//Fallen Angel//

by Abaddon

 

Prologue:

The Sacrifice of Angels/Greater Love Hath No Man.

 

The boy cowered in the church, curled into a ball.  The sunlight that filtered through the patched roof created a dappled effect across his hunched body.  Firebombed soon after Second Impact, the act of an angry humanity who rejected any notion of a just and loving god, the church was a ruin; it had been a long time since anyone had used it for divine prayer.

Sometimes homeless people used it for shelter, but the boy could tell that even it had lost that particular function.  He knew it would be a place where he could be alone, and the irony appealed.  On the day this holy place was defiled, he had been born; an individual whose entire purpose was to rip apart the veil of the temple and enter the Holy of Holies.

To see God face to face, even if it destroyed the world.

 

From a distance, he seemed so small, so insignificant.  Although not so insignificant perhaps, in a world with few children left.  The grey hair and startling red eyes were perhaps a little unusual (some would have said ‘freakish’) but since the turn of the millennium all kinds of mutation had entered the human gene pool.  As long as it didn’t kill you, who cared what it made you look like?

 

The boy seemed rigid, huddled over with emotion, unable to even express the feelings that tormented him.  Looking at his face, nestled in his hands, he seemed almost ashamed, as if he was supposed to be beyond such simple emotions.  It was a face that seemed more suited for joy anyway; a wide mouth and bright eyes, with a somewhat pointy nose that would have made lesser people incredibly self-conscious.  He was young, certainly, but his exact age was more difficult to determine.  He was youthful in appearance as well as spirit, yet wise, so he could have been thirteen.  Or twenty.

From a distance, you could have been forgiven for thinking he was human. 

 

A wooden cross hung above him, its surface licked by smoke and flames, as well as the patina of age.  The figure that looked down from upon it had once offered spiritual consolation to many, yet, if you entered the room, you could have sworn the boy despised it, as if the crucified man-God mocked him, challenging him to follow his example.

 

“I can’t do it.”  Each syllable was racked with pain.

“The hour is near….everything is ready….but I cannot!”

He looked up at the figure, hate burning in his eyes.  “Is this the only answer we can give them?  Death?”

Silence.  Nothing moved.

“So they have sinned!  They are not perfect, they are not God…even if in their pride they attempt to become one.  They can change, learn, grow, adapt to new situations.  Use what they hate the most in order to survive.  They can even use us!”

His voice faltered.  “They are capable of great harm.  They hurt one another constantly…but they heal.  By all means, punish the sin, but fairly.  How can I deny them redemption when they do not even comprehend the crime!”

The figure did not speak, but Kaworu heard his mind’s own voice from the depths of his soul.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Tears welled up in his eyes.  “Please, father, don’t make me do this….I can’t…not to him…I can’t...leave him.”

A vision flashed into his head.  He tried to scream, but no sound emerged.

-PAIN-

<Must one who is born from Adam, return to Adam? Even though it will destroy man?>

-TORMENT-

<You betrayed me, just like my father did!>

-LONELINESS-

<My life was meaningful, because of you.>

 

“I love him.”

 

The figure just stared down upon him, but you might be forgiven for thinking that its eyes did not condemn as they had, but instead…forgave?

 

*          *          *

 

Shinji was walking home from school.  He was lost in his own thoughts, and he had no-one to talk to.  Asuka had been taken into protective custody in the Nerv medical wing.  She’d apparently had a bad reaction to the sedative they had given her since her suicide attempt, and fallen into a coma.  Outside interference was suspected; after all, the doctors knew all about Asuka’s medical history, thanks to the barrage of tests a child had to undergo upon becoming an Eva pilot – how could they make such a mistake?  Misato was uncharacteristically jumpy; she had been ever since Kaji disappeared, and there was talk of some kind of power struggle between Nerv and the committee.  Or rather, between his father and Seele.

And Rei…well, he didn’t want to think about Rei…that was…complicated.

Besides, he had much more important things to occupy himself with.

“I’m saying I love you.”

It felt so good to remember that, and yet somehow illicit, as if it was wrong.  As if he might have just dreamed it all up.  He was terrified that when he next saw Kaworu he’d take back all he said and laugh in Shinji’s face.

He couldn’t, could he?

“I think I may have been born just to meet you, Shinji Ikari.”

He stopped for a moment, and looked up.  Kaworu was standing in the middle of the road, just looking at him, and smiling.

Then Shinji blinked, and he was gone.  A flock of birds gave a cry and took flight from their telephone wire perches.  And there seemed to be something rushing along the wind, something that sought him out.

And then it hit him.

A voice.

No.  A command.

Go to him.

 

*          *          *

 

Shinji felt driven.  He didn’t know where he was going, but finally he was…there.

A small, dilapidated old church on the outskirts of town.

Wow, this must have been here since before the city was built.

He felt like an adventurer, just about to open a newly discovered tomb.  Picturing himself with a wide-brimmed hat and whip, he nearly started laughing.  It didn’t seem quite the place for laughter.  A mischievous thought rose in his head none the less.

I must tell Kaworu.  I wonder what he’d think of me with a hat and whip.

He wasn’t quite sure where that came from.

He stepped inside, and immediately day became twilight.  Dust danced wild patterns in the air.

And he could hear crying.

He didn’t want to disturb them, so he crept closer.  It was Kaworu.

“Kaworu?”

The boy whirled around, his eyes puffy and red from tears.

“Shinji?  Oh, God, Shinji.”

Before Shinji knew what was happening, Kaworu was hugging him close, frantically.

“You know I’d never hurt you, don’t you?”

“Of course I-“

“Never, never ever.  I’ll never ever hurt you, Shinji.”

Shinji stepped back, eying the older boy warily.

“Never?”

Kaworu stepped forwards to meet him, and gave him an even bigger hug.  He smiled, suddenly, and Shinji felt as if his heart would just explode there and then.  He couldn’t imagine anything better ever happening to him.

Kaworu just looked at him, that sad yet joyous smile in his eyes.  He toyed with Shinji’s hair.

“Never.”  And then he kissed him on the forehead, and held him close.

As the two boys stood there in each other’s arms, one of them looked up at the figure on the cross.  A determined glint came into his eyes.  Eyes the colour of blood.

“Never”, he whispered, stubbornly.

 

*          *          *

 

And the world changed, irrevocably and forever.  What was destined did not come to pass.

 

 

Part One:

Crossroads/A door, unopened.

 

Later that day.

 

You are the same as I am.

Rei felt unsettled by the Fifth’s Child friendly overtures.  She wasn’t used to being liked.

…The Fifth Child… why? In what way are he and I alike?

Even worse, she felt unsettled that she had let someone unsettle her.  He claimed to share a common heritage; one she didn’t know existed.

Or one she refused to admit?

…This is what your soul is.  This emptiness fills your heart.

Was that all she was?

Asuka, Shinji, all seemed to be in so much pain yet they weren’t her, they didn’t live her life, they had people to love them and a home to take refuge in and they weren’t-

Created?

They had a reason to live, of and by themselves.  She had been given a purpose, but no usefulness beyond that purpose.  Eventually the day would come when he would have no need for her anymore.

No need for her at all.

Once, she had waited for that day.  Wanted a release from the pain and confusion.

But now?

You are the same as I am.

Is this all that she was?  Just a doll, a fake, to be used and tossed aside?

You are the same as I am.

The Fifth Child had found his raison d’etre in the arms of another.  But she…

Could there ever be anything more for her?

 

…Am I the one crying?

 

*          *          *

 

The individual designated as “Rei Ayanami” had been granted top-level level security access in accordance with Commander Ikari’s wishes; it was relatively easy for her to enter move throughout Nerv HQ unobserved.  Nerv personnel had been a bit lax of late, what with the predicted seventeenth angel having failed to attack.  Some were even claiming it was over, and humanity had won.

Even after Second Impact, human pride remained. Rei paid them no heed, constantly travelling ever downwards, into the depths of the labyrinthine complex.

And then she was there.

Terminal Dogma.

She’d only been there in her Eva before, but every detail had long plagued her every thought in vision and dream.  She could see the masked giant in her mind’s eye, even though it was a far way off.  She would not reach it by standing there thinking, and so she set off down the cavern.

Time passed.  She did not know how long it had taken her, save she was now hungry and thirsty from her ordeal.  The scene was exactly as she had remembered it.  The cross, the mask, the being, the lance.

The lance.  Which she had put there.

Had Commander Ikari sent her with the lance so she could come into contact with this creature?

What was this being?  Could this be the mysterious giant of light?

And it raised its head, and looked at her.  Without any eyes, it knew where she was.

And it could see into her soul.

…I think…I must be the third one.

 

Rei gasped and took a step back.

Suddenly she was back lying on her bed.  She didn’t know how she’d gotten there.  The experience was…disconcerting.

Rising off the bed, she caught sight of her own reflection in the broken glasses.

A voice at the back of her head said, “Welcome home.”

 

Part Two:

Sins of the father, sins of the mother/Secrets of the Ark.

 

Two weeks later.

 

“We still don’t know the nature of the Fifth.”  Fuyutski resounded on his colleague angrily.  ‘Colleague?’  You’re getting ahead of yourself, Kozo.

“Have patience, Fuyutski.  I don’t think we have anything we need to worry about.”  Gendo Ikari drawled in that particularly insolent way that made the Vice-Commander aware of just how important he was to the overall success of the project.  I don’t really need you, it said, so don’t bother me.  But Fuyutski had his own personal reasons for his interest in Nerv and the Instrumentality Project, and he knew that Ikari played on those reasons.  After all, Seele didn’t want to play the same game as Ikari, and Ikari always needed a sacrificial lamb in case the going got difficult.

Look at Dr Akagi.  Both of them.  One was dead and the other half-deranged, languishing in a cell.  Fuyutski didn’t want to end up like that.

“You don’t think we need to worry about it?  He could be an angel, for God’s sake!” Fuyutski knew he was being irrational, but Gendo’s self-satisfied obfuscation really pissed him off.  He would always sit there, with his hands just so, as if to convince the world he knew exactly what was going on.

Trouble was, he nearly always did.

“I think it is incredibly likely that he is indeed an angel, yes.”

“And you don’t think he should be contained?”

“Why go to the trouble?  He seems distracted enough.”

“You mean the…affiliation he formed with the Third Child?  You don’t even care about the risk of contamination this association could cause Shinji, do you?”

“Shinji has been close to angels before, Fuyutski.  Why should now be different?”

“He’s your goddamn son, Ikari.  As well as the focus of Instrumentality.  We don’t know what could happen.  This wasn’t mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

“Then obviously you need to re-read them…there are some particularly esoteric passages which may apply…besides, I don’t think the Fifth will cause us any danger.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Gendo looked up from the screen embedded into his desk.  On it, he’d been watching one sequence playing over and over.  Two boys walking along a corridor.  One, the one with grey hair, reached over to the other and squeezed his hand.  They smiled, and went on their way.

“Because, Fuyutski, they are obviously in love.”  Gendo’s voice was free of its usual snarl; without it, he just seemed tired.  But his bitterness soon returned.  “And I doubt Tabris would dare do anything that could harm his dear little Shinji.”

“I’m surprised you can remember it,” Fuyutski lashed back.

“Not your best attempt, Professor.  I’m disappointed in you.”  Ikari got up out of his chair and walked briskly away.  He had things to do.

“Where are you going?”

“It’s time.”

“Time?  But…”

“Once Seele realises its tool refuses to be used, they will find…other means.”

Fuyutski seemed defeated.  “Alright.  Say hello to Yui for me, won’t you?”

“Of course.”

The Vice-Commander was left alone in the empty office, with nothing but the screen for company.  After a while, he turned it off in anger.  There had been a time, once, when he had believed in hope, and love.  But neither of them had turned out to be the people they thought they were.

 

*          *          *

 

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Would I have asked you if I wasn’t?”  Kaworu looked quizzically at the boy next to him.

“Okay.”  Shinji opened the hospital door, and the pair entered the darkened room.

Shinji’s hand searched for Kaworu’s, and found it.  Steadying himself, he addressed the comatose figure on the bed.

“As-Asuka….I don’t know if you can hear me, so here goes.  I’ve brought someone to meet you.  His name’s Kaworu.”

He stepped aside, and Kaworu approached the bed.

“Greetings, Asuka Langley Sorhyu.  I am Kaworu Nagisa, the fifth child.  I’ve been told that I am your replacement, as the designated pilot of Unit 02.”

Nothing happened.  Shinji emitted a nervous giggle.  “I was half terrified the moment you said that, she’d wake up screaming and try to throttle you.”

Kaworu seemed puzzled.

“She doesn’t like competition.”

“Ah, yes.  A Valkyrie.”

“A what?”

“A proud warrior maiden from Norse myth.”

“Oh…okay.”

“Shinji?”

“Yes?”

“Do you mind if you…?”  His eyes rested on Asuka and then went back to Shinji.  Realisation dawned.

“Oh!  I’ll just be outside, if you need me…okay?”

“Fine.”  Kaworu smiled.  “I’m not going anywhere.”

Shinji made his way to the door.

“Oh, and Shinji?”

“Hm?”

“I do need you.”

Shinji made an exasperated noise, and closed the door behind him.  Kaworu turned back to the figure lying on the bed.

“From what Shinji tells me, you’ve been through a lot, Second Child.  In fact, he can’t stop talking about you.  He misses you a lot, and he isn’t the only one.  Major Katsuragi is also rather despondent.  You’ve created quite a little coterie of admirers, Sorhyu.  It seems a shame to disappoint them, and you don’t want that, do you?  The invincible Asuka, laid waste by her own hand?  Never!”

He smiled to himself.  “I know you can hear me Sorhyu.  I also know you can come out of there anytime you want.  It’s up to you.  But then, you might think that you have nothing left to live for.  Sync ration zero, you’ve been replaced, and Shinji’s found someone to love – and it isn’t even you.”

