A Thing That Others Do
Shinji desperately wants his father's approval, and is willing to do almost anything to get it.
"Hey, Ikari, how do you do this problem?"
I'm not listening. I'm staring, like I usually do during class. Not off into space, though. Space means nothingness, and I never think of nothing. I often wish I could think of nothing, could just close my eyes and empty my mind like you'd empty a too-full pot. But I'm not that lucky. My mind is always racing, always bursting with thoughts and doubts and questions I can't answer.
Most people figure I don't talk much because I'm slow. But really, I'm a little too smart for my own good.
After all, fourteen-year-old boys have more than enough to think about ready, what with growing up and girls and hormones and high school and everything. Being an EVA pilot does absolutely nothing to simplify that mess.
Being an EVA pilot and having Gendo Ikari for a father makes things hardest of all.
"Oh, for/get/ it. Hey, Horaki..."
I'm not even sure I can think of him as a father at all. He certainly doesn't act like it. Fathers are supposed to love their children, and take care of them, and be there for them. He's never been there for me, never taken care of me. And I don't have any illusions that he loves me.
Yet, I can't hate him. Or rather, I can't hate him completely, without guilt or remorse. I wish I could. I wish so much I could be like Asuka, and hate him wholly, with no regrets. But I might as well wish to grow wings and fly away, because I'll never be able to do that; not while a part of me craves his approval like a starving man craves food. How can I hate him, when I want nothing more than for him to smile at me, just once, to show in some small way that I /matter/?
"See, I remember 'c' in miles per hour, but I can't remember meters per second..."
My eyes wander around the room, and settle on Ayanami. She sits at her desk by the window, staring emptily into the world outside. The sunlight on her face makes her skin golden, and her eyes fiery. I wonder what she's thinking about.
Rei matters to my father. I've seen the scars on his palms from when he tore open the hatch with his bare hands, just to get to her. He'll have those scars forever. All for a girl who never speaks to or interacts with anyone. And I can't imagine him so much as breaking a fingernail for me. Rei is important to him, that much is clear - not just as a pilot, but as a /person/. And what am I to him? A piece of hardware. A tool. Maybe, if I'm lucky, an unwanted remnant of a failed, dusty past. That's all I can hope for, really.
I look over at Asuka, who's nodding as the Class Rep talks to her about the speed of light; I look back at Rei, who hasn't so much as batted an eyelash as she looks myopically out the window. And I think, as I so often do and so often wish I wouldn't, of Gendo Ikari.
I want to be special to him. It doesn't make a difference /how/. Just so long as I /matter/.
- - - - -
I remember being held.
It's one of my very first memories. There are no images that go with it. Just warmth, softness, security. I can't remember who it is holding me; I guess it's my mother. But I think my father must have held me at some point. Right? He must have held me at least once, must have loved me. He loved Mom, right? Else he wouldn't have married her, wouldn't have stayed with her, wouldn't have had a kid with her. Yes, he must have loved her. And so there must have been a time when he loved me, too. But I can't remember it. By all accounts, and from what scattered memories I do have, he was a distant man even before Mom died, and I worry any love he might have had for me died with her.
- - - - -
"Hey, Ikari, you okay?"
This time I do look up. It's Kensuke, leaning over the back of his chair to look at me.
"Huh?" I say, trying to pull my thoughts back to the present. "Oh... yeah, I'm fine. Why do you ask?"
He shrugs. "Nothing, really. You just looked kinda sad, is all." He pushes his glasses up on his nose. "Well, that and the bell rang five minutes ago and you're still here."
I blink and sit up. "Really?"
He looks from side to side, taking in the empty classroom and the reddening sunlight coming in through the window. "Sure looks like it. What were you thinking about, Ikari?"
I blush. I can't help it. I always blush when I get embarrassed, and I get embarrassed at /everything/. I hate it, but there it is. "Nothing," I say, a little too quickly.
Kensuke quirks an eyebrow at me. "Oh, really?"
"Really!" I say, trying not to squeak. "Really, I was just... thinking about someone." I mumble this last part, glancing down.
Kensuke grins and shifts in his chair so he can look at me properly. "Oh, what's this? Shinji got a little crush?"
"No!" I yelp, with such force that he sits back and looks surprised. "No," I say, quieter. "No, that's not it, I just..." he sighs. "...there's someone I... I want to get their attention. I want them to know me. You know? So I'm not just another random person."
"Sounds like a crush to /me/," Kensuke says, giving me this sly smile.
I glare at him. "It's. Not/. That would be wrong on /so many levels."
He shrugs. "Fine, have it your way. Either way, though, sounds like you should talk to the person."
