Lyrics are "Plea" by Baths.

somewhere out there


love, this is a dark world
and i've lost focus
please tell me you need me
boy, you are every color
how am i visible?
please tell me you need me


Shinji has never considered himself to be a very spontaneous person, easily shaken and easily swayed - but this, he knows, is probably one of the most nerve-wracking situations he's ever been in.

The sunlight glints off of the still surface of the lake so brightly that the glare of it stings his eyes, and he has to shield them with his hand in order to see clearly. A few dark strands of clouds drift lazily through the sky, foreshadowing a spell of rain. The air is muggy and thick and clings to his clothes which consequently cling to his skin, damp and uncomfortable, but he suffers through it, refusing to expose himself to the sun and to the air – and, specifically, to Kaworu.

Kaworu is dazzling. This, to Shinji, is nothing particularly new, but it's no less crippling in how it seems to freeze him to the spot until he can only glance at him in between helpless little bouts of almost-bravery that never quite make it to proper courage. Looking at Kaworu makes him nervous. It makes his hands shake and his face feel hot and it feels as though a spotlight shines down from the sky directly on him so that all of his flaws and anxieties are yanked out and put on a display beneath the blinding light. Funny how Kaworu can stand by the water's edge amidst all this sun, shirtless and pale and thin as a whip, and yet Shinji can't seem to find a single flaw in him. One thousand spotlights could gleam down on him and not a single detail would be out of place. In fact, Shinji thinks as he watches the boy stretch his arms up to the sky, Kaworu would likely be all the more radiant dressed in all that light. (Radiant? God, Shinji's thoughts have been all over the place today, waxing more and more embarrassingly poetic the more time he spends with this boy. But he isn't quite sure how to stop.)

Kaworu's shoulder blades shift prettily beneath his skin when he looks over his shoulder at Shinji, his eyes bright and smiling. "Are you going to get in with me?" His voice rings out like a song that Shinji desperately wishes he knew all the words to so that he could sing it to himself any time he gets lonely. (Another embarrassing thought. What gives?)

"I-I…" Shinji's voice wavers, and he clears his throat and tries again, smiling nervously. "I'm not really that good of a swimmer."

"I can help you," Kaworu says, so pleasant, so soft. Everything about him is pleasant and soft. Shinji bets even his earlobes are, or even weird things like his kneecaps or his ankles or all the other parts that are supposed to be awkward and painful if someone jabs you in the stomach with them. They're nice, too.

But his attention is brought back to the current moment, and he immediately gives a quick little shake of his head and wraps his arms around his bent legs. He hopes his smile doesn't look as stupid as it feels when he scratches the back of his head and says, "Oh, um…that's okay, I can just watch from here…"

"No use in watching someone else when you can be experiencing for yourself, though."

But I like watching you. Shinji swallows down that thought and begins drumming his fingers anxiously atop his kneecaps to keep his hands busy, lest the nervous energy rising up within him makes his entire body scatter and fall apart. But just as he's about to give another excuse, Kaworu lets out a breezy laugh and turns back around to face the water. Looking at him feels a little safer now that his back is turned, and so Shinji allows the opportunity to take in the fine details of his frame, from the lean rail of his spine to the planes of his shoulder blades to the small of his back, everything slender and elegant and surreal. All the lines of him coordinate so fluidly, his every movement seamless. Shinji has to tear his gaze away and hold his breath when he sees Kaworu about to step out of his shorts, and he doesn't look back until he hears the splash of the water when the boy jumps in. He doesn't resurface for a few moments, and Shinji feels himself becoming more and more anxious as he waits; but a rush of relief soon follows when Kaworu reemerges, wiping the water from his eyes and tipping his head back to shake his dripping hair off his face. He opens his eyes, and Shinji is the first thing that bright gaze lands on.

There's that feeling again.

"Were you never taught how to swim?" Kaworu asks him, tilting his head to the side to let the water out of his ears.

Shinji gives a little shrug and idly begins playing with the grass, careful not to pull too hard and uproot any of it. "I took a few lessons when I was younger, but…" He lets out a little laugh, feeling silly. "I guess I'm just not a natural at it like some people are? It's weird for me, I don't know."

Kaworu begins floating on his back, the water rippling around him in glimmering little waves. Shinji makes a conscious effort not to look past his hips, but he finds it easier to just keep his eyes away from him altogether, even though it aches to do so. "Perhaps you just needed a more patient teacher," Kaworu says.

Shinji shakes his head. "No, it wasn't really the teacher's fault…I mean, all the other kids in the class picked up on it just fine. And the teacher was really nice and all. I was just the odd one out."

"What comes natural to some may not come natural to others," Kaworu suggests. "But it's certainly not hopeless that they'll never learn."

"That's…yeah, that's true, I guess." Shinji isn't sure if he believes himself when he says that, but he can try. Kaworu seems so wonderfully confident in everything he says; how does he manage to do it?

Then again, Shinji thinks, perhaps everyone has to start from somewhere. At this, he takes a deep breath and gets to his feet. "You really think I can do it?"

"Of course I do," Kaworu says. "I think you can do anything."

