And I Watch Him...

It's almost in slow motion as I stare, unashamed, helpless, unable to tear my eyes away, unaware. The long strides, muscles flexing and tensing in the strong thighs and I sigh. All the grace and power of a great feline predator in his elegant gait as he moves, hands by his sides, so beautiful. Mesmerising.

Heavily inked arms shaken out as I watch, just silently there. Shoulders rolling, relinquishing hold of the character left behind at the curtain, and the man behind the mask comes back into view. He rolls his neck, chest rising and falling dramatically as he sighs, arching his back, closing his eyes.

Shiny, wet paths almost trace the lines of the dark patterns on his skin, hypnotically following the slow drip of sweat from his brow to his neck, his back.

Slowly falling, rolling, covering the curves and creases in the wide expanse of flesh, flawless and tanned, stretching down his chest to his navel. I watch as one path in particular leads into the line of his hip, the tantalisingly slow pace of the drip making its way down, following the roll of the suggestive dent to disappear, teasingly, beneath the elastic of his waistband...

I know he's moving inadvertently towards me on his way out back, nodding left and right to murmurs of assent and appreciation, rapidly closing the distance between us, eyes meeting for a fraction of a second, a silent question going unanswered... I barely see him because I'm watching so closely, if that even makes sense.

He's a vision in extreme HD, approaching in slow motion, yet passing in a blur as he strides past and disappears from view.

My gaze falls on the wall left behind in his wake, time returning to normal as I'm left with nothing else to look at. His oblivion intrigues me. He's always been so blind to this side of himself, the side that makes people look at him, stare at him, yet so acutely self aware in almost every other sense.

Anyone who looks at Randy these days, well, it's almost impossible to see anything other than the appearance of self assured confidence, a perfect specimen of a man, a ring general commanding respect and appreciation at every turn, from colleagues and fans alike. But look a little closer, below the surface, it's an elaborate illusion. Years of honing have provided a cleverly crafted veil of public persona, to be worn at all times. And it works.

No one is aware that inside the man we all see every day, inside that walking shell of perfection, is the very real shadow of the thing he wants to keep most hidden.



It had just been a normal day until then, the first time I saw him again. So many years had passed since the last time that I'd forgotten he existed.

Yeah right.

No one could ever forget Randy once they'd had the pleasure of making his acquaintance, but no one really knew him, not really. Even way back then when we first met, barely in the clutches of adolescence, he was stunningly beautiful.

He'd tell you differently, he always felt awkward in his own body, braces and blemished skin, gangly arms and legs too long for his body. Well, that's what he always said, but it was all in his head. In my opinion at least.


I was barely seven. I'd never seen anyone slam dunk up close before.

I remember it like it was yesterday, the very first time I laid eyes on him. He cut a solitary figure, shooting hoops out the front of his yard, dark, broody, mysterious. I was riding shotgun in dad's truck as we pulled into his drive to visit his old man. He cast suspicious glances over his shoulder as he disappeared swiftly back into the depths of his garage, I was intrigued from the start.

He was always so different when he thought no one was looking, I've watched him enough over the years to have realised that much at least, my small insight into the mystery of the man he's become. Of course I had no idea at the time that I was witness to a rare treat, the real Randy on display for the world to see as he lost himself in his endless dribbling, the repetitive thunk of the ball hitting the backboard exciting to me as his feet reached almost higher than my head every time he jumped. I watched him for hours from the window as our dads jawed away, until the excitement got too much and I slowly crept out there for a closer look.

"What's your name?"

He whirled around in shock at the sound of my voice, fixing me with the same suspicious glare he cast on us in the truck.


Timidly, yet with no developed sense of self consciousness I stepped forward and stuck out my hand, telling him my name. I peered up at him curiously, then for reasons known only to small children I continued to assault him with endless questions and incessant probing about every detail of his life.

"How come you're playing by yourself? Where're your friends at?"

"Do you see anyone else here squirt?"

I think I made a point of looking around. "Don't you have any brothers and sisters?"

