Two days later Rei again was at Patrick's side as he sat up in his hospital bed. She held onto his hand expectantly as Dr. Foch, who had since recovered and was again active in helping with the pilots' medical needs, carefully cut the bandage tape that held his face mask together. Patrick yelped in pain as the tape was removed. "Ow, ow, ow, ouch!"
"Good, that's good!" said Foch as he continued to remove the tape strips.
"How is that good?" grumbled Patrick. "That hurts like hell getting this thing off!"
Dr. Foch patiently explained "It's good because it means that your nerve endings on your new skin are functioning the way that should. Now this part might just be a bit unpleasant," he told him as he then started to lift the rest of the mask off of Patrick's face. For Patrick, feeling the mask pull off was quite painful as much of his skin was still stuck on it while Foch slowly pulled it away.
"OWWW...SHIT THAT HURTS!" Rei squeezed a little tighter on his hand, trying to give Patrick any comfort that she could, and hopeful that the end result of the treatment would be successful as before. Foch performed one more pull as Patrick screamed and then finally got off the mask.
Getting a good look at Patrick's face, Foch carefully examined everything as Rei also looked at him. Patrick was cautious, wondering how good of a job the therapy had done and hopeful for a good result. Rei's gentle smile upon seeing him without the bandages told him everything that he wanted to know. "Success?" he asked Dr. Foch.
The old doctor nodded reassuringly, holding up a mirror to Patrick's face. "Yes, I'd say so. Complete resolution. Congratulations, you're just as ugly as you were before." The boy couldn't help but let out a laugh, happy as he was to get his face back. Patrick looked at Rei and her smile was even bigger now, and she gently let her own hand caress his face and feel the smoothness of the new skin from the therapy. He touched it himself and was reassured that at least that part of him was good as new.
"We did a more complete job this time so you should have better endurance than before. You'll still need stabilizer but now every fifteen days instead of every seven."
"I'll live with that," Patrick told him.
"There is however," Foch told him, "one other drawback." Patrick and Rei both looked at him in surprise. "Oh?" asked the boy.
Foch shrugged. "You'll never need to shave." The boy was confused. "What, really?"
"It's fine," Rei told him, again caressing his face. "It's good this way."
He smiled at her. "Well, then it's settled."
After Dr. Foch left Patrick laid back on the hospital bed, for the first time feeling relaxed since he had been brought to Hakone. He turned to Rei and gave her a smile and she met his with one of her own as she continued to hold his hand. Patrick couldn't help but notice that again Rei wore not a service uniform but another new outfit, this one being a cotton blue and white-striped sleeveless dress that fit her slender figure very well.
The two of them didn't speak but instead just enjoyed the company of the other, their mutual silence ended only by the entry of Misato into the room. She wore her own NERV uniform with red jacket, her face in an expression that seemed cheerful yet guarded. "Hello, Patrick," she said to him in Japanese with a smile of her own. "Welcome back."
"It's good to be back," he replied.
"How are you feeling?"
He felt his face again. "A lot better then when they brought me here," he told her. "Still kind of tired thought."
"Well," she replied, "please get lots of rest."
Patrick looked up at Rei, who he noticed was now in a pensive mood herself as he sat quietly by him. They're afraid to say anything further, he thought to himself, but this is just killing me not knowing. "Misato," he asked, "Um, I've been out of it for a while and Rei's been pretty good about keeping quiet, but...can one of you let me know just what happened while I was out?"
Misato's face went to a serious expression. "I can do that, but perhaps you should rest a bit more first. There'll be time to catch up on everything once you're more ready."
"Where's my sister?" Patrick immediately shot back in a serious tone.
"Alright," the older girl nodded, sensing that Patrick was more than ready at this point. "I guess it's time. Let's do this now." She then pulled up a chair and sat next to Rei. Misato maintained a steady composure as she started to tell Patrick everything that he had been missing since the events of over two weeks before. "Your sister is currently in America, with Alliance Intelligence."
"Is she alright?"
"Yes, I believe so," Misato replied. "They're asking her questions both about SEELE and her father's original operation, and I've been informed that she's extremely cooperative."
"When can I see her again?"
"Soon," she reassured him. "I'll let you know the minute I hear anything."
Patrick then started on his next question. "What about my uncle?" he asked her. "Did he make it?"
