It wasn’t supposed to be like this. At least, Shinji Ikari doesn’t think so.
Of all the lives he had to live, this one had to suck the most. He thinks this, looking at the attic ceiling, the cracking wood starting to bow in. He’d have to tell his foster mother about that. She might not care. He didn’t care, listening to his music blasting through broken earbuds, lying completely prone on his ragged mattress that he hadn’t cared to change the sheets on in what felt like months. He swallows, rubbing the back of his hand over his tear-stained eyes, because boys weren’t supposed to cry, but he did. So what did that make him?
At least that’s what being left alone at an adoption agency made him feel like, frozen to near death one winter’s morning.
And Shinji Ikari isn’t going to lie to himself when he admits that he wishes he had died that night. At least he would have been young and wouldn’t have understood the irony in his death.
He rolls onto his side, sitting up with his music still pounding in his ears along with his heartbeat, swallowing the fear that had built up in his throat and that had slipped in between his teeth, making them feel loose and ready to rip out of his jaws. This would be the night, he decides. A night much like the night he was abandoned on. Maybe if Shinji knew that this was going to happen to him as a child, struggling to keep up his grades, pretending like he didn’t care when his schoolmates made fun of him, he would have beared down on every thought in his mind until he just broke, like he was finally breaking now.
Shinji stands next to his bed, walking over to his dresser and pulling out his favorite band shirt, as well as a dark coloured jacket. After stripping off his current top, he turns to look at his reflection in the mirror to his left, ignoring the shatter that goes straight down the center, and instead memorising the fearful look in his eyes, the red rawness that surrounds them like targets. He stares himself down until he is just a child, just like he once was, looking within himself to try and find the courage to commit the greatest sin. His reflection stares back, numb to the pain he himself was feeling. Something of a mutual understanding. He gets it.
And so it was. He turns and crosses his room, opening the door and traversing the stairs, down to the upstairs bathroom, nausea building, head spinning, as he opens the medicine cabinet and retrieves the things he needs; his foster mother’s pain killers, bottle after bottle of prescriptions, a small package of razor blades just in case the first two didn’t work. He shoves them in his jacket pockets, ignoring the rattling sounds that they made.
Everything felt like a blur now. Shinji remembers to turn off the lights behind him, because he didn’t want to be a bother and leave traces of his presence behind. All the lights were off in the house… except one. He stares down the stairs at the kitchen light, which was still turned on, cursing himself for not checking before making all his preparations. He hopes to a God who had abandoned him it wasn’t Misato- the foster mother in question. He slowly creeps down the wooden steps, biting his fear by the legs and peering into the lit kitchen, only to meet-
A set of bright blue eyes was focused back on him, framed by orange hair. His foster sister (he uses to term ‘sister’ lightly in this connotation. He never had any sibling-like feelings for the girl) stares right back. “Where are you going?” A voice asks, echoing off the surfaces of the house, and it takes him a second to realize it was her talking and not some last ditch effort of whatever shreds were left of his conscience to stop him.
“Out.” Shinji’s ragged voice replies, hollow.
The girl sneers back at him, standing up from her seat at the table. “You know Misato told me not to let you out of the damn house, not after last time ,” She enunciates the last bit too much, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Last time. He remembers that this wasn’t his first time trying something like this. He steps back, hands shoved in his pockets. “... And you’ll freeze to death if you just go out in that. Shinji, I already know I’m powerless to stop you, but I’m not stupid.”
Shinji’s shoulders relax, though tension was still present in his body. The tears were coming back ( he’s a mistake, a mistake, an awful mistake ). He could barely hear his own heartbeat over the music still throbbing in one ear, trying not to look at the girl now standing less than a foot from him. “I’m sorry. Asuka, I’m-” Is all he can think to say, biting his lower lip.
She raises her hand, braced in a fist like she’s about to hit him for thinking he could cross her without asking, shaking with fervor. She had all the right to, in his mind, after when he had put this ‘family’ through. Fear tints her actions like pigments in stained glass, and he sometimes wishes that she could be as see-through as it. Slowly, though, her fist unclenches, and she lets it fall to her side, nail marks visible on her palm.
