fanfic_mausoleum_n_grill: (NGE)
fanfic_mausoleum_n_grill ([personal profile] fanfic_mausoleum_n_grill) wrote2009-10-04 08:20 pm

Evangelion: Redemption (4 of 19) Part 2 of 2

(Darkness reigns absolute in the expanse beyond the glow of the camp fire. At the edge of the light stands Kensuke, staring away from the fire, smartly preserving his night vision.

He strikes a guard-like pose, holding his toy pistol at the ready.)

Kensuke: And on the line between the light and the dark, the final defence against the horrors of the great beyond, stands Corporal Kensuke Aida.

(He is silent for a moment.)

Kensuke: Humankind's final hope.

(Another impressive pause.)

Kensuke: Such courage was not born in mere men.

Shinji: (from the camp, sleepily) mmmph... Kensuke, be quiet.. I'm trying to sleep..

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: Where did he gain this courage?

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: From his blood?

Kensuke: From his country?

Kensuke: From his spirit?

Kensuke: Or from the terrible, pain-choked years spent on the trail of blood and terror that was the great war?

Shinji: (from the camp, tired and angry) Kensuke, shut UP already!

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: Only he knows.

Kensuke: Only he knows the pain of those long, terrible years.

Kensuke: Only he can remember the faces of long-lost friends, torn from life in the war.

Kensuke: Only he remembers the faces that haunt his every waking moment, like some horrific nightmare seen in daylight.

Kensuke: Only he can remember the love that the war stole from him..

Shinji: (loudly) Kensuke! SHUT UP!

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: And that horrible time will be forever locked within a heart of stone.

Kensuke: Thus is the sad saga of Corporal Kensuke Aida.

Kensuke: ..

Kensuke: ..

(In the silence, Kensuke begins whistling 'Stand by Me' - the tune rising poignantly in the darkness. The boy leans against a tree, gun clasped in both hands, eyeing the darkness beyond as he continues to whistle..

.. until the flight of a large, ceramic object - the soup mug - interrupts as it sails past his ear to land in the bushes beyond.)

Kensuke: Hey!

(The "guard" hurriedly leaves his post, fumbling around in the bushes to retreive the thrown object. By the time he regains the item, the thrower of the mug is fast asleep by the fire.)

Kensuke: (sighing) .. the Corporal's heroic struggle with himself went unnoticed by all..

------------------------------------

(For the third time that night, Unit 01 plows to a halt, feet sinking several metres into the damp ground. The pilot leans back in the entry plug, gasping for air, as the Eva stops - for all appearances - to "take a breather"..)

Asuka: Must.. rest..

(The pilot's chest heaves as she battles for air - the purification systems working overtime as they struggle to clear the LCL of carbon dioxide. The girl herself labours to catch her breath, the exhaustion of the Evangelion being transferred through the nerve link into the pilot..)

Asuka: Can't .. stop now.. must.. find Shinji...

(A slow, wicked smile slowly spreads itself over her face..)

Asuka: ... he's gonna wish he was dead when I find him..

(The third child relaxes, gathering strength by contemplating the various punishments suitable for her "betrayer". Her mind lingers with unholy relish over the embarrasing details, the humiliation..)

Asuka: Serves him right.. making me come out here all this way.. for Wondergirl...

(She frowns as a new thought strikes her, her face lifting as she regards the digital readouts.)

Asuka: Hey you!

(Her fist thumps down onto the elbowrest of the plugseat in a fit of anger.)

Asuka: Why are you still helping me if I'm just gonna kick his butt when I find him?

(Naturally enough.. the digital readouts on the HUD offer no answers.)

Asuka: .. fine then!

(Once more, the Evangelion bows its head, the AT field materialising effortlessly around it. Slowly, the field forms a cone as Asuka begins to "sniff" the countryside, getting her bearings once more..

It doesn't take her very long to find the campsite this time. Tentatively, her field brushes the warmth of the fire, playing over the four figures at the site.. two figures in a tent.. one standing at the edge of the pool of light.. and the fourth, most familiar, sleeping by the fire..)

Asuka: .. there you are..

(The images flood in once more.. uncontrollably this time.. inspired, perhaps, by the fact that the boy is in peaceful slumber.. Asuka can almost sense the slight smile on his face as his mind is filled by visions of Rei..

