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The First Annual Twister Tournament

Chapter Text

It started with a photo on social media. Sigma had been reluctant to pose for it, evident in the relative grimace he wore next to Diana’s glowing smile as she held out the phone at arm’s length, dangling the new set of keys from her opposite finger in the space between their chins. “All moved in!” she captioned it, garnering her a—so she claimed—modest 24 likes. The 19 comments she received, however, was something of an anomaly.

It began building momentum when Junpei left his congratulations in the form of a facetious announcement of a party at their new apartment, on their behalf, this very weekend. This got likes from most of Diana’s and Junpei’s mutual friends: Phi, Akane, Carlos, Clover, even Alice, but of course not Sigma; his account had been inactive since about three in the afternoon on Christmas Eve of last year. Carlos, having spent the past two months out of the social loop with only his sister on his mind, asked about location in the event of a real party, to determine whether or not it was even feasible for him to attend. Diana spent a solid fifteen minutes pacing among the yet-unpacked boxes in their bedroom—that falsehood that lies between social media and reality: of course the couple was not “all moved in” as she stated—wondering how much information she should divulge. She had turned off the location tag on the post intentionally, and deleted her location on her profile, just in case, and maybe giving even a general region on a public comment would be too much information, but sending a direct message and leaving the inquiry seemingly unanswered might invite more questions. As she was deliberating, Phi left a comment in her stead that it was “no good for parties anyway. sigma can barely lie down sideways in the living room”. “Yeah, because I’m six-foot-five,” Sigma grumbled, not because he wanted to host a party, but because he did not appreciate the slander against his new home. “Write that, Diana. I’m six-foot-five. That’s plenty wide.”

It all went out of control when Akane noted that the new apartment was the perfect size, because six and a half feet was just wide enough to accommodate the long edge of a Twister mat.

Junpei hopped back on the post to comment with more excitement than Diana knew he was capable of, challenging everyone to a Twister tournament. Aoi wasn’t even Friends™ with Diana (it looked like Akane was their only mutual connection via the social network), but his reply was an immediate and resounding “gonna kick your ass in round 1 sucker”. This bitter rivalry continued along back and forth in a separate thread while Akane continued the old one by offering up her own copy of Twister, and if Sigma and Diana were not willing to host, she and Aoi could just have the party at their place instead. (Junpei took a short break from his catty fighting to ask why it was her and Aoi’s place, what exactly was he then, to which she replied, “a squatter, unless you start paying rent,” which shut him up in embarrassment for a little while.) In the meantime, Clover commented that she had convinced Alice and Light to attend should a party happen, wherever it might happen, on the condition that the trio from the SOIS face off against the trio from Crash Keys to determine once and for all whose secret organization was superior. (This comment made Aoi go silent, also, which Diana found interesting.)

Sigma was starting to get into the competitive spirit as Diana explained the narrative flow of the various comments cluttering her post. He goaded her into replying to Clover that there could be a three-way battle with three trios—the SOIS, Crash Keys, and the Klims. “Do you really want to host a party?” Diana teased, drafting the comment to his specifications.

He had been withdrawn since the turn of the New Year, still acclimating to the feel of 2029 after arriving from a distant, desolate 2074. His phone collected unanswered texts faster than he had the energy to respond to them. It had exhausted him to jump through the hoops of scheduling a leave of absence from school—at Diana’s suggestion, once she realized what a functional catastrophe he had become when confronted with the minute challenges of everyday life. He had worked his way up to a 95% success rate when running errands with a shopping list. She had resolved not to demand sociability of him yet, though her friends and family had all been dying to meet her new boyfriend.

“I mean…” Sigma scratched the back of his head at such an angle that it made it natural for him to turn his face away from her. “If you’re up for it, sure.”

She knew it was going to stress her out way too much, but she had to seize the opportunity he was handing her.

“If you can unpack everything else and shop before the party, I’ll do cleaning and cooking,” she bargained. “But help me with cleanup afterwards.”

Sigma frowned. “Wait, are you doing cleaning or are we both?” he asked. “You said cleaning twice.”

“Well, I need to clean beforehand,” Diana said, trying not to sound patronizing. “Vacuuming and dusting and things?”

The functional catastrophe nodded. He had a vacant stare like he was wondering if he should have dusted before hosting a Nonary Game, or if maybe Akane got the GAULEMs to take care of it and he never noticed.

