Standard Disclaimer

Ember continues to be an odd language to code in but hardly the worst I've ever known. Summer is approaching and with my new tiny purple car…I might travel a bit! Family issue is…worse sadly but that is life. And this my dear readers (I hope a few of you made it this far) is the final chapter of this lovely story. Enjoy!

I decided not to drag this out with an extra long resolution…I don't feel its rushed. 23 chapters at about 20-23 pages each, story is quite long after all. Hope you enjoy.


With Nothing Else

Chapter – 23

Standing at her customary place on the command deck, Misato watched the monitor with a sense of dread and low brooding hatred. That thing, it had the gall to still look like that girl, still look like Ayanami Rei. And her boy was being launched to fight it, fight the girl that kicked off so much happiness in his life. Shinji never spoke much about what he thought, boy kept it all inside. A trait Misato could relate to, she kept it all inside herself. But where Shinji shied away from most people, his shield against people being keeping them at a distance, Misato put up the air of airheaded flirt. Either way, they both had so many of the same traits…so he had to hate that thing just as much if not more than Misato did.

"And I got her killed…now he has to get his hands dirty again," Misato's stomach ached. She'd been having that pain more and more, last time she had a physical she was warned about her stress levels. An ulcer, her stomach was burning a hole in itself as her aggravation boiled up. Good, the pain helped her focus, kept her from being distracted. Her eyes fell on the empty seat of Makoto, where was that man? "What is the status of the angel?" Misato asked Shigeru…no Maya or Ritsuko to ask either and the replacements still were nameless to the major.

Casting a momentary glance back at the woman, his eyes said more than anything, not good. Pointing at the monitor, "Aside from the pattern blue and size, we've got nothing. Magi don't know what to make of it and are abstaining from comment. Ikari-kun is being loaded now though so he should be ready to deploy in a few minutes. Still no word on Makoto though." Frantically scanning screens, terabytes of data streaming at them with nothing of import. Something felt different about this one, it was the most human angel THEY had to see.

"Not him though…this is the second time for him," Misato ground her teeth. If Misato could turn back time she'd put a bullet in the Fifth Child's head if only to spare Shinji the guilt. Oh she heard about that one, in the form of nightmare speak from her ward…ward that was a funny thing. You don't sleep in the same bed with your ward, not if they were older than five. But both of them needed it, needed each other as an anchor. "And not like I haven't heard the rumors either," Misato got a lot of odd looks around base now. People were terrified of her, or disgusted with her. Let them be, they didn't know here, didn't know him, and their opinions were moot.

Not a yell, more a bark, Misato grunted out, "About time you showed up. If you didn't notice we have a bit of a situation going on here Makoto. Get to your station and get the defenses up and going. You can come up with your excuse while you do." Misato's look would have withered the man in times past, now he just scuttled off to his station as others paid him just a momentary glance. Nobody had time, they could all feel it…the very few that were left on base anymore.

"Sorry for being late, but Ikari-kun said you gave the order to have the Second Child moved to her Eva in result of an attack," Makoto was frazzled but firm. He flinched away when Misato's hand fell on his shoulder, clamped down hard, and she bore over him. His screen was almost full red, the cities defenses were in shambles and down to nil effectiveness. Squirming under her iron clad grasp, "Did you really give that order?"

Ah yes the other issue that may or maynot happen, the human element. "Yes I did, if she wakes up we'll have another ally, if not…at least she's out of harms way," she hadn't told anybody about her secret messages. Didn't know if she truly believed them, but the tactical side of her couldn't cast it aside. If she wanted to infiltrate Nerv, this would be the best time for it. All resources were committed to the biggest threat they had, but in earnest they were powerless aside Unit-01. But Unit-01 was not a defensive option. "Lock all entrance ways, station double guards at each point, ready defensive countermeasures," she saw the crew all turn to her as if she was crazy. "Don't question, do!" she yelled and they all jumped.

Hearing Shinji talking to Shigeru about Asuka, Misato wanted to throttle that little girl right now! She had the audacity to sleep through the final battle, Misato would never let her live it down. Makoto did answer to Shigeru's confusion, "Yeah tell Ikari-kun that I loaded her up already, Unit-02 is ready to be launched

Shigeru's head just bounced from source to source, "Well yeah, she's just been loaded." A lot was happening, and so few people knew the truth of it all, and this was one of the many sheep. "Launching you now, good luck Ikari-kun. We don't know it's capabilities so be careful," he sent the boy up to face mortal peril.

Maya's replacement, a thin slip of a man with glasses thicker than Makoto's actually raised his hand to get attention, "Major Katsuragi, the Magi aren't responding correction. Something is going on strange here. Right after we locked the base down…I think we're…" The nondescript man cringed as Misato briskly came over to his station and bore down on it. In times past Misato might have seen this act as him being overwhelmed by her beauty, now he was just afraid. The major is off her rocker, she's fucking a fourteen year old, she's crazy, she's being replaced, and countless others. Misato heard them, Misato didn't care.

"We're being hacked by the other Magi from around the world…so they are attacking us. No choice but to use it, you'll find an application called '666', use it, don't question use it," Misato left the techy and went to prep for war. Her source had mentioned ground, sea, and air forces as well as a cyber-attack as what to anticipate. No quarter was to be given, none to be received. But they weren't without defense, and this cyber security would buy them time. "Alright, everybody listen up," Misato flipped on the base wide alarm system.

Taking in a low shuddering breath, Misato's eyes went misty as she watched Shinji start fighting with the massive Rei-thing. He'd have to fight alone, she wished him the best, wished him her love, and if this was the end for one for them…she was glad she didn't complicate his life more with her bitter loneliness. Oh she had been close last night, so close to just giving in and taking him, he'd not refuse her, he never did. But that wasn't what he wanted, wasn't what she even really wanted…not in the same way as normal people anyway. If they both survived though…just once…to show how she cared if he was willing. "But I'll have to take a ticket…Maya and Ritsuko will be already there," she hoped at least. If those two women didn't make it, if he had to suffer more…

"The base is under attack, or will be soon. Retreat to the command deck and arm yourself with whatever you can. Weaponry is available here, so get here fast. All hallways will be filled with Bakelite in five minutes," it damn well better be or that young woman she pierced with her gaze would be thrown off the bridge. Everybody was watching her now, fear oozing out of them and filling the base with a sense of dread and utter terror. "The JSDF has labeled us a threat. They will not take prisoners, they will kill on sight. Get here, get ready, and know we do have an escape route prepped and ready, but you have to get here first!" she gave the ultimatum and dropped the microphone. No further warning would be given.

As expected, the bridge erupted in a flurry of frantic action and terror. The screen showing Shinji was still large and showing the two titans struggling against one another…then it went out. Shinji wouldn't lose, Misato knew that, "Launch Unit-02 into the lake, get her out there in case she wakes. Don't give those fuckers trying to get in a free target." Misato pulled out her side-arm, checked her few clips and fixed her hat tighter. Kicking the door open to Gendo's office, empty as it had been for the last few days, she summoned the elevator she was told about. "Alright, all non-combat personnel are to take this down to the sub-basement, not the bottom, but second to last. It's a one point of entry location, and has an unbreakable door leading to the surface," Misato had to lower the possible loss of life as best she could.