He said he did, but they were almost as little as me, to which I vaguely remember indignantly making him feel my muscles.

"I'm six and a half you know!"


He'd been a jock by default, as if it'd be any other way, but not popular by any means. At least not by his reckoning. He didn't let himself be, didn't want to be. The lone wolf had already been born. He preferred it that way, less chance of being burned. Children can be so cruel, so he had long since shut himself away. Words are like knives but he never let it show. Of course he could give as good as he got, so it could be said that he wasn't popular because he was a complete prick.

But again, that's just what he wanted you to think. People tend to avoid what they don't understand and I guess they just kinda misread his quiet shyness as arrogance and his dry sarcasm as less a sense of humour and more... well, okay I guess they didn't misunderstand that, they just didn't get where the humour part came into it. He had a big mouth and a bad temper and that's what got him in trouble, I guess if you're on the receiving end of his tongue you don't forget about it in a hurry... and no, that is not a euphemism.

I don't think his school days were his favourite time of life, much like most people I'm sure, and he spent his time attempting to hide. How you hide when you're six foot tall at twelve is anyone's guess, and that's my point. But he did his best to blend in with the crowd, all the while maintaining a steely exterior, already fully formed, a mask of indifference in place to guard against the usual childhood jibes from so called friends. Words cut deep, and he built a wall against the jokes ringing true in his already self conscious mind.

'Pocked marked brace face' was how he kindly described himself, always with a smile that he'd insist was wry, but to me it was always more like... sad. He attempted to hide as much as he could in his collar, his hood, hat pulled down low, trying to be invisible. An impossible feat when you're who he is.

Everybody wants to look at Randy Orton.

They always have. And how could they not? But that's not how he saw it back then. He still doesn't, he never will, it's ingrained in him that he will forever be the ugly duckling, when he never really was in the first place. If he'd looked around he'd have seen that he wasn't the only one, and that he wasn't the worst off by far, he was just too receptive to the insensitive banter that you find in every school yard, in every locker room. You wouldn't think he was the type, to be sensitive, would you?

Which brings my mind back to the here and now. Oh he's immune now days, not that anyone would ever dare say a word against him anymore anyway. But if they did, he couldn't care less. And that's just the way I like him.

But it wasn't always like that.

Of course it wasn't. Nobody could ever accuse him of being... uncomplicated.


But I digress. Something I find myself doing on a regular basis when it comes to one Randy Orton. My mind cast itself back to moments in our past as I'd watched him out there just now, as it so often did when I was alone with my thoughts and the mystery that is the man himself in my sights. So many memories, well, for me... most I'm sure he wouldn't even be aware I was there.

And I watched him as he walked, watched him come towards me, watched him pass me by, following him around the wall he'd disappeared behind, not expecting anything from him, any acknowledgement, any conversation, I never do, never have. I'm content to just let him be, just sit, just wait. Like I always do.

Maybe that's the reason he wants me there? He's never told me why...

"I didn't know you had this..."

Well that certainly shook me from my reverie, I nearly fell off the bench I'd barely lowered myself onto when I saw what he had in his hand...

I wasn't expecting that. I wasn't expecting anything really, but definitely not that, never that. It must've fallen out of my wallet somehow and I looked at him, wondering where the fuck he found it...

"I never did tell you what happened... why I left, you were too young..."

I tried to feign bored nonchalance as I fought the urge to beg him to tell me now, but I just watched him scan the tiny words his own hand had formed so long ago, covering every spare millimetre on the back of the photo, but I knew I was more likely squirming at the way he held my gaze as he continued...

"You kept it?"

I shrugged, "I forgot all about it," Yeah right. As if. "It's been in there ever since you sent it I guess..."

"Been in where? Your wallet?" he laughed.

He laughed.

He fucking laughed.


"Um... yeah..."

I know I was bright red right now, just admitting that. Because now he knows that I carry it around with me, but fuck man, seriously that shit has been in there since I was fourteen when he first joined up, it just got transferred to each new wallet I ever got along with all the rest of my shit, you know? He was my hero back then... It's way more innocent than it sounds... and it sounds so lame.

