From jojo:

Hello peeps! We have arrived at the final chapter. And we went all out for this one; only our combined efforts could have brought it to fruition. I mean, we put in WORK. So please enjoy! We both had a blast with this, from start to finish, and we thank you for coming along on the ride!

And now, a quick word from illy: As jojo said, we did go all out, and, with that being said, we are going to have to drop a trigger warning on this installment due to some unforgiving violence, but, also, for mention of sexual assault/rape.

Onward~


King was no stranger to sleepless nights.

During the early days of her recovery she would regularly go four, five, even six days with only an hour or two of sleep. She still had bad spells here and there — that was what the Ambien was for — but, for the most part, she hadn't had too much trouble resting in a long time.

Unfortunately, the sight of the gunman, in addition to taking edibles laced with melatonin in the middle of the afternoon in a darkened living space, wreaked havoc on her system. An hour or two barely conscious here, another three wide awake… and extremely paranoid.

At some point she called Yuri in a bit of a stupor, told her what happened at the bar, and then fell asleep mid-sentence, but not before affirming that she didn't need company. She was jarred awake a little later by a call from Mai (whose ringtone was damn near impossible to sleep through). The kunoichi had been given a sitrep by Yuri, and stayed on the phone with King as she tried — and failed — to relax enough to eat something. After that, King spent the rest of the evening pacing around the apartment, shadowboxing in the living room, and watching the door like a hawk. When she finally (and reluctantly) fell asleep for the night she dreamt of terrible things:

The first nightmare was of the gunman breaking into her apartment, shooting her cat dead, and then placing two bullets in her gut. He taunted her with awful statements about how damaged — how tarnished — she was, and laughed while she slowly bled out on the living room floor.

Another nightmare saw the gunman strategically shooting her in non-lethal parts of her body as his accomplice — who somehow had use of both legs — kept her pinned face-down on her dining room table as he violated her once again. One bullet in the knee so she couldn't use her kicks; another through her hand, through her elbow, through her shoulder… on and on it went until she was finally put out of her misery with a point blank shot to the head that woke her up at 4:33 AM. Breathing ragged and shirt damp with sweat, she bolted into the bathroom and dry heaved over the toilet for several minutes. When she was done she trudged right back to the living room and parked herself on the couch, where she stared at the door, wide awake.

That bastard was not going to get the drop on her.

###

Suddenly it was 10:26 AM and King was slowly opening her eyes, groggy. Slumped over the arm of the sofa, her neck was stiff and one of her arms was numb from where her weight had pushed on it for hours. She didn't even remember putting her head down but it didn't matter because Killer Queen was blaring from her phone (which was in the bedroom) while her doorbell rang over and over again. King hastily bolted upright as it occurred to her that the gunman might have been outside her apartment — and Mary might have been calling to warn her. With that in mind she jumped to her feet and carefully approached the door; her hands shook as she placed them flat on the smooth surface so she could look through the small peephole. She held her breath… and immediately let loose a massive sigh of relief before pulling the door open.

"Mary!? What are you —"
"I have a surprise for you," Mary, who was holding her phone up to her ear, said quickly as she sauntered into the apartment. She ended the call (the music in the bedroom abruptly stopped), removed her outerwear, and asked, "Where's your laptop?"
"Coffee table," King answered. "Why?"
"You'll see," Mary beamed as she sat down on the living room floor. She logged into King's computer and waited for everything to load up properly before pulling a USB drive from her pocket.

"What are you doing?"
"I said you'll see," Mary answered. "Sit!"
"Can I at least brush my teeth first?"
"This is more important than dental hygiene, bb."
"Somehow I doubt that."

Mary turned and gave King a pointed look.

"Okay, fine — just hurry up!"

King frowned as she made her way to the bathroom. She sped through her routine, and, when she realized how badly her deodorant was failing (probably thanks to all that sweating during the night), elected to have a quick shower before going back out to Mary, who probably wouldn't mind anyway. She turned the water on, stripped down, and stepped into the stall. Almost the second she raised her face to the steaming water the curtain was forcefully pulled back by Mary, who looked like she was about to have a conniption fit.

