You Are (Not) Shinji Ikari
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion, nor do I claim to.
A/N: I find that this is the kind of story that many people have already done before, but when I look, I couldn't find one like it, so I decided to make one myself. Hope you like it! Reviews are deeply appreciated and stuff.
Revision Notes 3-18: Fixed a few grammatical errors and added in a few words, specifying in some areas where I felt some more description was needed. I also replaced Shinji's "other" thoughts as bold-italic instead of underlined-italic. Lastly, I made a few subtle changes, removing some unnecessary tidbits and adding in a few words here and there.

"And that must end us, that must be our cure; to be no more. Sad cure! For who would lose, though full of pain, this intellectual being, those thoughts that wander through eternity, to perish, rather, swallowed up and lost in the wide womb of uncreated night devoid of sense and motion?" Shinji said as he leaned back in his bed, setting the book aside. He had only read John Milton's "Paradise Lost" once in his life, and if he was going to be in the hospital any longer, that number might go up to twice. It was a gift from his teacher for his birthday, and even though the young boy wasn't big on reading or religion, he found himself drawn to the book for some odd reason, and he couldn't put it down.

He smiled a bit, remembering his younger days. His naïve days. The days when he wasn't a pilot. Looking back, he sort of wished things were at least…normal. Not hectic. Not like today when it seemed like the fate of the world rested on his shoulders every other week or so.

It only felt like yesterday, though in actuality, Shinji had read Paradise Lost when he was about 12 years old or so. It took him a good while to finish the book, but he did it. And one certain quote stayed with him. The quote that he had just said to Asuka, who happened to be standing in the room with him. He didn't know why he liked the quote so much, and he was surprised he could still remember that part. He didn't even need to reread that part to remember and quote it.

Standing in front of Shinji's bed, the redheaded German frowned and crossed her arms as she sighed and looked at Shinji. "John Milton. Paradise Lost. I know that quote too, Shinji. I've read it as well as you have," she stated, her eyes full of sadness and fatigue, yet behind those eyes burned determination and an unwillingness to give up. She wouldn't give up on the idiot. She had spent about an hour here already, and she was willing to spend another with him. She didn't know why she felt this compelled to go through the trouble for an idiot like him. Maybe she was just…afraid of him. No, afraid for him was more accurate. Asuka Langley Sohryu wasn't afraid of anyone, after all.

Shinji raised an eyebrow, before proceeding to smile at her. It unnerved Asuka. She didn't exactly know why, but perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he never smiled like that. He never smiled so knowingly like that. Never so…confidently. Shinji leaned forward, rubbing the back of his head, before proceeding to look up at Asuka.

"Well, of course. I wouldn't expect otherwise from one with a college degree. It's good that you remember your stuff," Shinji said, complimenting Asuka.

No, Asuka scowled as she thought to herself, This isn't Shinji. Baka-Shinji is…he's an idiot, and he's a spineless oaf. She glared daggers at Shinji, but the venomous look seemed to have no effect on the boy. Rather, he widened his knowing smile ever so slightly and chuckled lightly, continuing to unnerve Asuka. Confidence was a trait that Asuka admired in other people. Hell, that was the reason why she was who she chose to be, and why she was so attracted to Kaji, but this…this was not Shinji. This was not the boy she fell in love with. The boy she fought herself over. The boy she fought with. The boy she fought alongside with. Asuka couldn't believe she preferred the old, spineless Shinji over this new…confident Shinji, but perhaps this is what happens when one is pushed too far to become something they are not. Perhaps this is what happens when one becomes the mask they hide behind.

…But Asuka was no better. She essentially became her own mask as well. And she hated herself and everyone around her for not accepting her for who she was. She didn't want the idiot to make the same mistakes she did. She was going to save him from himself, one way or another.

Sighing, Asuka turned around, looking at the door, but still stood where she was. She couldn't bear to face whoever the hell was lying in that bed. She couldn't bear to face the mysterious stranger in the room with her. "Baka-Shinji…even though you're a moron, I imagine you still know who Alfred Lord Tennyson is, right?"

Shinji's smile quickly melted into a frown. He nodded, though he knew Asuka couldn't see his nod, let alone his frown. What was she getting on about now? Regardless, he still answered her. "Yes, the famous poet from the 19th Century. What about him?"

"He was considered a great poet. One of the greatest poets of all time, in fact. But he had this one memorable quote that stood out from all the rest. Do you know what that quote is, Third?"

"Asuka…Alfred Lord Tennyson has a lot of good quotes, but please do tell me," Shinji said. Where was she going with this?

"I hold it true, whate'er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all," Asuka practically whispered. She had read In Memoriam A.H.H. only twice, and in those two times, that quote stuck by her for some odd reason.

