NERV was in chaos when Misato arrived, but it was the good kind of chaos. The Commander wasn't there and Fuyutsuki was mostly reasonable. With Gendo gone, she should stay in command. "Ignore the AT field!" she ordered. "It's a decoy to split the army and SEELE's concentration. I brought Shinji: get him out there! And I want Asuka launched as quick as you can manage it." Misato had ordered her put into her Eva the night before: if her mother really was in there, it might help her mind recover, and who knew if they could transfer a near-vegetable safely in the midst of an attack?

"Decoys?" Maya asked. "But they've been identified by the Magi as the Seventeenth and Second Angels!"

"The second?" Misato asked, leaning over her workstation. Wasn't the Second Lilith, the one buried in Terminal Dogma? Was this what Kaworu hesitated to tell her, because it wasn't his secret? That was Rei with him. "So that's why the two of them looking alike was so significant, Ritsuko…"

"What?" Ritsuko asked from a screen: she appeared to be deep in the Magi. She hadn't caught any of that but her name, too busy working.

"The Fifth Child just informed SEELE that he's defected. We're about to get mass-produced Evas with a functional dummy plug system based on his simulation data dumped on us," she told her old friend. "As soon as they can get them over here. They're being produced at different bases, and SEELE won't want them to show up one at a time but as an overwhelming force, so we should still have several hours. Did they launch a computer attack?"

"Already destroyed their Magi." Ritsuko rolled her eyes: really, what had Misato expected. "Maya, get the Major up to date."

"We're already closing up the route you came in through, Major," Shigeru let her know. "They're good. If it weren't for the advance warning," no matter the source, "we'd have been penetrated a lot deeper before the Bakelite system became effective."

On the one hand, that was good. On the other, if NERV became too hard a nut to crack, they might give up on making sure they'd confirmed the deaths of all the important people and destroyed all the Evas and put up with the uncertainty caused by the indiscriminate destruction of N2 mines. "We need Shinji out there," since an AT field could let him block the N2 mines. And incoming Evas.


Time to go to work.

Kaworu and Rei's foreheads were pressed together now, not because it made sharing thoughts any easier but because it seemed as appropriate as joining hands. Rei felt Tabris' relief that having Rei here greatly muted the call. Rei had Lilith's soul and the presence of a seed was making his instincts think he was where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to be.

Except instead of turning all the living things on this world into LCL, he was turning almost all the LCL on this world into living things. It was a pity that seeing the seas turn blue might only frighten the Lilim further, since they would surely assume that only the power of an angel could do something like that, but they wouldn't have any reason to think that the angel was using their power to help instead of hurt. Still, all the shots fired at Kaworu and Rei, and just as easily brushed aside (Rei was making a neat pile of them, perhaps because of Yui's 'motherly' influence) were shots that weren't being fired at Shinji.

Trips to aquariums and the ability of angels to encroach upon, analyze and mimic living things let Kaworu know the structures of many living organisms: there wouldn't be a lot of genetic diversity, but since he wasn't recreating the diseases that preyed upon these species hopefully they would have the chance to evolve and mutate more diversity to protect themselves before land and river-borne diseases mutated to attack them. He was trying to create populations of as many species as he could so that if one died out, there would be another to hold the niche. A lack of genetic diversity within each species he created was better than a collapse which might destroy almost all his work just like leaving behind LCL would.

Despite his focus on that, Rei still felt his attention on Shinji, watching his Eva through her senses since Kaworu had almost entirely withdrawn from his human body, dwelling instead in the clumps of those false flowers he had spread throughout the oceans to give him data and let him coordinate this effort.

Even though Rei had come here to learn, it was Lilith's buried memories that let her correct Kaworu. He was so very, very young, Rei found herself thinking, even though the third had only been herself for less than three months. Lilith had experience creating a planetary ecosystem, seeding it with life born of her, and Kaworu only had instinct mingled with human instinct.

A pale hand let go of his, wrapped around his back and reached up to stroke silver hair.

An accursed Child of Adam, but also, also hers, perhaps. Rei thought that was what she felt. Just like Shinji was hers?

She'd been jealous of Tabris, so very jealous, but feeling him try so hard to repair the world Shinji lived on, Rei's world, Lilith's world… Perhaps it would not be so bad a thing if he lived.

