( (Andrew Huang)

  Elsa Bibat made this little challenge, you see, to include a few
select paragraphs that she had written into a fic--any series, any
characters, as long as it contained those lines. This had been just
after I had made a few inquiries about Shinji-Asuka fics, and those
lines just screamed at me.... As it turned out, after the initial piece,
I decided to re-write the section, to better suit the needs of this
story. Still, because it was that bit which got the story to gel, I've
included it at the end. You'll be able to see easily where it fit in at

  This story is set before, during, and after the attack of the 15th
Angel. In other words, this diverges around the 22nd episode, I think.
Yep, that's right. Spoilers inherent, and you have to be familiar with
that Angel to know what's going on and why Asuka reacts the way she

  An Oddzilla Productions fanfic, by Andrew Huang.
  I Mustn't Run Away.
  Based on Neon Genesis Evangelion, c. Gainax Studios and ADVision.

  We were out of food.

  And I most certainly did _not_ want Misato shopping for groceries.
Somehow, Asuka and I had agreed on that, and she decided to accompany
me. It seemed a good idea at the time.... But so many things seem to be
good ideas at first.

  "Why don't we ever go get some _normal_ food? You know, like...oh, of
course you wouldn't know what normal food is. All this rice must go
straight to your head...."

  It all continued through our trip to the store, through the store
itself, through the checkout line--the whole time. Dammit, she can be so

  I tried to tune her out. Really I did. Think about the stars, the
clouds, the--

  *whap* "Are you listening to me?"

  Well, _that_ didn't work. "Would you just leave me alone? And why
can't you just get used to Japanese food, huh? Geez!"

  "'Cos I'm SICK of noodles and rice and fish. Where's the pork chops or
sausages? I mean...." I don't know how she manages to do it, but she
pitched her voice just right so that it grated in the worst possible way
on my nerves.

  "...I don't even know why I put up with you, you whiny, weak little

  NOW she was getting personal. When I realizd that I was starting to
twitch, I tried tuning her out again. I think she paused in her tirade
as we passed a clothing store...I don't know. My mind was still on the
cool night air, the rustle of leaves, the moonlight....

  The moonlight. The full moon has always been said to do weird things
to people. That must be it....

  As much as I tried, her incessant nagging as we were walking home just
got to me, finally. It had been bad enough when she was just generally
complaining, but the personal barbs--what had she called me this time,
an "immature idiot who shouldn't have qualified as a pilot"--were just
getting to be too much. I turned towards her, opened my mouth, and then
simply froze there.

  The way that silver light played across her hair. The way it
accentuated the delicate line of her jaw, even as it bobbed up and down
while she yammered in a most unromantic manner. The way it reflected off
her blue eyes, shining in the darkness, with the luminescence of...of
something more powerful than I can manage to describe.

  She was beautiful.

  I think, by this time, she had stopped complaining, and was asking me
something. What was it? It was somewhere along the lines of, "Hello? Are
you in there? Hello?" I believe she was also waving her hand in front
of my face.

  Instead of answering, I took her by the shoulders, pulled her close--

  "Heh--what are you dommmMMPH!"

  --and kissed her on the mouth.

  I guess it did achieve my original goal of shutting her up.

  Somehow, I still remember the details. I felt her muscles go extremely
tense. I felt her moist lips trembling a bit against my own. I felt her
hair brushing against my face slightly. I felt her heartbeat suddenly

  I also heard the plastic bag of groceries, the one that had been
dangling in her right hand, go *crash* on the ground. That broke the
spell. I suddenly remembered where I was. More importantly, I suddenly
realized where I was relative to Asuka. I think my own surprise then was
at least as great as hers when I'd first kissed her.

  I must have been possessed.

  I stepped back, looking at her face, illuminated by the moonlight. On
her pretty features, shadowed just a bit by her long hair, I saw the
tail end of her shock and surprise, saw it change to a bit of reddish
embarrassment, and then suddenly to anger. But there had--


  "You pervert," Asuka hissed. She picked up her bag and ran off back to
the apartment complex. I gathered myself enough to pick up my bag of
food--I had dropped mine somewhere along the way, too, it seemed--
absently rubbing the spot on my cheek where her palm had connected.

  But what was that...that touch of terrible sadness that had flashed on
her face, between the embarrassment and anger?

  I began to run after her.


  Dinner passed most uncomfortably. Asuka refused to look at me, I
remember. How I managed to realize that was strange, because it seemed
like I couldn't bring myself to look at her, either.

  Misato was drunk, though, so that was okay. I don't think she noticed
a thing, including how badly she had cooked the vegetables.

