Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion is a Studio Gainax production, its characters created by Hideaki Anno. They say the word, and this story ceases to exist.

Clean Up Duty

By MidnightCereal

This was how it should be.

A pillow nuzzling the small of your back.

A stupid box watching you watch it as really fat guys tossed each other onto men and women a quarter their size.

The remote to said box within no greater than a millimeter's reach, because damn if that commercial with that pigeon and the sausages wasn't incredibly obnoxious.

Feh…pigeons…nature's douche.

Feh…sausages…nature's…pigeons? I don't know. Never mind.

An ice-cold Yebisu nestled where the sun hid from the shine, but not so as to make someone who would pass by raise their brow and slowly, slowly, back away. Well…maybe…if it was their beer and you wanted to mess with them a little.

Your very own refrigerator. You…in your refrigerator.

This was how it should be, and no one was going to tell Pen-Pen any different. Especially no damned pigeon. Douche.

How often had he been able to do this? Just sit and sag and be a lazy domesticated water fowl? Some voice in his genetically enhanced avian brain said actually, you were doing this yesterday, for an extended period of time, too. And the day before that. And all of last week if I recall, so if you really think about it, you don't have anything to feel sore about, seeing that your life is one long weekend, right? And isn't that what you should rea-

Shut up, he told the voice.

Hey, you asked me, came the reply.

No, you just started up, like you always do.

Punk.

Pigeon. Fuck you.

Pen-Pen loved these internal dialogues because no matter who lost, he always won. It occasionally occurred to him that no matter who won, he always lost, but hey, what the hell did he know? He was just a bird.

He held out a wing to adjust the relative humidity dial in his personal habitat.

It's not that the warm-water penguin hadn't tried starting up a conversation with one of his three roommates. There was just the small, needling fact that whenever he opened his mouth to speak the human's tongue, they all assumed he was trying to vomit on them. Of course he wouldn't. He wasn't their father.

That's right. They'll never understand what you're saying. It's just you and me.

Haven't I killed you with alcohol, yet?

Oh, that's what you thought? Well, I got news for you, that wasn't me. That was your first memory. Congratulations. From all you know you were born from the ass of an ostrich.

It's your ass you should be worried about, you hear me?! You can't run forever, I learned from the best!

And judging from the muffled, rhythm-less clattering emanating from the outside world, the Master had returned. It couldn't have been the boy… he hadn't heard that word yet.

Sorry…was that the word?

It couldn't have been the younger female…Pen-Pen hadn't thought that phrase yet.

Shut the fuck up…was that the phrase?

"Pen-Pennnnn," the big, drunk one sweetly slurred, "mama's home! And…and I haven't got the fish you wanted, but…but…hey, where'd that balloon come from? Did you throw a party? A penguin party? AND I WASN'T INVITED?!"

She actually sounds angry...

"Get out here and face me, you ungrateful little…lil' puffin!"

No need to hit below the belt…

"I take you in…I get you drunk…I feed you…I get you drunk…I clothe you…and…AND IS IT MY FAULT I THREW MY ONLY TUXEDO IN THE BONFIRE?! IT WAS TACO NIGHT! TACO NIIIIIIIIIIGHT!"

There was suddenly a crash, as if something large and inebriated had collapsed to the floor in a drunken stupor.

Pen-Pen had witnessed the human action of sighing enough to know that it often accompanied mental anguish, or at the very least some sort of exasperation at being wholly inconvenienced.

"Awwwwwwk…"

Meh. Close enough.

With that final lament the water fowl turned off his three-inch plasma television and maneuvered himself carefully around the open container of alcohol. The door to Pen-Pen's Chilly Suite slid opened with a soft hiss, and there was whoosh as hot, humid air gleefully rushed in to glomp him like an annoying relative. He sullenly waddled into the main living space, expectant -as he turned the corner- of a prostrate, snoring, drooling mass.

And boy was he ever not disappointed.

Her hair was just some purple tangled mop that hid her eyes and nose and mouth (from which came a gentle stream of he believed humans called 'gibberish'…and saliva). She wore…well…he supposed his male roommate would have found it attractive. Pen-Pen felt the sudden urge to take it off of her and make a nest out of it.

She looked…cold.

He turned and waddled. Out of the living room. Past the kitchen. Past his refrigerator. Past the door of The Whiny One, and She Who Must Be Avoided. He was at the door of the large one. The drunk one. The First One. Fortunately, the door was light and cracked open enough to neutralize his lack of size and strength, sliding open as he shoved it with the flat of his head. Ouch.

It was fortunate for Pen-Pen he knew from experience what it was he was looking for in his guardian's large room. Because there was shiteverywhere. As it was, empty tin cans and stacks of glossy paper slid from her low bed to the floor when he took his narrow beak and tugged at it. It pulled back, but the bird showed unusual persistence; he squawked as it surrendered all at once and he fell back on the titanium capsule fused to his spine. Ouch.

But the cover was his. Pen-Pen struggled with getting a firm enough grip, and also with the taste of cotton, stale beer and…what was that hardened glob?

Oh please, human God, please let that just be syrup.

Past the door of She Who Must Be Avoided and The Whiny One, his refrigerator, the kitchen. He supposed it was too much to hope that she had gotten up on her own to shamble drunkenly into her sleeping quarters. But that would have meant he had stopped watching Summer Basho and had crawled through her endless clutter, risking exhaustion and tetanus, for nothing.

"Siriphungalama?" She asked someone or something (or both) in her liquor-induced dream state. "That's what you think…you firmgerherschwin…stay out of their Kaji. Three fingers are way too-"

Working from her high-heel clad feet, up past her hips and over her back, the bird provided her a layer of decency that had probably been absent the moment she had stepped out the front door earlier in the night. It wasn't that the concept of decency was particularly appealing to (or even well understood by) the flightless bird. After months of putting up with the younger (crazy) ones, he did however understand –and religiously practice- the art of damage control. Sooner or later they would be home. Sooner or later they'd find the queen of booze. Sooner or later…the yelling would begin.

You keep telling yourself that. I know better. I know why you did this.

Don't you have some more of my memories to erase, asshole?

Relax…I didn't hide behind anything really important. Here, see?

A pan flash, from far, far back in the mind. The world. Large, even larger than it was now. Being small. Lacking, lacking everything, and there was nothing there to keep away the cold or the lights that tried blinding him. No refrigerator, no beer, no fish, no food or anything, nothing to keep him fat and insulated. Just cold.

And then it wasn't.

And then he looked up to meet the thing between the shadow and the blinding harsh white. The First One, and she had a mouth that could twist and bend up and down. He had tried doing it, too, but he did not know how, didn't know how he didn't know. He just…couldn't. But it didn't matter to her, and she picked him up –she was so warm- and she held him to her soft parts until he was warm too.

"Awwwwwwk…"

You're getting better at that.

Not good enough. Not yet.

End of Clean Up Duty

A/N: What the hell is this?

Random A/N: I don't know. Time to go to bed.

Wait, if Pen-Pen can understand concepts such as longing, exasperation and loyalty, why can't he be bothered to learn their names? This is where I tell myself to shut up, because that's just the way it is.

Thank you for reading and your criticism. Ja.