after Shinji's fall, the survivors try to regroup and morn their loss.
Funeral For A Friend
"Asuka?" a voice called from the now open hatch of the Entry Plug of Unit 02, "Asuka, are you alright?" Asuka's empty blue eyes glanced up to see Ritsuko glancing worriedly at her.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Asuka said blandly, getting climbing toward the older doctor, wiping the 'LCL fluid' from her eyes. "Why wouldn't I be fine?"
"They ... they took everything, Asuka," Ritsuko stated as she aided the girl out of the plug, "both ... both bodies."
"How do you know he's dead?" Asuka said, turning a hateful glance at the woman making her step back from its power, "He might just be hurt, we should be going on a rescue mission ASAP!"
"We were monitoring his readings, Asuka," Ritsuko stated sadly, "His life readings stopped as the plug was destroyed. He ... Shinji didn't survive. I'm sorry ..."
"DON'T SAY THAT!" She screamed, tears forming at the corners of her eyes, "Don't say you're sorry! Never say that ..." she then turned and ran out of the cage area leaving Ritsuko watching her go sadly.
Asuka changed and left the base as quickly as she could, but she didn't go straight home, preferring to wonder the streets in an attempt to get the words Shinji had said to her out of her head. "Baka ... If ... if he would have been stronger he wouldn't have been ... been k- ... k- ... what is my problem?" she asked out loud ignoring the people who were starting to stare at her as she walked.
"I don't need him," She stated weakly, "I don't need anybody!"
Hours passed before Asuka finally made it back to the apartment she shared with Misato and ... with just Misato now. 'What's wrong with me, I haven't felt this way since ... since ...' she thought, before shaking her and looking to the front door.
The German girl placed her key in the lock and silently walked into the room, not all that surprised to hear murmuring and sobbing but nothing could prepare her for what she was about to walk into.
"MISATO!!" she called as her guardian took a step off the kitchen table with a rope tied around her neck.
Asuka wasted no time, running into the kitchen, grabbing a knife and, using the accuracy she learned from training to be an Eva pilot, threw the knife slicing the rope enough to give under Misato's weight. The twenty nine year old brunet dropped to the ground coughing. Before glancing up painfully at the shocked teenager, "WHY?!?WHY DIDN'T YOU LET ME DIE?!? LIKE YOU LET SHINJI?!?" she half screamed half slurred.
Asuka's eyes widened as if a realization hit her, "Oh ... Oh Asuka ... I d-didn't ... I didn't mean that ... I just ... I'm ..." Misato whimpered, coming a bit more to her senses.
"No ... don't say you're sorry ... please ..." Asuka sniffed standing over the trembling, drunk Major. "You're right ... I wasn't ... I wasn't good enough ... I wasn't good enough to save him ... I was weak ..."
The next thing Asuka knew a palm burned her cheek, "Don't ever let me hear you say that again!" Misato stated firmly, despite her red, puffy eyes, "You not saving him had nothing to do whether or not you were good and you're NOT weak ... you weren't the one about to ... you know just now, were you?" Misato looked down, her shoulders trembling, "Shinji-kun ... wouldn't want you to say that ... he always hated it when you talked about yourself like that ..."
"Past tense ..." Asuka muttered, as Misato jerked off the remains of her noose from her neck, and sat down at the table, grabbing an unopened can of beer.
Misato popped the can, and took a long swig, "If anyone failed him, it was me, Asuka," she stated seriously, staring at the can as fresh tears slid down her cheeks, "I ... I should of ejected his plug when it started getting too hot, but ... I just ... never expected ..."
This time it was Misato's turn to take a blow as she tumbled to the floor from the fierceness of the attack. "You ... you're a coward ... depending on the great Invincible Shinji to save the day, weren't you? WEREN'T YOU?? He was just a baka kid! I trained for six years before I came here, Misato! SIX YEARS, what training has he had? I don't care how good he was, and I know he was, you, and his bastard father sent him to his death! And then you tried to take the last of my family I have from me again tonight! I HATE YOU!" Asuka screamed, tears flowing freely before she dashed to the bedrooms past the stunned Misato.
