Disclaimer -
Author: Nah, the world's still not mine yet and so neither is EVA.
Jimmy Wolk: Geez, so long in business and all you came up for today is this? Couldn't you try a bit more? It's my name that you stick on all your stuff after all!
Author: Hey, I noticed that this day was coming up just a bit over a week ago. Something good would have taken much longer. And I have more than enough to... Oh great, I'm arguing with an imaginary character again. Maybe I really need to get out more...





The Price of Fame




"No... No! What? ... They asked again? ... I've... Listen. Listen! I've told them already I won't do it! ... Yes. Yes, I know! ... I don't care if it's 'the biggest and most respectable magazine of its kind'! Those perverts got enough with the swimsuits-calendar! ... Yes... yes, I know, 9 a.m. tomorrow. I'll be... what do you mean: 'be on time'? I'm always... ah, whatever... yes, I'm a bit tired... yeah, see you tomorrow... 'night..."

Grunting, she pressed the off-button on her mobile phone. Even on the last steps to her home they had to pursue her with work. It was at times like this that she would love to throw everything away - if she could still muster the strength to do so.


When the door closed behind her with a hiss, a sigh of exhaustion escaped her as she let herself fall backwards against its metal frame, as if it marked the point from where she had time for herself again. Herself alone.
And so, as she opened her eyes after a few seconds of relaxation, all that greeted her was the dark apartment.

Sure, it was a nice, fairly big apartment; the rooms were wide and some, like the kitchen, were partly open, creating the illusion that it was even bigger than it already seemed to be. Large windows in the west wall of the living room revealed an amazing view over the city. The other walls were painted in a bright white.

And still, it was dark.
Dark as always when she came home after a stressful day of work.

She didn't even bother to switch on the lights; the moon and city lights illuminated the rooms enough to get to the kitchen without bumping against anything.

Hunger determined her first destination, though she already expected to be disappointed. The fridge was poorly filled; she barely had time to go shopping, and she still could only afford a cleaning lady that worked twice in a week, but not a steady housekeeper. Not that she felt like preparing a big meal anyway. So it would be just some instant-food for dinner yet again.

A tired grin found its way on her face as she put it in the microwave and set the timer. She didn't even remember how often she denounced Misato for her eating habits, but now she only needed to have a few beers more in the fridge and in her veins and she would have been just like her former guardian.

She sighed tiredly, as if an unknown weight was placed on her shoulders. The past seven years suddenly felt like an eternity.
An eternity since she left them.

When NERV had officially been disbanded after the JSSDF's failed attack on the Headquarters and Commander Ikari's suicide, the people had finally learned the truth about the EVAs and the Angels and also the Children's identities were revealed to the public. But since Shinji never liked much attention and Rei was never very talkative, reporters and audience soon focused their attention on the last of the pilots who was more than willing to answer any questions about her glorious fights; especially her greatest victory against SEELE's MassProduction-EVAs.

It hadn't taken long until the media had elevated her to a celebrity. Since then she had been invited to several talk- and game shows, gave or conducted interviews or did other tests or "reports" for printed or TV boulevard magazines that wanted to present themselves with a known face. She had acted in a few commercial spots as well as having a few guest roles in some second class comedy-shows and third-class soaps. She even made a small appearance in a few movies and tried herself as singer, and though neither of that was a big hit, it definitely helped to increase her popularity. And of course there were the occasional photo-jobs, premiere-galas and other festivities she had to attend.

But it also hadn't taken long until she had to leave Tokyo-3 to follow the call of fame...


The loud beep of the microwave brought her thoughts back to the present.

She quietly cursed at the heat as she quickly carried the plastic plate to the table. Grabbing a fork and knife from the drawer and a drink from the fridge, she sat down to 'enjoy' her 'magnificent' meal. And what a great meal it was: A blot of dry mashed potatoes, a tiny slice of meat that could have been either pork or beef drowned in a dark sauce and some indefinable vegetables. Maybe it was good that she could barely see what exactly she was eating there.

But she only picked halfhearted at her food. How she hated this microwave-menus. She would give anything for the very same Japanese cuisine that she always had cursed Shinji for back then. She failed to suppress a smile at the thought of her yelling at him to make something better.

After only a few more bites, she decided she wasn't that hungry that day after all. Maybe it was better if she just went to sleep. So, without bothering to throw the leftovers away, she left the table and shuffled to her bedroom.


