Chapter Five, as promised! Happy belated Kawoshin Day, by the way!

Kaworu growled, but this was decidedly not from Shinji's thigh rubbing back and forth between his legs. Shinji's eyes opened, but barely, to look questioningly at the boy who had just moments before been frantically kissing everything between his forehead and his clavicle.

"Hm? Kaworu?" He murmured, nipping at Kaworu's slim jawline. Whatever it was that Shinji had done to irritate him, he was sorry.

"The door...someone knocked on the door." Kaworu breathlessly tried to explain, though he did not let go of Shinji's waist. Shinji's eyes widened now. Was it NERV? Or Misato? It was the middle of their third day off; he had hoped for more time than that. He had hoped for an infinite amount of time.

"Stay here." Kaworu mumbled, straightening his shirt and buttoning his pants back up before standing from the futon. By the look on his face, Shinji could tell that he wasn't thrilled with being interrupted, either. Shinji felt his breath and heart stop as Kaworu opened the door, then start again when Kaworu walked back into the room, alone, with a confused look and a small object in his hand.

"There was no one there." He shrugged, holding out a small cell phone with a white card attached to it. "This is for you."

Shinji took his turn at making a confused face as he stood and took the phone, plying the tape attaching the card off. "SHINJI" it read on one side. The other side read "1700. OUTSIDE, ALONE. - MISATO". Shinji could feel his stomach turn into knots.

"What is it for?" Kaworu asked, sitting back on the futon. Shinji shook his head.

"I don't know." He muttered. He briefly considered tossing it out the window, pretending he had never seen it. He hadn't been home when it was delivered. Whatever. But he couldn't help but think of Misato's sad smile when she left a few days before. He still felt bad about how they had spoken to one another the morning he left. And she had never given him a reason to not trust the things she actually said - only the things that she left unsaid made him nervous.

He checked the clock on the wall - two minutes until five o'clock.

"I'll be right back." He said, smiling with apology and slipping into his sandals. Kaworu nodded, but the concern that turned his usual smile into a more neutral lip line was not easily hid.

The phone rang exactly on time, almost as soon as Shinji stepped outside the front doors of the building.

"Misato?" He answered, partially annoyed, but mostly worried.

"Just listen." Misato cut him off. Her voice sounded far away and muffled. "At 1730 you are to get into the security car that is parked on the corner. The agent is a friend of mine, he'll bring you to where I am. You'll be free from observation for 90 minutes."

Shinji's stomach knots turned into blades. This was beginning to sound too familiar, too much like Ritsuko. Misato continued, not giving him the chance to interject or even catch his breath.

"I need to have a conversation with you, in private, so come alone. This phone is not being tapped either. Just leave it on the ground when you go back in, it will be taken care of." A small pause, then, "This is very important, Shinji. Please do what I ask."


Shinji stood, stiff, unable to move or take the phone away from his ear or even blink for several moments. Then, as if by mechanical instinct alone, he dropped the phone on the ground, turned casually around and walked back into the building. He waited to start hyperventilating until he was at the apartment door, where he found himself almost unable to remember the function of a door handle. Thankfully, Kaworu had heard his labored breathing on the other side and saved him the trouble, catching him as he stumbled into the room. It took several minutes for him to calm down, Kaworu silently rubbing his back, before he could tell him what had happened. Kaworu listened thoughtfully, though he didn't seem to fully understand - not without any knowledge about what had happened the last time Shinji received a similar phone call.

"You should go if you want to, Shinji." Kaworu finally said, though he didn't seem happy to say it. "But if I am to be honest, it makes me worry a little."

"I trust Misato, mostly." Shinji sighed, putting his head in his hands in exasperation. "But all makes me uncomfortable." He glanced up at the clock again - ten minutes to decide.

"And you're sure I can't come with you?" Kaworu asked, leaning forward, his elbows balanced on his knees.

"She made it pretty clear that I should come by myself." Shinji let his head turn towards Kaworu's gaze. "Whoever is driving probably wouldn't even let you in the car. And I don't know where we're going, so I can't have you meet me anywhere. But...I don't think Misato would do this unless she really had to. She's not that kind of a person."

"You've decided to go, then?"

"I guess." Shinji sighed again, taking Kaworu's arm and putting it around his shoulders. "Yeah. But I'll come right back here, so don't worry."

"I'll be waiting, then." Kaworu hugged Shinji closer to him and smiled, but it was strained.

Misato sighed, hanging up her phone and tossing it into the passenger seat of her car as she sped through the half-empty city. Navigating a private conversation with one of her pilots seemed next to impossible, and she hoped all the favors she had pulled had gone through for the short 90 minutes she needed Shinji to be alone. She had even gotten Hyuga to run decoy feed through the monitoring equipment that had been placed secretly in Nagisa's apartment. She could trust that Shinji would speak to her outside in private; she had figured that he'd be more receptive alone without his playmate standing right next to him. But she was confident that he would tell the Fifth Child about the conversation right afterwards, as she was even more confident that neither one of them was aware that they were under surveillance in the first place. At least she hoped that they weren't aware, especially after the awkward moment she and Hyuga shared when they actually reviewed the videos. They were teenaged boys, after all; though it was hard for her to actually think of Shinji as such, at least in that respect. She just hoped that Intelligence wasn't too disappointed when they realized that all they had on the two pilots was some amateur porn and a few cooking lessons.

Everything was moving so quickly, so much so that she still had not decided how she wanted to approach the whole situation. The information that she was able to procure, while incomplete and not entirely conclusive, was still rather suspicious. Once Ritsuko was allowed to work again, they might be able to do a little more with the help of the Magi and her own personal connections in the NERV network, but now she would have to work on what she had. She would show the files to Shinji. She would explain her thoughts on the matter. She would do this before she handed the information over to Commander Ikari. That was the plan so far.

He was not going to handle this well, she could guess that much. What is the appropriate reaction to have when you're told that your lover might be working for an ominous organization that may or may not have some devious ideas about the future of mankind? Not that she would know, of course...she hadn't handled the situation very well when she learned of Kaji's second job, and his position wasn't half as mysterious as Nagisa's might very well be. Not that it stopped her from listening to him, sleeping with him, falling back in love with him again.

