Summary: Revy doesn't believe in penance, in love, in fixing broken people the way the movies do. She's not the only one. Written for 31_days, August 30, 2009: I wanted to see you walking away from me. Rock/Revy, because it's not like I can resist.
the thing about lithium bullets is
…they react easily, and tarnish all the more.
"I'm not some damsel with a shitty past and dark eyes who y'gotta save. Treat me like that and I'll shoot you a new one.
"Got it? Good."
Revy left New York to try to find something like a fresh start at life. Or a new place to die.
In the end – in her line of work – they're both the same. Guns snug in their holsters and bullets engraved with her name. She just didn't want to die in the rat trap that was the back alley streets of the filthy hole of Chinatown, trapped like a rat. Scavenging like a rat. Getting spit on like the street kid she was.
So, she got guns. She practiced with beer cans. She took names. Hell, she made her name a name – she's a damn legend down at the precinct, she's sure.
And when she sucked New York dry of everything she could get that she wanted, because Revy always got what she wanted, always, she left.
That was that.
But she hadn't expected such a clean-shaven idiot to come along and fuck it all up.
For the first few weeks, Revy's just so goddamn angry at him all the goddamn time. Stupid Rock with his stupid white-collared shirts and his stupid simple kindness and his stupid sense of justice and morals. Retarded. What an idiot.
And he just keeps pushing at her limits. Not the way she would, outright and blunt, but in his own way. The stupid salaryman-climbing-the-ladder way; subtly, without really saying it, while reaching out without lifting a hand.
So she tells him a stupid sob story. She tells him where the boundaries lie, that she doesn't want any of his goody goody shit. She tells him exactly what she thinks of him – idiot – and that was all he wanted, wasn't it? Wasn't it?
But no, he keeps pushing – pulling her back from the gunfire, talking his way through things all business-like, talking about fighting your way through things his way. So what if she could've died, so what if a shootout couldn't get those results, so what if he has no power to back up his goddamn words. Who is he, to just come charging in and accuse her of – of hiding, and telling her she isn't a lost cause – to assume she thinks she's a lost cause – that she can't get through everything the way she's been with bullets and brute force, and she should go to hell with the stories and all that shit?
She shuts down, ices over.
"Yeah, fine. Just keep chasing your own tail like a dog," he says.
"You were the one who invited me here," he says.
"What I can't stand is seeing you act like one of the bosses who threw me aside," he says.
He says, he says, he says.
(It was a slow, metal-cold realization, there. That maybe…not all of it, but a little bit of it – maybe there was a little bit of truth in it, in his words. No, Revy can't say she's the type that's always right, so she knows.
Doesn't mean she wants to know some things, though. 'Cause some things, you can't un-know.)
She forgives him anyway, in the back seat of that cop car. Tells him there'll be no more trouble from her – which is a fat promise in itself, isn't she walking trouble? – but at least she won't shoot him herself. Something about him just screams fucking forgiveness, and the tension all pours out of her and she's suddenly too tired to care.
Just for today, though. For what he is, for what he represents – that'll cost more.
"So you and Rock cool off a bit?" Dutch asks the moment she steps into the office.
"Something like that," she says standoffishly, lighting up another cigarette. He already got the details from that half-assed cop; why does he need to ask?
Dutch analyzes her inscrutably. "Just don't make this place a war zone."
Cool as a cucumber, Revy. Cool as a cucumber.
"Yeah, it won't happen, Dutch," she drawls. Her eyes are cold as ice, but she grins a predator's grin.
No, it's not that simple.
She's just stepped through the door when she overhears a bit of conversation.
"'Cause I heard from Dutch – "
"Yeah, it's true. She pretty much stepped all over me for a week or so after I first joined. It wasn't until I got a bit of intel that saved her and Dutch from a really bad situation and showed her that I absolutely can't shoot a gun, that she let up a little bit. And by that I mean, she stopped trying to accidentally put any holes through me."
Revy can hear him crunching the numbers in his white-collar brain. "Hm…"
She opens the door again, jiggling the handle and making it swing so the hinge squeaks just so. The voices die down – from the kitchen, she supposes. Doesn't matter to her, anyway; she grabs the remote, hoping there's some kind of decent movie on tonight.
