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As I Stare Into Myself / Strong Arms to Hold Me (To Push Me)
 
 
Produced by: Horde O' Hentai Productions, Literature Division
	Darren Demaine: Chairman of the Horde
	Lee (Greywolf): Guy We Rub For Luck
	Rob (Barbarian): Breath Weapon Specialist
	Craig: Our Man in Japan
 
Written by: Darren Demaine
 
Gainax owns all rights for Neon Genesis Evangelion.  English translations
and manga rights on the North American continent are controlled by AD
Vision and Viz Communications.  If I make any money off of this, I'll turn
myself in.  Otherwise, I'm broke.
  
----------
 
	The elevator ride was slow.  The only sound that existed in the small cage
was the soft clicking as the counter dial revolved in its endless cycle.
The same numbers repeated again and again.  An elevator never went anywhere
new; it could only travel upon the path set out before it.  Its existence
was predictable and unchanging.  Even its destination was left to those who
made use of it.
 
	Ikari Shinji felt a certain kinship with this descending metal box
he found himself trapped in.  Something that had no control over its own
life.  Maybe he was headed towards some destination he wasn't even aware
of, one he knew nothing about.  Certainly NERV was using him for their own
purposes.  The designated pilot of Evangelion Unit-01.  The Third
Children.  The son of Ikari Gendo.  They were applied to him, but he
didn't really understand these terms.  Like the elevator, he was on a path
he hadn't chosen.  Others used him to get where they were going, and once
there, would he be left behind without a second thought? 
 
	There were times when his spirits were up, like when he'd helped
Misato stop the JSSDF's giant robot.  That had made him feel good, like
he'd done something.  There had been purpose in that, doing something to
save people.  It had been similar to jumping into the volcano to save
Asuka and Unit-02.  That had been a personal decision, and he tried to
recall that small spark of... something... he'd felt when he realized that
saving her was something only he could do.  Seeing Ayanami safe after
Unit-00 collapsed from the particle beam attack... well, he wasn't sure he
could feel that pure expression of joy ever again. 
 
	But an elevator could also go down.  And right now, the elevator
was lowering his body towards NERV HQ and his thoughts and soul along with
it.  Those things had been momentary victories in the downward spiral that
was his life.  The pilot of Evangelion Unit-01?  A tool to fight the
Angels was more accurate.  And not exactly a very good tool in any event. 
Ayanami Rei could pilot Unit-00 as well as Unit-01.  He himself hadn't
been able to sync with Unit-00, meaning that Rei had more use than him. 
His fellow pilot, Soryu Asuka Langley, had a better harmonics rate than
him, and struggled hard to keep it that way.  She was eager to do her job,
willing to do what was asked of her. 
 
	Therefore, he was the least effective, least motivated of the
tools they called Children.  A fact that was reinforced as he stared
silently at the back of the blue-haired girl riding the elevator with him. 
He felt... how did he feel?  He knew he didn't feel apathetic.  He'd been
like that before, when he had lived with his old sensei.  Apathy had its
advantages in that there were no lows to strike in your life.  There was
no risk, and there was no risk of failure.  Going through the motions of
living allowed for a certain sense of peace. 
 
	Here in Tokyo-3 however, he could no longer retreat to that
comfortable balance.  He'd begun to experience things.  Good things. 
Misato, friends, perhaps even a sense of belonging... But he'd learned
that along with these also came feelings of worthlessness.  Loneliness. 
Fear. 
 
	He couldn't retreat.  He'd invested too much of himself.  Could he
go forward? 
 
	Forward... to what?  They fought the Angels, but when would that
end?  Would it ever?  He didn't control when the Angels would attack. 
They came with no care for the lives they disrupted, the people they hurt. 
He wasn't involved in the planning of the defense of humanity.  He, the
pilot of the most powerful fighting machine mankind had ever produced, was
not in control of his choices.  They told him to fight and he fought. 
Someone pushed a button and he did things.  He couldn't even leave.  Where
would he go? 
 
	He couldn't go back... he couldn't go forward... all he could do
was experience things.  All he could do was feel his emotions go up and
down as others made demands of him that he fulfilled.  Like an elevator. 
 
	"Ayanami?" 
 
	"Yes." 
 
	"W-why are we here?" 
 
	Her head turned slightly.  He could now see the tip of her pale
nose, but the rest of her features were still hidden by her short hair. 
"Here?" 
 
	"Here.  This elevator.  This city.  This life.  Is there a reason
why we're here, right now?"
 
	"Yes." 
 
	He waited for her to expand on her revelation. 
 
	"Uh... what is it?" 
 
	The girl's head swiveled a bit more towards Shinji.  Her eyes were
red and black.  The colours of power.  Of stark truth. 
 
	"I... do not know why you are here.  I only know for myself." 
  
	"Oh.  You... can I ask why you are here?" 
  
	"Because I have a purpose." 
 
	"A purpose?" 
 
 	"Yes.  A reason to be," she answered, turning away from him again. 
  
	"W...what is it?" Shinji asked. 
  
	Several more floors slipped by as the counter clicked away. 
 
	"W...what happens when you find your purpose?"  The girl was
silent to his question for a long time. 
 
	"Ayanami?" 
 
	"You are... finished." 
 
	"Finished?" 
 
	"Yes," she whispered. 
 
	Shinji leaned his head back against the cold wall of the elevator,
leaving his companion to her thoughts.   he thought.  There was
nothing more after you achieved what it was you were there to.  It made
sense in a way: you put tools away when you were finished with them. 
Maybe... maybe good tools put themselves away when they were finished
being used. 
 
	<"He may have been born to pilot Eva.">
 
	Was that it?  Had he born to pilot Eva?  Was that his purpose, his
reason to be?  If so, had he achieved what he was here for?  If Ayanami
was right, then what remained? 
 
	A soft ding signaled the end of the elevator's descent.  The
physical one at least. 
 
  
 
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
 
 
	"Shinji!  That was the worst showing we've seen from you in a long
time!  Pay attention when I tell you to clear your mind of anything.  Just
concentrate on syncing with Eva.  There's no trick involved, you just
simply have to work at it!  [sigh] That's all for the plug tests today. 
You three, come to the briefing room." 
 
	Dr. Akagi's words rang through Shinji's head as he levered himself
out of the entry plug's seat.  Ritsuko had been correct, today had been
the worst showing Shinji had in months.  He just couldn't focus on the
need to meld his mind with Unit-01.  Normally he did as he was told, and
when instructed to sync with his Evangelion, he did.  Today however he
found he wasn't even interested in avoiding getting yelled at.  It didn't
seem worth it. 
 
	He began to walk around the gangplank at the Eva's neck level. 
What if that was it, he wondered.  What if his only reason to be was to
pilot Eva?  And now that he seemed to be backtracking, would that mean,
like Ayanami had said, once he found his reason, he was finished? 
 
