The Evangelion franchise is Studio Gainax property. I've used it without permission, but trust they will not take legal action against me as I am not making money from doing so.
She had thought something about the kid had been, well, off, but it became cemented in her mind when he murmured "Yeah…" and shuffled off to the entry plug. He listlessly clambered up, over, and into the thing without a single aside glance or asking what to do. The way he did it… it was as if he'd done this before, enough times that he didn't even need to think about it anymore.
Which was crazy, of course. He hadn't even seen an Evangelion before thirty seconds ago.
He'd completely ignored his father too; so much for having a father-complex. He just stared up at the man and didn't say anything until Ritsu had spoken to him again. But the way he moved just then, getting into the Eva… that took the cake.
Something's wrong, here…
Then there was the LCL. A strange liquid had flooded the cockpit, yet he hadn't said a thing. She told him to breathe it in normally but he gave no sign of having heard her, slumped as he was in the pilot's seat and staring at his hands.
Inexplicably self-conscious, she kept her voice down as she ordered the launch - her first combat operation with Nerv. Some part of her wanted to bark the order, to make herself heard to mark the occasion and assert her authority.
However, right now her thoughts were with her world-weary pilot.
She'd remembered wondering, when jumping out to grab him, what kind of idiot would rather just sit there and die than come with her. Her indignation had turned to puzzlement as he allowed himself to be manhandled into the car and just sat there in silence as she got them the hell out of there.
He hadn't said anything since. Just sat, or slouched, or shuffled. Her attempts at conversation met with indifference, and she gave up pretty quickly. It was like he just didn't give a shit, about anything. It had stunned her, frankly, when he had spoken and then taken the initiative.
He was nearly at the surface now. The Angel was still busy trying to blast its way into headquarters…wait, no. It was moving. Towards the Eva.
…panic would solve nothing, not that she was the panicking type. He needed to feel reassured right now.
... not that he looked even the slightest bit worried. She frowned. Something was definitely wrong, here.
As the Eva reached the surface he spoke, catching her off guard.
"Do I get a gun?"
The Angel had spotted him; it was facing his way.
There was a pallet rifle in the next building over. But he needed to move first. She looked to Ritsuko for affirmation, and the bottle-blonde nodded.
"Just concentrate on walking for now. Just put one foot in front of the other."
She spoke to Hyuga separately. "Open the rifle case."
He nodded and refocused on his screen, fingers tapping away at the keys.
Up on the surface, the rifle was revealed. Shinji stepped forward and took it, dropping into a crouch and lining up the shot. Before she had time to process the fact that he'd just done all of that totally unprompted, he'd fired off a burst and was steeling himself for another.
She looked to Ritsuko, flabbergasted, but her old acquaintance had nothing to say. She reached for the mike again, careful to keep her voice down again. "Shinji…"
Now he was running up to the Angel, firing bursts as he went, and in no time he was right on top of it, hitting it backward and into a building with a blow from the stock of the rifle and following up with a vicious kick which slammed it down to the ground. Pinning it underfoot, he leveled the rifle at the red orb in its chest and fired… but the gun jammed after the first shot and Misato winced.
But he had already dropped to his knees and started using the butt of the rifle to smash the orb, again and again and- and the image went white, and stayed that way. What?
She whirled around to Ritsuko. "What happened?"
She looked up from Maya's workstation, biting her lip.
"I don't know. It would appear that he killed it."
It was a tense few seconds before they re-established visual contact.
At the centre of the destruction lay the Eva, virtually untouched.
"You have been assigned quarters in our 'D' Block. Do you have any questions?"
Shinji gave her a knowing glance before replying.
"Okay. Good day."
The man departed, leaving them alone.
Again, that look as if he knew just what she wanted to say and was willing her to just spit it out already.
"Are you really okay with living on your own?"
She hadn't told him to call her Misato. There was something odd in the way he'd said that. It certainly hadn't been in the flat, inexpressive tone of before.
He stepped within arm's reach without meeting her eyes. Then, without warning, darted forward and hugged her tight.
"I want to live with you."
It was the first thing he'd said that she knew meant something to him. Even if she had no idea what that something was.
He was warm. Very warm. His embrace felt strangely comforting, even if it seemed totally unbecoming of him. How long had it been since someone held her like this?
