The following incorporates characters, situations and settings which are derived from the copyrighted works of Studio Gainax/Khara. This story was inspired in part by Harold Ramis and Trevor Albert.
Now you always say
That you want to be free
Shinji Ikari woke up to the terrible realization that his S-Dat was broken. His alarm clock beeped incessantly and he batted at it, failing to turn it off and instead hitting the radio, which he never used. Since he never used it, it was tuned to a station he never listened to, and, naturally, turned all the way up.
Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is!
"Turn that shit off!" Asuka screamed from across the hall, where she lay in her own bedroom.
Shinji sighed and turned the alarm off. He closed his eyes and let himself start to drift to sleep again. After all, there was no school today. Even Misato was off from NERV. Sleep almost reached him, pressing at his eyes and the back of his throat like a taste he couldn't quite recall, and his limbs started to sink into the thin cushion of his futon in relaxation.
"Well," Asuka demanded from outside his door, "you woke me up. Get your bony ass out here and cook me some breakfast."
Slowly, he sat up, shrugged on an old t-shirt, and walked out into the apartment. Asuka sat at the kitchen table, her head propped on one hand, fiddling with the crossword puzzle in the paper. She rested the eraser of her pencil against her lower lip, pulling it away from her pearly white teeth for a moment, brow furrowed in concentration. Shinji paused for a moment to look at her.
He was of two minds about his roommate. For one thing, she was beautiful, the way that Misato was beautiful, but even more so. There were other girls in his class he looked at now and again (never speaking to them, of course) but they were pretty or hot where she was something different entirely. It was hard to describe, a sort of cumulative effect. Even sitting at the table in a loose fitting yellow t-shirt and cutoffs, her hair a frizzy mess, she seemed to glow. Every detail about her fascinated him, even the dimples above her collarbone, which is what he was staring at when she noticed him.
"Get your eyeballs off me, pervert," she snapped. "Food. Now."
He was of two minds about her for a reason.
Saying nothing, he sighed and pulled out the loaf of bread, hunting for the toaster which for some reason Misato had unplugged and turned upside down. When he held it up he came to the startling realization that she'd washed it. In the sink. With soap.
"Ummm," he said.
"What is it now?"
"I think Misato broke the toaster,"
Asuka sighed. "Whatever. Just fry me some eggs."
He opened the refrigerator.
He closed the refrigerator. He opened the other refrigerator.
"No eggs," he sighed.
She eyed him dangerously. "Then go get some."
He looked at her for a moment, but she already turned back to her puzzle and was studiously ignoring him, tapping her bare foot against the floor. Her legs were… Eggs. Right.
He stopped in his room, stepped into a pair of sweat pants, and strode out of the apartment in flip flops, some yen and his Nerv ID stuffed in his pockets. As soon as he stepped onto the sidewalk he regretted his choice of attire. It was blisteringly hot. Above, a dense patchwork of clouds rested on Tokyo-3 like a lid on a pot, fuzzing the sun into a great milky white plate. With no eggs on it.
The walk to the store was unpleasant. By the time he reached it, a trickle of sweat slid down his chest and his shirt clung to his back and sides. He brushed the hair out of his face, wiped the sweat away from his brow, and stepped inside into the blessed air conditioning, involuntarily taking a deep, cooling breath. He slowed his walk as he made his way to the back of the store, closing his eyes as the heat radiated from his skin. He froze when he reached the egg case.
There were no eggs.
There were no eggs.
Sighing, he walked back to the front of the store. He'd have to jog down to the next store, or he'd never make it back in time for breakfast, even at this hour. The old man at the front of the store caught his eye as he was leaving. He hesitated, his hand on the door.
"Ain't no eggs," the old man said, not looking up from the paper. "Truck overturned, big traffic mess on the south side of town. Egg truck is late. Be here this afternoon."
Shinji sagged in defeat and pushed open the door.
"Hey kid," the old man said.
"What's a seven letter word for the 'cycle of death and rebirth'"?
"Kids," the old man muttered, "what do they teach you these days?"
Dejected, he walked out onto the road, his hands in his pockets.
What was he going to do now?
Shrugging, he started making his way back to the apartment, already starting to sweat in the excessive heat. He was surprised to find Asuka bounding down the front steps in that dress. Of all the clothes she could wear today, she had to wear that dress, the pale yellow silk that left her shoulders and back exposed. She shrugged her purse over her shoulder and straightened her hat.
"I'm going to the arcade with Hikari," she announced in passing, "tell Jack Daniels up there not to wait up. I've got my phone."
