When Shinji came to he was still seated on the entry plug throne. He opened his eyes and looked around, and saw only the insides of the plug through the emergency red lighting. There was no power to the immersive video display and the only other sign of life within the EVA was a small digital display the plug wall that read CONDITION DORMANT.
She's not dead, Shinji thought to himself, just sleeping. If anyone deserves a rest after all of this it's her. He picked himself off of the control throne and then made his way to the hatch.
Shinji grabbed a handrail and then pushed the EXIT button on the keypad, and then held on tight as the entry plug was pushed out of the EVA itself by compressed air. The plug would be just removed enough for him to open the hatch door and get outside.
He released the hatch lock and spun the wheel and the hatch then opened, a rope ladder immediately falling outside. Shinji looked outside and saw that Unit 01 was seated on its rear, resting on its buttocks and legs, and that the distance to the ground was at most twenty meters. Searching outside the doorway for signs of anything else, he saw no sign of Rei's Unit 07, but saw pieces of another EVA scattered all around, which Shinji saw from the colors of the limbs and pieces to be the remnants of Unit 06. He looked around further to see signs of anything else and then saw the dismembered wreckage of Unit 02 lying on the cavern floor.
Asuka. Shinji went back into the entry plug and opened up a compartment, removing a medical kit and a communicator. He grabbed both, hung the medical kit around his shoulder and then again went to the hatch, climbing his way out and down to the ground on the rope ladder. The boy landed on his feet and then proceeded to run to Unit 02 on the other side of the cavern.
As he ran towards the EVA Shinji looked around him at the cavern, to see if there were any signs of anything else. While the floor was scattered with debris there was still no sign of Unit 07, or of Rei herself, or of Kaowru or whatever that other pilot had been. Seeing no one else he then made EVA-02 his focus, and then steeled himself for what he would find there.
After five minutes of running he reached Unit 02. The ground all around it was soaked in red LCL that was syrupy and sticky, and it took him some time slogging through it to make his way to the EVA itself. The unit was lying down on her chest, the entry plug still held within. To the left of him he saw the dismembered head of the unit, its four eyes seeming to stare distantly at the cavern walls. On reaching the EVA Shinji climbed over and on top of the body and reached the entry plug slot. Careful not to get too close to the plug's ejection cavity, he looked for the manual controls on the surface of the Evangelion and found them, and then activated the manual eject function. Within a second compressed air came out from the back of the EVA and an opening was made by two parts of the EVA's back plates sliding out. A white entry plug then pushed out, twisting as it did so. The plug stopped half-way, the hatch opening automatically and LCL pouring out of the hatch entry way as another rope ladder dropped out.
Shinji carefully walked to the where the rope ladder had dropped just below the plug, feeling strangely calm. Perhaps he was just spent out emotionally or perhaps something else, but he couldn't feel scared at this moment despite what he feared would be inside the entry plug, what would be left of the girl he loved. He climbed the ladder, medical kit still hung from his shoulder, and then entered into the doorway. It was deathly silent inside.
Looking towards the other end of the plug Shinji saw the control throne and Asuka's body still seated on it, motionless. There were no lights on in the plug or anything being displayed, even the emergency lighting was off. All was covered in shadow. As he slowly approached her fear now started coming to him but he pushed himself onward. If she was dead, he wanted to know it for himself. He was done with running away.
The boy got to the seat and saw Asuka's body. Her red hair draped all around her head and face, the body was sprawled on the throne, each of her hands still clutching the actuators. Carefully he felt for her head and brushed the hair from her eyes. Her face was a bloody mess, one eye blackened out in heavy contusions. "Asuka?" he asked her softly, hoping for something, anything from the girl. He listened carefully, gulping down his anxieties as his hand felt her face.
From her lips there was a sound and Shinji put his hear to her mouth. He could hear the faintest of breath. "ASUKA!" he screamed at her.
She moaned softly as Shinji hurriedly grabbed the medical kit and brought out the scanner, plugging it into a port on her plug suit and then waiting for the reading. After about thirty seconds the display listed her condition on the screen: CONDITION VERY CRITICAL - MASSIVE INTERNAL DAMAGE – NEEDS IMMEDIATE CARE.
"Asuka!" Shinji shouted again, trying to get her to at least be conscious. He shook her gently, trying to see if he could bring her to life. After another moment her right eye opened just slightly.
