NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

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Post by Chris OFarrell » 2008-03-13 08:56pm

And as a bit of a bonus; a word from our sponsor, Google Image search!

Rei's Hairstyle, more or less...but more ... -style.jpg

Hikari's hairstyle, more or less....but more brown. ... 3784_l.jpg

Asuka's hairstyle, more or less...but, well you know the color of her hair...

The dress that formed the basis for Asuka's dress, albeit cut a little more conservatively.

And with those 50K words, I'm going to take a break from this fic before I get any more hatemail from about why I havn't updated Derelict yet...or before Tev comes stomping after me ;)

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Post by Academia Nut » 2008-03-13 09:35pm

I can keep helping you with Derelict if you want, although I don't know a great deal about nBSG. Do know about Stargate a fair bit fortunately.
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Post by FA Xerrik » 2008-03-13 11:29pm

That was awesome. I didn't stop smiling the whole time, WAFFy or not. Plus, love the Gunther and Aliens references. Maybe it wasn't alien asskicking and giant robot smashing, but I think that was my favorite update so far bar none. Fantastic.

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Post by LadyTevar » 2008-03-14 12:18pm

You would have to use "Lady In Red" for that last dance. :lol:

That right there means I won't come after you like Asuka after one of the Stooges for not updating Derelict.
*punches his arm* Good job Baka.
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Post by Trogdor » 2008-03-14 02:36pm

It's kind of funny; it felt totallty appropriate and like WAFF overload at the same time. Overload because the Angels that are going to be hell to deal with even with foreknowledge are still a ways off and with the exception of Akagi, none of the bad guys yet realize that anything is seriously amiss. There's no sense of "yeah, enjoy it while it lasts, because the big bads are just around the corner."

On the other hand, it makes perfect sense that Shinji would be making the most of the time he has before that moment comes, especially since it could well affect the outcome.

All in all, a fun interlude, but I look forward to the return of giant monster battles. I'm especially curious what will change, seeing as the lava dive is one of the times Shinji more or less got it right the first time around.

Oh, out of curiosity, was the bit with the Ding-Dong Song inspired by Anivid's Evangelion Outtakes series or something else entirely?
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Post by Sidewinder » 2008-03-14 03:31pm

Good job. I like the insights to how Ikari Gendo thinks.
Please do not make Americans fight giant monsters.

Those gun nuts do not understand the meaning of "overkill," and will simply use weapon after weapon of mass destruction (WMD) until the monster is dead, or until they run out of weapons.

They have more WMD than there are monsters for us to fight. (More insanity here.)

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Post by Sidewinder » 2008-03-14 03:37pm

Trogdor wrote:Oh, out of curiosity, was the bit with the Ding-Dong Song inspired by Anivid's Evangelion Outtakes series or something else entirely?
Link to Anivid's stories, please?
Please do not make Americans fight giant monsters.

Those gun nuts do not understand the meaning of "overkill," and will simply use weapon after weapon of mass destruction (WMD) until the monster is dead, or until they run out of weapons.

They have more WMD than there are monsters for us to fight. (More insanity here.)

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Post by Trogdor » 2008-03-14 04:13pm

They're not stories, but a series of AMV's I found on Youtube one night when I was bored. In this one, at 1:59, Asuka sings the song in question for a few seconds and it works rather surprisingly well with whatever's going on the scene, IMO.
"I want to mow down a bunch of motherfuckers with absurdly large weapons and relative impunity - preferably in and around a skyscraper. Then I want to fight a grim battle against the unlikely duo of the Terminator and Robocop. The last level should involve (but not be limited to) multiple robo-Hitlers and a gorillasaurus rex."--Uraniun235 on his ideal FPS game

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Post by Publius » 2008-03-16 12:55am

That was an extraordinarily effective use of a song without explicitly naming it in the narration -- the first line immediately identified it. Brilliantly done.
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by ray245 » 2008-11-02 11:48am

Humans are such funny creatures. We are selfish about selflessness, yet we can love something so much that we can hate something.

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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Academia Nut » 2008-11-02 12:45pm

So you chickened out did you? After all that begging to help you cut everything down to size, you still couldn't cut anything. Tsk tsk tsk.
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Aranfan » 2008-11-02 01:08pm

The chronology was kinda confusing for me. It took me a while to realize that the parts from the Children's POV came before the parts from the Adult's POV.

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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by LadyTevar » 2008-11-02 03:33pm

Bastard needs to crosspost it here, like he has been.
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Chris OFarrell » 2008-11-02 04:04pm

Academia Nut wrote:So you chickened out did you? After all that begging to help you cut everything down to size, you still couldn't cut anything. Tsk tsk tsk.
Yeah, you were a big help passing the buck right back to me :P

With that said, there is about 6K of words that you never saw in this chapter. And I almost got down to cutting and rewriting the 'severed' bits to join, but I just felt so tired I said 'screw it', its easier to write an authors note begging forgivness and just post away.

And Tev, it will be cross posted here, I always cross post here LAST. first, then Spacebattles, then here. So any final glaring errors are usually picked up and eliminated before it gets here. I'll get it done at some point today...

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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Academia Nut » 2008-11-02 06:48pm

Yeah, you were a big help passing the buck right back to me
Hmmm... yes, yes. Well, I suggest you find that little hat with 'Author' written on it and examine the words on the inside of the brim. You know what they say? On mine they say, 'The buck stops here' (there are actually a number of pithy statements, but that is the one useful for here). Sure, I could have hacked out large segments, but ultimately with no money riding nor any authority involved with all of this it's your decisions that will shape the final product. I know I've ignored some of your advise before. For example, your confusion with the elevator scene in Snow. The fact that it took you... several, in your own words, readthroughs to get what was going on I took as having done my job perfectly.

Also, I do believe I at least helped you come to the decision to not try and turn this into one giant chapter but to break it up. I did suggest that you could have done it chronologically and saved the chewing out for another chapter, but hey, you had to be all artsy and go for anachronistic storytelling and...

Excuse me, I think I'll have to end here as I have just noticed that we're both made of wrought iron.
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Jonen C » 2008-11-02 07:35pm

Academia Nut wrote:Excuse me, I think I'll have to end here as I have just noticed that we're both made of wrought iron.
So, um....

Which of you is which?
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Academia Nut » 2008-11-02 07:59pm

Technically I think I would be the pot as I'm the one doing the calling.
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Darth Yoshi » 2008-11-03 12:46am

Hey! New chapter. And now to read it.
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Darth Fanboy » 2008-11-03 01:51am

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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Chris OFarrell » 2008-11-03 03:38am

The events that led to Shinji Ikari, Asuka Langley Soryu and Rei Ayanami standing in the office of the Vice Commander would become the ‘water cooler’ topic of choice for the next several weeks. Indeed, the story would spread via Email and conference calls as far as Germany where various personnel who remembered the Second Child fondly - thanks to time and distance having blunted memories of just what putting up with Asuka really meant - would share a laugh and raise a coffee mug in salute at the audacity of the trio of children who stood as the defenders of humanity against the Angels.

Yet while countless people would laugh at some point in the future, the trio at the centre of the situation did not feel like it as they stood under the glare of the Operations Planning Manager, Director of Technical Division One and Vice Commander of NERV Central.

It could be worse, Shinji reflected as he continued to direct his gaze at the rear of the room, carefully avoiding making eye contact with any of the senior NERV personnel as he gave thanks for small favours. Case in point, the fact that they were not assembled in the office down the hall an order of magnitude larger then this one could only be a ‘win’...not that it meant the three Evangelion pilots were here for a friendly chit chat over moderately priced cocktails either.

“Whose idea was it?” Kozo Fuyutsuki finally spoke after a good thirty seconds of absolute silence that caused the Second and Third Children to jump slightly, while the First maintained her typically detached demeanour, simply standing there in typical silence as no one had –directly- asked her a question. Nor did she give away any responses with her face or body; as always she might as well have been a statue of Rei rather then Rei herself.

Shinji Ikari and Asuka Langley Soryu on the other hand...

“Mine,” they both spluttered finally, three seconds after his question in an amusing synchronization before they turned to glare at each other. “It was not!”

“Spare me,” Fuyutsuki said in a somewhat weary voice that shut them both up as he started to regret not fighting to have Gendo come in on this when he claimed he had other engagements.

Then again, knowing how Ikari would have handled this…

“As I’m sure you are both gleefully aware, NERV can hardly fire you or inflict terrible retribution lightly given your rather unique status and enormous value to this organization. By the same logic however, NERV cannot and will not stand by as you risk your lives for cheap thrills,” the Vice Commander explained slowly, hitting each child in turn with a muted, but very direct glare. “For what it’s worth, I’m ordering you not to try anything as stupid as this again. I’m also informing you that should you should ignore said order; we will take steps take to make sure you cannot do so again. We can build new tanks, new aircraft, and new N2 warheads. We can even build new Evangelion units with enough money; but we cannot ‘build’ new pilots. It would be an amusing - if pointless - end for humanity if an Angel showed up and we couldn’t sortie an Evangelion because you three were crippled or dead, don’t you think?” he asked, making little effort to keep the ironic tone out of his voice.

None of the children answered his rhetorical question. Rei stared, Asuka fidgeted and Shinji looked a trifle embarrassed, but no-one questioned him…which was good enough for now.

“Well then,” he sighed as he leaned forward. “I don’t think anything more needs to be said at this moment, but do not think this discussion is even close to over. You are all dismissed.”

The three adults waited as the children made haste for the door, exited into the reception area, then shut it behind them.

Then they let the rather severe expressions on their faces fall into nervous amusement for Misato, wry humor for Fuyutsuki and exasperated tolerance for Akagi.

“Well, at least they’re still working as a team,” Misato put in diplomatically, clearly trying not to smile too much. Fuyutsuki could appreciate that, after the shock had worn off from watching the MAGI’s compiled security footage, it had been all he could do to keep a straight face as he dressed the kids down. He hadn’t always been a sixty year old bureaucrat, despite the rumors to that effect he knew circulated among the lower ranked staffers…

“Getting into trouble were not precisely the team building exercises we had in mind Captain,” he sighed, before letting a wry smile push onto his face. “Though I have to admit, their skill levels were…impressive”.

“There are other areas we can direct their energy into that are far more useful,” Ritsuko joined the conversation, with little trace of anything resembling humor in her voice, an unfortunate result of the increasingly long shifts she was pulling on this or that special project for Ikari. “If they want to use this spare time for team building, we do have several million dollars worth of training simulators for them to ‘play’ with that would actually have a direct effect on their abilities.”

“Oh yes, after weeks of team co-ordination training day in and day out, I’m sure they’ll be deliriously happy to go back to doing that all day” Misato snorted. “God forbid if they actually act their age for once in their lives-”

“Neither we nor they have the luxury of a normal childhood,” Akagi retorted firmly, turning away from the Vice Commander to glance out the Geofront as the setting sun slowly turned the interior of the vast cavern golden, before she turned back. “As much as we might pretend that they are ordinary kids, they are not and we can’t simply-”

“Enough,” Fuyutsuki warned before they could start this argument again, having heard it God only knows how many times since the team training had begun. Katsuragi and Akagi were forever clashing over the lives of the Children and how best to ‘develop’ them now that the Angels were back. Not that surprisingly, Akagi was continually harassing him towards the ‘cover them in bubble wrap and lock them deep inside the Geofront’ school of thought, as much as Katsuragi pushed for them to have the closest possible thing to a normal life…and the damned annoying thing was that, like most dilemmas, both viewpoints were valid.

On one hand, as he had just pointed out to the Children, they were utterly irreplaceable –well except Rei, at least to a point. Still, one stupid accident outside, crossing the street without looking, a lighting bolt during a storm; all those millions of statistically unlikely but very real possibilities that could eliminate a third or more of NERV’s strength in an instant; all of it argued for sheltering and protecting them.

But on the other hand, they were talking about pilots, not mere components that they could shelve in a warehouse somewhere until needed, especially given the direct link between the children’s ability to use Evangelions and their mental state. The negative effects that might result in terms of synchronization ratio and morale loss from ‘protecting’ them in such a harsh way were just too risky to be a viable option…especially as Shinji Ikari had made it rather clear from the get-go he would only pilot the Evangelion on his terms.

And so that left NERV in the awkward position of offering the pilots the illusion of a normal life. And an illusion it was as despite appearances; they kept both Shinji and Asuka on very short leashes. Their guardian worked for NERV and their school crawled with NERV agents. Whenever they stepped out of either their house or school, they were followed by a cloud of invisible Section Two agents as a matter of course, and when inside NERV Central, the MAGI system tracked their location in real-time.

The one location they would be perfectly safe as, of course, the MAGI never made mistakes.

The Vice Commander admitted to himself he had taken a somewhat Luddite delight in the fact that it had failed so miserably to predict their actions today, showing the damn things were not foolproof no matter what Akagi insisted, a fact that had left her rather red faced at the security breach.

“For the moment, I think we’ve made our point well enough to them, we can always take more direct action if they don’t get the message,” he finally decided, signaling the end of the discussion. “Given that they were forced to stay behind as their entire class went on a vacation from a war they have to fight, it’s hardly a crime to give them a little latitude…so long as they understand it does have defined limits, I take it I can leave making that point in your hands, Captain?” The officer across from him nodded and he adjusted his position slightly, sitting up straighter. “In the meantime, I think we all have work to do,” he said in a tone that ended the conversation, glancing back at both of them with an expression of finality on his face. “Dismissed.”

The two women came to something like attention, before turning to leave the room in silence, a silence which lasted until the elevator doors outside shut, and-

“They’re both dead, aren’t they?” Akagi asked, placing her hands in the pockets of her white lab coat as she leaned against the elevator wall, looking across at her friend with a curious expression, wondering what response she would get.

In fact, she didn’t really get much of any response, Misato simply grunting while continuing to glare at the lift doors.

It took her another three levels of descent before it finally clicked that Misato wasn’t just majorly pissed off because she was mad, but she was majorly pissed off because the kids had almost given her a heart attack.

The distinction between the two was somewhat subtle, but she knew her friend well enough to sense that her anger at the kids wasn’t because they had done something stupid, but because they could have easily gotten hurt…and that terrified Misato on a level quite beyond that of a superior officer to her subordinates.

Is it because they were…family?

Now she frowned at the odd spike of emotion. Could she be actually feeling the slightest twinge of jealously at Misato, for having a real family to worry about? That for all its dysfunctional glory, the pair of people living in her apartment had grounded Misato so directly, some days she even wondered who the Captain was and where her old free-wheeling friend had gone, watching in amusement as Misato fretted about this or that new crisis that had sprung up…

And on that note, she came back to her senses with an amused snort. Jealous of Misato? The wonder-parent?

No way in hell. Living with those two is taking at least a year off her life expectancy for every month they stay with her.

“Planned their punishment already?” she instead asked into the silence as they descended down under the Geofront ‘ground’ floor into Central-Dogma proper, turning slightly to appraise the Captain. “You must surely have some…’creative’ ideas, shall we say?”

“Oh yes,” Misato responded, this time with a slightly gleeful look on her face.

Now Akagi raised a slightly worried looking eyebrow as she regarded her friend carefully, not exactly liking that look on her face.

