Disclaimer: see part 1 for full disclaimer.

The Complexities of Human Interaction

By Random1377

Contact 10: Where Do I Go From Here...?

Hikari kept her breathing low and even, glancing around the cool, antiseptically clean room with trepidation, wondering why, exactly, she was there.

"So I've been staying with… with Asuka and Shinji," she said suddenly, hastily waving her hands as she realized how loud she sounded.  "Sorry about that, I'm just really nervous."

Silence was her only reply, forcing her to shift in her chair and steal another look around.

"They're nice," she told the person across from her, "really… nice, when they're not, you know, fighting or concentrating on… on piloting…" she trailed off into silence once more, fumbling for words as her hands laced nervously in her lap.  "You… you're probably wondering what I'm doing there, huh?" she mumbled.  "I… I'll tell you, but it's so… complicated that I'll have to do it slowly."

She took a deep breath, composing herself as the clock on the wall quietly ticked away the seconds, running through her remaining time with mechanically impartial efficiency.

"Kodama and I had a fight," she said finally, glancing at the clock and marveling at how little time had passed since she had made her entrance.  "Worst one ever – period.  I… I couldn't stay at home anymore, so I just ran, and I… I ended up at Asuka's.  And I've been staying there until things quieted down at home."  She laughed weakly.  "Wow," she said lightly, "guess it's not that complex after all."

Receiving no answering laugh, Hikari let her smile fade away.  Stupid, she told herself angrily, this is no time for lame jokes!!

'I hate you!  I wish you were dead!!'

Hikari flinched, breathing faster as the sound of shattering china echoed in her memory.

Forcing a deep breath, she continued speaking.  "It's funny…" she mused, "but two weeks ago?  I never would have guessed that life could be this hard.  And I don't mean just for me, I mean… I mean for them – they don't… they're not kids anymore… at all.  It's so sad – they have to be so grown up, but they pretend…" she sniffed, wiping quickly at her eyes as the other person kept his silence, "they pretend that it doesn't bother them.  Shinji told me the other day how he… how he had to kill an angel all by himself on the day he got here – and then he asked me to pass the butter."

The class rep uttered a short, uneven laugh, pushing back at the vivid image of Nozomi's face, her eyes wide with fright as she cowered under the dining room table.

"Can you believe that?" she whispered, staring at the back of her hands and drawing in another ragged sniff, trying to keep her train of thought and not get sucked into the other memory.  "All he had was a knife – and he didn't even know if it would kill it – and now… now he's so used to death that he can talk all about it while he's buttering his toast."  She let out another, nearly-mad laugh.  "Kind of… kind of makes a little fight between sisters seem pretty stupid, huh?"  She leaned closer, her voice starting to crack as she murmured, "But you want to know the worst thing…?  The… the very worst thing in the whole world?"

Trying to swallow the lump in her throat, Hikari swiped quickly at her eyes, determined to say her piece before time ran out.

"I don't-" she cut herself off, trying to stifle the miserable sob that forced its way out of her chest.  "I don't even… remember why we were f-fighting!"

She buried her face in her palms, unable to contain her emotions any longer.

"Sh-Shinji's l-leaving," she gasped out, "and A-Asuka d-doesn't even c-care!" she took a deep breath, wiping her eyes as best she could. "Oh Touji," she whimpered, "I just… I don't know what to do anymore.  I thought my life was so hard, but this…" she shook her head, glancing once more at the hospital room and letting her eyes fall to the empty bed where Shinji was confined not twelve hours prior, "I had no idea what they went through, and now you're hurt, and I don't even-"

She cut herself off, quickly wiping her eyes once more as the boy in the bed groaned.

"Wha…?"

Hikari found that slipping her old 'class rep' mask back on was nearly as easy as breathing, and while it made her almost physically sick to smile, she did it anyway.  "Hey Suzuhara," she said softly, "nice to see you."

Touji stared blankly at her for a minute, as if trying to understand why she was there.  "Oh, hey class rep," he said finally, "what are you doing here?"

Though she maintained her smile, Hikari felt herself shriveling inside.  You couldn't even think of my name, could you? she thought with sudden, sad understanding.  You don't like Ayanami, or Asuka, or me, or anyone at all right now… not because you're cold, or because you don't want a girlfriend, or anything like that – you just… don't think about stuff like that.  It's not important to you because you've got more important things on your mind.  She averted her eyes, one final thought making her realize just how badly she wanted to be with him. 

Because you're real.

"Have to check up on you," she heard herself saying, "make sure you're ok and stuff.  I am the class rep, you know."

