Disclaimer: see part 1

The Third Side

Side 3

The Unstable Triangle Formula
By Rx7

Shinji lay with his eyes open, breathing shallowly so as not to disturb the young woman sleeping with her head on his chest. He could feel her breasts touching his side… but it no longer affected him the way it had the first few times he had awoken beside her.

Guess I'm used to it, he thought, studying the girl's face as she slept, so why is this ceiling still so unfamiliar to me? I've seen it eight times… His thoughts trailed off. Eight times he had slept here over the past three and a half weeks. Not a great deal of time, all things considered, but to him it seemed like a lot.

Not to mention the fact that this was not the only place they had been together.

"G'morning…"

Shinji turned his attention back to the girl's face. "Hi," he whispered, swallowing as her hand slipped from its resting place on his chest down beneath the covers.

"Mmmm…" Mitzuki hummed, "Sleep well, lover? God, I know I did… so worn out… mmmmm…"

"Yeah," Shinji replied, gasping as her fingers circled him.

"Wanna do it again?" the girl breathed, gently stroking his stiffness. "Morning's the best time… don't have to work so hard at it."

"Umm… ok."

"I'm a little tender after what you did to me last night," the young woman whispered, grinning slightly as she nibbled on his ear, "but I think I'll be ok, if you go slow."

Shinji nodded, shivering slightly as her hand continued to caress him.

"You're so cute," she murmured, breathing softly against his neck, "does it turn you on when I talk like that?" She kissed her way around to his mouth, licking at his lips for a moment before whispering, "I can feel that at least part of you likes it."

The boy blushed deeper, nodding again as the part in question grew a bit stiffer.

"Then take me," Mitzuki murmured, rolling onto her back and putting her hands up over her head, "I'm right here, Shinji… just take what you want."

"Ok," Shinji replied, his mouth dry as he slowly turned over.

"Mmmm," the young woman hummed, watching him as he carefully slid her shirt up to expose her breasts, "do it soft," she told him, "like I showed you last weekend… yeah." She sighed in satisfaction as he leaned forward and took her already stiff nipple into his mouth, lapping at it gently as his left hand slipped between her legs. "Shinji," she moaned, spreading her legs a bit further, "it was so good last night… God, I couldn't stop coming. Mmmm… do it to me again."

She cradled his head gently between her hands as he moved his mouth to her other breast, closing his lips around her throbbing nipple. "Oh you feel so good," she whispered, kissing the top of his head and drawing a sharp breath as he tentatively eased his finger between her lips, "you drive me crazy, Shinji… I get wet just thinking about having you in me."

Yeah, she thought, letting him go to allow him to kiss his way down her body, just like I… mmm… just like I taught you…

"Uhhhh…"

Shinji closed his eyes, running his tongue lightly over her damn lips and drawing another moan from her. He was still amazed at how smooth it was down there since she had shaved - amazed and grateful. As arousing as it was to know he was making a gorgeous woman sigh and groan in ecstasy, it definitely lost some appeal when you had to stop every few moments to get a bit of hair out of your mouth.

"S-Shinji," Mitzuki gasped, pushing gently on his head after a few short minutes, "stop for a second… you'll make me come too soon." She sighed as he obediently pulled away. "Lie on your back for a minute," she whispered, sitting up and pulling her shirt all the way off, "I wanna suck your dick."

Shinji paled, but did as he was told. I can't even imagine Asuka saying that, he thought dazedly, biting his bottom lip as Mitzuki turned around and began kissing his thigh, she's… she's too proud, I guess.

He blinked as Mitsuki looked over her shoulder at him, grinning broadly. "You wanna sixty-nine?" she asked impishly. "We haven't done that yet."

"I don't, ummm… know how," Shinji murmured.

"It's not complicated," Mitzuki laughed, delighted, "just… you'll figure it out."

Carefully, suppressing a shiver of excitement, she rose to all fours and positioned herself over him, wetting her lips with anticipation as she slowly lowered herself to an easy to reach position. I'm so bad, she thought, putting her hands on either side of his hips, I could never have asked… him to do this with me - never! He would have called me a whore… like he always did.

Shinji gasped as Mitzuki's mouth wrapped around his shaft, immediately taking him all the way in. It was immediately apparent to him what he was supposed to do… and what the appeal of his particular position was. Not only was she perfectly positioned for him to carefully pull her closer and run his tongue across her moist lips, but the angle of his shaft and her mouth allowed her to draw him deeper into her mouth with less contact from her teeth.

Or, to phrase it another way - it was incredible.

Ohh yeah! Mitzuki thought, cupping Shinji's testes with one hand and supporting herself with the other as she moved up and down, oh fuck yeah that's good!

Shinji tried to concentrate on what he was doing, exploring her with his tongue and trying not to focus on the warm, wet, thoroughly mind-numbing sensation of her mouth on his shaft. Just think about her, he told himself, pulling her down a bit more and slipping his tongue inside of her the way she had told him she liked, don't think about what she's doing, or it'll all be over. Just think about her… think about her… think about he-

"MmmmmMMMM!!"

Abruptly, Mitzuki's body shook and she let out a muted, closed-mouthed shriek, pulling away from Shinji and resting her forehead on his thigh. "T-too much…" she panted, still shuddering as her climax faded, "God that's good…"

Slowly, she climbed off of him, taking care not to bump his head with her knee, and laid down on the bed, breathing hard. We'll be doing THAT more! She smiled to herself, waiting patiently as Shinji turned himself around and moved over on top of her. Like, oh I don't know - every fucking day? Christ that was hot! I've never come that fast before.

"Slow," she moaned, as Shinji placed himself against her. "Start slow… yeah… oh yeah."

She smiled as he began to slide into her, biting her lower lip to keep from urging him on.

So gentle, she thought happily, perfect.

She hooked her elbow around the back of his neck, pulling his lips down to hers as he finished entering her. "Mmm!" she gasped, "Don't move yet!" When he looked confused, she smiled. "I want to just have you in me for a second… God you feel so good! MMM!"

Shinji swallowed with some difficulty.

Mitzuki grinned.

"Damn you're gorgeous!" she hissed, sounding almost upset by this fact. "You make me so hot, Shinji - I don't ever want you to stop fucking me!" She went on, slowly pushing up against him. "Your cock feels too good, Shinji… I think I could come just from you being in me."

She scraped her nails slowly down the center of his chest, biting her lip as he shivered.

"Shinji," she whispered, meeting his eyes as she continued to gently scratch his skin, "Do you want to call in? I want to spend the day here… with you… like this."

Shinji's cheeks were burning a brilliant red, but he could not quite bring himself to speak. Why does this feel so wrong? He wondered; just stop thinking about it so much! I wanted this!

"I'm gonna be so good to you," Mitzuki breathed, pulling Shinji down to lie on top of her and nuzzling his neck. "Mmmm… I can feel every inch, Shinji… fuck me slow for a while, ok? I want to see how long I can keep from coming…" she grinned, biting him gently on the neck, "but I don't think it'll be very long - not when it feels this fucking GOOD!"

Abruptly, she put her hands on his shoulders and pushed, rolling him neatly onto his back so he was staring up at her broad, canopied bed frame.

"Sorry," she grinned, pinning his hands to the bed and leaning forward to bite his neck again, "I changed my mind - I want to fuck you for a while."

Shinji could only gasp as Mitzuki lifted herself up, bringing herself back down with a sudden, almost savage movement, burying his manhood in her tight sex up to the hilt.

"I'm gonna blow your mind," Mitzuki whispered, putting her hands on his stomach and closing her eyes, "say my name when you come, Shinji - I love that!"

Biting her lip, she began stroking herself with his shaft, grabbing his hands and leading them to her neglected breasts as she moved quickly up and down on top of him.

Shinji closed his eyes, groaning with pleasure as the purple-haired girl brought her tight, wet vagina down around him again and again, smiling blissfully as she sought to bring him to climax, pursuing his orgasm with almost relentless fervor.

"Shinji," she panted, shivering as the young man gently squeezed her breasts, "you're gonna make me come, Shinji, don't stop! Oh God, your dick feels so good, I just want… I need to… I… oh God, I'm coming!"

