Disclaimer -
Author: Well, another year without world domination...
Jimmy: Don't expect me to do some lame Pinky & Brain joke now.
Author: Hey, I was just trying to say in a somewhat humorous way that I don't own Evangelion.
Jimmy: Maybe you should try working on your fics rather than on your disclaimers. Hell, it's been two years now your descriptive writing is still subpar...
Author: Hey!
Jimmy: ...you still can't come up with names on your own...
Author: That's never been much of a problem!
Jimmy: ...you're getting slower and slower...
Author: Yes, okay, it hasn't been much new last year, but...
Jimmy: ...you're still talking with yourself in the disclaimers...
Author: ...
Jimmy: ...and while we're at it, they're much too long. Do you really expect people to read through this? They'll just jump to...




"Long Time No See"


A soft music filled the hall, but barely anyone used the opportunity to dance, unless their partner dragged them to the dance floor. Many of the former NERV-employees had secured themselves a place at the long bar, where the bartenders and assistants were busy filling everyone's orders. Most people, however, congregated in groups around the tables that were scattered around the room.

He would have been unable even to recognize most of them 15 years ago, so it wasn't surprising that there were only few known faces. On the other hand, only few people were able to recognize the once shy fourteen years old pilot either. And if he was honest, he still preferred it that way. If his wife hadn't pushed him, he most likely wouldn't have come at all.

And he still wasn't sure why he didn't just go home. Those he would like to see, he could visit anytime... or wouldn't be there anyway – that was a hope he had buried a long while ago. Strange that he actually thought about it now.

'Maybe because a reunion is the perfect place to get sentimental,' he tried to assure himself, looking around once more, resting his head on his arm as he slumped down on the table he had to himself. 'Or maybe just because I'm terribly bored...'

"Heeey, Ssssinji!" As if on cue, an arm flung around his shoulders to support its owner enough to stand next to him. "I almoss' thought you would misss all the fun!"

He glanced at the blue haired woman, who was poking his cheek with a finger. "Are you drunk again, Rei?" he asked rhetorically.

"Nonsensss! I had jusht one drink with the Major!"

"That's just what I meant," he sighed. When she was referring to Misato as 'the Major', she definitely had at least one whole drink. "You know that you can't hold much alcohol. Did Misato trick you again?"

"Trick? She juss' told me to have shome fun..." she babbled, looking around for something or someone. Though he could already guess. "Wheeere'sss... sss... eh... aah – you know who I mean."

"Oh, she didn't feel very well and couldn't..." He was cut of as someone suddenly pulled both of them in a tight embrace; squeezing herself between them. The stench of booze made it obvious that this one had more than just one drink.

"Whoo'sh no' well?" Misato 'asked'.

Rei pointed at him and answered before he could. "Ah... shh... she... You know!"

"She can't be shick! She wash shupposed to party wish ush!" Misato protested, then threw her head around, her foul breath directly aimed at his face. "Ooohhh, poor Shinshi! All alone here shen! And knowing you, mosht likely worrowying abou' her! Come, party wish ush! We're shupposed to have fun here after all!"

"Eh, no, thanks..."

"But it'sh been sho long shince we all had a nishe party togesher!" She groaned exaggerated. "It'sh shust not the same sinsh Ashuka moved out. We had shome great partysh back then..."

Shinji's eyes widened in shock. Whether it was because of Misato's lament after all this time or because of his own memory of that fateful day more than ten years ago, he couldn't tell.

"Uhm, yeah, I guess," he mumbled weakly, trying to get his thoughts back to the present. "But still, you know I'm not much better than Rei when it comes to alcohol, so..."

"MEH! You Mishter, are shust no fun!" the ex-Major spat, poking his chest. "Come, Rei, let'sh – hey, ish shat Aoba over there? Ha, almosht not recogn'zed him wish so little hair! Ish he gettin' bald or what?"

"Heh, not hiss faul', is it? Everyone isss getting older. Your hair 'as lost quite sssome color too..."

"WHA'?"

Shinji sighed softly as he watched them disappear in the crowd again, partly from relief, partly from sadness, as he was alone and bored again.

'Might as well go home then. She can't say I wasn't here. And there was no word about that I'd have to be the last one to leave.'

He glanced once more around, but as nothing that would have been interesting enough to change his decision caught his eye, he turned to go.