Shinji was perplexed. Even with his new attitude, he still seemed to be as dense as ever in some forms. Or maybe this time, he simply didn't want to accept that deep down; he knew what Asuka was trying to tell him. And yet, Shinji still asked the million dollar question. "What are you getting at, Asuka?"

The girl turned around again, a look of pure sadness and repressed anger on her face. She was holding back tears. She was not going to break her vow. Asuka hated crying over someone as pathetic as Shinji anyway! She couldn't deny how she felt any longer, however. Looking sadly at Shinji, she clenched her fists and started shaking. "You idiot…I'm saying I love you, Baka-Shinji! But I'm not ready to lose you! I don't want to lose you…not like this…not like this…"

Shinji blinked, his eyes widening in great surprise. "You…you love me?"

Asuka looked down, unable to look at the boy in the eyes. She was too embarrassed, assuming "ashamed" was the wrong word. Shinji didn't even have to try to remove Asuka's metaphorical mask, because she practically did it for him. She had given a glimpse of who she really was underneath.

"Yes…I love Shinji Ikari…" she said bitterly. As she looked up and forced herself to look at Shinji, Asuka began shaking violently, and pointed an accusing finger at him. "But you're not Shinji Ikari, damn you! You're not the Third Child that I know!"

The words stung Shinji like bees. They hurt him deeply. He knew that many people didn't like change, but wasn't this change for the best? After all, no one liked a crybaby like him, so he decided to clean up his act. He cleaned up his mess for the sake of everyone around him, and now he was being told to leave the mess as it was? Besides, it's not like he changed himself just like that. At least, he didn't think he chose to change himself. Shinji couldn't explain what exactly did compel him to change, but perhaps now wasn't the time to think about that.

Shinji closed his eyes briefly, trying to compose himself. The few seconds that passed by felt like an eternity. Asuka was shaking, looking intensely at Shinji as she slowly lowered her arm, and it was all too obvious that she was trying to hold back her tears. At this rate, it was going to be like a small stone slab against a waterfall.

Shinji opened his eyes, and stared blankly at Asuka, scaring her. Shinji didn't seem like the type who had the ability to intimidate someone with but a simple glare, not so firmly and seriously, but Asuka could feel a strange feeling in the back of her spine. As if she should be scared deeply of him for some odd reason. But she knew she shouldn't be scared of him. He was the only one she could talk to at the moment. After all, this conversation was between just the two of them.

Her eyes were almost about to explode, as she couldn't hold back the tears for much longer. But she had to be strong. However, she found that the thought of losing Shinji scared her more than she'd like to admit. Had she been holding back these feelings all this time? Because she's damn good at hiding from him and herself, it seemed. But perhaps this once, she would have to crawl out of the hiding spot and face things as they are.

"Please…I love you. You can stop your…little act, now. You've done…more than enough," Asuka said bitterly through tears.

But this was no act Shinji was playing. This was him for real. At least, for here and now, anyway. "Asuka, I…I'm…" He began reluctantly.

What he was about to say was going to bring Asuka deeper into dejection.

Let's start at the beginning. It seemed to all have started when Misato had come home after a tiring night of work. It must have been around 7:50 or 8:00 in the evening when she had returned. Asuka was over at Hikari's house, spending some ordinary girl time with the brown-haired girl, which must have explained why the house was quiet.

As Misato practically lumbered into her apartment, she noticed that Shinji wasn't on the couch, watching TV like he usually was at this time of night. Maybe he decided to go to bed early. She didn't pay any mind into it. After all, Shinji was a responsible kid, so it was definitely possible he just decided he wanted to get up early for the next school day.

Deciding she wasn't hungry enough to bother heating up the leftovers in the fridge, taking a bath seemed like the next best idea. Misato dashed straight towards the bathroom. She was so tired that she almost missed the scent. The smell of something awful. The smell of blood as she began to pass by Shinji's room.

It was only a weak scent at first, so thus, Misato ignored it, but the closer she drew to Shinji's room, the stronger the scent became until she couldn't bear it. Wondering just what the hell was going on in there, she slammed the door to the side with one hand. As she saw what lay before her, she gasped in shock and stepped back, her heart suddenly beating faster and faster with each second, her lungs suddenly deciding to make it difficult for her to breathe.

Before her lay the horrible sight of Shinji Ikari, lying face-down on the ground.

Blood everywhere.

Kitchen knife below his right hand.

Major Katsuragi stood there for a few seconds in horror, staring at the unbelievable sight. And yet, she had no choice but to believe the sight before her. After all, there was no point denying what she saw.

