February 14th. Most people would refer to the day as Valentine's Day, the day of blossoming romance, intimate encounters, and cheesey love affairs, just like in the romantic comedies Hikari and her other friends would watch. For Asuka Langley Soryu, it was just any other day. She never truly understood the holiday and how people willingly thrust themselves into a meaningless charade of love. Of course, part of her distaste sprouted from her envy.
Ten years ago, the woman who truly expressed the meaning of 'love' onto her was hanging from the ceiling with her eyes glazed over. The doll was hung too. Ever since, nobody could impart such feelings onto the young German girl. Her father remarried and gave his love to his new wife and stepdaughter. Not even Kaji, the very definition of being a 'man' in Asuka's eyes, rejected her advances that one night on Over the Rainbow. After an endless night of thinking and self-deprecation, she promised herself that she would open herself to no one any longer. It was a promise she wasn't going to break.
Asuka couldn't handle the rejection.
It was the same rejection she's only ever known.
The German girl opened the same locker she had been using ever since she transferred to Tokyo-3 Junior High those many months ago. An immeasurable flurry of love letters unceremoniously fell to her feet. There were more than usual, given the day, but no matter the size of the pile or the content within, they were junk nonetheless. She disregarded every letter that she was sent, as she hadn't even met most of the people writing them. Asuka easily deduced that her appearance was just the object of their primal sexual desire, nothing more than just a vehicle of lust. Their shallow attitudes neglected the real Asuka, the one that everyone ran away from; the one that everyone tossed aside.
As always, she brushed out the remaining letters with a swipe of her hand and grabbed the textbooks she needed for the day. She slammed the locker shut and kicked away the meaningless love declarations, leaving them for whichever poor fellow had to clean up the hallways.
She took her seat in the classroom like any other day and huffed a breath of air as she looked around the busy classroom. By the looks of it, Valentine's Day was already in full-swing with boys and girls exchanging their sweethearts with over-watered flowers, sugary sweets, and corny letters they bought at the convenience store. It was disgusting.
Asuka's curious eyes bounced around the classroom to see what the usual suspects were up to. Kensuke was too enthralled by his new video-camera to even be bothered with the celebration. It was probably just a Valentine's Day gift to himself, she figured. Toji was cheeks were burning a bright red as the class rep presented to him a handmade box of chocolates while her own cheeks had done the same. Wondergirl was sitting motionless by the window with her infinite gaze permanently fixated on the same tree as she offered any other day of the week. Shinji Ikari sat at his own desk with his head resting on his palm with his own stupid, mindless gaze. That dense idiot was probably thinking about something stupid like his physics homework if he was even thinking.
To Asuka, Shinji was the object of her annoyance and the constant reminder of her failure as an Eva pilot. Yet, if anything, he was relatable, something so rare to find in her unique situation. In a way she couldn't admit or say in words, he could understand her and understand who she was. Who she really was behind the metaphorical walls she built around her heart and mind. Asuka simultaneously despised the idea that they could even being a mutual understanding while also longed for it desperately. It was a complex arrangement of conflicting thoughts that battled inside her whenever she turned his way, and she hated it. Almost as much as she hated herself.
Once the teacher entered the room and began his dry lesson about the world pre-Second Impact, the class began to settle down. Anxious looks sprouted between newly-acquainted sweethearts from the beginning of the class session to the anticipated arrival of the lunch bell. Asuka couldn't have felt more relieved.
She sprung from her seat as soon as the chime rang, desperate for an escape. In a hurry, she grabbed her bento box and headed to the most isolated spot on campus: the roof. It was an uncommon eating spot, as there was not any proper seating, and most people opted to eat in the classroom with their peers so it was unlikely that anyone would be disturbing her.
She leaned back onto the wire fencing and popped open the metal box that Shinji had left out for her before he got an early start to school and hungrily dug into its contents. Although Shinji could never take a hint, having him as the housebroken male wasn't too bad when it came to cooking meals, she admitted.
She prodded her food with her chopsticks before realizing that something was amiss. Specifically, it felt as if there was some extra weight to her box that was unaccounted for. Initially, she figured that it was the extra rice she had Shinji add awhile back, but even the additional grains wouldn't weigh this much. Curious, she inspected the box. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until she shifted her hand that was holding the box by its bottom. She could feel some shape underneath the cloth that was used for wrapping, so she promptly discarded the cloth that she was using as a buffer and subsequently pulled out the mysterious object.
Now in her hand was a delicately wrapped rectangle nearly the size of her entire hand. The wrapping itself was white while the ribbon that wrapped around each side was a bright red. Curiosity got the better of her as she tore off the thin paper covering. Her eyes widened to what she saw. Inside, marked with a distinguishable gold trim, was a bar of chocolate. A German bar of chocolate. The specific brand and type that she could remember eating in her home country with fond memories, and the exact kind that she ate as a little girl.
