What a horrible thing.

What a horrible thing, eager to lull you into a false sense of security. How willing love is to make you feel safe, to feel good about yourself, perhaps minutes before lunging and stabbing you in the back.

Shinji Ikari had loved before, and in fact, been loved in return.

It made him want to vomit just thinking about it.

The memories burned within him, the pain as vivid and fresh as if he was recalling the events of yesterday.

I love you, Shinji.

I was born to meet you, Shinji.

I'm an Angel, Shinji.

Kill me, Shinji.

And he had.

He had to.

And he had screamed – oh, how he had screamed – screamed so loud he couldn't even hear himself anymore. His shrieking had faded to a distant drone in the back of his mind, interlaced with choked sobs as he gazed at the headless body in his hand.

He had crushed the remainder of Kaworu's corpse. Dropped it into the hideous sea of LCL, watched it sink to the bottom along with his severed head.

The image of his broken body, visible through the slightly translucent liquid, haunted Shinji every time he closed his eyes.


Had he loved Asuka, too?

Yes. In a way.

She had been there for many of the battles against the Angels. She had been there for him, even if she didn't make an effort to help him. She was always there – a staple of the NERV team. A staple of school, of piloting, even of home.

Shinji slowly brought his hand to his mouth. His trembling fingers touched his lips.

He and Asuka had shared their first kiss together.

It hadn't been a touching moment. He hadn't even liked it, to be honest. The kiss was too long and too uncomfortable and much too awkward, just as it should be between children who didn't know what they were doing.

It was their only real moment of innocence.


It was Asuka's moment of innocence, the one moment where she wasn't forced to scream or cry or kill, the moment where she was allowed to be what she really was at heart:

A child.

Shinji had ruined the last bit of innocence he had when he visited her in the hospital.

Disgusted with himself, Shinji moved his hand away from his mouth.

The same hand.

He could have helped her. He could have saved her if he hadn't been wallowing in a pit of his own self-loathing.

Shinji blinked.

There it was. The image haunted him, just as the memory of Kaworu's dead body did.

Impaled upon a reproduction of the Lance of Longinus, Unit 02's mutilated head hung limply. Its mouth was torn open, letting blood drip down its face, past the sightless eyes hanging out of their sockets.

Shinji just watched in shock as the fake Evas tore the carcass apart, teeth working furiously as they devoured Asuka's vessel. Bits of flesh flew in every direction. The body grew tense, its spine forcibly curving as the stringy guts were pulled tighter, quivering in a grotesque arch before the entrails were ripped free.

Shinji's eyes snapped open.

He stared up at Rei, whose emotionless red eyes gazed back at him.

Her hands sunk into his chest, leaving her arms visible from only the elbow up.

"Shinji," Rei said softly.


"Do you love me?"

"I loved my Mother," Shinji replied quietly after a moment.

"Do you love me?" she asked again, voice lower. Shinji felt her hips slowly melt into his, merging together. They were separate beings only above their waist.

"I loved Rei," he answered.

"Do you love me?" Barely audible now.

Rei's body began to melt again. They both sat still as their chests melded to form one.


Rei closed her eyes and was silent for a long moment.

"Will you stay with me?"


Shinji felt a tear drip onto his cheek.

It didn't matter who had cried.

Love was a universal pain.