Disclaimer: I do not own Codename Kids Next Door.
They sat in a room filled to the brim with nothing, and at the same time, a barren void that was always something. Their conflicting natures willed it to be so, always interchanging. One could try to elaborate the higher meaning behind it all, but if one had to try, then they would ultimately fail. It was beyond comprehension.
What one could understand was that there were two figures, both sitting at a wooden table, within a blank room. One appeared as nothing more than some middle aged adult, a crisp business type attire clinging to his form. His piercing eyes shone with a level of controlled smugness as he regraded his opponent, doing nothing to hide his utmost confidence. For far too long had this game dwindled on. Never a definite winner, just always a stalemate. But this time would be different, this time he had the upper hand. He would finally be two to one, and claim victory.
As he glanced to the other occupant, he couldn't hold the indignant huff of impatience. Seated across from him seemed nothing more than a child. A youth bubbling with interest as her dotting pupils roamed across the plethora of cards before her. Her fingers glided over each, giving them all considerate thought. Their faces were blank to him, to deter the concept of cheating. But to him, it mattered not what the child would choose, he was only concerned with when she would choose and settle this. He presented this much with a rather obnoxious cough.
The child glanced up to him, eyes blinking. After a moment, she focused her attention back to the cards, and beamed with mirth as she snatched one between her fingertips. She studied the card, entranced with it, and then with a curt nod, she snapped her free fingers, causing all the remaining cards to disappear.
The adult rose a thin brow with tad amusement. The girl couldn't be serious; only one? He silently watched as the girl flipped her chosen card over, laying it face down. Laying it into play, as if conveying her own confidence. The adult found the notion to snicker rather tempting, but chose to be satisfied with a smirk. She had made her rules, and she would be crushed by them. For no one card, whatever it may be, was enough to overpower his strongest hand.
Seeing as the child had made her move, he decided it was time to make his own. With a flick of his wrist, his own cards appeared neatly gripped with his hand. Seven cards to be exact. The rules of their little game were rather simple. He picked his cards, and she picked hers. It didn't matter how many they drew, the other only had to pick a number of cards of equal or lesser to the other's hand. She had the option to try and match his with seven of her own. Yet she only settled with a single. Sad.
Though he liked to think himself a strategic, so he would take the fact she only choose one single card into extreme thought with every move he made. The child was not lacking in cunning herself. But he had no fears of failure this time. His cards represented his own will, nothing she had could hope to match that.
But enough mindless patter, it was time to end this.
With a contorted grin, the adult gingerly plucked one card from his hand of seven and laid it face up with gusty. He relaxed as the room began to shimmer, and his opponent's expression lowered into a frown. With his first turn over, it was time to see how the two pawns were affected.
"You're acting like a child!"
"Oh, so I'm the child? Care to be reminded how all this started? It's because something didn't go the way YOU wanted it to, and now you're whining about it! It's just how your mind works woman! You have to control everything, and when something isn't all dandy apples you go and nitpick about it!"
"Nitpick?" She whispered hotly as her eyes narrowed. "Controlling? I'm controlling just because I want to know how you honestly feel about me?"
He seemed to waver when she said that, and he gazed at her as if she was absurd. She was questioning his feelings? That thought only caused a new wave of anger to simmer from the depths of his mind. "Stop being so damn daft!"
She watched as he began to yell again. His voice echoed off the walls, hitting each beige wall only to vibrate off and hit her. She sat on the bed, her fists clenched as she glared up at him. He paced back and forth, never stopping his tirade, his anthracite eyes stuck to the floor.
Her hazel eyes narrowed into slits of pure rage, her eyebrows furrowed, just as his thick ones were as well. Her wavy golden tresses rolled off her shoulders, swaying with her as she stood and tried her hardest to stop the anger that she was feeling. But he did nothing to stop his from showing. The way his face was etched with fury, how he moved in an almost stalking manner. His hands were clenched into dangerous fists themselves as he stood. Despite her own rage, he still had a noticeable few inches over her. But that tidbit of information didn't bother her in the slightest.
"If you're gonna act like this, just leave, Nigel!" She finally spoke. He stopped and looked at her, shaking his head down at her before yelling another string of curses and arguing with her again. She couldn't even remember why they were yelling in the first place. First it had been her telling him about how he never told her how he felt, and he exploded on her some no apparent reason what-so-ever. But whatever caused his anger was no excuse for this. She just couldn't take playing into his silly games any longer. She knew she loved him, but did he love her?
