DISCLAIMER : I don't own Evangelion and all that.
Another sleepless night in Tokyo-3 for the Third Child. He was laying on his bed, hid SDAT playing the same two tracks in his ears. He wasn't listening to them. He still automatically played them back to back, but white noise would have had the same effect on the boy.
It wasn't the first night he could not sleep, he was getting used to it by now, he thought. But he had more of them since that night. And it was precisely what was keeping him awake right now.
Switching track on his SDAT, he recalled once again the events of his last day of sync training with Asuka.
Her genuine -or so it seemed, he still was not sure- happiness when she learned Misato wouldn't be there all night, followed by her usual fire coming back when she told him not to cross the "Impenetrable Wall of Jericho".
He remembered everything about that, her rather revealing outfit, emphasized by her position when she said it. This image was forever carved in his teenager's brain. Her curves which he could see from her cleavage in his peripheral vision -looking at them directly would have been a death sentence-, her skin, her beautiful face even through the rage she was expressing, her big blue eyes, her flamboyant hair. Seldom did he see her without her A10 headpieces. 'She's so gorgeous', he reminded himself once again.
With her hair down like that, she looked... More like a normal girl. Not the grandiose Evangelion Unit-02 Pilot she wanted everyone in the whole world to know she was, as she had told him. Just... Asuka Langley Sohryu.
It was precisely this idea which was keeping him awake. Again. When she whispered 'Mama...' right before he... tried to kiss her in her sleep. He wasn't too proud of that. But that wasn't important. This whisper was. He didn't realize at first. Thinking back to the abuse she put him through since she arrived in Tokyo-3... No ! She started even before on the Over The Rainbow ! His exasperation and frustration made him think she was a child just as much as he was. Nothing more.
It wasn't before several days had passed after they both destroyed the Seventh Angel that, playing this memory back in his mind during another sleepless night, it hit him. She was a child like him. And these few seconds had more meaning than he grasped at first. It was a window. An opening which showed him, albeit for a brief instant, the real Asuka. He learned that night that there was more to Asuka Langley Sohryu than an arrogant bitch. He just didn't understand it at the time. Her fiery temperament, her noisiness, everything she was was just an act... Okay, maybe not just an act, it was another part of her personality, which he also was attracted to, he had to admit, even if it made no sense to him. Moreover, there was something about her mother. He had to know what, they might not be that different in the end. Or maybe she just missed her, since she had to leave Germany to come here. He had no idea, she didn't speak very much about herself.
Since that night, he happened to ear her whimper in her sleep a few more nights through her sliding door. Seeing how her eyes had teared-up, he assumed that the story of her Mother was something that deeply scarred her. That it was not merely because she missed her. She never called her, she never even got mail. There had to be something more. But he couldn't know for sure. He had to ask her. He had to know. That train of thoughts scared Shinji a great deal. He never had a real discussion with her, and he knew that if he were to ask her, he should wait for the right opportunity, or she would probably kill him on the spot.
That being said, she didn't look as terrifying to him anymore. Something was different, even though nothing had changed on the surface. She still pushed him and shouted at him every time she had the occasion, but he knew better. She was fragile, and the only logical conclusion as to why she acted like that was because she wanted to push everyone away. But Shinji didn't want to be away from her. Not anymore, he realized. He wanted to know the real Asuka, he was more attracted to her now that he realized that she was not only a pretty face.
There was something he knew though, through all these theories and conjectures. He was worthless. He was a coward. A weak, dishonest coward. Even if he found the courage to confess his attraction to the girl across the hall, how could she possibly reciprocate those feelings ? She was strong and brave. She never had second thoughts about going to battle, she even liked it ! And even if he was indeed right, there was absolutely no way she could share his feelings.
It always ended like this. It hadn't changed since the day his father abandoned him. He always came back to this conclusion. Except that now he was an Eva Pilot. He wasn't completely worthless anymore. People looked up to him to save the world. If he weren't, he would be nothing, just like he used to. But it didn't cheer him up. He hated being an Eva pilot. He hated that it was the only thing people saw about him. They didn't care about him. He was just a tool.
It wasn't long before the Third Child started to fall asleep from exhaustion. It was late, his thoughts were getting blurry, all remained were impressions, feelings. A tiny glimmer of hope engulfed in sadness and depression.
The next morning, Shinji did everything he could to hide how tired he was, it barely shown anyway, but he was sure Asuka wouldn't get off his back -not in the way he would have liked- if she saw him tired in the morning. He wouldn't hear the end of it. Baka, hentai, pervert, I know exactly what you were up all night doing, you better hope none of my panties are missing and so on and so forth. He knew so much about the Second Child that he was able to know beforehand what she would say to him to chastise him. 'Guess these days of sync training left a bigger impression on me than I thought'.
