Part 36: Causalities

Misato woke to the sound of her cell phone. Blearily, she groped around for it and, finding it, punched keys until she picked up the call. "Major Katsuragi." She mumbled. Who the fuck would be calling at this time of night? She wondered.

"It's me." Came the voice from the other end of the line. Misato blinked. Sounds familiar, but…

"Who's me and why have you called at this ridiculous hour?" she asked grumpily. There was a pause.

"It's your bunk mate from basic." Came the voice. Misato blinked, sitting up. Glancing at her futon, she saw that Airi was asleep beside her. Or so she appears. "No names, Katsuragi." Came the warning.

"Yeah, yeah. Got you, Dumpy." She said, confirming the ID of the calling party. "Why call me now?" she asked, scratching her arm lightly.

"I just found out that a mutual acquaintance had an accident." Came the reply. Misato grimaced.

"Accident. Yeah, you could say that." She muttered.

"That acquaintance had spoken to me about a year ago about some things that concerned me and my present employer." Expanded Dumpy. Misato came fully awake.

"Don't have a clue what you're talking about." She said flatly. "Nice hearing from you, by the way. Good night." She said, ending the call. For several seconds, she considered the importance of what she had heard. Finally, she rose and made her way to the kitchen, where she reached for a beer. Just before her hand touched the cold can, she paused, reaching instead for a soda.

Sipping her glass of soda, she sat at her table in darkness, wondering why Dumpy was calling her out of the blue after more than five years of no communication. That bit about Dumpy's employer worries me too. Kaji's list was by no means complete, and he said that he suspected that Seele and the JMI had at least a full net intact inside NERV HQ. Misato leaned back in her chair, wondering what to do next. In the quiet apartment, she caught the sounds of movement from Shinji's room. Silently, the Major rose and made her way to his room, easing the door back.

On his bed, Shinji had turned over, tossing the sheets off his chest. Misato blinked. When did he start to sleep without a shirt? She wondered. Easing herself into his room, she knelt next to him and watched him sleep for a bit. He sleeps a lot better now. She thought idly. Reaching out, she trailed her fingers along his cheek and down to his chest. Shinji made some indistinct sounds and leaned toward her touch. Misato smiled, leaning closer to her charge. Just before her lips touched his, she jerked backward, shocked at her actions.

Damn it, Misato! You're his guardian! Not to mention his commanding officer! Get a grip, you horny slut! She railed to herself. Biting her lip, Misato started to stand, but felt Shinji's hand on her own. "Mi-chan?" came his groggy voice. "Everything ok?" he asked, yawning.

"It…it's fine, Shin." Said Misato. If by fine you mean me about to molest you!

"Oh. Did you come to check on me?" he asked her, sitting up a bit. "I thought I was sleeping pretty good." He added.

"You were, Shin. I was up anyway, and thought I'd check on you." She lied. Shinji nodded to himself.

"I see." He said, still holding her hand gently. Misato sank back down to her knees by his bedside. "I…sleep better knowing that you'll be there if I need you, Mi-chan." Said the young man softly, looking into her eyes. Misato felt her heart tremor.

"I…Shin…you…" she gave up on verbal communication, choosing instead to communicate non-verbally. Leaning forward, she kissed him on the lips, feeling his tiny jerk of surprise before he started to respond to her kiss. A few moments later, she broke the kiss and hastily got to her feet. "I'll…see you tomorrow, Shin." She said a bit unevenly, almost bolting from the room. Shinji touched his lips with his fingertips, wondering at her taste.

She doesn't taste like beer. He thought. She tastes…good. Laying back down on his bed, Shinji considered that fact until he fell asleep, which wasn't all that long. For the rest of the night, his dreams were very nice, if a bit erotic, and featured a certain purple-haired Major.

In the bathroom where she had fled to, Misato was shaking like a junkie. What the hell were you doing, stupid?! She railed to herself. Even with this self-critical voice in her head, she couldn't keep from smiling. My Shin is a good kisser. He has to be practicing with one of the girls. A few minutes passed while she thought about that possibility, but eventually her mind went back to what she had been considering at the table. I've got to chance it. For their sakes if not my own. She decided. Splashing her face with water, she went back to her room, laying down next to Airi and falling asleep shortly after, a smile on her face as she dreamed of her Shinji.

-

The angel alarms blared over the mostly-deserted city, catching nearly everyone off guard. As Misato drove to NERV with Shinji, Hikari and Asuka, she punched numbers into her cell phone, which connected her to NERV and Hyuga. Receiving word that the angel was a simple ring hovering motionless about the outskirts of Tokyo 3, Misato ordered her only pilot on-station to launch in her Eva and observe until backup arrived. Rei acknowledge and launched in her blue and white unit, taking cover behind a small hill to watch the strange angel.

