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Stay Away From Fleeting Failure

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Suddenly there's no time. There just no time. Clover's gone before Akane realizes what's happening.

Aoi gets a good clean death, at least. A knife to the heart and all the awareness in her brother's eyes vanishes. It's as quick and as easy as turning off a light. It seems horribly wrong, a perversion of how things should be, that it could be that easy to make someone's soul disappear.

And suddenly all she can think is that she understands her brother better than she ever did when he was alive. The guilt that settles over her seems too much to bear, and she's only lived with it for a millisecond. How could someone stand to shoulder memories like this for almost a decade? She'd ask him now if she could.

A moment later she hears herself shrieking like she's being led to her execution. Somewhere in there is her brother's name- his real name- and she's forgotten to act. She's on the steps, next to his body, when she's stabbed in the side. It's shoddier work than Aoi and Clover's deaths, but it's possible Hongou's taken aback by the intensity of her reaction. It's not immediately fatal, but it's enough. Soon she'll feel the incinerator closing in around her, non-existent flames reaching towards her.

The pain is terrible, yes, but the reminder of reality has brought her back to earth. She blunders back to a kind of equilibrium. Akane's disassociating, breaking away from her own life. It's been her method of survival all these years. Aoi's dead, he's gone forever. She takes that emotion, and shoves it back to the far reaches of her brain. She'll confront it again later.

(And, as momentarily denied emotions often are, returning to it will be awful)

Instead she turns around and claws at Hongou's face. The part of her that's pragmatically sadistic takes pleasure in the fact that she scratches one of his eyes a bit. It won't deter him completely, but it gives her a moment to escape. She's limped her way over to the elevator before Hongou's realized what's going on.

They stare at each other; Akane's in the elevator, Hongou's in front of the staircase.

"Why are you running?" He sounds honestly perplexed. "You will probably be dead in thirty minutes."

"More like eighteen minutes," Akane says, calmly. There's a shocked look in his eyes as old memories surface.

And it's priceless.

But when she's finally alone, all she can do is press her hand to her wound. She stares at the blood on her fingers, and she whispers apologies to her brother until the elevator doors open again. By the time she collapses near the submarine she's slipped into a role again. She will wrest every last detail from this timeline, even if it's the wrong one.

*

Accessing the morphogenic field can be like a nightmare. Literally. Things happen that shouldn't, but your mind revels in the horror of it all, rather than realizing how illogical it is. Akane comes back to reality, gasping like someone who's stayed under water for far too long. Her voice is ragged and timid as she explains to Aoi what happened. She seems to have brought her shame and grief back with her.

"Man, I still can't believe I bought it before you." Aoi's taken on a fake cheerful voice.

"It was awful..." Akane stares at her hands. They're clean.

"Well, look, I'm still here okay?"

Yes, you are, thank god. "And so am I."