You've never met before
But still she treats you like a long lost rock n' roll
She's definitely one of those
You'll go wherever she goes
Arctic Monkey's Evil Twin
He dreamed mostly of sinking ships and time bombs. If not one then another and if not another then both of them. Aoi was not stupid; he recognized those signs as traumatic ones. So he got himself checked out, said something about running over a kid and his reply was a prescription for something green and small and bitter.
"I won't have you take meds," Akane said, stubborn and frowning and, overall, a little too possessive. And Aoi didn't press the issue, because he loved her far more than he loved himself. And because Akane was usually right. He supposed her perpetual exhaustion and her almost-there narcolepsy had pros; and delving in the minds of people was one of those.
The pills got thrown out.
So the dreams continued. Most of the time he didn't mind them.
Most of the time.
He was holding a gun because he could feel its weight in his hand. The handle was warm to the touch; the trigger, however was cool.
"Just trust me on this one," Santa said, and he turned around to find the nervously expectant eyes of Yotsuba. She couldn't have been closer to the wall unless she was inside it. "I know it sounds crazy but I need you to—"
"Yeah, stick a gun in my face and ask me for trust," she interrupted, the stubborn streak in her tone a little dimmed by her frightened demeanor. "I can't trust anyone on here."
"Then I will force you to." He told himself he didn't mean to sound so angry, but he was already grabbing her by the arm and looking into her eyes. The weight of the gold in his palm was heavier with each combined breath they took, reminding him of her fragile existence.
Yotsuba tried to pull away, but didn't try hard enough, so Santa squeezed around her wrist, stepping into her personal space.
"We're close enough to kiss," Clover said then, all fear gone from her voice, her eyes half-lidded, peering up to his. Her free hand was on his face; Aoi didn't even see her move, but she was warm and not entirely unpleasant, so he didn't pull away. His grip on the gun faltered.
"Would you like us to?" he heard himself say, his voice soft and a little nervous. Like they'd traded roles. Santa didn't do soft and nervous, but apparently Aoi did.
Clover pressed into the wall, smiling deviously and by the time Aoi noticed she was holding the gun, she was already swallowing the barrel, giving him a mouth-watering visual innuendo a full second before she pulled the trigger.
What Aoi came to notice was that he dreamed a lot about the Nonary Game in general and Yotsuba-slash-Clover in particular. He sat down on the cold bathroom floor of the hotel room, still hugging at the chipped porcelain toilet. Tonight they were staying at a two-star room, not too bad but certainly not too good either. He leaned his cheek against the bowl, staring at the white walls, wondering if Akane had woken up (hoping that she hadn't). She needed the rest, anyway. And so did he.
He loved her. Of course he did. But sometimes, he wondered; he could not help it – he wondered if, hadn't it been for them being kidnapped, would he have led a regular life? Would he have gone to school instead of sucking up information from library books and computers? Would he have gone to college instead of just sending them his exams and thesis? Aoi hated to wonder. Wondering gave him something to feel sorry for, and if there was one thing Aoi was not, was sorry. He was not sorry for saving his sister. He would never be, not even if it implied the murder of the Ninth Man on their hands. Semantics be damned—they had given Hongou the motive, the opportunity, and the weapon. Were they not the killers?
He cursed at the toilet water and got up to brush his teeth again.
"Have you had trouble sleeping? I mean, more than usual," Akane asked, sipping her fruit slooshie through a loopy straw. They were in a noodle stand; slowly working up their way to Tokyo. The media had gone crazy and Japan's prosecutors were ruthless—if they were caught, they'd have to spend money to buy people, and then Junpei would find them. If Aoi knew him - which he did; he'd been researched quite thoroughly – so if Aoi knew him, then he knew he would show up at the courthouse, just to testify. Or maybe just to see his sister. There were too many variables there, and even if math was the subject he'd been best at (although not his favorite one), Aoi didn't even want to begin calculating the many avenues of possibility.
"Why'd you ask?" There was a rational fear that she knew about the nightmares. He supposed it was obvious. He was a receiver and she was everything at once, a phenomenon.
"Just curious, I guess."
She went back to playing with her straw while he finished his coke. Aoi knew she knew about Yotsuba, but Aoi knew about Junpei, so they didn't discuss anything further.
"So you're stalking me now?" Yotsuba said, low, under her breath. She didn't even look over her shoulder, just kept reading a line of her psychology book over and over.