Shinji and his two fellow pilots sprinted to the locker room, where they nearly tore their clothes off in their haste to back up Rei. Swiftly pulling on the plug suits, the three sealed them on the run to the Eva cages. Misato arrived on the bridge as the pilots arrived at their Eva units. "Shinji, Asuka, prepare to sortie in support of Rei. I want Asuka armed with the pallet rifle and Shinji with the Prog Axe. Hikari, you're on backup with the particle cannon." Ordered Misato. Asuka gritted her teeth.

"I'll back up Wondergirl." She said, taking the axe instead and marching her unit - a bit stiffly compared to her usual fluid grace - to the launch platform. Misato frowned.

"Aren't you going to pull her back? Her synch rate is barely over twenty five percent. She can hardly move her Eva at the speeds necessary for combat." Pointed out Akagi.

"Let her try. Maybe this is what she needs." Said Misato. Raising her voice, she directed her orders to the pilots. "Ok, Asuka has point here. Shinji, back her and Rei up. Hikari, stand ready just in case." She directed. Receiving affirmative answers from her pilots, she watched the units move into position. As Asuka's unit was rising to the surface, she heard Rei report.

"It is moving." Said the First. A moment later, she spoke again. "It will attack." She announced, bringing her rifle to the ready.

"Backup is on the way, Rei. Wait for backup." Ordered Misato, glancing at Asuka's progress.

"There is no time." Came the reply from Rei, interrupted by her rifle's reports. . The bridge crew sang out the reports. The ring had become a snake, and it has struck at Rei, who had dodged it. The Eva and the angel danced a few more times, then Asuka's Eva arrived. Hitting the launch stops, Asuka tried to focus on her Eva, but all she got was the memory of opening the door to her mother's hospital room and seeing…No! I won't remember! I won't! vowed the German girl. "Asuka! Look out!" came Rei's warning. Her head snapping up, she saw a flash as the angel struck at her.

Unable to dodge, she was slammed to the ground, her body burning where the angel had touched her. The report of Rei's rifle shook her Eva. Asuka tried to get up, but her unit wasn't responding correctly, and it was jerky and uncoordinated. Gritting her teeth, she tried again.

"Shinji! Take some of the heat off them. Hikari, I want you to go to lift two and stand by for combat deployment!" yelled Misato. The two were already moving, Shinji launching upward, a pallet rifle in his Unit's arms, Hikari moving to the designated lift carrying the particle cannon. Above them, one end of the angel speared into Unit 0 as it tried to shield Asuka. Rei moaned over the comms lines.

"Bio fusion taking place!" cried out Maya. "Ten percent fused! It's trying to merge with Unit 0!"

"Rei!" screamed Shinji, arriving at the surface. Snapping his rife to his shoulder, he dumped a burst onto the angel writhing before Rei's Unit. And AT Field deflected the shots as the other end - the one not buried in Rei's Unit - turned toward him.

"Shinji." Came Rei's taunt, pain-filled voice. "Do not let it fuse with you." She warned as the end of the angel struck at him. Diving though a roll, he peppered it with a short burst before diving clear of another attack. Coming up behind a supply building, he opened it and grabbed another magazine for his rifle. Behind him, Unit 2 got to it's feet. Sensing the dormant AT Field of Asuka's unit, the Angel whipped around and struck, spearing the crimson unit in the chest, eliciting a scream from Asuka.

"Asuka! Rei!" yelled Shinji, jumping clear of the angel as it began to fuse with the two units. Pushing past her pain, Rei grabbed the Angel's body, pulled it tight to the barrel of her gun and triggered two shots at point blank range. No effect was visible. Groaning, she let the sniper rifle fall from her unit's grip.

"Bio fusion at thirty percent and rising! Loss of unit imminent!" came Maya's voice. Shinji emptied the magazine of his rife on the angel, and seeing no result, grabbed his Prog knife and slashed at it. Groaning, Rei realized what it would take to beat this angel.

"Shinji. Rescue Asuka." She said, focusing on her task.

"How?!" came his frustrated reply. "Hikari! Get up here with that cannon!" he yelled to his last backup. Hikari jumped toward the lift.

"Remain at your post." Came the voice of Gendo. Misato spun, fire in her eyes.

"Stay out of this, Rokubungi!" yelled Shinji over the comms. Hikari was torn between her loyalty to her friends and her sense of discipline to obey orders. Above her, Shinji tried to understand what Rei meant. An instant later, he knew.

"Major! Unit 0 has inverted it's AT Field and is trapping the Angel!" reported Hyuga. Akagi blinked at that.

"Bio fusion at fifty five percent! Unit compromised!" screamed Maya, horrified. Looking at the screen, the Angel could be seen writhing against the inverted field of the first. An alarm sounded from Maya's console. Punching keys, she brought the information up. "Rei's activated her D unit!" she gasped.

