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It Will Come Back

Chapter Text

It was hot. Thailand hot. Hot enough that the air felt wet, and heavier then it usually was with the thick smog that wrapped around Roanapur in the industrial parts. It bounced right off the roads, a fucked-up mirage shimmering in the distance. The summer was the weeks of white-hot heat waves, humid evenings and lazier-than-usual crime. Rock even busted out his cargo shorts. Dutch remained unflappable as ever.

Revy had made the staggering pilgrimage to the church from the company car she managed to borrow for lack of a better word; in such a temperature Benny remained fast asleep in front of the blue light of his computer. Normally he'd try to slip out to see Jane, but the keys to Revy's surprise were strewn across the kitchen counter. The red Plymouth had faded tan seats, blessedly, but the leather burned the back of her thighs all the same.

If she stayed back at the apartment Dutch would have dragged everyone out to help clean up the sundered and desecrated dock. While in hindsight it was enjoyable to spend long hours in the cool sea that reflected her annoyed face back at her; after two days Revy grew exhausted from repetitive motion of collecting the shards of wood that floated close to the shore. The pillars that supported such a long structure were splintered like messily cut down trees, and their boat appeared naked floating by itself. She wanted to get drunk and sleep in.

When Revy groaned at such a task Dutch had simply replied something about the spirit of renewal, tossing the water-logged pieces into a pile.

And they ran out of decent alcohol, but everybody swore they had made the trip last time, and thus the designated spot in the fridge remained empty. Revy would pull the white door open, repeatedly, like she expected a beer to materialize out of the air.

Shifting into park, she unstuck her legs and heaved herself out, roughly flicking the keys out of the ignition. The palm trees cast long shadows across the lot, bending along the structure of the church, but offering little in shade. Even the grass wilted in the harsh sun, an electric shade of green.

Men in sacerdotal robes were seen unloading more bricks of cocaine from a rusted truck; the driver leaning against the hood, smoking a cigarette. Everyday there was another shipment of drugs, overpriced and possibly even diluted. Then there were the weapons Chang graciously allowed, but nothing was as grandiose as the Desert Eagle Yolanda managed to carry around.

Even the three minute walk up to the building was agonizing, like a forced march. The wound in her leg had healed well enough after two months of hobbling around, but the ache remained. Palming the keys in her jean pocket, Revy cupped a hand over her eyes to be able to make out the oasis that would be the church's air conditioning.

"It fucking stinks of weed out here Eda, let me the fuck in," Revy rapped on the door, her voice loud enough to make the priests in the yard glance in her direction. The men didn't bat an eye at her anymore, after the first gunfight Eda and Revy had at the church they no longer questioned anything.

Silence. Hearing a lack of fast foot steps, Revy mopped her sunburnt forehead with her tank top, and in a fit of rage, punched the hard door.

"Eda, open this fucking door now or I swear to Jesus Christ I'll-"

It was a few seconds before the oak door swung towards her quick, right to her reddened face. Revy was knocked down to her ass on the hard ground and almost fell flat on her back. She gripped the bridge of her pulsing nose with two fingers, feeling the bone. She'd realized a long time before that Eda was quieter than her swaggering walk made her seem, quicker too. "Eda! You fucking bitch!"

"Wha- Sorry! I didn't know your huge ass head was right there! What the fuck were you doing?!" Eda spat out a wad of chewing tobacco, wiping her mouth. She smelled like she previously had a glass of alcohol. The faint lines around her eyes tightened at the intrusion of light.

"Fucking shit! It's twelve and you're already getting wasted?" Revy's fingers fluttered along her cupid's bow, feeling for any blood dripping down.

"It's hot! Get your ass in here before the fucking heat seeps in!"

Revy scrambled to her feet, wiping the dust off her as she sluggishly entered, back bent. Her clothes were stuck to her skin, a blotch of sweat seeping through the back of her tank top, her armpits wet. The back of her thighs felt even worse; the belt wrapped around her shorts rubbed against her bare skin. Now she was regretting not diving for planks.

"You smell like shit," Eda complained, leading her deeper into the church, past the pews and towards the altar. Light poured from the stained glass windows, illuminating baby Jesus and Mary's serene faces. There were no candles lit, no flickering of the old lights. Just cool darkness, and it took a good minute for Revy's eyes to adjust to the light.

"Fuck you too," Revy eyed the pews. Even hard wood seemed like a decent place to pass out. Her boots thundered loudly in the empty hall, everybody appeared to be outside dealing with the merchandise; money always had to be made.

"We've got bourbon, the shitty kind admittedly, but I mean it's better then the fucking tap water we get out here."

"Wasn't there a dead animal in your water supply? And you all literally fuckin', drank it for how long?" Revy questioned, raising an eyebrow while a smirk played on her chapped lips.

"It was a rat. And besides, you haven't told me about you and lover-boy." Eda replied, drawling out the end of her sentence. Revy felt a sense of familiar dread run down her spine, starting from the back of her neck to her tailbone. It coiled in her stomach and all the blood in her body rushed to her heart. Rock. Oh, fuck. The nun let out a laugh, and Revy gambled that the agony she felt appeared on her sweaty face.

"I washed my hands in that shit! I drank it!" Revy replied instead, lips curling in disgust. The burgundy strands of her hair fell down along the sides of her face before she wiped it back, calloused fingers tucking the hair behind her ears. Her limp ponytail dragged across the red-hot sunburn on her shoulders. The humidity made her hair wavy, and the lack of washing it certainty didn't improve things but it was hot, and what's the point if she was going to get sweaty again anyway.

They both pulled up a chair to both sides of the altar, the scraping sound of the legs on the artisanal wood floor making Eda wince. One talk from Yolanda about marking the floors had set Eda on edge, as Revy learned.

"Are you sure you didn't spit it out because of the fact you never drink any water? I think if you actually had a real ass glass you'd fucking pass out," The nun's voice echoed strangely in the open space, the flat coolness of the air making her words ring louder.

"It tasted like fucking death, and I've eaten garbage that tasted better!" Revy's tongue wet her lips at the sight of the alcohol before her, crinkling her sore nose.

"Back to the task at hand..." Eda gave a sharp-toothed grin, pouring Revy a small glass, the beads of moisture running down the bottle and dripping onto the waxed table. "Whet my appetite. How's he doing? Any new girls in his life?"

"I don't know," Revy mumbled, catching the glass as it slid towards her. The liquor was a comforting shade of brown, like the soda she'd drink as a kid. "Rock's been busying it up with Mr. Chang for some fucking reason. He's never worked with him too much before, but fuck I know, right?"

"You know, there's a ton of shit you can get in life if you're willing to submit to like, the horror of just simply asking for it." Eda stated, her lighthearted tone dampening the implications.

"Asking for what?" Revy fidgeted in her chair. She held the glass up to her mouth, cupping her hands around it to feel the coldness seep into her skin.

"I'm asking. Did you fuck him already? You gave me the shittiest answer I've ever heard in my life last time. Japan. Remember? You're just gonna hold out on me like-" Eda narrowed her eyes, leaning forward, lips touching her own glass to take a small sip.

"There's nothing to say, bitch." Revy downed the glass instead of offering an answer, a real one, not just a shitty side step to hide her mortification.

"Hah! You're blushing!"

"There wasn't a lot of fucking time- we were doing so much shit for Hotel Moscow, Sis was a fucking maniac-"

"SIS?!" Eda let out a guttural, deep laugh. She leaned back, hand on her chest as she cackled, liquid sloshing in her cup. "What, did she teach you to ride a bike or something? Hm, she pushed you on a swing?"

She remembered the stunt Rock pulled in Japan, a stunt that was too bold to be described as a mere hobby. A brave attempt to spare Yukio, a damn high school girl. She was young, and stupid, and thrown into a world that at her age would appear incomprehensible. She was in love too- Ginji, Jumbo- whatever his name was, who towered above her- whenever Yukio would look in his general direction a softness filled her brown eyes, a surrender. All that horror was for love. Rock truly did put his neck out on the line- despite the hanging knowledge that Balalaika didn't enjoy loose ends. The Russian hadn't even met Yukio. There was nothing that could appeal her to Yukio's humanity.

But Balalaika threw him on the car, wrenched her arm back and tossed him by his jacket, hard, onto the hood and held him there. Her hips pressed tight to him, his leg between her legs and she towered over him, gun near pressed against his cheek and he's struggling, and Revy's panicking. Her guns twitch in her hands and she's trembling, eyes wide and her mouth almost fell open. The situation was hopeless. Boris had his gun pointed straight at her, face stoic like a marble slab.

She wanted to kill the both of them. If Rock died it all ended, she'd go hysterical. Her pointer fingers danced on the triggers, soft tapping on the metal barely dragged her out of her own head.

If there was an ounce of fear in Boris, he didn't show it. The gun in his hand pointed directly at her head, the arm still.

When the Russian had uttered her name so glacially, Revy felt her body stiffen at the remark, so much so she could only repeat her words and beg her to shut up, shut up now. Her voice trembled, and the sense of being flayed- of being cut open, and hands digging into the ancient, open wounds wrapped tight around every vein.

"Uh, hello, Revy, I'm talking to you." Sharp sounds of fingers snapping ripped Revy out of her head, the glazed look over her eyes dying with a few quick blinks. The drink was still in her hand, droplets of water running between her fingers, dripping slowly onto the table. Lifting the maybe-clean glass to her mouth, she took a deep gulp, licking what remained on her lips while setting the glass back down.

"Shit, I was thinking of when we had a fucking Mexican stand off sort of shit. Rock couldn't keep his fucking mouth shut."

"Yeah, yeah. Him and that mouth huh?" Eda threw her head back, downing the rest of her drink with a satisfied gulp. "You ask your sissy for relationship advice? Ain't Fryface surrounded by those giants-"

"We kissed." Revy interrupted, thankful for the sunburn that that stretched down her face. She crossed her legs and glanced at the ground. Her shoulders slumped, a silent white flag waving in the distance. Another deep, refreshing sip, despite that godawful flavor.

"Who?" Eda peered over the edge of her glasses, eyebrows raised. Her hand paused holding the bourbon, a wet ring left where it once stood.

"Rock, dumbass! Who else!"

"Uh, thank God? How was he!" It was more a command than a question.

Rock had helped her out of their hotel and towards the airport, half carrying her. She'd been so drugged up from the pain medication she could barely function, and every movement of her torn leg cause spikes of torment to rippled through her body. His arm, warm despite the colder weather, and she clutched to him. Gripping at his shirt, her hat hung low in front of her eyes, and only let go once he obtained her crutches. But Revy didn't want to let go, and at the turn of his head to her she thrust her mouth to his, tasting the tea he drank twenty minutes ago.

"Fuck, why did you look?" She mumbled into his lips, eyes sliding shut. Rock didn't have an answer for her, pulling away. More questions stirred in her head, but she was so exhausted she couldn't voice them properly. Why the hell did you look? Did you get you wanted? Did you become even more fucking jaded then you were already becoming? What's happening to you? What's happening to us?

Revy scratched her head. She didn't know what to say to Eda, how to explain it without coming off as a little kid, pawing at Rock in a moment of pained desperation, a pathetic attempt at comfort.

"It was uh, it was good? It was a fucking- It was a kiss, alright?! It was after my leg was fucking stabbed." Revy finished off her glass and slammed it down.

Revy wondered if the strands of Balalaika's blonde hair scraped Rock's cheek. If she felt warm, or cold, or how tight her grip was. All pressure and stillness and no release. Or how her lips looked pulled back in an insane smirk. And maybe the blood lust in her eyes: it didn't matter if she flirted or enjoyed Rock as her interpreter, he could become an obstacle. Revy had felt desperate. It was all a game to Balalaika.

Another thought slithered into her mind, the memory of them at breakfast. They'd all sat together at some western restaurant, humorously, Balalaika wasn't willing to try anything that resembled Japanese cuisine. Balalaika, lips around her cigar, declared they could order whatever they wanted. Boris ordered a cup of coffee, black, while Balalaika and Rock ordered tea. The waitress' smile drooped a bit once she looked at Balalaika, eyes widening at the scar that scaled down the woman's face. Revy knew that look; she'd had the same one when she saw the Russian for the first time.

Revy paused once the waitress turned to her, black pen gripped tight to the notebook in her hand.

"I did say you could order whatever you wanted, Two Hands. Just because we all ordered drinks doesn't mean you must do the same." Balalaika tilted her mouth into her cigar, a slow exhale of smoke floated from her parted lips. Her closed lids opened, her blue, scarily blue, eyes at Revy. Balalaika's gaze caught Revy, who did another once-over on the menu.

"I'll have uh, toast, and same tea as him." She jutted her chin at Rock who was beside her.

Balalaika bent her head towards her throat, eyes glancing quick at the waitress and back at Revy. The corners of Balalaika's lips were upturned, eyes crinkling. The tense posture she held before relaxed. The flattened look of confusion on Revy's face made humored her. Smile as only she was able too, anyway. Revy had never seen an honest to god I-am-happy smile appear on the blonde's face. Not after whatever the fuck happened in Afghanistan, anyway.

The hand Revy had under the table on her lap tightened into a fist, as she gave the cream-colored menu to the waitress. "Please."

Balalaika's expression didn't change, her cigar now balanced between her teeth. Her eyes seemed to scan Revy's face, from her forehead to her flexing jaw. Boris quietly caught her attention to the documents he brought out, and they began a subdued conversation in Russian.

A blush spread across Revy's cheeks and forehead. She felt watched, and to her anger, seen.

Rock was too smart for his own good, that's why. It was a real blessing, but a torturous curse. He told Revy he didn't get the best marks in school, he was average and she guessed in Japan that's a death sentence. The highest grade she ever got was in sixth grade. It was an eighty-one on a quiz in multiplication. After a long walk home, Revy'd considered putting it up on the fridge, like the kids do in movies. It remained there for weeks, abandoned. Eventually in a fit of rage Revy had torn it up.

"Just one kiss?! Well, that's one step for you. Didn't think you had it in ya," Eda had already poured herself another glass, and reached over to refill Revy's glass. "Drink up. You look like you fucking need it,"

"My nose still fucking hurts. If you broke it-" Revy's head swam. The bourbon was shit, tasted like shit, and made her feel like absolute shit. A sick sense of comfort arose whenever she took another sip. Chugging it, really. She didn't want to entertain any more thoughts of Rock, his mouth on hers, and especially Sis. Supporting herself on an elbow, she glared at Eda, who yawned and leaned her head back.

"What? Like your ass was going to be in a beauty pageant?"

"You keep running your damn mouth and I'll break your fucking nose too." Revy brought the glass up to her mouth and saw that she'd already drank what Eda had poured her. She wasn't drunk yet, especially not after a few glasses, but it was on the horizon, ready to cross the threshold.

Don't ever hope to have a life like his. What type of life did she have now?

Chapter Text

The drive home was uneventful, tragic. Revy's hands gripped the steering wheel as her head bobbed back and forth, the amount of alcohol consumed begging her head to hit the horn and spin out into an unfortunate apartment building. Her nose had a sensation of an aching heart beat, and the reflection in the rear view mirror showed a blooming pink bruise line the bridge of her nose. She didn't drink enough.

A cigarette laid on her bottom lip, it jostling in between her teeth when the car hit a particularly nasty speed bump. The side roads in Roanapur were absolutely neglected; only the main routes had asphalt repeatedly laid on top of the broken parts. It would be chaos if there was a closed lane for construction. There was no need for licenses, the cops never pulled anyone over for speeding, and heavy traffic often ended up in a gunfight. Construction workers wouldn't risk their lives for a smoother road unless a specific gang persuaded them to take a look at it.

The streets near all the rival gangs headquarters were immaculate. One could feel the difference in the road underneath their tires, the smoothness of the road could almost lull Revy to sleep. The straight relief of not having to live in fear of getting another popped tire made her shoulders relax and her eyes droop more. She was definitely ready to sleep. Pass out, really.

Disco music blasted from the radio; the rock one she'd flock to had an interview with a washed-up singer who sounded as if he had embers in his throat, and the rest of the stations weren't even in English. All the windows were down and still she could not feel any sense of relief from the orange-hot sunset. Bangs fluttered against her face, grazing the hot sunburn that traveled from her brow bone to her cheekbones. At least the irritation would keep her awake, including her nearly broken nose.

Her cell phone rang out in the passenger seat. Revy contemplated just letting it ring, to just focus on getting home before she slumped against the dashboard. Head pounding, she flicked ash off the cigarette, the dust dissipating into the air outside the window. Reaching over sluggishly, she pawed around the leather seat while her eyes remained on the road. Her eyesight blurred and focused sharply back, the streetlights softening in her gaze.

Her fingers found it and she flipped it open with a swift motion, lifting it to her ear. The cellphone she had now had lasted the longest out of all the ones she'd owned before; most would be thrown at her bedroom wall, or out into the open water, or even shot if it kept ringing. Dutch pressed the newest phone into her hand and promised her if she destroyed it, this would be the last one she'd ever be allowed to have. Like lighting money on fire, he'd state, as he took in the shrapnel of metal that lied in the hallway. Or, more like shooting it.

"Yeah?"

"You took the damn car, didn't you?" Dutch sighed exasperatedly. Revy could envision him running his hand down his face.

"Yup. I went up to see sister bitch, but I'll be back in..." She raised her head up, scanning the surroundings. "I'll be back at the ol' home front in fifteen, twenty minutes tops."

"Forget about that, Revy. You'll have to make a detour up at Balalaika's place."

"Fuck! Why? Dutch, I'm fucking wasted." Revy was a violent drunk but there was no way in hell she'd bitch at Dutch, and instead took her contained frustration by pressing her boot into the accelerator. Under normal circumstances she'd drift around corners and race past pedestrians, but this was the car, Benny's baby, the one where he would spend hours under the hood, changing the oil and brakes and whatever else needed to be tended to. When Rock had gotten his first flat tire in the Plymouth, he thought he was going to die, really die. He acted like he could see Peter at the gates already.

"I can tell. Jesus, I can almost smell your breath. She called me earlier today and she's got another job for us. She's paying half up front, plus there's the usual papers to go through- you know the deal. Don't come back until you get that payment, cah-piche?"

She rubbed her eyes, attempting to keep the car straight with her knees. "Yeah, fuck, fine, I'll see Fryface."

"Great. I already called up before, to let em' know. See you at home." Dutch replied, the sound of a cocktail shaker being heard in the background.

"Wait, wait- You were down at the dock all day?"

"Somebody has to clean up the mess." He stated, amused, before hanging up.

Revy groaned and shut the phone with a loud clack, Her eyes narrowing and a sharp breath left her lungs.

Despite the smell of pollution and cigarettes and gunfire and sometimes blood, Revy could smell the ocean. She liked to try to notice the exact moment when the air changed and she could smell the sea. Often the smog was too much and she couldn't taste the salt on her lips until she was almost right there. But it was seven in the late afternoon and Revy had got a hint of it. In her drunken state, she wanted to go into the water again. To get rid of the smell of sweat and bourbon about her, to float in something deep and dark.

Or, shoot something. Someone, preferably. Like whoever cut her off a few blocks ago and swerved into a hard right turn. She'd threw her head out of the window, a blast of expletives running out of her mouth. There was the thought of shooting his tires, bumper, or even taking a gamble for head; but that would mean a traffic jam, and she'd have to do a three point turn, which the few time she tried she always ended up on the sidewalk or in the doorway of a store. Whoever owned the vehicle seemed to recognize who she was and Revy spotted their head ducking down. The rusted minivan was about to fall apart and here it was, going forty miles down a tight street. The echo of the tires screeching hammered in her skull.

"I see you're getting better at this," Balalaika's words drifted up to the forefront of her mind. Yeah, she supposed so. Actions have consequences. Adults pay for things they do. People who don't watch what they say get thrown on the hoods of rental cars. One handed, at that. Balalaika's broad shoulders; Revy thought she snapped his neck.

Revy slowed down to take a left, sweaty hands gripping the wheel. The traffic light hung limply from the wire, an orange light flashing. The Plymouth turned smoothly onto the side street; even with the thirty-plus years under it's belt, it remained in decent condition, and still managed to soften the worst of the potholes in the road. Eda's car on the other hand, Revy could feel the twists of asphalt underneath her shoes and it was no small wonder that the floor didn't fall beneath their feet.

As soon as she entered into the Hotel Moscow district the atmosphere changed. No longer were their drug dealers loitering under street lights, no prostitutes on street corners with their thin camisoles and miniskirts, or even druggies sitting on the sidewalks, rocking themselves back and forth. The limited number of drug dealers there were in the area could only operate under permission from Balalaika, and if they didn't it was no surprise what happened to them.

Revy flicked the headlights on and reclined in her seat, scouring the darkened buildings. There were a few men about, walking in pairs. It was easy to tell which ones were Balalaika's men, they were tall and stoic, broad shouldered and ducking into stores to collect money.

A few minutes later she'd pulled into the small parking lot next to the headquarters, rolling the windows up and stepping outside of the car. Picking up her guns, she weighed the cool metal in both of her hands, fingers brushing the triggers. Revy pushed her cutlasses into her black holsters and shut the door. Rubbing her temples, she closed her eyes and the headache exploded in the front of her skull, curling around her eyes. "Well, shit."

Walking up to the building, she wiped her hair off her face, pushing it back, startled at the greasy texture. God, what a mess she must have appeared. There was a moisture underneath her armpits, the back of her knees and her face was flushed. The heat wasn't letting up and from what Rock had told her from the weather reports, it wasn't letting up soon. She could almost miss the temperature of Japan.

Air conditioning blasted into her face, a mercy to her sunburn and sweat. Of course the Russians would have such things in every room. They were always wore the dress shirts to the top button; dark suit jackets. Severe faces, like they were at a perpetual funeral. The men in what could be considered the lobby for the multi-level building walked towards her, hands in front of them, eyes scanning her like something to be jettisoned if necessary.

Raising her hands, Revy rotated her torso to show off her twin guns, her lips pressing together. Her head pounded again. A hammer right against her temple. "How many times have I been here?"

"There will always be a weapons check, even if it is the Lagoon Company," The man replied, his accent thick. The lines around his mouth showed that he did smile, perhaps only smiled in the presence of their beloved Kapitan. When Revy saw her for the first time, she thought anything but. It was just a woman dragged from the wine-dark sea, bleeding out on the deck of their boat.

She fought to not roll her eyes. Balalaika, as Benny had muttered to her, was a complete goddess to them. Their hero, hair shining gold. A Valkyrie that dragged them out of Afghanistan.

"I'm here to pick up the stuff she's got for us, Dutch called earlier?"

The second man nodded to the other. "Alright, head up, but watch yourself, Two Hands."

Revy raised her eyebrows and nodded, vision blurring. She took her miserable body towards the nicely-sized staircase in the middle of the large room. The banister was a dark, carved wood. Her hand trailing it as she stepped up the stairs, her boots echoing up into the hallway she was leading herself to. Hotel Moscow's establishment itself was old, with the wood inside faded of it's original shine and the peeling linoleum in more neglected rooms.

Avoiding the top creaky step, Revy rounded the corner and towards the end of the hall, laid Balalaika's office. Revy clenched her fists, stifling a yawn. Her legs turned to jello for a second.

"Sis? I'm here about the.. paperwork," She hesitated for a moment, before slowly knocking on the door, bruised knuckles scraping against the oak. The typical door at the end of the hallway, reminiscent of the principal's office.

"Come in, Two Hands." Balalaika's clipped tone came muffled from the door.

The door clicked open, and Revy's head peeked in, the smell of a cigar floating through the threshold and into the hallway.

There Balalaika was, papers in both her hands, her head tilted at an angle, eyes scanning through the words. Chewing on the inside of her cheek, she wrote something down on one of the pieces, before passing it off to the side and reading the next one.

Bookshelves lined the wall behind her, filled with dark green, red, and the occasional cracked leather spines of books. The office itself was simplistic, and dark. There was Balalaika's heavy desk, wide and the most imposing furniture in the room. Chang's office was similar to his, with his having a touch of more eastern influences. Entering it, Revy had a feeling creeping up her spine of being in trouble.

"Excuse the mess," the blonde gestured to the paperwork scattered across her desk, with a glass ashtray near the edge that desperately needed to be emptied. "I've been here all day, this is driving me crazy."

Revy strutted stiffly towards Balalaika, her knees feeling like they would give at any moment. Two feet from the desk she stopped, hands casually on her hips, leaning slightly to take in the desk and the seated woman before her. The blonde was so tall compared to her, that this was the only way for Revy to look down on her. So, she was a natural blonde. Her gaze fell down from the top of Balalaika's head, down her focused expression, and then followed the scar that started on one side of her face and trailed down her neck to her shoulder.

"Uh-" Shut it, Revy. Mentally banging her head against the wall, she couldn't comprehend why she couldn't push that confrontation out of her mind. ShutitRevyshutitRevy-Rock had not even mentioned it. "What's up?"

Balalaika shook her head, taking a moment for her cigar. Her thumb and pointer finger held the object to her lips, her long nails catching the twilight that shown in the windows. It was the same hand that she used to fling Rock with. "The men we set up in Japan haven't necessarily been doing their job correctly. I'm not here to babysit, or to teach them how to conduct business."

In all honesty, Revy didn't know how to talk to Balalaika anymore. Revy ran another hand through her hair, nails cutting into her scalp. Her brain felt like it was swimming; near drowning, doing the doggy-paddle to keep up. It was all she thought about anymore. Rock and Balalaika. Two people she'd never imagine meeting in her life.

Revy didn't know what to do with her hands. She shuffled her feet and removed her fingers from her hips, instead crossing them loosely, lowering her head as if to protect her throat. "Good luck with that, Sis. I'm here for that paperwork Dutch talked about-"

"Oh, that. Hold on, let's see." Balalaika wet her finger with a quick slide of her tongue. Flipping through the stacks, she gathered up three papers, and then stapled them carefully together.

Let’s see. Revy's hand shot up to touch the strand of hair that escaped from her ponytail, swallowing. Her nigh-drunken haze sharpened to a hard focus, and there was a feeling for frustration for not seeing the simple fucking visage of Balalaika just licking her finger. The gentle shuffle of papers together, the press of fingers to the edge to line them up perfectly- then the bent wrist on the stapler, pressing it down to stab it's metal teeth. She let out a breath she didn't know she was holding.

Her hips swayed. It took a brief moment for Revy to steady herself. The carpet, much like the pew at the church, looked comforting. She wanted to pass out. She was fucking tired, exhausted, wanting to throw herself at the walls of her bedroom until she passed out, throwing clothes onto the floor, screaming into her bare mattress. Revy would hear Rock's door creaking open, his footsteps traveling through the short hallway; pausing for a second at her own door. Dutch and Benny knew better to let it ride out, if they tried to intervene she'd go into more a frenzy. The people she was closest to, seeing her vulnerability shining bright in the moonlight that managed to peek through her broken blinds.

A life like his. And Two-Hands... I have something to say to you. I don't know what's going on in that head of yours, but it will only bring you disappointment if you hope to have a life like his. Life like his. Her stomach churned, and her head spun. Palms hit the desk, nails digging into the wood. The words came fast and furious, sputtering from her lips as if she got her teeth knocked out. "I can't have a life like Rock."

"Hm?" Balalaika cocked an eyebrow as she place the document across from her, towards Revy. She raised her chin slowly, eyes turning icy. It was a silent warning, a headsman walking up to the execution block with their weapon of choice, waiting for the first prisoner to be dragged out.

"I don't want to have a fucking life like Rock, I don't bit- I know it won't work, okay?" Revy began to sweat, her heavy lidded eyes snapped open and her pupils dilated, the pain in her nose ignored for once.

The blonde sat silent, eyes boring into Revy's a gaze that was at once unreadable and frightening. The cigar was placed in the ashtray, like it didn't even matter, her eyes not once leaving Revy's flushed, sunburnt face.

"Why would you say that? I can't stop- It won't leave my fucking brain, sis. I know I can't, I told that fucker, that son of a bitch, that it's not realistic? Me? Working in a fucking cubicle? What did you mean? What the fuck did you mean?!"

"Is this really a conversation we should be having now? How much did you drink today, I wonder. I've heard your tolerance is legendary," Balalaika hissed, eyes narrowing and her shoulders squaring. Her voice was restrained, but the cigar made her voice sound soft and smokey. A shiver ran up Revy's spine. If this continued, Balalaika would get out of that chair and hurt her, really, really hurt her, more than Rock. Rock had a car to cushion his fall. Revy had faded carpet that would give one hell of a rug burn.

Revy failed to return a clever retort, instead placing both hands on the desk, ducking her head down to her chest, taking in another breath. She was being seen again, Balalaika looking at her and seeing all those exposed nerves. She was getting too emotional; it was easy in front of Balalaika, a woman who had no false pretenses, who could see it as it was and didn't care how ugly it looked.

An expansion of quietness came between them, and Revy grew uncomfortable with the silence. She shut her eyes, unwilling to look Balalaika in the face, but was more unable to deal with the room's harsh lighting. Her arms brushed her guns, the shock of cold metal bringing her closer to earth.

"You've answered your own question, Revy, a life like his- what was his typical life, would it live to your expectations?" Balalaika stated coldly, supporting her head with her clasped hands, elbows on the table. "Go home. Send someone up tomorrow- preferably sober."

"I can take the paperwork, sis." Revy lifted her body up, rubbing her eyes tiredly. She unsteadily picked up the paper. It still had a touch of warmth to it, from the printer. Her legs strengthened themselves, just barely, enough to pull herself from the desk and stand awkwardly. Shakily, Revy rose her eyes from the document, sliding up the blonde's chest, to her tension-ridden shoulders, up her pale throat and lipsticked mouth; following the broken trail the burns lead. She locked her gaze with Balalaika, who had never removed her eyes from Revy's form.

Balalaika's manicured nails brushed the scar on her own neck, absentmindedly; as soon as she grazed her skin, her hand went back down to the desk. "This is the life you have, Revy. Do you know any other?"

"No, I fucking don't. How would... how the fuck would you know what his sort of life is like, anyway?" Her heart pounded in her chest. A phantom ache beated in the arm where Balalaika had her shot.

"We've all seen glimpses of it, have we not? It's not like I'm psychic, you know. I already told you I don't know what goes on in your head." Balalaika answered easily, throwing a chunk of hair over her shoulder. There was still a sweet venom to her voice.

"I belong here in this pisshole, same as you."

Balalaika's chest expanded with a deep inhale of breath. She suddenly looked tired under the harsh lighting. "Do you?"

Revy broke eye contact and stared down at the papers in her hands, tightening her grip and indenting the paper with her thumbs. Several pages. This wasn't going to be an easy job. But it heightened the chances of being able to kill multiple people; innocent or not. She didn't really care. Parting her chapped lips to say anything, she instead clamped it down again.

"I'll see you and the rest of the Company tomorrow, twelve sharp. I'd suggest you go to bed and sleep off as much as you can- not that you'd listen, Two Hands. You're not exactly the most obedient girl I have met." She reclined in her chair once again, popping her knuckles.

"Girl?" Revy took a backward step towards the door, dragging her feet on the ground, giving proof to Balalaika's point. Her face reddened more then it already was. The sunburn hid most of it, but it traveled down her cheeks, past where it ended.

The blonde had her cigar in hand again, looking it over. Ash dotted the burning end but it still sparked alive, and she took a short breath, smoke curling out of her mouth. "I have more than a few years under my belt then you, Two Hands. Good night, and don't bring this up again when you can hardly stand. If you value your own life."

"Night to you too." Revy, without a second glance, left the building.

Chapter Text

Revy let out a dry whine, muffled by the couch cushions. Another hard smack brings another cry, and she's gripping the side of the couch with one hand and digging into the seat with the other. Balalaika adjusted her over her knees, so that one of her tight-clad legs came in between Revy's thighs, holding her a slightly sideways angle. The position made her back arch more, and Revy shuddered.

"Are you a good girl?" Balalaika purred, raising her hand before delivering another blow, rocking a gasping Revy back into the cushions. She can feel the soft flesh of the blonde's thigh underneath her torso, and at first was comforting, touching her, but after a few hits it began to dig into her ribs. Revy could only reply in groans, her nails pressed into the fabric.

"Uh-"

"Rebecca. I'm talking to you." The bite of a Russian accent slipped into the cold sentence, and Revy felt an annoyed gaze bore into the back of her skull. A second slap vibrated through her body, and she bit back a moan. There was no gentleness in the blonde's actions, and every hit felt worse than the last. She was bruised, definitely. Near the purple category. She could feel the redness that spread from the tops of her thighs right to her tailbone, and the fact she only has panties to soften such blows means she'll be sitting painfully for a few days. The pain itself did nothing to stop the lustful need sitting low in her belly. She was dripping; but there was nothing to rub against, only the knee. If she tried to relieve the ache, then she'd be punished.

Raising her head blearily, Revy blinked away the wetness in her eyes and juggled her options. One, would to whine a 'yes, sis' which might be rewarded by more hits, two, a 'no I'm not' would bring forth harder slaps, and the third one, a lack of a reply, would give her the same option as the second.

"F-fuck I-" She let out a harsh cry, ducking her face back down to hide the loudness of her voice. If she was loud, Balalaika had promised, things would get a lot worse. Coat-hanger worse. The blonde had her left hand on Revy's back, keeping her down, to allow little movement.

Revy swallowed, and tried her best to turn her head to look at Balalaika. Her mussed hair covered her vision and she shook her head, attempting to flip it out of the way. Acrylic nails dragged up the bruised area; adding more pressure as she went. "I, I ammm."

"Why?" Balalaika had a soft smirk on her face, her hand rubbing where she had slapped in slow circles.

"Because I'm keeping qui-quiettt, sissss." Revy whined, her grip on the couch relaxing, her legs spreading farther and the apex of her thighs pressing harder on Balalaika's knee. She was dangerously close to whimpering 'sissy,' an action that would mortify her more than this situation ever could. Even more close to creating a wet spot on the blonde's skirt, if she hadn't already.

Balalaika let out a dark chuckle, raising her hand from her backside. "Mm, I don't actually think so."

Shutting her eyes tight, Revy awaited what came next.

 

"-Wake up, Jesus, Revy!" Rock's voice ricocheted through her skull, bouncing off her temples. He had his hand on her hip, shaking her roughly, her face mashing into the thin pillow underneath her tangled hair. The headache from last night returned proudly, flexing its fingers in her brain.

There was a feeling of absolute want deep inside Revy, so much so she had the thought of dragging Rock by his tie on top of her, anything, absolutely anything, just for friction and hopefully a quick orgasm, then throw him off of her. She didn't need to check to see how soaked through she was, there was a wet sensation between her thighs stemming from her underwear, and there was an agonizing sensitivity.

"Get out,” Revy croaked, sitting up in a way to hide her arousal. Grasping the pillow, she pulled away from him and reared her arm back, throwing it as hard as one could throw an abused pillow. She fought the urge to rut against her bed, disgustingly.

Rock easily batted it away, eyes narrowing. Running a hand through his hair, he shook his head. Hand slowly moving off her hip, his thumb brushed her hipbone. Leaning into the touch, his look of frustration turned into suspicion. "It's almost eleven, Revy, we've got to go."

Oh, shit. Just what she sorely needed; another moment of her being in the same room as Balalaika. After their discussion last night and the dream she just had, it was going to fucking suck. Not only that, but Rock was going to come along with the, which was a surprise on all fronts. He didn't, at least with the Lagoon Company, see much of Balalaika anymore; instead he was with Chang. And Revy thought Rock fucking hated Chang.

"Are we gonna kill somebody?" Her fingers grazed the bullet hole in her arm that Hotel Moscow gave her. Even logically, after sleep for more then the recommended eight hours there’s the sensation of bone-tiredness.

"A job from Balalaika? Most likely." Rock sighed, eyes downcast. He had one knee on her bed; his body hovering over her sitting form. But not touching her, never touching her. Revy once took that as a sign of being unwanted, unattractive. Now she knows he's so fucking awkward at anything to do with women.

He'd changed, no doubt about that. His eyes were darker and no longer had that shimmer about them, a shimmer she'd try to sneak glances at, a shimmer that would shine when he'd see Revy do acrobatics above him. When she'd save his ass. But now they're like a blank slate, and Revy blamed herself for it. All the times she would tell him to grow some balls, get over it, fuck your scale of morality, was now coming back to bite her in the ass.

She let out a low groan, rubbing her eyes with bruised fists. Her body ached. She could scarcely remember the drive home, only shaking fingers gripping the steering wheel, her eyes half-lidded and the radio turned off. Neglecting to talk to anyone or eat the cold pasta left on the stove, she went to her room and that's when it turned black.

"Fuck, alright. But I call the bathroom."

Revy pushed Rock away, fingertips on his chest. He feels harder to the touch then she remembered. Stronger. She scooted forward and stood up, cold air touching her underwear. He took a few steps away, watching her exit her own bedroom, tiptoeing around the dirty laundry that sprawled across her floor. Dutch had made the habit of whenever he walked past Revy's open doorway, he'd yell for to move the godforsaken trash from one side of the room to the other. Like Benny's was any better.

It was only when she shut the bathroom door when reality set in. Revy had imagined- no dreamed, dreams aren’t anything you can truly control- being bent over Balalaika’s knee like something out of an old television show, like a child being punished for breaking a fucking vase or something. She wasn’t able to get a good look at Balalaika’s face, there was only the faded sofa cushion in her tearful vision; Revy allowed herself to think that it was a good thing. Balalaika not seeing Revy cry like a little bitch. A little brat that needed more discipline.

The shower pressure had always been lacking, but it worked well enough to wash the sweat and dust that caked her skin and hair. The sunburn had begun to peel on her shoulders, and swipes with a washcloth created more pain then the skin rubbing off. It wasn't often she'd burn under the sun, her tanned skin acting as a useful barrier. Balalaika would cook if she dared to spend more time outside. Revy's fingers thread through her locks and scraped her nails on her scalp. The bubbles from the shampoo pooled around the drain. Continuing to create a rich lather in her burgundy hair, she shut her eyes as the soap dripped down her face.

Sad part is maybe Revy deserved the punishment. Maybe because she’s been acting like a sulking bitch lately, and her mind is getting back at her by threatening the promise of being stripped (literally) and being hit. She, for one, had never been spanked in her life. Beer bottles and fists in her face, yeah. Being shot, yeah. Near-death experience because she got the living shit beat out of her, and she didn’t even fucking do anything. Street rat street rat street rat. Being assaulted-

Revy decided at that point, to not want to fuck Balalaika. A Russian mafia juggernaut who’s been with fucking draw-and-quarter her in the street to let the general public know that Balalaika isn’t some cute cashier at the corner store. A stupid dream never hurt anyone. It’s for her and only her to know.

A bubble of curiosity had Eda pop into her head. If there was anyone she’d tell, it would be Eda, but it was fucking Eda, and there was no way she’d tell her she may have a subconscious desire to be bent over across Balalaika’s nicely-shaped thighs and be had.

But she’d informed the nun about her masochism/sadism shows for Rowan, that porno fuck, and Revy would be the whip-swinging dominatrix, in tight latex and leather, throwing around an eighteen-year-old girl who’d curl up and weep at the end of the show. There’d be thick ropes of red lines down the girl’s flank and ass, her hair tangled from being dragged by it, heavy makeup smeared across her face. Depressing part? The fucking club was called GoofFest. Eda was puzzled after such a brag, her eye brow arching before she laughed hard, clutching her sides. “I didn’t know you likes abusing poor little girls,” She hung that over Revy’s head for a while.

Here she was now, being the abused poor girl. Failing at being a good girl. Karma’s a bitch, she should have done well to remember that.

A sharp knock broke her out of her mind, louder than the shower drumming on the bathtub floor. Looking down, eyes wide, her arms were wrapped tight around her frame. Straightening her bent spine, there’s a beginning of deep panic nibbling at the pit of her growling stomach.

"Hurry up! You've got twenty minutes!"

"Fuck OFF Benny!" Revy slammed a fist on the shower wall, knocking off the bottles of shower gel and conditioner onto the ground. The echo answered Benny's question; there was no response behind the door. She ran a washcloth between her legs, cleaning up the residual liquid. She was not going to fuck herself. Hard-ons went away.

The shower turned off with a low thump, and Revy ripped a towel from the hook and rubbed the stiff fabric on her wet face. Guilt grew roots in her chest, a feeling of wrongness. Yeah, she was ungrateful. Here she was dreaming of a woman who'd tried to kill Rock, and more importantly, would fucking kill her if she ever, ever learned of what Revy thought of her. The embarrassing truth of wanting to be spanked by a mob boss. Revy. Being spanked. How funny. God, everybody would have a laugh at that.

Rock had a higher chance, really. Simple math. Balalaika talked to him more than she ever did with Revy. To her she was Two Hands, a living weapon who loves bloodshed. Up until Japan Revy had seen her as sis; hard ass soldier turned into a Russian mafia queen. If she didn't respect Balalaika, then she couldn't respect anyone. Then that situation happened, there was more to Balalaika than just the hell of Afghanistan. She was no goddess. She was forty, for Christ’s sake. Dutch knew too much. To Balalaika, Revy was a girl. To anybody even so much as a year older than her she was a girl. She was the same age as Rock and yet he acted ten years older than she did.

If you ever hope to have… Towel falling from her face, Revy took a hard look in the mirror, raised her fist, and punched it.

Fucking war-maniac, Fry-face bitch. The fuck was her name anyway? Susan? Cathy?

The mirror didn't break, it still showed the sunburned, blushing, shameful expression on her face. The bruised nose. The dark circles under her eyes, like that of a skull. Balling her fist again, she reared her arm back but before the impact she snapped her arm back, smacking her curled fist onto the white bathroom counter, hissing in pain. She still had ugly bruises dancing across her knuckles, and now she'd have more to add.

She makes a choking sound like a run over dog she saw once in New York. She'd hitched a ride with some of her 'friends' at the time, older criminals who pushed her around. Gave her a decent gun and didn't bother trying to help her learn how to use it. Traffic was miserable, she saw it for a good two minutes and had a good eyeful from where she sat in the backseat. Not dead, not yet. Revy thinks of its guts burst out of its side in wet curls, wet trails behind it and the depressing whining.

"Someone should do it a favor, why'd the asshole just drive off." The driver muttered around a cigarette.

Revy thought of herself on the side of the road, a street rat, not a dog. Insides trailing behind her; fingernails cracking on the asphalt. Desperate. Not understanding, and maybe even angry. Sad. Unloved. Stupid. Stupid animal.

"Yeah, somebody should fuckin' help that poor baby." The guy next to her replied, cracking his neck with his hands, eyes not leaving the writhing form.

Chapter Text

Dutch and Benny were in the small living room, fully dressed and feet propped up on the scratched coffee table, canned laughter coming from the television. An aroma of coffee filled the apartment. Rock's leaning on the wall, with a healthy mouthful of cheap cereal. And they don't know. Didn't hear, either. Or pretended not to. The black and white scene from the television reflected on Dutch's sunglasses.

Revy's wet hair dripped down her back, the droplets running beneath her black tank top and stopped only at her belt wrapped tight around her unbuttoned jean shorts. 

"Put your damn boots on and let's go." Dutch said around his cup of coffee. "Grab yourself something to eat."

"Yeah, yeah," Rolling her eyes to hide her uneasiness, so hard she'd thought they'd pop out of her skull and roll onto the ground. Revy sulked around the counter to the cabinet, wrapping her hand around the handle to snap it open. Pawing through the boxes of cereal, Twinkies, and a loaf of bread, she grabbed a granola bar and shut it. It was peanut butter and chocolate. Well, it would work. Anything's better than nothing, and her headache was not going to just let her eat an actual meal.

"Come on, you're hungrier then that." Rock came up behind her, putting an empty bowl in the sink. He was the type to have orange juice and a bowl of cereal in the morning, like the advertisements. Turning to her, his fingers briskly finished roping his green necktie; white collared-shirt and dress pants pressed, and yet not a drop of sweat on him.

"Does it look like we have fucking time," Revy snapped abruptly, waving the bar in his face. Her stomach growled to prove his point. It was true, Revy had to stop preferring cigarettes and booze to actual sustenance, but she really didn't care presently. "I'll eat when we get back."

She opened the drawer to the right of her and took out a half-full cigarette box. Her headache was beginning to really dig in again. Biting down messily like her brain is bubble gum. She slipped the thin paper roll between her lips and lit it with a purple lighter. It took a few clicks before a trembling orange flame came to life, and she took a needy drag as soon as the end burned cherry red.

Rock's leaning on the sink and he's studying her; eyes subtly going up and down the length of her body. Revy's been working out more for a few weeks, anything to get rid of that burning ache inside her, not even bothering to count the crunches and the pull-ups. She'd always be hungry but nothing seemed to fill her up anymore so the most she did was go out at midnight to cheap, twenty-four hour cheap food stands. Revy would eat in big gulps, squeezing the meat and the cheese out of the flour tortillas. The Plymouth smelled like grease; disgusted, Revy would wipe down the steering wheel and air it out before everyone complained too much.

"Everybody, out."

Benny is driving. It's his baby and as Revy rounded the front of the Plymouth to the backseat she noticed the small scrape on the bumper that wasn't there before. It's a streak of silver in red paint. If Benny so much as takes a look, she won't be able to drive again. No more trips up to Eda or anywhere, really. Annoyance sat like a stone in her gut.

The burning heat greeted each and every one of them, high in the sky, finger pointed menacingly down at Roanapur. The 'hell' jokes write themselves. Chugging a water bottle down in the backseat, Revy poked at her nose, at the bridge, which felt slightly swollen but didn't have the same aching sensation as it did yesterday. A look in the rear view mirror had her notice that the bruise had faded to a corpse-like yellow, the slight bruising at the corner of her left eye looked like smudged purple eyeshadow. Her cutlasses were stuck under her arms in their holsters, her second cigarette of the day was in her mouth, and she felt fine; with the headache balled up behind her eyes.

The engine hummed soothingly; the sound vibrating up underneath her boots.

Dutch and Rock playfully go at it deciding which station to listen to- Dutch wants disco, Rock anything besides that- and it's enough to summon a belly laugh out of Revy; a chuckle from Benny.

"What about Donna Summer?" Benny advised, elbow on the car's window ledge. His other hand has his fingers bouncing off the wheel, to the beat. Dutch gave a slow nod, smiling around his cigarette, turning his head back at Rock and shrugging his shoulders.

"That work?"

"...Yeah, that'll work." Rock admitted politely.

Out of something that was almost consideration, Revy rolled down the window another inch, and blew out her barely inhaled smoke out at the crowded sidewalks. She ignored the glance Rock shot her as she took another hearty drag. If you ever hope- She'd heard this song before, hundreds of times; somehow this was a highly requested song in Roanapur of all places. It's white noise, at this point. "Damn, I don't mind it."

She didn't want to see Balalaika. Fry face. Her stomach still churned at the memory of the dream she just had, and even with the high temperature slowly cooking the whole damn city she felt goosebumps on her arms and thighs. A shiver ran through her. But still it came to her all the same; a warm hand on her back, the other raising to hit her, the dampness betwixt her thighs, ruining Balalaika's skirt. Revy took another puff and dropped the cigarette butt out of the window.

Before she could stop herself, Revy opened her mouth and jutted her chin towards Dutch. "How'd ol' sis get her scars, again?"

"Didn't I tell you this before?"

"I must not been payin' attention," Revy replied, eyes downcast on the crumpled cigarette box in her lap, fiddling with a fresh one.

"Well, if my memory serves me right- and I think it will- she got some sort of chemical burn from the war in Afghanistan. That's all I know." Dutch said amicably, reclining in the passenger seat. "Scars span down from her face to her torso, ugly sight, saw more than I wanted when me and you dragged her onto our boat that night."

That night was dark, and yet full of bursts of painful light. It was as if the sun was rising on the opposite side. The whole city smelled like smoke and burnt flesh and death, civilians dotting the streets. More death then she'd ever seen.

Revy was glad to be stuck on the boat with Dutch, Benny hadn't come along yet, and they had both sat in the water and watched, before they saw Chang and a tall woman facing each other near the water, and suddenly she was in the water, arms flinging out, gun falling from her grip. Dutch must have had some vision of what was the come, because he drove the boat so fast Revy barely had time to cling onto something. He'd barked at her- the first time he'd ever done so- and Revy jumped into the dark sea, and a shallow dive was all the effort needed to find a limp body floating.

The moonlight rippled through the water, and Revy dragged her to the boat, she was heavier then she looked; the dress wrapped around her legs. The bullet wound was bad, a torso wound that could have shredded any organ. Revy backed up once she got a look at her face- a pink scar jagged and rough, scraped down her face, with other angry scars dancing down her body, out of sight beneath her dress. Like something out of a cheesy horror movie. Dutch focused on the woman's wounds and Revy was given the blessing of getting the boat somehow to the harbor.

But to Balalaika's chagrin, she lived, thanks to Dutch. Revy didn't think much of her then, to her she was another to-be corpse. And Dutch fucking done near saved the city; and that the last time Revy ever touched her. Silly now, to think about.

"I think..." Rock began, eyebrows creasing. "I think she was tortured. I mean, look at them."

Revy hunched her shoulders and gave a look at Rock's worried expression. Her skin, slick from the tropical sea, felt so cold. "Don't tell me you're feeling bad for Fry face."

"Oh no, I'm not. Just explains a lot, that's all." He stated calmly, taking a pull of his own cigarette, legs pressed together and his spine straight.

"She flipped you on her car." Revy hissed as she lit another cigarette, though in truth the huffing action was born more out of stress than necessity, and poignantly avoided Rock once more, eyes returning to look out the window, legs spreading as she forced herself to relax on the worn leather seats. The backseat was small, and if she moves her legs any farther she'd brush Rock.

Benny slowed at stoplight, cars careening in front of them, ones that had wheels half off, doors eaten by rust, and broken windows. There were no damn dealerships in this town. It was only beaten car constantly stolen and recycled, sold for more then they were worth. Revy couldn't remember how Dutch even got the Plymouth, only had it appeared one day outside of the apartment. Shining like a chariot in the sun.

"Don't remind me," Rock scoffed lowly, but a flicker of darkness went across his face, dampening his casual demeanor. The stoplight turned green.

One more left and they were there. The building was more ominous then it was last night, like a daytime horror. The building looked average, it was the business building, not the fronts they had scattered in their section of the rotting city. It wasn't too tall or too squat. It was what was inside that counted, and it was enough to make everyone in Roanapur take longer routes to avoid it.

Revy gnawed on her lip.

"Oh, fuck." She muttered around her water bottle, cigarette dangling loosely from her fingertips. Ash splashed on her jean shorts. Brushing it off only made it rub into the fabric.

Benny pulled off the road, parking near the door. He looked over his shoulder at the two in the back. "Alright guys, I'll be back in an hour. Behave, will ya?"

"We'll certainly try." Dutch responded, flicking his cigarette out onto the ground as he stepped out. "Revy?"

"I'll be good, alright? Fuck. I'm fine." Swallowing hard, Revy's headache was sinking it's teeth in her skull, anger seeping into her brain like thorns in flesh; voice hissing because fuck Balalaika, fuck her for making her feel this way, fuck the fact they're acquainted, because the fantasy of Balalaika on, owning her, seems so physical to her she can almost touch it. Revy tilted her head back and groaned, opening the door with a harsh yank and walked out onto the sweltering asphalt. The sun warmed her hair and sweat dotted the back of her neck. She finished her water bottle and crumpled it in her fist, the thump of a door closing as Rock left the vehicle.

"Are you headed to Jane's?" Rock asked, raising his eyebrow. Sweat glittered on his forehead.

"How'd you know?" Benny laughed, eyes crinkling. He was wrapped around her pinky finger, as was a lot of men. Maybe even one of Hotel Moscow's own. "See you guys later."

Despite the correct assumption of mafias doing all their work under the cover of night, Hotel Moscow did their business at all times if possible, like a beast that never slept. In the day it looked like a typical establishment; like that of where Rock once worked.

Hotel Moscow was more in motion today, with the sounds of talking in various languages coming from upstairs, people exiting and entering, like a breathing organism. One man brushed past Revy and before she can bitch, there's a stench of sweat and vomit about him, and he's clutching his stomach. There's a string of words leaving his mouth, in a language Revy can't pinpoint. Mandarin? A Russian is watching him leave, a hulking man with his hands in his pant's pockets, posture relaxed but in his eyes lied coldness, akin to a predator.

Dutch walked freely past the huge guy, Rock behind him and then Revy. Being the primary muscle, nobody bothered with her when someone else from the Lagoon Company was present. Like they all instinctively saw her as a possible threat not worth noting unless, as Revy squeezed her forearm, she needed to be neutralized. Boris was downstairs, leaning over the large desk that used to where the receptionists would work. There was a mustached man with him, and as they approached closer the surface was covered in more documents. Boris was speaking quietly in thickly accented Russian, his fingers darting from one line to the other, with the other man intently listening.

"Hey, Boris. We're here for twelve o'clock?" Dutch inquired, lips around a new cigarette. Rock bent his head in greeting. Revy flashed her Cutlasses with a raise of her arms, hoping to skip the weapons check. It was never mentioned but Dutch was hardly ever checked.

Boris had the type of personality that made someone want to be as polite as possible to him, underneath his stoic gaze. He nodded, face as emotional as a marble slab. "The kapitan is currently in a meeting, but it should be over any minute."

Revy cracked her knuckles, her shoulders squaring. She bit her lip again, tasting a sting of iron. The goosebumps raised along her skin again, combined from the refreshingly cool air and the bump of nervousness in her throat. Even without her presence, her men still spoke of Balalaika as their kapitan, as if the word was breathing new life into her. The beginning and the end.

As Dutch, Rock, and Boris spoke to one another in hushed, polite tones, Revy wandered over to the silver trashcan in the corner of the room and chucked the twisted lump of plastic that had been shoved in her jean pocket. Out of habit, she looked out into the bright street of Roanapur. There was no need for her to stand awkwardly in the group conversation; she had nothing to add or say. It was all business matters, the intricate, detailed kind that she would pretend to understand as all the other participants watched her; the poor Chinese brat trying to decipher their fancy language.

Revy swallowed a defeated whine. She was so fucking tired, and her body felt like it was falling apart into a beaten meaty pulp.

The Russian man spectating the upset, swearing man was gone. She hadn't even head the glass door swing shut.

Rock touched her elbow. An intimate touch, and it rippled up her arm and into her beating heart, the organ increasing it's pumping. Did Balalaika make her bend over her lap or did Revy do it willingly, like a well-trained dog? Either way, it makes Revy's blood grow hot. Snapping her arm back, Revy whipped her head around to face him, ponytail smacking her ear. "Fu-"

"Balalaika's ready to see us now." Bitch.

Chapter Text

The stairway and hallway look the same. There's nothing new to note and Revy felt bored just walking up it, except now she had more clear memories of embarrassing herself in front of Balalaika. The carpet snags at the tread of her shoes, the air conditioner is giving her a chill, and amazingly she felt even more shitty than she did when she was drunk. Rock shifted his arms in front of him, crossing and uncrossing, before he decided on just letting his arms hang loosely by his sides. His skin's paled and he's not over what happened in Japan. Then he relaxed and he caught Revy's furrowed-brow gaze; he returned a half smile, but his eyes had that darkness to them, like a still lake at dusk.

He seemed to share Revy's own apprehension. Revy ran her fingers through her windblown hair, pushing it off her face, thumbs brushing her temples. Her head pounded, even without the white-hot sunlight. Her leg had a ghostly ache in the old wound Ginji left. The fucking dot of a healed scar Balalaika's men left (that asshole, she's still trying to find that fucker, it was damn hard to see his face under that Soviet cap) hurt even more. Revy would often flex her arm to remind herself that it wasn't invisibly bleeding all over her.

"Alright everybody, as Benny said, best behavior. It won't take long, more paperwork and then we get to kill some folks." Dutch stated, giving a particularly hard look at Revy. He ran a hand over his bald head and sighed, before giving a soft knock on the door with his knuckles.

"Dutch? Come in." Her muffled voice sounded clipped and professional, with a touch of lightness that was typically reserved for those that stopped her from bleeding out all over their boat. A lightness that Revy wasn't ever used to from her.

Opening the heavy door, Dutch ushered Revy and Rock inside. She cast a pleading look at Dutch, shuffling behind Rock. Shaking his head, he shut the door behind him, before giving an amused smile at Balalaika, pushing his sunglasses up with his finger. "How's it going?"

The air was somehow colder in her office, the windows shut and locked to keep the tropical hell outside. From the view of her office Revy saw more buildings, grey and bleached by the sun over time, some beginning to fall apart, others demolished; stark reminders from Hotel Moscow's bloody entrance into the city. Like a rotting head on a spike, it sent a message to those who didn't believe the stories of the ex-Soviets' strength. The varnish on the border of wood around the window was peeling, the glass stained.

"Good, good. Would be better if it weren't for this little situation at hand," Balalaika replied, leaning against the front of her imposing desk, arms crossed. There was a coldness underneath her cordial tone, resigned and annoyed; jaw visibly clenched. Her blonde hair ran down over her shoulders, locks spilling down the front of her suit jacket. The room seemed to drain of all color and the world fell away around Balalaika; Revy's fingers turned cold.

Revy decided on standing near the door, behind the two men in front of her. As far away as she could possibly manage without darting out the door. A few steps backward and she'd touch the wall; the option to lean on it sounded tempting, but being too relaxed might draw more attention. She's done this hundreds of times, be the silent bodyguard with her guns flashing silver, with a neutral expression, but today it was like her first day at the office.

Balalaika's eyes settled on each of their faces, first Dutch, then Rock, and finally, slowly, on Revy. The placid look she held in her icy eyes dissipated when she caught Revy's narrowed ones, and whatever emotion she was trying to portray, Revy couldn't for the love of god translate it. Light seemed to be swallowed into her blue eyes, and not reflected back.

It didn't matter whatever positive emotion Balalaika could possibly feel, one look in her eyes and all one could see was the blueness of a corpse, of looking into a frozen pool of water and imagining what dying of hypothermia must be like. But anger, bloodlust, was a flash of a hard electrical current scattered across her iris.

But, sadly, that thought which was the equivalent of a cold-shower did little to cover up the blush that glowed near neon on Revy's sunburned cheeks.

She, in a certain way, wanted to absolutely fucking die. Revy dropped her gaze heavily to the desk, fingers twitching. It was better this way, to not even acknowledge her, to be silent and try to fade away into the dated wallpaper. Less folders and documents were scattered across the desk- but the ashtray was damn near topped off. Imagine being bent over that, imagine the pain, getting hit over that desk. But it was a dangerous area to stare at, because inches away was the curve of Balalaika's hip.

"That spice business acting up again?" Dutch chuckled, and lit a cigarette.

"So," Balalaika sighed around her cigar, eyes closing for a brief second, rounding her work surface to the desk chair. The sound of her heels clicking echoed through the room. "They haven't paid their weekly protection money to us... Of course, we have reminded them, but I've grown tired of being patient."

"Didn't we have run-ins with them before?" Rock interjected, hands in his pockets, quizzically. "Something flower, right?"

"Good memory, Rock. Exotic flower," The cigar between her teeth, Balalaika sighed after stating the name, like the very mention of such a name was giving her second-hand embarrassment.

Fuck you Rock. Revy ground her teeth hard, like marble slabs scratching over each other, and she readjusted her stance, her faux-confidence cracking down the middle. Her leg ached. The florescent lighting was too bright in here. It was daytime and the lights were on; granted the way Balalaika's work space was positioned it'd be difficult to fully read the documents, but even so, it was like a secret way Revy was being tortured.

"The operation goes as this: There are two boats they use to export their products to the neighboring countries. Both are leaving tonight, and I'd like to use your services to ensure that only one arrives at it's desired location."

A burst of light unfurled in Revy's chest, the guns underneath her armpits feel heavier, begging to be taken out and used. It took a touch of effort to hold her tongue back, to not ecstatically ask how many men would be on that vessel; frustration is wriggling under her skin and she wanted to tear it out. Two weeks had passed since their last job that included the deaths of other criminals, and two weeks was long enough for Revy to grow restless.

Balalaika leaned just so over her desk, hands on her hips, achingly so, the mere action dragging Revy's eyes to her. Her lipsticked lips are still moving, but Revy can't focus on the words. Balalaika's cleavage pressed against her dress shirt; the business skirt she wore form fitted her wide hips. Revy's mouth dried so much that she wanted to punch the blonde square in the jaw.

Revy was a delinquent again, sitting in the front hallway of her school waiting for the rain to stop so she could walk home, watching the prettier teachers leave through the front door, her fists clenched and pleading; begging for them to give her any sort of attention at all. She'd sit for an hour or so, then give a hiss of defeat, hauling herself back to that shitty apartment, hopefully before her dad woke up or got back from wherever he went, and she'd go into her messy room and lie under the covers. For brief moments of comfort she'd pretend to be a cadaver on a gurney, a sheet covering her still body; nobody can hurt her because she'd already died.

"And," Balalaika balanced her cigar between two long fingers, blowing out another swirl of smoke. The exhale was hard, forced, her blue eyes narrowed and her posture becoming more rigid. Her jaw flexed, as she continued. "Judging from the documents I sent Two Hands home with should give you the rest of the information you need about the tiny details. However-"

The blonde's voice tapped her pink nail on the papers spread across her desk, hard enough that the paper was suffering crescent-shaped scars.

"-Hands, Revy?"

Revy snapped to attention, whipping her head to face the front of the room, eyes scanning the three of them to see who mentioned her name.

"You alright?" Dutch asked, hands in his pockets, looking at her over his shoulder. His face was impassive and his tone casual, like he wasn't even surprised at Revy's strong lack of engagement today. The men's body postures gestured towards leaving, with Rock casting glances between Revy and Balalaika,

"Y-Yeah, I am. What's up?" Revy swallowed, chewing on the inside of her cheek. Balalaika stood expectantly, not moving from her spot.

"Do you mind staying after for a few minutes?" Balalaika informed, before pointedly eyeing Dutch and Rock. Her fingers tapped on the desk. "Do you two mind? It'll be quick. There's a meeting I have to attend to after this."

"I've got no problem with that," Dutch replied amicably, shrugging. "We'll be in the lobby, keeping an eye out for Benny."

Revy debated her options, once, then twice, glancing sideways at the door. There was a stronger want to crawl into her bed again, tug the sheet over her head, get a piece off blessed cool darkness to stop the light bulbs that popped behind her eyes. Her forehead felt heavy, like an iron was dragging it down. To be alone with the one woman who saw right through her tomboyish violent bluster. Alone, with the woman who she, with the help of shitty bourbon, challenged. Revy raised her head and nodded, with a tightness to it, swallowing any other words that wanted to come out. "Sure."

Heart pounding in her chest, Revy tried to take a deep breath, but it stuck fast in her throat; her eyes remained on the desk. In the corners of her vision she could see the quick look Dutch gave her, but he remained cordial, and he and Rock headed towards the door.

Dutch opened it, allowing Rock to pass through the doorway first, then following him.

"See you later, Revy." Rock said, his eyes wide, like he was back in Japan again, witnessing Balalaika snapping that yakuza leader's neck. They looked at each other for a second at least, the held gaze making Revy feel even more nervous, her guns achingly close, and if she just had one in her hand she'd feel safe, and she had to tell herself that Balalaika didn't know about the dream she had, and never will.

Dutch gave a half smile to her, shutting the door behind him, the sound of the doorknob twisting sounded like thunder in the silent room, except for Revy's hard breathing.

Revy overhead Dutch in the hallway, jokingly telling Rock how he'd bet ten dollars Benny would be late, and Rock chuckling. As much as she wanted to be out there with them, the small part of her that really, really enjoyed the dream was relieved to be alone with Balalaika, even for a few minutes. To have Balalaika's full attention on her, instead of focusing on Dutch, or even worse, Rock. Everyone considered Rock to be hers, but at the same time he wasn't the same Rock she knew, he wasn't the reservoir of normality she drank from anymore. All in all, Revy didn't know what to think of him.

The aroma of cigarette and cigar smoke did little to calm Revy's nerves, if anything it made her yearn for a cigarette, something to do with her hands instead of them clenching by her sides.

"Your ashtray needs to be emptied," She started, her eyes shooting in Balalaika's direction, unable to focus on her. Her fingers instinctively ran through the locks of her hair, the ponytail falling apart. For the first time in a long time, she was chilled. Sweat beaded on her forehead and underneath her arms anyway.

"Hm, I keep forgetting. Maybe it is a way that reminds me not to smoke all of them in one sitting." Balalaika murmured absentmindedly, gesturing at the glass, then she snapped her head up, lips pressed together. "Can you look at me when I'm talking to you? It's not polite."

"Fuck, I-"

"Don't think I can't see the act you pulled. Whatever you're trying to portray, trust me to tell you it's not working." The blonde chided.

The first thing Revy can't help but do is focus on the pink scar that rippled down the side of Balalaika's face, uneven and choppy. Like the torturer ran out of patience, the scars were haphazardly placed down her neck and down her torso, like they had twenty minutes left before their shift ended, and they wanted to get it over with. Revy couldn't recall if the scars had felt soft the night she dragged her blood soaked body from the ocean. But Balalaika could still emote the best that she could, with the few times she threatened to smile the scarred flesh was pliant, and Revy wanted, for a spare second, to run her fingers over it.

Balalaika's eyes tightened as Revy met them, her face twisting into an annoyed, muted scowl, her hands spread on the desk below her, back bent.

"I didn't mean to do it, alright? I thought you were gonna tell Dutch or Rock about last night," Revy's face reddened, her eyes widening, anger strangling her words.

"What's there to tell?" Balalaika humored, her expression lightening, rather quickly taking a pull of her cigar, the white smoke leaving her lips. "I wouldn't waste my time gossiping about a simple conversation. That being said..."

Like she was on autopilot, Revy stepped forward towards Balalaika, a shallow breath leaving her lungs, every step feeling heavier, like the mere action to getting closer to her was wrong. The closer she got, the more she thought of last night, and the humiliating way she gripped the desk to keep from falling onto the ground; where she'd undoubtedly have passed out.

She stopped once her stomach almost touched the desk, her fists clenched, and her headache shivered like a muscle after it got shot. Revy looked up at Balalaika, this time maintaining eye contact, trying to avoid even blinking.

"Have you given it any thought?" Balalaika's voice was deadly and soft, like nightshade, and her body straightened, territorial, as Revy neared her. As if she was refusing to shrink back, to get away from Revy. The blonde's features tightened up, teeth clamped together, letting out a hard exhale. She had her hands on her hips again, broad body and taking up space. Even now, as a mafia queen Balalaika still had the behavior of a military captain; step out of line the punishment will be swift.

"What?" Revy knitted her brows together in confusion, struggling to look at the blonde's face, when her tall body was right there, begging to be picked apart. Her eyes narrowed and she swallowed, frustration pooling in her throat.

"What life would have been like, if you two had stayed in Japan?"

"Fuck, sis, no, I didn't. I never did! I never met his parents!" Revy hissed, heart in her throat and she leaned over the desk, hands supporting herself, lungs struggling for more air. She was coming right behind her rage, tailgating it, wanting to test it out.

Maybe I could turn around and just fucking walk out. Revy was close to her, too close, too close and she could see Balalaika's hands across from her, long-fingered and strong, and she imagined them on her. She begged to fell repulsion after that thought but instead it was a ball of lust deep between her thighs, and she's feeling fever-warm. Her fingers flexed on the desk, brushing the white paper contrasting the dark wood.

"Truly? Meeting his family. Living a normal life. However these things usually go." Balalaika studied her for a minute, as if memorizing her face. Her expression was unreadable, and her words are a dare, and Revy can't decipher what Balalaika planned to provoke.

"No, I never once thought of meeting his parents, I don't give a shit about his old life," she stammered, repeating her safety phrase from yesterday. Her head throbbed. "It's his old life, it's in the past, okay? I can't have one, I can't. It's impossible, I-," Revy's sentence broke, heat rushing down from her forehead to her neck. Sucking in her top lip, Revy looked down and took a shaky breath, before catching Balalaika's silent gaze again. "Have you ever thought about it?"

"Living in Japan?" Balalaika snapped. She was pretending to play dumb but Revy knew she pressed a button. The blonde was thinking of broken noses, real broke noses, not the ugly bruise that Revy had now- maybe a hard punch to the ribs, maybe to make her little Two Hands shut up.

"Living a normal life, like you said? Was there... ever a moment?" Revy hesitated, fearing momentarily for the safety of her throat. The brief coldness she had enjoyed was dead and gone, now she had returned to being miserably hot, and she wiped her brow with her wrist, feeling the moisture rub off on her skin. Nervously, she pondered if she even put on deodorant.

Anger seeped out of Balalaika. She tilted her head, tired eyes looking out the window, taking in the withering sun and the green palm trees, the sliver of ocean in the horizon, hidden by the city. Even inside, muffled sounds of gunfire could be made out. The grey buildings outside getting more damaged each and every day, more bodies piling up in the streets, newer ways to sneak in drugs to sell without the mafia's permission. Things were getting old, and nobody wanted to waste time in building them back up again, because they'd just be destroyed. Eventually, it would all end, as all shitty empires did.

The room was pin-drop quiet. Revy's hand twitched towards her arm. A sick smile stretched across Balalaika's face, punctuated by the pink lipstick, one that didn't meet her lined eyes. "No."

Her voice was hard and smokey, and she smelled of the cigar, it leeching into her clothes. Revy didn't bother to shake her head or nod or even reach over and grab her by the hair; there isn't right way to do anything when Balalaika sounded like that, and her legs weakened like she's drunk all over again. She blinked, and moved her face back a centimeter, unsure how to react.

Realization dawned on Revy. And that was why Balalaika didn't believe her for shit. There was no hard answer, no confident reply. Revy instead had babbled on and on, until her face turned pink, because she couldn't fathom why anyone'd dare ask that. In Roanapur fates were sealed. But few people still managed to claw their way up out of the underworld and see the dawn. Out of the black and into the blue; never coming back again. But normalcy wasn't the way Revy could live anymore.

The pain in her head arched up on her temples again, and Revy doubled down, leaning forward until her forehead hit the table, a low thrumming digging into her brain. Her head felt like a giant wound, pulsating and still bleeding, the fucking situation not only being a useless distraction, but as if egging it on. The teeth are back again, dragging its canines up and down her brain. A hiss left Revy's mouth, seeping through her clenched teeth.

Hopefully, hopefully, Revy was going to die. Here she was, whining and groaning due to having a headache, while having a debate with Balalaika, who had a bemused expression on her face, eyebrow arched. The blonde had raised back up her half-done cigar, blowing smoke in Revy's direction, before setting it down again. Mockingly, patiently waiting.

"Sorry, I just, fuck, I have a fucking," the headache is pounding tight and thick, and the sterile white light is driving her absolutely crazy. "I have a fucking headache, it makes me wanna blast my brains out."

Revy's eyes shut instinctively, anxiety creeping up her throat from the closeness of the other woman. She clenched her teeth to hide a needy whine, her eyes narrowing. Steeling herself, Revy tried to remember what they'd teach in juvie. Taking deliberate slow breaths; counting to herself in her head, inhaling for three seconds, exhaling for three seconds. It was not working so well, but the failed effort certainly counted.

"Headache?" Balalaika's fingers pressed against Revy's forehead, sliding along her skin. It's a soft gesture, and her touch despite the oven-hot heat is refreshingly, terrifyingly, cool.

Briefly, Revy wondered if Balalaika could feel the pulsing through her fingers, and she swallowed, her eyes struggling to focus. It feels foreign, and unfortunately nice, but there's a sensation of self-hatred twisting inside her.

"I think you have a migraine, not a headache," Balalaika muttered, and as she's speaking Revy leaned into the hand. The air was so hot now, and she's burning up, and the touch of Balalaika brought up so many twisted emotions she wanted to throw up, all over the heavy desk, and to then pass out in it. Balalaika being so close was dangerous; dangerous in that Balalaika would fucking kill her, and dangerous in a subtle way was how close the blonde was to her.

Her lipstick shimmered wetly, and Revy could see the sharp canines between Balalaika's parted lips; the scar on her face was more textured then she noticed, and there was a faint purple coloring underneath her eyes. Her eyelashes have a thin coating of mascara, and her hair is painfully naturally blonde. Besides the crow's feet surrounding her blue eyes Balalaika seemingly took well care of herself, and there was a light hint of a flowery fragrance.

Revy never owned a bottle of perfume. Her mother had left a bottle of body spray that smelled like shit; it was the one thing her dad didn't toss out into the street, where homeless people eagerly tore the items apart like dogs on scraps of rotten meat. The bottle smelled vaguely of cinnamon and was labeled Sunset Beams in cursive.

"It fucking hurtsss," Revy whined, eyes shuttering closed, mouth twisting into a frown; unable to keep them open any longer. She put her full weight onto her hands, to stay supported when Balalaika would inevitably move away.

"Before the job," Balalaika began, sounding glacially soothing in the darkness, "Use an ice pack or take a pain medication... I won't have you ruining this for everyone, now."

If there's a playfulness in her tone Revy doesn't hear it. She can't hear fucking anything, really. There's a strong pull on the words from Balalaika, like a beacon, like a song that she just realized sounded good.

The fingers on her forehead disappear and instead a hand went and wrapped tight around Revy's tanned throat, nails digging into the flesh on the back of her neck. Revy tried to let out a surprised gasp, or a swear, but the words caught and died in her mouth. Her eyes snapped open. Balalaika tugged her body further over the desk, so much so that Revy was near on the tips of her toes. Balalaika brought herself nearer, until their noses were inches from touching.

She can hardly fucking breath. Her lungs fluttered like the wings of a butterfly, her nails digging into the wood, her cutlasses weighing her shoulders down, you can use me, you know. Her boots dragged on the ground, but no footing was grasped and she's perilously close to hitting the desk face first, knocking the full ashtray all over the both of them; maybe that's when Balalaika would strangle her- for getting ashes all over her suit.

"If you tell anyone of this," Balalaika decided, her blue eyes drilling into Revy's wide ones. She smelled of cigar smoke and tea. Revy had never detected it so heavily until now, now when she was just so so close to the blonde. "I will hurt you. I'll gouge out those eyes of yours."

Her forehead and throat felt like the sexiest parts of her body right now, and thoughts of dead brains splattered on metal floors and men weeping to live managed to keep her fury on a manageable level.

Revy nodded, swallowing audibly. Her esophagus flexed against Balalaika's iron-right grip. Did Rock notice Balalaika's perfume too? Trying to keep calm, to stop herself from spitting every expletive in the book, to trying to scratch the blonde's own eyes out, she took a breath. "I won't, sis. I will be-" pleasesayitpleasesayitpleasesayit "I can be obedient, sometimes."

It came out too harsh, too seething. Revy's teeth were near bared, her hair mussed and wild and spilling over Balalaika's arm and hands.

Balalaika threatened to smile, the edges of her lips twitching. The blonde loosened her grip around Revy's neck, allowing oxygen to flow back in between her lips. "I think often you need reminding. Now go. I imagine still Dutch and Rock are waiting for their ride, still."

And it's back to status quo, like none of this shit ever happened.

Revy slowly, like moving away from a predator, swung back onto her feet, her balance returning. Her throat strung but her forehead felt as if someone had branded her, left a mark that everyone would see, that Balalaika had put her hands on her, and not necessarily all violent.

Yeah, fuck, I guess. So." She stated, eyes straying on Balalaika's face. Revy wasn't admitting defeat just yet, not while she still was leaving the building with everything intact. Balalaika sat down in her leather chair, letting out a sigh as she did, one hand going to touch her own neck, nails grazing the burn scar there.

"Happy hunting, Two Hands." Balalaika's legs are crossed, her shoulders pulled back, neck elegantly raised. Before Revy can blink and fully assess the fucking situation Balalaika had her cigar back in her mouth, her voice is so fucking sultry, and it's business as usual.

"You too," Revy replied, fists clenching, her posture rigid, feet square on the floor and her shoulders back like a hissing cat, a last ditch attempt for dominance, a fight that she surely lost. She turned around cautiously, and headed towards the door. It swung open easily with her angry yank, and without sparing a second glance, Revy exited into the warmer hallway, the air conditioner ruffling her hair. Revy's fingers traced down her neck, pausing at her sternum, and with horror discovered her nipples were hard.

Chapter Text

It was only an hour from Roanapur to find the spice company's boat. The boat itself stuck out oddly from the blue sea; it's hull was more rust than metal, bobbing restlessly against the calm waves. It was large, but couldn't be called a ship. There was room enough for only a small amount of cargo. It was running at a pace of fifteen knots; nothing compared to the PT boat.

"That's a trawler," Dutch stated around a cigarette, a corner of his mouth pulling upwards. "Easy target."

The six people on board knew who they were just by their iconic boat itself, but by the time they had yanked out their guns Revy had already thrown herself onto their boat, cutlasses in tow. Her feet pounded on the old wood up towards them, already unloading ammo into their heads and torsos and where ever the fuck she wanted. Two of them rushed into the cabin, door shaking as it shut hard against the chipped door frame.

There's no sense of time during a gunfight, at least for Revy. The minutes melt into each other, blurred by manic energy. She became something greater than herself, instruments of death in her grasp, it's not close and personal like a knife would be, but far away and the people she's killing are animals prepared for the slaughter. The bullets fly back and forth, and she had to deal with shitty aiming from men who can barely speak English, but's alright, in that way it's only foreign buzzing to her ears.

Two of the crewmen are dead as soon as her feet touch ground, one bullet to the brain which splattered across the wall of the cabin; the other took two to the torso.

"Hmmmmmmmm-" One sputtered, hand gripping his upper chest before he sat shakily down, and fell flat on his back. He made a noise of someone too tired to cry, like a drowning sailor in a storm. He was whimpering, like a baby. Whining like a beaten dog.

"Come 'ere." Revy grinned. A bullet scraped past her arm, zipping out into the blue sea. She hardly felt it, the adrenaline pulsing up her body like an infection. The man that shot at her was laying on the ground, fist shaking while clutching the gun, snot dripping down his face. He's not experienced, he's fairly young and there's acne scars dotting his face. He didn't want to die. His presumed coworker is slumped against the side of the boat, gurgling as she clutched her throat, blood running down her faded t-shirt, dotting her Bermuda shorts. Revy can imagine the artery responsible for that, but it's impressive how the woman refused to die, to not give Revy that pleasure.

"Pord-" When they get the chance, even the hardest criminals Revy bested would sometimes utter desperate pleas. She didn’t care.

Revy pulled the trigger and it ripped through the teenager's head, and he fell limp, his own gun clattering onto the floor.

She replaced her magazines, the empty ones bouncing uselessly onto the deck. Her headache, the annoyance of her nose, her stiff thigh- it all left her body, and all that's left of her is a body that she controlled, a body that bent to her will and no one else's, and nothing cements that better then killing someone. Nobody's going to fuck her up ever again, or so she told herself every damn time she gets into a gunfight. Eye for an eye. A terrible way of getting revenge. But Revy was owed a lot of eyes.

The door to the cabin wasn't locked, the door knob hanging from its socket. Debating her options, Revy inhaled heavily, taking in the stench of blood with-a-side-of gunpowder into her blackened lungs, dispersing into her cells and she kicked the door, hard. It would have easy to open the old door; however the idea of a dramatic entrance enticed her, especially in the middle of a gunfight. To let them tremble in their ratty clothes as she busted into the tiny room, to see their deaths reflected in her dark eyes.

Revy forgot her Walkman at the apartment, so the moment wasn't as spectacular as she hoped for. The remaining two are near the helm, whimpering in their language. There's only one gun between them, but one ran up to her, knife in his fist, white in his eyes like a cow prepared for slaughter, and it's a quick one-two before a bullet pressed deep in his collarbones, and he's on the ground, gagging. His body thrashed once and then he's gone.

Another bullet whizzed past her ear and she barely needed to look at the asshole before there's a sound of a collapsed body. She wondered how much they were understanding in the moment. The room reeked of herbs and especially of a strange mix of rosemary and other spices.

A dark part of her mind was disappointed that it's a job like this; no trained killers she had to dance with, only scared underpaid civilians who have never held a gun in their short lives. Stupidly, she felt pissed. There's no more to kill and Revy lowered her guns to her sides. She gazed at the two bodies in front of her. They were alive and now they aren't. Blood is glistening in the sunlight streaking through the windows, bone and pink muscle shimmering wet. It was very pleasant out, still hot enough that it mandated a swim when they’d returned home.

Revy turned around, and exited the room, flinging the broken door that gripped onto its hinges. A cool breeze jostled her tangled hair, the loose strands brushing her red cheeks. She shoved her cutlasses back in her holsters; cupping her hand over her eyes in the bright sun, and waved Dutch over, who had just walked up on their deck, cracking his knuckles.

"All set?" He asked after he jumped onto the trawler, water lapping at the sides of the boat, a calming scene, despite the blood dashed all over the deck. Seagulls flew overhead. His boots were heavy as he strutted calmly towards the cabin, not casting a glance to the bloodshed; following Revy inside the old structure. He was different today, even neglecting to join Revy in the bloodshed, as he'd sometimes do. But the people were easy to kill, and Revy didn't think much of it.

In fact, she's grateful for it. After leaving Balalaika, Revy quieted, her voice low and her eyes narrowed, like a teenager filled with angst. She'd sat in the backseat smoking cigarette after cigarette, hanging her hand out the window as she tossed them out after she was done, whether it was a cigarette butt or one half-done, she dropped them anyway. She needed to refill the lighter. Each cigarette was a gamble.

Dutch let it go, no longer talking to her head-on, allowing her a moment to blankly think in the wind that blew on her face. Benny cast a glance at her, and knew better, nodding his head in her general direction with his eyes on Dutch; like it was something she wouldn't notice.

Rock was the worst contender of all, his worried eyes on her, his general presence in a way being comforting, because where Balalaika was hard to point down, Rock at least didn't play games with her, as far as Revy knew. He reclined himself on the seats and smoked alongside her, nursing three cigarettes before they reached the PT boat.

"It's all clear," Revy forced a congenial expression on her face, but her guns were still warm beneath her arms and everyone was dead.

There were three wooden crates and one broken cooler, up against the walls of the cabin. Blood was flicked over them, shimmering off of the dark wood. The room itself was hot, the broken door only making it a bit more manageable. There were empty soda cans and crumpled bags of chips or candy thrown in one corner of the room, a rolled up dirty sweatshirt next to it.

Revy shoved the top off of one of the crates, the sound of it clattering echoing. Inside were plastic baggies of common herbs. The strong aroma of rosemary and mint had Revy's breath catching in her throat. The bags were all shoved into a too small container, the products heaving upward in the open air like lungs exhaling.

"Damn, they got saffron too." said Dutch from beside her, popping open another bloodied container, surveying the contents with a hidden intensity. God, did Revy want to pick his brain sometimes. She wondered if he actually had eyes; even Eda took her cheap sunglasses off, if only to clean them.

"What's so good about saffron?"

"Very expensive, that's what's good about it. Was never my favorite, though."

"Let's take that shit back with us. If they're not razed to the ground by time we get back, let's double the price of this shit and sell it right back to 'em." An ache of greed thrummed through her, they needed to maximize their profit, after all, if there was more money to be made then so be it. Money meant security, and the more of it the better, an invisible safety net. It meant more beer and cigarettes; and more heavenly power.

"Look here," Dutch called over, his hands deep inside a broken cooler. He stood up, baggies of mashed green herbs in his hands.

A pungent smell of marijuana washed over Revy, so strong it overpowered the rosemary. Oh, of fucking course. Revy could throw a stone and hit three drug dealers in Roanapur, the city itself appeared to be obsessed with it. In order to survive here, civilians had to engage in at least some crime, trying to come across as a good person made one a target. The easiest entrance was drugs. A most of that shit they sold was complete garbage.

"Oh, shit." Revy raised her eyebrows, eyes darting from Dutch to the container. He'd had a nose for these things, the ability to find some sort of contraband.

Silence spread between them, comfortably, as they looked through the items and the soft crinkles of plastic filling the air. Her tongue lied flat, dry in her mouth, and she had a crumpled cigarette shoved in her back pocket that was likely flat by now, but she could feel it burning through the denim, and she wished she had a lighter instinctively.

Most of the packages on top were common, alongside the rosemary and mint, was basil and other shit Revy couldn't recognize. Everyone in the apartment had some experience in cooking, but Revy had always survived on microwave meals or anything that wasn't rotten garbage.

"Hey, Revy."

Revy looked over her shoulder, blowing her bangs out of the way. "Yeah, Dutch?"

"You all right? You were pretty quiet after staying after to talk with Balalaika. Didn't want to ask in front of the guys."

But this couldn't be considered a question because he already knew she'd brush him off. But he waited patiently all the same, saying nothing more, allowing her to have a chance to gather her shivering thoughts.

Her shoulders tensed, and Revy hunched over the container, pausing as her fingers brushed a bag full of a familiar white substance, at the bottom. Her eyes averted back in front of her, back pointed at him, her ponytail slumped over her shoulder. "What's there to fuckin' say? Just about the shitshow in Japan. Nothing I haven't told you already."

Her tone is painfully casual, but Dutch doesn't reply right away, and she really wished he would say something, anything. A part of her wanted to say what had happened, to just get it off her chest, if anyone could keep a secret it was him, but then he'd know, and the thought of that made her chest hurt. Her heart raced between her ears, behind her eyes, like it could dim her vision.

"I'm-" Revy cut herself off, rubbing the back of her sweaty neck. He couldn't know. She felt nervous in a juvenile sort of way, and sometimes she thought Dutch could see the anxiety rolling off her rigid back. "You know how she is."

"Trust me, we all know. You think I didn't get a taste of her wrath when I was stitching her up? Never saw a woman so angry at getting a bullet taken out of her." Dutch chuckled, breaking the creeping silence in the room, and the sound of his returning to sifting through the cargo continued.

Revy found herself disliking Dutch for a brief second, knowing she'd never be intimately close to Balalaika like that, the woman wouldn't even let her close even if Revy tried, even if Revy spread herself in front of the blonde, if she jumped onto the desk and tugged Balalaika near her, enough for her breath to fan across her face and look into those dead blue eyes. It was something that was reserved for Dutch, because he saved her life, something Revy would never take from him.

"Speaking of, Balalaika is gonna have a fucking field day with this one," Revy interjected uneasily, even saying her name was heavy on her tongue, foreign, like a person she'd just met for the first time, as she was showing off the ounce of cocaine like it was a first-place trophy. "Yayo."

"Try not to use all of it before we get back," Dutch teased, mashing his cigarette underneath his boot, shaking a bag of marijuana at her.

Revy rolled her eyes, but a grin spread across her face. "Yeah, I'll try to hold myself back from these fucking things. But hey, if they had a whole package of cigarettes..."

He shrugged. "Balalaika wouldn't care. But as for the other drugs, let's pack a container and drag it with us."

They shuffled through the non-drug related herbs, tossing them onto the floor, the bags flopping onto the floor, grains spilling across the floor. The cooler was large enough and had edges on the sides that made it able to be picked up, and they loaded inside the marijuana and the coke. The amount of such nearly filled the container itself, and even with the effort to hide the items there was not a lot on the boat, but it was warning enough for Hotel Moscow.

"I'll get it," Revy mumbled, eyes downcast and her teeth grinding. Her voice was hard and she didn't have the energy to hide it. Her fingernails dug into the dirty white plastic of the handles, heaving it up easily, her knees bearing the strain.

The woman with the torn throat is inexplicably still alive, but her eyes are glazed over, and she's almost there. She's at a point where she can't move. Revy had glimpsed that, once. Spotting in and out, laying on the cold street after they were done with her, after they had confirmed among each other that she was dead.

The two of them stepped over the victim's stretched legs, one bent at an awkward angle from where she hit it when she fell. Three of her crew mates are sprawled in front of her, a cruel scene. Her hand still held onto her throat, but the grip is loosening. She's not dead, but there's time for that. A solid black mass of blood pooled around her body, like spilled ink. But her eyes followed them in the bright sunlight, a flame burning brightly.

"Your aim was a bit shaky, today." Dutch said, hopping onto their boat, readjusting his sunglasses.

"I’ll feel better once we’re paid." Revy muttered quietly, sweat running down her back. Her fingers clenched around the handles on the cooler, arms tensing. She tossed the cooler into the boat before she did, the container thumping down, the lid flopping open and then shut.

It wasn’t, and there’d be more days to come, Revy realized, more days where she’d see Balalaika; if the woman herself wasn’t a grim reminder before, now she was, all flesh and blood and fearfulness.

Balalaika’s lips were pale and bloodless that night, when Revy had her in her arms for the brief moment, when she stared at the blonde’s face like she’d never seen a human face before. Balalaika’s half-shut lids were puffy, and the worst part was that she had returned Revy’s stare, face slack like a corpse.

Chapter Text

"Oh, wow." Benny put his hands on his hips as Revy knocked the top of the cooler off. They had hauled it into the cabin of the PT boat, just as Revy's arms were beginning to strain from the ridiculous weight. "Can I say that sorta expected that?"

"I was just thinking fucking weed. But everybody has to have coke now." Revy muttered, pawing through the contents, raising a small baggie of the white substance and dangling it in front of her, eyebrow raised. She scratched the back of her head.

"Well, skinny is in fashion nowadays." Benny replied, shrugging. He looked over at Dutch, who leaned against the doorway, nursing a cigarette. "Does this mean we're going after the second boat?"

"I'd wait for the okay from Balalaika. Who knows what she has in store for them?" Dutch chuckled, as he tapped the ash off of his cigarette.

Benny shook his head, rubbing a hand over his stubble. He then lit his own cigarette, the lighter taking a few flicks to reveal a bright flame, the edge of the cigarette turning red. Chin jutting to support the cigarette, a muffled snicker came from him. "Ha, poor bastards."

Finding a few bags of saffron shoved underneath an ounce of marijuana, Revy glanced up and crookedly grinned at Dutch. Blowing out a long stream of smoke, he gestured his hand holding the half-finished cigarette at her in return, pointing it at the faded white cooler. But, therein lied the question of who the fuck would buy it.

"It wouldn't be that bad, would it? Although, why would I even ask that, Ms. Balalaika is all about examples." Rock entered the room, hand wrapped around a lukewarm beer, the other hand in his pocket. His dress shirt was crumpled and his tie askew, his hair flattened to his skull, sweat on his temples. He looked at the three of them with an expectant look, taking a small sip, before his mouth dropped a bit. "Are those all drugs?"

"No. Some shit called saffron, too. Anyone know who the fuck would buy this?" Revy replied, shaking a small bag at them, back bent over her crossed legs, an elbow resting on her knee.

Benny and Dutch both chuckled around their cigarettes, while Rock had an affectionate look in his eyes, swaying the beer bottle back and forth, the liquid twisting slowly inside the glass bottle. Revy's eyes narrowed, and she slumped over more, clenching the bag so hard she could feel the tiny grains through the plastic.

"No clue," Rock stated, after pondering for a brief moment, chewing the inside of his cheek. His eyes darted to the ceiling, like he was genuinely thinking. Even after the kiss, she didn't want Rock to look at her like that. Not after the kiss attempt in Japan, because the dumbass didn't even bother to mention the kiss. Like it was something he didn't want to touch, he didn't want to ruin the strange relationship they had between them; balancing on a fucked-up scale.

Benny yawned, stretching his arms over his body. "Alright, I'm heading back to take the helm. We'll be back at Roanapur in an hour. Get comfy, people."

"Thank fuck," Revy tossed the saffron on the floor next to the cooler. She rubbed her eyes, tiredly, fingertips patting the puffiness beneath them.

"Something keeping you up, Benny?" Rock cocked an eyebrow playfully, brushing his wet hair out of his eyes. Revy groaned quietly, annoyed, collecting the rest of the spice out of the container, dropping them on the ground beside her crossed legs.

"Oh, ha, ha." Benny said in mock annoyance, a satisfied grin on his face, and walked off, continuing to stretch his arms out behind him. He hummed the disco song they had heard earlier than day, not sing, as Benny was a known butcher of lyrics. Dutch followed, chucking the remains of his cigarette into the garbage bin that someone needed to empty, and preferably someone who would do it sooner than later, and Revy imagined it would be any of the guys, because she was the only person on this boat who could pretend not to smell the old food shoved in there.

Revy uncrossed her legs and made it over the grey bench lining the wall. The backs of her thighs hit the cold cushion, a welcome difference in temperature from the heat lying in wait outside. It was a sudden shock regardless, and Revy gritted her teeth as she got comfortable. She flopped listlessly onto her back, taking up the entire bench, one leg dangling off of it, heel of her boot scraping the ground.

The boat thrummed steadily as it began to move through the water, the slow pull dragging Revy to a point of such known contentment; the need for a nap growing. Rock sat down on the one across from hers, reclining easily, letting out a breath of relief. Taking another sip of his beer, he laid his head against the wall and shut his eyes. "Feel any better?"

His tone was more polite than it should have been. His hand loosened around the beer, setting it beside himself, though he had the neck of the beer between his thumb and pointer finger. His legs spread ever so slightly, and his torso was utterly bared to her.

"The fuck you mean?" Revy barked, more harshly then she intended, her head snapping up to glare blearily in his direction.

"Since Japan, you've been-"

"Yeah, since Japan."

He swallowed, and then continued as if she hadn't interrupted. He cracked open an eye at her, eyebrow shooting up. "You've been a lot more irritable lately. Thought maybe a job that involved solving problems with a gun would have helped you feel better."

"Fuck, yeah, I'm fine, Rock. It's the fucking heat and I've got a hangover from last night, okay? Just drop it." She replied quickly, her words fighting to keep from stumbling over each other.

A few minutes passed by slowly, dreadfully so. Rock didn't get up to leave and Revy was too comfortable to even lift her head up, and she shut her eyes. Her arm fell limp off of the side of the bench, knuckles touching the metal ground, the coolness giving a blessed distraction. But he was there, so close, intolerably so, with his torso lean from the constant action it took to keep himself alive. He was closer than Balalaika was, and thoughts of his hand on her hip this morning, after that dream she had- a unwanted need throbbed through her, and unconsciously brought her thighs closer together.

"Are you still workin' with Chang?" Revy muttered tiredly, running a sweaty hand down her face. There wasn't a lot of opportunities of conversation lately, with Revy herself being too stubborn and Rock being swept up with Roanapur, his slow climb to the top rightfully being on his priority list.

"Yeah. But it is more keeping the peace than anything else. Usually trying to deal with the more brutal methods of running the city from the other groups in power."

"Those Italians?"

"And Hotel Moscow. You wouldn't believe how much they hate each other. It's like a continuous game of them trying to one-up another." Rock stated matter-of-factly, sipping his beer, at this point was nearing the gross-warm stage. She heard him let out a disgusted sigh, and the click of the beer being set down by his feet.

"Oh, shit. I forgot the ol' brace face was in charge." Revy snickered, laying her fingers over her eyes, blocking out the sunlight that streamed in through the windows, her thumb resting on her cheekbone.

A humored sigh came from Rock. “Yeah, he’s... he’s really different from Verrocchio… he’s calmer but he’s still thoughtless. And violent. Chang can barely keep Ms. Balalaika from tearing his throat out.”