Clearly his insults were answering for him now, and if that was the case, then she saw no point anymore. Her vision smeared a bit as she stared into his eyes, waiting for him finish his piece so she could have her say. The final say.
"You always act like this! I can't take it anymore, just get out Nigel…It's over!" As soon as the words left her mouth, her body froze. Her mocha orbs looked into his darkened ones and started to water. All of his anger just vanished, as if some spell had been lifted. Now he just seemed as he had been slapped in the face. The tendrils of hurt started to seep in, but she would not let him off. Not this time.
"I…I'm sick of all this fighting. It's all you ever do…I…We're over…" She sat down now, her body shaking as she felt tears fell. Her realization hit her hard. She wasn't happy anymore. She wasn't happy with him…she couldn't stay with him. And it was time that she realized this.
"W-What are you…Rachel…" He stood stock still, shocked, eyes wide as he turned to face her. She shook her head and closed her eyes, blocking her vision of his pale scalp, boyish charm and sweet eyes.
"Get…out." He didn't have time to think as he was pushed out of her room. The door slammed in on his face, the sound jarring him back into focus. He stared at the wood, not believing what just happened, he refused to believe it just happened.
But it did. Rachel was done with him, she wanted him gone.
Solemnly respecting her last wish, he turned and paced out of her house. He ignored the world around him; ignored stupid Harvey as he ripped into him, demanding to know what was going on. Nigel only growled as he pushed the little snot aside before he walked out the door. He walked out and never looked back.
The adult grinned at the display while the child tilted her head, contemplating the events. The suit wearing figure chuckled to himself as he thought out his first move. He started out strong and it was showing. The pawns were already apart, simply marvelous. If the streak continued, then his point would be proven and the round would belong to him. He smugly looked to his rival, and cocked a brow as he saw her smiling at something. Curious, he looked down onto the table and found his grin dimming a bit.
It was her card. It was still face down, and it was still in play.
The adult didn't let the thought bother him, in fact he was expecting it. Knocking it out of play on the first turn would have been far too easy. The child peered at him with an expecting glance and he rolled his eyes as he moved into his second turn. He studied his hand, his remaining six cards, and nodded confidently as he picked another one. Smugly he placed it down on the table, next to his first one, face up. He only needed to be patient. Soon the pawns would break apart completely, he just needed to keep prodding the building fire.
Cheesecake sounded so delicious right now. And since it sounded that way, she would listen. Because it's what she always did. Every time her and Nigel got into a heated squabble, Rachel would have a small circular tray of cheesecake all to herself. Sadly, this time was not like any other fight. The blonde didn't just argue with him, she had lost him.
This called for a second helping.
'One more couldn't hurt.' Rachel mused as she let her fork clink to the bottom of her second empty tray. Standing up, she walked towards the sink intent on putting her dishes away to clean later. She then turned to the fridge, about to fiddle around inside for something else to indulge in. But as her hand swung to the side, she felt it collided with an object on the counter. Rachel looked down, and saw a simple red tin sitting idle. Blinking, she opened the lid and was slightly shocked to see one lone gingerbread cookie staring back at her.
"Rachel, if you keep eating those, you're going to get fat." Nigel teased as she snuck another one of his chewy pellets right out of his hand. He viewed her out of the corner of his eyes as she tossed the candy into her mouth. The blonde caught his stare, and grinned.
"Lighten up, solider. I haven't had anything sweet in, like, forever!" She exaggerated as she stretched for his hand again. Nigel pulled his hand out of her reach, to which she pouted and frowned. The cuteness of the display caused him to hesitate, which she took advantage of as she swiped the rest of his candy while he wasn't looking.
The Brit blinked as his girlfriend chewed happily on the bits, but couldn't help but chuckle at her childish actions. Smirking himself, he turned in the bean bag they were sharing, and patted the floor looking for his gift. "Well if you're going to eat all my sweets," He started as his hands returned with a red tin. "then it's only sporting that I eat all yours." Rachel looked a tad confused as she took the tin he offered. Without a second thought she opened it, and a heartwarming smile followed shortly after.
