Disclaimer: I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion or Max Steel. Wish I did, though.
Author's Notes: Since I got such a good reception on 'After the Volcano', I figured I'd write a new crossover story. What if someone other than the teacher Gendo hired to 'watch' over Shinji picked him up? I hope you enjoy!
"Daddy! Come back!" As four year old Shinji Ikari cries out, his own Father stoically walks away from him before getting into a car. "Daddy! PLEASE!"
Shinji's cries are to no avail as Gendo's car drives away, with Gendo never looking back at his son. As Shinji cries out, he doesn't notice the time passing him by as he is so heartbroken.
Two hours later, Shinji, all cried out, is still sitting at the train station where Gendo had ditched him when he hears a male voice. One filled with compassion and tenderness.
"Hey, you okay, little guy?" Looking up at the voice's source, he sees a tall Caucasian man with blond hair. Wearing a blue polo shirt and blue jeans. The man looks around and frowns before looking back down at him. "Where're your folks?"
"My Daddy, he left me behind. Telling me another would be along to get me. But it was hours ago!"
"Well, that simply will not do. Why don't you come along with me? Berto and Kat would love to meet you."
Shinji, even though his Mother told him to be wary of strangers, decides it'd be better to go along with a stranger than be alone for too much longer. Giving the man a soft nod, Shinji bows at him.
"Josh McGrath. Nice to meet you, Shinji."
With that, Josh extends his left hand and Shinji accepts it. Not knowing just how profound, and bizarre, an effect that decision will have on him. Josh handily lifts Shinji's suitcase and guides him to a red sports coupe and opens the trunk. Putting the suitcase in and closing the lid, he gives Shinji a soft smile before shaking his head.
"Kat's going to flip when she meets you. So will Berto for that matter."
"Are they nice?"
"Oh yeah. They love kids."
Guiding Shinji to the front passenger seat, he gently fastens Shinji in before closing the door and going around to the other side.
Getting in, he adds, "Just one thing up front, though. Berto's a bit of an odd bird." Shinji can't help but see Josh wince before chuckling.
"You okay, Mr McGrath?"
"I'm fine. And just call me Josh."
With that, Josh starts the coupe and pulls away from the train station.
Fifteen minutes later, a small black car pulls up and stops. A man exiting it before looking around and shrugging.
'Maybe Gendo changed his mind about Shinji.'
With that thought, he gets back into his car and goes back the way he came.
An hour later, in old Osaka, Josh's coupe pulls up to a building with the lettering 'N-Tek Industries'. A monogram of a thumb-up gesture on its side. Josh exits the car and quickly goes to the passenger side, allowing Shinji to exit. Going to the trunk and opening it, he glances back toward his young passenger and lightly chortles at the awe-struck look on the boy's face.
"Pretty cool, huh, Shinji?"
"It doesn't even begin to describe it, Josh."
Shinji's words get another chortle out of Josh as he reaches down for Shinji's hand. With Shinji holding his hand, Josh walks into the building, where an elderly watchman greets him.
"Evening, Mr McGrath."
"Evening, Joe. And how many times do I have to ask you to call me Josh?"
"Numerous times, sir. The only time you'll hear your first name from my lips will be on my deathbed, sir." Getting a look at Josh's guest, Joe grins and asks, "And who would this be?"
"This is Shinji Ikari, Joe. He'll be staying with me, Berto and Kat from here on out."
"Young Mr Ikari." Joe clicks his heels audibly and Shinji tries returning it. Only with not much luck. At Shinji's scowl, Joe lightly grins and says, "Keep practicing, young Mr Ikari."
"I will. Just call me Shinji, Joe." Joe and Josh share a light chuckle with the latter nodding.
"We'll get you to say our first names before your deathbed, Joe. Count on it."
"When pigs fly, Mr McGrath. When pigs fly."
"Make up your mind, Joe. Is it your deathbed or when pigs fly?"
"Pigs will fly when I die, Mr McGrath."
