'Happy Birthday to me'
The thought suddenly pops into my head as if from the voice of someone mocking me on what has already become one of the worst days of my life. I swallow and force back any tears that are threatening to fall. I can't let them appear, I can't risk anyone seeing me cry. I said… I promised that I'd never cry. So for now all I'll do is sit here and look out over this stupid and ugly city.
Another thought now pops into my head. It's the one that has been popping up in my head for a few weeks. It gets louder and louder with each passing day and with each and every Angel that I have failed to do anything stop to.
'You're a failure. You're not necessary. You can't do anything on your own. You're useless.'
I bring my hands up to my ears to try to block out any noise, as if that will actually do anything to help me. I shut my eyes tightly and try to force these horrible thoughts out of my head. I know that they won't go though. Those thoughts have been there ever since mama left. Telling me that I'm a failure, pushing me to be better and making me be horrible to others. Forcing me to turn into that person the Angel revealed to me.
I desperately want to scream out and tell the thoughts to go away, I want to screw my hands into fists and pound the floor and yell and curse at it. I want to run forward and throw myself off of this ledge. I want this pain to end.
I open my eyes again and start to realize something. That Angel, the fifteenth Angel has finally done something that has been threatening to happen for a long time. It's broken me. The once proud Asuka Langley Soryu is now nothing. All that I had tried to suppress has now been exposed in only a matter of minutes. All those barriers and walls I build up around me have crumbled.
I'm left only with the knowledge of how horrible and twisted I've become. It shown me everything. It shown me my past and my present and it shown me what I've become. All I could do was yell that the person it shown wasn't the real me. I am a good person right? I'm not really that person it shown? The one who yells and screams, who threatened others and casts them aside to get what I want? I'm not really that person am I?
I realize that I am that person, and the real me… is nothing. I'm just a useless shell like my mama ended up being. I've been exposed for what I truly am. To make it worse I had to be rescued by that fucking doll.
As I look around this area I see that I'm completely alone. Just as I expected there is no one left who gives a shit about me. I'm nothing to the people of NERV, just some expendable and bitchy Evangelion pilot. All the others care about is the Commanders favourite, that goddamn doll. Or the idiot Shinji.
No one here gives a damn about the poor and broken Asuka. They're all probably glad that this has happened to me. After all it means they can get rid of me finally. I know they all hate me and I can't blame them. After the way I've acted but… I can't change who I am. Even if that person isn't the real me, I can't show them the real me. I can't be weak, I have to be the best to make mama proud.
So I find myself conflicted. Conflicted that I know they don't care about me yet I want them to. At the same time I can't let myself know that I want them to. I'm so damn screwed up. I can't even blame the Angel for that, I've always been this way. It's why Misato, my so-called guardian couldn't give a shit about me. It's why she only cares for that brat Shinji and lets him get away with each and everything.
When he ignores orders she just lets it slip because he's oh so sensitive and has his little daddy issues. Why she pretends nothing happens. Yet when I do something I get yelled at or told to stop. I've brought it on myself but it's too late to change that now.
So I've decided that if I've given them a reason to not care I'm going to not care about them. I'm going to hate them all. I'm going to hate Misato, I'm going to hate Shinji! I'm going to hate the First Child! The Commander! The damn Angel for doing this to me! What right did it have to peer inside my head like that? What right did it have to expose and violate me in that way? What goddamn right did it…
I stop myself from thinking these thoughts and realize that in my anger tears have now started to fall down my cheeks. I quickly brush them away and stand up to stretch and think about something, anything else. I look around my stupid quarantine area. They think because the Angel got into my mind like that it might have contaminated me in some way. I turn around and see someone has made their way to the edge of the zone, a person I'd much rather not see right now. Yet at the same time my heart lightens at the sight of him.