His determination helped him focus on not showing any sign of weakness. He had to know, to find this window into her heart and reach for it. To get to know the real her. She could, and would, keep on abusing him at any given time, but it didn't matter. She didn't scare him as much anymore, and everything she could say could be the opportunity he was looking for. He just had to be patient.
'She's going to a blind date... It might already be too late'. He began to despair and this time he was chastising himself. His usual behavior of not taking things head on had backfired yet again. He hadn't done anything in weeks. Even en Angel attacked ! 'Waiting for the right opportunity, she might be sucking faces with whatever jerk Hikari introduced her. Dammit !'
But he had other things to focus on. He went to visit his mother's grave with his father this day. Spending time with him had not been unpleasant, but he couldn't say much more than that. He was still as cold as ever. Seeing his mother soothed him though, in a way. It had been three years since last time. A visit to her grave was long overdue.
But as soon as he came back home, he couldn't occupy his mind anymore. He tried everything he could. He couldn't focus on his homework, so he decided to do the laundry, with Asuka's clothes... and underwear. He still did it, but it didn't help. He tried to watch TV but nothing managed to get his attention off the redhead and her jerk of a date. In a last-ditch effort, he went in his room and grabbed his SDAT. It always helped him escape the world and its worries, but it didn't prevent him from thinking. It never had and he knew that.
There was still something he hadn't tried. He picked up his cello case, retrieved his cello from inside and went to sit down on one of the kitchen's chairs. After a bit of tuning, he started playing. It had been a while since he had last played, so his first few notes were hesitant, but it soon came back to him. He lost track of time while playing, it worked on his thoughts, he was fully focused on the music. When he felt he shook off the rust enough, he started playing Bach's Cello Suite No 1. He loved this piece, how complicated it was, yet how beautiful, how every notes flowed, how it put this beautiful instrument at the center of attention. As the piece reached its ending, Shinji's mind was blank, he finally managed to get some peace of mind, nothing would disturb him...
Clap clap clap.
This sound brought him back in reality at the speed of light. Someone else was here. He turned his head and saw Asuka on the threshold of the kitchen. She was still applauding him.
"Not bad at all. I didn't know you played." 'She's here !' he thought. 'Something must have happened, it might not be too late after all !' He focused all his energy on not showing how happy he was to see her this early.
"I've been studying since I was five, but I'm not very good. I don't really have any talent." 'I have to know what happened, I have to ask her when I get the chance', talking about how he started playing cello helped him keep is composure.
"Perseverance is power. I'm impressed." 'Did she just... Compliment me ? If I had knew that would happen, I would have retrieved it earlier !'
"I started studying because my teacher told me to, but I could have quit anytime."
"So, why didn't you ?"
"Because nobody told me to stop."
"I should have known." 'Now is a good time, go !'
"You came back early, I thought you'd have dinner too."
"He was just so boring ! So, while he was waiting in line for the roller coaster, I left." 'Yes !' He was really happy when he heard that. Finally he could relax and stop thinking she would be even more out of reach than she already was. He had to keep is composure though.
"Really, Kaji is the only cool guy." And with that, Asuka shot him right through the heart. He was still a child, he was still not worthy enough for her...
Asuka was sitting on a chair, her head laying on her hand on the kitchen table. Shinji was seating on the threshold, reading while listening to his SDAT.
"Hey, Shinji, do you want to kiss me ?" she asked, her voice was monotone.
"What ?" Shinji heard what she said, but wasn't sure he actually believed it. He took off his headset.
"A kiss. A kiss ? You've never kissed a girl, have you ?" 'Where is this coming from ? And more importantly, where is this going ?'
He shook his head
"Then let's do it." 'This is a trick. This has to be a trick. She is just pushing me.' he thought, jumping when he heard her.
"But why ?"
"Because I'm bored" 'I don't buy it, I know where this is going. She's going to call me a hentai again... That being said... Maybe it's the only chance I'll get.'
"Is that a reason ?!" He knew he was blushing, he couldn't look her in the eyes.
"Do you not want to kiss on the anniversary of your mom's death ?" She was definitely pushing him now. And hurting him doing so. But this time he saw the opportunity he had longed for for so long.
"And what about your mother, Asuka ?"
