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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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Marco performed admirably, making the decision Jennifer had been too cowardly to take responsibility for. Phil was accepting, Alex was grateful. Thing was, he was being too grateful. Too calculated. Jennifer was not a naturally suspicious person. There was no fucking way she could claim to have very sound judgment. But the one thing she knew well was people, and Alex's request was setting off all sorts of warning bells. He wanted to stand in the middle? Might as well just say that he didn't give a fuck what happened to his human shields. Why on earth would he be so upfront? He wasn't good in a fight? And, what, Jennifer was fucking Wonder Woman (and where the fuck was China Woman, at that? Keeping off the announcements, thank goodness)? And Phil, beat to within an inch of his life, he was real menacing, right?

No, no, that was too harsh a judgment of the newcomer. She was on edge. Skittish after the events thus far. That had to be it.

And so, she said, "Um, yeah, no problem, Alex."

Weight at her back, still comforting, for no good reason. Yes. Alex could walk in the middle. Because there was one little thing he was forgetting.

And so, she said, "I can take rear guard."

A smile. Small, hidden. Did Marco and Alex even know she was armed? Didn't matter. No fucking way was Jennifer going to let their group disintegrate. No fucking way was she going to let Phil get hurt again. There was a difference between compassion and idiocy, between being a pushover and being inept.

As they started to walk, Jennifer furtively reached behind her back, running her fingers over the icepick, remembering the tunnels, the note she had dropped in them somewhere and not had the inclination to go back for. She couldn't let her guard down now, couldn't die yet. She still had a lot of work to do.

((Jennifer Perez continued in Final Third Foul))
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
Library Vee
Misty Browder drawn by Ryuki
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Still Going Strong · The Woods: Coastal