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The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret

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-The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret-

The silence of the apartment was broken by the low sounds of water running and the bathroom door sliding closed. Asuka Langley Sohryu yawned sharply and ran a hand through her tousled mane, still not fully awake after her short trip to the restroom. Padding quietly though the living room and back to her bed, she stopped just before opening the door to glance at the room across the hall...where one Shinji Ikari resided. 'Probably dreaming something perverted,' she thought with a grimace, turning her nose upward as she turned away from his door.

Asuka slowly opened the entrance to her room but stopped just before stepping inside, turning back around to Shinji's door once more. The need to relieve herself had interrupted a minor nightmare, things from the past she'd have rather forgotten. So as much as she wished for rest, the girl hesitated when remembering just what she'd been awakened from. 'And as long as I'm up,' she justified, 'why not look in on the idiot and see if his face gives away what kind of perverse things he's imagining?' She grinned thinking about teasing the boy, taking her mind off the things her nights usually brought on.

Stepping silently over to his door, Asuka ever-so-carefully slid it open just enough to see beyond. As her vision adjusted to the darkness inside, all she could make out was the back of the Third Child as his body rose and fell with his breathing. He was facing away from the door, the sheets crumpled around his feet and unused. 'Given the humidity,' the redhead mused, 'that's not really a surprise.' She certainly hadn't been using her own this night, or she'd have woken up a sweaty mess. She opened the door as slowly as she could, watching to see if the futon's occupant would wake and notice the intrusion into his room.

Getting the door open just enough to be fully visible to anyone inside, Asuka leaned on the frame and watched Shinji as he remained oblivious to his newfound audience. In truth, this wasn't the first time the Second Child had visited her fellow EVA pilot in the middle of the night. She never did anymore than stand at the threshold and watch him sleep, wondering just what sort of dreams he had. 'He always looks so peaceful,' she thought. 'No anxiety, no nervousness...just a kid at rest.' That last part made her feel somewhat bitter, considering how often her own nights were plagued by bad dreams of hospital rooms and dolls...

Asuka shook her head softly, cleaning her thoughts of where they had been heading. Tonight, she felt a little different than she had the other time's she'd checked in on him sleeping. Maybe it was just the grogginess from being woken for a bathroom break, maybe it was just a lack of sleep altogether...either way, she felt like talking to Shinji. Not with him, to him. He could be useful for the moment as a sounding board for her words. 'Better than talking to yourself,' she concluded. 'He's asleep, but it's another person.'

"Hey idiot," Asuka began, her voice cracking from being unused for a while and just a bit louder than she had intended. She held her breath, waiting to see if what she'd said would stir him from his rest. When it seemed he had stayed sleeping, she continued much quieter. "Just so you know, I don't make a habit of this," she went on, her voice only being above a whisper. "But...well, the night hasn't been as kind to me as it has you." She let out a sigh and looked down at the floor for a moment. "So, here I am...talking to a slumbering dummkopf and hoping they won't wake up with questions." She shifted her weight from one foot to another, looking back up at the boy's steady breathing. "Truth is, this isn't a bad way to talk to you. You're not nervously trying to reply to me, you're not avoiding eye contact, you're not being...well, you."

Asuka let out just the ghost of a laugh. "What does that say about me, ja?" The smile fell from her face as she continued. "It's funny. You and I couldn't be more different, could we? You shrink from attention, I bask in it. I have the kind of confidence that can only come from being the best at what I do, you might as well be a throw rug. I trained most of my life as an EVA pilot, worked myself day in and day out...and you just show up and do it with absolutely no training whatsoever. And you do it just as well as I can." She narrowed her eyes at his back. "Do you know what that feels like, Ikari?" She shook her head after a long breath. "Of course you don't. You didn't even want to get into the thing at first." She found the patterns in the wood floor interesting again. "Yeah, I've seen the report about that first battle. I've seen your file, too. As much as my clearance lets me see, anyway." She glanced back up at him. "And that's why I know that, as much as we're different, we're kind of alike too." She smiled sadly, thinking about what she'd learned from his file. 'Your mother...' she thought, and was about to speak, but decided against when she realized what that would bring back to her mind. Some things just felt wrong to bring up, even 'talking' with him like this.

Her eyes having long since adjusted to the dark, Asuka could make out some of the details on his face that she could see from her angle. "You know...you're not all that bad looking, Third," she went on, a blush and the heat associated with such creeping across her face as she said the words. "Heh, maybe even cute, dare I say." She stopped for a second, noting how her breathing had changed. "I'm not the only girl to think so, you know. Quite a number of 2-A's female population thinks so." She shifted herself slightly, changing from leaning on one side of the frame to the other. "I wonder just what you'd think of that." She shook her head. "You'd probably think I was lying on both counts, some kind of long-con type of tease. I wouldn't blame you, really." He gaze softened somewhat as she watched him. "I wonder just what you'd do, knowing that...just who you'd want, knowing you could have your pick."

