This is one of those fics that demonstrates that I have no control over what I write anymore: the original premise was manga!Kaworu trying and repeatedly failing epically, as I've said, then it shifted to Kaworu and Shinji in the period between when Kaworu figured out how to make this work and when he decided that he actually did kind of want to save the Lilim, then it would have been the transition to trying to save the world and all the ways that went hilariously wrong and then it got hijacked by Shinji and his issues. Part of the reason I wanted to have it be something episodic is that the grand conflict in Eva has not been resolved, the world has not been saved, and I wanted the fic to be about the process, not the end result.
About finding happiness in the process, loving the journey, instead of the reboots being an entirely tragic thing. Unfortunately the tragedy of it managed to creep into the fic via Shinji. Well, having people around who are not Kaworu and will call him on it when he acts like a jerk will help. Here is the final chapter, and a reason why Kaworu is too grateful to Shinji to ever call him on anything. Why he still feels that he doesn't really have the right.
"It's three in the morning," Shinji said, too weary to have any irritation to suppress, looking up at the clock on the wall. It was probably a mercy that Kaworu and Ritsuko's equipment made enough noise to keep the 'tick, tock' from echoing, from reminding them every second that time was an hourglass. Slipping by. Counting down. "It's always three in the morning. It has something to do with human biorhythms: our bodies are weakest right around now. This is the real Witching Hour, the time when hospitals lose a lot of their patients."
Kaworu whimpered, cheek pressed into the palm of Shinji's gloved hand as the other stroked hair that had never looked so much like the color of bone. The color of death. He pressed pale lips against that glove, nuzzling it, and in the dim room it was possible to see that Shinji's hand was glowing. The light of an AT field.
Keeping the angel away from Adam's flesh.
"Please," Kaworu said with a small, breathy voice, not quite a whisper. He shuddered a little, weakly, and choked back another whimper.
"Kaworu, you know better than to ask me this, right?" Shinji sounded too exhausted to say it sternly or even flippantly.
Eyes closed the angel ignored him, pushing his lips against the barrier of Shinji's soul with his mouth open. Not like the many kisses they'd seen him give Shinji. Mouth open, a hungry babe trying to reach their mother's flesh.
Begging Shinji to let him cause Third Impact: that was what they would have thought, if they hadn't heard this same exchange a dozen times since Shinji called them here to see this, so they'd understand.
Called them here because they were sort of friends now, and he clearly needed the support, hair unkempt and face covered in stubble. If he was wearing glasses…
"Please, Shinji, beloved." Kaworu drew in a shuddering breath. "Please, please don't let me, don't make me." Because soon he wouldn't have any choice.
"Kaworu…" There was no begging in Shinji's voice, but only because he knew that begging Kaworu wouldn't help, and there was no other god to answer.
"Please kill me." Kaworu panted, light, shallow breaths, not because he needed the oxygen but because of his Lilim body, his vessel trying to gather itself to fight off whatever was making it sick. But this was no illness Lilim were meant to experience.
Or was it arousal that rendered him feverish, body responding to alien instincts, alien drives? This was the first time any of them saw sweat on Kaworu's brow, saw him look delicate and frail. "Please, your hands…" He arched the back of his neck, nudging forward a little to try to get the hand that was stroking his hair to touch his neck, the elegant curve of his spine. "I want…"
"If I…" Shinji swallowed. "If I kill you, they'll just trigger instrumentality themselves, or Adam's soul will find another vessel…"
"If… Oh, Shinji…" Regret in Kaworu's voice, but only for an instant. "My wish, my only freedom: please. Please, beloved."
"But you're free now, free to be with me," Shinji said, but there was more than a trace of despair in his voice as he looked down at Kaworu, eyes glowing red as he called up the power of Adam's flesh to summon that AT field and keep its original soul from returning to it. "Don't you have your own wishes now? Haven't I granted as many of them as I can?" So please don't ask this of me.
"Shinji, beloved, please don't make me kill you," the angel said, opening his eyes to look up at Shinji. Half-lidded and red around the edges with exhaustion, they looked more like a rabbit's eyes than anything that could kill.
Kaji was the only one who thought of the killer rabbit. All the other angels were giants or infections: strange and powerful creatures, but the most powerful of them all was created in the form of a boy. The angel Lilim, weakest and most easily squished of the lot, was Legion. Was made up of a horde of billions that could force the flesh of Adam and Lilith to lend them the power they lacked. Then there was this… No, not a kid anymore: he looked Kaji's age right now and he had who knew how many thousands of years of experience, even if a lot of it was the same fifteen years over and over.