"Leaving so early, Third?"

His breathing stopped. That voice... he must have mistaken it. There was no way that... He had to make sure. But as he slowly turned around, his doubts raised more than they were subdued.

Could it be...?

That red-haired woman before him in that breathtaking black dress... She couldn't be real, not really here.

"You know, after all this time I expected a little more for a greeting than a stare at my breasts," she said smirking. "Still the same old hentai..."

"As-Asuka?"

He wasn't sure if it was an affirmation or a denial, when she pulled him into a loose hug.

"Long time no see, huh?" she whispered.

"I-I guess..." Shinji replied, clumsily returning the embrace. Heat rushed through his whole body in response to her closeness; he felt his pulse rising. Those feelings... how could that be after all this time?

He was almost relieved when she pulled back.

" 'I guess'?" Asuka repeated, raising a brow. "No 'Hello' or 'How are you'? You really have to work on your greetings."

"Sorry, it's just... what are you doing here?"

He hadn't even realized that it sounded much harsher than he had intended until he saw her smile quickly turning into an anger-filled glare. " 'What are you doing here' !? I know we had some problems with each other, but if, after all this time, you despise my presence here that much I'll just go and find Misato. It's not like I have to talk with you!"

Huffing, she turned away, but she didn't get far. Without even thinking, he had grabbed her wrist, not wanting her to leave. Not again...

...Did he really just think that?

"Wait! I'm sorry, okay? I... It's just that I didn't really expect to see you... I mean... back then, when you... when you left, without saying a word, I thought..." He trailed off. What exactly had he thought? Right now his mind was already overloaded by her sudden, unexpected appearance.

It was then that he realized that he was still holding her. Something he had always dreamed to do when they had been young; something he always cursed himself for being too frightened to do – and now he had done it by instinct.

Hesitating, he let go of her.

"Well, you know me. Goodbyes aren't really my thing," she said, faking a smile, as she averted her eyes. "And I... I just had to go."

An awkward silence followed her words. Shinji shifted his view around, looking everywhere but at her. Yet again at this evening, he was reminded of her sudden departure. And all those old feelings rushed over him once more.

As much as he tried to think of something to say, not to let this one chance pass; he failed miserably. Over the years, he might have gotten better when it came to interaction with other people, but simple Smalltalk was something he would most likely never master. And he had the feeling this talk shouldn't even be that small.

"Look," Asuka eventually broke the silence and he sighed in relief, "I didn't come here to argue about the right and wrong things we did in the past, okay? I just wanted to have some good time with old... friends."

Friends? If she also meant him with that – was she actually seeing him as a friend now? As if it wasn't weird enough that she appeared here just like that after all what happened. What was she thinking?

What was he thinking?

"So... Sin-since when are you back?" he asked awkwardly.

"Oh, uhm, not long actually. I pretty much just changed clothes, freshened up, and then came here." She shook her head. "But there's more interesting stuff to talk about than how my trip was. Come on, what have you done the last few years? You can't tell me nothing's happened the whole time. What about your family? That is, if you actually managed to get out of your shell, grew a spine and asked a girl out so you could actually have one."

"My... family?" Why did he feel so uncomfortable at the thought to talk about this? He loved his family more than anything else; shouldn't he tell everyone proudly about them? But now, he could barely find the words. "W-well, I'm married for nine years, two wonderful children back at home..." he said, sheepishly smiling. "W-what about you?"

She grinned broadly and patted her belly. "This'll be my third."

The surprise must have been written on his face, as her grin quickly turned into a frown. "What?" she asked; anger lingering in her voice. "You think that someone like me can't be a good mother, don't you?"

"N-no," he immediately tried to calm her down. If she still was anything like she was as teenager, he didn't really want to do anything to evoke a recurrence of their past's conflicts. "It's... it's just that you always said that you don't want to have children..."

Asuka shrugged. "People can change their opinions over time, can't they? And quite honestly: I never really regretted that I did in this case." Smirking, she leaned over the table. "Either way, don't expect me to name it after you."

"Why should you...? Oh, because it's the 'Third'..." he groaned. "You know, you already had better jokes."

"Geez, never developed a good sense of humor, I see..." Asuka mumbled. "So... where's your better half? I'd like to get to know the poor woman who was blind enough to pick someone like you..."

