Shinji Ikari – Third Child, Pilot of Evangelion Unit 01.
Those were the words she had spoken, the last words that had been said between the two of them leading to an uncomfortable three hour walk through a broken, desolate land that they had once called home.
The image still lingered in his mind, of her hand reaching up to caress his cheek, his tears and the words being uttered. He didn't know why she had said them, he hadn't asked, instead he had just regressed into his own thoughts. Did she want him to strangle her? No, that couldn't have been it, why would she want to die after coming back, she must have wanted to live to come back… maybe she had remembered or knew what he had done whilst she lay in that hospital bed. After all wasn't that what she had said to him whilst their souls had been linked? She knew about his fantasies? A small voice inside his head told him that it was probably the tears, the tears streaming down his face dripping onto hers.
Asuka had always told Shinji he should show more of a backbone, she never liked the way he'd bend over backwards for others and not defend himself. He always thought it was easier that way and that he'd be accepted and loved if he just went along with what people told him to do. Instrumentality had taught him otherwise, that people were either going to accept him or weren't, that despite their words Asuka, Misato, Toji, Kensuke, Kaji and even Rei loved him because of him not because they had a use for him or because he did things for them.
Unfortunately it was a small voice that told him this, and that despite what he had gained from instrumentality giving him the strength to come back he couldn't quite allow it into the front of his mind just yet. Maybe one day he mused, but as he surveyed the broken world around him he thought, today is not that day.
Shinji was cold, he was wet and felt sick from hunger. With each step he felt his legs getting more and more tired but he couldn't give up. Just a little longer and we'll be at some shelter, and we can have food and get warm. Keeping pace with him was Asuka, the Red-Headed German Pilot who was now sporting a bandaged arm and eyepatch. A scowl was etched into her face and she hadn't said a word since he had attempted to strangle her.
Why… did I do that, I don't want to hurt Asuka but when I saw her… He remembered the scene clearly; it was just as Instrumentality happened. Asuka was the first person he linked with and they were arguing about something… something stupid as they had been in the weeks leading up to it. He remembers rushing forward in his mind and strangling her. Months of anger and fury had built up to that, and her taunts in that moment were the trigger for releasing it all. That was what he felt when he saw her on the beach next to him, she was lying still and motionless. It was a trigger, suddenly the anger and fury overcame him again and he couldn't help himself. It was only when she shown a sign of life... a sign of compassion he stopped.
Maybe that was it… maybe I was trying to make sure she was real or alive… I am fucked up.
Shinji could feel pain shoot through his feet with each step but he had to keep pushing on. They needed to get to somewhere sheltered, with food and warmth so they could spend their first night in safety or whatever passed for safety in this new world.
The landscape was now totally foreign to Shinji, he recognised and picked out fallen or broken landmarks but the sea behind him was now blood-red, tinged with the souls of humanity. The sky was a jet black with a red tear smeared across it and half sunken into the ocean was the disembodied head of Lilith bearing a resemblance to the pilot Rei Ayanami. It was frightening and in a way somewhat comical. To an outsider looking in this was no longer a place for humans, yet his mother... his mother, Kaworu and Lilith/Rei had assured him that humanity can thrive in this world.
She couldn't have lied to me could she?
A small part of Shinji resented his mother, in a way she was responsible for this. Keeping him from piloting Evangelion Unit 1 to fight alongside Asuka, not revealing herself to him sooner, allowing herself to be absorbed into the Evangelion Unit in the first place. He had questions, ones he likely wouldn't get answers to yet or maybe ever. All he could do now though was push on, find somewhere to rest and see what tomorrow brought.
Asuka Langley Sohryu – Second Child, Pilot of Evangelion Unit 02.
Why did she say it? Was it the tears rolling down his face, it must have been. She had always hated seeing him upset, it had always disgusted her to see him upset but... that was before when he didn't have a reason to be. He had a reason. He had just been through the apocalypse and had possibly lost everything. Even the great Asuka Langley Sohryu wasn't that callous to think he couldn't be upset over that.
Was it that he couldn't finish the job of killing her? No, that definitely wasn't it. She didn't want to die, she didn't want to die before Instrumentality and she didn't want to die even at her lowest point. If anything she was scared that he would have tried to finish the job and she was too weak to stop him.
Stupid arm… all I could do was…
It was the caress, it was her caressing him. She wasn't directing it at him but herself because she for a brief moment had let her guard down. She had shown affection towards the one person who probably understood her the most and also understood her so little.
Or maybe she was recounting the incident.
He thought I didn't know about it, he thought I couldn't see but I know… he violated me while I lay there in that hospital bed.
It was one of the more vivid images she remembered from Instrumentality, she had never seen anything like that before. She never imagined Shinji would do something like that, at least… not in that way. It did disgust her and it'd take her a while to truly trust Shinji again but that wasn't why she said it.
I said it because… because I'm the great Asuka Langley Sohryu. I don't need a reason do I?
If Instrumentality had taught her something it was that there was a reason, it was her coping mechanism. A way of deflecting the comforting gesture she gave the young pilot after all they had been through. Maybe it was also a way of showing Shinji she was the same Asuka he knew before everything had gone to hell. Except she wasn't the same Asuka and he wasn't the same Shinji, things had changed between them and she knew they'd have to face it eventually.
I should have said something else, told him it was alright to want to hate me. I should have held him but… Her train of thought was broken as pain shot up her leg and her wounded arm. Asuka gritted her teeth resisting the urge to cry out in pain. They had been walking for so long, in complete silence and she was getting tired, sore and felt like she was about to pass out from hunger. Glancing ahead she saw Shinji moving ahead, she could see the look of determination on his face and realized he was fighting through immense pain as well.
She quickly hid the brief smile that dared to spread, she did admire him in a way. For all her teasing, for all the times she was horrible he never gave up on her. Even in Instrumentality he was there, trying to help her come back.
Instrumentality had been a rough ride for Asuka, the battle with those Mass Produced Units had threatened to kill her and it was only through Shinji's will that she was able to enter the process at all. She couldn't remember every detail of it but the bits she did she held onto, her mother talking to her most of all. Asuka thought of what her mother told her during the process and she finally stopped walking.
"Shinji…", her voice came out quietly but it was enough to stop him. "Shinji… I think we should stop for a while."
He turned to look at her, his eyes were red from where he had been rubbing his eyes to hide any tears, and he was pale. In that moment she felt so sorry for him, and realized they both must have looked like such a mess.
"We can't, just a little bit longer and we'll be at the shelter Asuka… and we'll be safe." He swallowed before continuing, "I promise."
With that he slowly reached out his hand, it was a simple gesture and she was a little bit taken aback by it. She stared at him for what felt like an eternity before slowly reach out hers too. She took his hand and walked beside him. As she looked up she saw the signpost directing them to the NERV Shelter.
"See Asuka… it's only another street away."
She nodded and slowly they both began walking, each desperately hungry not knowing what tomorrow might bring. Not knowing if they would see any of the people they loved again or knowing if they'll even survive a 'tomorrow', but they walked towards the shelter hand in hand.