“You’re…not going to cook for them are you?” she asked, which instantly earned her a look-

“Just because you have no sense of taste-”

“Because my taste buds were burned off the last time I had your Raman mix-”

“-is no reason to make fun of those who can cook,” Misato snorted before the expression on her face again turned somewhat gleeful and her voice became somewhat happier. “Besides, I have a far more ‘ironic’ punishment in mind for those two idiots.”

“Just make sure you don’t take it too far,” Ritsuko warned her pointedly as the lift counter behind them stopped ticking its way down and the doors opened, the two exiting into the sterile white corridor labyrinth that was Central Dogma. “A pointed example might be necessary, but be careful. The last thing we need is Shinji deciding to leave in an annoyed huff after all.” Pausing at a room distinguishable from the hundreds of others in this part of the base only by virtue of its size, she ran her card through the reader and stepped inside her office.

Of course it wasn’t really her ‘real’ office, she did most of her critical work down in a smaller area sandwiched between the EVA cages and Pribnow Box where only the most determined underling could track her down and dare to interrupt her, but this was her ‘official’ office…and unmistakably hers, if the number of cats covering every surface was an indicator, at any rate.

“I don’t think there is any real risk of that anymore,” Misato as she flopped onto the couch along one wall, noting in annoyance that Ritsuko’s office was as uncluttered as ever compared to the piles of paperwork that she swore doubled in size every time she stepped outside of her office. “Shinji has really settled down into his life here. You know, as crazy as it sounds, when Asuka decided to stay moved in with us and not move out when the training was over, he seemed to really be, well, happy about it. And then although she’d probably deny it, I could swear that she was happy as well. Frankly, given how often those two start fighting, I expected Asuka would bolt the first chance she got, Shinji carrying her bags for her…but for all their sparring, they really appear to actually enjoy living together now…well, most of the time.”

“Well, they’re both only children,” Ritsuko shrugged as she sat down at her desk and flipped on her glasses, skimming expertly through the deluge of emails that had arrived since she had last been in her office, acknowledging most with a perfunctionary reply and highlighting a couple from Maya for a more detailed response later. As the worldwide head of Project-E and senior liaison to just about every other single project NERV ran, she was flooded on a daily basis with updates, questions and pleas for help that would have bogged her down if she didn’t just delete most of it.

“Living with someone as charming as Asuka would have to be a fascinating experience for him,” Akagi hypothesized, before glancing over at Misato with a tight grin. “And of course, if either one moved out, they would forsake the pleasure of your company, which has to be a remarkable experience all of its own-”

“Now you’re sounding like Kaji,” Misato shot back. “Still…I have to admit since that dance they’ve been much more comfortable around each other. Much less in the way of snarling… no, that’s not entirely true,” she corrected herself, frowning as she tried to put her finger on the subtle change of mood in her house. “They still score points off each other all the time but there’s way less hostility in it, especially from Asuka…it’s like they’re playing some kind of strange game with a scoreboard I can’t work out, no matter how hard I try.”

“Relationships –of any kind- are not necessarily logical,” Ritsuko sighed as she worked to finish up a brief email to the head of the 1st Branch team working on backwards engineering the S2 engine technology. “For further study, I would direct you to the case study of Katsuragi and Kaji-”

“Oh shut up already,” Misato groaned as she stood. “If I wanted to sit around and have points scored off me, I’d go find Asuka and challenge her to one of her video games. And at any rate, I have to go and pack.”

“Oh that’s right; you’re off to Mount Asama?” Ritsuko recalled belatedly, her interest perking up. She had been far too busy to do much more then skim the emailed briefs about the mission, but UN regulations said even the possibility of an Angel being around had to be checked out carefully, no matter how low the probability, and so poor Misato was off on a wild goose chase…

“Yup,” Misato nodded, before she suddenly remembered something herself. “Oh, I’m taking Huyga with me by the way”.

“The odds are that this is all just nothing,” Akagi frowned, abandoning her keyboard and leaning back with a suppressed yawn as she stretched. “You could just send someone else, and is it really worth tying up Hyuga as well as you?”

“The Commander ordered me to go,” Misato grumbled, not appreciating having to drop everything on the spur of the moment, fly in a cramped VTOL for an hour to what would almost certainly turn out to be a wasted trip, then head back early tomorrow morning, if the hastily drawn up schedule was accurate, looking to get perhaps a few hours sleep before work. “Apparently, he thinks its worth looking into officially, even if it’s probably nothing. Hell, he even arranged for a link to the MAGI for post data processing, which should mean we can get results back almost instantly.”

Meaning Gendo and Keel have something in the Dead Sea Scrolls that matches up with this Ritsuko thought to herself, feeling a sudden stab of anxiety as what she had presumed to be a wild goose chase suddenly became something very different. There was no way Gendo would open up the MAGI for external processing from a third party unless he was very sure of himself. No matter what NERV might say publicly, none of the MAGI were ever opened up to external systems lightly…and she felt a little miffed they had left her out of the loop.

Of course, if she challenged Gendo on it, he would just claim it was a routine investigation of seismic readings with a five percent probability rating; that she had far too much on her plate to be brought in on something that would likely turn out to be a wild goose chase.

It was yet another indicator that there was a far more detailed version of the Dead Sea Scrolls then the ‘complete’ version she had been shown…but she knew such a version, if it existed, was very carefully protected. And for all her hacking expertise, she didn’t have the first clue how to break into Gendo’s armor grade safe.

So she would continue to dance this little dance with the Commander. She would humor him as he tried in his own futile way to keep his last few secrets from her, accepting the implied challenge to prove herself worthy of him.
It was so much more fun to work it out without him knowing, anyway-

But…Misato is going up to investigate.

And if this was an Angel, and Misato went poking around without Evangelions to back her up…and if she woke the apparently sleeping giant in the process…

“Misato!” she called on a sudden impulse as her friend reached the door.


”…be careful, okay?” she rather lamely replied as her common sense reasserted itself and stopped her from saying anything stupid to her friend as she prepared to head out on a mission that was far more dangerous then she understood.

“Always am,” she cheerfully replied with a smile. “Relax, this’ll be a cakewalk, I’ll be back tomorrow and we’ll go out and hit the bars!”

“Sure,” she smiled back, holding her rather fake smile on her face as yet again she kept her secrets, wondering if she would be able to live with herself if all this secrecy ended up costing Misato her life.

Of course you’ll live with it she told herself, a rare feeling of bitterness fighting its way up past the apathy she had long ago smothered her conscience with. Just like you have lived with everything else you’ve done, in the faint hope each part of your soul that died would be the very last bit you would ever have to sacrifice…for him

Closing her eyes, she sighed very slowly, feeling far older then her thirty years for a few minutes before she squared her shoulders and with a casual motion, lit up a cigarette as she killed her email client and started to pull up the schematics for the D-Type Extreme-Conditions exoskeleton stored down in the Eva cages.

If Misato did find what Gendo and Keel were looking for, no doubt they would expect her to have a plan ready to attack an Angel in the middle of a Volcano…so she might as well get started.

The Geofront looks so magnificent at sunset Fuyutsuki thought to himself as he gazed out from his office at the vast open space of forests and gently rolling hills that reached to the edge of the walls of the enormous hemisphere. The golden light was entirely natural despite the fact that they were underground, gathered on the surface by gigantic rectangular towers on the edge of Tokyo-3 and translated through their crystalline surfaces to dozens of light emitting strips along the Geofront dome. Artificial light sources in the towers could boost the light levels if needed, but in his mind the natural light of the sunset was just perfectly spectacular as it was.

Yet as always, whenever he had the time to simply enjoy the view, he couldn’t help but recall his first visit to this place back in 2003. Oh he had been so full of righteous indignation at the impossible, utterly unbelievable conspiracy he had stumbled onto –actually that SEELE had very carefully let him discover- crashing into Gendo’s office with all the subtlety of a berserk Evangelion unit, point blank accusing him of being behind the genocide that was Second Impact.

But for some damn idiotic reason, he had listened to Gendo when he had asked if he would mind terribly taking a short trip to Hakone before he did anything else…

Still, he found this a most pleasing way to end this day, leaning his chair back and placing his feet on the window sill as he sipped a generous measure of twenty year old scotch from a crystal decanter, watching as the light level dropped bit by bit…though he wasn’t so caught up in his study of the gigantic cavern that he missed the sound of the door opening and closing behind him. He didn’t react to the unannounced presence precisely because there was but a single man who could enter his room without announcement, and any pointless posturing would far from impress that man.

“There is another glass on the shelf,” was all he said to acknowledge the intruder as he tracked the lights of a loaded passenger train slowly ascending towards the roof of the Geofront and the dozens of buildings that hung from the ‘sky’, the sound of a glass being filled coming from behind him shortly there after by Gendo Ikari rounding the edge of the desk to ease down on the corner.

“Everything went as planned?” the Commander asked without preamble.

“Justas planned” Kozo nodded. “It was all the Seconds idea of course.”

“As we suspected,” Gendo snorted, taking a sip from his tumbler as he gazed out over the site of today’s excitement. “I take it you impressed upon them how…displeased we are over this?”

“As far as I could tell, yes. I have a strong feeling the good Captain will be unleashing far more, shall we say ‘punitive’ punishments when she has a chance.”

“Captain Katsuragi is growing rather close to the children,” Gendo mussed as he let his eyes track across the shimmering lake and the Hatsuyuki Class Frigate sitting in the middle of it, Kozo joining him in a silent study of the oddly out of place warship sitting placidly in the middle of the underground lake. How precisely the UN had gotten the Frigate down here was a mystery to him, but it was one he had deliberately refrained from trying to solve as a test of his self control.

And it couldn’t possibly match the story of the patrol craft floating on LCL in Terminal Dogma anyway.

“Do you foresee any conflict between her professional and personal duties to the children?”

“At this stage, no,” Fuyutsuki answered bluntly with a shrug. “The Second and Third - as well as the First to a lesser degree - have been brought together in a profoundly professional relationship, their piloting duties serving as the framework for their interactions. But,” Kozo quantified his statement with emphasis, placing his glass on the edge of his desk as he sat back up, reluctantly taking his feet off the windowsill, “there is an underlying threat of dangerous emotional attachment in such an uncontrolled environment, especially given the growing personal relationship between the Second and Third. And needless to say, emotional contamination is ten times the threat where Rei is concerned.”

“You will monitor the situation to ensure our primary goals are not threatened?” Gendo half asked and half ordered, the golden light from outside reflecting off his sunglasses working to hide his eyes and thoughts from scrutiny as he stared out the domain he was Lord and Master of.

Kozo inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement.

As if I had any choice in the matter

“As with all things in life, the relationships between the Children and us seek a point of equilibrium,” Gendo lectured in a somewhat thoughtful voice into the silence of the office. “Shinji’s willingness, and indeed, even his ability to leave Tokyo-3 have all but been terminated thanks to the relationships he has developed. Regardless of if he finds piloting his Evangelion distasteful, and irrespective of his feelings for me, he will now continue to do so as long as we need him to, as the price of maintaining that which he has always sought.”

“So, you’ve given up on any chance of trying to make peace with him in the little time we have left?”

Gendo didn’t even flinch from the blunt question.

“It is neither necessary - nor particularly useful - to our scenario to try and ‘make peace’ with my Son, Professor, especially when he has made his feelings regarding me pointedly clear,” Gendo stated placidly. “Our new ‘relationship’ has been relatively frictionless thus far, and I have no intention of upsetting that because you maintain some ill-conceived notion that we must reconcile…” Gendo lectured, before letting a rare slight smirk come across his face. “And if he has found a genuine home with a surrogate family, it would make me a poor Father if I dislocated the fulcrum of his equilibrium by trying to push myself in where he doesn’t want me.”

“Touché Commander,” Kozo saluted him with an expression that didn’t quite openly mock his logic, picking up his glass again and tapping it against the younger mans. “So, if I may ask, what was so critical you couldn’t deal with this incident yourself?”

“Our good friend Chairman Keel found out about everything that happened today,” Gendo replied nonchalantly before he took a measured sip from his own glass…in contrast to Kozo, who froze in the act of moving his to his mouth, placing it back onto the table as all urges to drink faded rapidly.

“Well that was fast work,” Kozo muttered. “Ryoji Kaji?”

“Indeed, but it is of no consequence. Keel is going to use this incident to demand an audience with the Children, to ascertain if we are ‘using them’ properly.”

“Typical. Well, we still have several viable options to stall him-”

“On the contrary, I want them to conference, tomorrow if at all possible.” Kozo felt his jaw drop as his mind worked in a fast blur-

“You told Kaji to leak the events to Keel?” He received a slightly amused looking nod. “In the name of God, why?”

Giving SEELE’s public face an open invitation to screw with their pilots? Had Gendo lost his mind?

“Please professor, language,” Gendo chided, placing his empty glass on the table. “A visual aid is a far more useful learning tool then an un-quantified threat. The Committee, for all the problems their interference generates, is a wonderfully useful tool for this purpose given that external pressure, by definition, tends to unite internal factions. In bringing such a faction into play and standing with the Children against it, we will ensure this…‘incident’ today will only serve to both send the Children a message and fortify our ability to reject overt interference from SEELE”.

Kozo could only slowly shake his head at the logic, wondering if there was nothing Gendo wouldn’t –or couldn’t- turn to his advantage, as he reflected back on how all this chaos had started…

“WHAT? What do you MEAN I can’t GO?”

The engaged, violated and downright horrified question crashed through the walls of the apartment as if they didn’t exist, slamming into the long suffering warm water penguin housemate of Misato Katsuragi most rudely. Startled out of his pleasant floating nap in the bathtub, Pen-Pen shot an irritated glare –or at least the closest approximation a Penguin could make- at the wall, before clambering out and waddling over to a towel, reflecting –and not for the first time- on the instability of human beings.

A social animal, Pen-Pen had been quite delighted with the arrival of the new humans into his rather limited environment. After all, he enjoyed frolicking as much as the next penguin, but in hindsight, while he was more than happy with the young male who provided such splendid catches of fish, had he been in charge of their social order he would have tossed the young female back into the ocean.

Why precisely Shinji kept Asuka around was confusing for the genetically engineered avian, given her tendency to attack and loudly clash with the apparent provider of all her food and maintainer of all her clothing, but such was the strangeness of these humans.

So yet again he did his best to ignore the increasingly loud arguments coming through the door, fluffing vigorously inside the shower stall to dry his feathers as the penguin cursed the fact that his ‘owner’ had yet again ‘borrowed’ his hair –come feather- dryer and placed it on a shelf he couldn’t possibly reach…

“Yup!” Misato answered Asuka’s protest in the living room, in an all too gleeful tone to the mind of the Second Child, who started to see red as she realized Misato was not kidding around, that she was actually going to refuse permission for her to go on the long promised trip to Okinawa!

“Well why not?” Asuka demanded.

“It is part of your job,” Misato pointed out with only a slight trace of sarcasm in her voice as she sipped unconcerned from her fruit juice, idly wondering when exactly it had been that Shinji had started rather brutally dictating her drinking habits. She hadn’t had any beer –with plentiful supply available- in at least two days now; that had to be a record.

“You mean I’m on permanent standby?” Asuka grated as she crashed face first into a rare downside of her profession. After all, being an Evangelion pilot was supposed to open privileges for her as a reward for risking her life day after day at 14 years old, not close them off! How dare they!

“You got it!” Misato said, her sloppy grin utterly unaffected by the molten glare directed at her from across the table.

