There is, perhaps, no day stranger than the day you realize the truth about yourself. As
Shinji Ikari exited the school building that day, the last thing on his mind was truth. It had
not been an easy day, to say the least. And as Ikari left the schoolgrounds that Friday
afternoon, he felt the full weight of his world upon his shoulders. There was nothing better
than a quiet escape into his own private fantasies and musings. As Shinji slowly made his way
towards Misato's apartment, he silently contemplated the rather significant changes that had
come into his life ever since he had arrived in Tokyo-3. The thoughts were not always pleasant,
but they were his own, and he took a lot of comfort from that. Maybe all wasn't right with the
world, but Shinji felt that at times like these, he could make his own private peace with it.
Leave it to Asuka to once again declare war. "Hey, Shinji!"

Of all the people in Shinji's life, Asuka was the one person that constantly kept him on
his toes. Toji and Kensuke were the fairly predictable pals, and they gave him a lot of balance
as well as the solid types of friendships important for boys at his age. Misato? Well, it could
be said that Misato lived a fairly chaotic type of lifestyle, but Shinji had grown accustomed
to it and he felt as though her crazy routines had becomes somewhat predictable and comfortable
to him. Misato was someone he was finding it increasingly easier to open up to, provided she
was conscious and not doing any cooking. Rei was certainly a quiet girl, shrouded in mystery.
She rarely disclosed anything more than she was required to, unless she was talking to his
father. There were times when Shinji would stare at Rei during class, wondering what it was she
was thinking about, what it was like to be her. His father. Yes, Shinji could even understand
him, though he didn't think he could ever come to terms with the commander.

But Asuka was another type of creature entirely. She had him wound tightly at all times. He had
to laugh as a stray thought entered his head. "She's got me so screwed up I don't know whether
to take a shit or wind my watch." He laughed again, audibly this time, and turned to face
Asuka, who he knew would be there. "Yes?" He replied absent-mindedly.

"Baka! Why didn't you wait for me!"

"Sorry. . .I just figured you were a big girl and didn't need me to help you find your way back

Asuka let out a frustrated growl. "So what? A proper man would escort a woman home! But I guess
I forgot that you'll never be a proper man! No big surprise, considering the stooges you hang
out with!"

Shinji looked down at the ground at sighed. Why did Asuka always have to be so hostile towards
him? He figured that since they had to live together, the least they could do was be more
tolerant. "Asuka," Shinji spoke tentatively, "Do you have any plans for tonight?"

"You mean, besides spending 'quality time' with you and Misato? Hmpf! Not really. What's the
point?! As soon as I get involved in anything remotely fun, an Angel shows up to ruin it! What
a frustration! Angels have no respect! We do have a life outside NERV, you know!"

"I think that my father would disagree with that statement."

"The hell with him then. Who's cooking tonight?"


"So long as it's not Misato, I really couldn't care less. But could you lay of the ramen?"

"Why? I like ramen, and it's easy to make."

"I just want something else for a change, okay! Geez, why does it always feel like I'm talking
to a brick wall with you! You don't have to act like such an idiot all the time."

"Sorry." Shinji replied relexively.

"And stop apologizing for every little thing! You'd apologize that a cloud went by if anyone
complained about it."

"Sorry." Shinji repeated, not realizing what he had said until the word had already passed from
his lips.

"Dumbkopft!" she yelled, pushing him. "You're hopeless! It must be some cosmic joke that you're
an Eva pilot!"

"What is it with you Asuka? There's just no pleasing you, is there?!" Shinji replied angrily.

"My, my, an emotional outburst! Don't be so melodramatic, Third Child."

"I'm not. . .being. . .melodramatic. . ." the conviction began to drain from Shinji's voice.

Then Asuka said something that surprise him. "No. No, I suppose you're not." She said it almost
tenderly. Or at least, what passed for tender in Asuka's book. And it may have only lasted for
a few seconds, but Shinji was eternally grateful for it. It was through those very short
glimpses that Shinji could be assured that Asuka was really in there somewhere, not the mask
she always wore. "So, what about you, baka? Do you have an plans for tonight?"

