Forgive me for putting this up on the top instead of the bottom. This one-shot was a birthday present for a friend of mine. Happy belated birthday my friend, I hope you and everyone else will enjoy reading this.
"She would love this…"
The consecutive clicks of the tracks were heard from outside of the train. Shinji looked up from the book he was reading and turned to the window next to him. Neo-Tokyo-03 shined brightly against the early sunrise; the orange and yellows and the shadows of skyscrapers leaking into the cabin.
He elbowed his wife sitting next to him. "Honey…" he said softly. "Wake up. We're here… honey?"
Her eyes fluttered open. A soft smile grew on his face seeing her slowly wake up. His smile was short-lived as her fist hit his nose while she stretched.
Asuka yawned and rubbed her eyes. "Huh… oh hey, we made it," she remarked, looking out the window. "What's up wrong with you?" she asked, turning to Shinji holding his nose in pain.
"N-nothing," he said. "My nose is still a little sore from earlier, that's all. The suitcase slammed me in the face, remember?"
"You're still hurting from that? I remember the man I married being tougher than that," she joked, returning to the window next to her. "The skies looking beautiful today, isn't it?"
"Yeah, It is,"
A sense of nostalgia rained over them as they passed by the tall skyscrapers standing proud in front of the sun. Save for a few newer, smaller buildings, everything looked just like how it was when they last saw it the year before.
Asuka and Shinji, along with their other companions long since move west to Nagoya once the world began to have some sense of direction and organization after the devastating Third impact. At the time it was the best and most affordable option for them.
That said, the two of them always made it a point to revisit the city on their anniversary. It would feel wrong not to. Thankfully, both of them were able to save up enough vacation days so that they could do this.
A few minutes later, their train arrived at the station. They both took off and head straight out towards the city. Talking, cackling, and shouting from people walking up and down the sidewalk encompassed them from every corner of the area.
Asuka rubbed her forehead. "I always forget how big of a headache this place gives me,"
Shinji chuckled. "We ought to head straight for the hotel, don't wanna miss check-out time. Now let's see which way is it again...?" he began looking around.
Asuka's stomach made a low growl. "Can we stop for and eat first?" she asked, holding her stomach. "We still haven't eaten since we left last night,"
"I told you we should have packed breakfast for us. We'll stop by somewhere after we get checked into the hotel, okay?"
She caressed his cheek. "I'm not sure you understand that well, sweetie..." she growled, a threatening aura radiating off her.
"W-well, we've still got time. A stop or two couldn't hurt!" he said, his hands waving in the air rapidly.
Asuka's anger faded. "Good, let's be quick then. I'm starving,"
"That will be 1200," said the street cook, holding two bowls of ramen. Shinji handed him the money and took the two bowls.
"Thank you," he said, walking over to the bench where Asuka was. He sat beside her and handed her one of the bowls.
She quickly unsnapped her chopsticks and began digging into her food. "Ah… street ramen just hits the spot," she mumbled with a slurp of noodles, garnering a snicker from Shinji.
The park they sat in had remained the same since they had last visited. A peaceful feeling came over them while looking at the glistening blue pond and the ducks swimming around. The fountain in the middle of it was new, however. Why it was put there was a mystery they could never solve, was it to reinforce a semblance of normalcy? One could only wonder.
"We should take Yuko here next time we visit. She would love this, wouldn't she? All the ducks and such." said Shinji, in-between bites of ramen. "I wish we didn't have to dump her on Rei and Kaworu,"
Asuka snickered. "They'll be fine," she said. "I'm sure the two of them can handle one toddler."
Shinji tapped his chin. "I'm not sure, you know how energetic she gets," he joked. "Usually Touji and Hikari are the ones taking care of her,"
"All three-year-olds are energetic. Less worrying and more eating or your noodles will get soggy" she said. "Have a little faith in your sister,"
"Sorry, I'll be quiet about it. You're right, they've got everything under control... I hope,"
"Good, now, mind if I have that last Narutomaki?" she asked, her chopsticks hovering over his bowl.
While on their way to the hotel, they had decided to stop at a nearby gift shop. A couple of souvenirs for the family would be great, at least to commemorate their visit. Despite being very small, the store had been filled with all kinds of items, making it difficult to choose what to get.
Shinji contemplated on a small snowglobe that had a miniature version of the city in it. "Hey, you think Misato would like this?" he asked, holding the snowglobe up.
"Hmm… I think Kaji already got that for her," she said.
"Damn," A bright purple t-shirt with the design "I Heart Tokyo-03" on it caught the corner of his eye. "then what about-"
Asuka shook her head. "Rei gave her that for Christmas,"
"Right…" he said, disappointed. "Jeez, you'd think it would be easy with all these options. Are you having any luck?" he asked.
His wife was silent; she too was finding not that much luck with finding gifts. "Well, I found a mug for Kaji…" she held up a novelty "#1 Dad" mug.
"Uh-huh, I see… well, I'm gonna keep looking around, maybe I'll find something," he said.
