A/N: Chapter four everyone! Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy this one, I had a lot of fun writing it! Be sure to let me know, ok? :D

Chapter 4: The Kindness of Strangers

Ruby slept alone for the first time in many nights. She'd gotten so used to sharing the dorm room with Weiss, Blake, and Yang, utter silence was an alien experience. By now, Yang would've started snoring, and Blake would still be turning pages of a voluminous tome. Weiss always mumbled in her sleep, usually something about dust.

The hospital room was quiet. Tamotsu stood guard outside, but did not make a sound. The room was silent, and it chilled her. She pulled the covers tight around her. So many questions whirled around in her head, musings and thoughts that accompanied the ever-present misery about leaving Remnant and her friends behind.

How did I get here? Can I ever go back?

And there was the other weirdness that surrounded her arrival in Tokyo-3… She examined her hands again. The ursa-bite scars she bore had disappeared completely, even though she'd been told they never would.

Slipping out of bed, she made her way to the scale that stood on the other end of the hospital. Ruby measured and weighed herself, just to be sure. She sucked in a breath. Three inches shorter and almost twenty pounds lighter. The muscle she'd spent years building at Beacon had vanished. There was no denying it any longer.

She was younger, but by how much, she wasn't certain. Hopefully she wouldn't have to go through puberty again. Puberty suuuuuuccked.

What else had changed with her arrival in this strange land? Her hands flexed, and she sprung forwards, hoping to activate her semblance.

Nothing. No rose petals, no blinding rush of speed. She just stumbled forward a bit, tripping over herself in the process. With a hard thump, she landed on the linoleum, catching herself just before her head crashed to the floor.

"Ruby? Are you ok in there?" Tamotsu asked, voice muffled by the metal door.

"Uh… all good!" She lied. The facts tumbled over and over in her head. Her semblance had vanished, and likely her aura with it. Had it been locked away somehow? Or had she lost her soul entirely? Tears came to her eyes, and she wiped them away with the back of her hand. It doesn't make sense! Nothing makes sense anymore!

Picking herself up off the floor, she crawled back into bed. Her mind turned to thoughts of her friends. Would she ever get to see them again? What twist of fate tore her away from everyone she knew and loved and left her here? The thoughts pulled at her, mauling her heart until a dreamless slumber took her.

The next day, Misato met her outside Nerv HQ, waving to Ruby as she trudged down to meet her.

"What's got you down, Ruby?" Oh not much. I'll just never ever see my friends again. Or my home, or anything I'm familiar with.

That's what she wanted to say. Instead, she just sighed.

"I miss home." Misato threw her a quick smile.

"I understand. Tokyo-3's a big place, and Nerv HQ doesn't help. I heard about your shooting exploits, by the way!" Ruby knew she was trying to change the subject, but couldn't help but be drawn in by Misato's enthusiasm.

"I gotta say, you guys have some pretty cool guns here. Nothing back home kicks like that." She stretched her arm and massaged her shoulder. "I think I'm bruising up a bit." Misato giggled a bit.

"That's what you get when you pick the biggest gun we have and fire off five rounds in the time it takes regular people to shoot two."

"That was fast?" Ruby asked, bewildered. Misato looked at her incredulously.

"Just where do you come from?" Ruby didn't respond, instead choosing to curl her legs towards her chest, hugging herself tight. She was silent for awhile, before Misato scoffed. "Hey, none of that, now! I did my time staying quiet, all it brought me was misery." Ruby sighed.

"It doesn't matter." She replied. "You're just gonna think I'm crazy anyway." Misato didn't say anything at first.

"Well if it's real to you, then it's real enough for me. That's all that really matters." Misato flashed her a brief smile before turning her eyes back to the road. Ruby was silent for a minute. She sniffed.

"You're pretty cool, you know that?" Misato laughed and threw her a wink.

"I know. Now come on, share!"

"Nope. Maybe later though." Despite refusing her, she was already uncurled, a small grin on her face. "So where's Shinji?"

"He mumbled something about having enough clothes and locked himself in his room. He's just like his father... the gruff and unfriendly part that is."

"Yeah, what's up with that?!" Ruby asked, turning to face the older woman. "I thought Weiss' dad was a jerk, but that guy really takes the cake!"

