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Bullet Time

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The love of your life has a gun to your head.
It's been a long series of good and bad choices, getting you to this point, but now you sit in an underground room that brooks no chance of witnesses.
Akechi's staring at you; he's smiling.
You look up at him with inquiring eyes, begging the question- "What now?"- knowing full well the answer, having known the answer for as long as you've been in this room at all. Perhaps longer.

The two of you are in bullet time.
His hand twitches on the trigger.
There is a rising sensation wedged in your heart, the seeds you'd swallowed finally pushing up soil, finally ready to show their face. You wonder if he knows you look at him, still, and feel adoration so intense it's painful.
Your face betrays hatred, your face betrays rivalry.

He shoots you.
You die hoping he pities you at least a little. Pins and needles embrace you. His voice is sweet and lulling.
This is fine, you decide. Not as clean as you'd like, but you'd always wanted to die quietly. Screams are a weakness you can't afford.
The love of your life turns away from your body, bloodied and bruised. He leaves the room knowing he made his choice, but thinking it was long ago instead of right then and there. He thinks it was already too late, thinks flowers can't blossom on Pompeii. This is the eruption. You bleed out on the table.

The love of your life has a gun to your head. It's been a long series of choices, you know this despite not being there for them; you've always been cognizant of the fact of the matter. So you sit at this table, his metal shaft your first threat, disposable body a proxy for the real thing, wherever he is. You hope he eats well after this. You hope this doesn't stop him loving the detective, because it hasn't stopped you, though perhaps you can only love him like a stuffed toy loves its child.
That's nothing unusual. All versions of you are shells, anyways.

He does something strange, this love of yours.
The whole encounter, this smooth song and dance, his speech and the entrance and the grandiosity, it all must've been to impress you. It'd be cute, sans all the murder.
This, what he says last however-
"Any last words?"
-is different.
You are a puppet on a string and he's pulled at your back, this beautiful boy who you know wants to kill you. You open your mouth, a ventriloquist doll,
"I love you."

…. "Liar." He spits, like a snake spitting acid, you giggle and let a little grin stick. It's just funny; Goro doesn't know what to do with himself, for once. You think this has been a point of conflict for a while. You think maybe he expected you to stay silent. You're glad you said something; you were telling the truth.
He shoots you.

… he doesn't shoot you, but doesn't put the gun down either. The barrel drags down the side of your face, his rubber-gloved hands gripping at your neck, you whimper and sigh because you want nothing more than for him to kiss you. His red eyes are glassy.
"I hate you," He sighs, as if saying a prayer. As if this muttered confession was on the tongue of a saint, on the lips of a lover, you lean forward to kiss him and he fires his gun. You don't die immediately. It's a non-fatal wound.
He leans away, watching you bleed.
The choice was made long ago and both of you know it. You taste blood and pretend it's romance.

… his face flashes with surprise, body jerking away at the confession. The gun discharges and shoots you in the nose. You die laughing.
You were lying, anyways. This can't be love.

… he sets the gun down.
"Then do it yourself."
Picking it up means having control, yet the thought of shooting him simply doesn't occur. Maybe you could run, but then what's the point? You aren't real. This isn't real.
It's better that he live with the consequences.
You raise your weapon.

… shots are fired at the wall until his clip is empty, which takes you by surprise although perhaps it shouldn't. The prince always did what he wanted, at least to the extent that he could. He drops the empty gun on the ground and stares at you like a rabid animal.
"There." He says, "Now can this please be over with?"
You laugh. You've been doing this forever. There are no good endings, no good choices. Someone has to leave with a bullet in their head. The door opens.
You wait.

The love of your life has a gun in your mouth. You bite down until your jaw breaks.

… You start laughing, which is hard to do considering he's shoved the barrel as far as it will go as if now that it's empty he can use it to choke you. You wish he'd use his hands instead. Oh well.
You'll figure something out.

Rules, laws, expectations. There are just some things you can't avoid.
You're dozing off on the train heading top-speed towards Shibuya. You tried desperately to convince your parents not to send you and all it got you was a one-day delay. This is a silent confirmation of the fact that no one has ever been fond of you. No one was upset when you left. You're on this train hoping you'll die on arrival, just to make them pay for sending you at all. Like something tragic and on-fire will reignite latent familial devotion.

For an ephemeral moment you understand the deep dread this induces. The train is quicker than anything else you've ridden, but this is the city. People look antsy. Your stop is up next. The car doesn't stop. It just keeps going.
You drive off the edge of the world.

… you drive straight into a wall, which is exactly what you wanted anyways.
Bleeding out in that warm place, you fall in love for the first time with the feeling of life draining from your body. God, you're so tired. You did well, didn't you? Didn't you try? You spread love where you could, tried to stay out the way, and this is your reward. This rest. Whoever did this to you is an angel, you think, hands twitching with the last of their strength. You think you're in love with them.
Someone heard your prayers.

