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Haven't You Got Eyes in Your Head?; Private thread, but it's worth it. Trust me.
Topic Started: Aug 28 2010, 09:35 PM (3,456 Views)
MK Kilmarnock
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((Ivan Kuznetsov, continued from A Solitude That Asks Nothing in Return))

His eyes had not left the position from which they were locked. Dead ahead, squinted attentively, focusing on where he needed to go, that was all that mattered to Ivan. If it weren't for the tight grip his hand had on Tabi's, he would have no idea whether or not she was lost. Ivan wished he could let go, as his right arm was in searing, white-hot pain, but as much as he wanted for the pain to go away, as much as he wanted to be alone, his body wouldn't allow him to have either. For whatever reason, he was intent on having this girl stick around. He tried to justify it with some ulterior motive based on survival: using her as a meatshield, an extra set of eyes, something that wasn't just her company.

Ivan didn't need the company of some random girl he hardly knew, he needed the company of his brother, his aunt, his mother. He needed to be home.

His body was drenched with sweat and, at least for his right arm, what was probably blood, but Ivan hadn't dared to look. He had to cover as much ground as possible, get away from Clio, away from that gun, away from what could have very well been death staring him in the face. To think that some of his classmates had already started losing their composure and attacking. Well... that was all the more reason to stay away from as many people as he could, at least until he could get his mind into order, do what needed to be done. The girl... Tabi, she had said her name was Tabi after he had thrown her to the ground (where she had subsequently pissed herself... how promising). She seemed healthy, but at the moment, fundamentally useless. Still, something drove him to keep her around.

As Ivan allowed his body to slow down, the adrenaline seeping away from him, the first thing he had noticed was just how much his arm hurt. This was the sort of pain he was familiar with; he had once ripped his shoulder open on a piece of chain-link fence that had snapped into a couple of jagged pieces. That was acute pain, just like this. More short-term terror, but as Ivan hissed through his teeth to try and combat the sting, he could at least fall back on the memory of when he had twisted his shoulder. That was far worse.

The second thing that came to him was that this area was dramatically different from the woods on the edge of that salty beach. The trees had thinned, and the terrain was more rocky, more mountainous. It had been that way for a while, as well; for all he knew, he could be halfway up a damn peak. He would have to slow down his pace anyway if he wanted to get anywhere, which Ivan reluctantly did. He looked at the girl that he had been dragging with him all this time, to her scared face, then to her hand, which he let go of. The very next thing that he saw was his arm, and the jagged streak that ran almost perfectly horizontal to his shoulder.

"Shit..."

That was all he could utter at first. Ivan took a step or two, letting his umbrella fall at his feet. So, he had really been shot. That whore, that cunt, she had really shot him. Well, of course she had. It wasn't like that sharp pain in his arm was a mosquito or anything, but Ivan had hoped that maybe he had just scratched it, or... or damn it, something! It was a stupid thing to hope, but anything was better than this, better than bleeding this much blood.

"Shit... shit... SHIT!" He built up to a scream, clutching his shoulder with his left hand and turning on his heel to glare at Tabi. "Well, hope you're happy!" He snapped at her. Maybe it wasn't fair to Tabi, but he really could care less about her feelings at the moment. He got shot over getting her out of there, so she better at least be of some use to him later. The very least he could do at this moment was survey his surroundings. A few trees, rocky dirt, a fallen log that they could sit on... the basics. Oh, and a girl who still had a giant wet spot over her crotch.

Classy.
Edited by MK Kilmarnock, Aug 28 2010, 10:06 PM.
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Ivan shook his head to Tabi's reaction of anxiety, apprehension, or whatever the hell it was. He didn't have time for something like that when so much blood was leaking from his arm. He thought for sure that the wound itself wouldn't be fatal; there were no important organs hit, and he didn't see any blood spurting energetically (would've been ridiculous if a graze, a GRAZE, of all things, were to kill him), but the flow was still deserved some mention and thought. So, the girl was worried about him? Well... GOOD. This was her fault, and a bit of gratitude and fear was definitely nice. He followed her with his eyes as she moved about, sitting down on a rock. Great... it looked like she was about to cry. That was EXACTLY what he needed.

Ivan had a large glob of spit accruing in his mouth from working his jaw in frustration. Instead of swallowing it as he had before, he felt more inclined to spit it out on the ground. He watched the wad hit the rocky dirt with a near-silent splat, almost depressing in its insignificance. If he died, would anybody outside of his family care? Ivan knew he didn't exactly have a ton of close friends on the island... would any of his classmates care if he turned up amongst the dead? He knew at least one of them wanted him dead, possibly two, and both for very little reason at all. Others could be out to get him, and this only served to further the point: Ivan was nothing more than an extra in a large cast of this show. He'd be a statistic when somebody finally offed him.

If that was how it was going to be, at least Ivan was going to have his piece beforehand. He would die on his own terms if he had anything to do with it, and that involved, most immediately, NOT bleeding to death. Giving a short look to Tabi, Ivan walked with a foot-dragging gait over to the fallen log near her rock, sitting down and slinging the daypack off of his shoulders. He remembered checking through it earlier, finding a few important things before everything went even further down into hell than they already were. Digging past the rations for the time being (though this reminded him of his salt-spurred thirst), his hand found the first aid kid. With his trusty 'weapon' at his side, Ivan opened and rummaged through the kit with his left hand until he found what he needed; a small roll of gauze bandaging should've served his purpose just fine.

"... Hey." He looked to Tabi, repeating the verbal jab if she hadn't been paying attention. "... I need help with this. You're not squeamish, right?"
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For a moment, Ivan had felt... a little bad.

Not about making Tabi patch up his wound like that, hell no. He could hardly bear to look at or touch it, and considering it was her fault anyway, it was her job. No, he felt a little bad about laying into her so hard, rubbing it in that it was her fault. He had seen people on the court who liked to rub in the fact that they had just won. Ivan despised those types of people, and there were plenty of parallels to be drawn between them and how he had just acted.

