Phoenix Rising

Chapter 1: Flames of Rebirth

Version 2.0

Started on March 18, 2002 and finished on June 25, 2002.

Author: Red Horseman

Co-producers

Weltall Elite

Jeff Alan

Alnilam

TommyRude

Cinaril Alaron

DP Warning: 1) this is a lemon and as everyone should know by now that means it contains sex, graphic sex actually. 2) It’s 135 pages long. So if you don’t care about plot or development of relationships skip to the last 40 pages. It’ll be your loss, though.

* * * *

December 2017

The room would have seemed like a morgue, quiet and dark, if it had not been for the equipment in it. Faint green light shone from the displays of the equipment as they kept their quiet vigil. Shallow breathing could be heard from different areas of the room, showing that there was indeed life present. But even the signs of life could do nothing to dispel the impression that Death hovered in that room, waiting for the right time. Yet Death would have to wait as bright light flooded the room from the opening door. Silhouetted for a moment was the figure of a person, a nurse to be more accurate. The glare was cut off as the door closed before she turned on a lamp.

Walking over to the bed she stared at the occupant, like she had done every day for the last two years. She always felt her heart sink at the sight of her patient, especially since she had known her before she had been hospitalized. Auburn hair that used to glow with a vitality of its own was now dull and lifeless, cut off slightly above the shoulder. The nurse remembered the argument that had ensued from the girl's guardian and roommate. Reaching down, she brushed some hair off the teen’s face, saddened by the sunken cheeks and the pale complexion. The nurse knew how much her friends wanted to see her blue eyes looking back at them again, but at the moment, they were sealed shut.

Sighing, the nurse broke off her observation, to keep from getting further depressed. Moving with a purpose she started to inspect the readings and write down the results. Despite having been bedridden for a long time, her patient was in decent health, the heart monitor showed a strong, steady rhythm and though she was ten pounds under her optimal weight, it wasn't dangerous. The nurse smiled as she saw a teddy bear in the crook of the girl's arm as she recorded her blood pressure and temperature. She made a special note to have the neurologist come in and examine the readings of the EEG. They were highly active and approaching the levels of an awake state. That would be good news for everyone who had waited two years for good news. Taking down a couple more notes, the nurse left a reminder on her chart that the patient needed a bath and her clothes changed.

"Asuka."

The nurse started at the unexpected whisper. Looking up from her notes, she spied a figure that had escaped her notice. She should have known he would be there. Curled up in a nearby chair with his knees drawn up, slept a boy the same age as the girl. Walking over to the chair, the nurse knelt down to look at the boy. What had once been a cute face was becoming handsome, the curves becoming lines and the softness turning to hardness. She knew what had caused the hardness and could only pity the child. Like the girl, the boy had gone through so much.

"Shinji," she whispered as she shook his shoulder. "Shinji, wake up."

It took a few more shakes and raising the volume of her voice before the boy awoke.

"Akari?" The boy asked groggily, wiping his eyes. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing, except that you should be at home sleeping." Akari saw him shake his head in the negative.

"I can't do that. She," Shinji trailed off. "It's her birthday. She shouldn't be alone on her birthday; it's not right."

Akari shook her head sadly as she looked at the clock to reaffirm what time it was. She didn't have the heart to tell him it was three in the morning and Asuka had had her birthday the day before. The small gathering had been quiet and subdued with only a few friends showing up for the occasion. Knowing that any suggestions to go home would be ignored the nurse stood up and went to a nearby closet.

"Here." She handed him a pillow, while she unfolded the blanket. "I need to finish my rounds."

"Thank you," replied Shinji as he wrapped the blanket around himself. "You've done a lot for us." She saw his face cloud. "Even when others have given up."

"She'll wake up, just wait and see." Akari held up her notes. "I think those new drugs are working."

Shinji could only nod as he looked at the results, not understanding them in the least. The only thing he knew was that Asuka's brain patterns were shifting from a dormant state to something else. As the door closed behind the nurse he stood up to stretch his body, wrapping the blanket around him like a cloak. Ignoring the pain in his joints he walked over to the bed and gazed at Asuka's prone figure. Reaching down he grasped her hand, sorrow filling his being as there was no response to his touch. Giving it a gentle squeeze he placed her hand back on the bed, walked over to his chair and curled up, the pillow forgotten.

- - - -

The sound of a harsh, painful cough reached Shinji's consciousness a moment before the alarms went off in the room. His eyes snapped open and he stood up even as his brain comprehended what was going on. The blanket, wound around his legs, sent him to the ground. As his knee hit the floor, Shinji steadied himself and kicked at the blanket in an attempt to be rid of the troublesome object. By the time he was free, the nurses on duty were already at Asuka's side.

"Asuka!" Shinji yelled as he pushed his way to her side. Her heart monitor was going crazy, her mouth open in a noiseless scream.

"Get him out of here," a female voice commanded.

A hand grabbed his arm and dragged him to the door, but Shinji struggled, not wanting to leave. Another person was pulling him from outside the room and with their combined strength, they easily removed him. As the door closed and locked, Shinji could only pound his fist against it in anger. His last view of Asuka had been one of a convulsing body and ragged breathing. Turning around, he slid down the door, his arms wrapped around his legs as tears glided down his cheeks. Someone came to stand in front of him, but he ignored that person, not wanting to talk at the moment.

"Shinji," a man spoke. "Shinji, she'll be all right." He kept repeating that until he got a reaction from the boy.

Shinji found himself talking, "Everyone keeps saying that to me like it'll make me forget the pain." He looked up, finally recognizing the person. "Damn it Hyuga, I need to see her. I need to be the one to judge whether I can let the pain go, yet."

Crouching down, Hyuga stared into Shinji's eyes, "And at the moment you can't do anything for her. Let the doctors do their jobs, okay?" Hyuga extended a hand, "Let's get out of their way and get something to eat."

"No," Shinji said after he had gotten to his feet.

"You don't have a choice, Shinji. Misato sent me down here to make sure you ate and went to school." The older man smiled. "Though it looks like you won't be going to school, right?"

Shinji nodded without smiling as he moved to sit in front of the door again. But Hyuga stopped him after a couple of steps by grabbing his arm. Glancing at the hand on his arm, he started to protest but Hyuga simply gave him a look that said he had no choice but to obey. Giving the door one more glance, as another doctor entered, Shinji lowered his head and walked silently beside Hyuga, hands in his pockets. He didn't even look up as they stepped into the elevator at the end of the hall and traveled the necessary floors to their destination. He tried to ignore the rumbling of his stomach as they entered the cafeteria but found himself next to the tech in line.

Hyuga didn't say anything as he filled both his and Shinji's trays with some breakfast food. He had gone through the same thing with Misato in the last two years. At times she would simply draw into her shell, not remembering to eat or sleep as guilt ate at her. The difference was that Shinji and Asuka could start over if they decided to, while Misato had had Kaji taken from her and nothing would change that.

"You think," Shinji paused as he poked at his eggs. "You think she'll remember what happened to her? It was bad at the end with that Angel and her attempted," his voice dropped to a whisper. "Suicide."

Hyuga studied the boy for a moment, "Maybe, maybe not. She may try to suppress those memories, which is the wrong thing for her to do. Asuka might also have some mild amnesia, but I'm not a doctor." He sipped from his glass. "The question is, are you going to be there for her?”

"I want to, ...but she told me that she hated me. That she wished I’d never been born, or that she’d never met me."

"Shinji, do you know the difference between a true friend and an associate?"

"No. And there's a difference?" He heard Hyuga sigh at his question.

"A true friend stays with that person even through the worst of times. They know that words spoken in anger are rarely ever the truth. Friends are also there to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on, even when their friends have hurt them. A true friend will keep any secret given to them." Hyuga stopped to see if Shinji understood. "An associate is someone there only during the good times, when there is no need to support another person. They run at the slightest sign of trouble or pain. So which one are you going be?"

"It's not that easy," stated Shinji. "There are things I should have done, but didn't."

"Shinji," interrupted Hyuga. "It is an easy choice but one of great importance. You already know your answer. You've been at her side for the last two years, visiting for hours at times and remembering dates that hold importance for only the two of you. You hound the doctors and nurses for any new developments or changes in her condition. I also hear of a couple fights that have happened at your school concerning Asuka." He drank some of his juice before continuing. "If those aren't signs of friendship then I don't know what is."

"But…"

"Remember what had happened before she told you that she hated you. She had just had the darkest corners of her mind exposed to the 15th Angel." The two males stared at each other, neither looking away or flinching. "Asuka needs a friend, not an associate."

Both of them finished their meal in silence, each lost in their thoughts. Hyuga was wondering if he had pushed Shinji too far, too fast. But he knew the boy already knew the answer, he just wanted someone to clarify the situation. As they stood up, he noticed that the indecision and confusion were gone from Shinji's posture, though there was some nervousness in his eyes. That wouldn't disappear until he told Asuka that he was her friend and discovered what her reaction would be. As they stepped through the doors Shinji confirmed his guess.

"I want to be her friend." Shinji closed his eyes and sighed, "I know there will be pain and some unpleasant events between us. But…"

"But maybe you two can come to terms with each other and your feelings." Hyuga couldn't help but smile as Shinji started blushing.

"Yeah, but that'll come much later."

They returned to Asuka's wing, but found themselves still barred from the room by the medical personnel. Shinji sat in a chair across from the door, hoping to get a glimpse of Asuka, while Hyuga leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. Neither spoke as they maintained their watch, hoping for the best of news. To Shinji, each minute seemed an hour as he repeatedly looked at his watch. The chatter of the nurses was driving him crazy, yet none spoke to him.

"Shinji, I've got to go. I'm late for my watch as it is." Hyuga started walking away. "I'll tell Misato what's happening as soon as possible."

"Okay."

Shinji watched the man walk off to the elevator, his hand raised in a wave. Sighing, he stood up and winced at the pain in his lower back from being hunched over. As he stretched he glanced at his watch, seeing that four hours had passed since Asuka had awoken. Sticking his hand in his pocket, he pulled out his wallet and opened it to check how much money he had and started walking to the vending machines. He needed to occupy his mind with something, even if it was just something to drink.

"Damn it," He muttered as he rested his head against the machine.

It felt like he had just been punched in the stomach as Asuka in her yellow dress stared back at him from his wallet. Feeding the money into the slot, he shut his wallet and punched for a can of green tea, hoping it would settle his stomach. Grabbing the can and opening it, he made his way back to his chair, taking sips along the way. As he sat down, footsteps approached and he found himself analyzing them. When they got within a few feet of him, he spoke.

"Hello Misato," His voice was calm and even, almost dead. "What took so long?"

"I had a meeting for this morning. Sorry." She gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "So how is she?"

"I don't know!" He growled, "They kicked me out and haven't told me anything. She could be dead or dying for all I know!"

Misato crouched down in front of him and gently lifted his head. She was dressed in the black uniform of her rank of sub-Commander and had tucked her beret under an epaulet. Brushing her hair out of the way, she tried to get her thoughts together. Misato knew what Shinji was feeling at the moment because she was feeling the same. A sense of hopelessness and sadness overcame Misato, as she knew that neither she nor Shinji could do anything for Asuka. Smiling nervously she tried to brush away her and Shinji's fears.

"Shinji, you have to think positively. Asuka…"

"She isn't dying or dead."

Shinji looked past Misato to see who had interrupted their conversation. Standing in the doorway of Asuka's room was a middle-aged woman with brown hair down to her shoulders, wearing a long white medical jacket. Glasses and the traditional stethoscope completed the stereotypical picture of what everyone thought a doctor should look like. Giving him a smile she gestured that they could finally enter the room.

"So is she stable, Dr. Uriyaka?" Misato asked quietly.

"Yes, but there are some things I need to explain to you two about Asuka."

Shinji wasn't listening as he stepped through the door and into Asuka's room once again. The blinds had been drawn and sunlight streamed into the room with a white brilliance. He swallowed as he approached the bed that had been raised so that Asuka was now sitting. She looked even worse with her pale complexion and thinness in the sunlight. His footsteps didn't get a reaction from the girl and he sat down on the edge of her bed carefully. One of the nurses glanced at him and started to speak to him but stopped as another person touched her arm and they both left.

"Oh," mumbled Shinji.

The redhead's eyes were closed and it looked like she was resting for a moment or she was simply ignoring him. Shinji noticed that the teddy bear that had been resting in her arm was gone. Bending over he spotted it under the table next to her bed, kicked there in the rush of the emergency. Brushing it off he sat back down and was preparing to place it next to Asuka when he noticed that her eyes were open.

"Asuka, you're awake!" Shinji felt his heart race and involuntarily jerked away.

He was prepared for some kind of response from the girl, but nothing happened as she stared at him. He felt a pressure on his heart as he looked back into her blue eyes. There was no trace of anger or hatred in them, just an infinite sadness of someone filled with pain. The tube that provided oxygen made her appear sadder, if that was possible. His hand reached down to hold hers but Shinji stopped, remembering what Asuka had been like before regarding him touching her. Her lips trembled and her eyes were near tears as she saw him stop and draw back.

"She needs human contact Shinji so I think it'll be all right," spoke the doctor.

Shinji looked over to see the two adults watching him and Asuka as they stopped talking. He felt his cheeks blush at the comment but he finally rested his hand on top of Asuka's. Her hand trembled under his but she didn't withdraw hers or push his away. Instead she slowly and painfully lifted her hand so she could grip Shinji's hand. He couldn't guess at how much pain Asuka was in from that simple movement as she leaned her head back and sighed. He felt even more nervous as she again returned to stare at him, never speaking a word. His nervousness grew as she looked at the stuffed animal in his hand before looking at him quizzically.

"Umm, yesterday was your birthday and I... I didn't know what to get you." He looked down at the sheets. "You must think that this is a stupid present."

The pressure on his hand grew and he looked up to see Asuka shaking her head. She released him and with both hands reached for the bear. Shinji could only watch as she held the bear in her hands and stared at it, like she couldn't decide what to do. After a while she released it and let it fall into her lap. Shinji could only watch as the sadness combined with frustration on her face as she tried to form words. But nothing came out except a harsh cough, as she was unable to speak.

Shinji could only sit there in shock as she tried again but still nothing came from Asuka's mouth. She turned her head away from him in frustration but he saw the tears sliding down her cheeks. Moving slowly, not even worried about any harm that could come from Asuka, Shinji reached up and wiped them away. He had been so absorbed in Asuka he jumped when a hand touched his shoulder, having forgotten about Misato and the doctor.

"What happened to her?" his voice was a whisper.

"She's forgotten how to talk," Uriyaka answered, pausing to think. "Forgotten really isn't the right word, but at the moment it is."

"What?"

"Asuka has not spoken for two years, Shinji." At this, Asuka could only hang her head in sorrow. "During this time she has 'forgotten' how to form the words, her muscles and vocal cords are unused to speaking."

Misato sat on the other side of Asuka and reached out for her hand tentatively, "So what now?"

"She'll have to attend speech therapy and relearn how to speak. Then will come the other various physicals and classes to learn how to walk and get used to her body again," she paused and looked at Misato. "And she'll need to attend those sessions I told you about."

Shinji tightened his hold on Asuka's hand as she trembled, "So how long before she can go home?"

"Three months, hopefully."

"Three months!" This came from both Misato and Shinji.

Dr. Uriyaka just stared at them. "Yes, three months. Asuka has been through a lot in the past and she has a lot to do in the future. Unless you want something to go wrong I'm not going to release her any sooner." She lowered her voice, "Don't worry. Those three months will fly by, trust me. Now I think we should all leave so Asuka can get some sleep, real sleep."

Shinji was about to say something when he felt the grip on his hand loosen. Looking at his roommate he saw that her eyes were closed and her head was tilted off to the side. Her cheeks were smudged with tear streaks but she looked better than before. Looking at Misato, Shinji pulled his hand away and stood up, but not before lowering the bed all the way. As they moved to the door Shinji heard a slight snore come from Asuka and he couldn't help but smile at that simple sound.

- - - -

Early January 2018

His throat was dry, like it always was whenever he came to this specific office, but Shinji didn't stop as he was ushered past the receptionist desk. He knew he should be used to the surroundings and the person who was waiting for him, yet he wasn't. In the past two years he had memorized every detail of the office from the desk to the view out the windows, even the ceiling had been committed to memory. So, with some apprehension, he triggered the door open, and stepped through the portal and into the office, walking across the open space before sitting down in a chair in front of the desk.

"Hello Shinji." The man's voice was tightly controlled, giving no hints of his emotions. "It's been almost two months since our last meeting."

Shinji bowed his head. "I'm sorry Dr. Leibling, I've sort of been busy lately and completely forgot."

The young man winced, as he knew how stupid that excuse must sound to the doctor, as everyone used it when they couldn't come up with something better. Yet it was the truth since he had been spending more time with Asuka since she had woken up and scheduling an appointment with the psychologist had not been important. As he looked down at his hands, he noticed he was clenching his fists and knew it was that time with Asuka that had finally forced him to make an appointment to see Leibling. Shinji knew he needed to talk to someone about what was occurring before something happened that could not be corrected.

"That's all right; in fact we really don't need to have monthly sessions anymore. You've progressed nicely since we started, much better than some of my patients."

Shinji felt his cheeks heat up at the compliment and watched as the older man stood up and made his way around the desk. He flinched when Leibling rested his hand on his shoulder for a moment. As the psychologist sat in a chair across from him, Shinji started organizing his thoughts, wanting to be able to convey what he was feeling without wasting too much time. It was only this organization that had halved their sessions from three hours in the beginning to the current hour and a half.

"So how is she?" Leibling asked after some silence, a smile on his face.

"Asuka… she’s better now then when she woke up."

Leibling chuckled lightly, "Shinji you were a poor liar when I first met you and you still are. I can't help you if you don't tell me what’s wrong."

"I wasn't lying!" shouted Shinji before calming. "I’m telling the truth. She is doing better."

"But."

Shinji sat there with his eyes closed, willing his hands to open. "But she's starting to put her walls back up. She's trying to push people away and I know that’s wrong."

"How do you know it's wrong?" prodded Leibling.

"It's like you told me before, if I always kept running from people, I would’ve never known what it is to live. And if I always looked to others to provide support or comfort I would never know happiness." He glanced up and smiled faintly. "That’s what finally made me realize I had been using her as a false support and forced me to reevaluate what I wanted from Asuka and what I wanted to give her."

"You didn't answer my question, Shinji. Why is it wrong for Asuka to put her walls up?"

"Damn it, because it creates a cycle."

Leibling saw Shinji's eyes light up as he reached a crucial understanding. "A cycle of what?"

"A cycle of pain. She did it when she was piloting and fighting the Angels but I didn't see it."

"Hindsight is 20-20. Plus you had your own problems." The doctor leaned back in his chair and watched Shinji. "So what does this cycle do?"

The young man took a deep breath, and slowly released it. "It just increases her pain. She pushes people away to protect herself but then she has no one to turn to for help, so she buries the pain deeper which makes her lash out even more which increases the pain and so on and so forth." Shinji's voice had filled with sorrow as he said those words and it broke. "All she’s doing is hurting herself in the hope to be free of pain."

"Just like you and your running away. You realized that running does not make the pain go away but only increases it." Shinji nodded at those words and the doctor went on. "Asuka has to be shown that pushing people away and putting up walls is harmful to her well-being."

"I know that!" Shinji abruptly stood and went to a nearby window. "But I don't know what to do to stop her from pushing me or others away!"

"You're approaching the problem the wrong way Shinji. At the moment it doesn't matter if she pushes others away."

Shinji whirled around and stared at Leibling. "Yes it does matter!"

"Please Shinji, I haven’t finished?" He stood up and came over to Shinji's side. "If everyone tells her that she needs to open up, she’ll just strengthen her walls. One person can succeed where many fail. You did the same when your friends and colleagues told you to stop running."

"She isn't me, though."

"Exactly." He beckoned for Shinji to follow him to the far side of the room. "Asuka is not like you and we can not approach her problem in the same fashion. You were filled with guilt over your friends, your father and your actions. That is not true of Asuka."

"How do you know?" asked Shinji, his voice sharp in anger.

"She'll be my patient and I have her psychology reports."

Shinji pressed his forehead against the glass, staring at the sight below him. "Isn't this violating the patient-doctor code? You telling me about Asuka."

"No, because you’ve been reaching the conclusions by yourself with a little help from me." He stepped closer to the boy. "Now, you’re straying off the subject. How do you break her emotional cycle?"

"I don't know."

"I think you do. Look down there." Leibling pointed down at the street.

Shinji watched the scene below him, trying to figure out what the doctor was talking about. He watched as the pedestrians crossed the street when given the correct light. The same happened with the vehicles on the different cross streets. Everything was organized, a cycle of red and green lights that allowed traffic to flow smoothly. Shinji felt like an idiot as he finally realized what the doctor was saying about Asuka and how other people didn't matter at the moment.

"You break a cycle by taking away something or altering the flow of materials. Asuka's cycle of pain is dependent on certain steps to continue." Shinji turned grinning. "Thanks for your time." With that he turned to go but a hand on his arm stopped him. "What?"

"People are not like machines Shinji. They're far more delicate and require special care." He stared into Shinji's eyes. "What are you planning?"

"I'm not going to let her push me away or allow her to be alone anymore."

- - - -

With a smile on his face, Shinji walked through the halls on his way to Asuka's room. The half-hour session with the psychologist had helped him figure out a path to help Asuka. He could only hope the experience wouldn't be a painful one, physically as he remembered the few times that Asuka had hit him before. He stopped to let a nurse and her patient go past him and it was that pause that allowed him to overhear a couple of nurses.

"What a child she is. I don't want this, and I don't want that. I've never met someone so immature in my life, Akari."

"You just don't understand Asuka."

"I understand that she can be quite the little bitch."

Shinji stepped up to the station, standing behind the nurses who had their backs to him. Clearing his throat Shinji got their attention with the one who had called Asuka a bitch looking irritated. The irritation vanished when she saw who had stopped her conversation. While Shinji couldn't report her, he could tell Misato, who could ensure that the nurse never worked for NERV again. But Shinji ignored that nurse and looked at Akari, who had an embarrassed look on her face.

"Why don't you go get something to drink?" suggested Akari to the other nurse, who quickly agreed and left.

Shinji waited patiently with his arms crossed for Akari to turn back to him. He knew that she would explain what was happening with Asuka and the nurses. His prediction came true as she left the station and motioned for him to follow her to a different corridor. She stopped after turning the corner and motioned for him to sit. Leaning back, Shinji looked up at the nurse and waited.

"I'm sorry you heard that. Megumi is new and Asuka's has been giving us some trouble lately." Akari didn't look at Shinji as she spoke.

"What kind of trouble?" Shinji asked.

"I know she's just being stubborn but it's making our jobs harder to do."

"What kind of trouble Akari?" repeated Shinji.

Akari sighed and made eye contact with Shinji. "She doesn't want to eat what’s given to her so we've had to put her back on the IV. She doesn't like the clothes she’s wearing or the colors. It's not just that; she's refusing to listen to her therapist." She stopped and looked at Shinji as he smiled. "What? This isn't funny Shinji, we're close to reporting her to Misato."

"Nothing, except why don't you let me try?"

"And how will you succeed?"

Shinji shrugged his shoulders. "I know a few things about Asuka that might work. What harm is there in letting me try to help."

"Fine."

An hour later Shinji was again walking to Asuka's room, but this time he was prepared. He had spent the hour gathering materials for Asuka and talking to certain people. It was convincing those people to let him try that had taken so long, though he knew getting Asuka to cooperate might take longer. Stopping the cart, he opened the door and entered the room, letting the door close with a click behind him. He didn't look at Asuka as he pushed the cart next to her bed, then walked to a nearby chair and sat. She sat there staring at him with a puzzled look on her face that slowly changed to anger, as Shinji remained silent.

"Leave." commanded Asuka.

"No." replied Shinji.

"I don't need you or your help." She stated before turning to look at the wall.

Because of that, she didn't see Shinji stand and walk to her bed, only realizing that he had moved when he sat down. "Sorry but I'm not going to let you push me anymore. And I'm not going to run away from you and leave you alone. So you better accept that fact."

The sound of flesh hitting flesh was heard in the room as Asuka's hand connected with Shinji's cheek. He looked down at her face to see a combination of anger and hate but also some hope and sorrow. Reaching up, Shinji gently gripped Asuka's wrist, feeling her tremble, and wondering if it was in fear or pain. Slowly he lowered her hand back to the bed and let go of Asuka. Standing, he removed the lid from the tray he had gotten from the cafeteria.

"I don't want to be babied," Asuka commented.

Shinji didn't say anything until he was seated again. "I'm not going to baby you. If you don't want to eat and be fed by an IV, fine. If you don't want to change, I won't force you." He swallowed as he saw the pain on Asuka’s face. "It’s up to you what you want to do and how long you want to stay in the hospital, but I want to help. I can buy you some new clothes, or bring you some food besides cafeteria food." Shinji glanced down in embarrassment. "The therapist said I could help you if you agreed.”

"Why…why are you doing this?" whispered Asuka.

"Because I want to show you that I care about you, that you don't have to push me away or be alone." Shinji bowed his head as he continued. "Most of all I want to regain your trust. I betrayed that trust when I didn't help you when you needed it the most. It took me a while to figure out that what happened between us was because of that betrayal."

"Stop it!" Asuka yelled. "Will you stop blaming yourself for things that you can't control! What happened to me…" She paused and wiped her eyes. "What happened to me was my own fault."

"No, it was both our faults." Shinji said as he sat next to her again. "You trusted me to be your teammate and vice versa but we failed at that for various reasons." He gently placed his hand over hers. "Now I want you to trust me, Asuka. I don't want to see you alone or hurting, and I won't let you push me away. I will not treat you as a child but I expect you to be mature and accept my help. Please trust me." With that he squeezed her hand.

Asuka looked down at her lap as she thought about what Shinji had just said about trusting him or asking for help. Glancing over, she saw him staring at her, waiting for a reply, yet his eyes were not pleading with her. It would all come down to what she wanted do, not what Shinji wanted her to do. Staring at him in this setting she finally realized that Shinji had matured both physically and emotionally. She had been seeing the emotional side since waking but she was just beginning to see him in a different light physically. Reaching up, Asuka ran a finger along his jaw.

"You need to shave and get a haircut Shinji, you can't match Kaji."

"I wasn't trying to copy Kaji."

"I know." Asuka let her hand fall and closed her eyes. Opening her eyes, she turned her head to look at Shinji. "I try to walk for the first time tomorrow.

Shinji squeezed her hand again. "I'll be there."

"Thank you."

- - - -

Early February 2018

"Please stop."

Shinji stopped ruffling through the pile of materials at a nearby table and turned to look at Asuka. She sat in her bed with her hands folded in her lap, staring at him. Her blues eyes would still fill with sadness at times, even two months after waking. Not even finally being able to talk and walk again had brightened her downcast mood. Shinji sighed, wondering if anything would make Asuka smile or just be happy. Slowly he walked over to a chair next to her bed and propped his elbows on his knees, staring at the girl, waiting for her to finish.

"I'm tired of this Shinji, please no more."

Shinji tried not to groan in frustration, "But Asuka you need…"

"Shinji!" Her voice took on a different tone. "Please just listen. I'm tired of this." She placed a hand on his knee. "It's not that I'm not grateful for the help, I am. It's just that I'm tired of this routine."

He tried to interrupt, "But…"

"Let me finish, will you?" Her eyes brightened a little, "It's been the same thing for the last months. I get up, go to therapy, go to speech class and come back here. You haven't helped either by always having something for me to do." The corners of her mouth quivered but still she didn't smile. "I know you promised to help me, it's just…"

"Just what?"

Asuka stared at the far wall as she spoke. "I want to go outside. I want to lie in the grass, feel the wind and sun on me." She stopped as Shinji laughed slightly. "What’s so funny?"

"Nothing except that you would never have talked like that before."

"Well being catatonic for two years will change anybody." At that statement she lowered her eyes to her lap and frowned.

Shinji stood up and sat next to her on the bed as she plucked at the sheets. He didn't reach out for her hands, knowing that at the moment it wouldn't be right. The times he had held her hand had been slowly growing more infrequent as Asuka went through her therapy. He knew that the time where they would no longer hold hands was fast approaching, as that was more for couples than friends. Pushing that thought out of his head, Shinji instead concentrated on how Asuka was trying to change back to her old self.

Her eyes were softer as she looked up and Shinji found it hard to speak, "Um…so why didn't you…say that?"

"Because a certain someone didn't allow me," Asuka stared into Shinji's eyes causing him to shift in his chair. "So are you up to helping me outside?"

"You want to walk?" He couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Yes."

"No." Shinji crossed his arms and glared at the girl. "You just started walking again, and that was for short distances. The gardens are on the other side of the hospital."

"But Shinji I need to do this. I need to prove that I can walk by myself outside of a therapy room." Shinji found his resolve disappearing as Asuka pleaded, "Please help me do this."

"No fair," muttered Shinji. "Only on one condition. No, two actually."

"And they are?" Asuka asked quietly.

He held up one finger as he started, "I’m helping you." Asuka frowned, but nodded in agreement. "Two, if you feel tired or in pain you ride the rest of the way."

"Okay."

Asuka turned and looked out the window to the blue sky with a few clouds floating serenely in the wind. In the past month, that had been her goal, to go outside, away from the doctors and nurses, and the pain of therapy, even if it was just for a short time. Sure she was awake and trying to return to normal but as long as she was in the hospital she felt confined. As a cloud drifted in front of the sun she decided she would abide by Shinji's rules, anything to get out of her physical prison. She looked back at the boy when she felt the bed shift as he moved closer to her.

After pushing her bed table, which contained her school materials, off to one side and tossing the blankets to the foot of the bed, Asuka moved next to Shinji and let her legs hang over the side. She gasped a little when her bare feet touched the cold tiles before she slid them into slippers. Turning her head she saw Shinji staring at her with a concerned look. She had tried to avoid worrying Shinji since she had woken up but she had been unable to regain the old fire no matter how much effort she put into it.

Shinji tried to read Asuka but all he found was emptiness. Moving closer to Asuka he wrapped an arm around her midsection and smiled when she did the same a moment later. He tried not to think of how warm and soft she was when they tightened the hold on each other, feeling his face heat up as he failed. He turned his head and spent a few seconds pushing those thoughts out of his mind. They were completely inappropriate at the time, and he felt his hands clenching tightly as his breathing became ragged in shame and anger at the way that he was thinking of Asuka.

"Can we go?"

Her quiet voice knocked Shinji out of his reverie. Turning back, he saw Asuka simply sitting there watching him. "Of course."

Asuka closed her eyes and started to stand, feeling Shinji rise at the same time next to her. She gritted her teeth, not wanting to worry Shinji, when pain shot through her legs as they finally straightened. Without saying a word she took a step toward the door, Asuka felt a little joy as her knees didn't tremble or threaten to send her falling and she took another step. Never removing her eyes from the door, she continued with Shinji's help until the metal doorknob was under her hand. The complaints of the nurses were a buzz in her ears, yet she didn't stop on her journey. Even Shinji's voice was muted as he talked to one of the nurses who tried to stop them. But none of that mattered to the girl at the moment, as she just wanted to go outside.

Ten minutes later the little joy that she had felt was gone and her spark was fading as pain shot through her body with each step. Her breathing was becoming ragged and she knew that soon Shinji would have her sitting in a wheelchair to finish her journey. Lowering her head in defeat, Asuka stumbled as she mistimed her step to Shinji's and her arm loosened. It didn't matter anymore if she reached the gardens since she failed to keep her promise to Shinji. She didn't even look up as Shinji tightened his hold on her as they stepped through another door.

"We're here." Shinji whispered to Asuka.

He watched out of the corner of his eye as Asuka lifted her head and stared at the scene before her. Shinji had not said a word during the trip when he had started feeling Asuka tremble during walking or heard her hard breathing. He had not wanted to see the light go out of Asuka's eyes or her determination disappear before they were outside. He was saddened to see the fire die in Asuka as she gave in to the defeat. Watching Asuka look over the garden and her hair wave in the breeze he waited for a reaction.

"So it turns out you are capable of smiling."

Asuka lowered her gaze from the sky and turned it on Shinji, seeing tears on his cheeks. She thought that he was lying about her smiling but as she stood there she realized that she was. With her free hand she brushed her hair out of her face and stared out over the gardens. Paths lead to various areas with stone benches spaced far apart for privacy. Taking a step, she started walking down the central path toward a patch of green some distance away. Along the way she looked at the flowers and ponds, as she couldn’t remember ever just taking in the calm of nature.

As Shinji helped her to the ground and sat beside her he saw the smile disappear. "What's the matter Asuka?" He frowned as she lied back in the grass. "You have a beautiful smile."

She turned her head at the comment to see Shinji blushing, but instead of brightening her mood it had the opposite affect. Asuka turned on her side giving Shinji a view of her back. "Then how come I don't feel happy? I feel so empty inside, completely useless." A tear slid down her cheek. "At times I wonder why I did wake up. Why didn't I just stay catatonic? It would have been so much easier."

Shinji didn't have a reply to any of that. Any response he thought of was immediately dismissed as he saw how empty it truly was. Moving over to Asuka, he grabbed her shoulders and pulled her up even as she struggled against him. He wrapped his arms around her when she was upright, feeling her tremble. His own tears soaked the shoulder of the blue T-shirt that he had bought her, while her own tears hit his arms. With her remarks, he realized why she hadn't smiled in the last month or been happy when she had made progress in therapy. He had had his own battles with depression two years ago and had only come out of it with friends and professional help.

"You're not alone Asuka. And you are not useless or anything like that." But his comments didn't do anything as the silence stretched on.

Her voice was barely above a whisper. "Why doesn't Misato visit me more? Where has Hikari been?"

"Misato's the Sub-Commander of NERV now and has a lot of meetings to attend." Shinji tried to move one hand but Asuka's grip tightened. "She cares about you a lot, and worries about you everyday. Just like me."

Asuka trembled as he finally freed one hand and placed it on her cheek. "And what about Hikari? Why hasn't she come to visit or called me?"

"She's studying abroad right now. I've emailed her and told her about you." He smiled as he remembered her reply. "Hikari said she'll try and come back when you start school next month."

At the comment about Hikari, Asuka felt herself grin as she envisioned what her reply must have been like. Her grin again faded, as she wondered why Hikari hadn't called. She wasn't going anywhere and normally had nothing to do so even if Hikari called in the middle of the night it wouldn't have been a problem. Didn't she care? And she didn't want to think about school with all the problems she’d have there. Turning her head, she saw Shinji watching her carefully.

Asuka shifted in his arms a little. "Can you let me go?"

"You won't sulk, will you?"

"No promises Shinji since I really don't have any reason to be happy."

He followed her example and lay on his back. "You're alive and can start over. That's enough to be happy about."

- - - -

Two weeks later

Shinji walked through the halls of the high school, gliding smoothly between the packs of bodies, heading to his locker to get his shoes and jacket. He hid a yawn behind a raised hand, as he had not gotten enough sleep the night before. Asuka's words had kept rolling through his head and he had tried to come up with a way to cheer her up and to see her smile again. But he had come up with nothing that would work, a movie she would find dull, same with music or a book, and dinner was out. Shinji stopped suddenly at that last thought, causing a couple of students to bump into him.

