After EVA-05 was retrieved from the glacier it had crashed into, it was dragged into a clearing where the entry plug was partially ejected and Mari finally was able to exit, shivering in the cold. The EVA was then towed by Unit 04 several kilometers to the Alliance's base. From there it was loaded into a C-5 airlifter and flown back to Tokyo-3 in the evening. As the two EVAs were flown back, Mari was found to be in good health and both her and Patrick crashed asleep inside another Alliance aircraft that also carried Misato, herself tired but unable to sleep with so much now on her mind. Kaji had flown back to Tokyo-3 earlier, partly to debrief their superiors and also partly to investigate what Patrick saw in his linked vision with his twin.
That evening Kaji showed photographs taken of the two destroyed SEELE Mass Production Evangelions as Commander Vinson and General Sheffield watched.
“As you can see, these units were still on battery power,” Kaji pointed out with a holographic pointer at the large screen in Commander Vinson's office. “They still haven't managed to deploy any other Harpies with an S2 engine installed.”
“They're running low,” Vinson commented. “Scraping the barrel of their capabilities.”
“Did Unit 06 show up this time?” Sheffield asked.
“No. Unit 04 did a careful scan and no other EVA units were found besides these two.”
Vinson rested his chin on his hand in thought. “Was anything useful recovered from the carrier bombers that were hauling these two bastards?”
“Yes. Both were on autopilot, with only enough fuel for a one-way trip,” said Kaji. “Apparently there was no intention to retrieve the EVAs once deployed. There was nothing in their on-board computers that indicated the location of where they came from.”
The two senior commanders looked at each other and then at their intelligence chief. “This was a high-risk strike against what they consider their most high-value target besides us,” said Vinson. “SEELE clearly wants Mr. Ikari dead.”
“At least our internal security is holding up,” observed Sir John. “There's been no successful attempt to penetrate Aries base and get to him from inside.”
“What are they so scared of is what I'm wondering,” Vinson told the British general. “Any luck on cracking him?”
Sheffield shook his head. “I'm afraid not, he's quite determined. Perhaps he knows his true value and is patient enough to wait for the right offer to come across his table.”
“Well, keep him on ice for a while longer,” Vinson ordered. “Seems that we're able to get along without him at the rate we're going.” The commander then turned to Kaji, “We'll keep working on the base location still. We had a lead that it was in the Himayalas, we're planning a recon mission there to see if that's where they're hiding.”
“Also, tell Colonel Katsuragi that her pilots did well today, despite having a damaged EVA out of it. Get some rest yourself.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you.” Kaji turned to leave the commander's office when Sheffield called out to him. “Oh, Colonel Kaji?”
“Yes, Sir John?”
“Did you hear anything else from the Forrestal boy?”
Kaji cocked up an eyebrow. “I thought you didn't put much value in his visions?”
Sheffield shrugged. “I don't, but it can't hurt either. There could be something to it in the end, somehow.”
So you do believe him! “I've heard nothing from the boy since the last time.”
“Very well, Colonel. Thank you.” Kaji took his leave and left the office.
Misato returned to the girls’ suite late that night, exhausted from the events of the last two days. With the rest of the girls already in bed, she was able to go her bedroom and finally sleep for a few hours. Awoken early the following morning, Misato tried to get back to sleep but couldn’t, and craving something she stumbled into the kitchen.
Entering the kitchen without turning on the lights, she stood silently in front of the refrigerator. Misato put her hand to the handle, hesitating as anxieties, wants and worries all crowded into her mind.
It’s still so small right now, she told herself. Just a little bit will be okay. Besides, after everything in the last couple of days I really need a drink. Misato gulped down her guilt and then opened the refrigerator door. Inside she found the usual food items and some leftovers, juice, milk, and ice coffee, and condiments and sauces. Strangely to her there was no beer left inside, or even sake.
Damn, I leave these kids alone for too long and they get into my stuff. Oh well, I’ve got more around her somewhere. Misato closed the refrigerator door and looked for her box of sake that was next to it, fumbling in the dark for the box she found it was also gone. It was then that the lights in the kitchen went on.
Misato turned around and saw Shinji, Asuka, and Rei standing by the kitchen doorway, each dressed in sleep clothes. Rei had her finger on the light switch as Asuka held a large bottle of sake in her hands. “Looking for this?” Asuka said to her with a scowl.