	"Prepare to return Unit-01 to second stage of cooling," Maya's
voice echoed out over the loudspeakers.  "All personnel, clear the lower
levels of the 7th cage.  Injection of coolant into the cage will begin in
45 seconds.  All personnel, clear the lower levels of the 7th cage for
coolant injection." 
 
	Stopping directly in front of his Eva, Shinji looked into its
monstrous eyes.  Like his parent the silent machine seemed to be watching
him, judging him. 
 
	Losing the staring contest he never had a chance of winning,
Shinji dropped his gaze.  What was it with him and picking losing battles? 
Gazing down, he looked at the edge of the platform he was standing on. 
With morbid curiosity, he stepped to the edge and looked past the
precipice and down to the floor of the 7th cage.  It was a long way down. 
 
	What if... what if he were to step off into the void?  There would
be nothing to catch him, nothing to interrupt his fall.  Would he change
his mind halfway down?  Of course, it really wouldn't matter if he did. 
If he made this decision there would be no turning back.  There was
something appealing about that fact, that this time he would have to stick
to a decision.  There would be no running away, no standing still at the
train station with Misato to pick him up afterwards.  	
 	Could he do it?  No, it would cause a certain amount of trouble for the
technical staff, having to clean up his body.  He didn't want to
inconvenience them, better not do it. 
 
	 , he thought to himself.  Running away from decisions was
his specialty, wasn't it?  Not luck as Kaji had suggested, but shrinking
away from responsibility.  Using the inconvenience of others to put off
his choice- wait!  Wouldn't the coolant help keep his blood from staining? 
And they always did the clean up of Unit-01 here; there were high-pressure
hoses all over the place.  It would be a cinch to remove any evidence of
the act after it was all over.  People could quickly get on with their
lives. 
 
	So, this was actually a good place to do it.  His sole objection
had been countered, he now only had to actually go through with the deed. 
Was he willing to put his money where his mouth was, or would he waffle
here as well?  Looking for any out to keep from making a choice, certainly
he'd-
 
	No!  He wouldn't run away here.  He had raised an objection and it
had been deal with.  There was no reason not to continue. 

	Idly, he wondered if his heart should be pounding.  He wasn't
anxious.  Tense, but not fearful.  Maybe that was the best sign that this
was indeed the time.  No terror, no fear of the actual act.  Just a sense
that he should either do it, or not.  He took a single, final deep breath;
a little annoyed that LCL was all he could smell.  Well, you couldn't have
everything your way.  Shifting his weight forward, he rose onto the balls
of his feet and his foot extended over the edge. 
 
	His ear exploded in pain.  Yelping loudly, his head jacked
backwards, twisting his body around and dumping him unceremoniously on the
gangplank. 
 
	"Come on!" the loud redhead girl demanded, one hand yanking his
ear lobe painfully.  "Don't just stand there staring off into space! 
Hurry up and let's get to the briefing room!  I want to see how well I
did!" 
 
	"Ow!  Asuka!" he whined.  "Don't do that!" 
 
	"Be quiet, baka!"  Still holding on to his ear lobe, she marched
off towards the far door, dragging the protesting boy behind her.  Behind
the noisy pair, Unit-01 silently watched it all. 
  
  
 
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
 
 
	Closing the door to the stall, Shinji lowered the seat cover and
sank down onto the toilet gratefully.  Not that he had to go, but he
welcomed the chance to just sit.  Placing his book bag by his feet, he
stared blankly at the stall door.  It was lunch hour now, the morning
classes over and students milling around to find places to eat.  Taking
advantage of the fact that few students were still enrolled, he had
entered one of the least used bathrooms in search of a breath of solitude. 
 
	Today had been similar to all the other days that made up his
school life:  Sensei had droned on about the Second Impact, to the extent that the
class had drifted off into that horrible half-life where they weren't
really aware, but not yet asleep.  Hours had past, hours that had dragged
like days. 
     
	The only real time he'd felt even a bit alive was when Touji and
some guy had engaged in a toad fight during science.  Tossing dead frogs
around the room and listening to the girls scream had been fun for a few
moments, but that fun had died a quick death once the Class Rep had put in
her appearance.  It seemed recently that he was getting yelled at no
matter what happened.  Hikari had blamed the whole thing on the Three
Stooges and their supporting cast, and the guys had been forced to clean
up the mess.  Although Shinji himself had not been involved, the fact he'd
been holding his dissection specimen in hand had led him to be flagged as
guilty along with the rest of them.  Caught red-handed as Hikari had
insisted.
  
 	He turned his left hand over and gazed at the wrist.  His eyes noted the
lines of tendons and veins that existed just beneath the surface.  He
couldn't help but feel that if you probed him that is all you would find: 
tendons, blood and bone.  Nothing more, nothing that couldn't be seen from
a glance at his wrist.
 
	A thin wrist; he really should start working out.  That brought a
small sigh to his lips.  He was thinking about the future.  What future
did he have anyway?  Provided the Angels didn't kill him, he had no great
plans to aim for.  For him, school was something to fill time.  He didn't
plan like Kensuke, who needed a high school degree to enter NERV.  He
hadn't achieved anything in school to stand out, he was just... here. 
 
	And he wasn't sure he want to be here anymore.  There, under the
skin he could see the blue of his veins.  Not a powerful blue, but a
colour that carried the very breath of life.  Strange that so weak a
colour was involved with something so important.  The hue brought back
Ayanami's words. 
 
	<"You are... finished.">
 
	Reaching down, he opened his book bag and pushed aside the bento
boxes inside.  Finally locating it at the bottom, he took out the item
he'd managed to surreptitiously acquire during his forced cleanup.  An
item used to slit open the frogs in an attempt to understand what made
them live.  Strange that: to understand the living it required the dead. 
 
	Shinji scrutinized the scalpel he held.  This one was different
from most of the others used in the class: it was sharp.  It would cut
flesh without trouble, allowing life to drain away.  Perhaps that was the
key: life could not be understood until you were finished with it.  Only
by being outside looking in would things finally make sense.  He examined
the blade.  It would suffice. 
 
	He looked around the cubicle he was in.  Strange, but there was a
certain symbolic feeling of righteousness in here.  He couldn't really
place it, but his actions within this small space would free him from the
cage of his life. 
 
	Taking the scalpel in his right hand, he held it over the other
wrist.  The steel blade glinted coldly in the overhead lights.  Would it
hurt?  Of course it would.  But it would be over quickly.  They said it
was like falling asleep.  Then, it would be all over, into a sleep with
soft dreams.  Besides, he was no stranger to pain. 
 
	Shinji took one more look around his little enclosure.  There was
no change; the enclosing walls were still just as suffocating as they had
been a moment ago.  But he felt sure now, sure of the path to a peaceful
existence.  Taking a deep breath, he grit his teeth and pressed down with
the cold blade. 
 