"That might work." He whispered to himself while working out the idea.

"What might work, Shinji?" inquired a quiet voice next to him.

Shinji jumped a little and turned to find Kensuke standing beside him. His friend had given up on the military and NERV once the truth of the Angels and SEELE had been released. But that hadn't dampened his desire to find out secrets, whether it was in school or out in the public. Shinji looked over his friend, trying to find the voice recorder he had switched over to after realizing the limitations of carrying around a video camera.

Kensuke saw the untrusting glance and grinned as they started walking. "You don't have to worry. I don't have it on today." He leaned in close, whispering, "So what might work?"

"I was just thinking how to…"

"How to avoid your group of admirers," interrupted Kensuke pointing at the locker area as they rounded a corner.

"Damn!" cursed Shinji before grabbing Kensuke and pulling him back around the corner before the girls could see them. He glared as his friend chucked. "I need a favor."

The young man nodded. "Okay." Kensuke paused. "On one condition."

Shinji felt his teeth grind together. "What is it?"

"Tell me what you were thinking about."

"It’s a secret," Shinji stated.

"And?" Kensuke asked.

"Meet me in the lunch area." Shinji waited for Kensuke to nod before slipping off his school shoes and exiting a nearby door. It wouldn’t be the first time he had ruined a pair of socks but it was better than having his time wasted.

Kensuke watched his friend through the window as he walked towards the school grounds used for lunch, where friends met before and after school. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned and put on his best smile in order to deal with Shinji's admirers. He didn't understand why Shinji didn't just give one of them a yes and the others a no and just be done with it. None of the girls were ugly and all were quite smart but Shinji acted like he just didn't care about dating or having a girlfriend. Kensuke's grin grew as the girls frowned when he shouldered his way to Shinji's locker, after stopping at his own, and grabbed Shinji’s stuff. He walked to the exit, hearing the footsteps of the girls behind him as they followed. Kensuke sprinted when he reached the stairs and ran through the gate taking two quick right turns before seeing the dumpsters in front of him. Jumping onto one of the dumpsters, he vaulted the school wall before any of the girls had caught up to him. Smoothing his school uniform, he started looking for his friend after passing through the athletic grounds.

"Here." Shinji looked up to see his black windbreaker flying toward him along with his shoes. Quietly, Shinji slid a can of juice to Kensuke as he put on his shoes and jacket.

"This goes no further than you, okay,” said Shinji as he stood.

"Fine."

Shinji took a deep breath and slowly released it. "Asuka's awake."

"ASUKA!" Kensuke yelled before Shinji slapped a hand over his mouth. He squirmed under his friend's grip but calmed down before Shinji released him. "Asuka, pilot of Unit-02, and bane of all boys, right?"

"Yes!" hissed Shinji. "And keep it down."

"Awake, awake right? Not half way awake or pretending to be awake." Kensuke stepped back at Shinji's glare. "Sorry, but it's just unreal to hear that. It’s been two years since she…" Kensuke stopped unable to form the words. "That explains why you've been acting weird lately."

"What do you mean?" demanded Shinji.

"You've been happier a lot more, none of your usually gloominess."

"I've never been gloomy." was the indignant reply.

Kensuke laughed at the comment. "If you say so, but you’re happier and the girls have picked up on that." He thought a little on it. "Though they're not going to be happy to hear about Asuka."

"I really don't care what they think about Asuka or me." Shinji sat down hard on the bench, crossing his arms in anger.

"Well you should, especially considering that she rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and those people weren't exactly filled with sorrow at hearing what had happened to her." Kensuke finished his juice and threw the can in the garbage. "And your most devoted admirers are the ones that had the greatest hatred for Asuka."

Shinji didn't say anything as they started back to the school and its exit. He knew there were a lot of people who had hated Asuka back in junior high, either because of her superior attitude directed at the girls or the scorn toward the boys. And in her current state, he doubted if Asuka was up to the task of defending herself from her enemies. Then again maybe it would be enough to rekindle the fire of two years ago. Shinji shook his head in anger, as he knew how unlikely that was to happen while Asuka was depressed. It could drive her further down or even make her retreat back into her shell.

He turned at the punch to his shoulder. "What?"

"I asked how she is and you ignored me," Kensuke stated with a smile. "What else was I supposed to do?" His grin disappeared as he put on a serious face. "So how is she?"

"Not so good. She's only smiled once since waking up and her eyes look dead. Asuka feels empty and useless, just like I did." He paused frowning as his hands clenched. "But I feel, no, I know she's deeply depressed and there’s not a thing I can do about it."

"You are doing something by seeing her everyday. You're showing her that she isn't alone and that you're there for her." Kensuke grinned at a sudden thought. "Don't worry, I’m sure you’ve already told her how much you love her.” He glanced at Shinji. “Though I don’t see any scars so maybe…”

"Kensuke!" Shinji felt his face heat up despite his outburst. He relaxed as his friend chuckled.

"Don't worry. I won't say a word." He paused at the corner where they normally split. "Though don't forget your other friends, okay."

"Touji's been asking about me?" Shinji frowned at the nod. "I'm sorry but at the moment Asuka..."

"I said don't worry, and anyways Touji will understand."

Shinji looked off into the distance. "So when does he return?"

Before Kensuke could answer, Shinji's cell phone started ringing. Holding up a finger, Shinji pulled the phone out of his pocket and looked at the display. He frowned slightly as he read the number and tried to figure out what the caller would want. Sighing, he flipped it open and held it up to his ear.

"Hello Misato. How are you?"

"I'm fine," she answered. "Look, Shinji, where are you?"

"On my way back to the apartment. Is something wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong so don't worry." Shinji could clearly hear Misato draw a deep breath, and braced himself. "Were you going to see Asuka tonight?"

Shinji closed his eyes. "Yes."

Her breath was slowly released. "I would take it as a personal favor if you stayed home instead."

"Why?"

"I can't talk about it. Will you please stay home?" Her voice was calm, not commanding him, but asking.

Shinji feared the worst. "What's wrong with Asuka?"

"Nothing."

"Then why do you want me to stay home?" He felt his anger rise as Misato continued to dodge his questions.

"She's had a bad day and I feel she needs some time alone." Her voice finally shifted to a command. "So stay home, Shinji!"

"But…"

Shinji stared angrily at his phone as Misato cut the connection. She had never been that short with him and he felt embarrassed for getting angry. Still, the request was not ordinary and that had sparked his interest. He decided he would still cook a dinner and take it to the hospital later that night. Sliding his phone back into his pocket, he turned on his heel and took a step only to bump into Kensuke.

"So are you going to obey Misato?"

Shinji shook his head slowly. "No."

"You're going to get into trouble for no reason, Shinji."

"Misato may be my commanding officer, my roommate and a friend, but she can't order me to stay away. This does not involve the EVAs, NERV or the United Nations. It's personal and she can't order me to stay home."

"Asuka is still an EVA pilot, which puts her under NERV and the U.N." Kensuke stopped as Shinji shook his head. "What?"

"They haven't reactivated her, not until they see if she can pilot. So until that happens everything concerning her is personal."

Kensuke shook his head, unable to believe Shinji was that ignorant. "I still say you're wrong and it's your butt on the line, but I can see nothing is going to change your mind." Kensuke turned and started walking but stopped after a few steps. Looking over his shoulder he stared at Shinji. "Touji will be back on Thursday, just to let you know."

"Thanks and I'll see you later." With that said, each young man went his own way thinking different things.

- - - -

Shinji shifted uncomfortably in his seat on the train as stares were directed at him from the other passengers. Curfew would be starting in a few minutes but he had his ID in his pocket and nothing to worry about. Still, he would feel nervous if he had to pull rank because he outranked virtually everybody in Tokyo-3, except for a small cadre of officers. He wanted no attention drawn to him or what he was doing out so late, and so he let out a sigh of relief as they finally entered the part of the city under control of NERV. As they passed through the guarded wall surrounding the base Shinji felt the tension slowly drain from his body. He was almost there. Small floodlights illuminated the hospital, which never left his view until they pulled into the station.

Standing up, Shinji grabbed the bundle he had brought with him from Misato's and exited the train. Ignoring the various entrances that led into the Geo-Front, Shinji headed for the automatic doors of the station and walked outside. A lake surrounded by buildings of various sizes greeted him but he ignored them as he headed for the water. Following the arc of the shore, Shinji knew he would be at the hospital soon and then Asuka. At those thoughts he felt his palms grow sweaty as he wondered what Misato would be like once she learned of his disobedience. He no longer felt so strong but he would not turn back and so he straightened up as he swiped his ID card to gain entrance.

Minutes later his footsteps echoed off the dimly lit hallway walls as he turned down the proper corridor to Asuka's room. He nodded as he passed the nurses station and got a smile in return as they all knew him and had no orders to stop the boy. Shinji smiled faintly, hoping the meal would help Asuka, even if it were late at night. Though he knew it was a long shot, he still had to try. His nature wouldn't allow him to just stand meekly to the side anymore. His head turned automatically at the sound of a door opening and closing as he tried to see if someone was leaving Asuka's room. His heart calmed as he saw it was just someone exiting the restroom but then it raced as the person stepped into the light.

Crimson eyes regarded him thoughtfully as Rei stopped and waited for him to catch up to her. Shinji swallowed nervously and looked at the second most important girl in his life, hoping that she wouldn't ask anything. His wish was granted as she took a quick glance at the package in his hands and smiled faintly. That smile was enough to make Shinji feel bad for giving Asuka all of his attention, yet Rei had never held it against him. She had told him in her own strange way that she knew who he had chosen and for what reasons. Despite her reassurances and explanations, Shinji felt he had betrayed Rei in some way, and yet their friendship had grown stronger over the last two years.

"Why are you disobeying Misato's orders?"

Shinji removed his hand from the cool metal and turned to face Rei. Her gaze was one of puzzlement as she waited for his answer. "Because I had to, Rei, and you know that."

"Orders are meant to be obeyed." Her voice never changed.

"I have to see Asuka." Shinji grabbed the knob and started turning, putting Rei's statement out of his mind.

"The order was meant to protect you as much as Asuka."

Shinji spun around and faced Rei. "What is that supposed to mean? What has Asuka gone through today?"

Rei averted her eyes, not wanting to look at his gaze. "I can not tell you Shinji."

"Damn it Rei! We're friends aren't we?" Shinji closed his eyes, getting a hold of his anger. "Asuka's important to me, you know that. Please…tell me."

Rei stood silently with her arms crossed, contemplating Shinji's request. Her friendship with Shinji was very important to her and she didn't want to damage or lose it. On the other hand, Rei felt that Misato was only trying to protect her children from pain and she had to help as much as possible. She also knew that orders were meant to be obeyed, even if the recipient didn't know why they were given. But as she stared into Shinji's dark blue eyes she decided her friendship with Shinji was more important than following orders.

"Asuka had her first session with her psychologist. They talked about her past. It has also been found necessary for her to go to counseling to deal with the rape by the 15th." Rei stepped closer to Shinji and stared hard into his eyes. "Misato judged that Asuka would be disturbed by talking about those things and felt she might lash out at you."

"God," muttered Shinji as he leaned back against the door. "How could Misato think that being alone would help Asuka? At a time like this Asuka needs as many people around her as possible for support." His voice was climbing in volume and speeding up as he tried to comprehend Misato. "Doesn't she realize that Asuka is extremely depressed! Hell even I can see that!"

"Yes, but…"

"Misato is not a psychologist, Rei, so she does not know what is best for Asuka." With that Shinji turned around and grabbed the knob, twisting it.

Again Rei's voice stopped him. "Be careful Shinji. Too much help can be as destructive as too little."

Shinji nodded at Rei's words but still pushed the door open. Slipping into the room, he closed the door behind him, leaving Rei out in the hallway and let his eyes adjust to the dim light. He frowned as he approached the bed as the covers were a jumbled mess and saw that Asuka was not lying there. Setting down the bundle, he turned to the source of light, which was coming from underneath the bathroom door. Swallowing, he approached the door trying to shove the dread from his mind as it conjured up different visions of what he might find. Shinji remembered the report about Asuka being found in a bathtub with her wrist slit before the 17th Angel had shown up.

"She wouldn't do that again," whispered Shinji, trying to reassure himself.

Stopping at the door, he reached for the handle but stopped himself. It would not do for him to open the door only to find that nothing was wrong and embarrass Asuka and himself. With his hand still on the handle, he placed his ear against the door and knocked, waiting for a reply or noise. But he heard nothing and as the silence stretched on, his nervousness grew. Knocking again, but this time harder, resulted in the same lack of response from the girl. Closing his eyes, Shinji took a deep breath and steeled himself before flinging open the door.

The sound of water lapping against the sides of the tub reached his ears and Shinji felt his face heat up. He had caught Asuka taking a bath and she had more than likely been resting and had not heard his knocking. Yet nothing happened as he stood there with his eyes closed, waiting for an indignant response. Slowly he opened his eyes to the scene in front of him.

"Oh, Asuka," whispered Shinji as tears came to his eyes.

The redhead was in the tub with her face buried in her knees and arms wrapped around her legs. As he watched, her wet pale shoulders shook and her body trembled as she cried. Kneeling down next to the tub, Shinji reached out for her but stopped as his mind raged. One part argued that since Asuka was nude, he had no right to touch her while the other side pointed out that she needed comforting, regardless of her current condition. Reaching out, Shinji placed one hand on her back and the other on her knee and drew her as close as possible. But even his touch didn't elicit a response from Asuka, and Shinji frowned wondering what to do.

Releasing her, Shinji went to the end of the tub and reached in to pop the plug, only to draw his hand back out. The water was barely lukewarm. Looking around the room, Shinji saw Asuka's clothes were in a pile and that the mirror had been fogged over. His anger rose at this conclusion. More than likely she had started out in a hot bath but as her demons attacked, she had assumed the position he found her in and the water had cooled. What made him angry was that Asuka had been in the water long enough for it to cool and yet no one had come to check on her. He plunged his hand back in and popped the plug trying not to curse. If Misato hadn't told him to stay home, which had resulted in him coming late, Asuka wouldn't be in this situation.

As the water drained, Shinji moved next to Asuka and squatted down, reaching underneath her. Grunting, Shinji slowly picked her up in his arms but as he straightened, Asuka's wet body threatened to slip from his arms. Glancing down to see her face, Shinji instead caught a full view her breasts. Sitting down on the edge of the tub as his face turned red from embarrassment, Shinji lifted his gaze. Asuka looked blankly at him through puffy eyes as he placed her feet on the ground. Shinji wrapped his arms around her midsection, holding her in his lap, and was careful to keep his hands away from her breasts or wandering lower.

"Shinji." Her voice was full of pain and sorrow as she reached for his hands. "Where were you?"

"I'm sorry for not being here." He whispered, not telling her about Misato's orders. "Can you stand?"

The girl nodded her head before standing on shaky legs, and allowing Shinji to get off the edge of the tub. Glancing down at his wet clothes, Shinji shook his head, though he really didn't care about himself at the moment. Looking over, Shinji saw Asuka standing there, not even trying to cover herself. Turning away, Shinji spied a towel hanging on the back of the door and moved for it. Before he could reach it two arms wrapped around him and squeezed hard, pulling him backwards.

"Oh God, I just wanted to forget," Asuka cried against his back. "I just wanted to forget everything that happened to me but I can't."

Slowly, Shinji turned around in Asuka's arms and followed her example as he held the trembling girl close. As he stroked her back he felt the hot force of her breasts against his chest. Trying to ignore the feeling she was causing, he held her head as she cried against his shoulder. Shinji could smell Asuka's enticing scent and feel all of her as she leaned against his body for support, and it didn't upset him. All that mattered was for him to be there and hope that Asuka would dig herself out of the hole she had placed herself in. Backing up slowly, so he didn't have to let go of the frightened girl, Shinji exited the bathroom.

With each step, he moved closer to the bed and stopped when it bumped against the back of his knees. Asuka didn't notice as she was still sobbing and talking about her past, her feelings, and what had happened in the psychologist’s office. Unwilling to let her go, Shinji moved to the side of the bed and, blushing, moved his hands to grip Asuka's waist. As he fell onto the mattress he felt Asuka’s body tense at the unexpected impact and her arms squeezed tighter. Shinji gasped in pain as Asuka landed on top of a sensitive and hard part of his body. Reaching up, he brushed some auburn hair off her cheek to see her eyes twinkling and a smile on her face.

"Well I got you to smile again but not the way I originally wanted to," whispered Shinji as he continued to stroke Asuka's moist hair.

Asuka buried her face in his shoulder, muffling her voice. "I'm sorry, Shinji."

"For what?"

"I've been using you since I woke up. Every time I want to stop, you're there for me." Her voice cracked a little. "It isn't fair for me to put my troubles on you, especially with how I treated you in the past."

"I don't care about what happened between us in the past, Asuka." Shinji looked up at the ceiling, Hyuga's words drifting through his head. "You had your reasons for acting a certain way back then."

Asuka looked up at him, tears in her eyes. "What about..."

"Forget about it, that was then, this is now." Shinji ran his fingers along Asuka's ribs, tickling her and getting her to laugh. "I was using you back then too, but I've changed. I promised myself that I would never use you again, and that no matter what happened between us I would always be there for you."

Shinji tried to ignore the sensations going through his body as Asuka shifted on top of him. He realized that he needed to get out from underneath her before anybody walked in. But when he tried to move, the redhead wrapped her bare legs around his and tightened her hold on his torso with her arms. Her cheek brushed his as she laid her head down, causing the young man to blush even more at the little touch. Mentally sighing, he reached for the covers and pulled them over the two of them, before returning his hands to Asuka's back.

'How do I get myself into these situations?’ thought Shinji, as he stared up at the ceiling wondering if he would be able to sleep at all. His crotch still ached from where she had hit, but that wasn’t what would keep him awake.

- - -

Next morning

Normally Shinji didn't awake confused, as there was typically nothing to confuse him. He had memorized his bed and bedroom over the three years that he had lived with Misato. He knew what he felt like after a good night's sleep and a bad night’s sleep. All he knew was that his body was one big cramp, and he had a massive headache from not getting enough sleep. As his body slowly awoke, he realized that something warm was lying up against him in a nice kind of way. Shinji also noticed his left hand was holding something warm and soft.

"Shinji." His eyes flew open at the sound of Asuka's voice saying his name as memories flooded his mind. He had been unable to get to sleep because each time he tried to move from underneath Asuka, she had moved with him no matter how many times he shifted. He had only fallen asleep from fatigue and, guessing from the way his body felt, that had only happened a couple hours ago.

Looking down, he saw Asuka staring back with wide eyes as she woke up. It was her nude body that was pressed up against him, and she had her arms around his shoulders, keeping him close. He shifted against her as his body reacted to her heat and touch, just like the night before, as his eyes traveled lower. The sheets were wrapped around her slim legs while her upper body was bare, a very arousing view. As Shinji looked at Asuka he finally saw what his hand was resting on and all happy thoughts disappeared. His arm was draped over her side while his hand rested on her butt. He quickly removed the hand and tried to back away but Asuka tightened her hold on him.

"Asuka, I’m sorry," he apologized.

"What for?" Though her own face was red, the girl was oddly calm.

"I touched you when I shouldn't have."

"Did you do it on purpose?" inquired Asuka and smiled when he shook his head. "Then there was nothing improper about it.

As Shinji stared up at the ceiling, Asuka rolled onto him, resting her chin on his shoulder. Neither spoke as they mulled over what had just happened. He still felt that he had touched her improperly and his erection certainly wasn’t helping matters. Sure, he knew she was a very beautiful young lady but he had always thought of her as a person, never as an object. Shinji shifted under the girl, feeling his entire body heat up, as his brain created images of him and Asuka in compromising positions.

Meanwhile, Asuka was studying his face, trying to figure out what he was thinking about, but she drew a blank. That was, until his face turned red and his eyes wandered lower. Pushing herself against his chest, she made sure that all he could see was her face. After all, him touching her last night was one thing, but him staring at her now was entirely different. She felt her own face heat up as she finally reacted to the signals her body was sending her brain. The sensations of her bare legs rubbing against his and the press of his erection against her inner thigh, not to mention her breasts lying against Shinji's chest, were making her feel strange emotions while her body got warmer. Asuka pushed off of Shinji, stood up, and wrapped a sheet around her body.

"I think I should get going," volunteered Shinji, standing up.

"Yep," agreed Asuka. "And I need to take a cold shower.

Shinji felt arms go around him in a quick hug.

"Thanks for last night."

- - - -

Mid-March 2018

Sunlight flooded the room through the large glass windows, reflecting off of various surfaces, and filling the room with warmth. The peacefulness of the moment was disrupted when Asuka walked through the light and made her way to the balcony. A steady breeze was blowing and turning her hair from a brushed silkiness to chaos. Her short skirt was blown around, brushing against long legs. Yet all Asuka did was to move her hair out of her face with practiced ease and walk over to the corner of the balcony. A small smile graced her face as she was slowly relearning that little action. The smile disappeared, as she knew she had a long ways to go still.

She turned at the sound of the balcony door opening, allowing Misato to step through before closing the door behind her. Asuka watched quietly as the older woman walked the short distance to her and leaned against the railing. Violet and auburn hair blew in the wind as the two females looked at each other without saying a word. So much had happened between the two of them in the past, some of it had been childish and their relationship had been damaged. Asuka opened her mouth to speak but Misato beat her to the punch.

"You don't have to apologize for anything, Asuka. I'm just glad you're back."

Asuka shook her head angrily. "No, I have to say this Misato. I have to say that I'm sorry." She looked down for a moment before making eye contact with Misato. "I'm sorry, Misato, for how I treated you back then and I'm sorry that it took this long..."

Her apology was interrupted as Misato hugged her tightly. After a few awkward seconds Asuka hugged the woman back. She flinched when Misato stroked her back like Shinji had done so many times in the last months. Asuka wiped at her nose when they separated a few minutes later, causing Misato to smile faintly. She took the offered tissue with a small grin and blew her nose.

"Now you see what happens when you let your anger control you." Misato said as she went back to the railing.

"I know, but back then it was all that kept me going," whispered Asuka.

Misato nodded, "What drives you now?"

"I don't know. At times I feel like a machine and others a hollow shell." Asuka admitted after thinking about her answer.

"I hope you find out soon." Misato turned back to the door. "Come on. I'll drive Shinji and you to school."

"We're going to walk, okay?"

"Fine." Misato turned back to Asuka. "Speaking of Shinji, have you apologized to him?"

"We've reached an understanding." Asuka felt her face heat up. "No bringing up the past or apologizing for what happened between us during the Angels.”

Misato nodded and motioned for Asuka to go first back into the apartment. As the girl passed her, she leaned in close. "Shinji really has matured physically, hasn't he? I hear the girls think he's quite the find, tall, handsome, and muscled. Not to mention how his butt and eyes draw you in."

"MISATO!" This time Asuka felt her whole body heat up. "How...how could you say such a thing?"

"What? It’s true." She stared at Asuka, puzzled. "Don't tell me…"

Asuka was half listening to Misato as she watched the young man they were talking about go about his business in the apartment. She had noticed the changes in Shinji, but had shoved them out of her mind. Their relationship was slowly mending and she didn't want to destroy the trust by thinking of him as an object. Especially since she knew that Shinji never viewed her as an object even after that night they had slept together. It also wouldn't be fair to Shinji when she didn't even know what she wanted to do with her life anymore.

"I've noticed." She murmured.

"Good, but what are you going to do about it."

"Nothing. I have to get my life in order first."

With that, Asuka stepped away from Misato and strode up to Shinji who was coming out of the kitchen. From the time they had spent together at the hospital Asuka knew that Shinji had not changed much and was still a caring person. It was with that thought in mind that she took her school bag from his hand with a smile, knowing that he would have made sure everything was in order, even after she had double checked it herself. Turning around, she waved goodbye to Misato and stepped through the door after Shinji.

- - - -

"Umm, Asuka?"

Asuka lifted her gaze from the ground as she walked to stare at Shinji. It was the first thing he had said that morning since asking her if she was okay going back to school. Well maybe not the first, but they had barely spoken during the walk, though that was her fault. She had been slowly preparing herself for anything that would come from the students, from hatred to snide comments to being shunned. Asuka knew how her old self would have reacted, but that Asuka had been buried. Pushing those thoughts from her mind, she waited for Shinji as they stopped outside the gates of the school.

"What?" She was amazed that her voice wasn't dead sounding, though it wasn't exactly full of emotion either.

Shinji wouldn't meet her eyes for a couple seconds but when he finally did, they were calm. "I want to say that I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"That incident in the hospital a couple weeks ago." He nervously tugged at his collar. "I didn't mean to touch you."

"I told you before that I knew it was an accident Shinji." She reached forward and pulled open the gate. "There’s nothing to be sorry about, and you don’t have to keep apologizing."

"I just wanted to make sure there were no problems between us before school."

Asuka nodded before stepping up to the small station located immediately within the walls. Reaching into her bag, the redhead pulled out a manila envelope that Misato had given her the night before. Inside were all the forms necessary for her to get back into school life. She didn't have to wait long as the staff member in the booth looked over the first sheet, which explained that Asuka and Shinji had permission to come to school late that day. Without saying a word the man simply stamped the form and let the two of them go.

"Let's go Asuka," she whispered to herself as they walked into the three-story building.

- - - -

The clock was taking immense pleasure in torturing her as it slowly advanced to the end of the school day. Earlier she had been grateful that Misato had pulled some strings to get her into the same class as Shinji, even if the older woman had said that it was for personal and psychological reasons, and the U.N. deemed it necessary. Now the redhead was not so grateful as she looked down, sighing, as her computer signaled that another message had been received. She had been receiving them throughout the afternoon as the shock of her return slowly wore off. Most of the messages had been comments mocking her while others were from guys who wanted a date. Only four messages had been sent welcoming her back, though she expected them except the one from Rei.

Turning her head slightly, Asuka glanced at the blue-haired girl sitting on her left. She was actually listening to the teacher and taking notes, a far cry from the Rei that used to sit with a bored expression on her face while staring out the window. She flinched when Rei turned and made eye contact for a moment before they both turned away. She let her eyes roam around the room, though she already knew where everyone was sitting. Touji and Kensuke were behind her, and Hikari was in front while Shinji sat on the right. The girl didn't know whether to feel mad at being boxed in or happy that they were protecting her in some way. Asuka settled on a state of indifference, as she knew that she should have been annoyed but she couldn't muster up the energy. She hadn't lied to either Misato or Shinji when she had told them that she was empty inside. And it was that emptiness that was causing her not to care about many things.

She jumped a little when the bell finally rang, as she had been lost in thought about the people around her. After saving her notes, Asuka slid her textbooks back into her bag and waited for the classroom to empty of students before she left. As she walked through the door and out into the hallway she ignored the various looks and glances that students were throwing her. The ones that had only heard of her by rumor stared at her, wondering why she wasn't living up to her reputation. The ones that knew her and had not forgiven her were not even trying to hide their contempt as she walked to her locker.

"Hey Soryu, what's the matter?" taunted one girl as Asuka pulled on her shoes. "Where's the stuck up prima donna or did you finally realize that you're a nobody?"

Asuka didn't reply to the girl's comments knowing that what she said was true. But the girl wasn't going to let Asuka leave just yet as she showed by grabbing her shoulder. Asuka looked at the girl, waiting for her to do something, and as she waited she wondered if this was how Rei had reacted to her years ago. She knew that she should do something as the girl raised her hand and swung it at her face, but Asuka just stood there. Yet the hand didn't touch Asuka as another person intervened and grabbed the offending girl's wrist and twisted.

"Let her go, Miyu." growled Shinji, increasing the pressure.

"Okay," whimpered the girl letting go of Asuka.

Shinji released the girl and turned to the redhead, "Let's go, Hikari is waiting for us."

Stunned, Asuka followed Shinji, as he made his way through the crowd that had gathered to see what was happening. Looking at some of the faces, the girl saw she wasn't the only one surprised by Shinji's actions. Yet some flinched as he touched them like this wasn't the first time that he had stepped out of character. Stepping through the door, she saw Hikari waiting with Touji, who was talking to Kensuke while Rei stood silently by. She found herself smothered in hug for the second time that day as she got within range of Hikari. Conscious of the eyes on them, she briefly returned the hug before backing away and looking at her best friend besides Shinji.

Gone were the twin pigtails of junior high as Hikari's brown hair hung straight down her back. Asuka wondered if everyone had become a giant, as the two girls were eye-level but when she looked down she saw the heels that gave Hikari the necessary inches. Her skirt was longer and her blouse looser than what Asuka wore, showing that she hadn't overcome her conservative nature. Yet when Touji approached them there were no glances at the young man or any blushing.

"Hikari was wondering if you wanted to go with Rei and her to the mall for some shopping," commented Touji as he pointed at the girls and ignored Hikari.

"I was going to ask her, Touji. I’m capable of speaking for myself," was the sharp retort.

"Well, the touching moment was getting to me." This time Touji was smiling as he replied.

Hikari stalked over to Touji and glared up at him. Her frown disappeared as Touji rested his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. Freeing her shoulders, Hikari backed away and turned back to Asuka.

"So do you want to go?" She pleaded with Asuka.

Asuka looked down as Hikari grabbed her hands. "I'm sorry but I have an appointment with..." She stopped when Shinji placed a hand on her shoulder.

"You're allowed to miss a session or two under certain circumstances." He held up a hand. "Dr. Leibling will understand. In fact, I'm sure he would approve of this."

Looking around at the expectant faces, Asuka nodded. "Okay."

"Great."

- - - -

"What’s the matter with you, Asuka?"

Asuka stopped looking through the racks of blouses at that question. Turning, she saw Hikari approaching, her arms full of clothing. As Hikari dumped the load on a chair Asuka tried to come up with an answer to the question. She knew Hikari had been waiting to ask that question since they had left school. Her lack of emotion and response during classes would have been enough to set Hikari thinking.

"What?"

"Don't what me, Asuka. I'm talking about what happened to my friend that was always full of energy and life." Hikari stared hard into the redhead’s eyes. "This quiet girl in front of me isn't Asuka. The Asuka I knew would have been angry at being scorned and ridiculed. She also wouldn't have simply stood waiting to get hit."

The girl shook her head sadly. "The old me is dead and buried Hikari."

"I don't believe that for an instant." She watched as the teen slumped in her chair.

"You don't understand Hikari. I lost the thing that gave me a purpose in life and an identity."

Hikari stood there silently as her friend stared at the floor, not wanting to make contact. As she watched, Asuka's body trembled, causing her to kneel down in front of her friend. She was somewhat relieved to see there were no tears sliding down cheeks, but the smile Asuka gave her was forced. Standing up, she hugged the redhead, looking to see how many people were watching the activity. The only person that had noticed was Rei and she walked over to the two girls.

"Did EVA mean that much to you?" Hikari asked.

"Yes," Asuka's voice was barely above a whisper. "I poured everything I had into it, but when I started failing and losing…" She looked up at Hikari and Rei. "Well you saw what happened to me when I lost my purpose."

"And that resulted in this person we see now?" inquired Rei.

"Yes."

Rei stood there silently as she digested what she had just heard from the redhead. A frown formed on her face as she watched Asuka sitting there, not saying a word. She reached a decision about what to do and, ignoring the noise of protest from Hikari, grabbed Asuka by the upper arm. With a little force, Rei guided Asuka to the front display of the store. Both girls remained silent as they stared through the glass, watching the boys who were waiting. Rei smiled faintly as Shinji joked with his friends.

"Rei?"

“Would you say that Shinji has changed?”

Asuka nodded. “Of course he has.”

“Really?” Rei waited as Asuka watched the scene outside the store. The faint smile was all she needed.

“He’s stronger, more confident than before, when we fought the Angels.” Asuka watched Rei out of the corner of her eye. “But he’s still the caring and gentle boy that I always made fun of.”

Rei shook her head. “That is not correct. Shinji is the same as before. It is just that he made some choices no one else could.”

“But…” Asuka watched as Rei turned to her.

“The strong man was always there but he hid it. You know it is true.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“He made a decision to find a balance. Shinji decided he would allow his strength to show while remaining a caring person.” She took a step toward Asuka, causing the redhead to back away. “You have to make the same decision. You have to find a balance or you will become lost.”

- - - -

July 22, 2018, Sunday

She didn't know when she had started liking the dark again as she lay in the small living room, staring at the far wall. The darkness enveloped her like a blanket, reassuring her that she was secure and protected from everything around her. The thought that she should hate the darkness, with the feeling of loneliness that it always brought her, never even entered Asuka's mind. Even after she had spent two years in the darkness with no dreams and no comfort, just the inky blackness of her mind as she tried to escape the real world, she didn't hate it. And that was what she wanted to do now as she lay on her side, curled and twisted up. Her arms tingled as they provided support for her head. She slowly released a shaky breath as she thought about the need to be free of pain.

Asuka didn't dare close her eyes or the scene she had witnessed at school would be shown. Yet she did close her eyes for a moment, as her body tried to get its needed rest, and saw two happy people smiling and laughing as she stood in the background. That was all her mind showed her before she awoke with a jerk from the pain and her hands clenched into fists. For all her pain Asuka had not shed a tear since that incident, and that was comforting for the girl as she remembered how much she had cried in the last few months from letting her walls down and trying to rid herself of the past. She knew Rei had been wrong in telling her that she needed to find herself, to find a balance between her personalities. Asuka's new self was just as fake as her old self in dealing with people, yet her old self had kept her heart safe.

The sound of a door opening down the small hallway caused her body to tremble, as if it wanted to become smaller to escape notice. She hoped that the person was going to the bathroom, as she wanted to stay alone. But that hope was dashed as footsteps told her that someone was walking toward her. Asuka felt her heart race, but exhaled in relief as the kitchen light was turned on and the sound of the faucet running indicated that she was safe. The seconds stretched as she waited for the lights to be turned off and the person to return to their room. After what seemed an hour to Asuka, the lights were finally extinguished and the person left the kitchen, but they didn't move down the hall, instead they walked into the living room.

Asuka tried to get her body to curl up tighter as she waited and listened to the nightlife. She heard the slow deliberate steps as the person walked farther into the room, coming closer to her position. Even when the footsteps stopped next to her Asuka didn't move or look up instead she tightened her hold on her legs. Even with her eyes closed she knew the other person was looking at her and wondering what was happening. A soft sigh followed by a thump alerted Asuka that the other person had sat down close to her, yet it wasn't until a hand rested on her leg that she looked up to see Misato. She could feel that her roommate was frowning when she didn't move or respond.

Misato knelt in front of her, watching and waiting for the young woman to do something in response. She had woken up in the middle of the night, thirsty and a little hungry, and had gone to the kitchen. She had noticed Asuka’s foot in the light and it disturbed her to see the teen lying on the floor alone, and curled up. She had watched the girl carefully as she went through therapy and read every report of every incident at the school, and it had looked like the girl was finally opening up and finding a balance. Yet the scene before her presented neither a young woman who was opening up nor one who had found a balance. All she could feel was an immense pain coming from the girl as Asuka stared back with a blank face.

"You should be in bed, Asuka. You need your sleep,” said Misato mildly. "Is school going okay?" This time she saw Asuka's hands tighten. "Are the boys being idiots again?" A shake of Asuka’s head was the reply. "Or has it been one boy? I've noticed that you and Shinji..."

