'Round Perdition's Flames:


Asuka threw herself onto her bed and, settling down now that she was alone, began to
giggle a little. It was amusing, yet also unnerving, what had just happened to her. She stared
up at the ceiling and smiled a little. "Not a coward." She said aloud. "Perhaps I've
underestimated him." Yet if there was one thing she knew, she wouldn't let the commander's son
throw her life into disarray. She was herself, and she would find a way to handle this. Over
the years, Asuka had become rather skilled at hiding her true feelings for many different
people and issues, and this would be no different. Although if there was one thing she didn't
like about living in Tokyo-3, it was the fact that she had to deal with so many different
people. Misato was so determined to be a mother to her, yet she had decided to go along with it
until it no longer proved conveinent. Although Misato could be trying at times, Asuka sensed
that she was someone that she could talk to should the need ever arise, and that brought her
some comfort. Besides, Misato knew her past, and even though she occassionally pried a little,
she only meant well at heart. And since Misato did know about her past, Asuka secretly cut
Misato a lot more slack than she ever conceivably would to anyone else. Misato was the one
person she was only willing to push so far. She was also thankful for her friend Hikari, after
all, someone had to be a buffer zone for the Three Stooges. Even though their relationship
wasn't exceptionally close, it was all she really had in the way of female friends her age. And
then, of course. . . "Wondergirl." Asuka said softly. Now she was a piece of work, possibly the
coldest heart Asuka had ever known, so distant and quiet. So formal. Heck, who was she kidding?
Her relationship with Rei was pretty much non-existent when she wasn't inside an Eva, and that
was fine with her. It wasn't as though she wanted anything to do with Wondergirl anyway. That
left only. . . "Shinji." She sighed. She had a lot of different feelings about him, some
tender, some angry, all frustrating. He was definitely a special case, often the butt of her
jokes, and with the exception of today he usually took it all in stride. The kid had a lot of
potential, and she had to admit that there was something insufferably cute about his weakness.
This thought caused Asuka to sit up angrily, and she punched her wall. NO! She refused to let
those kinds of thoughts govern her. Shinji may be a relatively nice guy and all, but he just
isn't made of the right material for a relationship, much like every other boy in her life.
Heck, relationships were nothing she needed anyway. What was the sense in getting all close to
someone who is eventually going to leave you, willfully or no. Either that, or she would have
to leave, but in either case, the end result was the same. But still. . ."He's. . ." she began
to say, then rolled her eyes. Different images of the boy began running through her mind, most
of them amusing to her. From the first time they had met at sea, all the way through
yesterday's near disaster in the volcano, she had managed to stay one step ahead of him,
surprising him at every turn, making him blush, getting under his skin, berating him, smiling
wickedly at him, and generally arguing with him. *All of which I won* Asuka patted herself on
the back. "He's. . .my punching bag!" She punched the wall again, not very hard this time, and
smiled. "Yes, yes, that's it." Asuka let out a sigh and slowly sank onto the floor. "I'm so
glad I got that figured out. I thought that there was something wrong with me for a minute
there! And if there's something wrong with Sohryu Asuka Langley, then there was something very
wrong with the world indeed. At least, that was her philosophy, and she was sticking to it,
damn it! She was the master of her destiny, and she didn't doubt for even a moment her ability
to stay one step ahead of it. She could defeat Shinji. There was no way that baka could ever
get under her skin. And if she had to, she knew that she could master him. . .

Misato Katsuragi stared at the papers in front of her, then at the half-empty can of
beer on the table, then back to the papers. "Well, no sense in doing things halfway!" she
proclaimed to no one in particular, then chugged the rest of her beer. Ah, yes, the good stuff.
She took another look at the reports, then snorted and quickly pushed them aside. "Ah, the hell
with it. I didn't take this job to look over Ritsuko's paperwork! If there's one thing I hate,
it's taking my work home with me!" Misato sighed and walked into the living room, then stepped
onto the balcony. The sun was going down over Tokyo-3, the city had managed to survive for one
more day. "Especially when work can start again at a moment's notice!" she called out to the
buildings below her, half expecting to hear the tell-tale siren of another Angel attack. She
turned her gaze back towards the apartment. It was quiet. Too quiet, considering the roomates
she had. Was it possible that Asuka had managed to go twenty minutes without something to
complain about? "She must be asleep." Misato stepped back into her home and down the hallway,
leaning her ear up against Asuka's door. She heard the sounds of heavy breathing coming from
inside. Misato backed away and then returned to her kitchen. "Hmpf. Well, I have more important
matters to take care of, anyway!" With those words, she opened her fridge, removed another
beer, and proceeded to suck back. Working for NERV was not without it's share of hard work, as
anyone would tell you.