"I was. . . thinking I might like to get out of the apartment for a change. Maybe see a movie."

Asuka sighed. "Yes, I'll go with you."


"That is what you were going to ask? Or are you that stupid you think I didn't know?"

"Well. . .I just thought that. . ."

"You never think!"

Frustrated, Shinji took a deep breath. "Asuka, I just thought maybe we could go see a movie
together! Why do you have to be so pissy about it?! Forget it, all right?"

"Idiot! I can't believe I was actually going to go with someone like you! Let's get one thing
straight here! I don't need you! I'm perfectly capable of amusing myself!"

"I never said you needed me! I just thought I would be nice to you!

"Don't patronize me! And don't be such a wimp! When you have something to say, just say it! I'm
a big girl! I say what's on my mind! You can't just live your life according to what other
people think!"

"And how would you even know what I think! You're the one who doesn't get it! You're so
determined to get the last word in that you've hardly listened to anything I've said!"

Asuka could stand it no longer. The nerve of this kid! The absolute gall! Who the hell was he to
tell her, Sohryu Asuka Langley, that she as wrong. Pushing herself to full boil, she made a
grab for Shinji, only to find that he had already run far ahead of her. "Coward!" she screamed
at the top of her lungs. I won't let him get away with this. I can't! Taking only a moment to
catch her breath, she ran after Shinji at top speed, but still failed to catch up to him before
arriving at Misato's apartment. She climbed the stairs after him, her rage not subsiding a bit.
She had been tempted to take the elevator, but thought better of it.

Shinji opened the door to Misato's apartment, and heard Asuka not too far behind him. Disgusted,
he slammed the door shut behind him, not caring about what the fiery red-head would do to him
once she got inside. At the moment, he didn't care about anything. Shinji opened the fridge and
grabbed a soda, just as he heard Asuka get to the front door and start pounding on it
furiously. "SHINJI-BAKA!" she screamed. "OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW YOU COWARD!!"

Shinji stuck his tongue out at the door and flopped down on the couch, enjoying his soda. A wave
of guilt began to wash over him. "So much for being nice." He said to no one in particular.
Damn it, why did Asuka always have to make things so difficult. Why couldn't she just be more
compromising. He was made at himself for aggravating the situation, and mad at himself for
getting into in the first place. "You are right about one thing, Asuka. . . I am a coward."
With those words, the boy got up off the sofa and shuffled over to the front door, where
Asuka's repated banging and German curses could be heard all the louder. Taking another deep
breath, Shinji turned the doorknob and opened the door.

The first thing he saw was an extremely frazzled Asuka, face red from screaming, voice hoarse
for the same reason. For a moment, he thought he saw through her, thought he could almost see
the real Asuka. Then reality came crashing back to him as Asuka slapped him.

"Don't you ever, ever, do something like that to me again or I swear to God I will kill you
while you sleep! What kind of bullshit was that?!?"

Shinji had about a hundred different answers to that question, but only one came out of his
mouth: "I. . .I don't know. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that to you."

"More apologies! At least they're in order this time!" Asuka crossed over the threshold and
dropped her bag in a huff. She also raided the fridge for a soda, then plunked herself down on
the couch as well, too angry to continue the argument and too frustrated to let it go. Shinji
wordlessly followed her. He dared even to sit next to her, which antagonized the already peeved
Asuka even more.

"You." She began to say, her voice laced with acid. "You, you, ooooh!" And she slapped him
again, the rough contact apparently being the only way she knew how to convey her anger. Shinji
said nothing, did not even attempt to move or block her. "What's wrong with you, Third Child?!"

Still, Shinji said nothing, which only increased Asuka's rage, if it was still possible.

