The sun was on the horizon, and thin beams of light poured through the pine needles and into PaRappa's apartment window. It was a rather chilly morning so he'd turned up the heater, but he was still wearing a sweater to keep himself warm after having risen from his bed shirtless to greet the cold. The room was silent save for the sound of eggs frying on the stove, but PaRappa wasn't the one attending to them. No, it was PJ.

They had been sitting there for a good five minutes, neither one speaking, simply...being within each other's company. Of course, that wasn't really the case, and they both knew it. But neither one was inclined to say much about that. PaRappa, after having passed out from his injuries and exhaustion in a dark alleyway where he was almost sure nobody would find him, had woken up that morning in a soft, comfortable bed, with his wounds bandaged up, and had come downstairs to find his best friend PJ cooking some eggs. He hadn't asked how he'd found him yet, but he knew that PJ knew something. He wondered if maybe he was waiting for him to start the conversation...he decided to experiment.

He put down the newspaper he'd been reading and looked over at PJ- he was wearing a large, baggy shirt and some sagging shorts, neither of which it seemed he had changed out of. He was also sporting more injuries than the last time PaRappa had seen him, and that hadn't been long at all. But PJ had told him several times that things were fine, and that there was nothing to worry about, and even if PaRappa didn't believe him, he didn't want to do anything that might cause him to get hurt any more than he already was. It wasn't a matter of not caring. It was a matter of caring about his safety. But still...

"So, PJ...what's up?"

He didn't turn, but PaRappa could hear that PJ was frowning just by the tone of his voice. "Not much," he replied flatly. He shook the pan a bit before releasing it and turning to him. His eyes were dark, but not angrily so...simply stern. "And before I ask you and you start givin' me shit about how 'things are fine', how about you tell me the truth, PaRappa?"

PaRappa stared at him for a moment, surprised by his sudden firmness. This wasn't like PJ at all...then again, this wasn't PaRappa's PJ anymore. PaRappa knew that the years had hardened his friend, and he wouldn't be the happy, carefree boy he had known before. Thanks to the circumstances, he couldn't be that sort of boy. If he were, he would be that much more vulnerable to whatever it was that his 'associates' decided to do to him...as though PJ could read his thoughts, his gaze intensified, and PaRappa had to look away. He realized then that he hadn't answered the question, but when he opened his mouth to speak, no words came out.

"PaRappa," PJ said again, more sternly this time, and PaRappa only frowned.

"It doesn't matter," he said quickly, attempting to stand but stumbling, his leg still in pain from yesterday. "Damn it," he muttered, before glancing at PJ. "And even if I did tell you, you'd just say I need 'help'. But you know something PJ? You need the 'help' more than I do." With that he straightened, taking out the gun he'd concealed in his sweater and sliding it across the table to PJ. PJ frowned.

"I told you man, I don't do that anymore. Not after what happened..."

"Yeah, that's what they all say," PaRappa said sharply, turning his back to PJ. "But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do." He could hear PJ's footsteps, and he turned quickly to face him. "Don't follow me, man," he said sternly, "You'll only get yourself into trouble."

"But PaRappa..."

"No buts," he said quietly, turning his head to look at a picture on the wall. There was a portrait of Sunny Funny, once his childhood crush...now lying dead in a cemetery. "I don't want you to end up like her, man." He kept walking until he reached the door. He began to open it when PJ put a hand on his shoulder. PaRappa turned and saw his friend, holding out the gun.

"Take it, man," he said softly. "You need it more than I do."

"Nah," he said, pushing the gun away. "I don't need that right now. Not where I'm going. Not with what I'm doing."

"But PaRappa...how the hell do you think you're gonna survive? You think it's that easy, that you can just say 'I'm out' and walk out of something like this? It ain't, man! You gotta do something else..."

"Yeah, I know..." he said, opening the door and grinning, "I gotta 'believe', right?"

And then he slammed the door in PJ's face.