Sighing, he trudged back up the steps to the apartment, and nearly tripped and broke his neck when the strap on his flip-flop broke. He dumped both of them in the trash as he wandered back into the kitchen, took a soda out of the refrigerator, and turned around to find Misato using several towels and her naked, glistening wet body to test the strength of the law of surface tension against the law of gravity while simultaneously pushing the laws of decency. Shinji blushed up to his hairline and turned around.
"Don't be such a prude," Misato teased, padding into the kitchen on her bare feet. She reached past him into the refrigerator, took a beer, and he stiffed when her terrycloth-ensconced bust brushed his back. In both senses of the word.
Still facing away, with his eyes pressed tightly shut, Shinji squeaked, "Hikari. Arcade."
"Okay," Misato said absently, wandering out of the kitchen. A moment later a pile of towels landed in the hallway. "I'm going out shopping with some of the girls from NERV. I'm going to a wedding tonight with Kaji. I'll see you later."
She passed by the kitchen a moment later in a black minidress and heels, adjusting her earrings. Her raven hair flashed as she closed the apartment door behind her. He stood in the kitchen in his sweats and his sweat and glanced at the calendar and oh shit.
The tears stung the edges of his eyes. He forgot. It was this day. He had to hurry, or he'd be late, although some part of him didn't know why he cared.
Thankfully alone, he didn't have to worry about someone walking in on him or yelling at him for daring to be naked in his own house, so he managed to get into his school uniform quickly enough, although the shower did little good, as he was already sweaty by the time he got to the train. He flopped into the hard plastic seat and let the swaying of the train nearly rock him to sleep. It was a twenty minute ride to the memorial, and he had an hour to get there. He realized he'd forgotten his S-Dat player and flicked absently at his ears, in the habit of adjusting his earbuds. When the speakers chimed and the doors opened, he stepped out onto the platform and coughed, the hot, wet air sting his lungs.
From here, he had to walk.
Near the end of the line, there were few buildings. In the harsh haze of the morning heat, the world seemed closed in, like a blanket wrapped around him. He thrust his hands in his pockets and walked, no longer caring that he'd be soaked by the time he made it to the memorial. He wished he'd brought some water. Maybe he'd remember next year. If there was a next year.
He had about twenty minutes of lead time when he finally made it to the marker, and so he stood there, just staring at it. He nearly jumped out of his skin when his father approached; he hadn't even noticed the VTOL landing, he was so deeply locked in thought.
The older man was tall and spare and thin, and despite wearing a full suit with a jacket and even gloves in the sweltering heat, not a drop of sweat moved on his face. He regarded Shinji with those cold, cold eyes through lenses tinted orange as if to give them the illusion of heat. Shinji looked up at him and back down at the grave.
"It's been three years since the last time we came here together."
"I ran away, then, and I haven't been back since. It just hasn't sunk in that Mother is resting here. I don't even remember her face."
"Man survives by forgetting his memories, but there are some things a man should never forget. Yui taught me about those things. I come here to remind myself of that."
"You have no pictures?"
"There are none left. This grave, too, is an artifice. An empty marker."
"So my teacher was right, you threw it all away."
"I keep everything of her in my heart. That is all I need. I must go."
Shinji said nothing until the man was a good ten feet away. "It was good seeing you today," he said lamely.
Shinji sighed and blinked the dust out of his eyes as the backwash from the VTOL slid over him, almost pushing him back a step. Was that Ayanami in the window?
The rest of his day was like a dream. He got off the train early, wandered places he'd never been before. He found himself passing the school around midday, and made his way back to the apartment. By then he was drenched in sweat, and once in a while he could rub his arm on his forehead and flick moisture onto the ground, where it steamed. It was so hot he thought he was going to pass out. He ended up stopping in the same store where he'd been that morning, and bought a bottle of water to sip on the last leg of his journey. The old man eyed him.
"Eggs'r in," he said.
Shinji shrugged. It was too late. Tomorrow was a school day. They'd pack lunches anyway, and… eh. He shrugged, took his water, and made his way home.
Lacking anything better to do, he showered again, a cold one this time, and finished the water. He looked around the apartment, realized he was alone for a while, and pulled his cello into the living room. He took a seat in a chair, got the bow, and started to play, a Mozart suite he'd wanted to practice first, but the nothing in particular, just the feel of the music. He opened his eyes and started when he realized it was dark, and Asuka was watching him.
"You're not bad," she shrugged, sipping a soda.
"I started when I was five," he explained. "No one ever told me to stop."
"That does sound like you," she rolled her eyes as she got up. The phone rang, and she picked it up. She listened for a moment.
"Yeah," she said a little sadly, and put the receiver down just a bit too hard. She shrugged her shoulders. "Misato is out drinking. She said not to wait up."
