AN: Yeah, yeah, yeaaah! Don't you just love off-days? I know I do. Now, let it be known that this chappy is… weird, I think. Like with everything I do in this life, I don't think twice about it, I just let it flow. This flowed with Eminem's Insane song being played on a loop (my neighbors hate my guts!), along with other crazy songs, so let's see. I hope you enjoy it!

I own nothing.

"The bastard won't even eat nothing he's fed
He just hung himself in the bedroom he's dead"
"Debbie don't let that fucker get you upset
Go in there, stick a fuckin' cigarette to his neck
I bet you he's fakin' it, I bet you
I bet he probably just wants to see how upset you would get
I'll go handle this of course, unless you object"
"Ahh go fuck his brains out, if any's left in his head"

If you could count the skeletons in my closet
Under my bed and up under my faucet
Then you would know I've completely lost it
Is he nuts? No! He's
insane!

If you could count the skeletons in my closet
Under my bed and up under my faucet
Then you would know I've completely lost it
Is he nuts? No! He's
insane!


Chapter Three: Insane

The air was crisp outside, just cool enough to be comfortable and not nearly cold enough to make her wish for a jacket or blanket just yet. About forty minutes had passed since her… the redhead snickered slightly to herself, since her 'patient' had chugged down the Ninja Star, and was still to show any effect whatsoever. He sat a few feet from her in the new wheelchair the hospital had prepared; the look in his eyes was distant, she realized, gone was the biting, frigid, calculating look he used on every person, replaced by a thoughtful frown filled with what she assumed was melancholy.

Her strategy with the letter had been successful, at the very least. She had been prepared to pry the small paper off his hand, should he have decided to damage the small envelope, but luckily the plan had unfolded in a satisfactory fashion. Those letters, and the packages, were the last remnants of the Ikari Shinji she had known and learned to… be very fond of.

Eyes lost in the few stars discernible through the shadows and the clouds, Shinji looked peaceful for the first time since she'd arrived at Japan. His attire was an amalgamation of what Misato had retrieved in a hurry and delivered to the hospital once her former male charge had regained consciousness. A simple, comfortable looking black T-shirt obscured most of the boy's bandages aside from a small thread of gauze which ran a bit under his neck, the large pants he wore also hid away any visual evidence from the savage wound on his leg. From all the knife wounds, the one in Shinji's leg was by far the deepest, having been mere millimeters from reaching his femur. It's an honest, pleasant surprise that there's no noticeable neural damage, she pondered. The edible's potency made itself known when Asuka's shoulder suddenly relaxed. Careful, Sohryu, the redhead took a deep breath. This is a dangerous thing you're doing; you need your defenses up if you plan to survive Round One with him.

He, despite being the object of her attention for more than half an hour, had yet to say another word other than to request a bit of water. He sat in the wheelchair she was certain he resented, blue eyes fixed in a point far away, breathing normalized and shallow. Yeah, a pang of guilt intermingled with sympathy shot through her. He has four knife wounds on the left side of his body. Four. I'm sure he's used to doing everything by himself by now, and suddenly he has to put up with being unable to move. She licked her lips, took a sip of water from the bottle which lay next to her, and cleared her throat. "So," The injured former pilot dipped his head slightly in her direction. "How are you feeling, right now? No… urges for something else?"

The last thing she needed was the tremors of withdrawal pushing apart her stitches, or the sweats infecting her carefully-cleaned incisions; the calmer Shinji remained the quicker his wounds would heal. "It's good, this little Ninja Star," Asuka heard the boy admit with little to no emotion dancing off his voice. "No, I don't need anything else right now."

As if you have any idea of what I need, bristled his mind with impatience. He was biding his time, letting the harmless edible drive a hole in the walls of his subconscious. Of course he wanted something else; he wanted coke. With enough coke Shinji was certain he'd get so aggressive, paranoid and erratic that Asuka would flee without looking back. Why then, had he not yet gone to retrieve the bag he kept for safety at all times? She was just sitting there in his chair, chin propped on one hand, watching him. Ah yes, so that's how it is… the little Frau Doctor plans to expand the feats of her legacy with you, Ikari. Oh, how a clear mind sees these things.

"I bet it'll be a great article." He commented after minutes of silence. The stars were half-hidden under clouds that night, to his dismay, with hardly any of the numerous constellations he had grown fond of recognizable. "They might even offer the Pulitzer."

"Eh?" Snapped the doctor… psychiatrist, whatever she was nowadays . Oh, yes, Shinji smiled deviously to himself. The fun part has begun. I may not be able to move much, but I can talk. That's how I got everyone else a safe distance away from me. "What are you talking about?"

"Well, let's obviate the fact…(cough)… that I haven't seen you in seven years," elaborating on his point only meant digging deeper into her armor, and having yet another defenseless victim he could brutalize with words. "Let's completely ignore how this night, right now, is the first time since I've known you that…(cough, cough)… you've asked me, well… anything." He felt her eyes on him and wondered if the little sweet was somehow limiting the level of spite in his voice. "Those two questions you just asked… I've been hearing them for a long time. So, am I a good lab rat? Am I an interesting study subject yet?"

Turning his head in her direction once more, the boy's sardonic smile widened. Asuka was effectively glaring at him in the way he had just glared at his own floor, most likely wishing to have his skull explode with telekinesis. "What," she started, and huffed with clear annoyance. "What the hell are you going on about?"

"Hey, come on, now. Don't act so surprised," he shrugged even when the three lesions on his upper body stung beyond belief. "I was bound to figure it out, at some point. We can of course, attribute this to the fact that I'm this sober at the moment. Ah, you should've given me ten of those little stars, Asuka."

The girl he had dreamed of for so many years rose from her seat and marched over to where he had wheeled himself, a few steps away from the rail, glowering down at him as though they were still fifteen years old. "You want to run that by me again, Baka?" She growled menacingly, which only earned her a bored, knowing stare in return. "What did you say? Do you think I'm doing this to write a paper on you? What the h-"

"What else am I supposed to think?" How about the fact that you were with all those… bastards… on your time away, huh?! "You suddenly disappear one day after we survive the End of the World together, you don't call, you don't write, you don't even tell your dad to give NERV a memo saying…(cough, cough)… saying you're still alive. I didn't know if you were alive or not until I got out of the stupid wheelchair and started making calls myself. Did you know that? I spent four months…(cough)… four months not knowing what had happened to you." He made no effort in disguising the anger this time; there was no longer need to. The dam had opened, and the poison was now free to flood all over his sharp tongue. "Then all of the sudden you show up, invite yourself to my house, say that you'll save me, and open up the conversation with the most cliché couple of questions every other state shrink uses."

Was that a vein pumping just above the girl's eyebrow, which was now twitching maddeningly? The injured young man watched with a strange sense of fascination as the recognizable traits of profound anger made the redhead's body shake and her eyes narrow. He had always found her attractive, even while angered. "So you think," she ground out with a similar tone to the one he had just used in the kitchen. "That I'm here, in this god damned city of all places, taking care of you… so I can write some stupid paper?! A paper regarding what, Shinji?!"

"I don't know," he shot back, feeling how his pulse and breathing quickened. Her sudden outrage at his comment had ignited a dangerous pit deep inside his chest. "How about 'The Third Child, tales of a useless junkie'? Or how about 'How I saved my fellow pilot, the perverted rapist', huh? 'My experience with a serial killer' the case of Ikari Shinji', I don't know, I'm just…(cough)… throwing it out there. You really expect me to believe that you magically came down here, to take care of me of all things, because I hit rock bottom… (cough)… or something? I've been living at rock bottom for years, now!"

"Arrrg!" he watched Asuka ball her fists and growl in total frustration with a frightening sense of overwhelming familiarity, one which scared him right down to the marrow of his bones. "You almost died, Shinji!" she exploded at last, now actively glaring at him. "Do you understand that, do you even care?! You almost died!"

The last part had come out so harshly that the girl blinked despite her ire, recalling Misato's comment, and threw a look over her shoulder to ensure no stranger was taking advantage of the show she had just displayed. Once her eyes settled back on Shinji, the annoyance only grew tenfold. How did he manage to tick her off so easily, even after so long? The deadpan, bored, slightly glazed stare Shinji held evenly to her drove her rage into overdrive. That was of course, until he opened his mouth.

"This is hardly the first time I've almost died," he answered; the smile had washed off his face the second she had raised her voice. "I don't remember you coming by any of those times, and I know Misato wailed at you over the telephone, crying about whatever happened to me. Don't think you can bullshit me so easily; we're not fifteen anymore, Asuka."

Forced to swallow the crushing remark she had come up with, Asuka's eyes widened in shock and understanding; he was not even trying to lie. Shinji was thoroughly convinced she had arrived at his house with any, literally any other objective than helping him. That aside, he had just touched a very delicate subject she was not yet ready to discuss; the insultingly large absence and refusal to return for so many years. She derailed the conversation in an effort to have her strategy function in the coming days.

