As always, spoiler warnings: this is an altered continuity, after
episode 22.

  Here is the sequel to "I Mustn't Run Away". (I'd advise that it have
been recently read before reading this; find it at
Sorry it's so long. ^_^) This one is from Asuka's perspective. I really
hope I got it right. I also hope that this, along with the previous
story, will show for sure that I do really like Asuka. Yes, really.
(That is perhaps my biggest regret with NGEjd.)

  This story (and "I Mustn't Run Away", retroactively) is for Michael
Borgwardt, in particular. Have fun.

  An Oddzilla Productions fanfic, by Andrew Huang.
  In Other Words
  Based on Neon Genesis Evangelion, c. Gainax Studios and ADVision.

  I opened my eyes. Strange, I didn't remember closing them.

  Actually, what _did_ I remember last? Ahh, my mind was too fuzzy. I
closed my eyes again. That was when I heard Misato and Shinji talking.
About me, it seemed.

  I would have sprung out of bed then--and I tried, but the blood loss
to my head only let me fall limply to the floor instead, my eyes and
ears throbbing without mercy. I managed to crawl to the door, where I
lay for a few moments, listening. They were talking about....

  My mother?

  I froze.

  Apparently, so had they, because there was now a long pause. It seemed
that Misato had finished her story about me. Shinji wasn't saying

  Oh, God, Shinji knew? About...about....

  "I almost wish I hadn't asked," he finally said.

  "But now you understand," answered Misato. Almost a question.

  "I...I think so. Maybe." He paused. "I'm going to check on her before
I go to bed."

  I panicked. I lurched to my feet, almost tripping on my blanket--I
hadn't realized that I had dragged it with me to my door--shuffled to my
bed, flopped down, and feigned sleep. It was not a moment too soon,
because I heard a soft knock an instant later, then the door sliding
open. I forced my face to relax, so as to make sure of the illusion of
blissful unconsciousness on my part. Hah, "forced my face to relax". How

  I've never tried to hide like this. No, not like this. Not that I can
ever remember.

  I heard his soft footsteps and him cursing quietly when he kicked one
of the textbooks on the floor by accident. I was facing away from the
wall, towards him, and I cracked my eyelids a tiny bit open to look. I
quickly closed them again as I saw him kneel down next to me, feeling a
rush of air from the sudden movement. Apparently, his face was very
close to mine, now--I could hear his breathing clearly. What was he

  He sighed, and I felt a finger brush my cheek, making me quiver
involuntarily. But it was only because of his touch that I realized that
my cheek was wet.


  As my addled brain wriggled out the conclusion that I had been crying
for some reason, I felt something else, something softer, touch my
cheek, while some moving air tickled my ear. There was a whisper next:
"I...Asuka.... Get better." Then, he seemed to vanish. I could feel him

  I slowly sat up at the sound the closing door, and I touched my cheek
where he had...kissed me.

  I'm not sure why, but I started to cry again.


  Earlier, a long time earlier, I was doing some research on my fellow
pilots, and I came upon Shinji's psych evaluation after his first
battle, about how he had blanked out at first, then recalled what had
happened much later. I am able to say that I know exactly what that had
been like....

  Recall usually starts with some sort of sensory input in the here-and-
now that is the same or similar to something that happened when you
first blanked out. Shinji had said in the report that a train rattling
over some tracks sounded very similar to the Angel pounding the EVA's
head with its energy spike. Mine was a sound, too. My own sobbing.

  I hate crying.

  Yellow light, gripping me. A hand from that light reaching into my
mind, heart, soul. An eye, looking at me. Cold, ruthless, searching.
Dirty, I felt dirty! I tried to hide, but there was nowhere to go. I saw
what it saw, I saw what I didn't want to see. No escape. No exit.

  Mother! You left me! Why did you leave me?

  Someone telling Rei to get something and defeat the Angel. No, not
that, that, that doll. To be saved by her? I'd rather die. I'd rather
have no one save me.

  No one no onenoonenoonesomeone?

  Yes, someone. Holding me, tight, with strong arms. Here and now.

