Written by Alain Gravel
Assisted by Tam Ka-Wing
Story based on characters created by and copyright GAINAX
Started on November 16th 1999
First pre-reader draft finished on March 28th 2000
Final draft finished on March 31st 2000, revised on April 10th 2000
Additional revisions, June 06th 2000
Chapter 1 - The accident
As she stood in the Command Center, Katsuragi Misato
felt utterly useless. The life of her roommate and charge, Ikari Shinji,
was about to be put at high risk and there was nothing she could do about
it. It was a scientific matter, not a tactical one. Like many other times
in similar situations, she wished she had studied in the fields of science.
At least she could have been helpful instead of just standing there. She was, however,
able to find some peace of mind in thinking that Shinji couldn't be in better
hands than those of Akagi Ritsuko.
While she didn't show any signs of it, the said Dr. Akagi was feeling like a nervous wreck. This wasn't really the first time she toyed with life and death, but losing Shinji now was not an option. The Commander wouldn't accept it. This wasn't the first time she was faced with a delicate situation, but this time... the odds weren't good. Simulations on the Magi had given a fifty-fifty probability of failure in extracting Shinji from Unit-01. She had seen worse, but never had she felt as much self doubt as she felt at the moment. She didn't like those odds at all.
That opinion was shared by the Major, although her views were more optimistic. She thought about all those times Shinji had pulled a miracle when everything seemed hopeless. Unit-01's first activation. His victory over the Third Angel. Him, catching the Tenth Angel...
"He's beaten the odds before... I'm sure he can do it again," thought the Major, trying to chase any doubt from her mind.
"Ego-border pulse connection is complete." Maya said suddenly, after having spent long minutes doing computer stuff, as Misato called it, for lack of a more precise term.
"Roger," followed Ritsuko. "Begin salvage operation."
Finally, it was starting. Misato wondered how Ritsuko managed to be so calm. Or was she only pretending to be like she did?
"Roger. Signal-1 is sent."
"Eva received the signal."
"Signal-2 and signal-3 are now sent."
"Subject's catharsis is normal."
"Destrude isn't detected."
"Roger. Move the target to stage-2."
Misato didn't really follow everything that was going one, but everyone seemed rather calm, so she took it as a sign that everything was going according to plan.
"Shinji-kun...." she thought, hoping to see him soon.
However, fate had other plans.
"It's no good!" suddenly almost shouted Maya. "His ego border is in a fixed loop!"
Misato didn't need Ritsuko's brain to deduce this meant bad news.
"Try to radiate all wave patterns from all directions."
"No good. The radiated signals are captured in Klein space."
"What does that mean?" Misato finally asked Ritsuko, wanting to know exactly what was going on. The look Ritsuko gave her almost spoke for itself.
"It means... we failed."
"No, no, no... this can't be happening! Hang on Shinji!" thought Misato, as her fingers held tightly the cross she always wore. She didn't really believe in God, especially since they were fighting his supposed Messengers, but she felt a silent prayer couldn't hurt. She didn't want to lose Shinji. Just the thought of it... she couldn't bear it.
"Stop the interference," commanded Ritsuko. "Reverse the tangent graph. Set the addition value to 0."
"In Q area, Destrude reaction is detected. Pattern is sepia."
"Some changes detected in the core pulse. Plus 3 is confirmed."
"Maintaining the present condition is the top priority issue. Prevent flow-back."
"Hai! Plus 0.5, 0.8... it's strange... I can't stop it! My God! The EVA is rejecting the signal!"
"Shinji's ego formation in the LCL is breaking up!"
"The pressure inside the plug is increasing!"
"Abort all operations! Cut the power supply!"
"Too late! The plug has activated!"
The hatch of the plug opened and LCL poured on the catwalk below, as well as in the coolant liquid that surrounded the EVA. Along with the LCL, Misato saw Shinji's plugsuit being washed out of the plug.
"No! No! NO!"
