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Never Could Have Loved

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There's never been anything wrong with Harukawa Maki's life, at least in her eyes.

Sure, she might not love her parents, and her parents might not love her back. Sure, she may or may not have depression. Sure, she might have had to and continues to deal with more than any kid at her age will ever have to deal. But there's never been anything wrong with her life, in her eyes.

There's only been much more that she's wanted to change about her life, that she never can.

There is her mother, a distant figure in her life who abuses her. Badly. She remembers days in elementary school where she'd try to run away from home. She knows now that it is better to simply take it all. The little good that her mother does, and all the bad she gives Harukawa.

There is her step-father, a man who has never cared about his step-daughter. She knows he sees her as a nuisance, and he knows she sees him as a bother. They've never tried to get along, and frankly, they both know they'll never get along.

Then there's her real father, the man who might have made her, but cares less about her than anyone in the world. Her father could meet a stranger and care more about them than his own damn daughter.

So it's not a surprise that she's depressed, doesn't do well inside or outside of school, and gets abused in her free time.

The only solace she can find in her life is her fraternal half-twin. It's a messy situation that involves her mother sleeping around in the same week, and somehow ending up with her and her brother, but he's the only speck of good her mother has ever given her.

Unfortunately, he lives with her real father after he decided no, he didn't want his actual child, he wanted the other child, and she can hardly find an excuse to visit him. There's been many times where she's had to climb the walls outside the house and knock on her brother's window. Truthfully, she doesn't feel bad about it.

Her brother's name is Gokuhara Gonta, and he's a bit of a delinquent.

It's actually not easy to spot the resemblance between the two despite them being twins - pretty much all they share is their mother's brown hair and red eyes, and even then Gokuhara's hair has a tint of green that's not in hers. Hell, they don't even share the same last name, although now that she thinks about, she'd much rather be called Harukawa than Gokuhara, and he probably thinks the opposite.

Instead, their genetic bond is more obvious in the small things. Their hair grows out the same. Their hands are both rather small. Their feet are rather large. Their eye shape is the same. Both of them have thin lips.

Gokuhara's part of a gang, and not a good kind of gang. A gang that beats people up with no remorse kind of gang. He's constantly looking to pick fights, and has been suspended from school on multiple occasions. Thankfully, because of her father's job as the principal of the school, he hasn't expelled, but it makes Harukawa disgusted to think her brother's only in school because of nepotism.

So it's not a surprise the two of them end up auditioning for Danganronpa's 53rd season, just to get away from their lost and destroyed lives. It's not that either of them are die-hard fans - they just want to get away. Perhaps that's why so many people love Danganronpa - it's a show of escapism, a show that takes you away from everything you've been feeling and plunges you into the depths of those characters' minds.

Harukawa sighs, clenching her fists. The large television displays a glowing red number: 95. Gokuhara shifts nervously beside her, and she glances over at him.

"Nervous?"

"I guess," he mutters. "It's just - "

The number increases by one, and the door to the gymnasium opens up as the speakers spark to life, announcing, "Number 96."

Gokuhara stands, taking in a deep breath as he stands. Harukawa pats him on the forearm reassuringly, grinning.

"It's not like it matters if you get in or not."

"...Yeah. You're right, Mak. Thanks," he grins back, and disappears into the open doors of the gymnasium. A Team Danganronpa member escorts him in, and then closes the door behind her half-twin. She wishes him luck in her mind.

The hallway fills with even more obnoxious and loud teenagers, and Harukawa shifts deeper into the folding chair placed along the hallways, ignoring them the best she can. She doesn't even notice one of them walk right up to her before they tap her on the shoulder.

"Hey, can I take this seat?"

Harukawa looks up, seeing a teenager with sharp purple eyes and the most ridiculous hairstyle she's ever seen. She shrugs. Gokuhara probably wouldn't mind. Besides, they're leaving after she auditions anyways.

"Sure."

The teenager plops down beside her, grinning. "What number are you?"

"97," she responds.

"You're next?" he tilts his head. "I thought you'd be more nervous about the audition."

"It's not like it's a big deal for me anyways," she answers, fiddling with her gloves. It's been awhile since she's worn these silk gloves, since she's almost never gone out where strangers will see her hands. Today's an exception. She doesn't need anyone asking about the blooming and ugly purple bruises and numerous scars scratched across her palm and on the back of her hands and along her fingers.