"Who's Weiss? And why would Commander Ikari take a cake?" Huh. That was weird. Guess that wasn't an expression here.

"Never mind. Basically, Shinji's dad is a total jerk." Misato huffed, an impression of a laugh.

"That's putting it lightly. Commander Ikari's an asshole, but be assured, everything he does in Humanity's best interests." She sighed, hands sliding apart on the steering wheel. "I just wish he'd show some love for his son. Poor kid just sits and listens to his music player."

"Agh, my scroll!" Ruby cried, realizing. "I don't have my scroll! Darn it!" She was an avid music listener, and whatever spare lien she had usually went towards music.

"Hey no biggie, we're going shopping after all! I'll pick you up an MP3 player." Ruby was stunned, silver eyes regarding Misato with shimmering gratitude.

"You don't have to! They're expensive!" She shrugged.

"Not really. Also, I'm one of the top officers in an U.N.-funded organization that is the only thing that stands between humanity and annihilation. Let's just say I don't go hungry."

"Well between new clothes and a music player-"

"And school supplies!" Ruby was too stunned at first respond. "That's right, young lady, don't think just because you're a pilot you don't have to go to school!"

"...Fair enough. I just thought there'd be a lot more training involved in piloting."

"Don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to train. It is your job after all. Welcome to the adult world!" Misato grinned.

"So if it's a job...do I get paid?"


"Yes!" Ruby exclaimed, pumping her first. Money was always cool. "So what kind of school supplies will I need for a civilian school?"

"You went to a military school?"


"You'll have to tell me what your past was like. To be honest, it sounds a lot more interesting than life here."

"Try terrifying. But…I'll do that sometime."

"And don't worry, the stuff you need won't be anything outside the usual. Binders, notebooks, pens, that kind of thing."

So she was going back to school. She had been in her junior year at Beacon, and was fairly close to graduating early with all the extra credit hours she took. The prospect of starting over gave her a weird feeling.

"Alright," Misato said, hand cranking on the steering wheel as she backed into a parking space, "we're here!"

"This is a shopping mall? It's so... tall"

"There isn't a lot of space on Japan. We are an island country after all."

"Not gonna lie, I might want to spend all day here. I hope you can keep up!" Misato chuckled.

"You have your first sych test in a few hours, so I don't think we can stay all day. But hey, let's get lunch first. How does sushi sound?"

"Soo... she? Sushi? What's that?" Misato gaped at her before breaking into a wide grin.

"You're going to find out."

Ruby found out. It was delicious. Admittedly, the concept seemed a little sketchy at first (THEY DIDN'T COOK IT!) but after the first few pieces, she couldn't get enough. They even had the food run around on a conveyor belt. How cool is that?

Blake would be all over this place! Is that racist? Ah, whatever. Faunus didn't exist for her anymore, and wondering about it wouldn't accomplish anything.

The instant they finished their food, Misato dragged her into a clothing store, and 'The Great Tokyo-3 Shopping Spree' began in earnest.

Ruby ended up having a blast. It had been years since she went to the mall with Yang, and shopping with Misato was almost as fun. She couldn't help but draw a lot of comparisons between the two. She ended up with a school uniform (which was wayyyy different than the stylish Beacon uniform she was used to), enough outfits to stuff a closet full, school supplies aplenty, and a new rose-red music player.

The music store was her favorite stop. Every song was new to her, every lyric, every swell of strings and crash of drums was a fresh experience.

Misato just smiled as she bounced around the store, listening to every sample station. After an hour and a half, she rested a hand on her shoulder.

"Come on, Ruby, we can't stay forever! Ristsuko's expecting us in an hour."

"Awww... Misato!"

"You can also get music online, you know."

"I can?! How does that work?" Misato just laughed.

"I'll show you how sometime. For now, we should go get Shinji. Pick your top three out, and let's go." Ruby squealed and collected her three favorites: the best of some guy who apparently liked beets enough to name his symphony after them, a foreign lady named Nena, and an album that had a prism on it. She couldn't find the band name, but they rocked.