"Rei! No!" screamed Misato. "Eject! We'll use an N2 mine to drive it back so Shinji can finish it!"

"I cannot. If I eject, the AT Field will cease to be, and Asuka will die along with me." Came Rei's pain-filled voice. "There is no other choice." She said softly. In her cockpit, she grabbed the handle and twisted it hard to the right, hearing a single click. Her eyes caught sight of Unit 1 raising it's prog knife for another stab at the angel binding her and Unit 2. I will return to you, Shinji. She thought to her lover as everything went white.

-

"How is she?" asked Misato softly of her old friend. The two were outside the room where Asuka lay unconscious and unresponsive. Shinji had caught her Eva with his own when Rei's Unit went nuclear, taking the angel with it. Her crimson unit showed signs of the bio fusion on it's upper chest, but the Eva was rejecting the foreign tissue steadily.

"Physically, she had some feedback injuries, but nothing much. Had her synch been higher, she might have died." Said Akagi. "As it is, she's in a coma." She announced.

"Why?" demanded Misato. Akagi shrugged.

"Don't know. Probably mental stress leading to a breakdown. She was proud, Misato, and ever since the fifteenth, she's been losing everything that made her special. It's not surprising that she broke." Was the analytical answer. Misato glared at her friend.

"She's not some lab experiment, Ritsu!" hissed the Major. "She's my pilot."

"Was your pilot." Corrected Ritsu, handing Misato a sheet of paper. Misato glanced at it. "She's no longer the Second Child." Said Ritsu. Misato slowly tore the sheet of paper in half.

"She is to us, bitch." She snarled, throwing the torn paper in Ritsu's face.

-

The door to Celsia's room opened and Rit-chan trudged in, her face blank. Celsia, giggling and smiling maniacally, noticed her arrival. "Rit-chan!" she said happily, rising and crossing to her teammate, who slowly slumped to the bed. Celsia frowned. "What's wrong, Rit-chan?" she asked the teen. Rit-chan raised her eyes to Celsia's cat-slit own.

"Rei-chan's dead." She said hollowly. "Asuka's…maybe worse than dead." She said, tears in her eyes. Celsia's good mood fled. Sitting next to her youngest teammate, the elf touched her shoulder.

"I…I'm sorry, Rit-chan. What happened?" asked the elf. Rit-chan shook her head.

"Killed in combat." She said simply. "Rei-chan detonated her unit with herself inside to kill it, Celsia." She said, tears running down her cheeks. "They're…gone." She whispered. The elf had no clue how to handle a crying Rit-chan. The girl had always been so happy and strong, and here she was crying. The door to her cell slid open, and Airi stepped in. Seeing Rit-chan silently sobbing, Airi glanced at Celsia and inclined her head toward the door. Silently, the elf made her way out of the room, Airi taking her place at Rit-chan's side. Drawing the girl into a hug, Airi silently held her while tears ran down her cheeks. After a period of time, the tears stopped, and a few minutes after that, Rit-chan gently pulled free of Airi and made her way to Celsia's bathroom, where she washed her face with cold water. Returning to where Airi sat, she was once more her usual controlled self.

"Rit-chan, are you going to be ok?" asked Airi of her team mate. Rit-chan nodded.

"Yeah. I'll be ok." She said. Airi rose and stepped over to her side.

"How about a stroll in the woods, Rit-chan?" she asked softly. "Get some fresh air and all." Rit-chan glanced at her, then nodded.

"Sure. But only for a bit; I've got to check up on the others." She said, accompanying the actress out of the room. Outside the door, Celsia fell into step with them. In short order, they were in the woods. Celsia decided to try cheering the two up.

"You know, I cast the spell." She said softly. Two sets of eyes snapped over to her. She nodded slowly. "It was successful." She said simply.

"Where is it?" asked Airi quietly. Celsia inclined her head to the side.

"I cast it to form near Mike's lair." She said. "It should be fully formed and charged within three weeks."

"Three weeks?" asked Rit-chan, her eyes clouded. Celsia nodded.

"But even then, we have to have one more angel attack to get this to work; if I can't cast the Serat again, the Casting Circle is of no use to us." Rit-chan's stormy gray-green eyes locked on to the elf.

"Don't sound so eager, Celsia!" she hissed. "Isn't Rei's death enough for you? Or are you just pissed that Asuka wasn't killed outright? Are you really that eager to get Hikari and Shinji killed, too?" Celsia blinked and eased back from the teen.

"Rit-chan, I know how you feel; believe me, I know." Said Airi earnestly. "But remember, Rei isn't likely to stay dead. She was created to be…replaceable." Rit-chan turned her gaze on Airi.

