Disclaimer: The following is a non-profit work of fan fiction based on the anime and manga Neon Genesis Evangelion by Hideaki Anno and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and Studio Gainax. Winner winner chicken dinner.

Changing Seasons

by: JErosion


Chapter 01

The seasons never really change. They are still obsevered, but only as irrelevant dates on calanders. In some of the school's textbooks there are pictures of what the seasons use to be like. Photographs of winter scenery was offent the subject of much fascination, particularly for those who had never known the sight of snow. Autumn was equally as captivating. There was an undenialable magic to that season. Trees would burst into a brillant array of warm colors. There would be sunny yellows, vibrant oranges and deep reds. But it wasn't that way anymore. In a way trees were alot like people. They seem to be lost, mostly keeping to a cycle similar to that of evergreens. Their leaves just occasionally turning brown and falling off, with new growth sometimes taking weeks or even months to replace. It's the same across the world. The seasons were no loner, things more or less continue until they tire out. Most of the time. There was always the occasional anomaly. A few trees here or there would choose to defy the perpetual summer and suddenly continue like they did before second impact. It was not limited any particular species, or genius, it was just perhaps one tree out of every one hundred thousand. The reason that these few trees break away from there brethern was a complete mystery to botanists. There was alot of theories on the matter. One was the idea that the world was finally healing it's self. Another was that they could only hold off the natural cycle for so long. But maybe it was simply out of nostalga.

And with a hard slap, the Third Child was pulled from his reverie.

"Off yer ass Shinji!"

Shinji staggered forward a little, immediatly rubbing the back of his head. Looking behind him, Touji was giving him a scowl, holding an old dustpan in a treatening manner. School had already let out and both of them along with some other classmates had cleanup duty that day.

"You didn't have to hit me."

"Yeah I did. Caus' if yer are off daydreamin'. We..." A smile replaced his angry face as his voice dropped to a whisper "We won't be able to get in a good peep."

"um , A good peep?"

"Yeah, it's all part of da plan. Why else would I volunteer to do da stairs."

He still didn't know what his friend was talking about. 'The Plan' only fully dawned on Shinji as he watched Touji not only kneel down and begin scrub a part of the floor that he was fairly sure that had already been cleaned before, but also used it as an opprortunity glace up the skirt of a girl that had just past them.

"Touji, I'm not like that."

"Shhhh! Keep yer voice down," he said looking around, "An besides I know you wanna look too, we can trade off."

Sighing he turned away from him, casting one more look out the neaby window and to the trees that decorated the school's courtyard. It wasn't like he didn't think about things like that. Sure he wanted to have a girlfriend, and expore the nicer and gentler side of the opposite sex. But it just wasn't a possiblity. In his mind there was always the morbid notion that one day he would get into his Evangelion and never come out again. And on some level girls scared him, living with Misato and Asuka didn't help either. He already had to deal with he 'frustrations' of living with those two women, he didn't need anymore. And the manner in which Touji was going about just seemed...

"Common, Shinji." Touji call out, still trying to convence him, "Its real easy all ya gots to do is just sit here an' pretent to wash da floor an' when they pass by ya just till yer head an..."

The jock's sudden silence got Shinji's attention. Following Touji's line of sight he understood why, at the top of the stairs stood Hikari Horaki, the class representative. And she wore an expression that looked absolutely murderous, especially since Touji's didn't bother to lower his voice during his last little explaination of 'The Plan.'

"SU...ZU...HA...RA!" The class rep was shaking with anger, delievering each syllable with vemon.

"Damn! Dem's da last panties I wanted ta see!" cried Touji, as he jumped backwards from his position on the floor.

"STOP RIGHT THERE!"

The enraged Horaki girl began immediate pursuit of the retreating boy, making the distance from the top of the stairs to the landing in a single step. She landed gracfully in front of him with a clenched and ready fist. The whole thing in Shinji's opinon was comical, or at least it would have been had Touji not slamed right into him as he tried to get away.

The two of them, along with the mop and a bucket of cleaning supplies went tumbling down the rest of the stairs, landing in a tangled heap on the first floor.

Above them Hikari gasped.

"Um, " She began, her voice turning from anger to concern "a-Are you guys ok?"

It took a second or two for the boys to right themselves.

"Geez, ya didn't haff to attack me." Touji mumbled, while rubbing his shoulder. He was looking rather sheepish at the moment.

"Well what exactly do you call what you... were..."

Shinji suddenly felt uncomfortable as Hikari broke off of her tirade brough her focus entirely on him.

"Ikari your bleeding!"

Shinji blinked a bit and looked down at himself discovering that he indeed was bleeding, with a line of dark red running down his left arm.

"You need to go to the Infirmary."

"Oh, no it's nothing really."

