Hey all, we're not dead! ...wait, it's only been a week? O_o

Yeah, turns out the last break was a fluke; we've got our mojos back now. Good thing, too: December's gonna be pretty sparse for me, for personal reasons. I might have enough time for a shortfic or something, but that's it. So I'm glad we managed to finish this first. This was the important one.

Thanks for following along with this last gasp of the Deal continuity, heh. No promises what I'll do next; no idea, even. Whatever it is, here's hoping you'll follow along with that too :) See you next time!


Several days later King sat alone on a locker room bench, meticulously unbuttoning her vest.

The Women's Team had already fought — and won: King and Mary made short work of their respective opponents, and while King hadn't gone as hard as she did against Athena, her violent tendencies still shone through via plenty of dislocated joints and hairline fractures. It had been cathartic — almost euphoric , even — to finally unleash every bit of anger and sadness she had tried to stuff down during the week against the poor bastard she found herself squaring off against. And, although she was hit with a good shot or two, her injuries were really more bothersome than any anything else. Regardless, her teammates had gone off to find their significant others before the next match, which featured none other than the Kyokugen Team.

The Kyokugen Team, which was still, as King understood it, struggling to get its shit together.

With a quiet sigh she shrugged out of her vest before removing her cuff links from her sleeves so that she could roll them up. She stowed the little green studs in her pocket and removed her bow tie and cummerbund before untucking her shirt, all the while staring straight ahead at Yuri's gym bag, which was sticking out of a half-open locker across the room.

There was no question that King was still intensely upset with Yuri. However, she was no longer seething with rage toward the other woman; she was just… drained. She honestly wished things could go back to the way they were — when Yuri was a trusted companion, and not… whatever she was now. "Enemy" was too strong a word… but she couldn't call her a "friend" anymore, either. (Of course, if she continued with her mind games, she would probably fall into the enemy category, which was a depressing thought for sure.)

King stood up. She placed her discarded clothing in her own locker, walked over to a nearby mirror, and splashed some water on her face. She scowled while fixing her gaze on her forehead: she had taken a nasty bop to the head — directly over her scar. The skin was puffy and bruising, which reminded her of how the skin surrounding the gash looked when it was still healing, which then made her wonder if Yuri had shared the details of the ugly beating she took that night as well. That thought made her angry. With a deep breath she quickly turned on her heel and exited the area, more determined than ever to make Yuri understand .

###

"All right, Yuri girl. You ready for this?"

Yuri looked at herself in a full-length mirror, her eyes moving up and down over her reflection.

"...no. Absolutely not," she sighed, finally looking down at the floor.
"You'd better be!" Ryo called from across the room.

She scowled at her brother for a moment before turning back to her image. The mirror was located in the green room — along with Yuri and her teammates. Some thoughtful soul had set the looking glass up for anyone who wanted one last check before going out into battle… but it was pretty useless for her , as primping and preening seemed impossible today. She couldn't even concentrate enough to get her belt on properly. (She'd made great use of the Cheez Doodles some less thoughtful soul had put out, though.)

"I'm serious, Yuri," Ryo went on, a little more sternly. "We've got a lot riding on this."
"Don't you think I know that!?"
"Yeah, but I don't think you care. This's a great team we're up against; Robert especially got a tough draw — "
"Hey —" Robert began to protest but Ryo went on, completely ignoring him.
" — and we may need your win to advance."
"I care , brother," Yuri snapped, rolling her eyes. "I've just got a lot on my mind now, okay?"
"What? What is on your mind?"
"...oh, forget it," she said absently, still struggling with her belt. "You wouldn't get it anyway..."

Before things could escalate, someone knocked at the back door. As all three of them startled, the entry opened to reveal none other than Athena, wearing her warmest smile. Robert started to joke that not waiting for an answer was impolite — but went silent as Yuri rushed into the girl's arms.

"You came!" she gushed, sounding happy for the first time in days.
"Of course I did," said Athena, winking. "I said I'd cheer you on, didn't I?"
"Ha! So where've you been so far?" Yuri teased with a playful shove.
"Well, I had to cheer King on too, after all."

Athena winced as Yuri instantly deflated.