"Seriously?"

"It's not like getting in will make my shitty life any better."

"Oh," the purple-haired male murmurs, blinking. "So you have a shitty life, huh?"

"More than shitty, sure."

"What's your name?"

She glances at him with a tinge of anger in her eyes. "Why do you care?"

"Am I not allowed to know a nice girl's name?"

"...Harukawa. Harukawa Maki."

"Nice. I'm Momota Kaito."

"So are you one of those crazy Danganronpa fans?"

"I wouldn't say that, but I definitely like it a lot, y'know?" he smiles widely. "It's fun to try and figure out who killed who, and how the people react to the killings and everything!"

"...Morbid," Harukawa comments under her breath, and Momota lets out a chuckle.

"I guess. But it's entertainment, so it's not anything worrying. I mean, pretty much everyone else here does the same."

The speakers buzz to life, and a deep voice calls, "Number 97."

She stands, and Momota stands with her. She glares at him.

"What are you doing?" she asks angrily.

"Just thought I'd see you off," he grins. She ignores him, and pushes through the crowds of people towards the double-doors leading to the gymnasium.

"Good luck," he mutters, and her hand clenches tight around the door handle.

"Sure."

She steps through those doors, and somehow feels like her life has changed because of one god forsaken boy.

~ / . / . / ~

"...What the hell is this," she deadpans, slamming the paper onto the table.

The man sitting in front of her looks up at her. "What's wrong, kiddo?"

"'Ultimate Assassin?' Why the hell am I under that talent? I told you, I wanted to be the unknown Ultimate. Why am I under Ultimate Assassin?"

The man sighs, glancing over her paper. "Listen, little miss. It's hard for us to make sure you get your preferred Ultimate. Besides, we already have an unknown Ultimate, and we think you'll fit nicely as an Ultimate Assassin if you're chosen."

"Are you serious?"

"Of course. Now go. I don't have all day to deal with your complaints. I got hundreds of other kiddos like you to deal with."

"Wait a minute - "

"Next!" the man calls before Harukawa can protest, and all she can do is give up, trudging out of the dining hall and through the hallways. She turns the corner, and almost runs into Momota, who's leaning against the wall along the hallway.

"Oh, hey. Harukawa, right? I didn't know you'd made it through the first cut."

"Yeah, it's Harukawa. I did. Surprisingly."

Momota laughs loudly. "I think you'd fit into a cast of Danganronpa. So, what talent did you get?"

Harukawa rolls her eyes. "It's not like my opinion matters," she responds. "So anything is fine."

Momota frowns. "Then what did you get?"

"...Ultimate Assassin," she responds. "Then again, lots of other people have gotten that talent. We'll just have to see who they pick as their Ultimate Assassin this year."

"Better than the Ultimate Astronaut," Momota sneers. "God, it's such a lame talent. I don't know anyone who would willingly choose that talent."

"So were you just shoved into that category because they felt you didn't fit any other?"

Momota rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I guess."

"Well, I guess we're in the same boat."

Momota offers her his hand, and she high-fives it tentatively. The scar on her finger tingles, and she ignores the stinging feeling of the bruises all over her - even the ones in her heart.

~ / . / . / ~

Harukawa rubs her cheek, and Gokuhara curls his fists.

"I'll hit them real good, I'll kill them, I swear - "

"Stop it, Gokuhara," she mutters, watching the retreating backs of the couple leaving the school. "Don't."

"But Mak, they - "

"Shh," she hisses. "How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that here?"

"Sorry, Harukawa… I - still! I don't understand why you still put up with her shit!"

"Gokuhara, there you are!" Momota appears behind Gokuhara as he turns the corner. Harukawa shrinks against the wall. "Some - oh. Hey, Harukawa. I thought your parents were… visiting you."

Harukawa shrugs. "They left. I'll be going now, Gok - "

"Harukawa, what's that on your cheek?"

Momota's words make her stop mid-sentence, and she clamps her teeth together. "It's nothing."

Momota grabs her by the wrist, turning her to face him. "Is that a bruise?" He frowns, and Harukawa rips her hand from his.

