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More Than Words

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-More Than Words-

Shinji Ikari stepped across the threshold of his guardian's apartment, weakly announcing his return in case anyone was home. He didn't get an answer, of course: Misato had left for a coworker's wedding and Asuka was off on some date Hikari had set up. He sighed heavily while taking off his shoes. The day had gone pretty much as he had expected, whatever hope he had for any bonding time with Commander Ikari lost just a few seconds into their meeting in front of his mother's grave marker.

Shinji walked into his room and dropped down on the bed face-first. He had expected the cold shoulder from his father, but not quite to the degree he had actually gotten. Maybe there was just no reaching that man, he reasoned. But there was that moment several week ago when he'd praised the Third Child after a successful fight with an Angel…

Shinji groaned into his mattress, the two thoughts having once again led him to a circular conclusion. Looking over toward his closet, he saw the familiar cello case he hadn't opened since he moved to Tokyo-3. Figuring that it would take his mind off the day's earlier events (and it had been far too long since he'd last practiced), he stood up and retrieved the case. Carrying it into the living room, he laid the container down flat and retrieved a wooden chair from the kitchen.

Opening the clasps and top, Shinji found the instrument to still be fairly dust-free. Considering he hadn't opened it in several months, this wasn't all that surprising. He'd even changed the strings not long before shelving it last. Taking a few moments to check the tuning, he lightly drew the bow across the strings and let the droning note hang out in the empty room. Figuring it was as good as he was going to get, he adjusted his fingers on the hand that held the cello's neck and began lightly playing something he knew well. And just a few seconds later, the apartment filled with the sound of Bach's Cello Concerto No.1 in G.

Meanwhile, Asuka Langley Sohryu had just stepped off the elevator on the floor that held Misato's apartment. She was silently fuming, both at her asshole of a date and her best friend for thinking that it would be any fun. She couldn't be that mad at Hikari, though: she was only trying to help. She did, however, continue mentally berating the guy she'd left standing in line for some ride that was far too childish for her liking. He had been your typical self-centered douche, the kind of person she saw far too often for her own liking around school. Just because he was a year or two older didn't matter, he was still far too much of a kid for someone like her. And of course, the person she had her eye on was at a wedding with her guardian. Nothing about that sat well with the redhead.

Asuka heard something coming from the apartment as she neared the door. She didn't think there would be anyone back yet: Misato was at the aforementioned wedding and baka-Shinji was supposed to be meeting with his father. Not to mention, she was pretty sure that neither of her roommates knew much about classical music. She recognized it as a Bach composition, Cello Concerto No.1 in G if she recalled correctly. Opening the door silently, the Second Child was more than a little surprised to see her fellow pilot playing the instrument with his back to the front door.

Asuka slid the door behind her shut just as quietly, not wanting to announce herself just yet. She kept an eye on Shinji while she slipped off her shoes and left them near the door, listening to the boy's performance. From the angle she had, she could tell his eyes were shut but only lightly. He actually looked…at peace? Even happy? That was an odd thing, she noted, as she had rarely seen him show either of those emotions in the time she'd known him. His playing wasn't half-bad either, she mentally admitted, having heard other people do a much worse job at the piece before. It seemed as though the dummkopf had some other talents he hadn't shared with others.

Asuka had considered speaking up or even giving him some light applause, but it somehow felt…wrong. Like it would ruin the moment Shinji had built, like her entrance would be just an intrusion. So she just listened as he continued playing, letting the notes relax her after her disastrous date. When she felt calm enough, the Second Child quietly padded her way down the hall and to her room, where she decided to change out of her green dress.

Shinji finished the piece just a few minutes later, slowly opening his eyes and letting out a long breath. Finally having put his earlier meeting with the Commander out of mind, he carefully packed the instrument back up and carried the case back into his closet. Walking back into the living room after that, he caught sight of Asuka's shoes nearby. Those hadn't been there earlier, he realized, turning his head back toward his roommate's door. He briefly considered checking to see if she was in there, maybe even as her about how the date went, but let that thought go just as quickly. The redhead had made it clear before that she didn't want him anywhere near her room.

Shinji sighed and walked over to the fridge, opening it and retrieving a water bottle. Twisting the top off, he took a long drink while letting his thoughts drift over to the girl he lived with. Asuka was frequently confounding to the introverted boy, a riddle stored in a puzzle box. Girls were difficult enough to understand anyway, but the redhead was on another level. Most of the time, her usual self would be anything from cold to boastful to demeaning…but there were those rare times where she would be almost a completely different person, one more fragile and genuine than what she seemed most of the time. Frustrating, that was the best way he could describe it.

Regardless, Shinji was glad that she was back. While being around her was certainly taxing, it also brought him a feeling he couldn't quite describe…although he had an idea. The Third Child could tell that he was being attracted to her just as much as she would repel him. And that didn't sit well, seeing as she seemed uninterested in anyone not named Kaji Ryoji and his own inability to get closer. He wanted to, yes, but felt that it was a futile effort.

Back in her room, Asuka had changed into her usual lounging attire of a large yellow shirt and blue shorts and was laying on her bed. Staring up at the ceiling, she'd heard the end of Shinji's performance and was slightly upset at the fact that the relaxing music had ended. Her thoughts drifted to her roommate, someone who both interested and annoyed her to no end. Sometimes he could be the man she wished he would be…but more often, he'd just be the equivalent of a walking breathing doormat. She tried to shake the thoughts away, as she had done any other time they made themselves known, but it came back just as quickly.

