I have no will power. Notes at the end, as always.
King's night had run the gamut from uneventful to spectacular to shitty to really shitty, as she spent hours tossing, turning, and pondering her argument with Jessica — among other things.
The more King thought about it, the more Jessica's implication that she wasn't thinking about Jean bothered her even more than the lapdog comment. She wasn't doing what she was doing because she liked it; she was doing it because, if left unchecked, her brother's medical expenses would put him and their aunt and uncle out on the street. She was doing it because her family didn't make nearly enough money to keep up with spontaneous ER visits, numerous prescription medications, and impromptu lab work. Autoimmune diseases and bone disorders got really expensive really fast — even with insurance.
Then there was the question of operating. The abnormalities in Jean's legs would eventually need surgical intervention because years of splinting hadn't done a damn thing to help his disorder. But, of course, that meant… more money.
At the rate King was getting paid, she'd be able to make a lot of cash fairly easily — it would just take a few more months working for Big, and then… then what? Jessica had told her to just leave, but one didn't "just leave" the mob. King was going to have to stay in it until she figured out a way to get out that didn't involve her untimely demise. As she lay awake, staring toward the ceiling, her thoughts took a turn and she found herself wondering how her parents might have felt about everything. They might have been understanding… After all, she was doing what she was doing for Jean. But they definitely wouldn't have been proud of the woman their daughter had become.
Then there was the question of her aunt and uncle. If they ever found out where King's new influx of cash was coming from they would probably legitimately disown her.
And if Jean ever found out…
King forcefully turned on her side and sharply exhaled while she tried to push the image of her only sibling, crying and heartbroken, out of her mind.
The next morning, King stood in her shower, pretty much out on her feet because of how little she slept in the wee hours of the morning. She knew she needed to reach for the shampoo, but her mind and body were majorly disconnected from each other; her arm just wouldn't move no matter how much she willed it to. It wasn't until she reminded herself that she was going to use her day off to see Jean that she was finally able to maneuver, albeit sluggishly.
After what felt like eons, King finally went through the necessary motions to finish her shower. When she was out and dry she slipped her undergarments on, uncertain of how she should dress for the day. She had started shopping in the men's section regularly, forgoing casual attire for more sophisticated button down shirts and neatly pressed slacks. She never went so far as to tape her chest down when she wasn't working, but dressing in a way that didn't scream "woman" had become something of a new normal for her.
But that was there — in the city.
At home (not that it was really home for her) she was able to present herself in a different light — to be "Normal Big Sister", and not "Totally Androgynous Woman." The idea of not having to dress up was vastly appealing, so she pulled on an old t-shirt, baggy men's jeans, and a mildly oversized, dark green hooded pullover. She put some eye makeup on, clipped her hair away from her face, and then completed her look with some small stud earrings (she wasn't willing to let her piercings close...) before grabbing her necessities and heading out the door.
Thirty minutes later, King rang the bell of her aunt and uncle's cookie cutter home in the suburbs. She stood on the front porch for several minutes before the locks clicked and the door was pulled open by her aunt, Madeleine (Maddy for short), who looked at her and sneered.
"Auntie," King greeted with narrowed eyes and equal disdain.
"So nice of you to finally come by," Maddy stated as she moved to let King inside the house.
"What do you mean 'finally?' I've been working," King retorted. She placed one hand on the wall while she removed her shoes, already intensely annoyed at the hateful woman near her.
Meanwhile, Maddy didn't say anything. She crossed her arms over her chest and regarded King with the usual scorn before suddenly leaning a little closer to her.
"What happened to your hand?" she asked curtly.
King furrowed her brow as she noticed, for the first time, the very slight bruising on her knuckles. The punch from the night before must have been much harder than she thought if it marked her skin through her glove. Nevertheless, she needed to think of a good response. Something that wouldn't set off any —
"Have you been fighting?!"
The question made King grimace, not only because her aunt was actually correct, but because her martial arts was a huge point of contention between her and her family. She had gotten in a lot of fights while she was in high school — so many that making it to graduation (at the top of her class no less) was nothing short of miraculous… as was the fact that none of the angry parents who stormed Maddy's porch ever pressed charges. Regardless, she had to say something to get the older woman to drop the subject.
"I'm an adult, Auntie," King replied casually. "I'm past all of that. But, if you must know, someone at work got a little… touchy."
With that, she strolled away from her aunt, and into the living room, which was, as always, immaculate. She caught sight of her bespectacled uncle, Gary, sitting in an armchair in the far corner, reading a newspaper. He looked up when he heard her approaching.
"Hello, Cécile," he said half-heartedly.
There was a pause as Gary took in King's appearance.
"You're wearing makeup today," he noted.
"Well, it's just the last few times you've been by you've been very… minimalist. If I didn't know you I would think you were a man, what with that short hair and cologne you've been wearing."
"Thank you," King said tersely.
"That wasn't a compliment."
