Author's Notes: So here I was, all going about In Flight 35 (which is over halfway done, for those who are curious) and then I happened to glance at the calender. Much to my surprise, it appeared Halloween is nearly upon us all. I looked back at my previous stories with a touch of nostalgia, and realized that it was nearly a year to the day that I had concluded 'Those Who Love Monsters'.
It was while I was reminiscing, that I realized I felt the urge to publish something simple. Not some huge epic, or drawn out involved and overly complicated crossover. Just something fast, vicious, brutal, and something chilling.
Well, I was already playing with a few stories in my head idly, and it just seemed appropriate to go ahead and put one down, just for the season's sake.
I plan on having this whole story finished by the 31. It won't be particularly long or complicated. It's just something to sit down and enjoy, something that will hopefully give you a chill while you read it. After all, horror is my favorite genre.
And yes, for those of you who are curious, this is actually a crossover. If you already can tell what it is with, then you are a horror affiendo yourself. If you can't, well, you can either go google it and spoil the surprise, or you can just read on and let the surprise come to you.
Later folks. Look for the next chapter fast.
Misato wasn't certain what to expect when she had been sent to retrieve the Third Child. Well, that wasn't exactly true. It might be said that she actually had a surplus of expectations.
After all, even if Misato hadn't officially been with NERV for too long, she had already had some contact with both the First and Second Child. She hadn't noticed any particular defining characteristics for pilots with just that much exposure, so so far she was definitely leaning towards 'weird' as one of her foremost expectations. Considering the wide variety between the other two Children, this newcomer would probably rank somewhere between 'emotionless statue' and 'overbearing prima dona'.
Yeah, that didn't exactly narrow it down for her too much.
Then again, the new Child was the commander's son. Maybe she should be expecting more along the lines of mini-manipulative glasses wearing megalomaniac?
Nah. The cross Misato wore was a symbol of her faith, and there was just no way that a kind or loving god would allow two people like Gendo to exist. Not in close proximity anyway.
Well, there was another factor that could influence her expectations, one which was rather pressing, after all.
The fact that a giant twenty story engine of alien destruction was currently in the middle of making a Godzilla impression definitely tended to flavor the situation.
"Shit," Misato swore loudly, desperately twisting the steering wheel of her car as she tried to dodge falling rubble as the enormous thing with glowing eyes casually smashed a VTOL, sending the wreckage in her direction. "Is it doing this on purpose?" she demanded, wondering if the Angel really was that malevolent as to aim for one small car while it was nonchalantly destroying millions of yen worth of UN property. "I still have twenty payments on this thing!"
And that was when Misato got to have her first meeting with Shinji Ikari.
The Third Child was young looking, but then, he was only fourteen so that wasn't a surprise. He was sitting calmly, absolutely still, with his slightly long shaggy brown hair falling down over his eyes as he kept his head ducked down until his chin nearly rested on his chest. Despite the raucous and explosions, despite the fact that the Angel was literally no more than four city blocks away and closing quickly, the boy made no move to get up, no effort to look around.
"Is he sleeping?" Misato demanded, incredulous at the sight before her as she watched the kid show more stone cold balls in the face of impending death than she would expect from a man three times his age.
Yeah, looks like this was going to be another weird one, she decided to herself.
With the skills she had gained from playing far too many Grand Theft Auto games in her youth, the NERV employee spun the steering wheel of her car, causing the blue four door to spin, skidding to a stop directly in front of the still child. Leaning over, she pushed the passenger side door open.
"Hey! Wake up!" she began, intending to rouse the poor child so that they could escape certain doom in a timely fashion, only to find out that there was no need for her alarm clock impression. The moment the car had appeared before him the Third Child stood, rushing towards the relative safety of her vehicle with a fervor that indicated that yes, he actually had been aware of just how much danger he was in, and no, he most certainly did not want to be here anymore.
"Can we go now?" the Third Child asked, his voice touched with just a twinge of urgency and fear as he slammed the door behind him. Misato blinked, not quite sure what to make of the child's unusual reactions.
Maybe he was a little weird, she decided, but not as much as she had suspected. Sure, he had been making a credible statue impression, but then again the option was running away screaming, an act which might draw attention to himself and could also make it harder for her to have found him. In retrospect the Third Child might not have been too far off with his reactions after all.
However, it was while Misato was preparing to slam her car into reverse so she could get both of them the hell out of there that she saw him.
Not Shinji. The other man.
