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Messages - Simon Toews

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Life on the Other Side / Re: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)
« on: December 09, 2019, 04:56:18 PM »
(If anyone's still interested, I will no longer be updating this story here. 

Life on the Other Side / Re: OOC Thread & Disclaime
« on: October 03, 2019, 10:49:21 AM »
Sorry for the delay to those waiting.  I've been dealing with a death in the family and am reworking the ending.  It will get finished!

The city seemed so much bigger and louder now.  The quiet of the ranch was peaceful, only broken by the happy sounds of those with whom he shared it.  It felt faster, more alive here.  But, he noted, it also felt angrier, dirtier.  The rot of this place was deeply ingrained in the city’s being, causing him no small amount of anxiety.  Winter was nearing its end, the snow turning from fluffy white to a slushy grey.  At least the bite of the cold had dulled some. 

Tahlia was off making arrangements while he was holed up in her casino.  The Golden Pearl would have been his kind of joint just a year prior.  But Simon wasn’t the same person anymore.  He felt out of place here now.  It was as if he’d been wearing blinders and finally taken them off.  Despite the flashy, bright veneer, Simon saw through to the darkness inherent in this place.   He pitied the folks sitting in front of slot machines pouring money in the slim chance that their fortunes could change.  He saw men and women at the tables blowing the kind of coin that could feed everyone on the ranch for months or even open an entire other, bigger location. 

He’d seen poverty before.  Hell, most of his life was lived in poverty.  He’d barely touched any of the money Tahlia had left him, except to help buy supplies when Anna allowed him to.  She was a stubborn, proud woman.  She preferred to pay her own way when she could.  Plus she was reticent to take money she thought might be I’ll-gotten.  But times were tough, and even dirty money could keep the lights on. 

Simon stares out the window of the penthouse suite, looking at the bright, twinkling lights of the city.  Somewhere out there, Jakob Falk was plotting his next move, hopefully unaware of what was coming for him. 

A knock came from the door.  He took one last look and moved to the door.  His heart sank when he saw the one-armed detective standing on the other side.  The pair of them just stared a moment, unsure of what to say. 

“Corrine.”  He finally said, in a hushed tone. 

She was usually the most unerringly confident woman he’d ever encountered, but here, she seemed...ashamed.  Her eyes struggled to meet his. 

“Heya, Toews.”  She said.  “Mind if I come in?”

Simon blinked and stepped aside.  Paige entered the lavishly appointed suite and looked around.

“Jesus.” She muttered. “Tahlia doesn’t **** around.”

Simon took it in as if for the first time.  “No, she does not.”

Her fingers trailed over the marble top of a fully stocked bar, her back to him. The detective glanced back and managed a smile.  “You look good.  You put on some pounds?”

“Yeah.  Turns out hard work and good food will do that.”

Paige’s smirked.  “Who knew?”

Simon chuckled and crossed his arms, leaning against the back of his couch.  “You sent Tahlia for me?”

Paige nodded.  “Figured you wanna see a friendly face.”

“Coulda been your’s.”  He said.

Corrine’s smile faded, her eyes lowering.

“Yeah.” She said. “After the way we left things, I didn’t think you’d be too thrilled to see me.”

“So you sent the woman I broke up with via note and ran out on?”  He quirked a brow.  “Solid plan.”

Paige laughed, but her expression turned somber again. “Simon, I’m sorry.”

“It’s in the past.”  He reassured her.

“  I was wrong.  I should have let you explain.  I didn’t listen to your side and-“

“Corrine.”  Simon stopped her. “He played us.  Falk played us both. be honest, it worked out for the best.”

Paige knew about Anna in only the vaguest terms.  He’d mentioned something about her during their visits while he was still in lockup and she’d heard her name during one of his night terrors.  She knew he’d found her again. 

“What’s she like?”  Paige asked.

“Strong.”  Simon said quietly. “Smart, funny.  Stubborn as hell, but in an endearing kinda way.  Still beautiful.”

Paige smiled. “Working on a little crush, are you?”

Simon snorted.  “No.  No, come on.”

“Mmhm.”  Paige leaned her hip on the counter.  “You’ve become a s***ty liar, Toews.  What’d they do to you out there?”

She saw right through him.   The truth was, Anna centered him.  She showed him a part of himself he’d thought was buried and gone.

“She gave me purpose.”  He said.  “She gave me a reason to live.”

Paige walked over to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.  He looked happier and healthier than she’d ever seen him.  For that, she was grateful. 

“It’s damn good to see you again, Toews.”

Simon smiled. 

“You too.”

Simon rose up in front of the bathroom mirror, water dripping from his face.  The beard was gone.  He barely recognized the face looking back anymore.  He’d finished packing minutes before, deciding that he really needed to up his wardrobe.   Almost every stitch of clothing the man owned was in one bag.  Kind of sad when he thought about it. 

He knew something would drag him back there.  Even as he grew more comfortable here, he knew something would go wrong and he’d be right back in the game.  It was just a matter of time.  Only, this time, he really didn’t want to go.  It wasn’t something he’d expected, but nevertheless, the ranch had become home.  He belonged here.  People liked him and wanted to help him get better.  He could breathe here.  Here, he was free. 

Simon knew he could die going back to the city, and everything he’d discovered here would be lost to him.  Fate brought him the one thing that could bring him back.  The kid might have been a little s*** who beat the living hell out of him, but he was still Simon’s son. And he was Anna’s.  The two of them had created a life.  Something amazing out of the horror that brought them together.  But Falk took that from them, too. There was only one more thing could take, and if it had to happen, Simon wasn’t going to sit and wait for some goon to come and try to kill him in his sleep.  That was never his style.  There would be no more hiding. 

A figure appeared in the doorway.  Of course it was Anna.  Her arms wrapped around herself as she studied him, a distant look in her eyes.  Simon cast his gaze to her in the mirror, watching her force a smile that quickly faltered.

“Hey.”  He greeted her.  Immediately he chastised himself for the lameness off it.  He never was much of a speaker.

Anna spared a slight smile for him.  “Hey.”

There were a million things both wanted to say, but neither could vocalize.  “She’s right, you know?”

Simon tilted his head curiously. 

“The beard. You look better without it.”  Anna grinned, but it looked as hollow as it felt. 

Simon chuckled and ran a hand along his freshly shaven jawline.  “You gonna be alright?”

“Why?  Cuz you’re leaving?”  She said with mock indignation. “I’ve been doing just fine without Simon Toews for decades now.  I think I can manage.”

A laugh left him and he nodded.  “Right.  Business as usual.”

“Damn right.”  She responded, clenching and shaking her fist like a boxer.

The joking bravado faded the longer they stared.  Both knew things had changed.  Reuniting had given them both a piece of something they’d lost long ago.  Neither was really ready to let it go again.  Simon stepped forward, Anna following suit.  They embraced tightly, as if it could stop everything that was to come. 

Anna rested her head upon his chest, a million thoughts in her head.  “Come back.”  She whispered. 

He knew it was a promise he couldn’t be certain he could keep.  He wouldn’t be going in alone and Paige and Tahlia had his back, but Jakob Falk wasn’t going down quietly.  He could die there.  Frankly, he wouldn’t be surprised if he did.  But his main concern was not with himself.

The pair pulled back.  “Be careful.”  Simon said. “By now, he probably knows where you are.”

“He probably does.”  Anna nodded.

“If he sends people, trying to hurt you to get to me…”

“Then they’ll regret it.”  Anna said.  “I know how to defend my own.”

Simon knew from the look in her eye that it wasn’t bluster.  Anna lived with the knowledge that he could have come for her at any time.  She was prepared. 

“So…” she said, that fake smile trying in vain to hide her sadness.  “This is goodbye.”

“Nah.”  Simon brushed it off. “Just...catch you later. ”

Anna nodded and grinned.  “Yeah.  Catch you later.”

Once again they embraced.  If the last memory he had of her was the feel of her arms, the scent of her hair and the warm, safe feeling she always left him with, he supposed that was more than enough.

Life on the Other Side / Re: Where Words Fail: Music Thread
« on: July 20, 2019, 08:08:43 AM »

Thomas Newman-Ghosts

Most of the last update was written to this.  Love this music!

(Thanks to Tahlia for her help with this one!)

Snow blanketed the entire area in a sheet of frosty white.  Night was falling and the moon cast its glow over the widespread landscape.  Aside from the barely plowed roads, there were no signs of civilization out here, the nearest town several miles back.  If he’d been looking to disappear, he’d chosen a helluva place to do it.  The path to Anna’s place was even less maintained than the main roads, the Spitfire struggling against the snowy path.  If it weren’t for the tracks previously made by a truck, She might have lost it into a ditch.

The warm lights of the ranch came into view as she exited a clearing, smoke rising gently into the gathering dark from the chimney.  Cozy little place with a barn and tons of land.  Not the sort of joint she’d ever expect to find a guy like Simon.  His scene was more dingy, raucous clubs or some rathole basement where he could pound some poor bastard’s face in.  Little House On the Prairie was not exactly what one pictured.

She'd piloted the Triumph through a lot.  If this trip broke her baby, Simon was going to be in for a lot less friendly greeting.  But she made it, and sat in stunned silence, just staring at the house for a moment.  The farm. The..."For ****s sake - "  She was having flashbacks of the months she spent hidden away at the ranch, with Tex.  Months only made bearable by the time she'd spent sinning like their lives depended on it with Simon.

