AN: So under popular demand from my mofockers in the Discord, this has been brought to life. Uh, like HARD powerful spoilers of 3.0 and 4.0 to whoever chooses to read this, consider yourselves warned. Go no further if you're avoiding spoilers. Aight. So, maybe this story will be an alternate development of the last fucking movie, maybe not. We'll see what happenes. Anyways, new chappie! Yay!

Redemption Song

Chapter Two: Stir It Up

Raw and bloodied fingers clutched the battered, worn out SDAT with whatever meager strength they possessed, the wrist shaking with exhaustion at the effort of bringing the small device closer. With his one useful hand, Shinji slowly dragged the bud to him and placed it on his right ear, almost collapsing from exertion and losing consciousness again. The hole on his shoulder where Sakura's bullet was lodged had stopped bothering him from the moment he'd climbed in the Entry Plug; it nipped every now and then, like a wasp's sting he could simply not scratch away. The pain in every other part of his body was dulled by what he suspected was blood loss and a concussion, but it made little difference anymore.

A strangled, wet cough made its way to his throat, sprinkling blood on the already tainted Plugsuit. His ribs felt like a bag of broken glass cutting away at his insides, and there was something, some liquid, inside his chest, for he couldn't breathe properly. A wheezing sound accompanied every labored intake of air he was able to swallow, plus, whenever he exhaled some of the liquid jumped back to his mouth, some metallic-tasting liquid that dripped from his chin.

It was done though, it was finished. He had his permission now, so he gulped down the metallic taste and managed a weak, labored breath.

Push. Rewind. Stop. Play.

(Intro: Guitar chords)

The ghost of a small smile made its way to his lips when the first chords of the now familiar song began to play, lulling his troubled mind into silence and what he suspected felt like inner peace. His head bumped back against the seat, right arm dangling from the control joke and left arm unmoving. It hurt to breathe.

Old pirates yes they rob I…

Sold I to the merchant ships…

Minutes after they took I…

From the bottomless pit…

Shinji coughed again, making the pain and agony of his body more acute. Crimson and pinkish froth sprinkled his lips, yet he failed to register it. His whole body was starting to burn once again; the hundreds of needles pinpointed at his brain hit home with enough force to make the boy dizzy while his limbs complained with pure, unadulterated agony. The brightness that filtered through the collapsed surface of the Entry Plug and the broken concrete ceiling seemed dimmer every time he closed his eyes to blink, and when it hit his lids the light blinded him with an unbearable headache. The world swam in and out of focus.

But my head was made strong

By the 'and of the Almighty

We forward in this generation…

Triumphantly…

Won't you help to sing…

These songs of freedom?

'Cause all I ever had…

Redemption songs…

"Redemption songs…" The Third Child muttered, forcing more coughing from his battered midsection. The rusted metal rod protruding from his abdomen was stained with blood, and more continued to tinge the plugsuit dark as time went by and the song carried on. A similar, if only slightly thicker rod stuck out of his left leg, anchoring the young pilot to the chair of his Entry Plug. His left arm was broken he supposed, for he could not move it. His right was barely of any use with a bullet comfortably resting on his shoulder. Crimson dribbled from his seat and fell to the ground, fell from his forehead and dribbled on his suit, fell from his mouth and dribbled onto his chest. A small voice told him, there on the back of his aching head, that he should attempt to apply pressure and try to stop the bleeding.

What for, though? He had his permission.

Unbeknown to him, a miniature puddle formed under the Plug's surface; the debris of the fallen building threatened to fall over and crush the burnt, half-destroyed metal cylinder, while his life-blood continued to color the otherwise blank concrete rocks under him. Crimson droplets fell steadily, gently cascading through the rods and the seat to settle and stain what had once been the third floor of a forgotten shopping mall.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery…

None bout ourselves can free our minds.

Have no fear for atomic energy…

`Cause none of them can' a stop the time…

How long shall they kill our prophets…

While we stand aside and look? Ooh!

Some say it's just a part of it…

We've got to fulfill the book.

The melody smoothed out his thoughts, took away the pain, if only for a few precious seconds. Ironic. He was the very definition of irony. He had survived the blast, but not the landing. He, who had almost brought upon the end of the world twice, could not live through two metal rods and a bullet. It was almost funny, in a way; it seemed like something Asuka would laugh at. Regardless, Shinji's smile widened as he turned his bleeding head to the skies.

Blue. The sky was blue, for once. No clouds, no crimson, no angel-like creatures monitoring a large, red AT-Field. Just… blue, beautiful. How long now, how long had it been since he had watched the sky? Asuka's eyes… he thought lamely. That's the color of her eyes…eye … sky-blue. Gentler shades of blue dulled by moving clouds moved along his right, creating a paler shade of cerulean. Rei's hair was like that…

Won't you help to sing…

These songs of freedom?

'Cause all I ever had…

Redemption songs…

Redemption songs…

"Redemption songs…" Ever so slowly, the SDAT started to slip away from his hold, ripping the ear bud clean off as it fell to the ground with a resounding crunch. Shinji didn't notice, the song was seared into his brain; melody, lyrics, everything, just like every other track on the small cassette. He could sing it by memory now. Sleep was starting to overtake him, lids suddenly unnaturally heavy as exhaustion pressed up against his awareness. He couldn't remember the last time he had been so sleepy or so tired.