That cheerful retort done, Josh guides Shinji past a wall with portraits of the company's former Executive Directors. Shinji looks up at one and sees Josh's face on it. With Josh wearing a business suit. Right beside Josh's portrait is one of a slightly rotund and balding African-American man. Josh notices Shinji's examination and grins. Joining him in the examination.
"That's Jefferson Smith. He was Executive Director before me, Shinji."
"He looks nice."
"He was nice. He was also my adoptive Father after my parents died during a sailing trip." Looking down at Shinji, he adds, "If he'd lived, he'd have liked meeting you."
"What happened to him?"
"He died four years ago during Second Impact. He was in his office at the company's Del Oro Bay complex. No warning of any kind and he was just gone." Curious, he asks, "What about your Mother, Shinji?"
Flashes of an accident flash through Shinji's mind, causing him to shake. Only Josh lightly pats his hand to sooth him.
"It's okay, Shinji. You don't have to say anything more."
Not a word more passes between the two as Josh and Shinji make their way to the elevators. When they get there, Josh places Shinji's suitcase down and places his hand to a panel under the control panel. When a green light flashes on, Josh speaks.
"Josh McGrath." With that, the elevator door opens and Josh picks Shinji's bag back up. Guiding Shinji in and stopping, he waits until the door closes and says, "Sublevel nine."
"Confirmed. Sublevel nine." As the elevator begins moving, Shinji notices it's moving downward.
"Why're we going down? How far down does this go?"
"In that order, Shinji, it's where Berto's lab is. As for how far down, it goes down fifteen subs."
"He's a scientist?"
"Oh yeah. Brilliant, confined and nutty."
"I heard that, hermano." The voice has a Hispanic accent, yet Shinji can tell the voice is intelligent and cultured.
"It's true, bro. Kat about?"
"Yeah. She's here in the lab." The sound of keys clacking is audible before Berto asks, "Who's your friend?"
"I'll introduce you guys when we get there."
"I look forward to it, hermano."
"I do as well."
Five minutes later, the elevator reaches its destination and both exit before walking toward a pair of doors. Before Shinji can get a good look at the doorway, he sees the doors opening on their own. Without missing a step, Josh escorts Shinji into the room, allowing Shinji to see two people. One a Caucasian woman with close-cropped red hair with green highlights and a Hispanic man with slicked-back brown hair wearing glasses.
"Well, now, Josh." The woman smiles lightly at Shinji before kneeling down to look him in the eyes. "Who's this little cutie pie?"
"Kat Ryan, Berto Martinez, this is Shinji Ikari. He'll be staying with us for the foreseeable future." Josh grimaces before adding, "I found him alone at the train station in Tokyo-3."
Kat's shocked gasp gets the attention of all three before she wraps her arms around Shinji. Pressing his face into her bust. Along with depriving Shinji of all things important for life. Air.
"You poor little thing." Running her fingers along Shinji's scalp, she murmurs, "Don't worry, baby. Auntie Kat's here." Shinji's muffled pleas for air get her attention, prompting her to say, "Oops. Sorry, Shinji." But the combination of exhaustion and air deprivation knocked him out. Rendering him unable to respond. "I think I went a little too far, Josh."
"Nah. Not by much." Gently lifting Shinji into his arms, Josh lightly smiles at the innocent face before him. 'How hard can it be to watch over a little boy? Jefferson did it just fine with me. So it can't be that hard.' Next thing he knows, Berto clears his throat before speaking.
"Before we do anything else, Josh, we need to check on his family. See if he has any at least."
"When I picked him up, he said his Father had left him at the train station."
"Okay, hermano. Let me do a search on anyone with the Ikari name." Turning back to his computer, Berto types in the criteria and quickly finds a match. "One match, Josh. Yui Ikari. Scientist, classified as deceased in a freak accident. Husband's name is Gendo Rokubungi Ikari. One child, name of Shinji Ikari."
"Okay. I'll call Pete and see about getting Shinji placed officially into our care. If Gendo has a problem with it, that's his problem. Not ours."
