I know that this isn't how Anno-san ended the series, which was after all set in a world with absolutely no hope, and that my version is sort of "Joseph Campbell meets shoujo manga". But I have been very moved by some of the artwork I've seen showing Rei in ordinary pre-Second Impact settings (especially amid cherry blossoms and wearing kimono for what looks like an obon festival) that could not possibly happen in NGE. When she blushes in episode 17 just because Shinji cleaned up her room, I was as moved by that as by anything in the series. Her tears in episode 23: the same. (BTW, that has its precedent. Back in the 70s Shinji Wada, who some of you may know from "Sukeban Deka", created an interesting manga called "My Friend Frankenstein", during which Baron Frankenstein's second creation, a woman named Yvonne (as in Eve?), shows her humanity through her tears.) Plus, I didn't like the idea that NERV and SEELE could commit global genocide and get away with it.
So: these stories take the place of the four final episodes of NGE. The attack of the 16th Angel remains the same, but almost everything beyond that point has changed, notably Asuka, who does not sink into depression. Episode 24 does not introduce Kaoru, the Fifth Child, although he puts in an appearance later.
Finally: although this episode contains explicit sexual descriptions, this fanfic should not (for reasons which will become clear) be considered hentai, lemon or any similar category. If it must be rated, call it a strong R.
So, for those of us who believe that love and clones never die--
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION--ENDING, BEGINNING
23.a--The Door That Wasn't Supposed To Be
Shinji Ikari sat bolt upright. The same bed. The same hospital room. The same diffused blue light. He felt he knew it better than he knew the ceiling of his room.
No; not his room. The room he had been given. The room Misato had prepared for him, so that he wouldn't feel so alienated. The room was cramped; it was full of boxes not yet unpacked, full of the trash of Shinji's childhood. The room smelled of the entire apartment; of PenPen's fish, of Misato's beer, of cosmetics and burnt dinners. <Only Misato can find a way to burn a cup of ramen!> Shinji marvelled. There was a heart-shaped sign on the door declaring it "Shin-chan's Room", like he was some little girl. It was demeaning; it was unpleasant.
It was home. It was the only home he had known for years.
This hospital room, somewhere he never could find, was no home; it was a stopover. He would be brought here after battling some Angel or other. He would be moved to a different room, in his sleep, just before being released. As if its location was a secret, something that somebody wanted to hide.
For a minute he had forgotten what he had cried out and why; he had forgotten why he was back in hospital. He looked down at his arm, where blood was starting to seep through the bandages that wrapped a cut in his arm.
Rei. The Sixteenth Angel had appeared over Oowakudani Valley as a circlet whose ends did not quite touch, seemingly built as a colossal double helix. Asuka had gone to pieces in the 02--simply collapsed--so Shinji had to take 01 to try to save Rei, whose 00 was being taken over by the Angel. The Angel's assault then shifted to Shinji's Eva. Rei saved him, detonating the engine core within her AT field--destroying the Angel, her Eva and herself in the process.
It wasn't part of the mission, part of the plan. Why did she rush to certain death? Because it was what they were there for? Because they were Eva pilots, and could be killed in any mission?
There was another clue: her last statement before the explosion. To nobody--nobody that could be seen, anyway--she simply said, "This is my mind, which wishes to become one with Ikari-kun." Shinji heard it, Misato heard it, everyone watching the battle in Central Dogma must have heard it. But what did it mean? Could it mean what he hardly dared to hope it meant?
No, that's stupid. Why would she say she loved me and then destroy herself? Unless she did it to keep him from being attacked by the Angel...
Mama. Once again Shinji's mind reached back to his mother Yui, one of the original developers of the Eva project, killed in an explosion when he was a toddler. His father Gendou carried on as if nothing had happened. Didn't it bother him? How would Shinji know? He was almost immediately packed off to other relatives in far-flung corners of what was left of Japan. This was the first he had seen of his father in years; hardly the behavior of a man who loves his son.
Shinji let his body fall back on the bed. On the verge of tears but feeling everything to be hopeless, and therefore unable to cry, he covered his face with the pillow. "Why did you do it, Ayanami?" he muttered into the pillow.
"Ai shita kara, Shinji."