He looks at me sheepishly and I look him over. He's still in his plugsuit but he has a plain white box clutched in his hands. I turn my head curiously as I glance at it and then look up to meet his eyes. He looks away instantly. Naturally the idiot can't make eye contact with me, nor does he have the right to do so. Shinji doesn't deserve that honour. Whilst I was up there being tortured mentally just what was he doing? Where the hell was he to rescue me? What sort of pilot even is he?
"Umm… Asuka are you okay?" He finally asks.
I supress an urge to leap forward and strange him. Instead I just growl and snap back at him, all of our conversations are like this recently. Just me yelling at him whilst he stays quiet. Used to be a time when he would give as good as he got but then… it was different. It was playful arguing but now it's… it's nasty.
"Do I look like I'm okay you idiot? No, of course I'm not okay! Just go away! Leave me along and run back to Misato or Wondergirl or whoever and… just…"
With every other word I see him flinch in response to it. I feel more tears threatening and I turn away wanting him to leave more than ever. My voice starts to crack as I continued.
"Just… leave me alone Shinji. I'm really not okay."
I sit myself back down and stare out across the skyline once again. This time I let tears run down my cheeks. I don't care if he sees me cry right now, what's the point anymore? I've already failed so much in front of him and the others and had my life exposed for everyone to see and hear. No one gave a damn then so what does it even matter anymore. I just wish that he'd go away. I can still sense him there, his eyes burning a hole into my back.
I angrily turn my head around and should at him, I see him flinch yet again as I do so. God, why is the idiot so scared of me? He acts as though I'm going to hit him or something? Am I… am I really that bad? I'd never hit him… I wouldn't… I'm not that person it's just he… he annoys me so much. I hate him because when I look at him I see myself, he's just like me.
"What? Didn't I tell you to leave me alone?"
He bows his head and I hear him mutter something under his breath. Much to my surprise he doesn't turn around and leave as I asked him to do. Instead the idiot crouches down under the yellow caution tape and actually comes inside the quarantine zone. I leap up in shock.
"You idiot! What the hell are you doing? This is… this is a quarantine zone. You shouldn't be in here!"
I don't give him a chance to reply, "You wouldn't want Misato to be mad at you would you? Hah, like she'd ever get mad at her precious Shinji. Go on, go before you get caught."
I speak in a mocking tone and try to use his fear of Misato being mad at him to get him to leave. I know just how important their little family thing is to them. Instead of reacting to it he keeps moving forward until he is a metre away from me. I can see in his eyes determination, the same type I see when he pilots. It's those same eyes that I fell in l- It doesn't matter what his eyes are like anyway. God what am I thinking of, getting lost in his eyes at a time like this.
"I know I shouldn't be here but I… I don't want you to be alone Asuka. You look like you're in pain and you… you and Rei were always there for me when I was hurt. You deserve the same!"
I'm stunned into silence for a moment at what he has said. I let out a half-hearted laugh, "Hah, don't want me to be alone… I was alone out there when that Angel was attacking me! Where the hell were you then?"
He averts his eyes from me and I wait for an answer from him. It had better be a good answer because if he is serious about wanting to be here it has to be. If he had been there well… he could have done something or anything, so why the hell was he not there?
He's trembling as he gives his answer, "I-I wanted to help you… I tried but he… my father wouldn't let me. They froze Unit 01 in its position and I… I tried to overwrite the controls like I did before but they changed the system and… I'm sorry… I wanted to… I really…"
Typical that I'm the one who has been through hell today and yet he's the one crying. His entire body is shaking with his confession and his words have only made me feel worse. I probably should have known, after what happened with Unit 01 going berserk last time they weren't going to put it at risk again were they. Shinji did try, it makes me feel a little bit better even if he ultimately couldn't do anything.
He starts to turn away that box still clutched in his hands, "I'm… sorry Asuka. I shouldn't have…"
"Wait!" I call out to him as he approaches the edge of the zone. He stops and turns.
"You can't leave now you idiot! Quarantine zone remember! You're stuck here!"
