Merope After an hour that seemed like an age, Merope is finally reunited with her phone.
Merope As people jostle one another in the corridoor on the way out of detention, somebody bumps Ras, hard, so that his bag spills open.
Merope sees Ras' bag spill and runs over to help.
Merope "It was one of Ty's friends, Ras. You shouldn't have done what you did to him, he's bad news."
Ras Alhague laughs.
Merope "I mean, he's just a mouthy little guy himself, but he has big ideas, you know? And he's got a knife. And big friends."
Merope "I think I heard his brother is doing time for something... listen, are you ok? You look all hurt."
Merope makes a kind of adorable pouty face of sympathy.
Ras Alhague "It'll heal, Merry," he says, shoving stuff into his bag. "Don't worry about me. Ty's ideas are as small as his mind, and his friends aren't as big as I am. If it comes down to it, I can take care of myself." He makes a face. "Though I hope it doesn't. I hate when people don't understand fear."
Ras Alhague "Still, I'm sure we have better things to talk about than that little twerp, right?"
Merope "Um, yeah, I guess.. wanna walk with me?"
Merope "I'll just have to text Asty to let her know I'll be a bit late coming to the mall."
Ras Alhague "Sure, I live down near the mall anyway. I'll walk you there."
Merope dashes off the text quickly, and then looks up, brushing hair out of her face and flahing him a smile. "Perfect!"
Ras Alhague "So, was Asterope fucking with me, or is your party a masquerade?"
Merope "Oh, the costumes? Yeah, Asty insisted we do costumes. She loves that kind of thing."
Merope "Um, you don't have to wear one. If you don't want to, I mean."
Ras Alhague "I've got a uniform from the academy. Real 'Officer and a Gentleman' kind of stuff. I figured I'd just throw that on."
Ras Alhague shrugs.
Merope "That'll be great." She smiles again. "I bet you look good in uniform."
Merope blushes and looks away.
Ras Alhague "You'll have to tell me when you see me. I'm not exactly the best judge of that. I look in the mirror, and I can't see past this." He rubs the scar again.
Merope "Um, I'm sure it'll heal. Anyway, scars are, um, kinda cool."
Merope "So you talked to Asty? I hope she didn't say anything embarrasing. About me, I mean." She looks at him to see how he reacts. "You sent me that text."
Merope blushes again.
Ras Alhague "Well, she did ask me if I saw your chest, and implied it was a semi-regular thing. It's hard to tell if she's joking."
Merope "It's not a regular thing."
Merope looks away for a bit as they push out of the main doors.
Ras Alhague "So I guess I won't be seeing them, then." He chuckles. "It's alright. I went for years in military school, I can go a little longer."
Merope says nothing, but looks away a lot.
Merope tries for a change of subject. "Um... so, I don't mean to pry, but... were you in a fight?"
Ras Alhague "More like I tried to stop one. They really love their football team here, don't they?"
Merope "Heh, yeah. Go Hydras!" She punches the air ironically.
Ras Alhague "I'm pissed that he didn't get detention too."
Merope "How come you got it? You seemed pretty cosy with Miss Rose."
Merope lets that hang in the air for a bit. There might possibly have been the faintest trace of jealousy in her voice.
Ras Alhague "Heather fought for me, but the Principal is a hardass. It's not like it was her decision."
Merope "Heather?" She raises an eyebrow.
Ras Alhague "Yeah, it's her first name."
Merope goes meaningfully silent for a bit.
Ras Alhague "So, you a sleeper?"
Merope stops dead.
Merope After a pause, she says, "Heka talked to you, did he?"
Ras Alhague "Uh, no. I haven't seen him since the library, and it's not like we exactly hit it off in there." He shakes his head. "That kid's got a little bit loose upstairs - no offense meant."
Merope "I'm not joining any gang, ok? I just have a thing."
Merope looks upset. "So this is why you're interested in me, is it?"
Ras Alhague "Because you sleep?"
Ras Alhague now looks confused.
Merope "Because I don't. As you've clearly worked out."
Merope She softens slightly, though, at his apparently genuine confusion.
Merope "You shouldn't call them sleepers. You sound like Furud."
Ras Alhague "Uh, so, you don't sleep...? Anyway, what's wrong with calling them sleepers? It's what they do."
Ras Alhague "Would 'the Waking-Challenged' be better?"
Merope "They're still people. We're all people. Not labels."
Merope She sniffs. "Are you in a gang too? Or are you with Furud?"
Ras Alhague "We're both. Do you see me treating you any different now that I know one of your labels? But it's still a label - and more than that, it's a truth. What the hell do you mean, a gang?"
Merope "Furud has a whole thing about it. The not sleeping. Says we're special."
Merope "It was part of why we broke up."
Ras Alhague "Well, I don't know if we're special, but we're different. And people don't always like different." He rubs his scar again.
Merope gives Ras an appraising look. "Was that what the fight was about?"
Ras Alhague "That's what a lot of fights were about." He sighs. "At Jessup, we didn't just take classes together, we lived together. Kids figured out I wasn't a sleeper early on - I couldn't stand to just pretend for 8 hours a day."
Merope "That must have been hard." She frowns at him, sympathetically. "Me, I try to blend in."
Ras Alhague "I never could."
Merope She laughs. "You'd think it would be great for doing homework and stuff, but half my nights I just end up staring at the ceiling."
Ras Alhague laughs too.
Ras Alhague "At Jessup, I went down to the gym. Kept me from waking the other kids up."
Ras Alhague "Sometimes I'd just float for hours in the pool."
Merope seems momentarily entranced by this mental image. "That sounds nice."
Ras Alhague "More comfortable than lying in bed, too."
Ras Alhague "Have you ever tried it? Sleeping, I mean. There are ways..."
Merope "I tried a bunch of times when I was 12. Never could get it to work."
Merope "It drove my parents nuts. Twins that never sleep, can you imagine?"
Ras Alhague "Oh, I'm sure you were the perfect child. You strike me as the sort that's blended all your life."
Merope "What's that supposed to mean?"
Merope She looks annoyed again.
Ras Alhague "Well, when was the last time you did something adventurous? You tried to call attention to yourself, instead of letting your brother take it all?"
Merope "Well, I gave you my number, that was pretty adventurous. Although if I'd known you were going to spend all your time with me giving me psychonalaysis stuff maybe I wouldn't have bothered."
Merope seems to be working up some anger here.
Ras Alhague "I wasn't planning on psychoanalyzing you. On the other hand, you haven't taken off your shirt yet." He winks.
Merope Despite herself, she laughs a bit. "Stop going on about that!" she says, but she is smiling. A little.
Ras Alhague "It's just a pleasant mental image, is all," he says, grinning, looking her right in the eyes.
Merope She holds the gaze for a moment, and the looks away.
Merope "Look, so I'm a little... shy, maybe. But it's hard being overshadowed, you know?"
Ras Alhague "I don't think you really need to worry about being overshadowed. Just let yourself shine. Be the star you are. Well, here's the Mall."
Merope "Yeah. Um... I'll see you, yeah? Tomorrow?"
Ras Alhague "Call me if you get tired of staring at the ceiling."
Merope smiles, a big one this time. "Count on it."
Merope looks at Ras, seems to struggle with what to do with herself for a bit, and then says, "Um... bye, then."
Ras Alhague "Take care of yourself." He turns to keep walking to his house. "And remember to shine."
Merope walks off toward the mall, thoughtfully.