Again he sat up quickly, as if shocked by electricity. Again he looked around the empty room. Was it his imagination? Was he going as crazy as everyone at NERV seemed to be? Who had used Rei's voice--it was unmistakable--to answer his question? And such an answer: "Because I loved you, Shinji."
"Masaka," Shinji muttered to himself. He was alone, as he had been most of his life, but still he had heard, he could feel-- "Who's there?"
"It's me, Shinji."
"Ayanami-san! Where are you? How did you survive the Angel?"
"I will come to you, Shinji, as soon as I can. Please wait for me."
"I don't understand! Where are you? Ayanami!"
Shinji knew he was being monitored; video cameras, microphones, sensors all over the room. He knew he wasn't dreaming; he hoped he wasn't crazy.
He lay back down to wait for her.
Several hours later, in Artificial Evolution Lab #3, Gendou Ikari disconnected the latest Rei from the equipment. He had produced the clones often enough so that it was becoming automatic. He let his mind be distracted by his looking ahead. All his plans for the Human Enhancement Project would soon come to fruition. Changes had to be made along the way, including the loss of the Spear of Longinus, but the main points of the plan would soon be in effect. "I couldn't have done it without you," he muttered to the clone.
Rei knew better than to respond to him. Especially knowing all that had happened.
In the hospital room Shinji lost all track of time. Only his growling stomach gave him a hint as to what time it might be out in the world.
He had just finished swallowing some pain pills when he heard the door click shut. He turned his head--and there she was, as he had seen her so many times before, in the school uniform, a simple sundress of blue over a white blouse, a small red bow at the throat.
Maybe it was the medication; there seemed to be something different about her. "You saved my life, Ayanami-san. Thank you for not abandoning me."
She stood by his bedside a moment, then bent down, taking Shinji's face in her two hands, so pale that they almost glowed. She smiled the ghost of a smile--an expression she had seldom worn in all the time Shinji had known her--whispered "I told you that I loved you" and kissed him.
It started gentle as falling cherry blossoms, a light touch, chaste mouth to chaste mouth. A few seconds later, as if to a mutual signal, their lips parted, their tongues reaching, exploring. The pressure rose. Shinji almost passed out. Their mouths locked, their tongues danced, for over a minute, before they broke for air.
Shinji gasped like a swimmer at his last second of breath. Rei took a couple of steps backward, one hand rubbing the back of her head, seeming afraid she had gone too far, unsure of what to do next.
There was one other reaction: Shinji's erection, visibly stretching out his pyjama pants. At the moment, though, he didn't stop to think about it, didn't care what Rei might think. When she backed away from the bed Shinji reached out, beckoning her back.
Rei smiled; not the ghost of a smile this time, but a real smile, of real happiness. She slipped the straps of the sundress from her shoulders and let the dress fall to the floor. She unbuttoned the blouse and let that fall to the floor. She wore nothing else. She pulled the covers off of the bed and got in beside Shinji.
Like any virgin adolescent, Shinji thought until now that sex was located in his penis. He was amazed at the sensations in the dozen places where Rei's body touched his own--shoulders and hips, stomachs and thighs, hands on each other's backs--as they clung together in a kiss deeper than an ocean. Time lost all meaning; it may have been a minute later, or an hour later, that Shinji felt himself being pushed onto his back. He allowed himself to be pushed, not wanting to break contact, not moving even as Rei slid a hand between them, to push Shinji's erection up and into herself.
There was almost too much sensation for Shinji to take in: the sight of Rei's still-forming breasts swaying as she moved herself along Shinji's shaft; the confusing array of sounds she made--mews and grunts and whimpers; the warmth and pressure of her body as it straddled his. At one point she impaled herself on Shinji with a sharp intake of breath; this set off Shinji's orgasm, which led to another sharp breath as Rei climaxed and collapsed on top of him, panting like a runner. Shinji almost panicked; schoolyard rumors about sex had never mentioned this.
He didn't know what to do, except to brush the hair from Rei's sweat-moistened forehead, the gentlest touch he could think of at the moment. Rei looked up, smiled again, kissed him again; and again Shinji was lost in the kiss. This time they rolled until he was on top. Rei didn't tell him what to do in words; words weren't necessary. Shinji wasn't sure how long he could, or should, continue; but the more he pumped into Rei, the more sensitive the head of his penis grew, and the more its sensations intoxicated him. He ended up coming in Rei twice more, with no warning beforehand either time, but with a rush of energy throughout his body that he felt would push him off the bed itself.