Misato sat there on the floor, her beer can sit in her lap on its side, soaking her thighs with the alcoholic liquid. Misato gave it no mind. Everything the girl said was a fact, she let him die, she sent him to die, and then was going to take the cowards way out, would have if not for Asuka.
Misato shook her head, to clear the buzz from the punch and the alcohol. She then turned and started toward Asuka's bedroom, but not really surprisingly found it empty.
She turned across the hall to the door marked 'Shinji's Lovely Suite', and slowly opened it, a sad smile crossing her lips at the sight. Asuka's dress was dropped on the floor, and the redhead was curled in a ball on Shinji's bed with her back to the door, wrapped up in one of the boy's button down dress shirts, her shoulders trembling with her silent sobs.
Misato padded across the room and quietly crawled into the bed beside the girl. Misato gasped slightly when the young girl spun toward her and buried her face in the woman's chest sobbing loudly. Misato reached down and pulled the comforter over their shoulders and held the girl tightly, "It'll all work out, we'll make it through this," Misato murmured into the girl's hair, her own tears joining with Asuka's on Shinji's pillow, "He'd want us to stay strong."
"He'd want us to stay strong ..." Asuka repeated barely above a whisper, both girls holding each other tight, not expecting the intense loneliness to allow sleep any time soon.
Asuka stood in a black dress, standing beside Misato's seated form at the front of the NERV main plaza before a large picture of Shinji. Asuka's sad blue eyes turned to the photo. It was one of the rare shots of the Third Child with an actual, unforced smile on his face, when he was actually happy.
Asuka wanted to seethe and lash out at Gendo Ikari, he showed no remorse whatsoever about his son's death. Asuka had had the chance to really look at who Shinji was after the incident and discovered the only thing he ever wanted was his father to notice he existed. It looked like even his death could do that.
Asuka wanted to hate the man, but for some reason, couldn't muster the energy to force a growl.
The Second Child released a shuttered breath, before turning to the line of friends and acquaintances of the only remaining male Eva Pilot ... well not remaining anymore. She glanced at Hikari wheeling Touji in a wheelchair. Asuka willingly accepted a hug from her best friend, before turning to the heartbroken 'stooge'.
Touji's eyes widened when the German girl hugged him lightly, and whispered in his ear, "I miss him too, but ... don't think I'm going to be going easy on you because of either of these things."
Kensuke came next, smiling weakly at the girl. As with the other surviving stooge, there was an unspoken understanding. After today they will probably go back to yelling at one another, making fun, and even intense unadulterated violence, but today there were merely two lost children who had lost a best friend.
Kensuke glanced at Touji and Hikari. Hikari nodded and the two remaining stooges left the girls to talk at the back of the plaza.
"I was afraid this would happen," Touji stated, looking up at his friend, "Shinji was a good guy, and good guys finish last."
"I hear ya, bro," Kensuke said, nodding to the two girls standing beside the distraught Misato. "All kidding aside ... at least they didn't figure it out their feelings. Even Devil Girl doesn't deserve to hurt like that."
"Uh oh," Touji gulped, his eyes going wide, recognizing a face in the line.
"Uh oh?" Kensuke asked, glancing down at his friend, "What is it?"
"Oh shit ... oh holy shit ... not good ..." Touji almost panicked, kicking with his remaining leg pushing his chair backwards.
Kensuke followed Touji's terrified gaze, and his reaction wasn't that different, "oh dear ..."
Asuka stood at the front at Hikari's side, nodding at the NERV personal who were giving their last respect, but finally one came that cause the tension in the room to skyrocket.
Mana Hiroshima stood before the Second Child in her uniform. Since the Jet Alone Project had became public knowledge, the secret ways of the team has been relaxed, and they have become as known as the Evangelion Pilots. Blue locked with blue. Neither girl said a single word.
The tension was getting to the fever pitch when they finally broke the nightmarish silence.
The two girls spoke softly but sternly in unison, "He loved you."