An image of Chang’s arm wrapped around Balalaika’s waist, and she tried to claw at Ronnie’s terribly smirking face conjured in Revy’s mind. He’s pulling her close to him. There was a pang in her heart, and a nauseous feeling in her stomach. “Wonder how fucked up his teeth are.”

“From what people say, he was still nicknamed ‘the Jaws’ before the braces. He allegedly had a boneyard of a mouth.”

“At least we know his actual name.” Revy uttered, her eyes squinting shut, her fingers moving to massage her temples.

“If it makes you feel any better, I don’t know Chang’s either. Why, did Balalaika do something when you were alone together?” Rock inquired, his tone indicating he was suddenly very interested, the relaxed slur of his words gone. He enjoyed seeing the gears turn in Revy’s brain, the scrunched look she gave giving it away. She was too goddamn emotion, especially around him.

“She didn’t toss me onto a fucking car, at least. Thank Christ for that.” Her patience is exiting her body very, very rapidly.

“I recall her shooting you.” Quietly, Rock specified, and she heard him take another loud gulp of beer, not even masking his sensation of fear.

Revy sat up, slowly, heaving her torso heavy from drowsiness. Her eyes snapped open, pupils dilating from the intrusion of light. “What?”

Rock was silent. But his gaze was hard, and darker, like she saw before when he dealt with Garcia, like he was a goddamn predator for once. There was a twisted expression on his face then, one of a man who was just so so close to touching the underworld, getting a taste of what promises it could bring.

“What?” Revy repeated. “No, let me hear you. The fuck you say?”

“Revy. I’m just saying she shot you, that’s it. I was worried for you. Couldn’t you tell?” Rock hesitated, his eyes softening a bit, but whatever lurked behind his eyes remained.

They didn’t speak for the forty minutes left before they reached Roanapur. It was uncomfortable, the air heavy between them, and Rock, with his eyes averted, seemed to have known. Guiltily, he didn’t say anything for the duration of the ride. Revy had laid back down, and shut her eyes tightly, but the anger bubbled in her chest, every inch of her body tense and pissed. Her guns had been set on the floor next to the five bags of saffron, and leather holsters flopped pathetically on top one another. She ground her teeth, lying in wait for sleep to come to her, to take a break from this world where Rock was getting braver and braver, until he broke and decided to wrap his fingers around the sensitive center of the wretched city and give it a tug.

Would any of the syndicates know what was happening? He was slithering his way into the god graces of everyone, but everything gets out at some point.

Ambiance of Benny and Dutch chatting made the situation less awkward, but Rock stayed where he sat the entire voyage.

A film of sweat clung to the parts of her that were stuck to the bench, the backs of her thighs being the worse offender. Her hand had flopped back down and traced the floor, moving her fist in slow circles, her legs opening as she gave into forced relaxation, a lie of oh-whatever to broadcast to an unconvinced Rock.

The boat pulled to a slow stop next to the makeshift dock Dutch had putted up, the men are thrown in a cheap float-able dock while Dutch was still planning the actual, real dock he wanted, because he despised one that floated, he preferred something stuck in the ground, not matter how Benny tried to debate him on that.

She’d trained herself to wake up once the boat bobbed gently in place, when the engine came to a purr, and a great amount of effort had Revy heave herself up, rubbing her eyes, knuckles brushing the bruised sides of her nose. The nap did absolutely nothing; she tilted her head towards the ceiling and staggeringly yawned.

It was a dreamless sleep. Looking over to the other bench, she saw that it was empty.

“Revy, mind grabbing the cooler again?” Dutch said over his shoulder, as he headed to the outside of the boat. “Balalaika’s here and I just gotta exchange a few words with her. As for you, I’d like you to bring the proof.”

Shit.

“What the fuck is she doing here?” Revy’s clenched her jaw so it wouldn’t drop. She stood up, wrenching her arms above her head, her bones popping as she stretched. Yawning again, she turned expectantly toward his back.

Dutch stepped out into the hot air before replying. “You know, the drugs we discovered?”

There wasn’t anything to complain about. The order had been given and Revy had to obey.

Revy staggered over to the cooler, reaching down and snapping the stained cover on, the clicking echoing through the empty vessel. Benny and Rock must have already left.

She slid the holsters up her arms, before she touched the cooled metal of her guns and put them back in her rightful place, the weight both familiar and soothing. They’d been used, and underneath all of the newfound misery, Revy was satisfied.

The handles were still sweaty under her hands, the cuts made into the plastic biting into her palms. Revy heaved the cooler up the stairs, the hot air unwelcome in her face. The wetness of the sweat in the small of her back felt miserable, and the remaining sunburn she had was tingling.

The stairs were steeper to climb with the additional heavy weight, which was funny within itself, there were so many fucking drugs it was heavy.

She squinted her eyes in the sunshine, a flash of light dancing across her vision. Dutch had readied the boat in the harbor and hopped onto the bobbing dock, a sheen of sweat on his scalp. Benny and Rock were there as well; Benny fanning himself with paperwork, eyes shut with misery. Rock had his hands in his pockets, and as Dutch walked past him, he went alongside him, towards the dark car parked out in the asphalt.

Rock didn’t spare a glance. They were all so casual; Revy could not comprehend why they didn’t truly look at Balalaika, look at the way she was, the way she moved.

“Ass,” Revy muttered, low enough that none of them heard.

It was five o’clock, and the sun had yet to set. It still hung menacingly in the sky; the wind nonexistent. Revy jumped off of the boat and heavily hit the ground, the top of the cooler bouncing in place. Her boots thumped on the ground and she leaned backwards to support the container, and slowly paced behind the two of them, sweat beading in her eyebrows.

It was so hot that Balalaika reclined against the car door, without her infamous coat. Her suit jacket was only buttoned twice, but she was still in her full professional look. Boris as well, his face unreadable and he stood straight by the hood of the car, hands beside him. They both looked milky pale in the sunlight, making their scars noticeable by a mile, the pink stretch of tissue on alabaster.

Dutch and Rock stood before her, exchanging pleasantries that Revy couldn’t hear. The more steps she took towards the car the more she wanted to run into the sea, tossing the drugs behind her. Balalaika didn’t even look at her. In the sun her hair was golden, brighter and shining more than Benny’s thick, unbrushed hair that he’d tie out of the way, instead of cutting it. Revy on more than one occasion wanted to cut it off in the middle of the night, just to see how he’d react.

“Ah, right on cue.” Dutch observed, as Revy dropped the cooler onto the black asphalt. There was a sensation of heat soaking up into the thick soles of her boots. There was another cigarette in his mouth, and he pulled out another from his pocket and handed it to Revy. She averted her eyes to the cigarette, digging in her back pocket for the lighter, and sucked the cigarette as she pressed a flame to the end.

In her focused vision on the lighter she could blurrily see the red of Balalaika’s getup, the long legs clad in proper tights. Revy scuffed her boot along the ground, shifting her footing.

“Drugs? Really.” Balalaika stated coldly, hands on her hips, shoulders square. She was standing as a commanding officer, chin raised and eyes ordering.

“Surprised?” Rock interjected, his hands relaxing in her pockets, the heat making him rash.

“Hardly.” Balalaika shut her eyes and sighed, an annoyed pull of her lips. “That’s all anyone sells nowadays. This is getting boring.

Her eyes opened and they traveled up Revy in a quick, flitting way. Like she was deep in thought. Revy stood up straight, posture matching Balalaika’s loosely, hands by her sides, in loose fists. Taking in a deep pull of her cigarette, Revy suppressed a pissed groan. She was a damn mess; mussed hair and covered in sweat and specks of dried blood or dirt.

“What’s the verdict on these guys?” Dutch asked.

“I’ll decide later. I’ve got to make an example, as is the custom. Send a few men… this and that. I’ve got other, more pressing to deal with, first.” Balalaika squinted her eyes in the sun, as if wilting under it. Her upper chest and cheeks were lightly flushed from the sun. She appeared more of a corpse than ever; the visage of a woman who didn’t go out for walks outside often. Even in the humidity, she had an aura of grace about her, and there wasn’t a drop of sweat on her.

“Keep us in the loop. We can always hit the second boat if they don’t pay attention.” Dutch told the blonde, nodding to Boris as well.

Boris was silent, but not out of spite or pride.

“You’ll have your pay by tonight, plus some for bringing this… evidence back.” Balalaika pointed the toe of her black pump at the cooler, the top cracked open, the stink of marijuana seeping into the air. Boris descended upon the container, snapping the lid closed and picking it up with no effort, walking slowly to the trunk.

“Thank you, we’ll keep in touch.” Dutch replied, pushing his glasses up with his pointer finger. He dropped his cigarette and smashed it underneath his boot. 

“Anyway, I should be going.” Balalaika dragged the word out. Her right hand twitched, folding in on itself, a sign Revy could read as a desperate want for a cigar. “Thanks for the offer of help, Two Hands. If I need it, I’ll call you later this week.”

Boris popped the trunk open smoothly; placing the cooler with a rare gentleness inside, it just managed to fit. The trunk was larger than it looked, for good reason.

“Huh?” Revy snapped to attention, and Dutch titled his head in interest. Rock had the same look of confusion on his face. Boris’ eyes shifted to Balalaika, but was impassive.

“Oh, sorry. She didn’t tell you? Revy offered to help with a menial job. I keep telling her it’s water under the bridge about Japan, but… you know how it is.” Balalaika commanded, with little room for Revy to interrupt.

Revy swallowed, eyes narrowing. All eyes on her. She licked her chapped lips, running her tongue over the bottom lip. She glanced over at the two men and then back at Balalaika, eyes wide. “I... I...”

“I, I, what? If you changed your mind, no harm, no foul.” Balalaika replied easily, a placid look on her face. She gave her own version of a distasteful smile, but there was no hidden malice in it.

Yeah, I’ll be there. As long as we ain’t got a job or some shit like that,” Revy shoved her hands in her pockets and her eyes dropped to the ground, chewing on her lip. She wanted to look annoyed at doing work, actual work that didn’t involve dead people, but in reality, she was fucking scared shitless and her hands shook, so she hid them fast.

“Good to hear.” Balalaika waved a hand dismissively. She didn’t look bothered at all, in fact she enjoyed Revy’s misery. Her eyes sagged in exhaustion; any expression she’d have never met her eyes. Only fury ever made its appearance.

Balalaika took a few steps away from the car door, as Boris swept in to open the door for her. She was closer to Revy now, but also closer to Dutch. If Revy reached out, fingers outstretched, then she’d brush Balalaika’s suit jacket, bumping over the buttons. Her cleavage was achingly there, and Revy in vain, tried to move her gaze elsewhere, settling on the sky above Balalaika’s blonde head. Revy was equal parts terrified and intrigued. The menial job may just be a euphemism for getting her fingernails pulled out, however it was an interesting idea. She'd have to think it over.

The blonde moved to sit in the car. Her tone was pleasant and firm. “Talk to you later, Dutch.”

“See you later, call me if anything changes about the spice company.” Another cigarette was in Dutch’s mouth, and he held his palm out to Revy, who placed the lighter in his hand.

“I will.”

Boris shut her door with a solid thump, and he walked around to the driver’s seat, and wordlessly slid in, before nodding to the three of them. The car startled to life, the doors clicked as they locked up and the windows were tightly sealed. Balalaika’s head turned to Boris, a muffled conversation in Russian could be heard, as Boris shifted into drive and they left the parking lot.

“What menial job?” Dutch cautioned. His voice was low, low enough that Revy would think she was in trouble.

“I have no fucking clue. Ugh, I didn’t think she’d...” Revy paused. She dropped the butt of her cigarette onto the ground, then ground her boot into it. “She’d actually take me up on it. I was just trying to get into Fry Face’s good graces, is all. Man, does she fucking hate me.”

“Good luck,” Rock started, pushing his hair out of his tired, reddened face. His eyes followed the Hotel's car as it took a right turn and disappeared from view. He didn't contribute much but was contently listening, prepared to mull over the interaction for hours after it was done.

"I'll need it." Revy muttered tiredly, dreaming of a cold shower and her dark bedroom.

Chapter Text

Six days passed through the sleepy heat before Balalaika called.

In those six days, Revy spent most of her time helping fix the dock, watching lazily from the shore as the pillars were pushed deep into the earth. She'd help nail planks together, while Dutch got immense satisfaction from watching the floating dock get dragged away. They received their payment like Balalaika promised. To Revy's horror, the company did the proper thing and paid rent, and for the construction of the dock, instead of more alcohol and ammunition. She finished two packs of cigarettes in a day; her appetite returned, having her raid the fridge in the middle of the night.

She laid in the sun like a dead sunfish, limbs spread, feeling the hot sun just on her, tanning her sunscreen slick body until she grew sick and jumped into the ocean. That was her exercise routine. Swimming until her legs were lead and her lungs began to burn. Rock would join her, more recreational in his activities, doing a doggy paddle beside her. Jane visited; she and Benny would venture out at dusk to the sea, just as everyone else would head inside.

Then, Dutch went inside to answer the phone, and ten minutes later walked out, chuckling, and Revy knew what was happening.

In the past few days Revy stuck to her ratty swimsuits, and the most dread she felt was eventually, she'd have to wear actual clothes again. And here she was, wearing actual clothes, being called into Hotel Moscow, wondering if she'll ever make it out alive again. The jean shorts felt heavy on her hips, and the back of her neck threatened to sunburn.

The room Revy entered had an ancient fan shaking as it spun, and it did nothing to quell the high temperature of the room. It was up the stairs but on the other side of the building. Boris had assured her that the kapitan was in one of the meeting rooms spread across the building. He didn't mention what it was for.

"The AC's broken in here." Balalaika said over her shoulder. Her suit jacket was gone, it slung over one of the chairs in the meeting room, on top of her military coat. A cell phone was to her ear, and piles of documents were spread out across the table, a pen in her other hand, tapping on the wood insistently. She turned to greet Revy, and so did the whiteness of her blouse, stretched across her chest and tight around her waist. Revy widened her eyes at the sight, like she stumbled upon the blonde naked.

"Hi, Sis. Yeah, fuck, it's boiling in here." Revy nodded vigorously, hands on her hips and she couldn't fucking stop looking at the Russian.

"It is. But where you'll be will be cooler, okay? Follow me. I did not expect you to come so early." Balalaika pulled her eyes away, a muted surprised expression replaced with a humorous one. Her cheeks were flushed, a soft pink, like she was a real woman and not the corpse she was becoming. She fanned herself with a folder as Revy shuffled after her, hands in her jean pockets like she wasn't supposed to touch anything. Across from where Balalaika had her setup was another room, with a large doorway. In both rooms there were wood accents and tan carpets and eggshell walls; rooms that spoke of business, wiped clean of personality.

Inside the second room, the table was quite large, enough for three chairs to comfortably be on either side of it, spread evenly. There were three small windows, one of which had a rattling air conditioner, a sad one from the seventies that refused to die out, and the room was a few degrees cooler than the one that lead into it. Seven medium-sized boxes sat on the floor, empty. On the table, however, was the most jarring thing in the otherwise boring room. Piles and piles of adult films, most in DVDs but a sizable amount of VHS tapes stacked on the wooden table. Countless covers of neon words splashed across naked people of every color and shape were crammed together.

"Not what you were expecting?" Balalaika teased, raising an eyebrow slyly.

"I didn't know what the fuck to expect, Sis." Revy laughed airily. This was what her morning was going to be. Sneezing over dusty porn while Balalaika was preparing for a business meeting. Just a mere few feet away from her, and they were all alone. It sounded like a really, really funny story to tell in the future, but presently Revy wanted to punch through drywall.

"Pretty straightforward. I need this done quick, we need to ship these out today to our two distributors. I've been... slacking on this, to say the least." Balalaika pointed at the videos and then to the cardboard, cell phone in her other hand. "The men'll be here in four hours to pick these up and get them out of my sight."

"Uhm, fuck, okay." Her mouth twitched in distaste.

"For.. payment? Take a few of the ones you like. I don't know-" Balalaika turned into her cell, before she rapidly descended into Russian. The words blended into each other, and they became white noise.

Revy kicked the first box closer to the table and began stacking the videos as neatly as she could, nails catching on ripped covers and cut edges of the DVD cases. Very passive aggressive ways of Balalaika stating she couldn't give two shits about these items she was selling. But it became automatic, mechanical, to drop the contents and organize them to lay on top of each other to the best of Revy's ability. Her mind drifted off and Balalaika's voice became soothing almost; it dropping into a lethal murmur.

The cell phone clicked shut in Balalaika's grasp, and the blonde peered into the room. Smoke was escaping out of her mouth as she sucked on her cigar. "How is it going?"

"I, have a question." Revy placed her palms on her hips and took in the sight of all of the contents. "Which one of these have you edited?"

"A third, perhaps? All the minutes I spent of my life on that damn computer have all blurred together. Thank god," Balalaika muttered. "I don't remember all that footage I had to sit through."

"Wow, a fucking third? Can you tell which ones?" Revy grunted as she stacked VHS's with torn covers into the second box. She blew her tangled hair out of her face as she raised her head to look at Balalaika, as she bent down.

Balalaika peered over the piles of DVD's and even a few VHS tapes scattered on the table. "No. But what I did edit is not Oscar-worthy. You wouldn't be able to tell it from the rest of this trash."

"Did you edit this one? It's... Russian, right?" The Russian title looked like a forbidden language in some cheap adventure film. Revy had always considered it a language she'd never want to sit through and learn. Now she was tempted.

"Mhm." Balalaika said into her cigar.

"What's it say?"

Balalaika took a defeated sigh and depressingly stared at it. "It says... ugh, Messy for Fitness."

"Can you.. say it in Russian?" The conversation over the phone had piqued Revy's interest. She felt sweaty, suddenly, and a yearning, because it was like Balalaika's voice would drop an octave and become rough and smooth at the same time. In Russian it sounded like the blonde was saying something of utmost importance.

"Gryaznyy dlya fitnesa. And don't ask me to translate the description."

She would have had a pleasured gasp escape her lips if she wasn't grinding her teeth. The words didn't sound so depraved in the blonde's native language, if anything it sounded more alluring. "That's kinda sick, being two understand to two wayyy different languages. All I speak is east coast English."

"English was not the easiest to learn, but it was expected of me." Balalaika replied, returning to scrutinizing her paperwork. For business? How was learning English helpful in Afghanistan? Revy never considered who Balalaika was before the war. If she was a girl like Revy, roaming the streets in a ratty hoodie, or another creature entirely. The blonde took a minute to digest the joke. "I suppose... east coast English is better then no English at all."

The next thirty minutes was the two of them silently working on their separate tasks, the air filled with plastic on plastic and Balalaika's frantic Russian and the shuffling of papers. Revy sneaked glances back at the blonde, her tall form illuminated by the afternoon sunlight. Her long hair shined and her legs are long. Suddenly, it dawned over Revy on why her men are so fanatical about her. Wasn't just her skill, but her beauty. Underneath the reminders of her service.

After every phone call Balalaika would sigh, or even swear. Her hand would run through her hair, frowning or her eyes narrowing. She burned through her first cigar and started another one, the scuff of a match catching on fire drawing Revy's cigarette-deprived attention away from the DVDs. The lull in conversation would have normally made Revy uncomfortable, but Balalaika didn't mind it, as she was content to do her own work, and left Revy to do her own.

Respecting that, Revy did the same, until she remembered what Balalaika took part in.

"Not even this one?" Revy waved one at the blonde. The image showed a shocked, nude young man up against a shower wall, with shadows of three men looming over him. A smirk played on Revy's face, bravely shaking it at her.

"Well.. maybe." Balalaika crinkled her brow in thought. She suddenly had a look over extreme focus on her, like she was actively searching for something. She fluttered her eyelashes and poked her cheek with her pointer finger mockingly. The blonde stood near the entrance of the room, shifting her weight on one leg to the next.

Revy's heart skipped a beat at her expression. Her jaw went slack. Eyes darting back to the cover art, a nervous laugh bubbling out of her. "Holy shit, Maybe?!"

"No, I am joking, I'd never go near editing stuff like that."

Revy clicked her mouth shut. She sucked her lips in, and fought a uncharacteristic giggle. Balalaika, joking, in such a way that didn't involve somebody's head on a platter was, as Revy admitted to herself, interesting.

"I'm surprised you guys even have fag shit." She ungracefully tossed the DVD into one of the boxes. Revy gathered three in her hand, stacking them into the cardboard box, shuffling the DVD she thrown into a neat pile. "You guys stay pretty conservative, right? I mean, taking it up the ass, yeah, but not.. obscure shit, right?"

"Not necessarily all of it, but a large amount is.. what you'd normally expect. That's all I edit, anyway."

"Any recommendations?" Revy said carefully, guiding her eyes to Balalaika, a joking tone attempting to ease the rudeness of the question. Humor crept into her tone, a smile tugging at the edge of her lips. She continued her work, bending over, consciously feeling Balalaika's eyes on her.

"Weren't you interested in that video?" Balalaika lowered the cigar from her lips and leaned against the dark wood of the doorway, a fake puzzled expression on her face.

"Holy fucking shit, no."

Balalaika paused, eyes on the yellowed ceiling lights. "To be frank, I have no suggestions for you."

The blonde twisted away as her cell phone began to ring shrilly, rolling her eyes with an infamous sigh as she pressed it to her ear. She walked away from the doorway, pacing as she responded harshly in Russian, her tone changing from cordial to threatening, cigar caught loosely between her lips. With the cell trapped between her ear and shoulder, she picked up a stapled pile of papers and read the first page.

Balalaika was cut off in the middle of her sentence, and then cut off again. Her voice became more venomous and cold, her accent becoming thicker, and Revy quietly placed a VHS into the box to hear her sharp tone. A man on the line blustered loudly, so loud Revy could hear the tinny sound of a deep-voiced Russian. Balalaika chuckled icily, and snapped the cell phone shut with a satisfying clat.

Revy hid her disappointment.

She locked the cell in her fist and slammed it onto the table, hissing out a breath, tightening her grip. The blonde smoked her cigar, and swiped her wrist across her forehead. "That man should be working on his will right about now. Oh, this damn heatwave."

"Hey.. if you wanted to, you could sit here and do your paperwork." Revy stated. A rare shred of kindness wormed its way into her heart. She picked up a DVD without looking at it, saying the words as neutrally as possible, like she couldn't give a shit about whether Balalaika sat next to her or not. But, she did care. More than she'd like to admit. "It's fucking hot out there, wanna come and enjoy the AC?"

The fan rattled pathetically on the ceiling the adjacent room, proving its point; Balalaika shrugged to herself. Anger washed out of her. "Are you sure, Two Hands?"

The question was removed and casual, but there was a degree of hesitation in the blonde's voice, like she was convincing herself. Revy nodded to the chair beside her, as she dropped two more DVDs into the last box, it near unable to be closed properly with tape, but that wasn't Revy's problem. The boxes filled with the material sagged, as if they never envisioned this sort of delivery was what they were meant for.

Revy gave a once over the few remaining DVDs. There were covers of busty women with open mouths, imposing men flexing, two twins posing side by side, and a couple of the male prison genre. A majority of them, like the blonde had stated, were more of the same, guy on girl. As far as Hotel Moscow was willing to go for profit, there wasn't a lot of rare fetishes in the pornography they sold.

And, she said Revy was allowed to take one, or how many she wanted. Revy's room already looked like a bachelor's pad, with dirty magazines shoved under the mattress, so she decided on one special disc.

Just as Balalaika had gathered the few documents and entered the tan room, Revy had chosen her DVD, just one that caught her attention, and shoved it into a broken plastic bag that had one handle torn. Balalaika's heels sounded sharp on the carpet, her pencil skirt shifting around her thighs and wide hips. Revy's eyes flickered up the blonde's body as secretively as she could, until she came up to the painfully tight white blouse Balalaika wore, the low cut not helping anything. She wished that Balalaika was wearing the suit jacket.

Balalaika slid into a chair farthest away from where Revy was finishing up, spreading the papers across the desk, bringing the ashtray near to her. The blonde rubbed her temples, the air in the room ruffling the loose hair strands. Her eyes slid shut, squeezing. With a breath she opened them, knocking the ash off of her cigar, and then returning to scribbling over the documents.

The videos on the table was a fourth of what it once was, clearing off a majority of the table. Balalaika snapped her head up and looked at the remains, inquisitively. A VHS had ended up near her, scattered away from the others. She picked it up slowly, her long nails scratching as they curled underneath the paper cover.

"I'm going to have to edit more of this, unless I get around to hiring someone."

"I can't help you there, Sis. Fuck, I know shit about computers. I mean, don't you like just... fuck, sitting down and not having to do anything?" Revy paused what she was doing and wandered over to Balalaika, nervously. Her boots shuffled across the carpet and she stopped right behind Balalaika, peering over her shoulder.

The blonde patted the seat next to her. Revy's sweat hand wrapped around a wooden beam of the chair and dragged it backwards, awkwardly sitting into it without touching her. She was close enough to notice her biceps through the long sleeves of the blouse, the cuff-links that glittered dimly in the light, and Revy gathered as much of herself as she could to keep away from Balalaika.

"It is all the same. Sitting there. Some desperate fool is looking to get fucked, and it doesn't matter which way it goes or whatever the hell they do... it's like watching reruns. Again and again. Agonizing." The way Balalaika pronounced fucked, made Revy ache, an ache that made her want to tug on Balalaika's long blonde hair and drag her to her mouth. Maybe coax the Russian into sitting on her lap, but the height difference would make it difficult, to say the least. However, there was forever the warning of Balalaika bashing her skull in with one of the ratty VHSs lying around.

Revy swallowed, praying for it to not be audible, and tried to envision sitting with Eda doing this, and instead of doing any actual work, would gawk at the cover art. She'd visited Eda once this week, and they'd sat outside on the sidewalk and drank beers. They were bored out of their skulls, and were hoping to get drunk; to stagger around the city, shooting at anyone who looked at them wrong.

She tried in vain to not stare too much at the nun. Mentally she was taking notes of the similarities. Eda had the blue eyes, but without the emptiness inside them; long blonde hair, but straight when Balalaika's was thick waves. She was tall, a few inches taller than Revy, but she wasn't the near six-foot the Russian was in her heels. Their body types were similar but Eda wasn't as curvaceous as the other, and the most obviously was the lack of scars Revy wanted to run her tongue over.

Once properly drunk to give her enough leeway, Revy in a fit of surprising rage, yanked Eda's hair to bare the woman's tanned throat, to maybe bite into her pulse, and her mouth filled with saliva, but she let it go a second later, guilt like bile in her throat. "Fuck you, Eda, fucking cunt." You're not her you're not her you're not her.

"What the hell?" Eda snapped, pushing Revy roughly, her palm on her sternum. Revy landed hard against a brick wall, scratching her shoulder blades.

Revy shook her head, ripping herself from the drunken nightmare; turning her head and noticing Balalaika's striking gaze. It was different than Eda's too, on the rare occasions Revy could see the nun's eyes. Even their mere presences were opposites. She swallowed, and leaned back on the chair, legs spreading slightly, masking her idiotic actions as her typical self, but in such a miserable way. "So, ah, this shit doesn't- in general, I mean- bores the hell outta you?"

"Well, Two Hands. We all have something that makes our blood run hot." The cool air in the small room had removed the flush from Balalaika's face. It returned to it's pale shade, so light it made Revy even darker in comparison. The fading sunburn on Revy's face didn't dull the warmth that spread across her neck and cheeks.

"You'd actually have a suggestion for me, then." Revy didn't want to phrase it as a question. She wanted an answer and needed it now. She straightened herself, making her body as big as possible, chest out and back straight, matching Balalaika's perfect posture.

"Don't push it." Balalaika's reply was ragged, tired, and her cigar was two thirds from being finished. The ashtray was moved towards her, and she tapped the cigar, the ash sprinkling over the rainbow-reflecting glass. Her cigar was then instantly back in her mouth again, like a starving man to food. She didn't look back at Revy, not even a polite glance, her elbow on the table, holding the cigar between two long fingers.

Revy dreamed of a cigarette. Tauntingly, she thought of the pack she left in the passenger seat. Licking her lips, she pondered her options; whether to push her luck or stay silent, or change the subject. She could take in the view of the mob boss without that suit jacket, to see her arms flex underneath the blouse. To be sitting next to her, while dealing with the distance between them.

Chapter Text

Fuck, please. "Do... you wanna see what I chose?"

"You only chose one video," Balalaika's voice sounded dry. It was only a few words, but it was sharp like a blade. "You could have gotten more if you liked. God knows there's enough."

"I don't need any more of this porno crap. Benny's got a whole fucking shelf of it stashed in his room. Not that he needs it, he's got that whore as his girlfriend. Fuck, I should open up a porn store with all the shit he has. He's got Playboy glossies, from the fucking seventies." Revy laughed out of nowhere, a deep chest one that shook her rib cage, and she wrapped her arms around her stomach, shaking. Benny treated his collection like all he had was limited edition, copies of men getting fellatio while at their desks or aliens invading a fair maiden's room.

Balalaika cocked a small smile, her eyes stayed distant and fixed on the far wall. Smoke pooled from between her pink lips, her lipstick faded. Her shoulders slumped a bit, back bent. She supported her head with her other hand; it balled into a fist underneath her chin.

"Well, do you? Since you got time to kill... you could guess what it is?" Revy baited, widening her eyes and delicately leaning towards the blonde, carefully like circling a predator.

"Alright, I'll bite." Balalaika sniffed and turned her head so she was facing Revy full frontal, her face turned towards her openly, and Revy shrank back. She tapped more ash off of her cigarette, and her eyes scanned Revy, chewing on the inside of her cheek. The blonde had an amused expression on her face, having gotten out of the daze she was in. She looked Revy slowly up and down, decoding her.

Revy averted her eyes, feeling like some dead thing under a microscope, a blood cell squished between glass sheets. The icy air conditioning might as well not be there, Revy was sweating bullets anyway. "Fuck, well?"

"Something... masochistic or sadistic. S&M?" Balalaika asked, head tilting, glancing at the plastic bag hiding the evidence. Her earlier smile turned cold. The cigar was back in her mouth, smoke wafting in Revy's general direction.

"Where'd you get that from?" She knew where the blonde got it from, but she wanted to play dumb. Rowan was a perverted idiot, sure, but he had an empire, a one that's always been long disrespected, but he paid decent. To her, at least. No one wanted to deal with the wrath of Two Hands.

"In my few visits with that damned pimp Rowan," Balalaika spat out his name. "He mentioned you.. huh, I can't recall. Jog my memory, would you?"

"A dominatrix..." Revy gritted out, a glare striking across her face, her blush deepening. Her eyes were alive with anger and she dug her nails into her palms until the pain was a calming distraction. She receded into her chair, like she'd been open-handed slapped. She truly, utterly, walked right into this one. Balalaika was too sharp to play games.

"Ah, yes, that. Hurting teen girls who've probably only known that sort of sexual intimacy their whole lives." Her eyes were trained on Revy, expecting protests. Revy's pissed, and it does not stop her from staring at the scar on Balalaika's face, the texture shifting in the light as Balalaika shifts her head. The eye on the ruined side of her face is a paler blue then the other one. Her eyelashes are long, and cast shadows on her cheekbones, over the lilac coloring underneath her eyes.

"I don't fuck those bitches." Revy hissed, face red from both embarrassment and anger. She slammed a fist on the table, Balalaika not batting an eye at the sight. "They get paid for it too. I just whip them and drag them around a bit."

"That's what gets you off, Two Hands? Hurting defenseless girls?" Balalaika jabbed.

"No," Her voice came out in a harsh whisper, her fist tightening, her legs snapping together and her head hunched over, staring at the table, noticing the tiny nicks in the wood. More than anything, she was the one who wanted to be defenseless right now, to be groped by hands with long acrylics, to be needed in the most primal way. If she was going to be put over Balalaika's knee and punished she'd accept it, surrounded by shitty pornos and in a room where the blonde's men could strut in at any moment.

"Oh, I'm not judging you. Whatever works, right? I've met people who are into worse things, as we all learned. I'm not even surprised by this." Balalaika condescended, looking up at the ceiling, smirking. Revy's silence was enough of an answer.

"It's work, okay? It's easy money, I get the fuck outta there and spend that shit on drinks- you think I wanna see crying bitches all the time?"

"Alright, point taken." Balalaika replied easily, her words no longer intended as cruel. Her cigar was between her white teeth.

They didn't speak for several heartbeats. Revy stole a glance at the bag, and was ashamed of what was in it. Here she was, playing a game that she had already lost, to a woman who enjoyed seeing her in frustrated pain. The attention she was getting, the one-on-one with Balalaika that she had dreamed of, was slowly bringing her back to reality. Balalaika saw her as a hired gun, one who pranced around in jean shorts and shot anyone who was pitted against her. Balalaika let the silence settle, adjusting her posture and sitting up straight.

She heard the shuffling of papers being gathered up into a stack.

"Was that it? The correct answer?" Balaika softly stated, head tilted as she attempted eye contact with Revy, who now was the one who was unable to reciprocate. Her lips were parted and with the thin sheer of lipstick, looked infuriatingly inviting.

"Sort of." Revy sulked like a fifth grader in the principal's office, head hanging and her hands clutching the sides of the seat, eyes downcast and her mouth twisted in a pissed off grimace. The part she realized, however, was throughout this visitation Balalaika had not touched her once. It was an avid effort, Balalaika no longer accidentally brushing her hand like they had done in their interactions over the course of the business Lagoon company and Hotel Moscow did together.

"May I?" Balalaika asked in a polite, casual tone, but she had already stood up and stretched her arm across the table, her back bent, blouse opening and Revy could see the start of her lace bra, but panic overtook her senses and she leaped up, gasping.

"Fuck, fuck fuck, Sis, don't! I change my mind!" Her lungs sputtered in her chest as she tensed, clawing for the DVD first, but it was already in Balalaika's grasp.

"Something to hide?" Balalaika purred, brandishing the plastic-covered bag like it was a gift, acting surprised. The grin she flashed Revy had something terrible flashing in the back of Revy's mind, an alarm of sorts, like she was staring off a cliff. Whatever she chose, it would end up in humiliation or death.

Instead of a normal reply, instead of polite asking, Revy knocked her chair onto the ground with a push of her legs. Revy snatched Balalaika's bicep, tugging her close to grab the other arm that had the incriminating item. The arm felt solid and warm and real beneath her shaking fingers, like Balalaika had been a real person all this time, someone made of flesh. Revy threw herself closer, so close their chests brushed against each other, a violent sucking in of breath from the blonde.

She contorted her body to lunge for the DVD, but Balalaika was too horrifically fast.

Balalaika twisted away from her, ripping her arm from Revy's dug-in fingers, and grabbed the woman by the throat, laughing, shockingly, all the while. Her teeth shined white in the yellowed lighting, the pull of her lips crinkling the scar, her eyes unfeeling. Revy reached for it in vain, pushing on the hand tightening around her throat, arms shooting out to rip the DVD from the blonde, wheezing. One hand managed to tug at Balalaika's hair, a wheezing sound leaving her.

"P-pleaseeeee Sis, fuck, pleaseeee! Fucking-" Revy rasped, her throat flexing as she struggled to take in a healthy breath. "-Give it to me, bitch!" She continued to press against Balalaika's cold hand, her own hands groping up Balalaika's other arm, as the blonde held her arm up higher, taking great humor in Revy's desperation.

"If you're wise, you'll calm down. Calm down, Revy." Balalaika murmured, and it was barely audible underneath Revy's ragged breathing. The blonde's eyes were downcast, looking down on a foaming-at-the-mouth Revy.

"Don't look at it, bitch, Christ I-" Spittle left her mouth and Revy wriggled in the iron grip, blunt nails scratching up Balalaika's long sleeve.

A swift punch, balled and tight, landed underneath Revy's ribs, so hard she could feel it echo into her spinal cord. She saw stars, dropping away from Balalaika, staggering backward until she fell onto the last chair, the side of it digging into her ribs, the seat hitting her hipbone. Revy cried out, sucking in oxygen just as it was knocked out from her, whiteness clouding her vision, a dry sob hacked from her lungs.

She rolled off the chair, grunting, and flopped onto the ground, and she thought of the dying woman on the boat. Blank eyes full of grief and anger, and Revy understood. If she was going to die, if Balalaika was going to mash the heel of her shoe into Revy's head, leaving her in a limbo between life and death, she'd fight like hell until she couldn't any longer.

But Balalaika did none of those things. Revy heard a startled gasp from above. The chair next to her was hauled out of the way, the chair that she'd near cracked her ribs on. Her numb fingers pressed on the hollow feeling in her stomach. Her sore back bent and her legs tucked in front of her body, as she tried to control her breathing and blearily, opened her eyes.

"I forgot about the chair." Revy heard from above, and she shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut.

"No you didn't, fucking cunt, you hurt me-" She replied, shaking her head harder. Her heart was in her ears.

"I did. But I didn't look at your DVD." A sound of muffled plastic clattering on the table calmed her down, and Revy easily took a breath, but her stomach felt sore, and her mouth was too dry to swallow. Her lower torso throbbed, and so did her back, the muscle feeling like it was squeezed.

"Fuck you! Fucking Fry Face bitch."

Nothing was said to her, but only a hand on her arm, helping her sit up. Revy blinked into focus, and immediately looked over at Balalaika's emotionless face, which was now stony, the mad laughter having left her. The hand was on her upper arm, near her armpit, the thumb of Balalaika's hand touching where she was shot at the blonde's orders.

"I treat you too roughly." Balalaika muttered in contemplation, running the thumb over the bullet scar, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth.

"Yeah, you do." Revy twisted her arm away, jutting her shoulder in Balalaika's direction. She snapped her eyes onto the ground.

"I'm sorry." The blonde's voice was hushed, and serious; her native accent hinting at the end.

Revy glared at the ground in response. She didn't know what to say, her reaction voiceless to the apology. Apologies were not what she heard often. It was more swears or a hand hauling her up, or water being thrown in her face. She didn't know how to react to this basic bit of near-kindness. Or whatever could constitute as niceties from fucking Balalaika. The worst of it all was how sincere the Russian made it sound.

"Do you want me to help you up?" Balalaika whispered, kneeling before her, leaning into Revy's space, but not near enough to where Revy could get the jump on her. Her blonde hair tickled Revy's bent knees.

"No-" Revy's voice cracked, raising her eyes to look at the wall in front of her, of the papers flown across the room. Her gaze wavered and she sucked in a sore breath, her stomach expanding painfully. "Fuck,"

"Come here." Balalaika reached out slowly, her expression hardening again, her posture rigid and imposing. She had her fingers around Revy's arm again, and pulled her up with ease.

"I just keep getting fucking hurt all the fucking time!" Revy shouted, body pulling away from Balalaika, hair in her face, strands moving in the heat of her fast breathing. The table bumped her hip, hard. Revy bounced off of it with an angry hiss, being even closer to the Russian then before.

"Revy, come here." Balalaika cupped her hands on either side of Revy's face, forcing her to look at her. The blonde's eyes started right back into her, with an intensity that Revy didn't fathom. She let out a shaky, aching breath.

"Go to hell." Revy whimpered, a mask of coldness seeping into the sentence, hiding the vulnerability bleeding through her tough-girl persona. But there was no threat behind the words. They were tired, pathetic. Her guns were being held at the front desk because all her men knew she'd be alone with Balalaika. Her legs slacked and she envisioned the carpet swallowing her up, taking her away from Balalaika's arms, the feelings that it brought out of her, ones both lustful and something else, something leagues more dangerous.

"That's the plan." Balalaika said, but there was a softness to her reply. She drew her close, close enough that their chests brushed each other. The smell of cigar smoke filled her nostrils. "I am sorry, Revy."

"Do you like seeing me hurt, Sis? You like fucking hurting me?" Revy mumbled. The scent was making her hazy, tired even. Balalaika's chest looked comfortable, and she wanted to bury her face into the blonde's neck, be hidden from the world by her ridiculous hair. She just got fucking socked in the stomach, her ribs could have been shattered, but here she was, hands slack by her side.

Balalaika inhaled sharply, her mouth twisting into a frown, eyes narrowing. Long nails stroked the area below Revy's jaw, back and forth. The blonde's back was hunched, in order to evenly look Revy in the eyes. She was so tall, especially in the shoes she wore. Even without them she was still a healthy six inches taller than Revy. "No, I don't. I don't enjoy it."

"Then why'd you do it?" Revy spat out, swirling her tongue around in her mouth. She didn't taste blood, only the dry taste of cigarettes. The pain was a dull throbbing now, but hurt more then the nose injury Eda gave her.

"Because that's the only way I can touch you." Balalaika stated so softly, like Revy could scarcely make it out. It was only after a second of mulling over what the words could mean did her eyes widen and her reply stuck in her throat.

Chapter Text

"What crawled up your ass?" Eda rebuked sharply, cigarette between her fingers, ash blowing away in the soft wind.

The crusade of the everlasting heatwave continued, the humidity making Revy's head foggy. The wind was nonexistent; the back of her neck was wet with sweat after a short time outside. It was unbearable, and everyone was more tense everyday as the temperature kept spiking up. With a lack of a work assignment, Revy was resigned to swimming, and Eda dragged her sorry ass to the beach as well. She could hear the nun's car clunking up to park next to the apartment; when she turned off the ignition the vehicle let out a startled gasp.

Revy had found faded towels rolled up in the bathroom, after searching through the closet, dropping broken hairdryers and shampoo bottles onto the floor until her fingers touched cloth. They threw them on the sand, slathered themselves in sunscreen, and laid down like corpses washed ashore.

Benny was locked inside his dark room; blinds shut and Janet sleeping on his bed. Dutch wanted to "take advantage of the day", so he was out touching up the boat. Muffled sounds of a radio came from the dock, as Dutch popped in and out of the large vessel, wiping his hands on rags. Rock was out. Her heart lurched a bit in her throat when he'd be just gone like that.

"Suck my dick," Revy replied, her eyes shut with her face slack. Lying limply on an old weathered towel, she wrapped her lips around her own cigarette, and smoked flowed out of her mouth. She didn't mind Eda showing up out of the blue. The nun had brought a six pack and her own swimsuit; but importantly she offered a distraction from Balalaika. Getting piss-drunk was easy with her, because at some points Eda did actually drive Revy to drink.

"Bitch," Eda was tired from the heat, her voice slurred from taking a sip from the beer in her hand. "You've just got a goddamn attitude today, you know that?"

Revy ran her fingers down her sunscreen-greased jaw and groaned. "Ugh, it's the fucking heat, Eda. What the fuck did you think was up?"

"I'd say Rock, but we both know that's not going anywhere. I don't fucking know." The nun muttered, thumping her head back on her own towel.

"Last time I saw his ass was when we did that drug bust for Fry Face."

She'd seen him last night, actually. Revy had dragged herself to Bao's from Hotel Moscow main office, ignoring stop signs and cutting people off on sharp corners. She was slumped over the bar, waving a finger at Bao, when Rock had walked in. It was like his presence casted a shadow before he did- a few people quieted down, and darted their eyes away. Lifting her head to see what the lull was, her eyes caught Rock's, and he smiled as he crossed over.

"Stop trying to heckle for a lower price. You know he lowered them already, to cease your complaining," He said. With a flick of her wrist, Revy flipped him off.

That was all she could recall from yesterday, a hazy filter of more drinks and bitching at Rock, as well as Bao respectively. The countless drinks blended together, but she remembered Rock joining her in them, his voice growing warmer after the liquor burned his throat. The Plymouth hummed underneath her feet when he drove her home. In the morning she had woken up on her dirty mattress, hair mangled and the plastic bag still tied up, her sweaty arm keeping it pinned to her stomach.

"Chang, right? Isn't he always working with that dickhead?" Eda asked, sunlight reflecting off of her pink sunglasses. Sometimes Revy drunkenly pondered if Eda actually had eyes.

"Yeah. This beer tastes like shit, by the way." Revy said around a sloppy sip of the beer, feeling the trails of alcohol running down her cheeks, then continuing down her chest. She put her cigarette back in her mouth and sucked on it for a minute.

"Don't say I never treat you."

A moment passed between them, interrupted only by the crinkle of a glossy magazine Eda brought, one of the few English varieties that was sold in Roanapur. Revy pushed herself onto her elbows to see the pages of perfume ads and swimsuit models; with brief articles that Eda spent a minute skimming. Her eyes grazed across the excessive amount of cleavage the nun showed in her ten-dollar bikini, then snapped up to the colorful pages. When her neck began to hurt Revy laid her head back down on the towel, yawning.

The nun's hair was stunningly blonde today, the bleaching brought on by the sun helped, turning Eda's hair to the color of near corn silk.

"I had to organize porn for Balalaika yesterday." Revy blurted. She had to tell someone. The story hung over her head, clouding her already weakened judgement, a need to dissect it unfurling in her chest the smoke from her shitty cigarettes.

"Oh real- fuck, what? For real? She invited you over to what, do it by ABC?" Eda raised an eyebrow, dropping the magazine off to the side. She tapped more ash off her cigarette as she sipped delicately from her own beer.

"No, I had to fucking do this stupid shit- to like, pack it into boxes? You should have seen some of the shit those people sell." Revy chuckled, grinning. "Like, fag prison shit type. You should've been there."

Really, she should have been. Then there would be no ugly bruise just above her navel, purple fading into pink as it spread out. Eda would have inadvertently protected Revy from Balalaika, which was a string of words Revy never thought of in her life.

Eda guffawed and stabbed the butt of her cigarette into the sand. "Oh, tell me you are goddamned joking! I don't know how much help I'd be... I'm not good with doing, you know, work."

"Why would I lie about shit like this, come on Eda. It was insane. And Balalaika was working right near where I fucking was and- "

"Shut the fuck up. Shut up! Balalaika was monitoring you so you wouldn't like, steal her porn?"

"It's not her porn, okay? No, she was… she was like, doing phone calls in the other room. We hardly said anything to each other." Revy sighed, watching Dutch grab a toolbox and climb back into the PT boat. She scratched the back of her head, the grains of sand coarse in her hair. "It was weird, that's all."

Eda grinned, wiping excess suntan oil off her stomach. "I can't believe she didn't bust your skull in. God, you take fucking forever to clean anything up."

"Don't fuckin' bring him into this. It was just... different." Revy mumbled, casting her eyes down on a particularly interesting shell to the left of her, her face flushed. She traced her fingers down her cheek, absentmindedly. Where Balalaika had touched her face felt exposed, like a stranger walking down the street saw the contact, physically tattooed on her skin.

“Hey, at least it’s over. You won’t have to do that shit again. Besides, she can’t be that shitty. Otherwise ya’ll wouldn’t keep working for her.” Eda fished another cigarette out of their shared pack.

Revy opened her mouth to speak, but the words died in her throat. A warning sign rang in her head, because if she kept running her damn mouth, she’d end up reporting the whole damn thing to the nun. Literally asking for relationship advice. What she wanted to say to the blonde, what she kept repeating to herself, was why do you think that? What makes you think I’m not interested? You never paid attention to me before. It was a mystery to think how the Russian could possibly react to that, at least Revy found peace in that her death dropped in percentage.

“Isn’t she really fucking tall, too? I only saw her like, once.” Eda tilted her head, snickering as she burned the tip of the cigarette. Her hand shook faintly, the tiny flame shivering, and Revy groaned.

“Don’t tell me you were fucking drinking before your ass got here, Eda.” Pushing her own cigarette butt into the sand, Revy propped herself up on her elbows and glowered at the rising waves ten feet away from them. The nun had a drinking problem. Revy hypothesized that it was worse than her own; worse than Eda led on. “And you’re tall too.”

“At least when I’m in heels I don’t push six feet.” Eda rolled her eyes, chugging the rest of her drink before crushing the can in her fist. She stretched out her toned arm behind her to rip another from the plastic holding the beverages together, and silently proved Revy’s point.

A shape caught itself in the corner of Revy’s eye, and she looked across the hot sand to the dock, where Dutch was waving his arms, standing on the boat, tinny rock music playing in the background. He cupped his hands around his mouth.

“Revy, hey, can you grab my phone?” He yelled, repeating it again louder. The dock was so new it stuck out awkwardly in the water, the wood bright and not weathered enough. If Dutch wasn’t around, she’d call it a near eyesore.

"Wha- Can I?" Revy squinted her eyes in his general direction. Lifting her head from the rumpled towel, she brushed away a few strands of hair and fell across her face. Her legs bent and she hoisted herself onto her backside. She already knew the answer, but she wanted to complain anyway. "Why do I have to get it?!"

"You're ten feet from the house, I think I left it in the kitchen." Sweat shined off the top of his head, and he pushed his sunglasses up. Revy pictured his annoyed face; brow furrowed and mouth pulled into a straight line. Then, he’d really get dramatic with a beleaguered sigh.

“Shit, I’ll come with. I need to grab some sunscreen anyway.” Eda stood up; balance shaky on the sand. Her hands rubbed her shoulders, and she scrunched up her face.

“Okay, okay yeah, fine, I’ll get it.” Revy complained, shoving herself onto her feet with a push of her arms. The bruise throbbed once in discomfort. Wiping sweat off her face, only to smear sand on her forehead, Revy grinded her teeth and set out towards the apartment, unsteady from the liquor and the blood rushing to her head. Eda was not much better, following her even more slowly, sunglasses drooping down her nose. Revy caught the sheer blueness of the nun’s eyes, a blueness that was darker than Balalaika’s, but livelier.

 Revy winced under the heat, ponytail brushing her neck, dancing along another sunburn that near completion. Carefully avoiding jagged seashells and broken glass, she headed up the beach. As soon as they touched asphalt they broke into a nervous run, Eda laughing as Revy swore and stumbled, and she cast a dirty look in return. There was no small amount of relief when she reached the unlocked door.

Shoving the door open, Revy entered first, moving Eda out of the way with a shove of her shoulder. The apartment was cool, even with the fan off; the blinds were down and the lights off. Revy relaxed her squinted eyes. The nun scoffed. “Pressing issue, huh?”

“He sometimes forgets his damn phone when he goes out to work on the boat- it’s his downtime.” Revy air quoted, rolling her eyes. She padded into the kitchen, scanning the counters. Grabbing a dish towel, she rubbed the sand off her hands. She gracelessly pushed a few groceries to the side, investigated near the sink, and the stove, and found absolutely no cell phone.

“Have fun trying to find that, where’s the sunscreen again?”

“My room. On the floor, near the bed. Shit’s new, so it might still be in a bag,” She replied, back to Eda. Tossing the loaf of bread left out into an open cabinet, anger crept up the back of her spine, and irritation leaked into her tone.

Eda wandered into the dark hallway, and she opened Revy’s bedroom door with a depressing creak. Revy heard a surprised gasp as the nun entered, the door swinging into the wall with a clack. “Fuck, I forgot how your room looks like a pigsty.”

Revy’s bedrooms had always been neglected. It was how she was raised, with overflowing trashcans and rotten food shoved in the fridge. The sofa had holes in it and beer bottles stacked up on the coffee table, a gun on top of the television. When she was just a kid, she’d try to clean up, a desperate attempt to see if that would make things better, if ol’ Becky made herself useful, but the trash piled up anyway. She didn’t even notice the mess in her bedroom half the time. “Shut up. Quicker I find this phone, quicker we can go back to the beach.”

Suddenly, a stray beam of sunlight flashed off a screen, and Revy’s head shot up in the direction. His phone was on the coffee table, on top of two car magazines, next to a cold cup of coffee. The cellphone was in much, much better shape then Revy’s own clump of metal.

“What the hell?” Eda’s muffled question floated into the hallway.

A few quick steps lead her to the table, and as soon as Revy’s fingers touched the cellphone, it began to shrilly ring. Crinkling her nose, she snatched it off the surface, starting at the black screen of the television, debating on whether to just let it ring, to let Dutch handle it later. “Eda, shut up, somebody’s calling!”

Holding it up to her ear, Revy prepared the usual script when the company was called. Rock answered the phone, most of the time. A part of him still loved to do the office shtick, whenever he could. “Lagoon company.”

“Two Hands?” Balalaika’s cool tone had a hint of confusion. “Isn’t this Dutch’s phone?”

Oh, oh wow. Oh wow, wow. Revy sucked her top lip in and her eyes bugged out of her head. Her legs jellied, and she backed up, the backs of her knees touching the couch. “Hi, sis…” She momentarily forgot her words. No doubt the Russian had heard her gasp. “Yeah, fuck, it is, I was just grabbing it for him, he’s out on that new dock, he was probably gonna call you, right?”

“No. I was calling him about that debacle before. I’ll need your services again.”

My services?” There was hope in Revy's reply, she truly did want to pass out, maybe Eda would be kind enough to bash her skull in.

“The Lagoon company’s services.” Balalaika corrected, with a hard edge. In the background, there was a soft clicking of keys, of long pink nails scattering over a keyboard. Darkly, Revy thought maybe she was editing porn again.

“Okay, um, can you wait a minute, I’ll run out and grab him.”

“If I’m interrupting his work, I could always call later.” Balalaika said, adjusting the phone near her ear.

“Nah, he’s just like, playing around.” A nervous laugh escaped her throat. There was worse things than having awkward silence, but yesterday was so in line with the Twilight Zone that Revy kept a conversation going. “He’s obsessed with his new dock. Shit, I’ll, uh, I’ll go grab him. Stay on the line if you want.”

“Alright, don’t be too long, Two Hands.” Balalaika stated, painfully reasonable. Was she in that computer room? Cigar in her mouth, eyes glassed over, staring at the bright screen? Was her suit jacket off?

Revy swallowed. Beginning to head to the door, Revy traced her fingers along the white counter, resisting the urge to pace back and forth, to ignore Dutch and just enjoy the blonde’s voice. “Would you ever need my help again, with anything?”

“I… can’t say, for certain.”

“Well, if you need anything, I could come over and help. Even if it’s porn again, I could be like, your porno girl-“ Revy smacked her forehead with her clammy fingers, her face falling slack and her jaw damn near falling off.

Balalaika had the decency to chuckle. It transformed into a polite laugh, rising in pitch, and Revy’s face colored red. The laugh was nice, it made her chest tighten, and she wanted to hear it again. “Funny way of phrasing that, but I’d have to think about that. However, thank you for your help. I didn’t mean for things to end like that.”

“I’m not complaining, sis. The air conditioning was nice.” She stammered, slowly going to grasp the door knob, and she turned it. Her stomach did backflips.

“Revy, why the fuck is there military dyke porn in your room?” Eda yelled, horrifically so, stepping out from Revy’s room, a confused expression on her face. In her right hand was the fucking DVD. The image was of a naked younger girl, hands bound, about to kneel before a woman in a Nazi-esque uniform, hat included. The woman’s face was cold, a gun in her hand, and the submissive’s was a look of fear as she stared up at the soldier. The title was in German.

Balalaika coughed, gasping, her voice hitching before she even replied. “I-“

Revy almost screamed. She almost kicked in the door, or kick in Eda’s stupid blonde skull. She couldn’t stop herself, even with a silent Balalaika on the line. Revy’s hand froze on the doorknob, and her back stiffened. Gnashing her teeth, she snapped her head in Eda’s direction so fast her hair whipped her face. “Holy fucking shit, Eda, I’m on the FUCKING phone.”

“Wha- with who?!” Eda exclaimed. Her eyes were visible over her sunglasses, wide and pupils dilated. She staggered backwards. “I didn’t know you were on the damn phone!”

Revy hissed quietly, a vein popping out of her neck, throbbing in repressed fury. Red spread in the corners of her vision. She paced away from the door, blindly in the direction of the nun. “Bala-fucking-laika, dumbass.”

“Oh, shit.” Eda quieted down, the hand holding the item dropping to her side. “Maybe she didn’t hear.”

Revy twisted her head into the phone, breathing heavily, lungs gasping for air, air that she couldn’t suck in fast enough. “S-Sorry, sis. Um, Eda is over and she’s playing a nasty ass prank. I do not have military dyke porn, it’s Benny’s I told you, he’s a freak.

“Are you saying people who enlist in the military are freaks? That’s rather offensive, don’t you think?” Balalaika mocked, before breaking character and laughing. She muffled it, but Revy still heard it, and her face burned bright, and her grip on the phone tightened until it creaked. She had never heard the blonde laugh like that, besides when she had Rock on that car.

At the worst possible moment, Janet left Benny’s room, sounds of a television show coming from the open door. She carried two plates in her hand, clad in Benny’s pajama shirt, and she stopped dead in her tracks at the Eda and Revy’s near standoff. Her eyebrows raised and she looked utterly confused. “What about lesbian porn? Huh?”

“JANETGOTHEFUCKBACKTOBENNY’SROOM.” Revy jabbed a finger in her direction, breathing heavily, chest expanding and contracting fast. Janet, without a second word, plates in hand, raced back to Benny’s room, the door slamming shut behind her, the sound of a B-movie muted. Revy pressed the phone so hard to her ear the quality lessened. “No, shut up, please, please, I do not mean it like that, fuck. You know what I fucking meant, don’t do this to me. It’s not mine.”

“You’re right,” Balalaika had a smile in her voice, and there was a soft inhale of her taking a pull from her cigar. “Like you said in Japan, and I quote, ‘trust is important too.’”

Eda slowly meandered into Revy’s room again. A few seconds past, and the sound of something being dropped onto Revy’s honest-to-god bare mattress. Eda walked out, silently, chewing on her lip. “You know what, Revy? I’mma head out.”

She skirted around Revy, who was blushing so hard she knew the nun would make fun of her the next time she saw her, and she watched Eda go past, and rush out the door. The car keys were in the nun’s shitty car. A very perfect escape plan when things went awry. Eda hurried down the stairs and Revy watched, through the open door, as she slammed her car door shut and after a few complaints from the engine, started.

Revy waited until Eda had peeled out of their driveway. Her voice wavered. Tears of humiliation threatened the inner corners of her eyes, and her entire face burned. “Please sis, I don’t know what the fuck to say… it’s Benny’s, I swear. I-I didn’t even know they made porn of that kind. I took a different video, I really did.” Yes, she did know they made porn of that kind.

Balalaika didn’t reply for a few seconds, but she let out a deep breath, like she was mulling over what to say. Away from the phone she heard Balalaika mutter something in Russian. “I believe you. Now, take the cell phone to Dutch.”

“I- fuck, fine, I will.” Revy sniffed, wiping her nose with the back of her hand. The initial embarrassment had become shame. She even looked down at the ground, like a child in trouble, mouth itching for a cigarette or a beer. A part of her yearned to be in front of Balalaika again, to hide her face in the blonde’s hair, her eyes shut and pressed tight against the Russian’s body, she was tall, so it made the fact of an embrace even better, and now her face was red again. She didn’t need to check.

“It’s okay, Two Hands.” Balalaika soothed, her voice shifting into that velvety way after she smoked her cigar, smooth and rugged at the same time. Her sentence stopped abruptly. More words that desired to be said added to the amount that neither of them was willing to say.

“I feel… that was fucking humiliating.” Revy responded softly, blinking, her eyelashes wettened. If she was feeling braver, at all, she could have owned up to it, and Balalaika would be so distraught that they’d never see each other again, and this fucked up situation would resolve itself. Revy reasoned to herself that she’d never really lied to her, this was going to be the only time.

“I know. But it’s not your DVD, simple as that.” There was entity of her own lie in the blonde’s statement. Revy wished to believe it, but Balalaika saw through her bullshit, one hundred percent, and now here she was, the shell of a woman who everyone now thought fetishized the fucking military.

The screen door opened behind her, and Dutch headed inside, sweat shining off his whole body, the sunglasses staying firmly attached despite it. He grabbed the dishtowel and wiped his scalp with it, and stared at Revy with an eyebrow raised. “You finished?”

“Balalaika’s on the phone. She wants to talk to you.” Revy darted her eyes between Dutch and the far wall. If he fucking knew, it was all over. Frustration built in her chest; she never had enough time to talk to the blonde.

“Oh really? Here I was thinking you were chatting it up with whoever, wasting my battery life.” Dutch joked, an ease spreading across his tired features. He threw the cloth back on the counter.

Revy chewed on her cheek. “Talk to- Nice speaking to you, Sis.”

“Farewell, Two Hands. I’ll keep you in the loop.” She was neutral again, composure gathered around her like a blanket.

As soon as she handed the cell over to Dutch, who answered with a far more relaxed aura then Revy ever had, she jumped down the stairs, and winced as she crossed the asphalt to the beach. The sea was very inviting. And if Revy drank another beer, she’d be out of it enough to not think about rescuing the blonde from it.

Chapter Text

When Revy finally waded out of the water, the sky was purple. The moon was a sliver, barely visible in the smog. Seagulls weren't in the sky and the only sound was traffic in the distance. Her muscles burned, the seashells cutting her feet as she paced up to the crumpled towels. She picked one up, flapping it in the slight wind, excessive sand flying off it. The second one, Eda's, had even more sand, and the grains stuck to her calves and knee caps.

Packing them under her arm, Revy took the magazine and the one beer left, and maneuvered around the sand, avoiding the multiple cigarette buts they both left later in the day.

She did watch the movie. It was a convoluted mess, Revy tossing the dirty laundry off of the microwave of a television; casting the bras and shirts onto the floor. She stole one of Benny's many DVD players, and plugging in the many tangled wires was almost a sign for her to give up.

Careful of putting fingerprints of the disk, she slid it into the player. Revy sat on the floor, so close to the tiny screen, protective, eyes wide. The television flickered to life. Gray bars scanned over the image then settled.

There was no title screen, just a fuzzy resolution of a young girl being dragged into an office by two men, then being shoved roughly onto the ground. Words of sharp German were exchanged, and the officer rounded the empty desk. The men left, and the girl was gasping, hands clasped together, pleading, tears trailing down her cheeks. But the officer wasn't moved, her black boots shining in the artificial light. Revy swallowed, and shot a look at her locked bedroom door.

The girl stood up, eyes on the ground, tears dropping onto her white button down. Her outfit was reminiscent of a school girl's, short skirt and knee-high socks. The other woman was in a full military outfit, it cut to her shape and tight around the shoulders. Revy had never seen Balalaika's own outfit in a clear light of day, only a vague silhouette, and she bit her lip.

The woman snapped at her, and the girl nodded, fumbling fingers unbuttoning her shirt, revealing a braless chest. The girl slid off her skirt, the clothing falling around her knees. The officer held in her hand a thick baton. She said something again.

Revy grabbed the pillow that rested beside her and straddled it, her chest heaving, When the girl started being fondled, Revy swore under her breath, rocking her hips.

She could imagine Balalaika saying those words, maybe in Russian, maybe in English, but she could tell the tone that it was something filthy, and-

She finished when the video ended, with the girl forced to pleasure the officer bitch, hands behind her back, then when she didn't do as ordered the baton swatted her face. Revy gnawed on her knuckles, grunted, and then it was done.

She took the DVD disk out; it glittered rainbow. Revy took a second to stare at it, debating her options. Then, with a roll of her eyes, she snapped it in half, bits of plastic scattering the wood floor. She crunched it harder, seething, and then tossed it into the stinking garbage bin in the corner of her room.

Crawling onto her bed, Revy remained in her swimsuit and brushed the sand off onto her bed, before falling into a dreamless sleep.

"We've got another job from Balalaika." Dutch said over breakfast, leaning on the kitchen counter. The blinds were open and the sky was blue, and the scattered palm trees were lushly green. It was roasting out and yet, in the coldness of the apartment, it didn't seem like it as hot as it looked.

Revy was spread out on the couch, half-empty cereal bowl on her lap. A spoon was heading towards her mouth, when she damn near choked, and she eyed Dutch. His face was impassive, taking another sip from the steaming mug of coffee. Dutch despised sugar or milk in his coffee, he preferred it in its natural bitter state. Growing up, he had mentioned, he only ever drank cheap, dark coffee before work. Her face contorted into one of annoyance, of hearing the Russian's name once more.

"Rock and Revy, you'll head up to the hotel and meet with her. I've got to get fuel for the boat, if we are heading out tomorrow. He looked heavenward and sighed. "Been putting that crap off for a week."

"Fuck, what about Benny?" Revy scoffed, reclining against the old cushions, shoveling another spoonful of soggy cereal into her mouth. It was an uphill battle to swallow the whole-grain shit she found in the back of the cupboard; there was a certain point until one got sick of toast and eggs. Her appetite had returned with a vengeance, it was her second bowl and her stomach still twisted for more food.

"You ever see me up there? No way." Benny retorted, back to them all, washing his dish in the sink. "I'll be riding with Dutch, anyhow."

"Dumbass," She muttered, watching the television in irritation. She clenched her teeth, feeling the grains stuck in her molars.

"Is this about what you told me before? The spice company?" Rock said, over a cup of tea. He'd already eaten when Revy dragged herself out of bedroom. She was always the last person to get up, entering a living room that smelled of coffee and toast. Rock sat beside her, allowing her to take up two couch cushions.

"Yep," Dutch sipped the coffee.

Revy rolled her eyes, flipping her unbrushed hair out of her face. It wasn't fair. She'd done so well recently, keeping her thoughts to herself and Eda who bore witness to what happened yesterday, and here she was, bound to be embarrassing again. "Why the fuck us?"

"Because she's taken a shine to both of you, and besides soon as you grab that, you can spend the rest of the day drinking." Dutch chastised, walking over to the old coffee maker, topping off his mug.

"I'll need it," Revy quipped, straightening up to pick up the bottle of beer by the neck, and downing the rest of it, gulping noisily. Rock and Dutch looked on in both parts disgust and awe, as she finished the alcohol, and nonchalantly, had another bite of cereal.

The beer and the cereal-tasting milk tasted nasty together, but it wasn't like it was the first time she'd done this. In a foster family she'd been forced to stay with once, another kid had brandished wine in spoiled milk, and after a few sips of that Revy and her stomach knew she was spoken for.

Rock bobbed the tea bag in his mug absentmindedly. "Alright, we'll head out as soon as Revy's all set."

"Look at it this way, sit through that and sooner or later you'll be killing more people," Benny replied amicably, turning away from the sink, wiping his hands with a towel.

"Until I'm all set?" Revy snarked, just for the reason to be bitchy. She shifted her eyes to stare eerily at Rock, noting the top button of his shirt undone, giving a peek of his collarbones and the slope of his neck meeting his shoulder.

"All I need to do is brush my teeth." Rock retorted, closing his eyes for a moment to will himself to be more awake. "Don't we need more cigarettes too?"

"Yeah, because somebody yesterday finished the last two packs." Dutch jutted his chin in the direction of the couch, hiding a grin behind the chipped mug. On the mug was a faded image of a random sports team.

"Fuck! Eda was over, she smokes more than I do," Revy hunched her shoulders, sliding the spoon on the side of the bowl to gather the last of it. Her tongue was heavy in her mouth; her hands clammy. All that was needed to be done was take off her pajama shorts and brush her hair.

Dutch shrugged; his coffee near finished. "Just grab some while you're out in town, yeah?"

Revy hoisted herself up, setting the bowl on the coffee table, metal spoon clattering inside it. Stretching her arms above her head, she gave a loud yawn. Her tank top raised up her torso. She glared down at Rock, who had the decency to look her in the eyes, unbothered. After dealing with her for so long Rock didn't lose his mind over her attitude as much. "Well, since it is at the incredibly late hour of eleven in the morning, I'll go get myself presentable."

"I call bathroom, though." Rock replied, nodding, finishing off his tea, tilting his head back and baring his pale throat.

Revy waved a hand behind her as she headed towards her room. The muscles in her legs and upper arms burned pleasantly still from the hours she spent in the ocean, pretending that she never needed to return to the shore again. She heard the floorboards squeak as Benny walked into the living room, flopping onto the couch, coughing.

Opening the much-abused door, Revy strode inside, shutting it behind her, before leaning against the door, eyes on her dresser. The jean shorts lay crumpled on the floor, the belt folded in on itself next to it. She already had her black tank on. The jeans were comfy, promising, but her eyes darted to the overflowing drawers of her dresser and had an idea, borne from the video of last night.

The skirt from Japan. It was old, stolen from a thrift store- one quick motion to shoving it underneath her shirt- and it was the first piece of truly 'girly' clothing she ever owned. It was flattering but warm. Which made it perfect for Rock's ancestral home, paired with thick black tights.

She slid off her cotton shorts, dropping them until the floor without so much as an afterthought. Thrusting open the top drawer she pawed through the contents; tossing them out of it, underwear, a bra with the tags still on it, a couple tank tops- until her fingernails scraped the bottom and the skirt, shoved up in the back of the drawer.

After going into the heat her skin will be dusted with sweat and pollution, she'll smell like cigarettes, her hair will be windblown. But the skirt shall remain clean, the color faded and it feels so soft to the touch. It's cut at the perfect length to draw attention to her legs, and maybe maybe Balalaika would spare a glance at her. Actually, no. the blonde will spare a glance at her.

The elastic strained over her hips but snapped back when it stopped at the beginning slop of her waist. There's no mirror in her room, and Revy doesn't feel the need to look at herself. Her reflection staring back at her would make her want to brush her hair, wash her face, even apply a little eyeliner; something that spelled isn't it obvious.

Yet another part of her was too lazy to even think of doing that. And she wasn't some whore dragging herself to the patron with the biggest wallet, nervously knowing what was going to happen, knowing what the john was planning on doing to her.

Revy sat on the floor and grabbed her boots, sliding them up her legs, fingers expertly lacing them up. She could do this in pitch black darkness, the motion coming automatically. A cough bubbled out of her throat, then it turned into a hack, and the taste of cigarettes filled her mouth, and Revy wished she had a bottle of water on hand. Slinging her gun holsters over her arms, she shoved her weapons in. Her fingers lingered on the triggers for a brief moment.

Rock was by the door when she returned to the living room. Benny and Dutch were still watching television, a crime drama unfolding on the screen; a snarling convict being interrogated by conventual attractive cops: one's straight laced and one's an idiot.

"I'm ready." She feels his eyes on her legs, on her hips, for a brief second. A warmness flowered in her chest, of being seen.

"Let's head out, then." Rock turned towards Dutch. "See you guys later?"

"Yep. Have fun, you two." Dutch said around a cigarette, nodding at the both of them.

"Word is that she's pissed. Be careful, will you?" Benny stated easily, nursing his own cigarette, canned beer dangling from his hand. A side of his neck had dark, angry hickies, purpled and fresh.

"Yeah, yeah. Who gives a shit." Revy put her hand on her hips as she walked toward the door, the treads of her boots echoing on the floorboards. She raised her eyebrows at Rock, stopping a mere few feet before him. "Let's go."

"Alright, bye guys." Rock held the door open for her, and she passed it without so much a thank you, and he shut it behind them.

There was no denying the heat, her tank top stuck fast to her skin. It covered the city like a thick blanket. In the distance, Revy saw girls running about in bikinis- probably Bao's girls- and children rushing around in the street throwing a ball back and forth. The skirt was a good choice, there's a kiss of weak wind and she'd grateful for it.

The Plymouth's parked next to the wooden stairs and Revy threw open the door to slide in. It was a conscious effort to treat cars delicately- too many years of breaking into them or throwing people out onto the road. The scratch on the bumper was buffed out. The car shook as Rock sat in the driver's seat.

Looking down, she saw a package of cigarettes by her feet, and she lit one, offering it to Rock before getting her own. There was no cigarette kiss today, even with the way he took his cigarette, his eyes dragging across her thighs, the skirt riding up her legs. The leather stuck to her thighs, the small of her back, and adjusting herself felt as if her skin was going to fall off.

The engine purred to life; Rock carefully reversed and pulled out onto the empty road. The kids moved out of the way, scowling at the two passengers for interrupting their game, and Revy shot a glare back at them, knocking ash onto the half-down window. "Fuckheads. Why do they act surprised every fucking time we drive through? It's a fucking road."

"Yep. Third time this week. Though they'd want to stick close to home." Rock replied easily, flexing his jaw. Child corpses were easy to find, after all, which they both refused to say.

"Whatever." Revy leaned on the car door and watched the old, peeling buildings go by. Some were freshly painted and some were falling in on itself, with more falling in the latter category. She pressed her forehead on the glass, blowing cigarette smoke from her nose.

"Hey… Revy, can I ask you something?" He asked, quietly, both hands clasped on the steering wheel.

"What?" Something sticky and dark shifted in her mind.

"You sorted pornography for Ms. Balalaika, right?"

Here it was. Her heart twisted in her chest. She didn't want to think of what he was going to say. A short reply for a short, stupid question. "Yeah."

"Did it go okay? You seemed…" Rock struggled for a word; his fingers clenched as he slowed to a stop at a red light. Cars flew in front of them, honking their horns at each other. "Seemed pretty strung out when I saw you at Bao's."

"It's sorting fucking porn for like, three fucking hours, Rock, how the fuck would you feel?" Like a beaten dog, she snapped, her words venomous and there's a real, vibrant threat behind them, but they both knew she'd never reach for her guns. She glanced back at him, holding his faltering gaze.

Rock cast a worried look at her, his mouth tugging to the side. It reminded her of before, before he got into the game around here; when he was a nervous salaryman hiding behind her gunfire. "Well, you did say some pretty troubling stuff."

"I was drunk. I was damn falling under the table when you decided to walk your royal ass in there." She fiddled with the pathetic AC in the car, warmed air blowing onto her face until it turned chill.

"You mentioned the bruise on your stomach. It's still pretty visible, by the way."

"What makes you think it was from Fry Face?" She turned her head back to view the scenery as the car easily swung right. They drove right past Rowan's place, even in the ripe beginnings of an afternoon patrons were entering.

Rock scoffed, shaking his head. 'Because you obviously didn't have it when you left to go to the Hotel."

Neither of them spoke for a minute, Revy brooding and Rock awaiting an answer. He was patient, but not patient enough to allow a lack of a reason. The most fucked up part of it all was that he cared. He truly, utterly cared, and he wasn't afraid to express it in the polite ways he could. They'd been on this route hundreds of times, but today Revy scanned the landscape like it was the first time she saw it.

Revy leaned off the car door and slumped in her seat, her thighs awkwardly unsticking themselves. The fact he was worried made it even worse. She hadn't even noticed it, already accepting the bruise as part of her body. "I've always got a cut or a bruise. Comes with this line of work. Get used to it."

"We both know she's… unstable sometimes. A good businesswoman, absolutely, but… in Japan... that picture she sent me, of Yukio's face." He trailed off, and he's gone again, back in his homeland. Yukio's death never left him, Revy could always tell when a death struck somebody hard, like cold water to the face. It was an immature thing, Revy hating Yukio without ever truly knowing the schoolgirl.

Revy swallowed, a rare guilt making itself known. Her shoulders bowed and she picked at an old scab on her knee. "Fuck, don't breathe life into her ghost. I'm hesitant about speaking her fucking name to you. Don't think about her, Rock. I told you not to look."

He ignored her, taking another left, shaking his head. His hair flicked into his eyes and he laid it flat once more. "What if that happened to you? She was going to kill both of us."

"That's an answer I clearly don't want to think about, Rock. But let's be real, it won't happen any time soon." Revy grinned to break the tension, flicking her cigarette out of the cracked window. Where her bruise was had a hollow feeling. "She and Dutch are too buddy-buddy."

Rock chuckled in reply. It was a straight drive to the Hotel, palm trees in between the two lanes. The traffic grew less intense, and by the time they pulled into the average sized parking lot even fewer vehicles were on the road. The blue of the sky was so brilliant underneath the smog it almost hurt her eyes. It was cloudless, too.

Chapter Text

Revy's stomach didn't do flips as it would have, in the presence of such a mocking structure. Whatever the building was before, didn't matter, and neither what was inside it now. The empty feeling dissipated and she was out of the car before Rock even turned the ignition off. His surprised reaction went unnoticed as the treads of her boots hit the steaming asphalt. She slammed the door behind her, hand on the hot cherry-red paint. Rock followed suit with a softer click of his own, and they met in front of the vehicle.

The wind brushed up her skirt, it flickering over her thighs, toying with the idea of making her flash some poor passerby. They walked in silence, Rock nervously smoking a cigarette. Revy's tongue traced the top of her mouth, dancing along her canines, musing on if she'd be low enough to ask him to share.

He was even more apprehensive then before, shoulders curled around himself like he's thinking hard and doesn't want any surprise assaults, but he's subdued about his panic. All that was to be done was the moment of meeting with Balalaika.

Revy knew in her head that it was stupid, to walk up and see her just for a minute, just watch her go over the stupid shit with Rock, because she'd be up against the far wall, his own security; in the background. Naturally.

Opening the glass door, they were blasted with cold, cold air. Rock sighed in relief, rubbing the back of his head, and Revy fell behind him, all too used to this routine.

Balalaika had maintained her little operation so well that parts of it was beginning to work without her direct influence. Things that needed to be adjudicated were adjudicated, and her men strolled out all knowing and purposeful. Revy fidgeted in here, she didn't like to be here for long periods of time. She felt as if she was a blood clot in an important vein, with people rushing around her.

She knew the guy standing at the front desk. He was mustached and wore sunglasses, even inside, and his face was stoic, and he wasn't as nice as Boris, but there was still the sense of eerie hurry up and go. Rock was more comfortable; walking up to him with the deal unfolding its petals in his brain. Revy stayed back, and adjusted the guns underneath her sweaty armpits, her finger's brushing the hem of her skirt to see if it still covered everything.

"She is waiting for you." The man tersely stated; a telephone held up to his ear. The man turned away, muttering into the phone, one hand on the back of a chair.

"Thanks." Rock stated, nodding as slow and deliberate as a glacier; his hands in his pockets. He shifted his body to point towards Revy, a soft smile on his face. His white shirt had a slight wrinkle to it and the tie hung loosely. "Ready to head up?"

"Yep, all set." Revy remarked, her face flushed from the heat, hair matted from laying awkwardly in the car. Wiping her sweaty hands on her skirt, she watched Rock head up the stairs, and for a brief second glanced back at the door. After questioning what the hell she was doing here, Revy strutted up behind him, her ponytail between her shoulder blades, the unbrushed ends tickling her back.

They both took quick steps up the stairs, two men, tall and wide, walked down, near brushing shoulders with Rock. The Hotel was more alive than ever, there must have been a new enemy to exterminate. Sunlight streaked through the windows and warmed where it touched.

Rock knocked on the heavy door, the sound echoing throughout the hall. He always used a certain timing to his knocks now. Revy fought the urge to pace. She tugged her skirt down one more time, her guns biting into the soft flesh of her underarms. He cocked his head at her fumbling, his knuckles still touching the door.

Revy rolled her eyes. She’d forgotten what wearing skirts were like. "What? I'm sweaty as fuck."

"Rock? Come in." Balalaika called, the words floating muffled through the door and Rock wrapped his hand around the silver doorknob and carefully pulled it open. He ushered Revy in first, which while was one of his famous polite courtesies; she wanted to kill him in that moment. Her hand moved to his stomach, nails brushing the red bruise on her stomach, the very bottom of it peaked underneath her crop top, like it was a badge of some fucked-up sort.

The blinds were open and the curtains pushed to the sides. The lights were off, as the sun filled the room with its afternoon light, a warm yellow. The room smelled like a cleaning agent and the wood fixtures glowed.

Balalaika nodded for them to enter. She was in her usual place: behind her desk, documents scattered in front of her and the ashtray half full. “Good timing, Rock.” She blinked in Revy’s direction. “Two Hands.”

“Sis,” Revy greeted, looking through her eyelashes, and pressed her back to the wall, laying her head against it.

Balalaika stood up, and deliberately walked around the desk, leaning on it. “It appears that this issue is finally coming to an end. We just need you to tie up the loose ends- mainly, the one boat left.”

The conversation was mainly between Rock and Balalaika, a vague dueling of words that the blonde seemed to enjoy, her arms crossed and her hair flowing down her chest. Balalaika told them of the men she made an example of thus far, how they were spread from the harbor to the lush green that surrounded Roanapur. The boat was to leave Malaysia tomorrow, and be under the guise of a fishing boat to get the few survivors left. Lagoon Company would see that they wouldn’t see Malaysia, or anything, ever again.

It was times like these that made Revy thankful she was the fighter, not the negotiator. The verbal wordplay was annoying at best; the only question she wanted an answer for was whether she got to kill someone or not. So, she crossed her arms and waited, spectating the two in front of her. There were the two leather couches she could sit upon, but being near the door was better for her mental health.

Rock managed to capture her attention for a time. Revy gave in and watched Balalaika, the way she moved her hands and the broadness of her hips in the tight pencil-skirt. The way her legs were in black tights and the heels she wore; her long hair and pretty lips, only for the visage to be broken by the look of death in her eyes. Twice she swore Balalaika returned her stare.

“Hey, Revy.” Rock paced over to her, a half-smile on his face, his hair rumpled by the air conditioner. He emitted relief. “We’re all set.”

Revy blinked rapidly. Pushing herself off the wall, she hid a disappointment that was too big for words. “It’s all good? Awesome.”

Balalaika rounded back to her chair, impassive and refined, trailing her fingers along the desk until she was seated again. “Have a good afternoon, you two.”

“Yeah, you too.” Revy twisted her head to catch another needy glimpse, long enough to where Balalaika stopped looking over the contents on her desk to look back up at Revy. She ran her acrylics through her blonde hair, her stoic expression showed little.

Taking a step backward, Revy put her hand on the doorway to help her exit, slowly looking away. Balalaika returned to her paperwork, sliding a pen into her hand. She closed the door behind her, shuffling her feet forward.

Now, Revy realized there were options to consider. Fear was still inside her; she’d be an idiot to pretend there wasn’t any. However she wasn’t a pussy by any means, and she knew Balalaika regretted punching her ribs in. A five-minute visit. Isn’t that what Dutch did, sometimes? A quick hello, keep the acquaintanceship going, he’d say. Balalaika even called him on his cell. She didn’t know Revy’s number, and therefore it was even more agreeable for her to visit, because they were not that close, she reasoned. At least she was able to negotiate with herself.

She stayed behind Rock again, her hands going to rest inside her pockets but there was only the flatness of her skirt. He ran a hand through his hair, and as his fingers went down his scalp, he massaged the back of his neck.

"Hey, Rock… go on without me, I gotta talk to Fry Face." Revy said, her hand on the bannister at the top of the stairs, Rock a few steps in front. His eyes widened and his mouth twisted into one of contemplation and confusion.

"What? Why do you need to do that?" He asked, turning to gage her reaction. Muted noise of people chatting in various languages crept up the stairs from the lobby.

Her grip on the bannister tightened. "Well… It’s just some dumb shit. Don't get in my fucking business, Rock. I don’t get into yours."

“Well, alright, true.” Rock agreed, but his face said otherwise. “Are we still meeting at Bao’s?”

Chewing the inside of her cheek, she held a shared gaze between them, trying to make him understand without asking too many questions.

“Maybe at the apartment? Who knows how long this will fuckin’ take. And I can get a ride from Eda or something.” Dismissively, Revy waved a hand at him.

He looked quizzically at her, his dark eyes searching for something he didn’t grasp. “Revy…”

“Trust me on this.” Revy quietly replied. She remembered the kiss in Japan. Even in the drug induced haze it was a memory her brain did not want to let go of. A third option made itself present; she and Rock could go to the bar like old times. Try to outdrink each other while he stopped her from getting into any fights. “I’m your gun, remember?”

“I trust you. But stay out of trouble,” He shrugged playfully and continued down the stairs, the relief from earlier returning, making his spine straight and his gait relaxed.

She stayed and watched him go, nails digging into the waxed wood.

A few minutes later, when Revy was sure he was well and truly gone, she walked away from the top of the stairwell. She made an effort to walk slowly back to the blonde’s office. Glancing over her shoulder, Revy noticed people going up the stairs, but no one coming in her direction. Nobody spared a glance at her, either.

Adjusting one of her shoulder holsters, she nervously raised a fist, and barely pressed it to the door. Her breath quickened and she inhaled slowly, her lungs beginning to tighten. Tapping her knuckles against the wood, she put a hand on her hip and exhaled. “Hey Sis? It’s me. Can I just come back in real quick?”

“Come in.”

Balalaika waved her in, as she had a telephone at her ear. She tapped the pen she held earlier on the folder beside her, eyes on the ceiling, as she allowed the person on the other line to have their turn to talk.

Revy shut the door behind her, and instead of staying near the wall, stepped forward, stopping at the coffee table that was between the two couches. Crossing her arms, she turned her body towards the window, and watched the sea shimmer in the distance. In hindsight, if she ignored the rotting parts of Roanapur, the city at some points could be considered something adjacent to beautiful. Benny said that eventually this hot, humidity will break at some point, and they’ll be in one hell of a rainstorm. Her fingers dug into her arms.

“Weren’t you listening before? I’ll repeat it one more time so you can understand.” Balalaika sneered into the phone; the tapping of the pen stopped. “We already sent you the body, you just can’t have the head.”

Biting back a smile, Revy continued to wait, fighting the urge to start tapping her foot. Impatiently, she swung her ponytail back over her shoulder and chewed on her lip. She uncrossed her arms and patted a hand down her skirt, blindly looking for cigarettes she’d normally squish into her jean pocket. Rock had the carton in his pants pocket. Of course, he did.

She could hear the wretched voice of the person on the other end of the line. It was half parts begging and complaining. Unmoved, Balalaika leaned back in her chair and remained silent. When the caller took a moment to catch a breath did the blonde jump in. “The information he gave us was undoubtably helpful. Probably the most important thing he’d ever have done in his life; even if he did manage to live another twenty years. So, his purpose was fulfilled. This conversation is over.”

The telephone slid into the black cradle gently, the muffled words ceasing. Balalaika rubbed the bridge of her nose with her thumb and pointer finger, and looked up at Revy expectantly.

“What was that about?” Revy asked, scoffing, folding her arms underneath her chest again.

“Work, Two Hands.” Balalaika sighed, tapping her finger on her desk, shaking her head slowly. “Annoying, tedious work. I’m amazed I even had the time to clean.”

"You cleaned this room yourself?" Revy crinkled her nose at the sharp lemon smell. She went around the coffee table, calf brushing the couch as she passed.

"Well, yes, I did. It needed to be; I was putting it off for too long." Balalaika gave a muted, wry smile. She must have been able to read Revy's thoughts on her face. "Why? Shocked that I do something besides sit in this damned chair all day?"

Revy nodded, thunderstruck, looking around the office. "I thought, wow, that you, had people do everything for you. Like maids and shit."

"We do have people for that, for… special occasions. Otherwise I can take care of my own office.” Balalaika had her chin supported by the back of her hand and watched Revy, bemused. Aside from the smell and the shiny surfaces, it looked virtually the same as it did before.

"Fuck, I guess so. Looks like you’re putting it up for sale." Revy took the liberty to walk closer to the bookshelves, her body two feet away from the side of the Russian's desk. She scratched a faded bruise on her thigh, palm brushing her skirt. Refusing to look at her, she scanned the jewel-toned books, a majority of the titles in Russian. Curiously, childishly, she ran a finger down one of the spines, bumping over the letters stamped into the book, shimmering gold. There were more magazines in her childhood then books; aside from the schoolbooks she never brought back.

Balalaika sat up, the squeaking of her chair shaking Revy out her brief trance. "Now, what are you here for? Shouldn't you be heading back with Rock?"

"I…" Revy licked her lips and shrugged, the skirt swishing on her legs. She walked closer to Balalaika, her bare thigh biting into the corner of the desk; connecting with a small box of wooden matches. "I wanted to see if you had any new jobs for me to do."

The blonde blinked, cracking her knuckles, cocking her head to the side and staring at her desk, musing. "We'd only just talked yesterday, remember?" Balalaika repressed a knowing look, but her dull eyes betrayed her, causing Revy to flush. "But last night I had time to think about it, and perhaps I may need your services again. Next week I'll be… enduring a meeting with the others who have a large piece of the pie that is Roanapur. So, while I'm gone you- "

"While you're gone?" Revy blurted, leaning over, hands balled into fists, ponytail falling over her left shoulder. "Sis, I don't want to be here without- fuck, shit, with all these guys I don't know!"

"Oh?" Balalaika narrowed her eyes, resting her arms on the desk. "I can't bring you with me. This isn't some dinner party, you know. I give it my best effort to get in and get out as soon as possible."

Revy wished that the blonde was smoking a cigar. Without it in her hand, Balalaika's full attention was on her. "Yeah, shit. I feel you. Seems like everybody dreads going to those things. That… sucks." She swallowed, and her fists unclenched, instead hanging uselessly by her sides.

"It's a necessary evil, one that we all must bear, but I'm sure you've heard that before." Balalaika's gaze flitted down, finally, to Revy's skirt as it moved gently with an irritated twist of her hips, moving away from leaning on the desk. Revy folded her arms and chewed on the inside of her cheek; there was a feeling of satisfaction in her gut, that her silly little plan had worked.

"Do you like it?" Revy asked, her voice steady and sure. She moved her hips back and forth, the pleated fabric brushing the middle of her thighs. Instead of an awkward chill she was relatively stable. An ache persisted in her chest.

"You wore it in Japan, did you not?" Balalaika muttered, following the movement of the skirt with her eyes. Then her gaze traveled up to her midsection. She turned her head away, and reached down, tentatively, to open a drawer to the left of her. Inside was an open box with two cigars inside it. "Yes. It's very flattering, Two Hands. Dressing up for Rock today, are you?"

Revy sucked in her lips, keeping herself neutral. She unfolded her arms and smoothed down the fabric, trying to keep the blonde's attention for as long as possible. But Balalaika wasn't staring at her anymore, instead was trying to find a light. Revy's hand shot out to grab the box of matches, the weight of it light in her sweaty grip. "Here. Let me, Sis."

Balalaika was silent, cigar between her two fingers, pausing, as if she forgot what she was doing. "Hold on a minute." She dug her fingers into the drawer again and found a single blade guillotine beside the box, raising it to the cigar. The guillotine looked like an antique, not like the cheaper ones Revy typically saw.

“Too good to bite it off with your teeth?” Revy teased cautiously.

The blonde slid the cigar’s head into the mouth of the guillotine. “With this lipstick on? Absolutely.” With a clean swipe, the head smoothly came off, and was promptly put into the ashtray.

Revy had seen these matches before, in the boat. They were quality cedar matches, better for tobacco consumption. She’d borrowed one from Dutch’s own stash before, but decided it took too damn long to light her cigarette. She struck the match along the box. Waiting for the bit of chemical at the end to burn off, Revy leaned closer to Balalaika. The blonde in turned moved closer as well, and she turned the end of the cigar over the open flame slowly, her eyes watching the flame. Revy watched her, trailing her eyes from her hairline to her lips.

They were close now, like they were before, close enough that if Revy shot an arm out, she could touch Balalaika’s throat. The flame brought out the dips and shadows of Balalaika’s facial scar, giving a faux touch of light to her blue eyes. Revy’s throat closed around her words, and she was transfixed by the subtle labor it took in slowly lighting the cigar.

Balalaika then wrapped her lips around the cigar and puffed out a few rounds of smoke. “Blow it out, Two Hands.”

“The match? Well, yeah, I was gonna do that.”

“The cigar also.”

Blushing, Revy leaned down and Balalaika tilted up her head, the end of the cigar had a small flame on the end, curling and wrapping around the tobacco. Pursing her lips, she took a deep breath, placing her hands on her knees to get in closer without brushing up against her. Now Balalaika was unbearably close, with the few inches of the cigar between them. A gut feeling said to her that if it weren’t for that fucking thing, she’d have been unable to hold herself back. Longing clouded her vision, and she was unable to stop looking at Balalaika’s face, at her eyes and glossy lips. The Russian didn’t break her gaze either, locked on Revy, watching her blow out the end of her cigar.

“There you go.” Revy whispered, her eyes half-lidded, clenching her jaw. She didn’t move. There wasn’t a worry in her head whether Balalaika would hurt her with it.

The corners of Balalaika’s eyes crinkled, and blew smoke into Revy’s face, slowly and methodically. “Good girl. Do you want to try?””

Her intense stare broke, and Revy turned her head away, rasping out a laugh, closing her eyes. Balalaika pulled back into her chair, puffing out more white smoke, uncrossing her legs.

When she opened her eyes, bitterly she stood up, noticing the distance Balalaika put between them. “Fuck, really? Is this a trap?”

“No, not at all. I’d like to see it.” Balalaika cocked her head to the side, her long hair brushing her large chest.

“Well, I know you won’t punch me in the stomach again.” Revy joked, grinning. The easy expression spread across Balalaika’s scarred face faltered for a brief second, but a playful one replaced it.

The blonde pressed her lips together and puffed out one last round of smoke. “As long as you don’t drop it.”

“I’ll try my best not to.” Revy replied, glancing down at the ground, widening her eyes.

"Be warned, it starts off very peppery." Balalaika blew smoke out of her mouth as she held it up to Revy, being careful of shaking off any ash.

Revy gently took it, one end glossy from lipstick, mimicking the way the blonde was holding it earlier, with a light but firm grip. She didn't want to imagine what would happen if she dropped it. Placing it between her chapped lips, Revy sucked in lightly, before immediately letting the smoke escape from her mouth. A chance encounter between her and a cigar several years ago had taught her not to treat it like a cigarette. There was no time for embarrassment today.

"Well done, Two Hands." Balalaika leaned on her fist, supported by an elbow firmly placed on the desk. "You've done this before?"

If she wasn't red before, she was now, until the scrutiny of Balalaika's gaze. "Once," Revy swallowed, tasting the sweet pepper in her mouth. She was right. "And I coughed up a lung. Like, in front of all these fucking shitheads, back in New York. Fuckin' A…" The ending of the story wasn't a happy or funny one, so she decided she'd stop it there. "Tasted like shit, but… this tastes alright."

Revy lowered the cigar from her mouth and was prepared to give it back to Balalaika. Ash dropped onto the floor, with the awkward adjustment of her hand. The Russian shook her head, her blonde hair brushing her cheeks. A corner of her mouth twitched. "No, keep going. Try it again for me, will you?"

Revy bristled under the pressure and inhaled again, slower this time, eyes on the wall in front of her, nervously, like she was doing something wrong. She exhaled. The situation was oddly intimate, Balalaika sharing it with her like this, calmly spectating like Revy was some sort of lab rat. Her heart lurched, and she felt exposed. It still tasted peppery, stronger this time, but the sweetness made it bearable. She smoked it for a third time; her mind drifted elsewhere and she sucked in the smoke too deeply. A cough burst from her mouth, scraping up her throat, exiting without her approval.

Balalaika suddenly laughed, covering her mouth with her hand, her shoulders shaking. She leaned back in her leather desk chair, stifling her laughter but for a minute, before launching into a series of quiet chuckles. "You..." She exhaled, choosing her words carefully. "You looked so focused, over a cigar. I'm not testing you, oh, oh, Two Hands. What am I going to do with you?"

"Fuck. I told you I only tried it once," Revy gestured with her unoccupied hand, her arm scraping her gun. The cigar was perilously between two fingers, shivering with the sudden movement.

There was no reply except for a deep chuckle again, and Balalaika managed to compose herself, her face resuming its former expression. “I see.” She brushed her hair away from her face and raised her arm to take the cigar back. Revy leaned over to hand it back, their fingers grazing. The blonde was warm to the touch, in contrast to the clamminess Revy currently had.

“That was ah… that was good.” Revy scrambled to remember her manners. “…Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, Two Hands. Very kind of you to indulge me.”

It was quiet again, neither of them speaking. Revy looked down at Balalaika, who had a puzzled expression on her face, her lips ever so parted, head tilted. Glancing down, she realized she hadn’t let go of the cigar.