"I know about the fight in that low-life bar four years ago, when you turned eighteen," she ground out, making the boy's eyes widen in turn. Yes, he had not gone to the hospital in that particular event, but someone else had. "I know about the knife wound on your back, the one you never bothered to have treated. I know about those assholes from three years ago, in your gym. And I know a whole lot more. I have my reasons for not coming back then," she paused, shoulders falling. This… this particularly, fighting with him, overpowering him and imposing herself in and any and all forms possible, was the one thing she had not missed at all, and he was consciously provoking it. "I haven't given you any reasons to believe me, but I will, in time." She smiled then, which only caused Shinji to frown. "That's also a promise."

Fuck your promise, he almost spat, but his jaw remained stubbornly set. How had she known about the incident in his gym three years before? Your word means nothing… nothing. Only he knew the statement to be untrue; Asuka was not lying. "Whatever, you're just evading the question, again," he picked the glass and drank before the cough threatening to exit his lungs had a chance. "Why are you pretending to suddenly give a shit? What's it to you if I get stabbed, or if I stab somebody, huh? What's it to you if I die? I think your overall response to… (cough, cough)… everything I tried left that matter crystal clear. And it's not like you're wrong, in any case. It shouldn't be anybody's concern if I die," a small sliver of melancholy stabbed him in the stomach, exactly where the knife had been introduced. Was the small Ninja Star having the opposite effect on him? "I don't deserve anybody's concern."

The anger was not radiating off his voice with the dreadful grate that forced shudders in her ribcage and made her knees weak, but Shinji's empty tone was much more painful to digest in her ears. In his youth, he had been practically unable to hide away any emotion despite his best efforts to be left alone and limit his interaction with others. Shinji stuttered, double guessed himself, stared at the floor, and his eyes and tone always spoke before his words did. As a young adult, his voice had grown deep and flat, with only anger ever managing to disrupt the monotone on occasion.

She sighed, realizing she was down to one of her emergency weapons. "So, why do you try so hard, Shinji? You can be frighteningly diligent when you want to, you know. Every year, you send three letters; one on New Year's Eve, one two days before my birthday and one on Christmas. You don't even celebrate Christmas yourself. Why do you that?"

Because it was the last connection I had left, his mind answered, turning hazy and obscure. A small tremor ran through the right side of his body, and his arm got itchy. Writing those stupid letters and picking your present was… the only bond left to me with humanity. "Old habits die hard, I suppose," he answered instead. It truly was a pity he couldn't drink at the moment; he would have given anything for a big, powerful glass of whiskey right then. "I sent the first one, then the second one, and… (cough)… nobody told me stop." Switching his gaze from the stars to her face, he sighed shallowly enough to not upset the injury on his back. "Nobody answered; nobody even told me they were being received. I honestly thought either NERV or the government burnt them before they were ever sent, so I just kept at it, like with the cello."

"And what about the presents, then?" she inquired next, truly curious about his intention. She was sure what he had just said was a blatant lie; still, it allowed to study his behavior to a deeper depth, even when the small edible was already relaxing her every muscle and making the redhead feel quite attracted to the idea of hugging Shinji. "Every year, every single year I get a package from you on my birthday."

Said young man rearranged the weight on his chair, scratched his left arm and subsequently ran a hand through his hair and nape. "Ugh," he grumbled, distracted by the way the night breeze made the auburn locks dance ever so slightly. "I never… ever got to celebrate your birthday with you," Why lie? He thought, pleased. Why bother to lie when the truth is so much simpler, and more painful? Let her leave your questions unanswered, for now. "I never got to say happy birthday, Third Impact happened, well… I made Third Impact happen, and then you left. So I thought I'd at least try and get you something." Shinji had never planned to survive the current year; he had already deposited the package in the mail, paid and given specific instructions as to where and when it should be sent. "All I ever gave you was headaches, then I gave you a horrible, disgusting experience to remember, and then I tried to kill you."

They locked eyes again, Asuka's surprised, steely cerulean met with Shinji's dark cobalt. "It's the pathetic attempt of a pathetic man," continued the youth, and coughed. "A stupid, meaningless effort to try and amend unforgivable, terrible things; that's all it is. I'm just that much of a useless little wimp. So there, you have your answer." The itches were rising up to a crescendo, mouth watering at the very thought of a full glass of rum. "Something else to write in your article, Frau Doctor."

Asuka swallowed down both a biting rebuke and a disappointed sigh; she walked over to retrieve her chair and placed it only a few centimeters away from his sitting form. "You know," she mumbled, following the young man's gaze to the clouds. "This is the longest we've ever spoken." Shinji blinked, raised an eyebrow and shrugged in response.

"I suppose it is," he answered back just as quietly. "Our conversations used to be you yelling at me or reminding me how much of an idiot I was, and me nodding like a little puppy." But then you left and I was alone, alone. The world kept going, though, kept spinning, people kept living, and I started losing my mind again. "At least now I can articulate some form of response that doesn't end in you smacking me over the head."

The girl beside him giggled, she giggled at his lame attempt at a joke, and unbeknown to her triggered one of Shinji's deepest, darkest traumas. He shook off the image of his mother's corpse and focused on Asuka's scent instead. "I was probably the biggest pain in the ass in the world, I bet." She commented off-handedly, expression shifting quickly from slight joy to gloom. "I expected you to focus all your attention on me, know exactly how to speak to me and read my mind to say only the things I wanted to hear." She giggled again, against her own wishes. "You also were a monumental idiot and an antisocial little brat who got on my nerves by breathing next to me."

"And a horny little pervert leecher, and a waste of space, and a useless little boy," he added with mirth, chuckling alongside her. It was better to chuckle than to pay attention to the way his skin was starting to feel like it was melting. "A Baka, second-class pilot, selfish bastard, gencidal man-"

"Okay, okay," she patted his right shoulder without thinking, surprised to feel Shinji's body turn rigid under her palm. "I get it, I said a whole bunch of bullshit."

He chuckled louder; oh yes, aside from the incredibly relaxing effect of the sweet he had devoured, it also worked wonders on enabling him to feel the emotions he normally drowned out with pills and alcohol. "Not really bullshit," he forced his body to relax and shook the delicate, slim hand from his dirty shoulder.

Her perfect hands had no business touching his filthy person any more than needed; the last thing he wanted was for the disease which corroded his soul to tarnish the blinding flame her very presence brought about. "I am all those things. I am pathetic, weak, and useless. I was always a second-class pilot, the only reason I survived those fights was because my mother was biding her time to crush my sanity. I am a selfish bastard, selfish enough to kill all of humanity when things didn't go my way, which in turn makes me a murderer, the biggest murderer in human his-"

"What a bunch of crap," Shinji's teeth clicked when he hinged his jaw closed and turned to stare annoyingly at the redhead, who seemed… bored with him, like he had behaved towards her in the hospital. "So," she yawned. "You're telling me you were gonna stop SEELE's plan all by yourself. Oh, and the EVA Series, and your father. By the way, didn't your father do all the shit he did on purpose? Didn't he have like some Grand Scheme, a scenario where he'd be God or something and he'd build himself some form of paradise for him and his wife by crushing you?" Shinji's hazed expression displayed slight surprise, to which she smirked. "I had my father spill every little dirty detail to me about two months after I got there. I know all there is to know about Third Impact and the role you were supposed to play in it, Baka."

Fuck, he growled, shook his head in derision and turned back to the sky; finally some clouds had dissipated and his old friends shone from time to time. What it is with her? It's like she's always two steps ahead of me, and all of the sudden she falls behind. "Oh," he replied with a hint of anger in his undertone. "You know all there is to know, do you now…" You brought this on yourself, this time.

Asuka had to suppress the urge to gulp when Shinji next laid eyes on her. Shit, bad move, she realized the slip of her words, product of the small token courtesy of Joey, and had opened herself for a full blow offensive. Brace yourself, Sohryu. He's about to dig deep into the arsenal.

"Well let me tell you a little story called 'I killed you', shall I begin?"

The very aura around Shinji changed in heartbeat, she realized. His breathing became less erratic, the curvature of his jaw settled, his back strengthened somewhat and his eyes narrowed, with a sarcastic, knowing smile dancing on his lips. It felt unnatural to see him so bitter, so angry and so resolute in his own reasoning. "What?" she managed after a few seconds. "You didn't kill me, you idiot. You certainly tried to-"

"I killed you. Twice."

This time, Asuka did swallow the lump on her throat. "W-What?"

Shinji dropped his gaze back to his right hand. There was a circular discoloration there, she noticed, even after seven years it stood as clearly as the day she had first seen it, and when he closed his fist she saw the many scars and hardened skin which covered his knuckles. "I killed you," he repeated, his tone left no room for argument. "One of the many beauties of being God, Asuka, is that you are everyone, everything. You are part of creation; you are creation itself, even for a second." He clenched his fist tighter, noticing how the tremors in his one available limb increased. "That means I was the EVA Series, I was those soldiers throwing bombs at you, it was my hands that dug into your belly and took out your guts." Asuka's expression quickly morphed into horror, to which Shinji only smirked coldly. "Those were my teeth digging into your flesh, tearing out your liver and spleen, it was my hands pulling the trigger that shot Misato," He opened the fist and offered the scarred palm to her. "It was my hand that threw those spears, every last one of them. I tore you apart and ate you alive, it was me."