“Well what idiot decided that?” The fiery redhead demanded, her sophisticated mind already hard at work plotting against whoever had ordered this stupidity, thinking of ways to change their minds using any means necessary-

This one,” Misato continued to smirk, swinging the jaws of the trap shut. “The Operations Planning Manager.”

Asuka stared dumbfounded for a good three seconds before –with great dignity- standing up as she realized she was getting nowhere with her protests, her mind whirling in circles as she tried to find some angle to attack from.

In the kitchen a few meters away, Shinji Ikari, busy cleaning up the remains of dinner tried not to shake his head and smile too much at the conversation. He wasn’t really trying to eavesdrop, but given the volume Asuka was projecting with it would have been very hard notto hear their words. He was somewhat astonished that this conversation had unfolded just about exactly the way remembered, despite all the changes he had made since coming back, but he was determined to use the opening it gave him none the less.

“Actually,” he called out into the living room, tossing the hand towel onto the bench as stepped out of the kitchen, “I wouldn’t mind staying if Asuka went.” Walking into the living room, he paused to swipe a can of iced tea and walked up next to a disbelieving Asuka - who was looking rather nice in a loose singlet top and very short shots that left little to the imagination -

Focus Shinji, focus he told himself as he dragged his attention back to Misato.

“I mean, if Asuka went on the trip, it would still leave Rei and me here if an Angel did attack. And if we really needed Asuka back in an emergency, NERV could get her back here in an hour or so, right?”

“And what about Rei?” Misato answered pointedly before Asuka could respond to the offer.

“I already asked Rei,” he quickly countered, getting a suspicious look from both women, but he ignored it. “She doesn’t care about the trip at all, I’m sure we can entertain ourselves for a few days.”

Well that was true, if anything, Rei had been oddly ambivalent about the trip and more then agreeable to his proposal. It had taken a few hours after he had talked to her for him to realize that Rei had probably never even left Tokyo-3 before in her life, and it might not have been wise to push her too far, too fast.

Not that his Father would have let her leave of course, but it was the thought that counted.

And besides, it would be nice to spend a few days with her outside of school or NERV. As deep as his feelings ran for Asuka, his feelings for Rei ran just as deep, and he hadn’t been spending anything like as much time as he would have liked with her recently…and he missed that.

Granted, in the ‘past’ they had not really done much, their time together had mostly comprised of him talking and Rei listening, with the occasional confounding response from the First Child to confuse him for the rest of the day –or slap to the face on that occasion- but none the less, he found himself missing those quiet times…

“That’s very generous of you Shinji, but still rather unfair to you and Rei,” Misato finally pointed out, leaning back as she silently cursed Shinji trying to play the self sacrificing hero again. She had thought –or at least hoped- the dance might have broken him of that habit and she had no wish to see Asuka trying to take advantage of his-

“That’s right,” Asuka broke in with a slightly narrowed gaze. “If one of us goes, we all should go; it’s not fair if you two stay behind.”

My God, is Asuka actually growing up? Misato stared at the fourteen year old girl in shock before she glanced away, a surge of shame crashing in on her as she scolded herself for the thought. It was all too easy to dismiss Asuka as a little more then a bitchy teenager with a chip on her shoulder the size of Mount Fuji, but she should know better.

In fact she did know better.

After all, when Asuka had reached the age kids would be starting school, she had already been in full military training to defend the human species from total destruction. When their parents were spoiling most kids rotten, she had been learning how to rely on no-one but herself because she really had no-one else. And at the age children dreamed of being pop stars or princesses, Asuka had known for years that she had no say in her purpose in life… and what the stakes were if she failed.

After the dance and her encounter with Kaji above the dance floor, Misato had in fact started to wonder if Asuka’s obsession with her former boyfriend was far more meaningful then she had ever given it credit for. She had always dismissed Asuka’s behaviour as little more than teenage infatuation… but after reflecting on Kaji’s deft parries of her unsubtle advances, now she couldn’t help but question if the near obsessive behaviour she had witnessed from the Second Child had in fact been Asuka desperately clinging to the one adult who had honestly cared –and had shown he cared- for her, one of the few people in her life who had been able to actually break though her forbidding walls and earn her trust.
Asuka might well pretend–when it suited her- to be a charmingly open and friendly girl to people around her, but she knew full well it was pure camouflage; the real Asuka sitting behind that façade did not give her trust to people lightly, or at all easily.

And yet…there was Shinji Ikari.

A person Asuka had only known for a little over a month and vice-versa, yet appeared to be utterly, impossibly immune to everything she had thrown at him in her standard attempts to push him away, patiently and persistently working his way closer to the real Asuka no matter whatshe did to discourage him…and Misato had started to glimpse that almost against her will, Asuka appeared to be edging closer to him.

Glancing across at Shinji as she reflected on what he had just so genuinely and freely offered to Asuka, Misato had an uncanny feeling that if this had been the Asuka who had arrived in Japan a few months ago, she would have gleefully jumped at his offer with both hands and barely a second thought. Yet now, when given the –apparent- choice of going, but going without Shinji or Rei…

“No deal,” was all she said in the end, reaching down and picking up a pair of flash drives, which she brandished at her charges like the weapons they were for her. “In fact, you should consider this a valuable and rare chance to catch up on your schoolwork… or did you think I hadn’t seen these grades?”

“What about our grades?” Shinji asked with a surprised look on his face, genuine confusion -for once- passing through his mind. After all, he had made a point of finding a convenient way of letting it ‘slip’ to Hikari shortly after her ‘new’ best friend arrived that although Asuka spoke fluent Japanese, her skill reading and writing kanji was far less advanced. Hikari of course had at once all but started a holy crusade to help Asuka with her writing and the Second Child’s grades had rapidly started to improve accordingly.

His grades had also dramatically improved this time around, for rather less… honest reasons; he had already taken all the tests once before after all. And although it had opened up a rather odd moral dilemma, he really couldn’t get too worked up about being in the top twenty percent of students of his class given how many other laws of man –and nature- his very existence broke.

Though it was unlikely even Unit One would offer sufficient protection if Hikari ever found out the truth…

“You’re both doing your best, I don’t think anyone could possibly dispute that,” Misato replied in a magnanimous sort of way, gesturing them to sit down, which he and Asuka did – though Asuka rather more grudgingly. “I know you’re both working hard at school, but you’ve both missed several assignments and tests this year thanks to your piloting duties. The school is graciously going to let you submit some work over the next three days to make up for it, which should shoot you two to right to the top ten percent of your year!” she announced, placing the flash drives back on the table with a flourish and a grin.

“So why should I care?” Asuka challenged her in an utterly unimpressed tone barely giving the flash drive Misato had placed in front of her a glance. “In case you’ve forgotten-”

“-You’ve gone to college,” Misato finished the thought in a somewhat tired sounding voice, clearly fighting to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. “Yes, yes I know. Shinji knows. Everyone in NERV knows. Everyone in your schoolknows. Everyone in Tokyo-3 probably knows. But Shinji hasn’t and I need to make sure he gets as good an education as can possibly be provided to him.”

Misato sighed slightly, letting the cheerful look fall from her face to something a little more serious, but she felt buoyed by the fact that Asuka appeared to be calming down.

“It’s not that much work, just a couple of take home tests; and you don’t even have to go into school to do them, I even think you might find yours a little challenging for a change Asuka. I’m sure if you put your minds to it you could polish them off tomorrow, then take the next two days off, have a nice little break of your own!”

“But no scuba diving,” Asuka replied, unable to keep the bitterness out of her sigh as she reached across the table and picked up her flash drive, glaring at it as if it was a new enemy for her to crush. “All those new swimsuits I brought for nothing!

“Well, if you want to model them for Shinji we do have a pool at headquarters you know,” Misato teased, and as fast as that-

“EWWW! You perverted Hentai matron!” Asuka all but screeched crashing back to her feet and pointing at Misato with a hand trembling in rage and embarrassment, her face rapidly turning scarlet. “Don’t you have any shame?”

Not waiting for an answer, Asuka turned and fled, slowing only long enough to grab her packed luggage by the door, half-carrying and half dragging it with her as she retreated, followed by the crack of a sliding door crashing shut and a shriek of a counterpoint from the doors guide rails protesting their treatment.

“I have to oil up those tracks some time,” Misato muttered, glancing at the hallway with a slight frown, before she shrugged and took another gulp of her juice.

“Misato, there must be a way to let Asuka go on-”

“Shinji, don’t backslide in that ‘everyone but me must be happy’ crap again,” she warned him, all traces of teasing gone from her voice as she sent her now empty can spinning off towards the bin with a casual flick of her wrist. “We went over this before the dance; enough of playing the hero already! And regardless of what you might think this isn’t about you, this a war; I’m not about to diminish our strength by one third because Asuka wants to go swimming, the sooner she realizes her job isn’t something she can put away when its inconvenient, the better”.

“Yes Misato,” he sighed, turning away and without further comment, slowly walking back to his room, knowing when Misato brought that tone out, he had no chance of changing her mind.

Not that it helped that her logic was unassailable… but it would have been nice to have Asuka out of Tokyo-3 when the A-17 was issued. His somewhat sketchy plan had been that Father would send him and Unit One in the Type-D equipment with Asuka –at worst- recalled to wait on standby while Rei backed him up from the surface as he attacked the Angel…but now there seemed to be no chance of that.

And knowing what the next few days would bring, he knew he wouldn’t get much sleep tonight.

Not that I got much yesterday he thought darkly as he flopped onto his bed, not even bothering to shut the door as he stared up at the ceiling again. He had had more then a few nightmares since he had found himself back at the start of all this horror, though they had faded away after the first week. Almost always, they had involved watching helplessly as Evangelion Units Five through Thirteen chewed down on Unit Two, listening to Asuka’s screams as the grinning eyeless titans of the Mass Production Evangelions tore her to pieces, unable to do anything to stop it.

Last night however, it had not been the past that had haunted him; but the future.

Last night, he had jumped into the lava after Asuka as the Eighth Angel had disintegrated, just like he had in the past. He had felt his AT-field burning around him as it resisted the lava for the sixty odd seconds it would last on maximum power, just like the first time. He had reached out his arm as Asuka’s umbilical cable slowly tore, just like the first time…

Except this time, he had missed.

His right hand had just barely brushed the claw Asuka had raised towards him as his left held onto the absolute limit of the shredded umbilical cable, which started to pull him up towards ‘safety’; staring in utter defiance of what he knew had happened and should have happened as Asuka continued to sink.

“Please, I don’t want to die Shinji!”

He had screamed for the cable to reverse, to drop in pursuit after her, but it continued to steadily pull him up towards the surface as Misato and Ritsuko cheerfully told him what a good job he had done.

“Please don’t leave me Shinji!”

He had tried, God he had tried to let go, to swim after her and do something, anything, but his hand refused to let go, Unit One refused to respond to him-

“I don’t want to die! Help me Shinji! Please, HELP ME!”

And no matter how hard he strained, his Evangelion simply continued to ascend leaving him looking down as Unit Two slowly vanished into its tomb of liquid rock, the distance between his extended hand and her extended claw increasing as every second passed, her face on his display breaking up into static as she stared in pure, unrefined, terror directly at him, buried alive in liquid rock.

“Please…please don’t let me die…Shinji…Sh-”

-And he had snapped awake and gasping for air, crying out alone in the darkness of his room.

Then and there he finally understood just how close the battle against the Eighth Angel had been; Asuka had come literally within seconds of dying. And with hindsight –and the borrowed memories in his head- he could finally understand the reason she had been sent on the mission had not been because she was the hotshot new pilot being given a chance to prove her worth, but because the operation had an unacceptably high risk factor and Unit Two –unlike Unit One or the pilot of Unit Zero- was eminently expendable, at least in his Father’s mind.

But not this time.

He couldn’t risk letting her take on that Angel again. Not when the margin for success was so razor thin on this operation, not given how much he had changed things around already where the slightest hesitation, the slightest mistake could mean her death

Whichwould then be unquestionably on his head, no-one else’s.

Of course, the issue of how he was going to stop her was-

“You’re still up?”

The voice -that voice- crashed into his rather depressing thoughts without warning, causing him to jump halfway off his bed in shock and surprise before he managed to get his head back under control, closing his eyes and taking a deep and slow breath before turning to face the figure silhouetted in his doorway.

Asuka was leaning against the open doorframe with a curious look on her face, her arms crossed over her chest as she studied him. How long she had been standing there he didn’t have a clue…but the fact she was wearing her pajamas this early in the evening was rather odd…

At least he thought it was odd until he sat up and caught a glimpse of the clock on his bedside stand.

He had been lying here for three and a half hours?

That wasn’t good.

In his rather extensive experience on the matter, brooding in a bedroom for that long just never led to good things.

“Oh,” was all he could say, blinking in surprise at the clock. “I didn’t realize it was so late”.

“No kidding,” Asuka observed, stepping into his room without so much as a ‘By Your Leave’. “So why are you sulking in your room? I’m the one who got chewed out by Misato for daring to want a vacation.”

“I’m not sulking,” he corrected her, finding the energy to work up half a smile. “I’m thinking”.

“Ahhh,” she said, as her eyes focused on him in a manner that said she didn’t believe him for a second, halting next to his bed with her hands on his hips in the way that always made his heart beat faster, her hair once again contained by neural clips, yet still flowing like a scarlet waterfall that all but begged to have hands run through…

He hadn’t been lying when he had told her simply being around her made him feel alive in a way he had never felt in his life before meeting her.

“And pray tell, what were you thinking about Baka?”

“School,” he lied.

“Really?” she snorted. “Such a boring little boy, I see you’re taking Misato’s pep talk to heart like a good little student.”

“Well if you want to go and change into one of your swim suits and do a little modeling GAH-” Shinji was cut off mid retort as Asuka seized a convenient pillow and did her best to start smothering him with a look of mock –or at least hopefullymock- anger on her face for several seconds, before she took pity and relented, tossing the pillow at his feet and leaning up against the wall next to his bed.

“You are incorrigible,” she sighed, ignoring his coughing as he worked to get oxygen back into his suddenly abused lungs. “But um, look, I just wanted to well…to say thankyou.”

After a quick time out to restore his brains oxygen flow he glanced curiously up at her, but she wasn’t exactly meeting his gaze, instead appearing to find something rather fascinating about her thick pink bedroom socks. “Offering to stay behind so I could go to Okinawa, Rei too in fact, you were both uh…well…it…it was nice of you to offer it.”

“I’m sorry Misato didn’t tell you until you had boughtall that…stuff,” he replied with a now slightly forced smile, knowing just how (over) excited she had been about this trip, but more than anything else, just feeling a depression over the fact that he couldn’t spare her the upcoming descent into hell.

“Oh, no great loss, I got to spend some time with Kaji,” she said with a smile at the floor, though Shinji couldn’t help but feel slightly smug that her expression was simply ‘happy’ and not ‘restraining-order level obsession’ as it had been for a long, long time wherever Kaji was concerned. “And I’ll just lend Hikari most of what I brought; at least she can have fun with it…but stop trying to distract me, what’s eating you up, Third?”

“Eh?” He said while trying to retreat slightly as she finally turned her gaze on him; feeling pined in place under those eyes that, without fail, could punch through any defense he could put up, see through any deception if she pushed hard enough…

“You’re not the type of person who just sits around, moping in your bedroom for hours on end,” she pointed out reasonably.