(Tokyo-3; two days later)
As Gendo and Naoko Akagi exchange in a 'meeting', they soon find themselves interrupted when Gendo's intercom chimes. Irritated to no end at the interruption, Gendo presses the button before replying.
"What is it? I'm in a meeting." The feminine voice of his secretary flows out of his intercom as it replies.
"Mr Ikari, there's an envelope from a law firm out of Okinawa with your name on it."
His brows furrowing in confusion, he retorts, "I don't employ any law firms in Okinawa, Miss Okana. Go ahead and open it."
"Yes sir." A minute later, Miss Okana replies, "It's regarding your son, sir. He's been placed into the care of a sporting goods company named 'N-Tek Industries'. Whatever that is."
"WHAT?" Gendo's fury is without bounds as he yells, "THAT'S NOT WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO PICK HIM UP!" Naoko is so badly startled, she falls to the floor, naked, while Gendo keeps yelling. "GET ME IN TOUCH WITH THAT LAW FIRM RIGHT FUCKIN' NOW!"
"Yes sir!" The fright in Miss Okana's voice is palpable as Gendo seethes. A minute later, she says, "Connected, sir."
"Costas, Lambert and Chen. Laura Chen speaking."
"Ms Chen, this is Gendo Ikari in Tokyo-3. I demand to know why my son is in the custody of someone he's not supposed to be with."
"Your son was found by our client, alone and miserable, two hours after you ditched him, Mr Ikari." Laura's voice has a tinge of anger as she goes on. "Far as our client and I are concerned, young Shinji's case is one of cruelly wanton abandonment by a parent."
"This matter does not concern you or your client, Ms Chen. I expect him to be transferred over to the one he was supposed to be with by day's end."
"Who was supposed to take care of him?"
"Toshio Sakamiya." Gendo leans intently over the intercom and adds, "I encourage you to obey me."
"I obey no asshole moron that's willing to leave his child alone for two hours. Nor am I required to. Now, should you wish to contest this further, we can do so in the World Courthouse." Laura's voice is silky, with steel wrapped within as she goes on. "Given your willingness to commit abandonment of a child and past as a bar brawler, the odds of you getting your way are pretty slim."
"Irrelevant. As the boy's surviving parent, I have final say in all matters regarding his care."
"You lost that say when you abandoned him." The voice is not Laura's, but a man's voice as it goes on. "I dare say that our clients are more than willing to care for him than you seem to be. Should you wish to communicate with him, you can do so through us."
"Why not directly with N-Tek? And who are you?"
"Pete Costas. It's within their rights to request that all correspondence flow through us before it gets to them. Cuts down on junk mail and what-not. Somewhat."
"I'm not going to be able to change your stance on this, am I?"
"Not one bit." Gendo grunts in irritation, running his fingers through his hair before replying.
"Very well. We'll do it your way, Mr Costas. May I ask for naming conditions regarding his care?"
"You may not as you forfeited that option by ditching him without legal representation."
"Now see here…"
"We have nothing further to discuss. Good day, Mr Ikari." With that, the call ends and Gendo seethes angrily before composing himself.
'I can at least monitor him from a distance. Be sure he has no will or desire to live. And there's nothing they can do about it.' Snickering evilly, Gendo's soon brought back to Naoko's attention. Scaring her with his snickering.
'I don't think I like the sound of that snickering.'
(Old Osaka; McGrath Manor)
As the sun shines into the window, Shinji curls further into the bed before blearily opening his eyes. Blinking at the room before him, he plops back down and sighs.
"An unfamiliar ceiling."
"Well, now, good morning sleepyhead."
At the sound of Kat's voice, Shinji turns toward it and sees the woman leaning against the doorway. Hands behind her back. A warm smile on her face which prompts him to smile back.
"Good morning, Miss Ryan."
"Nah-ah-ah. Just call me Kat." Kat's gentle chiding gets a shy smile from Shinji and a chuckle from Kat before she goes on. "You were really tired."
"How long was I asleep?"
"Two days. Josh was considering calling for a Doctor to check you, but Berto checked you and found you were exhausted." Kinking her head to the side, she asks, "What do you want to do today? Stay in bed or have some fun?"
