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Meet Again; All you've got is Pride and Glory. (Private)
Topic Started: Jan 3 2011, 08:40 PM (5,150 Views)
MK Kilmarnock
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((Ivan Kuznetsov continued from Keep Yourself Alive))

When a bunch of announcements declaring the death of kids that he used to go to school with was getting boring, that's when Ivan realized that there was a problem.

Life was considerate enough to throw Ivan and Tabi a break following that tumultuous standoff with Imraan. They managed to have the entire day to themselves for travel, continuing their aimless journey across the island to an uncertain destiny wherever they would end up. They had to keep moving, though; for the second time in a row, that Danya psycho gleefully announced that the area they were trying to rest within was a danger zone. Along with that terrible announcement were the usual, frighteningly boring account of who had died and to whom, who was the latest and unfortunate person to be the best at being a monster, and more news about that stupid girl who was trying to get them all killed. None of it seemed to hold power against the sections that actually mattered to himself and Tabi: the Danger Zones. Just like terrorists to use the angle of fear from all sides... Ivan thought. Because no, all the nutcases around here trying to kill each other isn't bad enough. Even the island is trying to kill us. I'm pretty sure this isn't Australia.

The oft-serious Russian was so absorbed in traveling, periodically stopping and standing guard while they tried to determine where they were on the map, that he hadn't realized he had cracked a joke to himself until a few steps later. He allowed himself to smirk for a moment before returning his focus on his surroundings. Staying alive was the primary objective, but there was something to be said for the fact he and Tabi had been allowed to rest just long enough for him to smile again. Smiles were always so rare for him, especially at school, since he usually relied on a half-wit little brother to make him laugh and... honestly, half the time he just wanted to punch Louis in the face instead of laughing with him.


But what are little brothers for, Ivan?

Recurring memories of home gave way to the more recent, and far less comforting memories of Imraan Al-Hariq, staring the two of them down with that weapon. He could have shot them at any time, and Ivan wouldn't have stood a chance. But... that's right, he DID shoot. He shot, but he missed. What caused him to miss? Either Imraan was the worst shot ever (with a shotgun, no less), or maybe he was firing off a warning shot. Everything had happened too suddenly to finely process, and the next memory Ivan had was him kneeling on his muddy legs, the shotgun hoisted with one hand and in a position where firing it was liable to dislocate his shoulder, but he was in position to fire it nonetheless, which was all that should have concerned Imraan. Those final words of the basketball player continued playing over and over again in Ivan's mind, mingling with the stained image of Keith's face. Did Imraan have faith in the two of them, or was he begrudgingly letting his prey escape? No matter what the answer may have been, the uncertainty was terribly disturbing.

Ivan's eyes had half-shut to accomodate his thought processes as they walked along to nowhere in particular. To minimize discomfort, he had taken to having his daypack slung in a way so the bag was on his right side to support his grazed arm while the strap rested on his left shoulder, allowing him some stability without absolutely killing his right arm. The loaded Pancor Jackhammer remained the main decoration of his left hand, while his umbrella had been demoted to sitting in his daypack. The pack felt somewhat lighter... about half of his crackers were gone, and he had to refill his water cantine at least once with water from the river, which was sure to make him uncomfortable somewhere down the road. He hadn't changed his clothes since arriving on this damned island, and so he still had the few spatters of blood across his shirt from Keith. As some slight consolation, the bloodspots had dried, raising less of an alarm to those near him; at first glance, it might've even been mistaken as mud spots.

"... Look ahead," he muttered, motioning with his right hand for Tabi. It seemed that they were finally coming across the town-ish area that was depicted on the map (Ivan had to give them credit... whoever made this thing was quite the artist). Idly scratching at the skin of his neck just underneath the bottom of the collar, he led the way towards the town. At the very best of circumstances, they might find some place to rest and chance upon some food in the cupboards, if there were any (it was a nice hope). At the worst of circumstances, they could be stumbling upon a war zone. Either way was better than not knowing at all.
Edited by MK Kilmarnock, Jan 4 2011, 11:51 PM.
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In any other environment, labeling Tabi's question as a little bit stupid would always be an option. After all, who in their right mind would pass up the opportunty to forage for food with the added bonus of weather-proof shelter? They could easily hole up here, maybe even using a few other buildings as a general 'home base', attempting to wait out most of the carnage of the game until it was all declared a danger zone. When that point came, then could be the time for moving onward.