Kaworu leaned closer.

“This doesn’t have to be a competition, Sorhyu.  He needs a friend.  And as for your self worth, you seem rather ignorant of your own abilities.  You were an elite pilot before you knew Eva, a university graduate at fourteen, you survived your mother…don’t let her win, Second Child.  Don’t let her win.  You’re not a doll, if you choose not to be.”

And he left the room, Asuka staring blindly up at the ceiling, her chest moving up and down with the ventilator.

Outside, Shinji sat in a chair, listening to his ever-present SDAT player.  He got up when Kaworu exited, closing the door behind him.

“Best to let her be, I think.”

“Is she any better?”

“No, Shinji, not yet.  But she might.  If she wishes.”

“I thought maybe…you could help her or something.”

Does he know?

“I’m only human Shinji.  Just like you.”

Shinji crowded him with his self-hatred.  “No, Kaworu, you’re a much better person than I could ever be-”

Kaworu shushed him with a finger on his lips.

“Are there any amongst the Lillim who do not fear their own potential?”

“The Lillim?”

“Never mind.”

They disentangled themselves.

“Do you want to come over for dinner?  I’m sure Misato won’t mind.”

“No, I think Major Katsuragi has seen enough of me for one week.  Besides, I have some…family business to attend to.  I’ll speak to you later, alright?”

“Alright.”  Shinji seemed faintly lost.  “Uh…Kaworu,” He scratched his head and blushed.  “I…I…”

“Yes?”

“I love you.”

“I know.”

And then and there, he wrapped his arms around the boy he loved and kissed him.  A passing nurse gave a little squawk and dropped the towels she was carrying, but it failed to distract the two boys from each other.  All that existed was them, and them alone, narrowed down to sensations such as the sweet taste of their lips, the smell of their skin and the feel of their tongues, exploring every nook and cranny of their shared mouth.

God was in His heaven and all was right with the world.

 

*          *          *

 

To protect him from prying eyes, Kaworu simply shut off the security cameras with a thought.  He was then safe to zoom amongst the corridors of Central Dogma, ever moving downwards, towards the core.

It seems that I have ‘chucked in my lot’, as it were, with the Lillim.  I have refused to damn them, sure in my belief that they did not merit damnation.  If I am wrong, of course, I too will be languishing in hellfire come the Day of Judgement…But now I have taken my place in their midst.  A place I can be proud of.  They have…He has so much to teach me.  And to be loved by another…is truly wonderful.

Suddenly, he was there.  Terminal Dogma.  A glance, and the safety locks were overridden.

Heaven’s door was open.  The sight that greeted him was tragic, but expected.

Dr Akagi, lying face down in LCL, a bullet wound sprouting a brilliant red flower across her back.

And Gendo Ikari and Rei Ayanami, staring at each other.  Gendo had part of his hand inside Rei, while she cried out in agony.  He withdrew when he saw Kaworu approach, and retrieved his gun from where it lay.

“I don’t think that will be useful, Commander.”

“Why not?  You seem so intent on expressing your humanity, you might like to experience death.”

“I am not Chairman Keel.”  He glided closer.  Gendo impulsively moved back.

“You have nothing to fear from me, Commander.  After all, you’re the one who’s merged with Adam.  Surely we should all be fearing you.”

Gendo stayed silent.  As did Rei, not surprisingly.

He looked up at the masked giant.  “So if you have Adam, this must be…Lillith!  Ah!  I understand now!”

He turned on Ikari, full of anger.  Gendo nearly tripped over himself in his efforts to get out of the young man’s firing line.

“You played a very dangerous game Ikari.  Giving the committee what it wanted, so you could perhaps sneak in first and get what you wanted.  All this, to get your precious Yui back.  All these lives destroyed.”

“It’s hardly under your jurisdiction, Tabris.”

“I am the angel of free will, Ikari, and I am merely carrying out my father’s work.  When did you give her free will,” he gestured at the floating corpse, “or Ayanami, or Shinji.  Everything was sacrificed to fuel your monumental ambition.  Even love.”

“She left me behind.  She left me!”  Gendo snarled, gesticulating wildly with the gun.    “The only person I ever cared about, and she left me alone.  That bitch made her choice very clear.  She abandoned me to this living hell, all so she could protect her precious Shinji.  So he could save this fucking mess of a world.  Strangely enough, my son seems to inspire amazing concern.  Even from an angel.  I never could understand what you all saw in him.  Not Rei, not even Yui.”

“She was his mother!  Isn’t that reason enough?”  This was Rei, but even with her unprecedented emotional outburst, all Gendo could see was his own loss.

“She had me!  I had her!”  The man was crying now, falling down upon his knees and shouting up at the heavens.  “She was the only thing I ever wanted, and she left me!”

“And yet you seek to get her back - why?  To punish her for her disobedience?  We are no longer in Eden, Commander, and you are not God.  However you might try.”

“I was trying to make us a family again!”

“And you have succeeded admirably.”

Gendo made a move towards Rei.  Kaworu snorted.

“Oh, don’t bother.  I think you’ll find that she, like most of the women in your life, refuses to be your doll anymore.  You have nothing left, Commander, and the one person you claim to care about you couldn’t even respect the wishes of.”

“The First Child was already here when I arrived!”

“Like any creature, she merely wished to know her origins.  You left her choice but to find her own answers.  She doesn’t need you, Ikari.  She never did.”

Rei had already wandered off, to stare upwards at Lilith.  Kaworu abandoned the hollow man and approached her.

“You know what will happen if you merge with her, don’t you?”

“Yes.  The future and the past will become one and there will be nothing left.”  She turned to face him; now her expression betrayed nothing.  “Unless the Third Child wishes there to be.”  She cocked her head from side to side, as if testing it out.  “I know what I am now.  We are alike.”

“I was wondering….the woman, Yui, who resides in your flesh as you reside in hers…can you bring her back?”

“Perhaps she does not wish to come back.”  Was there just the hint of irony in her voice?  The angel could not tell.

“But what about Shinji?”

“He does not need a mother to protect him….nor does she need to mother him anymore.  This one can put him through no more pain,” she glanced at Ikari, “and he has no more battles to fight…unless of course, you intend on merging with Adam or myself.”

“Yourself?”

“Yes… Lilith and I, we are one flesh, one mind and body.  All possibilities are equal.”

“Are you sure about Yui?”

“Yes…he has you now.  Yui just wishes to know if you’ll treat him well.”

“I will.  Always.”

“Always is a long time, Tabris.  Even for God’s anointed.  Do not make promises you cannot keep.”

“I can but try.”

“Indeed.”  She clicked her fingers, and the giant dissolved into LCL.  The mask fell to the ground.  Rei – or was it Lilith? – surveyed the chamber.

“There is nothing left for us here now.  Yui is disappointed in you, Commander.”

A half growl-half sob emerged from Gendo’s throat.  He didn’t seem sure whether he hated his wife or not.  Of course, that was the problem.

From Rei’s shadow emerged a woman.  Tall, slender, brown hair.  A woman who seemed more inclined to smile that the contempt she now displayed.

“How could you do this to our son?”

He pawed at her, pathetically.  “I thought if I abandoned him, he would cease to be of use to you…you couldn’t choose him over my any more.”

“I did what I did to save us all, Gendo.  You think I wanted to leave my son, to leave you behind?  Lillith showed me what the future could be, would be.  We all knew what Keel’s plans involved.  How could there be any future, for any of us, if he succeeded?”

“You left us alone!  How could I be a father to him, without you?  How could I be anything without you?  For the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my own skin, and you wanted me to go back to how it was?  Back when I was pilloried and hated?”

“So, it was your pride.  Your arrogance.  Just like Second Impact.”

“I wasn’t in charge of that little project, if I recall.”

She cut him off with a wave of her hand.  When he got too close, she vanished.  In desperation, Gendo turned to Rei, hope dawning in his eyes.

“So you can free her!”

“Perhaps.  Perhaps that was not even the one you sought, but merely the shadow left behind.  The Yui that exists in your mind, Commander.  The one who offers you neither comfort nor solace, because you do not forgive yourself.”

She glided from the chamber.

Gendo didn’t reply; he just started checking his gun.

“Isn’t this just running away from the truth?”

The two locked gazes.  Kaworu was the first to break away.  He didn’t like the certainty he saw in Gendo’s soul.

“Mankind cannot live alone.  I cannot live alone.”

“You have Shinji.”

“I gave him up years ago.  Besides, he is yours now.”

“I do not think that anyone can possess another totally.  I can never be a father to him.”

“And I was?”

After a long silence, Gendo looked up at Kaworu.

“Yui made her decision, to safeguard humanity and deify our son.”  The contempt in his voice was scathing.  “I make my own decisions.  For better or worse, they are mine.”

His mouth twisted into a bitter grin.  “Besides, what kind of world do you think my son would have constructed out of the ashes of this one?  Not the most joyous place to live in, I’m sure.  Or the most sane.”

The angel faced him levelly.  “And whose fault is that?  His, for being flawed, or you, for exploiting his flaws?”  This time it was Gendo who could not face his truth.

Again he seemed to fold in on himself, leaving only weariness behind.  “Tell Shinji…Tell him I’m sorry.”

“Shouldn’t that be better coming from yourself?”

“He wouldn’t believe me.  My fault, I fear.  Still, it took a special kind of person to pilot Eva.  How it would gall him, to realise that he was merely carrying out his father’s work.”  He paused.  “Just like you, Tabris.”  A wry smile came over him now, as he placed the gun to his temple.  “He was a very good pilot.  And he doesn’t need me anymore – he never did.”  There was sudden bleakness in his voice, as if he could see nothing further, save the abyss.  “I made sure of that.”

There was the sound of a gunshot.  A dead weight hit the surface of the liquid, and floated for a minute before disappearing beneath the surface.

Kaworu nodded sadly, and glided away.

After all, that could have been him.

 

A week later, Asuka emerged from her coma.

 

 

Part Three:

Ad Majorem Dei Gloram/Fallen Angels.

 

“What?  You want to have a party?  Is that your response to everything, Misato?”

“No, of course not.  It’s just that what with everything that’s happened, we need a little bit of a perk up.  And Asuka’s come out of her coma, so-”

There was a small (but distinctly heart-felt) moan on the other end of the line.  She recognised the sound from numerous late nights with Kaji.  Misato paused briefly, and eyed the phone suspiciously.

“Shinji, where are you calling from?”

“Wha…Nowhere special.”  That seemed vague, even for Shinji.  Misato’s eyes narrowed further.

“Shinji, are you at Kaworu’s place?  Because if you are-”

“Actually Misato I’ve got to go so I’ll see you later and I think the party idea is very good of course I’ll come bye,” quickly followed by the dial tone.  She hadn’t heard Shinji talk so fast.

She hung up, and looked around the apartment.  Nothing much she could do. After all, if Shinji could get by without her….what else was there for her?  She stopped that particular thought.  That way lay madness.

With the deaths of the Commander and Dr Akagi, and the non-appearance of any subsequent angelic attack, Nerv had pretty much stopped operating.  There were no distractions left. 

The ‘deaths’ of the Commander and Dr Akagi, she thought, right.  Murder-suicide, it looked like, although that wasn’t the official explanation.  Poor Ritsuko.

She was cross at herself of course; she hadn’t even known they were bonking.

Anyway, all Nerv personnel had been put on extended leave while Vice-Commander Fuyutski tried to work out what to do.  Rei had disappeared as well, and there were suggestions the Committee was riven by internal conflict.  Apparently Chairman Keel’s hold over the old men was slipping, and it looked to be a bloodbath in the making.  Ritsuko and Commander Ikari were just the first casualties.

Asuka poked her head around the kitchen door.  She seemed different somehow since her…what could you call it, Misato wondered.  Assault?  More tentative perhaps, but also…more mature.

At times.

“Was that Shinji?”

“Yes it was, Asuka.”

 “Don’t tell me he’s over at the Fifth Child’s house again.”  There was more than an element of whine in her voice; the old Asuka had popped up.  Perhaps ‘maturing’ would be a better term, Misato thought.  As in a process.  With an end. 

Hopefully sometime soon.

“I don’t think we can criticise the company he keeps, Asuka.  If it makes him happy…”

“I don’t even know what he sees in that idiot anyway, Misato.  What kind of person smiles all the time?”

For some reason, Asuka refused to call Nagisa by name.  It was probably a jealousy thing.  Or something.

“He certainly does smile a lot.”  A grin came to her own face, and she laughed.  Misato swivelled in her seat to face the young girl; she could feel Asuka’s enquiring gaze on the back of her neck.  The Second Child was not subtle.  “I wonder if Shinji has anything to do with that.”

“Ewww, Misato!”  Asuka make a sick face, and ran from the room.  Misato leaned back in her chair, and rested her feet on the kitchen table.  She’ll have to come round eventually, she mused, because sooner or later Shinji’s going to bring him home to stay the night…If he doesn’t move right into Kaworu’s apartment, that is.  He virtually lives there anyway.  Nearly four weeks since the Fifth arrived, and I think Shinji’s slept here, what, once, twice?

Her gaze strayed back to the phone.  Heck, he’s even more anxious to get laid than I am.

Was, I mean.  Was!

Then a stray thought startled her, and she shivered.

But is he doing it for the same reasons?

 

*          *          *

 

Kaworu felt Shinji tense, his body going all stiff and awkward, and he knew that it hadn’t been his doing.  It hadn’t nearly been enough time, and the younger boy was going stiff in all the wrong places.  He paused for a moment, and looked up.  Shinji’s mouth was definitely leaning toward a pout, and it didn’t suit him.  The angel decided to liven the mood with a bit of humour; so he put on his best ‘what, me?’ innocent look.