And it wasn't as if she was so sure that NERV was in a better position to be defending humanity at this point, either. Bit by bit, things were slowly starting to come together for her as they drew closer and closer to what she had always thought would be their last battle. She had hated the idea of the Angels, of another Impact, of not being in control of her own life or destiny - that's why she had joined NERV to begin with. And she had believed in it, too. Believed in it so much that the idea of Shinji being apathetic, of not caring about their mission, used to make her tense up with an emotional rage, as if he were saying that he didn't believe in the lives of millions of human beings, that he didn't believe in her. But as time went on, she came to understand more and more that Shinji perhaps understood more than anyone what the real score was; his father was cold, calculating, and quite possibly a psychopath. This man, who she once viewed as the epitome of "cool under pressure", placed children, his own child, into what were essentially uncontrollable beasts, forced them to be the heart and soul of these monsters that they barely understood, forced them to sacrifice and lose life and sanity in the process. Forced them to fight and to kill and to maim, not only their enemies but their own comrades. Forced them to do this without any respect for them, their dignity, their personhood, their lives. Shouldn't these children know what they were fighting for? Shouldn't they all know what they were fighting for?

That's why she had to do this, she told herself. It wasn't that she didn't approve of Shinji having a friend, or even a romantic relationship. Part of her was almost grateful to Kaworu for being able to find that part of Shinji, to bring it into existence, even if it was based in a potential ruse. But, as much as Shinji deserved the idea of love, he also deserved the idea of veracity, and if she could start giving that to him for once she knew that she would at least be doing one thing right by him. Love and truth and pain always came together - Shinji would have to learn this and overcome it if he was going to have any chance to survive.

She pulled her hair back into a ponytail after parking, grabbing her bag and quickly rushing into the small office complex. Truth was the ultimate goal at this point. Her own worries, not about the Fifth Child being an agent, but an angel, would have to stay with her for now, especially since she had no proof whatsoever. Ritsuko could have just been messing with her head when she had planted that seed; she wasn't entirely stable anymore, so Misato wouldn't put it past her. But the feeling stuck with her, no matter how many times she told herself to rely on facts and facts only. Who knows...maybe all the late nights and the obsessing over work and the practical dissolving of her reality as she knew it recently was making her start to lose it, too. There was no reason to even mention it to Shinji...he would disregard her outright for having no real reason to have such a suspicion. She wouldn't be mentioning it in her report, either - God forbid she was wrong, she'd essentially be sentencing Nagisa to be disappeared in the middle of the night, imprisoned, tortured, or worse. She had no doubt about that - she had already seen how expendable the pilots were considered to be by Command. And this was not only about him, but Rei also; any reasons to think that Kaworu was not human were aspects that he shared with the First Child.

"Christ, Shinji. You have the worst taste in men." She muttered to herself as she slunk into a chair, rubbing her temples and trying to calm her nerves. She couldn't help but smile a bit. "Well, I guess that's another thing we have in common, then."

Shinji fidgeted endlessly in the back seat of the car. This wasn't right; whatever was happening was not sitting well with him. He almost laughed to himself when he thought of how different this feeling was from how he used to feel about these sorts of situations - during his first car ride in Tokyo-3, for instance, he hadn't even bothered to ask about what was happening or what that huge monster was that was thrashing about in the background. What was it now that made him so nervous?

The car slowly rolled to a stop outside what appeared to be an abandoned office building. The agent opened his door for him and he took a shaky step onto the gravel, steadying himself on the open door before following him inside. They came to a seemingly random office door when the anonymous agent knocked in a deliberate pattern of strikes before turning without a word and walking back to the front of the building. Shinji took a deep breath in as the door opened, Misato waving him inside, taking a quick look around before following him and closing the door behind her. The room looked like any typical office - a desk, a few chairs, a coffee table. The only light was a small desk lamp, and his eyes had to adjust to the dim evening glow coming in through the window as Misato sat on one side of the desk, motioning for Shinji to sit opposite her.

"Misato, I don't understand..." He began rather timidly as Misato reached into her bag and tossed a few manilla folders onto the desk top, pushing them towards him.

"There isn't much time left before I have to report back to headquarters." She said, her voice stern. "So I don't have time to hold your hand."

"Will you stop it?!" Shinji shocked himself with the outburst. Misato looked equally surprised, her hand frozen on top of the files sitting in front of him. Shinji averted her stare, focusing on the fists he had balled up in his lap, concentrating on steadying his voice. "What is going on, Misato?"

Misato sighed, sitting back in her chair. Shinji unclenched and clenched his hands a few times in the silence, not looking up to face her.

"Shinji, I'm just going to be upfront with you, because I think you deserve to know the truth." She said, her voice sounding far away and dampened now. "About Nagisa-kun."

Shinji looked up at this.

"What...about Kaworu?" He asked, and he found himself unable to make it come out as anything but a hiss. Misato motioned towards the files once more.

"Why don't you take a look, while I explain."

Kaworu had tried and failed to browse three magazines at this point. He had settled for laying on his back on his bed, hands behind his head, and staring at the ceiling while he waited for Shinji's to come home. It had only been 20 minutes, but he was unaware because he had decided to stop looking at the clock. He couldn't help himself from bouncing his foot up and down with nervousness. Shinji had seemed very disturbed by the phone call, which meant there was more going on inside the brunette's head than he was saying in words.

When a knock came at the door he jumped up, his relief with the notion of Shinji's return clouding his sense of time and forcing him to ignore why Shinji would be knocking in the first place rather than just walking in. His heart sunk as the door swung open to reveal a being that was, in fact, not Shinji, though she bore a striking resemblance to him, to Kaworu's disdain. Almost as much of a resemblance that she bore to himself, which disturbed him even more.

"Nagisa-kun." Rei's softly acknowledged, stepping forward without invitation. Kaworu silently stepped aside and let her in. Every fiber in his body was slowly turning hostile, though he couldn't understand why.

"Ayanami-san." Kaworu finally responded as she stopped in the middle of his room, turning around slowly as she looked about. "Shinji-kun is not here at the moment, is there something I can help you with?" He said this to be polite. He, under no circumstances, wanted Rei anywhere in his room, or anywhere near him, for that matter. She stared at him dully, and he felt a shiver run up his spine.

"I know Ikari-kun is not present." She said slowly, expression not changing. "I came to speak with you."

"Oh?" Kaworu crossed his arms in front of his chest. He didn't know why he felt so angry. No, it wasn't anger that he was feeling. This feeling was much more familiar to him, and much more devastating in that way. Fear. He was afraid of her.

"I think..." She began, briefly looking down with a pause before returning to eye contact, taking steps towards him. "That I need to show you who you are, now."