"Oh," Touji said wearily, "I see."  He glanced over at the other bed, his brow furrowing slightly.  "Wasn't… Ikari here?" he whispered, sounding as if he was not certain of this fact.

Hikari nodded slowly.  "He was released yesterday," she said calmly, impulsively adding, "He said to say he was sorry."

This was a lie.  She had no real idea of what had happened to Touji – only that it was somehow related to EVA, and that it was top secret – but she had been in the hallway when Shinji had been led, in handcuffs, out of Touji's room, and she had seen the expression of open pain and sorrow on the boy's face as he looked back over his shoulder.

It was only a gut feeling that told her Shinji felt responsible, but the more she thought about the expression on his face as he walked away, the truer it felt.

"He…" Touji trailed off, clearing his throat with a grimace, "he didn't do anything wrong, it was the EV-" he cut himself off, closing his eyes as the door to the room slid open.

"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your time is up – Mister Suzuhara needs his rest now," a rather muscular nurse said, peeking into the room with an expression that (in Hikari's opinion, anyway) indicated a definite lack of anything close to sorrow.

"Can I have one more minute?" Hikari asked hopefully.

"No," the nurse said flatly, "I've already let you stay longer than you were supposed to.  I'm sorry."

Right, Hikari thought, rising reluctantly to her feet, sure you are.

"Hey Class Rep?"

Hikari's heart clenched in her chest.  "Y-yeah?"

Touji's eyes were on the far wall, but his voice was still clear as a bell.  "Tell my sister nothing's wrong with me… ok?"

"Of course," Hikari nodded, finding herself unable to stop the wave of unhappiness that washed over her.

Come on, she thought, looking back over her shoulder the whole time as the nurse ushered her from the room, did you really think he was going to say something like 'hey, I know you like me, and I like you too!'?

Even as the door slid quietly shut, Hikari realized that this was exactly what she had been hoping for.  Coming to the realization that Touji – and Asuka and Shinji, for that matter – had more important concerns than romance and love did not soften the sharp feeling of loneliness that welled up in Hikari's stomach as she slowly made her way to the train station to return to the small apartment.  If anything, knowing that she needed to be close more than they did depressed her in a way nothing had before.

Returning to the apartment only intensified her feeling of uselessness.

"I'm… I'm home," she called hesitantly, swallowing as silence welcomed her in.  "Asuka…?  Shinji…?  Miss Katsuragi…?  Is anyone here??"

A cursory scan of the apartment revealed two closed doors and a backpack that looked depressingly full.

I guess he meant it…

Slowly – almost robotically – Hikari made her way to the living room, gathering her few possessions and folding them carefully into the suitcase she had so quickly packed the morning after the fight with her sister.

What WERE we fighting about? she thought desperately, zipping the suitcase closed and carrying it to the front door, somehow reluctant to leave just yet.  Not a boy… she doesn't like Touji, and I don't like any of her boyfriends.  Not Nozomi – what would get Kodama mad enough about her to throw a plate??  Was it because I borrowed something of hers without asking?  That always makes her mad… but that's not it – God, why can't I remem-

She jumped, letting out a small cry as the phone in the kitchen rang with a jarring, electronic jangle.  She hesitated for a moment, waiting to see if anyone would answer it, but when it became clear that she was the only one that cared, she hurried into the kitchen, clearing her throat as she picked up the receiver.

"Katsuragi, Ikari, Souryu residen-"

"Hikari…?"

As if a noose had been tightened around her neck, Hikari felt that she could not breathe.  "N-nozomi?" she stammered, "Umm, what-"

"Come home now, k?" her sister cut in, her voice barely carrying through the rushing in Hikari's ears.  "Kodama said… she won't yell anymore, and Daddy said whatever happened between you, we can all work it out if we're together… so come home… k…?"

Hikari clenched her eyes tightly shut; biting back her initial reply of 'they need me here,' as she knew it was not true. 

"All… alright…"

"…Hikari?"

"Hmm?"

"I love you."

The timidness in her sister's voice was more than Hikari could stand.  "I love you too, honey," she whispered, managing – somehow – to keep her voice even, "I'll be there soon."

She replaced the handset in its cradle, waiting until it had settled in before drawing a huge, uneven breath.  Don't cry, she told herself sternly, wait until you get home… God, HOME… the word seemed to echo in her mind, building and building until it was all-encompassing. 