"Ba...baka..." she whispered as she moved slightly. Tears came to Shinji's eyes as he heard her.
"I'd never thought I'd be glad to hear you say that again!"he exclaimed in reply. Asuka struggled to say something else but couldn't get it out, and instead started gurgling. Blood came bubbling up from her lips.
Without hesitating Shinji again reached into the medical kit and grabbed out a syringe labeled CRYOSTAT. While he had never used it before he knew what it did, and knew that if there was any way to save her he would need to slow down her body's metabolism first. "I'm here!" he told her as he put the air syringe to her neck and then pushed the button at the end, injecting 10 ccs of a dark blue solution into her body.
"Just hang on, okay!" he said to her, caressing her head and brushing his hands through her hair. Within seconds the cryogenic solution took effect on her body, making her skin a bluish-tone. Her lips went from red to dark blue and Shinji could feel that she was cold to the touch. It was unnerving, and he hoped that Asuka was just in a cold state and not dying, but he knew it was the only chance that she had. After the solution took full effect Shinji just looked on to her for another minute, her eye closed and she appeared to be sleeping and he hoped that was a good sign. Gently and despite the coldness of her skin he kissed her on the lips and then stood up from the throne. He had to make sure she made it to safety.
Shinji set down the medical kit and then took out the communicator, switching it on. He knew he was in SEELE's darkest lair but also knew that if Asuka and Rei were here than others with NERV and the Alliance would be too, and right now he needed their help despite the risk of giving away their position to any enemies that were left.
"HUNTER," Shinji called on the communicator. "HUNTER, this is HUNTER-ONE. Can you hear me?" Not hearing anything at first Shinji tried again. "HUNTER, THIS IS HUNTER-ONE. Come in!"
There was a crackle on the speaker and then. "Shinji!" came Misato's surprised voice. Shinji was very relieved to her her."Misato!"
"Shinji! Are you okay?"
"Yes! Yes, I'm okay, but Asuka's hurt really badly! She needs help!"
"We have a team trying to make our way down there," Misato's voice came back. "Who else is down there with you?"
"Um, there's no sign of Rei or Unit 07. The enemy's gone too."
"Unit 06 is destroyed," Shinji clarified, again feeling strangely calm now. "I think Unit 04's gone down too. There's no one else down here."
"Is your EVA functional?"
"No, there's still power but she's dormant," he reported. "There's no one else here."
"Okay," came back Misato's voice. "Where are you exactly?"
"Inside EVA-02's entry plug."
"I want you to stay there and don't come out. We'll get troops and transport down there as soon as possible. Use the cryo for Asuka, it's in the med kit."
"I already did that," Shinji answered. "Misato? Um...I know I really screwed things up and..."
"Hey," she said in a softer tone, "later, okay? Right now I'm just glad to hear your voice."
"Okay. Keep the communicator on, we'll track you through it. But be careful!" Misato then signed off.
Shinji breathed a big sigh and then went back to Asuka. Her body had now gone into a full cryogenic state and Shinji hoped that the chill he felt from her skin didn't mean that she was lifeless inside as well. He sat by and brushed her air out of her face. Shinji closed his eyes and shook his head, unsure of what else he should be concerned about. There was no sign of Rei however, and right now that began to worry him a lot more.
Rei...what happened to you?
The voice came inside of his head again. Shinji...
It's Kaworu again, Shinji thought, just like before. But really? Or is this just another trick?
The boy considered what he should do next. Misato had ordered him to stay in EVA-02's entry plug and he did want to remain by Asuka's side until help arrived, but he was also increasingly worried about Rei and if she had survived the battle or not. He needed answers.
Shinji searched below the entry plug's throne and found a cargo storage compartment. Inside was a pilot survival kit, a new addition to the plug since NERV began to operate with the Alliance. Shinji, like all pilots, was trained to know about the kit and how to use it, and he remembered the contents. Grabbing the red-colored kit he zipped it open and found a variety of foods, water, tools, and other survival gear. Also mounted in the kit was a small automatic pistol with five loaded clips of ammunition. Shinji took the pistol and slid in one of the clips.
He slowly made his way out of the entry plug and down the rope ladder, dropping the final two meters to the cavern floor and landing on his feet in the sticky LCL. Shinji took a look around and saw a ghostly figure standing ten meters away, facing him. "Shinji," the figure's voice called to him.
Shinji took three steps towards the figure and then slid a round into the pistol. He then pointed it straight at the naked boy standing in front of him. "Who are you?"