	"SHINJI!!" 
 
	The boy jumped, scared witless.  He hadn't heard anyone enter the
washroom.  Where had the voice come from? 
 
	"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!" 
 
	It came again, that disembodied voice.  A loud, commanding voice
that rang throughout the room.  Horrified, Shinji looked around.  Then he
slowly gazed up as he realized the voice came from on high. 
 
	"A...are you..." 
 
	"YOU STUPID BAKA!!" 
 
	Shinji flinched.  What kind of supreme being would call him a
baka? 
 
	"YOU'VE STILL GOT MY LUNCH!" 
 
	Oh... that one.  The one that was using the school's PA system to
insult him. 
 
	"WHAT KIND OF IDIOT DISAPPEARS WITHOUT GIVING ME MY LUNCH FIRST!? 
WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU HIDING?!  [pause] NO, I'M NOT GIVING THE MIC BACK! 
NOT UNTIL HE SHOWS UP WITH MY LUNCH!  HEAR THAT YOU BAKA?!  I'M HUNGRY!! 
BAKA!  BAKA!  BAKA!" 
 
	The scalpel slipped through his fingers and clattered to the floor
as he lowered his head into his palms.  He could feel the walls closing in
on him once more, but despite it all, he didn't want to fall into an
eternal sleep with 'baka' echoing in his ears. 
 
	Who knew... it might give him nightmares. 
   
  
 
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
 
 
	The hand before him was red.  Like those around him, he passively
awaited its permission to move.  Listlessly he watched the cars and trucks
move through the space he wanted to cross.  He was surrounded by people,
but still was alone.  No one paid any attention to the young man standing
there silently.  It was almost as if he was invisible. 
 
	Maybe he was, he thought.  What was particularly special about
him?  Lethargically, Shinji swiveled his head around.  He saw other people
waiting for the light to change and others who moved along the sidewalk
with purpose and drive.  These were people heading places, those with
things to do.  The cars moving in front of him embodied power and
animation.  There was something fundamentally *there* about them.  Some
tangible element that made his eyes notice them.  It was an element he
lacked. 
 
	He was nothing really.  Certainly not much to look at.  Average in
height for his age, there was nothing to his figure that would garner a
second glance.  A bit on the skinny side, but not so emaciated as to gain
notice from anyone.  He kept his hair too short to be ill disciplined, and
his choice of clothing only informed the world he was not unique.  He
lacked the roguish good looks of Kaji, or even the powerful eyes of his
father.  His were soft eyes; soft and unassuming.  He probably got from
his mom. 
 	
	He lacked Touji's arrogant presence, or even Kensuke's energy.  In
short, there was nothing about him to gain attention.  Reaching deep
beyond his physical shell, he only found a certain emptiness to himself. 
He piloted Eva, but it was something he took no pleasure in.  It was a
task, a harsh duty.  It was a job, the boring of sync tests broken only by
the sheer terror of a real Angel attack.  Even that strange feeling of
warmth he sometimes got from being in the entry plug didn't seem to do
much for him anymore.  He didn't have the resilience of Ayanami to
tolerate the testing, and he certainly lacked Asuka's fire to find thrill
in combat.  He was sandwiched between the two girls in piloting Eva.  It
was a position where he could be ignored.  Like he really was invisible. 
  
	Was he, he wondered?  Was he really invisible?  Would the cars
stop for him if he stepped out into the street before him?  Or would they
just continue on their merry way?  A morbid question to be sure, but one
that was worth asking.  Would it matter to anyone if he stepped in front
of a bus?  Maybe that was the best way, to step out into traffic.  He'd
always relied on others to make the tough decisions.  His whole life had
been made up of choices by other people.  Perhaps stepping out into
traffic would be the best way to settle things.  Other people would make
the choice for him.  He would know at last if he was actually there, or if
he was invisible to the world around him. 
 
	It felt fitting that he shouldn't be the one to make this
decision.  His life... run by the choice of others.  His life or his
death... decided again by the choice of others.  If someone grabbed him,
fine.  If the cars stopped for him, fine.  If he was truly invisible...
fine.  What began with others would end with others.  Closure. 
 
	The hand flashing upon the far pole no longer told him to stop;
now it beckoned him forward.  His eyes fixed firmly on the open palm, red
and black.  The colours of stark truth, the truth of his existence. 
Shinji stepped forward and into the on coming traffic. 
 
	Just as his book bag exploded in noise. 
 
	Shocked, Shinji pivoted on one foot and stumbled backward,
swinging his arms in an attempt to maintain balance.  Losing the fight
against gravity, his arms reached out and wrapped around a lamppost to
keep him upright.  For a few seconds he stood there panting as his heart
thundered wildly, more from the surprise than from his aborted walk into
oblivion. 
 
	And his bag continued to ring incessantly. 
 
	"Hey kid, answer your phone, would you?"  A stranger told him, and
then turned his attention away.  Shinji stared at the man for a moment,
blinking.  It seemed that he was only visible when others wanted something
from him. 
 
	Getting his feet back under him, Shinji straightened up and
released the lamppost he'd been hugging.  Pulling out his cellular phone,
he paused for a moment.  If it was for an Angel attack, he wasn't sure he
wanted to answer it. 
 
	The phone rang again.  As if he was no more than a machine, he
answered it. 
 
	"H-hello?" 
 
	"Hey, Shinji!  Come over to the mall on Hiyama Street and make
yourself useful." 
 
	"A-Asuka?  What do you want?" 
 
	"Don't ask stupid questions, stupid.  Hikari and I were out
shopping and we picked up a few things for her sisters as well.  We need a
little help carrying all this stuff, and I can't get a hold of Kaji." 
 
	His eyes widened.  "You called me up so I can come over and be
some beast of burden?" 
 
	"What kind of attitude is that!?  There's no way you'll ever spend
free time with girls, so you should jump at the chance to help us!  You
weren't doing anything important, were you?" 
 
	He looked again at the red hand.  A hand that continued to weave
its siren's spell upon him.  "Well... I was kinda in the middle of
something..." 
 
	"Doing what?" she asked.  He was silent.  He wasn't about to tell
her about this, certainly not over the phone.  What should he say instead? 
 
	 "Uhg!  Ikari, that's gross!" 
 
	"B-but I didn't say anything!" he protested.  Over the line he
could hear Hikari asking what was so disgusting.
 
	"Baka-Shinji's somewhere buying pornography!  And trying to deny
it!" 
 
	"I'M NOT BUYING PORNOGRAPHY!" he screamed into the phone. 
 
	"Prove it!  Come over here right now and show us that you're not
carrying around anything disgusting!" 
 
	"I'm not coming over!" 
 
	"A ha!" the redhead at the other end of the phone sounded
vindicated.  "See!  You admit you can't show yourself!  You're disgusting! 
Hentai!" 
 
