//Wounded God//

 

Part One:

The Pall of Humanity.

 

I was not allowed the luxury of birth.

Rather I was created, made, assembled even.  Human DNA and the soul of Adam, united in one body, one mind, one person.  Two natures that should have fought each other to the death, yet did not, and because they did not, I could be used.

To cheat Creation, to break the veil between humanity and its’ Maker, to change everything, forever.

But that was not the purpose I was created for, although it was within my grasp.  I was merely a…contingency policy.  And an experiment, I think.

Created just to show that they could, just to see what would happen.

To prove themselves Gods, because the men of Seele wanted nothing but the power of the Almighty.  They judged the world around them, and considered it unworthy, and damned it, in a glance.

Only to save themselves, to make their pain better.

And if worst came to worst, I was expected at least try to fulfill my purpose.

Return to Adam, and destroy the world.  Not that Seele wanted the world destroyed of course, not in that way, but it gave them a bargaining chip, a lever to use against their enemy.

Gendo Ikari.

 

I was just a tool to them, a thing, to be used and perhaps, tossed aside.  I was only given a name for expediency’s sake, so they could place me in a school and see how ‘normal’ socialisation affected me.  Until then I had always been ‘Tabris’, or ‘the Fifth’, although I didn’t yet understand what they words meant.

Then suddenly, I was ‘Kaworu.  Kaworu Nagisa’ and everything changed.  I even got a guardian, an ‘aunt.’  She tried to take care of me, tried to make me…human, I guess.  When I was 10, they took her in the night, and replaced her with someone more…suited to their needs.

I never saw her again.

 

And I was allowed some sort of life, at least during school hours.  Then I could mix, and pretend I was real.  I didn’t make friends easily, though.  Subconsciously, they could always tell I was different.

And mankind has always seen difference as a threat.  So I wandered, solitary, through most of my life.  It’s not that I don’t remember those years with fondness – I do, especially Jonathan, whom I treated worse than he deserved – but everything was merely a build-up, to this.

 

To now.

 

The hours I spent in labs with a headset, honing my powers, recognising and bringing to bear the strengths of my dual nature while learning to cover up its’ weaknesses.

In endless battle simulations, constant synch tests and repeated question by reams and reams of lab-coated experts, I learnt just how different how I truly was.  How unique, and how utterly alone.

The human in me was nearly crushed by this revelation; the angel saw mankind as fundamentally alone, so it didn’t matter.

And if nothing else, I always had the Children for company.

 

Of course, what good is a weapon that doesn’t recognise its’ target?

And I was always made aware that I was not like my schoolmates.  I did not have a life, or friends, or anything.  I was defined by my usefulness, by the victims I had to study.

‘Know them’, I was told, ‘study them’; so when the time came, I could tear them apart.  Rip their souls out and burst their dreams, hopes and aspirations.  Damn them, decry their weaknesses, torture them, tear down the walls that lay around thri fragile human egos, whatever was needed.

 

And so as I grew up, I watched my future colleagues, all of them potential targets, make the rocky journey between childhood and adolescence.  I watched as Asuka’s perfect family collapsed in divorce, and then saw her mother slide into depression, madness and suicide.

I watched as she sobbed into her pillow, late at night, when she thought no-one was watching, and then brush the tears away, hating herself even more for that lapse, that moment of humanity, of weakness.  She threw herself into her studies to compensate, and as a EVA pilot, as a student, she excelled.  But it was never enough for her, could never be enough for her.  Every time she won another award or accolade, or received a compliment, it only reminded her of the emptiness that lay inside.

I felt sorry for her, for her inability to trust, for her overwhelming fear of betrayal, of intimacy, of love.  But she refused to bend, to accept, to give, and so I could not cry for her.

 

The First was like me, in many ways.  Held hostage to dreams that weren’t her own.  Molded into a form that could only be used by another.  Torn between two conflicting natures, an impulse for a release into nothingness, and a determination to keep going until she found something to fill her soul.

And yet she could so easily revert to patterns.  The Yui in her couldn’t resist digging in at her replacement, and so she died, victim of petty Lillim insecurity.  A life of experience, wasted, the clean slate having to start afresh, without even the usual orientation of the human newborn.