“Yeah!” she said. “Just for a night cap.” Misato looked around the kitchen and saw that there were a lot fewer boxes stacked against the walls, and that none of the remaining ones contained any alcohol at all. “What the hell did you do with all of my stuff? Have a party?!”
Not wasting any time, Asuka sat down at the kitchen table and slid over the pregnancy test to Misato. The older girl gasped at her secret now being revealed in this way, but found she couldn’t admonish the children for trying to do right by her. Losing the challenge, Misato sat down across from Asuka, her face in a slight pout. Asuka then started the interrogation as the others looked on. “How long have you known?”
“Just since the night before,” she said honestly. “I haven’t even seen the doctor yet. It might not even be accurate just a false...” Before Misato could finish Asuka slid over a second test across the table, still sternly looking at her. Misato saw the second test and let out a long breath of frustration.
“It is Kaji’s, isn’t it?” Asuka accused.
“Of course it is!”
“Then if you’re carrying Kaji’s baby you are going to have to learn to be a lot more responsible,” she said as she pointed a finger at Misato. “It’s a good thing for that kid that we’re here, otherwise God knows what sort of mess you’d bring into the world.”
“It’s not like that at all!” Misato defended. “Look, I…I was just weak for a moment, that’s all. A lot happened in the last day or so.”
“This.” Misato showed her left hand, wearing Kaji’s diamond engagement ring.
On seeing the ring, some part inside of Asuka’s heart sank but she tried not to let it show. “If you’re going to be carrying Kaji’s child I am not going to let you have a moment of weakness. We all know what a horrible mother you’re liable to be, and I’m not going to let Kaji or that child suffer because of your lousy behavior.”
“Hey, I watch over all of you!” Misato fought back. “I think I know a thing or two about responsibility.”
“Then you do your job and we’ll do ours,” countered Asuka. Shinji and Rei nodded in unison.
Misato thought to continue the battle but then just smiled instead. I’m lucky to have them here really, she thought to herself, ‘cause there’s no way I can do this on my own anyway.
“Okay,” she said to the three of them. “I promise I’ll be good from now on, but it won’t be easy for me. I’ll need your support!”
“Then we’ll take care of you for this,” Shinji said, smiling a little. “After all, this is a good thing, right?” Misato nodded in agreement. “It is. It’s just the timing that is messed up, that’s all.” At that moment PenPen waddled into the kitchen, walking up to where Misato was seated. He looked up at her with doting eyes.
“Couldn’t sleep either, huh?” she said as she picked him up. “That’s okay, Mommy’s here, isn’t she. You’re going to have another playmate coming soon!” The penguin cooed as she gently stroked its head. Asuka’s expression finally softened as she watched mother and penguin together, smiling as she leaned against Shinji, who then put his arm around her. “You know,” Misato started, “It’s not for me but when he can’t get to sleep sometimes I need to give PenPen a little beer or…”
“NO!!!” the pilots all shouted in unison.
When Patrick returned to the GeoFront earlier that afternoon he went straight to his room in the Boys’ suite and slept deeply from exhaustion. He woke up early the next morning and didn’t go out for a while, instead he stayed in his bed and inside his mind played back the night of the officers’ ball.
Well I really screwed that one up, he admitted to himself after lengthy reflection. Of course Rei wouldn’t want anyone interfering with Shinji’s relationship with anyone. I just never expect her to be so attached to Asuka. I guess they all fought the Angels together, they might be a lot tighter than I expected.
Time to face the music, Patrick thought. He wondered what Rei would say to him the next time he saw her. Would she give him the silent treatment, as she sometimes seemed to when she was upset about something? Or would she be direct and confrontational? The fear in the back of his mind was now really coming out, and that fear screamed a message to his brain that said It’s over.
Patrick didn’t want at all to believe this could come between them, but knew he couldn’t just stay in bed and run away from it either. He picked himself up, got changed into a t-shirt and camouflage pants, and slowly made his way to the suite’s front door.
Nearly every morning since they had been together Rei had greeted him at the front door when he came out. She was never late and she didn’t knock, instead just waiting until he opened it. Somehow she was always there on time, and Patrick was never quite sure how long she waited for him to open.
Being nervous if she was there this morning or not, Patrick quietly looked out the security video screen for the front door. Rei was indeed standing in front and to his surprise she wore the blue dress from the previous night, although she didn’t put on makeup and kept her legs bare. Through the camera she saw that her head seemed to hang low and he couldn’t see her eyes. He had privately hoped everything might blow over in the last day, but her very silent expression in front of the door told him she was still upset. With no other options, he swallowed his pride and opened up the door to face her.