 “You should leave,” Balalaika said, turning her head towards the door, the arch of her position made Revy highly aware of her cleavage. “I have other things to attend to. Is Rock waiting for you?”

“Nah. He’s gone. Said I’d see him at the apartment. But… I’m sure you’ve got shit to do. So I’ll head out.” Revy withdrew her fingers, and glanced at the door as well. She forgot about how easy it would be for one of her men to innocently walk in here.

“It was nice of you to visit. I have to head out to another meeting again. Morons don’t know when to stop selling weapons without us knowing.” Balalaika pushed her chair back and stood up, and Revy had forgotten just how tall she was.

“I wanted- I thought, why not. Cause I was already here.” Revy remained where she was, looking up at the blonde, even though she needed to leave. “Would you want me to visit again?”

“I don’t think that’d be wise.”

“But for a few minutes. And I can come over and do jobs too. Fuck, my new job can be lighting your cigars.” She was half-joking. If that was an option, she’d take it in a heartbeat.

Balalaika chuckled. “I don’t believe there’s an opening for that.”

“I’ll do it for free,” Revy stepped closer, quickly taking a small step forward, her chest brushing against Balalaika’s. Her voice dropped to barely a whisper, her voice near inaudible. Her heart pulsed in her chest; her hands clammy once more. “You could touch me all that you want.”

The blonde blinked, trying to step back but her hand flew behind her and grasped the back of her chair. “I have work to do here, Two Hands. Brave, aren’t you?”

“Like I said before, you won’t punch me in the damn stomach again. Although, you have many other ways of brutally hurting or maiming me.” She stated, putting her hands on her hips, making her body as broad as possible.

“I do.” Balalaika murmured, adjusting her footing, coming even closer.

Revy bent her neck back to fully take her in. Her blonde hair glowed in the natural light. “You’re too tall Sis, you know that?”

“You might be too short, Two Hands…” The Russian trailed off. Her eyes became half-lidded and her mouth almost slack. Her rigid posture softened and her hand removed itself from the chair. She set the cigar in the ashtray, grinding it into the powdery ashes.

Revy wasn’t sure who leaned in first. She’d grasped at Balalaika’s forearms, feeling the muscle underneath, flexing her fingers. The suit jacket was tight, tighter than she expected. They pressed closer together. Balalaika ran her fingers through Revy’s ponytail, roughly yanking the elastic band, the snarled burgundy hair tumbling down her back. She then laced her fingers through it, spreading her hair across the back of her shoulders.

“You need to leave, Revy.” Balalaika said as she leaned down, her two blonde thick locks tickling Revy’s chest.

Mhm.” Revy replied in a slick, dry whisper, half out of it with the blonde playing with her hair, the long nails scraping her neck. “And I will.”

Their noses bumped together softly, Revy arched her head up as high as she could, her forehead pressed against Balalaika’s. She ran her hands up and down the blonde’s arms. If she focused, maybe she could step away, because she’d gotten a taste; the throbbing between her legs told her otherwise. Revy desperately did not want to separate herself from Balalaika. As she saw the blonde’s eyes shut, so did hers.

Balalaika slid one hand from Revy’s hair and trailed it down to the bare skin of her lower back, palming the flesh and digging her nails in, ever so slightly. The other hand gripped the back of her hair, holding her firmly. The feeling of them touching skin to skin had Revy gasp, and she wrapped an arm around Balalaika’s waist, gathering the fabric of her suit jacket tightly in her hand.

Their noses brushed against each other and their mouths were so close Revy felt the cigar-tinged breath on her lips. When she nudged Balalaika’s forehead, the older woman returned the gesture, moving their heads back and forth, lips just barely ghosting each other. She could not breathe, she gasped in air but the hotness of Balalaika's breath stole it straight out of her lungs.

“And,” Revy whimpered, “I wore this skirt for you.”

Balalaika moaned quietly. “Stop,” She tugged at Revy’s hair, causing her head to tilt back, to which she followed, their faces brushing roughly on each other. “talking.”

Their parted mouths teased each other, a silent dare of who would essentially give in, and Revy did not want to fucking lose. Her own lips trembled and her breasts ached from the friction of the buttons on Balalaika’s jacket. The blonde wasn’t fairing well either, as she grew more persistent with her teasing, and Revy noticed the increasing desperation. The blonde’s pinkie nail slid underneath the waist band of the skirt. Rubbing her thighs together, Revy was shocked at how wet she already was, her inner thighs sticky.

Revy licked the blonde’s upper lip, caressing her canine as well, the pointed tip digging into the softness of her tongue. Balalaika moaned, honest to god, into her mouth and clutched at her tighter. Revy moved to unbutton her jacket when a sharp knock came at the door.

Kapitan?”

Chapter Text

Neither of them moved.

Balalaika paused with her mouth grazing Revy's lower lip, as her hand traveled from the small of Revy's back to squeezing the flesh of her hip. Their bodies both turned rigid; Revy's with fear and Balalaika's with something else entirely.

"Shit," Revy whispered against the blonde's mouth, her eyes popping open. They met Balalaika's already wide-opened eyes; the pupils dilated. In return, she bitterly muttered words in Russian, and edged away from Revy. The air that came between them was colder than it was before. The hum of the air conditioner was loud and abrasive.

Turning her head slowly, Balalaika called out to the door, her tone casual. Her fingers detangled themselves from Revy's wild hair, dropping to the desk. The tight hold on Revy’s hip pulled away. "Sergeant? Would you hold on just a minute?"

Revy stepped back, and already she was regretting doing so. Her lips tingled and where Balalaika had touched her felt unreal; like it never happened. She didn't want to go. Her hands hovered in the air, unknowing of what to do next.

"Of course, Kapitan." Boris' deep, calm voice came from behind the closed door.

"If I'm speaking English," Balalaika replied hoarsely, twisting her body away and picking up the ashy cigar, looking it over and dropping it back into the ashtray. Her eyes bore into the wooden door with intense vexation. "then it means we have someone in the office."

"Will I see you again?" Revy muttered, raw terror or anger bleeding into the question. She moved sideways around the side of the desk, away from the blonde. Her feet moved slow, like she was trekking away from a sleeping predator.

"I got my lipstick on your mouth. Rub it off, before he comes in here." Balalaika gestured with her whole hand at Revy. Her tone held a touch of panic, as she quickly ran her fingers through the tendrils of blonde hair that framed her face.

Quickly, she rubbed the back of her hand around her mouth, feeling the waxy substance transferring onto her knuckles and smearing into her skin. The makeup was a twisted trophy of a victory nobody knew about. "Sis, when the fuck will I see you-"

Shut the hell up, Two Hands .”

Balalaika strutted over to Revy, her heels somehow quiet. She reached out to silence her, her long fingers tightening hard around her forearm. Gasping, Revy's other arm wrapped around the blonde's waist, holding her firmly.

Balalaika bent her head down and nudged Revy's head to tilt up. Her nails dug into Revy's skin, enough that she grew afraid that she’d bleed.

"You need to learn to shut your mouth, especially now." the blonde hissed, yet her cheeks were a very soft shade of pink. The color stood out well on her milk-pale skin. Revy was suddenly grateful for her deep tan; not that it did anything when she flushed red.

“What the fuck do you think I’ve been doing, Sis. I told no one you shattered every rib I had.” she snapped, the air in her lungs suddenly not being enough. Now she was pissed; to be treated like some whore to be ushered out. Her heart pulsed in her ears, matching the tune that tauntingly played between her legs. She leaned up closer, pushing up a bit on her tiptoes to give one last teasing brush of lips.

Instead, Balalaika's tongue urged Revy's mouth to open, and the older woman licked inside experimentally. Revy groaned quietly, muffed by Balalaika's moving lips. The kiss was slow and soft, achingly so, teasing enough that Revy near melted, clutching onto her with a shaking arm. She nipped at Balalaika's lower lip as her hand groped at her back, feeling her spine and fabric of the jacket. The blonde’s breath hitched, and her fingers went over the bump of Revy's collarbone, to where the swell of her breast began.

The brush of Balalaika’s facial scar was surprising in its softness. A tilt of her head there and Revy felt it on her cheek. She assumed it was hard and crackly, like sandpaper with its salmon-colored ridges. The texture was there- there was a need to feel it against her tongue or fingers, and that lead her to think of the scars on the rest of her body. The scars were twisted, trailing masses, fissured by faint cracks. Were they worse the farther they went down her body? A chill ran up Revy’s spine, but it dispersed a second later.

Revy’s prior irritation gave way to unbridled lust. A longing that would be unfulfilled and possibly never visited again, but the kiss was real, it was not a fantasy. Someone was kissing her and it wasn’t the patheticness in prison or some creepy drug dealer hounding after her in New York. It was a brief taste of intimacy. Her heart lurched desperately in her chest and anxiety wrapped its tendrils around her brain. Her lips stilled, and her hands lost their grip on the blonde. It was as if she forgot how her mouth worked.

"Now," Balalaika retorted pulling away enough so that her hand slipped out of Revy's top. The blonde's thumb ran over Revy's parted lips, cleaning up the newly acquired lipstick residue. The motion was quick, the acrylic scratching across her skin; she contemplated trying to take the finger into her mouth. Balalaika loosened her iron-hard grip on Revy’s arm, stepping back glacially. "I'll see you when I can. I can't make any promises. Let's talk later."

“Shit, alright. I- yeah, okay, see ya.” Revy shrugged, backing away as well, heading towards the door. Her hair tangled around her shoulders, and she realised she hadn’t washed her hair for two days. She must have reeked of cigarettes and salt water. Sweat had seeped into her leather holsters. Revy fought the urge to roll her eyes. Every single interaction with Balalaika thus far had her appearing like she scarcely could bathe herself.

"We were lucky enough for this, Two Hands. Best not forget that." Looking towards the door, Balalaika cracked her knuckles and inhaled through her nose, her composure flowing back to her all at once. The crackling tension in the room evaporated, and Revy only regained emptiness and confusion. She wondered if it was possible that she could crawl underneath the blonde’s desk, to stay there until their business was concluded.

"Sis-"

“Sergeant.” Balalaika commanded, hands on the table behind her, shoulders squared. She leaned easily on her desk. There was only a memory of the pink lipstick, a soft gloss that shimmered on the top of her lip that met her cupid’s bow.

“Wait!” Revy exclaimed, after patting her skirt. She fumbled on the band of the skirt, stupidly searching for pockets that weren’t there.

The blonde blinked fast at her, as Boris silently entered the room, his heavy footsteps echoing in the office. He looked between the both of them, impassively, his immense frame still created a sense of fight-or-flight in Revy. Balalaika nodded her head in greeting, a silent understanding between the two soldiers that didn’t really need words. He greeted Revy voicelessly as well, in his right hand a stack of documents. Papers and more papers, if she didn’t know better she’d assume Hotel Moscow was just a very vicious insurance company.

Even if he didn’t detect anything that went on, there was an aura of guilt throughout the room, and Revy fought not to stare down at her feet. It was like being caught as a child doing something inherently wrong; a problem that no mere scolding could fix.

Her hair was unkempt, for one thing. It had always been quick to snarl, and she’d be too lazy to brush. Revy raised a hand to touch at her hair that traveled down, ending at the middle of her breast. Iit was worse than usual, and obviously someone had mussed it with their fingers. Her tank top rolled up a bit, showing off the faded bruise.

Balalaika’s outfit didn’t change, the jacket remained where it was even with Revy’s groping and her hair flowed down her back with a tamed wildness. Yet there was the lack of lipstick.

“I uh, I need spare change.” Revy wanted to get out of the building as soon as possible, and she didn’t want to use a phone in front of Balalaika asking someone for a ride. Nervously, she curled her hands into loose fists so she wouldn’t chew her nails. Out of the corner of her vision, there were the thin crescent moons on her forearm. She shifted that side of her body away from Boris’ direction.

“For what?” the blonde questioned, tilting her head quizzically, a notion that Revy found quite cute. Her blue eyes were widened, and the light hit it in such a way that it almost looked like they were alive.

“I just need taxi money.” Revy shrugged, stretching her arms out behind her, eyes darting to the wall beside the two Russians. There were few taxis in Roanapur, and a majority of them were scams. But there was the payphone outside the Hotel, and stubbornly, she didn’t want to use any of their phones.

A beat of awkward silence came and left.

“...I see. Sadly, I do not have any spare change on me, Sergeant?” Balalaika turned her head at him, her humored expression muted, only evident by a twitch of a smile.

“Yes,” Boris stated gravely, like he was at a funeral. He reached into his pant’s pocket and held out a handful of a few coins.

Revy awkwardly walked forward, close enough to Balalaika that she brushed her chest with her shoulder. An apology died in her throat. He was tall, taller than Balalaika in her heels. His frame made him look even larger. She saw the scar carved across his face and suppressed a shudder.

Holding her hand out, she stared up at him as he dropped the money into her hand.

“Thanks,” Revy said, too afraid to say his name. Gnawing on her lip, she attempted a friendly expression, but it came out awkward. She was surprised she even remembered her manners, please and thank you weren’t apart of her vocabulary. It felt foreign on her tongue.

He nodded again in reply. His face remained stoic and impassive, like nothing in the world would shock him anymore. Maybe he saved his facial emotions for Balalaika, or for the other soldiers. Revy averted her eyes after she received the money.

The metal was cold in her sweaty palm and she closed her fist around it, turning to see the both of them. Balalaika wasn’t looking at her, only flickering her eyes to her once she realised Revy was staring at her, and Boris was unreadable, but not hostile. Her posture on the desk was firm, her chest thrust out in the position. Revy shook her head minutely and headed towards the door before Boris saw her blush.

“Alright,” It was up to Revy to get out of the situation, then. She still tasted the cigar in her mouth. “Time for me to get out. Thanks for the advice, Sis. I was really worried.”

“Yes, yes.” Balalaika waved a hand at her dismissively. “Good luck with your boy trouble .” The tone was infuriatingly removed; the conversation already an afterthought.

The two spoke in their native language as the door shut behind Revy smoothly. Her ears were able to pick up on a word that sounded suspiciously like Rock’s coming from Balalaika, with a one word answer from Boris. Practically stomping down the hallway, Revy barely missed running into one of her men. He said something in Russian as she whipped her head back at him, her hair scraping her cheek at the speed. Neglecting to answer, she took the stairs two at a time, feeling bile in her throat the longer she stayed.

People didn’t notice her race to the door. Revy weaved around them, the treads on her boots threatening to skid. Only a few lifted their heads, then returned to their task at hand. Tugging her skirt down over her thighs, she gritted her teeth as men crossed her path.

She figured she was going to throw up when she managed to push open the glass door and escape outside, but the nausea vanished before her gag reflex complained. Staggering towards the payphone, she yawned as she pushed a few coins into the slot and picked up the grossly sticky phone.

Her pointer finger paused after dialing the area code. Dutch was out on the boat, Benny wouldn’t leave Janet’s side, and she wasn’t going to crawl back to Rock. So, there was only one viable option.

"Who the fuck is this? The fuck do you want?" Eda snapped as a greeting. There was a sharpness to her that was detectable even through the phone; even if it was slightly fuzzed by her afternoon drinking. Revy would be worried if she didn’t do the same thing.

Revy scratched the back of her head and exhaled. "Yo Eda, are you in Roanapur right now?"

"Dumbass, I'm always in Roanapur. Thanks for reminding me I'm in this trashy ass city."

"In the actual fucking city, genius."

"Yeah, I'm in town. Picking up Rico's ass."

Out of nowhere, the fact she kissed Balalaika settled in her mind and Revy lost all her patience. She tapped her boot on the ground, squeezing the cheap plastic of the payphone in her grasp. "I need a ride Eda, get me the fuck out of here or I swear to ever-loving Christ I'll-"

"Bitch, calm down,” the nun interrupted.  “Do you have gas money?"

"Yeah, I got eight bucks on me." She had absolutely nothing. Bitterly, Revy realised she had ten dollars stuffed into the front pocket of her shorts.

here was a sound of a deep exhale over the phone. "Okay, where you at?"

Revy looked back at the building. Sighing, she turned and continued to stare at the road in front of her. "I'm at Hotel Moscow…"

"Fuck you. I'll be there in five."

"See ya." Placing the phone back in its horizontal cradle, Revy walked along the sidewalk, swaying her hands by her sides, squinting for the car in the distance.

It was more like ten minutes, and was drifting into fifteen when Eda pulled up. Grey smoke poured out of the exhaust and the engine sounded sickly. Revy sat on the sidewalk, fidgeting, staring out into nothing, wishing for death, because she didn't have any cigarettes. The people who passed her hardly made eye contact when she borderline begged for "one goddamn cigarette". Frustratingly, it reminded her of being back in New York, civilians stepping over a malnourished street rat asking for bus money. A cop car would go by and she'd stab her chin into her chest, staring at the dirty asphalt.

The car creaked to a stop; she could see the rusted brakes through the cracked metal of the rims. All the windows were down, and she could see the trash shoved to one side of the backseat and the harsh sunlight accentuated the peeling blue paint. Eda really didn’t give a shit anymore. She was just going to drive it until it went up in flames. Benny flipped shit whenever he saw that it was still driving. “Have you ever considered she’s a danger to other people, not just to herself, in that trash heap?”

"Fuck I have to get in the backseat?" Revy grunted, pushing her sweaty bangs out of her eyes.

"Oh, hi Revy! Sis didn't tell me we were picking you up!" A priest with green hair stuck his head out of the window. Rico had to be the happiest guy she had ever met in Roanapur. Life to him was a living dream, an endless rose-filled summer, where the bad things that happened were for a reason. He genuinely believed in God, with a capital G. Arguments with him went nowhere, because Rico would just accept Revy's opinion.

"Rico I told you not-”

Revy coughed into her fist. "Yep, here I fucking am."

Eda leaned forward, peering at Revy over triangular sunglasses. Her fingers tapped fast on the steering wheel. "Where the fuck you get that skirt from? You look like a damn hooker."

Revy shifted her stance, hand on the door handle. Her underwear was uncomfortable and her skirt had been hiked up from the rush to leave the Hotel. "Bitch, have you seen what your day-off clothes look like?"

Eda unlocked the backseat and Revy slid in easily, bending her head down in fit in the small car. The seats were thankfully cloth, but they were still dangerously warm. And stained, with charred holes left by cigarettes. “Whatever. Here’s a warning, I kinda lost power steering.”

Ignoring her, Revy gathered her hair into a ponytail, high up on her head. The sweat on the back of her neck was unbearable. "Any one of you got a hair band?"

"I sure do!" Rico replied cheerily, smiling so hard his eyes almost closed shut. He reached into the cupholder and brandished a weathered elastic.

"Awesome. Hand it here."

For several minutes the ride was quiet and relaxing; if Revy ignored her pounding heart. Traffic was how it usually was, with people screaming and horns blaring; creating the atmosphere of Roanapur that Revy loved the most. The sheer forever disarray, a city that lived off of violence. It was hard to hear over the engine; it wept whenever Eda accelerated, and eventually Rico turned up the radio. The station was more radio hosts chattering in Thai then actual music.

“So, Rico, why were you out here on this hot ass day.” Revy asked finally, itching to know the answer. He didn’t leave the church much, only a few times each month. She scored a cigarette from the pack lying near her feet, and was relishing the smoke curling from the orange-hot end.

"Ah, I was out at the farmers market they have in the east end of the city." Rico chatted, turning his head to look at a glowering Revy. "They got such high-quality corn today. The cashew nuts weren't so bad either! Yolanda asked for those."

"They got nuts there? Fucking hell Eda, why the fuck do we go to those shitty ass grocery stores. This is pissing me off."

Eda groaned, hunching her back, her veil flapping in the wind. "I am going to kill myself. I am going to ram this fucking car in that ugly-ass Honda in front of us."

"Go the fuck ahead, put this car out of its misery." Revy slouched down in the sheet, crossing her arms and setting her chin on her collar bones. Like a pouty teenager, she stared out of the window at the chaos outside.

"Wow, somebody's in a shitty mood. As usual." The nun caught Revy's eyes in the rearview mirror. Blue eyes like her, Revy kept thinking. Not, though. Too much life in them. Eda snorted. "Balalaika kiss Rock again or something?"

There were few things Revy was thankful for about Eda, but the fact that so far she hadn't brought up the pornography was an absolute blessing. The video was gone, not wiped from existence, just in a you’ll-never-find-the-body way.

Revy glared in response, digging her nails into her ribs. Hot cigarette ash blew onto her thigh. "Fuck you, no, it's fucking hot as fucking shit out, and the fact you have no fucking air conditioning isn't helping things."

"You can always walk," Eda said in a singsong, grinning ear to ear. With great effort, she twisted the steering wheel to turn right.

"No thanks." Revy stared at her feet in silence, suddenly feeling bummed out.

"It all works out anyway." Rico stated, his elbow on the car door, the wind blowing on his face. "It's all in the cards."

"We get it, Rico." Eda deadpanned, flicking her left blinker on. "Yo, Revy."

"Yeah?" She rubbed her eyes with both hands, looking up through her fingers. The wind blew her hair back away from her eyes, her lazy ponytail swinging in the breeze that smelled industrial.

"Wanna be dropped off or come up with us?"

"Yeah, I'll come with." Revy mumbled to the floor, adjusting her legs. Where the cloth seat touched her was causing her to sweat profusely. "Fuck do we do back at the church?"

Eda was silent as she debated the few options present. "I don't know. Drink. Fuck around. Boil corn. Get your mind off shit. Jesus, you've been so miserable lately."

Any appetite she had died at Hotel Moscow.

"Do you even have shit to drink." Revy stared up at the torn cloth ceiling, chewing on her cheek. "Last time I was there you had half a fucking bottle left and it tasted like shit. And shut up, just shut up."

They drove straight across the bridge, and Revy could see the very tip of the church in the distance. The old city gave way to the lush fields of green, the palm trees swaying in the wind. It looked like a vacation spot, if she ignored the trash scattered throughout the area.

Eda shrugged. "Yes, we have new shit to drink, we got food yesterday."

Revy thought of Rock at the apartment; maybe he was waiting for her. Maybe not. There was nothing she could say anyway.

Eda had just swung the car into the driveway when the engine died. The car shuddered to a stop, and before Revy stopped herself she began to laugh, hard enough that her bruise hurt. Rico joined in, pounding his fist on the dashboard. Eda simply stared out of the windshield and into the very blue sky, face slack.

“It was her time,” Revy goaded, doing the sign of the cross.

They had all stepped out in the Thailand heat, and while Rico was unloading his small amount of groceries Eda and Revy headed into the church. It was bright inside, the sunlight making the use for electrical lights obsolete. Jesus hung from the back wall like a constant reminder, his paint recently touched up.

There was already a chair at the altar with whiskey near it, and two questionably clean glasses. Revy narrowed her eyes, cracking her knuckles absentmindedly. So, Eda was drinking already.

"So, now that Rico's out of our hair, fuck's going on, Revy?"

"Nothing, bitch." Revy replied automatically, her eyelids drooping as she dragged a chair over. Shimmying it into place, she plopped down. Removing her guns, she set them carefully on the altar. She reached up and slid off her holsters, the leather sticky with sweat; she dropped it onto the ground, yawning.

"Yeah, I know. I’m on the rag too.” Eda plopped down lazily, brushing the stray blonde hairs out of her face. “Your jeans were dirty? My ass. Your clothing could stink to high heaven, praise the Lord, and you don’t give a shit."

She scrambled for an answer. Gnawing on her lip, Revy stared at the rings that the drinks over the years had left on the lacquered altar. "Shit. I just…." Shit , the intelligent word she had muttered after Boris had knocked on the door. "I just wanted to impress Rock, happy, bitch? I wore the skirt for him." That was good, very good. A very good lie that will rear its ugly head and bite her in the ass later.

She wanted to say Balalaika kissed me and I feel weird now, because she actually kissed me and it was a fucking real kiss, and she touched me and I made her moan. I really wanted her to kiss me. I got really scared because how the fuck can I ever get close to her again. Also because no one has ever kissed me like that in my whole fucking life. Eda, you must sleep with every fucker in town. What do I do?

She waited for Eda to drunkenly think up some bullshit love advice. The nun poured her a glass full of whiskey and slid it over to the other side of the table. Revy caught it with ease, and brought it up to her lips, condensation dripping onto her lap. It was difficult going down, the burn pleasantly bring her back to her senses. The cigar taste was gone like that, and foggy thoughts of Balalaika’s hands on her moved to the background.

"Rock, huh? Could have asked me for wooing tips. I don't think wearing a skirt's gonna do anything. You guys should go out to eat or something." Eda set down the whiskey, delicately securing it on the surface.

"I would ask if I could." That was a good idea. A very impossible idea. She didn't know where Balalaika ate, probably at some fancy restaurant where they had white tablecloths and the floor wasn't peeling linoleum. Most likely the blonde would want Russian cuisine, like borscht, and if that shit was like bratwurst that would be a hard no. "Is there any place fancy in this shithole of a city?"

The nun looked up at the ceiling, playing with her cross necklace. "Fuck… um... Can't think of any, actually. Maybe the Italians can hook you guys up? Pasta is fancy."

“Oh, fuck.” Revy laughed, grabbing her stomach and wheezing. The image of Balalaika’s face was clear enough that she could reach out and touch it. “Oh, fuck. No, I don’t wanna do that. Be funny, though. Shit, what if Ronny found out?”

“Found out what?” The nun scrunched up her face, pouring another drink, this one having much more liquid than Revy’s.

Hearing the birds chirp outside, Revy thought of the apple that Eve wasn’t supposed to eat, how all hell broke loose, and that she should just keep this to herself, with no hints allowed. She paused, lips frozen around the glass’ rim. Revy was cool with Ronny, and Rock was cool with him as well, but Eda didn’t need to know that either. “Well, fuck , if he found out you know he’d make us look like fucking idiots.”

“I don’t even know the fuck that mafia leader is like, so… lost on me.” Eda shrugged, taking a deep sip of her own glass. “Shit, I guess the only thing left is for you to fuck his brains out, if dinner ain’t gonna happen. Isn’t it wedding season?”

“Ugh, not yet.” Revy groaned, downing the rest of her drink in a frenzied hurry, the burn of the alcohol forcing her to get out of her head. The lies were just adding up. A familiar sadness washed over her again, as it did night after night. She imagined it would only get worse from here on out. “I don’t know, Eda. Get me another drink.”

“Yeah, I know you don’t know. You’re freaking the fuck out.”

Chapter Text

It was a day long job.

By the time Dutch had located the boat, the sun was high in the sky. It was a thirty minute ride away from the shores of Roanapur until they set their sights on the rusted trawler that moved at a slow pace.

It was a better fight, not that it was any consolation to her. There were more men with guns that knew how to use them. Revy spun and jumped and shot her way into the cabin; the crew’s blood seeping into the wood.

Her sick, twisted fever danced in her brain, more giddy the more she killed. Its teeth were bright and sharp and sunk into the grey mass, and Revy shivered, repressing the thing before it won. She killed those who flashed their guns at her, crewmates who swore at her but ran; the truth being that Revy killed every single person on that boat, and the fever dragged itself to the front of her head. It swung down to whisper into her ear, tales Revy heard time and time again, this time with new additions.

Balalaika gave strict orders that they bring the head of the man who ran the vessel. Not necessarily an intact head, but a head all the same. In her glee Revy stumbled upon a man crumpled up in the corner of the cabin. He wore a gaudy dress shirt that was held together by a single button, and his fingers were covered in gold rings.

She forgoed a knife, because a few bullets later his head rolled unevenly off of his shaking shoulders.

Smiling, Revy held his head by his greasy black hair, thrusting it into the air like a trophy, while Benny gave an amused expression as she returned to the PT boat.

“You really had to do it that way?” He laughed. “Well, at least I’m not the one who has to shove it in a cooler.”

Balalaika didn’t meet them at the dock. It was two of her men, broad and tall; silently nodding as they paid Dutch. They still paid in full, despite the condition of the head.

Revy kept reminding herself as she traced her fingers over her lips- a sad mimicry of what Balalaika had done to her -that yesterday she and the blonde had kissed . It was a repeating sentence in her mind. A part of her was elated that it happened; the moment of wondering was over. But another part was terrified.

Rock had made usage of the forgotten saffron and made tea. Revy smelled it from her bedroom, an exotic scent of earthy and sweetness. He had left the thin strands soaking overnight in the fridge, then boiled water when they all piled into the apartment.

“Not bad,” Revy heard Dutch say, “I bet it’d taste better if we all had a few more zeros in our bank account.”

It was strained and prepared by the time she dragged herself out into the living room, aching down to her bones. She attempted to have a nap fitfully, her hair snarled and eyes puffy. Nobody said anything as she, half-drunk, staggered over to the teapot and poured herself a cup into an old mug. The color was like that of any other tea, but the smell was unique to its own. Taking a small sip, she balked at the unexpected flavor.

Rock watched her, nursing his own cup, quietly. Revy sat heavily onto the couch and drank it, not even bothering to join the conversation between the three. She stared blankly out the window, pushing her hair out of her eyes, seething. The sky was purple, the color of her bruise when it was fresh. City lights were flickering on, one by one. Setting the mug down, Revy reached for a cigarette and the lighter that lay abandoned next to it.

Dutch meandered over with a plate of toast and his own cup of tea, and chose a seat on the far end of the couch. There was no need for words to be said, because it was a lost cause, Revy wasn’t ready to speak on the issue yet and Dutch knew something was up anyway.

He placed his plate on the worn coffee table and took the remote into his hand. He jutted his chin in the direction of his cell phone that lay right next to Revy’s drink. “Remind me to call Chang tomorrow, will ya?”

“I’ll try.” Revy replied stiffly, the cigarette in her mouth and the flame steadily approaching it. “You know where mine is? I didn’t bring it yesterday.”

“I got no clue how you women do it. Wear shit that has no pockets.” Shaking his head, he chuckled. He leisurely pointed a finger at the television. Atop the box was Revy’s scuffed cell phone, the dull silver shining in the light.

Her mouth curved into a hard smile. “Fuck, how did I miss that?” Blowing out a small curl of smoke, Revy straightened up, bringing the tea up to drink. The cigarette dropped ash onto her thigh.

Light reflected off his sunglasses. “Eh, today’s job was annoying. Been a while since a real fight.”

“Whenever I say shit like that, what do you say?” Revy flicked her eyes up out the window again, relaxing her shoulders as she smoked a cigarette. “Oh, yeah. That the next fight will be always be a big one.”

“And so far, have I been wrong?” He said, grabbing a cigarette as well.

“What’s your other saying? We cut the head off of a viper and two take its place … some Shakespeare shit like that.” Revy shrugged, the tea now half empty. With a grimace, she placed the tea onto the table and plopped the cigarette butt into the liquid. “Mhm, no thank you.”

“We have to use it for something.” Rock called out from the doorway, and he slid on his dress shoes.

Revy twisted her head to face him, throwing her arm over the top of the sofa. “Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”

“Mr. Chang. I’ll make sure he’ll call you if you don’t, Dutch.” Rock nodded in his direction. He had his serious, salaryman persona on; the awkward personality hidden behind it.

“Yup.” Dutch replied, his voice muffled as he lit the cigarette. Revy studied his face, and looked back at Rock. Everyday was a grim reminder that life was changing, whether she wanted it to or not. She couldn’t recall a time she was truly, truly happy, yet the more past she put behind her the more Revy discovered that nothing was ever, or truly will be, stable.

“See you later.” Rock shut the door behind them, the soft mechanical clicks of the lock going into place solidified his leaving. On the kitchen counter laid his cup, empty.

Benny was in his room, with only muffled typing and an action movie verifying his existence. Janet was back at her shitty apartment, presumably with another guy.

“Did computer boy come out and taste the magical potion Rock brew up for us?” Dutch asked, cocking an eyebrow in the direction of the hallway.

“Nope. He’s been in his fucking room ever since we got back.”

Dutch finished his drink and stationed the mug down on the wood surface. He raised his hands to the old ceiling fan, stifling a yawn, as Revy ran her fingers through her dirty hair. “Speaking of holing up in a room,” he stated, “I’m going to hit the hay.”

She crinkled her nose, another cigarette lit and in her mouth, plumes of smoke adding to those already floating through the cool air. “Sleep tight.”

Slowly, Dutch heaved himself off of the couch, and stiffly walked towards the hallway, cracking his knuckles. He reached up underneath his sunglasses and scratched his eye, a telltale sign he was ready to pass out.

Revy stared at her knees, intently. She brushed ash off of her tanned thigh, noting the scattering of pink bruises from today’s fight. Based on prior calculations, Dutch took five minutes in the bathroom. When he would come out, he’d remember to grab his phone, and leave with it. Then she’d be shit out of luck and have to wait for the next day, because she wasn’t about to try and sneak into his room.

Which meant she’d have to be quick about it.

Sucking on her cigarette, she avoided looking back, and waited for the creaking of the bathroom door closing. As soon as she heard the hum of the light being flicked on she lunged at the coffee table, like a starving animal. The mug filled with luke-warm tea flipped onto its side, leaking liquid down the coffee table where it waterfalled onto the rug. But that didn’t matter now. She’d clean it up later.

What mattered was that it didn’t drench his phone, and Revy scrambled to get it into her sweaty grip. The buttons were well-worn, the tiny images on the rubber near disappeared. Revy glanced up at the window, gnawing on her lip. She had never went into his contacts.

Who else would Balalaika give her number to? Dutch had to have it, he was her savior, the one who heaved her out of the eerily calm sea. He talked to her main office all the time.

But she wasn’t looking for the Hotel Moscow number. Revy scanned the amount of numbers he has saved. One was for Chang, for Rock, for her- a lot of them were numbers she knew. Dutch hated having one-time numbers saved. Quickly, she looked behind her, as she hunched over the phone. Irrationally, she was worried someone was peering over her shoulder and seeing what she was up to.

Balalaika had a cell phone. She’d seen her use it, time and time again. It wasn’t a burner phone, because it was too nice to be one, it was new and was unlike her own shitty bundle of metal.

Seething, she squeezed the phone in her grip and she continued to go through the phone numbers, the digits blurring in her vision. Yolanda, Benny, even Bao’s numbers were there, but nothing that appeared like Balalaika’s.

The shower in the bathroom shut off, with a rough squeak. Revy fumbled to stop the phone from falling out of her hand. “ Oh, fuck .”

Stabbing her finger into the button with an arrow pointing down, she scrolled through the moss-green screen again. She was a few drinks from being truly drunk but at the state she was in, focus was two feet away from being out the window.

An unfamiliar number caught her eye, under Rock’s. It had the area code of Roanapur, but she couldn’t recognize it.

When Dutch, clad in his pajamas, left the bathroom his phone was back on the coffee table. Revy knelt on the rug, pressing an old dishcloth into the stain, the smell still sweet and fragrant. One quick jump over the couch was more than enough to look innocuous.

He mumbled a good night, as he swept his phone into his fingers. Revy nodded at him, while repeating to herself the seven numbers. She kept them rolling around her head, making sure the five and the seven didn’t swap places.

She left the rag there, too lazy to return it. Revy stepped towards the front of the living room and found her cell phone, clutching it tightly to her chest. Taking in a deep breath, she turned into the hallway, and found her door. She hardly looked up from the electronic she held.

For comfort, she put the television on; it didn’t matter the channel, as long as there was background noise relieving the aggravating silence. She sat through two episodes of a nighttime program, and was on her third bottle of beer before she decided to palm around in the darkness of her bedroom to find the cell on her bed.

In a pathetic way Revy hoped that Balalaika had a voicemail. It was fucking late, and the blonde needed her beauty sleep, so it was a safe shot. Maybe she even turned her ringer off. If she wasn’t going to see her for a long while, especially with the shit they, together, pulled, then hearing a I am here right not, leave a message would be enough to survive on. She was used to scraps.

The phone rang, and then rang again. She watched the old show that played on the television, the images fuzzy and too bright. Every once in a while the machine would distort the images, a flicker of grey bleeding into the screen. It was one Benny had found at the junk rat; Revy properly made use of it.

A third ring echoed in her ear, and scratching the back of her neck, she nervously awaited Balalaika’s prerecorded voice.

Much to Revy’s horror, instead, someone picked up. Clapping her hand over her mouth, she was unable to stifle her gasp. “Oh, shit .”

Two Hands? How did you get my number?” It wasn’t prerecorded, it was fucking real, Revy was caught, utterly, and her eyes almost popped out of her skull.

Her breath froze in her throat. Her heart hammered, and her stomach flipped. Clenching the cell phone in her grasp, Revy debated on tossing it out the window or simply hanging up; both choices humiliating. Swallowing, Revy held the bottle by the neck and stared into the amber glass, a blush stretching across her cheeks. At least she was thankful for that; nobody would see her flushed face.

“W-What the hell are you doing up so late?” Revy blurted, neglecting to answer, sipping her beer to calm her shot nerves.

Of course she’d be up, Revy mused. Looking up at the ceiling and thinking on how all her enemies died.

“How did you get my number?” Balalaika repeated, her voice was colder, with dulled sharpness.

“I… found it on Dutch’s phone… by fucking accident, really. He told me to call some fucker, one thing led to another… you know.” There was no excuse and they both knew it. Revy swigged her beer, the alcohol doing nothing to blur her mind. Her anxiousness was through the roof, and she sat up, laying the back of her head on the wire headboard. It poked into her back, along the tense muscles that trailed her spine.

There was no reply. Gnawing on her lip, Revy stared blankly in front of her, ignoring the canned laughter coming from the front of the room. She thought the older woman had hung up somehow, until the sound of shifting the cell phone against hair. The anger that pooled in her brain slipped away.

“Can’t sleep.” Balalaika muttered. She sounded exhausted all the same, her Russian accent leaking into her words. “So, I took the liberty of touching up my nails.”

The mere image of the blonde sitting on her bed, painting her nails while chatting into the phone was funny enough for Revy to girlishly giggle.

“Huh? Shouldn’t you go to a nail salon for that? Aren’t they acrylics?” She’d bitten down hard enough on her lip that droplets of blood stained her fingers when she touched it.

Balalaika chuckled, adjusting the phone again. “I don’t have time. So, it’s true. Your people really do know about nail care.”

“That’s Vietnamese , Sis,” She deadpanned, rolling her eyes at the television. There was a mattress commercial playing, with its telltale jingle at the end. “Besides, I barely take care of my fucking nails. I think when I last did a show for dumbfuck Ronan I painted them red, but it was really shitty.”

“Understandable. I wouldn’t be too careful on my nails before wielding a whip.” Revy bristled at the mention. By the blonde’s tone it was not supposed to be taken as a jab, but she ran a hand over the faded bruise anyway.

“Listen, it really does tear my nails the fuck up. Speaking of fucked up, did you get the head yet?” A smile spread across her face, as she twisted a strand of hair around her finger. Her beer was in between her thighs, the condensation giving her an involuntary shiver.

“Ah, that. I could tell you were the one who took his head. I saw it as soon as my men arrived. The jaw… Really? I mean the rest of it is decent, even with the bruising, but… A knife wasn’t an option? No other option, at all?”

Pride oozed out of her like blood from an open wound.

“Fucker moved at the last second,” Revy replied, sullenly looking out the window, at the sea. It was a shade darker then the sky, rolling and heaving in the distance. “I left the jaw on the boat.”

Balalaika shuffled the phone, with a scrape of nails as she switched the phone to her other hand. “There’s an idea. Shall the two of us go to that pile of scrap metal and find it? Would be a very ideal outing, given the setting on the city we live in.”

“Eh… I don’t think our first…” She desperately did not want to say date. The word was juvenile and needy. Like a girl asking around for somebody to bring to prom. “ Outing should be centered around rotting corpses. That can be for our second.”

“Second? Aren’t we jumping ahead of ourselves?” Balalaika laughed breathily, then turned away from the phone and muffled a yawn. “Excuse me.”

“You’re excused,” Revy grinned into the phone, picking at a loose elastic that peaked out of the band of her underwear. She suppressed a hopeful lilt to her voice. “We could always go out for food. Pasta, or something.”

“Pasta,” Balalaika spat, her tone annoyed and even more tired. “No, that simply will not happen. I don't have the mood for it.”

A woman of high standards. The old headboard squeaked behind her as she moved a pillow to support her back better. “Well, I’m not eating bratwurst.”

“Nice try. That’s German, Two Hands.”

“Uhm,” Revy stammered, her face red. The string of elastic stretched up to her navel. Twisting the plastic, she pursed her lips. “I don’t know. Maybe just a generic restaurant.”

“Oh, good idea , yet there’s not too many that would fit all my men, however.” Balalaika deadpanned.

Blinking, Revy gulped, eyes darting all over the room, searching to find a reply that wasn't bitchy. “Fuckin’ A, are you pulling my… shit, what- who brings their whole crew with them to a-”

The blonde chuckled lowly. “I’m joking with you.”

Revy snorted, focusing on the cracks in the ceiling. She tried to envision how the scene would unfold; her and a fuckton of men deciding who got to sit next to the kapitan. “You better, I don’t think they’d break bread with a Chinese bitch.”

“They would if I told them to.” Balalaika murmured, reflective.

Revy took a messy sip of beer, a droplet running down her chin, as she tried to gather a sentence that sounded vaguely human. The conversation was casual, even while she remained uneasy. “No offense Sis, but… I’d rather be alone with you.” It sounded less juvenile in her head.

“No offense taken. I agree, Two Hands.” There was a slow, seductiveness to her voice, a drawl that caused a spike of need at the base of Revy’s spine. 

“Don’t talk like that.” She said, her eyes hazing over and her legs clenching closer together. The brightness of the television blurred. Her body carried the memory still of not being satisfied; not being touched enough. Her personal battle with physical affection. She immediately regretted calling Balalaika. It was like walking happily into a death trap.

“Talk like what? That’s improper of you to say.” Balalaika scolded, and Revy imagined a finger wagging in her face.

“Don’t act so coy and shit. Just because we’re on the phone doesn’t mean you can do that to me.” She whined. Revy rubbed her eye socket with her fist, chasing away the tiredness.

“Oh, but I can do that. I can do whatever I please.” There was a mean laugh in the back of Balalaika’s throat. “I can do whatever I please with you .” She repeated, mockingly.

Revy flexed her jaw, remembering what it felt like with Balalaika’s fingers in her hair, pulling through the tangles. When they gripped at each other and Revy knew without a doubt that Balalaika lusted after her too. Absentmindedly, she reached up and touched her dark locks, envisioning the older woman doing it to her again.

Sis , Balalaika,” Saying her name felt weird on her tongue, when saying it to the blonde. Her mouth was slack from arousal, her mind foggy. “When can I see you again? I know you can’t come see my ass, not really, unless you meet with Dutch or some shit.”

“I’ll think about it. It’s time for you to get some sleep, Revy.” More of an order then a suggestion.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll head to bed. But, you got to too. Put that nail polish away, and sing me a Russian lullaby, will you?” Revy teased, scooting down the bare mattress to flop down onto her side, the bed springs squealing. She leaned the beer bottle against her stomach.

“I’m not going to give you nightmares. Why? Did your mother sing you to sleep when you were a little brat?” Her accent appeared in her sentence, thick with sleep.

Revy’s good mood faded, and her chest grew cold. Something dark shifted inside her mind, black as ink and sticking to the sides of her brain. She moved the cell phone to hear better, and bitterly laughed. “Fuck, I wouldn’t know.”

She remembered her mom sometimes, but the memory faded to a dull roar as Revy grew older. It wasn’t exactly true, because her mother was there when she was a toddler. She was still a child herself when she had Revy. Eventually her father’s rages must have chased her mother out of the house, and Revy never saw her again. If she had ever found her, Revy pondered whether she’d kill her too.

A second passed, and the blonde audibly swallowed.

“I would not know either. Nothing we can change about it now, Two Hands.” Balalaika stated matter-of-factly.

Cruelly, she thought that maybe Balalaika’s mother was a war maniac bitch too, who died giving birth surrounded by corpses with atomic warfare in the background. But that was unrealistic, and mean spirited. Once, the blonde was a Susan or Cathy, born in a hospital, on white sheets. Maybe she had a family, and they taught her to walk and to feed herself. Running a hand through her hair, Revy took a deep breath. “Didn’t mean to kill the mood. But... guess what I’m gonna ask again?”

Balalaika was quiet for a moment, and then let out a long sigh. “ I better not regret this . Tomorrow I will be meeting with a club owner. The name of the establishment,” She noted dryly, “Is Moonlight, and It’s on Thale street. I’ll give us ten-"

“Holy shit, that place?” Revy chuckled. “Thought that was Mr. Chang’s.”

“-ten minutes, that’s it. Somewhere private. I will contact you at eighteen hundred to confirm that,” Balalaika continued, as if talking to herself more than Revy.

“Very fancy way to say six at night.” She struggled to hide her excitement, and nervousness, all wrapped up tight in the pit of her stomach. She brought her beer up to her lips and finished the last of it. There was one more beer on her bureau, across the room, that looked more and more unappetizing.

“Old habits die hard,” Balalaika turned away from the phone and hid a yawn again. “Excuse me .”

“Changed my mind, you’re not excused.” Revy tossed the glass bottle onto the floor, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. There was a heavy air of disappointment. Seemed like any sort of interaction between them was on borrowed time. “Damn, only ten minutes, though?”

Hair grazed Balalaika’s phone, as if she was pushing it away from her face, sighing. “That’s all I can offer. Quite the opposite of you and Yaponski, hm?”

She wanted to say yes , to be outright blunt and selfish, to say how easy it would be to simply be with Rock. Everyone assumed they were together, and a desperate part of her can’t stop thinking about the drugged-up kiss in Japan, how he was stronger than he looked; how he didn’t need her protection much anymore. How he looked at Yukio and ignored her pleas. Once upon a time Rock needed her guidance, and after a certain point she taught him all that she could.

Balalaika seemed to take her lack of reply as an answer, and the quietness of her voice had Revy’s heart quivering. “I’ll call you tomorrow to say if it will work or not. If you don’t show up, I won’t go looking for you.”

“I’ll be there, Sis.” Revy said, staring out blankly in her dark bedroom. There was gunfire going off somewhere in the city, the familiarity of it making her perk up. “I will.”

The blonde pulled away from the phone to yawn again. Her voice was softer and slurred. “Good night, Two Hands.”

“Go to sleep, okay? I can’t fucking believe you’re up this late. You must be exhausted.” She licked her bottom lip, tasting the copper. It was weird enough to tell a mob boss that they need to catch up on sleep, but even stranger was the fact that the blonde was still chatting with her.

“Funny. You have no idea,” Balalaika said, quietly.

“Have a nice night, Sis.” Revy whispered, her eyes sliding shut involuntary. Her grasp on the phone slackened.

Balalaika sighed once more, with the sound of a door shutting. “You too.”

“Sis, before you go… I don’t have any sort of fucking boy trouble whatsoever.” Revy yawned, cupping a hand to her mouth, nestling her head into the beaten pillow. In her tired state anger pumped through her capillaries about that statement still.

“That’s kind of you to say.” Balalaika finished, emotionless, and hung up the phone.

Chapter Text

Revy soon was informed, at six o’clock on the dot, that it was indeed happening. Balalaika would excuse herself to the employee’s restroom after the meeting finished, and there they would meet, locked up for ten minutes.

Digging in her pocket, she brought out an old silvery watch, the leather band broken, with the time clearly displayed. Twelve minutes to six.

The heatwave had broken, and the wind whistled through the city, cooling the pavement. Fall was not even close to beginning, two weeks off, but Revy rubbed her arms all the same. The temperature had dropped eight degrees, as Benny mentioned, so people were going to bring their winter hats out.

Dutch had needed the car, so she walked her sorry ass from the apartment to the damnable club. It sat a half hour away, in the nicer section of Roanapur. It was a side of the city that didn’t look like it survived the apocalypse, even though she passed a car that had all its tires slashed. It was a busier street, with more people leaving various bars and clubs. Revy shoved her hands in her pockets and hunched over, pushing aside drunks stumbling toward her.

Citizens knew her, they’d mutter her name once or twice in the crowd. They’d watch warily at the guns shoved under her arms. Her actions spoke volumes more than her words, for good reason.

It was when she stood underneath a bright sign depicting some sort of sex goddess with neon nipples, that she saw the subdued building that Hotel Moscow was taking a meeting in. A prostitute fixed the strap holding her halter top up and blinked at Revy, her gold hoops sparkling in the night. Revy recognized her, and walked past her without so much of a nod.

She should have known better, it would have been better to simply wait for another meeting in Balalaika’s office. Dread sat like a stone in her stomach; all day Revy was restless, finishing a pack of cigarettes in the morning, and a pack of beers in the afternoon. Yet the alcohol did nothing to relax her shattered nerves, and before she left she had hastily eaten raspberries that tasted more like apples.

As a reminder her fingers touched where the bruise was on her stomach. It was now a light pink, passing off for an odd sunburn.

A car skidded in the background as Revy wrapped her fingers around the sticky door handle, crinkling her nose at the cheap smell coming from the club. There were no bouncers, just the threat of it being under the watchful eye of one of the main gangs was enough.

It was packed, with throbbing music and red lights flashing over the crowd. It was like any other club, with women dancing on stages while spectators sat and watched; fistfulls of cash locked in their hands. Pacing towards the bar that blended into the forced darkness, Revy stopped in her tracks and stared up at the black sheen of a mirror above the shelves of drinks.

A bulb of light went off and barely illuminated what was on the other side of the mirror- which, from what  Balalaika had instructed, was where she was. Squinting her eyes, Revy saw very faint figures, when the light flashed onto the wall, but nothing more.

Twisting her head around, she noticed one of Hotel Moscow’s more recognizable men enter a back door, held open by one of the employees. Maybe, things will be different . Maybe they’ll be caught and whatever they had would disappear before it turned ugly.

Five minutes to six.

Everyone around her is drinking margaritas and dancing and singing; only a brisk nervousness is inside Revy, blanketing the yearning and excitement. They wouldn’t be able to go out for drinks after their glorified seven minutes in heaven. It’d be an awkward shuffle out the door, with Revy ducking her head down; a silent dance of shame.

She shouldered aside a crying drunk and headed to the same door the Russian man had entered, and to her surprise it was unlocked. It opened into a hallway lined with blue carpeting, with seventies wallpaper. The bathroom was around a sharp left corner, towards the end of the hall.

The lighting of the employee bathroom was tinted purple, better than the limited visibility outside. Blinking rapidly in the intrusion of the brightness, her eyes settled on the mass of blonde hair in front of her, and she swallowed. Balalaika leaned against the bathroom sink, arms crossed and staring in front of her at the tiled wall, ignoring the large mirror to the side of her. Her expression was stoic, as she chewed on the inside of her cheek.

“Hard day at the office?” Revy locked the door behind her, the lock falling into place with a difficult snap. A flush spread across her face as Balalaika turned to face her. Joy raggedly spread its leaves inside her chest. She hoped she didn’t smell of sweat to Balalaika.

“Very funny.” The Russian rolled her eyes, but a smile threatened on her lips all the same. She looked exhausted. “Would be a wonderful relief if they could all be killed in a mysterious manner.”

“Might be an interesting job for me. I don’t know about mysterious, though.” Revy strode towards Balalaika in the tiny bathroom. The fear she held in her heart about the blonde had diminished, replaced only by a desperation that terrified her instead. There would always lie the promise of death at the hands of such a woman; something that Revy still attempted to understand. A different song switched on in the club, the sound more tinny.

“It’s… surprising that you were able to make it.” Balalaika cocked her head to the side, her crow’s feet deepening. “The thought of you showing up in a terrible meeting place such as this was hard to believe.”

Shrugging, Revy stopped a foot away from her, hands curled into loose fists to at least hold herself back. “ It was either this or wait a fucking year to see you again.”

“You’re not that patient.”

“I’d break into your house or some shit, maybe steal like a Russian pearl necklace for a keepsake.”

“Unfortunately for you, it would be in my right to punish you,” Balalaika came closer, until their chests touched each other. Her voice lowered. “I’d chain you to my radiator with that pearl necklace.”

Revy looked up through her lashes, gently pulling at the front of Balalaika’s jacket. A smirk pulled at the corner of her lips. “And do what?”

Lifting her arm, she traced her fingers up the unscarred side of the blonde’s face, tracing the bump of her cheekbone. The tightness of the pale skin surprised her, the evenness of the tone, the lack of blemishes. She really didn’t want to think of what her own skin was in this present moment.

“And gag that loud mouth of yours.” Balalaika’s hands found Revy’s waist, holding her in place. They were warm on her skin, and much less calloused than her own. She seemed to enjoy the faint touches on her face, as Revy ran her pointer finger along the lilac coloring underneath her eye.

“Keep going,” Revy rasped, using her other hand to push the hair out of her face.

Balalaika chewed on the inside of her cheek, her eyes darkened. “I would have to think. Depends on how expensive that necklace would be. But knowing you, you’d have taken the most expensive one.” She squeezed Revy’s waist, towering over her, the heels forcing Revy to look up at the blonde, needily. “What would you want?”

Revy blushed, grinding her teeth and dropping her eyes to the ground, noting the faded bloodstains on the tile. Licking her lips, after a moment she raised her head and dropped her hand from Balalaika’s face to her broad shoulder, squeezing the tense muscles. “Being… fuck. Uhm, shit, Sis. Being…” She lowered herself to a whisper, as if they were out in the middle of a crowd. “Put over your knee.”

“What?” The blonde looked confused, her mouth parting. Her tone was mocking; her eyes remained serious. “I couldn’t hear you.”

“Yes you fucking did!”

“The music’s a little too loud.” She scratched Revy’s skin lightly with her nails, the sensation driving shivers down her spine.

She hid a whimper and locked eye contact with the blonde again, blushing even harder. The hand that played with the buttons on the red jacket stilled. It was a slow game, silently asking if Balalaika wanted the jacket off- and clearly, she didn’t. “ Spanking me ! There, I said it.”

“I never would have guessed.” Balalaika replied sarcastically, widening her eyes, digging her nails into Revy’s waist, drawing out a gasp. “Fine. I’ll put you over my knee , and it’d be too easy to use my hand. You don’t deserve that."

Revy wrapped her arms around Balalaika’s neck, drawing herself closer. Pushing herself up on the tips of her toes, she could smell the scent of cigars and tea. She mewled, despairingly hanging off of every word. “Uh-huh.”

“Preferably, I’d hit you with my hairbrush, or even a television remote. After, I might as well leave you chained up, until I was bored again. There’s no point in even asking yo-”

Revy smacked her mouth on Balalaika’s, holding the blonde in a near chokehold, with a shaky gasp. She slid her tongue inside, quick, tracing the sharpness of canines. Revy knew she tasted like cigarettes and alcohol, and Balalaika tasted of tea, bitter and with the spice of a cigar. She moaned into the kiss, shutting her eyes tight and arching her back.

Balalaika enveloped her, bending her neck down to better accommodate, her arms holding Revy flush to her. It was soft, like before. There was urgency in the kiss, like a mental hurry up . Balalaika was oozing the sense of limited time, and Revy clung to her. Balalaika nipped her bottom lip, hard enough to bruise. Moaning into the kiss, Revy felt the curve of the blonde’s large breasts and the tight grip on her waist, as the hands grabbing at her wrapped around her instead.

She bit Balalaika’s lip in return, and to her shock, received a warning slap on her backside. Revy hid whimpering gasps into the Russian’s mouth, shaking her head, dragging their lips across one another sloppily. It was like her jeans and underwear were useless, and wet enough that it was uncomfortable to keep on.

Balalaika gave one last lick inside Revy’s quaking mouth, trying to keep the shivering girl still. She murmured something in Russian, flicking her eyelashes as she opened her eyes. “I keep saying this, but you are so needy, Rebecca .”

“Rebecca?” Revy replied, confused, her eyes still shut, swollen lips divided. She wanted Balalaika to kiss her again, to kiss her for a long time, because it was hard to think and she didn’t want to go out there alone; an intense longing to be held and caressed overtook her.

“You’d prefer kotyenok ?”

“Fuck does that mean…” Revy trailed off, her eyes wide open, pupils dilated.

Achingly, she slowly removed her grip on Revy, one hand at a time, a slow dragging that made Revy press closer. “This was nice, Two Hands,” The blonde whispered into Revy’s lips, leaving one last bite on her bruised bottom lip. She leaned back onto the bathroom sink, breathing heavily. “But I have to head back. I must leave first.”

Revy shook her head, suppressing a juvenile pout. “What the fuck? Now? We only had like two minutes.”

“We’re on borrowed time, Two Hands. Next time I’ll bring a timer.”

“Take me home with you,” Revy begged, her eyes wide and unfocused, as she grabbed at Balalaika’s arm. She barely held back the words don’t leave me.

“I can’t.” Balalaika was just as hazy, her eyes glazed over, as she frowned. She stared at the bathroom door.

“I could follow the car?” She nuzzled her head into the blonde’s broad shoulder. Breathing in the flowery perfume, she pressed in as close as she could, gripping her arm with both hands. “Don’t fucking kick me out, again, please don’t. ” She struggled to swallow, the back of her mind growing dark, her fingers twitched for her guns. “Fuck, I don’t wan-”

An idea forced its way in her head, and Revy’s eyebrows shot up. Removing herself from Balalaika, she looked up and down the taller woman, taking in the tiredness, the stress that made it apparent in her face. Her body was tight, the muscles rigid and the shoulders in the forced straightness Revy noticed more and more.

She placed a hand on Balalaika’s chest, just underneath the swell of her breast. Feeling the wire of a bra on her wrist, Revy blinked in sheer deprivation. At least she could make herself useful.

“Can I? I’m good, I promise.” She said as confidently as she could, disguising her need for comfort as simple lust. Standing to the side of Balalaika, she raised her head to catch the blonde giving a deliberate nod.

There was no way she was going to ruin the night by throwing a fit. It was a casual fling, and Balalaika had better things to do. Revy shut and opened her eyes quickly, there was a bite of wetness and she fought it back.

Balalaika moved her arms back to support herself on the bathroom sink behind her. She chewed on her lip. “Yes.”

With one, shaking hand Revy slid down the front of the blonde’s red pencil skirt. She kept eye contact with a silent, judging Balalaika, her heart rate spiking in fear. Her abdomen was flat and strong with subdued muscles, stretching with quick intakes of breath.

“Just be quick about it Two Hands…” Balalaika whispered, looking down at Revy, her tongue darting out to wetten her pink lips.

“Mhm,” Revy wiggled in closer, her nose touching the blonde’s neck, breathing in the flowery perfume. Her mouth met the scarred portion of her throat, feeling the texture of the ruined skin. “You smell really nice.”

Balalaika’s chest shook, as she silently chuckled. Revy snuck her hand underneath the elastic band of the black tights, her knuckles struggling to get through. Her hands were calloused, and rough, and yet she heard no complaints.

The underwear felt like useless lace, leaning towards the lingerie category. Just brushing the expensive fabric Revy figured it would be easy to simply rip off.

“What color is it? Since I’m not allowed to see?” She pouted, running her lips back and forth on the pink scar, tipping forward and pressing her forehead to Balalaika’s jaw.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Came a stiff reply, while Balalaika spread her legs, as Revy brushed her hip bone with her wrist as she descended down.

When the tips of her fingers brushed curls, Revy groaned, inhaling sharply, shaking strands of blonde hair that dangled in front of her face. Her middle finger touched wet flesh, where the curls parted away. Balalaika was soaking, and there was a minuscule throb between her thick thighs.

Revy joined her pointer and middle finger, and bent them to slip in between Balalaika’s folds. She pushed them in as far as she could, awaiting any sign of protest. Revy whimpered, hiding her face. She clamped her legs together, her own wetness threatening to drip down.

“Right there, right there.” Balalaika repeated, when Revy tilted them to the left slightly, touching the smooth area.

Balalaika’s cell phone rang out, an annoying ring that made Revy want to crush it in her grasp. Slowly, Balalaika looked down at the inner pocket of her jacket and clenched her jaw, as she rocked back and forth into Revy's arched hand.

"Forget about that, Okay sis? Don't focus on shit," Revy ran a tongue slowly up Balalaika's neck, curling her fingers again, in that spot. In the position she was in, it was difficult to find a patch of skin without the burn disfigurement, yet she found herself actively going for the areas afflicted.

"If, if that was a real emergency you had me miss-" the Russian's breath caught in her throat. "Then I will-" she managed to swallow a moan, her hips jerking.

The cell phone rang out again, a shrill beeping that made her arch her hand sharply. She was begrudgingly thankful for the loud music outside the door. The song changed to one with a fast, loud bass.

"If it's something fucked they'd call again, who gives a shit." Revy muttered. The wetness between Balalaika's thighs was increasing, and she was swollen between her fingers. Her blunt nail dragged along the slick flesh and she hissed in Russian, the words slurred and suppressed.

“Watch yourself.” Balalaika murmured.

The ringing ceased, causing both women to let out a relaxed yet nervous exhale.

"Come on sis, there we go," Revy whispered heatedly into her pale neck, resisting the urge to bite and suck on it until it was dotted with purple marks. Balalaika gripped harder onto the bathroom sink, her thighs clenching. She rolled her broad hips faster now, in desperation more than anything else.

Balalaika tilted her head up to the ceiling, at the fluorescent lights, her breathing increasing and her back arching. Revy sucked lightly on her throat, circling the area with her tongue.

She was dizzy with lust, and she barely focused on anything else besides the blonde. Revy groaned, her eyes sliding shut for a second, just feeling the slickness on her fingers and the curls that brushed her palm. It was unreal; a fucked up fantasy land where she was undoing Balalaika in a fucking club bathroom. Revy supported herself with one hand on the bathroom sink as well, meshing herself against Balalaika, struggling to hold back a whine.

"Mind the time, Two Hands." Balalaika asked, her eyebrows creasing, her blue eyes shut tight.

"Doesn't fucking matter," Revy replied weakly. Her thighs ached and so did her wrist. "Stop thinking about that shit," she moaned into Balalaika's hair, the way that the blonde shuddered next to her made her blood run hot. "You'll never finish if you're stressed out."

She was so wet it was becoming difficult to maintain a good angle, and her underwear was absolutely soaked underneath her knuckles. Revy wondered if she had another meeting, and she'd have to go in this state.

"Stop, Revy." Balalaika gasped. Her voice was ragged and dry. Her hand twitched. "It's probably too late, stop now."

But she made no move to leave. She was too far gone now, far too close to be able to just get up and exit.

Revy pinched the inside wall of her between two fingers, and Balalaika swore under her breath, ducking her head down, her blonde hair covering her face. She was holding back her sounds desperately, allowing herself only to voice herself softly.

"You need this," Revy rasped, her mouth slack. Her face was flushed, bad, and with a glance into the mirror Revy saw a deep blush staring back at her. Her eyes were dark with arousal. "Let me keep on touchin’ you, sis. Please, don’t make me stop.”

Balalaika's back arched hard, her hair trailing down onto the counter and her knees locked. Revy felt the blonde's body tense, and a hand flew up from the bathroom sink to cover Balalaika’s mouth, as she moaned twice brokenly, ended off by a breathy whimper.

"Oh, Sis," Revy whined at the harshness of the orgasm, nuzzling where Balalaika's neck met her shoulder. She kissed along her throat and gave a soft nip. She needily pressed her hips into the older woman, closing her eyes and hearing the gasps brought out of the woman.

Balalaika came, hard. It traveled down into Revy's hand and the blonde's inner thighs.

She didn't pause her hand until Balalaika wrapped a hand around her wrist and pulled her out of her, slowly. Her breath caught when her fingers trailed up her folds, Revy gave a tired smile as she ran her pointer finger up. The tights weren't in good condition either.

"Need me to clean you up?" Revy begged quietly into Balalaika's hair. Please please please.

" Oh - we don't have time for that," Balalaika groaned, looking down at her wristwatch, her flushed face paling. Her breathing was irregular, her heart fast. Running a hand through her mussed blonde hair, she clenched her jaw. "Revy, you little, little tease."

As she hesitantly removed her hand from Balalaika’s skirt, she took a step away, her body aching for the closeness again.

Curiously, Revy raised her hand to her mouth. Come glistened on her hand, and it was fucking Balalaika's, to her muted shock. Parting her lips Revy sucked on her fingers, looking up at a wide-eyed Balalaika, who paused in fixing her lipstick, dabbing her finger over her cupids bow and the sides of her mouth. It tasted of salt and bitterness; something Revy wouldn't mind trying again. Her arousal lunged at her again, and she really, really wanted to be between the blonde's toned thighs.

"Was I a good girl?" It was meant to come off as more sarcastic, however the falter in Revy's reply made it more genuine. She lapped at the strands of come that dangled between two fingers.

Balalaika controlled her breathing, as she fixed her wrinkled skirt. She raised her head to the ceiling, as if silently pleading. "No," the Russian decided, her accent lashing out. She was angry, in the way her eyes narrowed and her movements over precise. "No, you certainly were not."

“You taste really good, Sis.” Revy said, chipperly, smiling slightly as her fingers left her mouth. She wiped them on her tank top, neglecting the sink right next to her.

The blonde smoothed down her bunched jacket. “ Shut up , Two Hands.”

“Wow, fuck, okay. So you’re just going to drop me now?” Revy rubbed her left eye with her knuckles, the stinging sensation returning. All the satisfaction she held previously left.

Balalaika walked over to the mirror, surveying her appearance with a grim look.

“No need to worry.” She muttered sharply, her hand smoothing down her wild blonde hair. “I’ll pay you back two-fold. You’re just so desperate , Two Hands. It’ll hurt, I promise you that.

Revy was so aroused that she bit back an anguished scream. Her inner thighs were soaked by sweat from clamping her legs together so hard, and  more so by the wetness accompanied by aching. “What the fuck?” She hissed, throwing her arms in the air. “Uhm, hello? Fuck, I’m right here. Pay me back now!”

Balalaika rubbed the bridge of her nose between two fingers. She sighed, raising her eyebrows and shaking her head. “This Thursday I’ll be at Hotel Mos-”

“I don’t want you in two days time, I want you now!” She sounded like an utter child. Her right foot tapped the ground.

The Russian’s muted expression curdled like sour milk. Dread settled upon Revy’s shoulders, and she laid a hand against her mouth, realising how loud she had just been. Long nails scratched her forearms as Balalaika held her firmly in place, eyes icy and dull. They faced each other closely, forcing Revy to stare up at the blonde, worry pooling in her throat.

“What can I say, Revy? You knew this wasn’t going to be easy. It’s not like I can take you to dinner or the cinema on a whim. Yet you kept coming to me anyway . I can scarcely leave Hotel Moscow without alerting several of my men about my whereabouts, since, obviously, you know the part I play here. There’s no chance of me walking down the street to get groceries. I am a kapitan first, and then I am apart of the mafiya, and that’s my role I must play and I will do so wholeheartedly, as is my fate.”

Revy was speechless, as they locked eyes. The blue eyes had no sensation of emotion. They looked as though they were plucked from a frozen corpse. She’d fucked up. Bad.

Balalaika’s grip on her arms tightened. “I’d have to set aside time, time ! To see you. How does that feel, to be apart of a schedule? To know that I am so damn busy. To the point where I have to pick and choose when I get ten minutes to myself. Ten minutes for you. Revy, look at me. Is this what you want? You want to be left unfulfilled and neglected? Hm? Is that what you want ?”

“What do you want?” Revy breathed, her fists unclenching. It was a distraction, to give her a moment to decide on what a proper answer to give. Tears burned in the corners of her eyes, threatening to spill down her cheeks.

Balalaika scoffed.

“I know what happened, okay? Fuck.” Revy spat at the ground, her breathing increasing. “What I also know is that I’m a glorified whore, Sis . ” Oh, how she hated that word. She refused to return Balalaika’s penetrating stare. “I’m a bit stupid, so give me the short version. I’m the yellow bitch that flicks your cunt when you are bored .”

She wrenched her arm out of Balalaika’s slackened hold. Revy cast a glance at Balalaika, and shame immediately dawned on her. Hurt was written clearly across Balalaika’s face, her pink lips parted as if trying to come up with a graceful retort. A tranquility covered it up immediately. It was a strange expression on the blonde’s face, which made Revy feel even worse.

“Fuck- I didn’t mean-” There was no right words to say after that, Revy realised. She knew she was the worst person alive, another heartless bitch running around Roanapur, deserving her fate. She knew little about Balalaika, and running a hand through her snarled hair, she tried to remember what she had thought about last night. Balalaika was once a child, and she didn’t have those scars. She was a fucked-up woman, however she was real. But Revy was speechless, words dying in her mouth. She could still taste the cigar. “I mean-”

Revy moved to unlock the door, vibrating from the bass pulsing beyond it like a heartbeat. Her fingers grazed the metal lock, debating on just saying she was sorry.

Balalaika spoke up suddenly, her voice cold and placid. “Revy. I have to leave first.”

Snarling, Revy twisted her body around and threw herself at the taller woman. Her head bumped into Balalaika’s pointed chin, and she scratched at her torso, nails digging into the raspberry-red fabric. It was too close-quarters for her to rear back and deliver a good punch, as when she did her elbow connected with the hard white tile lining the red walls. Pain sparkled in her eyes, blurred from tears. Revy felt blind, incapable of seeing, and her head swam.

She wanted to kill the bitch, having the nerve to tell her another rule she’d have to follow .

Balalaika snatched her by the throat, dragging her towards her, as her elbow throbbed. Her fingers squeezed her neck slowly, allowing Revy to only give weak, ragged breaths. There was tranquil seething in her blue eyes. The muted light reflected off the corpse-like corneas, and Revy gasped in panic, scratching at her throat, the pain in her body forgotten.

Do not put your hands on me .”

Chills ran down Revy’s back, as she struggled to take in air as Balalaika constricted her grip.

Do you understand? You think you could get the upper hand on me? You know better than that. Now, I repeat myself one more time. Do you understand? Nod once if you do.” Balalaika near laughed, but as such a close range, Revy saw that her eyes glowed like ice.

Revy glared back at the blonde, before nodding slowly, her throat flexing in desperation. She was held up enough that she had to rely on the tips of her boots, the rubber squeaking across the floor. Tears filled her vision, and she hastily tried to hold them back, but with the lack of oxygen she lacked the strength to do so. It was only when Revy tasted the saltwater did she find out she was crying.

The police officer, once upon a time, had licked her tears off of her bruised and bleeding face. If the Russian did that, she would lose her mind.

Revy gurgled out an ugly sound. The words she spoke were unintelligible.

Balalaika tilted her head, the harshness in her grasp disappeared, and Revy fell back onto her heels. She was unable to even process a reaction, her face slack, her eyes unfocusing on the blonde’s sharp face.

Oxygen rushed back into her lungs. Holding a hand on her throat, rubbing the flesh that would surely bruise, to her horror, she watched the tears drip onto her shirt, and the humiliation was so powerful she thought she was going to pass out.

Balalaika relaxed her stance, brushing her blonde hair out of her face. There was no more rage, just a resignation commingled with horror. “Two Hands?”

Shaking her head in reply, Revy bit her lip, until blood beaded between her teeth. She was disgusting, fingering an older woman in a bathroom for a shred of more comfort. This wasn’t a powerplay in prison, it was begging like a dog for sustenance from its master. “If you lick away my tears I will kill you.”

Balalaika was unsure of what to do, her shoulders slumped, her arms hung sheepishly by her sides. “I was not going to do that, I promise, Two Hands.”

Revy stepped forward, her face red, her lungs taking in as much as they could. Lightheadedness was a bitch. But there was small consolation that Balalaika would not hurt her so soon. “I thought you weren’t gonna hurt me anymore.”

“Muscle memory,” The blonde mused, shaking her head. “There’s no excuse.”

“Fuck you." Revy held out her fists bleakly, a few tears running down her cheeks, dripping off her face. She ground her teeth and took a more defensive stance. Darkness flickered in the back of her head, egging her on to try her luck again.

Balalaika embraced her, running a hand up Revy’s hair, stroking her tresses. Her other arm held her around her waist, and Revy simple flung her arms around the blonde’s torso, burying her head in her shoulder, attempting in vain to stop more tears from falling.

Revy pushed her hands underneath the blonde’s arms to grasp at the back of her broad shoulders. She flexed her fingers on the muscle, tracing a finger down the older woman’s shoulder blade, before touching her spine.

She felt Balalaika lay her cheek on her scalp, her breath moving the strands of her dark hair. Both their bodies relaxed, for a brief moment, and Revy gathered herself.

“Do you need me to call a ride home?” Balalaika whispered into the top of Revy’s head, rocking her side to side. “Wouldn’t feel correct to leave you in this state. You’d cause more trouble than you’re worth.” She finished the sentence with a bleak almost-joke.

“You’d actually call? No fucking way.” Revy’s softened reply came from Balalaika’s chest.

“Yes, I will as soon as I exit. Don’t worry about it.” More of a command then a suggestion.

“Just fucking take me home with you.”

Balalaika’s chest stretched as she let out a deep, annoyed sigh. “I’ve already told you my answer on that, Two Hands. And I’ve spent far too much time in here.”

Revy almost pulled away, her eyes red and puffy. Blinking, she nuzzled her face into the jacket; completely unable to look at the blonde. “Thursday, right? Will I be allowed thirty minutes then? Or will I be thrown out like fucking street trash?”

“Revy, grow up. You’re not street trash.”

Fuck .” Her voice cracked again, and her heart felt like it was splintering. Her anger deserted her. “I don’t understand this. But fuck, Sis. I’m sorry. That was fucked up of me to say, earlier. I don’t like seeing you get hurt either.”

Balalaika shifted her face in Revy’s hair, inhaling deeply. “I haven’t done this in a very, very long time.”

Revy laughed, deep in her chest. “I’ve never done shit like this. What I said was so nasty. We need time together, Sis. To see if it’ll work.”

“I know. And we will. I’ll make sure of it, I just… need to schedule around it, I suppose. I can promise you that.” the blonde stated to her, turning her head to press her jaw on Revy’s forehead.

Revy pushed herself up to press a kiss to Balalaika’s lips, the wetness on her face transferring onto the blonde’s jaw. “I want you to myself.”

“I’ll contact you soon enough, Two Hands.” She nodded at her; an intimate farewell.

Revy stepped away, letting Balalaika slowly pass her. “I don’t mind being called cat-tee-yo-knock whatever the fuck, Sis.”

“Do you?” The blonde smiled at her, an honest smile, one that made her eyes crinkle. Her manicured hand unlocked the door, and she turned the silver doorknob. She opened the door partly, to hide Revy standing there, and cast one last glance at her, chuckling.

Revy broke out into a grin, forgetting about the tears staining her cheeks and her aching elbow, and the pain in her throat.

Chapter Text

“...The more time I spend with Chang, the more I realise how this city is held together by a few key words and promises.” Rock gripped the steering wheel tighter, his eyes fixated on the road ahead of him. “The four people who hold the reins are at each other’s throats. Ms. Balalaika wants to wage war on the world, Ronnie doesn’t take anything serious, Abrego just complains and Chang tries to keep it all together.”

He was already with Chang, so it had taken Rock ten minutes to reach the club. The Plymouth gleamed in the purple neon light; Revy was so relieved that Balalaika had called she forced herself to not run towards the car. Then she saw the darkness of Rock’s hair and all the confused happiness turned to ash in her mouth. And here she was, playing therapist. How heavy weighs the crown , or whatever smart one-liner Dutch would say.

“What’s the point of this?” Revy asked, an eyebrow cocked as she blew out a puff of smoke. She crossed her arms and leaned on the faded seat, leaning her legs against the car door. A lit cigarette hung from her mouth; the cherry-heat warm on her chin from where it near touched.“I’m too damn tired to talk with a new philosopher.”

Rock shook his head. “The point? The point is that everybody and everything is changing. Things won’t be the same forever, and eventually…” His voice softened, the hardness dissipating into an emotion that caused goosebumps up Revy’s arms. “ You’re not going to be the one protecting me.”

“I don’t need protection,” Revy said incredulously. If her guns were on her she’d gesture them at him, happily. It’d been a while since a real, genuine fight, and she was getting antsy. She grew angry at the thought that she was going soft. “Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?"

“You said trust was important. On that stairwell… you said you trusted me. And I to you. So why all the secrets now?”

“Secrets, huh?” Revy open-mouthed grinned, shaking her head. Her voice carried more venom than she thought. “Funny, coming from Boss’ new pet.” Oh, if only he knew.

He leaned closer, his eyebrows creasing. Jaggedy, he changed the conversation. There was a sluggishness to his driving, now matter how safe. Chang always had alcohol on hand. “Are you wearing perfume?”

All the mocking joy that filled Revy’s chest transformed into something menacing. The half-smile faded on her face, her eyes widening. “The fuck?”

“Yeah, did you take a shower or something?” He never could play dumb. Fishing for information was his strong suit to those who truly didn’t know him, but Revy saw through it immediately.

“Fuck you too, Rock.” Revy flipped her hair, returning to staring out of the windshield. She wished she could smell it. Better yet, find out what perfume Balalaika used and buy a vial for herself, to have at home. Spray it on a pillow . “I was at a club, dumbass.”

“It smells…” He chewed on his cheek, settling back into his seat. Like he recognized it, for a brief second. Balalaika was on top of him, once. Sweat beaded underneath her arms and her hairline. The stoplight burned green. He opened his mouth but shut it with an audible click. 

Revy forced a chuckle, rolling her eyes. “Like what? A whorehouse? Don’t worry, I wasn’t cheating on you.” If there was a god, he really did like his stupid jokes, didn’t he. But Balalaika liked those types of jokes even more, considering she chose to fucking call him.

He pressed easily on the accelerator. He was the safest driver she had ever known, and the slowest, when they weren’t being chased.

Rock smiled weakly in return, his eyes sharp as he recalled. “When I saw you at Bao’s… you told me the strangest thing..”

“Don’t change the fucking subject.” The car door wasn’t locked. All she needed to do was jump and roll onto the asphalt; the scrapes and bruises she’d receive.

“...And the plastic bag... You wouldn’t let me go near it, the bruise on your stomach. It was so dark, I’m surprised you didn’t break your ribs.”

A steady stream of smoke flew from Revy’s sigh. “I was sorting porn for Balalaika, Rock. I know you know that. How can I fucking keep secrets, when your ass has so much influence now?”

Rock was silent, as if rolling the words around in his mouth, testing to see what he could get away with. The car slowed to a stop again. Revy could taste the sea, and it relaxed her to know they were so close to home. “Was she the one who hurt you?”

Revy refused to reply, stubbornly flicking the cigarette out the window. She touched a fingertip to her throat. The flesh wasn’t nearly as sore as her stomach was. A pink bruise would wrap around her throat anyway, and the air leaving her lung haunted her mind. A small part of her was unsure if Balalaika would hurt her again.

Rock scoffed and flexed his fingers on the steering wheel, swallowing audibly. “What good is any sort of power if I can’t protect you?” He finished with a whisper, “how did this happen?”

“How did this happen?” Revy repeated, furious. She sat up in her seat and towered over his form, jabbing a finger in his face. Her face grew red. “How the fuck did this happen ? Let’s start with Japan, fuck-ass, when we… Fucking kissed. Or I kissed you, fuck . I was drugged out of my fucking mind, because your girlfriend’s boyfriend shoved a fucking sword into my knee.”

The reaction drawn from him was muted, and he glanced at her, concern reflected in his eyes, as he sighed. “Katana. Revy-”

“What fucks me up the most,” The hand that pointed at him shook in rage. Revy gnashed her teeth, twisting her body fully towards him. “Is that you preferred to think of a dead high schooler, than a living bitch in front of you. What right do you have to judge me? What fucking right? I tried to stop you from looking, yet you had to watch her die.”

Rock stared out the windshield, turning onto their street. He smiled, sadly, a visage of his former self. “Because Yukio reminded me of home. This time, I’ll-.”

Revy laughed, hunching her shoulders forward. “How I hate it when you say her name. Like she’s still here. I could fucking kill you, you know that? But I trust you too much. I’m your gun, and you have to trust me too.”

“For a time,” Rock muttered. The breaks gave a slight squeak as he yielded to another car. “I thought you were conspiring with Balalaika. I know you couldn’t do that. Diplomacy isn’t your fashion.”

“Sometimes it’s not Fry Face’s either.” Revy replied, shakily breathing to calm down. It wasn’t working. Saying Fry Face didn’t feel right on her tongue. “Let me make my shitty choices.”

Rock looked at her with such a soft look at Revy fell back into her seat, unable to return any sort of gaze. He was close, and it was so long before he had come into her personal bubble again. “I just have one thing to say to you, Revy. Two things. I trust whatever you do won’t get in Chang’s way, and that in the end, you’ll know what I meant, earlier.”

In Chang’s way, he meant his way. “If I get in your way, you’ll see me fucking coming.” Revy’s jaw snapped shut, and she watched the lights of the city disappear behind dark apartment buildings, and the waves of the sea grew louder with each passing minute.

“I’m counting on it, and please, watch yourself around Balalaika.” Rock broke out into an uneasy smile.

There was a heavy threat of rainshower in the air, wind trifling the large leaves of palm trees. Revy welcomed it; she’d feel a little more clean.

“I always do.” Revy hissed.

“But you need to tell me.” The Plymouth pulled to a stop in front of the house. The kitchen lights were left on, and there was a shock of blonde hair in the window, as Benny paced to the kitchen.

Revy laughed again, a spiteful one that lacked genuine humor. “Fuck.”

“Why are you with Ms. Balalaika so much?” He put the car into parked and ripped the keys out of the ignition.

Revy sat in silence, staring in front of her, at the sunset that was finished, the darkness moving around the orange. It peeked just around their apartment.

“Rock... shut the fuck up. I do jobs for her. Keeps me busy. It’s Fry Face. You think I’m sucking her cunt?” It was better to have a confession then a repeated lie, she’d learned that the hard way. Redness grew on her face anyway, hidden by the twilight they basked in.

“You told me at the bar… that…” Rock chuckled weakly, looking down at his lap. “You wished things were easier. How being with someone takes so much sacrifice. And then..”

Revy’s eyes bugged out of her skull. There was no way in hell she said that so eloquently.

“You kissed me then, too. Violently.” He ran a hand through his short black hair, as if reliving every moment of it. Worriness clouded his vision. He swallowed, nervously, and jiggled his right leg. “You were so drunk, and so was I. Bacardi.”

He noticed her lack of response, and he twirled the keys around on his finger, his legs spreading as he relaxed, as if it was a weight off of his shoulders. “By the time we were in the backseat I sobered up. We didn’t do anything but kiss. I drove home, and you passed out in the back.”

Revy gritted her teeth and exhaled hard through her nostrils. “Fuck you. Fuck you, Rock. Fuck you for taking so long to tell me. I’m not fucked over that we kissed, because it clearly means fuck to you.” The reaction Rock had her forget why she was mad for a second. “Keep shit like that away from me again, and I will shoot the shit out of you.”

“You deserve to know,” Rock leaned towards her, quietly. He remained out of her personal bubble; too polite for his damn good. He would have had her in Japan, if he truly tried. Revy was weak to him then, too worried to think straight. It was hard to think straight now . He smelled of cologne and smoke. It made her miss the comfort of hiding her face in the Russian’s shoulder more. Her breasts ached, and her wet underwear felt cold between her legs. A flicker of doubt crossed her mind. Everything would be easier if she kissed Rock again, right here, right now. Their relationship would be easy to fall into. Everyone already suspected it; teasing remarks and knowing looks at her. He had the aura of needing to be protected. Or he used to.

He fell quiet, then spoke up, his words gentle. “I think of what happened between us in Japan often.”

Revy shook her head, dark hair flying into her face. Her ponytail was like a useless limb down her back. If she had any more tears left to spill they’d fall now. She was empty; a dried husk telling the man she considered loving for months that it couldn’t work. All because of Balalaika. Funny how nothing she held close to her remained for long. “I can’t do this now, Rock. Trust me.”

He didn’t ask the question she was dreading.

 

 

 

The two days passed by glacially. Revy had spent the days with the Lagoon Company, with a touch of Janet and Eda coming over uninvited. It was a sad thought to realise Janet might as well have lived at their apartment, and she still wasn’t paying rent.

In spite of her impatience Revy was calmer than she had been for the past month and a half, her body was loose, like jelly. All the mirrors being thrust to her face lately made her highly aware of what she looked like. The drunk kissing with Rock weighed on her mind heavily; the only thing that relieved her is that she hardly saw him.

“Are you high or something?” Eda asked drunkenly, as she lounged on the couch as Dutch stirred pasta on the stove. Revy lay flat on the floor, arms and legs spread like a starfish.

Revy yawned. Three empty beer bottles stood next to her pounding skull. She stared up at the cracked ceiling. Between her legs throbbed in time to her headache. The past nights she had spent imagining what else could have happened with Balalaika. “Nope. Just happy the fucking heatwave is over.”

“You’ll regret those words soon enough,” Dutch replied from the kitchen, his back to the two women. “Rain is coming to come down hard and fast. It’ll be a bitch to navigate. Not to mention that shindig next week.”

And she did. The next day a rainstorm flooded the streets, dripping into the sea. The sky curled into a grey mass of clouds. It was as if the world had truly stopped, with most people holed up in their houses. A few cars wetly rushed by the apartment, headlights flicked on at six in the evening. Fog rose from the pavement in the morning and remained until lunchtime. The forever summer wasn’t forever, apparently.

Luckily enough, the Plymouth remained available in the event of such weather. The leather seats stuck to her wet thighs all the same; the windshield wipers trembling over the heavy water being poured over the car. Revy ran to the car, two stairs at a time, but it was all for nothing. She was still soaked by the time she made it to the car. Benny would bitch at her about the state of the interior. The leather was vintage.

She hunched over the large steering wheel as the headlights struggled to rip through the onslaught. The road was empty, aside from a few beater cars making their daily rounds to the living areas around the city.

The Hotel loomed menacingly in the rain, a building that had a few more levels than those around it. The parking was as full as ever. Any weather was minor to the men at work.

Few of the ex-soldiers paid attention to her wet self as she squeaked down the lobby and up the stairs. Balalaika must have already told them someone from the Lagoon Company was arriving. It made her feel that much better; to not have to deal with her men in any way shape or form. Because it was damn awkward trying to make eye contact with the blonde’s men, especially after the meeting in the bathroom.

Two Russians were in the hallway, near the stairwell. Their attitudes were strangely attentive towards her as she neared Balalaika’s office. Dutch had told her of this custom. Whenever the blonde met alone with a person who was of interest a few men stationed themselves outside. Revy felt very small as she passed them; both were a complete foot taller than her.

Revy raised a fist and knocked on the door, slowly, before snapping her arm to her chest, wishing that she had brought cigarettes. They were lying on the coffee table, probably all smoked by now. Nervously, she smoothed down her skirt. There was a soft ambiance of talking from what she heard, with one voice suspiciously sounding like a man’s.

“Yes?” Balalaika called from behind the door.

“It’s Revy.” She replied loudly, cracking her knuckles out of habit. It wasn’t Boris, and it was easy to tell they were speaking in English. A stubborn thought came to light. It’s a fucking guy .

“Come in Two Hands. I was just about finished.” She sounded humorous. Twisting open the doorknob, Revy grinded her unbrushed teeth. Someone had put her in a good mood, and it wasn’t Revy. Hot, white jealousy pooled into her veins when she opened the thick door and saw who was inside.

She froze as she set one foot into the room when she heard a familiar cadence. 

“Hey Two Hands. Long time, no see.” Chang, of all people, stood before a sitting Balalaika, who sat behind her desk, as per the norm. One hand was in his dress pants’ pocket, a cigarette between his lips. He turned his body to greet Revy, one droplet of rainwater on his dark glasses. A smirk on his face, with a gentle nod.

“Oh, hey, Boss.” Revy said, pleasantly. Awkwardly, she stayed where she was, still grasping the doorknob. It was admittedly good to see Chang again, usually he was somewhere with Rock. But dread lurked in her heart. He had a better shot than her, that was true. An envious voice wondered what other things he was good at; ridiculous as it sounded. It wasn't necessarily unfounded. People talked.

Balalaika cocked her head to the right and smiled at Revy, cigar between her lips, already lit.

He glanced back at the blonde easily and chuckled. His white scarf gleamed. “What brings good ol’ Two Hands here on urgent business? Isn’t it usually Dutch?”

“Haven’t you heard?” Balalaika tutted, smirking back, with a more evil intent as she reclined. Brandishing a hand in Revy’s direction, she shrugged. “She has the lucky position of lighting my cigars for me. My nails and flame don’t mix. However… she’s too late. I was forced to light my own. Docking that from your pay, Two Hands.”

Revy bristled at both their eyes on her, waiting for a response. She rolled her eyes and adjusted her footing, not feigning her annoyance. “Dutch is workin’ on his damn baby. Rock’s out, and no way in hell would Benny do this.”

“Still the muscle of the company, right? You better be practicing. Gotta keep up your reputation.” Chang stated, appraisingly. He pushed his sunglasses up with one finger. Relaxed as ever, and if he was tired the glasses hid it. Maybe like Rico, life was once an endless summer for him.

Grinning, Revy pushed wet strands of hair out of her face. She noted the tangled locks to be a little damp, but not dripping as they did when she first got into the red car. “You sure can count on that. I haven’t died, yet.”

Balalaika cleared her throat and had back their attention. Uncrossing her legs, she sat up. “It was charitable for you to stop by, Two Hands, but I need to get back to my affairs. Have Dutch call me.”

Out of all things, Revy was embarrassed. Chang didn’t seem put off, just amused, while Balalaika remained expressionless. She nursed her cigar for a moment, and then tilted her head at Revy, goading her.

“The fuck Sis?  I drove all this way?!” Revy exclaimed, putting her hands on her hips, fingers digging into her hip bones. Her eyes darted to the ex-police officer. “...No offense, Boss.” She thought of the gas she wasted in a fifteen minute drive. Aggravated, her mouth dried and her teeth clenched. A mere glimpse of the Russian, and she was being kicked out like street trash. That was how it always ended, didn't it? Revy pondered.

“None taken,” Chang said, chuckling to himself, adjusting his scarf. “Business is business, thought. Surely you and Fry Face here can catch up another time. A sister’s bond is a burden to bear.”

Balalaika sighed, the flesh underneath her eyes lilac and sagging. Picking up a document in her hand, she stared back at a fuming Revy. “You’ll understand as you grow older . I apologise for the waste of gas. But I’ll talk to the Lagoon Company later.”

“Could have called, Sis. Didn't figure you'd be so busy today.” Revy seethed, backing towards the door, carefully debating on her words. There was rage, sadness, and desperation swirling around inside her.

“Did you check your phone? I assumed you saw my message.” Balalaika chided. She was amused, at least.

Stiffening, Revy recalled that she, in fact, did not bother to check her damn phone. She hadn’t been expecting a phone call anyway . Yet she was too stubborn to give Balalaika the satisfaction of knowing she didn’t bother. Removing her hands from her hips, she clenched them into fists, and held in her ragged breaths. Balalaika was stoic as ever, little emotion from her icy eyes.

“I’ll have Dutch call you.” Revy jutted her jaw up at the Russian, her eyes defiant back. It would do well to not show any sign of hurt, but she was hurt. It didn’t matter if she was called beforehand, childishly Revy couldn’t give a shit. It was Thursday and it was  their few minutes together and she had waited so long and Chang had to show up. Rock wouldn't have done this, she realised. He'd make time for me, she struggled to make herself believe. She was entirely dependent on other people's time. "Bye, Sis. Boss." She spat, clenching the door knob until it creaked.

"Thank you for understanding." Balalaika said, a smoke swirling from her mouth as she exhaled. She looked weary, instantly, her hand holding the cigar lowering as if it weighed ten pounds.

"See you at the little get-together I've got going on? Rock's getting his ass in gear." Chang brushed his hair back over his ear, a ghost of a smirk still on his lips.

Revy was spiteful. A grin snaked its way on her face, reflecting Chang's own easiness in her own fake way. "Definitely. I'll drag him there myself." She cast a weak glare at Balalaika, trying to convey a message of I wanted to fucking see you across the room without Chang picking up on it. Her hand went to brush her neck, where the blonde had choked her two days past. The color had faded from a hint of purple to pink, but there was no mistaking for anything but it was. Balalaika paid more attention to her desk, jaw flexing, uncomfortable.

The rain was warm as blood when she weaved through the cars in the parking lot, knocking into a wing mirror, the silver handle threatening to snap. She couldn't have given less of a fuck, and a wave of anger washed over her and she rammed a kick into the side of a blue sedan, the car alarm tittering off. The metal dented into itself and she wished it was Balalaika's car. It fucking hurt, being rejected, Revy was afraid to comprehend the fact that the Russian probably did it for their own safety, but safety was the last thing on her mind. She envisioned the six pack in the fridge, untouched. Revy heaved herself into the Plymouth. Slamming the door shut, it was then she realised that rainwater had dripped all over the seat.

Her guns lay in the passenger seat.

Chapter Text

In the week that passed Balalaika had not contacted her. A little more than a week, if she paid any attention to the sailboat calendar in the kitchen. There were no secret phone calls in the night, and any sort of meeting between them. It was as if, to Revy’s fear, that they had either been found out or Balalaika grew tired of this game. Her cell phone was heavy in her hand, as her second call went to voicemail. A job came and went, with Revy flipping over six men who shot at her in desperation. A stray bullet went through the flesh of her arm, and that was the highlight of her day.

Revy began to feel, out of all things, doubt. It was an unwelcome feeling to have, and made bitter by Rock. Japan was fresh in her mind again, like it had happened just yesterday. Shattered legs healed, and memories stayed in fester in her mind. She wasn’t happy, in any case, and slippery darkness flopped around listlessly, a whisper of a fever.

With the lack of Balalaika came more interactions with Rock. It’d be damning to admit, but it was almost as if it were old times, if she forgot about that car ride. In the nights that grew more and more lonely, she reminded herself of just how close his makeshift bedroom was, shuddered. Heart twisting in disgust, she rolled onto her side and thought of Balalaika’s long hair.

Flexing her injured arm Revy laid heavily on the couch, grinding a cigarette butt into an ashtray when Dutch spoke up.

“Headcount. Who’s coming with? Friendly reminder that we only have five seats available in the Plymouth.” He said, sipping on a glass of bourbon. He stood in front of the kitchen counter, surveying the show of hands.

Best not to seem too excited. “Me,” Revy mumbled, lighting another cigarette. She had nearly finished the entire pack, yet her nerves remained on fire. Here she was, again, sitting and waiting.

Rock nodded at Dutch, a smile on his face. His necktie was askew, and he smoothed it down, fingers playing with the worn fabric. Benny padded into the living room, still clad in his boxers and a ratty short sleeve; Janet following, rubbing her eyes tiredly, purple hickies dotting her neck.

“Yeah, why not.” Benny shrugged, scratching at the scruff on his neck. Janet squeezed his arm, affectionately looking up at him. “Janey’s coming too.” Janey. What a cute pet name.

Of course, Janey had to come too. Revy scoffed and blew smoke up at the ceiling, crossing her legs. 

“What?” Janet asked, eyes narrowed as she possessively clung to her boyfriend. Her light hair was rumpled by sleep. “Dutch said there’d be room for one more.”

Fuck, I don’t care, Janet.” Revy snapped, so harshly that her back bent up.

