the earth is (not) a cold dead place

::

3. first breath after coma

::

Ritsuko Akagi is a scientist, a woman, a daughter – and at this moment, first and foremost, she is apathetic. Her seventh cigarette of the day is lit with a bored flick of a flame, then inhaled with a bored breath, then expelled with a bored sigh. The alarms ringing, the shouts in the halls, the chaos and the commotion – everything, boring.

Misato is frantic and has the fierce eyes of a soldier when she bursts back onto the scene, out of breath and her hair a mess. "I might have a lead," she says, panting. "Hear me out?"

Ritsuko ignores her question and replaces it with one of her own. "Where did you take the prisoner?"

Misato's glare is steely and quick as she hurriedly pushes stray locks of hair out of her eyes. "That's my business and my business alone."

"So now you're pardoning him for nearly destroying the world a second time," Ritsuko says with a flat laugh. "How typical of you."

"Are you going to listen to what I have to say, or are you going to keep taking your cheap shots at me?"

Ritsuko turns her gaze up to the ceiling in a mock moment's thought. A steady stream of smoke bleeds out of the corner of her parted mouth.

"We don't have time for this bullshit, Ritsuko," Misato hisses, all dark eyes and fine-tuned aggression that Ritsuko has dealt with for how long now? "Listen to me. You can bitch at me for my typical decisions later, preferably when we're not in the middle of a crisis."

"Crisis?" Ritsuko coughs out a laugh and tips her cigarette ashes onto the floor. "What's there left to destroy? We're living in a vacant shell. We don't have anything left to lose except our lives."

Misato looks at her in a moment's horror which she quickly masks with her customary determination that Ritsuko can't help but find horribly droll. "I think I have some information on what exactly is coming," she says, her voice firm and focused. "But you might not believe me when I say it."

"There's nothing I wouldn't believe anymore."

"The angel that's coming…I don't think it's like the others. It's not hostile."

Ritsuko stares at Misato with a deadpanned expression, breathing smoke in her face. "Not hostile," she says flatly.

"Asuka and Shinji both clued me in on it," Misato goes on. "I was going to give Shinji the benefit of the doubt given his current condition, but Asuka…even she seemed to pick up on it. And we've known for a long time that she didn't come out of the Bardiel incident the same as before she entered that Eva."

Ritsuko raises her eyebrows and takes another long drag of her cigarette, burning it away until it shrinks down to half its size. "No need to remind me. I was the one conducting the tests on her after the incident."

"Then it doesn't bear repeating the things she's capable of now," Misato says. "She's never been wrong about an angel's presence before."

"And what's Shinji's excuse?"

Misato heaves out a sigh and shrugs her shoulders, wincing at the overhead alarm still sounding out and echoing throughout the building. "I don't have the time or energy to work through that just yet. But…he'd been locked in stasis inside of Unit 01 for fourteen years. It's not that much of a stretch to assume he's in a similar position to Asuka at this point."

Ritsuko finishes off her cigarette and drops it to the floor, crushing it beneath her boot heel with a twist of her ankle. "Kids are already difficult enough," she mutters, "let alone inhuman ones…"

"What do you think we should do, then?" Misato's voice takes a turn for the accusing, just as Ritsuko had expected. She knows her style so well. "Fact is, we don't have the means to fight off what's coming. Mari is injured, Asuka's Eva is destroyed, and we wouldn't dare let Shinji pilot even if he weren't practically catatonic. So let's hear your plan."

"How about mine?" Mari's voice comes unbidden from a few feet away, ringing out clearly through the noise. Ritsuko turns to see the girl slumped against Asuka's side, her feline smirk a subtle little slip at the corner of her mouth. Asuka's dark gaze remains fixed on the floor as she holds Mari up.

"Do you have some sort of lead?" Misato asks, weighing her words carefully.

"I suppose you could call it that," Mari says on a light singsong. "But it's more friendly advice than anything."

"Out with it, whatever you want to call it."

Mari's smirk deepens as the dark fall of her hair fans over her face at the low bow of her head. "Alright, then, here it is. If you don't want Shinji blowing this place to pieces, I'd suggest you be real nice to our little guest once he arrives."

"'He'?" Misato repeats, alarm clear in her voice what with how it cracks. "What do you mean 'he'?"

"Mm, just a hunch." But the teasing glow of Mari's gaze tells Ritsuko in an instant that her ignorance is a joke, much like everything else with this girl is. "But it might be in your best interests to take my hunch seriously."