  The rest of the night was much the same--a general avoidance of each
other on both our parts, and nonstop mulling over what had happened...on
my part, at least. I eventually found my way to bed, evidently after
watching some TV and finishing some homework--and I swear I don't recall
doing either thing.

  I stared at the ceiling of my bedroom, seeing Asuka's face as she had
stood there, in the moonlight, just before I kissed her. And I saw that
instant of deep melancholy that had danced across her features, so

  I was going to be an absolute basketcase in the morning. I hate not
being able to sleep. It certainly wasn't coming now. Finally, I decided
to get this over with, and go to talk with Asuka. I figured that she had
to be as bothered by this as I was. I was hoping she was, at least.

  Stealthily, I crept out of my room, past Misato's--her light was still
on, so I had to be careful--and arrived at Asuka's door. I gave a
surreptitious knock, more intent on keeping my passage secret from
Misato than alerting Asuka to my presence. I opened the door and walked

  "Asuka," I began, "we gotta tal...."

  She was asleep.

  I stared. After something as momentous as that kiss, and she had the
peace of mind to sleep? Perhaps I was being a little egotisical, but a
slightly irrational anger took over me. Goddammit, how did she get over
that so easily? Looked like she was comfortable enough to not stay up
and agonize over stuff. Fine, if you care so little about it all, then I
won't care either. I stiffly turned to go out the door.

  "No..." whimpered a voice behind me.

  The word "no" can be extremely powerful, whether shouted in a
commanding tone of voice or just barely whispered. Sometimes, though, it
is the whisper that has much more force.

  Asuka whimpered in her sleep again.

  This could have been deja vu, except that I knew it had indeed
happened to me once already.... Memories of one night long ago flashed
through my mind. I had almost kissed her then. "Mama," she had
whispered, and a single tear had crept out of her eye. She was just a
child. Just a child....

  How remarkably inconvenient. I had been ready to stalk back to my room
in righteous indignation and get some rest, and here she had to go,
giving me a need to stay. I should have been slightly miffed.

  I gently stepped my way through her small piles of clothes, nudging a
college-level physics book out of the way, and sat down cross-legged
next to her bed. She was lying on her side, hands clasping her thin
blanket to her chest. I could see the drying trail of a tear that had
run along her cheek and looked to have soaked into a lock of her hair,
rakishly draped over her face. Again, she whispered, "No...." She had
that inexplicably sorrowful look on her face, though somewhat subdued.

  I'll stay until her nightmare is over, I remember thinking. I'd watch
over her for that, then I'd go back to bed. I reached over and gently
flipped the strands of hair back over her shoulder. She moved suddenly,
scaring me half to death, but remained asleep. I sat back again, staring
at this face so innocent, so beautiful, so vulnerable. I was completely
mesmerized again.

  Actually, it was probably that I fell asleep, because the next thing I
knew, an alarm was ringing loudly. I was groggy--for a moment. I very
quickly realized my position: sitting in Asuka's bedroom while she had
been sleeping. I tried to jump up and run out while I still had the
chance, but as luck would have it, both my legs had fallen asleep.

  An arm reached out of the mass of pillow, blanket, chestnut-colored
hair, and pajamas to smash down on the alarm clock. She had apparently
rolled over during the night; with the clock being closer to me than the
wall that she now faced, the strike wasn't quite on target and knocked
the timepiece off the nightstand--and right into my face.



  The mass of cloth and hair pushed itself apart to reveal a still
sleepy Asuka, who turned to look at me. She blinked. And she blinked

  I imagine that my face was locked into a rictus of horrified panic.

  She spoke slowly, as if trying to figure out whether or not this was
still a dream. "Is that you, Shinji?"

  I croaked, not finding my voice for a few seconds. Finally I gave up
and simply nodded. Somewhere along the way, I realized that there was
blood returning to my legs. The prickling sensations added to my quickly
increasing discomfort.

  Still speaking slowly, but perhaps more like in a manner meant to
pacify a possibly dangerous animal, she asked, "Why are you in here?"

  My panic was rising at a constant rate. It looked like she was
becoming more and more awake with every passing moment. I managed to
clear my throat adequately to answer. "Wanted...wanted to talk to were asleep. Having...having a nightmare. I, I couldn't leave
you alone." Repeating the first word of every sentence, eh? I was at
least as nervous as the time that I had stumbled on Ayanami _that_ time.
I also wasn't sure if saying that much was a good idea, but what else
could I do?

  A look of slight surprise washed over her face, followed by some
embarrassment, ending in anger...and again flitting through that visage
of incredible forlornness. What could that possibly be?

  My musings were cut off by a pillow to the face.