Only if you're here with me, Shinji thinks as he lets out a steadying exhale and reaches down to take hold of his shirt. He pulls it off over his head and folds it neatly atop the rock he had been sitting on. When he goes to unbutton his shorts, Kaworu is still looking at him, and a surge of shyness rushes through him that urges him to ask, "Um, can you turn around for me…?"

Kaworu gives a little laugh before adhering, turning around and looking up at the sky. Shinji watches the droplets of water drip from his hair and down his shoulders before huffing out a quiet breath and undoing his shorts. He's just about to pull them down along with the waistband of his boxers before he hesitates and casts a glance over his shoulder at Kaworu. The boy is still looking up the clouds. Shinji huffs once more, again at himself, and quickly takes off the rest of his clothing before folding everything neatly atop the rock, all the while keeping watch on Kaworu's back. It feels strange to be bared like this out in the open, which is why Shinji makes quick work out of scuttling over to the water and crouching down by the edge, his knees tucked to his chest and his arms around his legs.

"Can I turn around yet?" Kaworu asks.

Shinji dips his fingertips in the water and nervously clears his throat. "Are there any fish in this water?"

"Nothing has touched me yet."

"That's not very reassuring…"

Kaworu chuckles and stretches his arms up to the sky. "Just tell me when you're ready. Take your time."

Shinji scoots closer to the lake's edge and dares to place a foot in the water. "How deep is it?"

"I can touch the bottom from where I am," Kaworu says patiently.

"And we don't have to go out any further, right?"

"We don't have to do anything you don't want to do."

Shinji swallows hard and gives a decisive nod. He's accomplished far more daunting things than this, surely this is nothing in comparison. Bearing that thought in mind, he gets to his feet again and steps into the water until it comes up to his shins, still covering himself between his legs with his skittish hands. He looks to Kaworu again and tries to swallow the desperation rising in his chest. "Kaworu, can you…?"

Kaworu looks over his shoulder at him, his eyes wide and innocent, and Shinji feels his stomach flip quite uncomfortably at being so exposed. His voice comes out high and tinny when he asks, "H-Help me in, can you?"

Kaworu wades over to him with his hand outstretched, that smile still so bright and lovely on his face that Shinji has to look down into the water to keep his legs from wobbling. "No need to be scared," Kaworu says lightly. "Here, take my hand."

Shinji's pause is but a moment before he shakily reaches out to grab onto Kaworu's hand. It feels cool and soft within his. Another stomach flip, hot and anxious, but he tries his best to ignore it as Kaworu guides him into the water with gentle coaxes that slowly unwind the nervous knot within Shinji's stomach enough to breathe almost normally.

The water is colder than Shinji expects it to be, having assumed the sunlight would have warmed it by now. But when he recoils and is about to step out, Kaworu squeezes his hand with a little laugh and tells him that it's okay, that it's easier to just jump in all at once, you get used to it easier that way. Shinji gives him a skeptical look to which Kaworu just responds with a grin, all sunlight and pale prettiness that makes Shinji feel a little woozy and unbalanced. But he doesn't want to look stupid or cowardly, and so he takes a deep breath and clumsily dunks himself under the water; it sends a cold shock throughout his entire body, and when he comes back to the surface, his teeth are chattering and there's water in his eyes and he's still clutching Kaworu's hand.

"See?" Kaworu laughs out. "Isn't it better to just jump in all at once?"

Shinji gives a twitch of a nod, still shaking from the sudden cold. When he reaches up to wipe his dripping bangs from his forehead, Kaworu beats him to it, stroking them away with his fingertips as if there's nothing peculiar, nothing out of the ordinary about it. And perhaps, in theory, there isn't, but that doesn't stop Shinji from holding his breath and looking down at the rippling water rather than at Kaworu. When his bangs are brushed away and Kaworu drops his hand, Shinji almost feels lost, maybe even a little sad that the touch is gone. (He should start keeping track of how many bizarre thoughts come to him today. Surely he's up to at least a hundred by now.)

Shinji is shaking the water out of his ears when Kaworu asks him, "Do you know how to float?"

"I – maybe?" (Which, in essence, means probably not, to be honest I don't really know how to do anything, but Shinji doesn't want to say that in front of Kaworu.)

"Want to try?"

Shinji blinks up at him. For a moment, he completely forgets what they had been talking about, and his mind immediately strays to other things, making him flush. "Try what?"


Oh. Duh. Shinji hesitates before giving an uncertain little nod, to which Kaworu responds with one of those encouraging smiles that are so genuine that even Shinji, nervous as he is, trusts him on it. "Okay, so…" He looks down at the water as if it will answer him. "How do I start?"

"I'll show you." Kaworu moves closer, touching the small of Shinji's back with one hand and his hip with the other. Shinji's breath hitches, which he masks with a clearing of his throat as he stiffens at the touch and tries not to look too stupid. Instinct tells him to move away, because the idea of someone touching him with kindness is so out there that he can scarcely believe it's even happening; but another part of him wants to stay put, to yield to the touch rather than move away from it, and it's that urge which wins over the other and keeps him in place.

"Now try to lie back like you would on a bed," Kaworu instructs, still touching him. "Loosen up your legs and let them float up, and then the rest of you will follow. I'll keep you up."