The figure gave him a slight smile. "It's me. This time."
Shinji took another step forward, the gun still aimed at the chest of the other boy. "Prove it."
The other boy's face was thoughtful for a moment. "Alright," he said softly. He then got down on his knees and put his hands to the cavern floor. Not looking up at Shinji he told him. "If you wish to shoot me you may do so. As before, I will not resist it."
"I don't want to kill you," said Shinji, his voice still with anger. "But I have to know you're you..."
"You'll know it's me," the boy replied, "because only I would welcome again being killed by Shinji Ikari, for that is how much I love him."
The words the boy said resonated in Shinji's mind, the way in which he spoke was gentle and sure, not harsh and daring as the pilot of Unit 06 had been. That Kowaru had been proud and taunting, but this boy was his polar opposite. Shinji was still unsure and hesitated, his hands shaking as he pointed the pistol at the naked boy on the floor. Then somehow he knew, and his heart and his mind both agreed on it.
Shinji dropped the pistol and then ran to where Kaworu was kneeling on the ground. He then went to the ground himself and embraced the boy, grabbing onto him tightly in joy and elation. He was alive! He was alive after all! Tears went down his face as he began to cry. The boy took his own arms and held Shinij and they remained like that for a long while.
After a while they broke off and then each of them stood up. Shinji's eyes were still watery and his face reddened, but he smiled broadly. "How...how are you alive even?"
"A complicated tale," the boy told him. "But the easiest way to explain it is that I'm not just Kaworu Nagisa anymore." Shinji cocked his head a little in wonder and then the boy explained further. "In many ways I am like the First Child."
"I knew that," Shinji replied. "You have an Angel inside of you."
"The soul of Adam, in fact, but at first only a portion of it. The 'me' you knew then was known as Tabris, the Seventeenth Angel. But when you killed me, you released that part of me. The other part of the Angel called Adam, the First Angel, he was held by your father. At the moment that I was released from my previous body the remaining part of me joined with Adam and I became one with Adam."
"What was my father doing with Adam?"
"This is the core of Third Impact. Your father intended to combine Adam and Lillith together to open his own gateway to Heaven, and there he would return your mother's soul to a physical body once it became free from its current host...the Evangelion."
Shinji thought it through and then filled in the missing pieces. "He'd put her inside of Rei! To make her alive again!"
"Yes, that was his will. But it was not his destiny."
"So when Rei made that giant during Third Impact," Shinji worked out, "she was combined with you instead!"
"She was merged with both the Second Angel and myself, and in doing so we re-set the world. But it was the First Child's choice to remain here. In order for her to do so, and to retain her body, it was necessary for a time that I would still be unified with her. I have been so until now."
"You were with Rei all this time then?"
"Yes! And I've been watching you these last few months. What an amazing time's its been! Even in this short time I've seen you both grow up so much, learning to love, learning truth about yourself and others, even in your failings."
"But Kaworu," Shinji told him, his tears starting up again. "I killed you. I killed you when I could have saved you! You didn't have to go and do all of this!"
"You may have killed my body," the body told him with a reassuring smile, "but you also set me free! You of all people did that for me! I could not have done any of these things had I still been only the Fifth Child. When I asked you to please do that, even though it hurt you inside so much, you still had faith in me enough to do that. For that I am eternally thankful."
"It's enough that we are here, now, at the end and that you know the truth," said the boy. Shinji didn't say anything back but again embraced him.
"I really wanted you back," Shinji told him through the sobs, "I really missed you!"
"But you found new friends too, yes?"
"Yes! I mean, well, I did but..."
"And you also found love also?"
"You mean Asuka? Yes, that too. If she still loves me after all of this, then..."
"I wouldn't be so worried," the boy said to him confidently. "You two truly are meant for each other, and she knows that truth as much as you do."
Shinji pulled back. "What..what about Rei? Where is she?"
"She is here," Kaworu told him. "See?" he motioned a few yards away from them and then Shinji saw her. Rei was lying on the ground naked, fast asleep, She had been returned to normal size, her hair and skin tone the blue and pale color they were before her transformation. "Now with the pieces of the EVA she could be reborn again, now as completely her own. I need not be part of her any longer."