Aoi – because this was outside of the ship, which meant he was Aoi, although they weren't quite sure of where the limits hung, weren't quite sure where their other selves began and ended – sat down next to her, opened the book he had just taken off the shelf. It was about Locke. He shut it, a little nauseated by the coincidence.
"Aren't you glad to see me?'" he asked instead, not making visual contact. "What gave me away?"
"Maybe it's the whole pedophile look," Yotsuba replied sarcastically. She was still whispering. "I never thought I'd see you in a trench coat." And then, almost grudgingly, she added, "It suits you."
"Thanks," Aoi said, with a smirk, from behind his sunglasses. He took them off with a deft hand, placed them on the table.
"What do you want?" She was losing her patience. It was more than obvious. Aoi wondered if she was aware of how easy she was to read. Or maybe it was just him who was too good.
They were dancing around a subject and Aoi got up, took her hand, and the college library fell apart like water, pooling around their ankles. Yotsuba had this familiar smile on her face, which meant she was Clover now. Aoi was still Aoi, which meant they weren't evenly matched. He would win; a pyrrhic victory for sure. That was the only way he won with her.
"You know, sometimes I think we'd meet in college."
They spun, sloshing around. It was getting harder to move around the water. He wondered if it was rising, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from hers. Clover leaned her head on his shoulder, her ear against his beating heart. He felt vulnerable when they slowed down, just alternating between feet.
"We'd hit it off right away. A psychology and a history student? We'd be beautiful." She giggled a little, wrapping her arms around his neck. Where had his trench coat gone? He didn't know, nor did he care. "Especially 'cause of your sister complex," she added thoughtfully. He could feel her breasts pushing up against his chest, and told himself he was no longer thirteen, therefore no longer affected. Aoi was a pretty good liar.
"Would we get married?"
"Yeah, of course. But not in a church."
"'Course not," he said, enabling her.
"We'd get hitched off in Vegas. We'd both be drunk as all fuck." Clover sighed into his ear. Aoi's hands tightened slightly around her mid-section. "The sex would be great."
He almost tripped in the coldness around his knee.
"How many times a day?"
"Oh," she drawled. She was rolling her eyes. Aoi couldn't see her, but he knew. "Whenever one of us wanted to."
"We wouldn't get out of bed."
"Or the kitchen," Clover supplied.
The water was around his waist already. He didn't care.
"Why are your eyes closed?"
He was sure that if he'd opened his eyes, he would see the carnage around them. Even there, deep inside the ship, Aoi knew that if he tipped the balance, he would wake up feeling the loss of her warmth. So he didn't open his eyes.
"You know it's always going to end the same way, don't you, Aoi?" Clover buried her face into the crook of his neck, nestling closer to the water. He could feel its sway, sticking onto his wife-beater. His scarf was sopping wet as well. He felt warm though. "I will never be the one you save."
She slipped out of his arms, and when he opened his eyes – he couldn't help it – he was just in time to watch her fall back. He recognized the balcony they were standing on; it was the one from their two-star hotel room.
Aoi reached, and Clover laughed, because their hands touched, but she was already gone.
"I want to be in Tokyo in a week," Aoi said sparingly, leaning over the library table. The small village they were staying in for the weekend - he could not remember its name - offered them a small inn and books. Thankfully. He didn't think he could go for long without distractions.
Akane glanced up at him, her warm gaze nothing but a facade. She was reading something out of the mechanics' section. That didn't surprise him.
"We're sticking to schedule," she said softly, turning the page and continuing to read. "We've talked about this before, Aoi."
He grit his teeth in frustration, but knew better than to argue; she would be undoubtedly ready to argue back, and if they fought he would be the only injured party. He would always be. So he walked to the other table, his way of telling her that he was not satisfied with the predictable turn of events.
The book he'd picked was about traditional lore, and he'd read them all already, he knew everything about the kappa and the mermaids, but he read and told himself that he was not trying to channel his frustrations – psychosocial or sexual – into a children's story book.
A week was too long. A week was not enough.
He woke up with the sound of the sliding rice-door. Aoi stilled his breath, but not his heart. The footsteps were soft, but not like his sister's, and he gave up because he already knew where this was going.
"Shit, I was going to surprise you!" Yotsuba said, kneeling next to his sitting form. The bedding fell around his torso in a curve. Her hands were warm on his face as she leaned in for a quick kiss. Aoi already knew he couldn't, so he pulled away and pretended not to see the hurt look on her face. "That's how you're gonna treat me?" she huffed, crossing her arms. He noticed her cleavage first and her expensive-looking yukata later.