She nearly missed the other. He was standing just as still as Shinji had been, several dozen yards off. He was mostly concealed at the lip of an alley, most of the corner of a building covering him and allowing only a small fraction of his profile to be visible, a set of trash cans concealing most of his lower body, but even with only a quarter of him visible at most Misato's trained eye managed to catch sight of him.
For some reason, Misato felt a chill go down her spine. For the life of her she couldn't figure out why.
The other man was tall and slight of frame, and rather well dressed. He wore a dark suit over a white shirt, the lapels stretching outward across his slim chest. His arms hung flat at his side, his hands concealed by the garbage cans he was standing behind. Much like the Third Child this other fellow was standing still, absolutely motionless even as the world around him descended into hell.
Maybe it was a trick of the light, a glare caused by the explosions in the distance, or maybe it was just the distance, but Misato found that she couldn't make out any of the man's features. He was white, a paleness which combined with his height led Misato to believe that the newcomer was Caucasian, but beyond that Misato just couldn't determine any of his other facial features.
However, when a flaming piece of rubble impacted nearby the other man, Misato swore. What was it with people not having the common sense to flee from certain death?
"Shit," Misato swore again. "Who is that and why is he not evacuated yet?" she demanded of the world around her, not expecting a response. That would be too fair, after all, and life just wasn't fair. "Looks like we're going to have company on this drive, kiddo," she informed the boy she had been sent to pick up, already preparing to race even closer to death so she could get this other idiot to safety.
That was her plan, but instead Misato nearly jumped out of her skin and ran into a wall when she felt a hand on her leg. Incredulously, she glanced down to find that the unassuming boy was the owner of the limb. For a moment, Misato honestly believed that the kid was trying to put the moves on her, right here and now, before she realized that rather than sneaking a grope the Third Child was just clutching the hem of her skirt. Clutching so hard that his knuckles had turned white.
"Please," the Third Child entreated her, and Misato glanced up to try and read the boy's expression to only be met with a bowed head. "Please, we need to go."
There was something in his voice which relieved Misato, actually. The kid was afraid. That was smart. This situation deserved fear, in her humble and forthright opinion. It made Misato relax a little, finally formulating her opinion that why the Third Child was a little weird, it was the kind of weird she could deal with.
"Sorry, kiddo," Misato gave him a reassuring smile. "But we can't just leave him…" she trailed off as she glanced back to confirm the other man's presence, only to discover that he was gone, vanished as completely as if he had never existed. "Wait, where did he go?" she asked the world in general, once more not expecting a response, and once more getting a surprise as one was supplied.
"Please," Shinji repeated, and Misato noticed with alarm that his grip on the hem of her skirt had grown stronger, strong enough that his hand was starting to shake slightly. "We have to go now."
Misato hesitated, one more looking towards where the other man had been, and still finding that he was gone without a trace. It didn't sit right with her, to just leave someone out here to die, but if he was gone then the time it would take to find him was time that they didn't have. She needed to get the Third Child back to NERV, and fast, before they died out here or the Angel got much further.
"You're right, kiddo," Misato finally gave in, shifting the car into gear and starting the return to NERV with the roar of tires scarring asphalt. She gave one last look into the rearview mirror, but there was no one behind her.
Still, it wasn't until they had been driving in relative silence, nothing but the explosions in the background, for nearly five minutes before the Third Child relaxed his grip on her clothing. Misato was pleased, noticing the way the boy seemed to relax as they sped away from the warzone. Definitely a smart kid, she decided.
"Well," Misato began, not having much trouble forcing a cheerful tone. "I guess it's time for introductions. Misato Katsuragi, at your service! Feel free to call me Misato." She gave the boy a playful leer, knowing full well the photo she had sent to tease him with before.
"Shinji Ikari," the Third Child introduced himself back, his voice cautious but polite. It sounded to Misato like the kid wasn't used to dealing with people as cheerful as she was, but was still willing to make the effort of returning the favor.
Still, there was one thing that Misato noticed, something which struck her as a bit odd.
The entire time she had been picking the boy up, not once had he lifted his gaze from the floor, even when they were introducing themselves.
Yeah, just a little weird, Misato decided.
"Man," Misato sighed happily, shamelessly stripping off the upper layer of the biohazard suit to reveal her somewhat skimpy tank top beneath it. "Air-conditioning is the greatest invention of man, ever! Humanity's true victory over nature!"
"Hmmm," Ritsuko Akagi, Misato's oldest friend, former roommate, and current coworker hummed in amusement at her friend's shamelessness. "It's nice to know that all my hard work to preserve humanity in the face of insurmountable odds is being upstaged by central air."
