Yuuma watched as Ataru took a deep breath and lifted the small gun towards him. Yuuma cursed him under his breath, still half-grinning even as he stared into the barrel of a gun as empty as his twin's expression. He tugged and tugged at the tight cuffs on his wrists, and his mind raced with half-baked and impossible possibilities for escape even as the bruises began to set in. He made sure, however, that he hadn't broken eye contact with Ataru, whose clear, steady blue had not moved from him at all.
Ataru's grip on the gun didn't falter, but he carefully reached forward towards Yuuma's cuffs with his other hand. Yuuma didn't move - maybe if he played his cards right, he'd be able to break some of Ataru's fingers with the chain. It was worth a shot.
The tips of Ataru's fingers brushed steel, and Yuuma breathed in sharply as a polished key slipped out of Ataru's sleeve and into his hand. Yuuma heard a quiet click as Ataru pushed the key into the lock and murmured, "Your feet, I think you should be able to do yourself," before dropping the key in Yuuma's hand. Yuuma's fingers twitched with the need to snatch and twist his wrist to demand answers , yet the barrel of the gun was close enough that he was going cross-eyed, and Ataru was still watching him.
His gaze made Yuuma feel uncomfortable - no longer was it the determined look of an equal opponent, or the enraged look of someone who had lost. It looked... gentle, and resigned, and…
Yuuma didn't know what to do in the face of the gaze. It made memories of the Yuuma from years ago resurface, though in these memories his response had been to grin and ruffle Ataru's hair, and he struggled against the need to do it again. It hadn't been a problem at all before, as this new, resolved Ataru's expressions had been so different from the one of his childhood that he could almost pretend they were different people. Yet, the person backing slowly away from him and bringing the gun closer to himself was unmistakably his brother.
Yuuma snapped himself out of the confused mess of memories - people didn't matter - to see that Ataru was now a clear two metres away. Yuuma blinked at him, and Ataru met his eyes and…
And lifted the gun to the side of his own head.
Time slowed as Yuuma watched Ataru take a deep breath and close his eyes, and he moved before he could think. Dimly, he recognised his own scarred hands reaching for Ataru's wrists, edging closer and closer before...
The gun slammed against the wall where Yuuma had snatched and thrown it. Ataru was pinned under him, his eyes wide and his hands trembling slightly.
" Shit ," Yuuma growled, wincing at a burning pain in his legs. His ankles were still cuffed, and the force of having thrown himself forward had pushed the steel deep into his skin.
"Wh... what? I...." Ataru barely started before wheezing as Yuuma wrapped his fingers tightly around his throat.
"What the fuck ," hissed Yuuma from behind his teeth. He felt Ataru's fingers momentarily brush weakly against his hands before both arms fell limply on the ground. His mouth was open and futilely gasping, but his hazy eyes were resigned even as Yuuma's fingers pressed into his neck.
He wants me to kill him!
Yuuma grit his teeth, continuing for a little while longer before abruptly relaxing his hands. Ataru's chest shuddered under him as he was racked with coughs, oxygen forcing its way into his lungs with every desperate gasp. His eyes searched for Yuuma even as he struggled, wide in confusion and pain.
"I thought you... why didn't you...?" Ataru croaked out between coughs. Yuuma waited impatiently until they had died down, the beginnings of true rage curling in his gut. When it looked as though Ataru was going to try speaking again, Yuuma pushed his knees onto Ataru's hands and retightened the grip of his fingers around his throat.
"You're going to tell me why you just tried to kill yourself," started Yuuma, low and dangerous, "when you were just about to win it all."
"Or else..." Yuuma relaxed his hands again, letting Ataru take a gasping mouthful of air and watching his fearful expression. "I'm never going to let you die."
This time, he slowed the tightening of his fingers, letting Ataru see him grin sadistically as he slowly pushed into his skin. Ataru trembled with fear but didn't try to speak again. Yuuma heard his mouth heave a breath into his lungs before there was the tense silence signalling the cutoff of his oxygen. Tears welled up at the corners of Ataru's eyes. Yuuma leered closer. The tears dropped into Ataru's hair.
Yuuma stopped. Ataru stole desperate breaths and struggled with convulsing lungs. Yuuma started again.
Ataru's coughs rung out once again when Yuuma stopped, and Yuuma again waited for them to stop. This time, though, as he began to tighten his fingers, Ataru whimpered out a choked "wait...!"
Yuuma raised an eyebrow and halted, though he kept his hands wrapped around the trembling column of Ataru's throat.
Ataru swallowed several times and looked as though he was struggling with himself. Finally, he looked away from Yuuma before speaking.
"Real Account wants to kill you."
Yuuma snorted, irritation beginning to build again.
"I couldn't fucking guess."
Ataru shook his head and bit his lip, something like frustration screwing up his face.
"I was originally part of the game, not the organisation. I allied with them... because their plan of action suited my goals."
Yuuma felt himself tense. The way Ataru had worded that meant that…
" I don't want to kill you, n-" Ataru cut himself off before his mouth could shape the familiar pair of syllables. He glanced back at Yuuma's face and blanched. Dimly, Yuuma wondered what kind of expression he had on his face, but the rest of his thoughts were swallowed in a burning anger.
Yuuma and Ataru had been clashing for what was almost months . What the hell had Ataru been doing, if he wasn't putting his all into trying to kill his twin brother? The thought that Ataru had been thinking of their fights as a second priority made Yuuma dig his nails into his neck to stop himself from killing him right then and there.
"Explain." Yuuma hissed out, ignoring the way Ataru's face had paled in both pain and fear.