"What the hell are you doing?!" she exclaimed. "Bb, this is —"
"Mary," King said with a sigh, "I had a terrible night. Please let me have this."
"Okay, that really sucks and I'm sorry but you know what? I guarantee that you're about to have a fabulous morning."
"Can't you just tell me what this is about?" King asked while turning to wet her hair.
"Pffft, no," came Mary's reply. She closed the curtain, and then:

"Look, I don't wanna be that person, but be quick!"

With a groan King reached for her shampoo.

"I don't understand why you won't tell me what this is about," she grumbled. She waited for Mary to respond, but was met with silence.

"...Mare?"

King peeked her head out from behind the flower-printed veil; Mary was no longer in the bathroom. She made a face as she resumed washing, but stopped when she heard a very loud, very distinct series of popping noises over the water. Curious, she picked up the pace; she rinsed, turned everything off, and stepped out just in time to hear the beeping of the microwave.

What the hell was Mary doing out there?!

King dried off. She threw on undergarments in record time, grabbed some shorts and a top, and rushed out to the living room, where she was met with the smell of butter in the air. At that exact moment Mary emerged from the kitchen holding a huge bowl of popcorn; she smirked as she looked King up and down.

"Hey there you sexy minx. Ready?"
"Obviously not. Can I finish getting —"
"No, do it over there."

With that, Mary shoved the popcorn bowl into King's arms, moved behind her, and placed her hands on her shoulders so she could steer her over to the armchair on the other side of the living room. She sat her down before moving to the floor so she could pull the laptop closer.

"You're gonna love this," the officer declared as she bounced up and down, her face showing unbridled glee.
"Is it porn?"
"What?"

Brow furrowed, King set the popcorn aside so she could put her shirt on.

"It's porn isn't it."
"Pffft. It's way better —" Mary flashed a wide grin while clicking on a lone icon on the screen — "now watch!"

The video opened up with an establishing shot of… asphalt…? King was greeted with naught but a gray blur, which was quite animated as the camera appeared to be moving around erratically. The longer she looked at it, the more her eyes grew uncomfortable from the prolonged distortion. Hints of yellow… it must have been the lines on the road.

"I don't… what is this?" King inquired while she scratched her head. Suddenly painfully aware that she hadn't eaten since the evening before, she went in for a piece of popcorn, scarfing it down with barely a chew.

"Patience, young grasshopper," Mary responded in a dreamy tone. "All will be revealed shortly…"

King didn't say anything as she dug into the popcorn once more.

It took awhile for the picture to clear up. Soon, a strange pair of feet came into focus. The owner of said feet was clearly walking down the street, headed for some unknown location. After several extended minutes of walking, the camera finally panned up as the movement stopped to reveal their destination: a vehicle. Mystified by the bizarre scene, King quirked a brow.

"Seriously, Mare. What is this?!"
"Stop asking questions and watch."

The next part of the video piqued King's interest, but not enough to outweigh her confusion. It became obvious that the vehicle on camera did not belong to the person filming, as large hands applied a lock pick to the driver's side window and started fiddling around. The owner of the hands must have been talented, because they seemed to work with great precision as opposed to sloppily fumbling about.

"So… I'm watching someone break into a car," King deduced with a frown.

Mary hummed in response and gestured toward the display: The person (man?) gained access seconds later; he opened the door and crawled into the driver's seat. The image became a little blurry but the man appeared to… not secure himself in the front? King could hear the door shut and the lock re-engage, but the camera didn't settle down again until several seconds later. It was hard to see, but the man seemed to have climbed into the backseat.

...Then came the waiting game.

Time ticked by, but nothing of note was happening. The guy with the camera must have been dead asleep, because it wasn't moving — not even in the slightest bit. The only thing that was noticeable was how the orange hue outside slowly began to fade…

Before long, it was clear that night had fallen. The screen was completely black, and the only way King knew the video was still going was by the subtle signs of a live recording: the slight fuzziness, the outside sounds. The little details. She nearly jumped when something on the screen finally showed signs of life: the distinct sound of air rushing into the car via an open door, the rustling of someone climbing into the front, followed by the loud THUNK of a closed door.

And then… the screen went green. King, who abruptly became unsettled, figured that the camera's night mode must have been activated. For some reason she felt like she was going to lose sleep over whatever it was she was about to see. She tensed up when she heard the first spoken word on the video:

"Boo."