But it WAS her fault, even so.

Ivan attempted to justify it, but he was having doubts about just how much Tabi had really caused. He could have just left her there to Etain and Clio, but with Clio there, and Etain's apparent lack of sense (and intelligibility), perhaps she wouldn't have made it out of there. Why did he care? He didn't know, but it was very possible Ivan just didn't want to be alone. There was a new thought...

But then again, the fact that he did get her out of there, and was injured for doing so, she should at least be thankful. And yet again (again), it was Ivan's choice... not hers.

Fine. I'll stop yelling at her, but I don't have to like-

His thoughts had drawn his mind away from the pain in his arm for a while, but he could only keep up the wall for so long. Tabi had been tending to his wounds, wiping and cleaning, and had apparently found some sort of spray. He didn't know how, since in his rush to find the bandage, he didn't see the anti-septic spray and hadn't really been listening to her as she was working on him, and as such, the jet of the spray had come as a bit of a shock. It hurt, and he hissed loudly to let Tabi know that it hurt, but he didn't move, and continued to focus his stare elsewhere.

Mere moments later, Ivan could feel the final touches to the gauze bandage being placed on his arm. It wasn't as though he had just gone to the nurse's office or something, but as he slowly, tentatively shifted his right arm to feel only a minimal haze of pain (to be expected from being shot), he realized that Tabi at least had some knowledge of what she had just been doing; at the very least, that was another reason to justify keeping her around.

As she had finished up and Ivan was testing the healing, though, Tabi had said something. A few things which... seemed rather basic. Well, not his name. It came to no surprise that Tabi didn't know who he was, yet he knew her. It was that way for a lot of the students, and he liked it that way some of the time, but he honestly wished that people would acknowledge his presence on the tennis team, and as its captain. They could keep the acknowledgement silent, sure, but at least it would be there.

"... I'm Ivan," he said as he stood up, trying to contain his patience. "... You're Tabi. That's not important. What IS is that we're on an island, fighting to the death. Clio is playing the game, she wants us dead. I'm not playing, but don't think that makes me some hero or anything."

Ivan tapped the bandage with his finger for a second. Damn... she really did do a good job.

"Because there are no heroes here. You understand?"
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"GET LOST!"

The blood in Ivan's body had begun pumping full-force once again. His heart was now pounding in his ears, threatening to push his eardrums right out of their place. Half of this was pure shock; he wasn't expecting anybody to really follow them, and when somebody appeared from nowhere, he feared it was Clio with that gun, ready to finish the job that she had started. Or maybe it was Etain, who had somehow procured a weapon and decided to take revenge for Ivan hitting him.

It wasn't either of those people, but that did little to placate the burning that was rising up in the boy's chest. For once, Ivan couldn't even place the name of who this person was. He might've known at one point, and maybe if he was calmer, he could work it out as to who it was. Sadly for the both of them, he no longer cared. This lack of caring was only diminished (assuming it hadn't actually hit rock bottom yet) by the very fact that the boy had done the exact opposite of what he had asked; he stepped closer.

"Hey..." the strange boy started, looking mostly at Ivan, but his eyes flickered every so often to Tabi. "First off, it looks like you're injured, and weaponless, so you should probably calm down when people approach you. Also, considering I'm the bigger of the two and may just have something packing on me, it's YOU who should probably back off."


Keith watched Ivan shake, but the boy had a rather apparent and bloody bandage on his arm, and was considerably smaller than Keith himself. He didn't have any weapon more powerful than those god-awful marriage licenses, something hardly capable of doing something more than inflicting a minor paper cut, but these two kids didn't have to know that. If he wanted to survive, it was a simple fact: loot others who were too emotionally weak to stick up for themselves, then use the equipment to protect yourself from those who did.

Keith took a nice, calm breath, the best he could muster, and spoke again. "Now... why don't we start by you backing away from your backpacks so-"

Neither boy had expected or was really prepared for what happened next.

All the rage that had built up inside Ivan had been looking for an outlet to release itself on. Tabi, Clio, Etain, and now this fucker, nobody seemed to want to leave him alone. He was weakened, injured, there was blood in the water... so of course. OF. FUCKING. COURSE. Somebody had to hunt him down like a coyote, a rabit, festering, parasite-ridden dog that opportunistically sought to steal what little possessions Ivan had left. He couldn't have that.

Any scream Ivan made was purely internal, but it was louder than any true noise to him as he rushed to tackle Keith. The larger boy acted on instinct; Keith really hated fights. In his words, 'pain BAD', and he usually did anything he could to avoid getting into them. It looked like pure flight wasn't an option here, though, and he had to think fast before -

OH SHIT SCARY SHORT BLOND KID RUSHING AT ME!

Keith grabbed the arm Ivan was leading with in his charge and turned with his momentum, flinging him as hard as he could. He let go of the boy to watch him stumble and turn, trying to stop himself and failing from smashing backwards into some of the limbs of a decrepid-looking tree. He heard the crack, saw the boy fall to his hands and knees, and decided that now was the best time to turn tail and run.

Ivan hadn't realized what had happened until his back was already set for its collision with something hard, something that hurt like a bitch. As whatever it was brought itself across its spine, Ivan heard a loud 'crack' and hoped it wasn't his back. For a moment, pain coupled with the horrifying thought that it WAS his back, and his knees gave way to send him crumpling to the ground. Panting, he struggled to push up on his left arm and glare upwards at the interloper. He was... running away?

No... you're not getting away... don't run... DON'T RUN FROM ME!