This was not a typical environment, however. Survival of the Fittest was a cruel invention devised to bring out the worst in each and every one and, unfortunately, Ivan would have to match up to everybody else's cleverness if he wanted to survive to the next day. Tabi brought up a good point with the option to leave: unlike the woods, which were nice and open to allow escape but also sheltered, this area could very well leave them pinned. It invoked the image of a diver in a 'shark proof' cage, only for a shark to break through, with no hope of escape for the diver. As such, the duo was left with a few options to weigh.

Tabi seemed to waste no time in examining the building. Ivan stayed right on her heels as though an invisible leash connected the two; they had made it this far, he wasn't about to let a little bit of carelesness or separation get either one of them killed. When she had turned to ask him that question... if they should stay here or go, it caused him to go into all that deliberation. He had to give an answer, though... had to go with their best bet.

"Let's stay here. For now." He said in a subdued tone, scoping out one of the houses before them. "Stay behind me. Checking this place out." He creeped for the entrance of the worn residence, steadily turning the doorknob as to not alert anybody who might be inside. By storming in, there was a high chance of startling any possible residents if they weren't regularly hostile, but at this point in the game it seemed far more likely that at least one other student in the area might intend to kill them both. There was no room for error, no taking chances.

The knob turned all the way, and Ivan pushed it open, leading gun-first into the house. He was greeted with somewhat bare room, a living room of some sort, with a threadbare carpet and a couch that looked like it would've fit in just fine on that strange fake 70's sitcom Louis liked to watch so much. A deliberate and cautious trek around the room revealed a doorway to the kitchen, lit only by a window above the sink. After some inspection, he found a flight of stairs leading from the kitchen upward, likely to where the bathroom and bedroom (possibly more than one) were. A knot tightened in his throat when he realized that if there was somebody in this house, they'd be up there.

Pressing a finger to his lips for Tabi, Ivan stalked up to the base of the stairs, fixed his gaze upwards, aimed his gun, and eased his foot onto the first step. He had to just brush his shoe up against each step first... once he made contact, then he could rest all of his weight on that foot and begin to the next step. Then the next... now the fourth. His heart rhythmically pounded in his head with each step, made only worse each time he had to look down to check his feet instead of watching ahead to see if anybody knew he was coming. Almost there... a door straight ahead and a door on the right, both open. He's just get up there and...

CRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAKKKKKK

The step beneath his leading foot screamed in protest at his weight. If anybody was coming, they knew now, and if he didn't make it up those stairs in time, he was fucked. Panting from the nasty shock, Ivan shot up the rest of the stairs, his cradled shotgun hitting the wall or the railing a few times. He had to get up there first, had to get ready before they did, he-

"UGH!"

The penultimate step's overhang caught Ivan's toe, sending the boy's shin into the landing. Vaulting forward, his momentum did not stop until he was embarrasingly sprawled out onto the floor. The shotgun lay just out of reach of his fingertips from where it had been dropped, leaving the Russian to scramble for it, shooting leg pains in all.

His hand grasped the weapon and pulled it into range for his other arm to steady it, and Ivan looked to the right. The bathroom looked back, complete with sink, tub, and toilet that all might as well have been laughing at him. He looked forward, straining to see into the dimly lit room. An empty, unkempt bed, and bare walls. Nothing.

"... It's clear..." Ivan grumbled, his vigor completely deflated as he pulled himself upright and clutched the injured shin, his right one, with his hand. Always his right... at this rate, the left side of his body would have to pull all the work. It sure as hell wasn't Clio shooting him, but slamming his shin into something always hurt like a bitch.

"Really. Fuck stairs."
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Ivan looked around the top floor some more, though all he had to do was pivot on his heels. From that one spot, he could see down the stairs, in the bathroom, and into the bedroom. Definitely a simple abode, but there would only be two people staying inside. There was more than enough room for just him and Tabi.

While the bathroom seemed to have nothing of much interest or requiring investigation (it was just a bathroom, after all), Ivan took a few steps away from the stairs to enter the doorway into the bedroom. He went to flick on the light, but nothing came on. "Power's out..." He grumbled to himself, though he wasn't completely sure. Maybe the power was out, or maybe the light bulb was just burnt out. There was only one way to tell, and he couldn't do it from here.

Losing interest in the upstairs for now and having deemed it safe, Ivan headed for the stairs when he heard some mumbling. The voice was hard to make it except for the fact it was female... but then again, to the best of his knowledge, so was Tabi (she certainly looked like a girl in those wet clothes of hers). Still, something wasn't right about it. As though he were familiar with the voice, but it wasn't the girl who he'd been spending all of his time with.