"Oh. King," she mumbled with a grimace. "So, she won her match, huh?"
"She did, yes."
"Maybe she'll be in a good mood, then..."

As the two went on (now very quietly so the men couldn't hear), Ryo gave Robert a grimace of his own.

"There, you see? She gets to know what's happening. She gets to console her. But her own brother? Nope!"
"It's just girl talk, man. Let it go."
"Yeah but —"
"No."

"It's going to be okay, Yuri," Athena finished. "Win or lose, spill or no spill, it'll be okay."
"What, are you a fortune teller, too?"
"Nah, couldn't hack it," she giggled. "I just have faith, that's all. Things worked out for me, and they'll work out for you. Just have faith."
"...I'll try…"

The conversation conveniently ended there, as the announcer started introducing the Kyokugen Team. Ryo left immediately, barking at the others to follow; Robert sighed and shook his head, then did as he was told. As Yuri did the same, Athena wished her good luck… and then picked up and handed her the belt that fell off as she was walking away.

"Agh, I'm a mess," Yuri moaned.
"Don't worry about it. You'll do great! Really!"

Yuri nodded, but left looking entirely unconvinced. With a sigh of her own, Athena went back out the door she came through and started heading for her seat… which was halfway across the arena.

I wonder if anyone'll scream if I use Teleports on the way...

###

King strolled through the stands, where she could hear the hushed whispers of numerous spectators as she passed by them, shoulders squared and head held up high despite how agitated she felt. She looked around, and, after a moment, spotted her target. Takuma Sakazaki was sitting front and center, eating a bag of popcorn while listening to the perky MC, who was in the ring jabbering on about… something. King shook her head (where did they find this woman?) and then made a beeline toward the older man, who was focused on the raised platform, where his children and star student were making what could only be described as the exact opposite of a grand entrance:

Ryo led the team, looking positively annoyed as Robert trailed after him, forcing a smile and lazily waving at the onlookers although he was clearly nonplussed. Bringing up the rear was Yuri, who appeared downright pitiful while she trudged forward, haphazardly tying her belt, her gi wrinkled and hair bedraggled.

King pressed her lips together as she quietly lowered herself into the seat next to Takuma (she didn't care if it was assigned to another VIP; she was a VIP goddamnit) and folded her hands in her lap, her back rigid against the hard metal. Seeing Yuri so downtrodden — so obviously not herself — was difficult. Even worse was that she knew it was her fault. But! Yuri had brought it on herself: this situation could have been avoided had she just kept her word! How could she have been so careless in the first place?! Thinking about it again was starting to annoy King, so she took a breath and willed herself to keep cool. After all, this was —

"King! Hey!"

King involuntarily jumped when Takuma finally noticed her. She tore her eyes away from the trio in the ring, cleared her throat, and put on the biggest, happiest smile she could muster.

"Salut," she said casually, confident in her ability to hide her real emotions.
"I didn't even see you there," Takuma laughed. "Here to cheer those chuckleheads on, eh?"
"I'm rooting for the other team," King joked.

Takuma raised his eyebrows before extending his bag of popcorn out toward King, who politely declined. The two made some small talk before falling silent to listen to the MC as she started introducing everyone one-by-one. It didn't take long for King to realize that Takuma was staring not at the contenders, but at her.

"Yes…?"
"Yuri's synergy with Ryo and Robert has been greatly disrupted by whatever it is that's going on between you two," Takuma told her very seriously. "As a martial artist she must learn to push trivial concerns aside and focus on her opponent. If she fails to do that today… I'm holding you personally responsible."
"Yuri's a big girl," King shot back. "She's responsible for her own actions, and if she can't pull it together that's her problem — not mine."

Takuma peered at King thoughtfully before saying, "You're hiding something."

King narrowed her eyes; of course she was hiding something. Hell, when wasn't she hiding something? She opened her mouth to speak… but then caught sight of a purple glint not too far from where she was sitting.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me…!"

###

It turned out that the VIP seat next to Takuma's was Athena's.

She headed down the aisles unknowingly, moving as fast as the rabid crowds would let her. As she got closer she managed to recognize the man, thanks to his size and off-white gi; however, it didn't even occur to her that the blonde next to him might be King — until she turned and looked at her, dead in the eyes.