Finally, he had to surrender to exhaustion, and simply slumped down on top of Rei. He moved to withdraw. "No no," Rei murmured, sounding half asleep herself, "no no no." So, after their lovemaking, Shinji just lay still, his softening member still inside Rei, the slightest movement of either of them sending a jolt through his body. He decided that the schoolyard rumors hadn't even begun to describe the reality. Shinji wanted to wait five minutes before changing position, but within two minutes, he fell into a sleep deeper than any since he came to Tokyo-3.
Shinji awoke groggily, with a pain in his stomach. Not indigestion; it was his diaphragm muscles, as if they'd been given a workout like nothing--
His head was turned toward the floor. The pile of clothes was still there. But she wasn't in the bed. What happened?
Just then he heard running water coming from the toilet. The door opened, and Rei walked out, still naked, smiling, holding a wet washcloth. He thought she could never look more beautiful. He felt something in his chest, like something warm was inflating, and knew it was his heart. "I-"
Before he could say another word, Rei put one of her fingers to his lips. She pulled back the covers. Only now did he look at his body. He was a mess; his groin was covered with a mix of his semen, Rei's secretions and--blood! How did that--? Then he remembered his lessons in reproductive anatomy. He watched silently as Rei, also silently, wiped the various juices from his penis and crotch. She was thorough yet gentle, like a mother washing an infant, and Shinji's memory called up a gesture which Rei had used one time, wringing out a rag when cleaning their classroom. He'd told her it was a mother's gesture; perhaps it was something he remembered his own mother doing. But this was no time for memories; Shinji just lay back and let Rei finish her ministrations. She wadded up the washcloth, put it in a drawer of the nightstand, and got back into bed beside Shinji.
"Shinji, what are you thinking?"
He answered with the first thing that came to his mind, even though he thought it was stupid: "That you're here-" which he followed with the only thing that was simpler and just as stupid: "and I love you."
It was the first time in his life he had ever said those words, and he meant them.
Rei laid her head on his chest. "I'm so happy."
It was the first time in any of her lives she had ever said those words, and she meant them.
After a few minutes of them simply holding each other, Shinji spoke, with nervousness in his voice. "Do you remember what happened after your Eva blew up? Because I don't."
Rei lay still for another minute before turning her red eyes to Shinji's. "I remember. But what I have to tell you is very strange. You must promise to trust me, to believe me no matter what I say."
Shinji almost chuckled; he couldn't imagine anything that she could say that would turn him from her now. "Of course I trust you."
"And if I admit that I've done some very bad things--"
"Rei, I love you. That's all that matters."
She kissed him lightly on the mouth. "Anata," she whispered; "darling." Again she rested her head on Shinji's chest, listening to his heartbeat, preparing herself for the story she knew she must tell.
"How is Shinji?"
"According to this printout, exhausted. He seems to need a lot of rest."
"You sound as if you don't trust the Magi, Ritsuko-san."
"Yes. Well, maybe I'm just in a skeptical mood today. The longer I work with NERV, the more I'm convinced that our main job is to lie to one another."
"Of course; that's politics. But computers?"
"Misato-san, if I told you what I really think, could you promise me that it would stay in this room?"
"So you DO think the Magi is an AI?!"
"God forbid! I know what my mother was doing every step of the way with the Magi. She never intended to create a sentient intelligence. It's big, it's complicated, but the Magi is just another computer."
"Computers can be tampered with. How do you know that the sensors in Shinji's room haven't been tampered with?"
Ritsuko rolled her eyes in exasperation. "To make you happy, I'll run a diagnostic."
"Shinji, do you remember anything about the synchronization?"
"Only that it was horrible. I can't remember why, but I was so afraid--"
"What you saw was me; my life. But it was shown to you in a way your conscious mind could not understand. I'll tell you the simple truth now. To do so, I'll also have to tell you about other people here at NERV.
"You asked about the explosion. Rei Ayanami died when her Eva exploded. She did it because she loved you, Shinji, and that was supposed to be impossible."
"I don't understand."
