And lastly, the new one...written after a four-and-a-half-year gap.
DISCLAIMER: Despite opinions to the contrary, I am still quite alive…just very inactive. And of course, I still don’t own Evangelion or its characters…and probably never will. This is a sequel to Somewhere Out There, so read it first if you haven’t. Which also means it hasn’t a thing to do with Rebuild, just the original series/movies. And lastly, ‘this’ is thoughts and “this” is speech.
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
An eerie silence hung over the medical wing at NERV headquarters, broken up only by the faint beeping of an EKG hooked up to its single current patient. Shinji Ikari sat quietly beside a bed occupied by one Asuka Langley Sohryu, staring at the ground and lost in his thoughts.
‘It’s been weeks…but still barely any movement,’ he mused thinking of the girl next to him. ‘Misato still makes regular visits, but she always seems preoccupied by other things.’ He’d been here for almost half a week, not really caring of much else. ‘Not like Asuka will be happy to see me if she does wake,’ he thought morosely. ‘But…I just wish,’ the thought cut off as he fought off the urge to cry again. ‘Won’t do me any good, not many tears left for that.’
Sliding his chair over, he took the girl’s left hand in his. “Asuka…” he spoke, his voice cracking slightly, “I know I’ve said this before here, but…I want you to wake up. Say something, anything to me. Doesn’t even have to be remotely nice, just…anything,” he muttered between small chokes. “Whatever you say, I still have something to say to you. I’m not sure if I should, though,” he spoke softly. “I’m afraid of what could come of it. But seeing you like this…I don’t want to leave it unspoken.”
The silence fell back over the room, punctuated by light sobbing. Then an alarm began to sound throughout the medical wing. ’Oh no,’ Shinji thought while wiping his eyes. ’I thought it was over.’ He put his head in his hands and wanted to cry again, but looked over at Asuka. ’She’s helpless, not even able to defend herself,’ he thought, feeling a tight knot form in his gut. “Alright,” he began, wiping his face and putting on a determined look, “this is for you…for all of you.” He stood from the chair and ran towards the door, out into the hall.
Just as he began to reach the elevators, Shinji was blinded by a bright light and felt the world fall away…
“Now approaching Tokyo-3,” a voice spoke, “now approaching Tokyo-3. Gather your things.” Shinji’s eyes shot open, looking around him. Asuka stirred lightly on his right shoulder, mumbling something incoherent. “Just on the loop line,” he told himself, wiping his brow and sighing. “Same damn dream again,” he said, feeling the last of it drain from his person. Looking out the window, he saw the familiar skylight of the city he hadn’t seen in three years. ‘And yet,’ he mused, ‘not much looks different.’
Shinji glanced over at the sleeping redhead. “Hey Asuka,” he started quietly, “wake up, we’re here.”
A yawn came over Asuka as she rubbed her eyes and smiled at him. “Morning…” she mumbled, looking up at him before narrowing her eyes and losing the smile. “You’d better not have been touchy with me while I was asleep,” she flatly stated.
“Huh?” Shinji quickly asked, turning a rather bright red and trying to get a response out.
Asuka began to smile again and gave a small laugh. “Oh you’re just too easy, Shinji,” she said, sitting up and planting a small kiss on him.
“Come on, I thought you’d have quit that by now,” Shinji said, feeling his flushed face leave him. He stood up and stretched, grabbing his suitcase and extending a hand towards the only other passenger. “Let’s go,” he told her.
Asuka took his hand and also stood, yawning again. “Geez, that was an uncomfortable rest,” she said looking at the train seat.
“Not exactly what it was built for,” Shinji replied.
“What about you?” Asuka asked, noticing a far-off look in his eyes.
Shinji shook his head a bit. “Oh…old memories,” he said. “Not really bad, just sad.”
The two teens walked off the train car and out into the winter chill of the morning. Reaching the sidewalk, Shinji took a long breath and stared at the city in the distance. “I guess I’d call this a homecoming,” he said. Looking behind him, he was reminded of something he hadn’t done since he was last here. “Asuka,” he started, “before we head home, there’s somewhere we have to go.”
“Huh?” Asuka asked, turning towards him. “Where?”
“Trust me,” Shinji answered, “this is one of the more important stops for me here.”
After an hour’s walk in the cold quiet, Shinji and Asuka found themselves in a field of black obelisks. “This is…” Asuka trailed off.
“Yeah…” Shinji finished for her, “a cemetery.”
Walking several rows over, Shinji knelt down before two particular monuments. Asuka read the names, realizing why they were here. “Oh…I see,” she said hesitantly.
“Mother,” Shinji began, “I’m sorry I haven’t visited in so long. I’ve just been…trying to collect myself. But I’ve learned a few things.” A chill came over him as a breeze passed. “You were there the whole time…in the EVA. I’d always felt a warm presence in there, but I’d never have thought it was you,” he continued, wiping his eyes. “Thank you for protecting me.”
Standing up, Shinji grasped Asuka’s hand and smiled at the marker. “Mother, this is Asuka. I think I may have told you about her before,” he said.
“Hi ma’am,” Asuka bowed, trying to begin, “it’s nice to…meet you, I guess.” Releasing Shinji’s hand, she stepped back a few feet. “I don’t think you’ll have a thing to worry about,” she smirked, crossing her arms, “I’ll look after him just fine. He’ll need my help, after all…”
Shinji smiled a bit at the sarcasm and turned to the other marker, the smile leaving him. “Father…” he said, “I’m still not sure what I should say to you. So much left unsaid and still…I can’t find the words to forgive you.” Turning away from the grave, he continued. “That doesn’t mean I don’t understand why you did what you did. You just wanted to be with her. You just never learned to let go…” Pulling his arms around himself, he shivered and began again. “I don’t know if this is closure or not, but I felt I should visit anyway,” he finished, turning to Asuka. “Okay…we can go now,” he said to her, taking hold of her hand again.
