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Instrumentality ends with the two of them, side by side on the shore of the sea that humanity has become.

Instrumentality ends with red, staining the moon, washing over them.

Instrumentality ends with silence, and two children staring up at the sky.

Shinji is the first to move, turning his head to the side and staring at something. Asuka does not move. She can't bring herself to care. Why bother? She cared before, and look where it got her.

He sits up, shaking his head. She stays still.

He climbs on top of her, and she wonders, briefly, if he's going to finish what he started in that hospital room. When his hands close around her neck instead, she's almost relieved. But she still can't bring herself to move.

She lets him grip her throat tightly, lets him press his thumbs into her windpipe, until she realizes that perhaps she doesn't want to die like this, with Shinji on top of her and her throat constricted like...

Like Mama's.

Her hands twitch at her side, and she lifts one, gently, touches the side of his face--and lets her hand fall down, in a quiet, emotionless false caress. Immediately, his grip loosens, and she waits for him to get off of her--but he doesn't. He stays there, his weight crushing, and then the first tears start falling onto her face, and she feels only disgust. Why does he have the right to cry? She's the one who was torn apart, eaten alive by those monsters. She's the one who nearly died by his hands, twice now. She's the one who was exposed for his sick fantasies.

"How disgusting," she murmurs, and then lapses into silence, waiting for him to get off.

 

It takes him far too long to stop crying, she thinks, and far too long for him to get off of her. When he does, he only sits by the shoreline, staring out into the sea, murmuring names under his breath. Some, like Misato, Toji, and Kensuke, she knows. Others, like 'Kaworu', she doesn't. She doesn't particularly care, either.

She wants to get out of her plugsuit, get away from the reminder of her last moments, but all her clothes are in the ruins of Tokyo-3, and she doesn't know if any of them are even still fit to wear. Still, anything's better than being reminded of what she was.

She'd never thought she'd want to leave her memories of being a pilot behind, but here she is.

Still, she can get rid of as much as possible, and she does--ripping the A-10 clips out of her hair, throwing them into the sea of red with her unbandaged arm. Her other arm doesn't hurt, she realizes a moment later, nor does her eye--she wonders if they are even injured, and carefully peels off the bandages over her eye to find out. Her vision is blurred at first, but a few blinks and a quick rubbing solve that, and when she unwraps the bandages from her arm, only pale, unbroken flesh remains.

Her movement seems unimpeded, which is nice. She might have to do some digging if she wants to find anything wearable other than her plugsuit, after all. Turning, she starts back towards the city--

"Don't go!"

His hand latches on to her wrist, and she freezes in place. Don't touch me, she thinks wildly, pulling back--but his grip is surprisingly strong, and she finds herself standing, staring, almost shaking. What does he want? Hasn't he already done enough?

"Why not?" she asks, her voice hoarse. "Why would I want to stay with you?"

"I don't want to be alone," he mutters, and his grip tightens to the point that it hurts. "I don't want to be alone. Asuka, I don't want to be alone!"

What about what I want?

She wants to ask him that, but knows it won't do her any good.

So she lets him pull her back down, and sits beside him. When he leans against her, she stiffens, but allows it. Protesting will only lead to another fight, and she's tired of fighting.

Really, she's tired of a lot of things.

In the end, she finds herself once again lying on the shore, this time with Shinji's arms wrapped around her, as if he requires proof that there is still someone else there.

He has a peaceful rest, that night. She does not.

Chapter Text

She wakes up the next morning without him, and is glad of that. He's back to sitting by himself, staring at the water--"Can't you do anything else?" she snaps, before remembering just what he has proven able to do to her and freezes. Thankfully, he doesn't respond... he just sits there. She can see his lips moving over those names again, and rolls her eyes. Does he think they'll come back just for him? She wouldn't. She came back for herself. And if she hopes that one day she'll see a familiar head of reddish-blonde hair rising out of the water, well. That's only natural, isn't it? At least she's not just sitting and staring like an imbecile. 'Stupid Shinji', like she used to say, but stupid Shinji can still be terrifying, hands around her throat and--

Well. She doesn't need to think about that. She has better things to do with her time. Ugh, she still wants to get some normal clothes--even that stupid school uniform would be better than this. There's no skin exposed, but that doesn't mean she hadn't caught the pervert staring at her more than once before everything went to hell... And I'm just a doll to you, too, aren't I? Toyed with and strangled when she didn't obey.

Don't stop being my mother!

The image of that doll dangling from the ceiling makes her shudder, and she's grateful that Shinji isn't looking to see her moment of weakness.

