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Reverse Polarities

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"Son of a bitch!" She shouted, hurling her brother's favorite coffee mug across the room. It shattered against the metal-paneled wall. Some larger pieces clattered to the ground as smaller fragments dusted around his bare shoulders like snowflakes. The broken handle fell to the floor last, unceremoniously wobbling amongst the damage.

North snarled for a nanosecond, a micro expression of pure disgust. South reveled at the recognition of the that wild, wicked twin brother she loved for that breath of a moment before he buried it under his Agent North facade. The others knew him as Team Dad, Agent North Dakota, the mentally stable twin. But South was tired of playing games. He was pretending to be something he wasn’t and she'd chisel away at his charade of sanity until the true form of her brother broke through screaming with bloodlust and insanity.

"That's an insult to you too," he spoke smoothly, infuriatingly calm. The hints of anger hadn’t yet boiled up into his mouth. If anything, he was calmer now than ever. His face looked so purposely blank that South could see him straining to keep the act up. "How many mugs have you broken?"

"Three," She sang out, before taking another mug -- this time some oversized novelty with a stupid stylized cat face -- and chucked it inches from the side of North's face. The multicolored fragments burst like fireworks but rained down like rubble. They both knew that if she had wanted to she could have easily taken out his eye with the thing. "Four,” she updated her count as the last pieces hit the ground and oscillated like they were trembling in fear. The kitty face chunk fell upside down and pointed sharply between the twins.

"Stop. Clean it up." He chided, locking his jaws together to fight down what South knew would be a bitter scowl. She could almost hear the delicious snake-like sounds emanating from between his pressed lips as he locked eyes with her. His body rippled with smooth, even breaths. Any other freelancer would say he was calm. But South could see his pectoral muscles tighten and his neck straighten, even as he tried to loosen the more obvious tension in his shoulders. He was losing control. South knew how to play him and it was a game she intended on winning.

"Make me," she challenged. The multicolored ceramic shards laid scattered across the floor, separating the twins with several feet of sharp, jagged edges. He’d have to bring blood and pain to get back to her, to become one again, and she knew he'd gladly do it. She knew him much better than he was comfortable with anyone knowing him. Deep inside of him was her primordial other half, and they needed to be reunited

They were alone, like she’d planned. North would never let the others see him like this. North was the team’s cool-headed stability. He was the sniper, the omniscient blond-haired angel that protected the others from above the earth. He swept up the debris of crumbled missions, and took the blame for their mistakes. He was the “good guy”, the shining example of what South should have been. The freelancers trusted him -- so much that they ignored how North’s helmet steamed up with excitement at the prospect drawing blood in hand-to-hand, or that his signature move was to shoot a person in half from groin to head. The little snippet of his original personality had never been erased, the others were just too blind to see it.

North grunted impatiently from his side of the room. She missed the days when she didn't have to fight to bring him back to her, back when he wielded his wild, destructively psychotic birthright with bravery and pride. South tossed the next mug up and down in her hand for a bit, juggling it from palm to palm, playing with the physics of its poor quality. This one would splinter easily. She salivated at the prospect of the blood it could bring."What are you going to do about, my little хуесо́с?"

Xyecóc. Cocksucker.

The word would have never drawn anger from him in English. Living and working with a dozen of 20-something males with masculinity to prove made the word fade to meaningless locker room chatter. But in their native language, with her tongue arched and narrow like a knife, and the memories of a time when the word was used as a name -- his name -- ingrained deep behind his soul, it ignited something in him. South could see a change in his demeanor, the delicious loss of control as his eyes flashed and smoldered with pained flames he couldn’t extinguish. She said it again, "Xyecóc," flailing her arched tongue between teeth and palate.

She licked her lips as her brother regressed into the dark memories of conditioned servitude. North's tongue went wet and broad with the memory. He swallowed a wad of saliva at the back of his throat. "Stop," His voice was small and shaky. He closed his eyes against the flood of memories. His Adam’s apple quivered as he attempted to anchor himself to reality. "Stop!"

South pouted her lips teasingly in his direction "That word means nothing to us." She used mocking tones to hide the glimmer of truth underneath the poisoned words.

North took her bait and stepped his full weight on the broken glass between them. The pieces crunched and shifted underneath him as the jagged edges tore through flesh, scraping sensitive tendons. Remnants of coffee and blood mixed together into the color of chocolate between his bare toes as the first hints of insanity spread across his features. He snarled and bared his teeth like a predator, even though his eyes were blank, lightless pools.