Asuka looked at him, her blue eyes wide. She was utterly shocked at Shinji's question. Where did that come from ? Tears already started gathering in her eyes, she was still looking at him, trying to come up with something to answer him. Something that would hurt him, preferably. But nothing came. After a few seconds, she stood up and stormed out of the kitchen and into her room. Shinji studied her reaction and felt guilty about how he brought it up. He saw how hurt she looked. Maybe he shouldn't have said anything. It was too late now, he couldn't let this be the conclusion of their discussion. He stood up and went to her room. The sliding door was ajar, it bounced back when she slammed it.
"Asuka ?" He said, entering her room, closing the door behind him and switching the light on. She was laying on her bed, facing the wall. Silent tears were rolling down to her pillow. She was not going to give the Third Child the satisfaction of seeing this, she thought. She was used to this, crying in silence, not showing anything.
"Go away !" She shouted with all the rage she could muster. And right now, she had a lot. 'Don't abandon me' her mind echoed. 'I don't want to be alone, it's a pain.'
"Asuka, it's really difficult to be around you sometimes."
"Then. Go. Away. Now !" Shinji shivered when he heard her shout, full of wrath, but there was something more too, her sadness. He wouldn't leave her like that. Especially because he was responsible.
None of them paid attention to the front door of the apartment sliding open and closing soon after. Misato wouldn't come see them anyway.
"No. And I won't apologize for what I said, " She smiled a little into her pillow when he said that, she hid it from him. "but I'll tell you something. My mother died when I was around three years old. Soon after, my father abandoned me. I was raised by a teacher outside of Tokyo-3. I have been alone for 10 years, no friends, nothing except my teacher. Today I went to visit my mother, and my father told me that she wasn't even there, that her grave was empty. He also told me that he destroyed everything about her. There are no pictures left of her, nothing..." his voice broke when a sob escaped his mouth "I don't even remember her !" he was crying now. He never told anyone that much about him.
Asuka sat on her bed when he finished, she was shook by his confession. It sounded really close to her own story, she thought. She looked at him for some time.
"... I... Shouldn't have... I didn't know..." It was her way of apologizing to him, he thought, but at that time he didn't care. He opened to someone, she listened and all this pain he built up inside finally broke out.
"Thanks for opening up to me", she said to break the silence, but she genuinely meant it. It was something new to her, and she wanted to understand why he did this. Sure, there was the obvious reason that he wanted to explain her how she hurt him, but that wasn't like him. When he was hurt... When she hurt him, he closed himself. That's how he reacted. He went to his room and listened to his SDAT. What did it mean ? Did it mean that they were friends ? It sure looked like that, but her guts told her there was something more. Was it because he trusted her ? 'Does he... Need me ? Does he care about me ? How much ?..' The thought was almost too much to handle. She already had it before. Mainly because as much as she picked fights with him, she cared about him too. He was always there, he always came back. Everyone in her life before just didn't care or gave up after being shoved a few times, but not him. And having seen him retort to her, sharing his secrets with her, she understood it was yet again Shinji Ikari reaching out to her. Like nobody ever did. This time she couldn't shove him away again, she had to think of something. Quick !
"Hey Baka ? Instead of a kiss, how about a hug ?" With the tone of her voice, it was clear that she wasn't insulting him this time, just a way to get his attention.
He nodded. He was crying a bit less now. She came closer to him and took him in her arms, she wasn't facing her so she was hugging her side. After a few seconds, Shinji shifted and hugged her back. They both relaxed in each other's arms. They could feel each other's warmth, but more importantly, they both felt warm inside. They both really wanted and needed that hug, so they stayed like that a long time, neither one of them wanted to break their embrace. Asuka broke the silence, however.
"Look at you, Third Child, finally growing a spine !" she said, mock-insulting him.
"I knew you had a heart, Second Child ! He tried to put as much disdain as he could in those last words, but he didn't sound very convincing. They laughed against each other and stayed locked in their embrace for some time after before loosening their grip, but Shinji kept his arms around Asuka's waist, and she kept her arm around his neck.