Shinji tries to follow his instructions, slowly easing himself on his back to let the water carry him, but every time the water comes up around his face, a surge of panic rushes through him and forces him back on his feet. Kaworu's hands make it terribly difficult to concentrate as it is. He apologizes, embarrassed, but not once does impatience flash across Kaworu's face as he coaxes him with quiet words until Shinji's nerves relax little by little, enough for his body to coincide with Kaworu's gentle encouragements. After a few more tries, he's floating on his back, still covering himself between his legs with his hands. Kaworu supports him with the barest touch of his fingertips along his spine, but the touch might as well render Shinji weightless what with how easily he drifts along the surface of the water.

"There you go," Kaworu says with a soft laugh. "Do you think you can do it without me holding you up?"

"Don't let go–!"

"I've got you, don't worry."

Shinji relaxes again, immediately sobered. He looks over at the other boy when he too lets his body float effortlessly beside him, one arm still reached out to just barely touch Shinji's back. Kaworu's eyes are to the sky, his face serene, and Shinji has this fleeting thought that this boy can't be human, he just can't be, that no one he's ever known has been so – for lack of a better word – perfect. And that should scare him, but it doesn't. Shinji has been afraid of so many violent, ugly things these days that Kaworu, this pretty, graceful being that doesn't strike him or yell at him, is nothing short of a miracle.

Shinji gives a sudden gasp when a ripple of water comes up close to his face, and he flails for one embarrassing moment until his feet touch the bottom of the lake and he's standing again. Kaworu turns his head to look at him, still drifting lazily along the water. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I just…I'm really not that good in the water." A thought comes to him, and it's so heavy that he has to speak it at once before the weight of it crushes him. "It's weird…I've gotten so used to piloting the Eva that the LCL doesn't bother me anymore when it rushes in. Even when it comes up over my head and I have to breathe it in, I don't panic. And yet being in actual water feels so different…"

"How so?"

Shinji has to think about that for a moment. "I don't know," he says honestly. "The fact that I'm used to something like LCL, and Evas, and piloting…and yet being in a lake and having the water touch my face makes me anxious. I don't get it. It's all so backwards."

Kaworu swims in a slow, elegant circle around Shinji, drifting on his back and glowing in the sunlight. "Does that scare you?"

Shinji closes his eyes. "Yeah," he murmurs, a sudden heaviness weighing down at his every limb. "It does."

Kaworu drifts around to Shinji's other side, gently touching his hand as the water carries him along. "What else scares you, Shinji?"

"Everything," Shinji says without thinking, without even needing to think. "I don't like being yelled at. I don't like being treated like I'm useless. I don't like fearing death and then almost wanting it when I get too sad. I don't like…"

He talks on and on, losing track of time and all the more grateful for it. The water is a catalyst for these thoughts that seemingly climb atop one another, begging to be heard as they build up within him and are released one by one. All the while, Kaworu listens, softly touching him with his fingertips as he floats around him in graceful circles.

Shinji doesn't stop until both his mind and heart are emptied. He's out of breath, and his hands are shaking. "That's…the first time I've ever told anyone all of that."

Kaworu's feet touch the ground again as he straightens before Shinji, studying him closely with his bright eyes. "And what doesn't scare you?" he asks, very quietly. "What's something that makes you feel at peace?"

Shinji looks up at him for one sheepish moment before looking off to the left, bowing his head. Once he gathers himself, and once his answer swells up within him to the point where he couldn't hold it in anymore if he tried, he whispers, "You."

And then there's the sound of the water rippling around them as Kaworu leans in and wraps his arms around him, holding him close enough that their bare bodies touch and press together. And Shinji doesn't quite know what happens when he clings to him and starts to cry, but judging by Kaworu's calm silence and the patient way he holds him, maybe there isn't really an answer. Maybe it's everything all at once.


They depart from the lake once the sun goes down, walking side by side in comfortable silence. Only a few cars pass by on the back roads, but once they return to the heart of the city, the hundreds of lights glowing from the many tall buildings bring with it the stream of cars and buses flitting through the city's asphalt veins, rushing towards whatever destination calls for them. It strikes Shinji quite suddenly that all of the drivers' faces look terribly unhappy as he catches glimpses of them when they drive by.

"You look troubled," Kaworu says. "What are you thinking about?"

Shinji keeps watching the people drive by, his shoulder grazing against Kaworu's with every step. "Do you ever just…look at a stranger and wonder what their life is like?"

Kaworu gives a soft hum before he speaks. "Before you and I met, I think we were considered strangers." There's a pause. It's not like Kaworu to pause. Then, on little more than a whisper, he says, "Yet I wonder if you'd believe me if I said that wasn't true."

Shinji turns his head to look at him, curious. "What do you mean?"

Kaworu meets his gaze, and there's a sorrow in his smile that Shinji can't figure out. He watches, a little dazed, as Kaworu turns his attention back to the street ahead of them, looking up at all the dazzling lights of the buildings. Shinji's question slips off into the air like a ghost, unanswered.