Shinji opened his eyes as she cried out, looking up into her passionate, reddened face. This is where I belong now, he thought dimly, feeling her inner muscles contracting over and over around his penis. I might as well get used to it.

"M-Mitzuki!"

Mitzuki smiled as Shinji's back arched, closing her eyes as she felt the muscles in his shaft bringing his warm semen into her body in short, uncontrolled bursts, filling her with a warm, silky glow from the inside out. "Mmm," she sighed, staying astride him and looking down into his face until he opened his eyes. "Stay with me today," she whispered tenderly.

Shinji nodded, unable to look away. "Alright."

Mitzuki grinned, closing her eyes and squeezing him with her vagina. Today, she thought happily, shivering as he continued caressing her breasts, is going to be a good day.

**

"I'm home."

Asuka glanced him from the novel she was reading as Shinji came into the kitchen. "Welcome home," she muttered, "Your stooge friend's around somewhe-"

Shinji frowned as she cut herself off, staring at him as if he was some type of horribly deformed mutant and she was trying to deicide on the best way to kill him. "What? What is it?"

"What happened to you?" she asked softly, pointing to the young man's neck with a grimace of distaste. "God, Shinji… what did you let her do to you?!"

"Why do you care?" Shinji asked defensively, trying to pull the collar of his shirt up to hide the series of bite marks that lined his throat.

"I don't," Asuka replied automatically, "I just wish you'd have some fucking self-respect! Spending all night at that bitch's house, skipping work, coming home in the same clothes you left in, walking around with your neck covered in hickies - you're acting like a slut!"

Shinji blinked. "A what?"

"You heard me," Asuka muttered, her augmented hand twitching slightly, "slut." When Shinji made no reply, Asuka sneered. "I'm giving you too much credit - you wouldn't have the balls to make a decent slut, because sluts go after what they want!" She clenched her hands into fists as he turned away. "Look at me, damn you!"

Shinji flinched, keeping his eyes averted as he whispered something too low for Asuka to hear.

"What was that?" she snapped.

"Why can't you just be nice to me…?" Shinji repeated softly. "I… I thought we were friends. We've been friends for so lo-"

"We're not friends!" Asuka cut in angrily. "You're not the person I thought you were, Third Child, you're just a pathetic, weak-willed little boy who's so damn caught up in his own little fuck fantasies that he can't see what other people need from h-" she cut herself off, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.

Shinji said nothing for a moment, finally bringing his eyes up to meet hers. "And what about you?" he whispered, his voice low and shaking with anger. "What do you see in the mirror, Asuka? Are you the person you wanted to be when we were lying on that beach?"

"I don't believe I'm hearing this," Asuka hissed, "how dare you question me, you little shit!" She reached out, poking him in the chest with her forefinger. "I came back because I wanted to live. Not for you, not for EVA, not for anyone else but me - I came back to live, goddamn it!"

Shinji stared at her unblinkingly. "You didn't answer my question."

"Fuck your question!" Asuka snapped. "Why don't you ask yourself, huh? When it was just you and me, and no one else had come back yet, and you promised me you'd always be there for me… were you already planning to start fucking anything that moved?"

"At least I can let others near me," Shinji retorted, "and it's not like this is what I wanted, you know, I wanted-"

Asuka's eyes narrowed as Shinji abruptly stopped talking and turned away once more. "What?" she whispered coldly. "What did you want, Shinji?" When he kept his eyes averted, she pounded her fist on the table, making the salt shaker jump. "Why can't you fucking look at me?!? Damn it! Tell me what you want, Shinji! How the hell am I supposed to know how- you know what? Forget it. Just… just forget it." She turned her back on him. "Get out of my sight, Shinji. You make me sick."

"Why is it my fault?"

She blinked, turning back to him. "What was that?" she whispered incredulously.

Shinji's eyes were on the floor, but his brow was drawn down in an unmistakable frown. "Why is it my fault?" he repeated, the barest edge of anger in his voice. "How am I supposed to know what to do if no one tells me? I'm doing the best I can… but you have to be part of it too - no matter what you say, we're supposed to be friends. I can't do this alone."

Asuka flushed. "Why don't you ask your little slut girlfriend for help then?"

Shinji's nostrils flared. "Just because she treats me nice doesn't mean she's a slut," he whispered flatly, "if you were half as nice as she is, maybe we-"

The crack of Asuka's augmented hand hitting Shinji's cheek was loud and ringing, nearly sending him to the floor with its force.

"Don't you EVER compare me to her!" Asuka hissed. "Ever."

Shinji blinked, his eyes watering more from the pain in his chest than the pain in his cheek. "I wouldn't try," he said as calmly as he could, "I've got nothing to compare her kindness to."

Asuka flinched, but could not think of a suitable reply.

Why does it have to be this way? She thought suddenly, We should be friends. We should be MORE than friends, damn it! That's what I want! I Just… I just want to be close to him - and now I can't. She averted her eyes, caught somewhere between rage and despair. Damn it, Shinji - why couldn't you just wait for like, another week? I was so close! …so close.

"I'm gonna take a shower," Shinji said unevenly, rubbing his cheek with a look of dazed hurt, "I've gotta work in the morning." He lowered his voice to a bare whisper. "At least I know there's someone there that cares about me."

Asuka clenched her eyes closed and nodded, more to her self than him. And when she spoke, she was not quite sure who she was talking to.

"Goddamn coward."

Shinji did not even hesitate as the redhead screamed, choosing instead to simply walk unsteadily towards his room, bumping into Touji on the down the hall.

Touji frowned, nodding a greeting as the former Third Child trudged up the stairs. "Ok," he muttered angrily, "that's it."

Asuka looked up as the door to the kitchen banged open. "What do you want?" she growled, trying not to shrink away from the scowling visage of an obviously enraged, physically superior Touji Suzuhara. "You get away from me!" she warned, raising her fists and bracing herself in case he decided to attack her.

He's lost it, she thought grimly, look at that face! He's out of his mind.

For one, shining instant, Touji considered just walking away. Don't get it started man, he thought grimly, it won't end good. Just let it go. This is between her and Shinji… just let it go.

He actually took a step back before catching himself. For weeks he had watched the redhead emotionally crucify his best friend, keeping himself from doing anything that he might later regret through sheer willpower and a grudging respect for all the girl had endured… but looking into her cold, sparkling, unremorseful sky-blue eye, he realized that the time to just let things go had long since passed. Now it was time to take matters into his own hands.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?!"

Eight, coldly spoken words… and the storm that had been threatening for almost a month exploded in the kitchen.

"Don't you dare get sanctimonious on me, you fucking gimp!" Asuka snapped, positioning herself on the other side of the table, "Why don't you butt out for once, or do I have to hurt you first?"

"You keep saying that," Touji said flatly, pushing the kitchen door closed behind him and engaging the lock, "you ever gonna back it up? Or are you all talk?"

"Come over here and find out," Asuka challenged, shoving one of the chairs against the wall to make more room.

Touji grinned, cracking his knuckles loudly. "All you had to do was ask," he said, keeping the same, cruel smile on his lips as he started towards her, "I've been keeping my cool," he muttered, picking the other kitchen chair up and tossing it aside like a bundle of sticks, ignoring the sound it made as it crashed to the floor. "I kept telling myself, 'She's been through a lot. She's just mixed up. She doesn't know what she's saying,' but that's all bullshit - you knew perfectly well how bad he wanted to be yours, and you still treat him like shit every fucking chance you get."

"Stay away from me," Asuka whispered, her knuckles going white as her fingernails dug into her palms, "I won't go easy on you - do you hear me?!"

Touji, it seemed, did not seem to mind the prospect of being harmed by the redhead. Pushing the table aside, he rushed her, shrugging her quickly thrown punches off as if they were no more bothersome than insects and grasping her by the wrist, twisting her arm up behind her back and shoving her face-first into the wall next to the stove.

A servo in Asuka's arm whined as the boy applied more pressure, forcing it further back until she cried out. "S-stop!"

"Thought you were going to hurt me," Touji whispered, reaching past her and grasping the handle of the biggest butcher knife in the block, "you're full of shit, Souryu."

Asuka fought harder as the boy drew the knife in one fluid move, bringing it up under her chin and pressing it against her throat. "You're… crazy," she gasped, flinching as the sharp steel pressed against her delicate skin.

