See Chapter 1 for disclaimer.


Chapter 4: From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea

Somewhere near Osaka, two people slumbered soundly in a small house. Shinji opened his eyes in the first morning light, sitting up in bed. Taking a quick look over at Asuka's sleeping form, he quietly rose from the bed and walked out the front door and onto the beach. It was a quaint place that they'd stumbled upon a few weeks back and decided to stay for a while.

Taking a deep breath of the morning air, Shinji felt a small measure of peace. It had been a little over a month since that night, and it still hung over him like minute one. But it wasn't like he didn't have help with that. Staying with Asuka here for a few days after their reunion, they had returned to the bunker to show that he was alive and well. Misato and Kaji had been relieved, her more so than him.

'I'm glad they believed in me,' Shinji thought. The bridge crew had stayed around for a week before quietly going their own ways, just glad their time with NERV was over. Ritsuko had opted to stay, saying she needed to make up for lost time with her old friends. All had been quiet around headquarters since, but he hadn't really paid attention. He was just glad it was over…

Walking back to the structure, Shinji sat down at the foot of the stairs, watching the sunrise. He and Asuka had decided to leave the bunker for a while, just needing some time away from the past. Kaji had stashed away quite a bit of what both the Committee and the Commander had paid him. The house wasn't very expensive, so they could afford to stay here for a long time if they wanted to. It was a bit smaller than Misato's old apartment, but it was enough to get by.

Shinji's thoughts returned to the girl he was living with. Asuka had grown more comfortable around him, and they had settled into a mutual need for one another. He wasn't really sure what they were, only that neither were going anywhere without the other. He had told her how he felt, but she was still contemplating her own words. 'I said I'd give her all the time she needed,' he thought with a smile. Since that night, they hadn't been…intimate again, but it wasn't really necessary. They had all the time for that one day ahead.

And, surprisingly, they had both resumed training with their skills. Not like that one night's out-of-control sparring match, these were much more leisurely. Neither let the other take the upper hand or get too into it. It was more of a dance to them, something that brought them back to that moment. Of course, Asuka was usually the winner of most of these…her aggressive nature being key to that. But Shinji was just glad because of the bonding experience it gave them. 'And if I should ever need to protect myself or her,' he thought. The last part made him laugh a bit, the idea that the redhead needing protection almost comical.

Shinji then recalled the nightmares. They'd both get them often, him more often than her. His mostly concerned the last images of his father. Asuka's were much harder to shake off, the ones about her mother's death and the 15th Angel's attack at the forefront. It was how they ended up most nights, one would awaken and the other would hold them until they went back to sleep.

A pair of slender arms wrapping around Shinji's neck shook the thoughts from him. "Morning," Asuka purred in his ear.

Shinji smiled and turned his head, giving her a quick kiss. "Beautiful…" he said, not really sure if he meant her or the morning.

"Don't be corny," Asuka teased. Sitting beside him, she watched the sun slowly creep into the sky. "Penny for your thoughts?"

"Just thinking about everything," Shinji answered. "But not really thinking about anything, either."

"Geez, be a little more cryptic, why don't you?" Asuka complained, giving him a small push.

"Sorry…" Shinji said with a smile.

"Don't fall into old habits," Asuka said, her tone playful. "Still feeling down?"

Shinji sighed. "I'll always feel this…"

Asuka placed her hand over his. "I know…I don't think we'll ever forget those times. We can just try and overwhelm them with better times."

"I'm glad you're here with me," Shinji said.

"Just so long as you're there for me," Asuka replied.

"I told you before," Shinji said, looking at her, "as long as you'll have me."

Asuka sat quietly with him, her attention returning to the sky. "I really love it here," she said after a long silence.

"Yeah, it's like a little piece of Heaven," Shinji agreed.

Asuka leaned her head against him. "Cause I'm here?" she asked.

Shinji nodded. "Yeah…"

Asuka gave him a small smile before kissing him lightly. "Listen, I know you told me before. But…"

"But?" Shinji questioned.

"Tell me again," Asuka requested. "I need to hear it."

Shinji knew just what she meant. Pulling her into a hug, he whispered in her ear. "I love you."

Asuka felt a single tear fall. She hugged him back tightly. "Thank you." Her expression lowered a little. "I know I haven't-"

Shinji cut her off by placing a finger over her lips. "You don't have to say it," he said, lowering the digit, "I can tell."