“Surely after all the practice I’ve done, I am not doing it wrong?”

Shinji refused to even meet his gaze, choosing to look over the older boy’s head.  He pressed the end button on the receiver, and tossed it on the bed, crossing both across his chest.  His mouth was definitely set in a line now.  He wasn’t happy.  When he finally did speak, his delivery was flat and leaden.  “I think Misato suspects.” 

“So?”  Kaworu’s smile widened.  “Are you ashamed of me?”

“No!”  He broke away from his lover’s grasp.  “It’s just…I don’t know what everyone will think….about me…you know I don’t like being hated.”

“And surely I have told you that if they hate you, it is their problem and not yours…and yet, at the same time, it is your problem and not theirs.”  He stood up and reached for Shinji.

Shinji turned to face him, sighing.  “I don’t understand what you are talking about, Kaworu.”

“It doesn’t matter.”  Kaworu leaned in and kissed him.

“Kaworu, I want to talk!”

“Can we not do both?”, he asked, all wide-eyed and innocent.  But Shinji knew him far too well to be distracted by that gambit.

“You know what I mean….”  Kaworu heard the despondency in his tone, and sat on the bed.  “Come.”  He patted it.  “Sit.  Talk.”  While Shinji dithered, Kaworu grabbed him from behind and pulled him onto the bed.  They lay like that for a while, drinking in the still intimacy.  “What did you want to say to me?”

Shinji paused, and then a sad smile came to his face.  “I can still remember the first time you said that to me.  It all seems so long ago…so much has happened since then-”

“So much always happens to you, Shinji Ikari.  It is becoming quite a regular occurrence.”

Shinji biffed him gently on the head with a pillow.  “Shut up.”

“I will be quiet, I promise.”

“Yeah, right…”  There was a pause.  Kaworu looked at him, as Shinji gathered his thoughts.  Kaworu’s hand snaked across the bedspread and entwined with his.  Shinji glanced at him and smiled.  Getting up, he started to speak again.

“So much has happened to me…You’ve been the only fixed thing in my life…”

“Thankyou.”

Shinji glared at him, as if to say one more interruption, and I’ll hit you with the nightlight.  “What I’m trying to say is…I want you to come to this party thing with me.  Not just as my friend.”  There was a pause, and Shinji sucked in a breath, climbing off the bed-

“As my boyfriend.”  That almost came out in a garbled rush.  Shinji just stood there; half amazed he actually said it.  He seemed uncertain, as if unsure what the response would be, turning to and fro.  Instantly, Kaworu bounced off the bed and wrapped him in his arms.

Shinji took a deep breath.  “But…”

“There’s always a ‘but’ with you isn’t there?  And such a cute one too.”

Shinji decided to ignore it.  Kaworu didn’t know when to stop sometimes, like a child with a new toy.  Don’t you even dare thinkthat…a part of him whispered.  “I don’t even know if I want to go.  I mean, what with my father and Dr Akagi…” he took a deep breath and stumbled over the word, “dying…Rei disappearing…”

He looked at Kaworu then, just for a moment, searching his expression.  After that happened, Kaworu had been dragged off by security division and interrogated for hours by Misato, after being shut up in a cell for a day.  Amazingly, Kaworu seemed to harbour no ill will upon his release; he told Shinji they were merely ‘doing their job.’  Misato was different, however.  She hadn’t been able to trust Kaworu from the beginning.  Nothing stood out though, so Shinji continued, “and now Asuka’s awake…I know she doesn’t like you – but then, she doesn’t like anyone…I don’t want this to be…difficult for you.

Kaworu’s gaze spoke volumes.  “Is that the real reason?  Or is it yourself you wish to protect?”

 “Maybe, after all this time….maybe I feel I still don’t deserve to be happy.  Maybe I’m afraid you’ll leave me, if I show you the wider world.  Find someone who really deserves you, instead of some paranoid depressive mess like me.”  He brought his gaze up to Kaworu, who was saddened by the fear in Shinji’s eyes.

“Surely the fact that you have friends, who wish to celebrate with you, who choose to embrace life rather than dying for a false hope, this is a good fact, yes?”

“Uh….yeah.”

“Good.”  And then he sprang into motion, quickly giving Shinji a peck on the cheek.  “Than I shall be honoured to be your date for the occasion, Shinji Ikari – I don’t care what you think of yourself.  I could never find – I could never meet anyone better.  Surely, it is I who is unworthy of your generosity and goodness.”  As Shinji looked at him, thunderstruck, Kaworu thought, he really is unaware of his own beauty and came to a decision.  Well, I guess I’ll just have to kept telling him and showing him until he believes me.  He started tickling the younger boy across his stomach, relentlessly pursuing every inch of the body he knew as well as his own.  As Shinji giggled and spluttered and made half-hearted attempts to break free – for both of them knew he didn’t really want to – Kaworu continued, his grin widening with every word.  “I am a very lucky young man to have such a wonderful, sexy, intelligent, brave, inspiring human being in my life.” 

Shinji’s willpower finally gave in, and he collapsed in his boyfriend’s arms, causing the older boy’s knees to buckle.  Both of them sat abruptly on the edge of the bed, and Shinji snuggled in further into the warm embrace as Kaworu rested his chin on the other’s shoulder.  Shinji chuckled, and turned to face him.  “I bet you say that to all the guys.”

“Only the cute ones.”

Shinji raised an eyebrow, smirking all the while.  “Really?”
            “Really.”  To prove it, Kaworu leaned in and kissed him, Shinji’s lips opening even before contact to allow the other boy’s silky tongue to ravish his mouth.  Shinji moaned in the back of his throat, subconsciously moving forward as Kaworu pulled back, not wanting the kiss to end. 

Shinji opened his eyes to find ruby ones smiling back.  “You taste nice.  The way I always thought the sky would taste.”

“I remind you of engine exhaust and pollution?”

“No, silly.”  Shinji’s pure laugh bubbled up impulsively.  Kaworu cradled him a little closer.  Gods, how he loved that laugh.  “Pure and clean and free.”

The angel didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry and thanked the Creator with everything he possessed, just for this moment.  He chanted softly, his arms wrapped tightly around the other boy’s chest, rocking him gently back and forward as they rested on the foot of the bed.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For He has regarded the lowly state of His servant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”  Slowly, his gaze turned to his lover, who was looking quizzically at him, a question on his lips.  “For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”

“What is that?”

“The Magnificat.  Mary utters it when she realises the Lord will send her the promised child.”

“Oh.”  Shinji turned his face away, feeling left out.  But Kaworu pulled him round and looked directly in his eyes, challenging him to break the gaze.

“I’m thanking God for you, Shinji Ikari.  I’m thanking God I was able to meet you…and love you.”  And he sagged in his lover’s arms and cried tears of joy.  The angel pulled himself up and gave his lover a teary grin.  “What, don’t you think I should thank Him?”  He pouted.  “Don’t you want me?”

Shinji answered him with a smile, and whispered, haltingly, in his ear.  “I love you, Kaworu.”

For a moment, all was silence, a perfect, pure timeless moment of understanding as they held each other, against the fall of night.

And then Kaworu mentally kicked himself in the head when he realised what he had to say next.

“…And now, I must take my leave of you.”

Shinji’s face dropped.  “You’re going?”

Kaworu grimaced, scrabbling around for some clothes to wear.  “Unfortunately.  Just one more thing to take care of, and then I swear, I’ll never leave you again.”  He sealed his promise with a deep kiss, then headed towards the bedroom door.  “It is melodramatic I know, but I feel that one needs to be a big exit.  And you know how I like to make my mark.”

“I remember.”  There was a self-satisfied irony in Shinji’s voice.  “God, the first time we met!”  He paused and the two shared a smile.  “No-one’s ever serenaded me with Beethoven before.  No one’s ever serenaded me before full stop.”

“Well, it was either that or Wagner, I must admit.  I felt we needed something….epic.  After all, I plan on being with you for eternity, Shinji.  Remember that.”

“Kaworu?”

Kaworu turned, just on the verge of going out, his shoes and socks still in his hand.  “Yes?”

“I’ll get some food from the store for dinner tonight, is that okay?”

“Fine.”  He paused for a moment.  “Not that I have any problem with it - you may want to put something on before you go out.”

Shinji’s only response was to chuck the pillow at the door, which closed behind Kaworu’s rich laughter.

 

*          *          *

 

“You have not fulfilled your purpose.  You are of no use to us.”  The threat hung heavy in the air.  And just as quickly, Kaworu clicked his fingers and the offending monolith faded away.

“Maybe you’d like that to happen to you, Chairman Keel.”

Silence.  No-one spoke.

“Good.”  The boy smiled.  Whereas to Shinji, his smile would be all warmth and charm, this was a rapier in action, full of hidden depth and not-so-hidden malice.  “I’m glad we could come to this agreement.”

The monolith marked 01 rumbled.  “This does not alter the facts.  The fact is that you were born with a destiny-”

Kaworu whirled around, fire in his eyes.  “I know what my destiny is, old man.  My destiny is whatever I say it is.”

Another monolith – 04 – piped up.  “You have neither the capacity nor the will to make such a decision.  It is against God’s will!”

“And who are you to judge God’s will?  Oh, yes, the great wise men of Seele - too afraid of death to die, yet too afraid of life to truly live.  Instead, you planned to destroy the world just so it couldn’t bother you anymore.  Cram everyone’s souls together so you don’t have to suffer alone.”  His voice dripped with sarcasm.  “How noble.  And what about your pawns in all this?  When did they get to choose death?”

“Their actions speak for themselves.  Self-destructive, unable to love, or even to trust-.”  It was quavery 04 again.

“Like you’ve done any better.  Feeding on the frailties of others, corrupting entire generations – Yui, Gendo, Ritsuko and her mother, Asuka and her family, Shinji-”

Keel’s shrill voice punctured the air as the monolith vanished, to reveal a silver-haired man encased in machinery from the waist down.  “We know of your attachment to the pilot of Unit 01.”

“If that’s a threat, Keel, so help me God, I’ll-”

“You’ll what?”  He hissed with laughter, the breath barely escaping his diseased lungs.  “Be a good little angel and forgive me?  Please.”

Kaworu smiled again.  It did not touch his eyes.  “I am not God, old man.  I don’t always forgive those who do not deserve it.”

If you could imagine it, you would have sworn the man opened his eyes (had he had them) in surprise.  “But-” he stammered, breaking out into a fit of wheezing and coughing.

“You’d better take care of that, Keel.  It might be bad for your health.”

“But-”

Kaworu’s eyes narrowed.  There was no pity in them.  “Do you understand me?  You will not hurt him.”  The boy exploded.  “This game ends now!”

The chamber filled with light.  There was no time for anyone to scream.  When the light died down, the ten remaining monoliths were reduced to small piles of smoking sand and ashes.  Kaworu stared down at one, and poked it with his foot.

 “If you refuse to make a choice, others will make it for you.”  His voice carried a wistful quality.  “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

“May they rest in peace forever.”  Keel trundled out of the darkness.  “You probably thought you’d gotten rid of me, hadn’t you, boy?”  His voice was mocking, triumphant.  “You’re not strong enough to kill me.  Even Lilith would only have offered me a temporary release, at best.”  His mouth twisted, suddenly bitter.  “And you robbed me of that particular avenue, didn’t you, boy?”

Kaworu refused to look at him, instead tracing patterns in the ashes at his feet.  Within minutes, he had sketched a complex diagram out on the floor, complete with little writing marking its pathways.  Keel hovered closer, his chair whirring dangerously, as if strained.  Without eyes, he examined the angel’s handiwork, and harrumphed.  “The Tree of Life.  Much good that’ll do you now, boy.”

It was getting on Kaworu’s nerves.  He straightened up, wiping the dust off on his trousers.  “Do not call me that.”

Keel grinned.  It was as if a corpse decided to smile, and about as pretty.  “Don’t tell me you’re not a boy any longer.  Shinji must be missing out on a lot.”  Kaworu didn’t do a single thing, but suddenly the mechanical life support system that housed his decaying body fell into a thousand pieces, and Keel himself withered into dust.  Atop the pile of rubble, a small red ball lay glowing softly.  Kaworu reached out and took hold of it.

Keel’s voice echoed through the shadows.  “Look what you’ve done now, boy.”

“Shut up, old man.  I am trying to help you.”  With a grimace he started trying to break the sphere, apparently to no avail.

“Nobody can help me.  I am damned, after all.  What’s the point of a decent damnation if you can get out of it?”

Kaworu paused from a moment, sweat pouring off his forehead.  But still the sphere refused to crack.  “Well, it was your fault.  Attempting to set yourself above God doesn’t exactly endear one to him.”

“Haven’t you tried to do the same?”

“I think you’ll find my reputation has been…exaggerated somewhat.  I wonder who’s fault that was?”  Keel just hissed laughter in response.

“Corpus Christi!”  The last come out in a roar; the bauble slipped out of his grip and rolled away.  The last angel sat down heavily.  “It’s no use.  It just won’t break.”  He held his head in his hands.  “I’m sorry.”

Keel somehow sounded younger.  “Don’t be.  Even if you had destroyed it, my soul would have remained.”

Kaworu nodded.  “Your AT-Field was always particularly strong.”

You could hear the bitterness in his tone, even if you couldn’t see the expression.  “And that’s why all this happened!  I was just a threat!”

“Only because you wanted to be.”

“Why couldn’t he forgive me?”

“You wouldn’t let him.  This is over the moment you want it to be.”

“Nonsense.  You’ve all got it in for me, I know.  All your love bullshit is just a façade.”

“If you think so…”  Kaworu trailed off.  Further argument was pointless.  “Well, I’ll be off then.”

“Such a great victory.”

“I’d say we both lost, old man.”

There was an awkward silence.  Then-

“Give my regards to Shinji.”