"No, no, We really need to get that disinfected."

"But you don't have to." But it was too late, the Class Rep was already ushering him towards the Nurses's Office.

"Hey I'm kinda busted up too."

"YOU clean up this mess, or I show you BUSTED UP!" She yelled at the cowering jock from over her shoulder.

Shinji had never been to the school's infirmary before. It was long room with beds and the windows along one wall and rows of cabinets on the other. At the opposite side of the room was the nurse's desk. Hikari guided him in pasted the beds and the privacy curtains, only to discover that the room was abandon. The school's nurse had long since left for the evening. So duty bound, Hikari set Shinji down on a stool before retrieving a first aid kit from one of the nearby cabinets to do the work herself.

"I'm sorry, it's my fault." said with a sigh.

Shinji looked at her in wonder, as she gingerly applied hydrogen peroxide to the cut. It was easy to see how she became friends with Asuka. She had just as wide of an emotional range as the redhead, and could as just as easily traverse those feelings at a moments notice. One moment she was an avenging girl and next the gental big sister. A small smile slowly formed on his face as she worked.

"It's alright, it was just an accident."

She didn't respond immediatly, being lost in her own thoughts.

"So. Why are you friends with such a goofball?"

"huh?"

"Touji. I mean... well... both of them actually. um, Suzuhara and Aida. They're both preverts and they are constantly getting in trouble." She blushed at the mention of Touji.

"Yeah, they do. I think they both like the attention that they get, but they're not that bad. And if it wasn't for them..." he paused, looking for the right words, "I probably wouldn't have any friends here."

Hikari looked up at him, only to see that he ment what he said, or at least he truely believed it. But then again how could he not, being a pilot and doing what he did was more likely to attract the selfish sort of people that only want to be friends with him in order to improve their own social standing. If it wasn't for Asuka living in such close proximity with him, he would probably have girls swarming all over him, wanting him as some sort of trophy. Granted there were a few that admired him on some level and had some real affection for the boy, but they were just a small minority that was offen too shy to even speak with any boy, let alone him.

She returned to her work applying the mild aseptic to the wound. She was tempted to ask Shinji more about Touji, she really wanted to, but it was too embrassing to bring up the boy that she had been developing a crush on. Especially after what he did on the stairs. She liked Touji, but he could be so infuriating at times. And on some level what the jock had said somehow hurt. 'Dem's da last panties I wanted ta see.' She sighed mentally. Not that she would mind being the subject of an appreciative eye. But getting such an unsolicited look at her panties just wasn't allowed. But then again it wasn't her panties he wanted to see. It would be nice if he would just notice her. Just like it would be nice if he didn't ogle every girl that had a short skirt or had breasts bigger than his head. She sighed mentally again, this time at her own inadequacies. Sure she wasn't flat, a very full A or small B depending on manufacturer, but damn it, that shouldn't matter. Just why couldn't he look at her?

It was even more discouraging for her since she had caught him on more than once occasion looking at Asuka, despite their supposed hatred of one another. Maybe they actually liked each other, their bickering just being an outlet for feelings they're unwilling to express openly. Maybe it would be better not to try to get involved with him. Just why couldn't Touji be more like... like... Shinji. She had to stop and think about him. She always considered him kind of cute, not handsome, but certainly not bad looking. In class he was always kind and considerate. And since his arrivial had never been involved in any of his friend's more questionable activities. Was he the prevert Asuka claimed he was? No, she couldn't bring herself to believe that. The only thing really bad about him was his doleful nature, which made him a little hard to approach. She ventured a quick look up, but quickly brought her vision back down when she made eye contact him.

As far a Shinji was concerned, he could have just washed off the blood at the sink in the bathroom. But the longer he sat there, the more he felt like there was something wrong with the girl that was tending his arm. She was just acting weird. At first when she started she got this odd unfocused look in her eyes. Her eyebrows knitted in what was either worry or contemplation. Then she started to make these quick glances up at him, her cheeks turning a little more pink each time their eyes met. Further more if she kept cleaning his arm, she'd just reopen the cut.

"um, Ms. Horaki is there something wrong?"

Her cheeks flushed red this time. She had this odd little mental evaluation of both Touji and Shinji running though her head. With each second Shinji was pulling ahead in points. But no matter how hard she tried to put them out of her mind, Touji's words wouldn't leave her.

"um, You didn't see did you?"

"ah, See what?"

"On the stairs..." She stopped tending to him and folded her hands together in her lap. She lowered her face until it was obscured by her bangs.

Not being the quickest, it took him a moment or two to figure out what she was asking. Only being helped along by her fingers, which fidgeted with hem of her uniform. He could have given into peer pressure and gained a view of her underwear. But no he wasn't like that, at least he didn't want to be.

