Ikari Shinji sat on a snow-dusted curb in the middle of Tokyo-3. People bustled about, going home from work, families out to have Christmas dinner and buying last-minute gifts. The city was getting ready for the impending night ahead.

Just as the last light left the grey sky, and the street lamps buzzed with artificialness, Shinji heard the sound of lone footsteps approaching him.

"Ikari-kun?" Rei's delicate voice danced in his ears and he stiffened when she sat beside him. "May I join you?"

Shinji knew his answer was not needed, considering she was already sitting there on the curb with him.

She looked ahead into the now empty streets, gazing curiously as a few flakes of snow floated through the crisp air.

Above, tiny squares illuminated happy families eating lavish dinners in their warm homes. A mother giving her good little boys and girls bedtime kisses. Fathers reading heroic bedtime stories. Families opening long-awaited Christmas presents wrapped in red and green paper.

"How's Gendo?" Shinji's voice broke the silence. Rei's head swiveled to face him, tracing his gaze to the rectangles of light in the sky.

"He is quite well actually." Rei answered truthfully.

Shinji coughed deliberately, scaring away a few pigeons nearby into dark alleyways.

"How is Misato-san?" Rei asked, obviously thinking it was some sort of casual banter.

"Probably drunk as usual....." Shinji mumbled, shooting an unseen glare at the girl next to him before returning his gaze to watch a little boy unwrap a fire engine from red foil paper.

"Why are you out here on Christmas eve?" Rei questioned curiously. "Why not inside, eating a nice dinner?"

"Why are you out here?" Shinji shot back at her.

"I asked you first."

"I'd be alone and bored no matter where I went, so why NOT here?"

-

"Baka Shinji..." Asuka called into the chill air, her feet crunching on the icy sidewalk. "Shinji... Damn you, you'll freeze if you stay out here....."

-

"I'm here to give you your Christmas present." Rei whispered, smiling radiantly. Before Shinji had a chance to react, Rei leaned forward and kissed him.

-

Asuka sighed and turned yet another corner of the maze that was Tokyo-3. What she saw around that next corner made her stop dead in her tracks.

-

Of course, being so surprised by it, he forgot that he was supposed to push her away. He planted his hands firmly on the ground and, despite the fact that his mind was screaming at him, kissed her back.

"You are never alone, Ikari-kun. Merry Christmas." Rei whispered, giving Shinji a warm hug and disappeared into a dark alleyway, glancing sideways at something behind where they had been sitting.

Asuka stood, mouth agape, staring at the retreating form of Rei and then at Shinji, still sitting on the curb. He was looking almost equally surprised, but the look wore off into one of sadness.

"Ehh?" Asuka finally managed, making Shinji nearly jump out of his skin.

"Asuka-chan!" Shinji stuttered, now standing on the street facing her. "I- I didn't see you there....."

She recovered and regarded him thoughtfully. "Shinji was lonely and thought he'd get wonder girl to help him huh? Awwww, poor baka-Shinji, can't find a real girlfriend so he has to force clones into kissing him." Asuka taunted.

Having pushed some of Shinji's buttons that shouldn't be pushed, Shinji stood quietly, dangerously, snowflakes entangling themselves in his unmoving eyelashes.

"You don't know." Shinji's voice began low. "You don't know a damn thing about me, SO STOP ASSUMING THINGS THAT AREN'T TRUE!"

Asuka's eyebrows rose in surprise. Baka-Shinji was contradicting her? Had he grown a spine?

"Or maybe he's got a crush on the doll. What a merry little Christmas present that musta been eh?" A sly look crept upon the red head's face, accompanied by an amused smile.

"Why'd you come looking for me, bitch," Shinji spat coldly, his hot breath coming out as small clouds of fog.

"Misato-san made me." said 'bitch' grumbled.

"Misato isn't at the apartment, she's out at some bar. Why'd you really come looking for me?"

Asuka was caught off guard. Why was she out here looking for him? It was Christmas right? She should be with her friends and family..... which was Shinji.

Fueled by her silence, Shinji continued. "Don't tell me you actually came out here looking for me on your own accord..... That would have to be a first. You should be back with all your little friends having a nice dinner."

"You're my friends and family....." Asuka whispered inaudibly. Luckily for Shinji, he could read lips pretty well and caught it. The look on his face changed from angry to confused in an instant.

"Since when was I you're friend?" He whispered. "Since when did you notice that I could even be a friend?"

"It's Christmas..... friends and family are supposed to get together and be happy." Asuka whispered, unwanted tears bringing themselves into her eyes.

Shinji's head bowed sadly, his black hair hiding eyes.

"Come home Shinji....." Asuka whispered.

Silence.

"Answer me....." She stared at Shinji's bowed head. "Come home....."

"All the time I've known you all you have done is insult me." Shinji began. "And now you just come out of nowhere and tell me that I'm your friend? What changed?"

Asuka jumped at the expression on his face as he lifted his head slowly to gaze at her. It was full of emotion; confusion, sadness, sincerity.

Instead of getting a direct answer, he got another question.

"Do you really love wonder-girl?"

"No..... someone else already stole my heart, and they abused it."

"Nani? Who?"

"You know who, just think about what I said."

".....me?" Asuka whispered into the thin, freezing air.

"Hai." He paused thoughtfully "If you don't stop beating my heart, sooner or later it's going to break."

"I'll do something better." She smiled. "How about a Christmas gift?"

"Huh?"

Asuka closed the small distance between them in two steps. Her face collided lightly with his, bringing Shinji into his second kiss that night. Boy was he lucky sometimes.

This time, he wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her up into his arms, still kissing her. Her tiny hand clasped each other behind his neck and pulled him closer.

"Merry Christmas Shinji." Asuka whispered. "Let's go home."

At that, with Asuka nestled happily in his arms, Shinji walked back to the warm apartment to share a fancy Christmas dinner with his 'family.'