Ritsuko turns her attention to Asuka, who has become a sharp shadow in the midst of her tightly-wound anger. All the fury of these past fourteen years is evident in the fine tremors wracking her entire body. Energy radiates from where she stands, feral and hot, shivering to be unleashed.

"And it would be in your best interests to keep from being purposefully vague with us," Misato snaps. "Asuka told me the presence isn't hostile, yet you seem to be saying the opposite. Which one is it?"

Mari snorts out a laugh. "I never said he was hostile. But if anyone tries to hurt him, that'll be another story. Puppy-boy will end the world and he won't miss this time."

"What the fuck does Shinji have to do with this?" Misato's voice is shaking much like the rest of her. "Say what you mean and stop curtailing around the details!"

Mari lets out a laugh that turns into a hiss of pain, her arm belting around her wounded stomach. Ritsuko doesn't miss the worried glance that Asuka shoots her way before she scoffs and picks up where Mari left off. "The angel doesn't want anything to do with us," she says. A dangerous and electric blue glow flares up from beneath her eye patch. "It only wants Shinji."

Ritsuko absorbs this with the customary, scientific detachment that has kept her afloat for years. She can hear Misato breathing heavily beside her, can see how her hands clench into tight fists at her sides; she can almost feel the woman's mind kicking into overdrive as she tries to work out some sort of plan. Always driven, always so headstrong. Ritsuko would almost feel bad for her if she weren't so tired.

"All we can do now is wait," Mari says, her voice still tight with pain even as she smiles. "He'll be here any moment now. Like a knight rescuing his prince…"

"And what the hell are we supposed to do when it gets here?" Misato's voice is so sharp it might as well cut through skin, but Mari's calm exterior isn't even so much as dented. "Just sit back and watch like it's nothing? This is an angel we're dealing with, not a fucking house guest!"

Ritsuko lets out a dry laugh and steps back to lean against the wall, her arms crossed over her chest. "Moments ago you were just excusing the angel as a non-threat. Now you're suddenly back up in arms the moment Shinji's involved?"

Misato shoots her an icy look and is just about to speak before Asuka snaps, slamming her fist into the wall so hard that the cement splinters. "I'm sick of hearing about everyone fucking bending over backwards for that stupid brat!"

Mari's smile falters as she turns and looks at Asuka. It's the most candid she's ever looked.

"If you all think for five fucking seconds that I'm gonna just sit back and listen to this shit about Shinji Shinji Shinji, then think again, because I'm done." Asuka's furious gaze flits up to the monitor for one hot moment before she scoffs and turns on her heel, holding out an arm for Mari to hold herself up on as they start off down the hall. "Another alarm's about to go off," she hisses. "Get ready for it."

"What – "

Misato's voice is cut off when the alarm sounds out perfectly on cue, louder and more urgent than the one before. The swinging doors burst open with a shove and Maya Ibuki storms out, typing into her handheld with frantic fingers. "The security system's being breached," she reports, out of breath and horribly flushed as she hurries over to her computer. "We did a rundown of the exterior securities upholding this place but they're falling one by one at an enormous rate."

The muscles of Misato's jaw tighten as she grits her teeth. "So the angel has already made contact with us?"

"Yes," Maya gasps out, her shoulders rising and falling quickly as she tries to catch her breath. "By the looks of it, it's able to break through even the most complex technologies without exerting any energy, yet the energy surrounding it is incredibly strong. It's untouchable."

Ritsuko heaves out a long sigh and digs through her coat pocket for her cigarettes.

"And where's everyone else?" Misato asks sharply.

"Enforcing the backup security systems, but it's no use. They're all being broken into like it's nothing."

Ritsuko takes a seat and lights up her eighth cigarette. "Maya, turn off that alarm."

Maya looks at her as if seeing a stranger. "What…how are you remaining so nonchalant in the middle of an attack like this?"

"Because I want to enjoy my cigarette in peace," Ritsuko says coolly, "without that goddamn alarm deafening me. Turn it off."

Maya looks at her with wide eyes for a few beats before pursing her lips and begrudgingly switching off the alarm. The silence that suddenly washes over the room feels out of place and alien; things haven't been quiet in so long.

Maya tries to say something, but Ritsuko immediately interrupts her with a show of her hand, silencing her without a word. She doesn't speak until the last of her cigarette burns away into ash and is crushed into the ashtray on her desk. "Misato."