Still, happiness danced in his broken heart, for once. The leathery surface of his seat was not in the slightest way worn out; it was comfortable, unbelievably comfortable. Even when the strong, cold winds rocked whatever remained of his Entry Plug back and forth, it still felt warm to him, like the mother's embrace he had thirsted for so long. The tenderness of his mother's last words cursed through him while more blood made its way to the floor, tinting the rocks and producing a small drip-drip in the otherwise silent wreckage.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery…

None bout ourselves can free our minds.

Have no fear for atomic energy…

`Cause none of them can' a stop the time…

How long shall they kill our prophets…

While we stand aside and look? Oh!

Some say it's just a part of it…

We've got to fulfill the book.

He smiled again, the motion forcing out the blood in his mouth. Rei was safe, so was Asuka. So was Misato. It was all that mattered, all that had ever mattered. He'd done it, and yet he was still reliving the past. Now, with his life slowly dripping away, he couldn't help but accept his mistakes, atone, and beg for forgiveness sincerely, probably for the first time in his life. He'd done what he could, and now it was time to sleep. Blood dribbled off his chin.

Won't you help me sing…

These songs of freedom?

'Cause all I ever had…

Redemption songs…

Redemption songs…

"Redemp…tion… songs…" Shinji closed his eyes, grinning brightly with bloodied teeth, and let darkness overtake him.

One Month Before

His confinement in WILLE HQ was disturbingly similar to his brief stay in NERV. Food was served twice a day, a strange assortment of colored pastes meant to keep his body working that tasted of nothing. He had a small bed, a metallic chair and a small table. So far, two books had been handed to him, yet the boy had not so much as looked at them. The clothes were demanded of him every two days, and brought freshly washed and stiff as a board on the same afternoon, or morning, or night. So far, he had not seen a single person come or go, but the red dot on the camera never went off.

His metallic cell was cleaned automatically on a daily basis as well. Small robots came and went to wash away any trace of dirt or sweat, not that there was much to begin with, creating a small spectacle around the boy's bed. Shinji barely moved, he was either curled up on his bed or curled up in one of the corners of the room, trying to force the naked shock, horrid images and sickening guilt deeper into his stomach. So far, he had managed to gulp down most of the shock, but the dimensions of what he had lived and caused were still almost impossible to grasp. Words, angry words, Misato threatening him with a gun, the cold touch on his forehead, screams; it all swam in and out of focus. Fourth Impact. Averted. Loss of Unit 02-Dash, Unit-08 heavily damaged. My fault. Again. Isn't it all?

The lights were extinguished at some point during the day, and reactivated eight hours later. Or at least he supposed it was eight hours, time for the crew to sleep and rest. The silence and darkness of those hours would have scared him, were he not already muted and terrified beyond compare. The cuffs had been removed at some point during the first days, leaving half-healed scabs and angry purple bruises all over his left wrist. By the smell of it, the small wound above his hand was starting to catch an infection, yet the pain was good for the young man. Pain allowed him to stay awake.

Shinji couldn't remember the last time he'd slept.

Every time he closed his eyes Kaworu's head and body exploded into a cloud of blood and guts. How many days had passed? He knew not. How long would he be confined to his new cell? He cared not. His cheeks were mangled from the inside, every time he felt he was losing consciousness he bit down as hard as he could, most of the time tasting iron as he drew blood. He'd almost done it, twice now; almost put an end to the world and humanity in a hissy fit. Was he really so predictable, so easy to figure out, that everyone but him had known what he would do, how he would react? Was he really such a pitiful little boy?

His father certainly knew him; the old bastard had counted on Shinji being a stupid, gullible brat and led him to the EVA as if he were a mouse searching for cheese. He wondered idly if it had all been a fun game to his father, to make him lean on Kaworu when destroyed by the crushing guilt of his former actions, and then to force a Fourth Impact as easily as if he were setting a Shogi board. It all seemed so beautifully macabre to Shinji, every move coldly calculated and executed with precision, regardless of what needed to be sacrificed. Fuyutsuki had said his father was even willing to give away his soul to complete the ambition of Human Instrumentality. The thought of it forced revulsion out of the Third Child's chest, making him dry-heave for a second before he regained his composure. There was barely anything left in his stomach to vomit, anyways. He could not remember the last time he had actually eaten, either.

Fear started to steal away at his fading mind, the now familiar fear of falling unconscious. He tried biting down on his cheek, on his tongue, pinched himself until a reddish bruise formed, and yet the heaviness persisted. He didn't want to sleep. Ever.

In. Out. In. Out. Breathe. Breathe, Shinji.

And yet he was falling asleep again, the brown-haired boy realized lazily. Must…not… sleep. Mustn't sleep, mustn't dream. Memories came and went slowly at first; turning with time into knifes that dug into his brain, rendering the young pilot unable to think clearly, if at all. The more he struggled to breathe and focus his mind on nothing, the heavier the thoughts turned, the voices. There was no SDAT to escape to anymore; the battery had been dead for half a day. Or a day, he didn't know, didn't remember. Nothing made sense anymore; time had no meaning, not for the horrors that patiently waited in his subconscious. His head started lolling back and forth, the floor suddenly felt like a fine feather mattress, so Shinji shook his head to clear it, only succeeding in making it worse.

