Judged recovered enough to be released Patrick was let out of the hospital as was Kaji, although he was on crutches as his injured foot was still in a brace. Misato then decided that a short holiday was in order and made arrangements for the group to go to the onsen they had previously visited after the firefight at the cabin. Shinji didn't join the group, asking to remain at Hakone Hospital so that he could be with Asuka while she still recovered.
The evening both Patrick and Rei jointed Misato and Kaji in one of the private dining rooms of the onsen as a traditional gourmet dinner of kaisekiryori was served. After they finished eating, Patrick sat back with Rei close to his side and listened while Kaji related all that his uncle had told him earlier when they encountered each other at SEELE-2.
At the end of it all Patrick was silent with reflection on the extent of both his uncle's and his mother's efforts for counteracting the diabolical plot of Keel and the Committee, and the cost that both of them needed to pay to do so. To Patrick it was a relief to have so much of the mysteries regarding his upbringing to be finally revealed, but the images that the puzzle pieces revealed were also very unsettling. "It took a conspiracy in order to fight another conspiracy," Patrick finally remarked.
"Ideally one thinks that showing the world the truth can bring justice, but at that time it simply wasn't possible," said Kaji, who like the others was dressed in a blue cotton yugata provided by the inn, his left eye still bandaged. "The truth had to be hidden, and hidden deeply, in order to keep it safe."
"Until now, at least" Misato chimed in as she gently caressed PenPen's head while he nibbled on some fish at the table. "Your uncle cared for you though," Misato told the boy. "Enough to sacrifice so much to put you in the right place at the right time."
Patrick was solemn. "If I had known what uncle had gone through, all of that, I would have been a lot nicer towards him when I was growing up," he said. "I would have done a lot of things differently." Trying to find some humor in it all, Patrick said to Kaji and Misato "just next time you guys do something this, try to let us pilots in on it a bit earlier, will you? At least everything would have made more sense that way!"Kaji and Misato both laughed a little at Patrick's comment and even Rei smiled a little.
"Don't look at me!"Kaji playfully defended. "None of this was my idea!"
"Believe me," Misato said more seriously, "I have no plans to go through all of this again."
Rei moved a little closer to Patrick at the other side of the table, leaning gently against him as he took her hand. "Any word from my sister?"
Kaji answered this time. "I was able to locate her, she's been held in Massachusetts, in what used to be NERV First Branch and is now an Alliance base there. My contacts in Alliance intelligence have told me she's provided extensive details of her father's work at NERV-2 and that she's exceptionally cooperative."
"When can I see her?"
"We're working on that," answered Kaji. "There's other matters they need to resolve but I've made it clear that you need to contact her and hopefully we'll get something soon."
"In the meantime," Misato told the both of them, "please stay here at the inn as long as you need to, we've got the whole onsen to ourselves."
"Us and about a platoon of guards," remarked Patrick cynically.
Misato smirked."At least they won't join you in the pools!"
After dinner Misato helped Kaji to get up from the table, telling Rei and Patrick that they'd turn in early but the two of them were welcome to enjoy the hot springs for the evening. She then led Kaji slowly back up the stairs of the inn to their room.
Patrick was about to ask Rei what she wanted to do for the night when she whispered in his ear "go to the third pool. Thirty minutes," and then without saying anything further turned and went towards her own room. Patrick stood there as he watched her go, suddenly thinking is she going to do what I think she's going to do? With great anticipation he then headed to his own room.
Twenty-five minutes later Patrick walked down one of the inn's hallways towards the hot spring pools that were in the other wing of the hotel. As he moved along the dimly lit hall he noticed movement below him and saw Pen Pen now toddling alongside. Patrick watched as the little bird found the first bath, designated for male guests, and then hopped through the doorway and inside the found a shower and pulled on the cord as clean water sprayed all over him. Then after ruffling his feathers and clearing out the excess water he waddled over to the edge of the bath and belly-flopped inside. He made a small splash, then rolled over on his back and slowly swam in the warm water, cooing softly in delight. Patrick just smiled to himself and went further down the hallway.
He passed the second pool room, seeing the sign that said "Female guests only" written in Japanese characters on the doorway and then kept going towards the end of the hall. In a few more steps he found the third bath, the sign on its doorway having a different set of symbols that he also recognized: Couples Only. Patrick hesitated just a little at the doorway, looking inside first to see if anyone else was in the room. Initially hearing nothing, he then stepped inside.