"What kind of fun?"
"Hmm, let's see. You're a little young for bodysurfing, go-cart racing's probably out too." Giving him an estimating glance, she adds, "You're old enough to learn swimming."
"I guess I can try swimming."
"Good." Bringing her left hand out from behind her back, she tosses him a black pair of trunks and says, "I'll just leave you be while you change."
"Okay, Kat." Kat only smirks while closing the door, allowing Shinji his privacy.
Fifteen minutes later, Shinji's walking through the manor, following the signs directing him toward the pool area. When he gets there, he sees Kat wearing a blue-green one piece suit. Waiting patiently for him. When she sees him, she nods in approval.
"Black suits you, Shinji."
He can only smile back shyly as she gently takes his hand and they walk toward the pool's ramp at the shallow end. As they walk down the ramp, Kat gets in front of Shinji, turns around and gives him a reassuring smile as the water covers his chest. Slightly startling him until he starts floating. A smiling Kat giving him encouragement as they stop in place. From there, she begins teaching him to swim.
In the background, Josh and Berto watch as the lovely young woman teaches the young boy. Josh then turns to Berto and nods his head back the way they came. Berto nods in agreement and the two walk off. As they walk together, Berto considers the best way to ask and decides to ask flat out.
"Any news from Pete?"
"Yeah. Gendo called the office, pissed as Hell that Shinji's with us instead of the guy he'd left Shinji to be picked up by." Smirking, he adds, "Laura let him have it. Big time."
"Who'd have thought your ex would have such a soft side when you told her what had happened?"
"Certainly not me." Changing topics, he then asks, "What about your next gen of probes?"
"Just about ready, Josh. I've got the requirements for transphasic power figured out to make it last longer in them. Instead of a daily recharge like you're used to, it can now be a month before the next one."
"Wow. What about the issues between the old and new?"
"Slight hitch there, hermano. Grossly incompatible with each other. Your probes have been in you for so long, they may try fighting off the new ones. And lose. You'd be dead before the new ones can fully replace them." Shrugging, he adds, "Sorry, Josh, but I'm afraid you're stuck with 1.0."
"Oh well. Keep at it, bro. Maybe you'll get it figured out yet."
"Oh yeah." Before Berto can say anything more, his PDA beeps. Bringing it up, his eyebrows quirk up before he scowls as he looks at the screen. "A blast from the past, hermano. Psycho's on the move."
"Wow. Haven't seen 'Smiley' for a while. I was hoping it'd stay that way, too." With that, his appearance changes to a slightly older brunette man in his thirties before he asks, "Where is he?"
"Okay. I'll take the Hawk and fly. When you find out…"
"Fill you in. Got it, Max." With that, Max Steel nods and presses a panel in the wall. Revealing a doorway before the two. As they walk through the doorway, Berto asks, "How're your T-juice levels?"
Max checks before nodding. "Still in the green. I just hope I'm not too rusty."
"Okay." Cautiously, he asks, "If Shinji asks, what do I tell him?"
"Just that an urgent company matter came up."
"Close enough to the truth without telling it. Just like the old days, huh?"
"Oh yeah." Reaching the hangar, he walks toward a small jet, asking, "Backup generator in place, just in case?"
"Good to know, bro. I should be back in time for dinner." Giving Berto a nod, he gets into the plane and closes the canopy, uttering, "Stealth mode."
As the Hawk blinks out of view, Berto can faintly feel heat coming and sees the hangar door opening. As the heat recedes, Berto nods silently.
"Be safe out there, hermano. You've got someone that needs you now."
Making his way back up to the pool area, he can't help but smile softly at the faint view of Shinji swimming toward Kat. Splashing wildly as Kat laughs. The splashes soon end as Kat wraps her arms around him, nestling him into her torso.
'Someone that needs you more than ever.'
(Down Under; an hour later)
"Smiley!" At the sound of the voice hailing, the recipient turns around, sadistic grin never receding from his robotic face as he sees the bane of his existence. "I could have done without hearing your name anymore, you know! Let alone coming across your psycho ass!"