"What are you doing here?" He didn't know why he asked. It was more than obvious from her demeanor, from the way her cheeks were flushed. Sex was one of the many weapons in her arsenal.
Yotsuba smiled at him, and didn't answer; just leaned over and planted her hands on each side of where he was sitting on. The collar of her yukata dipped, low, and Aoi started reminding himself that he was more of a leg man than anything else. Self-inflicted masochism was also probably his thing, because he kept doing this to himself. Yotsuba breathed in when he breathed out, her steely eyes on his. They were no longer warm and inviting; he closed his eyes and thinned his lips.
"Don't you ever get tired of doing this?" Her voice echoed. He opened his eyes, alert, and searched around the hospital room of the ship. Clover - it was clearly Clover now, but he was not Santa; he would never be Santa, because being Santa would mean he would have the upper hand - was walking around, like it was the first time she was inside the bed cemetery. "I mean, it's gotta be really shitty, waking up on a hotel bed after these dreams."
He didn't say anything, just got up and darted after her. He could hear a familiar dry, metallic clicking, and he hated it.
"Guess there is something your sister can't do for you after all," she added, as an after-thought. The steps were faster now, along with the sharp sounds of the bracelets hitting one another. "By which I mean—" her eyebrows were climbing.
"I know what you mean," he cut in, feeling his cheeks heat embarrassingly. She flashed him a smile when she ran from one column to the other. It was a naughty little smile, like she knew he was only human after all and was about to tell everyone else. Aoi tried glancing at her hand but she was already running away, her sharp heels clacking, picking up speed. "What are you doing?"
"Playing the game. You?"
The heavy door beeped as he jumped over the ruined steel of the beds in his way; he was struggling to run, but it was as though he could not. Clover threw one of the bracelets away and scanned the other one. Hongou's bracelet from what he could tell, his eyes strained from the cool air around them.
"The game is over," Aoi replied in a shout, almost tripping on the dinky mattress of the last row of beds.
"It shouldn't even have started in the first place," she said breezily, throwing another bracelet his way. It slammed him in the knee, with a deadly timing, and Aoi lost his balance, hit the cement with a groan. His head swam with red, but he couldn't stop to check if he was bleeding, because he could hear the doors opening.
He'd never thought nine seconds were a long time, but Clover was walking through the doors, stepping inside the shower room. There was still blood all over the walls, and inside the partition lay the body of another man he'd killed. She turned on her heel, nice and easy, and smiled a little. It was a smile just for him, loving and cheerful with an edge of dark intentions.
The door closed as soon as he reached it, with a creaking sound, like it was laughing. He fell to his knees, listened to her die.
"It starts how I want them to start," Aoi said carefully, from behind the wheel. Akane was at his side, peacefully gazing at the rice fields outside. "But then I lose control of it and then everything falls apart."
"You are not supposed to lose control of anything," was her sleepy reply, as she set her head into her elbow. "We're meeting with the heads of Hongou Pharmaceuticals tomorrow," Akane said then, closing her eyes. "Cheer up. I thought you were dying to get to Tokyo."
He gripped the steering wheel a little tighter, looked ahead into the distance. If he strained his eyes, he could see the beginnings of the skyscraper jungle.
"I trust you not to mess things up." She gave him a critical glance from her spot, peering over her elbow. "Don't make me regret giving you some breathing space, okay?"
He only nodded, feeling his skin stretch as his knuckles whitened.
Akane took care of the board meeting. He waited outside the glass room, taking a glance at the vice-president every three minutes. There was something about taking a close look at the face of someone who realized everything they had fought for was gone, and that something stirred the contents of his stomach, made him want to grab a chair and throw it out the window.
He didn't do it - not because throwing off security was upsetting, but because his sister's hair was pinned back and her suit was navy-blue, the picture of a woman just fresh out of college and starting an internship in a private company. Maybe she would have been something like that, looking shy and pretty and being shy and pretty instead of just pretending to. Maybe she would have never lost contact with Junpei, maybe she would have moved in with him and maybe he would have given her a normal kind of love. Aoi hated that Akane had to settle for his, which was twisted and sharp like barbed wire, coiling around her wrists and pulling her closer. But if she was bleeding from her arms then he was bleeding from his neck, choking on blood and tears. Akane would always hold the leash.
Maybe that was why the dreams started. Maybe he had started to realize it shouldn't have to be like this, that even though they would never be normal, they could at least try from now on. He had been met with steely resistance on her part, and the wire tightened, and Aoi followed.