"Don't worry," Misato reassured the bottle blond airily. "Someday if you try hard, you might make something half as awesome as this!"
Ritsuko snorted, before turning her attention outside of the cab of the construction truck they were currently resting in to take in the sight of the shattered and ruined form of the Third Angel.
"Still," the doctor began, changing the subject. "It was surprising that Shinji-kun managed to do such a good job." It might have been a bit messy at first, but midway through the battle the berserker rage that had settled on the Third Pilot had been enough to see them through this first encounter. It had been a fluke, a result of the instability of the Evangelion unit, but times like this a little bit of luck was probably due their way. "What do you think about the Third Child?"
Ritsuko had asked the question casually, expecting something irreverent from her longtime friend, maybe a bit of gossip that the other woman had managed to pick up in the brief time longer that she had known the Commander's son. When no response was immediate, the blonde glanced over, surprised to note a slightly concerned expression on her friend's face.
"Shinji-kun, eh?" Misato, muttered finally, putting her arms behind her head and stretching in a way which would have caused a car accident if she had done it near an intersection. Ritsuko generally wasn't the type for jealousy, but even she felt a bit of annoyance at her friend's very developed figure. "That was a harsh scene earlier," Misato continued, sounding like she was musing about something to herself. "With his dad, and all."
"I'll say," Ritsuko found herself agreeing, thinking back to the dramatic confrontation ten years in the making. "Poor Shinji-kun wasn't even able to look at his father."
"And then after that, the battle too," Misato added, pursing her lips as she made the vague statement. Ritsuko had known Misato long enough to know when she was being led. It was something Misato liked to do whenever she wanted a second opinion about something, but didn't want to give the person she was asking anything to color their opinion.
"Yes, that was quite intense," Ritsuko agreed, glancing away from her clipboard as she studied Misato, trying to figure out where she was going with this. "The Third Child must have been under a lot of stress. Then again, it would be natural," Ritsuko tried to recall the scene in more detail. "He looked like he was so frightened he couldn't even look at the Angel."
"Yeah," Misato seemed to have gotten what she wanted from her longtime friend, her lips still pursed as her tone perked up a bit. "He did seem scared. But not as scared as before."
Ritsuko raised an eyebrow at the statement, not quite sure what 'before' the Chief of Operations was talking about.
"The doctors say that Shinji should be waking up soon," Misato announced, finally coming out of her stretch and promptly beginning to suit herself up. "I think he should have a friendly face there waiting for him!"
"Oh?" Ritsuko cocked an eyebrow at Misato, wondering just what was up with the other woman. "Sure you aren't just going there to try and get out of the paperwork?" she pointed out dryly, and Misato gave a sheepish grin.
"No," she denied immediately, trying to put on a serious expression, before she broke and returned to sheepish. "Well, not entirely anyway."
There was definitely something odd about Shinji Ikari, Misato decided. The kid seemed smart, reasonable, and was able to keep a cool head on pressure. That much she was thankful for. However, for some reason, there was just something off about him.
Misato knew she wasn't the best judge of character sometimes, and especially in a situation like this. Misato was not by any definition of the word 'normal'. Her childhood especially was about as far away from normal as you could get. She had seen her old man die, been wounded in the explosion which had nearly caused the world to end, and seen with her own eyes the beasts which were the harbingers of the end times arrive. She had spent years afterwards as a mute, unable to speak, unable to even bring herself to try.
And it was because of this, because Misato knew in her heart that she was damaged in some way, damage that had mostly healed and that she could deal with, but that she still bore the scars of her past literally and figuratively, it was because of all that Misato felt she had a pretty good eye for finding other damaged goods.
And regardless of how young and innocent Shinji Ikari should be, right now her wounded bird radar was starting to ping worryingly.
She had taken the time to change back into her dress and jacket before she made it to the hospital where the Third Child was being housed. With her beret perched jauntily on her head, she felt that she looked just casual enough to set Shinji at ease. From her own experience, she knew it was easier to talk about certain things when the environment was relaxed, that interrogation would just cause you to lock up even further. If she was going to set this nagging unease aside, she needed Shinji to be able to answer her questions, to prove that she was just imagining things.
However, it was when she was turning away from the reception desk, tucking away her id stating that she did indeed have the clearance to know the location of the Third Child, that she saw the man again.
