Disclaimer: See chapter one, and don't sue me.


Asuka is a fan of the scruffy look, even if Shinji is not. She understands that he doesn't want to do anything that will make him look like his father, and frankly that's fine with her. She'd rather not wake up to Gendo Ikari's creepy beard every morning. Or any morning, for that matter.

But a little stubble... that's not so bad, is it?

It actually took her by surprise the first time she saw it, during college. After a solid week of cramming, papers, and finals, he had staggered through the door of their small apartment while vowing to take the exam schedule into account when he registered for next year's classes. She'd looked up from her laptop, smirking, to offer the obligatory "I told you so" when she'd caught sight of his face and froze.

She was shocked. He'd been almost annoyingly assiduous about staying clean shaven ever since the first hint of facial hair made its appearance on his chin during high school. She wouldn't have expected even the stress of the past week to break his routine, but there he was, bleary eyed and sporting several days' growth of stubble.

Wanting a closer look, and realizing suddenly that with how busy they'd both been this was the first time she'd really seen him all week, she set her computer aside and hopped off the couch. As she helped him stumble over to the bed ("Idiot, this is what you get for relying on those energy drinks so much.") she glanced at his cheek, noting the thin covering of slightly coarse hairs now residing there.

She laid him down and chuckled fondly as he passed out almost before his head touched the pillow. As he lay there, snoring softly, her curiosity got the better of her and she reached out and lightly stroked her fingers under his chin. It was rough, a little scratchy but nice - and completely different from his skin's usual smoothness.

She licked her lips, wondering what it would feel like to - but that was stupid, she thought, shaking her head. It was still Shinji, it would be the same as kissing him any other time. Still though, his chin had felt so different. His cheek should feel different too, right? She bent down and softly pressed her lips to his cheek. The tiny hairs were scratchy, as she expected, and tickled a little as she pulled away, leaving her lips with an odd but not entirely unpleasant sensation.

As she straightened up, touching a hand to her mouth as she looked at his sleeping face, a strange feeling came over her. Her heart was pounding and her cheeks felt hot, but why? All she'd done was kiss Shinji's cheek, something she'd done plenty of times before. For some reason this time made her... what? It was like she was excited and ashamed at the same time.

Not wanting to deal with the uncomfortable feeling, she'd quickly fled back to the couch and tried to distract herself with a combination of television and Internet. Eventually it worked.

When Shinji woke up, he'd immediately gone and shaved. Asuka had pouted, saying that he had looked so good with a bit of manly stubble, but in the end she let it go without too much teasing. She liked him fine the way he was, after all.

Right?

Right.

Since then, he's let his facial hair grow out a few times, though never for more than a few days, and usually at her insistence. She's not sure why it always gives her a guilty thrill to see him like that, to kiss his scratchy cheeks and rub her hand under his chin. To be honest, she's not sure she wants to figure it out; that might force her to deal with things better left in the past, things she doesn't want intruding on her happy present.

And anyway, Shinji doesn't seem to mind (much) indulging her about this now and then, so what's the harm?


Surprised myself a little with how swiftly this one flowed out after how long the previous chapter took. This one, I admit, is a little bit influenced by a couple chapters in "The Devil and the Saviour" by marianne in chains, which is a fascinating and well written collection of mostly unconnected drabbles. If you don't know the chapter I'm talking about, I'm not telling. Go read the thing for yourself, it's worth the time.

I'm not sure where I'll take this from here, but I have a few ideas. We'll see.

As always, thanks for reading. Please leave a review to let me know what you liked or didn't like.