His glasses may have been green, but Ivan now saw nothing but red. It took him a moment to get to his feet, and Ivan blindly reached around him for support. On the ground, his left hand came into contact with something wooden. Picking it up without much of a thought, he brought the object around to the front of him and pushed up on it: a broken tree branch... likely the thing he had just met with violently. Just as silent as before, Ivan pushed off and began to charge, ignoring the shooting pain in his body. Keith was running right past Tabi to get away, but Ivan was faster. Even with his body aching and crying for him to stop, he sprinted at full power until he was within range, striking down at the boy's legs.

Keith's cry echoed a bit in Ivan's head, playing in perfect harmony to the branch breaking once again, leaving a particularly large knot at the end of it. Keith, unknown as such to the furious Ivan, fell to the ground in pain. Maybe his legs were broken, maybe they weren't, but they definitely felt broken. The boy rolled over and screamed from the agonizing pain the branch had just inflicted, but Ivan was waiting to bring the branch down on Keith's face. Again. And again. And again.

Again.

Again.

AGAIN.

Right in front of Tabi.
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Thwack.

Ivan brought the branch up, then over his head, then down again. The boy was no longer offering much resistance. Then again, the boy no longer had much of a discernable face. But... there was no way out of this course, no way to stop the actions, because when all was said and done, Ivan's world had fallen apart. His entire life, his entire collection of hopes, dreams, possibilities, relationships, they were all locked far away to where he couldn't get them unless he waded through an ocean of blood.

THWACK.

There were screams, but Ivan no longer could tell if they were Keith's or Tabi's. They had no voice, just ghostly noises, white scattered noise in his head to counter the red that dominated his vision. The body at his feet, the one that he continued to pummel, Ivan knew it could no longer perceive much of anything, and certainly not its plight, nor his. And yet, he swung again.

THWACK.

Why? Why had this happened to them? In any other happenstance, these two would have continued living completely seperate lives. They would not have been friends, but Ivan would still be on track. Tabi would still be living whatever life she had been before, and best of all, he would have had no care nor involvement in either one of them. All of that would have been fine. So why, why!? Ivan repeated the question in a croaking, overloaded mutter without realizing it, as his own voice did not matter for the time being. He raised the branch one more time, and lowered it with no more force than what gravity had to offer.

Squish

B152, Keith Christoph - DECEASED.

...

Ivan threw down the branch, staring at the results of his actions. Just moments ago, this lifeless, bloodied and broken shell on the ground on front of him had held life. And he had just taken it away.

There are no heroes in this game.

And so the island had changed him too. Even with as meager a goal as he had given himself, Ivan could not pull through. He could not succeed, rise above what others had sunk themselves down to. Ivan stared at the caved-in remnants of Keith's face for a few agonizing seconds before his eyes, his mind, neither could take any more. They tried to escape that horrific view, only to settle upon the innocent branch that had been held by guilty hands, and now stained with the blood of his victim. The boy that Ivan had killed in cold blood, all because he was driven by fear.

There were cameras... he knew the sick fucks putting them through this hell were filming them, and it was highly likely that his family could, WOULD, watch. Aunt Vera, his mother... Louis... if they had seen, would they take him back? Even if Ivan had survived, he knew they wouldn't. They would see him as a monster, a monster who could only be redeemed by succumbing to the horrible game himself. Redemption only by lowering oneself to the equal status of their victims, which... in this case, meant that Ivan would have to die. He had never expected to live, he knew that he would have to say his goodbyes to his brother, but knowing that on the other side of that camera lens, a million miles away, Louis might not listen.... He might not want to listen to his big brother, who was now a murderer.

It was all too much to stand. Ivan's hands gripped his head at the templed. He turned and limped towards the tree that he had met with just moments earlier, or an eon ago... he couldn't tell how long it was. Upon approaching the trunk, his hands reached out to grasp at it, pushing at it with all the strength he had left to keep himself standing. His mouth opened to scream, but no words came out any longer. His lips repeatedly mouthed the word 'why', and he squeezed his lungs to try and force out as much air as he could, but his voice would not respond.

A tremendous amount of pressure had been building up behind his eyes as well, and Ivan produced the first few tell-tale heaves of sobbing. His head pressed into the rough bark of the old, dying tree, his lips pulled back and his teeth clenched tight.

No... please, not now...

If you cry... you're weak.

If you're weak, you give in.

If you give in, it really is all over.

You still haven't pulled it together, you haven't said goodbye.

You need to say that.

He WILL listen.


There was a loud hiss as he breathed in, and Ivan pulled back away from the tree, releasing the pressure in his jaw. He did what he did for a reason, in order to keep himself and Tabi alive. That was where he was going to leave it, if only simply because he couldn't afford to think of a better reason why. It was here that he could once again hear the screaming. Ivan turned, still catching his breath, to see Tabi screaming. He had a pretty good idea of what she was screaming at, and immediately moved between her and it, his hands laying down hard onto her shoulders.

"TABI!" Ivan shouted, but the girl seemed to be curtained behind a wall of fear. ... Understandable, really, but he had to get through, somehow. He moved his head with hers until he could definitely align his eyes to the screaming girl's, staring at her and hopefully blocking her view of anything else. The grip on her shoulders squeezed significantly tighter for a moment, but then it relaxed once more.

".... Tabi." When Ivan spoke again, she spoke her name softer. It wasn't sweet, it wasn't nice, but it was gentle, in his best attempt to reach out to her.

Listen to me.
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Mixed feelings seemed to be a lovely concoction that this island just loved to serve out time after time again. Life used to be so simple, it really did, but now... of course it was going to be anything but. For what little of it was left, anyhow.

The drink had been forcefully poured down his throat once more as the girl's shoulders squirmed beneath her grasp, and she had begun to shout. Her screaming was, of course, perfectly acceptable. Ivan wished that he was the kind of person in the kind of situation that would let him just sit right down next to her and scream until his throat gave out. But her screaming was also getting to him, and in more ways than one.

