I remember the day she woke up, nearly a week after she’d been shot. I remember the animal relief, my soul reveling in her inexplicable survival. I remember how the world had stopped—how it had dwindled and shrunk to the outline of a single bed. I hadn’t realized until then how simple happiness could be. How it could take the shape of the sound of one’s name, the syllables the barest whisper on a resurrected beloved’s lips.
I remember sitting by her side for hours, thinking: there are so many ways the world can end—so many ways that don’t involve the world’s destruction. She was still in critical condition, and every labored breath that passed between her lips meant my world could survive for one moment longer. All the fears I’d had about naming what I felt for her—and what I was sure she also felt for me—paled in comparison to my fear of losing her. With her brilliant green eyes and her unruffled hair, she was a bedrock of stability that didn’t belong to my world.
But I would die without her in it.
When she finally spoke after endless days had passed, her voice was weak but reproving. How long have you been sitting there without taking a break?
My chuckle muffled my sob of relief. Not as long as you did when you first found me.
She smiled and shook her head. It’s not a contest, Misato. After a moment, she asked. Where’s Kaji?
I shrugged. Off to find Gendo’s assassins. You were the only defendant who survived the attack.
A frown crossed her face. He’s off again? I thought he said he’d settle down with you once Gendo was caught.
He did. I replied simply. It’s just that I turned him down.
She looked at me, startled. It was the first time I’d ever seen her surprised. Why did you do that?
Because…I hesitated for a moment, the old, familiar fears rearing their ugly heads. Because I’m in love with you, Ritsuko. I’ve been in love with you all these months. And I hated every single moment that you were away.
She was about to interrupt, so I kissed her—kissed her with all the love and tenderness I’d masked as lust and desire over a year ago. It was only when I pulled back that I saw the fear in her eyes—for the very first time.
What are you so afraid of, Ritsuko?
She shook her head and whispered. Everything that’s ever mattered to me has always been taken away: my parent, my lover, the Children, the Evas. She looked up at me then and the desolation in her gaze caused a wrenching pain in my heart. I’ve loved you from the moment I met you. Nothing ever changed that: not Instrumentality, not Kaji, not even Gendo. But if having you means losing you…I can’t—
I leaned close to her until our foreheads touched and gently took her hands. I could say the exact same thing, Ritsuko. I’ve lost my parent, my lover, the Children and the Evas too. But do you realize that, even with the world ending, the one thing we’ve never managed to lose is each other?
She paused and digested what I’d said. You’re actually right. She gave me a small smile then that caused a twinge in my chest. I was about to kiss her again when a frown crossed her face. But it’s too…easy, somehow.
Easy? I stood up indignantly. We barely saw each other for an entire year, you incriminated yourself thoroughly in a crime that you didn’t perpetrate, you’ve just survived an assassination attempt, and your defense still has to figure out how to get you off the hook! I sat down again and sighed. Seriously, Ritsuko, couldn’t you have tried to get yourself out of the way of my supposed happiness just a little less…dramatically?
She gave me a half-smile. I’m my mother’s daughter until the end.
I was about to protest when she reached up and kissed me. When she pulled back and saw the worry in my eyes, she smiled. Don’t worry, Misato. A flair for drama isn’t the only gift I got from my mother—I got her brilliance too. We’ll figure something out.
It was only then that I realized how resilient happiness could be. How it could survive death, destruction, uncertainty and fear and flourish in the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places.
Strange that after the world had ended, some gifts could still endure. But then again, it’s because such gifts endure that the world can go on: end after countless end.