"I-I'll keep people moving through it as best I can," the long haired overweight woman that was Ritsuko's replacement stuttered. Woman eyed the elevator enviously, almost ready to run through it herself right now. "W-what about you and the r-rest of us?" her jowls wobbled and her greasy shoulder length brown hair captured the red light of the emergency klaxons.

What about the rest of us, well wasn't it obvious? Misato drew her weapon and loaded the chamber tellingly. "We hold the line as best we can and as long as we can. This is our base, this is our duty. I will evacuate as many of you as I can, and the I will personally throw the switch to sink this place into the earth and take as many of those mother fuckers as possible," grim determination was etched into her whole being.

Rejoining the command bridge she saw the sheep and the wolves amongst them and separated them accordingly. "Alright those of you I point at, get ready, get into position above and to the sides of the entrance points of the doors. With no inner defenses other than the sealed pathways, know that they will be moving in fast and funneling here. If I don't point at you, head to the commanders office and you'll receive orders there," the fear was growing, and it made it that much easier to pick who to keep and send. Grim resolve on those she pointed at, and near ecstatic relief on those she passed over. She had only twenty some usable men and women, a few extras to run ammo runs, and the rest were already fighting for position to take the elevator. "And they look at Shinji like he's a freak," Misato was disgusted with that.

While she was used to odd rumors about her, her life had been lived in such a way it was a point of pride. Men and women oh so loved to slander her, badges of honor when times were good. But her boy was not her, he didn't have the thick skin she liked to pretend she had. So hearing people talking badly about him made Misato even angrier…why a few of those staying behind weren't shipped off. They called him dirty, sleeping with the dirty older woman, called him a coward, mocked him in secret. Nobody, and Misato meant that, nobody called that man coward in her presence and didn't get a fist to the stomach. Those pilots were the most courageous people Misato ever met.

Ordering the few troops she had into position, Misato kept herself up on the second level of the command bridge. Not because she thought she deserved the more defensible position, her soldiers begged her to take it. They didn't want to think for themselves, they wanted a sole point of order and when it came to this, they trusted her. Funny that. Behind closed doors she was a degenerate, in a fight she was invaluable. Sadly they didn't have as much time as Misato hoped, the defenseless were still being loaded down, almost finished, but still fighting for admittance. Sparks around the locked doors signaled the final countdown.

"Do not hesitate, they will not offer you the same consideration. We have them funneled into both sides, use that. Once the doors go, open up on them, and choke that door with wave after wave!" Misato was not giving any quarter if she was receiving none. They had defensive barriers set up, they had the superior positioning, but they were ill equipped. The base was not designed or armed to defend itself from prolonged human assault. But the security they had was hardened men and women, Section-2 was in position, and she was going to use it. "What is the status of Unit-01? Anything?" she couldn't forget about that either.

Being the only man left at his station, Shigeru was pale but doing his duty, "Readings are strange, Target and Unit-01 are…syncing with each other. But I'm getting readings from Unit-02 now, I think…I think she's activating!" Well that was good news.

"If she is, tell her to stop those ships and planes, I'm tired of all the quakes," Misato couldn't help but smile. The aerial bombardment and depth charges were rattling everybody's nerves. And just like that, the moment her joke left her lips, the doors gave and all hell broke loose.

Time, or at least her perception of time, changed from a slow plodding to a lightning quick stream of it. Minutes felt like hours, moments stretched into eternities unto themselves. And through it all, Misato kept her head, and issued orders that her dutiful warriors followed as best they could. From her elevated position, Misato levelly aimed at the encroaching force and picked them off. Concentrated fire worked best, many of the aggressors had riot shields and needed a personal touch.

"Shigeru…anything on them?" Misato pleaded as she took out another two scum and had to reload. She had a graze across her temple, a near miss that stung like a son of a bitch. The numbers streaming in on them would win in the end, but they were paying for that victory. For every one of Misato's forces lost, the JSDF lost about ten. Problem was, Misato had very few so each lose was felt.

Having taken his fair share of lives today, Shigeru grimly shook his head, "Since Unit-02 made contact with the others nothing. Without the Magi we have no idea what is happening, but they are emitting an EMP that is keeping the heavy forces off of us…even disabled an N2 mine that was launched if you can believe that."

With a grunt, Makoto fell on this butt by them, thick red lines down his arm, "I got hit…not bad but I can barely lift my arm. Katsuragi we're losing here…we have to withdraw." Not in cowardice but as a lone option to save lives. They all knew it, but they wouldn't do anything unless Misato gave he word.

"Alright, Shigeru you get him to the elevators and I'll help get the others," Misato stated and saw them both look at her incredulously. It was stupid dangerous to go back to the edge of the bridge, all they had to do was look at the cut along her head. Pleading that now wasn't the time they got courageous and went against orders, "Just get going, I'll be close behind you."

Being hoisted up, his left side was just about worthless, Makoto smeared blood on Misato's side. "Don't do anything stupid. S-spoke to Ikari-kun before shit hit the fan…wanted to apologize to both of you. So-sorry for not being there for you, either of you," Makoto was growing paler.

"Get going," Misato grabbed Shigeru's weapon, and a few spare grenades. This wasn't going to be a final run, she had to live…had to tease Shinji about his little harem! Each man and woman she passed she gave the order, the reluctantly fell back. Getting to the edge, she saw most of her solders were pinned down or dead. Yelling as loud as she could over the sounds of automatic fire, "Fall back, left side!" a few shots whizzed past her. Hucking her pineapples, she got a thrill from the screams they elicited. "Fuckers, don't deserve any sympathy! Offering some cover fire for the retreating quartet, Misato saw one was lamed and being dragged.

Dropping her gun, she rushed to the approaching, only three made it to her, and threw the arm of the lamed woman over her shoulder and helped drag the woman to the elevator. Bastards were quick to follow, but the doors to the commanders office were shockingly durable. Falling into the elevator, Misato had to watch that lame woman gasp out a last call to somebody that wasn't there, and then she was gone. Once they got out, the others cowering in fear as the door opened, she had the cab disabled and destroyed…they were out of the fight. "Be safe…all of you," today was a bad day, she prayed it didn't' get worse.


Life had not been the nicest to Kaji after he had been recalled, but he admitted it could have been much worse. Color him stunned to learn about the bet his fellow colleagues had his chances of surviving his mission. Wasn't pretty, made the woman that pulled him out a hefty sum of money, she didn't share it. After his rather abrupt recall, Kaji spent nearly every waking moment being interviewed or writing reports. Truly a task worthy of his skills as a double and field agent. Things got worse when he finally was given the equivalent of a desk job. He got to learn Misato thought he was dead. Everybody thought he was dead, his last message to Misato hadn't helped that. THAT was torture, to see her going through so much toil and hardship and was unable to do anything. Eyes were on him way to much when he first got back.

So he did what he had to, he wrote the stupid reports and had session after session of debriefing. They labeled him a hero, one of the best data retrieval efforts they ever saw. It was a lie, and only Kaji knew it. Well Kaji and his mysterious source. Nobody cared though, they only wanted the blueprints of the base, Gendo's plans, and the best way to circumvent security. Wonderful, he was helping them plan the systematic destruction of Nerv and all the people he knew there. Living with the guilt of that was only exacerbated thanks to the few reports he got about Misato. Woman was becoming a shell of nothing but revenge and bitterness. Oh, and Shinji was with her. Rumors, Kaji likened them to just rumors as nothing was substantiated. Knowing the woman did help, Misato cared about that boy no doubt, but it would take a lot for her to make that last step.