Misato stiffens immediately, glancing sideways at Ritsuko.

"You'd better make sure wherever you've hidden Shinji is secure."

Misato rolls her eyes. "Considering the angel can break through this entire fortress's security, I don't think it'd have any problem getting into a locked room."

"I'm not talking about protecting him from the angel. I'm talking about protecting him from our people." Ritsuko leans back in her chair and closes her eyes. "Because if the angel finds out that someone here has killed him before it can do what it wants with him, we're going to have some problems."

"I'm not letting the angel take Shinji away!"

Ritsuko opens her eyes and serves Misato a dreary look. "Misato, you've tried to protect that boy for years. Look where it's gotten you."

Rather than Misato flaring with her usual anger, her entire face drains to white, her eyes round and gleaming as she looks at Ritsuko like a hurt child. Ritsuko shakes her head and closes her eyes again. The wounded silence stretches on like an old friend.

::

"I hate him."

Mari smiles, limping alongside Asuka down the hallway. "Hating him, huh…wouldn't that make it so much easier on you?"
Asuka's gaze is focused directly ahead of her, cold, violent – but most of all, hurt. Mari knows that expression of hers so well. "It's already easy," she growls. "I hate him."

"More than you hate yourself?"

Asuka comes to a stop, not looking at Mari, not looking at anything but the fixed and vacant space ahead of her. Mari takes a step closer to her and holds onto her arm to remain upright; the pain that jolts through her sprained leg is lovely, and she hisses with relief at the shock that it sends to her nerves. "You know," she says through a soft groan of pain, "you really learn a lot about someone when you spend fourteen years by their side. You're no exception to that, princess."

"Don't give me that," Asuka retorts. "Just because we work together doesn't mean you get some free pass into my heart and soul and all that shit. I'm not that sentimental."

Mari sighs out a laugh and presses her cheek against Asuka's arm. She feels the other's muscles go tense at the touch, as if jarred by the gentleness of it in place of pain and exhaustion. "Of course you're not. If you were sentimental, you'd be carrying me bridal-style down this hallway instead of making me walk."

"You're the one who thought it was so vitally important to go in there and speak with them." Asuka grits her teeth and shoves her free hand into the pocket of her jacket. "Even Misato wants to look out for him. So pathetic."

Mari doesn't remark on that, instead choosing to take in the angular prettiness of Asuka's profile and wonder what she'd look like if her body wasn't locked in a time clutch. Probably just as angry, she thinks fondly.

"I don't care anymore," Asuka says quietly, still staring straight ahead with a hollow look. "Whatever's coming for him, let it come. Maybe it'll carry him off to some other world and I'll never have to see his stupid face ever again."

Mari smiles softly and shakes her head, lightly brushing Asuka's shoulder with her fingertips. "Whatever makes you feel better. Let it out."

Asuka mutters something beneath her breath that Mari doesn't make out. They begin walking again, with Mari shuffling and limping at her side and Asuka going as slowly as she can to allow her to keep up. It's a quietly endearing gesture that Mari wonders whether Asuka herself notices she's doing. Either one would be cute, she thinks with a secretive tilt of a smirk and then a wince when her ankle cracks at her next step.

They're silent for a little while before Asuka stops again, avoiding Mari's eye when she asks, "You…feel what I feel, right?"

Mari feels something flip over in her stomach, something giddy and silly despite the circumstances. "Yeah," she says softly. "I really do…"

"So the angel really isn't hostile?"

Whatever had risen inside of Mari's chest deflates in an instant, and she masks it with a casual toss of her head to flick her hair out of her eyes. "Oh. Mhm. He's soft as a peach."

Asuka nods, looking distracted. "Just making sure we're on the same page here."

"Oh, totally. We always are – "

She's cut short when a sudden cold rush of energy renders her breathless, like a swift and chilled wind piercing right through her and freezing her down to her bones. Asuka seems to feel it as well, judging by the harsh gasp she gives and the way she reaches for Mari's arms on some instinctive urge to guard her. Mari doesn't even have the time to appreciate it before there's the sound of whispery footsteps and one last rush of a cold phantom breeze – and then, just down the hall, stands Rei Ayanami, and beside her, their angel.

Kaworu Nagisa. Mari knows this name apart from the physical being that owns it, and the shock of seeing him in the flesh for the first time is moreso a quiet appreciation for the absurdity of the situation. As Asuka sucks in a violent gasp at the sight of him, Mari merely laughs with a snort, waving at him casually. "Well, aren't you pretty," she says. "Puppy-boy has good taste."