Must not sleep. Stay. Stay awake, don't dream. Don't go there. The death of Kaworu flashed through him once again, as clear as the day it had happened, making him cringe. Don't. Don't go there, Shinji. The world went black, and the former Third Child was swallowed by the crushing weight of his own exhaustion. When sleep won over the battle, the thoughts returned with a vengeance and denied him even the slightest bit of rest.

None of your business. Must not remember. Don't pilot the Eva. Must not sleep. Pilot the Eva. Goodbye, Shinji. Mustn't run away. None of your business. Must stay awake. That's a DSS Choker. Mustn't think. The Spear of Cassius. Something isn't right. Must not remember. Shinji, we should stop this… Don't remember. Goodbye, Shinji. Don't remember. Shinji, I think we should stop this. You brat, stop! Shinji, Shinji, Shinji. Don't, please. None of your business. Rei is merged with Unit 1. None of your business. Stop it. It was caused by you. Die already, you stupid brat! Please. Just let me sleep. None of your business. Help. Stop it, you brat!. Help me. Goodbye, Shinji. Goodbye, Shinji. Can't even stand on your own two feet? Pathetic. Help me, somebody. Goodbye, Shinji. BOOM!

"AAAAHHHH!" The scream burned, burned all the way down to his stomach and scorched his throat when he set it free. It tasted like bile and LCL, rancid and rotten just like the insides of his heart. The images would not stop; the pain would not abate no matter what he did. It was his entire fault, wasn't it? All of it, even the loss of Units 02 and 08, he had fought against Asuka and Mari, caused the destruction of Asuka's EVA and nearly cost WILLIE every asset they had, all according to his father's wishes. Strangely, the 5th Angel's beam was burning up his chest again, burning up his insides, cooking his organs inside his body when he screamed again. His arm throbbed from the wrist up, and for a second he saw the 10th's beam separate it from his body in a clean, almost graceful slash.

"STOOOOOOP! AAAAAHHH! STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP, STOOOOP!" Exhausted, Shinji could barely remember where he was, let alone that he was being watched. But it didn't matter anymore; the images would kill him, make him go insane unless he stopped it. His arm and guts throbbed again when the memory of the 10th's tendril slashed through them, quick as lightning. Skulls, skulls on the ground, skulls and bones all over. A dead figure smiling cruelly at him. Why? Why did it have Rei's haircut, her mother's haircut? What was so god-damn funny? Why was it so happy?

"Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it…" Unbeknown even to him, the boy started hitting his head against the steel floor, hoping against hope he'd fall unconscious, that the pain would take away, or at the very least dull the images and wretched feelings that contorted inside his chest. Red crosses huge as buildings dripping LCL, broken cities and devastated oceans, air unfit for anything remotely alive to breathe, red sand sodden with blood and ruins, so many ruins anywhere his view fell upon. All of this, in fourteen years? All of it, because of him? Bones, EVA bones, human bones. A graveyard he had created, all with his own two hands. The screams of thousands, millions of souls in pain, dancing all around him as he began with Fourth Impact manifested. Goodbye, Shinji.

He screamed again, managing to produce a half-screech and a series of coughs.

The memories and sensation of crushing Asuka and Unit 03 ran through the boy once again, forcing Shinji to hit himself harder, until his head started clearing to a degree and the images stopped torturing him with defiant consistency. Again and again the cold steel slammed against skin and bone, producing the first and only sound inside the small cell aside from Shinji's own screams in four days.

A warm liquid started flowing down his forehead, somehow smoothing out his thoughts. With a grip strong enough to pierce the skin of his scalp, his entire body clenched even tighter as his eyes refused to shut or function properly. The slow drip-drip of whatever was falling from his head helped the boy regain his breathing and some sense of self-awareness. He stayed on the ground, breathing heavily through constricted lungs and trying to grasp where, exactly, he had begun to lose his mind.

WILLIE, provided his overtired brain. I'm in a cell, I'm alive. After a few seconds, a bitterness far too great for him to ignore settled on his chest, making the boy feel empty and hollow. I'm a prisoner. My friends are dead. The ones that aren't hate me. I almost destroyed the world again. Again. Kaworu is dead. His lower lip started to tremble as he, on his hands and knees, let himself plop down on the floor with his back on the cold steel wall and cried.

The tears burned behind his eyelids and felt as though they boiled when they descended down the former Third Child's chin. A sob cut through his parched throat and blossomed pathetically in the empty space, reminding him how alone he truly was. The warm liquid mingled with the tears. A faint thud started to press against the side of his skull, the one he'd banged repeatedly on the ground, but it made little difference. The warm liquid eased his thoughts, the hot drips of tears and blood fell on the soft fabric of his shirt, soothing Shinji in ways he did not fully understand.

His mind had been a haze for the past few days. He tried remembering when he was brought into the cell, how the DSS Choker had found its way back to his throat, but nothing except fog greeted his tired brain. Misato, screaming at him, pointing her gun at him. Walking under something red, red sand. Something… also red. Asuka, pulling him out of the Entry Plug. Asuka, putting something on his back. Asuka, taking his hand and forcing him to walk. Dark, shadows everywhere, and Asuka sitting in front of a building.

Shinji pressed a hand against his forehead and noticed how his palm was stained crimson afterwards.

