Shinji was still in a hospital bed.
He'd had a physical examination, had blood drawn, been given X-rays and CT scans. In other words, the same old routine. He'd been told that Rei and Kowaru were both fine. Shinji had really wanted to see Rei, but he'd been told he wouldn't be allowed any visitors. No one explained why, they just reassured him it was a precaution and that he would be released from the hospital soon.
No one would specify how long 'soon' was.
The door to his room opened and a familiar figure in a short skirt and white lab coat stepped inside. "Good morning Shinji, how are you feeling?" Ritsuko asked.
"Just fine," he answered wearily.
"Good, that's good." Ritsuko came over to his bedside. She then took out a syringe.
"What's that?" Shinji asked nervously.
"Just a little something to help you with the pain." Ritsuko said reassuringly.
"But I'm not in pain."
"It's just something to help you relax. No need to be worried." There was a nozzle attached to his IV tube. Ritsuko stuck the needle in and pressed down, emptying the contents into the IV tube. "See? Completely painless."
Despite her smile and cheerful demeanor Shinji felt nervous. There had been a time, before all this started, that he had trusted all the people who worked here and truly believed NERV to be the world's hope for salvation. Since the attacks had begun he'd been lied to and manipulated. He'd seen Rei arrested on his father's whim. He'd seen Asuka sacrificed and then tossed aside. People were used up and forgotten; all for the sake of winning against the Angels. And no one seemed to care so long as they won.
On a certain level Shinji understood that. When losing meant the end of the world you did what you had to. He just wondered if this was really the only way, using people to get what you want. Was this unique to this situation? Or was this how people acted all the time?
"Do we all just use each other?" Shinji mumbled.
"What was that?" Ritsuko asked.
Shinji blinked. He hadn't meant to say that out loud. "Nothing, sorry." He was feeling very relaxed all of a sudden, like he was floating on a cloud.
Ritsuko just stood there for a couple more minutes observing him. She was giving the drugs time to enter his system. His eyes were becoming dilated and he appeared to be losing focus. When she was satisfied he was completely under its effect she began.
"Shinji, I need to ask you a few questions, and I need you to answer me as completely as you can. Don't hold anything back. Tell me everything, even if you think it's unimportant. Do you understand?"
He blinked at her. "Okay."
"What happened in the entry plug Shinji?"
"I got scared." He replied in a hollow tone. "I saw how strong the Angel was and I was afraid. I didn't want to die."
"I understand Shinji, it's perfectly normal to have that sort of reaction under such circumstances. You do understand though that you have to fight, don't you?"
"Why?" He asked in that same empty voice. "Why me? Why Rei?"
"I am afraid this is what you were born for. Call it karma or fate or the universe playing a nasty little joke on you. The fact remains you are not allowed to run away."
"It's not fair."
"No, but life rarely is. I will give you something to help you with your fears."
"You're going to drug me?"
"I am going to help you." Ritsuko told him pleasantly. "Now Shinji, please tell me what happened when you attacked the Angel."
Ritsuko saw him blink several times. "I don't remember."
"I know you were unconscious during the event itself, but tell me what you do remember."
He began blinking again. "I… I was angry. All I could think about was saving Rei. I wanted to tear the Angel apart with my bare hands and…"
Shinji hesitated, his eyes blinking in rapid fire.
"Don't fight it Shinji," Ritsuko said gently. "Just tell me the truth."
"Right before I blacked out, I imagined my mother was there with me."
"I see," Ritsuko said neutrally. "What did she say?"
"Nothing, but I could tell she was angry too."
Ritsuko nodded. She had many more questions for him.
Rei wished she'd been allowed to visit Shinji at the NERV medical facility. She had been assured that Shinji was fine and that they simply needed to conduct a few tests. The answer had not made her happy, but she'd been promised he would be released soon.
Rei was in their apartment packing up Shinji's clothes. She and Shinji-kun were being assigned to quarters inside NERV headquarters. So everyone on staff who had been living in Tokyo-3. After the latest attack it had finally been decided to evacuate the city of its remaining civilian population and move all military and NERV staff to the headquarters.