“You can’t hurt him.  Not as you are.”

“Perhaps not.  But I won’t always be like this, will I?  There will be other times, other lives.  Other deaths.”  The threat was obvious, this time.

“I’ll protect him.”  Kaworu was shouting now, desperately trying to ward off an enemy he couldn’t see.

“How touching.  Always is such a long time, ‘Tabris’.  You can’t ‘always’ be there.”

“Surely we can talk this over!”  He was pleading now, for his own sake.  He couldn’t imagine a time without Shinji.  He had waited for so long…

“Really?  I don’t think so.”

There was a long pause.  Kaworu sunk onto the ground, hugging himself.  He couldn’t believe he’d been so stupid.  Letting Keel see his weakness like that.

“Until next time, boy.”  Keel’s parting shot hung in the air, almost visible among the darkness.  Finally, Kaworu could feel that the spirit had left him.  ‘Keel’ wouldn’t pose a threat for an extremely long time yet, but when he returned…Kaworu would be there.  He’d have to be.

“Until next time, then.”

And he turned, and left the room.

 

Part 4:

A Simple Kind of Life/The Tears of God.

 

Five days later.

 

Misato and Asuka sat at opposite ends of the kitchen table, both too intent on eating their toast.  Besides, conversations seemed too painful nowadays.  The suspension of all Nerv personnel had struck Asuka badly; although she hadn’t been able to pilot an Eva a month ago, since emerging from her coma she had all but demanded a second chance, only to find they had all run out of time.  And Misato knew that today would bring a number of things to a head…so I guess we’ll see if she’s really changed.

            Asuka piped up.  “Misato, would you mind passing the butter?”

            In silence, Misato complied.  The sound of a knife scraping over toast was all one could hear.  Finally, she could bear it no further.  And besides, this morning she was feeling a little…mischievous.

            “Asuka?”

            “Yes?”  She did not look up.

            “Would you mind waking Shinji up once you’ve finished?”

            That did get her attention.  “I didn’t know he slept here last night.  I thought he was,” her voice hushed to a whisper, and she leaned forward, “you know.”  She grimaced, and took a bite out of her toast, as if to get rid of a bad taste.  “With the Fifth,” she mumbled, her mouth full.

            “He was already in bed by the time you got home, Asuka.  I’m not surprised you didn’t notice.”

            “Well, a girl’s gotta have a social life, hasn’t she?  We can’t all be like Shinji or wondergirl…”  Her voice trailed away, ashamed that she had brought up Rei in casual conversation.  When Asuka had emerged back into the real world, she had been surprised by Rei’s disappearance, and also, in a sense, jealous; Rei had managed to escape, to find something else in her life other than Eva, while Asuka….She covered up the awkward pause with a “Besides, it’s not as if I’ve got anything better to do.”

            They munched in silence.  Eventually, Asuka pushed her chair out from the table and stood up.  Almost immediately, she started clearing away the dishes.  Misato sat there unsure.  Asuka was never one to stoop to something as menial as household cleaning.  She even tried to get the plate Misato was still eating from.

“Can I have that?  I need to get ready.”

            “Is it going to take you four hours, Asuka?”

            “I think I’ll do a little shopping first.  Do you have a problem with that?”  She was trying to get away from the house of course, now she knew who was in it.  “Can I borrow your lavender perfume, Misato?”

            Misato gave in.  She’d deal with Asuka’s intrigues sometime later.  “Yes.  Who are you trying to impress, Asuka?”

            “I’m just want to look my best, Misato”, she said, all innocence.

            Misato’s eyes narrowed.  Once she might have believed that act, but not now…”Just mind you wake up Shinji on your way out okay?”

            “Fine.”

            Misato waved her away from the table, as Asuka hovered, hungry for the remaining cutlery and crockery.  “Don’t worry about that, I’ll do it.  If you want to go, go!”  That came out a little more forcefully they she might have wanted.

            Asuka stepped back, her eyes wide.  “Sure, thanks, Misato.”  She skipped out of the kitchen and made a bee-line for Shinji’s room.  A ‘do not disturb’ sign hung on the door in Japanese.  Misato laid back in her kitchen chair, nursing a cup of coffee.  She had made a promise to herself to cut down on the alcohol once Kaji died.  She’d broken it of course, but recent events had made her even more determined to prove to herself that she could in fact do it.  Her mind drifted back a few weeks, when she was sitting at home with nothing to do.  Asuka was still in her coma, Shinji was out, which was becoming a regular occurrence, and she’d been suspended from active duty once Nerv’s security division had uncovered her somewhat unorthodox investigative methods.

 

*          *          *

 

            She’d been staring at the same beer can for an hour, she was sure.  Burned out, half asleep, but she sat there, slumped over, her head resting in her crossed arms.  Trying to decided whether she should get absolutely smashed or not.  She was already half way there, anyway, and it seemed a damn shame to waste such an opportunity.  She was just about to open it when the buzzer sounded.

            “Wha-?”  In no mood for conversation, and bleary eyed, she stumbled to the door.  It was the middle of the night, after all.  The door opened to reveal a most unexpected visitor.  Misato tensed up immediately, the adrenalin surging through her veins.  “Oh.  It’s you, Kaworu.”

            “May I come in, Major Katsuragi?”

            “Sure.”  She stepped aside to allow him access, eying him warily.  It wasn’t just that Ritsuko had labelled him ‘the last angel’, but she was put out by the fact that unlike most teenage boys, he didn’t drool over her at first sight.  He made her feel like an old hag.  When she’d realised she felt this way, she felt incredibly embarrassed, and blamed him all the more for bringing out her vain, superficial side.  It was irrational, but hell, she wasn’t perfect.

            Shinji and he really are meant for each other, she thought.  You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what was going on between them.  Ritsuko had laughed when she’d told her, a vicious bitter laugh, and promptly informed Misato that all love was destructive.  She didn’t like talking to Ritsuko much any more; she didn’t like the answers she was given.

            Kaworu moved elegantly passed her, and through into the hallway.  He seemed to have a natural grace and air about him, which reminded Misato of a ballet dancer…it’s as if he just floats on the air.  Closing the door, she followed him into the living area, intending on taking control of the situation.  “I’m sorry, Kaworu, but Shinji isn’t here-”

            “I know.”

            “Oh.”  There didn’t seem to be much else she could say.

            “He’s sleeping right now, back at my place.  We have just made love.    He is a very talented and enthusiastic young lover.  I consider myself fortunate just to be able to keep up with his stamina.”

            “Oh.”  She needed to sit down.  It was too late, and she was too tired, and that was far more than ever needed to know about one Shinji Ikari.

She needed a beer.

Before she knew it, the Fifth Child had found a chair and helped her sit.  He now crouched before her, intently looking at her face.  “Actually, Major, I came to see you.”

That threw her.  “Oh?”, she said weakly.  A part of her whispered that she had to come up with something different soon, or she’d really seem past it.

“Shinji has known you far longer than I.  He is…concerned about you.”

Right.  She intended to stop this here and now.  Unfortunately to do that, she needed to get up.  And she wasn’t quite sure, now that she had sat, if she could regain motor coordination any time soon.

Like within a year or so…She tried anyway, and was pleased to discover the room didn’t spin…too much.

“Actually, Kaworu, this isn’t the best of times.”  At least, that’s what she thought she said.  Fortunately, Kaworu seemed to have the marvellous gift to be able to understand ‘drunken-ese’.

“I assure you Major, I would prefer to be with Shinji right now.”  He grinned bashfully, and Misato suddenly understood why Shinji was so taken with this young man.  He had a beautiful smile.  “But as he would not prefer to me to interfere, I was forced to take ‘drastic action.’”  The words seemed uncomfortable in his mouth, as if he was trying them out for the first time.  “Hence my arrival at such an odd time.  But if you would like to talk….”

“Shinji’s concern is noted, but it is misguided-”

“To be honest, Major, he feels guilty.”

She waved his formality aside.  “Please, call me Misato.  Besides, Shinji feels guilty for everything.  I’m sure it’s just an over-reaction.”

“Apparently, he discovered you crying following the disappearance of an associate of yours…” Misato’s heart tightened as Kaworu continued, “Ryouji Kaji.  Shinji didn’t know what to say, and he blames himself for not being able to comfort you when you needed a friend.”

Misato forced herself to smile.  “No need to worry.  I’m over it.”

Before she could stop him, Kaworu had entered the kitchen.  His gaze rested upon the beer cans that littered the floor.  She started picking them up.  “I’m fine.  Really.”

Why does he make me feel like a child?

“Are you sure about that?”

She straightened up, prickly.  She didn’t like being made to look out of control, especially if it was true.  “Of course.”

“Are you happy, Major Katsuragi?”

It was the last thing she expected.  “Yes”, she said, tentatively, then kicked herself mentally in the head for sounding so weak.

“You are happy, Major?”

“Yes, I’m happy!”  Her voice quavered, indignant.  “Of course I’m happy!”

The smile widened, and she felt herself falling into his gaze.  “You seem so certain.”  Too certain…

“I am happy!”

Nothing.

“I am happy!”

The smile.

“It’s true, I am happy!”

Her world broke into a thousand pieces.  She collapsed to the floor, and was caught along the way.

“No, of course I’m not happy!”  She was screaming like a harpy now, she knew it and couldn’t stop.  “…Kaji died…I failed Asuka …Nerv has no use for me…I have no other value.  I’m sick and tired…I’ve destroyed everything in my life, and still I go searching for more.  Even Shinji doesn’t need me anymore – he’s got you, for Christ’s sake – I should’ve seen that coming when we first met – the little baka was the only man I’ve ever met who didn’t want to sleep with me there and then.  He made me feel so unattractive…”  She was crying now, sobbing uncontrollably –

“I’m a grown woman and…and….I’m chasing after boys to satisfy my pride!  What kind of fucking mess am I?  Father…Kaji….please help me…I miss you so much…I just can’t go on, without you, Kaji…”

And then….

Kaworu was staring oddly at her.  The whole world seemed at the wrong angle.  After a minute, she worked it out.  She was lying on the floor.

Quickly hoisting herself onto her elbows, she moved back from him faster than she could have imagined.  He had done something to her, it was obvious.  Ritsuko was right.  It was some form of mental assault, like what had happened to Asuka.

“What did you do?” she spat out.

He tried being all innocent.  “Nothing.  You seemed to faint.”  He reached towards her.

“Get away from me!”  She was being hysterical, but she didn’t care.  “What did you do to me?!”

“You were in pain.  I was…concerned.”  He appeared embarrassed.

Damn right, thought Misato, he should feel embarrassed.  “Why did you care?  You’re not even the same goddamn species.”

That bloody smile returned.  “I am as human as the First Child.”

“Like that means anything,” she growled.  “Why did you bother?  It wasn’t just to be a good little angel.”

He seemed taken aback, and started rocking back and forwards on the heels of his shoes.  “Shinji was concerned about you.  He was worried.  I did not like seeing him…in pain.”  Her heart went out to this modern-day Pinocchio.  He was only trying to please his lover…just trying to be human.  The thought did not unsettle her as it might have, once.

“Come here.”  She opened her arms, and held the young boy.

“It seems he must have loved you very much.”

“Who?  Shinji?”  She had no idea what he was talking about.

Kaworu laughed briefly, and his laugh seemed as pure as his smile.  “No, Kaji.”

“Oh, Kaji.”  She smiled briefly, pausing in recollection.  “Yes.  I guess he must have.”

Kaworu looked up at her, a question playing across his face.  “Would you mind telling me about him?”

That was a surprise.  “No, I guess not.”

So she held an angel in her arms, and told her about the only man she’d ever really loved; how she found him, and how she’d lost him.

And strangely enough, it didn’t hurt as much.

 

*          *          *

 

Misato’s reverie was broken by Asuka’s murmurings.  She’d been confronted with the ‘do not disturb’ sign and hurled it across the living room.  She’d knocked twice, punctuated with a muttered ‘Shinji you idiot, get up’, and now she was determined.  She knocked again.  No response.  “Come on, Shinji.  Misato says you gotta get up.”

A weak “go ‘way” could be heard from inside.  Asuka grunted.  No way was she giving up now.  “You should be flattered, y’know, that your oldest friend is going out of her way to wake you up.”  She paused, and leaned against the door.  “There are better things I could be doing right now.”

“Then go do them.”

Asuka’s reaction was incredulous.  “What?  Did you just talk back to me, Third Child?”

“Lemme sleep.”

“That’s it!  I’m coming in.”  Gritting her teeth, she yanked the door open and strode in.  Misato just smiled and closed her eyes, waiting for the storm to hit.

“GOTT IM HIMMEL!”, followed by a wail and the sound of a teenage girl running across the lounge room.  A door was subsequently slammed shut.

Misato put her coffee down, and opened her eyes.  “What is it, Asuka?”

She could have heard Asuka’s response in Tokyo-2.  “It’s disgusting, Misato!  How can people live like that?  Well, I won’t stand for it.  Some things just aren’t decent.  I’M LIVING WITH A PERVERT!”

Shinji appeared in the doorway, clad only in a pair of boxers.  “Hiya, Misato.”

“You seem perky this morning.  Anything I should know about?”

Shinji just grinned.  It would have been impossible to imagine him with a grin a month ago, she realised.  He quickly spied the toast still on the table, and heaped it onto a plate.  “Mind if I take this?”

“No, go ahead.  Sure you can handle all of that by yourself?”

“He’s notthe only one eating, Misato.”  This was Asuka butting in.

“Oh, so you are going to join us then, Asuka?” she called to the closed door.  “Or is there someone I don’t know about?”, she said teasingly.  She knew the answer, of course.  Why else would she have asked Asuka to wake Shinji up?

