A seemingly routine mission to Germany goes horribly wrong, resulting in a very different end to the Evangelion story. Violence, language, and romantic/sexual elements. Pretty heavily skewed towards Shinji/Hikari. Completed in November of 2002.
"My name is Kaworu Nagisa," the boy with the gray hair said, smiling softly at the other pilots, "it's nice to meet you."
"Kaworu is going to be our backup pilot," Misato Katsuragi announced, her voice sounding slightly hollow as she looked down at the floor, "are there any questions?"
"Backup for which Unit?" Asuka Langley Souryu asked, frowning faintly.
"Any that need it," the purple-haired woman said flatly, unwilling to coddle the Second Child, "if anything happens to any one of you, Kaworu will step in."
Shinji Ikari nodded, stealing a glance at Asuka out of the corner of his eye. - She looks mad...- he thought.
Since the fifteenth angel, Asuka had been mostly back to her old self... with one notable exception - she wouldn't allow anyone but Shinji to touch her. It was rather an odd situation, Shinji thought. He had first noticed it when Misato had patted Asuka on the head - just a little touch, as a 'you're such a good kid' joke. Asuka had stepped back quickly, raising her hands defensively and glaring at her guardian.
It seemed to Shinji that she simply didn't trust anyone... and he couldn't blame her, after what she had gone through. - I'd probably be the same,- he thought as they rose to leave the briefing room, -worse, I'll bet...-
He thought that maybe Asuka's willingness to have him near stemmed from his being the one to comfort her after the attack. Of course, there was no way to be sure, because when he had tried to ask if anything was wrong he had simply gotten a blank stare and a mumbled, 'Nothing at all... now if you'll excuse me...'
Sighing, he made his way towards the exit, smiling faintly as he recalled that his girlfriend would be waiting for him at the little city park on the far side of the new lake, and remembering the morning after their first time together...
If there ever was a more awkward morning, Shinji could not recall it. He was dressed again in his shirt and slacks and sitting in Hikari Horaki's living room, staring at the floor as she cooked breakfast for him.
They had said nothing since last night... avoiding the complicated issues of their actions with silence. The first moment of the morning had been the worst. The day began with wakefulness, an exchanged glance, and deathly stillness. They looked at one another for a moment, and then simultaneously looked away, climbing out of bed and dressing without saying a word.
-We both wanted this...- he thought, -so why can't I talk to her...?-
In the kitchen, Hikari's thoughts were running in a similar direction. - What's wrong with me...?- she thought, angrily flipping strips of bacon, -last night... last night was heaven. Yeah, it hurt at first but then...- she closed her eyes, smiling as she remembered how good it had ended up being... and blushing, thankful that her family had not been around to hear her screaming his name.
"This is stupid..." she whispered to herself, taking the food off the burner. She went into the living room, "Shinji," she said, relieved to see him smile as she entered, "last night was... I mean..." she stammered and flushed, "I don't... regret... I..."
He stood up and pulled her into his arms, kissing her firmly, "I don't either..." he said, some of the tension leaving him, "and I wanted to... I think that I'm... I..."
She smiled, knowing the words he was trying to force out... they were sitting on the tip of her tongue as well.
Before either of them could say anything, the sound of the front door unlatching caught their attention. They stepped apart, blinking in confusion as the door opened.
"Mister Ikari!!" a ten-year-old bullet slammed into Shinji's stomach, nearly knocking him to the ground, "You're here! You're here! You're here!"
Hikari blinked as her sister hugged Shinji's waist tightly. "Kodama?" she whispered, entirely at a loss for words.
She looked back to the door and found her father and other sister standing there. "I see you decided to take my advice," Kazuki Horaki said, "I'm glad."
She flushed, certain that he did not meant for her to take his advice quite as far as she had. He said to have Shinji keep her company... but she doubted he would approve of what they had done.
"You're still wearing my bracelet!!" Kodama was saying, "You ARE my friend!!"
Shinji smiled, clumsily putting his arm around the young girl. "Well of course," he said with a grin, recovering his composure quickly, "and you wanna know a secret?" Kodama's eyes were as wide as saucers as she nodded emphatically. Shinji looked around, as if he was making sure no one was watching, then leaned down and whispered, "Right now, you're my second best friend..."
She gasped, "I AM!?" she squealed, tightening her grip.
Shinji nodded, his eyes slipping to Hikari's.
-Oh God...- Hikari thought, -this is what it's all about... isn't it?-
Since breakfast was already cooking, she excused herself to the kitchen to add more for the rest of her family. She hoped her father didn't see the deep blush on her cheeks as she thought that, for the first time since her mother's untimely death, maybe she could be happy...
Kaworu's hand on his arm brought him back to the present. "What can I do for you, Nagisa?" he asked politely, wondering idly why Misato had been so down lately.
"I was wondering if you could show me around," the red-eyed boy said quietly, "I don't know anyone in this city, and I understand you're very kind."
Shinji flushed slightly at the boy's frank statement. "Well, ummm..." he paused, -Hope Hikari doesn't mind...- he thought. "I'm meeting someone for lunch..." he said awkwardly, "but I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you came with..."
The gray-haired boy smiled. "Thank you," he said plainly, "and please call me Kaworu."
Shinji nodded, and they started to walk out of NERV Headquarters. - It's been two weeks...- Shinji thought as they made their way towards the exit, -feels like forever...- He smiled. "I'm actually seeing my girlfriend," he said softly, still thrilling at the sound of the simple word, "I think you'll like her."
-Hikari Horaki,- Kaworu thought immediately, -yes, I know all about her...-
SEELE had filled the Fifth Child in on the attempt to seize Lillith's shadow, and the resulting closeness between Shinji and the Horaki girl. He had been angered that the original plan had been discarded, but he managed to show them only the calm, placid face he had perfected over his years of dealing with the black monoliths and their servants.
"I am sure that I will," he said to Shinji, "if she is smart enough to choose you as her mate, and attractive enough to engage the attention of someone as special as yourself... I am certain she must be an outstanding individual."
"She's... not my mate," Shinji said, flushing brightly, "she's just my girlfriend..." he bowed his head, "and I'm not so special..."
"I think you are," Kaworu said quietly.
Shinji blinked. "You've only known me for an hour and a half," he pointed out.
"Perhaps," the gray-haired boy admitted, "but I have read your profile... and I have spoken with your guardian..." he smiled brightly, "and I feel that I have known you much longer..."
Shinji considered this. "Well," he said after a moment, "I'm glad that you're comfortable..."
The two boys came up short as Rei Ayanami rounded the corner ahead of them.
Shinji smiled. "Hi Rei," he said warmly, "how are you?"
After the last angel attack, the red-eyed girl had made her presence much more prevalent in Shinji's life... and was actually growing more talkative - at least with him.
-All these people,- Shinji thought suddenly, -it's like they're changing just for me... kinda scary...-
"Hello Shinji, it is nice to see you..." the First said softly, offering him a small smile and turning her attention to the new pilot.
Shinji opened his mouth to reply when he noticed the look that was passing between the two red-eyed Children.
Kaworu's seemingly ever-present smile was just a ghost of its former self, and Rei's expression was...
-Cold...- Shinji thought, closing his mouth and staring at the First Child's hard, glinting eyes, -she looks like she's ready to kill him.-
"Kaworu Nagisa," Rei said softly, "the Fifth Child... you are the same as me..."
Kaworu's smile seemed to grow marginally, and he inclined his head. "Indeed, Pilot Ayanami," he acknowledged, "we are the same..."
Rei leaned forward, lowering her voice so that it was for the gray-haired boy alone. "I will not see him harmed..." she whispered, "not now... not ever..." she leaned back, meeting his eyes steadily, "do you understand?"
The Fifth Child turned to Shinji. "You are a lucky man indeed," he said softly, "to have so many friends." He stepped past Rei, whispering gently, "What will be, will be..."
Shinji looked from one Child to the other, wondering if he should intervene.
"Hikari will be waiting," Rei said softly, moving off down the hallway, "I will see you later, Shinji..."
Feeling relieved that the odd encounter was over, Shinji nodded. "See you later," he said quietly. To Kaworu, he said, "What was that about?" looking over his shoulder at the departing First Child as they continued towards the exit.
"Pilot Ayanami was merely informing me that she was close to you," Kaworu replied, skirting the truth, "and that I should be kind to you."
"Sorry about that," Shinji said ruefully, scratching his head, "she's kinda... motherly lately."
Kaworu smiled, amused by the unconscious irony of the boy's statement.
They finally made their way to the exit, and Shinji paused, looking back at the huge structure with an odd frown.
-How did Rei know where I was going?- he thought.
Shaking his head, he led Kaworu towards the park, smiling as he thought of the lovely girl that was waiting for him there... and never noticing the gray-haired boy's stolen glances his way.
Glances that whispered of longing, loneliness... and hope...