"It's nothing. Leave me alone."

"A bruise isn't nothing!" Momota hisses. "Who did it?" His head swivels to look at the other teenager. "Gokuhara, you - "

"Stop it!" Harukawa bellows angrily. "Gon didn't do anything, and it's none of your god damn business, Momota!"

The purple-haired teenager freezes, staring at her, and Harukawa cradles her cheek in her hands before realizing what she's said.

"...Shit."

"Mak…" Gokuhara murmurs, resting a hand on her shoulder. She looks away, her face scrunched into a look of shame and unhappiness.

"So…" Momota starts after an awkward silence, "you two are…?"

"Fraternal half-twins," Gokuhara grunts. "From the same disgusting she-devil."

Harukawa just sighs, letting her hands fall to her side. "Gon, I've told you not to call her names like that."

"Well I'm sorry that I'm the only person willing to stand up to her abuse!"

The biting words Gokuhara yells leave a cutting silence in their place, and Harukawa glares at him.

"I thought I told you not to bring that shit up," she grinds out coldly between clenched teeth and curled fists, a sense of rage and darkness swarming her. Gokuhara winces. Momota's eyes grow angry.

"So it was her…?"

"Stop it," Harukawa mutters, too tired to argue. "I'm used to it, okay? Stop."

Momota unclenches his fist, turning his head to the side. "Damn…"

Gokuhara doesn't say anything, and Harukawa pats her hand on his forearm. "You should go…"

"Oh yeah…" Momota looks at the brown-haired boy. "Some kid's looking for you. Black hair, looks like a whiner. Said he'd be by our dorm in five minutes."

"Oh!" Gokuhara starts, then cracks his knuckles. "Mak, if you need me…"

"I'll be fine, Gon," she responds tiredly. "Go."

He pulls Harukawa into a quick one-armed hug before hurrying away, casting a final look over his shoulder as he disappears behind the corner of the hallway. Harukawa leans against the wall, glancing up at Momota.

"So? What do you want with me?"

"Huh?" Momota tries to act surprised, but Harukawa can see a look of guilt crossing his face.

"If you really were looking for Gon, you'd have left with him. If you're here with me, I can only assume you're here because you have something to talk with me about. Whatever it may be."

"Man, and here I thought I was being subtle…"

"Not sure if you know this, but you're the exact opposite of subtle," Harukawa snaps back snarkily before sighing. "Come on. You can talk while we walk back to the dorms."

"Wait, Harukawa - "

"Hurry. Up," she hisses, turning and walking down the tiled path that leads through the large school that's actually a filming lot. Momota hurries after her, and the two of them walk away from the entrance hall.

"Harukawa, look. Why can't you just get along with everyone? Why do you have to act so… distant? I mean, I guess know now, but come on. At least don't go out of your way to ignore everyone who tries to talk to you."

"There are hundreds of people here, and you're asking me to get along with everyone? Seriously?"

"Not everyone! Do you think I'm insane? I just mean that… you know. Try not to death glare everyone who tries to talk to you. I mean… shit, can't you at least get along with me?"

She glares at him, and he frowns.

"Stop that. I just told you not to do that, didn't I?"

Harukawa pushes open the glass door to the dormitories wordlessly, and Momota follows her to her room, shared with several other girls. She knows they're inside - she can tell from all the giggling.

"You'll never change who I am," she retorts back, turning to look at him now that they're standing in front of her dorm. "Even if I try, I'll never change."

"Look, Harukawa. You're really freakin' pretty and you might come off as a bitch, but I like you a lot, alright? So even if - "

Her hands shoot up, grabbing the collar of his jacket and pulling him down towards her. In a rush of adrenaline, she's kissing him hard, her hands in his hair and lips hard against his.

He makes a noise of surprise against her lips, and she pulls away.

"What?" she inquires flatly. "Is that not what you were wishing for?"

"I… no, I just didn't think you'd…" he gestures vaguely between the two of them, and Harukawa rolls her eyes, exasperation slashing through the feeling of excitement and pounding nervousness.

"Would you rather I hadn't done it?"

"No," he replies immediately, "that was freakin' awesome. I - "

"Cool," she cuts off, pulling him back down for another kiss. This time he takes the lead, pulling her close and kissing her hard. Her lips are going to bruise, she knows it.