It brought anger back to his heart and nearly made him want to bring his hand across her face, to scream at her to shut up, maybe even to forcefully shut up. That was stopped by the fact that it also brought an immense, crippling pain to his chest. They both knew what he had just done to the broken and fallen boy just out of view behind him. He had killed... he had killed, and that meant he had succumbed to the effects of the game. He was doing what the terrorists wanted him to do and, worst of all, it meant he was no better than Clio.

No... he was worse.

Ivan lowered his head for a moment, taking Tabi's screams head on, and readied his composure in the face of this storm. "Tabi..." he said, but to no apparent effect. The screams continued, the fear continued. "Tabi... Tabi, listen to me!" Ivan raised his voice, but it lacked firmness or anger of any kind. It actually sounded a bit painful, maybe even pleading.

"What just happened, I... I..."

Ivan's eyelids grew heavier and heavier. He wanted to slam his eyes shut, turn his head away, something so he wouldn't have to see Tabi's face staring right back at him, looking at him like the murderer he now was. He forced himself to remain in eye contact in the face of it all, the tinge of green in his glasses showing the torture his mind was now putting itself through.

"It's... that's going to happen, Tabi, but... no, listen to me!" His hands held her shoulders upright, but he released the pressure in his fingers, no longer squeezing them. "I told you, there are no heroes, and I'm sorry I can't be one, but you need to get your head on straight! Calm down... breathe, and don't look at... that... again."

Ivan swallowed the lump in his throat when he said that; even he didn't want to look at what he had just done, and all he had to do was turn around and look on the ground, just a few yards away. The evidence of his crime was right... THERE... and he just wished he could make it go away. Sadly, that wasn't going to happen, but he could do his best to at least calm down the frantic girl in front of him. Maybe she was something of a liability, perhaps she wouldn't hold as much utility as he thought, but he wasn't taking that into account right now.

She didn't deserve to see that.
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((Horrific examples of godmodding approved by Greg, hopefully))

She may have said one thing, but Tabi's body language was telling a completely different story. To be frank, Ivan had pretty much expected, and in fact dreaded, this sort of reaction the moment his senses had returned to him. The girl obviously had not seen the horrors of what was yet to come; understandable, since this was the very first day of this damned 'game', and she had been with him the entire time. Ivan was sure that they were both about as scared as they would ever be in their lives, particularly when Clio had done what she did, but nothing could have prepared them for this. Nothing in the world could have prepared Ivan for Keith, and for what he would eventually do to him.

He considered the thought of just having Tabi go, to run off to her inevitable and horrible death where it would be out of sight, out of mind, and of no concern to Ivan as he prepared for his own demise. Even with the best of his efforts, though, the thought couldn't get pushed past its mere conception, try as he might. Maybe he really was starting to feel sorry for the girl and all the trauma he caused her, even if her life wouldn't extend another week, tops.

That isn't smart. Just because I feel a bit guilty, even if it's just for making her watch that, that... had nothing to do with her. And she's going to see a whole lot more death. She's honestly just... going to have to put up with it! ... But it'll be better off if I stayed close, helped her out, kept her useful.

"... Look." Ivan was doing his best to try and keep the talking to a minimum. Today, he had been awfully chatty, but he chalked most of that up to his nerves firing off in every direction at about a quadrillion miles an hour. Maybe, just maybe, he'd settle down, find his courage to face the camera, and say goodbye, but settling down was a big enough first step. "Let's... go. Not safe here."

That should have been more than enough to get the message across that Ivan wanted Tabi to reach. He stood in front of her, contemplating reaching and pushing lightly on her shoulder or back to nudge her into a standing position, but decided against it; when the girl was ready to move, she'd move, hopefully. When the girl finally did, Ivan stood on her side, making sure she looked straight ahead and just got out of there, sheltering her eyes with his hand if he really had to... another freakout would be highly inconveniencing. His totebag slung around his left shoulder to ease up pressure on his right arm, Ivan held his umbrella to his side, as though it were the only thing he had left to depend on to save their asses.

He was probably never touching another tree branch for as long as he lived.
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Quiet was normally a comforting thing to Ivan. The less people actively approached him at school, the better. It wasn't that he didn't want them near him, it's just... well... the situation was too difficult to completely peg. For whatever reason, those loud hallways held nothing for Ivan; there was no homeliness to be found in the gaggles of giggling teens or wolfpacks of whatever jocks may have been walking through, shoving geeks aside. He didn't really qualify as one of the geeks, what with his sports background and all, but Ivan never really fit into the position of 'jock', either. Nothing seemed to be a perfect fit. And so, he remained on the outside, where it was quiet. And he liked it.

But for whatever reason, Ivan always wanted the recognition... no, he craved it. That was half of his reasoning to become the forefront of attention as far as tennis was concerned, and probably his reasons for his involvement with chess club. There was still no casual interaction to be found in either game, amongst opponents and teammates alike, but Ivan felt like the spotlight was on him. People knew who he was, they cared about him, and he didn't have to put himself out there and actually talk to him. He wasn't the shy loner in the halls, those guys were a dime a dozen... Bayview had tons of loners that nobody really cared about. He wasn't one of them, he was Ivan Kuznetsov, the tennis star. Yeah.... that's what he wanted to make himself out to be.

Home held a different kind of quiet for him at school. It was some sort of sanctuary, even if it wasn't completely peaceful (something that tended to be impossible when you had an idiot for a younger brother). Home was home, though; Ivan could smell Aunt Vera's cooking, feel the very same eagerness that he felt for years when he knew his mother was going to come back, and she'd always have time to train with Ivan, no matter how much she worked at the camp. The training was hell, the drills pushed Ivan to his physical and psychological limits, but he loved tennis with all his heart. Any time he could spend with his mother was both rare and precious.

This kind of quiet was a new brand of silence. As Ivan stared at the path ahead, the girl's form in his peripheral vision brought his mind from these happier times that he had tried to distract himself with, back into this complete silence and darkness. The unsettling roar of no noise at all was amplified by the guilt riding piggy-back on the boy's shoulders. His companion, already a fleeting and convenience-based partnership as it was, held a lot of contempt for him and Ivan knew it. He couldn't read her mind, but to him, he knew that she probably wished it was him that died back there.