Oh Kami. If she only knew how depressingly funny that was…

“I’ve just…been having a bit of trouble sleeping,” he confessed, just not able to muster the strength to tell her yet another lie under her gaze, wondering again how the hell Kaji could keep deceiving everyone about everything so easily

“What kind of trouble?” she asked impatiently…although her voice now actually had something like the slightest edge of genuine concern in it, damn her.

Oh nothing, just dreaming of your entry plug imploding as molten rock crushes you to death…

“It was just a bad night,” he tried to dismiss the whole thing, hoping she would let it be as he saw the sudden unease in her gaze at this particular topic…

“You’ve been having nightmares.”

It was a statement, not a question.

“Asuka, can we not talk about this?” He replied breaking away from those eyes and directing his gaze towards the safe neutral ceiling once again, just mentally pleading with her to let it go, to drop the line of questioning before her patient tugging unraveled his painstakingly built string of lies…

“What kind of nightmares?” She continued as if he had said nothing, shifting slightly against the wall so she near towered over him and brought her gaze back into play…and he just couldn’t help himself. He was so tired of lying to her about everything, the biggest phony in the world as he hid everything she had a right to know…even if he knew he couldn’t, he mustn’t tell her the truth-

“It’s nothing,” he lied with a sharp tone that he regretted almost at once, feeling as much as seeing the glare she shot him in response as she shoved off the wall, pushed away yet again by someone… and given how horribly sensitive she must be to any talk of nightmares, he felt like the biggest asshole in the world.

Well, except his Father of course-

“Fine!” Asuka snapped. “Stay here and mope Baka, see if I give a damn!” and with that she stomped for the door-

“Asuka!” He called after her as she stalked off, stopping her at the doorway and causing her to glance over her shoulder with a look easily said to be cold and disinterested…but under it, he could see was a true layer of real hurt that stabbed into him like a progressive knife.


“I…I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that, you were just trying to help,” he apologized softly before with a sigh, he turned his gaze once again to the ceiling. Regardless of his own problems, he had never wanted to hurt her; she already had far too many horrors in her past to saddle him with any of the legion that followed him around these days.

There was a heavy silence in the room for several seconds as he waited for her to leave. But to his surprise, he heard her retrace her footsteps to his bed, and with only slight hesitation, she actually sat down on the edge of it.

“Do…you want to talk about it?”

Oh God he wished he could. He wanted so much to just say ‘screw security’, to hell with the consequences and just tell Asuka everything-


In those thoughts lay terrible, disastrous risks. Three billion people were counting on him including her, as well as Misato, Re and everyone he cared about. All of them, if they were to have any chance this time around were relying on him keeping his big mouth shut. He just couldn’t risk putting her into the kind of danger he lived in, tap dancing on the minefield sown by SEELE, his Father and the Angels, where the slightest misstep could result in disaster.

So he rotated his head to look her in the face, and offered her a slightly wan smile.

“I…I appreciate the offer…but I just…” he let his voice trail off helplessly. He just didn’t know what he could say. More than anything else he just wanted her to leave his room…and more then anything else, he wanted her to stay.

“…Alright,” she said after a few seconds, and the silence that reclaimed the room was a conversation all of its own as they both turned back to study the floor and ceiling.

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Chris OFarrell
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Chris OFarrell » 2008-11-03 03:40am

Asuka Langley Soryu hated awkward silences. Always had, always did. As a rule of thumb, she would either walk out on such a moment in annoyance, or, she would take the initiative and say something to change the direction of the conversation.

But she felt an odd -and awkward- resistance to the idea of simply getting up and walking out of his room…and found she was utterly unable to say anything on this subject. Her nightmares had been banished for weeks now, and she knew it was thanks to him. How he had vanquished her bad dreams still made her blush when she dared to think about it –and she did dare more then she would ever admit just before she fell asleep each night- but deep down, she knew he had done something she had never been able to do, despite years of trying…

And now he was having nightmares.

Well there isn’t anything I can do about it she told herself in the dead silence of the room finally deciding to try and make a tactful exit as soon as she could. I feel for him, Gott knows I understand how hard this can be, but he’s strong, he’ll survive-

‘You’re using him Asuka’

Asuka froze in the very act of starting to get up as the thought drifted into her mind; that voice yet again mocking her from the depths of her mind with thoughts she would much rather ignore, but feelings continued to come faster and faster.

She remembered how Shinji had told her about his Mother, but she had still told him nothing about hers. She could vividly recall all the times and ways she had tried to hurt himonly to have Shinji just pretend it never happened and keep going with a smile. His confounding patience and tolerance…the way all but offered himself as someone to vent on when her moods turned sour, like a human punching bag at times…yet he still tried to get even closer to her, not shunning her as a ‘bitch’ or ‘asshole’ or ‘brat’ as so many other people she might have cared about in her life had.

And then was the way he had made her nightmares vanish…

She had used him –still used him- like a glorified teddy bear…but she had never even thanked him for it, given that even she couldn’t credit the validity of whispering in his ear while he slept…

Alright she admitted to herself with another sigh, albeit one of acceptance. As much as she loathed the idea, well-

‘And lets not mention at the dance as he held you like he would never let you go right after you forced him to admit how he felt -’ a voice smoothly put in with an undercurrent of a smirk-

I SAID ALRIGHT she raged and the voice –her voice- vanished at once, shredded by the hurricane of her anger.

Anger was good, anger was an old friend and faithful companion; always there to help clear her mind and always there to protect her from herself. Yet today, for the first time it utterly failed her… leaving her alone to face a simple truth… as much as she hated to admit it.

She had taken everything Shinji had given her -even if he didn’t know he had given anything to her-and she had given nothing to him in return. Oh sure he gave some nebulous answer about how he felt ‘alive’ around her, but come on, really

She owed him.

Like it or not, she owed him. And if Misato hadn’t shot him down tonight, she would have owed him even more for getting her onto that plane to Okinawa, sacrificing his own right to be happy for her, yet again.

She could not stand owing anything to anyone verdammt, and the sudden revelation of just how far in debt she was to him was utterly infuriating…so what could she do for him?

She wished she could take his nightmares away, but there wasn’t anything she could do-

Or…or could she?

Oh no.
No way!
That was ridiculous; an insane idea…

…but, well, it had worked to get rid of hernightmares, a prospect she had become fatalistically convinced years ago would never happen. And on a level she really didn’t understand, she trusted Shinji. She trusted him in a way that she trusted almost no-oneand terrifyingly, she still didn’t know why.

But even so! This would be something requiring a whole new level of trust; trust and risk. Her pride, the bulwark of her soul was feeling strangely schizophrenic as she considered the possibility. One half urged her to leave, whispering that she had made a firm decision to keep Shinji at a distance some time ago, to avoid destroying one of her all too few genuine friendships in a moment of stupidity just like this…but a louder voice hammered into her and scoffed at the notion, questioning if she could even claim to be his friend if she was just going to sit here like a coward and let him suffer…

And really, it all came back to a simple truth; she owed him. And this would even the score…or at least slap a rather large down payment on her debt.
And she always paid her debts. By the honor of Asuka Langley Soryu, she always paid her debts, and so…

“Take off your jacket.”

Blinking, Shinji flicked his gaze down from the ceiling. Of all the things he had expected Asuka to say to break this awkward silence between them, ‘take off your jacket’ was not precisely at the top of his list.

“Uh… what?”

“Take. Off. Your. Jacket.” She repeated, now sounding slightly annoyed at his lack of comprehension –and compliance- though, as she was keeping her face pointed away from him he had a problem in telling if she was being serious. Deciding however that it was generally safer to his person to humor Asuka then deny her, he slowly sat up and, with only slight hesitation, eased out of his jacket and tossed it onto the floor, leaving him clad in a T-Shirt and tracksuit pants.
Hardly high fashion, but it was comfortable.

“Good,” she said, standing and heading for the door, making him wonder again what was going on…until she closed it.

With her on the inside.

Okay, this was new.

“Well don’t just sit there, get in bed!” she ordered with a snap of irritation at his lack of compliance with orders she had not given, so he moved, finding an odd but familiar comfort in the confused and intimidating spiral of emotions Asuka’s behavior was bringing him as he twisted around-

Then the lights went out.

With the exception of his half open blinds, the act banished all light, forcing him to blink several times in vain effort to adjust and focus as he waited for her to leave…

Except she didn’t.

She must have just forgotten something he thought as he heard her moving around, until-

Don’t move,” she ordered suddenly from right next to his bed in a dark tone that promised dire consequences if he did, and then with a rustle of sheets, she was crawling over him and on his bed-

Okay, she’s just kidding around…she…she’s…oh my God, she’s…!

His eyes bulged open in shock as he felt Asuka squirm energetically under his covers until she had settled into place next to him, the Second Child only needing to apply minor poking to get him to shift across as she claimed something like an equal share of the bed, setting her head down next to his with a satisfied sigh as she relaxed into a bed that suddenly felt about six sizes too small.

Frozen didn’t quite describe how utterly immobile Shinji felt his body become as Asuka stopped moving, his mind having a rather hard time focusing on anything beyond the fact that Asuka Langley Soryu was in his bed!

At least when he had woken to find her clinging to him on the floor a few weeks back, she had been unconscious and they had both pretended it had never happened. And sure this time she wasn’t pressing against him, or clinging onto him with arms and legs…but this time they were both fully awake and awareof what was going on-

“Asuka,” he finally managed to get out a good thirty seconds later, by which point the silence between them stretched to a level of ridiculousness even he couldn’t stand as he tried to ignore the seductive, comfortable heat starting to tease into his body from his left, a feeling his Japanese cultural upbringing screamed was so wrong, yet felt so dangerously, electrically right…

“Yeeessss?” She replied in a tone that caused a wave of heat to flush over his face, the valiant efforts of his right hand to pinch his leg and bring any kind of focus back through extreme pain having utterly no effect as wrong, really really wrong images of what might come next blurred through his mind at high speed.

“You’re…you’re in my bed,” he stuttered out, realizing as he said it how stupid such a blatantly obvious statement sounded, but finding his scattered mind completely incapable of coming up with anything else…and frankly, not a whole lot more needed to be said!

“Yup,” she agreed, in a –thankfully- more normal tone.

“…um, can I ask why?”

Mine won’t be delivered for another week”

And it was true; Asuka, Hikari and Rei –whom he, Toji and Kensuke had very quietly (and very privately) christened the ‘Stooge-ettes’- had gone shopping two days ago, Asuka finally acting on his suggestion to just buy a bed if she hated her futon so much. And it had ‘only’ taken her a good three hours to pick a bed out; a monster King Single that he calculated would just barely fit into her room, containing an advanced gel-layered mattress that would actually sculpt itself to her body and provide ‘perfect support’.

Plus it was made in the EU, which made it a rather forgone conclusion that it would be her bed, but-

“You’ve been sleeping on your own futon for a while” he pointed out as he fumbled for words desperately, his mind doing its best impression of a hamster running in its wheel as he desperately tried to think. “So um…”

”Well think of it this way,” she said and he could hear the smirk of pride in her tone even without looking. “What do you think the chances are of having a nightmare with me sleeping next to you to dream about, Hentai?”

And when you are my nightmares? Shinji thought silently, his mood of nervous anxiety at once collapsing into a black hole of depression, albeit a depression far lighter then his past levels of introverted self loathing.

At least until inspiration struck and he realized there was a way to tell her. And even if more then anything else he just wanted to shut up and embrace this preciously rare moment of being so close to the person he cared so much about, he just couldn’t...not without saying something-

“Asuka…” he tried to start, his voice cutting off as his throat swelled shut in a futile attempt to stop him ruining everything, before he pushed on. “Asuka, you…you are in my nightmares”.

Ah, perfect. He had destroyed a moment he had dreamed about for over a year now with a mere six words, that had to be a new record, even for him.

Turning slightly to face her, he clinically noted humor draining from her face into a kind stoic embarrassment or humiliation as she realized he wasn’t joking; the moment hanging heavily on them both until he broke it -and their locked gazes- by turning again to look at the ceiling, knowing he couldn’t possibly do this staring at her face, a distant part of him worshiping her glory in the soft moonlight; her hair framing a fiery halo around her soft, perfect face as it lay there on his pillow
Unfortunately it wasn’t nearly enough of a distraction to stop damn mouth.

“We were both in our Evas,” he began slowly. “On Over the Rainbow, you in Unit Two and me in Unit One. We had beaten the Angel again, but the explosion threw us into the water. I had a power cable plugged into my Eva but you didn’t and as we both sunk, I reached out to grab your hand…” he paused, ruthlessly pushing the violent surge of emotions trying to shut him up to the side as he felt a rather odd echo of his debriefing with the JDA, “but…I missed. The cable started to pull me back; you kept sinking into the deepest trench in the ocean. I screamed for them to let me go, I tried to eject the cable, I tried to force the Eva to go after you, to do anything…but nothing worked. You kept begging for me to help you, to not leave you to die alone as you sunk until…”

He couldn’t get out the last words, but it was hardly necessary. His face showed perfectly clearly what he had felt as Unit Two imploded from the pressure.

Asuka wasn’t exactly sure how long she just sat – lay - there after Shinji finished his tale. Feelings of disbelief, shock and yes, even humiliation crashed around her mind, facing off against equally uncomfortably deep feelings of worry and guilt, the kaleidoscope of emotions throwing her thoughts into turmoil as her heart, for some reason, pounded in her chest as if she had just run a marathon.

Disbelief because it just seemed so impossible to her that Shinji Ikari of all people would be having nightmares about failing in combat. When he had always been so damn perfect, his exasperating natural talent a major source of annoyance as he took down Angel after Angel after Angel with barely a scratch and only the most basic of training, and yet here he was, all but crying into his pillow over something that had never happened?

Shock, because she would never have guessed that she was the focus of his nightmares and the implications shook her to her core, as did the fact that he had confessed it to her, the image of herself slowly falling to a watery grave passing in front of her eyes before she kicked it out of her mind as an irrelevant fiction.

Humiliation because she had put her pride on the line here damn it! Climbing into bed with a guy, even under the flimsy pretext of needing a bed to sleep in, even with a person she trusted as much as she trusted Shinji, had taken far more courage then she could admit. It had been a huge gamble…which appeared to have utterly, miserably, backfired.

Worry because she had to worry about this! What could this mean for her? Would Shinji push her away for his own good, in some idiotically misplaced attempt to protect her from this dream? Worry because even the thought of Shinji pushing her away actually…hurt?
Making her realize that despite all her efforts to keep everyone at arms length, she had actually -if painstakingly- started to open up to him, leaving hervulnerable.

And guilt.

Guilt in spades.

Guilt because, as far as she knew, he had never had nightmares like this until she had gotten close to him. She had seen him sleep a few times on the living room floor right after she had moved in, and he had always looked so peaceful, without a worry in the world…and now she, Asuka Langley Soryu had brought his peace crashing down by her very presence, centered around a nightmare where she died screaming for him to save her…almost as if he had taken her nightmares away by starting his own.

And to hell with that! He had brought peace to her dreams, she wasn’t going to sit back and be responsible for destroying his! Looking at him even now, she could see how he had almost unconsciously eased away from her, the tight look on his face saying louder then words that he was waiting for her to leave.