But sleep rarely came easy lately and this night was no difference. After she had changed into her nightgown, she went strait into bed, not caring about the usual evening-procedure of beauty care.

She shivered slightly under the thin cover. It was not that the temperatures were that low, but the bed always seemed somewhat cold.

Pulling the blanket closer around her, she rolled on her other side. But even with that she couldn't shake that feeling. Why couldn't it just vanish?

She lived on her own. Everyone knew and cherished her. She had everything she had always wanted.

Then why did it feel like something was missing? Why did she feel so... empty? Empty like her apartment when she came home at night; empty like her book with friend's phone numbers; empty like the shallow praise she got at work. She would exchange fifty of the flat "nice work"s for one of Shinji's enthusiastic "That's great, Asuka!"

Again she found herself wearily smiling at the memory echoing in her mind. She could still see his face, beaming at her when she had told him that an agency wanted to promote her, as if it would have been him who had gotten the chance of becoming one of the most famous persons on earth.

But he had always been like that, always cheering for others and also for her. Even more so after NERV and EVA were gone. He had almost seemed relieved after they had told him that he would never pilot again. Then again, he had never liked it anyway. He always preferred his boring "normal" life. But she had to admit that he had become an almost... enjoyable company.
No, that wasn't quite right. When EVA wasn't between them anymore, they actually had been much... closer than before. Even though never that close.

She suddenly noticed the fresh wetness on her cheeks. Had she been crying again? Another thing that happened much too often lately, without even knowing why...


Who was she kidding? She knew pretty well why.

She missed those times. She missed having someone around. Sure, she had always said she wanted to live on her own, but she had never expected it to be so hard, so... painful in its way.

Not that she could do much against it anymore. She couldn't just go out into a bar or somewhere else and search for 'real' friends. Everyone would only want to bath in her fame or even try to 'score with a celebrity'.

Sure, she had a few relationships in the last few years, usually with other celebrities, but those had been mostly made up by her PR-Agents, much to her detest. It was sickening, always acting like a happy couple for press and paparazzi with someone she barely liked, if at all. She had to beat one of those wannabe Stars senseless when he had tried to 'emphasize their role' for her management to finally stop with these bothering hook-up attempts.

No, she really didn't need one of those guys. She rather needed someone who actually cared for her. Someone who would be waiting for her when she came home. Someone who would try to cheer her up after a bad day and be glad for her on a good one. Someone who would... just be there for her. Someone like...

She silently shook her head as she sat up in her bed. Someone with such selfish wishes didn't deserve someone like him.

Yet, as she drew her arms around her legs and rested her head on her knees, her view fell on the phone on the nightstand. And before she even realized why, she took it and tried to recall an old number from her memory.

For a moment she stared absently at the phone in her hand, before entering the last digit. Why was she doing this? Was she that desperate to do such an impetuous act? Or had it actually taken her that long to realize...?

Her thumb finally brushed over the last button.

She hadn't even notice how much her hand quivered until she lifted the mobile handset to her ear. Her stomach was cramping; her heartbeat was louder in her ears than the seemingly endless ringing of the phone.

What was she thinking? Chances were more than good that he had left long ago. Or at least changed the number. Or she got the number wrong. Or...

"Hello?"

She almost dropped the phone, when her trail of doubts had suddenly been interrupted by the voice on the other end. Thousands of thoughts flooded her mind at once. But she somehow couldn't form a single one of them into words.

"Hello? Anybody there?" the voice asked.

Just say something; anything!
"...Shi... Shinji...?" she merely managed to ask hoarsely.

"Uh... yes, Shinji Ikari here. Who's... Oh, sorry, could you wait a second?"

Her breathing stopped for a moment. It was him. It really was him. But what was she supposed to tell him now?
'Hi there! Remember me? The bitch that used to order you around and abused you constantly? Mind becoming my caring b... my friend?'
Surely not.

What was taking him so long? He seemed... Did he talk to someone? Curiously, she tried to understand the low voices.
"... then what is it, Takuro?"

"When comes Mama back?"

"She'll be back soon. Please, you can see that I'm talking with someone on the phone. Why don't you go playing with your new car Auntie Misato gave you?"

Then there was some sort of mumbling, followed by footsteps that hurried away.

"Ah, kids..." she could hear him playfully sighing. "Now, what can I do for you?"

Startled as he suddenly addressed her again, she found the lump in her throat even thicker as before.

"I... I... S-sorry, wrong number!" she stuttered and slammed the handset on its station.