"When we got to the temple by the lava flow underneath SEELE's base he wasn't found. They did find one body, but it was someone else. There was no trace of your uncle. Kaji spoke to him before they set you free, and got what is an incredible story out of him. I think you'll want to know it so once Kaji's in better shape to tell you I'll be sure you get it straight from him. Probably a lot of your questions might have answers there."
Patrick nodded. "I see. I just wish that...I guess it's just like him to disappear again like that."
"From what Kaji told me it seemed like he intended to." Misato gave him a slight smile. "Don't give up hope, maybe one day he'll come out of the shadows again."
"Somehow I don't think so." Patrick was silent for a little while and looked again at Rei, who was also quietly by his bedside, still holding his hand. His attention went back to Misato. "Kensuke's dead, isn't he?"
Misato took her time with a reply, knowing this part wouldn't be at all easy. "Yes. Yes, Unit 08 was destroyed in the same raid on the GeoFront where they kidnapped you," she said. "He was very brave. Despite being vulnerable and inexperienced he still did everything he could to save Shinji, without regards to his own life."
"Everyone was wrong about him," Patrick said quietly.
"On that I'll agree. I think we all underestimated how much courage he had. I wish things had turned out better."
The boy became quiet, confirming what he had feared while he was caught in SEELE's prison with the memories of the raid in his mind. He swallowed hard, gripping Rei's hand a little tighter. "Mari?" he asked softly.
The officer took another deep breath. "The good news is, she's alive." Patrick closed his eyes in relief but knew that from the way Misato had told him that there was much more. "How bad?"
"She had very bad internal damage. Also, her spinal cord was partially cut when she ejected from Unit 05," Misato said. "She's been in LCL therapy at Terminal Dogma ever since. We're hoping that she's able to recover but Dr. Foch says it's still too soon to see how much she'll be able to get back. It's possible that even if she recovers, she'll never walk again."
"Oh, God," said Patrick as a tear started to go down his cheek. "Anyway that I can see her?"
"If it's possible I'll arrange it," she said. "Anyway, much of the GeoFront interior was wrecked when that happened. we lost of a lot of good people that day."
Patrick looked up at her, tears streaming down both cheeks. "I should have been there for her. I should have been there for both of them," he told her in a choked-up voice. "I shouldn't have been screwing around like that."
"Or," Misato responded, "you could have died, too. You can't guess what might have and have not happened. We got a lot of things wrong that day. What matters is that we pulled through."
"But at a price."
"Yes," she told him in a quiet tone. "The cost to us was very high."
There was a silence in the room for a couple of minutes as Misato and Rei let Patrick absorb what he heard. He had to heal the wounds inside as well as outside, and it would take longer for the ones inside. For Patrick, there was one other scathing question that he had to resolve, and he knew he had to do it now as painful as it would be for him to hear it.
"Did you think I was in on it?" he asked Misato.
"We honestly didn't know," was her reply, spoken in an almost apologetic tone. "The connection between you and your sister went two-way, that much we were able to figure out. All this time we thought we had an infiltrator it may have been that the other side could see us through you."
"Erin said that SEELE asked her about what she saw through our connection," Patrick told her, "and that she pretty much saw my whole life for the last two months."
"We were also misled here at NERV," Misato told him further. "Someone needed to maintain this arrangement between the two of you and so they kept us in the dark about what your uncle's plans were. Our biggest fear was that SEELE had found a way to control you through your sister, and that they were using that to strike at us."
Patrick was about to say something further but Misato continued, "Patrick I won't make any excuses," she said, her own voice now becoming more emotional. "Believe me it was the absolutely last thing I wanted to do."
The boy shook his head. "I...I guess it didn't really look great, doing what I did with Erin before...on that day. Here I am sneaking around and trying go around the rules. I couldn't blame you for thinking I was one of the bad guys. I couldn't blame you at all. To be honest...I'm really just surprised I'm still even alive right now!" He wanted to say something further but couldn't, and instead withdrew into the sheets of his hospital bed, even letting go of Rei's hand as he did so.
Misato stood up from her chair as Rei remained motionless. "Patrick, is there anything that I can do for you? Anything at all?"
"Please don't keep me and Erin apart anymore," he told her in an tone that was angry and frustrated. "Send me back or bring her here!"
"Okay," she said. "I'll do everything that I can. Please get some rest." Misato then left the room.
Rei remained by Patrick's bedside as he curled up on the bed, clutching his own knees in the panic and anger that he felt after having heard so many bad things at once. "Forri-kun," she asked him, looking at him as he stared at nothing in particular. "Forri-kun?"