"I--I have no mother or father the way you do, Shinji. The truth is, Rei Ayanami is a clone."
Until now Shinji was confused; with this news, he might once have gone into panic. Out of reflex, he started chanting his interior mantra: I mustn't run away I mustn't run away I mustn't run away-- Until he realized that he didn't want to run away. He didn't want to be anywhere else except in that time and place, with Rei in his arms, trying to make things right between them.
"My genetic material is from different beings," Rei went on, "so I'm not a clone of anyone that came before. I was supposed to begin a new race. A race engineered--by your father."
That word was a stab at Shinji's heart. The first time he saw Rei smile, it was while she spoke to his father. "How do you feel about him? You once seemed happy to be with him."
"No more," Rei said in a small voice. "I know too much about him now."
"Tell me everything."
"Some of me came from him; some came from your mother. In a way, we're almost brother and sister. But there are other people in me as well, and--and Adam."
"Who is Adam?"
"The First Angel; the cause of the Second Impact. Part of Adam survived, and your father keeps it alive at NERV. It's regenerating. I'm afraid that I have Adam's eyes."
Shinji had thought his father capable of despicable things, but this! "How could he keep an Angel alive?"
"Because he built the Angels. Shinji, NERV has lied to the whole world. There are no Angels from outer space. NERV built them; all of them. NERV sent them to Tokyo-3 as an excuse, a way to get money to build the Evas."
"But I've heard talk about the Dead Sea Scrolls--"
"SEELE was formed after the Second Impact. To explain it away, your father forged a document, supposedly from the Dead Sea Scrolls, that foretold the coming of the Angels. SEELE accepted the forgery, and it became their reason to build Evas, although the real reason was so that the men in SEELE could someday be bonded with Evas. They would become a new life-form, one that they hoped would never die. The whole thing is built on their fear and your father's lies."
"How--how do you know all this?"
"Your father stored my memories within the Magi, and if something happened to me and I had to be cloned again, those memories could go into the next Rei. The last time, though, I knew I was going to die before it happened. Things had changed; I had started to fall in love with you. So I knew I had to change everything else."
"Why did you?"
"You said you knew you were falling in love."
Rei smiled. "It was when you and Suzuhara-san came to my room, and you'd picked up the trash."
"I don't understand."
"That little gesture--something I wouldn't have bothered to do for myself--you did only so that I would feel better. I was grateful. I'd never been grateful before. You've saved my life in battle, but that was expected of you. And I did the same for you and it meant nothing. But you surprised me. You opened the door that wasn't supposed to be there--the door to all the human emotions. From that moment on, I could feel gratitude; I could feel surprise; I could feel love."
"I--I didn't think you would feel so strongly about some paper on the floor."
"Of course you didn't," Rei smiled, "and that's why I couldn't help myself."
"So you remember all your past lives? How?"
"Shinji, you've been in sync with Eva 01 since the day you met it. It amazed everyone, since it wasn't supposed to happen. But before my last regeneration, I tried something different, because I thought it might come to this, and this seemed more practical. I gave up trying to sync with 00, in order to sync with the Magi."
"Well, the diagnostics are 100%. There's nothing wrong here."
"But what if the diagnostics testing is wrong?"
"Misato-san, you're paranoid."
"Wait a minute. How do you know that nothing's been tampered with? Would the diagnostic program tell you if IT had been tampered with?"
Ritsuko paused. "Actually, I never asked it that question. I just assumed. Look, could you go to my office please? I'll need my student laptop, my toolkit and that little red box of diskettes. It may be the only way I'll know for sure."
"But how do you sync with the Magi?"
"I learned to do it from within the Magi, when my memories were stored there waiting for the next regeneration. It's part of my brain now, just as you no longer have to be in the entry plug to control Eva 01."
"How long have you been in the Magi?"
"Your father first stored my memory there shortly after your mother was killed. Commander Ikari was part of the project when the Magi was first built. He learned about it from Professor Akagi's mother. Shortly after I arrived at NERV--they called it Gehirn at that time--your father gave me an assignment. It was about Professor Akagi, and-" Rei had to stop. Shinji felt her shuddering, felt the tears on his chest. "Please forgive me, Shinji."