"Replaceable in form, maybe." She said tightly. "Replaceable in our hearts? Never."

-

The door to the Zoo slid open and Shinji and Misato trudged in. Airi and Rit-chan were at NERV, Rit-chan keeping an eye on Asuka, while Airi was doing some research. Misato had stayed until she was about to scream in frustration. Shinji had been unwilling to leave Asuka's side, but Rit-chan had volunteered. Hikari was next door, in her home. Her eyes were red from crying, and Shinji had seen her crash on the bed before he and Misato moved on to the Zoo. Right now, he was completely worn out. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. Misato didn't seem much better. Numbly, the Major shed her clothes as she stumbled toward the bathroom.

"Want anything to eat?" asked Shinji quietly. Misato shook her head.

"No." she said simply, dropping her panties as she entered the bathroom. Shinji sighed and exited the kitchen without having even opened a drawer. No appetite. Hardly surprising. He thought to himself. Absently, he picked up Misato's clothes, pausing to put her jacket, gun and magazines in her room before turning to find the bathroom door wide open. Frowning, he entered and saw her laying in the tub as it filled, staring at the ceiling, oblivious to his presence. Dropping her clothes into the hamper, he turned to leave. "Shin?" came her quiet voice.

"Yes, Mi-chan?" he asked her.

"Will you…stay with me?" she asked him. "I just don't want you to be out of my sight right now." She finished, hugging herself. Shinji nodded and stepped back into the bathroom, sinking to the floor next to the tub. Misato's hand landed on his shoulder and gripped him firmly. The tub finished filling. After a few minutes, Misato's hand moved to his shirt and she began to unbutton it. Shinji hesitated, then began to help her. Once he was bare-chested, he felt Misato's hand settle on his chest. "Join me." She whispered. Turning to look at the woman, he saw tears on her cheeks. Shinji understood how she felt; after all, he felt the same. Silently, he finished undressing and stepped into the tub with Misato.

-

Airi straightened and felt her back protest. Stretching, she moved toward the place where she knew Rit-chan would be. It took her about ten minutes to reach her team mate, who was sitting at Asuka's bedside. There was no change in her condition, but Rit-chan knew that one of them would be there when she woke up. Entering the room, she paused at Rit-chan's side. "Going home?" she asked the girl. Rit-chan shook her head.

"No. I'm going to check up on Hikari. Probably spend the night, if she's like I think she'll be." Muttered the teen. "You?"

"I'll sit with Asuka." Said the actress. Rit-chan rose and Airi took her place. "See you sometime tomorrow." Said the actress as her friend exited the hospital room. Rit-chan negligently waved her hand as she headed for the exit. Behind her, in the room, Airi watched the unnaturally calm form of Asuka. You're lucky, Asuka, to have friends like her. And lovers like Shinji. Airi pulled her laptop up and opened the screen, beginning a review of her data to pass time. Sooner or later, she would be relieved by one of the others.

-

Rit-chan paused to swipe her card in Rei's door reader. A moment later, the door opened and she entered the dark apartment. Silently, she confidently walked to the bedroom, seeing a huddled form on the bed. Shaking her head, she entered the room and undressed Hikari by feel. As she was tucking her under the sheets, Hikari woke. "Rei?" came the nearly desperate voice.

"Sorry. It's me." She said in reply. Hikari's voice caught as she answer.

"Oh." Rit-chan began to undress herself in preparation to stay the night. Once she was naked, she slipped into the bed next to Hikari, who immediately clung to her. "She's…Rei can't be…gone. She can't be." Managed Hikari. The elf hunter considered what she knew.

"She might not be. After all, they sent a recovery team to what was left of her unit." Said the teen. Maybe an exact duplicate of her will be enough to keep them from falling to pieces. "Maybe they found her and could save her." She offered. Hikari trembled against her side. "Try to get some sleep, Hi-chan." Said the teen, wrapping her arms around the younger girl. It was nearly an hour before the two were asleep.

-

In the Zoo, Shinji and Misato were clinging to each other in Shinji's room. They had stayed in the tub until the water cooled, then moved to the couch. After some silence, they moved to the bedrooms, but Misato hadn't wanted to leave him, and since he didn't have a room mate, the two were in his bed, holding each other. Both were thinking of Rei and Asuka. Neither would get much sleep that night. Misato felt Shinji warm in her arms and against her bare skin. It was so comforting to feel another next to her. Especially after losing pilots. I've…never been fond of being alone. Misato tightened her grip a bit, feeling Shinji's breath on her breasts. Her nipples began to stiffen. I don't want to be alone. Not now. Not ever. She thought, tilting her head to where she knew Shinji would be. And instant later, she felt his face against her lips. With her target acquired, she moved her lips to his and kissed him.

