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By the time you hear the next pop, the funk shall be within you; Private
Topic Started: Sep 16 2016, 05:32 AM (1,663 Views)
dmboogie
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A Delicate Machine
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Remember that, okay? Just...whatever happens. You're good.

((Harold Porter's stepping closer.))

Not like he didn't appreciate the vote of confidence, but Harold was having a hard time agreeing with Lizzie's words. Partly out of principle, partly because he hadn't actually done anything yet. He meant every word he had said, but that's all they were, words. He supposed that, if nothing else, they'd helped calm Lizzie down. Might have made Astrid think a bit, though he doubted it. Still, he couldn't let himself get caught up in feeling good about his little spot of philosophy back there.

He'd written a moving thesis statement without bothering to fill out the rest of the essay, laid out a grand plan and then decided to have lunch and a nice nap. Sure, it was better than doing nothing, and it gave him a place to start, but that's all it was. A start. A prelude to the things that actually mattered.

And speaking of things that actually mattered, as he stepped out into the hallway Harold had caught a glimpse of Clarice running like... well, like a furious wrestler into an asylum, the truth sounded hellish enough as it was, no need to pretty it up with metaphors, trailed by her boyfriend. Both of them were up the stairs and out of his sight before he could call out to them. He tensed for a moment, ready to intercept if it turned out someone was chasing after them, but the only thing that moved was the dust they'd displaced.

Whatever the case, they'd obviously been in trouble. Clarice and Conrad had been running together, not chasing each other, so there probably wasn't any immediate danger; still, Harold couldn't just let this sit without trying to find and check up on them. He turned back to Ty, filled him in on the situation. They agreed to head to the second floor together, then split up and try to find Clarice. Couldn't just leave a member of the team behind, after all. Well, they already had, technically speaking. Thankfully.

Harold would've felt a lot safer with Rod at his back, but he was glad that at least one of his friends was gonna live to hit drinking age. Not that Harold was planning on letting any of his friends die, at least not while he still had his body. Ty had given Harold the sword, and it was disturbing how used he'd already gotten to carrying it around. He'd swap it for a shield in a heartbeat, even if it wasn't made out of Vibranium Steel.

Just as he was thinking that the second floor'd never run out of empty rooms to poke his head into and gurney-littered hallways to walk, Harold heard a familiar voice as he reached the gate that seemed to mark the start of Solitary Confinement. He soon found Clarice and Conrad sitting inside one of the cells. "Clarice, it's me." Harold called out as he approached. He raised a hand to wave, but realized that he was also raising the sword with it, so he kind of just aborted the gesture entirely. He leaned against the doorframe, unintentionally blocking them in, and held his weapon down at his side. "It's good to see you - oh jesus," he gasped as he got his first clear look at Clarice. Happy as he was to see one of his best friends, Harold would've preferred it to be without a new, ugly wound in her shoulder.

"What happened to you guys? Are - are you okay?" His words sounded weak, even to him, but the shock of seeing Clarice, who he had always pictured as practically indestructible, seriously injured had robbed him of any momentum he'd had. Harold couldn't fix this, either. He was talented at hurting people, not healing them.
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dmboogie
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Once the initial shock wore off, Harold managed to get a hold of himself. It was still terrible that Clarice had been hurt, of course, but it looked like Conrad had been able to take care of her wound as best he could, given the circumstances. Much better than Harold could've, in any case. He only really knew Conrad through Clarice, but he'd always seemed like a good dude. Harold gave him a nod as he entered the cell proper.

Before he sat down, Harold made sure to set his sword down, leaning it against the wall opposite him, close to the other two. He needed to make it clear that he didn't have any bad intentions, especially since they'd already been attacked once and probably weren't exactly keen to have a big dude with a weapon in close proximity to them, threatening or no. Even Astrid had gotten that much right. In any case, Harold settled down to listen to Clarice's story.

By the time she was done speaking, Harold felt extremely unnerved, but he still made an effort to meet her joke with a joke. "Well, I'm glad you're not quite dead." Even wounded, Clarice's spirit seemed as indomitable as ever, and Harold had to do his best to keep up. She had a gash in her shoulder, what was his excuse to mope or stammer? Still, finally having a name and face in place of the vague, amorphous mental image of killers that Harold had had in his head unsettled him. Silly as it seemed, he'd held a small hope that they'd finally be the ones to rise against Evil's games and prove them wrong once and for all, even if it did mean their deaths.

It wouldn't help anyone to dwell on that, though. If Harold ran into Nancy, he'd have to do his best to talk her down, and if that didn't work... well, he'd figure out some way to keep her from hurting anyone else.

"I've got some good news for you, at least." Harold said, hoping to brighten the mood. "Ty's with me! We split up a couple minutes ago to check this floor out, but he should be here soon. That's his sword, actually," he said, gesturing towards it. "We're both fine, and I bet we'll all feel a whole lot better once we got the whole team together in one place."
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Conrad's move was so unexpected that Harold had a bit of trouble wrapping his head around it, at first. One moment they'd all been sitting and talking, the next Conrad had dashed across the room and nabbed the sword. Dude could have just asked for Harold to chuck it into the hall or something if he didn't feel comfortable, no need for theft! Harold looked to Clarice for guidance, saw her struggle and fail to stand up. Normally it'd be best for her to be the one to deal with her boyfriend's weirdness, but Harold didn't want her to strain herself, and he wanted this situation resolved as soon as possible. It was about time that he actually did something, anyways, prove that he was someone that could be relied on.

