"Commander Ikari, the angel has taken Unit 02 and is on its way to Terminal Dogma."
"You mean…Kowaru kun's controlling 02 from outside it?!"
"Yes, Maya. We don't have much time. Seal the shaft! Don't let him get any farther!"
While Gendou watched the chaos of the underlings below him, secretly he smiled behind his folded hands. Fuyutsuki noticed and leaned down towards him.
"Those old fossils are speeding things along nicely." Gendou whispered.
"It looks like they don't trust anyone to do the job right except themselves." Fuyutsuki answered.
"Even without their interference, Fuyutsuki, everything is going according to the dead sea scrolls. The plan is close to fruition."
"Commander! Unit 00 is still under repairs! The only Eva we have available is 01!" Misato yelled.
"And the dummy evas are not ready for testing. Do you trust Shinji to take care of this one himself?" Fuyutsuki added.
Gendou paused. "I don't trust anyone, Fuyutsuki. Katsuragi…"
"Neutralize the Angel by any means necessary."
"Hai! I won't let you down, sir!"
Gendou nodded and both men left, leaving Misato in command. She took a deep breath and propped a foot on a nearby chair.
"Damn, I'm going to need a drink after this…"
"Did you tell Shinji who the Angel was?" Hyuga asked.
"…No, I didn't."
"What's going to -"
"I DON'T KNOW what's going to happen, alright?! …Look, the bottom line is that's an angel, and Shinji is an Evangelion pilot. End of story!"
Hyuga shrunk back. "I'm sorry, Katsuragi san."
Normally Misato would have apologized - already that creeping guilt was inching its way up her spine, but she didn't have time for this. Her heart was locking itself down, getting ready for a torrent of hate and screaming and anger billowing towards her. She probably would never be forgiven for what she was going to ask Shinji to do, but there was no other choice. Suffer the burden of his hatred, or allow the world to be destroyed. She laughed at herself when she paused to decide.
Shinji rushed into Unit 01's dock and jumped into the entry plug. He heard Misato's voice on the intercom all around him.
"Shinji kun, it's about time you got here."
"Where's Kowaru kun?! Is he safe?!" was his immediate response.
"The Angel is heading down the shaft to Terminal Dogma. We can't seal the shaft from here; it's taken over all the controls. You're our only hope, Shinji kun."
"Understood, Misato san, but where's Kowaru kun?! Please tell me if he's okay!"
Misato's silence made Shinji's panic rise to a boil. "Misato san! Answer me!!"
What had happened?! Was Kowaru dead? Was he injured? Was he…
"Shinji kun…Kowaru is the Angel."
"Kowaru kun is the Angel, and you must stop him."
"…No…No…No no no no no! I don't believe it! Kowaru kun can't be an Angel! It isn't true!!"
"Accept it, Shinji kun. Now Sortie. It's time."
Shinji's breath whistled through his clenched teeth as his fists slammed the controls. The entry plug was then placed into 01 and it began its launch.
"You….you betrayed me…you betrayed my heart…KOWARU, YOU BETRAYED ME JUST LIKE MY FATHER!!"
Kowaru felt a few pieces of lint in his pockets and played with them absentmindedly as he descended. His nose itched, so he scratched it, and slowly he began to fidget more, anxiously waiting for Shinji.
"Why haven't you stopped me yet, Shinji kun?" he said. The SDAT player was in his back pocket. He decided to take it out and hold it in his hands; it brought him an immense amount of comfort, as if the little thing wasn't made out of metal, but made of something warm and gentle, almost alive.
Ah, he could hear Unit 01 now. It was a few hundred yards overhead. And yet more strongly he felt Shinji's overwhelming fear, despair, anger…all the things that made Lilims weak and unable to see that they were connected with all living things. That's why God no longer lived in the world with them. An A.T. field may keep souls separate, but a thread of unity passes through all of nature, and the buildings and machines that surrounded the Lilims were monuments to their desire to sever that thread.
Instead of embracing their humility and unity, their hope is to become Gods. Gods in their own world. And the Black Moon is using that to do something they should never do - reenter heaven after God cast them out.
He could not bring himself to hate the tiny machine he held in his hand, though. It had become something much more than what it was; it had become Shinji's heart. Fluttering like a bird, delicate like glass.