Misato wasted no time rushing to the young boy's help. Her heart was beating so fast she felt like she was going to have a heart attack. Kneeling beside Shinji and turning him to face her, the first thing she noted was the fact that his eyes were flickering. It was eerily disturbing.

The major didn't have time to examine Shinji's wounds. He's already lost plenty of blood, and if Misato was too slow, he'll lose a lot more. Carrying the bleeding boy in her arms, Misato rushed out of her apartment and towards her car. She didn't actually have any materials at home to help Shinji. No bandages, no disinfectant, nothing. After all, whenever there was a wound and/or injury, it was usually, if not always, at work where things actually happened.

But Misato decided to push away the thoughts of "Maybe I should buy bandages once in a while" for later and focused on the present. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, Misato dashed towards her car. After stopping a few feet from it, she awkwardly took out her car key from her jacket pocket with one hand (somehow still positioning her arm so that it still supported Shinji) and remotely unlocked the doors.

Opening one of the doors and shoving Shinji in, Misato wasted no time driving him to the hospital. They'd know what to do. Luckily, the clinic was only five minutes away or so. Rushing out of the car and approaching the building with Shinji in her arms again, Misato was determined to save him.

The doctors had told Misato that Shinji was going to live, much to her relief. However, she was also very understanding when she was told that Shinji was going to have to stay in the emergency room for a few days and under close watch. Her heart rate slowly but surely slowing down, Misato, after filling out some paperwork, hesitantly left the building, which was already technically closed, since by now, it was past 8 PM. The major was reluctant to leave Shinji by himself, especially after experiencing what just happened.

When Shinji woke up, he found himself all alone. Not that this was new or anything. This wasn't exactly what he expected Heaven to be like. Oh, wait a minute…

Feeling something ever so slightly restrict the movements of his arm, he looked down and couldn't help but frown a little bit at the sight of bandages. So it seemed that he survived and was sent to the ER. Sighing, Shinji sat up in his bed and scratched the back of his head with his good arm. Looking at the clock beside him, it was apparently 1:30 PM.

"Right…of course no one would be here…" Shinji muttered bitterly to himself. Then again, he wouldn't be expecting any visitors today anyway. They probably didn't want to see him anyway. And even if he was going to have visitors, he would just hope that they wouldn't provide a stupid pep talk about "how much he mattered" or a lecture about how suicide was the coward's way out.

But what if the coward is just thinking? What if he's the smart one? Where others would work hard, the coward would work smart to avoid difficult work.

Shinji blinked. Did he really just think that? That was odd; the Japanese boy would never try to justify his actions like that! If he could even call it an attempt at justifying, anyway. Regardless, that was…different. Then again, Shinji felt different. Realizing that he was probably going to be stuck here for some time now, the boy decided to start thinking about his friends. Or rather, acquaintances.

After all, he wouldn't categorize Misato as a friend. Not to be cold or anything. She was just his legal guardian. Still, that didn't mean that he didn't like her or anything. He was just a picky person when it came to categorizing people. As for Asuka, she did nothing to deserve the title of "friend," since all she does is insult him. Rei, meanwhile, doesn't do anything at all and yet still manages to be on Shinji's good side. Perhaps he could consider her his friend. After all, he taught her how to smile. Sort of. Kind of. Maybe. On the other hand, Toji and Kensuke were easily his friends, since they were the only two he mainly hung out with at school.

Why don't I normally think things like this? It seems like the kind of subject I should always put my mind on.

Because you always distract yourself with your music. With that thing out of the way, you're pretty much forced to think in order to kill time.

What…who are you?

Essentially, I'm you. Though I'm more real than you in some ways, I'm also more false than you in some perspectives. After all, people will believe what they want to believe.

Wait, what? What do you mean you're more real than me in some ways?

It's too complicated to say. Why don't I show you instead? Try taking back-seat and let nature, or rather me, take its course.

Shinji laid back, and sighed, slowly closing his eyes as he deduced that the doctors probably wouldn't check on him for a small while.

Shinji Ikari of the Past.

It's a bit hard to explain these sorts of things, so I'll try my best, alright? First of all, I'd just like to say that you'll experience a very brief bit of déjà vu. It'll be brief, but that doesn't mean it won't be important.

How do you mean?


Shinji woke up to the same environment he was earlier. Empty hospital room. Normal heart monitor. The works. The boy glanced to the side and saw that according to the clock, it was about 3:55 PM now. Since now kids were out of school, Shinji expected a visitor coming any second now.

At least, he wanted to believe a visitor was coming. But he never believed himself to be deserving of any comfort, seeing as how he also believed he was useless without the Eva. Without Unit 01. After all, in his opinion, the depressing truth was that he often found himself saving a world that didn't acknowledge his existence. A world that hated him.

