Patrick spent the next few hours patrolling the insides of the GeoFront in EVA-04. That had proved anti-climatic as the Mass Production EVAs never returned. Basically he walked the grounds of the now devastated interior of NERVs base, scouting the wreckage of dead EVAs, JSSDF and Alliance aircraft, and whatever else had crashed and burned inside.
With all of the quiet his mind had gone numb and he just followed whatever orders Wellington gave him, and she finally pulled him out of the field in the late afternoon. After exiting his entry plug Patrick was directed to go somewhere inside the GeoFront command offices, and was escorted by two soldiers.
The pilot was brought to a large, dark room with intricate drawings on it’s black granite floor. The nameplate on the side said simply “COMMANDER’S OFFICE.” The two soldiers stood outside the door as he walked inside.
Standing by a lone desk at the far end of the room was Admiral Vinson. He was still wearing his flight suit but now had his left arm in a sling, the result of a broken collarbone suffered in his aircraft’s crash. He looked outside the large bay windows in the office, surveying the damage in the command and control room. He noticed Patrick walking towards him and turned to face him from the desk.
“Does that suit fit you, son?” Vinson asked him. Patrick was still wearing the black and red plug suit that had been Vance’s.
“It did today, sir,” Patrick replied.
Vinson turned away and again looked out the windows at nothing in particular. His face was strained. “We never got the chance to say goodbye.”
Patrick walked closer to the admiral. “Sir?”
“A few months ago, during the first time we assaulted this place, they said that I shouldn't go along. It would be too much pressure on Vance, having to perform like that with his old man watching over his shoulder. But,” his voice became more quiet, “things happened and I blamed myself for a long time after that.”
He walked away from the window and towards the young pilot. “I guess it won't surprise you that you were the last person in the world I wanted to see come out of that plug when we got Unit-04 back.”
Patrick smiled nervously. “I kind of got that impression.”
“He talked a lot about you,” Vinson told him. “He was an only child so I think he really like having a brother he could be with, even if was only for a short while.”
“The feeling was mutual,” Patrick said quietly.
Vinson looked at the floor, his face grimacing slightly. “When we found out it was your father that betrayed us, I thought that you were a part of that, and that your friendship with Vance was part of the trap. It of course had never occurred to me that you were screwed over just like the rest of us.”
“I realize now that,” the admiral looked at Patrick sadly, “you wouldn't have done what you did today if you hadn't cared for him very deeply.”
Now it was Patrick's turn to look away. “It was the least I could do,” Patrick told him. “I think he'd want me to finish what he started. Only this time things worked out the way it should have.”
Vinson walked over to Patrick and put his free hand on the boy's shoulder. Patrick turned his head and saw the admiral with a broken smile on his face. “I got to see my son one more time today,” the admiral told him, “thanks to you.”
Patrick wanted to say “you're welcome” but he couldn't do it as he was too choked up. So the two silently stood there for a while until Vinson let go of him and walked back to the window. Forrestal stood next to him. “What happens now?”
“We won a battle today but not the war,” Vinson replied. “Those old men are still out there, bloodied but not beaten.” He sighed deeply as he looked out the windows. “They won't let go of a dream like this so easily.”
“So now we keep fighting. Not against EVA, but now for it, and EVA becomes our best tool to bring peace to this conflicted world.”
Vinson allowed himself a smile. “I used to hate EVA, until I understood what EVA was. Now that I know the truth, I understand what a gift we've just been given. Humanity has a second chance, and I don't intend to blow it.” He looked at the boy. “We got here thanks to you. If there's anything you need....”
“I just want to be with my friends,” Patrick said.
“They're in the hospital now. You can go see them as soon as you want.”
“There is one other thing, though,” Patrick said.
“Your twin sister.”
“Johnny's been working on that since we recovered Unit 04. If she's out there we'll find her for you.”
Patrick breathed a little easier. “Thank you, sir.”
Vinson looked sternly at him. “Go get yourself cleaned up. You look like hell!”
