Requiem 4
REQUIEM


Author's Note:  This is another re-interpretation of NGE.
It will, admittedly, begin in pretty much the exact same
way as the actual series; expect that to change quite a
bit as time goes on.  That's about it..

The entire series thus far can be found at
www.geocities.com/area51/dimension/4212/eva/


FOUR / AFTER THE RAIN


        Like a long, metallic viper the bullet train writhed
throughout Tokyo-3, the squeal of metal on metal its venomous hiss.
Pale sunlight filtered through the grimy windows, casting a hazy
light within.  It was early morning.  The car was empty, save for a
silent figure huddled in a far corner and Shinji himself.
        Shinji sat hunched over, his gaze directed squarely beneath
his feet.  Music was flaring in his ears - music emanating from a pair
of black headphones he wore.  The slender wiring fed into a miniature
blue SDAT walkman he held in his hand.  The music was loud and violent
and flowing - he needed it to numb his mind.
        After purchasing the tape and walkman, Shinji still had some
money left in his wallet, but not much.  Enough for the train ride,
and perhaps enough for something beyond that.  But not enough to
survive out there, on his own.  He wondered what he would do when he
reached his destination.  He wondered how he would recognize it, too.
        The day wore on.  The sunrise vanished, turning to midmorning.
The train made many stops over the course of its journey, and people
began to board it, slumping into the seats around Shinji.  He
occasionally looked up from the floor, observing them.  There were
many and they were varied, from tall men dressed in business suits
and trenchcoats to young women clothed in revealing attire.  Shinji
lowered his head again.
        Noon arrived, and Shinji was alone again.  The sun's light
cut menacingly through the train's windows, filling the car with a
kind of blistering heat.  Shinji brought his head across his forehead,
not moving his eyes from the floor.  The steel constructs of Tokyo-3
were ablaze with a shimmering flame.
        At the peak of midafternoon, the train began to fill up again.
It ran on a one-way track, passing new locales at every stop,
providing a service to different people than the ones who had boarded
it before.  Those people were no more than ghosts to Shinji now,
living only in his memory.
        The moon was full in the sky that night.  The clouds were
overcast in deep purple, the silvery light gleaming faintly upon
them.  The city was alight with artificial flame.  Skyscrapers shone
with the same kind of brilliance they had this morning, only now
the light emanated from within.  Huge billboards advertising fanciful
products bore their image against the windows of the bullet train.
        Shinji looked briefly through the window and then quickly
turned away.  The train shuddered to a halt and the silent people
got off, passing like a shadow through the automated doors.  Shinji
was alone.
        The small child huddled in his seat, wrapping his arms around
his body.  The train continued mechanically through the city,
occasionally stopping at some nameless respite.  Shinji closes his
eyes, rewinding the tape in his walkman for what felt like the
hundredth time that day.  He didn't know where he was going.  No one
else got on the train.
        Just take me far away from here, Shinji told it.
        After another hour the train stopped for a final time.  The
wheels shrieked, the metal grinding to a halt.  A woman's recorded
voice crackled through the train's speakers.  "Thank you for riding
the Tokyo-3 loop line.  The train's last stop is this station.  Please
check that you don't leave anything behind when you get off."
        The doors opened.  Beyond, all Shinji could make of the
station was a collection of vague shapes and shadows.  The train was
not going to leave the city.  This, it seemed, was his destination -
still within the confines of Tokyo-3.
        Sighing, he stopped his walkman.  The tape shuddered to a
halt, a discordant cry resonating in his ears.
        He would have to go back.
        Shivering, he staggered out of the train and into the moist,
waiting arms of the dark.

