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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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It wasn't that Nick didn't want to give an answer. That wasn't the cause of his struggle. After all, he didn't have anything to hide. And if he did have something to hide, he could just lie through his teeth. Putting his game face on, covering up his depression, it had given him experience in that area. It wasn't exactly the same thing. But it was still a lie.

At the moment, he didn't really care about putting his emotions on display. Not if he could he could use anger, hatred, fear, anything to get enough adrenaline to break the giant's vicelike grip. But for Nick's tired, skinny body, it seemed there wasn't enough adrenaline in the world. Fists were laughably useless; scratching and grasping, annoyingly so; kicking, alarmingly so. He didn't really know if the guy would do to him, but if he wanted to kill him, he wouldn't be able to stop him. That's what was sending his heart racing. That was why he struggled so viciously. That trapped feeling, closing in on him, locking him in a room with the Grim Reaper. It descended on him just like claustrophobia, and in a sense, it was. Because his life depended solely on the actions of someone else, someone he couldn't trust fully because he could only trust himself. A chilling prospect.

He jerked his knee up once more, and then one massive hand closed around his neck. Powerful fingers dug into the sides of his neck and he wondered if he would just collapse like Buttercup in front of Fezzick, but even if he didn't it wouldn't really matter because whether his arteries were cut off or his windpipe was crushed he was totally helpless and the tunnel was closing around him and there was nothing he could do to stop it zero things he could do with his brain or with his mouth or with his body and then he'd just be a corpse a third corpse on the wall of the cave and there was nothing he could say no last words no talking him out of it

Pressure, gone. Lessened, at least - he was still caught in an unbreakable grip. What the hell did the kid think he was doing? Chickening out, letting Nick die a slow and painful death as he worked out how to wrap his tiny little mind around the idea of killing, which was so darned easy if you could handle the surge of emotion that came with it, just squeeze and hold and holy crap on a stick, he'd grabbed his collar.

For two seconds, it would have been easy to mistake Nick for a statue, a beaten, harried statue with a drop of blood collecting on the end of his nose, drawing from the rivulets oozing down from his forehead. He didn't know where, or rather who exactly the blood came from, and he really didn't want to discover whether it was his own or the deceased badly injured student's, languishing on the tip of his nose, breaking and falling with a nearly inaudible plip on the ground below.

And the kid holding the collar did nothing but let off a sigh. Was this a threat, or another attempt to kill him? Whichever it was, it was so incredibly stupid, maybe the single worst way to get the job done. He could try calling the kid's bluff - surely he knew what danger he was putting himself in, and he'd let go in fear of his own life. But if he didn't realize that missing an entire hand would toss his chances of winning into the dumpster, he might just pull it. So, which was it? Would he really-

"Do it. I don't care that I'll kill myself..."

Aw, come ON!

That was the icing on the cake. Nick couldn't out-crazy sane a guy who was just as crazy sane as he was. Now he would be forced to give in, he'd have to-

Oh, right. Tell him when I saw Jennifer. Not, like, kill myself or something. Kind of slipped my mind there when I totally almost died.

"Umm..." Nick was pretty choppy at improv. And he wasn't normally in such an awkward situation. "We were in this cave, actually. Isn't that - not ironic, umm, funny? You totally heard me call for her, so, uh, you notice how I asked if she was still here? 'Cause I don't think she even left that long ago. It was early on the second day, I think. No, know. Like the "I know" kind, not-" Pressure on his throat told him his little tangent wasn't necessary. "So it was definitely the morning of the second day. I slept on that little ledge-, uh, right, so she came walking through the tunnel. And I talked to her, and she helped me wrap my arm. She was so nice, she told me I didn't deserve to die," he could feel tears welling up, but he forced his voice to stay smooth and unwavering. "I just - that meant a lot, you know, since the whole Daniel thing, and Maxwell worked me over, may he rot in pieces. So then there was this fight, and one kid was hurt real bad, so she was taking care of him, and the other, uh, well, he got killed, and someone dragged his corpse outside so I think maybe she was staying in here for a while because, you know, I don't think he was making very good company."

Nick was amazed by how much talking he'd done when he swore he couldn't get out half a sentence. The blood coming down his face was drying off, starting to get thick and sticky. He really didn't want to say any more. A sudden chill hummed up and down his ribcage as David's nose crunched horribly against his forehead. Bone shattering, snapping, crackling, splintering, spurting blood, something creeping up behind him but he didn't know what, some demon for whom solid rock had no meaning coming through the wall he was pressed against to wrench his spine right out of his body...

He shivered.

"So, uh, you're gonna let me go, yeah?"



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Carpe Noctum · The Tunnels