He sort of wished it was too, but he wasn't ready to die.

It came to some odd sense of masochistic joy when the girl finally said something, since ANYTHING would be better than this godawful awkwardness. Still, the sudden creaking of Tabi's voice invading the air caused a few of Ivan's facial muscles to twitch. He turned to face her after a moment or so, allowing his eyes to do most of the turning rather than his head and neck.

"Um...Ivan...um....there's uh...like a river nearby and um....i-is there a chance that....well...you know?"

Ivan turned the rest of his body to square off with her, pointing his umbrella to the ground as though it were a cane, even though he dared not lean much weight on it. She wanted to stop? NOW!? For what, a drink? The gears in his head turned as he thought of some response that would tell her to stop being stupid when she should have already had some water with her, and yet wouldn't stress her out, when he gave a quick once-over of her body.

God, she was filthy... and thusly, the reason why she wanted to head to the river was...

"Seriously?" It was all he could say, as he just wasn't sure what to think beyond that. She was a little dirty, so she wanted to take a bath. On an island. Where everybody was out to kill other people... and fuck, she should have known this first hand! Ivan opened his mouth to tell her off once more, but the power building up in his chest was a lot weaker than he initially planned. Shit... what else are we supposed to do? I don't even know where I'm going, so... To his chagrin, Ivan found himself giving a sigh of defeat.

"Alright. You lead, find a spot. I'll do... I don't know, whatever."
Edited by MK Kilmarnock, Sep 13 2010, 12:03 AM.
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Now was no time for relaxation. Now wasn't really much of a good time to take a fucking bath, either, but Tabi was about to do that, so Ivan figured a little relaxation couldn't hurt too much. They had been running across the island ever since Clio drove them away from the shore, and they had kept on going for much longer than either one of the kids had really been keeping track of. The day, or at least the lit part of it was over, and the sun had long since faded, taking all of its light with it.

While the darkness often held a tendency to stir up a very primal fear in people, Ivan found the dark a bit relaxing. He wasn't really afraid of it, and given the current situation, he reasoned that students were less likely to travel in the dark. Yes, he and Tabi had been travelling, but purely out of the necessities of keeping themselves alive and getting away from... that incident. His arms gave a few contractions or so as the unpleasant thought was brought to the front of Ivan's mind, but the twinge of pain shooting through his right arm mercifully dragged it away once more.

Ivan let Tabi lead the way, silently forming a mantra that everything would be fine. This was a cooldown period, and soon they would be able to get some rest before they had to be on the run again. They would always have to run. The only alternative was fighting, and Ivan was sick of fighting. It was also fairly safe to assume that Tabi didn't want to see any more fighting, but if they had to in order to get away, well... that was too damned bad.

But... how long has the sun been down, anyway?

It was a good question. With all of their walking, running, and living in the moment just so they could see the next hour, it was now impossible to tell exactly what time it was, and just how much time they had left before the sun was to rise. A thought like that was the exact opposite of comforting... they'd have to fight for their lives again at less than 100%. Could survival be guaranteed with conditions like that?

Ivan looked to the girl in front of him, shaking his head admonishingly. Taking Tabi along was supposed to be so he could use her in order to keep himself alive, but whether he could do that now or not, he did not know. If she didn't really serve any benefit in that sense, then keeping her around was only a liability; it made sneaking around harder, and people would probably try to take her captive or something, as if Ivan would sacrifice something for her. Even worse, maybe he would, if only because thinking about his brother... thinking about Louis watching him do something like that... it hurt.

"Um...if you could uh...if you could uh...go...over there I guess...I-I'll be out...soon..."

After adjusting his glasses by pushing them up a bit further on the bridge of his nose, Ivan picked up the pack dropped by Tabi and sighed. "Whatever... just make it quick." It would've made more sense if she had set him as a watchman, at least making sure nobody was around to kill her. Yes, it was still dark out, but the comfort that the darkness could have offered had begun to wear thin; there could very well be students lurking about, obsessed with their slim chances of survival and willing to do anything. But if Tabi wanted to just remove all of her means of protection and scream 'I'm vulnerable', well, that wouldn't hurt Ivan's conscience. It wasn't him putting her in danger.

The girl had pointed over to a small bunch of trees, which Ivan walked over to without comment. The dirt looked compact enough, but he still didn't sit down directly. Slinging his own pack off of his shoulder and dropping Tabi's pack right next to it, Ivan placed his umbrella onto the two bags and then crouched low, squatting in a similar manner to a baseball catcher. It was a good way to rest, and at least he wouldn't have to get his ass dirty on the ground - he sure as hell wanted to limit his own 'bath time'. By the time he looked back over to where Tabi was just moments ago, she was gone. Before he could so much as move his head, though, he heard the gentle splashes of Tabi entering the water, and left it at that.

Now Ivan was alone once more, the way he liked it. Tabi may have only been a few yards away in the water behind him, but she wasn't in his face. He didn't have to look at the ridiculous amount of pain in her eyes, the same look that all of them were now holding. Their life back in St. Paul, Minnesota was over; Ivan had gone over the fact before that nearly all of them were going to die, save for one 'lucky' soul who would return home, scarred by the fact that they sacrificed others so they may live, and that all of their friends were now dead.

He wasn't friends with most of the kids who went to school with him, and he was even sort of a stand-offish prick to Louis when they were in the halls together, but he still recognized that they WERE fairly good people. Tabi was annoyingly spunky and overall an irritating bitch at Bayview, but here, her energy was just... gone. Clio was sort of depressing to be around, but any part of her humanity was pretty much dead and gone. Etain seemed... almost the same, sadly including his grating voice, but without fail, each and every person Ivan had encountered was a bit deader on the inside.