During the entire trip back she was jamming to her new music, bouncing happily in the seat while Misato smiled. Their shopping trip had done wonders for Ruby's mood. Misato turned out to be a lot of fun, and was super nice too.

Shinji was as mopey as always, not saying much as he climbed into the back seat. That is, until Ruby crawled into the back seat with him.


"You're apparently always listening to music... I wanna know what you listen to." Shinji didn't say anything. He just blushed furiously and handed her an ear bud, desperate to avoid eye contact. Humming happily, she took it, giving the boy a bright smile.

He turned even redder.

"Alright guys, buckle up. Next stop, Nerv HQ."

The ride was a quiet one, but not unpleasantly so. Ruby was surprised by Shinji's taste in music. Most boys his age were still in their metal phase. And despite her friendly intentions, Shinji did not speak with her. Oh well. He'll come around in his own time. For some reason, he really liked two of the tracks, and frequently switched between them. Weird, but whatever.

Misato seemed pleased with herself for some reason.

They arrived at the lab without much ceremony, only passing a few Nerv staff on the way in. Misato took them to a laboratory of some sort that had a ton of computers. Dr. Akagi was waiting for them.

"Hello children. Are you ready for your first synch test?" Ruby raised her hand high in the air. Ritsuko seemed a bit taken aback. "Uh… yes, Ruby?"

"What's a synch test?" Ruby asked.

"In order to pilot an evangelion, you must synchronize with it. This involves lots of concentration and effort on your part. It is imperative that you take this seriously, for better synchronization ratios correspond with increased combat effectiveness."

"Ok, concentrate, got it!"

"You two will need these." She presented them with two neatly folded pieces of plastic. "They're your plug suits-" Ruby's hand started skyward, but Ritsuko cut her off. "They're piloting uniforms that cut down on interference, and can maximize your ratios. They're skin tight, and are sealed via a button on your wrist."

Skin tight? Ruby squirmed. Hopefully, they aren't too revealing. That's more Yang's thing.

"The locker rooms are right over there." Ritsuko continued. "Get changed, and we'll begin."

A divider had been drawn for their privacy, but as she undressed, Ruby couldn't help but feel like a bug under a microscope. Everything here was so clinical and… science-y, for the lack of a better term. And there's a cute boy getting naked only a few feet away! She thought, alarmed. Sure, he was younger, and boys had never been a large part of her life back in Remnant… but still!

She yelped as she pressed the seal on her wrist. The suit hissed, cold plastic sealing itself directly onto her skin.

"Ruby, are you ok?" Shinji asked.

"I'm fine! This thing's just really chilly!" She replied. Before leaving, she looked herself over in the mirror. The plug suit was midnight black, with crimson slashes running along it. They got my colors right at least. Harder bits of plastic covered her more sensitive areas, keeping them hidden from view. Glowing nodes protruded from her shoulders, and emblazoned on her chest were two red zeros. Overall, not bad. Not bad at all. A thin, wolfish grin spread across her face. In fact… I look kinda good. A faint red spread across her cheeks. Still… it feels like I'm not wearing anything.

Leaving the locker room, Misato showed them the way to their test-plugs. Tamotsu was guarding the final door, along with Sergeant Shimazu. They saluted Misato, and stepped aside to let the Children through.

Ruby gave Tamotsu a little wave. His salute did not waver, but his eyes betrayed a hint of warmth. She returned his salute with gusto and a serious face, which broke the stoic façade and drew forth a small smile. Shimazu just rolled her eyes.

"I know them from earlier." Ruby explained, when Shinji gave her a questioning look. "They're cool. At least, Tamotsu is. Jury's out on the sergeant though." He just shrugged.

"I'll… take your word for it."

They climbed into their plugs, and the test commenced. It was spacious inside, with comfortable seating and two control sticks that jutted out from a central hub. A reddish-orange liquid flooded the compartment, and Ruby cried out in alarm. WAS THIS ALL JUST A FANCY SET UP SO THEY COULD DROWN ME?

"Don't worry, Ruby. It's LCL. You can breathe it in. It'll oxygenate your blood directly." Ritsuko said, utterly unconcerned. Still, she held her breath as the liquid swallowed her.

A screen appeared in the plug. It was Misato, a small, sympathetic smile on her face.