Because Lilith's Room of Gauf was empty. She had no more souls to give: the only children born now were reincarnations, the few souls that chose to return to a dying world, and soon those would taper off. Tabris wasn't old enough to start producing souls yet, but while she wouldn't let a child of Adam have this world, not when that would destroy all her children, perhaps a hybrid wouldn't be so bad.

If he survived, and Shinji did. If humanity lasted long enough that the children he could give them would have parents.

The sea, blue and gray, calm and stormy, green with life or stained red by a sunset… The cradle of life. There was a word for the experience of repairing it together.

Ah, yes. Romantic.

And, of course, that was when the MP Evas arrived, spiraling down like vultures. Coming to attack Kaworu, not Shinji.

Because if Kaworu succeeded, if the Lilim saw that the damage wrought by Second Impact, by SEELE could be undone? They would have hope for this world's future again. She felt his alarm, felt him begin to bulk-convert the remaining LCL into simple algae to feed fish and hopefully encourage fast breeding, but no. "Keep working," she told him, letting go. "I'll handle this."

The sound of battle woke Asuka, she would say later, except it wasn't the sound per se. Even muffled by the water, by the mud her Eva lay on, the ground shook with explosions and familiar heavy footfalls.

An Eva battle.

She opened her eyes to find herself at the bottom of a pool. A pool filled with green wires for some reason. They swayed with the water. Except wasn't her Eva too big for a pool?

Standing up, she started to walk up the slope, cord stretched out behind her.

"Asuka?" She heard someone's voice dimly. "Asuka? Asuka!"

"Misato?" Her voice seemed muffled somehow, as though she was speaking underwater instead of under LCL.

"We're under attack by SEELE's forces and the army! The army has retreated from where you are, but Rei is there fighting the MP Evas to protect … Welcome back, Asuka," Misato said belatedly. "Are you up to fighting now?"

"Yes." Of course. Except… "Of course I am. I have Mama with me, after all," Asuka said, and giggled with sheer gleeful happiness, a child's joy. Her mind was still piecing itself back together, but she didn't need maturity or anything like that to fight.

…And of course the damn things that looked like albino lizardmen had gone straight for her power cord. The only thing that kept Asuka from cursing them in German was that Mama knew German, and she wasn't going to use words like that in front of Mama.

"Hold on, Asuka," Misato said after Asuka decided that no, she wasn't going to feed an S2 organ she'd ripped out of something like that to her mother and just crushed it underfoot. She didn't have any idea where these things had been, after all. "Rei will bring you a replacement battery."

Asuka frowned. "I've got three more minutes and there are only four of these weaklings left." Wait, why was she complaining? Of course she could win, especially with Wondergirl killstealing, but more power meant Mama could stay awake longer.

"Yes, but once they're gone the army will start attacking again." Or nuke Rei, Kaworu and the Eva from orbit, one or the other. Either way, Asuka would need an AT field and power for her Eva to survive. Misato tried to sound soothing, remembering Asuka's mental state and the way she kept giggling. "She'll handle installing the battery, it won't take much time at all."

Asuka still pouted, spinning the lance she'd stolen from one of these Conan baddie rip-offs idly, debating whether or not to throw it at one of the remaining four and go without something to block with until she managed to get her hands on another one… "Why is there a male version of Wondergirl in here?"

Damn. Misato had hoped she wouldn't notice, the way she still hadn't commented on the fact that Rei could suddenly fly. "That's the battery. We'll explain later."

"Like I care," Asuka said, shrugging dismissively as Mama fused the pretty boy to the wall of the entry plug and jettisoned the heavy, outdated battery pack as she began to draw power from him. The pretty boy didn't move: he must be scared to have his eyes closed in the middle of a battle. But power was power.

So what if Rei could fly. Asuka had Mama, who was so much better than some stupid doll.

Shinji paced angrily. He wished he could go and help, but the instant he left NERV's pyramid they'd start launching missiles at it again. If he was Asuka he might have complained about being demoted to catcher, but he did have to stay here in case Kaworu started trying to reach Adam, too. Shinji hoped not, and not just for Kaworu's sake: fixing the ocean would be a sign of good will that might make the world start listening and stop attacking. Just because they stopped trusting SEELE wouldn't mean they'd start trusting NERV, if they managed to discredit SEELE in the first place. If they kept thinking NERV meant to cause Third Impact, then even if they killed every soldier in Japan more would come.

But it wasn't the vessel of Adam who zipped past him into the Geofront after the last of the MP Evas was defeated.

"Ah, Rei," Gendo said, as though he'd never doubted she would appear. Seeming to be in control was much of the secret to staying in control.