...well. The last person to do so had been taller. She knew that much.
How could she refuse him?
They ate dinner in silence. She'd hoped he would thaw out a little more now that they'd established that they would be living together, but he seemed just as distant as before.
He sipped his beer – which he'd accepted without any fuss – and returned to quietly slurping down her special instant-dinner-mix.
PenPen chose that moment to waddle into the room, chittering as he gave Shinji a quick once-over before returning to his fridge.
Shinji met his gaze as he made his scan, before turning back to his food without a second glance. She frowned and reached for her beer again. Then stopped for a moment, hand outstretched, and decided to restart the abortive conversation she had tried to strike up when he first sat down to eat. She downed the rest of the beer in a single motion and had just opened her mouth to speak when he interrupted her again.
"Miss Akagi can't explain how I was able to kill the Angel. She said it shouldn't have been possible."
He kept his eyes firmly on his food, twirling the instant noodles around his chopsticks.
"You asked her what she had expected if she was surprised I did so well. She said that what she expected wasn't the same thing as what she wanted, and that she was glad with how things turned out even if it doesn't make sense. You said that I must just be a natural, but she doesn't think ability has anything to do with it."
He stopped playing with his chopsticks and actually picked up some curry-coated ramen to eat. He paused with the food at his lips.
"But you're not sure you believe that yourself."
He talked through his food.
"Ritsu is rarely wrong, you know that, so…"
The whole time, he hadn't really deviated from the flat tones of before the outburst over his accommodation. At least he was speaking more, even if it was weird stuff like this.
He must be one smart little cookie to guess all that from what little he's seen of us.
The room had been silent for a while now. Was he waiting for a response?
Well, it didn't matter. She would be getting this conversation back into more normal territory now.
"I think you're a pretty smart kid, and a really brave one too. Anyone can see that you're a natural pilot; I'm really glad we have you here."
She reached across the table to squeeze his hand, but it was a bit far. She ended up standing up and leaning over the table to do it.
He looked up and into her eyes. The glazed look had been overtaken by tiredness, fatigue even. But she also saw a spark of gratitude in there somewhere. A ghost of a smile played on his lips and she nearly forgot what she was going to say. She remembered and formed a proper sentence out of the sentiment just before the moment dragged on too long. She patted his hand and sat down, reaching for another beer.
"Don't worry about cleaning up or anything. Just take a bath and go to bed when you're done."
'You look exhausted,' went unsaid.
She nodded and cracked open her beer. Wait…
She looked back to Shinji, but he had already resumed eating much as he had been before, listlessly.
She dismissed her frown and allowed herself a smile at her own expense. She hadn't misheard the gratitude in his voice, but somehow 'thanks' didn't sit with her idea of his personality.
"Thank you, Misato."
He was looking her way again. She felt a twang of guilt as if he had just caught her thinking ill of him - which was stupid and she knew it. She blushed a little anyway.
"That's okay, Shinji."
Those few words on their own seemed a bit lacking, as if she was insincere.
"You did a noble thing today, Shinji. A very great and good thing."
She stopped herself before she became too insincere-sounding again.
"You should be proud."
After a few seconds of silence she took a measured swig, and he resumed eating.
Apparently her words had had no effect. If anything, he looked a little uncomfortable now.
Staring down at her dinner, she got the feeling that she had said it more for her own sake than for his. Like she was reassuring herself that it was okay for her to be a part of the madness that was using a 15-year-old boy to single-handedly defend a city.
He continued eating in silence.
Later on, in the bath, it occurred to her that she had never told him to call her 'Misato'.
Nor had she ever called Ritsuko 'Ritsu' in his presence.
Then again, 'Ritsu' was a pretty logical nickname, and he had never called her by her surname to begin with.
She settled down into the bath, with only her face remaining above the water.
His eagerness to be with her just didn't sit with his earlier and subsequent indifference to everything. And nothing could explain the way he got into the Eva, let alone what he did with it. He'd obviously had some sort of combat training, even though his profile claimed he'd had none whatsoever.
"I just don't get that kid…"
Her first, half-asleep thoughts were that she was very comfortable and it was nice and warm. She murmured something and shifted her legs.
It was a while later – how much later, she had no idea – that she found herself thinking about the arm over her waist, the head atop her shoulder and the breathing against her neck. It was slow and measured, peaceful.