Hikari looked up as her boyfriend walked into the small park they had chosen for their meeting. They were terribly shy about their relationship, and chose quiet, out of the way places to see each other. She frowned as she spotted the gray-haired boy with Shinji, looking to the Third Child for an explanation. Shinji shrugged slightly, answering with a small smile and raised hands, as if saying, 'Trust me.'
Kaworu watched as the girl with the long braid relaxed slightly, returning Shinji's smile and extending her right hand. - They will kiss now,- the gray-haired boy thought as Shinji approached the girl, -that is the practice among loved ones.- His eyes widened however as, instead of kissing her, Shinji simply took her hand in his and leaned up against her.
It was an odd little display. Hikari slipped her other hand into Shinji's, so she was holding both hands, and rested her head against his shoulder, closing her eyes. Shinji simply stood still, staring over her shoulder with a far-off, vaguely content look on his face.
"This is Kaworu Nagisa," Shinji said after a moment of quiet, "he's another Child... like me."
Hikari opened her eyes and regarded the Fifth Child. - Damaged,- Kaworu thought instantly as their eyes met, recognizing the look in her gaze, -the experience in Germany has damaged this one...- He cleared his throat as she continued to look him over. "It is nice to meet you," he said formally.
Hikari blinked, finally releasing her boyfriend. "Forgive me," she said, looking embarrassed, "I'm Hikari... Hikari Horaki. It's nice to meet you, too, Mister Nagisa."
"Please," the red-eyed boy replied, putting more emphasis on the word than he'd planned, "call me Kaworu."
The brown-haired girl smiled uncertainly. "Alright... Kaworu," she said finally. She paused for a moment, looking up at Shinji questioningly, then nodded slightly, "Would you care to join us for lunch?" she asked politely, reclaiming Shinji's hand as discreetly as she could.
"I would love to, Miss Horaki," Kaworu said genuinely, "that would be most pleasant."
-Very proper kid,- Hikari thought absently, unaware of the fact that she had automatically classified the boy as being her junior. "You have to call me Hikari," she said lightly, trying to let go of her unease, "it's only fair." - I just want to be alone with Shinji...- she thought, slightly vexed, -he seems like a nice enough guy... but I don't want to be around anyone right now... just him.-
"That would not be proper," the red-eyed boy said after a moment, "you are Shinji's mate. It would not be appropriate to... have I said something wrong?"
Both Shinji and Hikari were bright red, and their eyes sought out anything but his... or each other. "We're not, ummm... mates..." Shinji said awkwardly, "just... just boyfriend and girlfriend... remember?"
"Ahh, forgive me," Kaworu said with a rueful smile, "you seem so pleased together that I forgot."
"It's ok," Hikari said, regaining her composure quickly, "it happens..." -Well,- she added mentally, -not really. His mate?- She stole a glance at Shinji, blushing deeper still as she recalled that, in the most technical sense of the word, she had mated with him. Shuffling her feet awkwardly, she cleared her throat. "Ummm... I packed a pretty big meal... so there should be plenty..."
As she trailed off, Shinji stepped in. "Let's eat, then," he said, squeezing her hand gently, "I'm starving."
Kaworu smiled softly as Hikari gave her boyfriend a thankful look. - Perhaps damaged is the wrong word,- he mused as they sat on a blanket spread out on the grass, -maybe 'incomplete' would fit better - as if she's lost something...- He nodded to himself as Shinji offered to help her with the basket of food. - Yes,- he thought firmly, -that's more accurate. A part of her was stripped away in Germany, but she has found it again in him. Very curious.-
"Would you like some eel?" Hikari asked, still feeling awkward around the boy with the piercing red gaze, "Or maybe some pork ramen?"
"I actually don't like meat too much," Kaworu said ruefully, "but that salad looks very good. Could I have some of that, please?"
-Guess they ARE alike,- Shinji thought with a small shrug, -Rei doesn't like meat either. Weird.- He frowned thoughtfully. - Wonder if they're related somehow?-
How very close he was to a monumental epiphany he would never know, as the conversation stayed light and fast moving, each of the participants growing more comfortable as their hunger was sated. Hikari asked Kaworu what school was like where he came from, getting the wholly honest reply 'very hard.' Kaworu countered by asking how long Shinji and Hikari had been seeing one another, though he knew full-well exactly how long it had been.
As the afternoon wore on, Kaworu found himself growing more and more intrigued by the couple's relationship. In many ways it had all of the awkwardness of new love. They still blushed when their hands inadvertently met when reaching for the same dish of food, and they still smiled foolishly at one another when they thought he wasn't looking. At the same time, the hallmarks of a long-term romance were present. Shinji would hand Hikari a drink a moment before she asked for one, and Hikari talked about Shinji as if they had always been together.
Overall, it was a most edifying experience for the curious Fifth Child.
"Thank you for a lovely meal," he said as he help them pack the leftovers, "it was very relaxing."
"Sure," Hikari said brightly, sneaking a small touch from Shinji's hand as he slipped the ramen into the basket, "it was nice to meet you, Kaworu. We should do something again some time."
"I would... like that very much," the gray-haired boy stammered, unable to identify the warm sensation in the pit of his stomach from the simple suggestion.
"I promised Kaworu I would show him around," Shinji said, his tone apologetic, "is that ok?"
Hikari ALMOST frowned. "I, umm... yeah," she said finally, a brief look of fear flashing across her face before being quickly hidden, "but you'll stop by later, right? Papa... wanted me to invite you to dinner again."
Shinji's lips compressed slightly, the small pause in her speech crying out 'this is a lie' almost audibly. "Yeah," he said gently, giving her a comforting smile, "I'll be there."
"I will give you a minute to say goodnight," Kaworu said with a smile, missing the sudden, intense flush on both children, "meet me at the gate?"
Shinji managed a nod, trying not to look at Hikari as the other boy waved and headed off.
"He's... interesting," Hikari said quietly, taking Shinji's hand, "kinda like Rei."
The Third Child sighed. "Yeah," he admitted, "but I think he's lonely."
"Why do you think that?" the girl asked, sighing as he finally embraced her, "Just because he watches us like a hawk and practically sighs whenever we hold hands?"
"Caught that too, huh?" Shinji frowned, "I'm sorry if he made you uncomfortable."
"It's alright," Hikari assured him, leaning further into his arms, "I feel kinda bad for him. All alone in a new city... I think it's great that you're gonna be his friend."
"I just said I'd show him around," Shinji murmured, "I never said I'd-"
"Shhh..." Hikari whispered, closing her eyes and smiling softly, "you will."
Shinji looked off to where the other boy could barely be seen waiting by the gate to the park. "I know," he said after a moment.
Hikari smiled, putting her hand on his cheek and guiding his lips to hers. "Go on," she murmured, flushing as they broke apart, "go show him around."
Shinji nodded, taking another look at her face before letting her go. "I'll be over tonight," he promised, "just don't tell the girls, ok?"
The ponytailed girl grinned. "You like that look, don't you?" When Shinji protested that he didn't know what she meant, she smiled wider. "Yes you do!" she chided, "You like that little 'Is he here? Yes he is!' look that they get. I know you do, Shinji."
"Maybe a bit," the boy grumbled, "but-"
"See you later," Hikari cut in, giggling slightly, "and I won't tell them."
Shinji sighed, smiling in spite of himself as he started to walk away.
He turned to find her face serious once more. "What is it?"
"Nothing," Hikari murmured, her face a brilliant crimson, "just thought maybe we could go somewhere, ummm... more private after dinner..."
Shinji stammered, "S-sure," and blushed an equal shade of red as he turned and headed for the gate.
They had been together intimately less than a handful of times, and of those times they had only made love twice... but since the second time they felt closer than ever before, and the desire to be as close as possible was a powerful one.
"You're blushing," Kaworu pointed out, "are you embarrassed?"
"No," Shinji replied, shaking his head, "I'm just... never mind, I don't think I could explain it."
Kaworu looked disappointed, but shrugged. "Alright."
Together, the two youths headed into the city... and into a fantastic friendship. Over the next two weeks, Kaworu spent every available minute in Shinji's company, reveling in the kindness and compassion the other boy showed him. Shinji found that Kaworu was an empathetic audience, and an accomplished marksman as well.
Their friendship was formed on the pistol range and in quiet parks and restaurants, allowing themselves to grow more attached to one another as Hikari looked on. As for herself, the young Horaki found that she liked Kaworu... though not as much as Shinji. She felt that he was a nice boy, but just a touch odd. He would say the strangest things, like the comment about her and Shinji being mates. But for the most part, she had no problem with him - and the fact that he could make Shinji smile made him ok in her book.
Sadly, all good things do come to an end, and no matter how hard he tried to fight it, Kaworu could not shake the urge to fulfil his purpose.
"Soon," he whispered to himself one evening after Hikari and Shinji had dropped him off at home, "I think... it will be very soon now."
He closed his eyes and went to sleep, thoughts of the brown-haired boy lingering in his mind as the sounds of the night lulled him to sleep.
