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Evangelion: Wake

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 · 3 months ago
Evangelion: Wake
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Author's notes (part 1)

*** Spoiler warning *** I myself still have yet see EoE. I've been looking for a copy for some time, but have had no luck as of yet. That hasn't stopped me from searching the net for anything I could find on it. I'm most fascinated by the ending of the film, where Shinji wakes up on the beach. Reason I'm saying this is that I probably have a few details wrong here. Please forgive as I am doing the best I can without having the movies handy.

Those fans of Shinji sans-spine might not care for this, but I don't see him lasting more than an hour without one given the company he will be keeping. Plus if everything he went through didn't help him grow one then I don't know what would. As a certain cowled individual once said, "He is just one strong moment from making sense of it all" (granted; Bats was talking about a gal but it was close enough for the paraphrasing) more notes will follow the story.


Stormfront Studios Presents

Evangelion: Wake

By T. L. Webb


There was a burst of light, then silence. For a long time after that Shinji Ikari felt nothing. Then gradually, his senses returned. The first was the sound of the waves lapping at the sand that he now felt against his cheek. He could smell the salt water and taste the specks of sand against his lips. Opening his eyes he saw crimson. After a moments shock he realized that his eyes weren't fooling him, the water was really red. In the distance he saw the horrifying forms of the mass produced Evangelions standing out in the water, their arms spread as if crucified.

As his vision cleared he could have sworn he saw Rei standing out on the surface of the red water, but as he blinked, the vision disappeared. Confused as to what he had just seen he began to look around him.

Suddenly he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Turning to look, he received yet another shock.

It was her.

It began to come back to him in a rush. All the taunts, the insults, the mocking... the kiss...NO! Even that had been one of her little mindgames...one of her taunts. Why did it have to be her? Why now after everything he had gone through? Was this some perverse idea of a reward? Was it a joke? She hated him! She despised him!

It was all just too much!

Not even realizing what he was doing he climbed onto her and placed his hands around her neck. His hysteria was just reaching its peak as he began to squeeze.

`Why now after all this?' he thought in a cold rage, `Why her? Why of all the people I knew did it have to be... w-what is she doing?'

Her eyes had opened as he began to choke her, and while she hadn't made a sound, she had reached up to him. But not to try to pry his hands away, not even to slap him. She had done something so totally unexpected that it cut him to the core. She had gently caressed his cheek.

In his minds eye he could almost see the form of his mother as she had touched him the same way.

NO! What was he doing?

His hands fell away and it all became just too great for him to bear. The tears came, wracking his body with sobs of pain, grief and self-loathing.

Underneath the crying boy, Asuka Langely Soyru ignored the tears falling on her face and looked down at her arm, which for some damned reason was wrapped in bandages. She looked from her arm to the young boy who was kneeling beside her.

"I think I'm gonna be sick." She said, mocking the crying boy.

Why had she said that? Was it just out of habit? She thought about this for a moment before brushing off the idea. She reached up and felt the bandage over her eye. How the hell had these gotten there anyway, and for that matter where the hell were they?

Climbing off of her, Shinji was finally getting himself under control. His breathing was still erratic, but the tears had stopped. As he moved she was suddenly aware of a sharp ache in several places on her body. It seemed that she hadn't managed to shut down the nerve connections as fast as she thought she had when those spears had begun to hit her.

Shinji looked down at her, and she saw confusion in his eyes. He kept looking at her arm and eye as if it were the most disturbing thing in the world... considering what had happened, she didn't really think it qualified as even being in the top ten. Then again who could understand what went through his head... probably something dirty.

`It can't just be a coincidence' he thought, `not when Ayanami had the same injuries twice. Not after... what had happened.'

"Asuka? I-is that you?" he said hesitantly as she painfully climbed to her feet. Was it really her? Well then again, it had to be her; no one else he knew could look that annoyed with him.

"Of course its me, just how many gorgeous redheads do you know anyway?"

It was her all right.

He almost smiled.

Then he remembered who it was. Why was she here anyway?

"Where the hell are we Shinji?" she said standing up and looking around.

"I... I don't know, I only woke up a few moments ago."

"Oh and the first thing you do is choke the shit out of me huh? Joy." she said rolling her eye again. He hated it when she used that tone.

"I think we're close to where the geofront used to be," he said standing as well and brushing the sand off his pants. Looking around a glint of metal caught his eye.

"Well I'm not going to stand here and look at those... things all night." She said gesturing out at the crucified Evas. She started down the beach, then paused and looked back.

"Well?" she asked in that tone again.

"Well what?"

"Are you coming?" she said putting her undamaged hand on her hip.

`The hell?' he though. `Why does she want me to come with her? Last time we spoke she said...'

"Why?" he asked as he looked at her suspiciously.

This actually seemed to throw her. For a moment she looked... hurt. But then she shifted back to the Asuka he knew far too well.

"Because I told you to stupid." She said angrily.

Why did she always have to do this? He really didn't hate her; it was just that when she got like this she was so... difficult. Every once in awhile they would actually have a decent moment together, but the she would turn it off like a light switch and start acting like this. He had put up with it for almost a year. Quite frankly he was tired of it.

Something over toward the shore caught his eye again, and he let out a little gasp as he recognized what it was.

Ignoring Asuka, who was less than happy about it, he walked up to the fence and took the cross-shaped medallion off the peg it was hanging on. Placing it around his neck, he closed his eyes in a moment of silence for Misato.

This moment did not last long.

"Did you go deaf? I said let's go stupid!"

"Stop it." He said, the sharpness of his voice startling them both. Frowning, he turned to her holding the medallion up. "Do you have any idea what happened to us? Do you even care? Everyone is gone Asuka! Everyone we knew, everyone I knew, Misato, Touji, Kensuke, Hikari, everyone! Does any of this even bother you?"

She was quiet for a long time as they looked at one another. He refused to take the bait and turn away, not this time. Several emotions flashed across her face, many of them he had never seen her express. Shame and embarrassment, while only residing there for a moment, were the ones that stood out the most to him.

Finally she stalked up towards him, the much more familiar emotions of annoyance and anger flashing in her eyes. Knowing from bitter experience what was most likely coming, Shinji fought the urge to back down, deep inside he knew he was done with running.

"How dare you." She hissed at him as she got up in his face.

"How dare I what?" he said much more calmly than he felt. "That I insinuate that you don't care about anyone but yourself?"

Her blue eye flashing with anger she drew back to hit him. Unfortunately she chose to use her injured arm to do this. The bandaged limb swung forward and connected with the side of Shinji's face as he attempted to roll with the blow.

This was not the best thing to do with a nearly broken arm.

A gasp of pain escaped her lips and she fell forwards cradling her broken arm. Shaking off the daze from the blow, Shinji barely managed to catch her. Gently lowering her to the ground, and being careful not to jar her arm, he found that she had passed out.

"You never did know when to stop did you?" he said softly as he brushed a strand of hair off her face. He shook his head in wonder. "And I never could stay mad at you... God only knows why."

------

When she woke up again she was momentarily confused. Shinji was gone and she was alone on the beach. Not too long ago this would have been more than fine, but right now it scared her. And fear was something she did not like. Not that it was alien to her, she had known fear in the past, it was just that since she was a child she had ignored it. She had fought it down and caged it where it could not interfere with her duties as an Eva pilot. When the fear had returned it had mostly been of failure.

She didn't know why she was afraid now.

She tried to tell herself she didn't care.

It wasn't working.

As she sat up, she found that she had been covered. Glancing down she saw that it was Shinji's white shirt. For a moment she smiled. It was a transformation that anyone, save Kaji, who might have known her before would have been hard pressed to believe. It seemed to spring from deep within her. A ghost of a smile drifted to her lips as her eyes softened.

It was a look of gratitude.

She had never been really sure just why Shinji annoyed her so much. When she had first seen him she had been less than impressed. He was a quiet shy little boy who seemed to be most comfortable when the center of attention was well away from him. She had no problem with stealing that particular spotlight. Maybe that had been it. He always was so meek and obedient, just like the first child. At first it had been fun to tease him, but as the angels kept getting stronger, and as his synch ratio started to pass hers it had... changed. It had no longer been about kidding around.

It had no longer been because it was fun. It had turned into a need, a desire to bring him down that she had quickly found that she had no control over.

She didn't like to think about the way she had acted.

Climbing to her feet she looked up and down the beach for signs of him. There was a short trail of footprints from where they had woken up leading to where she now stood. Written in the sand on a small dune were the words "gone to look for shelter" and leading away from the dune was another set of prints. Taking another glance at the shirt in her hand, she sighed.

`Why can't he just hate me like everyone else?' she thought as she followed Shinji's footsteps down the beach

------

"I can't believe its still there," he said aloud.

He was looking up at the hill that had housed Misato's apartment. It had been built on the outskirts of the city, and he had never quite understood why. She was the operations director and tactical adviser for Nerv, yet she lived so far away from the Geofront itself. Granted there was an express lift not very far away, but it was still quite a trip to make if an Angel was attacking.