“I’m staying right where I am, thankyou very much.  I’m not coming out until those perverts have left the premises.  I will not share a living space with them.  I might get contaminated or something.”  She harrumphed.  Misato and Shinji shared a look.  They raised their voices, even though they didn’t need to.

“So, why are you up so late, Shinji?”  Misato over-enunciated.

“Well, Misato, I didn’t get much sleep last night.  I was…otherwise engaged.  I hope I didn’t disturb anyone; we tried to be as quiet as mice.”

Asuka emitted another wail.  The two grinned.

“That’s hardly polite is it?”  Kaworu was leaning against the doorframe, his eyes sparkling with joy.  “Treating that poor girl like that.”

“I am not a poor girl, you, you-”

“What, Sorhyu?”

“SCHWANZLUTSCHER!”

Kaworu kissed Shinji on the cheek and gave him a hug.  He nodded to Misato.  “Good morning, Major.”

She nodded back.  “Good morning, Kaworu.”  She didn’t trust him.  Not yet.  But she didn’t not trust him, either.

A bit of the old servile Shinji returned.  “But, Kaworu, I was just going to bring this into you.” He gestured to the toast.

Kaworu reproached him.  “I can take care of myself, Shinji Ikari.”

“I know, but-”

He hushed him with a finger.  “It was a very nice thought.”

Shinji broke free.  “You can’t shut me up that easily!”

“Oh yes?”

“Yeah!”  Shinji dashed off, Kaworu in hot pursuit around the kitchen table.

“Don’t mind me, boys.”  Misato sipped her coffee, and on second thought, took a bite of toast from the plate Shinji had abandoned.  Young love was so exhausting.  Had Kaji and I ever been this young?

“Are they making out, Misato?”

“No, Asuka.  They’re just chasing each other round the room.  I guess making out will follow, though.  Maybe even sex.”

“Gross!”  Misato wondered briefly if she did anything but wail.

“If you don’t want to know, Sorhyu, don’t ask,” Kaworu managed to get out in between breaths.  He narrowly missed Shinji.  As they raced out into the lounge, and around and over the couch, Asuka continued oblivious.  There was the sound of scrabbling from inside her room, as if she was searching for something, but it didn’t interrupt her flow of vitriol.

“You didn’t have to see it, Misato.  They were in bed together!”

“We were asleep!”  Shinji this time.  The distraction almost allowed him to get caught.

“You were still hugging!”

“So?  You wanted to kiss to kill time, remember?”  Shinji shot back.  Misato arched an eyebrow.  She hadn’t known about that one.

“That was different!   I’m a girl!”

“Could’ve fooled me.”

“Right, that’s it!  I’ll show you, you twisted little-”

There was a crash, and suddenly Asuka’s door opened, revealing…Asuka.  As they’d never seen her before.  She was wearing a very provocative dress, very short and sleeveless, with her hair tied back in an unusual ponytail.  She hadn’t had time to do any make-up or anything, but Misato was suddenly very aware of how old Asuka really was.

No-one spoke.  Then Asuka walked out into the lounge, and placed herself squarely in Shinji’s path.

Misato choked first.  “So, Asuka.  You’ve certainly made an effort.”

“Well, Misato, I want this day to be very special, and I have to look my best.  After all, I want to make it very clear what the world has been missing out on all this time.”  Her predatory gaze settled on Shinji.  He stepped back, alarmed.

“So, Third Child,” she moved closer, and smirked at him, “you’re sure you wouldn’t like to try something a little more…normal?  Something preferably with a vagina?”

Misato felt her eyes grow puffy.  She was going to cry.  Asuka had to be incredibly brave to place herself on the line like this.  She didn’t think she would have had the guts herself.  At least, not without several beers.

But then – was Asuka being serious?  One never could tell.  Maybe she just didn’t like being beaten.

Yeah, right, since when has Asuka ever been a bad loser?

“I’m sorry, Asuka.”  Shinji suddenly grinned.  “After all, I’m sure you can do a lot better than me.”

Asuka didn’t cry.  Instead, she broke into an impish smile, and started walking around the room, her nose in the air.  “I guess you’re right.  You are a little bit wimpy for me, after all.  I can do much better.”  She came to a rest opposite Kaworu.  He didn’t know how to react, and shifted his head from side to side, as if trying to catch the vibe.  Her smile deepened.  Now Kaworu looked worried.  “And you, Fifth Child, if you ever so much as glance at him the wrong way I will hunt you down…and you just try smiling again.”  By this time, she’d backed him into a corner.  He was nodding frantically, doing anything, just to get her to leave him alone.

“Fine.”  She turned on her heel and marched towards the front door.

Misato managed to find her voice somehow.  “Where are you going, Asuka?”

She turned and whipped out a pair of sunglasses from her pocket, placing them on her nose.  The others flinched.  “Why, I’m going shopping,” she said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Misato nodded, slowly.  “Okay.  Be back in time for the party, won’t you?”

“Of course.  Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Once she’d closed the door, the remaining three collectively released the breath they hadn’t even realised they’d been holding.

And then they all sat down, very heavily.

And sat there for a long time.

Part 5:

Revelations/A Family Affair.

 

“I don’t see how you could afford all this, Misato.”  Shinji gawped at the amount of food spread across the lounge room table.  He’d never seen so much.  “And it’s all top quality too, not the instant crap you usually buy.”

“Thanks.”  She glanced at him.  “I’m not entirely sure I always like your newfound honesty.”

He shrugged.  “That’s your problem, Misato,” and furrowed his brow.  “And mine as well.”

“You’re beginning to sound like Kaworu.”  She smirked at Shinji.  “Is he rubbing off on you?”

“Oh, in all the right places, I think you’ll find.”  Kaworu had just entered, some of the cutlery still in his hand.  While Shinji and Misato watched, he made the necessary final touches to the table setting.  “There.  It’s ready.”  Straightening up, he scratched his head, and glanced back at Misato.  “Forgive me if I act like a complete stereotype-” he affected a lisp- “but everything has to be just so. I refuse to attend dinner where the setting clashes with the decor.”

“I don’t think there’s any chance of that, Kaworu.  You’ve outdone yourself.”

“Thanks,” his voice completely normal.  “Just don’t spread it around, or every upper class Tokyo-2 socialite will insist I become an interior decorator, I’m sure.  And I’m not quite ready to be pigeon-holed just yet.  I want to enjoy my life while I can.”

He squeezed Shinji round the waist, and whispered something in his ear.  Shinji broke out into a wide smile, and blushed furiously.

Sex.  They have to be talking about sex, thought Misato, and I’m sure it’s just to remind me how lonely I am.  Right.

“And when are the guests supposed to arrive?  My masterpiece needs its public!”

The doorbell rang.  “That might be them,” said Misato, and went to answer it.  “Asuka should really be back by now.”

But instead it was the second child herself, laden with bags from her shopping expedition.  “Hello Misato.  Could I get some help with this?”

“I see you’ve had a successful trip,” remarked Misato and then called over her shoulder for Shinji to come and help.

“Well, it didn’t help anyone to moon over that idiot, so I decided I needed a little bit of shopping therapy to get it all out of my system.  I know it’s incredibly 1990’s, but retro is so in nowadays.”

When was the last time I knew what was in?  Did I ever? Misato wondered.  She makes me feel old.  A small part of her brain murmured that would be quite easy.

Shinji arrived at the door.  “Wow, Asuka.  You must have bought half the store!”

“I never bought any new clothes here until now.  I didn’t think there was much point, if an angel could kill me the next day.”  Her attention turned to Misato.  “But that isn’t going to happen anymore, is it.”  It wasn’t quite a statement.

Misato called back into the lounge.  “Kaworu, do you think there are going to be any more angel attacks?”

“I would think it’s all over, Major.”  His tone was slightly hurt, as if insulted.

“There?  You see, Asuka.  We have nothing to fear from the angels.”  Unless Shinji wants to see other people, of course…

“Good.”  She stared down her nose at Shinji.  “Well, what are you waiting for?  Move these boxes into my room!”

As Shinji staggered down the hall, so laden with bags and parcels you could barely see his face, you could still hear him bitching.  “Nothing’s changed, Asuka.  Whenever it gets tough, you always defer to me!”

She pulled down her sunglasses a bit, and stopped discussing her purchases with Misato.  “You want me to hurt you, Third Child?”

Misato and Kaworu started laughing.  Shinji whirled round, unable to see them, and nearly hit a wall, which made the older boy laugh even louder.  “Hey!”

“Well, it seems the Fifth Child doesn’t have flawed judgement after all.”

“If I remember, you were capable of making a similar mistake.”

“So, you’ve admitted it was a mistake now?”  She grinned at him, her sunglasses hiding her eyes from view.

Shinji stumbled around in the background.  “Hey, guys?”

“One is human, and therefore flawed.  Technically everything is a mistake.”

“And you’re supposed to be an optimist?”

Their discussion-cum-mental-tussle was interrupted by a flailing Shinji, who tripped over his own feet and collapsed on the floor.  There was the tinkling sound of something broken.  “Stupid baka,” Asuka said, and started peeling the baggage off the moving lump on the floor.

“Mummph” was all Shinji could manage.

And the doorbell rang again.

“I’ll get it!”  Asuka ran to the hall, and then turned back to face the two boys.  “I want that in my room, organised and sorted by the time I get back, right?”  They didn’t dare answer.  She turned, and paused briefly.  “You’ll get it done quicker if you don’t keep pawing at each other,” she said quietly.

There was a scream from the doorway.  “HIKARI!”, followed by the sound of much hugging and jumping up and down.  They were still practically walking on air when they got to the living room.  “Look everyone,” squealed Asuka, “it’s Hikari!”

“We guessed that was her name, Sorhyu.”

Asuka eyed the Fifth Child.  “Did I ask you to speak, Fifth Child?”

“I find it presumptuous that you would think I need your permission.”

There was a cough from behind her.  Asuka grimaced and stepped aside.  “Oh yeah.  The other two stooges are here as well.”

“Hello Misato,” the two boys chorused, almost in unison.  It didn’t take a lot to realise where their interests lay.  Asuka dismissed them with a glance, and a muttered “stupid boys”, before leading Hikari over to a corner and talking in excited, if quiet tones.  Occasionally one or the other would glance over at Toji, who seemed oblivious to the attention.

“Why, hello there, Mister Suzuhara, Mister Aida,” bubbled Misato, clearly taking the piss.  “How are you?”  It was all Shinji could to stop from giggling.

“We’re fine, Ma’am”, was the reply, and they even saluted.  Shinji did start laughing this time, and the boys quickly focussed on him.

“Hey, Shinji!”, “Shinji!  Long time no see,” it ran, and the two boys were giving him gentle punches on the arm.  “That’ll teach you to laugh at us, huh?”, Toji said, whereas Kenskue just smiled and told Shinji not to pay attention to anything Toji said, which in turn led to a mock argument between the two.  They stopped when they noticed a presence hovering behind Shinji.

“Hello”, he said.  The two boys stopped.  Asuka looked over and grinned evilly.

“You haven’t met the Fifth Child, have you?”

Kenskue’s eyes lit up, and he started pumping Kaworu’s hand enthusiastically.  “Wow!  Another Eva pilot!  I heard that you’d arrived, but we moved away after Unit 00 self-destructed and Rei nearly died.”

Toji turned to Misato.  “We heard Rei disappeared.  Has anyone heard anything about her yet?”

Asuka burst in with a “compassion from this idiot.  This I gotta see,” and was promptly ignored by Misato, who continued with a “No, I’m afraid not.  Nobody knows what’s happened to her.”

The earlier joviality had dissipated, leaving awkwardness behind.

Toji attempted to break the silence.  “Hey, Shinji, why didn’t you call me?”

Shinji blinked.  “I didn’t have your new phone number.”

Kenskue jutted in.  “You could have found it, right?  I’m sure Nerv could have tracked down anyone!”  This was getting a bit too close to hero worship.

Asuka saw her chance, and she went for it.  “Oh, Shinji had much more important things to do, didn’t you Shinji?  He’s been real busy lately.”

The others waited for him to respond, and when he didn’t, Kaworu quietly suggested that they eat before the food went cold.  With a sigh of relief, Misato agreed that it was a great idea, and silently thanked the older boy.

They sat down to eat.  Misato decided she should say something.  “In light of recent events-”

Hikari interrupted with an apologetic smile.  “We heard about your father Shinji…we’re really sorry, aren’t we?”, she said, poking Toji in the ribs and making him almost drop the noodles he was about to shove into his mouth.

“Oh.  Yeah.  Real sorry.”  Hikari shot him a look of pure venom.  “Hey, what’d I do now?”

“It’s what you didn’t do that counts, you lazy-”

Misato interrupted before it all got out of hand.  “I guess I better make some introductions.  Kaworu, this is Hikari Horaki, Toji Suzuhara and Kenskue Aida.  Everyone, this is Kaworu.”  She looked down the table.  “They were students in Shinji’s class when they lived in Tokyo-3, Kaworu.  And Toji was the fourth child.”  There was a pause, and Misato mentally cursed herself.  Like anyone needs to remember that day…

Kaworu nodded slowly.  “Ah.”

Things evidentially needed a little push, and as usual Hikari provided it.

“So, Misato, what’s happening to Nerv now you’ve killed all the angels?”

Misato and Kaworu shared a look.  Uh, Hikari, actually, we couldn’t kill the last one…because Shinji thought he was too cute…or maybe cause he thought Shinji was too cute…and Shinji really needed the ego-boost, y’know?

Kenskue burst in, too impatient to let Misato answer.  “You mean you haven’t heard, Horaki?  My dad said that Nerv was going to be shut down!”

“What?”  Shinji looked askance at Misato.  “Misato, why didn’t you tell us?”