Shinji closed the door to the apartment with a heavy sigh.
"That went... badly," he mused, pondering his visit to the Horaki's, and the conversation he had started regarding his desire for them to move away as soon as possible.
Is spite of the good times he was having with Kaworu, things at headquarters were getting bad. He had not seen his father for some time, and neither had anyone else - including the sub-commander. Maya had informed them that he was gone on an important last-minute trip, and had barely had the time to inform her before rushing off.
Shinji didn't like the sound of that one bit.
If his father had needed to rush off so fast that he only had time to inform a passing technician, it must have been dire indeed.
Add to this, the news of the destruction of the Dummy Plug system - by the head of Project-E no less - and Misato's sudden desire to increase security around the mysterious 'Heaven's Door,' and it soon became clear that something big was on the horizon.
"Heaven's Door..." Shinji mused quietly, "She won't even tell me what's behind it... or why it's so important." He sighed. "I don't even think she meant to tell me at all. She must be REALLY nervous if she's letting things slip."
He headed towards his room, exhausted from the day's activities.
Tests had been administered... confirmations had been received... secrets had barely been kept. Overall, it was one of the longest days he had ever seen.
"At least I get some down-time tomorrow," he yawned, pealing his shirt off and tossing it onto his chair. "Little time on the pistol range with Kaworu... then a little lunch with Hikari... then a nap." He grinned as he lay down on his bed. "Yeah..." he sighed, "definitely a nap..."
He was soon snoring peacefully, dreaming of laughter, happiness, and a kind-hearted girl with long, dark brown hair.
There was no transition between sleep and wakefulness. One minute Kaworu was unconscious, the next, he was wide-awake.
He sighed, staring up at the ceiling of his room. - Another day,- he thought, frowning, -another step closer.-
"Did you dream?"
He contained his surprise very well, barely starting as a soft, female voice addressed him. He turned his head, finding the seat next to his bed occupied.
"DO you dream?"
He considered the question for a moment, meeting the intruder's luminous red eyes steadily. "Do you?" he countered.
The girl leaned closer, bracing herself by placing a hand on the edge of his bed. "I see things sometimes," she said quietly, "but I hesitate to call them dreams."
"Why?" Kaworu queried, his voice a touch breathless as she drifted closer still, "Why do you hesitate?"
"Dreams are scattered," the girl replied, rising halfway to her feet and invading his personal space, "the things I see... they are focussed... they are definite..." she put a hand on either side of his chest, moving to within an inch of his face. "They are... terrifying."
"Nightmares," Kaworu whispered, unconsciously shrinking back from the intense, unwavering stare of the other, "they're called night-"
"No," the girl cut in, "again, nightmares are non-linear. These are visions... and they do not only come when I sleep."
Finally, the Fifth was unable to stand the tension. "What do you want?" he asked shakily, trying sink further into his bed, "Why are you here, Lil-"
He did not have time to blink... that's how fast the other Child moved. One second, she was braced over his body and the next, the first two fingers of her right hand were pressed against his lips, precluding further speech.
"Do not use that name," the girl murmured, her voice cold and level, "do you wish her to wake?"
Kaworu shook his head slowly, relieved in spite of the hard gleam in the girl's eyes. - She IS the same,- he thought with some relief, -the Mother still sleeps within her...-
The girl smiled, but it was flat and menacing. "Do you want me to speak aloud the name of he that rests within you?" she asked quietly, "We could end it right now, you and I. Wake the sleepers... reunite the flesh..." Her voice grew dark. He could think of no other way to describe it other than that. Her words began to flow like black silk against a razor.
"I would sooner take my own life. Do you understand? What is within me shall remain within me until I die, so long as I have my wish. Those that I care for... I will not allow them to be harmed, do you understand me?"
"Would you claim my life then?" Kaworu asked as she withdrew her hand, "Perhaps... shoot me? Our power is equal... you could do it."
"I have no use for guns," the girl murmured, "those are Ikari's fascination." She studied his face for a long moment before whispering, "As he is yours, I suspect..."
Kaworu kept his silence.
"When?" the girl demanded, "When will you test him?"
Again, Kaworu made no reply... though a small, sad smile appeared on his features.
"Soon..." the girl whispered quietly, "I see."
Neither spoke again as the boy slowly reached up and ran a shaking hand over the girl's cheek. They had been one, once... the Mother and the Father, sharing every corner of their souls with the eternal partner they had chosen. But that was a long time ago, and now much destruction would come of their union.
Still... still it felt good to touch her - to imagine how it would be. He knew there could be two outcomes to the final trial.
One leading to his death. One leading to a reunion of the most destructive kind imaginable.
He knew the reason she would not kill him. He knew it all too well. If he were to die, the soul that traveled with him would be released... and it would easily find its way back to the flesh it craved. Then there would be no control of the outcome for the girl... she would have to wait, powerless, until He made his presence known.
And then it might be too late.
The girl closed her eyes, resting her head atop his chest for a moment and allowing herself a small, infinitely sad sigh. "Unfair..." she whispered.
Kaworu could only nod.
Two minutes passed in perfect silence. Two minutes wherein the First and the Fifth allowed themselves to dream of what might have been had they been allowed to come together as the souls inside them longed to do.
Two minutes of absolute, untainted Heaven.
Finally, the girl raised her head, offering him the purest smile he had ever seen. Slowly, she leaned forward, touching her lips to his for the briefest of seconds.
And then it was over.
The girl rose to her feet and turned from the door, walking out without a single word.
Kaworu Nagisa's room was quiet once more, until the boy whispered, "Is this a tear? Am I the one who is crying...?"
It was only the first of many.
"What level you feeling like?" Shinji asked, his tone decidedly distracted as they checked their weapons.
"Let's go for the highest," Kaworu replied, hefting his two pistols comfortably and looking out at the training ground. "I think we can do it."
Shinji grinned. "With you watching my back? I don't think we CAN'T!"
Kaworu smiled, a touch sickly, Shinji thought, and they set the computer to Maximum.
They entered the field together and began making their way across it, eyes alive and scanning for any sign of the defense robots that could easily spell their death.
"I've had a lot of fun these past few weeks," Kaworu commented as they moved. "Thank you, Shinji."
Shinji shrugged, his mind caught between the battlefield and the many secrets flowing through his subconscious. "I did too..." he replied absently.
-I'm sorry...- Kaworu thought, making his decision. "Shinji, there is something I need to tell you..."
"Can it wait?" Shinji answered, narrowing his gaze as he picked up a small movement at the corner of his vision, "I think there's an Intruder robot over there..." he whispered, "should we flank it?"
Kaworu sighed sadly. "Yes," he said softly, "an excellent strategy."
Slowly, the two separated, moving to encircle the location where Shinji had seen the movement. And suddenly, there it was - a jet-black robot, slightly larger than an average-sized man... aiming its weapon at Kaworu's back.
"Look out!!" Shinji screamed, raising the gun in his right hand and pulling the trigger as fast as he could, with barely a second thought.
The Intruder went down, several holes in various places on its robotic body, and Kaworu went... up.
"Shinji," he whispered, slowly floating back to the ground, "this is my secret..."
Shinji barely had time to blink as the Intruder suddenly exploded, its internal components shorted and fused by his gunfire.
Rage replaced confusion as Shinji realized what, exactly, his 'friend' was trying to tell him. He looked around, but the gray-haired boy was nowhere to be seen.
His lips pulled away from his teeth in an animalistic snarl.
"You betrayed me," the Third Child said angrily, scanning the battlefield with narrowed eyes, "you said you were my friend!"
"I am..." the reply came, seeming to echo from all around, "I always have been, Shinji... even before we met. I was born to meet you..."
"Liar!!" Shinji screamed, ejecting the spent cartridge from his pistol and jamming a new one in place, "Friends don't twist their words! Friends don't keep secrets! Friends don't LIE!!"
Kaworu stepped out from behind an obstacle, holding his arms out to the sides, his fingers clearly off the triggers of his weapons. "I never lied..." he said softly.
The brown-haired boy brought both guns up, pulling the triggers with a cry of rage and pain...
Misato yawned as she approached her office.
"Gotta... get more sleep," she whispered to herself.
Keeping secrets was hard on a person... more so when that person is also trying to LEARN secrets, protect her 'Children,' and find out what has become of her sometimes lover.
Overall, Misato was not having a nice afternoon.
She knew Shinji, Kaworu, and Asuka were all in NERV in various places - Asuka most likely catching a nap in the barracks, an after-school pastime she seemed to be indulging in frequently, and Shinji was probably on the training course with Kaworu.
"Waste of time," she yawned, pushing her door open, "how much training..." she trailed off.
"Major," the young woman standing in her office greeted her.
"Rei," Misato replied, "What can I do for you?"
"Have you seen Shinji?" the red-eyed girl inquired. "He was not on the training course when I visited there. I need to see him."