Asuka paused to take a hitched breath, thinking just what she'd said aloud. "Would it surprise you to know that I think that about you?" She crossed her arms over her stomach, rubbing the upper part of her left arm with her right hand. "I said we weren't as different as you think. I'm sure you have some pretty conflicted thoughts about me," she continued, looking down and over at a blank section of wall, "but, well...truth be told, I..." She looked back up, still seeing Shinji's regular breathing. "It's been a weird couple of months, Third. And after living with you for this long, I can at least say...I've grown somewhat fond of you." Her gaze sharpened as she continued to watch him. "I said you might as well be a throw rug, but...that's not entirely correct. Most of the time, yes. But there are those moments, few and far between, where I've seen the young man inside the boy. The times you've taken charge in battle, the times where you didn't shrink back from me...and I like what I see." She moved her head to stare at the ceiling. "I see a much more confident and reliable person, someone I wouldn't mind seeing as an equal. Under normal circumstances, though, well..." She uncrossed her arms and motioned at him with a wave of her hand. "...you're this. Just a child. And that's what frequently frustrates me. That you're just not like that more of the time."

Asuka shifted back over to the other side of the door frame. "I wonder just what you think about me, though." She gave an offhanded toss of her ginger hair. "I mean, I know you have dirty thoughts about me. You're a guy, that much is obvious." The grin left her face, replaced with a slightly sad smile. "But what about more than that? What about me as a pilot? Me as a roommate? As a girl? As a friend? As...something more?" She shook her head again, almost laughing at her last words. "Geez, listen to me getting all soft on you. I guess that's what happens when I let my words out without a filter." Deciding she had let her thoughts wander far enough for one night, the redhead gripped onto the door handle and stopped leaning against the door frame. "I think I've been up long enough, I'm starting to get delirious if I'm talking to you like this," she went on, trying to play it off...even though she was the only one to hear her words. "I've gotta say, though, I've liked our little 'talk'. Maybe I might even visit again when I can't sleep, there are certainly worse ways to cure insomnia."

Asuka stepped backwards just outside of the room's threshold and slid the door about halfway closed. "Good night id-" She stopped partway through the familiar insult and corrected herself. "Sleep well, Shinji," she placed an emphasis on his name.,"I'll see you in the morning bright and early. And I expect a good breakfast." She gave the boy a wink and finished closing the door. Turning around and heading back into her own room, she got inside just as stealthily as she could and looked over at her clock. 'One-twelve in the morning,' she thought upon seeing the digital readout. 'Might as well get some sleep before school.' She quickly got back into bed and closed her eyes, drifting off within less than ten minutes...and the grim dreams of hospitals and dolls didn't reach her again this night.


Meanwhile, back in the room across the hall, Shinji Ikari turned over and stared at the ceiling with wide eyes. He had stirred from his own slumber upon hearing someone enter the bathroom and listened as they moved quietly though the apartment. When the footsteps had stopped in the hall, he had realized that the person had been Asuka and rolled over to go back to sleep. Or, at least, that had been the plan up until he heard his door open and he quickly stayed as still as possible to give the impression that he hadn't awoken. He had been wondering just what the redhead was doing when he heard her start talking. So he simply stayed still and listened. And what he'd heard had been enlightening indeed.

Asuka's words replayed themselves through his mind over and over, all of those little inner thoughts she had shared with someone she thought was sleeping had been heard loud and clear. Shinji was more than a little surprised at her candor about how they weren't as different as they thought they were, how she had a better opinion of him than he'd ever have expected, and her admission of how attractive she thought he was. Replaying that last one in particular brought on a very strong blush that he felt through his entire body. It was no real secret to anyone that he harbored at least a crush on the girl...but to know that she also had favorable, perhaps even a little romantic, notions about him...he felt as though his heart would leap up to his throat. Swallowing that feeling back down, the Third Child quickly reminded himself that these were things Asuka would never say if she knew he'd been awake. 'But just to know that she feels that way, those kinds of thoughts...' he mused, trailing off as he realized he'd never even entertained the idea that she would think that about him. He smiled in spite of his subconscious mind wanting to second-guess everything, those darker thoughts couldn't bother him after knowing what he did now. 'I guess that's better than I could have hoped for.'

Closing his eyes and letting out a long breath, Shinji Ikari stared back up at the familiar ceiling of his room...and, for once, found it a comforting sight. It would always remind him of this night, of those words Asuka had said (though he couldn't let her know he had heard them) and of what he had learned through them. Maybe he would make more of an effort to reach out to her, to erase what still divided them. And maybe, just maybe... "Good night Asuka," he softly mumbled with a yawn, feeling sleep overtake him again. "Sweet dreams."

-End-