Athena froze, a deer in the headlights once more. King didn't take nearly as long to react, her face quickly going from shock to absolute fury… and then, unsettlingly enough, to something that almost seemed calm. She then turned and animatedly started talking to Takuma.

Athena didn't know what to do. Every fiber of her being was screaming for her to stop King… but her memories of Yuri and Kensou and Chin were shouting, "Noooooo!" She very nearly ignored them; if she hadn't already stopped, she might have dismissed them altogether.

Instead, Athena Asamiya, world-famous Girl Scout and world-class meddler, sat her ass down in an empty seat and waited to see what happened.

...a seat close enough to hear what happened, of course.

###

"You know what? You're right," King said abruptly, her voice high and clear. "I am hiding something. It's about Yuri, and it's important."

Takuma quirked a bushy brow in curiosity… but with a touch of impatience.

"The match is starting! Can't it wait until after?!"
"No —" King's eyes momentarily flicked toward Athena, who looked like she was witnessing a murder, then to Yuri, who was on the opposite side of the ring, and then back to Takuma — "it can't wait. I need you to know now."

A loaded silence set in as Takuma looked to King expectantly. She crossed her arms over her chest and glanced down at her feet (was that blood smeared on her shoe?) before glancing at Yuri, who was watching her with a terrified expression from across the area. It was actually pretty horrible… and in that moment, King knew exactly what she was going to do. She flashed a wan smile and sighed as she fixed her gaze right back down again.

"Forget it," she mumbled.
"No," Takuma replied, his eyes trained on the ring. "If you know something about my little girl that I don't, then you must tell me! Her entire performance here could be riding on it! Now! What did you need to —"
"I was raped," King blurted out miserably, her heart pounding. "By one of Big's men…!"
"What?" Takuma asked as he briefly tore his focus away from the fight.
"Raped," King exacted in English as her feelings of residual shame started to surface. She swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "I was raped by one of Big's men — last summer. Yuri was there… she — she helped me a lot…"

King chanced a look at Yuri, who was watching her attentively, an expression that was somewhere between shocked and concerned on her face. It abruptly occurred to her that one of Yuri's more random skills was — of all things — lip reading.

"Yuri's… a good… she's a good person," King went on, fully aware that Yuri probably knew most of what was being said. "She would skip class so she could come over to check on me, or buy groceries when I couldn't bear to get out of bed… and she was just so… she never let it affect how she saw me, even on the bad days —" King threw her head back (her neck actually popped from the force of the movement) — "God, I'm such an asshole…!"

Takuma briefly turned back to the fight — he winced as Robert took a hard punch to the gut — before setting his dark eyes on King. He squinted at her with a very serious expression... and then started to laugh.

"Oh, King," he said jovially as he clapped a hand on her shoulder, "You don't have to make up stories to assure me that my daughter is a good egg!"
"I — wh-what...?" King stammered, bringing herself upright.
"Something like that could never happen to you! You'd never let it!"

King made a strange choking noise before hastily turning away. She had just told Takuma Sakazaki about what happened to her at the hands of a common enemy… and he didn't believe it?! Unsure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, she pressed her lips together, squeezed her eyes shut, and brought a hand up to her head, which was beginning to hurt badly, not from the bump she had taken earlier, but from the tension headache that was rapidly setting in.

"It can happen to anyone," she said, her voice a little shaky. "Whether or not you want to believe it is your thing, but it happened to me, and Yuri was there from the very beginning! She brought me home from the hospital, and she tried to cheer me up with pot brownies and comedies, and she even stopped having so much sex with Robert so she could make… time… to…"

King slowly trailed off as she realized what she had just said. She felt heat creeping up her neck, into her cheeks as Takuma's jaw clenched so tightly that she surely thought he was going to break it.

"What ... did... you... say...?"
"I-it's... I mean..."

King tried to think of a way to salvage that sentence, but it was clear that nothing she could say would calm Takuma down. All at once she felt like she was going to vomit under the now very pissed off man's hard-nosed stare. Mortified by her own tendency to talk way too much at weird moments, she stood up and raced back to the locker room without another word.