Walking away, Asuka looked back and gave a silent prayer for her companion’s parents. ‘I’ll make sure he’s alright,’ she thought, continuing the walk back into town…
Making it back into town around noon, Asuka felt the need to break the tense silence. “So…” she let the word hang in the air for a bit before continuing, “let’s get that sadness out of the air.” She spun around once and put her arms in the air, smiling brightly. “It’s Christmas Eve, for Heaven’s sake!” she said sternly. “We should be having some fun!”
“Well, what did you have in mind?” Shinji asked, looking about the street. ‘Almost exactly like it was,’ he thought.
“I had some shopping to do for tomorrow anyway, so I guess…” Asuka said, turning to look at the expression drop from Shinji’s face. “Oh come on,” she continued, “it won’t be that bad. You’re out on the town with the most beautiful girl in the city. How could you be anything but beaming?” she asked, a smirk across her face. “Who knows? Might even find you a new look…”
Shinji laughed a little, his fake resignation giving way. “I was only kidding,” he said. “Can’t I poke a little fun every now and then too?”
The two of them let a small laugh conclude that conversation before resuming their walk. “So how is everyone these days?” Shinji finally asked after a while. “Misato?”
“About as well as you’d expect,” Asuka answered, “considering Kaji and then you. She tries to hide it, but not that well. But you‘d never believe what she‘s doing for work…”
“What’s that?” Shinji replied.
“Bartender,” Asuka said flatly.
Shinji stopped in his tracks and tried to hold back a smile. “You’re…kidding me, right?”
“Not in the least,” Asuka answered seriously. “But you should know that she hasn’t drank since you disappeared…”
“Really took everything pretty hard, huh?” Shinji asked, feeling a bit guilty.
“Hey,” Asuka said, “it wasn’t just you. I mean, there’s Kaji for one thing. And then everything about NERV out in the public. Not knowing about you was just one thing on a tall pile.”
“I suppose…” Shinji said, staring towards the sky. “What about Rei?”
Asuka took a silent moment to ready her words. “Really…not much different,” she said. “But knowing about her now…it’s really no wonder.”
“Yeah…” Shinji added, remembering the Dummy Plug room.
“But that’s not to say I haven’t tried, at least,” Asuka continued, “to treat her better than I had before.”
“Really?” Shinji asked, his head snapping back to looking at her. “I wouldn’t have guessed anything between you two other than ambivalence…”
“Hey, I’ve done my share of growing,” Asuka said. “and that includes her too. A lot like what’s changed about my opinion of you. I can say the best I’ve done is extend the olive branch, so to speak.”
Smiling, Shinji pulled her in close and whispered, “Well then…I’m proud of you, Miss Sohryu.”
“No need to try and embarrass me,” Asuka said, trying hard to hide a growing blush.
“But I meant it,” Shinji replied. “That’s quite a change.”
“Not to change the subject or anything,” Asuka said, moving back a little, “but your other friends are doing well. I mean, as well as can be considering moving and then moving back within a few months.”
“Toji?” Shinji asked, feeling the old guilt about the Unit-03 incident.
“Getting by like always,” Asuka answered. “Prosthetics aside, he’s the same as you remember.” Looking over at Shinji’s expression, she continued. “Hey…no need to be down, he doesn’t blame you one bit. It was the Commander’s orders, after all. Now if only I could get used to him and Hikari making doe-eyes at each other…”
“Finally get it through his head, huh?” Shinji asked, glad his old friend had been well. “About time.”
Asuka’s surprise was almost palpable. “You knew?”
“Come on, Asuka,” Shinji replied, “it was pretty obvious to everyone. Just because I spent a lot of time being quiet didn’t mean I wasn’t listening. Something Rei taught me indirectly”
“Always observing those around you, huh?” Asuka said. “Makes me feel kinda dense.”
Shinji shook his head. “Nah, your opinion of him just clouded that thought,” he continued. “And Kensuke?”
“Practically had to be pried away from computers and televisions once all of NERV’s secrets came out in the open,” Asuka said, remembering those days. “Spent so much of his time wanting to know all those things and it’s just all spelled out like that…must be what all those urban-myth believers would do if things like Bigfoot and Loch Ness were answered.”
“Poor guy,” Shinji said, affording himself a small laugh.
“Otherwise…same guy, just a little older,” Asuka finished. Looking around, she realized they‘d reached their destination. “Oh hey,” she resumed, “we’ve made it to the shopping district.”
Shinji looked around the street at the many busy shops, most of which hadn’t even been there last time before the city was evacuated. “Wow, it’s so alive and cheerful,” he said. “Never quite seen it this busy.”
“These days, things are picking up. More people are moving in and staying for a change,” Asuka explained. “Being the site of all those Angel battles never can hurt, either. Makes it kind of an odd tourist spot.”
“Great…our old pain is their reason to come here,” Shinji joked half-heartedly.
Walking into a store, Asuka answered. “Could be worse, I guess,” she mused, shrugging.
“I’m…really not feeling so sure about this,” Shinji said sometime later.
“Aw, trust me,” Asuka tried her best to pout, “I think I could find you a look that would make you more handsome.”
Standing in the men’s department, Shinji had resigned himself to doing more modeling than he’d like to do in a lifetime. “Oh, now you’re just teasing…” he replied.
Asuka shook her head slightly. “Really, I mean that.” She had felt the urge to a little teasing, though. “Hell, you’d be surprised the amount of girls in our school that found you cute back then,” she said, putting a small stack of clothes in his arms.
“Seriously?” Shinji said, feeling that old facial warmth return.
“Don’t let it go to your head, mister,” Asuka mock-threatened. “It’s going to be bad enough when school resumes and I’ll have to keep them away. Vultures…”
“Now you really are joking,” Shinji said, taking the stack into a changing room.