He got his act together for the sake of Twister, though. He may have forgotten one of the cheeses on the shopping list, but he also came home with a poster board and was drawing out the bracket with a ruler, finalized guest list in hand, by the time Diana got off work that Friday afternoon. There was a bit of logistic finesse to his bracket layout—while Alice and Clover were occupied in the first round of Twisting, Sigma would sit out to be available in the kitchen should Diana need him, but also to keep Clover’s blind brother company for play-by-play commentary and casual conversation about black holes, or the human condition. He had first heard of Light Field a long forty-five years ago but thought little of it then, other than wondering why a harpist who published poetry also knew about the medical properties of neostigmine. Meeting the man in person for the first time was an overwhelming delight. Sigma and Light were each in possession of an astounding wealth of contrasting knowledge that would take decades to fully exchange. They had made empty promises to meet again, but, what with Sigma being a functional catastrophe, nothing had come of it until now.

Nothing would come of it that night, either, because Clover and Alice both made it very clear that Light was going to be participating in the game, despite not being able to see the mat.

“Honestly? I think I only agreed to come because I want to see this,” Alice said with a gentle laugh. “But, since I’m here, congratulations on the new place.”

She passed Sigma a bag that made his arm sink as soon as he took hold of it. Inside was a champagne split—“for you and Diana later”—crammed alongside some cocktail mixers and a large bottle of rum.

“I want to make sure things get interesting,” she said with a sly grin.

And, like some kind of chaotic neutral rogue, she took to the coffee table pushed to the corner of the room (for maximum Twister space) and began pouring drinks. She insisted on giving one to Sigma, who could taste the orange and pineapple for about a second before it was just the sting of way too much alcohol. He accused her of sabotage, but the funny look she gave made him wonder if this was just how strong she thought drinks should taste, and that shut him up with a sort of reverent fear.

Sigma had set up the brackets in two sets of four, but Light brought the number of combatants up to nine. For a moment he thought about restructuring the entire tournament to run three rounds of three instead—perhaps Klims, SOIS, and Crash Keys as originally suggested. As soon as Diana caught wind of the news, she begged Sigma to take her off of the bracket to keep it balanced. “I’m wearing a skirt, for goodness’ sake,” she said, straightening a fold of it underneath her apron as she stirred a roux with her other hand.

As everyone waited for the Kurashikis, bearers of the Twister mat, to arrive, Light advised Sigma on how to restructure the bracket. “It might be best if you place me in the same round as Clover, as I’ll be needing her help to navigate the board,” he said, following his suggestion with a hearty sip of a concoction from Alice. “To that end, I’d advise placing Alice in the same round as well, for various subtle purposes. The fourth participant is up to you, but if you’re telling me that both Aoi and Junpei are participating, I beg you to pit them against each other with Akane in the same round. Purely to sate my curiosity.”

“So Sigma and I have to pick our poison, huh?” Phi murmured, hovering over the two of them as the revised bracket took shape. “One of us fights the SOIS, the other fights Crash Keys.”

“Well, we only have to beat two out of three to advance to the finals,” Sigma said. “I’ll take on Crash Keys. I figure I can outlast Tenmyouji and Akane easily.”

“Tenmyouji’s not an old man anymore, Sigma,” Phi said dryly. “But that’s fine with me. The odds are stacked in my favor if one of my opponents can’t even see the mat, right?”

“There’s no probabilistic assumption to be drawn from that fact,” Light replied haughtily. “I would advise against underestimating me. You don’t know what I have up my sleeve.”

“I’m actually… very familiar with what you have up your sleeve,” Sigma said, eyeing his left arm.

Light shot him a sneer. “Well, don’t spoil the surprise for everyone else.”

Phi gave a suspicious frown to him, then to Sigma, but Sigma kept his mouth shut with a sly smile of his own.

As a little joke, the dinner refreshments were takes on traditional junk food eaten by young twenty-somethings. Diana served the first pot of macaroni and cheese to the eager guests as they waited for the Kurashikis to arrive after unexpected delays in travel, and the smell of hand-breaded chicken tenders emanated from the oven where they were still roasting. Alice made sure everyone had a drink in hand to go with the comfort food—in Light’s case, in addition to the beer Sigma had bought for the occasion. “There will be no getting me on that mat unless I finish both of these,” he said, double-fisting his pair of beverages, then jabbing the neck of the beer bottle towards the plate of macaroni, “before I finish that.”

A few feet away, his sister fawned over the bartender topping off her glass with disconcertingly little juice. While Phi retreated to the kitchen to catch up with Diana, Sigma said, “How’s your arm treating you, anyway? Any issues so far?”

Light’s entire face gave a sudden glow as he turned towards Sigma with a growing smile. “It’s unbelievable,” he blurted, holding up his left hand and flexing it. “I’ve never experienced such a depth of sensory perception in any prosthetic before, let alone in something so lightweight. I’ve played concerts as long as two hours with barely any shoulder pain afterwards. And the accuracy is exquisite. I’m writing new music just because I have the ability to move my bassline however I see fit, without worrying about making sure I’ve made it to the right string after a jump. It’s exhilarating, Sigma.”