Misato ran out of the Control room, and soon reached Unit-01's cage. Reality hit her hard as she saw, at her feet, Shinji's empty plugsuit. She fell on her knees, and, fearing she wouldn't wake up if she touched it, slowly moved a finger toward the plugsuit. Her eyes didn't betray her. It was empty, this was all too real. She clutched the suit in her hands.
She couldn't believe it. She wouldn't. It wasn't possible. Shinji couldn't be...
But in her arms she held an empty plugsuit. She could feel the LCL on the rubber suit, on the catwalk... Shinji's essence...
What seemed like a hopeless call for the fourteen your old boy was, against all odds, answered by the sound of someone crying. A sound that came from the believed empty entry plug.
Hope rose again within Katsuragi Misato like a mighty fire, giving her a new vitality, but also clouding her judgment as she failed to notice that something was very wrong with what she was hearing. She barked orders to a crew of NERV technicians to lower the entry plug on the ground, almost biting her nails as seconds that felt like minutes passed. Finally, the plug was down and the purple-haired woman nearly leapt toward it. She almost felt her heart break as she only saw an empty plug. Then, she heard the sound again. She looked down toward the end of the plug and gasped. There, she saw something, small, and pink, with blue eyes and short black hair. She nearly fainted at the sight.
The small baby, not more then a few months old, looked up toward the Major and his tearful face lit with joy as it seemed to recognize the woman.
Since there wasn't any beer in the immediate vicinity, Misato's brain decided that the best course of action would be to rest. Even NERV's Tactical and Operational Officers have their limits...
As she regained consciousness, Katsuragi Misato groaned.
Silently, she cursed herself for drinking all those beers the previous
night. As a result, she just had the weirdest, scariest and most realistic
dream she ever had in her life.
"I see you're finally waking up, Katsuragi."
Those words activated a number of alarm bells in her mind. It actually wasn't unlike the alarms that one could hear each time an Angel attacked.
Kaji Ryouji. That had been Kaji's voice. What was Kaji doing in her apartment?
Her eyes snapped open and she realized one very important detail: she wasn't laying on her bed, but in a bed in a room she recognized as an infirmary room. The alarm bells just got louder at that sight. Seeing that she was in her NERV uniform didn't calm her one bit. Neither did the serious expression on Kaji's face. The Major may not have had the scientific know-how of her friend Ritsuko, but she was able to quickly access a situation. It was required for someone with a rank such as hers. So she quickly came to a conclusion.
"It wasn't a dream, was it?"
Kaji simply shook his head.
Misato felt as if she was suddenly overwhelmed by a maelstrom of different emotions: surprise, sadness, relief, worry, anger, panic, confusion. She might have blacked out again if she hadn't suddenly felt strong arms encircling her. For once, she didn't even try to resist Kaji and simply cried against his chest.
"It'll be okay, Katsuragi. Everything will be alright..."
"How?" she managed to ask between two sobs. "Shinji's dead!"
The purple-haired woman stopped crying hearing those words, hope rising again.
"The entry plug wasn't empty. You saw it yourself."
Slowly, the details of what she had thought had been a dream came back to her.
Ritsuko saying that they had failed to recover Shinji.
Then the entry plug opening.
Shinji's empty plugsuit.
Sound coming from the plug.
An empty plug... except for a small baby. A small baby with brown hair. A small baby with big dark blue eyes.
"There was a baby in the plug..."
"And you think it was... Shinji?"
"Well, this seems like the most reasonable explanation. And it does look a bit like Shinji."
Misato tried to think about this. It did look like Shinji. And she remembered that her first reaction had been to call it Shinji. But...
"Even if it's him... it's not him anymore..."
"It's better then death. And maybe Ritsuko will be able to do something to fix this. NERV needs Shinji as he was..."
Yes, that was true. So far, Unit-01 had only accepted Shinji. The Commander wouldn't take lightly the loss of one third of his fighting force. That would mean every available resource would be invested in understanding what had just happened and fixing it. This time, there were reasons to be hopeful.
"Do you know where... he... is?"
"Ritsuko is doing tests on him in another room."
The Major's heart stopped at those words.
"Tests?! Ritsuko is doing tests on him?!"
This outburst surprised Kaji.
