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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
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You can't do anything right.

...But I can do some things very, very wrongly. Once already...

But not after a meeting, a conversation. You haven't done that.
Couldn't do that.

He scrabbled around in the darkness, fist closing on a rock, and flung it down the tunnel. Nothing's under my control, he thought, his missile passing into Isaac Newton's care. I can't get off this island, I can't stop Alex from hunting me down, I can't even stop myself from falling apart like a house of cards. Turning to her as she stepped into the light, Of course you don't know, if anyone in this place is going to figure things out, he's sitting right in front of you...


Nick coughed, choking down the lump in his throat and wiping his running nose carelessly on his sleeve. "You stepped into the light. You trust me." The words came slowly and deliberately, quavering yet strong, the measured recitation of a man determined to keep his emotions in check if he had to use a cattle prod to do it. "Or at least," he continued, stronger now, "You don't think I'll kill you. That's... thank you."

Such was his condition that the simple gesture, a single vote of confidence, took on a significance of its own. His first meaningful interaction that didn't involve harsh words and harsher fists. There was nothing else to do but return it, show that he wasn't all bad, that maybe there could be more than yelling and fighting and killing...

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

He got unsteadily to his feet and shifted slowly over the uneven floor and into the cone of light. Now it was his turn to hope she had no weapon up her sleeve, that if she did she wouldn't use it, that if she used it she would fail to strike the killing blow. Continuing on in his lethargic gait, he crossed the width of the tunnel, leaning against the wall facing his flashlight. He turned to look at Jennifer, squinting as his eyes grew adjusted to the beam and showing his battered state.

On one side of his face, the customary purple crescent beneath his eye joined seamlessly into a still-growing shiny black bruise that encircled it. One healing split on his lip pinched its surroundings into a jagged black slash; another was oozing blood. Brown crust marked the places where blood had been pounded out of his face. Ugly yellow splotches marked where the skin had contained it. Flecks of black and brown clung tenaciously to areas he hadn't swept properly, and every bit of unmarred skin was pale, sweaty, and dusty. A face, to use the cliche, that only a mother could love.

"These," he said, raising his bandaged arm and giving an unmistakable look seeking appraisal, "Are the kinds of people we're dealing with. Thank you," he continued, rising restlessly to his feet, "For thinking I don't deserve to die."

He could feel his voice rise again - for goodness' sakes, couldn't he act calm for more then a second? He averted his eyes for a second, but returned his gaze to Jennifer, to see what she had to say. He felt his arm twitch, and when he realized why an emptiness descended upon him. He didn't care who Jennifer was, that he'd had little interaction with her before. What he saw was someone who would take the time, talk to him for however long. Someone who, in their own way, cared for him. And his natural reaction was to reach out, make contact, show unambiguously his appreciation. Feel the warmth of another human in his arms, share a moment of reciprocal kindness, think for just a second that his life had meaning and his death lay decades into the future.

He kept his arms stiffly at his sides.



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Spelunking · The Tunnels