"Me?" Asuka chuckled sadly after a moment of silence, "You were the one throwing yourself at him, and all that 'I'll wait for you!' shit. I was the one who was calling him an idiot and putting him through hell. Doesn't take a college graduate to figure who he probably went for."
"Has Shinji-kun ever made much sense at anything else?" Mana stated with a sniff. "I knew first time I met him he was the type that always looked past the thorns to the rose. No matter how many thorns he could find the good in everything. Even you."
Mana touched the photo, running her fingers over Shinji's jaw line, "If the Evangelions don't get the sons of bitches that did this to him," Mana stated in a uncharacteristic cold voice, "Jet Alone will. I doubt it will be pretty for them either way."
Mana turned back to Second Child, and gave a small smile when she saw the tears behind the girl's eyes. The Jet Alone pilot placed a hand on Asuka's shoulder, "I know you don't like me, but if you ever want to talk ... about him, here's my number." She said pushing a piece of paper in Asuka's hand, moving on before she could respond.
As the Jet Alone pilot left, most of the people around let out a sigh of relief.
Asuka looked at the wadded up paper, before stuffing it into her purse. 'That went better then I expected,' Asuka thought, before glancing at the entrance of the plaza, locking eyes with the person she wanted to see less then Mana.
Asuka watched Gendo Ikari, adjust his glasses, and then instead of showing any remorse for his son's death, he let his lips curl into a smile. Asuka's eyes narrowed as she read the older man's lips.
'Finally ... the last reminder is finally gone,' she read him silently mouth, not realizing he was being watched, 'I can finally be at peace.'
"You ... killed him ..." Asuka muttered, her vision turning a shade of red.
She took a step forward, down the isle between the rows of chairs. 'You ... killed him. You sent him to his death ..." she said just slightly louder, starting to walk faster.
The Second Child broke in to a full run, shoving people out of the way, before jumping into the air, pouncing on the unsuspecting NERV Commander.
"YOU KILLED HIM, YOU BASTARD!!!" Asuka screamed at the top of her lungs, letting her frustration out with every punch she threw at the older man's defenseless face. "YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO EVEN CALL HIM SON! YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO EVEN BE IN THE SAME BLOODLINE AS HIM!!!" She yelled, punching him again and again, while security agents tried to pull the rampaging girl off the commander.
The girl finally stopped punching, to settle for strangling the man, jerking his neck, making his head bounce off the hard floor. "WHAT DID HE EVER DO TO YOU? ASK FOR YOUR LOVE? WAS THAT SUCH A CRIME, YOU COWARD?" She screamed, tears streaking her face, loving the sight of foam and hints of blood forming at the corners of the gagging Gendo's mouth.
"EVERYTHING HE EVER DID WAS FOR YOU, YOU IDIOT!" Asuka yelled one hand still pressed tightly across his throat, while her other was balled in a fist and punching him across the face as hard as she could, "YOU WASN'T EVEN WORTH THE EFFORT, BUT HE STILL DID EVERYTHING FOR A DAMN ASS LIKE YOU!"
Finally the redhead finally fell forward across the gasping Gendo's form. The man rolled the girl off him, and her weak dazed eyes glanced up at the one who hit her in the back of the head. "Figures ... the doll ... lets her master ...get away with ... murder ..." Asuka said before she passed out, looking up at Rei who was holding her hand still out where she chopped at the back of her head.
The smell of frying eggs filled Asuka's nostrils as she stretched in her bed. She slowly kicked her legs over the side of her bed and climbed out, lazily making her way to kitchen smiling when she saw the familiar sight of Shinji Ikari slaving over the oven.
"Morning, Baka," Asuka announced her presence in the kitchen, "I had the freakiest dream last night."
"Morning, Asuka-chan," Shinji smiled back at the girl who was taking a seat at the table, "Oh by the way, it wasn't a dream, I really am dead. I just wanted to come back to make you one last breakfast and tell you that I forgive you."
"W-What?" Asuka asked, feeling the blood drain from her, "I ... I don't ... I don't under-understand ..."