The last battles with the angels had taken their toll on Tokeo3; the city had been in ruins long before the JSSDF had been sent in. and still Misato's apartment stood. The big black sphere that had turned out to be the Geofront itself had been cracked open, and still the apartment stood. Looking up at it from the beach, he wondered what happened to PenPen. Last he had heard Hikari was going to take him, but he admittedly hadn't been very interested in other peoples problems at the time.

Then there had been the whole thing with Rei. He had decided that he didn't want to understand that mess. So many things his father had done disgusted him, but Rei was one he doubted he could ever forgive.

"Why did you do it?" he asked aloud. "What were you expecting to get out of it all?"

"Did you always talk to yourself, or is this new?" came an unexpected voice from behind.

"Hello Auska" he said without turning.

"Is that...?" she started as she saw the apartment on the hill.

"Yes."

"Um... do you know if my stuff is still there?"

"What?"

"My stuff, did Misato throw it out after I left?"

"Of course not, why would she do something like that?"

"Well its not like I left on good terms with her."

He turned to look at her; she was looking up at their old home wistfully. "I don't understand, I thought you just disappeared."

"It wasn't exactly as clean cut as that."

"I see." He said as he started up towards the apartment.

------

She did a double take as he walked off.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" she said under her breath. What was with him? He never acted like this! Well, at least he had stopped and was waiting for her. She wondered what was going on in that little head of his. Something big had obviously happened to him.

"Hey wait up damnit!" she yelled as she followed him up the hill.

As they cleared a ridge he looked back and saw something that made his eyes soften. As he looked away quickly and hurried on past some debris Asuka looked to see what it had been. She immediately wished she hadn't.

"Mein Gott!" she screamed.

It was Rei.

Or rather it looked like her, only it was just her head and it was the size of a small mountain. It was a horrifying sight to say the least. She looked back up as Shinji, then at the giant Rei that she now saw was slowly dissolving to nothing. Something had happened and she wanted to know what.

The apartment was not quite as intact as it had looked. Debris from Lilith's ascension and the JSSDF's attack had struck the building and there were several holes in the ceiling, but he was sure he could patch those given time and tools. He had done similar work at his Uncle's after a hailstorm. He opened the door for Asuka and they went inside. The power was gone, but there was enough light from the windows that they could see. Save for a few broken dishes and one shattered window, the place was surprisingly clean, but that was not the biggest surprise. As Asuka went into the kitchen she found that the several dozen bottles of alcohol that normally lined the sink were missing.

"Shinji... did Misato quit drinking while I was gone?" She asked.

"I don't know, I was pretty out of it near the end."

"The end of what? What happened Shinji, I don't understand this! Where is everyone?"

"They returned to Lilith." He said sadly.

"Who?"

"It's a long story, I don't really understand much myself, and I was there. I haven't had much of a chance to sort things out."

"Well I'm beat, you can tell me tomorrow."

With that Asuka headed to her room. A few moments later, Shinji was about to do the same when he found Asuka staring into her room from the hall with a slightly disturbed look on her face.

"Asuka? What is it?"

"W-what did I do in here?" she asked in a small voice.

Walking up next to her, he saw that her room was a wreck. He vaguely recalled Misato telling Ritsuko that she was going to leave Asuka's room as she had left it, but he hadn't know that it had been left in such bad shape.

"I think most of it happened after I got out of Unit 01." He said remembering that she had been much more prone to throwing fits after he returned. They had mostly avoided one another after that.

"Why did I do this Shinji? I know I was angry but... my stuff!"

"I don't know Asuka, I never pretended to understand you very much." He said with a shrug. This drew an annoyed look from the redhead. Deciding he didn't feel like another fight, he made a quick suggestion.

"Why don't you sleep in Misato's room, and I'll help you clean this up later."

The idea seemed to bother her slightly, but she agreed. She was exhausted.

Stepping into Misato's room Asuka felt a bit strange. She had been angry with a lot of people before she had run away, but she had saved a special piece of hatred for Misato. Mostly she didn't know what to make of her whole relationship with Kaji, when they had seen each other on the "over the rainbow" she had seemed to hate him. That had been fine, Asuka wanted Kaji's attention all to herself.

But then it had become painfully obvious that Kaji intended to pursue Misato. One thing after another had piled up; failure after failure had struck her. Those last weeks before her coma were little more than a blur to her now, and she was thankful for that in a way.

Looking around she saw that the answering machine had been removed from the phone, and was sitting on Misato's desk. Curious as to what it was doing there Auska walked up and saw an empty package of batteries, and that the message light was blinking. Intrigued, she reached over and pressed play.

To her shock Kaji's voice came drifting from the speakers.

'Katsuragi, it's me. I'm sure you're listening to this message, after I've caused you so much trouble. Sorry. Please tell Ritsu "I'm sorry." too. And there's one more thing to trouble you with: I've been growing... flowers. I'd appreciate it if you could water them. Shinji knows where they are. Katsuragi, the truth is with you. Don't hesitate. Move ahead! If I can see you again, I will say the words that I could not say eight years ago. Bye.'

From his room, Shinji heard the sobs. Worried that Asuka might be in trouble, he jumped to his feet and hurried to Misato's room. The door was open and when he stepped in to the darkened room he saw Asuka sitting on the floor, her knees drawn up and held by her free hand. She was shaking; he hadn't been hearing things.

"Asuka?" he said from the doorway.

She looked up at him, and he was a bit surprised not to see any tears. Taking a deep breath, he walked in and sat down beside her on the floor. She watched him do this with a touch of confusion. He faced her and sat a moment trying to phrase what he wanted to say correctly.

"If this is something you don't want to, or can't talk about then that's fine," he said, breaking the silence, "but if you want to; I'm right here, and I'll listen."

As he spoke she found a sharp remark on the tip of her tongue. It had always been her first instinct to any suggestion that she might need help, or that she couldn't handle something on her own. She still didn't think that she needed anyone else, that she didn't need help, or assistance. Even days ago she would have yelled that she didn't need him anywhere near her, but as she bit down the rude remark that was set to fly at Shinji, she found something out.

She wanted him close by.

------

She hadn't yelled at him yet... that was a good sign. The last time they had spoke was just before she had run away, and it had not been pleasant for him. He had just started to recover from his month long imprisonment in Unit01 and had not been very together at the time. The fact that he had been refused the opportunity to help when she was attacked had not helped any. He had been worried about her, but had not known what to do. He knew so little about her; he wouldn't even have begun to know where to look. They had found her seven days later, and it hadn't been pretty. He had seen her in the infirmary a few weeks later... she had recovered, but not by much. And she still hadn't woken up.

`Hers was the beauty of blades in an alley,' he thought, remembering a random quote that Kensuke had once pulled from somewhere to describe her. A small smile crossed his face as he remembered his friends. They had taken an immediate dislike to Asuka almost from the moment they had met her, Touji in particular. They had more often than not referred to her as "the demon", and it wasn't as if Asuka hadn't given them reason. Of all his classmates, only Hikari had really been friendly with her.

She had seemed to like it that way.

He didn't know what it was about Asuka that made her so hostile to everyone, he had never been able to work up the courage to ask, he didn't think now was the time to do so either. She still hadn't said anything, so he decided to break the silence again.

"You know... it just occurred to me; I never did get much out of it when I did that." This had the intended effect of startling her out of herself.

"What?" she asked, still startled by his words.

"You saw me do almost the same thing a lot, I would put on my headphones and crawl up into myself trying to block everything out. Shutting off the world. I'll admit it felt good to get away from everything like that, but when I came out of it the things that had hurt me were still there, and usually had gotten worse because instead of actually dealing with them I had ignored them."

"Why did you keep doing it?"

"Well with some of it there was nothing I could have ever done about, so in those cases I guess it helped me deal with it, but there were a few times that I really feel disgusted that I did nothing when I could have made a real difference."

He was quiet after that and Asuka thought about what he had said.

"Kaji left a message for Misato before he died." She said finally.

Shinji's eyes widened. He had heard the message in part the night Misato had first played it, but he hadn't been able to do anything to comfort her. It had been another thing he was ashamed of.

He had dimly suspected that Kaji might have died, but he hadn't known that Asuka had found out. Considering her... affection for Kaji, her collapse so soon after his death put things in better perspective. But the important thing now was that she was actually talking to him, opening up for the first time. If he were to do any good here it would have to be before she closed him off again.

"I'm sorry, it must have been hard to listen to it like this."

"It doesn't hurt as bad as I thought it would when I first heard his voice. I knew he loved Misato, I just..." a tear began to build at the corner of her eye, but she was obviously fighting it back.

"You miss him," he said looking down at the cross medallion. "Listen," he said, "a lot happened and I don't think its possible to work it all out in one week, let alone one night. Why don't we get some sleep."