Either Shinji killed Kaworu or, from what Kaji had gathered, the angel was going to kill him. All having part of Adam in his body did was let Shinji project his own AT field, just like the human souls in the Evas made from those things. It didn't make his soul or AT field any stronger.
Kaworu was the one with Adam's soul, and Second Impact was really just a fraction of that thing's power. Kaworu's body was already trying to reach Shinji's to initiate Third Impact. The instant Kaworu lost control of his soul as well? Shinji's AT field wouldn't even slow him down.
The angel was already glowing with unfocused power that he couldn't suppress. The light of the soul. The sword and shield of the angels and Evas.
A glance over at Ritsuko saw her lighting another cigarette as she eyed her equipment. The rest of them were here to be in at the death (only question was whose), but she had science to do.
The only one who wasn't here was Asuka, who declared that she'd had enough of the two of them arguing about who killed who so whoever got to be the one without blood on their hands, told Shinji to flip a goddamn coin and stalked out to the guesthouse that morning.
Honestly, Kaji was hoping that Shinji would just do it. He wanted to see what would happen next for himself, see what he could dig up in SEELE's files while they were focused on the ritual. Who cared about computer security anymore when they were about to become gods?
Leaning against the wall next to him, Misato looked thoroughly disgruntled. The words 'Just kill the angel already and get it over with" were probably on the tip of her tongue, but they both knew that if they passed her lips Shinji would be furious with her and would absolutely refuse to kill Kaworu, especially since Shinji had made some resolution about not taking advantage of the fact people would come back too much anymore, or something like that, before Kaji got his memories back. Personally, he was going to take as much advantage of it as he could, but it wasn't like he was married. If he died early in a reset, Misato could manage the rest of it perfectly fine without him.
This was a heck of a tragic moment, but reminding themselves that they would probably all come back and the two lovebirds would be reunited made it a lot easier to keep from tearing up. Misato and Asuka weren't the only ones taking refuge in the 'will you two get on with it already' mindset. Because this still was a horrible thing to watch, knowing what the two of them were going through – No, knowing even a fraction of it. It wasn't just that Kaworu was an angel and all Kaji could compare this to was trying to quit smoking, his body demanding something he knew damn well would kill him if he lived that long. It was the depth of the relationship between those two, and the knowledge that they'd gone through this over and over and over and at first Shinji had tried to say, "Oh, it's just this again," before he took a deep breath and let the façade crumble. Stopped lying to himself.
The look in Kaworu's eyes changed from tired desperation to desire, looking up into Shinji's, and suddenly the angel looked like sex. None of them could keep themselves from taking a step forward.
It was the crash as Ritsuko hit her equipment that jarred them out of it. Ritsuko cursed under her breath as Shinji swallowed, because the field around his hand had come that close to flickering out. So that was the call that made the angels try to fight their way to Terminal Dogma.
"I, I don't have much time left," Kaworu knew, looking even more apologetic, as though it was his fault he couldn't hold out forever. "Shinji, please, I… I want to die by your hands, like back then. It isn't just that I hate destroying the Lilim: I want this, Shinji."
"The only freedom I ever truly had back then… was the freedom to choose the means of my own death," Kaworu smiled, and it was all the more terrible for being simply a fond, nostalgic smile. How could someone genuinely smile over something like that? How could assisted suicide be like, like their first date? The thing someone reminisced about, as though it was the most perfect moment in their relationship? What they wanted it to be like? "My last request. I thought you hated me, and would refuse me because of that, but… if you ever cared for me at all…"
No darkness or threat in those last words, no emotion besides that overwhelming love and need and yet Shinji's movement was almost convulsive.
"The proof of your love," the angel murmured, eyes sliding shut again now that Shinji's hands were around his throat. A perfect marble saint, a perfect martyr. Such a willing sacrifice.
"I hate this," Shinji said, once it was over, once the light had died. "I, I hate this." Curling around Kaworu's body, that precious head of silver tucked under his chin. "I'll see him again," he whispered to himself, cradling that white-clad body. "I'll see him again, I know it…"
"So, what did all of you do last timeline while I was fighting off all the angels by myself?" Asuka didn't sound resentful at all, but more like there had better be some appreciation of how much ass she'd kicked forthcoming or she'd just have to kick some more asses.
"I bred a prize-winning variety of melons," Kaji said happily, patting the fluffy white one-eyed tomcat he'd trained to sit on his lap so he could outdo Gendo's evil mastermind look. "I named them Misatos."
