GOOD GOD, I SHIP THIS SO HARD. SEND HELP.

…Ahem. Yes. This is smut, but not my usual style of smut. I wanted more of the focus of this story to be on the emotions and the content of their conversation here rather than the smut, so I hope that plays up well upon reading it.

Lyrics are "Blue Dahlia" by The Gaslight Anthem


.frailty

/

'cause i've been so lonely

i can't imagine that kind of sympathy

/

At the delicate hour of three in the morning, when sleep is something long-gone and dreams are miles away, it strikes Shinji that Kaworu is very much like a spider. He lurks on the other side of the bed, skinny and silver in the pre-dawn moonlight, and despite being thin as a blade, he somehow manages to take up almost the entirety of the bed, much like how a spider seems so much larger in the presence of someone fearful of them. He causes no implicit harm, not really; and yet Shinji still feels tense, as if he needs to squish him with a washrag just in case he decides to pounce.

Even still, Kaworu is just lying there. Perhaps that's what makes Shinji so nervous. Then again, just about everything makes Shinji nervous anymore, be it too much motion or too little, too much noise or not enough, but Kaworu seems to personify an entirely different case of neurosis all on his own. And Shinji, for all his efforts, can't figure out why.

Kaworu's voice sighs out sleepy and languid from behind him. "Shinji?"

Something in Shinji's stomach flips. That voice makes him anxious, the softness of it, the way it seems to drift and pierce at the same time. Shinji's only response is a vague hum as he remains lying with his back to the other, staring at the wall ahead.

"Oh, good, you're still awake." At that, Kaworu's hand is on Shinji's shoulder and rolling him over, and all Shinji can do is let out a muffled little yelp that Kaworu, now facing him, merely blinks at. "That was a strange sound. Are you upset?"

Shinji huffs out an annoyed breath and avoids Kaworu's unnerving stare. Its brightness follows him even as he looks away, focused and inescapable. "I thought you were gonna…never mind."

"Did you think I would hurt you?" Kaworu gives a small smile that wouldn't be so alarming if it weren't for the sleek, feline curve of his mouth rendering it eerie. "I only want to talk."

"About what? It's three in the morning."

Kaworu shrugs, still smiling. "I don't know. Life, death, whatever you'd like."

Shinji makes to roll back over, but Kaworu's hand is still resting gently on his shoulder, and that somehow completely immobilizes him to the point where he's forced to stay right where he is. Annoyed, he lets out a sharp sigh and kicks the blanket off of his legs, suddenly overheated. "Yeah, well, I don't really feel like talking, so…"

"That's fine," Kaworu says easily. "Just lying here is more than enough for me. I like looking at you up close like this."

Shinji feels his face heating in spite of himself. Another cryptic statement from this cryptic boy. Is there no end to them? "You shouldn't say things like that to other boys, you know," comes his weak, huffy reply, gripping the edge of the blanket tighter around himself. He needs something to focus on besides the soft feel of Kaworu's fingertips ever ghosting along his shoulder. "It's really weird."

Kaworu remains unfazed. A fleeting white shadow flits across his strange face, lighting up his eyes and the sharp planes of his cheekbones. "And why is that? I thought being honest was a virtuous thing, yet so many of you seem to think otherwise."

"It's not like that," Shinji protests, propping himself up on one elbow to look down on him. "What I mean is – "

"Come back down to me," Kaworu interrupts, albeit quietly. He taps Shinji's shoulder in the most minute of gestures, yet it flattens Shinji outright and has him lying down within inches of him yet again. Kaworu smiles. "Better. Okay, go on."

And, for whatever reason, Shinji does. "What I mean is," he continues, "there are, you know…things that are okay to say, and things that aren't. People might think you're weird if you go out of your way to tell them that you like looking at them."

"Do you dislike it?"

"Huh?"

"Do you dislike me looking at you?"

Shinji blinks at him, thrown. Does he? He doesn't quite know. In some sense, yes, of course, because who likes being stared at in the first place? But then again, there's something else to this, something Shinji can't place, and it makes him nervous to attempt to give it a name. He's better off not thinking about it, truthfully, but Kaworu is waiting for an answer, and Shinji feels obliged to give him one. "I…ugh." He sighs and rubs his eyes with his fists, shaking his head. "Just forget I said anything."

Kaworu is silent for a moment before breathing out another laugh and murmuring, "Your defense mechanisms are endearing, though you don't mean them to be. Interesting."