But as D-Day closed in, Kaji started hoping. Hoping she DID do something, hell it would have done both of them a world of good. Shinji and Misato were vital people to the survival of Nerv, and Kaji loved Misato and liked Shinji! It wouldn't change what existed between Misato and him, nothing would. For fucks sake, he even had a night with that woman that brought him back from his mission. It didn't matter, just ships in the night and a stress reliever. But never did the confirmation come through, Misato was going to either kill him when the reunited or she'd drag him into a room and leech all the nutrients from his body. Well, he hoped anyway.

"Alright, everybody check your weapons and your assignment. We only have one chance at this and we cannot fail. We fail here, and humanity loses," the commander of this little operation barked. Clad in the heavy black body armor and helmet with its red visor of JSDF, the man's voice was transmitted over a transceiver. The men had been told numerous things over the last few weeks about Nerv, thanks to Kaji's report, and they were storming the castle. Walking in front of the armed and trained soldiers, "Do not hesitate here. Yes, you will be firing on unarmed targets, but they are all to be deemed a threat. If one gets free, they warn that bastard, and then he goes off early."

Feeling awkward in the burly gear, Kaji hated the feel of the assault weapon in his hand. Not like this, this was not how he wanted to return to Nerv. In the guise of an angel of death, flying over all those people he befriended and snipping the cord of life. "Yes sir!" he chorused with the others. Show any dissent, they'd pull him until this was over. It was a lie! Even this was a damned lie! Seele was requesting this mission, Kaji knew it, but he couldn't prove that! Well he couldn't prove it to people that weren't on the take.

"These are the primary targets, as mentioned in your reports. They are take dead or alive. But if they show you ANY reason, any at all, orders are for the former," the man was old by the sound of things. Nobody saw the man's face, it was hidden behind that mask, his voice garbled by the old comm equipment and helmet. Images of Ritsuko, Kozo, Misato, and Gendo popped up on the blaring light of carrier they were riding. Hitting a rock or divot in the road, the commander pitched forward and grabbed an overhead slip to keep from falling. After he righted himself, "Oh and forgot. The pilots are to be terminated on sight, they get to those monsters of theirs its game over."

Kaji's mouth went dry and he had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from screaming. The fucking prick had the gall to show the image of Asuka in her hospital bed! Couldn't they have…why did they have to use that image of that girl! Pale and sick, Kaji WOULD kill anybody that dared point so much as a finger at that girl. Even the picture they had of Shinji showed the hollowed husk of a human that had most of the joy sucked out of them. Kids shouldn't look like that, shouldn't be the target of armed men!

"Remember your orders, most of us are in the breeching crew. Resistance should be light, they are mostly untrained, but do not hesitate. For those of you in the infiltration crew, good luck, get those doors open, and do not trigger the alarms!" that last command the helmet turned right to Kaji.

Saluting the man, Kaji actually winked at the old fucker, oozing out his confidence as he always did when afraid. With his previous access to the base, he was able to trick his way into this mission. Part of why he visited the lonely woman last week. A little wine, a little dance, and he got put in this mission. "And now I just have to live with myself," and help as many people as he can survive this. Likely this would get him killed, but he was to blame for this and he would not sit on the sidelines and listen!

With a halting slam, his transport stopped and the door opened. Kaji, along with three other men and one woman, got off and hustled off to their entrance points. Kaji was able to finagle this way into getting the entrance that lead to Terminal Dogma. Nobody knew it led there, they thought he was going to the back entrance, and Kaji had a special side mission he picked himself. Destroy it all, leave nothing of the cloning machinery or the Dummy system behind. Nobody was going to start this up again.

And there Kaji waited, for an hour he just sat at the vent that had been prepped for his entrance into the electrical system, waiting for the word. When it came, Kaji felt the need to pee, "Contact, that purple monster has made contact with…it looks like the First Child only giant!" whoever was talking was not prepared for this. Kaji looked futily back at the city, but the buildings blocked his sight of that boy. "His reward for this better not be a bullet in the gut," Kaji prayed and kicked the vent open. Unlike the other infiltrators, Kaji was not letting others in with his actions. He had the task of sabotaging the electrical system to allow for easier hacking of the Magi.

"Fat lot of chance of that," Kaji smirked as he dropped his line down the massive shaft. God he hated heights with a passion. But, down he went…slowly. Synched into the line, he shimmed down the vent careful to avoid the walls. Touch those and his body would play host to so much voltage his eyes would pop. "Just forgive me when this is over, Misa-chan, please?" he pleaded with the image in his head. Again, he hoped she did take some liberties since his 'death'. Woman had issues, Kaji knew them (he shared most of them) and wouldn't fault her. Hard to call her out for cheating when he was pretending to be dead.

Touching down on the bottom of the vent, Kaji tore off his helmet and chucked it at the cords. It sparked, sizzled, and after a strong ozone smell fell to the ground. "Please somebody notice that," he hoped to give those inside some help. Then off he went…in the wrong direction from his orders. So some of the heavily armed and trained aggressors would find their way blocked by superior defenses than expected. Hard to feel sorry for them, the knowingly were going in to take out basically unarmed civilians. Yeah, they lost sympathy points. "I hate vents…nothing like in the movies," Kaji whined as he cut his hand again.

Nails, screws, and a host of other nastiness was the path Kaji had to crawl over and cut himself on as he moved. The building shook. Kaji stopped and looked up and offered his hopes to that boy fighting for the lives of all humanity. So what if he got a little sugar to keep himself going, Kaji wasn't going to fault Shinji for that. He'd be jealous of course, be he'd not let that anger smolder for long. Thankfully the vent emptied into a shaft Shinji had descended once while fighting Unit-02. "Stupid long shafts…" he threw the long rope down…not long enough by far, so Kaji had to be able to free the rope and reattach it. He hoped.

"Just don't look down, don't look…fuck," of course he did and that sense of vertigo washed over him. Another tremor rocked the building, something was happening up there and he didn't like it. Never did, but something about this was felt different, more was riding on it. Sucking up a huge breath, Kaji started his repel down the shaft to Terminal Dogma and destiny. Only stopping to reset the line twice, Kaji thankfully touched ground and just gazed up that hulking tunnel that went up into nothingness. "Like I actually decended down into…" he heard a yell…a female yell, " Hell."

Who else was down here? Did they actually order somebody else down here? Kaji hadn't suspected that, didn't anticipate it. Pulling out his sidearm, he had dropped the rifle ages ago, to heavy to carry, he rushed into the research wing of Terminal. "Come on…make another sound…" that voice had sounded familiar. And with where he was, not a big speculation on who it would be. Each step he took though, his heart sank further and further, his bowels loosened and fear crawled and penetrated his head more.

A breeched elevator shaft, blown outwards, was the point of impact from his unexpected friend. Kicked in doors, rooms set aflame! Who the fuck used a flamethrower that wasn't a sadist! Nobodies though, just burning equipment and destroyed equipment. Thankfully the Dummy System room was one of those, and the tank room was empty! Had…had somebody done that before?

