Part 4
THE CHILD OF LOVE...
by Axel Terizaki <aterizak@club-internet.fr>
Retooled by Dave Watson <aj153@freenet.carleton.ca>, 1999 3 15 & 3 22-23.

-=FOURTH MONTH=-

Background:
Now, almost everyone knows everything about Asuka and Teri (Shinji and
Asuka's unborn daughter).  During their last fight against an Angel, the
whole NERV staff--Misato, Ritsuko, Rei, Shinji, everyone--saw a *new*
Asuka, in an inexplicable and unthinkable fury, holding off the Angel
with only one hand.  Ritsuko could not believe her eyes:  96.3%.  This
figure has been haunting her every night for the past month.  That was
Asuka's synchro rate during the raging battle.  Ritsuko is doing
everything she can in order to discover the story behind that rate.

So WHAT'S happening to Asuka?  Yeah, I know it's the same question
every month, but in this one, you'll find the answers to your questions.  
Why will you find answers to your questions?  Will you find ALL the
answers to your questions?  How many questions do you have?  Will I stop
asking stupid questions? ... ;-)

NOTE: From here, this becomes a bit darker.  Sorry, but, like in any
story, there always are disruptive elements.

---

CAPTION: FOURTH MONTH
CAPTION 2: Something you shouldn't see behind this door.

---

A hand is crossing out a date on a calendar with a pencil.  We can see
that it's now Sunday, the 27th of November, 2016.  Misato looks a little
further down the calendar.

Misato (to herself) : "Oh ho ho!  Next Sunday is Asuka's birthday!  We're
gonna have a PARTY!"

For Misato, anything can potentially be an excuse for a party.  Asuka
comes into the kitchen.

Asuka : "What's happening, Misato?  Why are you so happy?"

Misato turns back to Asuka and takes a good, long look at her stomach.

Asuka (following Misato's look) : "Hey, stop that! You'll make her blush!"

Misato can't help laughing.

Asuka : "W-what's so funny!?"

Misato : "No, nothing!" (to herself) : "She doesn't seem to be aware that
her birthday's coming up!" (to Asuka) : "Don't you see we're close to a
special day?"

Asuka : "What do you mean?"

Misato (to herself) : "Doesn't seem to be aware *at all*...perfect!  I'll
turn it into a surprise party, then!"

Asuka : "My turn to ask questions now.  What is THIS?"

She shows a sign to Misato.

Asuka : "Why did you put this on my door!?"

Written on the sign : "Asuka and Teri-chan's Room."

Asuka : "So?  Still waiting!"

Misato : "Yeah...errr...she's almost there..."

Asuka : "Yeah, but not yet!  WHEN she's there, I'll ask you for a new
sign, okay?"

Misato : "But I just wanted to welcome a new roommate!"

Asuka : "I said that WHEN she's there..."

Misato : "Okay, okay.  I see..."

Asuka : "By the way, where's Shinji?"

Misato : "I think he said he would be at AXL's Game Center with Toji and
Kensuke."

Asuka : "Oh. (sigh)" (to herself) : "I'm dying of boredom here, and *he*
has fun with his friends...damn!"

---

Central Dogma.  Ritsuko is typing something on her laptop in her office.  
Maya comes and reads over her sempai's shoulder.

Maya : "The Second Child Pregnancy Report?"

Ritsuko : "Yes.  And it seems there's a problem."

Maya : "Huh?"

Ritsuko : "The LCL seems to be having some sort of effect on Asuka's
genes.  And on those of her child, as well."

Maya : "That's horrible!  Can't we do anything about this?"

Ritsuko : "I don't know.  Besides, it doesn't seem to be the same LCL we
use in the other entry plugs.  Look at this; traces of some sort of
tetra-9 hydrocannabinol.

[Watson's MST3K comment:  Someone smoking marijuana on the job at NERV?]

But strangely, it doesn't seems to affect the health of the
pilot...but...yeah...wait a sec..."

She keys in a few commands.

Ritsuko : "Maybe..."

Maya : "Maybe those molecules have something to do with the high
synchronization rate, then."

Ritsuko : "Yeah, that may be...I'll ask MAGI.  Go and get some sleep.

Maya : "You're right, sempai.  It's already late."

