The World Painted Red

by Ancient Rime

For Asuka, the day had come to an end. She had been playing some fighting game with Shinji until he had to go out and run an errand for Misato he'd forgotten about. That was the twelfth case of beer this month, but he'd rather obey Misato than face her wrath. He had run out, and left Asuka bored and alone. She was laying on her back now, popping potato chips into her mouth, and watching some soap opera. She was practically asleep with her eyes open, and in a rare peaceful mood. Indeed, it often seemed that Asuka had almost a dual nature to herself, the other side of which she was terrified to show to others. It worried her to share her thoughts with people if they went beyond skin depth, and there was so much more to Asuka than just her beauty.

Time passed slowly. It seemed that Asuka had perfected the art of sleeping with her eyes open. Suddenly, there was a noise that stood out from the voices of the TV that had grown to become nothing but brainless chatter to her. Asuka didn't bother to move to find out what it was.

"Asuka I'm home" Misato called.Asuka just laid on her back staring at the ceiling still. She made no movement other to talk.

"Yep. How was the meeting?" Misato had gone into her room and shut the door. Because of Misato's failure to answer, Asuka had grown curious. She rolled over on to her stomach and pushed herself up with her hands. She walked to Misato's room, and knocked on the door lightly

"Yea, come in." Asuka pranced in and spotted Misato's new perfume. She gazed at it in awe. That was the same one she had wanted! She and Misato really did think alike. She restated the question.

"So how'd the meeting go?" Misato sighed and tried to ignore Asuka again and changed the subject.

"Where's Shinji?" Asuka growled and mumbled something in German.

"He went to run an errand for you. He's been out for hours. Now how was the meeting?" Misato had run aout of places to hide. She had to answer Asuka this time.

"Can we not talk about it Asuka? It was a stressful night." Asuka rolled her eyes sarcastically. She chuckled lightly

"Geez Misato, what's wrong with you? You're acting so down... Almost like Rei. Stop scaring me!"

"Oh! Speaking of Rei... Could you please take this to her?" Misato produced a stack of papers and handed them to Asuka. She faked having to strugle beneath their weight for the sake of comic relief.

"What is all of this Misato?" There was a long silent pause, and then Misato spoke.

“You'll find out when Rei starts reading them..." Asuka had a skeptical look on her face now. She stepped closer to Misato, and put her hand on her shoulder.

"What's wrong Misato...? For real. You've got me worried. Is it Kaji?" Misato sat down on her bed and sighed softly. She didn't want to make eye contact with Asuka, but knew that she would eventually have to. He placed her hands on her lap, and focused on looking down at them.

"It's just that these meetings make me more and more paranoid, Asuka. I don't want to share my fears and insecurities with you. You're only a child. The more I hear at these meetings, the more I have to wonder how in the dark I truly am. What are the Evas really here for? Don't you ever wonder about that?"

"To defeat the Angels of course! Come on... You're starting to get as dense as Shinji lately." Misato looked up into Asuka's eyes.

"How do you know that?" There was a long awkward pause where neither said anything. Asuka stumbled over her words until she forced herself to throw them out.

"Who cares?! I mean, what's the worse that could happen?" Misato interrupted.

"Have you ever wondered what's to happen to you when all of the Angels are defeated?" Asuka could say nothing. She choked on the same words that she had thrown up, and could feel them strangling her. She sighed out of frustration. She couldn't argue the point, and there was no real point in spending her time worrying about it constantly. She got off the whole subject, and smiled at Misato.

"Look... I'll go deliver these to Rei all right. In the mean time, don't go turning into Wonder Girl on me. Okay?" Misato just nodded, humoring Asuka. It was only moments later that Asuka had slipped on her shoes and walked out the door.

Misato couldn't stand being alone in that apartment anymore. After fifteen minutes of it, the whole silence had become just stifling. It was true that everyone in NERV loved her, but Ritsuko was the only one who she could really consider her friend. A friend in need is a friend indeed, she had been told, and Misato was certainly in need. She slipped on some caual clothing, just a simple pair of jeans and a shirt, and exited her appartment. Numerous thoughts had crossed her mind while she was in the car, but she wouldn't let that distract her driving. She knew where the doctor would be. It never failed. She never left her office. Misato had come to wonder why they didn't just have her live there, and list the address as her permanent residence.

Misato parked the car, and looked up at the building. There was only one light on. It would seem that dear Dr. Akagi was burning the candle at both ends again tonight. Misato couldn't help but chuckle to herself; this reminded her of her college days. Those were the good old days when Misato would come to Ritsuko at unskeakable hours of the night to tell her about her problems... And she would always listen. Misato made her way past the double doors to the lab building, showing off her NERV personell card to the guard on duty who knew her by name anyway. She took the elevator up to the tenth floor, and found the door open and Ritsuko working diligent, a wall of papers and charts blocking her from view.

She knocked softly on the door frame, standing in the doorway. Ritsuko was so engrossed in her work that she would have hardly noticed if there were a lone gunman at the door."Come in" she called. She knew it was Misato just by her knock. She gave a self assured chuckle to herself and then spoke, not even facing Misato. She rolled over from computer to computer, punching in data. "That's just like you... Okay. What's the matter this time?" Misato stepped in and sat down in the only open chair in the room.

"I don't know... I think ... that's why I'm here." Ritsuko swirved in her rolling chair, and pushed her glasses up her nose bridge with a amicable smile.

"Searching for answers huh? I guess you couldn't have come to anyone but a scientist." Ritsuko lifted her coffee mug to her lips. It had pretty cursive writing on it that read "I Love Cats."

"You know, it's nights like these that I have to appreciate this sludge that you call coffe." She set the mug down anfter cringing and taking a sip and stared eye level at Misato.

"So... you're looking for answers. All right. I can respect that. What kind of answers?" Misato fidgeted slightly.

"It's about the plans the Commander has for Rei and Asuka. I don't exactly feel comfortable about it. He was so ambiguous about it too."

"Well, Commander Ikari has his ways you know. I think you need to have some faith Misato." Misato shook her head softly.

"Other than that it just feels like I have such confused feelings; about my work, the pilots, everything. I just don't know how to sort them." Ritsuko cleared her throat, having known her for years, Misato could tell that she had something to say beyond what was meant.

"You know, Misato... Theres more than one personality within each of us. Look at the Magi for instance. They outlined the three aspects of my mother as a woman, a scientist, and a parent. People seem to have a dual nature themselves, like electrons. Sometimes we don't know whether we're waves or particles. Mind you that the electron has been the most puzzling part of the atom to chemists and physicists since the dawn of both sciences..."