        Touji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida nervously crept down the
corridor of the apartment.  When they reached the far end of the hall,
the converged upon the door there, staring at it as though it was some
kind of harmful entity.
        "Are you sure this is the place?" Touji asked.
        Kensuke nodded.  "This is the transferee's address, all right."
        Touji swallowed, hesitated a moment, and then hit the doorbell.
They waited a few moments, listening in anticipation for some kind of
reply.  Finally, there was a sort of muffled banging, followed by a
woman screaming "I'm coming!".
        Touji and Kensuke looked nervously at the door.
        The door opened.  A young, attractive woman with dark purple
hair stood in the doorway, and for a second Touji thought they had the
wrong address after all.  Then he noticed she was wearing the uniform
of a NERV official, albeit a rather disheveled one.  She certainly was
beautiful, though!
        The woman looked surprised to see them there, almost as if she
had been expecting someone else.  "Yes?" she asked.
        "Ah.. uh.." Kensuke straightened immediately and saluted.
Touji followed suit shortly thereafter.  "Captain!" Kensuke barked.
"We are the classmates of Shinji Ikari.  My name is Kensuke Aida."
        "My name is Touji Suzuhara," Suzuhara continued.  "We were
looking for Shinji, Ma'am."
        "Well, um, er," the woman stumbled.  Suddenly her eyes lit up.
"Aren't you the two who climbed onto the battlefield in the middle of
the fight?"  Her expression grew dark; her pupils flashed.
        "Ah!" Kensuke cried. "Um, yes Ma'am."
        "We're truly sorry for all the trouble we caused you," Touji
said meekly.  "It's just that.. Ikari has been absent from school
since then, so we just came to see how he was doing."  He paused for
breath.  "Is he all right?"
        "Shinji?" the woman asked.  "Ah, yes.  He's fine.  He's, um,
at the NERV training center right now."  She nodded to emphasize the
point.
        Touji looked up at her.  "Then he's okay?"
        "Yeah, fine," the woman murmured.
        "Oh!" Kensuke said, reaching into his backpack.  "I nearly
forgot."  He handed the woman a sheaf of papers, unbound and of
various sizes.  "This is the homework he's missed.  We thought he
might want it, just in case."
        "Thank you," the woman said, taking the papers.
        "Say hello to Shinji for us!" Touji said.
        "Yes, I will.  Goodbye."  And with that she shut the door.
        For a second, Touji and Kensuke just stood there, staring.
        "She's very beautiful," Touji finally said.
        "And very odd," Kensuke murmured.  "There was something
strange about her manner, don't you think?"
        Touji opened his mouth to reply, but he was interrupted by a
muffled sound coming from behind the door.
        "She's crying," Kensuke whispered.

        Shinji got off the train and wandered through the neon-lit
streets of Tokyo-3.  The feverish moon was eclipsed by the immense
phosphorescence of the magnificent skyscrapers - buildings now,
largely, empty, the lights automated to maintain appearance.  Huge
roadways wound through stories of glass and concrete, but only a
couple of vehicles made use of them at any one time.  After the last
of the visible traffic had passed, Shinji walked out into the center
of the intersection and stared in all four directions, searching
curiously for signs of life.
        It felt so lonely here.  But it also felt nice, to be alone -
to be free from judgment or consequence.
        Nearby, Shinji found a large movie theater.  There was only a
meager selection there, however, and the people ushering in the
complex seemed harrowed and restless.  Shinji fed his money into a
ticket machine, deciding on a recent film dramatizing the second
impact as his viewing choice.  The usher accepted his ticket
wordlessly, permitting him entrance to the spacious but nearly
deserted theater.  The only other people there to see the film were
a couple entwined in each others' arms and a man at the front of the
room, his head slumped forward, his body unmoving.
        The screen flared to life and the movie began.  Shinji watched
the screen determinedly, interested in whatever message the film had
to impart about the horrific cataclysm.  Inside an Antartican research
station, a doctor and two scientists stared, terrified, at a series of
readouts and displays before them.
        "Then this was the cause," a scientist mused.
        "Yes," the doctor said.  "An object with a diameter of
centimeters impacted Antartica at more than ten percent the speed of
light."
        The scientist sucked his breath in with apprehension.  He
then shook his head.  "With our current scientific knowledge, we could
neither detect not prevent it."
        "It's hell on earth outside," the other scientist, a woman,
said.  "What does science exist for?"
        A third scientist, previously unseen, was shown typing
furiously at a console, his eyes moving rapidly to keep up with the
information he was offered.  He was breathing heavily and spoke in
short gasps.  "At present, the atmosphere flow caused by the
transition of the Earth's axis has decreased."
        The woman looked up hopefully.  "Then it's calmed down a
little?"
        "No," the other said, speaking sharply, urgently.  "A tidal
wave is approaching with a velocity of two hundred and thirty meters
per second."
        "Doctor, we should escape," the other male scientist said.
        The doctor scowled, clenched his fist.  "It's my duty to stay
here."
        "Doctor, it's easy to die," the scientist hissed, gripping
his arm.  "But you have an obligation to care for what remains of
this world afterwards."
        Shinji looked around the room again.  No one else was paying
any attention to the film whatsoever.  The man at the front was
unquestionably asleep, now audibly snoring.  The young lovers a few
seats in front of him were passionately making out, enraptured with
one another's form.  Shinji stared at them, wide-eyed, amazed.  With
difficulty he turned his attention back to the screen.
        The theater closed at the same time the movie was let out.
Shinji held his breath and waited in the theater, hiding beneath the
seat instead of leaving.  He crept out some time later and found he
had the run of the place, now as empty and forbidding as a crypt.
There was a small sofa, positioned in the lobby of the theater main,
and Shinji lay down upon it, frightened and alone and waiting for the
dawn.