Kaworu looks at her with a mixture of confusion and a fractured sort of anxiety that makes him look owlish and eerie. But his gaze only rests on her for a brief moment before he turns his attention to Asuka, soundless and searching. When he remains quiet, Mari feels Asuka flare up with a seething chill of her own. "But clearly this thing doesn't," she spits out. "Only a fool would feel anything for that pathetic little – "

The look that flashes in Kaworu's eyes is so sudden and sharp that it even knocks Asuka off guard, stealing the words right from her mouth. "He cared for you," he says quietly, the softness of his voice carrying itself down the hall despite the distance.

"Bullshit!" Asuka shouts with a glow of blue from beneath her eye patch once more. "He's never given a fuck about anyone but himself! That's why we're all in this mess to begin with, because he's a selfish brat who doesn't know what's good for anyone!"

Kaworu stares at her silently for a few moments before closing his eyes and bowing his head. Rei stands beside him, looking at him warily with eyes just like his.

"I don't know what the hell's going on here," Asuka says, panting with rage, "but I don't care anymore, you hear me? I don't care where you take him, I don't care what you do with him, just get him out of here before someone…"

Before someone hurts him? Mari thinks, reading the girl's mind easily as her voice trails off. No, you wouldn't want that…

Asuka grits her teeth and shakes her head like an animal ripping into another's flesh. "God, and you even bring her along with you," she whispers. "What an insult…"

Rei glances at Asuka out the corner of her eye, furrowing her brow in muted concern.

"Just get him out of here," Asuka whispers, her voice agonized with a misery that makes Mari's stomach hurt. "Do it before I change my mind."

"That was my intention," Kaworu says, still so softly. "He's what I'm here for."

Asuka huffs out a bitter, awful sort of laugh. "And that's why they've written this situation off as a non-threat? Because of some pervert who wants to steal Shinji away?"

Kaworu looks at her with an expression that Mari can't place – something ironic and knowing, almost like an inside joke only with himself – before tilting his head to the side and asking, "What's a pervert?"

Asuka's eyes widen the barest bit, her mouth parted in speechless wonder as if she's just been stricken by something that no one but her can see. But the expression is gone in an instant, so quickly it might as well have not been there at all.

Mari had become so wrapped up in observing their exchange that she doesn't even realize she's being addressed until she hears Kaworu ask, "You know who I am, don't you?"

Mari looks back at him, weighing her response very carefully. She can feel Asuka staring at her in pensive alarm and eventually decides on, "I might have heard of you in passing."

Kaworu doesn't look convinced. His stare remains locked on hers, his pale face etched with an otherworldly sorrow that Mari doesn't think any language has a word for. All the while, she feels Asuka's cold eyes drilling into her profile, demanding answers that Mari can't give just yet.

"But more on that later," Mari says with a nonchalant wave of her hand. "This isn't what you're here for, right? Go get a move on."

Kaworu regards her for a silent moment, then turns his attention to Asuka once more. "When you tried to stop us," he says, "you were just doing what you thought was right, weren't you?"

Asuka's face goes pale. "What…?"

Kaworu's smile is like that of a ghost's, indistinct and haunted. "Don't blame Shinji for this. Please, blame me."

Asuka gapes at him in speechless confusion before realization dawns on her in a slow wave. "Shinji wasn't the only pilot in the Eva…?"

That a girl, Mari thinks.

Kaworu's eyes lid, and his smile takes a turn for the morbid. "Of course he wasn't. Didn't you see the blood on the wall?"

Asuka's face loses all its color. Kaworu lifts his head in a moment's sudden rapt attention as he listens for something neither Mari nor Asuka can hear. But Mari doesn't have to be able to hear it herself to know what he's listening for. (Though for one brief moment, she swears she can hear Shinji's muffled cries coming from just down the hall…)

"What the hell were you trying to do back there?" Asuka asks, her voice hoarse and weak. Mari can see the line of her shoulders trembling. "What did you tell him to make him do something so stupid?"

Kaworu slowly turns his attention away from the ceiling, looking both serene and wounded. The look he gives Asuka makes even Mari feel a chill. "He wanted to redo. He wanted to atone for the sake of all the people he held dear but now fear him. And when I gave him the chance to do that, he gladly took it. He trusted me."