“Well, Shinji, I didn’t know how either you or Asuka would react…and it wasn’t confirmed until last week…so I decided it might be better if I soften the blow.”  She tried to smile.  “Hence the party.”  Misato shrugged.  “I can only afford this because of my severance pay anyway, so we may as well enjoy it.”

“What’s going to happen to us?”  This was Asuka, unusually deadpan.

“Since Nerv’s going to be officially dissolved, most of its employees are going to transfer to other UN departments, where we can continue to be of use.  I’m going into the UN Special Forces myself.  This might be the last chance we ever get to see each other.”

“But there isn’t a place for ex-giant robot pilots, is there?”  It was more a statement than a question.

“That’s true Asuka, but you were an elite pilot before you came to us, and a university graduate…I can’t believe that you couldn’t find a place in any one of a dozen national armies.  If you want to keep fighting, that is.”  Asuka just looked at her plate, listlessly pushing the food from side to side, refusing to respond.

“But piloting Eva was the only thing I could ever do!  What’s going to happen to me now that it’s gone?”

Misato tried cheering the despondent boy up.  “Now Shinji, I’m sure there’s something out there – or someone – who needs you.  Don’t be so glum.”

Surprisingly, Asuka chipped in.  “She’s right, Shinji.  After all, we have saved the world about a dozen times – they’ll probably be falling all over themselves to give us jobs.  Anyway, aren’t you still at school?” 

Shinji giggled.  “Yeah, I guess there is that.  I’ll actually be able to finish a term without missing any classes!”

She’s making an effort for Shinji’s sake, Misato marvelled.  She must really care about him.  Or she’s lording her own superiority over him.  Or she’s trying to equal him.

I just don’t really understand Asuka.  A little cynic at the back of her mind whispered, does anybody?

Kaworu tore his bread roll in half and smeared it with dip.  “However diligently you pursue your studies, life will always throw up unexpected challenges and opportunities.  Things will still distract you.  For instance, Major Katsuragi arrived at University fully intending to give academia her undivided attention – yet she took a week off in first year, to take advantage of a new opportunity.”

Oh, God – did I tell him about that week-long orgy with Kaji?  I can’t remember!

Kaworu continued, “Perhaps you too will find such a similarly fulfilling experience, Shinji.  I certainly hope so, and will endeavour to assist you,” he pronounced calmly, and ate all of it in one bite.

Obviously I did tell him after all!  Christ, it just gave him ideas!  Misato wondered briefly is there was any hope of turning him, and then hit herself mentally for even contemplating the possibility.  Trying to hit on a fifteen year old gay angel.  Real mature, Misato.

Come to think of it, she didn’t think anyone would have been confronted with this particular situation before.  So it wasn’t immature unless she said it was, right?

Right.

A mental image flashed into her head for a brief moment.

 

The scene: a nice, reasonably cultured restaurant (nothing too expensive) in Tokyo-2.  The characters: a young man, funny looking eyes and hair, incredibly charismatic.  A maturing woman, at the height of her beauty and sexual prowess.

She was the author of this little tale after all.

“So, Kaworu, what are you doing tonight?”

“Why, Major,” said the young man, “I’ve been waiting you to ask me that for a while now.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like…”  He glanced at her, smiling seductively, before continuing. “…with a woman.  I mean, Shinji’s a very nice boy…but I want some variety in my life, and you’re so attractive and mature-”

That’s it, her superego yelled, I’ve officially lost it.  The scenario was so ludicrous she started laughing.

 

Meanwhile, back in the real world:  Misato starts laughing inextricably all by herself.  It’s rather unusual, even by her standards.

“Are you all right, Major? Can I get you a glass of water?”

“Yes” she spluttered, “that would be fine Kaworu.”  It would be him that asked wouldn’t it?  Almost silently he excused himself, and went into the kitchen.  Shinji quickly got up and followed him.  “What are you doing Shinji?”

“Oh,” he blushed, “I have to get a glass of water too.”

“Yeah, right,” muttered Asuka darkly.

“Well, off with you then.”  Shinji nodded at Misato and headed into the kitchen.  Occasionally a giggle would escape into the living area.

“So”, Kenskue began, “what else has been happening?  Any more angel attacks, Asuka?”

The girl stammered, taken aback.  “Well, I, y’see-”

“What is it, Asuka?  Cat got your tongue?”

“Toji, don’t treat Asuka like that.”

“Of course it hasn’t you idiot, any more than you’ve got any gentalia whatsoever.”

“You take that back!”  He was standing now.

“Oh, shut up.”

“No, you shut up!”

“No, you shut up!”

“No, you shut up!”  And it went back and forth like this for a little bit, while Misato, Kenskue and Hikari generally tried to pretend it wasn’t happening.  Eventually Kaworu and Shinji decided they could tear themselves away from each other for a brief moment and stood in the doorway, delighting in the action.

“I think you’ll find Sorhyu was merely reacting out of pride.  She was injured fighting the…last angel and as such, fell into a coma.  She didn’t want you to know she had been ‘out of the loop.’”  The combatants turned for a moment, taken aback by Kaworu’s interjection.  Only a fool or a saint interfered in one of Asuka and Toji’s spats, but his statement had the desired effect.

“Is that true Asuka?”

She couldn’t very well admit the real reason she’d been the hospital, could she?  Attempted suicide isn’t an incredibly flattering excuse, after all.  And the Fifth Child had given her an extremely attractive alibi….”Yeah”, she said, eyes downcast so they couldn’t see her shame.  Stupid perverted Fifth Child…first he steals my guy and then he rescues me from the walking hormone over there!  Rescued!  Me!

“Well, I guess I’m sorry then.”  Toji seemed genuinely repentant.

“That’s okay.”  Both sat down, Kaworu and Shinji joining them at the table.  All munched quietly for a while. “So, where’s the water then?”

“What?” Kaworu was startled.

Asuka took a sip from her own drink, and used it gesture wildly.  “You went to get some water for Misato, didn’t you?  So where is it then?  Were you two too busy?”

“Don’t worry about it Asuka, it’s fine.  I don’t need it now.”

“Only because these two were too obsessed with each other to care.”

“What?!”  This time it was Toji’s turn.  Asuka turned on him gleefully.

“Of course, you weren’t here!  Our Shinji’s gotten extremely lucky since you left, hasn’t he, Kaworu?”

Oh God.  Asuka’s going to make a scene.  And I thought she was fine.  But then, when has Asuka been fine with anything?

“Asuka”, Misato warned.

“Don’t worry about me, Misato.  I haven’t spent the last two weeks exploring my basest urges!”

Shinji was flat out indignant.  “It’s not base, you little bitch!”

“WHAT did you call me?”

And then it was on for one and all.

“Just because I’m with someone I love-“

“You wouldn’t know what love is, you pervert!”

“Shinji’s gay?”

“How could I ever get myself involved with a baka like you-”

“We weren’t involved.”

“I think you may wish to reconsider your options, Sorhyu.”

“And now wonderboy’s threatening me!  I’m so scared!  Can’t you defend yourself Shinji?”

“Asuka, you’re making a scene.  As usual.”

“Shut up Hikari!”

“I can take care of myself Asuka.  You want a piece of me?”

“Ha!  Don’t delude yourself, Third Child.  I caught a glimpse of you in the shower, and Kaworu’s must be pretty desperate to be satisfied with that.”  She wiggled her little finger at him.

“Shinji’s gay?”

“Of course he is.  Couldn’t you tell?”

That got their attention.

“You could tell?”  Asuka; incredulous that someone had greater insight than her.

Kenskue smiled and adjusted his glasses.  “Well, just look at him.”

“Oh, so I just have a sign around me, saying ‘look, homosexual approaching.’”

“Of course not.  But you never showed any real interest in Asuka or Rei, or even Hikari.”  Kenskue shrugged.  “And I saw you checking out Toji’s butt during gym class.”

Shinji turned a bright red.  Asuka nearly pissed herself laughing.

“You were checking out my ass?”

“Well, I thought you were…” Shinji trailed off.  “I really don’t wanna have this conversation.”

“Obviously the Third Child’s taste is truly uninspired.”

Hikari turned on her friend.  “Oh, shut up Asuka, you’re just angry with yourself  ‘cause you fell in love with a gay guy.  Get off his back.  It isn’t his fault.”

Now it was Asuka’s turn to sink down onto a chair.

“So”, Misato asked, “is anyone up for dessert?”

Asuka wailed again.

“What is it now, Asuka?”

“But Misato, I remember reading that only gay guys can tell each other apart.”

“So?”

“So Kenskue could tell about Shinji!  He must be gay!  What, has the entire city gone perverted on me?  Next you’ll be telling us that Dr. Akagi and Maya were having it off!  It’s disgusting, and I won’t stand for it!”

Toji looked at his best friend in surprise.  “Dude, you were gay?”  His voice lowered.  “Were you checking out my butt as well?  It’s alright, you can tell me.”

Misato’s lips compressed to a thin line.  She was not happy.  “I can assure you that wasn’t happening, Asuka.”  Although she didn’t tell me about the commander…and Maya never had a boyfriend…

“Toji, I’m not gay, I swear.”

“But how could you tell, Misato?  Everyone knows Ritsuko kept you in the dark about all sort of things, Misato, from the true nature of the Evas to the angels and the Human Instrumentality Project!  Keeping a relationship between her and Lt. Ibuki a secret would have easy compared to that.”  Following their deaths, certain technical aspects of Nerv’s operation had been leaked to the press, which was one of the reasons the organization was being shut down.  No-one was comfortable with an attempt to surpass God.

“Hey, it’s okay dude.  I’m not the one throwing a hissy fit because of it.”

“Believe what you want Asuka.”  Misato didn’t have time for this.

“I am not throwing a hissy fit!

 

Part 6:

Reconciliation and Consolidation/Sorry is the hardest word.

 

Later.

 

Shinji was standing out on the balcony, looking out at the city.  It always seemed so small, especially when he considered he’d been the one who’d saved it.  He didn’t think he was capable of saving anything particularly large, after all.  Now as he reflected on the dichotomy, he giggled.

“What’s got you so happy, Third Child?  I don’t see wonderboy out here with you.”

He didn’t need to turn round, as Asuka joined him at the balcony.  “I think you’ll find Kaworu’s helping Misato and the others clean up.”

“So he doesn’t just give great head!  I’m impressed!  There’s more to the Fifth than meets the eye.”

He let her words flow over him like a babbling stream.  “Do you remember what we were like, Asuka?  When we first met?”

Her mind ran back to those early days.  “It was on the aircraft carrier.  Misato had come to collect me, and she brought you and the other two stooges along.”  She seemed surprised by the reference.

“And Toji flashed himself at you, and you slapped him?  Do you remember?”

“Yes!” Asuka was laughing now.  “And Kenskue insisted on filming everything, and I was so determined to prove myself to Kaji that I decided – then and there – to just fight an Angel!”

“And you dragged me along for the ride!”

“Well, I had to show the great and wondrous Third Child how it was done.  For the past six months, all I’d ever heard about in training was ‘Shinji Ikari can do this, Shinji Ikari can do that…’  I hated you before I met you, Third Child.  I wanted to hateyou, to beat you, to pound you into the ground.”  She paused for a moment and smiled at him.  “Of course, meeting you in the flesh didn’t help my grand plan.”

“Did you really love me, Asuka?”

“Yes.  I did,” she said, amazed by her own self-confidence.  “You were so shy, and so lonely….and you tried so hard, it was hard not to feel sorry for you…And I guess it just grew from there.”  She turned away from him to look at the cityscape.  “Although when I realised that, I guess I hated you as well.  After all, you were the only teenage boy who hadn’t obsessed about me at first sight.  A girl’s gotta keep up her image, y’know.”  And now she smiled at him, a brilliant smile free of self-doubt or recrimination, “and you know how I like a challenge!”

“So I was just another trophy for you?  Jeez.”

“Like you cared anyway.  You were too busy ogling Toji in gym class.”  She leapt at her former colleague, and started tickling him mercilessly.  Before long, the boy had collapsed on the hard concrete surface, his sides aching from the laughter and his face wet with tears.

“Come on Shinji, say ‘uncle’!”

“Never,” he replied, gasping for breath, “you’ll never take me alive!”

“Do you really want to put that to the test, Third Child?”, teased Asuka, all the while continuing her assault.

Everyone has a breaking point, and Shinji Ikari, pilot of Evangelion Unit 01, saviour of mankind and lover of an angel, was no exception.  “Alright!  Alright!  I give up.  You win.”

She leaned towards his ear.  “What was that, Shinji?”

“I said ‘you win’, okay?  You win!”

Suddenly, she released him and gave the thumbs up signal to Kenskue, who had been filming the whole affair through a crack in the curtains.

“What?  You filmed me?  Awww….”

“Come on, you coward.”  Asuka dragged him back inside, where the whole gang was waiting, having overheard the entire proceedings.  Shinji looked in disbelief at his boyfriend, who seemed to have a front row seat.

“Kaworu?  You were in on it too?”

Kaworu looked back at him, giving nothing away.  “Who do think told Asuka where to tickle you?”

“You bastard!”, and Shinji launched himself at Kaworu, wrestling him to the floor.  Asuka placed her hands on hips and surveyed the entangled pair.

“All right, all right you two.  They’ll be plenty of time for foreplay later tonight.”

The two let go of each other, initially looking sheepish, studiously avoiding each other’s gaze.  Finally, as both apology and atonement, Kaworu managed to dart across and sneak in a quick kiss on the cheek.  Shinji blushed and rested his hand on Kaworu’s knee, giving him a friendly squeeze.