The first order of business was showering. Her hair had been greasy and tangled from neglect, and she was pretty sure she stunk of ocean water. Revy scrubbed her skin until it ached; the water so hot it was near scalding. She didn’t mind it, it made her feel clean. She worked out the mats and snarls from her hair.

Her eyes were reddened by the eyeliner tracing across her waterline, but she did her best to look pleasing. Makeup was never her strong suit, before the dominatrix shows a few of the girls would help her put on false eyelashes and eyeshadow. Eventually, Revy did it herself, with numerous results. She only had one stick of smudgy eyeliner that she found underneath her bed.

Right after she slid into her tank top and jeans, she dabbed a bit of scented body spray underneath her ears. Between her legs, she ached a bit. It was funny to wish that Balalaika would notice what she had done. Looking right in the mirror, Revy felt foolish to even think that.

Going into the living room, everyone was dressed, and impatiently waiting for her. Benny rubbed his scruff, and eyed at Rock.

“Finally done?” Dutch grunted, handing her a cigarette.

“Yeah, let’s get going.” Revy said, shrugging, and taking a pull of the cigarette after she lit it. She ignored Rock’s eyes on her, and the way his shirt was freshly ironed.

The heat was restored after several days of heavy rainfall, sticky and humid. At dusk the sky was a soft lavender, almost ethereal with the clouds of pollution drifting through the air. The Plymouth was newly washed and waxed, so much so that it glowed.

Revy sat squished next to Janet, who was proudly in the middle seat, but verbally would have preferred if she was in Benny’s lap. Rock drove, and Dutch dangled an arm out the passenger window, nursing his third cigarette. Between the him and Revy, they emptied out the carton by the time they pulled up the darkened building. Chang's district was well mantained. Two cats scrapped by the garbage cans beside the stairwell as they entered.

The bleak display outside hid the well-maintained interior, with the party area being upstairs and to the right of them. The floors were carpeted, and the walls painted an eggshell white.

Inside, the room was decorated by four tables, with a dark wooden bar against the far wall. Neon-colored drinks lined it, and a barman stood passing drinks to the five people sitting in front of it, chatting. It was crowded, the lights dimmed and casting an orange glare. Chang nodded at them and raised his own drink as they entered, his usual smirk on his face.

The first stop they all made together was the trip to the bar. Revy skipped to the bartender, and grinning, stabbed her finger in the direction of the alcohol she wanted- a higher class whiskey, one that burned, and would help her get through this evening.

“That shit, whatever the fuck the name is. And don’t get me a tiny ass shot.” Revy yelled over the voices that rose and fell, leaning over the counter.

“We’ll all have bourbon,” Dutch said apologetically, chuckling. The light reflected off his sunglasses. One of Chang’s men stood silently drinking his cup of wine, eyes dark, on the group. Revy shot back a glare, but he wasn’t even looking in her direction. If he was bothered, he didn’t show it. He looked like he simply didn’t care.

Benny stole a table from a few men who had left. They sat down heavily, Revy letting out a tired sigh as she drank from her humorously sized glass of alcohol.

“Trying to get drunk already?” Benny said, throwing his arm around Janet who was next to him.

“How can you tell?” Revy mumbled, staring down into its amber depths, like it carried all the answers in the world. Rock sat beside her, close enough that any movement would have them brush each other. It was a tiny table, but still . Dutch was at the head of the table, and he had a large glass as well.

“I saw let’s indulge. All the drinks are on him,” Dutch gestured at Chang. “Or so he told me.”

“Why’s that asshole staring at us?” Revy voiced loudly, enough to make the man catch attention. She didn’t know what he was up to and she didn’t like it .

“Make sure we behave?” Benny chuckled at Janet, winking. She was polite enough to feign a blush.

“I’m heading to the bathroom. Benny, speaking of, behave, will ya?” Janet nuzzled Benny’s face. She stood up from the table, untangling herself. “I only want you to myself .”

Watching the girl walk off, Revy bitterly knew that she had said the same thing to Balalaika, not so long ago herself. While the three men engaged themselves in conversation, Revy took to scoping out the small room- searching for any entrance where the blonde might take. The crowd was mostly from Chang’s triad, more Thai than English being spoken.

Rock’s arm brushed her elbow as she leaned on the table, and her eyes darted back to him.

“You gonna go chat with Boss?” Revy asked, eyes narrowing as she took a sip of her drink.

“Maybe, if he gets a second.” Rock said, following Chang with his eyes, worrying his lip. He was tired, too. There were lines under his eyes that weren’t there before. “Funny how pressing matters become.”

“Like what?” Revy scoffed. The man who had been watching them was gone.

“Eh, it’s not important now.”

Just like that, she was pissed. “How the fuck isn’t it important? Can’t we just get drunk and- fuck.”

Fuck ?” It would have been humiliating if she were paying attention.

Her grey, oversized military coat made Balalaika appear ten times more intimidating. Boris and two men Revy didn’t recognize stood beside her, still like statues, faces like marble slabs, scaring any weak-willed person away. She was the only blonde in the room, aside from the light brown of Janet’s hair. Revy hadn’t even seen her enter. She was simply there, like Revy conjured her.

Already Balalaika was in a stern conversation with Chang, before her expression turned to one of playful in a mocking sort of way. Revy watched, transfixed. Her lipstick must have been freshly applied , Revy thought, dumbly. She wasn’t drunk yet, but she felt courage brought by the bourbon… or what passed for courage. Feeling confident, she almost stood up when someone shifted in her peripheral vision.

Rock waved a hand in front of her face. “Uh, Revy?”

“Dude, shut up. I’m trying to see who the fuck is here.” Revy hissed, pulling her eyes away, her knees brushing Rock’s leg as she turned to face the table again, clenching the glass in her grip until she thought it might break. She decided that to interact with Balalaika would not be wise. Chang’s gathering called for the older woman to be guarded like she wasn’t able to defend herself.

Dutch frowned, cocking an eyebrow. “What, is Shenhua here? Thought I saw her on the way in.”

“Chinglish isn’t important right now, go talk to Chang or something.” Revy said. She was too frantic, and downing the glass, she felt eyes bore into the back of her head.

“Hm. What’s got you all worked up, I wonder.” Dutch shook his head, letting out a very kids these days sigh.

“Here comes Queen Moscow herself.” Beny quipped, putting both elbows on the table as he cracked his knuckles, then reached for his own drink.

Balalaika threatened a smile at Chang, and pulled herself away, her three men remaining where they where. Mindful of her coat, she gracefully walked around the much shorter patrons, heading purposely to their fucking table.

“Dutch.” She greeted, and nodded at the rest of them, her eyes staying on Revy for a second, chillingly making her shiver. “I was simply leaving two of my men here to work on my behalf. But, I wanted to say hello.”

“Good to see you again,” Dutch said. He set down his cup and looked up at her. “We’re looking forward to another job from you. Chang doesn’t pay as well as you do. Currently, we are living off of saltines and cigarettes.” He cast a joking look at Revy. “And it looks like we ran out of cigarettes.”

“Ha, ha.” Revy cracked a grin, but stared down at her drink, blushing from the intensity of Balalaika, and accidently moved her hand to graze Rock’s thigh. She jerked her hand away, with an embarrassingly loud gasp, and all she could hear was Benny’s muted chuckle.

“Now, now. Didn’t Janet tell you all to behave?” Benny said, and Revy utterly wanted to kill him.

“I am , because nothing is going on, and it’s all an accident.” She chanted, thrusting a finger at Benny, seething.

“Really? You can always ask if you want to hold hands.” Rock joked in turn, rubbing the back of his head, laughing himself. Dutch shook his head once more.

Balalaika was silent. Revy wouldn’t dare to see what her expression might be, not with the redness in her cheeks everyone clearly thought was for Rock . Even worse if Balalaika thought the same. Revy shifted in her chair, reaching up to tug at a strand of hair.

“Well, I’m not one to keep lovebirds apart.” The blonde stated, her coat brushing Revy’s shoulder. It wasn’t a soft fabric by any means, it felt thick, and verging on scratching.

Sis .” Revy crossed her arms, and peeked up at a Balalaika who had painted a very convincing smile on her face, or what could be considered one. She really did it this time.

The blonde squared her shoulders and tilted her head. She swallowed, then gave a casual look. “I will speak to you later, Dutch.”

“See ya,” He raised his glass to her.

Boris was at Balalaika’s side in a blink of an eye, and the two ex-military began a slow walk to the second exit that was across from the main one. The blonde met Revy’s eyes, and jerked her head towards the door, when Boris turned his back to her to open the door.

Revy was excited, and dreaded the meeting all the same. She waited until Balalaika left, followed by Boris, and waited some more, while Dutch and Benny talked about boats, an utterly boring conversation that made her want to get out even more. Rock finished his glass, and laughed when Dutch told a story about a funny battle in Vietnam, with so much detail it was as if he was there yesterday.

“Excuse me.” Revy said, standing up so fast her chair screeched across the pine floor. “I have to… go use the bathroom too. You know. I’ll say hi to Janet for you, if she’s even there.”

Rock started a reply, and Revy strutted away anyway.

Opening the door, Revy peeked out into the dark corridor, the low light illuminating aged linoleum and faded wallpaper. This area led to yet another back lot, while having pit-stops of rooms full with empty desks and stacked chairs. A blinking light fixture cast shadows across the floor. It wasn’t a straight hallway, with a sharp turn that went to the right.

“There are no cameras,” Balalaika announced without looking behind her, as Revy rounded the corner to see the blonde staring at the back entrance. The two doors swung shut, clicking into place. The noises muted to a dull roar.

Such a nice greeting. Revy swiveled around to view the ceiling and nodded, her arms swinging loosely. “ Damn , I wasn’t even thinking of that.”

“Obviously,” Balalaika sighed. “Sneaking around isn’t your cup of tea.”

Revy laughed, before turning her head and eyeing the door. There wasn’t a good way to gauge how loud they could be without an investigation. “Yet here we are, Sis. Like a couple of fucking teenagers.”

“Don’t laugh. Eventually, with how this is going, we won’t be sneaking around much longer. Thanks for the show.” Her words echoed in the narrow hallway.

She stared at Balalaika, confused. “The fuck? Sis, what are you talking about?”

Stepping away from Revy, Balalaika put her back to the wall, one hand in her coat pocket. She fiddled with an item for a minute, swallowing, probably wishing for a cigar. Revy moved closer, automatically.

“If you have something to tell me about you and Rock, voice it now.”

Sis .” was all that Revy was able to mutter. Her eyes grew wide in shock and her stance became defensive. Her right arm twitched in pain at the sudden motion. “I keep telling you this- fuck, do you wanna have this conversation ? After not calling me for days?”

Balalaika chuckled, tilting her head, smirking in a hopeless fashion. “I tried. I only left a single voicemail, which I hope you listened to. You left me quite a few, actually. Don’t give me that look. I found it to be very… cute. Even if it was difficult to find voicemails from other people.”

Revy chewed on the inside of her cheek. The phone sat neglected on her dresser, and she ignored it all day. Seeing it in her vision made her irritable, and Dutch offered to throw it into the ocean on the third day.

“I figured you changed your mind after I did that waste of a trip up to your office.” She answered quietly. Revy saw hurtful anger in her eyes, and it was gone as quick as it came, and suddenly the blonde was a human again.

“Did you listen to the message I left you, on that day?” Balalaika asked. Her eyebrows creased, disheartened.

Revy shifted her feet. When she drove home that rainy afternoon, she grew pissed with every second that passed. A surge of rage electrified her touch and in one swift motion, deleted the voicemail without even hearing what it had to say. A stupid, stupid decision on her part. And she hadn’t even checked for the new one. She assumed that Balalaika wouldn’t bother.

“...I was pissed.” Revy said. She crossed her arms and refused to return a look. Guilt made speaking difficult, and she hated the look that appeared on the Russian’s face whenever Revy hurt her feelings. “I was fucking jealous too.”

“Of what? There’s no need to be jealous. You can trust me on that.” Balalaika feigned a questioning look on her face.

The alcohol she drank gave her a brief surge of courage. “Chang. You and Boss. You call him baby, babe this babe that, and he can just waltz in there he’s the goddamn king of England…”

The blonde had the decency to look away from Revy’s clear seething. “The nickname is a joke, Two Hands. At the end of the day we are all rivals.”

She was pissed from the mere mention of the previous events. It wasn’t fair, and this whole situation with Balalaika reeked of unfair . Every step she tried to take, at gunpoint she had to step backward twice. What stung worse, was that Revy wasn’t capable or allowed to speak about it with anyone. It was a lonely affair, one that highlighted the fact of how little they could meet. Neglected, indeed. “You guys can be alone, like fuck, without any chaperones and I can’t chill with Rock for one second -”

“These risks you’re taking with him- with us, are utterly ridiculous.” Balalaika said, touching her temples, blinking, exhausted, as if she was fighting the urge to fall asleep or brush Revy off entirely.

“Risks? You mean keeping up a good cover.” Revy replied, clenching her fists. “You just don’t want me all over Rock, yet if I don’t do that shit, people will wonder what the fuck is going on!”

There was a clatter of a glass cracking back in the room, and Balalaika snapped her eyes to the shut door, pulse throbbing in her neck. She looked back to Revy, tensing. “You act like a child. All of this pathetic attempt to get me jealous. It won’t work, Two Hands.”

“But it has.” Revy murmured, feeling the strained air between them tighten. She never thought of it that way. Of the Russian pining for her as well. Weirdly, Revy didn’t consider the fact of Balalaika maybe, maybe , knowing what was going on and perhaps having her feelings hurt because of it. Achingly, Revy’s hands twitched and she stopped herself from grabbing Balalaika and holding her close. The blonde was so tired, so run-dry that she appeared bloodless.

Sucking in a breath, Balalaika shook her blonde head. Her hair grazed Revy’s shoulders. There was more she wanted to say but her pride didn’t permit her to say anything. “All I ask is to stop being so overt.” She dropped to a whisper. “At least in front of me.” 

Bristling, Revy moved away and reared her head back, pushing her bangs out of her face and glaring. “Who cares? People already think me and Rock are fucking. It won’t fuck with… what we currently got going on. He’s not an issue.” Was he?

“How are we going to have what we currently have survive with how you keep acting? The eye contact, the-” Balalaika paused. “Do you know how risky all of this is?” The blonde spat, towering over Revy. A lot of effort went into not looking away, or crying, and she sucked in her lip to stare up at Balalaika.

“How the fuck, ” Revy shoved at Balalaika’s chest, pushing the woman against the wall, both hands on her sharp collar bones. “Are we going to survive what’s going between us, when we keep playing these goddamn games and meeting in fucking hallways and dirty bathrooms when it’s clear you want something realer than that.” She jutted a finger in the blonde’s stone-cold face. “What’s the point of this shit if we can’t go out to dinner, or spend a night together? How can we fucking get to know each other in thirty minutes? I’ve been beaten the shit out of so many times I can’t count. I’ve had a beer bottle smashed in my face. Do you know what I had to do to fucking survive ?!”

Somehow Revy’s neck remained intact, and she lowered her hand, shame crawling up her face.

Balalaika fumed, her blonde hair hiding a sickening expression crawling across her face. She was gone, entirely, and her mouth drew slack and her eyes wicked. Grabbing Revy’s shaking wrists, she drew her closer. “And don’t you know what I had to do, Two Hands? Rebecca? Becky ?”

Quickly, Revy flinched at the mention of the nickname, and when Balalaika had said in such a tone her piece of shit father’s voice came out.

“No, you do not. I went to war , Two Hands. I did horrible things that I used to lose nights of sleep to. If I told you what I did, even you would be shocked. People only see the physical part, yet they hardly ask how these got here.” She arched her neck back, showing the trailing pieces of destroyed flesh down her face and throat, going underneath her business suit. “Most of them think it was from a frag grenade, a siege, a burning house- one idiot thought I was born this way.” 

Revy struggled to get out of her grip but it was useless, and Balalaika tightened her hold, until her hands grew numb. She wasn’t scared of her, per say , but more of what the blonde was going to speak of. “Sis, shit-”

“Would you like to know? We got over-run and as I covered some of my men, they cornered me like some animal. I was hoping they’d kill me, because we had seen what was done to my comrades. Never knew what they’d do to a woman, though.” her voice grew softer, more deadly. “Tell me, what did they do to me? I’m asking you a damn question, look at me! I’ve seen you steal glances and only touch the unscarred part of my face. Take a good long stare. You know you want to.”

Glancing around the dark, silent hallway, Revy swallowed. A pull on her aching arms forced her to look up at the Russian’s face, with blue eyes staring back. It was like looking into the face of death. Revy was chilled, goosebumps dancing up her skin, freezing her in place.

“They.. fuck…,” Revy stammered, blinking, watching the texture of the scars distribute the faint light unevenly. Bitter sadness filled her dry mouth, and she ceased trying to break away.  “ Tortured you. But you were saved, and you-” What was there to say? No words in the world could describe what she wanted to tell her. “Personally,” she gulped, knowing it was a bad idea. “I think you look nice.”

Balalaika quietly laughed, the sound aggrieved and cold. “I wasn’t fishing for compliments, Two Hands. I wanted to see how you’d answer.” Her twisted expression relaxed and she let go of Revy, hands falling to her sides as she shook her head. 

Neither of them spoke for a minute, as they caught their breath, and the muffled sounds of people conversing- highlighted by Chang laughing sharply- filled the silence. Clinking of bottles accentuated the white noise. Were they missed yet? Balalaika was thought to be gone, but as for her, she couldn’t say.

Revy squeezed her wrists, checking for any hints of pain, detecting any newly born bruises. She kept forgetting how Balalaika wasn’t always this way. The stories people told about her created a myth. Her mere presence sowed fear in everyone, the worst offender being whatever laid in her eyes. She is a person she is a person come on Revy , she repeated to herself, like a droning drum beat.

When she returned her gaze on Balalaika, what was coldness on the blonde’s face had transformed into a look of muted despair. Revy was sad for her, she realised. The fear had melted away. The silence went on and on, after a minute she began to grow a little bit afraid again. Not for herself, but for Balalaika, and if it was a different situation Revy would have thrown her head back and cried or laughed in surprise.

Placing her hand on Balalaika’s shoulder, fingers digging into the thick wool of her trench coat, Revy leaned close, raising onto her tiptoes. Blue eyes flicked to the wall behind her head. Blank, as they were when Revy pulled her out of the sea. The blonde raised her chin, taking in a deep breath and straightening her back. Revy came close enough to where her breath moved the strands of white-blonde hair that dangled near Balalaika’s face, and her lips brushed against her cheek, over the scar. 

She kissed the area softly, then adding more pressure, closing her eyes. Her height was becoming an issue again, and she could only push herself high enough to the blonde’s cheek; yet even that was still a struggle. Shakily, Revy parted her mouth and laid a kiss again, barely sucking the skin.

For a moment Revy wondered what Balalaika would look like unscarred. Or when she was younger. Less tired, less gaunt, less like an ex-military working herself to death. What she would have been like at her age.

“I want you. To myself.” Revy whispered, her cheek touching Balalaika’s face. “I fucking hate how you have to plan this shit out. Like you said- scheduling it, those few minutes you’re allowed to fucking have. And those minutes for yourself you’d give to me. If any asshole said that shit, I would not believe them. But you… I know you’re telling the truth. Fuckin’ A, sis.”

She didn’t respond. Revy took that as an okay to continue. She moved her other hand to cup Balalaika’s hip, sliding around to support the taller woman’s back, hugging her close. The military overcoat swallowed up her arm.

“I know you’re exhausted and I know you’re stressed the fuck out. Be easy to say that you need a day off from this shit. You can’t take a vacation from what life we’ve got, though.” Revy mused, rubbing her nose on the blonde’s cheekbone softly. “We won’t survive if we grope at each other in bathrooms and then act like nothing happened, ya know? Forget about what those shitheads will think, that’s all background noise.”

“Eloquently put, Two Hands.” Balalaika tensed underneath her fingers, and Revy kissed her once more, on her sharp jaw. She waited for more to be said, only to find that Balalaika could only inhale deeply, her rib cage expanding. But she felt two arms wrapping around her anyway. Revy did the same, shifting into a position that would be comfortable to both of them.

“I don’t notice them as much as I notice how tired you are. I think to myself, fuck she still looks so worn out, she needs to go to bed, why isn’t someone telling her this? Since I had so much time to think about what you said in that bathroom, I kinda realise this: what you said about being neglected and shit, that wasn’t just about me, huh? That was about you too.” She wanted to keep talking forever, the words kept pouring out of her. It had all built up inside her chest, through the many days they were apart, and saying them all the rage washed out with it. Clenching her jaw, she laid her head on Balalaika’s collarbone.

Revy blinked, and tears burned in her eyes, and she blinked once more in surprise. Her body missed the physical affection more than she realised, as she sagged into Balalaika, who relaxed slowly, one joint at a time. The coat was warm, enough so that if Revy continued to hold the blonde she’d eventually sweat- how Balalaika managed not to pass out was beyond her.

“It would be nice to sleep.” Balalaika finally spoke after they clung to each other for a moment. She refused to note what Revy said previously, her breath shuddering. Her chin rested on the top of Revy’s head. “However I have my duty to my men and this cesspool of a city. This miserable world requires my services for a little while longer.”

“Did you forget already?” Revy rasped against the coat, muffled. Balalaika tightened her hold on her in response. Smiling, Revy suppressed a giggle and the urge to grope the blonde. “Right now your ass belongs to me, not to anyone else.” She is a person she is a person. It was getting easier to remember, now.

“What would you have me do?”

She felt like a girl. An actual, living, normal, girl. “Kiss me, for a start.”

Revy reared her head back, and arched up to Balalaika’s lips. As she slid shut her eyes, and felt Balalaika’s warm mouth on hers, the blonde decided to speak instead.

“You know they’d mail me your head in a week’s time.” 

The vibration from her deep voice sent arousal pooling beneath Revy’s stomach. Biting back a sigh, she pulled away slightly. Were they going to rehash this continuous argument again? Would she have to repeat why she wasn’t going anywhere, and she knew the consequences, even if they didn’t sit in her mind like they did in Balalaika’s?

“Forget about the goddamn shitheads who’d put my head on a pike or whatever. Don’t bother scaring me away now, cause I won’t go.” Revy said, laughing miserably.

She heard one of the abandoned office doors opening and shutting. Jerking away, Revy slid along the wall, the wallpaper bumping under her spread fingers. Balalaika ceased breathing, shuffling away from the corner, towards the back door. 

Her boot caught on the carpet and Revy almost lurched forward, and she barely allowed herself to see around into the straight hallway. Chills ran down her back. The lack of decent lighting was an absolute blessing, she decided. Blowing a tendril of hair out of her face, she managed to make out one of Chang’s guys from earlier, starting to whistle and fix his hair. His dress shirt was undone at the top two buttons, showing a throat that Revy would gladly, happily, hurriedly slit. His hands went to click together his belt. He didn’t so much as cast a glance in Revy’s direction, sighing contentedly as he pushed open the door to the party, the sound of him dissipating immediately.

Revy’s nails left crescent moons in the tan wallpaper and she moved to lay her back on the wall, inhaling and exhaling; her heart pounding in her throat and sweat on the back of her neck. She jerked towards her guns and realised that she didn’t bring them, a wise choice, because otherwise she’d have chased after the man.

The same office door swung open again, and she hardly heard it.

“He’s gone,” she muttered to absolutely no one. Balalaika neared the exit, hand reaching out to grasp the handle. The sign buzzed above her blonde head, casting a red light down upon her. “Sis, he’s gone. We’re good-” her voice cracked. “ Please don’t go . You didn’t kiss me yet.”

She pushed off the wall, her vision swimming in nervousness, and she made a weak smile as she took a step towards Balalaika. The blonde looked back at her; face cold and eyes wide. She shot an arm out towards Revy, palm up, shaking her head, willing her to stop.

The same office door closed, this time it clattered with the force of a push. A feminine sigh echoed in the empty hallway. Terror made Revy near pass out, and without thinking, she rushed, in the middle of the hallway, to stare out and see who else could possibly be there. Her mind was blank, there was no way to think, pure animal instinct choked her conscience.

Janet stood there, pushing the underside of her breasts into her tiny halter top. Her head raised up and she looked confused. Her hair was mussed and her tight jeans buttoned but not zippered.

Revy ?” she asked, hesitating with a tinge of fear. Like the answer was inconceivable to know. “Who the hell are you talking to?”

Instead of answering, or even speaking a mere insult, you slut, does Benny know about this one? Probably. Revy glared at her with an intensity that made Janet move towards the door. Puzzled, she stayed in the hallway regardless, trying to see what lay behind Revy.

“Is-”

Revy didn’t hear the rest of the sentence, because she whipped around and saw the exit entrance shut behind Balalaika, with a wisp of her heavy coat flashing like a curtain in the wind. Her blood pounded in her ears, the small of her back damp with perspiration.

She chased after the blonde. The light bathed the end of the hallway in red, like it was silently damning her to a decision she could not turn back from.

Chapter Text

There was no other sound except that of her ragged breathing and her footsteps. How fucking dare she.

Flinging the metal door open with an audible clang , Revy dashed out into the concrete stairwell. Just as she entered, the door at the bottom of the two flights had opened. It was brighter lit than the hallway, but shadows still crept along every corner. She took two steps at a time, her heavy boots echoing down the stairs. Grabbing the steel handrail, Revy lifted herself off of the last step, and jumped down, skipping the next stairwell. Grunting, she hit her landing hard, her calves brushing the rough edge of the stair. Twisting her head to the left, saw Balalaika staring at her with wide eyes, and a tightly drawn mouth. Her hair was frazzled, her coat hanging on her shoulders for dear life. A sick sense of relief fell on Revy.

“Well, aren’t you dramatic?” She sighed, like she’d seen it all before, and it was getting annoying. Acrobatics weren’t impressive. Maybe she’d be if Ii were Olympic-level , Revy bitterly recalled.

Too nonchalant for her taste. Revy waved her arms around, fuming. She spread her legs far apart, and remained just out of reach from the Russian. The fact that Balalaika had said it so casually made her head throb. “You were just gonna abandon me?”

Balalaika chuckled, with nothing in her eyes. Her fingers adjusted her wool coat. “Less abandonment, more instinct than anything else.”

“From running from some slut? She’s harmless.” 

“So, you know her? What’s her name?” Balalaika took a step away from the door, her hand still hesitating near the handle. “Speak quickly, my ride back to Hotel Moscow is outside.”

Janet would never think to follow her, but it was a troubling thought. What if she told the group? Rock? Dutch ? If Chang managed to get a hold of the information, all hell would break loose- but that was paranoia. Yet Janet only heard what she said, heard her say Sis ; acting like a complete little bitch. She didn’t have a clue of who Sis was.

“She’s a nobody. Some bitch I used work with at Rowan's.” Revy blurted. “But, hey.  My ride is back in that party room, and I’d have to get around that bitch to get there, and of course maybe she’d told some fucker, so maybe it’s best if I don’t go back.” Revy couldn’t say it was Janet. Sure, she didn’t care for her, but it was Benny’s girlfriend, and from the way he talked about her, maybe his soulmate, and if Janet was killed, it would only raise questions of how she died, and who was the last person to see her?  It might work. The blonde was more than willing to kill her, judging from her tone.

Balalaika rubbed her temple. “Meaning? I’m getting a headache from this, Two Hands.”

“Fuck, hello? I need to disappear?! Could I hide in your trunk or something?” She exclaimed, hunching forward. Her voice rang through the stairwell, and they both froze. 

The blonde shook her head, and let out an exhausted sigh, like she didn’t want to think. “Trust me. You wouldn’t want to be in the trunk of that car. But, what you’re feebly trying to put across is… that you need a ride home. And if I give you that, you’ll tell me who that person was? I could easily break your arm, and you’d happily tell me.”

“Yes.” Revy stretched out the word, licking her top row of teeth in thought. “Yeah, you could, but you won’t....” She looked at the ambiguous body language Balalaika shifted into. “because we’ll have a fuckton of time to talk about it in the car.”

“I- This is so ridiculous. I need to leave, now .” The word ridiculous hit Revy as hard as it did when she was nine years old.

Gnawing on her lip, Revy remembered her manners, of what she said in the hallway, and swallowed her newly acquired pride. “ Please . Let me spend the night. Save the gasoline. Is it- is it fucking possible? For your, you know, kot-yay-nok?” The mangled Russian word lurched from her tongue like a bad disease.

Oh , Revy. This is an extremely difficult situation. You’ll have to be patient.” Balalaika said. Her clothes-hanger collarbones, which below it lay plush cleavage, and Revy’s throat tightened. She needed to have her to herself, now .

“Can you ask your Sergeant? He’d understand, I know he would!” Revy gave a twitchy look. She wasn’t was she was imagining the night would go. What did  she expect? Revy had been excited to see her, for a lusty reunion, maybe physical reassurance, and Balalaika was once again covering her own ass. And she didn’t know what the fuck Boris understood.

Balalaika shook her head, her blonde covering the scarred portion of her face, until it was pushed out of the way. It was difficult not to stare at it. The scar was so textured, so uneven, so horrifically placed, with the eye a shade paler than the one seated in the smooth flesh.

“I’ll… see what I can do. This is so risky Revy, you clearly have no damn idea. If we aren’t careful, both of us would suffer. You more than me.” Balalaika said it urgently, as if she was holding up a collapsed ceiling. Her lipstick was fading on her lips.

“You keep saying that shit. I know. They’ll cut my ass up into fifteen pieces and overnight it to you.” What would Chang do? Would he do that?   “But, what if we’re never caught?” Revy shrugged, tilting her head and cracking her knuckles.

“Then we’d continue for as long as allowed. Until one of us ends it. I’ve had a fair share of… paramours killed under my orders.” Balalaika replied. What word could describe what they had going on?

“And dogs, and fucking babies. What’s the point? I’ll be careful, I fucking promise.” Revy waited for the cold reply. Balalaika paused, and she already knew what was coming next. The blonde was, once again being the bad guy, and the guilt was clear on her pale face. "But, if you can't... That's okay."

“Sergeant will be seeing a young, tattooed, loudmouthed Asian girl I’d be taking to my apartment. Alone. For the night.” Balalaika began, blinking rapidly. Her teeth were white, glowing brighter than her skin. A laugh escaped from her. “How typical, hm? Every mob boss must drag home some exotic pet.”

“I’m not exotic. I’m American .” Revy pointed out, blushing. Shaking her pointer finger in the air, she furrowed her brow. The Chinese languages might as well have been ancient Greek. She let it be a jokey spin to show how unlikely it was. The blonde looked at like she was some exotic pet.

“Those eyes, those lips . A foreign beauty, I’d say.” Balalaika spoke softly, with her bottom-of-the-well voice; resonant and deep. She bent her arm as she brought it up slowly. The way her fingers unfurled out was as if she wanted to trace Revy’s lips as she said it.

Revy gnawed her lip and shoved her hands into her jean pockets, staring at the ground with a scowl. A compliment was the second to worst thing she could handle right now. It wasn’t better to have the blonde appreciatively scanning her.

“To me, anyway, you’re the fucking…” her hasty reply to the floor melted into a mumble, “...foreign beauty…”  To me, anyway. Wow, way to make her feel good, dumbass. “Wait, that was bitchy. You’re really tall, and blonde, and blue eyed. Who wouldn’t?”

All that met her fumbled statement was a slight nod, and Balalaika started walking to the exit; she turned and singly twisted her head to assure Revy to stay put. “Five minutes. Then come out. Slowly.” The door opened and the tall woman slipped out with a clack of her high heels.

Tapping her foot, Revy leaned against the wall and counted one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three… until she grew bored of that, thunked her head twice on the concrete wall, and then pushed off and made a crawling pace towards the exit. Revy pushed on the door, the metal slab towards the bottom of it rusty, and it squeaked obscenely. Hot night air greeted her, only adding to the discomfort of nervous sweating. Her ponytail stuck to the back of her neck, lank and irritating. Stepping out of the building, she shut it quietly behind her. A car’s engine rumbled nearby. She knew the look of that black automobile.

She lingered the flat of her hand on the door as she jerked her head around, until her eyes fell on Balalaika and Boris, standing a mere twenty feet away. Boris turned his back, walking around to the passenger side, Balalaika slowly following him, her heels the only sound on the asphalt. The ground was wet, the color a dark tar, not sunbleached as it was in sunlight. Droplets of water splattered down from the roof, one dripping onto Revy’s scalp, but she remained frozen where she was, moving her hand to her side. The blinking street lights were on, casting a sickly beam of light on the car, like a beacon.

Feverishly, Revy walked towards the car, feeling hazy and indifferent, her heartbeat in her ears and swallowing her other senses up. It was as if she was uncomfortable in her skin, the humidity made her clothes feel heavy; like she was fifty pounds heavier. Her boots crunched over the gravel and trash. She wasn’t going to bother to sneak. Underneath her arms were empty, and she yearned for her guns to be there, to be a token of safety. They weren’t, and she was on her own.

For a brief moment her conscience said go home, just give up and take your ass home. She’s not alone, what are you fucking doing? Idiot, go to Bao’s and get shitfaced, and get back to the apartment. This is too damn risky, bitch. Very useful advice.

Revy clenched her fists and made to turn away, when in her peripheral vision saw Boris staring in her direction, eagle-eyed. She paced in the opposite direction, the hair on her arms standing up, and she was cold, and felt watched by two pairs of eyes. If she walked casually, with no hurry in her steps, then maybe the Russians would allow her to go away, so she could drink her weight in whiskey.

There was an exchange between the two behind her back, in their native language. Boris’ sounded questioning, and Balalaika’s slow and restrained, with an undercurrent of hesitancy. Revy increased her speed, exhaling and inhaling, a pathetic aim to calm down. Her hands twitched for any sort of weapon. She wanted a cigarette. Desperately.

Their eyes returned to her, and she shuddered under their gaze, even if she couldn’t see them. After a moment, Boris spoke, and Balalaika answered; Revy wished she had the ability to understand what they were saying, just for a second.

“Two Hands,” Balalaika called out, her accent going from heavy to light in a spare second.

Revy stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes wide and her mouth curling into mouthing out a “fuck” . She never felt more powerful than in this moment; ability to walk away or stay, and Balalaika was waiting on her.

“Yeah?” She turned carefully, as if expecting a gun held to her temple. The Russians remained where they were, and Boris was impassive. Balalaika, on the other hand, continued to have a commanding presence, her body broad and taking up space on purpose. Head held high, Balalaika took Revy’s answer into careful consideration, her eyes darting to the side for a brief second.

The blonde looked at Revy, and nodded towards the car. Her hair rustled in the breeze.

Unsure what to say, Revy could only blink at Boris and then back at her. The man was still as a stone pillar, and his face unresponsive, and he didn’t even glance at either of them. She refused to believe it was a trick. No one was around to spectate. The street light flickered above her as she made her way to the car, digging her nails into her palms. Every step she took, she was waiting for Balalaika to change her mind, to leave her behind in this shitty alleyway.

Balalaika waited patiently, unmoving, until Revy was rounding the trunk to get into the backseat, on the driver’s side. It was a good angle to view the blonde, and to know what was coming next. Only then did Boris open the passenger door, and Balalaika slid inside slowly, minding her coat. Revy tossed herself inside. She still wasn’t sure of what was going on. She had her cell phone, but she didn’t have her guns. Her cutlasses were her luck, and right now she had none at all.

The car smelled new, strangely enough. The back seat was a shining, warm, black leather. A few scratches marred the fabric; a stain on the grey floor mat underneath her feet that looked like blood. This is fucking ridiculous.

Revy scratched the injury on her arm, and took in the scenery, unsure. She looked at Balalaika who sat in the passenger, who didn’t look back, and from what Revy saw had a firm expression on her pale face. Boris entered the driver’s seat, and smoothly placed the keys into the ignition, and the car rumbled to life. It sounded new. Revy was used to the archaic Plymouth and Eda’s dying monstrosity from the eighties, and this common, simple car was near luxurious in its comparison.

The radio played a nighttime talk show in Thai, interwoven with ads from the various businesses in Roanapur, as Revy gathered from the names of establishments spoken in English. White noise, more than anything. Boris turned right onto the near-empty street. Balalaika spoke to him in husky Russian, drawn out and reserved. She continued for a half minute at least, pausing to shake her head, then resuming. Twisting her head, Balalaika stole a quick look at Revy, who sat uneasily in the car; speaking her name with a lilt on the R .

She was literally right here, sequestered in the back; a kid picked up from school. Balalaika treated her like some object to be jettisoned, if need be. Revy scrunched up her nose and crossed her arms in the pleasant air conditioning, and stared back, raising an eyebrow. The blonde looked at Boris and said something, and he replied with a mere sentence compared to what she had said to him.

They pulled up to a stoplight and canned laughter spilled from the radio. The air carried tenseness, or maybe it was just coming from herself. A car screamed by in front of them, followed closely by another, and the flurry of horns disappeared into the distance, and it was only then Revy was brave enough to interrupt the conversation. The light changed to green. Two people walked on the sidewalk, one slumping over, being patted on the back. Revy swallowed, how much she wanted Balalaika to do that, a simple touch, in public, and it all fell upon her shoulders of how much weight the blonde’s words were, and she was barely unable to hide a sob-gasp, choosing to cough into her fist.

“Hey guys, ah…” Revy clicked her mouth shut when she saw Boris look at her from the rearview mirror, and Balalaika glanced at her peripherally.  “So, where are we going?” She scratched the half-healed wound on her arm hard enough that it pulsed with pain. Dropping her arm into her lap, she stared out the windshield, waiting. Where are we going, that was fucking overconfident.

“Hotel Moscow.” Boris replied, after waiting for Balalaika to speak, which she clearly didn’t. He had as much expression as still water. Like Revy wasn’t willingly coming along.

Balalaika turned to fully stare at her, eyes cold. Winter in the summer . “Would you prefer to be driven back to Dutch’s apartment, instead?”

Her accent made Revy near quiver, her breath shaky, So, Balalaika knew she didn’t pay rent. From the angle she was sitting in, the blonde’s scorched side of her face was obscured, and so she could only see the unblemished side. 

“No, no that’s fine as hell. Hotel Moscow’s fine, Sis.” Revy nodded enthusiastically, her head bobbing and more strands of hair left her elastic band. She hid a confused smile. Did Boris know? He fucking had to.

The burning blue stare softened for a fraction of a second, then resumed its steel. “We’ll be there shortly.” She muttered Russian to Boris again, her tone bitter. He hmm’d in contemplation. Revy was lost, the fact they refused to speak in English had her frustrated. Boris went left, and the tall building of Hotel Moscow loomed into view. The clouds were curling up in the sky; droplets of rain scattered across the windshield. The headlights were clicked on and instead of pulling into the parking lot, went past the headquarters and down the street, towards a smaller, more guarded apartment complex. Revy watched, bug-eyed as they pulled in, because this was unknown territory, and she didn’t bring her fucking guns!

Balalaika minutely glanced at a shocked Revy, who shut her jaw with an audible click. She stared back at her, raising a hand up in confusion at the blonde. The situation was transforming into something ridiculously surreal. She was overcome by a wave of coldness.

Muttering a few words in Russian, Boris nodded at Balalaika, and then drove past the presumed entrance, instead pulling around towards the back. The wheels crunched over the wet gravel, splashing through shallow puddles. He put the vehicle in park, and sat silently. Balalaika looked at him, then back at Revy, composed. “You’ll enter there,” the blonde said. She gestured to the door at the back of the building. “Wait a few minutes, and it will be unlocked. Stay by the right of the trash cans.”

“Back door, got it.” Revy replied, feeling humiliated and embarrassed. Trashcans. Fucking trash cans . Sulking, she took a breath and straightened her back, and moved to open the door. The metal was cool to the touch, and the car door was unlocked. Like they presumed she’d have thought of leaping out, or it was an overlook on Boris’ part.

“Third floor. 306. Do not let yourself be found.” Balalaika stated tersely, forcing the words out of her. Neither of the Russians said goodbye. Revy gnawed on the inside of her cheek, tearing at the pink flesh, as she shuffled toward the door, remaining as quiet as possible. The car moved forward as soon as the door shut hard, and she watched it smoothly turn left to return to the entrance.

She was alone, and fucking next to literal garbage. A police siren screamed through the background. Revy paced to the right, and shoved her hands in her jean pockets. Obviously, this was where the girls came through. A glimmer of red lace caught her eye. Torn panties, rolled up and next to a rusting trash can. There was the usual shit inside, and even a few cut locks of tangled, bleached hair. Revy swallowed, jerking her head around, automatically searching for a weapon. Mentally, Revy wanted to kick herself. Shouldn’t she be feeling excited? I feel like my ass is going to disappear. 

A buzzer sounded through the door, and she jumped at the sound. Balalaika made quick work. Revy walked up to the door, and wrapped her hand around the vaguely sticky handle, and shoved herself into the building.

The hallway had old, tan carpeting and rich wood lining the bottom half the walls; the top half painted eggshell. It smelled unlived in. There was only a utility closet in this hallway, and the door locked with a mechanical wrr . The interior was that of every single apartment building she’d ever been in.

The stairwell was nearby too. Good. Revy had snuck into buildings before, and even an amatuer knew taking a elevator was stupid. She stayed close to the wall, trailing her hand, head tilting to the side to peak around the corridor. Moving fast, she blew a strand of hair away from her face. Someone was walking away from her, footsteps heavy, and as she leaned to get a better look, saw him walk out into what was once a lobby.

If he saw me, the fucker could have killed me. Reflectively, she touched where her cutlasses might have been. If only she had those things. Her confidence wasn’t the same without them.

She fluidly opened the door and slid into the empty stairwell, guiding the door closed behind her. The air was even colder than before, and she rubbed her arms before deftly stepping up the stairs, minimizing her sounds to faint taps on the linoleum.

Strikingly, she heard sharp punctuations of shoes walking down the stairs, and Revy leapt to the side. They were fairly light, and sounded lighter than Balalaika’s, simply because they were stick thin, very tall heels on clear platforms, and the woman who owned them was walking down, counting the money in her hands. She jerked her head up in surprise, and then lowered her eyes again, unfazed. Her brown hair was mussed, and a strap of her camisole fell over her shoulder.

Revy grunted in anger, and clenched her fists. The woman moved past her, shoving the money into her purse, and left through the door Revy had entered from. It was so funny to Revy. So, so funny. Balalaika and Boris neglected to mention how this was how all the women came and went. Mentally, she counted the flights up until the third level, sighing in annoyance; surprised at the amount of athletics it would take to see Balalaika. Stair-wise. Revy knew this would require a lot of work, but she didn’t factor how much stair climbing was in it. The only thing she heard was her breathing, and as she rushed up the second stairwell there was a murmur of outdated music.

Skidding to a stop, Revy checked her hair, noting how her ponytail was non existent, and came upon a door with a faded three on it, and eased herself into the third level. Paintings laid on the walls, making it look less empty. Her feet moved faster. The whole building played out as some alternate universe. A place where she was never supposed to go. Even though tons of women seemed to make their way here. All war-hungry men have needs; what about the one woman in charge? Revy cringed at such a stupid thought.


To the left, the door said 320. The apartments were well spread out. Men were talking, and listening to the radio, yet it was eerily quiet at the same time; a reminder of how she was not supposed to be here in any form. But, she could have sworn she heard another chick moan. 314, 308, 306 . Revy grinned in satisfaction, and the carpet had muffled her footsteps. She sighed, puffing her chest out, and knocked quietly on the door. The hallway was empty, and Revy scoped out the area again, whipping her paranoid head around.  No answer from the door. Canned laughter leaked a few numbers down, and it only frayed her nerves worse.

Chapter Text

The door opened after a brief moment, and Revy rushed inside, twisting to the side, then shutting it behind her quietly. She put her hand on her forehead and took a deep breath. Pushing her hair out of her eyes- a haircut was needed, desperately -it took a moment to realise where Balalaika was. The blonde took a step back, and had a cell phone up to her ear, to Revy’s disappointment. The apartment was dark, aside from the blinking light in the tiny kitchenette. Balalaika raised a finger, then turned and walked to the living room, pulling on the string of a lamp that sat on a nightstand that stood beside a stiff couch. Revy enjoyed the view of her bent over, but she was annoyed, and even more so tired, so she headed towards the Russian.

Balalaika looked back at her, flipping her blonde hair away from her face. “ Are you hungry ?” She mouthed. She adjusted the phone, taking a quick inhale of smoke from a fresh cigar, then spoke into her cell.. “Yes, yes, I’ve already sent the package to them, and it’s too late to retrieve it. This messy situation is out of Hotel Moscow’s hands now-”

Revy awkwardly rubbed her arm, running over the scar the blonde’s men were kind enough to give her. “Nah.”

That was met with a tilt of Balalaika’s lips. She pressed the phone to her broad chest and whispered smoothly, “Of course you are. Go find something to eat, I’ll be done in a moment.”

Crinkling her nose, Revy’s mouth snapped together in a hard line and she meandered back to the kitchen. Leaning down to open the fridge, she frowned at the meager amount of actual food inside. There were two cups of yogurt, an open bottle of red wine, and in the hydrator drawer was a bag of carrots, and cabbage wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. There’s fucking absolutely nothing, Revy grimaced.

Listen to me. In the documents provided….” Balalaika’s voice softened as she walked down the hallway, opening the door and was heard opening a drawer. Revy shut the fridge and walked along the counter, scratching the top of her head until she came upon two apples still left in a small bag, and descended upon them in a hungry fury she herself couldn’t comprehend. Tearing open the plastic, she grabbed one out, and dug her teeth into the flesh. Revy realised that she was absolutely starving, and flecks of apple stuck to her cheeks as she swallowed more quickly than she chewed. The apple had gone soft but she had eaten worse.

The second apple had been eaten down to the pit by the time Balalaika returned to the living room, her neutral attitude gone and replaced with an annoyed seething that made Revy want to shrink back. “How about you go back to that disease-ridden fleshmarket of yours, and let me tend to my business? I’m sure someone else in Hotel Moscow would be willing to attend to you.” She clicked shut the phone with an aggrieved sigh, shoving the cigar in her mouth. The cell phone was thrown onto the couch. Balalaika shut her eyes, and rubbed her temples.

“I’m the business?” Revy asked around a mouthful of apple. Tossing the remains into the garbage, she wiped her mouth clean. Instantly, she regretted her humorous tone. Balalaika ran her hands through her hair and exhaled a plume of smoke. The lavender underneath her eyes had turned darker; her face looking ever more a skull. “Shit, bad time for jokes, huh?”

“No, no.” Balalaika shook her head, biting her lip. Opening her blue eyes, she turned her body towards Revy, her heels clacking as she made her way off the carpet and onto the linoleum floor. “I’m just absolutely sick and tired of these pimps. We could take every little street walker of his and give them to someone else, maybe he owns that bitch back at Chang's little gathering.” She tapped the ash off of her cigar on the side of the sink.

Revy shrugged, and smiled, irritated. If only Benny wasn't dating Janet. “Is he the asshole your men order from?”

Balalaika appeared aghast. She paused, and narrowed her eyes. The cigar was back in her mouth, the scent of spiced tobacco familiar. “I don’t know. I don’t ask, and kill me the day I do.”

“When I was by the garbage I saw red torn panties-” The mention of garbage had Revy’s heart cringe, and her cheeks reddened. By the garbage. It tied in very well with her persona, didn’t it? It brought up the memory of her as a teen, digging through the dump to find any item of use.

“Don’t tell me any details. I prefer that side of my men’s lives hushed up about.”

Somehow, that made Revy pissed. “Really? Well I took a stairwell and a literal prostitute went past me, counting bills in her hand. She must have thought I was a damn cocksucker too.”

“Not just whores take stairs, Two Hands.” Matter-of-factly, the blonde adjusted her stance so that she leaned on the counter. Revy noted just how tall she was; in a kitchen clearly made for someone shorter than her. 

“Do their girlfriends take the back door, too?”

Balalaika’s eyes squinted and the stress on her face multiplied. Obviously, it was a word neither of them were comfortable with, the blonde especially. She set the cigar down on an old china plate, that was next to the sink. “We all have needs, Two Hands.”

Revy grinned bitterly, and laughed under her breath, hiding the hurt that had her breath caught in her throat. Girlfriend, Revy thought. She hadn’t meant it; it had slipped out, hidden by the sentence. “Yeah. I just- forget it. You wanna fuck, or not?” She said bluntly, feigning carelessness.

No reply. Balalaika looked down at her, the light shining from behind her head like an underworld deity. Revy splayed her fingers silently, as the blonde gently took off her fingerless gloves, one hand at a time, slowly. It was a struggle at first, the Russian cracking a smile as she tried to slide her nail underneath the fabric, and it had caught, and Revy allowed a slight twist of her mouth, too stubborn to act like a crushing schoolgirl. As the second one rolled over her knuckles, only then did Balalaika speak. “I know you’re upset about being dropped off next to the trash, unceremoniously. Who wouldn’t be?” She sighed, her chest expanding. Dropping the crumpled gloves onto the counter as if they were the dirtiest things on the planet, Balalaika took Revy’s hand into her two larger ones. “But you’re right- no, don’t interrupt me -about who enters through there. That’s what the buzzer’s for, after all. But you’re not a whore. Revy, I’ve never seen you as one.”

The feeling of her hand being stroked made Revy shudder, as Balalaika touched every finger, then dug her thumb into the flesh of Revy’s palm, easing the sore muscle there. Her long acrylic scratched her but Revy was unable to care, the anger dying on her tongue and her eyelids sagged. “Of course I’m not a fucking whore. You don’t pay me.”

A poor joke. Revy knew it, and she bristled. Balalaika stuck her nail deeper into her palm until Revy tried to tug her arm away. Pouting at the older woman, Revy gave one last good yank before giving up, and Balalaika soothed the crescent-shaped indent with a swipe of her thumb.

“Is this what this is? A transaction? You made it sound as if it were more than that, Rebecca.” the Russian said, her accent on her name making Revy’s heart flutter. “Americans, hm?”

Revy chewed on the inside of her cheek, looking up at Balalaika, seeing the shadows her eyelashes left on her cheekbones. Before she could stop herself, she opened her mouth and let the words fly out. “My full name’s Rebecca Mary Lee. Middle name doesn’t stand for shit, but I wanted to tell you that. Lee’s a pretty common last name in America, if you looked that up like I did when I was a dumb ass kid, you’d think half the population was your cousin.” What’s yours? Revy allowed for a moment so that unspoken question sunk in.

“Rebecca Mary Lee.” Balalaika repeated. Her eyes were the color of ice, and sometimes when she looked at Revy she seemed to be seeing entirely something else. Like now. She turned to the right and shoved open a drawer. The few items rattled around, and her nails scraped the bottom as she drew out a bottle of lotion. Revy watched, quietly, wanting to hear Balalaika say her middle name again. Pouring a dime-sized amount into her hand, the blonde rubbed her hands together before taking Revy’s into her grip again, and worked the scentless lotion into her dry, tanned skin.

“I got my name in Afghanistan. I was talented at using a Dragunov. I cannot remember if it was a joke or not, but it stuck.” She managed the words out in short, quick, sentences, like it was a scandalous piece of information. Balalaika kept her eyes on her current ministrations, raising her eyebrows as she shrugged.

Revy grinned, her face red as she watched Balalaika shake her head at her cracked knuckles. “I heard you’re fucking amazing at using that sickass gun. Like, you shot the head off of a guy across a city. Who was in a moving car .”

“It wasn’t as dramatic as they make it out to be.” Balalaika said. “Besides, now it’s more difficult for me because of this.” She gestured at the scar marring her face.

Revy tilted her head. “Are you blind in that eye?”

“I can still shoot, but no fancy tricks.”

“Do you have the gun? Here? The Dragunov? Sis?!” It was difficult to hide excitement. Revy bounced off of the tips of her boots, ponytail flopping on the back of her neck. Everyone in Roanapour knew of Balalaika's prowess, with different stories detailing her exploits in Afghanistan, some more believable than others.

Balalaika glanced across the living room, sucking her lips together for a brief moment. Her cheeks pinked. “Yes. Do you want to see-”

“Fuck. Yeah.” Dusk was setting in Roanapour, and yet Revy had a shining sun in her head, and she smiled softly, stopping Balalaika from working more lotion into her hands. The backs of her legs were weak from the touching, from the lotion, from the warmth of Balalaika’s fingers. “I wanna see you hold it. That would be so goddamn hot.”

Balalaika leaned forward until their noses near touched. The way she had to bend was uncomfortable, the way her back stuck out, and Revy gripped both of the blonde’s hands and held them up to her sternum, lacing their fingers together. “Generally, you have to use a gun to use it. I thought even you would know that, miss Two Hands.”

She smelled of the usual perfume, and the peppery cigar smoke. Revy hid a whimper at how smokey the blonde’s voice sounded like. “You know what I meant. They say you’re fucking Olympian-level.”

“I suppose so.” Balalaika was distant again, her eyes clouding over and she pulled away again, her back to Revy. The flirty mood dissipated, and Revy was unable to hide her disappointment.

“What did I say this time?” She stomped the hard tread of her boot on the floor.

“Nothing, I am exhausted. It’s been a long day, even if it’s been made better by you. Here, I’ll take you to the Dragunov.” Balalaika started towards the hallway again, pushing her hair off of her shoulders. 

Revy cracked her now-moisturized knuckles, confused, and she wanted to shrink back. The mere name, Dragunov, had a troubling echo whenever Balalaika said it. She pushed off of the counter and followed, chin jutting out. The whole floor, aside from the kitchen, was carpeted, and Revy wondered if she should have asked if her boots should have came off. Her eyes strained to see in the dark, to see Balalaika’s tall frame. The blonde flicked on the switch in what must have been her bedroom. The ceiling fan powered on, and the light underneath it glowed yellow.

The bedroom was more lived in than the kitchen and living area combined, but even so it carried the stillness of a hotel room. The bed was full-sized, with white pillowcases and a blue duvet. There were two nightstands on either side, and pushed up against the wall was a bureau. A painting was hung up, similar to the ones in the main corridor of the apartment building. Revy gaped at the cleanliness of it all.

Balalaika remained quiet, and she opened a closet door, leaning down on her high heels, calves flexing. Pacing around the room, Revy ran a finger along the polished wood of the bureau and touched a filled ashtray that sat on it. The left nightstand had a stack of papers on it, and a pen atop it. Even in bed, Balalaika must have worked long into the morning. Scrutinizing reports sent by her men, and pouring over books of accounts and dealings until the paragraphs blurred together. Revy whipped her head in the direction of the blonde. A moment was needed to gather up all her pride, and shove it in the pit of her stomach. “ Sorry .”

“What for?” Balalaika replied. She clicked open a compartment that lined the side of the closet, and gently took out the famed Dragunov. The blonde returned to Revy, and sat on the bed nearest to her. Revy hesitated, unsure to sit beside her on the actual bed Balalaika slept on. Tugging at her ponytail, Revy waited until Balalaika patted the space beside her.

“Uh, okay.” Revy flopped onto her bed, the box spring-mattress combo forcing the soles of her boots to merely brush the carpet. “This bed is tall as shit, Sis.”

“Tall people have to sleep somewhere, Revy. The ground is too far away.” Balalaika said, as she held the rifle in her hands, in a way that spoke of muscle memory. She moved closer to Revy. The Dragunov was well-used, scuffed and had a deep scratch on its pistol grip. Light reflected off of the wood and the metal. The bayonet was an inch away from her thigh. Whereas her cutlasses were home to her, this was alien, and the weight it carried had her feeling more than inadequate.

“Holy shit. This is the real fucking thing, huh? Sis, you… you worked this thing in Afghanistan, fuck. Is it loaded?” Revy gasped, watching Balalaika fiddle with it, turn it in her hands.

“Of course not. What sort of idiot would keep a loaded weapon in their home?” After a second, Balalaika cracked a thin smile. “Yes, it is.”

Revy scooted closer, until their thighs touched. She cackled, scratching her arm. “A loaded weapon in Roanapour? No fucking way. This city is way too safe for that.” 

“I pity those who don’t own a gun in this cesspool.” They both shared a look that spelled out Rock . Balalaika’s eyes flickered down to Revy’s parted lips, then returned to the Dragunov. She was going away again, back into her skull, where all her memories threatened to crawl out. Revy reached over and touched her shoulder, digging her fingers in until the blonde’s eyes focused again.

“How long have you had this gun?” Revy asked, suddenly. Desperately, she pressed tightly, uncomfortably so, to the older woman. “It’s in such good fucking condition. This is original, right?”

Balalaika nodded grimly. The overhead light did nothing for her pink scars scrawled across her face and body. Revy's eyes followed them down, ending at the blonde's extensive cleavage. The night would have gone better if she had just buried her face in Balalaika's hair, and hold on for dear life.

“This does have some stories to tell. It was one of the few constants in my life. Seven years in Afghanistan is... quite a long time. Some battles you don’t know what the end will be. But this and my men were always there. Even though we lost a few along the way.” Balalaika explained, somehow cutting Revy like a knife with the soft tone of hers. She was a regal captain, even with the immense sadness and bitterness and anger clinging to her. The end of her sentence was filled with only a sorrow Revy couldn’t relate to.

“And they’re still here, Sis.” Revy cocked her head to the side. Not an idea ran through her head on how to deal with her. Every single detail of Balalaika's life was edged in tragedy. “Are you… talking about what those two brats did to your men? You wiped their Romanian asses from existence, you know. They’re gone, just corpses in a landfill now.”

Balalaika nodded.

“Do you want to know the truth, Two Hands? Some of the men I first trained with; men I drank with, fought with... the ones who were killed early on. I don’t even remember what they looked like. All I know was that for months afterward, when I’d be trying to sleep, I would stare up and think of how they died. Now, Private Sakharov and Corporal Menshov are gone, and it’s exactly as it was all those years ago.”

Revy was at a loss, her vocal chords freezing up, and grip on Balalaika’s shoulder let go. The Dragunov made it impossible to pull the blonde into a hug. All she could do was listen to the devastation. Her guts tied themselves into knots and Revy grabbed a hold of the duvet in her hand. It was too much. Holding the gun wasn’t as attractive as it was.

Balalaika blinked, and stared at Revy. She chuckled, and shook her head, forcing herself out of a brief dip into nostalgia. “Forget my ramblings. I’m an old soldier who can’t keep her mouth shut.”

Old soldier. Revy blushed and barely touched the Dragunov with her finger. The room was cold, and it prickled her skin. Sweat still threatened to bead on the back of her neck. Everything in her raged against looking at Balalaika, because when she got like this, she appeared as a true corpse, frozen in a Siberian winter. “I don’t mind you talking about yourself. You’re so cagey all the time. Just… fuck…” What was there to say?   There was nothing in the world Revy could think of. She rotated her torso so she was able to take Balalaika’s face into her hands, to try and breathe some semblance of life into her, from Revy’s blackened lungs. The bayonet of the Dragunov dug into her ribcage, until Balalaika moved it aside. Revy arched her back when her lips met Balalaika’s. The height difference was manageable when they both sat side by side, yet she still had to wait until the blonde got the hint and leaned down to meet her.

Revy licked Balalaika’s lipstick-stained bottom lip to coax her to open up, a soft lapping that dragged up to her top lip, then back down again. The pink wax coated Revy’s front teeth, and she didn’t care, and something hot flared between her legs. She slid her hands up into the blonde’s thick hair, weaving her fingers through the strands. Revy missed this, even if her mouth was slack. Even when she took the abused lip into her mouth and sucked it lightly, Balalaika moaned, but didn't reciprocate. Of fucking course, she'd prefer a town war field compared to a bitch like me. Balalaika pressed into Revy, carefully grasping the rifle in her arms, rigidly trying to keep it from getting climbed on. When she sunk her teeth into Balalaika’s lip did she finally groan, before pulling away, breathing hard.

“Revy,” Raggedly, she began, an obvious warning. Balalaika made a move as if to get up, when Revy lunged at her, grabbing her arm.

“I know , I know.” Revy said. She swallowed nervously, looking up at Balalaika with wide eyes. There was no way the blonde would hurt her now, not when she’d have to escape the next morning, in whatever fashion she’d have to. “Come on Sis.” Revy whispered. “Sis, Vladilena, Balalaika, whoever the fuck you are, put the nice-ass gun away.” Tell me who the fuck you are, or I'll find out.

Balalaika opened her mouth to reply, but chose to say nothing. She untangled herself from Revy’s heaving form and walked in a way that suggested composure, but that was a fucking lie, and Revy openly scoffed at it, as she began to unlace her boots. All the skill she had in tying them went out the window, because all she can think of is Balalaika putting the damned gun back where it was. What was she thinking? Of wanting to see the infamous Dragunov, and Balalaika showing her, acting like she tore out her liver and showed it to her.

“Who do you think you are, ordering me like this?” Balalaika hissed from the closet. The door to the container housing the Dragunov shut. 

“I’m not ordering you.” Revy stole a look over her shoulder as she kicked a boot off, hard. “I’m your Two Hands, so nice try.” She hated the blonde, hated her as much as she didn’t. It was such a strange feeling of hate that it gripped her heart when she saw Balalaika act like that, to return to a state that made her inhuman. Revy would never know who Balalaika was, and that thought made her want to tear out her throat. “Now take your fucking heels off.”

In return she got a glacial look. Revy didn’t care. She threw off her other boot and crawled further on to the bed, shoving her hair behind her ears. Freely, Balalaika got a glare in return; Revy challenged her, getting onto her knees and waiting, hands beside her.


“You have me.” Revy said. Balalaika’s form became blurry as it neared the bed. “I’m not about to let you get fucking sad. So please, my captain, get into this bed, and I’ll do whatever the fuck you command.”

Chapter Text

Balalaika laughed at that, hands on her wide hips, until she bent at the waist, her hair like a curtain, hiding her expression. It grew into a cackle, as Revy remained nervously on the bed. She folded her tanned legs underneath her, as she knelt. The humor dropped from Balalaika’s face as she straightened up, shaking her blonde locks away from her eyes. Only what remained was a look of despair, covered by a sick smile.

Revy smacked a hand over her red face. “I was trying to be… fuck, forget it!”

With the sound of her heels dropping onto the floor, Balalaika sat on the bed, her hands sinking into the mattress, and twisted around to view Revy. “Is that all I am to you, a Captain stripped of her military rank?”

“No.” Revy rubbed her arms until red streaks ran down her forearms. She sucked in her lips, refusing to pout. This was a dangerous topic to approach. “I never knew you as a- well, it’s kinda fuckin’ weird to explain, huh, Sis? You don’t tell me anything .”

Silently, Balalaika came closer until she was able to stare directly down at Revy. The sadness in her was still there, lurking in the way her body moved stiffly. “I’ll tell you this. You call me Vladilena again and I’ll chain you to the radiator, and I mean it this time.”

“Would you strip me first?” Revy teased, but she quieted when she saw the gaze Balalaika directed at her. Tilting her head up, Revy slowly placed her hands on her knees, heart pulsing in her chest.

“I already told you what I’d do, Two Hands. Surely you have a better memory than that.”

“I sure as hell don’t.”

Balalaika forced Revy to look at her better with two fingers held underneath her chin. “I have a pearl necklace. But only a small one. I don’t have a proper gag, per say, and I certainly wouldn’t buy one.” She sniffed. “I don’t want those things in my place. A majority of it would be improvised.”

Stop acting all fine after that fucking scene , Revy thought with all the bitterness in the world. The blonde was trying to save face, and it was obvious to both of them, and Revy raised a hand before dropping it back on her thigh. As if sensing Revy’s questioning, Balalaika averted her eyes and chuckled again.

“Shit- you’re not okay,” Revy said as Balalaika sat more comfortably in front of her, legs tucked to the side. The fabric of her skirt was tight along the curve of her hip. “Did I kill the mood? Sorry about that shit.” Revy pathetically laughed to ease the tension, before staring at her knees shifting in the dim light.

“No, no. You wanted to see my rifle and I got to reminiscing.” The blue in her eyes was icy and glazed over.

“I had no fucking clue it was difficult for you.” Revy stopped any more words from coming out. However it was addicting to watch the expressions that flurried on the blonde’s face.

“Normally it isn’t such a hard topic. Suppose I was feeling…” Balalaika raised her eyebrows and  tiredly shrugged. Like she had talked about childhood memories. “Rather nostalgic.”

“You got messed up when I said that shit in your tiny ass kitchen. When I said something about the Olympics.” Revy admitted. She blinked her eyes rapidly, as they began to sting.

“You’re not exactly improving the mood.” Balalaika muttered, sighing, then pinching the bridge of her nose. Annoyed, she flicked her eyes at Revy and back down again, shaking her head. “Let’s move on from me. Tomorrow’s coming sooner than you think, and we’ll both be back to acting like none of this happened.”

Revy wrung her hands, scowling at the duvet. “Just say I was an asshole.”

“Two Hands. No need to be dramatic-”

“Can you just call me Rebecca for one fucking night?” Revy snapped.

Balalaika nodded, a faint smile on her lips. “No need to be dramatic, Rebecca.” She repeated. There wasn’t a threat of annoyance or rejection in her tone, but the Russian accent lurked underneath each syllable. Revy simmered down, relaxing at the mention of her full name, and the guilt alleviated. Partially. Shuffling closer until her knees brushed the Russian’s hip, she took a deep breath before saying what had weighed heavily on her mind. This shit is easy, it’s just one word. It’s probably Cathy, or Anne, or some shit.

Revy forcefully grinned in turn, patting Balalaika’s thigh. There was a softness before the hard muscle, and she stroked the blonde’s leg. The black tights hid the scars on her legs well, but the longer Revy searched, the more apparent they were. It was difficult to look up. “Now it’s your turn.”

At the blonde’s confused tilt of her head, Revy shifted nervously. “Well, shit. To tell me your name! I told you mine.”

As Revy leaned closer and smiled as sweet as she could, Balalaika sighed and got up. Her back turned to Revy as she walked away, arms crossed. A soft sound came from her lips, heavy and full of aching.

No , no, no! Fuck, it’s just a word!” Revy shot an arm out, climbing towards the end of the bed, unsteadily supporting herself on one hand. “I didn’t mean it like that!”

Balalaika was quiet, and her back bent, and she inhaled deeply.

“I won’t tell anyone! Is it a fucking crime to get to know you? It’s a fucking name !” Throwing her arms in the air, Revy leaned forward and hissed the words out, realizing just how thin the walls were in this aged apartment.

No response. A different approach was needed. Guilt rose in Revy’s stomach, and she pushed it down to a tiny insignificant corner.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck. Please just can you tell me your fucking name?” Revy begged, but was wise enough to not go over to the blonde, who stood like a statue, her shoulders broad, and face hidden by her hair.

“No one has called me by my name for years. I’m not sure if I’d even want people to say it.”

Revy gasped, then choked on it. “ Not even me ?”

Spinning around with a swiftness that made Revy rear back, Balalaika came closer, and her face was stony like it was with Rock that day she threw him on the rental car that had a bad wheel bearing, and had held her gun underneath his chin. Rock told her about how she snapped the neck of the previous Washimine boss, with little effort. How easy would it be to choke the life out of Revy?

Balalaika put her fists on either side of Revy, and was painfully close. Revy shut her eyes tight and parted her lips, hoping for it to be some angry kiss. A slew of Russian she heard, sharp and controlled, yet too quick to grasp. The words went right over her head, and she barely made out a familiar word before Balalaika pressed a teasing, chaste kiss to her. Her eyes flew open, taking in the blonde’s face, anxiously.

“What did you say? What the fuck did you say?!” Revy pushed on Balalaika’s chest, breaking into a cold sweat. She struggled to pronounce the first word, and the blonde gave her a pitying look. Revy hated her for that. It reminded her of how teachers would look at her in school; how slow she was to learn anything. 

“Stop treating me like an idiot,” Revy whispered.

The blonde’s expression faded, and she glumly nodded, before slowly cupping Revy’s jaw. Her thumb glided over her lips, a pink acrylic nail tracing her cupid’s bow. “You’re not, Rebecca. But you need to listen to me. I’m Balalaika, as dramatic as that sounds, and your Sis. ” Revy narrowed her eyes and twisted her head away, and for once Balalaika didn’t force her to stare back at her. “To put it simply, I don’t feel like her. In my mind, it’s as if she died in Afghanistan.”

“She’s fucking not, she’d right in front of me! Fuck !” Revy grabbed Balalaika by her suit, bringing her ever closer, their noses near touching.

Balalaika watched Revy for a minute, scanning the way her cheeks were flushed, her brow furrowed and the way she stared back. Revy swallowed her fear. The Russian wasn’t going to hurt her, and she knew that; her body trembled anyhow, her hands flexing for any sort of gun.

“I am in front of you.” Balalaika said. As if it were factual. There wasn’t any way to win her over, the blonde’s jaw was tight and her gaze unwavering.

“Shit, don’t you want me to say it?” Revy asked, her eyelashes fluttering, as her grip loosened on the blonde’s jacket, finger by finger. Carefully, she went to cup Balalaika’s arms, squeezing to feel the muscle. She watched the way Balalaika’s blonde hair poured down her back, the way it framed her face. Her heart pounded in her chest, and she licked her lips. “To say it when I’m under you? Sis?”

Revy tugged her hair free out of her ponytail, and let it fall messily past her shoulders. It had tangled; the split ends more noticeable than before. Tossing the elastic across the room, she felt Balalaika run her hands through her knotted hair, catching on them as she stroked the strands.

“You’re mine . you know that, Sis.” Revy said, tilting her head back in pleasure, baring her throat. Focusing on anything became hard. Anger leaked into her reply.

“Very astute.” Balalaika pushed Revy’s dark bangs out of her face. “You need a haircut. How can you even see?” She touched a faint scar on Revy’s forehead. It was jagged and brought into existence by a shard of glass. Balalaika gently traced it, back and forth.

Flinching, Revy pulled away slightly. The fingers in her hair tightened. “What if I’m good?”

“Rebecca, no. That’s my final answer. This isn’t some sort of trade.” Concern creased the blonde’s brow.

Somewhere, it must have been some cosmic joke that Revy felt such heat gathering inside her whenever she was the only focus of Balalaika’s glacial stare. Her eyes had the memory of warmth in them, as much as Balalaika possibly could have. Revy had never been great at this, but suddenly it doesn’t matter. The name was just out of reach, and Revy kicked herself mentally, thinking of what better alternatives she could have said, if she had been more patient . And it stung, thinking that Balalaika refused to tell her.

Fine , Sis.” It wasn't fine.

Instead of whining, Revy decided to kiss her, Her lips smacked into the corner of Balalaika’s parted mouth, cutting into one of the sharp canines. Waxy lipstick smeared across her cheek. The kiss was angry, and desperate, and resigned to not being told. In a way, it was rejection that coiled darkly inside Revy, and something lurked in the back of her head. She sank her teeth into Balalaika’s lip, hard, and she didn’t care whether it left a mark. Revy grew tired of hiding, and the bullet wound from Balalaika hurt and so did her thigh that had been speared through, and most of all she was bitter.

She tangled her fingers in Balalaika’s hard, struggling to rip her long blonde hair free, tongue tracing Balalaika’s front teeth, snapping and groaning into the kiss. She pressed into Balalaika, as the Russian crawled onto the bed, meeting her halfway. Balalaika groped at her roughly, squeezing her arms, her waist, and finally her hips, nails digging into the flesh and feeling the flex of Revy’s muscles as she tried to lean in even closer.

"Re-Rebecca I-"

Revy broke away, only to lick a line along Balalaika’s sharp jawline and down her throat, the texture of the harsh scars new to her, and Revy moaned into her neck. The blonde hair, thick and curly, wasn’t willing to spill out of what kept it in place. Balalaika breathed into the top of Revy’s head, before tilting her head back when Revy’s open mouth ran sloppy kisses down to her collarbones, nipping at the prominent structure. She ran her hands down Balalaika’s broad shoulders, before snapping back and tearing at her suit jacket, trying to push it away to direct her to places she hadn’t kissed yet.

A gasp was coaxed out of the blonde, and in turn she slapped Revy’s backside in response, her hand twitching towards her own chest. The buttons on the crimson jacket stretched at the action, and Revy traveled to Balalaika’s large breasts, and licked the ruined flesh there, taking it into her mouth and sucking. She ran her tongue along Balalaika’s plush cleavage, and as there was a sound of stretching fabric did Balalaika yank her off by her hair, to throw her further onto the bed.

“You needy girl,” Balalaika said, catching her breath, almost unknowingly searching Revy's body, as if seeing her for the first time, unsure where to touch first. She went closer to her, who lay flat on her back. “Rebecca, has anyone given you any sort of affection in your entire life?”

Revy refused to reply, blinking quickly, because she doesn’t want to think about that, as she wiped the excess saliva off of her chin.

“Of course not,” Balalaika mused to herself. Sitting up, she smoothly undid the buttons of her suit jacket, then threw it onto the floor without a second glance. Her eyes were hooded and focused on the way Revy’s chest heaved. “Never had I met a girl who desperately wanted to be put over my knee, or tied up and left at my mercy.”

“I’m not your obedient lap dog.” Revy spat, blushing as she stared back at Balalaika’s tight white blouse. Her skin shown with the wetness that Revy had left; Balalaika hadn’t thought of wiping it off. The bite on her lip was a light pink, matching the lipstick she had worn before Revy had smeared it across their faces. It stood out on the blonde’s naked lips, which appeared bloodless.

“Oh, but you are. My kotyenok, so eager to please. Did you forget what you had said in my office, so long ago?” Balalaika purred, but she was in a haze, nearing Revy on her hands and knees. She straddled Revy’s hips, refraining from sinking her full weight on her. The pencil skirt wrinkled above her thick thighs.

Automatically, Revy’s hands traveled up Balalaika’s full hips, her heart pounding inside her ribcage, her lungs unable to breathe properly. She felt like an idiot, the way she gaped at the way Balalaika watched her, like an ancient predator. Finding the zipper under a piece of folded fabric, it was a struggle to undo it from the sheer tightness. Slowly managing to slide it down, Revy saw the black band of the tights and grimaced.

Balalaika laughed at that. “Imagine dealing with this every single day.”

Revy was still unable to speak, the redness on her face so apparent that she could manage a small “ fuck ,” and move on. Any sort of consciousness in her brain short-circuited when the blonde sank down and grinded subtly on Revy’s hips, a pink flush in bright contrast to the paleness of her skin. 

“Oh, shit.” Revy whimpered at the sight of Balalaika’s torturing movements, and her hand flew to her face and she bit down on the knuckles, paralyzed at the visual, wide hips moving towards her then away, skirt flexing and rolling up. “Oh, fuck, Sis. stoppp .”

“Stop what?” Balalaika murmured, as she slowly began to drag her blouse over her stomach, but paused to Revy’s frustration.

Sis -”

The blonde was uncomfortable, out of nowhere, as Revy saw thicker, worse scars were thrown across her stomach, like the torturer had gotten impatient and decided to just finish up on her torso. The light added dips and curves to the ruined skin.

Balalaika bitterly smiled. “It’s worse here, and upper thighs.”

“I don’t care,” She rasped, nodding in return. Revy sat up quickly, pushing the blonde further onto her thighs. “Hey, let me help.” Revy took the blonde’s hands, larger than her own, away from her top. Balalaika resisted, her forearms clenching. No amount of effort could convince her to move. Revy looked up at her, and waited for any sign of relaxation, but it only made Balalaika more stressed. “I don’t give a shit about what you look like under there.”

Balalaika attempted to pull away and Revy held fast. They shared a glance, hard blue eyes meeting persuasive brown, Revy's thumbs stroked across Balalaika's palms, grip softening but remaining firm, gently careful of not squeezing her fingers. The blonde eventually put down her arms, her eyes never leaving. Slowly, she pulled the blouse over Balalaika, who bent her head to allow it and maneuvered her arms. The fabric was undoubtedly fancy, by the lightness of it, the smoothness, and Revy smelled her perfume with a touch of cigar on it, and a part of her melted. Placing it messily onto the floor, Revy was unable to shake her blush. “You always smell so good.”

“And you…” Balalaika politely quieted, her composure flickering in her voice.

“I took a fucking shower!”

“You smell fine right now .”

Revy took it as a backhanded compliment. “I fucking forget! I’m just gonna get sweaty again anyways so-”

“Yes, yes.” Balalaika gestured to herself, and Revy’s eyes dropped to her torso. The Russian was regal in the dimmed yellow light. The muscles in her arms flexed. Goosebumps were on her pale arms, and her blonde hair flickered back and forth in the movement created by the air conditioner. The bra was black, with a hint of lace. Her lips opened to say a word, but they closed. To say she was scarred , was an absolute understatement. Holy fucking shit ran through Revy’s dulled mind. 

The scars cracked across pale skin, raising and dipping and always rippling- never lying flat. A wide one slashed across her lower torso, the result covering her navel. She wasn’t sure what to do. The club’s bathroom was a world away. The blonde was still, her pale eyes staring past her, looking at the headboard. Her expression was unreadable. Defiance was present in her chin, and the way she silently swallowed. Revy watched her throat bob.

Breathing through her nose, Revy scaled her reaction quickly. She tried to remain impassive, hiding the pity and horror that threatened to show through her eyes and mouth. But it was too late, Balalaika already snapped shut her jaw and turned her gaze to the side.

“You’re pretty.” Revy whispered, just as uncomfortable as Balalaika was. “I’m not bothered just- taking it all in, y’know?” She touched her stomach. This scar was more ridged, as her thumb went across it, thicker and more horrific.

Balalaika adjusted the straps of her bra, into a more comfortable placement. Revy sat up, hands going to take it off, arms wrapped around, face in Balalaika's neck- but the blonde moved away. "No," she said, dead and cold, "Don't take this off at any point. That's all I am going to say."

It struck her painfully odd. Throwing herself against Balalaika, she wrapped her arms around her neck. “You’re fucking mine, Sis. Fucking shit.” Revy shrieked into her blonde locks. A dry sob ripped free from her throat. Her eyes burned. It was what she would have wanted to hear, if she was in the Russian’s place, bits of comforting touch that wasn't immediately tied to sex. She clung to the older woman, feeling her lace cupping her breasts and the tautness of her stomach. “You’re mine, no one else on this fucking planet has you, you belong to me Sis.”

Balalaika urged Revy back onto the bed, and she forcefully kissed her, brushing away the stray tear that ran down Revy’s face.

“There’s no need to have a fit,” Balalaika said quietly. She touched her bra strap again, eyes flickering at Revy's chest. “You have no idea how long I’ve...” Trailing off, Balalaika dragged a moaning Revy into another brutal kiss. The blonde sunk her teeth hard into Revy’s bottom lip, until blood beaded on the bruised flesh. Revy whined in pain, and shuddered, and ached between her legs. Something inside her wanted to simply remove the pain that was apparent in Balalaika's raw voice.

They both softened the kiss, until it was unbearably slow movement, and Revy gripped at Balalaika’s back, legs spread as the blonde eased herself onto her. Her black tank top was pulled up over her head, and they both moaned brokenly as their naked chests touched each other for the first time. Her nipples had stiffened and Balalaika’s breath had quickened, and they returned into a kiss and the blonde’s body softened into Revy’s.

The blonde took Revy’s tongue into her mouth and sucked on it, her hands going to knead at her breasts, flicking intensely over her peaks and Revy whimpered and thrust her hips at Balalaika, and they groped at each other with increasing intensity, with Revy scratching at the blonde’s clothed hip.

Revy wasn’t used to kissing, not with the way Balalaika attacked her from all angles, and she could only nip and whimper in response, rubbing her body on Balalaika in desperation, her jean shorts more of an annoyance than before. The blonde murmured Russian into her mouth, with strokes of her own tongue and the way she pinched Revy’s nipples between her fingers, and Revy began to moan louder. She was soaked, the way her shorts became tight and uncomfortable.

Balalaika rolled her hips against her, and she was gasping. Her acrylics dug into Revy’s body, first her chest, her waist, and then her hips, scratching, marking territory. Balalaika easily unhooked Revy’s belt, and the jeans sagged down. “Rebecca,” Balalaika started as Revy continued to whine into the kiss.

“Yeah?” Revy muttered, her eyes still shut when Balalaika pulled away to talk. The corners of her lips were wet. Taking a deep breath, Revy wished she knew her name, so that she would be able to say it now.

“Keep calling me Sis.” Balalaika whispered. She wiped away smeared blood off of Revy’s lip.“I-”

Revy gripped her and rolled the blonde onto her back, grinning in victory. She sat up to straddle her, flicking her long hair over her shoulder. Balalaika rolled her eyes and chuckled, as Revy went to massage the blonde’s breasts, roughly kneading them as Balalaika shut her eyes and sighed, arching her back into the motion. It was enjoyable to see the way the blonde allowed herself to be groped in such a manner, but Revy grew impatient. Sliding off of Balalaika, she helped shimmy down the tight skirt, the way it caught around the fullest part of her hips, and in Revy’s hurry she nearly ripped it. The tights were another issue, and Revy’s nails caught in them and tore the fabric. Glancing up at Balalaika, Revy slipped the tights off. The blonde’s legs were long and pale, and dotted by large gashes of scars. Her underwear was black, with an edge of lace, and Revy smiled at that.

Unceremoniously, they came off, and Balalaika was utterly bare to her, and Revy stopped to look, to take in the sculpt of her calves and thighs, the hair between, and her fingers traced up her knee. Balalaika watched quietly, eyes half-lidded and so terribly blue. None of her men would ever fucking see her like this, Revy thought. None of them see her the way she did now, spread open, all paleness and pink, twitching for more. She squeezed Balalaika’s thighs in victory, then went up to kiss the blonde again. Their teeth connected and Revy grimaced at her clumsiness.

“Hush,” Balalaika whispered at her hesitation, giving a soft press of her lips against Revy’s cheek.

“You’re so fucking hot,” Revy mumbled into her ear, breathing heavily. Balalaika kissed her neck in response, opening her mouth and sucking on the flesh until Revy moaned. Impatiently, Revy moved down and tucked her hair behind her ears. She descended down past her navel and dragged her lips along Balalaika’s thighs, pausing where the dangerous artery was located, and biting the soft skin there.

Balalaika shifted, swallowing audibly. "Do not be too rough, or I'll throw you off..."

Her nose touched Balalaika’s folds before her mouth does, and Revy moaned first. Her folds are soaked, and Revy ran the tip of her tongue down and up, slowly, then increased in pressure. Balalaika gasped at the first contact, tensing, her hands immediately going to cup Revy’s head, grasping her by the tangles in her hair. Turning her head ever so slightly to the right, and using the flat of her tongue, made Balalaika wrench back, creasing her eyebrows and murmuring in Russian.

“Damn. You taste the same.” Revy dipped her tongue inside of her. Strangely, she missed the way she tasted, tart and full.

The hold in her hair grew tighter. Revy wrapped around her with her lips, and sucked until her chin and cheeks grew wet. The blonde sputtered out a silent cry when Revy entered her with two fingers, and they curled. How long’s it been? Look at the way you're taking this.   Revy wanted to ask, as Balalaika’s legs spread until they touched the mattress, and how she raised her hips to meet Revy’s mouth, when she broke away to get a quick gasp of air. Her blue eyes refused to close, darting to the light, or craning her neck a bit to watch Revy, like she needed to remember she was there.

When Balalaika finished, she was quiet as if the tightening of her body constricted her ability to speak. Soothing her with the flat of her tongue, Revy quickened the rotation of her wrist, and watched the blonde’s bottom lip tremble. For a moment, Revy wondered, as she watched, as a look of slackness overtook Balalaika’s face- if for that brief second, Balalaika had forgotten everything, about Roanapur, of what the next day would bring, and of the deaths of her men.

Revy had never seen her so discomposed. She admired the rise and fall of Balalaika’s breasts as she recovered herself, the flush at her throat and collarbone, and her eyes fluttering shut. When Balalaika blinked quickly, summoning herself back to reality, Revy flexed her fingers again, feeling the blonde tighten around them and sigh.

“Hey, Sis. You want another?” Revy said, the words faltering when Balalaika looked at her with such a sated, relaxed gaze. Blonde hair curled around the Russian’s face, sprawling across the pillow and the bed, the ponytail had become half undone, and there a sheen of sweat on her sternum. Balalaika only panted and stared at her, the tip of her nail tracing Revy’s eyebrow with a tender smile. Her eyes darted down to Revy’s, and darkened. Revy wanted to know what her current appearance was, with hair mussed, the lower half of her face wet, her eyes soft. Never, in all her life, she expected to want Balalaika of all people. Much less, even having her. Revy blushed and set to cleaning her, lewdly lapping and removed her drenched fingers.

Balalaika pushed the hair out of Revy’s face, tucking some behind her ears and holding the rest, her grip no longer as scalp-achingly tight as it once was. Her second came quicker, and Balalaika moaned out what sounded suspiciously like Revy’s name, and she groaned at such a selfish thought.

“You’re very good at this -” Balalaika jerked when she touched where it was tender. Revy finished licking around her inner thighs, then dipped her tongue in once more, and unsteadily went up to the blonde.

Her two fingers tapped on Balalaika’s swollen bottom lip, and Revy nervously sat beside her, shaking. Her arousal was making it difficult to think, to even make large movements caused her jeans to grind in between her thighs, and Revy sucked in air when Balalaika allowed her fingers to enter her warm mouth. Without breaking eye contact, the flushed blonde tasted herself on Revy’s digits. There was no challenge in it, just a tender expression that Revy looked away from, her face red. Balalaika teasingly sucked, then gently took Revy's hand and kissed her on the knuckles when she finished cleaning off her fingers.

“How are you, sweet girl?” She tugged on Revy’s nipple to get her attention.

Revy threw herself down on Balalaika, her hair creating a curtain around her face. A heartbeat was going off around her ears, and her lungs are contracting and expanding but little air was going through. Out of nowhere, Revy doesn’t know why she’s here, and a strangled sound leaves her throat.

“Rebecca,” the blonde said, her voice so deep and fuzzy that Revy whined into her chest, “do you like doing this?”

“... I dunno.” Revy replied, muffled. Lust boiled at the end of her spine, and in her hips. Her breasts hurt, and the pressure of laying on the blonde helped, despite the rub of lace. She was confused about everything, the taste on her tongue that she didn't want to swallow, the warm body melding into hers, the hotness rushing down. It had never happened to her like this. “Fuck!”

“I saw the way you looked at me.” Balalaika said, wistfully. She wrapped her arms around Revy and held her tight, scars brushing over smooth skin. Both their bodies were slick with sweat, and Revy smelled her blonde hair, then gently pulled away. Needily, she began rutting against Balalaika’s thigh, and whined, the seam of her pants rubbing her, sinking into the soft flesh.

Sissss , I’m fucking wet and I’m still in fucking jeansss ,” Revy complained, pouting and near tears, fumbling to shove her jean shorts down. Her underwear was soaked through, the thin material molded to her. Her fingers pushed underneath the shorts and edged them down.

Balalaika shushed her, stroking Revy's hair, tracing her ear. “You have to be quiet if you want to be good-”

“I’ve been good! I ate you out!” She whined, then pitched the clothing out into the hallway.

Another infamous sigh. “You did, you did. Now, come here, Revy.”

Rebecca .”

“I’ll call you whatever I want, now bring yourself over here. Lay down.” The Russian hissed, and patted the area next to her.

Her face was red again. “Fuck I never, um, goddamn it.”

“You never what, kotyenok ?” Balalaika said, teasingly. An arch of an eyebrow was enough to make Revy shiver, and hesitatingly she laid down beside the blonde, her legs already parted, and she felt so, so swollen that she wanted to absolutely die.

Revy almost came from the thought of it.

Balalaika, as she said, wasn’t practiced at this, and in her tone had the visage of nervousness, as she eyed between Revy's legs. Revy barely believed that; after a few hesitant licks the blonde had to hold her down to stop the hard twitches of her hips. Revy balled the blanket in her fists and gasped, struggling to hold in her cries. Her tongue pushed, curiously, and Revy lurched back, swears flying from her lips like epithets.

“Use your manners, Rebecca.”

“Please, please, Balalaika, fucking shit, pleasepleaseplease .”

Her mouth ran along her, and the sound of it was wet and obscene. Revy ground against her face, whimpering and begging. A feeling rolled around inside her, and it rose slowly, as Balalaika found one area that made Revy snap and gnaw on her fist.

“Deeper, deeper,” Revy gasped, and repeated the word until it became a muddled mess, and her back arched when Balalaika pushed in as deep as she could. “I need you inside of me, Sis, that’s all I want- ” All she wanted was something to carry with her after. Revy didn’t have a clue if this was going to happen again, and she hated looking into the future. A universal joke, was what this was, that brought them together at this point in time, as two separate stages in their lives, and Balalaika buried herself in Revy all the same. “You’re going to leave me,” Revy realised, throwing her head and gasping in both pleasure and sadness. “Everyone always fucking leaves.”

A hand reached back and grabbed Revy’s, and Balalaika removed it from the back of her head and held it, her icy eyes shut and focused, sucking hard. She delved inside her again, her tongue pointing into an arch; acrylic nails dug in her toned thigh, and Revy thought she would bleed.

“I just wanna say your damn name when I come,” Revy keened, canting her hips and grinding her teeth. She came twice, and she grew sore from the roughness, and shied away from Balalaika’s mouth, crying out. Noises kept spilling from her, and she tried to suppress them. It was so hard, with the heaviness of blonde hair strewn over her legs, the way it softly shifted over her skin, how it felt like a protective blanket. Each time she peaked, she forgot about everything except Balalaika’s mouth, and a small amount of peace was gained from that.

Now she understood why people acted the way they did after sex, all the promises and declarations.

“Do you feel better?” Balalaika asked gently, layering the flesh of Revy’s stomach and sternum with chaste kisses, then nosed at her throat and behind her ear. It’s too soft a gesture, and Revy bit her injured lip and nodded, thankful that the blonde now settled on her sternum, her copious locks covering the both of them. Balalaika felt hot to the touch, both of their bodies were covered in a sheen of sweat, dead set on not parting, even just for a breath of cold air meeting their chests.

“Can we share a cigar?” Revy replied weakly.

“In just a moment.” Balalaika relaxed her weight on her and stroked the muscle of Revy’s arm. "And don't say such sad things during sex, sweet girl."

Chapter Text

Revy was weary. Perhaps she was wrong to oppose Balalaika’s continued refusal to state her name. Maybe, it was better off to never know, and her misgivings were born from desperation. She wished Dutch could know, and offer his advice, or Eda, or even Rock…

The light hanging from the ceiling offered little against the settling dark, and the neon signs throughout Roanapur were visible through the blinds. Underneath the blonde Revy was warm, the copious amounts of hair acting almost like a blanket. Balalaika pressed a cheek to Revy’s sternum, her nose brushing her breast. A straining elastic that had once held up all of Balalaika’s hair had loosened. It took quick work to untie the band with one hand, and it was free, and Revy could not keep herself from stroking it. It was terribly soft to the touch. Revy ran her fingers through the thick locks, a few of the strands coiled around her pointer. Balalaika relaxed on top of her, as she continued to trace a vein on Revy’s arm, her breath hot on her chest. The nail scratched her skin as it continued in a repetitive motion, but she didn’t care.

We fucked , came to Revy’s dull surprise. Hands pausing in stroking Balalaika’s hair, Revy blinked rapidly through post-orgasm haze.  We fucked, and she’s now laying on top of me instead of kicking me out. Who the fuck knows when this shit will happen again? I doubt it will. I fucking doubt it. She’s gotten what she wants, and she won’t fucking tell me her name.

“I know you won’t ever tell me your name.” Revy concluded in the silence that had overtook the both of them. She shook her head, like a dog shaking a chicken to snap its neck. The blonde stiffened on her breast, the finger stroking her arm stopping and pulling away. “I was too fuckin’ stupid and horny to realise that. But I mean, you’re my Sis, so… fucking forget it.”

Oh, shut the fuck up. You have nothing more to fear from this woman. You saved her, for fuck’s sake. It was tiresome. This never ending game of being afraid, and then not.

Balalaika seemed to be juggling words in her head before speaking. “Listen, I have said what I have said , Two Han- Rebecca.”

“No shit . You caught yourself.”

“All in a day’s work, Rebecca Mary Lee.” Balalaika hid a yawn in Revy’s flesh, ending in such a soft, quiet sound that made Revy hold her tighter. Rebecca Mary Lee sounded nice when the Russian spoke it. “A very all-American girl name, is it not? Were you a cheerleader?”

She laughed, and it burned deep in her, right under where Balalaika’s mouth rested. “Oh, fuck no! I didn’t do any fucking sports. I was the type to skip gym, fuck that noise.”

“Why not?” Balalaika asked. As if she was going to take that information, categorize it, and save it for future use.

“Because- ah, fuck. Because, well, I hated school. Everything was just-” Revy choked on the amount of words that wanted to pour from her, and so she snapped her mouth shut and lay there. “I mean, didn’t you have shit to deal with at your school, too?”

This pause was longer than before, and when Balalaika spoke again her voice was different somehow. She set her chin on Revy’s sternum, and crinkled her eyes at the way Revy shuddered from the sharp pressure. Her blue eyes drank in the dull yellow light that hovered above them both.  “Now that I think back on it, no , I never hated school. You probably weren’t even born yet when I went there.”

“I turned twenty-fucking-five last spring.” Revy replied, flushing at the way she was being looked at. The scarred portion of Balalaika’s face was tilted toward her, and the light flexed across the dips of texture. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“You’re a baby. No wonder you act like a child.” the blonde sighed, chuckling to herself. She reached up, and brushed Revy’s bangs out of her eyes, affectionately tousling the top of her head, not helping the rats nest Revy’s hair was slowly becoming.

“I’m not a baby.” Revy muttered. Shifting her thighs caused a bolt of sensitivity that made her tremble.

You were just becoming a teenager when I first entered Afghanistan. Think on that.”

She didn’t want to. All these thoughts, crawling up her mind, and Revy couldn’t afford to think right now.  The dying dog twitching on the road. The inside of any living thing is so wet . But Balalaika’s statement made her bristle. “So, I was alive before you were, how the fuck do I put it... Balalaika?”

The blonde stilled, and painfully nodded, realising what she walked in to. “When you put it like that, yes. You’ll never let go of this name problem, won’t you?”

“Fuck, I’m trying. I said you’re my Sis, and that’s it.” Revy hadn’t felt sad like this in a very long while. The emotion was hard to articulate, and she flexed her hand, and was physically reminded that her guns were across the city. She wanted to think Balalaika would be better than a pair of modified weapons, and yet she still yearned to feel the cold metal in her grip.

“We do such a dance around each other, don’t we?” There was a flickering feeling of eyelashes batting on her chest.

“Goddamn, does Dutch know?” Revy knew the answer, and now she wanted to ask him, but the pain that would cause was unimaginable. Balalaika must have told him, when he dug those two bullets out of her torso. “I won’t ask him.”

Balalaika tightened again, and a choked, dying sound coming from her throat, that she hid almost well enough. “Rebecca,” her voice was soft, and quiet, and oddly comforting. “I’m exhausted. You’ve seen enough of me.”

“No I haven’t.” Revy said stubbornly, shaking her head.