"Hey!" Shinji glared warningly at her, but his reaction obviously just increased her amusement. "She didn't feel very well and couldn't come. What about your...?"

She waved him off before he could finish the sentence. "He went to some festivity for his own company."

"Huh? You're not doing such things together? Doesn't sound like a very happy relationship..." he said, almost surprised at the pleasure in his voice.

"What do you know?" she muttered so quietly that he wouldn't have been able to make it out if the surrounding noise of chatter and laughter had been much louder. "It's just that... well, what should I care about his boring colleagues, when I were able to use the chance to have a reunion with my own? And he... well, he was always a bit too dutiful..."

"Sounds like you found the perfect man for you?"

"Huh?"

"Well, I remember someone who used to let me do all her chores without allowing any protests."

"You shouldn't talk about Misato behind her back like that."

For the first time that evening, he laughed hearty. "Okay, okay, maybe I was a little henpecked..."

Asuka grinned mischievously. "Oh, how tempting. I could go on for hours with such a neat opportunity presented," she snickered. "But back to topic, tell me a bit more about what has happened in your life. What about your wife? Do I know her?"

"Well, she did go to our school, but I doubt you've seen her, aside maybe accidentally in the bathroom or something like that," he mumbled, scratching his head nervously. "She knew you though. After all, when we got together she admitted that she had watched me in secret whenever she could."

"Ah, one of the stalking kind and you were desperate enough to fall for her anyway..."

"Hey!"

"Oooh... The invincible Shinji standing up for himself and his loved ones? Was I really gone for that long?"

"People can change over time, can't they, Asuka?"

"Well, I guess..." she admitted with a smirk that left him in doubt if she was really buying it.

"Maybe you're not totally wrong though; I didn't really hesitate when I was finally offered such a chance for happiness," he said. For a moment it had seemed that her eyes got distant, but as he looked again, they sparkled with life as always. "I wouldn't say it wasn't complicated though. It was the first serious relationship for both of us, so we did our share of mistakes. Still, after school, we got ourselves a cheap apartment and moved in together – which was probably a little faster than reasonable; and if we had thought twice about it, we surely would have waited a while longer. We had to jump from job to job, and didn't have time to even think about a proper further education. If Misato hadn't helped us out by getting us a nice 'fund for extraordinary employees' from NERV, I guess I'd still be working as dishwasher in some cheap restaurant."

"So that's where that money suddenly came from. I was just angry that it took them so long to honor my work for them properly."

"Anyway," he continued, "since we had a financial backup then, half a year after we moved together, I mustered all my courage and asked her to become my wife."

"And now you're fulfilling your responsibility as a good husband by working as dishwasher in an expensive restaurant?"

"Actually, I'm a cook now – in a mediocre restaurant..."

"A cook? You?" She raised a brow, looking at him as if he was joking. "Granted, your cooking was way better than Misato's, but that's hardly a challenge. No offense, but... it was average at best. And I can't really recall much variety either. Just how many times were Miso-soup or leftovers all we had?"

"Maybe, but it gave me enough practice over time. After all, it was still up to me to cook after I moved out."

"So she's not the housewife-type, huh?"

"She? Oh! Well, sometimes she tries to help out here and there, but..." He ended the sentence with a deep sigh that was telling enough.

"You better watch what you saying," Asuka said, grinning broadly. "Or I might tell her that you're not appreciating all the hard work she does for you."

"You wouldn't..." he started, but was quickly cut off as she continued.

"And why even stop there? I could tell her what pervert you are, trying to rape helpless girls in their sleep..."

"I just tried to kiss you!" he hissed, his face flushed. "I can't believe that you still remember that..."

"How could I ever forget a tale so perfect for teasing?"

Angrily, he tried to fight the heat out of his face. No matter what she thought, he wasn't the meek boy that could be teased that easily anymore. They could both play this game now. "Well, of course I could tell your husband that you were flashing me already at our first meeting, and also several times after..."

"HEY! I did not...!" Now it was her time to blush furiously, even more so when she noticed several people looking in their direction.

That included two other 'old friends'.

"Look! It'sss Asssu... Ashu... It'sss you!"

A blue whirl rushed at Asuka, pulling her into a tight hug. Her eyes widened, whether from surprise, fear or disgust he couldn't tell. "R-Rei?"

