I'm weather-beaten in a losing battle

pg-13 | no warnings apply

She splashed water on her face and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her face was thinner than it used to be. She had been neglecting her hair, so it was longer than it usually was as there were hints of red at the roots. Sigma not-so-secretly hoped this meant she was going to stop coloring it and let its natural color return, but she liked the way it looked when it was dyed. He might have thought it was some insult to Diana, but Diana had never complained. And anyway, it was her damn hair. There were dark circles under her eyes and a mark on her bottom lip, from where she bit it so hard it bled.

She looked like shit, even when she wiped her face dry.

She folded up the towel and lay it back down on the faux-marble counter. It reminded her of the hotel in Seattle. She, Alice, and Clover had engineered the kidnapping of a geneticist. Clover was the distraction, Alice delivered the injection, and Phi helped to give the woman a quick makeover before the three of them loaded her into a wheelchair and took her out the front door, right under the nose of her bodyguards.

Diana and Sigma had been told that it was just an information gathering mission.

Aoi was waiting outside the bathroom when she exited.

"You told me it was just a weapons depot," she said.

"Technically, it was true."

"I thought I could trust you."

She left him behind and went to the lounge. Scotch wasn't her favorite, but she picked the most expensive one she could find and filled the biggest glass they had before settling down onto the couch. It reminded her of the bar in Tokyo. Apparently, someone hadn't gotten the memo that it was a bad movie clich to have your evil villain headquarters in a techno club. Or the memo that techno was so twenty years ago. Diana had called her shortly before she and Aoi went in, even though it had to be five in the morning back in San Francisco. She had wondered what exactly Akane would tell her parents if something had gone wrong.

Not the truth, that's for certain.

Akane and Carlos probably wouldn't be back for another hour. There really wasn't any need for Phi to hang around, but Junpei and Sigma were still unconscious in the command center, and she felt she should be there when they woke up. Aoi had dispatched Sigma which the same injection gun he used on Junpei, even though Sigma wasn't being anywhere near as disruptive as Junpei had been. Once the mission was complete, she and Aoi had managed to get Junpei onto the bench in the back, but her father presented a bigger and heavier problem. They left him on the floor - which she felt guilty about - but at least put a pillow under his head.

She took a sip of the scotch, trying not to think about how Diana was undoubtedly still awake. Phi had texted her earlier to say that Sigma was here with her, and they were probably going to be working late, but she knows her mother never sleeps until he's home. Hopefully, she wasn't trying to call or text him.

She heard the lounge door open. Aoi sat next to her without asking permission.

"I get why you're pissed at me."

"I'm not, really," she said. "I'm just tired of lying. And I guess I'm slow on the uptake, because I'm realizing Akane's probably been lying to me, too."

He put an arm around her. It reminded her of London. They had been half-frozen when Sigma and Alice had found them, huddled together for warmth, soaked to the bone. Once they were safe, her father had read them the riot act for not following the plan. Alice had played along, pretending as if she didn't know damn well that they had been following the plan; it just wasn't any plan that Sigma had been read into.

"This isn't going to work, is it?"

He gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "They're on their way back. They're fine. It didn't go down the way we hoped, but they're alive, and we can try again."

"I don't mean the mission. I mean this. Crash Keys. All of us. Junpei and Akane. You and Light. Me and my parents. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold."

He sighed as he got up to pour himself a drink. He opted for sake, but also chose a ridiculously large glass.

"Diana killed six fucking billion people for you in another timeline, Phi. You really think she's going to ditch your ass just because you lied to her?"

She blinked back tears. It wasn't one lie, or two, or even a dozen. She, Akane, and Carlos had started lying to the rest of the survivors of the Decision Game within an hour of SHIFTing into this timeline. As much as they told themselves that it was for the greater good, it didn't change that fact. Sigma might understand, but Diana ... She remembered her words to Carlos. It'll break her heart.

"I don't think Junpei's gonna forgive Akane this time, though." He sat back down, staring at his drink.

It reminded her of Toronto. They had everything they needed, but Akane took an unnecessary risk and almost paid for it with her life. Instead of walking away clean, Junpei got shot, Aoi ended up with a broken arm, and Clover was almost crushed to death in an elevator.

"Is ... is it worth it, Aoi, if we stop Nuria? If we save humanity? What's the point of having a timeline where we save the world, if we lose what's important to us?"

He didn't answer.