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In some cultures, what I do is considered normal.
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As Annaliese tracked the movements of Jimmy’s shotgun, she fully expected to see her life flash before her eyes. That was, traditionally, what was supposed to happen when one was facing down certain doom, right?

There was no PowerPoint highlight reel of her past. Instead, time stretched out as everything slowed to a crawl. Ray surged towards Jimmy and batted the shotgun, sending it flying as Jimmy’s expression shifted from one of rage to one of sheer horror. Annaliese couldn’t help but track the gun’s tumbling descent, fearful that it would discharge when it hit the ground.

The only rational thought ricocheting through her mind was a scene from Army of Darkness. ‘This... is my boomstick! The twelve-gauge double-barreled Remington. You can find it in the sporting goods department. Retails for about a hundred and nine, ninety five. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.’

‘Focus, damnit! FO-CUS,’ her brain screamed at her. Annaliese tore her eyes away from the gun just in time to see Ray wrap his arms around a flailing Jimmy and pull off a maneuver she had only ever seen performed on television. In a move that looked effortless, Ray lifted Jimmy clean off his feet. As the two hit the apogee of the lift, Ray arched backwards, taking Jimmy with him.

Time began to resume its normal flow as the boys turned head-first towards the ground. Annaliese, however, was still frozen in place by the time slip that had obviously occurred. Ray and Jimmy were going to bounce off the ground and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it. She willed herself to move, open her mouth and call out to Ray.

It was the abrupt end to the screaming that finally spurred her into action. As they had moved, both boys were screaming; a visceral, savage song of fury and despair. It was hard to tell apart Ray’s voice from Jimmy’s until Jimmy became silent and only Ray remained.

Horrified by the sight of her travel buddy mounting Jimmy’s thrashing form, Annaliese could only flinch and gasp as Ray stood up and grabbed the discarded gun in possessive fashion. During all the time they had spent together over the past few days, never once had Annaliese been frightened or intimidated by anything Ray said or did. In fact, being with Ray had been the most comforting and relaxing part of this whole trip. She had felt secure because they were sharing their burdens, concerns, and worries. They had started opening up to each other, really connecting on a basic level. It had been part of the universe’s plan. She had been sure of it.

But now…

What had happened? Who was this man standing before her and where had Ray gone? Ray wasn’t a yeller. Ray wasn’t Sam Jackson on steroids. Ray was the calm, logical one of their duo. Ray didn’t react to threats like this. He sure as hell didn’t react to Kris like this.

‘Still waters run deep,’ her inner voice supplied. The silent comment only served to heighten her awareness that she didn’t really know Raymond Dawson. They had spent some hours together, but she didn’t really know what his triggers were or how sensitive they were. She certainly hadn’t thought that he was carrying around this type of explosive rage.

Annaliese bit her lip to keep from making any noise that would draw his attention. She had yelled at Jimmy, who turned the gun on her. In turn, Ray turned into the goddamned Hulk. And just like the Hulk, Ray’s rage hadn’t worn off yet. She winced as Ray planted a foot on his fallen rival and bellowed at him. The whole scene was turning into something out of a National Geographic special.

She knew Ray was an athlete, just like her brother. She should have seen that competitive edge in him, the hidden alpha male instinct. The part of him that would not take kindly to being challenged by another. The part that would goad him into proving that he wasn’t just better, he was fucking superior in every way and would grind the challenger into dust under his heel to prove it.

It was coming out now, and it was coming out in spades. Except, unlike hockey and wrestling and boxing, this wasn’t a game. This was literally life and death. Ray continued to berate Jimmy and menace him with the shotgun. Oh god, what was she supposed to do?

Afraid to say anything, Annaliese simply stood in mute witness as Ray came to a decision and launched the gun that started this all somewhere far away. She dropped her eyes to the ground, suddenly afraid to make eye contact with Ray. Her fingers twitched restlessly as she tugged and played with dozen or so gel bracelets on her wrist. She felt like she should say something, but what? What do you say to a display like that?

Ray saved her the trouble by barking that they should get their things, they were leaving. She shrank back a bit to allow him to enter the house unhindered. Without saying a word, she submissively trailed after him. Maybe if she just gave him space, everything would be okay. He obviously needed time to cool down and get things back under control.

Annaliese winced at Alex’s snarky comment and frantically shook her head, trying to warn the other girl. Alex had a brother too, but Roman hadn’t seemed the type to Hulk out like Ray just had. In fact, of the two, Alex was probably the more confrontational of the pair. That was the last thing they needed at the moment, another person to challenge Ray. ‘Oh Jesus, please don’t let Ray turn and pop her in the mouth. I don’t know how amped up he is, and I know there’s no way I could stop him. Shut up, Alex. Please shut up,’ she silently begged.

Alex had been inside, so maybe she had missed the full extent of what had taken place outside. That had to be it, or else she wouldn’t be talking to Ray with that tone. Annaliese stopped next to the other girl and gave her a one-armed hug. “Just…just get your stuff, okay? It’s all gonna be okay. Just don’t make him more mad, okay?” she whispered, her eyes flicking nervously to Ray. She glanced back out the door and gave her head a brief, tight shake. “We’re getting the hell out of Dodge, okay?”

Something bumped against her and Annaliese skittishly jumped away from Alex before she realized that the other girl already had her belongings and was ready to go. Letting out a shaky laugh, she nervously brushed her bangs back from her face. “Oh, you’re all ready. Sorry, sorry. Let me grab my stuff and then we can motor.”

A few big strides brought Annaliese to her bag and what was left of her supplies. She shouldered it and cleared her throat. “I think that’s it for everybody who’s going ashore,” she said as she glanced at Ray before quickly looking away.
Edited by BetaKnight, May 4 2011, 10:38 PM.
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