"Aw, you bought me cookies." Rachel shifted herself on the bean bag, and let herself slide into Nigel's lap. The bald Brit only rubbed the back of his head as his girlfriend kissed his cheek before biting into one of the tiny gingerbread men she had received. Between chews, her arm wrapped around his neck, and she suddenly developed an amused grin. "Oh I'm sorry, how improper of me; you call them biscuits. Right?"
"Ha ha," Nigel dryly laughed as he rolled his eyes. "But yeah, I thought you'd enjoy them so I picked them up from that bakery you like. Hey! Don't eat them all at once! You could get diabetes or something!" Nigel suddenly went on as Rachel gobbled up more cookies. After a moment, she smiled softly and looked to his face, ignoring his paranoid lecture in favor of stealing his lips for another sweet kiss.
Her hand froze as she touched the small cookie. She picked it up gently, and found herself lightly kissing the sugar man before placing it back within the tin. Rachel turned and wandered back down her hall, realizing that maybe Nigel did love her. Had she been blind all this time? He may never have said the words to her, but she had felt it, hadn't she? Yes. She did. Because if she hadn't felt his love, seen it in the small thoughtful gestures he did, she would never have stayed for as long as she had. Maybe she had been mistaken.
Or maybe not. They had fought so much, about so many things that didn't even matter, that it was too cloudy to tell for certain. Rachel sighed as she entered her room, and without thinking, she flopped on her bean bag, instinctively hugging the plushy fabric as she sunk into it. She could feel the beginnings of moisture fighting its way to her eyes, but she wouldn't let it show. She thought of Nigel again, wondering what he was doing. Wondering if he felt the same way. But she surmised it didn't matter at this point, it was far too late. She had made sure of that.
The emotional torment of the pawn was entertaining, but the adult found he could not take satisfaction in this knowledge. No, he had to focus. He needed to focus because his opponent's card was still laying there. Still face down, not even affected in the slightest by his two turns.
The child smiled a bit, which caused him to frown. He then closed his eyes and took a relaxing breath. Letting her get under his skin is just what she wanted to do. Lure him in with that innocent facade and strike him down when he least expects it. That would not be happening, oh no. Let her grin all she wanted, he still had five turns left. Five turns he planned to take seriously.
The adult opened his eyes and looked down to the cards in his hand. After a moment, he plucked up the second one to the left and laid it down onto the table. With that done, both figures waited for it to take affect; the adult stoic and the child humming mindlessly.
Nigel groaned as he wrapped his pillow around his head, praying that it would block out the high pitch ringing of his alarm clock. Finally fed up with it, his hand batted around until it connected with what he hoped was the clock. He heard something clatter to the floor, and sighed as he stopped hearing the alarm. But the damage had been done, and his coal eyes fluttered open slowly. He tried to move, but found himself not really wanting to. His bed was far too inviting this morning. Deep down, he knew he should get up, but at the same time he was fine with just staring at his ceiling.
Soon, he realized he was thinking about Rachel. What was he saying? He had never stopped thinking about Rachel. About her glowing smile, her intoxicant laugh, her flowing hair that his fingers always seemed to be entrapped in. Thoughts of the girl haunted him, yet he relished it all at the same time. He wondered what she doing this moment. Probably getting up herself, her hazel eyes tired from sleep; her golden hair frizzy from tossing, something he had witnessed when she would sleep over or he would sleepover at her place. Her athletic body just covered in her sleeping top.
She would more then likely be preparing to go out. Go out to all their usual spots. Go out and hang out with her best friend Fanny, and maybe Patton, Fanny's boyfriend. Patton was his friend too, though now he wasn't too sure. Patton had only been his friend through Rachel. In fact all their friends seemed connected, and he found himself not feeling up to facing them. Not face the world. He really didn't feel like leaving the house either. Maybe he should just stay and bed.
Yeah, that sounded like a good idea. Not go out. He was going to stay in bed, all day, sleeping, maybe eating and that's all. Nigel tugged his blankets up once more and covered his bald head, turning away from the alarm clock she proceeded to stay in bed for the rest of the day.
"Lass! Ya need ta get up! Stop mopin' around and have some fun!"
"No," Rachel moaned from her bedside. Her face rose from her pillow for the briefest of seconds, and Fanny was greeted with the sight of her tired expression and wry glance. "I like staying in bed during the weekends now." After her dry response, she let her head drop.
