Well. Hi. Looks like the hiatus - which actually kind of wasn't one - might be over... but there's no way to know for sure. Anyway, this is it. This is what some of you have been waiting for for awhile now. I hope it lives up to expectations. Special thanks to Rex Madison for listening to me bitch but also providing valuable input.

Onward~


Another night closing up at Illusion meant another night of counting tips and cleaning up other people's messes, but the owner, a woman called King, didn't mind — too much, anyway. She genuinely enjoyed her job; running a bar was tiring, yes, but the money was good and serving as the bouncer as well as being the owner let her do what she wanted when she wanted and kick the shit out of anyone who got unruly.

And, so, King spent hours mixing various drinks for all manner of people, humming along to songs on the stereo as she did (off-key, as always), and happily pocketing any tips that were thrown her way. She gave orders to her employees as needed, knocked back a couple of shots with customers who were celebrating various occasions, and dislocated the shoulder of a very butch woman who thought that she was above following the establishment's rules. When two AM finally rolled around, she was flat-out exhausted. However, she still had closing duties to attend to, so she hummed along with the music that was playing while she picked up bottles and cans from the counter, content, but ready to go home to her cat and her bed.

Just as she threw the recyclables in a bag, one of her employees, a surly young woman whom King didn't really get along with, Elizabeth, emerged from the office in the back, zipping up her coat as she walked toward the exit.

"Everything's done and the deposit looks good so I'm leaving," she said curtly.
"Okay. Bye then," King replied while making a face.

Elizabeth gave King a blank look and exited the bar, leaving her alone to finish closing up. She knew she should have locked the door immediately, but, instead, she decided to pick up a few stray bottles that sat at the other end of the counter; she would get rid of them on her way to the door.

At least, that was the plan… until said door suddenly opened up, revealing Ryo Sakazaki, who purposefully stepped inside.

King's breath caught in her throat: She had been working very hard to avoid Ryo ever since he found out her pesky little secret about being sexually assaulted by one of Mr. Big's thugs. Not only did Ryo find out, but he had A: asked her a really shitty question (though, to be fair, he did try to comfort her afterward) and B: gone on the warpath, apparently, beating the shit out of Big's cronies to send some sort of message to the crime lord — a move that was incredibly stupid.

King narrowed her eyes before pressing her lips together — hard — as Ryo stood by the entrance, hands in his jacket pockets, his face serious.

"...Hi," he said quietly.
"...Hey."

The two were silent, with the only sound in the place coming from the stereo. King took a deep breath; on one hand it was actually kind of nice to see Ryo: despite how much she had distanced herself from him, he was still her friend… but she wasn't ready to discuss Mr. Big, or the assault, or anything else — and she probably never would be. She leaned on the counter, ready to tell him to leave, but he spoke before King could even utter a sound.

"Céc," he said nervously, "we —"
"Don't," King abruptly cut him off.
"We need to talk about it…!"
"There's nothing to talk about."
"Are you nuts?!" Ryo exclaimed, "Big ordered a hit on you!"
"So? It was never his intent to kill me and it's in the past anyway. He's out of my life."
"How can you be sure?"
"Because I jammed a stick in his crotch and didn't stop until he told me he would leave us all alone," King answered.

Ryo's eyes widened as he sat down on a nearby stool.

"When was that?"
"It doesn't matter — it's done," King sighed. "So you and Robert can stand down with this weird crusade to… avenge me — or whatever it is you're doing."
"But —"
"Just drop it, okay?!"
"But why did he even come after you to begin with? And why didn't you tell us?".
"It doesn't matter," King replied. "It's done!"
"Céc —"
"Can you not call me that right now?"
"Okay, fine. King."

Ryo drew in a breath as the music continued to play before giving King a withering look. A withering look that she absolutely did not need to see. She quickly walked back behind the counter and grabbed a shot glass and some berry flavoured vodka, as booze was probably the only thing that was going to get her through the conversation.

"Please," Ryo entreated. "Just talk to me!"
"About what?" King asked, her patience starting to wane. "What is there to talk about?! Big got bored, okay?! He got bored, and some really awful things happened but… it's over!"

The two were quiet once more as King carefully poured a shot.

