Moving On

by deckman1063

Quick Author's Note: thanks to JT who read this chapter for me a couple of times, and helped me figure out what wasn't right about it. For what it's worth, chapter 4 is in the works...

- deckman1063

Chapter 3

"Rule it?" Shinji exclaimed, nearly dropping the plates he was carrying.

"Yes. Why are you so surprised?" replied the orange-eyed girl, arching an eyebrow at her companion.

Shinji sputtered as he carried the armload of dishes to the kitchen sink, obviously having difficulty processing the new information about his hosts. As he put his burden down, he managed to get his mind back into gear, "B-b-but why do you live here if your family is in charge there?"

"Grandfather Yosho was the first crown prince when he came here. His half Earther heritage made him subject to heavy prejudice back on Jurai so he decided not to return. The rest is history. Things on Jurai are better now than they were seven hundred years ago, but there are still many who cling to the old ways. You and Asuka will have to face some of that if you come with us, and I thought you should know before you decide." Mayuka had begun washing the dishes as she spoke, and Shinji stood ready with a towel, easily falling into the domestic rhythm he was used to while living with Misato.

"Oh!" he shouted, thoughts of his former guardian reminding him of their pet. "Miss Mayuka, do you think that Washu would be able to find something for me, in Tokyo-2?"

"That depends on what you're looking for, but she does love a challenge. What do you need her to find?"

"Only people were affected by Third Impact and Instrumentality, not animals, so Pen-Pen, my guardian's pet penguin might be OK. Misato had sent him to live in Tokyo-2 with some friends just before the end."

"Pet penguin? I didn't know there were any left after Second Impact."

As Shinji was about to reply, Asuka and Washu entered the kitchen, having finished in the lab. Asuka was wearing a pair of khaki capri's with a light pink blouse, and was sporting a small black eye-patch. She had heard Mayuka's question and realized she missed the bird herself. "I was wondering, Shinji, do you know what happened to Pen-Pen?" she asked, cutting off Shinji's answer.

"I was going to ask Washu to look for him in Tokyo-2. Misato sent him to live with the Horaki's when they moved out a few weeks ago," replied the brown haired boy.

"Oh, OK," the red-head said quietly, not wanting to be reminded of the time she had spent comatose in the hospital. She had seen others' memories of that time during Instrumentality and hadn't liked what they revealed.

Washu, on the other hand, perked up at the former pilot's question, summoning her holo-keypad. "I'm sure I can find a penguin in Tokyo-2, just give me time to get some sensor drones in position and I'll find that bird by dinner time!"

Shinji bowed to the red-headed genius, "thank you, Miss Washu. I would be very grateful if you could find him. He must be very lonely and hungry right now."

"No, no, it is no trouble. I hate to see anyone suffer." Washu turned towards the door to her lab and muttered aloud to herself, "find a penguin in Tokyo-2? What was I thinking? Oh well, I am the greatest genius in the universe! How hard could it be?" The three teens just looked at each other nervously, since the scientist hadn't been as quiet as she thought.

Asuka began rummaging in the refrigerator, and had pulled out a pitcher of iced tea. As she settled onto a stool with a glass, Mayuka and Shinji resumed their cleaning up. "So, what were you two talking about while I was with Miss Washu? You look very domestic," the red-head slyly insinuated.

"M-mayuka was just telling me a little about Jurai, that's all! Really!" stammered the brown haired boy, taking Asuka's bait and turning red.

"I was telling him about the family business, as well as the fact that some Juraians look down on Earthers," explained Mayuka, washing the last plate and passing it to her assistant.

Asuka sipped at her tea, expecting the dark blue haired girl to elaborate. The moment dragged out and she couldn't stand it any more, "Well? What do you people do on Jurai?"

Mayuka gave the same reply she had given Shinji earlier, but Asuka had a very different reaction, "You're not kidding me? Jurai must be one crazy place."

"Not crazy, just different," replied the youngest Masaki. "Besides, giant robots fighting monsters and all humanity being destroyed is normal?"