“Maybe…” Asuka continued, letting the last syllable hang. “Maybe not.”
Five minutes later, Shinji exited the room dressed in a leather jacket and denim jeans. “I dunno,” he said, “I don’t think it’s really me.”
Asuka looked him over for a bit before deciding. “It’s not bad…maybe not you, but not bad,” she said. “Well, try another one.”
A few minutes, another outfit is in place. “Well…I’m okay with it,” Shinji said while dressed in a dark blue suit. “Don‘t have much experience with a tie, though,” he continued, fumbling with the knot.
Asuka said nothing, just studying the young man’s appearance. ‘Not too shabby, Asuka, Makes him look a lot more mature,’ she thought. “Looks good on you. And the tie isn't necessary all the time, anyway,” she finally answered.
Shinji returned to the room once again. This time, however, the next outfit in question was slung back over the changing room door without being put on. “Oh ha ha,” he said, “very funny, Asuka.”
Asuka had a hard time not laughing, having gotten the reaction she was hoping for. “Why not?” she asked, trying not to giggle. “Shirtless with bicycle shorts isn‘t the worst idea…”
“I am not even going to continue with that joke,” Shinji said, himself having a hard time not laughing.
Another few minutes, Shinji returns from the dressing room in his regular black slacks and a t-shirt with pictures of a cat and a bullwhip on the front. “I don’t get it,” Shinji finally said, trying to figure it out.
Asuka, try as she might, couldn’t hold back this batch of laughter. “Trust me…it’s fitting,” she managed between laughs. “Okay, that was the last joke one.”
Rolling his eyes, Shinji returned to the dressing room again. “What about you?” he asked through the door while putting his original clothes back on. “Aren’t you going to get anything for yourself?”
“No, plenty of outfits to choose from at home,” Asuka replied. ‘Maybe I’ll finally get a chance to wear that one,’ she thought.
A couple more minutes pass, and Shinji leaves the room in his regular attire. “Anything else while we’re here?” he asked, picking his suitcase back up.
“Nope, already picked up everyone’s gifts for tomorrow,” Asuka replied, grabbing up the suit he’d liked.
Ten minutes later, the couple found themselves leaving the store and resuming their walk home. “You didn’t have to pay for the suit,” Shinji said, carrying three large bags along with his suitcase.
“Consider it an early Christmas present,” Asuka replied, taking hold of his free hand. “After that…present I got a few days ago, it’s the least I could repay you with.”
Shinji said nothing, only smiling wide at the girl next to him. Their walk continued in silence until they reached a very familiar building. “Well,” Asuka said, turning to him, “ready to go home now?”
Looking up at the apartments, Shinji felt the various memories associated with his old home fade in and out of thought. “Yeah…sure,” he said softly, trying not to tear up. The two walked up the stairs to the floor Misato’s apartment occupied and up to its door.
Before unlocking the door, Asuka turned to Shinji and whispered, “Give me a minute to see if anyone’s home. Wouldn’t want to give her to much of a scare, you know?” He nodded, waiting out of view of the door as she unlocked the door and stepped inside. “I’m home,” she said, trying not to be too loud just in case.
Shinji walked through the door and into the apartment he’d missed many times in the last three years. “I’m home,” he whispered, saying it more for himself than anyone else. Moving down the hall to the door to his old room, he opened it to find that nothing had changed since he was last here before. ‘Not that I left a lot here,’ he mused to himself, sitting the suitcase down. The only thing that was different was his S-DAT player was on his desk. ‘I left it at headquarters before the invasion.’
“Misato found it,” Asuka’s voice came from behind Shinji, making him jump a little. “Don’t worry, she’s working right now,“ she told him, noticing his reaction. “We figured it was worth keeping considering how little you have.”
Shinji picked up the player and felt a twinge of nostalgia at the weight of it. “For a long time, this was how I’d cope with things,” he said, placing the device back down. “But…towards the end, it didn’t work as well anymore.”
“And these days,“ Asuka asked, “you don’t really need it, do you?”
Shaking his head, Shinji replied, “Not really, I’ve learned to deal with things better, not run from them.” A rustle at his feet brought the attention to a familiar sight. “Oh…Pen-Pen,” he said, almost having forgotten his guardian’s avian companion.
“Hard to tell his moods sometimes, but I’d say you were missed,” Asuka stated, pointing to the squawking pet at their feet.
“I sure missed him,” Shinji said, holding the bird in a hug. “Let me guess…you’d like fish?” A loud ‘wark’ pretty much gave the answer away. “Alright then,” he said after putting the bird down. “So when’s Misato supposed to be home?” he asked, looking through the refrigerator.
“Not really sure,” Asuka answered, “left a note that just says it’ll be a late night. Understandable, holidays always bring in drinking crowds.”
After placing a fish in Pen-Pen’s bowl, Shinji resumed his search around the apartment. “It’s no different than…” he began.
“Before you left?” Asuka completed his sentence. “Misato wanted to leave it as is if or when you came back. I agreed. It simply felt like the right thing to do.” Looking up the clock, she thought, ‘Almost evening already.’ Then an idea came to her. “Hey, wait here for a bit,” she said with a wink, heading towards her room.
Shinji sat down on the familiar floor of the apartment and took it all in. ‘Can’t believe they could keep it this clean,’ he mused, remembering how the apartment looked the first time he came here.
A half-hour later, Asuka returned dressed in a shimmering thigh-length red dress that was hugging all the right curves. “Well,” she announced, turning slowly a few times, “what do you think? I’ve been saving it for the right moment.”
Shinji, having turned nearly as red as the dress, tried in vain to get an answer out. ‘My God,’ he thought, ‘I didn’t think she could get any prettier.’