He didn't bother trying to hide the way he stared at the vice-president's secretary's ass after that, even though his sister kept giving him those warm, concerned glances she was ever so fond of wearing. Maybe, he figured, when they were getting in the limo, with the future of Hongou Pharmaceuticals inside her briefcase, maybe her discomfort was precisely why he kept on doing it.
"I'll be at the hotel. I'm exhausted." She leaned against his shoulder, closing her eyes. "You're not coming up for dinner, are you?"
"No, I don't think I am," he said, staring outside, at the bright screens and the sea of people standing by the crossroads. Akane did not reply.
He was not a native, but there was a familiar feeling in Tokyo that he didn't find anywhere else in the world. Homesickness was reserved for the house of his childhood, the burnt bones of it standing in hell, where they'd left it. No. Tokyo was sound and lights and the top university in Japan. And the dormitories were empty, because it was Friday and everyone was out studying.
He parked the rental car outside, because he knew everything there was to know about Yotsuba—shoe size to dorm room. Hers was one facing the campus, and he took the time to count the windows and the floors thrice just to make sure her room was the one with the light on. Drumming his fingers, he wondered. Was she studying? Yotsuba's behavior analysis pre-game was one of rebellious student with top marks, a hater of the popularity hierarchy although she was the one on top. She was smart and she knew it, she was gorgeous and she knew it, she was easy-going and well-versed and she knew everything about herself. And Aoi knew it. But Clover's appearance in her life was a hitch. Clover was a mystery, an alteration; Yotsuba didn't know anything about Clover.
Aoi started the car twice before he decided it would be stupid and weak of him to leave without at least seeing her, in the flesh, the whole Santa side of him ruthlessly egging him on, because Tokyo might have not been the ship, but it was still real life and he wanted. He wanted everything he couldn't have, from his sister's happiness, to Yotsuba, under his hands, under his beating heart.
He opened the car door and thought of Akane, dead and burnt and ravaged.
Aoi drove back to the hotel.
He called room service, asked for whiskey and sashimi maki. When he opened the door, he found Yotsuba staring at him. She stepped inside the room, blowing a low whistle, impressed.
"Nice room!" she said, dropping her bag on the chair next to the bathroom door. "Much better than the last."
Aoi sank into his bed, cradling his head. "What are you doing here?"
"That question is getting old, isn't it? Don't you get tired of always asking the same questions?" She was taking off her jacket; wearing the same outfit as the one in the Nonary Game. "I thought there was more to you than just asking questions. Namely because I'm the one who wants the answers, right?"
"Yeah." He was tired and he felt shitty and he wanted peace. The sound of beeping cars outside was replaced by a fog horn. Aoi refused to look up.
Yotsuba's hands were on his hair, around his neck, her lips on his ear. She smelled of perfume and sea breeze; he felt nauseated, but did not push her off. That would just quicken the process. She'd just taken off his belt, thrown it aside, when she paused.
"No," she corrected, sitting by his side, her hands leaving his head, "You are always supposed to follow me. That is how it goes." She leaned on his shoulder, snaking her arm around his, entwining their fingers. "Otherwise you will just hate yourself even more, for letting me die without doing anything. Am I right?"
"I am not letting you die. You are the one killing yourself." Over and over and over. Aoi leaned his head on hers and let himself pretend.
"Technically. You're the one making me kill myself. You're very fond of putting me in hard spots."
He made a noise of agreement.
"Plus, you never let yourself let go." She got up and patrolled the room. "I'm going to the bathroom."
Aoi let her - he'd always do his best to make her feel better - and then reached for the mini-bar, hoping to ease his aching head with some ice. Where was his belt? Hadn't she thrown it somewhere to his left?
The ice in stomach materialized when he noticed the door to the bathroom was closed.
He threw himself against the door, once and twice and thrice, until it burst open, the lock hanging off the jambs like Yotsuba off the shower.
So that was where his belt was.
"You knew I wouldn't go through with it, didn't you?" he said quietly, reaching for the butter. His sister was sipping coffee. Akane hardly ever ate breakfast. For her to be awake so early (or awake at all) was a rarity.
"Of course you wouldn't go through with it. That would make a mess." She looked at him from behind her mug. "You know I hate messes. Besides, the Tokyo policemen are great at their job." Like she didn't know it was Yotsuba he was afraid of, not the cops. "Besides, there was no telling if she'd like to see you. You could have totally been rejected."