To her surprise, he kissed her back. For several moments, the two just softly kissed each other, though the heat was building in each other. Shinji felt Misato's tounge slip into his mouth, and his own was quick to caress her wet member. I don't want to loose her; especially not before I tell her how much she means to me. Thought the pilot, his arms shifting on her silky skin. Misato moved a bit so she was on her back, Shinji mostly on top of her. Misato felt her nipples harden as Shinji's hands closed over her proud breasts.

This is wrong. She tried to tell herself. You need to stop this, Misato. He's your charge, not your boyfriend! Misato found her treacherous body was completely ignoring her mind's debate, her hands having trailed down his back and sides to his hips, one snaking under to caress his aroused member. Who has taken better care of you? Your long string of so-called boyfriends or Shinji? Came the reply from her other side. Misato felt Shinji break the kiss, his lips moving down her chin to her throat, where her kissed and nibbled on her sensitive skin. A soft moan escaped her lips as she felt his member grow a bit more. Her own sex was already wet, and she wondered why she was reacting to him so strongly. Because he's more than someone to keep you from being alone, Misato. He loves you, and that makes the difference. Misato forced both her sides to shut the fuck up as Shinji's lips moved farther south, crossing her collarbone and meandering toward her peaks of pleasure.

Shinji's tongue tasted her silky skin, marveling at her taste. She tastes good. I had almost expected her to taste like beer, seeing as she drinks so much. He thought fleetingly before turning his full attention to her bountiful breasts and their stiff, puffy nipples. Carefully latching his lips to her right breast, he took her left peak in his hand and began to rub, stroke, tug, roll, caress and circle the hard tips. A long, aroused groan was his answer. Shinji gently sucked on her breast. Her nipples are larger than Rei's and Hikari's, but smaller than Maya-chan's. he noted absently. Their size was less important to him that their taste. Misato, he concluded, tasted like a gourmet meal. Shinji felt the woman tremble a bit and decided it was time to move on to the next course of his Misa-chan banquet.

Misato had a few minor orgasms from his efforts, and was wondering where he might had picked up his technique from. Not that she cared, but it was a minor question. What's he doing? She thought, feeling his wet tongue slide languidly down her breasts and onto her belly, moving back and forth across her taunt, toned abdomen. Misato was panting a bit as he passed her bellybutton, where he paused to flick his tongue into it a time or two, making her giggle at the strange sensation. None of her other lovers had shown any interest in her belly button before. Shinji glanced up at her, dimly able to make out her form in the ambient light. Seeing no sign of her objecting, he moved lower, skirting her trimmed patch and finding her lower lips soaked with her juice. The purple haired woman shifted her legs, bending her knees as she spread her legs, feeling Shinji's hands on her thighs, guiding her. Wonder if he's as good at this as he was with my tits? She thought, feeling him gently open her outer lips with his finger tips. He paused. Misato could feel his breath on her drenched sex. Guess he's not as experienced as I thought. She mused, having concluded that he wasn't sure what to do next. I'll give him some pointers later; eating a girl out is not…HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!

Shinji paused to deftly explore her sex with his fingertips, making sure that he was properly oriented before he smiled and dove into her fragrant sex. His tongue slipped out and dove into her inner most self, and he loved the subtle difference in taste from his other lovers. She's a bit richer than Hi-chan, but cooler than Asuka. She's also a bit tangier than Maya-chan, but she's also sweeter than Rei-chan. A thought occurred to him as she began to tremble at his ministrations. I could make a full meal from just their tastes alone. Shaking that thought away, he concentrated on Misato, looking for the tell-tale signs of what she liked and what she didn't. He was so focused that he almost missed her first orgasm. Her sudden increase in hot, tasty juice was what got his attention. The Third buried his face in her pussy and tried to get it all.

Misato felt a second, smaller orgasm roll though her as Shinji worked on getting all her cum from her. God damn! How long has it been since I got an orgasm that powerful? Or even since I got more than one? She thought euphorically. Shinji's tongue worked around her opening and in as far as he could get it, sending more mini-orgasms through her body. Misato was moaning and gasping all over the place. Finally, she couldn't take any more. Reaching down, she seized Shinji's head and firmly pulled him back up to her face, locking her legs around his hips as her lips sealed to his. Passionately kissing him, she tasted herself on his lips and tongue, but it didn't bother her; she had tasted herself before, and actually liked how she tasted. At her furnace-hot sex, she felt his tip brush her entrance. Right there, Shin! She exalted, tightening her legs. Shinji took the hint and pushed forward into her sex. A long sigh escaped her lips as she felt him enter her.

