Déjà vu, Part 2 (Rebirth)

Izuru's despair only grows stronger as the final trial progresses, because there is no way to beat Enoshima. The Other is going to choose to graduate, because that is logically the only choice he can make—it is human instinct to preserve one's existence, and he will not choose to shut down the program knowing it will erase him, again. Izuru is going to die, and Enoshima is going to come back, and yes he had calculated that was a possibility, but to suddenly be faced with the reality of its inevitability, to be embroiled in despair as it happens, is a stark difference from supposition.

There's a change. One minute he's looking through The Other's teary eyes, the next he's staring down at his hands. Somehow, his little corner of existence has taken physical form, a courtroom with his fingers curling claw-like around his podium's edges. He glances up; in front of him are The Other, staring wide-eyed as if being confronted with his existence for the first time, and Nanami.

"We need to help him, too," she's saying softly to The Other, whose demeanor is somehow hopeful again. The Other looks upon him with something between disgust and pity, and that—

That irks him, and he finds himself compelled to tear down their hopes, bring them back to reality.

Even now Izuru does not yell, but he spits the words, cold and poisonous, laying out all the facts for The Other. They do not owe the world anything, they are only going to be betrayed and used again and again, and what's the point in continuing to fight? Despair has won. He doesn't know a way to beat Enoshima. He can't do anything. It's not his fault or his problem. He even turns his words on himself, self-loathing as he recounts how his talents aren't even real. He is nothing. They are nothing.

For each declaration he makes, The Other counters, statements flying like bullets from his mouth and pointed finger as he professes that none of that matters, because they can make their own future. And each one chisels another chink in his armor; Izuru's emotional state is too erratic, too distracting for him to speak efficiently. His arguments are falling apart and he can't understand how The Other can believe in hope when it is the weaker of the two. He's clutching his podium so hard it is likely all that's keeping him upright. His vision is blurry.

Cool, gentle hands take his face, and he starts. Nanami has left her place by The Other's side, and is smiling at him as she cradles his wet cheeks.

"It's okay," she says kindly. "It's okay to be angry and sad. The world's been unfair to you both. And you're right, you don't owe it anything. But…don't you think you owe it to yourselves to make a future you like?"

…A future he likes?

…Does he like this? Does he like this feeling of despair, curdling like something dead and rotting beneath his sternum? Weighing down his shoulders and making him sick to his stomach?

No, he doesn't. But the future he'd like is one he can't predict, and despair has proven itself to be that wild card—

A thought occurs to him, looking into soft pink eyes.

How is she here?

She is—she is dead. Her avatar was deleted, her data erased. The closest thing to an explanation his harried mind can offer up is that she is an amalgamation of his and The Other's memories. And that is…something else he couldn't have predicted. Is this her hope again? But hadn't despair already won? So then how can hope still be putting up such a good fight?

And, with striking crystal clarity, Izuru realizes the answer he's been looking for is what's been in front of him all along.

Oh. Oh, I get it now.

It's not that hope is stronger than despair, or vice-versa—they're equals. One is meaningless without the other. And both are meaningless without emotion—you cannot hope or despair if you are not emotionally invested in anything. It's why he felt almost nothing until Nanami died. Logic and talent, those things have their places, but they are no substitutes. Possessing or pursuing only them won't make an unpredictable future, a future he wants—hasn't his entire life up until now been proof of that?

No, what really matters…is the bonds you make with people.

As if reading his mind, Nanami smiles brilliantly and steps back. He gazes at her, the lump in his throat making words impossible. This is the second time she's saved him, does she realize that? He has so many things he wants to say—

But somehow, he feels that she already knows.

The Other—Hinata—holds out his hand. "We can beat Enoshima," he says, clearly. "If we just try, everything will be fine. You, me, our friends…we'll all be fine even if we go through with the shutdown. I really believe that. Do you?"

Instead of responding, Izuru takes Hinata's hand, and he feels born again.

A/N: So this and the last chapter were (obviously) based off Hajime's debate against Izuru in Chapter 6. Mostly because I was wondering how someone so emotionless would actually reach the pits of despair (whereas before DR3 I thought he was emotionless because he'd fallen into despair). Needless to say, writing despairing Izuru was even harder than writing emotional Izuru.

Anyway, thank you so much to everyone who reviewed this! I enjoyed writing for this OTP week and I hope y'all enjoyed reading it. This fandom is great and I'm very lucky to have met such great people. All you readers, whether you reviewed or not, are awesome 3