“You’re a fucking basket case, Shinji. Pathetic and selfish and-” Asuka stops herself, inhaling shakily. Shinji has half the mind to look up at this point, still not able to look into her eyes, seeing a single tear track down her face. “-Don’t hurt yourself too much this time. Misato is thinking of putting you in a psych ward. I’d have to eat her cooking every night if you disappeared like that.”
Shinji can’t help but let out a weak laugh, still watching that tear drip down her face. He reaches up with a sleeved hand and wipes it away, stopping when her hand reaches up and grabs his wrist. Finally, up into those pained blue eyes, willing himself not to shed another tear when he sees the barely kept rage behind them. He pulls his arm away from hers, walking past her and to the back door, hands pressed to the frosted over glass, gulping audibly in an attempt to force himself to not cry. “I think… I’m going to do it… this time.”
Asuka doesn’t respond. He takes it as a silent confirmation. He can tell she’s sick of him and his whining. Instead of bothering her any further, he opens the door, stepping out into the snow and darkness, and shuts it softly behind him.
He trudges through the backyard to the treeline not far behind the house, beckoning to him like the hands of dark angels, thin fists reaching up like antennas to heaven. He turns to look back at the house, willing his body not to revulse and go back, instead turning his teary eyes to the stars far above, wordless songs of mindless pain running through his thoughts and baptizing his body in their dull and sticky feeling. And so, he goes.
Shinji walks for hours, or at least if feels like it. Thankfully he had put new batteries in his music player; he didn’t want to die feeling alone with only his own weakening heartbeat to push him on. His whole body felt like frozen solid from the inside out, joints creaking with every movement. He had bumped into a couple trees on the way, falling at least twice. His jacket and pants were soaking wet, pain edged down to his bone with it’s intensity, only the darkness edging him on towards his goal.
He slumps down next to a tree, mind fogged to hell, barely able to feel his limbs, curling in on himself while shaking violently. He reaches into his pockets, pulling out one of the pill bottles, dropping it into the snow due to how numb his hands are, letting out a sob at how useless he is, even this close to death. Shinji Ikari is terrified. Terrified of himself (terrified of the mistakes, he’s a mistake, everything about him is a mistake) and he feels like hes suffocating on the air around him.
He grips around his pocket, feeling the package of razors under his fingertips, tearing the paper box open and letting the blades fall onto the ground around him like silver snowflakes from a faux heaven. Shinji blindly grasps some in his fist, feeling the bite of cold metal into his skin, throat tightening unbearably, pulling down his sleeves and roughly and mashing them into his already bandaged wrists. He bites his lower lip until he feels blood drip down his chin, scraping the razors rabidly until his forearm is simply a red mess. Finally, his body slacks, breath ragged.
He falls limply onto one side, blades still gripped in one hand. A scream finally claws forth from his throat, watching his own blood pour into the snow as thick as syrup, turned black by the lack of light. The feeling of dread crawls into him as his heart starts to fail, missing beats every so often. Everything starts to swirl and mix together, and it was getting harder and harder to keep his eyes open, so he doesn’t. He lets the vivid sounds of night take him under, muscles slacking and jaw unclenching.
Just as he starts to lose consciousness, a gentle touch on his shoulder reminds him he’s still here. He stares forwards, only now realising there was something standing before him on legs as white as the snow below, feet dipped in the cold fluid which was spread across the ground before him- or rather, before them? Shinji can’t bring himself to look up; too tired, too much work.
The touch turns into a shake, Shinji’s head being lolled back and forth by its force, and… would you stop that? I’m trying to die here , is the only tangible thought he can thread together. Dark eyes watch as their owner’s marred arm was picked up in fingers just as pale as the legs that still take up most of his vision, tightness surrounding his marred wrist.