"Now give me a reason to not cook you and this kid? Thought the First was dead already…give me a good one," a heavy masculine voice from a room three doors down echoed over the crackling fire. Kaji knew that voice, and he wasn't shocked. Yup, it was one of the other infiltration crew, and a real dilly of a man that unnerved all the others. "You're a real looker, even if you diddle kids, maybe you could…" the heavy clink of metal on metal punctuated the man's comment.

Chance! Kaji ran, ran faster and harder than he thought possible. Skidding into the doorframe, he missed the dropped tank and slammed heavily into the door. So much for secrecy now. Once his vision cleared, Kaji saw he was looking down the barrel of the man's gun, oh…shit. "OH hey, didn't know they assigned somebody else down here," play it cool play it cool! OH gods it WAS Ritsuko and the woman was exhausted and terrified.

"Nice try, Kaji, but I was given the order to come down here. And my orders said I was the only one to be here…and to get rid of anybody else that claims otherwise," the man alternated between Ritsuko and Kaji. Backing Ritsuko into a corner, his brutish hand shoving the scientist hard, he kept the business end of things pointed towards Kaji. Laughing brutishly, "And I never did trust you. To soft, always with an eye for the ladies. Sissy boy, to weak for the important jobs. Get out of here and I'll forget I saw you." He gestured towards the hallway.

Holding his hand up, he tossed his side-arm on the ground. "Hey, orders were dead or alive…do anything stupid here and," Kaji shut up as the round went over his shoulder and buried into the wall.

"Who is going to tell them? Frankenstein here, or you the man that's not supposed to be here? Do you SEE what is on that table?" the man pointed the gun at Ritsuko's work. Taking a step closer to the lab table, he poked the body lying on it with the barrel. A body Kaji knew all to well, though never quite like this. The bodies in the tank looked more 'alive' than this thing. A limbless Ayanami Rei was taking shallow mechanical breaths, likely helped by the machine attached to her through where the right arm should have been. Whirling back on Ritsuko, jabbing her in the gut dropping her to her knees, "What the fuck is this lady? Is it alive even?"

Get closer to him, jump him, with Ritsuko's help maybe they could take him down. But then what? Could they kill him, or just knock him out? Kaji stealthily moved closer to the man's back. Seeing the Rei-thing did make him stop though. Was it alive? Didn't look like it, not in the normal sense. Lost in those glazed and empty eyes, Kaji lost the chance to jump the man.

"Whoa there Ryouji, getting a little close to that thing are you? Have a thing for little kids or something?" the man was pointing it back at him. Moving closer to the table, he hovered over the body and put his gun in its mouth. Smirking, "Well we all know what you've done with that German tart, so what is another one for you?" Blam, the report in the small room was near deafening, "There made a new hole for you, nice and juicy." The machines attached to the body blared out alarms and showed flat lines.

Grinding his teeth, fists clenched, Kaji choked back his rage, "You bastard! She was alive! She was…" Kaji's eyes went wide as he saw Ritsuko pounced on the man. Scalpel in hand, she first went to his throat and just pounded in on his back again and again until it snapped off lodged in one of his ribs. "R-Rits…" Kaji didn't know what to say.

"I always had it! I almost brought her back! I almost…almost…" she resorted to just pounded on the man's back and splattered blood everywhere. Her hair was growing out showing an odd mixture of blond and not. Hands falling to her side, Ritsuko turned to Kaji and the extreme fatigue just showed, woman was worn and torn. "Took your time getting here, Ghost-san. You get to Misato yet?" she sniffed and ran her hand under her nose and smeared her face red.

Kaji just stood there for a few moments, what the hell just happened?! Ritsuko just ENDED that man, not without good reason…but she didn't hesitate! Likely saved their lives too, Kaji snapped from his funk and got to her side. They weren't done yet, still much to do.


Her hands cleaned in the tiny sink in the lab she used as a room for the last few weeks still were tinged red. Ritsuko, if Kaji had asked, would have said she couldn't care less. It would clean off later, and her hands were already stained. Kaji hadn't seen the look of the now dead man when he entered the room. It wasn't the look of man that intended to force sex, no, he just wanted a punching bag. It was their lives or his, Ritsuko made it easy and took the choice away from Kaji. She had NOT lived through all this madness to be killed by some violence junkie right at the end!

"How you doing, Rits?" Kaji finally asked. For the better part of ten minutes, Kaji just walked alongside her as they moved deeper into the belly of the beast. The black clad garb he was wearing clashed with the stained lab coat Ritsuko was wearing. Neither spoke of the odd sounds they heard going on above them. "You've been missing for some time now, been down here all that time?" Kaji checked his side arm again.

The ex-soldier's pistol was now in her pocket and it gave her a comical slant. With the bit of artificial courage bolstering her attitude, she nodded. "I want food, sex, more sex, even more food, and some honest to all gods sleep, Kaji. I haven't had any of those things in enough measure since my punishment started. But no, until I got my lovely little lab I was stuck in solitary," Ritsuko still wasn't totally sure this was happening. Visual and auditory hallucinations had started before she was moved to her lab, she couldn't be sure they stopped.

"Well that sounds fair, I'm sure somebody will be able to supply that for you when we get up top," Kaji's smile was almost real. Stopping at an intersection of halls, both took a side and covered the other. Clear, nobody was down here now. Terminal Dogma was hardly the most packed of places on the base, it still had some people moving about. Not today, likely never again in the same capacity. Tugging on Ritsuko's arm when she went to go away from Heaven's Gate, "We have to look for him. If he gets away, who knows what he'll do."

Wrapping her fingers around the grip, Ritsuko sighed exasperatedly and relented. Doing an about-face, she followed Kaji to her destiny. "Oh I know Shinji and Maya will get me my fill once I get out of here. So sorry if I want to get up there sooner rather than later. And you should know by now Kaji, with all those documents I leaked to you, he has no options left. Not unless another secret global cabal exists that he can try to bilk," Ritsuko just dropped that little truth bucket. If Kaji didn't know she was with Shinji and Maya, he did now. Passing the last of the labs, Rei's old room, only thing now between them and Heaven's Gate was a long stretch of hall.

"So you WERE my contact after all. I thought you were Gendo's puppet all along, my thoughts were one of Seele's secretaries or something with half a brain was my source," Kaji peeked into the lab and rushed past it. Nobody in there, nobody following them, just the dull sounds of action above them. Their feet just echoed in the long metal corridor. Pulling on his ponytail, "So…you're serious about Ikari-kun then? Have you heard the rumors about Misato and him then? Don't know how much you've been able to hear down here. You did have a computer though."

Ah yes, even now the childhood propensity for rumors and schoolyard concerns popped up. Gods she wanted a cigarette, but unless Kaji snuck some in with him it was unlikely. "You got any smokes?" Ritsuko asked and sadly Kaji shook his head, "As for the rumors. They're just that. I had access to the security cameras. They slept in the same bed, almost wish the did fuck so I'd have some mental fodder while I was stuck in there. But no, you're abused and neglected Misa-chan hasn't fallen to my levels of depravity." She hoped that was enough for him, Ritsuko was tired and didn't want to think.