She wanted him to stop, so very badly she wanted him to stop talking at once and get back to his coughing and seething, yet the redhead knew this was the opportunity she had been waiting for. There was no better time to confront the persona Shinji had erected than the current one; regardless that it was the first time they had spoken or even shared a room in seven years. "Okay," she shuddered in fear. If there was regret in Shinji's eyes she could not see it, it was very well hidden under the curtain of traumatic insanity. "That's one time."

"Oh, you remember the other one quite well, don't you?" He clenched and unclenched his hand right beside her face. "Every night, every night I hear your windpipe get crushed under my fingers, then I hear myself say that everybody should just go and die. Then I kill everyone, over and over again. So you see, I'm not exaggerating, Frau Doctor." His voice became ironic, with even a slight turn towards charm. "I am a genocidal maniac. How many others do you know who can say they killed billions of people? There are still thousands who never came back, thousands! That alone puts me above Stalin or Hitler, wouldn't you say? At least they had soldiers to do their dirty work!" He exclaimed, laughing. "I had my dear mother, and Lilith to do mine."

He's talking to me the way he'd talk to a state shrink, reasoned the redhead, and inwardly thanked she had both eaten the Ninja Star and that she had already developed resistance towards them. Clinically describing the worst traumas he has and making little of them. "So you went along with SEELE's plans and things went smoothly, right?" She asked, poking his shoulder. God, I want to give this idiot a good old hug. I've… never hugged anyone beside Kaji. She had held onto the men who defiled her while they pumped into her, but she had never given her father an honest hug. "Do explain how we're alive right now, Baka-Shinji."

The former pilot's head bounced back to the wheelchair's headrest. "Ah," he clarified, raising a finger. "Let us not forget that I'm also a coward, Frau Doctor. So I made a choice for once in my life and backpedaled a moment after. Heh, as expected of a waste of space like me." Everywhere can be paradise, right? Right, Mother? From the corner of his eye Shinji saw her dip her head and offer a carefree expression on the leathery, rotten mask that was her skin. Green eyes glistened in the darkness, forcing Shinji to shake his head and scratch his arm with more ferocity than before. "I still killed you. I went and begged for your help like a mewling whelp, carrying all the pathetic pieces of myself along, and when you rightfully refused to acknowledge my miserable existence, then I took you by the neck and strangled you. I was aware of what I was doing, and still didn't stop."

He's trying to get under your skin, she told herself, biting the inside of her cheek as she tried to keep her gaze in his sardonic expression. He was hiding the remorse under the façade of nonchalance, she noticed. But damn it, he's succeeding in it. "You stopped at the beach, though."

The corners of the boy's smirk twitched, head lolling forward until the chin almost touched his chest. "I did, didn't I," He stared at both his hands this time, clenching and unclenching them. "I guess third time's the charm, huh?"

Her mind was screaming 'Danger' all over, flashes of how the entire Geo-Front would go on high alert upon an Angel attack coursed through her memory when the air around them turn glacial. Careful. You're threading through a mine-field, right now. Careful, careful. Asuka scowled deeply, and reduced the space between herself and the boy who had almost killed her in a second. Without warning and not allowing him to react, Asuka took a firm hold of his right hand.

And placed it on her throat; whether Misato had been lying or not was about to be seen. "Do it, then," she whispered and drank in the naked shock he was now openly displaying. "Kill me. I won't fight you back. I pushed you, I almost paralyzed you because you were trying your hardest, even traumatized still as you were, to make my miserable life a bit brighter. I treated you like shit since the day I met you. So go ahead." There was no pressure at all being applied, so Asuka encircled his hand with both her own and glared right into his eyes. "Do it."

"Wha…". Now. His mind whispered, forcing the fingers to twitch. God, was her skin soft. It was also scalding, warm to the touch under his palm, warm hands holding his scarred knuckles in place. Strangle her now. She's asking for it, come on. How many shitheads have you choked out till this point, huh? A part of him desperately wanted to close his eyes and focus on the feel of her skin against his. "Let go of me." Shinji managed; where the hell had his strength gone all of the sudden? "I said let go," he repeated once the redhead didn't budge. "Let go! What, did that Ninja Star make you slip? Are you nuts?! Let go of me!"

"No, Shinji," she answered as she kept the hand firmly in place and squeezed. "I'm insane."

In his effort to pry himself free, however, the young man's fingers did tighten against her neck for a brief second. Asuka breathed in deep, surprised, and her shock was enough to pull the trigger in his mind once and for all. A small little edible could not hope to halt the horrors, sadly enough.

Shinji blinked, and when his eyes opened the person he was holding by the neck was still Asuka, only the Asuka he remembered from the nightmares. Her hair was ragged, dried and clammy, her skin pale as milk, and there was a gaping hole where her eye should have been. He could see the grey matter inside her eye socket; see the blood pour out the arm which hung, split in two next to her. The man's fingers shook, gaze turning wide with horror when he saw the redhead's entrails dangle from an open wound in her abdomen. And in his left hand, clutched between the bloodied fingers he had used to kill every single human on Earth, her liver.

You can never hurt Asuka. Never.

Shinji ripped his hand back in absolute terror, disentangling himself from her hold with such vehemence that he almost fell over. He panted, closed his eyes, hissed when the injuries complained against his sudden burst of motion and shook his head. I need some booze, he reasoned, and tried to slow his breathing so as to not hyperventilate. A couple of Nightquills, some Valiums and two Clozapines, then I'll sleep, and she'll be safe.

The boy rattled in his chains, the ones he had dug deep into the prisoner's flesh. You can never hurt her, do you understand?! Never!

Asuka remained rooted to her spot before him, hands falling to her sides devoid of all strength. She was shocked beyond belief, but above all things shocked from Shinji's terrified stare just before he had ripped his hand away. Wow, she remembered to breath, throat dry and faintly clenched and unclenched both her hands. He's… very strong. The girl had been holding his hand in place with a rigid hold, and still in a second he would have dragged her to the ground, had she not let go of him. It dawned on her that the muscles on Shinji's upper back were the most developed and visible in his relatively slim frame, it was precisely due to the developed muscle mass on his back that the knife had not managed to penetrate further. He was covered in thin muscle, and had just proven her that even injured he could overpower her at will.

The pain in the young man's head receded, in turn, when the result of him pushing his body beyond logic manifested; the large gash on his back suddenly came alive and stole his ability to breathe, while at the same time an invisible serrated blade twisted inside his stomach and forced a loud grunt out of him. "Are you…(cough)… out of your damn mind?" he barked through the agony. "I could've hurt you! What the hell is wrong with…(cough, cough)… you, huh?!" The knife coiled in his abdomen this time, and Shinji's left hand shot up to the wound. "Shit…! Arrg… What are you trying to p-"

"I said," Asuka cut him short when she once again manifested just inches away from his face, only this time the pain was such that he could not, for the life of him, move away. "Do it." She repeated, growling at him. She was not angry anymore, he noticed through the grimace of having the knife in his leg flare up and the one in his back curl hard enough to force out another grunt. "Kill me if you wish. Hit me, push me off this damn balcony if that's what you want. I won't blame you. Hell, I won't even stop you. But," both her hands planted on each side of Shinji's chair so that she was positively straddling him. "Don't you dare make another sudden movement like that, or I swear on my mother's grave that I'll put you to sleep for the next ten days. Then you'll have your precious little dreams to keep you company while your body heals the way it's supposed to."

Her forehead came in contact with his, and even if one of Shinji's eyes was closed due to the pain, he could feel the intensity of her glare like he felt the sun burn his skin on a hot day. He struggled half-heartedly to get away, upsetting the unhealed gashes to keep the visions from overtaking his consciousness. "What the hell do you expect…(grunt)… when you suddenly put my hand…(cough)… on your throat like that… huh…?"

"I expect no sudden movements, you idiot." She said. This is the closest we've been since… since Third Impact. The almost nonexistence distance between both youngsters allowed Asuka to catch his scent, disarrayed by chemicals and blood as it was. "Literally everything else is allowed, just no sudden movements. I need those cuts to close." So that when I muster up the courage to hug you properly, it won't hurt, she reasoned. A blush suddenly overcame her features, noticing the minuscule gap she'd have to reduce in order to steal a kiss. "I need you to get healthy, Shinji." For both our sakes.

Injuries aside, the young man felt just as powerless as he had during Third Impact. There was little to no strength in him, the pathetic little sweet had turned his normally rigid muscles into jelly, his left leg refused to move in the slightest, and he had been at the verge of causing Asuka physical harm with his right hand. You don't deserve to be close to her. Remember that. He nodded wordlessly both to the redhead and the voice in his head, but once he opened his eyes realized the little brat had already loosened one of his shackles.