"Better stop struggling," Touji said softly, "I wouldn't want to slip." He nodded as the girl froze. "Now you listen to me, you little bitch, Shinji's been moping around here for weeks, pining over your sorry ass, and all you can do is treat him like shit! And for what?" he hissed, itching to draw the blade across her throat, "Because he's with someone else now? He's only dating her because you're so fucking coldhearted! If you had ever given him a chance, you'd be with him right now, you dipshit."

"Who'd want to?" Asuka managed, swallowing several times to clear the dryness from her mouth. "He's just a wea-"

"Don't you dare," Touji snarled, pulling the knife away from her throat to keep himself from killing her. "I'm sick of hearing that shit! He saved the fucking world - don't you ever say he's weak!"

Asuka closed her eye, shifting on her feet and analyzing the balance between them, a grim smile spreading on her features as she found the opening she was looking for. "You know something, shithead?" she muttered, tilting her body subtly to the side.

"What, bitch?"

Asuka grinned wolfishly. "You just fucked up big."

"Wha-"

Grunting from the pain it caused, Asuka rolled her shoulder further up, making Touji lose his grip on her wrist. They scuffled, each trying to gain the upper hand as they knocked into the furniture, sending dishes, silverware, and boxes and cans of food flying in every direction. All told, the struggle for dominance lasted fifteen seconds, but by the time they were done, the kitchen looked as if a war had erupted in it, throwing it into a state of chaos unlike any seen before.

Silence prevailed for another fifteen seconds, broken only by uneven, but quietly drawn pants as the two teens struggled to regain their breath.

"Give me one good reason not to fucking kill you," Asuka whispered finally, the fingers of her augmented hand digging cruelly into Touji's throat as she pushed him against the wall with just enough force to make him wince.

"I'll give you two," Touji gasped, baring his teeth at her in a wicked smile. "First, Hikari would fuck you up - trust me: under that cool surface, she's got a short fuse. And second," his smile grew, "if you squeeze, I push."

Asuka frowned, glancing down as something sharp nudged her breast bone and finding the tip of the knife situated snuggly against her, braced in both of the young man's hands - ready to plunge into her heart at a moment's notice.

"Stalemate."

Asuka's lips pulled back from her teeth. "Not quite," she growled, "if I snap your neck, you'd be dead before you hit the floor."

Touji narrowed his eyes, coaxing the knife forward and taking great pleasure in watching the girl's smile falter. "You wanna find out?"

Their eyes met, neither willing to look away as each tried to stare the other down. "Listen to me, stooge," Asuka whispered coldly, "what's between Shinji and me is just that - between Shinji and me. Don't get in my way again, or next time this happens you won't have time to reach the knives, get it?"

"Same goes for you," Touji whispered dangerously, "the next time you hurt him, you won't have to worry about getting your arm tuned."

Asuka's body was shaking with rage. "Fucking asshole," she snarled, "I don't need this shit from you, him, or anyone else." With one quick move, she released his throat, bringing her hand down on the knife and knocking it from the young man's grasp, ignoring the sound of tearing fabric as the blade rent her shirt apart. "I'm sick of you," she hissed, taking a step back and clenching her hands into fists at her sides, "I'm sick of you, him, his little fuck slut girlfriend, this house - I'm sick of all this shit! Fuck all of you!!"

Touji shook his head as the former Second Child whirled around and stomped off, tearing the door open and splintering the frame in her urgency to retreat. "Fuck us?" he muttered to the empty room. "Hey, fuck you, you little holier than thou bitch! Shit, I never wanted you here anyway."

Gingerly touching his throat, he glanced around the decimated kitchen.

"Shinji's gonna be pissed," he mused, wondering if the other young man had heard their fight.

With a heavy sigh, he pushed away from the wall, rubbing absently at his throat as he went in search of a broom. Sorry Shinji, he thought, shaking his head as be began to clean, but if she leaves… it'd be better for all of us - especially you. Sometimes you just have to let it go, man.

Ignoring the sound of the redhead banging around in her room, Touji went about the task of making it look like nothing had happened, knowing full well that Asuka would be gone by nightfall.

**

Shinji sighed as he dried his hands on the small towel slung over his shoulder. Almost time to go, he thought tiredly, glancing through the kitchen door at the empty dining room, and Mitzuki wants me to spend the night at her place again. Man, at this rate I might as well just move in.

He shook his head, glancing up at the clock on the far wall. "Maybe me moving out wouldn't be such a bad idea," he murmured, looking at his watch to confirm that it was indeed almost closing time, "at least that way Asuka would be rid of me."

It was only through willpower that he kept himself from reaching into his pocket to touch the object therein. He knew he should do one of two things with it - either get rid of it, or give it to its intended recipient. If he kept holding onto it, he was afraid it might drive him insane.

"Hey, Shinji."

The sound of Alexander's voice brought his attention back to his surroundings.

"Come over here for a second, I wanna show you something." Shinji did what he was told, waiting as the blonde man sketched something on the piece of paper with the food order from the day before on the other side. "What do you see?" he asked, pushing the paper across the table to Shinji.

The boy looked down. "Ummm… it's a triangle," he replied uncertainly.

"Very good," the older man said with a grin, "now, tell me: what's wrong with it?"

Shinji looked closer, shrugging as he answered, "One of the sides is shorter, I guess."

"Right again," Alexander nodded, "so here's the next question, my young friend," he met Shinji's eyes, his tone growing serious, "if you tried to stand this up, what would happen?"

Shinji pondered the paper for a minute, wondering what this was really all about. "Depending on what it was made of," he said slowly, "it would stand for a while, then the weaker side would give out, I guess."

"It would," the cook confirmed, "so… from all of this we can deduce that a triangle with one side that's not as, let's say dedicated, is unstable and dangerous, right?" When Shinji nodded, the older man lowered his voice, "Are you that side, Shinji?"

"I… don't understand."

Alexander sighed, leaning back in his chair and looking at the boy closely. "I know something's going on with you and Mitzuki," he said quietly, "she's too goofy and gushy when you're around. And I know something is going on - or went on - with you and Sachiko, because every time Domiyoji comes in to visit her, she looks to make sure you're not nearby before kissing him, but she's not all happy like Mitzu is."

Shinji blushed, glancing at where the two girls were talking to each other on the far side of the restaurant. "It's hard to explain," he murmured, looking back to the older man, "but Sachiko's faithful, I can tell you that."

"Yeah," the blonde man said, nodding approvingly, "I never pegged her as the cheating kind - and I don't expect you to spill your guts to me, Shinji, you hardly know me… but I do want to give you some advice, ok?" He waited for the boy to give him an affirmative before taking a deep breath. "An uneven triangle is a dangerous thing - especially when it's made of people. Someone always, always ends up getting hurt if the weaker side gives out. I know all three of you, I work with all three of you, and I'd hate to see any of you end up in pain."

He sighed, shaking his head as the boy shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other. "I'm not saying this is all your fault," he said gently, "I doubt you went out of your way to involve yourself with either of them - you don't seem like the kind to chase after girls, am I right?" He looked down at the paper as Shinji nodded. "But how it got started kinda doesn't matter," he said softly, "you know? It's happening, they're involved, you're involved, and it's going to end badly if you can't find the strength to be one of the stronger sides."

He blinked as a new factor was added to the equation in the form of a slender redhead. The girl entered the restaurant, by chance (or design, Alexander was never sure) she found Mitzuki and Sachiko… and he could hear Shinji's name mentioned, even from across the room.

"And I think," he said quietly, nodding to where the three girls were talking, "your job just got a whole lot harder."

**

Asuka walked into the Golden Temple with a frown. Decent place, she thought, looking around. Spying two waitresses talking to one another, she clenched her hand into a determined fist. "Where can I find Shinji?" she asked, walking up to the duo without bothering to greet them.

"Shinji…?" the girl with the bandana echoed, blinking slightly, "Who are you?"

The redhead narrowed her eyes, but before she could snap, the dark-haired girl whispered, "Asuka… you're Asuka, aren't you?"

"And I'm guessing, you're Sachiko," Asuka replied, folding her arms over her breasts and assessing the older girl, "am I right?" She looked closer at the other waitress, "And I suppose you're Mitzuki." The eldest girl, she noticed, was bristling visibly, frowning as she looked her up and down.