"ah, No I didn't." he answered honestly.

That was a small comfort to her, and it was another point in Shinji's favor. But still Touji's words still bitterly repeated themselves in her head.

"I don't think anyone wants to." she muttered, thinking out loud. It was a depressing line of thought, that she could be just be undesirable. Touji wasn't the first to catch her interest. There had been two others before him, but in the end one just ignored her and other flat out rejected her in favor of another girl.

Though her voice was low, Shinji still heard her. But what could he say? Or would it even be appropiate to say anything at all. This was usually the point where awkward silence prevailed. Somebody says something out of context or something embrassing and all dialogue ceases. It was something he was all too familar with that. Really it was in essence, the story of his life. Awkward moments and stillborn conversations. Just being a crying child left behind at train station.

Shinj couldn't begin to imagine what was bothering Hikari. He had enough trouble sorting out his own feelings, let alone a girl's. But someone who went thru class so chipper, it distrubed him to see her in such a state. He couldn't say why it affected him that way, it just did. If Asuka was here, she'd know what to do and to say to her friend. He tried to put some thought into how the red-head might react, but could only come up with her calling him 'Baka' and telling him to 'Mind his own damn business'. Yet he couldn't just let it go, something deep in his phyche wouldn't permit it. It would be so much easier to ignor it. However on another level he was tired of running away from things, always backing off when he should take a stand.

'Shinji, you've got to stand on your own two feet, and learn to walk on your own.' Those where the last true words spoken to him by his father, when he was abandoned by him. Metaphors aside, it was true. He needed to. Even if it was in small steps. If he couldn't reach out to a girl, how could stand against those who would just use him? How could he ever face his father? He took a deep breath.

"um, well I'm sure there are... ah, well... You are pretty...ah..." His voice trailed off. That went well. He was now convinced that he would have done better not to try and have said anything at all. And hoping the next time he wanted to take a stab at self improvement, he'd remember to just shut up and try to disappear. His face was burning the same shade of red as the Class Rep. He glanced over to a clock that hung high on the wall. Yep, the conversation was pronounced dead at 4:48pm, due to complications with stupidity.

She said nothing, although she was almost certain he could hear her heart beat. She had never been told she was pretty before, not by anyone. She couldn't even recall her mother telling her that. She had never been 'pretty' or 'beautiful', such terms were deservingly placed with Kodama. Her outgoing personality and well developed figure, garnered much attention. Maybe once long ago she had been 'cute', but even that monicker was no longer hers, it had been past on to Nozomi. Being the middle child, she was resigned to such terms as 'the reliable one' or 'the good girl'. Those were the labels of her relatives, labels that she had secretly come to despise. But hearing 'you are pretty' was... unexpected. Especially from Shinji. And to hear it wasn't just uplifting, it also implied attraction. Suddenly the Osaka boy was fading from her mind, and Shinji stood in his place. Shinji Ikari, a boy that lived an uncertain life. The pilot of a giant robot. A person who risked his life selflessly. The first person in her life to say she was pretty.

"Did you want to see?" She instantly clamped her hands over her mouth. Completely in shock of herself. Where the hell did that come from? I sound like such a slut. The look on Shinji's face easily mirrored her own. She waved her hands in denial. "No, no just kidding, I didn't mean it!"

Even with the denial Shinji was still holding an expression worthy of the proverbiable deer in headlights. This was the class representative a person who was held to a much higher standard than other students and with certain expectations of responsiblity and morality. Something like that wasn't suppost to come out of her mouth. And to hear her saying such a thing, and slipping up in the most freudian of ways, made him realize something rather important. That she wasn't just some low level authority figure in school, she was a girl. And was she pretty like he said? Shinji had to say yes. Her eyes were an odd shade that shifted so much in tone, he had to say they were hazel. Save for a few freckles on her cheeks, her skin was flawless. Her hair was almost black and had a silken quality, which helped to frame her face nicely. She had long eye-catching legs, complete with a slim athletic figure. Her neck was long and slender as well, a trait he personally found alluring. If it wasn't for her quick denial and her sputtering attempts to change the subject, he may had been temped to answered her question with a shaky nod and a nearly breathless 'Yes.'

With as much embarassment as she could tolerate, Hikari quickly finished Shinji's arm by haphazardly setting a bandage over the cut. Trying to place as much distance between them as possible she almost tripped taking the first aid kit back to it's cabinet. Shinji's eyes followed her, guility taking advantage of her back being turned to him. Taking in the smooth skin of her calves and and the shape her backside. His view was still traveling up her figure when suddenly he found her reflection in the the glass of the cabinet's door. He was caught looking, there was no way to deny it. Shinji tried to will his mouth to move, to try to issue some apology. But his mouth wasn't listening to him, neither was his rest of his body, as he couldn't turn away.