The other man. He was across the long hallway from where Misato was standing, again, nearly concealed by his environment. Only his shoulder and a portion of his face was visible from the corner of the hallway, and just like before with the garbage cans this time a stretcher was concealing his lower half. The glare of the florescent light of the hospital was harsh, and his too pale skin seemed to catch the illumination much brighter than the other reflective surfaces around him. His suit seemed to have the opposite effect, too dark to be natural in this amount of illumination.
And, to Misato's growing alarm, he was also standing nearly outside of the door which contained Shinji.
"You!" Misato called out, addressing the strange man again, her voice unconsciously sharp as she tried to get the other man to react. She realized that she might be being too aggressive, and tried to modulate her tone. After all, maybe this man actually had a reason to be here. Maybe he had been injured in the battle too, and was simply about to be released from his treatment and had just happened to have been near the Third Child once more.
Maybe, but when that strange shiver went down Misato's spine once again, something which wasn't quite intuition and yet still wasn't precisely fear, Misato sincerely doubted any of those perfectly logical explanations.
"Hey," Misato called again, her voice more in control but still firm. She ignored the receptionist behind her as they tried to get her to keep her voice down. Instead, she began making her way to the other man, her pace fast and firm. "Excuse me, but may I ask what you are doing here?"
Misato intended to get answers from the man, even if she had to use a certain degree of administrative and/or physical force to do so, but she was interrupted from her confrontation as one of the doors to a room before her opened up, releasing a doctor as they finished whatever procedure they had been up to in the room. Misato stifled a curse, dodging past the surprised professional and opened her mouth to continue her interrogation, but froze the moment she was clear.
The other man was gone. Just like before, between one moment and the next, there was no sign of the stranger.
Misato broke into a slow jog, intending to try and get to the corner as quickly as possible so she could try and figure out which way the now definitely suspicious man had gone, but when she passed by Shinji's door she took a second to glance in and froze yet again.
He wasn't supposed to be awake yet. The doctors had assured her he had been sedated enough to last at least another three hours.
Nonetheless, Shinji Ikari was awake. He was sitting up in his bed, back straight and locked, hands folded in his lap, and no trace of motion present on him.
And, Misato once more noted, his head was firmly in a bowed position, his shaggy hair falling down his forehead to conceal his eyes from view.
"Shinji-kun," Misato began, not sure why the scene before her was so unnerving, but feeling that there was definitely something wrong here. She realized that her delay was only giving the other man time to make good his escape, and was briefly torn between leaving Shinji behind so she could continue the pursuit or staying here to try and figure out what was wrong with the young pilot.
In the end, Misato decided that Shinji was more important. That didn't stop her from intending to make a call to Section Two as soon as possible though.
"Well good morning," Misato plastered a cheerful expression, keeping her tone lighthearted deliberately. "The sleeping hero awakens!"
Considering how still the Third Child was, Misato wasn't actually expecting a reaction. She blinked in surprise when despite his stillness the young man answered back, his tone somewhat shy. "Good morning, Katsuragi-san."
"Now, now," Misato playfully scolded the boy. "I thought I told you just Misato was fine!"
"Ah," Shinji began, his tone slightly embarrassed. "Misato-san?" he tried, and Misato wasn't certain if the fact that his tone was emotive even while the rest of him was so still was a good sign or a bad sign.
"Mou," Misato made a show of pouting cutely, giving a resigned huff of a sigh. "I suppose that's the best I'm gonna get from you, isn't it, Shinji-kun?"
"I suppose," the boy admitted, sounding a bit embarassed, and Misato was relieved when the boy's mouth managed to quirk into the faintest bit of a smile at their byplay. Good. Looks like there was still some life in the kid.
"So," Misato began, glancing to the door of the room, remembering the figure of the other man. There were still a number of possible reasons for the stranger's presence. If she was going to act on her suspicions, she had to make absolutely sure that the other man really wasn't supposed to be here. Hell, he had been hanging around Shinji earlier, when she had arrived to pick him up. Maybe they knew eachother? "I wanted to be your first visitor, but it looks like someone already beat me here," she announced, still maintaining the cheerful air. "A friend of yours?"
Misato had to know if young Shinji was actually familiar with the other man, if maybe they really were aquaintances. More than that, she wanted to know if Shinji was aware of the man who was apparently following him.
When the smile disappeared from Shinji's face, and his head ducked even lower, Misato got her answers: no, the man wasn't supposed to be here, and yes, Shinji most definitely knew of his presence.
Knew, and did not appreciate.