And here came his beautiful, wonderful, warm and compassionate Shinji. Shinji who loved to hold him in the middle of the night and breathe gently, ruffling his hair. Shinji who for no reason would buy him lunch, or play him a song on his cello. Shinji who only has one desire - to be humble and unite with the one that he loves.
Kowaru smiled and looked up. "I've been waiting for you, Shinji kun."
"Combat engaged between Unit 01 and 02, heavy damage to 02 sustained!"
"These A.T. readings are phenomenal…"
"20 meters until the target reaches Terminal Dogma!"
"Shinji kun…I'm sorry I have to ask you to do this…" Misato whispered to herself. "…but what's even worse is that I can't avoid what I'm about to do…"
"Katsuragi san, heavy damage just sustained to unit 01!"
"Hyuga…listen to me, but keep your voice down."
Hyuga's eyes darted back, but he made no sudden movements.
"If something should happen…if we lose the signal from the Evas…"
"I know." he interrupted. "You want me to begin the self destruct countdown. Anything is better than third impact, am I right?"
"I'm so sorry…"
"Not at all, if I can die with you."
Misato smiled and squeezed her hands together. Being powerless was never something she could quite get used to, and no matter what she couldn't trust Shinji to do the right thing…not in these circumstances. She admitted that she would rather blow the whole place to bits than let Shinji decide if he would kill the one important thing in his life. He wasn't strong enough for that, but she couldn't condemn him. She doubted she would be that strong, either.
At long last Shinji found himself at the bottom of the shaft. He was surrounded by a pool of strange liquid and rock formations - what he knew to be the very core of Nerv. He looked around for Kowaru, but by the time he spotted him Asuka's Eva was already starting up again…
"Heaven's door is opening!" Hyuga called out on the intercom.
"Shinji kun, you have to stop him and you have to stop him now!"
Misato's voice, so panicked and afraid, was like knives stabbing him over and over, the pressure of knowing if he didn't shred Asuka's Eva limb from limb right this minute, everything would be reduced to nothingness driving him mad. He heard his own heartbeat pounding in his ears as he screamed and tore Unit 02's face apart, driving his progressive knife into its head.
"Adam…those born of Adam must return to Adam, even if it means the destruction of humanity?" Kowaru whispered as the bloated, wounded figure of Lilith appeared in front of him. But when he saw her face, he realized what had been done. He had been used from the start. And now the only course of action was to die. He felt relieved, suddenly. Every second since this had begun he had asked himself if he had the heart to continue, and thankfully now he didn't have to make the decision. A nagging voice in the back of his head still wanted to know the answer to the choice of destroying Shinji or being with him and allowing human instrumentality to take place, but he laughed as he realized that there was no way he could ever bring harm to Shinji, even if it meant going against Heaven. Shinji was enough of a Heaven for him anyway.
The only choice now was to let Shinji kill him. That way he could still return to God, shamed and defeated, but not a betrayer. And he couldn't stay with Shinji…Heaven would only compel him to attack Gendou relentlessly until he was killed. There was no way. Just no way.
At last Eva 01 appeared in the doorway, blood-soaked from the vicious battle. Instantly Shinji grabbed Kowaru with the gargantuan Evangelion hand, ready to end his life.
"Kowaru kun!! Why…Why are you going to make me KILL you?!" Shinji screamed. In the control room his voice rolled against the walls so the whole of Nerv could hear him.
"Shinji kun…do it now!" Misato called. Her hand hovered over the self-destruct sequence control panel, shaking uncontrollably. Let me trust you, Shinji kun…please…
"I HATE YOU! YOU BETRAYED ME!"
"Shinji kun…thank you for coming to stop me." Kowaru said gently. Inwardly words 'I hate you' stung; it hurt more than anything Kowaru could have imagined. He wondered if all humans felt this, and yet he continued to smile. If he stopped smiling, it would make this harder for Shinji.
"How could you do that to me?! You know me…you KNOW me! You know how hard it was for me to believe that you cared about me…it took me all this time to trust you, to believe in you, to know that what you said was true! To have faith that you actually…wanted me…that somebody wanted me at all, and I wasn't just a piece of trash to everybody…"
"Shinji kun, I meant what I said when we first met. I was born to meet you, and now it's my purpose to die here. If you don't kill me, it will be the destruction of all things right here, in this moment. You know that, don't you?"