	"I'm not a hentai!  I'll show you I don't have any pornography on
me!" 
 
	"Good!  And if it's true that you haven't wasted your money on
porn, you should be able to buy dinner for us girls!  See you at the east
entrance!"  Triumphant, the German girl cut the connection. 
 
	Furious, Shinji hit the 'end' button on his phone, biting back a
curse.  Glaring at the pedestrian sign, he noted with fury that it had
changed to the 'walk' symbol.  And he also noted something else: he was
getting a lot of looks from passersby.  A lot of looks and the occasional
whispered conversation with the words 'porn' and 'pervert' in them. 
 
	Stuffing his phone back into his bag, Shinji turned from the road
and stomped off towards the mall, eyes and comments still following him. 
For now at least, he certainly wasn't invisible. 
	   
  
 
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
 
 
	Solitude was an easy commodity to acquire inside NERV.  The
Geofront itself was a huge chamber, and the depths to which HQ plunged was
something that defied imagination.  The immense size of the facility was a
continuing source of amazement for those who worked there.  There were
some who spent their days off just wandering around the facility, finding
new things and new places every time they explored. 
 
	Shinji knew only little about the vast complex.  The most he'd
ever 'explored' the place was when he allowed Misato to 'guide' him
anywhere.  How a grown woman who couldn't even read a map was left in
charge of defending humanity was something he found it better not to dwell
upon.  Instead, he used these 'tours' to note places were there seemed to
be few security cameras and even fewer people.  Since HQ was the only
place he could be sure that security personnel wouldn't be shadowing him,
it was kind of paradoxical that the only place he could be truly free from
his job was the very place he worked. 
 
	He'd come to NERV today along with the other Children to be forced
to sit in the Evas while reports of an Angel were investigated.  For six
hours Units 00, 01, and 02 had been held on ready status.  Six hours
sitting on the throne of the soul, waiting for the chance to do...
nothing.  Six hours of breathing in LCL, the smell of blood just below
direct awareness but noticeable when your mind had nothing else to fixate
on.  Six hours of wondering what this Angel was going to be like, which
part of your Eva would it damage, and how much it would hurt.  Six hours
of wondering if today was the day you were finally going to mess up.  Of
the possibility that this Angel would be the one to kill you.  Six hours
of experiencing the pain that was piloting Eva.  Six hours of listening to
Asuka whine about how boring this was. 
 
	Finally they'd been given an all clear and allowed to leave their
mecha.  Informed that the whole thing was a false alarm due to human error
at the Lake Bawa relay station, the Second Child had promptly thrown an
Eva-sized hissy fit. For him though, those six hours had been useful.  It
had been time spent experiencing Eva without outside distractions.  For
once he could just sit back and devote himself to understanding the pain
and misery that always accompanied piloting.  Not having to worry about
such things as actually synching with the giant machine, or fighting
Angels, he had been able to judge for himself if he could continue on like
this.  If he wanted to go on. 
 
	And he had found his answer. 
 
	Shinji stared at the colourful panel before him.  He knew that the
security camera for this hallway couldn't see under the stairs.  The metal
meshwork of the stairs and the landing they ascended to above him would
effectively hide him from prying electronic eyes.  As well, this section
of NERV was rarely visited by anyone.  It seemed like one of the regions
of HQ that existed for no purpose but to exist.  It was desolate.  It was
isolated.  It was what he needed. 
 
 	CAUTION: HIGH VOLTAGE DO NOT OPEN warned the panel.  Below those red
English words, kanji repeated the caution in Japanese.  Contrasting
stripes of black and yellow chased the perimeter of the panel, signifying
the outline of the electrical box.  With a steady hand, Shinji opened the
panel. 
 
	A soft hum came from the open access port, a mix between kitten's
purr and hiss of a snake.  Wires stretched through the open port, and a
small metallic box was nestled into the back wall.  Another caution
repeated itself on this box: DANGER DO NOT TOUCH IF PANEL ACTIVE LIVE
CONNECTION DEATH OR SERIOUS INJURY MAY RESULT. 
   
	It seemed strange to put a warning on this little panel, hidden
away in the depths of HQ.  Tokyo-3 was filled with weapon arrays,
supposedly enough to wipe out a small army.  Missile batteries, tank
battalions, VTOL squadrons, gun emplacements: the first line of defense. 
After that came NERV and its three Evangelions, the mechanized battle
machines that nothing human could possibly withstand.  And so far, nothing
divine either.  The whole city was involved in the dissemination of death,
and yet they still had this warning here to prevent *accidental* demise. 
 
	Maybe that was the key.  NERV was not in the business of
coincidental death, but of cold, calculated termination. 
 
	Shinji stared at the box emblazoned with the warning.  This was no
simple thing he had planned on a whim; this had been calculated in a
manner as cold as his father.  Six hours of doing nothing in an Evangelion
had given him enough time to contemplate his life.  To ponder the pain
he'd suffered through.  To look ahead to what was offered.  To take a step
away from himself and see life clearly. 
 
	The scales had been found wanting.  Coldly, impersonally, judgment
had been handed down.  He would use the power of NERV to end it all. 
 	
	As his hand reached the wires, he thought that maybe this junction
helped power an elevator somewhere.  He wondered if his death would case
it to stop. 
 
	"There you are!  I've been looking *all* over for you!  What are
you doing down here anyway?" 
  
	Shinji froze, a fingernail's breadth away from the junction box. 
The sound of a door opening above him caused him to take a step back in
surprise as he looked up towards the noise.  Up on the landing, a roguish
looking man and a flashy teenager walked in through the hatchway. 
 
	"Just looking around Asuka.  It's always nice to see new things,
don't you think?" 
 
	The girl smiled at the tall man and clasped her hands behind her. 
"I'd much rather see you more often." 
 
	"Yes, I'm one thing that will never get boring, will I?"  Kaji
chuckled.  Turning to face the teenager, he looked down at her fondly. 
"You really shouldn't follow me around though.  I've got some important
work to do, and it's best you not get too close to me while I'm doing it." 
 
	"But Kaji," she whined in a cute little girl's voice.  "I heard a
rumour that you're going to Osaka.  Tell me that's not true!" 
 
	"Sorry there, Asuka.  My job sometimes requires me to make
sacrifices." 
 
	"I don't want you to go!" she pouted, crossing her arms and
looking annoyed with him. 
 
	He returned her pout with a smile that would have made Katsuragi
slug him if she'd known he smiled that way to other women.  "Don't worry,
I'll be back before you know it.  You'll hardly notice I'm gone." 
 
	"But I miss you already!" 
 
	He chuckled and turned away, casually descending the stairs. 
"Well, why don't you make me terribly jealous by choosing some lucky guy
and going on a date with him?  That'll make the time seem to fly by." 
 