  "Shin...?" I heard myself ask.

  "No, Asuka, but I'm right here," answered a mature female voice. "You
were having a nightmare. It's okay. Shh, shh...." A gentle hand stroked
my hair.

  I think I almost felt disappointed, but any human contact now was
sorely needed comfort. "" though I knew immediately it wasn't
Mama. I found myself shifting around to hug Misato, as the rest flew
back to me.

  Yes, someone. Him. _Him_. Me. Me, moving. Me, moving out of the light,
towards the doll. Taking that thing, turning around, throwing. It was

  No, it wasn't done. Sitting outside. Someone coming. Him, again. Him,
talking. Him, grabbing me. Me, crying. I hate crying, but maybe not so
much now. Me, crying more, talking. Him...crying, too? Him, talking. Me,
closing my eyes. Closing my eyes.

  I felt myself dropping off to sleep again, sinking into the warmth of
M...Misato's embrace, but not before hearing a set of footsteps and a
voice. "What's wrong?" said the voice, a younger voice, a boyish voice.

  Everything. And nothing.


  Again, I opened my eyes, though I was much more coherent this time.
There was no sudden rush of repressed, terrible memories to throw me
off, because the memories were already there. I shivered, though it was

  As much as I wanted to, I knew I couldn't stay in bed forever. My
growling stomach reminded me of that, and I slowly rose, wiping the
crust out of my eyes.

  Ow. That was a lot of crust.

  I noted the dull glow from behind the shades, and looked at the clock.
Barely 6 am. How long had I slept, yesterday? I tried to puzzle that out
as I swung myself off the bed.

  Being so preoccupied, my foot almost landed on Shinji's face. Two
centimeters to the left, and I would have hit his nose. It was his
breath on my toes that told me he was there.

  The surprise sent me falling back on my mattress, blinking. What was
he doing...well, I suppose that would be a stupid question to ask. A bit
of anger warred with...something else within me, for just an instant,
but I calmed down. With care, I got out, and knelt down next to him. Two
can play at this game.

  He was lying on a sleeping bag, with his blanket on top, and using his
right arm as a pillow. Some part of me idly noted that the way his arm
was positioned, it was probably completely numb from loss of blood flow
to it. I shook the stray thought from my head, and studied him closely
in the dim light.

  His face was, at the moment, expressionless. For some reason, I
expected something there--perhaps a smile, a frown...maybe tears, even.
I don't know why.

  I didn't understand him. I couldn't see why he cared that much about
me, if my memory served me correctly. He said he did, but I couldn't
really believe it. He was just a boy, he didn't know about things like

  A whisper in my head. Just a child, he was.

  Another whisper in my head. But I was, too. So what would I know about
things like that?

  He shifted in his sleep, rolling even more onto his slightly twisted
arm. I touched his hand. Cold, like I thought it would be. Then I
touched his cheek, like he had done to me a few times in the past days.

  Warm, like I thought it would be.

  He didn't even stir, except a little twitch in his brow.

  I quickly shut out visions of playing some prank on him. I wasn't in
the mood for that. Not really.

  To ensure that I would stay "not in the mood", I silently exited my
room, and headed for the kitchen. It really had been a while since I

  Funny. As I put some bread in the toaster, I realized that except for
those momentary twinges when I had woken up, I wasn't feeling much of
anything at all. I was very calm, very cool, very controlled. It was
enough to be unnerving, were I capable of becoming unnerved at the

  I wasn't sure what I was feeling, because it seemed like I wasn't
feeling anything at all. This was annoying.

  Ah, at least I _was_ annoyed. That was something more familiar. I
sighed. This wasn't helping much. I had come out here to think, too, but
I kept on getting caught up in my own head.

  A soft scratching drew my attention. Pen-pen. My early breakfast woke
him, though I was sure I hadn't made much noise. Ah well. I scooped him
up and held him tightly.

  I repressed the urge to talk to him, as intelligent as he seemed.... A
question, though, rolled around in my mind: What happens now? I sighed,
ruffling the feathers on his head with my breath. I was probably afraid.
I couldn't feel it, exactly, but that had to be it.