The kind that mama bought her before the accident.
Asuka's mind leaped into motion. Surely this had to be from Misato, she initially thought. She had known the violet-haired guardian a few years earlier, so it was entirely possible that she could have planned this. However, two things stuck out. The first clue was that she had already given Asuka a gift before departing to NERV earlier that morning. The second clue was that Misato surely wouldn't have been able to remember the exact type of chocolate, considering that she hadn't been in Germany for a decent amount of years.
'It couldn't be…' she thought to herself as she picked up the discarded wrapping.
Thankfully, she hadn't ripped it to shreds like she normally would have for any other occasion. It dawned on her that she didn't actually inspected the other side before she unwrapped the chocolate, so she flipped it and scanned for a note. Low and behold, a small sticker was on where the corner used to be. The lettering was neatly handwritten, drawn precisely as if it were perfected as an art form.
Happy Valentine's Day, Asuka
Time froze as the redhead stared at the note. Thoughts wildly bounced against the walls of her mind in an exhausting attempt to comprehend the letter that she was holding. She suddenly wasn't so hungry anymore.
The ending bell rang, but she hadn't even noticed.
"Hey Shinji," Toji whispered, "where's the she-devil? I could've sworn she was here earlier."
Shinji glanced over at her empty seat and shrugged back at his jock-friend.
The bell had already rung a few minutes ago, and it wasn't like Asuka to be this tardy to class. He very well knew the reason why she wasn't back. He couldn't be bothered to even pretend to care about the rest of the school day while knowing that the idea was a mistake in the first place.
As the final bell rung, Shinji gathered his things and gave weak farewells to his friends. As per most days, he would walk down the steps of the Jr. High School and turn left back to the Katsuragi apartment in an established routine. This time, he didn't want to go home. He didn't want to face her. The fact that she hadn't shown up for the rest of class was evidence enough that she didn't want to see his stupid face again, as he figured. Today, he took a right.
Shinji walked aimlessly through the streets of Tokyo-3. It had been months since the last angel attack, and rumors sprouted that the NERV superiors were unaware if any more were to arrive. This meant that fewer people had left the city, and some even arrived to enter the rising job market. The only immediate thing that it meant to Shinji was more noise pollution and more people taking the same route. He popped in his S-DAT earbuds for the glorious sounds of isolation.
By the short amount of time it took to reach the outdoor mall did something tug Shinji's shoulder, prompting him to swing around to find himself eye-to-eye with someone. Of course, it had to be her. Asuka was still dressed in her school uniform, as if she had never even gone back to the apartment to change. The most striking part was the barely noticeable lines under her eyes as if she hadn't slept in days. He could've sworn that they weren't there the day before.
"Spill it, Third, who told you about it?" she demanded.
"Wha- Asuka?" he asked in surprise. "I thought you left early."
"Not the point," she said commandingly. "Who told you?"
"Are you stupid? The chocolate, of course," she clarified while rolling her eyes.
"Oh, um, I asked Kaji," he responded sheepishly. "H-he said you liked that brand."
Internally, Asuka smacked herself. A prodigy like her should have been able to realize that her most-recent ex-guardian would know such information. It never really clicked in her mind that Shinji actually talked to Kaji every now and again.
"I-I'm sorry," he continued, "please, you don't have to accept it. It would make me feel better if you just threw it away."
That certainly caught her attention.
"And why the hell would I do that?"
"I- uh, thought that you didn't want it."
"I'm not going to waste perfectly good chocolate, Idiot."
Shinji gave her a mixed look.
"Now c'mon, let's go home, it's your turn to cook tonight," she said, grabbing his hand and dragging him down the sidewalk.
Not knowing what to say, Shinji focused on the music softly echoing through the plaza as he was being pulled. It was a western song, and unknown to him it was known as Lovefool by the Cardigans. He found it quite pleasant, regardless of whether or not he could understand what the female vocalist was singing about.
"Hey Asuka, my English isn't too great. What's this song saying?"
"It's nothing; just some random words," she responded.
He paused for another second or two.
"Hey Asuka, you're- um, still holding onto my hand…"
She stopped and turned to look at him.
"What, are you dense or something?"
No, not entirely.
Shinji's confused expression melted away as he responded with a smile. Tentatively, he returned the favor and Asuka found her fingers intertwined with his own as they headed back to the apartment embraced in each other's company.
Thanks to the synchronization training they endured for the battle against the 7th Angel, the same thought was secretly being shared between them.
'I guess Valentine's Day isn't so bad after all.'
A/N: Hey go listen to that song if you haven't already because it's what inspired me to write this.