God, she's so slick! Was Shinji's thought as he buried himself in his guardian's hot sheath. He had had this notion that she might not be as tight as his other lovers, seeing as she was far more experienced than the other girls he had slept with. And in fact, she wasn't as tight. She was, however, tighter than he had thought she might be. She's…comfortable. He realized, beginning to get into a rhythm with her. The two were soon in synch, and each marveled at how good it was. For nearly a quarter hour, the only sounds in the Zoo was the occasional panting moan, passionate gasp and the wet sounds of their union. It seemed to be forever and at the same time an instant before Shinji felt Misato's sheath contract on his sensitive member, signaling her climax. Her long, deep groan of release triggered his own, his load spewing forth into her welcoming vessel. Panting, the two sweat-slick bodies lay motionless. Together. One.

Eventually, Shinji moved off her and cuddled into her side, Misato's arms wrapping around him as his wrapped around her. Comfortable and saited for the moment, the two drifted off to sleep. Just before the Major slipped into dreams, she had one final thought: We'll talk about this tomorrow. With a final kiss for her Shinji, she joined in him sleep.

-

Hikari opened her eyes to a strong sense of deja vu, as she found her face buried in Rit-chan's rack. Again. She thought, remembering the Okinawan trip. Still, the teen couldn't seem to be upset about it. She was still too drained from the day before. God, Rei-chan! She's…gone. Thought the Sixth, feeling a lump in her throat. I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry. She chanted to herself. She had cried herself to sleep the night before, and she just knew that if Rei had been in her place, she wouldn't have cried. Taking in a deep breath, she tried to steady her nerves for the day ahead.

"Morning." Came the soft voice of Rit-chan. With a start, Hikari lifted her head to eye to Rit-chan's face. The teen's gray-green eyes looked back. "How are you holding up?" she asked the Sixth.

"I'm…ok." She managed with only a small tremor in her voice. "And you?" Rit-chan was silent for a bit.

"I'll let you know." She said. Neither girl moved. Hikari finally couldn't take the silence any more.

"Are you going to see Asuka?" she asked. Rit-chan nodded.

"Of course. She's my friend. And I have to relieve Airi, anyway." She said. "What time it is?" she asked, turning her head to look at the clock. "Might as well get going; I don't think I'll be sleeping any more today." She muttered, beginning to untangle herself from the other girl. Hikari resolutely tightened her jaw and did likewise. Silently, the two headed to the bathroom. Glancing at each other, they traded small, weak smiles as they started the shower. As they readied themselves for another day, each was caught up in their own thoughts. Finished with the morning shower, Hikari and Rit-chan grabbed towels and exited the bathroom.

"What do you want for breakfast, Rit-chan?" asked Hikari, entering the kitchen, her towel over her shoulders and as naked as Rei. Likewise attired, Rit-chan studied the rising sun from the apartment's sliding glass door to the patio.

"Whatever you make is fine." She said softly. Hikari nodded to herself and began preparations for a basic breakfast. Not like either of us have much of an appetite this morning. She thought wryly.

"Hey, Rit-chan?" she said as she lit the stove in preparation to scramble some eggs. "Do you think Shinji's up yet?"

-

In the Zoo, Misato was asleep in Shinji's bed, but was waking as the smell of coffee permeated the apartment. As her eyes opened, she realized that Shinji wasn't in her arms any more. Instead of her new lover, she held his pillow to her chest. Sitting up, she rubbed her eyes. Yawning, she managed to stand and headed for the door, ignoring her nakedness. Feeling their mixed cum beginning to run down her leg, she smirked to herself. He's more than I thought he'd be. She thought, changing destinations. Stepping into the bathroom, she swiftly relieved her bladder and took care of the seepage from her content pussy.

With that taken care of, she went in search of her Shinji. Exiting the bathroom and turning toward the kitchen, she came face to face with him. In his hands was a tray with a simple but tasty breakfast on it. Shinji was naked as well. "Good morning, Misa-chan." He said, smiling a little. "I was planning to give you this in bed." He explained. Misato felt her breath catch. No one - not even Kaji - has ever done that for me! Misato tossed her head, settling her hair behind her back. Smiling at her Shinji, she inclined her head toward his bedroom.

"Want to complete that plan?" she asked him. Shinji nodded. Entering his room, she slipped back into bed, propping some of his pillows behind her back. Shinji carefully set the tray on her lap before easing himself down next to her. Misato dug into the breakfast with Shinji. Silence ruled for about a half hour. Finally, Misato set the empty tray aside and turned to watch Shinji watch her. "Shinji," she began, "about last night…"

"Mi-chan." Said the young man, touching her lips with his fingertip. "Let me say something first, ok?" Misato nodded. "You mean a lot to me, Misato. You're the first person since mom to show any interest in my well-being, and you've always looked out for me in your own unique way. I…I love you Misato." He paused, studying her face intently. "And I'm not talking about the sex. I mean, not just the sex. You're one of the ones that's given me the strength to keep going, and I love you for that, Mi-chan." Misato blinked at him.