“Guess that answers that,” Asuka said, smirking all the while.
“Y-you…” Shinji finally managed, “you’re absolutely stunning…”
“Why, Shinji,” Asuka said, placing a hand on her face, “I do believe you know how to make a girl feel special.”
“Can’t be helped,” Shinji said, the red of his face fading, “it’s just the truth. You‘ve got something special planned, don‘t you?”
“Oh you just wait and see,” Asuka said, enjoying the attention. “Get yourself in that new suit and we’ll just see what the evening brings…”
An hour later, Shinji and Asuka found themselves once again in town. The sky turned had grey, a light snow beginning to fall. “I’m glad we finally have some winter again,” Asuka said. “That weird eternal-summer we’ve had for years was getting pretty old.”
“It is a nice change of pace,” Shinji agreed. “So where are we headed?”
“Not anywhere in particular,” Asuka answered, shrugging, “just having a good time.”
After fifteen-or-so more minutes of travel, and idea came to Shinji. ‘Yeah, that’d be a good spot,’ he thought. “Hey Asuka,” he said, turning to the girl beside him. “I’ve got an idea. Wait here, I’ll be right back,” he finished, heading inside a convenience store.
Ten minutes later, Asuka found herself following Shinji into a quiet part of the city. “Where are you taking us?” she asked impatiently.
“A very nice spot someone once showed me,” Shinji replied.
“Who? A past girlfriend?” Asuka teased.
“Nope,” Shinji said, ignoring her joking, “Misato. Right after fighting the Angel that was here when I arrived.” Arriving at the spot, he gestured to the bluff his guardian had showed him that first sunset. “Well, we’re here.”
“Very nice…” Asuka said, enjoying the view of a Tokyo-3 sunset in the snow. The two sat down on a bench nearby and took a couple of ready-made bentos Shinji had picked up in the convenience store. “Not really any different than other dinners Misato and I’ve had since you were gone.”
“Neither of you have improved in cooking, huh?” Shinji asked.
“I have somewhat,” Asuka answered. “Misato-”
“-not so much, right?” Shinji finished.
“Oh, most certainly not,” Asuka said, laughing. “More often than not, they come out inedible.”
The two shared a last laugh at that thought before starting their meals. After a while, Asuka decided to break the silence. “So…tell me about Val,” she said.
Shinji paused mid-bite and thought her question through. “I pretty much told you what I know on the tape,” he began. “I spent the first month or so there in and out of consciousness from my injuries. After I came to, I got to know her…but mostly I spent a lot of that time with thoughts of what had happened before the battle. Not really the most receptive houseguest, now that I think back on it…”
“Were you close?” Asuka asked, wanting to know more about his time away.
“Not until about a year ago. Up to that point, I just kind of…avoided talking too much about what I’d been through,” Shinji continued. “After a while, she just figured opening up to me would have me do the same for her. She was right, of course. We began to talk of the people I‘d known here and well…I already explained the rest.”
“One thing you didn’t ever tell me, though,” Asuka said. “What’s her last name? I‘d like to thank her one day for this last two days and whatever comes after…and it‘d be nice to know her by more than just ‘Val‘.”
“Valerie Dyne,” Shinji replied.
“On the tape, you said she was American,” Asuka continued, “Where’s she from?”
“Somewhere in Maine,” Shinji said, remembering their conversations, “if I’m remembering correctly. Told me she came to Japan because of the ‘scenic beauty,’ as she put it, after finishing college. Not more than six months before I showed up on her doorstep. The way she tells it, she‘s seeing the world as a way of finding herself.”
“You both had something in common there,” Asuka stated.
“No, I was just avoiding the world,” Shinji said, “but yeah, that did help me find myself.”
Silence fell over the rest of the meal, the two young adults eating and watching the sun set over the city…
Returning to the apartment sometime after dark, Shinji and Asuka returned to their rooms and changed into more leisurely clothing. Him in his usual uniform, her in an oversized yellow shirt and jean shorts. They then sat on the couch, deciding to watch some TV together.
After a long silence in the television’s glow, Asuka laid her head on Shinji’s shoulder and pulled his arm over her own shoulder. “Still not quite bold enough to just put an arm around me yet, huh?” she asked, looking up at his face.
“I know how it is with you,” Shinji joked, smiling. “I make a move without asking, I lose that appendage, right?”
Inching closer to his face, Asuka replied, “Fast learner. But what if you were given permission?”
Shinji inched even closer, their lips now nearly touching. “I think I’d like that, ma‘am,” he continued to tease back.
Neither could hold back smiles and began laughing at the extremely close proximity to each other, the giggling dying down after several seconds. His composure regained, Shinji decided to test his luck by closing the short distance and planting a short kiss on her lips. He gave the girl another on her right eyelid, then the left before returning to her lips again. Asuka reciprocated as best as she could after that display, introducing her tongue to his. Several moments passed like this, both feeling immense warmth despite the temperature outside. Hands began moving about one another, lust ready to take root.
Shinji began to feel a hungry longing from deep within stir and broke off the kiss, both of them panting heavily. “I think…we should take it easy,” he said, finally finding the voice to speak again. “That almost went too far.”
“Y-yeah,” Asuka agreed, her facial color almost matching her hair. “But…what if that’s what we want?”
Shaking his head, Shinji continued. “We’re both young and just getting used to this…I don’t think it’d be right to move that fast,” he explained. “Back when we could face death any day…maybe. But we’ve got all the time we need these days,” he finished, sitting up and straightening his clothes.
Asuka said nothing, just nodding and breathing slowly. Coming together in an embrace again, she spoke up. “You should really watch were those hands end up,” she jokingly threatened.
“I could say the same to you,” Shinji retorted, a smile returning to his face. “And after all those times you called me a pervert…you may have left nail mar-”
“Let’s not take the joke that far, Ikari,” Asuka tried her best to scold despite a smile. “I think we should go to bed.”