"I'm not sure...I don't know what that means." Kaworu said, backing away slowly from her approach until his back was against the wall. His minor irritation and anxiety were now blooming into sheer terror as Rei stopped mere inches away from him, her eyes mirroring his own as she stared up at him.

"You will." She responded, reaching her hands out to him.

"Stop!" Kaworu's outburst was unintentional, his eyes focused on her hands pausing just short of contact. "Please...don't touch me." He remembered clearly how he felt the last time they had touched and, though he could not figure out why it had happened, he was quite sure that he would like very much to not feel that way ever again. It was like all of his worst sick days as a child rolled into one and compressed in his skull and his chest and his stomach, all within the instant of the light touch of her hand. He could feel himself begin to shake just at the thought of it. He couldn't even begin to consider about how strange the situation was; that Rei had shown up uninvited, was approaching him without explanation. All he could think of now was avoiding that feeling again.

"I'm sorry." Rei paused briefly, but did not lower her arms. "But...we must do this. For Ikari."

Kaworu did not have time to protest again before her hands were trailing up his face into his hair, fingertips dragging to the back of his scalp. The room began to spin slowly, and he could feel with an achingly surreal awareness his eyes rolling back into his head before his knees gave out from under him.

"None of this..." Shinji finally said, firmly gripping the files in his fingers, "...matters." Misato huffed in disappointment.

"You realize that this information is going straight to your father." She reminded him.

"None of this proves anything." Shinji repeated. "This is just a bunch of random information."

"It doesn't bother you in the slightest that Kaworu's exact arrival date to our facility was scheduled nearly ten years ago? That all of his personal information has been deleted from his records? That he is quite possibly a plant for SEELE?" Shinji could hear the anger begin to boil in her voice. He wondered if she would hit him again.

"I don't believe that." He said quietly, setting the files back on the desk.

"Well, you should!" Misato yelled, standing. Shinji turned his face away from her. "You should very well believe that he could be here to destroy everything we've worked for!"

"Like Kaji?" Shinji sounded more cruel than he had intended. Misato ignored it.

"You can't run away from the truth, Shinji." She responded instead, her hands gripping the edge of the desk. "Stop being so damn foolish!"

"I don't believe any of this!" Shinji shouted back, nearly knocking his chair over as he jumped up to match her aggression. He could feel his teeth grinding down, his heart pounding in his chest.

"Oh no?" Misato yanked a file from the pile, pulling out a glossy photo and shoving it towards Shinji's face. "So you don't believe this, then?" Shinji's eyes closed automatically and he turned away, suddenly and overwhelmingly nauseas. He had only briefly looked at that particular file as Misato was laying out all of her "research" - he couldn't bear to see it. The NERV Germany secret Dummy Plug system. The eyes of a hundred Kaworu's looked at him from the shiny photo, floating weightlessly in a tank of orange LCL.

"Please..." He coughed, covering his eyes with his hand. "Please, put that away."

"Why?" Misato asked quietly, sliding the photo back into the folder. "Why are you being so stubborn?"

"Because I love him." The silence hung between them as Shinji slowly sunk back in his chair, defeated. Misato followed his lead, her tone calming as she crossed her legs under the desk, resting her chin in her hand.

"So it's not that you don't believe any of it." She pointed out, blowing a strand of hair out of her face. "It's just that you don't care."

"It's both." Shinji was successfully keeping his tears at bay, though he wasn't sure how much longer he could hold out. "I don't think that Kaworu is anything but what he says he is. Everything else...maybe he doesn't even know about it."

"Really." Misato's voice sounded skeptical as she raised an eyebrow at him. "And the Dummy Plug System?"

"That..." Shinji felt his breath stop in his throat. "I don't care about that."

"Really." Misato was laying it on thick.

" her own person, I think, no matter where she came from." Shinji started, his tongue feeling heavy in his dry mouth. "Maybe...maybe there are more bodies that look like Kaworu...but the one here is my Kaworu." He looked up at Misato finally, her eyes showing a glimmer of consideration. "I really don't believe that he knows about any of this, Misato. Why don't you ask him?"

"Oh, I plan to." She said, collecting her files and tossing them back in her bag. "In fact, you'll both more than likely be called in for questioning within the next 24 hours." Shinji swallowed hard when she said this, but he kept quiet.

"You need to be getting back, now." She said, standing up and walking around the desk.

"Okay." Shinji lifted himself up, exhausted, and walked towards the door behind her. His legs felt like they would give out from under him at any second.

"Listen, Shinji." Misato paused with her hand on the door, her back rising and falling with a deep breath before turning to face him. "What you said about Kaji..."

"Misato, I'm sorry." Shinji said, looking at his feet. He was not proud of using that weapon on her twice now.

"No, it's okay, because you're right." Misato placed a hand on his shoulder, though he found himself unable to meet her eyes. "When I found out about hurt. But I still believed in him, because..." She stopped, clearing her throat. "...because I loved him. And even though I don't think he was an evil person, his work is what led him to be killed. I couldn't protect him, because I didn't know him." She bent down now, both hands on Shinji's shoulders, forcing him to face her. "Do you understand what I am saying to you, Shinji?"

Shinji nodded, but barely, before his shoulders hunched in on themselves and the sobs he had been holding back this whole time came out in harsh breaths. Misato pulled him close and he allowed her to do so, her strong arms holding him tightly to her.

"I told you all these things because I care about you." She said as his shaking came under control. "I came to you first, before the Commander or anyone else, because this concerns you more than anyone. I believe in you, Shinji. I want you to believe in me, too."

"I know." Shinji rubbed at his eyes with the back of his wrist as Misato released him, standing up straight. "I'm sorry for...everything, lately."

"It's all right. And I promise that I'll respect your decisions from now on." She opened the door, giving a quick glance up and down the hallway before motioning towards the agent at the front entrance. "But please, understand that your decisions have consequences."

"I know, Misato." Shinji sighed as he stepped out of the room. Even he heard the adolescent sass in his voice and was sort of bored by it. Misato gave him a look, half aggravated and half amused, and he almost saw the old her there for a moment. It made him smile.

"Okay then." Misato smiled back at him, ruffling his hair. "Be safe, Shinji. I'll see you soon."

When Kaworu's mind settled enough to be aware of his senses once more, he found himself on his knees and clutching at the First Child's school skirt with aching fingers, his body shaking violently and his face noticeably sweating even though he was cold, so cold. Then the realization that no, it was not sweat that was rolling down his cheeks and chin, it was tears. He was crying?