The enclosure was barely lit, as there were maybe three small oil torches mounted on the stone walls. Except for a small shelter by the doorway, most of the bath was open-air like the others, and out the opening Patrick could see the many stars above in the night sky. The bath itself was surrounded by various cattails, lilies, and other water-plants that he could see and there was the sound of water gently flowing nearby.
At a corner against the wall Patrick found a shower head and then quickly disrobed after again looking around to see if anyone else was in the bath. He turned on the shower and sprayed himself clean both on head and body, then without toweling himself off he moved to the edge of the bath itself and dropped inside. Against the cold water of the shower and the cool air of the night the hot springs waters felt hot and invigorating, and it took him about a minute to acclimate to the higher water temperature.
Patrick noticed that the water level was less deep where he was and he moved a little more inside of the pool. If he had stood up the water might have gone to just below his chest, so he bent down a little and found a place in a corner partially surrounded by lilies where he could actually kneel down on the pool bottom, his knees making contact with something that felt like moss. He remained there for a moment, wondering what exactly Rei had in mind when he heard something start to move through the water. At the edge of his eye he saw a small shadow move towards him as the water rippled and then he turned away and waited. In the next moment she was there besides him.
"Rei?" he asked.
"Forri-kun, how are you?" She faced away from him but her backside was just next to his as she also knelt in the shallow water.
"Great," he said to her. "I feel like all my energy's come back now. And you?"
"I like this place," she told him. "It's enjoyable."
They remained there for a while as each of them looked up at the star-filled sky above them, aware of the presence of the other but not wanting to turn around. Patrick couldn't help but be reminded of two months before, when Rei and him had spoken at this same onsen, but then it was across a bamboo wall where they could hear each other but not see. Now they were so close they could touch, as he felt her toes touch his under the water that they shared. It was amazing to him how much they had closed the distance between them in that short amount of time. He also admitted to himself how sensual the feelings were that he had now, thoughts that had not really come to the surface of his mind before were now coming unbidden. Thoughts about Rei and him and how it could be between them.
"Have you thought about what will come for you after EVA?"
"I've started to," he told her. "I don't really know yet and honestly most of what I want right now is just to get Erin and I in the same space. If anything I want to keep building that bridge between the two of us, get back all that time we lost. What about you?"
"I have. There are things that I want to do as well."
"Think of it this way," said Patrick. "You get a family out of this too." Rei didn't reply but Patrick continued. "I was listening to you talk to Shinji in the hallway earlier, in the hospital. So he's Onii-chan now, is he?"
"Yes," she told him. "Yes, he is. That is where we fit together the best."
"Then I'm really happy for you. That's just what you needed." Rei didn't answer at first but smiled a little in the darkness. The two of them were quiet for a while under the moonlight, the only sounds being that of the water in the pool bubbling and the occasional sound of the bamboo and water chimes nearby. When she again felt comfortable, Rei spoke to him again. "Forri-kun?"
"Do I put a burden on you?" she asked him.
"It doesn't matter," Patrick answered. "I knew early on things would be different with you. I wanted the benefits, I knew there might be costs as well."
"But you know that while I am human, I am also not human. There are things about me that are different from another girl."
"I know it, and that's fine with me. It always has been."
"Do you think it would be wrong for me to want a child of my own?"
"No. Not at all. Geez, if anyone would make a good mom it would definitely be you. But you told me earlier you wouldn't be able to have your own kids, right?"
Rei paused a little. "There is a possibility that this could be changed," she told him. "It is something that will take time and effort to pursue, and it is not without risk to myself. If changes are made to this body they must be made slowly and carefully, to ensure my continued health. But it may now be possible in time."
"Then by all means you should embrace it," Patrick encouraged. "Like I told you before, no one in this world's got the determination that you do to get the job done, no matter how difficult it is."
"If I pursue this, will you support me in doing so?"
"Yup," Patrick said cheerfully, glad that Rei was telling him what he knew was deep inside of her own heart. "Whatever it takes, I'll be there for you. No matter what."
"In the end" she said, more hesitantly now, "if I am able to do this...you can also help me to do so?"
Patrick let himself smile widely as he knew Rei's bluntness was honestly driven by her own desire to open herself up to him. He also knew that she meant this in the upmost seriousness. "It would be," he said slowly, "my privilege and my honor to do my part of the job."
"It could be a while before that, if it's possible at all."