This was not a conversation I ever wanted to have, how the hell had it fallen out? I seriously hadn't looked at that dog eared old thing in ages. I didn't have to when he was right there in front of me all the time like this... I just looked at, well, him, instead. That sounds even worse. I hoped he couldn't read my thoughts, he always had a way of making me feel completely transparent...


"Yeah... sorry."


"Because it was you that gave it to me."

"Huh? I meant..."

He stopped. And he stared at me really strangely, his brow all furrowed like he was really scrutinising me...

Hang on, what? What had he meant? And what had I answered?


I looked up at him in scorn, but before I could come out with the sarcastic retort I was desperately trying to concoct he shut me up completely.

In a way I'd never expected.

"Cody, I'm touched."

-Hey squirt, well you said you wanted to see how I looked in my new uniform, so? What do you think? Pretty dashing huh? Or just like something outta the Village People? I'm undecided. I'm not sure I like it here yet... pretty hardcore shit going down, but I think that's what I need right now, if I pass the training that is... I don't wanna be that guy who didn't go to college still hanging around in his old town just trying to be cool, you know? But everyone else here seems so tough already, I'm almost the youngest and I know I'm not going to be 19 forever but they make me feel small, for the first time in my life, not like, not tall, just... never mind. It's hard to explain. Why am I even telling you this? Hey I'm thinking of getting a tattoo, just USMC, dad's not here to tell me no, what do you think? And where should I put it? I was thinking... damn, outta room, I'll tell you next time when I'm most likely writing on a photo of it! Gotta run, Msgt calling-


What he didn't know was I had the whole series of those postcards along with that one still in my wallet, the photo of the tattoo with his tiny cramped print filling up the back, the official looking posed one from the day he graduated training camp, and the hastily scrawled note he sent me, telling me he wouldn't be writing anymore, explaining that he'd been kicked out and he didn't know what to do. He never did say what happened, and I know he liked the fact that I never asked, but I know it was something big, dare I say it, something bad. It destroyed him for a long time and I'm not really sure he ever got over it. I have to admit there's been many a time I've found myself pondering every conceivable scenario, just to try to understand what is was that made him that way...

Needless to say I was incredibly shocked when the next one arrived, telling me he was in Louisville and determined to succeed in the family business. I was confused for a moment until I remembered my dad telling me something about him joining up and I was really fucking happy that he was throwing himself into something again. I didn't see him much during that whole time, I know it was hard for him down there too, so I can't deny how ecstatic I was to finally hear from him that he'd been called up. Is it any wonder I watched him like a hawk every week on tv after that? It was more to keep an eye on him than anything else, to see how he was holding up, make sure he was okay. And he was. He was fine. He was doing great. So far...

The next letter I got was even better. Two tickets to the PPV, fucking sweet. And what could possibly top that? Seeing the look on his face when they handed him that belt. Youngest champion ever? Fuck yeah he deserved that shit.

That was the night that made me determined to follow in his footsteps.


I was so shocked when I saw him that day they rocked up. The main roster I mean, here in Louisville. I'd been so excited, heading round the back of the arena like I used to as a kid, imagining what it was like for him in the big leagues, wondering if I'd ever get there myself one day, hoping to maybe have him show me some of the stuff he'd learnt on the main show, you know? But I was fucking shitting myself, I was still a rookie and shouldn't have even been back there, not unaccompanied like that, no matter who my dad was, I don't look a bit like him so nobody ever believed me about that anyway and nobody but Randy knew me so I was looking for him everywhere, and I was looking forward to seeing him, of course I was, I wanted to hear everything. But I almost didn't recognise him.

Sure, it'd been awhile, not since I was 19 and he won the strap in the salmon trunks, you know the ones, and the way he looked in them is burnt into my retinas forever... I mean anyone who saw him that night won't forget that in a hurry.

The match I mean, youngest champion and all that...