Like hell I’m leaving, Third Child her mind suddenly blazed with an intensity that surprised even her. You are not defeating me that easily! Not this time damn it!

“So?” She asked him, forcing nothing harsher then a slightly curious tone into her voice. “Who cares?”

Shinji turned to look at her, with an expression that suggested he was questioning her sanity.

“Didn’t you hear what I just said?” he asked in a low, strained voice.

“Yeah, but I don’t think you did” she replied, striving to keep her voice calm and level and not give into her odd urge to slap him silly for being such a…well…idiot. “It was a dream. In real life, Misato would never keep pulling you up as I kept sinking and your Eva wouldn’t just ignore you, even if you tried to do something suicidal…like diving after me in B-Type equipment –and thanks for trying by the way. All that mattered Shinji, was that you tried your best. And if you still couldn’t save me?” she shrugged slightly, “Well to quote Misato, ‘this is war’. Every single time we deploy Third Child, one of us, all of us, may not come back. All that matters is that we try-”

“And what if,” he interrupted in a tone that actually chilled her slightly for how distant it suddenly sounded, as if suddenly a wall had slammed up between them, “I didn’t try? What if when you needed me the most, when you desperately needed me to stand up and watch your back, what if I just stood around feeling sorry for myself and you got hurt, or even killed because of it? What would you think of me then?”

She held back her instinctive sarcastic reply –barely- as she realized from his body language that she had found herself on the edge of a precipice; that she had stepped onto a very painful point for Shinji and almost intrinsically, understood that one false move; one wrong word could make this rather awkward situation far worse then it was.

Why? She thought as she directed her gaze at him steadily, her mind furiously working behind her eyes. Why is he suddenly so utterly convinced he might fail NERV…or more accurately, fail me in some way? Just from some stupid nightmare? It doesn’t make sense…

“If I was dead, I don’t think I would care much,” she pointed out slowly, turning to look at the rather boring roof, wondering in annoyance why Shinji found it so much more interesting then her. “But assuming I could care afterwards…” she paused as she felt Shinji’s eyes in turn swivel from the roof to lock onto her, as if he really did want to know, waiting for her as she thought about it until she actually found an honest answer and glanced back at him, “Then it would depend”.

“…On what?”

“On what you did after that,” she declared, shifting and rolling around to not quitestraddle him –she wasn’t going to go that far- but making sure that he couldn’t look away and ignore her again. “There are two types of people in this world Ikari,” she declared in her most imperious tone. “Those who make mistakes and run away from them, and those who admit when they have screwed up, who know they have done something wrong but instead of compounding their mistake, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and make damn sure they never make it again! And from what I’ve heard, you’re not the type of person to run away.”

Shinji chuckled, but it wasn’t a sound of humor, it was almost chilling for the darkness that laced it…no, strike that; darkness wasn’t quite the word.

Depression would be more accurate.

“Asuka, I’ve been running away all my life-”

“Have, past tense, Baka,” she snorted, interrupting what she –somehow- knew was going to be a self pitying rant without hesitation, finding this new spineless Shinji increasingly vexing, but successfully resisting the urge to slap some sense into him…for now. “And I don’t care about your past, because you haven’t run away from anything since you’ve arrived here. You didn’t run away from piloting Eva when you found out what it would mean for Rei, then you stayed when you understood what it would mean for this city and this planet. You didn’t run away from your Father, but stood up to him and gave him the finger…and…” she hesitated slightly before pushing forward in a softer voice, fighting the embarrassment that surged at what she was about to say, “You didn’t run away from me, when I asked what I meant to you.”

Glancing away for a second, she paused to reign in her emotions from that confession she had not wanted to let out like that, yet she couldn’t easily deny, feeling the oddest surge of exhilaration that she had done so as she turned back to look into Shinji’s suddenly surprised eyes and locked his gaze in place as she shifted into her most imperious look, her hair swinging down as she leaned down and got right in his face, ignoring the sudden feeling of butterflies rampaging around in her stomach as their faces got closer…and closer…

O…okay, that’s close enough Girl…steady on…!

“So I’ll make you a deal Third Child,” she growled to him in a somewhat direct tone when she knew she had his complete and undivided attention. “If you, at some point in the future, let me down utterly, completely and catastrophically like you think you might, I forgive you in advance for it…providing that you don’t mope around like an idiot for the rest of your life but find a way, any way, to make it right, and you don’t stop trying until you do. Fair enough?”

Lying on his back, with Asuka looming over him at point blank range, her face set into a fiercely demanding expression that left not the slightest room for dissent, Shinji Ikari felt another of those epiphanies he had been having with annoying frequency since ‘coming back’ crashing in on him.

Not necessarily by choice of course, but the fact was that Asuka’s pointed demand struck at something that had been sitting in the depths of his mind ever since he had found himself standing at a payphone with ‘Sachiel’ bearing down on him…again. Underlying, perhaps even staining his new existence was a simple truth that he could try to hide from, try to ignore and even try to deny, but none the less remained patiently waiting in the background.

He hadfailed.

He had failed everyone.

He had failed on a level so grand that it had cost the human race its very existence in a single perfect moment of insanityand now that he knew he could fail on such a scale, what was to stop him from doing so again?

And in Asuka’s low, steady voice he finally found the answer. A truth so simple he had missed it, or perhaps just ignored it, for all these months, being so utterly set on ‘making everything right’ and atoning for his failure.

There was utterly nothing that said events couldn’t turn out just as bad, if not worse –if that was possible- as they had the ‘first time’, this time around. Nor was there any promise that even a victory against the Angels, SEELE and his Father meant that everyone he cared about would be there with him at the end, or he with them.

Rei, Lilith, Adam, Kaworu…his mother…the powers behind his existence had offered him a chance, nothing more or less then that. They had not offered him any guarantee everything would turn out well…and while he had come to terms –mostly because of Kaji’s rather blunt words weeks ago - with the fact that he could never receive any kind of absolution for his betrayal of Asuka at the end, his recent nightmares had brought a terrible possibility to him that he had been denying.

His very actions to atone for his mistakes could cost him just a dearly as his inaction had last time. That as the ripples of his changes to history started to rebound and distort the timeline as he remembered it; he could lose her –or anyone else he cared about- like that, and over the last few days as the 8th Angel grew closer, he had felt increasingly terrified about doing anything, not knowing how something he did might affect something else, as the ripples from his actions continued to move beyond his sight and control.

But when you really got down to it, how was that any different from any other person living their lives? When had he or Asuka not been in mortal danger since they had known each other? The only thing he could do, the very thing Asuka was demanding he promise her in her typically blunt way, was that he would honestly try. And so, when they went to fight the 8th Angel, all he could do -and all he could promise her- was his best effort, as he knew she would give hers.

And maybe, just maybe…it would be enough to keep them alive, at least until the next crisis hit.

And he could worry about that when it arrived.

“Alright,” he replied, returning her gaze directly as he felt his nervous anxiety of the upcoming battle drain away, setting aside his fears of a future he knew yet didn’t know behind a resolve to do whatever it took to make sure they did not come to pass, taking strength as he always did from the molten fire of Asuka’s gaze as she demanded nothing more or less then his best effort. “I promise you; I’ll never stop trying”.

“Good,” Asuka replied with a somewhat arch expression on her face, before she tumbled back to her side of the bed and flopped back down into place. “Now go to sleep Ikari, I’m tired”.

“You’re…staying?” he asked with more than a little surprise.

“I repeat; my bed is several days away from being delivered Baka,” she snapped back, but Shinji could hear the undercurrent of relieved humor and that brought a smile back to his face as he closed his eyes, listening to the sounds of her settling back into place until she stopped moving with a satisfied sigh, leaving nothing but the steady, hypnotic sound of her deep breathing in its place.

“So…can I try out your bed when it arrives?” he asked into the dark silence between them…

Which continued for a good five seconds until-

“Ikari?” she finally replied in a tone that suggested he was greatly pushing his luck.

“…Yes Asuka?”

“If you wish to live through the night, shut up. Now

“…Yes Asuka”.

Still, as he kept the smirk he felt off his face and let his eyes fall shut, he also, just for once, threw aside any deeper questions and just decided to exist inthe extreme novelty and comfort of Asuka’s warmth next to him. And quicker then he thought possible, he fell into a deep, restful sleep.

Alright, that settles that Asuka thought some indeterminate time later as, with no small amount of satisfaction, she finally decided that it was safe to assume Shinji’s dreams this night were free of any trace of the terror that had so clearly haunted him. His face had not shifted from the relaxed and peaceful expression it had taken shortly after he had fallen asleep…and there really wasn’t anything more for her to do here but go to sleep herself.

In a bed for once, Thank Gott! That alone would have made all of this insanity worthwhile.

And yet, as much as she just wanted to shut her eyes and crash right next to Shinji on his genuine mattress, there was something oddly compelling about the face next to her…and so she maintained her vigil over the Third Child as time passed, studying Shinji by the thin moonlight from his window as she wondered why she found his face so fascinating.

Or was her inability to look away from Shinji because she was looking for evidence of that other Shinji who had come out tonight?

The one who was utterly not Shinji Ikari?

After all, he had always been so sure of himself. Every insult she threw at him, it was almost as if he had heard it before and already had the perfect counter ready. Every temper tantrum she had thrown –and yes, she could grudgingly admit she had thrown more then one- he had endured with nothing more then a patient smile, waiting until she calmed down before continuing as if nothing had happened, something that had both surprised and, when she could be honest, even irrationally made her feel uneasy. In the darkness of her own room, she had even started to darkly wonder who the hell she was pretending to be next to the invincible Third Child, no matter what she said publicly…

And yet, in the darkness of his room, she had seen Shinji Ikari, the hero of NERV, the poster boy for the entire Evangelion program she had been hearing nothing but praise about for months before she had arrived in Tokyo-3 whose very presence made a mockery of all her years of hard work and training, reduced to a terrified child cowering in his bed from nothing more then a fear of the future. As if no other soldier in the world had ever been afraid of what tomorrow might bring, having to face the possibility of failure…

“Sie sind ein Mensch schliesslich, Dummkopf,” she whispered at the calmly sleeping Shinji, letting –if just for a few seconds- a slight but honest smile that was truly hers pass across her face before she dropped back down into place next to him, edging as close –if keeping a discrete few centimeters away from touching him- as possible before closing her eyes, and with only a slight sigh, falling into an agreeably warm and utterly peaceful sleep of her own.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“What’s the matter Ikari, scared?”

“Uh, well yes, actually. I’ve never done anything like this before!”

“Oh for the love of…back me up First; you can handle this can’t you?”

“I am not qualified on such vehicles…however their operation appears relatively straight forward-”

“Hah! There! If Rei can handle this, you can handle it Ikari…unless you’re just so plain scared over the fact you know I’ll utterly crush you”.

Something inside Shinji Ikari…’twitched’…at that statement.

For the longest time - over more then one lifetime - Asuka Langley Soryu had taken a great deal of free entertainment out of hammering in the fact that she was superior in every way to him. Oh he cared deeply for her; that was without question and her pride was as much a part of her as anything, but it didn’t mean she couldn’t grate on him at times. And while her Eva related boasting had reduced as the three of them had to work more as a team, it didn’t mean that Asuka failed to take opportunities when they presented themselvesto show her superiority to him...and today hadn’t been very different.

For example, Math.

After he Rei and Asuka had waved their friends off at the airport, they had taken a train into NERV-HQ - which was as good a place as any after Asuka vetoed any idea of heading into an empty classroom at school - the trio being directed to a quite conference room deep inside the labyrinth of the administration sector that Misato had thoughtfully put aside for their use.

Somewhat surprisingly, Rei had no work assigned at all by their teacher; somehow she had managed to stay apace with the class and in between blinks after they had arrived at the conference room, she had vanished into the depths of Central Dogma without a trace.

Two hours later, Asuka was finished.

Now that she could actually read the questions, the Second Child was hardly finding herself challenged by the ‘kiddy stuff’ as she continually –and loudly- derided the school work she was doing, her fingers blurring across her laptops keyboard without ever slowing down.

It was a situation made all the more annoying by the fact that he had found out Asuka’s assignments were actually final year course work written for students four years older than Asuka herself…and it hadn’t so much as slowed her down.

So Asuka had uploaded her work to the school server with a far too loud satisfied sigh, shutting down her laptop, packing up her things…
And then the waiting had begun.

He had tried to ignore her as he struggled through his work, muttering curses as he slowly but steadily and honestly made progress by himself, continually reminding himself that he had never claimed to be as smart as she was.

It hadn’t worked.

He had tried to put the light, idle tapping of her fingers against the wooden table as she just sat there, staring at him, out of his mind.

It didn’t help.

She just patiently sat there, forever staring at him with an expression that clearly suggested he just had to beg for her help and she would be glad –after gloating for a long, long time- to probably help him, continually mocking him and taking every single opportunity to point out how far under her his IQ was.

In the end, his mind had snapped and he had turned to face her, letting her know with what little dignity he had that this might take a while and he would catch up with her later.

And with an unabashedly amused and pitying look, she had promptly left him for something or someone more entertaining.

Left him with the last component of his homework; a four question Math assignment that made his ‘basic’ physics primer from the ‘first time’ look easy.

He had managed to swallow his pride after another two hours of work only got him stuck halfway through the third of the ridiculously difficult sections, a growing headache finally deciding for him the fact that he needed some help from his roommate, despite how much enjoyment she would get from mocking his relative intelligence level. A quick check of Misato’s office down the corridor had found only Misato and Doctor Akagi – and although the later had tried to help him, she had only succeeded in leaving him with three times the headache from her explanations - chatting away, so he had checked the cafeteria, the command center and even the Evangelion bays with no luck, before finally ending up in the bases Olympic swimming pool where he found Ayanami swimming laps by herself, with no sign of Asuka.

Bikini clad or otherwise.

Oddly enough, just watching Rei swim had cleared his headache right up. If it was because there was something hypnotic about the knifelike motions of her body through the water, or just the fact that her presence always had some strange calming effect on him he wasn’t sure, but he found he didn’t really care either way, finding a seat and just watching as Rei smoothly powered back and forth for the next fifteen or so minutes with a precision an atomic clock would have envied.

Eventually finishing up her laps, a slightly curious Rei had listened to him explain what he was doing here before surprisingly agreeing to join him in his search for the Second Child, emerging from the change room several minutes later in an utterly mind crushing combination of dark blue jeans, sandals and a sleeveless white tank top, all crowned by an pair of expensive looking sunglasses-nothing like his Fathers thankfully- resting on top of her azure hair, more he thought as a mimic of fashion then from any real utility.

None the less, the look she pulled off was so utterly not the Rei Ayanami that still existed in his mind that he had simply stood there like an idiot for about ten seconds staring at her, until a faintly confused sounding Rei had asked if something was wrong.

Not really trusting himself to answer that question, he had just said that she looked very nice and headed for the door, missing the slightest blush on her face before she had fallen into step behind him.

Continuing his search, Rei had sped up his efforts rather directly by pulling her phone and calling the Second Child. It was an approach that Shinji had never considered –and he admitted it had a certain inelegant directness- but it did get results; Rei relaying directions after a very short conversation that Asuka was wandering the Geofront surface, near some of the secondary buildings on top of Central Dogma…

Asuka Langley Soryu had rarely felt like she did today.