She was utterly, utterly alone, with only a possessive despot to guide her.  But Ayanami was not of this earth.  Her purpose lay beyond, even further out of reach than mine in a sense, and yet, she was absolutely and indefinably here.

She knew the answers were just outside her grasp, and she never bothered reaching, in case the truth cut too deeply, although she always suspected.

Besides, she was cut from the cloth of Lilith.  She could protect herself, so she hardly needed my protection.

 

I was also shown footage of the potential candidates, as Seele liked to be prepared for all possible eventualities.  Toji grew up with just his alcoholic father for company, forcing a boy of just seven into a fatherly role for his little sister, a responsibility that robbed him of his childhood.  It gave him a purpose, and means to garner respect.  In a similar way, Hikari learned to become the surrogate mother for her sisters, because there was no-one else.  This gave her a clear set of boundaries and rules, expectations to fulfill, all easily laid out so she could avoid failure or mistake.  Kenskue never knew his mother, and barely met his father.  He idolised weaponry, and warfare, because it seemed so far away from the world he knew, a world where an ever-absent father dismissed him; a pleasant fantasy he could escape to, and be in control, be needed, his knowledge useful for once.

 

But most of all, I was shown footage of a young, painfully awkward boy with dark hair and midnight-blue eyes.  Seele knew that Ikari would not accidentally abandon his son like that, nor break his fragile heart into a thousand pieces with a purpose.  They knew Gendo was a cunning old bastard.

They also knew it took a special person to pilot an Eva.

 

The Eva’s themselves have broken souls.  Therefore the pilots must be broken as well, for the pieces to mesh and bind and slip together, forming a new whole.

And Gendo certainly knew how to break people.  The human in me grew to hate him.  The angel in me found him pathetic.  Even more pathetic than Seele, in a sense, but infinitely more dangerous.  Both parts had to admire him.

Torture his son, blackmail the world, manipulate the angel threat just to get the money and funds to resurrect his dead wife?

Indeed.  Gendo had ambition.  Determination.  Style

 

So it all came back to Shinji.  Seele whispered hate into my ear as I watched him.  Jealousy, bitterness, all the vitriol in the world directed at this boy, because they expected him to be the last challenge.

Him and Unit 01.  Mankind’s final saviour.

Like all the others, I was supposed to see the cracks in his heart, and how to break them open, leaving him beaten and betrayed. 

I saw his flaws.  I recognised his weaknesses.  I knew exactly how to destroy him.

But Seele never expected I would fall in love with him, my best, worst enemy.

I wanted to wrap my arms around him, heal his broken heart, bear his burdens.  Cry the tears he could not, and kiss him until the pain went away.

He was perfect.  So human.  So wonderfully, tragically human.  He deserved so much more than I would be able to give him.  And yet, I knew that wouldn’t stop me.

 

Now I sit on this lump of stone and slag, looking out at the new inland sea that drowned the city.  A part of me recognises the parallel, and smiles.  Noah and his ark.  God is certainly displeased.

But most of me sits, terrified, and terrified even more of showing it.  Intelligence has told us he has been coming down to the lake’s edge every day now for a week, but it is only now Seele has managed to find an excuse to send me, as a ticking bomb, directly into the House of God.

The Geofront.

I am to replace the Valkyrie, since she does not wish to face her own truth, and instead hides, forever persecuting herself in endless nightmares.

 

I can feel him approach the lake.  My heart rate increases, and my palms become sweaty.  I am experiencing anxiety, although part of me wishes I could leap off my perch and just wrap my arms around his slim frame, and quietly confess my love.

He has not noticed me.

I begin to hum.

 

 

Part Two:

At The Water's Edge.

 

I don’t know why I kept walking down to the lake, really.  I mean, I could see it from Misato’s apartment.  And yet it called to me.  Because I’d been too weak…too cowardly…such a sniveling little bastard, because I’d failed….this had happened.

Half the city, washed out.  All my friends had gone.  Ayanami was dead, in a way, or at least the Ayanami I had known was dead.  And it was all my fault.  I was left alone because I had failed everyone.  I wasn’t worthy of their respect, or friendship.