She was so close, so close that he saw the blood gushing out the hole in her forehead and splash against his face. He hissed much louder this time, shutting his lids and moving his head violently. Stop, I get it; stop it, he implored, to no avail. The palpitations began to increase, the tremors manifested all over his body; he had forgotten to get a proper fix of anything for hours now, and the disastrous effects were about to manifest. No, said the little boy.

"Hey, hey, Baka!" He faintly realized the girl had placed her hands on his shoulders at some point, and was trying to hold him in place. "Hey, stop turning your head like that! You're gonna tear your stitches open! God damn it, listen, you stubborn idiot! Stop it with the sudden movements, already! Hey!"

Stop, stop, stop, the images were running rampant in his brain; the sight of Unit 02's mangled corpse, the many lone nights in his room with nothing but the voices to keep him company, the constant giggling of her mother as he suffered… the night the men took him and beat on him like a piñata, the sensation of his own cigarette burning through layer after layer of skin; they crashed in a constant swarm, and soon enough the screams and the voices threatened to deafen him. "Are you seriously stupid?!" Asuka's loud voice seemed so very faint under the onslaught, normally nothing could stop him from going there; once he boarded the train and Yui's giggling came to tickle the back of his neck it was over, he'd grovel on the ground until sleep claimed him or somebody pushed a sedative down his throat. "Stop moving!"

You almost hurt Asuka, the little boy clenched one of the chains that clung to his flesh. Now pay for it. He hissed again, turned his head violently to the right while his one useful hand held onto his face and clutched his forehead. Pay for it! You can never hurt Asuka, never. Never! Remember that.

He felt the woman envelop his body in some form of weird embrace, limited by his crutched position and the wheelchair, and almost broke into a fit of sobs when her hands threaded through his hair. "Stop, Shinji, shhh… it's okay, it's okay. Stop moving around so much, just… relax… relax…"

Her voice somehow cut through the screaming, stifled the giggling to a degree for a few seconds, but then the boy in chains growled. No. You don't get to hurt her, anymore. He felt his right arm be sliced in two right then and there, the sensation felt so real his eyes actually opened and checked to see if the limb had not suddenly split in half. You don't get to touch her. You don't get to smell her scent. You don't get anything. His entire left side had turned into a cacophony of anguished limbs curled up together. The screaming increased; in between blinks he saw Asuka's body whole and dressed as it was, and then suddenly it would become the mangled version tattooed in his memory since Third Impact.

I have a need for you. Pilot the Evangelion. Activate the Dummy System. I no longer have a use for you. What are you stupid? "Shh… it's okay, Shinji. Listen to my voice." Anta Baka?! I think you're supposed to smile. EVA is a part of me. Hey, kiddo! Why are you even here?! If you do not open your heart to EVA… Ikari-kun must survive. "It's okay Shinji, tell me what it is. Tell me and I'll help, okay? Just breathe, relax…" You must destroy the Angel. But Father, that's Touji! You must destroy the Angel. Kaworu! You lied to me! Hello, Shinji-kun. Decide. Decide. Decide. "It's okay, Shinji, it's okay, tell me what it is, tell me how I can help." Decide. Decide. Decide. Decide. Oh my God, Shinji…! Asuka is… Asuka is… K-Kaworu? I want to help you somehow, and be with you forever! Then don't do anything. All you ever do is hurt me. "Just listen to my voice, focus on it, come on," Don't abandon me! Don't kill me! No. "Tell me how I can help." Turn him over! Hah, he went under. Yeah, fun times with the Third Child! Get off, it's my turn now! Ha, ha! He moved, look at that! Hit him in the head again. Move on over, I want a go before the sun comes up! Ha ha… Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! "Shinji, tell me what's wro-"

"Get the hell away from me!" he bellowed, and in an instant Asuka had basically jumped off him with the agility of a jungle cat. He panted, coughed, and tried to control his erratic breathing. Shinji clenched his right hand and slowly opened his eyes; the hand was still covered in blood. He panted, coughed, shook his head and opened the lids once more, relieved beyond words to see his fist there, without crimson dripping from it, and that the alleyway and the ground had faded, replaced by the familiar surroundings of his balcony. The voices quieted to an extent, and as he next slowly shook his head, reason returned. He was awake still; the evil glint of emerald orbs narrowing in his direction had yet to emerge. The episode… had halted for the time of being.

"I'm sorry."

Depleted of most of his feeble energy, he barely registered that the words had left his mouth before even knowing what was being said. "I'm sorry," Shinji repeated, and glanced at the redhead. She was on her feet still, a safe distance away from him, but her proud poise looked… different. Her right hand was clutched in the center of her chest, knees bent ever so slightly, and uncertainty had tainted the overwhelming confidence he adored. More importantly, there were no longer any gaping holes in her body, and the dreaded Plug-Suit had been replaced by that large white shirt he remembered. He had scared her, and the fact made him both impossibly ashamed, and slightly relieved. "I didn't… I…" he struggled for words, too shaken by the fact that one of his episodes of neurosis had basically stopped all of the sudden, taking his desire to insult Asuka along with it. "I didn't mean… to make… ugh… sudden movements…"

You don't deserve to look at her, after all, the shackles rattled noisily in his brain, and Shinji turned his head down. He could not bear to see the expression of fear in her eyes anymore. The fact that it was the first time in over three years that he actually apologized and meant it did not go unnoticed by his overtired brain, regardless of how he had scared her. "I guess… I need a little something stronger than that Ninja Star, right about now."

Asuka breathed in deep, exhaled through the nose and forced the stupid fist to unclench. He wasn't here, she realized with something akin to a terrifying sense of déjà vu gripping at her. Right now, he wasn't here at all. These little edible can't possibly have such an effect. He was… he was having visions, many of them, just a few seconds ago. While Shinji mistakenly believed it had been his outburst and guttural bark what had scared her, the truth was far grimmer than a simple yell. Even the way he screamed had been off; it had not sounded like it was directed to her at all. I have an idea of what I'm dealing with, now.

Then, after both her arms lay by her sides and the breathing went back to normal, Asuka realized Shinji had just apologized. "Um…" he had just apologized to her, in that particularly unique way of his. "No, I…" she glanced at the balcony's door. "I just didn't want you to hurt yourself by being an idiot. I didn't mean to… ah…" I wanted to hug you, she thought, sounding so very young in her own mind. I wanted you to hold me! What the hell is so wrong about that, huh?!

Shinji shook his head, eyes still obscured and hidden under his palm. "It's not your fault. I'm just…" Insane, deranged, broken, dangerous. "I'm just tired," What a night, he pondered dispassionately. What a fucking night… what else, she's gonna tell me I can't take any pills again, isn't she? "I need a few… things…" His hand was already about to force the wheel into movement; his left side was still numb and unresponsive so the crawl to his goods would be even slower this time. "Just need a few things…"

"I don't think I'll allow that," the response came as he had expected it, and soon enough the substance dependant in him began to take hold. There was no way in hell he was about to spend his first day at home after saving some little girl sober, and in the penance sobriety meant for him.

"And what are you gonna do about it?" demanded the injured youth more harshly than intended as his features once more wrinkled into a frown. "I almost tore open my stitches just now, I'm fucking shaking and I can't stop…(cough, cough)… I can't stop it. What else am I supposed to do, huh? Are you gonna stand on my door and not allow me entrance to my own damn hou-"

"I thought I told you to STOP YELLING!"

And just like that, as though he were being reprimanded by his father for some mischief, his jaw hinged closed and his eyes widened; he hadn't realized his voice had been growing louder with each word. Watching as the redhead fumed rooted to her spot and glared a hole right through him, Shinji realized even the itches and the shaking had halted for a moment.

Asuka growled low in her throat. Great, just great. There goes my buzz, thanks for that, you idiot. I needed to be a little clear-head right about now, anyway. She walked over to the former Third Child and wordlessly took a hold of the wheelchair. "God," she huffed, pushing him back into the kitchen. "I think I liked you better when you couldn't put two words together in front of me."

"Yeah, I bet you did," he wanted to complain and physically move the redhead away from him, already exhausted and infuriated beyond belief that for once in about five years he'd been left quiet as a mute. A small pill with a strange, gelatinous appearance dropped on his pants before he could voice out his latest complain. "And what is this supposed to be?" he squished the small pill between his thumb and forefinger. "Some sort of elephant tranquilizer, some methadone, morphine… what is this thing?"

"It's a pill that's gonna make the tremors go away for a while and help you sleep better," Asuka responded while she left him beside his bedroom door and went to retrieve the glasses left in the balcony. She refilled his and handed it over. "Now be a good boy and drink it. As an apology for almost smashing your caretaker's skull against your floor in her first night over, if you will."