Sitting on a station or something that had been a station. Asuka glaring down at him, the glistening lights of a car. A bed. Blue skies? Asuka, telling him he had no permission to die yet. Birds, dogs, people. Fresh air, for just a moment. Someone pushing him into the vessel once more, red skies instead of blue. Misato, Rei, Ritsuko, all in a room. Then nothing, just fog. At some point in between the red outside the Plug and the current bleeding on his forehead Shinji had lost any and all track of reality. Again. How many people could actually say they had almost blown off the whole world twice?

Still, he was alive. Alive, when Kaworu was dead, when Ayanami was dead, when Touji and Kensuke and Hikari were most likely dead and probably every other classmate he'd ever set eyes upon had shared that fate. Dead. Because of me. I killed them, just as much as father. I wrecked Asuka's EVA when I couldn't beat that Angel and save her. I climbed in that Plug, nobody forced me. I took those Spears, even when Kaworu was begging me not to. Somehow, the image of Asuka's scowl came to mind, the eye-patch firmly in place. What happened to your eye? You really are stupid, huh, Shinji?

Tears were still leaking off his lids, but still a strained, choked laugh pierced through his throat. That eye-patch's probably my fault too, isn't it? Isn't everything? Another, and another; more small chortles easily mistaken for sobs escaped Shinji's chest without permission. I mean, sure, never mind that I never even saw an EVA before Father called me into this hell. Sure, let's put the brat in the big giant robot and let him blow everything to hell, because apparently he's got a knack for that. Sure, ha ha. Ha, ha ha ha ha. I bet you're laughing too, aren't you, Mother?

Before darkness overtook his mind, Shinji remembered what Fuyutsuki had told him. It all made some weird, macabre sense in his mind; everything had been engineered just so he'd do what his father wanted him to do at a given point in time. A bloodied hand slapped the bruised skin of his forehead, driving a sharp needle of acute pain through his body, yet the weariness would not abate. Just as he was falling asleep, trying not to laugh and cry at the same time, Shinji wondered if that was how it felt to open the gate of madness and walk inside. The sound of his own twisted titters lulled him back into the darkness. For once, darkness was all that received him in the unconscious.


"Get up."

She kicked him on the leg, disgusted. He looked horrible; how was it possible to get so sickening in just a few days? A jagged cut on his wrist, courtesy of the cuffs she had placed too tightly, was almost purple with infection; pus of a yellowish-white tinge was evident and leaking repulsively off the wound. Even after it healed, the tissue had been damaged enough to leave a very nasty scar behind. His shirt, or the top part of his despondent gown, was dirty with snot and what she assumed was vomit from the rancid smell of it.

Asuka wrinkled her nose in distaste and kicked him again. "Get up."

He did not rouse, did not move. There were blackened stains around the gown's collar as well, a lump on the right side of his forehead and a thin line of clotted blood running all the way down to his chin. The bruise was large and considerably ugly, but not bulging, so she suspected no fracture behind the damaged skin. Something other than anger and disgust stirred in her chest, something she wasn't at all accustomed to feeling, something she despised nearly as much as she despised the figure slumped on the floor before her. The kindle of worry was extinguished just as soon as it manifested. He had no right to be on the receiving end of her concern, or at least she told herself as much.

The third kick went to his left arm, where the grimy wound was. This time he actually twitched, eyes struggling to open. "Get up," she spat, revolted by the clear trails of tears on the boy's cheeks. "Get the hell up already, you stupid brat. I've got better things to do with my day."

Shinji registered pain on his wrist, hot, almost unbearable agony radiating off the place with the funny smell on his arm and was forced to open his eyes. Something… far away was talking, slurring words he was yet unable to comprehend. He struggled against the stickiness under his lids and the sudden feeling of nausea, rubbing at his eyes with the one available hand left to him. Red, black. A black cap, red legs, red hair. A small, twisted frown made its way to his exhausted features.

"Asuka…" He muttered, staring up at the single blue eye glaring down at his fallen form.

"Good, you're up, and you can talk again. Great." She knelt down and extended a hand to touch his forehead, but Shinji jerked his head away, as though she'd burn him with her touch. The Major growled low in her throat and grabbed him by the chin like she'd done after hauling his undeserving behind out of the Plug. "Stay still, brat. I need to see if you cracked your skull during your little hissy fit."

A cold finger poked down on the scalding place on his head, forcing a bolt of pain through his hazed mind. He tried to pry off the offending intrusion but was too weak, too tired to resist. In the end he clawed half-heatedly against her stronger arm, whimpering once more when her thumb found the lump on his forehead and pressed. He jerked his head away, making the entire room spin. Nausea shook him, but there was nothing in his stomach to throw out.

"You didn't fracture it, good," muttered the redhead, ignoring the hand faintly attempting to grip her arm. He had a fever, not anything too concerning, but a fever nonetheless. His eyes looked sunken in, meaning he hadn't been sleeping at all ever since being pushed into the cell. His parched and dried up lips had cuts on their edges, where she assumed he had bitten hard enough to make the skin bleed. Idiot's probably dehydrated and emaciated. Perfect. Just perfect.