She looked at him as if asking for help or at least an explanation, but before he could provide either, she was 'attacked' from the other side as well.

"What a shurprishe! We didn't shought you come! You'll come wish ush and party, won't you?"

"Eh..." Asuka looked wildly around between her former roommates, obviously trying to come up with an excuse.

"Here, you can have my drink. Haven' even toushed it yet!" Misato squealed, pushing some kind of cocktail into the redhead's hand. Shinji didn't even want to guess the ingredients of the orange-red mix.

"Ehm... thanks," Asuka mumbled and placed the glass on the table, "but I'm currently have a nice conversation with Shinji here..."

"Oooohh!" the two 'slightly' drunk women jeered in that dreaded tone that still managed to heat up Shinji's cheeks.

"But you're married!" Rei tried to say with determination, pointing accusingly at Shinji. At least he guessed that she meant him; her index finger actually pointed to a couple three meters to his left. "You sssouldn't talk about that ssstuff anymore. You had enough time for that. Not my fault if you didn' use it all! Not my fault!"

"Ah, what are you talkin' about? You shust babbling nonshense!"

"...Not mine! What? Eh..." Rei's drowsy red eyes wobbled shortly to Misato, but before Shinji could get his hopes up that the two would end up in their own incoherent debates and forget about him and Asuka, she stared right at him. "Bessides, Sssinji comes wiss usss too, won' he? It'll be juss' the four of usss, juss' like the good old times!"

"Aside from the point that those times were usually only good for the three of you, I already told you, I don't want to 'party'," he grumbled.

"Spoil shport!" Rei and Misato whined in unison.

"Come, let'sh leave the lovebirds alone."

"But they sh-shouldn'!" Rei squealed as Misato dragged her back to the bar. "No' here at leasts. Hey! GET A ROOM! I won't tell!"

If Asuka's blush was any indication, his face must have matched her drink.

"Geez, how many did they have already?" she muttered.

"I've long given up checking on Misato's drinking in any way. As for Rei, I'd guess she had no more than one and a half."

"Still can't hold her liquor, I see."

"Nope."

"Why is she even drinking then? Don't tell me Misato is still pulling of the 'I'm your superior'-trick on her."

"Sometimes, yes. But fortunately not as often as those times you three had your 'parties' after she moved in with us. Which, if I remember correctly, was the time when you gave Rei her first drink."

"God, I just wanted her to loosen up a little. How should I've known she would be singing on the table after taking just one sip? Besides, we did have some good times then, didn't we?"

"Oh, sure. 'Til the next morning when I would have to handle the mess you made in the apartment – and not to forget, with yourselves."

"If you want to make me feel guilty, try something better," she spoke loudly. "You're not going to make me discard this."

As she proudly raised her glass, Shinji couldn't help but smile. And he wasn't sure what to think about that. He should worry about his wife's sickness, but instead, here he was, actually enjoying talking with Asuka, just because he felt reminded of 'the good old times'.

Shaking his head, he tried to push his conscience back into the depth of his mind. She had told him to have fun, after all.

"So now about you."

"What about me?" she asked innocently, slurping on her drink.

Shinji rolled his eyes excessively, though mostly to cover how much this really interested him. "You know. What happened after you left?"

After a last, thoughtful sip, she shrugged uncomfortably. "Well, I went back to university again, got my doctorate and eventually took a job as teacher at a high school."

"You? A teacher? Heh, I'm sure you can keep the kids in line," he chuckled. "But that's not what I meant."

Asuka smirked, as she shrugged again. "What do you think what happened? I fell in love with someone, married him and now have a happy, growing family."

"Oh, come on, this is not fair. I've told you the story of my life and you want to put me off with a few sentences? I'd like to know how 'someone' could find a way in the great Asuka Langley Soryu's heart."

"Who knows?" She looked at him for a moment, before shifting her interest back to her drink. "Maybe love was all I needed."

The look in her eyes had taken him by surprise. It was hard for him to place, that wasn't like anyway the old Asuka would have looked at him.

But he didn't get much time to think about it.

"My, my, if there was one thing I would have never expected to see here, it's both of you together without any trace of marital quarrel in the air."

Asuka grimaced before she followed Shinji's glance and turned to face the source of the voice behind her. But before either of them could reply, someone else already elbowed the newcomer in the ribs.

