AUTHOR'S NOTE: removed all my scene breaks (indicated by asterixes), God/Gods/Goddesses/Demons/Various types of deities damn their blackened souls. I realized it too late to fix it. Sorry, everyone, although the writing itself is quite clear enough for anyone to tell between scene switches. Damn it, FFN! Not cool!

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: REDEMPTION

Prologue

"I want to be I."

These five words rang through the lips of all three Children. As they took meaning,

Lilith began to break up. A jagged line appeared across the ghostly neck and a spectacular stream of blood erupted forth, arcing across the empty void.

"And to all the Children, congratulations."

Shinji Ikari found himself between the Black Moon and the blood-smeared Earth. As the image of Yui disappeared, his newfound confidence solidified. A feeling of power that was absent from Shinji's life until and only during the brief time when he beat Asuka's Synch ratio returned with fresh vigor.

The gripping of the fist, a symbol of strength and determination; Shinji gripped his hand now. Gripping, feeling for something tangible to hold on to...

Eva's control handles.

He found them. He began pushing and sliding them back and forth. 'I want to live. I want to go back!'

The Synch meter began to rise.

'I AM I! I WILL SURVIVE!'

Unit 01's S2 Engine began to glow a bright scarlet. A bulge appeared under Lilith's eye. A flash of light blasted through, warped and bent into a glowing cross, twinkling in the void of orbit. The cross shifted, wriggled and split into a pair of wings. They beat powerfully, glowing with life. The Lance of Longinus unwound, flashed and shot forwards a shower of beams. The Replica Lances of the Mass Production Evangelions exploded into a cloud of LCL. The Black Moon burst into a bloody rainbow, and the Doors of Guf reopened to allow Souls exit.

Inside Unit 01, Yui gave up control and slipped gently back into the recesses of Unit 01's Core.

'Take care, Shinji.'

'I will. Good bye, mother. I love you.'

Stage I: "I'll never Forgive You

Unit 01 flared as it burned through the atmosphere. AT Field expanding, it slowed to a hover and came to a stop in the air, then crashed into the Sea of LCL, sprawled awkwardly across the ocean. A thin stream of yellow joined the scarlet of the LCL. The stream bubbled and formed into the being known as Shinji Ikari, who bobbed past the split head of Lilith towards the shore. The waves lapped the shore, its redness contrasting against the white of the beach. On a cracked and broken pole, Misato Katsuragi's cross was nailed. MP EVA Unit 5 towered motionlessly over the scarred world. A thick, violet beam stood out against its surroundings and under it is the head of EVA Unit 01, scorched by the heat of reentry. Lilith's head stared sightlessly into space, a ghostly smile fixed on her lips.

Two figures lay motionless on the beach, Shinji Ikari and Asuka Langley Soryu. Shinji's eye twitched. Creakily, he sat up. A figure stood in the ocean of LCL.

'Is that… Ayanami? No… that's impossible…' Confusedly, Shinji looked about himself. His eyes fell to the sand next to him.

A girl with copper-golden red hair lay on the beach, her left eye and right arm wrapped in bandages.

'Asuka… you're alive?'

She lay still.

'Asuka… answer me…'

Her form was unnaturally stiff.

'Don't… don't ignore me!'

She did not move, did not look at him, did not sit up, and did not come by his side… she wouldn't help him.

Bleakly, Shinji's hands closed around her throat. Like before, her face was blank, devoid of color. 'Please get up. Please help me.' Her uncovered eye shimmered in the red light. Shinji's hands tightened, despair washing over him again. Suddenly, her hand twitched. Swathed in bandages, it rose shakily to his face. A wisp of air escaped her strangled throat. Her hand brushed his cheek. It was dry and rough, but caused memories of her to flood Shinji's mind. He saw Asuka as she was crying, bragging, screaming, laughing, growling, happy, sad, afraid, and alone and suffering. A dry cry spluttered in his throat, and a tear splashed on Asuka's cheek. His hands were suddenly weak. They slid off. Oxygen rushed into Asuka's lungs. Slowly, Shinji's cheek fell onto her chest. Only then did the tears come. Only then did he finally cry, old poison rushing out, mingling with salty tears, staining Asuka's Plug Suit. Clutching her, Shinji Ikari cried for his life, the people he cared about, his betrayals, his world. Trembling, he held on to his last resort. He held Asuka, guilt gnawing at his heart. He remembered her memories, her pain, and her loneliness; her craving for attention, her desperateness and her never satisfied need for love. Shinji Ikari cried out like a wounded animal, unsheltered, helpless, when the two words finally reached his pounding eardrums.