Patrick thanked him again and hurried out of the room, his thoughts now turning to more pleasant things. Vinson watched him go out and then picked up his satellite phone to dial someone. On the first ring she answered.
“It's me,” he said softly. Listening to the other he said in response. “I'm all right, just a little banged up. We got most of what we came for but I might be here for a while.” The voice spoke to him again, asking about someone else. “The boy is fine,” he replied. “He did well. Our Vance would be proud.”
After seeing Admiral Vinson Patrick made his way to the NERV hospital. It was still chaos as the Alliance medical staff was doing what it could with the large volume of casualties it had. Once he was identified as an EVA pilot however Patrick was whisked away to the top floor of the building, still accompanied by the same two soldiers.
The top floor of the NERV hospital was reserved strictly for “high value subjects” which meant EVA pilots. When he arrived he asked the nurse about the others and she told him that Shinji and Asuka were being checked in, and Mary was in surgery. Rei was still in an examination room. The nurse clipped on a wristband that was red in color, signifying his status, and then he was sent to clean up after being examined yet again. As he was being processed by the others he noticed that there were as many armed guards on the floor as there were medical staff. The staff itself was drawn entirely from the Alliance.
Once he had a shower fatigue finally caught up to him and he dragged himself out, finding fresh clothes outside. He threw on a light blue scrubs shirt and pants and slid on slippers that were on the floor. Patrick wondered outside of the room and stumbled down the hallway. He noticed several doors were locked but found one doorway that was wide open, with two sentries posted at either side. He couldn't see who was inside the room but he showed his red wristband to the guards, who then allowed him to go inside. Sitting on the single hospital bed inside the room, and leaning against a pillow with her knees bent underneath the sheets, was Rei. She was, of course, reading.
She looked up at Patrick in surprise as he walked in. “Forrestal-kun!”
“Hi, there.” At that moment he was very, very glad to see her face. He found a chair and dragged it next to her bed, and then plopped himself on it.
“You look very tired,” she said.
“I don’t think I’ve slept in about three days.”
“Are you alright?”
”Am I alright? What about you?”
Rei felt her left arm with her other hand while squeezing her left palm. “I think so.”
Patrick leaned back in the chair, as sleep began to slowly beckon. “Where did you go after we got to the airfield?”
“Some medical people looked at me, and then I was brought here for further examination. It wasn’t until 30 minutes ago that I was placed in this room.”
“I imagine everyone wants answers as to what happened…”
“All they have to do is just ask,” she replied. Patrick heard that and suddenly started laughing.
“What is funny?” Rei asked him.
“You. This is all so simple to you.”
She smiled to herself a little. “They’re looking in the wrong place,” she said quietly. “What happened has nothing to do with my body, but they do not understand it.”
The boy thought that he did understand. “You can’t measure the soul with a sensor,” he said to her, now leaning on the bed. “But hearts can measure other hearts, if they’re willing to try.” She nodded in affirmation.
“Then as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t really matter what happened. As long as you’re here in the end I’m totally okay with it.”
Patrick tried to fight off the drowsiness that was overtaking him but it was a losing battle. “Did you see Shinji and Asuka?”
“Ikari-kun was here a few minutes ago. He’s gone to sleep now.”
“He had a pretty crappy day, too. Can’t imagine having to go through all of that in one day.” He gave out a big yawn and looked at her blearily-eyed. The world was cruel: finally the object of his desire was right there in front of him and all he could do was sleep.
“May I ask you a favor?” He said. Rei didn’t reply but looked at him inquisitively.
“Can I sleep here tonight? Because I am really tired.” She nodded and Patrick immediately collapsed on the bed, his head next to her right hand.
As sleep took him away he looked at her, mumbling “I usually don’t sleep very well.”
“You will tonight,” she softly replied.
Rei watched as Patrick drifted away. Falling into slumber his face relaxed and his breathing became soft. To her he looked childlike as he slept, as if the four-year old boy in him had come out while the other half dreamed away.
He has a beautiful face.