Rei stood silently over him, one hand gently petting his hair, the other hanging limply at her side. He struggled over whether he wanted to push further up to extract every bit of comfort from her stroking as possible or to snap her wrist back and then proceed break every bone in her hand. "Conflict" was nowhere near strong enough of a word to describe what he was going through.

"How are you feeling, Tabris?" Rei spoke as Kaworu released her from his grip, sitting back onto his calves and cradling his head in his hands.

"Don't call me that." Kaworu groaned, the sound of both of their voices banging around the inside of his head as if they were the first noises he'd ever heard.

"That is your name, yes?" Rei asked, smoothing out the wrinkles he had left in her uniform.

"No. Yes." Kaworu wished she would stop talking out loud. "It is. But I would prefer it if you called me Kaworu."

"Understood." She knelt down beside him, holding her skirt in place underneath her as she took a seat on the floor. "I would prefer it if you called me Rei, as well."

"Mm." Kaworu peered at her through his fingers, her calm red eyes a strange reflection of his own wild ones. He suddenly felt the need to wretch and he bent further over towards the floor, his back curving as he tried to suppress the upheaval in his bones.

"It will take you a moment to adjust. Do not try to force it." Rei noted quietly, digging into the breast pocket of her uniform shirt and producing a small red capsule. "Here, this should help you through the night. I would not be surprised if some of your Integrity medications have been replaced with placebos since you've been sent here."

Kaworu took the pill and swallowed it dry. As much as he wanted to distrust her, he found that he was unable.

"I am...trying to that the correct word?" Kaworu sighed, wrapping his arms around his legs and drawing his knees into his chest. "I can't remember."

"I understand." Rei responded, and Kaworu closed his eyes at the comfort of her statement. As cold as she appeared to be, he could feel a maternalism emanating from her very being. He wondered if that was because her children had been the ones to survive. "I was awakened in a controlled state, over the last few weeks. This is probably quite disturbing for you."

"Yes." Kaworu agreed, keeping his eyes shut as his body began to settle back into its skin. "I am...thankful? Yes, grateful to you. But also...upset." His eyes opened, and focused on her, but calmer now. "I do not understand why you did this."

"But you are aware that I did nothing to you." Rei remained stoic. "This is who you are. You would have awoken at some point in time, now that you are so close to your other self. And to me."

"Yes, I know." He sighed. "I can feel them already. It feels...sad."

"Lonely." Rei corrected, and Kaworu nodded slightly in agreement. The anger and fear he had towards her was rapidly melting into empathy, even if there was a slight hint of rivalry remaining.

"I can easily understand how the Lilin would feel towards my kind..." He said. "But you've been imprisoned by your own progeny."

"Yes." Rei said, her gaze shifting towards the window and into the darkening sky. "I suppose that's correct."

"Are you not tired?" He asked sincerely.

"At times." She answered. "But they are a part of me, and so are the choices they make." She turned back to him, eyes slightly downcast. "And, like you, I am not entirely Lilith. I am also Rei Ayanami."

"That is of a small comfort. We are trapped...even as Lilin children they have controlled every breath from our bodies." Kaworu shrugged, letting his shoulders relax back and his legs stretch out onto the floor. "It does not seem to me that our current fates are all that dissimilar to our ancestral selves."

"No, perhaps not." She agreed. "But, though you and Commander Ikari both host Adam, you are not the same person. And Tabris is not Kaworu Nagisa, though you are the same person. We are shaped by our interactions with others, even if they have been restricted."

"Gendo Ikari...Shinji's father..." Kaworu began to look around the room suddenly, eyes darting from place to place, brows lowered in concentration. Something felt off. Rei watched him for a few moments before speaking again.

"I've taken the liberty of altering the feed of the monitoring equipment in your quarters." She explained. "You can most likely feel the energy that they are giving off, now that you are sensing things more clearly."

"Ah." Kaworu calmed himself, nodding at this new sensation. "Still, I am unclear as to your are a creation of Shinji's father, yes?" Rei blinked neutrally in response. The sharing of some personal information about one another could not have been avoided by waking him in the manner that she did. "So it is in your best interest to catch me off guard, to destroy me efficiently, I would assume."

"Those are his best interests, yes." Rei folded her hands on her lap. "And he would most likely have done so if he had definitive knowledge that you are the 17th Angel. Or if you had made the first strike."

"Your motivations differ, then?" Kaworu could feel the tug of an amused smile at the corner of his lips.

"I'm...not entirely sure." She looked down at her hands, her blue hair falling softly from behind her ears. "At one point, I would have gladly given myself to whatever use he deemed necessary. But recently...I've grown to care about others besides him."

"About Shinji." Kaworu said bluntly. "He told me that you sacrificed yourself to save him during your last battle." He did not feel jealous, not really - he had felt enough of her to know that her feelings towards Shinji were not the same as his own, or at least not as well developed, though she did feel rather affectionately towards him. He was glad for anyone in Shinji's life that cared for him. But that didn't change the fact that she was strongly connected to his father, and that alone made Kaworu apprehensive.

"Yes, Ikari...I think that I have learned much from him." Rei's mouth gently curved into a barely noticeable smile. "This body has only been Rei for a short time, but some memories have been coming back. Though I am not sure why he is so concerned for me. Maybe he is reminded of his mother in some way, even though he doesn't seem to recognize me as such."

"It is because he is genuinely kind." Kaworu answered for her, his smile matching her own. Rei looked over at him, pushing her hair back out of her eyes.

"You truly love him." She was not asking. Kaworu nodded anyway; it made him feel good to affirm it.

"My feelings have not changed." He said, more to himself than her, relief dripping from his words. "Tabris' heart is my own."

"I am glad to hear that." Rei stood now, straightening herself. "I came to you because, when the time comes, I want you to do what is right for Ikari. And you cannot protect him if you do not know yourself."

"I see." Kaworu stood after her, balancing himself through a head rush by placing his hand lightly against the wall. "And what about you? What will you do?"

"I have not decided yet." She said, her voice travelling far away from him as she turned towards the door.

"I will protect him from you, if I must." He said, voice heavy with promise.

"That is acceptable." She said, her back to him as she opened the door to leave. "I will leave additional medications for you in your locker tomorrow."

The door closed silently behind her.