	"Ugh!  Nobody could ever match you!" she told him.  Having reached
the floor level, Kaji walked down the hall and casually tossed a wave over
his shoulder as he strolled away. 
 
	"I'll pick you up something nice from Osaka.  See you later,
Asuka."
 
	"Bye Kaji!" the redhead returned, a big smile plastered on her
face.  Once Kaji had moved out of sight however, the smile and animation
left the girl.  Her features fell into something blank, and she stared off
in the direction the object of her desire had vanished. 
 
	Letting loose a small sigh, the girl allowed her head to fall
forward.  With eyes glazed she stared down at her shoes for a long moment,
lost in thought. 
 
	Then she blinked.  Refocusing her eyes, she gazed down past her
shoes, past the metal grating she was standing on, and directly into the
frightened eyes of a certain young boy who was situated under the very
landing she was standing on. 
 
	And who was in the perfect position to look up her skirt. 
 
	"IKARI!  DIE BAKA HENTAI!!" 
 
	Shinji bolted.  There was nothing cold or impersonal about death
at Asuka's hands.  Nothing painless either. 
  	   
  
 
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
 
  
	Shinji walked into the darkness of his room, closing the sliding
door behind him.  His free hand strayed towards the light switch by force
of habit, but he aborted the motion before he hit the switch.  At least in
the dark he would not stare at the ceiling.
 
	The apartment was quiet.  Quiet enough for him to hear the
occasional drunken shout coming from his unconscious guardian off in her
room.  Still, it was probably the most peaceful time he would ever find
here.  It seemed a good omen. 
 
	Major Katsuragi Misato, the guardian of the Second and Third
Children had recently been taking her job more seriously.  Long hours and
meetings had taking their toll upon her free time, and she had been
spending less and less with her two wards.  To make amends to her
flatmates, she tended to set aside specific 'quality time' to spend with
them, and just them.  In Misato's case however, quality time was a synonym
for 'party.'
 
	She threw herself into these little extravaganzas with a passion
that was scary to behold, and even scarier to suffer through.  Misato took
care of everything: the planning, entertainment, refreshments, and of
course, the food.  Oh God, the food. 
 
	Shinji and Asuka had arrived home only to find Misato already deep
in preparations.  Showing that she could apply her genius level IQ to real
life situations, Asuka had made up some story about Hikari needing help
with homework and deserted the apartment faster than a certain animated
panda from responsibility.  Shinji was not so fortunate.  Having lost one
roommate already, Misato was unwilling to lose another and his stuttering
pleas of a previous engagement had fallen upon deaf ears.
 
	Shinji dropped himself heavily onto his bed, slouching over his
hands.  As he had learned to dread, Misato's idea of a party involved
beer, teasing, embarrassing her flatmate, activities designed to humiliate
all others in the room, and beer.  The Major's capacity for drink had been
tested again tonight, and while she had been successful in drinking
Pen-Pen under the table, her victory had been a costly one.  Shinji had to
help her stagger into her room so she could collapse in drunken victory
upon her futon.
 
	Right now Shinji felt...  nothing.  Nothing at all.  Considering
that he'd been eating Misato's cooking this evening, that was probably the
best he could hope for.  For all her attempts, Misato's jovial endeavours
had not improved his spirits any.  Although she had raised a whole lot of
spirits tonight, all of them had been liquid in nature.
 
	He didn't blame his guardian any; their worlds were just too
different.  It wasn't her fault that he couldn't respond to her attempts. 
In fact, he owed her a bit of thanks.  Because of their 'quality time,'
Misato would snore peacefully through what was about to happen.  He really
didn't want to disturb her.  He owed her that much. 
 
	Uncoiling from his slouch, Shinji sat up and stared at the weapon
in his hands.  Misato's service automatic was cold in his hands.  Cold and
heavy.  He was surprised it weighed so much.  And so black.  Even in the
twilight of his room the gun was a black spot, a thing of sharp, pointed
angles.  There was nothing soft about this device, and maybe that was a
good thing.  This was a tool specifically designed with a purpose in mind. 
Unlike him, this was a tool that would not malfunction. 
 
	Carefully flicking the selector off 'safety', Shinji swallowed. 
Not because he was scared, just to clear his mouth.  How to do it?  In the
mouth?  The ear?  The temple?  Should he lie down on the bed, making clean
up easier?  Or would it be better to sit upright, facing death like a man? 
Strange there were so many details to go over when all you wanted to do
was kill yourself.  So simple an act required so many decisions. 
 
	In the temple, sitting upright he finally decided.  No specific
reason behind his choice, but it did feel good to just make a decision
like that.  No worries about whether or not they were the right ones, just
follow through.  He settled his butt firmly on the bed and raised the gun
to his right temple.  Kind of liberating, making decisions like that.  He
really should have looked into doing that before.  Well, no time like the-
 
	"I'm home!" 
 
	A wave of outright exasperation blazed through Shinji's nihilistic
feelings, burning them to ash.  God damn that girl!  Would she never let
him go through with things?  He had half a mind to march right out there
and tell her that if she did not stop interrupting his suicide attempts,
he would come back and haunt her for the rest of her life.
 
	"Hey, Shinji!  Is there any non-Misato food left?" 
 
	Of course, if she kept keeping him from killing himself, how would
he ever get the chance to die so he could haunt her?  There seemed to be a
little something wrong with the logic here.  He really should think up a
better threat, maybe something like-
 
	"Baka-Shinji!  I'm talking to you!" 
 
	Wait a minute, it sounded as if she was coming this way.  He
froze.  For some reason, he really didn't want anyone to know he was going
to commit suicide.  It just seemed... a private affair.  Nothing that
should involve outsiders.  He thought about hiding the gun, but part of
him had already decided that now was the time to pull the trigger.  It
wasn't the best solution to do it at this time, but he couldn't override
the feeling of rightness to the whole thing.
  
	Still locked in his debate, Shinji could only stare stupidly as
his sliding door was yanked open and light from the hall spilled into his
room, highlighting the figure in the doorway.  "Hey baka, I was talking... 
to...  you..." 
 
	The irritation drained from Asuka's words as she fell into stunned
silence, her face going slack with shock.  Just as surprised Shinji stared
back, caught in a compromising position with the gun still pressed against
his temple.  He could feel the cold of the metal against his flesh, but
seemed unable to pull the trigger now.  His whole world consisted only of
the gun and her eyes. 
 
	The gulf between them expanded, even as neither of them moved. 
Shinji looked into her blue eyes and saw the barriers she'd placed there
shatter in the wind.  Emotions flashed in those orbs, in a pure way he
realized he'd never seen before in anyone.  Hate, fear, loneliness, worry,
envy, anger, sadness, panic-
 
	Envy? 
 
