part three
      Asuka smiled as she sat and enjoyed lunch with her friends, their conversations wandered between all manner of topics. One moment they gossiped about goings on in school, and the next they spoke about boys that they liked.
      As she continued to enjoy herself, thoughts crossed her mind about the past several months.
      Three months ago, she woke up in her bedroom without any idea who she was. Fortunately, she pieced enough together from things in her room, and a detailed diary she seemed to have kept. After the first month rolled by, she began to get used to being who she was.
      Then they came.
      A small frown emerged on her face as she inclined her head to where Rei and Shinji usually ate lunch. He was there as usual, however, it seemed that his partner in crime was somewhere else, no doubt annoying some poor idiot.
      She contemplated the boy as he quietly ate his lunch. He and his prankster of a sister came to live with her family two weeks ago. Needless to say she was not thrilled they were here. She was still in the process of getting used to her parents and did not need to deal with "childhood friends" that had the potential to expose her lack of memories. Thankfully, they have yet to find out about her amnesia, although they were a constant source of aggravation for her.
      Tomoe brought Asuka out of her thoughts.
      "You zoned out there for a second, Asuka-chan. Are you ok?"
      Asuka nodded, "I'm fine, Tomoe-chan."
      Tomoe smiled as she stood up with the other girls surrounding Asuka.
      "I'll see you later, Asuka. Try not to think so much, or lunch will be over in no time! Bye!"
      With that, Tomoe left Asuka behind.
      Asuka looked down at her bento, and realized that she had not eaten much. She grabbed her chopsticks, and began eating again. In no time, she devoured the remainder of her lunch. Satisfied that every last morsel of rice had been hunted down, she placed her bento back into her bag, and leaned against the wall.
      The view of Shinji reading a textbook welcomed her.
      Thoughts that had swarmed within her mind a short while ago returned as she covertly watched him. Unfortunately for Shinji, the first thought that popped into her mind was the incident that occurred several days ago.
      Asuka's eyes involuntarily narrowed as she continued to gaze at Shinji.
      That pervert... He did that on purpose. More than likely the sight of her nude made his day. Could not figure out the lock... HA! What a flimsy excuse!
      She felt her anger slowly burn like a lit match.
      And to top it off, he groped her! Twice!
      Asuka stood up abruptly, her bag in hand, and strode over toward Shinji to give him the pummeling that he deserved.
      As she closed the gap, another thought entered her mind. Like the voice of reason, the thought seemed to have a calming effect.
      Maybe it was a misunderstanding... After all, it was his first night at the house.
      She remembered how difficult things were for the first days after she lost her memory. She did not know how to use anything.
      Especially that stupid lock.
      Asuka realized she now stood in front of Shinji, the fire of anger not longer compelling her. In fact she felt rather calm as she plopped down beside him.
      "What do you want?"
      She observed that his face sported a weary look.
      "You looked bored sitting by yourself, so I thought that I'd join you."
      "So, making fun of me the other 23 hours of the day weren't enough then?"
      Asuka shot him a dark glance that made him flinch.
      "Baka! I was trying to be nice, but if you don't want my company, I'll just go."
      Upset, she stood to leave, when she felt a hand clasp her forearm.
      "I'm sorry, Asuka. I didn't mean it that way, please stay."
      She looked down and behind at him, and saw the sincerity upon his face. Something in his expression beckoned her to sit back down. She did not know why, but she liked it when he was nice to her.
      Of course, she was not about to let him know that.
      She turned around, crossed her arms, and hmphed, her nose lifted snobbishly in the air, "Why should I? You think that all I'm going to do is make fun of you."
      Shinji tried to recover from his previous statement, "I uh. No, I don't believe you will. Please sit down, Asuka."
      She was going to make him work for this.
      "You really want me to believe that you didn't mean what said?"
      "No, I mean, Yes, I didn't mean what I said before."
      Asuka made her face look as if she were not convinced, "I think you're just saying that so I'll let down my guard, and then you'll let me have it."
      "No! I promise I won't!"
      Shinji looked desperate. Mentally smirking, she decided he had sweat long enough.
      Asuka smiled slightly as she sat back down beside him, "Ok, Shinji I'll stay."
      He visibly relaxed and smiled back at her, "Thanks, Asuka."
      A strange feeling went through her body at his smile and words.
      Maybe it was indigestion?
      She was going to have to talk to her mother about not using so much wasabi in her lunch. At least she would not feel this strange.
      Or would she?