"Hey, Third, look at me," she demands, and tries not to cringe at the way his head turns. "I've got to get some actual clothes, and you're going to starve to death if you just sit there for the rest of your life, so we're going to need to leave at some point... It'll still be here when we get back," she adds, deliberately softening her voice. She might as well try to not antagonize him. Even if the idea of him killing her and then rotting alone in this hellhole is appealing, in a morbid sort of way.

He nods, slowly, and then stands up, a wave of relief washing over her as he does. Good, he's listening. She can finally get out of this stupid plugsuit.

"Well, come on, then," she orders. "Don't just stand there. Get moving!" As if demonstrating, she turns on her heel and walks away from the shore, only glancing back once to see him following after her.

The look in his eyes is more than a little frightening.

 

Tokyo-3 is a mess, as she expected. People can't just randomly disappear without leaving cars out of control, gas lit, and all sorts of other disasters waiting to happen, after all, to say nothing of the effects of the impact itself. Climbing over rubble and avoiding broken glass is annoying, but she is--was--an elite Evangelion pilot. Something like that is simple.

The first semi-intact house they find is raided, Shinji going to find food while Asuka looks for medical supplies just in case--and once she finds them, who can blame her for checking the residents' closets to see if there was anything she could wear? Much to her delight, the people who lived in the house seem to have had a teenage daughter, and Asuka takes great pleasure in choosing from the variety of clothing she has. The shirt is a bit large in the chest, but finding someone with a better fit could take a while, and she's not sure she wants to try keeping Shinji away from the water for longer than absolutely necessary.

She presses the button on her wrist to loosen the plugsuit, and strips it off, letting it fall into a heap on the ground--and then the door opens.

"Asuka, I--"

He freezes, falls silent, and she whirls, eyes blazing in fury. "What're you doing now, pervert?" Back off. Get away. Don't come near me. I'll kill you-- "Not enough to just see part of me, huh? Come to finish what you started?" She's moving closer with each word, trying to intimidate him. She's not sure it's working. After all, he knows what he can do to her now. "Answer me, you stupid--"

He shuts her up, as she'd expected--but not with his hands. Instead, it's with his mouth, pressed against her own, in a way that it hasn't been since that first disastrous kiss. It's no better this time, even though she vaguely registers that this time, he's holding her--it's not affection, not what she wants. He's holding her, she realizes, so that she can't get away.

Maybe he did come to finish what he started, she thinks, and then shoves him back, breaking his grip. "Get away from me," she shrieks, and to her horror she doesn't sound angry at all.

She sounds terrified.

She slams the door shut on him, slumping against it, and takes a moment to collect her breathing. It was just a kiss, that was all. She'd kissed him before. It wasn't different. It wasn't--

(it wasn't like she was the only person there who could do anything. it wasn't like he hadn't proved what he would do to her if she wasn't what he wanted her to be. it wasn't like he hadn't already used her, in that hospital room. it wasn't. it wasn't. it wasn't.)

She walks back out of the room five minutes later, fully dressed and trying to ignore the way his eyes linger on where the slightly-large shirt shows more than she wants. She doesn't speak to him, and he doesn't speak either--no explanations for what had happened, no apologies. Just silence.

The silence between them lingers for the rest of the day, until he wraps his arms around her again and falls asleep.

He doesn't want to be alone, she knows.

But she really, really does.

Chapter Text

Why is this happening to her?

She knows she wasn't exactly the model of good behavior before, but does she deserve this? It's been--how long, how long has it been? Time folds in on itself and spreads out in all the wrong directions now. The sky is always red, red, red, no matter how long she waits for it to change. The water is red like blood, washing up against her legs and then falling back, leaving red streaks down her calves. It's a nightmarish thing that makes no sense. None of this makes any sense.

She's supposed to be smart, right? A genius, a child prodigy, Asuka Langley Soryu, already out of college at such a young age. She's supposed to be smart. So why doesn't anything make sense?

Shinji hasn't done anything more since their 'expedition'. He never does anything--just sits at the edge of the water and keeps mouthing those names. It's getting more and more annoying.

"Who the hell is Kaworu?" she finally asks, after getting sick of seeing that same name cross his lips a thousand times.

He flinches slightly, having been absorbed in his 'task', and looks over at her with wide eyes. "You're talking to me," he marvels. "I didn't think you liked me anymore."

I don't, she thinks, but manages to keep from saying that. "Yeah, well, you keep saying his name, and I want to know who he is."