"She doesn't know how to handle a baby! She could barely take care of her cats! She'll hurt him!"
In a flash of purple, the Major was out of the room, leaving a surprised Kaji behind.
"And you know how to handle a baby?" he thought, chuckling.
Quickly, he followed her. This could be fun...
"Gaga. Gaga. Heeee!"
Misato stared in shock at the sight before her. Instead of trying to dissect it, Ritsuko was tickling the baby's stomach while making baby sounds, followed by funny faces. Her assistant, Maya, was doing likewise, but even more cheerfully, if that was possible.
"I need a beer," thought Misato. The situation was just too weird.
"Well, isn't this cute?" said Kaji, as he entered the room himself.
Both the doctor and her assistant froze and turned red in embarrassment as they noticed they were actually being watched. Ritsuko tried to put on the cold scientist expression she always wore, but found it hard to do as Misato suddenly burst out laughing. So she just looked at her feet in shame, feeling utterly humiliated. And for once, she didn't have any smart comebacks. Quickly, however, Misato calmed down as she looked at the baby and remembered how serious the situation was.
"Is this Shinji?" she asked, going straight to the point. This finally gave the doctor the chance to go back to her usual distant self.
"Preliminary observations suggest that this baby is indeed Shinji. The lab is currently running a DNA analysis as well as blood type analysis to confirm that this baby is Shinji, and that there is no Angel contamination. It is also analyzing its brainwave pattern to see if there is some sort of match."
"His brainwave pattern?"
"Yes. From what we could tell, this baby recognized us. That would suggest that it has at least some of Shinji's memories. I want to know just how much of Shinji's 'soul', for a lack of better term, this baby has."
"But... if Shinji's memories are in this baby... why can't he talk?"
"I'm not entirely sure. As far as I can tell, this baby is only physically four to five months old. It barely started to develop. A four month old brain isn't as developed as a fourteen year old's. My guess is that the body hasn't developed the fine motor control to manage such sophisticated physical actions as speech requires. This is just theory however. Such a case has never been seen before."
So, this was Shinji. Shyly, Misato extended a finger and tried to touch the baby. She had to know for sure, but didn't really dare do it. Finally, she closed her eyes and opened them wide as it came into contact with warm soft flesh.
She pulled her hand away, as if fearing to burn herself by that simple contact.
"It's very real, Misato," said Ritsuko a smile on her face. "You can try again. He won't bite. He doesn't have teeth yet anyway."
Again, she tried to touch it. She felt her heart almost leap out of her chest when suddenly the baby grabbed her finger with his small hand. She felt herself almost melting at the sight of his tiny fingers around hers.
"You can pick him up," suggested Maya.
Both Maya and Ritsuko nodded, warm smiles on their faces.
Awkwardly, Misato bent down and tried to take the small baby into her arms. It felt so fragile. She barely dared pull him off the bed. The baby just smiled happily and wiggled in her arms. She couldn't believe that this small child was Shinji. He seemed so happy.
"When will we have the results of the tests?" asked Misato, as she put the child down.
"Only tomorrow morning. I'll have a nurse watch the baby, so we can all leave for now. No point in waiting here all night."
Misato nodded. This had been an emotionally draining day.
Ritsuko and Maya left and Misato followed suit. As she exited the infirmary, the Major felt an arm draping itself over her shoulder. Kaji. She had almost forgot that he was there. He didn't look like he usually did. He didn't seem about to tease her, he didn't try to show that lady killer smile of his and he didn't have that very serious expression he could sometimes have. Misato surprised herself in realizing that his presence felt very comforting.
"Kaji... I don't want to be alone tonight..."
The perpetually unshaved man just nodded in understanding.
Something was wrong. Misato could feel it. Usually,
there was always a nurse standing watch at the infirmary entrance. She
wasn't there. Of course, it was possible that there had been an emergency
which would have forced her to leave her post, but Misato doubted it was
the case. There was an eerie silence in the infirmary. There was no doctors
or nurses running around. The place seemed dead. She didn't like it one
Shinji! Maybe he was in danger!