She'd already won. Verbal abuse was just the beginning. She had him wrapped around her finger and with a flick of her wrist she could unravel him. They both knew the thread of sanity would be cut tonight.

South lifted her neck playfully, exposing more of the blue veins trailing under her skin in order to entice him with a submissive, easy kill. They danced around each other like predator and prey, master and slave, hunter and attack dog. Their roles blurred into each other like their features. They were twins, and they needed each other to survive.

He lunged at her, jabbing his large palm into her neck and dragging the back of her head into the wall. Her skull bounced against the metal paneling as he caught the base of her throat with the crushing pressure of his steady hand. Her cheeks burned. She gasped for air. Every muscle in her body seized up. Blood pooled in her ears. There was a muffled ringing from somewhere inside of her ear drums. He pressed harder into her windpipe and her grip on the mug loosened. With his other hand, North caught the mug as it fell from her fingertips and in one smooth motion pulled it up and away before slamming it into the side of her skull.

Colors burst in front of her eyes, either from the lack of oxygen or the breaking ceramic. A shard caught against the thin skin of her under eye and sliced down to her chin as it fell with gravity. North’s face was against her. The sharpness of his teeth grazed the dripping blood on her cheek.

"Закро́й свой рот, су́ка!" As soon as the words poured out of his mouth, his jaw slackened. Regret hung heavy on his sharp cheekbones. Russian always shook him to his core. “Oh god,” He arched away from her, struggling to keep his eyes focused on the present reality. Somewhere under his blue eyes she could see the realization of what they had become. The weight of reality kept his jaw open. The whites of his teeth were red and shining with her blood.

North released her. She crumbled without him. Her knees splintered on the shattered glass as the shards of ceramic wedged themselves into her skin. Blood swelled around her kneeling body.

“Heh, I win, Nikolai.” Saliva spilled out of her mouth in strands as she wiped it with the back of her hand. A two faced monster looked up at him. Her body looked like it’s been split in half. Ceramic dust coated her right eyelash with the same white as her skin. The cut under her eye dripped down like the streaked pattern of an eerie carnival mask. The blood danced on her pale skin and dripped down her cheek until it became a gruesome lipstick on half her face. This was his sister. This was South: the half-monster, half girl. She was the half-noble, half-orphan. She was the other part of everything North knew. Everything he’d learned to stifle in himself.

The two faces looked up at him. He wasn’t sure which side he was backing away from. His eyes grew distant and fuzzy at the mention of his old name. He hadn’t been Nikolai since they were ten. He stepped back into the glass and it was like stepping back in time. The lacerations on his feet burned raw and painful from being split further. He could remember on the edge of his mind when his feet were bloody from picking the two of them out of the rubble. Before North, he was Xyecóc. And before Xyecóc, he was Nikolai standing in the ruins of his city back on earth, internalizing that he needed to be strong for his sister.

North fell after South; his knees making an audible pop as the skin sliced open. He stooped at her level and helped her back to her feet. Red rivers flowed down their legs. Somewhere in his head he remembered being eight years old, when this would have been just skinned knees and not three inches long shards embedded into his tendons. But it had always been like this with her to some degree. Even before The Ophanage crossed the wires in her head. South had always been the one in control. She pushed everyone around her to their breaking point until they all crumbled away. All South ever wanted was someone who could keep up with her, to reign her in while she struggled against them every step of the way. North was the only one that couldn’t walk out. He didn’t have the luxury of leaving even when she sent both of them crashing off the embankment. This was just a higher staked version of her game of tug-o-war.

Chapter Text

They still slept together sometimes: innocent cuddles with sleepy spooning. It was a call back from the days of the Orphanage when he would pull her over to his cot and run frantic hands over her body to check for the marks of men that had abused her that day. They would lay like puppies attempting to keep themselves warm after they’d been abandoned by the rest of their liter. He would wrap his skinny, childish arms around her and cry. She never shed a tear -- no matter what sick things they had her do on camera that day -- but he had cried for her. He had mastered the art of sobbing quietly into her back as he tried to be her human shield. Every night there was a new cut or bruise on her skin and every morning he woke up with the same resolve. Protect her. Protect your sister. She’s your other half.