NERV is still and silent when they arrive. There's a wordless question hanging between the two of them, but when Kaworu turns around at the threshold and meets Shinji's eye, it answers itself. He turns back around, and Shinji follows him quietly to his delegated room, their footfalls echoing in the empty, pale hallways that Shinji has become so alarmingly used to these days.

Kaworu's room is a den of soft shadows that the two of them burrow into without a moment's pause. Kaworu closes the door behind him and takes Shinji's hand to guide him through the darkness. A small lamp on the nightstand is flicked on, and the room is lit up in a sparse glow just bright enough to light up the corner of the room by the bedside where they stand. Their eyes meet, and they're both quiet, Shinji thinking of something to say and Kaworu patiently waiting for him to speak. A smile plays at the corner of his lips as the silence stretches between them with each passing second, and Shinji finds his eyes drawn to that tiny lilt of the boy's mouth.

Kaworu is the first to speak, and when he does, his voice is barely above a murmur. "Shinji, how do you define happiness?"

Shinji blinks at him, already feeling exposed beneath the weight of the question. "I'm not really used to happiness."

"Why is that?"

"Well…" Shinji shifts from foot to foot as he wrings out his nervous hands. "I'm just not happy very often. And I don't really know why that is, o-or maybe there are too manyreasons and I just can't figure them all out yet. So I wouldn't know how to describe what it feels like."

Kaworu's expression takes a turn for the sorrowful. He takes a step closer. "Then how do you feel right now, here with me?"

Shinji swallows hard, struggling to maintain Kaworu's gaze. "Nervous."

"I make you nervous?"

"You make me a lot of things."

The words come out unplanned, and Shinji's heart begins thudding uncomfortably hard all throughout his entire body. Kaworu takes another step closer. "But do I make you happy, Shinji?"

Shinji looks down at the floor. His mouth feels dry; it's getting hard to breathe. "You – the only time I'm happy is – " He starts to shake, and his words fall from him like graceless, fidgety things. "I-Is when I'm with you. I feel happy then. I feel too many things all at once, and my thoughts get so crazy, and I just – "

Shinji's words are interrupted by the light bulb of the nightstand lamp suddenly cutting out with a fizzle of the filament. The room is showered in darkness again. Shinji's head is spinning from the struggle to breathe normally, and he braces himself on the wall behind him to remain upright. He hears Kaworu still moving closer in the darkness. Shinji stares at the vague, shadowy shape of him and feels as though his heart could leap out of his throat at any moment; the thought disturbs him so much that his hand shakily rises to touch his neck just to make sure, only for Kaworu to suddenly reach forward and take his hand within his own. Shinji feels himself being pulled forward, the movement easy and slow, the shadows bending and shifting around him like silk ribbons – and then he's falling against that lean, warm body as his own turns to water and air, and Kaworu's arms are around him, and Shinji isn't sure if he's melting or evaporating, falling apart or coming together. All he knows is that everything inside of him seems to turn very, very warm, warm and light and soft as if thousands of tiny lanterns have been lit up within his every nerve.

And perhaps it's because the room is dark, or perhaps it's because of that hot, shivering feeling rising up within Shinji's chest, but something comes over him that overrides all caution when he sucks in a sharp breath and leans up to bump his lips against Kaworu's in an awkward, clumsy miss of a kiss. The moment their lips touch, Shinji is torn between thinking he's either just made a grave mistake or has just done something wonderful that has been distracting him all day. But in the darkness, he can't make out Kaworu's expression, and so he lingers in limbo as he waits for some sort of sign from the other boy that might push him in either direction, even as his mind races with thoughts of please don't push me away, please don't be like everyone else, please just let this be okay, please want this as much as I want this –

There's the soft sound of Kaworu expelling a breath, and then the feel of his hands cupping Shinji's face with such careful tenderness that the touch is like that of a shadow itself, delicate and barely there. The pent-up breath in Shinji's lungs cuts out on a jumpy sigh, and he has to swallow three times to compensate for the sudden dryness of his mouth and the tightness in his throat. When he tries to speak, nothing comes out. He isn't even sure what he'd been meaning to say in the first place – something stupid, something dizzy and wanting and maybe a little crazy, or maybe nothing but a plea of Kaworu's name. Maybe nothing at all. He doesn't know.

"Shinji," Kaworu murmurs, "what do you want right now? From me?"

Shinji swallows again and closes his eyes, feeling lightheaded from the adrenaline of his embarrassing attempt at a kiss. "I want…I…"

"Please tell me."

Shinji grips at Kaworu's forearms with clammy hands and prays that his legs won't give out right from under him when he says, "I-I want you to – kiss me – "

And in the next moment, Kaworu does. His lips are cool and soft when they meet the corner of Shinji's mouth, parted the barest bit, and Shinji goes completely still before him as he waits with baited breath for Kaworu's next movement. Kaworu stays where he is, his lips just barely grazing Shinji's skin, before letting out the quietest of breaths and finding Shinji's trembling, parted mouth with his own.