Asuka's brow twitched again, despite her best efforts the annoying kindle lit again. Something about the way he was letting himself rot away upset her beyond the girl's own understanding. Before she knew what she was doing, the Major had hauled WILLIE's top prisoner to his feet and dragged him to his miniature sink. The boy hadn't uttered a single word since saying her name, but he did whimper pathetically when she began scrubbing at the half-healed scab made of dried up pus and blood, his arm held securely in place under her armpit. Should he decide to try any sudden moves she did not approve of, her grip would allow her to snap his arm in two. "God," she uttered, face wrinkling in aversion. The faintest pressure above his wrist made the milky substance explode to the surface. "This is disgusting. You're worse than a kid; at least a brat would've had the decency to wash this off. How long have you let this fester?"

No answer, not that she needed one. Five days, he'd been left in the cell for five days and already he was rotting like dried produce. A turn in the boy's direction let her see his eyes were still unfocused; he would twitch every now and then when a particularly hardened scab was scrubbed, but otherwise made no attempt to move or respond. The Major's limited patience thinned and disappeared; she grabbed a gauze pad from her pocket, poured water on it and began the sickening task of removing the pus and filth from the wound. The moment she actually began scrubbing with some strength behind it, Shinji started to react. After the first few rinses the white material colored yellow and brown, so she took another one and continued, gaining momentum and strength. The boy attempted in vain to remove his arm, yet was too weakened to do anything else than tug weakly at her grip.

The infection had gone deep; half the boy's forearm was swollen already, the skin around the wound was yellowish and purple, weeping pus with every tug and applied pressure on the area. It pissed her off for whatever reason, making the Major scrub even harder, harder than necessary. Shinji tried to pry his arm free; she held him in place with ease. Shinji whimpered, but never so much as asked her to stop, never spoke a word of complaint, never said a thing. It pissed her off even more.

This infection is nasty, she thought, enraged. Any sane, normal human being would be screaming bloody murder by now. She pressed in the cut hard, making any remains of pus leak off. To her relief, red blood began to flow afterwards. What's with this stupid brat? What did they show him, what the hell happened to him after we fought?

The memory of her fight against the Third Child incensed her all the more; before she knew what she was doing her hand closed in on the freshly-cleaned wound and squeezed. A pained groan and a muted scream escaped the boy's chest; Asuka's eyes narrowed. "That was for your stupid little act before. Maybe you'll think about it twice before you get in my way again, idiot. You're not supposed to hit girls, you know."

He did not answer, so she continued with the task at hand. About five more minutes and three other gauze pads afterwards, Asuka took out the spray she had procured from the Infirmary and turned to the boy. To her ever-growing disgust, tears were leaking off Shinji's dead, glassy eyes. "This is going to sting, brat," she said coldly. "A lot. Try not to piss your gown."

And so, she poured the mix of disinfectant, antibacterial and healing aid in and around the formerly infected area. Shinji tried to pry his arm off with more vigor, making her grit her teeth in irritation and elbow him on the forehead, close to where his newly-made wound was located.

"Stay still. Brat." she hissed, applying more pressure in her grip. A dark, nasty part of her wanted nothing less than to break the arm altogether, but Asuka forced herself to focus. Once the whole area had been covered in the spray and cleaned, she produced the healing cream Ritsuko had come up with, poured generously around the purplish areas and began wrapping the boy's wrist with gauze.

Her task finished, she let Shinji crumble in a heap of overtired limbs beside her. The Major pressed a button on the PDA resting inside her pocket, and the window used to feed their prisoner opened, revealing the same assortment of colorful pastes she was overly familiar with and about four protein bars.

The idiot made no move to stand or reach for the tasteless gruel. He did not look up, did not raise his eyes from the floor. Something vicious stirred inside her, something Asuka had long since forgotten, something she had left along with any memories of her childhood upon seeing Shinji so unresponsive. Instinctively, she hurled the boy back to his feet, almost tearing the gown he was covered in, and lightly slapped him across the face.

"You will wake up," she ordered. "You will eat, you will clean after yourself and you will make yourself presentable, or so help me I'll-"

"What?" Shinji interrupted. His eyes finally turned to her, cold and detached, with a strange form of dark humor dancing on his lids. A pain beyond her grasp, beyond her understanding, had scarred the boy's mind and taken way his fear of her, it seemed. "You'll kill me?"

Every thought, every single gear in the Major's head ground to a halt when Shinji spoke. There was no emotion in his eyes or voice, no anger, no sadness, nothing but cold resignation. He wanted, wished for it, craved it; death that was. He was so broken there was nothing else inside him, just the wish to disappear.

"I thought I wasn't allowed to die," he continued, staring straight through her. "Misato tried to kill me already, you tried to kill me before."

I didn't! Her mind answered, enraged, yet the words did not make it to her mouth. I was trying to stop you, you insolent brat! It sounded hollow in her own mind, for she knew that had it come to it, she would have taken Shinji's life, and probably her own not too long after.

The boy's eyes never changed; the cold, penetrating frown felt as cold as ice, forcing a shiver down her spine. "She tried to blow me to pieces so I wouldn't start another Impact, didn't she?" A chuckle, rusted and vacant, sprang from his throat. "She killed my best friend, my only friend, right before my eyes, thinking it was me who she was going to kill…" He shook his head in derision. "It was just like that time, when I couldn't save you… I just sat there and listened as Unit 01 tore you to pieces. It was… it was like that time."