  I fell down, dropping Pen-pen, who squawked in surprise. It took me an
instant to analyze the voice and realize that it wasn't Shinji; rather,
it was Misato.

  "Are you okay?" She was at my side, helping me up.

  "Ah, yeah. Th-thanks...."

  I eventually found myself eating toast silently, facing Misato. Rather
unusually, she was drinking some tea, studying me closely, through
evidently tired but attentive eyes. I decided to break the silence.

  " let him sleep in my room?"

  "Yes. After your...nightmare last night, he insisted that he stay with
you and keep watch." Her voice took on a slightly amused tone. "I think
he was disappointed that I made it to you first."

  "I see."

  "He really does care about you, you know."

  I didn't answer that. Instead, I asked something I had to ask. "Why
did you tell Shinji about my mother?" I said, in a voice I would barely
have recognized as my own.

  Misato didn't seem at all caught off guard, but her eyes did dip to
study her teacup before answering. "Shinji wanted to know. After what
happened yesterday...I think he had the right." She looked back up, and
smiled. "You're not angry, are you? I know it's not something you wanted
to share particularly."

  Yes, of course. After what had happened with that...thing, he would
want to know. I couldn't blame him. But something still felt wrong about

  "I, I guess I'm not angry. Just...well, I don't know. You know?" I
stopped, finishing the rest of my toast. Misato did not try to strike up
more conversation, for which I was grateful.

  I got up, and put my plate in the sink. "Misato...." My tongue was
thick and unresponsive, but I forced it to work. "Thank you for last
night, too."

  "Of course." Her voice was warm, caring. I looked at her, and saw the
same warmth in her eyes and smile.

  I called her "Mama"? No, I couldn't have....

  I nodded, and went to take a bath.


  I'd been quieter than usual, I know that. I suppose it was because I
really didn't know what to say, definitely not to Shinji, not to Misato,
and, were he around, not even to Kaji.

  I didn't cry when I heard. I felt terrible, yes...he was a friend, a
good friend, but I didn't cry.

  I felt tired then....

  I thought I loved him. I really did. I know, some would say it was
just one of those schoolgirl crushes...maybe even I would say that now,
but at the time, it meant so much. I had this need to reach out. But why
him? I was focusing on him, because he was someone already out of my
reach, so it wouldn't really ever matter, you know, and.... My need to
be self-sufficient superceded that reaching out, even then. It never was
real. Ha, Misato got jealous every time he showed the slightest bit of
interest in Ritsuko or Maya or any of the other women in NERV, but she
never even reacted slightly when I went on "dates" with truth,

  Enough. He's not here anymore, like....

  No, she's gone, too. A long time ago. No more about her.

  What about the people who aren't gone?

  I've been pushing everyone away. It's easy to see that, isn't it? And
then, if someone wouldn't be pushed away, then I would run away. Or
maybe I've just been running this whole time. I was pushing myself away.
But, dammit, it's hard to run from a person when that person won't let
go of you.

  I don't understand, not him...not Misato, either. Who are these
people? I've done all of those things to them, but they don't care? How
do they keep coming closer and closer to me? Why do they want to disrupt
my life? It's's been comfortable, this way. I like being
comfortable, if nothing else.

  Well, perhaps, I should stop running away. Perhaps, someone or
something is telling me to stop. Yes, perhaps. Ah, but it's so much
easier to say that. To stop for real, well, that's something else,

  Did I have a choice, though?

  I felt _very_ tired.


  I left the bathroom, adjusting my towel around me, feeling much
better...sort of. Passing the kitchen, I observed that Misato was being
true to her nature, now asleep. She had her head cushioned in her arms
at the kitchen table, teacup knocked over. I managed to find the ability
to smile a bit. I continued on to my room, to get dressed for the day.

  I walked in, shuffled to my dresser, opened the towel, and was about
to drop it, when I heard a sneeze behind me, a yawn, followed a bit of

  Then there was something that sounded like choking.