It was relatively easy to get Light rambling about a subject, his words flowing too fast to understand, especially without the context he was thinking too quickly to provide. To Sigma, already overwhelmed by the atmosphere with only three-quarters of the guests in attendance, it was a pleasant form of conversation, to listen—sometimes idle, sometimes active—to what someone else had was so excited to talk about. When Clover could bear to take her eyes off of Alice, she stole a glance at her chatty brother and smiled.

Junpei knocked, but Aoi shoved open the door without waiting for a response, and Akane burst inside, holding out the flat, square box in front of her. It was time for the games to begin.

Chapter Text

Sigma’s old textbooks pinned down the corners of the mat, which took up most of the living room. The doorway to the kitchen looked directly into the center of the stage, so when Diana leaned back from the stove, she still had a perfect view of the action, which, at present, was Clover guiding Light’s hand around the circles, listing each color until he had them memorized.

“There won’t be any sort of time penalty for taking too long to reach a desired square, correct?” Light asked.

“They’re circles, not squares,” Clover said.

“That’s right! We need to establish the house rules,” Akane said, clutching the large spinner to her chest. “Sigma, it’s your house—what are house rules?”

Sigma only blinked in reply. “Whatever it says in the box?” he mumbled.

“No, no—for little nitpicky things,” Akane said. “Are you out the second something other than a hand or a foot touches the mat or is there a grace period, or are knees and elbows okay, when are you allowed to double up on circles, can you lift your hands or feet ever or does that—”

“Akane, just do our casual rules,” Aoi cut in, elbowing her in the side.

By the Kurashikis’ lenient version of play, knees and elbows cannot touch the mat for longer than a second before disqualification. Hands and feet cannot leave their designated circles for the same duration, except when maneuvering to a new position, in which case it is expressly illegal. With four players, doubling up on circles is permitted only when two limbs have been designated to the same color, and tripling only when three limbs are designated. Four limbs being designated to the same color results in a re-spin, but a limb landing on the same color twice means that the limb must be moved to a new circle of the same color. Fortunately for Light, there is no time limit to movement. Any points of contention are at the discretion of the spinner.

Sigma glanced at the large square that Akane still hugged to her chest as he nodded along to each of her stipulations. “And you’re the spinner?” he guessed.

“Of course.”

The players in the first round lined up around the edge of the mat: Clover holding Light’s hand, Phi with arms crossed, Alice with arms akimbo. Junpei looked on with a mouthful of macaroni as Akane gave the spinner its first go.

"Okay, everyone, right foot red.”

Phi wandered around to the proper corner to be near the row of red, but Alice simply stretched her long leg out to her left to reach the corner circle on the far side of the mat. Clover waited for Light to tentatively put a foot down—a bit off the edge of a circle but close enough that everyone gave hollers and applause—before placing her own on the circle next to his.

Akane had already spun for the next move by the time they placed themselves. “Left foot green,” she called out with far too much excitement.

“Oh, dear,” Light said with a grimace, because green was at the opposite end of the mat from red. He stretched his leg out—“too far,” Clover warned, tugging him back a few inches—and got a pair that were not in line with one another; his right foot had touched the second circle from the edge while his left snagged third. Clover let him know this, and he smiled, because now he had his bearings under his feet. She stood just behind him, with her hands on his waist as a threat to tickle him to make him fall. Alice shimmied her foot into position easily from her original stance, her back to the mat, her hands still on her hips. Phi leaned into a lunge to comfortably spread her short legs.

Akane was giggling as she saw where the spinner landed next. “Right hand green,” she read.

Light twisted to his right and touched down behind him to reach the green, purely to line up with the horizontal axis of the mat. In doing so, however, he robbed Clover of the spot, to which she gave a small yelp of outrage and a smaller shove. He only laughed.

“You can double up, Clover,” Akane reminded her, also laughing. “You can double up if there’s two limbs on the spot.”

Rather than take the spot Light had claimed first, she went one circle farther to grab Light’s left foot, which made his whole body jolt more than it had when she pushed him.

Phi simply crossed her hand over to the left side from her lunge. She had a calm look on her face that masked an overwhelming smugness from being in the most comfortable position on the board so far. Even Alice was a little off-balance from having to lean to her left and twist to reach the same spot where Phi had placed her left foot.

“We need a bigger mat,” Sigma was already muttering, hovering over Junpei’s shoulder as he watched the action. “We need to make our own mat that’s got every color of the rainbow, to minimize the chances of doubles. That would make things more interesting.”

With difficulty, Junpei swallowed a large mouthful of macaroni. “See, this is why we don’t let you and Akane hang out alone,” he groaned. “You’ll do that shit.”