His eyebrow twitched again. There's something fishy about this, he reasoned, gaze scrutinizing over the redhead's calm, collected expression and trying to find cracks in the façade. Normally Misato's freaked out at this point, calling Kaji and telling him to come inject me with something before I push my skull against a wall. He accepted the glass and swallowed the strange drug he was being offered without a second thought, the glass was already shivering in his hold and the young man had to concentrate fully on not spilling the water all over his legs. How the… how did she do that? How did she stop me from… from going into Hell?

"I already said I was sorry," A queer sense of awareness fell on him when the girl he swore to hate above all humans beside himself took the glass away to rinse it in the kitchen. "You were the one with the incredibly awesome idea to hold my hand against your throat." Shinji took a look at his right hand, surprised to find the shaking was diminishing with unforeseen speed. Speaking with her, having her in the house somehow felt… right. The empty coffin which he called home was swiftly being changed, warped by the sheer presence of the former Second Child.

"Well," came the nonchalant reply. "I meant it. If you want to kill me, or if you want to try, I'd say you've earned a freebie. I'm not about to stand here in your house after seven years and pretend I didn't have it coming."

"Huh?" The left side of his body finally decided to stop clenching like a dying snake, which allowed Shinji to wheel himself closer to the redhead. "What? What do you mean by 'had it coming'?"

"Oh, come on, Baka, and here you are pretending to be the Big, Bad Wolf and you don't even play the game right?" When the statement succeeded in eliciting a baffled 'Eh?' from the idiot, Asuka dried up her hands and flicked her hair back once she faced him. "I was a bitch to you, Shinji. From the moment we met, to the last time we spoke. I was always a bitch to you… for a lot of different, twisted reasons, and I know that no matter how much you want to downplay it, I betrayed you."

"You… betr-is this some sort of acid that you gave me?" He asked in return, actively scared by the fact that whatever drug she had given had had an almost immediate effect; he felt the anxiety reduce with every aching breath he took.

"No, it's not acid, and it's not a chemical either, Baka." A sad smile drew in her face. "But I did betray you, didn't I? I was supposed to be the top pilot, the strongest of all of us. I was supposed to be the big hero in the red cape, but I was weak," The shaking stopped, his breathing is back to normal, and he's not looking through me or seeing something that's not there. "I was weak," Asuka repeated, shaking her head. "I made you believe I was strong, and when it counted I left the battlefield, defeated by my own damn self of all things, and you were… the only one left."

This isn't possible, For about seven years, in his most private moments of resenting the people who had played a part in the loss of his sanity, Shinji had thought the exact same line she had just spoken. She probably pulled a syringe when I wasn't watching. I'm probably asleep, and this is a dream. Then again, since when were his dreams so pleasant? Since when did he see her in his head whole, and not butchered and dismembered? "Listen, that happened a long time ago," he found himself saying. "It doesn't matter."

No it doesn't, the damned brat agreed. It doesn't matter because she's here, now. We got to see her again. She's here. Nothing else matters right now.

"It does matter," The girl crossed her arms, scowling at him with something akin to disappointment. "Look at yourself. You're in a wheelchair, Shinji, with four stab wounds on the left side of your body. You can't sleep, you barely function on a daily basis, you take all sorts of drugs to cope with everything that's happened to yo-"

"How do you even know anything if you weren't h-"

"That's not the point, Baka!" She cut him off again, fuming. "I just know, okay?!" You weren't the only one doing stalker stuff, you Absolute Idiot! The message was sent with swift efficiency through the lines, and Shinji's teeth once again clicked when his jaw snapped shut. He understood what she had just implied, so the young man nodded, scowling, and turned to his left.

I know about two years ago. I know what happened to you, and I know what you did. So if you think those skeletons in your closet are going to intimidate me, you've got another thing coming.

"Stop pretending it doesn't matter, Shinji," said the redhead with a much quieter tone of voice. "Even a blind man can see that it hurts you, and it's hurting you every day. It's been hurting you for years."

"How do you know?" Shinji challenged, unwilling to relinquish the argument. Without the craving need for substances that defined his moments of sobriety, he was being forced to feel. The act of feeling alone was excruciatingly painful, considering he'd been numb for over two years. "What do you know?"

"I know about addiction, because I've been there." Shinji's expression quickly morphed into one of outrage, making Asuka feel even more secure about her decision to stay and nodded. You can't even act like you don't care about me, can you? "I was addicted to a whole bunch of stuff. Well… I am, I just don't use them anymore. So spare me the bullshit story about how your drug use and your trauma are not in the slightest related. I believe you know I'm not stupid, and I know for a fact that you aren't that stupid, so let's stop pretending. Let's stop pretending I ever did anything to deserve more than the reaction you had that day in the living room. Let's stop pretending like I ever treated you with the tiniest of human decencies."

"You've… been there?" The boyish tone he next produced had Shinji blinking and shaking his own head. "Human decencies… what is all this?" His head felt like a balloon, ready to pop at any second, and with the fresh reminder of what had happened two years before, a fresh wave of nausea was blotting his vision. "Why are you saying all this crap?"

To his dismay and strange annoyance, Asuka's smile widened a fraction. "Because you want… you need to hear it. And because if we're gonna spend the next few months together, I think we need to put all that crap to rest on day one."

"I need to hear it?" he snapped back with clear irritation rolling off his tongue. "It's been seven years, Asuka. Seven years. I don't need to hear any of that shit, not anymore. What I did was horrible, I am a horrible person, and I've made peace with that."

"Yeah, and you basically drug yourself to a coma every night because you've made peace with being a horrible person," she sighed dejectedly, and remembered there were a few final tasks to do before she accompanied Shinji to bed. "God, Baka, you've really worked hard on this face you put on," Circling in on the volatile, potentially aggressive and very substance deprived youth, the girl ignored the warning in her head and took a firm hold of the wheelchair's grip. "If you worked half as hard on getting your actual act together, who knows where you'd be." Away from me, her mind whispered, and despite the fact that Shinji was in unthinkable amounts of pain and discomfort at the moment, she felt relieved to be there. Far, very far away from me.

"I'd probably be dead," he responded with a dry tone, raising an eyebrow when Asuka turned his wheelchair so it was facing the couch. "Part of being a horrible person is doing a half-assed attempt at everything… heh… even dying."

He felt the wheelchair be halted with actual force behind it. "Well, you didn't die, however much you half-assed attempted to end it that night, now do me a favor and get your half-ass into that couch so I can take a look at those bandages. Unless, of course, you don't' feel strong enough to get to the couch by yourself, in which case I'd be happy to assist, Baka."

"And there is the proof I needed that whatever this is, it's some twisted form of torture," he replied with sarcasm, forcing the one arm and leg still useful to him to comply. "The Great Sohryu…(pant)… Asuka Langley," he wobbled, painfully aware of how without the sedatives the wounds were stinging and hurting at full potential, and refused Asuka's helping hand as he took two cautious steps forward and slowly lowered his battered body to the soft cushion of his old sofa. "Offering assistance… (cough)… are you sure you came out from that puddle?"

"Don't misunderstand, Third," In the brief moment he had stood before her Asuka had noticed that Shinji was not only physically stronger than her, but also taller by about two inches. "I don't want you to trip on your own feet and open up my careful knitting work. Now be a dear and don't bite my hand off,"

"Huh?" he began, offering a disgruntled frown. "What, bite you? Why would I-hey!" His right hand closed in on Asuka's wrist before it could come in contact with him. "Don't." Don't touch me, he roared in his mind. Don't sully your hands on me.

That is a strong grip, the girl pondered for her part, and tried to make sense of the many different lines and scars that ran all through Shinji's knuckles and fingers. "Can I have my hand back now, Baka? Or do you intend on keeping it as a souvenir?" She tugged the arm for emphasis. Okay, I get it; touching's out the question for the time of being. I can respect that… for now. "I need you to take off your shirt to clean the wounds, Shinji. And with that level of injuries, you can't really take it off on your own, can you?"

The boy's vice-like grip loosened; Shinji huffed and clenched his hand into a fist. "I didn't…" he started, suddenly at a loss on how to proceed. "I didn't mean that." What. Why would I say that? "It's just… sometimes I have flashbacks when people touch me and I'm not expecting it." What the hell is going on?! Am I going crazy again?!

"Copy that, Master Chef," nodding, Asuka felt herself smile again. "Now can you please stop being a pampered baby about this? The sooner I inspect those wounds, the sooner we can have some dinner and go to bed."

"Wait, so you made dinner, too?" The process of taking off the innocent clothing garment ended up being much more painful and uncomfortable than Shinji would have wished, but with Asuka's help he'd only been limited to lift his arms a bit and have her do the rest. "I really must be in some sort of torture chamber."