Pulling her gun from her holster, she ran toward the room where she had last seen the baby, figuring he would had been kept there. There was clearly a lot of noise coming from that room. She could distinctly hear a baby crying. Not wasting a second, she opened the door and entered the room.
The order took by surprise the group of six nurses, who were all around baby Shinji, giggling and making baby sounds to get his attention. So far, however, it seemed it had only resulted in making him cry. It was really no surprise, considering that Shinji didn't like big crowds. The room's mood changed however as Misato burst in. In fact, one of the nurses fainted as she saw the Major's gun pointed right toward her head.
"What's going on here?!"
"We were... watching the baby... Doctor Akagi needed to get a few things in her office... and..." a nurse tried to explain.
"So you all left your posts just to play with the baby?" asked the Major.
The nurses shyly nodded.
"Get back to work!" barked back Misato.
"But... Doctor Akagi asked..."
"I'll watch the baby! Now back to your posts!"
Quickly, the fainted nurse was picked up off the ground and the women scrambled out of the room. Some of them, however, kept whispering about how cute the baby was. Misato sighed. She could guess how some women must have felt; with Tokyo-3 in a perpetual state of war, a baby was a rare sight. Even moreso here, in the depths of NERV headquarters. Having a baby to take care of and pamper must have been a welcome change for these women who usually dealt with NERV officers and crewmen, as well as Evangelion pilots.
Pulling a chair, Misato sat down and stared at the baby on the bed. It was the first time that Misato had had a proper chance to sit down and really take a look at the baby Ikari Shinji had become. She had taken him in her arms before, but the experience had been so out of this world that she hadn't taken the time to take a detailed look. It had only been fleeting glances here and there, or quick visual confirmations to reassure her that the baby was indeed real, and alive, and Shinji. Her Shinji.
He had been dressed in a sky-blue one-piece baby suit. It looked sweetly in place on him. Everything about him just seemed so tiny. His feet were small and active, wildly kicking at the air as he lay on his back. Suddenly, as if tired of cycling an invisible tricycle upside-down, he rolled clumsily onto his side and sluggishly pushed himself up onto all fours. He crawled across the bed with the lightning speed that only babies possess, and probably would have leapt right off if Misato hadn't hurried forward to stop him.
The boy immediately lost all desire to explore upon seeing the woman and plopped down heavily onto his bottom. He smiled innocently and expectantly at Misato, who was caught unawares by the attention.
"Strange," she mused, as she held out a finger to the boy, and he grabbed it hungrily in his tiny fingers and proceeded to suck on it. "I know he is Shinji, yet... he doesn't seem anything like the Shinji I know."
She watched as the baby's head bobbed up and down, his hands weakly balled into fists around her finger. The look in his round blue eyes was one of curiosity and satisfaction, as if the finger was a pacifier of sorts. The thin shiny brown-black fuzz delicately covering his head
didn't completely cover his pale scalp, and the boy seemed exposed and vulnerable. On an impulse, Misato placed her hand on his head gently and protectively. The head was fragile and warm. Unconsciously, a smile began to form at the corner of her mouth.
"Buuueeeh!" squealed Shinji in delight, lips forming an O.
She'd never heard so much as a light chuckle from Shinji since she'd known him.
"Biiiibaaah!" Shinji giggled and blinked cutely.
Normal sounds for a baby to make.
Yet, somehow, Misato felt weird hearing them come from this tiny Shinji's mouth.
"Maybe because I'm just not used to seeing you so young, Shinji," she laughed.
No, that wasn't it.
It was because... the sounds were sounds of pure, unaffected blissful joy. And she had never seen Shinji in this state before. Not the Shinji that Misato knew. It was sad, really...
"I never knew you could be so happy, Shinji..." This was a side of him she had never seen. "So this was what you were like before? Before... you began to pilot EVA? No--"
She shook her head. Even before that. Before she'd first met him, when she'd first drove up to that solemn, serious boy in her car that day.
"...when you were a child? Shinji, were you this happy once?
"Gouuougogaah!" The boy nodded his head as if in agreement.