Shinji had pressed himself against the car door, hand gripping the handle as he suffered through the ride home. He probably looked rather strange to the agent driving him, but he didn't care - sitting tensed and ready to jump out of the car was the only thing keeping him from completely breaking down. When they finally pulled to a stop outside of the apartment, he nearly fell over himself scrambling to get out, pushing through the front glass doors and taking the stairs two at a time to get to their floor. He had to get all of this out of himself. He didn't even care what Kaworu's answers were at this point - as long as at the end of them, there was still I love you. He realized now what it was that had made him so nervous through this whole situation where before he would be apathetic at best - he actually cared about someone else's life...and that had taught him to care about his own life.

"Kaworu!" Shinji panted as he rushed through the door, eyes immediately adjusting to the dark room inside. He could make out Kaworu's pale glow seated on the edge of the futon, arms wrapped around his shins. He looked up at Shinji lazily, as if he were just waking up.

"Shinji..." He said slowly, straightening himself. "Are you all right?"

"No! I mean, I'm okay, but..." The words stopped in Shinji's mouth as he caught his breath. What if Kaworu knew about all these things? Almost worse, what if he didn't? How would even even begin to explain...Shinji sat next to Kaworu on the futon, switching on the bedside lamp. Had he been paying attention, he would have noticed that Kaworu's slight glow remained now, even in the light.

"We need to talk about what Misato said." Shinji finally said decisively.

And then it all came out. All the documents Misato had gathered in Germany. All of the suspicions that she had shared, and was planning on reporting to his father. Even the Dummy Plug system, though he explained that last and a bit more gently, both to protect Kaworu's feelings and because he was still coming to terms with it himself. Kaworu's face remained rather neutral, to Shinji's surprise, but it was not uncharacteristic for him to be composed under pressure, especially since Shinji was so obviously a mess.

"But did you know about any of this, Kaworu?" Shinji leaned forward earnestly when Kaworu remained silent after the outpour. "You didn't, right?"

"" Kaworu smiled, though his eyes remained wide and his face a bit gray.

"Oh, thank god." Shinji threw his arms around Kaworu's sunken shoulders, oblivious to the way Kaworu's arms were slightly shaking as they returned his embrace. "I told Misato that. I told her."

"I was aware that SEELE was involved with my selection as a pilot, but I did not think that was unusual." Kaworu said quietly.

"You're taking this so well." Shinji noted, pushing a tuft of silver hair out of Kaworu's eyes. "Are you okay?"

"Oh, yes." Kaworu smiled weakly. "It's just...quite a bit to think about."

"Listen, I want you to know that none of that stuff matters to me!" Shinji tried to be reassuring, placing Kaworu's hands down on his waist and shifting closer. "We'll get all of this sorted out with Misato, and we'll get the whole story. We'll just tell her the truth. Okay?"

Kaworu did not respond, and his head hung low, his hair covering his eyes once again. Shinji could feel him shaking now, and he worried that it all had really been too much for him to take in all at once. But before he could say anything, Kaworu gripped his waist and pulled him in, spinning him around so that he was sitting in between Kaworu's legs, his back against Kaworu's slightly heaving chest, one pale arm wrapping around his torso so tightly that he felt his ribs creak under the pressure. Kaworu's free hand went over Shinji's mouth, firm enough that Shinji's protests about Kaworu's binding hold came out as muffled noises. This also held Shinji's head in place against Kaworu's shoulder, which he realized when he found he was unable to turn his head towards the source of the jagged breath against his ear.

"Shinji, just be still for a moment." Kaworu murmured low as Shinji's wriggled in his grasp. "Be still and listen."

Shinji complied, though he could feel his heart thudding in his chest. He reminded himself that he trusted Kaworu and relaxed a bit in his arms, resting his hands on each of Kaworu's legs on either side of him.

"I need to tell you something that will be upsetting to you. I'm holding you like this because I want you to listen to me until I've explained myself adequately, and if you interrupt me I may lose my will." Kaworu continued, his voice darker than Shinji had ever remembered it. Shinji did not understand what he could be talking about...he had just said that he didn't know anything about Misato's findings. Shinji could not voice this concern. Instead, he brought a hand up to rest on the one Kaworu was clutching his rib cage with, patting it softly. He felt Kaworu sigh heavily against his neck.

"I was being truthful when I said that I did not know about any of the information that Misato gave you." Kaworu began slowly. " must believe me when I tell you that I have only just discovered what I am about to say. But Misato was indeed right to be suspicious of me and my presence here."

Shinji tried to question Kaworu at this, but the pale fingers binding his mouth did not relent.

"Shinji, I am the 17th Angel."

The words had not quite sunk into Shinji's ears before he tried to rationalize them away. Of course, Kaworu did not mean what he just said literally. There must be some additional explanation coming, some sort of metaphoric lesson Kaworu was trying to convey.

"I have always been the Angel..." Kaworu continued, and Shinji felt his stomach begin to churn cold. "But it has been dormant inside of me until now. SEELE has sent me here, for what exact purpose I am unsure, but..." A soft exhale as Kaworu caught his breath. "But, after everything that you just told me, I believe that they sent me here to either awaken on my own and begin Third Impact, or to die while I am still under control and weak." Kaworu tightened his embrace around Shinji, and then let his arms relax. "I'm going to let go of you now, okay? not run from me."

Kaworu's arms lifted from around Shinji, and Shinji turned to face him, trying to to keep his breath steady. Kaworu kept his eyes on Shinji, his expression a mix of worry and shame, his fingers trembling against his knees. Shinji huffed and closed his eyes, a sad smirk crossing his lips.

"Idiot." He said at last, looking back up to Kaworu's surprised face. "I would never run from you."

Kaworu blinked a few times at Shinji's smile, and Shinji felt like the entire world around them let out a relieved sigh when Kaworu smiled back. Kaworu lifted his hand up, as if to stroke Shinji's face or hair, but it fell just short of touching him, landing down on his leg instead as Kaworu buried his face against his chest.

"Thank you..." Kaworu whispered, his voice unsteady and tired but overjoyed. "Thank you, Shinji..."

Shinji nuzzled his face into Kaworu's messy hair. It felt and smelled just the same as it always did. Kaworu's body felt just the same as it always did when he pulled him in close, the two of them just hugging quietly for a few minutes in the dim glow of the bedside light. His voice sounded just the same as it always did when he let out a little pleased hum against Shinji's collar bone as Shinji ruffled his hair. Kaworu was the same Kaworu he knew; that's all that Shinji cared about.