"Answer me!" she screeched, slapping him again and again. "Coward! You won't even fight back!"

"Because you're a girl." He said, softly between her repeated assaults on his face.

"Don't you dare let that stop you!" she screamed, slapping him exceptionally hard this time. Yet
despite all of this, Shinji hardly moved, hardly said a word. Finally, exhausted, Asuka stopped
hitting the poor Ikari boy and let her hands drop to her sides. "I hate you!" she cried out.
"You hear me? I HATE YOU!" She then smacked him again for good measure, and started to get up.

There comes a moment in everyone's life when something inside of you breaks. Shinji Ikari had
been there once before, the first time he fought inside Unit-01. And it was about to happen
again. A sum of all the frustrated emotions, the hopelessness he often felt, the pain he had
endured for fourteen years, all came up to the surface. He grabbed the flustered girl by the
arm and then he did the unthinkable. He slapped Asuka. Then he did it again. And again. And
again. And again. With more force. Asuka defended herself at first, blocked his blows by
covering her face with her free arm, and tried to squirm away, but she soon found herself
overpowered. At length, she ceased struggling. What the hell had happened to him? His eyes were
locked in a trance-like state. Her face stung. Her eyes watered. No! She shut them, she would
not cry in front of him! She refused to let herself be so broken. She wanted to scream for
help, but her pride prevented her from doing so. She thought that her cheek might be bleeding a
little, but damned if she was going to give him the satisfaction by checking. Yet finally,
reason won out over arrogance, and she squirmed again, this time vocally protesting. Her words
did their job.

Shinji all of a sudden saw her again, saw her struggle beneath him, a look of actual fear slowly
but surely beginning to take over her face. He felt himself slap her again, and realizing what
he had just done, withdrew his offending hand, it was shaking. "Asuka. . ." he whispered,
pulling himself off from her as his face turned crimson. Guilty as sin, and nowhere left to
run, the boy felt as though his world were crashing down around him. Asuka was struggling to
catch his breath, as was he. What had he done? What had he done? He had battered his roomate
and fellow Eva pilot, that's what he had done. Visions of his first battle kept popping into
his head. Had he allowed himself to get so out of control that day? And had it happened again
just now? The first time, he could blame on Unit-01. In fact, that was exactly what he did do.
But as he saw a genuinely scared Asuka pressed back against the couch, panting and unable even
to scream at him, he began to realize that perhaps the root of the problem lay within.

Asuka instinctively brushed a hand across her cheek and wiped at the thin streak of blood that
was there. She had been right, he had scratched her during his attack. Shinji locked eyes with
her for a moment, then dared to speak. "Jesus. . .Asuka. . .oh God, Asuka. I-I-hold on!" Shinji
jumped up and ran to the bathroom, where he grabbed some tissues and some peroxide, then ran
back to his victim as fast as his legs could carry him. He was surprised to find that she was
still there, that she hadn't run off while he had gone to the bathroom. He figured that she
must be too shocked to get up. He sat down next to her and raised the tissue in his hand to her
wounded cheek, but quickly noted that she flinched away as soon as he came near her.

"Asuka, I'm so sorry." He said, and he regretted saying it as soon as he had. Not because he
expected the girl to be upset with him for apologizing, but because he realized how lame that
sounded. He had just given her a genuine beating, he had actually harmed her, and now he was
saying he was sorry. "How pathetic I am." He muttered. He tried to apply the tissue to her face
again, yet he met with similar results. "Damn it." He said. "Now I've really done it." He
turned to face her haunting gaze, and he half-died inside when he saw that she looked like a
deer caught in a pair of headlights. He took his left hand and held her head still, though she
wriggled in protest and made whimpering sounds that made the boy want to cry. Determined, he
took his free hand and wiped the small line of bllod off of her face with the tissue, then
gently released her. He then put some of the peroxide on a clean tissue, and took hold of her
head again. He was slightly relieved that she didn't struggle so much this time. He rubbed the
peroxide-laden tissue across the slight scratch on her face, and as he did so he saw her flinch
for half a second, but then accept the action. When he had finished, he let go of her once