Misato had never tried to imagine her teenage charges as children. In fact, she had stopped thinking of them as children a long time ago. To her, the three EVA pilots were mini-adults, dealing with problems and challenges that many people twice their age wouldn't even have to think about in a lifetime. Yet this wonderful, tiny miracle in front of her seemed too innocent, too uncorrupted. She thought of all that Shinji had gone through. Then she imagined the baby in front of her growing up and living the exact same experiences.
She shuddered and drew her hand back sharply.
The baby's eyes widened in protest, and his small jaw began to drop. The tiny pink tongue lolled out limply. Misato could see the tips of two white teeth beginning to come through his gums. Then, the baby took a deep, shuddering breath.
Misato realised what was about to happen, and panicked.
"Uh, Shinji, please don't--"
A long wail echoed down the corridor. Misato ducked her head out, apologized in embarrassment, receiving cold stares from a few of the nurses, and tried to think of a way to make Shinji shut up.
"Shinji. Shinji. Shinji!! Oh, don't cry, please, oh--"
She stuck her fingers into her ears and began to make funny faces at him.
Another funny face.
"WAaaaaaaaAAAAAhhhhh..." continued Shinji.
It was then that a very surprised Ritsuko walked onto the scene to see her best friend performing immature expressions in front of Shinji, who was obviously ignoring her.
"So this is what all the noise is about," the scientist shouted above the din. "I'm gone for only a few minutes and this is the result. Can you be trusted with anything, Misato? How did you manage to make him cry like this?!"
"Hey! It's not my fault! He just started crying! I didn't do anything!"
In an effort to quiet the boy down, Misato stuck his finger into his mouth again. The boy stopped crying at once and resumed his sucking.
"MISATO!" Ritsuko was horrified. "Get your filthy finger out of his mouth at once! Do you have any idea how many germs you are introducing into Shinji's body? He's just a baby!"
She quickly reached over and jerked Misato's finger away from Shinji's head. Before Shinji could started to bawl again, Ritsuko hastily slipped a pacifier into his mouth.
"There, that ought to do it," she said, relieved. "It's sterilized," she added. "That's one of the things I left to get."
Misato shrugged, partly out of embarrassment and partly out of relief.
"So now what? What are the test results, Ritsuko? Is this really Shinji?"
"Either that or a clone. The DNA matches perfectly."
The Doctor nodded.
"A copy," she briefly explained, just in case her friend actually didn't know what a clone was. "But I doubt it's the case here. The brainwave scans didn't match those of a normal child and there was many similarities to Shinji's brainwaves. I believe that, except for the body, this is the same Shinji we knew before he was absorbed into Unit-01."
So this was Shinji. Her Shinji. He wasn't dead! Yet... she didn't feel completely happy about the news. It was Shinji... yet it wasn't...
"So... does he... remember anything?"
"Probably not. His memories are probably dormant in his subconscious. But they are there, inside," answered Ritsuko, tapping her finger very lightly on the child's head. "He seemed to recognize us after all."
Misato took the time to absorb this information. Shinji was trapped... inside a child's body.
"Any plans to fix that?" she asked, hoping for a positive answer.
"A simple one. We make him grow."
"Make him grow?! What kind of a plan is that? Shinji's not a plant! He won't grow just by pouring water on him!"
Ritsuko sighed. This infuriated Misato even further. However, unlike a certain redheaded pilot, she gave her friend the time to explain herself.
"You know that we already can regenerate injuries sustained by the EVAs and even re-grow missing limbs. The technology we use can be adapted to the artificial growth of a human being. In fact, we already have a template we can use for this operation."
The Major gritted her teeth. Was that another of NERV's secrets?
"Very well... what are the probabilities that this experiment will work this time?"
"They are very good. If I can convince Commander Ikari that a maturation time of three weeks is more advisable then two weeks, then this operation will have a 90% chance of success."
Misato felt more and more hopeful. A 90% chance was good.
"When can it be done?" she asked, trying not to sound too eager.
"As soon as the equipment is ready and adapted to Shinji's situation. It'll take two weeks."
"So, Shinji will be out of the pilot roster for five weeks..."