All at once the image went completely crazy — which was probably an understatement. The screen started moving again, blindingly, with nothing discernible except black and green. But there was definitely a scream.

"MMRRGH! MMRRPH! MMRRPH WHATTHEFU-MMRRRPH!"

Whatever was happening sounded like it must have been an absolute brawl, as nothing inside the close quarters could actually be seen. After several moments of the chaotic noise and camera work, the car door opened, and the action continued. Somehow, this person was still recording while managing to also tangle with the other guy.

"WHO THE FUCK A-MMRRPHRRRmmph…"

The car-owner's voice shouted in defiance, but a thud was heard seconds later, indicating he either fell… or was put down. The same chilling (but vaguely familiar?) voice that started the video spoke once again:

"I'm Peter fucking Popoff, here to sell ya a miracle."

The camera went dark.

Was that it?

No — it couldn't be. King leaned forward so she could reach the touchpad on the computer. She moved the cursor, ready to give the playback bar life but stopped; judging by the timer there was still plenty of time left. Seconds ticked away, though nothing could be seen or heard. Just… a black screen. King furrowed her brow and looked at Mary, who simply grinned at her.

A minute ticked by. Another. Another…

...Until at last the picture was restored. King's mouth dropped open when she saw the face — the terrified face — looking into the camera.

"That's…!"

She didn't have long to look at him before a fist flew forth and crashed into his jaw, knocking the man flat to the ground.

"Agh! Fuck! Guh.. get away from me — no no NOOOOO —"

She kept watching as he let out a piercing yell: the cameraman had brought his shoe down on the back of his victim's left knee, turning his leg in an abnormal direction. King heard a loud POP and her jaw clenched as she imagined the bone dislocating…

The camera panned down; that… guy… was on his stomach, fingers clawing desperately on the sidewalk, as he attempted to crawl away.

"Scurry, scurry. Hehehehehe. Go on, mate. I'll give you a ten second head start. One… two… three…"

With each number uttered from the disembodied voice, the grounded man's attempts grew more and more desperate. His limbs flailed wildly, like he was struggling underwater. He even managed to get to one leg for a moment before panic made his movements sloppy and he fell back down.

"Aaaaaaand ten."
"No, please NOOOOOoooooooooooo...!"

The man howled as the cameraman outstretched an arm with blinding speed (King did a double take and nearly threw the popcorn bowl when she saw his arm fly) and snatched the man, lifting him up with ease. He spun him around until he was facing the camera once more. Who it was was undeniable. King had to pause the video for a moment to just… look — to take in every feature, every disgusting detail of his identity. The face of the man who took such pleasure in controlling her… terrifying her… now the shoe seemed to be on the other foot.

"Mary, what —" she set the popcorn aside — "what is this?!"
"Shhhh —" Mary brought herself up to the side of the chair so she could gently put a finger to King's lips — "Click play."

It took a moment to process what was happening, but King eventually resumed the video. The very next thing she saw was the face of the man — the man who had haunted her dreams — getting slammed repeatedly into a large, metal dumpster.

"Merde…!"

One, two, three, four…

After the fifth time, the cameraman presented the gunman's face forward again: his lip was split open, nose bent sideways, a cut over his left eyebrow. Blood was pouring from all three orifices.

"P-please… puh, puh-p-please…" the gunman begged, red flying from his lips.
"Stop spittin' on me, dude."

A knee to his stomach made the gunman yelp and hunch over, knees bent, until he collapsed on his butt. The cameraman's shoe put him down the rest of the way as he knocked him to the ground and started stomping him against the cold concrete. After a good minute or two of stomping the gunman, the camera started lowering… The cameraman must have gotten ground-level, as his arm flew out and snatched the gunman by the shirt, dragging him forward, until finally, he propped him up against the dumpster, where he coughed repeatedly.

"Who… who are you," he rasped between each hack.
"Bored."
"You… motherfu — COUGHCOUGHCOUGHkkk… my boss will —"

The hand outstretched and cupped the gunman's chin, squeezing his cheeks inwards until they bulged against his eyes.

"Your boss? Your boss?! Oooooh noooo — not Mr. Boss Man! Ohh, yikes — I've done it now!"

With a mocking laugh the cameraman forcefully let go of his victim's face, shoving his head backwards against the metal behind him.