"I feel sick."

Asuka Langley Soryu had lain there, numb, as her mind whirled. She felt pressure on her neck, a pounding in her ears; her lungs screamed for air. Yet if was as if she was another person, watching the events unfold. 'Shinji...' she remembered the being known as Shinji Ikari, who stood by her, whose attention she fought for, who, like all others, abandoned her, who, at this very moment, was trying to kill her. She raised her hand and, surprisingly, found herself caressing his cheek, wishing for his presence next to her again, wishing for him to fill her loneliness. 'I won't be killed by you, of all men.' She thought dryly. 'You wouldn't kill me, right? Even though you left me to rot, you still do care about me. I know it.' And as if her thoughts had reached him through a telepathic conduit, his hands loosened. The rush of air shocked Asuka back to the real world. She found Shinji clutching her, crying into her chest. She smirked inwardly, her past personality returning.

'I guess I was right, then. You can't afford to just throw me away.' She felt in her heart a deep satisfaction with herself. 'I'm healed; completely. I'm a better Asuka than before.' But one thing nagged at her: Shinji was trembling on her chest. 'That sniveling coward,' she thought. A flash of memory came to her, as she remembered her kiss with him. 'He didn't hold me. Even then, he was too afraid. The Shinji Ikari that I had tried to take for my own…is not here; this empty shell of a boy isn't worth crap.'

"I feel sick."

Shinji's mind whirled as he tried to clear it. Asuka looked at him coldly.

'Asuka…'

Pain; betrayal; abandonment; anger; lust; Unit 02's torn flesh, dangling in the Mass-Prod EVAs' jaws.

Third Impact, and the final decision to come back to Earth; he had decided to return to a world of suffering.

'Why?'

Redemption; redemption from the horrors of the past, cleansing of sins.

'I betrayed the people I loved, and they betrayed me.'

'I need to regain their trust. I need to find their trust again.'

'Why? They'll just betray you again.'

'It's better than being alone. The world hurts me, but there'll be people by my side. I'll never understand them, but just knowing that they care about me and that they'll stand by me…is enough.'

'Enough even to endure the anguish of loss, betrayal and death?'

'If I didn't return, then my identity will be gone. It'll be as if I never existed. That's scarier than enduring the pain of the world.'

'So you're running away from Instrumentality.'

'Yes. That is exactly what I'm doing. I'm running away again.'

'To a world of pain, where there is nothing for you.'

'There is something here: hope. Here, I can hope for people to forgive me for what I did wrong. I can hope that everyone will trust me again; I can't live without the trust of those I love.'

'But what are you? The Angels are gone. You're not needed as an EVA Pilot anymore. You're worth nothing in this world.'

'I am I. I am Shinji Ikari, and that's good enough. I was given another chance to live, to make it right again. I will redeem myself, and then everything's going to be all right, because then I won't hate myself anymore. That's my ultimate hope, to be finally able to love myself.'

'But what if you mess up again?'

'I'll be all right. If there's the slightest hope, I'll fight on. I won't give up. Not anymore. I will fight on, for my own existence.'

Shinji stood up, slide off of Asuka, and dried his tears. "I'm sorry," he said.

Asuka looked at him coldly. Sitting up, she hugged her knees. "Screw you, Third Child," she said, in a contempt-filled voice. "You left me to die when you could've helped. I might never forgive you for that. I might never stop hating you for it." The pain and anger was present in her tone of voice.

Shinji looked over the churning, red sea. "That's why I came back. I want you… I want everyone to be able to trust me again," he said, looking down. "I've let everyone down; I failed you, I failed Misato, I failed Touji… Kaworu… I can't love myself until I atone for my sins." He trailed off to a melancholy silence, looking far off into the distance.

Asuka followed his gaze for a few seconds, "Then you can go back to Instrumentality, Shinji." she said coldly. "I'll never forgive you."

End Stage I