It was as if since waking up this morning, the entire world had a far sharper focus for her. The air felt just that much crisper, her unhurried steps just that much lighter on the ground and even the fact that she was stuck in Tokyo-3 as her classmates went off for a weekend of fun on Okinawa couldn’t put a dent in her mood.

And she knew perfectly well who was to blame –at least partially- for her current state… and that knowledge was close to driving her to distraction.

Waking up this morning, she had very secretly permitted herself a full five minutes to just enjoy the extreme novelty -and dangerously comfortable- feelings pulsing through her body from her rather unusual circumstances, throwing aside any and all questions of propriety, dignity or morality. Indeed, she had even ignored the fact that her head had rolled during the night to rest on his shoulder…and somewhat disturbingly, she, didn’t really care either, the utterly peaceful, relaxed state of her body and soul just felt far too good to care.

Oh sure, if she had woken up to find Shinji touching her in any way that might have been construed as ’inappropriate’ in polite society, she would have made him suffer for it on a level that would have had his grandchildren - if he had been henceforth capable of having any - falling over in great pain for the rest of their lives for the violation of her trust. But he had not and so she had left him in peace, gently and painstakingly easing out of his bed so as to not disturb the blissfully sleeping Third Child, smiling slightly in a smugly self satisfied way at her ‘payback’ for his help in eliminating her bad dreams, before easing out of his room into the corridor beyond…and coming face to face with a rather icy looking Misato.

It had taken some fast talking in the living room and not a little angry indignation to convince Misato that nothing untoward had happened between her and Shinji last night.

Andthat she did have a good reason to be sleeping in Shinji’s bedroom.

In his bed.

With him in said bed, at the same time.

Not that in her opinion it was any of Misato’s business what she and Shinji chose to do -or not do- together, but she allowed that she deserved at least some explanation for why she had been caught red handed tip-toeing out of Shinji’s bedroom at seven in the morning, before she jumped to conclusions and made things difficult. After all, it washer house and she washer superior –that word she used loosely- officer, so she had suppressed her irritation at thequestioning and explained herself.

Misato’s expression didn’t shift by so much a nanometer as she had recounted the condition she had found Shinji in last night. Nor had it shifted when she had sidestepped into a grudging explanation of where she had gotten her idea from, laying out the events of several weeks ago that had eliminated her nightmares. And to say she felt mortified at finally coming clean would be a heck of an understatement, but she grimly pushed on and finished her explanation –or justification?- to Misato, finally falling silent as she waited for the reprimands and lectures to start, fully prepared to place a mark of somewhat empty look of serious contrition on her face.

But… they hadn’t come.

Instead, Misato’s face had softened and she had reached across, put an arm around her, and with a sigh; apologized for thinking so poorly of her intentions, adding with an odd expression on her face that ‘she was growing up far too fast’ before heading off into the kitchen, her words and actions pointedly declaring the incident over then and there.

She had been so dumbfounded at the unexpected reprieve from her guardian that she had just sat there and accepted the gesture, despite her aversion to people touching her being both ingrained and violent. But it had been actually a few hours later, with feelings of confusion and uncertainty still banging around her head as she strolled about the Geofront that she had been hit by an epiphany as something finally clicked.

Katsuragi really, truly, cared about her.

And she didn’t just ‘care’ about her as some responsibility foisted onto her, nor just as a subordinate in the NERV chain of command she had to look out for out of military necessity…but she actually cared about her.

She had known the Captain for years and, at least until this morning, the nicest thing she would have said about Misato was that she didn’t actively hate her like she did so many other people…at least most of the time. Of course, be it her level of sloth, her perpetual state of mild drunkenness or her casual disregard for even the most basic level of culinary skills…

Hell, she had made the decision to go hungry rather than risk food poisoning more than one night living with Misato, who’s ability to take care of herself was highly suspect, let alone anyone else!

After all, none of the countless other guardians –excepting Kaji of course- had been anything like Misato. They had all been no-nonsense efficient German housekeepers, who had been able to cook and did keep her small apartment perfectly tidy; proving her a clean, comfortable living environment…and treating her with, at best, complete indifference behind plastic smiles for the short periods of time they looked after her. Until, inevitably, they had finally pushed her off to someone else and left wearing a relieved expression on their souls they thought she couldn’t see.

Oh they always said itdifferently to her. ‘Family emergency, my Mother needs me, I’m so sorry’. Or ‘NERV transfer orders, you understand, Ja?’ And there was the classic ‘I have to go on a business trip to’ –insert country here- ‘no idea how long it will take, this is the new person who will be looking after you, but I’ll be back soon, okay?’ Then there were those childless German women who delightfully saw a daughter they could hug and hold, mold and keep for their own, all of whom left for ‘personal reasons’ shortly after Asuka had told them exactly what she thought of their attempts to turn her into their own precious little DOLL.

But it was always ultimately the same at the end; ‘Thank Gott I’m out of here, I can’t stand that bitch anymore, good riddance’.

But Misato Katsuragi...

Almost against her will as she strolled around the handful of auxiliary buildings that dotted the Geofront in the shadow of the brooding Headquarters pyramid, memories she had long pushed away from Germany had drifted slowly back out of the edges of her mind.

(The two of them just laying around on the lounge, Misato calling in sick and Asuka casually skipping a NERV test or two by the simple expedient of shutting off her cell-phone, just so they could spend a day chatting to each other as they feasted on horribly unhealthy junk food no other guardian would have let her dare touch while they both laughed at pre second-impact soap operas on TV)-

(Her desperate -and ultimately futile- attempt to maintain her typical businesslike demeanor as Misato mockingly mimed the new ‘evil German scientist’ on the Evangelion team with exaggerated gestures and movement behind his back during a synch test, causing her to crack up with so much laughter they had scrapped the entire test; both of them earning a pointed dressing down from the Base Commander and his mildly insulted lead scientist that had been so worth it)-

(The mix of embarrassed pleasure and pride as Misato -alone out of all her guardians- with the small NERV contingent had cheered her on wildly as she was awarded her degree from the Chancellor of the University of Munich)-

(And the day Misato had left for Tokyo-3, eavesdropping as she always morbidly did when one guardian handed her over to the next with undisguised relief…only to hear Misato instead threaten this new Kaji with a directness that shocked her, of very specific consequences to his person if he treated her with anything but the greatest love and respect…and somehow knowing Misato meant every single word and every single threat)-


In the longline of people who had at various times claimed the title of her guardian, and despite her many –many many many – flaws, Misato Katsuragi stood as one of only two people who, for whatever idiotic reason, had never done the ‘smart thing’ and just given up on her and walked away…because she really cared about her and refused to compromise on that, irrespective of how hard she knew living together had been for them at times…

…Much like the other utterly impossible person she lived with.

Shinji had proven himself worthy of the trust she had hesitantly placed in him by keeping his hands to himself last night, but more than any physical issues of them sharing the same bed…

Behind the ‘poster boy’s’ calm, self assured, smiling and downright smug persona, was a scared child who had fears and nightmares just like anyone -like her. They really were two of a kind in so many ways that she realized she couldn’t help herself from drifting closer to him the longer they spent in close proximity.

But this morning, her pride had put its foot down as it had forced its way back into the drivers seat after being pushed aside for far too many weeks now, at least where Shinji was concerned, saving her from crashing over the edge blindly, now at least that she knew there was a human being somewhere inside the Third Child.

She had to prove to Ikari once and for all that she, Asuka Langley Soryu, was not some ‘second fiddle Second Child’ to the glorious poster boy of NERV. That despite everything, shewas not going to –nor would she ever- bow down before him; that she could crush him under her stylish Italian boots whenever she was so inclined to do so.

And then, only then, after she had proven her place,could she even think about trying to honestly look at her feelings about Shinji which even before the dance had been confused enough to loose her more then a couple of hours sleep.
And since the dance, let alone last night…

But in the chaotic sea of her feelings regarding Shinji Ikari this morning, one thought continued to dominate and she clung to it tightly.

Crush Shinji into his place, and it will all fall into place…somehow.
And as Rei had called and asked where she was, she had just happened to walk past an old, somewhat hard used looking building…

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Chris OFarrell
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Chris OFarrell » 2008-11-03 03:40am

A few seconds ago, Shinji had been quietly wondering if going looking for Asuka had actually been one of his smarter ideas; that he should just go and try to get back to work himself given that Asuka was apparently in one of ‘those’ moods again…but her last statement, delivered with a look of such utterly smug superiority, had finally caused his usually rather subdued ego to come up swinging, brutally kicking aside his sense of self preservation and firmly taking the drivers seat.

“Not really, I just don’t see the point of it…unless you want to make it interesting.

Asuka’s body expressed no more reaction then a slight tilt of her head at his response, but there was definitely a flash in her eyes at the not-so-subtlechallenge.

“And pray tell, what did you have in mind, Third?”

“Oh lets just make a little bet shall we? Say when I beat you, you have to do all my laundry work for the next week.”

Asuka’s smirk turned…dangerous. It was a look that long experience and suffering told him to be rather wary of, the same look a falcon spying a tasty rodent far below on the ground and carefully flexing its claws in preparation to swoop might wear, but feeling uncharacteristically bold he held his ground and even went so far as to place the slightest twitch of a smirk of his own on his face, throwing down the gauntlet and just daring her to-

“And when I beat you,” she retorted, not breaking eye contact. “You have to cook me whatever I want, for the next week. No questions asked”.

The air between them seethed as their egos crashed, rolled and recoiled against each other. The gauntlet had been thrown down, the prizes named incidental to the gloating rights for a week that would be bestowed on one to use against the other, a prize worth far more to either of them then the others increasingly considerable bank account-

“And what if I win?” a third voice softly but pointedly entered the conversation, snapping them out of the moment, the Second and Third Child turning in perfect unison to look at the First, who was actually looking mildly interested at this whole utterly insane idea, in a ‘Rei’ sort of way…

“You won’t,” Asuka retorted, her smirk on the verge of becoming a full throttled grin. “But if you want to play…name your prize.”

Rei appeared to really consider it for a moment, tilting her head ever so slightly in thought before coming to a conclusion, her scarlet gaze narrowing to levelly return Asuka’s smirk.

“I would have both of you; prepare a dinner for me, tonight, in my apartment”.

Asuka’s smirk mutated into a slightly quizzical look, no doubt wondering why Rei was letting both of them off with something that actually sounded rather easy, but typically, she just leapt at the ‘mistake’ before she could change her mind.

“Done!” she announced for both of them with a flourish after his slight nod at her, whirling and stalking down the path outside the old looking building, Shinji none the less hearing her add something that sounded suspiciously like ‘not that it matters’ under her breath as he and Rei followed. An old fashioned key-locked door bared entrance, but it proved no match for the Second Child -mostly due to the fact that no-one had bothered to lock it- and Asuka hurried them inside, securing the door shut behind them.

MELCHIOR, which had been given the duty today of tracking the children among the thousands of other ‘housekeeping’ tasks it performed, had no remote sensors in the pre-NERV buildings area to log the Children vanishing into ‘Utility Vehicle Shed 16-Bravo’. It did have the perimeter of the area locked down however, meaning there was no way the Children could come back out of the area without being tagged, so the fact it had lost positive tracking on them wasn’t much of a concern to the semi-sentient mainframe.

So when three quad-bike ground-keeping vehicles came screaming out of the utility area two minutes later like bats out of hell, it did take a look as a matter of course. But as the heavy motorcycle helmets hid all key features from the facial recognition software and the old black and white camera prevented a skin tone/clothes match, a positive ID could not be determined.

Taking a few nanoseconds to investigate, the mainframe checked its files carefully before firmly deciding there was no reason for NERV personnel under the ‘Evangelion Pilot’ category to be using vehicles assigned to ‘Geofront Maintenance’ personnel. And so, ‘happy’ that it had logically deduced the integrity of its perimeter, MELCHIOR retuned to waiting - with the infinite patience of a computer - for the children to re-emerge as it knew they would, sooner or later…

The rules were simple.

First rule; the pilot to get to the big white support tower for Geofront train track 16, then to the fountain in front of headquarters, won.

Second rule; there weren’t any other rules.

The Second Child had taken an early lead as they screamed away from the maintenance buildings, driving with an ease and precision that lead Shinji to conclude she must have used a quad bike before, which spoke rather poorly of his chances against her. By contrast, it was all he could do to stay in his seat as his bike screamed and bounced across the rolling hills that made up this part of the Geofront, startled insects and birds diving out of their way, their peaceful mornings rudely interrupted by the scream of internal combustion engines.

Asuka was heading in a mostly straight line for the distant train tower, ‘mostly’ as she tended to simply smash her way through the plant life in a very ‘Asuka’ way as she kept her foot to the preverbal floor. He on the other hand was steadily loosing ground as he tried to work up the courage to increase his throttle bit by bit, his fear of doing something as insanely stupid as this stunt clashing violently with his raging, almost primal desire to floor the throttle and say to hell with it.

Because, he realized with a sudden start, he did want to win. He wanted to win badly…but it wasn’t really about defeating Asuka.

No, he wanted to prove himself worthyof her, to show her that despite what she always said, he couldmatch her challenge for challenge and stride for stride. He knew she would never, could never truly accept anyone that couldn’t meet her own high standards as any kind of equal, and that knowledge forced his right hand –against the screaming voices of self preservation in his head- to inch his throttle forward towards the redline. And slowly, amazingly, as they bounced across a relatively open grassy field for a few seconds, he started to close the gap with her.

My quad’s faster he realized, the observation spiking his neurotransmitters to dangerous levels as Asuka tore through a line of carefully maintained shrubs ahead of him, his hands turning his bike automatically to follow her as his mind worked furiously on his strategy. Okay, okay. In the open areas, I can make up for her - WHOA!

Shinji held on for dear life as the ground vanished on the other side of the shrubs, his screaming quad leaping into the air for a heart stopping ten meters before crashing down onto the reverse slope of the hill with a terrific jolt that came terrifyingly close to throwing him off, before he recovered, the all too heavy foam lined helmet he was wearing snapping his head around violently as he struggled to manhandle his bike back on course.

Asuka, of course, had landed expertly with a light touch, extending her lead towards the Geofront Lake…but she still took a second to shoot a look back over her shoulder. And even though she was wearing a full faced helmet, he could feel the smirk she was directing at him before she turned back, her auburn mane streaming wildly behind her in the slipstream like a war banner…

She did that on purpose! Okay, that is it!

Gritting his teeth, he opened his throttle, and with a terrific roar, his bike slowly –far too slowly- started to eat up the distance between them on the open hillside and into the oddly smelling cloud of chlorophyll mixed with hydrocarbons left in her wake as he screamed in hot pursuit towards the lake.

A quick glance by Asuka in her right hand mirror showed her competition steadily closing the gap, despite the fact that she had her engine redlined and she was crouched as low as possible over the bike to minimize wind resistance. She had realized within about fifteen seconds of starting off that engine noises from her vehicle were not quite as tight and polished as it they should be, feeling a slight stuttering hesitation when she slammed the throttle forward, and glancing back, she could see that Shinji sure as hell wasn’t suffering the same problem…but that fact simply invigorated her, raising the challenge to a whole new level as she arrowed for the tree line down by the Geofront lake.