Their lips seal, and to Shinji, it's as if the entire world stops. The air around them becomes still and warm. Everything is quiet, save for Shinji's heartbeat drumming fast and hard in his ears. His nervous hands tentatively rise to Kaworu's shoulders as his mind races to figure out where the right place to put them would be, or whether he should wait for the other to deepen the kiss, or perhaps he should do it, although maybe that would be weird so maybe he shouldn't? All of these thoughts rush and collide against each other and make his head spin, and he realizes with a shock that it's not just his imagination that his legs are wobbling beneath his weight. Kaworu's arms are around him in an instant to hold him up, and Shinji would feel much stupider were it not for how distracted he is by the feel of Kaworu's mouth and the warmth of his breath.

He can sense himself moving, but it's not in his conscious mind to be making the movements at all as Kaworu guides him to the bed. Is he being carried? He can't quite tell, overwhelmed as he is, but he puts up no protestation as he's relieved of the burden of standing once he meets the softness of the mattress. Kaworu lingers close to him even when he pulls away from the kiss, and Shinji can make out the warm glow of his eyes even through the heavy shadows. Meeting his gaze any other time would make Shinji want to hide his face, but now, he's gripped by an inexplicable surge of calm that holds him in place as he looks back at him. His breathing slows down, and his body feels heavy and hot as he winds his arms around Kaworu's back and lies down, pulling the other boy down with him. Their noses bump together awkwardly when Shinji tries to kiss him again, and he hears Kaworu breathe out a little laugh, then another when he misses completely and kisses his chin instead. He nestles his face in the curve of Kaworu's shoulder. "I-I'm really bad at this, I'm sorry…"

"I didn't know this was something one could be bad at."

"Then you've never …?"

Kaworu shakes his head, and Shinji is so relieved that he doesn't know if he wants to laugh or cry. He takes a steadying breath and exhales it slowly against Kaworu's neck. After a few moments, Kaworu speaks again, and his voice is so soft that it's almost imaginary: "I can't imagine ever doing this with anyone who isn't you."

Shinji's eyes widen in a moment's shock. Then, there's the feeling of his entire body in desperate need to cling onto Kaworu with all he's worth, to touch him and to be touched, and it's with one broken whimper that he moves to kiss him again and finally hits right on the mark. Kaworu meets him halfway with a ghost of an exhale that makes Shinji shiver; he only shakes harder when Kaworu shifts to lie atop him, their legs tangling and hips aligning, and it hits Shinji in a rush of a revelation that this is the first time in possibly all of his life that he's felt safe. Sheltered. At peace. Wanted.

Shinji's mouth parts with a gasp when Kaworu's fingers thread through his hair, his every touch delicate and searching. He hesitates for a few anxious seconds before his hands rise to slip beneath Kaworu's shirt and touch the cool, smooth skin of his back. Strange, this is all so strange, and yet Shinji can't bring himself to stop. He doesn't want to stop. Every time their lips meet, every time Kaworu touches him, something wonderful and wanting rises up within him like a bird taking flight. His heartbeat soars when Kaworu's hands drift down his sides, the movement oddly awkward in that curious and graceful way of his. Shinji feels the muscles of his stomach twitch when Kaworu mirrors his action and slips his hands beneath his shirt, hovering just before his lips in a not-quite-kiss that makes Shinji want to whine. When it becomes too much, he lifts his head and catches Kaworu's lips again, and the soft little gasp of breath that the other boy gives is enough to send a hot shock of a shiver down Shinji's body which settles warm and tense between his legs. He squirms, nervous that Kaworu can feel it between them, but Kaworu seems so gratefully distracted by everything else that he doesn't outwardly react to it right away.

And yet, even in the midst of this vague and trivial worry, Shinji is stricken with the thought of how Kaworu is a boy, how they're both boys, and how up until meeting him, he never would have imagined his body reacting in such heated ways to the warm press of another person like him. But his hands still roam Kaworu's body with a longing that he can't suppress, a thick, hungry feeling that surprises him in its potency and how readily it grips him – as if this was always meant to happen, as if the universe has aligned in such a way that Kaworu has been presented to him with a whispered promise of it's okay, everything is going to be okay now that I'm here.

"Your body is so warm," Kaworu murmurs against Shinji's mouth, his hands stroking along his sides. "Warm and very soft…"

Shinji swallows hard and tugs lightly at the hem of Kaworu's shirt, wanting it off. He feels Kaworu's hands rest atop his own as he helps him pull the shirt over his head, ruffling the pale mess of his hair that stands on edge from the static cling. Shinji's nerves lessen a little at the sight of it, and he's able to let out a winded little laugh as his face flushes hot. Kaworu reaches for his hands again. "Here," he whispers, placing them atop his chest, "feel me?"

Shinji's hands are shaking. Kaworu's skin is cool and white beneath his palms. "I can feel your heartbeat," he whispers back.

"Proof that one is alive." Kaworu's hands splay out along Shinji's stomach to guide his shirt up along his skin until it's bunched up at his chest. Shinji tries not to breathe too heavily but it's becoming very difficult to keep up any form of pretense beneath the gaze of this boy; and upon reflection, Shinji doesn't think he wants to keep up any pretenses at all. Perhaps, just this once, he can completely give in.

And Kaworu makes it so very easy to give in when he dips his head down to graze his lips over Shinji's chest right above where his heart settles. "I can feel yours, too…" He glances up at Shinji, silver hair fanning over his eyes, smiling so softly. "It's beating very fast."

