Hope you like it!
Misato Katsuragi posed the question to the woman sitting beside her in the otherwise empty room. She dared not peek at her watch for fear of finding out just how few hours of sleep she was going to get that night, but it was late enough that the employees at the bar had long since finished with their shifts for the day. That had not stopped Makinami from forcing the locked doors open with some device in her hand and claiming a seat at the bar for herself, however. Misato’s legs had bid her to follow suit, not really certain as to why.
That had been… some time ago. And no real words had been shared between them since.
“…Because there is no need to look for her,” the Fifth Child grumbled back to change that, her voice almost throaty. “Sohryu is spending the night at her friend’s place, and her security detachment has the place surrounded on all sides. Nothing gets in without us knowing.”
“That’s great to know, but it doesn’t answer the first half of my question,” Misato continued, throwing a pointed look at the can of beer Mari was nursing between her hands. “Should you be drinking alcohol, while we’re at it?”
Mari glared back, shifting her body almost protectively around the aluminium cylinder.
“Get off my case, I’m older than you. Besides, my body filters this stuff out about as quickly as it goes in, so I’ll say that’s grounds enough to keep me out of the way of any drinking laws.” The Fifth Child stressed her point by taking a long swig of the drink and slamming the can on the bar, in a way that felt very familiar to Misato. She then looked at the empty thing with accusing eyes. “…Hell, I could drink a large bottle of absinthe and only get a light buzz out of it. You have no idea how frustrating that can be sometimes.”
For the first time in that day, Misato found herself staring at the Fifth Child with some sympathy. After all, a good drink, or many good drinks, rather, had always been convenient outlets for her frustrations in the past. Drinking was a simple universal coping mechanism if not at all constructive, and being denied such a useful tool made Misato feel bad for Mari for just the briefest of moments.
“Almost as frustrating as your little stunts during the takeover. You gave our guys a run for their money,” Mari continued, smirking back at Misato. “So many preparations without sharing even a little bit of info… makes you wonder what team you were playing for, right?”
“Non-interference, remember? I was under no obligation to tell you anything.”
“That’s true, I guess,” the Fifth Child shrugged, reaching for another beer. “Oh well. It made things more fun, in a way.”
Misato felt her sympathy for the Fifth Child leave as quickly as it had arrived, wondering one more time just what she was doing sitting in NERV’s cafeteria with her. Extricating herself from Makinami’s grasp was more than doable, after all, and even if Asuka needed some space right now to get her thoughts in order (in no small part, because of the Fifth Child herself), that didn’t mean that Misato couldn’t march to Horaki’s house and lie in wait for the chance to speak to the Second Child as soon as possible.
‘So why don’t you just leave, already?’ Misato asked herself for the hundredth time, and ended up at the same answer. ‘Maybe because you haven’t addressed the elephant in the room, and because you think it could help you learn something useful about this wild card.’
Misato had been wondering how to broach the topic of the Fifth Child’s discussion with Asuka for some time, now, and initially meant to do her questioning as soon as possible. She had put that on hold when she saw Makinami start drinking alcohol, however, hoping that inebriation would leave her with a looser tongue before long. But it was clear now that her impromptu plan wasn’t to be.
‘Might as well get it over with, then,’ the Major decided. ‘The worst thing that can happen is that she refuses to speak and you get a free pass to do whatever you want.’
“So…” Misato finally began, turning around towards the other woman. “Want to talk about that stuff you were going to tell Asuka?”
“With you?” Mari almost scoffed. “Why would I?”
“You’re the one who dragged me here, you tell me,” Misato shot back, deadpan. She then put her hands on the counter with a sigh, and made to stand up. “But if that’s the case, I’ll just head back to my-”
“No, wait!” A hand on her elbow stopped Misato from rising. She looked back at Mari with a raised eyebrow, the Fifth Child hesitating before she put her hand back around the beer can with a drawn out sigh. “I… Maybe you’re right. Maybe it will help me get some sleep today, if nothing else.”
Misato stared at the other woman, long and hard. She was plenty familiar with the Fifth Child’s outgoing and social Pilot mask and her less agreeable agent persona, but this exhausted and somewhat vulnerable side was a new addition. It was a big change of pace, more relatable and human than any of the previous two roles, and unusual enough to hold Misato’s attention for the time being.
She took her seat back at the bar and saw Mari’s shoulders relax just a tiny bit. The Fifth Child then stood from her seat and walked to the bar’s refrigerator, raiding a few more beer cans and showing one to Misato.
“Want some? It’s going to take a while.”
“No, thanks. A soda will do.” Mari paused for a second at the refusal, sending a quizzical look at Misato before she shrugged and handed the Major a lemon soda. She then sat back at her seat with three more beer cans in hand. “And I hope you’re a decent storyteller. I’m going to sleep the moment I get bored.”
“I’ll try my best, then,” Mari grumbled back, popping a can and taking another, long swig. The beer can slammed against the counter a second time, but the Fifth Child’s eyes weren’t drawn to the beverage like they had been before. Instead, they stared at the many liquors at the back of the bar, looking past them and at something that only Mari herself could see.
“I don’t remember a lot of the details, but I was in the middle of a school trip in High School when Second Impact happened,” she began, still looking at the distance. “Or maybe it was a training camp for my club, or some competition or something along those lines, I don’t know. What I do know was that I wasn’t alone when I closed my eyes for a quick nap.
“And just like that, I went from being in a plane bound for Kyushu one instant, to standing next to a crashed aircraft in the ruins of Tosashimizu the next. I don’t remember what happened in between those two moments, but I know that I was the only survivor of the crash.” Mari paused long enough for a dry chuckle. “And an extremely lucky one at that, as it turns out! Just one or two kilometres south and we would have crashed right into the sea.
“Not that I cared at the time. I just stood there for the longest time, staring at the wreck. One by one, the fires around the plane slowly died out, so I stood there for hours, maybe even days. My entire world had ended in less than a minute and my brain struggled to come to terms with it.”
Misato frowned at Mari’s words, her right hand moving to hold the white cross around her neck. She could more than relate with the idea of coping with a life-altering experience.
“At some point, I heard a girl’s voice behind me, asking if I was alright,” Mari continued, unaware of Misato. “Some more people were with her, too, but they didn’t matter. I ignored them all, kept looking at the crash. Then I heard the voices argue behind me for a bit, before the girl stepped closer to me.
“She put a hand on my shoulder, and gently convinced me to turn around from the remains of the plane, from the remains of my life. And at the end of the world and surrounded by death and destruction, she just… smiled at me. Comforting… encouraging… trusting. Just… happy that I was alive, that I still existed. Some random girl from halfway across the country that she had never even met before.
“I remember thinking how little sense that made, at the time. And that was enough for my brain to stop focusing on the accident, on Second Impact, and for it to start working again. I answered some simple questions, maybe even introduced myself. Don’t really remember.
“I only remember that smile and the girl that it belonged to. The one thing that kept me going for the next four months.
“Her name was Saya Makinami.”