“Please. It’s been… an ordeal. I’ve…” Balalaika smiled bitterly, then quickly collected herself. “You must understand. All I want now is to lay with you. You must have ten thousand questions but I can only say so much.”

“Sis-”

Her voice was sharp, cutting through Revy's continuous desperation. “Kotyenok , I need to try and sleep. Do not try my patience-”

“-I was gonna say yeah.” Revy finished. Balalaika made a move to get off of her, but Revy grabbed her shoulders. The air conditioner kicked back on. Revy grew afraid that the blonde would take her sudden aggressiveness as a challenge, but she stopped. “Stay right here.”

Gently, Revy guided her face back down onto her chest, and blue eyes watched her warily. In her movement Balalaika’s hair spilled more to her right, leaving the left side of her back more exposed. She viewed the muscular strain of pale shoulders, and the thick, angry scars that made her own back tingle. She dragged her fingertips over the knotted muscle, pushing more of the hair away.  One blunt nail touched the scar coiled just under her shoulder blade, and the texture was thicker. The ridges were unlike anything Revy had ever encountered, and again she wanted to kiss them, to feel it under her lips.

“Stop it.” Balalaika whispered, her accent thick and heavy with sleep.

“I won’t fucking hurt you.” Revy grew tired as well, her eyelids falling over her eyes. “Shit, do they...”

“Old wounds don’t hurt.”

Don’t they? Revy’s face crumpled, and she shakily gasped. Heart rate quickening, she held Balalaika to her, as if she could somehow remove the ruined flesh that lined the Russian’s body. “You’re mine,” Revy mouthed to herself. Balalaika must have been getting annoyed with the broken-record repeat that spun in her head. The more important damn question is if I’m hers. Balalaika must like to bet on losing dogs, huh.

Her eyes slid shut, and she went limp, her fingers tangled in thick blonde hair, as if Balalaika was going to leave at any moment.

 

If it weren’t for the light casting from the boat, Revy would have been blind in the black water.  Dutch is watching, a wary expression on his face, an intensity she hadn’t ever known him for broadcast across it. The ocean splashes around her as she quickly jumps in, warm as bathwater. She sees something floating in the water, something yellow curling towards the surface. Then it slowly sinks down.

 

When Revy woke up she was alone. A frantic feeling climbed up her throat.

The first light of dawn flashed through the blinds, and she could see the room better; the austerity of the bedroom, with a few personal touches. Revy focused blearily on the blueness of the curtains lining the two windows, then fell heavily back onto the pillow, hair in her face. She shivered, and pulled the duvet up to her chin, sighing. Balalaika said something from the front of the bed, but Revy was pulled into sleep.

Not quite dreamless, as she saw a bloody sunrise on dark water, until her shoulder was roughly  shaken. The blinds were open, and brighter light poured in onto her, and upon opening her eyes Revy shut them just as fast, groaning into the bed.

Rebecca. Two Hands!

The sheets were tugged down to her waist, roughly.

“Fuck off,” she mumbled in response. The reaction of waking up in a foreign bed was delayed; once it arrived Revy yawned and tried to shake the cloud of sleep in her brain.

A sigh came from above. “I don’t have time for this, Two Hands. Get up or I’ll drag you into a cold shower.”

“Can I have two more seconds? And close the fucking blinds.” Revy flipped her hair away from her face, and dragged the blanket to her nose. “Did you actually tuck me in, Sis?” She recalled Balalaika laying on her chest, and then blacking out.

“I would prefer to knocking you out next time; you were such a brat. Imagine if I had tried to tell you to brush your teeth.” Balalaika said, a glimmer of humor in her eye.

Revy laughed, before patting the bed beside her. The comforting fragrance of the perfume was in the air, potent and smelled like antique flowers. It was strong enough to make Revy stir. “Sis, lay your nice ass down. We don’t have to do anything-”

The blonde quickly changed her tune, and opted for a more direct approach, by pushing Revy’s bangs out of her face. “I’m not going to fall for your little tricks. You need to leave.” Balalaika stated, urgently. Cracking open an eyelid, Revy saw the frozen panic in her eyes. She decided not to feel hurt or pissed by that. “I tried waking you earlier.”

“And if I don’t wanna get out?” Down in the street below, there was a sound of twisting metal and a furry of car horns sounding off. Revy looked down the form of Balalaika, noticing the tight suit and pulled back hair. Disappointment flashed in the back of her head, settling heavily in the frown on her face. She slowly reached out to trail a finger along one of the blonde’s exposed scars, and Balalaika stilled for a mere second. Her peaceful expression tightened.

“Sis, you’re fucking pretty,” Revy attempted to soothe.

“Flatterer,” Balalaika replied. Her reaction compared to last night and now were similar, and it was obvious the blonde was thinking of last night, with hard exhale. Let me fucking touch you there, I won’t hurt your ass.

“...You were saying what you would do to me if I didn’t get up?” The night before left her body feeling loose. Revy wanted to be paid more attention to, she wanted Balalaika again, but as always, there was no time.

Balalaika sat on the edge of the bed, her back grazing Revy’s hip. She was makeupless. Her eyelashes were blonde, curling into a light brown. Revy only noticed them when sunlight made them shine. The lack of eyeliner and lipstick made her appear younger, somehow, even when the lines around her eyes were more prominent. “I toss you out into the hallway, just the way you are.”

It excited her. “You wouldn’t.”

“How can you be sure, Rebecca?”

Speaking of, she wasn’t exactly sure. Their conversation last night left a stamp of anxiety on her heart.

“Because you want all this to yourself. You don’t even want Rock looking at my ass.” Revy gasped, as Balalaika sweeped a thumb over her lip. The mere mention of his name had her insecure, like she was guilty by association. For the life of her, there was no recalling the memory of them drunkenly kissing. The Russian and merely cupped her jaw before Rock kissed her, and Revy treated it like a betrayal. I'm tired, I'm so fucking tired.

“I don’t want him staring at the rest of you either.” Her voice was low. “But you have to get up and leave. It’s late enough as it is.” Balalaika gestured towards the alarm clock, comfortably at 5:16am , lined in red. She bent her blonde head and lewdly took in Revy’s nude body, traveling a finger between her breasts, then along her ribcage, swirling around a hipbone and sweeping over her folds before standing up. Revy whined, spreading her legs, and scowling in defeat.

“Don’t tease , Sis, damn it. That’s late? No fucking way. Ughhhhh .” Revy whined, sitting up and rubbing her face with her hands, then peeking out between her fingers. Already she was pulsing between her thighs. It would have been nice to wake up being taken by the blonde, with long pale fingers stroking her. She ached for her, even if Balalaika was already completely dressed. Her palm stuck where the waxy lipstick smeared over her cheek from last night. “Why on fucking earth do you get up so fucking early? Shit.”

“To eat with my men.” Her face was a pool of still water, giving no hint of what might live in the depths below. Would they fucking starve without her?

Revy glanced at the clock. There was a feeling of a gaze at her breasts, at her hard nipples. It was unbearable to deal with the blonde's repressed longing. “At what, six seventeen?”

“No, at six thirty. My biggest mistake is thinking an alarm will wake you up.” Balalaika’s tongue peaked out to wet her bottom lip.

“There was an alarm?”

“An alarm-” Balalaika cut herself off, annoyed, then threw a pair of weathered jean shorts on Revy’s torso. Exasperated wasn’t a good word for what reflected in her face. “ Dress . I assume you can do that yourself, no?”

That made Revy smile despite herself. “I sure fucking hope so.”

“Hurry up.” Balalaika shook her head, a lightness playing on her lips, and walked slowly out of the room, leaving the door open behind her. Revy remained where she was, watching the blonde’s wide hips, then grunted and heaved herself out of bed. A sink ran from the bathroom, and a drawer could be heard being slammed shut. The air was cold, and Revy bit back a shiver, and clutched her jeans in her fists, breathing through her nose. This happened. Last night, she and Balalaika fucked , and she felt pleasantly sore between her legs. Softness bloomed in her chest. Angrily, Revy clenched her teeth and muttered a shut the fuck up to herself.

She went to the wall mirror that was next to the closet, and took in the way her hair snarled around her head and shoulders, crawling down alongside her breasts. The area around her nipples were irritated, and her lips were swollen. The waxy makeup blushed from her chin to her cheek. A smudge of pink lipstick was on her inner left thigh, and Revy’s rubbed at it with her fingers, until it appeared more of a pink flush. Better for it to look like a fucked bruise, anyway. Nobody’d look twice, but what the fuck do I do about this shit? The hickey on her neck was raw. Anyone could see it from a mile away, even on her tanned skin. Adjusting her thick locks, it awkwardly covered the mark, and Revy grimaced. The day after, and she wasn’t allowed to simply enjoy the hickey on the side of her throat. Swallowing nervously, Revy slid on her shorts, and then darted her eyes around the room.

Nowhere in the room was her tank top. “Fuck!” Revy managed to find her belt and slide it around her jeans, angrily locking it into place. Her bare breasts were cold, and tiny hairs raised on her thighs and arms. The chill in the bedroom was only making her want to crawl back into Balalaika’s disheveled bed. Preferably, with the blonde, but that was verging on the impossible.

“Where the fuck is my tank?” Revy shouted out of the room. She had thrown it onto the floor, and now it had disappeared, and her faded underwear along with it.

The faucet was quickly turned off. “What did I saw about being quiet, Rebecca?”

“Why do I have to worry about being fucking quiet? They’re all getting food !”

“Two Hands, I don’t know where your filthy tank top is.” Balalaika replied coldly from the bathroom, and something was angrily clicked shut. Revy heard her speak in Russian to herself.

“So what? I’m supposed to go topless? You like parading your chicks like that?” Revy snapped, crossing her arms to offer little warmth. The temperature outside was climbing into the late eighties, and here she was fighting off the cold.

“Oh, Rebecca. You are killing me.” The old floor creaked as Balalaika strutted back into her bedroom doorway. Her eyes were lined in black, but she hadn’t put on mascara yet. A part of Revy hoped that she would come over to her. “Just, find something. But none of my dress shirts, you hear me?”

“Yes ma’am,” she grumbled in reply. Revy stalked over to a dresser as the blonde returned to the bathroom, and she thrust open a dresser drawer, a pained squeak emitting from the furniture. The top drawer offered no results, only underwear and the like. One rather skimpy one was dark green, and had black lace circling the openings in the fabric. Revy tucked it into her front pocket. Closing the top drawer, she went down to the next, and in it was only a few short sleeve shirts, and one thick pink turtleneck that looked well worn. They were folded neatly, and no matter how she maneuvered it, they all wrinkled in her quick search. She plucked out a white shirt that was neglected and shoved into a corner.

Glancing back over her shoulder, Revy then put to the shirt up to her nose. The fabric smelled like Balalaika. She almost didn’t want to wear it, if only to preserve it a little longer. Throwing it on, Revy stared at how large it looked on her, and as she turned back and forth in the mirror. It hung well past her waist, falling down to the tops of her thigh. She saw Balalaika’s reflection approach her, her red jacket accentuating her shoulders and long neck. Revy wished they were back in the bed.

The blonde chuckled tiredly. “Of course you had to steal that one.”

“Yeah, good luck getting this shit back. Since when do you wear a legit shirt anyway?” Revy tugged at the sleeves.

“Oh, absolutely never. I only wear this suit, every single minute of every day.” She walked closer, until her chest barely touched Revy’s back.“ In my honest opinion, you’d have been better off taking the turtleneck.” Balalaika’s eyes flickered to Revy’s throat. Revy stared at the two of them standing together in the mirror. With the white shirt and Balalaika already in heels, she looked small in comparison. Like a fucked up family portrait.

“Fuckin’ A, you chose the best place to suck on, huh?” Revy pointed at the hickey on her neck, purple and abused, the same color as her stomach had been when Balalaika had hit her there. The mere thought of it made Revy touch where it had been. It was nothing more than a memory now, but from time to time she still thought of it; even if it wasn’t the first she’d been hurt there.

Balalaika pushed Revy’s snarled hair over her shoulders. The mere touch sent a shiver down her body, and she tilted her head to the side, as Balalaika’s fingers smoothed her locks in a way that covered the bruise. Her breath was warm on the top of her head. Resting her hand on Revy’s shoulder, the blonde locked eyes with Revy’s reflection and raised an eyebrow. “Time for you to leave, Rebecca. I don’t even time to see if you could eat something.”

“I’ll eat everyone out of house and home back at the apartment.” Revy yawned, then rested the back of her skull on Balalaika, her eyelids weighing down. She opened them again to see the both of them together, the blonde’s eyes still watching her intently. “ Fuck , I have to get my boots on.”

Reluctantly, she left her, and Balalaika turned away from the mirror. Revy found her boots messily unlaced on the floor. Sitting on the bed, she dragged them up her calves, and she gnawed on her lip. They were becoming painfully worn, and the tread had begun to flatten. For the first time in a while, she struggled with them; the frayed laces catching and refusing to stretch.

“I’ll be in the kitchen, Rebecca.” Balalaika left, and shut the door of the bathroom as she walked past it. Revy watched her, rapt with attention. Her heart felt doughy. Patting the underwear she was smuggling out, Revy stood up after finishing, and after taking one last look of the bedroom, in case she never saw it again, she followed the blonde. Balalaika was sliding on her military coat, looking already tired, like the weight of the fabric was a constant reminder.

“I could’ve helped put it on.” Revy stated. She stretched her arms above her head, hearing her spine and shoulders crack.

“Light my cigars.... put my coat on... trying to put the Sergeant out of a job? Would you be able to reach?” Balalaika teased in response. “I was your height when I was thirteen .”

“Don’t rub that shit in my face!” Her boots added a nice inch to her height. “ You’re the tallest fucking woman I’ve ever met.” There was no way she was going to admit she liked it. When her arms were around her Revy had the closest sensation of security.

“Oh, but I will.” Balalaika gestured towards the entrance, a flicker of anxiousness present in the way her lips pressed together. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Good luck with breakfast,” She replied, yawning into her fist. “Sounds like a real fuckin’ sausage fest.”

Balalaika scoffed, and open-palm smacked Revy on her behind. Revy swore under her breath, and looked back at the taller woman; sucking on her lip. She received a wicked, almost-smile back. Balalaika opened the door, allowing Revy to leave first, who paused as she stepped towards it.

“Hey, when will we do this again?” Turning around, she rubbed the collar of the woolen coat between her fingers. What did her full military ensemble look like? When she saw Balalaika for the first time, soaked to the bone and unconscious, she wore a dress , of all things.

The blonde tutted, shrugging. “I couldn’t say. I want to say soon, though. I slept rather well.”

Revy hesitated. The metal on Balalaika’s jacket shined the artificial light back at her. “Awesome. I’d thought you’d be up pacing half the night, or whatever… Fuck, uh, do you wanna have me over again?” She had to ask.

Nudging her out into the hallway, Balalaika parted her lips and nodded, slowly, spidery shadows under her eyes from her eyelashes. Seeing that she needed an absolute answer, Balalaika sighed. “ Yes, Rebecca.” She went to cup Revy’s jaw, stroking the edge of it.

“I wasn’t gonna get on my damn knees and beg,” Revy said. She blushed, and looked down at the buttons on Balalaika’s crimson jacket. Her voice quieted, and it was difficult to speak. Puffing out her chest, Revy ground her teeth. “Be nice to sleep with you every once and awhile.”

The blonde smiled, catlike at that, as if she had won an invisible bet. Like Revy broke first.

“I’ll see what I can do. One thing is for sure, this won’t be easy.” Balalaika murmured, because it was only for Revy to ever hear. “Now, go out the way you came. Be cautious.” She put two fingers underneath Revy’s chin, and forcefully made glacial eye contact. It was so intense Revy struggled to maintain it. “You’ll be careful, won’t you?”

Revy waved the fingers away, blinking quickly, catching her breath. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be careful. Since when am I not?”

“I can definitely name a few. Talk to you soon.” Balalaika kissed her forehead, delicately, then pulled away, adjusting Revy’s hair again in the process. The hickey was worrying her as well; her brow furrowed at the darkness of it, of how carried away she had gotten. That depressed Revy. On how careful they had to be, even when they were lying together.

“See ya. Stay alive, will you?”

Balalaika had no reply for that, opting to lean against the doorway, her strong arms crossed. 

As Revy walked a few paces, she twisted around and groaned. “And we never shared that fucking cigar. And lipstick!”

“I won’t go far without my official cigar-lighter, I’ll tell you what. Nobody fumbled like a match the way you do.” Balalaika chuckled, touching a fingertip to her lips, realising she had none on. She shut the door with a hard click behind her, and went in the other direction. Her heels thudded on the carpet, her gait like that of a true commanding officer. Her hair and military coat swayed behind her. She looked regal, in that moment.

She watched the Russian until she disappeared around the corner, and only then did she sneak towards the stairwell. The moment Balalaika was gone Revy missed her. She still could hear the sound of her shoes, growing farther away, and that was the worst part. Unlike last night, the corridor was eerily quiet. There was no sound of a television, or music. Every single one of her men was most likely accounted for, and maybe they even waited for Balalaika to begin eating.

Shit. Everyone must be fucking wondering where my ass went. Rock and Benny would still be asleep, but Dutch… What if the bitch is there?  Racing into the stairwell, Revy pounded her feet down the stairs, skipping two at a time. Again it was empty, reminiscent of an abandoned apartment building then one that housed actual people. She wondered where the prostitute had went.

Entering the bottom level, Revy made way to the back door. Grasping the cold handle, a sudden thought came to her, and Revy clapped a hand on her face. “Oh, fucking shitshitshit .”

Her fingerless gloves were still on the kitchen counter. Wringing her calloused, hands that still felt softer than before, Revy kicked the wall. It was too late, and she was wearing a huge white shirt, and she had the darkest bruise on her neck. It was painfully obvious, and Eda could never see it, and so, without any other choice, Revy set for home, exiting the apartment without a second glance. Yesterday’s rain had awoken a hundred different smells in the streets, and made then ripe and potent. It ranged from incense to rotting bodies.

She itched for a cigarette.

Chapter Text

When Revy got back to the apartment, she paused outside the door, her hand freezing as it locked around the doorknob. It was only six in the morning, and she had ran back as fast as her legs could carry her, shoving those in her way aside. Already the city was hesitatingly becoming alive, with a few people shuffling about; the streets empty except with the occasional car. Even as the season of summer transformed into fall, and the Thailand heat never ceased; wiping the sweat off her brow, Revy ground her teeth, and clenched her fist. Arching her shoulders, she entered the apartment slowly, peeking around the door. Nobody, thank fuck.  

No sound of television or a fuzzy radio met her ears, only the soft drip of a leaking sink. Revy closed the door behind her cautiously, and let out a breath she had been holding. Everything was fine, and she’d make her way to the fridge and eat anything in her sight. Taking a heavy step forward, she chuckled to herself, running a hand through her damp hair, when a voice spoke from the kitchen.

“Kept a long night?” Dutch replied around a mug of coffee. He leaned on the sink, taking an easy sip of the drink.

Revy tasted bile at the back of her throat, and her stomach was a twitching nest of snakes snapping at each other. Her hair was still down, swaying heavily on her chest, and she hurriedly adjusted the messy locks around her neck. Spinning around, Revy subdued her fury and glowered at him, in trepidation. “ Holy fucking shit, Dutch, you keepin’ watch or something?”

He shook his head with a humoured sigh. Light reflected off of his jet-black sunglasses. He took a long sip of his steaming black drink. “What, is this your first damn time running off? I’m having a morning coffee before heading out to check up on the boat. Chang’s got us a job today.”

Dutch glanced down at her gloveless hands, and Revy twisted them into fists as if to hide them. She felt naked without the gloves, like shrapnel could pierce her palm and cut her knuckles into ribbons. A grin spread across her paled face, despite the anxiety. “It’s about fucking time. I’ve been itching for a real ass fight.”

“Haven’t we all?” He shrugged, but the subtle expression of suspicion was knitted in one arched eyebrow. Revy wanted to be surprised, but the white short sleeve required an explanation, but she refused to give any. No one would know; no one could ever know. Jutting her jaw out, she shook her head at the ground, then looked back at Dutch. “I had a late fucking night. I got nothing to say.”

“Hey, I didn’t ask.” Dutch turned back to sink, having finished his coffee. Washing his mug out, he didn’t appear out of the ordinary, he always got up earlier than the rest. Dutch got irritable if he slept in, as if the day was already wasted.

I know you didn’t ask, but you fucking know some shit. He’d know Balalaika’s name, Revy was sure of it. How to ask would be the difficult bit.

She cleared her throat. “What shit happened when I was gone?”

“Got that assignment from Chang. Some loose ends needing to be tied up, you know, how that gangster shit usually goes down.”

“Oh, that’s it? Damn, slow night.” Revy made a move towards the fridge, leaning down to open it. She was so hungry that her resolve was wearing thin, and the thoughts of Balalaika’s weight on her body made her heart ache. Fucking hell, the bitch better call me. Her grip slackened on the handle, before finding the strength to pull the fridge door open.

“And Rock being a little bit worried about your whereabouts. Wanted to run out after you, when ten minutes passed. Last he saw, he said, was that you left out the same door that Balalaika went out of.”

“What the fuck?” She froze as her hand reached for pizza leftovers. The blood inside her was slow moving sludge, and breathing became an issue, and her guns were in her room, and she wanted to throw herself into the sea. The mere thought of waves lapping on the shore reminded her of Balalaika’s unconscious body. In an effort to maintain normalcy, she tossed the pizza box onto the counter, then reached back to rip out a can of beer.

“I talked him out of that.” Dutch chuckled, setting the mug back in the cupboard. After staring at him, Revy realised that he either didn’t know, or was a world class actor.

“He…” the kiss in Japan. She had clung to Rock like if he let go of her, she’d drown. Her knee throbbed sympathetically in phantom pain… and yet she wished that Rock had a little of Balalaika’s ferocity. “I can obviously fucking take care of my own ass. I don’t need to be babied . He gets in good with Chang and all of a sudden the roles are switched? No fucking way.”

Dutch shook his head. “Relax. Told him that you know how to take care of yourself.”

“Look, I’m too sober for this shit.” she replied, cracking the beer open and downing half of the can, liquid dripping down her chin. Revy set the can back on the counter, and wiped her face quickly as a droplet of alcohol ran down her throat, directly to the soft white of the shirt. “ I’m too fucking tired.”

“We’ll wake you when it’s time to head out.” Dutch shrugged again, unbothered with Revy’s rising temper. 

She opted to extract what remained of the six-pack and set it beside the pizza box. Picking up the can, she finished the rest of it, the cool beer bringing a sense of calm. “ Wait . What about Janet?”

“What about her?” Dutch stated, unbothered, with another raise of his eyebrow.

Bangs flicked into Revy’s vision, and she blew them out of her eyes, seething. Sucking in her teeth, she dug her nails into the cardboard as she flopped open the pizza box before replying. “...Did the cocksucker say anything weird?” You better be fucking honest. Balalaika’d have her head before the damn day was out if she knew. The imagined sight of Janet’s mutilated head, red-brown with blood, appeared all too easily. Balalaika would be grimly satisfied, as if she had finally killed a mouse that was raiding her apartment. Would she throw it at Revy’s feet, or mail a picture of Janet’s face, with an X marked across it, as she did to Rock with the picture of Yukio?

But then a head would just be a head.

“Nothing worthy of me listening.” Dutch was at the kitchen door. It was disquieting to hear his casual tone. “Said you left in a hurry.”

She was growing sick of his way of answering. A part of her wished he’d just come out and say it, that he knew she left with Balalaika. But that wasn’t his way, and it pissed her off. “Saw her fucking one of Boss’ guys.”

Through his sunglasses, Revy knew Dutch’s shrewd eyes saw right through her. “Tell me why that doesn’t surprise me.”

They both stared at one another for a moment, before he turned away and opened the rickety door. Revy’s throat felt raw. Opening another beer, she sipped to quell her nerves. An intense desire to ask if he knew Balalaika’s name came to mind, and it almost slipped out, as her lips parted and she froze up.

“You know?” She was compelled to say. Revy was unable to keep her voice from being infected with defense. Whether she was asking about Janet or Balalaika, she couldn’t tell.

“Now.” He looked back at her with a nod and calmly left. There was nothing in his gait that said anything to her about what he said; no mention of the way her hair was down and tangled by sleep, or the oversized shirt that ended at the beginning of her thighs, her gloveless hands. The fancy underwear that was crumpled in her front pocket. Too astonished for words, Revy could only watch him leave.

That left her with only her thoughts, and she hated it.

Revy unlaced her boots and launched them towards the wall. Sleep wasn’t going to come easy for her, so Revy leaned on the white counter and shoved a piece of cold pizza into her mouth, with brief pauses where she sipped beer, until she managed to find a pack of cigarettes as she rattled around in the kitchen. She didn’t care if she was being too loud, and she slammed the drawers shut in her search. But Revy was exhausted, inhaling a puff of smoke as she stared out the window, watching the sun rise higher in the sky. Sis must feel like this all the time. The lack of sleep made her miserable. On the last slice of pizza she shoved the butts of her cigarettes into the cheese. The six pack was empty and the carton of cigarettes was two thirds gone when Rock and Benny dragged themselves out into the living room.

“You’re up early,” Benny yawned, slapping a hand over his mouth as his eyes crinkled. A few hickeys dotted his own neck, which gave the implication that Janet had spent the night. The fact that the couple were able to spend the night, fuck, and sleep in together had Revy furiously wish for any other sort of alcohal. With the pack of beer gone, she only felt a little out of it.

Revy grunted in greeting. She watched as he lit up one of the few cigarettes left, as she dug her own into the pizza’s abused flesh. “What time is it? Fuck.”

Rock tiredly nodded at her as he followed after Benny, rubbing his eyes. His pajamas were wrinkled, but in a sort of way that looked neat, with his dark hair mussed. “Seven.”

The sun was shining obscenely bright. Earlier today, she woke up in Balalaika’s bed. The whole sequence was more of a dream now, than a reality. And I might never get that fucking moment again. To her horror, Janet dragged herself into the living room, her blonde hair curly from sleep. She casted Revy a questioning look, and tugged the strap of her camisole over her tanned shoulder. Benny smiled tiredly at Janet.

Revy returned a glare at her. “ Rock . Dutch said Chang’s got us a job. You do that?”

Rock walked to a cupboard and took a cereal box out of it. With his back to her, Revy realised she had never noticed the slight definition in his shoulders. “He brought it up to me, you mean. Tidying up. He said they’re tough, and quick, but they’ve got no discipline and poor weapons.”

“Sounds like a fucking dream, pajama boy.” The prospect of killing people actually worthy of fighting perked her up. Suddenly, the sight of the pizza slice had her feeling queasy, and she picked it up, spreading ash everywhere, as she threw it into the garbage bin. It hit the rim of the bin before falling in. Revy moved to push her hair behind her ear, pausing as her finger brushed on the spot where the hickey was carefully hidden, where Balalaika had sucked on, and achingly, Revy wanted more of them across her entire body, until she couldn’t hide them and everyone knew.

Benny tested the heat of the remaining coffee, before pouring two mugs full of it, adding milk and sugar, and with an exhausted shrug, trudged back to his room. Janet followed shortly, before glancing again at Revy. Rock didn’t say anything until he finished making his cereal, when he turned around and leaned against the counter, facing Revy. The spoon clinked on the bowl as he took her in, as if seeing her for the first time.

“Fuck you looking at?” Revy asked around a new cigarette, slowly blinking at him.

“Where were you last night?” He replied bluntly. He ate another bite, chewing it thoroughly, waiting for an answer she couldn’t give.

She shuffled uncomfortably, crossing her arms. The intensity of his gaze had her inching towards the hallway. It was hard to resist the urge to leave, but she was too stubborn to leave. “Out.”

“With who?” He said, looking at her white shirt. 

“Listen, Rock.” she sulked. Protectively, she checked again to see if the hickey was still covered. Perhaps he would understand. He'd react with horror and disbelief, but he would stay by her, until it was time to use that information. “Does it even fucking matter?”

Rock swallowed. His eyebrows knitted together and his eyes narrowed. “I suppose not. You won’t even tell me, will you?”

She brooded on that. “When you disappear with Chang, I don’t crawl after you and ask where your fucking ass is. Admit it, we’ve got separate lives now.”

“That’s something I’ve got difficulties with, but I see your point.” He didn’t like it, with the way he started washing the few dishes in the sink. Water splashed onto the counter. “Nothing wrong with thinking.”

The nostalgic look in his eyes made Revy tense. Seeing him like this, eyes to the past, bothered her more and more. Yet it was something he had in common in Balalaika. He already thought of Yukio from time to time. Because, Revy angrily thought, he kept fucking looking . “You still missing Japan?”

“Not that I’d ever think of returning, my place is here. Lock in the twilight I may be but... it was my home.” He chuckled, and shook his head, running a wet hand through his mussed hair. He caught her gaze, and Revy was shocked at how lively his eyes were. A night at staring at Balalaika’s had her nearly forget what such eyes looked like.

Home? The word had always made her feel strange. Rock had a nuclear family back in that country, besides all the blood and misery Hotel Moscow had brought on his visit back, but what was home to her? A few bleak recollections, names on paper, the fading memory of the chipped paint on a shitty door leading to a messy apartment. When she looked at Balalaika’s defeated face, was that to be her fate as well? Revy felt cold

“You’re stuck with us now, Rock.” It was a sad attempt at lightening the mood. “No matter which fucking direction we both go into, we’ll be on the same damn team.” Sensing a lull in the conversation, Revy padded away from the kitchen, and hopped over the back of the couch. Flopping onto her back, she stretched out, and fumbled for the remote that sat on the coffee table.

Flicking on the television, she heard Rock shut the sink off. There was an adjustment of glasses clinking together, then he quietly came to the living room, and sat in the love seat, nursing a cigarette. Revy cycled through the channels until she came upon a sitcom Dutch would always watch, and she laid the remote beside her. Tugging the collar of the Russian's shirt over her mouth, Revy breathed in the scent as she watched.

That ?”

“Yep. Deal with it.” What did Balalaika watch, if she even had any damn time to watch anything?

Rock scoffed, but stayed anyway. The sitcom changed into a made-for-television movie, and he passed her a cigarette, and was kind enough to light it for her. An unwanted blush rose to her cheeks, hidden by her tan. She wanted to choke from the horrific tenderness of it all, a pained noise in her throat. A few hours away from Balalaika, and it was like ripping a bandaid off too soon. All Revy had wanted was to wake up with her, and not even that was allowed to her. The movie’s ridiculous special effects didn’t amuse her anymore, and she continued watching with a blank stare. Janet’s voice rose from Benny’s bedroom, and quieted down after he replied in a calming tone. The movie was near finished when Dutch came back, wiping the sweat off his bald head with a rag. The door clattered shut behind him as he entered. Revy brought her fingers away from the bulge of lacey fabric hidden in her front pocket.

He coughed into his fist. Rock stood up, preparing to go get dressed. “Yo. Let’s get going.”

“Okay, fuck, give me a damn second to get my guns.” Revy heaved herself off of the couch with a sigh. Her feet touched the cold ground and she cracked her neck, sluggishly going into the hallway. 

Hurry up.” Dutch said, with the sound of him turning up the volume of the television, a canned scream increasing in pitch. Pushing the bedroom door open, she took in the dirty clothes and empty beer bottles on the floor, the way mysterious stains laid on the wooden floor. She couldn’t treat Balalaika’s shirt like she treated virtually everything she owned. Bringing the collar of the top up to her nose, Revy breathed in the Russian’s scent. There was no smell of perfume, just simply Balalaika and detergent.

Pulling it over her head, Revy tossed it onto her bare mattress and set for her dresser. Her guns sat atop it. A warmth flourished in her chest and she took them both into her hands, the metal cool against her palms. Grinning, she twirled them around her fingers before setting them back, feeling finally in control, finally powerful, and she tugged open the top drawer to drag another tank top out, and yanked it on. She tugged the panties from her pocket, and got a good look at them. They were a size too big for her; the lace carefully sewed onto the high cut underwear, the material soft under her fingertips. It felt illegal just holding such an expensive pair. She shoved them into the back, behind a faded black dress, and shut it. Revy didn’t care about the lack of her own underwear.

She slammed the drawer shut. Pulling on her holsters, Revy enjoyed the ritual of pushing her guns under they seated comfortably in the leather, and it gave her a smile. Returning back into the hallway, Revy was suddenly stopped by a hand clapping onto her arm. Twisting around violently, she reared back a fist when she caught sight of Janet’s pale brown eyes staring back at her, fearful and yet knowing.

“Punch me and I’ll yell.” Janet muttered, backing away. A splay of bruises danced down her own neck, disappearing under her thin camisole. She seemed to have recalled the last time Revy had grabbed her. Revy wanted to grin at that.

“What the fuck do you want?” Revy hissed. Her fist went down to her side, nails digging into her palm. There was nothing more she would like to do than to shake any information Janet knew about last night out of her.

“Just wanted to let you know...  you should be better at hiding that.” Janet pointed at Revy’s neck with a twitch of her lips.

Benny laughed in the living room, and Revy gulped, her pulse racing in her chest. Her fist raised slowly, threateningly. The way Janet had so casually stated the obvious had her fuming. “Why would you even bring that up, you little bitch? You need another fucking reminder?” Revy thought often if, Janet had pressed the issue of forcing Rock into a gangbang, she would have gone through with her threat. Maybe she would have, back then. It would be as it was in prison, with Revy staring into the eyes of the woman as she did it, the way the inmate would be submissive to her for just a moment, and it filled her young self with such a sense of comfort in the brief taste of controlling power. But that was nothing compared to killing.

“Hard not to notice. I guess we both had an interesting night. Yours more so than mine.” she said, her light tone having a touch of seriousness.

Revy flushed angrily, smacking a sweaty hand on the side of her own throat. “Tell anyone and I’ll rip your fucking head off. And trust me, I’m not the only one who wants to see that happen.”

Janet pushed her glasses up and tilted her head, thinking. It made her fucking proud . “A portion of Roanapur might like to see that .”

“Chances fucking are, they’ll see that . What the fuck do you know?”

“Not as much as I’d like to.” Janet responded, shrugging. It became obvious that she knew little, and the only information she had was that Revy had a huge hickey on her neck.

Revy flicked her eyes to the side and pawed at her own neck, fixing the greasy locks again. Knowing information is an absolute advantage , Dutch had once said, when on one of his philosophical debates. Janet had this knowledge over her head, and her guns were underneath her arms. The sensation of coldness caressed her brain and clarity filled her, emptying out the anger in her face. Revy knew she could have let it go, but she was unable to shut her mouth. “Tell me what you fucking heard. Now.”

They stared at one another for a brief minute, with Revy leaning in, feeling imposing over the shorter woman. Janet relented. “I only heard you say some shit, and a woman’s voice answered back.”

“Me and this chick were chatting it up, what-the-fuck-ever.” Revy cut herself off, as she listened. Rock and Dutch were involved in a conversation about the ending of the movie. Benny was either outside or watching the television with them. “It wasn’t some stupid-ass romantic meeting.”

Janet looked at her pitilessly.

“Of course it wasn’t. It was only you and your... Sis .” she said, and her eyes widened at the look of desperate rage on Revy’s face. The retort was automatic, with the way she had stated the too-confident words, like she had been planning the response. At Revy’s gaze, Janet decided to continue. “When it’s a real boring fuck, I often just stare up at the ceiling or the wall and listen. To the music, the birds, people talking- whatever. You and her were talking for a very long time, even if I couldn’t make it out.”

When she heard that, Revy’s heart stopped beating. No, no, nononononono. She made a loud guttural sound in the back of her throat. “What the fucking hell did you say? Fucking ever say that shit again, I’ll kill you. Benny can keep his favorite part. I’ll cut it out and leave-”

“Revy, cut your conversation short, we’ve gotta head out now.” Dutch called from the couch, as he stood up, lighting a new cigarette. With a flick of the remote, the television shut off. Rock was fully dressed, straightening his tie. Benny had an eye on Janet, worry creasing his brow.

“Dutch I don’t fucking care, this bitch-” One more word and there’d be questions. And Dutch already, maybe, knew. Janet may have been slowly backing up, and she had the utmost right to punch the woman in the face until it was bloody, but they would have questions . Ones that Janet would answer. Revy put down her fist, and breathed through her nose, darkness lurking around her vision, asking for her to hold her guns just this once.

But Revy didn’t. She couldn’t do anything. Instead she spat at Janet’s feet, and shoved her aside. Going to the doorway to shuffle on her boots, Revy fumed silently, pulling the black laces so hard that they made the boot’s leather groan. For a short moment no one said anything, before Rock sigh in exasperation, and Dutch adjusted the gun in his own holster.

“Revy?” she heard Rock say cautiously. Janet followed, a victorious air about her.

“Now that that’s over, let’s press onward.” Dutch said.

They all, sans Janet, headed towards the shiny-new dock, the wood still not worn yet, even with the constant use. Water lapped calmly at the shore. The ocean was a cerulean, with fishing boats out in the distance. The boat they were after wasn’t commercial, it was more for sneaking around in the cover of night, but Chang’s target was getting proud, and that made him lazy. The man had been one of his men, who eventually fell into giving information for sums of money. Good money. Better than he ever been paid. Revy understood that, the way the city was heading downhill. The guy wanted out, but he chose the wrong way to do it. Dutch and Rock explained it to her in the quick debriefing they had, as the water turned white as milk as it parted for the PT boat’s bow. An hour passed before Benny caught it in his sights.

“There is it, Dutch. Looks pretty damn well fortified for a boat.” Benny said around a cigarette. He had the boat pick up a few knots, until they were twenty feet from closing in on the vessel.

“Ramming speed!” Dutch replied to him, heading towards the exit. As calm as he was, there was a urgency in his stride. He nodded at Revy who sat heavily on the seat across from a quiet Rock. She hadn’t had much to say to him. Her boots scuffed against the metallic wall as she forced herself up the ladder, adrenaline thrusting itself through her body, making her tremble with excitement.

The PT slammed into the side of the boat and in an instant, rammed the vessel’s stern with such a force that a few men that scrambled out had been thrown off of the deck and thrown into the water. Revy nearly bit her tongue off between her teeth at the hit, spitting blood from her mouth, and it ran down her chin. Fucking A’, learn to close your fucking mouth, idiot. The men in the sea would be easy to pick off, with their weapons waterlogged.

She leapt onto the other boat’s deck, her guns in her sweaty, uncovered palms. Revy grinned down at the men sprawled out in the ocean;  one swimming towards the boat, another drowning, clawing at the sea, the third oozing blood from his head, attempting to deliriously swim alongside the first.

Shooting both of them, causing red to mix into the ocean water like washing out watercolor from a paintbrush, Revy used her other gun to nail a guy in the torso, who was reloading his rifle. A bullet whizzed past her head, dancing through her hair that was damp on her shoulders from sweat. “ Fuck !”

Putting a bullet in his gut for good measure, Revy wrinkled her nose at the foul smell, stepping over his writhing body, onto his hand, hard, squeezing it into the worn deck. It was good to kill again, and every man she shot she saw Janet’s smug face. 

Revy planted another in the forehead of the last fighter, an old man who shined his rotten teeth at her as his eyes went blank. The one behind her, with the gut wound, stopped shaking and yelling like nothing human as he went silent. A sound of a gun clattering onto the deck brought her attention in front, to the last person alive on the vessel.

There was no door that led to the control panel, and the target was tall and large, but he wailed like a child. He put his hands up so far that his fingers brushed the ceiling.

“Don’t kill me!’ The man exclaimed, sweat dripping down his forehead. “I’ll tell you any fucking thing you want. Take whatever shit is in here, just let my ass live. My name’s Marong, Marong T-””

“I don’t fucking care. Nah, I won’t kill you.” Revy said confidently, but pressed her gun to his cheek anyway, his head twisting away. She added force until she could feel the bumps of his teeth through the thin skin. “Boss said he wants you alive.”

A stray tear ran from Marong’s eye. By the way a whimper left through his clenched jaw, he knew the full extent of Chang’s wrath, as subdued as it was, compared to the other parties. She had to laugh. “Yeah, cry. That’s all your sorry ass can do.”

“I’ll.. I’ll tell you anything. I’ve got shit about all of the major players. Chang, Ronny, that Fry Faced bitch, name your price, I’ve got it.” He said it so sincerely that Revy wanted to believe him.

Sis? “Really? Tell me something good.” 

Marong gulped, his eyes wide and shining white.“Ronny’s got a few members of the Albanian mafia coming to visit they… they’re making a deal about cocaine. A-and Hotel Moscow’s planning on stealing some trade routes f-from me, specifically. What’s a guy to do, heh?”

“No. Answer this and I won’t gouge out your eye. Do you Fucking. Know. Her. Name.” With every punctuation she grew closer, and jabbed her gun as hard as she could into his cheek.

Confused, his muddled brown eyes met Revy’s before returning them to the floor. “N-Name?”

“Balalaika. Her name. Do you or do you not fucking know it, shithead?” Revy said, hurriedly. She flexed her fingers on her gun, a metallic clicking sending another tear trailing down Marong’s cheek, rounding over the barrel of the gun and plopping onto his blue dress shirt. Licking his dry lips, he opened his mouth when the deck outside creaked.

“We need him with both eyes, Revy.” Dutch stated from behind her. How long had he been there? He had snuck up on her again, and this time Revy grew more frustrated. All of her attempts to learn more Balalaika were falling flat.

Dutch ,” Revy said. A scared, cocky grin stretched her mouth wide. She missed this, killing and seeing fear in their eyes. The fact he had heard her ask such a question settled in a second later, and all the blood left her body. “This asshole talks too much. Can I at least knock his fucking teeth out?”

“Chang wants him…mostly intact.” he reminded her, unfurling a pair of handcuffs. The metal glinted into the sunlight, making them appear less foreboding. “I imagine he’ll be taking a visit to Sawyer. Teeth can be valuable.”

“Who-who’s Sawy-” He started, before he wheezed. Revy gave him a hit over the head with her gun, butting in his temple, causing him to hit the wood floor hard and groaning.

Revy blinked rapidly, her knees weak. Balalaika would have killed her if she knew how lazy Revy was being with whatever they had. She’d end it. Shoving her guns into her pockets, knowing the man was too scared to run, she rubbed at the torn skin on her hands, what would eventually turn into calluses. “He’s got info on everybody. Boss wasn’t lying.”

“I heard. Balalaika’ll want to hear this. This guy’s been at it a while. She mentioned once on how thugs were finding out about a few of her shipments. Remember that job back in May?” Dutch said, starting towards Marong.

“Oh, no shit? Yeah, yeah.” Revy said. Touching the hickey on her neck, she gaped at how it had been uncovered, stupidly forgotten about in the heat of battle. She brushed her hair back over her shoulder, the ends sliding down her breasts.

“Urgh..” Marong moaned as Dutch clicked a pair of handcuffs on him, forcing his hands behind his back.  He wormed away, but Dutch kicked him back onto his stomach. Saliva leaked out of his mouth. “Pleashhh… bitch, I know it, I shwear.”

Embarrassed, Revy leaned over, palmed his wet forehead, and slammed his head back as hard as she could, the muscles in her arm tensing. Dutch sighed, sounding older than he was. He let her nervousness stir, and then eventually spoke, his voice low. Hauling a finally quiet Marong up, he turned to her. “When we get back to the apartment, we’ll talk about her.”

Revy said nothing.

Chapter Text

Marong wailed like a baby on the return back to the dock, at least until Revy threatened him with the toe of her boot three times. Sweat dripped off of his forehead, his collar stained; snot ran down his face and he struggled to get out of his restraints, to no avail. Dutch knew how to handcuff people tightly enough that the flesh bulged ever so slightly over the metal, but not enough to cut off circulation. He wanted to give a constant reminder that the guy had little hope of escaping, especially with Revy dangling a gun near their head. Benny had the boat going at a good speed until they slowed as the dock came into view, and the tiny apartment that grew closer and closer.

Two of the Triad members met the Lagoon Company, their car purring on the asphalt ten yards back. They both donned sunglasses and wore dark suits despite the boiling heat. The palm trees stood proud in the hard sun. The lack of wind had Revy feeling more greasy than usual.

“Fuck, don’t fucking do this, I got money, I got friends, just-” Marong was interrupted by Revy giving him a kick to the stomach, and spittle flew from his mouth. For good measure, after they hauled him onto the deck, she tossed him onto the ground.

“Walk, asshole. We’re not carrying you.” Just looking at him made her angry. Not because of the whining for the thirty minutes travel, but because she had been stupid enough to ask him Balalaika’s name. He’d most likely be dead before he even got a word to Chang, Revy told herself.

That’s the fucker?” One of Chang’s men asked incredulously, a cigarette between his teeth. “Didn’t take you as this much of a coward, Marong. Biu said you talked a big show when you first ran off.”

“I-” Marong stuttered as Dutch roughly led him onto the dock, the wood creaking as the rest of the Company followed. Benny went to tie up the boat, looping the faded white rope around the pilings. Revy chose to jump off onto the dock, heavily landing. Rock walked casually down, adjusting his tie.

“Save it.” The Triad member turned to Dutch. “The payment will be in your accounts momentarily. Soon as we get to the… meat packing factory. Happy, Marong? Happy that you’ll be mingling with the other pigs?”

The two men easily wrangled Marong into a tight hold, and they dragged him to the car without so much as a goodbye. Dutch shrugged as he smoked a cigarette, then walked over to the pilings. Revy heard him muffedly talking to Benny as he tugged on the knots to check. Revy rubbed her arms and looked at Rock, who chuckled.

“That was easier than expected.”

“Hell yeah. And a fight to top it off?” Revy grinned, but it didn’t necessarily feel genuine. The veins in his arms were a light blue on his pale skin. “I was like a kid in a fucking candy store, Rock.”

“Glad something’s cheering you up.” Rock replied, running a hand through his tousled hair. In the sunlight, with a playful, boyish look on his face, Revy’s stomach twisted. She had to gaze back at the apartment to hide the longing in her chest. Rock was trouble-free in that moment, and it would be uncomplicated with him after a while, if they had been together. A gasp wedged in her throat that she disguised as a cough. Out of nowhere she craved physical contact from Balalaika, the way her long nails trailed down Revy’s back, and she turned to Rock. He would be one of the last to leave, Revy thought. Balalaika, of fucking course, would be the first. I’m fucking cursed.

“Wanna meet up at Bao’s later?” Revy asked, fumbling for normalcy. “Fair warning though, I might ask Eda’s dumb ass to give us a ride.”

Rock heaved his shoulders forward as he sighed. “As long as she doesn’t blow into my ear again.”

“Don’t play. That’s not what she damn wants to blow.” If Eda was even being fucking genuine .

Pink grew on Rock’s cheeks. “I’ll be inside. Preparing.” He took to walking ahead, hands in his pockets, and after a second Benny leisurely stepped up the beach, his Hawaiian shirt flapping in the breeze. Most likely back to the arms of Janet, and her chest seized again. Revy knew jealousy fondly, but this sort coiled in her chest like a dying animal circling where it would lie. Seeing any sort of couple out in public brought it out of her. She stayed back, even if every part of her wanted to leave. Dutch was still adjusting the rope, tying the boat as close as he could.

“Stay and help out with the boat, will you, Revy?” Dutch called out, dropping the butt of his cigarette into the bucket that sat at the edge of the dock. He stood up and brushed off his knees. The ocean was calm, seagulls flocked overhead, and in the distance there were fewer gunshots than normal. And somehow, the calm went right over Revy’s head, and she gritted her teeth. That was easy to say yes to. If Revy saw Janet’s face again, she’d lose it. Just the mere memory of the woman saying ‘ Sis ’ had her furious.

Dutch entered back inside the boat without a second glance at her. I could get the hell out of dodge. Just fucking leave. Go to the church, or Bao’s, any-fucking-where but here. Revy scratched the top of her sweaty head, staring back at the apartment, squinting in the harsh sunlight. She could just walk after Benny and Rock, forgetting what Dutch had said. There was nothing to talk about. Balalaika and her had only slept together once, and it didn’t matter that Revy clung to her like a desperate animal, and had begged nearly all night for her name.

Skipping the ladder, Revy jumped down and landed heavily on her boots, grunting. Her hair hung limply in her face, and she quickly adjusted it to hide the hickey on her neck, not that it necessarily mattered anymore. It didn’t even matter if Rock saw it. It didn’t matter at all.

“What’s up?” Revy asked, knowing full well what was about to happen. She scuffed the tread of her heavy boots on the ground, trying not to appear like a girl about to be scolded.

“I said we’d have a talk, wouldn’t we? So you wouldn’t go around asking everyone in sight about Balalaika. She’s got eyes everywhere. I’m not so sure she’d be happy knowing you’re on an investigation.”

“I’m- fuck.” The correct way was to have said, I’m fucked , as the way that Dutch was casually tidying it where Marong had thrashed like a caught animal. Revy scowled in his direction anyway, one of her hands going to graze her gun, just a reminder to herself to know that she was strong enough to deal with it, because in an odd way, she felt protected by the cold metal. She had drank a few beers, but there was no pleasant swimming in her head. In a certain way, she was like an open wound.

Dutch went right to the point. Light gleamed off of his dark sunglasses as he turned towards her, tilting his head. “That the only bruise she’s given you?”

That was what she hated, and liked about Dutch. He drove straight to the point, whether they were ready or not. Like the night were he painstakingly gathered a grotesque peace between Balalaika and Chang, and with his hard words it managed to work.

“Fuck. Dutch I-I don’t have time for this shit.” Revy snapped, clapping a hand over the mark on her throat, her cheeks glowing red from fury and embarrassment.

“Revy, I can’t stop you from doing shit. Learned that early on. You know how to watch yourself.” Dutch said, shrugging. He wanted to say more, she could tell, with the way he crossed his arms. “I’ve seen you do things that were dangerous, and likely to put you in the ground. And I wasn’t concerned. You’re good at this gig. Wouldn’t have hired you if you weren’t.”

“Hey-”

“But,” Dutch interrupted. “But this is asking for trouble. Not from me, but from Roanapur itself.”

“What the fuck, Dutch.” Revy scowled at him, but her glare lacked power, and she was so tired hiding this, yet her jaw clenched tight to stop any desperate words pouring through. “I could fucking care less about… her.”

That’s what you want people to think.”

“It’s the goddamn truth, Dutch. I haven’t gone soft. Especially on, fuck, on Fry Face of all people.” Revy lied, rolling her eyes, but she stopped abruptly, her eyebrows creasing as a wave of sadness hit. Using the derogatory nickname was foreign, especially now.

“If you ever heard someone mentioning how Balalaika had a weak link, wouldn’t it bother you?” Dutch sighed, blowing smoke away from her.

Revy blinked rapidly, her pulse throbbing fast. She gasped wordlessly, and curled her hands into fists. The gun metal was cold under her arms, sending a chill through her, even with the sweat beading on her forehead. A weak link. Feeling cold, Revy thought of Balalaika’s head that rested on her chest, her sea of blonde hair that covered their bodies. The Russian’s face when she was hurt, the flicker of rejection when Revy said she deleted her voice mail. When Revy spoke, her voice faltered. “....Yeah, it would fucking bother me.”

“If another operation can seize someone close to Balalaika, and who isn’t one of her soldiers, and keep them captive, Hotel Moscow is no longer a gang to be as feared as they are now. We’ve seen it a hundred times, Revy.” he explained carefully, not unkindly.

“I know, okay? I fucking know. I know shit’s difficult but I can make this work. That’s your opinion.” Revy said, pinching her nose between her fingers, fighting the urge to shake. It definitely wasn't what she wanted to hear. But then again, what did she want to hear?

“It’s not an opinion Revy,” Dutch leaned off the wall. Even when she snapped back at him, he always remained collected, and calm, and it made her ashamed to lash back at him.  “It’s a damn fact. Things’ll get hard. They’ve probably been hard for you. And I’m not about to lose the muscle of the Lagoon Company to some second-rate gangster because you’re affiliated with Hotel Moscow.”

“Yeah… I fucking got that.” Revy replied miserably. 

“Not the first time you got this sort of warning?” Like he already knew Balalaika was unable to shut up about it.

“Yeah. Not the first time.” She repeated. Balalaika continuously telling her in the hallway, at Chang’s gathering. When she had wanted a kiss and the blonde had given her a grisly warning instead. Symbolic, almost. “You… just found out today, right? I’m not that fucking obvious.”

Dutch chuckled. “I was pretty puzzled when she asked you to do a job for her. It’s usually you and Rock. And as tough as she tries to posture, there was something off. Even if no one else could see it.”

“Oh.” She said to her boots. Another blush was rising up her neck, this one hotter.

“Listen, I’m not trying to manipulate you into not seeing her. I know better than anyone that she could use some sort of… anything in her life, even if she acts like it doesn’t bother her, it damn sure does.”

“Dutch, she fucking doesn’t tell me shit. I ask for just her fucking name, and it’s the most impossible thing in the word,” Revy struggled to say. “Fuck I… I can barely talk about this shit. It’s embarrassing.”

“Revy, you say that. Who else knows?” Dutch asked, firmly.

She debated on telling Dutch. Biting her chapped bottom lip, Revy stared up at the ceiling, at the bolts, some of them rusted and some of them new. How long had she been on this boat, and had never noticed the bolts? A cough dragged her back into reality, and Revy hesitatingly stared back at Dutch’s placid expression. It was unbearable to look at him. “Uh… of what? The name thing?”

Dutch gave her a look. The look. The one where she knew she had to tell the truth.

“Fuck, only you. And... maybe that slut Janet.”

Dutch rubbed the top of his head tiredly. “That’s what you two were talking about in the hallway, huh? I’m not even going to bother stating the obvious.”

“Yep,” Revy said quietly, averting her eyes onto the ground. “She heard me say Sis. I wasn’t… we fucking weren’t… we were just talking. Me and Sis. Ugh, whatever, fuck this, I’m done talking, Dutch. I know it’s a shitty situation and I should never fucking see her, but I guess I have a fucking death wish. What-fucking-ever. It’s like I’m kept at arms-length from everything .” Revy knew that wasn’t exactly true. Balalaika had told her about Afghanistan, what happened to her face and what they did to her body, of losing her men and how it weighed on her; Revy refused to think of how Balalaika wanted to join those men who had lost their lives on the battlefield, surrounded by sand and misery. Balalaika dying on her made a soundless gasp leave her, and she swore under her breath and turned away, towards the ladder.

Dutch was quiet, watching her begin to leave. Revy wrapped her hand around the metal, preparing to pull herself up. Tongue peeking out to touch her lip, the taste of blood met her. Savoring the iron in her mouth, face screwing up at the unpleasantness, she moved up when Dutch spoke.

“Balalaika only told me her name when she thought she was done for. Hell, I couldn’t blame her when I saw how much she was bleeding. You saw the blood. But we saved her that night, and saved this damn city.” Dutch smoked for a minute, and then continued, blowing out the smoke as he talked. “She really believed she was going to die. Angry, that she wasn't; I knew the type. I told her it wasn’t an honorable death. What kind of dignity is there in drowning? Floating there until some asshole catches you in their net.”

They hadn’t had a real fight for years, Balalaika said to me as I tweezed out fragments of bullets- Chang’s one of the best, I’ll tell you that -out of her torso. Money laundering and scaring drug dealers doesn’t prepare anyone for a fight, but they remembered. Hell, we watched from the boat, you and I, as the city light up cherry red.”

“Heh. I remember.” Revy laughed bitterly, walking towards him, hands in her armpits, flitting over her guns.

“Your first time handling the boat. My ass almost fell into the sea, cause’ of you. Several times.” Dutch must have rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses.

Revy grinned at that. She was scarcely able to drive a car, let alone a large boat. Scratching at her tattoo, her nails dug into the flesh of a light sunburn. “And you never let me drive the boat again.”

“Wasn’t about to let you take all the credit. You’re the one who got her up onto the boat in the first place.”

“Ain’t life a fucking joke, Dutch?” Revy laughed, finally, out loud, and it sounded bitter. “Life’s a goddamn joke. I didn’t know her from the Queen of England when you ordered my ass to jump in after her. She…” I dragged her ass onto the boat, wrenching her by her shoulder to flop onto her back. I’m leaning over her, panting, and her lips are blue. The blonde’s eyelids are half open. I’m pissed that I have to do this, and she’s so clammy and wet like a corpse. I pinch her nose closed, and press my mouth to hers. After a few minutes, her cold-ass mouth flexed against mine and as I pulled away, she threw up a whole fish tank of water. Ha! Our first kiss. “She... was heavy.”

“Without you she’d be fish food. Should be bragging about that to her face.” Dutch smiled at that; Revy imagined the corners of his eyes crinkling.

“Like she’d be happy knowing I stopped her from entering fucking Valhalla. Because I knew if I didn’t, you’d goddamn kill me.”

He studied her face for a moment. “We’d have to find another place to do business. I’d be pissed beyond all belief, though.”

“Speaking of business. Her name?” she urged, crossing her arms, and leaning on her left foot, nervously.

“Are you sure you’d want me to tell you? She wouldn't like that.”

Revy wanted to stamp her boot hard on the ground. “Sis would get pissed at me if I discovered anything . Please, Dutch, come on .”

“Then she’s gonna be foaming at the mouth once I show you this.” He ambled towards Benny’s nook. His footsteps echoed in the empty cabin. Revy went right after him, desperation climbing up her throat, like a rabid dog she could lunge for anything. She’d been fed scraps her entire life, she reminded herself. He knelt down to a file cabinet, and the metal creaked as it slowly opened. Rust lined the inside, and the drawer near fell off its track. “Give me a minute here. Goddamn it Benny, sometimes, that man can’t organize for shit.” He ran his fingers through manilla folders quickly, peering into one and sighed in annoyance. “Hold on, ah, hell, where is it- there we go.” Dutch gently took out a bleached, old folder that had water damage in one corner. “I’m telling you, Revy. You have to be so damn careful with this. Treat it like it’s the Hope Diamond.” 

He held it out for her, and with clumsy fingers she reached out for it. The blank computer screen reflected her stress. Her eyes were wide, pupils constricted. Her hair lay matted and flat on her head, her shoulders pink with sunburn. Flipping it open without a second thought, the expression on her face froze. Revy drew in her breath when she saw the contents.

It was a thin newspaper, folded in half, and on close inspection of the fine print, the language was in Russian. It was old, and slightly yellowed, but otherwise well preserved. Revy blinked, and she was unable to look at Dutch, unable to look at anything besides the Russian newspaper, and slowly, she unfolded it, and ran a finger along the crease. It was the front page, she guessed, by the large title on the top of the packed paragraphs. Jammed beside all the tiny letters was a black and white photograph, and Revy gnawed on her bleeding lip, and she wanted to throw the folder away from her.

It was a picture of a female soldier and a presumably Afghan child, their backs to the camera. The surrounding desert, despite the lack of color, looked dusty. The woman had light, short hair underneath a military beret. She wore a striped tank top, her jacket tied around her waist. The pants made her bottom half look larger than it actually was. She and the child walked hand in hand, and in her other she held a sniper rifle. Revy choked. A fucking Dragunov. The woman’s skin wasn’t covered by burn marks, and she was thinner than she was now. But Revy knew who it was. The air felt still, unmoving, as she was sweating bullets.

“It was an area her unit wasn’t supposed to be in. She got photographed saving a kid.”

“A kid ? That’s… that’s her?  That’s Sis?” Revy’s voice cracked, rusty and dry. Her lungs tried to fill with air. It sounded like a fantasy. The woman in the photograph and Balalaika were two separate people, but she had gotten so close to getting a taste of that woman last night.

“Yep. I looked into her past after we saved her, but I found only a photo. Then we got Benny and he managed to find this newspaper within two days.” Dutch replied, calmly. He crossed his arms again and leaned on Benny’s messy desk.

“What photo?” Revy asked, her eyes unmoving from the picture. Balalaika still had the vague slender slope to her broad, straight shoulders. Even with the lackluster photography, Revy saw the muscles in Balalaika’s bare arms.

“Look underneath.”

A part of her didn’t want to. Revy as carefully as she could, folded the newspaper back down and then saw it, hidden. A candid picture in color of soldiers talking and laughing amongst themselves. Some of them she recognized from Hotel Moscow, others she did not. But the stray woman was blonde, her hair mussed from the wind. Her eyes were squinted and the blonde was talking to another man, her face stern, with a hint of humor.

Revy’s chest ached, and she felt so young compared to Balalaika. It hurt so bad she fought the urge to double over. Before and after photographs, with no hint of the inbetween. Balalaika was a soldier, and now she was a scarred mafia boss.

Her voice came out ragged. A tight smile drew itself across her face like a cut. Her hands trembled. It sounded so easy to just fall apart. “Sis looks so different. More alive . I don’t wanna even fucking ask how you got these.”

“Benny mentioned that everyone’s got their price.” Dutch said. There another name on his lips that he refused to share.

“Could I… could I show her these? Or would she strangle me?” Revy muttered, her voice high. Flipping back to view the picture in the newspaper, she searched as if there were English answers.

He frowned, tilting his head and looking at the far wall before settling his gaze on Revy again. “She’d have killed you already, if she wanted you dead. I’m not sure you should show her.”

“Sis told me about how fucked up her experience in war was. How a ton of her guys died. And… her torture. Fuckin’ A.” In the face of Dutch’s fantastic restraint, Revy struggled to not let her emotions overtake her. The battle was getting harder, with every time she opened her mouth.

“Pretty extensive, huh? When she woke up and saw me stitching up her wound, I was sure she was attempting to break my arm in half.”

Revy chuckled, the humor not reaching her eyes. She traced the shape of Balalaika’s head in the photograph, a nervous habit to stay in the present moment. The Russian's blue eyes still had a spark of life in them. The lack of scarred skin was strange to behold. Revy’s felt her chest flutter. “Sounds like something her ass would do. Dutch… should I wait for her to tell me?”

He picked up a stray pen and put it back in an old mug that housed a few pencils. “What, her name?”

“Yeah.” Revy could not keep the bitterness out of her voice. 

“Depends. Honestly, you could ask me now and I’d tell you. Or you could be patient and wait for her to be able to. It’s up to you, Revy. Balalaika’d be pissed if you said it. In any context. There's a reason hardly anybody knows it.”

She'd be more hurt, than anything. Revy refused to tell him that. Some things had to stay secret, just for her to know. The blonde would be furious and pained, and no amount of Revy reaching out for her would change that. How vulnerable Balalaika had been- in her own, strange way- made Revy’s throat feel raw. She was confused. Conflicted. “I hate feeling like this.”

“Who could blame you?” Dutch said gruffly, closing the file cabinet with his knee. “There are certainly messier things in life than shooting an asshole in the skull.”

“You.. ah, fuck nevermind.”

He tilted his head, as his deep voice filled the cabin. “Speak or forever hold your peace, Revy.”

“You think she… is doing what I’m doing? Getting all messed up over what's going on?” She pointed to what was in her hand. The folder itself had crinkled underneath her grip, but the documents themselves stayed unblemished. Her self control was non-existent and her mouth would run on and on if it could.

“As much as she possibly could, I think. How long has it been with this situation? A while?” Dutch replied.

Revy shrugged childishly. When her upper arms touched her guns the coolness shocked her warm skin. “Few weeks.”

“Then she’s sure as hell thinking. Not freaking out as much as you are, Revy.” Dutch chuckled, shaking his head, mimicking his routine kids these days attitude. Yet the woman they were speaking of what more than a decade older than Revy, which caused another blush to throw itself onto Revy's face.

Balalaika always had the decency to not mouth off every feeling that came to her. That was a character flaw that Revy knew that she herself had, and it wasn't something she wanted to fix as of late. “I wanna go out and fucking do shit with her. Like, shoot shit, maybe, and…” Shut up! “...dumb stuff like that. But we can’t. And that fucking sucks, Dutch. It’s not fucking fair, but that’s life, I get it.” She shuddered, a chill dancing down her ribs. Too much had been said, she was clamming up again. “I don’t know how to deal with whatever the fuck is happening.”

“You’ll learn.” Dutch said, and when Revy looked up at him she saw that he wasn’t saying it in a mirthful tone.

“Is this where you tell me a fucking quote from a dead guy?”

Dutch left Benny’s tiny kingdom, his back to Revy for a split second before facing her. “Oh hell, I can think of a few. But right now the leftover pasta in the fridge is calling my name. If nobody helped themselves to it.”

“Can I keep this?” Revy asked quietly. She avoided eye contact, keeping a close look at Balalaika’s picture, like it was going to be snatched away and torn up.

“You’ve got to be careful with that, you hear me?” Dutch thought for a moment, rubbing his jaw. “Remember. Hope Diamond.”

“Like a pearl necklace.” Revy said out loud, freezing in her place. He seemed to have not gotten the reference, as she expected, and so he ignored it.

“Oh, and before I go…” Dutch raised a finger and looked back at her. “If those aren’t the only bruises she’ll give you, I want you to tell me.”

Revy turned red at the mention of her hickey, and she covered it with her hair out of reflex. “Wha- I can defend myself . Why? What would you even be able to fuckin’ do?”

“I’d politely ask her to stop.”

Revy bit back a surprised tilt of her lips, and turned away, nodding to herself. It wouldn’t do well to deny any sort of kindness, she had no clue when she’d be offered another. “Okay. Thanks. For listening. To me.”

Dutch shrugged like they hadn’t talked about anything of importance. “It’s what I’m here for. You'll do some good for her, you know that, right?”

He fluidly climbed the ladder, and Revy was alone in the boat. When the sound of footsteps faded away to nothing, did she slump her shoulders forward. It had been a while since she’d been alone here, it felt beyond odd. Rubbing one of her eyes, she was surprised to find them reddening after Dutch had left. A stray tear hit the folder, creating a perfect circle. Revy was immensely thankful that he was gone. 

Moving to sit in Benny’s desk chair, she sat back and stared possessively at the young blonde, you’re fucking mine , surrounded by her men. They were all tired and sunburnt but talking amongst themselves, and Balalaika looked exhausted as she did now, but there was life in her, the way she was gesturing with one hand. Her knuckles were scraped, the scratches still angrily raw. Seeing her in uniform made Revy blink rapidly, and the chair squeaked as she sat back, forcing another bout of emotion into a corner of her brain. 

She had the information in her hand, cleverly hidden in Russian, like god truly did have a horrible sense of humor, and she couldn’t understand any of it.

Chapter Text

Revy forced herself to listen to Eda and Rock’s back and forth, to watch their lips form many words that do not even reach her distracted ears. She didn’t really want to think, and it was a blessing she was at Bao’s now, two glasses of whiskey deep. Her mind grew fuzzier with each sip. But the burning embrace did nothing to quell her sharp attitude.

“What crawled up your ass and died?” Eda chirped, an arm around Rock’s tight shoulders. It was a courtesy, the nun saying this because she knew if she did, Revy wouldn’t be able to keep her mouth shut. Sometimes, she really did feel like a squirming bug underneath her gaze.

“Hard day at the office, bitch.” she replied, but the venom wasn’t there. A poor act, and she kicked herself for it. To rectify the nun’s weird look, she continued. Oh, and I told Dutch basically that I was fucking Balalaika, and now I’m learning shit I wouldn’t have given a fuck about a year ago. The relief had been short lived. “Fuckin’ asshole wouldn’t shut up on the way back. Almost broke my foot from trying to keep him quiet.”

It was the same conversation as always, a game of insults until they both got too drunk to think straight. Normally Revy would enjoy letting off steam this way, but she craved the company of another blonde. The folder was carefully placed in her drawer, hidden underneath the stolen panties and the white shirt. She had pressed the short sleeve to her nose before she left, shutting her eyes and imagining Balalaika as she did when she was younger. Balalaika saved a damn kid. Who gives a fuck about a single kid?

Eda’s flirting with Rock still grounded on her nerves, however. Revy felt confused and sickly; her stomach turned as she recalled the photograph. If she reached out now, she could imagine the shape of Balalaika’s unmarred face. Physically, she was ill.

Rock was giving her those eyes that he always did when she was feeling worse than usual. He had one hand wrapped around his own glass- the man knew how to drink but he was nursing his first of the evening-  and his tie was wrinkled. Eda’s breasts strained in the tight halter, pressing against Rock’s arm. Revy didn’t understand why he was so nervous. It wasn’t like Eda was trying to consummate a marriage. The act was another type of game.

The bar was busy, with a few men roughly shoving at each other, and people spectating the act. Bao cleaned a glass and hollered at them to break it up , to mixed reactions. The group had chosen a table away from the bar at Revy’s insistence. The cutlasses were secure under her arms, and she didn’t feel like using them tonight. Two Hands was taking a break.

Hey, hey, hey! That’s a new fucking table! ” Bao yelled out, wiping his rag over the waxed bar.

Breaking out of her brief daydream, Revy cocked a head at Rock. “Rocky-boy, if you don’t finish that shit, I will.”

In response, he kept eye contact and downed the rest of his drink, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed. The glass clattered as it was put back on the sticky surface. “What’s on your mind, Revy?”

In a split decision, Revy went for what was almost always on the tip of her tongue after a job. Downing half her drink, she received a burst of courage.

“I don’t think we got paid enough.” Revy blurted, slamming her glass on the worn wooden surface. She felt slick with sweat, the inside of the bar being hotter than the tropical outdoors. There was no need for a mirror, she knew she looked dreadful. If only Balalaika saw her now.

“Heh. You mean you weren’t paid enough. Your ass never gets enough of anything.” Eda said rolling her eyes as she took a hearty drink of her beer. The pink sunglasses rested low on her nose, her sharp eyes peeking above them.

“I saw the numbers, if that makes you feel any better. Chang didn’t give us pocket change.” Rock stated, tapping his foot on the ground.

“Don’t ruin the mood by talking about your boyfriend.” Eda said.

He scoffed, shaking his head. Finishing the rest of his beverage, Rock set it down and stood up. Revy jumped, despite herself at the sudden sound. He ran a hand through his hair, fingers threading. “I’m getting another drink.”

With a half-smile, Rock walked towards the bar. Revy spectated him politely weaving around slobbering patrons, the room smokey with cigarette smoke. The men brawling had stilled their fight, instead opting to order more drinks. Bao kept yelling at them anyway. The nuetrality on her face slowly faded into one of bitterness, when she eyed a short haired blonde across the bar, chatting with a group of her friends. When she turned to face a man a table away, Revy took immediate relief that it wasn’t Janet. Strangely enough, after the tense interaction she worried about the woman or her informants for the rest of the day.

Revy swallowed nervously, feeling poison leech into her throat. Placing a cigarette between her dry lips and flicking the half-empty lighter with her thumb, she looked up at the nun. “Eda, don’t tell Rock this shit, okay?”

“Oh, fuck how I love it when our conversations start out like this.  What, are you knocked up?” She replied, snakelike in the way she met Revy’s glare.

“Kill yourself. Janet - Greenback Jane - is trying to dig up some fucking dirt on me.” Revy noted the way Eda’s blue eyes brightened in interest. “Not that I have any dirt. Obviously.” She denied, quickly.

When she had trudged back up to the apartment, folder wrapped tight in her arms, back hunched, there was only Benny back in his room, due to the sounds of canned gunfire and screaming. The door had been open a crack, and the television screen’s light bit out into the hallway, ominous.  If Janet was there, she couldn’t really say. Revy creeped into her bedroom, hid the folder, and walked out, fixing her ponytail as she did. Clicking the door behind her, she shot a look back at Benny’s room, and saw nothing different.

“Eh, she wants info on every fucker in this city. What kind of fucking dirt would you have? You don’t even know how to multiply.” Eda leaned back in her chair and kicked a foot against the edge of the table.

Revy sighed and brushed away a few split ends that stuck to her jaw. “What the fuck do I even do, Eda? This bitch is getting on my nerves.”

“An easy answer for an easy question. Shoot her. Duh.”

“Dumbass, she’s Benny’s little pet.”

Eda cackled, as she wiped her mouth after another sip. Tugging on a strap of her halter, she licked a corner of her lips. “Shoot her in the foot. There’s some info for you, bitch.”

“Benny’s not gonna be happy, are you deaf?”

“I forget. Isn’t she a slut, though?” Eda said, raising an eyebrow. “A literal Jezebel?” When Janet made herself known in Roanapur again, it wasn’t just because of her skills with intel. She had slept with nearly one fourth of the city, and it was a miracle how she hadn’t died yet because of some disease. Unfortunately. Now would be a better fucking time than ever for her to shrivel up into a corpse.

She blew a long string of smoke in the nun’s direction. The heat of the cigarette tickled on the clotted blood in her lip. “Yeah, but that doesn’t fucking matter. What matters is-”

“Hiding your shit. Is this about the lesbo porn?” at Revy’s slack expression Eda laughed at the ceiling. “I knew you were a dyke-”

“Oh shut up, Eda. You’re only mad that I haven’t fucked Rock yet.” Revy hissed, grinding her teeth. Smoke emitted angrily from her nose as she struggled to contain herself.

Pushing her glasses up her nose, Eda chewed on the inside of her cheek. “Whoah, whoah. Wait a second. What did Fry Face have to say about the porno? She hear me?”

Revy slammed an elbow on the table and cupped her forehead, groaning. The mention of the Russian’s morbid nickname made her want to check the hickey’s hiding spot, but thought better of it. She decided to put her hair in a ponytail that favored one shoulder over the other, and kept it messy. “Of course she fucking did.”

“Hah! I doubt she cared that much, the only thing that’ll get her blood pumping is pure ass warfare.” Several months ago, Revy would have agreed.

Now, she wanted to laugh. Balalaika was very alive when Revy was on top of her; lips swollen and cheeks flushed, the way her blonde bangs curled around her eyes. How her heartbeat pulsed under the palm of Revy’s hand when they kissed. It was a mystery if Balalaika thought the same things about her. Doubtful. She suddenly got the feeling that Eda was searching for something. “Still fucking humiliating. Whenever I see Fry Face I want to rip my hair out.”

“That was weeks ago. Let it go, Revy. I’m sure the maniac’s got plenty of shit to do.” Eda rolled her eyes, lighting another cigarette with Revy’s lighter. Her accent grew thicker when she was drunk.

You’re the one who brought her up.”

Eda ignored her retort, sitting up on her stool. “Listen, for Jane, just wait to see what the whore does, then deal with her as you see fit. Obviously you won’t listen to my advice.”

“Your advice is just like, telling me to bash her skull in.” Revy said dumbly, one of her eyelids drooping as she finished her whiskey. The alcohol was starting to dull her brain, and her anxiety, and it was making it too easy to talk.

“Basically. Gotta be patient though, everything comes out eventually. Or pray to our Lord and savior.” Eda mused, circling the rim of her drink. Shrugging, she finished the rest of it, then wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

Yeah. Yeah it does . Thanks god . A scary sentence, coming from a know-nothing nun, of all people. Revy sat uneasily, and just as she opened her mouth to try a snarky reply, Rock shambled back over, a fresh glass of whiskey in his hand. His cheeks were flushed, and his eyes hazy, and Revy hated how her heart wanted to skip a beat. He was too close, too regular. A fixture in her life that she knew she could depend on. She wished the same for Balalaika.

Sliding back into his chair, Rock looked between the both of them, confused. He tensed as Eda leaned towards him again, her cheeks biting the bottom of her sunglasses as she smiled lecherously at him. The nun was absolutely hammered. ‘I’m not going to bother asking if I missed something.”

Revy hid a yearning gasp behind a deep inhale of her cigarette. The photographs were distracting her, pulling her back a few hours to where she sat and stared at them. Balalaika’s cheekbone was sharper, due to her being younger, and because she was so thin. She dug her jagged nails into her bare palm, the pain satisfying. It was easier to be angry than sad.

Their bar drinking ended around the witching hour, with Rock being the forever designated driver. Revy’s road rage was at an all time high, and Eda slumped in the backseat, her arm dangling over her torso. With the window down, a soft fall breeze rustled Revy’s messy hair, and with her hickey facing the outside she felt a bizarre freedom. The Plymouth heaved to a stop at the redlight, and Hotel Moscow’s headquarters was in view. The moon hid behind it, giving it an eerie glow with the yellow lights emitting from a few of the windows. Balalaika’s window was dimly lit. She tore her gaze away and faced the road. The building stilled her at times like these, and she was cold. Dropping the butt of a cigarette out the window, the asphalt was bathed in green and Rock accelerated the vehicle.

She detested the detour they had to drive to drop Eda off, the alcohol making time passing all the more slower. The smell of salt was in the air, and she leaned out of the window to look at the ocean water glittering. Sis nearly fucking drowned in that. Revy slumped back in her seat, clapping a hand against the hickey. She wanted Balalaika inside her again, out of nowhere. Miserably, she continued to stare out the window.

At the church Eda eased out of the car, adjusting her glasses and yawning. The stained windows glowed at night, casting their light down on the vehicle. “See ya’ll later.”

Revy gave a sour half-assed wave. The two of them drove back in relative silence; Revy leaning over to play with the radio, settling on a hard rock station that caused Rock to cast an annoyed glance. The bridge rumbled underneath the tires. Revy knuckled at her eyes, her eyelids puffy and she yawned loudly. Her phone in her back pocket began to sing a sharp beeping noise.

That tinny sound echoed into her head.

Fucking shit !” Revy growled, ripping it out of her jean pocket and throwing it in the backseat with a hard metallic rattle. She unstuck her thighs from the leather seat, sweat pooling in the small of her back.

“Last phone, remember?” He chided lightly.

“I don’t have time for a fucking phone call.” They were three left turns away from the apartment. “I’m too fucked up for a business call.”

“Is it Eda, you think? Did she leave anything?” Rock asked.

Revy scanned the backseat. After four rings the cell phone stopped. Groaning, her forehead hit the dashboard as she slumped over. “Nah. If it’s important they’ll call Dutch or hell, you, not me .”

Rock rotated the wheel smoothly and nodded. He could match Revy in a drinking contest, but that didn’t stop him from getting in over his head. “You’re… not exactly a diplomat.”

“Yeah, I can’t play every major fucking asshole in this city, you mean.” Revy licked her front teeth, her mouth tasting sour. “Like you.”

He chuckled at that, uncharacteristically. She had no illusions about him anymore. It was like everything else in Roanapur a means to an end, and his specific ending was unknown to her as much as it was to him. What was he looking to gain? All that mattered over all was money, in Revy’s eyes, taking it from people who used to thumb their nose at those like her. Revy blanched, and was quiet for the rest of the ride, her cutlasses cutting into her armpits. There wasn’t anything she wanted from Balalaika, however.

 

She slept as if she were dead, the whiskey killing any dreams that were normally kindled to life. Revy had thrown herself down on her mattress, kicking her boots off and pressing her face into the pillow. Balalaika’s bed was stiffer, less abused than Revy’s ancient mattress that was stained with beer and had tiny burned holes from cigarettes. The blonde’s sheets felt as if they were starched, while Revy was always too lazy to put on her own. As her eyes snapped shut, and her hand curled towards her face, Revy swore there was a tickling sensation of thick blonde hair on her chest, but touching it only proved that it was her own.

Arousal hit her like a speeding car when she finally awoke, waves of it coiling in between her legs. She had sleepily imagined waking up to Balalaika’s face between her thighs, tasting her when she was completely vulnerable. Her back arched into nothing, and Revy groaned, grasping at her own hair until it became painful. Opening her eyes she stared at the cracked ceiling above her. Stretching out her limbs, feet hanging over her bed, Revy turned her head to look at her shut bedroom door. It was tempting to touch herself then. Her eyes trailed towards the ratty bureau.

Hoisting herself out of bed, the springs creaking in anguish, she rushed over to the drawer and tossed it open. Pushing aside the clothing, the folder was still there, completely real. A dull shock raced down her spine. It still fucking exists . As if Dutch were to lie. Gently picking it up, she flipped it open again. A gust of wind from her open window rippled the edge of the old photo, and she held it down with her thumb.

The laughing men, Balalaika’s slight upturn of lip, her ruffled hair tucked back. It made Revy want to laugh, too. It was ridiculous, and sad, and she was confused on how to feel about it. She moved it underneath the newspaper article, and scanned the letters she couldn’t understand, and how muscled the blonde’s back looked. Putting it back ritualistically back in the same spot, Revy maneuvered the things on top carefully and shoved the drawer into its place.

She walked to her bedroom door, kicking a can out of her way. The apartment was empty. The television was off, and the light in the kitchen flickered. The blinds were up and a window was cracked. The air conditioning was off; feeling the oppressive heat she hastily turned the machine on. It let out a rattle, and she slammed her fist atop the white plastic and it started up, cold air blasting at her stomach.

The floor squeaked under her while she went to the kitchen. Her hip grazed the counter as she rounded towards the fridge. Popping open the door, she leaned over and surveyed the contents, before the house phone rang.

Revy slammed the door shut, noticing nothing she actually wanted to physically eat, because Benny had the strange idea of buying a few vegetables, and lurched to the phone. Cursing, she waited for a second ring before she held the phone up to her ear, the plastic cold.

“Lagoon Company.”

“Where is Dutch, Two Hands?” Balalaika started, her tone cold.

Revy’s chest fluttered, and a small smile grew on her blushing face. Her hangover didn’t seem so bad anymore. Yet she froze at such a tone, her eyes bugging out of her head. Sobering quickly, she placed a hand on the wall to steady herself. “Sis?” she replied, in shock. “What are you doing? You don’t really ever call this early.”

“It’s nine in the morning. Is Dutch there?”

“He’s ah, he’s out at the boat. Probably. My ass just woke up.” Revy stammered. “Is there any way I can help-”

A man was mumbling something on Balalaika’s end of the line. He sounded inhuman, a wet gush of sounds. Revy’s stomach clenched when she heard him attempt to say something.

“Well, I suppose you’ll want to hear this.” Balalaika said, resigned.

“Why are you talking to me like this? Are you at work or some shit like that?” The wobble in her voice betrayed her. Dutch or Rock would have handled this better. Diplomacy was foreign to her, no matter how much she tried. “And… fuck don’t tell me who that is.”

“Marong? The idiot you captured yesterday? Yes, that’s him.”

The world spun around Revy, and her mouth dropped open. “He’s Chang’s guy, what the hell are you doing with him?” she scoffed, tugging at a strand of her hair. The cigarette package was on the counter, just barely out of her reach.

“Last night he managed to break away and escaped to our territory. He didn’t run very fast.” the blonde replied, stoically, because all in all, this was another day at work. If she was bothered, she hid it very well. Balalaika was unlike any woman she had ever met, and the woman hid her emotions so well that it would give most people pause.

How did he managed to race to the Russian’s part of town? A stupid mistake. Revy knew where this was going. She blinked rapidly, and her grip tightened hard on the home phone, causing the plastic to creak. Static rumbled in the background, and she wasn’t sure if it was coming from Balalaika’s line. The blonde didn’t comment on it. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because he has some choice words to say,” Balalaika turned away, sounding distant. Marong let out a sharp, wordless cry. “Don’t you? Being a gossip doesn’t get you very far, does it?”

The Russian was pissed . Marong only gurgled wetly in reply.

“Balalaika, I am so fucking sorry, I didn’t mean it Sis, shit, please.” Revy said, gnawing on her lip, reopening the wound. The blonde had said those words to Marong, but it felt like she was talking to her all the same. Her vision blurred with hot tears, and she was too afraid to blink. Looking wildly around the living room, she took no small relief in being alone.

“He says that someone on the Lagoon Company asked about me. Asked for very private information. Would you know what that was?” Balalaika asked, a background ambiance of men speaking Russian behind her.

She was afraid to say anytHing at first, because she was caught, and in her experience, there was nothing anyone could say once they’ve been had. “I just, I just, I just, I just - fuck, can I see you?” Revy hiccuped, scratching at her stomach.

Balalaika was silent, her hair brushing over the phone. “Yes, he’s currently looking at three of my comrades right now. He can’t move, much less talk.”

“Oh.” Revy flushed, with a heavy feeling of self-disgust. No wonder she was being so careful. “I didn’t… Sis, it’s not what you think. He wanted to do any fucking thing to get out of it. It’s so pathetic.”

“Don’t give me that. Imagine if I hadn’t caught him, and he talked all over town? A lot of things would certainly become difficult, wouldn’t they?”

“Hey, hey. Don’t use that fucking tone with me,” Revy gasped, scrubbing at her burning eyes. Pathetically, she stared out the window into the sea and hid a whine. “Use your goddamned normal voice, use your nice voice.”

The Russian softly shushed her. It was barely audible and she had to struggle to hear it, and it only caused a small amount of comfort. “Two Hands, I simply called to inform you that the payment remains the same. Chang was a little disappointed that we caught his quarry first, but rest assured, he’ll be back in his care soon.”

Sawyer’s care, she meant. “I’ll come and see you,” Revy gritted out, sniffing, stomach in knots. There was that fucking static again. “Call me, if you care to learn anything. If you ignore me again I’ll just fucking show up. I don’t care.”

“We’ll have a job for you soon,” Balalaika said. She meant to say yes you will fucking come to the fucking office and tell me what’s going the fuck on Revy you fucking bitch. “Tell Dutch to keep in contact.”

“...Alright. See ya.”

Balalaika hung up abruptly, but the static continued. Revy frowned and slid the phone back in its cradle. A rise of bile washed up into her mouth, and a raw sound, not unlike what Marong was attempting to say with his teeth bashed in. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. She slammed her back on the wall, sliding down onto the linoleum. She pressed a hand to her mouth, sinking her teeth into her bony knuckles, choking back a wheeze. In that moment, Revy knew, she was the stupidest girl alive. From the press of her nails into her other abused hand, the cuts opened up again, warmth blooming around her cold fingers. She wished it was another’s. Imagining the way it would fleck onto her cheeks and collarbones, the white of their eyes glossy.

Royally, she had fucked up, depending on what Marong told.

But it was her eyes that were glossy and wild, like cow’s eyes rolling back as they were butchered. Maybe because of this, Balalaika would kill her. Numerous voices told her that it wasn’t the case, even so one lurked in the background and buried those seeds of doubt. Balalaika had given the impression that she would not hurt her again.

Dutch would talk to her about that. Then Revy laughed at such a notion. Janet, if she knew, would have no leverage if Revy lay dying on the expensive rug in the blonde’s office, blood pooling atop Marong’s.

“Oh, fuck me.” Revy cupped her face in her hands, blood sliding down her forehead to her jaw. The static emitting from the phone stopped, and curiously she looked up, while hugging herself. She had never heard that sound come from it before, and her head pounded.

Chapter Text

Anger; wrath; sadness. Since yesterday they had been Revy’s constant companions, with her every second, and in a few hours she came to think of them as almost friends. They’d been with her every second of her life, but these felt like a whole different breed. Yesterday Balalaika have given her a subtle warning, and because of that her appetite waned, and she only fell asleep after a couple of beers. Throughout the morning she had laid on the couch, her eyes heavy lidded as she groaned through a hangover.

Rock had been finishing up a plate of toast standing behind the couch, watching the old reruns with Revy. It was oddly domestic, making her wanting to shrink away. Revy realised, and it made a corner of her mouth droop. She had learned many a time from when she was younger on how even if her face was kept smooth as stone, her body always betrayed her by twitching like a highly strung horse. How her fingers ran through her messy hair and how she picked at her fraying clothes.

And now her leg couldn’t stop jiggling, and she found herself unable to hide the burning question in her throat. Her hickey had faded to an ugly, faded bruise. A habit had developed, one where she’d constantly brush her fingers across the attacked area.

“Hey Rock…” Revy picked a cigarette blindly out of the package. Her fingers shook as she shoved it in her mouth and held a flame to it. “So, the fuck does it mean when there’s like weird static over the phone?”

“A short in the wires? I haven’t used it today.”

“Nah, it couldn’t be, Dutch’d never let the phone go to shit. We wouldn’t get any fuckin’ jobs.”

“Maybe the problem is with the phone company.” Janet suggested cooly, stretching her arms above her head. “I’ll take a look at it today. Benny didn’t complain when he used it.”

The sound of her voice made her jump. She hadn’t heard Janet enter; the wooden floor in the hallway always announced someone’s entrance with a creak. “Oh fuck you bitch.” Revy muttered, crossing her arms as the cigarette dangled from her mouth, slouching further down the couch. Her nerves felt electric.

“Irritable, much?” Janet replied, going to the kitchen.

Irritable ? Save it with your fancy-ass words. You fuck Benny and now you think you can fucking live here?”

“It’s all up to Benny, Revy. He’s the one I’m dedicated to, and everyone can plainly see that.” The glint in Janet’s amber eyes made Revy avert her gaze stubbornly towards the television. Two characters on screen were attempting to cook dinner, and perpetually failing with dangerous results. The violence on screen brought no sort of enjoyment to Revy; it was nothing compared to the dread crawling up her throat.

The fridge opened with the clink of bottles, and Rock’s dress shoes tapped across the floor to loom over the sofa, crossing his arms. “What is going on with her?” he asked, so quiet Revy had to strain to hear it.

She ground her teeth. Could he help her? There was a strong yearning to tell him, but Revy knew she had been too obvious so far, and now she had to shut her mouth and await what was coming next. Of course he could help her, Rock understood the city as intuitively as Chang did, maybe more. “No fucking clue.”

“Ms. Balalaika wants to negotiate a job with me in an hour. Negotiate , as in, she’ll wait for me to say something clever.” Rock stated, attempting to hide his nervousness. He was rather successful with it, if not for the way his eyebrows creased.

She was half-relieved and half-disappointed that Rock was going, and the blonde seeing him alone. But here was an opening, but she had to be wise to make sure Janet didn’t catch wind of what she was doing. Shifting her hips as she adjusted herself on the cushion, she realised that she was sweating. Grinding her cigarette into the metal ashtray, Revy looked back up at Rock and blew bangs out of her face.

“Can you drop me off at Bao’s on the way? Give me a sec, I need to shower.” The cigarette was left sticking straight up out of the ashes.

Without waiting for him to answer, Revy walked stiffly to the bathroom, unable to see if Janet had reacted to anything. She saw her messy blonde hair out of the corner of her eye, and her vision throbbed red. If she had, that would have solidified her knowledge about a possible meeting. The mere thought made Revy’s hands twitch in anger, and when she slammed the door behind her she imagined it bashing into Janet’s smug face. 

Her greasy hair tangled from her scalp to her ends and she smelled like saltwater mixed with cigarettes. Turning the shower on, she stripped off her underwear and tank top as the showerhead creaked and water sputtered from it. She scrubbed herself with the washcloth until her skin was pink, pouring body wash from the bottle until it coated the bottom of the tub. Her breath, heavy and loud despite the white noise of the shower, matched the miniscule pounding in her head.

Wrapping the towel tight around her chest, Revy crossed the hallway, the water dripping from her hair left a trail from the bathroom to her bedroom. The door clicked behind her. Wearing the skirt again was tempting, with a chance of Balalaika running a hand up her thigh, arriving between her legs and stroking, and Revy would feel her touch through her faded underwear. She was hungry for it, bitterly scratching at her arm until red streaks ran down the skin. The jeans were more practical, and there was no seducing Balalaika out of being pissed. She gently moved aside the blonde’s shirt and underwear towards the tank top she’d stashed beside it. Drunkenly, last night she thought that if she set her top next to the white shirt, it would smell the same. Pressing her nose into the faded black fabric, it smelled of cigarettes. Bitterly, Revy finished dressing.

Her wet hair hung lank down her back when she returned to Rock. Janet had once again disappeared into Benny's room, but her presence was still felt.

“Took you long enough.” he replied, adjusting his belt. A fresh cigarette was in his mouth, the smoke blowing out in her direction.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” Revy had slung on her gun harness, and was adjusting her cutlasses underneath her armpits.

He held the door out to her, and she breezily walked through, noticing how the smog was worse than usual, the air looking smokey in the distance like there was a perpetual fire. She slammed the car door as she sat in the passenger, and it was the only way she could let out the rising anxiety in her. Patting her cellphone in her pocket, Revy shoved a foot against the dashboard and sighed. Rock placed the key inside the ignition and smoothly reversed, the rocks crunching under the wheels.  A few minutes into the car ride did Rock finally speak. “I think our phone line has been hacked.” he said simply.

Revy stopped breathing. Fucking hell , she thought. Her tongue ran across her abused bottom lip like a timid animal. “How is that fucking possible?”

“I’m not an expert with phones, but I heard that static yesterday, like you said, when I was using it.”

“Who could…” Revy trailed off, dreading the answer.

Rock shook his head, his grip on the steering wheel tightening. “I didn’t want to talk about it in front of Janet, she’s someone who could do that sort of thing but-”

“But why would she shit where she eats?” Revy asked. Her eyes crinkled from the harshness of the sun.

“I have no clue. There hasn’t been anything major in Roanapur in quite a while, actually.” a while in Roanapur meant a ‘ few weeks ’. “I’ll keep an eye out. I’ll let Dutch know.”

Revy gnawed on her lip, then stopped, not wanting to make it bleed. Any reply in her head just made the spotlight on her grow bigger. They drove in silence and listened to the radio, and when two songs passed Revy turned to face him, jabbing a thumb out the window. “There’s Bao’s. That fucker is always open, isn’t he?”

“Can’t imagine why not. This city runs on liquor.” Rock sounded like a late-blooming philosopher, in that beleaguered tone of his. The Plymouth pulled to a slow stop, its engine purring.

“Thanks.” Revy grunted, manually unclicking the lock. “And seriously, you don’t need to fucking lock the car.”

Rock shrugged, worry still present in his actions. No matter how much he saw Balalaika, he always had a spark of it. As if she knew what he was up to with Chang. That made Revy want to shiver, but he looked up and gave a lopsided smile. “Habit. See you later.”

Revy gave a nod, shoving her hands in her pockets, and watched him shift out of park. The Plymouth sparkled mouth-achingly red, reminding her a particularly bright cherry. She shouldered a drunk out of the way as she went into Bao’s, a familiar thirst in her mouth. The bar was full as it was when she had went with Eda and Rock, especially with the dripping heat outside. Ice clinked in glasses, people slurred their speech, and the floor was sticky under her boots. She jammed an elbow on the bar counter. “Bao, a fuckin’ beer to go.”

His mouth twisted in the natural fear of Revy bringing another sort of disaster to his establishment. “Yeah, yeah, take it. Pay first.”

She slammed the money on the counter.

There was no telling how long Rock and Balalaika’s chat would go, and she supposed she could have went with him, but there was no way Janet could have heard that, and she realised she had to be careful from now on. Revy wasn’t used to that. Flipping her wet hair out of her face, Revy grabbed the glass bottle and set back out into the street, pushing through the crowd. Hotel Moscow was almost almost a half hour walk from Bao’s. This was what being sneaky meant. A lot of walking. Revy coughed into her fist. After a few days, the lack of gloves didn’t bother her anymore, aside from the aches and scratches that refused to heal. Since childhood she had grown used to a bit of pain now and again.

Tilting her head back, she downed a third of the beer as she walked down the cracked sidewalk. Horns blared in the background, cars ran through red lights, and the streets were crowded with people attempting to sell any sort of item. The air smelled of cigarettes, pot, spices, and blood. Revy passed a man selling meat slapped on the plastic table; bloody and raw, and it was debatable as to what animal he got it from.

