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We're Here Because We're Here
Topic Started: Oct 3 2016, 10:36 AM (785 Views)
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And I am still hungry.
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((Min-jae Parker continued from Five Finger Death Punch))

Jae and Vanessa had left the asylum behind as soon as possible after the awkward encounter with Trav and Cass on the rooftop. The other side of the island looked a lot more like civilization, at least going by the map, so they made the harrowing, faltering trip across the bridge and set up for the night in one of the staff dormitories. There were noises during the night, possible movement elsewhere in the building, but no one showed their face. Everything hurt more the next day, even with the effort Jae had taken to elevate his leg during the night, but it was back to their semi-aimless trek all the same. Time spent hesitating was time wasted.

They were somewhere between buildings when the speakers hidden around the island crackled to life for the first time.

Jae was religious, kind of. His mom's whole side of the family were Buddhist and when she started actively practicing in the home, he had gradually absorbed enough of the traditions to consider himself part of it. The whole putting it into practice bit was another thing entirely, but he tried to keep the principles in mind most of the time.

So in Buddhism, or at least the Min-jae Tradition of Buddhism, death had never been a particularly big deal. He'd never experienced it in close proximity. He'd been to a funeral, once, when he was four or five and his maternal grandfather had passed away. It was a vague, unpleasant memory for reasons entirely unrelated to the actual funeral and much more to do with thirteen-hour plane rides and the general strife that always existed between his maternal relatives. The concept of death was the equivalent of a time-out. This round's over, let's see how you did and where you end up in round two.

Jae had spent the early hours of the morning trying to reconcile that view with the steadily-growing dread in the pit of his stomach for the forthcoming announcement. Nobody in his school was probably going to end up in Hell. Even if they did, Hell was just another stop of the wheel, the equivalent of being made to sit in the corner and think about what you did before you get another chance. Most people would just end up right back where they started, in a metaphysical sense. Sorry guys, but this time around was a wash, have another go.

So there was the knowledge that everyone's soul would probably be okay in the end. It was hard to care too much about souls when you were still very much attached to the physical world and had so much that you still wanted to do.

It was hard to care about souls when every name Danya listed off with a hint of boredom was such a senseless waste.

Scarlett McAfee, there was a nastier shock than Jae had been expecting. He hadn't liked Scarlett; he'd been suspicious of her, and let's be totally honest here, he'd threatened her at the Sadie Hawkins dance. Vague threats more in the vein of social ruin than physical harm, but threats all the same. Thinking of the dance inevitably lead to a tangle of other things, other faces, and he tried to put them from his mind. There was the issue of Nancy, wholly unrelated to the rest of Jae's turmoil involving Scarlett. Nancy, whom he'd seen only briefly, running from him while he lay bleeding on the floor, had gone on to take a hatchet to Scarlett for no adequately explained reason.

Then there was Alvaro. Maybe Jae had expected to hear his name one way or another, but... Well, this made it real, didn't it. Alvaro had run into somebody else and had indeed succeeded where he'd failed with Jae. Barry Banks was less clear in his mind, but Jae had thought that he and Alvaro were soccer teammates. He would have assumed they were friends.

It just proved what Jae had already realized: Alvaro was fucking crazy.

He didn't feel particularly vindicated by the confirmation.

There was also the deeper realization, the more selfish one; given his nature, Jae knew of the people listed off, but he didn't know them. They were, to put it crudely, people he didn't really care about. People who might have died a year, five years after graduation in some freak accident or by a drug overdose or some terminal illness and he'd have gone "Oh, that's too bad," and moved on with his life because he wouldn't have been there with any of them when it happened. Time's up, on to round two. Scarlett stood out the most, and the entirety of their acquaintanceship was the incident at the dance.

And in a way, that made it easier. He could say Nancy and Alvaro were psychos, that there had always been something there, something fundamentally wrong with them, and of course they'd snapped. Of course somebody had gotten hurt. Isabel Ramirez? Grade-A bitch back in school. Loved hurting people for giggles. Of course she'd take it further. All of the killers, they were messed up from the very start.

So what did that say about Jae's certainty that if he ran into Alvaro again, one of them wouldn't be walking away from it this time?

By the time he and Vanessa reached the radio tower, he still hadn't come up with an answer.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Jae heard the crying as they approached the shack, and was just far enough behind Vanessa to only be able to hope that whoever it was in there wasn't in the middle of some kind of psychotic break with a deadly weapon as she barged in. Hopefully the pair of them were just threatening enough to discourage any attacks, but not enough to provoke more out of fear.

He limped the rest of the way over and leaned in the doorway behind Vanessa, fingers brushing the collapsed baton in his belt in a way that had almost become habit over the last day. He'd practiced unfolding and collapsing it for a while the previous evening; he was never quite able to shake the feeling that he looked like some kind of stupid discount jedi, but it was still a solid metal bar that was useful for smacking people upside the head if so needed. Get them some riot shields, and he and Vanessa were the cheapest SWAT team you'd ever need.