        Rei Ayanami lay on an examination table, staring silently at
the ceiling.  She remained perfectly still as Ritsuko Akagi swept a
small electronic device across her body, taking note of the readings
generated by the machine.  All around the two, electronic equipment
cluttered the room, buzzing and humming with unusual noises.
        Misato leaned against a wall of the room, her arms folded
across her chest.  She stared gloomily at the blue-haired girl's
examination.  "It's just not right," she said, half talking to herself
and half to Ritsuko.  "Not to burden a fourteen year old with the
future of humanity."
        "If we had a choice, I'm sure we would avail of it," Ritsuko
replied, not raising her eyes from her work.  Rei began to trace the
movements of the scanner with her eyes.
        Misato sighed.  "I know," she said.
        Ritsuko finished her procedure and stood, placing the scanner
on a nearby table.  She turned and looked at Misato.  "Has there been
any word on Shinji yet?" she asked.
        "Nothing," Misato replied, choking.  "I don't think he's
coming back."
        "What are you going to do?"
        Misato shrugged, staring into space.  "Nothing, really.
Perhaps it's better that he doesn't come back."
        Ritsuko nodded.  "The mental trauma the children have to
endure is staggering.  I'm surprised he remained as long as he did."
        Rei stared blankly at the ceiling.

        The following morning Shinji, after being ejected from his
sleeping chamber, was left to wander the streets of Tokyo-3 again,
miserable and bleary-eyed.  In the smoldering light of early dawn,
the place no longer held any kind of fascination for him.  He was
tired and hungry and lonely.  Inevitably, he knew, he would have to
return.  Sooner or later he would have to face up to what he had done.
        Shinji caught a bus, later that morning, heading back in the
direction he had come.  The bus, like the train, was largely empty,
and because of recent battles would not go as far as Shinji wanted.
Shinji stepped off of the vehicles at sunset, the reddish tinge
embracing the world aesthetically similar to dawn's pale light but
growing darker, not brighter, with time.  Shinji got off on a dusty
road, overlooking a vast stretch of fields and wildernesses.  Here,
crossing that patch would lead him back into familiar territory.
Shinji stared fearfully into the distance, irresolute, uncertain.
The sun had nearly vanished and darkness had begun to fold the sky
in its deep blanket by the time Shinji had started to climb down the
cliff the road rested upon and down towards the wilderness.
        He crept through the fields and bushes as night fell,
wondering if he would have to sleep out here tonight.  Suddenly, as
he happened upon a large field, an unusual sound reached his ears.
He moved towards it.