But this time, the thoughts do not bring on the customary anger.. instead, they stab deep into her, deeper than any physical injury she has ever felt.. her mind recoiling from the strength of the emotions... the AT field shimmers, then seems to shatter, collapsing backwards in a wave as the second child flops listlessly back in her seat, reaching up with one hand to absently brush away traitorous tears..)

Asuka: (sniffling) Damn it..

Asuka: Why? Why, you idiot..?

(She presses her fingertips to her forehead, realising, somehow, that a link remains between them, dispite the AT field having dissipated.. she can still feel the warmth of the fire, still somehow sense that Kensuke patrols the edge of the camp..

.. and strangest of all, Shinji himself seems to supply the answer to her question.)

Shinji: .. a sister..

(Asuka blinks several times at the softly spoken words, listening as they echo with a strange intensity in the plug.)

Asuka: Is that it?

Asuka: (accusingly) You knew.. didn't you!

(Her fist comes down a second time on the elbow rest as she curses quietly, cheeks burning with new rage.. or perhaps embarrasment. No answer is forthcoming from the entry plug but to the pilot, the screens seem to convey a slightly smug look - or perhaps it is all in her imagination..)

Asuka: (fuming) Ruuuuuuuugh... that.. idiot..

(Her embarrasment and frustration becomes a tangible thing in the night. Once more she spreads her AT field, reaching out again to hover over the campfire.. looking down on the peaceful face of the sleeping pilot by the fire..

She regards the peaceful visage for a while, feeling herself calmed by the uncomplicated expression of the boy, deep asleep..)

Asuka: .. he should have just told me.. I would have listened..

(Her senses drift slowly towards the tent.. lingering once more for a while, taking in the two figures, huddled together out of warmth.. and love.)

Asuka: .. I would have!

(Then her perceptions shift once more, slipping soundlessly out of the tent as her wavering throughts strengthen, her AT field growing larger.. expanding outwards.. to cover the campsite.. expanding beyond the slumped figure of Kensuke, the perimiter guard now sitting fast asleep with his back to a tree stump.. pushing further out as she takes in the surrounding wilderness.. spreading out to reveal a ring of camoflagued figures as they advance slowly in a perfect circle on the unsuspecting sleepers..)

Asuka: ..

Asuka: (shocked) Nein!

(The Evangelion rises in the night, its purple armor a dim shadow against the blackness of the night sky.. its arms rising from its side as the face plating bursts open with the rending screech of metal..

And Unit 01 screams its rage to the heavens, leaning into a run.)

------------------------------------

(Kensuke jerks upright in shock, the horrifying scream echoing loudly in the distance, followed by a distant thunder.)

Kensuke: ..

(His hands clutch automatically at his "sidearm" as he clambers akwardly to his feet, berating himself for his slip, turning an angry glare onto the tree stump against which he has sat, asleep at the switch. Hands tightly gripping his weapon, the boy turns, seeking the source of the high pitched shriek, and finds himself the central actor in a play involving quite a few weapons substantially more realistic than his own.)

Voice: Drop it.

(The toy pistol slides out of the boy's shocked hands, falling on the soft earth. The impact sets off the sensitive trigger mechanism within - a pathetic sounding electronic 'bang' rings out, incredibly loud in the dark.

At least three figures loom in front of Kensuke - dressed in night-time camoflague, equiped with assault rifles and night vision goggles, they present blank face masks to the suprised youth.)

Kensuke: You're.. NERV special forces?

(One of the soldiers raises his rifle to the high point, silently indicating a the movement by the dwindling fire. Kensuke turns to see a drowsy Shinji sitting up, flanked by another two guards, sourly eyeing the soldiers invading his camp.)

Soldier: (quietly) Just stay calm, kid. We're here to take you back.

Shinji: ..How long have you been following us?

(The soldier doesn't respond, only continuing his cautious advance into the campsite. Raising a hand in signal, figures step out of the darkness in unision, forming a perfect ring around the small clearing.

It becomes clear rather quickly that the boys are hopelessly outnumbered - not to mention outgunned.

The first soldier pads on silent feet over the mossy ground towards the small tent by the fire. With as little movement as possible, he cranes his neck between the tent flap, peering through the small opening at the sheltered occupants.)

Soldier: (turning) All accounted for, Sergeant.

Sergeant: Good.

(The camoflagued figures relax slightly, hands retreating from sweaty weapon grips. One makes a signal to an outside source; a dull humming sound is followed by bright light as several floodlights are turned on, bathing the camp in an eerie daytime glow. At the centre of the illumination, Shinji shields his eyes and repeats the question that has been, to this point, completely ignored.)