“After that?” Shinji answered. “I think we could both use cold showers, never mind it being winter…”
“No, I mean we should actually get some sleep,” Asuka replied. “Tomorrow’s going to be the fun part.”
Shinji looked down at the girl. “What’s that mean?” he asked, feeling left out of the loop.
“Well…” Asuka started, smiling like the cat that ate the canary. “While you were changing earlier, I called Misato and told her to invite everyone over tomorrow afternoon.”
‘I don’t like where this is going,’ Shinji thought, the earlier warmth gone in an instant. “You didn’t tell her about me, did you?”
“Oh,” Asuka whispered, “I may have gotten them presents, buy you’re going to be the main surprise.”
Shinji stared at her for several seconds, his eyes blinking widely. “I don’t want to give her a heart attack, for God’s sake,” he stated. “She didn’t think that was suspicious?”
“No…she knows I’ve been in kind of a funk recently,” Asuka answered, “so I told her it’d be a good way of perking me up.”
Shinji could only really smile at the thought of both seeing them all again and giving them one hell of a surprise. “Sneaky…but I’ll go along with it,” he told her.
“Alright then, follow me,” Asuka said, getting to her feet and leading Shinji by the hand down the hall to her room. “It’ll just be difficult getting you out of your room tomorrow for them and it would look odd if I slept in your room,” Asuka explained. “Got to plan these things ahead of time, you know?” she said with a wink.
Shinji nodded and followed her into her room, noting that it was as cluttered as he’d last seen it. ‘Yep, some things just never do change,’ he thought.
Getting under a blanket, Asuka patted the spot next to her. “C’mon over here,” she teased with a whisper, “no need to be shy now.”
Shinji said nothing, just shaking his head and laughing a bit. He crawled into the spot closest to the wall, with Asuka’s back to the door just in case. As the snow fell outside, the two fell asleep holding one another…
“Asuka, get up now,” Misato’s voice said through the door. “The others will be here in a short while.”
Asuka shot awake, her eyes not quite ready for the daylight yet. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Shinji sleeping soundly and smiled. Then she realized that one of his hands had ended up ahold of her chest overnight. ‘I’ll give him a free pass for that one,‘ she thought, ‘sleeping doesn’t quite count.’ Removing said hand, she quietly removed herself from her bed. After dressing, she went over to the bed to wake the boy sharing her sleep-space. “Come on now, Shinji,” she whispered breathily, “time to wake up.”
Shinji’s eyes slowly opened to see Asuka sitting on the edge of the bed. “Good morning,” he murmured.
“And a very good morning it is,” Asuka replied, bending down to plant a small kiss on his forehead. “Stay here for now,” she said, handing him one of his regular uniforms. “Got it out of your suitcase. Hope you don’t mind much.”
Shinji rose from the bed, wiping the last of slumber from his face. “Not at all,” he said. “How long till they’re here?”
“Soon,” Asuka replied. “now keep as quiet as you can and get dressed. This is going to be memorable.”
Asuka quickly left the room, closing the door behind her. Turning towards the kitchen, she spotted Misato doing her best to look ready to be up this early. ‘And failing miserably…’ Asuka thought. “Good morning,” she said, trying to sound sleepy.
“Well…” Misato said with a grin, “somebody’s looking less under-the-weather.” Pouring herself some coffee, she continued. “Good idea inviting the others over today, huh?”
“Sure,” Asuka said with feigned arrogance. “And looking forward to seeing what you got me.”
“Later, later,” Misato said with a wave of her hand. “You know that’s a surprise.”
“Yes, of course,” Asuka replied in her best disappointed voice.
Nearly twenty minutes later, the doorbell sounded. Asuka opened the door to see three of the people that were attending. “Hello Hikari,” she said to her longtime friend. “Oh, and hi to you two, as well,” she chimed in, sounding her best like usual.
“Hi Asuka,” Hikari said, her and Toji’s hands entwined.
“Hi yourself,” came the unison voices of Toji and Kensuke, who was standing off to the side.
“Oh come on now,” Hikari said to the two, “it’s a special day. And she did invite us.”
“That is true,” Toji responded.
“Yeah, odd as that is,” Kensuke added.
“Come on in, you three,” Misato said from the kitchen. “We’ll get everything started just as soon as Rei gets here.”
“There is no need to wait, then,” a voice came from behind the three guests. All three got quite a start, looking behind them and seeing Rei Ayanami standing there. “I am sorry if I startled anyone.”
“I dunno how you do that, Rei,” Asuka said, moving out of the doorway and holding in a laugh, “but you’ll have to teach me. Would be a lot of fun to sneak up on people like that.”
The four teens entered the apartment and sat around the living room, waiting to see what was to happen. Misato sat on the couch and looked to Asuka, who was standing near the hall entrance. “Well…” she started, “you wanted this put together. Planning on handing out any interesting gifts?”
“Oh, you’ll see,” Asuka said with a grin. “Sorry, but you’ll all have to close your eyes for a bit. It’s something extra special.”
The room’s remaining occupants did so while Asuka headed to her room, a small bit of whispering between Toji and Kensuke what it could be. “And don’t you dare peek,” Asuka said, whipping her head back before reaching the door. “This is something I can’t return if it’s spoiled.”
Entering her room again, Asuka looked over at Shinji. He was sitting on her bed, looking rather tense. “You ready?” she asked him in a low voice. Nodding, he silently sat up and followed her out of the room.
As Asuka walked back into the living room, Misato’s voice spoke up, “Really, can it be that good a surprise?”
“Oh, I’d say so,” Shinji said as he moved to Asuka’s side, his voice cracking slightly.