"My death is the only absolute liberty for me. Set me free, Shinji kun. Erase me, or you will be erased. Do it now. The life that escapes the time of annihilation, and that obtains the future, is only one. "
There was silence. Kowaru could hear Shinji sob, and his arms ached to hold him. And inside he cursed at himself. You should not have fallen for him like a human would have…you should not have told him you love him. You only made this one, inevitable moment that much more difficult for him. After all, he is not the one who must die. He will have the future. The future is not for me. Not for us.
"Shinji kun…I'm glad to have met you."
Inside his Evangelion, Shinji stared at the controls. Over five minutes went by, and he did nothing, knowing Kowaru was looking directly at him, knowing the whole of Nerv was waiting for him, their savior, to come to their rescue.
Was this whole past year a farce? It couldn't be…all the people who had ever confessed to loving him never really had loved him…they all used him for some purpose of their own design. But Kowaru…he was different…this couldn't be real!
"Shinji kun, you have to accept that he's betrayed you. He is the enemy. You must destroy him!" Misato yelled.
Tears flowed from his eyes as he squeezed the trigger of the controls and began to pull back, commanding the Eva to squeeze its hand closed. Then, he saw it.
Kowaru was holding the SDAT player.
He gasped as he stared at it; Kowaru's fingers were wrapped around it so tightly, so desperately. He was afraid to let go of it. He was afraid to let go of him. There was fear deep in those red eyes that seemed so calm, and Shinji had found it.
The hate melted from him. The anger and the sadness all fell away. His heart opened once again to Kowaru, and it turned on everything else.
"Shinji kun, do you hear me? Destroy him! For all of us you must --"
"SHUT THE FUCK UP."
"Shinji kun!" Misato yelled back. Her hand grew closer to the control panel."
"SHUT UP, ALL OF YOU! JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP! This is none of your fucking business, Misato, so just BACK OFF! Cut the communications, NOW!"
After taking a breath, begging herself inwardly to trust him, the answer was the same. She couldn't. "This is between ME and HIM, so GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE, NOW!!"
His screaming shook Misato to her core, but she still did not move.
"What the hell was that?!"
"An AT field! Light waves, electromagnetic waves and particles are shut out! We've lost track of the Evas and the target!"
"Communications are severed!"
Hyuga turned to Misato. "Katsuragi san, you know what you have to do now…"
"Hyuga kun, I don't know if I can go through with it…"
Misato held her hands over her stomach and stepped backwards. The look on her face was one of total disgust, as if she would start retching any minute.
Hyuga snatched her hand. "Yes, you can. I'll help you. We have to…"
"No, wait…please, Katsuragi san."
Maya stood up from her chair. "Please give Shinji kun a chance."
"Maya, you do realize what will happen if…!" Aoba barked.
"Yes, I do. But we have to start trusting him sometime. Please, Katsuragi san. If it's between dying now or dying in a few minutes after we've exhausted every possible hope, I know which one I'd choose."
Misato cursed and turned away from the flickering screens. She shook her head.
"Shinji kun…don't you dare screw up."
After Rei's AT field had neutralized the communications, she turned to leave. Kowaru glanced at her briefly to smile a 'thank you,' to which she nodded.
Shinji scrambled to turn everything in his Eva off, savagely hitting buttons and slamming switches. Once only the hum of the life support systems remained, he loosened the grip on Kowaru so that the giant hand remained relaxed and opened. Kowaru floated downwards to land on its palm, looking solemnly at Shinji.
"Listen to me, Kowaru kun…just please…listen to me." he pleaded. "Why are you doing this? Who put you up to it? Why do you have to do it?"
"You humans don't understand, Shinji kun." Kowaru answered sympathetically. "You are fighting a battle you can't win. Either way all of this-" he gestured all around him-"is going to end."
"Of course it's going to end!" he snapped back. Everything that begins ends! All I'm asking is why you have to be my enemy when it does!"
"We can't allow the powers that are behind you Shinji kun to conquer Heaven's law."
"Who is 'we' God damn it?! What about you? What about what you want? Don't you want me, Kowaru kun? Did you…ever want me…?"
Kowaru's heart ached. "Of course, Shinji kun. I still do."