	Suddenly the barriers slammed down over her soul.  Her eyes blazed
cold blue fire as her face closed to all, hidden behind an enraged visage. 
So furious was her gaze that for a moment he thought he wouldn't have to
worry about suicide, that gaze would do the trick.  Although he was the
one holding a gun, he shrunk back away from the rage he saw in her eyes. 
He waited for her reaction: to tell him to stop being a wimp and get it
over with, or to stalk over and hit him for trying to do something so
stupid.  To live or die, what would be her choice for him? 
 
	"I hate you!" she screamed before she turned and fled from sight. 
 
	With a bewildered expression, Shinji let the gun slip down into
his lap.  Well, that had been unexpected.  Not at all the reaction he'd
thought he'd get.  It had sort of answered the question 'what does she
think about me?' that had been plaguing him off and on for a while now. 
In a way it was closure: she hated him, so she wouldn't care if he killed
himself.  The hand with the gun started to raise again. 
 
	And it lowered just as quickly.  She hadn't said, "Go ahead, I
don't care."  She'd said, "I hate you!"  He really couldn't understand it. 
If someone was trying to kill themselves, you either let them do it, or
try and stop them.  But she'd said, "I hate you!"  Almost as if she was
mad at him. 
	  
	Yet, she hadn't made any attempt to disarm him.  She could have
walked over and slapped him and he wouldn't have stopped her.  At that
point, she had held his life in her hands.  A signal from her, either way,
would have meant something to him.  Instead, he got a comment he couldn't
figure out. 
 
	He raised the gun again.  You killed yourself because you were
feeling bad and wanted an end to it.  You could kill yourself when you
felt good, knowing that you could never keep those feelings.  You could
even kill yourself when you felt nothing, because nothing hurts in its own
way.  But would it really make sense to kill yourself when all you felt
was confused? 
 
	What if you spent the rest of eternity being confused? 
 
	With a sort of helpless whine, Shinji tossed the gun on his bed
and headed out after his flatmate. 
   	   
  
 
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
 
 
	Shinji spent nearly an hour searching for his fellow pilot.  He
had no idea where Asuka had gone and quickly ran out of options.  He'd
tried her room and then Misato's, but it was clear the redhead had fled
the apartment.  He'd gone to NERV, but a quick check in with HQ had shown
that she hadn't swiped her card to gain access to the Geofront.  He'd even
tried calling Hikari. 
 
	He wiggled a finger in his ear and winced in memory.  Man, and
he'd thought Asuka could be grouchy when woken up.  Apparently the Class
Rep was *extremely* possessive of her beauty sleep. 
 
	Where could Asuka have gone?  It wasn't as if she had many friends
here;  despite her popularity with the guys she didn't make friends
easily.  His period of running away had given him insight as to all the
places in town one could have gone, and she wasn't at any of them. 
Looking around, he saw that he'd left the suburbs of the city behind and
had moved into the surrounding hills.  Up ahead, barely visible under the
weak streetlamps, was the park and small cliff that offered an
unparalleled view of Tokyo-3.  Looking out across the city made it seem as
if the land was lit by a candle in every window.  	
	However, he was in no condition to appreciate the sight.  After a
night of putting up with Misato and a totally futile chase of Asuka, he
was ready to call it quits.  It seemed fitting that when he actually tried
to do something, he failed.  It was simply better not to try.  He might as
well just go home and shoot himself before he bungled that too.  Oh
wait... he already had. 
 
	Reaching the top of the hill his gaze mechanically swung around
the small park. Tiredly, he examined the looming dark mass of the grassy
hill, the few pools of light cast from lamps, the short metal fence that
outlined the cliff, and the small figure seated alone on a stone bench. 
 
	Shinji slowed to a stop as he stared at the girl.   he thought to himself.  She had
pulled her feet up on the bench and wrapped her arms about her calves. 
Face buried behind her knees, only her hair caught any of the light from
the nearby street lamp. 
 
	He stood silently, at a loss.  He'd been so focused on finding her
he hadn't really thought about what to do once that had been achieved.  He
waited for some action from her part, some sign that she had noticed his
arrival.  But none ever came. 
 
	Finally, he sighed softly and closed the distance.  Reaching the
stone bench he paused, struggling for something to say.  Finding nothing,
he sat down.  Shinji glanced over at the girl, but she made no sign that
she was even aware of his presence.  He waited some more, finding the
noise of the cicadas to be annoying.  Normally you couldn't shut Asuka up,
but now she wouldn't say anything.  His gaze turned towards the nearby
cliff.  Maybe he should just jump from here, rather than go back to the
apartment.  Naw...  it was too low, he'd just end up hurting himself. 
 
	"Go away." 
 
	He turned towards the voice in surprise.  Asuka hadn't moved at
all, just spoken the words from the depths of her tight form. 
 
	"If you're going to leave me, go get it over with." 
 
	Perhaps because he'd just spent time he could have used to kill
himself looking for her, this egotism annoyed him.  "Right Asuka.  Here I
am thinking about committing suicide and all you're concerned about is the
fact I'm leaving you.  Can't you think about someone other than yourself
for a change?" 
 
	Asuka raised her face from her knees and glared at him with a
disgusted look in her blue eyes.  "Oh yeah... like someone who was trying
to kill themselves has any right to call me selfish.  I always knew you
were stupid, but I never really understood the depths of your stupidity
till now." 
  
	Gazing back at her, Shinji felt the last of the focus that had led
him here burn away.  He'd been so sure that he'd hurt her when she'd fled
from his room.  He hadn't meant to hurt her, and had felt a certain
obligation to make sure she was okay.  He didn't want to leave without
making sure Asuka was going to be fine. 
 
	There had also been that look on her face.  In his room she had
looked so hurt, vulnerable for some reason.  That as much as anything had
driven him to find her, to find what had caused such a reaction from her. 
	
	But as he looked into her eyes now he wondered if he'd just
imagined it.  Her blue eyes were hard, unforgiving.  There was no red in
them, no sign of tears or pain.  Only anger and rage. 
 
	"Stupid?  I'm stupid?!  I came out here to make sure you're okay
and you call me stupid?!" 
 
"What do you call someone who's held a loaded gun to their own forehead?!" 
He had no snappy comeback for that.  "And I didn't ask you to come!" 
 
	As she spoke, her voice progressively became more enraged until
she was screaming at him.  Staggered a bit at the emotion, Shinji grasped
for something to say. 
 
	"Well... I..." 
 
She turned her head away from him with a snap.  "Why didn't you just blow
your brains out and be done with it?" 
 
	Stung at the venom dripping from her words, Shinji's brows drew
together.  "Maybe I should.  I really don't know why I came to find you." 
He rose to his feet and glared down at the foreigner in front of him.
 
	The anger seemed to fade from her.  Her eyes drifted shut and a
tired look crossed her features.  "You're an idiot," she said, quietly. 
No, the rage was still there, but shrouded in a different form.  "You
think this will solve anything?" 
 