"Toji!" the brunette warned the man next to her.

Returning her attention from her husband back to her old friend, the former Horaki's eyes glittered with tears of joy at the unexpected reunion. "Asuka!" she greeted the redhead with a broad smile, swiftly pulling her into a tight embrace. "It's so good to see you again!"

"Hello, Hikari," Asuka greeted her back in a little less impulsive manner, smiling wearily at Shinji over her friend's emotional outbreak.

Hesitatingly, Hikari pulled back. "Sorry," the usually so formal woman mumbled embarrassedly, and straightened her blue dress. But the big smile didn't leave her face. "How are you? God, when I heard that... You were the last one I expected to see you here."

"Yeah, I've heard that a few times today..."

"Well, if you don't like to hear it, you could have just stayed..." His wife's angry glare quickly cut Toji off. "Hey, you know I'm just kidding. Wouldn't be the same otherwise, would it?"

Hikari's eyes softened a little, but she still wasn't appeased. "Come, Asuka, let the men have some time to talk about their matters; we'll just go over there where we have some peace. Oh, I still can't believe it! You have to tell me so much about..." Her voice quickly drowned in the overall noise of the mass she pushed herself and Asuka through, out of Shinji's view.

"So, how's Okinawa?" he eventually asked, prying his eyes away from the direction the two women vanished.

Toji shrugged. "Is it enough to say 'same as always'?" He grinned. "Which means: Great weather, great job, great life!"

Shinji scowled at his best friend. "No chance to get me jealous, Toji. Your appointment there ends in what? A month? Two?"

"Actually it's still two and a half," he said, sighing. "But at least Hikari will be happy again. She's really missing the life here. You can't believe how much she pushed me to get a few days off so we could come here."

"Tell me about it..." Shinji muttered, rolling his eyes.

His friend obviously knew immediately what he meant. "Women..." he chuckled. "Sometimes one could envy Kensuke. Always free to do what he wants to do..."

"Where is he anyway? Last thing I heard was that he wanted to go to America, and get a few shots of the ruins for his series."

"Ruins? Ha, didn't that little bastard send you a card from New Hollywood? Boasting about how great it was there?"

"Didn't you do more or less the same just now?"

"Yeah, but that... ah... whatever..."

Shinji chuckled at his friend's loss of words after stepping into his trap. "But seriously, do you really think his life is that much better?"

"Oh, don't get me wrong, I love my life as it is. But that's what these reunions are for, isn't it? To let the past live up once more, to share memories, to wonder how much has changed. Which leads to the 'what if's."

"The 'what if's?"

"Yeah, you know, 'what if I hadn't accepted this job?', 'what if I hadn't been too late that one morning?', 'What if I'd turned left instead of right?', 'What if I..." He followed Shinji's view to a certain redhead and turned back to him, smirking knowingly. "'...had chosen someone else?'"

"Toji!" Shinji pried his eyes off the woman. "Cut that out, okay? You know I don't regret anything. I have a loving wife and wonderful kids. There's no reason for me to complain."

"Well, whatever you say..."

Annoyed, Shinji shook his head. Toji might be his friend, but his teasing was sometimes worse than Misato's. Shinji was happy! Other people could only wish to have such a great family as he did. He never did and never would regret that he accepted this love. Their love was true, not just desperate act of two people who where simply too afraid to reach out for anything deeper. That's what he had to believe.

He noticed then that he was still staring at Asuka, who was cheerfully chatting with Hikari at the other side of the room. She smiled at him as she saw him looking in her direction.

He cursed silently when he felt his cheeks heating.




The party went on like it had started. People exchanged their 'Long time no see's and 'How are you doing?'s, had some drinks together and shared some memories, and then greeted the next old colleague that they haven't even thought about in years and would most likely forget about again in just a few hours.

In just half an hour, Shinji had to shake more hands than he ever had friends. He couldn't remember most of the faces, but that was probably mutual. They just did it with everyone. Actually, some even greeted him twice and might a third time if he wouldn't be able to avoid them.

By now, he just wanted to get out. Toji had left a while ago when he went to the bar to get himself something to drink. Shinji didn't have much doubt that Misato had "convinced" him to join them in her drinking game. He could hear Hikari scolding him between the cheers.