"Um, Rei? Can I...can I kind of be alone for a while?" he asked softly. "Please?"
She didn't say anything in reply but just got out of her chair and left the hospital room, turning off the lights as she went out the door. Patrick was then alone in the dark with his thoughts.
The following morning Shinji woke up at his own bed in the hospital. Rei, with whom by both of their requests he shared the room with, was already awake and dressed for the day as he got up from the bed and started towards the bathroom. "Good morning, Rei" he told her.
"Good Morning, Onii-chan," she replied in a monotone voice.
I'm never going to get used to that, and I don't think I ever want to. "You look nice, are you going out today?"
"I am taking Forri-kun to Terminal Dogma so that he can see Lusty-chan," she told him. "Onii-chan, they brought back the Second this morning."
Shinji's eyebrows shot up. "They did?! Here?"
"Just twenty minutes ago. Down the hall."
Shinji didn't wait for anything further but forgot whatever else he was doing and shot straight out the doorway and down the hall. it took him another minute of dodging nurses, doctors and guards to search for and find the room Asuka had been taken to, and by the time he reached the other end of the hallway he found it.
He stood at the doorway and watched as the scrubs-clad medical staff carefully checked the monitors hooked up to Asuka, her small body dressed only in a white medical gown. Her face was still bruised, a large bandage covering up her left eye and side of her head, but it was still her and her flaming red hair still flowed around her head and face. Shinji waited until the staff finished checking on her. A Japanese nurse came to him in the doorway and anticipating why he was there then told him, "Ikari-san? She's conscious but very groggy due to the medication."
"She can talk, right?"
"She's off the respirator so, yes, but please only for a few minutes right now. She's had multiple internal organ transplants and the eye's still healing."
"Great, thank you!" he replied and then waited until the rest of the hospital staff left the room. He then moved a chair to the side of Asuka's bed and then waited to see if she would wake up enough to see him. Within a few moments her right eye opened slightly and her head turned towards him, and when Asuka finally woke up it was to Shinji's smiling face.
"Good morning," he said softly.
"Baka," she replied in a weak voice. He didn't say anything at first but instead held her small and delicate hand in his own and waited.
For a while she didn't do anything else except just look at him as he remained there. She then closed her eye and took a deep breath. "Why do you even bother with me?" she asked him.
His smile became wider. "I guess I'm just stupid after all."
"No," she replied, her voice still very weak. "It's me who's the dummy." She then squeezed his hand with her own and didn't say anything further: between the two of them nothing else needed to be said.
Rei took Patrick back to the GeoFront in what seemed to him like a very long journey. Despite his protests that he could walk the medical staff kept him in a wheelchair at least as far as the hospital's helicopter pad, where he then boarded an Alliance Blackhawk along with Rei and several soldiers. The helicopter then made the short flight to NERV, escorted by two Thunderbolts. Patrick noted to himself that the security the pilots had now seemed more than they did when they were actually fighting SEELE.
The helicopter landed not at Airfield One but at a smaller pad next to one of the entry points for A Deck. As they flew over the GeoFront's surface area Patrick noted that nearly everything looked damaged or outright destroyed, the aircraft hangers were mostly demolished and where there were still soldiers and technicians on the runway and tarmac much of what they appeared to be doing was clearing out wreckage from the earlier battle.
The two of them got out and still escorted by their many guards slowly made their way through A Deck and then towards one of the few remaining elevator banks that were still working. Patrick walked this portion of the journey despite several offers to get back into the wheelchair by Rei and the others. Despite how tired he felt he still wanted to finally stretch his legs and get his energy back. It took the small party another thirty minutes of walking and going down several flights of stairs just to reach the elevator shaft that would then take then to Terminal Dogma. Again while he walked through the GeoFront Patrick saw many sections that were damaged as they progressed through the complex, enough to make him wonder just how violent the recent battle was. Like the topside, there were NERV personnel and others working to clean up and clear out debris, and there was quite a lot of debris.
Waiting in front of the elevator that led to Terminal Dogma was Wellington, dressed in the black and green NERV service uniform. After exchanging greetings Rei and Patrick boarded the lift with some of their guards and proceeded downwards to Terminal Dogma. On the way down Patrick asked Wellington about Mari. "How is she?"
The lieutenant answered in a subdued tone of voice. "Still too early to tell, I'm afraid. She's been in there nearly a month and that damned frog Foch still can't give me a solid prognosis on her condition."