Sachiko wet her lips, looking from one girl to the other. Oh, this is bad, she thought as the two stared at each other, the redhead's single blue eye glittering with disapproval, I should find Shinji before it gets out of control. Out of control was exactly where the situation was headed, in her opinion. From experience, she knew that Mitzuki was fiercely possessive of things she deemed hers… and Shinji was, without a doubt, hers. She also knew from talking to Shinji that Asuka could be very short-tempered and belligerent, and she suspected, from the way she was acting right now, that she was more than a little possessive herself.

"What do you want?" Mitzuki asked flatly, not bothering to hide her attitude, "You can't call, or wait until he gets home? What's so damn important that you have to come down here and throw-"

"Watch it," Asuka cut her off coldly, "before you end up saying something that's gonna get you hurt. Why I'm here is none of your business, just tell me where-"

"Shinji," Sachiko said suddenly, "your roommate is here to see you."

All eyes focussed on Shinji as he approached the trio, an uncertain look on his face. "Asuka," he said, swallowing uncomfortably at all the attention, "hi."

The redhead shifted her gaze from the waitress to the former Third Child. "Shinji," she said flatly, "I need to talk to you. Now."

"Ok, I'll just…" he trailed off as her brow came down, "coming."

"You don't have to go anywhere with her, honey," Mitzuki said calmly, reaching out to take Shinji's arm, "you're still on the clock."

Sachiko took a careful step back, wondering if she really could see sparks flying between the two or if it was just her imagination. She stood indecisive, glancing at the three others as an eerie silence stole over them. I can't side with Asuka, she thought pensively, Mitzuki's my friend… and I work with her. But I can't side with Mitzuki - she's being totally unreasonable, and Asuka must have a good reason for being here, because from what Shinji's told me, she's not the kind to just up and start trouble for NO reason. Frowning slightly, she chose her side - the side she should have picked without a second thought.

"Shinji," the dark-haired girl said quietly, putting a hand on his shoulder, "remember what you told me in the alley?" She ignored the other two girl's surprised (and suspicious) glances and waited for the boy to reluctantly nod before telling him softly, "Now is that time, Shinji."

"What are you talking about, Sachiko?" Mitzuki asked slowly, eyeing her friend with something akin to open hostility, "Why are you taking my boyfriend into alleys?"

At the word boyfriend, Asuka visibly… clenched. Her entire body seemed to go ridged, and her eye narrowed to a slit.

"Shinji," Sachiko murmured, ignoring Mitzuki's query, "honesty, remember? You said-"

"I've heard just about enough of this shit!" Mitzuki cut in angrily, "'Honesty,' Sachiko? Like, this honesty?"

Sachiko winced as the other girl jabbed her forefinger into her chest. "Mitzu," she said quickly, licking her lips, "It's not what you-"

"Shut up, you little whore!" Mitzuki snapped, tightening her hold on Shinji's arm. "You tried to steal him from me, didn't you? Don't lie to me! I can see it all over your face! I can't believe you, you bitch!!"

"Shinji?" Sachiko said unevenly, trying to focus only on his eyes, "In my apartment… when we kissed," Asuka and Mitzuki both gasped, but Sachiko hurried on. "I felt something… it was hot, and it was incredible, but it wasn't love, Shinji! I finally figured out what I see in you - I see your love of others, and I want to be like that, don't you understand? You have to choose now, Shinji! Honesty - you said that's what was most important to-"

"I'm leaving," Asuka cut in coldly, "That's all I came here to tell you, Shinji. I'm leaving tonight." She nodded as Shinji gaped at her. "That's right. I can't stand seeing you with someone else, Shinji - are you happy now? You've finally gotten me to say I love you, you fucking asshole!" She turned away. "Goodbye."

"Wait!" Shinji called, moving to follow her.

"What are you doing!?" Mitzuki gasped, holding him firmly as he tried to walk away. "Let her go, Shinji! I can make you happy - you don't need her!!"

Sachiko flushed as Shinji turned his eyes to her. "Honesty," she whispered softly, trying not to see the angry glare Mitzuki gave her as she too turned away.

"Mitzuki," Shinji began, "I… need to talk to Asuka, I-"

"WHY?" Mitzuki shouted frantically. "Just be mine, Shinji! That's all you have to do. I'll make you so happy - just stay mine! Stay with me." Her face crumpled as Sachiko shook her head and walked away. She leaned forward and kissed Shinji gently, closing her eyes as their lips met. "I never had you," she breathed as they parted, keeping her eyes closed as she pressed her forehead to his and draped her arms over his shoulders, "did I…?"

Shinji's silence was the only reply she needed.

"Please leave now, Shinji," she whispered, stepping away from him and letting her arms fall to her sides, "please."

"But I-"

"Don't say anything. I don't want to hear you say you're sorry, and I don't want to hear you rationalize anything we've done together." A single tear ran from each still-closed eye as she lowered her voice. "And I don't want to see your face," she said, her voice breaking, "and I don't want you to touch me and try and make it ok, do you understand? I just… I want to be alone."

Listening to her own, uneven breathing, the waitress could easily make out the sound of the brown-haired boy first shifting from one foot to the other, then slowly walking towards the door. As it opened, then closed, Mitzuki slowly sank down to the floor, keeping her eyes closed and trying to pretend that she had ever had a place in Shinji Ikari's heart.

**

Halfway, Asuka thought angrily, stuffing another pair of jeans into a suitcase, halfway done. Few more essentials, and I'm done - I can come back for the rest. She shook her head. "God," she muttered, "I should have fucking known. Even if I had said it sooner, it wouldn't have been enough."

"A-Asuka?"

She looked up briefly as Shinji pushed the door open, resting his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. "What do you want?" she muttered, "Trying to get a third girl in bed with you? Well, sorry - I'm not a slut like them… pervert."

"It's… not like that," Shinji gasped, "Sachiko… I… we just kissed once… she's… got a boyfriend."

Asuka laughed mirthlessly. "Oh that makes everything ok!" she snorted. "'I'm only cheating on you with one girl, honey, it's no big deal!'"

"Cheating?" Shinji echoed.

"Why didn't you wait for me?!?" Asuka shouted suddenly, throwing a pair of gym shorts at the startled boy. "You KNEW damnit!! You knew I loved you!!"

"I didn't," Shinji replied honestly, "I really didn't, Asuka. I wanted you too, but I-"

"Just go away," the redhead muttered, "I don't wanna hear your lame excuses anymore."

Shinji scrubbed his right hand through his hair, watching her pack her things in panicked silence for a moment. If I let her go, he thought frantically, I'll never see her again… I'll never have a chance to be close to her.

His panic suddenly fell away, replaced by a mixture of determination and anger. "You're not going to leave," he whispered, "not like this."

"What are you-?"

Asuka's surprised question was cut off as Shinji grabbed her by the upper arm and spun her around, staring into her eye as he pushed her up against the wall and kissed her.

"Hmph??"

The former Second Child's startled yelp only served to harden Shinji's resolve, and rather than releasing her, he held her tighter, pinning her arms to her sides as she struggled and gently sucking her bottom lip into his mouth. His grip loosened slightly as the fight slowly drained out of her, her movements becoming slower and less urgent even as her breathing grew more rapid.

As he continued to kiss her, Asuka's arms slowly fell to her sides, the urge to fend him off gone like it had never been. When he finally released her arms, sliding his hands around her slender waist, she took the opportunity… to slap him.

"Don't you ever," she whispered as he broke away, his eyes wide as he touched the angry red hand print on his cheek, "ever try and hold me down again, do you understand?" As he nodded his understanding, she stared into his face, searching it closely before speaking. "What do you want, Shinji?" she asked plainly, making no move to push him away, but not encouraging him either, "Tell me now… no more games… no more running away… what…do you… want…?"

Shinji nodded again, all of the uncertainty leaving his features as he replied softly,

"I want you."

"Think it's that easy, do you?" Asuka murmured, holding his gaze, "Just three words, and I fall into your arms, confessing my love for you? Just… forget this whole little fucked up dating thing and just let myself be yours?"

Shinji stared back at her, his tone entirely level and calm as he whispered,

"Yes."