"I managed not to murder my husband," Misato said under her breath. "Seriously, though, Kaji and I worked on nailing down the details of how deeply the UN is penetrated and how that penetration is accomplished over time. Ritsuko, Maya and Kaworu worked on practicing his terraforming, seeing how far they could push his ability to change LCL into usable biomass over a large area without waking up Adam or ending up with life incompatible with Lilith-based life." When Adam-based life tended to be very hardy, very fast-spreading and very poisonous.
Why, it was almost as though Adam didn't like the Lilim.
Misato didn't specify that since they were working on control over a large area as opposed to the production of actual life forms, they'd knocked off after Kaworu turned a lake of LCL into beer (and then back into LCL, for the sake of not attracting worldwide attention). It bugged her a little to tweak Second Impact to destroy more of Earth and its biosphere so they had large amounts of LCL to practice with, but so far the only successful Third Impact scenario, the only one humanity could come back from, meant they needed a way to fix up their planet afterwards. Get all the people out of the LCL, confine some LCL somewhere so people could keep coming back from it if they died again, and turn the rest of the planet green and blue and gold again. Amber waves of grain that could be made into waves of amber beer.
Anyway, doing too much training in any one timeline ran the risk of Adam waking up, going looking for an angel and ending everything ahead of schedule, so baby steps. Having a ratio of ten or so usable years to four or so unusable was already bad enough, but after seeing a few timelines end very badly when Kaworu overestimated how much he could trust his abilities or how far he could push things before Adam took over, she was willing to trust his judgment if he said that altering people's brains before that point was just not safe. He was the one who had to spend those years floating in a tube, bored out of his skull and knowing that there was potentially something he could do about this, so she was pretty sure he wouldn't subject himself to that unless he had to, or at least thought he had to do it.
Ritsuko was working on neurologic theory and how the maturation of a Lilim brain could be speeded up when it was already pretty damn fast during infancy, both to increase their efficiency (the number of usable years between Second and Third impacts) and because the sooner she got her memories back the sooner she could sabotage Gendo and her mother's relationship so they broke up and her mother found someone better, or at least someone who didn't make Ritsuko feel nauseous.
"So, Rei still can't do it, huh?"
Misato shook her head. "Either she's just too old or it's the wrong stage in their life cycle." Lilith was supposed to be blooming now. Leaving earth once humanity's time was ended and they went extinct due to lack of souls, not wasting energy terraforming a planet when soon there would be no one to inhabit it.
"So Rei can't make living things, while Kaworu can make living things, but most of them would rather kill Lilim than play nice with the rest of the ecosystem. This is going to take awhile, not that I'm complaining," Kaji said, looking mellow.
Apparently gardening was good for relaxation and blood pressure, but Kaji had decided to take his garden plot and Kaworu's lessons and apply them to things like the flesh-colored Misato's Melons and winning competitions for largest (insert vegetable, preferably phallic, here). Misato was just glad Ritsuko had taken it upon herself to get revenge. Misato didn't know exactly what she'd done to Kaji, but lolcats were involved somehow.
She had to wonder if Shinji and Kaworu had ever had a prankster period. Probably, if that thing about invading Keel's mansion dressed like the Spanish Inquisition (not that Shinji was aware they were cosplaying at the time) was true. Misato wasn't really sure whether or not she was sorry she'd missed that, but her two college friends were really throwing themselves into it, and there was only so much Maya and Misato could do to keep them under control. Especially when half the time, Misato was tipsily egging them on.
Kaji did have a point that pulling off pranks was practice for doing things to people that they didn't want you to do, and it was better for SEELE and NERV to get hit with pranks than to get hit with real assaults. If people were carrying feelings over between timelines, then better for them to expect minor, harmless annoyances than serious attack, while Kaji and Misato practiced physical ops and Ritsuko and Maya learned how to hack first the computers they had at earlier points in the timeline and then the knockoff Magi systems.
They were getting there. It was taking awhile, but they were getting there. Once Kaworu got the terraforming thing down, they should be ready to take another shot at it.
"What were you thinking? What the hell were you thinking?!" Misato demanded, very close to grabbing and throttling Shinji except Kaworu was giving her a look over Shinji's shoulder.
Due to remembering his own embarrassing younger days, Kaworu was a very forgiving person, but Shinji had just spent the last timeline being miserable and Misato hadn't helped. Not that this was her fault, when she hadn't remembered either, but there was logic and there was 'the person I love more than all the worlds and time was just so insanely miserable that he flipped out and triggered a Fourth Impact."
Shinji held up his hand. "First off, I wasn't." Thinking. He'd been out of his damn mind. "Second, I stand by my decision. Flipped-out me made the right call."