King took a deep breath before pressing her lips together in a thin line. While it was actually great to hear that her altered appearance had the desired effect — even among those who knew her — she was exceedingly aware that her uncle's statements were meant specifically to make her feel bad. The joke was on him, though; the more masculine she looked, the better. Nevertheless, she had to play as though she was much more wounded by the comments than she actually was, so she made an annoyed sound and started toward the stairs.
"I'm going to see my brother now."
"Wait, Cécile," Maddy called sharply almost the second King's foot touched the first carpeted step.
"Ouais…?" King slowly drew the word out while she turned her head to look at her aunt.
"He was in a lot of pain this morning, so I don't want you to —"
"Don't want me to what? It's not like I'm going up there with the intention to wrestle him."
"C'est un mauvais jour," Maddy sighed.
"...J'ai compris," King murmured, unable to keep the sadness from her voice.
She trudged up the stairs, down the hall, and over to a far room that was halfway open.
"Toc, toc," she called softly as she lightly tapped on the door. "Jean?"
"Come in," came a small, strained voice.
King took a deep breath before pushing the door all the way open and entering the bedroom, where her nine-year old brother, Jean, was reclining on his bed. His legs, which weren't in their splints (presumably because of swelling associated with his obvious flare-up), were stretched out in front of him, and his face was covered by a very distinct, red butterfly rash. He looked like he was in so much pain, and yet, he managed a small smile when he saw his big sister.
"Hey, kid," King greeted him softly. "Rough day?"
"Pft. Yeah. I woke up with a huge headache, and my legs were all swollen so we had to take the splints off and I just feel like shi — crap."
King frowned as she carefully sat down on the bed. She placed a hand on Jean's forehead — which was burning up — and gasped.
"When's the last time you took something for this?"
"Thirty minutes ago. 'm fine, Céc. Really."
"You don't look fine," King stated.
"Neither do you."
Jean tilted his head to the side as he fixed his eyes on King's face, thoughtful.
"You look like you didn't sleep."
"I… had a little trouble last night," King admitted.
"Is everything okay?"
King was met with a pointed look from her brother, and she knew right away that the gears in his head were turning, trying to figure her out.
There was a short pause before King let out a quiet sigh.
"Maybe," she replied, "but what's going on with me isn't important. What's going on with you, however —"
"Is really boring," Jean interrupted. "You're out there, all grown up, living in the city and… I dunno. Doing whatever cool things people do in the city, and I'm here, running another fever and missing more school because of this stupid flare up."
"How is school, anyway?"
"Same as always — when I'm actually there, anyway."
"But you're making up your missed work, right?"
"Yeah, but I hate it."
"What are you working on?"
"The only stuff I have left is in English, and we're doing Greek mythology."
At that, King made a face, surprised that Jean's curriculum would even cover such things, since there seemed to be such a strong emphasis on math and critical thinking skills over anything else.
"Yeah. I have to read these stupid myths. Right now we're working on one about some girl… Arak… Arak-something."
"Arachne," King said quickly. "She was the weaver who challenged the goddess, Athena, to a weaving contest and was turned into a spider."
"Okay, yeah, her."
"So what's the problem?"
"I have to summarize what happens in the story."
"I think I just did that for you."
"Yeah, but my teacher wants us to be super specific about it."
"Well, here —" King picked up a notebook from the bedside table — "maybe I can help you with it?"
Jean groaned, and King wasn't sure if it was exasperation or pain.
"Can I have that?"
He abruptly pointed to something on the table near King's elbow. She immediately picked up a plastic blue barf bag and handed it to him; he threw up almost the second the item was in his hands.
"Sorry," he croaked when he finished expelling the contents of his stomach.
"Why are you apologizing?" King asked while placing a hand on her brother's back. "You didn't do anything wrong…!"
Jean didn't look convinced — and it ripped King's heart to shreds. He started throwing up again while she watched, angry at the Universe for dealing him such a bullshit hand. With a defeated sigh she closed her eyes and called for Maddy to come up and lend support. She pressed her lips together, determined to help Jean in any way she could.
Whatever it fucking took.
Ready? Let's go:
* Maddy and Gary are, of course, not canon, but it's clear that King is not Jean's legal guardian, as she goes for long stretches of time without seeing him (as evidenced in several endings.) Someone has to be caring for this kid.
* Maddy is King's biological aunt on her dad's side; Gary is (obviously) by marriage
* I did a TON of research in regards to rare illnesses that would fit the bill for Jean's issues and came up with a plan! His disorders are Blount's Disease, which is a rare bone growth disorder that sometimes requires surgical intervention, and the autoimmune disease Lupus. The latter is characterized by flare-ups that have multiple symptoms, but the hallmark is a red butterfly rash across the face. He is also susceptible to migraines.
* No, he is not too young to be afflicted with these ailments. It's not common at all, but it isn't impossible.
* Ouais = Yeah; C'est un mauvais jour = it's a bad day; J'ai compris = I understand/I get it. That sorta thing
Ooooookay. That's it this time, folks. Come back next time, when our chaotic neutral heroine [REDACTED]!