Asuka sighed and closed her eyes. It was probably inevitable: they lived in such proximity to each other, and spent so much time together, that of course she would start feeling differently about Shinji. Not that she'd ever tell him, mind: Eva pilot or not, he was still well out of her league. But if he were only more of a man, then…

Rolling over and grumbling into her bed, Asuka stood up and readjusted her hair. She figured some TV would get her mind off the Third Child, so she walked over to her door and opened it less quietly than she had earlier.

Shinji heard the opening of Asuka's door from where he was standing in the kitchen and, fearing that she may be in a foul mood, quickly scrambled into a position where she wouldn't see him. He heard her step bare-footed down the hall and land with a thud on the couch, turning on the television. He ever-so-carefully stood from his spot and saw the redhead flipping through channels, trying to find something on that caught her attention. She apparently hadn't noticed his presence and kept her eyes fixed on the screen, her expression bored.

Asuka, meanwhile, had noticed the feeling of being watched and knew just who it was. She must have missed him in the kitchen, she guessed. But rather than getting angry and telling him to look elsewhere, she just let the boy look at her. She wondered just what was on his mind (hopefully not something hentai, she mentally noted) but was a little glad for the silent attention she was getting from him. After all, she'd caught him looking at her sometimes…and it wasn't the same expression he had when looking at other girls, even Wondergirl. It made her feel wanted, special, and she liked that…though she would rather drown than admit that at all.

Shinji, during Asuka's trip through the same channels over and over, had contemplated going over and sitting down on the same couch as her…but squashed that thought almost immediately. No use risking making her mood worse, he figured. But he also didn't consider going back to his room, either. She didn't seem to be paying attention to anything in the room except for what was on-screen, so he thought that maybe she wouldn't notice (or care) if he came into the same room. Also, the thought of going back to his room made him feel more than a little lonely. Finally, the Third Child swallowed the lump that had built in his throat and summoned all of his courage…and shakily walked over and took a seat on the couch as far as he could from the girl, keeping his eyes on the television.

Asuka had seen him approach and take up the spot opposite her, but continued to keep watching whatever show she had ended up on. She had to give him credit for boldness, though: any other time, he would have taken a seat somewhere on the floor away from her. He was at the far end of the couch, yes, but this was still very different for him. The girl smiled internally, but didn't let it show outwardly.

Both teens sat like this for almost half an hour, shifting between watching whatever was on the screen and surreptitiously watching the other from their peripheral vision, both wondering just what the other person was thinking. Both didn't feel like speaking or drawing attention to either themselves or each other, just letting the sound of the TV keep their silence from stopping.

Finally, Shinji relaxed just a little and moved a slight bit closer to Asuka. The cold sweat that had developed since he'd first sat down came back much stronger, the proximity to the hard-to-read redhead a little closer than he'd like most times. Right now, though, it felt right to move that little bit nearer. As much as she pushed him away, something about her personality emboldened him. Maybe she was just rubbing off on him, he thought, since they did live together.

Asuka had seen the move toward her and her heart beat just a little bit faster. She tried to remind herself that this was baka-Shinji of all people, but her body wouldn't listen. Seeing his hand just a couple of feet from her out of the corner of her eye, the Second Child took a moment to think: just what was Shinji to her? Co-worker? Roommate? Friend? She thought all of those things sounded right, but somehow seemed to stop just short. There was something else, something she didn't have a word for, something she felt but didn't want to admit to. But it was there regardless of her wants.

Shinji watched as Asuka placed the hand not holding the remote on the couch, almost just touching his own. He gulped silently and thought about placing his hand on hers, but decided against it. She was just relaxing, he mused, she didn't even know he was there (or she did and just didn't mind that much). He didn't know what brought the idea on, it wasn't as if it would go anywhere but an angry Second Child.

Asuka saw the hesitation on Shinji's part as their hands were next to each other, he made just the barest of movements in her direction. Finally getting frustrated with his nervousness, the redhead closed the distance and placed her hand on top of his. She felt him go rigid in her touch, not even trying to flee from the sudden contact.

In truth, Shinji was paralyzed on the spot from her sudden actions. His palms became sweaty and his mouth felt very dry, but he slowly relaxed in her grip as it became apparent that Asuka wasn't going to do anything more than that. He let out a shaky breath and turned his hand around under hers, their palms making contact for the first time. It wasn't just his own: he noticed that her own hand was somewhat damp.

Asuka closed her eyes lightly when she felt Shinji turn his hand over and their palms touched. She slowly increased the grip she had on his hand, holding firmly onto him. For the first time since he sat down, the Third Child fully turned his attention to the girl next to him. As soon as he opened his mouth, the redhead turned her head around toward him and shook her head. Something about the look in her eyes cut off whatever he was going to say. Instead, he hesitantly nodded his head and squeezed her hand back…which was rewarded with a small smile from the girl.

Shinji smiled back, still terribly nervous but now much less worried that he had upset the redhead. Asuka turned her attention back to the TV but didn't let go of his hand. The boy kept his own grip on her and continued to watch the program with her.

Both sat like this for quite some time, almost into the evening. Neither wanted to say a word, feeling as if it would ruin whatever kind of magical mood that was in the apartment. Both continued thinking to themselves what this moment had meant, but it didn't really matter in the end: whatever it was, it was good. And that was all that did matter.