Sighing, she stepped out of the sports car, grateful she'd grabbed a fur-lined leather jacket, and looked around at the rural edition of My Blue Heaven.   "Killer, if you ever for a minute, doubt how much you mean to me again..."  Not that he was there to hear her.

The sound of hooves upon the snow came from behind, one of the horses letting out a little snort, sending the steam of its breath jetting out in a mist through its nostrils.  Astride one of them was a woman.  Fair skin marred by a few scars, yet undeniably beautiful.  Her red hair was tucked under a light grey knit cap.  She looked down at Tahlia with caution in her green eyes, as she often did with strangers on her property.  But it was the other rider Tahlia would recognize.  A few weeks of beard was upon his face, more than she’d ever seen him with, but those eyes were undeniably Simon’s.  His brows knit in confusion,beholding the woman before him. 


"Heyyyyyyy Killer."  She turned, and there was a long slow blink.  "Oh.  Wow.  I should have brought you one of Tex's hats."  She had one.  Or two.  Nevermind how she got them.  There was a flick of silver-green eyes to the woman, but, really, she'd come to see him.  Anyone else was incidental.  If Tahlia was capable of feeling overdressed, or out of place, she might have been.  But she was, for the moment, mission focused. "Surprise."

Simon slipped off his horse, boots crunching in the snow as he immediately strode toward her and threw his arms around her.  He clung to her tightly, a smile on his rugged, scruffy face.  For a moment he was content to just embrace her, earning an...interesting look from the woman upon the horse. He looked and felt healthier than she'd seen him, even compared to their last meeting.  He'd always felt a little thin, lean.  His time on this farm, eating good home cooking and working hard every day had clearly done him a bit of good.

She hugged him tightly, burying her face into his shoulder and tucking her nose against his skin.  The smoke and booze and everything else was gone, replaced with hay, and clean air - but he was still him beneath all of it.  She hadn't bothered with gloves, and light caught an obviously expensive purple and gold band around her left ring finger as she clung to him.  "You look good, Killer.  Real good.  Not sure I like the beard though...scratchy in the wrong spots..."

He pulled back and looked her over, a smirk on his face.  "You don't like the Grizzly Adams beard?"  He chuckled, running a hand over it.

"I do not."  She was smiling though, and reached up to run a hand along his jaw, her thumb just at the corner of his mouth.  Finally, her gaze pulled to the other figure, "Guessing it's not for me though..."

Anna threw a leg over one side and climbed down from her steed, approaching them.  "Simon's a man of manners, isn't he?"  She said sarcastically and offered a gloved hand.  If this was who he had shacked up with, she was as far from Tahlia as he could get.  None of her glitz, glamour, or expensive fashion sense...yet it worked for her.    "Anna Simmons.  Welcome."

"Nice to meet you.  Tahlia Faras.  For a little longer, anyway."  Actually, she and Eddie hadn't discussed names.  Tahlia Blake wasn't too bad either.  She hadn't, however, let go of Simon, not least of which because she was cold.  "He's better than he was, before..." Of course, then...well best not to think about that.

Her grip was strong.  No doubt from running this place for so long.  There was an intensity to her that was hard to miss.  Polite, certainly, but she carried herself with confidence and strength.  Yeah, in that at least, she was definitely his type.  "Pleasure."  She said.

Simon noticed then, for the first time, the ring.  His eyes widened as he looked her in the eye.  The corner of his mouth upturned.  “Really?   Tahlia Faras is getting hitched?  Holy s***.”

There was a, well, bashful was about the only way to describe that look.  "Yeah, shocked us too.   Golden Gala he just...decided I needed one.  Didn't...actually ask.  But apparently there's some Selkie tradition."  They'd at least been able to talk about the reality of how she and Eddie had become she and Eddie, so that helped.  A little.  "You're coming."  It wasn't a question.

The cir***stances that had led to it all were left in the past.  Whatever pain he had held onto from their initial parting was ancient history as far as he was concerned.  The smile on his face was 100% genuine.  "Wouldn't miss it."

A low voice came from behind.  "Miss Anna?"  Otis asked curiously.  "Everything alright?"

Anna turned her eyes up to Otis and a polite nod offered.  "It's fine, Otis.  We have a visitor.  Mind taking the horses back to the stable while I welcome our guest?"

The big man was happy to oblige, taking them by the reins and leading them off.  "Thanks, O."  She said fondly, approaching Tahlia and Simon.  "What say we get out of the cold?  Dinner should be about ready if you're hungry."

"Dinner? Oh's a long drive back.  I actually came out here to deliver some information.  I have, unfortunately, a casino to rebuild and open."   Tahlia took a step back, keeping her hands clear. There was a - readiness - that hadn't been there before.  A subtle shift of weight and focus that Simon might recognize, or Anna - it was the way you moved when things had consistently, actively, tried to kill you, recently.  Tahlia had always been a fighter.  A killer.  Now she was becoming a warrior.  It took effort to stand down, and she gave a half smile.  "Not to be rude.."

Simon shot her a curious look, but didn't get a chance to say anything before Anna interjected.  "Well, at least come out of this cold.  You've come a long way.   I insist."  She smiled to the relative stranger.  Never one to let a tiny bit of jealousy get in the way of being a gracious host.

"That I will do.  And thank you.  I didn't realize I'd be surprising Ki-Simon with company.  Although from the looks of it, he's yours, and not the other way around." Tahlia winked, and looped her arm into Simon's for the walk to the house.  For balance.  Those heels were not meant for rough terrain.

The house was warm in more than temperature.  It felt alive, in a way.  The smell of a beef stew and sounds of mirthful conversation emanated from the kitchen.  Not just men and women, but children as well.  Simon slipped off the olive green ranch jacket from his upper body, his thick, waffle-knit henley straining against the added muscle the place had graced him with.  Before he could address Tahlia, a small girl ran up to him.

“Simon!”  She said in that little, excited voice.

“Miss Daisy.”  Simon smiled down to her.  “What’s up?”

She was practically vibrating with excitement.  “I gotta show you what I learned!”

Despite all the stories he’d told her, everything she knew about him, Tahlia had never seen him with a child.  He held a finger up to Tahlia.  “One second.  I’ll be right back.”

Daisy grabbed him by the hand and dragged him off, Anna watching after them.  She undid her scarf, glancing sidelong at the blonde visitor.  “So.  You’re Tahlia.  Simon’s told me a lot about you.”

"Has he now...and I would be curious to know just what that was."  Those oddly ringed jade green eyes fell on Anna as the jacket came off, revealing purple silk and leather.  There was the hint of a brand peeking out as she fluffed her hair.  This was...just Tahlia.  No glamour.

Anna slipped that slightly oversized jacket off and hung it on a coat rack, a little grin on her scarred lip.  "Don't worry.  Not ALL bad."  Beneath the coat was a loose, pink knit sweater that hung down to her denim-clad hips.  "He cares a lot about you.  Said you saved his a lot of ways."

In the other room, she could see the girl placing a cashew on one end of a spoon and instructing Simon.  When he brought his fist down on the curved end, it launched the cashew into the air and Daisy managed to catch it in her mouth.  Simon made an impressed face and gave her a theatrical slow clap. 

“My turn.”  He insisted.  Daisy rushed over and set it up again, firing it off.  Simon had to get under it, but he managed to catch it, throwing his arms up like a referee.  “That’s it.  We’re the greatest.  Greatest in the world.” he said in a matter of fact tone.

Daisy giggled and exchanged high fives with her older friend.  Anna smiled at the little scene before turning her attention back to Tahlia.  "He's come a long way, Simon.  We both have.  He's seen enough pain.  I hope you're not here to cause him any more."

Her eyes were on the scene in front of her, but if it tugged any chords, there was no sign.  Her voice sharpened, just a little.  "Pain and joy can come together.  And sometimes - you can't get to that joy, without it hurting a little.  Or more than a little.  I have an empire to run, and a wedding to plan.  Do you think I would be here if what I had to say could be said by anyone else?" 

Anna nodded slowly, just observing her a moment.  She wasn't threatening or accusing, just trying to suss the strange woman out.  But there was also no fear.  Anna had the look of a woman who had stared the Devil in the eye and never once blinked. 

"There's only one other man in the world I would do more for, and I'm marrying him."  She said it matter of factly, one hand falling briefly to the pearl that nestled in her navel.

"We have that in common then.   When I had nothing, not even the will to keep living...he was there.    He's a good man.  Even if he doesn't want to believe it.  Ain't a thing I wouldn't do to protect him."

Simon came wandering on back before they could continue their conversation.  "Sorry about that.  So, what's up?"

Anna offered that tight, uneasy smile to him.  "Why don't you two take the nook.  Give you some privacy.”

Simon lead the way through the darkened family room.  Worn leather couches and bookshelves adorned the space, a small overhead light dimmed to almost nothing.  Through a set of glass double doors, was round, sturdy oak table before a big bay window looking out onto the rear of the sprawling property.  The cozy, rustic quality of the place might never seem like "him", if you knew Simon.  But then, the Simon before her didn't much LOOK like the man she'd known.  His bulkier, muscular physique aside, his smile was easier and there didn't seem to be as much weight upon his shoulders.  Those eyes, once always so alert and haunted were at ease.  Comfortable.   What horrors he'd been carrying most of his life seemed to be left in the rear view.
Tahlia followed him into the room, those strange pale eyes of her playing over a form at once intimately familiar and all together different.  There was a time they'd known every inch, every scar on each other's bodies with more intimacy and familiarity than they'd known their own.  A lot had changed though, since then.  She hadn't had the same silver cast to her eyes, and the blonde she'd used as camouflage then was permanent now.  Her glamour was gone.  But if she hadn't gained the same serenity he had found, there was a sense of permanence to her now.  His Tahlia had been a forest fire - sudden and fickle, burning out and popping up elsewhere at a whim.  Uncontrollable.  He'd been the one to show her the value of finding a hearth to call home, but it had taken something else - someone else to turn her into the creature who stood before him now.