"Ok." She said, the weariness evident in her voice.

He slept outside the room that night.

-------

'Oh not again...' he thought with a groan.

It had been two days and she was yelling at him again. This time it was something about the broken water pumps. She had started with the complaining the day before and he had decided the best way to deal with it was to just ride it out.

"Will you at least look at me when I talk to you?"

He had been trying to get some work done; it was a nice day and perfect to be out and about. At least it had been until she had switched back to the old Asuka, and had started driving him up the wall. Trying to ignore her long enough to get the roof patched didn't seem to be an option anymore. Unfortunately ignoring Asuka did not make her go away, if anything it just pissed her off even more.

"Say something already!" she shouted at him, "anything!"

Finally he had enough of it.

"What?" he said tuning and looking at her with calmness that she was still unused to from him. "Why are you suddenly so eager to hear my voice? So you can tell me to shut up and remind me how much I disgust you?"

"Are you still hung up over that?" she asked surprised. "I only said that because just after you finally showed some spine for the first time in your life you started crying like a baby."

"Am I not allowed to feel ashamed for choking you? Or sad at loosing everyone I knew and getting stuck alone with someone who hates me?"

She paused at this. "If you felt so bad about it why did you do it in the first place? And who ever said I hated you?"

Shinji sat down on the edge of the platform he was standing on and looked at her in frustration. He knew that Asuka had a lot of nerve, but this was a bit much.

"You said you hated me the last time we spoke before third impact." He told her coolly "As for the rest, it might have been because ever since I met you, you have done nothing but insult me, put me down, all for no reason I might add. And to top it all off, the one time I desperately needed your help you refused me and turned your back."

"..."

"Look I got to get these boards in place, if it rains we're gonna get soaked." He turned back and continued working.

"I... I'm sorry."

His head jerked up and he slowly turned around. Asuka was still there but her head was bowed, her eye hidden by her hair.

"What?" he asked. This was not something he had heard often, especially from Asuka. He was a little unsure weather to trust his ears.

"What do you want?" she said suddenly becoming angry, "Me to sing it from the damn roof? I'm sorry already."

Shinji was quiet for several moments, then climbed down. "Asuka..."

"Are you happy now? I've degraded myself before the high and mighty Shinji Ikari."

"Stop that."

"Why?" she yelled back, challenging him to contradict her.

"Because I'm tired of it, I'm tired of listening to the same thing over and over! You're like some kind of broken record." He sat down and leaned against the side of the building. "Ever since I met you all you've done is mock me. If it wasn't about me moping around and feeling sorry for myself, which admittedly I disserved, you were screaming about how I was `showing you up' when I actually did something right. I'm tired of it ok? Just what do you want from me?"

This finally cut through. She stopped and her face went blank as she realized she didn't know the answer.

What do I want from him?

Why am I even talking to him?

Why does he care?

Why do I care? ... Wait...that was the question, wasn't it?

What about him made it so important that she prove herself to him?

Had it just been because Ayanami had been interested?

No. There was a lot more to it than that.

In her minds eye she could clearly see the red haze of the volcano where she had battled the eighth Angel. She had known at that moment she would die. It in away had been a comfort, a chance to finally rest. Then there had been a sudden shock.

It had been him.

He had leapt Unit 01 into a live volcano with no armor and only a badly damaged cable between him and oblivion. He had risked his life for hers... against orders no less. That had been the first time she had looked at him as anything other than a wimpy little boy.

It hadn't lasted however; Shinji had a tendency to back away from problems that drove her up the wall. Particularly after she had seen him at his best. The meek little kid that she had shared Misato's apartment with for so long didn't hardly seem the same as the one who had fought the fourteenth angel to a standstill before loosing power.

`Is that why I get so angry with him? Is that why he drives me so crazy?' she thought. `I never could understand it. He's like a frightened kitten most of the time, but he took down two angels single-handedly and several more even after he got help. It just doesn't make sense.'

She looked at him now, and she wondered what had changed in him after the third impact. There was something at the corner of his eyes, something almost frightening. It reminded her a bit of the few times she had met Commander Ikari.

Now there was a disturbing thought.

But in front of that was still the same Shinji. And she had to admit, for all of her teasing he wasn't the worst example of the male species.

He could be incredibly brave...

But he could also be a pathetic coward

She still didn't know why he acted the way he did. Perhaps it was time to find out

"Why didn't you get any training before the first fight?" she asked, completely confusing Shinji who was still waiting on an answer to his question.

"W-what?"

Realizing she had changed subjects on him, she thought for a second before continuing.

"I need to know some stuff before I can answer that. Now spill. Why did they send you out with no training against the third angel?"

-------

Shinji's eyes narrowed a bit as he thought back to his arrival in Tokyo3. His father standing above the cage looking down at him. His own fear and shame that he would still be useless to the man. The man... was he even that? How could he have done the things he had done and still honestly believe that Yui would want him back? With a small growl he tried to answer Asuka's question.

"I received no training because my father cast me aside as a useless tool and ignored me for years, until he found that he still needed me." He spat the words out with such venom that he succeeded in not only startling Asuka, but frightening himself as well.

With difficulty he continued.

"My `father' decided that Rei would be a more suitable choice and left me with my uncle. He... I suppose you could use the term `raised' her to be the pilot of Unit 01, but she was hurt during the activation of the prototype. So he sent for me."

Asuka was a bit shocked. She had known that the other two pilots were weird, but she'd had no idea that the Commander had actually been the reason they were so screwed up `Like you should talk Langely' she heard her inner self say.

"Wait... he... he raised the first child?"

"I don't think the word applies, but yeah. You never did see her apartment did you?"

"No."

"Picture Misato's room the day before we did all the cleaning. Then take away all the furniture, posters, flowers and other decorations."

"... If it were anyone else we were talking about that would sound insane."

"It is insane. It only gets worse too." The darkness in his eyes was growing... and Asuka wanted to tell him to stop and shut up, be she was too dumfounded by what she had learned so far to speak.

"The sick part is that seems Rei was a clone. Not a clone of just anyone; they must have used what was left of my mother after her accident for the base. I suppose they figured she would have a better chance of synchronizing with Unit 01 that way."

Asuka's eyes grew wider as he spoke. Not just because of the revelations, Shinji's voice was growing more manic as he continued.

"Ritsuko must have known all about this, I imagine that's why she was so amused when Misato thought I had a crush on her. Plus she was in love with `father' and I guess she couldn't stand the idea of Rei being competition for ... god I don't even want to imagine that! Why did he do that to her? Why did he let her grow up like some worthless puppet? She deserved better! She wasn't a doll she was a GOD DAMN HUMAN BEING!"

Shinji turned and threw a wild punch at a nearby window, succeeding in cracking the thick glass and slicing his knuckles. Dropping to the ground and cradling his bleeding hand; he was still shaking in rage when Asuka tentatively reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.

`I... I didn't know." Asuka thought as she led him back inside. `Oh God... how could I have known?' it was only a few seconds before the unwanted answer came to her.

`I could have asked... I should have asked.'

As he wrapped his hand in a damp cloth, Asuka watched on in silence. "Shinji... I didn't know." She said softly.

"I didn't know most of it myself until after you disappeared. Some of it I didn't piece together until just before the end. All I knew before that was that I despised my father for what he had done to all of us. I think the part about Rei makes me so angry because it makes me wish he hadn't left me... because I would rather her have had a chance to live like an actual person than to grow up under him the way he planned. He let her live in that run down dirty hovel. He let her grow up alone without friends. He made her the way she was. I can forgive a lot Asuka, but not that. Not that. He wasted her life."

"You said that she was a..."

"Clone. Like in the sci-fi movies Kensuke always brought over. I suspected that... something was strange for awhile, mostly because of things she said and things she did. Things that that brought out the few memories that I have of mother. Then after the sixteenth angel with everything Ritsuko told us... look I'm not saying I understand this whole mess, but what I saw and heard disgusted me. I will never forgive him."

Asuka could see the darkness growing again. She quickly decided another subject change was in order.

"Was Misato right?" she asked playfully.

"What?"

"Did you have a crush on Rei?"

He quickly blushed, and the darkness receded... This was a good sign.

"I think so, at least in the beginning. It still weirds me out now after all the things I found out."

"I remember. I tried to tease you about it once."

"Oh yeah...'secret meetings' wasn't that how you tried to put it?

"I think so, its kind of hard to remember all the cheep shots I take at people."

"At least your honest about it I guess. Its still not nice"

"Humph. You wanted to know what I want from you Shinji? I wanted you to stop cowering and show some of that spine that peeks out every once in awhile. That's why I teased you so much. I want to see the Pilot who leaped into a blazing volcano to save his teammate, not the cowering little wimp who apologizes to everything I say."

"Then you don't know me."

"Huh?"

"The Shinji Ikari that leaped into the lava is the same Shinji Ikari who you hate."

"Gah! This again? I don't hate you."