"Don't say that name," hissed Asuka amazed at the anger in it.

Misato nodded her head. "Well that was easy, it only took me three tries compared to the normal half hour."

"Just leave me alone, Misato."

"Sorry, but I can't do that."

"Fine!" Asuka stated before falling silent.

"What happened between the two of you?” inquired Misato after a few minutes of silence. “This last week has been tense. You've…"

"I told you I don't want to talk about it!"

Asuka heard Misato moving after her last comment and hoped that her guardian would let the conversation die. But like many of her recent hopes and wishes, this one was not granted as Misato touched her cheek, causing her to lift her head. Blue eyes stared into brown as the two women each waited for the other to make the first move. Asuka flinched as was helped to a kneeling position. As they knelt there, the redhead tried to read Misato's face but the dim light wasn't enough. She knew that Misato would have the same look on her face as Shinji when he was trying to get her to open up. Remembering that name brought a frown to her face.

"These last seven months I have watched the two of you," started Misato. "You two did everything together and were inseparable. Shinji neglected his friends and schoolwork to help and be around you. But that wasn't all since he wasn’t the only person involved. I don't know what finally made you trust him and start opening up, but you have. The two of you have been there for each other, especially Shinji..."

"That was in the past Misato, not now or the future."

"Bullshit, Asuka!"

Asuka flinched at the words, like Misato had injured her. "You don't understand."

"Yeah, I don't understand. I don't understand how two people who are so close aren't speaking to each other. I don't understand how two people that care for each other are deliberately hurting the other. I don't..."

"You don't understand!" shouted Asuka. "He has led me on since I woke up with his fake caring and meaningless gestures. But it was all a game to him as he knew he was going to hurt me."

"Asuka!"

"It's true! He's betrayed my trust for someone else. I can't trust him anymore with my feelings or my…" Asuka bit back a sob, unable to say the last part.

"Heart?" Ventured Misato, knowing it was true. "Why don't you tell me what happened?"

"No."

"I can't help you if you don't tell me."

Asuka didn't say anything as she reached up and turned a lamp to its lowest setting. With the additional light, she could see that Misato was being truthful about wanting to help. Slowly, she lowered her hands back to her knees and nodded, wanting to get this over with. This time she didn't flinch as Misato rested her hand on Asuka's.

"Please trust me, Asuka."

Nodding, she began, her voice low and unsure. "It was nine days ago. And as you know, I was…"

/ / / /

July 13, 2018, Friday

One corner of the school grounds was always empty during lunch as it was distant from the building and had no benches or tables. But Asuka didn't mind as she leaned her back against the large solitary oak that grew there. She had been coming to this particular area for the last three months as it kept her away from everybody, mainly the boys. She was still adjusting to school life even so many months later as the insults still came and boys still lusted after her. It had been the boys that had forced her out here. They grew bolder with their statements as they saw a quiet girl had replaced the loud demon. Asuka pushed those thoughts from her mind and opened the lunch she had prepared since it was her day to make the lunches.

Letting her eyes wander around the grounds, Asuka picked out groups of students that seemed interesting to her. Hikari was off with a bunch of girls talking about who knows what, while Touji and Kensuke were by themselves at another table. It had come as a surprise to learn that Touji and Hikari had been together for only a year before breaking it off. She had not asked for the details, as it was not her place to pry, considering she herself was getting her own life back together. Also it saddened her because if someone as caring as Hikari couldn't make a relationship work, what chance did she have? Yet for all that had happened between them, Hikari was still friends with Touji, just like her and Shinji. At that thought, Asuka looked around trying to find the boy but he was nowhere in sight.

"Figures," muttered Asuka as she came to her feet.

It was none of her business what Shinji was doing but she found herself walking to the school. She had told him that she wanted to eat by herself today, wanting to be alone for no particular reason, and he had agreed. It had probably been a mistake for him to be alone as the more determined girls always flocked to him when she wasn't around. Asuka felt a pang of nervousness in her stomach at that thought but she didn't know why. Of all the girls around, Shinji spent most of his time with her and barely talked to the others. She knew he wasn't being rude but that he was not interested in the other girls. That brought a smile to her face as she thought how close they really were, but her smile disappeared quickly. Neither of them had hinted at wanting to be more than just friends and she wondered why that suddenly worried her. She was about to open the door when a voice cried out.

"Soryu!"

Turning, she saw a couple boys approaching and frowned as they came closer. She didn't have time for this. Crossing her arms under her breasts she waited, feeling the old fire building deep inside her, something that had been going on for a month. Asuka had kept that to herself, happy that she had finally started finding a balance between calmness and fire. And at the moment the fire was building, growing hotter as she saw a smirk on one of the boys’ face. Frowning, Asuka knew it was time to let everyone know that she wasn't going to tolerate this anymore. Glaring at the boys, she waited for them to come closer and start their routine.

"What?" Asuka saw them pause as they heard the anger in her voice, but they recovered.

"Just wondering if you were doing anything this weekend," commented one of the boys.

"I have no plans." She paused watching their reactions, seeing them grin. "To do anything with either of you."

But that didn't deter them. "Why not? It'd just be you and us having dinner and…"

Asuka felt the fire flare. "And then what? A hotel room where you think you could get me into bed!" She shouted as she leaned in closer. "Fat chance of that. I have no interest in sleeping around with complete assholes or turning into a slut! I suggest that you pass that on to everyone, got it?"

With that, she spun around and grabbed the handle for the door but before she could do anything, a hand grabbed her wrist. Looking over her shoulder, she glared at the boy touching her.

"Let go."

"Why?" commented the boy holding her. "So you can go find your little guardian angel called Shinji Ikari. Let me tell you something Soryu, he's been playing you for a fool all these months and you've fallen for it. Mr. Ikari already has a girlfriend and he's seeing her right…"

Asuka watched the boy's face go white and his eyes widen in shock as she withdrew her foot from his crotch. The boy slowly fell to the ground clutching his injured body part in pain and trying to speak but all that came out was a squeak. Smirking, she turned to the other boy but he was already backing away from her, which was fine. Yanking the door open she strode through the hallways on a mission to find Shinji and see what was happening. She knew that Shinji wasn’t seeing anyone or at least she hoped that was the truth. If he was seeing someone she was going to…

"To do what?" she asked herself.

She found that answer soon enough as she rounded a corner to head for the lockers. Asuka found that her body wouldn't move as she saw Shinji talking to another girl as they came out of a classroom. Her body started to shake as they laughed and walked away from her. At that moment, Asuka felt something break inside her. As they disappeared around a far corner, Asuka knew that her trust in Shinji had been misplaced. Swallowing the lump in her throat she turned around and walked to the classroom.

/ / / /

"So that's what happened. I found him with another girl and…" Asuka couldn't go on, her voice and body filled with pain.

"Did you ask him for an explanation?"

Asuka shook her head. "Why, so he could deny everything? He broke my trust Misato, I can't go to him and tell him how I feel."

"Why not?"

"I just can't." Asuka shook her head. "I just can't."

Misato sat there watching as Asuka repeated herself. She knew the two of them had been close, closer than anyone else she had known. But to see that intimacy being ripped apart was destroying them and her. The pain she had to see in each teenager’s eyes as they avoided each other or when they wouldn't talk. Standing, she went over to Asuka and helped her to her feet, trying to ignore the tremors racing through the girl’s body. With an arm around the girl, Misato walked down the hall and opened the door to her bedroom. She knelt down at the side of the bed after Asuka crawled underneath the blankets.

"I think you need to talk to Shinji or the girl and get the truth," commented Misato as she brushed some hair out of Asuka's face. "I may be wrong but I think you jumped to conclusions without having all the facts. The bond that you two have is strong but it can get stronger." She smiled faintly at Asuka. "Don't do what I did and break something that’s very important to both of you."

"Misato..."

"Please, promise me that you'll get the truth."

The redhead nodded after a few seconds. "I promise."

Misato leaned down and kissed Asuka on the forehead. "Good."

- - - -

July 27, 2018, Friday

Misato's words echoed through Asuka's head, even though it had been a five days since that night, as she walked through the halls. That week had been one of determination and fear for the girl, spilling over into her sessions with the psychologist. The funny thing was that he had told her the exact same things Misato had said about jumping to conclusions and bonds. Though Asuka had made a promise to get an explanation, it had taken some time to get the information she needed. She knew that the easiest way would have been to confront Shinji but if everything was just in her head she didn't want to hurt him anymore with false accusations. Therefore she had spent the last week searching out the little harlot who had been with Shinji.

Reaching forward, she slid the door open and stepped through, not bothering to close it. Ignoring the whispers and stares that were coming from the underclassmen, Asuka walked to the far corner where the girl, Maki Kusaka, was standing with her friends, and stopped behind her. It took less than a minute for the girl's friends to recognize Asuka and make excuses to leave their friend. Patiently, Asuka waited for Maki to turn around and when she finally did, there was no surprise on her face. The two girls stood there, one glaring and the other calmly staring back.

"You, come with me," commanded Asuka before turning around.

"What do you want to talk about, Soryu?" inquired Maki after they had left the building.

Asuka felt her nails digging into her palm as she clenched her fists. "You and Shinji. What’s going on between the two of you?"

"So that's what this is all about," said Maki with a smile.

"Answer the question!"

"Me and Shinji? What's going on between us?" She leaned in close, catching Asuka off guard. "Absolutely nothing."

"You're lying!"

Maki walked to a bench and sat down watching, Asuka. "Why would I have to lie when it's the truth? There’s nothing going on between the two of us, so I don't know why you're questioning me. If you're having a problem with Shinji you should be talking to him."

"Shut up!" screamed Asuka as she was losing control. "I saw the two of you together. Both of you looked like you were having a fun time. Now answer my question!"

The girl looked at her, smiling like she knew a secret that Asuka didn't. "I get it now. You're jealous."

"I am not!"

"Of course you are, and now you know what a lot of us feel. The anger of being passed over for another person. The pain of knowing that you'll never have a place in that person's…" Maki's tirade was cut short as Asuka slapped her.

"You bitch! I'm not jealous. You don't know what it feels like to see the person that you trust with another person. So don't say that you know what I'm feeling."

Maki glared at Asuka, holding her cheek. "I know that feeling, but you don't want to believe that there is nothing between us. Well let me tell you something, Shinji is my tutor."

"Tutor in…" sneered Asuka.

"Mathematics." Maki stood close to Asuka with her hands on her hips. "If you think Shinji has betrayed your trust then that says your trust of him was weak to begin with. You saw something and immediately jumped to conclusions without talking to Shinji first. Instead of trusting him like you say you did, you severed all contact." She gripped Asuka's hands. "Don't let him get away, Soryu. He cares for you and is hurting without knowing why."

"But…" whispered Asuka, trying to gather her thoughts at the sudden change of subjects.

"But nothing. You're lucky to have someone that cares for you so much. That is why so many girls hate you." Maki turned and started toward the school. "Don't let this opportunity pass you by."

Asuka stood there for a few minutes trying to digest everything that had happened. She couldn't believe how right everyone had been in telling her to first get the truth. It hurt to know that she had jumped to conclusions and knew what Shinji must be feeling at the moment: alone and hurting without knowing why. As the first bell faded, the redhead shook her head, and walked to their homeroom, thinking of what must be done to correct the situation. Glancing at Shinji as she took her seat, Asuka knew she had to act fast to correct her mistake.

- - - -

July 31, 2018, Tuesday

"Well?"

Asuka asked that question as she stepped out of the dressing room and stood in front of Misato and Hikari. Misato tried to decide if she should be angry or amused at what her roommate was wearing. The blue evening dress hung loosely on the girl, reaching to the floor, while hiding her curves, while giving a hint of what was underneath. Thin spaghetti straps held up the dress while to further draw eyes; the bodice was designed to draw eyes to the swell of the girl's bust. Glancing over, Misato saw Hikari staring at Asuka with a combination of awe and embarrassment.

"Isn't that a bit much?" commented Hikari. "You're only going on a date with Shinji, not trying to take him to bed."

"Who says I don't want to take him to bed?" the redhead asked smiling.

"Asuka!" The other two females shouted in shock.

"You two are no fun," pouted Asuka. Walking over to the mirrors she examined how she looked. "How about you, Misato? Do you agree that this is too much?"

"I have to agree with Hikari on this one. The dress is a little too much." Misato smiled faintly. "You don't want Shinji to faint."

"Fine," Asuka said, defeated. "But I do look good, right?"

Misato rested her hands on Asuka's shoulders. "Yes, you look beautiful but remember that you shouldn't move too fast. You two have all the time in the world, so don't rush it."

"But I've made so many mistakes, Misato."

"You're human just like everyone else." With that, Misato disappeared into the store reappearing moments later. "I think this would be more suitable, wouldn't you say so Hikari?"

"Yes."

Asuka stepped forward and took the dress from Misato's outstretched hands. Memories flashed as she unfolded it and looked at in the light of the store. It was remarkably close to the sundress she had worn when she had first met Shinji and been reunited with Misato. The dress reached mid-thigh and had sleeves but her shoulders would still be exposed and the cut seemed like it would still hug her body. Her fingers glided along the pale gold silk as she pictured what she would look like when wearing it. Turning around, she dashed back into the stall with a smile on her face, and changed quickly. Misato and Hikari were smiling as she stepped out of the room.

"Much better," said Hikari.

"Shinji's definitely going to be speechless when he sees you." Misato paused and turned a critical eye on Asuka. "How does it fit?"

Asuka blushed slightly. "It's a little tight in the chest." Turning, she looked in the mirror. "And the waist is too high. I thought you knew my dimensions Misato."

"Why would I know them?" Misato asked before disappearing again.

Hikari stepped up to her friend, pulling on her sleeves. "Nervous?"

"Yeah, it's so weird for me to be doing this. I promised myself that I’d never get close to one person and here I am, shattering that promise." Asuka laughed lightly, trying to get her mind off of her date coming up on Saturday.

"But you don't have anything to be nervous about. You've known Shinji for over three years so there shouldn't be any problems."

The girl shook her head. "Did you forget that out of those three years I spent two of them catatonic?"

"Still, he is basically the same person you met on the Over the Rainbow," said Misato as she joined the conversation. "That’s what your date is about, isn't it? The three year anniversary of your moving in with us." She watched as Asuka blushed. "Thought so."

"But…"

"No buts, young lady. Just be the confident and energetic girl he knows. Oh, but this time leave out the superiority complex and arrogance."

"I know that Misato. It was those two things that got me into trouble in the first place," Asuka admitted. "Still, I haven't been on a date for years."

Misato shook her head. "I can't believe I'm hearing this from you, Asuka. What happened to the girl that always plunged ahead without caution? The girl that didn't care how others did things because she did them her own way."

"This is too important for me, Misato. I get one chance to do it correctly and I don't want to make a mistake."

"Just do what comes naturally and follow your instincts. Now are you going to try on the sizes I brought or are we just going to stand around talking? We have a lot more shopping to do!"

- - - -

August 4, 2018, Saturday

Shinji looked at the note in his hand one more time before continuing his walk down the street. He didn't know what to expect as the note only told him to be at a certain place at a certain time. Pushing back the sleeve of his suit jacket, he glanced at his watch and saw that he would arrive in plenty of time, yet he wasn't excited. Three weeks had passed since Asuka had stopped talking to him and started pushing him away. Nothing he said had gotten her to tell him what was wrong or if he had screwed up in some way, her only response had been silence. Now he was on his way to see her by written request since she had been out of the house the whole day. He hoped the roses would be enough to show Asuka that he still cared, even if it meant their friendship was over.

Shaking his head, Shinji continued toward his destination weaving through the crowd, careful not to crush the flowers. He wondered if Asuka knew the significance of the day. Three years of pain as they went through their own hells, scarred in more ways than one as one retreated from the world and the other was forced to face life. Yet Asuka had woken up and he had learned to live, and the last months had been fun in a strange way. He had watched Asuka grow from a girl who felt empty and worthless to one that was a mixture of old and new, chaos and calm. Shinji remembered the times when he had to be the strong one, a role he was not used to, but slowly their relationship had become one of friendship. That all had ended a few weeks ago.

It was only because he stopped to admonish himself that he didn't run into the girl standing in front of him. Shinji stared at the blue shoes a moment before letting his eyes travel up long legs, taking in the gentle curves of her hips and narrow waist. A gentle cough drew his eyes from Asuka's bust to her face and the small smile gracing her lips. He was surprised to see a small locket attached to the blue choker around her throat while diamond studs glittered in the light. Slowly he reached out and brushed some of her hair back over her shoulder, enjoying the silky feel of it. Smiling, he stared into her sky blue eyes getting lost for a moment before a hand on his cheek brought him back.

"I'm sorry, Shinji," said Asuka lightly as she let her hand drop.

"For what?" He had an idea of what she was talking about but wanted to hear the words.

Asuka forced herself not to look away. "For these last three weeks. I've treated you like shit for no good reason."

"At the time, it was probably a valid reason."

"No it wasn't, I was being..." Asuka stopped as Shinji stepped closer and touched her hand before backing off.

"Shhh, let's drop it for now," stated Shinji as he felt the nervousness rise at being so close to Asuka in a non-supportive role. "You look very nice, beautiful in fact."

"Thank you," Asuka replied shyly as she felt her cheeks heat up. "You look good also."

Shinji tried not to shiver as Asuka straightened his tie and made his jacket more presentable. He ignored the glances and whispers from the pedestrians as they passed and saw this demonstration. Asuka stepped back and looked at what she had accomplished, a finger on her chin. Smiling, she glanced down at his hands before looking at him in a silent question. As she stood there waiting, Shinji finally figured out why she was acting like this. She was nervous, probably just as much as him and to hide it she was keeping busy.

"Why are you so nervous all of sudden?" she asked. "You were so confident minutes ago. Though I like both sides of you."

"It's just that it's finally sunk in." Shinji pulled at his collar.

"What has?"

"That this has suddenly turned into a real date and I'm with you."

"Don't you want to be with me?" teased Asuka.

"Yes, but…" Shinji swallowed trying to form the words. When he finally spoke, it was barely above a whisper. "It's just that this is…"

"Is what?" inquired Asuka, moving closer, almost touching him.

"My first date."

Asuka's eyes widened at that admission. Though she had heard from her and Shinji's friends that he had never dated, she had never truly believed it. Mainly because it seemed so farfetched for her to believe that Shinji would truly wait for her to wake up in the hope that he would have a chance. After all, her last words to him had not been kind and had been designed to wound him to the core. Yet hadn't she had all the proof since waking up that she was very important to him and that he didn't care about the past? Slowly she reached for his hand, feeling her own shaking as they made contact.

"Well, you could say that this is my first date also," admitted Asuka as she wrapped her fingers around Shinji's. She wasn’t going to count the failed outing with the medical student as a date

Shinji didn't do anything as he tried to react to her admission and gentle touch. Finally he followed her example and squeezed her hand gently. "These are for you."

"I was wondering when you were going to give them to me." Asuka took the flowers and led Shinji to a nearby door.

Smiling, the boy let himself be led into the foyer of the restaurant. As they walked toward the maitre d’ station, he stared at the various works of art adorning the wall. His artistic tastes ran more toward music so he was unable decide if the paintings were of quality. A tug on his arm brought his attention back to Asuka as they got in the short line, the adults giving them curious glances. Keeping his eyes from wandering was easy as Asuka was just as gorgeous as any of the other women and she hadn't even reached her full potential. However he did feel out of place. That feeling only increased as the maitre d' stared at the two EVA pilots with distaste.

"Do you have reservations?" The man asked.

"It will be under Soryu for two."

Looking at the screen, the man nodded. "Do you have any identification?"

"Why?" asked Asuka, sharply.

"It is the policy of this establishment that children are not to be allowed," replied the maitre d’ smugly.

"Children," muttered Asuka as she dug through her purse. She smiled dangerously, as she slid a plastic card to the man. "Will this do?"

Shinji watched the man turn white and swallow nervously when he picked up the object. After a few glances between Asuka and what he was holding, the man slid it through a card reader. A few seconds later he handed her possession back and motioned for them to follow. Weaving through the main dining room the trio walked up a flight of stairs to an upper level where the tables were spread farther apart to allow for more privacy. Shinji waited until Asuka had taken her seat before settling into his chair.

"Your waiter will be along shortly," spoke the maitre d'. "Please enjoy your evening.”

"You enjoyed that didn't you?" Shinji asked after the man was gone.

Asuka grinned. "Yep, it's always fun to bring someone down a notch or two."

"Just like old times. What did you show him?"

"My NERV ID," replied Asuka. "No one can refuse NERV personnel."

Shinji smiled, but didn't say anything as he racked his brain for something to talk about. He wanted to ask Asuka about what had happened in the preceding weeks, yet he didn't, as he knew she would explain in time. The silence stretched as they studied the menus, the waiter hovering around, waiting for their orders. Also they wanted privacy for what they were going to discuss. It wasn't until their appetizers arrived that Shinji finally broke the ice.

"At least it wasn't windy today," Shinji commented.

Asuka looked at him puzzled. "What?"

"We wouldn't want a repeat performance of our first meeting on a sidewalk, would we?"

Understanding flashed in Asuka's eyes and her cheeks turned pink. "Yeah, that was quite a memorable first meeting, though I'm sure you enjoyed it more than me."

"Well I was concentrating more on your face than anything else." Shinji said as the memory came forth.

"Sure you were," Asuka said blandly. "So what was I wearing?"

"A plain pair of white..." He stopped abruptly, realizing what he had just said. "Umm…well you see."

"Stop while you're ahead, Shinji." Asuka watched as the boy’s entire face turned red.

"The human eye is drawn to movement you know," stated Shinji.

Asuka shook her head. "You don't know when to quit, do you? Though I did get my revenge with the plugsuit." She grinned when he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

"Did you do that on purpose?" he asked quietly.

"Maybe. Maybe not."

With that comment, both teens turned their attention back to the food in front of them. Asuka stared at Shinji thoughtfully as she slowly ate the shrimp cocktail. She watched as he stirred his soup without tasting it. The little exchange before had been one to break the ice but when it died off, neither had continued. Asuka sighed, knowing what was going on and knew that it was her turn.

"Did you hate me back then? The arrogant girl who disturbed your peaceful existence."

Shinji shook his head slightly. "No, I never hated you. You were so many things that I wasn't. Energetic, confident, outgoing, and self-assured. These were traits that you had that I wished I did."

"So you didn't hate me, even though I was always trying to hurt your feelings? Or when I told you I wished I had never met you and you should have never been born?" Asuka's voice had started out strong, but had ended in a whisper.

"No," replied Shinji. "When you said those things, I was too far gone myself to care any more."

Asuka didn't have anything to say to that; instead she stared at a wall while sipping her water. She had just broken the promise they had made months ago to not bring up the past. Sure she could have blamed Shinji for breaking it first with his comment about the wind, but that was more of a joke. Her comments were meant to dig into the past, yet she needed to do this. Before she could go forward, she had to clear up the past.

"Earlier this year, when you wanted to gain my trust, you said something that was very important." She started. "You said you had realized you had been using me as a false support. What did you mean by that?"

Silence stretched as Shinji bowed his head, not even noticing when the waiter approached with their meals. It wasn't until they were alone again that he raised his head and stared at Asuka. Neither could look away as they were both drawn deeper into each other. Shinji broke the contact by closing his eyes and sighing.

"I was using you as a support back then, Asuka,” He admitted. “As long as you were the strong one, the one who enjoyed life so much, it meant that I didn't have to change. I could always turn to you and tell myself that I could be happy if I stayed with you."

"Shinji, I ran away from life."

"Please, I need to say this," he begged. "Even when you were catatonic I was using you. I kept convincing myself for half a year that change would not be worth it because I would still fail. Even as I watched you grow thinner and pale, I told myself you were strong, that you were facing your demons." Shinji glanced down. "And I convinced myself that when you woke up that things would be the same, you the pillar of strength and me clinging to you."

Asuka sat there surprised at his words. "Why did you think that? What changed?”

"Because you were always honest with me. You don't sugarcoat things like Misato or give me cryptic statements like Rei." His face darkened. "And you never used me like my father did. You spoke your mind and pointed out things that others didn't."

"I did that to demean you."

Shinji continued without hearing Asuka. "Yet at times you showed a hidden inner self. The time you cried for your mother, when I saved you in the volcano and saw you smile, and what happened before the 12th Angel. Not only that but you liked my music and gave me my first kiss." He gave her a nervous smile. "It was those things and more along a rather severe chewing out that finally forced me to change. How could I even face you when you woke up if I was going to use you? The pain I felt would be nothing to yours when you realized how much time had passed. If I didn't change and learn to enjoy life, how could I ever expect to tell you how I feel or ask for the chance to start over. And it worked. I gained your trust and we're good friends but..."

"I hurt you again," Asuka interrupted.

"Yes," agreed Shinji, his eyes full of pain. "Is it over between us, Asuka? Is our friendship finished?"

"No it's not over," whispered the redhead. "I saw you with Maki Kusaka and instead of going to you, I jumped to conclusions. You betrayed me, you toyed with my feelings and I was going to hurt you or at least that's what I told myself." She frowned at the memory. "I had said that I trusted you, but it showed me I have a long way to go. That's why I asked you out today. Because I wanted to apologize and to see if you can forgive me, and give me another chance."

Shinji moved his chair next to Asuka, aware that people were staring at them. He took her hand in his and held it gently as he stared into her blue eyes that were full of doubt and pain. His heart sank as Asuka gave him a sad smile but he was happier now that he knew what had happened to cause trouble in their friendship.

"Why wouldn't I forgive you? You're the most important person in my life. I just wish that you had come to me first."

"Shinji…"

"But I understand why you did it, though I'm partly to blame. I should have told you about Maki a long time ago." Shinji squeezed her hand harder. "And I think that no matter what happens between the two of us, we'll continue to hurt each other. Whether it's intentional or not, all we can do is trust each other and our feelings."

"I know, but you have to agree that it's hard to keep going at times."

"Yes, I do," Shinji ran a finger around the rim of his glass. “I’ve been wondering…”

“About what?” she interrupted, grinning at the sudden shift.

“If I made the right decision in giving you that teddy bear for your birthday.

“I like it,” the girl said quietly. “Why do you ask?”

“Misato said something about you hating dolls.”

“I do.”

Shinji saw her frown. “So why did you keep it?”

“It’s an animal. I don’t feel threatened by it. I don’t feel like it’ll replace…” She trailed off, staring blankly past the boy.

Shinji didn’t want to see her depressed. "Remember Touji's response to your slap?"

Asuka groaned and chuckled. "Oh god, do I remember it. A boy who had just got a peek of my panties drops his pants. How could I forget it?" She smiled at Shinji. "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

“Remember when Kensuke was taking all those pictures of me?” Asuka saw Shinji nod. “Well for one of them he got caught by a couple girls and…"

- - - -

Shinji stared up at the ceiling, his arms behind his head while a cool breeze came through his window. He couldn't sleep as there was too much going through his head after their date. His usual retreat was on the floor, forgotten, and the sounds of nightlife never registered as all he could remember was Asuka laughing as they retold the fun times from the Angel War. She had a wonderful laugh, a light and airy sound like chimes, to go with her devastating smile. Shinji groaned trying to forget how much he had wanted to kiss Asuka and feel her body press up against his. He couldn't believe he was thinking those thoughts again but the night had ended so well. It had gone from one of dread to one of reassurance then finally to happiness.

Not to mention that Asuka looked very nice in her dress. He was saved from further thoughts by the sound of his door sliding open and shut. With a minimal amount of movement, he reached and turned his desk light to its lowest setting and looked at his door. The girl stood there in a T-shirt that only came down to mid-thigh, clutching the teddy bear to her chest. When she smiled, Shinji was reminded of an angel, all innocence and purity. As she walked over to his bed he had to remind himself that for all her faults she was innocent. He also had to force himself to breathe when she sat on his bed, blue panties showing as her shirt rode up on her.

"Pervert," stated Asuka, but did nothing to cover up. "I'm not here to have sex with you."

"Oh," replied Shinji, hoping his relief didn't show. "Than what are you here for?"

"To talk," explained the girl. "Now turn off your light."

"Okay." The room was plunged into darkness with a click of the switch and Shinji lay there waiting.

"Will you come out from underneath there?"

Shinji slid out of his warm bed into the cool air and waited on the edge of the mattress. He sat there listening to Asuka mutter under her breath as she rearranged his sheets and blankets. After a couple minutes, a hand reached out of the darkness and fumbled on his body until she found his arm. With a quick yank Shinji fell forward to land on something warm and soft. A quick exploration with his hand told him he was laying in the girl's lap. Before he could react, her hands pulled him up into a sitting position.

"Better not get too frisky Shinji or something that could start won't."

"What?"

But his question wasn't answered; instead a blanket was tossed over his shoulders before she shuffled closer. When their knees touched she stopped moving and Shinji thought she would soon start talking, but Asuka wasn't done surprising him. The touch of hair on his arm was his only warning as she leaned against him and rested her head on his shoulder. It was too dark but Shinji was sure he could envision a confident look on her face. As they sat there, Shinji could smell the scent of strawberries coming from her hair.

"Will you stop trembling," commanded Asuka.

"I'm not the only one trembling," retorted Shinji.

Asuka sighed and hugged her bear tighter. "Okay so I'm just as nervous. Now you see why we have so far to go." She felt Shinji tense. "We're not even comfortable being this close together in a normal setting. It's only when one of us is helping the other that we can be so close yet so calm."

"You're talking about that one time."

"Yes."

The two of them sat there in silence, trying to ignore the touch of the other, and waited. Shinji had finally shoved some of his perverted thoughts out of his mind and sifted through her words. Turning his head, he saw Asuka staring at him with a neutral expression. Moving with caution, he placed one hand on the girl’s knee as he tried to figure out the meaning behind her words or what he thought she was trying to say.

"Asuka, you keep saying we have so far to go," he stated. "Also you told me that something might start. And at dinner you asked for a second chance to start over. What are you trying to say?"

Asuka sighed in frustration. "You can be so thick at times, you know, Shinji. Back during the Angels I would have called you stupid but I know you're not." She turned her body to face him. "You have been the one talking about us since I woke up. You changed so we could have a chance, to show me that you had changed. Shinji, you've told me that you regretted what happened between us during the Angels, that we hadn't been there for each other."

"Asuka…" But Shinji was interrupted as Asuka took his head between her hands.

"Shinji, I'm giving you the chance for us to be more than just friends. I want to be around you." She leaned in close until her hair brushed his neck. "But I need you to say those words. I need to hear that you're going to grab this chance to prove everything you told me wasn't empty words."

Shinji rolled his shoulders, freeing his body of the blanket. Reaching out, his fingers traced the smooth skin of her neck down to her shoulders. Sliding his arms under Asuka's, Shinji continued until he had reached her middle back. Gently he pulled her closer, hearing the sharp intake of breath from surprise. But he smiled as she followed his example and hugged back, both feeling the heartbeat of the other. Shinji moved one of his hands up letting his fingers glide through her hair.

"I suck at speeches, so I guess the easiest thing to do is say that I want to be around you too. I want to show you that you're not making a mistake, Asuka."

"Anything else to say?" Asuka asked as she leaned against him.

"Just when I piss you off, which I know I'll do, that you remember I will always care about you, and not just because you're my girlfriend," Shinji stated quietly.

"And when I get angry at you, it doesn't mean I don't want you around anymore," She told him with a smile before pressing her lips against his for a moment. When she pulled back Asuka felt her cheeks heat up. “Thank you.”

With a little movement, Asuka forced Shinji down onto his back and rolled on top of him. They both squirmed around as they got comfortable under the blankets. It was with disappointment that she shifted to her side and slid off of Shinji but she quickly wrapped her arms around his neck. With a blush, he felt her smooth legs wrap around his, enjoying the silky feel of her skin, not unlike how she had felt back in the hospital. He knew it was her way to tell him that she was not going to let him go or didn't want him to leave. Smiling as they shared the pillow, Shinji had no trouble falling asleep this time.

- - - -

Early October 2018

People think the role of Sub-commander is an easy one with going to cushy meetings and assigning duties so that the orders of the Commander were carried out. At the moment, all Misato wanted to do was shove the role onto someone else and get back to a normal life. But as she slid her card through the reader, she knew she couldn't do that and that she had taken on the responsibilities of her rank for some very good reasons. Still that didn't mean she liked the late night meetings or talking to UN officers, which she had been in for the last eight hours. Kicking off her shoes, she started walking through the living room.

That was, until a strange sight caught her attention on the floor in front of the television. All she could think was that it was two of the ugliest dens, nests or whatever she had ever seen. Blankets, pillows, and sheets were all woven into two joined mounds while takeout boxes were arrayed in a half-circle. Turning the television off, she approached one of the strange constructions and poked around with her foot until she hit something that felt like a body. Prodding only got groans so Misato increased the pressure until she got a louder response.

"Ow!" exclaimed a girl.

Misato watched in amazement as a tangle of auburn hair rose vertically out of the mess. Asuka ran a hand through her hair, uncovering her face while she blinked the sleep out of her eyes. A hand covered her mouth as she yawned briefly before turning to stare at her guardian with puffy eyes. The woman frowned as Asuka slid up the strap on her blue tank top. She knew who was under there beside the girl and didn't know if she should take the two of them aside for a little talk or just let it go. After all, she had read the report of them in the hospital and what she had seen the morning after their date was more stunning than the current situation. Sighing to herself, she decided she wouldn't interfere, for now.

"What's the matter with you, Misato?" mumbled Asuka staring up at her.

The woman realized she was frowning and smiled. "Nothing really. Did you two have a good night?"

"It was okay," replied Asuka before leaning back as Misato bent down. "What?"

"Is that a hickey?" she inquired.

Asuka looked down where Misato was pointing and saw a mark barely covered by her shirt. Pushing her shirt off to the side, Asuka stared in horror for a few quiet moments. With angry scowl, she raised her fist and brought it down hard on the lump next to her. And repeated doing so until Shinji came up beside her. Looking at her scowl, he attempted to duck back down but she caught him. Misato watched in amusement as the redhead brought her face within inches of his.

"I told you that you could hold me," Asuka growled. "But I said nothing of sucking on me or trying to draw blood."

"But I didn't do anything Asuka. I just held you like I promised," explained Shinji before he saw Misato. "It's not what you think it was."

"So you just held me and did nothing else," Asuka stated. "Then what is that?"

Shinji found his head being forced lower until he saw a bluish mark on Asuka's creamy skin. "Is that what you're talking about?" He giggled.

"Yes, and what's so funny?" she demanded.

"Nothing, except." Shinji licked his finger and wiped the mark off before tasting it. "Thought so."

Asuka felt her face heat up. "You'd better explain fast, Shinji."

He didn't say anything, instead digging around in Asuka’s pile. She shifted as his hand brushed her leg as he grabbed something she had been sitting on. With a triumphant smile, he pulled his find up so the females could see what he was holding. Misato couldn't understand what a package of candy had to do with anything as Asuka turned a darker shade of red. Shinji also wouldn't meet Misato's eyes, instead concentrating on Asuka's face.

"Remember what we were doing last night with all the candy?" he asked.

Asuka nodded her head, her anger turning to embarrassment. "Yes."

"I'm sure if you had looked carefully…"

"Quiet!" Asuka hissed, her eyes darting to Misato.