"Has she even been awake in all that time?"
"He brought her out of it once already, but I wouldn't say she was coherent through any of it. Maybe we'll get lucky this time."
After another long ride the exited at the bottom, and Rei led Patrick by the hand as they slowly walked towards Dr. Foch's lab, the former "Dummy Plug Plant."
Patrick had not been in the lab since the one day Rei had taken him there nearly two months ago, and while the lab didn't seem that much changed he did notice that it was now much better lit than before. Standing at a control console was Beatrix, Dr. Foch's assistant, wearing a white lab coat with her long blonde hair draped over it. She saw the two pilots enter and then quickly motioned to Foch, who was also in a white lab coat and standing in front of another large piece of electronic equipment.
"Oh," he said to Rei and Patrick as they waited by the console. "You're here. Just in time." He hobbled over to the console that Beatrix was standing by, using a cane as he did so to steady himself as he walked over.
Patrick whispered to Rei as Foch came towards them. "Did he use a cane before?"
"No," she replied, "he had a stroke not long after you were taken."
Foch conferred with Beatrix and then she handed him a syringe with glowing orange liquid. "Bring her into the containment chamber," he instructed. "We'll give her the injection there after we check on her." HIs assistant nodded and then started to use the controls on the console in front of her.
The doctor directed Patrick's attention to the giant LCL tank that was on the other side of the room. Patrick noticed that the pieces of Rei's other copies were now all removed, there now only being one other body in the chamber. Mari, nearly completely wrapped in bandages, drifted peacefully in the tank's orange liquid until the mechanical arms of a waldo reached out for her and gently pushed her towards an airlock at the bottom of the tank.
"We can see her through the horizontal tank," Foch told Patrick, "I'll need to bring her out of the coma-state for about a minute while I check on her status and apply more medication. She'll be paralyzed from the neck down but hopefully still able to speak."
"She's paralyzed because of her spine?" asked Patrick.
"I've actually induced a full paralysis in an effort to allow her body to completely heal," the old doctor clarified.
Patrick watched as Mari's body was gently nudged into the chamber by the waldo's arms, holding onto Rei's hand. "Dr. Foch?" he asked. "Does she really have any chance at all?"
Foch scratched his chin in thought. "The human body is it's own best doctor I've found, and we have the advantage of the new LCL therapy. We've certainly made a lot of progress with her considering the condition she was when she came there but it's going to take time. I'm not one to give up hope, however, and you shouldn't either." As he finished, they along with Wellington moved towards the horizontal tank that was in front of the LCL chamber, and then all of them watched as Mari was gently slid into the tank.
The LCL in the tank receded and then a hatch opened as a motorized gurney moved Mari from outside of the tank itself. Patrick now saw her right in front of him: her body was covered in various bandages and applied medication packs, motionless as it was pushed down the gurney's track. She had lost considerable weight since being in the tank and the shape of her body looked dramatically more thin despite the many bandages that she had. He saw her face and it was still as beautiful as he knew her from before but her skin was now much more pale and white in tone than even Rei's, her long brown hair was wet and piled up behind her head, and her lips were purple in color. Upon seeing her Patrick fell to his knees next to where the gurney was and it took every ounce of whatever emotional strength he had to keep himself from breaking down.
Wellington bent down over Mari, gently moving her hand through her wet hair. "Hello, again, Lusty," she told her in a quiet, sweet voice. "We've come to check on you."
Doctor Foch first used a smaller syringe, pushing the needed into Mari's jugular. Her eyelids began to flicker and then Foch gently opened each of her eyes and used a penlight to help check her symptoms. Satisfied by what he saw, he began to prepare the next injection as Mari's head began to move slightly.
"Lusty," said Moira, "I've brought down someone to see you." She then motioned to Patrick to come closer to her.
Knowing that most of her body was paralyzed Patrick didn't take her hand but instead gently caressed the side of her face as she lay on the gurney. Mari moaned slightly then her blue eyes opened and she turned to face Patrick.
"Good morning," he told her, doing everything he could to fight back tears.
"Hello, partner," she replied at practically a whisper.
Patrick tried to think of something else to say but couldn't come up with anything, instead just gently feeling Mari's face with his hand as she managed a smile towards him. "I was worried about you," she told him in a quiet voice.
"Worried? About Me?"
"I didn't see you and then," she sputtered a little as she tried to speak, "I wondered...if you were okay."