But before Shinji can respond, he's suddenly distracted by the sensation of Kaworu shifting on top of his body, supported on his elbows and peering down at him with contemplative, lidded eyes. Shinji quails inside for one paralyzing moment when Kaworu, so very calmly, lowers so that their foreheads touch. His skin is cool rather than warm. It does nothing for Shinji's nerves, which have heightened to the point where he's pressing down hard into the pillow just to maintain some sort of distance between them, but every time he tries, Kaworu merely counters it by moving closer still. There's no getting away from him. "W-What are you doing…?"

"It suddenly came to me that I'd like to be closer to you," Kaworu says, as if it's the most simple concept in the world and Shinji is a fool for not understanding it. "And so, based on that desire, I assessed it." He blinks his bright eyes, his expression annoyingly calm. "It seemed like the practical thing to do, so why are you confused?"

Shinji gapes at him, baffled. "It's…no, it's not 'practical' at all!"

"No less practical than any other desire." Kaworu's hands find Shinji's, and his fingers are slender and cool when they interlace with Shinji's shaking ones. "When you're hungry, you eat. When you're thirsty, you drink. When you're tired, you sleep. These are all the things we do without thinking based on need and desire, right?" Kaworu is silent for a moment before gently squeezing Shinji's hands and settling atop him, his head nestling in the curve of Shinji's shoulder. "And when you want to be closer to someone, to feel them like this…it's just like being hungry. It's no different."

Shinji's lungs are burning from holding his breath so long. He lets out a slow, shaky exhale and tries his best to remain levelheaded, but that's a trial he's never managed any other time, let alone during a situation like this. The attempt bears no better luck, and he's trembling like a leaf within seconds. Kaworu lifts his head to look down at him, and Shinji steadfastly avoids his gaze with a quick turn of his head. "Am I heavy?"

"No, you're weird."

But the retort puffs out weak and not nearly as striking as Shinji needed it to be, and Kaworu just laughs and drops his head onto his shoulder again. His hair is soft and tickles Shinji's chin and the side of his neck, making him shiver. "At the very least, you don't seem too uncomfortable," Kaworu observes. His breath is warm, and his lips are very, very close to Shinji's ear. "Although you are shaking. Cold?"

Shinji only gets out a half-formed rebuttal before Kaworu is pulling the blanket up over them, cocooning them both in a warm sort of darkness that even Shinji, skittish as he is, almost finds comfortable. He can't see Kaworu's eyes, but he knows he's being stared at. He feels exposed, cracked open, as if Kaworu can see him in infrared and is picking out all his little heated details one by one. The thought makes his face flush warm, and he huffs out, "What is it?"

"It's you," Kaworu says softly. "You take up such little space, and yet you still remain the center of one's universe. How?"

Shinji's heart thumps hard in his throat. He's acutely aware of his palms beginning to sweat, which he dismays over when Kaworu takes his hands within his own again. Surely he'll know now. Even if that wouldn't give him away, Shinji has never been quite good at the whole "subtlety" thing, has he. "I'm…really just small," he says, just above a whisper. "I'm no one's universe."

There's a pause. "You don't know that."

Shinji sighs. It puffs out quiet and weak in the silence of the room and the tiny womb they've tucked themselves into. "Sometimes…I don't even feel like I'm a part of the universe. Like it's all just floating around me and I'm somewhere on the outside, watching everything happen without actually being a part of it. It's…"

"Lonely?"

Shinji looks at him with wide eyes, surprised. "Yeah. How'd you know?"

"You use that word to describe yourself more often than you think." There's a smile laced in Kaworu's words, although Shinji can't pinpoint it in the darkness. He can feel it, though, and it's more comforting than he'd like to admit. "You also have a tendency to make yourself out to be a mouse, something inconsequential and minute…and yet, truthfully, you're a bigger part of this world than you believe yourself to be."

"It's easier for you to say that than for me to believe it."

"Is it safer for you not to believe it?"

That question throws Shinji enough to knock him silent, blinking through the shadows until he can almost see the outline of Kaworu looming above him. Perhaps it's the lack of light that makes him more candid. He isn't sure if that's a good or bad thing just yet.

"In my eyes," Kaworu murmurs, fingertips tracing along Shinji's inner wrists, "you're a person that finds it easier to assume the lowest possible standing in the universe. If you were to think highly of yourself, you put too much at risk. So by shrinking down to something as small as you make yourself out to be, well…it lets you almost become invisible, doesn't it?"

Invisible. How many times has Shinji wanted to be such a thing? God, he's lost count. Hundreds. Thousands. Perhaps every single second of his life, except for this one right now – and that's a thought that comes quite out of the blue, making Shinji shake and turn warm and suddenly feel the need to grasp onto something to keep from slipping into the seams of the sheets and vanishing for good. His hands flutter up to weakly catch onto the sleeves of Kaworu's shirt. He can't speak. The revelation of someone understanding, however secondhand that understanding may be, is too much for him to bear without feeling as though his entire world has shrunken down to this room, to this bed, to this body.