Their roommate picked up on the signal and decided to ignore it, like she had done with a lot of recent events. Leaving the two blushing teens, she went into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee for the two of them. Sticking her head back out the kitchen opening, she saw the pilots adjusting their clothing before each picked up a box of leftovers. She smiled as they walked past her into the kitchen and sat down after each grabbed a fork. Her smile faded as she thought of how she was going to break the news to the two of them. What she had to say could break Asuka again and she was doing so well with Shinji and her friends. Nothing was said between the roommates until Misato slid two cups to the teens and placed her briefcase on the table.

"Asuka." The girl looked at Misato. "I have something to ask of you."

"And what is that?"

Misato swallowed and opened the briefcase. "The United Nations has been inquiring as to when we were going to test you to see if you could still pilot."

"Misato!" exclaimed Shinji, rising to his feet. "How could they ask that of her?"

"They have a substantial amount of money tied up with all the EVAs. Also, they have been paying both your salaries, and if Asuka can't pilot, they’ll retire her and place Unit-02 in stasis." Misato explained. "Now I have been successful in…"

"That's not the point and you know it!" Shinji slammed his hands onto the table.

"Shinji, sit down!"

Neither of the two arguing NERV officers was paying attention to the third person sitting at the table. Asuka sat there quietly, holding her mug between her hands and staring at the tabletop. She didn't even hear the argument that was going on between Shinji and Misato, as she was lost in her own thoughts. She knew this request would have come sooner or later though she had been hoping for later. Her mother and past were still a part of her that she just couldn't throw away. She hadn't even told Shinji anything, against Doctor Leibling's suggestion, fearing that he wasn't ready to know.

"Shinji," whispered the redhead. "Please don't argue with Misato."

"Asuka?" Shinji could only sit down in panic as she looked at him with pleading eyes. "Fine."

She waited until Shinji had taken his seat before turning to her commanding officer. "When is the synchronization test?"

Misato frowned at the complete calm evident in Asuka's voice. "There's no need to rush things."

"Is she going to learn everything?" asked Shinji angrily.

"Yes."

"What are you talking about?" Asuka asked the two of them.

"Before you agree to pilot again you have to learn the complete truth about your Evangelion and your mother." Misato slid a file to the middle of the table. "Only after you know everything do we want your response."

With that said, Misato stood and, ignoring how white Asuka's face had gone, left the kitchen. The room was quiet for a few minutes, as neither Shinji nor Asuka moved or spoke. A scrapping sound was heard as Shinji moved his chair next Asuka before reaching out to grab her mug. Dumping the coffee out, he filled it with milk instead and placed it in front of Asuka before sitting again. Drinking from his own mug, he watched as her chin rested on her chest and auburn hair hung limply, obscuring her face. With a shaky breath she turned to face him.

"How bad was your report?"

Shinji closed his eyes. "It wasn't good. I never wanted to believe that humans could do such things to each other." He reached out and took her hand in his. "But it answered a lot of questions."

"Do you think I should read mine?"

"I can't answer that question."

"Shinji," she pleaded. "Out of everyone I know, you know me the best. Based on everything you know about me do you think reading that…" she gestured to the file. "would be in my best interest?"

Shinji thought on that, evenly divided between protecting Asuka and letting her face the pain. He had told the truth when he had said that reading the file on his mother and Unit 01 had cleared up a lot of his questions. What he hadn't told her was the pain he had felt getting those answers and learning about his father's involvement with his mother. With sorrow he looked up and stared into eyes filled with doubt.

"Yes."

- - - -

The next night

Shinji wished he had not told Asuka to read the report. Her body lay limply in his arms as they shared her bed, but it wasn’t like the past few times. Her eyes had barely opened in the last hours and when they did, they were blank, which scared Shinji. Her head rested on his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart, finding strange comfort in it. Her eyes popped open as Shinji ran his fingers through her hair before coming to rest on her shoulder.

"Have you ever been chained to something when you want to be free?" she murmured, propping herself up on one elbow.

"You're talking about EVA?"

"Of course I'm talking about EVA!" Asuka shifted until she straddled Shinji. She lost the scowl as he smiled up at her. "It's been part of my life and has controlled it for what seems like forever."

"What about college? Did EVA affect that too?" Shinji kept his eyes firmly on Asuka’s face after a glance down her shirt where her firm breasts hung freely and exposed.

"In a way since my past and EVA are connected. Going to school was just one more thing to prove I was the best," she admitted. "Yet now I have a chance to be free but I'm not going to grab it."

Shinji tensed at that statement. "So you're going to pilot?"

"Yes." She lowered herself, her hair brushing his neck and face. "But I have other things I want to accomplish."

He pulled her down until she was on top of him again. "And will you share those thoughts with me?"

Asuka smiled as she felt Shinji tremble as she kissed her way up his neck. "One of them concerns space."

"A-a-and the other?" stammered Shinji as her warm moist lips made contact with his cheek.

"That's for the future."

Shinji slumped further into the pillows and stared at the girl who was lying on him. "Have I told you how beautiful you are?"

"Yes." Asuka grinned at him savagely, seeing a way to get away from the sad thoughts. "But it’s always good to remind me about that fact. And speaking of you telling me I’m beautiful, it’s been two weeks since you told me."

"Sorry, it's just that..." Shinji tried to squirm away but she planted her fists into his shoulder joints and put all her weight on them.

"You think a simple sorry is going to be enough?" She grinned at his discomfort. "I might take it the wrong way and think you don't think I'm attractive." Asuka leaned closer. "So am I attractive or should I strip for you?"

"No! I mean yes! You're really attractive and beautiful. It's just that you haven't gone shopping lately." He swallowed at her smile. "I thought if I complimented you too much you'd think I was staring, being perverted or just rude."

"How is complimenting me on my looks rude? Staring is fine, it's leering that I don't like and you haven't done that.” She released Shinji and immediately fell on top of him. "And I know how to remedy that lack of shopping." She heard him groan. "No whining, I promise you'll enjoy it."

"You females are weird. I can never understand your fascination with shopping."

"I think the word you're searching for is mysterious. And besides what fun would it be if I was predictable?"

- - - -

Mid November 2018

With a gasp, Asuka's head broke the surface of the water and she relaxed back in the tub. Reaching back, she ran her fingers through her hair, feeling no coating of LCL on it. Now that she was piloting again, it took much more time to take care of her hair. Closing her eyes, she let her body soak in the hot water, the stress and tension melting away as the minutes passed. Smiling faintly, she envisioned what Shinji's reaction would be if he could see her at that moment.

Creamy white skin flushed pink from heat and excitement while her auburn hair draped over pale shoulders. Sitting up, she cupped her breasts in her hands, letting her fingers trace over the smooth, firm flesh and brush against her nipples. Letting go of her breasts, she leaned back and brought her legs back together, while thoughts wandered through her mind. Oh yeah, she knew what Shinji's reaction would have been, all she had to do was remember what had happened at the hospital. The feeling of his erection pressing against her body, also how nice it had felt to be held, had brought forth various feelings and emotions that she had thought she would never experience. Not that they had been wrong, just weird. In fact his reaction had only encouraged her to push faster than before, like she wanted to experience those feelings again.

"Asuka, Asuka, Asuka what are you thinking?" she muttered.

Shaking her head, she lifted one of her legs out of the water and ran a critical eye over it. She followed the various curves and lines from her petite toes, down over a rounded calf, letting her eyes skip her knee before following a toned thigh back into the water. Frowning she bent her leg and drew it closer, allowing her hands to trace over her skin, feeling for any abnormalities. It wasn't until she was done with her other leg that the frown disappeared when she didn’t find any stubble, cuts, or scars on her pristine body. She knew the only scar on her body was across her left wrist, something she tried to avoid looking at as much as possible. Standing, she let the water flow off her curves then slipped her feet into shower shoes before wrapping a towel around her hair and sliding into a cotton robe to exit the bathroom.

An hour later, Asuka was rummaging through her closet and dresser, trying to put together what she was going to wear to the party that night. Taking a green pleated skirt from its hanger, she placed it on her bed with her other selections. She stood there with her hands on her hips, tapping her foot in annoyance as she stared at the various articles of clothing from slacks to dresses to T-shirts that lay next to expensive blouses. Flipping her hair out of the way in frustration, she went back into her closet and grabbed more clothes before storming back to the bed. Grimacing, she went to work.

"Asuka."

The girl jumped and turned around to see Misato sliding the door closed. She turned around and grabbed the green skirt. "Ever hear of knocking?"

Misato waited until Asuka turned around to face her again. "I did. Three times."

"Obviously it wasn’t loud enough," Asuka muttered under her breath as she placed a white blouse with a blue skirt. Shaking her head at the combination, she put the shirt with a pair of khaki shorts. "So what'd you want?"

"To talk."

"So why aren't you talking?"

Misato watched Asuka shift something again. "Will you stop that and look at me?"

The teen huffed and turned around to face Misato, who crossed the room and sat down on the desk. Asuka ignored the motion to join her and remained standing with her arms crossed. She smirked at how uncomfortable Misato was, knowing what had caused it.

"Can you put some clothes on?" requested Misato.

"I am dressed."

"Most people wouldn't consider a bra and panties as being dressed."

"It's my room, so I'll wear what I want," retorted Asuka. She smiled to herself as the conversation usually revolved around what her guardian wore.

"And what if Shinji walked in right now?" Misato asked, steering the conversation.

Asuka smirked. "He isn't home right now and if he did walk in, I'm sure he would appreciate my choice of clothing."

"I'm sure he would," replied Misato dryly. "Speaking of Shinji, how is he?"

"He's fine," stated the redhead, ignoring the double meaning of her guardian's statement.

"That's nice to hear." Misato started tracing circles on her leg. "Having any trouble with your relationship?"

"So that's what you wanted to talk about." Asuka saw the woman blush. "It's coming along nicely."

Misato nodded and looked at the floor, lost in thought. She questioned if she really needed to be here lecturing Asuka about something that wasn’t any of her business. But it was her business, since they were her children even if it was just legally. She had to make sure the girl understood the ramifications of some of her actions. Though she did know how the teen was going to react to what she was going to bring up.

"You do know what happens when two people are attracted to each other?" Misato started. "Especially teenagers."

"You think we're moving too fast, right?"

"What else am I supposed to think?" Misato asked. "You two have shared a bed half a dozen times since you've woken up. I know about what happened in the hospital and I found you two in Shinji's bed after your…" She stared at Asuka who was chuckling. "What's so funny?"

"Just that you've jumped to conclusions, like I did." The teen finally moved over to her bed and sat down. "If you know about the hospital then you know what really happened." She glared at Misato. "If you hadn't ordered him to stay home, it would never have happened."

"But…"

"And after our date I went to ask him if he wanted to become more than just friends…"

"So you two are a couple," interrupted Misato.

"You just figured that out! Of course we are!" Asuka snapped. "What did you think the meaning of a relationship was, sleeping together and nothing else?"

"That's what it usually leads to, and I don't have to remind you how young both of you are." She watched Asuka start to blush. "You haven't! Have you?"

"No!" Asuka glanced at the floor. "We haven't done anything because it's too soon for both of us. Our sleeping in the same bed, going out as much as possible and holding each other is making up for our pasts." She looked up and smiled. "It's nice to feel Shinji hold me in his arms. It makes me happy and comfortable that someone cares enough to hold me close. And Shinji likes being around me so I do things that encourage him to stay close, though I really don't have to. But sex…" The girl shook her head. "We're not ready. I’m not ready for something that serious."

"Don't you love him?"

“Yes, a lot!” Asuka stated, nodding her head. "It's complicated though, Misato. The true love, the kind that soul mates feel for each other, where they can give all of themselves, both body and soul, without worry is about here." She gestured at her shoulders. "Shinji and I, we're about here." This time the location was at chest level. "The thing is, I know what I want and what I’m getting out of our relationship but Shinji hasn't told me anything. All he's said is that he changed because he wanted there to be an us."

"Isn't that enough, Asuka?" Misato shifted around on the desk. What she had just heard from the girl had amazed her. Most people never gave that kind of thought to relationships or love. Usually if it happened, people were grateful. Yet here was a teen, who had never known love, giving a complicated situation a simple explanation. Asuka wasn't about to do something unless she fully loved a person and that person loved her.

"No. It's not enough. If our relationship is one-sided then we'll never succeed at love. Shinji has to be getting something out of our relationship or it wouldn't be worth his time." Asuka lay back and put her hands behind her head. "That's why if he wants to go out with his friends, I let him. If he wants to be alone for a while, I'll give him that time. I won't give him a stupid reason to end it before it's even begun, yet I need to hear that reason to be reassured."

"What if it's just sex?" Misato rebuked herself for thinking that Shinji would be like that. "Asuka, I didn't..."

"It's not like that and you know it," Asuka retorted. "If Shinji was like that he wouldn’t have waited around for me."

The redhead fell silent with that comment and stared up at the ceiling, knowing what she had said was true. The gestures, the little touches, the emotions he wore openly all pointed to a young man who wanted more out of a relationship. The most important thing was he had chosen her for some reason and she wanted to know what it was. Turning her head, she watched Misato as she sat there chewing on her lower lip and trying to get comfortable. Asuka knew the woman had something else on her mind.

"Have you thought about it?" Misato asked, while watching the girl.

"Sex?" Asuka felt her face heat up, remembering what had been going through her head in the tub.

Misato saw the blush, nodding to herself. "What else would I be referring to, Asuka?"

"I just told you, we're…"

"I'm being serious, Asuka. Now please answer the question."

"Fine," Asuka pouted. "I have thought about it, okay. Wondering what it feels like, what kind of emotions I'll feel during it. I’m a healthy teenage girl after all." She turned her back to Misato. "Can we drop it now?"

Misato stood up and went over to where Asuka lay. Kneeling down, she placed a hand on a bare shoulder. "Then you also know how fast things can change. A kiss that lasts too long or embraces that lead to something more involved. There are many things that can push you to the act."

"No." Asuka reached up to touch Misato. "No matter how frustrating it'll get, I'm going to wait."

"Still you have to acknowledge that it could happen."

Asuka rolled her eyes, annoyed. "Yes, it could happen but it won't."

Misato slowly released her breath, finally reaching what she had originally come to talk to Asuka about. "Then you'll understand what I'm talking about when I say that I want you to go on birth control."

Asuka shot to her feet, almost knocking Misato to the floor. She stared at Misato with wide eyes at what she had just heard. Not since being told that she could no longer pilot during the Angels had she heard something so outrageous. It was only made worse because she trusted Misato, she was like a mother to her. Closing her eyes, she leaned against the wall, trying to calm herself down. When she finally opened them they were full of anger and pain.

"What did you say?" Asuka asked in a low, deadly tone.

"I want you to go on birth control."

"That's what I thought you said." Asuka smirked but it was without humor. "I refuse, Misato."

"It's for your own good!" protested Misato.

"It's my body, and I'll decide what happens to it." She leaned closer to Misato. "When I finally have sex it'll be on my terms. I will live with my decisions because I'm the only one who can make them."

"But…"

"Don’t you trust me to do the right thing, Misato?" Asuka asked quietly, her anger gone. “I know I’m not ready to have children but you have to trust me to make my own decisions. I’m not a child anymore.”

The older woman closed her eyes, knowing what the teen was getting at with the issue of trust. “I do trust you, Asuka, and I’m sorry. I should have asked you instead of demanding that of you.”

“Yes, you should’ve asked me.”

“Still…”

“I’ll think about, Misato.”

- - - -

"Asuka!"

The girl turned at the sound of her name, seeing Shinji coming up behind her, a block from their destination. She had been lost in thought at the embarrassing conversation that had taken place with Misato. Even a half-hour later she felt the heat in her cheeks when she kept hearing the words, birth control, in her mind. How could Misato have even thought to bring up that topic was beyond her. Smiling, she turned to Shinji, letting her mind shift to the coming evening and party. Reaching out, she took his hand in hers after a quick hug from the boy.

"You look nice," commented Shinji, rubbing his nose.

"These are just plain clothes, nothing special."

He shook his head but didn't say a word. He didn't think the dark blue mini-skirt with black pantyhose and a light peach colored blouse were plain. Learning to tell Asuka the truth when it came to her looks or clothes had been a painful, yet interesting experience. Their many trips to the mall had taught him that plain for her didn't translate into plain for him. Plain meant jeans and a T-shirt to his sense of style or lack thereof as she reminded him. He spun around as she stopped and yanked on his arm.

Asuka watched him rub his shoulder. "So what's the party going to be like?"

"Don't know," he stated. "Probably the normal stuff that goes on at parties."

"Great," Asuka blandly replied. "Just what I need. A night of loud music, kids getting drunk, and little boys and girls making more little boys and girls."

"Kouji's parties are supposedly better than that."

"And how do you know him?"

Shinji shrugged his shoulders, walking to the door. "Literature. He was my tutor for a short time, right after you went catatonic."

"So he's a senior?" Asuka asked as she reached out for the doorbell.

"Yeah."

"Good, maybe it won't be so bad."

Asuka's upbeat attitude lasted until the door opened to reveal a thin, mousy looking guy. She frowned at the boy as his eyes traveled over her body before he nodded at Shinji and let them in. Turning her head, she made sure that no hands or body parts approached her. After the door was closed and they entered the main part of the house, Asuka couldn't help but groan at what she saw. Her prediction of loud music and drunken teens was proven correct as they threaded their way through the mass of flesh.

"I hate being right!" shouted Asuka over the noise.

Shinji leaned in close to be heard. "Just give it a chance. We're here to have fun."

"Fine!" Asuka guided Shinji to the back of the house, hoping she could enjoy the night.

Three hours later, she was not having fun as she quickly punched her fist through a guy’s chest and withdrew his beating heart. She sighed and watched as her competition chugged his drink before throwing down the controller in anger. The four alcoholic drinks she had been forced to drink as she learned the game were slowly working their way out of her system. Still the alcohol made her become withdrawn; only smiling each time she won a match. As her head throbbed from the music and alcohol, she pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to ignore the pain behind her eyes. She blinked the spots away as the couch shifted under the weight of another victim.

"Ready to get your ass…" She trailed off at who had sat down.

"Missed me?" inquired Shinji, grinning.

"Idiot," Asuka said, returning the smile. "You'll still lose. I've been at this for the last hour and a half."

"Maybe I'll lose, maybe not."

"Shut up and start the game!" she commanded.

Punches, kicks, energy blasts, and swords flew as the two EVA pilots engaged in combat. Yet neither could pull off a quick victory as the health bars shrank at a snail’s pace because the teens were too evenly matched. As the fifth and final match started, a small crowd had gathered around them, commenting on what was going on. None of that reached Asuka as the pain had returned and it was taking everything she had to ignore it and win the match. She blinked as Shinji's player got a sword slash through her defense and decapitated her player. Groaning she picked up her drink and was about to chug it when Shinji grabbed her arm.

"You don't have to," he told her, taking the glass out of her hand.

"Thanks," Asuka whispered a couple minutes later.

Shinji nodded. "I thought that you would have whipped me easily. Is something wrong?"

"Just a headache. Can we go..." Asuka trailed off as a girl approached.

She felt Shinji flinch as her nails dug into his hand and drew blood when the girl stopped in front of them. There was no way she would ever forget or forgive the girl for what had happened on the first day back at school. Not to mention that Miyu had enjoyed taking jabs at Asuka whenever she had an opening. The only reason the girl hadn't had her ass kicked was because Shinji had pleaded that he didn't want her getting suspended.

'Bitch.' Asuka thought as she smiled. "Hello Miyu. Funny running into you here."

"Soryu," Miyu replied before turning to Shinji.

"Hey!" Asuka protested. "I was nice enough to call you by your first name, why can't you return the favor?"

Miyu frowned. "My business isn't with you, Asuka, but with Shinji. I'd like to talk to him."

"He's right here, so talk away." Asuka tightened her hold on him.

"It's private and doesn't involve you." The girl smirked and stared into Asuka's eyes. "Unless of course you don't trust Shinji."

With some effort, the redhead forced her hand to open and release Shinji. There were many things she did not enjoy being reminded of and the issue of trust was one of them. She had to show everyone she trusted him to do the right thing and that she could be mature about him being with other girls. Taking deep slow breaths she let the tension drain out of her body as she turned to Shinji. His eyes were full of uncertainty and worry as he alternated looking at both girls. When he realized that Asuka was staring at him, he locked gazes with her. Slowly she nodded her head at the unspoken question and backed away a couple steps.

"I'll be on the front porch. I think I saw Touji out there," she said before turning.

"Okay," Shinji replied.

He stood there and watched as Asuka walked away from him to the front door. Despite her approval, it felt like he was betraying her by going some place else with another girl. When he could no longer see auburn hair, he turned to Miyu who was staring at him with a slight frown. While she was cute, she would never approach Asuka, either physically or in personality. He pulled his hand out of her grip, she had grabbed it when Asuka left, and shook his head slightly. There was only one person he would hold hands with and she had stepped outside.

"So what'd you want to talk about?" he asked.

Miyu shook her head. "Not here. Follow me."

Throwing one more glance at the front door, he turned to follow the girl through the crowd of people. As they passed the small bar the girl got a drink, handing it to Shinji with a smile. Taking care, he stepped over puddles of liquid or sleeping kids who’d had too much to drink. As they walked up the stairs, he averted his eyes from a girl who was slowly being stripped by the guy on top of her. Shinji felt his heartbeat pick up as Miyu stopped at one of the doors and motioned for him to go in first. His body went cold and his face went blank as he stepped into a bedroom and the door closed behind him with a soft click. He strode over to the wall farthest from the door before turning around.

"What's going on?" he demanded.

"Oh come on, Shinji. There's no need to get angry," Miyu purred as she slinked over to the bed, and struck a sensual pose with her legs positioned just right, inviting him in. Her breasts pressed against the thin fabric of her shirt. "After all, I can offer you more than Soryu."

Shinji took a gulp from his glass before turning angry eyes to Miyu. "Like what?"

"I can make you happy for the rest of your life. Think of it, no more being yelled at or hit. I won't demean you. Your life would be perfect." As she was talking, she began unbuttoning her shirt. "Best of all, you can have me as many times as you want.”

Shinji watched indifferently as Miyu ran a hand down her chest, pushing the cloth out of the way and baring her breasts to him. Even as she played with her mounds, moaning every once in while, he felt absolutely no attraction to the girl. Sure he had felt some stirring in his loins for a minute or two but as she continued to strip and play with her body, it disappeared. He finished off his drink, thinking she was just a girl who thought sex would get her whatever she wanted. His body tensed as she got off the bed and made her way over to him.

"Oh come on, Shinji. I know you want it," she cooed in his ear as she rubbed her body against his, reaching down to rub his crotch.

"Get away from me," He hissed, ignoring the feeling of her breasts.

"Why?" She screamed as he pushed past her. "What does a relationship with Asuka give you?"

"You wouldn't understand." Shinji shook his head as he suddenly developed a strong headache.

Miyu wasn't to be deterred and she grabbed him and dragged him over to the bed. "Try me. Anything she can offer, I can do better."

"It isn't what she can offer me that is important but what she does for me." He jerked his arm out of her grasp. "Our relationship isn’t about what we get out of it but what we do for each other. I know that Asuka will always push me to do better, to become someone. I get her to open up to her gentler side, something that no one else can do." He turned and glared. "You can't offer me that because you don't have her drive."

"I can change," she whispered, trying to push him down, guiding his hand to between her legs.

Shinji staggered to his feet and over to the door. "You can't because all you're doing is using me." He slowed, trying to keep talking as it became harder. "Asuka and my happiness are a combined effort in that when one of us is happy the other is also." He leaned back against the door as his legs trembled. "What did you do to me?"

"Nothing," Miyu told him as she kissed his neck.

“Don’t lie to me!” Shinji ignored the feelings of her moist lips and continued talking, trying to stay conscious. "And no matter how much you try, you'll never understand me because you never experienced what we've gone through. I know Asuka because she is me, and I am her. We're meant to be soul mates."

"Has your soul mate…" Miyu hissed those words. "Ever kissed..."

Shinji watched as Miyu's eyes widened as she fell to the ground with a loud thump from his shove. He shook his head as his vision continued to get blurry and wrenched open the door, making his way down the stairs. A couple times he almost fell to the floor as his sense of balance was going fast. He ignored the muted shouts as he pushed past schoolmates and went through the front door. The clean air almost made him to faint as he searched out Asuka in the small crowd. His stomach twisted and he felt bile rise as he spotted her near the edge of the property, talking to Touji. A hand pointed in his direction and Asuka turned around. He saw her eyes go wide as he made it to them, sweating.

"What's the matter with you?" She asked, worried as she pressed a hand to his forehead.

Shinji shook his head. "Nothing."

"Don't give us that bullshit, Shinji. You look like crap," Touji commented as he looked at his friend’s dilated pupils. "I think we should get you to a hospital."

"No," slurred Shinji. "Let's just go home."

"Fine," Asuka replied sharply. "You can be such an idiot." Yet despite her words, she took one of his arms and draped it over her shoulders before putting her arm around his waist. She brought her lips close to his ear. "I want to know everything."

"I promise."

Even with the help from Asuka, Shinji found his strength fading as they walked away from the party and into the darkness. Once he stumbled and almost dragged her to the pavement before they recovered. His eyesight was gone, with everything and everyone a blur. Sometime later he heard Asuka tell Touji to go do something but he didn't know how long he had been walking or how long Touji had been gone. As his body shut down, Shinji finally fell to the pavement and didn't get up, succumbing to the darkness.

- - - -

“Is he going to be okay?” Shinji recognized Touji’s voice as he awoke. “We should have just gone back inside at Kouji’s.”

“Be quiet!” Asuka told him. “There was no way I was going back into the same house as Miyu.” She paused. “Thanks for your help, but I can handle it from here.”

“But…”

“I can handle it,” she growled.

“Fine! But you have him call me no matter what, Asuka.” Touji walked away grumbling under his breath. “Never thought I’d see her cry.”

A hand on his forehead caused Shinji to moan in pain as his body throbbed. The last thing he remembered was the pain of impacting with the sidewalk and him passing into darkness. Another hand joined the first, but this time, on his cheek as something was pressed against his lips. He coughed, as he was not ready for the flow of water into his mouth. Again the person calmed him with just a touch and he took small sips, letting his parched throat soak up the water. Too soon though, the bottle was removed and he worked his tongue around, trying to get saliva going.

"Are you going to open your eyes anytime soon?" Asuka's voice was soothing to his ears. A touch of worry mixed with care and a hint of sarcasm.

Slowly Shinji allowed his eyes to open in small increments, allowing them to adjust. But it was unnecessary as it was still dark out and he stared up at the stars. The night sky was blotted out as Asuka leaned over and looked in his eyes. He frowned at the tear tracks covering her cheeks. As they gazed upon each other Shinji found himself studying her pink lips. He had never noticed how they looked like a rosebud, though they were pressed together rather tightly at the moment.

"And what on my face is more important than reassuring me about your health?" Asuka asked, her face worried and angry. "If you die on me I'll never forgive you."

"I'm not going to die." He tried to sit up but Asuka kept him down with a firm touch. "And I was looking at your lips."

Asuka cocked her head slightly. "What about them?"

"They look like a rosebud. A pink rosebud in fact."

"Is that so?" She growled, though the compliment was one that she never expected. "And do they look kissable?"

"Very much so," he whispered, feeling his throat go dry.

The corners of her mouth turned up into a faint smile at his admission. Sure he had called her beautiful but this was the first time he had specifically named a part of her body. She felt weird since she always thought he would notice other parts first, like her butt or breasts. Wiping at her tears, she stared at the young man who was lying with his head in her lap. This was the first time she had been able to return the favor. Still she wished it were under better circumstances, instead of him falling unconscious and being carried to a park bench.

Shinji swallowed as he saw Asuka smile right before she leaned down. His attention was focused on her face as it slowly came closer to his. He licked his own lips, noticing her mouth was open slightly. The touch of her hair on his neck and face caused him to shiver at its feathery touch. Because of her hold on him, he was unable to reach up to touch her. When her breath washed over his lips, he closed his eyes in anticipation. But nothing happened; instead he heard her breathing next to his ear.

"You owe me a story," she purred.

Opening his eyes, he found hers inches from his own. Even in the faint light of street lamp they were a beautiful light shade of blue. Still he made sure that no sign of disappointment appeared on his face or in his voice. But the corners of Asuka's eyes curled slightly as she smiled again. Letting his head fall back onto her lap, Shinji spent a few minutes composing his thoughts in his head and wondering how the girl would react.

"As you know, Miyu wanted to talk to me." He saw her nod. "Well, after getting me a new drink she led me upstairs..."

Asuka sat there quietly as Shinji told his tale of what happened in the house after she left. She felt her body tense and the blood drain from her face as he spoke of Miyu stripping in front of him. But those feelings were soon replaced by an anger so strong she wanted to throw up. To believe someone would resort to such low tactics and demean herself just to get a boyfriend was sick. She tried to control her trembling as she knew that Miyu would have never stuck with Shinji, moving on when she got tired of him.

"And then she tried to kiss me," whispered Shinji, his tale complete.

"That fucking bitch," growled Asuka, her voice rising. "I'm going to kill her! I'm going to...I'm going to. Damn it! That whore will..." A hand on her cheek stopped her.

"Just forget it, please," he begged. “You trusted me to do the right thing and I did, so let it go.”

"No, I will not forget it! Shinji, she was going to have sex without your consent." She felt pain in her mouth as she clenched her jaw. "That's rape."

"She wasn't..." He couldn't finish the sentence.

"It wasn't fate that you suddenly started feeling the way you did. She slipped a drug into your drink." Asuka watched as the anger in Shinji's eyes grew, and she reached a decision. "Did you mean what you said?"

"What?"

"About our relationship? How I wouldn't let you be average?" she asked, quietly.

"Yes, I meant everything." He smiled weakly. "When you're happy, I'm happy. You force me to improve, to strive without even knowing it. Everything I've done is because I saw you do it."

"Then how come you never told me." Asuka's voice sounded strangled. "I've wanted to know why we're together."

Shinji calmly told her, his anger gone. "Because I was scared. I thought if I told you that, you wouldn't want to be around me anymore. I was frightened that all you would see was a weak little boy."

"Idiot. You just gave the reason why I wouldn't push you away." She allowed him to sit up on the bench beside her. "It took me a long time to realize it and it scared me but you're right. We are the same, and only we can be there for each other. No one else can do that because they never experienced what we've gone through."

"Thank you," he said after some silence.

"Did she kiss you?" She smiled mischievously at the shake of his head. "Good."

Shinji wasn't able to say anything as Asuka wrapped her arms around his neck just before she made contact. He stared into her eyes in shock but as she continued to kiss him, the shock was replaced by desire. Letting his body relax he kissed her back, losing himself in the moment. She continued to suckle him, moaning as he ran his fingers through her hair. When he pulled her closer all she did was smile, and parted her lips slightly, she slid her tongue into his mouth, seeing the surprise in his eyes before he copied her. As their tongues dueled and they remained locked Asuka felt scared at the sudden connection she felt in her soul to Shinji. But she pushed the fear down letting only happiness fill her. As his tongue retreated, she gently pulled away and smiled before resting her head on his chest.

"I'm the only one you're allowed to kiss."

- - - -

Late December 2018

"What are you doing up so late?"

Shinji lazily turned from his study of the stars to see Asuka poking her head through the balcony door before the rest of her body followed. Grinning, she strode over to where he sat, and leaned down to give him a kiss before sitting in his lap. His arms went around her waist and they sat there in silence. Neither of them had been really talkative lately, as this time of the year was depressing for both of them. Asuka shifted around until she was looking into his face, frowning at what she saw.

"So what are you doing up?" she repeated.

"I…I couldn't sleep.”

Asuka nodded. "That explains why you weren't in your bed, but not what's keeping you awake."

"This is a bad time of the year for me, and nightmares..." He trailed off as he saw the dark circles under the girl's eyes. "Sorry. This isn't a good time for you either."

"Yeah, too many memories," she admitted. "Mama's death, the 15th Angel, and my attempted suicide." Her face was full of pain. "Everything I want to forget, I can't, and it's all lumped together."

"Same here. I couldn't help you, then I lost you. Rei died but was brought back, only for me to learn the sick truth about her." Shinji's eyes darkened. "Then Kaoru…"

Asuka felt Shinji's body tremble as he said the name, whether it was in anger or fear she couldn't tell. Instead she pulled him to his feet and hugged him close, waiting as he brought his emotions under control. Even when he hugged back, it seemed forced. Swallowing, she lifted his head up, studying his eyes. Like he had done with her many times in the past, she knew that she would have to get him to talk about what hurt.

"Who was Kaoru?” she asked in a light tone. She tightened her hold on him. "Please."

Shinji closed his eyes, and crossed his arms over her back. He could feel strands of her hair brush against his cheek and neck while the scent of her shampoo drifted off her. Yet the comfort she had given him so many times before didn't come. They had told each other so much in the last year it was like there had never been a barrier between them. Still he knew that she had kept some things from him and he had kept some from her. But as Asuka continued to hold him, reassuring him in body and spirit, he found he wanted to tell her.

"H-he was the…the 17th Angel." Shinji felt Asuka tense. "And my friend."

"How…" She couldn't finish, only shaking her head.

"No one knew…no that's not true, SEELE knew when they sent him, and maybe the Commander. I didn't know what he was. He was your replacement." He choked on the final word, knowing Asuka could never be replaced. "I was so far gone that I wouldn't have noticed or even cared but...he sought me out. He befriended me, and got me to open up. Kaoru was the first person to tell me..."

Asuka pulled back to look at Shinji after he went silent. She smiled, hoping to see him brighten up but this was not to be the case. Letting the smile drop, she stroked his cheek and cupped his chin in her palm. That got him to smile faintly, as he reached up to grip her hand in his.

"What did he tell you?" she asked.

Shinji broke from her and went to the railing. Looking down at the street, he frowned. "He told me he...loved me, and he cared about me." Asuka stood there wide-eyed, barely hearing his whisper. She flinched as he punched the wall. "Then he betrayed me! He took all those feelings, and threw them away!"

"Shinji…" Asuka touched his shoulder, causing him to spin around.

"He made me choose between my life or his! He made me kill him, crushing his body in my EVA's hand." He bowed his head. "He forced me to choose humanity's fate!" He locked his knees to keep from falling. "Who am I to make a decision like that!"

"You are the only person I would trust to make that decision, Shinji," whispered Asuka as she took him in her arms again. "For all your faults and weaknesses, you always make the right choices…"

"No, I don't," he interrupted.

"Be quiet please." She lifted his chin to look in his eyes. "You chose life over a false friendship. If you had chosen death we wouldn't be standing here. I wouldn't be here." She felt him tremble. "If we had died, we would have never learned how much we cared for each other. We would have never been able to correct our mistakes. Even though you might wish you were dead, I'm glad you're alive because death is final. As long as you're alive you have a chance to attain happiness." She stopped at his expression. "What?"

"My mother said that once," Shinji murmured. “About the happiness.

"She was a very smart person, like me," joked Asuka, grinning. "I did end up with you. And I will never betray your love."