Days upon days of working on that damn body! Her penance for some of the ill she had done, try to give life back to one she helped destroy. It wouldn't have been the same girl, the soul that was used for the tank was gone, but she had hopes. But constant exposure to that poor creature, left alone with her own mind to feed on itself had taken its toll. And it all ended with a bullet a few days before she succeeded! So who cares if Shinji, her darling man, fucked her friend? It did not matter. Psychology was a bitch, stress doubly so, and those two had issues in spades. But no, all she had were those shining moments of talking to Maya, and those were fleeting.

Finally at the end of the hallway, the tunnel opened up into the cavernous room Unit-01 ended Unit-02 and the gate. No key or passphrase was needed for that tiny door, it was already open waiting for them. They exchanged a look and nodded, both readied themselves to charge in and end this. Both taking one side of the door, the held up their hands with three fingers, silently counted down, and charged in!

"Put your hands up Ikari, this is the end of this!" Kaji bellowed. Standing at the edge of the sea of LCL, a giant empty red cross sanding in its center, was one Gendo Ikari. Slowly they advanced, but Gendo didn't react to them. Frantically scanning the room, sliding one foot after another, "Say something! You're under arrest you sick fuck. Say something!"

Turning around slowly, the dull light of the room captured by his glasses, Gendo's mouth just hung open a little. Both Ritsuko and Kaji leveled their aim on him as the man pulled his hands out of his pocket, but they were empty. Mouth moving but no sounds left it, just a dry gagging, Gendo offered no defense, no offense, he just stood there.

"Going to have to disappoint both of you. I'm sure you were expecting some grand challenge. Maybe a shootout or something with him, but Gendo is…not here right now," Kozo was heard closer to the lake of LCL. Sitting with his legs dipped in the flood, slacks curled up, he just sat and stared at the empty cross. Leaning back on his hands, the man sounded older than he ever did, "It was all for nothing. What we did, what you're doing now, all we ended up doing was kill innocent people and scar children. Some legacy. Though I'm sure you're used to such, Akagi."

Holding a hand out to Kaji, Ritsuko advanced on Gendo and slowly took off his glasses. "He's…he's not in there Kaji. His mind is gone, I don't know if he'll ever come back," Ritsuko felt cheated! This was the man that had originally made her think she was so loved, and the same man that abused her into submission. Atrocity after atrocity she committed in his name, and he didn't even have the gall to let her slap him! Tugging off the glove, where that monstrosity was implanted, Ritsuko gasped, "Adam is gone?!" What did that mean?

Rushing over to Fuyutski, Kaji had a new target. "You have it don't you!? Where is it?" Kaji had been given the documents and knew. Adam and Lilith were needed to start Instrumentality, if Gendo didn't have it made sense the Vice commander had to have it. Pushing the barrel of his gun against the aged man's neck, "Tell us!"

"It's not here," Ritsuko suddenly understood and pushed Kaji's hand down. Another tremor rocked the building, a large rock crashed from the ceiling into the lake and sent massive waves. Gendo's mental state, Seele's attack, and even Kozo's disdain, it all made sense now. Hating that head of silver hair, Ritsuko quelled the urge to smack it, "Ayanami came for it, didn't she? Just came right on in and snatched it up. S-she has both already…she's started Instrumentality!" But if so…nothing mattered anymore as everything was about to go tits up!

Kicking his legs in the LCL, splashing it everywhere, Kozo actually let out a few wheezing laughs. After his chuckles petered out, "Guess you do have a brain in there after all. Would have thought you'd have snapped, well snapped in other ways, before now. Well, at least you got one thing right. So all we can do is sit here and wait the end. Guess Kehl will get what he wants, I won't." He fell backwards and lay on his back, Ritsuko noticed he did in fact steal a peek up her skirt.

"But why hasn't it happened yet? If she's gotten Adam already we should all be gone already, what's the deal?" Kaji didn't understand and it showed. Hands going to his temple, he rubbed at the violently and stomped around. Another tremor, they both stopped thinking and eyes went wide, "She's…she's after Ikari-kun?"

Stopping the free show she was giving the sick old man, Ritsuko paced around with her arms crossed. "This is how it all ends? All the plots and plans, all the horrible things I've done," Ritsuko chose not to listen to Kozo mention her mother. After a swift kick to the man's side, her foot felt like it hit a sack of potatoes, "We're down here, with them, while two teenagers are decided whether humanity gets to live or not. Just gre-AAAH!" Ritsuko didn't even see the man move, but Kozo had grabbed her leg, lifted it, and threw her backwards with it. Landing with a jarring blow to the head left her dazed.

Kaji yelled out for the man to stop, but Kozo was spry for his old age, a coiled viper. Crawling atop Ritsuko, her sidearm in his hand was pressed just below her chin. "Yeah. Most of my adult life was wasted on this dream, to see Yui again. And in the end Gendo's little mutant pet gets a boyfriend and it all spirals out of control. But…at least I get to deal with you. Don't move Kaji, unless you want to see what a 'genius's' brain looks like," he moved out of the way to show Kaji his little surprise. He had grabbed it in the scuffle and was showing every indication of using it.

"So what now, you dry hump me until we all turn to LCL or are you going to do something? I'm tired of you and your faux superiority," Ritsuko wasn't going to humor this old man. She felt him on her, a bundle of dry twigs with an iron grip. The cold barrel pressed hard into the soft flesh of her jaw, she felt it press into her tongue. Kozo's eyes were unfocused and danced about, "Is it because I never even looked at you? Is that it? A jealous old man, always spurned by the women in his life? Yui Ikari, my mother, me, and…did you have eyes for Ayanami too? Upset she never came to you when she was fucking everybody?"

With his free hand, Kozo grabbed Ritsuko's collar and used it to bounce her head against the ground harder. "Shut up! That isn't the half of it! I did so much for this, and every time somebody else got the credit! I sacrificed so much for Yui's goal…and…and…" Ritsuko socked him in the side of the head with a solid open palm smack. Rolling off her, gun going wild, Kozo tumbled into the LCL and just lay their stunned.

"You going to help me or am I going to save us again? Guy is crazy," Ritsuko asked Kaji as she remain on the ground. That snapped him out of his funk, and Kaji rushed to her side and pulled her up. Gendo hadn't moved during any of it, and Kozo was still wide eyed and crazed. "To think we used to fear these men. That's a joke. What do we do now?" Ritsuko didn't know what was happening up above, but it couldn't be good.

Pulling out an ear bud, Kaji spoke over the comm channels to the other forces. "Primary targets acquired, alive. Stand down assault. Repeat mission completed both primary targets apprehended alive. Retreat to first backup position," he looked at Ritsuko pleadingly. If they trusted the source, if they even cared, that might end the madness.

A crackling voice responded, "The fuck are you talking about? The retreat order was given thirty minutes ago! EMP from those monsters knocked out all communication and are heavy ordinance was destroyed by the Red Behemoth. If you have the primary contacts we'll cover you best we can."

"Well, why didn't they bother to tell us that?" Ritsuko actually laughed. Was it over? Was it finally over? She could have hope, was all that got her through the darkest parts of the last few weeks. Taking a pair of handcuffs from Kaji, she dealt with Gendo leaving the dripping Kozo to Kaji. As the moments stretched into minutes and finally hours, the two let out a sigh of relief.