And if the world didn't need him, then why continue living? This was the reason Shinji attempted suicide anyway. No one needed him. Not his fellow pilots and not his father. They were all just fine without him.

"Oh, you're already awake?" A voice suddenly said that bolted Shinji out of his thoughts. As Shinji looked up, he saw a young nurse looking at him from the door. Assuming she was expecting a response, Shinji nodded. The nurse smiled, and nodded back. "That's good. You have a visitor, by the way."

And with that, Rei Ayanami came into view. She slowly walked into the room, her face devoid of emotion as usual. Upon further inspection, Shinji saw that she was holding a book in her left hand.

"Thank you, nurse," Shinji said with a nod. As the young lady walked away, the boy directed his attention back to Rei, who looked at him blankly.

"Hello, Pilot Ikari," she said simply.

"Hi, Rei. Did someone send you here?" He asked bluntly, knowing full well that Rei wouldn't be offended by whatever he said. Assuming she'd take that question as "Did my father send you or what?" anyway.

The blue-haired girl shook her head, "I came here on my own accord…and I brought you a book to entertain you during your time here," she said, handing him the book.

As Shinji took it, he saw that it was an old copy of "Paradise Lost." He could tell that Rei read it often from the somewhat poor quality and shape it was in, but he didn't say anything about it. Instead, he looked up with a smile and nodded. "Thanks, Rei."

She didn't reply. Rei just merely stood there like a statue for a few more seconds, and it was frankly starting to creep Shinji out. Right before he was about to say something, she finally spoke. "I'm sorry; I do not know how to respond to gratitude."

Under normal circumstances, Shinji would have told her to say something like "You're welcome" or something of the sort, but something compelled him not to. And then he understood what it was meant by "Shinji Ikari of the Past" and the feeling of déjà vu, because he suddenly felt driven to say something else. Something he had said a long time ago.

"You could start by smiling," he said, still smiling his own smile.

Rei gave him a look of surprise. A few seconds later, she nodded and smiled back at him. It was just like last time. Well, almost like last time.

It was like when Shinji had forced opened Rei's ejector pod, burning his hands in the process, and began crying, deeply afraid that she might have been dead. When Rei stated she didn't know what to do in front of someone crying, Shinji instructed her to just simply smile.

And so she did.

Back in the hospital, in the present, Rei's smile vanished as quickly as it appeared, and she began speaking again. "I must leave now, Pilot Ikari. Take care of yourself."

The boy nodded as Rei turned around. "I will. And thanks…for the book."

As Rei began walking away, she suddenly stopped right in front of the door. "One more thing, Pilot Ikari."

"Yes, Rei?"

"I am surprised at how well you're doing for one who has lost a lot of blood."

"I heal fast, apparently," Shinji said with a small smile.

Shinji Ikari of the Present.

Here, you won't have a sense of déjà vu. It'll just be a sense of…living your normal life. Sort of. I mean, in this present, the past has already happened, and the future is yet to come. So you won't receive any déjà vu, or any premonitions of important events happening.

Now, it was about 7:15 PM, and another visitor had stopped by to talk to Shinji. It was none other than Misato Katsuragi herself. To be honest, Misato was the last person Shinji wanted to talk to, as he was fully expecting some sort of lecture from her, and a good yelling. A "Just what the hell do you think you were doing?!" was notably expected.

And that was what Misato was fully intending to do. She intended to give Shinji a piece of her mind, but as she walked into the room and saw Shinji, the words were stuck in her throat as she couldn't bring herself to yell at Shinji. After all, here he was in his most physically (and possibly emotionally) vulnerable state, and she couldn't bring herself to be angry at him. At least, not yet.

As the major walked further into the room, the door automatically sliding closed behind her, Misato held up something in her hand. A card of sorts. "I have a card for you, signed by your classmates. I had the school believe you were in a car accident while trying to save an inattentive child," she explained.

She tossed it towards Shinji, who deftly caught it. This actually surprised Misato. After all, Shinji was still quite pale, and it was apparent that he had eaten little more than a simple stew all day, and he still had the strength to easily and fluently move his arm like that.

Maybe Misato just underestimated people like that.

"Thanks," Shinji said, glancing at the inside of the card. He saw some classmates, like Toji, Kensuke, and Hikari, wishing him for the best, and a message that said "What are you, stupid?!" It didn't take long to realize that Asuka had written that part.

Misato stayed silent, and Shinji spoke again. "I imagine you have quite a bit of things to say to me?"

The major nodded. "Yeah, I do."

Shinji sighed, putting the card aside. "I'm sorry, for whatever it's worth. I imagine you've been under a lot of stress because of little ol' me," he said casually. Almost too casually.