"You fucked with… the wrong guy… B-Big will —"
"Big? Hehehehehehe! BIG?! HAAHAHAHAHAHA! You think I'm fuckin' scared of Big?! Why don't you call Big out here right now so I can shove that fucking cue ball's head neck-deep up his own ass?! I bet it'd go in REEEEEAL smooth…!"
"F-fuck you!"

King (who was pretty sure she knew the identity of the cameraman...) tensed up when she saw what came next: the hand disappeared from the screen, and was followed by the sound of fumbling. The man behind the camera was clearly searching for something.

"Ooh! Oooooh what's he got now, folks?!" The sarcastic voice of the concealed man commentated as his hand came back into view… and within his grasp…

King's skin grew frigid but no force on the planet could tear her away from the laptop screen. She was now certain of the camerman's identity… which meant that things were about to get very interesting. Gruesome, even. She focused on the screen and just… watched the gunman tremble as his eyes fixated on it: an eight-inch blade, shimmering from the moonlight bouncing off the shiny metal. It was twirled around slowly… almost as if the cameraman was exhibiting the tool before using it for whatever dark purpose it served.

"H-h-h-hey! Hey l-let's talk a minute… l-let's TALK..!"
"Awwwww sorry. You caught me at a bad time. I'm all talked out. This baby though… she's starving for conversation."
"NOOOOO!"

The gunman tried to scramble to his feet. The camera got a little blurry from the hasty motions, but King heard a blood curdling scream a second later… and she could only shudder as she imagined what must have happened.

The camera re-focused then, and King witnessed the cameraman's large hand removing the knife from where he had planted it — in the gunman's foot. Her face twisted when she saw the stain on the once-clean steel…

"Now then… We come to the main event of the evening," the cameraman spoke once more. "Tell you what. I'm gonna give you a special TV offer: lose one thing, lose another free with your paid order!"
"S-stop! Please! W-why are you doing this?!"
"Hehehehe... why. Why why why… so many people ask me that, ya know? 'Whyyy whyyy ohhh whyyyyy are you doing this, ooooh goodness gracious meeeeee?!' Well my answer is always the same: if I'm here right now, doing this to you… you probably already know."

King swallowed hard while the knife grew closer… closer…

"P-please! PLEASE!" the gunman was straight up crying. "I'll give you ANYTHING! Y-you don't have to do this. You don't have to do this. YOU DON'T HAVE TO FUCKING DO THIS, PLEASE! PLEASE!"
"Well of course I don't! Circumstances just kinda put me here, though. So what'll it be? Nose? Ears?"

The gunman's wails grew louder; unsettling moans from his lungs permeated King's ears.

"Clock's a' ticking, buckeroo. I'm about to decide for you."
"Pleeeeeease… pleeeeeeease…"
"Okay then. Fine. I gave you a chance."
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO —"

The video ended there.

King sat, back rigid, in stunned silence for a good two minutes before she finally attempted to even move.

"Mary," she intoned quietly as her eyes shifted to the other woman. "What the fuck was that…?"
"That," Mary responded quite joyfully, "was a gift, bb. From me to you. You're welcome."
"A… 'gift,'" King echoed dully.
"Well, yeah! So? What'd you think?!"

There was more silence as King realized that she was gripping her shorts, which she never had the chance to slip on, in her hand so tightly that her fingers were almost numb. She slowly released her hold on the crumpled fabric, stood up, and tried to process what she had watched.

"Are you mad?" Mary asked, wide-eyed, as she rose to her own feet and approached King. "Please don't be mad…!"
"Cette voix," King began slowly. "Et ce couteau…"

She pressed her lips together in a very thin line as she pulled her shorts on. She then crossed her arms over her chest and stared at the floor.

"That was Yamazaki."
"Yep."
"I just… watched the son of a bitch who put a gun to my head and helped kidnap me… get beaten up by Ryuji Yamazaki."
"...Yep."
"You had… Ryuji… fucking… Yamazaki… go after the son of a bitch who put a gun to my head and helped kidnap me."
"Correct."

King furrowed her brow. She then put her arms out before letting them fall limply to her sides.