        "Captain!"
        "Aida, keep going!"
        Kensuke Aida, dressed in military fatigues, turned around just
in time to catch a platoon of soldiers sneaking up on him and his
fallen captain.  Screaming with the furious thunder of mock gunfire,
his plastic rifle blazed with imaginary flame and cut the soldiers to
ribbons.  Breathing heavily, Kensuke fell to his knees beside the body
of his wounded comrade.
        "I won't go on without you, Captain," Kensuke said.
        "You fool," Kensuke, as the captain, screamed back.  He was
about to say something more to his stubborn, stalwart soldier, but a
figure in the distance caught his attention.  Kensuke stood, gaping in
disbelief at the young boy emerging from the wilderness.
        "Transferee?" Kensuke called uncertainly.  "Ikari?"
        Shinji Ikari stepped wearily into the light of Kensuke's
campfire.
        Kensuke dropped his toy gun, incredulous.  "What are you
doing here?" he asked, stumbling over his words.  "Where have you been
in the last few days?"
        "In the hospital, mostly," Shinji said, "But I ran away
yesterday."  It was an effort to keep from crying.

        Shinji and Kensuke sat inside the latter's small, military
styled tent, swathed in blankets and drinking in a hot drink Kensuke
poured from a Canteen.  The night had brought with it a chill wind,
and Shinji felt unnaturally bereft of warmth.   He noticed Kensuke
staring at the mark on his face, and unconsciously he put his hand to
it, calling further attention to the bruise.
        Kensuke's expression was pained.  "Touji was sorry about
that," he said.  "He didn't realize what he was doing at the time."
Shinji rubbed his chin awkwardly, the action causing him a slight
pain.  Kensuke stared out the flap, into the campfire as he continued.  
"He said that his younger sister scolded him.  She told him it was the
robot that saved Tokyo-3.  It's shameful, isn't it, that he was scolded
by a second grader?"  He laughed at that.
        Shinji smiled.  He felt as if a great weight had been lifted
from his shoulders; an unusual peace had come over him, unfamiliar but
welcome.  For the longest time he had found no respite, not from his
peers, not from Eva, and certainly not from NERV or his father.  This
was respite - and from such an unexpected source!  He sighed, burrowing
beneath his blankets.  "It's so peaceful here," he said.
        Kensuke nodded.  "I like the night because the cicadas calm
down.  I can remember back when it was perfectly quiet, but their
numbers have been growing the past few years."
        Shinji stared intently outside the flap.  "Misato says that
the ecosystems are returning to their former states."
        "Misato?" Kensuke said, looking at the other.  "Is that the
woman who looks after you?"
        "Oh- Yeah," Shinji replied.  "She's captain of operations, I
think, at NERV."
        "I envy you, Shinji.  You live with a beautiful woman and pilot
an Eva.  I would love to pilot it.. just once, even."
        Shinji frowned.  "It's not what you think.  It's terrible.."
His head slumped, and Kensuke moved towards him, concerned.  "I can't
go back," Shinji said hoarsely.  "I'll die if I do."
        "Where will you go?  Back home?"
        Shinji nodded.  "They said that.. I didn't have to pilot it if
I didn't want to.  I think.. I think I can convince them to let me
go."
        Kensuke looked crestfallen.  "We lose a lot of classmates
nowadays.  Well, I'll miss you, Shinji.  I think Touji would have
liked to have known you as well."  He reached behind him and pulled
out a rectangular box.  "You'll have something to eat while you're
here, right?"
        "Sure," Shinji said, making an effort to smile.  "I haven't
eaten much since I left."  He looked around the tent while Kensuke
removed the lid and rook out a handful of crackers.  Shinji's gaze
fell on Kensuke's plastic toy gun.  "Do you come here often?" he
asked.
        Kensuke followed Shinji's gaze.  "Well, sorta," he said.
        "Is it training of some kind?"
        Kensuke shrugged.  "I just like doing it.  There aren't many
other games to play with toys like these."
        Shinji looked at Kensuke.  "Do you think you could teach me,
uh, how to play sometime?  I mean, I've never really had the chance to
play many games like that.."
        "Sure!" Kensuke said, smiling brightly.  "There aren't really
any rules, though.  You just sort of - take a role.  Pretending you're
someone else, somewhere else.  I think it's necessary, sometimes."
        "Yeah," Shinji murmured.  Suddenly a noise outside the tent
alerted them both to attention.  Kensuke stood up and held open the
tent flap immediately.  Shinji withdrew into the chill, silent dark,
and could make out shapes moving towards them.  Five tall men began to
escape the distance, visible as no more than shadows.
        "Who are they?"  Kensuke whispered urgently.
        "They're from NERV," Shinji said.  He didn't recognize them,
but he knew they were.
        They stopped a few feet from the tent.  "Shinji Ikari?" the
lead man called out.
        "They don't recognize you," Kensuke whispered hopefully,
uncertainly.
        "It doesn't matter," Shinji said.  "They'll find me no matter
where I go."  He stepped forwards.  "I am Shinji Ikari,"  he stated
clearly.
        "We are from NERV security intelligence," the lead man said,
his hands clasped together in front of him.  "In accordance with
clause eight of the regulations for public security, we will now take
you to NERV headquarters.  Do you understand?"
        "Yes," Shinji replied.
        Kensuke gaped at Shinji's compliance.  The five men quickly
surrounded Shinji, forcing him away from the campsite.  Kensuke wanted
to scream for help, or stop the men from taking Shinji somehow.  But
even if there was something he could do, Shinji was right.  Eventually
they would find him, no matter where he went.  And where would he go?
There was nowhere left for him to run..
        As Shinji was led away, he looked back a final time at
Kensuke, and then was pushed forwards by the bleak escort.  The
shadows fell heavily upon him, and then they swallowed him whole.

