A/N: I'M BACK IN THE USA AND FEELING GREAT! I considered titling this chapter Mind Rape, but that's just silly and immature of me.
Asuka frowned, arms behind her head as she stared up at the night sky from the deck of the Over the Rainbow. The sound of the waves against the boat's hull were calming, but she was restless; restless because she would be separated from the man laying down next to her. The battleship they were on was taking them to Japan. The first time Asuka heard of the transfer she was angry, as she had every right to be, being separated from her precious Kaji.
"I guess we'll be arriving in Japan tomorrow. I'm gonna be staying with Misato, you remember her right? Too bad, I don't like the way she does things. She's so... boring."
Kaji stayed silent, a frown on his face.
"Oh well, I guess if it means more missions I'm okay with that. Still, I hate to be away from you Kaji."
Kaji's muscles tightened, "I'm sure you'll meet plenty of boys over in Japan. Besides, I hear the third child is a tough little bastard, the perfect match for you."
"Boriiiiing, the only one I want is you Kaji!" Asuka rolled, landing on top of Kaji's chest and nuzzling into it with her forehead.
Kaji didn't move, his muscles still drawn tight. He could feel them beginning to ache. He wanted to be firm with her, but... her past. "I'm too old for you Asuka."
"Come on. It's not that big of a deal Kaji! I want you and only you! Kissing and all that stuff is okay, so you can go ahead and do anything you want!"
"Listen... Asuka..." Kaji's gaze was firm, planted on the night sky.
"Why won't you look at me?" Asuka reached up and grasped the collar of her summer dress, pulling it apart, "LOOK AT ME!"
Asuka jolted up in bed, covered in a cold sweat and gasping for air. She looked around herself, and her breaths began to calm when she realized she was in her room at Misato's place.
Then again... this was supposed to be Shinji's room, wasn't it?
She growled, wiping the sweat from her brow and glaring at the darkness, "Dammit, what the hell is wrong with me? Why do I keep thinking about that idiot?"
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Empathy
Episode 22: Picking up the Pieces
The scene was hazy at best. All that Asuka could see was her mother through the window, laying in the hospital bed and cradling the small ginger haired doll with a smile on her face.
Only the smile was... wrong somehow.
It felt out of place; it felt broken.
"There there Asuka darling." Kyouko stroked the doll gently, smiling wide. "Just ignore that strange girl looking at us, I'm sure she'll only cause trouble if we give her any attention."
Asuka's hands tightened into fists.
"To think that would happen, was it overexposure or..."
"More than likely. She's completely insane. She treats the doll like the girl, while the girl can only look on. It's a shame, I feel sorry for her."
"Hmph, I didn't realize you could feel that way with the things we've done."
"Hmhmhm, I may be a scientist, but I'm a woman first you know."
Her grandma's crying face.
She didn't know when she made it from that hospital to the field. The black casket wasn't above ground for long. A lot of people were crying, including her grandmother.
"I'm so sorry this happened dear child. If you need to cry it's all right."
Asuka glared, "I won't ever cry again Grandmother, I don't need to."
Here eyes snapped open, "Shinji?"
"You alright? Your synch is abysmal."
"Y... yeah, I'm fine! Why the hell are you asking?"
"Sheesh, I'm just worried about you, you were doing fine a minute ago then your graphs started looking like a cliff side."
"Oh shut up!"
"He's right you know," said Misato.
She heard Ritsuko chuckle, "Oh? It seems you're back up to speed again, how fortunate that Shinji was able to help you."
"Wha... help me? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Hey!"
"Just take it easy, you're the best pilot I know, there's no need to push yourself," said Shinji.
"I know that you idiot! Besides, you should be more worried about yourself, coming back to this so soon after getting eaten by your own Eva."
"That... won't be happening again."
"And how do you know that?"
"I just do okay? Now concentrate on your synch."
"Well Shinji, since I'm pretty much your big sister you gotta tell me what kind of ring you're getting her, and I HAVE to be the maid of honor."
Asuka growled, "God dammit! Everyone just shut up!"