Shinji gave a small chuckle, before turning and walking toward the girl, cupping her cheek in his hand, "I forgive you, it wasn't your fault, nobody's perfect after all."
She blinked and looked up at Shinji again, only he had changed before her eyes, his face and body was now horribly mangled and grotesque. Asuka screamed and fell from her chair, crawling away from him on the floor. "It's not your fault you wasn't good enough to help me, to save me. So don't let it bother you."
"Asuka, what's the matter?" a voice called from the living room.
"Yes, darling, what troubles you?" another voice stated in the room.
Asuka glanced and screamed again seeing Misato and her mother, who was still holding the raggedy doll, hanging from the ceiling with nooses around their necks.
Shinji limped to stand beside them, "You just wasn't good enough, Asuka, you didn't let us down, just, your best wasn't good enough."
"You could always join us, Asuka-chan," Misato smiled down at the terrified girl.
"Yes, join us," Asuka's mother stated cheerfully, "Die with us."
"Die with us, Asuka, die with us," the three chanted to the horrified teenager.
Asuka sat up and saw Misato sitting beside her hospital bed. "You ok?" Misato asked worriedly.
"Yea ... just ... just a bad dream," Asuka choked, looking at her guardian, "How long was I out?" she asked, glancing down to see they were both in their black dresses.
"You've been out for a few hours," Misato said, "The funeral was over about ... an hour ago. You really didn't miss much. Commander Ikari got a bunch of people who didn't know Shinji from Adam to say some bullshit about him, and that was about it. Can't have much of a funeral without a body after all ..."
"I'm sor... I apologize for attacking the Commander. I hope I didn't get in trouble ..." Asuka said softly, "I just sort of ... snapped."
"He seems to understand, nothing will be said," Misato smiled sadly, "I promise, now lets go home, ok?"
"Hai," Asuka nodded slowly, before letting her guardian lead her from the NERV hospital bed.
"What ... are all of you guys doing here?" Asuka asked as she and Misato approached their apartment to find, Hikari, Touji, Kensuke, and Rei standing at the door.
"I believe this is what is popularly called a 'wake'," Rei stated emotionlessly, though her red eyes showed a hint of sadness.
"Yeah," Kensuke stated, forcing a smile, "Why go to bed tonight thinking about sad stuff, when we can stay up all night talkin' bout the good times?"
Misato opened the door and the group walked into the kitchen and gathered around the table. A moment later Misato walked up to the group with Pen-Pen, both carrying trays filled with beer cans. "Don't get used to this, this is a one night thing guys," Misato said as she and the penguin passed around the beer cans.
"All the liquid courage you guys need tonight, and tonight only," Misato smiled taking her seat, popping a can and chugging it. Once she sucked it dry she looked around at the unsure group, "Well, you're teenagers, you guys like experimenting, CHUG!"
All the teens just stared at the cans, but none even made a move to even open the cans.
Finally one grabbed a can, quickly popped the top, and chugged the whole thing down with one painful gulp. Rei staggered back a step, her eyes crossing slightly, "Very ... interesting flavor ..." she coughed, "Another please?"
Asuka looked around the group, with Hikari's help, Touji was the next to open his can, and took a much slower gulp, "I ... never expected the reasons for my first drink to be ... this."
"You said it, bro," Kensuke said, following his friend's example, taking a swig then gagging, "Lord God, this tastes like ... Piss!"
Finally Hikari and Asuka popped their cans, and Touji raised his can over the table, "To Shinji, may he finally find happiness, where ever the lug may be!"
Everyone but Asuka raised their cans to the center of the table, "To Shinji!" was the almost over all call, as the group pulled back their cans and took a long swig.
Asuka closed her eyes, pushing back her tears, "To Shinji," she said quietly before taking a drink herself.
Meanwhile, somewhere far, far away, a lone figure began to awaken. He flexed his arms and legs and discovered he was attached to a cold metal table. His weak, sore, blue eyes slowly opened to see a bright light shinning from above him. He squinted his eyes before weakly speaking in a hoarse voice, "Another ... unfamiliar ceiling ..."
To Be Continued ...
Next Chapter: Guardian Angel