Oh, shit! Hi everyone! So, I was in creative limbo in regards to the direction of Kingverse, and where things could go next, when a little birdy called jojoDO decided to have a chat with me in regards to certain plot points and loose ends, which turned into... a collab! So, if you're new here, I assure you that the water's fine, and you'll find some handy notes at the end of this chapter, though I reckon you should be able to glean plenty from context alone, though, if you want to play catch-up, I won't mind at all. (Start with Much Like Suffocating.) Though, if you're not trying to play catch up, here are the Cliffs Notes: Mr. Big ordered a hit on King, things got way out of hand as she was very violently beaten and violated by one of the two legbreakers sent after her. PTSD ensues as she jogs down a long road to recovery that involves her bestie (Mary) kneecapping the culprit (twice!), a lot of emotional turmoil, a hookup with Vanessa, a guest appearance by Athena, some major drama with Ryo after he finds out, and... yeah. There's a lot to process there. Whew.

And, now, a word from jojo!

Hey it's jojoDO. The guy who writes those awesome Kumites. But enough about that, I'm here to do a kickass collab and drink root beer, and I'm all out of...well actually I never run out of root beer hehe. Anyways, the totally awesome and gorgeous illyrilex was kind enough to entertain this crazy idea of mine, and thus...this was born. Whatever this is. Please enjoy the fruits of our combined might : )


The new normal was... decidedly not normal.

Southtown's popular bar, Illusion, had been closed for over two months. Maybe. The owner, a woman called King, had honestly lost track of the days since she had been ordered by the city to close up shop indefinitely. Just like she had lost track of what time was in the first place. One of her customers once went on a drunken rant about it being a "social construct," and while King didn't exactly believe that then, it was kind of hard to deny it now because, if it hadn't been her turn to pay the place a visit she probably would have schlepped around her apartment, cat in her arms, trying to figure out what day it was.

And, so, she trudged up to the bar and stood motionless in front of the locked doors, a little dejected and maybe even a little disoriented by being out of her apartment in the first place, which, when she thought about it, was kind of weird, as it had been the same song and dance since the place closed all those weeks ago: Alternate with her employees every few days to come in, mix a few house specials, and deliver them to the handful of customers who were aware that they were offering the carry-out service in the first place. Rinse and repeat every few days.

But as King reached for her keys she couldn't help thinking that something was off. She tried to chalk it up to her frazzled nerves (being anywhere but home was legitimately a bit stressful thanks to the status quo), but, as a fighter, her instincts were pretty sharp; she had always known when things weren't "right"... and something wasn't right. Even worse was that this wasn't the first time she had felt so oddly when visiting Illusion over the past week or two. Nevertheless, she unlocked the door, and, with a quick glance at her surroundings, walked inside the dark bar. She used her foot to gently kick the entryway closed while she peeled off the disposable gloves she had elected to wear for the simple task of touching the door handle and remotely disarmed the alarm. She then locked up, made a beeline to the counter, tossed the crumpled up nitrile in the trash, and (with a huge sigh) looked at all of the liquor on the shelves in front of her.

The lifelessness of the bar was equal parts depressing and maddening. King had put so much into running the place: Seeing it barren and watching her employees struggle to make ends meet now that they were no longer taking home their usual tips was enough to make her want to plop down on the floor with an entire bottle of wine and go to town while lamenting the shape of things, but that simply wasn't an option. She had a job to do, and she was going to do it, damn it! With that in mind, she ran a hand through her hair, turned on some music, and set to work.

###

King didn't know how long she had spent mixing drinks when the earlier feeling of unease hit her again. She abruptly stopped what she was doing, turned the volume on the stereo down, and did a quick walkthrough of the entire place. Absolutely certain that she was alone, she made her way back to the counter, where she pulled her phone from her pocket, set it down on the shiny wooden surface, and brought up her Favorites list. She hit the appropriate buttons and waited until:

""Sup, bb?"

Mary Ryan's voice floated into the empty bar, filling King with a little bit of relief. She rested her elbows on the counter and made a face.

"I need somebody to keep me company," she stated plainly.
"You know I love you, but why not Yuri or Mai?"
"Last time I talked to Yuri she was stoned out of her mind and babbling about church and possibly wanting to date me. And Mai, well… I probably could have called her, but I wouldn't want to ruin her fun."
"You mean you didn't want to interrupt her and Andy," Mary corrected.
"No, I mean… well, yes, but I was referring more to the cow onesie."
"Oh, that. Yeah. She's been having a ball with that thing."
"I'm glad somebody is…"
"What? Having balls?"

Both women snickered before Mary said, "Don't worry, bb. I'm sure you'll have some balls of your own some day."

"Don't want them," King replied somewhat distractedly as she brought herself upright and started hosing out the sink. "Don't need them, either. They're too much trouble."
"Fair enough," Mary responded. "So are you at the bar?"
"Yeah. Mixing a few drinks so they'll be ready for Elizabeth when she comes in."
"Oh she's not there yet?"
"No. It doesn't really matter —" King turned the sink off — "because we haven't had any orders today anyway."
"That's depressing."
"Yeah…"

King started to turn away with the express purpose of grabbing a shot glass and the raspberry vodka behind her but stopped when something outside caught her attention. Even though the mesh blinds were down she could make out a shadow on the sidewalk. It must have been someone reading the sign on the window. Nevertheless, she stayed still.