Kids...

She should have known...

Why should he have waited for her all these years? Why should he have waited for her at all? It was not like there had ever been something that would give him a reason to do that.

A sob rocked her body.

What had she hoped to achieve with this call anyway? She surely didn't want to crawl back to him or saying something about how she loves him or even that she wants a family or something. Just...

She shook her head and tried her best to ignore the tears that trailed down her cheeks.

It would be the best if she would just forget everything. Just concentrate on the work as she did before.

Yes, she should better get to sleep. She had to be up early the next morning.


But sleep didn't help much to fill the emptiness in her heart...



*****************



"Who 'as that, Unce Shinni?"

"I... don't know..." Shinji still looked confused at the phone in his hand, where the caller just had hung up.

Just as he put it down, the doorbell got his and even more so the 3 year old boy's attention.

"Mama!" the child cried happily and hurried to the door.

Shinji smiled, shaking his head as he followed him slowly. By now, Takuro had somehow managed to reach the knob and jumped in his mother's arms immediately.

"Whoa, what a stormy greeting," the young woman commented with a big grin on her lips. "Hello, my little darling. Did you have fun with Uncle Shinji?"

"Well, he seemed eager to get away from me," Shinji pouted playfully, as in contrast to the boy's nod. "He asked for you at least ten times in the last five minutes alone, not even counting the previous half an hour. One would think that a former Class-Representative is more on time..."

"Sorry, Shinji," the long haired brunette apologized and shifted her son in her arm a bit so that he would have a better hold than just on her green evening dress. "We would have been here earlier, but Toji wanted to celebrate our anniversary also in... eh... a special way..." She blushed a bit, eying Takuro who seemed to drift into sleep already on her shoulder. "But you know he really likes you."

"Of course I know. And you know that I always like to watch out for the little rascal whenever I can."

"Yes, we're very grateful for that. And you always take good care of him. You know... I'm sure you'll be a good father some day..."

"Hikari," he groaned, rolling his eyes a bit. "We talked about that often enough..."

"Well, there's this girl who works with Toji and we think you two would..."

"Hikari..." he interrupted her once more, this time more sadly. "You know that there's only one that I'm interested in..."

Hikari sighed. "I know... But it's like you've been hunting a ghost. It just can't be healthy for such a long time."

Shinji didn't respond to this and just looked merely on the floor. She sighed again. She knew he would wait for her, even if it would kill him.
"Have you at least tried to contact her again? I mean..."

"Of course I did!" he snapped more forcefully than intended, almost bringing Takuro out of his slumber. "I... I mean... it's just... I seriously doubt that any message can reach her. Her agency blocks any letters, shrugging them off as fan-mail, which she most likely not even has the time for to look through. It's the same with calls or e-mails. And her actual address and number is kept secret."

"But doesn't it help if you just say who you are?"

Shinji stifled a laugh as he shook his head. "Have you any idea how many people claim to be one of her 'good old friends' just to reach her? There are at least twenty 'Shinji Ikari's in the forums of her fanclub-site alone..."

"Oh, Shinji, I'm..." Hikari began, but he cut her off again by shaking his head.

"Don't be. It was a price that I was willing to pay for her happiness..."






--------------------------

A/N: Yeah, yeah, I know. Though I don't remember seeing anything exactly like this, I guess every one of you has seen something similar at least once or twice. But, hey, I was never known for my originality.

This was actually one of those ideas that I never really intended to write down, as it's not very much of a story. But when I noticed that this day was coming up soon, I thought about something that I could do to 'celebrate' this event and this was all of what I could think of that I could do in time.
So don't go complaining about the missing/too short background information, unexplained OOC-ness, plot-holes, its length or whatever (well, of course you can go complaining about it, but I won't really care :P ), as it's just a little bonus for my readers and shouldn't be regarded as anything more than that. (If you want to know what's so special for this day (or for the full rant), go to the DS, EFO or Evamade-Forum. Or just have a look at the dates in my ff.net profile... ;) )


PS: Before anyone asks: No, I don't intend to continue this. If at all, I'll expand/edit it a bit (at least once it's (p)re-read). But I already have more than enough to do with 'The 2nd try' and 'The Ikaris'. And, hey, I can't have a happy ending in all of my fics, can I?

Eh... Not that my other fics will have happy endings, of course... ;)


PPS: No death-threats to Takuro for ruining their chances, please. He's just a poor little boy that a heartless author used as plot-device... :P 
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