This hug meant the world to Shinji, it had been as if time had stopped, that nothing else but them existed. He made the most of it, of the contact between them, her warmth, her scent... He hadn't been hugged since... He couldn't remember. And it was her that was hugging him ! His sorrow was a bit easier to cope with thanks to her. 'She has done this to reach out to me ! She would never have done this normally.' They just shared, no, they were still sharing a moment of genuine and thorough happiness together, right after they hurt each other and he let it all out before her. This moment was the happiest he felt in years. They were still hugging while looking in each others' eyes. He seemed to notice something different in them. He wasn't sure. Probably nothing, he thought. He couldn't analyze anything right now, he was still enthralled by her beauty, he wanted to kiss her. Right now. His mind raced. 'What's wrong with me ? Am I stupid enough to ruin everything because I would die to kiss her right now ? She looks so beautiful, il feels so good to be in her arms. You're still in her arms right now Ikari ! This has to mean something ! She could have let me go a -long- while ago, and I'm still discussing whether I should kiss her ?! But if I kiss her, she might go back to chastising me, she might lock herself away again. She would probably kill me for that kind of boldness. But then again, I would die with a smile on my face, so that wouldn't be so bad.' he thought amusedly. 'Plus, she wanted us to kiss earlier. Out of boredom, maybe, but that still counts, right ? Ah dammit Ikari, for once in your life, stop thinking and ACT !'
He leaned to close the gap between them and put his lips on hers. Surprised at this contact, she jumped and backed off reflexively, startling Shinji.
"Why did you do that for ?!" She didn't sound too angry, more surprised than anything.
Shinji, trying to conceal how pained he was at this sudden rejection, remained silent for a minute. He looked away.
"I... I wanted to make sure you weren't bored ?" This answer made her smile a little, but she wouldn't let go like this.
"No. I want a serious answer Ikari."
Shinji knew he couldn't escape. Not that his legs would have carried him right now anyway. He was scared, but he knew he had to stand his ground. He couldn't run away. Regaining his composure, he answered the Second Child after a few seconds.
"First, I've always been attracted to you. At least physically." He wasn't stuttering, he was scared, he didn't want to lose her, but he had wanted to say those words to her for so long that he emanated an aura of confidence that surprised him more than anyone else. "But then something happened... Do you remember the last night of our sync training ?
"When you kissed me in my sleep ?" She asked sarcastically. She didn't want to, she was very focused on what he had to say, but her words escaped her mouth before she even realized they did.
"Tried to. Not that it is much better, but can we not delve on that for now ? Please ?" Now that it was out of the way, she focused back on his answer. He would pay her back for this attempted kiss, but she would wait. She nodded. "You cried in your sleep." he continued "About your mother. I didn't understand it at the time, but I later realized that there was more to you than what you showed. That I wanted to know the real you. That the Asuka I knew was only what you agreed to show me. And I hated that you had nightmares like that. That the brave and confident girl in front of me could be so sad that it had to come out at night ! I wanted to help you !" He was tearing up again, which moved her. He truly was concerned about her. "That's why I asked you this question earlier. And that's also why I kissed you."
"It's been weeks since that night ! Why did you take so long ?" Some of her usual fire was back in her voice, as well as a tint of joy, almost bliss at what he had just said. He didn't notice it.
"I took the first opportunity I had. I couldn't come to you out of the blue and ask you about your mother !" he said defensively.
"That's kind of what you did."
"I know ! You talked about my mother, it just came out !"
"It was harsh."
"Again, it was the only opportunity I had in weeks to get you to open-up to me !"
'He wanted me to open-up to him. He truly cares about me.' This tint of joy was getting bigger and bigger as he kept justifying himself "And what good did it do, Third Child ? I haven't opened-up to you." She didn't know why, but she still had to push him. To test his resolve, maybe.
"But you did ! You're right, I don't know more about you than yesterday, but you apologized to me, you even hugged me !" He paused, looking back at her, she was smiling. "I don't want to push you, so if you don't want to tell me about anything you don't have to. I can wait. I'll always be there for you." He couldn't believe what he had said. It wasn't a confession per se, but it didn't leave much room for interpretation. He didn't even realize before saying this that it was how he felt about her. He closed his eyes as he expected the worst.
He didn't wait long as Asuka hugged him once again, more tightly this time. He hugged her back, surprised, but happy to feel her once more this close to him. After some time, she pulled back just enough to look him in the eyes.
"You know... I don't want to do this out of boredom anymore..." she said before leaning to kiss him passionately. He was even more surprised this time, but he went with it, with all his love. They stayed liked this for a long time, each expressing with this kiss the feelings they couldn't put into words. She finally broke it and leaned her head on his shoulder.
"... Baka." she whispered to finish her sentence, tears of joy forming in the corner of her eyes.
Author's notes : I guess I had wanted to write an EVA fic for a long time, but never brought myself to do it. This is the first time I write something, and the first time I publish anything somewhere, so please be kind to me !
What brought me to it was Look At Me by Effybelle. I really liked how the characters' psychology was developed. My story is kinda similar in that way, I hope not too much though !