Shinji carefully walked to where Rei was, and knelt down. Seeing her peacefully sleeping on the ground touched Shinji deeply. Rei was pure of heart, more so than anyone else he had ever known except for Kaworu, but unlike Kaworu Rei was determined to struggle in order to live as the rest of humans did, no matter how challenging that was to her. He felt even more relived that she had been able to survive their struggle with the enemy.
"I almost don't want to wake her up," he told Kaworu as he doted on her, gently brushing her hair.
"You're there for her, now and always," the boy told in in return. Shinji looked back at him. "Will you stay with us?"
"Why...why not? Come on, now! It's all over, right? You could come live with us!"
"Shinji," the boy told him, "I was there when you needed me the most, but you've grown since then. You no longer need me like you once did."
"That's..." Shinji replied to him as he approached him. "That's not true! I do need you, even now!"
"It's time for the two of us to move on," the boy said to him, trying to be comforting. "You were still a boy then, but you're becoming a man now. A man has his own needs, and I have many other roles that I need to play in this world now that I've been restored."
Shinji looked very disappointed. "You can't stay then?" Kaworu held him gently by the shoulders.
"I promise you that we will meet once more, again at the time that you need me the most, but in the meantime, you need to live your life as it's meant to be lived, looking forward and not back." Kaworu looked at the sleeping Rei. "You need to be there for her, too, and for your other. Me being there will just get in the way of that."
The boy was about to say something further but then they both heard a sound and turned around. Rei was stirring, starting to wake up. Kaworu looked Shinji in the eyes. "Go to her," he told her. "Whatever friendship that you wanted to spend with me, spend it with her. Give her the bond she needs to make her fully complete."
"What she needs most is family," Shinji said softly. "And that's what I am."
Kaworu smiled at him. "Then you know the rest."
Shinji embraced him one more time, squeezing him as tight as he could. "Thank you." Kaworu also squeezed hard, kissing him on the cheek in affection. "Thank you." Shinji then turned towards Rei and moved to be beside her as she started to awaken.
It took her a long moment to open her eyes, slowing coming to as if from a deep sleep. Shinji knelt besides her, watching and waiting, and ready for her awakening. After a while she came to, at first disoriented and confused. Rei looked up at Shinji, who greeted her with a smile.
"Shinji…" she said to him at first, and then suddenly she blurted out "Onii-chan!" She then reached for him and Shinji took her into his arms and held her tight.
Rei held on to Shinji as she got over the shock of her re-birth and emergence, and after another long moment Shinji helped her get to her feet. She wobbled a little as she leaned on him in order to gain her balance. As he helped her get steady, Shinji looked over to where Kaworu was standing before but now saw that he had disappeared. Rei calmed herself and the two of them looked at each other and smiled a little more.
"Are you alright?" Shinji asked her. Rei didn't say anything at first but just nodded. He gently brushed her hair with his hand as she took deep breaths, her memories rushing back to her.
"We defeated the enemy," she told him.
"Yes. We did it together!"
Rei looked behind Shinji and saw the wreckage of EVA-02. "The Second?"
Shiji grimaced a little. "She's hurt bad, but I was able to reach Misato and call for help. I put her in cryo so hopefully she'll be okay." Rei nodded, and then took another deep breath.
The rest of her memories came to her and it was then that her eyes went wide in realization of what had happened before their final battle. Her mouth quivered in emotion. "Patrick…Forri-kun!" she said to Shinji with a trembling voice. "I shot Forri-kun!"
"That's what Asuka told me," Shinji said. "What happened?"
"He...I…We thought that because of his sister he was helping SEELE. EVA-04 had the Spear. He threw the spear at us."
"But…but," tears came to Rei again as she recalled what she had discovered earlier. "He was not trying to hurt us! He had set you free and wanted for us to have the Lance. He was trying to help us! But I did not realize it in time! I…I…" She looked up at Shinji, her whole face contorted in grief. "I killed Forri-kun…" Shinji could feel her sadness and gently caressed her hair. "I'm so sorry."
Rei tried to speak further but couldn't get anything else out. Instead she burst out sobbing in grief and buried her head in Shinji's shoulder as he held her tighter in any attempt to comfort her.
In the distance there was a loud rumbling and both of them looked towards the cavern edge. The rumbling got louder and they turned to see what it was that was coming. Suddenly a giant humanoid figure lifted itself from the cliff's edge.
The two of them looked at the giant as the smoke coming from the lava river below cleared and they saw that it was the silver-white body of Evangelion Unit 04. "EVA-04!" Shinji shouted. "It's Unit 04. She's not dead after all!" Rei's mouth gaped open in complete surprise, her heart jumping inside of her.
