A/N: Surprisingly, it hasn't been that long since I updated. Only a few months. Which is better than my usual record of waiting a year to give in and write a new chapter. Like any author, I loathe my work because I think it sucks, but I can't stop writing. Anyways, hope you enjoy. I'm only planning one more chapter after this, maybe two.
It's not such a nice feeling, waking up in bed alone. I tensed as consciousness stirred in me, painfully aware that the warm, familiar body that had been with me all night was no longer there. His pillow still smelled faintly of his expensive cologne, so I reached over and grabbed it before hugging it to my chest.
The smell of rice and eggs and the sounds of oil sizzling in a pan rousted me again. From just outside the door I could here his shoes clicking against the ground as he made breakfast for us both. Really? A man who snuggles, makes breakfast, and doesn't cop a feel? John was making it dangerously hard not to fall in love. Though I was beginning to think maybe I'd already…
"Meg?" he asked softly, knocking on the door. "Are you awake?"
I made a muffled noise into my pillow, which he took as a signal to come inside. There was a bowl of delicious Chinese goodness in one hand and a pair of chopsticks in the other, and nothing but a smile on his smooth face. Didn't take much more convincing to make me sit up and start chowing down. John sat at the edge of the bed and lifted the covers from my legs, checking for excess bleeding.
"I feel just fine," I managed between bites. Which was a total lie, but I knew he had enough on his mind. Gang wars, a disappearing sister, a recently deceased mother, and God knows what else- he didn't need to worry about me anymore. "The sutures are holding, and they don't feel that sore."
He could see my bare arms, which weren't too bad, but my thighs were still clothed with a pair of baggy men's pants. I could see him trying to figure if he should believe me, and one of his weathered hands started to reach for the button of my pants. I didn't even have to look to know they were starting to get infected. Sore and inflamed, those stupid wounds were starting to affect the rest of me. My head burned with the beginnings of a serious fever…but he didn't need to know that.
"Hey! We'd better go see Lo today." I set the bowl aside and hopped up from bed to get myself dressed. John looked wearily at me with those dark, mysterious eyes of his, but didn't argue. I bit my lip hard so I wouldn't cry out- between my head throbbing and my sore legs, I had plenty of reasons not to move around too much.
John and I dressed quickly, though I kicked him out of the room so I could dress alone. I honestly didn't care if he saw me naked (he'd gotten plenty of eyefuls already), but I couldn't risk him seeing my thighs. I borrowed his clothes again since they suited me better than one of his sister's flower printed sundresses. Once I was done, we hit the road and called ourselves a cab.
John had barely put a toe out of the taxi before Lo came outside to greet us. His Americanized garage shop looked just as busy and full of workers as it had the other day; he certainly wasn't hurting for money between his two jobs. There was this look of relief on his face as he saw me that seemed genuine enough.
"Good," he sighed. "I was worried about you. Did you kill them all?"
"No, he did," I nodded towards John, who gave a tiny bow of hello to Lo. The smooth-talking arms dealer reciprocated, then looked back at me. My hair was up in a messy bun, and it truly needed to be washed. I wore one of John's red oxford shirts and tied the excess material together in a knot at my stomach, and the Versace belt cinched a pair of black trousers around my hips to keep them from falling off.
"Well, I'm glad. Those little bastards think they're tough because they've got some cash and a little taste. 'Bout time someone taught them a lesson."
"We need to talk." I spoke through gritted teeth, trying not to gasp too sharply with a sudden ache of pain. John looked alarmed, but I waved his concern away and put an arm around Lo's muscular shoulders. "In private."
I breathed a little easier once I sat down and propped my legs up on his desk. John stood patiently by the door like a statue, one hand very close to the handgun in his jacket. Lo didn't seem to care about his presence much at all.
"I kept the things you ordered, just in case you came back. I had some faith in that feisty American attitude of yours." Lo smiled and pulled out a duffle bag from behind his desk. I could practically feel John's eyes burning a hole in the back of my head as my proprietor unzipped it and let me peek at the goodies inside. Maps, printed pages, rifles, handguns, and a small assortment of other things.
"I need to know what's going on with all this Terrance Wei business. Who all is looking to take over his territory?"
Huan Lo paused and glanced a John, carefully mulling something over before answering. "Is this the John Lee you were looking for? Because I'm starting to hear his name a lot more."
"That gang that took me, they wanted his head. Said it would make their claim on a piece of Wei's dirty business legit. But they also mentioned something else, something called the 'White Dragon'."
"It's dirty business indeed," Lo agreed, rubbing a lightly greased hand against his temple. "This is strictly private information. I can only tell you because you're not gang-affiliated, and this is neutral territory. Lots of politics involved here."
"Your secret is safe with us," I assured him, flicking a piece of dust off the arm of my chair. "Now spill."
"There are very old gangs in China, Meg. Gang families like royalty who run the biggest and baddest spots in this country. When Wei died, without a son to take over his business, the gangs like White Dragon announced that they'd split it up and let the most worthy gangs take over those pieces. Wei had a large enterprise, but it seemed the families were not interested in expanding to other districts beyond their own. Lately, the smallest gangs have been picking themselves off like wild dogs, and the slightly more respectable gangs have been a little more discreet. But it's put a lot of gangs against each other."
"That's it? But I thought the bigger fish didn't bother with the smaller fish. Why care so much about splitting up territory they aren't even interested in?"
"Smart girl. I'm beginning to see the hand of the oldest gang families move, using the smaller and insignificant crime syndicates and petty street gangs like pawns. Some gangs are licking their wounds right now over these fights, some have put all their resources forward to fight off other competitors, not looking anywhere else."
"They're waiting." I started with sudden realization. "Until they're distracted and unable to fight, or totally wiped out and absorbed by other gangs. White Dragon is making a play to swallow up mass amounts of other gang territory without hardly lifting a finger."