So every time I walked by the lake, I told myself, ‘never again…never again…never again.’  I don’t really know whether that was fighting the Angels, piloting the Eva or letting myself have the luxury of friendship – a luxury I didn’t deserve.

Misato tried to make me feel better, but she was always too busy, trying to find out what was really going on.  So I was, as always, left to my own devices.  Hence the lake.

 

And I saw this boy there, humming, as if everything was right with the world, and I wanted to hate him, to scream at him, to stop him from being happy because I wasn’t and could not.

What came out was a mere noise, a sound.  Something like ‘eh?’

Pathetic.

 

He started talking to me then, still facing the other way, something about song and singing and the soul.  I didn’t really catch all of it.  I didn’t really care to.  Part of wanted to make him stop, but then he turned to me, and said my name.

 

My breath caught in my throat.  I blushed and stepped back.  He was dressed like I was, with pale, white skin.  And grey, almost silver coloured hair.  Part of my mind whispered softly it would be like to ruffle that hair, to be close enough to him to smell it.  But it was his eyes that demanded my attention.  They were red, red like wine, like blood.  But they didn’t burn; they were warm.  In one glance he showed me more warmth than anyone had my entire life.  And the way looked at me, as if he actually cared about me, happy for my company, smiling….I wanted him to look at me that way for the rest of my life.

 

Then he said, “you’re rather ignorant of your own position, aren’t you?”  As if I had a purpose.  As I meant something. 

 

To him.

 

I have never been so nervous in my entire life.  I wanted so much for him to like me, for me not to fuck this up as I had everything else.  I found out his name.  Kaworu.  Kaworu Nagisa.  I wanted to scream it to the heavens, but I didn’t know why.  Not yet.

He was one of the Children, like me, and my heart leapt into my throat at that realisation.  We would be working together, perhaps even living together.  Yet at the same time, he would have to go out and face the Angels, run the same risks as Ayanami and Asuka and I.  It didn’t seem fair, that someone so joyous had to risk his self.

 

I wanted this to be, well, good, so I gave him the respect he was owed.  Mr Nagisa.  And then he told me to call him ‘Kaworu’ as if we were old friends.  How could I not repay the favour, if only to hear my name uttering from his silky mouth?

 

He laughed then.  For a moment, just a moment, I believed my world could be alright.

 

Part Three:

Reaching out for hands I will refuse to touch.

 

Shinji sat, listening to his constant SDAT tape player, opposite one of the blast doors that lead further into Central Dogma.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go home.  Well, maybe it was.  He had nothing against Misato personally, but home was…empty now, and that emptiness reminded him of Asuka.  The fact she wasn’t there, that she might never come back, screamed from every unspoken word, the lack of her laugh, or her yelling, and her closed door.  It was as if Misato’s apartment was haunted by the ghost of her absence.

He’d finished his own testing an hour ago, but they had wanted to keep Kaworu in for further observation.  Shinji remembered earlier that morning when they had gotten changed for the synch tests.  He’d shown Kaworu the male changerooms, and opened the boy’s locker to reveal a neatly vacuum-packed plug suit.  He’d blushingly, haltingly explained that the pilot had to be naked underneath the suit…

 

“Naked?”, Kaworu asked, one eyebrow raised.

“Completely naked,” Shinji confirmed, nodding.  He could feel his skin turning a bright red, and instantly wished he was somewhere else.

“Well then,” Kaworu said, smiling gently, and started to strip right there and then, in front of Shinji.  Shinji was so shocked that it wasn’t until Kaworu had gotten his trousers off (after his shirt, shoes, socks and belt), that he remembered to face the other way.

“Shinji?”  He heard the other boy call softly from behind him.

“Y-y-yes, Kaworu?” he responded, refusing to move an inch.

“I am sorry.  I see I have offended you.  I did not…wish to.  I will be more discrete, next time.”