Lizzie Luz didn't look like she was in the middle of a psychotic break at least. She looked distraught and weak and frankly pretty pathetic, which was probably the best case scenario. It chafed at Jae somewhat, to be relieved at someone else's suffering. Some people considered him a bully, he was self-aware enough to know that, but he'd never hurt people for fun. Tears made him uncomfortable regardless of the reason.

Lizzie had some pretty good reasons to cry right now though, considering the announcement. Her cousin - sister? Jae wasn't entirely clear on all the crisscrossing Luz family lines in Cochise - had been the first person murdered. Who knew who else she'd been close to, she'd never seemed a social butterfly.

"Hey," he said shortly, unable to muster anything else that seemed appropriate. He felt like he had words filling him up all through the morning, waiting to spill out of his mouth, but this wasn't the time or the place, and Lizzie was an unexpected addition to the audience. Jae tapped his fingers against the baton and his tongue stud against the inside of his teeth and glanced around at the rest of the gutted control shack as they waited for Lizzie's response.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Jae stayed looming in the doorway, content to let Vanessa try and comfort Lizzie. He hadn't known Lizzie and Scarlett were friends. He'd just been walking along, thinking uncharitably about how he'd never liked Scarlett and he wanted no part of Lizzie's tears or her accusation if she somehow divined his thoughts. He'd swung back and forth on whether or not he really wanted to run into somebody else, but he hadn't wanted this, whatever it was.

He settled on not looking directly at Lizzie while Vanessa talked to her. Awkward eye contact with a crying person was the worst.

And of course as soon as he thought that, a voice sounded from behind him and Jae remembered that quite a lot of things involving injury and possible death were objectively worse than having to deal with someone while they cried. He would have spun to face the new arrival but his immobilized leg resulted in more of a stumbling turn that left him grabbing at the other side of the door frame for support.

There was an instant of nerves and adrenaline as Jae steadied himself, an instant where he was vulnerable and his good hand would have taken too long to get to the baton. He saw the guy who had spoken, didn't see a weapon.

He saw Hazel.

The world tilted for a moment and then righted itself again as Jae pushed away from the door frame and took a couple staggering steps towards her. He stopped abruptly, remembering where they were and what he must look like, and the fact that Vanessa was still crouched on the floor with an upset and possibly-unstable person. Jae was left frustratingly in the middle, too far away from either pair to do anything.

"Hey," he said again, stupidly, choking down everything else that threatened to spill out again now that he could see her. Fuck, he hadn't realized until she was right in front of him how scared he'd been that he wouldn't see her again.

He glanced over his shoulder at Vanessa and Lizzie. "It's okay, everything's cool, it's Hazel and... some guy." Prevent a panic before it started, prevent more tears. He met Lizzie's red-rimmed eyes and quickly faced away from her again.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Vanessa answered all the questions thrown their way easily enough, not bothering to wait for Jae to compose himself. On one hand, it saved him from making more of a fool of himself. On the other, having her announce to everyone they came across that Alvaro had been the one to beat the shit out of him was pretty goddamn embarrassing.

"Yeah," he punctuated Vanessa's statements with a shrug. "Long story short, Alvaro's gone nuts and, well... you guys heard." He grimaced. As far as he knew, Hazel wasn't close to anyone whose name had come up either. She seemed more concerned about him either way, and that brought a pleasant bit of warmth to him.

Jae glanced over his shoulder at the tower again as Jordan from drama asked about it. "We just got here, so no. Place looks pretty useless, anyway." When he turned his attention back, his eyes were drawn to Hazel again. She didn't look hurt or particularly traumatized, just worried and tired. All in all, it was probably a sign that she'd had it better than a lot of people so far.

He took a few more steps forward anyway, closing the distance between them. Should he hug her? Would that be weird to do in front of everyone?

...Ah, fuck it. He reached out and pulled Hazel into a firm hug. "You've been okay?"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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And I am still hungry.
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((Skipping to exit))

Okay. Hazel was okay, things were okay for now. Except for all the ways they really, really fucking weren't, but to continue harping on that would just exhaust him.

Jae didn't want to stay here, just standing around in the open talking about how everyone might or might not be fine. He appeared to be the only person out of five who was even moderately armed, and he was half-crippled. They needed shelter, and the radio tower's little shack wouldn't do.

He cleared his throat to attract everyone's attention back to him. "This is nice and all, but I want to get inside somewhere. There isn't anything here for us, and there's no telling who's going to show up next. Anyone who wants to come with me is welcome to, if not... good luck, I guess."

Hardly an inspiring speech, but Jae had never been considered inspiring. He kept his arm around Hazel's shoulders as they set off.

((Min-jae Parker continued in We're In This Together))
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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