"You say it's over," Ryo started slowly, "but… you were…"

He trailed off and averted his eyes, which made King feel a little sick as she realized where their chat was headed. She ignored her queasiness and downed the liquor.

"Raped," she acknowledged numbly. "Yeah. I was raped. End of conversation."
"King —"
"I'm not doing this, Sakazaki!" King yelled, her temper flaring. "I'm tired of talking about — why does everybody always want to talk about it?! What's the point?! To make me relive it again and again?! Because that's kind of a dick move, don't you think?!"
"I don't want you to relive it," Ryo told her. "I just —"
"You just what?! Want to discuss how it made me feel?! How it still makes me feel all this time later?! Should I start spilling all of the fucked up details that I've been trying to forget?! The beating and the things he made me say and the fact that he didn't even bother to put —!"

King's voice broke as she was hit with an intense wave of disgust, and the memory of how scared she felt in that moment. She placed a hand over her mouth and stifled a strange noise before pouring another shot; she chanced a quick glance at Ryo, who seemed appalled, and drank quickly. Then, she pressed her lips together and poured yet another shot.

"You look shocked," she commented bitterly.
"Well, yeah," Ryo started. "I… didn't expect… I mean…."
"What? You're the one who brought it up."
"But you don't have to —"
"Oh, but apparently I do," King snapped. "Because simply admitting that it happened doesn't seem to be enough! So let's get right into it, shall we?! Let's get right into how he got into me and how helpless I really am because that's all anyone really wants to know about anyway!"

Ryo set his jaw while squinting at King.

"You're —"
"What?! What am I, Sakazaki?! Weak because I let it happen?! A whore?!"
"I was going to say 'drunk.'"
"You know damn well that I can handle my liquor better than that," King growled, angry that Ryo would blanketly assume that her blunt outburst was the result of overdrinking. However, she was up to five total shots for the whole night, which normally would have left her feeling pretty good, but in this situation, not so much. Nevertheless, she shut her eyes and focused on the music as she worked to calm herself down before she really lost it.

"You're not weak," Ryo said solemnly. "You're not a whore, either."

At that, King let out a derisive laugh.

"Don't give me that shit, Ryo! You already thought that I had too many partners before this happen —"
"When did I ever say that?!"
"You didn't have to say it! The way you acted when I told you about — it doesn't matter. We're done — I'm done. Please leave."
"Céc…"

King glared at Ryo and took a deep breath before drinking her shot.

"Don't think that using my actual name is going to make me more open to talking. All it's going to do — all it has already done — is piss me off."
"Oh, what doesn't piss you off, King?!" Ryo asked as he threw his hands up, frustrated. "Because I can't remember the last time I had a conversation with you where you didn't get angry about something!"

King slammed her small glass down on the counter so hard that the bottle next to it shook.

"You have a lot of goddamn nerve," she shouted. "You come in here, to my place of business, to have a conversation with me about how I was assaulted — a conversation I never wanted to have in the first place, mind you! — and then expect me not to get pissed off about it?!"
"But you're always pissed off! You were pissed off before it happened, and now you're even worse!"
"Because I was FUCKING RAPED!"

King started to reach for the vodka but Ryo snatched the bottle away just before she grabbed it. She clenched her jaw and pressed her fist against the wooden surface that separated them.

"You know, I was doing fine before you decided to come here tonight," King started. "Just like I was doing fine before Asamiya went and pulled this shit straight out of my head! I don't need to have any long heart-to-hearts, nor do I need to discuss it with anyone other than my therapist —"
"You have a therapist?!"
"SHUT UP! Just shut! UP!"

King slowly placed her head in her hands as she rested her elbows on the counter.

"...Please," she added, much calmer, as her vision began to blur.
"What… what happened to you?" Ryo asked quietly.
"They… he… he broke something," King replied weakly. "Everyone keeps telling me that I'm not broken… and I've been telling myself that I'm not broken… I've tried to build myself back up… and I guess I have... but the cracks are still… they'll never go away. Ever.
"And every time I think I'm mostly past it someone new finds out and I have to explain it all over again. It's like I'm put under a microscope.. Everyone wants to analyze it — analyze me. Including you. And I'm just tired! I'm so tired of talking about it! It happened… that's it. Life goes on…"

King trailed off, a little choked up. She gritted her teeth; she wasn't going to cry goddamnit…!

