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"There is no peace," saith the LORD, "unto the wicked."

Gazing out over the sea, R.J. wondered how long it would take before he had to move again. All this running around was starting to take its toll on him, and he hadn't had a decent enough meal to legitimately fuel himself. He could feel the acid eating away at his stomach walls already. Still, for the time being, things were as peaceful as they'd been since he left home. The only sound from where he sat was that of the waves crashing against the rocks below. It was a terrible analogy given what had just happened, but now, he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.


((Mary-Ann Warren continued from It Knows Nothing of Whim))

For a brief moment, she wondered if she was still looking at R.J. Lowe.

Once upon a time, the silent young man held a certain charm about him. Even only yesterday, when he'd confessed his love to her, he still seemed to hold on to vestiges of that charm that had won Mary-Ann over those few months ago. Now, he seemed little more than a somber husk of her one-time closest friend, ragged and broken by the ravages of this twisted game. On close examination, a handful of his black hair had started to go grey. His skin seemed to have taken on an unnatural pallor, even more pale than it usually was, which only served to highlight the bruises that coated his skin like spots on a leopard. His gaze was not unlike that of a soldier returning from war, thick bags weighing heavy beneath his brown eyes. His right foot was stained all over with the sickening red-brown hue of their attacker's dried blood. She hadn't been looking when he shined the light on the boy's corpse, but if his reaction, R.J.'s, the once-charming knight in tattered armor's, had been any indication, it was for the best.

As he sat there, feet dangling over the side of the cliff, staring out at the sea before them, she wondered if this was the same R.J. Lowe she used to know. She approached, kneeling down a bit further back from the edge, if he hadn't, perhaps, been replaced by someone else as they slept.

No, she thought. That would just be silly.

So how well did she really know this boy sitting next to her? The boy who'd claimed he loved her?

She placed a hand on his shoulder. "You know, it's not really safe, this close to the edge."

Yeah. I know.

He turned his head just a bit to the side, just enough to let her know that he was acknowledging her. That he was listening. Not enough to look at her, though. He couldn't bring himself to. She'd just seen him at his worst. Seen him take a life, right in front of her. Well, not seen, but the effect, the principle, it was all the same. But still, for whatever reason, she'd stayed by his side. There were voices in the distance. Probably the two students he'd seen further down. He wasn't really paying attention, just registering that they were there.

She should go to them. She'd be safer with them.

"Please... don't cry."

A single, tiny finger gently caressed R.J.'s cheek, wiping away the tears he hadn't noticed starting to slip down his face. He seemed genuinely puzzled when the fact dawned on him.

Wait... Mary-Ann... Was I crying?

"Yeah. You were."

She reached around to the other side of his chin, slowly pivoting his head to face her, so she could look him in the eye. Even with her on her knees and him sitting, slouched forward, no less, she still had to look up to do so. His eyes were Coke-can red from the tears, and she could see a bit of snot dripping down before he sniffed it back into his nasal cavity. For a moment, she looked down, just a bit. Before the other night, she'd never actually seen the scar on his neck, as he'd always worn a scarf to cover it up, and she hadn't actually taken notice of it until now. He'd always called it a scar, anyway; in reality, it looked more like a vaguely triangular hole. When he swallowed his sadness, she could see the organs in his throat bulge and contract. The whole thing only served to accentuate just how disheveled he was. As strong as he once seemed to her, now, he just looked so vulnerable. She looked him squarely in the eye, the same stern look he'd once given her now being returned in kind. There were voices in the distance. Probably the two students she'd noticed out of the corner of her eye earlier. She wasn't really paying attention, just registering that they were there.

She had to stay with R.J. She had to protect him, like he'd protected her.

With all she had, Mary-Ann embraced R.J, and though it pained his battered body, he accepted.

Whatever was going on in the distance, they both supposed it could wait.
<Mimi>: You are much nicer than I thought you'd be!
<Stark>: Shut up, fatty.
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Keep Yourself Alive · Southern Cliffs