I shake my head, looking down at my desk. "I can't do that,"
"Why not? Afraid?"
I shake my head no, even though it's a lie. "M'not afraid."
"Well, then, if you want to get to know this person better, go talk to them. Make a move. Do /something/." He sighs heavily. "Nothing will ever change, otherwise."
I almost start to ask him whether this comes from personal experience or not, when he looks up at me again and smiles brightly. Whatever shadow had been lurking in the corner of his expression is gone now. "C'mon," he says, standing up, "I told Touji to wait for us at the arcade, but you know how impatient he is."
"Yeah," I agree, nodding and standing up. "And with his attention span, he might get distracted by something shiny and wander off."
Kensuke laughs. "Right. So let's hurry."
We walk out of the room and down the hall, talking and joking like two normal kids, and I try to put thoughts of my father out of my head. For now, at least.
- - - - -
Days go by, and I keep trying not to think about my father. But I can't help thinking that Kensuke's right. I can't expect things to change just because I want them to. I have to act for a change to exist. Newton's Laws, and all. A reaction for every action. And things in stasis will stay that way, unless something makes them move. Scientifically speaking, I have no choice but to talk to my dad, if I want anything to change.
But knowing that doesn't make things any easier, and that's why I'm wandering hopelessly around NERV, hours after I'd arrived. I'd planned to go straight to my father, I really had. I was going to march into his office and tell him that I was his /son/, dammit, and like it or not he had better start treating me like it. But then I remembered that I'm /Shinji Ikari/, for God's sake, and the plan just kind of fell apart.
So I just walk through the corridors, with my head bent and my hands in my pockets, alternately drawing closer to and then walking away from my father's office. I'm trying to work up the courage to talk to him, but that's easier said than done when one never has much courage to begin with.
That's my problem, really. I'm just not a brave person. I go out and pilot the EVA because people expect it of me, because they need me to. But that doesn't make me brave. Because I'm doing it for someone else. But this... this is doing something just for me. No one's expecting me to do this. No one's making me do this. And that makes it even harder.
- - - - -
I look up. It figures, I think to myself. All this walking, and here I am again: right outside the last place I want to be. My father's office door looks down at me, dark and solid, like the gates of some ancient fortress. It says 'stay away', and I want to obey. I want to run away and hide, I want it so much it hurts. I think of the things my father will say to me when I intrude and it makes me cringe. But I can't let things continue like this. Nothing will ever change if I do, and I know I don't want to feel this way for the rest of my life. So I raise my hand and reach slowly for the door.
The handle turns before I even touch it.
I'm halfway down the hall and around the corner before the door even finishes opening. I press myself to the wall and take several deep breaths before I dare to look back and see who came out. I see blond hair and a white coat and high heeled shoes, walking away from me. Dr. Akagi, of course. I wait a while longer, to see if my father will come out, but no. The hall is as silent and lifeless as a tomb. I could go back and try again. I really could.
But whatever courage I had built up is gone, and now all I want to do is go home, and not have to think about these things. For a little while longer, anyway.
- - - - -
Next day, I'm back again. It takes every ounce of willpower I've got just to stand outside his office, staring at the door again. I haven't even knocked yet, haven't even /moved/. I'm just waiting. And even that much is terrifying.
I honestly don't know how long I wait there. No one comes down the hall, no one comes in or out of the office. No one anywhere is making any sound. I'm not sure what breaks the spell, what makes me reach for the door at last - slowly, hesitantly, like I'm moving through mud, through tar - open it, and step inside.
This is it.
He looks up and pins me to the wall with his gaze. Even from this distance - Dear /God/, this office is huge - I'm paralyzed. "What do you want?" No formalities. No kind of greeting. No "Hello, Shinji." Just a flat, quick, "What do you want?"
I swallow, but my throat's turned to ash and my tongue feels useless. "I..I..." What do I do? What do I say/? Why am I even /here/? And he just /looks at me, and I can't move, can't even run away. "I..." My fingers clench into fists, and I shut my eyes tight. Maybe if I'm not looking at him, this will be easier. "I... I want to help you!" Not quite what I meant to say, but it's something.
My eyes are still closed, but I can feel his gaze boring into me. "You pilot EVA," he points out coolly. "Isn't that enough?"
I shake my head, still not opening my eyes. My whole body is tense, like it's trying to collapse in on itself, like a dying star. "No," I say. "I want to do something for you. Not as an EVA pilot, n-not as the Third Child... just as your son." I gulp, hard. "As... as Yui's son." It might be a low blow, to bring up Mom, but I don't know what else to do.
He's silent for a few seconds. Did I actually manage to shock him? When he speaks again, he sounds almost surprised. "You want to do something for me? Why?"