"Well, it might take another few weeks for it to cool down, but you'll probably be fine."
"Huh," he says, and she doesn't hear any conviction in that one.
All right, so maybe Revy's given everyone a hard time. She remembers the crew in Chinatown. "Don't touch that one," the guys – worthless, all of them – whispered. "Wild as a fucking bitch."
Thing is, you gotta protect yourself. Gotta keep the slime far away, in a way that only bullets and brashness can do. And when you realize that the guy in front of you is either in charge, outguns you, or can't hurt you – harmless – only then do you relax, lower your gun, retract your fangs.
Any sooner, and the only one who gets hurt? Just you.
She's lived by that a good while. She's still in one piece. It works.
It's one of their usual nights: they go to the Yellow Flag; they get smashed – she a little more than Rock; they stumble home; he half-carries, half-drags her up the stairs and to her room; he gently tips her onto the bed and pulls the blanket over her.
She doesn't get it, why he's always so damn nice, even when he's half drunk or in a hopeless situation. Why she's only seen him crack a few times; why he's just so damn mild.
Why he still goes to the bar dressed in a fucking crisp white shirt and tie.
Without much thought, she yanks down on the red cloth hanging over her face, hard, and he topples over as expected.
"Hey – Revy – what are you – "
She flips him onto his back and hovers above him, tugs at his tie like she'd strangle him with the thing, 'cause wouldn't that fix things up real quick, teach him a lesson or two. But no, she takes the other route, pulls his tie completely from his neck and lets it fall to the floor.
"Just shut up this once, Rock. Shut up," she mutters, perhaps more to herself than anything else, as she leans in.
And he does, though she doesn't give him much of a choice.
Back in her street kid days, there were quite a few things that would weigh you down like excess baggage. Memories of a better life than this – if you ever had one. Longing, for family, for greener skies and bluer pastures, or whatever the hell was in those stupid picture books and advertisements.
An inability to kill, or to do what needed to be done, or having to spend time in the slammer for it. Having no combat experience, or gunfight virginity. Your virginity itself – meaning you gave a damn about that kind of idealistic bullshit. Romance, love, justice, whatever.
Revy hated unnecessary baggage. So she got rid of it all, and never bothered to remember how or where.
She never looked back.
Morning, if those piercing beams of light through her blinds are anything to go by.
She curses up a storm under her breath, feeling her head pound to the rhythm of swishing tequila and god knows what else.
The mattress creaks, and she looks over and sees him sitting there, shirt not quite buttoned and tie not around his neck. Kinda casually, like he's not sweating bullets wondering what the hell he's doing here, like it's not the first time he's been in this kind of situation – and she laughs at that, the idea of clean-shaven, clean-fingered Rock taking some girl home from a seedy bar back before Roanapur.
He's chain-smoking nicotine at an alarming rate. Hell, he makes her look mild.
She fumbles for the cigarettes on her table. "Gimme'a light," she mumbles blearily. And where the fuck did he throw her shirt…?
He holds the lighter for her, and she breathes in, feels the throbbing start to fade.
She waits for him to say something; he doesn't. So she doesn't and they don't. She watches her cigarette burn to a stub, while he goes through three of his own.
He breaks first. "Hey, Revy."
"Hn?" She watches him, his unmoving back, the way his fingers curl like a vise in the sheets.
Beat. "What is this?" What are we doing? What am I, to you?
"Whatever you want it to be," she says around a low drag of smoke.
He gets up. She feels the mattress dip, hears his footsteps recede.
She feels a little guilty.
"Tch," she growls.
Sometimes she does things that she probably shouldn't. (Should regret.)
It's a jagged kind of mentality. Not the pathetic kind where she's lacking something like skill or will; her solution had always been to talk steelier, shoot harder, aim better, run faster, fight stronger, street smarter.
No, it's the kind where she flares up into temper and knows what she's doing and knows how unreasonable it is; where she throws the keys at him and walks all the way back even when he's driving a snail's pace three meters behind; where she wants to shoot a round or five and make little bullet holes appear all around some poor guy's feet just because; where she shoots the damn civilians and says out loud they're involved because they're working for the bad guys, even if they're not packing; where cold blood pools at her feet and her eyes are heavy-lidded and she knows, she knows, she knows.