The redhead considered his calm demeanor for a moment, trying to decide if there was any humor in his statement whatsoever. When he made no further comment, she asked, "What would you do with me then, Shinji? We're all alone." She lowered her voice, idly running her forefinger across his chest, unsure herself if she was teasing or serious. "Tell me what you would do if I said what you want me to say."

Shinji nodded slowly. He had gone over how he would confess his feelings for her, down to the exact wording… but he had not counted on her level reaction - or the way she watched him so closely, seeking any falsehood or dishonesty. Realizing that all of his planning had been for naught, he decided to fly by instinct and see where it might lead.

"I would… want to test your theory on thermal expansion," Shinji murmured, amazed that his voice was so level when speaking those bold, almost challenging words.

Asuka's eye widened, and her finger stopped its slow movement across his thin torso. "And you think I'll let you?" she murmured, leaning back and letting the wall support her, "you think I'd let some pervert like you just… just…"

She trailed off, shivering slightly as she felt his right hand slowly sliding up her side, pulling her shirt up as it went. She gasped softly as he gently cupped her breast, never once looking away from her eye. "Yes," he whispered, slowly exploring the soft skin under his palm, "I think you would let… me."

As confident as he sounded, Shinji's heart was beating at least twice its normal speed, and he was using all of his concentration to keep his breathing and voice level. He knew what he was doing was tantamount to insanity, but he felt it was worth the risk of bodily injury, if only she would understand and acknowledge that he wasn't just toying with her.

"And… and if I told you to stop touching me and get out?" Asuka stammered, trying to stay rational as he continued to gently caress her.

"I'd be sad," the boy whispered, very slowly reaching out and touching her face with his free hand, "but I would stop. I want to be with you, Asuka… I want all of you." He smiled, moving his hand down from her breast to one of the seven scars on her body and tracing it gently, "if I can't have you all," he breathed, "then I don't want you."

The redhead trembled as the boy moved his hand from one scar to the next… and then the next… diligently examining the wounds with his fingertips. "If I said I want the same thing," she asked, her voice barely audible, "do you think it will change who I am? Do you think us being together would make the world a magical, shining place?" She smiled bitterly, suppressing her tears with brutal force. "Do you think it would bring Misato back?" she asked cruelly, "Or give me back my eye? Or my arm?"

For a long moment, Shinji said nothing. Then, just as Asuka was on the brink of pushing him away and telling him to leave, he murmured, "No, I don't." He slowly leaned forward, giving her ample opportunity to move away, and kissed her softly on the lips. "I don't want to change who you are," he said gently as he broke away, "and I don't think anything that's been lost will magically come back. What I do know," he whispered, still touching her scars, "is that…"

"Yes?" she prompted as he trailed off, believing wholeheartedly that he was going to say 'I love you.'

Shinji surprised her by instead confessing, "You make me happy. When we're together, I feel like nothing else in the world matters. I'd tell you I love you," he said softly, smiling a bit as he dropped his eyes, "but I think, maybe… you already know."

So there it is, Asuka thought, completely uncertain, he just said he loves me - no, she corrected herself, he didn't say it, she smiled, and I guess he didn't really have to.

She blinked as Shinji carefully ran the ball of his thumb under her eye, wiping the dampness that had been gathering there on his shirt.

"You don't have to cry."

The redhead nodded, blushing faintly at her display of weakness. Deliberately, she took his hand and held it over the scar on her lower abdomen. "You know," she said flatly, holding his gaze, "that it might take a long time for me to be able to give you everything that I am, right?"

"Yeah, I know," the former Third Child replied, slowly outlining the damaged tissue.

"You said you wanted all of me," Asuka whispered, slowly extending her right hand and brushing the backs of partially synthetic fingers across his cheek, "but I can't give you that - not all at once. You'll have to be patient with me, and let me work it all out, and let me just… just…"

Shinji simply nodded as she trailed off, taking her hand and keeping it against his face.

Pulling her hand away, Asuka slid her arms over his shoulders, pulling his lips back to hers to kiss him deeply. "If I give you all of me," she breathed, resting her head on his shoulder, "I'll want the same from you, Shinji. I want to know - I need to know - that you're all mine."

"I'll show you."

So saying, Shinji reached down and gently grasped the bottom of her shirt, pulling it up carefully and watching for any sign of hesitance or disapproval from the girl. Asuka closed her eye, putting her arms up over her head and allowing him to render her topless. She kept her eye tightly closed as she felt his fingers once again moving over her skin, avoiding the most sensitive spots, for the time being, and simply familiarizing himself with her body.

"Did you go this far with Mitzuki…?" she whispered.

She waited in silence for over a minute, frowning slightly as he said nothing. When she opened her eye to find out why, she found him smiling softly. "I'm not going to tell you," he said gently, sliding his hands around to caress her back, "because you don't really want to know, one way or the other." She opened her mouth to protest, but he kissed her before she could, pressing himself up against her and letting his hand move down to cover her rear.

When he finally let her speak again, Asuka smiled. "You're a jerk," she murmured, blushing as she un-tucked his shirt.

"Maybe," Shinji retorted, slipping a finger into the hem of her pants and slowly sliding it around to the front.

The redhead found her breathing becoming a touch erratic as the boy slowly unfastened her jeans, drawing the zipper down with delicious slowness. "Don't hurt me," she whispered suddenly, laying her hand over his as he parted the front of her pants, revealing the top of her red and white striped panties. "I mean, I know it's going to hurt," she clarified, blushing deeper, "but - don't hurt me, Shinji."

The former Third Child made no reply, he simply smiled and knelt in front of her, carefully drawing her jeans down. Placing his hand on the front of her underpants, he gazed up at her, making sure he had her full attention as he began applying pressure. "Tell me if you want me to stop," he murmured, "but if you don't…"

Asuka shivered, nodding as he trailed off. "Ok."

Shinji slowly traced the outline of her sex through the thin cloth, watching her facial expression gradually move from tense and uncertain to relaxed and calm. "Do you like that?" he asked after several minutes. He didn't want to scare her, or move too fast, but he did want to be with her. He had wanted her for too long, and putting it off any further - after all they had gone through - seemed both unfair and unnecessary.

"Mmm hmm," the girl hummed, unconsciously wetting her lips with the tip of her tongue. Unbeknownst to boy kneeling in front of her, and touching her so gently, Asuka was tired of waiting too. She had acknowledged her feelings for him the second his fingers had wrapped around her throat on that brilliantly white beach, surrounded by the crucified EVA series. Not the most romantic beginning, she readily admitted, but it was a beginning.

This was simply the next logical step.

Shinji stopped abruptly, moving his hands up to her hips and pressing his head against her stomach, listening to the blood pulsing through her veins as he tentatively slipped his fingers into the waistband of her panties. He distinctly heard her sharply indrawn breath as he drew them down, keeping his head against her midsection.

They stayed that way for several breathless moments, Shinji kneeling with his head against Asuka's stomach, leaning forward slightly as he held her panties loosely in his hands. "Lift your feet," he said finally, his voice faint and slightly wavering.

Bracing herself by putting her hands on his shoulders, Asuka carefully lifted one foot, then the other, making sure she didn't accidentally drive her knee into his chest. This is so fast, she thought as Shinji set her panties to the side and put his hands on her calves, he said I could stop anytime, but… A soft whimper escaped her when she felt the boy's right hand slide cautiously up the inside of her leg, his palm delicately cupping her sex.

Biting his tongue to keep from asking if he should stop, and resisting the urge to stand up and run, Shinji slowly began stroking her warm skin, feeling his mouth go dry as her hands gently clenched his shoulders and a soft sigh filled the air. Tentatively, he ran his middle finger up and down along her soft folds, seeking - and finding - the most private spot on her body… and gently sliding in.

Asuka let her head roll back as she felt him carefully penetrating her with his finger, feeling a slight stab of fear at the intrusion. I've only done that once, she thought, focussing on the feeling. On the rare occasions that she had indulged in masturbation, she had only touched the outside of her vulva, feeling hesitant to actually put her fingers inside herself. The one time she had tried, she had been rather worked up, and had accidentally broken her hymen.

