Late graduation giftfic for Petrichorre. It's a sequel to/continuation of the birthday giftfic I did for them, which is ch. 18 of this collection. I've also gotten a couple more Eva giftfic requests, although those are likely to be animeverse.

I wanted to re-read the manga to check that version of Shinji's character, but I'm away from home and I only brought the Silver Diamond manga, Mega Man Megamix & Gigamix and The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy. Burnt-out manga!Shinji is still a burntout Shinji, though.

Human relationships are hard. Cats, and Kaworus, are much easier.

Shinji already knew that Misato had to be dead, dead or dying, and she'd shut him in that elevator and sent him down here, out here, where he couldn't save her. It wasn't as though he could have helped her there, he couldn't shoot except in an Eva, but Misato was dead: the only person left was Asuka.

Asuka, and maybe Kaworu, and maybe, possibly, just possibly, Rei. Because if Kaworu had died (no if about it, Shinji had made sure to grant his wish) and come back in what had to be a dummy plug system clone as his stupid, weird self, then maybe Rei could wake up? Remember her own traits, her own quirks? Not that Rei was every quirky compared to Kaworu, but still.

The shock of being slobbered on, the adrenaline of the fight, hearing Asuka's battle cries and exhortations for him to stop sucking and making her look bad: they'd helped him forget Misato and the scent of blood, heavy in the air.

If you fought a battle, if you won, wasn't that supposed to save people?

Then the power was cut.

It shocked him, even though it shouldn't have. It should have shocked him that it took the soldiers that long to reach where they could cut it off. People must have fought. And died.

Like Misato.

Misato was dead.

He only dimly heard Asuka screaming, mind dismissing the familiar sound of her calling him an idiot, too out of it to register the alarm of it until after his Eva was slammed to the ground.

When he got to his feet and got his bearings, breathing hard as he realized how close he must have come to dying too, Asuka and a single one of the white Evas were the only other ones standing.

There was a spear almost all the way through the white Eva's wing.

Was it his fault Kaworu was injured? Because he'd… because of Misato… it was his fault Misato was dead, wasn't it?

"So that's five for us," Asuka was saying as Shinji's head cleared.

'Us?' Shinji wondered. Who would Asuka call an 'us' so proudly?

"Are there any more coming?" she asked, and Shinji wondered why she thought he would know. Unless she was trying to ask Misato.

Who was dead.

It was probably-Kaworu who stopped trying to get a grip on the lance and tug it out of his wing to shrug, a normal movement that looked weird on such a weird body.

"Oh, come here," Asuka said, walking over to him instead even as she said it and bracing a foot on the wing. That sent Kaworu tumbling to the ground as Asuka yanked out the spear, and Shinji wondered if that was the idea. Was she going to kill him too, finish off the last of the white Evas with the weapon she'd taken from his body?

Shinji opened his mouth, hesitating to speak not because he wanted Asuka to think Kaworu was an enemy and kill him for it but because Kaworu wanted to die, but when she slammed the spear down it was into the ground, leaving it standing up so her Eva could lean against it.

A little under four minutes of power left.

"Now," she said, "what the hell's going on?"

"The soldiers attacked us," Shinji told her. "They're trying to kill everyone. They killed Misato." Misato, who had died getting him to the Eva so he'd be safe, like Asuka, but soon both their Evas would be out of power and Misato would have died for nothing.

He'd thought it would be hard to say it. To face it.

But Touji. Asuka. Rei. Kaworu.

He'd done this before. He'd lost people and had to face up to it before.

It was… really depressing that he'd gotten better at this. That he'd had so much practice.

But Kaworu was alive, more alive than Rei was. The new Rei might not be dead, even if Misato had to have bled out. No one would have gotten to her in order to save her if they couldn't even get to the power supply to defend it. It wasn't like his father would have cared, would have used that AT field to save her.

He might have saved Rei. Maybe.

But, for now, there were two people that Shinji might be able to keep alive. Two people that were given back to him.

He shook his head, trying to force himself to stop thinking about when Rei returned from the dead. When he saw his father again, after all those years apart, with their bond as family dead.

Hands grabbing at his Eva's back jolted him out of those thoughts. "What-Asuka? What are you doing?!"