"Oh, you'll be swallowing those words after you try my cooking, Mr. Third," To say Shinji was impressed by the girl's efficiency while putting on gloves, cutting off the old bandages and clinically inspecting the slash on his back would have been an understatement. She was quick enough to make him feel mediocre for basically sitting next to him and displaying the new skills years of practice had brought about. "Hmm, okay, no suppuration, no pulled stitches, and no sign of infection whatsoever! Hah! The soft tisue's even turning red now. All right, now this might sting Baka…"

"Ow! What the f-"

"I told it might sting! Hold still!" She flicked him on the back of the head for good measure, eliciting a deep growl of annoyance from the young man. I like that, he didn't use to growl at me before. Thankfully Shinji was not looking at the moment, Asuka let herself blush. Damn, I really am pretty stoned, but not stoned enough to do a shitty job. She inspected the cut's edges with ferocious scrutiny, and once satisfied that the stitches would hold even if Shinji began to convulse at night, dressed it back with bandages and moved on to his side.

"I'm not a freaking kid, nor a dog," Shinji snapped when she began unwrapping the bandages around his torso. "Don't do that shit."

"Then don't," she tugged on the lower slash with a bit of force behind it and heard the satisfying hiss of pain from her patient. "Be making sudden moves, Baka. And watch your mouth."

"Fuck off." –FLICK- The wrappings around the wound on his lower abdomen were tugged once more. "OWW! (Cough, cough)… what the fuck is your problem, Sohryu?!"

"Your potty mouth is my problem right now," she answered, eyes penetrating into what she believed to be the very worst of Shinji's injuries. "Now stay very still."

"Whatever."

The serrated knife had entered into his torso just at the right angle; whoever had stabbed him had relative, if not general knowledge of human biology at least. It was quite difficult to stab someone in the stomach successfully, without the blade hitting against a rib or cutting off more soft tissue than organ. Moreover, the gash had been widened by what she assumed to be extremely sudden movements; a good portion of his oblique had been punctured by the edges and the wound itself was both deep and wide. Even with the advancements in modern medicine and increased regeneration rates brought about by the serums NERV had manufactured, the wound was still all sorts of pink, red and blue all over. Evident signs of blunt force trauma were discernible; the bluish bruises she had seen on her first day treating him had already turned a light violet hue. Both sides of his ribcage had been damaged, with one rib broken at his right side and a second one cracked just under the point of incision.

"Shit," she heard herself mutter while cleansing the edges. Only imagining what it must have felt like to have such a nasty blade in her innards made her shudder; the thought reminded her of the EVA Series' attack, and her death. He walked after they did this to him?! Asuka took a furtive glance at the former male pilot, who appeared to be lost in thought with the now familiar scowl of anger clouding his features. The edges were beginning to close and the lesion itself appeared as well as could be expected, yet the absurdity of being able to walk with such a wound perplexed and alarmed her. "Shit."

"Now who's being the potty mouth?" Shinji snapped, chuckled and hissed as the disinfectant was applied. "Do I get to flick you on the forehead, now?"

"Do you want to?" Asuka demanded more than asked, focused on the task of leaving no possible way for infection to spread. "Go ahead, just don't distract me, and don't move. This won't hurt, but it'll feel cold." She took a bottle out the kit resting on the small table located between the television and sofa, and poured a generous amount of antibiotic cream over the stitches, noticing how Shinji's body would produce minimal flinches from time to time. "Ticklish there, Third?"

"Not really," he replied, and snorted despite his best efforts when Asuka attacked the particularly sensible area below his armpit. "I just had a knife in there a bit over a week ago, so I guess… (cough)…. Ahem… I guess you could say it's a bit sensitive at the moment." He breathed a sigh of relief after the new gauze pad was firmly in place. "I can't believe both my lung and my stomach survived this shit."

FLICK

"What the fu-" FLICK "What the hell is your problem?!"

"Language." She quickly moved on to the less threatening incision located above the young man's hip. "Had that knife sunk in just half an inch higher, it could've cut your splenic artery and produced endless internal bleeding. It did manage to nick your left gastroepiphobic artery, which caused that horrible bleeding you arrived at the hospital with." A vast contrast of the other three, the next wound was only about an inch in length and had barely scraped the muscle tissue. "No sign of infection on this one either, now…"

Her eyes wondered between the man's worn out blue jeans, his scowling face, and then back; Asuka felt her cheeks turn slightly crimson. What the fuck, Sohryu?! You've been with men, hell you've treated patients! What the hell is up with you?! "Ah…" she mumbled, cerulean orbs uncertainly glancing down to the boy's thigh. "C-Could you…"

Shinji spared her a sideway glance and grumbled something she did not quite catch under his breath, seemingly insulted by the fact that she was behaving shyly when asking him to remove his trousers. He maneuvered without a word with his right hand, hissed in pain when he forced the overtired, injured body to rise and blatantly refused Asuka's help with a fulminating 'Ikari Gendou' glare. Don't be playing that little game with me, he dragged the pants down to his knee, unconsciously clenching and unclenching his left fist. I know about them, about your little lover partners. The way the girl's cheeks reddened even more while lifting his boxers made his teeth grind. I know about every last one of them.

"Thanks," she quickly removed the gauze and tried to hide the strain on her heart as best as possible. The way he had just stared at her had felt like a physical blow and she was yet to recover, so the young doctor set about inspecting the wound, discouraged to find it was the only one which had bled to some extent. "Did you get up on your own at any point during this last week? Did you put strain on that leg?"

"Yeah, a man needs to take a piss sometimes, you know?" he snapped. There was plenty of time left; with about three forced weeks of immobility he could still predate upon Asuka's past deeds, on her fears, doubts, and on the encyclopedia of trauma she had endured; it was all safely stored in his brain, after all. It had honestly come as a surprise, and a very displeasing at that, to hear her admit she too had been caught in the endless maze that was drug addiction; the statement certainly had made the little brat rattle in the putrid cage he was held in. "I don't like…" The feeling of hands tearing off his clothes, fists smashing against his naked skin and the cold embrace of concrete made him shudder visibly. "I don't like… help… when I go to use the bathroom."

"That's understandable," God, will you get it together already?! The swell in the young man's leg was a clear indicator that he truly did run on a daily basis. The wound, however, had been close to cutting off that possibility, had the knife dug a bit deeper. "There was a bit of nerve damage in your leg," she explained, actively trying to gaze only at the deep incision in Shinji's thigh. Get your high little head outta the gutter right now! "We won't know for sure to what extent until this closes properly. Did the leg give you any trouble aside from the pain? Did it cramp up, did your foot or toes not respond properly?"

"Nah," Shinji said dismissively, but blinked and recalled one of his nightly visits to the toilet. "No, actually, it did that one time. My whole leg cramped up and my knee felt like it was about to explode."

Asuka nodded, inspected the edges of the cut and began to clean away the excess coagulated blood and liquid. "We can attribute that to the inflammation and strain of not having moved the joint in so long. Can you move your toes?" Shinji offered a stiff nod for his part, and growled low in his throat when the left foot began to move in small circles. "Good, good. That's good enough. Alright, they're all closing nicely. Hey, what's that?"

"What's what?" Shinji followed Asuka's line of vision and flinched when he felt the sting under his leg. "Ah!" Turning back to glare at the redhead, he saw the small empty syringe in her hand and the confident smirk he had longed to see for so long staring back at him. "Let me just tell you… that is a ridiculous technique."

"It got you to look away, didn't it?" Smirk ever present, Asuka rose and stretched after taking off the gloves and dropping the used items in a selected garbage bag. "Ahhh, now that wasn't so painful, was it, Baka? All patched up and ready to go! Are you hungry?"

"Not so painful my ass," Shinji whispered to himself, and for once accepted the help to get back to the blasted wheelchair; he felt very weak. "I could eat," She's not stupid, she probably drugged me with something very strong, he reasoned, letting himself be ridden to the table. Regardless of how exhausted he was, the scent of freshly made vegetable soup had him sniffing the air like a bloodhound. "Hmm, that smells good…"

"Tastes even better," commented the girl who had for so long been the one to haunt the rare good dream he had, laying a lukewarm trey next to him. "I know it's not much, but trust me, it'll make a difference." He nodded, half-asleep, and took the spoon.

"Aren't you eating?" Shinji asked and blinked heavily. Upon closer inspection, he realized the dish was more of a vegetable cream, and after the first taste he forgot all about Asuka, the wounds on his body, the need to consume a strong substance or anything that was not consuming what he had just been served. "More, please," the trey was taken away, refilled, and emptied a second time. "More, please,"

"Why, Baka, I think the munchies got to you," Asuka placed the third serving before him and secretly relished in the way the former pilot's eyes widened in hunger. "Does it have the stamp of approval of the Great Iron Chef, Ikari-san? Hmm? Does it need a bit more salt, maybe some more rosemary?"

"It needs to be eaten," Shinji managed between spoonfuls, and once he was done collapsed back into his chair, satisfied. "That hit all the right spots." Asuka was positively beaming beside him, so Shinji allowed drowsiness and auto-pilot to take command. "Thank you for the food."