So Revy keeps doing it, over and over and over. It's not penance – like fucking hell she believes in sin and guilt and that kind of thing. But it's something, raw and jagged and this is what you deserve. From dirty little street kid to grown-up gunslinger in a filthy city, this has how she's always been; her life's still her own and there's no use crying to God about it.
(help me, I can't seem to help myself. what a joke. like hell I need your fucking help. do I look that fucking weak?)
And she reaps the consequences – Dutch slamming her against a tin-can metal ship's wall, telling her to cool it; a pile of dead, harmless bodies at her feet all riddled in a row; rubber boots stained with the kind of metal that won't wash out; Rock and an expression that she's not quite immune to, even if he never intends to make it or use it that way.
Hey, she's a tough girl. So maybe she'll bruise and scar, but other people's opinions, other people's feelings – the only things that can break her bones are brute force and bullets. And the only one who can get her deep down where it's all mental is just her; like hell anyone'll ever get that close.
But there's still the curling sickness that she can feel snaking down her gut, like a tell.
So she keeps shooting, and severing, and snarling. And she knows that one day she's going to cut it fucking close.
Bring it, she thinks. (There's no room for fear or regret.)
She never gets drunk enough to apologize to him. (And for what, anyway?)
But the next time, when it happens again, he mutters an it's okay deep in that juncture of her neck, and it's more of an undoing than any of the alcohol has ever been.
Hell, she thinks. The poor bastard.
What the hell are we doing?
She knows there's just no answer, but claws one deep in the dark anyway.
Sometimes, when they get back, they just lie there, back to back; waiting for the alcohol to slowly dissipate, feeling the other breathe in slow, long drags of air.
And she stares at the darkness of the wall and doesn't say much, and doesn't think. Tries not to. Wonders what kind of a film noir scene this whole thing would look like.
"Don't even think for a second that you're 'fixing' me or some bullshit like that," she says bitingly.
"I know," he says. His back is warm, his breathing calm.
"Ha," she says disparagingly. And almost believes it anyway.
Sometimes, they fight. Real bad. Not quite like that one day, way back when – ancient history, water under the bridge, take your pick – but not quite squabbling. Sometimes it's harsh, all teeth and bite and poetic justice and reality. Sometimes it's a gun to the head, angry silence and cigarette burns, deep scratches that don't quite fill with blood.
But he never leaves. And she always comes back.
Sometimes she thinks she'll apologize to him. What's pride, after all – and he said she never had it, anyway. Or maybe he meant the honorable kind, what the hell does she know.
Sometimes, she thinks she'll say it to his face after one of the bad days. Or she'll whisper it at night, when she thinks he's asleep. Sometimes it's a game in her head, how long these cycles of intensity last and when he'll say enough's enough and when she'll think, if only she said –
In the end, she never apologizes.
What does she have to be sorry for, anyway? Just her not-so-sorry self. Just his not-quite-grin-and-bear-it ways.
(But sometimes, she still thinks, she might whisper it in her sleep. Just when neither of them can hear it and it makes no difference in the world.
That's a true apology – something that doesn't make a damn difference.)
She doesn't say anything.
"You ever – "
He blinks at her, disarmed. "What?"
"I get the feeling you're gonna start talking about stupid sentimental shit, and I can't say I drank the right kinda alcohol to deal with that tonight."
"Then what kind's the right kind?" he asks, voice ghosting over somewhere outside the window.
"None of this cheap piss you're chugging," she snorts, kicking one of the beer cans at his feet for good measure. Even if she's drinking that very same beer this moment herself.
"Sorry, not buying you any rum tonight."
"Ah, hell. Can't blame me for tryin'."
He smiles, cigarette at his lips, and she takes a long drag of his secondhand smoke.
And that's the thing – all that feeling and emotion shit that she shut down, long ago, he's bringing it up again. In the little ways.
When she lashes out, says things without saying anything, does things without meaning anything, he doesn't – react, like the others. Sometimes she'll hit his breaking point, and they'll have to start over a little bit, but she'll still respect him and he'll still care. And maybe he understands, what she's doing, how she's jagged.