But why was she hovering in front of Lilith instead of coming to him?

When Lilith's body collapsed into LCL, he acted utterly unsurprised. The body of Lilith was not something that he required, not as long as he had Rei.

Who, still ignoring him, left as quickly as she had come.

The real question was what to do with units 01 and 02, when they contained human souls. Still, it would not be easy to cause Third Impact with either of them. It would take elaborate rituals and precise conditions, and without the MP Evas, she was fairly certain that if Adam's body could also be destroyed, Third Impact was beyond SEELE's grasp, at least for the moment. The trouble was that she could not destroy Adam's body as easily as she had Lilith's: Kaworu could because he had Adam's soul, but bringing it to him ran the risk that the call would overwhelm him and he would unite with it instead.

Fortunately, angels weren't the only ones with AT fields, were they.

This time, when Rei appeared in front of Gendo, she grabbed him by the leg so he couldn't reach up against gravity to grab her with that hand and hauled him out of there, dangling upside-down behind her.

"So, to save the world, I need to step on my father?" Shinji asked Rei. He needed to grind Gendo down into the dirt, destroying him and Adam? To save the world, and to save Kaworu? This was too good to be true, but, "If I do it here and now, the world will see. They want him dead," for trying to cause Third Impact, "but murdering my own father… Who would trust me?" When he needed them to trust what he said about Kaworu? "Can you hand him over to them? That way they can see he has Adam." And this would be closer to settled.

"If Misato can tell me where to go," Rei said thoughtfully, still dangling Gendo upside-down beneath her by his ankle.

The big window shattered and Rei swooped in.

"It's a pilot!"

"It's an angel!"

She hovered there patiently, waiting for someone to realized that of course bullets were just going to ricochet off an AT field. When an officer finally ordered them to stop, because the Prime Minister was here, she threw Gendo at their feet. "He has what remains of Adam implanted in his hand," she told them. Misato said to say that, "We're handing him over to you as a sign of good faith. Right now, we need the last two Evas to defend ourselves from SEELE, but once they and Adam are destroyed, provided SEELE is stopped from building any more Evas, the risk of Third Impact is over. You'll get the data soon." If Misato and Ritsuko hadn't already managed to get all of Kaji's files out past SEELE, spamming the world's inboxes and activating all the dead drops meant to place them in the hands of independent media and hopefully relatively uncorrupted politicians – SEELE had their hands everywhere.

As Rei flew away, she found the part of herself that was Lilith thinking that her children were mostly rather dim, but they were adorable anyway.

"Do you like it?" his angel asked him hopefully, looking up at him from the palm of Shinji's hand. Well, his Eva's hand, but he could still feel it like it was his own.

It felt like Kaworu was so small, so delicate, as easy to crush as his hopes or his heart. Kaworu hadn't held anything back from Shinji, trusted him so much, valued his opinion more than anyone's and that meant it would be so easy to hurt him. If Shinji told him that Second Impact really had been Kaworu's fault, that nothing he could do would ever begin to make up for it or that Kaworu should die, of course Kaworu would believe him. When those were the beliefs he had accepted for years, because if his life had no worth then those thoughts couldn't crush it.

Kaworu's life was in Shinji's hands, Kaworu's life was Shinji's gift, and it would be so easy to take it away. He could kill him by accident, with a thoughtless word or deed, as easily as he could by making a fist, by crushing the frail human body that placed itself within the grasp of a war machine so trustingly.

"It's beautiful, Kaworu," Shinji told him, not looking out over the crater lakes but down at the other boy and his sunset eyes. Maybe he regretted a little that the sea wouldn't be the color of those eyes anymore, but they could swim in it now, the two of them, and Kaworu's eyes wouldn't be so shadowed, that smile would be even brighter when he saw that Shinji liked his gift. "I know everyone else will like it too, they liked it before, didn't they? And beaches were for the summer, and it's always summer now." So people would appreciate Kaworu's gift all the time, just like Shinji would always want Kaworu.

In old movies, people took towels and umbrellas to the beach and made out under them. They should do that, Shinji thought. What else did people do on beaches? Take long walks, but they already did that. If they brought a towel, then they didn't have to spend all that time walking, either. If they were at the beach a lot of the time, then Kaworu would just wear swim trunks too, and, um. Except that meant Shinji couldn't really wear a shirt either, and he didn't look as good as Kaworu. He didn't want Kaworu to look at other people on the beach, so Shinji might have to start exercising a little. It would be nice to be as handsome as Mr. Kaji.