Misato nodded in confirmation. "You scared the hell out of me, Shinji. Don't ever do that again!" She said, trying her hardest to not yell at him, "Why…why did you even do that in the first place anyway?"

The boy sighed again, glancing at his bandaged arm, then back at Misato. "You could say that it was because I was fed up. Sick of everything. I didn't want to go on. I had nothing to live for, you might say," he began, "And if I don't feel or receive worth, appreciation, or acknowledgement, then I don't know why I still live."

"So you decided to just do yourself in? Just like that?!" Misato replied, disgusted with how self-centered Shinji was.

It was almost like Shinji read Misato's mind, because when he spoke again, he was prepared. "I didn't cut myself just like that," he said with a somewhat uncharacteristic calm edge, "I had analyzed everything as best as I could. And it goes down like this; it may be selfish to just suddenly leave the people who care about you, but then I sat down and thought about who really cares about me."

"What are you trying to say, Shinji?" Misato asked. She had never seen this side of Shinji before, and she wasn't exactly sure if she wanted to. Everyone did have skeletons in their closet, in one way or another.

"I think that my main regret would have been not saying goodbye to Toji and Kensuke. After all, it felt like they were the only ones who cared about me. As friends, we hung out and did all sorts of stuff together. I mean, I don't think I've ever been happier in my whole life than when I was just with my friends. The one exception probably being when that Angel attacked. It was the…fifth, I believe? The first time I fought a battle alongside Rei, but I guess I'm getting off-track now, huh?"

Misato simply shrugged, trying not to say anything. While Shinji was talking, Misato analyzed his physical features. The most noteworthy thing was that he was very pale, of course. He was also notably skinnier. Had the doctors been feeding him at all? Also, even with how drained of life he looked, Misato noticed that he didn't act any weaker. As noted, when Misato tossed the card towards him, it was apparent his reflexes and arm were still in tip-top shape. Somehow.

"My main point is this, though; I've never felt love in my life, Misato. Never in my life, except for when I was but a small child. And I can barely, if at all, remember the love that my mom felt for me. But she's gone…so I don't feel anything from anyone else. At this point, I just feel used. I save the world and fight off the Angels every three weeks or so, and I get nothing in return. No recognition for my so-called brave actions!" Shinji exclaimed, his voice starting to draw bitterness, "Not even a 'Thanks for the effort' or an 'I'm glad you pilot the Eva.' Instead, I continue to get belittled by Asuka, receive the cold shoulder from my father, and tossed aside like a toy until I'm needed again by everyone at NERV!"

Misato was speechless. Shinji had never said anything like that. He had never said something with such…bitterness. Such…venom in his voice. She looked sadly at Shinji, who had something of the expression of anger written on his voice. The major began to blame herself for being so blind. When they had first met, Shinji said it himself; "I'm always alone anyway." But that was the reason why she took him in anyway. Because she felt bad for him.

And even now, Shinji claims that no one cared about him? Misato began to feel anger swell up inside her. Even after she had taken him in and cared for him, he had the guts to say that not even she cared about him?! I don't need to blame myself for this! I don't need this! She thought to herself in anger as she turned around and began walking towards the door. The major didn't want to hear any more of this.

"You should have thought things through just a little bit more, Shinji. Because I know one or two people in this world who truly care about you…" Misato practically whispered, before the door slid open in front of her, "Well…see you. I hope you get better soon…"

Shinji Ikari of the Future.

Here…well, this is the one where you'll get a premonition of something important happening in the future. This is not of who you will be, but rather, something like role reversal.

What? Role reversal? Why? That doesn't even—

Why, you ask? Well, time and love does crazy things, y'know.

What are you talking about?!

I've been showing you what happens when the mask is broken. Your mask. But what happens when the mask of another one's is broken? By your hand, no less?

The next day came rather quickly for Shinji, who still stayed in bed. What was amazing was that Shinji acted and behaved as if he didn't lose any blood at all, but his physical appearance told him otherwise. After all, the primary reason why he was still kept in the hospital included the fact that despite how he acted, he still needed a lot of blood in his system, and the fastest way to get him out would be to donate blood. Shinji had O positive as his blood type, which was good, considering that was the most common blood type.

The day went slowly enough for Shinji. After all, he didn't really do anything. Sighing, Shinji began thinking about how irresponsible these doctors were and how they never really came to check up on him. Apparently, these adults didn't know what breakfast was, because all Shinji had was another chicken soup for lunch.

4:45 PM came, and so did Asuka Langley Sohryu. The fiery girl, who was usually so aggressive and energetic, was now quiet and passive. Shinji had dismissed the nurse who guided Asuka to the room, and as the door slid closed, Shinji had something of that "stupid smile" he had when he gave the illusion of happiness, pretending nothing was wrong. After all, as Misato had said, everyone at the school believed that Shinji was just hit by a car during a valiant attempt to save a young child's life.