"I'm not going anywhere if I can help it," Patrick told her. "But I'll certainly look forward to it, when the time comes."
"Thank you," she said simply, and then the two of the remained kneeling in the warm water of the spring, as each looked up at the moon and stars shining above.
The next morning Patrick woke up on the futon of his guest room, awoken by the sunlight that was coming out of the room's windows. He shook off his remaining sleepiness and then got up and prepared for the day.
Breakfast was to be served to the guests in the dining rooms below, so without much of a plan today Patrick again donned his inn-provided blue yugata over his sleep clothes and opened the bedroom door to go out. Silently standing in front of the room was Rei, who was also wearing her own blue yugata. "Good morning," she told him.
"Good morning," he smiled. "Breakfast?" Rei just nodded and then proceeded down the bamboo flooring on wooden slippers as Patrick followed closely behind her.
They went downstairs and to the same dining room they were in the night before. Breakfast was already laid out by the inn staff on the table for each of them. As the night before the inn staff had separately asked each of them what they preferred for their breakfast. Each person's meal was then made to order and then laid on the table. The two of them both looked at the table with resignation, as their meals could not have been more different. Patrick had asked for and actually received to his surprise a traditional American breakfast, with pancakes, scrambled eggs, pork sausage, orange juice and toast, while Rei had chosen a light Japanese breakfast with fermented natto, toast, pickled vegetables, miso soup and rice, and green tea to drink. The differences between each of their breakfasts was dramatic enough to make both of them embarrassed about the matter.
"I suppose we're never going to agree on food, are we?" Patrick said to Rei. Rei didn't immediately reply but just let out a breath as they both sat down next to each other at the table. "At least we both have the same toast."
"That's a start," agreed Patrick as he started to tuck into his meal.
They fed on breakfast for a few minutes until Misato entered the room, dressed in a black sleeveless minidress. "Good morning!" Patrick said to her cheerfully. Misato didn't immediately reply but instead showed Patrick her satellite phone. "I've got your sister on the line!" she told him and Patrick nearly stumbled over the breakfast table in his haste to get to the phone. "Hello?"
"Patrick!" Erin screamed over the line.
"Erin! Oh my God, it's good to hear you!"
"Are you alright? They said that you had an operation!"
"It was pretty dicey for a while but I'm okay now. Completely. "
"Thank God! I was so worried and I didn't hear anything for so long!"
"I'm sorry, I was sort of out of it for a while. I asked about you and they had trouble reach you too until now. Are you okay?"
"Uh, not really," she replied in a worried voice. "At first they just had a whole lot of questions about Dad and SEELE and all, but then this morning they had me meet with this lawyer." The tone of her voice went from worry to panic. "They're pressing charges!"
"WHAT!?" Patrick shouted so loud it could be heard from outside the dining room. "Are you kidding me?"
"It's got to do with the attack on NERV when I came in," she tried to explain. "They're saying it was terrorism!"
"Jeez," Patrick replied angrily, "You only killed the enemy's top guy. Besides, it's not like you destroyed the GeoFront yourself or anything! I don't believe this!"
"Anyway," Erin continued, "there's going to be something in court soon. I've got this lawyer guy but there's no one else here that knows me," she told him. "Patrick...are you able to come out here? I really need to see you!"
Patrick turned around and saw Rei standing next to him, listening intently while he was on the phone. In that moment Patrick realized what now would be required of him and looked at Rei with regretful eyes. "Yeah...I'll get out there as soon as I can. Just hang tight, okay?"
"Okay! Please get her soon!" Erin pleaded with him and then after Patrick provided her with additional reassurances they ended the call. After the phone hung up, Patrick looked at Misato with a narrow glance as Kaji, also dressed in the inn's yugata, now shuffled into the room. "She said they were pressing terrorism charges against her!" he told both of the adults in an angry tone. "What, killing Keel wasn't enough for the Alliance?"
Misato looked at Kaji, as both of them had surprised expressions on their faces. "Oh, no," she said to Patrick. "They didn't mention anything to us at all about this." She again looked towards Kaji. "Anything that you can do?"
Kaji motioned for Patrick to give him the satellite phone. "This is news to me as well, but I'll again reach out to my contacts there and work on what the options are. In the meantime I suggest we bring this up with Admiral Vinson. We'll need his help too." Patrick still felt himself fuming but saw Rei standing in front of him, her palm on his chest. "It will be okay," she said quietly, her eyes warming looking at his. Patrick didn't contest her, and then just nodded as he held her hand and did his best to hold down his temper.