Hikari could see him in the glass, it wasn't an intentional thing. She just closed the door and there was his mirror image, still on the stool were she placed him ealier. Her heart was still pounding. Even more so as it became clear that he was looking at her. She was confused. Just minutes ago she was pining over the disinterest of Touji, and now she was getting flustered over another boy. Was she so desperate that she would fall for a guy who said something nice and was checking her out? But why would he even be checking you out, said that little voice of doubt in her head. Maybe he was just being nice. Calling her 'pretty' just because it was a nice thing to say to her. She all too aware of her own desires. It was just what she wanted. While she would always have the love of her sisters and father, she needed more than that. To find someone that was attracted to her, somebody who would love her. But she couldn't just delude herself, on account of a lie. She was never 'pretty', that voice reminded her again. But, oh how she wanted to be. She had to know of if he was being genuine. She had to be sure.

She took a deep breath, to try and calm the knot that was rising in her chest and throat. She couldn't turn and ask him, it would be too difficult. Hikari blinked a few times to beat back the blurriness in her eyes, she to at least she how his reflection reacted.

"I know I'm guilty of saying things that I shouldn't... but you know... you shouldn't just say things like that to a girl either... you shouldn't just call them 'pretty' ... if you don't mean it."

It was now his turn to feel confused. That didn't make any sense at all to him. He had just given what was probably the boldest complement he had ever made to a girl, and somehow he managed to offended her. There was no mistaking the hitch in her voice. A tiny push and she'd be in tears. That wasn't anything he'd ever wish to see.

Was there some secret rule that specified not to call a girl pretty? When did that happen? Why hadn't anybody pulled him aside and told him. What should he say? What should he do? He broke away, lowering his eyes to the floor. He couldn't leave it like this, he had already gone too far. What was it that Kaji said? 'Shinji my boy, when it comes to women just remember to be honest and be yourself.' Of coarse right after wards the man then laughed and said 'Now if i can only remember to follow my own advice I wouldn't be in so much trouble myself.' But ultimately what could he do with such advice. 'Being himself' was no good and 'being honest' had different risks. He could just end up offending her further and then... Ah, Fuck It!

'Shinji, you've got to stand on your own two feet, and learn to walk on your own.'

"right." he whispered in response to the memory. He stood up from the stool. "I'm sorry," he started, he then looked straight ahead at her reflection. "I didn't mean to offend you but... regardless of what you might think... you ARE pretty." There he said it. He made his peace and would accept what ever came. He couldn't keep second guessing everyone, including himself.

Hikari, brought her arms up across her chest and hugged herself. She was pretty. Not only did he say it, but he said it so confidently, with just a touch of anger. Like how could she possibly doubt that she was. How could she ever question herself.

Shinj was left speechless as she turned around to face him. With the first glow of sunset coming thru the window it gave her a cinematic look. Her hair fluttered up, a soft glow of pink adorn her cheeks. Her eye's, which just a moments before was breaming with tears, sparkled. And most of all her smile was brillant in a way he had rarely seen before.

"Thank you,... Shinji."

His cheeks colored with the use of his first name.

"y-Your welcome, Hikari."

"You can go ahead and go home now,... I'll just make sure Suzuhara has finished putting things away." she slowly walked out of the room, only pausing briefly at the entry way to make a one last look back. That smile never leaving her face.

She was happy, happier than she had ever felt before. She was practically skipping down the hall. He called her pretty, and now she felt that way. She stopped and looked back towards the Infirmary. But what now? She leaned herself up against the wall and placed her hand over her heart. She didn't want to give up this feeling. She'd fight for it, that was certain. But as to how far was she willing go for it, she wasn't sure. She had no intention to offer her body to Shinji. But she did want to talk to him, and spend time with the Third Child. She wanted to know what he thought of her. She wanted to hear him call her 'pretty' again. And then in time maybe we would... she blushed. It was too early for such thoughts. She turned and continued on her way, looking forward to the next time they would meet.

Still in the Nurse's office slowly walk over to the window. Looking briefly at the trees that swayed in the early evening breeze. Maybe it was too premature to discount the idea of making a stand on certain things in his life. It was ironic that the worse day in his life was could become largest source of strength. And way in which Hikari was acting, was... he smiled. Suddenly he felt as though something new was coming, something good.


Author's note: This is pretty much my first piece of fan fiction. Just a little something i wrote while waiting around for downloads to complete. My goal is to try and write a slow Hikari/Shinji romance. I should note that future chapters may cross into lime and lemon territory, but that won't be for a while. The next chapter will be out when it's out. And I would also like to thank the kind folks over at Tales from Apartment 402 for their encouragement. Thanks guys!