"I'm fine," Patrick told her as the tears started to come again to him. "Never better!"
"Good. What about...your other half?"
"It was," he struggled to say as hands gently brushed the top of her head, "it was kind of bad for a while but we managed to work things out. We're finally together now!"
Mari closed her eyes and nodded just slightly, then moaned a little more as Dr. Foch used his larger syringe against her vein. Patrick couldn't hold it back any longer. "I should have been there for you!" he blurted out to her, crying as he did so. "I should have been there! I failed you!"
She opened her eyes again and she smiled gently at him. "There, there," she told him softly. "It's alright."
"Can you say that?" Patrick replied, realizing too late that he had just been too honest with her.
"I'll be alright," she told him. "Really...I feel like...a nice sleep now," , her voice groggy from the medication that Dr. Foch had just given her. "Maybe...Prince Charming can wake me up when I'm ready."
Patrick laughed through the tears. "Well, at least I'll be here waiting," he told her. She then again closed her eyes and started to drift off to unconsciousness as Patrick watched. He then softly said to her "Good night, sweet princess," and gently kissed her on the forehead. After Patrick, Moria Wellington did the same, gently encouraging her. "Take care darling, we'll see you very soon."
Foch activated the gurney, moving Mari back into the chamber. As Patrick watched her go back inside, Rei came and gently held his hand and watched together with him as Mari was returned to the tank.
"What happens now?" Patrick asked.
"We wait," Foch replied, "and pray we'll still see the best of her again someday."
After visiting Mari, Rei and Patrick wondered through Terminal Dogma, each of them saying nothing to the other as Patrick absorbed what had happened earlier in Dr. Foch's lab. While seeing Mari paralyzed was heartbreaking for Patrick, knowing that she was in such good spirits despite it all gave him great relief and finally managed to help him shake off the gloom that had overcome him since the day before. Rei for her part didn't seem to exhibit any emotions as they drifted around the bottom level and from that and her complete silence Patrick knew that something important was indeed still on her mind.
An hour went by as the pair wondered through various parts of Terminal Dogma, and now entered another chamber that was deep inside the caverns of the place. This room had some unusual vertical plexiglass chambers filled with white light that Patrick thought looked like a forest full of light columns and that seemed to have no discernible purpose for being there.
He looked around the new place to see if there was anything of interest. As he did so, Rei let go of his hand and remained close to the doorway. Patrick took a few steps forward and then turned back towards her. Rei's head hung low with her hands at her sides, and Patrick knew from this that she was now in a much more sullen mood than she usually was. He slowly walked back to where she was standing.
"You okay? he asked her. Rei was silent for a long moment, avoiding eye contact with him. After more than a minute she said to Patrick in a quiet, sad voice "I am not suitable for you."
Patrick wasn't completely surprised by what Rei had just said, he had been expecting she would want to revisit what happened in SEELE's dungeons between the two of them. He gently took his hands and held her by her arms, softly caressing them as he prodded her to speak further. "Go on."
She turned her head away from him. "I made the wrong choice," Rei declared. "I did not allow myself to believe that you were still on our side."
"You passed the test that I failed," she continued. "When you had to choose between Vinson-san and myself, you chose for me, even though if I had died I would have been brought back again."
"But back then I didn't know that," Patrick corrected.
"It did not matter. You still made the correct decision. I was unable to do this," she said, her voice in a soft but flat monotone. "I assumed incorrectly that you were hostile and shot you as a result."
"I didn't die in the end, did I?"
"That is also not relevant. I treated you as a threat when you were trying to help us. I did not sync with you in the way that I should have, otherwise I would have made a better choice."
Patrick allowed himself a small smile at what Rei was confessing to him. "And just what would have been the better choice, in that case?"
"I would have supported you instead," she said, again hanging her head low, "and we could have fought Unit 06 together with the Spear. You would not have been so badly injured, perhaps the Second as well, and everything would have turned out better."
He put his head towards hers and in affection rested his forehead against Rei's. "You know, we're a lot more in sync that you give yourself credit for." Rei didn't move or answer him and Patrick explained himself to her in a soft and gentle voice.
"I knew that after what happened during the raid that Unit 04 was going to be a target," he said. "When my uncle set us free, he told us to avoid anyone from the Alliance as much as we could, so that we wouldn't get attacked."
"But Kaji said that Shinji also needed our help, so we took a chance and went to the chamber to free Unit 01, even though we might run into you or Asuka in doing this." Rei didn't say anything but remained motionless in Patrick's arms as he went on.