Shinji: How long have you been following us? A day?

(Again, he recieves no reply.)

Shinji: Since we left the city? It can't have been difficult to find us. Why did you wait until..

(Shinji trails off, a terrible suspicion growing in his eyes. He carefully stands up.)

Shinji: You were waiting until we found them.

Gendo: Correct.

(Commander Ikari stands at the edge of the circle of firelight - his dark uniform making him almost invisible, apart from the red glow of the fire reflecting in his glasses. His hands are in his pockets as he reguards his son.)

Gendo: There was some difficulty in locating the Ev.N complement - a difficulty that you seemed able to overcome.

Shinji: ..

Gendo: NERV, of course, thanks you for your.. assistance.

(Shinji stares at the ground as he realized what he has done.)

Shinji: I.. I led you to them..

Gendo: ..

Shinji: I just turned them in..

(Shinji's hands clench involuntarily, but fail to make fists.)

Shinji: If I hadn't gone.. they would be..

(Kensuke watches as the subdued boy grapples with the new guilt rising up in him.)

Shinji: They would be free of you..

(Shinji finally raises his head, his dark blue eyes filled with a fresh wave of self-hatred - the horror of seeing where his journey had finally led.

What if Moses had led his people back to Ramses?

Shinji turns his pained gaze across the fire; no longer a source of warmth and comfort, it is now a beacon that betrayed Rei and the complement to his father.

Now he looks at Kensuke, who still has not yet retrieved his toy pistol; Shinji realizes just how much like children they are - and how much like children they had hoped to run away, blissfully ignorant of the deeper consequences of their childish pursuit.

Shinji turns slightly, his gaze falling on the tent in which Rei and Tenkei still lie. The boy cannot bare to imagine their faces when they realise how badly he had failed them.

Finally, the third child lifts his head, looking full into the face of his father.

Gendo merely smirks in response, coldly amused by the hopelessness reflected in the boy's stance.)

Shinji: You..

(The Commander looks at his son curiously, contempt written all over his features as he awaits his son's derision.)

Shinji: You..

(Shinji's voice fails him - the boy looks down, his shoulders shaking with anger and shame.

The smile flickers on the man's features - for the briefest instant it appears that Gendo Ikari is almost disappointed in the son that stands before him. Gendo pauses briefly, as if in consideration, then begins to move towards the tent, pushing past his son; their shoulders brush as the two pass in the night. Without a word he makes his way across the small clearing, sweeping aside the tent flap and stepping inside.)

Rei: ..

Gendo: ..

(Tenkei is huddled in Rei's arms, face pressed to her shoulder, his small body shaking as he cries in fear. Rei herself has her arms around the small boy, holding him close, one hand pressed to his back, the other stroking his hair gently as she croons something softly, her crimson eyes closed, tears streaming down her cheeks as she rocks her child back and forth.)

Gendo: ..

Rei: ..

Gendo: Rei..

Rei: ..

Gendo: Let him go.

Rei: ..

Gendo: He is no longer of use to our cause.

Rei: .. No.

(Gendo reaches up with a hand to push his glasses up his nose, expressionless even in the face of this disobedience. Rei lifts her head, meeting the man's gaze steadily dispite her tears.)

Rei: (fiercely) He is of use to me.

Gendo: ..

(The girl's voice is choked with emotion as she speaks.)

Rei: As long as he is alive.. I have a chance to attain happiness.

(Gendo Ikari is stilled by the words, frozen in the entrance as he stares at the girl. Words nearly lost in memory surface, rushing into his mind, touching upon the source of the drive that has propelled him for the past decade - and in one moment, his resolve shatters under the onslaught.)

Gendo: You're right.. of course.

(He exits the tent with the same abruptness he entered, letting the fabric fall closed soundlessly. In four long strides he passes the campfire and the frozen Shinji, signalling with one hand to the circle of troops.)

Gendo: Leave us.

(In the space of a few heartbeats the soldiers have departed - vanished into the night as quickly as they came, evidently dismissed. The supreme commander of NERV stands stock-still, facing away from the fire, his back to the two boys that now share looks of utter confusion.

At length, he speaks, his words almost lost in the night.)

Gendo: Shinji..

Shinji: ..

Gendo: Thank you.. for coming.