"Give me your battery pack!" Asuka demanded. "I'm not letting my mother go back to sleep again right after I've found her again! I'll force them to turn the power back on!"

"What… Asuka, they're not going to do that! They know my father is trying to end the world with the Evas, or, or something like that! That's why they killed Misato! It doesn't matter how many of them you kill," kill, like Touji, how could Asuka be so casual about murdering people to get her way, even if they had killed Misato, "they're not going to do it! And even if you managed to plug in somewhere else," tore some power cables out of the ground and spliced them to her Eva's cable or something, "they'd just turn off the power to that!"

"Well, then, what do you suggest, you idiot! Just stand around and wait for them to murder us?!"

Shinji paused, because if the Evas really did have to be destroyed? In order to keep everyone from dying?

Why was he even in the Eva? Why had he gotten in it in the first place?

He manually ejected the entry plug. "Let me get out, and you can have the battery pack," he told her.

It wasn't like having her Eva irritatedly tap her foot was going to help conserve power, but it was completely ineffective because Shinji didn't even notice it. Not when there was a huge white face right in front of him as soon as he poked his own head out of the entry plug, before he even looked down to check that the ladder had released correctly.

"Um," he said, wondering what to do and knowing that the immediate impulse to pat that huge snout and say good boy (it was slobbering, and if Kaworu licked him Shinji was going to kill him) wasn't right.

"Hurry up!" Asuka said. Shinji started down the rope ladder, after a wary glance at Kaworu.

It was Asuka that grabbed him, not Kaworu. Too slow.

Could the battery packs even be linked, or switched, or anything useful? Shinji had never heard of anything like that, but from the businesslike, and above all quick way Asuka went about it, clearly she had.

Well, that was the difference actual training to pilot an Eva made? And intelligence. Asuka was much smarter than he was, Shinji acknowledged as he found a piece of rubble out of the way and sat down.

The giant probably-Kaworu followed him, not that it took the giant winged Eva more than a couple of steps. Shinji watched as Kaworu crouched down next to him. "Thanks," he said, when a giant wing (Shinji didn't see any scars from the lance, that was a relief) arched overhead.

Kaworu then lay down and curved the wing around Shinji too. It should have made him feel trapped, especially with that giant eyeless head staring at him, but the ache between his shoulders lessened once he couldn't see as many of the tanks and the soldiers.

They wanted to kill him. They'd killed Misato in order to kill him. They were humans, and they wanted to murder people, and Kaworu was an angel who just wanted to keep that kitten from starving to death, and had helped Asuka fight off the other Evas. People were, people were the real monsters, weren't they?

He heard crashing and gunfire behind him, but he didn't turn around. Not just because he wouldn't see anything but wing. He didn't want to watch Asuka murdering people. Even if they were trying to save the world, that didn't justify Misato's death. Just like Kaworu? Shinji didn't know if he would have done it just to save the world or not. Not after he'd refused to kill Touji. Sure, Touji was his friend, but Kaworu was still a person, and after Misato told him that the 'lilim' were angels too?

A scream, and wet squishing sounds, and his fingers were jammed in his ears all of a sudden. It was Kaworu's careful nudge that made him realize that he was cringing, that he'd…

How could… how could Asuka kill people! For no reason! It wasn't like this would accomplish anything or save anyone!

Kaworu shifted, then flexed that neck oddly. Was he trying to talk? Trying to ask Shinji what was wrong? Asuka was killing people! Like Kaworu had killed that kitten, like Kaworu was convinced that people were going to murder him. That it was inevitable. So maybe he didn't understand what was so wrong about what Asuka was doing. If he thought that the world was just a place where people murdered people, and sometimes being dead was better than being alive.

When Asuka ran out of power, they would cut her open and kill her. Of course they would, especially after Asuka killed their comrades.

At least Kaworu might survive: these Evas had cores, unless he just let them kill him.

Shinji might have groaned, but even that didn't feel worth the effort. Like he'd realized after Kaworu, he couldn't save or protect anyone, could he?

At least it wasn't too much longer before he could hear Asuka running back. She quickly crouched down facing away from Kaworu, and after a moment he realized that she was trying to make a triangle out of her Eva, Unit 01 and Kaworu. Some cover.