As she opened her mouth to tell him how nice what he was doing felt, Shinji withdrew his finger and leaned further forward, planting a gentle kiss on her right thigh. "Hold still, ok?" he whispered, moving his hands to her hips, "I want to…" he trailed off, and she could feel the heat from his blush against her thighs as he finish awkwardly, "just hold still."

She looked down at him skeptically. "You're not really going to-unnnnnhhh…"

Her question turned into a low moan as she felt his tongue slide across her skin.

"Shin…ji…" she gasped, "not… not so hard…" she blushed, "it's nice, but you have to… mmmmm… yeah." Red hair met the wall as Asuka leaned back, putting her hands on the former Third Child's head, encouraging him to continue his actions. "That's… nice…" she breathed, closing her eye and smiling dreamily as he tasted her.

Shinji closed his eyes, carefully exploring her with his mouth as visions of the past filled his mind. He recalled how shocked he'd been when she'd announced that she would be moving in, how she had been so bold and straightforward - the way she almost always was when she was surrounded by people she didn't know. And he remembered how she had almost confided in him about her stepmother, and how she had blushed when she had realized how much she had confessed, immediately shutting him out.

Two sides… one aggressive and brash, one vulnerable and unconsciously open.

But in the quiet of Asuka's room, with clothing and personal effects either packed or out to BE packed, Shinji found a third side to the girl he had lived with for the past eleven months. "Oh, Shinji…" she moaned, sliding slightly down the wall to allow him better access, "that feels so good."

She's so intense, Shinji thought as the girl's fingers ran through his hair, like Sachiko, but more controlled.

"Shinji," Asuka whispered suddenly, urging him to stand, "hurry."

Confused, the brown-haired boy did what he was told, pulling away from her reluctantly and rising to his feet as the redhead pulled at his shirt. "What's wro-"

"Hurry," Asuka cut him off, finally giving up on his shirt and unbuttoning his pants instead, "I need you."

Finally understanding, Shinji tugged his shirt off, stepping out of his pants as the girl pulled them down. "Here…?" he whispered, his voice shaking as she threw his pants and underpants to the side, "Or, ummm, on the bed…?"

"I don't care… here," the girl replied, embracing him tightly, "right here… right now."

Shinji nodded and carefully eased her down onto the floor, positioning himself between her legs and looking into her flushed face. "Asuka, I l-"

"I know," she whispered softly, smiling as she caressed his face, "I do too…"

The brown-haired boy nodded slowly, reaching down and grasping himself by the base of his shaft and pressing it up against her. Neither of them said a word as he carefully began slipping inside of her, but Asuka closed her eye and shivered, wrapping her arms around his waist and tilting her hips upward slightly, allowing the combination of her natural lubricants and his saliva to help the process along.

It took some time. Foreplay, in addition to being exceedingly pleasant, serves to prepare the body for the actual penetration. And while Shinji had done his best to excite her with his mouth, they were still moving very fast, not giving her body enough time to truly get ready.

Tight, Shinji thought, biting his lip and moving a bit slower as Asuka grimaced. We should have spent a little more time with the other stuff, like Mitzuki showed me. He shook his head, trying not to think of his other lover. "There," he said gently as their hips met, "now…" he trailed off, not exactly sure what it was he wanted to say.

Asuka opened her eye, looking up into his face with a look of mild wonder. "You're… in me," she said, her voice tiny and a touch unbelieving, "you're inside of me, Shinji."

"Yeah," Shinji whispered, his voice conveying the same sense of shock as hers as he leaned forward and gave her a gentle kiss, "I know, Asuka…" Suddenly curious, he added, "What does it feel like…?"

The redhead bit her bottom lip, her brow drawing down slightly in thought. "I… don't think I can describe it," she said softly, her fingers absently running over his shoulders and upper arms, "it's like… making a fist and having someone push their finger into it, I guess," she laughed weakly, "I mean, if feels better than that, but it… it hurts a little." She blushed, looking down at his chest, "But I trust you. Just don't go too fast, ok?"

"I won't."

Asuka hissed slightly as she felt him withdraw an inch or so and slide back in. "I'm ok," she said as he looked concerned, "just keep going, if it hurts too much I'll tell you." Smiling suddenly she added, "Now that doesn't mean you should pretend that my body's a nail and you have the hammer."

Shinji laughed. "Alright," he said gently, relaxing just a bit and avoiding the obvious comments about 'nailing' her, "I'll try and be careful, though…"

"You better," the redhead murmured, her face growing serious, "I don't want to think I was wrong about you Shinji." She caressed his face as he blinked, not understanding her. "I've always thought you were really nice and gentle," she explained quietly, "that's why I fell for you, even when I thought you were weak, I couldn't stop myself from thinking of how it would be to have you touching me." She ran her hands over him, lowering her voice to a mere whisper, "Touching me softly… like you cared for me," she blinked, a tear sliding down the side of her face, "like this."

Shinji nodded, carefully sliding his arms under hers so that he was pressed tightly up against her. "I do care," he said seriously, staring deeply into her moist, blue eye, "and I'll go slow."

"Let's not talk anymore," Asuka breathed, leaning up and touching his lips repeatedly with hers in a string of feather-light kisses, "show me that you care, Shinji."

"Alright."

Instead of immediately starting to move, Shinji gently pulled his right hand out from under her and laid it across her breast. Saying nothing in response to her questioning look, he simply began caressing her, pressing his palm flat against her chest and kneading it very lightly.

The redhead found her body reacting to his careful, almost tentative touch, and she sighed deeply, arching slightly to press herself more fully into his hand. Feels nice, she thought, watching his face as he moved across to her other breast and gave it the same treatment, so soft.

A light moan escaped her as he turned his hand over, scraping the nails of his forefinger and middle finger softly around her areola, teasing her nipple into hardness. She was unsure if she moaned again, or simply continued the original sound, as he spent several long minutes exploring her breasts with his fingers. Stroking… touching… caressing… and teasing her sensitive skin until she found that her hips were slowly rolling against his and her nipples were stiff and aching.

Why isn't he making love to me? she thought, slightly confused, I can feel him inside… but he's not moving at all… is something wrong?

The idea of foreplay was not unknown to her, but by the clock on her wall, she could tell that it had been over twenty minutes since he had first kissed her… and at least five since he had entered her. She was fairly certain that foreplay was meant for before you actually had sex, not after you were already doing it. However, she certainly wasn't going to complain about it - the way Shinji was touching her made her feel like a goddess… so soft and careful.

No… she thought, correcting herself as Shinji moved his hand up to caress her throat, not careful… caring.

The concern (if it could truly be called that) that there might be a problem was laid to rest as he slowly withdrew an inch or so of his manhood and gently slipped it back inside. Asuka gasped, her face contorting slightly as his movement caused a bit of pain. Shinji mouthed, 'sorry,' and slowly reached down between them, spreading his hand and putting it on her left thigh.

Again, he pulled out a bit and gently stroked back into her, but this time, he ran his thumb lightly around the top of her vagina, stimulating her clitoris as he moved. The hint of pain the former Second Child felt was eclipsed by the thrill of pleasure that the combination of feelings sent shooting through her, and she moaned again, pulling him down to kiss him deeply.

Feeling her body growing warmer under him, Shinji decided that there would not be a better time. As carefully as he could, he pulled halfway out, easing back into her while touching her with his thumb. Hearing nothing but satisfaction from his partner, he began to build up a smooth, steady rhythm, stroking her inside and out as they met each other's gaze, neither willing to look away.

After several minutes, Asuka found that she was unable to contain herself. "That's… so good…" she whimpered, putting her right hand flat on his chest, feeling his muscles contract as he made love to her, "Shinji… it's so… mmmmm…" Her body shook as she climaxed, and she could feel her inner muscles contracting around her partner's shaft, squeezing it gently as it moved within her.

Shinji smiled, leaning forward and kissing her as he continued to slowly move in and out of her body. This is the way it should be, he thought, caressing Asuka's face as she smiled up at him, me and her, slow, honest…

"Mmmm," Asuka moaned softly, gently running a finger around Shinji's right nipple and relishing the shiver this drew from him. "When we do this again," she whispered, "I want to be on top, Shinji. I want to please you, because you're sure as hell pleasing me… mmm…"

Shinji shivered again. Though it was not his first time, he was still in a state of high arousal, and hearing that softly declared desire was more than he could take. He cried out softly, his body arching against hers as his own orgasm staked its claim on his body, sending his essence deep inside her body.