Fanny dragged a hand down the length of her face before she resorted to trying to physically haul the blonde out of bed. "Ya need ta stop moaning away over that stupid jackass. What's done is done. Ye need ta move on!"
"I'll get over him if I want to. Now let me just go back to sleep." Rachel weakly mumbled into her sheets as she turned to her side and snuggled into her bed once again. For the past few days, she hadn't opted to go out much to try and avoid Nigel at all costs. It wasn't that she was being emotional or depressed, it's that she just wanted some time alone, to think things over. And be lazy. Nothing wrong with that.
Fanny stopped tugging at the blankets for a moment and ran a hand through her hair, trying to calm herself down. Or at least regain the calm she had before she started a tug of war with Rachel. "Lass, it's been over a month. Ye need to forget that idjit! It's gonna be hard, but you broke up with him, or did ye forget that?"
How could she forget? Closing her eyes, she remembered the one time she had run into Nigel by accident and stiffened, merely staring as he briskly walked away. And herself, left standing the in the street with a feeling of regret washing over her. "I don't want to forget him," She whispered back feebly. "I love him…"
Fanny stopped her next bit before it could fly off her tongue, and simply sat herself down next to her blonde friend. She put a hand on her lower back in comfort, and rubbed in slow motions. "Is...that in past tense or…"
"Do I look PAST TENSE to you!" Rachel snapped as the dam broke loose. Fanny sighed and pulled her friend into a hug, comforting her as the tears continued to flow endlessly.
The adult's free fingers rattled against the table as he glanced down with a light frown. Three of his best cards had been set into play, yet it didn't change a thing. The child's was still there. It would have disappeared by now if he had indeed won. But he hadn't. He glared at the girl across the table, she having her hands clasped, waiting. Some of the innocence had dissolved, and taunting wisdom was seeping through.
But he would not be taunted! Not be bested! Not this time. He still had four cards left. Four more chances. With that in mind, he grasped another card and threw it down.
"Dude, would you quit glaring like that? You'd give someone the impression that you're about to go over there and rip his head off."
Nigel spared Hoagie a heated look before turning his attention to the two over on the dance floor. "No one would ever find the body." He growled lowly to himself.
It was torture. No other way to describe what he was being subjected to. Hoagie and Abby had dragged him out of his home just to see this. Just to see Chad, the smug bastard that he was, put his hands on Rachel's waist and dance like they were an intimate item. The music around them pulsed against the speakers loudly, causing vibrations. Hoagie sighed and patted his best friend on his shoulder, his eyes averting to the scene in front of him. Rachel was laughing hard; her normally laid back blonde hair was curled lightly, her lips painted with a soft pink, and her eyelids bloomed with a gentle skin color.
Nigel could only sit there as the image of Rachel's hips swaying with the blond's drove him mad. He tried not to let it get to him, but it was too much. Watching her face blossom with joy and radiance with another man that wasn't himself was something he couldn't handle. He turned in his seat, his shades lowering over his eyes even more as he tried to let the music block out Rachel's mirthful cries.
It wasn't helping.
"Y'know buddy, you're looking a bit green under the collar," Hoagie ventured in an attempt to lighten the mood. He then found himself flinching. The shades kept them out of sight, but he could feel Nigel's steely eyes boring a hole in his skull. But nevertheless, he pressed on. "And something's tellin' me it ain't from the food or drinks."
"Sod off!" Nigel grumbled as he pushed out of his seat. The Brit didn't say a word as he departed, leaving Hoagie to watch him go with a heavy heart. The guy shook his head, then turned to see Abby walking up with a knowing look she seemed to always carry.
"That bad, huh?"
Hoagie sat back and sighed. "'That bad' doesn't even come close."
The child notched a brow as she watched the adult grumble. He looked to her again, and she only responded with a knowing smile. He growled at her and went back to checking out his remaining head while she could only cluck her tongue in disappointment.
He couldn't understand it. Four cards. Four of his best cards had been dished out and still nothing! Her card still laid there face down, jeering at him with smugness. Still in play despite all his efforts. He wouldn't stand for this! He wouldn't let the child tie their score up again! With a menacing growl, he went all out as he slammed the strongest of his last three down. He then could only wait on baited breath to see how the pawns responded.