Shinji was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling once more. His cheeks burned, but he
would do something about that later. Thoughts of Rei crept inside of his mind, which puzzled
him. Here he was, he had just had an electrified conversation with Asuka, had tried his best to
get through to her, had used physical force on her, and all he could think about was Rei.
"Wondergirl." He whispered Asuka's sarcastic nickname for the blue-haired Eva pilot. It was
strange. When he thought of Rei, things were different. He didn't feel like she was his friend,
he didn't feel like he was interested in her romantically, yet he often couldn't help but think
of her when his mind wandered. Perhaps it was merely an expression of genuine concern, perhaps
he was merely going crazy; between piloting Eva and living with Misato and Asuka, he wouldn't
be at all surprised if the latter were the case. Of course, thinking about Rei usually brought
up more unpleasant thoughts, ones of his father. How is it that Ayanami manages to maintain
such a closeness with. . .with my father? Shinji knew that his thoughts were drifting again,
and he silently refused to go down that dark road. "My father doesn't want to have a
relationship with me." Shinji clenched his hands into fists. "His loss then." Shinji spoke
softly, though he knew that no one would hear him anyway. He didn't care. He took a deep breath
and let it out, refusing to allow himself to be drawn into a maelstrom of negative emotions. He
was determined to just suck it up and move on. What good was dwelling on it going to do. As of
late, he had realized that if this was going to be a permanent situation for him, he should try
to make himself more at home. He knew that Misato was only two willing to mother him to a
certain point, she had been from the very first day he had arrived in Tokyo-3. She had done her
best to motivate him to overcome his fears and to stand up for himself. But even then she had
only been willing to go so far. He remembered that she had eventually run out of patience. "Get
in." She had commanded, insisting that he pilot Unit-01.

Shinji hung his head for a moment. That particular thought pained him. He hadn't been
able to get in, not even for Misato. To this day, his conscience bothered him that he had needed
to be motivated by a guilty conscience. The only thing he took solace in was the thought that
he hadn't let Rei climb inside the Eva that day. "My first failure." Shinji said, sitting up to
look at himself in the mirror across from the bed. Indeed it was, at least since he had arrived
in Tokyo-3. He hadn't been able to stand up to his fears on his own, he had needed to be
pushed. That thought angered him. He couldn't live his life in fear. Still. . .he was getting
better. It wasn't so scary to climb inside Unit-01 anymore. In fact, the only frightening thing
about it was that he was beginning to become used to it.

And then there was Asuka. She was still new to his existence, a new variable that he
didn't know if he'd ever be able to completely digest, mainly because Asuka kept herself in such
a constant state of flux. It wasn't easy. But he thought that he had somehow connected with her
today, even if it was only for a few very brief moments. And that --did-- frighten him. If he
had managed to breach all of Asuka's barriers, however briefly, it meant that he was becoming
something he never envisioned himself being. He seldom snapped back at Asuka, he allowed her to
get away with all the cruel things she did to him, the names she called him. He grinned
slightly. Perhaps Asuka had been sent to him, for a number of reasons. He wasn't so arrogant to
think that she was in Tokyo-3 for his sake alone, no. But she was here in this apartment. The
question was, why? To help him grow stronger? Or was she merely his punishment from God?