"There are other gangs," Lo conceded. "Black Fist. Hidden Dagger. But you're right- it's a large scale play to solely put China's crime in the hands of only a handful of crime syndicates. It's big news."
"But are they interested in John? Black Fist and…and whatever the others were."
"Not that I've heard. Can't see why they would be. They never had affiliations with Wei- not interested in avenging his death or any such nonsense. And as good as John may be in the world of professional killing, these families have generations of servants who do exactly what he does. I'd say your almost out of the shadow of Wei's death."
"I never told you John killed Wei."
"I did a little research after you left, came up with a few things. But enough chatting. It's best if you left soon. If someone else comes looking for you- and believe me, people are looking for both of you- then I can't protect you. Try leaving the country as soon as possible."
I hobbled out of my seat and over to Huan's side, placing a little kiss on his cheek. "Thanks Lo, you've been real good. I didn't think Loco would set me up with a decent contact, but I guess I was wrong."
"You know that bitch?" Lo looked at me like I was crazy, and it brought a smile to my lips.
The drive back to John's house was very quiet. I leaned back in my seat and tried hard not to fall asleep. I felt tired, uncomfortable, and slightly delirious. The fever was starting to take over and at some point I needed to take care of it. But when your life is on the line, it's hard to find time to do silly things like take care of yourself. Dodging bullets and avoiding capture kind of takes priority.
I hardly even noticed when the taxi stopped. John opened my door and helped me out, slipping an arm around my waist to support some of my weight. I would have argued normally…but it was nice. So I let him help me up the stairs to his small apartment and all the way into bed. My clothes stayed on this time as he pulled the sheets over me and smoothed a strand of gross, unwashed hair from my forehead.
"I'll be back in a few minutes, don't go anywhere."
I slipped into feverish dreams almost immediately after he left. I'd been doing so well all day, through breakfast and the trip to Lo's garage, but it seemed I was finally letting my body rest and it was taking full advantage of the situation. John came back after some time and made me sit up to take a few pills.
"Feeding me old Chinese herbs and shit?" I muttered, glad he wasn't reprimanding me for not telling him how ill I felt.
"Not quite. But it'll make you feel better, and I guarantee you won't be getting up out of bed for a while. Just relax and sleep for a bit, and I'll figure out what to do about Lian."
Hard to recall what happened after that. I don't even remember falling asleep, I was so heavily drugged. John hadn't been kidding when he said I was not getting out of bed. I felt more relaxed and comfortably sleepy than I had in ages, even as I opened my eyes to see bullets breaking through the thin wall above my head and smashing into furniture. The sound seemed so distant, so muffled that I was half tempted to close my eyes and go back to sleep.
It didn't seem real to me. Especially since we were almost four floors off the ground, and the shooter was somehow outside, so all I could picture in my mind were men with wings and levitating abilities holding weapons. I was heavily drugged, okay?
John cursed somewhere out in the hallway and that brought me to attention. With serious mental effort I managed to swing my numbed legs off the bed and more or less crumpled on the cool wood floor. It was better that way anyways, since standing up and walking would have certainly landed a bullet in my cranium. I crawled towards the kitchen and saw him huddled in the corner of the living room, firing his handguns through a broken window pain. The view wasn't ideal- a handful of identically dressed thugs with heavy artillery were ranged out on the fire escape of the building across the alleyway. I started to crawl John's way, but he caught sight of me and waved me away.
"Meg! Get out! I can't hold them off much longer."
"Just shoot them." I spoke as if it were a simple solution, and one he hadn't thought of yet. The desire to take a nap was drawing my head to the floor, despite the firefight raging over my head. John tossed away his handguns, out of bullets, and held his hands up to show me there was no more ammo. We were without weapons, and now suddenly without hope.
Someone started kicking down the door, though it barely registered in my foggy mind. John looked over his shoulder as the wood around the door hinges started to splinter and give way. Then he looked at me, and it was a look of hopelessness. He was such a strong man, so confident and handsome, and it was a look that just didn't belong on his face. For a moment he tried to crawl beneath the window towards me, but keen eyes saw the movement and shot directly at him. John ducked back into his corner, too far away to save me.
"Meg." His voice came softly, a dangerous warning that the end was near. John honestly didn't think we'd make it out alive. "I want you to know-"
I picked my ass off the floor and tried to run to the bedroom. I kept slipping and falling in my hastiness, making the process was slow, but I didn't give up. John had put Lo's duffle bag beneath the bed when he'd tucked me in and I had to reach it. The bullets pouring into the bedroom had opened enough holes in the wall that I could see the sun setting outside. I dove for the bag and somehow got the handles wrapped around my hand. The pills John had given me affected my strength- I couldn't even pick the bag up with all my might. So I dragged it behind me like a mad wiggle worm and made it just into the hallway as the door split open. There was only a couple of tough looking gangsters at the door and not the entire army I'd been imagining.
With everything I had, I heaved the bag across the floor until it skid to a stop at John's feet. His fingers ripped into it and pulled out a mag and a gun, but it was too late. The bad men had their weapons drawn, and at this close range they couldn't miss if they tried.
"HEY! FUCKERS!" I yelled, waving my arms like a crazy woman. Their guns pointed at me then as I found a stray bowl that had fallen from the kitchen counter, and I hurled that sucker as hard as I could at their heads.
Shots went off. Strange, but when you're shot, you don't even feel it at first. I just remember the impact like a punch in the chest, knocking me over. I remember screams, and more shots ringing out like an endless song of violence. John is safe, I thought. That's all that matters. He's my one good deed- the only thing I'll ever do right to redeem myself from all the shit I've done. It's him.
And after that, everything went black.