Ikari had managed to close the gap to perhaps three vehicle lengths by the time she crashed into the well maintained forest of pine trees along this part of the sparkling lake, keeping the throttle pushed firmly to the limit as she pushed her hair trigger reflexes to their limits. Year after year after year of NERV training had sculpted her into the perfect pilot for the perfect weapon; her reaction times, motor control, short term memory and visual acuity were unmatched by anyone in her age group and precious few people outside it, and now, those same skills let her unerringly thread a path through the relatively light density forest at speeds most people would consider insane, her heart pumping in her chest as she simply lived in the exhilaration of the chase she was leading Shinji on, bursting back through the tree line some time later into an open field lined with flowers she did not really notice as her wide tires tore through them, bouncing down to the enormous white tower.

It wasn’t really that impressive up close excepting for its size, designed to serve a strictly utilitarian function after all, but it did serve its purpose as the halfway mark and she whipped around it, taking a second on the relatively open ground to take a look at her back trail, spotting Shinji and Rei as they tore out of the distant tree line and roared down towards the tower. She quickly calculated she had opened up a good twenty or even thirty second lead on them…and she even more quickly calculated she would need every second of it, as she braced, crashing through a final wall of foliage onto a well maintained Geofront access road that ringed this part of the lake, hunching back over her handlebars and pushing her sorely abused –and now rather vine covered- bike for all it was worth.

The road had the official name ‘Access Route – GF 16-65-A-West’. Not that anyone really cared, even those few people who used the road these days -as opposed to the more convenient car trains- just called it the ‘lake ring road’. There had in fact been some recent interest expressed in renaming some of the roads inside the Geofront something a little more rational, but it was unlikely the proposals would get out of the zoning committee anytime this side of Third Impact.

Regardless of whatever name had been, was or would be assigned to the road, in Shinji’s mind, it would always be the location Asuka, in a typically grandiose gesture, had shown the JSSDF how much she appreciated them trying to kill her by tossing that enormous warship from the lake across at – and annihilating - an entire armored company in a rather pointed expression of her feelings on their actions on the last day of their lives.

And the more some things changed for Shinji, the more others stayed the same. Asuka, once again, owned this road.

By the time he had skidded down onto the road with Rei in close pursuit –simply following the path of destruction Asuka had created through the hedges let him make remarkably good time- Asuka had already grabbed a good twenty second lead on them.

But if he was remembering this part of the Geofront correctly, there was only one real access point across the narrow part of the lake to the Headquarters, a low suspension bridge that ran over the top of the main NERV freight depot, a place where incoming deliveries from rail or freight were offloaded, then shuttled down into the western warehouses by enormous cargo lifts that rivaled EVA access shafts for size…and the road they were on looped the long way around its perimeter and up onto the aforementioned bridge, across which lay Headquarters and their objective.

And he knew that over such a long distance on the most direct route and on a real road, he would have enough time to catch up to Asuka, overtake her, and win.

You gave it your best shot Asuka, just like you always do he thought fighting back a grin as he closed on her, meter after slow meter. But this time, just for once damn it, I win!

He held onto that thought, repeating it like a mantra as he slowly closed the gap…until Asuka screamed right past the prominent signs in Japanese, German and English that clearly pointed out that you really wanted to turn right at this point for access to NERV Headquarters proper.

What in the hell is…oh no…she wouldn’t…

NERV’s primary loading dock was a bustling hive of activity almost twenty four hours a day. One of the airborne train tracks that descended into the Geofront passed right through the depot, alongside hundreds of loading docks actually set some distance below the level of the Geofront lake; swarming with people in both the tan colored uniforms of NERV personnel and an eclectic mixture of civilian clothing, all moving with brisk purpose as everything from armor plating for Evangelions to the food for the cafeteria was lowered into Central Dogma, part of the never ending cycle of logistical support that kept the huge complex running.

More critically to Shinji’s current thoughts; the depot had an on/off ramp to that same suspension bridge into the headquarters that would cut out almost eighty percent of the last stretch for Asuka, if she dared to-

Yup, she dared.

Asuka’s quad bike blew past the guard shack at the edge of the depot without even slowing down, a NERV security guard jumping out in surprise and anger, raising a radio to his mouth to try and sound some kind of alarm…before he dove right back inside in a panic as Shinji damn near ran him down in hot pursuit, forewarned by the screaming horn just in the nick of time followed by Rei, the hapless man leaning out one last time to make sure no-one was following before finally raising the radio again and screaming loudly into it as the trio of bikes roared down the ramp into the docks.

I…am going to lose

The statement that passed through her mind should not have come as much of a surprise to Rei.

Indeed, a cursory analysis of her present situation as she passed into the freight depot showed she was well behind both the Second and Third. Combined with the fact they had proven to be surprisingly skilled with their vehicles, the odds of her being able to overtake them, when she took into account their aggressiveness and complete willingness to violate NERV regulations –she had counted at least twenty three so far - were at best, remote.

No, the facts of the situation were not in question from any rational perspective…but Rei, for once, wasn’t feeling entirely rational right now. The oddest sensations were slowly edging up from under the blanket suppression she generally placed on her emotions, sensations annoyingly powerful and aggressively insistent…all saying that she should just go ahead and win the race anyway.

To say the feelings were peculiar would be something of an understatement as far as the First child was concerned.

She had chosen to participate in the challenge put forward by the Second for reasons even she did not entirely understand, but she was participating none the less, a somewhat more irrational act then the norm for her, that had left her frowning behind the tough plastic of her helmet.

More interesting for her however, was the astonishing…’enthusiasm’ her fellow pilots were showing for this stunt. Something was driving the Second and Third to accept breathtaking levels of danger for such a paltry reward, something she had remained ignorant of as she pursued them, not loosing ground, but not gaining any either…

Until suddenly and without warning, as the finish line drew close, an incessant thought started to push its way into the front of her mind, incredibly distracting and immensely annoying. It was more than an emotion, almost a sensation, like an itch across all of her skin…

And if someone had asked her to put it into words, the best she could have done would have been ‘I do not want to lose…and I am not going to lose’.


She had no reason to want to fail; victory was always a preferred outcome to defeat of course…but this feeling went well beyond anything she had ever felt before. In this contest, she did not simply wish to perform to her full potential, satisfied in the knowledge -win or lose- that she had done everything she could.

She wished to win…but it could not be for her ‘stakes’, a meal cooked in her house...could it?

Even she barely understood what had led her to claim such a reward for her victory, the idea had simply hit her as she had ‘drawn a blank’ trying to think of something she desired from the Second and Third, that they did not already freely give her by their very presence, nor was there anything else they were in a position to provide that she desired.

It was also rather illogical to desire them to cook for her; she was perfectly capable of preparing her own food. Nor could it be that she wanted to spend time around the Second or Third, she interacted with them on a daily basis, often for extended periods of time…

("A home is a reflection of your personality, a place of comfort and refuge, a place to relax and enjoy yourself, for the sake of enjoying yourself when needed!”)-

…and with a sudden feeling of mild shock that hit her like the fist of an enraged Evangelion, she finally understood.

She did interact interacted with her fellow pilots at school, NERV and even increasingly at Captain Katsuragi’s residence…but her home remained empty. In fact she could recall the number of times the Second and Third had spent more then a minute at her house on one hand…

She had spent years alone, even while surrounded by other people, indifferent to them, her home was no different from school or NERV.

Now she was indeed spending increasing amounts of time at the Captains house, but it was almost as if both of her fellow pilots were subtly repelled from hers.

And she finally understood –and accepted- as she roared down into the freight depot, that this actually annoyed her.

The irony of finding an empty, silent apartment increasingly uncomfortable after having spent a great deal of her life in such a state was not entirely lost on Rei Ayanami. But with her days now increasingly filled with social interaction of bewildering types that she was actually finding she enjoyed, or at the lease found fascinating, she couldn’t help but find in comparison, the long hours in her apartment by herself…quiet.

Too quiet.

And if she knew anything about the Second and Third; time with them was anything but quiet, for good or ill.

Thus, she would win this race.

Snapping her attention back to the race, perhaps two seconds having passed as her introspection passed across her mind, Rei felt a surge of adrenalin blast through her nervous system…and for once, she did not suppress it, but accepted it, letting it permeate through her body and expand her mind, noting the other curious and intoxicating effects as time appeared to slow down…

She inhaled sharply.

She gripped the handlebars tighter.

She gritted her teeth ever so slightly as her eyes narrowed-

And in a sudden collision of possibilities and calculations at a speed even the Second Child would have been –grudgingly- impressed by, Rei had the answer.

And so she slammed on her breaks as the Second and Third screamed under the bridge and headed right for the loop road, skidding around with a rare grunt as she reversed her course to get as much straight line acceleration room as she could…


Asuka Langley Soryu was the kind of person for whom adrenalin was an old friend, an overload of stimulants burning through her bloodstream hence doing little more than stoking the fires of her concentration to new heights as she brutally pulled her vehicle through the sweeping 270 degree turn off the spiral ramp. She was dancing on a knifes of control, a zone where the slightest miscalculation would have led to utter disaster as her tires screamed in protest and her gearbox begged for mercy, but she held her course and rocketed like a stone from a sling back onto the main highway, bouncing and skidding across to the left hand side and leaving a trail of leaves and vines in her wake as she pushed up the bridge ramp, towards the enormous mass of the pyramid beyond.

So this was it. There were no more tricks up her sleeves, no more maneuvers she could pull off; it was a straight drag race for the finish line between her and Shinji, head to head as it had to be where now he had the indisputable advantage over her.

Risking a glance over her shoulder, she simply couldn’t help but let loose a scream of frustration, he was still right there! Right behind her and slowly, with every second that passed, closing the gap on her right…

Damn it! Damn it to hell! Damn him to hell!

No matter what she did, Shinji just kept closing in on her. Oh occasionally she could pull ahead, or at least think she had…but sooner or later, she turned around to have another look and there he was, even closer than before. It was always the same with him and…

Wait, was she still thinking about the race?

A loud horn snapped her attention forward where it belonged and her eyes bulged inside her helmet as the dynamic of their crazy race again changed in a second. A rather large truck –a fucking gigantic *truck in fact- washeading down the right lane straight at them, probably heading for the freight dock they had just left. She was safe in the left lane, but to her triumphant delight, she realized Shinji would have to decelerate right in behind her, providing her the last few seconds of the lead she needed to win!

At least in theory.

Except…in her peripheral vision…

Unbelieving, her heart sinking, she turned her head slightly-

Shinji was not slowing down. Despite being only ten seconds away from certain death, he was still trying to pass her on the outside and get in front of her!

Was he nuts?

There was no way in hell he could make it, the Baka! He was going to get himself killed unless he backed right the hell off!

Continuing to stare at him in disbelief as she kept her throttle firmly pushed to the max, through chance or destiny she saw his helmet turn to face hers. It was not easy to see him under the Plexiglas faceplate but…

She saw his eyes.

For a fraction of a second before he turned away, she saw his eyes. And in that moment she knew that he wouldn’t, he couldn’t back down from this. For Shinji Ikari, defeat was just as impossible an outcome as it was for her, he desperately wanted –needed- to win for some reason as utterly remote from his demand for laundry service as hers was for his cooking.

The air somehow thickened around her as she turned back, noting that the truck was approaching almost leisurely, as if time itself was slowing to some impossible crawl. The roar of her engine seemed to somehow deepen, painfully lowering infrequency to a sort of mournful rumble as, with agonizing slowness but implacable destiny, the truck continued to grow larger. And despite the almost delicate puffs of smoke coming from its wheels that suggested the driver was slamming the breaks, she knew it would not be anything like enough. Shinji was barely centimeters in front of her; he had nowhere near enough time to get ahead and across to avoid the truck, his only option was to slow down and get behind her…

Of course…she could always lose. All it would take would be a tap on her breaks and he would jump in front of her, out of danger, and win the race…

Her pride at once screamed defiance at that idea. He was not in danger the jerk of a moron; all he had to do was the only logical and rational thing; just duck in behind her and he would be fine. She was driving on the right side of the road, she was in the lead and he was the one who had to back down and if he didn’t, it was his own fault!

She had to win this, she would win this and there was no way in hell she would flinch now when she knew he would have to first!

Because if she did, if she sacrificed her victory for Shinji Ikari, it would just prove once and for all that she was nothing next to him. For all her boasting and all her claims of being the best, well, this was her chance to put her money where her mouth was and she would be damned if she would let herself be defeatedby this child …

But in perfect balance and opposition to her pride, her mind was screaming rather loudly, asking what kind of a childishbitch she was if she would let her pride put Shinji in mortal danger over a stupid game of all things? Was she, Asuka Langley Soryu really willing to risk letting Shinji Ikari die for the sake of her winning this race? Was it really worth so much to her that she would take that chance?

The answer to that question became redundant as with a lour roar, Rei Ayanami majestically, impossibly ascended on the left side of the bridge, ascending up from the ground below in defiance of all the laws of physics pertained to Quad Bikes as Asuka knew them, ‘floating’ over the guard rail just shy of the first of the thick suspension cables directly in front of her.

Asuka was already slamming the breaks and damn near losing control as Rei ‘slowly’ drifted down, ‘kissing’ the road surface without even the slightest bounce, loss of control or backward glance before accelerating away for the end of the bridge as Shinji neatly slipped in front of her, mere seconds before the truck thundered past, the rumble of its passage somehow shattering the slow motion existence she had been trapped in and restoring time to its normal flow.

But all the adrenalin had left her in the same instant, leaving her feeling hollowed out and tired, all the wonderful peace and vigor she had felt since waking up this morning vanishing as fast as Rei down the reverse slope of the bridge as she let her bike roll to a stop in last place.

It was a slight surprise therefore when she raised her head to see that Shinji was still right next to her on his own bike, not charging off after Rei. In fact, he was working his helmet off with some difficulty – probably to gloat- and she sighed, forcing the best defiant expression on her face she could muster as she reached up to take her own hot and heavy helmet off, finding some small enjoyment in the brisk lake air as the two of them stared at each other for several seconds, until Shinji broke the silence and turned to look towards Headquarters.

“She’s nuts”.

His statement was blunt, to the point and filled with a mixture of terror and astonishment, his gaze leaving no doubts as to who he was talking about as he reached up absently to wipe away the sweat that had stuck his fringe to his forehead. “Who the hell does she think she is, Evil Knievel?”

Frowning slightly at the reference, Asuka edged her own quad over and glanced back and down into the Freight Depot…and couldn’t help but notice the fifty or so people standing around pointing and waving excitedly just under the bridge.

Okay, she is nuts Asuka silently agreed as she studied the scenes of chaos below. Using a two story Car Transporter as a glorified ramp to jump onto the bridge?

That either took a complete lack of a sense of self preservation, or…
No, that was about all it would take come to think of it.

“Well, it looks like we both owe Rei dinner,” she finally said, her respect for the First Child nudging up several notches as she stretched, wincing as she felt the first of the aches she would be feeling tomorrow from crashing across the terrain the way she had, her wince only increasing as she studied the countless minor scratches the terrain had inflicted on her arms and legs in retribution for her damage to it. “I have to give it to the First, I never saw it coming, but I’ll be damned if she didn’t pull it off”.

“Yeah, neither did I,” Shinji agreed, his tone becoming oddly melancholy as he gazed down the reaming length of the bridge. “Though I should have; Ayanami can actually get a little, uh, excessive at things if she really puts her mind to it”.