Shinji looks up horrified, "Oh… I might…"
"The idiot gets it, good thing for you I'm probably fine isn't it? Now get back here! God you're going to be in trouble for this, you should have just left me alone."
Shinji comes back to me, "I'm… I didn't think about it but… I don't care. I meant what I said. You shouldn't be alone and if I get into trouble then… I don't care anymore."
"Aww… and what about your father? Haven't you pissed daddy off enough recently?"
I regret saying it as soon as the words leave my lips. Why do I have to taunt him about his family? If someone did that to me I'd make them regret it, why do I have to be what I hate? I see a brief flash of anger in his eyes.
"I don't care what he thinks! He can do whatever he wants! He shouldn't have had you left alone like this, he should have let me help you!"
"Stop it! Just... Fine, I know it wasn't your fault. Can we just... stop it!" I plead with him as I see him trembling and on the verge of tears. I can't stand seeing this, it's bad enough that I feel awful right now there shouldn't be the two of us in this state. I try to find something else to focus my mind on and then notice the box that he is still carrying. I nod towards it.
"What's with the box anyway?"
Shinji glances down at it and he starts to blush, "Oh w-well...I kinda heard that it was your birthday coming up. So I... made this for you..."
It's my turn to blush as I take the box from his outstretched hands. I admit I'm surprised that he knows it's my birthday though. I didn't exactly tell anyone that it was so he must have found out from Misato. Why would he even ask though? Why would she tell him? She knows how I feel about this.
I slowly open the box and gaze inside. Inside is a beautifully decorated chocolate cake. A fancy 'Happy Birthday' is written on the top and surrounding it are delicate swirls and patterns. From here I can see that the chocolate on the cake is made up of regular milk chocolate and, my favourite, dark chocolate. I nearly gasp at the sight of it.
"W-Where did you..."
Shinji has a small embarrassed smile on his face, "I made it for you Asuka. I was going.. To give you it this evening but then the Angel attacked and you got hurt so I ran back to the apartment and got it for you to have now."
"Y-You made this?" I stammer out as my hands start to shake.
He nods at me again, "Yeah... I remember you saying how much you missed being able to get dark chocolate so I got some to make it with. You seemed... sad lately so I wanted to do something nice. I asked Misato and she said maybe I could do something for your birthday... do you like it?"
I slowly close the lid on the box and set it down on the ground next to me before looking at his face again. He's expecting some sort of reply from me but I can't give him one, I can't open my mouth to speak because I know what will happen. It's going to happen anyway but I'm still trying to fight it. My body is shaking as I think about what he has done.
I've never... in my life celebrated my birthday. I've always thought that it'd be stupid and childish to do so. Of course a part of me wanted to but it was supressed. The thing is people never even tried to make me, they took me at my word and saw me as that selfish, bratty child who didn't need nor want anything. So no one bothered to give me anything. I've never had a birthday cake before, I've never had birthday cards or birthday presents.
I look at Shinji, well aware that my lips are trembling and my eyes are welling up, he looks at me curiously.
"A-Asuka... are you alright."
I throw myself at him and wrap my arms tightly around body. I'm sure I'm probably hurting him but I don't care as I squeeze him against me. I bury my head into his shoulder and just sob.
"St-stupid... I-idiot... S-Shinji... yo-you're not supposed... to make a girl cry... on her birthday..." I half-heartedly say through my sobs. I'm well aware of what my mind will say to me hours from now, telling me how weak I am for doing this and forcing me to hate myself for it but I don't care. I need this right now, I need this comfort and I need him.
"Asuka... I-I'm sorry." He whispers to me as his arms enclose me.
I resist an urge to break free to flick him on the forehead for his apology, I'm still crying but I manage to speak, "Don't be sorry... you don't... you don't realize... no one has ever... done anything like that for me..."