The apartment was quiet that night. The mood while I cooked dinner was pretty heavy, but I tried not to let it get me down. I felt a pit in my stomach, like something was coming but I wasn't sure what.
"Dammit!" I heard Misato curse from behind me, and when I turned my head away from the pan I saw her giving her phone a death glare. "That idiot leaves me with info and then just disappears! That's so like him I swear! Just when we were getting to the bottom of things too!"
"Kaji trouble?" I asked.
"You don't know the half of it!"
I shrugged, "He'll probably drop in when he feels like it. It's what he always does."
Misato was silent at that. She picked up the phone and dialed a number, probably Kaji's, and held it to her ear. After a few moments I saw her bite her bottom lip and drop the phone.
She was crying.
"I'm just... worried. Everything that's happened so far. I didn't realize how deep we were getting, and then Kaji gave me this data stick and didn't call me and I started freaking out."
I left the pan where it was and walked to Misato, "Data stick? What happened?"
"It was all his remaining theories and evidence... everything. He told me it was to help me but... but I think..."
"I don't know if he's coming back Shinji."
"Wait, you mean... what the hell is on that stick?"
"I know you've been looking just as hard as me, but I don't want you involved in this Shinji, it's for your own good."
"Wait, are you telling me you're gonna be doing something by yourself?"
"I'm not alone, I... I can't tell you, just listen to me Shinji, please."
"Kaji isn't dead, there's no way he is."
Misato went silent again.
"Who would water his garden?"
"He has a garden of watermelons on a small back path to NERV HQ. There's no way he would go anywhere without telling anyone to water them."
For some reason she wrapped her arms around me and let out a deep sigh. "I'm not sure about any of this anymore, but he would want me to keep going. I know he would."
"It's something to do with my fa... with Gendo, isn't it?"
"Whoever Kaji is working for suspects something, and I can't help but agree with them," she mumbled, "But you have to stay out of this."
"If it's that bastard then that's all the more reason I should know."
"Shinji, he's your father."
"I can't forgive him. He tried to make me kill my friend. I can't forgive him for that. I hate him."
Misato sighed and rested her chin on my head, "I'm sorry Shinji."
We both pulled away and turned to see Asuka in the hallway, who was pointing at the front door with a glare, "What were you two doing that neither of you heard the doorbell?"
For some reason I felt ashamed. "Um... talking?"
Her glare landed on me, "Talking, you and I are going to be talking later Shinji, that's for sure."
She stormed down the hallways and answered the door, "Touji? You're looking a lot better!"
As soon as I heard Asuka's voice I bolted around Misato and straight for the hallway. Asuka moved out of the way just as I reached the front door panting, "Touji?"
He looked good, the crutch he was on didn't suit him, "Doc says I'll be up to speed in no time. My sister gave me a good knock on the head for being stupid though."
I couldn't say anything. I tried to open my mouth, but no words would come. Touji was almost completely recovered. "I..."
He held up a hand, "Don't say you're sorry dumbass. I heard the story from Misato, seems like you were just as pissed as I was. Where have you been this past month? Misato just said she can't say anything, and we've all been really worried about you man."
"I... it's uh... it's a long story. Do you wanna come in?"
"Nah, not me. I was escorting someone. I never brought her before because I wasn't sure what was going on, but I heard you were back and decided to swing by with her."
"Shin-chan? Is that you?"
Words could not describe what ran through my brain in the second that Touji took to step to the side. Behind him was a girl about my height with long black hair, and a smile that could melt iron, "Haru?"
And then Asuka knocked me upside the head, "And who is this, huh?"
"She's just a friend!"
"You've got a lot of explaining to do idiot!"
"Oh don't worry," said Haru with a giggle, "I lost my chance when he moved here."
For some reason my face was turning red. "Chance?"
"Oh well, too bad for me I guess. It's been a long time."
Dinner was lively, even though Asuka had fire in her eyes she and Haru actually got along quite well. Touji joined us and I had to cook a bit more, but we ended up chatting away for two hours without even realizing.
Misato was completely silent and still worried, but it was obvious she was feeling a bit better. The way she moved, the way she smiled a little when one of us made a stupid joke.