Ritsuko nodded. Five weeks. That was a lot of time. But at least, it was better then having to grow up all over again.
"It's a good thing Unit-01 is currently under freeze," said the Doctor. "It gives us more time to work."
"And the Commander won't be tempted to put the baby through synch tests," Misato nearly added. "So... what do we do with Shinji for the next two weeks?"
From a large duffel bag Misato had noticed in the Doctor's arms as she had entered the room, Ritsuko pulled a book and handed it to the purple haired woman. Misato blinked in confusion, before taking a better look at the book. She gasped as she read the title.
"What the...! 'Babies for Dummies'... you don't mean...? You... you don't expect me to...? No way!"
"You'll need this," replied Ritsuko as she ignored her friend's objections and handed her the bag. "Everything you'll need is inside. Milk solution, bottles, a pacifier, spare baby clothes, toys, diapers... you'll need to buy more of milk and diapers of course."
Misato couldn't believe what she was hearing. This couldn't be happening... it had to be a dream!
"What?! You don't expect me to take care of him?!"
"You are his legal guardian," Ritsuko coldly pointed out.
"But... but... but... I have work to do! I can't take care of a baby!"
"Not anymore. From this moment, you're on a leave of absence, by Commander Ikari's orders. You are to report to NERV only in case of an emergency."
Oh God! It was a nightmare!
"But... why not Maya?"
"I need her if we want to get Shinji back to normal as soon as possible."
"But... but... but..."
Obviously, Ritsuko had planned everything. As she realized that she was completely trapped, Misato silently cursed her friend.
"Oh, one more thing... try to remember that babies don't drink beer."
"Seriously, Misato... Shinji is depending on you now... don't let him down..."
"Good. And between you and me, that's why you were chosen for this job."
Misato sighed. Something was telling her that the next weeks would be hard ones. The she looked at Shinji. The baby noticed that he was the object of her attention and smiled widely.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all.
Taking advantage of the fact that her friend was distracted, Ritsuko silently made her way towards the door.
"I'll be giving you news as soon as I can..."
"Uh? Hey! Wait!"
Too late, as the Doctor was already gone. Misato sighed again. She had hoped that Ritsuko would at least help with the first night.
"Guess it's just you and me..." she said to the baby, as she picked him up.
"Gaaa hoo!" was Shinji's reply, as he took a handful of purple hair and pulled.
Misato took a few moments to assess her current situation.
Her hair was now more or less out of the baby's reach, tied up in a ponytail behind her back.
The duffel bag of baby stuff was secure on her side, under her left arm.
Shinji was cradled in her arms, where he was now sleeping. And drooling on her NERV jacket.
"You'll have to clean that when you're older..." thought the Major, before chuckling to herself lightly.
Realizing that she was now as ready as she would ever be, Misato prepared herself to face her first challenge. Opening the room door without waking Shinji up. Which was not an easy task, if one considered that her hands were full of five months old baby.
"Think, Misato, think..."
It did not take long to formulate a plan. After all, she was the one person who could always manage to come up in-extremis with some sort of plan to fight the Angels. Well, this wasn't totally accurate, as Ritsuko and even Kaji had helped at some times...
Misato simply pushed the room call button.
Knowing that this was the room where baby Shinji had slept, although none of them knew the real identity of the baby, one of the nurses answered in a matter of seconds. Urging the worried nurse to keep quiet with a 'shush', Misato escaped through the opened door.
"Oy! Major Katsuragi!"
Familiar voices. Misato turned around to see Shinji's two friends, Aida Kensuke and Suzuhara Touji. Suzuhara was seated in a wheelchair, while Aida was pushing him in her direction. While the boy looked physically better, as well as one missing an arm and a leg could, Misato noted that Suzuhara sported a rather grim expression. Aida, however, was smiling very widely. Mentally, Misato prayed that the boy with glasses wouldn't again ask her to consider him as an EVA pilot candidate. The timing would be really bad.
"Aida-kun. Suzuhara-kun," acknowledged Misato, in a tone in-between a friendly one and a business one.