"Shinji-kun," Misato began, and this time the playfulness was gone. Instead, there was cautious curiosity, a gentle probing. This wasn't the time to be the commanding officer or a stern adult. If there really was something wrong here, than it was time to be the comforting shoulder, the confident. "Shinji, if there's something wrong, I want you to know that you can tell me."
Shinji said nothing, just sitting, not moving at all. This worried Misato, nearly as much as the other man's presence did. She moved closer, sitting on the edge of the bed so she could try and lend her presence physically as comfort. Misato was a physical person herself, and she knew just how much it could mean just to have someone you could touch nearby. Gently, she placed her hand on top of his, trying to get a reaction.
Nothing. Not even a start, or a withdraw. Shinji continued to just sit there silently. Now beginning to seriously worry about the boy, Misato deliberately leaned forward, letting her hair fall around her face as she lowered her head until she could look up at Shinji. It was an awkward position, but Misato needed to see Shinji's eyes, needed to see if she could get him to relax.
When brown eyes met blue, Misato realized that she hadn't even known what color his eyes were until this moment.
Misato took in the boy's expression. His eyes looked wrong, like there was something there that shouldn't be, and it took a moment for Misato to realize what was off: wrinkles. Crow's feet around the corner of his eyes, a slight gauntness and sunken look which spoke of great stress, of great fear Misato realized with a growing tightness in her stomach.
For a moment, while Misato studied the boy's eyes, they remained focused on his lap, locked as though made of stone on his hands, and Misato's hand by extension. Then, the boy finally seemed to realize that something else was in his line of sight. His head never moved, but his gaze shifted until they finally met Misato's own for the first time. Shinji actually seemed surprised, and Misato wondered just how long his trend of looking down had been going on. How long had it been since anyone bothered to get down to this level, to actually look at the boy's face and let themselves be seen in return.
Shinji finally moved, flinching slightly, before his eyes shifted back down to his hands. Still, it was a reaction and Misato was glad for that much.
"Shinji-kun," Misato began, trying to get his attention again, trying to wheedle a response from him. "I want to help you, but I need to know. Who was that?"
Her voice was gentle, insistent, and filled with need. Misato hadn't had to work to get the need in there. She found that she genuinely wanted to know just who the other man was, just what he had done to make this boy in front of her so afraid. She hadn't known Shinji for long, but she found that she liked the kid. He was also needed to pilot an enormous weapon of mass destruction against the invading forces of space, but at this moment in time that was genuinely a secondary concern.
Misato wanted to know what she could do to help the young man she was becoming slightly fond of.
Maybe it was because of the honesty in her tone, or maybe it was because she had made the effort to really connect with him, to lower herself literally until she could meet his eyes, but slowly Shinji's gaze settled back on hers.
"I call him the slender man," he whispered, a shiver going through his body, before he tensed once more. His eyes immediately dropped to his hand, and his jaw set as he locked it tight. Misato knew that expression. It meant that there wasn't any point in asking any more questions, that nothing she could do right now short of violence or maybe drugs would get the boy to speak.
That was fine though. Misato gave his folded hands what she hoped was a comforting squeeze. She had gotten enough to know that there was definitely something wrong here.
And she had decided she liked the kid enough that she was going to do something about it.
"So, Shinji-kun!" Misato's voice was once more cheerful, and the tension in Shinji seemed to ease in surprised response. "Tell me, how would you like a sexy bombshell like me as a roommate?"
Still, she had to look after the safety of Shinji first.
"Misato-san?" Shinji asked, the tension in his jaw loosening slightly as he responded with confusion to her unexpected offer.
"Well, I should warn you, I tend to like to walk around the house in my underwear," Misato playfully giggled, giving a wink that she knew Shinji wouldn't be able to see in his current position. "So you'll be sure to get plenty of service!"
When Shinji actually began to blush a little, Misato nodded. Mission accomplished! Shinji was definitely distracted from whatever it was that was worrying him now!
She had heard that NERV was originally planning on putting the pilot up on base housing, letting the boy live alone even at his age. Well, Misato had decided that that just wouldn't do. There was definitely something wrong here, whoever this slender man was, and Misato was damned if she was going to let whatever it was that had terrified this young boy so much continue.
Idly, unconsciously, Misato's hand drifted for the shoulder rig concealed under her jacket and the nine millimeter Beretta that was concealed there. If this slender man really was so much of a problem, she might just be willing to use some of the clout NERV held to get her answers out of him. That phone call to Section Two was definitely moving up on her priority list.