Shinji's holds me a bit tighter and strokes my back. He doesn't say anything else but lets me hold him for as long as it takes for me to get these tears out of my system. I keep stealing glances around the area to see if anyone is passing by but right now I don't care if they do. What are they going to see? Two people who are in pain holding one another. To hell with them.
After a time I finally pull away from Shinji and break the embrace. I keep my hand in his and run my gloved hands along his softly. I wish we were both in our regular clothes right now and not these plugsuits.
I'm not quite sure of what to say next. I've never dealt with these sorts of emotions before, I've always suppressed them, kept them locked away in some box in my mind. Usually I'd try to ignore them and convert them to something else, usually anger directed at whoever is close to me. I know that's wrong, I know it so much and I hate myself for that. I just can't stop it.
Thankfully I don't have to say anything, instead Shinji kneels down and opens the box again. He takes out a knife he has placed in there and cuts off two slices of the cake and hands me a fork. I kneel down and offer a smile.
"Heh, you brought everything we need to eat it too... I guess I can downgrade you from idiot... maybe." I joke with him which earns me a smile.
His face turns more serious for a moment, "Asuka... I am really sorry about today. I wanted to do something, I heard everything and... I just want to help you Asuka."
As he speaks those words a myriad of images flash through my mind. I recall our first meeting back on the 'Over The Rainbow' and how we were side by side in my entry plug against the Angel. I recall us training to beat the Twin-Angel and how we trained for hours on those stupid dance mats to be in sync. I recall him diving into a live volcano for me and us going out to that silly ramen cart with Misato and Wondergirl. All happy times we spent together before things went to hell.
Then I recall darker images. A time when I warned him to stay out of my room using some ridiculous 'Wall of Jericho' analogy. I remember how I waited up all night for him to enter hoping that he would have got the hint and knew that the wall actually fell. I remember taunting him into kissing me, how I mocked the memory of his death mother and made it sound like I was doing it to pass time. God I'm so stupid, of course I wasn't doing that to pass time! I wanted to kiss him but I couldn't admit it. If I didn't I wouldn't have done it for so long but then he... he broke away from me and I got scared. I thought he had rejected me.
Despite how horrific I've been to him he still wants to help me. I'm beyond help though aren't I? Why can't he see that? Shinji should be running a mile from me, all we do now is hurt each other. Yet as I look down at this cake and what he has done. As I look into his eyes maybe there is still some hope.
"You... want to help me huh?"
"I... I don't think you'll be able to. Today was probably my last chance Shinji. I've been screwing up everywhere, my sync scores are down. I can barely activate the Eva anymore and I'm just... I've been horrible to everyone..."
He looks like he is about to protest, "Don't try to deny it... it's true. That Angel saw into my mind and shown me everything. It shown me exactly what I am. I'm not going to be here much longer Shinji... I'm useless to NERV... I've already heard about them preparing my replacement in Germany. I..."
"Asuka... you're... not useless. You're just... going through a rough patch but you can get better."
"How? I'm not like you Shinji! I can't exactly go asking for help from everyone else! You know that? I slapped Ayanami for trying to offer me advice! That's the sort of person I am!"
Shinji bows his head for a moment and I wonder if he's going to realize the truth and walk away from me, just as he should. Instead he reaches for my hand, "You're... not a bad person Asuka and Ayanami... she forgives you for that. She said she shouldn't have..."
"Oh so you know about that do you? What did she say?"
"That she told you that you had to open your heart to the Eva to pilot it."
I laugh, "Yeah, what a load of rubbish. Open my heart to it? Open my heart to what? 60 foot of steel?"
Shinji shakes his head, "She was right but..."
"Siding with her then? I thought you wanted to help me?" I barely give him a chance to speak before yelling at him.
"She shouldn't have said it to you like that! Asuka there is something... about the Eva's that... they're more than puppets, they have a will."
I raise an eyebrow at him, "What the hell are you talking about?"