Asuka, he hadn't seen or heard for a while. Maybe she was already gone – without saying a word – again.

And why should she have? This was just a meeting of old colleagues that haven't even thought about the other in years and would most likely forget about again in just a few hours.

He suddenly noticed how thin the air had become.

One of the empty balconies seemed inviting enough. As Shinji stepped outside, letting the music and chatter fading behind him, he took a deep breath of the chill air. Looking up, he could even notice some stars in the sky.

It was such a big contrast to the muggy and noisy climate inside, it felt like another world. A world, he felt much more comfortable in – quiet, peaceful.

"You know, I never could appreciate them as much as other people do. But it looks nice, for a change."

Shinji turned a little to the side, though he already knew who had stepped up next to him. "I almost thought you were already gone."

Asuka shook her head, keeping her gaze fixed on the sky. "Not yet. I... There's something I still have to do..."

As he watched her taking a few steps forward to the end of the balcony, Shinji couldn't help but wonder what had caused the sudden change in her. When they had talked, she seemed still as lively as he remembered her, but now, she seemed lost in thought.

"Do you know why I made that decision back then?"

She waited for an answer, but that question had caught him off guard. He had asked it himself several times in the past – and while he had some good guesses, he had never been able to come to a definite conclusion. She was the only one who could answer this.

After a moment of silence, she reluctantly turned her head to him; a small, quick smile on her lips as she saw that he was still there, but then she returned her view to the stars. "I was scared... because of you."

"Me?"

She nodded slowly. "I once thought I had to hate you. Too weak to stand up for yourself and yet so strong that you surpassed me with ease in everything that mattered to me, everything I worked so hard for. I had every reason to hate you. But when everything was over, and the EVAs were gone – suddenly none of those reasons were left. Worse, you even helped me see a life without EVA; something I never even bothered to think about until it was suddenly there. And so, with each day in the following years, I found myself being more and more attracted to you – up until the point I realized I was about to give up a part of myself. And that scared me more than any Angel we faced. I knew then that I had to make a choice."

She sighed softly as she looked down. "I married, I gave birth... I just tried to forget, I guess. Maybe I have. And after all this time... I thought it wouldn't matter anymore. That I could face you like everyone else here; have a good time at the reunion and... and then just go back to my family like nothing had happened at all..."
Taking a deep breath, she turned abruptly around, facing him. "Are you happy, Shinji?"

He swallowed hard. Why did she have to ask that? After all that, she just... "Y-yes."

"Well, I'm... I'm happy too," she said softly, taking a step closer to him, keeping her head down. "That's what I thought every day. That I'd finally found my happiness. But – just seeing you here..."

She was close now, much closer than it should have been good. And yet, his feet seemed frozen to the ground; he didn't found himself able to move. His heart was racing as she carefully laid her hands on his chest and slowly moved them up to his shoulders as the distance between them shrank.

"Asuka, wha-what are you doing?"

"I need to know, Shinji," she whispered desperately, her face only inches apart from his. "I need to know if I have made the right choice or the biggest mistake of my life..."

"Asuka, I-I don't think we..."

But despite his words, he was already leaning in; her breath on his lips pulling him closer, whether he wanted to or not.

"Please..." she shushed, "just... just this one time..."

It was by far not his first kiss. In fact, there had been quite a lot, ranging from heated and passionate, to gentle and loving ones, to small greeting and goodbye pecks.

And yet, as their lips touched, he couldn't think of anything to compare to this sensation. Maybe that was just because he was too distracted to think straight; maybe a part of him just wanted this kiss to be special, but right now he didn't care, didn't want to care. Right now, he didn't want to think of the last fifteen years or those waiting at home. Right then, he was just the fourteen year old teenager again, receiving his very first kiss that he had longed for for so long.

But as they slowly parted and the reality began to settle in, he still didn't know what to think. Should he feel glad? Ashamed? He couldn't tell.

He could feel her tremble slightly as she held him tightly, burying her face in his chest.

"Why does this have to feel so... so right...?" she panted.

Right. That was the word that he had been searching for. But being able to imagine what she felt didn't make it easier to find an answer to her question.

"Have you ever wondered, Shinji?" she murmured. "Have you ever wondered what would have happened if we had just given ourselves a chance?"