As long as he doesn't try the psychobabble crap, doesn't play make-believe, it's all right. Breaking even. Something feigning peace.
She's fine with that.
When they land in Japan, Balalaika's men point them to their hotel. It's a five-star, very comfortable; they'll be out of the line of fire, yet easy to reach when needed.
The two of them go up to the eighth floor – really the seventh, though, as there's no fourth floor; Revy laughs at the Asian superstition – and she lets Rock deal with the key cards. She's still getting used to the damn place, anyway, what with its thick, red carpet and gold trim. Well-kept, that's what it is. Clean. And not a Roanapur standard of clean – real clean, with polished shine and no fear of scorch marks or gunsmoke.
She has to admit, the only time she's stepped on carpet like this is right before she's about to put a few dozen holes through it.
The door opens to a nice suite with a set of plush couches and armchairs. Rock tosses his suit jacket over one of the chairs, just the way she imagines a businessman would, and his fingers twitch for the mini bar's handle just before she gets there first.
"Aw, they got the good stuff here," she says with glee, pulling out two mid-sized bottles of whiskey and gin. "Good thing this is all expenses covered."
Rock wears that little smile-smirk of his again that doesn't reach all of his eyes, and places two crystal glasses on the table.
When they were in Roanapur, Revy would imagine what Rock's old life was like. It was sort of easy – she could think of words like students and sidewalks and smiles and stupid – but also hard. If she tried to think up the images, all she could picture was endless white. Clean, pristine, perfectly barren white.
(She's not going to think – look, white can be cold. She just thinks – look, white, it's pure, it's clean, you're happy, you were happy (and I was not).
She's not going to think about it.)
And now they're in Japan, and she's sitting in front of his house while he goes to meet his parents – she wonders if he has the guts, or if he's going to be afraid of his old-geezer parents – and now, she can finally imagine it. Sees the nice little apartments, the clean streets and perfectly divided recycling bins, the snowflakes against the sulfur-yellow streetlights.
The fact that she can picture this kind of thing now, it scares her. The fact that Rock came from it, that he's here all over again – it scares her more.
No, no, not 'scares.' Revy doesn't scare. It just. It gives her a feeling. A bad one.
Wasn't this what you wanted? the voice goes. You wanted him to give up. You wanted him to leave.
Yeah, well. Not – not like this, all right? Not like this. On her own terms, fine. But on this strange city's glistening beckon – no. It doesn't work that way.
(People are scared of what they don't know.)
But the only thing that scares Revy is a rocket launcher through the windowpane when she's only packing her Berettas. Or a ship with torpedoes when they've got nada. Nothing more.
And here – it's just, new, all right? Everything feels weird. Everyone's smiling. Everyone's weird. Here she could pass as the pretty girlfriend of this nice, average guy, and that just freaks her out even more. She just hasn't gotten used to it. That's the problem.
Everyone's happy. Everyone's normal. Everyone goes to school and goes to work and pushes paper and breathes clean air and lives clean lives and – it's all so white. Bright. She can see herself and Rock…living here. It's so strange. She's too filthy and bloody, but he could do it, and she's right here next to him. It's so strange.
Revy loses balance.
Rock, with his newfound moroseness and oldfound language saying things she doesn't understand to other people she can't understand, doesn't help. Balalaika, her typical viciousness suddenly a stark contrast to the obvious way of life here, doesn't help. The happy swordsman, with his dangerous smell of death that reminds her of everything all over again, doesn't help.
("Are you planning on staying here – "
" – d'you think someone like me could ever – "
" – the hell are we doing here?")
They sleep back to back, they sleep together and it's alarmingly almost like something from the movies, and she remembers the glow of the city and the deep, dark pit of longing in her gut and the clean streets and the smiles and feels so – so –
There are no words.
"Don't try to seek this kind of life," Anego – Balalaika – reminds her, at gunpoint.
"I know," she says, fingers itchy on her Berettas' triggers.
Yeah. No words.
Afterwards, they go back to his city. One last time.
When she shoots the cans, petrifies those poor, tiny little children, she breathes in the precious gunsmoke. Deeply.