That feeling I had whenever I woke up and my aunt cooked me breakfast, whenever she shielded me from the beatings my uncle gave me.
That feeling I had when I recalled the vague memory of my mother.
A place where a person could belong.
A place with family.
I was frightened, but I knew I could fight. The month spent in the Eva felt like one night, but it was all me. I was hiding. I thought I had died.
I didn't want to fight the angels anymore.
I had reached my breaking point.
I looked at Asuka as she talked with Haru and smiled.
When she saw me she gave a little huff and turned away.
This was a feeling I could get used to.
"I hope Shin-chan isn't giving you too much trouble. He likes to talk before he thinks."
"I resent that."
"Oh, I have methods."
"And by methods you mean your fist, which has given me more bruises than I can count."
I looked at Haru and raised an eyebrow, "See what I have to deal with?"
Haru sighed and nodded, "Thank you for the meal. I should be going."
I frowned, "Wait, hold up, we haven't even talked that much."
"That's okay, I'll be back, and I'm staying with Touji here. He's been a real gentleman. Besides, I need to call my Mom again." She smiled, "I'm really glad you're okay Shin-chan. It was great to see you again."
"Yeah, same here."
She gave a soft wave and smiled before ducking out with Touji, who might as well have been her valet if it weren't for the crutch.
Then Asuka's glare turned back to me.
Ritsuko leaned forward, fiddling with her small lunch, stirring it around with the fork. She sighed and rubbed her forehead, "More trouble."
Misato raised an eyebrow and grasped the table with her hands, giving the cafeteria around them a quick look, "Bugs?"
"Mine," said Ritsuko with a smile, "It's safe. Apparently NERV is working on the next Eva units. All the way up to thirteen. They're being constructed in seven different locations around the world."
"Already, huh? What does this have to do with us?"
"You should know Misato. You saw it a while back. The Evas are basically a blueprint of ADAM with a few tweeks here and there. Is it really that hard to figure out that they're planning something?"
Misato gritted her teeth, "Kaji could be out there, hurt or worse, and you're withholding information from me?" She scoffed and turned away, "Unbelievable."
Ritsuko smirked, "I wouldn't assume he was down for the count just yet. The people he's working for are stupid, but he's not."
"Alright, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt since we're friends, but if you're lying to me, or holding something back that could hurt someone..."
"I'm only holding it back because the kid needs to hear it too."
"Yes, Shinji. It's important that he knows what's going on just as much as we do."
"And why is that?"
"Because he's at the center of it all, and unless he's in on this things are going to go very wrong, very quickly. Not that we'll be doing nothing mind you, he's simply as essential as the rest of us are."
"I didn't want to involve him."
"You don't have a choice Misato. After all, he's the only one that can pilot Unit One. Bring him to Terminal Dogma tomorrow and I'll explain everything"
Asuka gritted her teeth, bending her back a bit and massaging her side, "Dammit, no wonder I'm temperamental." She took a few deep breaths and tried not to let the pain of the cramp distract her. Her synch rate was a bit lower, but not as bad as it had been when Shinji was stuck in Unit One.
The hallway back to the elevator leading to the upper lobby of NERV was an inviting sight, especially when she felt like a knife was digging into her and twisting.
As she reached the elevator the pain faded and she took a breath of relief before hitting the up button.
The doors opened and she let out a sigh when she saw that Rei was already occupying the elevator, "Whatever," she mumbled, stepping on and standing next to Rei, "You just get done too?"
"How'd you do?"
Asuka huffed, "Damn you're boring, at least try to hold a conversation or something."
"I do not recall you ever being interested in my activities before now Asuka."
"And I never gave you permission to use my given name, so I guess that makes us even, REI."
For some reason Rei smiled, and while Asuka felt herself getting even more annoyed, she also noticed that she no longer thought of Rei as a doll.
"Whatever, it's still creepy how stoic you are, you should at least try to work on yourself!"
"Stop mindlessly replying to everything I say!"
"You relate well to your Eva I see."
"What? Relate? To a machine?"
"So you don't know? The Eva's are not simply machines."