So with all that in mind, I definitely wasn't expecting the sight that met my disbelieving eyes this time...

"What have you done?"

"What? Nothing."

"Why Randy?"


"Who did this to you?"

"I did this to myself!"

Why was he so angry?

"I don't get it..."

"'Cos maybe this way I can defend myself! Maybe this way I have a chance! Maybe if I look like this they won't... they'll leave me alone!"

What the fuck? Won't what?


But he was gone.

I'd been scanning the room, eyes searching kinda frantically 'cos he'd said he'd be there and I was new and didn't know anyone and he was going to introduce me and I wasn't even really supposed to be back there...

And then he turned around.

He'd been right there in front of me the whole time and I hadn't seen him. I'm sure he saw it in my dismally failing attempt to school my features, but feigned neutral indifference wasn't happening as I stared at him in open mouthed shock. He was massive. Huge.

I was horrified. His puffy face and thick neck the same width as his head scared the hell out of me and I just couldn't understand why he'd do something like that, he'd been so beautiful...

And I know he knew what I was thinking, he was avoiding my eye at all costs. My gasp of disbelief when he'd turned around must've cemented in his mind what he was afraid of, that I'd laugh incredulously, jeer, recoil in horror like he thought I would... because he knew, knew that knowing him before, I wouldn't be expecting it. Not at all.

Like I said, it had just been a normal day until then, but this changed everything, it really did, my faith in him, my whole opinion of him, everything. He was the whole fucking reason I was even there god damn it!

And now he'd gone and ruined everything. He wasn't who I thought he was after all. Why had he done this to himself? But I knew, I already knew.

It was the same old story, why was I surprised? He was always running from something, first the marines, now, now what? Himself? His past?

His life...

I'd discovered that one the hard way, and still to this day he didn't know... what the fuck had happened to him out there at that training camp? I know he'll never tell.

So then after he runs he realises what he's doing and he stops. He gets all down and disappointed in himself and his actions, and wallows in his own misery, his demons manifesting themselves in ways that aren't always conductive to normal civilised life...

But that's just Randy.

He'd never been comfortable in his own skin, he probably jumped at the chance to change himself, this was a chance to fit in, to belong. But it didn't suit him, not at all. Nor did the anger that went with it, boiling along with the drugs just under the surface. And I know he knew it as much as I did, I could see it in his eyes when he reluctantly turned to greet me and found me still searching for the Randy I used to know.

I know I stared at him, mouth agape in the rudest possible way, and I saw the way he tensed and visibly clammed up at my reaction, making his excuses and disappearing.

As I gawped at his retreating back, all thick, puffy, roid abused flesh, I couldn't help but wonder yet again what it really was that made him so sad, so sad as to want to actively destroy himself like that?

Randy what happened to you?

But then what was it he'd said? Defend himself, stand a chance? Leave him alone? Who? What was he talking about? And he never did tell me, but I was watching. I saw the way those three treated him, I had a tv like everyone else and although I wasn't around to see it with my own eyes, I'd seen enough and had my suspicions, and I didn't like them, not one bit.

Those bastards.

"Is it true?" I ran, fast, desperate, spinning him around,

"What?" he barely breathed,

"What they did to you..."

He lowered his eyes, not for the first time stopping their study of my face. I took my answer from his actions, his arm going tense in my own as he shook me off,

"What you did to yourself..."


"You didn't mean it, did you? It wasn't intentional? All those pills..."

He gasped, choked, "How did you..."

"Randy I..."

"I had no choice!" he was hoarse, barely audible,

"There's always a choice, you just made the wrong one..."

"It didn't feel wrong... it felt... free."

I didn't know who he was trying to convince more, himself or me...

"You didn't know what you were doing..."

"It's what I wanted! I WAS FREE! At least I would've been..."

"You were running away!"

"I was trying to!"

"Randy, I know..."

"Forget everything you think you know Cody!"

"No! I know! It was me!"

He stared at me then, the horror in his eyes all too apparent,


"It was me, I found you..."