For a minute after Patrick opened the front door the two of them stood silently facing each other. Patrick breathed hard, working up the courage to say what he wanted to say to her. “Rei, I…I’m really sorry about…”
He didn’t get to finish. As soon as he started talking Rei immediately rushed towards him and pressed herself against him, burying her head in his chest. She began quietly sobbing as Patrick reflexively put his arms around her.
“Are you crying?” he asked her. She didn’t answer at first but continued to bury her face in his chest, shaking with emotion. “Why? I’m the one who was a jerk.”
“I was so afraid for us to fight!” Rei said under the sobs. “I watch the Second and Ikari-kun arguing all the time. I do not want us to be like that!”
Patrick squeezed Rei tighter, feeling relived as well as more endeared with her. “I did something wrong, and didn’t consider your feelings, or anyone else’s. I shouldn’t have gotten in the way with you and Shinji there that night.”
Rei responded to him as she tried to calm herself down. “You wanted to help Illustrious-chan, yes?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“I understand it now,” she said. “You did not intend harm.”
“But hearts are fragile, even yours. I could have done that whole night a lot better.” She didn’t reply but instead wrapped her arms around him, and Patrick ran his fingers through her hair.
“You don’t like fighting, do you?” Patrick told her. Rei shook her head.
“Then I’ll just let you win from now on.”
“Forri-kun,” she asked him. “Is that a joke?”
“Then it is a bad one.”
Patrick chuckled at her reply and it helped warm the mood for both of them. “I see you wore the dress again,” he said to her.
“Yes. Do you like it?”
“I did, I mean I do! I really do! You look beautiful wearing it!” He looked at her for a long moment, gently touching her cheeks as she calmed herself down more. Rei lifted her head up and looked at him, her deep red eyes quivering with emotion. To Patrick the expression on her face seemed lonely and wanting: this lonely angel didn’t like being lonely anymore, and he wanted nothing more in the world to be sure she never would be again. Her eyes met his and she took a few more deep breaths as she worked out something in her mind. “What is it?” Patrick asked her.
Without saying anything, Rei grabbed him by the hand and started dragging him towards the elevators.
Their journey took twenty minutes as Rei silently lead Patrick up and down and throughout the GeoFront. Eventually through an accessway that didn’t look used by anyone she brought him to a set of stairs and they both went up. At the top was a part of the GeoFront Patrick had never seen before.
Patrick looked around and saw what had been an elaborate garden, surrounded by marble columns and settings. Many of the marble pieces were now collapsed on the ground, fallen over from damage that had happened in the Battle of the GeoFront. Waterfalls were now spilling over to parts of the ground and vines and plants were outgrowing their furrows. In their need to prioritize repairs on more essential things the rebuilt NERV had not tended to this little place, Patrick realized, but he could tell that despite the wreckage this glade had great significance for Rei.
As Patrick looked around, Rei walked over to one reflecting pool that still looked at least partially intact, although pieces of marble and the remainders of uprooted plants were poking outside of the pool. She sat down on the edge of the pool and gently moved her hand through the water. Her motions made small ripples that moved to the other edges of the reflecting pool and there was a soft plopping sound as it did so.
Rei let her hand move through the water some more and then looked upward. Now seated next to her on the edge of the pool was Patrick. He wasn’t smiling, but had the look of determination on his face. She took his hand and held it in her own, and she took her other hand from the pool and touched his face with it. He put his other hand on top of hers and at that moment a gentle breeze was felt by both of them. Neither one of them said anything to the other.
She closed her eyes and in an instant his lips were against hers, kissing her over and over as she brought both of her hands to his face and held it between them. Patrick’s kisses then became deeper and she felt the sensation from them tingling over her entire body. Knowing that she wanted more of this, Rei then released her own deeply held passions and met each kiss with one of her own and held him tightly against her as they sat by the pool.
In being parted with him even for just one day, Rei had realized just how deep her feelings now really were towards the boy who held such strange attraction for her. As he had slowly and patiently pursued her, Rei had tried to let her guard down one step at a time while still holding onto some part of her earlier, solitary life. Now as they were reunited from their momentary squabble, she found that she no longer wanted to hold back. She wanted to feel him beside her, she wanted to be held, and she wanted to be loved, and be filled with new memories of happiness surrounded by the fallen marble columns of her secret place in the glade as a gentle wind blew by them both.
Go on to Chapter Twenty-Nine