“I thought it was because last time someone left us unsupervised for a long period of time, we ran a Nonary Game,” Sigma retorted.

“Yeah, like I said,” Junpei said, shoveling in another bite. “That shit.”

“Oh, my gosh, right foot green,” Akane called.

“See?!” Sigma growled, flailing an arm at the players all lining themselves up and stepping on one another’s toes, Clover perhaps purposefully. “This is bullshit. We need a big rainbow board.”

“Rainbow, really? Ain’t this round o’ Twister gay enough already?” Aoi chimed in, crouching beside Junpei to join the two spectators. “This is, literally, the gayest Twister round. Look who’s playin’. And next round’s the bi round, looks like.”

“Fuck off,” Junpei snapped.

“Whoa, dude.” Aoi raised his hands and his eyebrows, thumb and forefinger circling the rim of his glass. “No need to get all defensive. We all saw your face when you found out Carlos wasn’t coming tonight.”

“That’s not—I’m not gay,” Junpei grumbled.

“Never said you were, dumbass. God, you’re so…”

“Okay, okay, right foot yellow!”

“…aggressively heteronormative.”

Clover lifted up her unoccupied left arm as a kind of balance as she maneuvered her right foot to the adjacent row of yellow circles. Light inched his foot forward until Clover gave him the signal that he had made it to a valid spot. Alice began her power play; she snagged a yellow spot across the center of the board, blocking Phi with her long, muscular thigh. Phi shrugged and crouched low to sneak under Alice.

“Right foot red.”

Phi eyed the red circle all the way across the mat a bit nervously until Alice sighed as she was forced to return to a position that gave Phi more freedom of movement. Dead-set on staying aligned with the board no matter the contortion it caused him, Light snagged the spot directly across from his left foot, unknowingly mirroring Alice’s exact posture three rows down the mat. “Clover, is this the third circle from our right?” he asked to confirm.

“Hold—on,” Clover whined, sliding her right foot out towards the edge of the board in spurts as she struggled to move without lifting her right hand.

“Move it, like, five centimeters left. You’re a little outside,” Aoi answered just before glancing away and downing a hearty gulp of the strong drink he had prepared for himself with Alice’s supplies.

“My left or yours?” Light asked.

“Y-yours,” Aoi said hoarsely, after swallowing too quickly.

“Left foot yellow!”

Everyone slid their left foot forward from green to yellow, but then Alice noticed how boring that was. Since her left hand was still free, she leaned on it to lift herself up, twist, and plant her toes down on the third circle from her edge of the board. Phi just rolled her eyes and bent her left knee lower to fit under Alice.

Right foot yellow.”

Light was surprised to touch Alice’s precariously balanced foot with his own when he crossed his right leg over his left knee to take a neighboring circle. “No, take the one behind me, please,” Clover begged, still in quite a twist from when she had placed her right hand so far away on the green row when teasing Light’s foot. “It’s the edge spot. Please?”

Light obliged, slowly sliding his leg through the arch under her belly to reach the circle. Phi struggled to stay small under Alice while pulling her foot back, but it was Alice and her precarious height that were at a greater risk of toppling now that her balance points were forced so close together.

Clover tried to pull Light’s foot into the exact position of the distant yellow spot with her free left hand. When she began to totter on her feet, she called out to the audience, “Light needs a seeing-eye dog, somebody move his stinky feet!”

“Junpei, go help him,” Aoi said, nudging his back with a knee. “Dog sounds about right, anyway.”

“I’m eating,” Junpei complained. “You’re already standing. You go help him.”

“Whoever does it’ll probably get a good view of Clover if you sit low enough,” Sigma said in a voice he thought only the three of them could hear, until he saw Aoi go pale and he looked over his shoulder to see Light’s head tilted at an odd angle, a cold, broken smile spreading unevenly over his lips.

After clearing his throat of a drink going down the wrong pipe, Aoi called, “Just move forward and a little to the left. Your left.”

Akane was waiting with the next spin. She read it as soon as Light’s toes touched yellow. “Okay, left foot yellow—you have to switch where your left foot is.”

“Is this the no-left-hands version of the game?” Phi complained, throwing a glare at Akane.

“I just wanted to be accommodating to our participants,” she replied.

“Incoming, Phi,” Alice warned. She stuck her leggy up real far behind her, then swung it behind her like an ice skater in a twirl, before landing in a backbend to take the yellow spot on the edge that Phi was being forced to give up, and which would have to be claimed according to house rules. This move gave Phi the chance to do a quick twist to get back on solid footing.

“Light, you have to take the spot one to the left because Clover’s leaving it empty with her move,” Akane warned. “Anything else is illegal now.”

“Isn’t there a fourth color in this game?” Light muttered. But he had now completely made it underneath Clover’s bridge, and their uncrossed right arms were no longer banging against each other every time they moved.