"You're holding onto me," Kaworu observes, a note of surprise in his voice that hadn't been there before. "Are you falling?"

Shinji doesn't want to know what he means by that, and yet, without thinking, he nods. It's just a single frantic bob of his head, and he's just about to wonder whether or not Kaworu even sees it until he hears the rustle of the blanket and then feels the shift of Kaworu's body, the warm tide of his breath, the bumping together of their foreheads as they try to find each other through all the black. Shinji has no idea what he's doing, doesn't understand why his stomach flips when Kaworu's mouth grazes over his cheekbone, tries to pretend he didn't just gasp and lean up into him, but it's hopeless, it's useless, it's too much to even bother pushing away at this point when his body is so weak and his heart is so tired of charades that get him nowhere but lower and lower in the dirt.

Thought becomes intangible when their lips meet, and Shinji gives up. He lets go. He's done for.

The kiss is clumsy and crooked and all sorts of wrong in the first few seconds. There's breath and hands and something murmured from Kaworu's lips that Shinji doesn't catch, and then cool palms are cupping his face and slender fingers are weaving through his hair and something, something falls into place and Shinji's world just about stops.

Panting, he breaks the kiss to catch his breath, still grasping hopelessly at the other's shirt. His eyes flutter open to see the blanket slip off Kaworu's head, mussing his pale hair as he stares down at him with an expression that Shinji can't say he's ever seen before. The moonlight colors him unworldly, and Shinji wants to ask him what are you, why are you like this, why am I like this with you, but he doesn't have the breath to warrant the words. All the while, Kaworu just gazes down at him, not blinking, not moving. "You didn't stop me," he says, a touch breathless. "Not like last time."

Shinji covers his face with his hands, trying in vain to control his trembling and the hot flush of his cheeks. "I…"

Kaworu makes a small, thoughtful sound, a tiny little hum as he takes Shinji's wrists and coaxes his hands to fall away from his face. Looking at him is too much, so Shinji turns his head and closes his eyes, the coolness of the pillow easing his heated skin only the smallest bit. "I…didn't want to stop you," he admits on a weak puff of air, clenching his fists. "And I still don't. I-I met you halfway that time, because I just…it's different now, and…"

A long, tense silence stretches between them before Kaworu, in a voice softer than Shinji has ever heard, says, "You're a very strange person, aren't you, Shinji?"

Shinji looks at him now, blinking in surprise. "What?"

"I love that," Kaworu breathes out. "I love you for that."

He's not smiling anymore. If anything, he looks confused, jostled, lost in thought, and Shinji finds that he can't look away from him now, not when he looks like he's something straight out of a dream or some ethereal painting, all pale and prim and not quite there, not quite normal in a way Shinji can't place. Even still, there's that word again, that love word, that dangerous word. Shinji wants more of it. He wants to hear it until he bleeds it.

"I'm going to kiss you again," Kaworu says, leaning in closer. "Meet me halfway."

And Shinji does. He surges forward with a gasp and finds Kaworu's lips already parted and waiting for his, and they collide, the impact stealing away their breath and rendering them both lost in something without a name. In time, layers and barriers fall away and leave them bare, exposed to the night and to each other; their bodies press together, limbs entangled and hips aligned, and Shinji whimpers into the curve of Kaworu's neck when he touches him somewhere that aches and wants, when the sleek line of Kaworu's body moves against his in such a way that has him muffling his mouth into the other's shoulder to keep himself from crying out. Heat grinds against heat, and soft, needy sounds intertwine amongst the silence. Hands grasp at whatever they can reach; fingers shake and thread through hair both light and dark. There's movement, and there are more exhalations of that dangerous word in between hot presses of Kaworu's lips against Shinji's throat. Pale skin bruises under a threat of teeth, and all Shinji can say is yes, to keep going, in between inane gasps of the other's name.

The world comes to a crash mere moments later. Everything tightens unbearably before releasing in a blinding arch of nerves and heat, shuddering and clutching, falling. The walls close in, and for one perfect moment, it's as if they're the only two people left in the universe.

In the aftermath, they lie together, hands entwined and bodies weak. Kaworu's lips are shaking when he kisses Shinji's wrists. His breath is warm, his mouth soft. He tells him he loves him, over and over again, kissing his pulse every other three heartbeats.

Shinji cries because he believes him.