Rei drops her gaze to the floor as Kaworu's hands begin to shake.

"Everything he did was out of hope that he could fix this world," Kaworu goes on in a fragile, glass-like voice. "The outcome was a fault…entirely mine."

Mari catches Asuka's wince when Kaworu turns on his heel and takes the first steps in the direction his rapt gaze had been focused previously. Rei watches him with quietly wondering eyes, not following him. Mari can hear Asuka's strained breathing as she looks wildly from Kaworu to Rei and back to Kaworu. "How do I know you're not lying about all this?" she demands, her usual fire diluted with shock and something that sounds dangerously close to fear.

Kaworu glances over his shoulder at her with an unaffected stare. "I have no need to lie. I only need Shinji."

Asuka's face flushes with rage, but Kaworu's soft smile sobers the rough edges of her frustration just as she opens her mouth to speak. "Despite your anger," Kaworu says quietly, "you're more caring than you give yourself credit for."

It's the last thing he says before vanishing down the hall, leaving the three girls in tense silence in the middle of the cold hallway. Mari watches Asuka's profile carefully, picking through the girl's unreadable expression little by little. Right when she's about to speak, Asuka cuts her off. "Don't," she murmurs, staring wide-eyed down at the floor. "Don't look at me. Don't talk to me. Don't do anything." And then, desperately, she whispers, "Please."

Mari closes her mouth and replaces the unspoken words on her tongue with a small, forced lift of a smile. She gently drops her hand away from Asuka's arm, having been holding onto her this entire time, and turns to look at Rei at the other end of the hall. "So, you wanna come with us? Might just be me, but I wouldn't wanna go within a few meters of where he's gone off to. Talk about awkward."

Rei doesn't seem to catch onto the innuendo and simply stares at her, her brow furrowed and her mouth set in a serious line.

"But putting that aside," Mari adds, hobbling towards her, "it might not be a good idea for the others to see you…imagine how much of a shit-fit that would start, right?"

Rei's eyes light up with understanding. She sends one last glance down the hall that Kaworu drifted off to before coming to meet Mari. Asuka visibly bristles when she gets closer, but her defeat makes her unable to pick a fight. She remains cold and untouchable in her silence; there's nothing left to say.

::

In his hidden-away sector of space, Shinji is burning from the inside out. His heart is thrumming on double-time in his chest, one-two one-two one-two, a quick little flutter in his ribcage that makes it hard to breathe. Tears sting at the corners of his eyes as his hands shake from the hungry buzz of his body, reaching through the shadows for someone who isn't here yet.

But he can feel him. He can feel Kaworu, just down the hall, just outside this door, just beyond the perimeters of his senses. His heartbeat drums faster, one-two-one-two-one-two. The edges of his conscience sharpen into focus as he closes his eyes and listens for a sign of life outside the door – muffled speaking, voices that aren't Kaworu's, Misato? Ritsuko? The clicking of machines, the tapping of buttons and keys. Voices being sent over radio frequencies. Sounds that don't belong to Kaworu.

I heard your voice, Shinji thinks, his head lolling to the side as he backs up against the wall to keep from collapsing. I can feel you…I know you're here, I know you're here, so please…please, come to me…

Shinji's eyes fly open at the sudden swell of energy that he senses close by. He tunes in his focus to the sounds of the hallway and hears delicate, padding footsteps, unsteady breathing, the raise of a hand…

"I'm here," Shinji whimpers, his face wet with tears as he closes his aching eyes. "Kaworu, I'm here…"

The passcode lock is broken through with a zip.

"I'm here, I'm here, please…"

Shinji opens his eyes just in time for the door to slide to the side and let in a single beam of light.

The glowing silhouette of Kaworu stands motionless in the doorway. Wispy tatters of the silk draped over his body flutter around him like the feathers of timid wings furled against his legs. The red glimmer of his eyes shines bright and lucid in the gloomy darkness of the room.

The still and silent spell casted between them suddenly splinters, and Shinji is running to him on clumsy legs as everything else in the world drops away and is rendered meaningless. Nothing but Kaworu remains, the entire world centering round where he stands. The door zips to a close behind him, and Kaworu opens his arms, his eyes misting over as he breathes out a shaky, frantic plea of Shinji's name.

When they collide, the universe comes to a standstill. The two of them are all there is, all there ever was, all there will ever be.