The expression on Misato’s face was instantly changed from impatience to utter surprise. Her eyes shot open and onto the room’s newest occupant. ‘It…it can’t be…’ she thought. One by one, the others in the room joined her in seeing the young man who’d been a part of their lives and had disappeared.
“Shinji…is that really you?” Misato asked through small tears.
Smiling brightly, Shinji scratched the back of his head and laughed. “Yes…it’s really me,” he answered. Misato looked almost the same as he’d last seen her. ‘Not even all that she’d went through after I disappeared aged her much,’ he thought.
And with those words, Misato fainted onto the couch. The rest of the room just looked at him, wondering where to start the conversation. So, of course, Toji and Kensuke blitzed him and began the barrage of questions.
“Man, where the hell have you been?” Toji asked, both somewhat glad and angry.
“Yeah, you’ve got to tell us!” Kensuke said. “We thought you were dead or something…”
“I swear,” Toji began, “I don’t know whether to hug you or beat the shit outta you!”
“I think I’d rather settle on a handshake, honestly,” Shinji said, trying to break up the feeling in the room. Toji happily accepted it and hugged the friend he never thought he’d see again. After that, Kensuke just settled on the handshake as well. Walking over to Hikari, Shinji reached a hand out. “Sorry for giving you any cause for concern, Hikari,” he said. Getting to her feet, the class rep hugged him lightly before stepping back.
“You really have been missed a lot,” Hikari said, looking over to Asuka. “I think we’ll get to where you’ve been after Misato comes to.”
Rei looked on with a curious expression, not really sure how to react. “Ikari…you are well,” she stated.
Shinji stepped towards her and gave the former First Child a hug, the smile never leaving his face. “It’s nice to see you too, Rei,” he said after stepping back.
Walking over to the couch, Shinji was just about to see if Misato was alright when she quickly sat up and squeezed the young man tightly. “Oh God,” she said through tears, “I was beginning to think we really never would see you again…” Looking down at him and realizing he couldn’t breathe, she released him and wiped her eyes. “S…sorry,” she managed between sobs.
“No harm done,” Shinji said, his windpipe saying otherwise. Looking around the room, he decided now was a good time to tell all of what had happened since that day three years ago. “Okay, everyone,” he said, “sit down for this one, it’s gonna be a long story…”
A couple of hours later, with his story told in full, Shinji sat around with the people he’d left behind and felt a sense of belonging that had been elusive for him. ‘Even gone as long as I was,’ he thought, casting his eyes around the room, ‘it’s still home for me.’
“I do have one question,” Misato said, the relief evident in her face. “If you didn’t want to be found then…why come back now?”
“Something Val told me,” Shinji began, “that leaving things undone and unsaid is something you should never do. And there while there was much left undone, only one thing was really left unsaid. That’s why I recorded and sent the tape to Asuka. What was left unsaid was for her.”
Looking over at her redheaded charge sitting next to the young man, Misato flatly asked, “And just what might that have been?”
Taking a deep breath, Shinji resumed the conversation. “I told you…it’s for her and her alone,” he stated. “There were things I had left out of the story, but they’re private.”
“Not gonna work that way, mister,” Misato ordered.
Asuka sighed and tugged at Shinji’s sleeve. “Don’t worry, I’ll field this one,” she assured him. The young woman looked over at her guardian and continued. “He’s right, however. But I’ll let this answer your question, though, if you’re just that inclined to know.” She then turned towards Shinji, placing one hand on his face and another on his right shoulder. “Sorry about making a scene,“ she whispered to him before giving him the deepest kiss she could manage.
Across the living room, four jaws went slack almost immediately at the sight. Rei, on the other hand, looked on with a puzzled look on her face. After separating from one another, Shinji and Asuka turned back to the others. Smiling widely, Asuka declared, “Now I hope that‘s a good enough answer for you all…”
Shaking her head to clear away the surprise, Misato tried to look as stern as she could after that moment. “And just how long has that been going on?” she asked seriously.
“For me, I can say some time before I disappeared,” Shinji answered, trying desperately to hide his red face.
“The thought had been with me nearly as long as it had with him,” Asuka admitted, “but I’ve only known for certain this last week.”
“Well then…” Misato said, standing up to walk over to them before crouching down in-between the two, “I’d say I have to congratulate the both of you,” she finished placing an arm around the both of them and smiling warmly.
“Wow…did not see that coming,” Hikari said quietly.
“No kidding,” Toji added. “Still, good going for them, huh?”
“Could’ve used more of a warning that was coming,” Kensuke commented. “Felt like I got tasered or someth-” His statement was cut off by a quick arm punch by Toji. “Alright, I get it…”
“I am unsure of what just happened,” Rei stated, still puzzled.
“That, Rei,” Asuka said, “is the most direct way of saying we have affection for each other.”
“I see…” Rei said, finally getting the idea. “By ‘affection,’ you meant ‘love,’ correct?”
“Well, yeah…that’s another way to put it,” Asuka answered.
Misato took this moment to stand and head into the kitchen. “Hey, I guess that means this is a good an occasion as any…” she said, searching through her cabinets.
“For what?” Shinji asked.
Misato pulled a bottle of champagne from a cabinet and held it up. “For this!” she proudly stated.
“Misato,” Asuka started, “you haven’t had a drink in a long time…”
“…and I’m not about to resume it regularly,” Misato finished. “But let’s be honest…today really is a cause for celebration. Not just Christmas, but also the day Shinji came home and the day you two became a couple!”
“I guess I can see that being a good reason,” Asuka admitted.
Seven glasses were passed out among them and the beverage was poured. “Okay, now who wants to do the honors?” Misato asked.
“I’d me more than happy to,” Shinji spoke up. Getting to his feet, be began his toast. “To friends,” he said, looking around the room, “and to the future.” Glancing down at Asuka, he concluded, “And to love.”