  She didn't know just where to start - not with him.  Anyone else and she just would have blurted it out, feelings and consequences be damned.  But this was Simon.  "Killer..."  It was his nickname, only his - sighed out of her like it would somehow make this easier.
As he turned to face her, his face lit up.  Those arms, bigger and somehow stronger than they had been wrapped around her again.  There was a time when they would have just been tearing each other's clothes off, but now it was different.  He just enveloped her.  "Christ, I missed you."
Her arms found their place around his ribs and she held on tight, head on it's natural spot on his chest, the one she'd always think of as hers.  "I missed you too.  You know you've always got a place if you want it."  She knew, seeing him here, like this, that he wouldn't come back.  More importantly, he shouldn't come back.

"I can't believe you came all this way."  He said with a little chuckle.  "Ride's a rock polisher, ain't it?"

"Out here? Yeah - worse than the ride out to Tex's..."  Of course, the last time she'd done that drive had been the night she still didn't like remembering.  "I can't believe you're playing country mouse, Killer..."
His scruffy cheek rested against her blonde hair, a little snicker leaving him.  "You and me both, sweetheart."   She still smelled and felt the same.  No matter what she did or how her life had changed, he could still remember the smell of her hair and the feel of her embrace.

"Turns out?  I'm pretty good with horses.  Who'da thunk it?"

"It's that animal magnetism of yours."
Simon smirked down to her  "I like it though.  Hard work, good people, great food.  Obviously good food."  He said joked regarding the additional bulk he'd put on.

"I wasn't going to mention it..but since you did - you look good though.  And I was also not going to bring up how much s*** you used to give me about being out in the sticks.  Playing at being a good girl." There was a definite bubble to her voice, laughter hiding just below the surface.  She didn't want to let go yet, so she didn't - he'd always have a piece of her, and since she didn't know how the conversation was likely to end, she wanted to soak in every minute she could.  Lifting her head, she snuck her hands up to comb through the new-to-her beard.  "Yeah...think I'll remember you without this though..."
Part of him had forgotten about all the drama with Tex.  It felt like a lifetime ago.  It was amazing how quickly time could change a man.  There were things he'd done and said back then that would make him cringe now.  Still, though, he could smile and laugh, shaking his head.  "I think Anna agrees.  She said I look like I should be out brewing beer or chopping down trees."
"She's not wrong."  She wouldn't, maybe couldn't, say the other woman was right though.  Maybe someday, if the four of them ever sat down with drinks and a fire, five, if they could convince Corinne to come out, six, seven, if she and Eddie dragged Pop Tart and Lola out with them, a little nature would do them good.   Thinking about her strange little family led her back to the one armed cop, and why she was here.  "I saw Paige.  She said to tell you she was sorry."
He blinked at that, eyes lowering a little.  A million things had to be going through his head in that moment, but he just returned to her with that warm little smile.  "How is she?"
Tahlia considered her answer for a moment, and just - shrugged.  "She's herself.  Ok, I guess.  Sticking her nose in things, although she said she hasn't had to pull anyone off a train lately..." 

He managed a slight laugh at that.  Not his finest hour or best decision considering it almost got him killed.

"We didn't uh..." his brow furrowed a bit as he searched for the words.  "Didn't really part on the best of terms."

The admission brought a nod. "I know.  I saw the tape." Of course she had, even if it hadn't made the news.  Her web, never insignificant, was substantially larger now.
It was the first time she'd seen him frown since being there.  A bit of the old Simon crept to the surface.  "Yeah.  Little bastard jumped me.  Gotta hand it to the ****er.  He was quick.  Damn good right hook."
It was an opening, too perfect not to take.  "Pretty sure that's hereditary.  His daddy used to be a bit of a badass.  Hell of a fighter."  Some perverse little voice wondered if he'd gotten his father's other skills, but she was an all-but-married woman now.  And she sure as hell wasn't curious enough to ask Tessa.
"How the hell do you know his-"  Lightbulb.    Suddenly things came together.  Everything Anna had told him about the baby she'd lost all those years ago, even what little he could remember of the boy's face.  It hadn't been chance that Falk brought him there.  He was set up.  It was all a show, to pit his son against him.  Even if he'd won, he'd have been crippling, possibly killing his own flesh and blood.  Yeah...that had Jakob Falk written all over it.

"You're certain?"  He asked, full well knowing the answer.
"He's got your eyes."  Research and corroboration aside, she'd known as soon as she'd seen those eyes staring out from a different face. A hundred years from now, she'd still recognize them anywhere.  "Yeah, Killer.  I'm certain.  I've forgotten a lot of things, but not that blue.  And you know I wouldn't have come all this way if I wasn't."  Nevermind that if she'd sent anyone else, he wouldn't have believed them.
There was war behind those blue eyes now.  Whatever emotions that were coursing through him, though, were kept in check.  "Corrine sent you.  Didn't she."  It was true, he wouldn't have believed anyone else.  Paige knew that damn well.   It wasn't even a question, it was a statement.  Simon was quiet a long, long moment before looking up to her.  "What do I do?"

It was an odd question coming from him.  Once upon a time, he'd have rushed back, armed to the teeth and burned Falk's world to the ground...or died trying.  But...this was different.  HE was different.  For the first time in a long time...he was afraid.  Jakob Falk wasn't some lowlife mafioso.  Falk had scarred him in a way nobody ever could.  He'd spent most of Simon's childhood hurting him, and his entire adult life haunting him.  And now, he just didn't know what to do.
The tiny blonde reached up, thumbs resting along the hinge of his jaw, her fingers laced lightly across the back of his neck.  Gently, she brought his head to hers, forehead to forehead until those silver-tinged green eyes locked onto the blue she knew better than anyone.  There was a slow, soft breath before she answered, her gaze never leaving his.  "You let me handle it.  Okay, Killer?  You stay here, with her, and these people, and the horses, and you let the monsters fight it out.  He doesn't know what he's up against, now."  It was maybe the first time he'd heard her own her heritage, but not the first time he'd heard that anger-tight quaver in her voice.  "Paige and I, we'll get him out, and then..." The smile, the smile was new.  Vicious. Predatory.
For a moment, he almost agreed.  It would be easy to stay here.  Live in this bliss and pretend that a war wasn't going on and his friends weren't likely dying or hurt.  To let someone else fight his war.  If he stayed he'd be safe.  Anna would be safe.  But he'd always carry the spectre of Jakob Falk.  The monster might be dead, but he'd always be there for him.

No.  Simon had to see it through.

He simply shook his head.  "I'm coming with you."
"You're not.  Someone taught me this great little trick for keeping people where you want them.  You  remember Rocco, don't you - what I did to him?  That little piece of s*** motel you got me from? Killer..."  Tahlia took a breath, fighting every instinct she had - the truth was that with Simon on one side, and Eddie on the other, nothing could, or would, stand against them.  But she knew in her heart that she and Eddie couldn't live any other way than the one they had.  They didn't want to.  Simon had a chance, here.  "I didn't save you in Vicelli's office so you could keep fighting the same war."

"This...isn't...the same."  he said sternly.  There wasn't just the rage and vengeance-fueled maniac that Simon used to be in his voice.  It was something she'd never seen or heard from him.  This was a father.  Regardless of how long or how well he'd known him, Miles was his son.  "It's not enough that my son survives.  I want him to live.  I want him to know who I am.  I want him to know that when his father found out about him, he did everything in his power to be there.  To protect him.  I won't sit quietly and wait for someone else to save my son.  Not when I can make a difference.  I need to look Falk in the eye and tell him 'no.'"  That fire was back in his eyes.  "'No, you did not break me.  You do not own me.'"

His voice tinged with pain, becoming more frantic and agonized.  "I need to go to sleep at night and not see his face.  I need to know that I can close my eyes and feel safe again.  I need to be free of him.  Once and for all.”

He searched her eyes, pleading.  “Can you understand that?"

If it had been anyone else, Tahlia would have reminded them just who and what they were talking to.  As it was, the smoky-sweet purr hardened and cooled.  "An entire village lost to history, entire bloodlines erased.  All for the loss of one woman.  Because she was my mother and she was all we had in the world except each other.  And you ask me if I understand?" Her fingers flexed, and for a moment, images flashed and flickered against jade-tinged silver instead of the other way around.  Just a heartbeat, and then it was gone.

They'd held each other as they fought their own demons, and sometimes each others - as they clawed their way to each other sleeping or waking.  She knew.  For him to even question that she would stung, and she took a step back, letting go of him and raising her chin, drawn up to her full, still petite height, even in heels.  "Fine."

He was hurting.  That much was obvious.  He hadn't meant to question her.  Not really.   He looked her in the eye, the one person he trusted as much as Anna.   "This has to end."

Simon turned, and stopped in his tracks.  The scarred redhead stood in the doorway, her expression a mixture of anger and unfathomable sadness.  She'd heard everything.  He could likely hear the walls slam back up and into place the moment she was aware of Anna's presence.  Letting him see beneath her armor was one thing.  Anna was a stranger.  She'd seen too much already, and the only reason there was, would be, no consequence to that was out of love for the man between them, and the people she watched over.   Everyone needs a sanctuary.