Asuka also continued looking, most of the items sold were either already given or were corny beyond belief. She went from aisle to aisle and still… nothing. It was probably a good idea just to stop the gift hunting and get to the hotel. They could miss the check-in time if they continued to doddle around in the store any longer.
While trying to regroup with Shinji, something on one of the shelves caught her eye. It was a tiny charm bracelet that sat vacantly around a bunch of other miscellaneous items. There was a smile on her face as a thought popped into her mind. She took the bracelet and went back to finding Shinji.
"Maybe she will like this,"
They began to regret taking all of those midway stops as they were just minutes away from missing the check-in. By some miracle, they were able to make it to the hotel in time. Shinji keeled down, trying to catch his breath from the marathon they ran.
"We… we made it," stammered Shinji.
"I didn't think you were this out of shape," commented Asuka. "When we get home, you're going to start coming with me to the gym,"
"Yeah, yeah sounds like a plan, babe. But can we discuss this after we check-in?"
"Yes, now get up there already!"
Shinji checked them in at the front desk and was given their room key. After a quiet elevator ride and a bit of walking, they arrived at their room. Asuka placed her suitcase next to the closest bed and collapsed onto it.
"Finally, we made it," she mumbled, her face covered by a pillow.
Shinji placed his bag at the end of the bed. "We would have been here sooner if you hadn't made us stop every two seconds…"
"What was that?" Asuka jolted up, her tone threatening.
"O-oh, nothing just talking about the weather, t-that's all," he said. He looked up at the bed and saw Asuka holding up the charm bracelet. "So, who is that for?"
"You asked me that earlier, remember?"
"Yes, and I remember not getting an answer because we were too busy running," he joked, sitting on the foot of the bed.
Asuka chuckled. "Oh yeah, you're right," she said. "It's for Yuko, a little cheap, I know. Just I thought she might want something for her to remember. A nice memento, you know? If she doesn't like it I guess we'll have to think of something else for her."
Shinji raised his eyebrow. "You're kidding, right? Of course she'll love it," he said. "I mean, you're her favorite after all,"
"Our daughter? Playing favorites, are you sure?"
Shinji snickered. "Oh, most definitely. Tell me, who gets the most drawings, you or me?"
Asuka thought about it for a quick second. Now that he had mentioned it, she always noticed her daughter draw more pictures of her than she did of Shinji. Often finding them in her room or at the dining table.
"Huh... I never thought about it until now," she said with a chuckle. "But shouldn't you be hurt by that? You sound pretty calm for admitting your daughter likes your wife more than she does you."
"No, not really," he shrugged. "I know she loves me too, and I'm sure she knows that I love her even more."
"Hmm… are you sure you don't mind?" she asked, leaning into him with a smirk stretched on her face.
"Mmm… okay, I mind a little bit, I'll admit that. But only a little little bit,"
"Well alright then, whatever you say," she said. "Now then, about dinner…?"
"Didn't we just eat two hours ago?"
Asuka rolled her eyes. "I wasn't saying right now. I meant for later, smartass."
Shinji laid on the hotel room bed, watching TV while Asuka was in the shower. The two had just finished dinner and were now winding down for the night. Nothing particularly interesting was on, only the news. A bunch of political talk and coverage on traffic accidents, typical nightly news topics.
The phone on their nightstand began to ring. Who could be calling at this hour? Shinji picked up the phone, simultaneously turning down the TV volume. "Hello?"
"Hello, yes, you have a call from a Mrs. Nagisa," said the woman. "Would you like us to put them through?"
"Oh yes please," he said.
The line made a clicking noise. "...Hello?" a different, much quieter voice asked.
"Hey, Rei, is everything okay?" he asked.
"Oh yes, I just put Yuko down for bed so I thought now was a good time to see how you two were doing," she replied. "I assume you two made it there safely?"
"More or less, although we almost missed our check-in time because Asuka wanted to make a few stops along the way," he said. "Hey, we got a new mug for Kaji, hehe..."
"That's good to hear. We were both worried that something might have happened since you didn't tell us if you made it or not,"
"Ah, sorry to worry you then. We probably should have been the ones checking in with you guys," he chuckled. "How is Yuko doing? I hope she isn't giving you guys any trouble."
"She behaved the entire day. However, when we went to the park, Kaworu was having a hard time catching up with her," she said, with a subtle snicker. "You and Asuka have raised quite the active little girl."
Shinji smirked. "We don't know who she gets it from, probably Asuka, since I don't remember being all that active as a kid," he said, "So um, are you two holding up, after…?"
"We're doing much better now. Kaworu has been doing even better than I expected," she replied, her tone turning somber. "We both suspected this, that we couldn't have... a child."
"Agh! Why did I have to bring it up? Sorry," he said, kicking himself. "That's why I was so worried about having Yuko with you guys at such short notice. Had we known that Touji and Hikari were going on vacation too, we would've put her with Misato or someone else,"
Rei shrugged it off. "You don't have to apologize. Besides, we like having her here. If anything, she has helped brighten the atmosphere. As soon as she arrived, in fact," she said, a smile on her face.
"That's… that's a relief, I was scared having her there would make things worse," a grin grew on his face. "But I guess I was just overthinking it. And hey… look on the bright side, you could always adopt a child," His eyes widened. Regret filled him, realizing what he has said.