No Instrumentality, no global destruction, just a lot of tired and terrified people and a lot of anger. Nerv hated the JSDF for the unsanctioned attack, the JSDF hated Nerv for their fallen comrades, and both hated Gendo and Kozo. In madness they two robbed everybody of much wanted catharsis. Ritsuko didn't care, not at all, Kaji got her released into Misato's custody with the vow to aid any trial brought on for the Seele or the commanders. That was easy to agree to. What she wanted to see was the pilots. The little footage she was able to see, she had no idea what to suspect but she had to see.

Oh it was funny to see Misato's gobsmacked expression when she saw Kaji, it stopped being funny when the woman pounced Kaji and started to pummel him. Guess it was going to take a little time for Misato to forgive. Rushing to Shinji's hospital room, once she was given clearance the next day, Ritsuko had to stop and pray again that it wasn't a dream. He was safe, seemingly unharmed, and…awake! Sure Asuka was in the room, sleeping, but Ritsuko wasn't even sure she noticed. She just waved stupidly at him, climbed into his bed, hugged him, and passed out. Days of adrenaline and pain…done…gone…he held her, smoothing her nasty and unkempt hair, and they both fell asleep.

Some time later, when she woke, found Shinji still sleeping…well she wanted to get her other fills started so she did. If Asuka woke, Ritsuko didn't care, she needed this, and she got it. Misato brought food to them, and…well…Misato DID have words about her making love to her man in the hospital…she didn't care, neither did Shinji. A few days later Maya came back, Ritsuko's apartment had been spared much of the destruction of the city so they all moved in there. Asuka was upset, something had happened between Shinji, Asuka, and Ayanami doing the near Third Impact…so Ritsuko let Asuka take up the spare bedroom. The battle was over, it was time to start healing.


Six months after the siege of Nerv, life was slowly starting to take shape for the survivors. Maya was never more glad to live in a developing city, a recovering city. It was hard at first, lack of simple amenities that one got used to was always tough. The population gave employees and ex-employees alike odd stares thanks to the ongoing trial of those responsible. But life moved on, it didn't stop, and neither did she. In one of the larger non-used rooms of Nerv, she currently stood in a fancy dress, a glass of rum and coke in her hand, and was a few drinks down already.

Keeping her arm possessively over Shinji's shoulder she wobbled as she steered him around, "Having fun? Wedding receptions are always a little odd if you don't…don't know many of the people." Maya hardly knew these people, but she agreed to be part of Makoto's wedding. Western weddings were odd things, but Aoi was catholic and Makoto wanted to do it her way so that's how it went. The dress was beautiful, the church had some interesting decorations, but the spiritual side of things flew over Maya's head. She was quiet happy to be the shortest girl though as it meant she got to walk down the aisle with Shinji and imagine. "When you want to go though, just say the word," she put her hand to his chest and gave it a small circle rub.

"I'm good for awhile Maya-chan. Ritsuko and you are here, Misato-san is somewhere, and Asuka is wandering," Shinji had a lone drink and showed he was not good with liquor. He was doing good today, Maya was glad. Both Asuka and Shinji were recovering from whatever happened to them during their contact with the Rei/Lilith creature. Aoi was going to start consoling sessions with both of them once she got an office set up again. Patting Maya's hand, they shared a look that promised that after they got back to their apartment they'd be working off the cake they ate. "How about you, having fun?" Shinji did a quick look over the room.

Speak of the devil and she will be there, Maya groaned mentally as Asuka spotted them and started wading through the crowd. All of Nerv was invited, the event was a mixture celebration for their victory and Makoto's wedding so Nerv foot the bill. So most of the couples dancing right now were just there to relax and have fun, Asuka forced them to part. Maya wouldn't say it out loud, but she had tried to hid from the terror of the guest room. "So here is where you two are, shouldn't you be dancing or something? Party right?" Asuka spilled some of her drink on the ground and had a lovely red hue on her cheeks.

"We just finished a few actually, Asuka. Wanted to cool off with a drink," Shinji showed the girl Maya's nearly full cup. She peeked into it and nodded satisfactorily and linked her arm with his. Pulling him away from Maya, she had 'that look' on her face, one that Maya learned meant fighting now would be a big issue. "Asuka…you're not being fare right now," Shinji was the girl's anchor right now and both Ritsuko and Maya knew it.

Taking a big drink, she'd be the bigger woman here and not cause a fuss. Giving Shinji a small push, and a kiss on the cheek, "Go have fun, just remember who you're going home with." Maya kind of forgot Asuka WAS going home with them, but she didn't quite care. Asuka was smart enough to know what Maya meant. Watching Asuka drag the uncoordinated boy off to the dance floor, she watched them for a little while. They danced in perfect unison with one another, guess their synchronization training was still useful. Or was it thanks to that event again? Only those two knew what happened during that last battle, and they weren't talking about it.

Tapping Maya's cheek with a cold cup, Kaji stifled a laugh when she jerked out of her semi-daze. "Just going to watch them? I'm shocked you're letting her dance with your man during a wedding. Don't you worry?" Kaji sipped his drink and signaled to somebody across the room.

"Worry about what, I trust him. We've talked about Asuka when she moved in, they're friends and only they can really empathize with one another. So what if they dance, I need a drink. She might make eyes at him, but Ritsuko and I will be fucking tonight," oops she was a bit more belligerent when drunk. Judging from Kaji's widened eyes and growing smile, Maya hid her face behind her cup. Yes, lets exacerbate things! Feeling the booze burn down her throat, "So how are things with Katsuragi and you doing? Seeing all this getting you thinking?" It did for Maya and her two life partners.

Grabbing a chair from a nearby table, Kaji spun it around and sat on so he could watch the crowd. Pointing his pinky at the floor where Ritsuko and Misato were actually dancing together, "She's getting better. Not blaming herself anymore. She does miss Shinji-kun something fierce so you best keep an eye on her. She's had more than she should so she might grab him and wander off." Kaji shifted to Shinji and Asuka's odd dance…it was more sensual than the others, Asuka was laying it on thick.

"Rits-chan said the same, I mean how are things going on the romantic side," Maya knew about Misato's problem. Misato had a small breakdown about a month after the last battle, when they got the official report about the casualties. Woman took it upon herself to take all the blame for it, and nobody could say a word in otherwise. Then the public started hearing things from the trial, Misato wanted to defend the survivors and became the figurehead of Nerv to take all the slings and arrows. Sitting next to Kaji, her head was swimming, "And Shin-chan trusts Katsuragi like a mother, doubt we have to worry about that."

Shrugging his shoulders, Kaji wasn't so trusting apparently. Crunching some ice in his mouth, "Shinji tell you about the period they shared a room back in Nerv? Not really a motherly thing to do…she was worried he…does he ever talk about that time?" Kaji waved as the song ended and the respective dancers headed off for a breather.

"I don't press Shin-chan or Rits-chan about what happened back then. And even if something DID happen, he's more than happy with us and back then was odd for everybody," Maya wobbled a bit more. Her time with her friend had been odd, the kept pressing her for sex and she always pushed back. It took a month after the last battle before Maya was allowed back in the city. 'How about once before you go? We really like you Maya-chan!' they had tried to guilt her into it. Well that was a burnt bridge, and Maya still had yet to admit to herself she was considering it.

Giving Maya quite the affectionate one handed hug, Ritsuko and Misato were pacing each other and it showed. Misato could take it a lot better than Ritsuko could. "So this is where you were hiding? Almost suspect you'd drag Shinji-kun off to my office and bunker down in there. Glad you didn't," she nibbled on Maya's ear and plopped down at the table. Somebody was nearly done for the evening, Ritsuko was bobbing and weaving.