Should I have fucking gone with Rock? What’s the point if I just show up and she’s already busy? Sis is at work, for fuck’s sake. The beer didn’t taste as good as it did. Revy swirled the amber liquid in the bottle as she crossed the street. The building started to loom in view after a few minutes, but it was still so painfully far away. Several people cast worried glances her way, ogling at the guns under her armpits. A gunshot and a scream echoed in the distance, down an alleyway to the right of her. When Revy finished with her lukewarm drink she was more than ten minutes away. The amber glass shattered when it made contact with the brick wall.

Entering the headquarters in itself was familiar and strange. The Russians that worked under Balalaika, her comrades, were so tall and broad shouldered it was alien compared to the local civilians. Revy searched through the crowd, keeping an eye out of Rock’s spiky hair, when she saw a man that she knew. Dutch knew about her and the blonde, and so did he.

“Oh, shit, Boris!” Revy exclaimed in shock, seeing the man up at the desk, deep in conversation with another Russian. She had to force herself to not immediately run up to him as if there was a life threatening emergency, but there was an energy to her step that caused the man to stop the conversation and turn his head. To his credit, Boris remained calm and stoic, his eyes questioning.

Yet Revy knew, that she had walked for twenty-five minutes in the hot sun, her damp hair was unbrushed, and her face was flushed from the heat. Pushing her bangs out of her eyes, she approached the desk and unsurely waited for the other Russian to cease talking. If Dutch had taught her anything, it was that she shouldn’t interrupt Balalaika’s men.

“I need to ask you something.” Revy said hastily, leaning over the desk, nails digging into the wood. Her heart pounded in her chest, and she tasted beer at the back of her throat. “Privately.”

Boris gestured at the man to his side, giving a short response in Russian. The man nodded and walked away, calmly, without looking at her. She wasn’t Rock or Dutch, and she was under the radar, a simple hired gun. The sergeant returned to face Revy, and he waited patiently for her to speak.

“Is Rock with her now? Balalaika ?” Revy said in a loud, hushed voice. She looked behind her shoulder for anyone who could be near. “Are they almost done? Does she have another meeting after this?”  

Boris nodded. “Yes.”

“...Yes to what?” She forgot about how carefully, for lack of a better word, Boris chose his sentences. It was as if he didn’t want to waste oxygen on conversation, deciding on each word deliberately. Balalaika seemed to enjoy his company enough, if she was one to do most of the talking.

“Rock is with her. I do not know when they are finished. Yes, the kapitan has a meeting after.” he said.

Revy cracked her knuckles, shaking the hair out of her face. “Does she have like two seconds?”

“I believe so.”

Revy hesitated. How did Boris feel about Balalaika taking an interest in her, of all people? Her stomach clenched. He would find it funny, maybe, if he knew whatever the nickname meant that the blonde called her. Revy ignored her conscience and opened her mouth. “Boris, be real with me, do you know ? What did Sis tell you that night?”

He had no response to that, another secret of Balalaika’s that he was taking to the grave; simply giving another one of his polite nods, as if he was certain she knew the answer.

“Boris, I’m just here to say hi to her.” Revy said quietly, putting her hands on her hips. She felt ashamed, the same feeling she had when Dutch talked to her.

“I did not ask.”

Revy opened her mouth to retort, when she saw Rock descend down the old wooden steps, both hands in his pockets. She could have recognized that straight spine anywhere. His face held a clear sign of relief, his tie flopping on his chest.

“I’ll need to speak to him,” Boris stated, in that terse way he always did, and nodded for the third time.

“Okay. Thanks.” she gritted out in relief. He looked at her plainly, listening in that polite way of his that made her feel rude. “And thanks. For the phone money.”

“Could have used the phones here.”

If she could believe it, he may have been being humorous. “I know. Just awkward.”

“Hm.” He replied, then bent his head yet again in farewell.  Slowly, Boris turned away and went to Rock, his shoulders so broad Revy knew that she was well hidden. As the two men engaged themselves in conversation, speaking in Russian no less, Revy slipped through the small crowd. No one paid her any mind, which brought a thrill to her, of how even now into her adulthood she could still disappear.

Her boots pounded up the stairs, skirting around a man walking down, and her hand grazed the banister. The hallway was empty, and dark, and her eyes didn’t have time to adjust as she raced to the end of the hall. She tripped on the rug, barely having time to catch herself before she knocked at the thick wood door.

“Come in,” came a beleaguered, deep voice from the other side of the door. Her hand found the coldness of the doorknob and eased the door open. There was no need for an introduction.

“Hey.” Revy said.

“Two Hands?” Balalaika said incredulously, pausing in cutting off the tip of her cigar. The guillotine shined silver, and the cigar hung limp from her pink lips.

“Hey,” Breathlessly, Revy took in the blonde. A few days had made her forget the lack of life in the blue eyes, and the way her bangs framed her face. I know what you looked like when you were my age. I know what you fucking looked like. One thing that was consistent was how tired Balalaika was, as if the younger self didn’t know it was going to get a hundred times worse,  that at some point she was going to be tortured and later be so disillusioned that she joins the mafia. Revy stared at the lines around her eyes. “You said that we needed to meet.”

“Yes, but I did not mean so soon, Rebecca. What if I had a meeting going on, or I wasn’t here? Use your head.” the Russian replied, shaking her head as she set down her cigar and guillotine.

Revy blinked, as she walked forward. “I did use my fucking head. I decided to come sooner than later. I waited for Rock to leave so I could sneak up and see you.”

Balalaika picked up the guillotine and sliced the end of the cigar off. She dropped the piece into the ashtray. “I thank you for your subtlety, but this is hardly the time-”

“Am I supposed to call your motherfucking secretary and make a schedule in advance?”

The blonde parked the unlit cigar at the corner of her lips. “Rebecca, I have two phone calls to deal with, paperwork on paperwork, and a meeting tonight, I cannot deal with this right now.”

“Sis… Uh, what can I do to help?” 

Balalaika rubbed her temples. The lavender underneath her eyes were brighter than ever, making her crow’s feet prominent. “Nothing. Nothing. Unless you have psychic abilities and tell me what these pathetic men want, then there is nothing.”

“Hey, I can think of one thing.” Revy easily went up to the desk with little hesitation, stepping on the spot on the floor where Marong evidently got the shit kicked out of him. Balalaika watched, questioningly setting down the document in her grip. Revy knew where the matches were, and she opened the drawer with a prideful pull, then finding the cedar matches. Looking back at the blonde shyly, Balalaika had a tiny smile on her face, exhaling to cover up a laugh.

Revy let the fresh flame kiss the cigar, as if she were slow cooking it. She blushed, feeling Balalaika’s eyes on her, and when the cigar was sucked enough that smoke blew from her mouth, Revy snuffed the match in the ashtray with a simple motion of her hand. The sunlight made the bruises on her hands a sickly purple-yellow.

“Oh, your hand.” Balalaika sucked on her cigar for a moment, as she took one of Revy’s hands into her own, turning it over and inspecting the area. Her fingers, without including the pink acrylics were long enough to wrap around the width of Revy’s hand. Without the fingerless gloves, her palms and knuckles were scraped and bruised. “You don’t take care of yourself.”

It was a statement, a fact that made Revy want to shrink away with shame. “Well, shit Sis, that’s your job.”

“And yours?”

Revy scoffed. “Lighting your cigars and making sure you actually go the fuck to sleep.”

“You’ve been failing at the second task.” her voice was quiet, low, like she was ashamed to even say it.

“I can come over to your place whenever the fuck you want. There’s no reason why you need to pass out alone.”

“There’s no reason for you to ask around about me.” Balalaika sharply met her soft gaze. There it was. That unending fire, darkness that showed itself out of the blonde every now and again.

Revy felt sick. “Is that fucker dead?”

Balalaika nodded, her eyes demurely on Revy’s knuckles, as she fondled her fingers, feeling the bumps and bruises. Pressing a thumb into a faint purple bruise, she glanced up when Revy let out a soft sound. “He’s mince meat now. Only good enough for dogs to eat.”

The curve of the blonde’s neck looked empty. Revy thought of pressing her lips there, running a tongue down the white slope. To give her a small nip, a tiny, unnoticeable one; a hickey; a lovebite. “He didn’t know shit about you. Wanted to ask ‘cause I knew Sawyer was gonna invite him to a tea party.”

“Am I a joke to you? I’ve told you more than I’ve told anyone in years. Do you think it’s fun to play detective, Two Hands?” She sounded strange, with the way pain inflicted in her sentence.

She tried to tug her hand away but the blonde held fast. “ Rebecca . I want to know more. Fuck- I don’t fucking know.”

“Is it because you want to believe I’m human? That I’m not a walking corpse? Chang could pour lighter fluid in a cup and others would sip it like wine. I offer cold water and they say how strange it tastes.” Balalaika said. Her blackened eyelashes flickered over her cheeks. Exhaustion settled over her broad shoulders, her back bending a bit as she adjusted her raspberry jacket.

Oh .” Revy gnawed on her lip and tilted her head. “You are human, Sis. I knew that from the moment I fucking met you. You have to realise that. I’ve wanted you for a while. A long ass time, actually. You have a shit memory. You’re mine.”

“If I can be honest… I lose myself in the violence and bloodshed and I truly enjoy it, Rebecca.”

Of course, the Russian felt that way. Years in Afghanistan, in a warzone would do that to you, Dutch had told her once. A wise commander knew when to retreat from a battle when it was clear it was lost, but Balalaika had never lost a battle.  “I do too.”

“Is that all that’s left, in the end? Acting like wild animals, savaging each other?”

“Sis, I’ve got no fucking clue. I’m not Rock, hell, he could spend hours crying about every single person in the world. He still thinks about Yukio.” Revy raised her other hand to stroke a piece of hair out of Balalaika’s face.

She chuckled at that, still holding Revy’s hand in her grasp, pressing her thumb to the blunt nails. She turned over to view Revy’s palm, noting the crescent marks. “A ghost of a girl. Too clever by half, thinking she could carve a claim into Roanapur. She did herself a favor, killing herself before others did in a more gruesome fashion. I only remember when you had that sword through your knee. I wanted to strangle Rock that day.”

A phantom pain flowered in Revy’s leg. Something vibrated in her pocket. “Hey, I can walk all right. But that hurt like a fucking bitch.”

“I never want to see you injured like that again, do you hear me Rebecca? I order you to not get yourself killed. And that means not asking every idiot on the street about me. It’s useful, being seen as a force, not some mafia princess.”

“It comes with the job,” Revy shrugged. “But yes, captain, ma’am, I’ll do my duty and not be smeared on the road.” by some second-rate gangster, Dutch’s voice echoed through her mind. 

The Russian shook her head, eyes darting to Revy’s stomach. “When Marong mentioned your name the worst thoughts came to mind. When he said that you asked for information, I kicked his teeth in to stop him from saying more. Shards of his teeth littered the rug. Chang was upset, of course, that I touched his quarry.”

“I’m sorry. That I wasn’t careful enough. I figured people fucking talking about you as if you were almost there, with me, but it wasn’t. A stupid-ass mistake. To be real? I missed you touching me.”

“I am touching you.” Balalaika slid her hand up Revy’s forearm. Her accent thickened. The blonde stopped once she reached her elbow, fingers wrapping tight. The smoke from her cigar pooled out of her mouth, and she took it out of her mouth and offered it to Revy. 

Revy held it between two shivering fingers. The peppery taste flooded her dry mouth, the scent calming, it reminded her of Balalaika; how it felt to press her nose into the blonde hair. Smoke floated out of her nose as she exhaled. “I’ll wait for you to be able to tell me. It’s fuckin’ hard, I know. I think about you all the time.”

“Speaking of, you need to tell me more about yourself. I haven’t- I’ve been too- no, there is no excuse. I have never asked about you.”

Revy looked away, swallowing audibly. Memories drudged up in her head, of being kicked around and a threadbare hoodie under a leather jacket. She had curled up on a pew in a church once, too afraid to go home, especially when there were other men at her father’s apartment. Waiting for hours, until she was sure they were all drunk and passed out. A plaster Jesus hung from the front wall, his face serene. Revy stared up at him, hoodie pulled over her mouth as she shivered, thinking pleasehelpmepleasehelpmepleasehelpmeyoumotherfucker . Rain fell from the sky and she was drenched by the time she made it home, and she rushed into the apartment and past the group of men and her father in the living room. Her face broke out because all she ate was candy, and one of them told her father how ugly his daughter was, ‘she’s got no tits to speak of ’. Going straight to her bed, she crawled under the sheets with her filthy shoes still on, and she cried. She wanted to kill all of them. In the end, she only managed to shoot one.

It was hard to speak with the bright pain inside her, threatening to burst out. The words are terse and lack feeling. “I’m a gutter rat that got lucky.”

“Lucky enough to end up in Roanapur.” Balalaika lightly pinched the inside of her elbow.

She laughed at that, too bitter for it to pass. Thankfully, the conversation was taking a different turn. “Perfect shitty place for me. You ever imagined living here?”

“No. I didn’t imagine living long enough to end up in this cesspool.”

“I’m- It’s good that you did.” That was selfish. Revy guiltily returned the cigar, and Balalaika parted her lips to catch it between her white teeth. The lipstick shined slick. Her eyes stared at the lips, the prominent cupid’s bow, the strong jaw. Her heart hammered in her ribcage.

“Why?” She knew the answer, with that knowing gleam in her hungry eyes.

Revy looked down, her face beet-red. “Because then we’d have never met up.”

“I suppose it’d be difficult, with me six feet under.” the blonde ground the cigar into the ashtray, slowly, her acrylics painfully pink. The desk chair creaked as she stood up, her fingers smoothing out her tight red skirt.

“You made a horrible mistake, though.” Revy breathed, watching Balalaika stand over her, her blues peering down at her form. Her hands fumbled with taking off her gun harness, fingers slipping over the worn leather. The harness, once removed, was tossed onto a stack of papers without a second thought. “I won’t let you die either. That’s an order, Sis.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Balalaika murmured, stepping away from the desk chair and Revy had to back up slowly, once she realised the blonde wasn’t stopping. She nearly tripped over her feet as she walked backwards, twisting her head around to make sure no furniture was in her path. Her back hit the wall, her bare shoulders scratching on the old wallpaper. Everything in the office was polished antiques, a constant reminder of an older time, with none of the cheap furniture that was made today. The Russian herself was a relic of another time, another place so alien to Revy that she could scarcely understand it.

She forced an arm around Revy’s waist, making her arch her back, Panting, Revy tangled her fingers in Balalaika’s thick hair. The touch of the blonde made her head spin, and her legs felt weak. Revy followed Balalaika’s lead as their lips connected, and it felt good, wonderfully good, and it was as if she was a girl with no other thoughts in her head. Balalaika’s teeth grazed her lip and her tongue eagerly opened Revy’s mouth. She tasted like spiced smoke and unsweetened tea; Revy knew she tasted like the cigar and beer, not as good as the Russian, but Balalaika kissed her deeply anyway.

She was painfully aware of how empty she was inside, a desperate need to be filled gripped her, and Revy nipped at Balalaika’s bottom lip, the wax of the lipstick coloring her teeth. Her neck began to strain at the angle she was forced to kiss, being crushed between the tall blonde and the unyielding wall, her lips sloppily missing Balalaika’s, and licking at her chin.

“I-It’s hard to…”

Balalaika put one arm underneath Revy’s backside, and hoisted her up with a small sound of effort. There was friction between her back and the wall, and Revy moaned at the mixture of pain and the blonde’s tongue in her mouth. She leaned into the wall, to give any sort of relief to that fact Balalaika was completely holding her up, the height issue now nonexistent.

“I have a phone call soon, kotyenok , sweet sweet girl, so this has to be quick. I won’t allow what happened in that club to be a recurring thing.”

“Hell no,” Revy whined, as she hooked her legs around Balalaika’s full hips. It was as if she was melting, and she groped at Balalaika’s wide shoulders with one hand, the other tracing her jaw, then the outline of her ear. Her mouth is all she can think of.  “Focus on me, that’s all background noise.”

“But I need to put food on the table, Rebecca.” Balalaika said teasingly. She licked a corner of Revy’s open lips, then wetly sliding it inside, tracing her teeth. Revy moaned wantonly, dry-humping in return, feeling pathetic in the way she grasped at the older woman.

“I have to fucking come over one night, I’ve got shit to show you and talk about and- ohmygodohmyfuckinggod -”

Balalaika ground her hips in return, slow and steady, the pressure hard enough that Revy’s movements ceased. The blonde had broken off the kiss to suck at Revy’s earlobe, her breathing was all that she could hear, and she struggled to hold in a cry.

Her tone was low, lecherous and poisonous. “You keep asking around little brat, I’ll find you myself and tie you by your pretty hair to my radiator. No pearls for my kotyenok to play with.”

She knew, she fucking knew, that Revy liked it when she talked like that. Revy was forced to nod. The need to hear more of such a predicament filled her with weak shame. “Uh huh, I wanna hear stuff from you.”

Balalaika went to kiss her hungrily, her nails sinking into Revy’s backside, enough to hurt, like she was tenderizing meat, and it forced Revy’s hips forward, where the blonde continued her tortuous motion. Touching her has her pulse going so fast she wanted to pass out, cheeks flushed after with the wake of her blood in her ears, distant and tinny. An image played in the back of her skull, of being slumped on Balalaika, left entirely to her mercy.

Their tongues wormed together, and Revy was unable to stop whining, to whimper Sis and claw at her scalp. She forgot how desperate she was, after days had passed, and all she had was a shirt and a pair of stolen panties. And the folder of pictures. A younger Balalaika, and the mere thought of the blonde in her military getup made her keen. Her legs might have well have been dead.

The phone, as prophesied, rang out with such a heartbreaking ring that even Balalaika hesitated to let go of her. Revy broke off the kiss slowly, with a wet noise, Balalaika’s tongue returning back into her own mouth. It took an exhausting amount of self-control to allow the blonde to set her down quickly. She flung a hand against the wall to inspire any sort of strength to her legs, the false pain in her healed knee flaring up.

Easing the gun harness over her arms and setting it comfortably on her upper back, Revy watched the blonde pick up the phone with an annoyed, dramatic sigh that brought a grin to her face.

Revy turned to leave, her stomach like waves on the beach, the arousal making her head blurry. Balalaika cleared her throat, and beckoned her back to the desk with a swipe of her hand. Being as quiet as possible, she returned to the polished desk and the Russian continued to talk into the phone, her tone dark and orderly, her eyes narrowed and the grip on the plastic hard with frustration. The drawer opened gravely, and Balalaika fished around until a crinkle of plastic met Revy’s ears. 

She set the phone on her shoulder and mouthed, “wooden matches,” before bringing it back to her ear and setting off rapidly in Russian, the smooth array of words the only sound in the silent office. An unused, obviously expensive cigar was in her open hand, and Revy gave her a are you joking? glare, wanting to feel hurt. Balalaika shook her head quickly, a corner of her mouth, with mussed lipstick, curling up. It wasn’t a ruse, when Revy reached for it delicately, afraid to drop it.

The weight of it was heavy in her hands, only because of who gave it to her, and Revy didn’t even want to touch it, because she would probably ruin it. She’d ruin the gift, of this cigar that costs more than two packs of cigarettes. Blinking rapidly, Revy smiled softly at Balalaika, who gave a subtle nod, smiling in the best way she could. This is a fucking gift that she’ll regret giving my sorry ass once she realises the pictures I got.

Holding it like a trophy, she waved goodbye when she was at the door, before closing it slowly behind her. It was annoying to leave, knowing that Balalaika was right there, and she wiped her mouth to clear the lipstick. 

Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and shuffling the cigar into her other hand, mindful of the sweat, she fished it out of her jeans. Rock’s number flashed on screen.

Chapter Text

“Marong’s guys-”

Rock had barely managed a word out before Revy clapped the phone shut and rushed out of Hotel Moscow. Every person in the building was too tall, blocking her view of the door, and there was a difficulty in weaving around, brushing broad shoulders and being on the receiving end of glares. The glass door swung behind closed behind her, nevermind the people exiting and entering. Her mind was set on getting back to the apartment. She already knew, already felt what situation was going down. It was all too familiar, and it wasn’t the first time. People parted like the red sea as she ran down the cracked sidewalks, pushing apart those who moved too slow. Rock and Benny wasn’t shit for a fight and Dutch could only handle so much on his own.

Sweat poured off of her as the apartment entered her sights. Gunfire echoed behind the apartment, with a man screaming in the background. Her brow crinkled on confusion when she noticed no strange vehicles in the parking lot, and there was no red-hot Plymouth parked just outside. The trip had taken her fifteen minutes and her calves were aching when she skidded to a stop, then hurt worse when she forced herself up the stairwell, grinning.

“God damn , took you long enough.” Dutch chastised when Revy threw herself into the apartment. He didn’t look at her, only continuing to shoot from the window. The cigar was inside her curled fist, and Revy placed it reverently on the kitchen counter. Dutch was leaning on the wall next to an open window, signature gun in hand. The small table the television was placed on was shoved farther down the wall than usual, creating ample space for Revy to align herself on the other side of the window.

She hopped over the couch, stepping on broken blinds that had been thrown to the ground. Joining Dutch against the far wall, her shoulder bumping into the wallpaper, she chuckled down to the men who shot up at the apartment. Three lay dead by Dutch’s hand, while there was a small group sprawled across the beach, with all guns pointing towards the one window.

“Where the fuck’s the Plymouth?”

“Rock’s still out. No clue when-” he fired an easy shot at a guy who had the genius thought to reload without cover, “-he’s coming back. Benny ain’t here either. Where the hell were you?”

Oh fuck. Like a guilty teenager, she drew her mouth into a sour expression. “I- that’s not fucking important right now!”

He shrugged as he blasted twice out the window.  “You’re correct on that one.”

“They come here by boat?” Revy asked, gritting her teeth as she took out her cutlasses, her sweaty hands curling tight around them. They were already loaded, heavy in her hands. The day was good, after the way Balalaika held her and kissed

“I’d assume so. Motherfuckers better not touch the PT.” Anger bit through his teeth. The only thing that could shatter Dutch’s resolve was the boat being so much as scratched.

“They won’t get the chance!” Revy near leaned out of the window to fire, her fingers pulling the triggers with such speed it was near maddening. The sand kicked up dust from the gunfire. One bullet found purchase between a man’s collar bones, the second in another’s stomach, and from the window Revy could already smell the latter victim becoming foul.

A bullet whizzed past Dutch’s head and hit a cabinet, shattering the cheap plywood. He reloaded quickly with the efficiency of a soldier, and repaid the gangster with a shot to the head.

Revy shot a man who scrambled over to the recently deceased, trying to grab a gun out of their still-warm hands. It had been far too long since she had killed. She couldn’t stop smiling. Eventually there were only three men on the beach, who resorted to desperate measures including a grenade that failed to detonate.

A squealing of tires was outside the front door, and the quick extinguishment of engine. Revy whipped around, her hair flying into her face. Spitting out strands, she widened her eyes and watched the door warily, pointing her gun out.

“Revy get your ass back here, it’s the Plym-”

Rock opened the door, his eyes wide with his hair disheveled. A slug flew past her ear and cracked the wall right beside his head, to her horror. He ducked out of the way, landing on one knee.

Whatthefuckareyoudoingheregetdown -” Something stung in Revy’s shoulder. She fell to the side for cover, her calf meeting the wood floor; the last thing she saw was the edge of the old television.

The sun was a bleeding egg yolk when she opened her heavy eyelids. Revy wanted to wake to long nails threading through her tangled hair, waking up to a dying smile on painted lips, but every time she was disappointed. She floated close to unconsciousness, barely shaking from it when heavy footsteps neared her.

She knew this feeling well. Her brain eagerly waiting for her to pass out again. Her leg twitched in anticipation to get up, and when she curled her fingers there was a sudden pain.

“She’s called you about four times now,” Dutch’s voice sounded watery above her head. “Best for all of us if you started walking.”

Fuck .” Revy’s head hit the sofa cushion. She felt like a piece of rotting animal flesh, hung from a hook in an abandoned butcher’s shop. In her mind there was a crescent moon above black water, then it twists into a grey, trash lined street lined with skyscrapers reaching seemingly going up forever, before easing back into the sea.

Fuck, I'm fucking alone, I'm gonna fucking drown, Revy thought, panicking; trying to catch wine-dark seawater between shaking fingers. But, she wasn't. Flashes of the white ceiling flash come into her brain like a broken light fixture.She didn’t feel like a person. She only kept feeling like meat. Meat that people did whatever they wanted to it. 

 

A shot of light pierced her closed eyelids. Revy’s head throbbed, with a small pulse in her right hand and shoulder. It was like three heartbeats along her body, and she twisted her head away from the sunlight to sleep again, but it eluded her. The sofa was stiff under her side. Stretching out her legs, she rolled onto her back and blinked open her eyes, staring at the ceiling.

“How long’s it been? Shit.” she said to no one in particular. Revy knuckled both her dry eyes, a foul taste in her mouth making her groan in disgust. One of her curled hands throbbed, and she pulled it away to get a good look at it. It was bandaged across her palm, and she quickly glanced at where the television was. A newer model replaced it, still old by today’s standards, but the sound quality would undoubtedly be better. Revy tried to chuckle but it died in her mouth. Holy fucking shit, it must have been days

A thin red dot appeared where Revy had stressed the flex of her palm. Moving to touch her shoulder, she already knew she had been shot there, could feel the familiar wound that would leave another scar. Her fingers moved to bump over the scar that Hotel Moscow gave her. The memory made her throat tighten.

“You’ve been out for three days.”

“Oh, Janet. Come to fucking interrogate me while I’m bed bound? I know you fucking know, bitch.” The pain made her irritable, and stupid.

“About what?”

“What the fuck do you think? You ‘been snooping around like a dog while I’ve been knocked out?” Revy snapped, reaching to touch her temple. There was dried blood matting her hair. She wasn’t ready for this, not just after waking up. Yet Revy wanted to instigate something. It was better if she initiated first, instead of skirting around the topic. There wasn’t a point in being careful anymore.

“I’m not looking to take advantage. If I wanted to, I had seventy-two hours to do so.”

“You’ve taken advantage so far. Who’s here?”

A voice came from the hallway. “Nobody. Nice cigar, by the way. Heard that only the bigwigs get ones like this. Where’d you buy it? Benny’s birthday is coming up and…”

Her heart ceased beating, and a cold sweat ran down into the small of her back. Bloodlust raced through her veins, and her legs shook. Nononononononono, she wanted to scream. Revy, with all her smoldering and anger, forced herself to sit up. “Can this wait until I can go to the bathroom and piss? That’s real funny, bitch.”

“I wasn’t joking. Be real with me, will you?”

Something snapped inside of her, and it dripped down her spine. Adrenaline cut through the pain like a knife through butter. “That shit’s not mine,” Revy’s chest heaved, sweat dripping off of her forehead. “Put that fucking cigar down. It’s probably Dutch’s, Janet, you fucking cunt. I’ll rip your goddamn head off. Benny can keep that clap trap between your legs.”

Janet appeared around the corner, a hand on the wall. In her other was a cigar, the light glinting off the faux gold wrapper. “I’m sure you want me to say that I prefer your old threats. Although I’m sure quite a few of those girls you fucked didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, funnily enough. I’ve talked to people who’ve been in jail, and frankly they say it’s not as erotic as some might think.”

“Life isn’t some porno, bitch.” Revy said, her hand going for the gun that wasn’t digging into the side of her breast. She felt utterly naked. Her greasy hair was stuck to her head, and she simply felt gross. The throbbing in her head weakened her reply, but didn’t stop the venom from leaking out.

“It’s not a romance novel, either. We live in some shitty B movie,” Janet mused, a flicker of contemplation in her eyes. Then she raised them. “Did you do it for information? Power? Money? I think it’s a combination, honestly.”

Revy glared back, a vein throbbing in her forehead. “I don’t get shit.”

“Don’t you.” Janet glanced at Revy’s throat, then adjusted the strap of her halter top. The fabric stretched across her huge chest, barely managing to hold together. “All this evidence, so indiscreet.” she tisked. “I can’t imagine what the other crime syndicates would think of it. Or Roanapur itself. Rock.” at Revy’s shocked expression, she continued. “ Well , I can imagine, actually.”

Revy watched a shocked Janet’s honey-brown eyes widen. “What made you think up this shit?” Revy said, wishing for a gun securely in her hand, like an extension of her arm. She imagined pointing it at Janet’s head and pulling the trigger, watching it pop like what Dutch did to one of Marong’s allies.

“When I was with the Triad guy. I could recognize that Russian accent anywhere. Then you came home with that white shirt, and that hickey on your neck.” Janet touched the side of her throat. “And now the cigar.”

“Just that, huh?”

“Pretty obvious evidence. Balalaika likes her cigars.”

Revy struggled to stand up, and her hard glare brought a wave of fear over Janet, but she remained where she was. “Don’t say her fucking name.”

“Are you going to shoot me?” Janet asked, her voice quiet. “How do you think Benny would feel? Or my organization? Seems you stepped in shit you can’t shake off.”

Benny . Revy hadn’t thought of him. She remembered how happy they are together, how they’d spend hours in his room, not just having sex, and how he’d react if he found Janet’s blood splattered on the wallpaper Dutch precariously put up.

“Who else knows?” Revy’s voice was ragged, scratching up her throat.

“Well, if I can’t stop myself from spreading my legs, what do you think about my mouth?” Her remark sounded bitter instead of genuine. "But… if you do kill me, you’d be missing out on some key bits.”

She gritted her teeth. “Like what?”

‘How much do you think people would pay to hear about what I have to say? Or what they’d even give me, hell. I don’t need power. I don’t want any more people to die, unlike you, but obviously there’s going to be some corpses in this equation.”

“Fuckin’ idiot.” Revy knew she was losing ground, and Janet had the answer already. “You only have the cigar, the shirt, and the hallway convo’ to go off of? You really wish I was a dyke, huh?”

“I already stated that all of that, Revy.” She gestured to the cigar. There was no cruelty or malice in Janet’s eyes, no twist of a smirk on her red face, and that served to anger Revy even more.

“So, genius, you’d want Roanapur to fall into fuckin’ chaos. How smart of you. What, did you think this up when Benny’s dick was down your throat? You like fucking up my life?”

“If you were just with some middle-aged, Olympics-reject, I wouldn’t do anything.”

“Olympics?” She heard Olympic level once before, even said it to Balalaika, but now she was confused.

“She wanted to participate, long ago. I thought you’d know that.” Janet replied, blinking slowly. "I can tell you all sorts of things about her."

“That proves your goddamn point. I don’t know anything. I only know, Janet, you fucking cunt, that she likes letting off steam time to time. I’m not shit to her.” Revy hissed, breathing hard through her nose. Her shoulder gave a weak complaint as she tightened her muscles, ready to spring.

Janet chuckled pitifully. Like she had been waiting for this moment to deliver the absolute most damaging line. She nervously stared down Revy. “You love her, don’t you?”

The headache dancing in her skull made her want to scream.

She launched herself across the room, grabbing Janet by the shoulder, and shoved her against the wall. For a moment it was hard to speak, to breathe, to do anything that required higher thinking. “Where did you get that fucking idea?” Her breath was admittedly bad, and Janet recoiled. She turned her head to the side to get away from Revy’s hot-coal glare. 

“Revy-”

“You think I, motherfucking Two Hands is gonna catch feelings for some mob boss? Huh? You think she’s gonna buy me a mink fucking fur coat and parade me around her palace in Moscow? Get over yourself, Janet. You want power? Go suck Rock’s cock. I haven't got shit to tell you. Nah, look at me, bitch.” The blood on her hand that bloomed through the bandages smeared across Janet’s shoulder as Revy raised it to grab at Janet’s jaw, forcing her to look back.

“This,” Janet spat at Revy’s reddened face in return, the saliva landing on her cheeks. “Is business. You think I’m doing this because I hate you? Didn’t you listen? It’s business . But if you beat me to death with those bloody hands of yours things’ll get a lot harder for you, you lovesick woman-child.”

Revy pressed her thumb into Janet’s lower cheek. Whispers of the fever were in her mind, and she wanted to let go of herself, to succumb to the intoxication of leaving her body for a bit. An unconsented smile ripped her face open. The gross sensation of Janet’s spit didn’t put her off in the slightest; for now she was a living weapon. But she wanted to hide like a child in Balalaika’s arms. She could feel the sensation of the suit jacket brushing her skin now, and the unyielding muscle the fabric hid. You should kill yourself Janet. Balalaika’s hard on people who fuck with her things.

But she was Benny’s girl . Was she to him what Revy was to Balalaika? Revy didn’t want to think about that. She didn’t want to think at all. She wanted blood to shine like rubies down Janet’s body.

“If you’re so smart, why the fuck are you trying to get Balalaika, of all people? Ronny’s got bitches on his cock every second on the day. Chang’s softer, we all fucking know that. Why?”

Sweat gleamed off of Janet’s forehead. “Because the opportunity presented itself. You’re so deluded, thinking I’m doing this because you were mean to me? Threatened to finger me? No. Let me go before you look bad in front of everyone.”

“Janet,” Revy said callously, “you didn’t tell me one last thing, fuckin’ idiot. You spied on me.”

“How?”

By fucking tapping the fucking phone !” Revy yelled, shaking Janet and pushing her up the wall. “You can’t make that shit up, right? How much are you gonna sell that shit, huh? You don’t need me. Your ass was gonna go through with it anyway.”

“But I do need you. You like money. Imagine what the higher-ups would offer you.” Janet jerked her head up to the ceiling. “If you happen to have your cake and eat it too. Yeah, I tapped the phone, I won’t lie. Revy, you can have the burn victim and still run your mouth like you were earlier. You’d get the bigger cut.”

Revy paused, listening. It was the same mantra she’d tell herself, of how money lasts longer than people do. Janet kept forgetting one important thing, though. She tightened her grip on Janet until the woman wheezed. “You think she’s that fucking dumb?”

“Heh, well you know her better than I do, Revy.”

“Janet, you think money will always be a precious fucking thing to me?”

The woman shook her head, forcing a smile. “What about your life? Is that a precious thing to you? You think when she extinguishes Roanapur like a candle, she’ll spare you? You’ll be another casualty, like everyone else. She would pick her teeth with our splintered bones. Maybe you think you’re postponing the inevitable, I get it. Perhaps it’s better- even kinder, -to kill it in its crib and keep this city working a little longer?”

‘Fucking-” Revy brought Janet’s head forward and then slammed it against the wall. “-cunt! She’d kill us no matter what happens. I fucking know that.” She sounded deranged, with her teeth bared. Holding Janet by her hair, Revy waited for another reply.

“Yeah, I’m a cunt. The cunt that takes what’s given to her.” Janet said, trying to take Revy’s hands off of her in a dazed state.

Tears blurred Revy’s vision at the horror being taken place. She snarled and thunked Janet’s head again, and then again, when her vision failed her. In the end, Revy had failed. She had been given one good thing in her whole rotten life, and here it was, ripped out from under her feet. There was a clear end to Balalaika’s kisses and working lotion into her hands; how her eyes crinkled when she gave was could be a real smile, and how soft she had felt. Revy was losing all that, and it made her want to die. Kill Janet, first, and then die. She would wander out into the sea, and swim until she grew tired, and there she would die, her face eventually being eaten by fish.

Are you- Revy, are you kidding me ?”

Revy didn’t know whether someone had said that, or she was delusional. She was pulled away from Janet’s shaking frame, and despite any attempts to get out of the hold, she was held fast. Revy clawed at the air, her legs kicking out, ignoring the pain in her head and her shoulder and her bleeding hand, because none of it mattered; seeing the way her life was undoubtedly going to end surrounded by all this misery.

Whipping her head around and squaring her feet, Revy paused for a moment when she saw Dutch. Her eye twitched, and suddenly Janet’s in clear view to, coughing and taking in a deep, needy breath. Revy’s face went lax, as she straightened her spine; mouth parted but utterly empty.

“What the hell is going on here?” Dutch asked to no one in particular.

Neither of the two women spoke for a moment, instead staring at each other, like a silent dare, until one of them broke.

“Let me fucking rip her head off before I give you an answer.” Revy said, her anger welling up in her throat.

Dutch sighed. He was taking in the blood smeared on the tanned woman’s face. “Janet. I’ll ask you, what’s got Revy worked up?”

“We were having a discussion and it got physical. She nearly busted my damn head in.” Janet touched the back of her head, and felt around. There was no evidence of blood on her fingers, to Revy’s mixed feelings of relief. She wanted there to be blood, to give Janet a preview of the future.

“Isn’t that right. And she easily could. Now, can I get any actual useful information out of either of you? Hate to step in, but obviously someone needed to.”

Revy swallowed, and then leaned towards Dutch, staring him right in the face. “This bitch is out to ruin my fucking life, Dutch. My fuckin’ life! Might as well tell her everything! I’m fuckin’ dead either way! You’ll need a new employee, thanks to this slut.”

The look he gave her made Revy shrink back. He was one of the few men on the planet that could have her back down immediately, and feel ashamed doing so. What stung was that he knew what this was about, judging by the disappointment radiating from his sunglasses.

Revy , go clean yourself up. You smell fucking awful. Let me deal with this.” Dutch snapped.

“Dutch it’s fucking over-” Revy hissed, hands in her hair, pulling hard enough that she could hear the follicles ripping out from her scalp.

The front door shut abruptly and had all three heads turn. Benny adjusted his Hawaiian shirt and his subdued expression was alive with shock. “Can someone tell me what the hell is going on here?”

Maybe this was her rock bottom. Her absolute zero. She wiped the dried spit off her face with her knuckles.

Dutch was impassive. He pointed at the bathroom door. “Revy. I won’t ask you a second time. Go shower.”

What was the point? It was all over, anyway. The wood creaked under her footsteps. All three pairs of eyes were on her, waiting for her to get out, and that stung worse than anything. Revy opted to escape to her bedroom, flinging open the door and slammed it hard behind her. The hinges creaked in response, and in a flurried sense of fury Revy raised her fist to punch the wall when her headache blasted nuclear-whiteness.

She didn’t want to pass out again. Scanning the contents of her trashed room, the sunlight bounced off a glass bottle sequestered behind dirty laundry. Picking it up, the half-filled bottle cool and heavy in her hand, she recognized the label. The whiskey tasted foul, and got progressively worse until she finished it. It dulled the intense pain, but not nearly enough. Underneath the bottle was the trash bin, and she caught the rainbow light of the shattered disc, and the artwork of a woman in a military outfit.

The sun slid down the sky slowly, casting its dying light across the horizon. Revy lay curled up on her bed, watching the ocean waves, smelling the pollution rise up into the air from the shitty cars and the chimneys dotting the city. She needed to redress her wound; her shoulder was holding up well, but her hand was a different story. There was a gash on the side of her head. Briefly, she recalled seeing a stain on the rug in the living room. It was still a good rug, besides. No need to throw it out.

Revy heard the sounds of Roanapur, and sitting up, she caught a view of fishing ships in the distance, in the pinked ocean. The anger had melted away into nothingness, and the alcohol aided in that; the only thing she was missing was cigarettes.

A knock on the door vibrated through her entire room.

“Hey. Can I come in?”

“Fuck you. Whatever.”

Rock took that as an invitation and slipped in, the door smoothly clicking behind him. “I keep getting you hurt on my account, huh?”

She didn’t bother to look. The wound on her hand glistened. Picking up the roll of ivory bandages on the ground near the headboard, and after blowing on it to get rid of the few flecks of dust, Revy set to dressing her injury. “You really fucked up bad this time. What’s Janet saying out there?”

“Dutch asked for privacy, and from his voice… I decided it was wise to obey that.” he replied, hesitating as he walked over to her. His dress shoes, while dusty from the road, were unscratched.

“Yeah. He’s pissed.” Revy sniffed, as she bound her palm. “Thought you’d know about it. You seem to know every fucking bit of info this town’s got.”

“Not yet.” Rock replied easily. He watched her ministrations. “You know…” she hated it when he sounded like that, so intimate and cautious. “For quite a while now you’ve been acting… well, you haven’t been your usual self. Whatever that means… but I didn't want to bring myself to ask. I noticed.”

“Listen. Stop what you’re saying, Rock, because me and Janet only fought because she joked about gangbangs again. Bitch thinks she can say what she wants and get off scot-free. No fucking way.” The more she talked about it, the more furious she got again, and her guns sat on the top of the dresser, mere inches away from the drawer holding Balalaika’s things in it.

“Not that I’d join one anyway.”

Revy ripped the bandages with her teeth. Tucking in the ragged end, she returned his glance. “Don’t have to tell me that. What the fuck did I miss, since I’ve been passed out?”

“Nothing much, really. Balalaika had a job for us, but since you were unable to perform, she said she’d be able to hold it off for a few days, but no more.”

Revy turned her gaze to the side and sucked in her lips. “I’m pretty fucking sure more shit happened. But who’d tell ol’ Two Hands, the psychotic bitch.”

Rock held out his hand and she pushed the bandages into it, and their fingers touched one another. She felt the heat of his flesh. His skin was different than Balalaika’s, warmer. The blonde’s touch made her feel different. But he’s not her, he’s not her you stupid bitch, don’t fall for it. You’re so fucking desperate like a starving dog, like the one lying in it’s guts on the street, like a dumbass who jerks off to military lezzie porn. You could have chosen ol' Rokuro, and followed his walk into darkness, but instead you’re fucking a woman who is so far gone that she won’t tell you her name.

“They done out there?”

“Yes, they are.” He spoke softly. Their eyes met. Rock’s eyes were pretty, a black-coffee brown. Light just being hungrily absorbed by them. Even during the deal with Garcia, when he decided to play dirty in his own noble way, his eyes remained brimming with life. She wondered if her eyes looked like his.

Perhaps she was never meant to touch another human being, dramatic as it sounded. If there ever was a ancient, spiteful god, he had truly paid special attention, and with a smile, allowed everything to happen. Revy pulled away from him and stood up. “I fucking reek. I need to shower.”

“You love her, don’t you?”

She should have killed her for that.

Chapter Text

“-wake up, will you? We’ve gotta go.”

 

Revy snapped her head up from the pillow and blinked her dry eyes at the door. Bracing one hand against the mattress, she held herself up. Her sleep had been hazy and dreamless; warm darkness that seemed to swallow her whole body. It was a dead sleep she could only achieve through drinking as much as she could handle.  “What the fuck? Huh ? What do you fucking mean, go where? I’m fuckin’ sleeping!”

Dutch was in the open doorway, nursing a cigarette. Stoic as ever, he hadn’t even raised his voice to wake Revy up. “Whole crew needs to be there. Her orders, not mine.”

Whole crew my ass. Does she want everyone to be in the building before she fucking blows it to high heaven? Revy gritted her teeth and sat up, pushing her hair out of her face. Janet’s words were worming themselves through her brain, pulsating with every throb of her headache. “Where are we…” She already knew the horrible answer.

“Hotel Moscow. She called a few days ago, remember? A new job for us, and we need it.”

She also blew up my phone, too, Dutch. Upon waking up, the ache in her skull had lessened in intensity. Of course, she would need a copious amount of alcohol to get through the day, but not as much as she thought she needed. She rubbed her eyes and yawned in an attempt to sound less frantic. “I don’t wanna fucking go. It's embarrassing.”

“Well…” Dutch sighed. “This so-called embarrassment has been your doing, Revy. I gotta say, I am a bit disappointed in you. Balalaika’ll be more than disappointed, if word gets out.”

“Oh fuck , no.”

“It’ll only look worse if you don’t tag along.” He blew the smoke towards the ceiling.

Revy dug her nails into the bare mattress. Guiltily, she refused to look at him. Disappointment . If she had her gun on her when she was with Janet, he’d be more than disappointed .  “What about that bitch?”

Dutch stepped into the room and shut the door behind him, before leaning up against it. He crossed his arms. “Janet? Well, she’s not coming over to the apartment for the time being. It’s all an unfair situation, anyone can see that.”

“Anyone?” 

They weren’t able to talk about it, not with Rock and Benny in the next room. Revy hated keeping secrets more than ever, it was a grim shadow that now watched everything she did.  He gave her a look. “You missed a lot of phone calls.”

“...Fuckin’ shit. Dutch, c’mon, what’s the deal with Janet?” Revy asked, in a thin strained voice. Sweat dotted her forehead from the sticky heat that crawled in through the cracked window. She stared at the fracture in the old glass, not remembering it from last night. Raising her fist, she saw dots of purple-red bruising on the knuckles of her injured hand.

“She doesn’t necessarily know that I know. Had to be careful with Rock and Benny nearby.”

“Well… what did she say?”

Dutch coughed to get her attention, jerking his head in the direction of the living room. “We had a long talk. I think after a while, she got what I was saying. Of course, it’s not me she should be worrying about. Be all fun and games if I tossed her body into the sea, but there’s more to this than that.”

Revy doubted that a threat from Dutch would stifle Janet’s plans. She nodded hesitantly. “Yeah, she told me all this shit about letting her live. I just fucking hope I put two through her skull before this is over. Bitch deserves it.”

Dutch was silent for a moment, then raised his head. “Patience, Revy, even if that’s a foreign word to you. We have to be at Hotel Moscow in an hour.” He went to open the door without a second glance, exiting the room.

The door clicked shut, Revy blinked hazily at where he once stood, digesting what he said. Her stomach twisted itself into barbed knots. When she stood up her foot knocked into a beer bottle, and her head swam as she tugged at the neck of the white crew neck shirt. The fabric didn’t smell like Balalaika anymore, to Revy’s disappointment. Where her hair had meshed into the stained pillow was still damp. The shower she had taken yesterday was quick and lazy and involved piping hot water, like it was going to melt away her anger and panic. After crawling back to her room, Revy had shoved around her furniture until she found two unopened bottles of lukewarm beer, and the rest was a sleep-deprived nightmare.

Not wanting to see anyone yet, Revy dragged herself to the bathroom. Locking the door behind her, she walked to the mirror. A bruise had formed around the temple below where she had smashed her head on the television. Shadows dipped in her eye sockets, below her cheekbones, underneath her bottom lip. Despite having slept for the past few days it appeared like Revy hadn’t.

Her dirty sleepwear was thrown on the floor as she stepped into the shower. The hot water scalded the wound in her shoulder, and the gash in her scalp, and lastly the slow-to-heal cut on her palm. All three of them were going to leave a nasty scar. Cleaning the dried blood and oil out of her hair was painfully difficult, but Revy desperately wanted to look somewhat human for Balalaika. Perhaps if she washed her face, the Russian would be kinder on her, if they got to talk alone at all. 

She dressed her wounds and pulled on her usual outfit,  quickly. Revy gritted her teeth when she stood at the opening of the hallway. Benny sat on the couch, a cup of tea in his hands. There was a familiar scent of saffron in the air, and Rock was with Dutch in the kitchen.

Revy went to clench her fists but the bandages on her hand stopped her before she reopened her wound again. Scanning the room, there was no evidence of Janet even having existed, aside from the faded hickeys dotting Benny. She went over to him, feigning normalcy. “Hey. Benny. I didn’t… you know.”

“I know,” Benny said, running a hand through his thick mop of hair. “You can’t help it.” He didn’t sound particularly forgiving, combined with the way he slumped on the couch, bitterly resigned. Why wouldn’t he be upset? He had to worry about his girlfriend’s life, and what made Revy clench her fist was how he didn't know anything about it.

Revy wanted to say more but she knew that there wasn’t anything to say, nothing to lighten the situation. It pissed her off to no end. It really was all her fault. She should have just slammed Janet’s head enough that it was a mushy mess and the woman forgot, and killed Marong before Balalaika did. Revy refused to make the same mistake twice. She spent the half hour she had left struggling down a cup of tea to ease her pains, listening to Rock go on about the state of Roanapur, how tensions were running high, but they always were high. He was turning paranoid, Revy noted as she blew a plume of smoke from her cigarette.

Yesterday, Rock had looked at her in that way again, even when she was covered in wounds and her hair stuck to her neck. He was used to that messy sight of her, and that relaxed Revy while at the same time scaring her. She twisted her mouth at the prospect of kissing him again. A wise man would say it would avert suspicion; she traced her own collarbone to give a sensation of being touched by the Russian. Rock could touch you in front of everybody, she reflected. She returned to lacing her boots. But you had to be with Sis, and you had to fucking wish for her to touch you for fucking months and you curled up in your shitty bed like a goddamned child thinking about her like an idiot and you had to press the issue by visiting her because you just had to see her. 

Putting the gun harness on was awkward with the tunnel in her shoulder; the frayed muscle spasming in her rough actions. It was like she had ten thumbs for fingers and they were all broken. She finished adjusting the straps of her holster and walked out first, the two men both following her.

The palm trees hung in the heat, as electric as they were at the Church, when Revy had first started thinking about Balalaika, about Japan. It was morning was all she could tell, not bothering to ask the time. The sun pointed its finger at Roanapur through grey clouds. A rumble of thunder sounded off in the distance, the tree leaves rustling in response. The car ride was comfortably quiet despite the disco music Dutch insisted on playing. Rock tapped his fingers on the armrest to the tinny beat, while Revy was on her third cigarette, grey ash dotting her thighs.

On the telephone poles in Roanapur, there were pictures of people nailed to them, scrawled underneath were phone numbers and have you seen this woman/man/child? It was one of the many things in the city that reminded Revy of home. No matter how violent Roanapur got, how many bodies piled in dumpsters, or the sewers being clogged with human fat, the citizens still put up missing posters of their family members. At a stoplight, a woman was putting up a picture of a child. Revy already knew six gangs in the city that specialized in selling children.

The city was more decrepit every day, the foundations of old buildings sinking into the soft land. As they pulled into Hotel Moscow’s parking lot, the headquarters looked older than it did the other times Revy had looked at it. Or maybe she was exhausted despite sleeping for several days.

Inside of the building was as cold as it always was. As soon as Dutch stepped in, a majority of the Russian men took notice. Their boots tapped across the linoleum flooring that curled up where it met the walls. The segment of waiting for Dutch to finish speaking with Boris was dreamlike, she couldn’t shake herself out of it. Her eyes kept dragging themselves to the stairway. Picking at her limp ponytail, Revy hid behind a face of indifference. Did Boris already know what she had done? She couldn’t tell.

“The Kapitan is ready to see you.” Boris told Dutch, and Revy’s fingers twitched.

She felt she’d be better off still killing those men who invaded the apartment. The stairs creaked underneath her slight weight, and she found herself staring at her gloveless hands. At this point, she was just going to find new ones. It didn’t matter. She could smell Balalaika’s perfume from the doorway to her office, the floral aroma making her freeze. Rock nearly bumped into her, and she felt his breath on her ear when he said something, but the words melted into mush. She got hit with the memory of them drunkenly kissing again, his warm lips on hers, and Revy walked forward, back bent with her hands shoved in her pockets.

As much as she wanted to seem like she couldn’t care less, Revy’s eyes went soft when she saw the blonde. Balalaika was seated at her desk, a cigar hanging from her lips and a document in her hand. A lamp was lit on her desk, as the sun was fading fast and it wasn’t even the afternoon, and the scarred portion of her face was touched by the yellowed light.

“Dutch.” Balalaika greeted, pushing aside the documents that splayed across the massive slab of polished wood. She dug through the drawer to her right and rolled out a map of the coast of Roanapur.

After exchanging the usual pleasantries, Balalaika set her sights on the group. “I hear your apartment was attacked by Marong’s remaining men.

Dutch hummed in agreement. “Not very often we get visited by someone beyond the grave.”

Balalaika’s eyes flicked to Revy for heartbeat. Her pale face was impassive and professional, with a commanding posture to support it. “And were they the reason that your company wasn’t available for a few days?” She flattened the worn paper of the map underneath her wide hands.

He nodded, giving a polite half-smile. “Absolutely. Managed to tear the living room up a bit, even if they reloaded without cover.”

“Hm. This is an unwanted distraction, but a welcome one for you. There have been sightings of an associate of Marong on the docks south of closed factory on Plādāw street.” Balalaika tapped a shred of land kissing a surrounding blue pool.

“The only boats that frequent there are used for fishing, interesting.” Dutch touched his jaw in thought.

Revy certainly didn’t find it as interesting as he did. Dutch and Balalaika launched into the discussion, with brief interjections by Rock. This was where it got boring, and she found herself still struggling to hide the nervousness in her shaking hands. Revy kept her expression neutral, and focused on circling the wound on her palm with a finger to keep herself focused. It was the same as it was before, and she had to practice not giving a shit. Surprisingly, despite the fluttering of her heart, her face remained pale. She was shaken out of her daydreaming by the cold tone of the Russian’s voice.

“I have frustrating news, Marong had partners.” Balalaika was angry, like she was constantly stepping on a cockroach that wouldn’t die. Her shoulders hunched forward and her cleavage presented itself as she bent over the table, tracing a long nail along a route as she explained to Dutch. Then Balalaika slowly moved her gaze to Revy.

Her eyes were blank and sharp at the same time, and Revy felt swallowed by the horrible blueness of them. She stared at the ground then, hiding her neck to protect it. And Revy broke. Balalaika didn’t move her subtle gaze until she looked back up, and she had to return a look with glossy eyes and parted lips, her chest heaving.

I didn’t learn fuck-shit at all.

There wasn’t lust in the Russian’s eyes, nor affection. There was ice and anger.

When the plans were set in stone and Balalaika had smoked half a cigar, Dutch took a few documents into his hand. Shuffling them around, he chuckled and gave a reply that made her give a humored sigh in return. Revy wanted to feel sorry for herself but she was so panicked she couldn’t begin the self-pitying thought process.

Rock went to open the door when Balalaika raised a hand. “I’ll need to speak with Rock. And after him, Revy.”

The two of them both blanched. Rock was rising in power every single day and still was wary of Balalaika, Revy noted. If he had information on her, would he still be as afraid? Eventually he wouldn’t be scared of anything. He’d be far gone like he was with Garcia, even if his eyes were circles of onyx swallowing light.

Dutch paused, then turned around to face Balalaika. Tucking the folded papers into a pocket on his vest, he gave the act of debating her request, when really he may have had no power in this at all. He remained relaxed, nodding after a brief second. “Sure.”

Revy watched his subdued reaction, her heart in her throat. Her eyes then darted to Balalaika’s icy, tired expression. The blonde’s eyelids drooped slightly, the crows feet deepened from the discoloration underneath her eyes. Revy stared out the window at the darkening clouds instead, to calm her frayed nerves, because there wasn’t any way she could focus. She wanted to touch her, the longing so sudden that she twitched.

“Alright.” Dutch shrugged. “How long will this take?”

“No need to worry about your other plans, Dutch. But it may take a little longer than anticipated.”

He nodded, the muted sunlight bouncing off his sunglasses. “Maybe I’ll head out and come back later. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Thirty minutes later, when Rock walked out pale-faced and wringing his wrists, Revy knew she was in for it. His once fine-pressed dress shirt that wrinkled in the humidity, and his face was tight. She had spent the time out in the hallway, bouncing her foot on the ground and staring up at the ceiling, willing any fight or flight response away.

Seeing his expression, Revy sprang forward. “Holy shit, how did it go?”

“Ms Balalaika is ... not in the best mood.” He cautioned, rubbing his jaw. His eyes had that faraway look they had when he had set her off in Japan.

“What the fuck did you do this time, Rock?”

Rock ran a hand through his dark hair and shrugged. “Nothing I can remember, but you would think I did. She knows about me working alongside Chang. That was her main worry, I suppose.”

“Heh, thanks for cooling her down before she meets with my sorry ass.” Revy tried to sound convincing. Panic kept brimming to her tongue, and at any moment her voice would crack and Rock would give her a tender look, one that she wanted only from Balalaika.

“You know what you did?” He tugged at his tie in thought.

“No fucking clue. Maybe because I didn’t bring the scalps from those fuckers we killed.”

Rock looked like he wanted to apologise again, luckily choosing to keep it internal. “I’ll try and track down Dutch.”

“Good luck,” Revy said. “Stay outta trouble, will ya?” She kept watch until he started down the stairs, and the sound of the wood creaking gave her the strength to curl her hand around the door knob. The door didn’t make a sound as it opened, and she entered the spacious office.

Balalaika leaned on her desk, both hands on either side of her wide hips. Her silence was a hundred times more threatening than any verbal malevolence. Pale as mist, her eyes concealed more than she told. Revy still liked being under their gaze, the coldness was more grounding than the thousand emotions that flickered in Rock’s eyes. 

Revy shut the door behind her with a hard push and walked closer. “What’s up?” She asked casually with an upturn of her lips. The wound in her palm flexed when she dug her nails into the raw fresh to keep herself in line.

“Does trust mean nothing to you?” Balalaika started, moving away from the desk. Her entire demeanor screamed Kapitan , and the smile on Revy’s face faded. Already she wanted to launch into it. Debates with her was a game that Revy barely learned the rules to. And we both have our fucking guns, don’t forget. Why did she think this way, when they had spent a night together? No matter what happened she would always look back on that time they managed to achieve that.

“The fuck do you mean? Of course trust means something to me, are you kidding?” Revy said. Goosebumps raised along her arms and legs. The air conditioning was colder than what she recalled when she had been in the room with Dutch and Rock.

“Yes. Trust. You told me how it was so important in Japan.” Balalaika didn’t look at her, instead choosing the windows, watching the grey clouds twist around each other. A flash of lightning choked the sky. “Who was it? Was it the stranger who nearly walked in on us that night at Chang’s little get-together? The one who you promised to tell me her name? I have such little information, Rebecca, and you seem to not want to tell me anything.”

“I-It’s not fucking like that Sis, calm down, okay? Shit.” Revy stammered.

“Then what is it like? Surprise me.”

“It’s….” the anger in Balalaika’s eyes made Revy falter. “Sis, don’t look at me like that. It was… it was just-“

“Want to be difficult? Fine. I’ll show you an interesting item I received yesterday. Maybe this will bring you to tell the damn truth.” Balalaika walked to her desk drawer, and smoothly took out a simple cardboard box. The sound of heels and Revy’s breathing filled the room. Confused, Revy followed her, gnawing on her lip. The cardboard was beaten up and was lined with cut-open tape that virtually held it together. Setting the box down, the Russian slid it over to Revy and waited. “Open it and read what’s inside.”

“Fuck… is it a head or something?” Revy asked cautiously, furrowing her brows. Her heart pulsed in between her ears and her stomach felt oily.

Balalaika watched her, saying nothing. The lack of words made Revy feel sick, as she clumsily opened the box. Inside was a wobbly cigar, and taking it into her hand, she saw the band of gold wrapped around the middle of the cigar and she stopped breathing. “This… No fucking way.”

It had been in Janet’s possession the entire time she had been passed out on the couch and in her bed. The slut had never given it back- it was a false fucking offer and I was too pissed to realize. Underneath it was a scrap of paper. Revy set down the cigar on a pile of papers, and then reached to read. She squinted at the small font and mouthed the words to herself before reading aloud.

“‘This here is her newest toy. She cried when I took it away.’” Revy crumpled the piece of paper in her fist and tossed it on the carpet, seeing red. A sting of cold metal pressed on her armpits. Instantly she remembered her guns, and all the power that came with them. All she needed was one bullet. “Is this bad poetry? What the fuck?”

Balalaika threatened a smile. “That came to me a day ago. I tried calling you numerous times but… you didn’t answer. You could have been dead for all I know.” The blonde turned her head for a moment, and lightly brushed aside a few locks of hair from her face.

“I don’t…. I got shot and the cigar was left in the living room, somewhere, I have no fucking clue. I hit my head on the television, cut my fucking hand, and knocked myself out. I have no clue.” Six voicemails had popped up on the cracked phone screen. Revy had held it tight in a her sweaty hand but hesitated. Her skull was sloshing with what felt like a melted brain, and the cell and dropped to the floor before she could decide on calling back. Balalaika was always met with nothing, Revy realized shamefully. I never answer her damn calls.

“What about when you woke up? Don’t lie to me. ‘She cried when I took it away?’” Balalaika demanded, twitching her hand like she wanted to curl it into a fist.

Revy’s face flushed and she was covered in a cold sweat. “Yeah. Well, Benny’s girlfriend fucking told me to my fucking face that she knew what was up and I have no clue how I only asked like one question and-“

“What’s her name?”

Revy swallowed and her eyes swam with tears. This was were everything would go upside down, and she could only watch with the knowledge that this whole mess started because of her. “Janet. Some fuckers call her Greenback Jane too.”

Balalaika grabbed Revy by the shoulders and held her still as she tried to escape her grasp. It sent a ricochet of pain through her injured shoulder blade, and Revy attempted to twist away. The blonde forced her to share a gaze. “You know what you have done? Of all the people in Roanapur, you let yourself be found out by some second-rate information dealer?”

“Fuck, Sis, fuck! I didn’t let myself be fucking found out. Every single fucking day she is there- Listen to me, Sis, fucking listen. I walked home wearing your fucking shirt with your fucking hickey on my neck- Sis, you-“ Revy tripped over her words, trying to get away from Balalaika. It was too real and the blonde was too close and she felt like she was falling apart and losing everything all at once. Her heart was cringing as if it were dying.

“Speak clearly.”

“Sis- I just, I want to know you as a fucking person.” Revy said frantically. Her neck was so tight she could scarcely move her head.

Balalaika tilted her head. There was a flicker of sadness, of almost guilt, in the jerk of her lips. “ You do."

She had told her about Afghanistan, how her mother was never there, but still Revy squinted her eyes to repress tears that curled on the edges of her eyelids. Despite the way she was being grabbed, she took a brief moment to notice the blonde’s perfume. “No. That’s why I’ve been acting like a motherfucking idiot. That’s why. Sis, why won’t you let me be closer to you you’re not fucking Balalaika all the time when we fucked-“

“Obviously it’s not my birth name, but it is my name regardless. Your obsession is going to ruin both of us, did you even think of that? No, that’s what you do. Not think of future actions.” Balalaika said, watching Revy flinch at the remark.

“You liked that part of me when I came to organize shitty porn for you. Or when I went to this fucking office wearing a skirt. Or hell, when I fingered you in that goddamn bathroom. Sis, you knew what you were getting into.” Her eyelashes felt wet as she blinked rapidly. Revy shoved at Balalaika, her words scratching up her throat like stomach acid. Internally she wanted the Russian to hurt her. In a sick game of show and tell, Revy would show it to Janet and display how much Balalaika gave a shit about her.

Balalaika was taken aback, her eyes wide. Breathing shakily, she lessened the iron hold she had on Revy, guiltily stepping back.“It was never like that. Revy , you know as much as you need to. Just have me for the way I am now. When will you finally get that through your thick skull?”

“You make me feel like shit.” Revy jabbed a finger into the blonde’s heaving chest. “I know I fucking messed up and I need you to help me.” Her voice cracked, and Revy only knew when she was crying when a tear dropped down onto her chest. She turned red when Balalaika’s expression softened at the display.

“Then let me help. Before everything becomes even more of a problem. Tell me what’s going on, Rebecca.” The blonde’s accent thickened in desperation.

“You already think I’m an idiot.” Revy replied, wiping her tears roughly. “And… you’re right. I broke our trust.”

“You did. I told you time and time again and it’s like you never listen. They’d do worse than kill you, Janet Bhai’s little group, you do realize that.” Balalaika coldly replied. “There are so many ways to hurt someone, and that bitch can access so many things. People pay good money for information about Hotel Moscow. About me.” Her tone was strained, and Balalaika took a step away, her head held high, but there was a wretchedness in her expression.

Revy’s eyes widened and her mouth went slack. No fucking way you fucking bitch . There was a flashback of limping to a filthy apartment. “No.”

“It would be for the best. For a little while. Until the threat has been dealt with.” The Russian spoke so softly that Revy had to quiet her breath her head her properly.

“No, no. I can’t fucking do this again-“

“Do you see the consequences of your actions now? A mere few days ago you said you’d wait. ” Balalaika hissed tightly, without malice.

“Oh my fucking god.” Revy cupped her own face in her hands and wheezed. The darkness was a welcome comfort, and she leaned into the touch even if it was from herself. A sob leaked out of her before she could stop it. “Holy fucking shit.” She looked up and reached out to Balalaika, slowly stepping towards her. Both of her boots were planted on the stained carpet and yet she was falling. “No, Sis, please, don’t do this to me.”

Balalaika remained where she was, her eyes narrowed as she looked back at the sky. For a second Revy saw how she looked when she was young. “I think of you being cut piece by piece and calling out to me, and you keep calling out my name until you die. Rebecca, you never picked up your phone.

“I was fucking out of it.” Revy said in a high tone, trying to get closer to the blonde, but Balalaika held an arm out to refuse her. “You’re really gonna fucking drop me like that? I should have known I wasn’t really shit to you. Some fuckers say you’re incapable of it.”

“Perhaps I am.” The Russian sounded exhausted. “Doesn’t matter now. I have business to attend to, and if you’re willing, we can pick this up another time.”

Revy wheezed and grabbed Balalaika’s hand. Curling it into a fist, Revy raised the blonde’s knuckles towards her mouth and kissed them, running her lips along the bony ridges. The skin was warm to the touch, wonderfully human. Between her lips her tongue peeked out and traced lightly. Her vision blurred; her legs felt weak. She knew what was coming; she was used to rejection her whole life and this shouldn’t have been any different, but it was. Then the hand was pulled away from her, and Revy hid a sob. A lovesick woman-child .

“Rebecca-“

“I fucking hate this shit. You fucking know how I can’t fucking handle shit like this. Assholes threw me away my whole fucking life and you knew it. And here you fucking are, thinking that you can get out of this. I said you’re mine and I fucking mean it and you never once fucking said that I was yours. And now I know why.” She ranted. Balalaika listened carefully, lifting a hand to brush her suit jacket. Revy wanted to keep going on until she was speaking in tongues, circling around the same subject again and again until her tongue was a pile of meat and gristle.

“I never said I don’t care about you.”

Revy weakly chuckled, thinking of the folder in her dresser with the underwear and the shirt that no longer smelled like her. “Sis, you never said you did care about me, I had to fucking read into everything you did.”

“Well, this is me saying that I do, by telling you to keep your head down and staying away from me for a while.”

“If I can’t fucking do that, would you kill me?” Revy gestured towards the scar on her arm. “And I’m glad now you fucking tell me you give a fucking shit. Now when it’s convenient.”

Balalaika looked in her eyes. Whatever she saw there gave her a brief pause. “A break is all I ask. To fix everything. And then I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine again.” She replied, her stone mask of a face breaking when she sighed.

“Really?” Tears dripped off of Revy’s chin. “How am I supposed to believe that? You’re fucking leaving me. Everyone always leaves, and that’s it. Trying to keep me calm? Fuck you. You’re leaving me .”

Balalaika opted for a gentler approach, as if that would solve anything. She gestured with her hands, as if she was debating on taking Revy into her arms. The red jacket flexed around her wide shoulders and chest. “ Kotyenok-

“Don’t call me that,” Revy said pathetically. “You’re just rubbing salt in the fucking wound.” She decided to take a few steps away, trying to focus on slowing down her breathing. All she could smell was cigar smoke and floral perfume and an edge of gun oil.

“Rebecca, listen to me. I’m not leaving you, don’t act like a child. Only for a period of time.”

“How fucking long?”

“You need specifics?” Balalaika asked, crossing her arms underneath her chest. Her blonde hair fell down to the base of her spine, swaying as she adjusted her posture. She was so beyond exhausted that her reaction time was slowed by a second.

Revy tugged at her own ponytail and nodded weakly. “Yeah.”

“Three weeks or less."

“Three fucking weeks,” Revy repeated. “Or less. Don’t get my hopes up.”

A streak of yellow lightning rippled across the sky. Balalaika shook her head, resigned. “I’m not getting your hopes up. You asked for help and you’re getting it. And throughout that time frame you will see how I care for you.”

“Sure.” Revy calmed for a heartbeat, then her face crumpled again as if she had been slapped. She took another step towards the door.

“Your tears-“

“Who gives a shit.” Revy stated, staring at the door. She slumped forward in her grief, her arms jamming into the cutlasses. That was a lie. Of course people gave a shit; they’d laugh at her tears and call her weak, or a whore or a fucking bitch .

Balalaika came behind her, and lightly touched Revy’s shoulder. The contact made Revy tremble and she sank her teeth into her lip to hide another pitiful sound. She stayed where she was, as the blonde lightly palmed her uninjured shoulder. When she refused to face her, Balalaika went around to her side, with a tissue in her hand. She anticipated Revy to put up a bit of a fight, but there was nothing left inside Revy except a well of misery, and Balalaika leaned in closer to blot the saltwater staining Revy’s face.

The blonde followed her when Revy tried to pull away, continuing her gentle touch. Her eyes felt oversensitive, and Revy would blink when the tissue barely grazed the red raw skin. The attention to her was comforting, and she collected herself despite the last few tears leaking out. Slowly, she decided to meet Balalaika’s gaze, and she saw depression reflected back at her. They were both miserable, in this situation, in this sad example of life.

Revy tugged the light hair that fluttered against her chest. Balalaika’s locks were thick and wavy and perpetually verging on tangled. It had acted as a blanket around her the night they slept together, when Balalaika had been all flushed and pink. Revy doubted they’d ever have that again.


If she was near her too long she’d cry again. Three weeks was livable; Balalaika using it as an excuse was not. She had no clue what to believe. Everyone leaves , she had gasped when the Russian was inside her. There was a satisfaction in that, knowing that after all she was still right. When Balalaika moved into closer as if to embrace her, Revy set the palm of her injured hand on the blonde’s chest. Balalaika stilled immediately, where she had always felt so soft had turned steel. For once, the overwhelming panic gave way to a warped clarity, and she collected herself. However, she couldn’t bring herself to look into the blonde’s eyes, and she felt her resolve breaking just being so close to her. If she held you one more fucking time how bad would it- Shaking her head, Revy took a step away and left, fighting not to give a second glance. See there, Sis? Revy thought bitterly. See how I eventually learn my fucking lessons?

Chapter Text

The job went off without a hitch. The men aboard were so inexperienced with weapons that Revy was able to hit them down one two three . One thing she allowed herself was killing the noncombatant hiding in the cabin- the whites of his eyes made the whole skirmish entirely worth it. Seeing a person on the other side of her gun quivering with fear or sadness lessened those emotions in her. But it didn’t work. No amount of killing put her at ease. No amount of blood soaking her clothes and matting her hair calmed her.

She had limped back to the boat, half-finished and incomplete across the deck. Revy went inside herself; the way she did when she was younger. Her injuries felt worse than before, and her head swam. She was full of tears yet completely empty. Because she was right all along, Revy mused when she peered down at the ocean water from the PT boat, while doing maintenance on her guns.  Three nights in she dreamt that Balalaika had been behind her as they lay in bed. The blonde pressed close, then kissed to where Revy’s neck and shoulder met. The sensation was so wet and so soft that for a moment she thought it was real. When Revy woke up, she immediately turned into her beaten pillow and hissed a long line of expletives, slamming her fist into the mattress, before her body began to shake.

Her anger was endless, and her desire for some sort of relief overcame Revy in such a way that she spent most of her days drinking and smoking. The rest of the company was confused. Revy saw their confusion was felt ashamed, the heat of her fury mixing with the heat of their puzzlement. She wanted desperately to be like them, cool like Benny and calm like Dutch, reserved like Rock, but instead her heart was still burning.  Revy knew heartache, however heartbreak was something she was never used to.

“What the fuck is up with you?” Eda asked over a lukewarm beer, as she watched Revy finish off her fourth whiskey. Revy was blowing off the money from her last job, and the nun knew it. Bao however was very happy with the predicament. “I keep asking that, and it’s like you get worse every time I see you.”

It was day five. Revy bit her teeth into the cigarette in her mouth, the bitter taste bleeding into her tongue. Yesterday she had done another pathetic act in a fit of despair, calling up a former coworker of hers from Rowan’s personal Gomorrah.

“You mean,” Revy replied into the phone, slowly, “that no fuckin’ Russian asked for one of your little friends?”

“I’d have to ask, but I don’t think so. They like their girls a little close to home, if you catch my drift.” said the annoyed woman on the end of the line, Holly. It was hard to hear her over the hard, pulsating beat of the club Holly was in. “None of them asked for me either. Look, I gotta go.”

“Well, thanks for nothing.” She clicked the phone shut, and threw it at the wall.

Revy had hoped that maybe she could shadow one of the prostitutes, and sneak up into the building and ram her fist on Balalaika’s door until either the Russian let her in or some of her men dragged her off. Holly wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and wouldn’t ask too many questions.

“Let me guess. You’re gonna say ‘nothing’ again, aren’t you?”

Revy watched a man lean forward and kiss a woman on the cheek, sloppily. Grimacing, she stared down at her stained glass. “Something fuckin’ shitty is happening inside me and I don’t fucking know why. That good enough for you?”

“But that’s you every day.” Eda replied easily.

“I guess so, bitch.”

“Hey, is it Rock? Did you guys finally…” she made a circle in the air with her pointer finger. It could be considered Eda's hobby, catching up on what a mess Revy's love life was. If only she truly knew.

A man drunkenly tripped and slammed his head on the table that was next to theirs, and Revy flinched. Furious, she ignored the smirk on the nun's face. Being jumpy was another sort of embarrassment. Another drunk dragged him off by the collar, towards a group that began swearing at them as they neared. Bar fights were getting more common as the evening melted into night.

“Nah. Fuck no, Don’t ever ask that shit again.” Revy retorted sharply over the sound of someone getting hit over the head with a piece of furniture, to Bao’s chagrin.

“Ask what? You guys did kiss.” Eda pointed out.

“And that’s all it was fucking was. A kiss when we were both wasted.” She recalled from when Rock had picked her up from the club, and told her of how he had thought of the kiss in Japan often. Her stomach was queasy. It felt wrong to be thinking this way. But Revy was so lonely, and so tired of gnawing on her knuckles when she lay in bed.

The nun’s blue eyes widened. “To his ass it wasn’t. I think you’re the one stringing him along, Revy. If you want me to have him, cut him loose, pretty please.” She was lying, anyone could see that. One of Eda’s eyelids was sagging, and her cheeks were flushed from the heat of the bar and the two beers she already inhaled.

“Ugh, Eda, just shut up and get drunk.” Revy knocked back her glass of whiskey and set it down on the sticky table. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, her eyes darted to a blonde across the bar. The stranger’s hair was thick and wavy, but brown roots were sprouting from the top of her head.

“You want Rock to be your little puppy-dog forever?”

“Fuck, I don’t…” You’ve gotta fucking pretend Revy, you bitch, you’ve been so fucking obvious this whole time, now you’ve gotta try your acting chops, if it’s even acting. Do something award worthy. “...it’s too fucking much. This whole situation. Is fucked.”

“Yeah, I can’t imagine you and anybody like, fucking. We should switch roles. You the nun, and I the unwashed psycho.” For every word Eda spoke, her eyes said ten more. The blue sharpness of her eyes made Revy feel uncomfortable for a spare second, then the nun leaned back and stretched her arms above her head, and the spell was broken.

But I did fuck. I fucked a mob boss and she fuckin’ ate me out. And for the first fucking time in a long time I felt wanted. Revy twisted her mouth and shrugged. “What-the-fuck-ever,” she said at last. “Just let me get wasted, okay? Maybe you’re the one that needs to get fucking laid, bitch.”

“What, you think I’m starving for cock like Janet? Fuck no, I only need to get the clap once to learn my lesson.” Eda said.

Revy knew this was a lie. If Eda had gotten the clap, she would have heard about it. “Don’t bring up Janet, that cunt pissed me off the other day.”

“What’s up? Bitch always got on my nerves too. Messed up that whole plan to get her cash, ‘member?”

“Yeah, I don’t think it was fuckin’ entirely her fault, you dumb bitch.” Revy hunched over her glass. Raising it to her chapped lips, she realised it was empty and tossed it down. “But she’s making up shit to get under my skin. No joke.”

The nun scratched the top of her head as she took a slow sip. “Really? Fuck she has to gain from it?”

“Nothing. She wants to ruin my fuckin’ life after I beat her ass.” Revy lied.

“Eh, it’ll blow over. She’ll get bored and fuck a bunch of Thai guys, get aids and die… oh, hold up.” Eda chewed on her lip and supported her jaw with one hand, elbow balancing on a rubber coaster. “Maybe she wants Rock. Damn, you really can’t want anything, huh?

Revy was sick to her stomach. Tasting warm blood in her mouth, she looked at Eda’s tanned face. “Eda, Uh, I-” her vision blurred, and sweat beaded on her forehead. 

Bile was in the back of her throat, and before she could handle it, she leaned away from the table and vomited on the floor. By her luck, Bao doesn’t notice as he’s busy disarming two men who were in blows a few minutes back. Both drunks were nursing black eyes and red bruises on their chest and arms from grappling.

Eda jumped up and dragged Revy by her arm away from the table, the barstool dragging on the wooden floor and tipping over. The sourness filled Revy’s mouth and she gagged again; the room was too stifling and she felt too hot. Eda pushed through the throngs of bodies in the bar, one hand always out, shoving people aside. The nun wrapped around an arm around Revy’s torso to speed her up. She was warm, too warm, and that brought another surge of nausea. The door opened and a gush of wind met Revy’s pale face. The street was empty in the twilight, and the sun’s dying rose light shone over an abandoned building across the street. Eda dropped her, and she fell to her knees in the dust and grime of the sidewalk. Revy leaned over and threw up into the street, her back shaking and trembling, and she groaned when she finished. It smelled rancid; relief flushed Revy’s cheeks as she shut her eyes. She was glad that Balalaika wouldn’t be here to see her like this.

Awkwardly, Eda patted her sweaty back with an open palm. “Hell, you okay? Wait, don’t answer that.”

Revy ignored the obvious question. Panting, her bangs stuck to her face and she wiped them out of the way. She waited until the saliva dripped off her parted lips, before she tried to sit back up. A cold moment passed where they both sat in silence, listening to the violent city. A dog yowled in the distance, and Revy thought of the run-over dog in New York again.

"Yeah, somebody should fuckin' help that poor baby." The guy next to her in the car said, eyes not leaving the struggling form of the dog.

Revy shook herself to get out of the memory. “ You got a cigarette?”

“I got nothing.”

“Heh… shit.” she licked her cracked lips and looked back up towards the sky. If she really stared hard, she’d see a few stars unveiling themselves, like god just started hole-punching the sky. “You remember… that story I told you about, when I got in trouble at fuckin’ school? The principal sat me down and let me have it?”

Eda tilted her head in response. “You’ve got a lot of stories like that, Revy.”

“Like, shit, when they said that my dad was gonna come to the school, because I fucked up big time and broke this kid’s nose, and I always beat kids up, like all the fucking time, and this was it they said, remember I told you that?”

“Yeah.”

“That was a lie,” Revy swallowed. “I fuckin started bawling my eyes out and asking for ‘im. Asking for my fucking shithead old man. I like… had this fucked up fantasy where I had a normal family, like I was so out of it. And that’s the funniest part, I get these delusions that shit’s actually alright when it’s not, when I think this whole time has just been me acting crazy, and my life isn’t a mess. But I know not to get my hopes up and that’s the fucked up part.” There wasn’t an idea in her head why she decided to start talking, but she wasn’t able to quiet down.

“Revy, you just had a bad day at school, every kid has that. You’re crazy, yeah, but that’s besides the point. You’re drunk.” The nun replied, shaking her head. Stretching out her long legs in front of her, she rotated her ankles.

Revy coughed, leaning over the sidewalk. She spat out a string of yellow bile onto the asphalt. “Rock kissed me, and I couldn’t do it. I just can’t fucking do it anymore. It’s another girlish daydream that’s like… light as air. Like a goddamn candy wrapper.”

Eda nodded, her pink sunglasses slipping over her nose. “Really? Honest and truly?”

“He waited too long, that’s all there is to it. He waited too fucking long. Everything’s falling apart.”

“Is there someone else?”

Revy licked her dry lips.

“Then that’s what Janet’s after, isn’t it? Shit. I can read you like a book Revy, don’t even try it.” Her blue eyes narrowed at hers, not angry, as if she sensed every false note on her.

Revy didn’t understand all these twisting conflictions, and with her feelings close to choking her, all she did was listen. Candy wrapper. She began to chuckle. Eda, confused, moved away backwards, as Revy broke into a wail of laughter. She gloated over it, and fed on it. Revy was nourished by the drunken laughter, shuddering and crying out like a dying animal, and when she was finished, she put both her hands next to the vomit to support herself, and slowly heaved herself up. The cement scratched her already bruised knees, but she paid no mind to it. Revy swallowed her foul-tasting spit, and met Eda’s furrowed brow.

“Holy shit. You good?”

“I’m wasted, that’s what.” Revy replied sluggishly, all of the fake joy leaving her. “I’m goddamn miserable.”

“I think you need to head back to your place. I’ll drive, come on.”

The drive back to Dutch’s apartment was silent. Eda had managed to have her car fixed, but the power steering was still shot, and Revy didn’t know how long someone could drive with no gasoline in the tank. Revy’s head flopped uselessly against the cloth car seat, and her eyes kept flickering shut. Forcing them open, she gazed across the dark landscape of closing storefronts and the building of Hotel Moscow a couple streets away. A gasp died in her throat when she saw light in Balalaika’s office, peeking through the blinds.

Eda focused on driving, managing to find a cigarette shoved somewhere and it flopped out of her mouth. Tapping the cigarette on the lid of the half-open window, the ash blew away as she returned it to her lips. Revy yanked her head over to watch her, anything to try and ignore where Balalaika worked.

“Hey… so, I’m not gonna ask if you’re with anyone, alright? And don’t tell me shit. It’s gonna be the same as it was, don’t run your mouth and fuck it up for yourself.”

Revy stared out the windshield. “Fuck.”

The radio fuzzed on, and Eda adjusted the knob until a rock song came on. Palm trees flew past, emerald green against the constant beige of cracked brick and newly paved black streets. By the time the song ended the wheels of the car halted, and the apartment was in view. The shadow of the building fell over them and they sat together quietly.

“You can get up the stairs alright?”

“Yeah. I’ve been through worse shit.”

“Revy, you cried in the principal’s office because you wanted some asshole to roll up and care about you. That’s my little comment for that story. Now get your ass upstairs. I want to head back and hit the hay.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Revy snapped wearily, and she slid out of the still-warm car. Her feet were unsteady on the pavement, and her fingers dug into the rust lining the vehicle to support herself. It bit into the soft flesh underneath her fingernails. Catching her breath, she pushed herself off the vehicle and managed her way towards the apartment, one foot in front of the other, mentally focusing on the specks of gravel under the tread of her boots.

The headlights of Eda’s reversing car lit the way into the apartment. Reavy leaned heavily on the door as she opened it, and inside there was only a light on in the living room, and Rock. His eyes met hers as he dropped a cigarette butt into the trash.

“Your shoulder is healing well. How about your hand?”

Revy showed her palm in response, yawning. “I’m not in the mood for chitchat, I’m gonna go pass the fuck out.”

As she limped past him, Rock spoke up. He was stronger this time, his gaze entirely directed only at Revy. “Actually, there’s something we should talk about. I think you know what.”

Her body was a vast expanse of leaking wounds. And when she felt herself just beginning to heal, one event after the other had to happen. Flexing her injured hand, she turned around slowly to face him, cautiously. “What? Rock, what could we possible be fucking talking about right now? Tell me.”

“What’s going on between us?” Rock asked, not daring to come any closer.

Revy laughed humorlessly, shaking her shoulders. Bile was in the back of her mouth again, her heart pounded furiously. Face flushing, she stared at the wall, debating her options. “Dude… c’mon, I’m not in the mood for this dumb shit.”

“No, really.” Rock took one step near her cautiously. “We can’t keep avoiding this forever. Best to talk about it now.”

“What’s there to talk about?” Revy scoffed, shrugging.

He clenched his jaw. “What happened when we got drunk at Bao’s. In the car.”

An ugly expression rolled across Revy’s face, and she whipped around to fully face him. “ Yeah? It was a kiss, Rock. Don’t get your panties in a twist.” It wasn’t just a kiss, and that was the horrible part. His kiss paled in comparison to the ones Balalaika gave her. The Russian’s mouth made Revy melt. There wasn’t a flicker of hurt in him, instead there was blissless confusion. But he stepped closer to her, enough that if he held an arm out, he’d brush her shoulder. If she raised her eyes to meet Rock’s, there was a chance he would touch her. Revy wanted to be untouchable. She needed his hands to pass through her tired skin and come out raw with blood.

“You kissed me, not the other way around.  We’ve been skirting around this for years, I’m tired of it. And then you’ve started disappearing, and you won’t open up to me,” he sighed, rubbing his face with his hands. “Where does the truth end and the lying begin? Tell me, where does it? I’ve never dealt more intimately with Roanapur than now, and yet in the process you’ve went away. Oh, what’s the point?”

“What the fuck do you fucking mean? What’s the point? Rock? ” Revy shouted at him, hunching her shoulders forward, pointing a finger in his direction.

“Just tell me. Open up to me, and this can be done and over with. Please, Revy. For me. A bullet and a gun, remember?” Rock chuckled at that, shaking his head.

“Of course I remember,” Revy whispered harshly. “I don’t have a shit memory. Rock, answer me this first. Was it ever possible- fuck, for us? I felt something for you, you know, once.” she stared at the ground, digging her nails into her palms and breaking into a cold sweat. “For quite a while, actually.”

Rock chewed on the inside of his cheek, quietly, horrifically pondering. She worried the silence would swallow them whole.Then he slowly nodded, and Revy wished she had never asked. He licked his lips and looked up, and stepped closer to her, but didn’t touch her. Before Revy would have been a bit impressed by his surge of courage. Now she was withering under the gaze of his dark, lively eyes, and they weren’t the eyes she wanted to be gazing into. “Is it possible now?”

“No.” Revy replied. She turned red.

“What happened while I was waiting?”

“A fuckton.” she replied, not moving away from their closeness. His breath was hot on her face. Her eyes moved down to his mouth, noticing the way they were shaped, delicately pink.

Rock leaned in, his lips brushing hers, and Revy’s eyes slid shut and he barely pressed a kiss to her. She tasted awful, yet he didn’t seem to mind or even notice. If she had shut her eyes tight enough, she could have envisioned Balalaika’s, to go away inside herself and think of the blonde’s strong arms around her. But Rock hadn’t shaved, and the stubble was rough on the corner of her mouth. What mortified her worse was how she relented for a second before she pushed him away roughly, feeling his rib cage underneath her palms.

When a strangled gasp left his mouth, Revy tore herself away. Balalaika would fucking kill you for this, Revy wanted to scream. But the blonde wasn’t here. She was never going to be here. Night and nights alone were ahead of Revy, and that was maddening.

“No,” she repeated, not unkindly. “Does... that make you feel worse or better?”

Rock watched her with an emotion she didn’t know. He wasn’t as hurt as she was expecting, instead there bitter resignation, like he tried and failed, and now he had a story to tell to the next girl he’d eventually meet and fuck; maybe she’d be the girl he’d have been looking for, a ghost of his previous life, maybe carrying a little bit of Yukio in her. Someone he could actually save. Rock would tell her this sad tale, and she’d put a hand on his arm, batting her eyelashes in pity. Most likely he wouldn’t mention Revy in his promising future, and she flinched in imagined hurt.

“I don’t know.” he said. Stepping away, Rock turned and walked out the door without a second look. His shoulders were straight and his tie slid back and forth over his chest. Revy watched, and she knew that was the last time he would ever kiss her again.

Emptily, Revy wrapped her arms around herself and stared at where he had left. The alcohol buzzed inside of her. A chill raced over her as she walked over to the couch and stiffly sat down. The old couch squeaked under her weight, and Revy felt her cell phone push against her in the back pocket of her jeans. Taking it out she stared at the screen blankly. Cycling through the numbers, she came across the newest number, Balalaika’s. Her thumb hovered over the button to click it, before revulsion rose inside her. Revy pressed the button and the phone rang through the silence.

She didn’t pick up. Revy tried it again and again, until on the fourth try she gave up, face masked in tears. Her lower lip trembled, until she bit down enough to bleed. What the fuck is there to do? Dumbass. Burning bridges every way you turn. Should have kissed Rock back. Admit it, it felt good.




Life was easier when she didn’t feel anything, or so Revy told herself. Last night she had smoked a whole pack until sleep drew her eyelids down, and there were no dreams to torture herself with. Rock tasted like cigarettes, too, and something earthy underneath. It was painful to dwell on, how good of a kisser he really was. Rock had come back in the middle of the night. Revy lay in the darkness, spread out like a starfish, arms hanging off of the bed, and she imagined going into his room and climbing into his bed. But he wasn’t Balalaika. And she wasn’t here to punish her. Ever since the order to keep away from the Russian, Revy had not even touched herself.

The next day she camped herself in the kitchen, eating a cheese stick when the phone rang in its cradle. Tugging at the collar of the white crewneck, Revy narrowed her eyes and debated answering it. Rubbing her healing shoulder, she watched the phone rattle in desperation. The phone rang for a third time, shrilly over the television. Grabbing the remote to the left of her, Revy turned down the sound of explosions and screaming, swallowed her food, and answered the phone.

“Lagoon Company.” Revy said monotonously, watching the people scramble around on the television. Dutch had an affinity for old war movies, as did Benny.

“Is Dutch nearby?” Came the deep voice on the other side of the line, and Revy paused. Panic crawled up her throat, making her freeze. She strained to hear him.

“Dutch’s out. Call him at the boat, I think. What’s the job about?”

“I see,” Boris replied. “I will contact him there. It is paperwork. Goodbye.”

“Whoa, whoa, wait! H-how’s Sis?” Revy asked, her voice tight. Grasping the remote, she turned down the volume a few notches to hear him better.

“How is the Kapitan ?” Boris sounded confused, as much as he could be.

“Yeah. I haven’t seen her in like, a long fucking time. Cause of dumb shit. So I don’t know what’s up, Boris.”

Boris was quiet for a moment. “The Kapitan is her usual self.”

“Has she said anything?” Revy pushed, tapping her foot on the ground nervously. She wanted to appear calm in front of Balalaika’s second-in-command, but knowing just how close he was to the blonde made her blood pressure spike. If there was anyone Balalaika would talk to, it would be him .

“No, she is private about that.” Boris said. He sure is trying his damndest not to mention anything about what me and Sis might have. After he spoke, he would fall silent, as if already anticipating what Revy was going to say.

Revy’s hand shook holding the phone. She hadn’t said anything? But she's mine, Boris, she even said so. A burning need to ask more almost had her asking question after question, but she blinked a few times and sighed shakily. “Can you pass a message along? She’s not answering me at all. Or are we supposed to cut all contact? What a pain in the ass.”

“I am not involving myself. I will now call Dutch-”

“But you did!” Revy scratched the top of her head, tangling her fingers in her locks anxiously. “When you guys drove me to her apartment. Shit, just tell her that I’ve haven’t, ugh,  I don’t know. I haven’t forgotten about her.”

Boris sighed, not pleased that she interrupted him. “I have to speak with Dutch.”

“You’ll tell her?” Revy asked, struggling to hide the twisted hope in her voice. 

“I will contact the Kapitan . Goodbye.” He sounded resigned.

Sliding the phone into the cradle, Revy put a fist on her hip and paused. Why would they concern Dutch with paperwork? I thought we finished that job fucking days ago. She flicked the volume up for a movie absentmindedly. Biting her nails she watched the rest of it, jiggling one foot and rubbing her healing shoulder. The air was hot even with the cool air on the apartment. Credits rolled, yellow print over a red screen, the music swelled, almost muffling the sound of a bedroom door opening. She jumped, her body freezing. Rock's gone, he's out, he has to be.

“Hey, you mind turning it down?” Benny asked, wearing an old science fiction shirt and boxers, coming out of the hallway. A spoon clinked against a bowl as he headed towards the sink. “Can barely hear myself think.”

Over the past days, their friendship had improved slightly. It was a necessity if they were to work with one another; Benny reached out first. He had invited her to watch a movie with the three of them. Revy gritted her teeth and sat through another one of his obscure finds. Things were now different, and she knew he’d never forgive her for what she did to Janet. That was fine for her, because he’ll hate her more if Balalaika involved herself, which Revy was certain she was. Yet guilt was all that Revy felt when she looked at Benny, who now had to leave the apartment to see Janet. He hadn’t even mentioned her.

“Benny,” Revy began, not moving her eyes from the screen. A woman was holding a child and hiding behind remains of a fence. “What does it mean when Hotel Moscow calls up Dutch and has him do paperwork here? Why the fuck not at their home base?” she jerked her head in the mentioned building’s direction.

“Oh, well, means that they’re probably gonna pay us a visit. Damn, I hope they don’t come into the PT boat or anything. I haven’t cleaned.” Benny said. He turned the faucet on and set to washing the dishes Revy helpfully neglected.

Revy coughed, and dropped the cigarette, burning her foot. Ignoring the pain she instead stared bug-eyed at Benny. “Uh, are you for fuckin’ real?  When’s the last time they did that ?”

“For the life of me I can’t remember. Nothing to worry about, probably a little tea time with Dutch while discussing work. Who knows. Sometimes I think Miss Moscow just wants to get out of her office.”

“Wonderful.” She grumbled. Excitement overcame her anger and sadness, itching through her skin. Scratching her arm, she wanted to tear her flesh off in frustration. To see Balalaika would be too much. To be unable to touch her, or even be spoken too in that intimate way that the blonde did so well… it almost brought Revy to tears, she was so lonely. “When do you think they’ll come over? No clue if I have to be here for that bullshit.”

“You want to miss Balalaika and Dutch talking philosophy? Reminds me of my community college days.” Benny chuckled.

“No fuckin’ clue. Kinda wanna spectate.” She was already sweating, her stomach twisting.

Benny shrugged. “I’ll be out probably. With my girlfriend.”

“Alright.” she mumbled awkwardly. Yanking open the drawer, she averted her gaze and searched for a cigarette. Her fingers folded around a pack and found the purple lighter she found herself using time and time again. “Rock’s out too, huh?”

“Yep.”

The screen door rattled open and Dutch entered, clapping his cell phone shut. His boots were heavy on the floor, scuffing along the floor. Raising an eyebrow at the both of them, he grabbed a washcloth and patted the top of his head. “So, later today we’ll be getting a quick visit from Hotel Moscow. I’ll go out on a limb and assume you both know that?” They both nodded. ”Good. They’ll be here this evening. Mostly about the Marong bullshit, and then maybe some socializing. Nothing to stress about. Nobody’s gonna be thrown on a car hood.”

Dutch gave Revy a good, hard look at her paled face.

Chapter Text

“Revy, can you move all the trash on one side of your room to the other?” Dutch asked around a cigarette, cocking his head to one side. “Before Balalaika arrives? Do you really want her to catch a glimpse of that?”

“What makes you think I’m taking her on a tour of our box of an apartment?” Revy huffed. The mere thought of Balalaika visiting made her stomach curdle. She didn’t want to see the Russian, nor hear her voice, or smell her perfume. If Balalaika touched her, Revy was afraid she’d explode.

Our apartment, huh? Remind me the last time you paid rent.” Dutch blew a stream of smoke at the ceiling as he dried dishes, then setting the chipped porcelain on the counter beside him.

Sulking, Revy tied the elastic of a garbage bag and dragged it out the door. The plastic caught on the door handle and she angrily yanked it, almost tearing a hole large enough for old pasta or tea bags to spill onto the porch. He always did this when Chang was coming over as well. It was a trick to try and make her clean her room up, as if she was going to show it off.