"How long ago were you there?" Misato snorted. "You probably just missed him."
"Perhaps," Rei admitted, frowned very faintly. - But I could not feel... him,- she thought with some concern, -it must be soon... he must be concealing himself.-
"Why do you need to see him?" Misato asked curiously.
Rei weighed her options.
She could not tell the Major the full truth. It would raise too many questions, and she would want to immediately kill the Fifth Child, something Rei could not allow. If she said nothing, however, she would run the risk of being unable to assist Shinji should he need it, as she would need the Major's support, should what she feared was coming truly occur.
"I believe... he is in danger," Rei replied finally. "I believe... the Fifth has hostile intent towards him."
Misato paled. She had been getting a bad feeling all day, and she had tried to brush it off as nerves, what with all she had on her mind... but the idea of Shinji, alone with the mysterious, quiet, red-eyed boy suddenly filled her with dread. "Come on," she murmured, "let's check the range again..."
Rei nodded, and they started off at a walk... that gradually progressed to a jog... and finally turned into a run as the Major's fear of the unknown and desire to protect overcame her. As they jogged, the purple-haired woman pulled her pistol, checking that a round was in the chamber... just in case. By the time they reached the level that held the training grounds, they were running flat out, ignoring the startled glances of the techs they passed until finally, the red light indicating that the grounds were in use came into view.
"He must be in there," Misato panted, skidding to a halt in front of the observation window for the training course and bracing her hands on her knees as she fought for her breath, "they must both be-"
"Look..." Rei whispered, her breathing notably easier as she tilted her head towards the glass.
The purple-haired woman raised her head, her eyes widening as she spotting Kaworu standing in the middle of the field. "What is he..." she trailed off as Shinji appeared, his mouth open in a scream as he brought two pistols around to bear on the Fifth Child.
Rei's soft denial went unheard by the Major, as her own gasp of shock at seeing the fury on her young charge's face as he pulled the triggers masked it. "Wha...?"
The air in front of Kaworu shimmered, the telltale spatial disturbance of an AT field halting the bullets less than a foot from his body. Misato cursed, wishing she could hear what they were saying... though judging from the expression on Shinji's face, his words were not kind.
From the corner of her eye, she caught sight of Rei, pressing one hand against the window and staring intently at the gray-haired boy. "What are you doing?" she murmured, confused by the look of intense concentration on the girl's face.
"Major!!" Maya came into the observation room, gasping for air, "What's going on? The Magi reported a massive AT field inside headquarters..."
"I... think it's Kaworu..." Misato said hesitantly, her attention focused on the confrontation taking place behind the glass... focused so closely that she failed to notice the lack of alarms. "I think he might... might be an angel..."
"No!" Maya gasped, her eyes wide and innocent, "But he seemed so nice."
"I really don't know..." the purple-haired woman admitted, taking another look at Rei, "I just... I don't know."
Maya nodded, turning her attention to the two Children, and scratching the bandage on her right hand absently.
Seven rounds of nine-millimeter ammunition streaked towards Kaworu Nagisa... seven rounds of screaming, superheated metal, a certain death for any human unlucky enough to be in their way.
And every one of them was deflected, never coming close to the boy with the red eyes. "I have always been honest with you..." he said softly, ignoring the bits of lead as they fell to the ground, "you have always been special to me."
Shinji's breath was coming in short pants, and his eyes were narrowed, never leaving the duplicitous Child before him. "Of course," he spat, his upper lip pulling away from his teeth in a subconscious snarl, "I never asked if you were an angel - why would I? No, you never LIED... you just didn't tell me the whole truth."
"And if I had told you," Kaworu said softly, lowering his arms, "would you have befriended me? Would you have shown me the kindness you did?" He lowered his voice, "Or would you have killed me? Perhaps... taken me in your Unit 01's fist and crushed the life from me?"
"I would have given you a chance..." the brown-haired boy said angrily, "I wouldn't have killed you without trying to understand you first, I-"
"And I didn't, either," Kaworu cut in, "I have had many, many chances to reunite with my Father," he said quietly. "But instead, I chose to get to know you... you who were supposed to be my enemy..." tears began to slide down from his eyes as he went on, "you who were supposed to be vile, hateful beings - unworthy to hold Eden as closely as you do."
He smiled, feeling a gentle wave wash over him. "Kill me if you must," he whispered, "I can no longer stop you."
Shinji thumbed the hammers on his pistols back, nodding slowly. "I can't let you go..." he said quietly, "even though we're friends, I have to protect the-"
"Behind you!!" Kaworu shouted suddenly.
Trusting his instincts over his anger, Shinji whirled around, raising both guns and throwing himself backwards as a Defender class robot sprung up from the ground.
Time seemed to stand still as he fell back, and oddly, he recalled the events of that morning.
Opening the door to the apartment, Shinji sighed. "Tests look good," he whispered to himself, "this could actually work..."
He shook his head sadly as he thought of what, exactly, they were testing. Misato had been reluctant - and, if possible, more down than Shinji had ever seen her - but had finally agreed that Shinji's idea was valid... especially considering the information they now had about the 'Marduk' report'
"She looked scared..." Shinji mused, "hell, I don't..." he trailed off as his senses registered movement, and his gun was out in bare seconds.
The man (-Martin,- Shinji thought, -his name is Martin,-) clamped his hand down over the top of the boy's weapon, effectively restricting the slide from moving.
"Stalemate," the large man said softly.
"No," the Third Child replied, thumbing the hammer back, "there's one in the pipe..."
Martin smiled. "Touch?..." he murmured. Seeing that the boy was not interested in small talk or witty repartee, he licked his lips. "Before you pull the trigger," he said, smiling mirthfully, "I have some information that you MIGHT find interesting..."
"I'm listening," the boy said coldly, his peripheral vision catching the clock on the wall, "you've got thirty seconds."
"I'll only take five," the man grinned, "and two words: Heaven's Door." He nodded as the boy blinked uncertainly, "Yeah... I thought that might get your attention. So... can I get you to give me a few more minutes?"
For twenty seconds, Shinji said nothing. "Ok," he murmured, stepping back and easing the hammer down (though he kept the weapon close at hand), "talk."
When Martin left, forty minutes later, Shinji made no move to stop him. Indeed, if what the man said was true, he would need all the help he could get - even from a man who had once tried to kill him.
"So that's how it will play out..." he mused, "and soon... but HOW soon?"
Holstering his gun, Shinji went to the phone... preparations needed to be made... for time was short, and much needed to be done before the storm broke...
Shinji winced, his right shoulder hitting the ground hard. As he slid backwards, the roar of four guns filled his ears with thunder. Round after round found the large machine, peppering it with holes as it tried to raise its weapons. As he came to a stop against something hard, the robot fell backwards, a burst of automatic gunfire tearing from its right arm and scoring the ceiling as it went down.
Shinji never hesitated. Even as the Defender dropped, he swung his arms up over his head, planting his guns flat against Kaworu's chest. With a cry, he pulled the triggers.
-NO!- his mind screamed frantically, -It can't be!!-
Kaworu looked calmly down into the other boy's dark blue eyes. "It seems you're out of ammunition," he said calmly, "and I don't think you have another clip, do you?"
Shinji shook his head slowly from side to side, swallowing as he looked up at the Fifth. Neither spoke for a full minute, and slowly, Shinji's breathing returned to normal. "Ummm..." he hummed finally, "I guess you win..."
"Mmmm..." the other boy replied, tossing his guns to the side, "are things so easy?" he murmured. "Does there have to be a winner and a loser?" He laid his hands gently over Shinji's, pulling the guns from him and dropping them on the ground.
The brown-haired boy slowly rolled onto his stomach, looking skeptically at the hand Kaworu offered him. Hesitantly, he took it, allowing himself to be helped up. "What now, then...?" he asked softly, "I can't just forget that you're an angel... and have the power to kill everyone I care for..."
"No, I know..." Kaworu said softly, his eyes fixed on their still-clasped hands. Slowly, he shook Shinji's hand, smiling faintly. "I don't know what will come next," he whispered, "I leave that to you, Shinji. Whatever you decide, I'll abide by."
The brown-haired boy swallowed, looking uncertainly from the other boy's face to their hands, then back again. "I... I don't know," he said honestly. Since he had had some time to cool off, the answer no longer seemed so clear-cut. When he had been filled with rage, the solution had been simple - kill the enemy... protect... defend... survive. But now, coolly discussing the matter with the boy who had come to be his friend, he did not know quite what to do.
"Maybe Misato could-"
Before Shinji would finish the sentence, Kaworu abruptly pulled his hand away, shoving him backwards. As he fell, the brown-haired boy could see a large lighting assembly, riddled with bullets, free-falling towards the Fifth.
"My god!" Misato gasped, covering her mouth and looking away as the steel and glass crashed to the ground, obscuring the fate of the gray-haired boy from her eyes.