Two hours later the four of them were changed into uniforms and seated in Admiral Vinson's office at the GeoFront while the admiral himself was at his desk. Kaji had explained what he had learned from his contacts at the old First Branch as the others listened, as he revealed that in fact there were criminal charges filed against Erin Forrestal in a US court quite recently.
"Why would they do this?" Misato asked Kaji. "She's nearly as much of a hero as Patrick is for facing the chairman and ending the war."
Kaji tried to provide more details on what he knew. "There's pressure on the authorities from the relatives of several NERV employees who were killed in the earlier raid, particularly a group from Europe who found out that Erin was in the US and therefore could be charged under pre-existing legal agreements between the United States and Britain."
"One guess as to who's behind this, then?" Vinson asked cynically. All of them in the room knew the answer.
"But why would Sheffield want to do this at all," protested Misato. "What purpose does it serve to string Patrick 's sister up on charges?"
"Because dragging her into an American courtroom would require disclosing more information about Evangelion then we'd probably not care to reveal," Vinson answered. "If we stonewall, it makes NERV look like it's a lot less transparent than we need to appear at the moment."
"The American judicial system is notorious for making a media circus out of any type of high profile case,"Kaji chimed in. "The admiral is correct: they don't care about the girl, they want to put NERV on the defensive, and this is Sir John's way of revealing how much we really know about EVA. Imagine putting any one of the EVA pilots on the stand and having to ask questions about the EVA itself."
"This is totally screwed," Patrick growled. "I have an idea: why don't I just take EVA-04 over to the US and bust her out of there!"
"Unfortunately when it comes to matters such as this EVA is a very blunt instrument," Vinson chided. "As much as I'd agree with you on using force, Patrick, it's not really going to help matters."
"You guys owe her," the boy angrily reminded the others. "She's been put through so much and now this. Hell, if they want to press charges then do it to me too! I was the one who helped her get into the EVA that day."
Misato was slightly more calm. "What are our real options here?"
The Admiral put his hands against his chin in thought. "We may have to negotiate a bit more with the US and UK sides of the Alliance, at least offer something in trade in return for making this go away. In the meantime I've got an old friend from the Academy who was a Navy JAG, I can talk him into being Erin's counsel and that will at least get her reliable legal representation and hopefully get her freed from custody. "
Kaji and Misato both looked at Patrick and tried to be reassuring. "And we'll do everything we can to help," Misato told him.
"Thanks," Patrick told the others. "But Erin's still out there all on her own."
Rei looked at him, her eyes in sadness as she told him the truth that Patrick already knew. "Then you need to go."
Inside of a small office on the first floor of Hakone Hospital, Gendo Ikari sat on one side of a desk and slowly grasped the fingers of his new left hand. It was a strange sensation, as his nerve endings told him that they felt like his original fingers but yet the new mechanical ones didn't move in quite the same way.
Gendo's new left arm was fully articulated, the best that the current technology could offer. He again turned his hand and moved his arm up and down in experimentation, to see exactly what his range of movement and control was. He hadn't yet mastered grabbing with the left hand yet, and he knew that would take time and practice. At least now he had time in what would be considerably more comfortable surroundings that he had been in for the last few months.
The door of the office opened and Maya Ibiki came in. She wore a civilian grey-colored skirted business suit with black pumps and smoke-colored stockings, and sat herself down at the other side of the desk. Quietly she opened up an envelope and started to present several documents to Gendo.
"Sir, thank you for waiting," she said to Gendo. "I see that you have a new arm now."Gendo just nodded silently as he started to examine each of the papers that Maya put in front of him. All of them were some sort of official document. After she was finished laying them out, Maya used a pen to point to each of the papers as she explained what each was.
"This one here," she told Gendo, "is the expedited pardon from the Alliance. This document waives any criminal charges, current or future, in relation to your participation in anything involving NERV, GEHIRN, the UN, SEELE, or Evangelion in general. In return you swear not to contact the media in any way whatsoever regarding any matters of the above."
"Complete Non-Disclosure," confirmed Gendo.
"Yes, commander, that's correct," said Maya, still calling him by his old title. "You also have to promise not to do any scientific work on anything relating to EVA, without the express permission of the Alliance. There's also a portion where you give up any claims such as patents or intellectual property on EVA itself or any of the technology therein." She pointed to a second document next to the first one. "This one is from the Japanese government, and it's much the same thing: an unconditional pardon, subject to the terms below."Gendo didn't say anything further but studied the two documents while Maya moved onto two more papers.