And laughs, into the dusk.
Rock grins with her, even if that darkness is still there. She doesn't mind; Roanapur's darker still. It'll be a good cure, going back.
They're the living dead. Other than to Roanapur, there's no 'going back.'
When she was still learning the ropes, Revy had exactly three bosses or teachers who taught her anything worth a damn.
"Your first lesson," said the first one, the guy who wanted to blow something new through Chinatown, "Is that I don't really give a shit if you live or die. And you know what? No one else does, either."
Then, her first real boss, who put down the previous guy with a bullet to the head. Rightfully so, she'd thought. "This is how it's always gonna be: us or them. Us versus them. See, before, you were with 'them.' Now, you're one of 'us.' It's really quite simple. Got it? Good."
And the last – he'd taught her how to shoot, far better than what she'd learned on her own. And told her, "Take it easy. We're all going to die whether we rush to it or not, so you might as well relax when you can."
"Well, I wouldn't be saying that if you didn't have the skill."
With that, she could take anything. More or less.
But Rock can't. They both know it, and you know, it never stops him from doing whatever the hell he wants.
She told him not to look. She fucking told him not to fucking look at the fucking dead Washimine girl. Dying. Dead.
'I'm not picking up your broken pieces' always seems to hover on her tongue, in her mind, but – she can't say it.
"You're an idiot, Rock."
"Now what? That's the tenth time – "
"Forget it. You're an idiot."
Tch, she's getting soft.
Or she understands his reasons, too deeply, and saying something to him would mean confronting something herself. That, too.
Hell. He shouldn't have looked. Shouldn't have fucking looked.
"So, tell me about it."
"About what?" he asks.
She glares at the window, away from him. "You know. Your childhood. Your family. Hell, your old company. Whatever."
He's surprised. "Why?" Why would you ask?
She scoffs, keeps her eyes on the view outside the glass. "Just wondering. What, your partner can't wonder things?"
"But I thought you yourself said that the past doesn't matter."
She doesn't respond. She can see a half-built steel structure and a crane's arm swinging around, in the distance.
"Getting sentimental in your own age?"
"Shut it," she mutters.
Silence. Revy knows Rock's better at holding out than she is, and curses him for it.
She finally turns to glance at him, and he's raising an eyebrow at her, unwilling to let it go.
"Can't accuse me of not tryin' to understand you if I listen to you whine," she spits out.
His eyes soften; his knuckles harden.
"I told you everything already, Revy. My parents, my successful older brother, my failures." He shrugs. "There's nothing more I have to say."
And she already knows what kind of white-collar business line bullshit that is, but she gives up and glares at the window all over again.
She can't say she loves Roanapur, but on their flight out of Japan, she feels – glad.
After all, she – they – didn't, don't belong there. Darkness and death and all that.
Their first night back, they sit in the Yellow Flag – a real bar – and watch as a gunfight breaks out and rends half of it to ashes. Again.
Yeah, this is how things are supposed to be.
"Still not gonna spill, huh?"
Revy does little but raise an eyebrow.
"About you and Rock, y'know."
Just the same half-blank dangerous shade to her eyes as usual.
Eda laughs, a long bark of a thing, and thumps her fist against the wood. "No point in denying it. You two're the closest thing to a fucking love story this filthy city's ever seen." She pauses. "Though, guess there's not much of a standard here in Roanapur, huh."
"Got any more of that stinkin' sap to spout, and I'll shoot you with it."
Eda's annoying laugh just won't stop. "Why are you acting like you're so ashamed, Two-Hands? Just take it as it is. Nothin' wrong with it."
Revy spits out the side of her mouth. "You'd better whip out some of that good bourbon you're hiding, if you think I'm stayin' here all afternoon."
The stupid sister keeps on goddamned laughing, but there's the clinks of two glasses and an amber-tinted bottle all the same.
"So what'd it've been like if you stayed in Japan," Revy wonders aloud one day.
He shrugs. "Crawling up the corporate ladder. Bowing to my superiors. Maybe getting married. Nothing special."
"Huh," she says.
"They don't do that kind of thing here, do they," he muses.
"What, letting pathetic corporate types step all over you?"