"Nigel, stop acting silly just try and talk to her. It would help, and I'm sure she wants to be with you again…" Kuki suggested to Nigel. The three were seated at a bar, trying to cheer the poor soul up. Well, it was more or less Kuki's idea, seeing as she had to convince Wally to let Nigel tag-along. The blond Aussie felt for his friend, but having third wheels on his dates was something he wasn't too keen on.
Nigel let out a tired sigh as he tried to process his jumbled thoughts only to come up with nothing useful. "I don't know Kuki…" The Asian smiled a sad smile as she waited for him to continue. Say anything about the love of his life in hopes they could get somewhere.
"Ya don't get it Kooks," Wally interrupted. Both then looked towards him as he went on, Nigel blankly and Kuki annoyed. "He's gotta keep his pride! She dumped him. He can't be the one who asks for her back, or else he'll look like some whipped sissy." The guy nodded with his own logic, thinking it made perfect sense. "It's her fault, so she's gotta make the first move."
Kuki scoffed as she glared at her boyfriend. "I can't believe you Wally. That's not how it works at all!"
Nigel listened to the two trade it off, and deep down, he couldn't help but shamefully admit that Wally was right in a way. Pride defined his character. It was apart of who he was. One of the main reasons he had yet to seek Rachel out was for the very statements Wally had went over in his little speech. The Brit sighed to himself and looked out the club, spotting for any signs of Rachel. After last week, he was afraid of what he would see. He did scope out Chad, but the new girl wrapped around his arm was most certainly not Rachel, so he wasn't important. Then something hit him. As long as it wasn't Rachel, he honestly didn't give two damns about who Chad was with. Taking in that realization, his head fell into his hands. What was he supposed to do?
"A man's gotta have his pride, Kuki." Wally stated before taking a gulp of his drink. "Ain't like it's a sin or nuthin'."
"Wally," Kuki dryly began. "Pride IS considered a sin. One of the most deadly!"
"It…is?" At his girlfriend's nod, and his light buzz, he began to freak out. "Holy crud! I'm going ta hell!" Their conversation then switched from a debate, to Kuki trying to convince the Aussie he was not going to burn in hell. Nigel might have paid attention to this amusing situation, but he couldn't. He was already gone with a destination in mind.
The adult growled while the child laughed. Trying to save face, as his so-called 'perfect hand' was beginning to fail. He read the pawn like a book, and did not like where things were headed. Acting quickly, he hastily slammed down his sixth card, hoping it would stop this train wreck.
Nigel marched over to Rachel's home. It had been a week since the night at the club, a few minutes since he left the bar, and he finally had done some inner searching. He had found out that though he was angry and prideful, he was something more then that.
He was greedy.
He wanted Rachel, and no one, that meant not Chad who danced with her at the club, or some other idiot who even dared to ask her out could have her. Only he could.
His fist collided with the door again and again. He waited impatiently as he heard footsteps rushing toward the door and the door being quickly opened. For a second, he almost thought Harvey would answer. But by a stroke of luck, it was the girl he wanted to see. The Brit wasted no time barging his way in and shutting the door behind him, taking the shocked blonde by the wrist and trapping her to the door after making sure no one was home.
"What the? Nigel! Let me go you lunatic! What the hell do you think you're doing?" Rachel started yelling but at that point, Nigel was too lost in her eyes to care. He watched as her face flushed with a beet red, her hands struggling against his own and her hazel eyes narrowing at him. He stopped being angry for a moment and stared into her eyes, remembering why he was so crazy to have her. Not because he was jealous, prideful or greedy…
He just loved her too much.
The adult blinked. Then clenched his fist in pure unadulterated rage. This couldn't be happening! No, he had one card left. He looked at it, but his face blanched. He looked from his cards, then to the two pawns. No…he couldn't have been this careless in his turns!
...he couldn't play this card.
Not while they were together!
If he did then...
Seeing that he was beaten, the adult carelessly tossed his seventh card down. Not even looking at the child as she placed her hand on her own.
As soon as Rachel had stopped to take a breath from her triad, Nigel leaned in, his lips softly pressing against hers, urging for her to press back, to love him back. As if by the works of the lord, Rachel kissed him back, gently surrendering to him, showing him she still loved him, and always would.
He let go of her wrists and ran his hands behind her back, pressing their bodies together as one as her hands graced over the smooth scalp she had missed so much. She wrapped her legs around his waist and he held her's, supporting her body against his. His legs made quick work of the steps to her bedroom before he placed her on her back on her bed.