He stared at himself in the mirror for a time, he thoughts silent. "I love having her
here." The words absent-mindedly slipped out of his mouth. Almost immediately after he had said
them, Shinji slapped a hand over his mouth, embarassed, as though any moment know Misato was
going to spit out her beer and have a coughing fit, and that Asuka was going to hurl him into
next Wednesday evening for thinking about her. Then he realized that they weren't here, that no
one had heard him say that, save himself. "My God." He said aloud. "Is that. . .really true?"
Was it? Had this fiery red-head managed to penetrate so deeply? Through all of her cruelty, had
she only succeeded in heightening his curiosity? It was all very strange to the young Ikari boy
indeed. "Damn." That one, minor curse summed up all of Shinji's feelings quite nicely at the
moment. It was all almost too much. He needed an escape. If there was one thing that he didn't
want to think about anymore, it was the details and complexities of his life. They would all be
waiting for him as soon as he opened his door again, or whenever Misato or Asuka decided it was
time to disturb his privacy. Shinji reached for his SDAT player, put his headphones on, and hit
the play button. But as he lay down on the bed again and resumed his meticulous examination of
his now familiar ceiling, a small smile passed through him, inwardly. He had managed to breach
all of Asuka's barriers once. A smirk spread over his face. She was going to be watching
herself a lot more closely around him, now. If he ever hoped to break through a second time, he
was going to need a plan. And this time, he was going to throw her more off-balance. The first
time he had done it, it had taken physical violence. That was one road he refused to take ever
again, no matter what she said or did to him. The next time, it was going to take something
more subtle. Some way of getting to the real her that she wouldn't quite be aware of until he
was already there. And preferably, something that could make her put aside her pride and
arrogance and see that this might be a risk worth taking. Some way to make her believe that if
the two of them genuinely became partners, there would be no Angel that could stand against
them. "But. . .how can I ever have that kind of courage." He was right. How was he going to go
about this? He couldn't just walk right up to Asuka and convey these things to her. Hell, even
if he could, she would never give him the chance to finish, assuming he even got a word in to
begin with. She would push him awayt as quickly as possible now, he realized. He had managed to
break through her defenses, and he knew that as soon as she had completely recovered, trying to
have a conversation with her was going to be more difficult than ever. She was going to be
coming at him guns blazing. Asuka would probably be able to push him away faster than he would
be able to run away from anything, and that was no small feat. He had overheard Misato speak of
a situation known as the Hedgehog's Dilemma once, and now he was beginning to truly understand
it. He had quickly figured out that he was supposed to be a hedgehog in that illustration, but
it suddenly dawned on him that Asuka was one as well. There was a fundamental difference
between them, however. Shinji was more inclined to run away from other people, while Asuka
preferred to drive them away. It was becoming complicated. Shinji had known that this was not
something that he could do overnight, but additional Walls of Jericho semed to keep popping up
before him. "Damn." He muttered again. It wasn't fair. Why did it have to be her? The thought
of this situation with Rei in Asuka's role occupied his mind for a moment. Shinji had to admit
that Rei wouldn't have been quite so difficult to work with. Although she was downright
strange, and usually very quiet, Shinji knew that she operated on precise logic. All he would
have to do would be to convice her that this was a beneficial idea, and she would be onboard.
With Asuka, he first had to find a way to worm himself into a position where he could even
begin to explain all of this to her. He laughed to himself. He hadn't even figured out what
"this" exactly was yet! But whenever he was with Asuka, he felt a sense of peace inside, even
though there were large fronts of hostility being directed at him. And, of course, she could
make him feel very uncomfortable at a moment's notice. All it took was one of her patented
slaps. "Or an explanation of thermal expansion." He giggled, but at the same time he felt a
wave of determination sweep over him. Asuka was a storm, a genuine hurricane. She raged at all
those around her, but that same rage became very useful once she put on a plug suit and stepped
inside Unit-02. "If she's the hurricane. . ." he mused, "then that makes me the eye." And that
was it. That was the key. He would become the eye of her storm. The hardest part now would be
working his way into this position. But if it could be done, perhaps without her even realizing
it, then that would be all there was to it.

Shinji mentally scolded himself for continuing his thoughts, he had meant to put them
away after he had put his headphones on, but they had persisted at any rate. Fine, so be it. He
only hoped he could bring himself not to run away when the time came. After all, many ideas
look great on paper, but they're a lot harder to put into practice. Now that he had some sort
of battle plan, he had to force himself to muster up enough courage the next time he
encountered Asuka. He couldn't allow her to push him away so easily, yet at the same time he
couldn't go up against her too much, at least, not at first. That would only serve to increase
Asuka's attacks, and it would also raise suspicions around Misato and his other classmates.
"There are always complications, but there are always possibilities as well." Yes. If he could
just be persistent, if he could just be patient, he was sure that he could gain a lot of
confidence and also start to wear Asuka down just a bit. A vision of the girl in question came
into his head, and he felt a peace come over him. This Asuka couldn't smack him, or call him an
idiot, or a pervert, or any other insult she cared to hurl at him. Track 25 ended and Shinji
turned on his side to take a nap. He was at peace, he was at calm. As he began to drift off
into the land of dreams, he passed into sleep knowing that he was prepared to chase Asuka to
the four corners of the Earth and 'round Perdition's flames. . . . . . .

End Part I

Yes, I know, some of you are probably thinking that Shinji is a bit OOC. Perhaps he is, but
please be advised that I am going somewhere with all of this. All will be revealed as I
continue this little excursion, I promise, so please be patient with me. Things should begin to
become more clear in the next installment. Also, I do apologize if this was heavy on the
thoughts but very light on things happening. I know that there wasn't any character
interaction, but then, that was the point of this piece, simple reflections of the main
characters. As such, I realize that this willnot meet with everyone's likings, but I do feel
that your patience will be well rewarded.

But please, as always, tell the author how he is doing. Even if you loathe and despise it!
E-mail Lord Malachite at ranger_writer@yahoo.com Thanks for your time!

Standard Fanfic Legal Lambada Type Thing--I don't have anything to do with Neon Genesis
Evangelion. I didn't produce 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. Some assembly required. Your
mileage may vary. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Thanks you've all been a great
crowd, don't forget to tip your servers on the way out. Amen.