"Watch out for her, Maya, she's all grabby right now. I swear the newly christened Aoi Hyuga nearly fell over watching us," Misato signaled the server to bring a drink. The moment Misato did so, Ritsuko did the same. A rivalry between the women, neither was backing down. Sitting down next to Kaji, "And what were you doing over here? Hitting on Maya while Shinji is…are they still out there?" Misato pointed as Asuka and Shinji stayed out on the dance floor with a few others. After chatting for awhile Misato took another look at the dancing pair, "Still think it'd be better if she moved back in with us, leave you three some privacy."

Empty nest syndrome? Misato had cared for both pilots for almost a year, grew to care about them, and now both were gone. Maya didn't care, Shinji was NOT moving back in with her. What happened in the past might be a thing she forgave, but that was the past! Future was something different, the future was just Ritsuko, Shinji, and her. Well…Soryu likely would be there for a long time. "I don't think she'd like seeing Kaji-san and you together. Neither of you are very subtle," Maya could only guess how those two were when alone.

"Misato is as subtle as an elephant shitting in an enclosed room!" Ritsuko slurred, her head pressed to the table. Maya put her hand on the open back of Ritsuko's green shoulder less dress. Woman needed this more than the newlyweds, Ritsuko had such a hard time relaxing. Just like Shinji, Ritsuko had a long road to mental recovery ahead of her but she had people around to help her. Sleeping arrangements at their shared apartment, which used to be Ritsuko's, were strange. Ritsuko had terrible nightmares when she slept alone, so Maya alternated between rooms. Asuka got the smallest of the three bedrooms, which used to be Ritsuko's office.

They all just stared at Ritsuko who had her eyes closed and a content smile on her face. "I think she's had enough for the night. Maya-kun, maybe you should take her home. If she stay's she'll keep trying to keep up with me. And I don't want a trip to the ICU for a stomach pumping is a way to honor the Hyuga's. I can take those two home with us," Misato flinched her glass over at dancing couple.

"Best to take us all back together, no offense. Leave that girl alone with him, both of them drunk…she'd do something," Maya continued to pat Ritsuko's back. Gods the woman's back felt like ambrosia against Maya's palm. "Get up Senpai, time to go home, nights over," Maya sang over the growing music. They had all given Makoto and Aoi their congratulations already, so they had nothing really keeping them here rather than having fun.

Rocketing up quickly, nearly toppling the chair, Ritsuko spun on the others with a wicked look on her face. "Maya-chan! We spoke about this already! Soryu is forbidden from having sex with Shinji! We talked about this…just you and me! NO…You, me, and him…yeah! Let's go home! We don't have work tomorrow and I need both of you! Soryu can listen, don't care," jerking out of the chair, a crazed zeal on her face, Ritsuko dragged Maya off.

"T-talk to you later!" Maya called as the stunned couple just sat their stunned at Ritsuko's declaration. Come Monday it was time to test Unit-01 with Asuka. Shinji was still good for piloting, but Asuka was an unknown. Nobody wanted to fund replacing the Eva's power cords, not in light of all the new evidence against the commanders. But since Unit-01 was self-powered they still had to deal with that until the UN came to a conclusion about it. But with only Shinji able to pilot it right now…decommissioning was the most likely option. Bouncing off couples as Ritsuko made a beeline right towards their man, "Sempai maybe we should slow down, we're hitting a lot of people."

The force of nature that was Ritsuko Akagi would not be stopped through. Moving right to the center of the dance floor, finding Asuka and Shinji slowing down, "Shinji!" Ritsuko yelled out with an authoritative demand. Putting her hand to her chest, nearly pulling it down and exposing herself she steadied herself, "It is time for us to go home young man…you have chores to do! Chore one…ME!" OK…drunk Ritsuko cared absolutely NONE for what people heard her say.

"Ritsuko-san!" Shinji yelped as Ritsuko grabbed his hands and yanked him away from Asuka and into an amorous hug. Frantically looking about, others were watching them and laughing, "Maya-san…little help? Asuka?" But no help was to be received, Shinji was sacrificed to the tentacle-like hands of one Ritsuko Akagi. Making their way to the car, Asuka took the helm being the most sober, the trio all fell into the backseat. Shinji had tried to seat Ritsuko back there but she drug him in with her…rather than fight they just went with it.

Back at the apartment, it went just as Maya wanted…maybe they should get Asuka some soundproof headphones. Ritsuko drug them both into her room, and they all sobered up as they burned off all the alcohol. Cashed but basking in the afterglow, "Thinking…Ritsuko and Shinji Ibuki," Ritsuko dreamily stated. "I hate my mother, Shin-chan's last name is synonymous with a plan for global genocide now…and it's cute," she leaned heavily on Shinji's chest.

"I like the sound of that, I like it a lot. But then again I wouldn't have minded Maya and Shinji Akagi," Shinji admitted and yawned aloud. He did have the hardest job that evening as he did his chores. Servicing two very energetic and demanding women had to take a lot out of him, thank the gods for the energy of youth. But even his batteries needed a recharge from time to time.

Drawing the blanket up, it was time to sleep, Maya flipped to her side and joined Ritsuko in the conquest of the great chest plains. "Glad you both agree on that. Just need to pick a date, and plan the honeymoon," she said sleepily. Yes, this was the start of next chapter in their lives. It would be the better part, devoid of giant monsters, conspiracy, and pain. They would be looked at awkwardly, Shinji's age and status as pilot and Ritsuko's aiding of Gendo would make them pariahs. But that didn't matter to Maya, she knew them best and would support them through all she could.

In the morning, Ritsuko was doggedly sick with a hangover as was Asuka. Maya and Shinji were fine though, so they continued the reorganization of the apartment so each of them had a little private place. They'd need to move to a bigger place soon. Four adults living together needed more than a three bedroom apartment. With their combined wages they could easily afford it. Shinji cooked some simple food for the bedridden pair, Maya tried her hand at cooking something special for the two of them. A good day, a good fresh start, and she was looking forward the future for the first time in ages.


Sitting at her desk, bored out of her mid, Asuka listened to the teacher prattle on. Funny how despite how much time passed the same cycles kept repeating. Teacher was new, a younger woman this time with tightly bound red curls and soft purple eyes, but she went over the same stuff she had heard time and time before. High school was much like junior high, only she was in a different class than Shinji was this time. That pissed her off, but she didn't fight it, even though she knew she could. He needed some time away from her, she did eat up much of what little 'free time' he had. Hell most of the students in her advanced class were strangers to her, and she really didn't care to learn their names.

"Stand, Bow," Hikari had followed her and again was able to keep her title as representative. Nobody else wanted the responsibility or she was just respected enough to have it. As the students followed like drones, Asuka did the same, then grabbed the lunch Shinji made for her. Still doing all the menial labor that she was to good to do herself, stupid lovable lug. "So where do you want to eat today? Quad, roof, or here?" Asuka wanted to eat elsewhere but would leave it to Hikari. Over time Asuka did try to temper forcing her wants on others.

Her hair no longer in the tail, she was trying a short cut of hair just below her ears, Hikari shrugged. Wiggling her own lunch, "How about outside today, it's so nice out there." The open windows had been abject torture to the students that wished to revel in the perfect weather. Getting in step with Asuka, the pair headed for the door, "So what is up today? Want to go shopping?"