"Your father. After your mother was killed he was involved in a love affair with the first Professor Akagi; Ritsuko-san's mother Naoko. He used his intimacy with her to find out about how the Magi were set up. Then--then he sent me to her. You must believe me, I said what he told me to say. I didn't understand what I was saying; I didn't know what she would do. I told her things; cruel hateful things. I said that Commander Ikari called her an old hag, and that he'd used her up.
"She was very insecure about herself as a woman, and the things I said made her crazy. She grabbed me by the neck and choked me. That was the first time I remember dying. Then she got a gun from somewhere-"
"Wait a minute." Shinji sat upright. "I can't even imagine Ritsuko-san with a gun. Why would her mother have one?"
"I never knew, and the Magi don't say."
"What else do you know about it?"
"Only that she crawled into one of the access tunnels to the Magi, left a final message, crawled out again and shot herself."
"Why crawl out? Why not shoot herself next to the message? Maybe it wasn't suicide. What did the message say?"
There was a catch in Rei's voice as she said, "Ikari no baka."
"Damn you, Ikari," Shinji repeated. "She named her murderer, and nobody did anything about it."
"Shinji, I'm so sorry now for what I did to her."
"It's alright, Rei. I think you already paid the price. Rei, I know what I have to do. But it scares me to death, and I need your help to do it."
"What is it?"
"We have to stop my father, and NERV must be destroyed."
Ritsuko fed the floppy into the laptop's drive, tapped a few keys, and almost immediately pounded the desk. "Got it! Misato-san, I owe you big-time."
"What? What did you find?"
"Everything in Shinji-kun's room--heart monitors, motion detectors, microphones, everything--has been routed to this stasis loop in an entirely different sector of the Magi. For however long it's been like this, the sensors have been tricked into thinking nothing has changed."
"How long has that been?"
"Hard to say." Ritsuko typed in several commands, then several more. "Whoever did this was brilliant; they left no tracks at all. It's as if the Magi made the decision for itself."
"Is that possible?"
"I'll tell you later. Now we have to check on Shinji." Ritsuko picked up a phone and dialed the nurses' station. A few seconds later she slammed the phone down onto its cradle.
"No signal at all. The line's dead. Damn, they're thorough."
"How long will it take us to get there?"
"Are you sure?"
"I have to go, Shinji. I'll be back as soon as I can."
"But what if they try to do something to me?"
"I'll know, anata, and help you if I can. Be brave until I see you again." They kissed one more time; then Rei grabbed her clothes off of the floor and slipped out into the hallway.
Clothes! Shinji scrambled under the covers looking for the hospital pyjamas. He'd gotten the shirt on and was pulling up the pants when the doorknob rattled.
He quickly turned his back to the door, finished pulling up his pants and decided to try to brazen it out, whatever happened. The door opened.
"What's going on in here, Shinji-kun?"
It was Misato-san. "Nothing." He tried to sound sleepy.
"Misato-san!" Professor Akagi's voice from the hallway. "Someone just cut the stasis connection, and the sensors are going crazy! Shinji must have had some kind of party in there."
"Can you tell who cut it?"
"No, it still seems as if the Magi is doing everything."
"We'll talk about that later. Now you, Ikari-kun, get up out of that bed."
"I don't feel well."
"That's what we're trying to find out. Get up!"
Shinji slowly got out of bed. Misato looked at him, and it was all she could do to keep herself from laughing. His pyjama pants were inside-out and backwards. She tried to compose herself by looking at the few pieces of furniture in the room. She opened the drawer of the nightstand before Shinji could say anything, and there was the washcloth.
"I can explain that, Misato-san," Shinji started babbling. "The wound on my arm-"
"Knock it off," she said, as she raised the washcloth to her nose. Her eyes went wide as she smelled the unmistakeable aroma of sex. Shinji knew that she knew and went red from head to toe.
"Just get back in bed," Misato said quietly. "The last few days have been pretty lousy for me, and I'm not going to make an issue of this."
"Er, thank you." Shinji scrambled back into bed.
Misato stopped at the door. "By the way, who's the lucky girl?"
Shinji kept his back to Misato. "Do I have to tell you?"
"No, I guess that's not an order." As soon as Misato was in the
hallway she summoned a nurse. "Take this to the lab. I want
to know whose blood this is, now!"
To be continued...