Rei didn't think they would have much trouble emptying out the city. Most of the civilians had long since left. She estimated that there might still be five percent of the population from a year ago.
As Rei folded Shinji's shirts and put them in a suitcase she hoped the ordinary people would find someplace where they could be safe and enjoy their lives.
Before the end.
"It's pink." Kaworu said in surprise.
A very tired Misato smothered a yawn before replying. "You can blame NERV Beijing branch for that. Unfortunately, when they received the specs for building their EVA the color was left optional. I know you're not happy, but there's nothing we can do right now. If you want we can maybe paint it later when we have the time. Though I can already hear the accountants scream about wasting funds."
"What are you talking about Misato-san?" Kaworu asked with an amused grin. "I like it. It's really cute."
"Cute?" Misato looked up at the fifty foot EVA. It had arms that went all the way to its knees, three eyes including one in the middle of its forehead, and two horns. It had no mouth. Despite the color its design was a bit disturbing. "Right, it's the cutest giant monster ever."
"Even if it's meant to be a weapon of destruction there's no reason why it can't be a thing of beauty too."
"Kaworu-kun you have very strange tastes."
He chuckled. "You're not the first to think that."
"Well, as long as it actually works and isn't an Angel in disguise I'll be satisfied no matter what color it is. We'll test out the Dummy Plug first and then have you try to pilot it."
He headed into the control center of Hinata Base humming a happy tune. He wondered if Shinji-kun would like his new EVA.
"Have you ever heard of SEELE?" Ritsuko asked.
"Yes, I've heard rumors about them. They are supposed to be a secret organization that controls NERV and the UN. I asked my father about them once, he said they didn't exist."
The mention of Gendo made her twitch a bit. "Do you believe they exist?"
"Did Kaji ever mention them to you?"
"Did he ever mention the Human Instrumentality Project?"
"No," he answered blankly. "What is it?"
She ignored the question. "Did Kaji ever talk to you alone?"
"A few times."
"What did he talk to you about?"
"He would ask me about Misato and tell me a few stories about her."
Ritsuko smiled fondly, that did sound like something Kaji would do. "Do you and Rei share a sexual relationship?"
Shinji blinked a few times before answering. "Yes."
Ritsuko nodded, she'd suspected for awhile now. The answer was just confirmation. "Has Rei ever done or said anything strange?"
"Rei is always strange, but I love that about her."
Ritsuko sighed. The problem with using these drugs while conducting an interrogation was that they robbed the subject of any independent thought. While under their influence he couldn't lie and once they wore off he would have no memory of any of this.
"Does she ever talk about the Angels?"
"What does she say about them?"
"That she will protect me from them and that we will beat them."
That was not exactly what Ritsuko was looking for. "Has Rei ever demonstrated strange abilities?"
"When we have sex there's this thing she does with her tongue sometimes."
She shook her head in frustration. Unfortunately in this situation it was on her to ask the right questions. "Has Rei ever done anything a human wouldn't be able to?"
"Have you ever suspected she is not human?"
"Did she ever tell you what really happened to your father?"
"She said he released her from her cell without an explanation."
"That's it?" Ritsuko said incredulously.
"Yes, it sounded like something he would do."
Ritsuko knew how true that was. "Has your father contacted you since he left?"
"Has he contacted Rei?"
"Does Rei ever bring him up or wonder about him?"
"Don't you find it strange that your father has been gone for months and hasn't contacted you even once?"
"No, my father never wanted to talk to me while he was here. I thought him ignoring me was normal. I am just glad he is gone."
"Do you hate him?"
"Do you wish he was dead?"
"No, I just want him to leave us alone."
"What do you think of what Asuka said to you?"
"It makes me very sad to know she is insane now."
Ritsuko frowned. She'd hoped to uncover Rei's secrets but found nothing. Was that because Shinji didn't know? Or because there was nothing there to find?
"We're done now Shinji, you can get some sleep now."
Nodding, he laid his head down on the pillow and was immediately asleep.
Ritsuko quietly left to report her findings.