"I won't deny the thought has crossed my mind. Though, Kaworu and I still need some time. Stuff like that will have to wait, for now at least," she replied. "Now then, I'm sure you two want some time alone together, so we'll catch back up once you two get back,"
"Suppose you're right, we've got to get up early. Well, thanks for checking in on us; tell Kaworu we said hi."
"I will, goodnight," she said, hanging up the phone.
Asuka returned from the bathroom just as Shinji put the phone back on its stand. "Who was that?" she asked while drying her hair off.
"Just Rei, she wanted to check on us," he said. "Yuko's being a good girl, save for when she gave Kaworu a good workout at the park."
Asuka chuckled, beginning to change into an oversized shirt. "Sounds like they're doing much better," she
"Yeah, she didn't sound as sulky. That's one of the things she's good at, moving on."
"I guess for her, she figures there's not much else to do, either wallow around or get up and move past it," she said, climbing into bed next to him.
"That does sound like her. I never imagined she could be so miserable. It was… disheartening,"
"It was for all of us..." she said. "...Gah! Let's stop talking about it. This isn't the time or place. Can we wait until we get home to talk about this kind of stuff, okay?"
"Right, sorry, guess I've got a knack for messing up the mood, huh?" he joked.
She rolled her eyes. "Oh quit being self-deprecating and get some sleep," she said, slipping under the covers.
"Alright, goodnight, honey," he said, turning off the end table lamp.
Asuka awoke, the sun still down. She got out of bed, waking up Shinji in the process. Neither of them spoke to each other, nor did they waste a second. They left their room as fast as they could and headed straight down to the hotel exit.
Taking a cab seemed like the quickest option, they needed to arrive at their destination as soon as possible. Thankfully, the two lucked out and the cab driver they had did not mind the special request.
Shinji looked out the window, the lively city in the early morning darkness was slowly replaced with the peaceful, untouched countryside. A bittersweet, feeling came over him, as he looked at the distant dirt roads. It reminded him of the long, polarizing walk he took as he ran away from Misato's apartment.
Asuka rested her head on Shinji's shoulder and fell back asleep, still tired from this morning. The driver looked at the two of them through the rearview mirror. "So, how long have y'all been together for. If ya' don't mind me asking?"
"Oh, I don't mind at all. Today it will be exactly eight years,"
"Ah, that's nice. Yeah, I was married for a while, I'd say about twenty years. Things didn't end up working out and the misses wound up leaving me," he said. "Pah! What am I doing? Me, some old fart, telling you some sob story about my marriage troubles. Sorry, I've got a habit of getting carried away when I'm talking sometimes."
"No, worries. Even I do it sometimes," he said, waving it off.
The driver snickered. "I'm not the only, then, hehe. Well, what I was trying to say was don't be like me. I can't blame my wife for leaving, All I did was sit around and be ungrateful. I didn't know what I had until it was gone. Be thankful you're the one she chose. And make sure she knows you are,"
A smirk grew on his face as he looked down at his wife, fast asleep. "Believe me, she knows, better than anyone else," he said.
"Looks like you already knew everything, then. Guess there was no point in telling ya," he said, remaining silent for the rest of the trip.
The cab stopped after approximately two hours of driving. The sun's early light was peaking through the clouds. Shinji lightly shook Asuka awake, her contagious yawn affecting both him and the driver. He passed the money to the driver and exited the car.
Shinji and Asuka walked down a sandy path, a variety of ferns around the edges of it. The sound of waves crashing became louder as they walked further down. Both sat on the sand, the early morning colors slowly revealing themselves.
The place they were at was the beach, that very beach where their journey began. So much had changed since their night in the post-Third-impact world. The second angel, Lilith's, severed and split head was gone, likely sunken beneath the faded red ocean; the corpses of the Mass-produced Evangelions, the white harpies that tore into Unit-02 and Asuka's synchronized flesh, gone along with it.
Shinji could recall it all, the world's death and rebirth, the two of them aimlessly wandering in the wasteland that was formerly Tokyo-03, and the countless tears shed. Their relationship had grown steadily after that. It was by no means perfect. However, it didn't matter to them, they were happy together and couldn't ask for anything more.
Shinji turned to Asuka, a small smile on her face. They must have been thinking of the same thing. "I say this every year," he said softly. "But thank you, Asuka. I'm so lucky to have you and Yuko, I really am,"
Asuka rolled her eyes. "Do you always have to say that?" she said. "You tell me that even when it isn't our anniversary,"
"My bad, force of habit. I just wanted to say I love you, that's all."
She lightly smacked him in the back of the head. "I love you too, now enjoy the sunrise,"
The sun's head peaked out, changing the color of the clouds from gray to a mix of oranges and yellows. Huddled close to each other, they watched as it rose, feeling the subtle warmth on them. Thoughts of the past or future did not matter at that moment. Only what was happening then and now, their quality time together.
"I can't wait for Yuko to see this place," asked Asuka.
Shinji nodded slowly. "Me too... me too,"