Home – the mythical place where the heart resides… she would be there soon.  She would be back to the place she belonged, away from the pain that permeated this horrible, sad little apartment.  What had she really hoped to gain by staying here as long as she had?  She had come here to escape a fight that had seemed so dreadful, so harsh and unyielding that she thought she would not even be able to speak to her sister ever again… and now all she could think about was holding her and making it right.

This was not her place, she decided, wiping absently at her eyes as she turned to head for the front door.  I just came here because-

A small gasp escaped her as she found Shinji standing behind her, his eyes fixed on the phone and an unreadable expression on his too-mature features.  He opened his mouth to say something… but nothing came.  His hands, Hikari noticed, were opening and closing at his sides – like fish out of water, desperately trying to understand why they were slowly, inexorably dying.

In silence, the two teens stood, avoiding one another's eyes as the unspoken question hung in the air between them.

Are you leaving me too?

Don't hate me! Hikari thought frantically, unconsciously smoothing a wrinkle in her skirt as she continued to stare at the floor.  I just… I can't be here, Shinji – can't you understand that??

Before she even knew what she was doing, Hikari found herself stepping forward and tucking her fists up under her chin, leaning against Shinji's chest and bowing her head to avoid looking into his eyes.  After a moment of stunned quiet, she felt Shinji's arms clumsily encircle her, and the lid she had been trying to keep on her emotions shattered into a million forlorn fragments, leaving her sobbing in his arms.

Home, she thought, giving up on the idea of trying to regain control of her raging emotions, Daddy… Nozomi… Kodama… I'm coming home, where I belong… I HAVE somewhere I belong… God – why do I hate myself for that?!

Realizing that Shinji, Asuka, and even Misato did not have a place to call home only made Hikari's tears come harder and faster, but there was nothing to be done but let it run its course, ultimately leaving her shaking and breathless in Shinji's embrace.  She had people who loved her… she had two sisters, yes, even Kodama, who would do anything for her… and what did Shinji have?

Nothing.  Not a single thing.  If she stayed, though, would he?  Maybe… just maybe, she could be what made this place home for Shinji – Hell, Asuka and Misato too – if she just stayed where she was.

I…

Slowly, she pulled back, still sniffling, and looked into Shinji's eyes.

I can't… I'm so sorry, Shinji… I just can't…

Hikari kept eye contact, drifting closer as her lips parted slightly, her mind whirling painfully with desperate thoughts of right and wrong.

Oh just do it, Hikari thought tiredly, I'm leaving… he's leaving… he was nice… he's cute… just do it… come on… just once… it's the LEAST you can do after running away like this!

For a very long, very quiet moment, with her lips inches from his… she thought she might actually listen to that voice in her mind.  But even as starved for comfort and attention as she was, she could not convince herself that it was right.  After an eternity in his warm, safe arms, Hikari did manage to lean up a bit and press her lips softly to Shinji's cheek, giving him a sad smile as she stepped back, unable to face the loneliness in his eyes as she wordlessly made her way towards the front door. 

I'm sorry…

As far as she knew, he was still standing there when she picked up her suitcase… stepped out of the apartment… and headed for the train station, lacking the strength to so much as glance over her shoulder to see if he was crying too…

The End

Hikari's Excess Baggage

Hey, Hikari Horaki here… I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you for hanging around until the end of The Complexities of Human Interaction.  I know that this may not have been the most satisfying ending, especially for those romantics out there, so for this final edition of Excess Baggage, we have a short, alternative kitchen scene… and another of the cast's lovely 'jokes' at my expense.   Enjoy.

Begin sequence

Realizing that Shinji and Asuka did not have a place to call home only made Hikari's tears come harder and faster, but there was nothing to be done but let it run its course, ultimately leaving her shaking and breathless in Shinji's embrace.  Slowly, she pulled back, still sniffling, and looked into Shinji's eyes.

With great care, she freed her arms and wrapped them around his chest, her voice barely audible as she whispered, "If you say 'stay' …I'll stay."

Shinji broke eye contact, turning his head to the side and saying nothing… but as he tried to pull back, Hikari brought her hands up, lacing them behind his neck and holding him firmly in place.

"Really," she whispered, rising to her tiptoes and bringing her face closer to his.  "All you have to do," she breathed, looking from his lips to his eyes and back again, "is say the word…"

Swallowing hard, Shinji managed a cracked, shuddering, "…stay," before closing the distance between them.

Hikari closed her eyes as Shinji's lips gently touched hers, banishing all of her doubts in an instant.  I DO belong here… she thought, returning his kiss as honestly and openly as she could.  I'm sorry, Nozomi… I don't think I'll be coming home for a while…

End Sequence

As you can see, this is a nice little scene, but it really doesn't fit all that well with the rest of the story – and it IS a little over the top as far as sap goes. Now, here's one last scene – a final ode, if you will, to the rest of the cast's joy of driving me insane…

Begin Sequence

It was only a gut feeling that told her Shinji felt responsible, but the more she thought about the expression on his face as he walked away, the truer it felt.