"Hmmm..." Maya hummed, "is that what's called 'Cruel Irony'?" she mused, "Or would this fall under 'Wickedly Appropriate'? Or maybe... 'Divine Intervention'?" She giggled slightly at the last description, "Guess God doesn't really have a preference after all, eh?"
Misato flushed, spinning around to snap at the brown-haired woman... but finding herself staring down the barrel of a pistol instead. "M-Maya?" she stammered.
"You can keep calling me that if you want," the woman replied, gesturing with the gun for the Operations Director to step towards the door, "if it makes it easier for you."
"SEELE..." the purple-haired woman breathed, paling.
"So it wasn't just blind luck that you got where you are," Maya said blandly, "you actually have some brain cells that haven't been killed off by all that beer." She stepped back, "First Child," she said flatly, "take off your clothes and come with me... or I'll kill your 'son.'"
Misato looked confused as Rei nodded and replied, "Yes, ma'am..."
"What are you going to do?" the purple-haired woman asked shakily as the Child undressed, "Where are you taking her?"
"Oh, you're coming with," the tech said, amused, "since you changed all the fucking codes for Heaven's Door."
Misato tried to gain some control. "Not a chance, I-"
The sound of the gun going off was loud in the confined room, and the bullet hole that appeared less than a foot from Rei's head was small. Misato knew, however, that the other woman wasn't bluffing as she corrected her aim, the gun now pointing levelly at the young girl's forehead.
"Commence operation," Maya said quietly, speaking into the button on her left sleeve, "Don't worry, Major..." she muttered as she lowered her arm, "when it's all over, you'll understand... now let's go."
Misato took one last look over her shoulder as she was ushered out of the observation room... but she couldn't see Shinji through the glass...
Shinji groaned, shaking himself as he got to his feet. The training ground was bathed in red, the emergency lighting system having gone active as soon as the had fallen from the ceiling.
"Kaworu..." he coughed, trying to clear his lungs of the dust that had entered them.
Stumbling over to the wreckage, he looked down, searching for his friend's form under the twisted steel and shattered glass... but all he could see was the other boy's left hand, open and protruding from the pile of debris.
"It isn't supposed to be this way," Shinji whispered, dazed, "you have to tell me to be strong... you have to smile and promise me it'll be alright..." he slowly got to his knees, "you have to say goodbye, Kaworu... you have to at least do that..."
All of those scenarios, those movie-like, dramatic good-byes that Shinji always used to imagine for the time when someone close to him passed away... meant nothing when faced with the sheer, horrible silence that greeted him as he knelt beside his friend. With great care, he reached out and took the pale, still hand in his, mesmerized as Kodama's friendship bracelet caught his eye.
Slowly, never even looking up as the alarms in the complex began to sound, he reached into his pocket. "This was going to be for Hikari's sister," he said quietly, pulling out a rather clumsily made twin to the ornament on his wrist, "I'll just... make her another one and you can have this one... k?" Tying the string bracelet in place, he continued, "those alarms mean I have to go now... and I don't know when I can come back to get you..."
Shinji nodded as a voice to his left corrected him. "Yeah, or if..."
"You're ready, then?"
"Don't guess I have much of a choice," the Third Child shrugged, retrieving his pistols and getting to his feet, "so... let's get going..."
"Here's some extra clips for you," the other person said quietly, "and... the SEELE took your guardian - and the First Child. I couldn't intervene... her gun was up against the First's head..."
Shinji nodded, putting fresh clips into his guns and chambering a round in each. "The storm is here," he said sadly, "I wish we had more time to get ready..."
"Me too," came the response, "but no use crying over spilt milk - we've got things to do. It won't do if SEELE gets to Heaven before us..."
Taking one last look over his shoulder, Shinji headed out into the raging storm, hoping that he could make it to Heaven's Door before the enemy... or if not, that he could prevent the horrible catastrophe that would occur of they went unchecked.
At his side, Martin smiled. -Just like the old days,- he thought, hefting his own weapon, -two soldiers, couple guns, whole army against us - let the good times roll!-
Together, the two began their journey.
"I've got activity on catapult 7," Makoto Hyouga announced.
The command deck was in pandemonium. Reports were flooding in from all sectors that armed forces were streaming into the base, and of the highest-ranking official in NERV, only Kouzou Fuyutsuki was present.
"Are they coming in that way somehow?" he asked tensely.
The unknown enemy seemed to be everywhere. Already, the first sixteen levels had been captured, and they had narrowly defended against an outside hacking attack on the Magi. The defense only served as further confusion, as the program in place was unlike anything any of the on-duty techs had ever seen, and appeared practically from nowhere.
"Negative," Makoto replied, shaking his head. "It's... moving from the EVA cages to a launch position."
"What Unit?" Kouzou demanded, leaning forward on the command dais. "Is it Shinji?"
He had given up hopes that Rei would be coming back. The last time she had been seen, it was with Katsuragi... and she was not answering her cell, pager, or the communications device hidden in her red flight jacket.
The odds, Fuyutsuki decided, were definitely not in the First Child and Operations Director's favor.
"It's Unit 01," Makoto reported, sounding confused, "but I can't get any reply on the com, and the body-harmonic readings are... strange."
"Strange?" Kouzou frowned.
"Yeah," Makoto confirmed. "Body temp is higher... breathing is lighter... blood pressure is really high... sync ratio is... thirty percent?" He looked back to the sub-commander. "That's not Shinji."
"It can't be Souryu," Kouzou mused, "I just received word that she's on this level, heading for the cages. She could not have gotten there that fast..."
"Well," the tech shrugged, nodding towards the main display screen, "whoever it is, they might just be saving our skin..."
Fuyutsuki looked up at the screen as an outside camera focused on the sky. "All nine?" he breathed. "Do they plan to do it here?" Shaking himself, he turned back to Makoto. "Try to contact the pilot, let whoever it is know that the EVA series is coming down..." He snorted in disgust. "Damn old fools... Ikari, where are you??"
"Ok," Hikari whispered to herself, "just stay calm..."
Closing her eyes, she cast her mind two days into the past, remembering her last conversation with her family...
Sitting on her bed, Hikari could only stare at the wall as the sounds of hurried packing reached her ears.
"Shinji was right," she mused, "they can't be here... it's too dangerous."
It had taken her and Shinji almost a day of talking to convince Kazuki that he should take his two younger daughters away from Tokyo-3. It had taken another three to convince him that Hikari had to stay. Ultimately, it was Shinji's calm that won out, convincing the father of the Horaki clan that this was the best course of action.
'If you are sure it is the only way,' Kazuki had said hesitantly, searching Shinji's face for any sign of uncertainty, 'I trust you.'
Of course, they had not told her father just WHY she needed to stay. Hikari was sure that he would have had a stroke on the spot. Instead, they wove a well-crafted web of lies and half-truths, mostly centered around the idea that Shinji needed her there for moral support, and that he would be protecting her.
He had sworn to protect her, as a matter of fact, kneeling at her father's feet and swearing on his honor that no harm would befall her.
It was a promise he could not enforce.
The brown-haired girl looked up as her younger sister, Kodama, came into the room and sat next to her.
"You're going to see Mister Ikari a lot, huh?" she asked quietly.
"Probably," Hikari acknowledged, keeping her tone level, "We've... seen a lot of each other lately."
"You know," her sister said, her tone painfully offhand, "Hikari Ikari sounds stupid..."
Hikari barely contained her laughter. "Hmmm..." she nodded, forcing a serious expression onto her face. "You might be right... so if I marry him, should I insist that he take my name?"
Kodama paled, quickly stammering, "N-no, ummmm... Shinji Horaki doesn't sound so good either..."
"Oh," Hikari mused, turning away and biting her bottom lip to keep from giggling. "Hey," she said suddenly, "you what sounds pretty good - Kodama Ikari!"
"Really??" Kodama said eagerly, leaning forward. "Does it??"
"Yeah!" Hikari grinned, "So I'll just change my name, and-"
At the little girl's indignant squeal, Hikari could no longer contain her laughter.
"You're mean!" Kodama exclaimed, rising quickly to her feet and starting for the door.
Hikari grabbed her arm. "Hey," she whispered gently, "I'm sorry." She held her sister tightly as she tried to wriggle free. "Kodama?"
"What?!" the girl snapped, considering biting her older sister so she could get away.
"I'll take care of him for you, ok?"
Kodama blinked, meeting Hikari's eyes with a skeptical expression. "What do you mean?"
Hikari released her sister's arm. "You watch out for dad and Nozomi, and I'll watch out for Shinji, ok? Then, the next time you see him, you can... tell him you like him."
It was a terribly unfair statement, she knew. In many ways, Kodama was the same as Hikari herself - she wanted something, or more accurately, someone, desperately out of her reach. Given some time, she would realize that Shinji would never see her in that light, and though it might hurt her, she would come to grips with it eventually.
Kodama stared at her feet, mumbling something very softly.
"What was that?" Hikari asked, leaning forward.