No doubt, Anna would try and stop him.  Tell him to take Tahlia up on her offer and stay safe.  To finally just let go of it all.


She held up a hand then, stopping him.  Silence settled over the room as she took in a deep breath.   When those green eyes opened, she looked into his in that way only she and Tahlia could.  Deep down into the depths of his soul.

"Bring our son home."  her voice was quiet, quavering, but resolved.
She had her own people to protect, and she had learned to let Falk go a long, long time ago.
Anna looked to Tahlia, then.  Not a word spoken, but a plea in her gaze.  "And please...bring Simon home, too"

There was a sharp nod, those eyes once more silver glazed with green beneath the sweep of gilded bangs.  There had been too many losses.  Enough to stain the sands of her favorite beach red.  That battle wasn't over yet either, although she felt the pull of it.  Wedding.  Casino.  War.  One wasn't acceptable, not when they were her people.  Hell was going come to Jakob Falk, and God help anyone who got in their way.

Life on the Other Side / Re: OOC Thread & Disclaime
« on: July 18, 2019, 10:11:18 AM »
Life and a lack of creative drive is stalling things, but I WILL be finishing Simon's story as soon as I can.

Life on the Other Side / Re:
« on: June 02, 2019, 08:26:13 PM »
Steinman was a skinny, jittery wisp of a man.  Narrow shoulders and long limbs combined with the gaunt cheeks and sunken eyes giving him the appearance of a cancer patient on his last days.  Years of drug abuse had reduced him to a shell of a man, his hair thin and in dire need of a wash.  David Steiman wasn't exactly out breaking hearts all over Rhy'din.  It was doubtful that he'd ever felt the touch of a woman that wasn't paid to do the deed.  Those beady eyes never seemed to meet those of the rare person he conversed with, always low or s***ing around in that damn near skeletal noggin of his.  Long fingers fidgeted nervously as he nursed a bottle, his system clearly struggling with the lack of whatever substances he usually snorted, injected, or inhaled into it.  

The doctor had secrets, decades of them, buried within that drug-addled mind of his.  Secrets that could bring down one of the most powerful men in Rhy'din's criminal underworld.  All it would take was a little prodding, a little schmoozing...and the application of fear to loosen his lips.  

"Nowhere To Run" by Martha and Vandellas blared over the dingy bar, mingling with the sound of pool cues and boisterous talk of self-proclaimed alpha males.  Neon lighting cut through the haze of cigarette smoke.  Tahlia Faras had risen and fallen a hundred times in her life - now, she was heading her own empire, gotten through the proper application of stealth and smarts, and being in just the right bed at just the right time.  It was a skill she excelled at, or had, before she'd entertained, and finally executed her transition from entertainment to mogul.  It was also not a skill she could have been paid any amount of money to display to David Steinman.

No, tonight she was there to exercise talents under a very different umbrella.  Leather pants tucked into stiletto boots, a purple tank top riding low enough to perfectly frame curves that men had both killed and died for, and a leather jacket over it all.  The boozed up eyeballs of most men in the joint turned to the bombshell who'd just come sauntering in.  Equal parts angel and devil stealing their attention  away from the game and conversation.  The aged, doughy barkeep eyeing her a moment too long.  Girls like this didn't often set foot in his establishment, but he sure as hell wasn't upset to see her.  Blonde hair swept her shoulders, and she sidled up to the bar.  "Bourbon, please - most expensive thing you've got..."

"You got it."  he said, flashing a gapped grin.

The most expensive thing on his shelf might as well have been rotgut to her refined tastes.  Hands that seemed large as catcher's mitts upended the bottle and filled her glass to a normal human's two fingers before setting it down.  She'd drunk worse - but it had been a while.  Laying a twenty on the bar, and assuming that it would be enough,  

Steinman scratched at the back of his neck, a glass of whiskey on the rocks sitting before him.  He must have thought he was being sly as he glanced her way out of the corner of his eye.  There was no confidence there, none of the swagger that men who had been lucky enough to occupy her time possessed.

Tahlia brought the amber liquid to her lips, and took a sip.  It was not in fact, the worst she'd ever had, and if it burned more than she was thrilled about, it didn't show.  Selecting a stool just one down from her target, she was quiet for a moment...evaluating.  Weighing.  Deciding on a course of action.  Spying a bowl of long abandoned nuts, or pretzel nuggets or...something.  The what didn't really matter.  What mattered was that when she touched his arm, he met her eyes as she asked him to pass it to her - every desire the fool had ever harbored playing across her irises.

Damned if he wasn't twitchy.  Her slightest touch, snapped his gaze to her almost like a beaten dog.  It wasn't just the body, built to make men was the eyes... So skilled at bending even the strongest men to her will without even a word spoken.  It took a second for him to calm and force an uncomfortable smile, but he didn't speak.  That, alone was probably the most action the man had seen in a long time.  Well, she figured, this wasn't going to be quite as easy as she'd expected...the problem with beaten dogs is that they are almost immune to pain.  And they don't trust kindness.  But if Tahlia excelled at anything at all, it was being precisely what she needed to be to  get what she needed.

" ok?   You look like you've had a rough week..."

A nervous laughter escaped him, the grin faltered back and forth into existence.  "Y-yeah.  Uh, no.  No. "   It was almost sad.  This was a guy utterly controlled by some...or all manner of substance.  Those dark, sunken eyes had seen things, none of which were quite as pleasant as her.

She almost felt sorry for him.  Almost.  But she was here for a reason - for the only person who meant anything near what the giant Selkie she shared her life with did.  The only person for whom she would work for free.  Not that he knew she was here.  But he would.  Her fingers danced across his sleeve until she found his wrist.  Her touch sent a wave of endorphins cascading around within him.  Only in his wildest, most depraved dreams would a goddess like this even look upon him, let alone make contact.

  "Really, David, what I think you a friend. Do you want a a friend?"  Something in that smoke-sweet voice implied he very much wanted to answer 'yes'.

It almost overrode his paranoia...but then he realized she'd used his name.  That faltering smile came and then went, replaced with suspicion in his eyes.  " did you-"

The smile was sugar sweet, but there was a honey glazed edge to her voice.  "Know your name? I told you - you look like you could use a friend.  And I'm really good at being a friend - you know what I mean?  Especially when people have things I want.  Like information.  I can be very, very friendly - if you give me what I want."

That hope and excitement were now replaced entirely with fear.  The warning bells in his head were going off like fire alarms.  The skinny little junkie moved to pull away from her, but she was also stronger than she looked.  

"Aw,'re going to make me cry.  And I'd like you to think, just for a minute, what might happen to you if I start bawling in the middle of this bar right now."  Her free hand moved, caught under his chin and locked the silver edged jade eyes on his.  "Don't you want to help me?"

She could feel him trembling in her grasp.  Those beady little eyes darted around wildly.  Any one of these bruisers would take great pleasure in beating this little man into a pulp to gain her favor.   Frankly, they all seemed vaguely creeped out by him.  He swallowed hard, her eyes beckoning him.

"What do you want from me?" he asked, his voice quaking with primal terror.

"Just some information.  About a child.  About...20 years ago, now?  He works for your boss.  Who I think we can agree should go unnamed."  Tahlia did not let him go, even as she moved closer, her head bent to his.  "Boy's name is Miles.  I need to know everything you know..."

His chest rose and fell rapidly, the fear coursing through his veins, his eyes wide and damn near feral.  "I tell you anything and I'm a dead man."

Tahlia let out a laugh.  "Trust me, sugar.  I know that boy's daddy - you DON'T tell me...and you're a dead man.  You play nice and talk to me...and your boss never hurts anyone ever again."

"You have no idea what he's capable of.  He'll find you.  He'll find everyone...everything you care about.  Everything you love.  There is no running.  No hiding.  I talk to you, and he'll find me."  He was panting like an overheated dog.    "And when he does, I'll only wish I was dead."  A five-o'clock shadow had grown over his morning shave...but a small cut was still visible.  Those shaky hands probably were the culprit.

It was barely a whisper, but the cut obeyed, leaking just the slightest trickle against his skin.  "I don't need to.  I know where Miles got those eyes.  And I know what Simon Toews can do, when he has reason." She tapped his chin with a finger.  "The Vicelli's are gone, and you know why.  So is Cameron Cotter. Everyone who has ever crossed my friend has ended up in a pine box, six feet deep.  Your boss is next - you can either go with him, or you can live long enough to go to rehab once you tell me what I want to know..."

Confusion covered his face as he reached a quivering hand to the bleeding cut.  His fingers returned, glistening with blood.  He stared at it a moment and then turned his gaze up to her, silently asking the question he already knew the answer to.  "What are you?"

That saccharine sweet smile crossed her perfect lips, peaches and cream sweetness touching her voice.  "Me?  Well, darlin'...I'm your guardian angel.  And that right there?   That isn't a tenth of what I could do to men like you.  Men like Jakob Falk."  Her voice dropped into a low, ominous purr.  "See... I'm not some weak, pathetic piece of s*** who needs to prey on children. You think your boss is a monster?  See what happens when I don't get what I want."  

There was nothing in her voice or her bearing that said she was bluffing.  Tahlia was an angel of death...and she was giving him an option.  "So - David - I ask you think I am terribly worried about what am underhanded coward with a small dick and delusions of grandeur can do to me?"