She lay on the bed, all his and only his. He felt a familiar stir overcome his body as he lowered himself over her, his lips slipped down her neck gently; moans of pleasure escaped her lips before she begged for more. His cocky grin slipped onto his mouth before he took hold of her lips once, twice, prehaps thrice more.
Lips melded together, as hands clutched at each other. Nigel slipped his tongue passed her lips, urging her to be his again, to see him as he was, to love him as he was, just as he loved her.
Rachel softly whimpered as his hands crept up her sides, warming her heart once again, with lust…
And of course…
The adult sat with his arms crossed as he watched the child. She had a wise smile playing about her lips as her hand stayed on her one card. Her one card that, despite all seven of his, was still in play.
"How?" His deep voice graveled out as he glared at her hand. Itching to know what card she had chosen that had somehow overpowered all of his! "How could that ONE card keep mine at bay! What is it?"
"My most delicate card," The child began. "It is the most fragile, the most tangible, the most easily manipulated, and the most desparately sought after." She then finally flipped it over, showing its face to him. "And in it's most true and purest form, it's something you can never hope to completely 'knock out of play'."
Rachel awoke the next morning when the warm tendrils of sun played across her face. Her body was encased by protective arms, and the blankets were covering her body from the cooler temperatures of the room. She turned to her other side and smiled as Nigel slowly started to slip back into the waking world. Wrapping her legs around his own, she kissed him gently.
"Morning, commander." Nigel smirked against her lips. The blonde smiled at the pet name before a realization hit her, she then pulled back suddenly and stared into Nigel's concerned eyes. What was she doing? What had she done? She felt fear and anxiety slowly rip her heart apart as she let out a soft whimper, concerning Nigel even more. "Rachel? What's wrong –"
"What is this? Nigel…what are we…?" She started before risking a glare out the corner of her vision. "Did you just come over for sex? That's not how this works! You can't do that! You can't make me want you that way!" Rachel yelled, this situation clouding not only her thoughts, but her judgment. She sat up and covered her chest with the blankets, her body shaking with light sobs as she held the blanket tightly around her body, feeling shamed, yet not regretful. Because in the end, she would always love him.
Nigel sighed and sat up as well, before pulling her into his arms and tucking her head under his chin. He felt her struggle in his arms, trying to pull away from him before she finally surrendered to him. Their hearts beating together in sync.
"Rachel…that's not what it is…that's not what this is." He started, his hands stroking her soft blonde hair.
She made a soft noise and murmured out a small inquiry. "Then…then what?"
"I love you, that's what. I love you and I want to be with you. So let me. My life is hell without you, just a struggle to get through the bloody day without you by my side. Let me be with you, Rachel, please." He silently admitted and pleaded to her, his lips pressed softly to her temple. A sob caught in her throat before Rachel finally unleashed a wave of tears, her heart filling with happiness. Finally she understood what he felt towards her.
"I love you." She whispered back, the only words she was able to choke out. Nigel only smiled and pulled her closer to himself, placing her to his heart; he leaned down, his lips gently capturing her own for the uncountable time.
The adult snorted as his seven cards disappeared. Knocked out of play themselves once the child finally revealed her's. It was over. He had lost.
They were tied again.
"That's it? This all you utilized to best me?" He then threw his hands up, forgetting the whole game and already thinking ahead to the next one. If their running stalemate held, then he would win next time. But it was hollow if he knew it was coming, and even then it would still be a tie. Dammit, he was so close! "Pathetic. All of it! That world was boring anyway. Those pawns couldn't even begin to comprehend the power of my hand!"
"It's you who fails to understand your own hand, meany-head." The child scolded as she let her card dance around on her fingers. The simple heart shape in the center on display for all to see. "Without MY card, all of yours were nothing. All seven of yours were just simple extensions of mine. My card is the driving point of them all, the influence, the motive. It IS the motivation. I simply bested all of your sins, with the most horrible and wonderful of them all!" She giggled as she let the card flutter away.
The adult snorted. "You still expect me to believe that something as petty as that could overpower my seven?"
"But that's just it," The child smirked. "Does love not have the potential to be the deadliest sin of all?"
Darn romance. Ya never know if you're keeping them in character. Heh heh.