"You're welcome, Baka-Shinji. Now you can say this is the first and second time I've ever offered you anything. Quite the deal for a first day, huh?" She wheeled the all but unconscious young man to his room, already dreading how his keen senses might react to the new scent on his sheets.

"…Yeah… (yawn)… what the hell… was that pill…?" All of the sudden his bed lay before him, sheets already drawn back. Where were the tremors? Where was the fear of losing consciousness? Where were the visions? "It hit me… harder than Zeruel did… damn…"

"Oh, stop being so dramatic," It took Asuka's overly relaxed body more than a little effort to lift Shinji's physique off the chair and deposit him as softly as possible in the bed, luckily the boy was fairly compliant this time around, not even raising to object as she removed his pants and drew the covers over him. "It's a concentrate of Valerian, passion flower, lemon balk and skullcap. You must be exhausted with the new serum accelerating your metabolism to such an extent. That aside," She smirked widely at him. "You are now officially experiencing the full effect of my friend Joey's Ninja Death Star."

"You're kidding…" Shinji mumbled, breathing in deeply. There was… a very unfamiliar and pleasant smell all over him, one which for once invited him to relinquish consciousness and rest. "That… little thing… did this…?" He blinked, noticing how it kept getting harder and harder to focus on Asuka's red locks and not on the scent invading his nostrils. "How come you're… so… ?"

"Fresh?" Asuka finished for him as she finished pouring a fresh glass of water on the young man's night stand. "Oh, you don't get to just eat the one when you're with uncle Joey, Baka. I kinda cheated today to be honest, having a considerably unfair advantage over you. But yeah, they're certainly deadly on your first try. It'll help you sleep, and I do mean sleep," A small wrinkle of concern manifested in Shinji's tired face. "Don't worry," unsure of how close or far away she should be, Asuka stood uncomfortably a few feet away from Shinji's bed. "It really does wonders for the nightmares, and… and I'll be outside if you need anything, okay?"

"…Feels like a dream…" She heard Shinji mutter. "…You're here… taking care of me…" he chuckled, hissed and coughed in quick succession. "Maybe… I really am dead…"

"Not yet, Baka," He literally does not have the strength nor the clarity of mind to resist. Attack! She placed her hand on Shinji's hair, ruffling the overgrown locks and enjoying how Shinji seemed to purr at her soft ministrations. No, we're not dead, neither of us. There's still a fighting chance. She let her nails scratch ever so slightly against his scalp. "Not yet…"

"…Where are you… sleeping…?" The small smile widened a bit more, the last time she had stood by his bed and spoken with him, Shinji had done little else than mock her and request she leave. Now, in their second meeting after seven years, he was demonstrating a slight flicker of concern.

"I guess I'll have to take your couch since Rei's room is out of the question, but I'll have a futon or something sent to me tomorrow at first light," She ruffled his hair a bit more, and rose to exit the bedroom. "There's water next to you, your crutches are on your right and I left your bathroom door open. Sleep tight, Baka."

She was about to exit and retrieve some blankets from her travel bag when Shinji's voice rang just a bit louder. "Rei's… room? What is… Rei's room?"

"W-Well," Caught off guard, hungry and in desperate need for one of Shinji's beers, Asuka refused to turn back. "I mean, it's obvious that the other room in your house was specifically prepared for her, you know. I mean, it's okay, I get it. You two were… pretty close and you're waiting for her, which is perfectly fine! So I'll take the couch tonight and d-"

"Asuka…" the boy interrupted, cutting off her tirade. "Rei… is dead. That… is supposed to be… your room…"

"Huh?" It appeared that for once in recent memory, the annoying red dog in her gut had been rendered just as speechless as she had. "M-My room…? B-But it's so bleak! Why would you even… ah…"

"…Thought you'd want… to decorate… yourself…" he added; his lids closed and felt too heavy to open again. "…Thought you'd tell me… I have…(yawn)… no taste… or something…" And just like that, the potent effect of the Ninja Star manifested and leveled Shinji's breathing, a clear indicator he had lost the battle for awareness.

She stood there by his door in a weird sort of trance, listening to his shallow, erratic breathing and the random hiss he'd produce in his sleep. Angry cerulean orbs drew over to the closed door that faced Shinji's kitchen, the only location in the small house where she had scarcely even bothered to clean. The blankets on the bed had not been changed, the corners had not been dusted; she had blatantly refused to enter the sleeping space.

My… my room…?

She bit her lip whilst focusing on the many pieces of information acquired that night, desperately held onto the procedures and steps she had gone over endless times, and despite however much she wished for the jealousy and anger to sharpen her mind as they usually did, the former Second Child's train of thought derailed. She looked over to the sleeping figure; even in his sleep Shinji was frowning, his brow furrowed in slight grimace, breath catching as he twitched and the wound on his back, stomach or leg complained against the sudden movement.

You… you've been keeping this room… this empty room… ready for me. After I didn't speak to you for seven years, after I abandoned and betrayed you… You… "Are you stupid?" She muttered under her breath, gaze fixed on the young man's face. For reasons she was yet to understand, at some point during her silent watch he took several slow, deep breaths; the frown melted at last and for the first time in seven years Asuka saw the Shinji she remembered.

He looked tired, unhealthy, and unhappy.

Tiptoeing to his bed, Asuka crouched and placed a delicate kiss on his forehead. Some years ago I would've never imagined I would miss this. The familiar, unguarded expression in the young man's face felt like a breath of life in her chest. It's sad, really, she pondered, and crouched beside his bed without knowing exactly what she was doing. The world ended, and started over. I ran away, and you… Shinji rolled over to his right side, letting her catch a momentary glimpse at the scar below his left bicep. You held the fort, alone. A monolith, damaged by the constant pass of time, but still unwilling to turn to dust. I wonder, She placed a hand on his left shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. When was the last time you had a good dream, Baka?

Her stomach grumbled, and her dry throat made itself known after a few precious heartbeats. She had been terrified of this sensation seven years before; the comfort of being near him, the knowledge that there was another person in the face of the planet who could relate to her in any way. The stupid little boy who had outclassed her without meaning to, the one person she wanted to be saved by, and the one whose help she had refused in the most important moment. And still, seven years after he had a room ready for her in his house. The fact that he went from cute to handsome is a pleasant surprise, as well, I'd say, she giggled again, almost broke into an uncontrollable fit of laughter and left Shinji's room, careful not to fully close the door.

Uncle Joey's Ninja Stars were working their magic.

Once she had retrieved a can of the Spanish piss Shinji collected, and made herself a generous peanut butter jelly sandwich, Asuka opened the door to the bedroom and let herself fall on the mattress. A click, four gulps and the redhead grumbled in disappointment, stood once more and stole a second beer. Boy, am I tired today, she devoured the sweet treat in seconds, starved by the hunger that accompanied her buzz, took a second swig of beer, and lay down on the bed. He kept looking at my hair, she picked a random lock and inspected it under the relative darkness. He still likes it, huh.

"Get the hell away from me!"

Frowning at the ceiling, the girl propped her head up with her arm, left leg swinging out of bed, and began to analyze. He wasn't even talking to me, it sounded like… like what you'd say if someone… insists on touching you. The way his eyes had turned glassy and wide with fear from one moment to the next was a clear indicator of momentary lapses where he'd have visions; even if he had not yet told a soul exactly what he was seeing, where and how, she had a rough idea of what some of it could be. She took a third gulp, can dangling in her fingers.

"Keler…" she read in the dark. "Donostia… 1890…hmm," The taste was still not something she was keen to get used to soon. The look Shinji had given her during the brief exchange as she cleaned and redressed the wounds made her tremble lightly; an accusatory glare barely disguised in righteous anger which seemed to tell her exactly what she had said to him.

I know what you did.

"Shinji, if you knew the skeletons in my closet," she mumbled, finishing the can and placing it softly on the nightstand, her nightstand. "They're all over… in my bedroom, over my faucet. You're not the only one who fell down the hole, Baka. I fell, I fell hard."

The noose constricted against the apparition's neck, drawing Asuka's heavy lids to where Kyoko was currently hanging. A vast opposite to most of her appearances, now the decomposing figure held the doll in its hand and dangled from the ceiling, noose supported by nothing. Shinji had killed people, actual people, breathing human beings with regular metabolic function, with his bare hands. He hadn't used a pistol or even a knife on more than one of the victims, if the reports she had stolen held any truth behind them. Indeed, the case had been dismissed the moment it had arrived in court; five grown men, renowned gang members and criminals, against one twenty-year-old boy who was, on top of everything, both a national hero and an international celebrity.

Now, now, Schätzling. Remember what Misato told you about that, the voice of her mother suggested, sounding vaguely amused. Everything was always funny to her; there was always a smile or a smirk, just like in Asuka's memories. We don't want your boy to jump out the window in an effort to forget that, do we now? Or maybe you do want it… After all, that young man right there is nothing compared to the sweet little boy you've always told me about. Are you having second thoughts already, Asuka dear?