"But we were so close? So damn close! If you just listened to Kaworu and aborted the mission, we could have taken you back to our base, and…"
"And made another run at it after finding the Spear of Cassius?" Shinji snorted. "You seriously think Gendo Ikari would have let us have another chance at fixing the world? When that would mean Yui wouldn't get to become God? That was our one shot! Even if it had a one in a million chance of working without the spear, well, we can afford to take those million shots at it! And a one in a million chance is better than the zero percent chance we would have had if Gendo realized we weren't following his scenario and had time to plan something else to screw us up! He only let us get that close in the first place because he needed some pretty convincing bait for his trap to kill Kaworu so Kaworu couldn't keep sabotaging his other plans!" He shook his head.
"No. Flipped-out me knew this was his only chance to fix the world, and he was right. If it had worked, you would all be calling him a gutsy genius right now, and you know it. I know you're all frustrated that we got so close and didn't succeed, but my father let us get that close. Gendo Ikari let us get that close to winning. Think about that for a minute."
"He let you put him in check so he could get Kaworu in checkmate?" Kaji guessed. He didn't know what they were talking about, having been dead at the time and all, but that was what it sounded like.
He was just really hoping Kaworu hadn't noticed that time Kaji flirted with Shinji. Kaworu was used to Asuka doing it, but she was his sister. There was Misato, but it wasn't like she was serious. This was the first time Kaji had hit on Shinji, and even though he'd just done it to make the cute little girly-looking thing blush, there was that whole 'cute little girly-looking thing' part of the thought process. When that was the godlike alien's cute little girly-looking thing.
Shinji might have that 'seed-magnet' thing going on, and Asuka was used to being a genius without equals in her peers so she usually let herself hope that she might have found an equal who wasn't ten years older than her in Shinji. Other than that, Kaworu had surprisingly little competition for someone who was a giant robot pilot and a world hero. Except in that last timeline.
Kaji might have winced on Shinji's behalf, except it basically always sucked to be Shinji in timelines where he couldn't remember. He couldn't pilot if he remembered, otherwise the ghost in Unit 01 would get access to those memories and that ended horribly.
He winced, remembering one of Shinji's memories that was important enough to get copied over to the rest of them. "So, you managed to seduce a god into being your adoring slave. It seems you truly are my son.
"That makes you competition." And those words were the last Shinji knew before the Eva destroyed his frontal lobes doing something that made Ritsuko and Maya excited in the way scientists got over the really nasty things that shouldn't be possible in a universe that wasn't actively out to get people. He would have spent the rest of that timeline as a dummy plug if he wasn't supposed to meet up with Kaworu. What exactly Kaworu did when he found out that his love was dead, killed by his own mother, wasn't in the memories, but that was the fifth timeline in Shinji's memories, when he'd wanted to try to do it over. Get it right. When he thought this world was worth saving and it was Kaworu who had to be forced into going along with that. It took that many timelines for Shinji to wear him down into giving Shinji a chance, and it ended that badly?
Yui Ikari's pawn was Gendo, or rather Gendo was her Queen. Shinji's was Kaworu. Backstabbing cleverness and foresight versus power and immortality. Black seed vs. white. Stalemate, so far. No one had been able to get what they wanted and keep it so far, but if Yui actually had become a god multiple times, when any other members of humanity had managed to survive Third Impact only twice now, she was certainly in the lead…
But as for how long she'd stay there?
"Hey, it does sound like you guys came pretty close. I think that calls for some shots, what do you say?"
"Speaking of shots," Misato said, turning her disapproving gaze from Shinji to him. "I thought you said you were going to work on your tendency to get killed uselessly?"
The booklet for my DVD set of I think Rebuild 1.11 says 'Eva is a story about dealing with things that happen over and over' or words to that effect. Foreshadowing the Reboots thing.
The world of Eva is not an easy one to save. Nosgoth levels of having to be dragged kicking and screaming to salvation, everyone fighting you every step of the way.
Ah, Legacy of Kain.
Misato reflects on the Evas in the series, how humanity even uses things like them to survive. Because it has to, if it wants to survive. Shinji might be making an effort to be kindler and gentler, but Misato is a soldier, Ritsuko is a scientist and Kaji is Kaji. They need intel, they need knowledge in order to have a chance to save this world, so they're going to do whatever it takes. The reboots and the situation would force a necessary degree of callousness on anyone… Except Kaworu. Humans are bastards, but he was intended to be a superhumanly good person. At least he's much better at being Shinji's morality pet than Rei is at being Gendo's in Rebuild…