	"I don't know," he replied.  "But it's my life.  I'm doing this
for me because I want to.  It doesn't involve anybody else.  I've made my
decision and I'm not going to back out."  His back straightened a bit as
he looked down at her.  "You're always complaining that I'm too much of a
wimp to do anything... Well, this time I'm not going to let anything stop
me.  I'm sorry you had to see that, I didn't mean to hurt you."  He turned
away to gaze at Tokyo-3's skyline.  "I might as well go back home." 
 
	"To relieve yourself of your obviously unused gray matter?" she
asked, not looking at him.  He paused before replying. 
 
	"Yeah, I guess so." 
 
	"Well in that case, why don't you just jump of the cliff here and
be done with it?" 
 
	Shinji let loose a breath, almost a sigh.  "These cliffs aren't
high enough.  I'd only hurt myself." 
 
	"You want to kill yourself, but you're afraid you'll get hurt. 
You know how dumb that sounds?" she asked rhetorically.  Flatly she
continued, "Then try about three meters to your left; there's a bunch of
rocks at the bottom.  Fall on that head first and you'll save Misato the
trouble of having to sponge down the walls." 
 
	Shinji looked over at the edge.  It was so dark now he couldn't
tell if she was telling the truth or not.  "And just how would you know
about the rocks?" he asked snidely, suddenly tired of putting up with the
bothersome girl; tired of everything.  He just wanted an end to things, no
matter what. 
 
	Asuka pulled herself into an even more rigid ball.  "Well?" Shinji
demanded, the confusion that had led him to search for the redhead now
nothing but a bitter memory.  "How would you know that?" 
 
	"I looked!  Okay you moron, I looked when I arrived here!"  She
screamed from the depths of her ball.  "There are rocks there, big, hard,
sharp rocks!  Just right for cracking open your head!  No better way to
spill your brains!  There!  Are you happy?!" 
 
	Shinji turned away.  "Maybe I'll take you up on your offer.  I
mean, why bother to go back to the apartment?  At least this way you and
Misato won't feel so uncomfortable at home."  He shrugged his shoulders. 
"Here's just as good a place as any to-" 
 
	Something inside Shinji suddenly clicked, dropping him into
silence.  His brow furrowed, he gazed at the fence and the dark void
beyond.  The girl retreated back into her own silence. 
 	
	"Asuka..." Shinji asked softly, his back still to the redhead. 
"...how did you know about the rocks?" 
 
	"...I told you, I looked you moron." 
 
	 "I know you looked and all... but *why* would you look?" 
 
	Asuka only curled herself into an even tighter ball and didn't
reply.  "I mean, I've been here before, I've stood at the edge and all,
but I've never looked down.  I always looked out at the city, the view. 
The only way you could know about what was at the base of the cliff was if
you looked, but-"  he finally turned to face his fellow pilot and
flatmate.  "But why would you look down?" 
 
	There was no reply from her; she just stayed in her ball,
separating herself from the world.  Seeing this from someone like Asuka
left Shinji feeling even more tired than before.  But it was a different
kind of exhaustion.  Slowly he sat down next to the girl, even more
confused than before. 
 
	"Asuka... I know why I want to... end things.  I mean, I've got
nothing.  I'm not good at school... no one really likes me... and my
family... well, my father... 
 
	"But you... you're... you've got everything.  You're smart,
popular.  You like piloting Eva, and you're... you're bold.  Fearless. 
Why would you even think about-" 
 
	Asuka's head snapped up found his eyes in one sudden motion.  So
swift was the motion that Shinji recoiled slightly.  "Get one thing
straight Ikari,"  she growled.  "Suicide might be what runs through your
demented head, but not mine.  I've never thought about it, you understand? 
Never.  I want to live.  Live, damn it!  I'm not like you!  I'm not like
my...!  I'm not like any of you!  I will live!" 
 
	  She glared at him for a long moment, her bottom lip trembling, her
face set.  He saw the fierce determination in her eyes and found that for
some reason he couldn't turn away.  There was something in that glare she
gave him, something he thought that just maybe he recognized.  It was
something dark, something that he couldn't place a name to, but not what
he'd ever expected to find in anyone else.  Before he could identify what
it was Asuka broke eye contact, lowering her head back down to her knees. 
"I'm not like you," she muttered, her voice weakening.  Confused, Shinji
turned away from the girl and looked out over the cityscape again.  They
were both silent for a long time, Shinji having no idea what was going on
in her head.  Hell, he wasn't even sure what was currently going on in his
own mind.  Nothing made sense. 
 
	"It's all so simple, isn't it?" Asuka finally spoke, her voice
very quiet. 
 She sounded exhausted, her tone implying she had seen the same sort of
futile thing again and again.  But how could- "You want to stop your
suffering.  Run away from the problems that don't seem to quit.  Just get
it over with so you won't have to feel anymore.  Of course you don't even
bother to think about how the rest of the world will feel when you're
gone.
 
	"Oh of course no one will mind," she continued, killing off the
response he'd been about to voice.  "No one cares about you after all. 
Everything that happens is just a reminder that you've got no one, and no
one cares.  Why bother to put up with it anymore, just end it all and
leave.  People would be better off if you weren't there."
 
	Shinji stared at her, stunned.  How could she possibly- "Well I
got news for you Ikari... it's not that simple.  It's not just you in your
own little selfish world.  There are others around, others who just might
actually give a damn about something.  And these people might just be
affected when you go and hang...... blow your brains out. 
 
	"If you think that killing yourself is just a personal decision,
you're just being a selfish bastard.  It's not just a personal choice. 
Did you ever stop and think how Misato would feel?" 
 
	Shinji licked his lips.  "Uh... well, I guess that she'd-" 
 
	"You didn't.  No one ever thinks about those left behind," the
redhead continued over his response. "All that proves is that you haven't
really thought about it.  All you can see is *your* pain, how crummy
*your* life is.  How the world is a dark, rotten place.  You're so busy
with your petty little problems that you never consider that maybe, maybe
someone just might miss your rotten stinking carcass after you're gone.
 
	"You're so concerned about ending your pain, getting away from
what's eating at you, that you never stop to think about who... about what
you've left behind."
 
	In a voice barely above a breath she finished, "To think about
suicide...  you'd have to be... crazy."
 
	When Asuka finally stopped talking Shinji only sat there, face
down, staring at his own knees.  She was right, he'd never really thought
about those who knew him and how his decision would have affected them. 
After all, everybody else seemed to have lives, have things to occupy
their attention.  He was sure he wouldn't have be missed too much.  A
short grieving time perhaps, but in the end he would have been quickly
forgotten. 
 Misato might have cried a few tears, but held a wake for him and that
would have been it. 
 
	He'd never really given it the thought that Asuka seemed to have. 
She really must have spent some time thinking these things over.  Strange
that she'd have a better understanding of what he was getting himself into
than he did himself. 
 