Shinji sat there for a moment, staring at her, daring not to say anything. An eternity seemed to
pass, as he watched the zombie-like Asuka return his gaze. It chilled him the way he felt he
was being scrutinized, but after time a part of him began to feel that although she was looking
at him, she was not seeing him. Either that, or she was seeing him for the first time. It was a
war of emotion, a battle of thoughts, silently being waged between the two, and just as Shinji
was about to give up and go hide in his room, he heard something. They were words, from Asuka,
but they were so faint, so quiet, so. . . inaudible, that Shinji knew that it was not possible
that he was hearing them from her. And yet he knew that she had indeed spoken them, and a light
at the end of the tunnel began to glow for him. "Not a coward." They echoed over and over in
his mind, and he was thankful to God for them.

Asuka touched her cheek again, and very slightly turned her head, while still looking directly
at Shinji. The boy knew that she was now definintely looking at him, and he did his best to
return her look. "Asuka. . ." he whispered back to her.

"Why?" she asked.

A small frown spread across Shinji's face. He cast his face downward, at his legs. "You didn't


"When I first arrived in Tokyo-3. . .my first battle with one of the Angels, Misato said it
didn't go too well. All I knew was that my father was going to plunk either me or Rei into that
thing, and I knew there was no way that Rei would survive, so I did it. And I couldn't remember
much of what happened at first. . .the Angel was beating me, I remember. I got busted up pretty
bad, and then I just blacked out. But. . .I woke up in a hospital, and Misato told me about how
I had saved the city. . .after I blacked out, I somehow recovered and attacked the Angel head
on. It was like I was running on pure emotion, pure adrenaline. I remember. . .I just kept
pounding and pounding and I didn't stop until it couldn't take anymore. . .I think it
self-destructed. But I remember. . .I battered it. . .oh God, I was so afraid I had nearly done
the same thing to you. . ."

"Shinji. . ." Asuka actually addressed him without tagging an insult along with it. The both of
them were too absorbed in their dialogue to hear Misato come in. Misato took a beer from the
fridge and was about to announce her arrival with a shout, when she rounded the corner and saw
her two roomates on the sofa, both with generally frightened expressions on their faces.
"Shinji, for a minute back there, I thought. . .I thought you were going to kill me. I thought
that any moment now you were going to do something much worse than slapping me. . .and as hard
as I tried I just couldn't make my body defend itself! Because I. . .I knew that I had provoked
you. . .I thought I had pushed you over the edge. . ."

"No. You could never. . .if I'm ever at the edge it's because I've driven myself there."

"How can you say that?! After all I've done to push you there. . .after. . .all the things I'll
probably continue to do to you. It isn't right what I do to people. . ." her voice lowered
again. "But I can't stop it. I don't know how. I don't know if I want to. I don't. . ."

Shinji gently hushed her by pressing a finger to her lips. "You don't know who you really are
when you wake up in the morning, so you just go along with the flow. You let people think
things about you, because you've lost touched with who you really are anyway. I've been there.
again. I understand how it is."

"No. . .you don't. . .everything that's happened to me, everything I've lost. . .this is all I
have now! I won't let any obstacle stand in my way! Not even you! I've proven that!"

"I was in your way? How?!"

"I did it! I synchronized with you! I didn't do it out of friendship, I didn't do it because
you're a fellow pilot. I did it because I had to prove to myself that I could!"

Shinji said nothing for a moment, then a reply came to him. "We can't avoid this, Asuka. You can
belittle me and insult me and do everything in your power to make my life a living hell, but we
can't avoid it!"

"We're pilots."

"We're opposites! In almost everyway! Only a fool would try to deny what will happen. We can't
escape it, we can't deny it. We just have to deal with it."

"Don't flatter yourself!"