Shinji takes his best attempt at a deep breath, but his heart still thrums quickly in his chest, only for it to beat even faster when Kaworu kisses along his stomach and up his chest in slow, testing little presses of his lips. But even that little bit of distance makes Shinji shake, and he's grabbing at Kaworu's shoulders to ease him up atop him again. Kaworu's lips find the side of his neck, and when he kisses along the line of his pulse, Shinji either gasps or whimpers, he doesn't know, but it's a sensation that makes his whole body ache with longing as the tension between his legs becomes more and more apparent. Kaworu pauses for a moment as if thinking to himself before leaning back in again and repeating the action, sucking gently at the space just below Shinji's ear. Shinji shivers with a gasp, unable to contain it, and flushes all the hotter when Kaworu murmurs, "I like the sounds you're making."

It's spoken so innocently, so thoughtfully, and yet Shinji quivers at the sound of his voice all the same as he tilts his head to the side to give him more room. "It…it just feels really nice…"

Kaworu gives a little hum and kisses the underside of Shinji's chin, then down his throat before pausing once again in a moment's thought; but when he moves again, Shinji can barely breathe at the warm swipe of his tongue along his neck, then the barest graze of his teeth right over the place where his pulse thrums and skips. Shinji arches his back to press himself closer to Kaworu's body despite the mounting tension and heat building between his thighs, too heated and lost to care, although he finds himself gasping when Kaworu's hips grind down onto his as the boy lifts his head and looks down at him with an expression akin to quiet shock.

Shinji blinks up at him, breathing heavily. He's just about to say something to break the silence when Kaworu stops him with a sudden kiss, much firmer and breathier than before, to which Shinji immediately melts beneath without doubt or protest. When he tilts his hips up again, he feels that same heated tension pressing against his own, and the feel of it is so jarring that he gasps into Kaworu's mouth in between the next searing union of their lips. The kiss is only broken when Kaworu helps Shinji pull his bunched-up shirt off over his head, but they're back together within the second, the feel of Kaworu's bare skin touching Shinji's own enough to make his head spin. Kaworu moves his hips again in a slow, searching roll, rubbing himself against the aching hardness between Shinji's thighs, and Shinji has to muffle his voice into the crook of the other's neck to keep from crying out. Kaworu's sounds are soft and surprised as he keeps moving, and Shinji can feel the boy's shoulders shuddering when he wraps his arms around his back and holds on. His eyes flutter to a close when Kaworu's hand trails down to one slender hip, his fingertips hovering just before the waistband of his shorts.

There's a pause. When Kaworu lifts his head to look down at him, Shinji opens his eyes and tries not to quail inside the moment their gazes meet. His hand moves to settle atop Kaworu's, fingertips grazing the other's inner wrist. Their foreheads touch, and Shinji's lips shiver against Kaworu's as he shakily unbuttons and unzips, every sound much louder in the tense silence. Even when he closes his eyes, he can feel Kaworu watching him as he takes his hand again and slowly, tentatively guides it between his legs. The only thing separating Kaworu's palm from Shinji's body is the flimsy guise of his boxers, yet it feels as though Kaworu is touching him bare what with how the coolness of his skin permeates through that thin barrier and makes Shinji jump. But the warmth of his mouth makes up for it when Kaworu kisses along the curve of his throat, and then his hand is moving, and then Shinji is melting, melting, melting down into the sheets and into Kaworu's body and into each and every movement that spans between them.

His trembling hands find their way to Kaworu's hips, and his fingertips fumble clumsily along the button and zipper until they're undone. At the first careful graze of his palm, Kaworu's hips roll forward into the touch, and the little gasp he gives in Shinji's ear is more than enough reassurance for him to touch him again, firmer. His heart is beating so fast that he swears it might as well run for cover from the rest of his overheated body, but the warm, open kisses that Kaworu places along his jaw are a balm to his riled nerves. Another barrier gone between them now, it feels all the more jarring when Kaworu moves against him, all the more breathtaking when their bodies press up flush against each other.

Things begin moving faster, hunger coloring their movements more needy and frantic. Shinji lifts his hips when Kaworu's fingers curl around the loosened waistband of his shorts to ease down his thighs, and he has to hold his breath from the anticipation that builds up quite suddenly within him when his boxers are eased down with them, leaving him bare. Kaworu leans back to look at him, and Shinji shakes beneath his gaze, fighting the urge to cover himself up as Kaworu's eyes softly scan over him. But he stays where he is and just breathes and just focuses on the pretty pout of Kaworu's mouth, the elegant arc of his neck, the slender wall of his chest that rises and falls with each breath he takes. When Shinji sees how the boy's breathing has picked up, he gives one small, relieved smile that he hides behind the back of his hand.

But something hot tugs at his stomach when Kaworu breathes out his name, the sound of it tremulous and heated as it ghosts out onto the air. When he dips his head down, Shinji expects a kiss to his chest or his neck, but Kaworu is bending lower and shifting down on the bed to kiss along his inner thigh, and suddenly everything is too overwhelming for him to think straight, let alone breathe. His legs fall open wider as his chest jumps in a gasp, stomach in knots, heart pounding harder and harder as Kaworu's kisses settle closer to where his body aches most.