Her hands started to shake, unconsciously letting go of his gown when the boy's own palm slapped him on the forehead. "That's all I'm ever good at… letting people die, hurting them, killing them… that's all my father ever wanted of me…" the Major's shocked blue eyes widened when Shinji started laughing softly. "So why don't you beat me up some more?" he asked, smiling. "Why doesn't the crew take turns? Isn't that what you want? Revenge against the guy who took everything away from you? Revenge against the guy who took your eye? So do it… get it over with... Ma... Major... do it..." His other hand sprang up, obscuring his eyes as he grabbed and pushed at his scalp, scratching the skin underneath with urgency. The shock had passed, it would seem, and reality was returning to him in droplets; the agony stored in the brat's chest had come to a boiling point after being completely isolated for five days.

Asuka saw, unaware of the slight shine of surprise in her eyes, as Shinji's fingernails dug deep into his own skin, only to scratch the sides of his face when they came down and grabbed her by the shoulders with a force he was not supposed to possess.

"Do it!" He screamed right at her face, forehead bleeding anew. "Do it, do it, do it! Kill me! Never mind that I never saw an EVA before, never mind that I didn't know what I was doing! Just do it already! Give me my permission already! KILL ME!"

SLAP

He fell hard against the ground, so hard his back bounced off the metal wall, and Asuka had to actively stop herself from kicking him again once he dropped to the floor. Her eye started twitching beyond her control, her breathing constricted, her mind turned to a haze; so she took a swing at the wall and felt it dent under her strength. Fourteen years of caged up anger and sorrow threatened to drip off into the one boy she had ever felt close to, but she forced her eye closed and took a deep breath. She could not do it, not when Four Eyes was watching through the feed, ready to taunt her with her twisted actions and make her feel guilty.

"You…" she muttered, fists shaking. "You'd like that, wouldn't you? Just stay still, wait for it and then disappear, just like that, whenever Misato's had enough of you. Just taunt me or anyone else on this ship until they give you what you want, is that it?" She grabbed a fistful of his hair, matted and dried as it was, and forced his cold eyes to stare right into hers. "You're just being a brat. You think I don't know what happened to you? Do you really take me for an idiot like that?!" Her hand tightened around his scalp.

"I've had fourteen years to think about all this, fourteen years, Baka-Shinji." The sound of her pet-name for him made the former male Pilot stare at her with some sense behind his eyes for the first time. "Don't insult my intellect by thinking I'm blaming all this… hell… on you. You were a kid, just… just a kid wanting to save his sweetheart. Misato was cheering you on, I've heard." Having the words leave her mouth made the Major realize, for the first time in fourteen years, that Shinji had not been trained to be a pilot since he was a toddler, had not been introduced to the curse of EVA until it was beneficial for his father that he were. Even so, the jealousy bit away at her psyche without reprieve.

Shinji's eyes widened even more at her statement. "You didn't know what would happen, back then. You wanted to save Ayanami…" but not me, her mind whispered, full of spite; but then the sight of his weakened frame quelled the more dangerous edges of her wrath. "But you failed," she said instead. "And now you're acting like a lost child, just sitting around, waiting to die. Real men fight, real men don't just quit."

"I'm not a man," Shinji answered, looking miserable and defeated. "I'm a monster."

SLAP

She had not planned to hit him again, but to hear Shinji compare himself to a monster, a beast like her, made Asuka want to rip off his hair and smack him around the head until he came back to his senses. He knew nothing of monsters, not yet, knew nothing of what she had become.

"You don't get to call yourself that," she hissed, grabbing his chin again. She crouched down and held his head firmly between her hands, glaring down. "Your father's a monster, Fuyutsuki's a monster, we're monsters, but you…" The ugly stirring in her chest boiled with unwanted emotion. The deranged haze washed off his eyes when she spoke, and for the first time in fourteen years Asuka saw him again, the real him. Baka- Shinji. "You're a brat, an idiot, and a man. Men fight. If you want your permission, you have to earn it. You have to fight for your redemption, Baka."

"Re… redemption?" Shinji mumbled, looking at her. He remembered, on a dark, dormant side of hind, just how beautiful he found Asuka to be, the unattainable beauty he had admired from afar since the first time he had laid eyes on her.

"That's what your stupid song is about, don't you know that already?" She snapped, looking at him straight in the eye. A part of her, most of her truly, wanted to hit him again for good measure, but Asuka could not will herself to hurt him. Whatever he had seen during his little stunt, whatever his father had done to him during his brief stay at NERV had scarred him far more than any physical or psychological damage she could bring about. "It's about a group of people who were taking from their home into a hellish place and forced to live as slaves. The only thing that kept them going were the songs they carried with them. When the time came for them to fight for their freedom, they did. They got their redemption. What would be redemption for you?"

"You." He answered almost robotically, surprising the redhead, making her blink. "For you to forgive me. I… if I could… if I could make it up to you… t…to everyone… for… everything…" he trailed off lamely, looking at the ground in shame.

"You can't."

It stung, for whatever reason, to crush his one hope for sanity and forgiveness so quickly, and yet the words left her mouth without Asuka even noticing it. "There's nothing you can ever do to rebuild the world, nothing, unless you mean to restart it again with another freaking Impact. You saw what wanting something like that brought, you almost killed us all again, hey," She shook him to distract herself from his broken gaze. "It's the truth."