Ritsuko : "Yeah, we've all had a hard day.  Good night.  I'll see you
tomorrow."

Maya : "See you tomorrow, sempai."

Exit Maya.  Ritsuko rolls away from her laptop for a moment, and closes
her eyes, reclining in her swivel chair.  Suddenly, someone puts his
hands over her eyes.

Man's voice : "Guess who?"

Ritsuko turns back, surprised.

Ritsuko : "Kaji-kun!  You've came back!"

Kaji : "Yeah.  Paris-2 was great, but I prefer Tokyo-3."

Ritsuko : "I'm glad you're finally back."

Kaji : "Did I miss anything?"

Ritsuko (laughing) : "Yeah, some things."

Kaji (leaning over the laptop) : "W--what?  She decided to..."

Ritsuko : "It seems your little protegee wants to raise a child..."

Kaji : "Really?"

Ritsuko : "Yes."

Kaji : "Hey, I'll have to congratulate those two when I'll visit Katsuragi.  
By the way, is she around?"

Ritsuko : "No, she's on holiday."

Kaji (smiling) : "Oh.  Okay, then, I'll just date her when she comes back."

Ritsuko : "..." (to herself) : "In your dreams..."

Kaji : "So, see ya 'round, Rit-chan.  I've been transferred to your section,
you know..."

Ritsuko : "I don't think Misato will appreciate..."

---

CAPTION: TUESDAY

---

Shinji is on his bed, hands under his head, looking at the ceiling.  He is
thinking about...about how fierce Asuka was in her last battle.  He can
picture the rage on Asuka's face, as if she was possessed by some demon.

Shinji (to himself) : "How could she have done that?"

Knock, knock...

Misato (from outside) : "Shinji-kun?  Are you there?"

Shinji : "Hai..."

She enters and shuts the door behind her.  She then sits on the bed, next
to Shinji.

Misato : "Do you know what day it is today?"

Shinji : "Of course.  It's Sunday.  Haven't you looked at the calendar?"

Misato : "Yes, but...in five days, it'll be...?"

Shinji : "Sunday."

Misato : "...the...?"

Shinji : "Fourth of December.  What do you mean?"

Misato : "You don't know!?"

Shinji (after thinking a moment) : "No."

Misato (furious) : "IT'S YOUR WIFE'S BIRTHDAY!!!!  She'll be 15!"

Shinji (realizing) : "Hey!  She's NOT my wife!.....her birthday?"

Misato : "That's what I've been trying to tell you for five minutes now!"

Shinji : "Oh... I see...I'll have to buy her a present..."

Misato : "Yeah, of course.  But I wanted to ask you if you could invite
your friends to the party."

Shinji : "Okay, I'll ask them tomorrow...but do you think they HAVE to
know?"

Misato : "Well, I don't think we can avoid the unavoidable any more."

Shinji : "I guess you're right, Misato-san."

The doorbell rings.

Misato : "I'll go and see who's there."

Shinji doesn't move, since he wants to take a little nap.  Just when he
closes his eyes, he hears an outburst coming from the doorway, destroying
his moment of peace.

Misato : "DAMMIT!  YOU AGAIN?!"

Kaji : "Hey, I just came back from France and that's how you welcome me?
Why don't you treat me like you did one week before my trip, huh?"

Misato : "Shuddup!  I was drunk, okay!?  That'll never happen again!"

Kaji : "May I trust your hormones or your words? (tm).  I wanted to
congratulate Ikari Asuka Langley first."

Misato : "She's not here.  And besides, they're not married!  They'd kill
you if they heard this!"

Too late.  Shinji heard it, but he's not really upset by it.  He's now in
the living room, and he sees Kaji.

Shinji : "Kaji-san!"

Kaji (turning his eyes towards Shinji) : "Hi, Shinji.  How are you?  I
heard that..."

Misato : "THIS IS TOP SECRET, RYOUJI!"

Kaji : "Hey, hey, hey!  I have to know.  I took care of Asuka before she
installed herself here, remember?  And I'll add that I'm now reintegrated
as part of NERV, so..."

Misato : "That's no reason, and it's definitely none of your concern."

Shinji : "Oh, by the way, Kaji-san, would you like to come to a party?"

Misato : "Huh?"