Shinji shrugged. "Fine," he said.
Asuka flopped on the couch and turned on the television, then began clicking through the channels. Shinji found a manga in his room that Kensuke had given him, started flipping through it, realized it was about giant robots, and then tossed it in the corner. He sat down on the couch, a fair distance from Asuka, and started watching whatever she was watching.
"What do you want to watch?" she said idly, not looking at him.
He slumped in the couch. "Whatever you want."
She huffed. "You're really boring, you know that?"
He said nothing as she flipped from channel to channel, until she settled on some old rubber Kaiju movie for a moment, snorted, and changed the channel. Shinji suppressed a laugh at that. He couldn't believe they still played that crap on television. Finally she landed on some badly dubbed American movie, some kind of superhero story from the looks about it, about a man with spider-powers. Shinji watched for a while, noting the nonsensical nature of kissing upside down, and in the rain no less.
"Hey," Asuka said idly. "I'm bored."
Shinji sighed. "Me too."
"What do you want to do?"
He leaned back and looked up at the ceiling. He almost jumped when he realized she was getting closer to him.
"I have an idea," she said, smirking dangerously.
"What?" he said, his voice trembling a bit. Her past ideas had included such greatest hits as punching him and dressing him up in one of her plug suits.
He froze. "What?"
"You know, kiss. Lips mashing together. You've never done it, right? Let's do it."
"That's not much of a reason to kiss," Shinji stammered.
"What," Asuka said slyly. "Are you scared? You don't want to kiss a girl on the anniversary of your mom's death? Afraid she's watching you from heaven?"
Shinji sank into the seat. "Not… not really…"
"Or are you scared?"
"I'm not scared!"
"You brushed your teeth, didn't you?" she said, looking earnestly at him.
He nodded. "But-"
She was right in his face. He closed his eyes in anticipation, the blush creeping up his cheeks.
"Don't breathe," she said, "it tickles."
She reached up and settled her fingers on the bridge of his nose, and then pinched his nostrils together. He gasped as her lips met his, closing on his lower lip. His eyes shot wide as hers closed, and he froze, unable to move. What was he supposed to do? What was he supposed to-
It was over as quickly as it began. "Blecch," she snorted, "not something to do to kill time."
She danced up from the sofa and ran into the bathroom. A moment later he heard the sound of furious gurgling. He sat on the couch, feeling suddenly heavy, as if the force of gravity had tripled. Moving slowly, robotically, like a diver under water, he got up, walked into his room, and flopped on his futon. There he slipped his earbuds in his ears and turned on the S-Dat. Except it didn't work, of course. He left the buds in anyway and covered his ears with his hands.
Time passed. He heard Kaji half drag Misato back into the house, a whispered conversation with Asuka, the front door slamming. Asuka running into her room and throwing herself roughly to the floor. He pressed his hands tighter against his head as tears began to flow, his pillow clinging to his cheek.
"It's not fair," he moaned softly to himself. "One good day. I just want one good day. It's not fair."
In time, he drifted off to a fitful sleep, and dreamed of spinning wheels and giants from beyond the stars, and the soft voice of someone that may have been his mother.
His S-Dat being broken wasn't a surprise today, but the song on the radio was.
Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is…
"Turn that shit off!" Asuka screamed.
Shinji flinched. Two days in a row. He sat up, at least this time he had a reason to rise. Today was a school day. Asuka should have been up already anyway, she was probably just taking yesterday out on him. Knowing her, she'd thrown herself at Kaji last night, got shot down, and was going to give him hell all day because of it. He resigned himself to walking out into the kitchen.
"Well, you woke me up. Get your bony ass out here and make me some breakfast."
He sighed. The toaster was still broken, so he ignored it and went for the… right, no eggs. He stopped with his hand on the refrigerator door.
"What do you want in your lunch box?" he said, pulling out some horrid instant food Misato had stowed for such an occasion.
"My what?" Asuka snapped, looking up from the paper.
"Your lunch. You know, for school?"
"It's Sunday, dummy, we don't have school today."
He froze. "What?"
"Don't you know what day it is?"
"Whatever," she muttered. "Fry me some eggs."
"We don't have any," he said absently, already moving towards his bedroom.
"How do you know? You didn't even look."
He paused, opened the refrigerator, the right one this time, and stood there dumb for a moment. "No eggs."
"Then go get some," she snapped.
Robotically, he went to his room, slipped on his pants, and… his flip flops, sitting by the front door. He was almost out the door when Asuka called after him.
"Hey," she said, "what's a seven letter word for 'cycle of death and rebirth'?"
...to be continued.