      To say Rei was nervous would have been the understatement of the century.
      She was downright frightened.
      At some point in her life, she was sure she had a boyfriend, or at least had gone out on a date. However, those memories were now absent from her mind. She might as well be starting over again. Unbeknownst to him, he was the first boy that she approached with the desire of getting to know better.
      Hopefully instinct would help where experience lacked.
      Ahead of her was the tree that he sat under every lunch. Eventually, she found herself in front of him, her shadow blocking what little light reached him.
      His head tilted upward, and she found herself looking into his emerald eyes.
      Whatever statement Rei had carefully composed in her mind disappeared as she fell into the abyss of his eyes. Suddenly stripped of any mental faculties, she lost herself in his inquisitive gaze.
      "Are you alright?"
      Knocked out of her impromptu daydream, Rei blinked her eyes and blushed when she noticed he started back at her quizzically.
      "I... I'm fine."
      She mentally scolded herself. What an idiot she must have looked like, gawking at him in front of his face! Rei tried to recompose herself as much as she could, and put on a pleasant smile.
      "May I eat lunch with you?"
      Subconsciously, she held her breath as he arched his right eyebrow. After several eternities, he finally spoke.
      "If you wish."
      Relieved, she quietly thanked God as she carefully sat beside him, and began to eat her bento.
      Rei bit into a piece of okra and looked at him.
      "My name is Rei Takagi."
      He glanced over at her, and replied after a brief silence.
      "John Templeton."
      She smiled warmly.
      "John, what a nice name. I'm very glad to meet you."
      Caught off guard by her smile and kind words, John blinked his eyes, surprised.
      "Th... Thanks."
      A laugh escaped from Rei's lips after she swallowed a mouthful of rice.
      "Why do you look so surprised? Doesn't anyone talk to you?"
      Now it was Rei's turn to be surprised.
      "No one talks to you? Why not?"
      John recovered his apathetic demeanor, and consumed another piece of fish.
      "Probably because I look different. People do not like to acknowledge that which is unlike them."
      Rei continued to stare at John as he ate.
      In a way, she knew he was right. People who were different usually were treated differently. It was, after all, in Human nature to dislike things that were not like anything they have known.
      Well, she was not going to act like most people.
      She stuck her chin in the air, and sniffed contemptuously.
      "Then that shows just how stupid they are."
      Rei once again looked at John, and smiled.
      He returned her smile with a questioning glance.
      This guy acted really strangely. She was not quite sure, but she was certain something had happened to him to make him a recluse. Right then and there, Rei decided to make it her mission to help John open up.
      The fact he was very cute would really help, too.
      Immediately, she malleted those thoughts to the deep, dark recesses of her mind.
      She was getting as bad as Shinji!
      Her thoughts back on track, her mind quickly came up with a possible solution to his shyness.
      The expression on his face should be quite interesting to see when she told him.
      "Would you like to go out to a movie?"
      Her question had the effect of an on-coming train smacking into him. John dropped his chopsticks, and his mouth opened to say something, but not a word ushered forth. He closed his mouth, and waited for a few seconds before he attempted to voice a question.
      Rei arched an eyebrow, amused.
      "Why not?"
      "Because, no one cared enough to get to know me since I'm... Different."
      She crossed her arms.
      "Well, I'm different, too. So maybe we could enjoy each other's company, huh?"
      John nodded, unable to resist her "request".
      Rei closed her bento, and put it away in her bag.
      "See you in class, John-kun."
      She started walking away, but stopped when she heard him call after her.
      "A normal girl wouldn't have asked me out, you know."
      Rei peered over her shoulder, and grinned mischievously.
      "Who ever said I was a normal girl?"
      Leaving him with much to think about, Rei walked back to class.