In the end, however, Revy had taken out a total of four trash bags from her room, over the course of an hour and a half. Benny had taken to vacuuming the living room, and Dutch finishing up the kitchen while dumping the ashtrays. In her room she had discovered eleven crushed cans, empty gun oil bottles, bullet casings, and various wrappers of snack food. Her dirty laundry took up an entire laundry basket, that she shoved in a corner to deal with later. Fishing the bra off of her lamp, Revy looked over her work pridefully; ignoring the broken furniture and copious amounts of bullets rolling around in a busted drawer that needed organizing. As far as she was concerned, only what Dutch could see was what really mattered.

After she showered and dressed in a black tank top and cotton shorts, Dutch called her name from the living room.

Revy glowered at the cracked mirror set on her dresser. Sickness waxed her throat and the inside of her ribcage. Her eyes stung until she squeezed her eyes shut, hard. A quick hello would suffice. Then she would escape down the stairs and go somewhere , anywhere but here, with Balalaika taking up one third of the apartment. Rushing to the window, she peered out at the cracked parking lot. The Plymouth was pulled to the side, with Benny underneath it; a rusty toolbox sat to the right of him. The car glinted black in the rosy sunlight. Dutch had said they’d swing around in the later afternoon, here they were, appearing at six o’clock on the dot.

“Look, you don’t have to stick around, but just say a quick “hi” and you can be on your way. It’ll just be two old people chatting.” He readying a pot of coffee to start brewing.

Suddenly it dawned on her. Dutch had no clue about what transpired a few days ago. Irritated, Revy nodded stiffly and crossed her arms tightly across her chest. “...I’ll say hi.”

Boris went around and opened the passenger door for Balalaika, who stepped out into the sunshine. Even at that distance she was so tall and broad that it was impossible to miss her; in that red suit and long, copious amounts of light hair. The Russian glanced up, and caught Revy’s obvious staring from the window. Her eyes narrowed as she nursed a thick cigar, her legs squared firmly on the ground. She hadn’t brought her coat due to the autumn heatwave that washed over the city, that left people lazy in their homes or living on the beach.

 

The scar ripped down her face, and the ones on her neck and chest were prominent in the setting sun. Revy missed the way those scars felt underneath her touch, how she had tasted that night, and the way her hard voice could turn almost soft. Lungs aching, she hadn’t realised that while lost in her thoughts she wasn’t breathing.

Dutch poured two mugs of coffee. “Hey, Revy. You want a cup?”

“Nah.” Revy mumbled, moving away from the open kitchen window. She fished a cigarette packet out of the drawer to her right. Car wheels rolled over gravel as they heard sharp sounds of someone walking up the wooden stairs.

“Get the door, will you? I think we have to pretend to have manners for once.”

She sighed as she dropped the pack onto the counter. Glumly, Revy walked over to the door. Balalaika knocked sharply, and after waiting a moment, Revy slowly opened the reinforced door, chewing on the inside of her cheek to hide her nerves. Jiggling her leg, the visage of Balalaika on their porch had her eyes bugging out of her head, and her hands sweaty. “Hey, Sis. Uh, welcome.”

“Two Hands,” Balalaika greeted. Orderly politeness seeped easily into her tone. Hands on her hips, it was more of a policeman about to announce they had a warrant to enter the apartment. Revy flinched. At the reaction, the blonde’s expression softened. “May I come in?”

“Come on in.” Revy said as the blonde breezed right past her, upper arm brushing her chest. She had no choice but to follow Balalaika, going around her quickly, and head right back for the cigarettes.

Upon closer inspection, Revy could see what Balalaika looked like when she was younger. The picture of her surrounded by men dead or still alive in uniform made Revy lean against the kitchen counter, and stare at the floor like a teenager. What was more important was that she was here, and a few feet away from seeing Revy’s decrepit room that house several articles of her clothing a few photographs, and she was in their fucking apartment , and she was so pretty and intimidating, and Revy wanted to still be mad.

“Would you like a seat?” Dutch offered easily, gesturing towards the small table that they hardly ever used. More often items were just dumped unceremoniously on it, but Benny had managed to hide everything in a closet.

“Oh, no thank you, Dutch. I won’t be too long.” A folder was tucked underneath her arm as she accepted a cup of coffee. Her fingers wrapped around the ceramic, pink nails glowing.

“Boris coming in too?”

“No, no the sergeant won’t. He’ll be making a quick delivery while I am here. He isn’t one for these types of gatherings.”

Dutch smiled. “I figured as much.”

He couldn’t say a whole fucking sentence to save his life, Revy thought. Water from her damp hair trickled down her back, making her shiver despite the tropical heat.

Balalaika politely sipped the coffee, successfully hiding a twitch of distaste each time. Dutch finished his cup within fifteen minutes of the most boring conversation Revy had ever heard in her entire life. When they dipped into philosophy, Revy adjusted her position on leaning on the counter in irritation. She couldn’t understand what was interesting about old literature, written by long-dead men, about hard topics that couldn’t possibly be attributed to real life. Revy went through three cigarettes. While wanting to escape out to see what Benny was up to, a part of her didn’t want to leave. Instead she watched Balalaika sip her hot drink and smoke and chat with Dutch about topics Revy couldn’t begin to understand.

“Like Dostoevsky, you mean?” Her accent was smooth on the man’s name, like she switched immediately into Russian. Revy mouthed it to herself, tongue flicking over the silent, faux Russian pronunciation.

“I read that when I was a younger guy, I’ll admit, so you’ll have to jog my memory.”

About a damn book that must be three hundred years old? At Revy’s eye roll, Balalaika drew her attention. “The young people of today have no interest in such matters.” the blonde sighed, half-hiding a humored smile.

“That’s not true, Sis. Rock knows about that Homer guy or some shit.” she replied. Rock and Dutch had these debates as well. What made her confused was how could Balalaika act so normally? Revy was unable to meet the stony blue eyes staring at her inquisitively.

“I didn’t take you to have an interest in Ancient Greek stories, Revy.” Dutch joked, raising a cup of his black coffee to sip.

“I don’t care about those stories. They’re long as shit and boring .” They both looked at her like she was a tall child. Quickly, she realised that the blonde must have disliked that answer, and tried to rectify the situation. She didn’t want Balalaika to get mad and leave. “Though I’m sure some people like them.”

Balalaika tsked and shook her head. “I have to say I’m disappointed. I always figured Dutch’s ramblings would have to have rubbed off on you at some point.”

Dutch set his mug back onto the counter. “Revy’s very selective over what she reads.”

The corners of Balalaika’s lips upturned, and she hid a chuckle at Revy’s red face. Still, there was a reluctance in her actions. The blonde warily looked at Revy as if she was going to say something they’d both regret in front of Dutch.

“I read Old Yeller in middle school, okay? I have read fucking literature .”

“Why Two Hands, I stand corrected. Hard to argue with a fellow academic.” Balalaika replied, then turned to Dutch, and continued their previous discussion, while Revy stayed embarrassed and a bit angry.

Bitterly, she refused to make eye contact and instead found herself staring at her burning cigarette, watching the paper warp into ash. The two in front of her busied themselves with the conversation about Marong, and what trouble his ghost brought. He was more hassle being dead than alive. Revy and Dutch both knew that Marong should have remained alive longer, but neither brought it up.

Balalaika brandished the Manila folder to Dutch, what passed as a smile on her pink lips. He took it quickly, and flipped through the contents, brow furrowed in interest. From what Revy could see, there were roughly five pages of paper.  “Will this ever end? God damn.

“I hope it will. However, I am relieved to say that this may be finished sooner than later.”

“Really.” Dutch said rather than asked.

She tapped cigar ash into an ashtray nearby. The sunset’s light made her hair look like pale gold. Revy could note a few strands of silver at the crown of Balalaika’s head. The Russian glanced at him. “I hear that they have a family get-together planned somewhere it in the city, Dutch.”

“Finish twelve people at a party instead of thirty on a beach?”

“Surprised? One must think outside of battle, as difficult as that sounds.” Balalaika replied as she blew out a puff of smoke, making her Russian accent gritty.

Dutch shrugged. “A few more sacrificial lambs. Hope this doesn’t inspire more vengeance in them or what not.”

“I’ll assure you, once they see what we have in plan… I doubt they’ll ever think about crossing us again.” The Russian’s eyes flickered at Revy, and held a gaze for a second. Revy stared intensely back, forgetting to blink for a moment, the heat of the blue eyes making her bend her head ever so slightly; a primal urge to protect her neck. What the fuck do you have planned?

Revy didn’t want to think of what would happen to Janet. A thrill rose in her all the same. Still, there was next to nothing Revy knew about Janet, and no doubt nobody would tell her. It would do well to see the bitch’s head on a spike, instead of her own, so why was she feeling so uneasy? She refused to think it would be so simple. Nothing in the world was simple now. Every single action carried weight that she could barely carry. It was hard to carry a water-logged Balalaika to the PT boat, a shining light blinding her eyes, the waves pushing into her open, gasping mouth. But this was even harder. Not after what happened. Revy leaned on the counter stiffly. Looking down, she realized that the cigarette had burned out without her even raising it to her lips for a second time.

“...Revy?”

Jerking her head up, she realized that she had missed a good portion of the conversation. Not that I should have been anyway… shit goes right over my head. Balalaika and Dutch both were waiting for her response; a reserved expression on her face and a questioning one on his. A cold sweat broke out on the back of her neck.

“Uh, yeah?”

“Something on your mind?” Balalaika teased lightly. Blonde hair brushed past her breast as she tilted her head. But underneath the teasing was an edginess that made Revy consider what her response should be.

“Nah, fuck, I’m just tired.” Revy said. She made a show of rubbing her cheek with an uninjured hand. Tension skyrocketed between them, and she knew even Dutch could sense it. The blonde looked like she was struggling with something, the way her throat bobbed as she thought. Bringing her cigar back to her mouth, she sucked on it before catching Dutch’s attention.

“Dutch,” Balalaika began with a hint of caution. “I will need to speak with Revy alone, for a moment, if that is alright.” Even she didn’t bother to give an explanation; she was catching on quick to the mood that was locked between the three of them.

He debated it, looking back at a sweating Revy, and waited for her reaction. “Revy?”

Did she want to? It was a cruel thing, to see Balalaika for a few mere moments for the blonde to be whisked away again for weeks at a time. Revy had no clue as to why she was able to have handled it for so long. Loneliness was her companion, as it always had been, since she was a bruised child, but this was a different breed entirely. Like an animal tasting warm blood for the first time, it had awakened another primal urge that was never sated. Balalaika was waiting for an answer, her face impassive.

“Y-yeah, yeah, if that’s cool with you.” She agreed. Folding her arms in front of her, as if it would protect her from the Russian.

“Fine by me, then. I’ll see what Benny’s up to with the Plymouth.” He said nonchalantly, giving a casual look to Balalaika that spelled out the whole situation with a I’ll be right outside in the driveway, all I need is a sound of alarm to head back up.

“I appreciate it. It won’t take long.”

“No problem. We’ll finish the discussion later.” Dutch walked towards the door as the floor creaked under his heavy boots. Giving one last look at Revy, the sunglasses sitting high on the bridge of his nose, he twisted the knob. She returned the look with a subtle nod, because this was meant to happen. It had to. As he shut it behind him softly, Revy rushed to the open window and flung it down. Fixing the curtains to cover the glass, the room became darker, safer. She wished she could cover all the windows and they wouldn’t need to talk or see the hurt in each other’s eyes.

“We have a few topics to discuss.” Balalaika said from behind her. It was business to her, Revy nearly forgot. 

Clenching the rough curtain fabric in her hands, Revy stared out the crack between the two sheets of cloth while gnawing her lip. “About what?”

“Use your head.”

So, she did. Revy turned towards her and crossed her arms. Impatiently she tapped her foot, wanting this whole conversation to be spoken and done with, with no more questions hanging between them. They were both owed that much. “Yeah, I hate being kept in the dark. What the hell is going on? What kind of scheme are you cooking up?”

Scheming. Oh, how I dislike that word.”

“And I dislike not being told what the fuck is happening with this whole shitshow, Sis.”

Balalaika drew her lips together in disapproval. “You no longer have a part in what’s going on. This is all on my shoulders, now.”

“Who else was told about this?”

“No one was told, Rebecca. Save those who had a part to play, of course. And they were only told as much as they needed to know. You must know that there is no other way to keep a secret, especially in Roanapur. The objective was to rid ourselves of a potentially dangerous enemy as cheaply and quickly as I could.” She flashed her white teeth in a grim smile. Worry settled in her crow’s feet. “The plain truth is that you talk too much. That loose tongue will be our undoing.”

Revy gnawed her lip, glaring at her with a limited amount of venom. She just couldn’t muster it. “Well. You should just fucking cut it off.”

“Don’t tempt me.” the blonde replied with a hint of humor.

“Is she dead?” Revy asked, quietly. She dreaded the answer, and her pulse quickened in her throat at the dark look Balalaika gave her.

“You want the truth?”

“Yeah. Don’t spare me anything.”

“Fine. Not yet, but I found a few of her employees. Only three, no major breakthrough.” Balalaika pointed the cigar at Revy, it balancing precariously between her long fingers. “What would be the proper way to threaten such a genius ? Something simple. They can’t be dead yet, no. So, I was poetic and sent out their tongues, in the same cardboard box she sent me. A gift back to their offices. Their toys that were taken away and can never be replaced. A cigar can, but not that useless flapping muscle those idiots begged with.” The more Balalaika spoke, the more cruelty inflicted her words.

Revy’s breath caught in her throat. “Sis… Holy shit…”

“Next I’ll send their teeth.” Balalaika stepped forward, the cigar returned to her mouth. As if daring for her to get upset. A lovesick woman-child Janet called her. Revy grew angry at the memory. Deep inside, it was true. Horribly so, and every day Revy was caring less about the revelation. But she couldn’t even bring that word to her lips.

“That’s fucked. But what else can I expect from you?” Revy said, backing up until the small of her back hit the counter. Hypocritical to say; she killed her fair share of non-combatants and would call it a day, but this was different, and she nearly regretted the appreciation that welled inside of her. She felt fucked up. Balalaika was out hunting to save what they had; every single action must have been difficult.

When Balalaika smiled, the burned side of her face tightened, twisting a corner of her mouth in a strange way. “They’d have done worse to you. I’ve seen it. I’ve had it done, and have never lost a night’s sleep over it.”

Now, that’s a fucking joke if I ever heard one . Chills ran down Revy’s back like cold water. “You don’t sleep.”

The sound of Balalaika’s heels echoed through the empty apartment, and for a spare second Revy wished Dutch or Rock or Benny or anyone was here. She felt like a cornered animal, with a predator closing in. “You’ve become so sensitive about this simple matter. Has Rock rubbed off on you?”

Rock. of course you’re trying to twist the knife. “Sis, you’re fucking exhausted. Look at you. You need to sleep.”

The cigar was grinded into a metal ashtray. Balalaika didn’t bother replying for a moment, instead letting Revy squirm in silence. The blonde’s eyes were blue pits above lavender discoloration. Heels tapped on the floor, slowly, one foot after the other, and the Russian took her time, because Rrevy wasn’t going anywhere. Frozen, she watched the taller woman loom over her. She knew that she wasn’t going to be hurt. Not here. Not while Dutch was outside, presumably arguing with Benny over the state of the cherry-red vintage.

Revy wasn’t being touched yet and already between her legs she ached. Balalaika came closer, blocking out the light. Leaning down, her lips ghosted across Revy’s, but she didn’t move in, Instead they both remained where they were, breathing heavily, their noses bumping together. Revy arched her back and her breasts brushed the blonde’s own chest. Her body was on fire, she thought, and she couldn’t focus on anything except flowery perfume. 

Putting a shaky hand on her chest, the sensation of feeling Balalaika’s lungs fill with air made her gasp with want to fold inside her arms, and hide her face in blonde hair, and then be kissed senseless. The scar that dipped under the red suit jacket was soft, and rippled in the light. “No.” Revy husked. “Y-you don’t get to fucking kiss me when you’re like this.”

“Come with me.” her voice was low, like she didn’t want to say it out loud. Balalaika leaned back, blinking slowly.

Revy had dreamed of hearing those words from her for days now. Tears wanted to well up, and she barely could distinguish if it was from anger, sadness, or relief. She was cold as Balalaika stepped backward, close enough to where Revy could remain touching her upper chest. “ Why ?”

“You ask that? You, who started all this?”

“Don’t you dare put the fucking blame on me. You allowed this, Sis. When I started coming to you instead of hanging around Rock, admit it Sis, you loved it.”

It was as if Balalaika was suddenly slapped across the face. Broken out of her sadistic mood, the blonde stared at Revy in muted shock, flickers of guilt in her eyes. The memories of Revy being punched and choked hung between them; the sheer knowledge of how Balalaika could easily get the upper hand. Revy couldn’t let the blonde despair; she knew the taste of that all too well herself. “What’s going on? Forget everything else. Background noise, that’s all it fucking is. Fuck them. Fuck Janet. It’s just us now.”

“How can we be sure?” Balalaika muttered. “That bitch must have listening devices scattered around.”

“She already knows, let’s be real. And if she’s listening… then she’ll know this means something to you. And that should scare the fucking hell out of her. I know you care, don’t bullshit me. You’re mine, even after what happened.” Voice cracking, Revy ignored the self-loathing thoughts in the back of her head.

“You’re truly a child Rebecca,” Balalaika said tensely. “You think that didn’t bother me? I reached for you, and you pulled away. I had thought...”

 I don’t wanna hear it. I know what you were thinking. “Who can blame me? I was fucking upset; I was crying like a baby. I’m wrapped around your finger and you fucking know it.”

Only when they were alone did she see Balalaika smile in the gentle way that Revy grew to love, or hear her laugh like the woman she was. To others Balalaika was the kapitan of Hotel Moscow, head bowed beneath the weight of an imaginary crown even when her head was bare. A moment passed where Balalaika looked at her with that small smile, her shoulders softening. The wistful way she had looked at her the night they had been together was all that Revy saw. Finally, the blonde spoke. “I am yours. Do I even need to say it?”

“You’ve been mine since I saved your ass.” Revy reflected, her eyes widening. A ridiculous notion, however saying those words made her feel content despite the sadness churning in her chest. It probably wasn’t true; she allowed herself to think it anyway. Her hand remained on Balalaika’s chest, but slid down to touch a button on the crimson suit jacket. She circled it with her finger, than dropped her hand back to her side, reluctantly.

Balalaika chucked at the response, but didn’t deny it. “I remember your face, for a mere moment. Even when I broke through the water, thanks to you, I was still drowning from the water in my lungs, and bleeding out. I was so close… but you refused to let me die. You and Dutch.”

“‘Cause Roanapur would have been fucking destroyed.” By your men, Revy thought. You brought order and more fucking chaos, Benny once said.

“You’re right.” The blonde replied. Slowly she turned away, taking a few steps towards the other side of the kitchen. “So… I must carry on, and earn back the reward for my men’s hard service.”

There’s no honor in drowning. “The reward?”

Balalaika ignored the question. “Rebecca, this drains me. Not what is going on between us. The mere fact that I cannot enjoy a night with you without paying a price.”

“It’s only us now. There’s not fucker in sight, and if there is I’ll kill ‘em. You’re paying for my shitty mistake, and I’m sorry, okay?” Revy came closer and touched Balalaika’s wide shoulder. The muscle was tense. “Hey.” Revy tugged at the blonde’s arm, fingers digging in and feeling a flex of a bicep. Balalaika was drowning again, and she had to fish her out of the pitch-black water. “Get out of your head. Look at me.”

The blonde looked back at her with corpse eyes that she knew were remembering something worse. Afghanistan , Revy wanted to say, to ask what she was thinking of; of the torture, the starvation, the loneliness. She was lonely too. Surrounded by all those men who worshipped the ground she walked on, but deep down, Balalaika must have been lacking. Revy wanted to reach in and take all that sat on her shoulders away from her, but the pain was too deeply intertwined to be pulled out, and it was a useless, girlish want that she mentally kicked herself.

Revy took Balalaika by the waist and drew her close, until they pressed flush together. Raising a hand, she cupped the Russian’s scarred cheek, fingers dancing down by her sharp jaw. Balalaika could feel the scars too. Heavy on her skin; she must feel them all the time, and maybe she can remember how it happened, as clear as still water. Revy’s throat felt like it as being pinched shut by an invisible fist. She gazed up at the blonde’s face, taking in the sorrow and the vengeance and the coldness of it all, and then went up on the tips of her toes and kissed her.

A shuddered gasp left Balalaika’s painted lips, and using the opportunity as she did before, Revy slid a tongue inside of her mouth. She tasted cheap coffee and the cigar’s pepper, so painfully familiar that Revy dry-sobbed. She missed being held so badly that she shook against the taller woman’s warm body.

“You’ll never leave me again, are you fucking listening? I won’t let you.” she managed out, when Balalaika cupped her lower back, her warmth so so welcome on the exposed skin. The Russian kissed back, her canine nipping into Revy’s chapped bottom lip. It was easy to lose herself in the ways Balalaika’s tongue chased her own, and Revy forgot how isolated she made herself the past couple of days, despite being around people. Balalaika moaned in pure need, tightening her hold, sliding a hand into Revy’s loose hair, then holding fast as if she was going to back away.

Revy kissed with no restraint or hesitation, and Balalaika kept up until she overpowered Revy, her tongue slickly strong and saliva beaded at the corners of their lips; Revy was too afraid to pull away for a single breath of air, incase the blonde left her again. It didn’t matter if someone walked in, only Balalaika’s eyes mattered. Acrylic nails dug into her back, hot little spikes of pain driving Revy to huddling close in Balalaika’s arms as they sloppily kissed, smearing waxy lipstick over each other’s mouths.

Groping at Balalaika’s shoulders, Revy slid a hand underneath the jacket and blouse, the scars tickling the palm of her healing hand. The sensation of having her hair pulled and stroked at the same time made her tremble in primal need, whimpers pouring out of her mouth, rumbling on their tongues. The wide hand on her back slid down to cup her backside, groping her hip, and the whimpers turned into wild, delirious moans, and suddenly Revy needed to be naked and fully alone with Balalaika right then and there. Feeling the way the blonde breathed heavily, Revy could tell that she was wet and achingly open. A hand trailed up her back slowly.

“I’m coming with you tonigh-” Someone knocked on the door, and Balalaika stepped away to pick up the damp dishrag next to the leaky sink, and wash the lipstick residue off her mouth. She came closer to Revy, and grabbing her chin to keep her still, hastily washed her lower face as well. “H-Hey, fuck!” Revy attempted to say clearly, her eyes hazy with lust; her body feeling like it was weighed down with lead. The rough cloth was then quickly thrown in the sink without the blonde looking behind her.

Touching her irritated, panting mouth, Revy backed up to the opposite side of the kitchen, watching Balalaika’s eyes sharpen and gain two inches as she straightened herself. The door opened as the blonde fixed her jacket.

Benny and Dutch entered, with the latter closing the door securely behind him. The two women refused to even look at one another, like that would solidify what they had done, neglecting their mussed hair and Balalaika's lack of lipstick. “Everything alright in here?” Dutch asked, a lit cigarette in his hand. Benny was wiping his hands with a stained rag.

“Peachy.” Revy knew her face was flushed and her breath heavy. “What was up with the car, Benny?”

“Brakes needed changing, and we may have a bad wheel bearing on our hands. Just what I needed. It never ends.” the blonde man replied tiredly, rubbing his forehead and leaving a smeared stripe of oil. “Long time no see, Balalaika. Hope you've been holding up well.”

“Ah, Benny. Work never ends either.” she replied with a shrug.

Benny sensed the tension in the kitchen with a cock of an eyebrow. His hair plastered to his forehead, he was just about done with any sort of other business at hand. “If you all don’t mind, I’m gonna go clean up. I’ve got a date tonight, anyway.”

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Balalaika replied as her fingers moved to cover a catlike smirk on her bare lips. Oh ha, ha, ha. Revy scoffed and watched the Russian's chest expand as she took deep breaths to calm herself. 

“I’ll try.” he chuckled.

Revy’s stomach twisted. “Very funny, Sis.” she said as Benny rounded the corner into the hallway, crossing her arms to hide if her nipples were poking through her top.

“Dutch. I’ll contact you in two days time with an update on the situation.”

Streams of smoke were blown out his mouth. His hands were stained with car oil, a wrench in the pocket of his vest. “We’ll be waiting.”

“That’s what I like to hear. I thank you as well for allowing me to speak with… Two Hands, I greatly appreciate it.”

The shower in the bathroom turned on with a rusted squeak. Revy ran her fingers through her tangled hair and shifted her feet nervously. She felt completely caught by Dutch, and she wanted to laugh with how she and the blonde were like two teenagers, waiting for any mention of what they had done. 

“No problem.” Dutch waited as if Revy was going to reply. “Boris is back, by the way. Was good talking with him as well.”

With one hand on her hip, the Russian turned to Revy and began what was obviously going to be something that would aid in managing to sneak her away. And Revy was tired of it. “Now, Two Hands-”

“It’s good, Sis. Uhm… we don’t gotta be cautious.” Revy blurted before clapping a hand over her mouth as she nervously cackled. "Oh, fuck. Well, it's about time you fucking knew, Sis. No more secrets. No more fucking up."

Balalaika’s eyes widened and she glanced back at Dutch. Her demeanor became almost defensive with her spine straight as an arrow. But you have fucked up, the look on the Russian's face said. “I see.”

Dutch hid back a chuckle that Revy saw right through. “Look, I’ve got no opinion on this. Didn’t talk about anything worthy of note, but enough to where Revy wouldn’t go searching anymore.”

The blonde remained stoic, and nonchalantly pushed her hair over her shoulder. Her eyes bored holes right through him.  “How much do you know about this?”

“I know enough.” Dutch said after a heartbeat. He looked over at Revy, who stood silently, pondering, watching the conversation with wild eyes. Regret was what she wanted to feel. However it was overcome by relief and a strange sense of contentment.

“I’m going back to her place, Dutch.” Revy interrupted hastily. Ignoring the odd glance she was given, she forced herself to spit out the last word. “Tonight.”

He nodded. Dutch was completely unbothered. Through his lifetime he must have seen it all. “Don’t need to tell me.”

“So, who else knows? I assumed that after this problem you’d be more careful.” the blonde cut in, pinching her nose bridge in frustration. She was thoroughly perplexed, and Revy could only pout up at her, biting back a groan. But she had to have been as tired of the hiding as much as Revy had been. Balalaika took a deep slow breath, watching her warily. If she hadn't been exhausted before, it looked as if the blonde wanted to head straight to bed right now.

“Well that’s not fucking fair! Boris knows.” Revy muttered, glaring at Balalaika.

The blonde ran a hand through her hair and said something in Russian. Revy simmered with victory. Balalaika was rendered almost speechless, the way she carefully judged what she was going to say next. “Two Hands, just shut it. I understand, alright? This isn’t a topic to speak of now.”

“I’m just saying that someone on my side has to know too, okay? What the fuck am I supposed to do? Huh?” Revy was exhausted of the secrecy. Her lungs were still burning from the lack of oxygen during the desperate kissing.

“Listen, we are heading out now. This is enough.” Balalaika said. Her face was pale as milk, and her eyes were shut. Massaging the bridge of her nose she shook her head. Ashamed, Revy could only nod at the quiet tone of the Russian's voice. Now she could only feel regret at the stress she undoubtedly caused. If she went to hold Balalaika in her arms, would she pull away?

“Let me get shoes on.” Revy raced to her room. Throwing open her battered bedroom door, she pulled on her boots with a speed she didn’t think she had in her. Heading back into the doorway, she paused. Blowing a strand of hair out of her face, Revy turned towards the dresser. Ignoring the conversation going on out in the kitchen, she stepped away from the doorway and slid open the drawer holding Balalaika’s contents. Pushing aside the underwear, she picked up the folder in one shaking hand. Revy flipped it open and studied the two pictures. Tucking it under her arm securely, she went back out to meet the two of them with her heart rattling in her ribs.

Chapter Text

Her guns cut deep into her armpits as she went noisily down the wooden steps to the parking lot. There was a thought to forgo them, but she remembered Janet, and remembered how dangerous she had twisted the situation into being; most of all she was more comfortable with her Cutlasses by her sides. Balalaika hadn’t given them a second look, instead glancing at the folder tucked beside Revy’s chest. Her hair had just began to dry, but the back of her black tank top was still damp, sticking to her back. A few droplets had stained the yellowed folder, and her anxiousness spiked. She wasn’t able to check to see if the pictures were okay.

“Are you coming, Two Hands?” Balalaika teased as she rounded the front of the car to the passenger seat. The sun beat down on her blonde hair, her broad shoulders, and she looked more annoyed than anything in the intense nighttime heat. Boris had opened the car door for her; his expression was unreadable. Revy hoped that he didn’t care if she was tagging along. It was night, as much as the sun was taking forever to dip below the horizon; a little after eight if she could remember what the cracked clock in the kitchen said.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m comin’.” She replied, cracking a grin as she skipped the last step and landed on the asphalt. Her stomach fluttered when she saw Balalaika slide easily into the seat, her legs tucking in so ladylike that Revy blinked. Quickly she walked over to the back seat, choosing the side behind the driver, like she had before. The folder wrinkled under her tight grip. Revy gaped at the lines stressing it, and relaxed her fingers.

She yanked open the door and stiffly maneuvered herself into the car. Revy clicked the seatbelt on slowly, eyes darting to the apartment, searching for anyone looking out of the window. The kitchen light was on behind the faded curtains, but she couldn’t see any shadows of figures. Where the fuck could have Janet gone? Did some other fucker do her in? Balalaika ought to give the guy a goddamn gift card. Benny was seeing Janet tonight, though. Maybe he’d stumble upon her body. Maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe they’d have a pleasant dinner and pleasant sex afterward, and then she’d leave and fuck another more muscular, taller guy.

She worried her lip with her teeth. Balalaika doesn’t have a wandering eye, Revy thought, shaking her head. She could have had anyone she wanted, and Revy had managed to have Balalaika all to herself. A large amount of fabric lay beside her, turning her head she saw Balalaika’s rumpled grey-green military coat. Hesitantly, she glanced up at the blonde as she set the folder in her lap, and reached out to graze the woolen coat with her fingers. Balalaika caught her look, and the corners of her eyes crinkled as she watched Revy touch the medals, feeling the different textures and fighting the urge to press the coat to her nose, or wrap it around herself. Revy knew how the coat felt when it the Russian wore it, how imposing and broad and intimidating it looked, and her throat became dry. 

Revy had half a mind to ask Balalaika to sit in the back with her when the driver’s side opened and Boris silently sat in the leather seat. She removed her hand and curled it into her lap, her nails grazing the scab in her palm.

He turned the key in the ignition and flicked the headlights on. The engine rumbled confidently, quieter than the Plymouth’s and sounding more dependable. Quietly, the two Russians slipped into a conversation in their native language as the apartment went out of sight. Revy narrowed her eyes in annoyance, and barely kept her mouth shut. Guys I am right fucking here just say something in English what the fuck is going on isn’t it rude or something to say shit that your guest can’t understand or something I am the third wheel here.

The drive was mostly Boris and Balalaika locked in a conversation punctuated by his short answers. Revy stared out the window, fiddling with her hair, jiggled her leg, and kept one hand firmly on the folder. The sidewalks were filled with people, clubs were lighting up the cement with neon. They pulled to a red light and Revy recognized a few triad members crossing the street. Was Rock with Chang? Where was he? The rest of the ride was quiet, with a few aside glances Balalaika gave her. Revy would return them wholeheartedly, knocking her knees together and fiddling with the seatbelt.

“You are not undoing the seat belt, correct?” Boris said in his typical tone, and Balalaika turned her head away to chuckle, raising a hand to her mouth. He, on the other hand, remained stoic.

No , I’m not.” Revy replied. “I was adjusting it. How the fuck can I make a smooth escape anyway? I have to unlock the damn child lock.”

“We can’t take any chances.” Balalaika said, looking back at her. Boris took an easy left turn, and Hotel Moscow loomed into view.

Revy struggled to hide a pout. “What if we got in a sudden gunfight and I was literally strapped back here, fighting to get this damn thing off?”

“Then I suppose we are simply done for.” Balalaika said, with a shake of her head. “We have no other way to defend ourselves, except for a Chinese girl in the backseat.”

Fidgeting, Revy played with a frayed corner of the folder. “I’m half. I’m American.”

“Is that supposed to make us feel better?”

“...What-fucking-ever.” Her face heated up at Balalaika’s tone, her nose wrinkling. Touching her cheek, she knew she was beet-red. “I give up. You win, Sis.”

Boris stated something in Russian, and Balalaika chuckled again, before she composed herself. Hotel Moscow grew large, looming over them, more giant in the night than it was during the day. A van was parked out front, its rims rusted and tires bald, and the back doors were open, and Revy squinted inquisitively at it.

“What’s going on?”

“Business and more business,” the blonde replied. “I was hoping they’d be finished by now.”

“Someone I know?” Revy joked with a lopsided smile. Balalaika glanced sideways. Boris flicked his eyes at the Kapitan. Revy stared at the blonde. “I’m just playing, Sis.” she added.

Driving onto the apartment’s lot, Revy stared at the high-security doorway as they passed it. She didn’t want to appear embarrassed, but humiliation hung in the air as Revy inhaled when she remembered where they were going.

The car’s wheels pulled to a slow stop next to the back door. Boris shifted the gear into parked, and sat still, awaiting what Balalaika would say. The blonde muttered in Russian to him with a shake of her head, moving her hand in a circular motion. Boris replied in a more muted tone. Revy sat in the back as lost as ever, her hands in her lap. The gun under her right armpit pinched her arm when it adjusted in its holster. Her heart beat faster despite itself, her body already anticipating a gunfight, like a primal instinct.

The trash is still there. Moonlight glinted off of the rusted silver of the trash cans. It almost looked romantic, and she wanted to hit herself for having standards that low. Revy scoffed bitterly, drawing attention to her.

“You’ll be alright?”

Revy blushed harder when Balalaika gave her a soft look. As soft as she could in front of one of her men. “Yeah.”

“I would take you through the front door if I could. I didn’t always intend for you to use this entrance.” The doorway that prostitutes would use, everyone in the car must have thought. Perhaps the blonde didn’t want to even see them arrive, and leave, their camisoles rumpled and their hair matted. But that was what Revy looked like when she would leave.  Holy fuck, I hope Boris doesn’t think I’m some whore. 

“I get it, I’ll wait for the buzzer.” she mumbled, unbuckling her seat belt. Slipping out of the car, Revy stretched her legs and arms as she watched the car crawl away. Suddenly she was encased in darkness, and headed towards the door, standing on the concrete. Folder in hand, she hugged it to her chest and leaned on the wall, noticing what was in the garbage. The underwear was still there. Minutes passed, and the buzzer rang. 

The heavy door stuck closed behind her, and Revy slid along the wall, eyes pointed at the end of the hallway. Laughter came from a furthest room, and she kept her attention to it until she entered the stairwell with quick feet. Funny, there’s no whores this time. The folder almost slipped from her hand and she caught the newspaper that wanted to fall out, the exclamation echoing up the stairs, as well her heavy boots slamming on the rough concrete. Heartbeat in her throat, she rushed to the third floor. Besides her slow breathing, the hallway was silent except for a far away sound of tinny music.

318… 319… 320.  Knocking a fist lightly against the door, Revy sighed in relief before jerking her head at footsteps coming down the hallway. She rapped her knuckles hurriedly. The person grew closer, muffled on the carpet. Backing away, Revy walked backwards towards the stairwell, one hand on a Cutlass, her feet braced apart. Her eyes narrowed and her face twisted into one of frustration, because of course this would happen on only the second visit.

Glancing over her shoulder, hair half in her face, she saw the door was now five feet away, and if she ran well enough, she could be hiding in the stairs. Around the far corner came the figure, and her vision blurred in anxiousness, and when she blinked she saw Balalaika muttering into the phone, quickly walking to her door. Blue eyes widening when she saw a stanced Revy, she paused, then repeated a Russian sentence she was in the middle of.

The music coming from one of the rooms changed to a woman wailing. Revy gritted her teeth, but her eyes went doe-eyed when she saw the tall blonde nearing her. Balalaika nodded to her, as she came to the door and brushed open her military coat to grab a small ring of keys from her jacket pocket. Revy wanted to touch the wool coat again. Lowering her hand from her gun, she put it on a hip and walked towards the apartment. Balalaika flipped through the keys with a long pointer finger, her tone sharpening as she rapidly replied in Russian.

Revy hugged the folder to her chest again like she could hide it. The blonde stared it like she was trying to see into its contents, shoving a key into the lock and after a moment of struggle, managed to twist the key to the side and the door audibly unlocked. She opened the door and jerked her head towards it, her hair spilling down her chest. Revy walked into the apartment, hand trailing the wall until she found a switch. It was pitch black, aside from the glittering lights that poured in through the slits in the blinds, a mix of stars and yellow city windows and car headlights. The buzzing kitchen ceiling lamp flicked on.

Balalaika continued the conversation, which sounded more one-sided than anything, with her interrupting the man with increased irritation, turning around to re-lock the door, siding a chain an inch across the door frame for extra measure. Revy bent down to untie her boots, fingers neatly tugging the laces, when the blonde came behind her and slid a hand through her drying hair, nails barely touching her skull, dancing across the soon-to-be scar. She pushed Revy’s bangs back, then stepped back towards the door, and put her coat on the rickety coat-hanger. She then went to the kitchen, leaning on a white counter, and waited for the person on the other side to finish speaking. Tiredly, she sighed and muttered a reply, then spoke what sounded like a farewell, and clapped the phone shut.

“Sorry about the mess.” The only mess was forgotten glasses in the sink, and a pile of documents on a small table to the right of Revy. Reminded, she touched the folder she had set beside her.

“What mess?” Revy was genuinely confused, sucking on the inside of her cheek. She slid off her holster, taking the pressure off of her sore shoulder, leaving it on the crowded table. Kicking her boots aside, she laughed. “Sis, I’m not expecting the Chateau Marmont.”

Balalaika gave a quizzical raise of an eyebrow.

“It’s a fancy hotel. Old Hollywood, type, Marilyn Monroe shit. What’s up?” Revy asked,  jiggling a leg impatiently. She stood up, and bounced to the kitchen. She went close enough to where they weren’t touching, but enough to where, if she wanted to, she could loop and arm through Balaika’s and nuzzle her shoulder.

“Earlier, I decided to get rid of those men. The tongueless ones.” Balalaika clarified, dispassionately setting her phone down. She tapped her fingernails, her naked lips pressed in a thin line.

Twisting her mouth, Revy wondered where all those tongues went. In little boxes, maybe, like the one the cigar was locked up in. “Did anyone beside those assholes find out about this? Fuck, I hope not.”

“It was a close call. A few of her informants already had the information before we exterminated them.”

“Heh. More of a reason to hate that cunt. Bet she’s pretending to be celibate when she’s out with Benny.”

“Rebecca,” Balalaika’s tone changed. A sort of voice that was going to say I need to tell you something, and it would turn out to be terminal cancer. She sounded as if she was answering a question that no one asked. Revy’s chest stopped moving, and every inch of her froze. Nodding her head, she looked up at Revy and took her in. There was a hesitancy in her gestures, as she waved a hand dismissively.  “I wanted to tell you this when we were fully alone. We are finished on that situation.”

That had to be a lie. Revy exhaled, closing her eyes, her lips upturning in shock and disbelief. Tell me no tell me no, no fucking way. This was so soon. She left the kitchen and cracked her knuckles, abandoning the folder on the back counter, just out of reach where she’d notice if the blonde went to touch it. “Benny was going out with her tonight.”

“He was.” the Russian answered.

Revy’s stomach felt greasy. Suddenly she wondered if she had overlooked something. All because of her huge mistake, and her error would have been disastrous if she had lived. Maybe it was her flickering conscience, dragging itself to the surface from it’s oubliette. This was one of the kindest actions Balalaika had ever done for it. “Janet’s dead?”

“She is dead.”

Revy was silent. The city lights bled through the window, and went towards it like a moth, the old floors creaking under her. The threadbare curtains were pushed aside with barely a swipe of her hand; everything in Balalaika’s apartment seemed aged.  Crossing her arms, she watched the small cars dart across crumbing roads. The sky was spilled ink, and the ocean was a dark mass in the distance. Somewhere, Benny was wondering where Janet was.

“Are you angry with me?” Balalaika asked delicately.

Revy wanted to say yes, you killed Benny’s slut-head girlfriend, or does this mean we wait until another fucker tries to do this again? Would we survive that? But she had no idea how to feel. She then shook herself out of her thoughts and looked over at the blonde. Balalaika was quiet, her gaze questioning. Facing her, Revy slowly shook her head, blowing a hard strand out of her face. “Angry?”

“She was Benny’s girlfriend.”

“Yeah. Yeah she was.” Revy’s mouth twisted. It felt odd to speak of Janet in past tense, no matter how relieved she was. “When did this happen?”

“Before we went to visit you and Dutch.” Balalaika replied. She was waiting for Revy to get upset, and they both stood there simmering in the cooled air.

Struggling not to take the bait, she gnawed on her lip, giving Balalaika a once-over. “I have no clue if I should feel fucking fantastic or like, fuck, I dunno. How do you feel about it?” Revy scratched her head, her nails grazing over the scrape embedded in her scalp.

“She was a disease. I regret not stopping her from spreading it sooner. You do too, I can tell.”

“The only thing fucking stopping me was Benny, y’know? I saved his ass a long time ago. Him and Janet were good.” At Balalaika’s suspicious expression, Revy grunted. “And yeah, she was a total slut. Slept with half of Roanapur, and she’d probably have twelve kids by now if she didn’t have cash.” Hesitating, she played with her fingers, her guns glinting cold metal in her peripheral vision. “How did you do it? With that gun of yours?”

“Do you truly want to know what happened, Rebecca?”

Revy nodded. If she spoke, she would have sounded weak.

“I grew tired of waiting for her to follow the breadcrumbs to me. The day after we agreed to separate, a thought came to me. How to finally get Janet into my grasp? The idiot who wanted to get you killed? If, say, a handsome stranger promised sex at this rather nice hotel, with champagne and even a bit of information on Hotel Moscow, would she pass it up?” Balalaika chuckled minutely, but there wasn’t much humor on her face. “When she arrived with him to the hotel room, it was me and two of my men that she met. After… settling her down, I asked to be alone with her.”

Swallowing, Revy listened with rapt attention. She wanted to disbelieve it all the same, she thought of Benny and all the time he spent with her, and now he was one of the many men in Roanapur whos girlfriends suffered a similar fate. Then she remembered all that Janet said, being called a lovesick woman-child , of how Balalaika would eventually burn this city down.

“Janet and I talked for a while. She was difficult at first, but eventually she learned her place and we have a conversation. Miss Greenback Jane was a very concise individual. Too bad she can’t run her mouth wherever she’s going now.” the older woman sounded bone-tired. The victory in killing Janet was short-lived, Revy assumed.

“What else happened? Fuck did she say?”

“She told me about the phone tapping, the fights with you. How you were a whiny little brat, and that I believed. The rest… I had to make sure she was telling the truth.”

An urge to test her rose in her throat. “And then you shot her with your gun.”

“I didn’t shoot her.” Balalaika brushed her hair out of her face with a sigh. “It was in my pocket, of course. But seeing her there- caught completely- a bitch who was trying to make a mafia boss bend to her idiotic will, who was going to get you killed, I simply…”

Revy wanted impatiently for her to continue, coming closer again to the blonde, wanting to get near and far away at the same time. Balalaika had turned her back to her, gripping the small kitchen counter with her shoulders hunched. Part of her hair pooled on the white surface, while the rest cascaded down her back, the light shifting off of it when she adjusted her posture. Revy came close enough to where she was an arms length away, the air conditioning causing the back of her neck to prickle.

“At the end I told her every single thing she had heard was true. Then she died.” Balalaika responded coldly.

“I know she was going to die. Bitch deserved it. Benny’ll… he’ll… have to deal, I guess.” Revy wasn’t sure what to do with all the emotion swirling in her chest. Guilt, relief, and so many others that she didn’t want to shift through.

“What will you tell him?”

“Nothing. What I’m more worried about is him thinking I did it. If he thinks that…. fuck. But I ain’t gonna say that it was Hotel Moscow. Are you kidding me?” Fuckin’ A, Benny.

“Wise choice, Rebecca.” Balalaika sighed, her body threatening to sag. “I had figured you would have been furious, all wrapped up in your feelings like a little child.”

“I’m not that little.” Revy replied, stepping close enough to where her chest brushed Balalaika’s hair. Delicately, she reached up and pushed the locks down enough to get a good look at what was holding her hair up. The Russian stiffened under her touch, but Revy ignored her and booked a finger underneath the band as she rose herself on her tiptoes. Her body, though taught with stressed muscles, felt so inviting. Another feeling rose in Revy’s chest, and it was warm. “You did it for me? Killing Janet? I know you did it for other stuff but…”

“I’ll let you decide that.” Balalaika whispered huskily. Revy managed to untie the elastic around the shaft of thick hair, and it fell free down her back, ending at her tailbone. Without a second thought, Revy first ran the tips of her fingers through it, then adding pressure, before her hand was stroking and sliding.

“You seem like you haven’t slept in damn near forever, Sis. I keep saying it, but damn, you need to.”

Tilting her head back, Balalaika’s eyes fluttered shut before she forced them open. “That’s because I haven’t. I’d lay awake, thinking of ways to murder that traitorous little bitch, knowing that this whole nightmare was stopping you from lying by my side. I’d reach for you in my bed and you weren’t there. You didn’t answer my calls. I wanted to get this over with.”

“Tonight I am gonna be by your side, you drama queen.” She combed through thick hair, nails brushing Balalaika’s back. Revy could feel her muscles relax themselves.

“You’re not leaving here until morning.” the blonde promised, with an upturn of her lips.

“Of course I’m not leaving. I gotta take care of you, as thanks.” Blushing, Revy ran her fingers through Balalaika’s thick hair, catching on the small tangles. The Russian relaxed, the tension leaving her body. Her hair was soft to the touch, and smelled of her perfume and gun oil and shampoo; Revy leaned in and smelled the locks deeply, like she was going to forget.

Balalaika turned her head slightly, and Revy’s nose brushed her neck. “By doing what, hmm?”

“I’ll make sure you won’t feel alone again.” I’m sorry. 

The blonde opted not to reply, her jaw tight, even from behind Revy could see the tautness. Sadness clouded Revy’s features, and she wanted to step away, her face burning from what she said. Her breath quickened as she played with the blonde locks idly, combing it and wanting to hide herself in it.

“I won’t let anything hurt you, not while you’re by my side. I’ll never be sorry for what I have done. One day you’ll understand that.”

“I-I’ll figure it out soon enough. Oh, damn it, Sis . You don’t gotta say that. Now, uh, let’s get to bed. Who knows when we’ll have this fuckin’ chance again?” She blushed, hard. That was all she ever wanted to hear. A false promise, however she wanted to believe it anyway. A fluttering feeling in her aching chest, Revy tugged at her arm. The blonde took the lead, then her head whipped to the side.

“Wait, is this for me?” Balalaika froze, then to Revy’s horror, flipped open the folder. Lunging at her, Revy pushed her away, practically climbing on her, groping her shoulders and feeling the flesh underneath when she pushed the neckline of her blouse askew. Twisting away, Balalaika grabbed Revy by her arm and yanked her off, breathing heavily, her eyes wide and dead and surprised and furious. Revy was scared that she had set her off; maybe she’d get choked or punched, eyes squeezing shut as she tried to wiggle away. Nothing came. Not a back of the hand, or being shoved into furniture. Or glass being thrown in her face, mixing her tears with hot blood. Breathing hard, she opened her eyes and attempted to pull Balalaika’s attention away from the now-open folder.

Why did I fucking even bring this? This is the worst fucking time. She failed. Balalaika was wide-eyed and not breathing, the strength of her hold on Revy’s arms fading. Revy stared at the contents too, and to her shock in the struggle the newspaper was peeking out from underneath the photo. The blonde let go out of her, and walked to the table at a glacial pace. The photograph of a younger her surrounded by men dead and alive caught her attention first, and Balalaika picked it up in still hands.

“Sis? Sis, let’s look at that later. Let’s go to bed, you’re fucking exhausted.” Revy declared. The Russian traced a finger along the mountains in the background, her eyebrows knitted in a frown. Revy edged close to her, wringing her hands. “I wanted to show you them. ‘Cause I thought it’d bring us closer.”

Swallowing audibly, Balalaika set the photograph down, and raised the newspaper to read better. Revy touched her arm, trembling, regretting what she had done. Luckily, she didn’t pull away, instead reading the newspaper, paying special attention to not crumpling it. “That child was hiding in an old crate. It was forever before we were able to lure him out. But, he took my hand. He didn’t stop crying until we reached camp. This photograph… I wasn’t aware until I was taken aside. I was in a newspaper back home, I was told. However…”

“However?” Revy’s hand went to the small of the blonde’s back, sliding underneath the crimson jacket and touching the crisp blouse.

“Nothing important.” Balalaika continued to read, smoothing a bent corner. She caught Revy’s saddened gaze, and they looked at one another, and Revy pointed at the other photograph.

“What’s this one?”

“We were simply talking amongst ourselves, I remember it not being as hot as it was the whole week.” She took the paper in a steady hand. “The next day our supply line was cut off. Where did you find these?”

“I…” Revy rubbed her lower back, calluses catching on the fine fabric. Long blonde hair tickled her wrist.

Balalaika was staring at herself, who was scarless and hair bleached even paler by the sun, but her skin was tanned and her cheeks flushed by sunburn. She didn’t know, then. What would happen to her, and that made Revy clamp her teeth together she wouldn’t think of asking anything. Instead of mentioning her appearance, the Russian set the photo down, her hand moving to gently press her nails on it, like she was committing it to memory. “Despite what you may think, I didn’t turn away from my home. It turned from me. From all of us. Some of them succumbed to heroin. Like all addictions, it took more to have the desired effect. They slowly killed themselves. What won’t we do for some false semblance of peace?”

“Relief from what happened?”

“Oh. That takes more than a syringe.” Balalaika was unable to pull her gaze away from the table. “That takes everything. Doesn’t it, Rebecca? You with your cigarettes and beer. Rock with his huge mouth, trying to become the philosopher of the century, his so-called hobby, seeking solace from his normal life. Has he ever had everything taken from him?”

Revy thought of a beer bottle. “Hell no.”

Without looking at her, the older woman's shoulders shuddered. “My second-in-command died because of dirty money. That was a new beginning for me. His death. Your new beginning was coming here, was it not?”

“Yeah. It was.” She didn’t want to talk over Balalaika, nor bring up herself. There was nothing to talk about, anyway. Slipping her hand out from under the raspberry jacket, she touched the blonde’s arm.

“Why did you come here?”

Revy blinked rapidly, shaking her head. “Escaped prison with a bunch of chicks. It was a fucking hellhole, like jail always fucking is. We went separate ways after that. Figured since I was good with killing, I hitched a ride here. A city built on murder and blood, thought I’d only see that in movies. Better than what Hollywood could come up with, anyway.”

“I tell you so much about myself, Afghanistan, how they marred my body, and these pictures… yet you don’t tell me much.”

“Because I’m-”

“A street rat? Don’t bother, I know that, but you have more to yourself than that.”

“I can’t. I fucking- it was shitty. Everything was.”

Balalaika ignored her reply. A strong lack of empathy was in her voice, because she had opened herself up, and here Revy was, trying to act like she had no past to a woman who's life was surrounded by past events. “You had no mother, like me. Did you have-”

“No. Fuck, I can’t. I can’t talk about that.”

Balalaika brought a hand to the faded scar on Revy’s forehead, pushing aside her mussed bangs. She knew without being told, but what she didn’t know was what Revy did to him. Whenever the thought came to mind, even Revy couldn’t remember. When the child services found her a few days later, they told her she had wandered to a dumpster behind a restaurant, and dug through until she was chased away, without a care in the world that her father was gone. Revy didn’t know what they were talking about, and had gone into a rage, thinking they were lying. It was hard to see with her swollen eyes; her legs and arms stung, and whatever she ate she would just throw up anyway, so she had no clue if she actually did eat, and they dragged her into the car easily.

“One night,” Revy began, her mind teeming. “I was out on the street, cause I got my ass kicked, and I sat on the sidewalk chilling cause I didn’t give a shit,” I was crying. “and then I got beat up some more,” by a cop and then some, don’t forget that. “and I was so pissed that-” you shot your daddy  “-I ran away.” Tidbits of a story meshed together, she wasn’t lying per say, but her voice was high and reedy. Her eyes kept darting to the left, and she wanted to run out the door, and her guns were close by, and she just wanted them under her arms. “Poli- Higher up people said that I have outstanding warrants, so don’t say I never achieved anything.” A bleak joke to end on. You mean police just say police you dumb idiot.

Balalaika stroked her hair, but her eyes were far away. “Poor Rebecca. You sad little thing. So many people have failed you, didn’t they? So many people...” she was back in Afghanistan again.

“Whatever. I don’t care anymore.” Eyes stinging, she squeezed her eyes shut.

“Don’t you.” the blonde said to herself.

“We keep doing this to each other. Always putting each other in fucking pain.” Revy confessed, her cheek brushing the Russian’s thick hair. Balalaika was stiff, not melting like she earlier when she came close. She wanted to stop thinking about the past. Touching Balalaika made her forget what she had said, and what had happened was done, and she had killed everyone in her way so far, except for Janet. Benny popped in her mind again, wondering where she was. I am fucking lost if I look back.

Balalaika frowned. Her voice ached with pain. “Perhaps this will be the last time. I cannot do this again, Rebecca. Not anymore. You’ve heard it all.”

Revy’s eyelashes flickered, wet, and she smiled a sad smile. Trying to lighten the mood, she urged Balalaika to turn to her. To attempt to be consoling. “Well... where did you grow up? Are you a city girl?”

“How can you tell?” Balalaika said emotionlessly, her eyes staring at the door like it was burst into action. She faced Revy, her head tilted in a way that she found cute.

“I’m from New York. I can always tell.”

Balalaika leaned her hips against the table, her stocking-clad knees clicking together almost girlishly, her spine stiff. Her red suit stood out against the champagne walls, and Revy could see scars on her legs that strained against the thin black nylon.  “Exactly what you probably already think. Moscow.”

“Is that big like New York?” she slid a hand along the blonde’s thigh before she could help herself, her middle finger trailing up, then adding her pointer finger until she was stroking brazenly, up and down, and Balalaika slowly spread to thighs to allow Revy to come closer. That’s why Benny’s nicknames included Moscow. Oh, fuck, Benny. Revy eyes went downcast.

“It’s a city.” The blonde blinked, and her eyes were becoming clearer.

Revy’s face flushed, and her ducked her head, playing with a run in her stocking. The muscle of her thigh flexed as if testing Revy’s patience.  “Is it cool there?”

“We do have winter, yes.” Balalaika teased, reaching to barely touch Revy’s bare waist. Her nails lightly stroked her skin, and tingles ran up Revy’s back.

“You guys got spring? Summer? In fucking New York it was just winter or summer. Like a light switch.” Revy said, quietly, pouting at the clear lack of knowledge present in her high voice and the way she had to brush her hair out of her face. No dignity here. 

Balalaika gave her a aw look at widdle you! smile. Pinching her waist, she laughed until Revy squirmed from the pain. “We do, silly Bekachka. I’m sure it’s the same in China, as well.”

“Haha, bring up China to the Chinese bitch. Japan was enough for me. Fucking Yukio.” Revy said, thoroughly vexed at the mocking nickname.

“Rock’s teenage girlfriend?”

Revy bit her lip, staring at Balalaika’s parted mouth. The scars on her chest dipped below her blouse, her cleavage threatening to spill out. There was a whisper of cream lace just peeking out. Balalaika was aching, how she was spreading her legs beckoning Revy to press to her body. Her pupils were dilated, her chest heaving. Revy’s hand trailed up further before retreating. “She wished. Am I your teenage girlfriend?”

The nails pressed deeper, making Revy gasp. Balalaika’s eyes narrowed into thin slits. “You’re not actually a teenager, are you? You’re already so ruinously young.”

“I sure as hell don’t look like one, don’t I?” Between her legs, a dull throbbing drew her attention. She removed her hand to the blonde’s repressed disappointment, and went to adjust her blouse, covering up the lingerie because Revy wasn’t able to think.

A chuckle met her joke. “A prude, all of a sudden? Don’t want to offend an old soldier?”

“Shut up, you’re not old.” Revy struggled from kissing her, wanting to keep the tension, to see if Balalaika would break. Her eyes still losing their clouds. There was a distance between them, with the blonde having one leg in the past. She had to be lured out. “Aren’t you gonna order me around? Let me make you feel better.”

“Stupid question. You’re not apart of my unit. You’re just a little Asian girl who I can drag around, a kotyenok.” Radiators and pearls and being used when an ex-military captain was bored.

Revy blushed harder than she had this whole time. Still, she didn’t touch her, no matter how welcoming and how good Balalaika looked. The blonde moved to sit on the table, her heels still touching the ground. If Revy had bent at the knees, she would have seen the apex of Balalaika's thighs. With Balalaika's hands on either side of her, supporting herself on the small table, her chest was thrust out in a display of lustful power. Her hair was mussed and curling fro the humidity, her cheeks flushed. Revy's mouth was wet with desire, with a want to ease the pain she caused. Balalaika ignored the document she was sitting on; the folder with pictures of her momentarily forgotten.

Revy forgot about the pictures too. One of the major lessons that she was taught in life was that it was better to have it in front of you than having to think about it. So she placed her hands on either side of Balalaika, and moved in, her breath fast and whines wanting to be pulled from her mouth.

Chapter Text

Revy pressed a kiss to Balalaika’s mouth, testing the waters, and her head filled with a heavy sense of want. A hand went to the blonde’s jacket, fingers struggling around how tight the fabric pulled on the buttons. One went undone, and she met warm, pale skin. Revy didn’t have to look to feel the ridges of the scar tissue. Balalaika leaned forward and returned the kiss, teasing Revy’s mouth open with a swipe of her tongue. Lipstick smeared on their mouths.

Kotyenok ,” she groaned, running her long fingers down Revy’s shoulders, nails scratching and tugging on her worn tank top, and for a moment Revy thought she would rip it off her body. Needily whining, Revy managed to work two more buttons open; the blouse rubbing on her trembling wrist. In a fit of panic she decided to yank the jacket open, nearly ripping off the bottom button, the red fabric parting and Revy pulled away just to look at the pale cleavage pressed flush against the straining blouse.

Balalaika quickly went to wrap her hand loosely around her throat, tight enough to feel her it bob in nervousness, or excitement, Revy had no idea which. “If you rip any of my clothing this time, I’ll rip apart every single thing you are wearing now.” The blonde said softly, bringing Revy close enough to where their lips brushed each other. “Nod yes if you understand.”

Revy tugged on the large hand that was around her neck like a noose, and whined when she found the grip to be iron-tight. At the almost playful coldness in Balalaika’s eyes, she nodded after a moment of blushing, her breath fast and hard. Swallowing roughly, the blonde kissed her again, biting and nipping, leaning off of the table, and Revy cupped Balalaika’s face, stroking the area below her ear with blunt nails.

She sighed when the minute pressure left her neck, and Balalaika stroked her hair, twirling an end around her finger, as she bit Revy’s lip gently. When she combed her scalp, Balalaika stopped when she felt the healing cut, and ended the kiss abruptly. Confused,  Revy made a sound at the back of her throat when the blonde forced her head to stare at her lap. The skirt was tight, and allowed Balalaika to spread her legs minimally, and Revy dropped a hand to touch the black stockings, tracing a scar as the blonde inspected the cut on her skull.

“Where was this from?”

Revy turned red and her voice came out in a mumble. The wound must have looked ugly. It had already scabbed over. “I fell on the fuckin’ television when some asshole shot my shoulder.”

Balalaika touched the healing shoulder, a faint pulse of pain echoed in Revy’s arm when she ran a finger over the bullet wound. She took Revy’s hands into her own, and gave the soon-to-be scar a once over. “This wouldn’t have happened if I had not kept forgetting to give you your gloves back. You’re going to tear your hands to shreds.”

“I’ll remind you tomorrow.” she mumbled in reply, and she watched Balalaika inspect her calloused fingers, touching her dry knuckles and sighing in annoyance. Arousal was evident in Balalaika’s blown-out pupils, the blue a thin ring around bottomless black.

“I am capable of it,” the Russian spoke. Like she was recalling something she always thought about. “Of caring for you.”

“I know.” But I care more, huh? About you. Janet’s voice was in her head again.

“Let’s go to the bedroom.” Was all the blonde replied with, and she kissed Revy again, sliding off of the table and in her full height, and Revy snapped her neck up to continue it. She shrugged the jacket off and it fell onto the table, draping across the numerous stacks of documents that were now strewn across the table. Revy caught a glimpse of the folder she had brought, perched precariously on the edge. It would have been right to try and stop it from possible falling, but Revy knew it was better to stay near Balalaika. 

Taking a step away, Revy looked at the Russian’s chest heaving, a lace of her bra peeking out, dark when it lay next to her milk-pale skin. She could see the muscles in her arms  through the sheer fabric, the light shifting off with every movement that Balalaika made. Loose blonde hair blanketed her shoulders and fell down beside her breasts; lipstick smudged and her eyes dark with desire that made Revy want to be cornered by her. She wanted to be thrown on the floor and devoured, to actually have her clothes ripped off, but then she also wanted to be dragged into the blonde’s lap.

“Fuck, Sis.” Revy gasped. Without a shred of thought she yanked her tank top over her head, the cold air hitting her hot torso and causing her nipples to stiffen. Clicking open her belt, the jeans pooled around her ankles. She was feverish with need, it had been so long and Revy wanted to cry suddenly, with how they were finally alone, even if it was for a night, and time was running slim by the second. Six thirty tomorrow and she’d be kicked out again. Balalaika watched her with wide eyes, her chest expanding slowly, her mouth closed tight. Her underwear joined the denim and top on the floor, and her fingers brushed her hips as she stripped them off, her legs shaky.

Briefly, she wondered if Balalaika had taken her in that night. That next morning the blonde had, fingers going between her breasts and over her stomach and barely touching between her legs. Revy wanted her to see her again. She wanted to see what Balalaika would do if she saw her completely bare again. Revy stepped out of the pile of clothes and took another step away, so Balalaika had a better view. She brushed her dark hair away from her chest and tucked it behind her ears. The blonde was silent, watching Revy with a raptness that she had ever experienced before.

All of Balalaika’s muscles were tight. The chord of her neck, her arms, her lungs must have contracted too, with the shallow breaths she was taking. There was animalistic lust, but then there was a wisp of concern. Revy’s hip bones were more prominent and her collarbones lurched out of her skin. She glanced down and knew she had lost a bit of her curves, just more athletic muscle pulled to the surface. Her peaks were as stiff as they could be; while the rest of her body was cold, her center was slickly warm.

Silence was all that met her, and then Balalaika came close. Revy had balled her fists by her sides, nails sinking in, remaining where she was. The blonde first went to pinch at one of her breasts, then covered it with her hand, massaging it. Revy swallowed a whine. Balalaika tugged at a strand of brunette hair that brushed Revy’s chest.

“You like it?” She asked in a high voice, when Balalaika traced the tattoo on her shoulder, then squeezing at her arm, then returning to stroke between her breasts, a nail threatening to break the thin skin there. PleaselikeitwillyouIiknowyoudobutjustfuckingsayit-

“What do you think, my pretty kotyenok?”

Revy’s eyes wanted to sting when Balalaika’s gaze met hers. If it was anyone else, the way the blonde watched her would seem almost predatory. She looked at Balalaika with soft eyes, lips parted. A shiver shot down her spine as Balalaika grazed her waist, touching the taut skin there. “Yeah.”

The blonde squeezed her hip, thumb on her hip bone. She surveyed her body like she was looking over a map, noticing every silvery stretch mark and scar.  “You aren’t starving yourself for my sake, are you?” It was a half-joke.

Struggling to enter reality, Revy blinked rapidly and shook her head. The air conditioning made her head fuzzy with how cold she was. Balalaika was so warm. “Huh? Nah. I just smoke a lot and get drunk. Dutch said that smoking cigarettes can make you not hungry so-”

“I want you to remember to eat. It’s not healthy to skip so many meals.” Balalaika commanded, drawing her closer. Many things could be said that tie sex and eat together, Revy mused, a corner of her mouth twitching as arousal rolled between her legs. The blonde squeezed Revy’s nipple until she whimpered, then gave it a pinch as she edged towards the hallway. “ But, I don’t see why we need to wait any longer, pretty girl. Come along.”

So she did.

Revy turned back and saw the folder again as she walked to the hallway, her muscles tight as she ached with need. Balalaika’s eyes were on her back, maybe seeing the large scar over her tailbone; maybe where Ginji’s sword exited the back of her knee. Lighting was poor in the hallway, but on the bedside table, from what she could see, was a small stained glass lamp that cast a small beam of warm yellow light. They got to the doorway of her bedroom before Revy flung herself at Balalaika, gripping her by the waist and smacking her lips on the milk-pale neck. 

The Russian eased her further into the room as she sucked on her throat, mouth traveling to her collarbones and then lower, beginning to undo her blouse, knuckles brushing the bra’s band. Revy knew Balalaika was growing uncomfortable as more items of clothing were removed, but she wanted to press her chances and at least get her top off. “Sis, Sis, Let me do this for you, okay?”

Balalaika was stiff as Revy drew away from her neck, now pink from the attention. She sighed, nodding. “ Of course .”

“It’s our second time, we can all chill, y’know? I’ve seen you like this before.”

“Yes, I know that.” the blonde replied in a tone that Revy couldn’t distinguish. The scars that choked her toned midsection were thick, and Revy forgot how cruel they looked in poor lighting. Wrapped like strands of frayed ribbon, they disappeared beneath the waistband of her skirt and danced below her breasts, but Revy was scared to look too long. Balalaika was silent when she dared to touch her bare waist, thumb touching one of the crueler marks, dragging along until it circled around.

Guilt bobbed in Revy’s throat, aware of how her own body was unmarred by such scars. Balalaika was beautiful with her deformity, even with the scar pointed down her face. She sucked in a deep breath, and enclosed her arms around Balalaika to snap open the cream-colored bra. She was so stiff, trembling almost, her gaze stony and cold and somewhere else more dangerous and Revy debated on even taking it off herself. The blonde eased the thick straps off her broad shoulders and dropped it to the ground, a pragmatic fashion that only flamed Revy’s lust.

Revy's eyes flicked down and paused.

There was an imprint left by the wire underneath her breasts. Aside from the lines left by the thick wire, despairingly enough, attention was paid to her chest as well, more so than what Revy had ever seen before in her life. A gasp left Revy, jumping out of her, as she lifted up one of the blonde's heavy breasts. One of Balalaika’s nipples gone, struck from existence, the right one, a pale scar just below a textured, healed gash. It was strange to know that, to see it in front of her and Balalaika shakily made a pained sound. Revy's hand twitched to touch her own breasts, phantom pain running along her untouched nipples.

Revy gaped. Her eyes widened and she didn't know how to feel, or where to touch or where to look.

Before she could ask anything, Balalaika forced Revy by the hair to kiss her fully on the lips, a groan slipping out between her teeth as she was dragged up. She ran her hands roughly through Revy’s hair, gripping it between her long, pale fingers. The blonde bit down hard on Revy’s bottom lip, until she tasted iron in their kiss. It was hard, and fast, and Revy’s neck hurt at the angle she was forced at; Balalaika’s hold was tight, and Revy mewled uselessly. Her hands went to her waist, grasping on at the harsh movement.

The blonde dragged her to the bed, sitting down heavily and Rrevy threw a leg over her lap and sat down, eyes hazy and however much she tried, she couldn’t voice anything except gasps and whines. She sounded positively obscene, she sounded like-

Will Benny find out? Her mind cleared through a fog of lust. Could he find her body? Would Balalaika chop it into goddamn pieces and mail it to every person who could be thinking the same about us?

“Wait, wait,” Revy rasped. She had to ask. The blonde’s mouth was achingly warm and wet, her tongue dipping back between Revy’s lips so harshly that their teeth almost clashed together. Her breasts rubbed against the scars on Balalaika’s chest, feeling the drag of one nipple but a lack of the other, and the blonde leaned back to avoid the stimulation. “What are you gonna do with Janet’s body- ah, Sis-“

“Same as I do with any other body. Have it dropped in the nearest landfill and forget that they even existed.” Balalaika breathed, continuing to kiss Revy, keeping a tight hold of her hair. Nipping Revy’s bottom lip, the blonde tilted her head to the side and slowly kissed her, acrylic nails stroking Revy’s scalp.

Arching her back, Revy whined at their chests meshing together, and flicked her hips on Balalaika’s lap. She moved to tug at Balalaika’s nipple, her eyes quickly going back to see the blonde’s face flush, before her hand was slapped away. “Hey, what the f-" She paused at the intense loathing pointed at her. "S-So, um, there won’t be anything left behind?”

Rebecca .” She groaned and pulled away from her, nails sinking into Revy to keep her anchored there. Revy frowned to hide a panicked expression wanting to grow, she couldn't stop glancing at the breast's scar. “If there’s something you want to ask, say it now. Don’t play so coy.”

Revy caught her breath, averting her eyes to the side. The red skirt underneath her parted thighs didn’t offer much in stimulation. “Fuck, you know, Rock or Benny or anybody won’t find her and raise questions, right?”

“Of course people will ask questions. But when a person disappears in Roanapur the city doesn’t stop for a minute. Now, come here-“

“But there’s no fucking… sending body parts to whoever worked with her, nothing that my crew would find, right?” At the Russian’s silence, Revy raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

Balalaika's eye twitched in repressed anger, wisely deciding on not strangling Revy not then and there. “Benny, Rock, anyone else that matters won’t find any remains of that blonde whore, alright?”

“What did you fucking do? Sis, come on.” She asked, her body tensing; the arousal throbbing through her veins simmering down.

Balalaika’s eyes flared and narrowed. “You do realize that others of her organization could know what is going on, do you not? They need to know that Hotel Moscow understands what Janet tried to pull off very clearly. And I will make sure they do not forget that. We all need reminders.” She said in a clipped tone, trying to hide rising anger in her rigid body.

“The fuck? Can you just-“ 

Revy found herself to be drawn up into another punishingly deep kiss. Balalaika forced her mouth open, and held her tight, and she found herself desperately trying to keep up. We all need reminders. With every attempt Revy made to pull away, the blonde followed, her grip strong, muscles taut with frustration. We all need reminders. Desperation followed in a blur, marked only by Revy sliding off of her lap and struggling to unzip the red skirt, tight around Balalaika’s hips and thighs. Her fingers refused to work, her mind forcing itself to work when she was so wet that it was uncomfortable to part her legs.

A hand pressed on her naked chest. “Rebecca.”

With an ounce of hesitation, Revy sat back on the bed, shivering when she fully touched the comforter. With a tired sigh, Balalaika finished undressing; raspberry skirt hitting the floor, the black tights that hugged her legs being pulled off with such slowness that Revy watched, rapt, body running hot. Whining, she neared the blonde, supporting herself on shaky knees.

“You’re not allowed to act like a bratty child.” Was what met Revy’s desperate noises. Balalaika chuckled, her eyes sliding to meet hers as she hooked her thumbs on her underwear and slid the flimsy material down her legs. The cream lace looked good on her pale skin, and it felt almost naughty, like Revy had been caught looking at something she was never meant to see.

Then she held the blonde’s full attention, and if she hadn’t swallowed her anxiousness, she would have backed up further onto the bed. Balalaika sensed that, and she slowly smiled. A prideful one at that, because she knew she held a majority of the power, as she probably always did. Revy tried to return the look with blushing cheeks and legs pressed tightly together. Embarrassingly, she wanted to almost hide the amount of arousal she was experiencing. Iit was too much.

“Part your legs, kotyenok .” Balalaika said, her tone inflecting that of when she spoke to her men. An order, not a suggestion. Cold eyes were set on what was between Revy’s clenched thighs. 

Revy would have finished right then if she could. Her body was red-hot with desire and longing. “Fuck.”

“I know you want me to kiss you there.” The blonde teased, the corners of her eyes crinkling. Revy eased onto her back, her knees together, wanting to wait until Balalaika opened them herself. Heart ramming in her chest, Benny and Rock and Janet’s mutilated corpse left her when the Russian put a hand on each knee and eased her open until her thighs lay flat on the bed.

Cupping her face, Revy wailed when she was fully exposed, cold air hitting the soaked insides of her thighs and her reddened folds. It was too much and not enough, with Balalaika chewing on the inside of her cheek, just looking, and it made Revy push her hips up in an effort for something to happen.

Balalaika parted her soaked curls with two fingers, careful of her nails. The pad of her thumb stroked her gently. The acrylic accidentally touched Revy’s folds and she cried it when it caught as she was spread open. The blonde soothed it with a teasing, chaste kiss on Revy’s stomach, then slid back down to watch as she lazily toyed with Revy.

Spreading her legs further, Revy jumped when Balalaika rubbed a spot that twisted pleasure with pain. “Sis, Sis, pleasepleaseplease that’s too fuckin’ much -”

Balalaika’s tongue pushed and curled inside her, leaving Revy to wheeze, repeating words that jumbled together. Her second time, and she was still crying like a baby, her hips grinding on the blonde’s face and a hand stuck fast in her hair. Pink nails were digging hard into her thighs, until Revy wasn’t sure if she was going to bleed. A brutal mix of come and blood ruining the nice sheets.

Balalaika’s imagined name was in her throat like a jewel when Revy came, her teeth clattering together when it hit her like a wave breaking over the shore. The blonde said something to her in the midst of her flailing, but she couldn’t hear. Blood rushed in her ears and her inner thighs became wetter than they had been before. She wanted to say her name so badly that it almost ruined everything, the desire overpowering the hard press of lips on her folds, twisting. “ Sisss. ” Revy mumbled pathetically, before snapping her eyes open. Balalaika gave her a kiss on her folds, with a circular swirl of her tongue.

“One more?”

Gnawing her lip, she nodded blearily and Balalaika bent down again, tossing her hair over her shoulder. The second time arrived quicker than the first, and Revy slammed back and cried out, clutching the comforter in one hand and the other held thick blonde hair. A spare minute passed and Revy returned the favor, crawling over unsteadily, her hair in her face and sweat beading at her temples.

Balalaika gripped Revy by the hair and grinded on her face, her breath short and quick and her hand shook while holding onto the brunette locks. Like Revy didn’t matter, a toy to be used. She grunted in pain, her voice vibrating, and took Balalaika into her mouth. Again, she missed the way she tasted, and buried herself deeper, angling her wrist and entering two fingers inside her. Balalaika gasped, low and guttural, her muscles unwinding and becoming pliant, finally. She cried out when Revy curled her fingers, elbow hitting the bed with every thrust she made. Briefly, Revy wondered what the blonde had said, when Balalaika rolled her hips. The scars on her thighs were softer to the touch, one dangerously close to her center. Revy slid her own legs closer together, and she felt a west sensation on her lower thighs, and she realised that she was bleeding. The Russian seized and threw her head back on a sea of hair.

She lazily lapped at Balalaika, cleaning around her fingers, which continued to curl slowly, pumping hard, until the blonde hissed again, tightening around her. Revy would have preferred to do this forever, watching Balalaika’s eyes flutter open and shut, her body flushed and pink. Swiping her tongue, she rolled it around until the blonde arched on last time, weaker, then pushed Revy’s face away. She pulled herself into a sitting position.

“Off, Rebecca.”

Revy rolled her eyes, sticking her wrinkled fingers in her mouth. She crawled up and sat beside Balalaika, leaning a head on her shoulder when her fingers exited her mouth with a pop . A tired smile broke out on her face, as she broke into a serious yawn, nuzzling her nose into the blonde’s chest, allowing Balalaika to bring her face upward, to lay on her collarbone.

“How about you go to sleep, Rebecca?” Balalaika’s voice was breathy and exhausted, made wispy from sex.

“Yeah, yeah, Vladilena. I have to make you sleep first.” She teased, nipping her. They both leaned on one another, flush with the after-glow. Balalaika grazed her arm with long acrylics, then the touch traveled to tugging at the strands of her hair, carding through the locks, because she knew Revy melted wherever her hair was touched. An attempt to get her to shut up before she got herself in trouble.

“I can certainly assure you that Vladilena isn’t my actual name. I trust you won’t call me that again.” Balalaika paused her motions.

“It’s not Susan, huh?” Revy mumbled, eyes shut. A million names were on the tip of her tongue, and she was ready to guess them all. The complaint was old, faded, and Balalaika had heard it many times, in many versions, the same bitter refrain that had been played in different keys ever since Revy discovered that Balalaika was a living, breathing woman.“Shit, Cathy?”

Balalaika gave no answer.

“That’s not a very a Russian name, yeah.” Revy conceded, cracking an eye open.

The blonde watched her carefully, like she was scanning her reaction. “It isn’t.”

“Uhm, fuck, um, let me think.” Revy worried her bruised lip, running her fingers through her hair. Her head spun, when she decided to go out on a limb. “Have you told me it already?”

She had expected no reply, and Revy remained still despite wanting to run away. Balalaika parted her lips, no words managing out as her chest shuddered. She was close, and they both knew it.

“I have.”

“When?” Revy asked quickly.

A moment went by. What's in a name?  Dutch had said once, and Revy had no clue what it meant, but it could apply here. Balalaika’s jaw was tight. Like she had said it once, so she didn't have to repeat herself again. “Why? Why do you want to know my name so badly? Even with all the times I told you it was too difficult?”

The same dance they always had, all because she couldn't let it go. Revy thought of Janet’s quip. She’d be in her head forever. “I don’t fucking know… I just want to know you, and fucking be close to you.” her voice became near inaudible, kissing into the Russian’s collarbone. “You’re the only one, Sis.”

“You have the pictures, you know enough.”

“Tell me and I’ll only ever call you it when we’re alone or fucking. Or, I won’t call you it a-at all. It’ll just be in my brain.” Revy tapped her temple. You lost everything, don’t lose your goddamn name. It was tempting to speak those words into existence.

The blonde rubbed her jaw, blinking, and looked away, face stony. But she was hurting, evident in her blue eyes that remained dry. “I was her in those pictures. Unmarred skin, young. I have no idea if we would be together like this if certain events never happened to me.” Revy felt her breath on the top of her skull.

“I told you before you’re still her. You’d still be Sis before everything. You’d probably be less of a pain in the ass, though.” A tear ran down Revy’s cheek, the warmth dripping onto her collarbone. She moved away to fully stare at the blonde, her hands trembling as they supported her.

A thumb brushed her wet cheek, as Balalaika reached out and cupped her face. “You would think different if you had met me then. No tears, Rebecca. You’ve cried enough of them.”

“I can’t help it, around you I’m a fucking baby.” The smile, however bitter, faded from her face.

“While I was in Afghanistan, you were abandoned by everyone, is that it?” The easiness of Balalaika’s reply had Revy flinching. Passed out in an alleyway, people stepping over her. They kept doing that until she started walking on them. The Russian was stroking her cheek and Revy drew closer, wanting in spite of herself to feel affection, no matter the source, desiring closeness, kindness that Balalaika could deliver, that no one else did.

Snorting, she masked her thoughts with a fake grin. “You should have taken me as your fucking childbride.”

Balalaika smiled at that, her eyebrows raising in thought. “Perhaps. You’d have been doing a lot of waiting.”

Yeah, I’ll give you that Janet, you were fucking right. Revy wanted to say something but she didn’t have the vocabulary to do so. Post-orgasm, her brain wasn’t working and whatever she wanted to say, wouldn’t go over well, she’d imagine. “I’m not patient.”

The Russian kissed her forehead again, her hair in Revy’s face, and she smelled her perfume. Flowery in a old-fashioned sense, like they’d have in the mall she’d frequent as a kid.

“I can tell it hurts, Sis.” she breathed. They remained like that, close and quiet, Balalaika’s lips on the top of her head; Revy leaned into her hand supporting her jaw.

“You’re honestly wrapped around my little finger.”

“I guess so.” Revy shut her eyes to stop tears from dripping down her flushed cheeks. One escaped, streaking to Balalaika’s fingers and disappearing beneath a pink nail. “I keep promising not to fucking ask... but I've got the attention span of a fucking monkey. God, I hate making you feel this way, y'know?"

Balalaika’s lips trembled for a second.

It must have been a name Revy would have never thought of. Maybe it was girlish, pretty, a little girl’s name, one who carried her books in her arms on the way to class. She broke out into a watery smile, a laugh morphing into a sob. Her Sis, her whoever, no one else’s. Then Balalaika launched into ragged breaths, straining to speak more, her shoulders hunching and her mouth twisting in anger. “Oh, fuck, Sis, it’s okay, it’s okay.” Revy kept close, grabbing her by the shoulders and stroking the scarred skin there. “Are you thinking you’re there again? ‘Cause you’re not. You’re not fucking there anymore. Listen to me.”

Balalaika forced her eyes to meet Revy’s; they were far away, blank, her breath coming fast and hard. Hanging onto a metaphorical cliff, a whole life in one hand that strained to keep her body up. She had long limbs. There must have been no honor in falling, too. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Revy said. She leaned forward and stroked the Russian’s loose hair, playing with it and combing through the now-tangled strands, muttering apologies and thank yous and any other words that she could muster. Guilt. That was all she felt, rising and boiling inside her like a sickness, like the flu she had when she was six.

“I have no idea how they managed to find out what my name was.” 

There was no emotion, only the dry relation of fact. Oh.

Revy fidgeted, eyes wide and she shook her head, licking her lips. Asking for details would have been a death wish. “Fuck them, they’re dead now, who gives a shit. You’re here, and alive, and this’ll blow over, you’re here with me.” Saying them made her feel like she was jamming her finger into Balalaika’s open wound. Breathing life into their long-dead ghosts. Would it blow over? For the blonde, she was always one step away from being in Afghanistan again, in the hot temperature and hot-hot sand.

“I know, it is entirely irrational.” Balalaika drew in slow breaths, shutting her eyes. She had broken out into a sweat, cold under Revy’s touch. “I need a drink.” Balalaika pulled away and swung her legs out onto the floor. Revy left her arms outstretched to where they were, slowly letting them fall back to her lap. Saltwater flooded her eyes, burning red. Balalaika opened a drawer hastily, nearly tearing it out of the dresser; taking out a rolled up cardigan. A response caught in Revy's throat. When she drew it up her arms, the article fell to the middle of her thighs, a dark grey color. The blonde exited the bedroom smoothly, into the darkness of the hallway and Revy followed her movements with her eyes.

"Hey-"

"I'll be right back."

Revy folded her blood-smeared legs under her and stared at the rumpled sheets. They were still stiff under her fingertips. Ashamed, she waited for Balalaika to come back. Back bent, she let her hair fall in her crumpled face when she began to cry again, sniffling like a child. The amount of times she cried in front of Balalaika, she found to be embarrassing, but like a beaten dog she walked after Balalaika into the kitchen. I'll be right back my ass.

Chapter Text

She had to debate on whether to follow Balalaika or not. Revy wrung her hands and stared at the wall, her skin prickling in the cold air. A couple bottles of beer and she would have done it immediately. My guns are on the counter I’m safe a voice unreasonably told her. Revy smacked her forehead and crawled off the bed, feet thudding on the ground when she got up. I don’t need my fucking guns, I don’t need anything.

Walking towards the hallway, hearing nothing from the kitchen, Revy’s hand went to touch her chest, and she remembered she wasn’t wearing anything. Not that it mattered; Balalaika had seen everything anyway, and then some. Stepping through the doorway, she peered into the darkness. After a few seconds the corners of the walls and the couch sharpened, and she pressed onward. The apartment was cold . The air conditioner rattled and wheezed quietly in the living room. Coming into the area, Revy touched the couch absentmindedly when she saw Balalaika in the tiny kitchen, pouring water into a kettle.

The grey, long cardigan had slipped off one pale shoulder, exposing skin that Revy wanted to drag her fingers across, and her pulse jumped in her throat when she saw how Balalaika voicelessly refused to slump over. Revy opened her mouth to say something, but the words died when the blonde turned to see her fully.

“What... are you up to, Sis?” She feigned casualness.

Balalaika sighed. “Making tea.”

“You… need help?”

“It’s only tea, Rebecca. Don’t tell me now that you’re good in the kitchen.” She replied, quietly, deadpan without a trace of real humor.

Revy scratched her arm at that, worrying her lip with her teeth, refusing to back away. Instead, she came closer until she felt the chill of the linoleum as she walked. The blonde had returned her gaze to the wall, still wrapped up in her head. “Uh, yeah, nah. Dutch usually has me on fucking dishwashing duty.”

A sharp blow of steam whistled from the kettle, and Balalaika shook herself out of her haze.

“You feeling any better?” Revy asked, her shoulder brushing the Russian’s arm.

Balalaika turned the oven off, the low lighting reflecting off of the remains of her pale skin. “What do you want me to say that would make you feel better?”

“Don’t bullshit. You need me to do anything?” She mumbled, shaking her head. Then her eyes widened and she shivered. “But don’t say leave.” 

“Rebecca, you’re not going anywhere.” Balalaika said.

“Sis, why the hell do you keep going back there if you...”

“Enjoy the act of war? It has become second nature to me. I suppose it makes sense that I remember what had happened and what became of my actions everyday. As I’m sure that you do.” She raised an arm to the cupboard, opening it and reaching for the box before Revy interrupted her.

“I’ll get it, Sis.” Revy muttered warily. Balalaika slowly pulled away, fingers brushing Revy’s tanned arm. “I wish there was some fucking way I could help.”

The pinked scar rippled under the ceiling light. “You’re helping now. Don’t kid yourself, Rebecca. And don’t forget, you enjoy violence too.”

“Yeah.” Revy admitted truthfully. “It’s all I know, to be fuckin’ honest. I used to shoot at cans when I was a kid.” Her throat seized at the confession, but she pretended not to be bothered. Words turned blue and died in her mouth. Revy shook her head and looked away at the tea box in her hand, opening it and setting it on the white counter. “Uh, I’m gonna have some too, is that cool?”

“Of course. I was going to offer it to you anyway, sweet girl.”

Blushing at the nickname, Revy still was unable to shake herself out of the sharp shatter of a beer bottle shattering when twelve year old her managed to finally hit it. She wanted to be better than just shooting at close range. Later on, she shot a pigeon and it’s feathers flew through the air as it fell. Revy frowned, remembering how there was a flicker of empathy in her heart, when she saw the bleeding bird hit the ground in front of her. But she went and got identical mugs anyway, on the shelf above the tea. The cabinet really was empty, giving the idea of a hotel room rather than an actual, lived-in apartment.

Balalaika took them from her hands, and set them beside the kettle and poured the steaming water into the ceramic, silent. She was coming out of her Afghanistan-haze; however now she was suspicious of Revy’s silence. The blonde swore in Russian, brushing her hair out of her face after she set the kettle down. “I just need a minute. My-“

“We don’t gotta talk about it. I know, Sis. Don’t mention it or you’ll feel like shit.” Revy dropped a tea bag into each of the mugs. Balalaika then bobbed her bag up and down by pulling on the string, and such a soft scene had Revy’s heart freezing in her chest, just the way Balalaika looked, nearly domestic, a foreign word to her as it probably was to the blonde. Revy copied the action, continue to stare at her with wide eyes.

Balalaika nodded. “Good idea.” She looked exhausted, as she always did; shoulders slumping and her hair mussed and curly and so blonde. Revy touched it, twirling a strand around her finger. The lock was soft and strong enough that she thought she could use it as a cord to make a necklace with. After a moment, Balalaika took a sip of her drink. “It’s decent. I never bother purchasing quality tea for the apartment. Waste of money. I’m hardly here anyhow.”

“Tastes fine to me.”

The corners of the Russian’s blue eyes crinkled, humored by Revy’s pout. “At least you’re drinking something that’s decent for you.”

“I’m still alive, Sis. I think I’m taking care of myself just fine.”

The corners of Balalaika’s lips upturned. “Have you always taken care of yourself?”

Realization crashed over her. Revy had walked straight into a corner. “Like any other street rat, yeah, fuckin’ sure.”

“Tell me this… why are you so delicate over speaking about yourself, yet you ask me all sorts of questions, even when I make it perfectly clear, I don’t want to answer them?”

She worried her lip with her teeth and gripped the mug in her hand hard. “You’ve got a goddamned past, a real past, and I came from nothing. You’re the interesting one here. I don’t have much to say.”

“Here’s what I do know,” Balalaika started softly. “You don’t have a mother, as do I, we both know this. It’s old news. You enjoy drinking and smoking so much it is a wonder your lungs haven’t turned into ash. You’ve never read an actual book. Aside from that, I know little about you.”

“I have read a fucking book. We had to read tons of shit in seventh grade.” She said uneasily.

Balalaika pinched the bridge of her nose. When she didn’t get the answer that she wanted, she got annoyed. “Don’t try and avoid the question, Rebecca. You’re not very good at it.”

“I already said I don’t have fucking anything to say! Sis, come on, please. I already fucked up this night.” Revy begged, in a way that made her cheeks flush.

“You didn’t. Stop being so dramatic. I told you about Afghanistan. About these.” She pointed at the scar on her nude chest. “The more vulnerable parts of me. You’d prefer to be closed off? Does that make you feel like you have more power than I? Because that isn’t true.”

“It’s not that. I was fucked up from the beginning I- told you about my first cigar experience. I was fourteen.” A story that’s much more colorful. Didn’t she say something along the lines to Rock in that submarine that stunk of rot? It should have been easier to tell Balalaika, her Sis, to tell some fragment of said story. She wouldn’t breathe a word of fingering other women in prison, to feel a semblance of domination that the prison guards would strip away with a single order. Or debating on kissing a random boy to just know what it felt like- forced intimacy that teenage her was struggling to suppress, and that was when she got joy out of killing anyone; anything. Anyone . Robbing a house where the woman inside laid on her toddler; like a human shield. She couldn’t speak on so many stories that she began to feel ashamed. She really was awful no matter which parts she liked.

“I remember.” Balalaika hungered for the truth of it, but Revy thought she wouldn’t like the foul taste. The blonde finished her tea and set it in the sink to the right of her, behind Revy. Looking down, Revy realised she hadn’t been able to touch her tea. Balalaika touched her neck. “You have to drink, Rebecca. You’ll feel better.”

After taking a long drink of the lukewarm tea, Revy nodded and licked the remnants on her bottom lip. Outside the window, the night was beautiful, strangely, given the circumstances. She had never seen so many bright stars. How can a night be beautiful when… “I was an orphan. Technically. But I wasn’t in some fucking orphanage, I was out on the streets. I think I was homeless for my whole shitty life.”

“Did you only have a mother?”

Revy stared at the night sky. Then she glanced at her guns. Then she went back to studying the sky. Dutch could name all the constellations, but she never paid attention, when he’d list them. The stars were as bright as the city lights. “If I told you, you’d hate me.” she whispered, her voice choked and strained. “It… If I see like, fucking feath- oh, shit.” Revy cupped her head with a hand and with a pained wheeze like nothing human, and the mug feel from her shaking fingers and cracked into pieces when it smashed into the linoleum, dark liquid splattered everywhere, on Revy’s ankles, on the bottom cabinets. The embarrassment didn’t register, Revy looked ahead at the night, but it wasn’t nightfall when she had done that, it was a cloudy, cold morning. She felt like a child.

“I went to him. I got fucked up . And he had never- I was- Sis, fucking hell, getmegetmegetmethefuckouttahere -”

Avoiding the mess, the blonde pulled Revy towards her, roughly by the forearm, dragging her close. Revy blindly reached for her, unable to breathe or think or do anything aside from increasing her breathing. Her guns were close by, and if she wasn’t held, tight, she wouldn’t be able to control herself. There was the fever wrapping around her skull; yet when Balalaika wrapped her arms around her, Revy was just ashamed, angry, and sad.

Balalaika had a hand on the back of Revy’s scalp as she forced her face to burrow into the hair that fell over her broad shoulder, and an arm around her waist, their bodies slammed into each other. Revy tried to speak, but it only morphed into a heavy, frightened, stubborn crying that was one of pure animal grief. “ IhatehimIhatehimIfuckinghatehim .” But which him ? Her head shook violently into the Russian’s hair; her whole body trembling and holding onto Balalaika fast.

“Is he alive? Where is he?” Balalaika commanded with an air of urgency that rose with every shake of Revy clinging body. “Is he in New York?”

“He’s dead Sis, because-“ Revy gasped into her thick hair, eyes swimming with tears. “Oh fuck, I need to kill somebody.”

Balalaika tightened her grip, saying a few words in Russian, quietly to herself.

“Do you hate me? Are you gonna kick me out? At least let me put some fucking clothes on-” Revy tried to pull away but was forced back to the blonde. Something was rising inside of her. She had done worse acts than killing her father, Revy reasoned to herself in a small, twisted voice inside her brain, but the humiliation drove it out.

“You are not going anywhere, Rebecca. Calm down.” Balalaika said calmly, setting her chin on top of Revy’s head, then kissing it and burying her nose in her hair.

“Sis…” Revy blinked at the tears escaping unwillingly, and it pissed her off. They trailed down her cheeks like fire, curving into the corners of her lips and she tasted seawater. Balalaika’s sleeve was warm on her naked back, wrist laying on the bumps of her spine. Revy gasped and sobbed, swearing at no one in particular, as pure sadness disguised as rage welling in her. She felt herself being rocked, slowly, side to side in an effort to calm her. Revy was unable to stop letting out animalistic sobs, digging her nails into Balalaika, through the fabric and into her soft, scarred skin.

A minute passed; Revy forced herself to look up, trembling. Her guns were on the table, near the photograph of whoever-the-fuck-it-was , and the cracked mug was behind her, and her thighs had dry crescents of blood. Balalaika was looking back, head tilted, her hand traveling down to support Revy’s neck, fingers in her hair. This was the woman she had sex with, she thought, staring at the blonde. After a certain period of time, Revy learned, is that after two or three minutes or so, one can still look pretty, with the flushed lips, big watery eyes, and flushed cheeks. But Revy was beyond that, and her hair stuck to her wet cheekbones from how hard she cried.

Balalaika, perhaps, was still in Afghanistan. Or maybe she wasn’t. But she wasn’t here again, and Revy wanted to cling to the much older woman, to kiss her. All she wanted was comfort; she sniffed and laid her head on Balalaika’s chest, nuzzling into the pale skin, the tip of her nose touching a scar. Her scars always were soft. Revy wheezed and glanced up at Balalaika.

“I-”

 The blonde stroked her hair, listening to Revy’s ragged breathing. “Are you feeling better now ?”

“Are you mad at me?” Revy countered. Shifting in her grip, she was afraid to look her hard in the eyes, heart fluttering.

Balalaika kissed the top of her head. “Mad? No. I had always known that something must have happened to you like that. I’m sorry that people failed you in such formative years.” She ended with a whisper.