Kaji : "What is it?"

Shinji : "For Asuka's birthday, next Sunday."

Kaji : "Yeah, I remember...she's 15 now?"

Shinji : "Yes."

Misato is completely speechless.

Kaji : "Of course.  So, I--"

Misato cuts him off by pushing him towards the front door.

Misato : "So, you'll come to her birthday, and you'll be her present, okay?  
Now bye."

She shoves him out the door and locks the door behind him.

Shinji : "Misato, he's a friend, I don't think..."

Misato was looking at Shinji angrily, with flames in her eyes.

Shinji : "Uhh...never mind."

---

CAPTION: WEDNESDAY
CAPTION 2: Morning

---

Asuka is up early this morning.  She is fully dressed, her long red hair
is tied behind her head and she's wearing an apron as she cooks breakfast.  
Shinji walks into the kitchen, dressed for school.  Misato follows close
behind him, dressed in her...hmm...well, you know how she dresses when
she's on holiday...let's just say, quite light.

Shinji (seeing Asuka cooking) : "Gulp..."

Asuka (frowning at him) : "Hey!  I CAN cook sometimes!"

Misato : "Huh?....."

Shinji : "W-what...you..."

Asuka : "Oh, stop that!  I have the right to dress any way I want and to
tie my hair so you won't be hurt by its divine beauty!"

Misato : "It's just...so unusual..."

Asuka is fuming dangerously. Her two roommates knew that she is reaching
her limit.

Misato : "Hey, calm down.  You prepared breakfast?  How nice."

She nudges Shinji.

Shinji (quickly glancing at Misato, and then looking at Asuka) : "Y-yeah...
How nice."

Asuka : "Okay, sit down, fools."

They begin to eat their breakfast, but soon after that, Shinji stands up
and heads to the entrance door.

Shinji (without looking at Asuka) : "Thanks, the food was excellent.  Bye."

Asuka (while Shinji is leaving) : "Pfff... baka."

Misato : "He's right.  The food was excellent."

Asuka : "It's a conspiracy!  Suddenly, I decide to be nicer to you two
and..."

Misato (interrupting her) : "Hey, I'm not joking!  The food was really
excellent, Asuka.  You should cook more often.  It's one of the best
breakfasts I've ever ate!"

Asuka : "You mean, it's one of the first breakfasts you've ever ate, don't
you?"

Misato was puzzled...

Asuka (sarcastically) : "Or...is it one of the first breakfasts you ever
ate without Kaji's 'sauce'?"

Misato (shocked) : "W-what do you mean!?"

Asuka : "Oh, nothing, nothing...!"

---

>From outside the apartment, we can hear the two women arguing.

Misato (shouting) : "You're disgusting!!!"

Asuka (laughing) : "H-hey!  You never stopped moaning his name while you
were sleeping!  'Oh, Kaji!  Yeeesssss!!!  I want more!!!!  That tastes so
gooood!!!!  Gimme more breakfast!!!'"

Misato : "You bitch!  You watched me sleeping!"

Asuka : "Of course!  I was wondering where all the noisy moans came from!  
I'm sure even Shinji heard you!  You could wake the dead!"

Misato : "I'll kill you for this!"

Asuka : "Wait five more months, or it'll be a double murder!"

Misato : "No, I won't wait!"

Sounds of various objects flying and crashing on walls can be heard from
outside...

---

CAPTION: FRIDAY
CAPTION 2: Yeah I Know, Nothing Interesting On Thursdays... But TODAY...
The truth is here. (errr... 'now' would be a bit more appropriate.)

---

A hand violently slams a file folder down on a desk.  Ritsuko is in front
of Gendo's desk in Terminal Dogma.

Ritsuko : "How-how do you explain THIS!?"

Gendo : "There's nothing to explain."

Ritsuko : "But...you're already using these children...and now a fetus...
You've already used everyone here anyway..."

Her voice is now breaking, and tears are starting to well up in her eyes.

Ritsuko : "You're a madman..."

Gendo : "My plan is almost complete, I will help giving birth to the first--"

Ritsuko : "That's disgusting!!!!"

She is now crying.

Ritsuko : "They made this little girl with their love...and you, you want to
snatch her out of her young parents' hands!  Just to serve your dirty little
plans..."