"It's ok, Ruby. Trust me." After a few seconds, she nodded, surrendering to the LCL. A shock of pain settled into her core and vanished as soon as it appeared. Her stomach flipped and flopped, unsure on how to handle the sensation of her lungs filling to the brim. And it tasted like blood.

"Ugh." She managed. Nausea settled in, but she tried to push it away. This test would determine how well she could pilot the EVA. How well she could fight. She let the rest of her air go, sending several pure white bubbles floating to the surface. It helped… kinda.

"Alright, we're beginning the test. Focus on emptying your mind. Calm and collected." Misato said. "You guys got this." Ruby obeyed, shutting down her disgust about the LCL and the lingering thoughts of home.

A half hour into the test, and Ritsuko let out a small 'hm.'

"What is it, Ritsu?" Misato asked.

"Well, Ruby's readings. I was only able to get basic readings when she was in the hospital, but these results are much more comprehensive." She gestured at a green line that was dancing up and down a computer monitor. Misato couldn't make heads or tails of it.

"Looks like a green line to me."

"Well, normally, a pilot who's suffering severe mental instability would generate highly erratic results, but these are even more stable than Shinji's."
"Huh." Misato checked the monitor feeds again. The two pilots were both focused, their eyes closed and lips drawn tight.

"Huh indeed."

"Well, how's her synch ratio look?"

"Preliminary results… are actually pretty impressive. Look at this." Ritsuko pointed at a screen with one hand while extracting a cigarette from her lab coat with the other.

Misato couldn't make sense of the raw data, but a clear percentage stood out.

"Fifteen percent?!" Ritsuko sighed, and smoke wafted clear of her mouth and diffused into the air, thick and grey.

"Yes. Astronomically higher than expected. She's just below the range for effective combat synchronization, but with a little bit of work, she'll be good to go. All while suffering amnesia. Either she has a remarkably strong will…"

"Or she's not an amnesiac." Ritsuko gave her a disapproving look.

"Yeah, I realized it as I was saying it." Misato said.

"Still, I need to run more tests. For now, the Children are free to go." She nodded, clicking on the microphone.

"Ok, you guys are all done. Good work, you two! We'll celebrate at home."

Ruby let out a loud yawn, stretching her arms.

"About time! I was getting really bored!" Shinji stayed quiet, as usual.

Misato couldn't help but smile. They were a sweet couple of kids. Unfortunate how the fate of the world rested on their shoulders. They should be relaxing at home, worrying about getting dates or their next math test, not the survival of humanity. The lab door hissed open, revealing Vice Commander Fuyutski.

"Sir." She said.

"Greetings everyone. How did the first synch test go?"

"Very well, actually. Shinji scored a forty-two percent, and Ruby a fifteen." Ritsuko said. The older man was taken aback.

"Fifteen percent?"
"It surprised me as well. The girl has potential. She can't pilot just yet, but she'll be there in no time." Fuyutski nodded.

"That's good to hear. By the way, Misato, regarding the legal guardianship of Miss Rose…"

"Yes, sir?"

"The papers have been approved, but HR wants her to stay in Nerv HQ for the next few days, to observe her condition." Misato figured something like this would happen. She couldn't blame them though, and it wasn't unreasonable.

She met with the Third and Fourth Child after they had showered and changed into their regular clothes. Ruby was chatting excitedly with Corporal Hikijira about guns or something. Shinji had his ear buds in. Shocker.

"Ruby, can I talk to you for a second?"

"Sure!" She bounced over to Misato, smiling wide.

"Hey kiddo. I'm sorry, but I got some bad news." Her face fell, fear flashing briefly in her silver eyes. Misato waved her worries off.

"Don't worry, nothing too bad! I'm afraid I can't take you home just yet. Some issues with HR. The papers went through though, so it'll happen eventually." Ruby shrugged, fear vanishing.

"Ah, oh well. Not much you can do…bureaucracies and whatnot." Misato giggled.

"True. But some good news too. Your synch ratio was really good! In fact, by the time Unit Zero is ready for activation, you'll be ready to pilot." Ruby let out an elated whoop, throwing a fist into the air.