"Why?!"
"You're really gonna stand there and ask 'why?!'" Mary responded incredulously.
"YES!"
"Bb! I wasn't gonna sit around and let this guy terrorize you again!"
"And neither was I," King retorted. "I can fight my own battles!"
"Are you sure about that?!"
"What the hell does that mean?!"
"It's… I don't mean it in a weird way," Mary hastily stated. "I know that you're fully capable of taking care of yourself but —"
"Exactly! I can take care of myself! I can't — you can't," King sputtered.
"Can't what?"
"You can't keep jeopardizing yourself for me! I'm not worth this!"
"Are we really gonna have this argument?!"
"What argument?!" King exclaimed. "You've nearly lost your badge I don't know how many times, and you and Terry haven't been the same since — and… I mean… now — now Yamazaki…?! What is this going to cost you?!"
"Nothing," Mary assured her calmly. "Because I got the 'Teammate Discount.'"

There was silence as King suddenly pivoted so she could walk into the kitchen, where she pulled a bottle of pills from one of the cabinets, and a DoubleShot out of the refrigerator. She didn't know what to think: the video was shocking, and horrifying, but, at the same time… kind of great. To see that person suffer was, honestly, a little cathartic. However, Mary had, once again, come through for her in a way that she would never be able to make up to her. The cop had, once again, put herself in jeopardy — not for her own benefit — and, even though it was incredibly moving, King couldn't grasp why. Why was she worth taking such huge risks?

"Come on, Céc — don't be mad!"
"I'm not mad," King replied. She threw her head back so she could swallow her medication and made a face as one of the chalky pills caught on the back of her throat.
"If you're not mad then what's the deal?" Mary prodded carefully. "Because you don't seem happy..."

King silently leaned her back against the counter, opened her drink, and took a huge swig of it. Meanwhile, Mary stood, somewhat unsettled by the fact that her friend — whom she knew extremely well — hadn't given any clear indicator of acceptance... or "oh my god you fucking monster."

There was complete silence as Mary peered over at King from her place just outside the kitchen. The other woman had stopped drinking and was just… looking at the can in her hand, a far-off expression in her sapphire eyes. Out of nowhere her lips slightly curled upwards, as if she was trying to manage the utter minimum of a smile. She let out a low chuckle, and Mary knew that she had her.

"Bb…?"
"This is… fantastic!" King declared while setting her drink down. "That asshole got what he deserved!"
"So you're definitely not mad?"
"No! I am a little disappointed that I couldn't be the one to tear him apart, but… what you did… what you had Yamazaki do… it means a lot to me. I just… I'm having trouble understanding why you —"
"Because I like you and I love you and I know you would do the same for me."
"Without hesitation. But aren't you worried that —"
"Nope."
"Mare…"
"Trust me! He does this for a living. He'll disappear, nothing gets back to me, we go on with our wonderfully fulfilling lives, and Big's collective crew will know that bad shit can happen to them at a moment's notice. They'll think twice before remembering that you even exist."

King considered her friend's words carefully. She didn't quite know what to expect from Big or his crew, but she trusted Mary. And if Mary trusted that Yamazaki's influence would keep the Syndicate far away from her, then who was she to argue? She pressed her lips together and thought about what she saw: every little detail — and how satisfying it was to know that that asshole had been given a lesson in intimidation that he would never forget. She stooped to pick up her cat, Marron, who was rubbing against her legs, and started stroking his fur.

"You look like an evil mastermind," Mary commented.
"That would be you."

There was a brief pause while King rested her chin against the top of Marron's head. She then turned her attention back to Mary, who was staring at the cat with a wrinkled nose.

"Yamazaki... really fucked him up..." King stated thoughtfully.
"Oh, he did," Mary responded, her face instantly lighting up. "And he gave me aaalllllllll the steamy details. Couldn't stop laughing about it!"
"You or him?"

Mary grinned.

"Did he really lose something?" King queried.
"Oh," Mary said. "Yeah. Totally."
"What was it?"

With a coy smile Mary held up both of her index fingers and wriggled them a few times.

King nearly dropped the cat, but stopped herself from letting him fall at the last second. She carefully placed the startled feline down, allowing him a clean escape before she slowly rose back up… and burst into a fit of giggles.

"Putain, t'es sérieux?!"
"Ouais," Mary sang before breaking out into her own giggles. She then cocked an eyebrow.