Asuka watched Shinji nod before he stepped closer, his breath on her lips. She blinked in surprise as he took the initiative and kissed her. Closing her eyes, she pressed harder against his lips, losing herself in the heat of the moment. Since finding out how enjoyable kissing was they had been doing it more often. The girl jumped a little when the wall touched her, not realizing they had moved. She moaned as his hands stroked up and down her back, shivering at each touch, before coming to rest on her butt. Her hands went from his shoulders to his torso then began pulling his shirt up, before sliding across his muscled chest. She kept kissing him while moving one of her hands lower.

Shinji had never thought he would ever feel this way in his life as they stood there locked together. He jumped a little when she slipped her hands under his shirt, but her soft touch erased any fears. Even as her hand traced down his stomach to his shorts, his own hands were busy. He rubbed her smooth toned legs before slipping his hands under the hem of her T-shirt, coming into contact with firm, hot flesh. Smiling, he stroked the curves of her buttocks, enjoying the feeling as he kneaded them. His thumbs slid under the elastic band of her panties, pulling them down as he opened his eyes.

The teens jumped apart in shock after they made eye contact. Each stood there with faces flushed from arousal and embarrassment. Asuka pulled her panties up, while he tucked in his shirt. The two teens kept finding something else to look at besides the other. Finally light blue met dark blue after a few minutes of silence; each reassured and scared by the combination of love and desire they saw in the other. Both felt embarrassed at how they had let things speed up and get out of control. The only redeeming factor being that nothing serious happened between the two of them.

"Asuka, I'm…" Shinji shut his mouth upon seeing her harsh glare.

"Don't say a word," she commanded. "We both let our hormones rage. So don't go saying it's all your fault." She smirked as he turned redder. "You don't know how hard it is for me at times.”

He smiled faintly. "I know. It’s just as hard for me to ignore those feelings. You’re beautiful, very beautiful." He saw her nod. Swallowing, he averted his eyes. "But I don't think you know what that does to me. You're perfect in my eyes." He waited for a question or an outburst, but when neither came he continued. "I know you're not teasing me, but everything you do or wear, gets my attention. Everyday clothes, like your school uniform or the clothes you lounge around in are bad enough, but when you dress up, like on our date for example, I can't help but look at you."

"Good, I'm glad I have that effect." She walked over to him and stood there. Her face flashed with anger briefly before she sat down on his lap, the earlier incident gone, but not forgotten.

"No, it's not all right!" Despite his outburst he held the girl. "You don't know the things that go through my mind at times. I've always seen you as a person, never an object. But when I look at you all I can see is…"

"It's natural to feel like that, Shinji," she told him.

"I know, and that's what makes it so frustrating," he growled. "I want to think that maybe one day we'll do it, but I don't want our relationship to suffer because of that. I don't want to force you to do anything."

Asuka sat there on his lap, digesting what she had just heard Shinji say. Sure it had surprised her to hear him actually tell her that he wanted to have sex with her, but at the same time it wasn't surprising. After all, she had told Misato she wanted to experience it at some point. All his admission did was reinforce what she already knew. Leaning down, she rested her forehead against his and stared into his eyes.

"Shinji, when we make love for the first time..." She felt him tremble. "Yes, I want to do it with you, just as much as you do," Asuka admitted. "Anyways, when we have sex for the first time I don't want any regrets between us. I don't want to wake up the next day scared that I did something I wasn't prepared to do. I only want to feel love on that night."

"That’s all I want to feel too,” he said, looking into her eyes. “I love you, Asuka."

She gave him a brief kiss. "I know, and that's why I know you'll understand when I ask you to be patient. We'll know when the time is right."

- - - -

March 10, 2019

“I’m home,” Shinji said as he walked into the apartment.

The boy saw a mess of auburn hair hanging over the edge of the couch but Asuka didn’t move. Yet as he went into the kitchen he could feel her eyes on his back, boring into him. Sighing, he placed the groceries on the counter and got out the utensils he would need. While the water heated in the double boiler, he looked for the molds but couldn’t find them. Going through the cabinets Shinji grew confused, knowing they had chocolate molds. Shaking his head, he turned off the stove, preparing to go back to the store. The boy jumped when he turned to the kitchen entrance.

“Looking for these?” growled Asuka, her eyes flashing. In her hand were the molds. “Did you expect me to sit by quietly while you made chocolates for other girls? To be insulted without giving a word of protest.”

“I don’t know why you’re making a big deal…”

“A big deal!” she screamed, stalking forward. “It is a big deal to me! You think I don’t see the way others look at you or the whispers I have to put up with in the locker room?”

The boy stood his ground as she stopped in front of him. “It’s just tradition to return the favor from Valentine’s Day, Asuka.”

“It’s a stupid tradition.” She jabbed him in the chest. “Where I come from when two people are dating others know they’re off limits.”

“Asuka, they know that. They’re saying they’re just friends.”

“They can say it another way!” Her eyes glanced at the chocolate makings. “And so can you.”

“Hikari wouldn’t have cared if Touji gave chocolates to the other girls. The same with Hyuga and Misato,” he whispered, ignoring the pain in his chest.

The redhead recoiled like she had been slapped in the face. Throwing the plastic to the floor, her fists clenched and her eyes narrowed, she stepped forward. This time the boy gave ground, stopping when he hit the table. Yet when she spoke it wasn’t with anger.

“I am not Misato or Hikari. I am Asuka Langley Soryu, your girlfriend,” she choked on the last word. “Or doesn’t that mean anything to you anymore?”

“It doesn’t give you the right to control my life.” Shinji instantly regretted his words. But as he opened his mouth to explain what he meant, his head jerked to the side and he slid to the floor. Looking up in a daze, he saw Asuka standing above him.

“You asshole, how could you…” She wiped at her tears. “Do you know what it did to me when you accepted those chocolates? It made me feel worthless, that all the times you told me you loved me didn’t mean anything. It felt like I didn’t have all your love, though you had all of mine.” The girl walked away, stopping for a moment. “I felt betrayed and after I told you I would never betray your feelings.”

Shinji watched the girl leave in a rush, her hair trailing behind her. Sitting up, he placed a hand on his stinging cheek before withdrawing it, his palm bloody. But none of that compare to the hurt that he was feeling in his heart. Standing, he went out into the living room to find it empty.

“Asuka, I do love you.”

- - - -

March 14, 2019

Shinji walked out of his room, dressed for school but not really wanting to go. He glanced at Asuka’s door wondering if she would be at school and what she would say. It had been four days since their fight, and he didn’t know where she was. Misato had told him to get over it, that it was time for them to have a fight, especially over something like White Day. She had said Asuka was fine and would return when she wanted to.

“I’m leaving,” he said out of habit, walking out the door.

“Shinji.”

The boy spun around at hearing his name to see Asuka leaning against the wall next to the door. She was dressed for school but looked drained of energy, her body limp. The auburn hair that normally shined was dull while her eyes were puffy and had black circles underneath them. He trembled when she moved away from the wall to stand in front of him. The girl’s eyes glanced at the bag in his hand, her hands clenching her schoolbag tighter.

“Asuka…”

“Do you love me?” she asked, quietly.

He answered immediately. “Yes, I love you, Asuka.”

She stepped closer, allowing him to see the pain in her eyes. “Then please, don’t do this. I don’t care if the girls hate me but don’t put me through this, please.”

“I can’t,” he commented. “I don’t like seeing you like this when it’s my fault but it would be more than rude if I didn’t give something in return.”

The girl nodded. “I knew you were going to say that, which is why…” She took a step closer to him. “You’re going to give me a promise.”

“What kind of promise would that be?” he asked.

“You refuse any gift from any girl from this day forward,” Asuka said, her voice gaining in strength. “No accepting anything on Valentine’s Day again. No birthday or holiday presents. If you can’t make that promise, I don’t think I can…”

“Okay,” he agreed.

“You’re just promising like that?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ll agree if it’s the only way to reassure you.” He looked down, ashamed. “These last few days have been terrible. I missed you, your presence in the apartment.”

“Good, maybe that’ll teach you,” she said before walking past him. “Let’s go, we don’t want to be late.” With that the redhead strode toward the elevators, not waiting for Shinji to catch up.

- - - -

"I hate this holiday" Asuka complained.

The redhead and Shinji were walking through the school grounds during lunch, delivering small packages. The boy carried a bag that was half full of colorful boxes with little bows on them. But while he kept a smile on his face as he gave each girl a box, she wore a frown and glared at the females, not even sparing her friends. When the boy turned she scowled at the frustration on his face.

"Then why are you here?" he asked.

Anger flashed in her eyes for a moment. "Because I want to make it clear I don’t like others flirting with you.”

"Don’t do this," growled Shinji in frustration. "I don’t want to argue with you again."

"Well then you already know my feelings regarding this subject," she retorted. “I hate repeating myself but I will say this one more time. You are mine, Shinji Ikari.

"Asuka, it's not like that." He backed away as she stalked toward him.

"Bullshit!" She kept her voice to a low growl, but even then students glanced at them. "These girls are flirting with you. Or haven’t you noticed that in the last hours? How they graciously accept your gift. If I wasn’t here I know a couple girls would have kissed you!” She grabbed his shirt. “So don't give me that crap about how they're just friends. They're hoping that if we have trouble you'll remember how nice they were to you and come running. It's stupid!"

"So you're saying Hikari is flirting with me?" he asked quietly, watching as she blushed.

"Well no, but that's..."

"Asuka. Shinji."

The teens turned at the voice, glad that someone had broken up the argument before something was said that couldn't be taken back. They saw Maki coming at them at a slow jog, a smile on her face and dragging a boy. Asuka smiled at her friend, knowing she was one of the few girls that wasn’t interested in Shinji. She slid her hand over his, squeezing gently as the two students came to a halt in front of them. The boy stood there catching his breath and trying hopelessly to hide his embarrassment.

"Hello Maki. I see you found someone." Her smile grew as the girl pulled her boyfriend to the front.

"Yeah, Ryo finally asked me today." Maki stepped closer to Asuka. "I want to thank you for your help."

"I just told you what not to do, nothing else." She gritted her teeth as Shinji held out a box.

"Thank you." The girl took the box and backed away. "We'll leave you two alone, bye." Her smile was mischievous as she looked at the two of them. “Don’t get too rough with each other.”

Shinji turned to Asuka only after the red faded from his cheeks. "Advice on relationships from you?"

"It's not really advice, more like what not to do. I've plenty of experience in making mistakes with people." She gave him a crooked smile. “Still I think she’s disappointed that I got to you before her. The way she looks at you, I know she had a crush on you, Shinji. But she let it go instead of trying to force us apart. And for that I respect her.” Before he could say a word, she thrust a list under his nose. "You need to learn how to write better. I can't even read next name."

He took the paper, puzzled. "It's to Yuki Takashi," he read, puzzled. "Is something the matter Asuka? I've noticed that you have trouble making out…some words lately."

"Nothing's wrong," she commented. "Now let's finish this stupid delivery so I can eat lunch." She grabbed his arm and yanked. "Hurry up, idiot."

Ten minutes later the pair was sitting at a table, done with their deliveries. With her chopsticks, Asuka drew designs in her rice and picked at her lunch. Bored she watched Shinji eat his lunch in little bites, never wasting energy or motion. Lifting a piece of shrimp, she ate it without enthusiasm before dipping down for some vegetables. Kicking her feet, she brushed against his leg, causing him to look up.

"I've been wondering," she started. "Why you didn't give Rei any chocolates?"

"I did."

"Then how come I didn't see it?" She watched as he turned red. "Well?"

"Umm…the reason is because…" he looked away and blurted out. "You were in the bathroom."

"Oh…still you could have waited."

He played with his food, but didn’t eat it. "I thought you still hated Rei and I didn't want any hard feelings between the two of you."

"I don't hate her," she said slowly. "We still have differences and she's hard to talk to, but we're slowly becoming friends."

"That's good." He flinched at her glare, the calm gone from her face. "What?"

"Speaking of chocolates and such, where’s mine?" she asked in a low voice. "Everyone else gets some, but your girlfriend doesn't?"

"Actually I was going to cover myself in chocolate and give myself to you tonight," he said with a straight face, not even smiling as Asuka winced at the mental image.

"That's disgusting, Shinji," she retorted, shuddering. "Who'd want to suck candy off your…"

"Asuka. Shinji."

The redhead jumped, turning at the quiet voice to see Rei standing behind them. She felt her face heat up, and saw Shinji's doing the same, as they both knew their friend had heard the conversation. The proof was the slight blush on Rei’s cheeks. The only good thing was that neither Touji nor Kensuke had heard that comment because if they had, the two EVA pilots would never live it down. Looking out of the corner of her eye, the redhead saw that her boyfriend would be of no help.

"Hello Rei. What'd you want?" she asked with a cheery voice.

"I wanted to report that I was unable to cancel the tests and physicals for tonight. I am sorry." Rei's voice betrayed no hint of emotion to what she had just heard.

"Why'd you go to so much trouble to cancel them?" Asuka asked, puzzled at Rei's actions.

"I was under the impression that you and Shinji would have wanted to spend time together, or that is what Sub-commander Katsuragi said when I asked her. She said something about the two of you having some fun tonight." She tilted her head and smiled. "Though I fail to understand the fun of Shinji covering himself in chocolate or you sucking something of his." The other teens' jaws dropped at the comment. "Good bye."

"Does she even understand what we were talking about?" moaned Asuka, her head in her hands while Rei walked away. "Please, tell me she didn't just hint at us doing something perverted?”

"I-I think she was joking with us," commented Shinji still in shock.

"Don't say that! You know what I was saying," she shot back. "Wondergirl developing a twisted sense of humor?" She glared at him. “Next thing you know Hikari will be asking those things.”

“Doubtful, she isn’t like that at all,” he said before groaning.

“What?”

“Nothing, except tonight is ruined. We won’t get back to the apartment until at least eight or nine o’clock.”

“Yeah, it sucks,” Asuka agreed. “Let me guess, you had plans?”

“Yeah…”

“What were they?” she asked, grinning.

“It’s a secret,” he replied.

The girl got up and circled the table, stopping when she was in front of Shinji, who had turned around. Giving him her best glare, she stood there tapping her foot in anger. Leaning down, she stopped before their noses touched and waited for some response. She smiled when he swallowed and tried to turn his head but her hands kept him from moving.

“I think you should tell me,” she growled. Shinji shook his head. “And why not?”

“Because I can still pull it off,” he explained with a smile. He winced at the increased pressure.

“I better be surprised after what you put me through recently,” Asuka said with a dangerous gleam in her eyes. “You owe me.”

“You will be,” Shinji stated, getting up a moment later when the bell rang. “I promise.”

- - - -

Asuka lay stretched out on the floor, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, staring at a blank wall. Every once in awhile, she let out a moan and shuddered as Shinji's fingers found certain spots on her body. He had been right in telling her that she would be surprised that night. Some snuggling on the couch watching a movie had followed a wonderful dinner, all of which ended with her on the floor getting a massage. She had always thought she was relaxed in life but as his hands found tight muscles and worked them out, she started feeling like putty. In fact, it felt so good she could barely keep her eyes open.

“You have such wonderful fingers, Shinji,” she said lazily. “I wonder if we could find other uses for them.”

“I’m sure we could,” he replied, moving her silky hair off to one side. “Let’s wait until later to find those uses.”

“Umm,” moaned the girl. “That was a nice dinner you made.”

“Thanks.”

Asuka had come home from her tests and physicals exhausted, and wanting to sleep but she forced herself to stay awake. The smell of food had greeted her when she left the bathroom after soaking for an hour. She had quickly gone to her room to get dressed before making her way to the kitchen. The table was full of food from salads and soups to steak and shrimp, while dessert had been a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. She had simply eaten as much as possible before walking to the living room. In fact, what was left of the food was still on the table.

“How’d you afford everything?” she asked quietly.

“I do get a salary.”

“I know that, but the steaks alone would have cost a fortune,” Asuka pointed out. “Your bank account must be empty.”

“Not when you kill the steer yourself.”

The redhead turned to stare. “You’re not cut out to be a comedian.”

“Honestly though, my account isn’t empty. I do have a year’s pay saved up,” he explained.

“So did you buy me a car?” she joked.

“Uh, no. That’s a little too expensive.”

“Oh well, I’m allowed to dream aren’t I?” she said before moaning as his fingers found a tight spot on her lower back. “You’re getting a little adventurous, Shinji.”

“Sorry,” he replied, moving his hands back up her back. “Anyway we’re allowed to use Misato’s old car as long as we get permission first. Can we talk about something else now?”

“Why? I love talking about money, especially when I do my two favorite things with it: eating, and shopping,” she explained.

“Then how come you’re not fat if you like to eat so much?” he asked, feeling her tense under his hands. “Let me explain. I don’t want you to be fat, but with the amount of food you eat you should weigh a lot more.”

“I just have a high metabolism, but it sounds like you want me to gain weight. Is that true?” she asked slyly.

“I just said no!” he retorted. “I like you the way you are.

Asuka smiled at how fast Shinji had recovered from his slip. The redhead didn’t want to be told that she was skin and bones or fat from her boyfriend. Though he was correct in that she never seemed to gain weight, no matter how much she ate. Sure she had gained weight after waking up but once she had reached a certain weight, gaining a couple pounds took months. She enjoyed listening to the girls that moaned about gaining a few pounds and how they would have to go on a diet.

What was even more fun was to listen to the girls at school wishing they had her body, not realizing that her beauty came naturally and had nothing to do with working out. Asuka couldn’t help that she had toned legs, perfect skin, and perky breasts. A couple of times she had overheard a few girls talking about extreme measures once they graduated. That had made her smile, knowing she would never have to stoop to that level.

“Speaking of weight and bodies, how’d your physical go?” he asked after a few minutes of silence.

“Thanks, Shinji,” she groaned, sitting up. “I wanted to forget that but you just had to bring it up.”

“Why?”

“Because doctors are perverts!” she said in frustration. “They’re always poking and prodding my body. Not to mention they have cold hands and disapproving eyes.” She flopped onto her back. “Even when you’ve done nothing wrong they look at you like you’re hiding something.”

“I think you’re blowing things out of proportion, Asuka. Not all doctors have cold hands.” He smiled at her glare. “Besides they’re just looking out for our health and don’t want to be caught off guard.”

“Maybe, but I still hate going to the doctor.” She sighed. “At least my personal life is still private. The last thing I need is for them to ask about my sex life.”

“I hope they don’t ask.” His face went red as he envisioned that scene.

“What’s the matter, Shinji, embarrassed?” she teased. “You should get used to those questions. God, the way the girls act at school is impossible. Don’t tell me the boys haven’t been inquiring about us.”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“I just hope you don’t act this nervous when we do it.” Despite her calm voice, her face was red. “I mean I don’t want to be lying in bed with my eyes closed, waiting for you to take my virginity, only to open them to see you running away.”

Shinji felt his eyes bulge out at her blunt statement. “Well…I don’t think I’ll be like that, especially if we keep talking about it.” He cleared his throat. “So are you healthy?”

“Yeah, except I need glasses,” she said, looking away.

He sat there stunned. “G-g-glasses?”

“Yes, glasses, just for reading but I’ll probably have to wear them all the time soon. I can hear the taunts at school already,” she muttered.

“I think you’ll look cute in glasses,” Shinji stated, blushing.

“You think I look cute in anything.”

“Not everything. Purple doesn’t go with your hair or skin, neither does neon green or brown. I also don’t see you wearing anything in camouflage or combat boots. Then there are those shirts that look like you’re wearing a tent. Ow!” He rubbed his arm where she had just punched him. “What was that for?”

“Nothing,” she said laughing. “I guess I can count on you for an honest opinion.”

“Yep, I rely on you for the same.” He stood up. “Wait here, I’ve got to go get your present.”

Asuka nodded, reaching for the remote and turning on the television set. Shinji didn’t know how glad she was the doctor hadn’t asked about her sex life. She didn’t want to have to go through a certain examination quite yet or answer weird questions. Sure she had finally accepted her body and that certain things were needed to maintain her health, but that didn’t mean she wanted to talk about her private life with some doctor. She couldn’t believe she used to act like a little ignorant girl concerning her body, hating her period because she didn’t want children. Though she was still scared of having children in the future. Sighing, she shut the set off after finding nothing interesting on her favorite channels and waited for the boy to return. She perked up when she heard his footsteps approaching.

“Here you go.”

Shinji placed two white rectangular boxes in front of Asuka before sitting across from her. He watched as the girl reached out and untied the bow and ribbon that held the boxes together. She slowly lifted the lid off, placing it to the side before unfolding the tissue paper. Her eyes widened at seeing the designer silk blouse she had been looking at for a couple weeks. The teen lifted it out to view it better and saw something below the shirt. She grabbed two movies and raised an eyebrow at what she saw next.

“And what are these for?” she asked, holding up some panties, in various colors.

“To wear of course. Think of all the compliments you’d get from the girls,” he said, grinning widely.

“You mean the rumors,” she replied blandly. “Is this my present?”

“There’s more and you’ll know when you get to the real present.

Asuka sighed and went back to the box. After the underwear, she found some music and magazines. The redhead opened the next box to see a pair each of jeans and slacks. She wanted to be angry with Shinji as she pulled out a white lace and silk nightgown that would leave little to the imagination. Instead the girl was flattered that he had gone to so much trouble, taking satisfaction in knowing he would have been embarrassed buying the lingerie.

“Trying to suggest something, Shinji?” she asked, smiling.

“I remember our promise, so don’t worry.”

The girl nodded, returning to the box and her presents. As she set the nightgown down, the girl wondered where her grand surprise was; picking the box up she heard an object move inside. Reaching in, she grabbed the small box out of the tissue paper. Lifting the long narrow box, she swallowed, knowing what these boxes normally contained. With trembling fingers, the redhead pried the lid off and stared wide-eyed in shock at what she found. A silver bracelet was lying on velvet, glittering in the light. The double helix design made it look very delicate while small sapphires were set between the intertwined bands.

“Oh, Shinji, it’s beautiful,” she said dreamily.

“Told you you’d be surprised,” he replied, reaching out to take box from her hand. Slowly, he fastened the bracelet around her wrist, getting a kiss when he was done.

Later that night, the door to the apartment slid open and two figures walked in. They paused to look at the mess in the kitchen before continuing down the hall. Misato stopped in front of Shinji’s door, contemplating if she should open the door and check on them. When Rei had come asking for the tests to be postponed, the Sub-commander had joked about how if that happened, then Asuka and Shinji would have more time for fun. But now that she stood outside his door she thought maybe the tests had made them more restless.

“You think they had fun tonight?” she asked Hyuga.

“I think they had more fun than you think,” he stated, pointing at the line of discarded clothes. The officer smirked as the trail ended with a pair of boxers and girl’s underwear. “I think you should talk to them about the birds and the bees.”

“They already know about that. I’m going to kill them if they did,” she hissed, opening the door. “Asuka reassured me that they were…”

Her voice died as she saw the two teens lying on top of the covers, holding each other. She felt her heart slow at noticing that they were clothed but she couldn’t help but notice Asuka’s apparel. The teen was barely covered by the nightgown she was wearing, something that Misato thought wasn’t proper for a girl her age. She wasn’t too thrilled to notice one of Shinji’s hands resting on Asuka’s leg. A cough caused her to turn her head to see her date nervously looking at the scene, with a smile on his face, which caused her to frown.

“What do you find so interesting?” she whispered harshly. “You shouldn’t be looking at Asuka.”

“I wasn’t! Sure she’s good looking, but she’s ten years my junior. And anyway, I have…” he gave Misato a kiss, “you.”

“You didn’t answer the question.” She retorted, still whispering.

Hyuga chuckled. “It’s just that he must have nerves of steel. How he can sleep perfectly fine next to a gorgeous girl with no problem is beyond me. I can’t think of anyone else that could do that.”

“Hmm, you’re probably right,” she commented, a grin on her face. “But they’re special, and I should really stop worrying about what they do. They’re good kids who deserve happiness.”

With that, she closed the door and pulled Hyuga to her room. Back in Shinji’s room two sets of eyes opened once they heard the door close. Asuka shivered in the cool air, causing the boy to pull the blankets over the both of them. They both smiled, snuggling closer under the blanket, sharing body heat and the pillow once again. The girl moved slightly so she could give him a quick kiss.

“That was fun,” Shinji said after they were finished. Asuka had talked him into playing a small trick on Misato with their clothes. He had been against it until she had told him that she would wear what he had given her. The combination of white underwear and the nightgown had been enough for him to go along with her plans.

“So do you have nerves of steel?” she asked, resting her head on the pillow.

A finger traced its way down from her neck and over a bare shoulder, stopping on her upper arm. “Maybe.”

“I can’t wait to see what other surprises you have for me.” She smiled as he lazily traced his finger over her arm. “Goodnight, Shinji.”

He didn’t say anything for a few moments, content with sharing warmth with the girl.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

- - - -

July 2019

Waves crashed against the shore, flowing up the sand before retreating to the expanse of the ocean. Various birds flew over the water, their cries heard in the small town. Rolling hills, covered in trees, framed the resort in green. A blue sky with light fluffy clouds completed a perfect picture that anyone would enjoy. Anyone except one person who pulled the pillow harder against her head, hoping to drown out the sounds. Failing to do that, she turned to lie on her back and stared up at the ceiling, one hand thrown up to block the glare.

“Damn it! I’m trying to recover sleep, not lose it,” Asuka complained to no one.

“You mean you miss having Shinji around,” a girl answered.

The redhead turned to glare at the girl coming out of the bathroom. She had hoped her roommates had left to meet up with the rest of the class, but no such luck. It must have been earlier than she realized. Pushing the covers off to one side, the teen sat up, holding her head in her hands. Out of the corner of her eye she watched Akane Amamiya, a friend but not a particularly close one, get dressed for the day. The pilot had really wanted to be alone and get some extra sleep, especially since she had stayed up late the night before.

“It’s nothing like that. You wouldn’t understand…” Asuka retorted.

“What wouldn’t she understand?” Hikari asked as she entered the hotel room. She saw her friend sitting on the edge of the bed. “So you’re finally awake.”

“Nothing,” groaned Asuka, falling backward.

Akane laughed. “She was complaining about wanting to get more sleep and I said it was because Ikari wasn’t…hey!” She ducked as a pillow flew past her head. “It was true.”

“No it’s not,” the redhead said tartly. “I didn’t expect my senior year to be so hectic so soon. Not to mention piloting is chewing up my free time. So I’m getting less sleep then normal. It has absolutely nothing to do with Shinji.”

Hikari shook her head, disappointed. “But this isn’t a vacation, Asuka. It’s our school trip, and that means having to do school work, even if it’s only in a casual manner.”

“It’s a vacation for me,” emphasized the girl. “I finally got out of that city, the apartment and away from LCL.” She smiled continuing to list off her reasons. “No Misato to check up on us. No United Nations officers to run us through various scenarios. Compared to a typical day, this is a vacation and I’m going to enjoy it.”

“That’s nice,” Akane said, heading for the door. “I’m out of here so I’ll see you two at the docks.”

Hikari watched the girl leave before turning back to her friend, only to see her disappear into the bathroom. Sighing, she moved to her dresser to pack a bag for a day of scuba diving and exploring the local reefs that were growing out in the ruins. As the shower started up, she stripped out of her clothes and slipped into her swimsuit. They had been told to come prepared to leave as soon as possible and that had meant to be dressed properly. Biting her lip, she studied the carpeted floor.

“Earth to Hikari, come in Hikari,” Asuka said, waving a hand in front of her friend’s face.

“Oh,” squeaked Hikari as she came out of her daze. “I didn’t hear the shower stop.”

Asuka stood there, for a few seconds, looking at her friend, puzzled by her behavior. Giving up, she shrugged her shoulders and walked over to the mirror, toweling her hair dry before brushing out the snarls and knots, letting it hang down her back. Styling her hair now would be pointless, as the seawater would soon soak it again. Frowning, she saw that Hikari had not moved from her position, sitting there in her modest blue swimsuit. That caused the redhead to smile, wondering if her friend would ever lose her conservative nature. Dropping her towel, she retrieved her own swimsuit from her dresser, a turquoise bikini.

“You ready for some diving?” inquired Asuka as she put on her swimsuit, hoping to break the silence.

“Yeah, it should be fun,” replied Hikari before turning red at seeing her friend. “You shouldn’t dress in front of others. And don’t you feel any shame in wearing something so skimpy?”

“No, I know I have a great body and so does Shinji.” The redhead grinned. “It’s fun to tease the other boys.”

“Still…” the class representative trailed off. “Are you disappointed that Shinji isn’t going diving with us?”

“A little. I should’ve taught him to swim. Now he’ll be stuck hiking with the others that aren’t diving,” Asuka replied. “You could say we’ve been inseparable lately.”

“Your relationship is perfect.”

“Not really. We have our fights every now and then but they’re nothing major. After a few days of not talking to each other, we make up.” The redhead explained, pulling on a pair of shorts. Though she didn’t mind showing off at the beach, walking around almost naked was another thing.

Hikari smiled faintly. “Others would call that perfect. I know I would.”

Asuka buttoned up her shorts and pulled on a T-shirt before turning to her friend. “What is the matter with you, Hikari?”

“Nothing.”

“Bullshit! You never act like this unless you have something on your mind.” She saw her friend blush and fidget on the bed. “Okay, spill.”

The brunette didn’t say anything for a few minutes as she gathered her thoughts. She finally looked up and stared into her friend’s eyes. “Has Shinji asked you about sex?”

“Wha…” Asuka sat down hard on the bed. “What?!”

“You heard me. Has Shinji asked you about sex?” Hikari whispered, not meeting the redhead’s gaze.

“I don’t know what made you suddenly want to discuss that subject, but no he hasn’t brought it up.” She grinned suddenly. “I’ve brought it up, and we’ve talked about it.”

“I envy you in that respect,” admitted Hikari. “It’s nice to know that you two can talk about something so serious and keep your relationship together.”

Asuka realized where this was going. “It’s better to talk about it early than have it come as a surprise.” She rested her hands on her knees, smiling at her friend. “Now why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you. I really don’t want to play twenty questions.”

Bowing her head, Hikari closed her eyes. “You know about me and Touji, right?”

“Yeah.”

That story had been one of the first things she had gotten out of Shinji when they had gotten together. She had wanted to know why her friend's relationship had failed and for what reasons. Mainly the redhead wanted to ensure that she didn’t make the same mistakes as her friend. The redhead had drawn many conclusions on why Touji and Hikari’s relationship had failed but she had never expressed them. Now she was in a position where she would have to tell her friend those conclusions.

“I guess Shinji told you.”

“Yeah, though it’s all third hand information to me.” Asuka got up and sat next to Hikari.

“Why do you think it failed?” Hikari saw her friend shake her head. “Please.”

“I could say that you were possessive and controlling,” stated Asuka.

“And you two aren’t?” the brunette asked. “I’ve seen the way you two act at times.”

“It’s not the same for us, Hikari. Neither of us wants to get hurt again, so we protect what we have, even to the extent of becoming possessive of the other.” The redhead averted her eyes. “Because we just can’t go out and find another person…” She trailed off, not wanting to think about it.

Hikari saw the sad look on her friend’s face. “I didn’t know.”

“Don’t worry, nobody else understands our relationship.” Asuka looked up smiling. “Anyway back to you and Touji. That’s the reasons I got from Touji’s side. What’s yours?”

“I never knew he thought about it like that,” admitted the brunette. “But that’s not the real reason we broke up. He asked me about…”

“Sex.”

“Yeah, I had never felt so shocked in my life.” She had tears in her eyes. “It came out of nowhere and I didn’t know what to do or say.”

“Tell me about it.”

Hikari wiped at her nose and stared at the far wall, falling into a monotone. “It was our one-year anniversary, and we had just finished dinner at this fancy restaurant. It served the nicest seafood…” She trailed off at Asuka’s bored expression. “Anyway, instead of calling for a cab, we decided to go for a walk. Over the past year I had gotten him to talk more, and not just about sports. During our conversation Shinji was brought up and then we started talking about you, wondering if you’d wake up. Touji commented on what you’d be like when you woke, whether you’d be the same demon, I’ve always hated that…”

“Hikari, hurry up,” interrupted Asuka, frowning.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” The girl brushed some hair off her shoulder. “Anyway, I told him you’d have changed, and expected you and Shinji to get together. I’m glad I was right.” She closed her eyes, pausing. “As we approached my house, he stopped me. I thought he was going to kiss me, I was wrong. He asked me where I thought our relationship was headed, if we’d have sex. He kept talking but I wasn’t listening. I pushed him away and ran the rest of the way home.” Hikari was crying as she spoke. “The next day I broke up with him as he tried to explain.”

“I take it that something’s happening between the two of you?” inquired Asuka.

“Yes, he sent me flowers on White Day and he wants to get together tonight at the party.” Hikari looked up, scared. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Did you ever ask him to clarify what he meant?”

“I know what he meant!” She saw the redhead shake her head.

“I don’t think you do. You heard that one word and immediately pushed him away without getting an explanation. You have to lighten up,” Asuka stated, frowning. “Your relationship ended because you jumped to conclusions instead of talking it over.”

“So what you’re…”

“What I’m saying is that you should listen to what he has to say.” The pilot stood, sighing. “Though I don’t know what you see in him, neither now nor back then.” She grabbed Hikari’s arms. “Get dressed so we don’t get in trouble.”

“Okay.” Hikari stood up, seeing her friend grinning. “What?”

“If you think my swimsuit is skimpy you should see what he got me back in March,” the redhead commented. “My nightgown barely crosses my hips and I swear you can see through it.”

“Asuka!”

- - - -

“Oh man, this is too much,” moaned Touji, leaning against the wall of the diving store. “Nothing compares to seeing this.”

The boys of the class that had either put their wetsuits on or weren’t going diving stood in the shade. Their attention was fully on the girls that were pulling on the tight rubber suits after soaking themselves. The different styles of suits were not what attracted the attention of the males but what they hid.

“I’ve never seen so many great examples of breasts and legs,” commented Ryo, his eyes wandering over one female that had her back to him, bent over pulling her suit on.

“Isn’t Maki your girlfriend?”

All eyes turned to Shinji who was looking out over the ocean, ignoring the girls. The upper half of his wetsuit hung freely, ready to be put on once they were ready to dive. It was hot enough without having to be encased in black rubber, which was evident by the sweat running down his back. He looked back at the scene behind him, glad that he had taken Asuka’s advice in getting a tan before going on the trip. A few of the girls and guys were going to be feeling the affects of sunburn later in the day. The young man turned back to the sea, waiting for an answer.

Ryo shrugged his shoulders. “Of course she is. But who could resist all that?” he asked, sweeping his arm out. “It’s just too much.”

“I wish you had brought a camera, Kensuke,” muttered Touji.

“Who says I didn’t?” replied the information gatherer, pointing to his sunglasses. “I’ll have them ready after we get back.”

Shinji sighed, disgusted. “You know voyeurism is against the law.”

“Only if you…”

Shinji turned when Kensuke’s voice died, hearing someone approaching quickly. A mess of auburn hair and a scowl greeted him as his girlfriend strode across the beach. The young man tried to back away but realized too late there was a railing. The feeling of everyone watching them was strong as Asuka stopped in front of him.

“Hello Asuka,” he said cordially.

“Hello partner,” she growled, smiling dangerously. “Unless of course you have someone else in mind. I mean you did forget to tell you could swim.”

“I guess it slipped my mind,” he replied nervously as she got closer. “And I’ll gladly be your partner.”