Shinji can’t move, and whether it's from his weariness or from fear he doesn’t know. His eyes fall shut again, breath coming in weak pants. The subtle touch to his numb skin was still there, touching up from his palm and onto the shredded flesh. He has half the mind to flinch at the contact, fingers retracting into a loose fist. The touch immediately retreats, as if startled by Shinji’s sudden movement, it returning a second later to scoop under his ribcage. Even through the fabric of his jacket, Shinji can feel the strange coolness of the figure’s skin, though it may just be the ambient temperature… he isn’t exactly sure, a second arm going under his legs.
Shinji’s mind goes into a fogged rush as he is lifted from the icy earth, rushing and flowing as if it were a watery soup, sloshing around in his skull. Head craning back, neck straining as whatever was carrying him in arms thin as the bones underneath them. It begins to walk, run, sprint, until it’s movements become somehow so much of a blur that Shinji can’t even count the steps per minute- not that he was counting, anyways. Echoes of crunching ice mixed with animal-like pants become the only sounds in his world, the music left somewhere behind...
He realizes, then, that this didn’t feel like an end. Maybe a stifled beginning; the inhale before a opera singer launches into the throes of a song, the sound of string players as they warm up before a grand performance, the bark that comes from a wolf’s throat before it lets its voice free in a soul chilling howl that could rend the sky in two if it wished. It made him feel unimportant. What if this wasn’t his story, Shinji wonders… he felt as if he was a speck of dust in a beast’s great eye, blue as the sky and as wide as it, too.
Something in the back of his mind tells him this was, in fact, his tale. Shinji Ikari is startled into the darkness.
Shinji thinks, initially, its the sounds of shuffling movement and that awaken him. He forgot how much it sucked to wake up, and the sharp pain in his head didn’t help… his fingers tighten into aching fists, legs stretching out with a jitter of his hips. The pain only gets worse as he opens his eyes, warm light turned sharp to his throbbing head. His eyes recognize his surroundings immediately as his room, the familiar scent of mothballs and dull air alluding to at least that. A vague shape meanders across his vision, light bending around a dark figure that passes by. Shinji shifts to sit up, but is immediately stopped by a nauseating bout of headrush which forces him to lie back down, a groan coming from his throat.
This was a bad idea. He sucks in a harsh breath when the figure suddenly stops, and he can feel judging eyes land on him. A voice suddenly invades his head, tone accusing and nearly cutting in it’s anger.
“Do you even know how worried I was when I got home and you weren’t here?! Asuka wouldn’t tell me anything, and-” The sound of his foster mother’s roaring voice causes him to shudder as she peals on and on about how damn worried she was. Misato draws closer, her vague shape taking up nearly his entire vision. She stops after a good minute, her panting breaths being heard above everything else.
“... Are… are you done now…” Shinji has half the mind to croak out, voice worn thin with pain. Misato doesn’t respond for a second, but he can feel her gaze drilling into him.
“ No. Where the Hell did you think you were going? You nearly froze to death out there! Thankfully, I called some people in the community and they found you…,” Misato sneers and crouches down to his eye level, red-brown eyes staring back at him as sharp as tacks. That was the point, he thinks, looking away from her, shutting his eyes to dull the light’s burn, “At least you had half the mind to take blankets with you, thank God for that.”
Shinji sits still, eyes still tight, before he fully metabolize what she had said… Blankets? His brows knit as he tries to think back to the previous night, but nothing was coming back to him, memories dulled to a tarred stop. “Y-yeah, I…,” Shinji starts, his eyes still locked closed as he tries to force himself into thinking back, back to…
Misato huffs, the sound of her ruffling clothes as she stands reminding him of her presence. “Don’t pull that kind of thing again. It’s stupid to do that, especially this time of year!” She scolds, her glare still locked onto him. He mutely nods, not sure what to say now that his mind was locked onto a completely different topic…
After a minute of silence, she finally exits the room, arms crossed over her chest stubbornly. Once he hears the sound of the attic door shutting, Shinji once again tries to sit up, this time with better results. He lets out a long groan, leaning back against the wall next to his bed to keep himself upright. His mind slowly pieces together the implications of last night, thoughts aligning until they finally become clear. He finally opens his eyes, a million different questions clouding his brain, though one stands out from all the rest.
Who saved me?