"I'm not flattering anyone! I'm being a realist!"

"You can be a realist all day long, but I'm still going to do my damndest to keep it at bay!"

"Fine! You do that! See how well it works! Don't you understand?! The more we struggle against
it the worse it will get! It's like a rubber band! The harder we pull, the harder we'll bounce

"Not if I break it first! This is insanity! Mein gott! I just can't believe. . ."

"Asuka. . .we have to learn to work together!"

"I work alone! I'm my best teammate!"

"But if we use our opposite natures in tandem, we can be so much more!"

"The nerve! To think that I would throw my whole life in disarray just for you!"

"Then you can't do it."

"Let's get one thing straight! I can do anything! But I don't want to do what you're suggesting!
There's a line between us, Third Child. Don't make me draw it across this entire apartment!
Misato probably wouldn't be wild about it!"

Stubborn to the last, Shinji realized. Even what had just happened a few moments ago could not
put a damper on Asuka's flames. "Then cross it!" Shinji shouted at length. His convoction
caused Misato to jump back inside the kitchen, startled. In all honesty, his conviction
startled even him. He couldn't recall being so determined about something since he explained to
his father that he simply would not pilot Unit-01. "And look how that turned out," he mused.

"What?" Asuka asked, vexed.

"Nothing." That was when Shinji leaned over, kissed Asuka's cheek, and walked into his room
without saying another word or looking back. He shut the door behind him.

Four point seven seconds later, after Asuka had finished realizing what had just happened and
convinced herself she didn't like it. every pillow on the sofa flew through the air and bounced
off of Shinji's door. "Pervert!" Asuka called after him. "Don't ever touch me like that again!
I told you what happened that other night was nothing! What is it with you! Baka! Ecchi!"

Misato laughed to herself as she watched Asuka fume. "That girl," She said in a soft voice,
always has to have the last word."

Asuka stormed off to her own room, ranting. She was smiling, inwardly, and she didn't like it.
"Not a coward." She mouthed at Shinji's door before passing by, then stuck her tongue out at
it. "Wait a minute, did I just. . .scheisse!" She gave Shinji's door a kick and retreated to
her room, where she could rant and rave in peace.

"But this time," Misato smiled, "I think Shinji got the last word without even speaking." She
chugged the last of her beer, belched, retrieved another from the fridge, and sat down at the
kitchen table. "Kids." She said to no one in particular, and put her feet up on the table. "But
if I didn't know better. . .I'd say Shinji was onto something." She waved the can in the air
for a moment, thinking, then popped the tab and took a sip. "Don't leave her Shinji." She said
in a more serious voice. "She's just a little girl. . ."


The Legal Lambada--I don't have anything to do with Neon Genesis Evangelion. I didn't priduce
it, I didn't create it, and I don't pretend to have! This series is copyright by Gainax, A.D.V.
Films holds the rights to the English Language Version.The author makes no claim whatsoever to
any of the characters or the setting contained within this work, merely the situation in which
they have been placed. Standard disclaimers apply. No substitutions, exchanges, or refunds.
Batteries not included. Thanks you've all been a great crowd, don't forget to tip your servers
on the way out. Amen.

And as always, please, for the love of God, let the author know how he is doing! Send your
questions, comments, compliments, and complaints to me, Lord Malachite, at jtc@ct2.nai.net or
ranger_writer@yahoo.com If you are wondering why I wrote this fanfic, it's because I can't
ignore a good story idea I get while in the shower. That, and I have too much free time on my
hands, I guess. This was my first Evangelion fanfic (could you tell?).
The reason I wrote this is because the idea just came to me and I had to get it down on paper,
or at least into a Word file. (Note: Lord Malachite is not endorsing Microsoft Word or any
other Microsoft product, he is merely making a statement). So if you didn't find this very
enjoyable, you have no one to blame but me for writing it, and you for reading it. But whether
you like it or not, take the time to let me know how I'm doing, okay?