Asuka leaned in and kissed him again, holding this one longer. As they parted, she spoke up. "We can't do this all day, we need to go into town."

"Yeah, need some groceries," Shinji agreed. Getting to his feet, he extended a hand to the girl. Asuka took his hand and rose from the steps. The two of them walked back into the house.

After having showered and dressed for the day, the couple found themselves walking into Osaka. Shinji was dressed in a blue t-shirt and white shorts, Asuka in her familiar yellow sundress. "It almost feels like a honeymoon," she mused, looking at the clouds.

"Except we're not married," Shinji answered.

"That doesn't mean it can't feel like it," Asuka replied. "And that doesn't mean we can't one day…" she said quietly.

"R-really?" Shinji asked, feeling a little blush creeping up.

"Nope," Asuka said with a smirk, sticking out a bit of tongue. "At least, not yet. Still too young."

"I certainly don't feel young…" Shinji said sadly.

"It is what it is," Asuka said in a philosophical manner. "We can try make up for all that lost innocence, though." Looking over at him, she continued. "Right?"

"Yeah…I'd like that," Shinji said, taking hold of her hand.

They walked in silence for a little while longer. "When do you think we should go see them again?" Asuka questioned.

"Sometime soon," Shinji offered. "They're probably wondering why they haven't heard from us."

"Yeah, it has been more than a week since I called…" Asuka said.

"Maybe we should do that while we're out," Shinji said.

"Sure," Asuka answered. The rest of the walk was silent, the both of them enjoying the peace of the day.

The two returned to the small house just as evening arrived. They had walked all around Osaka and the beaches nearby, just taking in the sights. It had probably been the tenth-or-so time they had, but it was still just as nice. 'So different than either Tokyo,' Shinji had thought earlier. It was certainly less gray and imposing.

Setting the groceries they'd bought on the counter, Shinji began to prepare something for dinner. Asuka took a seat at the small table, stretching her arms and legs. "That was a nice long walk," she said. "What's on the menu?"

"Vegetable stir-fry," Shinji answered, turning the stove top on.

"Sounds good," Asuka replied.

They let the quiet hang in the room as he continued cooking, both just enjoying how things were going. After the meal was finished and eaten, they went outside and laid down at the edge of the sea. The night was just beginning to set in, the sky bathed in twilight.

"Hey Shinji," Asuka said, laying with her head on his right side.

"What?" Shinji asked, staring into the sky.

"Tell me what you're thinking," Asuka requested. "I know something's bothering you."

"Well," Shinji began, "I miss Rei." He stopped here to choose his words carefully. "It's just…she's one of the best friends I've had. If it weren't for her…I don't know. I think you'd be gone and I'd still be my father's puppet. I may have finished things, but she's the real hero here."

Asuka nodded. "I never really thanked her properly, either," she said sadly. "Think we'll see her again?"

Shinji shook his head. "I don't know…I hope so."

Asuka laid her head back down on his body, listening to his heartbeat. "Shinji…thank you."

Shinji smiled down at her. "You don't need to do that."

"No, I really mean that in every sense," Asuka said, her eyes meeting his. "I've never felt so calm. I wouldn't know what to do if you weren't here when the nightmares come…"

Shinji hugged her tighter. "I understand. You're doing the same for me."

Asuka leaned in closer to his face, their lips nearly touching. Just a bit closer…

And that thought was cut off as the tide came in and soaked both of their backsides.

"Ah! Shit! Cold!" Asuka shouted while leaping to her feet, dusting sand off her dress and wringing out some of the salt water. Shinji couldn't help but laugh at the moment. Noticing his reaction, she became slightly irritated. "What the hell's so funny?"

"S-sorry, it's just…" Shinji managed between laughs, "that was pretty funny, huh?"

Asuka pushed him back down into the mix of sand and surf. Straddling his chest, she leaned down close to him with a wicked smile on her face. "Hey, idiot," she said, the insult almost a purr.

Shinji turned a bright red at that. "Y-yes?"

"I'm bored…" Asuka said sweetly.

Shinji's eyes widened greatly at the memory those words triggered. His train of thought was quickly derailed as Asuka pressed her lips against his urgently. Lips slightly apart, she shoved her tongue in his mouth. The boy's mind went blank for a few seconds before he melted into it. He mirrored her actions as best as he could, rational thought all but abandoned. Parting, he felt the tide ebb and flow beneath him, soaking him to the bone.