Hesitantly she lifted her hand and gently touched his hair. He stirred just a little but didn't wake up. As he slept she softly caressed his head as her thoughts drifted, wondering what was possible in the world after all.
Two doors down the hallway, Shinji Ikari lie in bed curled up on his side. After a shower he had found Rei and visited with her, then withdrew himself to the room he was given. His mind and body were numb, the events of the day rushing through his brain like a freight train. He had almost died, multiple times. He had even wanted to die, giving himself up to the evil EVAs and hoping it would be quick and over with. Instead he had nearly triggered Third Impact himself.
It was that rage inside of him, of feeling that it was all for nothing, that finally brought him out. He remembered being let go by the blast and the explosion of emotion that occurred as he reached the ground. He remembered the horror of killing things with his hands one more time.
Now as his spirit tried to recover, he kept thinking of Misato and the elevator. How she kissed him and then pushed him inside. Was that how she really felt about him, all this time? But now she was gone too. He pictured the scene over and over, feeling her lips against his. He wished he had been a man then, and maybe she'd still be alive.
It was a strange feeling he had now. Misato was gone, as well was his father, although his father was now taken away under circumstances he had never expected. He didn't know what to feel about his father being someone's prisoner: should he be happy, relieved, or sad that he had been captured and humiliated like that.
Screw him, he thought. He deserved that. He deserves worse.
But Rei was still alive, and for that he could allow himself some happiness. Not only was she alive, but she was alive. The stoic, unemotional Ayanami that he always knew had wrapped her arms around him and cried like the little girl she probably really was inside. It had felt good to hold her.
And then the American boy was there too. What a surprise that was! Shinji had nearly forgotten about Patrick Forrestal, their short time together was but a footnote in the battles with the Angels. But he had returned from the grave, and at the absolutely last moment.
Somehow good things managed to come out of all of this. Perhaps this was what Misato was trying to show him.
However he was now on his own. Without his father, and without Misato, he was without either legal parent or guardian. He had fallen into the hands of this group of very well armed gaijin who treated him well, but wasn't about to be let out of their sight. What his fate was now he just couldn't tell. At least Asuka seems to be adapting.
Behind him he heard the door slide open. A moment later the door slid shut and there was a thud on the bed.
He felt someone leaning against his back and heard breathing noises. The breathing wasn't easy, it was labored and difficult. Shinji just lay there and listened to the sound of the other until she spoke.
“Shinji...” Asuka whispered. Her voice was very emotional as she sounded like she was holding back a flood of rage.
“What ever happens next, do not look at me!”
“You hear me?!” she snarled. “If you dare look at me, I'll kill you!!!”
“Okay,” Shinji sheepishly said.
As Shinji kept his back to Asuka he heard the sounds of breathing become more and more intense until finally she broke loose. Muffling her screams against his pillow, she started to violently pound her fists into Shinji's back.
Shinji silently endured the pain as she pounded away at him for several minutes, pouring all of her anger into his body. Then the fists subsided and he felt her hands against his back again, and then he heard the crying.
He had never heard Asuka cry like this before. It was just something she didn't do. If upset, she would get furious with him, or she would be fake and smile and pretend nothing was wrong. Tonight however she was letting her feelings out, something he had only seen while she had slept and never like this kind of torrent.
The crying sounds tapered off and after another minute Shinji started to very carefully turn himself around.
Before he could move far she shouted at him “Don't you dare look at me!”
The tears began anew as she clutched the fabric of his shirt and buried her face in his shoulder. He knew why now as well. Like him, she had nearly died today. Worse, she had to sit there in her EVA in frozen humiliation while the other pilots worked to plug her power back in. She had called for him to come out and fight, and tired and scared he hadn't come at first. So now she was punishing him: partly for his earlier abandonment of her, and also partly for saving her life later on.
The sobs tapered off again and Shinji felt her hands move around his waist, her head leaning against his shoulder. Saying nothing he held her hands in his and they both finally drifted to sleep.
Go to Chapter Twenty-Six