"I knew the Spear was important," he told her, " and I knew that Unit 06 would show up if you guys were there, and you needed that spear in order to beat him. But if just handed it to you right there Asuka might have thought you had gone soft on me and then turned on you too, and I couldn't have that either."
Patrick continued in a gentle and sure voice. "We couldn't stay to explain everything, or else we miss our chance to get the chairman. I didn't want Asuka to attack us 'cause she'd go all berserk and all, so I did the only other thing I could think of: I deliberately made you shoot us."
Rei's eyebrows went up. "Why...why did you do that?"
"I figured that if you were there with a gun pointed at me you weren't going to hold back, even if it was me you were aiming at, and especially with Shinji and Unit 01 right below us. So I brought up that thing about Romeo and Juliet and the reason why you thought they were stupid. If they're so in love, really in love, they should be able to read each other a lot better, be part of each other's song in other words, right? I had to hope that you'd figure out that I was trying to give you the Spear, by tossing it so that you'd go after it. You did figure it out in the end, right?"
"I did," she told him. "I was able to determine that was your intent. But I did this too late, I had already shot you before." She looked up at him. "That was very risky. I might have actually killed you then."
"Thankfully we timed it so that we'd go off the cliff before you could get your best shot off. You're pretty good, however! You still managed to get three rounds in us!"
Rei thought carefully about what Patrick had told her. "You knew I would shoot in that circumstance," she told him. Patrick nodded and smiled. "I did, I wanted you to. That's why I tossed the spear so close to you. I also didn't want Asuka thinking that you'd gone over to the dark side or anything by holding back on me. That got a way to get Unit 04 out of there so we could go find the chairman, and then you'd have the spear so you could take on Unit 06." He shrugged a little, running his hand through her hair. "I'm sorry, I know that I really must have freaked you out at that moment. Are you angry at me for it?"
She looked up at him in a sorrowful expression. "No," she said in a chocked-up voice as her face blushed. "I was so happy that you were still alive, I didn't care about the rest!"
"Not really the smartest thing to do, was it?"
"No, it wasn't," she agreed with him, which made Patrick chuckle a little.
"Please, don't feel bad about anything you did at that moment. You passed the test, you guessed what I was trying to tell you, and you did it when I needed you to figure it out and not a moment before. If that's not suitability, I don't know what is." After listening to him, Rei just closed her eyes and rested her head on his chest, trembling with emotion. "I really thought I had lost you," she told him softly.
"You saved me," he told her. "When I really needed you the most, despite everything else that happened, you were there. You saved me!" Rei didn't say anything further but just silently cried in his arms.
Patrick held her for a long time, gripping her tightly and caressing her as the moments went by. After a while he relaxed his hold and looked down at her, his voice in a cheerful tone. "Can I ask you a question?"
"What...what is it?" sniffled Rei.
"What's with the new outfits?"
"You mean the clothes?" Rei asked him.
"Yeah," he told her, releasing her from the embrace. "I mean, where did you get this?" Patrick pointed at Rei's new outfit that she had worn that day, consisting of a navy blue cardigan sweater and white button down shirt together with a blue and yellow-plaid pattern miniskirt that was shorter than Patrick had ever seen her wear before, complimented by bright white tights that dramatically showed off her slender legs together worn with black loafers. The outfit was classic but also stylish and very flirty, and something Patrick had decided he definitely approved of.
"Um," Rei tried to explain as her face blushed red in embarrassment, "while you were in therapy Misato-san had suggested that to take a break from everything I should go shopping for clothing. She said it would rest my emotions and mind to do so."
"Did it work?"
"Yes," she told him. "Surprisingly, it did."
"Okay," answered Patrick, "but how did you know what to get?"
Rei was matter-of-fact with him, her voice recovering some and going back into a quiet monotone. "The waiting rooms in Hakone Hospital only have fashion magazines to read. I read all of them while I was waiting for you."
Patrick tried to stifle a chuckle but found that he couldn't, and then completely laughed out loud at Rei's answer. She looked at him quizzically at first then smiled broadly when she realized the humor of the situation. "That is also very stupid, isn't it?" she asked him, her own voice also breaking into a high-pitched giggle.
The tension between the two of them was completely relieved, as Patrick gently held onto her. "God, I love you!"