"And this one," she told him as she tried to maintain a very professional and detached matter, "is a legal document giving up permanent custody of Shinji-kun. The one next to it is for Rei-chan." Both of the documents were also in Japanese.
"Are they to be adopted by Katsuragi-san?" he asked.
"Actually it will be by Kaji-san," Maya answered. "The formal adoption will take place after their marriage in a couple of months. There will be a temporary custody agreement in the meantime."
"I see. Is there anything else?"
"No, sir," Maya replied. "This covers it. After you sign all of these documents, you're free to go." She waited for Gendo to reply, but then reached into her pocket. "Oh, I almost forgot. This was among your possessions when the Alliance took over the GeoFront." Maya placed Gendo's personal hanko signature stamp on the desk.
Gendo carefully reviewed each of the documents again, pausing longer as he went over the custody papers for Shinji. I'm formally abandoning them, he thought,yet at this moment I somehow feel closer to each of them then I ever have before.
"Rather ironic,"Gendo said to Maya, "in the end of things even Evangelion couldn't avoid the lawyers." Maya smiled politely. "Yes, sir," she said to him, "but it's preferable given the alternatives." She offered her pen to him.
Without saying anything further, Gendo took Maya's pen and signed the Alliance document. Then after setting the pen down he took the hanko and after dipping it on an ink pad he used the stamp on the three Japanese legal documents in front of him in red ink. He then placed the hanko back on the desk.
Maya reviewed everything, checking that the former commander had signed or stamped in all of the correct places. She then took the papers and placed them again inside of the envelope. Just then the door opened and Moria Wellington, also dressed in civilian clothes, entered. "Is he ready?" she asked Maya.
"Yes, we've got everything that we need." Maya stood up from the desk and Gendo did the same. "Admiral Vinson and Colonel Katsuragi regret that they couldn't be here today to see you off, but they both wanted me to tell you that they sincerely wish you well."
Not to mention they didn't want the media attention of whisking the old commander out the back door."Please tell them thank you for their sentiments."
"I will. Also, sir," Maya said to him, "Many of us were there during the Angel War as well as what's happened more recently. We're very grateful for your leadership, as without you NERV and humanity itself, might not have survived. In any case, thank you commander, and we wish you the best in the future." Maya then bowed respectfully at the commander in the Japanese manner.
Gendo returned the bow. "Thank you, Captain Ibiki."
Maya smiled. "It's just Ibiki-san now, sir. I resigned my military commission yesterday."
"Are you still with NERV in the future?"
"Yes, sir, although it's now in a civilian role. They've given me the MAGI to manage from now on."
"Well, Akagi-sensei always had a lot of faith in you, I trust you'll do well."
"Big shoes to fill, but yes, thank you sir. Good bye" She then bowed again and after Gendo returned the bow Maya left the room. Once she was gone Wellington spoke to Gendo in English. "Did you need luggage?"
"I don't have much in the way of possessions, I'm afraid," he told her.
"Not to worry," she motioned to a small suitcase on wheels that was at her feet. "I managed to scrape up some menswear that'll probably fit you. Not that my taste in such things is all that great."
"No doubt better than mine," Gendo replied.
"Let's be off then." Wellington pulled the suitcase as they left the office and walked down the hospital hallway. Following them were two black-suited security guards. "I've arranged transportation to your new home," Moria told him. "Everything's worked out, although you won't be living alone."
"Are you joining us?"
"Yes. With Mari still in LCL therapy this way I can still stay relatively close to her and besides, someone's got to keep you out of trouble." She looked at him and winked.
"Just don't let me see you with a bone in your nose," Gendo coolly replied.
"Fuck you," Wellington shot back, having to suppress a giggle as she did so. The bloke's got a sense of humor after all, there's hope for him yet.
As they opened another set of doors on the way to the rear of the hospital, Moria prepared an umbrella. "Oh, and there's someone else to see you off as well," she told Gendo as she opened the outside doors.
The weather outside the hospital was cold and rainy, as a thunderstorm had moved into the Hakone area. Parked by the curb was a black sedan, flanked by a black Toyota SUV. In between the hospital exit and the curb however were two others dressed in black raincoats, one of them holding an umbrella over both of them. Shinji and Rei waited expectantly as Gendo saw them, and moved to where they were standing as Moria held an umbrella over him and herself.