"Shin, last night…we were both grieving for Rei, and we did something that…" she tried again.

"That we probably should have done long ago." He said, pre-empting her. "You don't…regret it, do you?" he asked, his tone a bit worried. Misato shook her head.

"No. Not at all." She said immediately. "But, I'm your commanding officer and guardian, not to mention twice your age. We can't let this happen again, Shinji, or people…"

"I don't care." Said Shinji simply. "I won't hide my feelings for you, Misato." This brought a giggle from her lips. Shinji frowned. "What's so funny, Mi-chan?" he asked her.

"You. You never hid anything, Shin." She laughed. Still, I didn't know he loved me this much! "I…just don't want to let this become an issue at NERV." She said, skirting the real reason she didn't want anyone to know that she and Shinji were sleeping together. That bastard would just use this for leverage!

"It won't be an issue, Mi-chan." Assured Shinji. "This isn't for them; it's just for us." He added, touching her hand. Misato squeezed his hand in reply. "Can we…I mean, do you want to continue this relationship?" he asked, a touch hesitantly. She might not want to be my lover, after all. I can't be as good as some of the guys she's been with.

"More than anything, Shin." Assured Misato. "We just have to be careful, that's all." She leaned over and kissed him. Shinji returned her kiss. Misato eased back, pulling Shinji's head to her chest. "So, when did you start dreaming of sleeping with me?" she teased him gently. Shinji's face got a bit warmer against her supple breasts.

"About a week before Rit-chan arrived." He said. Misato giggled again.

"That long? I was getting worried that I was the only one dreaming of us having sex!" she confessed. Shinji looked up at her.

"You…dreamed of having sex with me?" he asked, stunned. Misato nodded. "Whe…when?" he wondered. Misato lay back, pulling Shinji with her.

"About a month after you moved in." she replied truthfully. God, I sound like a slut! "But I first considered it after seeing you that first night." She added.

"Huh?" wondered Shinji. Misato clarified.

"When you came running out of the bathroom naked because Pen Pen surprised you." She chuckled. Shinji wasn't sure that that was a compliment. Still, even if it wasn't, he could live with it. "I'm…surprised that you chose me, Shinji." Said Misato a few moments later. "I had thought that you'd want to be with Rei, or even Asuka." Shinji paused.

"Mi-chan," he began, "I should tell you something." He said softly.

-

Akagi crushed her empty pack of smokes and leaned back, rubbing her eyes. Five tries this time. It's getting harder and harder to do this. She thought. On the bed in front of her, Rei Ayanami was sleeping. Akagi had been in the inner sanctum since the recovery crew had found what was left of Rei's plug in the hills outside Tokyo 3. The thing inside the plug was a horrific sight, having been bio-fused, burned and detonated. She had ordered the crews to atomize the remains and headed straight for the secret lab, knowing that Gendo would be expecting her report as soon as Rei was replaced. Well, let's tell the bastard. She thought to herself, rising from the chair.

"Rei." She said to the girl. The red eyes opened and turned to her. "Report to the hospital." She said, knowing that Rei would know which room. Silently, the naked girl rose and moved for the door. "Wear this." Said the doctor, handing Rei her lab coat. Damn toys would wander around naked if not for me. Slipping the coat on, she exited the lab without a word. Akagi closed off the hidden MAGI routine and headed for the office of her lover.

"Report." Came the voice of Gendo before the door had even closed all the way. Ritsuko Akagi gritted her teeth. Not even a `hi' or a `strip and get on your knees'?

"Rei has been successfully replaced. She is currently in the hospital room, being bandaged." Reported Akagi.

"And the upload?" asked Gendo. Ritsu suppressed a groan.

"As requested, we used the oldest one." She said. Though they all seemed to be the same size and matrix configuration…hmm, better have Maya do a system integrity check on the…shit, she doesn't know that that routine exists. Well, I didn't want to sleep this week anyway!

"She is as she should be?" he asked her. Akagi nodded. "Good." Said Gendo. Rising, he stepped around his desk, approaching her. Akagi felt herself being to hope. Maybe he's going to… Gendo took her head in his hand and pushed her to her knees. Hope crushed, she reached out for his zipper.

-

Misato had just finished a shower and was drying her hair when her cell phone rang. For a moment, she was tempted to ignore it, but ultimately decided to answer it. Rooting around, she found it and connected the call. She had to have the message repeated back to her twice before she could believe it. "Shinji!" she screamed.

Shinji was in his room, having just finished putting on his pants when he heard Misato's scream. Adrenalin in his veins, he had snatched his USP from his desk and bolted for Misato's room. At her door, he was tackled by an ecstatic, naked Misato. "She's alive, Shin!" laughed Misato as they fell to the floor. Shinji managed to cradle her so she wouldn't crack her head on the wood floor. "She's alive!" repeated Misato, feeling tears in her eyes.