He looked destroyed, at the brink of insanity, and yet Asuka did not stop. "You can't fix it, but can do something."

"Why?" he interrupted, staring into her eye with dread. "Why won't you kill me? Why didn't you leave me to rot in the Entry Plug? If I can't change anything… then… w-why?"

Her stare became physically painful for Shinji. He only ever saw hatred in her eye, ever since waking up in this new, twisted reality he was forced to live in, Asuka only ever looked at him filled with hate. Both her hands brusquely grabbed him by the jaw, lifting his head so he was close enough to feel her and smell her breath, close enough to see the dark ring under her visible eye and the bluish glow under the patch.

"You don't fear death, do you?" Asuka asked , quietly enough for Shinji to feel actual fear crawl into his spine. She snarled, looking almost animalistic; if her screams had once bothered him, her silent tone was starting to terrify him. "You welcome it, you want to die. You want to disappear, then nobody will be able to hold you accountable for anything anymore."

She pushed him back onto the mattress and tossed the book at the boy's right, glaring with disgust evident in her gaze even when Shinji's widened blue made contact with hers. "Your punishment must be more severe."

With a glare and a slight huff, the redhead stood and headed for the food rations. "You'll live, and you'll come face to face with all you've done. You'll suffer, you'll be alone, but you will endure. You will push forward. And when I say so, after you've done enough by my standards and nobody else's, then you can die. I'll do it myself if you want."

Shinji lay sprawled in between the wall and the floor; he stared at the back of her jacket with something akin to detached disbelief and dread. His earlier outburst came to mind, making the Third Child feel slightly ashamed and sickened; the disconnect was still there, reality was still very much foggy and difficult to assimilate. His eyes drifted to the bandages now decorating his wrist and forearm. The sting had been horrible, almost indescribable and yet he had barely moved at all; the deeper the pain became, the closer he came to waking up.

"You won't starve yourself, either," the sudden hiss of her voice made Shinji blink and tiredly look over to where she stood a few feet from him, protein bar in hand. "You will eat. Now take this, and eat."

Somehow he became alert when the small package was pushed in his direction, yet was too tired to actually lift his hand and grab it. He stared at it instead, feeling defeated and nauseated, hoping against hope that Asuka would get bored and leave him to rot in peace in the solace of the little cage they had boxed him in. "I'm… not hungry…" the boy managed to grind out I a whisper.

Even when he could not see it, he actively felt the Major's eye glare death into him. "If you don't eat for yourself, I'll make you eat. Believe that. Now take this," The distance was reduced even more; Asuka was now pushing the wrapped package against his face. "Come on, you damn brat. Just take it, already."

"Not…" the very notion of eating made his stomach lurch in discontent and growl in desperation all at once. "Hungry…" Bones, everywhere, red sand, stained with the blood he had spilled, monstrous arms reaching into the skies, crimson everywhere he looked. Even now, in front of him, Asuka's crimson plugsuit allowed no escape from the memories. When the small package was all but slapped against his cheek, Shinji shook his head with whatever meager energy still available in his body.

The sound of the redhead's teeth as they ground in frustration reverberated in the small cell. She huffed in annoyance, peeled the wrapper of the protein bar and pushed it against Shinji's closed lips. "Stop being an idiot for once. Eat." The rage was dwindling once again; she did her best to reignite it by remembering the latest battle. "I said eat, god damn you."

Instead of being a good boy and opening his mouth, Shinji turned away his head and let it hang, he was so tired. Of all the things he wanted to do such as dying, disappearing or being granted a magic wish or way to remedy his wrongdoings, eating was the least of his concerns. He felt unworthy of food or drink.

"Fine," the protein bar crashed against the steel floor and broke into smaller pieces. "Have it your way." In a quick move Asuka grabbed a fistful of the paste with her right hand, and picked his head up by the hair with her left. "Open up. I will push this food down your throat if I have to." Despite the apparent rage clouding over her every action, the redhead noticed her hands shaking. She had already slapped him without meaning to; for some reason the realization forced a pang of despair into her damaged heart. "Open your damn mouth. Now."

The ringing in her ears did not allow her to hear how her own voice shook along with her hands. Had Shinji not been so exhausted, she would have most likely had to force him to the ground. In the state he was currently in, having slept close to nothing for days, without eating and barely drinking, he was all but dead on his feet. Even so, he stubbornly held his mouth closed. God damn it, she thought, sickened. God damn you, Baka-Shinji. She let go of his head, threw a lazy punch to his gut, and when he exhaled as the air was momentarily pushed out of him she picked his head again and forced the gruel down his throat before he could react.

He was about to spit or cough the food out, but her hands held his jaw closed. "Chew." She ordered, voice breaking at the end. Her eye was twitching, it itched; she wanted to scratch away at it. The hollowness in her chest evolved into agony. "Do it." For some reason she did not yet understand her walls came down for a fraction of a second. "Please."

Shinji's eyes widened somewhat and at last she felt the boy's jaw move on its own. She took a step back, breathing heavily, chest burning, and finally managed to push a gloved knuckle into her eye to erase the unnatural sting. The idiot coughed in between bites, even when the paste did not need to be chewed at all, the sensation of chewing allowed him to successfully consume whatever Asuka had just pushed into his mouth.