      Another day finished.
      No more endless lectures and pointless exercises.
      Finally, it was time to go home.
      Shinji was in a very good mood. Especially since today was the first time Asuka actually held a conversation without calling him baka, or pervert.
      His memory reminded him that she did him a baka.
      Well, OK, at least she did not call him a pervert.
      There was no comment from the peanut gallery.
      He smiled broadly as he opened his shoe locker.
      This day could not get any better.
      Shinji's thoughts were interrupted when he saw a small, white envelope lying against his shoes. His name was neatly written across the front of it.
      Curious, Shinji grasped the envelope, and turned it around. On the back, he found the envelope's most striking feature; a red heart-shaped sticker.
      His eyes widened as he stared at the envelope. Was this what he thought it was? He had heard some of his friends talking about these envelopes, and he knew what they meant.
      But, he never thought he would ever get one.
      To either side of him, Shinji glanced and saw no one was paying attention to him. Carefully, he opened the letter, making sure not to rip the heart, and extracted the note. It only took a moment to read, but absorption of the information within was an entirely different matter.
      His mouth opened in silent surprise as he continued to stare at the message for what seemed a lifetime. Shinji's mind was in a jumble as he sought to sort out the variety of thoughts that screamed for his acknowledgement. One thought had won the battle, and came prominently to the forefront.
      A girl liked him...
      And she wanted to meet him tomorrow under a tree toward the back of the school at lunch...
      This was...
      "Com'on Shin-chan!"
      Rei's yell grabbed his immediate attention as he deftly stuffed the note into his bag.
      "I'll be right there!"
      As he put on his shoes, more thoughts cavorted the inside of his skull.
      This girl, Nozomi Nanase... Who was she? Why does she like me? And, more importantly, was she cute?
      However, his excitement dampened when he realized something.
      What about Asuka?
      Tossing that notion aside, Shinji made a silent decision to meet Nozomi at lunch tomorrow.
      After all, one should keep his options open.
      Shinji smiled as he ran to catch up with Rei.


      Standing at the edge of a cliff, all Asuka saw before her was barren, desolate, wasteland. It looked like the exterior of an earthenware vase, cracked yet incredibly still held together. In the distance she could see the ruins of a large city. A soft whisper left her lips, barely discernible over the shrill of a wind that picked up around her.
      "Where am I?"
      The wind stopped blowing, and she heard footsteps as they ground into the dead earth to her right. She glimpsed in that direction and found a middle-aged man beside her. His brown hair was done in a ponytail, and it looked like he had not shaved in days. Asuka also discerned his clothes had seen better days.
      Before she could ask him who she was, he spoke in an eerily calm voice.
      "Japan. Or what's left of it."
      Asuka blinked at his nonchalant reply. Japan? What in the world was he talking about?
      She turned to face him. However, he did not bother to look at her, instead he continued to stare out over the horizon.
      "What do you mean? What happened?"
      Again, he replied, paying her no heed.
      "Everyone died because you failed."
      Asuka's brow furrowed in confusion.
      "I don't understand. What are you talking about? How did I fail?"
      The man finally faced her, and Asuka felt a chill travel down her spine when she saw his eyes. They were brown, and may have even been pleasant to look at but they appeared empty. It felt as if she were peering into a shell, the spark of life absent from the man.
      Asuka choked down the horrible feeling that sought to permeate her body as he spoke once more.
      "You failed to do what you were supposed to. That's why everyone is dead. It's your fault."
      The feeling began to get stronger. She wanted to leave, run away from the man, but she could not. She desperately needed to know what was going on, whatever the consequences.
      Marshalling what little courage she had left, she responded to his accusation.
      "No! I didn't do anything!"
      His lifeless eyes bored into her as he replied with a sweeping of his arm toward the desolation.
      "Exactly. If you would have come back, this would never have happened."
      Faster than she could see, the man's hands seized Asuka around the waist, and hoisted her into the air. Fear now totally gripped Asuka as she struggled with all her strength against his grip, but he held her firmly.
      As he approached the cliff, she started to scream, pleading with him to stop.
      Finally the man let go, but to her horror it was only to toss her over the edge of the cliff.
      Asuka plummeted. She flailed her arms as she fell, screaming as loud as she possibly could. The ground approached her at frightening speed; it would only be another couple of seconds before she smashed into it.
      Why was this happening?
      She did not want to die!
      The last thing Asuka heard was the man's voice, which echoed powerfully through her mind.
      "COME BACK!"
      Then darkness...