You made no effort to convince your parents and rode the railway on time, firmly inserting yourself in the coffee shop whose attic you call home. Making small talk with regulars, managing to earn tips despite not being an employee, whipping up coffee with prodigious skill. Your new guardian hires you. Even after everything your favorite part is, invariably, earning his approval.

This time you think shit will go better.
You do what you're supposed to; you do it exceptionally well. You're a leader and a friend and the perfect shoulder to cry on. You study and read, visit the doctor and the blue prison-cell in your dreams, you take baths and fold clothes and handle everything alone. Everyday the bitter aftertaste of coffee sits pretty on your tongue and you think it tastes like love.
You meet the love of your life in that same little hallway, the glamorous Goro Akechi. He keeps making that same mistake and you wonder if this time he'll begin to understand. He starts visiting Leblanc, your coffee-cup home, and you put tremendous effort into everything he drinks. You think he must be able to tell, but he doesn't say anything special.

A car accident kills your principal and Akechi shows up after hours. That's fine; you unlock the door and let him in. He shoves you against the counter top, fist balled into your collar, a gun pressed against your heart,
"Again?" He talks with clenched teeth, voice an anger that boils over on itself. You smile.
"Yes," There's a purr in your voice engineered to annoy him, "you're early this time."
"I should shoot you." He says, to no one in particular, certainly not to you because you know exactly what he should do.
"You won't, though. It would kill you, too."
You point this out to him, wrapping your hands around the barrel of his killing machine, knowing exactly where it came from and why. Knowing this should be impossible; the world won't allow it. Your surroundings are fading.
You hold the gun closer, daring him.

… He lets it clatter to the ground, stumbling back a few paces as you steady yourself after having your collar released.
"You're right." The horror in his voice shouldn't make you laugh, but it does. The impulse to tell him it'll be okay is trumped by your inability to lie to him.
"I can't kill you..." He gapes at his hands and when that fails at you, as if the answers they lacked is somewhere in your face,

"It's like I said." You shrug casually.
"You're early."

… He shoots you, and your eyes go wide. Blood bubbles up in your throat, Goros' hands both relaxing as you slump against him. Your body is weakening, becoming dead weight.
"Why?" You whimper, hearing his breath catch. It's Leblanc. It's a safe room. This can't happen here!
"I had to. I had to."
"Not now!"
He shakes his head, "If not now, then when? At least this time I chose it."
"What about me? My choice?"
Your attempt to muster anger, indignance in any form, comes across as pathetic and sad.
"I'm sorry." Akechi concedes at last,
"Your choices don't matter."

Adam and Eve lounge around in Eden as God feeds His pet snake.
God is a fickle creature, prone to boredom; He created man and gave them rules with the full expectation that they'd be broken, having provided man a nature rooted in rebellion. He gave man ambition with the hope that they'd do something interesting.

Unfortunately, mankind sits around. Adam and Eve laugh and kiss, perfectly sublime, and it makes Him sick to His stomach. His snake crawls at His feet, forever trying to please its master:
"You're in control, aren't you?" It hisses,
"If you're bored then play around with them. There's nothing they can do."
God appears unconvinced.
"Would that not ruin the experiment? The fun?"
The snake, to the extent that snakes can, shrugs,
"Who cares? It's more interesting with inevitability. They'll be happy enough with the illusion of choice."

God smiles. He gives the snake a mission.

You and Akechi lounge around in Leblanc, the detective sipping his beverage as you clean out coffee mugs. It's silent, for the most part, but comfortably so, idle chatter from the television occupying your mind.
The quiet is broken by Akechi's voice, not that you'd have it any other way.

"Do you believe in fate, Joker?"
The use of your codename makes you chuckle. You make a show of chewing on the question for a moment.
"Sure," You shrug lazily, "haven't thought about it much. But I think it's something you can change, too."
Akechi hums in consideration,
"Changing your fate, huh?" He takes a drink, then laughs lightly,
"Doesn't the ability to change fate sort of defeat its purpose?"
You think seriously about it, this time, wondering what the detectives angle is with this line of questioning.

"...No." You say at last, "I think that certain things will always happen, because a lot of things are out of our control, but our choices can impact things. Change fate. Things will always happen as they're supposed to."
Akechi is silent behind you. Turning off the sink, you dry your hands and turn to find him seemingly deep in thought.
"Things will always happen as they're supposed to… That's an interesting way to look at it," He smiles pleasantly, "I'll take my leave."