Harold stood up and slowly approached Conrad. Harold would do his best to talk him down if he could, but if worst came to worst he was fairly confident he could wrestle that sword away from him. He didn't like the way Conrad moved in short, jerky movements, spat his words out in bursts. He seemed nervous, exactly the sort of person you'd prefer not to have a sword in a small, confined space.

"Conrad, man, we're all friends here, right?" Harold said as he stepped closer. "Ty and I, we're buddies with Clarice, you know that. Do you really think we'd mess with her or her boyfriend?" He stood right in front of Conrad, looking down at the smaller boy. "So please, there's no need for this. Drop the sword and we can all get back to sitting down in this comfy cell."
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Harold had messed up. Plain and simple.

He'd let his guard down. Hadn't thought that any of them were in real danger, had been treating this as more of a practice run at being the hero than anything else. Hadn't thought anything could have really happened to him, not while he was with Clarice. Hadn't stopped to consider Conrad's feelings, hadn't considered that he might somehow be intimidated by the 6'3'' wrestleman that had been confidently walking up to him.

Harold blankly stared down at the sword that was now piercing his chest, held by Conrad's trembling hands. Opened and closed his mouth, trying to figure out how to process this information. Settled on a stunned "...Huh?"

He stumbled backwards. The sword popped free with a sickening squelching noise, and the blood it had been stemming suddenly flowed free, staining his Deadpool t-shirt even redder. Harold would have found it entertainingly characteristic in any other circumstance.

"Why did you... I-I wasn't gonna hurt you-" Harold stammered, sweating. He didn't want to look down again, didn't want to think about the pain that was growing more and more overwhelming as each second passed by to twist the knife a centimeter deeper.

He suddenly felt faint, would have dumbly toppled over backwards like so many Goliaths past if someone hadn't suddenly grabbed ahold of him, keeping him upright. Harold sank against them, unable to muster the energy to even turn his head, simply staring at Conrad and the now-bloodstained sword he held in his hands.
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Harold rested his back against the padded cell, guided by Clarice. Watched her put herself between him and Conrad. A simple, selfless gesture that was infinitely more righteous than anything Harold had managed to accomplish. He would have protested, had he been able - no need for her to risk injuring herself even further trying to shield him from his mistake. However, Harold couldn't find the strength for that kind of conviction.

So, he gave up. Let himself be protected. Tried to focus on the softness of the wall behind him, on Clarice's bracing arm. Years of absorbed narrative convention told him that he should place a hand against his chest, feel his life oozing out of him, stare in horror. He elected to not do that, vaguely thinking that as long as he didn't confirm how bad his wound was beyond "pain", he'd be fine. If only Clarice hadn't already used up the obvious Black Knight joke.

Justice hit Conrad hard and fast.

Harold couldn't help but feel a bit of vindictive satisfaction as Ty took Conrad down, sending the damned sword down to the ground. Couldn't help but think that's what he should've done to begin with, to hell with playing the negotiator. Couldn't help but think of how easily he could have avoided being stabbed, just by caring less.

The screaming and crunching of Conrad's bones jarred Harold out of that mindset. There was a fine line between using violence to defend or destroy, and Ty had had already sprinted past it without any intention of slowing down. Harold looked into Conrad's eyes and only saw a manic fear, colored by excruciating pain. He wasn't blameless, but Harold had to remember that it was Evil that had pushed him to this. He couldn't accept this blood being shed on his behalf.

Clarice was evidently thinking the same thing. She did what Harold couldn't by physically holding Ty back, though Harold wasn't sure that either of them could have fully pinned a berserk Ty, even under the best of circumstances. Ty would have to stop himself.

"Ty... please, this - this isn't helping anyone," Harold managed before breaking out into a coughing fit, each spasm shooting pain throughout his body. He could only hope that would be enough, only try to stay upright against the wall without Clarice's support.
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The scattered parts of Harold's brain that were still concerned with morality instead of mortality were glad that Ty had stopped before he had done anything he couldn't take back. A person had to be strong in order bring themselves back from the edge of reason like that. No matter how loudly Harold and Clarice's voices had ultimately reached him, it had been Ty's decision to stop himself. Harold would've liked to say that there had never been any doubt in his mind, that Ty was one of the strongest people he knew; but that'd be a lie - the first part, at least.

When SOTF broke people, it shattered their legacy, forced everyone they cared about to view the good times in their past through a bloodstained lens. Reduced them to single words like 'murderer' or 'psychopath', no matter what their hopes or dreams had been. Evil could kill memory itself, at least in the public eye. Harold had been terrified that he had been about to watch Ty vault over that ledge, tear Conrad and himself to pieces with his bare hands. Under normal circumstances, he would have felt relief wash over him in waves, a sense of pride for that small act of Justice that had been done, proof that good could still win out in the end.

In the here and now, though, outside of the abstractions and philosophical musings being done in the corners of his consciousness, Harold just felt dizzy and tired.

He let Ty and Clarice put his arms around their shoulders, let them start to carry him away. Harold did the best he could to make it easier for them, but whatever strength he'd had was fading. He glanced at Conrad one last time. Saw him crying and writhing on the floor. Wasn't sure if he wanted to scream at him for everything or apologize for not doing better, and then scream at him for everything.

Hatred and pity and sympathy and pain all blurred together as they fought for dominance in Harold's head, and the carefully defined lines he had built his world around began to fade.

They left in silence.

((This Is Not My Country, This Is Not What I Believe.))
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