With that, they all held their glasses up in celebration to a day worth remembering…
Several hours after the party ended, Shinji found himself laying in a bed he hadn’t used in a long time. “Like no time’s passed,” he whispered in the dark of his room. Suddenly, a small knock shook him from his thoughts. “Yes?” he asked.
“Can I come in?” came the voice of Asuka.
“Of course,” Shinji said, sitting up on the side of the bed.
The door opened with a soft sound and Asuka stepped into the small space, closing it behind her. She was dressed in the same loose-fitting shirt he’d seen her sleep in years ago, covering anything up to her thighs. A small smile hung on her face as she walked over to the bed to sit beside the boy. There was something in her mood he couldn‘t place. “Did you enjoy today?” she asked.
“You know I did,” Shinji answered, unable to hold in a smile. “It was great to see them all again…”
Asuka’s gaze dropped to her hands, but the smile remained. “Sorry for giving them all a show,” she said, smirking ever-so-slightly. “God, the shade of red you turned…”
Shinji couldn’t help but laugh a little at the reactions they’d gotten from ‘that’. “Hey, isn’t this a holiday for surprising people?” he asked. Asuka nodded. “Well then, I’d say it was worth it.” Reaching out his hands to hold hers, she leaned her head on his shoulder. Sitting like this in the dark for a few moments, Shinji knew this wasn’t the only reason she was in here. There was an unease in her breathing, something in her smile. “Asuka,” he began after waiting a bit longer, “did you want something else?”
Sitting up from his shoulder and loosening her hands, Asuka gathered herself for why she was here. “I still have one present left for you…” she said after a deep sigh.
“Oh, there’s no need,” Shinji replied. “You’ve given me so much these last couple of days, it-”
“Trust me, this is important,” Asuka cut in, a slight waver in her voice.
“What is it?” Shinji asked.
There was another few minutes of silence before the almost-silent answer came. “M-me,” Asuka barely whispered.
Shinji looked puzzled as he wondered what the girl next to him meant by that. Seconds later, his eyes widened slightly…the memory of the night before, and what had almost happened. “Asuka…I thought we agreed-”
“I know, but,” Asuka said, thinking her choice of words over carefully. “Do you love me?” she asked hesitantly.
Shinji’s head moved around to face the girl, his eyes still wide and a blush forming. “Of course I do,” he answered, his tone raising a little. “You should already know that well.”
“I told you, I had a lot of time to look back over our relationship,” Asuka spoke, “even before you sent that tape. I…think I can say I liked you a lot, too. The words just never seemed ready to be said, never mind that you weren‘t here to catch them. But after that and seeing you again two days ago…”
Shinji just sat quietly, listening as intently as he could to the redhead beside him.
“…I think now, though,” Asuka continued, “I understand.” Turning her head to look into his eyes, she finished, “I…I think I love you, too.”
Shinji still said nothing, the smile on his face widening as much as it could. Asuka regained herself as best as she could and returned the smile, a few small tears forming at the edges of her vision. “As for my…gift,” she said, finally finding her voice again. “You’re a young man,” she continued, standing up and in front of him, “and I’m a young woman,” she slipped her arms inside her shirt, “and there are…things young adults do when they’re in love,” she finished, pulling the large garment over her head and depositing it on the floor. She shivered at the night air against her skin, swearing the apartment was warmer than this. “I know you love me,” she began, “but…do you want me?”
Shinji was, for lack of a better term, dumbstruck. Before him stood the girl he loved, clad only in a pair of white panties and an uneasy smile. It wasn’t until this moment he was truly caught by how well she’d developed. Face, bust, hips, legs…to him, she was perfection in human form. The small amount of moonlight coming into the room only accentuated that. Several times, he tried to form the words, all of them but one dying at the sight. “Wow…” he managed after some work.
“That’s not a yes or no,” Asuka teased, enjoying his reaction. In truth, it also eased her somewhat.
Shinji shook his head and averted his gaze for a few seconds, lest the sentence wouldn’t leave his mouth. “Y-yes…oh God yes,” he got out, his face practically burning. “But last night, we-”
“I know, I know,” Asuka interjected, a small bit of annoyance in her tone, “but I can tell it’s what we both wanted.” She stepped forward and took Shinji’s head in her hands, making him look her in the face. “I’ve given you my heart,” she said, her voice not above a whisper, “now I’m giving you my all.” Crouching down, she finished, “And it’s not just want. I…need you.”
Looking into his love’s eyes, Shinji knew he needed and wanted this as much as she did. Smiling, he caressed Asuka’s cheek and spoke up. “I can’t really argue with that,” he said, giving her a quick but deep kiss. “Now…top or bottom?” he teased, the words causing his face to heat up again.
Smiling, Asuka pushed Shinji down onto the bed and climbed onto him. “Pervert…” she purred before their lips met again, a precursor to the night‘s activities…
Several hours later, Asuka awoke to the glare of sunlight in her eyes. Cursing all things bright, she rubbed her eyes. With the focus coming back to her vision, she looked around and saw that she was not in her room. The warmth of another body to her back reminded her of the events of the night before, a rush of bliss and sensations accompanying the thoughts. Realizing the time, she quickly scrambled to gather and put back on the only two articles of clothing she’d brought in before opening the door and shutting it. Now to just make it back to her own…
“And where are we going?” a voice came from behind Asuka, the shock almost knocking her down. Turning around, she was greeted by the sight of Misato…sporting an all-too-knowing grin.
Catching her breath, Asuka regained her footing and gave the older woman as good a hard stare as she could muster. “What the hell? Are you trying to scare me to death?” she fumed.
Misato said nothing, just returning to the kitchen and motioning for Asuka to follow. Both sat down at the table, the silence quite uncomfortable for the redhead. A few sips into her coffee, the former Major spoke up. “Okay, explanation time. Now.”