"Shinji, Rei," Gendo said to his two children.
"Hello, Dad," Shinji replied. Rei didn't say anything but just remained close to Shinji while he spoke. "How's the new arm?" Gendo moved it, showing the gloved left hand's movements. "Not bad. I'm sure I'll be used to it in no time."
"I'm glad." Shinji looked at the two cars and small entourage of guards that accompanied his father. "Where will you be living?"
"Sendai," Gendo told him. "I've received an appointment as an adjunct professor at the Itokawa Institute. I haven't taught in a while, this should be an interesting change of pace."
Shinji smiled. "I'm sure you'll do fine."
Gendo looked at the both of them. "Just to let you know, I've signed the papers," he said. "But despite that, I don't feel that either of us is unconnected at this moment." Nodding, Shinji agreed. "Yeah."
"Maybe now is not the time for it, but perhaps in the future we can keep the lines of communication open between us. I'm willing to do this, if either of you are...agreeable."
Again Shinji nodded and Rei did so too. She looked up at Gendo for the first time in a long time without fear. "I'd like that," she told him.
The older man took a long look at both of his children as they stood in the rain. "I always did wonder what would happen when the two of you met," he told Shinji and Rei. "I think I'm pleasantly surprised at the outcome."
Rei and Shinji looked at each other and smiled. "We're happy to know each other now," Shinji said, speaking for both of them. "I guess we can look forward to a lot of things." Gendo allowed himself a small smile at that.
"Well, I won't take up your time any longer. It's best I be going before the weather turns worse." Gendo was about to say his farewells when Shinji pulled something out of his pocket. "Dad!" He then placed something in Gendo's right hand.
"A long time ago," Shinji explained as Gendo examined the SDAT player he was now holding, "you left this when you were visiting me at Sensei's. Anyway, I thought you should have it back."
Gendo recognized the player as his own. "You held onto this? I always wondered what had happened to it." Gendo looked at Shinji curiously. "This sort of music is sort of old for someone your age."
"It always gave me comfort to listen to it," the boy explained further. "In any case, I don't really need it anymore. I thought you should have it back."
Shinji gave a weak smile. "Thank you."
The former commander looked over at Wellington and she then opened up the sedan's rear door. She then walked over to the trunk to place Gendo's suitcase inside. While she did so, Gendo turned to Shinji and Rei one last time. "Shinji-kun?"
"You've managed to grow up a bit since you came here." The boy shrugged. "I really don't think so."
"No, it's easy to see now." Gendo looked at Rei standing close to Shinji in the rain. "Take care of your sister," he told Shinji. "That's my last instruction to you, as your father."
Shinji nodded affirmatively. "I will." Rei remained silent but took Shinji's hand as her eye's met Gendo's, her face was expressionless. Satisfied with everything that he saw, Gendo simply said "Good bye," to his two children and entered the car.
"Goodbye, Dad," Shinji told him. Wellington then shut the door from the outside. She looked up at the children. "Don't worry about him," she said to them. "He's a survivor if there ever was one. He'll be back on his feet in no time. Take care, you two." Moria then entered the car through the front passenger door. In another moment the black sedan drove away from the curb and went down the avenue, followed by the black SUV of the security team, and then after turning a corner went out of sight as the children watched them go in the rain. As the car turned, Rei said in a soft voice "Sayonara, Commander."
In the sedan, Gendo leaned back on the seat and closed his eyes, letting out a long breath. It was a relief for him to be out of the circumstances that he had found himself in so many years earlier, much more so than he thought it would be. He had created EVA in order to get his life back, and through it all had found that he did have his life back in the end, but in an entirely different way than he imagined. After a moment he opened up his eyes again and saw the SDAT player in his hand.
I didn't tell Shinji the rest of the story of the SDAT. While the player is mine, the tape inside was from his mother. She had created it for me not long before she disappeared. When she gave it to me then, she had told me "If I'm ever away from you, play this and you'll feel I'm right there."
It's fitting that he's returned it to me now. Gendo then took the player's earbuds and inserted them into his own ears. He pushed the play button and leaned back into the seat, closing his eyes and as the first song started to play finding himself transported back in time. In the image of his mind the gentle face of Yui appeared to him, and the rest of his memories came flooding back while he listened to the song.
Yui, you've come back to me after all.