"Nothing is 'normal' anymore. Nothing...ever...was," Asuka slowly came to a quiet stop, staring into the glass she held in her lap. As her hair fell down in front of her face, her shoulders began to shake, and Mayuka and Shinji could hear her short, sharp, gasping sobs.

Mayuka quickly put down the dishcloth, and, wiping her hands on her apron, hurried across the kitchen to the redhead and put her arms around the girl from the side. "I'm sorry, Asuka! I didn't mean to upset you, I was only teasing!"

Shinji, meanwhile, just stood by the sink in shock, watching the girls and trying to decide what to do. He had never seen Asuka break down like that before - her usual method of dealing with unpleasant thoughts had been to lash out at the offender, or the closest convenient target, which had often been him.

Sasami entered the kitchen a couple of minutes later, to the scene of Mayuka holding the younger girl. Asuka's head was buried on the older girl's shoulder and she was keening softly. Shinji was watching the scene with a helpless expression, leaning against the sink. Mayuka looked up at her aunt with an pleading expression, "Auntie?" was all she could manage before the older woman held out her hand and closed her eyes in concentration. The two dots on her forehead began to glow faintly, and she began to sing, too quietly to hear the words. Asuka's crying began to slowly turn to soft breathing as she fell asleep. Shinji gradually relaxed and looked at Sasami, eyes wide in at the sight of the glow surrounding her and her hair waving as if in a breeze. She held her hands together in front of her chin, as if in prayer.

The boy was shaken from his awed trance by the bursting into the room of both Ryoko and Tenchi, who had both felt the stirring of Sasami's power. Sasami's eyes snapped open and she looked to Tenchi as she finished her song. In an echoing voice that seemed to come from everywhere at once, she declared, "the Child should sleep for a short while. She holds much sadness within, and it will take her time to let it go. Less time, with our help. I helped her to relax and sleep." Ryoko moved to assist Mayuka with the sleeping girl, and they carried her out of the kitchen into the family room, putting her on one of the sofas. The blue haired, pink eyed goddess then turned to Shinji and smiled, "You, Child, also hold much pain, but you must be brave and strong, for her as well as yourself. By helping her, you will in turn be helped. Remember that neither of you are alone: you have each other, and us, to lean on when you must. This world will one day be whole again." She blinked, and the glow slowly faded. In a normal voice, she added, "Tenchi, I think you should help Shinji out to the family room to sit with Asuka."

Asuka woke from her sleep just before lunch and related her strange dream to Shinji, who was sitting in the chair next to her, reading and listening to his SDAT player. She had been walking alone on a dark plain, and had followed the most beautiful song she had ever heard for what seemed like forever. A pond with a small tree had appeared, and as she moved closer, she had realized that the tree was the source of the song. Kneeling at the edge of the pond, the music lulled her to sleep no matter how hard she tried to fight it, and then the next thing she knew she had woken on the couch. Shinji had tried to relate his version of the morning's events, but Sasami called everyone for lunch before he could finish. During lunch, Yosho and Tenchi announced that they would be leaving for Jurai the next day. Anything that they couldn't pack up in that time could be guarded by Washu's devices. Since the two former pilots couldn't really help with packing up, they had been relegated to the video viewer with a couple of informational programs about Jurai and the galactic civilization in general. When they had finished those, they decided on an action movie to pass the time until dinner.

The door to Washu's lab banged open in the middle of the film, about 3pm, and the red-headed scientist burst out, shouting, "Shinji! Asuka! I found your penguin - come with me!" as she grabbed them both and pulled them into the lab. Where the examination room had been earlier was a control-room-like area with consoles and screens arranged in a semi-circle around a large captain's chair. The screens showed aerial views of the surrounding area, the Tokyo-3 beach where the Children had been found, and an apartment block in a city that the screen had labeled as TOKYO-2: 15:07 JST. A targeting circle was superimposed on the building, focused on a window four stories up. Small print under the circle declared "PENGUIN - 99.44% PROBABILITY".