Ryo sighed.

"For what it's worth, I really am sorry that happened to you," he told her. "And I think I get why you didn't tell me. But I wouldn't have judged you, or looked at you any differently."
"Tu putain de menteur..."

Despite her attempts to keep herself together, King let out a soft sniffle while she looked up at Ryo, who was regarding her with compassion. And maybe something else that she couldn't place.

...Pity?

"It's… a hard pill to swallow," Ryo continued. "Knowing that… that someone did that to you is... difficult."

A pause.

"Where is the son of a bitch now?"
"Jail," King answered simply. "Mary made sure he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone again. And, even then…"

King snatched the bottle of vodka back from Ryo and began pouring another drink.

"If he were to ever get out, he'd be mine. Not yours, or Mary's, or anyone else's. I fucking earned it. So don't you dare try to swoop in like the knight in shining armor because I don't want or need that."

And King absolutely meant it: She had daydreamt about all of the ways she would make him suffer, with some of them being so gruesome that they could probably give Yamazaki a run for his money. She wouldn't kill him, though… she would just make him bleed.

"So… what… do you need?" Ryo asked carefully.

King furrowed her brow, her balance suddenly a little precarious as she realized, wide-eyed, that her blood alcohol content was probably through the roof. If she downed the contents of the small cup in her hand she'd be three sheets to the wind, as evidenced by how weird her head was beginning to feel.

"I need —" King stood up straight and placed a hand on the counter to steady herself — "to stop. For everything to just… stop. And…"

Ryo raised his eyebrows, curious.

"I think I need a ride home..."

###

King flipped the lights on as she carefully entered her apartment with a concerned Ryo following close behind. Her coordination had rapidly started to abandon her; she was still very much aware of everything that was happening, but her motor functions left a lot to be desired as she was becoming more and more sluggish and ungainly.

"So," she began as she sat down on the couch and clumsily removed her jacket and shoes. "We've talked about things, so… you can go now."

Ryo looked from King to the floor. He appeared as though he wanted to tell her something but he suddenly focused his attention on her cat, Marron, who had strolled over to rub against his legs.

"Hey, buddy…"

King watched as Ryo stooped down to talk nonsense to the chubby feline, who flopped onto his side for a belly rub.

"Please don't molest my cat."

Ryo's head snapped up; evidently King's choice of words bothered him — which she picked up on immediately.

"What?" she asked.
"It's just…"
"I wasn't molested — I was raped. Both are traumatic but there is a difference..."

Silence.

Awkward... strained... silence.

With a sigh King placed a hand on her forehead. She swallowed hard and hastily shrugged off her vest and removed her tie, as, all at once, she felt like she was overheating. She began unbuttoning her shirt but stopped when she realized that Ryo was still there — blushing furiously.

"I-I… should… g-go…" he stammered.

King raised her eyebrows.

"Does the idea of seeing a little cleavage make you uncomfortable?"
"Well, I mean… no," Ryo started. "It's just —"
"Good."

King rose from her seat. She turned away and started toward her bedroom, fumbling with the rest of her buttons as she went. She probably never would have done it completely sober, but whatever — her back was turned and Ryo had blown her top open that one time anyway. She peeled off the shirt right before she entered the bedroom, tossed it at the hamper near the bathroom (unsurprisingly, she missed), and walked to the foot of the bed, where she removed her slacks and started rummaging through a laundry basket for more comfortable garments to put on. She pulled on an old, thin t-shirt with a silly French pun involving cats on it, along with a pair of short-shorts that had what was probably the most useless elastic band ever, and sat down on her bed because the room started to tilt to one side.

"Merde," she grumbled under her breath. She held her head in her hands as she fought to stay lucid, internally kicking herself for taking so many goddamn shots in the first place — especially since they didn't even leave her feeling all that great. She raked her hands through her hair and swallowed hard; maybe some water would help. With that in mind, she stood up… and immediately sat back down, as her knees felt like they were made of gelatin. She covered her face and groaned.