(Shinji can only stare, taken aback at the shift in his father. The next sentence, however, breaks the spell as Gendo speaks with more vigour.)

Gendo: I expect to see you at NERV when your.. camping trip is over.

Kensuke: (nervously) How are we going to get back? We don't even know where we are!

(The tall figure straightens, slipping his hand characteristically into his pocket and begins to stride towards the darkness. One could almost believe he had not heard the question until his reply floats back, moments before his step takes him into the pitch blackness beyond..)

Gendo: (distantly) Your transport should be arriving shortly.

------------------------------------

(Fuyutsuki turns in his seat. Gendo Ikari's face is expressionless as he walks down the aisle of the craft - the very bottoms of his trouser legs are stained with grass and spatters of mud. The Commander takes his seat opposite Fuyutsuki - around them, the roar of the VTOL engines rises as the craft begins to lift off, beginning the return journey to NERV HQ.)

Fuyutuski: ..

Gendo: ..

(Ikari slowly reaches into his jacket, producing his pistol from its concealed shoulder holster. Without words he tosses it onto on the small table between him and the Vice-Commander, the object landing with a heavy clunk. Fuyutuski looks on in silence, eyeing the weapon, noting the chambered round and the untouched safety.)

Fuyutsuki: I take it the Complement is still.. intact?

Gendo: ..

Fuyutsuki: ..

Gendo: It is of no more use to us. There is no point in killing it.

Fuyutsuki: I imagine that Rei would be.. upset.. if you had.

Gendo: ..

Fuyutsuki: Would that have something to do with it?

Gendo: Lieutenant Ibuki also has some attachment to the Unit - we still require her help with the creation of our latest tool.

(There is a long silence as Fuyutsuki considers his next words.)

Fuyutsuki: If such a thing is possible..

(And then the Commander of NERV is back to 'His Old Self'; all traces of his previous uncertainty vanish.)

Gendo: If man can find it in his heart to have faith in a God we never see, then perhaps you should store more faith in the science we have built our world with, old friend.

Fuyutsuki: Hmm. Faith - or self-deception? We are pushing out the boundaries with this, Ikari.

Gendo: When we fought the Angels, we put no thought into using their tools to defend ourselves. Why should we treat SEELE differently?

Fuyutuski: And yet, it is such a dangerous tool - not a weapon, but a key to.. to something we don't understand.

Gendo: The re-creation was nearly a complete success. The fruits of the tree of knowledge can yet be used to achieve that which stems from the tree of life.

Fuyutsuki: Provided that God does not drive us from our new Eden.

Gendo: (smirking).. God.. or SEELE?

Fuyutsuki: This thing we have done.. it will be a diasaster if something goes amiss.. you know as well as I that success is the only thing separating the genius from the lunatic.

Gendo: Then we must be absolutely certain that the next genome will create a viable unit. The tests must continue.

------------------------------------

Kensuke: Our.. transport?

Shinji: ..

Kensuke: Are we going to get picked up by -

(The boy's question is cut short by Shinji's sudden movement - he stands, cocking one head, holding one had out for silence.)

Shinji: Listen!

(Kensuke listens - at the very edge of his hearing is a sound..

..a rumbling crash, rhythmic thudding that grows steadily.)

Kensuke: Is that..?

(The pounding grows louder and louder - between one second and the next, the gigantic form of an Evangelion clears the hills around them.)

Kensuke: (shouting and pointing) Aaaaaah! I don't believe it!

Shinji: What the.. an Eva?

(The Eva halts, the color of its plate and set of its features unrecognisable in the dark. A glow emanates from under it's brow as it's eyes lock onto the camp a short way before it. Slowly and carefully the giant kneels, settling itself down on the earth, its knees sinking into the soil as its head bows.)

Kensuke: An Evangelion.. Shinji.. what's it doing?

Shinji: Its.. the pilot must be getting out..

(The eyes of the creature go dim - it's body motionless. Then the plates of armour on it's back unfold, opening up the creature's back, revealing the long white shape of an entry plug.

The hatch swings open, allowing a slight gush of LCL to escape from the plug, and a small figure, dressed in a blue and white plugsuit, scrambles out, nimbly clambering down from the shoulder plate.)

Shinji: (calling out) Lyn?

(The pilot slides down the prone Eva - jumping carefully to the muddy earth with a slight stumble, cursing in a low monotone as her bare foot lands neatly in squelching mud.)