“Good, and I guess I can forgive you this time but you’re going to have to do something for me.” Her smile turned playful suddenly. “After all you do have your uses.”

“Miss Soryu, if you don’t mind, could you hurry up and change we’re on a schedule,” their teacher interrupted.

“Sorry sir!”

She spun around and strode away, dragging Shinji behind her. The redhead ignored the laughter that followed her as she went over to the outdoor showers. Stripping down to her bathing suit, she stuffed her clothes in her duffel bag before stepping under the water. Arching her back, she thrust her chest out for the young man. She laughed at the boy’s reaction as she pulled on her wetsuit. Looking up she stopped at the expression he was giving her.

“What?”

“I can’t believe you wore that out here.” His voice was low, almost angry.

“Are you trying to tell me what to do or wear?” she asked, harshly. “You don’t own…”

“It’s not like that!” the boy hissed. “Do you like being treated like a piece of meat? Kensuke probably has a dozen pictures already.”

“What are you talking…” She trailed off, her face red. Turning around she saw the boys staring at her with hungry eyes. “I suggest you find something else to look at!!” She yelled.

Shinji watched as they turned around. “That’s not going to stop them. That suit…” He tried to turn away from a wet Asuka but she stopped him with a touch. Her bikini showed off more cleavage then he normally saw. “They’re going to see that as an invitation.”

“They better not or they’ll find themselves in the hospital,” Asuka said, watching in amusement as Shinji looked her over. “I only want one person.” She traced her fingers over his chest, feeling the muscle tremble and the sweat that covered him. “And that’s you.”

“Let’s hurry before they start without us.”

- - - -

A flash of movement caught Shinji’s eye and he slowly turned, his eyes darting around. He inhaled quickly when he saw the sleek shapes of four sharks as they darted around the ruins. Moving his hand down to his thigh, he felt the weapon strapped to his leg. Keeping his eyes on the sharks, he moved to where he had last seen Asuka, only to find her gone from the building he left her at. He screamed into the air regulator as something wrapped around his torso. Streams of red floated around his head and he relaxed. Floating next to Asuka, he grabbed a square plastic sheet.

“You think that was funny?” he wrote on his dive board.

“Of course it was, idiot,” she replied, a grin on her face. “I’ve got something to show you.”

“What is it?”

But she didn’t reply, instead pushing off of him and kicking furiously. He glanced at his depth gauge as they passed 120 feet, heading for the street below. The teachers had been stern in telling everyone not to go below 100 feet, yet Shinji didn’t stop. With a few quick kicks, he was beside the redhead, staring at the weird scene around him. No vehicles of any sort were on the street while empty windows beckoned for them to explore. As they exited the street, he stopped in surprise as Asuka grabbed his arm. The park was surreal with damaged benches and shattered fountains surrounded by the remains of trees.

He had been caught up in the view that he hadn’t noticed the girl press against him. She was pointing upward with one arm. Nodding his head, the boy looked up and his breath caught in his throat. Even with the clear water, the sunlight barely made it to that depth but that wasn’t what captivated him. Swirling above their heads were a dozen sharks, darting about as they fed. He felt his heart race as Asuka drifted upward motioning for him to follow. With hiss of compressed air, he increased his buoyancy, following closely after the girl. They drifted upwards until they had reached the edge of the pack. Shinji watched horrified as Asuka stretched a hand out as a shark came close to them. He could swear his heart stopped for a moment when her hand slid along its belly before it swam off, its muscles rippling. Drifting motionless, he was surprised when she got behind him and grabbed his arm. Though he was stronger he let her guide his hand onto the side of one of the fish as it passed. Even through the wetsuit he could feel the sandpaper texture of its skin, and the pulsing muscles as it swam by.

- - - -

“I can’t believe they yelled at us like that,” complained Asuka. “We got the most specimens and completed our work in record time.”

Shinji tightened his hold on the girl as they sat on a beach blanket watching the moonrise. The crackle of bonfires and laughter came from further down the beach. He tried to ignore the smell of food as it drifted on the wind. As soon as the party had started they had left everyone and moved away to be alone. He had not protested, knowing she would explain but as time passed she had remained silent, only wrapping his arms around her, as it grew colder.

“They didn’t do it on purpose,” he said diplomatically. “We went below the depth that they had set. Not to mention the scene with the sharks.”

“That’s crap and you know it!” she snapped. “We’re both certified divers.” She threw up her arms. “They’re treating us like children and they have no right to!”

“We are children to them,” he said quietly.

She turned in his arms. “You don’t actually believe that do you, after everything we’ve done and gone through.” Her scowl deepened. “And you’re eighteen, an adult.”

“No, I just think some of them are scared of us,” Shinji stated. “I can see it in their eyes, we’re too mature for them. We’re not like others who listen to authority blindly or don’t question their elders. “We’re too…”

“Independent,” finished Asuka, seeing him nod. “Still it doesn’t give them a right to dominate us.” Shinji laughed at that. “What?”

The boy continued to laugh until she dug her nails into his arms. “Just the image that popped into my head. I don’t see anyone dominating you.”

“You sick pervert. Get your mind out of the gutter.” Despite her words she felt her face heat up. “I don’t like leather.”

“Can we go get something to eat? I’m starving,” he pleaded.

“No! This is our protest against being treated unfairly. Besides what’s a little hunger?” At that moment her stomach growled.

“Sounds like I’m not the only hungry one.”

Both stood and grabbed their shoes before walking down the beach. The pilots ignored the whispers and looks from the other students when they walked into the light, striding to the tables of food. Neither said a word, splitting up to get what they needed before leaving again. Shinji walked toward the beverages while Asuka went to grab a couple plates from the main table. As she stood in line she heard someone come up behind her, standing real close. The redhead didn’t think of anything of it until the person grabbed her leg.

“If you’re not Shinji, I suggest you remove your hand. Fast,” she growled.

“Come on, Soryu. With what you’re wearing, you’re just begging for someone to rescue you from that wimp,” the boy said.

She turned around, frowning and eyes narrowed. “And who are you?”

The boy, who was shorter than her, smiled. “Yuu Nakao.”

“Nakao, huh.” Asuka grinned at him. “Wasn’t my wimpy boyfriend the one that put you in the hospital a while back?”

“Umm…you see,” Yuu stuttered trying to back away.

“Not so fast, asshole.” She twisted his arm making him cry out. “I said this before but I don’t think everyone got the message.” She raised her voice. “Listen up everyone! I hate repeating myself so this is the last time! I’m not interested in any one of you! If you so much as touch me, I’ll break your fucking arm! If you make a lewd comment you’ll wish you were a priest!”

With that she twisted Yuu’s arm before shoving him away, where he fell to the ground. Whirling around, she grabbed two plates from a stunned server’s hands. She waited until a Shinji came up to her with the drinks before they walked away. They both sat down on the blanket and started eating in silence. Shinji was too shocked to say anything and Asuka too pissed to want to talk. Both quickly finished the food and sat there drinking, watching the waves come and go.

“You know,” Shinji ventured. “I heard an interesting fact yesterday.”

“And what was that?” Asuka had a small smile. “I never knew you were into gossip.”

“It’s not gossip,” he replied. “I got it straight from Omi Suzuki, my roommate for the trip.”

“So what is it?”

“Miyu’s pregnant,” he told her.

“Oh God,” Asuka laughed. “She got what she deserved for sleeping around.”

“Asuka! It’s not funny.” The boy glared at her until she stopped.

The redhead sat there quietly, looking at Shinji. Pulling her legs up, she wrapped her arms around them and stared out to sea, worried. Sure he was normally serious about a lot of things but he rarely snapped at her. Asuka knew that she had told Hikari that they had had their fights, but she didn’t mention that the majority of them were her fault. She didn’t want to get into a fight with Shinji over something so minor as another girl getting pregnant. After all, it wasn’t her so why should she care?

“I’m sorry.” He watched Asuka jump at his quiet words. “It’s just that…”

The girl scooted closer and put an arm around his shoulder. “Why are you being so serious, Shinji? All she has to do is get an abortion.”

“No, she can’t.” He sighed when she looked at him. “Miyu’s father found out and is forcing her to have it.”

“Ouch!”

“Not only that but she has to marry the father or she’ll be disowned.”

Asuka’s eyes widened in shock. “Wait a minute! How did Omi know so much about what’s happening?” She saw Shinji staring at her. “Don’t tell me…”

The boy nodded.

“He was such a nice boy. And now he has to marry that…” She stopped puzzled. “Wait! How’d they know he was the father and how are they forcing him to marry her?”

“Omi’s been dating Miyu for the last four months. As for why he’s being forced to marry her, Miyu’s father called his parents and from what I heard they worked out the plans.”

“Oh…”

The redhead trailed off, trying to comprehend what she had just been told. Being forced to marry someone because you slept with him and got pregnant didn’t result in a loving marriage. Asuka tried to envision what it would be like if that happened to her, but could only realize that her life would be miserable. She wanted to marry someone because she loved him and wanted him to be a part of her life. Looking out of the corner of her eye, she saw Shinji staring blankly at the water.

“Why’d you tell me that?” she asked. “It’s not like I really needed to know.”

“Don’t know. I just thought you’d like to hear about it since you don’t like Miyu,” the boy admitted.

“That’s not the only reason,” she told him, wanting to get to the real issue.

“Yes it was.”

Asuka rolled onto the boy, forcing him to his back. Leaning forward, she stared into his eyes. “You’re a poor liar.”

Shinji swallowed, looking down her partially unbuttoned shirt instead of meeting her eyes. “Fine.”

The redhead saw where he was looking, hitting him lightly. “Come on, idiot.”

“Have you ever thought of having children?” he asked, quietly.

Asuka rolled off of him and onto her back, staring up at the stars. She was aware of Shinji propping himself up on one elbow and staring at her but she ignored him. Of everything they had talked about in the last year since getting together, two subjects had never been discussed: children and marriage. Marriage because they had only started dating and talking about something like that was for the future. She suspected that they’d never talked about children because it would involve marriage, there was no way Shinji would allow her to be a single mother.

“Have you?” he repeated when she remained silent.

“Not really,” she said, folding her arms under her head. “I don’t think I’d make a good mother with my past. I’m not ready for the responsibility of raising a child.”

“You handled the responsibility of fighting the Angels,” he told her, resting a hand on her shoulder.

“Fighting the Angels and raising a child are two different things, Shinji.” She sat up. “If we lost during the Angels, there wouldn’t have been anyone around to criticize us. We screw up with a child and it will follow us around for the rest of our lives. Not to mention everyone second guessing us.”

“So you never want to have children?”

She lifted her head. “I never said that. It’s just at the moment I’m not ready. Maybe sometime in the future that’ll change.” The girl smiled. “We haven’t even done it yet and you’re thinking of the next stage.”

“I know…” He stopped as she stood up and offered him her hand. He found himself pulled into a hug when he reached his feet. "Asuka?"

“You think the teachers would mind if we went skinny dipping?” She felt him tense up. “Just think of it. You, me, no clothes and the warm water.”

“Asuka!”

She tightened her hold. “I was just joking.”

“Than what were you trying to say?”

“What I’m saying is that we should enjoy ourselves for now.” She gave him a kiss on the neck. “I want to enjoy what’s left of my teenage years. I don’t want to think of responsibilities, commitments, jobs or anything else in the adult world.” Asuka stopped in front of him. “You understand what I’m saying?”

“Yeah.” He took her hand in his and walked back to the bonfire. “Enjoy life now because it’ll be over before you know it.”

“Close enough.”

- - - -

November 2019

Shinji ignored the burning sensations in his legs and chest, pushing himself harder. The finish line of the indoor track came into view, as well as Kensuke standing next to it, holding a stopwatch. The pilot could hear Touji behind him but knew there was no way his friend, with his prosthetic leg, would catch up to him. With a final burst of speed, he crossed the line hearing the click of the watch being stopped. He slowed down to walk, waiting for Touji to catch up to him so they could do their warm down laps. Two pairs of footsteps made him turn his head to see both his friends coming up to him.

“Good time, Shinji. You took ten seconds off your best record,” commented Kensuke, holding out a towel.

Shinji accepted it and smiled at the news but didn’t say anything as he was still winded. He saw the scowl on Touji’s face when he heard that he had made no progress on his time. Even with the advanced technology built into Touji’s leg he couldn’t maintain a long distance pace. The pilot wiped the sweat from his face before draping a towel around his neck. The banter continued between the friends as they talked about various things from school to money to girls. Well Touji and Kensuke talked about girls with Shinji joining in once in a while with a comment.

“So where’s the old ball and chain, Shinji?” asked Touji as they sat on the workout mats, stretching.

“She’s not a ball and chain,” he replied darkly.

“Oh come on. You two are joined at the hip. I’ve never seen a worse case of love before,” Kensuke joined in. “You guys are so sappy at times, it’s disgusting.”

Shinji shook his head. “We are not sappy at school or in public and you know it.” He glared at his friend. “And besides I like being around her, she’s nice. We do a lot of fun things together.”

“Nice! She punched me on the school trip,” exclaimed Kensuke.

“Maybe if you had given her the pictures you had taken of her, you wouldn’t have been hit.”

“Oh man! I can’t believe you’re defending her!” Kensuke looked over at Touji. “Some help, please.”

The boy shrugged his shoulders. “You got yourself into this mess, get yourself out of it.” He leaned back against a wall. “I just barely understand her but it’s enough to keep us from fighting.” His eyes shifted to look at Shinji. “Besides you love her, so I won’t provoke her. You do love her, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, but…” He couldn’t finish his statement, scared of what he would say.

“Has she told you?”

“No, not outright,” was the quiet admission. “And that’s what scares me. Like she’ll never be able to say those words to me. That she’ll keep a part of herself from me, never loving me fully.”

Touji sat there silently for a few seconds. “I wouldn’t worry. If she didn’t love you, she wouldn’t have stayed with you this long.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“So don’t think about it at the moment, instead worry about the dance tonight…hey!” Kensuke got both wet towels in the face at his comment, pulling them off with a disgusted look. “What’d I say?”

“Nobody was supposed to mention the dance. Remember our agreement?” growled Touji. “That’s why we’re here, to keep our minds off of it. I just wish we had some time for more weightlifting.”

“Or swimming,” Shinji commented, but was ignored as Kensuke zeroed in on Touji.

“So you’re going tonight?” asked Kensuke, seeing his friend nod. “With Hikari.” This time the young man’s face grew bright red. “So I wonder which one of you is going to have fun tonight.”

Touji shook his head. “I’m not going to do anything stupid tonight. If Asuka and Shinji can get together, then I better try again with Hikari.”

“What about you?” The question was directed at the quiet boy.

Shinji shook his head. “Nothing’s going to happen tonight. We promised each other we’d wait.” He looked up in shock, realizing what he had said. His friends’ eyes were wide. “Forget what I just said.”

Kensuke grinned, shaking his head. “Oh no, Ikari, we’re not going to forget it. It sounded like you and Asuka are planning to…”

Shinji stood up, grabbing hold of his friend, putting him in a headlock. “It’s none of your business what Asuka and I do in the future.” He smiled faintly, knowing that he wasn’t hurting Kensuke. “Besides who’s the one not going to the dance?”

“Okay, okay I understand. Now can you let me go?” Kensuke didn’t enjoy being twisted. He jumped out of arm’s reach when he was released. “So what’s her best feature.”

“Kensuke,” growled Shinji, but looked down when Touji caught his arm.

“Just humor him.”

Shinji smiled both at the comment and what he was about to say. “Her best feature is…”

“What?” They leaned forward in anticipation.

“Her face.”

- - - -

Shinji slid his card through the reader, smiling faintly as the memory of his friends’ reactions to his admission. Even after all the years of asking him that question, they still had been expecting him to admit to liking her breasts or butt, not her face. While he did like those parts of her, he didn’t get to see them that often. Even when they slept together she made sure that she was covered as much as possible. Glancing down, he saw a new pair of shoes as he kicked his own off.

Walking into the apartment, he groaned at the mess in the living room, knowing that he would be expected to pick it up. Instead, he kicked the boxes out of the way and sat down on the couch, flipping through the channels. He knew he was early in returning from the gym, but also knew that no matter how much time Asuka was given she always required more. The boy turned his head slightly as a door opened and closed down the hall.

“What are you doing home so early, young man?” Misato asked as she stood in front of him.

“I’m five minutes early,” he said after looking at his watch. “So is it safe to take a shower?”

“Yeah, Asuka just got out.”

“What!” he exclaimed, “What’s she been doing all day?”

His guardian smiled faintly. “Shopping. I’ve never known a girl that takes so long to make up her mind.” Her smiled turned sly. “Though I think you’ll enjoy what she picked out.”

The boy smiled and backed away from his guardian, who was giving him a knowing look. “I think I’ll go take that shower now.”

“You’re no fun,” muttered Misato as she watched the boy run to the bathroom.

Shrugging her shoulders, she went to one of her bags and pulled out a small box. Misato stared at it for moment, before walking over to Asuka’s purse, and putting the box in it. The older woman knew all too well what could happen tonight between the teens, the possibility of them giving in to temptation and doing something more intimate. Even Asuka’s reassurances that they were going to wait weren’t enough; all it did was prolong her worry. Knowing they would do it but not when was driving her crazy.

“Misato…” The woman looked up and, upon seeing Asuka, arrived at the conclusion that it would be a long night indeed.

Shinji paced around his room, unable to sit down and barred from leaving it. He pulled at the collar of his shirt, loosening the black tie. Asuka had been adamant that he should wear a tuxedo to the school dance no matter what. She had allowed him to forgo the cummerbund and bow tie. Instead he had a dark blue vest and a straight tie to go with the jet-black pants and white shirt. His jacket lay on the bed while he waited. He looked at his new watch, seeing that an hour had passed since he had gotten home. As he turned, someone knocked on his door.

“You ready?” asked Misato, not even waiting for a reply before she opened the door.

“Is she finally ready?”

“Yes.”

Shinji started to the door, but Misato grabbed his arm stopping him. He looked back and blushed as she held up the jacket with a smile. The boy slid the jacket on with his guardian’s help, buttoning the jacket closed, which drew a frown from the older woman. Sighing, he let Misato make any last minute correction to his appearance. He stood there quietly as she pulled on his sleeves, tightened his tie, and brushed the jacket of any dust. After what seemed like an eternity she finally stopped in front of him holding a corsage.

“I know she said she didn’t want one but only a fool would believe that.”

“I know, Misato.” The boy smiled. He walked over to his desk and picked up a bundle of red and white roses.

“She can’t wear those,” she retorted.

“Thank you,” he said, taking the corsage from Misato’s hands.

With that, the two of them left and went back to the living room. Shinji felt his heart skip a beat when he saw Asuka standing there, waiting. The knee-length dress was very suggestive, clinging to Asuka's curves and was held up by thin spaghetti straps. To further draw eyes the bodice was cut low showing off the swell of the redhead's bust while two slits ran up her sides, allowing her shapely legs to show. The boy thought the black silk was a good choice as it contrasted nicely with her skin. Her hair had been cut to shoulder length and styled, the curls resting on her shoulders. He smiled at seeing the bracelet on her wrist, along with the diamond studs from their first date.

“I take it from your drool that you’re impressed,” she said with a smile. Shinji nodded his head as she spun around, letting him see all of her.

“You’re gorgeous,” he admitted.

“I’m glad you’re impressed. I’d hate to think I lost my touch,” she commented walking up to him. The girl took the flowers from his hands and gave him a smaller, more meaningful smile. “Thank you. And you don’t look bad either.” She frowned at the look Misato was giving her. “What?”

“Are you wearing any underwear, young lady?”

“Yes,” Asuka replied matter-of-factly.

“It doesn’t look like it.” Misato scowled when the girl laughed. “What?”

“Trust me, I’m wearing some. Unless of course you want to look?” the redhead asked, sharply.

“No.” The older woman frowned slightly. “I just thought you were trying to be daring.”

“I have no desire to copy your old dressing style, Misato,” the girl retorted. “I heard from Ritsuko how you used to dress in college when going out with Kaji.”

“That’s…”

“Please, let’s just drop this,” begged Shinji, looking at the two women. “We’re supposed to be having fun, not talking about…”

Asuka stared at Shinji when he trailed, seeing his pleading eyes and nodded.

“You’re right.” She held out her arm.” Let’s go.”

- - - -

The two teens walked into the crowded banquet hall, its lights dimmed to provide a formal atmosphere. They paused to let their eyes adjust before making their way to the registration desk off to one side of the main entrance. Two teachers gave Asuka disapproving stares at what she was wearing, which the redhead ignored. She smirked when they were allowed to go inside. Her dress, while a little risqué, didn’t violate the dress code for the dance. She tightened her hold on the boy’s hand as a couple of girls passed them, looking at Shinji.

“Asuka, the tables are that way.” The boy pointed in the opposite direction.

“I know but there’s something I need to take care of first,” she replied, feeling him tense as they stopped outside a door. “Wait here and don’t move.”

Shinji swallowed and turned around quickly as his girlfriend went through the door. He could almost hear the rumors starting as other girls approached the restroom. Slowly, he moved away from the door so that others didn’t think he was scoping out the bathroom. The young man walked inward toward the tables, staying within sight of the restroom door. He was so absorbed in looking for his friends that he didn’t notice when Asuka came out of the room.

His only warning was the feeling of a warm body pressed up against him as she leaned on him. He could smell her perfume as she gave him little kisses on the back of his neck working her way up. The boy felt his knees tremble as her soft lips stopped behind his ear, her tongue probing the small depression behind it. Moaning, he tried to turn around but she held him fast, squeezing him gently.

“Close your eyes, Shinji,” she purred in his ear.

The boy nodded and obeyed her wishes.

“Hold out your hands,” Asuka commanded, humor in her voice.

Again Shinji obeyed the girl, keeping his eyes closed when something was pressed into his palm.

“Open your eyes.”

The boy opened his eyes and stared at what had been given to him. A small folded up piece of cloth was the only thing he saw but he saw Asuka smirk, urging him to go on. Slowly, he picked up the corners and watched it unfold into a pair of black panties trimmed in lace. Shinji stood there in shock. They were so small that he didn’t know how they would have covered her. But he didn’t let go, feeling her heat trapped in the cloth and a hint of moisture from where he was holding it.

“A present from me,” Asuka whispered in his ear. “But next time, you get to remove them.”

The boy nodded, slowly folding the panties back up before slipping them in his pocket. “I don’t know what to say.”

“A thank you would do, but then again the night isn’t over.”

“Asuka?” The boy stopped as the redhead gave him a naughty smile.

“Just wait, Shinji.”

- - - -

The streetlights flashed past the window and Shinji found himself tapping his foot as they passed. He was very tired but Asuka had promised as they left the dance, that the night wasn’t over. Glancing over he saw the redhead smile as she downshifted to take a corner. The dance had been fun, though he had had trouble keeping his mind from wandering when dancing. His brain kept reminding him that the only thing keeping his fingers from Asuka’s warm skin was less than two square yards of black silk. The boy’s eyes widened as the car pulled into the parking deck of an expensive hotel.

“What are we doing here?” he asked after they had gotten out of the car.

“This is the rest of the night,” she replied.

Shinji followed nervously behind, centered on Asuka as she sauntered to the elevators. He shook his head and ran to catch up to her as the doors opened. The boy wasn’t surprised when she keyed the top floor. He smiled as she turned toward him, listening to the elevator hum as it rose. Slowly he took her hand in his and drew her close, wrapping his arms around her. The kiss they shared was deep and meaningful, a reassurance of their love. Only when the doors opened did they separate.

“Follow me,” Asuka said with a smile.

The boy followed behind her as she ran ahead, pulling his arm. He ran into her when she stopped in front of a door and reached into her purse. She had a puzzled look on her face as she pulled out a box, reading the label. Her face turned bright red before she put it back in her purse. Asuka rummaged around a little longer before pulling out a key card with a triumphant smile. With a flourish, she swiped the card and pushed Shinji through the door.

“This is nice,” Shinji commented as he looked at the suite.

He had heard of arrangements like this for honeymoons and retreats, but never thought he would be staying in such a place. The suite was one large bedroom, dominated by a four-poster on one side while a bar and kitchen were off to other side. Shinji swallowed as he saw the rows of mirrors, while making his way to the large windows that overlooked the city. Pressing his fingers against the glass, he felt the chill of the night through them, contrasting with how hot his body felt.

“Shinji?”

The boy turned at her call, not hearing her come up behind him. The girl stood there with an arm under her breasts and the straps of her dress off her shoulders. As Shinji watched, she relaxed her arm, the dress sliding off of her and onto the floor. He couldn’t help but feel his heart race as the redhead stood there in the nude, waiting for his reaction. His eyes traveled over her body from her luscious breasts over her flat stomach to her mound, accented with the same soft red hair as her head and finally over the gentle swell of her hips. As he lifted his eyes, he saw her tremble, dismissing it as a reaction to the cold. But when the boy stared into her eyes he saw the fear, the nervousness that she was trying to hide. Stepping closer he raised a hand, watching her flinch, before he brushed some hair off her cheek.

“You don’t have to do this.” He held her gently in his arms.

Asuka stood there trembling. “Don’t you want me?”

“Yes, but you’re not ready.” He stopped as his own body reacted. “I’m not ready. Please, don’t force yourself to do this.”

She pulled back, staring into his eyes. “Who said I was forcing myself?”

“I can see it in your eyes. The fear, and the doubt.” He pressed his forehead against hers, ignoring his own trembling body. “You don’t have to go through with this. You can trust me.”

The young man was prepared for anything except the reaction he got. He was suddenly holding a trembling, crying young woman in his arms as tears streamed down her cheeks. His arms tightened their hold, his hands rubbing her back and shoulders as her tears soaked his shirt and jacket. Her breathing became ragged gasps minutes later as the tears slowly ended and the tremors died down. Shinji felt his own tears on his cheeks as she stared up at his face, her eyes puffy and red from crying.

“I’m so stupid,” she whispered. “I should have trusted you like I said I did.”

“No, you’re not,” he stated, stroking her shoulders.

“Still…” Asuka angrily wiped at her eyes. “Because of what some of the girls had told me earlier I make a fool of myself.”

“What’d they tell you?” Shinji asked tentatively.

“That given a chance, any boy would jump at the opportunity for sex. They said that our promises were stupid and in vain, since you’re just a guy.” Her fists clenched at the end.

“Don’t worry. I’d never do something like that.”

“Damn it, I know that!” She shook her head angrily. “It’s just when I thought about their words, I started doubting myself…” She paused, looking like she wanted to punch someone, “and you. And then came the dance announcement and their comments came faster.” She took a few deep breaths before looking at him. “I’m sorry.” Slowly she backed away, letting her arms hang down. “I’ll make it up to you somehow.”

“You don’t have to do anything.”

“Yes, I do,” she stated. “I have to show you I trust you. Or else…”

“If that’s how you feel.” The boy grinned. “Then I know the perfect punishment.”

“Shinji…” Asuka backed away, but stopped. Despite his grin, she saw his nervousness.

The young man shook his head and stepped toward her, grabbing her shoulders. Slowly he drew her closer and pressed his lips against hers, feeling her tremble. While they kissed he ran his hands along her sides but instead of coming to rest on her butt, he started tickling her. As his fingers ran across her ribs, the young woman broke the kiss, giggling. The giggling turned to laughter when he moved to under her arms. When he reached her stomach, she fell, pulling him down on top of her. As they lay on the floor, the redhead ran her fingers through his hair, twirling it around her fingers. She went flat as he placed his hands on either side of her head. Asuka couldn't help but moan as he placed kisses on her neck and upper chest before stopping on her lips. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled him down, kissing him harder and letting passion flood her mind and body. She looked at him sadly as he broke the kiss.

“That’s all I want for now,” he said, lovingly.

Asuka sat up, her chest rising and falling. “We can do other things besides intercourse, like…” She stopped as Shinji sat in front of her.

“You’re so stubborn at times,” he told her quietly. “Don’t you remember saying you want no regrets when we finally do it?” He saw her nod. “Then how can you suggest we do other things? Wouldn’t that lessen our relationship because it shows that we couldn’t keep our promise?”

“Still I owe you for not trusting you fully.”

“I know you trust me or you wouldn’t be here.” Shinji sighed at her expression. “You’re not going to give up until you get your way, are you?”

“Nope,” she answered, smirking. “So if you don’t mind matching my dressing style, why don’t we carry on in the Jacuzzi?”

“Okay,” he agreed after a few seconds of silence.

Asuka laughed slightly and stood up, giving the young man an entertaining view before walking over to the Jacuzzi. Bending over, she turned on the water before glancing over her shoulder to see him stripping out of his clothes. As her eyes lowered she felt her face heat up, the same way Shinji’s had when he had looked her over. As the liquid passed the nozzles, she turned the jets on low and dumped in a cap full of soap. After the bubbles reached the top of the marble edge, she slid into the Jacuzzi, relaxing in the hot churning water. She opened her eyes when she heard the chink of glass hitting stone.

“I’ve never taken a bubble bath before,” he commented as he slid into the tub, opposite her.

“Well this way we’re together but everything’s hidden, and we can let our imaginations run wild.”

“You have a perverted mind, Asuka,” he said, relaxing against the cool marble.

She gave him a crooked smile. “You agreed to this, so you’re just as perverted.”

“Guess so.” The boy held up the bottle of champagne that had been sitting on the bar along with two glasses. “Should we?”

“Just one glass,” she told him, glad to see the hotel had followed her request.

Shinji nodded, taking hold of the bottle while working the cork out.

As it came out with a loud pop, the two teens jumped before laughing at their reactions. Asuka moved to the middle of the tub and held out the crystal glasses as the man poured the champagne. Once he was done, he placed the bottle on the floor within easy reach. Taking one of the glasses from the redhead’s hand, he stared at the bubbly pale liquid as the redhead returned to her side of the tub.

“Different,” he commented after taking a sip. The champagne had a light, almost sweet taste, unlike the bite of hard alcohol.

“Of course it is, Shinji,” Asuka said, drinking slowly. “You’re not supposed to get roaring drunk off it. Instead it helps you relax and lighten up.”

“So are you relaxed?”

The girl laughed. “I’m always relaxed.”

They sat in the Jacuzzi looking at each other, and slowly drinking the champagne. Asuka lazily reached over the side and placed her glass on the floor, holding to their promise of one drink. The combination of hot water and alcohol was having a soothing effect on the girl as she stared at her boyfriend. Smiling, she leaned back, sinking into the water until only her head was exposed; her legs stretched out and she rubbed her foot over Shinji’s.

“I heard an interesting fact from Hikari,” she said.

“And what’d that be?” inquired the boy as he felt her foot trace over his leg. Smirking, he returned the touch, running his toes up her smooth flesh.

“Something Touji told her about you describing my best feature.” She closed her eyes, bringing her other foot into play. He was a fast learner she admitted as he countered her. “So you favor my face?”

“Yep.” He felt her feet trap one of his before darting his other one forward, getting her to start in surprise.

“Hmm, is that so?” Her eyes opened and she flashed him a mischievous grin. “What do you like the most…”

“I just…”

“Below my neck,” she finished.

Shinji didn’t hesitate. “Your legs.”

He wasn’t expecting the reaction he got from the young woman at his admission. The man watched as a slim leg rose out of the water in front of him, soap bubbles sticking to her pink skin. He gently held her foot, massaging it before running a finger up the bottom. Even as she tried to break free, laughing, he kept it up. Shinji heard her give a small content sigh, closing her eyes while she relaxed further in the hot water.

Asuka settled back against the warm marble, giving in to his gentle caress. She felt the last of her soreness slowly disappearing at his touch. Her eyes flew open and she coughed on her drink when he started suckling on her toes. When she opened her mouth to protest, the man looked up with mischief in his eyes. Relaxing her shoulders, the young woman leaned back, letting herself succumb to the pampering while bringing her other foot out of the water. When she reached the end of her drink she felt her boyfriend kiss each of her toes, slightly disappointed when he finished. But as she set her glass down on the floor, the girl saw him smiling at her.

“That’s no fair,” she said, gliding over to him. “Now I’ll have to pay you back properly.”

The girl ignored the water splashing over the side as she closed the remaining distance between them. She forced his hands away from her body as he tried to hold her, pinning him to the side of the Jacuzzi. Pausing she looked him in the eyes, nervously, before leaning down tentatively and placing small kisses over his upper chest and neck, feeling him tremble at her touch. Her own body was shaking slightly as she rubbed against Shinji. Yet the feeling of control over the boy and touching him excited her. She didn’t shy away from the images her mind sent her, instead embracing them. Their lips met for an instant before she pulled away, smiling.

Shinji lay beneath her, returning the kiss and feeling desire replace his nervousness. In the back of his mind he remembered their promise but as he closed his eyes, he wondered if it would be broken that night. He thought about that for only a few seconds before her lips smothered any ability to reason. She stretched out next to him, her legs rubbing his. A gasp escaped her lips as he wrapped his arms around her, pulling the girl tighter to him, her firm breasts rubbing against his muscled chest. He moaned when a hand ran up his thigh, slowly moving to his crotch and erection.

“I can think of things that are more interesting than legs,” she purred.

Asuka ran an exploratory hand up his hardened penis, her palm trembling as she ran it along the underside, feeling him shudder at her touch. She smiled at Shinji, as her fingers played with the head, excited at his reactions. Her hand closed around him, beginning to slowly stroke his erection while she kissed his neck. Asuka’s confidence grew at hearing the man moan, her body slowly calming at touching him. She picked up speed, her hand easily sliding along his manhood, before gripping him tighter. She listened to his breathing get heavier, watching in amusement as he closed his eyes.

“Do you want me to stop?” she asked quietly, feeling him still trembling.

His eyes opened briefly and he shook his head.

“So isn’t this much better than legs?” she purred, tightening her grip before relaxing it.

Shinji lay there moaning as she continued to caress him, her touch gentle while she worked him to a climax. He opened his eyes as she changed her technique once again, concentrating on the head. The girl’s fist closed around him, her fingers and palm giving constant stimulation. It was too much when her other hand cupped his testicles, kneading them. His body tensed and he gritted his teeth to fight the sensations.

“Asu…” he couldn’t finish saying her name as he released all his pent up passion.

Asuka grinned at the results of her work as he climaxed. She didn’t stop her hand job, picking up the pace, determined to get all she could out of him, even as she felt a hot rush against her hand. Leaning closer, she kissed him lightly on the cheek, groaning as he squeezed her butt, hard. When he finally grew limp in her hand she released him, sliding around in front of him. She smiled nervously when his eyes opened.

“Now it’s my turn,” she said.

The boy watched, tired, as Asuka stood up and stepped out of the tub. He continued to stare as the redhead walked over to the bed, water dripping off her body. She didn’t say anything as she lay on the bed, staring at him and waiting. Shinji got out of the Jacuzzi, dimming the lights, and walked over to her. He paused when he reached the edge of the bed, staring at the gorgeous young woman on it. She lay stretched out, her long, sexy legs crossed at the ankles while she looked up at him, propped up on her elbows. Her skin was a lovely shade of pink while her beautiful, pale mounds shone in the moonlit room. Shinji swallowed as he stared at her beautiful face: the high cheekbones, soft pouting lips, her small delicate nose. But what captivated him the most were her big blue eyes, shining with excitement and desire.

“Still think my face and legs are my best features?”

“I’ll have to think about that now.”