"I'm not stupid," Kodama repeated, her tone sullen. "Shi- Mister Ikari likes you... really, really likes you." She sniffed. "Really... really..."
Hikari smiled gently. "He likes you too," she pointed out, "he's still got your bracelet."
"I know," Kodama replied, wiping her eyes.
"So you know that-"
"I hate you."
Kodama began speaking, her voice growing louder and louder until she was shouting. "I hate you, Hikari!! You get to be with him, and I have to go run away with dad and Nozomi and hide! You get to be important, and special! And he smiles for you... he laughs for you... you get to hold his hand and I hate you, I HATE YOU!!!"
Hikari just gaped as her sister burst into tears. "When... did you see me holding his hand?"
"Wh-when he w-was at d-dinner!!" Kodama sobbed, "U-under the t-table."
Hikari sighed, reaching out to put her hand on the girl's hitching shoulder. "I really like him, Kodama," she said softly. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
"Not fair," Kodama sniffed, getting her tears under control. "You... didn't even want to be with him, you wanted stupid old Touji - and now he likes you!"
Hikari blushed at the reminder.
Touji Suzuhara had been moved to another hospital at Shinji's recommendation. It had taken much evasiveness and creative thinking to get the doctor's to consent to it, but ultimately they had agreed that the young mister Suzuhara would be best suited in Osaka-2's top-flight physical rehabilitation center.
Having her sister point out that she had, up until very recently, been head over heels in love with Touji opened wounds that had not yet had time to properly heal.
Before she could reply, Kodama went on. "Why do you have to like him now??" she demanded.
Whatever she had planned to say was forgotten as her younger sister turned and ran from the room, wiping her eyes as a fresh bout of tears began.
Hikari lay back on her bed, covering her face with her hands. "God..." she whispered raggedly, "she really does hate me. Maybe she's right..."
"Hikari?" a small, timid voice inquired.
The older girl sat up quickly. "Kodama!" she exclaimed with some relief, "I so glad, I-"
"I'm Nozomi," the girl standing in the doorway answered, her tone conveying mild irritation, "Kodama's in our room, sobbing about Mister Ikari." Coming into the room, she sat down. "I, ummm... heard what you guys were talking about..." she said slowly.
"Yeah?" Hikari sighed. "And?"
Hikari threw her hands in the air. "Well," she muttered, "thanks for-"
"You should have just slapped her."
Nozomi shrugged. "She's being a baby," she pointed out sullenly, coming deeper into the room. "Mister Ikari OBVIOUSLY likes you, not her - and she's four years younger than him. It's not like he was gonna be her boyfriend."
Hikari stared, open-mouthed.
"What?" Nozomi asked, irritated, "I'm right, right? I mean..." she trailed off, suddenly at a loss for words under her older sister's disbelieving gaze. "Just... being a baby..." she muttered, sitting next to Hikari and folding her arms.
She yelped in surprise as she found Hikari's arms around her shoulders.
"Thanks, squirt," Hikari giggled as her younger sister protested the affection.
"Get off!" Nozomi complained, fighting her way free. "Geez!! Get a boyfriend and suddenly you're all stupid and huggy!! Man, I hope I get to be class rep - I'm tons smarter than you!"
Hikari just laughed harder as he sister huffed and started for the door.
"I'm gonna go pack," Nozomi grumbled.
Still smiling, her older sister nodded.
Opening her eyes, Hikari whispered, "I'm sorry, Kodama... I'm sorry I didn't see how much it meant to you." Shaking her head, she reached out with a shaking hand... and keyed the communications system in Unit 01 to life. "Status update," she said as levelly as she could.
"Identify yourself," came the immediate reply.
"My name is Hikari," the young woman answered, her nervousness causing her to forget her manners - and her last name. "I need a combat-status update."
She could still hear Shinji's voice in her mind.
"Stay close to me... IN NERV if you can. And if this goes off," he handed her a small, pager-like device, "you know what to do..."
"Who ARE you?" Makoto demanded.
"It doesn't matter!" Hikari answered, her stomach feeling cold, "I... I need to protect the base!" -God...- she thought, fighting down panic, -what if they try to stop me?-
"I'll vouch for her," Asuka's voice suddenly announced over the com-net, "get her on the surface... I'll back her up in thirteen minutes, I'm almost there."
"Sir?" Makoto asked, looking up to the dais, "the other EVAs will be on the ground in two minutes..."
Fuyutsuki considered his options for less than ten seconds.
"Unit 01," Makoto announced, caught between laughing at the absurdity of putting Unit 01 into combat with an unknown pilot at the controls and hoping that she could really pull it off. "Prepare for combat."
"Roger," Hikari replied nervously.
"Ok... Hikari," Fuyutsuki said calmly, "the Units you are about to face are equipped with S^2 engines - that means they don't have a power or time constraint. Now, this is only relevant as a side note, as you also-"
"Sir?" Makoto cut in, "I've... got no readings from Unit 01's S^2. It's not online!"
Hikari swallowed as Unit 01 was launched.
"Listen," came the voice of one of the technicians, "you must NOT allow your umbilical cable to be severed, do you understand?"
"Yes sir," she replied, "I know. If I do... I'll only have five minutes of power."
"Good girl," came the approving response, "My name is Makoto. I guess I'll be talking you through anything I can..."
Hikari nodded as the purple machine reached the surface. Her eyes widened as she beheld what await her. "There's... a bunch of people," she murmured, "army troops."
"Yes," Makoto replied, "and the EVAs are almost here. You need to kill the army troops quickly."
"K-kill?" Hikari stammered. "I need to... kill them?"
"Yeah," Makoto answered, "before they kill you, me, Asuka - everyone. Start with the tanks."
Hikari took a deep breath of LCL... and began to comply.
It was the most one-sided battle she had ever heard of, as the tanks and VTOLs that attacked her couldn't even scratch her armor. Her conscience kept telling her that these were just men doing their jobs, but she could not afford to listen to it. When her umbilical cable was cut, precisely ten seconds before the white EVAs touched down, and five seconds before the last tank blew up, she knew how serious the situation was.
"What... do I do?" she asked, her voice shaking as she stared at the nine opposing Units.
Asuka would come to help her, she knew. It was only a matter of time, but the reply to her question chilled her, both in its simplicity and its calm delivery.
"So that's why there were no alarms," Misato mused as she entered the codes to open Heaven's Door. "You shut them all down, you bitch!"
"No need for such language," Maya grinned, gesturing for the other two to precede her into Terminal Dogma. "I'm used to it, and it's not doing you much good."
"They'll fight," Misato whispered as they entered the open room, "Every one of them... they'll all fight to the death to stop you!"
The trip to Terminal Dogma had been a quick one, though they had been slowed by the closing of emergency doors and rushing, confused personnel. Maya had kept the gun tightly against the small of Rei's back, and had ordered Misato to give the blue-haired girl her flight jacket, to cover the girl's nudity.
To all appearances, they seemed like nothing more than three more NERV employees, hurrying to their posts.
"They don't have a chance," Maya snorted, "half of them work for us, anyway... and there's an entire battalion of hardened troops coming in the front door right now." She smiled cruelly, "your friends are as good as dead..."
They walked silently up to the immense form of Lillith, the second angel, and came to a halt.
"Do you know?" a quiet voice asked, "How long it took me to figure out that it was you?"
Maya raised her gun, smiling widely as Ritsuko Akagi stepped out from behind the huge cross. "Sempai," she said, amused, "I thought that tricking you into destroying the dummy plug system would keep you out of my hair for a while... what a pleasant surprise."
Ritsuko scowled deeply, training her own weapon on the other woman. "I admit," she murmured, "you were extremely... persuasive..."
Maintaining her aim, the doctor allowed her thoughts to briefly stray to night Maya had deceived her...
"Was I so useless?" Ritsuko whispered, staring at the tank filled with Rei's spare bodies. "I can't even find you... where are you, Gendou...?"
Ritsuko started, whirling around to find her understudy standing in the still-open doorway, a look of fascination on her face. "Maya!" she exclaimed, "How did you... find this place?!"
"I needed to talk to you about the MAGI," Maya answered, taking a cautious step into the room, "I saw you leaving your office, and I followed you to this floor, because it's important." She looked up at the tank with awe. "Is this...?"
"It's the basis for the Dummy Plug system," Ritsuko told her flatly, "Commander Ikari's PRIZE."
"It's... impressive," the younger woman said hesitantly.
"It's a goddamned monstrosity, that's what it is!" Ritsuko snapped. "I helped maintain this damn freakshow!! And what do I get for it? I get cast aside!! I get sent to SEELE in Rei's place! I get FUCKING IGNORED while he goes off to God knows where, and-"
"Sempai?" Maya cut in quietly. "I know it might not be my place, but..."
"What is it?" the blonde asked, frowning.