And at that first exhale of breath and touch of Kaworu's mouth along his heated, hardened flesh, Shinji realizes with a sudden shock that nothing could have ever, ever prepared him for this. A hot shudder rushes through his entire body at the first wet pass of Kaworu's mouth as a long, aching moan is dragged out of him, the warmth and softness of the other's tongue too much for him to take quietly. His hands are frantic and needy things as he threads his fingers through Kaworu's hair, and he hears the boy give the softest of hums when his fingertips stroke along his scalp. Desperate as he is to keep his hips still, to not pull or push, to not completely fall apart, Shinji's entire body conflicts against itself in feverish rushes of need and uncertainty that battle for his utmost attention; he wants to moan and cry out, and he wants to touch Kaworu's face and urge him to keep going, but what if that's weird, what if that's wrong, what if -

But when Kaworu's hands rise to rest atop Shinji's forearms, and when Shinji sees that those hands are trembling, it somehow breaks through all of his barriers enough for him to let go. Kaworu's name falls from his lips in pleading, whimpering moans as his body moves and undulates with each wave of pleasure that licks at his nerves. In between breaths, he can hear Kaworu making the softest and sweetest of sounds, almost bewildered as his hands continue to shake atop Shinji's arms. Deliriously, Shinji wonders if Kaworu notices his own shivering, but the thought fades away on a wavering white note when Kaworu pulls back to set tender, wet kisses to the very head of his arousal, the touches so light and warm that Shinji can only cover his mouth and whimper into his palm, wordless pleas for him to not stop. His thighs are quivering on either side of Kaworu's head as his brow furrows in concentration, hips moving in little tremors to seek out more of the warmth of the other's lips and the slow swipes of his tongue.

Kaworu pulls away, breathing heavily. "You're trembling so hard."

Shinji gives a breathless little laugh and reaches for the boy's hands, their fingers entwining. "So are you," he whispers.

Kaworu glances up at him with bright, gleaming eyes. His breath puffs out hot on Shinji's bare skin when he says, with an air of wonder, "I feel like I can't stop."

Shinji's breath catches in his throat at those words and the softly stunned expression on Kaworu's face, and in the next instant, he finds himself pulling the boy towards him again with eager little tugs at his hands. Kaworu comes to him without question or hesitation, and Shinji shudders with relief when their bodies press together again. But it's not enough. Fervent longing tears through him and marks his every movement clumsy as he reaches for the remaining barriers of clothing that keep Kaworu from him. When the other boy's jeans are rumpled around his thighs and his skin is bared, their bodies meet in such a way that Shinji's entire body seizes up in an arch of a moan, hips lifting, legs wrapping around Kaworu's waist to hold him closer. He hears Kaworu let out a sudden sweep of an exhale against his neck when they rub together – his body, which had once been a calm, cool willow, is now hot and tense against Shinji's, and when he moves again, that collected grace about him starts to fray little by little. He wraps his arms around Shinji's overheated body and pants into the side of his neck as their hips grind together; his arousal is hot and hard against Shinji's, and the muscles of his back shift beneath his skin in taut little twitches every time he moves.

There's an air of innocent shock that lingers in Kaworu's body; Shinji can feel it in his hands as he grips the boy's shoulders, feels it buzzing beneath his fingertips as they run down his back. That breaking down of effortless, surreal elegance suddenly strikes within Shinji a sort of boldness as he takes in a long breath and lets his hand slide in between their hips, his fingers curling around the both of them as best as he can for how hard he's shaking. The sound that Kaworu makes is sweet and raw as his hips roll to move himself within Shinji's hand, still so curious and stunned, and Shinji can't hold back when he asks, "C-Can you look at me?"

Kaworu props himself up on his elbows and looks down at him, breathing in shallow rasps, and his heated face is so soft and pretty that Shinji nearly falls to pieces right then and there. He works at the both of them faster in his hand as he leans up to rest his forehead against Kaworu's, feeling the other's silvery hair fanning down onto his cheeks and tickling his nose. From beneath the long, wispy halos of his eyelashes, Kaworu is gazing down with a look that makes Shinji's heart thump. "Being close to you like this is…"

Shinji wraps his legs tighter around Kaworu's waist as his body is wracked with another hard shiver. "Is it good?" he asks on a ragged whisper. He swallows, panting on his next exhale. "Does it feel good for you?"

Kaworu answers with another jolt of his hips and an unexpected sigh of a moan when Shinji, still touched by that inexplicable boldness, experimentally strokes over the very head of his arousal with the pad of his thumb. "Yes," Kaworu gasps out, one pale hand ghosting down between them to settle atop Shinji's. "Yes, it – it feels good – "

Just as Shinji's wrist is beginning to ache, Kaworu gently pries away his hand and replaces it with his own. His fingers are longer, his palm wider, and the feel of it sparks a shock of pleasure right down Shinji's spine and makes him whimper. But it's even more overwhelming when Kaworu begins to move his hand, and Shinji is reduced to a helpless, trembling mess beneath him. From behind his cloud of delirium, he can vaguely hear himself saying little more than Kaworu's name over and over again, each plea of it wracked with frantic need as it becomes impossible to keep himself under control. Even as he gasps for Kaworu to go faster, to touch him more, a part of him wants everything to slow down enough for time to stop completely. He wants the world to wait with baited breath for Shinji to say "okay, go" again, and that could be one hundred years from now what with how desperately he wants to cling onto Kaworu just like this forever.