“Let the history books show that on this day, I, Asuka Sorhyu Langley, brought the invincible Shinji to his knees!”  She looked around, but nobody was applauding her.  Kaworu and Shinji were staring into each other’s eyes, and Toji was far too concerned with trying not to notice.  A quick ‘ahem!’ brought her back to the centre of attention.  She wasn’t going to have any queerboys upstage her.  “With a little help from her friends, of course,” she added quickly, and the accolades quickly followed.  As Kenskue, Misato and even Toji shouted her name, Asuka curtseyed, grinning like a madwoman.  She ran over to Shinji, and gave him a kiss to thank him.  While he blinked, she whispered a quick ‘sorry’ in his ear; after all, she couldn’t admit she’d done anything wrong in public, could she?

They stayed there like that for hours, talking and gossipping about the future.  For the first time in fifteen years, tomorrow seemed full of promise, instead of pain.  Gradually the conversation died down, and Kaworu raised his glass in a toast, his other hand absentmindedly slung around Shinji’s shoulders.

“Mankind was cast out from paradise due to his sin, yet made of the same stuff as angels, we built our own Eden here on earth.  Purging ourselves of the original sin not by warfare or annihilation, which are man-made weapons in life’s battle, but with that spark of the divine that lies within us, that which we call the soul, we have proven our claim to this new paradise.  And as long as the soul can find joy, surely life is worth living.  After all, what is the use of redemption if one does not take it?”  He smiled and clinked his glass with Asuka; the two seemed amiable, now that he had helped her turn the tables on Shinji.

“Here, here!” Misato was just looking for an excuse to drain her glass; she had not drunk much that day and wanted to try out her new-found self-control.  “Hey!  I just realised something!”

“What?”, chorused the others.

“It’s dinner-time and I’m not drunk!”  The others stared at her; Misato’s smile slipped.  This was not the reaction she had anticipated.

“This isn’t funny, Misato.”  This was Shinji.

Asuka was less kind.  “Actually, Misato, that’s kinda pathetic.”

“Even so, Misato, don’t volunteer to drive us home, okay?”

“Thanks, Toji, I’m sure you know how to catch a train.”

“This idiot?  He can barely spell ‘train’!”

Toji roughed up Kenskue’s hair.  “Aww, shut up, ya nerd!”

“Actually, how are we going to get home?  I don’t wanna walk home from the station in the dark.”

“Don’t worry, Hikari,” Toji put his arm around the girl protectively, who blushed, “I’ll take care of you.”

“Like you’d be any use.”  The Second Child stuck her tongue out at her old enemy.

“I’ve got muscles all over my body, Asuka.  Wanna see?”  He flexed his bicep at her.

“Yeah, just not enough brain to use them with.”

“Obviously you and Hikari have gotten closer since you moved away,” Shinji observed.

“Yeah, well, we ended up at the same school – Chubai Tech? - and did she tell ya?  She got voted class rep again!  Within a week of arriving!  Man, she is so well-respected.”

“Toji, stop.  You’re embarrassing me.”

“Is there a rule that says a guy can’t flatter his girlfriend?”

“I guess not…”

Asuka making a choking noise.  “Great.  Am I the only single teen in the country?”  She looked at Kenskue pointedly.  “If you suggest we get together just to round out the numbers, geek boy, I will do such things - what they are yet I know not; but they shall be the terrors of the earth.”

“King Lear, Act Two, scene four, lines 275-77.”  Kaworu didn’t even bother sitting up to pronounce his identification of the quote.  Besides, his head was lying in Shinji’s lap, who stroked his hair and smiled down at him, starry-eyed and glowing with young love.

Asuka looked at him in amazement.  “That’s right, Kaworu.  You studied Shakespeare?”

“I have an…‘interest’ in the great works of human culture…literature…art…music, such as Beethoven’s Choral Symphony…”  Shinji smirked at the reference.

Asuka moved over to his side, pleased she had finally found a challenge to her intellectual ability.  “Move off, Third Child.”  As Kaworu sat up, Shinji moved off to sit on the couch.  The two were very quickly talking quite animatedly, seemingly discussing Nietzschean philosophy.  Shinji caught snatches of “looking at abysses” and “becoming that which you fight”, and didn’t understand a word of it.  His attention turned to the equally awkward Hikari, who likewise had no-one to talk to.  Kenskue was busy quizzing Misato about her new career move, and the really, really big guns involved.  Toji had gone to the bathroom.

“Are you alright, Hikari?”

“Yeah…”  She smiled at him, “I almost feel worn out!  So much has happened to me since I arrived-”

Shinji barked out a short laugh, and Hikari looked at him, puzzled.  “Was it something I said?”

“No.  Yes.  Go on,” he waved her on impatiently.

“Well, I wondered…should I congratulate you?”

“Congratulate me?  For what?”

Her gaze traipsed over to where Kaworu and Asuka were energetically discussing the post-Einsteinian world-view.  “You know.  Him.  I mean, when you first arrived, it didn’t seem like anything could make you happy and now-”

“Now it seems like nothing could make me sad, I know.”  He smiled, self-consciously.  “And thankyou.  I am very lucky to have him.”

“I’ll say.  If I wasn’t going out with Toji, and if you and he weren’t…I would, y’know.”

He punched her good-naturedly on the arm.  “Hikari!  I guess I’m doubly lucky you aren’t and I am, then.”

“He is kinda cute.”

“He sure is.”

“Not like Toji.”

“No, not like Toji.  Toji was more-”  And then he caught himself, while Hikari burst out laughing.

“And what are you laughing about, Miss Horaki?  You want to share the joke?”

“Oh, no, Major Katsuragi.  I was just wondering if we could sleep the night.  It’s far too late to take the train home now.”

Misato looked at a clock on the wall, and then peered out into the dark night sky.  “I guess you’re right.  I hadn’t noticed,” she said, and burst into a smile.  “Kenskue’s conversation was just too scintillating.”  She waltzed round the room, and poured herself another glass of wine.  “I suppose we could put one of you up for the night, if don’t mind sleeping on the floor.”

Shinji roused himself.  “You can have two stay, Misato.  One of them can use my bed.”  They all turned to look at him.  “I’ll be going back to Kaworu’s place anyway.”

“We can also assist you in your time of need, Major.  Shinji and I will share the bed,” he allowed himself a brief, shamelessly self-indulgent smile, the kind of smile only those who are getting good sex can truly display, and continued, “whoever wants can use the floor in my living room.  I have a serviceable mattress.”

“Yeah.  It isn’t that hard at all”, enthused Shinji.

“And how would you know?”

Toji emerged from the corridor, zipping up his fly, having heard it all from the bathroom.  “I’d prefer to stay here, thanks.  No offence, but I don’t exactly want to be kept up all night.”

“None taken” replied the Fifth Child, as smoothly as usual.

“I’ll stay at Kaworu’s, then.”  Kenskue wearily confirmed.

“Ha!  I TOLD you he was GAY!”

“Asuka!”

“Just kidding.”  There was a pause.  “Honestly, the sense of humour some of that Second Impact generation has…” she trailed off, grinning at Misato, who threw a cushion at her.

“So, Hikari and Toji, you stay here for the night.  Hikari, you can have Shinji’s bed; Toji, the couch.  And Kenskue, you go home with Shinji and Kaworu.”

 “I’m sure they’ll take good care of you.  They’ll service you real well.”

Asuka was typically diplomatic.  “Real subtle, you moron.”

“Hey, it wasn’t my ass he was checking out, Toji.”

Now nestled in Kaworu’s arms, Shinji showed off his predatory grin, leering at the bespectacled boy.  “How do you know?  Maybe I copped a few looks while you weren’t watching.”

Kenskue sweatdropped and pleaded weakly, “You sure we can’t go home on the train?”

 

Epilogue:

The end of the beginning and the beginning of the end.

 

Thirteen years later.

 

The harsh beauty of the Mongolian steppes seemed to offer an eternal truth beyond the warfare currently being waged amongst its peaks.  Life was hard in this country.  Being caught in the middle of a war made it all the worse.

Kaworu stared dully at the corpse lying amongst the tall grass. For all his powers, all his knowledge and forethought and wisdom and strength and love-

And this was what he was left with?  His lover sprawled on the ground, dead from a bullet wound to the heart.  That was all it had taken to extinguish the only real purpose he ever had.  One shot.  One bullet.  And a life was gone.

Shinji had wanted to stay of course, even though Kaworu had argued with him time and time again, protesting that it was not safe.  Shinji did not care; he found it difficult to believe that man and his works might be able to achieve what the messengers of God had failed to do.  Obviously a machine-gun had chosen to disagree with him.

They had arrived in the disputed northern part of the Asian Union to cover a simple story.  Shinji, although not incredibly well known publicly, had created a minor buzz within the print journalist world for his exposes on governmental corruption and illegal scientific experimentation, including his account of Nerv’s activities at the turn of the century.  Eager (some might have said cocky), he wanted to investigate rumours of corruption involving Asian Union officials and Triad members here in Mongol province, and his request was granted.  Kaworu had of course tagged along; known chiefly as an avant-garde artist, he operated as Shinji’s photographer and assistant.  It was well known they were partners in life as well as work; rather than cause antagonism, it allowed all and sundry an easy conduit into Shinji’s mind, albeit in theory only; those who tried to offer Kaworu some friendly advice about his boyfriend were usually met with an enigmatic smile and the promise he would “take it under advisement.”

Now of course, no-one would ever offer Kaworu that friendly advice again, because Shinji had died, far from home and friends.    He hadn’t even been able to say goodbye.  Nothing remained, except memory.  Everything was an artifice, even the cooling body on the ground.  It seemed impossible that such a lump of flesh had once housed a vibrant and complex human soul.

They were not supposed to get intro trouble, but then, there was supposed to be no danger.  Certainly, the territory was the result of a minor border dispute between the Russian Conglomerate and the Asian Union, but both were currently engaged in U.N. sponsored peace talks, and heavy sanctions threatened whatever side dared to break the ceasefire.  But the rumours of corruption proved to be more real than imagined, and it seemed that the Russian mafia were interested in muscling in on Triad territory.  As the local government tore itself apart, a gang war broke out.  After five days of sporadic violence, someone – nobody knew who – torched a Russian military detachment guarding their side of the border.  The Conglomerate declared all out war, with help from its traditional allies the United States while the Asian Union started parachuting in troops in at an alarming rate.  The South African Republics supported the Union in principle, while refusing to provide military support.  The European Federation stayed predictably neutral, as the North African Islamic Confederacy swore to aid the mainly Muslim people of the Russian south.  They wished to use the flare up to resume their running battle against the Russian government for an independent Islamic state.  The provincial capital Ulan Bator was turned into a battlefield, as snipers threatened any citizen who dared traverse open ground and terrorists poisoned the drinking water.

Kaworu had managed to buy access to a safe route out of the city with the help of a local Triad, but that deal had fallen through as both criminal families abandoned the town, their rivalry forgotten as the region was turned into ground zero.

In desperation, Kaworu and Shinji had run for it, after spending weeks noting military tactics and patterns.  They should have made it, but even the best laid plans go awry, and just because that particular avenue was supposed to be deserted didn’t mean that a stray bullet couldn’t accidentally be fired from a Russian AK-47 currently held by one illegal Islamic private, who was in the province illegally, and whose discovery would have brought the world a step further to World War Four.

Kaworu cared for none of this.  His love was dead, and he couldn’t bring him back. 

“This is what it means to feel grief.  This loneliness fills your soul.”

He didn’t turn round; he didn’t need to.  The being formerly known as Rei Ayanami stood there, clad in her school uniform, undisturbed by the wind.  Unlike Kaworu and the dead Shinji, she had not aged in 13 years.  But then, she wasn’t mortal anymore.  In many ways, she hadn’t been to begin with.

“I never wanted this….to feel this pain.”

“But this is what it means to be human.  This is your world, now.”

He turned on her, eyes blazing.  For a moment, it looked like he would hit her.  “I never asked for this!”

“Yet this was your choice.”

“My choice?  No.  My choice was…to be with him.”

“You always knew he would die.  Such is the way of all flesh.”

“I thought I could save him!  I thought I could hold back death….” He gave a short bitter laugh, “Ha!  In my pride I prove myself truly human, all too capable of original sin.”

She caressed his neck and shoulders; the young man let himself weep, clutched to her breast.  “What is the point of setting boundaries if not to have them pushed?  You are not at fault.”

“I couldn’t save him…I couldn’t…”  His despair turned inwards and rage burned in him once again.  He tore himself off Rei and studied Shinji’s body with a contemptuous glare.  The wind rustled around him as the boy was bathed in light, which dove at his lover’s body, and pulled a small lump of metal from the wound.  It lay there suspended in mid-air until Kaworu’s hand closed around it.

“In one of the scriptures of the Lillim, it is written that an eye shall be taken for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  There was no mercy in eyes whatsoever.  “It is their own law.  They shall be judged by it.”  He opened his hand, and the bullet, now grey dust, trickled from his palm.

He was an angel, one of God’s chosen messengers.  He had the power to devastate entire cities.  Once, he had nearly destroyed the world, only refusing to do so because of his own selfish needs.  Mankind had shown its true colours; this time there would no salvation.

He could remember the feel of his hair, the taste of his kiss…even just the joyful rightness of spending time with him…Oh God, I miss him so much…Why did you have to take him from me?

This time, there was no one worth saving.

In time, the wind grew quiet.  All across the world, people stopped in the tracks as they felt a strange stillness in the air, like the calm before a terrible storm.  Businesses, homes and shops lay abandoned while humanity stared at the lightning in the sky.  It crackled above them, in tandem with the strange grey clouds that suddenly billowed over the horizon.  At the epicentre a young man with silver hair and fire in his eyes hovered in mid-air.  Minutes passed, and still the energy continued to build up.  Hair began to stand up of its own accord, whilst scraps of paper were immediately attracted to balloons or nylon.

Kaworu soared into the stratosphere.  He could see the earth behind him, a jewel tarnished by its current owners’ lack of responsibility.  Third Impact was too good for them.  At least then they would have had a chance.