Gendo : "..."

Ritsuko : "WHY?  Why are you using those DNA agents in this new type of LCL!?  
WHY does this child need these!?  You know what the consequences of--"

Gendo : "I know.  But I can't allow this...detail to block my schedule."

Ritsuko slaps Gendo's face with all the power she has.

Ritsuko : "NO!  That can't be!!!  The fact that her synchro rate was high
was only one symptom of what you've done!  Now, I know that the side effects
of this manipulation are much more horrible!  And you call this a 'detail'!?
Shinji will kill you!"

She really explodes into tears now...

Gendo : "Calm down.  Everything will go as planned.  As soon as the
'manipulation' is complete, I'll return them the child, in her original..."
His voice trails off "...state."

Ritsuko : "I-I don't know if I can trust you...and something inside me tells
me that I shouldn't.  But I know one thing:  Nobody, you hear?  Nobody will
forgive you for THIS!"

Gendo : "You're dismissed now, Dr. Akagi."

She leaves, lowering her head...

Fuyutsuki appears from a dark corner...

Fuyutsuki : "I don't think you're using the appropriate methods to get what
we want."

Gendo : "You know as well that Seele is after this project too.  I can't
allow them to disturb my plans.  And besides, Rei couldn't do this for me.  
She has one purpose, and only one."

Fuyutsuki : "You know you'll be a grandfather."

Gendo : "Yes.  I am thrilled to know that I'll be the grandfather of the
first Genesis Child."

---

In the elevator to the surface.

Ritsuko (to herself, while wiping the tears from her face) : "Poor Shinji..."

---

CAPTION: SUNDAY
CAPTION 2: D-Day; Morning

---

As usual now, Asuka is standing in the kitchen, cooking something for her
roommates.  Misato gets up earlier than usual and comes into the kitchen...

Misato : "No!"

Asuka (puzzled) : "What's going on?"

Misato : "You can't do anything today!"

Asuka : "What?"

Misato : "No way!  Shinji's not awake?"

Asuka : "Seems not."

Misato : "I'll wake him up, then..."

She goes into Shinji's room...

Asuka (to herself) : "What's up with her?"

Misato then comes back in the kitchen with a still-sleepy Shinji.

Misato : "Shinji, YOU cook."

Shinji : "W-why me?"

Misato : "You know why!  You want to die!?"

Shinji : "Oh, yeah..."

Asuka : "You don't want to cook, Misato?"

Misato : "I asked if you wanted to die..."

Asuka (giggling) : "Oh, I see..."

---

Evening.  Asuka sits on the couch while Misato and Shinji tidy up the apartment.

Asuka : "Why must I stay on the couch!?"

Misato : "Are you blind or what?"

Asuka : "No, why?"

Misato : "It's your B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y!"

Asuka : "..."

Misato : "You're now 15!  Let's party!  Everyone will arrive in a minute!"

Asuka : "You...you didn't forgot?"

She looks at Shinji.

Asuka : "You too, Shinji?"

Shinji : "Y-yeah...sort of."

Asuka (looking down at her feet) : "..."

Misato : "What's happening?"

Asuka : "It's just that...I can't remember the last time I celebrated my
birthday..."

Misato : "Oh, God, don't tell me it's the first time you..."

Asuka : "I can't remember, sorry."

Misato : "I see.  So, have fun tonight!  You WON'T be bored this time!"

Asuka : "Thanks..."

---

In the hallway of the apartment building, the elevator opens itself to
reveal Hikari, Toji and Kensuke.  After walking out, Hikari stops
outside the apartment door, and turns to face the other two.

Toji : "What's going on, Hikari?"

Hikari : "You know why we were invited here, don't you?"

Kensuke : "Yeah, it's Asuka's birthday."

Hikari : "And you don't wonder why she has never been to school for nearly
three months now?"

Toji : "N-no...Ikari told us she was ill..."

Hikari (looking down at the floor) : "Well... In fact, that's not true.  But
promise me you'll keep your calm when you'll see her.  Okay?"

Kensuke : "Why?  What's going on?"

Hikari : "I have to tell you this now so you won't do or say anything
awkward in front of her."

Toji : "..."

Hikari : "She's expecting a baby."

Kensuke's jaw drops to the floor.