Asuka didn’t really have anything to say to that, so she didn’t say anything as with a hiss, thud and a rumble of a super-flywheel engine, the truck behind them shuddered back into motion, its driver apparently satisfied that he hadn’t killed any Evangelion pilots and quickly deciding to clear the area before Section 2 arrived to ask pointed questions.

And as the truck rolled off and left them alone, she simply couldn’t help herself, not knowing if she would like where this led, but just unable to drive off without saying something-


“Why what?” Shinji replied to her demand in a tone of confusion, but she could see in his eyes and hear in his voice a sort of wary caution; he knew exactly what she meant.

“Don’t play the Baka Ikari” she snarled softly, letting her Quads’ engine cut out like his; the silence amplifying her attitude dangerously as she turned her narrowing gaze on him. “I need to know why”.

Why did you and do you so need to beat me, to defeat me, to humiliate me…why damn it?

Shinji tried to stare down Asuka but as always it was a hopeless battle against her dominating gaze and he couldn’t help but flinch away as he again felt himself walking on a dangerous tightrope, his mind spinning plausible sounding lies he could tell her to get her off his case…

…And it might have been the exhilaration of the race still pumping in his bloodstream, or it might have been something left over from last night that pushed past his own barriers, but he raised his head back up and told Asuka the truth.

Just for once.

“I did want to win, I wanted it badly” he admitted in a low voice. And gathering courage he didn’t think he had –facing down Angels was Childs play compared to looking her in the face when she was in a mood like this- he forced himself to return her crystal blue gaze directly.

He was not entirely sure how she would react to what he was about to say, let alone if she would believe him. But in complete honesty, none of this had been about her in his mind, but about him. He needed to prove he could be as confident and unflinching as she was; that he could summon the strength to keep fighting the unknown yet known future ahead of them, that he would protect her -even from herself- and that he would never leave her alone to face the demons and darkness lurking in her mind. Not again.

“But it wasn’t…it was not about beating you Asuka,” he finally forced himself to stutter to her face, Asuka as always the one person –except perhaps his Father- who could push him so completely off stride with nothing more than a look. “You know, despite our bet and everything…I…I just wanted to prove that maybe, possibly, I might be almost as good and as brave as you at something, just once. I’m not as strong as you, or as smart, or as well trained…” and he couldn’t help but sigh. “I just wanted to earn your respect.”

Her gaze didn’t so much as flicker at his confession, but somehow he felt its intensity notch up and again he flinched away from it feeling like he was under a gigantic microscope as she studied him, finding that he just didn’t have anything else to add to his awkward explanation of why he had just played chicken with a Mack Truck.

Oddly though, after doing something he would have decried as absurdly insane on any other day of the week, he found he had a whole new perspective on why Asuka had held her ground against the 15th Angel, despite the incredible pain she had felt and utter hopelessness of her situation, screaming that she would rather die than admit defeat...

Asuka though simply turned away from him, looking out over the lake with nothing more than a token “I see” in reply, the rumble of the rapidly departing truck sounding so much louder in the silence between them as they sat unmoving on the bridge.

Asuka stared at the sparkling lake looking for all the world as if she had suddenly found something astonishingly interesting about the rather boring body of water that made it worthy of her complete and utter attention.

In reality, her focus was simply a front to hide her churning feelings as she felt herself shakento the core from Shinji’s stuttering, hopelessly clumsy, but oddly direct and honest admission to her.

She had wanted to win this race for reasons even she didn’t entirely understand but chief among them was that she had to prove to Shinji Ikari - Mister damn Perfect Pilot Poster Child - that she was not and would never be some hopeless fan girl following along in his wake, that she was just as good - better - then he was. She had to be able to hold her head high in the mirror and in front of him as they…they…well, whateverhappened next, she would go in with her pride firmly established.

And ShinjiIkari had wanted the same thing from her, all this time?

Insane didn’t even begin to describe how absurd the situation was, but none the less…

Shinji Ikari looked up to...nein, he worshiped her. And he did so because he thought she was some impossibly perfect example of human courage and strength?

And no matter how much her ego quietly suggested it was only right and proper that Ikari worshiped the very ground she walked upon, the rest of her mind told her ego to just shut up for once as she reeled from his confession as she desperately tried to think, reflecting on her fellow…what?


Shinji Ikari. The rookiewhose first step in an Evangelion had been unflinchingly into mortal combat, because he had no choice if he wanted to save Rei’s life?

Shinji Ikari. The child who had actually managed to come to terms with his Mothers death and move on with his life, while she was still dominated by the memory of her loss all those years ago?

Shinji Ikari. The prodigy whose skill at piloting and absurdly high synchronization ratio mocked all her years of blood, sweat and tears as she had clawed her way point by agonizing point up the synch ratio chart?

Shinji Ikari. The Pilot who had, after they had defeated the 7th Angel together, softly told her that when they worked together as one, they could do amazing things after she had made a fool of herself?

Shinji Ikari. The boy…the person, who had - and continued to- ignore everything she did to push him away out of a raw primal fear of letting himget close enough to hurt her…perhaps because he was a true friend, one who was just too stubborn to take a hint when it was good for him?

Shinji Ikari. The person - the man -who had held her with a paradoxically gentle firmness during that slow dance as she had all but collapsed helplessly into his arms, remembering now she had knowneven then that he respected her enough for her to trust him with her very soul as she had let herself fall into the music…

THAT group was in awe of HER?

And yet…grudgingly, her mind drifted back to last night. To the hidden, ‘other’ Shinji Ikari she had briefly stumbled across; the fallible, terrified, and all too human Shinji quite distinct from the Third Childeveryone raved on about, hidden away behind the smooth, impossibly confident persona she had always seen on his face like a mask.

Shinji really was far more like her then she had ever thought…and the irony of that thought wasn’t lost on her.

Both of them desperately seeking the others respect, both of them desperately afraid of showing it to the other without them showing it first, leading to both of them accepting this whole stupid race idea of hers…

Almost instinctively, she felt her pride again rise up, this time with an edge of desperation as it pushed her to turn back to Shinji and seize the opening he had given her to put him in his place once and for all –albeit gently- and assume her position as rightful leader of their little pack...

(“Some days, I’m starting to think you’re growing up a little too fast Asuka…”)-

…and almost in counterpoint, Misato’s voice from this morning echoed back across her mind as it belatedly ‘clicked’ what Misato had been talking about.

And perhaps it was about time she started to act as mature as she always claimed she was. She had all the proof she could possibly need that Shinji respected her –which had been the whole point of this race- so…

“…You won”.

The voice was almost alien to his ears despite the fact that it came from vocal cords he was very familiar with. It was strange enough in fact to draw his attention back to Asuka from his increasingly deep introspection; the words just didn’t make any sense to him, to say nothing of the fact that the low, soft voice they had been delivered in that was categorically not the vibrant, piercing energy he was usually subjected to from the Second Child.

“What?” was all he could think to say in return, convinced he had not heard her right. As if Asuka would ever say-

“I said that you won,” Asuka repeated, and her tone slowly caused his disbelief to crystallize into pure terror as she turned to face him…though it drained just as quickly into relief, then confusion as he saw she was not wearing an expression of self loathing or hate as he had feared from the voice.

If anything, her expression was almost…

“How do you figure?” he asked carefully, blindly feeling his way towards the trap he knew had to be here somewhere. “Rei came first, and you know technically, we haven’t even finished. And the only reason I got in front of you is because ofRei’s crazy-”


-And that one word delivered in such a tone of utter finality shut up him as effectively as a gunshot to his heart, Asuka staring pointedly at him for several long and painfully silent seconds before she continued past his interruption.

“I flinched,” she said, in a slightly more normal tone as she crossed her arms in front of her. “It was only a half second, a millisecond even, but I was hitting my breaks before Rei appeared, Ikari. You…” she shook her head slowly, something almost like a very slight smirk appearing on her face as she did.

“You held your nerve in the face of that truck…and I lost mine. Credit where credit is due Third Child, you did it. You beat me fair and square. And as for respect…” he voice trailed off and even the slight smirk on her face fell away to an expression that was about a serious as Asuka ever got as she leaned in slightly to close the distance between them. “Do you think I’m a slut?”

Shinji felt his body jerk backwards from Asuka in pure shock at the bald, blunt and downright direct question. If not for the fact that he was still sitting on his Quad, he probably would have fallen to the ground at the demand, his jaw dropping open in shock and his eyes bulging out of his head as he tried desperately to wrap his head around the words that had come out of her mouth.

“No! How…how could you ask me something like that?” he demanded in a voice about an octave higher than he usually had it as he stuttered out his panicked denial.

“Mostly to make sure I got that exact response from you,” she replied in a matter of fact tone. “Do you think I’m the kind of person who would get into just any guys bed like I got into yours last night? How many people do you think I trust enough to sleep in their bed with them like that, without question?”

It was clearly a rhetorical question, he didn’t dare answer it.

She appeared to be happy with his lack of a response though, probably because she recognized he was still utterly out of it from her ‘slut’ comment, lifting her eyes to meet his gaze and tilting her head slightly as if studying his face for the first time.

“You’re still a stooge Third Child, but you’re a good class of stooge. And for whatever it’s worth, I do respect you…Shinji. Now that doesn’t mean I can’t get utterly pissed off with you at times…but you’ve earned my respect respect over the time I’ve gotten to know you…and my friendship”.

“A…arigato” he managed to stutter his reply out as a smile and a deep blush he couldn’t help pushed its way onto his face at her words. Asuka in turn gave him a tight smile of her own, her eyes shining with an unbroken spirit despite her confession of her ‘loss’, before she turned away and placed her helmet onto her head, starting her engine back up before turning back, as if suddenly remembering she had forgotten something.

“Oh by the way Third Child regardless of winning or losing here, our agreement was ‘if I beat you to that fountain. We have to cook Rei dinner as we lost to her, but our bet is independent of that. Tschüs”

And with a roar, Asuka sped off down the bridge.

His ego held him in place for a good ten seconds or so as he rejoiced in the feelings Asuka had admitted to him. It was more then she had ever admitted in their first life together, to his face at least, and right now, he felt so confident, so strong that he would have taken an oath he could have probably knocked out Angels by spitting at them and powered his Evangelion on ego alone…

Wait. What had that been about their bets…?

His eyes went wide.

That sneaky German son of a-

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Chris OFarrell
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Chris OFarrell » 2008-11-03 03:44am

And a cut down version of my rant.

As always a huge amount of thanks goes to Academia Nut for all his patience and help as I bashed my head against the keyboard. Honorable nods of thanks also to Brain Caster on SB for his help with the German language and a few other people who wish to remain nameless.

This chapter was never supposed to be anything LIKE this. This chapter was SUPPOSED to be a core 5K words of a larger chapter, which would include the battle with the 8th Angel.

Unfortunately, I just don't bloody know when to stop writing! It just kept growing and growing, ultimately with nothing happening the whole time and I apologize for making you all read through it. Academia strongly suggested slicing chunks out of it -correctly- after I kept whining about how long it had gotten, or cutting it into smaller chapters -and he was right- but I'm just too much of a coward to make the hard decisions to REALLY cut back. I DID cut about 8K words, including Shinji finally coming head to head with the Committee, the kids at the Airport, the night at Rei's and a few other bits, some of that stuff will make it into the next chapter...


Let this be a strong lesson to writers out there; 'MORE' is not always 'BETTER'.

Moving on. The next chapter will be much better, I've been looking forward to getting into another Angel battle chapter, in depth, for a while now. The 6th Angel with Asuka's introduction was really the last big battle, the 7th barely counted as a skirmish. Plus there is more cool stuff to happen in it with the kids, though the 10th Angel chapter after that is where the fun really starts to take off with the adults, and we see some of the major players move some pieces around on their chess board...and I’m sure it won’t take a genus to guess when those events will take place.

And as a minor consolation prize, I have a DVD boxset to give away.

While waiting for Rebuild of Evangelion to come out on DVD in Aus -when I found out from RedAnt about half a year ago that it would be later November I damn near went crazy, but we're almost there- I picked up the Platinum collection of Evangelion, the boxset with all the special edition DVD's. best thing about them has to be the 5.1 remixed sound, DAMN those Evangelion vs Angel battles sound AWESOME in 5.1 digital, just WOW. The picture quality is also top notch and they have cut 90% of the adds when you put a DVD in that drove me NUTS. Though I have to say that some of the directors cut episodes have the oddest look to them. And the new English dub of Kaworu is just annoying, I select the normal edition for that episode...and it might just be me, but the directors cuts often look rather ... 'cartoony'.

And the directors commentary is just awesome. And the special Tiffiny Grant feature is just freaky, I thought I was obsessive about Evangelion, but DAMN. She is very cool though, and still my fav voice in all of Evangelion, she just made Asuka come to life for me so perfectly...and made her German curses at Shinji sound SO much better then the Japanese dub.

But I digress. This of course means my old Perfect Collection DVD box is now useless to me. If anyone here wants it, just PM me over the next week. I'm willing to give it away free to anyone who wants it, excepting postage costs -which if they live in Aus I'm probably willing to wave as its going to be rather low. Its in quite good condition, all the disks work and the box is intact, if a little worn in some places. If someone outside Aus wants it, let me know and we'll work out the cost for shipping it.

If I get a flood of offers (I'm sure this won't be the case, I'm sure most people have Evangelion DVD's - hell I used to have 4 of the tapes before that boxset) then who it goes to will be decided on how long I've known them, where they live yada yada, clearly with people I consider 'internet' friends coming out first. If no-one wants them, then I'll just give them to the local charity if they'll take them.
But don't expect it the next chapter a bit of time, I'm getting OH so close to getting another chapter of Derelict out, after over a bloody YEAR since the last. This chapter has been my kryptonite, I can't work with it more than a few minutes before I start to feel weak and lose all strength...but I am oh SO close! I must have written close to 100K words on this chapter, which is now sitting at 18K words, that’s how many rewrites this has taken. This is the first time I’ve ever struggled over what should be a rather straight forward chapter like this.

That’s how long it’s taking! And I’ve kept promising another chapter ‘in a week’ or so to him, and I’ve kept failing to meet my deadline because what looks like a simple run to the finish turns into a marathon taking place on a treadmill...bah!

Peace and out people.

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Darth Yoshi
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Darth Yoshi » 2008-11-03 04:41am

Hehe. Daredevil Rei. That's awesome.
The engaged, violated and downright horrified question crashed through the walls of the apartment as if they didn’t exist, slamming into the long suffering warm water penguin housemate of Misato Katsuragi most rudely. Startled out of his pleasant floating nap in the bathtub, Pen-Pen shot an irritated glare –or at least the closest approximation a Penguin could make- at the wall, before clambering out and waddling over to a towel, reflecting –and not for the first time- on the instability of human beings.
Did you mean enraged?

Also, later in that same scene you wrote "short shots" rather than "short shorts".
Fragment of the Lord of Nightmares, release thy heavenly retribution. Blade of cold, black nothingness: become my power, become my body. Together, let us walk the path of destruction and smash even the souls of the Gods! RAGNA BLADE!
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Secularism—since AD 80
Av: Elika; Prince of Persia

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Jedi Knight
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Re: NGE "Once more with Feeling" Alt fic

Post by Xess » 2008-11-06 05:57pm

Excellent work, I effing KNEW Rei was gonna win. Is the platinum collection the one with the slim-packs? I had no idea that had a director's commentary, I never noticed it on mine.

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