His stomach grumbled, loudly. He was suddenly thirsty, very thirsty and very hungry.

"I'm about to push a second serving down your damn throat if you don't do it for yourself. There's water on your left. Drink it, and start eating." The command came out half-bitten, clipped; it took all of her effort to keep her voice from wavering; there was a sickness growing in her belly now.

Something akin to a slight relief began to blossom in her ribcage when Shinji dragged the trey of food closer to him and began to slowly eat. She stood there, glaring, watching as every bit of the gruel disappeared. Shinji was quick to grab one of the protein bars and pushed it into his mouth, chewing with more urgency as he went along. "Slow down or you'll make yourself sick, you idiot. The food's not going anywhere."

A slight nod, and the devouring continued until not a single protein bar remained; she almost snickered at the way Shinji placed everything in a neat pile and tried to get up so as to leave it by the cell door. A red-clad hand pushed him back into the bed while the other retrieved the trey. "You'll fall flat on your damn face. Stay there, you idiot."

With her senses returning to something more familiar, Asuka breathed in once her back was to Shinji and began to walk away. "It's been decided keeping you in here is a waste of resources better spent in the crew. We'll be dropped off in a day and a half, in a secure location, while Unit 02 goes through repairs." Her cerulean orb glared accusatorily at him. "Repairs that would not be necessary… were it not for your little act out there."

What am I doing? She wondered for a moment as Shinji's body coiled into itself and he nodded his guilt to her. Why am I here? Why did I give him that dictionary? Why did I just… She had forced food down his throat and ensured he did not starve to death for another day or so. Why? Nobody had ordered her to do so, Misato was too busy to even remember Shinji had not been eating at all. Four-eyes had been pestering her about it, about how her mood darkened as days went by and the Third Child wasted away in the cell. Nonsense. Whatever was there died years ago, didn't it? Didn't it?

"I marked the pages where you'll find the meaning to those stupid little words you kept mumbling," Her hands rummaged through both jacket pockets and threw two small packages to the boy's bed. "Toothpaste, and a toothbrush. Soap." She elucidated as her forefinger pointed at each one. "You'll shower and change. We'll be leaving the vessel soon enough, and you stink of puke and God knows what else." Her eyes narrowed at the bandage stuck to his left arm. "You're an idiot for letting that fester." Never mind the fact that it was me putting those cuffs on too tightly that...

"Where…" came the weak reply from the bed. "Where are… am I to be… in another cage…?"

"No need." Asuka was now facing the door; the final battle was drawing near, she could feel it more than she felt most of her body lately. She was no longer human, after all, not entirely. The place under her eyepatch ached. "You're not a threat to anyone without Unit 01, and Misato can blow your head off whenever she pleases."

"Then… where are we… going?" Shinji inquired, already half asleep; perhaps with a full stomach he'd be able to sleep a few hours unperturbed. His vision swam in and out of focus, then suddenly a smaller package impacted against his chest. He gingerly picked up the small bag and felt his eyes widen in shock. Batteries; the specific type of batteries his SDAT used. To his right rested the dictionary, as well.

"To a place where the sky is blue," The door hissed open. "You've been there before, very briefly. If you don't shower I will literally hose you down, understood?" her uncovered eye turned to glare at him. Shinji nodded from his place on the bed; he was almost falling to the side. Still, he nodded, not really looking at her. "Go back to listening to your little song, then. Maybe you'll learn something."

The door hissed closed.

His fingers played with the small batteries for a while; Shinji stared at them in a strange sense of disbelief. Asuka's voice… had he heard it correctly? Why had it wavered so at some point? Why had she bothered to bring so many things to him, and how come she had told him to go back to his SDAT? She obviously knew of the song and its significance; and now had cleared her command to him and forced the boy to realize she was right. Death was too good for him, after all, at least at that point in time. Perhaps, if he worked at it, if he tried to move in some direction that was for once, not dictated to him by someone, then he would get his permission. A notion such as him finding a way to rescind the damage he had perpetrated was laughable, but the Second Child had been quite emphatic in her desires and expectations.

What was next? Were they going to tell him to get in the EVA and fight, at some point? Would he do it?

The batteries were pushed into the dark music box; he rewound the tape, placed the buds on his ears and pressed play. Shinji's head hit the mattress at last; his lids closed and under the lulling melody of the song he drifted into a dreamless slumber. I really need to look at that dictionary, and… thank Asuka… was the last thought that wen through his head before sleep claimed him.

Redemption. He wondered if it was possible to attain, even for someone like him.

TBC


AN: Shinji dieded? And yes I misspelled that on purpose. I don't fucking know. Wait for more chappies to find out!

Yo! So… this has been sorta sitting in an old computer for years, so I thought fuck it, dust it off, revise and get it out. Imma wait a bit more until I get a proper look at the last movie to sorta make a mental map of where I want this story to go, but if everything goes well it shouldn't suck as much as the last movies. Hopefully. Oh, and I just wanna say… I fucking predicted the force feeding. This shit has existed as it is for years. It was weird. Feels weird. Whatever. Aight so hate? Love? Like? Should I just let this shit collect more dust? Lemme know. Love to you all, and thank you so much for reading!

PEACE.