And not just in Kaworu's eyes.

"What do you mean, the pretty boy has been sleeping with stupid Shinji!" Asuka demanded, standing on top of NERV to defend it as technicians reattached the power cable now that she'd finished off the MP Evas and Mama had spat the pretty boy out. She'd let the pretty boy into her Eva, let him touch her Mama (even if the tentacles had been on the other being). The part of her mind that was still running on childish logic after rebooting (most of it) was furious: had they tricked her into giving her Mama Shinji cooties?

The two of them were kissing, right down on the ground in front of her Eva, and she had half a mind to give them a good kick. The pretty boy had an AT field, so they'd survive it, and hopefully if she punted them a good kilometer away they'd get the hint and, "Mein gott, in public? Get a room! But not the one near mine!"

It was Shinji's Eva they sent to destroy Adam, with Rei there to make sure the government didn't try to keep Shinji after the Eva self-destructed: custody of the Third Child wasn't part of the terms of the ceasefire, and she and Misato were not happy that they'd given their soldiers order to kill the pilots. The children who saved the world. Kaworu wanted to go, but it wasn't safe when Adam was there so Rei had to keep Shinji safe on his behalf as well.

The sea was blue again, and the lotus flowers that covered the crater lakes were real.

Now, as soon as they could pry Asuka out of her Mama, or find some way to pry Kyoko's soul out of there, the risk of Third Impact would be over. It was already mostly over, since Unit 02 didn't have an S2 engine. The 'war' on NERV still wouldn't be fully over (this was a ceasefire) until the UN listened to reason about Rei and Kaworu, but Misato wasn't holding her breath. Fortunately, most of Tokyo-3's people were already evacuated and the fortress was well-stocked for a siege. Or, as the bridge staff were calling it, an extended vacation.

Rei and Kaworu were assigned to switch off shifts guarding NERV against missiles, although Kaworu's shifts looked like they were going to also involve Shinji and first a blanket, but then Ikari's son started demonstrating some of those planning skills and dragged up a futon. Hopefully the eyes in the sky seeing that the angel and the pilot didn't have anything more sinister in mind than acting like the teenagers they were would help, Misato said, sitting in front of the camera monitors with Ritsuko and several coolers of beer.

The two of them looked up from each other when Rei swooped down. Kaworu looked much better already, and it had only been a few hours since Shinji destroyed Adam and stopped the call. "Is it your shift yet?" Shinji asked, pretty sure it wasn't unless they'd changed the schedule.

Rei shook her head. "May I sleep here, so that I am immediately available?"

"Of course, Rei," Kaworu assured her, moving over to make room on the futon. Shinji looked for a moment like he was regretting Kaworu's generosity and innocent lack of understanding of the entire concept of privacy, but then Shinji was the one lying on top of and grinding against his boyfriend in front of more cameras than just NERV's, so he really wasn't in a position to talk.

She leaned towards Shinji. "The second lo-I love you," she said, surprising him enough that he blinked at her. "Tabris and I had a long time to talk, about honesty, feelings and choices."

Shinji blushed: Kaworu was Kaworu, but someone else seeking him out for affection, and not the way Asuka had, treating Shinji's feelings like something she could toy with for fun, or Misato's lack of conviction? "But I'm already with someone." Someone he barely deserved as it was.

Kaworu smiled at him: why would that possibly be a problem? Why wouldn't he want the one he loved to have more loved ones, more people who made him happy? He reached up to stroke Shinji's hair. "You like her, and you mourn the connection the two of you had." Even if it was just the beginnings of a connection. "You deserve to be loved," he reminded Shinji.

"The two of us are alike," Rei said, shifting closer to them. "It was he who told me that, and I agree." It wasn't just that they were angels, although as artificial angels containing the souls of the seeds they were very alike, almost the twins they looked. "I have choices, and I like you." Far more than his father.

Shinji blushed to hear that from her, and Kaworu reached up, offering her his hand, offering for her to join them, certain that Shinji wouldn't push her away.

"Um." Maya blushed as she watched Kaworu brush a kiss against Rei's cheek in greeting, reassurance, or just affection before lying down again to nuzzle at Shinji's as Rei ran tentative hands down Shinji's chest. Kaworu had only taken off his shirt so far, and Shinji only put on a pair of pants after he got out of the plugsuit. Rei was fully clothed (so far), but that just made it sexier somehow, that they wanted this, wanted each other enough to take their time, to cuddle and caress. It would be nice to see piece after piece gradually come off, maybe Rei's shirt, with hands reaching up under what would probably be a practical sports bra, not anything lacy, sadly.