For a moment, Misato considered asking the usual 'How are you?' question, but decided otherwise. Considering Touji's condition, it would have been awkward. Not that she didn't feel that way already...
"What are you two doing?"
"Well, I'm taking Touji outside for some fresh air," answered Aida. "Can't let the poor guy be trapped here forever."
"Oh? And how did you manage to get in here anyway?"
"Asked my dad if he could manage to get me a special permission. Say... isn't that a baby in your arms?"
Misato cringed. With the sight of Touji, she had completely forgotten about Shinji.
"Ah... well... yes... it's... a baby. Someone... someone asked me to take care of him for a while. Yeah. Cute, isn't he?"
As far as she knew, men were not very interested in cute babies, so she hoped that they would simply drop the subject.
"You know... this baby looks awfully lot like Shinji..."
Misato didn't know what surprised her the most. The fact that Touji had actually spoke, although not really to her, or the fact that he had actually noticed the resemblance between the baby and his friend.
"Oh my god! Could that be... THE MAJOR AND SHINJI'S LOVE CHILD!?"
That outburst from the military otaku drew every look toward them. Misato felt herself becoming smaller and smaller, until anger won the war against embarrassment.
"NO! This is NOT MY CHILD! And I certainly wouldn't do such a thing with Shinji! Watch your mouth Aida!"
The boy looked stunned. Misato immediately regretted her words. At least the baby was apparently sleeping soundly enough not to have been waken up.
"No. I... I'm the one who's sorry. The last days have been... stressful. I didn't mean to snap like that."
"It's okay Major. You can shoot at me anytime you want! Especially if you have orders to give!"
Both Touji and Misato sighed, then noticing each other reaction, laughed, although Misato's laugh was more joyful than Touji's.
"So, Misato. How's Shinji lately?" asked Suzuhara. "I haven't seen him since... you know..."
A heavy silence fell over the trio. It was a delicate subject none of them liked to mentioned. The Thirteenth Angel. Misato felt even more uneasy as she couldn't tell them about Shinji. These were his friends, but that kind of information had to remain confidential.
"He's... he's fine. Don't worry. He suffered some... injuries... after the Fourteenth Angel attack. But nothing too serious. He'll be fine. We just had to... send him to another Branch... on an assignment. Yeah! You'll probably see him in a few weeks."
Misato felt really bad about lying to them, but it was for the best.
"He's really sorry, you know. About..."
She found herself unable to say the next words.
"I'm sorry too."
"It's okay, Misato. No one's fault but the Angels. Just... just do me a favor and kill all those bastards for me."
So much restrained anger...
"I swear we will."
"Good. Well, we kept her long enough, Kensuke. Let's go."
Kensuke blinked a few times. He hadn't imagined that this conversation would get this tense.
"Oh... yeah... later Major!"
The major watched the two teens leave, one pushing the other's wheelchair. So strong for someone so young. She didn't know how she would have handled herself, if she had been in the boy's place. She shuddered just thinking about it.
She knew that war always had its share of victims, but she couldn't help thinking how unfair things were.
"This could be a problem."
In her mind, Misato had come up with the perfect plan: take advantage of the fact that Shinji was asleep and head directly home. But now she realized the fatal flaw of her plan: she hadn't expected Shinji to stir the moment she'd put him on the passenger seat of her car. And to think she had been extra careful not to make any noise or make any sudden moves as she opened the door and put him on the seat. So, now, instead of being dead asleep, Shinji was rather wide awake.
"Now, Shinji," said Misato as she picked up the baby, which giggled in delight. "I'm gonna be driving, so I can't hold you. Will you stay put on that seat while I drive?"
Misato took that as a yes.
As Misato put him again on the seat, Shinji stared blankly at Misato for a few seconds. Then, as Misato slid her key into the ignition, she felt something grab her skirt. She looked down to see Shinji trying to climb on her legs.
"You can't do that!"
Picking him up again, she put him back on the passenger seat.
"You stay there, understand?"
The baby giggled. Misato nodded. Good, he had understood.
Or at least she thought he had before she stopped him in-extremis from falling off the seat.
"This won't work."