Shinji breaks in a sob when Kaworu's arms wrap around him so tightly that it should hurt, but all he feels is relief pouring over him in hot waves that have him clinging onto Kaworu with everything he has. Kaworu's hands are everywhere all at once, gripping Shinji's hair to grabbing his shoulders to running his palms down his back; he touches everything he can with an urgency that Shinji encourages with a hungry arch of his back and a panting plea of Kaworu's name as he clutches onto the ragged silk covering the other's slender body.

Neither of them can speak. The sheer weight of every word they can't say hangs down on them and only leaves room for each other's name.

Kaworu's cool hands rise to cup Shinji's face, his eyes wild and gleaming with tears as he looks him over with a desperate eagerness, as if unsure of where to look first. Shinji feels a hot, pulsing energy radiating from Kaworu's body and sinking into his own everywhere that Kaworu touches him, a bright and feral tug that jolts Shinji's nerves into action and draws a hungry moan out of him before their lips even meet.

It's too frantic to tell who moves in first, their fever coloring the both of them unstable and needy, but Shinji's mind goes deliciously blank the moment they find each other in a shuddering, gasping clash of a kiss. Despite how cool the rest of him is, Kaworu's mouth is hot, hot and parted and trembling as Shinji surges forward and deepens the kiss on his own accord, too feverish to care about restraints anymore. Kaworu pushes back against him with a winded groan and presses his leg between Shinji's thighs, parting them easily; the heady moan that Shinji lets out in between the next clumsy kiss is all the encouragement he can give as his mind reels with pleasant shock and the lines of his body become blurry and dreamlike with heat.

He feels himself being lifted, and he immediately wraps his legs around the other's waist to hold onto him tighter as he's pushed up against the wall and held in place against the lean sliver of Kaworu's body. Kaworu is everywhere all at once, kissing him anywhere his lips can land on, licking the tears that cling to Shinji's cheeks. His every movement is that of a hungry animal, and Shinji urges him on with breathy chants of his name, tipping his head back to offer up his throat to the hot suck of Kaworu's mouth and the shock of his teeth. He feels Kaworu reaching down with a frantic hand to yank up his nightgown until he's bare from the waist down, and Shinji can only shiver, his thighs aching around the boy's hips as he holds on for dear life. But Kaworu won't let him go. He won't let him fall. And Shinji knows this with such certainty that he allows himself to let go and reach down to pull up the pale shroud covering Kaworu's body until he too is bare right where Shinji needs him.

Their hips align in such a way that their bodies rub together in a searing line of heat, and Shinji has to bite down onto the curve of Kaworu's shoulder to keep from crying out. But Kaworu doesn't bother to stifle his own winded moans as he kisses Shinji's face over and over again, his arms wrapping around Shinji's back and his fingers threading into his hair. He moves again, and Shinji is reduced to a helpless, overheated squirm against him; when Kaworu's hand wraps around them both, Shinji's jaw drops in a tremulous moan as his hips cant upwards with a quick little jolt that makes Kaworu gasp into his ear, the muscles of his shoulders tensing in Shinji's hold. The hard, hot press of Kaworu's arousal rubbing against his own and the quick, shaking pass of his hand makes Shinji's every thought go cloudy until all he can do is let himself be completely absorbed in this moment, unable to imagine any time stretching before or after it; his entire world has become one single point in space, one single being.

"Kaworu – " Shinji's nails dig into Kaworu's shoulders as a hard shudder surges through him. "I – I need you, please – "

"I'm right here," Kaworu pants out against Shinji's throat. "I'm right here, I won't leave you – "

"Don't leave me," Shinji pleads on a half-moan, half-sob, unable to control the wildness of his breath what with how Kaworu steals it away with every touch. "Don't – a-ah – don't ever leave me again, not again, please, please…"

Kaworu silences his cries with another hard press of his mouth, and Shinji takes the kiss greedily, a long, hoarse moan dragged out of him as they grind harder against each other. His fingers tangle into Kaworu's hair and tug, and the raw, hungry sound that Kaworu makes into his mouth is enough to nearly send Shinji over the edge right then and there. One hand flutters down to grab at Kaworu's wrist, urging him on faster with shudders of his hips and delirious, panting words that never finish themselves completely before they're broken by whimpers of the other's name. His tongue traces hot along Kaworu's, wet and soft and wanting, before there's the sudden bite of Kaworu's teeth at his bottom lip, and Shinji comes undone.