She turned over to hug them properly, and draw them nearer to her. She drew them nice and close, and moved a leg up to increase that feeling of closeness.
Closeness, and comfort. Mmm.
A while after that, she felt too warm.
She pulled down the covers with one foot, so she didn't have to stop holding him.
Some time after that, the light coming in through the blinds was making everything too bright.
She hesitantly opened one eye, then another, closing them again to yawn into his hair. She hugged his head and shoulders…whose head and shoulders? Makoto wasn't this small…
She blinked again. Shinji?
More blinking. She drew back, slowly, to take a proper look.
It took a few seconds for the gears to get grinding again – she'd never been a morning person – and to confirm to herself that yes, this was Shinji. She was still holding him, actually.
… this was highly inappropriate.
Not just inappropriate. Try illegal. Possibly. They were in the same Chain of Command. Ergo, this ought to be illegal. Nerv was an oddly informal and civilian military outfit, but prohibiting this kind of thing was pretty basic and very much a standard thing.
Not that 'this kind of thing' had been anything inappropriate by the looks of it. He was still fully clothed and so was she, albeit showing a lot more skin than he was.
Gently, she let go and tried to move away.
He murmured something subtly anguished sounding, hugging her tighter and nuzzling her chest.
… this had to stop.
She reached out to pry him off of her.
He only clung tighter. She stopped short of putting real effort into it.
He started awake.
"Why the hell are you in my bed?"
Ack, morning voice.
The dazed, confused look lasted a few seconds longer. To her great surprise, it was replaced by a mortified expression and he lunged forward to hug her again, the side of his head pressed tightly against her chest.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to! I just, it was so lonely and," he sniffed – was he crying? "I couldn't sleep. I get these nightmares. They… I'm sorry…"
He squeezed her tight.
She was completely disarmed, and at something of a loss. Her words of reproach had long since died on her lips.
As he sniffed and hiccupped into her t-shirt, she realised that she wasn't doing a very good job of being comforting right now. She willed her arm down from where it had been held up in shock, folding it across his back to meet the other as it snaked around from underneath his head.
She got the belated feeling that she really should have said something sooner, but it was probably too late by now. Then again, better late than never?
"It's okay. I'm sorry for snapping at you... it's just a shock, that's all."
'I was expecting someone else' and 'You really are still a kid, after all' went unsaid.
"It's okay… It's okay. I'm not mad. Just, surprised. So, don't be sad okay? Don't get all upset on me over nothing."
She tried running her fingers through his hair. That worked for her, right?
She stopped mid-motion as she thought back to yesterday and winced. "Okay, maybe it wasn't 'nothing'. Maybe it's a lot of something. But it's okay, now. You're here. You're fine. We're all good now. Because you saved the day. Isn't that something, hey?" She rubbed his back. "Cheer up, hero." She gave him a little poke for emphasis.
He seemed to be much calmer now. Good. Maybe she wasn't so bad at this after all.
"I'm sorry; I know it's bad, but I should have knocked. I mean, I know…I should have asked I'm sorry…"
"It's alright. Just ask in future. Okay?"
'And try not to disturb me unless it's really bad' went unsaid. It probably didn't need to be, though it was hard to tell with him. It could ruin everything if she just out and said it now, though, so she kept her mouth shut.
"Yeah." Birds chirped and tweeted in the silence. "Of course."
She smiled and then remembered he couldn't see it. She applied a gentle pressure to his shoulder to prompt him and he let go, sheepishly, after a couple of seconds.
"It's okay." He said sorry a lot. He meant it, too. In that moment she got a nasty feeling that, no matter how much he might screw up, she would find it difficult not to feel sorry for him and forgive him every single time.
It was just a feeling though.
"Come on." She stretched all her limbs and yawned, catlike, before springing to her feet in a smooth motion and giving him a wink as she said "That's enough skin-ship for today, I think."
How's that for a prologue?
I'm tempted to outline the possible explanations for Shinji's behaviour, but I'd like to believe you can break it down just as well if not better yourself.
[[Viewers are Geniuses]] beats [[Viewers are Morons]] and [[Viewers are Goldfish]]
I thank Sinister Banana (SB) and JX for their proof-reading and feedback.