"Or I could have been happy," he answered angrily, stabbing at his eggs with the fork. "Maybe, for once, I'd like to fucking live a normal fucking life. Maybe I don't like fucking going around making fucking plans. Maybe I am tired of you fucking leading me on because you know I would do fucking everything for you. Because I have already done fucking everything for you!"
"Aoi," Akane replied, cool and collected, "people are staring."
He watched her finish her coffee, and then he got out of his chair and into the rental car, slamming all the doors on his way.
He'd thought about their first meeting more than once. Aoi's favorite was definitely the one where he ran into her, in the street or in a mall or on the subway. Anywhere else was fine. Yotsuba was a smart girl; she would know that with him there were no such things as coincidence or accidents, which meant she would appreciate the meeting. But Aoi couldn't picture something after that; Yotsuba was bottled unpredictability, shaken and then opened, explosive like coke. To imagine was not possible. Aoi told himself that was why he didn't run into her.
Instead, he walked.
The book on the desk was about criminal psychology and he smirked as he sat next to her, taking it into his hands, cracking it open, maybe hoping to read about himself. Yotsuba took a sharp glance at him, probably thinking him a schoolmate or an annoying teacher's assistant, and her mouth parted, her eyes widened.
"It's been a while," he said, smoothly on the outside and crumbling on the inside, like the chocolate and nut candies his sister was so fond of. It impressed him that he was so good at pretending, but it was an empty feeling, like it was a good skill used in the wrong way. "Yotsuba," he added, then, the greeting merely a disguise for her to get some more time to set her brain straight. She complied.
"Aoi," she greeted back, her shaking hands stubbornly planted against the table. It was more than obvious that she was doing her best to look unaffected, her nervous fingers pushing against the metal desk in a failing attempt to be still. "What brings you to campus?" Yotsuba asked, then, pulling her eyes away from his and onto the floor. A sign of weakness, surely, but it was necessary for her not to completely lose.
"I was around town, thought I would visit."
A pause. They both contemplated their lives; he, his schedule, she, if her roommate was in or not. After a second, it was more than obvious that they would clear both their agendas.
The walk there was tense and horrible and comforting in a strange, déjà vu-ish way. Her dorm room was big enough to be luxurious, when it came to university-provided accommodations, and Aoi was impressed for all three seconds he was grabbed by the shoulders and thrown into what he supposed was her bed. Her jacket was already on the floor; Yotsuba kissed him with anger or lust (he doubted even she knew), her warm hands on his face. He could feel her heartbeat on her fingertips, and there should have been a fleeting thought about the fragility of her life running through his head, but he was more interested on the flavor of her orange lipstick.
"You have a lot of nerve, coming here," she said, when they parted to breathe, her fingers unzipping his jacket, his fingers pulling her camisole over her head. "I ought to call the cops on you. I'd love to see you rot in a cell for the rest of your shitty life." Another kiss, another piece of clothing falling to the edge of her bed.
"Why don't you, then?" he asked back, running his hands over her ribs, curving to find the latch of her bra. "You have a cell, right? Or would you like to use mine? It's in my jacket."
"Shut up," Yotsuba hissed, angry, her eyes very bright in the yellow light of the room. Aoi hoped she wouldn't cry; he couldn't deal with crying, he didn't know how. "I ought to kill you for what you did to me and Light." Her eyes went cold, and for a millisecond he was afraid she was Clover instead of Yotsuba. Her smile could've cut glass. "Or maybe I ought to kill your sister. That'd make us super even, huh?"
Aoi saw white, and then he was pinning her to the bed, barely avoiding head-butting the wall, his mouth a snarl of teeth and aggression.
"Fuck you," he wanted to say, but what came out was, "Oh, tell me more," in a low, hushed pitch, their noses touching.
"I'll talk to you all night long," she said, and then a few drops of water slid against her cheek, into the white fabric of her pillowcase. Aoi tensed at the sight of water, looking up. Beneath him, she rose with the help of her elbows. "The dorm above is flooded," she explained dryly, kneeling him off her almost softly. It was true. The ceiling was pregnant with tiny drops of humidity, making the paint peel there. He felt a little cold, and sat off, reaching for his shirt.
"Your floor's damp too," Aoi said slowly, staring at the carpet. His socks were moist, a slightly darker shade of blue sticking to the front of his feet.
"Yeah, so what of it?" she asked slyly, coating her half-naked torso over his, crossing her arms around his neck. If she wanted to, she could've asphyxiated him. Aoi would've died happy. "Next thing you know I'm gonna be wet too."