"Well," Maya said slowly. "I guess I'm not in a position to talk about relationships - hell, my CAT doesn't get fed half the time..." she chuckled weakly. "But... if I had some kind of power in a relationship, and I wasn't being treated right..."
Ritsuko's frown deepened as the other woman trailed off. "What are you suggesting?" she demanded, following Maya's gaze to the tank.
"I can't suggest anything," Maya replied, scrutinizing the closest, blue-haired body. "I'm just a technician. But..."
Maya wet her lips, turning for the door as she whispered, "But if I was being ignored by the man I loved, I would certainly do something to get his attention..."
Ritsuko considered this as the other woman left... never once pausing to wonder why her understudy knew of her love affair as she depressed the button marked 'purge' on the main control panel.
"You heard what you wanted to hear," Maya said softly, bringing the blonde's attention back to the present. "But I'm just slightly curious as to how you managed to get out of the brig."
"Security backdoors are a nice safety feature," Ritsuko muttered, narrowing her eyes. "Helps to have an out in a situation like that. But I'm afraid... I can't let you win. You may have been right about Gendou and Rei, but I still won't allow you to destroy all of mankind... better to sacrifice a few to save the many." She closed her eyes. "This is your daughter's last request, Mother," she called out, her hand tightening on the control unit in her pocket, "for everyone in the world - die with me!"
There was a soft beep as she pressed the 'execute' button.
Stunned, Ritsuko pulled the control unit out of her pocket. The readouts for Balthazar and Melkor both read, 'affirmative,' but the readout for Caspar was marked, "Ha ha ha?"
Misato winced as Maya's handgun sounded, the bullet slamming into the blonde doctor and hurling her to the ground, where she landed with a dull thump. "What?" Maya laughed, keeping the gun trained on the still form, "You think I'm so stupid that I wouldn't plan for your interference, Sempai?"
When Ritsuko continued to lie still, Maya shrugged.
"You should feel honored," she said, cocking the hammer of her pistol back, "I'm going to kill you myself..." Her smile widened, "The last person to have that honor was your boyfriend, Major." She uttered a small laugh at Misato's gasp of shock, "Which reminds me," she said in an offhand manor, "he asked me to tell you something..."
Misato paled. "No..." she whispered, "not like this..."
Maya nodded, showing all of her teeth, "Oh yes... it was his last request." She leaned forward, her voice becoming consoling, "He said, 'Tell her I'm sorry I never said it myself... tell her I love her.'"
Misato screamed - a pure, unadulterated wail of pain and loss.
"Now that I've discharged THAT obligation," Maya said crisply, leveling the gun at the purple-haired woman, "goodbye, Major."
Rei stepped out from behind Misato. "I cannot allow this, Miss Ibuki," she said quietly.
Maya looked at her steadily. "Now isn't this sweet," she said softly, "the emotionless clone, stepping forth to protect those she cares for." Her eyes narrowed, "Do you think I don't know what you are?" she whispered, "Hoping perhaps that I'll shoot, and the bullet will bounce off of your AT field and kill me? I know you were thinking that back in the observation room... but you couldn't do anything then because the Major was too close, and you were afraid it might hit HER instead. Well guess what? You can't do anything now for a very different reason."
Rei's eyes widened as Maya switched the gun to her left hand and extended her right, palm outward. "No..." she whispered in horror as she beheld the embryonic form of Adam, bound to Maya's flesh.
"Yes," Maya smiled, "a gift from your late Commander." She stepped closer to Rei, who stood transfixed, "I'm afraid he was reluctant to part with it... so I had to persuade him rather forcefully."
Rei's face fell, "Commander Ikari..." she whispered sorrowfully.
"Don't waste your tears on him," Maya said with some distaste, "his ultimate plan for you was to use you as a tool... then throw you away - much like I'm going to."
She stepped forward and placed her hand on Rei's breast, "Now..." she said softly, "let The Unification begin."
Rei shivered as the hand pressed forward into her body, sapping any will to fight that she had left.
Misato reached back and drew her second gun, the one kept in the hidden holster on the small of her back (just like Shinji's). She knew that she could not stand idle while this happened, and prayed that she was fast enough to stop it.
As she brought the weapon up, Maya whipped her gun around and fired. The bullet took the purple-haired woman in the shoulder, throwing her to the ground with a surprised yelp. Her gun spun off the edge and into the LCL with a quiet splash. "No, no, no..." Maya said with a broad grin, "wait your turn."
"Miss Ibuki..." a soft voice spoke from the entrance to the huge room, and quiet but sure footsteps began approaching.
"Ahhh, the famous Third Child," Maya said with a smile, not turning to face him, "this is an unexpected treat. I was expecting you to be in Unit 01 by now... or terminated, as the soldiers were ordered. Of course, had you actually MADE it to Unit 01, it wouldn't have done you much good - not with the S^2 engine deactivated."
She smiled, thinking of this masterstroke. Had the S^2 engine been active, the Mass Production EVAs would have tried to capture Unit 01 and utilize it for SEELE's alternate vision of Unification. As it stood, however, the white EVAs would have shredded it without a second thought. This way, she held absolute control.
Just as she had planned.
Shinji didn't answer right away. Maya watched with an arched eyebrow as the younger Ikari came into view, walking past her and kneeling at Misato's side. She observed that the journey to Terminal Dogma must have been a hard one, as his usual button up shirt was missing, leaving him in a tee shirt and slacks, and he was covered with cuts and bruises - and had one particularly ugly looking scrape on his right cheek.
The boy pressed his hands to the older woman's wounded shoulder, "Are you ok, Misato?" he whispered, smiling softly.
She looked up at him, her bloodstained hand covering his, "If someone stops her..." she whispered, grimacing in pain, "I think I'll live."
Shinji nodded, carefully taking Misato's hands and pressing them over the wound. Then he leaned forward and gently kissed her on the forehead, whispering something softly in her ear.
Misato let out a long sigh, her voice trembling as she whispered, "Thank you..."
"Well, this is just the sweetest thing I'VE ever seen," Maya said dryly, "but I think it's time this all came to an end. Pilot Ikari," she said as he rose to face her, "carefully draw your gun and kick it over here." She held her own weapon steady and waited for him to comply.
Shinji nodded, "Of course, Miss Ibuki..." he reached back and pulled the silver pistol from it's holster, feeling oddly naked as he set it on the ground. He brought his foot back and kicked the gun, sending it skittering across the floor, past Maya.
"You never went out for soccer, did you?" she said with a slight smile.
He shrugged noncommittally.
"I never was very athletic."
Maya was already bored with the banter, "You never will be..." she said softly. Turning back to Rei, she whispered, "Now where was I?" She began pushing her hand once more into the young girl, ignoring the look of pain that crossed her face.
The roar of gunfire filled the room as suddenly as a summer squall, catching everyone but Shinji off guard. "What?" Maya whispered, her voice lost in the storm of sound as she looked around in confusion.
Three rounds caught the brown-haired woman in the back, throwing her forward against Rei. Her eyes widened in shock as she looked down at the three exit wounds pouring blood down the front of her uniform and onto the pale girl.
Shinji lunged forward and tore the gun from her grasp before she could even think to react, "Let her go..." he said coldly, pressing the gun to the tech's temple.
Maya ignored him, turning instead to the source of the gunfire. "Sempai?" she whispered softly.
Ritsuko held Shinji's gun in both of her hands, trying to keep it steady as her body shook with exertion and pain. She met Maya's eyes, "That term implies respect..." she rasped, "you don't get to call me that." She pulled the trigger again.
Maya Ibuki, otherwise known as SEELE member number six, never made a sound as the bullet crashed into the side of her skull. Her body slumped to the ground, pulling Rei down as well.
Shinji knelt down and carefully pulled Rei out from under the woman's body. "This may hurt..." he said gently, placing one hand on her shoulder and the other on Maya's arm.
Rei nodded and closed her eyes as Shinji pulled back slowly. As the hand containing Adam came free, Rei sobbed in mixed agony and loss as something deep in her soul called out to have its lover returned to it.
Shinji let the dead woman's arm fall to the ground, pulling Rei away from it and putting his arms around her, "Shh..." he whispered as she cried softly, "it'll be alright now..." Slowly he guided her over to Misato's side and sat her down. "Don't watch this, Rei..." he said, turning her face away.
He walked slowly over to Ritsuko and dropped into a crouch, "Doctor Akagi..." he said, holding out his hand, "may I have my gun back please?"
"How did you know I would do it?" the blonde panted, still spasming in pain, "And how did you know I was conscious?"
Shinji took the gun by its barrel, wincing a bit at the heat, and pulled it from her trembling hands. "I knew you were conscious from the way you were breathing," he said quietly, "it was too uneven and ragged." He rose to his feet, "As to how I knew you would do it..." he shrugged, "I didn't."
She let out a short laugh, "You're just like your father..." she whispered.
He frowned, "Hang on, Doctor Akagi..." he said, refusing to acknowledge the comment, "once this is over we'll get you some help."