"You say that, but you act like you do so often I have a hard time accepting it. But to expound, I jumped into the lava to keep you from getting hurt. I hated piloting because all I seemed to do when I got in to that thing was cause people to get hurt. Did I ever tell you about Touji's sister? She was hurt in my first fight. She was hurt because I was too afraid to try and properly pilot the thing."

"What the hell are you talking about? You didn't even have a crash course! It took me and Rei weeks and weeks to even get our synch rates high enough to move a hand, much less walk!"

"It was still my responsibility, and I tried to run from it."

"You're right, I don't know you." Asuka said shaking her head. " One moment I think I understand you then you throw something like this out at me. No wonder you didn't know why you piloted. Your dad screwed you up bigtime."

Shinji nodded.

"Yes." He said simply.

------

"Ok, you're clear, keep it steady... now!"

The large tank slid out of the truckbed and down into the ditch with a thud. When the dust settled Asuka and Shinji walked up and began checking for cracks in the metal. The idea had been a simple one.

They needed fresh water.

Lots of it.

Preferably running.

There wasn't a stream anywhere near enough for their purposes, so Shinji had done some reading and had come up with this. Misato's apartment had been on a slope, but hadn't been at the top. They had taken a large water tank from a storage yard a few miles away. With an old pickup truck, a little creative welding and enough rope to hog-tie unit 01 they had managed to haul it up to the top of the hill. All they had to do now was fill it and run a pipe to the apartment and they would have running water.

Now they just had to figure out how to heat it and they would be in much better shape. Not that they hadn't figured out how to have a hot shower every once in awhile, All that took was a campfire, a hose with a showerhead on the end and some boiled water.

And Shinji's solemn promise not to peek.

Of course, this was not nearly as easy as it sounded. Until Asuka's arm was fully healed she was somewhat limited in her movements, and this led to the problem with washing her hair. It was about a week and a half before she managed to work up the nerve to ask him.

-------

"You want me to what?" Shinji asked with honest surprise.

"Oh comeon, its not like I'm asking you to climb into the tub and scrub my back, I just need you to help me shampoo my hair. I cant do it right with my arm like this."

Still a little nervous, and confused, he agreed to help. Fifteen minutes later on the porch she stepped out in her bathing suit and sat down in the chair he had set up. Her eye was healing quickly and she had opted for using a pair of sunshades with a pad in the eye instead of the bandage, but her arm was still tightly wrapped in the cast. Other than the bandages she was still as breathtaking as she had been the day he had met her.

Trying as best as he was able not to stare at her, he sat down in the other chair and picked up the first bucket to wet down her hair.

"Ok Third Child, first step is the blue bottle. Don't use too much, its not like I can fly to Germany and pick up more."

He took a moment and removed the contents of the bag she had brought out. There were several bottles of hair care products. After pouring the first bucket of and selecting the blue bottle as instructed, he squeezed a small amount into his hand and rubbed it into both palms before beginning on her hair. As he scrubbed the suds into her hair and scalp he thought again how beautiful she was. There was no real doubt about it; the only thing that really dimmed any attraction he had felt in the past was her attitude.

Calling her a brat was an understatement, and closer to the end it had gotten worse. The few times he had found himself thinking of her in a romantic light had been short lived. The first had been the night before they fought the seventh angel when she had been sleepwalking and... had that been an accident? She had seemed oblivious the next morning. Despite the fact she had spent half the night on his bedroll. Her only comment had been to kick him awake from his spot on the floor several feet away and tell him to get up.

He had wondered for a long time if she had been really sleepwalking that night.

----

`I wonder what he's thinking about' Asuka thought with a slight grin. `Given the angle, probably my cleavage' she let out a small giggle at the idea. The truth was that poor Shinji was probably trying as hard as he could NOT to look at her cleavage. The same had been true that day at the pool when she had made her first effort to flirt with him. As he rinsed the second bottle's contents out of her hair and started on the third, she thought back to the night she had teased him into kissing her. She had been thinking about Kaji and kissing him when it occurred to her that she had never actually kissed anyone.

Realizing that she might need practice at something like that, she had immediately elected Shinji as her test subject. In hindsight it might not have been the best idea in the world to clamp his nose closed, but it was her first time after all, and she'd had no idea that it would have lasted as long as it did. It would have lasted much longer if she hadn't realized she was enjoying it.

-----

"Hey Asuka?" Shinji asked suddenly.

He was one more rinse away from being done and Asuka was sitting back with an almost sensual smile on her face, caught up in the pleasure of having someone else pamper her. In truth they were both enjoying the contact more than they would willingly admit. Her eyebrows raised from behind her shades and she made a small sound indicating her attention.

"Honest truth. Were you really sleepwalking that night before we fought the seventh angel?"

A wry grin crossed her lips. "Why? Wondering if I saw you doing something naughty while you thought I was asleep?" she said while suppressing a laugh. She had expected several possible responses, blushing, changing the subject, stammering, but not the one she got.

The dark cloud that had overtaken Shinji's face a few times in the past few days returned stronger than ever. He rinsed the soap from her hair and rushed through the last stage like a machine. When he was done stood and handed her a towel before almost storming back inside.

Sitting up quickly and wrapping her wet hair in the towel, she hurried after him. What had she said? If it were merely embarrassing him she could understand, but this was something different. She was familiar with his responses to her teasing, and this wasn't the same. She found him on the balcony next door. He was leaning against the rail with his head buried in his arms. He looked like he was crying.

"Shinji?"

"Get away... I'm a monster." He said quietly, his voice filled with pain

"W-what are you talking about?"

"I'm disgusting, I shouldn't be near you."

"Shinji? Talk to me here, what's wrong?"

"If I tell you you'll hate me."

"We've been through this, I don't hate you."

"You will. Anyone would. I do."

"Shinji what could you have done that could be so awful that it hurts to even think about it?"

Shinji was quiet for a long time before he finally spoke up. When he began to speak his voice was so filled with shame that it shocked her almost as much as what he had to say. He started with Kaworu, the confusion that resulted, the pain that had followed the death of one of the only people who had ever openly admitted they cared for him. The desperation that he had felt with everyone he knew gone. As he told of his visit to her room her eyes widened in slight fear that he had done something to her while she slept. Then they narrowed in disgust as she heard what he had actually done, then a blank expression fell across her face as he tried to explain the hollowness that had followed his attempt to give some measure of pleasure to himself.

"I still don't know why I did it Asuka, it gained me nothing, it revolts me even now. I'm no better than a rapist. I'm scum. Even then I was disgusted." He looked up and saw her staring at him blankly. Hanging his head he continued. " I told you that you would hate me, you were right all along, I am a pervert. I'll move my things here. I shouldn't be allowed near you."

He stood and began to walk away

"Hold it."

Halfway into the door, Shinji stopped. His head still lowered in shame, he turned back, expecting to be hit or worse any second. He was prepared for any punishment she deemed necessary.

What he didn't expect was that she was not furious. Not to say she didn't look angry, but she looked more... annoyed than anything. Her voice was tense nonetheless

"Listen up, I'm only going to say this once." She told him. "I do not, I repeat, NOT hate you. It's not as easy to say at the moment, but I want you to get that through your thick little skull before I tell you the rest of this. Most every guy I ever met, yes even Kaji, has been little more than a perverted jerk. I am disappointed in you, but not as angry I could be. You better thank whoever it is you Japanese worship that all you did was spank off that day. Otherwise I might have thrown you off this ledge."

She let out a sharp breath and seemed to calm down slightly. Walking up to him she looked him up and down then nodded.

"One more thing and then I don't want you to ever mention this again."

He was still feeling the slap three hours later.

-------

The next day started better, but steadily grew worse.

Shinji seemed to be in much higher spirits having let what he had done off his chest. They elected to take the truck down to the far side of the bay to pick up some rice and other foodstuffs from one of the surviving stores in the area.

The drive was slow; they had to stop several times so that they could move stalled vehicles off the road. When they arrived, Shinji jumped out and hurried over to open her door.

She was daydreaming when she slipped on the rail and fell down on him. Her sunglasses and the pad that had rested over her eye went sailing and she clamped her eyes shut to try and protect them from the imminent impact and bright sun. To her surprise however, instead of folding under her weight, he managed to get his feet positioned fast enough to actually catch her.

"Let me go!" she shouted as she tried to climb off of him, succeeding only in sending both of them to the ground. He got to his feet and stood there awkwardly as she looked around for her glasses. Finding them quickly she returned them to her face and tried to get to her feet.

It didn't quite work as she planned. The side of the truck offered no handhold and she was still far too sore to climb up without one. Shinji saw this quickly and reached down to help her to her feet.

Her response was a bitter stream of German curse words and a glare that could possibly have melted steel. She slapped his hand away with her uninjured one.

"I don't need your damn help third child, back off."

Had she been paying attention she might have saved them both half a day of trouble, but true to form Asuka missed Shinji's reaction to this.