"He…" Touji trailed off, clearing his throat with a grimace, "he didn't do anything wrong, it was the EV-" he cut himself off, an odd expression on his face as he touched his chest. "…ow."

Hikari blinked, glancing around in confusion.  "Suzuhara?" she asked tentatively.

"It's… nothing," Touji muttered, rubbing his chest with a deep frown on his face.  "I just… OW!!"

The color draining from her face, Hikari shot to her feet.  "Nurse!!" she cried, hurrying to Touji's bedside as he was seized by a sudden, violent convulsion.  "Nurse!!"

The blocky nurse that had allowed her in came rushing into the room.  "What, what is it?!" she demanded.

"He's… something's wrong – really wrong!" Hikari gasped, trying to hold the struggling boy to the bed.

"Oh," the nurse muttered, "don't you think you're overdoing it a bit?  This isn't in the script…"

Hikari grit her teeth.  "I'm not making it up!" she snapped, "Damn it – isn't there a physician somewhere on the set?!  Touji's really-"

"God!" the nurse cried, pointing to the boy.  "Look at that!"

Whipping her head back around, Hikari let out a piercing scream. 

A large circle of blood had appeared on Touji's shirt, and something was bulging up ominously under the fabric.  "He…lp… me!" he gasped, his eyes wide with pain.  "H…kari – HELP ME!!"

"Aaahhhhhh!"

Hikari shrieked as a loud squelching sound filled the room.  Her hands flew to her face as something fleshy and squirming exploded from the front of Touji's shirt, flopping onto the bed and writing around, all the while making a high-pitched, keening whine.

On the brink of fainting, Hikari barely heard someone mutter.

"Gotcha."

She blinked, glancing around with her mouth gaping open as the set erupted with laughter.  "Wh… what…?"

"Payback's a bitch!" Touji cackled, holding up the mechanical alien and giving it a kiss.  "Isn't that right, baby?  You might be good at ball, Horaki, but you scream like a girl!"

Hikari flushed bright red as the thing in his hand uttered a disgusting parody of a laugh, its shiny bald head gleaming in the harsh light from the overheads.

"Son of a bitch!"

Before anyone could react, Hikari flung herself at the boy, grabbing the mechanical alien with one hand and shoving him back onto the bed with the other.

"Crap," someone on set grumbled, "Someone get Horaki before she makes Suzuhara eat that prop!"

There was a gurgling scream from the main stage, followed by an eerie silence.

"…too late."

"CUT – CUT!  Get the physician on the set!  Damn it Horaki, it was a JOKE!  Hey, I SAID CU-"

End Sequence

Ha, ha, ha – hilarious, right?  Needless to say, I was less than impressed by this little gag.  Don't worry though, I didn't really make him eat it!  …couldn't get the damn thing into his big fat mouth.

Well… that's it for me.  I had a lot of fun on this show, and I'm certainly looking forward to working with everyone again.  I'd like to thank Nozomi, Kodama, my dad, Shinji, Asuka, and everyone else that helped make Complexities the series it is.  Until we meet again, this is Hikari Horaki saying that's a wrap!

CUT!

Author's Notes: for all those of you that were expecting romance… sorry, it just wasn't that kind of story.  This was always meant to be an outsider's view of how hard things really started to get during the second half of the series, and in all fairness – Hikari got to leave before things truly got out of hand.  Why didn't she just go ahead and kiss Shinji when she knew it would have done them both a world of good?  …well, it's like she told herself – it wouldn't have been right.  She never really cared for Shinji as more than just a friend, so the most a kiss could have done would be to offer him (and herself, really) a small bit of comfort.  Should she have done it anyway?  …probably, but the point of the story was that Hikari – like everyone else in the series – isn't perfect.  She makes mistakes, she hesitates, she second guesses, and ultimately… all she can do is go home where she feels safe when she knows damn well she really IS needed at the apartment.  In spite of her flaws, I hope you enjoyed the story anyway.

Pre-read on this last contact was by Ryoma, who (I've heard) has a tattoo reading 'Shinji and Asuka 4ever' somewhere on his person.  …no, I've never asked where it is.  I just… just don't want to know.

Feedback is always welcome on any site that has reviewing capabilities or by e-mailing me directly at random1377yahoo.com