She brushes it off. Not like she's never been bruised before anyways.

"Hey," he mumbles when they pull apart, and he presses his lips against her cheek, his words muffled by her bruised and purple skin. "I really really like you. And I think you don't deserve everything you've gone through."

"I think I do," she replies softly, and Momota frowns, pulling away from her.

"Harukawa - "

She shakes her head, and slowly takes a step back, opening the door to her dorm and stepping backwards into it. "Good night," she whispers, her voice cracking and unable to retain its cold and harsh tone.

"...Night," Momota breathes, and she shuts the door in his face, her fingers trembling from the unknown feeling coursing through her veins.

~ / . / . / ~

The hundreds of teenagers that flock the filming grounds are all sent home.

"We will announce the results in three weeks," the Team Danganronpa executive tells them, and then sends them back to the dormitories and their chosen rooms to pack up and leave.

Harukawa sighs, jamming her clothes and everything she brought into her suitcase and leaving before her roommates even come back. She never really liked them - prissy little girls who'd gossip and giggle long into the night, to the point where Harukawa had to throw things at them to shut them up.

She steps outside, following the large crowd of teenagers swamping to the entrance of the school. Harukawa glances around, watching the slow construction of the large Wall being built. It will soon be finished, and sixteen poor souls will be trapped inside it.

Harukawa doesn't know how to feel about the fact that she might be one of those sixteen people.

Gokuhara stands beside her, his phone in his hand. "Kenji and Yuki are picking us up."

Harukawa frowns at the mention of her mother's name, but sighs. "Can't be helped. Not like I want any of them to come pick us up."

At that moment, Gokuhara's phone begins to vibrate, and he quickly picks up the call.

"Kenji? ...Yeah, we're here… Okay. See you." He hangs up and glances over at Harukawa. "They'll be here really soon."

Harukawa nods, squinting. In the distance, she can make out a trail of cars, rumbling along the road. "Is that them?"

"Should be," Gokuhara responds, taking Harukawa's suitcase. She lets him, rubbing her arms to rid herself of the wave of frostiness that swamps her for a reason she knows all too well.

The car pulls up in front of the two of them, and Gokuhara rounds the car towards the trunk, opening it to put away their suitcases. Harukawa pulls open the car door, taking a step in.

"Harukawa!"

A loud and familiar voice splinters the air, and Harukawa starts, looking over her shoulder. A sense of sorrow and guilt throbs her heart, and she can almost feel it splitting.

"Momota…"

"Get in," her mother hisses at her. "We don't have time for your shit. We're busy people, unlike you lazy teenagers."

Her mother's words open a feeling of anger and rebelliousness in her heart that's never been there. Confidently, she steps out of the car and turns towards Momota, who's running for her. She meets him halfway there, right beneath the large doorframe of the entrance to the Academy for Gifted Juveniles, amidst a crowd of people pushing against them.

"You're leaving now?" he asks softly.

"Yeah. Yuki's not going to wait for us… obviously." Momota bites his lip, and she looks at him. "Did you want to say something?"

"I… I'm gonna miss you a lot," he starts.

Gokuhara calls for her frantically from inside the car. Harukawa can feel her mother growing increasingly impatient and frustrated.

"I know," she responds.

"And I think I love you."

"I know."

"Harukawa!" her mother yells. Her voice is frigid and enraged.

"'I know'? That's all you have to say?" Momota asks angrily. "We might never see each other, and that's all you have to say?"

"...I'm sorry," she whispers. "I'm so… so sorry."

Momota's enraged eyes soften, and he glances away guiltily. "No… it's not your fault." He pauses, and then touches his fingers to her cheek. The ugly purple bruise has long faded, but the silent action brings Harukawa back to that night where they were so close. "I guess… this is goodbye, Harukawa."

"Yeah," she whispers, lowering her head. Momota brushes her bangs behind her ear and she pulls away and climbs into the car, staring out the window as they drive away and ignoring her mother, angrily yelling at her with a true rage and impassioned anger in her voice.

Her heart throbs. It's a bruise that's going to be there forever, she knows it, but what's one more bruise over the million others she's going to get?

~ / . / . / ~

She wakes up thrashing and kicking, and her foot slams against the door of a locker.