"I think I've spent too much time at home," she told Mary slowly.
"Why's that?"
"Because there's somebody outside and it's making me nervous."
"It's not Liz?"
"...no…"
"You don't think someone would be stupid enough to try to break in, do you?"
"I don't… think so," King mumbled thoughtfully, her eyes fixed on the shadow.
"Uh-oh. I know that tone. Be careful if you're gonna check it out," Mary warned. "I don't want you to do anything reckless…"
"That's why you're coming with me."

King plucked the phone from the counter and clutched it in her hand as she carefully approached the front of the establishment.

"Isn't this how horror movies start?"
"Probably," King answered, "but I'm too pretty to be killed in the first act."
"Yeah, you're definitely Final Girl material."

Brow furrowed, King continued toward the window but stopped when the shadow moved away, completely out of sight. With a sigh of relief she leaned against a nearby table.

"All good?" Mary inquired.
"Yeah," King replied. " But I should probably go. Elizabeth will be here any second, and the last thing you need is to hear us arguing about whatever bullshit she'll be on today."
"Aw, but your arguments are always so funny."
"It's nice that you can find pleasure in —"

At that moment the door shook, as if someone was trying to open it. King jumped, startled, but then instantly composed herself and made a face.

"Speak of the devil. Looks like she forgot her keys."
"Well, go let her in. I'll talk to you later."
"Bye," King sang as she walked over to the entrance. She stowed her phone in her back pocket, undid the locks, and opened up the door to see… nothing. There was no sign of Elizabeth anywhere; hell, there wasn't a single sign of life anywhere. At least, that's how it appeared at first, but a more thorough sweep of the area showed that King, who had stepped outside, wasn't completely alone out there: A few masked stragglers were entering or leaving their own establishments; a small car sped by, blasting through the stop sign on the corner without a second thought; a person stood across the street, looking down at his phone…

King pressed her lips in a thin line. She shook her head, ready to go back inside, but instantly froze when the man on his phone glanced up from his small screen. Her blood ran cold as the stranger looked directly at her and casually waved, his features instantly recognizable. Her hands involuntarily shook as memories of that time — of him — relentlessly attacked her: his breath on her ear when he grabbed her from behind; his voice when he told her he'd blow her head off. She remembered the feel of the cold steel in his hand as he pressed it against her jawline, and again when he struck her with it.

Almost as if he could hear her inner thoughts, the man took his two fingers and pressed them against his jawline. He grinned, mouthed the word "bang," and pantomimed pulling a trigger.

Under normal circumstances King would have rushed across the street and beaten the man senseless. Hell, she desperately wanted to but, for some reason, she found herself completely unable to move — unable to utter a sound, even. After all, if it hadn't been for him she would have absolutely destroyed his accomplice that day before turning her attention (and her kicks) back to him. Both thugs would have been decimated for daring to lay a single finger on her before she went about her business: She would have met up with Yuri and Mai at their designated spot on Fourth, and they would have had their dinner and their drinks and their fun and they would have seen their movie if it hadn't been for him and his pal. But he had caught her off guard… and, because of him his pal had gained the upper hand. He savagely beat her before he —

"Boss?"

King didn't take her eyes off the man across the street, even when Elizabeth strolled over. Paralyzed, she watched him saunter off and disappear around the corner, her mouth agape, as she unconsciously brought a trembling hand up to the scar on the left side of her forehead — a harsh reminder of what happened to her that day.

"BOSS!"

Elizabeth's hand waving up and down directly in front of her face snapped King out of her trance. Without moving she switched her gaze to her employee, who was, as always, annoyed.

"Is there a problem?" she asked.
"I… ou-ouais," King stammered as the English language started to fail her. "Cette… putain de connard…! Je… I… have to…!"

With that, King abruptly started down the sidewalk, away from Elizabeth and the building, her temper starting to flare. She didn't know how that son of a bitch was out of prison, but she was not going to let him get the better of her again; she was not going to let him reduce her to nothing more than tears and torment and trauma. She broke into a run, with Elizabeth angrily calling out behind her, but she didn't care: this was her chance at revenge for what was done to her. And while it would have been much sweeter if it was… him… the gunman was going to be a more-than-suitable replacement.

...at least, that's what King wanted to believe, but as she sprinted down the block she was hit with memory after memory of that incident; things she never wanted to think about for the rest of her life clouded her mind. She finally reached the end of the street and looked both directions, barely aware of the tears that were spilling down her cheeks as she realized that he was gone. Hands still shaking, she hastily wiped her face and took her phone out of her pocket. She stood in the middle of the sidewalk as she navigated the small screen, and then:

"Ooh, what'd she do this ti —"
"What the fuck, Mary?!"

King practically screamed into the gadget.