"Tabi?"

There was no answer.

"Tabi! Is there somebody down there!?" Ivan lifted the shotgun and braced it with his right hand. The graze on his arm still wasn't looking to be in the best of shape, and it stung in disapproval of his actions. He had long gotten used to the wound, though... there was more than enough time to worry about it later. For now, he had to make sure Tabi wasn't in trouble. Again.

I can't leave that damn girl alone for ONE second, or else-

As Ivan covered his exit from the stairs, he was faced with a sight that confirmed his fears. There was Tabi, two guns pressed to her head. Those guns were held by the hands of a girl who had some history with them both. A girl who, as far as Ivan was concerned, could hang from her toenails until they fell right out of their sockets for what she did. There was Clio Gabriella, Tabi's life at her mercy.

"You... damn you..." Ivan muttered in disbelief, anger, frustration... a confusing swirl of emotions bubbled up as he was confronted with his nightmare from day one. The shotgun in his hands was at the ready, but for what? Clio had Ivan exactly where she wanted him. She had two guns, one of which she could keep pointed at Tabi, and one which she could point right at him. If he tried to shoot her, there was a good chance he'd catch Tabi in the blast.

"Leave her out of this..." Ivan spoke lowly, his weapon unwavering. "You want revenge? Take it from me." He was shaking by now; he was never one to make speeches, but he had to keep talking, to make Clio do what he wanted or it was over for them both. "I heard about you, Clio, killing all those people. I killed somebody too, and I'm sure you know that. There's a difference between us, though. I'm not like you... I'm not a monster. So show me how tough you are, Clio. Put... put those guns down, and take me on like a real killer."

He held his breath, tensing up. Would she buy it?
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No, Clio hadn't quite bought it. She gave her retorts, readied her weapon, and the moment Tabi hit the floor, he knew what was in store for him. Those guns were out faster than he coud fire his, leaving him to flee up the stairs. His blood pumped and his brain felt like it was going to burst from the tension building up inside him. He may have just doomed Tabi, or he had made the only correct move in this demented game of cat-and-mouse.

His tactical retreat (read: run the fuck away) had the intended effect, fortunately. He didn't hear a gunshot, so chances were that Tabi was still alive. He could hear Clio dashing after him, almost as though she were hot on his heels and ready to cave his head in with those guns of hers. He just had to make it to the top... get right to the top, and get to somewhere that he had the advantage.

Hopping over that tricky final step, Ivan pulled himself into the bathroom, panting. It would've been bad if Clio really was on his heels, but the few seconds he had to stand there, leaning against the wall and just preparing for the moments to come... that was murderous. Clio was coming up those steps, and she was still talking. Whatever she was saying, though, he paid no mind to... all he knew was that he had to act... stop thinking, act! ACT!

Here she comes... come on, COME ON!

It sounded like Clio was practically on top of him, ready to come through the other side of the bathroom wall. Ivan let loose a scream of nearly primal quality, running through the bathroom door shotgun-first. He should've shot, should've ended it, but Clio was practically right there in his face on the landing of the stairs. He panicked... panicked like a damn animal, and swung the shotgun at Clio. Her face, her neck, who the fuck cared as long as he clocked her with it. He felt the weapon connect, Clio reeled... he had won. He'd finally put the bitch away, and get it over with. Clio leaned back, ready to tumble... then grabbed Ivan's arm.

What!? No... no, fuck, let go!

It was all so sudden. Ivan would've pulled back, gotten them split up, but now he was leaning forward. His heart pumped faster, his body kicking into overdrive. He had to do something or his day was about to get very bad, VERY quickly. Unfortunately, that bit of instinct told him to push Clio forward.

FUCK... FUCK... FUUUUUUUCK!!!

It felt like slow motion as the two fell towards the stairs, ready for the fall of their lives.

...
...
... Oh boy.


Ivan collasped on top of Clio and braced for impact. She cushioned the first impact of the fall, only to flip over her and take the brunt force of the second. The two became a writhing, flailing mass of arms, legs, and bruises as they bounced down the stairs. Somewhere along the way, the Jackhammer had become dislodged from Ivan's hand, but that was the least of his worries when hardwood stairs repeatedly pounded him in the head, knees, and who knows where else.

With an anti-climatic thud and clatter, the two ex-highschoolers sprawled out at the bottom of the steps. Ivan's face was now glasses-free... now he was missing his weapon AND his eyes were lost somewhere on the steps, or down below, or up the devil's asscrack, it didn't matter. What mattered was that they were not on his face.