Shinji turned, blustering.  “No, Kaworu, you could never offend me, it’s just-”

And then he realised that Kaworu was ready to put on his plug suit.  As in completely, and utterly, buck naked.  He jumped round again, and stammered out his apologies.  “Oh my God, Kaworu, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise…”

A hand took a hold of his shoulder, firm, strong, but not painful.  A voice murmured at his ear.  “Don’t apologise Shinji.  I don’t mind.”

It was tempting, too tempting to trust that voice and melt backward into Kaworu’s arms, but Shinji could not.  A lifetime of betrayal and self-hatred had made him aware of his own, cruel legacy of abandonment.  He’ll leave me.  Just like all the others.

I don’t deserve him.

And so, he scooted out of Kaworu’s grasp, and refusing to look back at the naked boy, made his way to his own locker, and opened it, saying softly, “We should get ready for the tests.”

Kaworu’s voice was puzzled, and Shinji could hear a faint but clear note of hurt.  “If you say so.”

 

He’d felt guilty for that snub, even more guilty perhaps because part of him had wanted…His mind shied away from continuing that particular train of thought.  And so he waited.  Listening the reminder of his empty life, in the slim that hope that Kaworu might come through that door, clinging to that belief for reasons Shinji didn’t know or particularly want to know.

The blast door whirred open.  Shinji, subconsciously, leaned forward, anxious to see who it was.  A soft voice echoed through the deserted chamber, a faint hint of friendly teasing in its’ tone.  “Hello.  You weren’t waiting here for me, were you?”

Shinji almost laughed.  He wants me to make some smart comment, he thought, and considered it, before the words caught in his throat, and he merely blushed, afraid that no matter what he said, it would mark him out as unworthy of the other boy’s company.  “Er, no…well, not really…waiting, anyway,” he stammered, unable to admit that he was waiting, that Kaworu did mean something to him.

“So what are you doing the rest of the day?”

Shinji didn’t quite know where this was leading.  He scratched his neck, considering.  “Well, usually when tests are over, I’ll just take a shower and head off home.” His brow furrowed, and his expression grew awkward.  “But I don’t want to go…home anymore.”  It doesn’t feel like home…not without Asuka, he thought.

Kaworu looked somewhat uncertain.  “The fact you have a place to which you can return…home…with those you love, this is a good thing, yes?  It will lead you to happiness?”  It was as if he was asking questions he didn’t know the answer to.

But how can he not know what home means?, Shinji wondered, and realised he should probably respond verbally.  “You think so?” he asked.  It’s done bugger all for me…

Kaworu smiled.  “I would like to talk with you some more, Shinji.  May I come with you?”

Shinji’s mind was still stuck fast on the fact someone actually wanted to talk with him, so all he could manage was a “huh?”

“To the shower, I mean.  Aren’t you going to go to the shower?”

“Er…yeah.”

“Or do you mean no?”

Impatient with himself, Shinji sighed inwardly.  “No, I don’t mean ‘no.’”

He bent down to collect his stuff, and soon found a woolly-haired presence at his own eye level, helping him clean up.  “Thanks” he said, blushing again. “You don’t have to help.”

“It’s fine,” Kaworu offered in response, brushing Shinji’s hand with his as he picked up a discarded candy-bar wrapper from the floor.  Crimson eyes gazed into midnight blue, and held them, before Shinji turned away.

“The showers’ are this way.”

He felt like a coward, again.

 

*          *          *

           

They had gotten undressed, silently and without comment, and just as silently padded from the changerooms to the stalls, sinking wordlessly into the water, causing it to slosh slightly over the sides, displaced by their weight.  Shinji embraced the calm warmth, letting it fill him, trying not to think about the boy in the partition next to him, or those warm red eyes gazing upon him.

And then Kaworu had gone and spoiled it all by talking.  “You are extremely afraid of any kind of initial contact, aren’t you?”  Shinji whimpered inwardly.  Oh God, he thought, he hates meHe knows how cowardly I am.  Just a pathetic little child.

The young Eva pilot sat in muted silence as his counterpart continued, his gentle tone making Shinji aware that perhaps this was not the attack he’d expected.  “Are you that afraid of other people? I know that by keeping others at a distance, you avoid a betrayal of your trust. Although you may not be hurt that way, you mustn't forget that you must endure the loneliness.”

