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 firstname.lastname@example.org If I wasn't such a strange person, this would all seem so confusing.