Toji : "She's *WHAT*?"

Hikari : "Shhhhhh!  You understand now?"

Kensuke (putting his jaw back in place) : "You...you mean...all this time,
she was..."

Hikari : "She IS pregnant, okay?  And now I don't want to hear any vile
comments during her birthday party!  Keep things happy tonight, okay?"

Toji : "Y-yeah, but...that came so suddenly...errr, wait a sec--S-Shinji's
not...?"

Hikari : "Yes, he is.  By the way, I hope you haven't forgot the present..."

Kensuke : "Of course not!"

We can see a bag in Kensuke's hands.  At the same time, Rei is coming from
the same elevator they used.

Hikari : "Ayanami.  Konnichiwa [Hello]!"

Toji & Kensuke : "Konnichiwa!"

Rei (softly, while walking up to the apartment's door) : "Konnichiwa."

---

>From inside the apartment, we can hear some soft background music.

DING DONG!

Shinji : "Haaaii!!  I'm coming!"

He opens the door to reveal Hikari, Rei, Toji and Kensuke...

Shinji : "Come in!"

Kensuke drops the bag in the hallway.

Toji {whispering to Shinji while entering) : "You sly dog."

Shinji blushes.  While entering the living room, Toji and Kensuke can't
help but stare at an Asuka they hadn't seen for months...and especially at
her stomach.  Hikari nudges them.  They shake their heads.

Toji : "H-hello, Asuka."

Kensuke (trembling) : "H-hi...how are y-you...?"

Asuka : "I'm fine, thanks."

Toji and Kensuke cannot believe their ears...or their eyes.  Asuka then
notices Rei behind them.

Asuka : "Hi, Rei!"

Rei (flatly) : "Hello."

Asuka (to herself) : "Hmph, as usual, Wondergirl is extremely talkative."

Hikari holds out the bag Kensuke had in his hands seconds earlier.

Hikari : "Happy birthday, Asuka.  This is from Toji, Kensuke and me."

Asuka slowly takes the bag from Hikari's hands.

Asuka : "Thanks a lot, you three..."

She then smiles warmly and bows to them.   Toji and Kensuke are floored
yet again.  To see such a display from the most arrogant girl they've
ever known, who couldn't go a day without calling them some insulting
name...they were on the verge of fainting.

Toji (to himself) : "Asuka...smiled and bowed...to me????"

Kensuke rubs his eyes to make sure this wasn't a dream, his imagination,
or a hallucination.  Asuka opens the bag and takes something in wrapping
paper out of it.  She drops the empty bag, rips the paper off and shows
everyone the beautiful dress she's holding.  It's a red sundress, nearly
as red as her plugsuit.  She then holds it against her body to see if it
would fit well.  It seems like it will.

Asuka : "Thank you all very much."

She then delicately lays the dress on the couch where she was sitting
moments earlier.

Misato (nudging Rei) : "Go on, Rei, give her your present."

Rei : "Hai."

She heads towards Asuka and gives her a small gift-wrapped parcel.

Asuka : "Thank you, Rei."

This time, however, she does not bow to Rei.  She opens the package
and takes out the nice mechanical pencil which was inside.

Asuka (to herself) : "I can't believe this!  Wondergirl is so stingy!  
Well, at least she gave me something."

She then smiles at Rei.  Misato presents Asuka with a little picture.

Misato : "Here is mine, Asuka.  Sorry, I didn't knew what else I could
give you this evening."

The picture shows Kaji, half-naked, striking a slightly macho pose (you
know, like in all those women's magazines...).

Asuka : "Errr...quite cute...I never thought you had that in your room,
Misato..."

Misato (blushing) : "Um, well, in fact, I found that in some old stuff..."

Asuka (gazing at Shinji) : "Hey, Shinji-kun, what about you?"

Shinji : "Uh...sorry, Asuka...I...errr...I forgot to pick one up."

Asuka (livid) : "You *WHAT*?"

Shinji : "Well...uh...."

Misato was also looking at him, puzzled.  Shinji could read, "What the
fuck are you doing, Shinji!?" in her eyes.  Rei was about to move for
some reason when Misato spoke up.

Misato : "Ritsuko and baka Kaji are still missing.  I hope they'll get
here soon."