And Keith... well, now he was dead, period. And there was nobody to blame but himself.

...

... No... I'm to blame to, but... it can't ALL be me. He was still stupid! He wouldn't listen!

Ivan looked up at the sky, biting his lip at the sight of the gradient dark-to-light blue. The sun was now rising... fuck. That meant it was morning, and that everybody would become active again, prepared to kill to try and recover the life they thought they could get back. Ivan prepared himself to stand up, only to fall back right on his butt when the hellish electronic creaking of some sort of speaker began to blare.

After two or three skipped heartbeats, it began to sink into Ivan's head that it was some sort of PA system, not unlike that of his high school. And the voice pumping through it was one that he honestly wanted to forget.

"Kids, I have to say that I'm truly impressed with your first day showing. Blood! Tragedy! Explosions! Mayhem! You've utterly smashed the record for first day kills; it makes an old man proud to see you all taking his instructions so thoroughly to heart! Congratulations to those of you that are still alive, because you've already outlasted 19 of your classmates."

Nineteen? Nineteen of them were already dead!?

Ivan pushed up to his feet and leaned against the biggest tree he could find, his legs shaking. There were quite a few people on this island who really meant it. They honestly thought they were going to win, and how many of them were going to find him? He listened in horror as the man began to list each and every death: a couple of them, like Remy, were based off of sheer stupidity. Clio stood out in his mind... she had indeed killed somebody, and it was a very real possibility that she had already killed by the time she found Ivan. The boy clutched the wound on his right arm as he imagined her face in vivid detail, hoping that he would never see it for real ever again.

There were others, yes, but most of the names, faces, and heinous crimes were a blur. There was... something about a bear, but the absurdity of something of that sort was lost on him, especially since just a few moments after it was...

"Unlucky number thirteen was Keith Christoph. He got beaten to a pulp by Ivan Kuznetsov and trust me folks, it's one for the highlight reel! What do they say about the quiet ones, eh?"

Ivan's throat immediately locked up at the mention of Keith's name. Keith's face, before AND after the poor boy's death, flashed in Ivan's mind. That could not be undone. Even if Ivan were to somehow survive, he was still responsible for the murder of Keith. That made him a murderer, didn't it? He wasn't a killer... Keith didn't have a weapon on him. At least, not a visible one, but neither kid really searched him. No... Keith probably didn't have a weapon on him, or he would have had it out, and that made Ivan a murderer.

Ivan placed both hands against the tree once more, almost in a reprise of his actions at the clearing just a little higher up on the mountain. His jaw locked, unlocked, and his chest heaved to let out a gag. He swallowed, trying to fight off the next reflex, stifling and choking on the next gag as the announcements went on. Nothing tangible had come spewing out by the time he stopped his reaction (which was probably a good thing since he had very little in his stomach by this point in time), but Ivan still felt like curling up into a little ball and hiding from the world. Why... why wouldn't it just leave him alone? Why wouldn't this voice shut up, and stop reminding him of what he did?

Well, the voice had one more nutshot to deliver.

"One last thing. We've been running our little poll and the runaway winner of today's best kill award is the one and only Ivan Kuznetsov! Congratulations kid, we'll be leaving your prize on the greens for you to collect. Don't worry, we wouldn't blow the collar of our MVP!"

His arms turned to jelly, causing Ivan's forehead to knock against the tree. Pushing off in frustration and rubbing what would no doubt be a bruise on his forehead, Ivan turned and pressed his back against the tree, slowly sinking down towards the ground as the realizations began to flood in. For that brutal killing he enacted on Keith, he was.... being rewared? For a 'best kill'?

This meant, that of all the kills on the island, Ivan's had somehow been the most spectactular.

Of all the acts of brutality on the island, Ivan's had been the most brutal.

Of all the monsters on the island...

I'm the biggest monster.

Whatever pain his arm had felt from a bullet was now trivial, for a bullet could not hurt Ivan in the way this had. His eyes had shut almost involuntarily, and his face sought comfort in his hands, or in the knees that he tucked up to his chest.

"Why Ivan...." He heard Tabi call to him from the water, and he wanted to just disappear. He didn't want to know what she meant or what she was referring to, but he did. He didn't want to answer... what could he tell her? He did it because of self defense? Keith had no weapon. Because he was scared? Tabi was scared too, but she hadn't just up and killed somebody. Because he didn't want to be attacked again like Clio had done? Well... according to the world, he was even worse than her. "Ivan...why?"

It was a question that Ivan could only answer with choking sobs.
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"So, I think we could make tons of money!"

"... How?"

"Duh, don't be dense! Like, Sheila keeps making baby rabbits, and we can keep selling them away!"

"That's not really going to work out. There's a lot of stuff you haven't worked out, like cost and time, not to mention space, and the fact that mom would never let us do this, Bean. It's way too compl-"

"Things are only complicated because you keep making them that way, 'Ivan the Terrible'. We can go somewhere, we can make it big! We could both be rich, and then you could get a massive tennis facility and you can take care of that, while I take care of the pet business! It's so simple!"


---

Just... why can't it be simple?

Not only did their lives have to be completely destroyed, but the game being played with the children was far crueler than anybody alive could ever be ready for, or fully comprehend. They couldn't just be trucked off somewhere, all tied up and sat in a room while the terrorists made their demands to the government. Then, once the government inevitably refused to cooperate, the children would all be slain, and their bodies would either be dumped back on a barge set for home... but even that was in a gracious world, where the more likely alternative would see them rot on the island, until some misguided explorer finds all of their bones.

Instead, they were subject to the ultimate cruelty of pitting friend against friend, and possibly even family against family. The rules, the final ultimatums seemed so simple: either you play the game and you kill, or you are killed, whether it be by a classmate, the explosive belt strapped around their necks, or possibly their own hand. But the true cruelty lay within deception, for the game was far from simple. If it was truly simple, then there would be students who killed to survive, those who resigned to their fate and died. Ivan still did not know which side of the line, blurred into an unclear ocean of ink, he stood on. Even the fact that he could only claim knowledge of some of the game's elements just thrust him further into the absurdity of it all... he would never be able to understand.