“I fell asleep in his room,“ Asuka said, trying to be nonchalant. “I had one last present for him…”
“Oh?” Misato asked from behind her mug. “Something you couldn’t give him in front of the rest of us?” she teased.
“Of course not!” Asuka said, standing from the wooden chair. Realizing her outburst, she quickly sat back down and found the table’s surface suddenly very interesting.
Misato sat with a puzzled expression across her face, taking the last drink in the container. “Tell me the truth, Asuka,” she said, hoping to avoid any more potential anger.
Asuka sat quietly, her face burning nearly as badly as Shinji’s had last night. After another long silence, she spoke up. “Okay, we…slept together,” she finished with a sigh, hoping the ground would just open up and take her
Had she not finished the coffee already, Misato’s expression made it clear said coffee would’ve been spat on the opposite wall. “Wait, wait…,” she started, “literally or figuratively?” Asuka’s silent response spoke volumes, as did her current facial color. Misato let the silence hang in the room for a few minutes before continuing. “Well, were you at least careful?” she asked.
“Yes…” Asuka said, knowing what the older woman meant. That didn’t make the question any less embarrassing, though. She was readying herself for the lecture she was sure was on the way.
Misato sighed heavily and put on her most serious face. “Well then, I’ve just got to put my foot down and say…” she began. Then the stern look gave away and was replaced by a wide smile, “congratulations.”
“Huh?” Asuka said, raising her head and turning it towards the room’s other occupant. “You’re not gonna lecture or get mad?” she asked, not having been ready for that.
Leaning back in her chair. Misato continued. “Well…I understand well enough, if that’s what you mean. You’re both seventeen and in love, things like that do happen. I‘m just glad you two are happy,” Then a thought came to her. “You did tell him, right?”
“Of course I did!” Asuka countered, her voice slightly raised. “I knew I had to say that before we…you know…” she trailed off, the table becoming of great interest again.
“And?” Misato seized her chance to make the redhead squirm. “How was it?”
“Ugh!” Asuka exclaimed, not wanting this part of the conversation in the least. “God, I can’t believe you’re asking-”
Misato waved a hand, hoping to calm the girl. “Hey, can’t we just have a moment of ‘girl-talk’ about it?” she asked with a wink. “You know how I can keep secrets.”
Asuka resigned herself to fate and looked back over towards Shinji’s door. “He…” she began quietly, “he treated me like I was the most fragile thing ever. But held me tight all the while, like he was afraid I‘d be gone if he let go…”
Misato listened with a far-off look in her eyes, the words a reminder of her own times with Kaji.
“…and my God, that boy can kiss,” Asuka went on, feeling flush at the statement.
“Well, what are you doing in here, then?” Misato asked, shaking herself out of her own daydreaming.
“Huh?” Asuka asked, her head snapping back around to her roommate.
Standing from her chair, Misato walked over and gave the former Second Child a small hug before heading out of the kitchen. “I’ve got to go to work. I’d suggest you get back in there before he misses you,” she said, grabbing her familiar red jacket, “and you hold onto him no matter what.”
Smiling at the older woman, Asuka got to her feet as well. “Oh, you won’t have to worry about that,” she said with a smirk.
“I won’t be home as late tonight,” Misato said, walking up to the front door. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t,” she added, winking.
“Oh please, ” Asuka teased back, “I can think of much worse.”
The two women shared a short laugh before Misato closed the door behind her. Opening the door to Shinji’s room, Asuka placed herself gingerly back into the space she’d been sleeping in earlier and smiled over at the boy beside her. Pulling the blanket over them, she nuzzled into his arms and slowly fell back into slumber…ready for the days to come…
A/N: Ah yes, another one finished and filed away. I’d been away quite some time and just started feeling the urge to do a follow-up to probably my favorite piece I’d written. Sorry to anyone who had been waiting for me to do another story. Maybe I might be more active these days, you never know…
Oh, I just remembered one last thing. A few years ago, I was asked in a review for SOT if Val was an ACC or SI. Well...I think I'll just leave that up to reader opinion...
Nope, no “Author and His Muse” omake here either. Maybe if I do another multi-part, it may show up again.
And now for a new addition to my post-work musings: random lyric quotes!
Sleep will not come to this tired body now
Peace will not come to this lonely heart
There are some things I'll live without
But I want you to know that I need you right now
This is the hour when the mysteries emerge
A strangeness so hard to reflect
A moment so moving, goes straight to your heart
The vision has never been met
The attraction is held like a weight deep inside
Something I'll never forget
Fool enough to almost be it
And cool enough to not quite see it
And old enough to always feel this
Always old, I'll always feel this
Looking forward to seeing if anyone can identify them (three different songs).
Ingredients that went into making this: blueberry cake, the "classics" (IMO) of EVAfiction, Cool Ranch Doritos, Demanufacture, Garbage's 1995 album, Gatorade (assorted), Licensed to Ill, Loveless, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the Mission of Burma song Trem Two played ad nauseum, OK Computer, SxA fanboyishness, the secret twelfth ingredient in KFC's chicken, spicy chicken Cup O’ Ramen, a three-year nagging feeling to write and/or finish another fic, White Pony…and a pinch of lime zest.
No Angels were harmed in the making of this fic. Well, to be fair, they were already dead anyway…that still counts, right?
Pre-read was done by gesser87 (who did most of the editing legwork), JimmyWolk (who went over said fixes and edits), and Dark Machine (who came up with a fitting enough title). Thanks guys, much appreciated.
For any of you who are new to the community, all of my older works have undergone a small bit of tweaking (as of the 14th of June 2010). So go take a look, tell me what you think.
As usual: good comments will be appreciated, bad ones will be ignored (or kept for firewood). But I do favor good/helpful criticism, so send it my way!
Until next our paths cross,