As soon as he got close enough to the spot for a blind man, Akane spun again. With a sigh, she read, “Right foot yellow, again.”

“I’m boycotting this stupid game,” Phi snapped.

“Clover, you’ll have to come take this edge back,” Light teased as he shifted his right foot in towards the center of the mat. With a scowl, Clover kicked out her right foot to reach under Light, who happily planted both feet on the same circle underneath his center of gravity.

“Actually, Light,” Akane said with a giggle, “Phi and Alice’s right feet were both on the same circle, and now it’s empty. You’ll have to reach for that one.”

“Second from the edge. The far edge,” Aoi called, smirking. “You’re second from the edge on your side, you need to go three spots down. To your left.”

He expected Light to give up. Light did no such thing. He did sigh, but he also pivoted to turn his back to his target and stretched his right foot out behind him, toes pointed. Phi lifted her rear with surprise when his heel brushed against it. That was how he knew to turn and locate the yellow spot.

“Aoi, how close am I?” Light asked. The top of his toes landed almost perfectly in the center of the circle.

“Dude, you’re spot-on,” Junpei answered, eyes wide.

Aoi did not answer. He just whispered, “Holy shit,” to himself and took another swig of his drink.

 “Blue!” Akane shouted in excitement. “Left foot blue!”

“Is that right here?” Light asked, sliding his left foot farther left. He again turned his head in Aoi’s direction. Clover was busy shimmying her own left foot.

“Pull back a little to the right. You overshot,” Aoi responded, speaking into the rim of a glass he was emptying faster and faster every minute.

“Alice, Light, watch out. I’m getting out of this mess,” Phi declared. She threaded her left leg through Alice’s forward arch, over Light’s outstretched leg, and put it comfortably next to her right foot. Alice, too, backed away from Phi and Light, also moving her left foot next to her right. There was a time for power plays, and it was not when Light Field’s stinky foot was in the center of all the action.

“Right hand red,” Akane said.

“Oh, my deepest apologies to whoever’s leg this is,” Light sighed, as he pressed deep into Phi’s ankle in his need to lean all the way to his left to reach the red spot beside his left foot.

“Hold on, I’m gonna work with you,” Phi grumbled, leaning the same direction for the same purpose. She angled her shin so that his could pass over it instead of crushing it. Clover and Alice, on the other hand, had not been so comfortable since the game began.

“Left hand yellow.”

After a second of contemplation, everyone on the mat groaned, and everyone watching laughed.

They were all generally pointed so that the color red, where they held their right hands, was on their left, and yellow was to the right. Not to mention, their right feet were currently occupying most of the yellow circles, so time was of the essence to grab a favored spot. Clover pivoted left and placed her hand beside Phi’s right foot. Alice reached back and touched her own right foot. Phi and Light were forced to take the two open spaces left. Phi reached for the one nearest her with only mild discomfort, while Light was still working out how to even move in his position.

“You gotta take the one beside your left foot,” Aoi reported. “It’s the only spot open.”

“Could be worse,” Light grunted. His right foot stayed in only precarious contact with the faraway yellow circle behind him as he rotated his torso and reached blindly underneath him. Everyone called out hots and colds until he had made it to the right location.

“Left hand blue.”

They breathed a collective sigh of relief as they decreased the distance between their crossed left and right hands. Everyone’s hands naturally fell into place on all of the open blue spots not taken by their left feet.

And so it was with trepidation that Akane read out the next spin: “Left hand… green?”

Green was even farther away than yellow had been. Clover had to almost stand up, as best she could with one hand on red and her feet still quite far apart, to reach over Light’s leg for a green circle. Phi had now arranged herself to be fairly linear, but with crossed legs, one of which was still getting nailed by Light’s awful position. Alice raised her ass in the air and reached back through her legs to touch green, in a tangled position that put the caricatures on the game box to shame, especially since she had managed it entirely by herself. No one was comfortable, but, as Aoi put it, “Oh, Light’s screwed.”

No matter which way he reached, his shoulders would not cross enough to span the distance from red to green, and there was no adjusting his legs from the relative split he had been forced into earlier. He tried to maneuver himself for a solid thirty seconds while the others situated themselves, and then he muttered something about last resorts before asking, “May I briefly lift any other limbs before moving?”

“Less than one second, and you can’t use it to change your position at all,” Aoi answered.

“One second won’t be enough,” Light murmured. “Fine, then.”

He rested his left elbow on his bent left knee in front of him. With his teeth, he tugged up the sleeve of his t-shirt over his shoulder. He bit into something on his upper arm that made a tiny click, and Sigma roared with laughter before anyone else, before Light clamped his wrist between his teeth, jerked his head up, and jerked his arm out of its socket.