Until he picked her up that was.

"What the hell are you doing!" she yelled as he reached down and picked her up with no consideration of hand placement, or gentleness.

"Shinji Ikari, you put me down this minute!" she continued screaming as she began trying to hit him and kicking her feet around. He completely ignored her as he walked into the store. She was so intent on wriggling free that she failed to notice the several scratches she was leaving on his arms and face.

"If you don't put me down right now I'm going to-" she never got a chance to finish as Shinji picked that moment to dump her unceremoniously on one of the waist-high checkout counters. Ignoring the fact that the counter offered her a perfect position to get to her feet without further risk of falling; she quickly sat up, slid off and stormed off after him; fully intending to beat the hell out of him.

It was not a large store and it only took a few seconds to find him standing in front of the medical supplies and opening a package of bandages. As she stomped up to him he looked up and she saw the scratches on his face.

It threw her.

She tried to forget it and chew him out as intended but he just stood there looking at her. Not flinching, not cowering back, apparently not even afraid. He looked her right in the eye and didn't even blink.

To say the least she was not used to this from him.

For what might have been the first time she blinked first. As she turned away, he finished opening the package and began putting them on his bleeding cuts.

Cursing herself silently she finally got her nerve back up.

"What the hell was that about?" she demanded.

"If you don't take it easy your wounds won't heal. That means you have to stop pushing yourself like that."

"I don't need your damn help Shinji."

"Yes you do. Whatever damage those lances did to your Eva translated to a physical effect on you. Your ribs are still bruised, your arm has been hurt three times since we woke up, and we still don't know how badly you're hurt internally other than it doesn't slow you down much. But if you keep trying to act like nothing is wrong you're going to end up in a wheelchair, and I'm damn sure you wouldn't like that. So for the time being you are just going have to deal with my help."

With that he applied the last of the bandages and walked down the row toward the canned goods. Behind him Asuka again began angrily cursing in German.

------

The trip back to the apartment was made in silence. Asuka had finally accepted that Shinji was right about her condition, but she didn't have to like it.

Shinji on the other hand had resigned himself to the fact that he and Asuka were going to be at best friendly enemies for the rest of their time together. He wasn't sure how long that would be; his time with her before third impact had conditioned him to mostly ignore her insults and taunts. If she didn't like him he could live with that, but he would stay at least long enough to see her through her injuries. If she didn't want him around then there was nothing he could do.

His feelings toward her were complicated. He did care for her... he couldn't deny that. She was breathtakingly beautiful, she had a confidence and determination he envied, and she seemed to know no fear save that of failure. But then there was her attitude...

`How many times am I going to go over this in my head before I admit I love her despite the fact that she doesn't feel the same?' he thought to himself as he pulled in the apartment's driveway. `Even when she hurts me... even when she calls me names and taunts me...' he let out a small chuckle as he shook his head.

`Am I screwed up or what?'

However, as he helped Asuka out of the truck a few minutes later, he was surprised to hear her mutter a "thank you" under her breath before walking off to her room.

"Well... damn." He said once she was out of earshot.

--------

"Is this really going to work?" Asuka asked hesitantly from her place at the wheel.

"I think it should," Shinji replied as he loaded another speargun. "All I can think that might go wrong is the splash might capsize us, but that's why we're wearing the life jackets."

They had both gotten more than tired of the giant Mass Produced Evas that stood out in the bay that had once been Tokyo3. So they had come up with a way to get rid of them. It wasn't the best plan Asuka had ever heard, but she didn't see any reason it wouldn't work.

They had taken a tugboat, several spearguns, and some very, very strong wire. The plan was to pull the Evas over and then drag them off to another part of the bay. This would at least get them out of sight. To that end they were almost ready to haul over the first of the three in the bay.

"I think you got enough of those ropes ready, should I start the wench on the anchor?"

"Yeah, but don't gun the engine right away. Start slow and lets see if I messed up any of these knots before we start pulling."

She looked back at him on the deck and sighed. He was being the old Shinji again and it was pissing her off.

"You checked them four times and they were fine then, just get up there and man the knife!"

She yelled back at him. The knife in question was a short sword they had found in an abandoned house nearby. The idea was to cut the wires and run if the Eva started to tilt the wrong way. To facilitate this all the ropes were linked to one master knot that they had found in an old sailor's handbook when they were learning how to operate the tug.

"Ok, let me get into position and we're all set!" he shouted from outside the cab of the boat.

"Ready when you are!" she yelled back as she checked the engine displays.

As he yelled to go she slammed the accelerator forward and the powerful little boat shot ahead. There was a creak from the frame and a sudden lurch when the ropes caught, but moments later she could feel the slack give way and she let out a shout of triumph. This was cut short by a sound she had only heard once or twice before.

Shinji was cursing

She heard a loud twanging sound and saw the ropes give way in the mirror just moments before Shinji ducked in and grabbed her hand, pulling her outside and over the edge. She didn't have time to respond or protest as a monstrous wave caught hold of them and swept the boat over on its side. When the wave had passed she saw the boat several meters away lying upside down in the water.

"What the hell?"

"I realized as the Eva fell that the wave was much bigger than I thought" he explained as they floated in the warm water" if we hadn't cut loose the ropes would have torn the boat apart and if we hadn't jumped we would be underwater right now."

"Way to go Dumkoff, you could have killed us there."

"I know." he said quietly. "Asuka I'm sorry I shouldn't have put you in danger like that."

"Humph. I'll let that one slide. By the way you want to tell me why you're holding on so tight?"

"I... I can't swim," he said with a blush.

"WHAT? You let me drag you out here without... YOU IDIOT!" she screamed at him. "If you EVER do anything that dangerous again I'm going to kick your ass to the damn moon! Do you hear me Ikari?"

"Yes mam" he said quietly.

`Why the hell is he smiling?' she thought as they slowly swam toward the beach. `What has he got to be so happy about?'

Finally she got fed up with his silence and demanded an answer.

"We were actually working together back there." He said, the smile never leaving his face.

"Yeah... I guess all that synch training paid off with more than just one fight."

"Hey Asuka... did you ever wonder what it would have been like if we weren't pilots? If we had just been regular kids?"

"Well you would probably know how to swim for one thing... but jokes aside no I haven't. Eva has been such a huge part of my life for so long... to tell the truth living without it is a bit frightening."

"I understand... we're both such heavy products of our upbringings though, I wonder what you would have been like without project E."

"Well what do you think you would have been like?"

"I think I would have been more like Touji and Kensuke... or somewhere between the two. Its hard to know for sure though, I have no idea what father would have been like if mother hadn't died."

"So you would have been a little pervert like the other two stooges then?" she said with a grin.

Shinji chuckled, then spit out some water that had gotten in his mouth. "Maybe... like I said it's hard to tell, I might have turned out an even bigger introvert than I am. I just don't know"

"Maybe its better to concentrate on what is than what might have been." Asuka said softly as they climbed to the shore.

-----

They opted to compromise for the rest of the project. The actual pulling down of the MP Evas would be done from land (it took them weeks to collect enough rope and wire) they did however use another tugboat to pull the Evas outside the bay. They both agreed that it made things that much more scenic.

Asuka's injuries were slowly clearing up. She was now wearing a sling on her arm but her eye had finally healed enough to where she no longer needed to keep it covered. That had produced a small crisis in itself. Whatever after effects the lance of Longonus had caused, it had resulted in the pigmentation of her eye fading to almost nothing. Her left eye was now pale pink. She could see fine, but the first time she had caught a look at it, she had wigged out, screaming how she was becoming "the doll". Shinji had finally calmed her down and told her it didn't matter and it might not be permanent. Then to both their surprise, he actually chewed her out, telling her that Ayanami was the closest thing he'd ever had to a sister and that he didn't think it was becoming of her to insult someone who couldn't argue back. A bit taken aback by Shinji's small outburst, and realizing that she had totally flown off the hook, she relaxed and started looking into finding some contact lenses. After few days passed however she soon stopped worrying about it, and Shinji was more or less sure she would completely forget it in time.

It wasn't too long after that when Asuka began picking up on Shinji starting to say strange things. Stuff about how she wouldn't need his help much longer, and how things would be much quieter after that. It was almost as if he was implying he wouldn't be around.

As stubborn as Asuka was it finally did sink in that he might be serious, and that began to hit her harder and harder each time he dropped a hint. She was realizing slowly that she didn't want him to leave. And it was just as frightening as the thought of his staying

-------

"Comeon Soyru, don't be a coward." Asuka told herself for the tenth time that hour.

She was pacing a circle in her room and muttering under her breath. Try as she might she couldn't work up the nerve to go outside and just say it. She had come to the conclusion that she had to do something to convince him to stay. After about half a second she settled on appealing to his hormones. About three seconds after that she realized what a hypocrite she would seem like if she tried it.