Oh, the terror behind those substance-addled eyes.  It was what she needed, what she wanted.  He would talk.  Jakob Falk terrified him...but Tahlia Farras put the fear of God into the emaciated little man.  He spilled everything.

Life on the Other Side / Re:
« on: May 22, 2019, 12:55:12 AM »
Life has been pretty hectic lately, but more is coming!  Thanks for sticking with me.

Life on the Other Side / Re:
« on: April 07, 2019, 11:58:08 PM »
Sunlight shone in through the windows of Anna's house, stirring Simon from the first good night's sleep he'd had in what felt like years.  He rolled onto his back and rubbed his eyes, noticing just then that the other side of the bed was warm.  More than that, it was the scent.  A mixture somewhat like strawberries and vanilla.  It took a moment before he placed it.  Anna.  

For a moment there was panic.  Had he gotten drunk and-

No.  No, he hadn't gotten so much as tipsy since he got here.  Slowly, bits and pieces flooded back. That warm, safe feeling invaded his nightmares, fighting them back and letting him enjoy a peaceful, dreamless sleep.  The same feeling that had kept him sane and alive as a child, a feeling from the past rushing back, every bit as effective as it had been then .  He must have been squalling something fierce.  She'd come in the night and held him, stayed with him once again.  All these years later, and it still had the same affect.  

He ran a warped hand through his short-cropped hair, letting out a sigh.  Part of him was certain there would be awkwardness between them.  That, somehow even unconsciously, he had crossed a line.  Still, he forced himself out of bed and dressed.  If he had to face it, better to get it out of the way.  The moment he stepped out into the hallway, Anna was exiting her room, her hair still wet from the shower.  The pair of them freezing in place.  For a moment, he was sure she'd tell him to go. Leave and never come back.  Instead, she just smiled, shutting the door behind her, those green eyes staying on him.  

"Good morning." She said softly, leaning back against the doorway tucking a strand of red behind her ear.

Simon searched for the words, running through a thousand different things he could say to her. All he managed was "Hey."

Anna's smile brightened as she let out a little laugh. She knew him too well not to notice the tension radiating off him.  "It's alright, big guy.  Relax."

Simon couldn't help the little grin that followed.  

"Sleep well?"  She asked.

"Better than I have in a long time." He nodded.  

For a moment, she just appraised him.  So much of the boy she'd known was still in him.  Even after all he'd been through, the women he'd spent time with and battles he'd fought, Simon was still...Simon.  

"Good."  She nodded, pushing off the wall. "Figured I'd let you sleep in today.  Not a ton to do anyways."

Simon watched her go off, wanting to say something.  Anything.  

"Thank you."  He managed, finally.

Anna stopped and glanced back at him over her shoulder.  She knew it wasn't about letting him sleep in.  "Always."  

With that, she walked down the stairs to the kitchen.  As they gathered for breakfast, there were a couple looks his way from the younger kids, but the adults were mostly understanding and simply greeted him kindly.  They must have heard him in the night.  It wasn't an uncommon occurrence to most of them.  A lot of trauma came through Anna's doors.  They understood and they didn't judge.  It was odd, he'd rarely felt that.  People who saw his damage and said, even wordlessly, "I get you."  The last time he'd felt it was with Tahlia.  He looked around the table, dishes being passed from smiling face to smiling face.  These people loved each other and helped each other.  It wasn't hard to tell why this place was starting to feel like home.  The young Daisy sat next to him, helping herself to some waffles.  She beamed up at him, her smile missing a few baby teeth.  Simon grinned back at her and passed the syrup, Anna's eyes on him, a certain smugness in her countenance.  

After breakfast, Simon set to work on his chores, clearing snow from the paths, feeding the horses and livestock.  The horses were his favorite part, Brutus especially.  He and the animal had bonded, the horse always eager and approaching the end of his stall when he walked through the doors.  Simon ran a hand along the big beast's neck, giving him a pat.

"Hey, there, boy.  How you doing?"  He said quietly, smiling up at him.  Brutus chuffed favorably at him, nuzzling towards his face.  Simon chuckled, gently pushing him away.  "Alright, alright, sweet boy."  

He hung the feedbag up for his newfound friend, giving him a little rub along the cheek.  From further back in the barn, there came a clang, stealing Simon's attention away.  He leaned out trying to get a better view.  Brutus gave him a nudge, drawing a little laugh.  Simon patted him again and walked toward the sound.

Further in the barn was a big tractor, Otis hard at work, bent over the engine compartment.  The sleeves of his grease-stained thermal were rolled up big, muscular arms.  Thick overalls were doing the bulk of the work of keeping him warm.  His work-gloved hands pulled at a socket wrench.  If he heard or saw Simon come in, he didn't show it.

"Hey, Otis."  Simon called up to him.

The big man barely spared him a glance.  "Simon."  he rumbled in that low baritone of his.  The man had a way about him.  You were never quite sure where you stood.  Sometimes, he was cordial, full of smiles and laughs...but then there were times when he'd regard you as if he might beat you to a pulp.  Simon had seen more than his share of fights in his day, but he was certain he didn't want to be on the receiving end of a beating from Otis.

"How's it going?"  he asked, leaning against the tractor and looking up at the man.

"Pump went out during harvest this year.  Finally getting around to replacing the damn thing."  Otis said distractedly.

"You have experience with this stuff?"  Simon inquired.

"Engines?"  Otis said.  "Yeah.  Worked for a guy once, fixing up cars and trucks."

"Mechanic's shop?"

"Sort of."  Otis said.  "Chop shop.  Took in a lot of cars, some of them needed fixing."

"No s***?"  Simon grinned.  "Who for?  I might'a known 'em."

"Ain't much for talkin' about it.  Just some bad dudes.  Did a lot a' stupid ass s*** I ain't proud of."  Otis said, glancing down to Simon.  "You know what that's like?  Doing a lot a' stupid thing you ain't proud of?"

Simon couldn't help but notice the hint of accusation there.  "I do."  he nodded.

"Mm."  Otis, eyed him.  "You leave it behind ya?"

He didn't have an answer for that.  Frankly, he knew he hadn't.

"See, Simon...we're simple folks here.  Just tryin' to get by.  Miss Anna been good to us.  Now, I left that life behind me.  Messin' folks up who cause trouble.  But anybody...*anybody* does anything to hurt that woman..."  Otis' eyes narrowed.  "Well, it ain't gonna turn out good for 'em.  You understand me?"

Simon's brows knit together.  "I don't know what idea you're getting from me but-"

"She's different with you."  Otis said.  "I seen a lotta folks come through here, but got some kinda hold on her.  Now, I don't know much about you, you act decent enough...but I think you carryin' a lotta trouble with you.  You just make sure that trouble don't come down on her."

"You're very protective of her."  Simon noted.

"God damn right I am."  Otis said.  "Miss Anna saved my life when I needed it.  Gave me a chance, gave me a home.  I owe her more 'n I can give.  So, I see a dude lookin' like you roll in here, get her all outta sorts...I get a little ancy."

Simon grinned and waved his hands.  "Whoa, whoa, ain't like that.  We're just-"

"Friends?"  Otis finished.  He didn't quite buy it.  There was history between them that couldn't be erased.  A bond that time and age did nothing to diminish.  "Just sayin'.    You hurt her, you and I gonna tangle.  Got it?"

Simon wanted to argue, but he just nodded.  A moment of silence hovered over them before Simon broke it.  "You need a hand?"

Otis looked a bit perplexed a moment before a low laugh left him.  "Yeah.  Yeah, come on up here and hold this in place."

Simon clambered up beside the man, and the two of them set out, repairing the engine of the tractor.  The rest of the day they would work side by side, chatting sparingly outside of the jobs at hand.  Otis was alright, Simon thought.  The big man was every bit as protective of Anna as he was.  He adored her, and would do anything to protect her.  For that, Simon was grateful.

Life on the Other Side / Re:
« on: March 13, 2019, 02:38:18 PM »
Anna stepped into the stables, finding Simon already hard at work.  A brush was in his hand as he groomed one of her horses.  The man never ceased to amaze.  She tugged her brown suede, wool-lined coat shut and crossed her arms watching him, a crooked smile on her face.

"Well.   Look at you."  She said.

Simon glanced back at her, grinning.  "Hey."

"You look right at home."  She told him, walking over to the horse and running her hand along its neck before giving it a pat.

"One of my jobs when I was on that farm."  He explained.  "One of my favorites."

"You're good with him."  Anna said.  "You ride?"

Simon made a face and wavered his hand, so so.  "Let's just say I won't be entering any competitions any time soon."

The grin that formed on Anna's lips unsettled him.  She stepped past him and the horse to a chestnut and white mare, leading her out from the stall.  "Come on, Nevy.  That's a girl."  She cooed to the giant beast.

Simon cocked a brow up at her.  "Going for a ride?"

"Yes."  She said.  "We are.  Saddle Brutus up.  Let's go."

She took a sort of sick enjoyment at the look of slight panic in his eyes them.  She wanted to see just what other fun secrets her old friend was hiding.  "I mean..." he said.  "There's a lot of work to do..."

Anna rolled her eyes, pulling herself up onto horse.  "All work and no play.  Come on, Sally.  Let's go!"  

With a "Yah!", she kicked the beast into motion, galloping out of the barn into the snowy field.  Simon watched her as she went, a rueful look on his face.  "Yeah.  This is a good idea..." He muttered sarcastically and pulled himself onto Brutus's back and chased after her.