  "I-I-I, I'll go out now, so you can, you can...." Some footsteps
quickly padded their way to the door, which slid open, then softly
clacked shut.

  I have _got_ to start remembering details like when there's someone
else in my room.

  Once I managed to get out of my frozen, red-faced state, I put on my
clothes and carefully walked out the door. As I had suspected, there was
Shinji, sitting just outside, rubbing his arm. He looked up at me. I
looked down at him.

  Time passed.

  Finally, he stood up, but we simply continued looking at each other,
eye to eye.

  Well, sort of. The hallway was a little dark. Good enough, though. I
supposed so, anyway.

  Then, on some unspoken cue, perhaps a remnant of our synchronicity
training, we broke eye contact, turned simultaneously, and walked to
living room. We both sat down on the couch, next to each other, and
stared at our folded hands. I almost sighed with relief when he finally

  "You, you're feeling okay?"


  Oh, real good, Asuka. Give a one-word answer that just asks for more

  "Sorry about--"

  "It's all right. My fault I forgot you were in there."

  I suddenly found a hand around my own. I stiffened, but resisted the
impulse to snatch it away. Instead, I slowly pulled it out of his gentle
grip. "Please, don't."


  "Don't touch me. Just don't." Why was I saying this?

  I could tell he was confused. Maybe as much as I was. Hadn't I just
said that I was all right?

  "Are...are you sure you're okay?"


  "No, I suppose not," I snapped. A part of me was now rather horrified.
I seemed to be losing control. "I just kind of went through something,
you know? In case you hadn't noticed."

  "Yes, I know. I was there." There was strength in his voice, firmness.
It made me blink. "And I said I'd be there for you."

  "Oh, you did, did you?"

  "I said I'd protect you."

  That earned a raised eyebrow from me.

  "They're just words."

  "I--no--they're not just words!" He actually sounded...indignant? Not
quite, but something like it.

  I slowly turned to look at him, a rebuttal automatically finding its
way to my voice, then getting lodged somewhere in my throat.

  Those eyes, his eyes. I looked into them. They're actually a dark
blue. I hadn't noticed before, in all the time I'd been around him. I'd
just thought they were a deep brown that looked black, like most
Japanese. But I had to see now, so lit up by a fire in them. There was
intent, purpose, meaning in them. There was strength in them, the same
as his voice. This weak little boy had changed, sometime in the past few

  They might be just words, but words have power. Especially when you
can see when someone means them.

  And I was afraid.

  The frown on my face, almost a sneer, relaxed away. I now carefully
left my expression blank. "Shinji, do you know what that thing did to

  "What? You mean.... It looked into your mind?"

  "Yes, it looked into my mind. But it did more than that. It looked
into my mind, and made me look too. It forced its way into me. It took
out things from me. That thing had no right, but it went ahead. I didn't
want it to, you know that? I didn't want it looking there. It made me
feel dirty."

  The words came out faster, almost running into each other--I had to
say them, and quickly, or they might not be said.... "You know what it
did to me? It raped me. It violated me. And you know about me, now, too.
You know how I am. I'm a terrible person. I've done all that to you, to
everyone. I don't deserve anything. You should just leave me alone. So
don't touch me."

  I was dimly aware that there were no tears from my eyes. They were
perfectly clear. But Shinji, that poor jerk, he was crying.

  "Don't say that! You aren't, I know you aren't.... You couldn't be,
because, because I, I, I--"

  "You love me?"

  Oh, the look on his face was priceless. If I had been even the
slightest bit inclined to humor at that moment, I would have laughed.

  I didn't laugh.

  "Do I, do I, I what?"

  "Do you love me? Is that what you're trying to say?"

  He looked down, face red, hands curled into fists. " I? I don't
know.... I don't...I don't think I know what it is. Love, I mean. I
think...I think I'm too young to really know."

  Damn. That was exactly the answer that I couldn't really respond to.
Not really. "Oh." I paused for a moment, looking away momentarily, then
said, "I suppose I am, too. Young, I mean."