"Not today, Nerv stuff," Asuka opened the door only to stop as a boy stood there with an unreadable expression. Great another one of these guys, "Hikari you have another suitor pledging their undying love to you." Asuka huffed and just breezed past the shaggy brown haired boy, and leaned against the wall. Hikari was getting one of these a week lately, spring fever (if spring was actually a thing anymore), and sadly Hikari hadn't scared off the boys like Asuka had. "Cowards wouldn't know what to do with me if I let them," Asuka tapped her foot impatiently.

Tapping her shoulder, making her jump and let out a cute little shriek, Shinji smiled warmly at her. "Hikari have another one?" Shinji asked scanning the sea of people for her. "Kensuke and Chidori already headed to the roof, so if you don't want to see them," Shinji just shrugged. Tired, he was looking tired again, not surprising though. Not every week you get a new last name, and become the subject of scorn by a lot of your fellow students.

"Yeah, of course she is. Short hair is in this year and she just had to get that cut," Asuka hiked her thumb at the girl. Hikari was bowing lightly, note in hand, then hurriedly heading over to them. Never would Asuka ever like Chidori, more so since Sakura returned to Japan. "You having a good day, nobody giving you any shit?" Asuka would have to protect him if he was. Kid was just to soft, despite everything they endured he was just to soft. She liked soft…hell she loved soft.

Ignoring the question, a tell Asuka was growing to hate, "You've really become very popular Hokari-san," Shinji scratched the back of his head. It was going to be like this again! He was being harassed by somebody, and didn't want to bother Asuka with it. Well guess putting it to two older women did give him a sense of male pride. Was it people mocking him for being married at sixteen, hatred over what his jailed father (life sentence twenty times over with no parole), or was it Chidori's unfocused hatred?

"You WILL tell me what is happening when we get home," Asuka slapped Shinji's back with her lunchbox. The new place was so much better than Akagi…sorry Ibuki-2's last apartment. It took longer than expected for life to fall into its rut, that tiny apartment had lasted far longer than anybody wanted. But now they had a lovely two story house with plenty of room and two full bathrooms! Cost a lot, but with four incomes going into that house they could afford it. But enough with being depressed, latching onto Hikari's arm, "Now who was that sad sack that couldn't say how he feels and had to write it?"

Laughing lightly, Hikari held up the open letter, "Just that he's liked me since we started high school and wants to take me out. Oh and while we were chatting he has a friend if you want to make it a double. And did I see you being teased Ika-sorry Ibuki-kun?" Hikari smiled at that, girl had no qualms with Shinji's new last name.

Asuka started to fade in and out as Shinji and Hikari danced around the issue. Yeah it was a combo of boys that were threatened by Shinji so they acted like a pack of jackals. Alone none of those boys would have acted, but in a pack they tried to take Shinji down. She'd 'talk' to those little boys, always little boys, she was surrounded by them. "Let's go eat outside, Shinji can pretend that nothing is wrong out there. And if you want a double date…Shinji will be my escort," she tugged on Hikari's arm. Not dating, calling what Asuka shared with Shinji something so juvenile was hilarious.

So outside they went and Asuka scared a gaggle of young students away from her favorite spot. It really was lovely outside, Asuka layed in the sun with her head in Shinji's lap and just enjoyed it all. Age was working wonders on her body, making an already lovely figure agonizingly more so. But anybody that had the gumps to ask her out got a quick rejection, those that pushed…she pushed back harder. She just didn't want to date right now, life was how she wanted it. Everything was comfortable, neigh perfect.

Lunch passed with only one small incident, one of Asuka's would-be paramours called out a slur that Shinji was cheating already. Children, must she always be surrounded by children? Thinking of children, that soured the day more. After lunch, Asuka saw Chidori and Kensuke on their way back to class, matching shirts on. Chidori was still riding Shinji hard over Sakura's own stupidity. Sakura was now married as well! Married to Fukuyama of all things. That had initially got a laugh out of Asuka. The asshole had hunted Shinji's castoff down in England, knocked her up, and tried to lord that over both Asuka and Shinji. Didn't work, Sakura's father used his gloat to force a marriage and…now the girl was four months pregnant. How was that Shinji's fault!? Asuka wanted to pitch the girl down the stairs for insinuating it, but laws were laws.

Back in the classroom, Asuka returned to being bored and sending Shinji occasional messages to tease him. With Misato off on a 'not a honeymoon since we're not married but as close as we will be' with Kaji, somebody had to keep him on his toes. Still so innocent and gullible, glad that hadn't changed. After school, the two pilots headed to Nerv and its much smaller base, and Asuka's first activation test with Unit-01. Sad as it was, Unit-02 was decommissioned and dismantled. Part of Asuka felt joy at that. The symbol of her past, her pain, was finally destroyed and she felt the same. And knowing her mother's soul was no longer imprisoned made a lot of topics for her monthly visits to Aoi Hyuga.

Ritsuko oversaw her test, with Shinji at her side. Stupid lovebirds, even if nobody saw it but Asuka, those two were gushing over one another. It was cute, she was happy for them. Unlike Shinji, Asuka got to stay all the way through the aborted Instrumentality and she was going to live up to it. Ayanami or Lilith or whatever it was gave Asuka the choice. Join her in neigh godhood or stay on earth and insure Shinji was happy. Since Shinji's happiness gave her happiness it was easy enough to do. Yui accepted Asuka's plea to aid Shinji and Unit-01 activated for her.

If it wasn't for Misato's new command over Nerv Asuka's activation would have been seen as a nightmare. Initially the world wanted Nerv, all of Nerv, condemned for crimes against humanity and Unit-01 and 02 destroyed. Give the alcoholic some credit, Misato got public opinion to change with many PR events of Unit-01 helping and aiding the country. It meant Shinji had a job for life that paid more and more as they got constant requests for Unit-01's aid. Now he could take some time off, get clean of LCL, and finally knock up Maya. Ritsuko had been clear she didn't want kids, Shinji was iffy, but Maya DID want a child so…the matron of the Ibuki clan was going to get her wish.

Time continued to pass. Highschool ended, HIkari dating various guys throughout but not settling. College came, Asuka was glad Shinji opted to join her at Tokyo-University rather than be a stay at home dad for his daughter. Asuka tried dating a little around that time, it never took. Once she was close, even moved out of the Ibuki home to live with her man. But something felt wrong about it, not what she wanted. So she came back, and they welcomed her. She got her doctorate in physics and joined Ritsuko in advancing humanities quality of life. LCL, well imitation LCL, had some marvelous properties.

Friends came and went, oddly enough Asuka DID become friends with Chidori after the girl got pregnant with Kensuke's seed. Misato and Kaji never did marry, but they lived together regardless. The Ibuki's fought, Asuka caused tension until they just said 'fuck it, we don't care' and let her have her way. Nothing was what Asuka thought life would be when she was fourteen, thank the gods for that. Far from perfect, but it was very agreeable most of the time. Sometimes you have to fight for what you want, sometimes what you want is taken from you or lost, but as long as your willing to keep going, to never give up Asuka knew she'd never be without. With nothing else she'd always have Shinji, herself, and the drive to continue.

X- The End – X