Asuka pursed her lips.
Was that really true?
The next day seemed calm, tranquil. It was all routine. Misato drove Shinji and Asuka, and they all got out in front of NERV headquarters to start their day. The descent to the geofront was quiet, but comfortable.
They were in their plugsuits and standing on their respective docks before they knew it.
Instead of getting into her own Eva though, Asuka simply stared at hers.
Was it really alive?
She thought back to the times when Shinji spoke to her of the Evas and angels. Her memory was vague, but there was always something about the way he talked, almost like he thought of the Eva as a person with a will of its own.
It seemed he wasn't so much piloting it as he was guiding it.
"So," she whispered, "does that mean you have a name?"
Before she could continue, the ground below her shook.
"Alert, alert. All pilots proceed to their Units!"
She didn't hear the full announcement, but she didn't have to.
My grip tightened around the controls of my Eva.
"Each Eva has been equipped with rifles," said Misato, "Shinji, you will be on backup. Unit Zero will be at the head and Unit Two will be support."
"Wait, why am I on standby?"
"The angel is hovering just above the atmosphere, if one of you gets hurt you'll be able to act more quickly Shinji."
"Alright, let's do this already!"
I could feel the docks lurch when the other Evas were launched, and I was left waiting, trying not to worry too much. I had never just been thrown on backup like that. My first thought was that it had something to do with my outburst against Gendo.
Asuka leveled the rifle. The reticule on her viewing monitor began to align itself.
Rei took position in front of her on the street, also leveling her rifle towards the atmosphere. Even under zoom they could barely make out the angel.
The clouds were thick, and a hard rain was falling. A small part in the sky exposed what appeared to be the angel.
It was the first angel that looked the part, Asuka thought.
It had the vague shape of a man. It was a shining white, almost as if it were made of light. What looked like wings spread out from what might have been its back.
For some reason Asuka's mouth went dry, she didn't like that look of that thing.
"Line up," she muttered.
Her reticule danced around, attempting to get lined up with the angel.
"Rei, how's your reticule?"
"Still lining up."
She smirked when her reticule beeped, finally aligning itselfd, "Eat this you son of a..."
And then everything stopped.
The clouds parted further, exposing the sun's rays, which fell on her Eva.
She felt something.
"It's attacking the ego border!"
Then the pain came.
Asuka screamed, jerking the rifle and pulling the trigger.
The energy bullet collided with a building, toppling it in an explosion. She stumbled back, hands falling from the controls and grasping her head as she screamed.
She felt something probing.
Crawling around in her mind.
It was like a thousand spiders crawling over her skin, biting her.
Memories, images, words, things she thought forgotten were yanked to the forefront of her mind.
A math equation she hadn't used since middle school.
A few words her grandma said that were insignificant.
A drawing she made with crayons.
A small cat dead on the side of the road.
Detention for back talking a teacher.
"GET OUT OF MY MIND!"
Her hands tightened around her forehead in a futile attempt to keep out whatever was inside of her.
"Stop. I can't move, please stop!"
Her eyes slowly opened.
She looked around herself, her feet scraping against the gravel of the train yard.
Then she felt something brush her shoulder.
Her eyes widened, "No..."
I gritted my teeth, "Launch Eva One!"
"No, Rei is there."
My grip tightened around the controls, "Are you planning on killing all of my friends or something? What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Eva One is a security risk, it has absorbed an S2 organ."
I could barely hear him over Asuka's screams.
Hands grabbed at her.
The train yard disappeared.
She was surrounded by laughter.
All she could do was scream and fall.
The control panel flashed and I pushed the handles forward. Eva 01 stripped itself from the dock.
"This is the second time you've disobeyed an order Shinji. You will be detained."
"I see you're not willing to let this go. Rei, retrieve the lance."
"What? But sir... isn't that..."
"I understand. Rei?"
"Did you hear me?"
I saw Unit 00 begin moving on my monitor, and decided it was time to make my exit. I knelt down deep and leapt, catching the wall and digging in with my hands. I started to climb, "Asuka, hang on!"
"I don't want this... not again..."