"I'm sorry...Ivan...I'm sorry about asking...and...I'm sorry about your arm...I'm so sorry..."

Ivan's body jerked when he heard Tabi's voice. The words were a slurry mess and he failed to pick them up, mixed into his own chokes and sniffs. Her voice was kind, surprisingly doting if still scared, but Ivan tucked up a bit tighter, as if curling up and burying his head an extra inch would allow her to withdraw from Tabi. Not only was every terrible, terrible action his fault, she had heard his crying; she heard his weakness, and was now taking pity on him. It was humiliating, crippling, and generally just embarassing that her 'hero' (disregarding the laughably stupid logic behind that decision) was now breaking down as melodramatically as Tabi had the day before.

Ivan pulled his face out of his folded arms and inhaled as deeply as his lungs could allow. Frigid morning air met his lungs and he coughed one more time. He had hoped it came out as a relatively manly clearing of the throat, but with his nerves shaking in the way they were, it came out more as a childish, 'I'm drowning and I'm spitting up water' cough. Before Tabi showed up to see him in the sorry state he was in (and possibly attack him, but that was an afterthought... no doubt caused by constant paranoia from this damned island), Ivan pressed his left palm against the ground to try and right himself. The effort was a slow and strenuous one, finding additional support only from the tree that he had been nestled against, all the while his knees creaked in protest.

As Ivan began to walk out of the small thicket to meet Tabi, some discomfort began to well up in his skull, until a throbbing pain began to poke against his head like a knife. Without his body heat being preserved by his curled up position, he was finally able to feel the early-morning chill.

The coldest hour is always the one before the dawn...

His arm hurt, his head hurt, and his pride was far more bruised than each, but Ivan came stepping out of the small ridge of foliage, coming face-to-face with Tabi. With as sullen as he now was, he couldn't even bother to jump, even if that had been anybody... it could have even been Keith and he probably wouldn't have reacted too much, because the pain warranted just that much more attention. Ivan lowered his head with this astounding combination of shame and discomfort, being unable to look Tabi in the face. He could notice, however, a pretty basic detail that somewhat annoyed him.

She bathed... in the river... with all of her clothes on? Uuugh... the prudity is fine... ow, arm... but unless she has a change of clothes, she's just going to freeze to death.

Ivan attempted to raise his eyes a little, but the hand that he was using as an impromptu forehead cozy and a visor prevented any eye contact. Still, he looked to her the best he could, and drew his breath for a murmured sentence.

"So... are you ready to go?"
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For once, Ivan just waited. He hated waiting... anticipating was one thing, preparing was another, but waiting implied an uncertainty that you were headed for, and that you had no idea what lay in store for you at the other side of that wait. Yet, Ivan decided he was waiting. He waited for Tabi to get by him and into the thicket before crossing his arms from the cold. He waited for her to be completely out of sight before he allowed the shivers he had been fighting to get through in an atavistic attempt to warm up, and now he was going to wait for her to finish changing. The sooner, the better.

Through some strange means, the boy began to realize that Tabi had a way of... cheering him up. The most likely culprit would probably be her awkward mannerisms... she seemed so innocent and bumbling, so... currently unbroken by the island. Ivan knew that would change, but if he wasn't so bruised from the events of the night, he might've chuckled a bit at Tabi's chattering and mutterings of how cold it was. Sure, it was a bit dark as humor went, but almost everything was dark at the moment when you were to spend the last of your days here. Even then, past that, he couldn't help but listen to the nagging in his mind that Tabi was changing. For at least a moment of that, she'd be completely naked, and-

We'll stop right there... ugh... you'd think thoughts like that could wait.

Ivan took a few steps closer to the water, gazing at the stream in which Tabi had been. Maybe 'stream' wasn't the right word due to its size; as Ivan looked into its waters, he peered to either side of the river's length, trying to see where it ran. Unfortunately, the river ran quickly out of view on either side, whether behind a bank or behind the trees through with which he was contending to see. Defeated, he looked back into the water, trying to see through the ripples and darkness to gauge its depth.

A river this big on a deserted island? You'd think that an island big enough to support something bigger than a simple brook would be noticable. ... Wait... there should be a map in... Ivan looked to the sheltered ridge where Tabi was changing. As soon as she was done (and knowing women, this could take a while), they could maybe check a map to see the island and its features. It would be worth knowing the geography so Ivan and Tabi could try and avoid everybody else, but first... wherever those 'greens' were, Ivan had to head there.

He took a step back from the water's edge, shaking his head at just how desperate this all was. At least, with as early as it was, they had a nice fresh start before-

Ivan's blood filled with ice when he heard a thumping noise, and then Tabi moaning. Somebody got her... somebody was ballsy enough to attack her this early? Even without his 'weapon', Ivan wasted no time in rounding the corner of plants, running in to help the girl.

"Tabi!? Don't worry, I'll-"

Ivan froze up when he saw that the girl had fit... several qualities. The first of which, but not the first that he noticed, was that she was in no immediate danger. Second, and it WAS the first thing that he noticed, was that Tabi was not wearing a shirt. She was hugging some sort of shirt close to her, and shivering, and making a big fuss about something, but there was no indication of what was wrong. Ivan looked to Tabi's open bag, then back to her, thinking it might have been a spider, or an ant or... something else silly. That aside, he backed up, red in the face, and was about to regretfully mumble an apology for walking in on her when she noticed something.

The blouse Tabi was hugging against her had holes. Not one, but a few of them, and they were peculiarly circular. This, by itself, didn't mean much, and a thought persisted that maybe some moths had gotten to it, or maybe a mouse. Then Ivan saw the hole that was punched neatly into the side of Tabi's shoulderbag, and the wound on his arm flared up with pain once more.