Asuka: Auughh.. this mud.. I should have brought shoes..

Shinji: Asuka.. what are you doing here? And my plugsuit!?

Asuka: What do you think? You don't expect me to just sit back while you -

(Kensuke interrupts, a frown on his face.)

Kensuke: Um.. your ankle..

(Asuka looks down at the bare skin of her foot - the flesh is no longer swollen or discoloured. It looks normal, healthy.)

Asuka: Well.. I guess it's okay.. (Suddenly looking at Shinji) Anyway, I had to come along, you idiot! Misato is so pissed at you..

(The girl wanders around Shinji towards the fire - but suddenly turns and grabs Kensuke by the shoulders. The boy jumps.)

Asuka: (voice low and dangerous) You, meanwhile, don't have to worry about Misato being angry at you..

Kensuke: Oh - um - Asuka, I'm really sorry about the whole crutch thing - I hope you can -

(Quite unexpectedly, Asuka hugs the terrified boy.)

Kensuke: (short scream) Aaah!!

(Asuka holds on in spite of the boy's shock - in the course of the next few seconds, Kensuke ceases his struggles, an unusual expression moving onto his face. He uncertainly puts his hands on the girl's back.

Still embracing Kensuke, Asuka turns slightly, her narrow blue eyes locking onto Shinji. The third child's eyes have dropped to the ground as he flushes with embarrassment. Every few seconds he glances up at the two teenagers, only to look away as he catches Asuka's gaze.)

Asuka: (whisper) Thank you, Kensuke.

(Asuka's knee buries itself in Kensuke's groin.)

Kensuke: ..!

(Shinji gapes at Asuka; the girl stares blandly back, her gaze one of blue ice as she lets Kensuke slowly slide through her arms. The stricken boy slowly crumples, falling to his knees in abject agony.)

Kensuke: (barely audible) ..Ooooooaaaaaaaoooooo..

(The kneeling Kensuke falls on one side, his hands pressed to the source of his agony, his face screwed up in pain.

Shinji stands, aghast, as Asuka casts a satisfied look down at the whimpering huddle at her feet. The image reminds Shinji of a cat that has somehow fallen into the cream barrel and is busy lapping its way to freedom..)

Asuka: Well, I feel a lot better. Where's Wondergirl?

Shinji: In the tent..

Shinji: (pausing) I think she's sleeping..

Asuka: (brightly) Well, we better not disturb her then.

(Asuka steps over the still writhing form of Kensuke and crouches before the fire. As the girl wrings the LCL from her hair, Shinji kneels down by the fallen boy.)

Shinji: Kensuke.. are you alright?

Kensuke: (small voice) Let me die, oh God just let me die..

Shinji: Well, if it makes you feel any better this probably means she won't hold a grudge..

Asuka: (calling out) Shinji!

(Shinji stands up and, somewhat fearfully, approaches Asuka. After a moment, he ducks down to warm his hands by the fire.)

Asuka: Nice fire. Warm. Very.. fire-like.

Shinji: Um.. Kensuke built it.

Asuka: Really? (turns to the prone Kensuke) Good work, Mr Aida.

(Kensuke's voice is distant, as if from a land far, far away..

..a land of pain..)

Kensuke: Oohhh..

Asuka: Man! Some people just can't take praise at all! (turns on Shinji) And you, Ikari, have got a lot to answer for!

Shinji: ..Me?

Asuka: You! Why didn't you tell me what you were doing? Didn't you trust me?

Shinji: Well.. you never seemed to.. care about Rei..

Asuka: Oh come on; just because I hate her doesn't mean I don't care..

(Shinji blinks.)

Asuka: Plus, you smell, Shinji.

Shinji: (momentarily taken aback) I what?

Asuka: You stink, Shinji Ikari. I've spent the last hour and more with you up my nostrils, and frankly I'm disgusted with you.

Shinji: ..

Asuka: I don't even know if I can pilot your reeking Eva back to the city - it was an act of God that I managed it this far.

Shinji: ..My Eva? Eva Unit One!?

Asuka: Yeah, Eva Unit One! Are you blind as well as stupid, Shinji!?

(Shinji stands up, his face turned to the dark shadow lying beside the camp. Running to the tent, he rummages through his pack until he finds a flashlight. The device shoots a weak beam of light, but it is enough to reveal the purple plating of Evangelion Unit 01.