###

Meanwhile, Athena had heard it all... and now she was seeing it all.

She saw King, tearing off for the locker rooms after her mistake.

She saw Takuma, nearly going into apoplexy.

She saw Yuri, who clearly knew what happened somehow, staring over at her father with an open mouth and wide eyes.

She saw Robert, unbeknownst to all of them, losing his match.

...okay, now she could meddle.

###

Mister Sakazaki.

The sudden voice in Takuma's head drove his anger right out the window. Gasping, he looked around frantically for the source: the only possibility he found was Athena Asamiya, whom he knew had psychic powers and was sitting near the end of the row. But she was still staring at Yuri, her eyes wide as saucers and her hands clasped to her mouth —

Yes, this is Athena.

Takuma stood up to yell at her, but she beat him to the punch:

I saw what just happened, she told him. You just heard something very scary maybe even devastating. You have every right to be angry, since Yuri's been hiding something from you. But there's something else you don't know: Robert just lost.

Takuma blinked. He looked away from Yuri (who now appeared more confused than anything else), and it was true — Robert had gone down hard . He groaned and clutched his side, needing Ryo's help to get up. However, before Takuma could think anything but " good, " Athena was in his head again.

If you want your children to stay in this tournament, Yuri HAS to win. And there's no way she'll do that if you blow up at her now. Scream at her later, figure out what's going on later... but for now, BE THERE FOR HER. Show her this isn't the end.

The last words brought Takuma up short. "The end?" Did Yuri really think this meant the end between them? It meant the end of Robert , of course — but Yuri was still his little girl. Always would be. And as he looked at her again, saw the tears streaming down her face, he realized Athena was right: she needed to know it.

With all the patience and zen of a martial arts master, Takuma took a deep, calming breath. He shoved the anger down as much as he could… curled his face into a rictus grin… and, through gritted teeth, called out to Yuri:

"Good luck out there."

For a moment, the shocked elation on her face chased off the anger completely. Takuma smiled at Yuri and she grinned back, pumping her fist into the air. "You bet, Dad!" she exclaimed. And then she sprung into the ring, and woe be it to the fool unlucky enough to face her.

As Takuma settled down into a slow-boiling rage, he looked at Athena and grunted.

You're welcome, she giggled (and wasn't that strange to "hear.")

###

King sat on the floor of a toilet stall with her hands covering her face, her headache made ten times worse from the noise outside and the fact that she had just finished puking. It sounded like the fight was over, though she had no idea who won, as the MC's announcement of the victors hadn't registered thanks to her own retching, as well as her tumultuous thoughts about what had gone down. Not only had she metaphorically bled out in a crowd of people, but she had fucked Yuri over without even wanting to; even if the Kyokugens were the winners, their battle would be far from over, as the wrath of Takuma Sakazaki would surely annihilate all in its path — particularly one Robert Garcia.

It occurred to her then that the horror she felt at her own actions was probably (hopefully) exactly what Yuri had felt when she told Athena about the incident. Goddamn, did the Universe have an interesting sense of humour…

"KING-SAN!"

Just then the door to the locker room burst open, and in ran a slightly roughed up but ecstatic Yuri. King immediately jumped to her feet and exited the stall, ready to strike if needed as the younger woman ran straight at her, but was completely caught by surprise when she was nearly tackled in a huge bear hug.

"Wh-what —?!"
"I saw! I saw what you did back there," Yuri exclaimed. "Are you okay?!"

King honestly didn't know what the hell she was; well enough, she supposed. However, before she could even begin to answer the question the door to the area swung open, and in dashed her teammates, who both appeared slightly winded but, more importantly, terribly vexed.

"What did you do?!" Mary demanded.
"We saw you talking to Takuma," Mai added frantically. "And then we saw him yelling at Yuri after the match!"

Yuri let go of King and spun on her heel to face the others.

"Chill out, guys," she said matter-of-factly, "King-san didn't mean to say anything to my dad about Robbie and I. It just sort of..."
"Slipped out," King spoke up while crossing her arms over her chest. "It slipped out when I told him my secret."

Mary's face contorted in worry while Mai's jaw dropped.