        The next morning, Kensuke related the events to Touji in
class.  As usual, the class was intensely caught in a state of chaos,
with students talking and screaming and laughing instead of doing the
assigned work.  No one paid any particular attention to the manic
whisper of the boy with the glasses sitting in the corner, his rapt
gaze focused singularly on his friend, sitting on the desk across
from him.
        At the end of the story, Touji sat up in alarm.  "You just
stood there and watched?" he asked, incredulous.
        Kensuke snorted derisively.  "That's easy for you to say. They
were professionals from NERV security intelligence."
        "So what?" Touji cried.  "Don't you have any balls?"
        "He who fights is a fool if he stands no chance of winning.
Besides, Shinji gave himself up.  He knew he couldn't fight, and he
knew he couldn't run, no matter how hard he tried.  He was able to
face that truth, painful though it may be.  That's real courage."
        Touji frowned.  "Maybe so, but I wouldn't have given up
without a fight, not matter how bad the odds were!"  He clenched his
fist to emphasize the point.  Then his face softened.  "Do you think
they'll kick him out?"
        "He'll leave," Kensuke murmured.  "I know he'll leave."

        Shinji sat in the corner of a bare room intended as an
interrogation chamber.  There was a wooden table and two chairs
situated in the middle of the room, but Shinji preferred the
floor.  He held his knees to his chin, his arms wrapped around them.
Misato stared at him dully as she entered the room, unable to
reconcile her emotions with this desolate image of him.
        "Long time no see," she said quietly.
        "I guess so," Shinji said.
        Misato sighed.  She wanted to welcome him back, to tell him
he would be safe here, that everything would be all right.  But that
would be a blatant lie.  If he stayed here, he would be hurt again
and again.  If he didn't want to remain, he shouldn't.  When she had
taken responsibility for his safety, his sanity, she had meant it.
        "Did two days of bumming around cheer you up?" she asked, not
kindly.
        "Not really," Shinji replied, not looking up.
        "Eva's on standby.  Will you pilot it?  Or not?"
        Shinji was quiet a second.  "What would NERV do if I said no?"
        "Rei would do it, I think."
        Shinji nodded.  "I'll do it."
        "What?" Misato murmured, stunned.  "You actually want to pilot
Eva - after all that you've been through?"
        Shinji grimaced.  "What I want has nothing to do with it, does
it?"  He stood, leaning against the wall, looking at Misato for the
first time.  "The life of one - how inconsequential compared to the
fate of the world!  What an easily made sacrifice.. who am I to
object?"
        "Stop it!" Misato screamed.  "Shinji, this has absolutely
nothing to do with anybody else.  This is what you want, not what the
institution expects of you!  If you hate this, get out of here!  If
you hate who you are-"
        She stopped suddenly, thinking she had gone too far.  Shinji
stood placidly, his arms at his sides, his gaze aimed at the floor.
        "I never asked for this," he said softly.