"That time was much more serious, huh?" Asuka asked, her breathing returning to normal.

Shinji could only nod dumbly, his mind in a fog. Had anyone told him six months ago where his life was headed, he'd have probably laughed himself to death. Now, though…

"Come on, it's getting late," Asuka said, her voice far away. Blinking a few times, Shinji realized that she had gotten off him and walked back over to the door. Shaking his head, he picked himself up off the beach and headed inside.

As the front door closed, a pair of eyes watched his and Asuka's every move from a hill some distance away. "Targets located," the figure spoke into an earpiece, the moonlight shining off a lens attached to a rifle…

*****To be continued in THE IKARI SUPREMACY*****

A/N: Nope, we're not finished yet! This is just the end of the IDENTITY arc of the story. Expect SUPREMACY to be up soon…and maybe more after that. Might just end up as a trilogy, y'know?

Thanks for at least sticking around to read this part of the story. Your attention is much appreciated.

*****Omake time!*****

The camera pans this time, not into the author's room, but to the room next door…where a small stage has been assembled. The author is currently lugging in the speakers, with Mitsumi standing nearby talking to two of her sisters.

Magdalena: Oh, that's such a pretty dress, Mistumi!

Akari: I wish I had a guy who'd buy me such things…

Mitsumi: (smirking) Heh…it's not so much he bought it for me as much as I talked him out of it.

Akari: (grinning) Sneaky.

Bard: (turning towards them) Okay, stage is set. (looks to the camera) Oh, good timing!

The others take notice of the audience, Magdalena and Akari smiling and waving.

Magdalena: (shyly) Ah…so nice to see you again.

Akari: (turning to the others) Okay, everybody take your places.

As the fairies picked up their instruments (guitar for Mitsumi, bass for Magdalena, Akari seated behind the drums), the author walks up to the mic.

Bard: (sighing) The things I get talked into…

Akari gives a quick "one-two, one-two-three-four" count-off before making two sharp beats. A creepy but urgent bassline begins playing, drums entering at two more short intervals before becoming a steady beat. The guitar cuts in shortly after, a quick set of screechy chords repeating several times before becoming a steady riff with the rest of the music.

Bard: (singing)
Sinister echoes clutching at straws
Letter boxes screaming
You try to pin him to the wall
You end up on the ceiling
Locked in a dome
The shadows flicker by
He's the madcap pusher
Delirium, the drug he's dealing

He drops a capsule in your drink
And spikes your dreams with madness

He's a sniper in the hills
Hiding in the holes in your head
He's the poison in your poison
The razor in your bed
Hanging on a picture
Eyelids' needle and thread
You empty yourself once again
But he's always one step ahead
He whispers in your ear
"Was it nothing that you said?"
He's walking in your sleep now
He keeps your fat paranoia well-fed

He drops a capsule in your drink
And spikes your dreams with madness

The sanity assassin
Stays up all night stalking
The sanity assassin
Picks off victims like flies
The sanity assassin
Let his fingers do the walking
The sanity assassin
The crack shot between your eyes

He drops a capsule in your drink
And spikes your dreams with madness

The music comes to an end at that, the four occupants of the room smiling at one another,

Bard: (clapping) Very nice, girls.

Mitsumi: (nervously laughing) Hey, you're not too bad yourself. Think anyone'll know it?

Bard: (shaking his head) Dunno. Would be fun, though…

Mitsumi: (turns to the camera and waves) Bye! Come back and visit us again soon!

Magdalena, Akari, and the author join in waving goodbye to the camera as it pans away…for now, at least.

*****End Omake*****

Pre-read for this chapter was again done by the team of Dark Machine, Eric Blair, gesser87, and JimmyWolk. Good work as always, gentlemen.

Small note: this chapter and all previous/following it were written around late June/early July last year. So a quick "sorry" to everyone who may have been waiting for something after TLaWR. Revisions and pre-reading can take quite a bit of time, it would seem…

For any of you who are new to the community, all of my older (2004-2006) works have undergone a small bit of tweaking (as of the 14th of June 2010). So go take a look, tell me what you think. And review! Even if it's not positive, review!

As usual: good comments will be appreciated, bad ones will be ignored (or kept for firewood). But I do favor good/helpful criticism, so send it my way!

Until our paths next cross,