Shinji sat on a stool in a vast, gray field. The sky above him was dark and violent. There was no thunder, nor wind, but the sound of a great, vast breathing. It reverberated through his head, in and around him.

He was nude, and cold. It ached inside, it ached in a way he couldn't remember. His hands explored his chest, trying to find some way to ease the pressure, the pain, the dull ache. He felt eyes upon him, and looked up to see a small boy standing before him. He recognized the boy, for it was himself when he was four.

"Does it hurt?" the child asked.

"Yes," Shinji whimpered.

"You should remove it," the child said.


"You know how."

Shinji nodded. He did know. He did. Slowly, carefully, he inserted his fingers into his flesh, up to the knuckles, then the palms. Breathing in surprise, he opened his torso. The flesh and the bones folded outward like wings, and there it was. The source, the source of the pain. It was so bright, a small sun inside his being.

"It hurts to look at," he gasped, feeling his fingers tingle from the energy emanating from it.

"You need to remove it," the child said.

"Uh…I don't…I think I shouldn't," Shinji gasped. Seeing it now, seeing the cause of his pain…he didn't think he needed to take it away. It seemed that it was supposed to be there. It needed to be there.

"Take it out," the child said, "It only makes you weak. You don't want to be weak. If you are weak, you are useless. If you are useless, no one will want you anymore."

"They'll only want to use me," Shinji pleaded, "They won't want me for me…they'll use me and throw me away when they're done."

"Only when you aren't useful," the child said. "As long as you are useful, they will aways want you. They will always need you. And you can throw them away when you're done." The child smiled. "Isn't that what you want? To control your own life?"

Shinji glanced down at the light, and folded his hands over it protectively. "I…I'm not sure." Looking up, Shinji winced, for the child was no longer there. In his place, Samson Creed stood, leering and maniacal.

"Do you think I would hurt you?" the boy said, and the pain took Shinji.

Shinji woke with a start, feeling wet from head to toe. He had sweat through his t-shirt, and his blankets were soppy, as though he had been swimming. His skin prickled, and he felt uncomfortable. He squirmed, and sat up. As he did, he heard a murmuring next to him, and he realized that there was skin against his own, soft and warm. He looked over, and saw that Asuka had crawled into bed with him again.

It happened with a certain frequency now, to the point that it no longer shocked or surprised him. In a strange way, it comforted him. There was no other way in which they seemed to understand or connect with each other. For some reason, he felt it was exceedingly important to find a connection with her, but he didn't know how to. Maybe she didn't, either. It was a dangerous thing to assume that she even wanted to, but…if she was so desperate to be alone, why was she here?

He slipped out of the blankets, and hurried across his floor to the door. Creeping into the hallway, he glanced back at the sleeping form of Asuka. Why did she come here every night? Why sleep next to him if she wanted to push him away?

Why did he dream about Samson?

He slipped into the bathroom, and closed the door behind him. He turned on the sink, and let the cold water run. The dreams had become more frequent, and more awful. Sometimes, he would wake up, and see Asuka, and go back to sleep. He would sleep a dreamless sleep, and awake in the morning alone. Sometimes, that worked.

Sometimes, it didn't. The dream would linger, and chase him into wakefulness. He scrubbed his face, and mumbled to himself. Samson was a new addition to the nightmares, and he wasn't sure what that meant. He wasn't sure what any of it meant.

Scratching his scalp, he sighed and decided to go back to bed. He opened the bathroom door, and almost ran into Asuka. She gasped, looking as though she had been caught in the midst of committing a crime.

For an awkward moment, they both simply stood and stared at each other. Shinji had no clue what to say, or do, and he had the feeling that Asuka didn't, either. For as long as she had been sleeping in his bed, she had always left in the morning, before he would have woken up. As far as she knew, he didn't know. He didn't know she had been sleeping there. Now, he did.

Of course, she didn't know that he had already known. That didn't alleviate her awkwardness.

"I didn't wake you, did I?" Shinji finally asked. Her expression became aloof, and she crossed her arms.

"Don't be vulgar," she mumbled.

"How is that vulgar?" he asked. Her lips tightened, and it occurred to him that she had said the first retort to come to mind, whether it applied or not.

"Nothing happened in there, all right?" she snapped. "You don't get to go bragging to anyone about that. It didn't mean anything, and it was just tonight…"

"It's been two weeks," Shinji said. Asuka's eyes popped open, and her mouth worked without sound for a moment. Shinji wasn't sure what

"I never told anyone," he said, "Why would I?"

Asuka shook her head, looking furious. Shinji didn't know why, and he had felt he had done something wrong. The feeling irritated him; he didn't like feeling guilty without knowing why.

"You think you're something special, don't you?" she snapped, "I get bored, okay? I was bored."

"Um…I get…lonely, too," Shinji said awkwardly. She looked at him.

"What does that mean?"

"I just thought…you did that because you were lonely," Shinji said. "It's okay, you know."

"I don't get lonely," she snapped, moving as if to push past him. She didn't, and remained in place. It looked as if she had more to say, and was trying to phrase it the right way. "And if I did," she finally managed, "I wouldn't look for company with an immature brat like you. What makes you think that a little boy like you would interest me?"

That sounded like two completely different things, somehow, but both hurt Shinji. He glared at her, and she shifted under the eyes.

"Why are you awake, anyway?" she finally grumped. Shinji looked at her suspiciously.

"I had a nightmare," he said.

"Is that all?" Asuka said. "One nightmare, and you're up and about."

"I've had nightmares ever since I moved here," he said.

"Every…every night?"

"Every night," he said.

"Hmm," she murmured. "They're no big deal. If you can't deal with a nightmare or two, how can you expect to deal with the Angels?"

She was turning it back around on him, and he huffed. "Whatever," he mumbled, and pushed roughly past her. She squeaked, surprised by the sudden, belligerent movement. He turned and looked back at Asuka, who remained standing in the hall. He felt guilty, now, and wanted to fix it somehow. "Um…if it helps you sleep better, you should come back. I can sleep on the floor if that makes you feel more comfortable."

"No, it's fine…I mean…" She had spoken without thinking about it, and blushed. "Just…" It was a strange sensation, seeing Asuka standing in the hall looking so indecisive. He had never known her to be unable to make a simple decision. Even if the outcome was disastrous, Asuka would make up her mind and carry through with it, consequences be damned. This was…odd. It was as though he was seeing her without clothes on, and he felt embarrassed. There were no guards up, and it seemed she had the same sensation.

Shinji looked down, and walked back into his room. He crawled under his blankets, and lay still, begging for sleep to come. It didn't.

He heard Asuka enter the room, and felt her slide onto the other side of the bed. "Don't say a word," she hissed. He didn't, and they slept the whole night through, each facing their own side of the room.

Notes from GobHobblin: Short update, very busy, and I've got Adventure Time on my mind. I loves the Adventure Time…