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      He wakes up in the night with sweat clinging to his body, his chest heaving. His heart pounds in his chest and frantically, he twists in the bed, reaches.

      The warmth of Ikari Shinji’s body is like a testament. Of what, he is not sure. Nagisa Kaworu lets his body relax at the feeling of the sleeping boy next to him, removing his hand away slowly as to not wake him. A clock in the room ticks, and his nightmares return to him in slow motion.

      The DSS choker feels warm around his neck, pulsing with electricity that sends chills throughout him. He knows what he did wrong last time; he allowed Shinji to keep it. Why had he? He slides the sheets from his body and kicks his legs off the bed. He presses the heel of his palm into his forehead, suppressing a groan. He would not forget the sight of blood across the glass-like barrier between he and Shinji. The way the choker had begun to glow, that sense of knowing that had filled him and also, disbelief. After that- that initial shock and horror, the splatter of carnage striking the barrier then the following stillness - he remembered nothing. Static and screaming in his own head, something he couldn’t tap into and was partially glad for. What had he done? Wept and thrown fists against the barrier, trying to reach the mutilated body of the boy on the other side? How long had he thrown his fit before time had stopped, thrusting him into blackness and with the chastising voices of his one thousand brothers and sisters. Of the old men, and then of silence.

      He’d sat to brood on his last mistakes for thirty plus years, most of it spent alone. No. No, nearly all of it spent alone. Did the old men, teaching him of his sole purpose count as company? Did Ayanami, with her staring and her tight lips count as company, either? She remembered nothing, sadly, and so he was left, ten million hours spent tapping idly at the keys of the piano downstairs. He’d been hardly able to contain himself when Shinji had finally arrived and still, he’d done so little with the boy. Their time was so short. It always was.

      He’d been here three days, and tonight, Shinji had found Kaworu’s own quarters. He’d knocked shyly on his door (although Kaworu had felt him coming when he was in the hall, had closed his eyes and listened to him breathe as he stood at the door, waiting, thinking, second guessing before he finally decided to knock), asked how Nagisa was doing. Asked, did he mind if he stayed the night. Kaworu could see a thousand things unsaid in Shinji’s mouth. Smiling, Kaworu had, of course, said yes. And now he slept, just beside him in the cramped bed.

      Kaworu’s heart began to slow. He’d dreamt so often of the final moments of his last failure but never did the blow soften. How could it? How could you soften the violent stab of watching someone you loved so dearly die so violently? After such a failure, he could not forgive himself. He’d tried, once, to practice what he preached, to try the very words he’d begged Shinji to do. There is always hope. Always. Always. But what a deadly fool was he? For it was him, as an angel, who set off that choker in the first place.

      His fingers went up to the thing, feels the heat beneath his fingertips.

      Nagisa Kaworu climbs back into bed, and lays as close as he dares to Ikari Shinji.