  "But Asuka--I do care about you, I know that. I promised that I'll be
there for you, and I mean it." He was looking up at me again, calmer,
and with clear eyes.

  I could not answer. Only shake my head.

  I'm an absolute idiot.

  No, I'm not. An idiot means someone with an IQ of 25 or lower, I think
it is. I, on the other hand, have an IQ well above 150, the genius mark.
I graduated from college at the age of 14. I'm a supergenius.

  I'm an absolute fool. That's what I am.

  "I'm sorry, Shinji."

  I left the room, giving him no chance to answer me. Just as well--I
wasn't quite sure what I was apologizing for, anyway.


  How does one fail an EVA synchronization test?

  You don't _fail_ a synch test, you get a score, a percentage. Just
like you get a score on an IQ test. You don't _fail_ an IQ test. And a
pilot doesn't fail a synch test. That's simply not how it's set up.

  "Synchronization test failed."

  Ridiculous! Only someone who can't synchronize with an EVA could
"fail" that test. Someone who's not a pilot, chosen by the Marduk
Report, or whoever it is.

  "Synchronization test failed."

  A pilot gets a percentage, a rating on the success of the link between
mind and robot, the completeness of the bond.

  "Synchronization test failed."

  Ritsuko's words rang in my head, and tasted like ash on my tongue. The
connection just never happened--the interface wouldn't budge. Then they
tested Unit 02 with Rei. Oddly enough, now that I look back at it, I
hadn't protested allowing the Wonder Girl into my Unit.

  She synchronized just fine.

  I tried again.

  And again.

  Shinji got in. He looked at me funny before he entered the hatch.

  He synchronized just fine.

  I tried again.

  Again, dammit!


  And now I was here, lying on a sofa in a lounge near the locker room.
LCL dripped out of my hair; I hadn't bothered with a shower--I didn't
feel like it. The sofa was probably getting ruined.

  I saw Commander Ikari whisper something to Misato before I gave up.
She frowned, then she looked at me. I saw....

  Did I tell you I was scared, too?

  My purpose, my role here was not to pilot EVA, as Subcommander
Fuyutsuki said, but to defeat Angels. But if I can't pilot EVA, then I
can't defeat Angels. I was useless. I bet that was what the Commander
whispered to Misato....

  I heard footsteps. Him, of course. I raised my head. "Don't say it,
Shinji. Whatever it is, don't say it."

  He didn't say anything. But he did look at me.

  I looked away, at the lights, at the plants in the room, at anything
else. My eyes settled on the clock. Just after three in the afternoon.
Long day ahead.

  I blinked. Just--an eyeblink. One moment.

  Half past three? What?

  Now I was aware of Ritsuko shaking me. When did she come in? And why
was, crying again. The wimp.

  I shook that off, quickly, and sat up. "What's going on?"

  Shinji got a hold of himself, taking a few deep breaths. "I...I let
you alone for fifteen minutes or something. Then I went over to you,
tried to get you up. You weren't moving. Not even blinking, just
breathing. God, Asuka, you scared me!" He reached out to hold my
shoulder. His fingers trembled slightly.

  I didn't shrug him off...but neither did I outwardly acknowledge his
touch. I had other things on my mind.

  "What? But I--it was just.... What's going on?"

  Ritsuko looked over at Shinji, then back at me. "We'll find out. Come
on. Let's visit the infirmary."

  Scared wasn't even the word for this....

  As she led me out of the room, I found myself actually seeking out
Shinji, instinctively, looking for reassurance...but I caught only a
glimpse of deep, dark blue before I was swept through the doorway and
around the corner. But what I saw spoke volumes to me, in that moment.

  That's when I knew I had finally lost.


  I sat in the bed, trying to keep this ridiculous, blue-speckled
hospital gown closed around me. I was waiting--

  *knock knock* "Asuka?"

  --for that. I knew he would be coming.


  The door creaked open cautiously. He had become an irritating mix of
old and new: ever so careful, tongue poised to apologize, shrinking
away, tiptoeing everwhere...while, at times, coming forward, showing a
glint of steel on his own. I couldn't predict him anymore--not at all.