"I can pull up Unit 01 stomping on the Commander's arm, if you want," Ritsuko offered. "We've got multiple screens." Multiple camera angles. Ritsuko would like to see that again herself. Very cathartic, after watching sex between people who actually cared about each other. If Shinji wanted to keep Kaworu to himself, at least it was because he cared. Because he didn't want to lose him or have to kill him, and that was far, far nobler than the commander.

Glancing at Ritsuko out of the corner of her eye, wishing Ritsuko had someone who treated her like that, like she was so very precious (wishing she had someone to show her how to show Ritsuko that), Maya shook her head.

Unbeknownst to Misato, while the tapes of Shinji and Kaworu were going into Ritsuko's private files, now that Rei had joined them this was going all over the internet. Just because it wasn't Rei's fault the Commander never cared for Ritsuko didn't mean she wasn't a bitch who didn't deserve what she kept getting just for being made.

Kaworu didn't have embarrassment in his personal dictionary and Shinji was an exhibitionist anyway (too much Gendo had convinced Ritsuko that all men were whores), so it wasn't as though there would be any collateral damage.

And thus it was that Shinji Ikari, already an international symbol of manhood because he piloted a giant robot, for crying out loud, became even more of a sex symbol and went down in the history books not just for his heroism but for saving the world by being an angel magnet.

It might have been 'chick magnet,' or 'even aliens want him,' but all sources that implied that Misato was attracted to an underage boy in her care or Asuka was attracted to that idiot Shinji were mysteriously blown up or crushed under a giant red boot.

I said it was going to end up crack, didn't I?

Exactly who is getting the set of opposite-sex twins is a good question. The resemblance between Rei and Kaworu is obvious, but Shinji was designed to have a face very similar to Rei's both to make him feminine and to hint at the family relationship between him and Yui. Put on a wig and contact lenses, or if it's one of those AUs give him Duo's hairstyle, then give him some blue hair dye… He makes for a pretty convincing trap in that one game, so it would be an interesting plot twist for someone to think they've got Rei and then it turns out to be a very displeased and/or embarrassed decoy!Shinji, who is not quite so useful for causing Third Impact without his Eva. If it's a closer to canon/more passive Shinji, perhaps Asuka did an Aeris and made him do it. If it's one of those AUs by male authors where everyone female is bi, perhaps Asuka's the one with a twin fantasy. Shinji being bi is really not up for debate in the Director's Cut, which makes it more obvious what Shinji is checking out during a certain conversation. Unless he's just bi for Kaworu.

Whether or not Kaworu is Shinji-sexual only varies by 'verse, but a pretty good case for Rei liking him in Campus Apocalypse could be made, and he knows she loves Shinji and doesn't have an issue with it. He's also clearly protective of her, given his reaction to what Leliel says (sad!Rei sheltering behind him is cute) & finding out that Gendo's cloning a replacement (when apparently Gendo's no longer allowed to do that and who else there has the power to tell him no?) so the question becomes whether or not he could possibly be interested at all or he just sees himself as her mentor/protector. Interesting that Rei recruits him to try to make a bento for Shinji instead of someone who actually knows how to cook…

Something very amusing about that one game is that apparently Kaworu knows how to use makeup. Now, as a practical matter, that would actually be a very, very good skill for him to have. He and Rei were supposed to be on the far side of the uncanny valley, and since he was supposed to infiltrate NERV it would be essential for him to be able to make himself look less obviously like an angel. Without at least some contacts, hair dye & something to add color to his skin that isn't grey, he shouldn't be fooling anyone who knows the truth about Rei. Of course, in canon, he's sent by SEELE & Ritsuko immediately figures out what he is at least in the Director's Cut (Gendo likely knows too), so there really isn't any need to fool anyone at NERV who knows Rei: they're either powerless or want him dead too. Still, any verse where he actually wants to hide that he's an angel instead of not expecting to live very long anyway (or pretty sure that since SEELE knows, Gendo knows), should probably not have him walking around with red eyes. Rain or someone suspicious removing powder to reveal pale grey skin would be a good dramatic reveal in a more realistic 'verse where normally, humans don't have blue hair.

And the above bunny turned into a fic.