Silence... his shoulders trembled, I didn't know what to say so I garbled stuff I knew I shouldn't, stuff I needed to get off my chest as much as he did...

"I saw your note..."

His eyes shot up, fixing me with such a look of abject despair that I physically felt it in my gut,

"I didn't tell anyone..."

Silence... he took a deep breath, his lungs rasping, like he was struggling for air,

"They thought it was an accident..."

He stared at the floor, he was shaking, in rage or fear I had no idea,

"I didn't think you'd want anyone to know..."

"I didn't want you to know."


"Randy I'm sorry..."

He looked shell shocked, translucent irises turning cold and grey before my very eyes as his own narrowed,

"So am I ..."


When it was finally time to see him again, I was almost scared of what I'd find. I hadn't seen him since that last time, and that hadn't exactly gone to plan... things were bound to be awkward beyond belief and I wasn't sure if he'd even want to talk to me ever again, we'd had literally zero contact since that last time...

But this time I was called up for real, and if he'd let me, I wanted to make sure he knew that I was here to stay, here to help, to listen. Regardless, I was here whether he liked it or not, not even I had any choice in that right now. And if he wanted to ignore me for the rest of forever then that was fine. I could deal. But when I saw him, just like last time my jaw dropped in incredulous shock. And I have to admit, it certainly wasn't what I'd been expecting this time either...

I marvelled again at the change in his physique, but this time it was different. Again I stared in shock, in awe, rudely just standing there with my mouth probably somewhere down by my ankles, because holy hell was I not prepared for this. He was chilling out back with his buddies, laughing with Adam, looking so natural, so composed, so... so relaxed, happy. I wasn't used to seeing him like that. Thank fuck I'd seen him before he saw me so I had a chance to compose myself because there was no way I could ever let him see me like that, gawping like some slack jawed yokel. The change in him was unreal, I was so relieved, and I wondered what had changed in him this time, in his life...

Or who...

But even as I watched him and Adam animatedly in deep discussion, I knew of course I'd never ask, and he'd never tell me.

He'd shrunk back down to a more realistic size, his body fitting his frame better than ever before, as if chiselled by a master sculptor, built like a Greek god, all the usual analogies one would use for such a perfect specimen of man. He was stunning. Dare I say it, perfect. He'd always been perfect to me, but this, this was something else altogether.

I was in awe, not just at how he did it, but mainly why... what was making him put himself through such drastic changes to his body? Not that I'm complaining, I'm just curious, and very, very interested...

It was that moment he chose to turn around, and as our eyes met I saw something in his change that sent a chill down my spine, and suddenly I wondered if I already knew the answer, could it be... and I felt a dual pang of guilt and pride that my horribly negative reaction last time I saw him might, perhaps, have had something to do with it...?

"Cody... hi... uh, you're here..."

He looked embarrassed and Adam made his excuses and hastily left, nudging his arm as he went, what was that all about? I could barely form thoughts in Randy's presence right now, let alone words,


"So... you made it..."

"Yeah, looks that way..."

"Ready to begin the world's greatest feud?"

"Sure, if you say so..."


"I'm sorry you know."

He still had the photograph in his hand, and I watched as he fingered the corner, almost nervously, something I hadn't seen in him in a long time, "What for?"

"Laughing at you that time..."

"What? When?" But I knew what he was talking about, and I felt my skin prickle with heat and I'm sure my face flushed at the memory I pretended not to have as if it was fresh and new in my mind, which it wasn't, but to my chagrin I discovered it still felt as raw as if it was.

"You know when..."

"It's okay." I cut in quickly with an obvious lie.

"It's not."

"Don't worry Randy, it's forgotten," at least it had been, "Never happened, yeah?"

"I never forgot,"

I was shocked to hear that, my eyes finally looking up despite my feeble attempt at hiding, searching his face for any trace of deception. Finding none, I dared to venture, "Why?"

"Because you didn't deserve that, and I... I wanted to protect you, and I didn't."

"It's okay."

"It's not."