"..." Shinji looks back out at the water and sighs, wrapping his arms around his knees. "The fifth child," he finally says. "They brought him in after... after you couldn't pilot anymore."

"...so they really did replace me," she whispers, and wishes she could manage to be surprised. "Why's he so important?"

"Because..." Shinji flushes red, and she can't help but curl her lip in disgust. There's that color again. She's starting to hate the sight of it. "Because he... he was the last Angel, and--"

"He what?!" Not only did they replace her, but with an Angel? And Shinji wants him back?! "Are you crazy? Why would you want him to come back?!"

"...he loved me," Shinji whispers, and at first she isn't sure she's heard him properly.

"What?" she asks incredulously. "Say that again."

"He--He loved me," Shinji repeats, with more confidence this time, still blushing. "He told me so." He could have been lying. "And I... loved him, too. Asuka... it felt so nice, when he said he loved me. He meant it. I know he did. He really did love me. I didn't know anyone did. Asuka, do you--" He pauses, stammers, then continues. "Asuka, you came back. You came back with me. Does that mean--do you love me, too?"

He's leaning closer, uncomfortably so, and she wants to push him away again, wants to shout that she hates him, that she's disgusted by the sight of him, like she did during Third Impact.

But all she can think about is having his hands around her neck, her lungs screaming, begging for precious oxygen, all she can remember is what happened the last time she told him 'no'.

So she doesn't.

Chapter Text

It's been (days weeks months) too long since all of this started.

Asuka (thinks) knows she's going crazy. Everything is wrong, wrong, wrong. She hears that in the sound of the red sea, wrong. She hears it in the sound of her footsteps on the shore, wrong. She hears it in everything Shinji says or does, wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

She's not sure when she's awake or asleep anymore. This is all too much to be real, it has to be a nightmare, but her eyes open and it's still there, it's always there, he's always there and the sea and the decomposing head of (Rei) Lilith staring at them with rotting eyes and a curved half-smile like she knows, she sees.

No one has come back. Not Misato or Hikari or Toji or Mama or anyone. No one has come back. Why hasn't anyone come back? Do they know? Do they know what it's like here, do they see it? Do they think she's an idiot for coming back in the first place? They probably do. Poor Asuka, the little genius, still so stupid, stupid, stupid.

She wants her mother. Mama, Mama, I'll definitely die with you this time, please come back, I don't want to be alone.

She has to find her mother. She's somewhere out in that sea of red, right? She has to be. If Asuka can just find her--

She's up to her knees in the red before she really knows what she's doing. "Mama?" she calls, and faintly hears someone calling her name in response. The sea licks at her calves, and she listens, strains her ears--Asuka, Asuka, someone is saying, and she realizes it's coming from behind her. She turns--

It's Shinji, sitting on the shoreline still, screaming her name, "Asuka, come back, don't leave me," and for a moment she steps forward unthinkingly, only knowing that she has to do what he says, always does, because he might hurt her, he will hurt her, has proven that time and time again. If she refuses him his hands will be around her neck again. She's just a doll here, just a doll--

She doesn't want to be a doll anymore. Not her mother's, not his, not anyone's. She's so tired. She wants to sleep.

She turns away and walks deeper into the sea, and then she falls.

 

Everything is red. Red, red, red. No--she blinks, and her eyes focus, and then there's blue there, blue and red and white painted across her vision. A girl. A goddess. The full moon incarnate.

"Rei?" she whispers hoarsely, and those bloody red eyes stare down at her, into her.

"Pilot Soryu." The voice is as toneless as always--no, wait, wait, there's something there. But what?

"Rei, thank goodness," she sobs, and scrambles to her feet, throwing her arms around the other girl. "I'm so glad to see you, I'm so glad--help me, Rei, please, I shouldn't have come back, please let me in--"

Rei pushes her back. She stumbles, falls to her knees on the red expanse. She can almost see things in it, through it--faces, hands, souls. "Rei?"

"You have made your choice," Rei replies coldly. Well, yes, but--

"I made a mistake," she babbles, trying to explain. "I don't want to be there anymore--I changed my mind--let me back in, Rei, please, I need you to--"

"Pilot Ikari will be lonely without you."

"I don't care," Asuka practically shouts, her voice cracking. "I don't care. I just want--"

"I care," Rei retorts, and for a moment there's something terrible just behind the red film of her eyes, something old and frightening. "I gave control over Human Instrumentality to Pilot Ikari--to Shinji, because I wish for him to be happy. If you leave him alone before anyone else has returned, he will not be happy."

