A/N: -flails- I'm not dead! This is just a very brief update to inform the people who have been reading the fic that I am still around, just veeeery busy with university. Not sure when I'll submit a proper chapter, but hey, have a drabble which may or may not be a teaser for the next part. :P Thanks for sticking with me. _


"What're you looking at, Shinji?"

"There was an explosion. See the smoke?" A sausage-like finger indicates to the view from the window; the orphanage has a fairly decent view of its surroundings, including the bridge between Iwatodai and Port Island.

"Oh... So that's why it's so quiet," remarks the fist speaker, joining his companion. "They're watching the news."

"Where's Miki?"

"In her room, asleep. You can't talk to her though."

"Why not?"

"Because..."

"That's not a good reason," Shinji smirks.

"Do you want another black eye?" Aki asks quietly; despite his threat there is no menace in his voice. The other shakes his head, gaze focuses upon the band-aid on Aki's head.

"No, I'm good. Still, I wonder what's going on."

"Must be something big if they've let us be in the same room together," nods Aki.

"Aliens?"

"Maybe they've come to take Kanade-san home!"

Both males grin at each other and laughter fills the room.

"You know," Shinji smiles; there are gaps in his teeth from where the old have fallen out and the new not fully developed yet. "For a guy who never fought before, you punch pretty good." He indicates to his mouth. "I've got a cut."

"Sorry," Aki looks remorseful. "I didn't mean to."

"It's okay - not as bad as the way we got yelled at. And don't worry, we can get Miki a proper gift once we've saved up."

"Yeah," Aki nods, his lips now graced with a wistful smile. He then flinches, blinks rapidly and frowns at the door. "The phone's ringing..."

"So?" Shinji shrugs and leans against the wall with his hands in his pockets.

"But it's late... The phone never rings this late..."

Footsteps echo from the hall outside, Aki and Shinji fall silent. They eavesdrop on the conversation, catching mere snippets of the conversation.

"Hello?" A long pause. "... Yes, we heard, but- ... Oh no, the poor... I see... We'll send someone... Yes, yes, of course. The others are asleep... Of course. Good bye."

"Uh-oh," Aki gasps; he clenches his fists and glances over to Shinji as the footsteps move closer to their hiding place. "Quick... Hide!"

The door to the day room opens but neither child can be seen. They hear Kanade-san muttering to herself, rummaging around as if she is looking for something, and neither dare to breathe. More footsteps. Aki summons his courage to peer over the back of the sofa but is dragged back into concealment by Shinji.

"Idiot," he whispers and rolls his eyes. "If they catch us..."

They both know the punishment: anyone caught breaking rules will not receive their allowance for a month.

"It's only for a few nights, until the poor dear's family are able to travel down. They thought it better than to send her to a proper home or to ship her off up north."

"Really? I'm surprised."

"It's also less paperwork. The explosion killed several people, they've got enough on their hands already. There will be a psychiatrist coming to visit, and we've been advised to keep her separate from the other children."

"I still don't think an orphanage is the best place for a child whose parents are barely out of their body bags..."

"As I said before, it's less paperwork. Also, the Kirijo group are going to have difficulty as it is covering this up, the welfare of a little girl is nothing in comparison."

Their conversation moves out to the hallways, and Aki and Shinji are left to exchange sighs of relief.

"You hear that?"

"Yeah dummy, I was in the same room as you," smirks Shinji. Regardless, he sobers quickly. "So it killed lots of people. No wonder the grown-ups were too distracted to notice us sneaking out."

"And, they talked about a girl. You think she'll come tonight?" Aki asks.

"Maybe, sounds like the hospital don't want her there. Let's stay up, see if we can get a glimpse."

"Don't you think that's a little-"

"C'mon Aki, she's gonna be really scared. We can be the first friendly faces she sees."

"I guess... But let's not get caught."

"Tch, I wasn't planning on getting caught," grins Shinji, showing his gums for a second time that night.

They wait in the day room, taking it in turns to peer out of the window every time they hear the rumble of an engine. After what seems like forever, one stops outside and a door is opened. Kanade-san is seen walking towards it and takes the hand of a small person shielded beneath an umbrella even though it is not raining.

"Where to?" Aki whispers after five minutes have passed.

"I dunno," Shinji frowns.

"We could always wait here 'til the grown-ups are sleeping," suggests the silver haired child.

"That might take ages though," his friend responds. They hear the door knob rattling behind them and dart behind the sofa for a second time. On this occasion there are no voices as the door creaks open.

"No!" Shinji hisses as Aki goes to investigate; he grabs his friend by the back of his red t-shirt and shakes his head. Then comes the familiar creak of the toy box and it's Shinji's turn to allow his curiosity to get the better of him.

He is met by the sight of a little girl with reddish-brown hair, dressed in an elementary school uniform. Shinj recognises it as his own school's, but this girl must be new or something because he has never seen her before. She looks inside the toy box, takes out a doll and looks at it for a long time before putting it back. She does the same with another, and then a car.

He swallows thickly and feels Aki tugging on his sleeve.

"It's safe," Shinji mouths and the two emerge from their hiding place. The girl does not notice them straight away, but eventually turns her head to stare at them blankly. No one speaks for a few moments, the boys watch her as she watches them. Shinji wonders how much she has cried because her eyes are red, he's never seen someone with red eyes before. And then he realises, ten and a half years later, just how much he loves those eyes.