"It is. Fuck."


"Just leave it okay?"

Why was I so upset about this? He was trying to apologise for fuck's sake, but allowing him to do that meant facing up to and acknowledging the fact that it even happened in the first place.

I found myself leaving, not wanting his pity. In a way that was worse than him laughing at me, just more proof that I wasn't anywhere near his equal, and never would be.

"Cody, don't go..."


I watched him look up worriedly as I approached, watching me in return as I made my way into the locker room, my eyes attempting to hold his gaze questioningly as if nothing was wrong. As if I wasn't more embarrassed now than I ever had been in my entire life.

I have no idea why it happened. Seriously, what the fuck? I mean, I'd never entertained thoughts of Randy in that way before, if anything I'd done every conceivable thing to make sure thoughts like that were as far from my mind as humanly possible. It was my first televised match for fucks sake, that was the last thing I needed and why now?

It's never happened before, not even with Shawn, and seriously, if it was going to happen with anyone, it'd be him, right? Not Randy. Definitely not Randy.

And my dad was there, fuck, I mean really Cody? Really? In front of your dad? It couldn't get any worse. Well, it could.

But that all depended on the reaction I received now in the locker room. If the guys had been watching, I'd soon know, or, and this didn't bear thinking about, if Randy told them. It all depended on what Randy had said, or hadn't.

That's if he even noticed... I mean, he never let on one way or the other... so I watched him, trying to gauge his reaction, see if he'd actually paid even one iota of attention to me...

But I could tell by his face that he had. He did that thing he always did when he was nervous, when he's uncomfortable, when he's being scrutinised, rolling his shoulders and cracking his neck and avoiding my eye. Oh yeah he'd noticed all right, so had everyone else.

John was the worst, as usual. No one but him said anything to my face, not directly, it was all schoolboy tittering and sideways glances, guffaws behind their hands at John's jibes. If I heard one more thing about how I 'stood up for myself' or made it 'hard on Randy' I was going to actually punch him. Hard. In his stupid fucking dimpled face.

Randy didn't look at me once. Adam had joined him on the bench and kept looking at me, eyes full of mirth disguised as pity but Randy acted like I wasn't even there. He didn't say a word. Which honestly, I was glad about, it's not like I was expecting him to stand up for me or anything, not at all, the way I saw it was I was just glad he wasn't joining in at my expense, you know?

I just happened to be in the middle of an attempt at an invisible sidelong glance at him when I saw him freeze, eyes firmly over my shoulder as I heard the door behind me open with a loud smack, and my dad not so subtly announce his entrance.

After joining John for a few words to Randy about how the hell he managed to avoid getting his eyes poked out and other such hilarious wisecracks, he announced to all and sundry that me and my gigantic boner better hurry up if I wanted a ride back to the hotel.

And he laughed.

Randy laughed.

At the time I was mortified. And now with hindsight I think he was too. There was an element of hysterical yet reluctant and polite nervousness to his laugh, because he always acted like that around my dad. Which at the time I overlooked because I was just so fucking furious with my dad for embarrassing me like that. And Randy too. I was so mad at myself for putting him in that situation.

But despite all that, I was hurt, and I didn't want Randy to think that I... you know, because I was so sure I'd fucked everything up for myself forever so I just avoided him like the plague at all costs for as long as I possibly could. Not easy when you're in a major story line with him week in week out.

It was kinda like he treated me with kid gloves after that, I never really could tell what he was thinking. Sometimes I thought he was doing things on purpose to taunt me, stuff that everyone would see how red it made me go and would be laughing at me about it behind my back. Like, he'd look at me, just look right into my eyes when he was talking to me, even when we'd be cutting some random promo and I felt like it was just him and me, even though it'd be in front of the entire world.

And he'd touch me, it was weird, he was always doing it, on screen as well as off, stroking my cheek, cupping the back of my neck, and he'd be looking at me while he was doing it, right at me. Like he was trying to see what my reaction would be, if I'd crack and, and I don't even know what. I think he just liked to see me squirm. I shied away at every opportunity because I was so sure he was just trying to humiliate me on live tv. I was convinced that was the only reason he kept me around, and that there must've been money on it somewhere. Probably involving John.