"I-I don't know... Eventually, we might have realized that we wouldn't fit after all. Maybe we would only have heated fights in the end, breaking up or divorcing in the most painful way. Or, afraid of being alone, we would just pretend to be happy; living an empty life next to each other. Or..."

"Or...?"

"Or maybe we would have been happier than we ever had imagined possible, been together for ten amazing years, blissfully married for nine, and had the best children we could have wished for. We would be living a dream." His grin widened. "And some day, we would go to a reunion and pretend we haven't seen each other for many years."

At first she didn't show any reaction to his words.

Then her body rocked in his arms – once, twice – and eventually erupted in a loud laughter in that he soon joined.

"Okay, okay, that's really enough now," she panted as she finally calmed down a bit, before giving him another, quick kiss.

"Hey, I just played along," Shinji said in relief. "You were the one who started it with that 'long time no see'..."

"Sorry, I just couldn't resist. That look on your face when you saw me was priceless."

"Well, I was surprised to see you here. I thought you were sick or something."

"Did you really expect me to buy an expensive new dress, and go to the hairdresser – not to forget persuading you for the last three weeks that this would be a great chance to get out – and then not show up here at all? You should know me better by now, Mister Ikari!"

He knew she didn't really want an answer, but that didn't stop him from giving her an apologizing look. A contented sigh brushed through her smiling lips as she shifted around in his arms to lean her back onto him. Shinji accepted her invitation and rested his chin on her shoulder. Cheek to cheek, they watched the city's illuminated skyline, keeping each other warm in the chill night.

"How are you doing this?" Asuka whispered eventually. "After all these years, how are you still making me feel like back then, when it started between us?"

"You're one to talk. You can still make me blush like a shy teenager with just a smile."

"Of course I can. Some things you never unlearn."

Shinji chuckled slightly, holding her body close to his. "Say... About this..." He laid his hand on her belly. "Was that...?"

"Where do you think I went so suddenly?"

"And that couldn't wait till tomorrow?"

"Are you kidding? You know how excited I get about this sort of thing. I just had to make sure."

"Well, you didn't have to just run past me, jump in the car, and drive off; without even saying a word. Do you have any idea how worried I was, when Nozomi gave me your message that you're going to see a doctor, but that I still 'had better go to the reunion and have fun, or else...'."

"Oh, my poor..." She started to turn around, but suddenly stopped midway. "Wait a moment; Nozomi! I almost forgot, I wanted to make a call."

"Oh, not again!" Shinji groaned, reluctantly letting go of her. "Asuka, she has been our babysitter for five years. Don't you think she can handle it herself for once? You don't need to check on her every time."

"It's not because of her! Hasn't Toji told you? They've dropped off Hanako at our home before coming here. That little brat is always picking on my Kenji."

"Maybe she actually likes him."

"Ha! As if! Now, Shizuka, that is a nice, polite girl. She would be much better for him!"

"Being so polite at that age is actually a little creepy if you ask me. And while we're at it, aren't they a bit young anyway for us to talk about their possible love-lives?"

"Well, this time you starte..."

A loud cheering from inside interrupted them. Both of their faces turned to the door with a mix of disgust and annoyance.

"'Guess I won't have to make the call..." Asuka glanced to her husband. "Unless we don't interfere for once and let them just embarrass themselves."

Shinji just smiled back to his wife. "Come on, let's get them home. There's no reason to stay here much longer anyway."

Asuka followed him, sighing. "Why do they always have to 'dance'...?"






A/N: Well, I don't know about you, but when seeing all these long-lost friends greeting each other at a reunion overly excessive, this little "Oh my God! How long has it been?" "I don't know. At least two... hours!"-game is a pretty usual thing between me and those I still hang around with.

The idea to this was actually born already almost a year ago. Several people asked for a sequel to "The Price of Fame", despite me explicitly saying that I wouldn't do that. Mainly because I feared that it would have been "just another reunion-fic" (you know: "After several years of living apart, [they] meet again; admit their mistakes and how they feel/felt for each other; WAFF commences (or angst, depending on the author)") and I rather like to give my stories at least a little twist. So, no sequel for you, but instead a reunion-fic with a little twist – what, hopefully, is also to your liking.

Thanks to my pre-readers Puddle of LCL, Dunerat and SparrowSoul (whoever you are ;) ) 
All rights belong to their respective owners. Which means mostly Gainax in this case...