On one hand it was perfectly logical; after all they were the only two people in the city, possibly the whole world. It made sense that they should at least make an effort to try to have more than a `friends' relationship. In all honesty she had expected Shinji to suggest it, wasn't it normal for they boy to be the forward one with these things?

Then again this was Shinji she was thinking about. For him taking the initiative was, to put it politely, rare. So the duty rested on her shoulders.

So why was she so nervous?

`Because you're afraid.' She thought to herself angrily.

But of what?

Of Shinji?

The idea was almost laughable, he went so far out of his way not to hurt other people she sometimes had suspected him of being a masochist.

No that wasn't it... it was the other side of her problem. The fact that she was afraid of being turned down... of being rejected... of being alone. God knew she had given him enough reason. She was afraid if she went out there and told him something like this he would think she was making fun of him and turn away.

Like the time with the kiss.

She had handled that poorly, she knew. What had he thought of her after that? She had run to the bathroom and hit the mouthwash so fast that she was sure he had been hurt... and she had meant it at the time. She had actually blamed him for the fact that she had begun to enjoy the kiss. How dumb had that been of her? Of all the stupid things to be angry with him about, that had to be close to the top of the list. She guessed she had been more angry with herself... she had felt as if she were betraying Kaji by enjoying the kiss of someone else.

And then Kaji had... with Misato...

"Why would he ever forgive me anyway... he's right, all I ever did was make fun of him," she said as she leaned back against the wall. " I am such an idiot."

--------

Later that night she got up to get some of the bottled water they had found at the store when she heard a loud whimpering from Shinji's room. Curious she slid the door open a bit and peeked in. he was tangled in his sheets and tossing about as if he were in pain.

Seeing someone having a nightmare can touch even the most non-empathic of people, and Shinji had been having them almost every night since they had woken up. Asuka hurried in without thinking. His brow was soaked with sweat and his head turned every few seconds as he mumbled in his sleep.

From the few phrases she could make out, she knew that there was no chance of the dream being anything less than horrifying. Kneeling beside his bed she placed a hand on his forehead, taking one of his hands in her other.

She had hoped her presence would somehow calm him, but as she sat there his mumbling grew louder and clearer. Finally with a scream he practically flew awake.

"FATHER NO!"

This succeeded in frightening both of them silly.

"Shinji! Calm down I was just a dream!" Asuka said holding tightly to his hand as he tried to scramble back.

He finally seemed to see her and his breathing slowed slightly. And he gave her hand a small squeeze to acknowledge he had heard her.

"Are you ok now?" she asked with genuine concern.

"I don't think I'll ever be alright." He said quietly.

"What kind of talk is that?"

"I remember more of it now."

"Remember what?"

"Instrumentality."

"... Y-you mean third impact?"

"Yeah. Get some sleep, I'll tell you in the morning..."

"No need to wait, I don't think I could get back to sleep if I tried."

"... Alright... hey Asuka?"

"Yes?"

"Thank you."

-------

Over the next few hours he told her what he could explain from his strange experience in the eye of the storm that had been third impact. It was a bit of a shock to find out that some of the things she had though had been a fever dream from the pain had been real.

"Are you saying that he did all that to be with your mom again?" Asuka asked in surprise.

"As near as I can tell yes. That was the impression I got."

"But... what makes him think she could forgive what he did to you, me and Rei? Or all those other people he cast aside?"

"I don't know... I don't know what he would have done; It's all like a whirlwind in my head, some things are clearer than others. I remember seeing you Rei and Misato, my mother and everyone else, I remember choosing to come back... but the rest is just bits and pieces. I may never understand the whole thing. I think I understand my father better now... but... I still can't forgive him"

`Everyone he knows has hurt him... even me.' She thought to herself. `Why did he choose to come back? What gave him the courage to chose to come back to this? Could I have done the same?'

[I don't want to die!]

`I did do the same...' she realized with a start.

"Asuka..." Shinji said hesitantly.

"Hmm?"

"I don't know why no one else came back... while I was with Lilith someone told me that if they chose to that people could return from the LCL, but even if that wasn't a lie... I'm glad you're here."

She didn't know what to say. She didn't know if she could say anything. He had just said something that had touched her so deeply that she was in a state of shock. What did he mean by that? Even if people did come back... he was still glad to be with her? But didn't he want to leave? What was he saying?

She realized her hands were shaking.

`Am I really that nervous?' she thought `does it actually frighten me that he likes me despite everything I've done to him?'

"Asuka? Are you ok?" Shinji said with a distinct waver in his voice.

`You moron! Say something or he's going to think you're mad at him!' her inner voice screamed at her. `He's giving you the chance you were to frightened to take!'

But instead of opening her heart and telling him she wanted him to stay she shouted out at him

"Of course I'm ok you jerk!"

She tried to stop it from leaving her lips but she couldn't. Weather it was just conditioned reflex or fear she didn't know. She tried to stumble her way through an apology but before she could speak the dark look that had appeared on his face several times since the night on the beach came back. He gave a little nod of the head as if to indicate acceptance of something and then without a word he walked out the door

"Asuka you dumkoff!" she finally said as she got up to go after him.

-------

She didn't find him in the apartment next door or on the roof. After checking the hill where they had placed the water tank a cold fear swept over her and she ran down the path to the beach.

She saw him standing just past the edge of the water looking out in the bay. And in one terrible moment came to the conclusion that he was going to go out there and drown himself. Screaming protests at the top of her lungs she tore down the beach toward him.

He heard her and looked up with a confused expression for a moment before looking back out. A cold chill spread throughout her as she doubled her pace.

Whatever he might have been expecting, her slamming headlong into him had not even been on the list.

Knocking them both over into the shallow tidewater Asuka quickly began dragging a soaked and sputtering Shinji away from the water.

"Asuka!" he shouted as he spit and coughed the saltwater from his mouth, " what the hell are you doing!?"

He was about to yell some more when he saw her face. He had seen her get upset before once or twice, but he had never seen her like this.

Was this... fear?

For him?

As they reached the soft dry sand dunes she finally let go and quickly began assaulting him with punches and kicks as she screamed at him never to do anything like that again.

"Wait... what did I do?" he said cutting her off in honest confusion.

"Don't play dumb with me Ikari, I'm not going to let you kill yourself over something stupid like that!" she shouted at him.

"What?" he shouted as his eyes widened in surprise "kill myself? What the hell makes you think I'd do that?"

Seeing Asuka blush was a rare occurrence, and one that he had witnessed only a half dozen times. Seeing her stumble over words was something he had never witnessed.

"I... well... I saw you... and you said you cant swim... with you by the water and all... so I thought..." she trailed off as her face took on a look he had never seen there before.

Her voice dropped to a whisper and he couldn't hear what she said after that, but he brushed it off, intending to set the record straight before anything else happened.

"I wasn't going to kill myself Asuka. And I have no intention of doing so. I didn't turn down what I did from Lilith to end it all like that."

Her eyes closed and she let out a sigh of relief. He decided it was probably the best time to tell her the rest.

"Your arm should be back up to speed in a week or two, once that's done I'm going to leave."

Her eyes opened and she gasped as her entire body tensed up. He had no idea how she was taking it, more than likely she was relived that she would no longer have to put up with him.

Much to his surprise she began to get upset.

"W-what?"

"I'm going to go maybe as far as Okinawa... I dunno. You have enough food stocked to last a year, and enough seeds to start a garden of just about anything you'd ever want."

"But... why?" she asked, her tone and face still unreadable

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. This was it...

"Because I can't keep going on like it is between us." he told her as she froze in place, " I can't keep living like this when every insult is like a knife in my gut. Every time you scream at me for just being nice is a turn of that knife... and it's tearing me apart. I don't know exactly when or why it happened but I care about you Asuka. I know I never said anything, probably because I was afraid you'd just laugh."

Was it his imagination or was she trembling?

-----

[Hmmm not much to look at] [You little pervert!] [Oh him? He's boring] [What are you stupid?] [Such a boring little boy] [Stupid Shinji] [Afraid to kiss a girl on the anniversary of you moms death? Is she watching you from up in heaven?] [That's because you kissed me you jerk] [He wouldn't know how to relate to another person if you gave him a manual] [I hate you! I hate everything!]

It hit her all at once. A wave of insults that she had so casually thrown out over the months they had lived together. A burning wall of anger she had placed in front of her to drive away anything that might hurt. A wall that kept anything that might help out as well. She saw in a painful crushing burst of insight how she must have seemed to everyone. How she must have seemed to Shinji.

"S-Shinji... I" she started to say as the tears tried to come. "I... oh Gott I'm sorry!" she reached out and grasped his shirt with her free hand. She leaned up against him and looked in his eyes pleadingly. "Don't go, don't leave me alone." She said in a small voice. "It almost killed me when I saw you at the water and I thought...Shinji... please don't run away from me."