        The following day, Shinji handed his ID card to a security
officer outside NERV headquarters.  On his back, he wore a satchel
containing all his worldly possessions, excepting only his furniture.
        "Do you know where Captain Katsuragi is?"  Shinji asked the
guard meekly.  "I wanted to say goodbye."
        "The whereabouts of NERV personnel are classified," the guard
stated.  "As you are no longer a member of NERV, I cannot give you
that information."
        "Oh.  Okay," Shinji said, turning away.  He headed towards the
car that would take him to the train station, parked silently behind
him.  From there, he would be free.

        The station.  This, at last, was his final destination.  The
bullet train here was the only one that ran in or out of Tokyo-3
anymore; all the others had been shut down to strictly control the
people and materials that went into or out of the city.  Now that
most of the population had fled the dangerous place, one outgoing
train was all they really needed.  It was white and red and silver
and would take Shinji out of Tokyo-3 forever.  Away from NERV and
Misato and father.. forever.
        He pressed his hand to the glass.  Still, it wasn't any
different.  He was still empty and frightened and alone.  There was
nothing left inside him.  He was empty.. so terribly empty.  Devoid
of love, of hope, of warmth.  Eva had taken that from him.
        As the train came into view, something unusual caught his eye.
He took his hand from the glass and stared, amazed, out the window.
        There were people there waiting for him.
        The car came to a stop.  Shinji opened the door, withdrawing
his satchel carefully, and then shut it behind him.  He walked slowly
towards the two figures standing at the platform.
        "Hey, Ikari!"  Touji Suzuhara called.
        "Hey, Shinji!" Kensuke Aida said, smiling.
        Shinji stood in front of them, confused.  Should he be
frightened?  He didn't think Kensuke meant to hurt him - or Touji, for
that matter, not any more.  "What are you doing here?"
        "Ah.." Touji said, fidgeting.  "I wanted to apologize to you
for what I did.  I wasn't thinking... please, forgive me."
        "Kensuke already told me about that," Shinji said.  "It's
okay.  I don't blame anyone for what happened.  I forgive you."  He
frowned.  "But how did you know I'd be here?"
        "This isn't the first time we've had to see a fellow student
off," Kensuke replied.
        "We'll probably be leaving too, someday," Touji said.  "Now
that you're leaving.. well, I don't feel too safe living here anymore,
to say the least."  Then he smiled.  "But I understand completely.  In
fact, if anyone gives you trouble about it, I'll give them a crack
in the head."
        Shinji stared incredulously.
        "Don't look so gloomy!" Touji said.
        "If you ever come back, you've got friends here, Shinji."
Kensuke said.  "Cheer up and good luck!"
        Shinji was overcome.  "Th-thank you," he gaped.  "Thank you
for coming here.  You don't know how much this means to me."
        "You saved our lives, Shinji," Touji asserted.  "You saved
this entire city, twice.  This the least we can do."
        The train was calling people to board.  Shinji didn't hear
it - he just stared at Touji and Kensuke.  The pain, he realized, had
been able to overwhelm him, to consume him so utterly, was because
he had lost track of what he was fighting for.  He had lost faith in
humanity, no longer saw it as worthy of defending.  That had destroyed
him.
        But here.. this was hope.  There was still goodness left
within humanity, after all.  There were still elements of humanity
that, despite the Angels' unlikely assault, would still prevail and
would fuel mankind's fight for survival - even if the situation was
hopeless.  Even if the pain grew to the point of overwhelming its
bearer, he would still stand and fight.
        That one ray of hope - that was all it took.