It was already a given that they would be up all night talking. Kaworu switched off the lamp and pulled the blanket over the two of them, enshrining them in a soft cotton cocoon, their hands searching in the dark for each other's faces and bodies while their eyes adjusted. It made Kaworu miserable to think that only that morning he had planned to read Shinji more poetry, to pick out a favorite piece of theirs to play together at the abandoned school auditorium, to be doing essentially anything together that wasn't tinted with fears of being separated or imprisoned or worse. But he still couldn't help but smile when Shinji's forehead nestled into the crook of his neck and when Shinji's thin, calloused fingers gripped just a little too hard onto his shoulders.

Shinji, quite naturally, had an endless stream of questions that Kaworu tried his best to answer, though he felt that his explanations fell rather short of the true reality of things. Lilin words, he was finding, were rather limited in scope, and his human brain was still aligning with his soul and making sense of the almost unlimited amount of new knowledge within him.

"You are still...Kaworu?" Shinji first whispered, fingers twitching with nervousness against Kaworu's skin.

"Well...yes." Kaworu tried to smile reassuringly. It was an understandable question. "I may have not realized it, but this has always been myself. I would say that I'm just...aware of it now. But all the things you know of me are still true."

Shinji nodded slowly and Kaworu couldn't help but laugh a little.

"I'm sorry, that sounds very abstract when I hear it out loud." Kaworu put his fingers to his lips, hiding his smile. "I hope that you can forgive me. I am trying my best."

"N-no...I understand...I think..." Shinji smiled meekly in return, but it disappeared quickly. "And the Germany Dummy Plug system...are they all Angels too, then?"

"No, I can't imagine how they could be." Kaworu shook his head. "It would be too difficult to manage. They are most likely back-up vessels in case..." He paused and waited for a flash of nausea to subside. "In case this vessel is destroyed."

"Like Ayanami..." Shinji muttered. "Ayanami...they used her for the Dummy System you she...?"

"That is, perhaps, something you need to speak to her about." Kaworu interrupted. "I don't feel at liberty to discuss the nature of anyone but myself." He had intended that statement to be decisive, but felt that he might have given more away than he intended by his avoidance. Shinji nodded again, but did not look happy with his answer.

And so on and so forth, each answer he gave only leading to another question, deep into the night. Kaworu found himself loving Shinji even more profoundly than he thought possible; he had uncovered this part of himself - no, truly his entire self - and Shinji had embraced him. Shinji had embraced what was supposed to be his enemy. Kaworu wasn't a monster - Shinji's love had redeemed him.

"I am sorry that I have put you in this position, Shinji..." Kaworu kissed Shinji's forehead gently as his hands found their way underneath the back of Shinji's under shirt, and he was happy to feel that Shinji shivered at his touch just as he had always done before. "I do not wish to be a burden on you."

"It's okay..."Shinji smiled, snuggling himself closer into Kaworu's embrace. "And you're not a burden. I don't mind all this, if it's you."

"Still...I would not have blamed you for being afraid of me, or angry, even." Kaworu lifted Shinji's chin so that they faced one another, brushing the tip of his nose against Shinji's lightly.

"No...I don't feel those..." Shinji said, his eyelids heavy with thought. "I think...I think I already sort of knew, actually...maybe not knew, but felt, that you were different, somehow."

"Mm?" Kaworu murmured, bending his neck forward to kiss Shinji's earlobe. "Really?"

" know." Shinji blushed. "The other night...I thought I felt you sort of...coming into me..." Kaworu grinned and raised his eyebrows at that. He couldn't help but be a little light-hearted...everything was so serious and kind of scary at the moment. Shinji pinched him, blushing deeper.

"Sorry, sorry..." Kaworu laughed, taking Shinji's hand and kissing it in apology.

"That's not what I meant!"

"Yes, I know, please continue."

" just felt like I suddenly could feel things that I wasn't meant to feel." Shinji sighed, frustrated. "None of this makes any sense, I'm sorry. I don't know how to explain it better."

"No, I understand your meaning." Kaworu rubbed his face against Shinji's palm. "I think it is my instinct to merge with the human desire for intimacy that causes that."

"Merge?" Shinji blinked at him, confused.

"Ah...I feel this...physical need to find my source. It's...a sort of overwhelming feeling inside me, a drive to add to and become part of something greater than myself. The closest human need would be for love, I think." Kaworu found this particularly difficult to describe, as he could scarcely understand it himself. It was like trying to explain the drive to learn, to grow, to live - all things that humans experience but rarely stop to consider.

"Is that what all the Angels wanted?" Shinji's voice was heavy with realization. "Is that why they attack?"

"I cannot speak of their motives, as their consciousnesses were surely different than mine to a certain extent, but I believe that you are correct, yes."'

"But...why do they come here?" Shinji's breath was heavy. Kaworu realized that this was a lot for him, all at once, but he felt it was his responsibility to share whatever knowledge he could with Shinji, even it was painful.

"Because the sources of all Angel and human life are within the possession of NERV. Adam and Lilith both dwell underground, here in Tokyo-3." Kaworu answered quietly.

Shinji let at an exasperated noise and bumped his forehead against Kaworu's breastbone. There seemed to be no end to the things he didn't know and barely understood. Part of him wanted to just stop right there, call it a night, try to go to bed and put this all off until another time. But he was keenly aware that the time for this might short, and he wanted to know as much as was possible to know while he still could.

"So...Angels come from Adam..." He muttered against Kaworu's chest, slowly sorting out each idea.

"That's correct. And humanity comes from Lilith, who is not from Adam, but is kin to Adam." Kaworu continued for him. "Like brother and sister, I suppose."

"Then...what does that make humans?" Shinji turned his face upwards. He was trying very hard to ask the right questions.

"Lilim...humans...collectively, are a type of Angel." Kaworu's fingers threaded through his hair, an immense comfort to Shinji for such a small gesture. "Lilith and Adam have only so much life force to give. Lilith's was split into billions of minds and souls - Lilim possess the Fruit of Knowledge, and chose individuality and discovery as their crown characteristics. Their souls separate them into persons who are incapable of knowing one other, even though they are part of a greater being. Angels of Adam are few, but they possess the Fruit of Life - they are complete beings with unimaginable abilities beyond that of a single human. Their souls are expressed as what you know as an A.T. Field. Lilin souls are just your version of the A.T. Field."