"Then FUCK whoever is making the rules! We'll make our OWN rules! Please, Kowaru kun! I'm willing to give up everything for you…I CAN'T lose you! I can't LIVE without you!! Can't you understand that!?""Yes you can live, Shinji kun. It will hurt, but you will go on every day without me."
"But it will be…so empty…what's the point of living when your heart is empty?"
Kowaru smiled. "The hearts of humans are empty because they are separate from each other. They avoid being near one another, and wonder why they are then alone. But you will have the power soon. You will be able to reshape the future."
"THERE IS NO FUTURE WITHOUT YOU!" Shinji screamed. "Why can't you see that I'm not talking about what is around us…I'm talking about us! Just you and me! And all I know is that if everything's going to end anyway, which it will…I want it to end while I'm holding your hand."
"What you will not be able to live without Shinji kun is the feeling of not being by yourself anymore. You don't want to return to that empty life you had before. It has nothing to do with me. It's an entirely selfish wish that you don't want me to die."
"How could you say that…?! HOW DARE you say that! After all I've confessed to you…there isn't ANYTHING you don't know about me, Kowaru kun! And what about all the nights we've spent together…I just don't understand what's gotten into you! You may be an Angel, but you're MY angel! Some part of you is human just like me…and you love me too. I know you do!"
Angels in stories were all-loving, all-knowing beings. But Kowaru didn't love Shinji like he loved everyone else…it was love as a human loves. He knew it, deep inside himself. He was special to Kowaru. He had to be. Even as he smiled and gave compassion to everyone he met, he reserved some humanity for Shinji and Shinji alone. That small spark was all Shinji needed to live. And for the first time he was strong enough to know it without Kowaru's reassuring words constantly repeated; he was strong enough to believe in him. It was true that he could be loved by another. It was true.
When the words 'my angel' were spoken, they had changed Kowaru's expression. The words seemed to overtake him and soften his face - quietly he smiled as tears came to his eyes.
"Enough of this shit…" Shinji yelled. He ejected the plug and ran down the Eva's arm, colliding gently with Kowaru in a haphazard embrace.
"Since the dawn of man, Kowaru kun…man has always feared the end of the world. Some said it would be tomorrow, some said a thousand years from now…all we know for certain is that it will end. So what little…or great amount of future is left, don't you want to see it with me?"
Kowaru brushed the hair out of Shinji's wet eyes and his smile broadened. "Yes…" he sniffed. "I do want to see the future with you, Shinji kun…"
They kissed and held one another tighter, content to never let go. Kowaru put his head against Shinji's chest, listening to his precious heart beat.
"Don't ever try to leave again…" Shinji whispered.
"No, Shinji. Even if I am going against Heaven, I won't do that. And no matter what kind of bleak or wonderful future we'll have together, I'll be here with you."
When Misato finally reached Terminal Dogma with the rescue team, upon opening the hatch door she looked down at the kneeling Unit 01, looking over Shinji and Kowaru in the palm of its hand. Kowaru was lying in Shinji's lap while Shinji sat up, stroking through platinum hair and smiling. He looked up at Misato.
"Shinji kun…" she said quietly, so no one could hear. "You are a lot braver than I give you credit for. I should have trusted you."
Kowaru allowed himself to be led by the hand by Shinji through the halls upwards through Nerv. The smaller boy was marching with a stern look on his face but clutching to Kowaru for dear life. They had never been that public about their relationship but while all of Nerv stared at them Shinji kept holding on, even as Asuka and Rei were passed by.
Ritsuko stood at the door to the locker room with her arms crossed. Immediately Shinji stood in front of Kowaru.
"You won't lay one FINGER on him." he barked at her. Kowaru smiled as Ritsuko relented, albeit reluctantly. He knew he would have to get used to this, and Shinji seemed to be stepping up to the challenge. No one in Nerv would ever trust him again, and Shinji would constantly have to guard him from the poking and prying of Ritsuko down to the condemnation of Misato. It was now his turn to be taken care of by Shinji and not vice versa, as it had always been. And it was a wonderful feeling, he admitted. To be loved so much and watched over, like God watches over his creation.
Shinji didn't know it, but there was a little bit of Angel in him, too.
Tomorrow would prove to be an interesting day.