	She'd certainly given him something to think about.  He rose from
the cold stone bench and wandered over to the railing.  Gasping the icy
metal bar, he stared out into the city lights that competed with the
stars.  It was unsettling to hear what suicide would mean to people other
than him.  He'd always assumed that having the gumption to kill yourself
required a certain amount of courage; one of the reasons he'd never tried
to do it back at his sensei's old place.  He'd just never had the balls
before.
 
	But to hear Asuka talk about it, it was a coward's solution.  A
selfish way to say that your problems were all that mattered.  There was
nothing else and the feelings of everyone around you were not worth
considering when you made plans.  It was disconcerting to be told by the
likes of Asuka that you were being selfish, and even worse that he was
starting to think she might be right.
 
	He gazed down once more, towards the base of the cliff.  Darkness
hid all signs of the rocks Asuka had promised would be there, but somehow
he could feel them there, waiting.  Step off into the abyss, he realized. 
It was as simple as that.  His pain would be over with that one simple
gesture.  He would never have to suffer again.
 
	He hated pain.  Embrace the darkness at his feet for it offered
comfort, forgiveness, and peace.  It made no demands of him, expected
nothing from him except himself.  He would, at last, be free. 
 
	But what about others and their pain?  He would be free of his,
but they wouldn't.  If Asuka was right, then they would have to deal with
pain he caused.  Could he really inflict upon others what he was unwilling
to face in himself? 
 
	Was he really that selfish? 
 
	Very slowly, Ikari Shinji released his hold on the fence railing. 
With uncertain steps, he took a step away from the edge.  He gazed for a
long moment at the comforting darkness a pace beyond the cliff. 
Reluctantly, he slowly turned away.
 
	Asuka hadn't moved.  She was still curled up in a ball, keeping
the world at bay.  Shinji walked over to her and sighed softly.  "Asuka,"
he said, tiredly.  She made no sign she'd heard.  "Come on.  Let's go." 
 
	Slowly she raised her head from her protective ball.  Eyes
guarded, she looked at him.  "Why?  So you can kill yourself with all the
comforts of home?" 
 
	He shook his head.  "I'm...  You've given me a lot to think about. 
I'm not really sure I still want to continue on, but..."  He sighed again
and ran a weary hand through his short hair.  "I'm not sure what I want. 
Are you going to tell Misato?"
 
	"Maybe."  She stared at him with hooded eyes.  "Do you still want
to kill yourself?"
 
	He opened his mouth to reply, then paused.  For a moment nothing
came out then he tiredly shook his head.  "I don't know.  I really don't
know."
 
	Her blue eyes found his.  For the first time that evening, he
thought that maybe, just maybe, he saw the possibility of moisture in
them.  He stared in awe as she uncoiled herself from her ball and rose
from the bench.  Straightening up, she stood level with him and once more
stared into his eyes There was no sign of tears; it must have been a trick
of the street light. 
 
	"That," she said in a quiet voice, "is a good place to start." 
  
 
 
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 
 
  
	Neither said a word as they trekked back to the apartment.  The
heat from the hot day had faded and the soft light of the moon bathed
everything in a shroud of shadows, hiding the harsh edges of the man-made
environment.  The city was asleep, and the silence was a comfortable one. 
 
	At the apartment building, they walked over to the elevator and
stairs.  Automatically, Asuka's hand reached for the elevator button. 
 
	"Wait," Shinji said, softly grabbing her hand in his.  This seemed
to break the silent spell that had been over the two of them because
Asuka's brows drew together in annoyance.  "I... I just don't feel like
using the elevator." 
 
	"And just how do you expect us to get to the apartment, Third
Child?  Jump from balcony to balcony?" 
 
	Her hand was soft, Shinji realized, and warm in the night air. 
"Uh...  well, I thought we could use the stairs." 
 
	Without using too much force, Asuka pulled her hand free from his. 
Unnoticed, she rubbed the fingers with her other hand.  "The stairs?  Do
you have any idea how many flights that is?!" 
 
	"Uh... well, I..." He really wasn't sure he could explain to Asuka
his feelings regarding elevators.  Seeing him hesitate, she snorted and
pushed the button.  Realizing he was losing this battle, Shinji decided to
try something a bit different.  "Well, I guess if you don't think you can
do it-" 
 
	"And you think you can, Third Child!?  A few measly stairs are not
going to get the better of me!"  Call button forgotten, she turned to face
him.  "I'll race you to the top, and know that you're going to lose."  She
gave him a mocking smirk.  "After all, when they made Soryu Asuka Langley,
they broke the mold!" 
 
	"Yeah, on purpose." 
  
	Grinning slightly, Shinji bolted up the stairs.  Behind him, red
death was nipping at his heels and screaming incoherently... or perhaps
just in German.  For whatever reason, courting death like this had left
him feeling better than he had in ages.  He'd have to do it more often. 
 
	Behind them and forgotten, an elevator opened.  In this case, it
was unneeded as people made their own way up. 


[fin] ______________________________

[Author's Notes:]
 
	
	As for this whole fic: I wanted to do something that would be a
bit different from the large number of 'Asuka considers suicide' fics out
there.  Many of these are wonderfully done, but an occasional break from
cliche is always a nice thing.  There have been a few fics where Shinji
considers doing himself in, and I have generally enjoyed them, even if I'm
too lazy to go hunting down their titles so you can as well. 
 
	This was also partially inspired by Anno's description of Shinji
as someone who, 'was too cowardly even to commit suicide.' What if
piloting EVA gave him the just enough courage to kill himself, but not yet
enough to face life? 
 
	One neat thing about this fic is that with regards to someone
committing suicide, Asuka is no doubt a war-weary survivor.  If anyone
could give Shinji a talk about what it's like for survivors, it's her. 
There's also the nice bit of irony that for once, Asuka can tell someone
that they're being selfish, and she's right. 
 
	The question I'll leave to the reader to ponder is: does Asuka
give her little speech to Shinji, or is she giving it to herself? 
  
	How does this relate to the fact that Asuka does try to kill
herself later in the series?  At this point, she still has something to
live for and can still fight against her own personal demons.  After the
15th Angel, that conviction is shattered, and she falls victim to her own
trap of losing herself in her own problems.  This shows how close she is
to giving in anyway, so with the 15th crushing her, she no longer can keep
the wolves at bay. 
 
	At least, that's what I'm hoping this showed... 

	Goof-readers for this piece of... er... art... include: 
 
The Horde O' Hentai: 
 	Rob
	Craig
	Lee
SEELE fan-fic review group
	Alain Gravel
	Godsend777
	Axel
	Jeremy Mullin
 
	In the end however, ideas, problems, and signs that I am indeed in
need of serious help all are my fault. 
 
 
 
Darren Demaine
Chairman of the Horde
Horde O' Hentai Productions

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