"The getting married part, I mean."
"Oh," she says, and feels strange just thinking about it. "What'd be the point, anyway?"
"Romance. Love." Something, the unspoken word goes.
She scoffs. "Where do you think you are, Paris?"
He shakes his head with a slight tilt, and some of the ash falls from his cigarette. "I wasn't looking forward to it. Getting married. Being nagged at by my parents about how I hadn't found anyone yet, unlike my brother."
"And your idea of love?" she drawls.
His voice has a flat monotone to it, as though he's rehearsed this before. "Finding someone who my parents would approve of. Spending the rest of my life with her and raising one or two kids and living next door to other families, exactly the same."
Revy lets out a low whistle. "You really are in a cynical mood today, aren't you."
A wry smile, twisted at the corners. "Yeah, I guess."
"Nah, it's a good thing we grabbed you off that ship. Got you out of that drab life where everything'd have been all planned out. Maybe with a B-movie moment or two thrown in." She knows it'd have killed her, for sure. Though something tells her she wouldn't have fit the "socially acceptable" part, anyway.
He lights up another cigarette, and they're silent for a while, just inhaling and exhaling. She watches the shadows play on the wall, runs her fingers idly through the smoke.
He speaks, and in that moment she can see a little bit of the dangerous guy who told her he was a pricey silver bullet. The golden-eyed, dangerous bastard bit.
"You know, Revy, I don't believe in things like true love."
She looks at him. "Now that's somethin'. You spout on about justice and fairness and all that crap, but you don't believe in those other sappy ideals?"
He just gives her that little sad smile, doesn't need to say a word.
"You're not waiting for me to say something, are you?"
She snorts. "Fuck. No. Don't even, Rock."
The next day, they're out on a job and she's whipped out her gunslinger tricks all polished and bright, and she shoots them all down, every last mafia foot soldier –
"Gotcha, you motherfuckers!"
- And she grins and yells and has a hell of a time doing it.
She always thinks it: don't treat me like some lost cause you gotta save. I'm not some broken little girl.
And she's not. Broken, or grieving, or whatever.
But some days she wakes up and she feels languid. Some days she finds she's not angry. And most days, she likes having him around. Just because it feels natural and she usually doesn't want to shoot him.
Sometimes part of her rebels, and tries to flicker those old feelings and habits once again. She'll act on it.
She'll glare, baring her teeth over a cigarette.
And he'll shake his head with that little shoulder shrug, set a cold one down on the table. Sits back down and goes back to his reading or his work or whatever.
Well, she thinks, let him do what he wants. Masochist.
"What do you see yourself doing in, say, a decade from now?" he asks her one day.
"Dunno. Shooting, drinking, shooting. Why?"
"Well, I guess I was just wondering…no one ever 'retires' from this, do they?"
She laughs. "Rock, baby. Most of us are dead by then."
"Well, some of you wouldn't be, right?"
"Hm." She sticks a fresh cigarette between her teeth. "Well, take the Triad's highest leaders. If you played your cards right, you go up to, you know, upper management stuff. Boring, playing at controlling a piece of the world kinda thing."
"And? If you think it's boring?" he presses.
"Tch," she mutters, fumbling with her lighter and flicking it even though nothing's lighting up. Rock throws her a new one, which she's quick to use. "Who knows. If I even live to then. You," she spits out around a mouthful of nicotine, "Probably wouldn't even live to see thirty."
He gives a short laugh, as if to say, you know we're not the type to die so easily, so soon.
Well, damn straight. She didn't get so good at shooting for nothing. And he's just…impossibly lucky. That's all.
But she says, "Give it ten, fifteen years. I guess we'll find out… If you're still alive."
He grins that stupid, goofy grin of his.
Yeah, ten or fifteen years. She gets the feeling she'll be stuck with him; they'll be around.
Revy came to Roanapur to find something like a fresh start at life, or a new place to die.
With company like this, hell. Bring it on; they're already the living dead. She's not afraid.
To die, or to live.
I was this close to deciding screw it and not posting this, haha. Still not sure how I like this one. Thank Rae (or don't thank her) for that, and for the beta. Comments and reviews are great. :]