"What —?"
"Why would you tell him that?"

King looked down at the floor and drew in a deep breath.

"Don't get me wrong… I'm still a little upset," she said while bringing her eyes up to Yuri's face. "What you did… it wasn't okay. And I… I wanted you to understand — to really get it. But I had no intention of actually telling your father about that — or about that , either. I wanted you to think that I would do it, and in the beginning I really wanted to, but that would have been terrible, even for me. And then I actually did do it — albeit accidentally — and now I think I get it. So… I'm sorry."

Yuri stared up at King, obviously a little sad, but also resolute.

"I understand why you're upset. You trusted me, and I stupidly… well, you know. So... I'm sorry, too."

Silence descended on the room.

King frowned; she squinted down at nothing in particular as she started to well up a little bit. It was clear that Mary noticed, as she hastily walked over to her and placed a supportive hand on her back. At the same time, Mai lowered herself onto a bench and crossed her legs while regarding Yuri with uneasy curiosity.

"Hey, Yuri…? What happened with your dad?"
"Well," Yuri answered, "he's really angry, of course. He said he's gonna kill Robbie if he sees him outside of our matches. But — "
"Your matches?" King cut her off. "So you won?"
"Sure did," Yuri chirped, smiling while unconsciously rubbing a bruise. "Dad kept it together just long enough for us to kick their butts. He even wished me good luck before my match! I think… I think things'll be okay between us."

There was a collective sigh of relief from the Women's Team.

"He did say he needed time to 'process', though," Yuri went on, her smile fading. "So I probably shouldn't go home just yet…"

King furrowed her brow, dismayed by how badly she had probably fucked things up for the Sakazakis. She looked over at Yuri and Mai, who were talking among themselves and pressed her lips together.

"You can stay with me," she spoke up after a moment.

Everyone stared at King, who let out a tired sigh.

"What? You can use Jean's room... And you won't have to worry about hearing me fucking anyone."
"She's got a point," Mary chimed in with a snicker.
"Are-are you sure?" Yuri asked, her voice full of amazement.
"Yes, but I reserve the right to kick you out — literally — at any time."

Yuri broke into a brilliant grin.

"Deal!"

###

Hours later, King sat on her sofa with a glass of wine and her cellphone while Yuri rested on the floor in front of the coffee table rubbing Tiger Balm into her shoulder, a plate of half-eaten pizza before her.

The pair had spent some time talking about, well, everything. There were a couple of heated exchanges, as well as some tears, but in the end they realized that their friendship was too strong to just throw away over a slip of the tongue or two. However, there was one caveat: Because of King's numerous issues with trusting people, Yuri was going to have to work — hard — to earn it back.

"Everything's fine," King assured Mary via text. "We've talked it out and it's all copacetic."

The little ellipses appeared on the screen, indicating that Mary was typing up her response. It took forever, but, finally, a text bubble popped up that only said, "K"

King made a face. She replied with a middle finger emoji, followed by a kissy face, and put the phone down.

"Hey, King-san," Yuri started.
"Please drop the 'san,'" King told her before she could continue. "It's so formal and it makes me feel weird."
"Fine," Yuri mock pouted. She stared at the ceiling, contemplative, for just a moment before speaking again. "You're Céccy now."

King quirked a brow.

"Céccy…?"
"Céccy."
"... Not in public," King said after a moment. "I have an image to uphold."
"You mean that whole androgyny angle? Dude, even without makeup on it's obvious that you're a woman," Yuri informed her with a pointed look. "Besides, we live in a day and age where the whole LGBT-thing is totally acceptable —"
"Mostly."
"— so you don't have to be manly to pick up chicks!"
"Who says I'm trying to pick up chicks?"
"Well you're definitely not hooking up with any dudes these days," Yuri said with a wrinkled brow. "Are you sure you're not totally gay…?"
"Why don't you come over here and find out?" King teased while patting the seat next to her.

Yuri suddenly stopped rubbing her shoulder and very quickly looked away, her face a deep scarlet. King raised her eyebrows at her reaction, which was a bit unusual. If she didn't know any better she would think —

At that moment, a loud, somewhat catchy J-Pop song started blaring from Yuri's phone. King instantly recognized the voice singing as none other than her favourite busybody, Athena. She took a long gulp of her wine and watched as Yuri cheerfully picked the gadget up and answered the call.