The boy walks slowly up to the massive creature, the circle of light playing across it's sides. He finds the head of the Eva, turned on one side, its two eyes, dim now, staring blindly out at the children.)

Shinji: ..

(Approaching the face of the Eva, the boy reaches out a hand, touching the cold metal plating. For a moment the boy is still, his fingers making light contact with the giant creature.)

Asuka: Am I interrupting you two?

Shinji: ..?

Asuka: Geez, Shinji, you look almost glad to see that thing!

Asuka: (thinking) More glad than you were to see me..

Shinji: You.. you piloted Unit One?

Asuka: Yeah.

Shinji: You're not.. it didn't..?

-(flashback)-Rei: Let me see my son!

Shinji: You're.. okay?

(Asuka rolls her eyes and turns back to the fire.)

Asuka: Weird little boy..

(Shinji looks at Asuka's back.)

Shinji: I'm sorry, it's just.. no one else has.. it just seemed like..

Asuka: Yeah yeah.. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you can pilot it back. That entry plug absolutely reeks of you, Ikari.

(Shinji looks up at the vast form, lying on the muddy ground.)

Shinji: Yeah.. alright.

Asuka: (surprised) Oh good! Well, she's all yours. Take her home, pilot Ikari.

Shinji: (uncertain) Um.. Asuka..

Asuka: Yeah?

Shinji: I'd like my plugsuit back.

(The sound of palm on cheek sings out in the dark night; it is followed immediately by a loud curse in a foreign tongue.)

Asuka: Perverse Schwanzkopf!

(Off in the distance, Kensuke moans with pain.)

------------------------------------

Epilogue

Sunday

(The lights snap on.)

Maya: Sir?

Fuyutsuki: You have been cleared of all charges, Lieutenant. We hope that you will be able to return to active duty as soon as possible.

Maya: I have..?

Fuyutsuki: The problem with the complement has been.. mended.

(Maya looks at the ground, anger and pain in her eyes.)

Maya: I understand.

Gendo: The unit has not been terminated. It will remain in your care - released from service, for now.

(Ibuki looks up, surprised.)

Maya: Sir? I.. I don't know what to say..

(Fuyutsuki and Ikari leave the interrogation room - the door does not close behind them. Ibuki follows the commanders, finding them waiting outside. The three begin down the corridor.)

Gendo: We are willing to overlook any part you had in this.. incident.

Maya: ..

Fuyutsuki: The actions of Major Katsuragi, Corporal Hyuga and the pilots will also be disreguarded.

Maya: I suppose.. I should be grateful.

Fuyutsuki: Hmm.

Maya: Actually, I'm surprised that NERV would be willing to release the Complement at this late stage.

Fuyutsuki: Oh? It is a setback, I agree, but..

Maya: ..

Fuyutsuki: ..We appear to have discovered two more suitable candidates..

Gendo: And I believe that your work on the existing samples have yielded useful information..

(Maya briefly glances down.)

Maya: I see. So the complement's freedom is permissable, provided..

Gendo: .. provided an acceptable replacement for the loss is in place.

Fuyutsuki: The actions surrounding the manifestation of the latest angel suggest this conclusion.

(They walk in silence for a moment.)

Maya: The sample was frozen after the last attempt at formation. Work can be recommenced as soon as Melchior completes the analysis.

Gendo: Good. We will expect positive results.

Maya: A new series of AT field experiments can be sheduled as soon as the pilots are available.

Gendo: Then make it so.

------------------------------------

(Seyoko calls out.)

Seyoko: Lyn? Lyn, where are you?

(She pulls the panel to the boy's room open.)

Seyoko: Shinji and Rei have been..

(She falls silent as she sees the boy is still sleeping, the exhaustion from the fruitless search of the city worn into his features.)

Seyoko: I'll tell you later..

------------------------------------

(The morning skies above Tokyo-3 are still cloudy, but it is the pale grey cloud of after the rains. Rei walks along the foot path - Shinji is a step behind her, and Asuka is a few metres behind him.

Rei is also aware of the small hand holding onto her own; Tenkei is with them.

Over her should is a new school bag - her own was lost during her escape.)

-(flashback)-Asuka: What are you, stupid? She can get her own bag!

-(flashback)-Shinji: Well, she hasn't got one of her own.. we've got to go back to school anyway, so..

-(flashback)-Asuka: You are such a dork, Ikari! She can pay for her own stuff, you know!