Breathing hard, the two ex-pilots rolled onto their sides, holding one another tightly… though by mutual accord, remaining silent. They both wanted to hold the feeling of closeness and unspoken love that seemed to fill the air for as long as they could. And since neither was inclined to move, and both were worn out physically and emotionally from the encounter, it was right there on the floor that they slept.

**

Asuka woke feeling stiff. She groaned as she felt the hard floor digging into her hipbone. "Next time," she whispered, blinking in the darkness as she found Shinji's sleeping face inches from hers, "we do it in bed."

As she was about to lay her head against his chest, she became aware of the sound of a third person's breathing in the room, blinking harder, she looked up to the bed and found Touji looking back at her.

"Don't say anything," the former Fourth Child whispered as the redhead opened her mouth, frowning deeply, "you'll wake up loverboy."

"What do you want?" Asuka demanded, ignoring his advice. "And where's your knife?"

Touji raised his hands, the smile he had been wearing giving way to a serious expression. "What do I want…?" he mused, "Well, I'll tell you, Souryu… what I want is to see my friend happy." He leaned down, his eyes intense as he studied her face in the near-dark. "Are you going to make that happen?" he asked softly, "Or are you going to crush him again?"

The girl flushed, averting her eye. "Go fuck yourself, Suzuhara," she whispered, feeling Shinji stir slightly.

The dark haired boy waited until his friend stilled once more before speaking. "I'm not kidding, Red," he whispered, "you and I know that a simple fuck doesn't mean shit… so tell me: did you fuck him? Or was it more?"

"It's none of your goddamned bus-"

"The hell it isn't!" Touji hissed, his eyes flashing, "I may not be the best guy to have around. Yeah, I'm lazy… yeah, I have some problems with my girl - but you know something? I don't lie - not to my friends, and I sure as hell don't lie to the people I love. Now tell me, do you-"

"Shut up," Asuka whispered tiredly, "Ok? Just… shut up." She laid her head down on Shinji's chest, closing her eye. "What do you want to hear, Fourth Child? Huh? That I'll always love him? How the fuck should I know? No one besides my mother has ever shown me that they care… just her and him." She lowered her voice, "I think I will… I mean, I think about him all the time, I want to be close to him." She blushed, "I let him make love to me, but tomorrow? Next week? A year from now…?"

As she trailed off, Touji sighed. "What you're looking for," he murmured, "it doesn't exist, Asuka. You want the sure thing - you want to know that he'll always love you and you'll always love him, but you know something? That's a dream. You can't spend your whole life wondering if he's going to leave in the morning… or if you're going to wake up one day and realize that it was all in your head - you've got to live for now, and fuck the rest."

"You're so full of shit," the redhead whispered, her body shaking as a tear slid down her cheek, "you think you know so damn much with your, 'Oh, love's no big deal to me, I can take it or leave it' bullshit! You can't even fucking talk to your girlfriend about what you want because you're too busy living your little fucked up here-and-now fantasy, well I got news for you, shithead, Hikari's gonna dump your ass. You think you can just live for the now? Try it when you're all alone, fucker!"

"You know what I think?" Shinji said softly, startling both of the other Children, "I think maybe you should both calm down and think about what you're saying." As they gaped at him, he continued, keeping his eyes closed as he spoke. "I'm not the smartest guy around," he said slowly, "but I know that I love Asuka. I know that all the time I spent trying to rationalize the reasons she wouldn't tell me she loved me first, and wondering if maybe it was all in my mind… I'll never get back."

He opened his eyes, staring up at the ceiling as he went on. "Asuka will never be my first," he murmured, "I can't get that back either, and I rushed into it with someone else because I was too cowardly to tell her I loved her first… but I'll tell you something - she can sure as hell be my only, from now on. And I can tell her, honestly, without a doubt, that right now I love her with all my heart and soul." He sighed. "I know it sounds corny, but if that's all I've got, it has to be enough. I can't say it will last forever, but I'll be damned if I give up on it before it even starts."

"What the fuck was that?" Touji asked after a moment of silence, "You trying to say we should just shut up and stop fighting about which of us is right?"

"No," Shinji replied immediately, "I'm saying she shouldn't worry about what's going to happen tomorrow, and you should! Touji," he said sadly, "I love you like a brother, but if you don't shut the fuck up and tell Hikari that you love her, you're going to end up single… and soon. She's running out of patience, anyone can see that. You know you love her, and you know she loves you - so just fucking say it already!!"

The former Second and Fourth Children stared open-mouthed at the normally quiet Third, taking in the deep scowl on his face as he looked from one to the other. Asuka looked at Touji, who looked back and shrugged slightly.

Abruptly, the two started laughing.

"What?" Shinji demanded, blushing as his determined look faded away, "What's so funny?"

"You," Asuka giggled, hugging him tightly, "you're so serious!" Her voice lowered and she feigned a frown, "'Tell that girl you love her, son, or she's gonna leave you!'"

Touji howled, holding his sides and doubling over on the bed.

"It's not funny," Shinji grumbled. "It's not funn-"

He was cut off as Asuka kissed him gently. "Shhh," she whispered as they parted, "you're sweet, Shinji."

Touji rose from the bed. "Here," he said, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes and chuckling again. "You guys get dressed, I gotta go make a call."

Shinji blinked in confusion as Asuka waited for the Fourth to close to door, then got to her feet, stifling a groan of pain as she stretched. "Where are we going?" he asked, exasperated.

"Mmmm," Asuka hummed, smiling, "you're such a dork. We're going out with Touji and Hikari, dummy."

"We are?"

"We are."

"Why?"

The redhead smiled softly. "I think you know," she said quietly.

"Yeah… I guess I do."

Shinji got to his feet, heading towards the bathroom. "Asuka," he said softly, pausing at the door

"Yeah?"

"You're not going to leave… are you?"

For a very long moment, there was only silence behind him. He thought about all that had happened since the angels had been defeated, from the beach, to Sachiko, to Mitzuki, to last night, it flashed through his mind like a flare in the darkness of a moonless night. He knew that the redhead was scared - even if she would never admit it - and that the idea of letting anyone close to her was still terrifying to her, even after all they had been through and done together.

But he also knew that he was happy with her, and that, even though he said he couldn't truly promise her forever… he would: just to see her smile.

"No, Shinji," Asuka whispered softly, "I'm not - not unless you tell me too."

Shinji smiled. "Then I guess," he mused, "you'll have to stay here forever."

"Guess so."

The brown-haired boy smiled. "I'll get dressed now," he whispered, opening the bathroom door.

"You do that," Asuka replied softly, smiling as she added, "I'll be here, Shinji."

Shinji nodded, knowing that she meant more than just when he got out of the bathroom.

"I know."


Epilogue

"So I've decided to focus on school," Shinji was saying, "I'm sorry, Mister Davies."

"It's alright," Alexander replied, shrugging slightly. "I understand life's gotta come first."

"Thanks…" Shinji murmured, taking Asuka's hand in his. "Tell Mister Arima I said sorry." As he turned for the door, he added, "And tell… Mitzuki and Sachiko I said bye. I saw them in the dinning room, but I didn't want to bother them."

"You're the best damn dishwasher I've ever had," Alexander said with a sigh.

"I am?" Shinji replied, his voice filled with wonder.

"Actually," the man answered, "no. But you were pretty good." They looked at each other for a moment, then broke into laughter. "Honestly, though," the cook said, sobering slightly and offering the younger man his hand, "it was a pleasure to work with you. I hope things turn out well for you, Shinji."

The former Third Child smiled, taking the offered hand. "Thank you, Mister Davies," he said softly, "I hope things turn out well for you, too."

"You can call me Alex now."

Shinji's smile grew slightly, and he nodded. "Alright, Alex." He reclaimed his hand, taking a deep breath. "Well," he said awkwardly, "I guess we should get going. Take care."

"You too, Shinji," Alexander replied, shifting his smile to Asuka and inclining his head slightly, "and you."

"Thank you," Asuka answered, returning his nod and turning for the door.

"Hey Shinji?"

As Asuka stepped out of the room, Shinji paused, turning back to face the cook. "Yeah?"