"But...why do we have to fight each other? I don't get it." Shinji was trying to to not let any of this go over his head, but he was starting to wonder if that was really possible.

"Because we are not fated to exist together in this world." Kaworu sighed, words sinking heavy between the two of them. "It is our natural drive to to eliminate one another for survival."

"I don't want that, though!" Shinji exclaimed. He wasn't speaking about Lilim and Angels now, but about himself and Kaworu.

"No, I don't wish that either." Kaworu said, brushing his fingers along Shinji's jawline. "But what you and I want is irrelevant to others. SEELE sent me here for a reason. Your father is housing Lilith and Adam here within the city for a reason."

"My...father..." Shinji closed his eyes tightly. He was just about done with all of this.

"Shinji, Impact is not just about the erasure of one type of life or another." Kaworu said, tone becoming serious to match Shinji's fatigue. "Adam merging with Lilith would create a mass mingling of Lilim consciousness. Individuality will be lost, along with with the pain, loneliness, happiness, and comfort that come along with it. I think that SEELE and your father...together or separately...are planning on utilizing this to some advantage of their own."

"Um." Shinji rubbed the back of his head vigorously before sighing again. "What are we going to do? What should we do?"

"Let's just get through the next day or two, for now." Kaworu tried to smile, but it wasn't very convincing to Shinji. "We still don't know very much about the situation that we're in."

"And the questionings?"

"Don't worry about me, I can handle that." Kaworu laced his fingers into Shinji's, grasping tightly. "But do not put yourself in danger for my sake. Tell them whatever you need to keep yourself safe."

"We're protecting each other." Shinji reminded Kaworu firmly, and Kaworu nodded with an affectionate smile. Kaworu thought briefly about convincing Shinji to just run off with him, to go into hiding, but he knew that it was impossible. They wouldn't make it out of Tokyo-3 alive.

"I'm sorry, I wish I could explain this all better to you." Kaworu rubbed his hands up and down the skin of Shinji's back, and Shinji melted into the touch.

"It's all right..." Shinji murmured, repeating Kaworu's motion by gently caressing his pale chest. "You're the only person that's ever told me what's going on when I've asked." He was silent for a few moments, just letting Kaworu's presence calm him in the dark. He wanted to understand everything better, not for himself, but for Kaworu's sake. He wanted to be able to protect him from whatever might be coming. He had to be stronger.

"Kaworu?" He spoke finally, and Kaworu mmed in response. "What happened the other night...that was what you were calling 'merging'?"

"Yes...sort of." Kaworu blushed faintly in the dark, his pale cheeks glowing. "It's what happens when you and I let our individual boundaries down...our minds and souls coexist in the same space, and we can potentially become one in a very real sense. But..." His red eyes flashed downward. "I really must apologize for was not intentional, and I should not have encroached on you in that manner without your permission."

"Well..." Shinji breathed, both nervous and a little thrilled at what he was about to say. "You have my permission now."

Kaworu's eyes widened a little and Shinji felt his hands slow to a halt on his back, pressing firmly now rather than rubbing.

"I'm not sure I understand." Kaworu said, though the wanting tone in his voice told Shinji that he had understood perfectly well what he was getting at.

"It's something that you need, right?" Shinji asked, his hands shaking a bit as they slid down Kaworu's chest to his abdomen. "I want you to want to merge with me, not with anything else." His lips found Kaworu's neck softly, and Kaworu shivered against him.

"Shinji..." Kaworu swallowed, and Shinji could feel his pulse quicken against his lips. "It's been a long day, and I don't want you to feel pressured..."

"I don't feel pressured." Shinji said unwaveringly. "It has been a long day, you're right. And I want to feel something other than upset. I like being with you like this. And I liked what happened the other night. I want to share everything with you. I want you to share everything with me. I want to know you. Is..." He paused, looking up at Kaworu, who's face was so loving and pretty he could hardly stand it. "Is that okay with you?"

Kaworu nodded, eyes now heavy-lidded and dark, and took Shinji's lips quickly with his own.

Kaworu hoped that Shinji really understood what he had just asked for, because he wasn't certain he could stop himself at this point. He had spent his entire life struggling to be composed, to be calm, to blend into the background, to maintain a certain distance in order to survive. As Shinji let out a quivering sigh against his mouth, all that work became meaningless. He wanted nothing else but to become close to Shinji, as close as he possibly could; to sink into his very being, to be invaded by him. The intense ache he felt to rejoin with his roots became merely a dull nag in the back of his mind. Intrinsically, Adam and Lilith were not something he could choose to ignore now - but here, pressed up against the only person he had ever loved by choice, he could not help but to choose Shinji again, Shinji over all else, perhaps including his own instinct to live on.

But oh, how could he not die for this? The way Shinji reacted to every touch, his body somehow jumping up to meet his fingertips. The way his blue eyes lifted demurely up to meet his own, shyly letting Kaworu slowly peel his clothing from his body, his face flushing with modesty even as he lie exposed and waiting beneath him. The way Shinji would sweetly whisper his name when he was touched where Shinji was most longing, a gentle begging that made Kaworu want to do anything, anything, to sate him. Kaworu would destroy the world for him without a second thought, would crawl on hands and knees for the rest of his life if it meant he could brush his lips against Shinji's inner thigh the way he was doing now.

"Mmm...Kaworu..." Shinji's breath was warm against his ear as Kaworu continued to roll his pelvis against the brunette's underneath him, a small yelp following his name.

"Mhm, what is it?" Kaworu muttered, nipping Shinji's throat. He fully intended to leave marks this night.

"I can...I can still come back after this, right?"

"Of course, if that is what you wish."

Shinji let out a relaxed sigh and let his hands lazily trail up and down the sides of Kaworu's torso as Kaworu continued to leave love bites all over his neck and shoulders. Kaworu could feel it coming now, not just the want to be with Shinji physically but the compulsory need to join to him - a powerful and all-consuming drive that was slowly tearing down the soul force separating him as an individual being. He let out a low sound, not quite inhuman but on the verge of it, as he positioned himself against Shinji, and wove his fingers through silky brown hair while his forehead rested against Shinji's tan shoulder as he gently pushed inside.

For a brief moment, all was light. Blinding, permeating white light - it filled every vessel, every cell of Shinji's body, until he thought that perhaps he had always been just light all along, his physical form some strange dream that no longer mattered. The feeling of his heart pounding came back first, the white light pulsing to dark red and back again, fading away as he became more and more aware of his own thready breath, of his hands holding roughly onto shaking arms, of Kaworu's body on top of him and inside of him and all around him.