No... what really mattered was that he got up before Clio. Maybe she still had her gun, maybe he could wrestle it from her and finish the job. Tabi likely wouldn't want anybody killed, but fuck that shit! The rage had come back to Ivan... the redness that encompassed him when he killed Keith. It was turning him into a monster once more, but if that's what he needed to kill Clio, he'd gladly take it. He'd take all of her cruelty, all of her pathetic and petty reasons for existing, and he'd fucking kill her with them.

He just had to be the first one standing.
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He barely even had time to get to his feet and straighten his back before Clio resumed her assault. Her shoulder drove right into his stomach, sending both of the children crashing to the floor. Ivan tried to sit up, to push her off, to do something, but both of his arms were pinned between the two of them and out of position to defend against the vicious attacks being delivered to him. Each of Clio's fists struck him over and over again, while he himself was basically defenseless. Still reeling from the dizzying fall and shocked from the relentless attack that followed, Ivan could only turn his face and squint his eyes shut, bracing for each strike as it landed.

He wasn't sure how much pain all of this was causing or how much damage it was doing to his body, because all that mattered was the fight. Somewhere, mixed in with the torn skin and battered flesh, a certain feeling had mixed in seamlessly between the two. His hatred for what Clio had done kept it away at first, but now Ivan was beginning to realize that Clio was telling the truth. This wasn't direct malice or some strange vendetta that a girl was carrying from school. One animal in the world was merely trying to survive by doing what was asked of her, and that was killing another.

That's all either of them were by this point: animals. None of the revelations or actions were driven by thought and by the brain moreso than they were by instinct and the heart. It wasn't like he had time to conciously think about Clio's reasons for doing what she was doing while being punched in the face; this was just something that Ivan felt, something that he just knew. What he also knew, though, was that he was not ready and willing to give up to what this girl wanted.

Not yet. It wasn't ending like this.

After an uncounted number of Clio's wild swings found their mark, Ivan finally managed to finish tucking in his arms and put his hands on Clio's chest, pushing against her. Strain as he might, it was only enough to push her upwards at first, maybe soften the blows. Just meant he had to push harder... to fight for what Clio clearly wasn't going to just give up. After a pained breath to prime himself, Ivan's right leg swung up to try and kick the girl sitting over him. The angle meant little to no force was behind it, but it nudged her to the side, and it nudged her just far enough for Ivan's arms to finish the job.

Yelling as he heaved Clio off of his body, Ivan rolled and began crawling along the floor, trying to grab the shotgun that teased him just a yard or so away from his grasping fingers.
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So close... he had been SO close to ending the nightmare. There was no victory to be found anywhere on this island, but a false taste of the elusive concept had been inches away from his fingertips multiple times. Instead, the Jackhammer had fallen into the eager hands of Clio and, with it, any chances Ivan had of living to see the next sunset.

The pain that shot up from his crotch through to his stomach, festering in the pit of it, was acute and... to be flat out, it sucked. It was nothing, though. Absolutely nothing compared to the feeling his heart became pressed under when he realized this was it. Clio had won, Ivan had lost, and his failure meant that he was to be executed on his damn knees like a dog. Not even a day ago, he had been at the mercy of Imraan before finally coming to terms with him. Some force was necessary, but everybody walked away from the situation. That was what mattered... he survived, Tabi survived, and even Imraan survived, leaving everybody free from the guilt that each of them had been sure to bathe themselves in. Well, except Tabi.

Or did she have some guilt? Maybe for relying on Ivan so much? The boy kept his head down, squinting in pain and staring at Clio's feet as she tauntingly asked why he had associated himself with a girl like Tabi. All the things she said were fairly true... Tabi had been fundamentally useless from day one. He had been shot once protecting her, she weighed him down with emotional baggage after he killed Keith, and thanks in no small part to her, he had been reduced to a complete wreck at least once, so why the hell did he travel with her in the first place? Why the fuck did he even keep her around after she had shown herself to be nothing but a load?

I really don't know why, but... looking back... I'd do it all over again.

He would not dignify Clio with a response. No tears came, even if there should be plenty to cry about. Not about dying... shit, the way things were going, that didn't seem so bad, but in his falling, he had brought Tabi down with him. Furthermore, he never did get to say his full goodbye to Louis, and there was no sense in asking Clio to allow him to do so. She wouldn't give him the chance to possibly get back up and attack her, stealing away her victory. So, the only thing Ivan could do was stay on his knees like the defeated boy he was, staring at the girl's feet.