Shinji looked up at Kaworu then, his own need for approval proving traitor to his cause.  The other boy was almost shining, radiant, in the misty shower-room.  He looked directly at Shinji, smiling gently and uttered a phrase like a mantra, an absolute Truth, but softly, huskily, like something whispered to a lover in that brief moment of unified perfection, before the one-ness was sundered and cold reality crept in between the sheets.  “Man can never completely erase this sadness, because all men are fundamentally...alone.”

He reached over, just a slight movement, infinitesimal really, and all of a sudden Kaworu’s pale, slender hand covered Shinji’s.  Deliberate, not like the chance brush in the corridor.  And Kaworu’s fine fingers stretched out to take the other boys’ hand in his.  Shinji gasped involuntarily from the invasion of his personal space, the touch of warm skin against his own, the gentleness that felt like a caress, the soft smile that was directly squarely and surely at him.  And he wanted nothing more than to reach across and kiss the other boy, to feel Kaworu’s arms wrap themselves around Shinji as Shinji wrapped his own around Kaworu, and never let go.

 

In a darkened room, beyond the realm of possibility, a group that once had been mere mortals watched the happenings on a screen.  They were no longer confined to the limited day-to-day troubles of humanity; they had more important concerns.  They were SEELE.  The salvation or damnation of an entire world lay in their hands.

Keel whirred in his chair, turning round to face the group.  “So,” he said, slowly, as if figuring out the consequences.  “Contact had been made.”

 

Part Four:

Some kind of bliss.

 

That moment seemed to pass in an instant and in an eternity at the same time.  Either way, it was all too soon.  The lights shut off with a ‘click’, letting the boys know that their allotted time in the shower was now over.  Tokyo-3 may be the jewel in humanity’s crown, but second impact had made man aware of just how precious all resources, be that the water itself, or the energy to warm it or light the room, were.  Everything had to be saved, scrimped and stored for Eva.  Eva was everything in this brave, new world.

Shinji looked away, and the moment was broken.  You could be forgiven for thinking it had never happened.  “It’s time.”

“Time to go?”

“Yeah.  I have to go to bed.”

“With me?”  The question startled Shinji.  Kaworu’s tone was so innocent, so matter-of-fact he couldn’t be teasing, now could he?  And so he blushed yet again and stammered.

“Eh, No! I think you have your…your own room, that they gave you I mean!”

Kaworu sighed inwardly.  He wondered if he had been too subtle.  I have made my intentions clear, have I not?  In my eyes, the tone on my voice, by touching his hand…does he not realise I wish to court him?  And I can tell, from the way he responds…he likes me too.  He wished Shinji would allow himself some happiness, at last.

“Okay.”  The Fifth Child rose then, gracefully out of the bath, the water beading down his pale smooth skin, failing off him as he shook himself gently like something out of a movie.  Shinji stared.  He’d only caught the briefest glimpse in the changerooms before modesty and embarrassment, but now….He’s perfect, his mind whispered.

Kaworu addressed Shinji then, and Shinji was struck by the idea that these were somehow lessons to him, as if Kaworu’s purpose was merely to drift in, dispense advice, and drift out again the way he came.  “You know, pain is something that man must endure in his heart. And since the heart feels pain so easily, some believe life is pain. You are delicate, like glass. That is, your heart is.”

How could he respond to that?  Bless him for his insight or curse him for his candor?  Shinji settled for clarification.  “It is?”

The other boy nodded, matter-of-factly.  “Yes. This is worth earning my empathy.”

Shinji now really didn’t have a clue what Kaworu was talking about.  “Empathy?” he asked, hesitantly.

“What I’m saying is I love you.”  With that, Kaworu turned and clambered out of the water completely, heading to the changerooms, leaving a stunned Shinji lying in the darkened, steam-filled room.

He what?!

 

*          *          *

 

Shinji looked up the ceiling, shifting against the mattress that cradled him in the hope it wouldn’t dig into his back so.  He’d poured his heart out to Kaworu that night, told him things he hadn’t told anyone – or even admitted to himself – in years.  And yet it felt safe.  It felt right, as if everything in Shinji’s life had lead up to this one night.