But his other half was terrifying in the most chaotic, primal way. Staring into her bloodied smile, he saw himself. He saw North, Xyecóc, Nikolai -- every part of him -- and he felt he was on the brink of melting with his mirror image into something divine. The orphanage birthed who they were today, and the Director mutated them into his image. What remained was some grotesque monster from mythology; 8 limbs in shades of vomit and rotten wine, two identical faces with hair like dying straw, and one twisted soul that burned brighter than hell itself.

So sometimes they fucked. That was more in her element. It was an unspoken common knowledge that raised eyebrows in the locker room, but none of the others commented to them directly. They were all nursing their respective psychosis. Washington’s violence exploded at the smallest things. Florida would gladly let grunts die for his personal enjoyment. North just loved his sister, and sometimes that would be the only thing he knew how to give her.

The Director encouraged them to drown their humanity in their infected mentality. He gave them grenades and the galaxy as their playground. North couldn’t keep up and he couldn’t care. All that’s ever existed in his world was her. Even if she hated it that’s what the world was: North and South, Nikolai and Yana, The Xyecóc and The су́ка. He'd always be her parasite; the other side of the coin that she hated, and she'd kick and claw and scratch and bite until her other half became something she could tolerate. But there was no North without a South, and as much as they naturally repel they couldn't break the cycle

So North lied on his back on South’s bed, and stared into the ceiling. They couldn't keep doing this. They were a mess of co-dependency and toxic games. Before reckless jet pack maneuvers it had been bicycles on their eight birthday, and before the freelancers it was neighborhood kids that she had fought to surpass. One by one they all had disappeared as faceless incompetence to her, and even in his own memory he doesn’t recognize the kids any more. All he could see was South and her shoulders hunched over the handle bars in front of him as his sister pedaled harder and faster than he could ever hope to match.

North had never been able to keep up with his sister’s fiery passion before. But now there were AIs, and leader boards, and competitions -- the rankings had to be rigged. Someone was pulling the strings, either that or that stupid chip-

At the thought, the AI chip embedded in the nape of his neck activated in a haze of purple fireworks. Little Theta flickered into life and his voice echoed internally and externally all at once. It sounded like a child’s voice being filtered through several machine layers until it became something from a nightmare. It was inhuman, like them, and maybe that’s why South hated it so much. “You aren’t talking about me, are you? I’ve worked really hard...”

South bolted upright like she’d been burned, and flailed in the sheets as she backed as far as possible from North and the little purple ghost. “I fucking hate you!" She shrieked, but North wasn’t sure who she was talking to. She treated Theta like a disease, some type of unstoppable prion that molded brains into mush, and maybe she was right. North had never denied the cruelty of programming him -- of all people-- with innocence and trust. The Director knew what they had been through. He was the one that had rescued them, and should have known first hand that if he were to tear the twins apart, he would cause their deaths. The Director had to be doing this on purpose. There was some plan that was playing itself out but South will burn herself to the ground before she let someone best her.

North felt surrounded by thoughts that weren't his own, and his existence was being pulled apart by the program’s innocence and his sister’s insanity. Theta ducked behind North’s blond curls, and sent panicked questions through North‘s head again. “She's your sister, right? Why is she so mad? Where is her shirt?"

North hissed out his frustration and braced himself for the fury to come. South’s lips curled upward. The AI’s fear had pissed her off even more. “He has to ask if I'm your sister? He should know that already since he's living inside your skull!"

“It’s not like that...” North tried to explain, leaving his place on her bed and searching for his T-shirt on the floor. She liked wearing his clothes, and when they were children before the war, their parents would let them share a single set of pajamas. He’d wear the baggy pants and she’d wear the shirt as a gown. They’d been matching red flannel bundles of energy as they had drank too much hot chocolate and bounced from bed to bed. He picked up the missing shirt with his toes and tossed it to South, hoping the memory of their life pre-war it soothed her back into complacency.

She pouted her lips out mockingly towards her brother and raised her arms to show off her breasts before sliding on the shirt. Theta sent a whimper of confusion through North’s head. Theta felt threatened, or was it North that felt threatened? North couldn’t tell and he pushed back all the feelings he could identify, and stepped back into his Freelancer facade of pointed calmness and blank expressions.

South noticed the pained passivity and she smiled wickedly, knowingly. The pale blue of her eyes pulled him in, and her pupils narrowed into cat-like slits. “Bravo for sectioning off your brain so well, brother dearest, but since he doesn’t know that much about the two of us, maybe I can fill him in-”

“Don’t" North warned. He didn't know where she was going with this, but he knew her well enough to understand the implications. “South, don’t. You don’t know what it’s like to have someone inside of you that-"

She cackled, throwing her head back until her spine appeared to bend at an inhuman 90 degree angle. It was the most genuine laugh he’d heard from her in weeks. The back of her skull hit the metal-paneled wall. It was haunting. She hadn’t laughed this way since Washington nearly drowned in his own vomit. “Did you really just say that to me? You were there, Nikolai. You were there and you didn’t do anything."