King didn't know how long she stayed stationary — but a soft tap on the door brought her out of her trance. She uncovered her face and blinked a few times as she focused on Ryo, who was standing in the doorway with a glass of water in his hand.

"When did you get here?" she asked, a little confused, as she had momentarily forgotten that he was even there.
"You're joking, right?" Ryo asked as he walked over to her.
"I… yeah," King answered as she furrowed her brow. "Sure. Joking."

Ryo made a face as he held the water out toward King.

"I had a feeling you might need this."
"Thanks..."

King took the cup and drank the entire contents in several long gulps. Water was good; water would help keep her off the brink of whatever the hell the vodka had in mind. She placed the now empty glass on the night table and sighed as she peered up at Ryo, who, once again, was regarding her with something she couldn't really put her finger on. It occurred to her that he had said earlier that he wouldn't have judged her over what happened, or look at her differently, but she could have sworn that, as he stood there, he was.

She had a vague idea of how to find out for sure (at least, she thought she did) but it was going to get weird.

"Come sit," she said while casually patting the mattress next to her. Ryo quirked a brow but hesitantly did as he was told.
"What's up?"
"There's something I need to know," King informed as she turned her body so that she could face her companion directly. "Will you be honest with me?"
"Of course," Ryo replied, a touch of apprehension in his voice. "What is it?"

King momentarily pressed her lips together and cleared her throat.

"...Do you want to fuck me?"
"WHAT?!"
"Do. you. want. to. fuck. me?" King repeated very deliberately.
"Wh-why would you ask me something like that?!" Ryo nearly shouted, his face beet red.
"Because I need to know," King exacted. "So. Do you?"
"No!"

Ryo's answer was so quick — so certain. It gave King pause but she wasn't done yet because vodka.

"So, you're telling me that if I were to push you over right now, and climb on top of you in these little shorts, you wouldn't want to…?"
"Of course not," Ryo answered immediately.
"Would you like to put that to the test?" King inquired with a tilt of her head.
"N-no! No. No way."

King couldn't help laughing, but she still wasn't done — not because of vodka this time, but because of morbid curiosity.

"Okay, then how about this," she said. "Did you ever want to fuck me before you knew about my assault?"
"What?!"
"Come on. We're both adults here, Sakazaki. You're a heterosexual male, I'm a pretty woman…"
"But...!"
"Answer the question."
"Well, I mean… you're… you've always been very… ah... pretty," Ryo stammered, "and… you're… pretty, and… I mean, you're..."
"Telling me that I'm pretty isn't an answer," King told him flatly.

Ryo frowned.

"You're definitely drunk," he observed.
"Yes, but I'm not drunk enough to not know what I'm doing or what's going on. Now don't try to change the subject! Answer the damn question already!" King practically yelled while she looked at Ryo expectantly. He nervously rubbed at the stubble on his face while averting his eyes.

"I… might… have thought… about it… once... before..."

King raised her eyebrows, a little surprised by the answer.

"Okay, so… 'once'... 'before.'"
"Yeah. Sure."
"Before what?"
"Just… before… we became better friends."
"Before we became better friends or before you found out I've taken more than one dick?" King blurted without a shred of reserve.

The look on Ryo's face was almost comical.

Almost — because there was something there that confirmed what King had already known ever since it happened. As if to further prove her fears correct, Ryo set his jaw and drew a long breath in through his nose, reluctant to even take a sideways glance at her.

"THERE," King proclaimed loudly as she pointed her finger. "There it is!"
"There what is?!" Ryo retorted.
"You told me earlier that you wouldn't have thought differently of me —" King jumped to her feet — "You said you wouldn't have judged me. But the way you just reacted told me everything! You unbelievable asshole!"
"Why am I the asshole?!" Ryo exclaimed as he rose from his place on the bed. "You're the one who's drunk and asking me these bizarre questions!"
"You're the asshole because, despite what you said, you are judging me over this!"
"Because I don't wanna sleep with you?! King, you're my friend — we're friends! Friends don't think about sleeping with each other!"
"No, but friends don't pass judgment over how many partners the other one has had, be it consensual or forced!"

King squeezed her eyes shut, repulsed by pretty much everything, but also a little unsure of whether or not her point was even coming across in the first place.