"I... I'm your son," I say, my voice shaking slightly. "I want... I want to be important to you. I want to /matter/. I... I want to help you."
There's another pause, and then I hear the strangest sound. It takes me a little while to realize he's laughing at me. Not loudly or cruelly; just a quiet, amused chuckle. I realize I've never heard him laughing before. I'm not sure I've ever even seen him smile. "Help me?" he asks, his tone becoming more serious. "What can you do to help me?"
I bite my lip. "I... I don't know," I admit. "But I want to do /something/. I'm your /son/." I hold my head up and force my eyes open, to face him as I say this. "Doesn't that count for something?"
Again, he's silent. He just watches me, and I have the strangest feeling that I'm being evaluated, somehow. Sized up. But what for, I don't know.
When he does finally speak, it's so unexpected that I jump. "Very well, Shinji," he says, and I shiver, like I always do when he calls me by name. "I suppose there is something you can do for me."
My heart skips a beat. "Wh-what is it?" I ask, sounding all of eleven years old.
He raises a white-gloved hand and beckons me forward. I'm walking across the room before I'm even aware of moving. It's like the command went straight to my body without bothering to pass through my brain on the way. And then I'm standing right beside his desk, close enough to see the expression on his face.
Close enough to see his face, anyway.
He pushes away from his desk, the chair rolling back a foot or two. Then he reaches down, and starts unfastening his belt buckle.
"Dad - " I start, confused, but he cuts me off with a glare.
"Hush," he says coldly. He unzips his fly and reaches inside. "Get on your knees."
My eyes widen, and I step back. It's an involuntary reaction, like breathing, like my heart beating. "No," I shake my head, feeling horrified at the very idea. "No way!"
He just gives me that same cold look. "You said you wanted to be useful. Prove it." I shake my head again, mutely. He narrows his eyes. "Either get on your knees, or get out."
My throat works, but no sound comes out. I look at him and I can see my horrified expression reflected in his yellow lenses. But his own face is completely impassive, as if he really doesn't care whether I obey him or turn and go. Do I really matter so little?
This can change that, says a voice in my head. This is a start. You can matter to him. Like Rei does. Like Mom did. It's a start.
My shoulders sag. Defeated, I move to stand between his legs, then drop to my knees. I feel heavy, slow, like my brain doesn't want to function.
Do you really want to turn back, after coming all this way?
My father's cock is in front of me, half-erect and pale. I wince; I don't want to see that. But I don't have to. I just have to close my eyes, lean forward, and take it in my mouth. My father rests his hand on my head and says, "Good." And I whimper, because that shouldn't mean as much as it does.
I feel sick. This is disgusting. It's wrong, for so many reasons. I'm a child. I'm his subordinate. I'm male. I'm his /son/. But none of those reasons is enough to make me stop. And after a few moments, I decide the taste isn't too bad. Of course, I didn't know what to expect. My father tastes sweat-salty, slightly bitter, and feels much softer than I'd expected any part of him to be. For a time, I just kneel there, waiting, trying not to think too hard about what I'm doing in the hope that that will make it easier. Eventually, my father removes his hand, and issues one short command: "Suck."
I obey. I feel clumsy and awkward, but I obey. I wrap my lips around him and breathe through my nose and try to fumble my way through this. But I've never done this before, nor ever been on the receiving end, and I'm finding it's even harder than I'd assumed. And my father is no help at all. He doesn't comment or offer suggestions or even react/. For all I know, he's working on /paperwork while I suck his cock, but my eyes are still shut tight and I can't hear anything but my breathing and the pounding of my heart, so I really don't know.
Fine, then. I'll do a little experimentation, if he's not going to help me.
I pull back a little, taking just the head of his cock in my mouth, and suck, hard. He makes no sound, but my hands are resting on his thighs and I feel the muscles twitch. Success. I do it again, this time flicking my tongue over the very tip. He twitches again, and I think I hear an intake of breath. Next I open my mouth wider, take him deeper, as much as I can without choking, and slide my tongue over him. On an impulse, I slip a hand into his pants, stroking his balls and what I can't get into my mouth. The angle's a little awkward, but this sort of thing, at least, I'm a little more familiar with. I pull back and just lick at the head now, using my fingers to peel back the foreskin so I can lick at the swollen redness underneath. He actually gasps at that, and I almost smile. At least I'm doing something right.
I'm debating whether I should get my teeth involved when I hear something that makes my heart stop: a knock on the door. I feel my father tense. "Don't move," he commands quietly. Then, "Enter."