"Charming," he said, but there was a strange sensation at the back of his head, and it was not from the warmth of her skin. Aoi unlatched her arms out of his neck, got up and stared out the window. It was a small window, made out of chipped brown wood. Outside, it was raining. Was it nighttime already? He should say something to Akane, tell her he was still alive and kicking, but something inside was appreciating the fact that he was leaving her in the dark, leaving her out of complete control for once.
Almost as if by magic, his ring tone flooded the room, then.
"Aren't you going to take that?" Yotsuba asked, from her bed. She wasn't wearing any shoes, but he could see the slight glitter of her feet when she moved them restlessly.
"No," he said, setting the phone on her desk. It was ringing louder and louder, but he forced it out of his mind. "I came here for a reason, don't wanna be interrupted."
She snorted, laughing. "Right! Like I don't know I'm supposed to be a booty call."
"You're not a booty call."
"Not a very good one—it's been a year since we've last met. What's a girl supposed to think? I consider myself a pretty good kisser—"
"It's not about that," he interrupted angrily, turning towards her. His socks were sopping wet and he felt uncomfortable, but the matter at hand was important and needed to be discussed. "It's about us and how we're never going to fucking work out. I mean—just—"
"At least you're not Akane," she cut in, cold and icy and Clover-like, her wet feet still, "She's never going to give Junpei the benefit of the doubt. Is she?"
"I am not my sister." He chose to omit that, sometimes, he would much rather be her. She stayed in control, while he and control were like distant friends who sometimes saw each other at the supermarket. "And maybe I should act more like her."
"If you acted more like her you wouldn't be here," she replied offhandedly, like his presence in her dorm room was nothing special. Aoi stared at the foggy night outside. The mist was so heavy; he could not see the parked cars. "Well, I mean, technically, you —"
"It's fucking hard, okay!" he shouted, and in the distance, a metallic-sounding thunder burst. "I want to live my life, I want to enjoy being with my sister, because everything I've done was for her and her alone, and maybe I … I just—" His phone was ringing again, piercing through his skull, disrupting him, blurring his own words.
"Maybe you should take that."
Maybe he should. Aoi leaned over, flipped it open, but it kept on ringing. "What the fuck …?"
Clover kissed him on the cheek, and when he turned, her dorm room was no longer there, instead replaced by the stifling heat of the incinerator, her pockets full of blood, dripping out.
"You're such a weak person," she taunted, pulling out the axe from her chest. She looked so-very pretty, even though the pink of her hair clashed with the red splashing across her cheek.
"I know," he chose to answer, falling to his knees, offering her himself.
"Yeah?" she asked, bringing the blade across her neck.
"Yeah," Aoi answered.
"Where are you?" Akane asked through the line, a little impatient, a little upset. He was sleepy and groggy and didn't care about her. The driver's seat was an uncomfortable place to sleep in. "It's getting late."
"I'm going now," he replied, clumsily pulling at the gears, activating the windshields. The university parkway was full of cars, the building asleep as well.
Aoi didn't look back as he drove away, even though he could've, just to check if she was up or not. He supposed even his issues drew the line at emotional mutilation. He very carefully avoided the rear view mirror until he was out of the campus, lest he not catch a glimpse of her window (third line, fortieth from the right, second from the left), and Aoi told himself he absolutely didn't want to crash into something and die. That would be a waste, he thought. He'd grown quite accustomed to dying by her hand, after all.
And maybe, just maybe, both Santa and Aoi owed her that (he still hoped).
The next week, they flew to New York. Akane didn't intend returning to Japan (probably out of spite); so Aoi didn't think he would, either. The saddest thing was probably leaving everything behind, unsolved, but the tickets were in his hands, and the flight attendant was smiling.
He stepped in, and didn't think about Clover, or Yotsuba, at all. Most of the time, he didn't mind it.
Most of the time.
A/N: How the pressure of it all piles down on him, or how Aoi finally goes bonkers out of sexual frustration and paranoia. Either interpretation is correct (or both are). Takes part in universe VI, where the game ended successfully, but not perfectly. I'll probably write more about these parallel universes/endings, when I start replaying the game again.
Pairings: Santa (Aoi)/Clover (Yotsuba) with a peripheral side-serving of sibling-but-screwed-up June (Akane)/Santa (Aoi). Did you catch the last one? I suggest you read again, if you didn't! :)