"Mother… fucker..." she sighed while she hung her head. "I don't even know what I'm saying anymore. Thanks for the ride, and for bringing me water, but leave."
"King," Ryo appealed. "Please don't…"
"Don't what?" King queried as she stomped out of the bedroom, toward the front door, her gait infuriatingly shaky. "Get upset?! That's sort of impossible!"

Ryo emerged from the bedroom: he made his way down the short hall in several easy strides until he was right in front of King, who glared up at him, her cheeks slightly flushed as she thought about her next words. Unfortunately… she didn't really have any next words, and not because of the alcohol, but because she just didn't think she had it in her to keep talking. She wordlessly turned away and placed her hand on the doorknob so she could pull it open but instantly stopped when Ryo grabbed her shoulder and spun her around so she could face him, startling her.

"Qu'est-ce que tu fais?!"

There was a very strained silence between the pair as Ryo removed his hand and looked away yet again.

"Fine," he conceded. "There's… yeah. I'm what you and everyone else calls 'old-fashioned.' I just… can't really help it. I find the idea of women with… too many men a little… I dunno. It's… complicated."
"'Too many men?!'" King growled.

Ryo grimaced.

"That's not what I… I don't mean… that came out really, really wrong."
"Je te fais la gueule," King replied, her eyes narrowed.
"Come on, Céc…"

King sighed. She crossed her arms over her chest, indignant.

"You know what? It's good to get these things out in the open," she told him. "With that being said, I won't avoid you anymore, but don't presume to think that we're good."
"Were we ever?"
"What? Good? Yeah, we were good," King answered. "But then you… and your… outdated… bullshit mentality…!"
"Look, I get it. It's something that I need to work on," Ryo said with a grimace.
"Great, but it's guys like you that make women feel so much goddamn shame when things like what happened happen — as if it's not bad enough on its own!"

Ryo opened his mouth but quickly closed it again as King turned and pulled the door open.

"Good night," she stated.
"...Umm… good night…" Ryo mumbled as he walked past.

King watched him make his way down the hall; it was only when he turned the corner and peered back at her that she finally closed the door. She let out a deep sigh as she locked up, her jaw clenched, hands shaking slightly. She felt so beat up — more so than when she had been in her accident, even; it was unbelievable.

And yet it wasn't.

She abruptly ran to the bathroom, lifted the toilet lid, and threw up, all the while thinking about what had just transpired, but also about how frustrating her tendency to vomit after stressful conversations was. She finished up and left the room to hunt for her phone, suddenly a little emotional. Ryo had made it clear that, to him, a lay was a lay was a lay, and even though she was over the little crush she once kind of sort of had on him, it still hurt a little.

"This is bullshit, Marron," King grumbled to her cat, who had wandered into the room and jumped on the bed. She picked him up and cradled him like a baby before putting him down to retrieve her phone, which she had left in her pants pocket. She gave the cat a quick peck on the head, plopped down on the bed, (which was still warm from where her and Ryo both sat) and composed a text message that read:

"Do you have a minute?"

Within seconds Killer Queen blasted from the tiny speaker. She answered the call and, instead of formally greeting Mary Ryan, she dictated flatly, "Je pense que j'ai besoin d'un xanny."

"...I'll bring two."


Notes:

* You might have noticed parallels between this and Pins and Needles. This is completely intentional, and not me at a loss for ideas, I swear.
* Remember, Ryo and Robert tracked Jean down for the surgery way back in the day, which means they had to have found out King's real name in the process. Next of kin and all that shit.
* Asamiya pulling things straight out of King's head directly refers to the events of Hurt, in case you're new here.
* Tu putain de menteur... = You're a fucking liar
* Merde = shit
* Qu'est-ce que tu fais = What (the hell) are you doing
* Je te fais la gueule = I'm not talking to you
* Killer Queen. Freddy Mercury. Queen. Mary's ringtone. Listen to it sometime if you haven't already.
* Je pense que j'ai besoin d'un xanny = I think I need a xanny; xanny = Xanax, which is an anti-anxiety drug

Okay! They talked! She's not avoiding him anymore! But where do they go from here? Hmmm. What are your thoughts and feels? Let me know! Thanks for reading! Cheers :)