"Who's alive, Misato?!" demanded Shinji. Asuka wasn't dead, so could it be…?

"Rei's alive, Shin! She survived the explosion!" breathed Misato. The two froze as they heard the front door cycle. Desperately turning to get his USP on target, Shinji saw a flash of red as Rit-chan, USP in a two-fisted grip and moving in a combat crouch, cut the pie around the corner, gun ready. Behind her he caught a glimpse of brown as Hikari backed her up.

"Misato! What was that shouting about?" demanded the elf hunter tensely. Her shirt was unbuttoned, and her feet were bare, but her magazine carrier was on her belt, and her USP was at full stand, ready to rock. Hikari had on her skirt, but nothing else.

"She's alive, guys!" rejoiced Misato, untangling her naked body and diving back into her room. "Rei's alive!"

-

Rei considered the choice she had made, and not for the first time, wondered if it was the right one. Still, it was too late to turn back now. Beside her, Shinji held her hand as if he would never let go. The two were in a hidden elevator dropping into NERV's bowels. The day before, she had been reunited with her lover, and last night she had been one with him for the first time since her replacement. And perhaps for the last time. She thought, feeling a tightness in her chest. But I can not lie to him and still call him my lover. So, she was going to reveal to him what she truly was. The prospect terrified her.

For his part, Shinji wondered what she wanted to show him so badly. Her very survival was a mystery to him, but he was willing to take `yes' for an answer when it came to his loved ones surviving by any means necessary. So, he had simply nodded when she told him that she had to show him something that night at NERV. The fact that she had led him through no less than six hidden passages told him that this was not a casual stroll though NERV. Now, they were deep below the main portions of the complex, and Shinji thought that they were also far below the end of Dogma. Just then, the car stopped. "Come." Said Rei softly, her hand gripping his a bit tighter. Shinji followed her without hesitation.

The two walked down a long, stark corridor, finally reaching a massive door. Rei slipped her card through it and punched in a number, moving through the door as it opened. Shinji's eyes went wide at what he saw, but Rei kept moving and he forced himself to follow her. Passing through a smaller door, she opened another door, leading him through the room without bothering with lights, exiting another door and turning to another door. "We are here." She said simply, unlocking this door with her card. Now is the time. She thought, feeling herself tremble. Shinji felt her tremble, too.

"Rei-chan, what's wrong? Why are you trembling?" he asked her, concerned for her.

"I am…scared." She whispered to him.

"Scared? Of what?" he asked her.

"Of what you will think when you see the truth." She said, touching a panel and turning on the lights. Shinji gasped as he saw a room awash in amber light. It wasn't the light so much as the fact that dozens of naked Reis were floating in LCL in a semi-circular…Reiquarium, for lack of a better term. Shinji's mouth hung open.

"What are…who…how…?" he couldn't seem to make his thoughts work together. Rei took a breath and risked it all.

"These are my spares." She said softly, trying not to let her voice quiver. "When I am killed, I am replaced with one of these." She said. Seeing his question in his eyes, she elaborated. "I am the third, Shinji." She said quietly. "The Rei I was before was killed by the sixteenth angel. I am Rei, but I am many, even as these are Reis, but not me."

"I…don't get it." He managed.

"I am not a human like you and Asuka." She said, feeling her body begin to tremble. Here is where I will be rejected. "I was made from both Angel and human DNA. My purpose was to be the key to Instrumentality for Commander Ikari." Shinji's eyes narrowed at that. "These spares are also the source of the Dummy Plug systems."

"They…you're…the Dummy Plug?" he wondered. Rei forced herself to talk.

"Yes and no. These are soulless bodies, Shinji. I am the only one with a soul. However, these are clones of my body, so they can synch with an Eva series, though they lack anything more than basic emotion. These, along with MAGI-created emotional responses are what drove Unit 1 berserk against the thirteenth."

"Touji." Whispered Shinji, reliving the experience. Rei felt his pain, and it hurt her like no injury could.

"I…I am sorry, Shinji." She said, her voice failing her. Turning, she planned to run away to prevent herself from further injuring him. His hand held fast to her hand. Shinji took a deep breath and turned to face her squarely.

"It doesn't matter, Rei." He said simply. Now I get what Mom was talking about when we were joined after the fourteenth. She's right, too: whatever Rei is, is immaterial to what she means to me. "You're my Rei-chan, and nothing will change that." He said, pulling her close and hugging her. Rei felt tears slide down her cheeks.

"Shinji." She cried softly. He did not reject me. She marveled. For almost an hour, the two held each other tight in the heart of the darkness of Gendo Ikari.