"Shit," she hisses, feeling pain throb through her toes, but pauses. A locker? Why the hell is she in a locker? The locker door pops open when she kicks it again, and she stumbles out, falling to her knees.

"Damn…"

She stands, dusting off her skirt and looking around. It's a classroom… and the windows are barred.

"A school?" she wonders aloud.

The locker beside hers begins to clatter and rattle loudly, and Harukawa pulls open the door, ready for any nasty surprise that could greet her.

Instead, a tall teenager with familiar purple hair tumbles out, and he groans. Her heart thuds, and her heartbeat pounds in her ears as he looks up at her.

"Haru...kawa?" he asks blearily. She squats in front of him.

"Momota," she smiles hesitantly. He scrambles up, but stands a little too quickly and accidentally knocks his forehead against her chin. She grunts in pain as she stands, feeling her jaw rattle and her cheek throb from recently healed bruises.

"Shit, sorry!" he exclaims, but she waves off his concerned questions and frantic actions.

"It's fine."

He pauses, gently touching his fingers to the back of her hand. "Are you… really okay?"

"No," she responds bluntly, and he doesn't press her anymore. He knows what that tone of voice means, and for once, she's grateful someone understands her. He just curls her hand into his, squeezing it reassuringly.

"...I thought so. But hey, at least you made it. At least your shitty life can be no more."

"So it's really happening, is it?"

"I think so. We'll have to see… but it definitely looks like the audition grounds."

"Filming lot."

"Well, the audition grounds were the filming lot…"

"I know. Let's go."

Momota hums in response, leading her out the room. He doesn't let go of her hand, and she notices. She couldn't care less.

They take one step outside of the classroom, and come face to face with a large angry green machine, screeching and stabbing at the ground close to them. Momota pulls Harukawa behind him.

"Shit! Harukawa, run!"

"You too!" she hisses, pulling him away from the machine. "You're not fighting that!'

They dash down the hallway, dodging every haphazard attack that could possibly take their heads off. They stumble down the stairs, skipping every other step to quicken their descent.

They turn to make a left at the foot of the stairs, but the machine jumps in their way, and Harukawa bites back a scream. Momota doesn't bother, and just yells for her to follow him, pulling her along before she can protest - not like she would.

"Where do they want us to go?" Harukawa pants heavily, and Momota points ahead.

"Through there!"

Sure enough, there are the familiar double doors of the gymnasium, and the two of them tumble in. Two teenagers turn around, one with green hair and one with blue hair.

"Hi," Harukawa breathes, "do you have any clue what we're doing here?"

"It depends…" the green-haired male mutters, but the blue-haired girl shakes her head.

"I've got nothing…"

The door explodes open behind them, and then people stream in - one after another until there are sixteen of them. It only confirms Harukawa's suspicions.

"It is, isn't it?" she whispers into Momota's ear, and he leans down, nodding.

"Definitely seems so. I mean - "

Five large mechanical robots fall into the gym and surround them. Momota pushes Harukawa behind him, narrowing his eyes.

"These bastards - "

Five stuffed bears hop out of the killing machines, and Harukawa blinks. Momota starts.

"What's going on?" A blonde girl asks. "Could it be - "

A pile of assorted clothes are flung into the air by the five bears, and Harukawa blinks as the clothes seem to magically pull themselves onto her and her old school uniform disappears miraculously. She supposes it's part of the "filming magic" that Team Danganronpa has in their arsenal.

He grabs her by the hand when they're not sparkling, when their clothes are different, and their everything is about to change. He feels the same, even under that ridiculous purple jacket with space patterns and white shirt stamped with red. She looks up at him.

"You never could have loved me," he states softly.

And he's not wrong. As much as she tried back then, there was something so tentative in her, so cold and frightened, that found it too scarring to try and love him.

"I wish I could have loved you," she replies, and her voice is guilty, her eyes are brimming with tears.

"...Yeah. I know."

And as they black out, in their new clothes, their new talents, their new identities, she feels him press a gentle and loving kiss on her lips, so unlike their previous kisses, and she kisses him back, feels a sting of bitter irony from the fact that she's finally experienced love, the real Harukawa Maki finally god damn loves someone and she's about disappear from the world.