It's all right, you can let go now... The voice came, and he could not tell if he or Kaworu had said it, or maybe just thought it. Long, thin fingers were sliding back and forth against his scalp and he watched as Kaworu lifted his face, their eyes locking as he felt Kaworu push slowly inside of him again. Shinji opened his mouth, though no noise came out, and Kaworu watched him steadily, the vibrant crimson of his eyes washing over Shinji, pulling him in like an undertow, and Shinji felt himself swelling and opening, expanding, relinquishing.

Then came a sort of curious bliss. Whose hand was touching where? Where those his lips trailing across Kaworu's throat, or was it the other way around? There was a mess of legs and mouths and fingers and he could feel them all at once, all over him, all over Kaworu. Shinji tried to look up at him and found that he was looking down at himself, and he couldn't help but let out a delirious giggle and arch his back in delight. He could feel Kaworu (or himself?) smile, pleased - proud, even - and then oh, yes, God, more of that...

Kaworu rather enjoyed this little display as Shinji lost himself to the first waves of merging; so much so that he was tempted to keep him just like this, in limbo between being truly separate and truly joined, writhing joyously about underneath him. What a shame it was that, to live in this world and in this form, Shinji had to remain locked within the barrier of his own soul. He was nothing short of breathtaking as he revealed himself, bit by bit.

He felt as Shinji's legs wrapped wantonly around his waist (had he made that happen?) and could feel Shinji's adoration flow into him like a flooding river. How insignificant everything was in comparison to this - the earth and its people, Adam and Lilith, Angels and Lilim - what meaningless nonsense next to Shinji's love drowning him, filling his lungs and heart until he had no choice but to push forward, to open completely.

Who was inside who now?

It's irrelevant. Smile. Affection.

This is it? Shinji's physical form had seemly dissolved, but he could still feel when his body jerked and panted as Kaworu left a firm bite mark on his chest.

This is part of it. This is just you and I. Third Impact would be all people, with no physical forms left to anchor them to this life. Another bite.

You're really enjoying that.

Well, you rarely stay still long enough for me to taste you like this. Another smile.

I feel really strange...I'm having a hard time telling us apart, but we are also talking? Blue eyes, blue eyes.

Yes, our egos are only just starting to explore one another. Red eyes, red eyes. And I am regulating this to an extent...I've never done this before.

Kaworu, kitchen knife held awkwardly in his one hand, a mangled radish under the other. Shinji had just touched him for the first time. "I'm sorry, I've never done this before."

Oh! Kaworu's tongue following the pulse of Shinji's neck.

Just go at your own pace. Comfort. Silver hair brushing against his lips.

Shinji gripping tightly onto the handlebars of his new tricycle. It had seemed so fun and exciting when it was by itself in front of him. He was sitting on it now, and it was terrifying. His mother's hands gently wrapped over top of his own, hers so much bigger and softer than his, and he relaxed instantly. "It's okay, Shin-chan. Just go at your own pace."

Kaworu couldn't make his heart slow down for nearly an hour after the new medical assistant forgot to put on a new pair of gloves before lifting him by his hands from the examination table and setting him onto the floor. He had never felt another's skin before. He could hear her being scolded almost as soon as the door was closed behind him. She was not allowed to work there again after that.

Shinji let a finger trail lightly along the thickest string of the cello in his uncle's attic. It was surprisingly rough and tickled his fingertip as he went from top to bottom. He wiped the dust away from its curves with the sleeve of his jacket. The wood was shiny and smooth, and he imagined a warmth coming from the inside of it as he let his hand rest carefully against its side. He could feel his mother. Had she left this here for him?

Kaworu felt embarrassed that he was vomiting in front of the doctor. She had given him a small pink basin so that he wouldn't make a mess, which he was grateful for, but she did not look pleased at this interruption of her examination. He couldn't help it. He had been sick since yesterday. When he was done she took the basin away and cleaned his mouth with a wet wipe, and even though her hands were gloved he couldn't help but let out a longing whimper when he felt her finger brush the corner of his mouth. He wanted someone to hug him again.

Kaworu...Shinji's body tightly wound its limbs around the angel. The feeling of endless gratitude.

Shinji had started going to the library after school rather than to his uncle's house. Now that they were getting older, his cousin really didn't want Shinji near him when his friends were around. He hadn't said this out loud, but Shinji got the hint. Sometimes there would be leftovers from dinner when he got home, sometimes not. He lost a lot of weight that year. Nobody noticed.

Kaworu only smiled when his angry classmate shoved him up against the wall behind the school, snarling some sort of grievance over Kaworu having caught the eye of his lady-love. He got the feeling it wouldn't matter much to tell this boy that he was not interested in whatever girl this male was talking about, and Kaworu couldn't help but start laughing at how utterly vicious he was trying to look. The boy did not realize just how thrilling it was to be touched outside of of a doctor's office or a laboratory, even if it was in anger. Kaworu walked back to his quarters at NERV with a split bottom lip, grinning like a madman.

You've always been kind...even to those that were hurting you...

It wasn't kindness, exactly...more like detachment...

Yes, I can understand that, also...

Evangelion Unit 01. Mother's big day. Flashing lights, loud noises, screaming. Father looked at him differently after that. Maybe some kids are not good enough to be loved.

I love you...

What was it that made these children cling to their parents' legs like that? And what did it feel like when the parent reached their hand down, patting the child's hair softly? Kaworu put his small white hand up against the window glass, watching quietly. Something inside of him hurt.

I love you...

"Shinji-kun, would it be okay if I held your hand?"

I want to touch you...

"Kaworu-kun? Can I...would you mind if I sat closer to you?"

I want to be here with you...

Something ancient, not human, yet still somehow very human. Terrifying and beautiful. A solitary and incomplete existence.

Something broken and tired, still so young and small and weak in comparison. Not worth noticing. Not worth caring about. Not worth anything.

Thank you...for accepting me.

I want you to be here with me.

It felt like music in their bones as they began to separate; bodies released and spent, minds full and lush with one another. Kaworu had not even shifted off from on top of Shinji before he fell asleep, eyes fluttering closed as his breathing slowed, hands flat and hair spread out against Shinji's heaving chest. Shinji was not far behind him, the room growing dimmer as his eyes unfocused in the dark, even when it felt like his head was overflowing with golden light.