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Horaki Hikari measured the tintinnabulation of the seconds as 
they passed in the emergency shelter. Time moved slower than 
her heart. From the darkness around her came the deep 
breathing and snoring of the Tokyo-jin. They were at peace, she 
felt their ease in the rhythms of their slumber. Days had passed 
since she last felt peace. She wanted it. She wanted the security 
and stability she had once known. It meant so much to her. 
More than money, more than power...

...more than honor?

Her conscience had long stopped to prick her. Her tormentor was 
her anxiety. There was a great unknown in her life, like an ice-
cold dagger through her heart. It was 02:39, a time when by all 
rights she should be able to choose slumber over pain. She could 
not.

_What does Touji know? What does Touji think of me now? 
Where did he go? To NERV? Is that why a car came to pick him 
up? Why did he go back to NERV? For me? To fight me?_

She couldn't remember if her eyes were closed or open as tears 
rolled down her face and onto the tatami mat.
--
By 6 AM the rain was truly rain, and it no longer fell with any 
force through the sky; the wind that had blown it was no longer 
gusting. Four NERV gunships rose up in formation from the 
hills around Tokyo-3. They held in the air for a moment, like 
birds of prey waiting to strike; then they dipped their noses 
towards the ground and sallied forth, passing over the city and 
then swooping down to the south.

Outside the city limits they turned on their spotlights and began 
probing the ground, sweeping their lamps around and about 
across the hillside. They paid special attention to the four 
Evangelion units, half-hidden in the mud and debris. The point 
helicopter slank down from the sky and hovered just above the 
red EVA-02 unit. Figures shimmied down on ropes to scout 
about the wreck; but they found nothing there.

At once, one helicopter peeled off from the group and dove 
downhill to a cluster of trees, a small outgrowth of the forest, 
towards the foot of the hill. Excitedly, two of its companion 
helicopters followed it, while the third hurried to reel in its 
former occupants.

There was a mound of earth that had slumped down from the 
hill during the combat; a distance from it there was a tiny 
pinprick of bright white magnesium light, standing out against 
the blackness before the dawn. A moment later the light 
disappeared as it was enveloped in the full force of the 
searchlight. At the front was a young man in a blue suit, proudly 
bearing the flare. Next to him was a young woman in a red suit, 
excitedly jumping up and down and waving. Behind them were 
a young man in a poncho standing next to a young woman with 
a space blanket wrapped across her shoulders. They were all 
smiling; for theirs was the joy of the saved.
--
He rang the bell and then stepped back away from the door, 
suddenly nervous. He pressed his hand to the side of his head 
and tapped his foot absently for a few moments. He quickly 
stopped both mannerisms as she opened the door.

Suzuhara Touji was dressed in a new uniform. It was a mousy 
brown in color. The trousers were full-length, the jacket clasped 
with a white triangle at the neck. On the jacket's left breast was 
the NERV logo in red. Pilot's epaulets were on the shoulders. He 
smelled of clean skin and shaving cream.

Horaki Hikari had put on a royal blue blouse and a white skirt. 
She wore earrings in her ears, red hearts circled by gold. Her 
front was in a shadow from the bright lights of the house; 
sounds of conversation and a stereo came from within.

"Huh...hi," said Touji.

"Hello," replied Hikari.

They had both spoken quietly. There was a pause, and then 
Touji spoke again. "I...uh...I wanted to talk with you. Can I come
in?"

Hikari had her answer prepared. "It's noisy inside, my whole 
family's at home this evening. Why don't we go out back and 
talk?"

"Uh...sure, fine," Touji stammered.

In the back was a small garden. There was a willow tree next to 
the stream and pond, and a cherry tree on the opposite side. 
Hikari and Touji walked down a gravel pathway to a bench 
beside the stream. The moonlight poured over them from the 
sky above. They sat side by side and looked at the garden.

Touji spoke first. "I'm sorry, Hikari. I never should've opened 
my mouth and said such awful things about you."

A moment passed, and then she said, "Well, I didn't hear you 
use the words 'abortion', or 'pregnancy'...and all my friends got 
the wrong idea about what happened. They all think I went out 
behind your back."

"No, I didn't want to use those words," Touji said. He had 
turned his hips around and was looking at her imploringly.
"Hikari, understand me...I had to practice to say what I said.
And even then, I just couldn't bring myself to say 'abortion'.
Or anything."

"It doesn't matter, does it?" A tear on Hikari's cheek caught the 
moonlight. "I had the abortion, and I didn't tell you anything. 
And now, you've gone and joined NERV again. Touji, I don't 
want you endangering yourself like this. You could die. And it's 
all because of me. I'm sorry."

"Hey, Hikari-chan." He pulled her around; they were finally 
facing each other, his hand on her shoulder, her arms clasped to 
her chest. "Maybe it's wrong for me to NOT fight if they want 
me. Me and Shinji and Asuka and Rei, we have to work 
together. 'Cause if we don't, I don't know what'll happen, the 
world will end.

"And you're too important for me to lose, Hikari. That's the 
truth. I want to stay a pilot. For your sake."

She said very quietly, "What a very sweet thing to say, Touji-
kun."

"Oh. Really?"

Hikari smiled, and her tears stopped running. She pulled away 
from him and wiped off her face. "It's all done, Touji. We've 
each made our decisions, and they were bad, and now we need to 
start again. Will you still be my boyfriend, Touji?"

"Will you let me?"

"Of course."

"OK, then."

She stood up and brushed herself off, and he followed suit. 
"Now kiss me goodnight, Touji; and tomorrow, as soon as we 
see each other, I want you to offer to take me out to a movie on 
Saturday."

"I think I can do that."

He slipped an arm around her waist and another across her back; 
he pulled her tightly to him; then he kissed her, and felt the 
sweet taste of her lips against his own.
----------------------------------------------------
AFTERWORD: the angel of the title, according to Gustav
Davidson's _Dictionary of Angels_, is of the Seraph order and
is identified as both a fallen and a holy angel. Because of this,
and because SARIEL is an anagram of ISRAEL, the author
identifies him with the Angel of Redemption.
----------------------------------------------------
Copyright 1999 Daniel Snyder. Permission granted to duplicate 
in any digital, binary, or e-mail format; however, any physical 
printout is strictly prohibited. Based on characters created by 
GAINAX. Shin Seiki Evangelion/Neon Genesis Evangelion is 
the intellectual property of and copyrighted by GAINAX, adapted 
by AD Vision and Viz Comics for North America. Any 
resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.

Special thanks to Gavin Drake, Mark Engels, Addison Godel, 
Andrew Hwang, Scott Sandwick, Zhou Tai An and Greg Smith
for their editorial advice and support. Thanks also to Lycia,
whose album "Cold" provided background music during the
writing of most of this story.

Daniel Snyder
in his new abode at dsnydder@gunnm-seraphim.org
If I wasn't such a strange person,
this would all seem so confusing.