"I'm glad you weren't that side."

Shinji considered this for a moment before nodding slowly and turning away once more. "Yeah, me too."

Stepping out of the kitchen, the couple nearly ran into Mitzuki. "I'm glad I caught you," she murmured awkwardly, "I… wanted to give you this."

Shinji blushed, avoiding her eyes. "You don't have to give-"

He broke off as the young woman slowly reached up and pulled the bandana off her head, holding it out to him. "Will you take this?" she asked quietly, "And think of me sometimes…?"

The brown-haired boy swallowed, looking around at the assorted people in the restaurant. I wish, he thought, looking down at the floor between them, that I could ever be that strong.

Mitzuki smiled as Shinji reached out, his fingers grazing hers as he took the small cloth. "Being with you was… nice," she whispered softly, flushing as she shifted her gaze to Asuka, easily picking out the white cross necklace Shinji always carried around with him. "I hope you know how lucky you are."

Asuka nodded, looking away from the girl and absently fingering Misato's old pendant, the only remaining memento of her secretly-admired guardian. "Come on, Shinji," she murmured, slipping her arm through his and starting for the door. Taking a look back over her shoulder at the girl, she commented, "Her hair looks like Misato's."

"Misato's was darker," Shinji said softly, trying to push past the memory of the disappointed look on the girl's face, and the knowledge that he had caused it - on purpose or not.

"Not when she was younger," the redhead shrugged, "she showed me a picture of herself when she was about twenty - her hair was the same color as that girl's."

The former Third Child froze, turning slowly to look back at the waitress as she took someone's order.

"What's up?" Asuka asked, following his line of sight.

Mitzuki glanced up, smiling and waving briefly before going back to her duties.

"Nothing," Shinji whispered softly, suddenly recalling the feel of his guardian's lips on his, moments before her death. "Let's go."

"Do you have a minute before you leave?"

The two Children turned to find Sachiko standing in front of them. Asuka unconsciously tightened her grip on Shinji's arm, glaring at the girl with unabashed anger. With Mitzuki, she had known who the enemy was… but she had never seen Sachiko coming - nor had she been aware until the argument in the restaurant that there might be more than one opponent.

In short, Mitzuki she disliked for beating her… Sachiko she disliked for being so quietly powerful. She could sense the energy between the dark-haired girl and Shinji, and she did not like it.

The waitress shifted slightly under the redhead's gaze, but kept her eyes on Shinji. "I just want to say goodbye," she said warily, "we can sit at one of the tables if that would make it easier."

Shinji nodded, carefully extracting his arm from Asuka's. "Will you wait here?" he asked gently, kissing the girl on the cheek and waiting for her to slowly nod, never looking away from her perceived rival.

Sachiko led him to one of the tables, making sure to stay in full view of the other girl and sitting on the opposite side from the now ex-employee of the restaurant. As soon as they were situated, she let out a long breath. "Shinji," she began slowly, staring down at the table, "Domiyoji proposed to me."

"That's great!" the brown-haired boy said enthusiastically, "Now you-"

"I had to say no."

"What? Why!? I don't… I don't understand."

The dark-haired girl met his eyes. "Us," she said plainly, "I couldn't marry him without knowing for sure that I would always be faithful, and as far as we went together - even though we didn't go all the way - I don't know that."

"I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault, Shinji… like I said in the alley; I don't know what exactly it is, whether it's you, or me, or just us - or whatever… I can't commit myself to him until I know for sure that I can be his alone."

"I'm still sorry," the boy replied quietly, glancing over at Asuka, who immediately looked away, pretending to take great interest in the décor, "even if it's not my fault, or yours, it's still not fair that you can't be with him."

Sachiko shrugged uncomfortably, dropping her eyes to the table and fiddling with the paper napkin in front of her. "It… might still work out," she said softly, "but I need to know, you know what I mean? I can't promise to love him and then meet someone like you again, or bump into you at the wrong place in the wrong time and…" She sighed, "You know what I'm trying to say, right?"

"Yeah," Shinji replied gently, "I do, Sachiko. I hope you guys can work it out."

"Me too."

"I'm going to get going before Asuka gets upset, ok?"

Sachiko nodded, rising to her feet with the boy and smiling gently. "Think she'd mind if I gave you a hug?" she asked quietly.

Blushing, Shinji nodded.

The waitress sighed. "Yeah," she murmured, "kinda guessed that. Well, I guess I'll just settle for this." She extended her hand, taking Shinji's and shaking it slowly. "Good luck," she whispered, "stop by and visit us sometimes, ok?"

"Yeah," the former Third Child said, averting his eyes, "I will."

They both knew that he wouldn't, but neither wanted to admit it, so they let it go.

Sachiko watched as Shinji walked over to Asuka and took her hand, leading her out of the restaurant without once looking back. Hearing footsteps behind her, she bowed her head, whispering, "I never tried to take him from you, Mitzu, you know that, don't you…?"

"Yeah," came the quiet reply, "I know you didn't." There was a soft sigh, "And I don't think either of us ever had a chance - not unless she was out of the way."

"Hmmm," the dark-haired girl hummed, smiling as she turned to face her friend, "you sound like you're going to put out a hit on her."

Mitzuki grinned, dropping the other girl a wink. "Come now, I would never stoop to something that messy," her smiled slowly faded as she looked towards the door, "but I do envy her."

For the first time in their relationship, Sachiko found herself unable to let the lie go. "No you don't," she murmured, following the other girl's gaze, "You never loved him, Mitzu, you loved having someone like him."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"What kind of food does he like? What kind of music does he play in that SDAT? What was the name of his guardian?"

Mitzuki blushed, staring down at the floor.

"It's ok," Sachiko said gently, finally laying her finger on what had been bothering her about her attraction to the boy, "we both wanted something from him - you wanted someone who would treat you kindly and tell you that you were a good person." She sighed, "And I kinda wanted the same thing, I guess, but I wanted it without having to think about it - I just wanted to let my mind go and…" she trailed off as the other girl shook her head. "What?"

"Maybe you're right about me," Mitzuki said quietly, "but I know what you wanted, and it's not that shit you're spouting."

"What might that be, pray tell?"

"You wanted an out. You don't love Domiyoji… if you did, you never would have invited Shinji into your house."

"That's not true, I-"

"Look me in the eyes… and tell me you'll marry him."

There was a moment of silence, then Sachiko turned away. "You don't know anything," she muttered.

Mitzuki smiled, but it was hollow and flat. "I'm going to get back to work," she said calmly, turning to head towards the back of the restaurant, "see ya."

"Hey Mitzu."

"Yeah?"

"I like your hair that way."

It was an honest compliment, given sincerely, and accepted without question or doubt… but from that moment on, Mitzuki and Sachiko never quite considered themselves friends.

"Thanks."

Quietly, the two returned to work, each wondering if the other had been right, and each knowing that, for better or worse, Shinji Ikari had changed their lives.

As for the Golden Temple, it didn't seem to mind the passing of its latest dishwasher from within its confines. Much like life, the restaurant simply was. Not passing judgement… not taking sides… not caring if hearts were broken or love was lost. It merely existed, waiting patiently for the next employee, or the next customer, or the next owner, never questioning its place.

And so, the rest of the evening passed slowly, quietly, and uneventfully… though secretly, Mitzuki and Sachiko felt that it passed with just a touch more sadness than the previous night…

The End

Author's notes: on the epilogue, and Sachiko in particular. Hey, what can I say… not everyone gets a happy-happy ending, you know? I was going to have Sachiko announcing her engagement, but it felt false to me. After what happened, it didn't seem realistic to have everyone cheery and upbeat. Infidelity - even with a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship - hurts, and it's not always easy (or possible) to regain a feeling of wellbeing and trust once it's lost, even if only one person knows something is amiss.

I hope you liked this story… sure as hell took me long enough to write. I start it as a short little time-waster to help my other stories along, and I had planned on only making it about 10 pages or so, focusing on Shinji's part-time job post 3I… but it sorta grew :P It was started around April 07th, 2002, and completed on XX XX XXXX. It's XX pages long, including all notes and disclaimers… case anyone cares. ^_~

Pre-read on this entire series was by RustedAngel and Ryoma - the MEN! …or something. Shanks, ferras!