  "GET OUT!" she shouted. I obeyed, scrambling on all fours, stubbing a
toe on her physics book, knocking her clothes all over the place, and
finally making it out the door. I shut it behind me with a gasp for air.
Air? I must have been holding my breath. I panted a bit while rubbing my
tingling legs. Behind the door, I could hear her snap out at me, "I
don't need you or your sympathy!"

  This was not a good start to the day.


  I still wonder about that night.

  Sure, I had felt attracted to her in the past. She was the prettiest
girl in the whole class.... But she was so annoying, too. Always so

  But when she was nice, she could be very nice.

  And when she was vulnerable, she was so very vulnerable.

  And I couldn't leave her, could I?

  I mustn't run away, I mustn't run away, I mustn't run away....

  What about the kiss? We had kissed once before, and for the most part,
that had been really unpleasant. And of course, she had to pinch my nose
shut because my breathing was tickling her. Yeh, let me turn blue so she
wouldn't feel uncomfortable. So why did I kiss her? I mean, this is me
that I'm talking about. Ikari Shinji. I know I don't have a history of
great bravery in any and all things. Why?

  I still don't know.


  I stared at the monitors in an impotent fury. That Angel was attacking
Asuka's mind, and I couldn't do anything. Father wouldn't release the
freeze on Unit 01.


  Her words, coming through the comm, hammered into my head. I was so
angry, I felt like vomiting. I couldn't do anything. Dammit, I couldn't
do anything!

  "Don't look into my mind...STOP!! STOP!!!"

  I didn't realize it at the time, but I was crying from sheer rage.
It's hurting her, and I can't do anything. Had to avoid the chance of
Unit 01 being contaminated, Father said.

  How I hate him sometimes. How I hate myself sometimes.

  The only reason that I wasn't going after Father to force him to let
me go was that he allowed Rei to go get something called the Lancea
Longini, to take care of the Angel.

  I saw Unit 00 come out of the ground, holding a two-pronged spear,
and taking up a position slightly behind Unit 02. I then realized that
Asuka had gone strangely quiet. I suddenly felt like I was being

  Rei readied the spear, and leaned back to put as much force into the
throw as possible.

  Without warning, Unit 02 wrenched itself out of the beam of light
shining down from the Angel and ran straight to Unit 00, reaching for
the spear. I saw Unit 00 freeze up; there was no way for Rei to be
expecting anything like this. I think my heart stopped again. Was it
Asuka, or was it...the Angel?

  My answer came when Unit 02 grabbed the spear from the prototype EVA's
unresisting hands, turned around, sighted for a few moments along the
light, and threw. The spear seemed to turn into a roaring flash of


  I almost choked on my own breath.



  I carefully approached her, ducking underneath the yellow "Police Line
-- Do Not Cross" tape that surrounded the area.

  "I'm glad you're okay, Asuka."

  No answer. She was sitting on the ground, legs pulled up to her chest,
arms wrapped around her shins, and chin resting on her knees. She was
rocking back and forth slightly.


  No response. No sound, no indication that she realized I was there. If
anything, she only rocked back and forth harder.

  Despite being so...emotional earlier, during the battle, the old
instincts took over, and I turned to walk away.

  Then I heard her breathe in shakily. It wasn't your ordinary indrawn
breath, it was one with complex harmonics to it, ones that said, "this
was almost a sob, you know;" little waveforms of sound that crept into
your brain through your ears, following the neurons in, deeper and
deeper, until it went past the brain, past the mind, finding that thing
which justified a person in calling him or herself "human" instead of
being merely another animal on this good green Earth, and yanked on it.

  I MUSTN'T RUN AWAY I MUSTN'T RUN AWAY I Mustn't Run Away I Mustn't Run
Away I mustn't run away i mustn't run away--

  I won't run away.

  How remarkably inconvenient....

  I walked back to her--she was still rocking back and forth--and
stopped right at her side. Taking a breath and steeling myself for what
would probably happen, I grabbed her by the upper left arm, managing to
keep a grip on the slick red plugsuit, and hauled her roughly to her

  I wanted to be gentle, but I don't think that would have accomplished

  "Asuka!" Oh, God, her completely empty. I faltered, for just
a moment. Pulling myself together, I grabbed her by both shoulders and
shook her. "Wake up! You have to _wake_up_!"

  Her blank face changed. I don't mean she just shifted expressions, I
could positively see something in her eyes _change_. The life within
returned. But yes, her expression did shift, too. Again--surprise, then
embarrassment, then the hint of numbing sadness, then anger. I prepared
myself for a slap.

  It didn't come. The tears did, though.