Goodnight, Ivan..
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There was a bang. The last noise Ivan was ever to hear.

So many thoughts... so many thoughts he had left un-plotted, and that just wasn't fair to them. So many things he never got to do, or to say, or to feel. He wanted to surpass his mother, the great Mischa Kuznetsova, in tennis and go on to be a pro. He wanted to get an education in astronomy or maybe engineering if he had to, something that he could use as a fallback if he got injured or things turned out the way he didn't want them to. He wanted to do so many things that seemed so far away when he was trapped on this rock in the middle of the ocean, and for reasons none of them would ever understand. Most of all, he just wanted to be a son, a nephew, and a big brother.

Now he would be none of those things.

...

... I had... an awful long time to think that...

He feared what he might see if he opened his eyes, but Ivan opened them regardless. Rather than a vision of the pearly gates or, as he feared, the black-tipped flames of hell, he saw Clio Gabriella clutching the ground and dragging herself over to somebody... somebody that he didn't realize was there before, because he could have swork the shotgun just ripped through his skull. The shotgun... that was laying right before him, on the ground where Clio once stood in her attempt to end his life. But... how did it happen?

His tired eyes strained to look in the direction of the frantic and probably dying girl who had been so close to committing murder herself. The boy there didn't seem to be packing any heat, and he definitely heard a gun go off. If Clio had turned the shotgun on herself, she would have splattered all over the damn road. It wasn't him who shot her, which meant it had to be some sort of person he hadn't noticed before. Where was the external party that had just downed Clio? Were they really out to save him, or did they just want the satisfaction of killing him themselves?

It wasn't until he turned around to make sure that Tabi was okay that he saw the smoking gun in her hand.

No... no way...

She couldn't have... of all the people to shoot somebody on the island, Tabi? He wasn't disappointed or angry at her actions or any shit like that, his body was far too numbed with pain and his mind too numbed with shock to handle anything like that. But how... how did she pull through and take a life to save him?

Ivan swallowed the rising lump in his throat and summoned the courage to stand up, scooping up the shotgun as he did so. There was still the interloper who Clio had crawled to. Upon closer inspection and a decent train of thought (which involved sweeping several pieces of mindfucking information under the rug for now), he identified the boy as Simon Telamon. Who, if the 'grapevine' which he could never escape no matter how hard he tried was correct, just so happened to be the latest fling for Clio.

... Fuck.

Ivan cautiously approached Simon, the shotgun at the ready. Clio looked to have stopped moving, her cries ceasing. For some reason, he felt... sad. Sad that the girl had to go as broken as she was, with no chance to be fixed... to die with a happy heart. If only he could say a few words, something to express the vague, indescribable feeling of pity and kindness that he only wanted to share with Clio now that she had died. Only once she passed did Ivan see her not as a murderer and somebody who was attempting to kill him in a fervor, but as a girl who really had lost her way. He had almost become her, were it not for Tabi, and now Tabi had killed her. She needed his attention, but Simon needed it more right now.

"I want you to back away. ... Please. There's nothing you can do for her now."
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On paper, the situation seemed pretty cut-and-dry. A hated enemy was now laid dead at Ivan's feet, and her partner (in the romantic sense, but there's no telling whether or not they teamed up on this island) had every right to want both him and Tabi dead. The logical course of action would be to pull that trigger and end Simon's life, as well as his capacity to threaten, right then and there. The logical course of action is also the road that led to Keith's murder, or at least Ivan's justifying it. It was probably the road that Clio had taken when she came to the conclusion she had to kill everybody else.

In other words, it was the road better off not traveled.

He couldn't just let Simon out of his eyesight, though. Not when there could possibly be a weapon on Clio that, once picked up, could be used to shoot him. Or maybe Simon would get straight to the point and shoot Tabi. Ivan stared Simon down as he thought about that particular scenario. There wasn't a chance in hell he would ever let the kid near her, but if by chance he did, there would be no mercy. Yet, he understood what Simon might be feeling, the harshness behind his response to the order to stay back. Ivan had been there, he really did understand.

There in that moment, he felt a bit of begrudging kinship towards those near him at the moment. Simon was feeling the pain of a lost connection, such as the family that neither one of them was ever going to see again, and the dead girl at their feet. Clio, herself, was just another student who had lost her way amidst all the chaos. In spite of everything she had done, the pain and terror she had put Ivan through, he truly did feel sorry for what had to be done. Of course, it was always easier to pity the deceased.