…And even though Rei didn't specifically state that she knew why Shinji was in the hospital, he had a good guess that she knew the real reason anyway.

Asuka broke the ice, speaking first. "Earlier today, Misato told me what really happened," she simply said. Shinji was surprised. For one, he thought that Misato would have kept this a secret, and two, Asuka didn't refer to him as Baka-Shinji. That's when he knew things were really about to go down.

"Did she?" Shinji said, "Well, sorry I'm not the bold hero you thought I was, at first."

The words shook Asuka a bit. She didn't believe Shinji was a bold hero. She never did. Heroes weren't spineless and stupid like him. And even then, he's still the one that gets all the credit for saving the damned world! Stupid Shinji comes to save the day, as always! Ha. Asuka held back a bitter laugh, and otherwise ignored what Shinji had just said.

"You're even stupider than I thought, baka. Why would you even try something like that, anyway?"

"Why? I could've sworn I had this conversation already with Misato, but…okay…" Shinji muttered. This caused Asuka to raise an eyebrow. Shinji was never that…snarky (Assuming that was the right word).

"I'm waiting." She simply said.

"Fascinating," Shinji said uncharacteristically, rolling his eyes.

Shocked, her eyes widened in great surprise. This was NOT something the "normal" Shinji Ikari would do or say. He would have apologized meekly and said what she wanted to hear. Just what exactly happened when Shinji tried to kill himself?

Regardless, Shinji began talking anyway, "Well…it's a bit complicated, and a long story that someone like you doesn't have the patience to sit through, I'm sure."

Asuka twitched a bit. Did he just dare to insult her?!

"I was just…drowning in my little pathetic pool of self-loathing," Shinji said, his cool voice somehow conveying an emotion of bitterness to Asuka. Perhaps he decided to word the pool the way Asuka would have worded it, "And I just…couldn't hold my breath any longer, you might say. You might not be big on metaphors, but basically, I died inside the pool."

"Or at least, you believe you did. You wanted to drown…?"

Shinji nodded simply. "You could say that."

"This was something a coward like you could have done, but really, I seriously never expected you to really do it. You shouldn't run away from these things. It's not good for you," Asuka said with a frown.

Now it was Shinji's turn to twitch. He hated that phrase. Run away. It had reminded him of his past, but he shan't think of that now. Grunting softly, Shinji sat up in his bed. "Tell me something, Asuka. Have you ever felt…worthless in the eyes of others?"

Asuka blinked, the question surprising her. However, before she had a chance to answer, Shinji continued on with his talk.

"Hmph. I guess it doesn't matter," Shinji said, interrupting Asuka's train of thought.

This isn't like Shinji, Asuka thought to herself, Not like him at all.

"After all, I hadn't felt so useless in a long time," Shinji continued, "And I felt that I was only useful for one thing; the same thing also being the one thing I don't receive any recognition for. Other than that, I felt no purpose. No purpose in life at all. So tell me, what's the point of living a meaningless life?"

Assuming this question wasn't rhetorical, Asuka answered rather quickly and truthfully. "No point. No point at all…"

This was becoming all too familiar for Asuka somehow.

Shinji nodded. "Exactly. So…here I am."

Asuka had no idea that Shinji felt this way. He felt the same way she did. Life was meaningless without purpose. So that's why the two of them went out and made their own purposes. At least, Asuka made her life so that it would have been as purposeful as possible. The purpose came to Shinji himself, but whatever.

Also, why the hell was Shinji like this? It was almost like an alien had captured Shinji and replaced him. Sorta like in that old pre-Second Impact novel, "The Body Snatchers" or something like that.

Speaking of books, Asuka had noticed the book Shinji was holding in his arm and noticed that it was Paradise Lost. Deciding to momentarily change the subject for whatever reason, Asuka spoke again. "Who gave you that book?"

"Rei did. She stopped by yesterday to give it to me," he responded.

"Hmph. Wondergirl stopped by, huh?"

"Yes, she did. Y'know, you should give her more credit. After all…she has good taste," Shinji said with a small smile as he glanced at this book, "I read this book when I was younger and I absolutely loved it. Philosophy isn't usually my cup of tea, but there's one quote that I like. Do you want to know what that quote is?"

One part of Asuka couldn't get over how different Shinji was. He was never this open to anyone, least of all her. At least, she assumed he was never this open to anyone. After all, he never actually says much, to be honest. He was so…different. And maybe change scared Asuka. Just maybe.