She grinned, -SO much like your father...- she thought, knowing he had meant help in terms of both medical and psychological.
Shinji walked slowly over to Maya's body. He knelt at her side and pressed the gun up against her right hand, closing his eyes. - Goodbye, father...- he thought, -I hope you can rest quietly... and I hope you find your way to mother...-
Remembering his training, Shinji Ikari exhaled smoothly as he squeezed the trigger, offering up a silent prayer for the dying.
Asuka surveyed the scene. Unit 01 was lying face down, its back panel gone and several bits of its armor torn free. The six white EVAs Hikari had failed to kill were gathered around the fallen machine, picking at it as if it was a thanksgiving turkey, and desert was already on the table.
"Have they found her yet?" she asked, hoping for a positive reply.
"We know where she is," Makoto's voice came back to her, "or at least, close to it. Her
plug was empty when we got to it, but her trail vanished twenty feet from it... I don't think she wants to be found..."
Asuka nodded. - Good girl,- she thought, flashing back to the meeting she had had with Shinji and the Class Rep not ten hours prior...
"Man," Asuka yawned, stretching in her entry plug, "will this test ever end?"
She had been in the plug for over two hours, and Misato had deactivated her viewscreen for some unknown reason, leaving her in the dark for the past ten minutes.
"Must be something Shinji told her," she reasoned. This seemed like a valid theory, as she had seen the brown-haired boy walk up to their guardian and address her moments before the plug went dark.
She smiled as she thought of the Third Child... the only person that cared for her... the only person she trusted... the only one who had come to her when she had been violated. That she loved him was unquestioned, but as she had told Hikari shortly after the last angel attack, she had no desire to be with him in a romantic way. She cared for him the way a sister cares for a brother, or more accurately - the way a stubborn, proud young woman cares for the only person that has shown they care for her first.
She started, blushing slightly as she heard Shinji's voice over the tac-net. - I wasn't thinking anything bad!- she thought angrily, -I don't need to blush!- Of course, knowing you were innocent and feeling guilty over thinking of someone else's love were two entirely different things.
"Yeah?" she asked, shaking her head and sighing, "What is it, Shinji?"
"I need to tell you something," the brown-haired boy's voice replied, "it's really, REALLY important, Asuka... I didn't want to tell you too soon, but we've got less time than I thought, so you need to know this now."
"What is it?" Asuka wondered curiously.
Instead of a verbal reply, Shinji activated the monitor, smiling... then stepping to the side.
"You're... kidding..." the Second Child breathed.
Hikari raised her hand in a halfhearted wave. "Hey..." she murmured.
Asuka simply gaped, taking in the unfamiliar, pale cream-colored plugsuit and matching neural connectors... and a small gasp escaped her as she spied the number stenciled on the suit's chest.
"She can't!" the redhead protested immediately, "Unit 01... and Shinji... and... and-"
"Asuka," Shinji said softly, cutting the girl off mid-babble, "there's a lot about the EVAs you don't know. Kaji found out that everyone in our class can pilot." He paused briefly, his voice growing softer, "Do you understand, Asuka? Everyone..."
The Second Child leaned back in her seat, stunned. "Even... Kensuke?" she asked dumbly, "Everyone?"
"Everyone," Shinji confirmed, "Kaji got Misato a chip with a whole bunch of other stuff on it before he... disappeared, there's stuff about the EVAs, and the Children... everything."
Asuka considered this, meeting her friend's eyes first, then Shinji's. "What do you need, Shinji?" she asked softly, "What do you need me to do?"
The Third Child smiled, slipping his hand into Hikari's. "Ok," he said firmly, "here's the plan..."
Asuka shook her head. "Sounded so easy when he explained it," she mused, bracing herself as the mass-production EVAs raised their heads, taking note of her Unit for the first time, "just don't get lost out there, Hikari, I'll take it from here..."
That the pigtailed girl had managed to take out three Units, when she had only piloted an actual Unit once, was impressive, Asuka thought. Sure, the simulations NERV ran in the test plugs was impressive, but it could never quite match the feeling of actually uplinking to one of the giant robots.
Pushing thoughts of the brown-haired girl from her mind, Asuka narrowed her eyes. "I am SO going to fuck you up," she growled to herself, "you can't beat me!"
The remaining white EVAs didn't hear her statement, of course, nor would they have been affected if they had... but it wasn't for them - it was for her.
Screaming, Asuka thrust her control yokes forward, her eyes mere slits as she willed Unit 02 to jump, whirling the massive red beast around and making it execute a spinning roundhouse kick, snapping the neck of one of the other Units and hurling it unceremoniously to the ground.
"You can't win," she whispered coldly as the others tried to move in, "don't you get it? I won't lose!"
Unit 02 became an extension of her will, and together, the two of them pressed their attack. Another white EVA fell as Asuka drove her mecha's fist into its chest, shattering its core and ensuring that the creature would never rise again.
"Mama..." the redhead whispered, pausing for a moment as the last four EVAs tried to circle her, "I hope you're watching me, mama... I know you're in Heaven..." she smiled, the battle momentarily forgotten as a memory of her mother surfaced. A memory of the way she was before the accident. "I'll make you proud," she said softly, not noticing the tears on her cheeks, "watch me, mama..."
Truly, Kyoko was proud of her daughter.
Had Asuka been able to see Unit 02's core, she would have been amazed to find it glowing a soft red... as her mother subtly helped her win the fight. The redhead never noticed as she destroyed the final Units that her timer reached all zeros, her umbilical cable sliced cleanly in half by a lucky swipe from one of the white EVAs.
She never noticed because Unit 02 continued operating, powered by her mother's love - a final gift to a daughter she had been forced to leave too soon.
As the final EVA hit the ground, Unit 02 slumped forward, falling gracelessly on its face. "Are you proud, mama?" Asuka whispered, leaning back in the darkened cockpit, "I lived... even though you couldn't, I lived..."
Softly, she began to weep.
Hikari looked out over the remains of her city, trying not to cry as she thought of all the memories that had been destroyed in the blink of an eye. She leaned against Shinji as he put his arm around her, sighing softly as he held her close.
"Is it over?" she whispered quietly.
"For us," he said with a nod, "yeah, I think so. Misato said that she, Kaji, and Martin are going to find the rest of SEELE and make sure they're..." he shrugged uncomfortably.
"What about the EVAs?" the brown-haired girl inquired, "They're still around, aren't they?"
"They will be destroyed," Rei whispered, pulling Misato's flight jacket tighter around her body, "nothing like this can ever happen again." She shivered. "Doctor Akagi will make sure of that - out of spite, if nothing else."
"Why Wondergirl," Asuka said tiredly, "I believe that's the most emotional I've ever seen you." The faint smile that had been on her lips faded, "Do you really think they'll do it?" she asked softly.
Shinji nodded slowly. "Ritsuko and Misato won't let them just lie around... but they're going to have to hurry - I don't think SEELE will sit quiet for long."
The four children fell silent for a moment, the soft mountain wind the only sound that could be heard.
"Shinji..." Hikari said finally, pulling the Third Child away from the other two, "I need to talk to you." She met her lover's eyes steadily, her voice only breaking only slightly as she whispered, "I'm pregnant, Shinji... I just found out yesterday. That... that first time... I..." he face crumpled, "Shinji..." she gasped, trying not to cry, "what are we going to do?"
"Shhh..." Shinji soothed her, fighting down his own panic as she broke down. - She needs me to be strong,- he thought, -not fall all to pieces...-
For a long moment, he let her cry, stroking her hair gently and kissing her tears away.
When she finally calmed slightly, Shinji tilted her head up so he could look into her red-rimmed eyes. "I love you," he whispered quietly, "and no matter what happens, I'll stand by you... ok?"
Hikari took a deep, wavering breath, forcing herself to smile. "I know you will, Shinji," she replied, "and I love you, too... but-"
"Don't," Shinji cut her off, laying a finger on her lips to silence her, "just trust me. I promised to protect you, and I still plan on keeping that promise. I'll stay with you no matter what happens, even..." he dropped his eyes, "even if you decide you don't want the baby, and-"
"How could you even say that to me?" the girl replied, her voice shaking, "To think that I would ever give up a child - especially your child!" she shook her head, taking a deep breath, "I'm just... I'm scared, Shinji... I'm real scared..."
"Me too," Shinji admitted, "but together, I think we'll be ok..." he smiled, nodding as Asuka called that they should get going before more troops moved into the area. Taking Hikari in his arms, he kissed her softly, wiping away the last of her tears and looking into her eyes. "No matter what happens," he promised, "I will always be with you..."
Hikari shook herself, letting a more genuine smile spread across her face as they started off into the mountains, believing in her lover as he promised her forever.
"We can make it through this..." Shinji said softly, "or anything that life throws at us. Because we have each other... we have our friends..."
Hikari closed her eyes and smiled as he kissed her hand softly.
"And we're survivors..."