For a moment, Misato considered putting Shinji on the back seat of the car. It wouldn't do either, Shinji could still fall. On the car's floor? She shook her head, as she noticed just how dirty the carpet of her car was.
"Guess this car is overdue for some cleaning..." thought Misato with a sigh.
For a moment, Misato eyed the passenger's side seat belt. But she rejected the idea, as it was too dangerous. She would never forgive herself if it strangled Shinji. The she noticed a roll of duck tape on the floor, between two empty cans of beer. What if she taped him on the seat? While tempting, she chased the idea out of her mind. She couldn't do that to Shinji. And it was plain too irresponsible. Even for her.
Now she understood why they sold those baby seats for cars... which of course Ritsuko hadn't provided her with. Meaning there was really only one responsible course of action for her.
Misato groaned at the thought.
"I hate this."
For the first time since her arrival in Tokyo-3, Misato experienced the 'joy' of public transport. The streetcar was slow, it was noisy, and while not overcrowded at this hour, the looks she got from the few people riding it were making her feel uncomfortable. Misato's only relief was that she could at least sit down. Carrying Shinji around, as well as Ritsuko's bag, was putting a strain on her muscles.
"Bet my back will hurt like hell tonight," Misato thought sourly.
At least she wasn't stuck riding that thing every time she had to go to NERV like Shinji and Asuka.
She looked at him, sleeping soundly on her legs, wrapped inside her NERV jacket. Figured he would sleep now that she had given up trying to go home by car. He had probably remembered that streetcar rides were awfully boring. She wasn't sure that it was necessary to cover him with her jacket, after all it was a sunny day, but the wind was a bit cold, so she had preferred not to take any chances. She let out a sigh. It had barely started and already it had been an awful lot of trouble.
But as she looked at Shinji sleeping peacefully... it might just have been worth it.
Figuring that she should follow Shinji's example, Misato closed her eyes and tried to relax. Relaxation. It was a strange concept. Something she would never had consider doing at this time of the day, especially while being sober.
It was something she could get used to.
Just when Misato thought things weren't so bad... it got worse.
Her eyes snapped open, to see Shinji crying.
"Shinji? Shinji? What's wrong?"
She had her answer as the smell hit her. Hard. For a moment, she was glad she only had a cup of coffee for breakfast.
"My God! What did those nurses feed you with?"
"WAAAHHHH..." was the only answer she got.
Various groans told her that the other passengers of the streetcar were not enjoying the smell either. Most of them got up and went to the opposite side of the streetcar, even if it meant standing up. Misato felt as if she would die of embarrassment. If she could, she would have crawled under her seat. Angel attacks she could handle, but this... she didn't even know what to do...
Fortunately, an elderly lady took pity on her and asked her if she had any diapers with her.
And so began Misato's journey into motherhood, as well as her first crash course in diaper changing.
[To be continued...]
Omake/Extra (by Godsend777):
He had been dressed in a sky-blue two-piece baby suit.
It looked sweetly in place on him. Everything about him just seemed so tiny.
His feet were small and active, wildly kicking at the air as he lay on his back.
Idly, she wondered if he was so tiny all over. She giggled a little at the
thought. Toothpicks may have described it once, but when she has seen him a few
times before he woke up...
She chased the thought out of her mind. Grown women should not think such things about young boys.
But she was curious. Too curious. So damn curious...
Her question was answered when Shinji, who had somehow managed to wrangle free of the bottom half of his baby clothes, lay on his back exposing himself to the world.
"Wow," Misato said aloud. "Guess not all of you shrank."
This idea came to me thanks to one of my readers. You can get some nice stuff from readers. They can send you side stories, fan art, various info, stories to pre-read... One day, a nice fellow (Chaos Dragon) sent me a scan from the latest EVA doujinshi he bought at EBay. It was a scan from a story where Shinji, Asuka and Misato basically got reverted to a younger state (Misato ends up around 12 while Shinji and Asuka end up as babies) thanks to an experimentation by Ritsuko. I found the scan I received to be awfully cute and as I looked at it... an idea started to take form in my head. This is the end result.