  The sadness returned to her face, in full force. It hurt me just to
look at her face. The sum of years of repressed torment was there, in
one moment, in one place. I almost started crying myself. No, I think I
did start crying. It was that terrible.

  "Oh, Shinji," she whispered. "Shinji, Shinji, I'm so sorry...."

  And suddenly I found my arms full of trembling, weeping female. She
was repeating, "I'm so sorry," over and over.

  I attempted a soothing voice; though a bit shaky, I hoped it would
work. "It's all right, it's all right...I'm here, I won't go anywhere, I
promise...." I felt her body going limp, and gently knelt down to the
ground. Her legs collapsed beneath her, and she leaned heavily on me.
She still kept her arms in a firm hold around me, though, as if her life
depended on it. "I'm here." I stroked her hair, holding her tight,
letting her head rest against my shoulder. I could feel the tears
soaking through my shirt, but I didn't mind.

  Her words were coming out in a torrent. "I saw I saw my mom I didn't
want to but it kept looking and I couldn't get away it was bad I wanted
to die didn't want to be saved by her I wanted to die die but I..."

  At any other time, perhaps this would have been too much for me to
handle. Funny, how strength seems to find you out of nowhere.

  "...I saw you and I didn't want to die anymore oh Shinji I'm so sorry
so sorry...."

  Still, it did take me off guard.

  I fumbled a bit for some words. "I'm here, Asuka. I won't leave you
alone...I'll take care of you. I care about you." And it was true.

  The words were like magic: her gasps grew smaller and smaller;
eventually her breathing calmed. I think I heard her whisper, "Oh,
Shinji," a few more times. I continued to hold her, feeling her
heartbeat quietly thumping against my chest...or was it my own heart? I
couldn't tell, didn't care. She was all right.

  I held an angel in my arms--a proper angel, not one of those cruel
monstrosities which assaulted us so regularly. My cheek rested against
the top of her head, and I could smell the tears, the faint vapors of
LCL, a hint of the shampoo she used...I could smell her. That, to me,
was just as real as the touch of her hair brushing across my face and
the smooth skin of her cheek that I lightly ran my finger across.

  After a while, I realized that she had fallen asleep. Taking great
care, I gingerly shifted her in my arms, hooked my left hand under her
knees, and gently picked her up. She seemed amazingly light.

  It wouldn't matter how much she weighed. I would have carried her out
of Hell, demons at my heels, if I had to.

  Her head rested against my shoulder, still, and I looked at her
sleeping face. So innocent. So beautiful. So vulnerable.

  And not sad. The corners of her lips turned up just the slightest bit.

  She was just a child. And so was I.

  I mustn't run away....

  No, not "mustn't". I _won't_ run away. Will not.

  I will not run away, because I do not want to run away.

  We were both children, but children do grow up.

  Hang in there, Asuka. I'm taking you home.

  I kissed her tenderly on the forehead and turned to go, ducking under
the yellow tape. It was no easy task, but I managed to do it without
waking her up, which was the important thing, and strode back towards
headquarters. I could see Misato coming out of the nearest door.

  I smiled at her, and at the world.



  Apologies to Terry Pratchett for the "complex harmonics" bit to
describe the almost-a-sob. It fit so nicely. And again, thanks to Elsa.
The challenge really did make this whole idea come together. Here's the
piece that she wrote:

  It was probably the moonlight. Moonlight they say affects people in a
weird way. Especially on a full moon. So that must be it.

  She was whining again beside me as we walked back home. I turned to
tell her to shut up. Then I stopped. The light from the full moon played
on her hair as she also stopped to look at me and continued her nagging.
I didn't listen to her, all I could think about was how beautiful she
looked in the moonlight. I moved towards her. She waved a hand before my

  "Hellooo? Anyone home?" she asked as I moved towards her. Then I put
my hands on her shoulders and pulled her closer.

  "Hey! What are you mmmpphhh!" she said as I kissed her on the mouth.

  It was exhausting to write this. Very muchly so. It was cathartic, in
a manner, but not in the way of pouring my soul into this...more like
reaching into my soul and tearing something out to put into words. Maybe
I took out a little too much, 'cos I felt so emotionally drained
afterwards.... But I'm glad I did it. I'm a soppy fool who liked writing
a touching scene between Shinji and Asuka. Besides, I wasn't able to
sleep the night before I wrote this, because of this. The idea just
wouldn't leave me alone.

  And yes, I can sleep now.

From Andrew Huang, brought to you by his computer, Oddzilla
Oddzilla says, "Mmmmm...Evanjellydonut...."
Harvard Anime Society, Secretary