  "Um, can I--"

  "Yes, you can come in," I said, slightly exasperated. He was currently
in his spineless form. I was tempted to snicker. The door opened wider,
and he stepped in. Seeing the way I had my sheets wrapped around me, he
quickly dropped his gaze. "They don't know anything for sure yet," I
answered pre-emptively, "but it's...."

  "It's related to _that_." I blinked at the vehemence in his voice.


  "Dammit," he snarled, clenching a fist and jerking his head up to face
me, "I don't care what my father says, I'm going to get Unit One out of
that freeze!"

  This time, I caught and held his gaze, unflinchingly. I had to; after
giving so much ground before, I couldn't look away. He didn't falter

  God help the commander if he refuses to release Unit One.

  "And why do you say that?" I asked softly. "Why do you want Unit One

  His fierce countenance slipped into one of puzzlement. "What?"

  "You want to fight? Why?"

  He almost became embarassed, I think. There was a slight flush to his
cheeks suddenly, and I expected him to slip into his wimp mode.

  I should have known better. Hadn't I just said that I couldn't predict
him anymore?

  He relaxed his face, as well as his fist, and spoke. "Because, if I
had been out there before, I could have protected you. Just like I said
I would. And I want to make sure I can continue to do that. Protect

  "Even though it seems like I can't pilot, anymore?"

  "And what does that have to do with anything?" He stepped closer, not
hesitantly, but not quite firmly, either.

  "If I can't pilot, then why--"

  "I DON'T CARE ABOUT THAT!" His explosion sent me reeling back in my
bed. Though I realized he was changing, I hadn't expected that; all I
could do was stare back at him with wide eyes. He continued in a softer
voice, but not any less intense. "Haven't I told you? Haven't I _TOLD_
you?! You're important to me. I care about you!" He edged closer to me
with every word, every word seething with furious conviction, every word
loud and clear. "I don't know what exactly it all means, whether it's
love or something, but I won't let anything happen, not to you." He
finished with a whisper that spoke louder than most screams I had ever

  I suddenly realized that his face was less than a quarter meter from
my own face; he was now leaning over the bed, hands propped on the
mattress--but all I could really see were his eyes. I could get lost in
them, if I wasn't careful.

  Careful. Care. What was that?


  Were they just words? Were they _not_ just words?

  They were words, certainly. And they had power. And they had meaning.

  I reached out and touched his cheek, gently, feeling the slightly
rough lines of his face. Instantly, as before, the intensity drained
from his features. "Asuka?"

  "I still can't understand, but...thank you."


  I finally looked away, feeling exhausted...and oddly calm. "Shinji," I

  "Yes?", too. "Hold my hand."

  There was a moment--just a moment of hesitation. Slowly, he slid his
hand over mine, on the bed. I lifted my hand up, twining my fingers
between his, and squeezed gently. He reached over with his left hand,
and lifted my chin up, so that he could look into my eyes. I felt no
impulse to look away, not the slightest bit.

  Maybe I didn't understand now, not Misato, and particularly not him.
But...I wanted to.

  And ever so slowly, he drew, we drew each other closer,
meeting in a gentle embrace. He held me. I held him. I felt, more than
heard, his sigh of relief--and contentment. I closed my eyes, and leaned
my head against his.

  This was...comfortable.

  Yes, comfortable.



  Think "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel. Yes?

  What, you expected them to be all mushy with each other right away?
Love is not easy, and in a world like theirs, it's even harder. Asuka's
not out of it yet, either; that mind-rape was a terrible, terrible thing
that will take more than just a day or two to get over.

  About Misato--the Shinji-Misato relationship has been talked plenty
about in the past (guardian, mother, big sister...), but what of Asuka
and Misato? They're living together, too. They know each other, they
know _about_ each other. I'd like to think that there's a bond between
them, as well.

  Will there be more of these? I'd like to do more--as indicated by the
above, I think there's a lot to explore with Misato. I'll see if I can
do it. Until then...thank you.

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