"Do you believe in fate, Joker?"
The use of your codename makes you chuckle. You make a show of chewing on the question for a moment.
"Nah," You lazily shrug, "haven't thought about it much. But I'd like to think we're responsible for our choices, not fate."
Akechi clicks his tongue introspectively.
"What about choices that are byproducts of your situation? Things you've been forced into, essentially?"
You seriously consider it. Finished with dishwashing, you lean on the countertop oblique to him whilst drumming up an answer.

"Not everything is in the individual person's control." You say at last, "All you can really do is make the best of what you're given."
Akechi chuckles. You meet eyes.
"Isn't that the same as fate, then? If you can get locked into choices because of things you can't control?"
You hum.
"I guess. But things are what they are, regardless of why."

Akechi sighs, much to your surprise, looking sober.
"Yes, well-" He avoids your gaze, standing up to leave, "I suppose it's just nice to think not everything is your fault."

The love of your life has a gun to your head.
"Do you believe in fate, Joker?" He asks.
Forgoing all delusion and horror, you answer the question with one of your own.
"Does it matter?" You say this, to his immediate displeasure, but keep talking before he can shoot.
"Not just what I believe in, but if fate is real. Maybe everything is our fault, forever. Maybe fate and time are in cahoots and actively rigging the game against us. Who cares?"
Gripping the barrel of his gun, you force it against your forehead, compelling him to actively loosen his finger on the trigger.

"We're here. Either you do this or you don't. What now, Goro Akechi?" Through your lashes, you see him glaring,
"Shoot me now, if you have to. Spare my life if you don't. I'm getting out of here, either way. The only question is your involvement."
"And what if it's not up to me?"
You laugh.
"It's always up to you."

"We're still here?"
Akechi lowers the gun, clearly frustrated,
"Why are we still here?"
You examine him rigorously, his pretty-boy face, wondering why he's only just realized this now.
"We'll always be here. It's our purpose."
You stretch, the thin skin where you were bruised flexing in pain.
"Will you shoot me now?"
Momentarily, disgust crosses his face. Then:
"If I do, can we get out?"
"We can move on," It's funny- you lean forward, smiling, and he leans away. It's strange. Maybe you've always been reaching for each other. "But not get out, no. I'm afraid I've yet to figure that part out."

There's a sharp exhale through his nose that makes you chuckle. Nudging aside the dead officer with his foot, Akechi slumps against the door, staring blankly up at the ceiling. You're patient. He clutches the gun.
"Give me a moment." His eyes flutter closed and he looks so damn peaceful.
"Take your time." A shrug accompanies the statement, as if he's asked to relax in Leblanc a little longer after finishing his coffee, "Your choices don't matter, anyways."
The two of you stay there for a long while.

You, the gun, the love of your life. The train, the snake, coffee, paradise and God. These things are all connected; the bullets, then? Conduits, vessels. Faith- belief in the holy, trust in what you can't perceive.

The love of your life has a gun to your head.
He and you both think yourselves grandmasters- you are convinced of the games legitimacy, of your own agency. But truth be told, you're pawns, and God knows this, and He loves you. He is begging to be murdered.
The gun is a snake, it's a connection, between you and him and (of course) God. Extensions of faith keep presenting themselves, red-haired and smiling, but you've got enough on your mind as it is.
This is fate. This is your nature. Fate and time are soulmates.

You believe in God. The love of your life doesn't. The gun can't believe in anything, but if it could it'd believe in its own divinity- it'd believe in the holy bond that connects you with everyone.
The gun was once many pieces, and when brought together it became a killing machine. The fate of the gun is not one of love, and this is something it has learned to relish.

More than anything, you want this to mean something. Bullet time. His hand shifts on the trigger.
Goro Akechi was born a hero. Mined from the ground, his impurities burned away, you wonder what he calls himself now. Perhaps steel; perhaps snake; perhaps God.
Desperately, you wish to ask him, to know and understand his mind before your time expires. It's not fair, it never is. You're always running out of time! Fate, you see now, is greedy.

You never have the chance to finish your game. This too is in your nature, the nature of a boy shot to death. A fake boy, hollow, existing only to hold the conduits that your real self cannot.

It has to be love then; this exchange between fate and time. The boy above you can be one, your battered body the other, the gun can be the holy bond and its bullets vessels for faith. Life is just one big metaphor for itself.
You want to understand.

"Case closed."
This is served justice for both of you. Despite what the boy thinks, no one leaves this room alive. And you'll keep returning, keep starting what you can't finish, and he'll keep on pulling the trigger on faith and letting you taste it. Letting you taste him. You understand this as an act of mercy. Akechi has never been convinced of anything besides his own hate. The gun is satisfied knowing it's done what it was made for. God watches, amusedly. Life drains from your body. You taste love.