Asuka smiled, looking at him as he stared at her. Licking her lips, she definitely knew he was no longer the little boy she had met years ago. The scrawny chest and arms were gone, replaced by well-defined muscles. His legs were ones of a runner, muscled but not bulging. She blushed as she wondered how good his stamina would be. Her eyes fell lower when she thought of that, staring at his manhood. Smirking, she looked up at him, losing herself in his eyes, always full of love. As he lowered himself onto the bed, she ran a hand down his back like he had done to her.

Shinji gasped when she grabbed him but continued to lower himself until he was just above the woman. He leaned down and kissed her, feeling Asuka wrap an arm around his neck, pulling him down. She snaked her tongue into his mouth, groaning when he captured it with his lips, before darting his own tongue into her mouth. They separated only when he was fully on the bed. Slowly the two young lovers reached out for each other.

The girl stared at him in anticipation, moaning when he cupped one of her breasts. She frowned at feeling his hand quiver.

“Quit trembling, you’ll be fine.” Asuka placed her hand on his, holding it in place. “Just…don’t be rough.”

“Are you sure?” whispered Shinji.

“Yes!”

She shivered as he squeezed her gently before running his fingers over her flesh. Squirming under his touch, she wanted more and was shocked when he stopped. Glaring up at him, she saw him smiling. The redhead gasped when his finger made contact with a small delicate nipple, pressing down on it. Her back arched as he took the erect bud between his fingers and pinched gently. Snuggling against the pillows, she sighed as he cupped both her breasts, his hands brushing over them.

“Don’t tease me anymore,” she begged, her voice trembling after several minutes of his massaging.

Shinji nodded, releasing his hold. He felt Asuka resist when he made her lay on her side, facing away, but soon felt her relax against him. She looked over her shoulder, smiling, as she felt his manhood against her backside. He grinned back as he felt her skin against his torso. Slowly he snaked an arm under her, cupping one of her breasts, and started kneading it. He was careful not to squeeze too hard, knowing the goal was to pleasure her, not hurt her.

The young man couldn’t believe what he was doing with Asuka. Her body was soft and warm, he wanted to hold her forever. It seemed all a unreal, remembering the girl who hated anyone touching or staring at her. Now she was letting him massage her in the most intimate of places, showing her complete trust. Still his hands trembled, testament to his fear of doing something wrong. The thought disappeared when she moaned while he ran his hand over her silky skin on the way to her lower body. Every little sound and movement was a reminder she was enjoying what he was doing. Without stopping he placed a couple of quick kisses on her neck.

The girl’s moans increased as his fingers danced along her stomach, working their way over her body. She trembled as his fingers brushed against the swell of her free breast but never cupping it. The redhead pushed against him harder as he reached her lower body, stroking her slender legs. A groan escaped her lips at his fingers finding a spot behind her knee before working his way up her slender leg to her waist. She started squirming as the pleasure slowly built in her body. Opening her mouth, she was about to tell him to get to work when his hand stroked her inner thigh. Her nails dug into his hand as he worked his way higher, crying out when he made contact.

“Asuka?”

“I’m okay,” she moaned, encouraging him to continue.

“I’m not hurting you?”

“No!” she replied, her fingers resting over his as she guided him. When he began to stroke her moist, delicate petals, the redhead closed her eyes, surrendering to the sensations running through her body.

Shinji lay there gently caressing her warm folds while she mewled in ecstasy, enjoying the feeling of her body as she trembled in his arms. Slowly he spread her lips, letting his middle finger trace small circles around her sensitive flesh. He continued to gently rub her, amazed by her reactions. The girl started writhing against him as he tickled her lightly, before gently sliding his finger into her. He was surprised at how hot and wet her vagina was, as he wiggled his finger before withdrawing. He smiled, listening to the redhead’s fast breathing as she gripped his hand tighter. The man was shocked when she wrapped her leg over him, but returned to pleasuring her. Her body tensed when his finger made contact with her clitoris.

Asuka stared at the far wall, enjoying the feeling of his fingers on her body. He was so gentle with his touches, never groping or playing rough. Here she was, letting a boy touch her most private parts, and she was enjoying it. She could feel her body slowly heating up from her desires and his constant massaging. Every time he touched her warm flesh her pleasure grew.

“Do you like this?” Shinji whispered timidly.

“Mmmhmm,” the redhead moaned when Shinji tickled her clitoris through its hood, caught between pleasure and pain. Pleasure at how good he was making her feel and pain at how strong the pleasure was.

“Harder.”

“What?”

Gripping his hand on her breast she encouraged him to squeeze her harder, groaning when he did. She closed her eyes, concentrating on relaxing after he picked up his stimulation. Her breath caught in her throat when he squeezed her clitoris gently before returning to his stroking. As his finger brushed up against her directly, the sensations overwhelmed her, pushing her over the edge. It felt like something inside of her snapped as she let out a long, piercing scream. Her inner muscles contracted as she orgasmed, her nails digging into Shinji’s hand.

The young man wasn’t ready for what happened when Asuka reached her climax. He thought he had hurt her when she had screamed suddenly and her body went ridged. His hand ached where she had gripped him, and he felt a film of hot fluid on his fingers. Holding her in his arms, he waited for her tremors to subside and her breathing to return to normal. Removing his hand from between her legs, he wiped it off on the sheet behind him, before wrapping his arms around her again. Gently he pulled her onto him, after she had turned to face him again, so they were staring at each other.

Asuka lay on top of Shinji lost in the euphoria of her orgasm. Her body still trembled as pleasure continued to run through her. It had come as a total surprise to the girl, thinking she would have had more signs of reaching her climax. One moment she was moaning as the pleasure continued to grow from fingers stroking her and the next her entire body was a conductor of pleasure and excitement. She was sure there was no way to top what she had just experienced but she reminded herself they hadn’t had sex yet. Her opinion could change when she had experienced everything. For now she looked down weakly at her boyfriend.

“I knew we could find some other uses for those fingers, Shinji,” she purred, suddenly feeling tired. Giving him a small smile, she closed her eyes falling asleep against him, missing his own smile as he covered them.

- - - -

Shinji awoke to bright light and the sound of a door being opened. He had to blink when he opened his eyes, the mirrors reflecting the late morning sun directly into his face. Sitting up, he saw what had woken him. Asuka, with a robe wrapped around her, was at the door to the suite, talking to someone in a quiet voice. He tensed and pulled the sheets tighter around himself, when a man dressed in the uniform of the hotel pushed a small cart into the room. The young man blushed when he made eye contact with the older gentleman, who smiled knowingly before leaving.

“So you’re finally awake,” she commented, walking toward the bed, carrying a bowl of fruit. “Was last night too much for you?” She said the last part with smile on her lips, setting the bowl on the nightstand.

“Nope.”

He reached out and drew her closer, holding Asuka gently in his arms. Shinji didn’t know how one person could mean so much to him and make him feel so lost at the same time. The night before seemed like a blur: from the dance and dinner to the hotel room with the Jacuzzi and champagne. But it was the last part of the night that held the most significance. All the touches and kisses came back to him while he slowly undid her robe, seeing her gorgeous warm body underneath as he pulled it open.

Asuka yelped in surprise when he pulled her down onto the bed, rolling her onto her back. She looked up, dazed, as Shinji straddled her, his hands on her shoulders. The redhead nodded at the unspoken question in his eyes. She had never thought that one person could ever excite her so much or capture her heart like Shinji had done.

“Close your eyes,” instructed Shinji, giving her a kiss on the forehead.

“This had better be good,” she said before snuggling against the pillows.

The redhead chuckled at his mischievous smile and remembering the night before, closed her eyes, relaxing in anticipation of what he would do to her. She frowned when he didn’t move for a few moments. She was about to open her eyes when he shifted around but didn’t as he hadn’t left the bed.

She reached out blindly for his body when she felt his lips on her neck, pulling him closer as he worked his way up, kissing her chin and cheeks tenderly. His tongue ran across her lips, causing her to press back harder against him, all the while rubbing his back. Her eyes opened in surprise when he pulled back, seeing him holding a strawberry in his hand.

“I guess it would have worked out better if I had followed your request,” she muttered, slowly eating the strawberry. She stroked his cheek when she was done. The redhead grinned mischievously. “Though we share it next time in a different way.”

“Okay,” he replied. “So do you…”

“Yes.”

The young man grinned, giving her a kiss before starting his way down her body. He kissed her tenderly over her beautiful upper chest, giving each of her luscious breasts a couple quick kisses. Her wiggling caused him to smile when he kissed around her belly button. Rubbing her shoulders and arms, he traced his way back up between her breasts with his tongue before going back down to her navel. Her back arched and she wrapped her legs around him when he started going lower toward her mound. Shinji placed a couple kisses just above her pubic hair, his hands massaging her lower body, gliding over her smooth skin. Asuka loosened her legs, sitting up when he stopped kissing her, allowing him to come back up to her head.

“I always knew you were a pervert,” she whispered in his ear, while he held her.

“Didn’t you say…”

The woman smirked at his gasp when she made contact with his manhood. She slowly drew her hand up his member, feeling him grow hard at her touch. Pushing Shinji onto his back, she knelt next to him, picking up her pace while her other hand rubbed his chest. Leaning down, she kissed him on the neck listening to his heavy breathing before reaching his lips. Snaking her tongue into his mouth, Asuka stared into his eyes while they kissed, feeling him rubbing her shapely butt with one hand. Breaking the kiss and her touch, she laid on top of him, rubbing her breasts against his chest.

“Does that answer your question?” she asked, getting a moan for an answer. “It’s nice that I can get your full attention with a soft touch.”

Asuka smiled softly, waiting to see what he’d do. She wrapped her arms around him as he gripped her shoulders and rolled, switching their positions so he was above her. She squirmed when he grabbed her arms, holding her in place for a moment as he grinned at her. Her breathing quickened when he released her and he leaned down, placing tender kisses on her breasts, working his way to her small, delicate nipples. Relaxing, the redhead lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling letting the pleasure run through her slim body.

Shinji listened to the young woman whimper, feeling her tremble as his tongue circled around her warm flesh, getting closer to the center. With just the tip he traced around her pink areola before brushing across her nipple, getting the redhead to arch her back. He continued to tease her with feathery touches, feeling the nub of flesh hardening from his work. The young man released Asuka’s arms when he switched to her other breast, repeating his technique, while one hand massaged the pale mound he had just left.

“Looks like I’m not the only one to get hard at a gentle touch,” he commented, giving her erect nubs a kiss. “And it wasn’t nice what you did to me.”

“So how do you want to correct that transgression, Shinji?” she asked, smirking.

His fingers traced over the delicate skin of her thigh before he replied. “We could just repeat last night.”

“Such a boring little boy, aren’t you? Don’t you have an imagination?” She grinned at his expression. “Care to join me in the shower?”

Minutes later, the aroused teens were surrounded by sprays of hot water, their lips locked together in a passionate kiss. Asuka slowly backed away from Shinji, a grin on her face as she altered the settings of the shower. Soon the enclosure was filled with a gentle mist, keeping their bodies slick with moisture. Licking her lips, the redhead grabbed the body shampoo and a wash cloth, advancing on the young man. Her eyes dropped to his hardness and she wondered how much longer she could wait.

“Hey!” she protested when he grabbed the lathered cloth out of her hands. “You were…”

“Umm…I went first yesterday,” he whispered.

She smiled. “Ladies first, huh?”

“I guess so.” Still his hand shook lightly at what he was going to do.

“Then stop shaking,” she said, wrapping her arms around his neck. “You’re not going to hurt me.”

“I know,” he replied. “And you’re trembling also.”

“Not as much as you.” She smirked suddenly.

Shinji watched as the redhead broke contact with him and turned her back to him, placing her hands against the wall. The way rivulets of water slid down her body and how her smooth skin had taken on a pink hue once again was almost too much for the young man. It took a lot of willpower to resist asking her to go all the way when she looked over her shoulder, her auburn hair sticking to her skin.

“Come on,” she told him giving him a small nervous smile.

Shaking his head, he closed the distance between them, dropping to a knee behind her. Working slowly, he ran the cloth up her long, slender legs, covering them in white lather while working his way up her body.

The redhead groaned in frustration as he avoided massaging her wet petals, instead running his hands over her firm rear, kneading her flesh. As his fingers ran up her back and up over her shoulders, Asuka found herself again slipping into a state of complete relaxation at his actions. She trembled when he leaned against her back, feeling his erection pressed against her butt, his hands slipping around to her front. Looking over her shoulder, she tried to stop shaking, seeing he was just as nervous as she was. Pleasure rose as slick fingers traced over the curves of her breasts, brushing against her erect nipples. A whimper escaped her lips when he pinched one of the hardened nubs, grabbing his hand when he pulled on it.

“Sorry,” mumbled Shinji at her glare.

She smiled as she turned around. “It’s all right. Just remember…”

“Be gentle.”

They both laughed when Shinji completed her instructions; the mood relaxed further. The young man looked her over, his breath catching in his throat at having a gorgeous woman for a girlfriend. He found himself lost in her big blue eyes, forgetting what he was supposed to do until she brought him back with a kiss and a touch. She wrapped an arm around his neck, getting their bodies to touch as he ran the cloth over her lovely skin. She started wiggling as he crossed over her flat stomach.

A long shuddering moan escaped her lips when the cloth rubbed over her hips, slowly working inward. Asuka felt Shinji cup one of her round breasts with his free hand, and squeeze gently when he made contact with her wet petals. She started squirming when the cloth was replaced with slick fingers, gliding up and down her lips. Reaching down she took his hardness in her hand, slowly stroking when she felt the man spread her labia. She kissed Shinji hard as they continued to pleasure each other, their hands remembering the pleasurable places.

Asuka groaned into the kiss when he made contact with her sensitive clitoris. Her breathing became faster as he stroked the little nub through its hood. Remembering the night before, she picked up the pace, not knowing how soon she’d reach her climax. She smiled at the expression on his face as he tried to hold back. Concentrating on just his hard shaft, she gripped him harder staring into his eyes. A whimper escaped their kiss when his finger made direct contact, giving slow steady stimulation. Each knew the other couldn’t last much longer and increased their pace.

Both broke the kiss at the same time; their mouths open gasping for breath. Asuka again let out a long, shuddering moan as she orgasmed. She felt her body trembling as it succumbed to the orgasm. Her nails dug into Shinji’s shoulder, feeling his hardened penis pulse in her other hand. Pain shot through her chest as Shinji squeezed her breast, lost in his own climax. When her orgasm died, she leaned against Shinji for support, feeling him do the same.

The young man pulled back and looked at Asuka, passion and excitement still flooding his mind and body. He felt this session was better than the night before. Her body had taken on a rosy color from the pleasure and the heat of the shower. As they stood there catching their breaths, he wrapped his arms around her wet body; her breasts rubbing against his chest, eliciting slight moans from the redhead. He froze as she gently stroked him, rubbing the head of his penis against her mound. Feeling she wanted more he slid one of his hands down her back, gliding between the firm cheeks of her butt.

“No, Shinji.”

“But…”

“I said no,” she replied firmly before smirking at his expression. “You’ve already made enough of a mess today.”

The young man glanced down between them to see her fingers wiping at her legs. He blushed, realizing his semen had landed on her thigh. Kneeling down, he grabbed the wash cloth, which had landed behind them. With careful movements he wiped off her pristine body. His breath caught in his throat when she shifted, giving him a view of the treasure between her legs. Asuka gave him a smile when he looked up.

- - - -

“Do you regret it?”

Shinji stopped rubbing Asuka’s shoulders at her question, embracing her when she looked back at him. The sunlight flooded the room and sounds of the city could be heard through the open balcony doors. His memory of their recent activities was fresh in his mind and he knew it wasn’t going to fade soon. Still she had asked a very important question.

“A little,” he admitted. “But not enough to leave you or get depressed over it.” The boy rested his chin on her shoulder as she leaned back. “Still I think it was good it happened.”

She gripped his arms tighter. “What do you mean by that?”

“Well instead of letting our frustrations keep building to the point where we’d break our promise, we blew off a little steam.”

“A little!?” The girl turned bright red at his statement.

“Do you regret it, Asuka?” he asked quietly, worried at her answer.

She shook her head. “No. I want to say I regretted it, but I can’t.” The girl sniffled. “I can’t because…”

The young man crossed to her front in time to see a tear escape her closed eyes. She was trembling and biting her lower lip, looking completely vulnerable. Yet as he was about to touch the girl, her eyes opened.

“Because I love you too much.”

“Asuka?” He didn’t know what else to say at her admission.

“I love you too much to regret what we did.” She wiped at her tears. “Damn it! If I regretted it that’d mean that this last year has been a lie. I’d be telling myself that my life since waking up has been fake.” The teen shook her head. “And I don’t want that.”

Shinji stared at his girlfriend as she cried, reaching out to grab her, pulling her close. She kept sniffling as she rested against him, her face pressed against his neck. But for all her crying and talking about the night before, all he had heard was that she loved him and that was all that mattered.

“I’m pathetic, aren’t I, Shinji?” she asked, quietly.

“No, you’re not.”

Asuka pulled away, looking into his eyes. “Yes, I am. It took me over a year to tell you that I love you. A whole stupid year! And only after we did something intimate.” She was trembling now. “If that isn’t pathetic, than I don’t know what…”

Shinji cut off her protests, kissing her, hard. “The thing that matters is you finally admitted it, not just to me but to yourself,” he told her after they were done. “And I would love you even if you never told me.”

“Stop lying, Shinji. I can tell you were worried I’d never tell you.”

“Okay, so I was,” he admitted, backing away. “Still it wouldn’t change how I feel about you.” The young man looked at the room and sighed wistfully. “We better get going. Misato’s probably read over the preliminary report from Section 2 already. If we don’t get moving she’s not going to have any fingers left.”

“Yeah,” Asuka replied, moving to the door, stopping before she opened it. “Just a minute.”

Shinji watched as she dug a box out of her purse, blushing when she showed it to him. Opening the container, she removed one of the condoms, ripping open the wrapping. He stood, puzzled as she unrolled it before handing it to him. Holding it, he looked between the condom and Asuka.

“Well go on, spit in it. And make sure you get a lot or no one will be fooled,” she commanded, opening another package.

Shrugging his shoulders, the man got to work in generating a large quantity of saliva. When he was on the verge of swallowing he grabbed the condom. Careful not to touch his lips to it, he let a steady stream of saliva flow into the prophylactic. He looked at Asuka to see that she was doing the same on the other condom, but with a blank face. When they were done she went back to the bed, stretched out on it and dropped the condoms at arms-length over the side.

Standing up, she scattered the rest of the condoms on the floor, tossing the box next to the garbage can. The girl knew that at least one person on the cleaning crew would be from NERV and once they made their report Misato would go crazy. When she returned to his side, the teen was smiling and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

“You know it’s not nice to play with Misato’s mind like that,” he commented.

“Are you going to tell her?” she asked.

“Nope.”

- - - -

February 2020

“That jerk!”

Misato sighed, looking up from the television to see Asuka storming down the hall. The teen’s tone of voice and her words were enough to warn the older woman that any chance of a night of relaxation was gone. She had finally gotten a weekend off, though Hyuga was gone for a class and all she had had planned was to do some light drinking, eating take-out and watching movies. What she had not planned on was for Shinji to upset Asuka in some minor way. Now she was going to pay for that oversight as the teen sat down next to her with a huff.

“Asuka, what’s…”

“I can’t believe the nerve of that guy. He’s gone for two weeks in December to study for entrance exams.” The girl threw up her arms. “Then he locks himself in his room until he’s done taking the stupid tests.”

“They’re not stupid,” Misato said quietly. “He needs to make sure that he scores…

“Don’t give me that,” the girl growled. “The idiot scored in the top ten on the first battery. Not in the top ten percent of the test takers, but in the top ten students. He’s already guaranteed himself a slot at Kyoto University. The same with Tokyo-2 University.”

The older woman closed her eyes, counting to ten before opening them. “Shinji just wants to make sure he lives up to your expectations.” She saw that was the wrong thing to say. “Just wait…”

“My expectations?” The redhead repeated. “My expectations of him are real simple. As long as he does his best I don’t care what he is.”

“To him, it’s not that simple. He wants to be someone that others can look up to.” Misato took a sip from her can of beer. “So have you put in your applications?”

The girl nodded. “Already sent in and I’ve been accepted at three colleges. Just have to wait…” She trailed off, “Guess I have been putting pressure on him.”

“Yep,” agreed Misato.

“Still it doesn’t give him the right to push me away.” Asuka paused, standing. “Only one way to take care of that.”

The older woman turned to watch the redhead walk away from the couch and down the hall. The sound of a door being forcefully opened soon reached her as she saw the teen disappear into Shinji’s room. A surprised squawk came from the boy and a quiet reply from the girl. Their conversation went on for a few minutes before Asuka reappeared dragging a reluctant Shinji behind her. She kept ignoring his protests as she stopped at the couch.

“Idiot boy and I will be gone for awhile so don’t worry.” With that the pair turned and walked to the door. Well one walked and other was dragged.

Misato sighed as the door closed behind the teens. “I got my peace and quiet.”

“Asuka, what are you doing,” protested Shinji as they left the apartment building. “I need to…”

The boy’s eyes flew open and he coughed when the woman slammed him against the side of the building. He started to protest until he saw the look in her eyes. She grabbed his chin and held the young man in place when he tried to turn his head. Leaning closer until their noses touched, the redhead didn’t say anything, only frowning. They stayed like that for a few seconds until Asuka smiled faintly.

“Listen. Studying is fine, especially for something as important as college but there is a limit. Burning yourself out isn’t going to do you any good,” she told him calmly. “Your test is in two days and if you don’t know it by now you’re never going to know it, so relax.” The girl pulled on his arm, smiling. “You don’t have to get all tense now.”

The young man slid his hand down to hers, intertwining their fingers. “I guess you’re right.”

“I’m always right, Shinji,” the redhead said, smirking.

“Still this is a big decision for me.”

The teens exited the parking lot of the apartment complex and headed out into the hills behind it. Ten minutes later they had reached the top of the hill and sat facing away from the city. They had discovered that watching the city was neither fun nor interesting so they had started staring out into the countryside. It was a clear moonless evening and the teens could see for miles, the various houses standing out in the distance. Shinji sat there quietly, his arms wrapped around his legs, staring blankly into the distance. He jumped when Asuka put an arm around him.

“Come on, don’t sulk. We haven’t talked or done anything together lately.”

“I know. It’s just that this is very important,” he said, lying on his back, feeling Asuka copying him.

“I agree choosing a college is a significant decision but what makes Kyoto University so important?”

Shinji sat up, looking off in the distance. “My mother and father went there. You could say I want to follow in their footsteps.”

“I hope not!” exclaimed Asuka. “Your mother’s dead and your father’s in jail. I don’t want you to become like them.” She calmed down at his expression. “What about Tokyo-2?”

“Misato.”

“Oh.”

The silence lasted a few minutes as the young adults sat there, lost in thought. Shinji glanced at Asuka who had a distant look on her face and moved closer. He frowned when she flinched at his touch after he put an arm around her. The scowl disappeared when she smiled and rested a hand on his leg.

“What about you?” he inquired. “Did you go to the same school as your mother or father.”

“No.” She shook her head angrily. “I hated both of them back then. There was no way I’d go the same school as them. And I made sure my degree was different.”

The redhead broke from Shinji’s embrace, standing and walking down the hill a short distance. Her hair blew in the light breeze while she stared out into the countryside. Even the sound of footsteps coming closer didn’t make her look back at her companion. When he stopped beside her, the woman didn’t look, only moving her hand to grip his gently. At his sigh, she glanced over at him to see a worried look on his face.

“What’s wrong, Asuka?”

“Nothing.”

“Something’s on your mind,” he stated to her blunt reply.

“It’s nothing important, just thinking.”

Shinji smiled. “About what?”

“The past, the future. How I hated my childhood and how much I wanted to become an adult.” She gripped his hand tighter. “In a couple months we’ll be adults in the eyes of the law, with adult responsibilities. We’ll soon have to make some mature decisions that’ll affect us the rest of our lives.”

“We’ll be okay.” He hugged her tightly. “We always make the right decisions.”

- - - -

Late October 2020

“Can you get that, Shinji?”

The young man stopped typing and looked up from the computer to stare at Asuka. She was stretched out on the floor watching television and eating a bag of potato chips. He didn’t flinch as the redhead sat up, annoyed when the doorbell rang again, and glared at him. Shinji was determined not to give into her commands this time; the paper he was writing was top priority. Slowly, he shook his head when she gave him a cute pout and crossed her arms.

“I’m busy,” he told her calmly.

“And I’m not?” She stood up and advanced on him. “Do I have to remind you I was at the lab all day? Or how I have to grade papers for a couple of professors.”

“No, you don’t have to remind me but…” He grinned slyly. “Since you’re up you might as well get the door.”

“Idiot,” growled Asuka.

The redhead turned from her roommate and strode to the door, her fists clenched. She couldn’t believe she had fallen into such an easy trap. Glancing over her shoulder, the woman saw Shinji staring at her with desire, feeling the same. They both had been too busy in the last months to do anything or even plan a special trip. She muttered under breath as the doorbell rang once again. Whoever had interrupted her leisure time was surely going to pay. Wrenching open the door, she prepared to chew out the offender.

“What the hell do you…” Her rant stopped when she saw who it was. “Oh, it’s you two.”

“Such a warm welcome, Asuka,” a woman said before grabbing the redhead.

“Ahh, let go, Misato.”

The young woman struggled out of the hug her former roommate had wrapped her in, pointing to the man at the computer. Standing off to the side, she watched with smile when Shinji was smothered in a bigger hug. She shared a knowing look with Hyuga as he entered the apartment, closing the door behind him. As they approached the pair, the redhead felt a twinge of jealously at how Misato was acting with her boyfriend. With a frown she pushed herself between them, getting a laugh from the older woman.

“I’m not going to steal him.”

“Like I’d let you take him.” The redhead brightened a little. “So what’s with the visit? You could’ve called so we’d run to the store.”

NERV’s Sub-Commander grinned. “That’s why it’s called a surprise visit. What fun would it be if you knew we were coming?”

Hyuga chuckled. “Don’t worry we brought dinner.” He looked at the younger man. “You do have a grill, don’t you?”

Shinji nodded and saved his paper before shutting the computer down and heading to the dining room. The other three adults followed him, crowding into the small room. Misato quickly designated certain tasks for everyone there, shooing the males out onto the balcony while she guided Asuka to the kitchen. The kitchen filled with the sounds of food being prepared, but empty of conversation.

“So have you and Shinji done it yet?” Misato asked after minutes of silence. “I remember the looks you two would give each other before you moved out.”

“Misato!” The redhead turned, red in the face. “How could you ask such a thing?”

“What? I’m just inquiring into the well being of two NERV officers.” She smiled. “After all it is important you two have a healthy relationship, especially when sex is involved.”

“Still you just don’t show up for a visit and bring up a subject like that,” Asuka stated. “Have you no sense of decency?”

“Of course I do, but…”

“It’s none of your business,” growled the redhead. “We’ve been too busy with school, moving, and work.”

“Well I got my answer. Besides it’s not my fault you both bought new cars and wanted to live in an apartment instead of the dorms.” She paused lifting the lid on the soup. “If you had done what I asked, you’d have plenty of free-time.”

“Is that what this visit is about? Whether we’ve had sex yet?” Asuka frowned at the thought. “You could have just called and saved yourself a trip.

“I’ve missed the two of you; the apartment seems too empty now. But…” The violet haired woman turned from the stove. “No. We came to tell you some news and give you two something.” She moved next to Asuka. “So is it only your lack of free-time that has stopped you from going all the way, or something else?” She grinned before whispering. “Still scared?”

“You’re impossible! No, I’m not scared anymore, Misato!” snapped Asuka, before blushing. “I’m finally ready, and I know he’s ready. But it has to be…” The redhead shook her head slightly. “Why am I even trying to explain anything, you wouldn’t understand what this means to us.”

“I think I do.” The older woman paused. “You know you could just rent the same suite you did for after the dance?”

“No. That was something completely different.” The younger woman glared at Misato. “Which reminds me. I never thanked you for that special physical the next day.”

“You deserved it after the stunt you two pulled.” The woman shook a finger at the redhead before grabbing her again. “I just want what’s best for you two.”

“I know.” Asuka felt herself blush as she broke from the embrace. “Still you don’t have to hug me so much?” She looked at Misato, who was failing to hide a grin. “So you going to tell me the real reason you’re here?”

“Nope.” The woman’s smile grew wider.

“You have something planned, don’t you?”

The older woman turned around, laughing. “I’m not telling you anything, Asuka.”

“You’re no fun,” pouted the redhead.

- - - -

Shinji leaned against the railing of the balcony, staring out across the brightly lit city. He remembered how hard it had been to fall asleep when they first moved into the apartment. The shades hadn’t been able to block all of the light, so their rooms never completely got dark. It had been only one of many adjustments they had to make in moving into a city instead of living on the outskirts of one. Misato’s visit had reminded him how much he had enjoyed the quietness of her apartment. But that wasn’t the only thing forcing him out to balcony instead of sleeping next to Asuka.

“Marriage. I can’t believe it,” he muttered to himself.

It had come as a shock when Hyuga had told them he was quitting NERV. The rumors and complaints had grown too much for the couple to perform their duties properly. The two loved each other and were not about to break it off; instead deciding retirement was the easiest solution. That bit of news had been enough to stun him and Asuka but it was only the beginning. Soon after telling them he was quitting, Misato had broken the news of their engagement by showing off her ring. That had resulted in the two younger adults being shocked speechless. They had never thought their guardian would get married. In fact they had stayed up late talking about it and their own plans for the future, but had reached no conclusion.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

Shinji jumped at the quiet voice next to his ear just before Asuka gave him a quick hug. She leaned forward grinning, flicking his nose with a finger. The redhead had woken up, missing the heat of the young man sleeping next to her, and saw him standing at the balcony. Whatever he had been thinking about must have been important because he never realized she was behind him. But that wasn’t what was making her grin; it was the way he was looking at her.

“What are you staring at?” she asked.

“Just you,” he admitted. “I do like your other attire better.”

Though she was still beautiful dressed in red boxers and a blue halter-top, he liked her better in her lingerie. He found his eyes roaming over the redhead, taking in her beauty. The light made her creamy skin even more beautiful, while her hair glowed in the lights of the city. The woman grinned wider at the admission and his look. Leaning forward, she kissed him hard on the lips, grinning to herself. All the looks they received when they hugged and kissed in public came back to her, amusing the redhead. She didn’t care if others thought that kissing or hugging was improper in public, she obeyed only her own rules. Breaking the kiss, she pressed herself against, shivering at the cold on her back.

“Don’t worry, I’ll go back to my usual attire when we go on the trip.” She glanced back, grinning. “Remember what I said at the dance.”

“I remember,” he said blushing. “Speaking of the trip…”

“Don’t worry,” she told him. “We’ll enjoy ourselves.”

The engagement and retirement weren’t the only surprises the older couple had for Asuka and Shinji. After the shock had worn off and they were sitting around talking about the news, Misato had pulled out a large manila envelope and handed it to Asuka. When the redhead had opened the packet she had sat there stunned at what they had been given. A paid ten-day trip to Vienna, right after finals were over. The younger couple had asked what the occasion was but were only told they deserved a vacation and what better place than Europe. Asuka had realized then what Misato had been smiling about earlier in the kitchen.

“I’m just wondering why they spent that much money on us,” Shinji said. “It’s like she wants to get rid of us.”

“Don’t be stupid. Misato still loves us. It’s probably her way of saying we deserve to get away from everything for once,” the redhead said, glancing over her shoulder. “Unless you’re saying you don’t want to spend ten days alone with me in a foreign country.”

The man bent his head, kissing Asuka. “Of course I do. It’s just that…” He paused for a moment. “Never mind. I’m sure we’ll find ways to entertain ourselves.”

“You’re right about that, Shinji,” whispered the redhead, smiling to herself.

- - - -

December 2020

“I’m done.”

Shinji looked up from his meal to see Asuka setting down her fork and pushing her plate away. He frowned, seeing she had barely touched the food, normally she’d eat twice as much as he would. But tonight she had eaten a salad and taken a small portion of the main course. She had also held herself to a single glass of wine, seeming to savor the taste with each sip. To say it was unusual was true but the man had seen her do many things she normally didn’t do on their trip so far.

“Is something wrong?”

The quiet voice with a touch of worry broke him out of his introspection and he looked up. His shook his head slightly as he looked at the gorgeous woman in front of him. When she had come out of the bedroom earlier he had thought only an angel could match her beauty. That thought was again going through his mind as she stood behind her chair, hands crossed on the top of it as she looked at him. Her shiny auburn hair cascaded over her shoulders while blue eyes twinkled as she smiled. The modest white dress matched her creamy skin perfectly and presented an image of innocence. He frowned, remembering she had asked a question.

“Just you’ve barely touched your food.”

The redhead chewed on her bottom lip, her fingers dancing. “I…I just have something on my mind.” She smiled briefly. “It’s nothing to get worried over.”

With those words she turned around, slowly striding over to the bedroom door. Asuka could feel Shinji’s eyes on her backside and smiled to herself, putting a little more movement into her walk. Still her hands were busy in front of her body, away from his view. The redhead didn’t like the butterflies in her stomach but knew there was no way to get rid of them. Well there was one way but she wasn’t going to use it. Pausing in front of the door, she looked over her shoulder, smiling mischievously.

“Don’t take too long coming to bed.”

Shinji watched her white clad body disappear into the room, leaving the door open behind her. Smiling to himself he stood and went over to the large French doors leading out to the balcony and looked at the scene in front of him. Snow capped mountains rose far into the night sky lit by the half moon climbing to its own zenith. A turn to the left showed Vienna far in the distance, sprawling out in all directions. The mountains displayed the beauty of nature, and also its might. The city was man’s attempt at copying the beauty of nature with its grand designs, and the bright lights. As he looked at the scene out the windows, he listened to the crackle of fire in the background.

“Shinji, you coming to bed?”

The man turned from the view, frowning when he heard Asuka call his name, not realizing how long he had been standing there. His feet made no sound as he crossed the thick rug to the open door leading to the bedroom. Taking a step into the large room, he started closing the door before remembering no one would disturb them. Looking at the door, he chuckled at his foolishness and took another step into the room he had been sharing with Asuka for the past four days. His laugh disappeared at the scene in front of him.

The room’s lights had been dimmed and moonlight shone through the large, arched windows, illuminating the room with a pale silver light. Yellow points flickered and danced from candles placed on each side of the large bed. Bouquets of flowers, bought that day, filled the room with their light scent. Yet all that was of no importance as he approached the side of the bed, his eyes fastened on the woman laying in the middle. The white negligee only accented the beauty of her stunning body, pale shoulders showed while her ample chest pressed against the fabric. More of her lovely skin was exposed, as long, slender legs lay bare on top of the silk sheets. Her illustrious auburn hair trailed down the woman’s back, a few strands resting on a smooth cheek. Blue eyes twinkled in the light when she patted the bed next to her.

“Asuka?” His voice held a hint of nervousness as he sat on the edge.

“You know I won’t hurt you.” Her voice was soft, almost a whisper.