It's with an unbearable tightening throughout his entire self that Shinji is pushed to the very limits of what his body can take. Everything rises to a nearly painful tension, and he breaks the kiss with a choked-off breath that suspends heatedly between their lips. Kaworu is looking at him, his gaze hot and waiting as he breathes out his name, adoring, and Shinji feels himself slip over the edge as everything crashes down around him in shuddering, arching waves of heat. Words fail him as he's reduced to a mess of whines and gasps, his hips rolling deep and hard against Kaworu's body and into his hand. Kaworu loses himself just in time with a ragged gasp, holding Shinji's chin with shaking fingers to keep their eyes locked, to not let Shinji look away from him as they both melt together and fall apart. Kaworu is beautiful when he comes, his eyes glowing and bright, his breath short and fast, his entire body still and tense before he shudders on a long exhale that almost sounds like a sob. His arms wind around Shinji's shoulders to hold him tightly, and Shinji rolls his hips weakly against him in little spasms as his body climbs back down from his high, overheated and delirious.

With Kaworu's breath on his lips and their bodies touching so close, so bare, Shinji feels as though he could die one million times over and be reborn into this exact moment time and time again, and not once would it ever feel anything less than perfection. His tears fall freely now as Kaworu kisses him over and over again, the barest-there touches of his lips in between little jumps of breath. When they sink to the floor, it's as Shinji's body is nothing but air what with how his limbs feel so light they might as well be imaginary.

He pulls Kaworu atop him once his back meets the floor, the chill of the cement permeating through the thin gown just barely covering him. His limbs are shaky and weak as he wraps his legs around Kaworu's hips and his arms around lean shoulders, nestling his face in the crook of the other's neck. The mess between them is no matter to him. Everywhere their bodies touch is sacred. The horrific memories of lifetimes that Shinji doesn't understand are all diluted and washed out, content, sleepy delirium taking their place until all he can think of is how neatly their bodies align, how soft Kaworu's skin is, how perfect it would be to lie here and do this again and again and again without ever having to devote their time to anything else…

Kaworu's breath is hitching in little gasps, and Shinji opens his eyes in quiet worry at the sensation of warm tears dripping onto his skin. Gently, he coaxes Kaworu to lift his head and look at him, touching his face with the barest grazes of his palms. Kaworu's eyes are closed, but the tears flow steadily down his cheeks and drip onto Shinji's lips. In a daze, Shinji reaches up to trace the tear tracks with deft fingertips before lifting his head and kissing each one, tasting salt and skin as Kaworu lingers above him, agonized and beautiful. "You came back for me…" Shinji whispers to him, kissing along the fine arch of his cheekbone. He repeats these words on a delirious whisper over and over again, chanting them like a prayer against Kaworu's mouth, his tears dripping down like holy water onto his tongue.

"I've always come back for you…" Kaworu's breath hitches again; more tears stream in its wake. "Everything I do…has always been for you only…"

Shinji leans in to kiss him, the contact little more than a soft, searching brush of his lips. He hears Kaworu breathe out the sweetest of moans, the exhale a sleepy sigh into Shinji's mouth.

"I remember now," Shinji whispers. "You standing in the water…you told me you loved me…"

Shinji feels Kaworu suddenly stiffen as red eyes open to look down at him in muted horror. Shinji gazes back at him, serene and hazy as he strokes Kaworu's tears away with the pads of his thumbs. "You told me I was fragile like glass…and you were right, weren't you? You understood me when no one else did…"

"Shinji, no…" Kaworu squeezes his eyes shut as a fresh stream of tears slithers down his cheeks. "Please, no, don't remember – "

"But Kaworu, you're a lot like glass, too," Shinji murmurs adoringly, leaning up to kiss the side of Kaworu's throat. He sees a thin, jagged line of red flare up under the touch of his lips, radiating heat. Shinji remembers the collar strapped around that pale throat and holds him tighter in response, feeling him tremble and gasp as he cries. A small smile touches Shinji's lips as his head spins with adoration for this pained body in his arms, his every thought cloudy and fogged over with a love that will gladly consume him. "And that's why…I'm not going to let anyone ever hurt you again…"

Kaworu drops his forehead onto Shinji's chest as he openly weeps, his shoulders heaving as his body is wracked with sobs. They cling to each other with everything they have as the faint sound of footsteps echo from down the hall beyond their secret door.

In the gathering shadows of the room, Shinji's eyes glow an electric blue.