      "Asuka! Asuka! Are you alright?"
      Her eyes snapped open and she was greeted by Shinji's concerned face.
      Where was she? It took a moment for her to realize that she was in her room, and that Shinji was holding her shoulders.
      What happened?
      Was she dreaming?
      Was it a nightmare?
      Try as she might, memories of what happened slipped away to join all the other memories she had already lost. The only thing that remained was a crushing fear.
      Not entirely sure of what she was doing, Asuka latched onto Shinji and held onto him as if her life depended on it.
      She felt him stiffen for a second, but eventually relaxed and placed his arms around her. He then whispered in a soothing tone.
      "It's alright, Asuka, it was only a dream."
      If it was a dream, then why did it feel so real?
      Slowly, she released Shinji, and looked at him. She could still see worry etched on his face.
      Asuka smiled slightly, and stared downward at her hands.
      "Thank you, Shinji. I just don't know what happened..."
      Her sentence was interrupted when he placed his hand atop of hers. Asuka looked up once more, and saw his reassuring smile.
      "Don't worry, Asuka."
      She felt herself blush slightly, as she slowly withdrew her hand from under his.
      Why did she feel so strange when he touched her?
      It was way past lunch, so it could not be the wasabi.
      No... Was she actually beginning to like this jerk?
      For a few minutes they held each other's gaze.
      At that point, Asuka realized something, and she was going to have fun at Shinji's expense with this little insight she just garnered.
      Asuka smirked as she crossed her arms.
      "You can get off my bed now."
      Shinji eyes widened when the implications of her statement hit home, practically jumping to his feet.
      "I, uh. I'll be going now."
      Nervously, he made his way out of her room, but before he walked out her door, she called after him.
      He stopped, and turned around.
      "Thanks for being there."
      Shinji smiled as he closed the door behind him.
      Asuka sighed and flopped backward onto her bed.
      Maybe he was not so bad after all...


      Ichiro walked into the house, and began the afternoon ritual of removing his shoes. He adeptly removed one shoe after the other, using a single hand to do it since his other hand was still holding the mail.
      After he finished his balancing act, he completed the ritual by announcing to the house his arrival.
      "Okaerinasai!" replied Masami, as she approached Ichiro and kissed him.
      Breaking the kiss, Ichiro stepped into the house proper as Masami walked behind him.
      "How was work today?"
      As he walked he ruffled through the small cache of mail in his right hand.
      "Fine, fine. There were a lot of..."
      He stopped abruptly when he saw the envelope.
      What the hell...
      Quickly, he placed the mail onto the living room table. A sinking feeling developed in his chest as he opened the envelope. He scanned the letter held within, and the sinking feeling turned into a barely contained anger.
      "What's wrong?"
      He looked at his wife, and handed her the letter. A few minutes later, Ichiro heard her gasp.
      "No, they can't do that... Can they?"
      Masami looked at Ichiro, her face betraying the fear and worry she felt.
      Ichiro embraced her, not only for her benefit, but also for his own.
      He could not believe it. Those bastards were going to contest the Will.
      Social Services...
      Damn them.
      Ichiro released Masami from his embrace, and looked at her.
      "What will happen to Rei and Shinji, Ichiro? We promised them that we would take care of them."
      "I know, Masami, I know. And we will keep that promise."
      She hugged him fiercely again. Ichiro's face hardened with resolve as he comforted his wife.
      He would keep his promise.

[Author's Notes]

Whew... This part took forever to write! I'm not too sure why, but it was one of the more difficult things I had to write in a long time.

I am taking a small break from Elsewhere to pursue some of my original works. The response for series so far has been great, please continue to send me comments on about it. I appreciate all of them!

Copyright reserved 1999 R. Alexander Spoerer [iczer2@generalagents.com]

Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion © GAINAX/ProjectEva•TX•NAS. No infringement is intended.

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