But no amount of wishing or praying for infinity could keep him from coming undone when something within Kaworu cracks and sends an outpour of I-love-you-I-love-you-I-love-you to spill from his lips as the tension in his body reaches its peak. Every muscle within Shinji's body tightens unbearably, and he arches with a choked-off cry as he comes with wave after wave of shuddering release, every nerve singing and burning and reaching. They cling to each other with everything they have, holding on so tightly that it's as if they could become one and never break away again. Kaworu is gasping those three words into his ear as he too melts down into something helpless and heavy above him; the movements of his hand slow down, and Shinji can feel the boy's pulse beating all over, intermingling with the rapid thrumming of his own heart. For a few wonderful moments, he swears he can feel their pulses beating in time with each other's.

They lie in an entangled heap for an unprecedented amount of time of which neither of them cares to keep track of. Every time their bodies give tiny spasms from the afterglow of such a peak, they both breathe out secretive, whispery laughs against each other's skin and hold each other all the more tightly. After a few more silent moments, Kaworu lifts his head and looks down at Shinji with those same gentle, curious eyes, as if everything in the world to him is wonderful, as if Shinji himself is wonderful. (Shinji would like to believe that one day, but he still needs some more time. Although he thinks he might be a few steps closer now, closer than he's ever been.)

"How do you feel now?" Kaworu asks with a shaky lilt of a smile. "It…goes without saying, I think, but I'd like to hear it from you still."

Shinji takes a long, deep breath, but the giddiness in his chest makes it difficult to climb back down from his high. He reaches up to brush Kaworu's damp bangs from his forehead as he smiles back at him, sheepish and light. "I'm…r-really happy that happened," he murmurs, tucking a lock of hair behind Kaworu's ear. "What about you?"

Kaworu tilts his head into the touch of Shinji's hand and closes his eyes with a sleepy curve of a smile. "Dizzy and weightless and warm," he breathes out. With a content hum, he buries his face into the side of Shinji's neck and whispers, "And very…very happy…"

Another long string of comfortable silence passes between them as they slowly steady their breathing. Shinji has become so hopelessly drowsy that the thought of having to clean the both of them up is three levels above exhausting, but he manages to lean up on one elbow and reach over to the nightstand in hopes of flicking on the light. It takes some fumbling, but he eventually switches it on and lights up their corner of the room in a sparse amber glow. Shinji can't help but laugh when Kaworu makes no effort to move, his entire body lax and lazy, and reaches down with a shy hand to touch the boy's pale hair. "Do you, um, have a towel or anything…?"

Kaworu lifts his head to rest his chin atop Shinji's chest. He looks lost in thought for a moment before a light bulb blinks on in his mind. He gives a little wriggle as he reaches behind him and fetches his rumpled up shirt at the foot at the bed. Shinji balks for a moment, spluttering like a fool for something to say, but Kaworu is already delicately cleaning the both of them off as if this is the most normal happenstance in all of his life. Shinji hides his blushing face in his hands, and Kaworu is breathing out the quietest of laughs as he bundles up the shirt and tosses it into the hamper on the other side of the room without looking. It falls right in.

"There we are," Kaworu says pleasantly before shifting to lie beside Shinji, curling around him with a content sigh. Shinji looks over at him with wide, shy eyes, suddenly feeling the full gravity of this situation much starker now that he can see him in the light. But he doesn't pull away, doesn't fight it – rather, he feels something within him open up and welcome it as it washes his entire body with warmth, and he realizes that this, just as Kaworu had asked of him earlier, is what happiness feels like. He can put words to it, even if they're all silly, nonsensical ones, and he can feel it like a tangible thing able to be touched with his fingertips. But most of all, he can feel it blooming like a slow, pretty flower in his chest, soft and brilliant and finally, finally here.

Shinji curls up onto his side to face Kaworu and shivers when the cool air meets the bare skin of his back. Their legs drape across each other's; their hands touch. "I think," Shinji says, "I want to try swimming again…"

Kaworu gives a sleepy smile and reaches to pull the blanket up over the both of them. "I'd like that."

Shinji's face flushes, and he hides the blush that rises in his cheeks by scooting in closer to Kaworu's body until his forehead touches the other's chest. "And I…want to try all of that again, too…"

Kaworu breathes out a laugh into the crown of Shinji's head as he wraps his arms around him and cradles him against his body. "And I'd certainly like that."

Their breathing slows down, and their limp and heavy limbs fit against each other's perfectly as they lie face to face beneath the covers. With the very tips of his fingers, Kaworu touches all of the places on Shinji's body where his pulse can be felt thrumming beneath his skin, and Shinji lets him, his heartbeat responding to every touch. They talk about everything and nothing in the world until night unfolds into morning, and fall asleep with the light still on.