"I... When I'm in the Eva I always felt something but... it wasn't until I was trapped in there that I realized. Those things... they're... there is something else in there Asuka... It shown me things I didn't know... that I couldn't have known."
I let him continue to speak. His words are, if anything, providing a distraction from the war going on in my mind over how awful a person I am.
"It shown me... my mother."
He nods, "Yeah... I saw her in there but I also saw... how she died and what she looked like. I asked Misato afterwards how she died and everything I was shown was the same as how she died. I had never... well I was there when it happened but apparently I lost my memory of it and my father... he got rid of everything relating to her so I never knew what she looked like."
"She died in an activation test didn't she?"
He nods again, "Yeah... how did you know?"
I should probably admit that I've read his NERV personnel file to him. What can I say, I was bored and wanted to know more about my fellow pilot. If I had asked Misato she would have teased me over it and anyone else would have offered nothing useful.
"I might have... read your files. Don't get the wrong idea though, it wasn't like I read everything I just thought that if I'm going to be trusting you with my life in battle I should know more about you."
I can't tell if he is upset by my admission, angry or even annoyed. He shows no sign of it, of course he wouldn't would he? He's Shinji, he'd never tell me if he was.
"I am... sorry about that. If I wanted to know more about you I should have asked but I didn't expect to find that sort of thing. I just wanted to know where you were from and maybe a bit about your background. I didn't expect to see a dark past that rivals my own."
He smiles, "It's fine... I'm not mad."
"Well I'm still sorry." I make sure he knows my apology is genuine.
"So your mother... and the Eva..." I trail off and wonder what this might mean. Truth is I've felt that presence in my Evangelion too. It's warm and comforting, the same feeling that I felt when Shinji held me earlier but slightly different in its own little way. It's like something I felt a long time ago but have forgotten about.
Lately though that feeling hasn't been there. It's cold in the entry plug and instead of comforting it feels like whatever is in there hates me.
"I think... there is something about the Eva's they aren't telling us."
I shake my head and realize that this is too much for me right now. I look at the cake and realize that that is what I actually want. To eat this and go home, "It doesn't matter at the moment. We can... ask Misato I guess. Can we just... share this?"
I point at the slices he has cut and he smiles and nods, "Yeah... we can."
Neither of us say anything else as we fall into a comfortable silence and eat the slices of the cake that Shinji made for me. After we finish people finally turn up and as expected, and much to my amusement, Shinji does get yelled at by Akagi for breaking the quarantine. Misato arrives and I'm able to get her to defuse the situation with the offer of a slice of the cake.
I talk to Misato for a bit and ask her why she told Shinji about my birthday. She admits that she knows the issues I've been having and didn't know how to deal with it. She regretted telling me long ago to forget about my past but didn't know how to bring it up. So she put her faith in Shinji. She's an irresponsible guardian but I understand. I was wrong that she doesn't care, she does but she just doesn't know how to deal with it. Maybe she was scared of delving into someones past because of her own, I know all about that too. Those two think I read those typical teenage fashion magazines, really it's whatever I can get my hands on from NERV. Nothing secret unfortunately but I do know that Akagi has an obsession with cats and Hyuga plays in a speed metal band.
The three of us leave together. I don't even realize it until we get to the car but I'm holding Shinji's hand all the way there. This continues as we both climb into the back and I drift in and out of sleep resting on his shoulder.
I want to be better, I want it so desperately but I don't want to be hurt. Yet I can't carry on the way I have been. Maybe my birthday can be the start of that change, maybe I can be a better person and maybe I don't have to be as strong as I thought. Maybe I can allow other people into my heart. As we get home I find myself waiting for Misato to go to sleep I sneak into Shinji's room. I ask him if I can stay there the night and I softly rest my hand on his side. That thought runs through my head once more.
This time it doesn't mock me but it makes me feel something I haven't felt in a while. It makes me feel happy.
'Happy Birthday to me'