"Steel!" The villainous cyborg Psycho unfolds his cybernetic arm into a claw and rushes toward Max, intent on crushing him once and for all. Only for Max to dodge and kick him in the back. "I could have done without hearing your voice again. But since I have, I now know that you're still alive!"
"Aw, I'm touched that you know I live."
"Not anymore!" Folding his arm back up, he points his wrist at Max, blasting a beam of light at him. Only to hear the words he's hated to hear ever since their first encounter.
"Going turbo!" As Max dodges the beam, he quickly punches Psycho in the torso then kicks him between the legs. As Psycho collapses to the ground, he glares balefully at Max.
"You've never done that before! Ever! Why?"
"Two reasons. One; I don't have much time to play with you. Two; I'm a Foster Dad now."
If Psycho's red eyes were able to, they'd have been bulging out at those words. Instead, he starts laughing madly.
"Max Steel, a Foster Dad? Oh, this is just too rich for words!" As Psycho laughs uproariously, he shakes his head and asks, "As if you didn't have enough on your plate, you have to tack on another chore?" Still laughing, he asks, "So who's the unlucky pup that got saddled with you?"
The only reply he gets is a fist that dents his face significantly.
"That is none of your concern, 'Smiley'."
As Psycho reels from the damaging punch, he quickly finds himself flat on the ground. Max standing over him in triumph. Ropes in hand before trussing him up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Dragging his foe toward the Hawk, Max makes quick work of making the needed knots to attach the villainous cyborg to the Hawk.
"If you're going to take me to jail, it won't do you any good Steel. I'll just break out again and seek you out."
"I know, 'Smiley'. I've got someplace else in mind for you. Someplace I'd been figuring and hoping I wouldn't have to take you to keep you on ice. Literally." At those words, Psycho can't help but shake his head.
"No. Not there. Anywhere but there! Steel!" His yells are to no avail as Max gets back into the Hawk and closes the canopy. "Steel! This is so not funny! Steel! BUDDY?"
Max happily ignores Psycho's screams as he pilots the Hawk to the remnants of Antarctica. The flight there is another hour. Spotting a glacier surrounded by water, he moves the Hawk to just above it and releases the rope. Dropping Psycho onto it and snickers meanly as Psycho clambers to stay on. Not wanting to fall into the freezing waters. Turning on the external speakers, Max lets loose one last taunt.
"Stay out of trouble, now." Piloting the Hawk away, he can easily hear Psycho yelling.
(Old Osaka; two hours later)
As Shinji intently watches Kat cooking, she notices him and smiles warmly. With Shinji returning it before finding himself curious.
"What are you making, Kat?"
"Just a mish-mash of pasta with barbecue sauce and Parmesan cheese. It's the only dish I'm safe enough to make."
"Will Josh be back in time for it?"
"You better believe I will be." Josh's voice gets their attention and Shinji smiles widely.
"How'd it go?"
"The problem's on ice. Nothing to worry about." Puzzled at the wording, Shinji shrugs. Not seeing Kat shudder in containing her laughter. Josh, however, sees her. "Uh, why don't you go wash up, Shinji? I got something to talk with Kat about."
"Okay." As Shinji scurries off, Josh gets in a hair ruffle on his head and soon hears Kat's laughter escaping in small bursts.
"You didn't. Not even you could be that mean to Psycho."
"I did. I was." Kat can't help it any longer and lets out a loud peal of laughter. "He'll be chilling for a while." Kat's laughter is soon contagious and Josh starts laughing madly as well. In the background, Berto can only shake his head before chortling.
"Mean. The man's just plain mean."
"What's so funny, Berto?" At the sound of Shinji's voice, a chortling Berto shakes his head.
"Just an old family joke, Shinji. Just an old family joke. Nothing to worry about."
Even though cyborgs like Psycho don't feel sensations like cold or heat, he can't help but clatter out through his teeth, "I really hate that guy."