"That's the only place that there is anything even close to a penguin, it must be him, I am SUCH a genius!" Washu announced, trailing off into maniacal laughter. Both teens simply stared at her in disbelief, so she continued, "Ha ha, don't mind me. Now - how do you want to retrieve him? There are two ways - one of you can go in and bring him through the portal, or I can have a robot do it, its up to you two."

"Shinji, you should go get him. He'd freak out if a robot showed up," came Asuka's immediate proposal.

"Yeah, you're probably right. I'll go," Shinji replied, asking Washu "What do I have to do?"

"Just step through this portal, and you'll be inside the apartment," Washu gestured behind the two to a swirling black portal that hadn't been there when they had entered.

"That's all?" Shinji looked dubiously at the blackness. "I can't see where I'm going!"

"Oh! Sorry about that, look here," Washu pointed at a new screen showing the interior of an apartment. "This is the view out of the portal."

"Uh, could you move the portal a little bit? I'll trip over the table where it is now."

Washu fingers flew over her holo-laptop and the view panned to the side until nothing was visible blocking the exit. "You don't miss much, do you Shinji? Heh-heh. Smart kid."

"OK, here I go," Shinji stated as he walked into the blackness. There was an immediate thump heard through the screen's speakers and a surprised "Ow!" The screen view panned down to show the boy sprawled over a chair that had been outside the camera range before.

"Sheesh, what a baka," commented the red-haired girl, as she shook her head.

Washu stepped through the portal herself and helped the boy up. As he dusted himself off, the sound of beer cans being kicked came from the hallway and Shinji was nearly knocked over again as Pen Pen latched onto his leg.

"Pen Pen! It is you! You're safe!" exclaimed the teen as he knelt to grab the squawking bird. Meanwhile, Washu looked carefully around the room, noting the pile of clothing on the other side of the table.

"Okay, you got him, let's go," she said as she took hold of the boys shoulders and steered him to the portal, turning him so he wouldn't see the pile. The red-haired scientist pushed him through into the lab, and the circle shrank to a dot, disappearing with a soft 'poof' after she came behind him. Pen Pen seemed oblivious to the change of location as it happened, as he was still latched onto Shinji's front. He soon noticed his new surroundings, though, and began looking around quickly. Asuka and Shinji took Pen Pen back into the main house, where he quickly made himself comfortable in front of the viewer in the family room until dinner.

After dinner, everyone gathered in the family room to relax after having spent the day packing up. Pen Pen was immediately adopted by everyone, especially after managing to steal a saucer of Ryoko's sake during dinner. Plans were then made to leave for Jurai after breakfast the next morning, with Tsunami carrying everyone. Noboyuki would stay behind and mind the house and Washu's sensors, and let the others know as soon as any other humans emerged from the ocean of LCL. Once on Jurai, Washu would open an access to her lab there as well, so that if the need arose, they could instantly travel between the two planets. No more than a couple of people could travel between the planets that way at a time, though, even for Washu the energy required to maintain a connection over such a large distance was not something to spent lightly.

As Shinji and Asuka readied themselves for another night at the Masaki house, they talked quietly together about their day, and Shinji finally got a chance to finish explaining to his red-headed companion about what Sasami had said and done that morning.

"So, you're saying that Miss Sasami was singing to me? I wonder why in my dream I saw a tree?" mused the girl, staring at the ceiling as she lay back on the futon.

"I certainly don't know why you saw a tree, but she sang the most amazing song I've ever heard. And she told me that they will be there to help both of us whenever we need it, but that most of all, we should try to help each other."

"Too bad we hadn't met the Masaki's sooner, huh, Shinji?"

"Yeah, I guess so. But I'm glad we're with them now. Pleasant dreams, Asuka," Shinji finished with a wide yawn and rolled over in his futon to get more comfortable. His dreams that night were once again strangely peaceful, considering the events of the previous days.

"Sleep well, Baka, and don't forget to keep yourself on YOUR side of the room." Asuka, too drifted off into a slumber where she had dreams of whole planets filled with singing trees.