“Clover,” he said with a mouth full of arm, “duck.”

She shrieked and bent her head low. With a twist of his neck Light flung his own arm in the direction of the green circles. It landed with a sickening flop against the vinyl and turned through a couple of tumbles.

“Did I make it?” he panted.

The arm had rolled off of the mat entirely. Clover gave a decisive, “Uh, no.”

“Well.” Light collapsed his pose at long last, and then all hell broke loose.

“Seriously, Light?!” Junpei hollered.

“What?” Phi squeaked when she turned around and caught a glimpse of the severed arm on the ground. “What? What the hell?

“Light, dammit, Phi didn’t even know you had a prosthetic arm,” Sigma said, his hands cupped around his mouth to overpower the resounding shouts. “You’re scaring her.”

“You had—you have a—how the hell did you—?!” Phi stammered, whipping her head back and forth. Over one shoulder she saw Light with one empty sleeve; over the other she saw his arm lying limp on the floor.

“Could someone give me a hand?” Light asked meekly as he slunk off of the mat, shaking out the few limbs he had left to relieve the strain. “Specifically my own hand. That’s the hand which I would like to be given.”

Sigma looked behind him for Aoi, who had helped Light around the board and who, last he had seen, was already standing anyway, but Aoi had vanished. He rose in Aoi’s stead and retrieved the prosthetic, examining the connecting pins to ensure none of the electronics had been crushed or bent during the toss.

“Behind you. Show me your arm,” Sigma said, reaching out for Light’s left shoulder.

Light twitched at the touch and pulled away, holding out his right hand. “Please, I can do this myself. I manage every morning, after all.”

“I’m just gonna make sure nothing’s damaged,” Sigma insisted. “I know I said this thing could take a beating, but I didn’t expect you to test that out like this.”

The prosthetic snapped into place with a click. Within a second, Light was flexing all of his fingers, as naturally and fluidly as with an arm of true flesh and bone. He wore a puzzled frown as he turned his hand over and back and bent his elbow.

“Everything feel normal?” Sigma asked.

“There’s… a bit of an aching pressure around everything,” Light said suspiciously, “as if this was still registering sensation while detached from my body and is telling me that I bruised something.”

“That’ll be… I programmed certain types of stimuli to create lingering sensations, otherwise it wouldn’t feel natural,” Sigma explained. “Pain has a relatively quick decay rate. I didn’t want it to be too uncomfortable, but it feels unnatural if it doesn’t linger a little while. Let me know if the pressure doesn’t let up.”

“Sigma,” Light uttered with a laugh and a shake of his head. It was all he could say, and so he said it again, grinning broadly. “Sigma.”

 

Chapter Text

“Alright, kid gloves are off now,” Alice said, narrowing her eyes at Phi, then at Clover. “You ladies are going down.”

Akane’s eyes flashed in delight. She and Alice rarely saw eye-to-eye; though they were leaders of organizations with identical goals whose primary members had the same special abilities, their philosophies and strategies were at insurmountable odds. Something they did have in common, however, was the fact that, as the leaders of opposing organizations, they loved to dominate a competition. Akane gave the spinner a hard flick and watched it intently to see where it would end up next.

“Dude, nice going out there.” Junpei jogged up to Light and wrapped him in a side hug with one arm.

Light’s smirk gave way to a gentle flush when Junpei’s grip around his shoulder did not relent after a few seconds. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your patronizing sympathies?” he asked.

“Aw, c’mon! Seriously, that was impressive.” Junpei gave him a little shake and then a squeeze. “You want a drink?”

“Do I need to take your drink?” Light accused, placing his hand over Junpei’s. “Not that it’s unwelcome, but you’re being unexpectedly affectionate, Junpei.”

Junpei gave a little twitch as he snapped his hand back. “No—just…” His hand fell to Light’s back instead of retreating. “Listen, I know there’s this whole unspoken rule with all of us where we don’t talk about the shitty way we all met each other, but I spent the longest three or four hours of my life thinking you were dead, okay? And every time I see you I still feel like it’s some kinda miracle you’re still alive.”

Ow, Clover, what the hell?!”

Giggling, Clover continued to wedge her left leg between Phi’s ankles, forcing them into a twist that almost pulled her off of her tiles and down to her knees.

Light’s shoulders fell. “What has she done now?” he muttered.

Junpei explained it to Light while Sigma explained everything to Diana.

“He’s got a prosthetic arm—he’s the one who I kept working on the arm for, remember,” he was saying, tripping over his racing words as he trailed her around the kitchen like an attention-starved cat. “And the spot was too far, so he—”

He was doing that thing he did when he got too into his conversation with Diana and subconsciously started to crouch down to her level, so it was easy for her, after setting down a tray of chicken tenders on the stovetop above the oven to cool, to rise up to the balls of her feet, turn around, and cut him off with a kiss on his lips.