"Aw, yes! I'm gonna be a EVA pilot! This is so cool!" She threw her arms around Misato, who let out an 'oomf' from the sudden gesture. "You rock, Misato."

"You too, sweetie. You too."

Shinji watched the exchange in silence.

Gendo's fingers rested in their usual place, elbows propped on the table before him. His orange-tinted glasses hid his eyes as they scanned the Human Instrumentality Committee.

"This is much too soon, Ikari." Keel rumbled, his visor turning to face Gendo. "The Dead Sea Scrolls say nothing of the Fourth Child appearing so soon. This is troubling news."

"Indeed." The Russian committee member said, leaning forward. "It casts the validity of our interpretations into doubt. Troubling is putting it mildly."

"We've already spoken to you about your mishandling of the Third Angel!" The British representative cried. "You would do well to keep this girl in check."

"Time… money… manpower." The American member growled. Gendo scoffed. The Americans were always afflicted with pettiness. The Angels have arrived, and they still whined and complained about resources.

"You worry yourselves over a technicality." Gendo began, holding a hand up when the British man threatened to interrupt him. "The Fourth Child's arrival is nothing but advantageous. Nerv is now better equipped to defeat the Angels."

"What of the First Child? Was she not adequate?"

"She has her purpose. With the completion of Evangelion Unit Three, she can resume her piloting duties, should the need arise."

"And Human Instrumentality?" Keel asked, leaning forward.

"It remains my primary concern." Gendo said, his voice frozen over like black ice. "However, the real reason this Council was summoned remains unaddressed."

"Adam." Keel said, nodding.

"The rumors are true then?" The French member said. "It has finally surfaced?"

"Indeed. It appears as though the Angels are not our only obstacle. Some fringe Apocrypha indicated such trials must be overcome before Human Instrumentality is to occur."
"Should they prove a threat?" the Russian councilor asked. "It is hard to imagine humans would stand in the way of their own salvation."

"They will not." Gendo said, turning his gaze upon the man. "I'll put Mr. Kaji on the case immediately."

"Can he be trusted?" Keel said.


"I would prefer a special forces team to retrieve the package." The American again.

"His Holiness – and the world at large – would not react well to U.N. forces storming the Vatican. Such an operation could induce doubt and bring unwanted attention to our efforts." Gendo countered. "One man is more than enough to retrieve it."

"Very well." Keel said. "Although, if he should fail, more drastic measures will be required."

"Of course, Chairman. But it will not come to that. You have my solemn word… Adam will be recovered in short order."

A/N: I smell shenanigans. This is the part where I remind you that the world of Evangelion is not a 1-for-1 copy of the TV show/Rebuilds with added Ruby. I have some OC stuff in here, and it's gonna shake things up pretty considerably. Don't worry though, everything will remain true to the spirit of the original.

And some minor adjustments... like Misato not bitching about being poor, because honestly, the fact that she did in the original story was kind of bullshit haha

Thanks for giving it a read! Let me know what you thought! I love getting your guys' feedback.

Review Replies:

DMAN19922: Thanks so much! I know how Rei and Ruby are going to get along, but I can't wait until Asuka gets thrown into the mix. I honestly have no idea what's going to happen until they're placed in a scene together. I'm excited to find out!

King of Bad Naming Sense: Well, I don't think a lot of culture disappeared (as I showed above), and would actually imagine a lot of effort being put into saving pre-Second Impact stuff.

RoboVolcano4: Shinji and Ruby start bouncing off each other a lot more in the coming chapters, and it's a lot of fun to read! I hope you'll like it too! And no hints on pairings yet! :3

keeper of all lore: Thanks! Hopefully I answered a few of your questions here, but Ruby piloting will certainly be interesting!

iyaoyas: Aw, thank you so much! I'm glad you liked the chapter! I tried to fix my gaff a little, I called them "mufflers" instead. (Hopefully that's adequate) Glad to hear you're enjoying the story so far!

Next Chapter Preview! (Cue 30-Second Preview Music!)

Ruby and Shinji go to school, and get a bit more than they bargained for! The Fourth Angel attacks Tokyo-3! Will Shinji or Ruby be strong enough to defeat it?!

Find out next time!