good to see that you're well," Ritsuko added cautiously as she rose and shook Shinji's hand. The dark-haired man nodded agreeably.
"If it wouldn't be a problem," he began, "please don't tell anyone that you've seen me."
"Hiding from someone?" Ritsuko asked.
"Yes and mentioning me would only get you in serious trouble."
"Alright," Ritsuko replied. "Come by the Geo-Front tomorrow and I'll check out your eye if you'd like. It looks recent."
"That's not necessary," Shinji stated.
"He'll be there," Misato corrected.
Misato frowned as she watched Ritsuko walk somewhat stiffly out of the apartment. She heard the door open and close and turned to Shinji. "Don't tell her she doesn't know something. It really pisses her off."
"So I gathered," Shinji replied as he sipped his beer. "I don't need a checkup."
"No, but you're getting one," Misato replied. Shinji stared at her for a moment and checked his watch.
"I'm afraid that I must be going."
"It's still early!" Misato protested. She knew it was stupid, but she was terrified that if Shinji left her sight, he would disappear again. Hell, she was having a hard time just believing that this wasn't all a dream.
"I have to find somewhere to stay," Shinji replied. "I don't know how late the rental offices stay open."
"Stay with me!" Misato exclaimed quickly.
"I'd hate to impose. . ."
"You're staying here if I have to tie you down," Misato interrupted. She saw one of Shinji's eyebrows rise and the corners of his lips quirk upwards.
"How very. . .kinky," he commented. "I'm not entirely sure we're ready for that particular step in our relationship." Misato quickly saw a way to turn the tides.
"Is that a 'maybe later'?" she asked slyly.
"Sure." Misato giggled and nearly tackled the taller man as she threw her arms around his neck, realizing that even on tiptoes she barely came to his chin.
"It's great having you home," she stated as she felt his arms wrap securely around her waist. It was getting hard to convince her body that the fact that he was much younger than her was a problem.
"It's great to be. . .home," Shinji replied.
-Author's notes. Well, I think I've done some pretty good drama. Now I figured I'd give romance a shot, real romance not harem orgies. What? What's with that look? Why are you laughing? You know what? Fuck you! Let this abomination upon all things Cynical commence!
Alright, on a side note, don't look for updates to this one any time soon. I only threw this up because I had nothing else and I always give you guys something.