"Whoa, 'what the fuck' what?!" Mary exclaimed.
"Eleven years!" King burst. "He was sentenced to eleven years, why was he — how is he out?!"
"Who? Bb, what are you talking abo —"
"The-the guy! The one who — the one with the…! The… l'arme! L'homme armé!"
"That can't be right," Mary all but shouted. "I personally made sure he would do as much time as he possibly could for his crimes!"
"Well, he's out!"
"Bb, are you sure it was —"
"Do not ask me if I'm sure," King interrupted as she spun around so she could go back to Illusion. "Of course I'm sure! He waved at me! He… he…!"
"Tell me what happened!"
"I don't know. I don't know! One second he was standing across the street and- and he waved at me, and I couldn't…! I couldn't do anything...! I just… stood there while he walked off. I… I got my bearings enough to go after him, but he's just… gone. He's gone and I…"

King trailed off while she walked and did her best to stave off a panic attack while Mary thought out loud on the other end of the line.

"I don't get it…! He shouldn't be out! Not after everything I did! I had the DA throw everything at both of them, which means that someone must have —"
"Some… one's in... Big's pocket," King said between shallow breaths. "Wouldn't… wouldn't be the... first time…!"
"Breathe," Mary instructed firmly but gently.

It took several tries but King finally got her breathing under control just as she reached Illusion. She reentered the structure (Elizabeth gave her a Look), walked behind the counter, and grabbed the shot glass and vodka she planned to drink earlier.

"He better hope I don't find him," she growled as she poured the drink, her hands still shaking.
"Bb," Mary started, her high voice full of concern. "I know that you want to do all kinds of bodily harm to him, but don't put yourself —"
"In any danger? What else can happen to me now?! What. else?!"
"You can catch this plague and die," came Elizabeth's deadpan answer from the other end of the bar.
"FERME TA GUEULE ET FAIS TON BOULOT!" King bellowed before downing her liquor. She scowled as Elizabeth rolled her eyes and gave her the finger.
"Céc," Mary shouted. "Listen! Just chill out — don't make that face! — and listen to me!"

King gripped her phone in one trembling hand and the shot glass in the other while she willed herself to calm down. She had come way too far since it happened; she had finally come to terms with the event (as much as she could, anyway...) and was back to leading a (mostly) normal life, but this… this had the potential to just... wreck... everything...! Because if he could get out, then what was stopping... him… from —

"Cécile!"

Mary's yell surprised King. She pressed her lips together in a very thin line as she was hit by a massive tension headache.

"I'm listening," she said weakly.
"My hands are tied," Mary started. "If I wanna stay on the force — and keep my relationship — I have to make sure that I play nice. Especially after my last little skirmish, but, I mean... I'm not gonna let this slide."
"That doesn't help in the slightest."
"Hey. Do you trust me?"
"I — yeah! Of course," King answered without hesitation.
"Then trust me when I say I'm gonna make this right!"
"What does that mean?!"

There was a brief lull in the conversation where King thought the call must have surely dropped. She was about to ask Mary if she was still there but paused when she heard her let out a grim chuckle.

"It means I know a guy."


Okay! Illy here! Without further ado, here are those handy notes I promised:

* So, obviously, things are taking place in the current climate. Also, I know the wiki says that Southtown is in FL but it's set in California in my ficverse for a myriad of different reasons.
* The cow onesie is inspired by some artwork that I saw on Twitter. I don't remember the artist's name, but they did a pic of Mai in a onesie that matched her SNKH bikini.
* King and Elizabeth (one of the twin bartenders that works for her) do not like each other. Liz is constantly on the verge of being fired, but King recognizes that she's actually great at her job and has no real grounds for termination. Also, Elizabeth is aware of the rape. (Her sister, Sally, is not.)
* Ouais = yes; Cette putain de connard = That fucking asshole
* L'arme = Gun; L'homme armé = the guy with the gun; the gunman
* Mary is fluent in French, German, and English (obviously)
* Mary used her clout as Southtown PD's best detective, as well as her connections with the District Attorney, to get the driver and gunman put away for as long as possible.
* Under California state law, the maximum sentence for aggravated kidnapping is eight years; eleven if the victim is a minor. Obviously King is not a minor, but, like, Mary. It is also possible for someone convicted of kidnapping to be put on probation, but, as part of that condition, they would have to serve a mandatory year in prison.
* There's a lot of corruption within Southtown PD...
* You know when you say something "triggered" you because it gets a reaction from you. Uh-uh. King's panic attack, and tears, and shaking, and memory flashes after seeing the gunman for the first time since the incident are all components of actually being triggered. Please do not use the term lightly, okay?
* FERME TA GUEULE ET FAIS TON BOULOT = SHUT THE FUCK UP AND DO YOUR JOB
* King's full name is Cécile Marie Levasseur because I spent two+ hours researching French baby names, and, also, shortening it to Céc plays on "Sis," which is the only other thing she has ever been canonically called
* Yes, the title of this work, as well as the chapters, have all been brought to you by the band Radiohead ;)

That's a wrap on chapter one, you guys! Please feel free to tell jojo and I how you're feeling. What are you thinking? Who's the guy? What's gonna happen next?

Also, another word from jojo:

Please like, follow, and review. Please fuel this gal's lizard brain! She craves validation, you know. Little known fact ; ) Until next time!