Another part of her was thinking about the question she was asked. To be honest, she couldn't care less about what his favorite quote was, but she couldn't bring herself to say no. Not because she felt bad for him. Oh, heavens no! It was because it felt like Shinji was trying to tell her something or lead her somewhere, perhaps to prove a point.

Hesitantly, Asuka nodded. She felt like she was being lured into a trap, somehow, but there was nothing to fear from Baka-Shinji. Ha, who would be scared of him anyway?

…Well, perhaps Asuka herself might be scared of Shinji. At least, this Shinji anyway. Not the Baka-Shinji she knew. Because this was like a completely new Shinji. One that she didn't want to exist in this world. One that didn't seem to have or deserve a place in this world. There was and only will be one Shinji Ikari, after all.

Shaking, Asuka wiped away at some of her tears, though they kept on coming. "Please…I love you. You can stop your…little act, now. You've done…more than enough," she said bitterly through tears.

"Asuka, I…I'm…" Shinji began, watching Asuka walk over to the side of his bed.

As she drew closer to him, Shinji pursed his lips briefly. "I'm surprised someone like you is capable of love," he said so suddenly, so…cruelly.

Shinji's words stabbed Asuka like swords. She was brought even deeper into tears. It wasn't often she was insulted like that. She intimidated people, and she was usually the one who did the insulting. And in the few instances that she was insulted, she would react with a violent fit of anger. But…she felt no anger. No hate. She only felt rejection and betrayal.

"All you do is hound me and hurt me! What makes you think I should believe that you love me?!" Shinji said, growing a bit angry now. Asuka could see it, and with no mask to protect herself, she was…scared.



"B-But…it's true…" Asuka stammered. Like Shinji, she found herself in a place where she said and did something she would have never done under normal circumstances. It was very unlike her to stammer like that, as she always spoke loudly and confidently. Somehow, she managed to be reduced to…this.

"Don't lie to me about love, dammit!" Shinji continued, his voice becoming louder. As predicted, the roles were reversed. The roles of the one who took the verbal abuse and the one who threw the insults and accusations, "What do you know about love?!"

It was quite apparent that the news that Asuka loved Shinji had angered the boy, and for that, Asuka was sorry.

She didn't mean things to happen like this. But the words still rang in her eyes. What did she know about love?

Trying to compose himself, Shinji sighed softly, before speaking again. This time, his voice was only just a little bit above a whisper. "It's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I'm better off than you, then. I may not remember her, but I loved my mother deeply. You, on the other hand, have probably never loved anyone else in your entire life."

This was not Shinji Ikari. At least, not the Shinji that Asuka knew. This Shinji was very different. He was angrier, more confrontational, and took "believing what he wanted" to a new level, apparently. And perhaps that was what scared Asuka. An unfamiliar version of the boy she liked.

But in that moment, she knew what she had to do. Maybe it turned out this was indeed the Shinji she knew, but very vulnerable. Perhaps so vulnerable that he changed so that he would become what he believed others wanted him to become.

Being careful as to not blow up this new volatile Shinji, Asuka began delicately. "I want to stay with you, Shinji, and I want to help you, but…I don't know what to do," she said. It was hard for her to admit weakness and uncertainty, but then again, this entire situation is hard for her.

"Then don't do anything," Shinji said, his voice still barely audible, "Don't come near me. All you ever do is hurt me."

Asuka knew that before she could help Shinji, she had to be helped herself. She had undone herself, so she had to be put back together. "Shinji…help me," she pleaded, "Please…you're the only one I can talk to."

A small pause.


Shocked at Shinji's response, Asuka stepped away from the side of Shinji's bed as he looked at her with a truly sour expression.

Shinji rose from his bed. Movement like that frightened Asuka. How he went from a stationary person to a monster rising from the cave. It seemed like he didn't even need to rest, because here, Asuka was afraid of what Shinji might do, as if he were a hulking beast intending to hurt her in revenge or something of the sort.

"You can talk to anyone. You don't mind who it is, don't you?!" Shinji accused, stepping towards Asuka, who stepped back in response, "You're just scared! You're afraid of Misato because you're afraid of being tossed aside like me, and afraid of Rei because you're afraid of her judgment! So now you come running off to me! Because that's the easiest way to keep from getting hurt, isn't it?! Because no one should be scared of pathetic old me!"

By now, Shinji had Asuka backed up against a wall. She had attempted to protest, begging for help, but was cut off when Shinji slapped her.

The sound of his palm making contact with her cheek was simple, yet it rung in both of their ears.

The feeling of his palm making contact with her cheek was…odd. It was certainly painful, which in itself, was the odd part. Despite his sickly appearance and his pale exterior, Shinji had slapped Asuka with so much force, it was almost as if it was purely his hatred, bitterness, and resentment powered Shinji just for that one slap.