Asuka (face lighting up) : "Kaji-san is back from France?"

Misato : "Humph, the fool got back last Sunday."

Asuka : "Lucky!  And you didn't tell me!?  How unkind of you."

Misato now looks at Shinji.  In her eyes, Shinji can now read, "You
should thank me for saving your life, baka" (Shinji's very good at
reading people's gazes...).

---

Later, Kaji and Ritsuko arrived at about the same time.  Ritsuko gave
Asuka a kanji dictionary while Kaji offered some perfume he bought in
Paris-2.  Asuka was very happy.  She knew that she has friends and people
who care for her.  Not for what she's done, but for who she is.  Ritsuko
had a difficult time trying to concentrate on the festivities, knowing
what she does about Gendo's plans and wanting so badly to tell somebody
about it.  However, given the setting and the company, she forced herself
to stay quiet...for now.

Ritsuko (to herself) : "Let's not disturb this moment of happiness..."

---

Everyone is sitting around the living room table, eating the cake Hikari
baked for her friend's birthday.  A thought strikes Asuka.  She looks at
Shinji, grinning almost triumphantly...

Asuka : "Hey, baka Shinji."

Shinji (gulps) : "Uh, w-what?"

Asuka : "I know how you'll rectify this omission."

Shinji (gulps again) : "I begin to fear..."

Asuka : "You'll have to do all my chores for one month, okay?  That's your
punishment."

Shinji thinks for a few seconds.

Shinji (reluctantly) : "Deal..."

Misato (to herself) : "Didn't he tell me he bought something yesterday...?  
What's the matter with you, Shinji?"

Kensuke : "Poor Shinji...we pity you in your time of darkness.  We'll miss
you."

Toji (taking a second piece of the cake) : "This cake is damn good, Hikari.
I'd like to try anything else you can make, like a bento or something like
that."

Hikari (blushing at the compliment) : "Why not?"

Toji (who didn't expect that) : "You serious?"

Hikari : "Of course."

Toji is speechless.

Asuka : "Toji, you shouldn't be that surprised, you know..."

Everyone laughs as Toji and Hikari blush...

Kaji (in front of Asuka) : "And why not talk about the future, Asuka?  Or
should I say Ikari Asuka Langley?"

Asuka turns a vivid shade of red while Shinji tries to hide himself under
the table.

Asuka : "Kaji-san, please understand that there's nothing between me and
stupid Shinji, okay?"

Everyone was grinning and staring at them, not really convinced by Asuka's
words.  Fate wanted Shinji to sit by Asuka's side.  But the two teens
already know that Fate's second name in this apartment is Misato.  Rei takes
a quick glance at Shinji, but it seems that only Shinji notices this.  She
smiles at him.  She only ever smiled at him or Gendo in her entire life.  
Shinji knew that well.  For him, a smile from Rei is like some sort of
protection spell.  Nothing bad could happen to him now.

Asuka (standing up) : "Okay okay, everyone.  I know I'm now 15 and that I'm
too young to have children, but...well...okay, you win, I have no excuse
for this.  But Teri'll be here in about four months and I hope you'll all
welcome her to our sorry world."

Everyone congratulates her, except for Shinji, who stands up and heads to
his room without a word.  He shuts the door with a loud *SLAM*.

Asuka : "Pffff....what a baka."

Misato (to herself) : "Asuka...you're not being very fair with him..."

Kaji : "And now, let's drink a little to celebrate these events!  What about
you, Katsuragi!?"

Misato : "Okay, THIS time, I'll go along with you.  Let's have a drink!"

Big surprise, huh?  It's part of Misato's ethics that she absolutely CANNOT
refuse a drink.

---

When everyone left, Misato had already collapsed from her drunk state.  
Shinji was already in his room, since he left the party two hours before its
ending.  Asuka is the only one still on her feet.  She collects the presents
she was given for her birthday.  A red dress, a bottle of French perfume, a
kanji dictionary...

Asuka (to herself) : "Well, where's that damn dictionary!?"

She opens Shinji's door.

Asuka : "Hey, Shinji-kun, have you s..."

Her voice trails off when she sees Shinji on his futon, asleep with a very
hard frown on his face.