"Is he good? Eh? Eh?"
"He's fucking good."
"He is fucking good…!"

King abruptly stopped laughing, all at once overtaken by morbid curiosity.

"...what do you think he did with them? The fingers."

Mary started laughing harder.

"I don't know if you really wanna know..."
"Try me."

###

Later that night Mary sat in her apartment, her dog, Anton, sleeping near her feet. In one hand was a vanilla milkshake (she was so thankful that In-N-Out had remained open through the public health crisis…); her other hand held her phone up to her ear.

"I trust I don't need to send you a survey to rate your satisfaction level."

Mary casually sipped on the cold beverage while looking up toward the ceiling.

"Pffft," she answered. "I'm satisfied. Sh — they're satisfied. Everyone's satisfied! I'd say it was a raging success…!"
"So what's next for you then? Clock in, have a cup, polish the ol' badge... go back to being a hero?"
"A hero…"

Mary trailed off, fixed her pale eyes on the floor, and frowned. Breaking limbs, kneecapping, committing assault… hiring a notorious psychopath to do violence she couldn't… In the eyes of the law she had sworn to uphold she wasn't a hero — not even close. It was because of that fact that she stayed silent.

"Hehehehehe... ahh Miss Mary Ryan... you know it's gonna torture me. I'll spend many a sleepless night wondering, just wondering... what could a human being have possibly done, to earn what you asked for? The curiosity will drive me a little MAD…"

Yamazaki's voice carried its usual maniacal, care-free tone, but Mary knew that he was legitimately curious.

"What he did doesn't matter," she retorted sharply. "It's what he might have done with his freedom — which he wasn't even supposed to have in the first place. It's what he might have tried."
"'Might?' Pretty bold word there, Blue. Easy to say what one 'might' do; hell, he might've become the world typing champion someday. I just know what you definitely did do. Just hope you can sleep with it, s'all. You've never been the calloused piece of dried leather I am."
"Don't worry, Ryuji," Mary stated coolly. "I'll be able to sleep just fine...!"

Silence.

An eerie… silence.

What was he doing on the other end of that line? Measuring her? Judging her? Perhaps the more important question was… would she call him out over it? Just how accountable was the man really, when she put that knife in his hand and told him to swing away?

Finally, a response:

"Eh. Good enough for me."

A series of beeps indicated that the call was over.

Mary stared at her screen; her eyes seemed to linger for just a second longer than normal before she finally set the phone aside and returned to the fries she had set aside when she took the call. She picked one up and popped it into her mouth, savoring the salty taste (not so much the crisp, as it had lost that minutes ago). At some point, she found herself zoning out. Another fry came, another… another… until she was no longer even tasting them, just mechanically scarfing them down, one at a time. She thought about Ryuji's final words…

...How would she sleep tonight?

She stuck her fingers into the fry tray, only to feel nothing: they were gone. With a small sigh, she looked to her milkshake instead: still half full at least. She pressed it to her lips, and began to slowly sip… making sure to drag it out as long as possible, and enjoy every drop. Instinctively, her eyes found the television remote; she picked it up and sought out the late night movie channels, looking for even the most droning piece of cinema to stimulate her mind.

Needless to say, she wasn't quite ready for bed.


And, there you have it! As always it is I, illy, here to hit you with just a couple of small notes:

* I don't think I have to explain how King and Mary and the bro-est of the bros, but if you look at their actions, you should be able to see how close they are immediately.
* Peter Popoff is a televangelist who sells "Miracle Spring Water." Look him up.
* "Merde" = shit
* "Cette voix" = that voice; "et ce couteau" = and that knife
* As a result of her trauma and PTSD, King must now take daily medication
* "Putain, t'es sérieux" = are you fucking serious; Ouais = yeah
* In-n-Out Burger is a west coast burger chain that serves some bomb-ass food, particularly their fries.
* Remember kiddies: there's still a global pandemic going on...

Okay, party people. Hope you enjoyed this installment of... things! jojo and I were very pleased to work together to bring it to you, and we hope that we provided some semblance of entertainment for you all! Lets us know how we did!

As always, we would greatly appreciate favs and reviews. I might even share my Liberty Brew with you. It's limited time only. Special stuff. Love you all!