"Hey! Are you on your way to the airport?"

"I'm already here," came Athena's reply. "But we're not boarding for another half-hour, so I thought I'd use the free WiFi to FaceTime you. It's not a bad time, is it?"
"Psshhh, no," Yuri answered. "Cé — King-sa — King and I are just eating pizza."
"Oh, you're at Miss King's?"

Yuri nodded enthusiastically. She stood up, walked over to the sofa, and plopped down next to King, who nearly spilled the remainder of her wine as she was pulled into the frame so Athena could see her.

"Hi," Athena said with a wave.
"Hi," King answered tersely. She still didn't know how to feel about Athena: On one hand, she had been inside her head, pried about the assault, and then invited her to dinner with an ulterior motive. On the other, she only did those things (the accidental mind-probe notwithstanding) out of a desire to help. With that in mind, King cleared her throat and gave a polite smile.

"Come over," she said amicably. "We're going to do our nails and talk about boys."
"Like my brother?" Yuri asked with a devilish grin.
"That's not a thing," King snapped. How she hated it when people teased her about Ryo! It was a little kindasortanotreallymaybe crush that she had been over for a long time. Why couldn't it just die already?!

"You know, it's so nice that you're letting Yuri stay with you, Miss King," Athena spoke up happily (and loudly).
"Yeah, well… it's the least I can do."
"King-sa — King is a big teddy bear," Yuri affirmed while resting her head on King's shoulder.
"Oh, I know. I've seen her with her cat."

King made a face while Athena and Yuri started giggling with one another.

"See, Yuri?" Athena went on. "I told you everything would work out!"
"Yeah, I guess you did…"
"In fact, you might be kinda lucky. Some people go months — even years — before things fall into place."
"Yeah," Yuri replied. "...and some people need a fake curse to do it for them."

At that, Athena made a face of her own before putting on a sweet smile. At the same time, King adjusted herself so she could look over at Yuri.

"Wow. Yuri with the snark…!"
"It's okay," Athena said over Yuri's snickering. "Maybe our resident addict just needs a fix?"
"You might actually be right," came Yuri's reply. "I really put in some work today…"
"Oh, brother," Athena laughed. "Well, I'll leave you to it, then. And Miss King… I truly am sorry for everything I put you through."
"Thanks," King responded carefully. "I'm sorry about your back. And about being such a bitch."

A loud voice boomed over the PA at the airport then, which prompted Athena to stop talking and listen for a moment.

"Oh! We're boarding early!"
"Go go go," Yuri commanded her. "And call me when you get home!"
"Will do. Bye!"

With that Yuri ended the call. She got up, placed her phone down, and started toward her suitcase, which was still by the door.

"What are you doing?" King asked.
"I was serious about taking a little something for the pain," Yuri answered with a frown. She rummaged through her bag and produced a package of gummy candy. She began opening it but then stopped and turned to King, who shot her a quizzical glance.

"Want some?"
"How do I know that you won't give me more than I can handle again?"
"Oh, Céccy," Yuri told her with a smile. She crossed the room and held out a single candy.

"You're just gonna have to trust me."


Wow, you guys. As always, it's me, illy, with some end notes:

* We didn't really think of who the opponents for the respective teams would be, so, like... use your imagination(s).
* Salut = super casual, friendly way to say hello
* Reminder that it's been established in other fics that King's impulsiveness will often manifest as talking too much/saying the wrong thing. It's also been established that if she gets too stressed out, she pukes. But if you've been going here long enough you know that stuff so... :D
* KingxRyo: Sorry, folks. Not happening in my house. There have been allusions to her struggling with residual feels here and there but, like... no. King is Vanessa's girl LOL
* Yuri's not really an addict. That was jokes. She is bi-curious, tho.

Okay, then! That's officially a wrap on Hurt! Thank you all so much for sticking by Mads and I while we worked to put this out! Hopefully you enjoyed the ride! I guess I'll see you all around. Cheers~!