Sometimes life moved so fast on this promised Earth of 2029 that Sigma lost himself in the current. When Diana kissed him, he remembered everything he had been fighting to save for forty-five years, and his whole body flooded with relief, a smug sense of accomplishment, and love.

“Can you take these out to the other room?” Diana asked with a smile, holding out a cooled plate of French fries.

Sigma was slow to raise his hands—young, real, human hands—to accept the dish. He gave Diana another brief kiss on the cheek before he went.

Alice was in the process of nonverbally chastising Clover for her aggressive tactics against Phi a few spins ago. Spanning half of the mat, she pinned down her four limbs to surround Clover, looming over her with a sly grin as she gradually, gradually, lowered herself down, pressing Clover closer and closer to the mat. Her long legs held her ass straight up in the air, and her shirt was beginning to rise up her midriff, exposing the finely-toned abdominal muscles a younger Sigma had once deeply admired. By the way Clover’s eyes, wide as dinner plates, kept twitching down, she was admiring them at present. Her mouth was opened as if to scream, but no sound would emerge, and her face was a deep, dark red.

“Wait, are they actually… dating?” Sigma muttered near Light’s ear amidst a growing roar of laughter.

“Not officially,” Light said quietly back, rubbing his chin underneath a grin. “And Clover’s been too intimidated to make the first move, so…”

Barely over to speak through her own uncontrollable laughter, Akane cried out, “Left… left hand…! Green!”

Alice sighed; this forced her retreat. With one parting message—“Behave, Clover”—she rose back up, flexing each of those defined muscles lining her stomach. Clover’s eyes shot to the movement and her whole body swayed with a swoon.

“Any chance that’s gonna change tonight?” Sigma asked Light.

“Perhaps if Alice’s bar supplies haven’t run out.”

“Clover, left hand green!” Junpei jeered from the sidelines when she had not broken out of her stupor. Light gave a little wince at the sudden shout beside him.

Phi was restless. Although she had already eased into her position, she tossed her head back and forth furiously, as if looking for something in the room. It was after Clover finally caught up and Akane called out the next spin—right foot red—that she finally yelled, “Whoever’s got fries, give ’em here, now.”

“Phi, you can’t lift your hand for more than one second, it’s the rules,” Akane warned, grabbing a handful of fries from the plate Sigma had brought out and obnoxiously shoving them into her mouth while finishing her sentence.

Phi slapped her right foot onto its designated color and stuck out her neck. “Somebody, fry me,” she demanded, holding her mouth ajar.

“You’re gonna get rosemary and sesame oil all over the mat,” Sigma protested.

“Fry me, Sigma.”

“Wait, fry me, too!” Clover pleaded. “Light? Or Junpei!”

Akane sighed. “Should we take a fry break?”

Alice crossed her right foot over Clover’s legs, to which she gave a sudden squeal. “Absolutely not,” Alice replied. “Not as a break, anyway. Keep spinning, Miss Kurashiki.”

“Sigma Klim, if I don’t have at least three fries in my mouth in the next five seconds…”

“Right foot blue!”

“God, fine!” Sigma grabbed an indiscriminate handful as Phi slid her leg from red to blue. “Where do you even put all this food, you little gremlin?”

She snapped them out of his hesitant hand as soon as the fries came close enough to her face. Five and a half fries dangled out of her mouth for the next few rounds.

“How many fries you want, Clover?” Junpei called, cramming a few into his mouth as he waited for her answer.

Clover did not answer; the next sound she made was a bloodcurdling scream. Light went stiff as a board on reflex, but eased when he heard her drowned out by laughter.

“Alice got her leg,” Sigma snickered. “She went over Clover with the right foot red, but when she brought it back for blue, she hooked under Clover, she’s got her leg.”

“This is sabotage!” Clover screeched. “Alice! I thought we were in this together!”

“Put your feet back down, Clover,” Alice said with a smile, her voice as smooth and calm as always. “You’ll be disqualified. Right foot blue.”

You’ll be disqualified! Sabotage! Treason! Larceny!

“Not technically against the house rules,” Akane said cheerfully.

Clover let her disgruntled scream last as long as it took for her to wriggle her trapped legs into valid positions. Akane called out a “left hand yellow” that barely affected their positions, except to allow Alice and Clover to face each other.

“C’mon, why?!” Clover whined, demonstrating her best puppy-dog eyes and pout. “We were supposed to work together and take down Phi! Top two go to the next round!”

“Right hand red!”

Alice just gave a coy smile. So embroiled in the argument was Clover that she did not notice how Alice had used this spin to position herself on top of Clover and pin her down again.