He watched his sins come to life in her poisonous words. He did this to her. He couldn’t keep her safe. He had never been able keep her safe. His sins were carved into her psyche and branded into her every action. He could see them acted out as South turned to the purple ghost and playfully called to him. She played the preverbial temptress, holding the allure of friendship out to little Theta with one hand and with the other, holding the knife that could sever his innocence. “Hey, Theta. Did you know the boys here have this little game?”

Theta didn’t understand. He was innocence, he was trust, he was everything the twins had smothered out of themselves since the bombing of their hometown back on earth. He trustingly stepped out to meet her. “I like games.”

She nodded, and anyone who didn‘t know her would say she was happy. And maybe she was, but for all the wrong reasons. Her voice dripped of mocking sweetness. “So does North. And York, Maine, Wash, Florida, the whole crew really, they like to places bets.--"

“Fuck!” North felt Theta’s confusion, and it only amplified when North cursed. North’s body went cold, and he searched his sister’s eyes for some hint of humanity, some inkling that she knew what she was doing was wrong, but he couldn't catch her gaze. He wanted to scream, to drown out the fact that his twin sister was pressing his face into his humiliation like a cruel master pressed a puppy’s nose into its own urine to prove a point.

"-It's called "how many shots of Vodka does it take to get Xyecóc on his knees?”

There was a moment of heavy silence between the three of them. North felt the bitter regret dripping viciously at the back of his throat and coating his tongue with white, hot, salinity. He had done it for her. Every time he went to his knees it was for her. This time it had been York, in a neon tornado of vodka and loud rock music. It had been their first shore leave in months and York had been making bedroom eyes towards South. South had been drunk, too drunk to consent, and North would die before he let anyone touch his sister again. So it had happened, and North had spent the night hallucinating dark cots in dark rooms with cellar doors that yawned like his own open throat.

But South had mentioned others. Had they really made him into a game? Or was she just stringing him along for another adventure he was too tired to go on? The only words he managed out was a tiny panicked “No, South, stop!"

Theta whimpered, sending searing pain and regret racing through North’s synapses. Every time North had failed, every time he had broken trust, every time he had lost another shard of innocence -- he could see it all simultaneously replaying behind his eyes. North gave a thin strangling cry as he held his head in his hands. Inside of him was a whirlwind of gray and red. He was drowning in Russian profanities. There were bombs falling from the sky, whistling like his father did as he drove to work every morning. There was rubble around his sister’s ankles and he was too small to pick her out.There were strange men, and why was it called the Orphanage if all they do is film her? Bloodied bed sheets. Bloodied hands. Bloodied coat hanger all on a backdrop of gray. He’d killed them all. The Director stood illuminated at the mouth of the cellar door. They were seventeen. They were saved from the fire only to be filleted out to their most basic pieces that the Director picked and chose from like a buffet.

"Nikolai..." It was South, his anchor into reality and reason for every decision in his life up until this point. Every twisted horrible thing he'd ever done faded into a picture of her face even as she tried to call to him in calming tones. “You’re okay. I'm okay. Old habits die hard.”

But North became South, and as the poles reversed, the ground underneath them trembled. Theta faded away out of fear, and North bared his teeth against his sister’s waiting throat as he brought up his hands to push her backwards by her windpipe. He jabbed at her throat, he always went for the throat like a wolf for the kill. “And I guess that’s why you spend so much time with The Director, пизда? Do you miss disgusting old men fucking you?”

The look on her face was enough to force North back into reality. He'd just taunted her in the cruelest way, like a sharp knife on blistered skin. She wavered in her own pool of regret as her face went slack and heavy from the memories of her past. She brought her trembling fingertips to her throat, and caressed the galaxies of color he had left on on her neck. Her body seemed to shrink with the weight of her vulnerability, but not once did she cry. The orphanage had beat her tears out long ago.