It was... that bitch.

"Oh.... oh wow. Tabi..." Ivan suddenly heard himself saying, and his legs cautiously pushed himself forward to approach the girl. Here he had been, bellyaching about getting shot in the arm with what amounted to be a graze and... well, Tabi hadn't been hit at all, but the important thing to remember was that they were both scared. Tabi was terrified up to this point of Clio's actions, and sadly... even of Ivan's, but she, along with Ivan, were now both coming to the realization that she was very close to serious injury or even death. Just a few inches to the right, the hole in her shirt could have been her lung. It didn't take a genius to figure that a shot like that spelt death with no medical care in sight.

Ivan crouched down in front of Tabi, struggling with his male tendencies to keep his eyes up on her face (he had picked out the detail of a bra strap, so she wasn't topless, but... still. Damn). "Tabi, it's... it's alright. Everything will be fine." Ivan detested himself for those words, but he was willing to say anything to keep Tabi going. They couldn't stay here, but he couldn't just drag her along when she was so... understandably broken. "Things could have been very bad... yeah... but, uh... well, that just means you're lucky. And somebody really wants to keep you alive. Keep your chin up, alright?"
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"I-its going to be all ri-ri-right...r-right I-I-Ivan?"

Ivan gave a small nod of the head to the girl, a response that he knew Tabi needed, and she needed it right away. However, to actually make the promise that they were going to truly be alright was... well, retarded. Then again, even he had just said that everything was going to be alright, so maybe saying such truly impossible things was a passable act just so long as it was done on the grounds of morale. He looked to the girl and her chattering teeth, desperate for everything to just be... okay. Ivan shut his eyes a little to try and combat the swelling behind them a moment.

I just want everything to be okay, too.

He let out a sigh, a sigh with some cheeriness injected in to cover up the acute moment of sadness that had struck him; it was a moment that he was sure would soon pass. Standing up, Ivan stooped his posture a bit to look down to Tabi and gave another smile. This wasn't as forced... it was probably the most genuine smile he had given anybody all schoolyear. Things were, almost assuredly, not going to be okay, but at least he'd have somebody to break the silence with before he died. Dying was pretty much a guarantee, and that was something Ivan was very sure not to delude himself about. Tabi could do it if she wanted, since ignorance sure could be bliss to some, but...

"Come on, then. On your feet."
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Ivan's jaw slackened a bit, and he could feel his mouth open as though he were going to say something, but the difference was that this time, he didn't intend to say anything. There wasn't really much left to say, but Tabi left him with a want for words when she suddenly went to put on her shirt, no longer able to cover her chest for that brief moment. Had she waited a few moments, he would've excused himself, turned around, done something. As it was, the best Ivan could do was to turn his head to the side a bit, trying to avert direct eye contact with the girl's chest. The thing about green glasses, however, was that he could look in a direction he wasn't quite facing, and it would be rather hard to notice.

Ivan felt a bit guilty for this, and regretful that he wasn't quick enough to allow for Tabi to put on her shirt in some remote sense of privacy. This was washed over by the fact that he was (shamefully) glad none of that had happened. Ivan prayed there was no red pigmentation in his face, but the chances of that happening prevailed up until Tabi slid her shirt down over that chest of hers.

Wow... good form, Ivan. This is a life or death situation, and you're playing the role of the typical male by thinking with your dick. ... But Tabi would've been good on the tennis team, with a body like that...

Ivan shook his head and chuckled again, wondering exactly what one of those self-administrated mental slaps felt like, because he really needed one, but he just couldn't help himself. Looking back up to Tabi from his muddled, idling thoughts, he saw her gaze down at the holes in her shirt, which drew his eyes down to look at them as well. One of them certainly seemed... precariously placed, and Ivan tried to look at the other two as quickly as possible. They looked... painfully placed indeed, but it was only one bullet that made them. Still, they were painful-looking reminders no matter how you saw it, and Ivan wondered just why Tabi hadn't put on another shirt or something.

"Let me get my shoes...then we can go..."

A low affirming hum gave Tabi what Ivan hoped she needed to hear, and he turned to watch the girl put on the last articles of clothing. With the way the sky looked, it could easily fool somebody into thinking that night was about to fall over the inhabitants of the island, but the fact remained looming over his head: it was truly morning. The timid girl and the guilty boy had survived the first day of this new hell, but another day awaited their decisions, threatening to destroy them both.

Am I ready to die?

Ivan already knew the answer to that one, but didn't really want to play around with it too much. Yes, nobody exactly wanted to die, and he knew that, but sooner or later, he would HAVE to come to terms with it. He looked back and forth, searching for one of the cameras that... that man said was going to be there, but his search returned nothing. Scratching an itch that festered underneath his collar, Ivan awaited Tabi's return, stopping his scratching when she turned back and ran to him, getting her things. It didn't really seem right to remind her of the device that was around her neck as well.

"Are you uh...ready to go?"

It was his turn now to close his eyes, thinking about the day that was to come, and he let out a long sigh before opening his eyes, smiling once more. "Yeah... let's go." They could check the map on the way, but for now, they'd have to get off of this mountain first. From there, they'd have to approach the greens so Ivan could get...

He picked up his own backpack, taking care not to forget his umbrella, which he picked up in his left hand after slinging the daypack around his left shoulder to hang at his right side. His right arm still ached, and so he wanted to rely on it as little as possible. He wasn't particularly crazy about picking up whatever 'present' had been left for him there at the greens, but if it would help him survive at least to the point where he could die on his own terms, well...

I guess I can live with that.

The two scarred children headed off the mountain, searching for the morning to come.

((Ivan Kuznetsov and Tabi Gweneth continued in Peacemaker))
Edited by MK Kilmarnock, Sep 26 2010, 12:47 PM.
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