Her cheek red, Asuka looked away from Shinji, holding back hot tears.

"You've never even loved yourself, have you?" Shinji asked, his voice still possessing the cruel edge of hatred, "You're all you have in your little shell of false confidence!"



A whisper. Asuka's whisper. "Please…help me. I'm sorry for everything. Please, just…help me. Believe in me…"

Another pause. Before a whisper in return replied to Asuka. "Why? Why should I help you? And why should I believe you?"


Asuka had snapped. Grabbing Shinji by the neck with both hands, she began strangling him. In the first few seconds, Shinji did nothing in response, his eyes wide with shock as he did nothing.

As soon as the young boy had registered what was happening, he had attempted to force Asuka's hands off of his neck, but it seemed that his negative feelings were replaced by fear. Fear of what Asuka might do to him. And as his hatred disappeared for the moment, so did his unrealistic strength. Asuka took some steps forward, forcing Shinji to step back now, and before they both knew it, Shinji was now leaning against his bed, his bony fingers trying to get Asuka's off.

And then Shinji realized something.

Asuka was just as alone as he was. She was very desperate for comfort. But no comfort would come. Shinji was the only one capable of giving her the comfort she desired because she loved him. He was harsh with his words because he only cared about what he wanted to believe. He was harsh because she was harsh.

Taking his hands off of Asuka's, Shinji lifted his arm slowly and caressed Asuka's red cheek. Even if he now suddenly felt sorry for her, he still couldn't deny that she had hurt him. Even if she didn't know it. Even if she didn't want to admit it.

"How much longer…will you have to hurt me?" He said, air disappearing from his lungs.

With a gasp, Asuka's grip suddenly loosened, and before she knew it, she had let go completely. A tear rolled down her red cheek and landed on Shinji's hand. In between tears, she roughly wrapped her arms around Shinji, hugging him. She also uttered something that Shinji thought he would never hear; "I'm sorry."

Shinji sighed, hugging her back. "I'm sorry too. For…a lot of things."

It had turned out Asuka's blood type was the same as Shinji's; O positive. After a check, it conveniently just so happened that Toji was as well, as well as a number of other students. Asuka and Toji donated blood to Shinji, and after another day or two, the boy was back on his feet.

It felt odd walking again, being confined to a small room. His skin color returned to its normal shade, and as Shinji reached Misato's apartment, the first thing he did was chow down to a hot meal of rice and fish that he had quickly made himself.

Well, wasn't that eventful?

I don't know if I should be thankful or not. After all, if I remember correctly, not only did you hit Asuka, you also hugged her, so I don't know what to do about you.

Ah, don't worry about it. Trust me; I made things better in the long run. Don't you trust your own gut?


Well, you should. Everyone else does it. After all, if you do trust yourself, other good things will happen, you know. Things might play out a little differently…

I'll keep that in mind.


I have one more question; why did you decide to "take control?" Why then?

Because I wanted to clear your head. I wanted you to realize that you matter to people. You already know full well that Toji and Kensuke care about you. They're your best friends, after all. Rei cares about you so much that she went to see you on her own accord. Misato found you on the ground all bloodied and took you to the hospital as a legal guardian who wanted to do right by you. And Asuka…well, she's just not good at expressing her emotions.

And I am?

Not you, per se. But a certain part of you. Me.

Well…thank you. For everything.

You have no one to thank. You did this by yourself.

Shinji was so lost in thought with himself that he didn't notice the door open at first. When the door closed, the boy looked up to see a tired Asuka come home from school. As Shinji came into Asuka's view, her eyes suddenly widened in surprise. "Oh…hi, Shinji."

He nodded at her. "Hi, Asuka."

"They didn't tell me they were letting you out today," she said as she walked over to Shinji and sat down next to him, "I'm glad you're…better," she whispered.

Surprised at Asuka's behavior, Shinji became even more surprised when he realized something; he did all of this. He was the reason she was different. Thanks to his actions, he could tell that not being called "Baka-Shinji" didn't always mean things were about to go down hard. And then…another surprise. He felt something warm touch his hand.

As he looked down, he saw that Asuka's fingers had intertwined with his. He looked up to her, not realizing how red he was becoming. "I…Asuka, I just want to let you know something."

"Baka-Shinji, if you want to tell me it, then spit it out," Asuka said gently with a small smile.

Shinji smiled back. "I love you."

A/N: Sorry if the characters seem a little…OOC. I haven't exactly tried something like this before, so the writing style execution may admittedly be a bit "Ehn," but then again, that's just me wallowing in self-loathing or something like that. Anyway, what's more important are your thoughts. What did you think of the fic? Did you enjoy it? Could I have improved this somehow? Did I make any spelling or grammatical errors? Please, let me know!