If that’s true, he wondered, why was I destined to sleep on a lumpy mattress?

He heard Kaworu sigh softly to himself, a sigh like the wind through the forest, like the voice of God.  Tired, and resigned.  He and turned to face the other boy, to ask what was wrong, and see if there was anything he could do.  It was polite, if nothing else.

Kaworu was looking at him, that same glance he’d given the boy when they first met, full of wonder, as if Shinji was precious, special, something to be treasured and enjoyed.  He squeaked.

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

Shinji smiled, cautiously, like the sun hiding behind a cloud.  “What do you mean by that?” he asked.

Kaworu’s smile got wider, and he moved to the edge of the bed so he could peer at the younger boy.  “I think you know what I mean,” he said, reaching down with his hand to gently caress Shinji’s cheek.  Shinji closed his eyes and angled his head to keep the contact, a soft moan escaping his lips.  Kaworu followed by leaning over, thereby dangling half his body off the bed and over Shinji, his hand continuing to brush and trace its’ way across the boy’s face, almost as if he was trying to memorise the features.  What would it be like, Kaworu wondered, to breach the gap between them and kiss those lips?  To ruffle that raven-coloured hair, to taste the sweat and the sweetness within?

Red met blue.  Three words, softly uttered.  “I love you.”

Shinji’s eyes, widened, silently screaming.  He rocked back suddenly, and scrambled away, using his elbows and legs to propel himself backwards, until he slammed against the wall with a crack.

Kaworu got up quickly off the bed, concern in his eyes as he moved slowly towards the other boy, the way one might a startled wild animal.  “Shinji?”

The boy in question started crying, curled up against the wall.  “Stay away from me!” he warned, blubbering, clearly on the verge of a breakdown.

“Just tell me what’s wrong.”  Kaworu said, calmly.

Shinji raised his face, eyes red and swollen from the crying to meet his.  “You can’t love me,” he said brokenly.  “I’m worthless.  Everyone who hangs round with me always ends up…damaged anyway.  Mother.  Father.  Asuka.  Rei.  Misato.  Even Kaji’s disappeared.”

Part of Kaworu wanted to cry.  Part wanted to scream at the heavens, to call down the Creator, to damn God Himself for allowing this to happen.  The vast majority of him just wanted to find Gendo Ikari and gut the man, for doing this to his own son.  But he did none of these.  Making ‘sssh’ noises, he made his way towards the boy, trying to act like one at ease with the Universe around him.  Which of course he was.

Trust me Shinji, please trust me, he pleaded mentally.  I care for you and I’ll take care of you and please, just trust me!

Whether it was his words or the vibe he projected, he managed to approach the almost catatonic pilot and wrap his arms around him, repeating gently, “It’s going to be all right…it’s going to be all right…It’s going to be all right.”  Perhaps if he said it enough, he could believe it.

After what seemed like an eternity, Shinji relaxed into his arms, his tears finally spent.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered hoarsely into the cleft between the other boy’s shoulder and neck, “I don’t deserve this.”

Kaworu tightened his hold the boy, rubbing his back to sooth him.  “Of course you do”, he murmured, “you’re more worthy than any other individual I’ve ever met.”

Shinji tried to smile, but all it did was make him cry more.  “But everyone who’s…felt that way, about me, or who I’ve…” he trailed off, and cursed himself.  “I can’t even say it, dammit!  I just don’t want to lose you…like I’ve lost everyone else.”

Kaworu gently kissed Shinji on the forehead, and smiled for him.  “You won’t.”

Shinji stammered, helpless.  “I…just- I just can’t believe that, Kaworu…not yet.  I….” He faltered, before continuing.  “You know how I feel about you,” he pleaded, “…I just can’t do this yet.”  He buried his face against Kaworu’s neck.  “Just give me time.”

“Of course, Shinji.”  Kaworu picked the boy up and laid him down on the mattress, bringing up the sheet to cover him, resisting the temptation to kiss him.  “We have all the time in the world.”

But he knew it wasn’t true.

 

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.