It was a good idea, he thought as Asuka climbed down, brain feeling slow. Wait, couldn't people shoot them through the Evas, now that the Evas wouldn't have AT fields any longer, with the power down? Except his Eva had eaten a core, and… He didn't know, he'd never really understood, he reminded himself, looking down to find his fist, bracing on the ground.

A whine from his right, from that great head, and somehow it was so perfectly appropriate that he found himself laughing. That Kaworu would whine. That or say something weird. His desire for Shinji to like him, to pay attention to him, for someone to like him. It was the sound a wounded animal made, and Shinji had killed him. How much more wounded could someone get?

He patted Kaworu on the nose, feeling almost as though he was watching his hand instead of moving it. The thump of Asuka's feet next to him didn't quite wake him out of that reverie.

He didn't know what Asuka was saying, but it was obvious that she was cursing under her breath. Wishing death and eternal torment upon all idiots and the people who killed Misato.

This morning, he'd lain in bed because there was nothing he could accomplish outside of it. A few hours ago, he'd wanted to die because people wanted to kill him and at least that way, someone got what they wanted. What would make them happy. If Misato had only left him, then she might have survived. Someone would have survived. He wouldn't have failed someone.

"You. You're the," a German word, one he hadn't heard, "who took control of my mother's body. But you also guarded our power cord."

Sure, the power cord. Just the power cord.

Kaworu didn't nod or make any obvious response, but Asuka nodded, coming as close as she was willing to saying 'Thank you,' or more like 'we're even,' and looked down at (or on…) Shinji. "Your Eva ate an angel's S2 engine, didn't it?" she asked.

Something about the speculation in there made the hairs on the back of Shinji's neck stand up. "Yes?" He thought so, but it wasn't like he'd paid attention to that part. Who cared, when Touji was dead? Asuka had to have been paying more attention than he was, so why was she asking him? Had the angel that did that to her damaged her memories?

Asuka didn't answer his questioning gaze, just nodded and grabbed the lowest rung of her own rope ladder, doing a chinup and then some kind of complicated twirl that let her get her feet in among the rungs, and then she swarmed up it. Her entry plug retracted (had she come back while there was still some power?) and Unit 02 started up.

Kaworu's wing shielded Shinji, who stood there frozen as the spray of LCL fell towards him. He watched it drip from the edge of Kaworu's wing as Asuka's knife sawed into Unit 01's flesh. Without a pilot, the Evas couldn't use their AT fields to defend themselves, but was that true when Unit 01, Unit 01 had moved its hand to protect him on the day he first saw the Eva?

His Eva, it had protected him all along, and he couldn't protect it, either. He couldn't protect anyone.

His fingers were plugging his ears again, until Kaworu nosed at him and he returned to patting the angel for complete lack of anything better to do. S2 engines were limitless power sources, weren't they? He knew that much, if only thanks to Misato. So Asuka's Eva would have the power to fight and generate an AT field to protect it against the army. Not just to survive, Asuka wouldn't be satisfied by survival. To fight.

She wasn't going to attack Kaworu, was she?

When Asuka dropped herself down a second time, the ladder and then the entry plug retracted themselves, Shinji saw after Kaworu lifted his wing a little. Asuka walked under it and the red Eva moved, crouching low to peer under the wing. Keeping an eye on Asuka.

"Don't worry," Asuka told him. "She's not irreparable."

Shinji stared at her, not knowing where to start.

"What?" the redheaded pilot demanded.

"Who would repair it?" When the Evas were supposed to destroy the world? "Everyone's, everyone in NERV's probably dead. Except my father."

"That man wouldn't die even if you put a stake in his heart," a voice came from the external speakers of Unit 02, "but you're talking about something else, aren't you?"

"He has an AT field," Shinji said. "They attacked us because they think he wants to set off Third Impact himself. I think they're right." So what had Shinji fought beside Asuka for?

To protect Asuka, and Kaworu. It wasn't like there was anyone else to protect.

He hoped Hikari and Kensuke were alive, at least, even if he didn't have the right to speak to them anymore.

Asuka and the great red beast looked at each other. The entry plug and ladder came out again.

Shinji watched them run away, or rather towards the foe, and wondered why he felt almost disappointed that Asuka wasn't yelling at him to fight. What with, when she'd just cut his Eva open in order to find the core? Well, maybe he could have convinced Kaworu to do something, but it wasn't like Shinji had ever been able to control him.