"If I could have one, just one detail of my life removed from my memory, it would be you, not him, Mother," she spoke to the darkness, to the figure that wasn't there, to her new room; she spoke to herself. "His mental state is… deplorable, at best. Visions that come and go like that are not your regular occurrence… and regardless of whether or not it's dangerous, I will need to speak to him about two years ago, at some point."

The lips of Kyoko stretched impossibly wide, the noose produced a dreadful sound as it tightened on her neck and the woman's face turned an even darker shade of violet. Oh? It intoned with a faint spark of surprise. And will you tell him about how you almost hung yourself that day, hm? Will you tell him about what you did after you found out? Will you now, Schatz? Why, while you're at it, why don't you tell him about David? I'm sure he'd love to hear that story, my love! Or perhaps about Fabio, or Möritz?

The look in his eyes had been vaguely familiar; she recognized the sentiment behind it with little to no trouble and remembered that her personal life was the constant material of talk shows, irrelevant news and pointless magazines. "Something tells me… that he already knows about it, and…" Possessive rage was also a subject she was well versed in. "He won't take too kindly to me even mentioning it."

With the shattered vertebrae cracking under the violent movement, Kyoky turned her head to the side and observed her as a curious beast would while stalking its potential prey. But my dearest, what does it matter? You were never even together, you were never even friends! You've grown, matured, it's a part of life to experience your own sexuality, dear. And besides, the head whipped to the other side, ones screeching. It's not like he hasn't done his share of fucking around, has he?

"Sometimes, on days like this where there's so much shit to sort out in my head," commented the redhead, quickly losing interest in the pointless discussion with the manifestation of her fears, pride, anger and grief. "I kind of wish I hadn't gone off the pills."

Oh, my sweet baby girl, offering the doll which continued to cry blood through its button eyes, her mother laughed. Are you telling me you'd be ashamed to tell him? If he already knows, then surely he will ask! And being how he is right now, he will probably try to hurt you, terribly. He is so very angry, that boy. Are you certain that the choice you made two years ago is the right one, my darling Asuka?

She massaged her neck in reminiscence; the noose had certainly offered a bit of respite, and the promise of oblivion. "I've already been through more shit in twenty-two years than most people do all their lives," There were so many scars on Shinji's body; the skin around both his knuckles looked as though he had seared it off, repeatedly, until nothing short of a gnarled mass of callous and hardened tissue remained. His fingers were covered with slashes that went from imperceptible to deep cuts which most definitely had required stitches. There were… discolorations on his back, large ones which normally occurred when a victim fell off a bicycle or moving car and into the street, where the asphalt burned away the skin. His knees felt rough to the touch, she had counted at least four more knife wounds, a hefty gash on his lower abdomen product of a blade or a very sharp edge, and all sorts of small scratches on his face.

Of all those injuries, she only knew the story of the small mark on his back. "I want to know how he got every one of those marks," she said. "He's survived them all, just like I've survived." Asuka glared up at the hanging corpse. "He can ask me whatever he wants, he can say whatever he wants and do whatever he wants. I won't move, I won't leave." Yawning and stretching over the brand new bed, her bed, the muscles and joints unwounded, but she immediately noticed the lack of Shinji's scent. "He didn't give up on the idea that someday I'd want to see him, and he kept this room ready for that. Even if he… died… this would've still been my room."

Yes... what a pathetic, sad little boy, Kyoko laughed again, cackling with the same deranged tone the young redhead had used during her first mental breakdown, back when her father had held her despite her constant efforts to scratch and bite him, gouge out his eyes, escape and blow her brains out. Waiting on my darling baby all this time. And what have you been doing again? But, course! Making Mama proud, yes? So many awards you've collected, so many titles, sooo much studying; my dear Asuka, Valedictorian of the University of Berlin, number one intern in the Charité Krankenhaus! Even the world has finally woken from its slumber and now calls you the number One Pilot! The Great Sohryu Asuka Langley!

"I was never number one pilot," she muttered, effectively done with the exchange. She wanted sleep, needed rest to think sharply on the next stage of her plan and carefully design a situation in which Shinji could make contact with the boy he had been so long ago. "He was the best, regardless of Synch Rates. He has the most kills, the most field action, the most battle experience, and he did break any and all synch records in history." Shrugging at the corpse's quickly vanishing smile, the girl ignored the baying red mutt trashing somewhere between her ribcage and stomach. "I'm sorry to break your bubble, mother, but I am not the best pilot in the world. I am the best in everything else, though. I'm certainly the only person qualified to help Shinji right now."

The older woman's eyes hardened like stones, for once glaring at the younger redhead. What, she spat, head dangling to the right. Now a junkie can help another junkie? Don't make me laugh. That look in his eyes terrifies you. How much longer do you expect to survive the presence of this sickening little t-

"If you insult Shinji," she growled menacingly, blue eyes narrowing toward the vision. "Then we have nothing more to talk about, you and I. You better choose your next words carefully, mother."

The apparition snarled at her, showing yellow, decaying teeth, hissing like a wounded snake and puking up rotting blood into the floor; only to qualm the erratic shaking a second afterwards, and offers yet another loving glance. So, what was tonight's assessment, Frau Doctor? Does the dear little patient show signs of schizophrenia, sociopathic behavior, animalistic urges, and hallucinations? Does the nice little patient show signs of eliciting hysterical strength in cases of extreme stress? Does he show signs of profound Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, does he shake when withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest? Kyoko Zeppeling Sohryu dropped the doll into the floor, but Asuka never heard the small pop of the fabricated little girl hitting the ground. The corpse began to wilt and disappear under the darkness just as exhaustion began to close Asuka's lids. Is our dear little patient nuts, my darling?!

"No," the young woman answered, head lolling back to inspect the covers. While the blanket was of a light gray color on the surface, even in the relative gloom of midnight she noticed the vibrant red staring back at her. Even through unimaginable mental torture, Shinji recalled that she preferred the damned color above any other. "He's insane."

The figure of her dead mother giggled, fading at last, and Asuka's eyes shut.

She had no clue of how bad Shinji's nightmares were, but if they were half as bad as hers, she was tremendously grateful to have brought a very generous amount of edibles and Ninja Stars of Death. That night, she dreamt of them. The images of the men she had lain with flashed over and over, and in every encounter she could see him, from the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of him. He had watched Misato surrender to the pleasures of the flesh to forget during Third Impact, but his eyes had been different then, something frighteningly recognizable. The betrayal was there, the anger, the jealousy and the hatred, but there was also something new. It followed her through each event, forcing the young woman awake twice through the night; it haunted her when she visited the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror, and it stalked her through the uneasy sleep afterwards.

The look in his eyes threw her own words back at her, and once she rose at 5.12am in the morning of the next day, chest heaving, Asuka discovered she had no response, no suggestion, no comment, not even a snide rebuttal. Shinji's words were poison lately, but the silent messages a simple glare had transmitted ached more than any insult he could ever come up with.

The simple, undeniable truth was many a time the best weapon, after all.

"If I can't have you all to myself, then I don't want you at all."

TBC…


Inspirational Music: Oats in the Water- Ben Howard, Hurt, God's Gonna Cut You Down- Johnny Cash, Way Down We Go – Kaleo, Hello, Insane, Drug Ballad, Must be the Ganja, Déjà Vu – Eminem, Sanitarium, Spit out the Bone, Blackened, The Shortest Straw – Metallica, Constant Motion, Paralyzed, On the Backs of Angels, Bridges in the Sky, Outcry – Dream Theater, Cold Blood- Dave Not Dave.

Shoutout to my mofockers wgolyoko and Richitzer for helping revise and correct!

AN: There. Holy Christ. I mean, I truly have no idea if this stuff that I'm publishing is worth the read or not, but hot damn, it was one hell of a ride to write! I spent all day in a weird trance, didn't even eat until it was night. I almost missed Game Of Thrones last- night!

Are those Ninja Stars a thing? Yes, yes they are. Do NOT try them if you've never puffed a joint before. Trust me, the effects we see in this story, I've seen in real life. Cocaine addicts just… deactivated all of the sudden. That stuff is powerful, just ask Joey Diaz.How does Shinji fight in this story? With the same viciousness of Robbie Lawler, and way less technique lol. Will it matter at all? In the coming chapters, sure.

Ups, downs, nice little moments intermingled with regret and madness, horniness in the middle of a serious situation, hate and love, anger and happiness all together, and at the end a little sweetness with sorrow! Insane! … I hope.

Anyway, Insane is done, next is Bagpipes from Bagdhad! Get yourselves some red wine, everybody! So, even with all the dark elements in this story, it is clearly a lot… livelier than my previous installment. As stated before, I'm actually trying to give this story its own… charm? Changing the narrative a bit, making the development different, and so on, letting the thing flow as the muse takes the wheel. Lots of things have not yet been addressed because… well, because of reasons. There's lots of chappies to go! Still, no clue whatsoever where this is going, no honest clue.

I hope it's worth the read, anyhow. Let me know if the quality sucks!

PEACE.