(Rei's eyes are locked ahead at the distant end of the street. The four children are now only a few blocks from Rei's apartment.)

Shinji: So.. I thought that Tenkei was staying.. with Miss Ibuki.

(A few seconds pass before Rei answers.)

Rei: He is. The Lieutenant has agreed to allow Tenkei time for.. himself.

(Tenkei looks up at Rei - white eyebrows furrow together on his small face as he frowns.)

Tenkei: She said.. that she liked to be called Maya.

Rei: ..

Shinji: ..

Tenkei: ..

Asuka: (thinking) Weird people..

(Arriving at the front door to Rei's home, the first child stops and turns to the other two pilots. Letting go of Tenkei, she holds the new bag in front of her with both hands - her posture is one of uncertainty.)

Rei: I want..

Shinji: ..

Asuka: ..

Rei: Thank you.. for trying to help us.

(With this simple statement, Rei turns to the apartment's door. Opening it, she and Tenkei step inside, the door closing quietly behind them a moment later.)

Shinji: ..

Asuka: ..

Shinji: You know.. I think Rei has changed a lot..

Asuka: (under her breath) Tell me something I don't know, idiot.. (loudly) Let's go home - before Misato decides to cook.

------------------------------------

(Tenkei sits on the small, unkempt bed as Rei places the new bag on the table. The girl looks around her, as if for the first time seeing her dirty, almost spartan apartment.)

Rei: ..

Tenkei: ..

(Frowning, Rei rummages across her desk, finding a old garbage bag, and begins to pick up the pieces of rubbish and old school bulletins that have been accumulating.)

Tenkei: ..

(The bag quickly fills. Rei ties it off and returns to her table, searching for another bag.)

Tenkei: Rei?

(Rei raises her eyes to the boy, her hands freezing in their motions.)

Tenkei: Why did we come back?

Rei: ..

Tenkei: Are they going to hurt me again?

Rei: No..

Tenkei: ..

Rei: There are people.. here. Some of them - some of them care for us.

Tenkei: Like.. like Maya? And like Shinji?

(Rei looks at the boy, whose yellow eyes are shadowed by deep circles - neither of the two have fully recovered from their trek.)

Rei: Yes.

(Rei pauses, considering just what she says next.)

Rei: It will be alright. They will make it better.

Tenkei: ..

Rei: We can trust them.

(The boy smiles, apparently satisfied, and joins the girl in collecting the stray bits of paper that lie scattered on the floor. Not long afterwards an old, cobwebbed broom is discovered deep in the bowels of the cupboard - along with several bottles of detergent - and the true cleaning begins.

Like a ghost rising from the past, the room slowly clears of debris. Diligent scrubbing works away the grime on the floor and walls, and while the walls and floor may not have seen much daylight, they still present a nice, if plain image once cleaned - much like the occupants within, who seem themselves to lift with the apartment as both emerge from a dark and dusty past. While the future is no less certain, in a way, the shadows of the past have been cleansed.

As the midday waxes, then wanes, the cleaners tire, and mid afternoon sees a tired pair trudging down a clean-swept hallway towards the dumpster at the base of the apartment block. Rei carries several large garbage bags and her formerly clean school uniform is heavily stained; beside her, Tenkei has his arms full with another bag, but is no less happy dispite being of an equally dusty hue. It is with a great sigh of relief that the bags tumble into the bin, thumping with finality onto the rusty steel bottom of the container, the girl reaching up to bring the lid crashing down, sealing the past away in a steel tomb.

And, at the last, the two turn to regard eachother, the child looking up at his surrogate mother with golden eyes.)

Tenkei: ..

Rei: .. (sniffing)

Tenkei: ..

Rei: I smell.

(The child bursts into giggles, pointing up with glee at Rei who is a positive shadow, encrusted with dirt and soot. After the briefest of pauses, the girl smiles warmly in return, her teeth a white flash in a darkened face as she realises her own joke. Suddenly, the pair come together in an embrace, unmindful of the small dust cloud that is raised in the process as they giggle, lost in the moment, neither willing to release the other for quite a while.)

Tenkei: Mama..

Rei: I know.

Tenkei:..

Rei: Let's go home.

(Tenkei reaches out his small hand; without hesitation Rei slips her own hand around his. Still smiling, the two begin to trudge towards the stairwell, headed back towards their newly cleaned apartment.)

To Be Continued...