“Phi literally has the entire other half of the board to herself, c’mon!” Clover complained. “She’s—she’s just eating fries! I never even got fries! Where are my fries?!”

She snapped her head away from Alice with a pinched glare. Sigma shuddered and froze in the middle of sliding another fry between Phi’s lips, which he was still doing because now she was up to thirteen and it was getting interesting.

Junpei!” Clover barked.

He snatched up as many fries as his trembling fingers could grasp while he shot to his feet, darting around the mat to Clover’s position.

“Left foot green!”

Completely unnecessarily, Alice stuck her foot through Phi’s arms, just to prove to Clover that she could ruin the balance of two people at once. Clover twisted her left leg free from the vise of Alice’s powerful right thigh and sent it on its way to the green circles, chomping down on a fry in the meantime.

“Right foot yellow!”

“You have to let me go now,” Clover protested, the dangling end of her unfinished fry bouncing with her moving lips.

“Do I?” Alice murmured.

Rather than extract her right leg out from under Clover to reach a yellow circle, Alice just wound her leg even more tightly to slide one row over. Clover gave a cry muffled by the lips she clamped shut to hold her French fry in place, her little body suddenly rigid.

“Right foot yellow, Clover.” She gave a wink.

Akane did not wait for Clover to move, because she had already spun the next position, and she desperately wanted to see Alice make it.

“Left hand blue!”

Alice selected the blue circle directly underneath Clover’s head, and directly beside the red circle where she had planted her right hand. Clover flinched with a chill when she felt Alice’s cold bracelets brush against her neck. When her head twitched to the other side, she hit Alice’s other wrist. Frozen in place, she stared up into Alice’s devious eyes.

Alice bent her head lower, towards Clover’s cheek, parted her painted lips just slightly, and snatched up the other half of Clover’s French fry.

Out of sheer gayness, Clover’s arms gave out.

Junpei crashed down to his knees and started counting like a referee in a wrestling match, but Akane was already chanting, “Out! Out! Out!” and Sigma was joining her.

Alice slid to her feet like nothing had happened, munching her French fry with a thoughtful smile. “Rosemary and sesame oil, you said?” she asked Sigma. “Maybe I’ll ask Diana for the recipe.”

“I can’t believe you would betray me like this!” Clover tried to stretch her neck up the ten inches it would take for her eyes to come level with Alice’s. “You forced me out of a Twister tournament, and you stole my French fry!”

Alice plucked another fry from the plate. She held one hand to Clover’s cheek, and delicately inserted the tip of the French fry between Clover’s pouting lips. “I’m sorry, Clover,” she laughed gently. “I’ll make it up to you, alright?”

Phi, with either twenty-one or twenty-two fries in her mouth (Sigma had lost count somewhere in the late teens), stood up and stretched. She would have been wearing a smug smile if she could move her lips at all in any direction.

“Snack break first or should we start the next round?” Akane asked, clearly in favor of the latter from the way she was leaning over the vacated Twister mat.

“Save the snack break for between this round and next,” Sigma said. “So we can give the winners from this round a break before they have to go again in the final round.”

A grin slid onto her face. “This is why I like working with you, Sigma,” she said. “You’re an excellent partner.”

“Same to you,” Sigma replied. “But you’re going the fuck down in this round of Twister, just saying.”

“Oh, I doubt that, Dr. Klim,” she shot back, her grin now cold and devilish. “Let’s get started. Who’s spinning this round?”

“Uh, hold up, we’re one short,” Junpei cut in. “Where’s Aoi?”

The room went a little quiet as they realized he was not among them.

“Out smoking?” Sigma muttered, glancing towards the front door.

“Sigma, he doesn’t smoke in this timeline,” Akane said, wrinkling her nose. In fact, in this timeline, Akane had tricked Junpei and Aoi into racing each other to see who could give up cigarettes first. The plan had worked so diabolically well that after only a couple of months, both boys were clean again.

Having heard the gist of the conversation, Diana was already shaking her head with a shrug when Phi peered into the kitchen. When she noticed the fries sticking out of Phi’s mouth, she choked on a laugh and pulled another potato out of the pantry, wearing a wry grin.

Sigma did not announce his findings until he had left the hallway, where he kept his voice low. With a shrug, a shake of his head, and a thumb over his shoulder, he said, “Light’s on in the bathroom. He’s just taking a piss.”

Akane rose swiftly to her feet with a dark look in her eyes. “He is not.”

They gave her wide-eyed stares, and eventually nervous laughter, when she marched across the living room and disappeared into the hall.

“Uh, snack break can happen while the food’s hot, I guess,” Sigma decided. “Diana, come out of the kitchen and say hi to everybody.”