--------

Shinji's head was in a whirl. He resolved himself then and there never to assume again what was going on in her mind ever again. Her admission that she didn't want him to go had angered him for a moment, but just as quickly as it came it fled in the wake of memory. He thought back to his time spent trapped in Unit 01 and the similar imprisonment in the 12th angel. Most importantly he thought to his choice while inside Lilith. It had taken loosing everyone he cared for and almost loosing his life to realize their importance to him. Before that moment he had thought his own existence pointless, and had even craved death. It had been only at the last moment when he realized the truth and had fought his way back. The old saying was true after all, you never know what you have until its taken away.

But it was those last words Asuka had spoken that struck him the hardest... he had been about to do just that.

Run away... again.

He was suddenly disgusted with himself, he should have realized long ago that the pain had been part of his choice. If he couldn't stand up to it then the entire choice, his choice to exist at all was for nothing.

"Asuka." He said as he turned her face to his and looked her in the eyes. "If you want me to stay... I will."

`I must be insane.' he thought privately.

-------

A thought floated up in her mind like a half-remembered dream.

[If you want me... all you have to do is be nice to me]

Was that something he had told her? Or something she imagined he had said? She couldn't remember.... But it was definitely something he might have said

"I don't mean to be such a bitch." She said softly, suddenly unable to look him in they eye.

He was quit for a moment before he answered.

"I don't think I've been behaving much better. I shouldn't ignore you like I have been."

"What a pathetic couple we make..." she said looking down at the soft white sand. "Our parents did a spectacular job of making sure our social lives would suck."

"Parents? ... wait, what about..." Shinji started to say before realizing just how little he knew about Asuka's past.

"That's not something I can talk about easily Shinji... I'll tell you another time. For now let's just say your father didn't have a monopoly on bad parenting skills."

Shinji nodded then climbed to his feet and helped Asuka do the same.

"I know we don't get along well most the time Asuka" he said, "but I am willing to try if you are."

"Stranger things have happened."

-------

Three days later at Asuka's request they made their way down the complicated corridors that led to the wrecked remains of the Geofront. It took hours and they got lost three times but finally they managed to work their way to the remains of the interior and the shattered dome within.

As they took a break beside a small stream, Shinji looked over at her and spoke up. "I don't know if it's still going to be there Asuka."

"I don't know myself, but... please, I need this."

"I don't mind, I just wanted to warn you," he said reaching out and giving her hand a squeeze.

She looked down at his hand and decided it wasn't worth another fight. He was only trying to comfort her. Even a week ago she would have slapped him for the contact, habit was not something that was broken easily. But now she was starting to understand him a little better and was fractionally less prone to throwing fits.

They soon resumed their hike and a few hours later came to their destination. It was a small garden hidden behind a set of hedges and other shrubbery. Growing inside the garden were several ripe watermelons.

Asuka knelt beside the garden and slipped her backpack off as Shinji watched silently. She reached inside the pack and removed several items including several wooden boards, and a torn and battered photograph of Misato Ritsuko and Kaji back in collage. Placing the photo aside for the moment, she began setting up what soon took the form of a small shrine and placed the various items inside. Finally she took the photo and set it inside and shut the door on the front of the newly constructed box.

"I' will always remember you Kaji..." she whispered, "rest in piece with that which you loved and those who loved you."

---------

They camped by a nearby pond that night. The broken cracked ceiling of the geofront let the moon shine through in places, creating dramatic beams of moonlight. It was fascinating to watch the light play off the sides and the remaining buildings.

After hours of silence Asuka spoke up as they ate their dinner. "Thank you Shinji...I needed to do that."

"Your welcome Asuka" he said somewhat distantly.

"What's wrong?"

" I... I miss Misato." Shinji said softly.

Asuka watched him for awhile and thought about that. He was lonely, that much was obvious. She knew the feeling far to well to mistake it. The question was; what could she do? Would he take any offer for comfort seriously? Lord knew she had taunted him enough to make him doubt her honesty.

Perhaps it would be best if she mended one of the more obvious bridges she had tried to burn.

She stood and walked over to him, then knelt down beside where he sat. Fighting to remain calm, she tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. He looked up at her and she took a deep breath before leaning in to kiss him.

It didn't go as planned.

Shinji's reflexes and mindset concerning Asuka had long become accustomed to ducking thwaps on the head and slaps to the face. The unexpected movement towards him from her triggered these reflexes and he instinctively jumped backwards to dodge what he mistook to be an attack.

Asuka began to blush furiously as she turned away, and Shinji's mind began to twist and turn as he attempted to figure out what the hell had just happened.

"Asuka?" he asked, his tone betraying his utter confusion.

"I'm sorry," she said " I was just trying to..." her voice trailed off as she got up and walked back to where they were camped.

-------

Was she trying to kiss me?

Why did she do that?

Why did I freak out?

Well the last one was easier to answer, but as he realized that she had honestly been trying to kiss him he wanted to slap himself for his reaction.

`But what can I do?' He thought as he watched her sit down beside the tent. `I don't even begin to understand her. What if I did something wrong? What if I-`

"Oh enough of this already." He said aloud as he climbed to his feet

As he made his way to where she sat, an amusing memory came to mind. Smiling, he locked the image in his mind's eye, took a deep breath, released it and muttered under his breath.

"Target the center... pull the switch."

---------

"Hey Asuka," He said just loud enough to catch her attention, "wanna kiss me?"

"Huh?" she said almost flinching at his voice

"Kissing, you know. Have you done it?" He said trying to fight back the laughter that was threatening to break his concentration.

She gave him a look that was part confusion, part annoyance and part thankfulness. Shaking her head as if she couldn't believe he would possibly do something like this, but too amused to stop him, she decided to play along.

"Nuh-uh." She said as she held back a storm of laughter herself.

"What's the matter?" Shinji asked playfully, "are you scared?"

"I'm not afraid, pucker up!" she managed to get through despite the giggles.

"Did you brush your teeth?" he asked in mock seriousness.

That did it.

They couldn't stop it any longer. Both of them erupted into laughter. For almost ten minutes they bot lay there on the ground giggling and snickering like a couple of fifteen year olds.

Finally when they managed to catch their breath they lay there beside one another still grinning at the treetops.

" I can't believe I actually said that." Asuka said after awhile. " I must have sounded like such a little snot that day."

"Its ok, I must have looked like a scared rabbit."

"Don't worry about it...hey, were you serious just now?"

"If you promise not to hold my nose, yeah."

"Dumkoff" she said with a smile "I promise if you can keep your breath from tickling me."

"That's absolutely fair enough," Shinji said as he rolled up to a sitting position. Asuka did likewise and for a moment they looked at one another with a combination of fear and longing.

Finally Shinji leaned in and their lips met.

-------

Neither of them would ever remember just how long they had stayed like that. When they finally broke they both sat there looking at one another and breathing heavily. Both of them would have been shocked to know they were thinking the same thought.

"Where the hell did he/she learn to do THAT?"

--------

The next day as they made their way back to the surface, Shinji began to think about what it would take for Asuka and he to tolerate one another long enough for any romance to even begin. He knew as well as she did just how difficult it was to get around the wall they had built between them over their time together. To add to the problem they still knew virtually nothing about one another despite all their time together.

He decided to take the first step to solve that.

"When I was five," he started to say as they walked down the road to Misato's apartment, "after my mom was taken into Eva... my father fostered me out to my Uncle. I didn't mind at first, father had been angry and very touchy after that day and I was grateful for a chance to be away from that... but after awhile I began to miss him. I only saw him once a year when my Uncle would take me to Mother's grave. Even then he was cold and harsh, like anything that might have once mattered to him was gone forever... and in a way I suppose it was. The next few years I began to grow angry because I felt he wanted to be rid of me, that he didn't want me at all, and every time we met he would barely even acknowledge my existence. Finally one year I couldn't take it any more and I turned and ran from him, telling him I never wanted to see him again. That was just over three years ago."

"Did he ever write or anything?" Asuka asked after a short silence.

"No... the only contact I had with him after that was the package in the mail and the phone call for me to report to Tokyo 3. When I arrived the third angel was attacking and they took me straight to the Geofront. When I saw my father again... and I realized the only reason he called me back was to pilot the Eva I turned away. I would have left then and there if they hadn't brought Rei out on the stretcher. You heard about the incident with unit 00? She was so badly injured that she couldn't even stand up. A blast shook the geofront and knocked us all around, spilling Rei on the floor. I ran over and saw how badly she was hurt.... And told them I would pilot. They had to shame me into the damned thing."

Asuka watched him speak in silence. She had only known bits and pieces of these events, and none of what had convinced him to pilot.

"I never wanted to do it Asuka... every time I climbed into that... that thing it seemed like someone was getting hurt, either me or Rei or my friends or even you... it was tearing me apart and I couldn't stop it. I was afraid for myself as well... all the times I was hurt, all the pain... it all just kept adding up. I don't know if that's normal or just cowardly but I was terrified of the pain."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I want you to understand what it was like for me... I'm not trying to make excuses though, I know how I acted most of the time and I am ashamed."