Snowy chunks kicked up behind him as he pursued after Anna.  Despite the chill in the air whipping by him , it didn't bother Simon.  The property was huge, Anna leading him across the sprawling snow covered fields.  As he pulled beside her, she glanced over with that crooked little grin on her face.  Simon couldn't help but laugh.  She was loving this.

Suddenly, she broke off to the right, Simon struggling to follow suit.  Brutus made an annoyed sound as he turned.  Simon swore he shot him a dirty look over his shoulder before taking off again.  

Anna and Nevy shot into the woods, following a trail.  She'd clearly run this path before, ducking under twigs and branches before they even came close.  Simon barely escaped getting clotheslined by a branch.

"Heads up!"  Anna called out teasingly behind her.  The pair of them tore through the wooded trail, Simon catching up alongside her.  He had to admit, it was exhilarating.  Anna's face was aglow.  This was where she belonged.  Finally they burst out of the tree line, heading up a hill.  When they finally came to a stop, Simon looked out over a vast canyon.  Winding and impossibly deep into the earth, a brilliant display of reds and browns, forged by millennia upon millennia.  

Simon's breath left him in a mist, the sight overwhelming him.  He'd never seen anything quite like it.

"Helluva view, isn't it?"  Anna said breathlessly.  Her green eyes were shining, possibly from the cold, but also the sight.  "This is where I used to come when I first came here.  It just made me feel like, everything we went through was just a blip in time and everything would pass.  It gave me hope."

Simon was happy for her.  She deserved something like this. Looking out into the winding valleys and cliff faces, he completely understood.  "It's beautiful."

"Yeah," She said with a wistful smile.  "It is."

For a moment they sat and took in the splendor of it all.  Soon after, they were riding back at a leisurely pace.  "You ride well," she told him.

"Not as good as you."  Simon snorted.  "When did that start?"

"I was about...17 I think?" She looked to him.  "Sam and Maggie saw how much I liked the horses, so Maggie started taking me out."

"Well, you clearly took to it."  He said.

Anna laughed bitterly.  "Took my fair share of falls.  Got tossed a couple times.  Spent about a month with a busted arm thanks to one particularly ornery horse."

"Eeesh..." Simon responded through clenched teeth.

"Yeah.  Not fun."  She said.  "Brutus likes you.  I think you made a friend."

Simon chuckled  "Yeah, right.  I think he was about to dump my ass into the canyon."

Anna rolled her eyes.  "Oh, he was not.  You're pretty good.  I half thought you'd have him walking backwards half the way there."

"No, I'm not THAT bad."  He snickered.  "He's a lot of animal to move around."

"Yeah." Anna smiled. "He's my big boy."

"You ever miss the city life?"  Simon asked.

Anna shrugged.  "Not really.  The city's a place of bad memories for me.  Out here, it's peaceful.  Safe."

He could understand that.  How different would his life have been if he'd found her earlier?  How much pain would he have avoided if he'd just left with Cici?  

"Plus, you'd probably piss a few people off racing a nearly one ton animal down Main Street."

"Yeah, there's always that." she laughed.

Life on the Other Side / Re:
« on: February 15, 2019, 08:42:19 PM »
Simon stared at Anna, heartbroken for her but also for himself.  They had a son.  Somewhere out there was a boy he'd never known.  His flesh and blood.  It took a moment to process.  Anna wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, pushing away the tears that streamed down her cheeks.  She ran her fingers through those red locks, pushing them behind her ear and regaining her composure.  

"They patched me up, got me healed and the next thing I knew, I was out on the street."  Anna told him.  "No...taunting.  No goodbyes.  Nothing.  Just went to sleep and woke up in an alley in middle of nowhere.  I tried to find him.  To rescue him from that son of a bitch.  But he'd gone.  The old factory was empty.  Completely cleared out.  I spent the next 2 years trying...but after a while, I had to give up."

"Jesus, Anna..." Simon muttered, reaching out and clasping her hand.  "Why didn't you come find me?"
he asked gently.

Those glossy green eyes turned up to him.  "I didn't want to drag you back into it.  I thought you'd be better off not knowing.  You were safe."

"We could have gone after him together."  He insisted.  "Taken him down and gotten our son.  We could have had a life with him."

"Simon.  How?  Storm whatever fortress Falk built for himself?  Have you kill a dozen or so men or die trying?"

"If I had to."  He said it as if it were common sense.  Anna sighed, her face falling into a frown and shook her head.

"I didn't want that for you."  She said. Her brow creased, images of their escape had never left.  "You know...when I saw what you did to Stills...and then to that...that man...I was scared."

"I'd never have hurt you."  He said.

Anna smiled sadly, a shake of her head loosening a few strands of those red tresses. "I wasn't scared for me."

"They had it coming."  He insisted, a darkness in his countenance.

Anna's eyes closed, a bitter laugh escaping her.  "See...that is exactly what I'm talking about.  I didn't want you to become...THAT.  This cold...distant...killer.  You're better than that."

Simon seemed confused, his hand leaving hers.  No.  Not confused offended.  "You don't know that.  You don't know what I've done."


"No.  You want to know who I am?  You think I'm the good guy?  This is what I do.  People come for me and I make goddamn sure they don't get a second chance.  I've taken down ****ing empires, Anna.  I've killed so many men I lost count."

"Yeah?"  She asked him.  "And how's that worked out for you?"

"Pretty damn good."  he said defensively.

"And there's always another one.  Isn't there?"  She said quietly.  "Always more violence.  Always more death.  Always more blood on your hands."

"I do what I have to."  

"Oh, bulls***."  She said.  "You know what happens when you surround yourself with violence?  When you go out looking for the next fight?  And the next.  And the next?  And the next?"  Anna asked him.  "You find it or it finds you."

"You don't know that."  He shook his head obstinately.  

"Oh, I don't?"  She nodded bitterly.

"They came after you and me.  I took care of it.  They killed a terrified woman, just trying to escape her piece of s*** abusive husband.  And I took care of it.  I had a girlfriend and they came for her.  Took care of it.  They took my..."  His voice caught in his throat.  "They murdered my daughter.  My sweet, baby girl.  And you know what I did?  I wiped out every. Single.  Last.  One of those mother ****ers, and I'd do it again in a ****ing heartbeat."

Anna softened visibly at the mention of Cici.  "I didn't know you had a daughter."

"Her name was Cici.  And in a world full of darkness, that kid was a ****ing light brighter than the sun.  She was innocent and she was good, and they killed her like she was nothing and made me watch. All because I helped some scumbag criminal's wife.  So I did the same to them.  I sent those bastards screaming to hell.  Because THAT is who I am."

Anna blinked, quiet a long moment.  "I'm sorry."  She said.  "I'm sorry that happened to you.  MY heart sincerely breaks for you, Simon."

"I tried, Anna."  he said sadly.  "I really did.  But I didn't know anything else.  When we got separated, I wound up running with a couple crews, getting into that life...but when I tried to get out, something always just pulled me back in."

"Don't you see?"  She asked him gently.  "You went right back into it.  Running with crimelords and criminals...You could have gotten your daughter away from all that.  You could have gotten help.  For Cici, for that woman you mentioned.  You could have run.  Gotten somewhere safe.  And I'm not saying you're to blame for her death.  But you chose this life.  You chose to surround yourself with violence and death and darkness.  I've been there, Simon.  I know.  It's all we had.  But that life only begets more pain.  More blood.  You need to break that cycle or one day, it is going to catch up and consume you and everyone you hold dear."

He didn't know how to respond.  The defensive part of his brain wanted to contest it, but she was right.  Every single time something bad had happened, it was because he'd exacerbated a situation into a needless, bloody conflict and it ended up hurting the people around him.  Paige had implied as much.  

"You can be better."  Anna told him.  "You can be SO much more.  I know you have it in you.  You always have.  You just have to see it in yourself, like I do.  You have to want it."

"I can't."  He said simply, his voice breaking.

"Simon."  She said, taking his rough hands in her's.  "Look at us."  

She stared into his eyes, her face marred by scars that seemed dim compared to the ones people couldn't' see.  "Look at what what he made us.  How much more do we have to give before we stop letting him control our lives?"

Something in the core of him ached. It sounded so easy when she said it.  He wanted so very much to believe it was possible to well and truly let go.  To put Falk and everything he'd taken from them behind.  But he couldn't.  The hatred, for Jakob Falk and for himself was too much.  He didn't deserve peace.

Anna could see it in his eyes, sadness settling in as she released his hands.  She'd never give up on him, but he had to want her help if she was ever able to make a difference.  

"Do me a favor?"  She asked.  

Simon glanced up to her.

"Stay."  She said.  "Just a few days.  And keep an open mind.  Think about what I said."

Simon nodded slowly. "Okay."

"Yeah!"  That smile returned, bringing out his own.  There was still some kind of love in those green eyes.  Some affection.  "It really is good to see your face again."

The weary fighter ran a hand through his short cropped hair. "You have no idea."

Life on the Other Side / Re:
« on: February 03, 2019, 07:46:08 PM »
The house was as warm and welcoming as he'd imagined.  The sounds of people going about their tasks filled the air.  The scent of a warm meal wafting out from the kitchen.  All over were pictures of kids and adults alike.  In all of them, Anna stood with them, that warm, gentle smile on her face.  

"Take your coat?"  She offered Simon with a glance over her shoulder, pulling her own jacket from her shoulders.  

Simon kicked the snow off his boots and stepped inside, removing that peacoat and handing it off. "Thank you."

Anna carried them to a closet and putting them up on hangars.  A little girl came running through the room to her, bright eyed with a big mess of curly blonde hair.  "Ms. Anna."She begged her attention.