Asuka (to herself) : "Either he's having nightmares, or he's feeling pain
and regret for forgotting to buy my birthday present, the baka!"

She glances around his room, not looking for anything in particular, and
her shin knocks against something on the floor.  With the force of her
Divine German Feet, Asuka pushes over Shinji's wastebasket.  Fate, this
time not directly linked to Misato, had decided that a little square box
should bounce out and land at her feet.  She crouches down and picks it up.

Asuka (to herself) : "What's this?"

In the beam of light from the hallway, she can read, on a piece of paper
tied to the box by a thin red ribbon, "To Asuka."

Asuka (to herself, puzzled) : "A...a present!?  Why...?"

Her thoughts trail off when she opens the little box.  There is a
beautiful silver ring with a fiery red ruby mounted in it.

Asuka (to herself) : "Shinji...baka...."

She then stands up, and puts the ring on the third finger of her right
hsnd.

Asuka (to herself) : "It's my size...Why, Shinji?  Why didn't you give
this to me yourself...?"

She then walks to his futon and leans over him... and gives him a kiss
on the cheek.  Tears now begin to flow from her eyes.

Asuka (wiping away the tears with the back of her hand) : "Why am I
crying...?  I can't be..."

She runs into her room and shuts the door.  She then curls up on her
bed and begins to cry.

Asuka : "NO!  I CAN'T FALL IN LOVE!!!!  I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!  I JUST
CAN'T!!!  THIS CAN'T BE LOVE...!"

She puts her hands on her head...

Asuka : "THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE! I HAVE TO BE STRONG, I..."

She has only one thing in mind now.  Shinji.  Pictures of him flow across
her vision...she can't see anything else.  Shinji.  She can't see anyone
else.  Shinji...His image now haunts her even more than her own mother.  
She then remembers what she said to him, how he behaved.  He looked so weak,
she looked so strong.  Like magnets, they were opposities, but they couldn't
avoid each other.  She was scornful, and he was always ready to hold out his
hand...A warm sensation surrounds her body, and penetrates her heart, like a
progressive knife.

Asuka (between sobs) : "I...can't...love him....."

But who can fight against love?

---

TO BE CONTINUED

Author's notes :
Hope you weren't disappointed by the dark moments in this chapter.  Yeah,
now you know what's happening to Asuka, don't you?  I told you you'd
find out in this part.

I was very happy to see that some people sent me their impressions on the
RAAC and SDAT posting.

Okay, the ending will be happy, but I can't decide between two different
endings.  I'll ask my pre-readers for advice when the time comes.

Anyway, thanks to you all.

And my special thanks goes to Alain Gravel (aka Rakna) for all the help and
comments.  Thanks again, my friend!

The second place in my special thanks goes to BorderlineCase who helped
me avoid publishing this part with the BIGGEST mistake I've ever made!
(I won't tell which mistake, I'm so ashamed!)

And of course, thanks to my other pre-readers, EBJ and Al-l-Boogz (go and
see Imagine Normality!)

If you want to become a pre-reader, too, please tell me by sending an E-mail
to:  aterizak@club-internet.fr
I answer ALL of my E-mails!

Now, here are the answers to questions you may ask me:

For the date, my 486DX 50 notebook made all the calculations...and don't
laugh! (I've owned this one since 1994!)

What is AXL's Game Center, you'll ask?  You'll find out in the next
chapter...okay, that was a joke.  AXL's Game Center is actually an arcade
center in my fic.  In the real world, it's the name of a network party I
organize with a lot of friends.  We all gather in a village hall or other
great place and we play on LAN multiplayer games for almost 4 days non-stop.  
A real brain-washing party... :-)

The structure : " May I trust your XXX or your YYY"
is copyrighted material from Ryuji Kaji. :-> ) (thus the trademark notice).

A 'bento' is a Japanese term to describe a boxed lunch consisting of rice
and other small food items which can be eaten cold or heated.  They can be
prepared at home or bought at convenience stores in Japan, and range from
the basic to the elaborate and colourful.  If a girl prepares a bento for
a boy, that means that...yeah, she has something for him, heh heh :-)

See ya soon,
Axel Terizaki.

(Devoted follower of the AFC Sohryu Asuka Langley Fanclub.)
NEXT EPISODE : The Shield (coming soon!)