"Ashamed of what? You were a damn good pilot when you got your ass in gear."

"How much do you know about what happened just after the fourth angel?"

"Not much, just that you almost left Nerv."

"I ran away."

"..."

"I spent a couple of days just wandering the city and the countryside before Section Two found me. I still almost left... I would have if Touji and Kensuke hadn't shown up at the train station. I think I realized that, for the first time I could remember, I had people who cared about me, that I had friends... and with Misato something like a family. For the first time in my life I felt like I had a real home."

-----

Asuka thought about that for the rest of their trip back. Once they were home and cleaned, she went out and found him on the balcony. He was sitting on one of the patio chairs with his SDAT playing and watching the sky as the sunset faded.

She sat down on the chair beside him and waited for him to come out of his thoughts. Finally the tape ended and he blinked his eyes as he woke up from whatever meditations he had been in.

"Oh, good evening Asuka, I didn't see you come outside." he said with a smile.

She was struck then by just how handsome he was going to be when he grew older. Knowing what she did now about Rei and Yui Ikari, she could see the resemblance clearly. He had his mother's eyes. His father's features were there as well but their harshness was tempered by Shinji's own gentle nature. She, for what might have been the first time, saw the man hiding within the boy.

She reached out and took his hand, noticing with relief that he didn't shrink back from her touch this time. Instead he hesitated a moment before returning her gentle grip.

She wasn't able to begin right away, she had spent so much time and effort forgetting these things that just remembering them was painful. But after several false starts she finally began to tell Shinji about her own mother and what had happened after the experiment with Unit 02. As she reached the end the tears began to flow freely and for the first time since she was a small child... she let them come without fighting them off.

Shinji slowly reached out to her and pulled her closer. It surprised her that it felt good to accept his comfort. It had been something she had actually feared for a long time. She realized that it was because he didn't merely pity her, he honestly understood her pain, and wanted to take some of it away if she would let him.

They sat there for almost an hour just holding one another; neither wanting to break whatever spell had finally allowed them to finally connect so deeply.

Finally, both of them physically and mentally exhausted, they fell asleep. -------

She awoke in the middle of the night to find herself still wrapped in Shinji's arms. She was so comfortable that she forgot all about yelling at him for touching her. Instead she snuggled up closer to him, placing her head against his chest, sharing his warmth. She looked up at his face where a gentle smile had taken resident.

After almost two months of nightmares he seemed to finally be sleeping in peace. She wondered if it was because of her, although even as she thought that she knew it was a conceited idea.

As she pondered this she realized how long it had been since they'd had an argument. It had been several days at least. Several days without hurting one another, without the anger and fear.

Was this real? Had they both changed so much?

It was possible... people were known to sometimes change after traumatic events, her own mother had gone from a loving and giving woman to an uncaring suicidal psychopath after her accident. Who was to say that a change for the better was impossible?

Even weeks ago she would have never pictured the two of them like this. Now as she lay there feeling the heat from his body she was angry with herself for avoiding this type of closeness for so long. How much easier would everything have been had they bonded like this from the beginning? What would it have all been like? How much pain and misery would have been avoided?

As she thought of these things her hands involuntarily clenched tighter on Shinji's clothes, causing him to stir from his slumber. After a moment's disorientation, he relaxed and looked down at Asuka who was wearing an expression of deep thought.

"A yen for your thoughts?" he asked, surprising her by being awake.

"I thought the line was `penny'?"

"True, but I have no idea what the exchange would be... not that it even maters anymore. But seriously, what were you thinking about? You seemed a bit upset."

"I was wondering how things would have turned out if we had put all this crap behind us sooner."

"Asuka... you said this before, but there's no point in worrying about `what ifs'. Doing that will only hurt in the long run. Wondering `what if I had done this' or `if I had said that'. Regrets like that can drive you to the edge, then so far past it you feel like there's no way back. We both screwed up a lot, we all did... but obsessing about it will accomplish nothing."

"You should have been a shrink." Asuka said with a laugh.

"What's a `shrink'?"

"Oh, sorry, its American slang for a psychiatrist, I think the term came from someone calling them witch doctors and head-shrinkers or something like that."

" Oh... well I was just speaking from experience. Hey, can I ask you something?"

"Sure"

"What's happening here? I mean with us? Don't take this the wrong way, but not too long ago I would have laughed if someone had told me we would have ever been sitting here like this. I do enjoy it, don't misunderstand... its just that... for example; I keep looking down and seeing this devastatingly gorgeous redhead I want to kiss right now, but I'm afraid its not welcome because she's always yelled at me for so much as touching her in the past. I know how dumb this sounds, but it's how I feel."

She looked into his eyes and sighed. `This is what I get for picking on him so much isn't it?' she thought.

"Ikari, you shouldn't be so timid, you can kiss me if you want to." She told him as she leaned in and taught by example.

Somewhere during the kiss they both lost any sense of time.

-------

Several months later at sunrise, Shinji climbed out of bed and walked to the balcony. He did this most mornings; it was becoming a routine. Asuka had come to expect it, and most of the time; ignore it. She was still sound asleep when he stepped out of their room and up to the rail to look out at the bay that had once been Tokyo 3.

Awhile later as he looked out at the mist covered landscape beyond he heard movement from within the apartment. Smiling he turned to find Asuka walking up and wrapping the blanket that mostly covered her around him as well as she lay her head against his arm.

As they watched the sunrise in the distance Asuka placed a hand over her stomach. She knew she ought to tell him before the changes became too visible. It was funny, for so long she had been disgusted by the idea of ever having children, now the idea was filling her with a sense of excitement. She would tell him in a few days, for now she needed to think. Her mother hadn't always been the way she was after her accident, and Asuka was slowly remembering the kind woman who she had once been.

Shinji on the other hand had finally come to terms with his father in an unusual but interesting fashion. Not to far from where his mother's grave lay, there was a fresh marker bearing the name Gendou Rokubungi. Unconventional, perhaps. But Shinji had taken a great amount of satisfaction in the act of stripping his mother's name from the man. It was a strangely fitting punishment for the long list of betrayals.

They still had their arguments, but slowly that was happening less often. Their fights never lasted long, and they were learning more about one another each day. Twice a month they made their way down to Kaji's shrine where they tended the rapidly growing gardens that had taken hold of the geofront. They were forging a life together, and it was good.

For theirs' was not the story of the end, but that of the new beginning.

Fin

Notes part 2 AKA: the Authors incoherent babbling

They will never be the perfect couple in the traditional sense, but in their own way I see Asuka and Shinji as a very good match. I think that those two need each other more than either would admit (particularly Asuka). I know some of you out there do prefer the Rei / Shinji pair up, and it does have its strong points, but it has its flaws as well. (Mostly concerning *what* Rei is) I do enjoy Rei / Shinji stories, and am just as much a fan of Rei as I am of Asuka, but the whole DNA of his mom thing creeps me out too much for me to fully support the match. Please understand that I mean no disrespect...and please don't launch those mail-bombs. ^_^

After I wrote most of this I ran across a fic called "the one I love is" and I think the author of that story put the reasons for the Asuka / Shinji match best. And those reasons include the fact that they compliment one another. She can drive him to come out of his shell and be more of a man, and he can open her heart and show her that needing others and loving others is not a weakness. It's a yin /yang thing I suppose. And as I tried to say in here, after what they went through I am sure both of them were changed dramatically. The last words Asuka said in End of Evangelion are "Kimouchi warui" and there are about 4 different opinions on just what the phrase means. I chose to interpret her has being annoyed with Shinji and saying basically that they way he acts makes her sick. Other than that I made some of the interpretations Shinji had of Instrumentality vague and confused, because... hell they probably would be. Most of the audience knew more than Shinji did and a lot of THEM are still confused about exactly what happened. (And no I don't pretend full to have comprehension if it all)

Its hard to write #FanFiction about a series like Eva that already has so many fics out there and still be original. When I wrote Moonlight Sonata I thought it would be a cool idea to name the 2nd Branch's Magi after the three fates. After I posted the second draft on rec.arts.anime.creative I ran across a fic called HERZ that used the same names for a new magi. After finding that, I realized pretty quickly that coming up with something no one had done was going to be almost impossible with this story. The whole Asuka and Shinji after impact thing has been done several times. I did notice when reading some of them that they tended to portray the area as a jungle, or a wasteland despite the fact that several buildings could be seen in the distance. Btw, the idea that Misato's apartment survived is a thin chance, but a possible one when you look at the sketches in the Newtype 100% book.

Hopefully I've been able to add something new to a category that is filling fast. I just want to assure the readers out there that I did not intently copy anyone else's work. Any similarities are a coincidence.

Oh and for all those hentai out there (you know who you are) yes I AM planning a lemon out-take from this story ^_^

Hope this was a fun read, and it is a first draft so any CC is welcome send it to hotwire1@airmail.net if you have something to point out.

Anyway, I'm out

Hotwire

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