"Real Account wanted me to be the one to kill you. I could.... I could think similarly to you, strategically. I could understand the way you fight. I could make good guesses about your objectives. I was their best shot, so they gave me the means and... encouraged what they thought was my motive
"But their reasoning for killing you could have just as easily been applied to me. I was just a convenient weapon for them to get rid of the bigger threat. And I… I wanted you to live.”
Yuuma ground his teeth.
"So what, you faked it? Ran around in the background, occasionally started a play fight where you pretended to struggle, laughed-"
Yuuma stopped, startled. Ataru was looking determinedly up at him, seemingly having forgotten about the nails digging into his skin. His eyes were suddenly almost painfully bright.
"I never held back! In order for you to live, I needed you to learn about Real Account and want to take it down. And yeah, you wanted answers, but you wanted an all-out fight more. So of course I was going to give it to you!"
Yuuma blinked at Ataru, taken off guard by the sudden emotional response. Ataru looked upset, as though something important to him had been hurt. Yuuma neatly avoided thinking about what it was by pressing down on him warningly, causing Ataru to jerk in surprise.
"Still haven't answered my first question. If you're so cool with fighting me, why'd you just try to blow your own brains out?"
Ataru looked away from him again, an almost rueful expression on his face.
"You'd never walk into another fight without defeating the enemy in front of you. So you'd never go for the top Real Account heads and save yourself if I just walked away. So it means that either you'd have to kill me, or you'd have to witness and confirm my death."
Yuuma conceded both points. Ataru never seemed overly close to the Real Account brass, so he'd quickly dismissed any plans of ruining the organisation to piss him off before killing him off. Besides, fighting Ataru was fun , brutally calculating yet desperately crazed in a way that he didn't think any of the smirking middle-aged men sitting at the head of the organisation could replicate.
No, Ataru's logic was sound. The only question was why Ataru was ready to die for Yuuma's win.
He schooled his face into something expressionless and indifferent, periodically pushing on Ataru's neck to keep him alert and afraid of him. It was obvious that Ataru had been carefully avoiding mentioning any of his motives, only revealing that he didn't want Yuuma to die. Yuuma also knew that Ataru held no misconceptions about Yuuma's perceptiveness, and would have probably guessed that Yuuma could see through him. For Ataru to not mention it even under the threat of continued respiratory torture, it meant that he probably wouldn't break for a long, long time.
Well, it didn't mean that Yuuma couldn't try.
Once again, Yuuma tightened his fingers. Slowly, listening closely for the moment that Ataru's breathing stopped, mouth still emptily struggling for oxygen. He leaned in, and lifted one side of his mouth to give him a deceptively casual smile.
"You gonna tell me why?"
Even as more tears of pain squeezed themselves out of tightly shut eyes, Ataru shook his head. Yuuma let go with a sigh, already tired with the endeavour. He ignored the desperate gasp that followed, looking away from Ataru and idly drumming the tips of his fingers on his neck. The entire business bothered him to no end. Ataru's plan made sense, from fighting Yuuma to killing himself, but Yuuma for the life of him couldn't think of any motive Ataru could have that made Yuuma's life worth his own death, and the fact that Yuuma couldn't even torture it out of him was beyond frustrating.
Killing Ataru, on the other hand, had lost all of its appeal, as Ataru had clearly bypassed his own planned lifespan by around 45 minutes, and was eager to correct his mistake - for Yuuma's benefit, no less. Yuuma wouldn't even be able to pretend it was his win. It was especially frustrating since he was realising that his idiot of a partner-in-crime's implications had been right all along, that killing Ataru wasn't really even that appealing of an idea in the first place. Which made no sense: he was the perfect adversary - easy to rile up, fun to fight, hard to fight, with a strategic mind which Yuuma had to counter with the full force of his own. Defeating someone so worthy of his time should be beyond satisfying.
"You-" Ataru faltered when Yuuma snapped his gaze back to him, but pressed on regardless. "You need to kill me and get out of here. They'll be running a search soon."
Same old disturbing conviction, Yuuma thought, disregarding the warning for now. Ataru's motives continued to be outside his comprehension, and now Yuuma couldn't even understand himself. He almost wished the woman was here so he could ask her why she thought the way she did, why he couldn't see any reasoning yet she, with her naivety, her lack of brains and her crippling brother complex-
It looked as though he didn't need her to explain anything after all.
For a while, Yuuma blinked in shock at what he understood. Not once in his life did he think he would be feeling what he was feeling at that moment.
Then, Ataru flinched underneath him as Yuuma started to laugh, almost disbelievingly at first before going into a full, gleeful fit which brought tears to his eyes. It was entirely ridiculous, but he was struck with the notion that despite how ridiculous the answer may have been, it made deciding what to do next laughably easy. The slight fear in Ataru's eyes, Yuuma mused, made it even better.
Yuuma lifted a hand from Ataru's neck, trailing it upwards to gently stroke the skin of his jaw, relishing in the tremor he felt under his fingers. He leaned in, his grin wide, relentless, and real.
"You're in love with me."
Ataru's eyes grew wide and he shook his head in frightened denial even as his pulse sped under Yuuma's fingers.
"That's why you want me out alive! Because you've been in love with me!" Yuuma crowed, the satisfaction of victory settling in.
"N-no! That's not... I'm not...!"
Ataru stammered out, a blush beginning to make its way on to his face. Yuuma cupped his face tenderly with both hands, abruptly cutting off the stammered denials.
The slight parting of Ataru's lips and the dark, dark blush that rose on his cheeks spoke a clearer answer than any words.
Yuuma doubled over, clutching his stomach as he laughed uncontrollably. Ataru's reasoning was both simple to a cliche and repulsively convoluted. Yet Yuuma felt no revulsion. The answer to the question of Ataru's fate was something he never would have considered before, but now there was nothing as clear as the path he saw before them.