        Misato sat morbidly at her desk in NERV headquarters.  The
desk was cluttered with a myriad objects - the surface was not even
visible - and she really should try to clear it up, but she was
depressed.  He didn't even look up when Ritsuko walked in.
        "Misato!" Ritsuko said brightly, then paused to study her
face.  "You don't look well.  Are you okay?"
        "Has Shinji left yet?" Misato asked quietly.
        "Yeah," Ritsuko said.  "I talked to the guard when I went to
get his ID."  Idly, she withdrew it from her coat pocket, turning it
over in her hand.  "He said Shinji wanted to say goodbye to you."
        Misato choked.  "I never did say goodbye to him," she said.
"Can you imagine that, Ritsuko?  I just tore his world out from under
him and I didn't even say goodbye."
        Ritsuko sighed.  "It was for the best, Misato," she said.  "At
least, the best for him.  As long as we don't see an Angel in the next
few days, we'll be fine.  The fourth child has already found and we'll
be receiving the second unit at the same time.  Besides, Rei's not too
far from recovering anyways."
        "Was it the best for him?"  Misato wondered.  "As soon as the
other pilots arrived, he might not have suffered as much - with less
of the burden placed upon him, he might have been okay.  But, worse, I
dedicated myself to helping him.  I wanted him to feel at home here.
I told him he could."  She shuddered violently, tormented by her
actions.  "And then I told him it had all been a lie.  I told him to
get out."  She paused.  "Shinji was fragile to begin with.  He's like
Rei in that he has difficulty expressing his emotions, but he's not
like Rei in that he allows himself to be affected by the emotions of
others.  Worse, though, he's been inside Eva twice, fighting an Angel.
Whatever we imagined it would be like was obviously insufficient - it's
worse.  He was adrift, with nothing to cling to - and I - pushed him
away.."
        Ritsuko held a coffee mug in her left hand, and she took a
deep drink from it as she listened.  "What do you intend to do about
it?"
        Misato's expression changed - from self-pity, self-loathing,
to a kind of urgency.  "What time does his train leave?"
        "In about twenty minutes, I think."
        Misato stood and moved for the door.  "I've got to catch him."
        Ritsuko frowned.  "What are you going to say to him?"
        "Whatever he wants to hear," Misato said.  "Goodbye, I
suppose.  But I have to see him before he goes."  Her fists clenched.
"I have to."  She strode out the door at a quick pace that she soon
forced into a run.

        Misato arrived at the station just in time to see the train
leave.
        "No," she whispered, bringing her car to a screeching halt.
She threw the door open and ran to the platform, staring for a few
seconds at the train roaring furiously into the distance.  Then she
bowed her head and began to cry.
        Why?  Just as the train pulled out.. she had come so close.
Now that he was gone, she felt a part of herself had been torn away.
It wasn't so much that she had known him well - she hadn't.  But she
was so close to doing so.. and she could have helped him through his
pain.  If only she had been stronger, she knew she could have helped
him.  He could have been like a son to her.. but she had thrown all
that away, simply because she was too weak to deal with him.  Too
irresponsible.  Too idiotic.  Too..
        "Miss Misato?"
        Misato's train of thought halted abruptly.  She drew a soft,
shuddering breath.
        Turning, she saw Shinji.
        "Shinji," she whispered.
        "Miss Misato, are you okay?" Shinji asked quietly.  His eyes
were wide with concern.  He fidgeted nervously with the satchel hanging
over his shoulder.
        Without another word, Misato threw her arms around him.
Shinji stiffened, but timidly returned the embrace.  Part of Misato
wanted to cry, but all she could do was smile, her eyes alight with
the presence of a newfound hope.






End of Part 4