Unit 04 was deeply scarred, there were open wounds in her chest and each of the hands and feet were mostly black, their outside skin peeled off. There were black streaks all over her caused by the excessive heat of the lava river. The giant took two steps towards them and then immediately collapsed to the ground.
They watched the EVA fall to the surface about a hundred yards from there they stood. For the moment the giant was silent, and then Erin Forrestal's voice came from the EVA's outside audio speakers.
"SOMEBODY HELP US!" she shouted in a desperate plea. "PATRICK…HE'S DYING!" Rei and Shinji looked at each other, and then Shinji called out to the unit. "What's happening?" he shouted to the EVA, hoping that the pilot could hear him.
Erin in fact could hear what Shinji had said and replied "He needs medicine! Something with LCL!" Rei knew immediately what she meant.
"It's the stabilizer!" she told Shinji. "Forri-kun's been nine days without it." Rei started to feel for her kit and then made a horrible realization. "The stabilizer…" she told Shinji in a panic, the expression on her face becoming one of sorrow again. "It became absorbed when I merged with the EVA!" Indeed nothing was left of Unit 07 and even her plug suit was disintegrated from what happened. "I don't have it!"
Without saying anything further Shinji reached into a small compartment of his own plug suit and pulled out a syringe with glowing orange liquid inside, offering it to Rei.
"Ever since I found out that you need that to live…" he told her with an emotional voice, "I always carry a spare for you, just in case you ever forgot yours. Here," he placed the syringe in Rei's hand. "Go help him."
The sadness dropped from Rei's face and was replaced by joy as she took the syringe from him. "Thank you!" she exclaimed as she quickly squeezed Shinji as hard as she could and then immediately let him go, turning and running as fast as she could towards Unit 04.
As Rei ran towards the unit, the entry plug started to lift from its recess point in the EVA's back unit it was half-way out. The hatch then opened and the rope ladder came dangling out as LCL splashed outside of the doorway. Rushing as fast as she could, Rei reached the EVA's body and started climbing up the side where the rope ladder had reached downward to the ground, grabbing onto the rope and pulling herself forward and upward towards the entry plug. After another minute of struggling up the rope ladder she made it to the plug itself and went inside the hatchway.
She saw Patrick leaned up against the control throne, the skin on his face completely gone and replaced with bright red tissue that had continued to ooze out. Erin was standing right next to him, thigh-deep in the liquid LCL of the plug that was slowly being filtered out. Her face was in an expression of fear. On seeing Rei enter the plug she immediately moved to comfort Patrick. "She's here!" she told him.
"Rei?" came his disoriented voice. "Is that you?"
"I'm here," Rei told him as she reached where he lay. She was horrified at the sight of his face but pushed away her fear and prepared the syringe.
"I can't see," Patrick said in reply.
"Darling, I'm right here in front of you!" Rei told him again, as she caressed his head with her hand.
Erin expectantly watched as Rei straddled Patrick's body, then quickly took the syringe and pushed it to Patrick's jugular vein, injecting the entire contents. It fell to the floor as she emptied it and Rei looked intently on him, searching for any signs the stabilizer was taking effect.
"Will he be okay?" Erin asked her. Rei didn't reply, but instead silently watched him for any response.
Patrick's breathing was labored now and he could no longer move himself except to turn his head towards the sounds of the voices of the two girls. "Finally…finally got the two of you together…" he told them in a faint voice, his mouth coming into a small smile. "…last piece in place…just the way…to finish."
"Patrick, don't say that!" cried Erin as she held onto Patrick's hand with both of her own. She looked over to Rei. "Is there anything else you can do for him?"
Rei looked at her, her own red eves now quivering, fearful that she had just been a moment too late. Turning to Patrick again, she caressed his head in her hands. "Forri-kun," she said with tears coming from her eyes. "Forri…I…I love…" Patrick's head went back against the throne as he let out his breath. Rei then embraced him in her arms, holding onto him as tightly as she could. Erin did the same, joining her on the control throne and squeezing her twin hard with all of her strength.
Rei closed her eyes and focused every amount of physical and mental energy she had left on the boy as tears rolled down her cheeks. Everything I have that I can give, I give to you now. Whatever grace or strength I have within me, whatever life that I possess, whatever power I have from God or from Angels, I give to you now. Please, my love, please live.