A small girl walked slowly down the halls of the hospital. She brought a simple gift with her, a flower. Maybe her mother would notice her if she brought something this time.
It was worth a try, she thought.
Finally coming upon her mother's room, the girl glared in determination and opened the door.
The flower fell to the floor.
Two ropes hung from the ceiling, one taught around a human neck, the other holding a doll.
The doll her mother always held.
It smiled endlessly as it spun around on the rope.
Her mother didn't spin.
She only swung back and forth, slowly.
Asuka knelt down, grasping her head and shaking it furiously.
A small playground...
Where she used to play as a child while her mother worked.
"Are you lonely?"
She looked up. In front of her was herself, only... small, a child.
"Are you lonely?"
Asuka glared, "I said I wouldn't cry, not again."
The little girl reached for her.
"Will you be okay?"
"Leave me alone!"
The small hand flinched away, and the little girl dissolved into ashes.
"I don't need anyone... I don't need anyone."
"I'm fine on my own."
"I won't cry."
"I won't be lonely."
"I won't be sad."
"I won't have to rely on anyone else to carry me!"
"Especially that idio..."
A hand landed on her shoulder.
Her every movement a struggle, she turned her head to look behind her and saw a smiling face.
I pulled the controls as hard as I could, jumping from the docking platform and taking to a sprint as soon as I landed.
"GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HER!"
Another jerk of the controls and I barreled into Unit 02. We both went tumbling to the ground, and I felt the impact of every building we ran into.
My synch ratio was skyrocketed, and I wanted to tear something limb from limb.
"Asuka! Are you alright?"
I barely noticed Unit 00 taking position next to us. In its hands was a long lance of dark red color, forked at its halfway point into two very sharp looking prongs.
Rei took a pose, looking like she was ready to throw it.
"I'm sorry I didn't make it in time Shinji, Asuka, but it will hurt you no longer."
Unit 00 stepped forward, and with one smooth and powerful motion, threw the lance into the sky.
All I saw was the clouds vanish, and a bright light engulf the sky.
The minute I exited my Eva at the external docks I had guards converging on me, with Gendo at the head.
I gritted my teeth.
Getting arrested again was not how I wanted this to play out. My knees were still shaking, and I was worried sick about Asuka. I wanted to find her, talk to her.
My shoulders slumped as the guards approached, and I wasn't expecting it when Misato stepped in front of me.
"I'd say Shinji just did two things," said Misato.
Gendo halted his advance, and the guards followed his every movement, "And what would those things be Colonel Katsuragi?"
"First he proved that Eva One was in operating condition and ready for a mission, even after absorbing an S2 I see little risk here. Second, he just saved the life of one of our best pilots."
"... I see."
"Under these conditions I'd say Shinji is perfectly certifiable to be in the cockpit of an Eva, and not say... locked behind bars. Wouldn't you just be throwing away one of your best assets?"
"An asset that doesn't follow orders. The pilot of Unit Zero was retreiving the lance."
"And what if she had been too late... sir? This situation hardly justifies arrest. Besides, last time I checked Shinji is neither an employee of NERV nor a soldier, you have no right to arrest him unless you have the grounds to say he committed a crime."
Several moments passed, and Gendo didn't say a word.
Finally, after a long wait, he simply turned around and walked away, taking his guards with him.
Misato turned to me and smiled, "Well? What are you waiting for?"
I nodded and started to walk across the top of the docks. NERV engineers rushed to and fro, examining the Evas and making sure everything checked out.
At the end of the concrete dock sat Asuka, hugging her knees to her chest.
She was surrounded by orange CAUTION tape.
"You can't go over there!" shouted one of the engineers, "She's been exposed to an angel, who knows what that thing did to her."
I ignored the remark and continued forward.
"Your funeral kid!"
I pulled the tape up and stepped under it, walking to Asuka and sitting down next to her.
Without a word she leaned her head into my shoulder, and I wrapped an arm around her.
I looked down when I felt something wet on my shoulder, and noticed she was crying.
It wasn't a wail, but the tears came quickly and didn't show any signs of stopping.
Asuka herself was completely silent.