Kaworu could have fought alongside her, even if Shinji was useless.

Maybe it would have been even worse she'd ordered Kaworu instead of Shinji to come back her up, telling him to hurry up and ditch the useless Shinji.

Unit 02 disappeared, dropping down into the geofront, and silence didn't fall. Not with all the tanks rumbing towards them. He wondered when they would recover from the attack of the white Evas and start trying to kill him and Asuka again.

Kaworu killed that cat, and he was huge now. He'd kill people, if he kept trying to protect Shinji. It wasn't worth it, Shinji thought, and that was when insectiod wings rose up through the crater left when the military blasted a hole into the geofront.

A great white… a huge bone-pale naked Rei with wings that looked like some fusion of bat and insect appeared before them, clutching Unit 02 like a doll as Asuka kicked. Shinji couldn't hear it over the rushing wind, but he was certain she was screaming in outrage.

Kaworu pushed himself up into a sitting position from where he'd lain sprawled out haphazardly on the ground and tilted his massive head. His body shifted, becoming more human. The weird reptilian head replaced by Kaworu's, which was handsome enough Shinji guessed, but still weird. His wings remained the same, shaped like a bird's without the feathers, and he lacked the translucent quality this Rei had.

She'd glowed, before she'd exploded. Or the angel had. Unit 00 had grown slightly, turning into a giant Rei with a halo over her head, and then Rei had killed herself. Died, right in front of him.

When Rei put Asuka down and shrank, alighting on the ground herself and folding her legs to sit next to Kaworu, then Shinji dared to hope that Rei might not die. She started to shrink again, and Kaworu shrunk too, mechanical bits dropping out of the flowing white flesh until finally the amorphous mass was gone and Kaworu appeared from behind an entry plug with his name on it. "I said you and I were the same," Kaworu said happily, the first words out of his new mouth.

Rei nodded, and that seemed to be that.

Shinji was really glad he hadn't looked behind him when Kaworu was huge, because it was bad enough to get an eyeful of… certain bits when they weren't several times Shinji's size. "Rei are you…" you? Was what he wanted to ask, but how did you ask something like that tactfully? Without calling her a fake, a thing or a doll?

"I am fine. The commander was angry that he could not trigger Third Impact by penetrating my vessel, but I left after he struck me."

"Left to find Shinji?" Kaworu asked her, and nodded, looking very self-satisfied, when Rei thought for a moment, then realized Kaworu was correct. "We are the same, after all."

Red eyes met red, and though there was nothing visible Shinji wanted to take a step back from the space between them. There should have been a lightning bolt to signify the intensity of the connection that opened between them, flashes of data exchanged, thoughts too fast for him (for a human?) to follow.

Then Kaworu blinked, and smiled as Rei launched herself up into the heavens. He turned to Shinji then, and Shinji could just feel the frown even with his eyes shut. "Why won't you look at me?"

"Because you're not wearing any pants," Shinji said, trying to hide behind annoyance. He felt like he'd killed a puppy, like he'd let that kitten behind, hearing the sad petulance in Kaworu's voice.

Why wouldn't Shinji like him? Why wouldn't Shinji be his friend?

Why did Kaworu have to do things like kneel down so he could nudge his head against Shinji's hand?

Shinji swallowed, throat feeling thick. "You're really alive?"

Kaworu nodded. "I'm as surprised as you are." And maybe a bit surprised that Shinji wasn't moving his hand away?

The third child touched that white hair with his other hand, remembering a twisted embrace. But… if it would make someone happy….

Kaworu was alive. Really alive. The boy Shinji couldn't help but fall in love with.

Kaworu was alive, Rei was alive, Asuka was alive and as sane as she'd ever been.

Misato was dead, everyone in NERV was probably dead, including his father? And Asuka had murdered people, just like the soldiers. How could he think, even for a second, that this was a victory? That he'd come out ahead, when he'd failed to protect so many people who had people who cared about them and actually wanted them?

A little hopeful sound in Kaworu's throat, and he'd made Kaworu happy, hadn't he? He'd granted Kaworu's wish. And now Kaworu wasn't dead anymore.

After awhile, he tried scratching at Kaworu's head.

Kaworu wasn't human. That explained how he could purr.