Anna smiled brightly to the girl, her tone raising sweetly.  "Yes, Miss Daisy."  

"Can I feed the horses, pleeeeeeease?"  She tugged on Anna's sleeves excitedly.

"Yes, sweet girl."  Anna grinned and kissed the top of her head.  "Yes, you can."

The little girl looked absolutely blissful at this gift of a chore, letting out a little "Eeeeee!" in response.

"Did you say hi to my friend?" Anna asked the little girl.  Daisy shrank a bit, suddenly shy looking at him.

"Hi."  She said a bit sheepishly.   Simon crouched down to her level and smiled, offering her his hand.  

"Heya, Daisy."  He said. "I'm Simon.  Anna and I are old friends."

The hint of a smile formed on the girl's face as she placed her tiny hand in his.

"Nice to meet you." She said politely.

"Likewise." He nodded. "Don't let me keep you, kiddo. Those horses were giving each other funny looks out there.  I think they're getting pretty hungry."

Daisy giggled and ran off.

"Hat and gloves!"  Anna called after her.  Simon quirked a brow to Anna and smirked.

"Horses, huh?"

She held her palms up and shrugged.  "Kid loves 'em."

"Oh yeah,He chuckled. "I'm sure she's the only reason you have them.  Anna graced him with teasing little smirk.

"Yknow...Somehow, I didn't see you becoming a farmgirl."  

"You and me both.  But...that's a bit of a long story."  

Simon imagined there were a lot of "long stories" for them to delve through.  But for now...he had one thing gnawing at his mind.  "So...uh...Daisy there?"

"Mmhmm?"  Anna responded closing the closet and slipping out of her sneakers.  

"She, uh..."

"She's one of my kids."  Anna nodded, not yet sure of what he was asking.

"Oh."  Simon said, his brows raising.  "You, had kids, huh?"

Her brow creased as she looked to him curiously.  Then she got it.  "Oh!"  She laughed.  "Oh, no, no, no.  Not like that.  She and her mother stay here.  They got caught up with a, uh...well."

"Not a nice guy?"

"No.  It was a bad situation.  They had to get out of it, so they came to me." She explained, leading him into the busy kitchen.  A large man at the stove cooking up a stew, Anna gently placed a hand on his elbow as she passed the pair of them sharing a friendly smile.  "S'cuse me, Otis."  

"Ms. Anna."  He nodded to her.  "Grub's almost up."  

"Smells great.  Thanks, Otis."

Simon and the big man shared a glance, a slight defensiveness in the stranger's eyes as he regarded the tattooed newcomer.  Simon nodded to him, a bit awkwardly.  Otis sized him up and lifted his chin.  Anna glanced over her shoulder.  

"Get you a drink?  Coffee, soda, water?"  She asked.

"Coffee sounds good."  He nodded.  Anna poured them each a cup, handed his off to him and lead him through the house.  Kids were playing games, an elderly couple sat at a chess board, and a few women were chit-chatting.  They pushed their way through a set of double doors into a dining room, Anna sliding into a chair.

Simon looked around, taking it all in, flashes of Virgil and Kate's running through his mind.  It was as every bit as cozy, but there was an energy to it, a life in the atmosphere of the place.  He sank down onto a chair, mixing cream and sugar in his cup.  "What is this place?"

Anna thought a moment.  She'd never put a name to it, really. "'s...kind of a half-way house.  A refuge for..."

"People like us?"  He finished for her.  The smile on her face dimmed.  It was impossible to leave the past behind, though they'd both tried like hell.  Some days they could even convince themselves they'd buried it.

"Yes."  She said, those emerald colored eyes dropping to the brown liquid in her mug.  "Lot of people out there going through a lot of bad stuff.  Sometimes, they just need a helping hand.  If I can provide that...well, I feel like it's my duty."

A smile crossed his lips, watching her.  Even when they were locked up together, she was a protector of the weak and damaged, himself included.  He should have guessed this was where she'd end up.  Suddenly, the image returned to him of the last time they'd seen each other, the girl being dragged off into a sea of people as the doors of the train slid shut.  When their eyes connected again, he could tell they were thinking the same thing.

"Anna..." he said.  

"Simon..." She protested, but he pressed on.

"Please."  He said.  "I need to know what happened."

Her eyes slid shut, Anna remaining silent for a long moment.  When she opened them again...she was there.

Life on the Other Side / Re:
« on: February 01, 2019, 12:38:31 AM »
Once again, the grey dreariness of the city was in his rearview, SImon behind the wheel of a rented Ford sedan.  He expected there to be a weight lifted, like the last time when he met Kate, Virgil and Millie.  He was running again...but this time there was no relief.  This time, he was headed for something, completely uncertain of what awaited him on the other end of it.  Anna would be there, but what would he find when he got there?  The expanse of fields were now blanketed in miles and miles of snow, the sun hidden behind a grey veil of clouds.  How the hell had he let Mulcahy talk him into this?  One moment, he was heroically swearing off putting his friends and loved ones in danger, and the next, he was packing his bags.  

After everything he'd seen and done, he was surprised to find himself nervous at the prospect of meeting her again.  Mulcahy hadn't exactly been forthcoming about what she was up to, other than the fact that she was unmarried and reasonably happy in whatever life she'd carved out for herself.  Part of him wanted to just turn around before he ****ed it up for her.  But curiosity, and some nameless desire drove him onward.  He had to see her, even if she immediately sent him packing, he had to know it was really her.

His car slowed to stop at the crossroads, a sign pointing North reading "Haven".  

"Bit on the nose, Anna." He chuckled to himself, flipping on the turn signal and cutting the wheel.  She was on the far outskirts of town, Mulcahy had told him. The actual town took him back to Noble for a moment. That small, rural, salt of the Earth kind of place.  He could definitely see the appeal.  He passed through following the road as it became increasingly flanked with snow-covered pines.  She lived in relative seclusion out here.  Close enough to society to keep herself fed, and far enough away to be left alone. She was always the smart one, he thought.  If he'd had half a brain, he'd have cleared out years ago.  Maybe he could have avoided all the pain he'd been through in the past decade and change.  

He travelled up the snowy, ill-plowed road until he saw the ranch.  It was bigger than he expected.  Stables and a large barn were off to the left and right of a large two story house, wider than it was tall.  Wooden fences flanked the road, stopping in the large area in front of the house  Three or four different cars were parked in along one side of the house, one of them a big, beat-up pick up.  Lanterns hung upon the porch cast a warm light in the approaching night.  Smoke rose from a chimney over the left side of the building, and he could see different people of multiple ages walking around inside through the windows.  Did she have a family, he wondered?  Hadn't Mulcahy mentioned she was unmarried?  Maybe the old man got mixed up, he thought.  Good for her, if she did.  If anyone deserved it...

Simon pulled to a stop in the nearest clear space, remaining in the car for a moment.  Once again, that fear came back.  What if she told him to go away.  What if she took one look and couldn't fake it enough to see him?  He didn't think he could handle that.  Part of him just wanted to turn around and leave.  Let her live her life happy.  Without him.

His eyes closed and he just breathed.  In.   Out.  Let it go, Simon.  Get out of the car.

The car door creaked open and he stepped out into the cold.  His boots crunched in the snow as he made his way to the door, every step feeling like it weighed a metric ton.  He was one the verge of running when that door opened.  Simon froze.

Anna stood there.  Her green eyes softer now, her red hair healthy-looking and tied in a loose bun.  She wore a cream colored sweater under a slightly oversized rancher's jacket and a pair of blue jeans, slightly faded from wear.  The scars remained, but they were less noticeable now.  She was beautiful.  More beautiful than he remembered.   Just looking at her, his heart ached.  She stared back, like she was seeing a ghost.  He couldn't decide if the look on her face was sadness or happiness.  Maybe it was a bit of both.

"Hey, Anna."  he said quietly.

Her eyelids fluttered and a small laugh left her.  "Hey, Simon."

The redhead smiled then, stepping forward and down the steps to him.  Immediately, her arms wrapped around him and pulled him close.  In an instant, the past 20 years disappeared.  Simon held her just as tight, clinging to make sure she didn't disappear, the ensure he wasn't dreaming.  Then...something inside broke.  Wave after wave of emotion hit him hard and the tears began to come.  Simon couldn't stop it.  It just came.  His breath came out in a quivering whimper, his eyes clamping shut.  Anne just held him tight as his body shook, wracked with sobs.

When she finally pulled back, her eyes were glistening with her own tears, a hand reaching up and stroking his cheek.  A chuckling breath left her and she sniffed, smiling up at him.  "I guess we have a lot to talk about, huh?"

(OOC Note: Written to this music, if it helps. Writing this scene utterly destroyed me)

Life on the Other Side / Re:
« on: January 28, 2019, 01:31:48 PM »
Mulcahy was hard at work, preparing coffee for his guest.  Simon sat at the old table, looking around and remembering.  He could see the spot where Falk's goon had thrown him and knocked him out.  There was a gouge in the wood where he'd connected and, for a moment, that pain felt fresh.  He shut his eyes and shook it off.  Even the kitchen was messier.  Mulcahy moved across the tile with a severe limp, favoring that cane greatly.  Things had certainly gone to s***.

"What the hell happened here, Father?"  he asked, shaking his head.