"Rei, please--"

"You have made your choice, Pilot Soryu, the choice that he gave you. And now you are ungrateful. How like you, Pilot Soryu. You are ungrateful for everything. Even the basic kindness of other humans means nothing to you. Others reach out to you and you push them away, and then grow angry when they stop trying to reach you. You will not push him away."

"Rei, please don't!"

"You have hurt him enough," Rei continues, and Asuka finally realizes what it is that she can hear in the other girl's tone: cold contempt. "You will not hurt him again by leaving."

"Rei--"

Her eyes open, and she's on her knees in the sea again, Rei gone and Shinji still calling for her.

"Rei," she begs, one last time, knowing it won't do any good. "Rei, please, please don't leave me here!"

There's no response, none save Shinji's cries echoing through the air.

Her heart sinks, and she stands back up, closing her eyes for a moment and then turning to walk back to the shore.

Shinji reaches out and grabs her the moment she's in reach, sobbing, "Asuka, Asuka," in relief.

She says nothing, and tries to ignore the tears streaming down her face.

Chapter Text

After her encounter with Rei, Asuka finds herself hollowing out more and more all the time.

Most of the time, Shinji won't leave her alone, no matter how hard she tries to find some space for herself. But there are also times where he'll simply ignore her, staring into the sea with that same blank, lost expression, no matter what she does. It's almost hurtful. After all of that, she still isn't enough. She shouldn't be surprised at that. She's just a doll to him, and dolls don't need voices. They don't need attention. They are silent and complacent, all the things Asuka is not and has never been, but is slowly becoming. The silence is overpowering. It's crushing her.

Still, if she listens as carefully as she can, deep within that silence, she hears her mother.

Asuka...

Her mother hasn't returned from the sea, but she still calls out.

Asuka, sweetheart, it's been so long.

That same voice that she heard inside of her EVA during the end, before Instrumentality--the same warm, loved feeling. "Mama, Mama, you still love me, don't you?"

Always. Oh, Asuka, I've missed you. Won't you come see me?

"Come here, Mama. Come back. I'm lonely."

But her mother doesn't come back.

When Shinji forgets about her, she wanders along the shoreline, the red waves lapping at her ankles, and searches for a place where the voice is strongest, where she can reach her mother. There has to be somewhere that she can break through the barrier, right? There definitely is. If it weren't for that, then the voice couldn't reach her. It has to exist, that's how she can hear her mother.

"Mama, how do I find you?"

Come see me, Asuka.

"I can't find you, Mama! Where are you? Where did you go?"

Don't leave me! Don't stop being my mother!

Die with me, Asuka.

"I don't want to die, Mama."

Die with me.

"I want to live, Mama."

Die with me.

"I want you back, Mama!"

You know where I am, Asuka.

Come to heaven with me.

The images come to her every time she closes her eyes--the blank button eyes of the rag doll hanging from the ceiling beside her mother's corpse, and her mother, face blue, tongue protruding horribly, body simply dangling there, like a rag doll herself.

Dolls. Always dolls. Why is it always dolls?

Sometimes when Shinji looks at her it's with cold, unfeeling eyes, and she wonders if he'd look any different with buttons sewn over them.

Does it matter?

Maybe they're all dolls. Dolls for whatever made the Angels. If there's a god in the world, it must be a cruel and sadistic one. To play with its creations so remorselessly, and fling them aside when it no longer finds them entertaining--

She feels lighter and lighter. Her head feels filled with cotton. She is changing. She is a doll. If she cuts herself it'll be fuzz and stuffing that comes out.

Shinji sits lifelessly on the shore and stares with unseeing eyes. They are dolls. They are all dolls. For each other, for the universe. If she cuts him it'll be fuzz and stuffing that comes out.

If she reaches out with a knife and cuts the air, will it tear like paper?

Will she find her mother behind it?

Die with me, Asuka.

"I will."

If she's just a doll, since she's just a doll, then she won't really die. Dolls don't live or die. They just are.

"I will, Mama."

It's not hard to find a rope. It's not hard to make good calculations. She's supposed to be a genius, after all. Figuring out the precise length is easy.

"Wait for me, Mama!"

That's my girl.

Chair. Loop. Knot.

She's dizzy, suddenly, like she's staring down at an entire world.

"Mama? Are you still there?"

I'm here, Asuka. I'm always here.

Die with me.

"Yes, Mama."

Noose over her head. Around her neck. (Shinji's hands. She'll finish the job for him.)

"I love you, Mama."

I love you, Asuka. You're such a good girl.

Now. Come to heaven.

And she does.