Shinji spent several hours in Asuka's room, most of just sitting next to her and relaying all of what hat happened at NERV during the last few days. Asuka herself didn't say anything but just lay in her hospital bed and listened to Shinji talk. By the mid-evening when she finally went completely to sleep Shinji then turned out the room's lights and quietly left the room, allowing her to rest further.
Finally seeing her in a state of recovery relieved the worries that he had for the past few days and Shinji finally allowed himself to relax more. Not really wanting to return to his own room, he instead found the stairway and then climbed up to the rooftop of the hospital, which was just one floor above theirs.
He opened up the door to the roof and then wondered outside, walking slowly across the helicopter pad under the watchful eye of several armed guards and soldiers that were posted there. The hospital roof provided a good view of both Hakone city, which was all lit up brightly from all sorts of billboards, street and building lighting, but on the other side of the roof was an excellent vista of Lake Ashi, and Shinji went there next.
Standing next to the railing of the hospital roof Shinji could see the moonlight shine on the lake's surface, and even hear the waters gently move as the wind brushed up against the lake itself. Far in the distance was the ruins of Tokyo-3 city and the surface areas of the GeoFront, still lit up with spotlights but now strangely quiet except for the sounds of the occasional helicopter that flew nearby. It was peaceful being on the railing and Shinji let his mind drift a little as he just watched the lake.
He noticed someone else standing on the railing not far from him who didn't look like a soldier or guard, or a hospital employee. The roof itself wasn't lit well, and it took a few seconds for Shinji to focus on the other person in the half-light. The boy observed that the man was missing his left arm and he looked on his face to see who it was. It only took another second until Gendo Ikari's own gaze met that of his son's.
The two of them stood in silence just facing each other for a long moment, and Shinji's first inclination was to just turn and walk away and avoid what he feared might be a confrontation. But somehow he found his resolve and as Gendo remained standing by the railing Shinji slowly walked up to him.
"Dad," he said on getting closer. Gendo was unemotional. "Shinji?" he said.
"How are you feeling?"
Shinji was thoughtful. "I'm guess I'm okay after all of that. They're giving me LCL stabilizer now because I was in another long-term sync with the EVA. It's just a precaution but other than that I think I'm fine. How are you? Why are you at the hospital?"
"Apparently I'm to be fitted with an artificial arm tomorrow," Gendo told him. "In some compensation for my assistance."
"They said you commanded NERV during the Harpy attack."
"Yeah." Shinji wanted to say something further but had a difficult time coming up with what to say. Should he still fear his father now? Seeing him like this made it harder for him to do so. He finally settled on a way to continue the conversation. "Are they letting you go?"
"I'm not to be imprisoned any longer," Gendo explained, "although there's to be conditions for my release. I'm not allowed to talk about NERV with the media or anyone else, not that I would. And they will want to keep close tabs on me naturally but, yes, after I've had the new arm put in I'm free to go."
The older Ikari turned more towards Shinji, and to the boy he did seem unusually more relaxed than he'd ever seen him before. "I've heard you'd decided to continue living with Katusragi-san?"
Shinji nodded. "Yeah. She made the offer and said I could go to school here in Hakone. She says she's going to write a book and wants my help."
"And," Gendo continued, "Rei will live with you as well."
"Yes," said Shinji and he couldn't contain the smile that came on his face when he said it.
"I'm glad. You seem to get along well. Better than I could do, I suppose."
"Dad, I..." Shinji paused for a moment as Gendo stood patiently. "I guess I should say thank you."
"For keeping my friends alive," Shinji finally told him. "I really do appreciate that."
Gendo shrugged. "It's the very least I could do."
The two of them remained there on the rooftop looking silently at each other. Shinji found that somehow his father didn't seem so threatening anymore, and while he wasn't sure how his father himself felt, the look in his father's eyes was something that he had yet to experience from him until now: warmth.
Not wanting to push his luck further, Shinji excused himself to go downstairs. "I'll see you again before you leave the hospital. I hope that the arm works out," he said in a friendly but nervous tone. "Toji's artificial leg came from the Alliance medical people and he always tells me he likes it better than his original one!" Gendo didn't say anything in reply but just nodded in agreement.
"Well, good night then," said Shinji as he turned to go.
"Good night, Shinji-kun."
The boy took a couple of steps towards the roof exit and then turned around again to face his father. "Oh, and Dad?"
He smiled slightly at him. "You really look better without the beard!"
Gendo rubbed his chin with his right hand and smiled in reply. "Thanks."