When their blue eyes met, the future reflected in their eyes and he could see their deaths hovering like ghosts over their shoulders. They would be the end of one another. “Oh, god, no, Yana,” His eyes went back the kinder version of himself, and he hit the wall with her. He pressed into her as if he was her human shield and used his weight to soothe her. North kept his sister’s tangled limbs between himself and the metal paneling and let their hearts beat next to each other as one, like they did in the womb. Their pulses calmed into a steady rhythm together as he held her. He’d love to be able to just hold her, to talk to her without having to bring blood or sex into it, but South could barely compartmentalize being bare in any capacity without it twisting into violence. "It's you. It's always you. Why do you turn me into this?” He cooed over her, rubbing his cheek into the top of her head like wolves nuzzle for confirmation that they are in the same pack. This went beyond pack mentality. Their destiny had been written in their skin from the moment they took their first wailing breaths on the coldest day of the Slavic winter. She had been born three minutes before him, and he tumbled after her, desperately grasping at her heels. He had always and would always struggle behind her until the day they became each other's undoing.

South pressed her head up to him, and she let a tiny growling whimper from deep within her throat. There were no tears, but it's the most vulnerability she would ever show. “Why did The Director turn you in that!? You're like me, remember?" She caressed the tiny AI chip at the back of his neck, and he shuddered against her like she’d done the most intimate thing he could fathom. North sighed at the contact, and braced himself on his forearm in the wall behind her. She didn't struggle when he lifted her like his queen and held her against the wall. She wrapped her legs around him in order to pull him closer into her twisted embrace.

“Yana, I’m not that person anymore.” He immediately revealed his lie as he went for her neck again and tilted her head upwards with his thumbs. His intent was to be gentle, but he was no longer North and he was too far gone to be Nikolai. He was the unhinged Xyecóc that would gladly go to his knees for his twin sister. He was the growling demon that the orphanage had locked away for a decade. He twisted her neck in various angles to see the damage he'd done to her. It was beautiful in a sick way. A pastel rainbow of blues and pinks and purples skimmed like dancers across the creamy backdrop of her neck. North snuggled his face into her collarbone, and tried to feel her pulse through his cheek. " I’m not that person anymore. I’ve changed.” North’s voice dripped with uncertainty, and he muttered the statement again like he was trying to brainwash himself with repetition. “I’m not-"

“But I am, and it’s your fault," He felt her blood scurry through her veins like panicked rodents as she internalized her fear. She nibbled on his shoulder as she spoke , and pacified herself with the taste of her other half. His skin would be raw tomorrow. "You got lucky, Nikolai. They grew tired of you quickly, but not me. They just loved to play with me.”

"No, Yana, no." He muttered her given name on repeat as he dug razor sharp hip bones into her thighs. He supported both of their bodies against the wall even as she gnawed into his flesh. He nuzzled further into her neck, further out of the world and further into her. North shook his head softly and each tiny back and forth motion smeared his the wet tears and hot sobs over her skin. “Yana, no, I tried. I swear to God I tried to protect you."

“Like the time you bit down and got me burnt? I have to admit, that mouth full of blood suited you, but I’m the one that took the fall." She hissed, nipping harder as her anger rose, "and let me tell you having to see cigarettes burns on my tits really fucks up my mornings.”

“Yana, please.." The humidity of his emotions left her neck red and blotchy. Of course she got the markings while he cried.

“But you know what? I learned to like it.” Her voice steadily rose into hysteria. She released his shoulder after one last, hard bite and he muffled the cry of pain against her skin. She wasn't trying to hurt him, not really. If she wanted this to escalate she would be digging her heels into his back until he buckled. This was the only way she knew how to talk to him about the things that mattered, but any kind of talking had been rare since the leaderboard had brought up some many of her memories. But rationalizing it didn't make the stinging any less painful as she brought North's failures to light. “I let them fuck me! Because if they kept me, that meant they had to keep you, Nikolai.” She drew out his given name like it‘s the most achingly disgusting word in her vocabulary.

“Yana! Please!”

“And you should be fucking thankful. I kept you from being butchered for dog feed!”

“I fucking know Yana!” He cursed. It was out of character for North, but not for Xyecóc. He jerked his face back from her neck, causing his own whiplash and straining his vertebrae to meet her eyes. He knew. He remembered. He couldn't stop remembering what had happened in that dark cellar. He remembered his beautiful, competitive sister in her muddy socks mutating in the darkness until she became something terrible and fearsome. “I tried. I tried so hard. But we were kids! I didn’t know how --” His sentences came chopped and confused. “I became.. I became..."

“Xyecóc” She finished the sentence for him, and he nodded quietly before putting his head into the cool metal wall. "And you still failed.”