Finally, there was Tabi.

You found it in yourself to stay with me, having witness the terrible thing I had just done. Tabi... how do you feel right now? I want to know... I need to see you.

"Don't follow me," Ivan started as he took a few steps backwards in the direction of the house. "If you try and hurt her, I'll rip off your leg and beat you to death with it." Ivan turned to enter the building. One, two... three steps, before he turned around to look at Simon once more.

"... You can have some time with... her." It was the least he could offer, the smallest token of kindness and sympathy before stepping into the house to find Tabi. The gun had been left on the floor in the doorway, where Tabi had taken the shot. With three fingers, he carefully picked it up by the end of the grip and walked it over to where the other gun laid, next to a bag with Clio's name stamped onto it. Relieving himself of the weapons save for the shotgun, his own personal reminder of why life was precious, Ivan stepped before Tabi.

No matter what happens...

He knelt down to look at her. She looked so alone, hopeless... catatonic, even. It took a few seconds before his athletics experience kicked in, bringing his eyes to her dialated pupils. When Clio had slammed her to the floor, Tabi had probably gotten a concussion from the impact. Those eyes held more than just possible head trauma, though. If the pain he had felt was any indicator... Tabi would need him more than ever. Clio's words rang out one final time, jeering and laughing at his 'poor' choice of companionship. As he reached out to take her hand and help her to her feet, he would know just where he was getting all of his strength from.

I need you to not be afraid.

Because...


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"TABI!"

He breathed her name in concern, but he could never tell if the word came out or not. At first he was horrified; Tabi had broken past his grip far faster than he could react, and he feared she might run away from him. She might run straight into one of the many dangers and death lurking all around the island, but it was more than that. If she ran away, he wouldn't be able to see her.

There was something very concerning about that.

"Tabi..."

This time the word came out. Setting the shotgun down and opening himself up for an attack if somebody had decided to arrive that very moment, he cared only to make sure the girl was okay. To see her lying on the floor, unable to move wasn't just terrifying... it was heartbreaking.

He stepped around the prone girl's form to be at her head, then lowered himself to one knee. "Tabi... we need to go. Please..." He did not wait for her to hold out a hand this time. Instead, he dipped his hands under her arms, straining to lift her. His back ached more from its fall as he did so and his teeth clenched in an attempt to thwart the pain. Slowly but surely, he'd push off his leg and rise, getting off of his knee and standing up with her.

Ivan would keep his hands near to make sure Tabi didn't fall again. One, two... three second passed and she seemed to be holding her own, so Ivan trusted himself to let her go. He still stood there, though, wondering if she might run again. What had spurred it on last time? What was she running from?

She can't be running from herself...

".... We'll talk later... just stay put a moment." Ivan said, always keeping his tone soft to her. He had to grab a few things... his shotgun, both pistols, Clio's bag... they could sort through things later. Simon had, no doubt wanted a few things from her, but there was no fucking way Ivan could just hand over any weapons. It was clear what the boy wanted to do to him or Tabi if he ever got the chance, and that was one chance he would never receive.

Packed up and ready to go, Ivan stepped back before Tabi. "If you don't want to look... close your eyes. We have to leave now." With the shotgun in one hand, and Tabi's hand in the other, Ivan led their way out of the house.



There she was, outside. They'd have to walk right by her, as luck would have it, if they wanted to get out of here the same way they came. Hesitantly, Ivan stepped nearer to Clio, wavering in his footsteps as though the girl was going to jump up and attack them yet again. It was ridiculous, of course; just like any other fallen student, Clio was never to do any of those things again. Feeling sorry for her felt out of the question, but Ivan reflected on his previous thoughts... which were all true.

She went down fighting. Went down a warrior, doing everything she could to see her family again. She did her best, and I have no right to call her a monster. Not when...

Ivan had released Tabi for a moment, muttering for her to wait a second. He dug through the bag, looking for something... anything he could...

His hand felt the cold, smooth surface of metal, and he pulled out a somewhat bloodstained sai. It would have to do... the weapon wasn't particularly sharp, and it would never be used against them if somebody happened to pick it up. He stared at it for a moment more, then pushed his glasses up his nose with his wrist.

"You can stop fighting, Clio."

He said it in Russian, lowering the sai onto the girl's stomach, then draping one of her hands over it. His respects paid, he returned to Tabi, then continued leading her away.

((Ivan Kuznetsov and Tabi Gweneth, continued in The Sound of Silence))
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