The old man glanced over his shoulder.  "Falk, I assume."  he said.  "Let leak certain lies about you and me and your disappearance."  The rumors of impropriety had been especially painful.  Never once had he behaved in an untoward manner with anyone.  He prided himself on being someone who could be trusted.  "People stopped coming around.  Soon, they started moving with their kids to the other side of the street when I came around.  Eventually, I got vandals and thieves...had to start locking up at night."

Simon frowned.  He might not have been a man of faith, but such disrespect to a church still seemed wrong to him.   Mulcahy ran a hand through that silver head of hair, as beleaguered sigh escaping him as his shoulder slumped.

"This town started to change after that.  Businesses got boarded up.  Crime went through the roof.  Wasn't uncommon for me to go to sleep at night to the sound of gunshots.  Just..."  The priest turned to Simon.  "There's a rot in the heart of this city and Jakob Falk is at the center of it all."

The old man looked to his leg and grimaced.  "Even if this place weren't going to Hell,...hard to get out and clean graffiti and trash with a bum leg.  Tried for a bit, but it got to be too much.  And it gets even harder when you start getting older.  Eventually, everything else starts falling apart."

The coffee maker beeped, signifying it was finished.  Mulcahy turned and grabbed two mugs.

"How'd it happen?"  Simon asked.

Mulcahy lowered his eyes, propping himself up on the counter, silent for a moment.  "You don't remember?  It happened that night."

Simon didn't have to be told which.  Not many nights they'd spent around each other were exactly worthy of the tone in the old man's voice.  It would be one of the last things SImon saw before being knocked unconscious and dragged away.  The Father trying to protect him and taking a vicious blow to the back of the knee.

"Musta hit me just right, because he whacked me with that Baton and I never got right again.  Doctor said there was a dislocation, torn muscle and some nerve damage and...just a mess."  Mulcahy shook his head, letting a weary breath flow from him.  "That night changed everything here.  It all fell apart so damn quickly..."

Simon furrowed his brow.  "I gotta ask.  After was 24 years... Why stay?"

Mulcahy turned and looked him in the eye.  "Because, I don't give up.  I won't let men like Jakob Falk see me run.  Not again.  I still believe in the good of people.  There's a lot of decent folks out there in need of guidance, and I intend to be here to give it to them to the best of my abilities.  There's a lot of darkness in the world, Simon.  It's never too late to be a light."

Simon had to admire his optimism, even if he didn't quite share that outlook on the world  with his friend.  After everything he'd seen and lost...he was pretty sure people were just people.  Neither good nor bad, but capable of both.  It just seemed like, more often than not, the bad deeds far outnumbered the good.

Mulcahy approached with the mugs.  "Still take it black, I assume?"  he asked.

A smirk spread across SImon's lips.  "No, actually.  Two cream, two sugar.  Thanks. "

"My.  You HAVE changed."  Mulcahy joked, getting a laugh out of Simon.  

"So..." Mulcahy said.  "Tell me about yourself.  You married?  Kids?  Any of that?"

A bitter little laugh left Simon's throat as he smirked to the priest.  "No.  Not exactly.  Had a girl for a while, but things went south.  Like they always seem to."

"Sorry to hear that."  Mulcahy eyed him, sensing there was more.

"I...I had a daughter."  Simon said quietly.  Mulcahy just watched him and listened.  "Sweet girl.  Smart.  Her name was Cici."

Mulcahy hazarded a little smile.  He could feel the love in Simon's voice as he spoke of his daughter...but he noted his young friend referred to her in the past tense.

"I got into some trouble with a fella named Cotter.  I crossed him and Cici and his wife paid for it.  Threw the woman to her death and...and burned my little girl alive."

"God, I'm so, so sorry, Simon."  Mulcahy whispered.  "What did you do?"

Simon glanced to him.  For a moment he considered whether or not to tell, but deep inside...he felt no shame for his response.  "I wiped out every last one of those mother****ers out.  Cotter, his men, his whole operation."

"That was you?"  Mulcahy asked  "I remember hearing a bit about that here and there."  
Mulcahy was silent.  It wasn't that he approved of it...but he could certainly understand.  

"Besides," the Father said, "God forgives us all, even in our moments of greatest weakness, as long we repent."

Simon turned his eyes up to Mulcahy then, a fire burning behind those baby blues.  "I'm not looking for forgiveness.  He took everything from me.  So, I took everything from him.  My only regret is that it didn't last long enough."

Mulcahy could hear the pain in his voice.  The rage that had burned nearly all his life and never completely went away.  He felt for him.  Part of him wished he'd been there during that time.  To talk and console him.  Maybe help keep him out of a life that would destroy the person he loved most.  The younger man, sighed and stood, finally removing his jacket.  The sleeves of tattoos covering his arms were revealed, disappearing under the sleeve of his t-shirt.  Mulcahy paused a moment, looking at them.

"Mother of God, son.  What are those?"  He asked.

Simon shifted his gaze to his arms a moment.  "Reminders."


"Every fight I ever won...and lost."  He said, a bit distant.  Mulcahy stared at the elaborate designs that snaked all across the canvas of Simon's skin..  They covered his arms and he could spy them creeping out from beneath his collar.  He noticed, for the first time then, Simon's hands.  There was no missing the fresh black eye and the fresh stitches, but this was...horrific.  Raised scars littered his forearms beneath the inked skin.  "Some of them are pretty recent.  Some of them...some of them go back to our mutual friend."

"Jesus, Simon.  What did they do to you?"  Mulcahy asked sadly, not entirely sure he wanted to answer.  

"Locked me up.  Put me into cage matches with other kids.  Had to get real comfortable with  beating other kids half to death.  Sometimes all the way.  Eventually, you had to just square it with yourself that it was survival.  That you couldn't really be blamed because some 8 year old would never take another breath because you crushed his windpipe with your foot.  Didn't always work so well.  Lost at first more than I won...that was pretty bad." Simon said.  "But the worst nights were when you won.  See...some men never see consequences for what they they think they can do anything.  Take anything.  Well...they took from me.  Me, Anna...all of us."

Mulcahy tilted his head, something perking him up.  "Anna?"

Simon nodded slowly, his eyes lowering. "She was my friend.  More than that, really.  She kept me sane.  Kept me alive...gave me hope.  We escaped together.  Made it 3 months on our own before I slipped up.  We had to make a quick getaway and Falk's people were on our backs.  Almost made it to the train when they grabbed her.  I tried to save her, tried to pull her away...but she just knocked me into a train car right before the door closed."

"You ever see her again?" Mulcahy asked.

Simon shook his head.  "Tried to make plans to go back and rescue her, but Falk had people out looking for me.  I couldn't get close without them spotting me.  Even had a few near misses over the next few months, but always managed to dodge it.  When they found my room at a motel, I had to leave for a while.  Eventually, they must've given up, because I stopped seeing them around.  Even when they were gone, I wanted to go back, but...I was just too afraid."

"You don't have to explain yourself to me.  I completely understand."  the Father had heard rumors about what went on in Falk's Fighting Pits.  It was a poorly kept secret, but nobody with any real power seemed to give a damn.  He seemed to mull something over in his head for a moment before he finally spoke.  "Tell me more about this Anna."

"Not a ton to tell."  Simon shrugged.  "We fought for him, got each other through the aftermath, and tried to survive.  She was strong.  One of the strongest people I've ever known.  Smart.  Kind.  Even when she was trying not to be, it was...somehow still kind, if that makes sense."

The younger man smiled, remembering her.  "She could be funny when she wanted.  Kind of a dry sense of humor, but my God, Father...when she smiled..."

A lopsided grin formed on Mulcahy's aged face.  "I...I need to ask you something, Simon."  he said.

"Shoot." Simon said, sipping his coffee.

"Did...did she have red hair?"

Simon tensed visibly, the mug lowering slowly from his lips.  "How did you know that?"

"And...a scar on her left cheek in the shape of a T?"  He didn't need a verbal confirmation.  The look on SImon's face was enough.  "I know her."  

Everything he'd said about her was dead on, as far as Mulcahy was concerned.  She was every bit the strong, funny, kind soul Simon described.  The younger man blinked, processing everything he'd just been told.

" said...know.  Not knew.  You...KNOW her?"  Simon asked.

Mulcahy nodded, that little smile returning.  "We write twice a year."

He didn't know exactly how to process it. Anna was a piece of him he was certain was just gone for good.  To hear she was not only alive, but well?  That was a prospect he hadn't counted on.  

"You ought to look her up." Mulcahy said.

Simon's gaze shifted up to the priest and he shook his head slowly. "I don't think that's a good idea."

Mulcahy barely missed a beat. "Why?"

Those blue eyes turned downward. "I shouldn't even have come here.  Everything I do, everything I touch suffers because of me.  I can't do that to her.  Not again."

They were silent a moment, Mulcahy just watching his old friend.  The weight of so many dead and hurt sat on Simon's shoulders, dragging him down.  

"I think you should go see her."  Mulcahy said.  He took Simon's hands in his and looked him in the eye.  "I think it will help."

"I can't."  Simon insisted.

"You know that isn't true."

Simon opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out for a moment.  He would kill to see her again. But he just knew it would bring the mess he'd created crashing down around her.  "What if I go...and I just lead him to her?"

"You think he cares about her anymore?  He didn't when she came to me."  He said, softly.

Simon tilted his head curiously.  "What do you mean?"

"Not my place to say." The old man said. "Not my story to tell."

God, the conflict boiling inside was on the man's face as clear as day.  "Simon."  He whispered, gripping his hand a little tighter.  "Sooner or later, you're going to have to stop blaming yourself.  Go. Talk to her.  I promise, you won't regret it."

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