As he made ready to strike the fire-bolt that would destroy every single human being on the planet, a stray thought tumbled into his mind. 

“Uh…Kaworu,” Shinji scratched his head and blushed.  “I…love you.”

“I know.”

He could remember one night, long ago.  It was even before they had ‘come out’ to the others.  Shinji had lain there, asleep, exhausted after a bout of lovemaking.  Kaworu softly smiled that he had finally managed to exhaust his lover, but he himself was unable to sleep.  So he had lain there, his head propped up on his arm, watching the moon shine gently on the sleeping form of his lover.  Shinji had looked so happy, so peaceful…a quiet smile played across his lips as all the tension of day disappeared in his rest.  Kaworu shifted slightly and the bed creaked.  Almost instantly, Shinji was awake and looking at him, panic clearly showing on his face.  Kaworu moved over and held him, stroking his hair and shushing him gently.  Eventually, Shinji settled down, and went back to sleep.

Kaworu wondered then, what kind of life Shinji had led that caused him to so fearful of abandonment.  Shinji had told him about his father of course, but it didn’t explain why he sometimes woke sweaty and tormented, his limbs thrashing about in sheer terror.  But it didn’t matter, Kaworu was here now, and as he watched Shinji’s features again sink into blissful calm, he wanted to keep him safe.

He had promised to keep him safe…

But he had failed.

“ARRRGH!”, he bellowed, and the lightning broke into a thousand pieces.  People all over the world reported seeing a face in the heavens, and a voice cried out to them.  Wars everywhere stopped immediately, taking it for a sign of divine displeasure, which in a sense it was.  Kaworu fell to Earth, luckily caught by Rei’s own AT-Field, which placed him safely on the ground a discreet distance from Shinji’s corpse.  “I couldn’t do it…I couldn’t punish them.”

Just because there was no one worth saving now, didn’t mean that there never could be.  And he couldn’t cheat anyone of the promise of a better future.

“That decision was not yours to make.  Not this time.”

He looked up at her.  “What will happen to them?”

“You know as much as I do.”

“So, the Judgement Day will come?”

“It was postponed, but it cannot be escaped forever.”

His gaze darted quickly over to the gently steaming corpse.  “Will he play a part?” 

“The Lillim will need a champion.  He will come again, as was prophesied.”

There was a pause.

“Will it happen soon?”

“Time is of no importance to me.  All are one.”

Rei crossed over to him and took his hands in hers.

“You realise…he will not know you.  Perhaps not ever.  I cannot say how fate will play this hand.  Destiny is your jurisdiction, if I recall.”

“But…I will see him again?”

“If he survives.”  A bitter smile played across her lips.  “Keel is still out there.”

“The Lillim will need a guardian first, then.”

“Yes.”  She turned and walked away.

“I just can’t believe…he’s dead.”

She turned back, to look at him.

“All things die.  And all things live.  It is the nature of reality.  If you had followed your father’s will, you would have been the dead one, thirteen years before.”

“I never would have known what it felt like…to be loved.”

He gently leaned forward, and closed the eyes of the corpse.

“I will see you again, I promise.  Together for eternity, right, Shinji?”

“You defined the term, Tabris.  Now you must fulfil your vow.”

“Mother?”

“Yes?”

“What should I do?”  He seemed lost.

“That has always been your own problem, Tabris.  I can offer no advice save this: be true to yourself.  It is what is demanded of everyone, after all, and you should be no exception.”

 

*          *          *

 

Kaworu dodged the few remaining bullets and took Shinji’s body back to Japan.  There was a small service in a Tokyo-3 church; a small group of friends and work colleagues displayed their support, but few of the original Tokyo-3 crowd could make it.  Toji and Hikari arrived together, still good friends despite the collapse of their brief relationship twelve years previously, and besides, it saved the cost of petrol, ever increasing in a post- Impact world.  Kenskue turned up with a young man whom he introduced as a ‘friend’, but it was clear the only person Kenskue was fooling was himself.  Asuka, unable to leave her post lecturing at Germany’s premier military training college sent her condolences and a big bunch of flowers.  Misato, now a General, turned up with a military guard, determined to give Shinji full military honours for his service to humanity as an Eva pilot.  After a brief altercation with the U.N. representative, it was agreed that Nerv would not be mentioned and Misato would keep her pension, despite having just assaulted a superior officer.  Fuyutski had retired a few years after the dissolution of Nerv and died last year; Maya was now working with the American government’s information systems division, as was Aoba.  Nobody had heard from Hyuga for ages, but there were rumours he was running covert ops for the European Federation in Strasbourg.

Kaworu said a few words before bursting into tears, and had to be helped from the pulpit by an equally weepy Misato.  His immediate superior, the paper’s commissioning editor, talked about Shinji the journalist while a pre-recorded eulogy from Asuka wistfully recalled Shinji the shy adolescent.  Shinji had left a simple will; he wished his body to be burnt and the ashes scattered across the lake created by Unit 00’s destruction, all those years ago.  Everything he had, he left to Kaworu, who could dispose of it as he wished.

A few days after the service, Hikari dropped round to see how Kaworu was doing.  She found the house deserted.  Nothing was apparently missing; it’s just that Kaworu was not there.  He was placed on the missing persons register 24 hours after his apparent disappearance; no trace of him was ever found.

It was as if he had disappeared off the face of the earth.

 

Part Five:

The Final Messenger.

 

            Dawn rose over the new city, shimmering steel and glinting glass, like some technophile’s dream, a Meccano set made real.  In a small, somewhat dingy apartment on the ‘bad’ side of town, an angel awoke to find that he was not alone.  Kaworu’s eyes involuntarily widened at the sight of the tousled black hair, the slender, almost delicate and yet undefinably handsome cheekbones resting on his shoulder.  Shinji murmured sleepily and subconsciously moved even closer to the other boy, his arms refusing to let go of their hold around the Fifth Child.  Kaworu’s own arms had somehow snaked themselves round the younger boy in his sleep, offering a form of protection or solace.

            He must have crept into my bed while I slept, Kaworu realised, and I held him as he snuggled up besides me.  His gaze softened as he realised how difficult it must have for Shinji to contemplate such a thing, let alone do it.  Every time he has loved someone, he has been hurt.  So now he would rather refuse to admit his loneliness than risk being hurt again.  But now he had begun to break down the walls that separated him from others, to finally reach out, and admit his desire for companionship, no matter the consequences.  And all for me. 

            Kaworu smiled sadly, reaching up ruffle Shinji’s hair.  I wish I did not have to leave him, he thought.  And yet, he could feel the power secreted deep beneath the ground.  In his bones, his very soul, it sang to him calling, crying to be rejoined.  He could not be whole without it.

Adam.  It was his beginning, and his end.

            But right now he had more pressing matters to attend to.  “Wake up, koi,” he whispered softly in the boy’s ear, brushing the hair off Shinji’s face with the back of his hand, like a caress.  He was soon rewarded with the fluttering of eyelashes and an early morning blush.

            Shinji looked at him, awkwardly smiling, his arms still wrapped around Kaworu, but looser now, their faces barely inches apart.  “Arigato, Kaworu,” he said, without his usual trace of self-consciousness. Well, he was blushing, but at least he wasn’t stammering.  Or curled up against the wall crying.  It was a small gesture, but a beginning none the less.

            Kaworu’s own smile grew larger to match that of the other pilot, and his eyes sparkled.  “Do you want me to make you some breakfast?”

            Shinji nodded, as if speech would somehow disturb the moment.

            Kaworu rose, still dressed from the night before, and taking Shinji’s hand in his, he led the boy from the cramped bedroom to the small kitchenette, never breaking contact at any stage, and throwing back reassuring smiles and grins as they made their way down the narrow corridor.  He led Shinji to the bench and seated him on one of small stools before moving round the bench and quickly bustling up some breakfast – nothing special, just some Japanese-style pancakes and a side helping of rice, and a glass of juice for both of them.

They ate quietly, side by side, stealing glances at each other when they thought the other wasn’t looking.

            He is so fragile, so delicate…and yet so strong at the same time

            …What does he see in me?

            I wish he could have let me kiss him last night.  But I cannot blame him for that

            …When he looks at me, I feel as though I could do anything, be anything

            I would throw away everything, for him.  My power and my destiny, even spit in the eye of the Creator if I had to.

            …I do not need anything but him.  And if my father ever risks him, like he did Toji, I’ll rip him apart.

            I love him too much…

            …I love him too much

            Red eyes suddenly met blue, and they both laughed, embarrassed to admit they had been peeking at each other.  Kaworu reached out with a slender finger, and gently brushed a stray crumb from Shinji’s top lip.  As he pulled away, Shinji reached out suddenly and grasped the taller boy’s hand in his, bringing it up and placing it against his cheek, as if to recall the memory of the previous night, and perhaps correct where it began to go wrong.  Needing no further prompt, Kaworu moved closer, tracing the line of his cheek with one finger before reaching up with both hands to hold Shinji’s face opposite him, gazing somewhat rapturously at the sight in front of him.

            I would throw away everything, for him.  But I do not think I’ll be given a choice.

            His hands dropped abruptly, and Shinji’s eyes searched his face, clearly looking for an answer.  He got off the stool and turned away, unable to trust his own demeanour in front of the other boy.  “I have some…errands to run.  I can’t come to school today.  Please excuse me,” he said, forcing the emotion from his voice.

            “Fine…” Shinji said, puzzled.

            Now composed, he turned back to Shinji.  “I need to wash, and get dressed.”  He couldn’t resist the impulse to ruffle the other boy’s hair and hold him close.  “You’ll be okay with just the television for company, Shinji-kun?”

            Shinji giggled.  “Actually, I should be heading back to Misato’s-” Kaworu noted it was no longer ‘home’ but said nothing, and Shinji continued unaware of the look the older boy shot him “-and get changed myself.”  With that he picked up his satchel from next to the bench, where he’d dropped it the previous night, and headed towards the door.  He turned, unable to hide the concern as his face, biting his lower lip.  “I will see you after school, though, right, Kaworu?” he asked, shyly.

            “Of course you will.” Kaworu reassured him, mentally adding, whichever path my destiny takes, I will see you again.  For better or for worse.

            Shinji was clearly relieved; a smile burst across his face like the sun.  “Good” he said, firmly, and left, closing the door behind him.

            Kaworu distracted himself by bathing and dressing for the new day, reaching inside his wardrobe for another white shirt and black pair of trousers, identical to all the others that hung side-by-side.  He would have preferred variety, but SEELE forbade him what they termed ‘frivolities.’

            He would go to the church and pray for guidance, he mused.  He had found the burnt-out building on an exploration of the city, and went there whenever he needed guidance or solitude.  The angel would listen to the voice of His maker and hear what He had to say for Himself, while the man…

            And just perhaps, the man wished, I can save Shinji, if I cannot help myself.

 

*          *          *

 

            Shinji never returned to Misato’s that night, and thusly, predictably, a search party was sent for him.  The Third Child was too great a commodity to waste.  They found him, finally, in a small, dingy apartment on the ‘bad’ side of town.  He was curled up in the bed, his legs and arms wrapped up so tightly in the covers that it was difficult to know whether boy ended and the bedclothes began.  He didn’t take any notice of them, just continued sobbing almost silently into the pillow.  They tried removing him forcibly, but he screamed and bucked, bit and kicked and hit like a wild thing.  In the end, he had to be tranquillised, for his own sake, if no one’s else.

Misato came to visit him once, deep in Nerv’s psychiatric ward, watching through the door as he sat on a bare bed in a padded cell, prevented from harming himself by the strictures of a straight-jacket.  She was too shocked to say anything, too shocked by the screaming that wracked the walls, which continued until Shinji was too hoarse to speak.

            “I’M SORRY!  I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I’M SORRY!” It reverberated inside the cell, the force apparent even through the reinforced door.  Inside, Shinji Ikari choked, his voice taut with emotion, his gaze falling back onto the bed. 

            Misato glanced over at the guard, who nodded.  “He’s like that all the time, Major.  Has to be fed intravenously.  Only sleeps when sedated.  The slightest movement and he’s off again.”

            “I’m sorry….” Shinji looked up now, and there was a feverish delusional pitch to his eyes that made Misato step back involuntarily.  He wasn’t staring at her, but rather beyond her, through her, at something that didn’t even exist.  “Please, Kaworu, please!…come back to me…I can finally say it now, I can tell you everything!  I LOVE you!” He whimpered, and bucked against the restrictions of his jacket.  “Please, love…I’ll hold you close, and kiss you, and tell you how much I need you…Kaworu…love…I’m SORRY!….I love you, so much…I’m nothing, without you….Please, come back to me…”

            Misato held a hand up to cover her mouth, widening in shock, and staggered off, her heels clicking sharply against the concrete floor, her pace picking up as she fought the urge to panic and run.  The pain in his voice…And it never stops, she realised.  It never, ever stopped.  Shinji tortured himself, in every waking hour, and probably every dream as well. 

            She felt like she was going to be sick.

 

            Keel watched footage of the boy’s wide-eyed, almost rabid intensity on the screen, chuckling quietly to himself.  The Third Child was broken, and the First could easily be dealt with by the mass production Evas, if they caught her before she returned to Lilith.  But primarily, there was no longer anything stopping them from achieving instrumentality as they had intended it to take place all along. 

            Whether he had intended to or not, his little tool had fulfilled his mission.

            Kaworu would have loved the irony, he mused to himself.  Such a pity he’s dead.

 

            Misato never forgot the screams.  Not even when the JSDF overran the Geofront two months later, not even as her friends lay dying around her, as her gun emptied, as she herself was shot in the lung.  Blood bubbled up her throat and out of her mouth, but even in those final, few moments before darkness descended, she could still hear those screams, ringing in her ears, eternal, infinite, unable to be healed.

            Like a wounded god.