But now days I really have to wonder. I mean why does he bother with me at all? It's almost like, like he actually likes the thought that I... you know, what he probably thinks about me, cos of that one time. Like does it stroke his massive ego? Having someone he thinks wants him there at all times to remind him? Except for the fact that I already know he has no ego to speak of whatsoever. Even if I'm the only person who knows that it's still true.

I've had over three years of it now, the touching and stuff, but apart from that he's never said or done anything to embarrass me and I've never done anything to make him think I... you know, make him get the wrong idea about me. What I mean is, I've never reacted. It's as though I'm not even aware he's doing anything, I just act natural, like it's normal. Completely fucking normal. So like, why?

Does he just keep me around cos it shuts the other guys up about me? Because I know it does. Or cos he's scared of my dad and thinks he has to out of some misguided sense of loyalty? Or even worse, did my dad tell him he had to, like, watch out for me? I dunno. Or is he just so used to me being there he doesn't notice me? That's the most likely.

I know he definitely has this thing now where he thinks no one genuinely likes him for him. He thinks they just like him for his fame, his money, and I'm not gonna be the one to tell him he should add his looks to that list. He'd never believe me anyway, but it's true, and half the people who want his attention only want it for those reasons. But not everyone, he just doesn't give anyone a chance to prove him wrong. I guess he's been burned enough as it is. And besides, how is anyone supposed to even know, let alone like the real him when he never even lets that Randy out anymore? Maybe that's why he keeps me around? Because he doesn't have to hide? Because he can't? I've been there from the start and he knows where he stands, and so do I.



"I know you watch me..."

What the fuck?

He looked up from his intent scrutiny of his image on the old photograph as he talked and took a step closer,

"You always have..."

How could I not? I've been doing it so long I don't think I even know how to stop.

I shrugged.

"Sorry..." It was all I could offer in response, there was no point denying it, "I worry about you..."

He turned, looking right at me, and suddenly he was there, in front of me.


"So many reasons..."

He stroked a finger down my cheek, "There's no need... not any more..."

But I knew differently.

Staring into his eyes I stepped closer, taking his wrist in my hand, removing the old photo from his grasp and gently unwrapping the black tape. When his wrist was bare, I looked down as I traced my thumb over the freshest scar, the deep wound yet to fully heal, met with fainter white lines that I knew crisscrossed their way up the rest of the underside of his forearm, cleverly concealed beneath the skulls representing his oh so many demons.

"I've been worrying about you for years..."

He stared at me, silent, I thought he was going to run away...

"Why didn't you tell me? What you knew..."

"I didn't know what to say..." I still don't...

"You could've come to me..."

"Could I? For what? You to lie to my face about what I knew was the truth?"

"I was trying to protect you..."

"Protect me? From finding your dead body? Gee thanks!"

"I didn't know it was you..."

"And I didn't want you to know either. I didn't want to hear any more of your lies, your excuses, I just wanted to know why, and I knew you wouldn't tell me."

I stared at him defiant, my hands falling to my sides, my surprise evident as he snatched them back up between his own, meeting my eyes again as he almost seemed to plead in earnest,

"I'm sorry."

I just looked at him, searching his face before finally conceding he was telling the truth, "Yeah, so am I."

"For saving me?"

"Is that what you want me to say? 'Cos I'm not. I'm sorry for not saving you before it got to that, for not seeing..."

"You've always been able to see straight through me Cody..."

He paused, looking at my fingers as they entwined with his own, and continued in a whisper, "Yet you're still here..."

I met his eye full on as I sighed, I couldn't help it, knowing full well that the see through one has always been me,

"I've always been here..."

I whispered it forlornly, resigned to the fact that it'd never matter, but as I made to turn away, I nearly missed his words, barely registering on the air as he pulled me towards him,

"I know."