I'm underneath the desk at this point, and hopefully invisible to anyone coming through the door. But that's small comfort now. My heart is beating so fast I can barely breathe, as someone approaches the desk. The thought of being discovered like this, on my knees with my father's cock in my mouth, makes me want to die of shame. And oh God, what if it's someone I /know/, what if it's Asuka or Kaji or Misato or -
"Gendo," she says, and it's the first time I've heard her call him by name. It sounds like she's only a few feet away. I curl my fingers in my father's pant legs and try to be as still as possible. "Gendo, do we really need to be so formal in here?" Her voice is a lot warmer than I'd expect it to be.
"Always," he says, and his voice is just as cold as ever. "This is a place of business, Dr. Akagi. Remember it."
"I didn't hear you complaining yesterday," she says in a low voice, and my eyes widen. She can't mean what I think she means...
"Yesterday," he says evenly, "was yesterday. Today I expect you to behave properly, and respect my authority when I say I have no need for your services."
There's a creak as weight settles across the desk - either she's leaning on it or sitting on it, and either way she's too close for comfort - and I hear her say, in the kind of sultry purr I thought people only used in movies, "Are you sure there's nothing I can do for you, /Commander/?"
Count on my father not to budge an inch. "Very sure," he says bluntly. "Now, if you have no actual business to discuss, Doctor, I'll have to ask you to leave."
I can't see any of Dr. Akagi from here, but I can easily imagine the angry look she must be giving him. "Fine," she says coldly. "Fine." I hear her footsteps again, this time heading away from the desk, and even her feet sound mad. "Don't bother calling me after work," she snaps. "I'm sure I'll have all kinds of business to attend to." I hear the door slam shut behind her, but my shoulders don't relax until I can no longer hear her footsteps in the hall.
I'm about ready to stand up and go, to tell my father it just isn't worth this - this sick, twisted -- but then there's the weight of his hand on top of my head, and his voice saying, quietly but firmly, "Keep going, Shinji." And I know there's no turning back.
I do the best I can, moving my head up and down, sucking, taking him deep, and by degrees I can feel his breathing getting faster, his fingers tightening in my hair. He doesn't say anything, but I know he's close to losing control, and that's almost enough to make this all worthwhile.
Then he's shuddering, clenching his fingers in my hair as something hot and bitter fills my mouth - I try to pull back, but his grip is as fierce and relentless as the rest of him, and I have to either swallow or choke. When he lets me go, I pull my head back, but don't look up. I just kneel there, hanging my head, panting. And as I sit there, the taste of him still in my mouth, I can feel him touching me. Stroking my hair, gently, almost affectionately. And then he says those three words I've wanted to hear for as long as I can remember.
"Good boy, Shinji."
- - - - -
It's Misato who finds me later, hiding in a supply closet down the hall, crying and curling in on myself. I don't look up at her, don't want to look at anything. But I can feel her hand on my shoulder as she crouches next to me, and I can hear real concern in her voice when she asks, "What happened, Shinji?"
I shake my head. I can't speak. And even if I could, there's no way I could tell her what I've just done.
"It's your father, isn't it?" she asks, gently, but with a hint of anger in her voice that I know isn't directed at me at all.
I hug myself a little tighter, and somehow manage a nod. I don't want to look at her. I don't want her to see my face (all red and blotchy by now, I'm sure, and streaked with tears and snot and God knows what else), because I know that if she does, she'll know what I've done. Somehow she'll /know/.
But she just reaches out and pulls me into a hug, and she's warm and soft and before I know it I'm clutching at that red jacket she always wears and crying like a baby into her chest.
"I'm sorry, Shinji," she whispers, close to my ear. Her arms are tight around me. "I'm so sorry."
I don't look up, don't move, don't say anything. I just cry and cry, until I can't even do that anymore, just hiccup and sniffle and shiver. Only then do I look up at her. And she just smiles, gently, and kisses my forehead. "Come on," she murmurs. "Let's go home." She stands, and takes me by the arm to help me up, then pulls a rumpled tissue out of her pocket and hands it to me. "Get you away from here."
We walk down the corridor slowly, me still sniffling and trying to clean myself up, her with her arm around my shoulders. "I don't like him much either," she confides, as we pass my father's office, the door as silent and impassive as ever. "He leaves a bad taste in my mouth."
- - - - -
A few days later, I'm standing outside my father's office again, trying to work up my courage again. But this time, it's not the courage to go inside that I'm trying to muster, and lacking. It's the courage to walk away.
I know how wrong this is. God, do I know. I know he's using me. I know when he gets tired of me he'll just toss me aside like Dr. Akagi. I know he doesn't love me, and never will. I know he'll never really be my father.
But I'm not brave enough to walk away. All I can do is reach out, open the door, and walk inside.