Shinji swallowed when she sat up, the cloth riding up her hips. He nodded as her fingers traced lightly over his hand, barely touching his skin. Carefully, he slid onto the bed, laying on his side in front of her, waiting to see what she would do next. What Asuka did next wasn’t what he had been expecting. She pushed him flat before snuggling against him, her head resting on his chest. Both remained silent as her fingers traced over his chest, plucking at the buttons of his shirt, and he wrapped an arm around her slender body.

“I remember when I never wanted to get close to anyone,” she started minutes later. “You’ve been with me the longest, not counting mama.” Asuka smiled faintly. “Four years is a lot of memories. You’ve made me angry and sad at times. At other times you’ve made me feel worthless…shhh.” She placed a finger on his lips. “You also make me feel like the most important person in the world. But you’ve given me the thing that matters the most, your love.”

Shinji tightened his hold on the redhead. “That’ll never change.”

“I know.” She lifted herself a little, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek, before returning to her former position. Asuka looked at him sadly. “And you still loved me after that incident.”

“I already explained…”

“Be quiet, Shinji. I’m talking here.”

“Sorry.”

Asuka glared at him for a moment, then smiled. She lay against him soaking up his body heat, content to stay in the comfort he was providing. Yet she knew she would have to move soon to finish telling him what she wanted. And that was what was scary. The redhead didn’t know what his reaction would be. Fear was still in the back of her mind because of the importance of her proposal, and she was afraid he would misinterpret it. Once they breached that last barrier, things would never be the same again.

“But that only made me love you more.” She paused. “It also made it harder for me to wait.”

“Asuka?” Shinji stared at the redhead when she looked up. “Are you…”

The woman rolled on top of him, shivering at the cold air on her back, contrasting with the heat coming from the warm body underneath her. Staring into dark blue eyes, she ignored the slight shaking of her body as she built up her courage. Taking a deep breath, she opened her mouth to speak but laughed when fingers traced along her ribs, tickling her. Glaring at the man, she grabbed his arms, forcing his hands away from her body for a moment. Releasing him, she smiled sadly, letting his hands return to her beautiful body. Sighing in relief when his fingers danced along her lower back, the redhead stared at Shinji.

“I think I’m as…ready as I’ll ever be,” she finally told him, working on his shirt.

He felt her reach the last of the buttons, a hand slipping under the cloth and running across his chest. The shaking he felt from the redhead was mutual.

She pulled his shirt out of his pants, staring at him the whole time. “This is one of those decisions I was talking about earlier. So if you don’t want to do…”

Shinji reached up stroking her hair, causing her to stop and smile nervously. His hand trembled, knowing what she was saying. He could also feel the slight tremor in her hands as she pulled his shirt off. When Asuka started undoing his pants, he lay there watching her with wide eyes. Sky-blue eyes held him in place as she moved upward, her mouth coming closer. The man felt her breath on his lips when she stopped millimeters from his own. With the barest of movements he raised up, bringing their lips together, feeling Asuka tremble before she relaxed into the kiss. He held onto her gently, feeling her holding his head.

The young couple moaned, their kiss becoming more enthusiastic, their bodies heating up. Shinji slid a hand over the cloth covering the redhead’s soft body, trailing it up her back. He felt her tremble and almost break the kiss when he reached her shapely posterior, caressing the warm flesh. Instead blue eyes narrowed in amusement before closing as she suckled on his lips, moaning at the touch. He closed his eyes when the redhead continued to kiss him. One hand moved to her slender neck, holding her gently while they remained locked together. He found himself moaning when she slid her tongue into his mouth and returned the favor. As their tongues battled, he couldn’t believe the intensity of their kiss. It was like all their other kisses had been little pecks between children.

Asuka started gyrating her pelvis against his, groaning at the sensations going through her body, feeling him getting harder. The sensations only made the kiss more intense as she suckled his lips. It scared her that she wanted Shinji so badly, and at the same time it was exciting. She had never wanted anyone as much as him, to want him physically. Continuing to kiss him, sliding her tongue into his mouth, the redhead knew she had made the right decision when they became a couple. Her hands slipped under his shoulders, pulling him closer against her, feeling his body heat through the satin material. A string of saliva connected them for a moment when she finally broke the kiss.

“I love you so much, Shinji.” She placed her mouth next to his ear. “And I want all of you,” Asuka whispered, huskily.

The man tensed at her voice and admission.

“Shinji?” Her voice held a hint of worry. She lifted herself up, kneeling, and staring down at his face

“I want you too, Asuka,” he said, after sitting up. “I love all of you, not just your physical beauty but your personality too.” He smiled at her expression. “You bring so much into my life each day.”

She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek.

The two sat there for a few moments waiting for the other to make the first move. Smiling nervously, Shinji moved closer to the woman, coming to a stop when he was in front of her and their knees were touching. His eyes wandered over her exquisite body before coming to rest on her face. Despite her words, she wouldn’t hold his gaze and her smile was a little forced. With a light touch his fingers ran up her arms, coming to rest on her shoulders, feeling the tight muscles under her smooth skin.

As they sat there, he knew he couldn’t deny her wishes or desires without hurting her. She was the most beautiful person he had ever known and loved in his entire life, both in body and soul, strong yet fragile at the same time. And she had just told him she wanted all of him, and he had said the same. As he rubbed her shoulders getting her to relax. Leaning forward he brushed her silky hair over a pale shoulder.

“I love you, Asuka.”

The redhead smiled at those words, his tone carrying the emotions regardless of the words he chose. Something had changed as they had sat there, looking at each other. He was finally ready and it made Asuka want to cry in joy. A couple of tears slid down her cheeks as she reached out for him, holding him gently. She felt his hands move from her shoulders to her back, leaving a trail of warmth as they moved downward before coming to rest at her waist. Her body trembled at the touch, knowing what was happening and what was soon to come.

“Don’t stop.” Her voice wavered. “I want do to this, Shin…mmmm.”

Her voice died as their lips met in a kiss filled with desire. A moan came from the redhead as she suckled on his lips, one hand on the back of Shinji’s head, keeping him in place. Her other hand traced over his torso, her nails scratching his skin ever so lightly, feeling him tremble at her touch. His own hands were busy on her body as he rubbed her smooth skin. The redhead found his trembling hands to be somewhat exciting yet she was aware he wasn’t the only one nervous. She stopped at the waist of his boxers, scared suddenly at what was going to happen. Looking at him, she saw shock on his face for an instant when she pushed the material downward, finally pulling it off with his help.

“You can’t do it with these on.”

Shinji gasped, when her hand gripped his erection and began stroking him. He was aware that her other hand had moved from the back of his head to his chest. A moan escaped his lips at the sensations running through his body at her gentle touch. As she continued to stroke him, he slid one hand under the hem of her negligee squeezing the warm flesh of her tight butt while his other continued to rub a tone, slender leg. When she trembled and moaned at his touch, Shinji looked at her, seeing her nod after a moment. Stopping his gentle caresses, he gripped the nightgown and slowly drew it upward, exposing her stunning body to the cool air. She had to stop her own rubbing, lifting her arms so he could remove the garment.

“You’re…gorgeous,” he whispered.

Those were the only words that could describe her once the thin negligee had been removed, baring her exquisite body to his view. Her creamy skin glowed in the light of the moon and candles, making her seem almost like an illusion. His eyes looked over her with desire and love. From her luscious breasts over her flat stomach to her mound, and finally over the gentle swell of her hips; she was the definition of perfection. Lightly he placed a hand over her heart, feeling her quiver at his touch.

“I mean it, Asuka. You’re the most beautiful person I have ever known.”

“I know,” she replied smiling before gently removing his hand from her chest and wrapping her arms around him.

She sat there waiting, worrying about what his inaction meant until his arms moved to her back. She guided him to the sheets, never releasing the hold on him until they lay on the bed facing each other. Watching his face, she removed a hand from his neck and brought it to rub his torso. As her fingers massaged his chest, she moved closer before draping a leg over one of his own. Eyes widened for a moment at the unexpected touch as her silky skin rubbed against him.

Shinji lay beside Asuka losing himself in the sensations of her gentle caresses. He trembled at the feeling of her smooth skin as she rubbed against his leg. Her body quivered when he finally shifted and returned the soft touch. Fingers slid down her side over her ribs and across her flat stomach, making a couple circles around her belly button as they made their way downward. He felt her tense when his fingers glided over the sensitive flesh of her mound. Nails dug into his chest and she gasped when he made contact with her inner thigh, stroking the soft flesh.

“Sorry,” she whispered, kissing him. A look of disappointment crossed her face when he stopped. “What are you…”

Asuka found out what he was doing when he gently pushed her onto her back and climbed above her. Staring up at him, she stroked his cheek lightly as he lowered himself. A moan escaped her mouth when his fingers returned to massaging her legs, working their way inward and upward. She lay on her back with eyes closed, feeling her tension draining as the pleasure slowly built within her. It wasn’t like what they had done after the dance. As she rubbed his neck, Asuka knew this time was different. A whimper escaped her lips when a hand traced over the smooth flesh of her bust, brushing against an erect nipple.

Watching pleasure and excitement cross her face, Shinji took one of her breasts in hand, kneading the warm flesh. Each time his thumb brushed against a small pink nipple, a gasp escaped from her mouth. Continuing to massage her chest for a few minutes, alternating between breasts, he finally lowered his head to one, placing kisses on the pale mound, feeling her quiver at the touch. Slowly, with each kiss, he worked his way inward until finally reaching the erect nub. The tip of his tongue traced around her areola, getting the woman to arch her back and growl in frustration as he teased her.

A cry of pain came from Asuka when he gently bit down. She held his head in her hands when he looked up in surprise and worry, drawing him up. Slowly she locked her lips against his, sliding her tongue into his mouth and moaning into the kiss when he went back to playing with her breasts. His touches were softer, slower so as not to hurt her unintentionally. She had to break the kiss when he stopped rubbing her legs, finally making contact with her moist folds. His fingers rubbed her flesh in gentle strokes, letting the pleasure build slowly. Gently he spread her lips, never stopping his rubbing as he let a finger trail up her inner labia. A frustrated whimper came from her lips as he avoided her most sensitive spot.

Shinji relaxed when she started wiggling underneath him, her breath becoming faster as he rubbed her soft petals. He had been worried the mood and night had been ruined when she had cried out. That was not the case as was evident when she gripped his neck tighter with one hand, moaning. His own excitement grew from hearing those simple sounds coming from the woman. Leaning down he pressed his lips against hers, muffling a cry of pleasure as he spread her moist petals letting his thumb brush against her clitoris. He watched her close her eyes, surrendering to the sensations running through her body.

She broke the kiss, crying out in pleasure as his fingers gently squeezed the little nub before letting go. The stimulation kept building as he returned to stroking her, his thumb brushing against her sensitive spot every few strokes. She tensed when a finger slid into her, mewling at the sensations. It was too much for her body to handle and Asuka’s eyes clenched shut as her orgasm hit. Her vaginal muscles clenched around the invading finger, while her body quivered in pleasure.

The young man watched as her eyes cracked open and she gave him a dreamy smile. Returning the grin he bent down and kissed her tenderly over her upper chest, giving each of her luscious breasts a couple quick kisses before slowly moving. Her wiggling prompted him to smile when he kissed around her belly button. Rubbing her shoulders and arms, he traced his way back up between her breasts, his lips making contact every couple inches before going back down to her navel. Her back arched and she wrapped her legs around him when he started going lower toward her mound. He placed a couple kisses just above her pubic hair, his hands massaging her lower body, gliding over smooth skin.

“Shinji.”

Asuka saw the man stop his massage and look up. Lifting her arms, she beckoned for him, seeing him flash a nervous smile before moving toward her upper body. Gently she pulled him down until she could feel his breath on her neck. One hand traced up and down his back feeling the tight muscles quiver at the light touch, but as she continued her work she felt him relax. With her other hand she played with his hair, letting it slide between her fingers before ruffling it into a tousled mess. Her lips made brief contact with his neck and shoulder.

“We both want this,” she whispered in his ear.

“I know.” His voice wavered.

“Then what’s the matter?”

He lifted himself up and looked into her eyes. “Just a little scared.”

Her laugh was full of amusement. Gripping him by the shoulders, she pulled him back down. “And I’m not? This is very important to me, giving myself to you.” She kissed his cheek. “We’ve been working toward this moment for a long time. It’s the natural progression of a relationship. You go from friends to a couple to…”

“Lovers.”

“Yes.”

He stared into her wide-eyes. “I love you, Asuka.”

“And I love you, Shinji.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.” He swallowed nervously.

“It can’t be helped.”

“I’ll be gentle.”

She pulled him down until her mouth was next to his ear. “I know but whatever happens, don’t stop unless I tell you to.” He tensed in her hands.

“I promise.”

Shinji watched as Asuka snuggled deeper into the soft bed, looking up at him as he moved between her legs. Their eyes met again and she nodded to him. His fingers rubbed over the soft skin of her slender legs, feeling her tremble at his touch. Slowly he worked toward her glistening flower, all the while watching Asuka’s face. Her stomach tensed when he made contact, his hand resting lightly on her folds. Moans came from her mouth as he brushed his thumb across her clitoris, exciting her. Her eyes closed as he took his hardened manhood in hand, rubbing it against her moist folds. A moan escaped his lips as he made contact with her, sliding deeper into her. It was the most intense pleasure he had ever felt.

Asuka whimpered in excitement as she felt the tip of his penis part her labia and introduce itself into her hot vagina. The excitement turned to pain, her inner muscles stretched as he thrust in deeper. She felt a finger stroke her cheek, wiping away a tear. Dark blue eyes stared at her, full of worry as he had stopped at her cry of pain. Reaching up, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and gave him a small smile as they looked at each other. The moment she had been waiting and longing for was finally here. The fear that had been in the back of her mind, telling her she could be making a mistake, was gone. And as she lay there Asuka knew she had no regrets about anything. She wanted this, to finally give all herself to the man she loved.

“Don’t stop,” she whispered.

Kissing him, she kept their lips locked as he drew back slightly. Her nails dug into his shoulder and she cried into the kiss, her eyes squeezed shut, when he thrust into her completely. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she held him against her, the pain greater then she had thought it would be. She could feel his hardness within her, his warmth surrounding and filling her, as they remained perfectly still. Minutes later, she looked up and gave him a small nod. Her legs wrapped around his waist, holding him in place, rocking her hips to get comfortable. Even with the pain she was feeling, a moan escaped as he pulled back before thrusting into her again.

Shinji moaned as he slowly thrust into her over and over, her muscles gripping him in a hot, wet embrace. It was the most intense feeling he had ever felt and he fought to keep control. Looking down, he saw Asuka with her eyes closed, moaning at the pleasure of their joining. He could feel her warm body beneath him, writhing as he kept up his pace. His hips slid across hers as she moved upward, letting his manhood go as deep as possible before they withdrew before meeting again. Each joining only increased the pleasure and excitement going through their bodies. Strong hands pulled him down, her breasts rubbing against his chest in time with the thrusts. Her eyes opened when he slowed his thrusting even more.

The redhead kissed his neck, her hands running along his back. The smooth skin of her thighs rubbed against his hips as they moved in time with each other. Closing her eyes, she let the sensation of him penetrating her course through her body. The way his member rubbed against her tight vagina, providing constant stimulation was exhilarating. Her pain was still there, contrasting with the pleasure as he made love to her. She held him close, ignoring the pain, feeling her body heating up as they worked to their climax. A grunt came from above her and she opened her eyes. She stroked his cheek while moving her other hand off his back.

Sweat dripped off Shinji’s chin as he gritted his teeth, fighting his body. Her inner walls hugged and surrounded him in a tight grip. Each time he rocked against her, going deeper into her, brought him nearer to his climax. Still he would make it last as long as possible for her, never picking up his pace. He looked into her face, startled, when he felt her hand slide to their joining.

Asuka started panting, moaning into Shinji’s ear as her fingers stroked and rubbed her clitoris. She felt herself quickly approaching the ultimate ecstasy from his thrusting and her own stimulation. Her free hand moved up and down his back, feeling the muscles moving and tensing as he pleasured her. A tingling sensation she had felt during their joining reached its peak as she climaxed. She felt her stomach tense and her back arch as her inner muscles tightened around Shinji’s manhood. Warmth spread out from her belly as his essence filled her. She smiled as he fell limply onto her, one arm draped over her shoulder.

Gently he gripped her shoulders, rolling onto his back and bringing her with him. He smiled weakly at her, seeing her face flushed from excitement and with a sheen of sweat. Shinji think was how beautiful she was and how much he wanted her to stay in his life. He watched as Asuka lowered herself, smiling, with her eyes slowly closing as their lips met.

- - - -

Shinji awoke to a warm weight lying on his chest. Opening his eyes, he saw a mess of red hair as Asuka rested on him. A smile formed when he saw how relaxed and innocent her face looked. Looking up at the ceiling all he could remember was the night before, the excitement and feelings as they had sex for the first time. It only made him love her more, knowing they had shared something special together. Gently he slipped an arm around her warm, nude body pulling her up so her head soon rested in the crook of his neck. His hand slid over the soft skin of her arm as he rubbed her.

“Mmm…Shinji,” she mumbled.

It was obvious she was dreaming from her words, and his smile grew wider. He was happy he had been able to make such an impression. Shifting, he reached down to pull the sheet over the both of them, amazed they had been able to sleep in the cool room, though they had been quite warm when they had fallen asleep. His movement stopped when he saw what time it was, and he rolled on to his back again, sighing. Finally he gripped her shoulders and gently shook her.

“Asuka, wake up. It’s late,” he whispered while trying to wake her. Seeing his shaking wasn’t working, Shinji traced his fingers over her ribs and stomach. He continued this, feeling the woman squirm and chuckle at the feeling, until she grabbed his hand.

“Stop it,” she mumbled.

She awoke slowly, her eyes opening in increments. Her nails scratched him lightly as her hand flexed a couple of times, working the tension out. A smile formed on her lips as she realized where she was and pushed herself off his chest. The smile didn’t fade but instead grew wider as she straddled him, her hands holding his head. She licked her lips before leaning down, her tongue tracing up his neck and around his ear.

“Morning lover,” she purred after giving him a peck on the lips.

“Good morning,” he replied with a smile.

They lay there looking at each other not saying a word for a few moments. Shinji reached up and brushed some of her hair out of her face. He shifted under her as she rubbed her crotch against him, feeling his manhood reacting. His hands trailed over her soft body, stopping at her slender waist. With a little difficulty he sat up, holding her in a gentle embrace. He looked into her eyes as he ran his fingers through her hair.

“Ummm…so how are you?” he asked quietly.

“Loved. A little giddy.” After each word she kissed him. “I feel very good at the moment. Why?”

“It’s just that…” He averted his eyes, but a finger on his chin made him look up. “A couple of times last night you looked like you were in pain.”

Asuka sat there looking him in the eyes, a little shocked at the statement. She draped her arms over his shoulders, crossing her wrists behind his neck. A frown crossed his face as she pouted. It had hurt quite a bit and as she thought about it she became aware of the soreness in her lower body.

“It did hurt but there was nothing you could have done.” She felt him tense at her statement. “And it will hurt our first few times.”

“But…”

“I know you don’t want to hurt me or see me in pain but this is natural.” Her cheeks blushed. “There are two ways to ease it.”

Shinji felt his own cheeks heat up. “What are they?”

“We never have sex again.” She laughed at his look. “Don’t worry I’m not going to do that.” He trembled at her words. “It’s just too much fun.”

“So what’s the other option?” he asked.

Asuka laughed at both his question and his tickling her. “Stop that! I wish you’d never found out I was ticklish.”

“Don’t you like it?” He sounded hurt.

“Of course I do.” She held his hands in a gentle grip. “But I’m trying to be serious here.”

“Sorry.” Their fingers intertwined. “So what’s the second option?”

Asuka fell backward pulling him with her, laughing so hard, tears came to her eyes. Looking at his frown, she pulled her laughing under control and wiped her eyes. She tousled his hair, making it messier than it already was. Her fingers traced over his lips, seeing him smile at the touch. Suddenly she pushed him upward before sitting up herself and turning around. She squirmed backward until she was sitting in his lap, his arms around her.

“We do it more often. That’s the second option.” Her voice was cheerful.

“Okay!” he replied, smiling widely. One of his hands glided over her stomach. “So…”

She grabbed his hand, turning her head to glare. “I didn’t mean now, you idiot!” She released his hand. “Just hold me. I’m still sore.”

“I wasn’t suggesting we do it.” He kissed the back of her neck gently. “I was going to ask what you wanted to do today.”

“Oh.” She turned around in his arms, lazily leaning up against him. “Well since it’s my decision, how about…” Her fingers scratched his skin lightly as she dragged them across his torso. “How about you just hold me for now? We can decide what else to do later.”

“There’s the opera tonight.”

“I said we can decide later.”

Shinji nodded at her words, slowly moving backward as she pushed him. He soon found himself in the same position he had woken up in, with Asuka laying half on top him. Her silky hair was like a blanket covering his shoulder and upper chest. A tremor ran through her body as his fingers went down her back and over her hip before dragging the sheet over the both of them. His hand returned to her back as she snuggled up against him, wrapping her arms around him.

“Did you enjoy it?” he asked after some time.

“Yes, though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.”

“What were you expecting?”

“Don’t really know. Still it was fun.” She looked up to see him frowning. “What?”

“Parties are fun,” Shinji remarked, his frown deepening. “Sex isn’t fun.”

“It isn’t? It was for me,” Asuka replied with a grin.

“You know what I mean.”

“Sorry, I don’t really know how to put it into words. Fun just seemed like the right emotion. But don’t worry, it was much more than that.”

His frown eased, turning into a sad smile. “You had fun even though you had to…” He blushed and trailed off, unable to say the last words.

Again she laughed. “That was our first time. I wanted it to be special, to reach my climax with you.” She stroked his cheek lovingly. “There are a variety of positions, Shinji. We’ll find one that works for us.”

“Still…”

“I said don’t worry!” Asuka grimaced. “Don’t worry about it, okay? If you think about it then when we make love again, you’ll be all tense and won’t enjoy it.” She wiggled against him, draping a leg over his. “Sex is about pleasing each other and having fun. And I want you to enjoy it as much as I do.”

“Okay.” He mumbled

“Don’t pout.” She stared into his eyes. “I love you, Shinji. Nothing will ever change that, especially after last night.”

Asuka returned her head to his chest after seeing him smile at her words. As she listened to his heartbeat she knew it was the truth and so did he. After the night before she knew she had not made a mistake in making love to him. He was meant for her and she was meant for him. Her smile grew at the thought and she purred as he rubbed her back and shoulder, slowly falling asleep against his warmth.

- - - -

“Hey, Shinji! Could you come and help me with something.”

The man grinned and left the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. He knew what the redhead wanted from the way she had been acting ever since they had returned from the opera. She had sent every signal from rubbing herself against him to the kissing and petting in the limousine on the way back to the hotel. But the obvious was when she had asked him to help her out of the green dress she had worn and then telling him to take a shower. So he wasn’t surprised when he saw her sprawled out in the bed again. She crossed her arms and glowered at him.

“You knew, didn’t you?”

“You were quite direct with your signals, Asuka.” He leaned down and kissed her. “All you had to do was just come out and say it. I wouldn’t have said no.”

“Didn’t you like the attention?” She pouted, drawing a laugh. “The little touches and kisses.”

“I enjoyed them.” He eased himself onto the bed, grinning. “So what did you want my help with?”

She pushed him on to his back and straddled him, the soft skin of her thighs rubbing against his waist. A smile formed as she forced his hands away from her body, pinning him to the bed. Ever so slowly she rubbed herself against his lower body, listening to him moan. He wasn’t the only one enjoying the sensations as she felt him grow hard, his manhood rubbing against her. Leaning down she placed her mouth next to his ear, letting out a small whimper and feeling him tense.

“Nothing, since you obviously don’t want to do anything with me tonight,” she said smirking.

“I never said that!”

The redhead laughed. “You’re so easy. So do you like what I’m wearing?”

Shinji looked at the blue bra and bikini-cut panties and nodded his head enthusiastically. He loved the way the color contrasted with her creamy skin and auburn hair. As she leaned down, a scent of perfume drifted off her body, increasing his arousal. Gently he placed his hands on her shoulders, pulling her down, until he felt the satin material on his chest. His fingers inched slowly down her back, stopping at the clasp to her bra. Sky blue eyes narrowed in humor as she wiggled on top of him.

“Well go on. I don’t have to tell you what to do, do I?” Her smile grew after that, feeling his fingers fumbling to undo her bra.

A small click signaled his success and she let out a sigh as his hands slid over her now bare back. Sitting up, she held the garment in place with an arm across her chest. Grinning widely she withdrew the arm and slowly drew the straps down her shoulders one at a time, before tossing the bra to the floor. She leaned back down, letting her hair gently caressing his chest. A whimper came from her lips as Shinji reached up to grasp her breasts.

The man watched as Asuka closed her eyes at his rubbing of her breasts. He loved the feeling of her mounds, firm yet soft, squeezing her gently and eliciting a moan for his efforts. Each time he touched her, a tremor would course through her body. Her moans changed to gasps and she opened her eyes to stare at him, hungrily.

A gasp escaped the redhead’s lips as Shinji brushed across a small erect nipple, sending pleasure shooting through her body. She eased herself forward until she was sure her breasts were above his face. Slowly Asuka lowered herself, feeling him cup her breasts a moment before his mouth made contact with her sensitive flesh. The tip of his tongue flicked across her nipple, making her moan more as he traced circles around the erect nub. Her arms quivered as his lips sealed around it and he started sucking on the nipple gently. She was barely aware when he switched to her other breast, repeating his technique. As the pleasure grew, she lifted herself up, breaking the contact.

Shinji lifted himself up after her, bringing his lips into contact with hers as one hand slid along her stomach. He felt her tremble when he slipped his fingers into her panties. She groaned at his touch when his fingers started stroking her moist petals. Slowly she started gyrating her crotch against his, increasing the pressure on his hand, which increased her own pleasure. A frown crossed her face when she felt his fingers retreat from her panties, feeling him grip her shoulders.

“Not tonight,” she said, giving him a naughty smile. “It’s my turn to be on top.”

“Oh…okay.”

Asuka laughed at his disappointment. “It’ll be fun, I promise.” She leaned down. “Now why don’t you help me get out of these.”

Her smile grew as Shinji sat up and reached for her underwear, after a moment’s hesitation. He hooked his thumbs under the elastic band and with a gentle tug started pulling them down. A tremor went through her body as he pulled them down across her hips and down her legs. She laughed at his expression as he reached her knees, before quickly removing the small garment herself, dropping it on him. Her other hand slipped down to the towel around his waist, and tugging it open. Picking up the lace and silk underwear, she held it in front of his face while she gently stroked him to full hardness.

“Do you like it so far?”

He swallowed at her touch. “Yes.”

“Good.”

Dropping the underwear over the side, she felt Shinji grip her hips when she lifted herself and shifted backward. Gently she held his hardened penis with one hand, guiding him into herself as she lowered her body. Moans came from the two young lovers as the tip of his manhood parted her soft lips and slowly entered her wet tunnel. She released him, feeling his hardness rubbing against her inner muscles, and placed her hands next to his shoulders. It still hurt but a sigh came from her mouth when he was fully inside her, feeling different areas of her body being stimulated.

Shinji watched the redhead’s face as she panted above him, moans coming from his lips as she rocked against him. Gently he stroked her back while he slid his other hand down to their union, remembering the night before. Her eyes looked onto his in surprise, before filling with passion as he nodded his head. He held her as he felt her rise up before bringing herself back down. Pressing his lips against her throat, he felt her moans, even as his pleasure grew.

Asuka slowly slid up and down his hard manhood, cataloguing the range of sensations she was getting. The back walls of her vagina were getting the most stimulation, as was her clitoris. She had been surprised to feel her bud being rubbed when she had initially come down on him. But as she continued to drive herself onto him, she gave into the pleasure. Looking her lover in the eyes, she grinned, picking up her pace.

“Let’s go faster.”

Shinji looked up into Asuka’s face as she picked up the pace of her lovemaking. Her eyes excited him as they were filled with a wild passion and hunger. Still grinning she lowered herself, not slowing, bringing her lips into contact with his. The kiss ended when she gasped in excitement as he planted his feet on the bed and bucked upward. He moved his hand from their joining to her waist as he thrust upward each time she came down. Soon he was using both hands to bring her down harder on him.

A whimper escaped her lips as she drove herself down on Shinji, feeling him penetrate her deeper. Still she didn’t slow, feeling the pleasure and excitement building in her body, the telltale signs of an approaching climax. Instead she came down on him faster, feeling him respond to her desire, bucking harder and faster as his own end neared. She felt him thrusting into her as deep as possible before withdrawing, only to feel him inside her again and again. Time seemed to have slowed as she lost track of how long they had been joined.

Shinji barely heard Asuka scream in ecstasy as she reached her orgasm, lost in his own. His voice caught in his throat as he thrust up into her body one more time; his back arched and hips locked. He could feel himself pulsing inside of her as her walls clenched at his manhood tightly. A groan escaped his lips as he felt her whole body trembling in pleasure. Opening his eyes, he watched Asuka’s head snap back, her mouth open in excitement while her hair formed a halo around her. Surprise filled him as she fell forward, gently landing on him. As their orgasms faded he slid an arm around her shoulders. At his touch she lifted her head and gave him a small smile.

“Thank you,” she said quietly.

“You’re welcome.” He softly kissed her head before laying back. Staring up at the ceiling he thought about their recent activities.

“What’s so funny?” Asuka asked hearing him chuckle a few minutes later.

“Nothing.”

“Is that so?” She pressed her nails into his skin, getting him to grimace. “Don’t make me have to drag it out of you.”

Shinji smiled. “Just thinking of what Kensuke and Touji would do if they saw us.” He looked down at her groan. “What?”

“You have me, your soul mate and lover here and all you can think about is the Stooges.” She pouted. “Idiot.”

“It’s not like that!” He held her close. “Nothing will ever make me forget what we’ve done. The pleasure of your…”

“So you finally realized sex is fun?” Her smirk grew at his nod. “It’s about time. I thought you’d never admit to liking the physical pleasure.”

“That’s not a problem,” he muttered. “Nothing compares to making love with you.”

“Then why are you thinking of the Stooges?” Her hand slid down his torso. “If you’re so rested, we could…”

“No.”

“I was just joking.” She placed her head on his chest. “Still you want to know what your two friends would be doing? Kensuke would be taking pictures and Touji would be shrieking in horror.”

“Probably, though that’s not what I was thinking about,” he answered smiling.

“Hurry up and tell me before I fall asleep,” she said, smothering a yawn.

“They’d just be surprised to see this side of you.” He looked up at the ceiling. “The calm, gentle woman who loves me. All they’ve ever known is the tough exterior; the one who would never admit to wanting anyone, much less make love to that…” He trailed off as she squeezed him.

“And they will never know that side of me. I know I can be nice with you, show the other side of me because you’ll never hurt me. That can’t be said of others.” She looked up at him. “I love you and only you. No one else matters.”

- - - -

Four days later

“What’s the matter?”

Shinji turned from the window as Asuka came to stand next to him, resting her head on his shoulder. He was somewhat disappointed at her casual attire; all her dresses had been packed away. Their hands brushed against each other before curling each of their fingers around the other. A sigh of contentment came from the both of them as they stood there silently.

“So are you going to answer the question?” she asked quietly.

“I’m just going to miss this place. We made some good memories these last ten days.”

Asuka smiled. “Yeah, but Kyoto and Tokyo-3 hold a lot more.”

“Not all of them are happy ones, though.”

“We can keep making those happy memories until they outnumber the bad ones.” She broke their contact and moved in front of him, staring into his eyes. “That’s all I want from now on, Shinji; happy memories.”

He pulled her closer, wrapping his arms around her and resting his chin on a small shoulder. “I promise I’ll do everything I can to make sure you only have good memories.” Shinji rocked and held onto Asuka for a few minutes, feeling her body heat radiating off her. “So how should we thank Misato for the trip?”

“I don’t know but it’ll have to be something special.” She trembled as a hand rubbed her stomach.

“Grandkids?”

“Not yet.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist. “Are you sure? We didn’t exactly use any protection.”

“Idiot!” Asuka laughed, feeling him tense. “Just because you weren’t protected doesn’t mean I wasn’t.”

“Birth control?”

“Yes.” She kissed his cheek after her admission. “I love you, Shinji. More than anything else in the world, but like I said earlier I’m not ready for kids. Remember?”

“Yeah, I remember.” A ghost of a smile crossed his lips at the memory.

Asuka pulled him closer. “But back to your question. We could get Misato a card, thanking her for all she’s done for us.”

“Asuka!” He paused at her wide smile.

“Honestly though, I don’t think she is expecting anything. That our relationship is still going strong after so much trouble is probably enough for her.” The redhead sighed sadly. “After everything we put her through, us being happy is all she wants. The little arrogant girl who never wanted anybody and the shy quiet boy who didn’t want to get close to a person. No one would have expected us to get together and reach this stage but we’ve shown them.” She ran a hand up his back. “Despite our pasts, our fears and doubts we won.”

They stood there silently thinking of those words and how true they were. So much had happened in the three years since she had woken up in the hospital. Tears had been shed in anger and sorrow while kisses and touches had been shared in happiness. Each had shown the other they were there for them, no matter the circumstances. Trust had been weakened before becoming stronger as they became closer. And most important was their love as it grew, slowly and steadily; showing each they no longer were alone, that they had someone who understood them.

Shinji brushed her hair over shoulder before lifting her chin with a finger. He smiled sadly at her eyes; that were happy and sad.

“We won didn’t we?”

“Yes.”

* * * *

A/N:

Well thanks are in order for my pre-readers for staying with this project, even if at times they seemed like slave drivers. Special thanks goes out to Weltall Elite for helping with this story over the last eight months. At times I’m sure he has wanted me just to finish it and get it out. Yet without him to bounce ideas off of, things wouldn’t have gone so well and I might have stopped. We’ve had long discussions concerning Asuka/Shinji in a relationship and how it would develop. You could say this story is much his as mine though I did all the writing. Thanks also goes out to Alnilam and Jeff Alan for not throwing up their hands up in anger or disgust when they had to correct all my technical errors. Without them, the story would be a mess and wouldn’t flow properly. I just hope Alnilam doesn’t think I’m too perverted.

Well the sex scenes were the hardest things to write and not for the obvious reasons. I was burned out at the time I wrote them from work and family so hopefully they turned out properly. Also I was determined not to use any slang to describe their bodies or acts, which is very hard. I aimed for physical description because sex is a physical act. And the way to present a physical act is to describe it. Don’t worry in the following parts the detail will go down since everything has been established here. Also I aimed for more emotion before and after the sex for various reasons. I hope I succeeded.

Long and slow is how I see a relationship between Asuka and Shinji before they even think about sex. Sex is something neither will jump into immediately because it is too easy to get hurt. The number of times they have either been hurt or betrayed by those they loved is going to make them cautious. They are going to make sure they love each other and won’t be abandoned after doing something so serious. And it would be a serious act to them despite what many say. They’re not going to treat it casually because it would be their way of saying they completely trust each other, that they love each other. It would be lowering that last wall, the last defense and it will not come easily. Or that’s my opinion at least.

Anyway C&C are welcome at eva_pilot9@doramail.com