“Will you leave me?” Revy mumbled stupidly against her chest, her breath moving strands of her hair. The blonde’s hips were full and she dug her digits into the flesh.

“I don’t know for certain.” Balalaika admitted, shaking her head at nothing in particular. Stroking Revy’s back, she followed her spine with a pointer finger, back and forth, palm warm. Revy’s eyes fluttered, tears drying on her face.

“I’m gonna be a bitch about it. Don’t leave me .”

The tender look made Revy want to break all over again. “Sweet girl, don’t worry about that now. You’ll only make yourself more upset, with all these matters you cannot let go.”

“Yeah. Fuck. I hadn’t spoken about that shit since it happened. I told Dutch like, a little bit, but not enough for him to understand. But you…” She trailed off. She needed the feeling of long fingers in her hair, Balalaika’s tongue inside her, and being held tight.

“Do you feel better, saying it?”

“I dunno. I just wanted you to know.”

Balalaika pushed the hair out of Revy’s dark eyes.  She shook her head at the miserable, beaten-dog display. “Didn’t you listen? I said no more tears.”

“I can’t stop.” Revy whispered. Why wasn’t she there? The blonde was offering comfort, but there was still a barrier, and barrier that Revy only wormed through a few times. It was a tiring way to live. “Sis, did you hear a thing I said?”

“I did. Your father’s death. I’d have taken care of him if he was still alive; bring you his head.”

Revy cringed at the word. He wasn’t a father at all. A stranger who forced her mother to birth her into the grey cruel sad lonely world. Balalaika’s promise made her smile, a warmth spreading through her. “But, how I fucking said it.”

“Rebecca, I want to protect you , it must be obvious. I never want you hurt like that again.” The blonde spoke gravely, grimacing. "You're mine. Wrapped around my finger."

“See?” Revy felt her heart shatter. “I managed to tell you what happened, in my shitty life. Because I can trust you and-” Balalaika made a move to go away, her eyes sliding to the side, face awash with grief. “-No, wait-”

Clearly pitying her, Balalaika kissed her forehead, then her cheekbone, her blonde hair in Revy’s face. “You suffered so much as a child. Abandoned by everyone and everything, I wouldn't have stood by like everyone else.”

“Then never leave me.” she repeated.

The Russian muttered a sentence in her native language, looking depressed. “Rebecca, let’s go back to the bedroom, I’m exhausted-”

Revy followed Balalaika, only to grab her by the arm and hold her close, sniffling. The arm flexed in her tight grip. Doubt wavered in her, until she remembered what she wanted. “Wait.”

“Hm?” Balalaika glanced back at her, lips pressed tight. What Revy wanted was clear across her face, she could never hide anything.

“I got the shit beat out of me as a child.” Revy said again. She watched Balalaika step over the mess on the floor and head towards the document-covered table. I really, really fucking did. Worse than a punch to the stomach or being choked.

Balalaika softened and faced her fully, reaching out to touch Revy’s chin. Her nail traced up her jaw and down again, holding her head firm. “And I’ll never let it happen again. Anyone who rises against you, who you can’t kill with one of your guns, I’ll kill them myself with my own hands.” There’s worse people than Janet out there.

Revy’s eyes hurt, her whole body hurt, her black soul hurt from vulnerability. There was nothing left to lose. “Hold me again.”

“I will when we get into bed.” The blonde conceded, eyebrows creasing. Lavender coloring was painted under her eyes; she appeared ten years older than she was.

“Sis, come here .” Revy tugged at the sleeve of the oversized cardigan.

“Rebecca I’ll comfort you when we get into bed, alright? I cannot think clearly right now. Look at me.”

Before Revy could open her mouth to reply, a piece of her broke inside and a wave of fury crashed into her ribs. Blood pushed itself through her veins and capillaries, flooding up her throat and she tasted iron. She saw red. Balalaika was studying  the open display of anger. The confusing tears dried on her face.

Look at me. Do you even see me? I just told you about… about that shit about my asshole d-dad , and you’re fucking out of it? I know you’re hurting, and I wish I could take that shit away from you, I wish I could have protected you . But it’s already done with, Sis. So fucking listen to me when I tell you that the night before I shot my own fucking asshole bitch dad that a cop arrested me the night before for nothing. Because he thought I was nothing… And I got back, the next day, and it was cloudy out.” Revy seethed, leaning her head back and watching Balalaika’s face, for anything; what she got in return was wide blue eyes on a poorly stoic face. The blonde was shocked, silent, allowing Revy to finish with words that she didn’t know how to speak. “Talk to me,” Revy went on, “Just talk to me, I need you. Listen to me; under-fucking-stand me.”

Balalaika’s nostrils flared, standing tall over her. That face… Revy had seen it before, when Rock was thrown onto a car, when a rival gangster was about to be killed. “I have talked. I have talked enough. You’re on my last nerve. All this to hear my name. You need to sleep, you are overtired and getting on my nerves, Rebecca. Let us go to bed and speak of this later.”

“No! Not tomorrow, today. Fucking tonight. You never listen to me I just want you to know me and lo-”

“You want answers? Will this shut you up?” Balalaika wrenched herself away with a spin and found the folder Revy had brought with her, snatching it with such a fury that her elbow almost met Revy’s withering face. She fished out of the photograph, then tossing the folder onto the ground with even looking.

This is Sofiya. There she is, the honorable captain who led her men into battle every. Single. Time. After everything that happened, there she, or I, was there at the front lines. I pulled myself together and fought in a war that dishonored me, spat me and my men out. That’s Sofiya. What you’re looking at certainly isn’t her.” Balalaika coughed in a strangled dry sob. “But that is my name.”

Sofiyasofiyasofiyasofiya

Revy cupped her mouth with a hand and shook. That was her name. Her real, living name. She was born with that name, like Revy was born Rebecca, and ice water fell over her. She had asked and asked. This wasn't a victory. If it was it was Pyrrhic. Anger drained out of her, blood turning into sludge. “Sofiya? You?"

The blonde might as well have been slapped. Corpse eyes were widened, her chest heaving and her fists clenched. Like a statue, Balalaika was poised like a wounded predator that would die fighting.

“Sofiya? That’s you? You’re Sofiya?” she stammered, eyes going soft with comfort. Tasting the name on her tongue was strange. Almost dreamlike, Revy watched the wretchedness in Balalaika’s face. This couldn't be real. Balalaika's expression was every horrible emotion at once. Because they had said it, and she was Sofiya when the war happened. I want to take it away from you. Holy shit.

“Don’t say it.” A threat. Balalaika was glaring at her like she was going to throw herself at her, claws out. Revy raised her hands in surrender, noting her guns behind the blonde. The air was so thick, neither of them breathed.

Revy scoffed. Weakly smiling, she held a hand out to the blonde. “Will you kill me if I do?”

“No. I wouldn’t. Is this what you wanted? To hurt me?” Balalaika snapped, grasping the photograph so hard that Revy had half a mind to tell her to lay off it.

“I don’t want to fucking hurt you. I just need to know you, to have concrete proof that you… weren’t always Balalaika. Hell, you’ve always been mine, my Sis, but I want to know who you are.”

“And now you have. You’ve involved yourself with a disgraced military officer.” She sounded so regretful that Revy blanched. Balalaika was far away, hair covering her breasts, and Revy was able to see her unscarred for a second in the dim lighting. Saying her own name, like it was a stranger’s. She went closer to the blonde, searching her face, sliding along the thick scar and the lack of emotion and the implications of torture.

Revy plucked the picture from Balalaika and gently unfolded it, eyes scanning the now white lines that intercepted faces of men long dead. Fiddling with a dog eared corner, she traced the profile of the blonde woman’s jaw. “I don’t give a shit about that. I’m involved with you. And you’re stuck with me. Your past doesn’t change any fucking thing.”

“Oh, but it changed everything, and you can relate to that, to that place you crawled out of.”The Russian said. Yeah, it changed everything, but you don’t have to say that.

“I didn’t crawl out of it.” Revy retorted, narrowing her eyes, coming closer until their chests touched. It wasn’t a fight Balalaika was looking for. A sign of dominance, to put Revy back in her place, and a year ago she would have relented to Balalaika.

“Dragged, then.”

She blinked and chewed on her lip. Balalaika was just egging her on, but she wasn’t going to let it happen. It was a poor excuse to pretend she didn’t want comfort. “Will you always treat me like this?”

“Yes.” Then Balalaika kissed her, slowly and politely. There wasn’t any tongue or biting, a simple kiss that reminded Revy that she was more than a girl to fuck. She went to her hips, flexing over the tanned flesh, and Revy held onto her neck with both hands. They shared a gentle kiss; Revy could have sworn she felt Balalaika heave against her with a silent gasp, holding onto her tighter, hard enough that she surely would bruise.

“Fuckin’ A, I won’t leave you.” Revy incoherently mumbled. Balalaika broke the kiss the press her face into Revy’s hair, breathing hard in her ear, tall enough to where it was nearly awkward. Revy stroked her back and hair, quickly, kissing her neck and whispering words that she hoped would relax the situation. “I’m right here, Sofiya.”

The blonde stilled, painfully gasping at the mention of her name.

“I’m gonna say it once in a while,” Revy whispered. “So you get used to it. Cause it’s a very fucking pretty name, and I like saying it to you, alone. I wanna say it when we’re together in the bedroom. Just us, no other fucker.” She searched for a delicate way to put it. “Is that okay? Can you say that it’s alright, Sis?”

Of course there would be no reply. Balalaika still remained still with her chest expanding as if there wasn’t enough oxygen in the world to satisfy her. Pain echoed off of her bent body, mirroring Revy’s animalistic sobs from earlier, silent yet still unbearable to watch. Revy held her tightly, rubbing her nose on a tendon in her neck, unsure what else to say.

Are you waiting to kill me? Revy thought. Am I the same as all those men? Who ask and ask and fucking take and take? Has she ever done this in front of them? Boris? Revy let her be there for a while, not moving as her arms started to hurt from stroking her back, the muscles so tight and knotted under her fingers. “Are you feeling better, Sis?”

Balalaika pulled away, stony. “I am tired, Rebecca. I’ll be heading towards the bedroom, feel free to follow me.” Without a sound she disappeared into the dark hallway, shadowy figure approaching the doorway. Instinctively, Revy followed quickly, arms crossed in suspicion. The blonde moved slowly into the room. With her front facing the bed, she pushed the cardigan off her shoulders and it fell onto the ground around her ankles. Revy watched, still red and puffy from her crying. She took the left side of the bed, silently, and flicked the light off.

Unsure, Revy stepped towards the unused side. When her hand went to peel back the comforter she paused, eyeing Balalaika’s broad back, and instead rounded the other side of the bed. The air was chilly and her eyes kept drooping, body feeling limp. Revy stopped in front of Balalaika’s form, who was about to sit up when Revy pushed off the blanket and climbed onto the blonde, sliding her legs down over her. Jamming a hip bone into Balalaika’s stomach, Revy grimaced at the scoff of annoyance, and she finally fell on top, her head on her collarbones and arms on the side of Balalaika’s broad body.

“You’re very lucky, Rebecca.” The blonde murmured. The comforter was adjusted until it covered her chest.

Revy kissed her collarbones. “Hell, I know. So are you.”

Chapter Text

Lucky, huh? Revy wanted to smile, before she could it slid off her face. She felt bitter, sad, angry; a whole mix cesspool of emotions that didn’t make her feel better . Sofiyasofiyasofiya . What a cruel joke.

“Where do we go from here?” Balalaika’s chest vibrated with her low voice.

“What do you mean, Sis?” Sofiya. Very tempting to say, however Revy clamped her teeth together and waited for the answer that was most likely going to hurt.She's not gonna fucking leave you, shut up, you dumb bitch.

“We’ve bared ourselves to one another, believe it or not. I’ve never opened up like that before, and you had to pry me open to see inside. Sofiya, huh.” She dryly chuckled. “None of my own men have ever seen me like this, even when I was rescued. I…” Balalaika paused, her breath catching. “They would have never abandoned me. Yet as the days passed my resolve wavered. Who wouldn’t have had those thoughts? When they found me I still had to remain strong. My comrades brought me out and I knew if they saw me weak I’d break them further. Then every single day since them a piece of me has been stripped away.”

Revy breathed slowly as to not freak out, and stress Balalaika moreso. Licking her lips, she thought of something decent to say. “Hey, you returned to Moscow. Didn’t that… you saw places you musta’ liked as a kid.”

“Nothing brought me back. At the end of the day I’d return to that apartment alone and sit in front of the television. Then my comrades visited me.”

“Are you happy they did?” She asked apprehensively. All of her comrades pooling in, accepting her as their own and lifting her out of her misery. When she was a kid, she’d imagine waking up and realising that she had a huge family waiting to rescue her, with a real mom and dad. In first grade they made family trees with tiny square cut outs of family member’s faces, and Revy had nothing. She didn’t have pictures of her dad. There was no family waiting for her. There never was to begin with. Walking home from school that day, she thought who would want her, anyway?

“I missed them. I missed being a kapitan more.” An unearthly amount of sadness was in Balalaika’s response. Revy could imagine the sands of Afghanistan, the heat and the heaviness of the gear they carried on them. She imagined being dragged off away, by those who acted like dirty cops, and being burned and stripped and humiliated. Balalaika was and is a beautiful woman. Revy had no words left. Instead she laid there, drawing circles with a finger on Balalaika’s arm, swirling down, then tracing back up, listening to the way the Russian’s voice fought to not tremble.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go off on a tangent.”

Leaning up to kiss a pale jawline, Revy shook her head. Once upon a time, Sofiya was stripped and burned and treated like an object to be jettisoned if need be.  “Don’t worry about it. I don’t mind listening. I just don’t know what to say. I don’t wanna fucking make you go back there any more than you already are.”

“Looking at it in a certain light, I couldn’t get us all out of that desert. Something broke along the way. In all of us. I’ve been wrestling with this knowledge for many years, and it took me down a dark road.” She admitted hoarsely. Her arms went to wrap around Revy’s waist, securely holding them together. The blonde hair spread across the bed like itself was a blanket, thick and curling and tangled, and Revy reached out to run her fingers through it, knuckles catching on the soft strands.

Revy kissed her again, this time on her chin, upper lip brushing Balalaika’s lips, feeling her chest heave. She smiled, her lips aching from the strain of it. At a loss for words, she kissed her for the third time, clutching her so tightly that the blonde shifted in discomfort to lessen the needy gripping.  “I think you’re over exhausted, Sis. Maybe… we could sleep in. For an hour. Half-hour? Then you can tell me more about you. It’ll help, yeah? Talking about sad shit. Besides, I want more fucking time with you, please.”

“I can’t do that.”

“For me?” Revy’s voice was stupidly high. Suddenly, she was a tall child again. Her eyelids ached like weights were attached to them. “For you, too? You need time to… to relax. We can fuck in the morning, too. If you want. I’ll be slow and gentle and I’ll take my fucking time-”

Balalaika stroked Revy’s spine, nails dragging along the bones. “I have to eat breakfast with my men. It is an important part of my routine, Rebecca. Nevermind me reminiscing.”

“I know your men are important, okay? But can’t you put it off until seven? Like they can wait too, right, and they can be with their own chicks.”

“I said no. Besides, I’m held to stricter standards than my comrades. I have to set an example, and that’s final.” Balalaika said miserably. She pushed herself into a sitting position. Afraid she might leave, Revy grasped one of her arms and stopped her from shifting any more. “Rebecca, I’m warning you, I can not argue anymore.”

It was an intense, shocking anger that made Revy shrink back. Her lower lip trembled; she sank her teeth into it to appear stronger than she felt. “Hey, hey, please I overreacted, I’m sorry.” Her eyebrows knitted together, head tilting to the side and her hair brushed past her breast. “Hey- I know I get bitchy, I-I don’t mean to, shit. I know I fucking overeacted but I’ve been trying to pull myself back the fuck up and I’ve been trying to deal with this stupid shit about wanting to protect you and my fucked-up fears about you and I didn’t mean to-”

“Rebecca-”

“-I know you’re in so much fucking pain-”

Rebecca -” Balalaika’s eyes narrowed and her mouth tugged to the side, as she exhaled roughly, her eyes like glass and sickly.

“-I just got psycho for a second I like you so much and I’m so fucked up-”

Balalaika cupped Revy’s face in her hands and forced her to pause her fidgeting. “Don’t you ever call yourself a psycho . I am sick and tired of this, this is not the right time, I’m tired of talking.”

“How do you feel about me?” Revy asked numbly. The worst time to ask, she thought, unable to feel anything but sadness for Balalaika and desperation to hold her comfortingly. She played with the blonde hair, between shaking fingers, leaning close. Maybe if she appeared more attractive Balalaika would say what she needed to hear.

The blonde paused, ferocity in her eyes and tight face diminishing. As if she was cycling through a list of what to say. “I told you my name, Rebecca.”

“After I fucking twisted your arm. Tell me, holy shit, if this is beyond- I know you care about me, Sis, but is that it?”

She too twirled a strand of Revy’s brunette hair around a long finger. They both touched each other's locks, softly yet surely, to get attention from the other in ways they both needed. “You have to be direct in what you’re asking.”

“You know what the fuck I’m asking, y-you’re smarter than that you read goddamn literature; real literature! I just if we were public… would you be embarrassed? I just want to help more. This stress of us hiding is gonna fuck you up more.” Revy’s face flushed in frustration. 

Balalaika groaned in exhaustion, running a hand over her face, smudging her eyeliner. “Why do you think I would be ashamed? Rebecca, where is this coming from? This isn’t making sense, you’re exhausted and it is so late already and don’t you dare interrupt me.”

“Would you keep me hidden, even if we could go public? Things would be easy, and I could sleep with you every night and make sure you actually go to damn sleep.”

Balalaika debated on what words she would speak, her eyes darting to the left as she thought. Revy felt a cold sweat on the back of her neck, painfully watching any twitch of emotion across the Russian’s face. The silence was unbearable, making her tremble from where she sat; face flushed and her cheeks itched from salt. Three heartbeats passed when Balalaika stared fully at her, annoyed with an eyebrow raised. “Why would I keep you hidden?”

Look at me. Come the fuck on.”

“You’re a young, Chinese punk. I see that. And do I listen to the opinions of what other people have of me? If I did, I wouldn’t have left Moscow to lead my men here, to this rat’s nest. No, I wouldn’t necessarily care, if it were safe .” The blonde stressed. “If it was safe, I would bring you to breakfast, and you would sit next to me. I think about that, quite a lot.”

“Really?” Revy muttered, eyes rolling up to stare at Balalaika’s face, at the scars and the sheer depression.

The blonde nodded, taking her hands away from Revy’s face and flipping her hair over her shoulder. Without a second glance she then moved to lay down, twisting her body so that she lay on her less scarred side; the limited amount of light in the room sliding along the curve of her hip, sloping down to her waist. Revy moved off of Balalaika’s long legs and sat beside her, refusing to cry again. She wasn’t being abandoned, she knew that and yet the usual feeling clouded her brain. There had to be a reminder. “You’re not gonna leave me, okay? You’re mine.” Come the fuck on Sis, tell me.”

“Go to sleep, kotyenok.”

“Say it and I’ll go to fucking bed.” Revy remarked.

Balalaika pulled the covers over her nude chest. The fabric wrinkled around Revy’s knees. “Fine. I’m yours, you’re mine, and now lay down. I’m not in the mood for pleasantries.”

Revy slid beneath the stiff covers and turned away from Balalaika, clutching the comforter in her hands, pulling them up to her chin. She glared at the wall in front of her, beginning to shake in pure rage, wanting to punch anything, because here she was, set aside for getting upset, for making Balalaika upset, and ruining the entire night alongside the shattered mug in the kitchen. The bedside light flicked off, leaving the city lights to flash into the room, through the blinds and thick curtains. Her eyelids drooped after a few moments, relaxing into the covers; body becoming liquid, when Balalaika came closer from behind. The blonde threw an arm over Revy’s torso, spooning her from behind silently. Revy pressed her hips back, sleepily turning her head and looking at Balalaika’s shut eyes, face slack.

“Are you gonna say good night, huh?” Revy mumbled, cheeks reddening at the physical contact.

“Mm.” Balalaika snuggled closer until her face was against Revy’s dark locks. Her body was warm, her breasts pressed Revy’s back, trying to be as close as she could be. She wrapped an arm around the slimmest part of Revy’s waist, tucking a hand underneath the torso’s other side. The blond sighed as she nuzzled her nose into Revy’s hair. “Spokoynoy nochi , durashka.” 

“Yeah, you too.”

Balalaika kissed the back of her head.

Revy cracked her eyes open, when the warmth of Balalaika’s body moved away from her, leaving only a cold space behind her. The city lights were in bloom still, the sky a dusty lavender. She sluggishly moved onto her back, then rolled onto her other side, hand out to feel for the blonde, blindly, before falling back asleep as the tall shadow of Balalaika rounded the bed and out of the bedroom. The sound of a shower flicked on; that was the last thing Revy heard.

The second time, she was shaken awake, large hand on her shoulder, pushing her side to side like she was in the way, Revy shook her head and hid her face in the pillow, mewling at the roughness. The bed dipped as Balalaika sat down, hip brushing Revy’s backside, shaking her more roughly. Face meshing into the cotton, Revy whined and lifted up her head, hair sticking to her cheeks, still swollen from the stress of last night. Supporting herself on her elbows, she turned to look at the fully dressed Russian.

“What… fuck you want… don’t fucking wake me.” She fell fully flat again, when the blonde forced her onto her back.

“Wake up, Rebecca. Let’s get you ready, alright? Can you wake up for me?” The blonde asked softly, her hair brushed and shining like spun gold in the pale light. It was a little past dawn, the city slowly coming alive again with less violent people.

Fuck no.” She replied, attempting to turn back around.

Balalaika made a sound of disapproval, and her hair brushed Revy’s skin as she bent her head. “I’m not going to ask again. Next time I’ll use a cup of ice water.”

“Not on me.

“Yes, you.” Voice holding a tinge of affection, Balalaika kept a hand on Revy’s shoulder, stroking the skin with her nails instead of harshly gripping. “Now get up. This is my last warning. Your clothes are on the bed.”

Revy turned to see Balalaika’s full hips, her thighs encased in black tights, the shimmering fabric hiding the pink, jagged scars. The burgundy skirt was painfully tight when she sat down. Revy trailed her fingers across the bed as she laid flat on her back, touching the blonde’s thigh, fingers traveling up the skirt and up underneath her jacket. Already Revy was reminded of how soft Balalaika could be, with blue eyes staring down at her without any specific emotion.

A quick hand grabbed her wrist, tight enough that it gave the impression that a squeeze more and it could hurt. Revy paused and squinted in the weak sunlight. “Huh? What the fuck?”

Balalaika shook her head slowly, eyebrow raised as her bare lips twitched. “I won’t be falling for that.”

Spreading her legs, Revy gave a weak, blushing look as the Russian held her wrist. Her knee touched Balalaika’s side and she lightly tugged her arm back, but there wasn’t any relent. The blonde was stoic; her eyes traveling down Revy’s tanned body anyway, stopping at the apex of her thighs, intently. “Look at you , sweet girl.” She murmured, accent thick, then allowed Revy to snatch her wrist back. “Even still, nice try, kotyenok. I’ll finish getting ready. I expect you to actually do the same.”

She stood up and towered over Revy. Turning away, Balalaika exited the bedroom without one last glance, hair swinging with every step. Revy groaned; rubbing her eyes with her palms. She was tired, so tired that with a blink she could be eased back to sleep. Revy swung her legs over the bed. While she heaved herself up Revy heard the sound of a drawer opening and closing. The tinny sound of an old radio scratched from the kitchen, playing one of the few channels Roanapour had. A brief advertisement in Thai started after an English song. Her clothes were on the bed, crumpled jeans with the belt still in the denim loops, worn tank top, and more importantly was her fingerless leather gloves, unceremoniously on top.

Revy pulled on her underwear after grabbing her tank top. A glint of light flashed in the corner of her eye, drawing her attention towards the mirror. Her reflection was that sluggish woman; looking like she always did when she was hungover. Dark hair was tangled around her face, mussed and sticking up in snarls. Revy touched one, the coarse locks twisting her expression in annoyance.

“Do you have a hair brush?” she yelled over her shoulder, continuing to touch the mass on her head.

“I can’t hear you, come here.” Balalaika stated, leaning her head out of the doorway, clearly annoyed, her mouth in a thin straight line.

Begrudgingly, Revy padded over to the bathroom, the light from the room pooling into the hallway. The bathroom was various shades of white and beige; no different than from a stereotypical one in a hotel. There was makeup products on the small counter space next to the porcelain sink. Balalaika took up one third of the room, standing in front of the mirror, delicately using mascara. “Look at this mirror. Your people are so short. It’s ridiculous.”

“Yeah, I’ll be sure to pass the word around that you need a bigger one.” She huffed, crossing her arms and leaning against the threshold. “Hair brush?”

“Yes, yes here.” Balalaika opened a white drawer, and found a hairbrush next to a package of cotton swabs and bandages. Her eyes went to the mirror to glance at Revy’s reflection. “Oh. Look at that rat’s nest.”

“What, you never noticed it before?” 

“I have, I am just surprised you’re actually going to brush it.” Balalaika tilted her head playfully and squinted her eyes. “Don’t pout at me. You’re growing up, Rebecca. I’m so proud.”

Revy flared in a flush of hot embarrassment. “ Thanks .” She took the hairbrush roughly, then palmed the back of her head with her other hand. The hairbrush was yanked through her dark locks, scratching over tangled strands and pulling on the skin around the healing scab. Balalaika applied mascara to her other eye, coating her blonde eyelashes tar-black. Revy winced in pain, starting from the bottom and working her way up. 

“Is that how you brush your hair?” The blonde teased with a cocked eyebrow, straightening her back as she slid the stem of the mascara back into the container. Revy watched the way her pale wrists moved, deftly putting all the makeup back into the same drawer.

“Yeah, so what? It gets the job done, I’m not a fucking idiot.”

Balalaika’s voice dropped into a more authoritative tone. She held a hand out. “Give me the brush and turn around.”

“Really-“

“That wasn’t a question. Turn around, now.”

Sometimes her hair was a tangled mess that was impossible to get through. Balalaika picked at the snarls with a look of surprise and humor. Opening the same drawer, she retrieved a lavender bottle, then began spraying the snarls quickly, then put it back in the drawer and slid it closed. She wasn’t gentle, brushing through the tangles slowly at first then picking up speed. Revy wrenched her head back and whimpered, palming the counter to support her rocking body.

“Has anyone brushed your hair before?” Balalaika asked; she clearly expected an answer that made Revy tense up.

She bit her lip and shot a glare at the blonde when she finished a particularly rough spot. “Actually...yeah. In one of my fucking foster homes one lady tried to brush it, but it was so bad that it had to be cut short. Kept it that way for a real good while. Easier that way.”

Revy let out a sigh when the brush stopped dragging itself through her tangles, and started simply gliding through neat hair. Head tilting back, her eyes slid closed as she gasped, when the bristles tickled the back of her neck. Having her hair touched, especially by Balalaika, made her want to melt into a puddle on the floor. She smelled the familiar flowery perfume, and the warmth of a hand on her skull. Opening her eyes she watched Balalaika’s reflection intensely brushing her hair; the blonde looked up and met her gaze, face as emotionless as a stone slab. Then she upturned the corners of her lips.

“I’m almost forty now…  how funny, isn’t it? You probably don’t know what I’m referencing…”

Revy bit her lip at the fact, a hot blush spreading across her face. “A fancy-ass big-girl book that I can’t understand. About life and humanity. Dutch reads those all the time. He quotes a sentence with big words, and we all scramble to try and fucking understand it.”

The way Balalaika had the brush pulling at her hair felt good. “Perhaps one day you might read a big girl book.”

“Maybe you could read it to me.” She tried to snark.

“And stop every paragraph to explain it to you? No thank you.”

Revy rolled her eyes. “Hold on, you’re nearly fucking forty? Holy shit, you sure don’t look like it.”

“The scars work wonders.” She replied. That was true. Revy wasn’t going to say anything when Balalaika talked in such a way, it made her chest cringe. She fixed Revy’s hair so that it was tucked behind her ears.

“Oh, shut up.” Revy turned around and held Balalaika’s wrist. She stared back at the blonde, her eyes softening and suddenly Revy was tired again, shoulders slumping and her head tilting back, untangled hair sloping down her neck. Balalaika scanned her face, smile drooping.

“It’s time for us to leave, kotyenok .” Balalaika said gently, tracing Revy’s jaw.

She nodded, not breaking their shared gaze. They were going to kiss if they kept this up, but Revy hadn’t brushed her teeth. Reluctantly, she took a step away, hip bumping into the counter. Before she knew it, she was cold again, tired, and unable to stop herself from yawning. “Alright.”

The blonde kissed the top of her head. Revy shut her eyes and sighed, feeling her move away and leave the hairbrush on the counter.  “I’ll be near the door.” Balalaika left the bathroom, fixing the buttons on her red jacket, hair flowing behind her. Revy went to the bedroom and finished getting ready, sliding on her gloves. Her hair felt soft to the touch, falling down her back loosely. Finding her shorts, she slid them up weak legs and found her leather gloves, holding them in a while that made her grin. Balalaika had managed to remember, especially with everything going on, and her heart tightened.

“Thanks… for not forgetting about the gloves.” Revy stated when she walked into the living room, eyes soft and her body open. She was really touched, surprisingly, and Balalaika scoffed as she put on her military coat. It hung from her wide shoulders; a size too big, decorated and thick.

Do not mention it,” The blonde waved a hand. “But… we will leave the photographs here. For safekeeping, I won’t touch them.”

She gnawed on her lip, nodding, mouth twitching in distaste. Picking up her holster, she spied the folder precariously on the edge of the table. Revy wanted to doubt that. The leather of the holster was cold through her tank top. She began to slide her boots up her calves and lace them up.  “Okay.”

The Russian opened the door for Revy, allowing her to go first. She followed closely behind, breasts brushing Revy’s back. Outside Balalaika’s apartment was when the blonde touched her again. Hands on her bare shoulders, sliding up and down, nails teasing her hair, admiring her handiwork. Revy cupped her waist, wrists brushing her coat.

“You made me late, Rebecca.” The watch on her wrist flashed in the dull light.

“By one minute. Don’t be so damn dramatic.”

Balalaika raised her eyebrows and sighed, looking behind her, checking for anything, even though the hallway was empty and echoed. “Takes me five minutes to get there. I’ll call you when I can, be sure to answer it or I’ll have you kidnapped myself.”

“I’ll ignore it more then.” Revy replied with a blush. “And don’t forget your lipstick.”

She moved to stroke Revy’s cheekbone then the space above her ear. “Run along now. Do svidaniya .”

“Is that an insult? You call me a bitch?” Revty playfully retorted, pushing on the blonde’s chest.

Balalaika stared at her, then shook her head slowly. “No. Now, remember to have breakfast as well. I’ll start weighing you if I have to.”

“Okay, okay. Bye. Enjoy eating, I guess.” Revy adjusted the blonde’s jacket, then passed her, arm brushing arm. Glancing behind her, she saw Balalaika give her one last lingering look over her shoulder, then begin to walk away, heels clacking on the floor, coat moving around her ankles; so tall and broad and commanding that Revy swallowed quickly, clenching her fists and beginning to rush to the stairwell because one thought came to mind.

Janet’s dead.

Revy slammed the stairwell door as she jumped down every other step, ignoring the handrail. She didn’t care if anyone else was here, whether it was one of the blonde’s men or another prostitute walking down and counting money, being thrown out before breakfast too. A few spare, heart pounding minutes she rushed into the hallway, surrounded by overflowing trash with the underwear she saw once still there, turning to the left and breaking into a clear sprint.

She grew frantic, picking up the pace and pushing past civilians and gangsters throughout the crowd, uncaring if they fell to the hot asphalt. Halloween was in two weeks time and the air was still hot and muggy, bearing down on their shoulders like an immovable weight. She broke into a sprint when the apartment blurred into view. Boots crunching against the pebbles dotting the road, Revy skidded to a stop to stomp up the rickety wooden stairs and entered the apartment, slapping the screen door behind her. It was a clear half hour, flying past her, going unnoticed. Time didn’t matter.

The world fell away. For a mere moment it was as if she was in a dream, moving sluggishly through waves that rose up to her knees, too shallow to swim and too deep to run. Her mouth went dry. Benny’s blonde mop of hair faced her as he sat on the sofa, watching a science fiction movie. Revy froze, breathing through her nose sharply, and as nonchalantly as she could, she walked into the kitchen and searched for a cigarette. She was full of anger and hunger. Opening a drawer she found a cigarette pack tucked away, and she fished it out and found a yellow lighter beside it, rolling side to side over the plywood.

Lighting it, Revy sucked it to life. You need to eat more , said a small voice in her head. Then, she searched for food. Someone had done the dishes and the coffee pot was half-full.

“What’s up, Revy?” Benny asked amicably, nothing bothering to turn and face her. There’s a sound of a raygun blasting at a few little green men in ridiculous suits, and they melt into radioactive goo.

“Eh, nothing much. I’m fucking starving, though. Did you guys eat everything? Holy shit.” A takeout box of Asian food and a carton of raspberries sat under the blinking light of the fridge. Her hand clenched around the handle. It felt good to have the leather gloves on again. The cigarette ash descended towards the floor, dusting the tile.

“I guess. Helped myself to the rest of the pasta.”

“So…” Revy wet her lips. She opened the takeout, grabbing a fork, blowing out a stream of smoke. “How was last night?” She cringed, breath catching in her throat. Flicking the lit cigarette into the sink, Revy took a bite of the noodles, only to feel the clenching of her stomach. She had to eat, had to gain the weight to cover her jutting hip bones.

“Eh, Janet was a no-show. No call, either. She’s done this before. It wasn’t funny the first time, either.” Benny adjusted his sitting and cracked his neck.

“That sucks.”

“Well, what can ya do.” He replied. Benny sounded painfully casual, like nothing happened. Like Janet truly didn’t show up, maybe choosing a broad-shouldered bartender instead of him, or maybe she got caught up with work, or simply passed out. Revy knew she did none of those things. And she would never do them again.

Revy ate the food as fast as she could, choking down cold noodles, her throat tightening every time she swallowed. She sucked in her teeth. Guilty, her brain said. You’re fucking guilty. You don’t regret what you did, though. You just don’t wanna fuck up his life. But you did. Forever. “Hey, Benny?”

“Yeah?”

“You know where Dutch is at?”

“Where do you think he usually is? He’s down at his beloved dock. And do yourself a favor and at least use some of that goddamn saffron. It’s taking up half the cupboard.”

Finishing the leftovers with a resounding ugh , she tossed it in the overflowing trash, flicked the fork into the sink. She took the packet and the lighter; guiltily taking one look back, hand on the door handle, before shutting it behind her. Revy broke into another sprint towards the beach, afraid to stop she would vomit into the sand. It was hot, and she was sweating, and now she was mad that she messed up the hair Balalaika had battled, and she was mad that Benny was going to be alone until another geeky woman entered his life.

Her pace was wobbly on the beach; boots pounding into the sand. When the boat came into view, she pressed on, until she skidded to a stop on the brand new deck. Dutch was outside the boat, packing up his toolbox, cigarette in his mouth. Sweat shined on his bald held, his sunglasses stuck tight to his face, always unmoving. He cocked his head when she came closer.

She wrung her hands, guns under her armpits, digging into the sensitive skin there.

“Dutch, Dutch, listen, I-” Revy’s chest heaved, her eyes wild.

“Revy? Let’s head to my office.” Dutch cooly gestured towards the PT boat, and he proceeded to climb down inside, with Revy uneasily following him. They both went into the bridge, she tagged along behind him, hands shoved in her pockets as anxiety grew inside her, wanting to lock her jaw.

Before he could say anything, Revy spat out a sentence. “Dutch, you know , come the fuck on.”

“You say that a lot. As old as I am, I don’t know shit. This whole thing?” Dutch made a circle with the cigarette in his hand. “Is a learning experience for me. I’ve never had this situation before, in all my years, but here you are, asking me, as if I’m you. Only you know what’s going on, Revy. And if you need help, you better elaborate.” Dutch waited for Revy to answer, and when she failed to reply he gave a disappointed look that made her eyes drop stubbornly to the floor, and he continued. “Benny thinks she skipped out on him last night. Damn shame. He was trying to play it cool. I know him better than that.”

“Benny thinks Janet was off fucking some other guy? But she does… did that all the time before. Fuck’s the problem?”

“Did? Janet rarely missed out on their get-togethers, Revy. You have any clue about her whereabouts?”

Fuck. She ran her fingers through her hair. “Whatever, Dutch. I don’t care what happens to her.”

“I can always tell when you’re lying, Revy. Your nose scrunches up like a little kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Eyes darting to the left. I’ll wager that you have an idea of what’s up.”

“What the fuck do you want me to tell you?”

Smoke flew from his mouth and floated up to the ceiling. The ocean was a brilliant blue behind him, sparkling in the morning sun. “The truth, obviously.”

“The truth… fuck Dutch, I don’t want to get fired. Like you say, real truth fucks over the one saying and the one listening.” Revy stopped herself, then began to whisper miserably. “It wasn’t my fault.”

“Hm. Explain.”

She tapped her foot, eyebrows creasing together. Anger flushed through her veins, sloshing through her heart’s four chambers. It was Janet’s fault that she died. Why did she have to see them at Chang’s party? Why did she have Revy realise she knew? Yet at the same time… “Fuck I- Well Dutch, you’ll kill me, but Janet won’t be seeing Benny anymore. She’s gone.”

“Gone in the way I’m thinking? I’m your boss, Revy, and it’ll do well if you told me goddamn details.”

“You already have the truth. Balalaika fucking knew about her, and she fucking went ahead with her plan, and killed her, and I had no damn part in it. I was in fucking shock. I’ll admit my part of the blame with what happened. All ‘cause of me, and to be honest, I feel like shit about it. Now I fucked over things forever.” Revy lit her own nervous cigarette, fumbling to get the pack out of her pocket and the lighter too. A few flicks and the orange flame came to life, roasting the cigarette’s tip until she pulled some of the smoke into her poor lungs.

Dutch rubbed his chin, silent, his face a mask as always. Tapping his foot, he shook his head slowly. He wasn’t shocked. Not even angry. There wasn’t a drop of emotion in him that changed after the confession.  “Well. This causes problems. A huge problem. How did she do it? With that gun of hers?”

“All Sis said was that she ended it. No details, in case I told somebody.” The shock washed over her like her cigarette smoke. Holy shit. Dutch, get pissed or something. Anything. Am I the only dumbass who’s guilty?

“That seems like what she would do. Balalaika tells the truth, of course… but only what she needs you to hear.”

Revy stared at the floor, judging her options on how to proceed. Balalaika would be Sofiya to her, almost sweet and kind, looking at her softly and touching her until she fell apart. However she was still Balalaika . “Janet told me once about how Sis would fucking… destroy Roanapur one day. Like burn it to the ground. Kill all of us. Shit like that.” Saying Janet’s name was an echo, hanging in the air like a weight.

Dutch’s glasses shown in the light. “The ugly truth, huh? That’s what she had planned the first night we all met. I told you this before. I know it. Janet knew it. Benny knows it, and Rock, especially.”

“I think she said it was her men’s reward. Shit, should I even be talking about it?” Maybe… that cunt was right about that. Janet is so fucking smug and always so annoyed. Revy gulped, remembering that it was now was .

He ground the cigarette butt into a nearby ashtray. Allowing silence to settle, he turned around and regarded Revy. “You say that? You, who nearly ruined your life a thousand times over? Putting all our asses on the line? Speak freely.”

“I just ruined Benny’s life. Fuck.” Revy spat, eyes wide and unfocused, anger at herself pulsing inside her and what made her more upset was that it wasn’t a person that she could just shoot.

“Wasn’t you, Revy. You sure helped it along, granted, but it wasn’t you. She did this for the both of you. Balalaika pulled the trigger… or whatever the hell she did. She’s real creative.”

“Yeah. I guess so. Sometimes she’s like a real person, Dutch. It sounds like I’m lying, but I sweat to fuck I’m not. It’s funny how this all happened, maybe I’m the only one laughing…” Revy blinked and smiled a pathetic, weak, miserable, lovesick smile. “She mentioned like, being forty is crazy or bad. You know where that’s from? A big book, right?”

Another aspect of Balalaika that Revy never considered was the fact that the blonde was a scholar . Well-read, smart, educated , people would say, impressed yet jealous at the same time. Revy really, really, painfully could not relate.

“Some Russian guy.” Dutch replied easily. “Damn, I am losing my memory. Maybe I’ll remember later. Now get out of here, let me work in peace.” He grinned and jerked his head in the direction of the ladder.

“Don’t need to tell me twice.” The guilt alleviated, for just a moment.

Chapter Text

The rest of the day consisted of Chang needing the Lagoon Company to obtain documents from a dockside building filled with men who were unusually heavily armed. Revy flung herself towards the men, arms springing out to shoot them one by one, bullets piercing their heads and stomachs and limbs, eventually they all crumpled to the floor. She prided herself on never giving any pretty little headshots. Their faces were recognizable. The said “building” was more of a warehouse with far better furniture than she expected. The men were too professional, the documents well guarded, the information from the computers was hard to obtain. 

But Dutch reminded them all to not ask questions. Revy knew it wasn’t their place, however Rock had questions her wanted to ask anyway, the suspicion written openly on his face, saying nothing however. The Triads had their own secrets, perhaps even more so than Hotel Moscow. It was in the black of night when the job was finished, with Rock being spoken to by a few of Chang’s men.

As soon as they returned home she crawled onto her dirty mattress, knees dipping in as she threw herself onto her stomach, face shoved into the pillow under her lungs began to burn. Sleep came fast, the hot weather leaving her in a stupor.

Hard sunlight pierced her closed eyelids.

Revy flopped an arm out to feel the warmth of a woman’s body, and her arm hung over the side of her rickety twin bed instead. Huffing into the pillow, she lurched her head up, blinking sleep away. Her room blurred into clear vision, the dirty clothes piled on top of one another, beer cans riding on top of an overflowing trash bin, guns neatly lined up; it took a moment for Revy to remember that she actually cleaned her room.

Touching the neck of the white shirt, Revy stared up at the cracked ceiling, raising the fabric to smell, to see if it still smelled like her, but it didn’t, and frustration welled up in her. Blinking fast, she got up, stretched her arms above her head, yawned, stretched her legs, yawned again, and then she heard an agitated shout from the living room. 

Revy’s eyes widened. Blood pulsed through her; she threw on a pair of dirty pajama shorts, rushing to the door as she tugged them up her thighs. Cautiously, she exited her room slowly, sliding into the hallway with an air of aloofness.

Rock’s low voice was inaudible; the three men were around the couch, with Benny sitting on the sofa, shutting his cell phone closed, back bent, blonde tendrils of hair blocking his expression. Revy uneasily entered the living room, worried and terrified and angry, looking and Rock then Dutch then finally Benny.

“What’s up?'' she asked quietly, blowing a strand of hair out of her face.

“Well Revy, I-” Rock stepped forward, hands in the pockets of his newly ironed pants. His hair was unbrushed and floppy, eyes wide with a hint of lavender underneath, appearing like he was five years older.

Benny lit a cigarette, refusing to glance at anyone in particular. “Janet’s gone.”

“Gone?” Gut clenching, she swallowed nervously, lungs floundering to calm down. Guilt was apparent in the way her hands wanted to shake. She curled them into fists, nails pressing into the soft flesh of her palms. “What… what the fuck happened, Benny?”

“One of her employees, informants, whoever the hell he is, called me a second ago.” He rubbed his hand down his face, voice raspy from cigarette smoke.

Revy’s eye twitched and her legs felt like they were stuck to the ground.

“Anything else he tell you?” Dutch prompted, newspaper in one hand. Benny slid his eyes towards him.

“He said that they were drinking at that bar she likes, I can’t remember the fucking name for the life of me. Some tall guy came in, and later, when he left she went with him.” Benny scoffed, raising the cigarette to his pale lips. “Ain’t that the way, huh? I can hack into almost anything, even the FBI couldn’t block me from learning their codes. But with all that I’ve learned, I couldn’t save my girlfriend.”

Revy’s jaw clenched, and she went closer to the couch, putting a hand on the back of it and squeezing the worn cushion anxiously. Shouldn’t I stop feeling so fucking guilty like a little bitch? Janet deserved it. It’s Roanapur. And shit, I wasn’t the one who killed her anyway. Why, Janet? Why didn’t you keep your whore mouth shut? “Shit, I don’t know what else to say besides… Sorry, Benny.” She decided to say. There was nothing to say. Nothing.

“Not like you had anything to do with it.” He replied.

Dutch was impassive, his mouth still set in a line straight as an arrow. Revy’s face turned ghastly white and she wavered a bit in her stance. Rock bit his lip, fingers stroking his jaw as he thought, trying to find anything that could console Benny. If Balalaika had been smart about all this, Rock wouldn’t find any bit of information that could point towards Janet. Yet, Revy realised, this was Rock .

“Yeah.” Revy stated.

Rock came closer, stopping beside her, worried. “Did the informant know who the man was? Any clue?”

“No, he didn’t know who he was, surprisingly. Guy was real careful about his face; no tattoos, short hair. I just need to know why.”

“We’ll go back to the bar, maybe the bartender will have some ideas.” Rock replied, scratching the top of his head, eyebrow cocked.

Revy’s mouth tugged to the side, glancing at Dutch who was as stony as ever. “Good idea.”

Standing in silence, they all watched a seagull fly by the window, unable to talk; nothing was rising up in Revy’s mouth, every single word died on delivery and she can’t focus on anything besides the ocean rolling in the distance. Rock’s eyes were on Benny’s slumped form. The newspaper lay abandoned on the coffee table, and on the front page there was no mention of Janet. Like she was just another person added to the body count.

“I’ll guess they found the body?” Dutch spoke up. Three heads turned towards him, each more unhappy than the next one. Benny breath hitched, eyes remaining dry, but not focusing on anything.

“They found her this morning. Dumped in the docks, like any other dead body in this city. All bloated and grey. The worst part was her neck, it was snapped to the side like a piece of wood. Bruising on her wrists… whole nine yards. Typical kidnapping story.” Benny stated.

Why was she surprised again?

“Nothing you could have done about, Benny. Especially now.” Dutch said. Shaking his head, he set the newspaper on the coffee table.

Benny was managing to keep a well-crafted stiff upper lip, yet he wavered on what to say, cigarette mostly disintegrating into a butt. He“But how . What did Janet do this time? I know she usually goes too far for information, but this time… who the hell was she trying to cross?” The cigarette was snuffed into a glass ashtray.

“Maybe one of the newcomers, or one of the major powers.” Rock questioned. “But then again, who leaves the victim in the water? Which group does that?

Revy was cold, tugging on the neck of her shirt; a reminder of how this all transpired. “Who the fuck knows, honestly.”

It was hard to say what she had been saying in front of Dutch. The man in question didn’t respond physically to any word she spoke, instead remaining stoic. Benny’s turmoil alongside grief still affected him though, causing his mouth to be pulled in a thin line. Revy dropped her hand from Balalaika’s shirt.

“Damn, what a day.” Benny shook his head.

Dutch met Revy’s nervous, darting eyes then. He shrugged minutely, going unnoticed by the two other men. She stared back, shaking her head, trying to ignore Benny’s thousand-yard dry stare. Heading to the kitchen, Dutch poured himself a cup of black coffee, as if it were a normal day. Rock left a lingering gaze at Benny, adjusting his loose tie, brow furrowed in genuine worry, so real and so vulnerable that she wanted to punch him. Revy went to the kitchen as well, and poured herself a bowl of cereal, with a side of two beers.

After breakfast, Rock came near her as he smoothed down his shirt. The living room was as silent as a crypt. Benny remained where he was, having smoked through a whole packet of cigarettes. Dutch had picked back up the newspaper while he had his second cup; Rock didn’t eat any sort of food, preferring to sip tea and stare out the window. He leaned close. “Would you like to leave with me?”

“To go where ?” Revy sipped the last of her beer, elbow on the counter supporting her hunched form.

“I’ve got a meeting with Chang. But after we can go to Bao’s, I think we all need to stay out of Benny’s way for a bit.” Rock whispered, his breath moving strands of Revy’s tangled hair.

Rolling her eyes, she set an empty bowl into the full sink. “Fuck, another meeting with Chang, great.”

“Are you coming or not?” Rock asked exasperatedly. He pinched his nose, watching Revy silently fume.

“...Give me a fucking minute to get dressed, goddamn.”

 

The Plymouth’s cherry-red paint was hot to the touch, and Revy welcomed the heat as she trailed her fingers along the side of the car. Jumping into the passenger seat, she adjusted the holster around her shoulders, waiting for Rock slide the keys in the ignition. The engine purred to life, disco playing from the radio, to Revy’s chagrin. Rock pulled out of the parking lot, wheels crunching over gravel and Revy desperately looked for a rock station.

“Benny will be in better shape tomorrow.” Revy asserted, pressing one boot on the dashboard. Shoving a cigarette in her mouth, she did the same to Rock. His eyes drifted towards her before paying attention to the afternoon traffic, as she held a flame underneath his cigarette until the paper curled around the tobacco. She did the same for herself, stomach in knots and the sun shining in her eyes so bright that she went blind.

“I hope so. He took it pretty hard. I mean, she was a harlot, but she was still his girlfriend.” He explained.

“You mean slut, Rock.” She replied, blowing a puff of smoke out of the open window. Slut bitch whore cocksucker skank. It stayed in her head until she felt herself calm down. Benny would get over it, eventually. As long as he didn’t find out.

He flicked the left blinker on. “Of course.”

“What’s going on with Chang, anyway?” Revy begrudgingly tapped ash off of her cigarette after watching it float down to her thighs stuck sweaty to the vintage leather.

“What happened last night. You’ll learn what’s going on sooner or later.”

Revy leaned hard back on the passenger seat, chest puffed out like she was proving a point. Rock was full of secrets the last few weeks, ones that probably could change Roanapur forever, no matter how polite he was driving, and it used to drive her insane and she couldn’t believe she had kissed him when she was drugged out in Japan. Near the stop sign, there was a dead dog being feasted on by flies. “Fine, don’t tell me, fuck.”

Ten minutes later, they arrived at Chang’s headquarters, where his men were lounging outside on their smoke breaks, watching the red car pull into the crowded parking lot. Revy’s boot met a squashed cigarette carton on the asphalt when they exited the vehicle. The Plymouth’s color shined obscenely among that faded greys and blacks. Rock jingled the keys around one finger after he locked it; following her to the towering building that must have functioned as an ordinary office building before the Triads and the Tongs are assumed control.

One member stepped forth to check the two for weapons, pausing when he recognized Revy and Rock, waving them through with an apathetic hand.

“Mr. Chang,” Rock said as they entered his polished office, shutting the door behind him as Revy passed through, hands jammed in her pockets and her guns pushed into the soft flesh of her underarms. While Balalaika’s office was well decorated in its own right, Chang took great care into his also, with the floors recently cleaned and the air smelling like freshly washed sheets. There were Chinese accents lying around the office, ones that Revy only learned of when she escaped to Roanapur.

“Hey Boss,” Revy grinned. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

Chang chuckled around his cigarette, smoke trailing up to the ceiling. He was far more relaxed than Balalaika, his face slack and easygoing, sunglasses pushed up high on his nose. “Surprise, surprise. Guns still holding up well?”

“You bet they are.”

“Those dead men give you a hard fight? I heard they had some decent weapons in there.”

Revy’s hand went to graze one of her Cutlasses as she recalled the events. The lackeys were well-trained admittedly, but that didn’t mean they didn’t start to drop like bloodied flies when she settled into spinning around, guns blaring off as the shells fell; glittering as they hit the filthy floor. “They didn’t fight fuckin’ hard enough, actually.”

“Should we get into it?” Rock frowned at the folder on Chang’s waxed desk.

“Before we start, wait for a quick second. We can’t be the only ones hearing this.” Chang held up one finger, light shining off his dark glasses as he lounged in his chair like he was relaxing at home. Biu was beside him, still and silent, aside from the squaring of his shoulders when his boss spoke. “Thanks for last night, by the way. Glad to get that situation dealt with.” He didn’t seem keen on explaining what any of the information that they collected, and Rock truly wanted to ask questions again with the way he bristled.

The heavy wooden door creaked open, tapping against the wall. Two tall, broad men entered the room. They were all painfully serious, faces like slabs of white marble, and their arms were like tree trunks. Revy glanced over at Rock, confused, then at Chang, who had a cocky half-smile on his face. The newcomers nodded in greeting at the Triad boss, and Rock returned Revy’s look with a subtle nod of it’s all good . A tall form forced her to rip her eyes away from him and watch as Balalaika entered the large office, heels tapping menacingly, her expression similar to that of her men. Revy’s chest began rising fast despite herself. Balalaika didn’t pay much attention to her, instead allowing Boris, who came in behind her, to take her coat and hang it. 

Chang grinned. “Who would have thought that you’d actually show up? I have to admit, I’m pleased.”

“Well, you did make the invitation seem rather pressing, don’t you think?” Balalaika raised an eyebrow, adjusting a cufflink. She turned to the two of them. Rock bristled at being sized up, giving a polite expression towards the Russian. Balalaika stepped towards them, brushing her hair away from her neck. “Rock,” she greeted. “Two Hands.”

“Hello, Ms. Balalaika.” Rock said in return, giving a mental shove to Revy, who didn’t want to appear transfixed.

“Hey, Sis.” She replied nonchalantly, crossing her arms, nails digging in hard. Revy tucked away the needful urge away in her breast, where it sticks like a knife.

The blonde paid more attention to the wallpaper behind Revy. Steepling her fingers, Balalaika turned to Chang, avoiding the wounded expression Revy held for half a breath. “Not to be rude, but how does this include these two?”

He laughed. “How does it not ? Rock here’s been a great help for the past couple weeks, and he has some information to share with the both of us. And there is nothing wrong with bringing a plus-one.”

“Hm. Rock, tell us of this knowledge you’ve… acquired.” Balalaika said.

Rock, despite himself, flushed at Balalaika’s stern command. Rubbing his palms together he decided on the correct way to word things. Everyone in the room stood to attention as what he was going to say; Revy’s eyebrows shot up. She had forgotten about how he had such a way with words, even when he couldn’t stop talking. “There’s strong evidence of…”

Balalaika’s eyes never left Rock’s face, listening intently, shadows making a skull out of her sharp cheekbones and blurry-blue eyes. He continued on, becoming braver as he explained the situation, of some operative group seeking intel on Roanapur, trying to get the attention of other countries

“...this brings to mind…”

Somehow, listening to Balalaika and Dutch discuss big important books was preferable to meetings. Revy tapped a heel on the ground, the weight of a cigarette pack in her pocket more pressing than ever. Boris leaned toward one of his comrades, inaudibly spoke and left silently; Rock continued speaking to both of the bosses, his tone sure.

“-Let me stop you there.” Chang raised up a hand, cigarette barely held between his lips. “I thought you knew a few guys who could find more information for us? Computer-wise, I mean. You’ve got a lot of friends, Rock.”

Rock blanched. “Not anymore.”

“...Care to explain?” Chang pressed, stroking his jaw.

“We are just not affiliated with their organization like we were before. Things change.” He ended with a sigh, and Revy looked at him for a second, stress blooming across his face. Revy licked the top row of her teeth and tore her eyes away. A spare second passed when no one said anything, with Chang scanning the room while Balalaika remained where she stood, still as calm water.

Revy wanted to tear herself out of her skin. It was annoying, and right now Benny was probably watching science fiction shows, drunk out of his mind, with Dutch struggling to read the newspaper over the sounds of spaceships landing and laser blasts. Balalaika clearly was waiting for Chang to reply. She fixed him with a stare, feet spread wide apart and it was as if she took up a quarter of the room with her presence.

Chang tapped his chin before answering. “I see. Well, I know some other groups that’ll help out. Biu will take care of it. Right, Biu?”

“Yes.” Biu replied, tensely.

Balalaika stepped forward, the sound sharp. “This is all a waste of time. My men and I would have these people dead by nightfall.”

It was hard to look away from the blonde. Especially now, with the way she held herself and how close they were, in a room full of people that Revy wanted gone. Her shoulder brushed Rock’s, and she shuffled away quietly, arms still tightly crossed.

“Let’s not necessarily go in that direction. Yet. We still need to know why they’re here.” Chang cautioned.

Balalaika shook her head, gesturing with a hand towards the ceiling. Revy’s eyes followed. “What is there to know? We’ll take a few in, alive. Eventually they will all talk.”

“It’s easy enough to have them dead, I certainly know that. I’ve been reminded plenty of times. But, before we jump to conclusions, Rock has a bit more to say.” Chang said, as politely as he could manage, tapping the ash off of his cigarette into an ornate Chinese ashtray.

“Let’s hear it.”

She had said the same fucking thing back in Japan . Revy drew in a long breath. Whether she imagined it or not, Balalaika stole a glance at her, as Chang focused on what Rock was speaking of. The Russian sucked up all of her attention in the room. The long blonde hair was drinking in the light. Her pale throat was bobbing as she spoke, and Revy pinched her arm to bring herself back into the present, but everyone was talking, and it was making her angry, and her guns were cold metal pressing hot.

“Revy, how many men were in there?” Chang asked.

“Fifteen.” She replied. Balalaika returned to look at her, as if interested. They all did, and she just wanted it all to stop. She gnawed on her lip, eyes darting at all of the faces. “They were all armed.”

Balalaika stepped closer, tilting her head in curiosity. Her collarbones jutted out of her pale skin and she always looked so tired. “Did you have difficulty killing them?”

“No.” Revy raised her jaw, staring at her through her eyelashes. Breathing through her nose, it was a struggle to be careless and bored; she was entirely in the blonde’s sights, but Balalaika wasn’t going to touch her. This was such a high risk area that she was surprised they were even interacting. “There’s not a damn scratch on me.”

Underneath the bravado lay a small voice begging to be put over her knee. She wanted to be treated like a piece of meat and then discarded. Her lips parted as Balalaika’s eyes flashed. The blonde’s painted lips curled into a delicious threaten of a smile, and Revy choked on her breath, and looked away, glancing over at Rock who was watching Balalaika warily. Revy released her nails from her skin, where there was small bruises in the shape of crescent moons.

“After giving you all my tips and tricks, you better not have any trouble.” Chang chuckled as he lit a new cigarette with an expensive lighter. “Getting back on track now. Rock says they’re located near the Church, using some shithole as a cover.”

The spell broken, Balalaika slowly walked back to Chang. Revy’s chest rose and fell rapidly, her lungs struggling to catch up with her exhausted heart; seeing the blonde so close and so far away made her want to rip her hair out. Her fingers touched her ponytail. Her locks were windblown and pulled up with a worn elastic; snarled and neglected. It had felt so soft after Balalaika had brushed her dark hair, and still Revy couldn’t find it within herself to take care of it.

“Rock, I’m gonna head out for a quick breather.” Revy muttered to him, elbow brushing his arm.

“If you’re leaving, just say you’re leaving.”

“I’m not, I’ll be just outside. I need a second.” Revy quietly paced towards the heavy door, wrapping her hand around the metal handle and easing it open, ignoring any eyes on her, ignoring Balalaika. When the door clicked behind her she sighed in wounded relief, knocking her head back and allowing air to fill her ruined lungs once more.

Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a tall man at the end of the hallway, phone in his hand as he spoke lowly in incredible short sentences in Russian. Curiously, Revy walked towards him, footsteps oddly loud in the silence. Chang’s hallways were decorated with tapestries decorated by threads of gold, and blue flowers painted on white vases; constant reminders of his home. No matter how long she stared at them or touched them, it didn’t register in her head. Revy felt nothing. “What are you doing?"

“Finished a phone call.” Boris turned around and lowered the cell phone to his side, large hand dwarfing the metal as if he were hiding it. Boris was, as Revy saw it, a cautious man. And he was being as cautious as he could be.

Revy scratched her arm and huffed. “In the middle of a meeting?"

“Yes. It’s business.” Boris nodded.

“But you’re always by her side.” Should she be calling Balalaika Kapitan ?

“It is one call.” Boris emphasized.

Tapping her boot on the ground, using the leg that the samurai in Japan shoved a katana through. If she so much as thought of it a phantom pain was rekindled in her torn knee. “You do calls all the time?”

“Like everybody, yes.”

“Do you talk more in Russian, or is this just how you operate?”

He nodded again. “I talk like this.”

“Holy fuck, in Russian too?”

“Yes.”

Revy wondered how far she could go before he got annoyed. “Why? I always wondered.”

“It’s preferable to speak this way.”

“Have you ever said super long-ass sentences?”

“Yes, I would have to.”

Inside the office, a rumble of conversation arose. Balalaika’s voice was the loudest of all, accent like a blade, meeting Chang’s before it grew quiet again. Revy darted around in confusion. Rock said a long diatribe, low and sure; she knew it was him, the way he commanded the room with a salaryman’s tone. A clatter of chairs echoes through the door when the scrape on the waxed, glowing floors.

“The meeting is over.”

Revy pushes her bangs aside with a trembling hand. Balalaika would be out soon, another example of how they couldn’t give each other any sort of affection. “How can you fucking tell? Are you psychic?”

“I can always tell.” Boris stated calmly. After all her pestering, he didn’t seem all that bothered, looking alertly at the door, expecting Balalaika himself, Revy judged.

Balalaika exited the office without a second glance behind her, coat swinging from her brisk pace. She let the door shut behind her, because as Revy quickly noticed, she was zeroed in on both of them. Surprised, Revy’s back bumped the wall as the blonde neared; hands sweaty under her fingerless gloves. As Balalaika grew closer, her tenseness diminished with the relaxation of her stiff back. Revy broke into a smile that she hid, tucking her hair behind her ear as the clicks of heels grew louder until they stopped.

“Did Chang send you out to make sure Sergeant wasn’t up to no good?” Balalaika asked, eyes crinkling at the corners.

“No, I left because it got fucking boring.”

Balalaika gave her a look that made her feel ashamed. “This is what most of my days suffice of, Rebecca.”

“So, not a lot of killing?” Revy said playfully, then touched a hand to her lips, embarrassed. She didn’t want to look dumb in front of the both of them. Balalaika’s reaction was worse enough, like she was a little kid who was dancing around wearing a ballerina costume.

“Not as much as we used to.” She glanced at Boris and chuckled. He nodded with what could have been humor. The two of them towered over her, and Balalaika watched Revy with such affection that Revy managed to keep down a blush. “Was she out here bothering you? She has that reputation, Sergeant.”

Boris shrugged. “I now know why.” His phone rang out again from his suit jacket pocket; Balalaika’s eyes widened and a hand went to her hip.

“Is it them again?”

“Unfortunately, Kapitan .” He excused himself, holding the comically small phone to his ear as he turned to exit down the hallway, Balalaika watching him go before bothering to facing Revy. His deep voice reverberated down the corridor as he began in Russian, speaking longer than he had to Revy, and she had a creeping suspicion he had been joking with her too.

They stood awkwardly for a moment, staring at one another, to paranoid to approach. Balalaika came closer, making small steps toward Revy, reaching out with a hand and pushing Revy backwards, causing the treads of her boots to struggle. The blonde smelled like perfume, her perfume, and cigars and tea and it was so good and real that Revy whimpered, leaning close to brush her nose on Balalaika’s milk-pale neck. She was up against the wall, around the corner from Chang’s office and Revy was panting.

“Cameras?” Revy asked, a mewl creeping in.

Balalaika shook her head, hair trailing down her chest as she inclined her head to catch Revy’s eye contact on a more even level. Reaching out to touch Revy’s own brunette locks, she frowned when she touched the coarse tangles that escaped from her ponytail. “No. I made sure to check.”

“In case I would ever show up?”

“That was the second reason.” The blonde stroked Revy’s jaw. Her facial scars were made pinker in the light of Chang’s building, lipstick shining. Other men must have noticed Balalaika, wanted her on top or underneath them, but she was Revy’s, and that made her swell up with a sudden urge of possessiveness.

Revy pouted, eyes going to a shoulder and smoothed the crimson fabric, running her hand up and down, brushing her collarbone with her pinky. “I wanted more fucking attention from you. You ignored me like I was nothing.”

“In public, I have to treat you like that. Like you’re Two Hands again, to me.” Balalaika whispered, nearly inaudible.

Her breath was warm. Revy was failing to pretend she was upset. “You’re mine, forget those fuckers. I wish it were easy. I wanted to run and fuck, I don’t know, hug you or some dumb shit like that. And you’d kiss me on the forehead.”

Glupaya ty moya devochka .” Balalaika reached out to hold Revy still by the chin, then leaned down to kiss her, teasingly and far too gently. “You need to be more careful. We can do that when we are actually alone.”

“Being careful during that boring meeting? That was your fucking fault.” Revy replied quietly, her eyelids falling shut when Balalaika nipped her bottom lip. A ragged sigh leaked out of her, high and desperate. The blonde was kissing her so slowly that she wanted to die; the pace made her miserable, so desperate that she grabbed Balalaika’s arms and dragged her closer. “‘Was it hard to kill them?’” Revy mocked in a bad Russian accent.

Balalaika didn’t relent. She pulled away slowly, with Revy’s hands lingering where they held, fingers squeezing into the flesh and refusing to let go. “You’re a little brat. I have a thousand more objectives today, I can’t be here kissing a teasing Asian girl forever.”

“Screw you.” Revy breathed, stepping away until her back nearly hit the wall, when Rock, alongside the two Russian men were heard conversing in the hallway. Balalaika regained her authoritative aura, removing herself from Revy as far as she could, as if they were having a conversation instead of withholding themselves from one another. Rock paused when he saw the two of them. In the past, they never were alone when they were talking. Rock was usually present.

“Send Dutch my regards, will you? Benny as well, it certainly is a disadvantage to lose someone of her… capability.” The blonde carried on, inspecting her long acrylics like it was the most disinteresting sentence she had said in her life; Revy was Two Hands again and she was no longer hers.

Revy’s blood went cold, however she didn’t want to appear hurt. The careless attitude was wearing on her nerves, and her touched her lips, rubbing away the sheer gloss. “How did- yeah, Sis. sure.”

The two soldiers paused with Rock to greet Balalaika as their golden-haired Kapitan , with Balalaika replying back in their native language. Revy raked her fingers through her hair awkwardly, zeroing in on Rock’s confidence for once.

Balalaika noted Rock with a condescending smile. “The rest of the meeting went well with your help, Rock?”

He averted his eyes for a spare second, then returned his gaze fully to the taller Russian. He had to know something was up. Balalaika just didn't care at that moment, protectiveness clouding her blue eyes. Revy wanted to laugh. He was taking her away from her. Rock nodded. “Yeah… It’s all settled.”

“We were just out here talking about Benny getting all fucked up.” Revy admitted. 

Balalaika came forward, a few inches in front of Revy, hands on her hips, widening herself in front of Rock. Aggressive enough that he took a half-step back. The Russian tilted her head and smiled, flashing her canines that had sunk into Revy's skin. Balalaika tangibly wanted to show off how she had Revy in every way she wanted, and Revy ran a hand through her hair, cheeks flowering pink. It was new to be considered territory; Balalaika was proud of her conquering. “Now, I must speak with my Sergeant, I have a whole day’s work ahead of me.”

As the blonde’s hair swung behind her as she turned towards the exit, an object was shoved into Revy’s hand, so fast that she nearly dropped it from clammy fingers. Revy hid it behind her back, regretting her skimpy wear. The so-called present was papery and thick, with closed ends and foil that crinkled when she adjusted her grip. Her shoulders sagged as the blonde with her men disappeared around the corner of the hallway. Following them was a thought hard to shake, her grip tightening around the gift. Rock lifted a subtle eyebrow. She didn’t need to spare him a glance to see his suspicion, his emotions ooze out of him like blood from an open cut and she can simply feel it because it’s nearly audible. His white shirt was wrinkling due to his movements, tie loosened from the autumn heat. She can't believe she had clung to him in Japan, before she had fallen into Balalaika's clutches.

“Did… nevermind. I promised you a drink.” Rock said.

Chapter Text

Rubbing her eyes, Revy slammed her bedroom door behind her. Her spine cracked as she stretched her arms above her raised head. When they had arrived back at the apartment, with Revy’s head filled with thoughts of Balalaika’s mouth on her lips or anywhere else or how the blonde could grip her so tightly and had the ability to hurt her so so much takemehomeSis , she discovered no cigarettes in the apartment.The gold-wrapped cigar looked tempting; if she held it up Revy could smell the peppery scent that reminded her heavily of Balalaika, as if she was back in her office, smoking one of her cigars for the first time. 

She wanted to do that again. Before they had kissed everything was simple, just pure frustration and misery and lust and need , and now those emotions had twisted into feelings that she still wanted to tuck away in the back of her mind. “Hey, did anyone get any cigarettes while I was passed the fuck-”

There was a man sitting with Benny. Beside him at the kitchen table, fingers laced together, his long face drawn and forlorn. Benny skeptically raised an eyebrow as he pulled on his cigarette, voicelessly showing contempt towards the man continuing a quiet, one-way conversation. He had refused a smoke with a clammy hand, voice dropping to a harsh whisper, shaking his head, back hunched and messy dark hair pulled away from a wide forehead. Revy chewed on the inside of her cheek, watching the two of them in the kitchen speaking, before she entered the living room, fists balled.

“...Who the fuck are you talking to, Benny?” She asked. The cigarette pack was temptingly between the two men, waxed paper shining angelic.

Benny raised his head, flicking his eyes toward Revy. Glasses falling down his neck, he pushed them up with his ring finger. “Lucas, one of Janet’s guys.”

She didn’t care.

Informants ,” The man replied with sweat shining on his temples. He shrank back at the sight of her. Confidence swelled inside her alongside dread. “Ah, I’m one of her informants.”

“How many of these fuckers does she have?” Revy huffed, arms crossed, hiding her pounding heart. She had to have been sweating as much as the informant. She didn’t like the way he was looking. “Why are you fucking lookin’ at me like that?”

“Janet has… had at least five that I knew about. Incase one of us was caught, ah, there wasn’t much information that they could gain, because we didn’t know what everyone else, ah, knew.” Lucas’ voice was pointed and sharp, sure in what he said. He was more careful now that Revy faced him head on; alarm bells sounded off in her brain.

She scoffed, walking towards the table and fishing a cigarette out of the pack. Out of the corner of her eye she glared at Lucas, stomach pressing into the worn wood as she flicked the lighter three times to life. “Don’t see why you had to show up. She’s not gonna come from the dead. Nothing more than a bloated corpse.”

“I don’t want to bring her back to life. I’m ah, interested in what… I’m interested in speaking of her death with her boyfriend. Thinking it might bring both of us peace.” He glanced at Benny, whose face was withdrawn. There was a large amount not being spoken to her; Revy blew smoke towards Lucas. Watching his face curl up in disgust, she whirled around, snarled hair trailing down her back. As her back pointed towards the two men, Revy silently let out a shaky, silent gasp, sucking in her bottom lip between her teeth, because she couldn’t think, and she wanted to put a hole through Lucas’ skull. More weeds to pull out of the ground, and every one they got rid of, two more sprung up in its place. So she’d shoot two at a time.

“Peace?” Benny scoffed easily. Revy tossed him back the lighter as he put a cigarette in his mouth. “Have you been in Roanapur long enough? She’s gone, man. I keep telling you- hell, I thought you had something useful to tell me.”

The informant’s eyes widened and he stood up from the chair. “I do-”

“Yeah, I think this meeting of the fucking minds is done. I don’t like strange assholes breathing air here.” Revy flicked cigarette ash in his direction, eyes narrowed so much that she saw red. I still learn quick, Sofiya. I’ll kill every fucker that knows even the smallest fucking thing about us.

“Benny, ah, it’s best if we keep in touch." Lucas nodded, his lips tightening.

He sighed, shaking his head. This conversation seemed to have exhausted him. Her mere name left an echo when he spoke it. “I’m not so sure about that, only if you manage to find anything close to useful, about Janet .”

Revy ground her teeth, pointing a finger at the door. The woman was dead for a few days; Janet who hopefully died with all the knowledge that caused her demise. “Get the fuck out, dude. Or I’ll toss your ass through the window.”

“Ah, I’ll be heading out.”

Benny raised his eyebrows and shook his head. He hadn’t slept last night; Revy heard muffled sounds of fast typing through the thin walls until sleep overtook her. “Good idea.”

“Just… ah, nothing.” The man remarked/

Revy swallowed boiling anger, her fists clenching. The limit had long been passed by and her guns were on her dresser, a few feet away and so, so comfortable in her hands.  “ Get. Out .”

Lucas pushed the chair with the backs of his knees. Casting a strange glance at the two of them, he grumbled under his breath and exited, the screen door squeaking shut and shaking the thin metal frame the supported it. The heavy wooden door outside it had been propped open. Revy stared out until a dark car drove away from the parking lot. It disappeared around a left turn; she turned back towards Benny, who gave a shrug, then sighed and pressed the butt of his cigarette into a porcelain dish.



Eda called an hour later and gave her an executive order to get down to Bao’s for a bout of drinking until either of them fell off the barstool; it had been a long day. “This is an executive order to get down to Bao’s to drink until my ass or your ass falls off the barstool. Today was been so fucking long.”

“Whatever. See you there.” Revy replied.

Her Cutlasses sat delicately on the dresser, one partially covered by crumpled underwear. A clean bedroom lasted for two days before Revy decided to leave emptied beer cans by the bed. Her foot had knocked them over, and then it spiraled back into a mess. Plucking the fabric away, an object clattered on the floor, rocking back and forth until it stilled. The bright blue object caught her eye. Hand stilling, Revy squatted to inspect it.

“Oh, shit.” She blurted. The tips of her fingers touched stiff bristles. She picked the hairbrush up by the handle and turned it around in her hand. She didn’t know that a hairbrush was in her room. Perhaps it had fallen into her bag from Rowan’s shows as she threw her clothes into a beaten duffel bag, or one of the girls dropped the item in. Balalaika’s hairbrush was bigger and wooden. Starting from the ends, the Russian had brushed until Revy’s locks were soft. The bristles ghosted the nape of her neck, and she’d shiver at the touch, growing sleepy. She wanted it done to her at night, too. Being under Balalaika’s attention melted her.

Excitement popped yellow-bright. In a few days, or tomorrow, the blonde will contact her and they’d be together again, for the few short hours that the night provided. Night itself provided a cover of its own, wounded by streetlights.

Curiously, she brushed the ends of her hair, unpracticed, tearing through neglected snarls and tearing through strands of hair that flowed down to the wooden floor. For most of her life she had short hair, taking care of it had never truly crossed her mind. Then Balalaika’s hands are in it, tearing away the elastic to free her hair, scratching her scalp, and later running a brush through it so tenderly and quickly undoing the tangles with a humored face. Her tongue wetted her lips. Despite her best efforts she ran the brush roughly through her locks, eyes squinted from the annoying pain. Tossing the hair brush away, she slid on her harness and sheathed her Cutlasses. It’s definitely not fucking Balalaika’s amount of work, Revy thought, but it’s an attempt. Fuck.

Blinking hard, she slid on her boots, lacing them half mindedly; thoughts of blue eyes and sharp teeth and being touched made her hunch over in an angry expression of need. The apartment was empty as she rushed past, the floorboards creaking under the weight of each fast-paced step. With one hand she swiped the keys from the counter and slammed the screen door behind her. Starting the Plymouth made the engine purr, and she squinted her eyes in the remaining sunlight, and followed where the dark car had gone, instead taking a right.

Bao’s place was a short fifteen minutes away, half-hour walk; twenty minutes if she ran. Revy switched on the radio and dealt with the afterwork traffic, idly touching her neat hair. A spark of light hit her eye and she glanced up. The rearview mirror was bent at an awkward angle, someone taller had adjusted it. Revy worked it down when a vehicle caught her eye. That’s the fucking- nah, no fucking way -that’s that asshat’s car. It was a traffic hour. People were leaving their jobs and going home. A thousand cars looked exactly like that, a common one that was usually rusting with a bad wheel bearing.

He was two cars behind her, she was sure of it, and took a sharp right turn that was so sudden the tires squealed. The two rusted cars passed after a heartbeat, and the dark car slowly turned in. Revy slammed her fist on the dashboard. The Lagoon Company was always tailed at one point or another; Revy’s personal version of tailing was a vehicle careening behind her. The informant was mildly following the speed limit with his lights off and tinted windows up. Revy pushed on the accelerator and made a point of turning again, a sharp left that narrowly missed hitting a pedestrian.

There was an empty lot that sat by a long abandoned beach after the water turned sickly from the many motor boats passing by. The tires ached underneath her rough turns and lane changing, until she slowed to a crawl across the sandy asphalt. She shifted into park and waited, leaning back against the seat, glued to the mirror and a hand cupping her left gun. Her gaze wavered in the hot setting sun, the ocean curling in the distance, ships amicably going by.

To kill time she put a cigarette between her lips, lighter barely cooking the tip before she heard a crunch. The dark vehicle pulled up near the entrance of the lot, and she yanked her head back and laughed, chest shaking until she was miserable. She threw the cigarette out of the open window.

Lucas- the informant -whoever he was stood up out of his car, walking a few feet towards her; Revy turned the ignition off, her wrist wrenching angrily to the side watching incredulously as he willingly came closer. Their shoes scraped over the gravel on the dusty lot, loud in the silent space. Just when she thought she had seen the pinnacle of hopeless stupidity, she realised that she had not even scraped the very bottom. Revy exited her own vehicle, hands curling into tight fists, posture squaring up without her knowing. Circling him, she judged his stiff back, thin arms, and the confident way he regarded her. 

“Why the fuck are you following me, asshole?”

The informant remained where he was. “Don’t try anything. I have a few guys arriving any second now. I wanted to talk to you ah, first. I know what you did.”

“Really, huh?” Revy snorted, hiding the fear that wanted to come out in a nervous sigh. She touched one of her guns in thought. He would die and she would live, and whatever he knew wouldn’t matter. That led into thinking briefly of losing what was going on between her and Balalaika, and her heart seized. “You must be so fucking smart.”

“You had Janet ah, murdered. By Hotel Moscow, a few nights back. It only seems ah, realistic.”

She was going to kill him. It was decided the moment he was sitting with Benny, and she had refreshed it in her mind. “Are you a dumbass with a death wish, fucker?”

“I know that’s why Janet died. Fry Face was not just your employer.” He replied stiffly, feet spread apart; by the way his body was positioned he was clearly ready to run.

Revy imagined herself holding a magnifying glass, the heat as herself and the informant the stupid ant she was focused on. There were hundreds of them, scurrying along the ground, mindless and unwilling to comprehend a Chinese girl wielding two guns. Her ego stiffened. “ What makes you think I give a flying fuck?”

He shook his head, eyeing her with interest when he saw her face heat up. “Janet saw you with her. At ah, Chang’s party.”

Revy spat on the ground. Attempting disinterest was difficult. “Maybe she was fucking lying; you only believed her ass because you wanted to get your tiny dick wet.”

“She was my superior. You’d do the same for your boss, right?” His breath hitched. Revy twisted her mouth. He sounded too wistful, Janet was much more than that. Strong doubt coiled inside her. Janet never batted an eye at him. Lucas was… nothing more but an employee.

Revy already had a punch coming at him, her elbow pointing towards the orange sky. He attempted to duck out of the way, nearly missing her, and Revy nicked his shoulder. Lucas fell roughly to the ground, twisting his body away. One foot was underneath him as he reached towards the waistband of his pants, until Revy dragged him onto his back. She stabbed her right heel into his sternum to hold him still.

The tread of the boot bit into his neck, her calf flexing as she ground her foot. Lucas wheezed, eyes bugging out and his hands clawing at her knees and calves, jagged fingernails slicing dully in, leaving pink marks that turn red.

“Where are you friends now?”

A gurgle came from his throat as Revy increased pressure. His face was puffing up. “You could gain so much from-from giving us j-just a bit of what she tells you. You can keep F-Fry Face, we ah, only need to hear one-”

Revy whipped a gun out of her left holster, holding it steadily at his head, then stepped off of his neck. Grabbing at his ruined throat, he shimmied away, fingers scratching across the loose gravel. Lucas’ pink head was too tempting. One bullet and it was over, blood splattering across the ground and Revy standing as the winner. Instead, she lowered it to his stomach. Lucas froze, his eyes bugging out, but his gaze was held from, and as his hand went to his waistband, fumbling for any sort of weapon that could possibly stand a chance against a seasoned gunwoman.

 A pained grin broke out across Revy’s face; it was her turn now to kill someone for whatever it was she and Balalaika had. She snapped a finger around the trigger, pulling it back and with a hard blast, the man lay flat, going stark still, until he started screaming, hollering. A hand snapped over his crotch, blood darkening his jeans and beginning to stain his palm. He couldn’t die yet. Not with the euphoria washing over her like the waves from the polluted sea.

“You’re a fucking idiot. Yeah, she is, in that flowery-ass way you had to put it, pig. Too bad Janet was never yours, huh? Did you ever think one bitch would stand against a fucking mob boss? Benny’s got no girlfriend, all because you didn’t tell her to shut up about it. It’s Balalaika .”

Pointlessly trying to pause the bleeding, Lucas’ eyes struggled to focus on her. “ Holy fucking shit -”

Worst of all, he would have hurt her Sis. The pathetic thing sprawled out on the ground. Revy’s muscles wound tight. “You wanted to use your dick, huh? You couldn’t even fuck a chick who fucked half of Roanapur. Try using it on any other bitch now.”

Listenlistenlisten to meee , ah, fuckin-fuckin’ bitch. You’ll regret not taking up that fucking offfffer -” Lucas wheezed, before breaking into a series of coughing mixed in screams of pain, when Revy pretended to rear her leg up to kick him in his bleeding groin. More offers, Revy mused. Of course there was. This was the head of the Russian mafia they were silently talking about. 

The ear-scratching screaming disgusted her. Disgust was a bit too strong a word for him; Revy was not able to think of a more apt word for the suffering. Lucas could have slobbered out comprehensible words if he had saliva for it. One of her boots twitched. She adjusted her aim towards his head, and she fired. Revy shoved the gun back in the leather holster, breathing fast, a crooked grin on her face. This death was oddly triumphant; he had been shot for less than a minute and she had already forgotten his pleading face, however the information hopefully died with him, as it did with Janet. But she doubted that.

The cocky expression dropped, because she wasn’t Two Hands anymore, and she took a step back, feeling strangely alone. Balalaika should have been here to see it. And after, to maybe hold her and tell her she did a good job! and she’d feel the warmth of the blonde’s touch. She wanted to be Rebecca for a spare moment. Revy was a child again, and she wasn’t scared. Her fingers shook. Palming the keys that hid in her pocket, she walked towards the bleeding-cherry vehicle. Her legs weakly avoided crumpling. The cell phone was in her back pocket, and Revy reached back to wrap her fingers around it. Merely holding it gave her small comfort. A few numbers away and she’d hear from Balalaika. And that was all she wanted . I like you.

Revy’s thighs stuck to the leather seat. If she heard the blonde after this, she fully realized that she would break down. Balalaika would be upset, possibly calling her stupid, or even worse, not seeing her for a few weeks. A hole was in her chest. Revy used to like the feeling of simply feeling nothing, like she was an extended part of her gun. Starting the car, she didn’t give a final look to the body baking in the evening heat.

The radio blasted out a rock song, scraping her ears with invisible claw marks. Seething, Revy slapped her hand over the dial, fumbling to take it between her fingers, flicking her wrist until it was pure silence. The ocean waves were near audible, splashing on the cement, over the purr of the vintage engine. Seagulls flew overhead. Revy shifted the gear into drive. The salt in the air was so strong that the ocean might as well have been lapping at the Plymouth’s tires. Rolling her eyes, she drove away from the parking lot, narrowly missing the black vehicle.

After one left turn, she met streets roped with fast-moving traffic. Several stores were closing up, others just turning on neon lights. People were laughing and screaming and crying; a dead body was curled up in a storm drain that Revy passed by; a flattened cat lay by a weathered stop sign, more annoyances than anything. Oh, just a fucking cat. She careened through a red light, every second passing had her pulling at her hair and tapping her foot, her other slipping and slamming on the accelerator. Reaching up to scratch her cheek, a glob of wetness smeared onto her skin. Eyes jumping back and forth from the road and to her hand, she discovered watery droplets of blood dipping around her glove.

Revy chomped her teeth down on the insides of her cheeks. Killing the informant was supposed to free her. He was the living reminder of all the times Janet had talked to her about Balalaika, or how she and the blonde could never do anything in public, or how hopeless it was to try this out in this city and in this time. Revy never did anything easy. Rock was easy, and she couldn’t even do that.

Parking near Bao’s, Revy removed the keys, sitting stiffly in the seat. Without thinking she made a move to her cell phone, pausing as her bloodied fingers stuck to it as she began to pull it out of her pocket. Her mouth tasted like iron, and she laughed a bit to herself, punching in a number that she had memorized by heart. Each ring felt like an eternity. Two drunken men were struggling to get out of the bar, tripping over limp feet, one patting himself down to find car keys that Revy knew weren’t there.

The call went to voicemail; Revy clenched her phone and pinched her nose between two fingers. Now she understood how Balalaika felt when Revy neglected answering her phone at all costs, making her lips turn up and she pathetically laughed. She killed a man who knew about them and the blonde wasn’t picking up her call. 

“Hey, Sis, I really fucking need to talk with you about some shit, so, uh, call back when you can,” Revy’s voice caught, sardonic becoming sad. Rubbing her arm, she tilted her head into the phone. “Anyway… yeah. You better call back. Please .”

She clapped the phone shut while staring at nothing. Eda’s pile of scrap metal was not in the parking lot yet, she was late, as she usually was. Revy knuckled a stinging eye with a clean hand, sniffing, looking down at the cell in her lap, lips drawing together. She wanted to forget Janet, the informant, everything that made her mind feel sick and heavy yet barricading her from the sticky black ink in her brain that wanted to leak out of her ears and turn her ice cold. She would never be able to go out publicly and get a drink with Balalaika. And that was just how it was. Forever and ever, and dry sob bubbled out of her throat; she covered her mouth.

Underneath her burning eyes became wet. Wiping her the blood onto her shirt, Revy dried her eyes and left the Plymouth. She brushed aside the two drunks, hands jammed in her pockets, constantly averting her attention down to her phone. A page of a magazine rolled across the sidewalk as she strutted past, opening the door carelessly. The bar was hot with bodies gambling over a deck of cards or fighting and all of them were drinking. A few sat in the corners, talking amicably, and a few members of the Cartel were grouped together around a small table. Revy shoved her way to the bar. She ordered two beers with two fingers pointed up towards the cracking ceiling, the restaurant's bare foundation constantly old despite the new furniture and waxed bar.

Paranoid, she lifted the first bottle to her lips and watched for anyone giving her suspicious looks. People always did, either glancing in fear or dismissal, and her heart jumped now at every stare. Jumping, her phone rang in her front pocket; tilting back and swallowing as much as she could before answering, Revy slammed it on the counter. She touched her hair and discovered it to be tangled again, and she raced to hold the cell up to her ear.

“Uh, yeah, what’s up?”

“Rebecca? You wanted to talk to me about something?” Balalaika asked, the sound of a door closing behind her. Revy missed the sound of her bottom-of-the-well voice that she barely withheld a sigh. Not seeing her everyday was an annoyance that she swallowed every morning she woke up in a squeaky twin bed.

“Fuck, holy-” She quieted down. Her heart stopped in her chest, looking around at those who could hear her. “You really fucking called back, holy shit.”

The blonde’s sharp heels were echoing throughout a room. Wherever she was going, she was doing a proper lady-like quick walk. “Well, you left me a voice message, asking me to call back. Generally the polite thing to do is to call back.”

“Um, some shit went down that I need to talk to you about-” Revy started, sipping her beer. A man next to her dropped his shot glass on the floor.

“Preferably not over the phone. Rebecca, you can come to my office tomorrow. I’ll set aside a few minutes for you.” Balalaika said, tiredly. Revy strained to hear her over the bar’s clamor, cupping one hand over an ear.

“What? Shit, I’m sorry Sis, let me get outside-“ A man near the bar bellowed incomprehensibly, waving a finger in the air at Bao, who stood unbothered. People were talking loud, Revy realized, especially now with Balalaika on the phone. She grew pissed, squeezing the plastic and metal in her hand.

The sound of paper came from the other side of the line.  “Fine. I can call later-”

“No, no, no don’t go. I’m leaving. I was fucking leaving. I’m at Bao’s.” Revy blurted, raising the alcohol to her lips and discovering it to be empty. Tossing the bottle at Bao, who gave a glare and rude remark that she missed, The second beer caught her eye. She grabbed the other one, cold condensation chilling her fingers.

“I’ll wait.” By the tone of her voice, she wasn't going to wait very long.

She shouldered her way to the door quickly, stepping between conversations and ducking a thrown glass, reaching the door in record time and swinging it open in the twilight air. The moon hung like a white torch low over the city. The streetlight near Bao’s was burnt out; the yellow windows of storefronts were dark. It made Revy feel alone, and brave enough to talk above a whisper.

“Alright, so I woke up today and found this suspicious fuck talking to Benny. And later, on my way to Bao’s, he was fucking following me.” She started, chewing on her lip and staring at the moon. That was the last thing she'd ever notice; Revy didn't care about the stars, but Dutch did. He could point to where Andromeda was, or Venus, or any other planet that she completely forgot about. Balalaika must have known about the stars. If she was remotely interested, she would have asked her then and there.

Balalaika scoffed. “Is he there with you? Can’t you just kill him and be done with it? This is why you called-”

“No, shit! Sis, I did kill this motherfucker, he threatened-” Revy began, waving one hand around with the fresh beer in it, water dripping onto the concrete.

 Balalaika sounded disappointed, annoyed, and mostly exhausted. It was nighttime, around when they'd be at her apartment, on her bed, writhing across the starched sheets. “ Threatened?

A few women walked by, one flailing her arms and shouting. Revy turned her back to them, glaring at the ground, cheeks flared up fire-engine red. Annoying the blonde made her feel worse. Popping the lid off the drink, she took a long swig. Two beers in, and she would not be even close to drunk. Enough to make a brash decision, but her mind was heavy and heart pulsating in her chest. Her guns brushed the insides of her arms so much due to her swinging that her skin began to hurt. “Yeah, one of, one of Janet’s lackeys.”

Balalaika sighed. The line was silent.

“You still there?” Revy asked softly, eyebrows pulling together. “Sis?”

The blonde closed a second door behind her. The tense silence was making Revy pace nervously, eyes red-rimmed. Balalaika busied herself, slicing an object and lighting a match. “Yes I am. I just needed a second.”

“We can talk about this stupid fucking shit later. I forgot that you’re, you know, busy every single minute of the day and I called you about this nightmare again.”

“Are you hurt?” Balalaika blew out smoke out of her presumed cigar.

“He couldn’t do shit to me. I shot his balls off.” Revy said with false bravado, hands shaking. She stepped towards the Plymouth, eyes hurting. Balalaika was so so close and she wasn’t touching her. An idea came to her.

She chuckled. “Of course you did. I am too tired for this right now.”

“And before I did that, I like, punched his skinny ass over, and put my fucking foot on his throat, and then I shot his dick off. I really fucking shot his dick off. I didn’t see it, but I know when I’ve done that shit. But he didn’t die from me shooting it the fuck to pieces. I shot him in the head. So, it’s not really that cool of a story.” Revy smiled when she heard the blonde chuckle again, girlishly kicking a stone away from her foot.

“You’re a child,” Balalaika replied, breathily. “Don’t try and distract me from what I’m thinking.”

Pride filled her chest. “So you’re saying I can’t tell stories for shit?”

Balalaika's chuckle ended softly, and Revy wanted to imagine a small near-smile on the blonde's face. Her sadness broke from relief. The blonde debated her options. “You want the answer to that question? What I am more worried about is how many others that woman told. I’ll take another look at her base of operations. Should have set the place alight.”

“Let me help you.” Revy whispered, out of nowhere, her voice strained and choking and so needing that she grew silent as well.

They were both quiet, waiting on one another to speak first, to break an invisible battle where they both wanted to keep their emotions to themselves for a second longer than necessary. Revy knew they had shown each other their deepest, most depraved parts of their pasts and yet it was so difficult to open up again and again. Balalaika cleared her throat. “Tell me what resources you have. The best thing about being at the top is not having to do objectives yourself. I’ll do a majority of the work, you just sit pretty and not cause a fuss.”

“Are you at your office now?”

“Going to my office in a recognizable car…" She laughed with no humor. "I keep telling you, you have to be careful. What happened today was a lesson to you. And to me.”

Revy groaned, tapping her foot in anxiousness. “I want to fucking see you .”

“I can tell.”

“Be fucking nice to me. Don’t treat me like this, please, Sis.” Revy whimpered quietly, glancing around her as she rounded the hood of the car. “I just miss you, that’s it.”

Balalaika was quiet, until she forced herself to speak, words uneasy and strict. “It’s been a long day for me, Rebecca. I had six meetings and one of my comrades was injured in a gunfight, and it’s just… ah, work related things. Not very interesting, but stressful nevertheless.”

“Is he going to pull through?” She thought of the two men that the Romanian twins had brutally killed.

“Yes. Through his side. It looked much worse than it actually was. I worry too much.” Balalaika pulled on her cigar for a moment. She sighed, again, wearily, making a move to speak but stopping what she was going to say, then restarted her sentence. “It was good of you to call me, even when I know it was for this matter.”

“Good of me?” Revy scoffed, eyes wet. She slipped into the car, shutting the door and leaning heavily back, the old seat creaking under her quick movement. She wanted her own cigar, a gift, in her hand, just to hold. “If you go through this shit, don’t hesitate on trying to contact me. I’ll get better with my phone, okay?”

Balalaika breathed in deeply, her hair scraping against her phone. “I don’t mean to necessarily use you to just throw all my issues at. It has been a long time.” Her accent grew thick and curling in her frustration.

“I know. I don’t mean to use you either. It’s real fucking hard, but I’m sorry that one of your guys got hurt. You’re sensitive about that, and that’s all good with me.” Revy wavered, keys in her hand, thumb flicking at the metal, face crumpling. “Fuck, I hate it when you go through shit like this. Like, you’re mine, and I can’t even…”

She was incredibly quiet tonight, Revy noted. The blonde nursed her cigar. “This is too intimate a conversation to have over the phone. You can see me tomorrow, Rebecca. I can give us a half-hour, in my office at midday. You’ll be called in the morning.” Balalaika said. She wheeled her chair back, and sat down. The conversation and her and the injured soldier was no longer open for discussion.

“I want to fucking see you now. I’ll listen to what’s going on. I’ll help you. I want to.”

Balalaika groaned, inhaling smoke from her cigar quickly. The phone was squeezed in her hand in repressed anger. “Do you listen to me? Not tonight.”

“I can call Rock, ask him to get the car.” Revy offered, tearing at her snarled hair . I want you to know me and fucking lo-

“I said no . I have too much to do, I can barely stay on top of this damned city, I have five reports to fill out and three groups are selling drugs and weapons without our knowledge and I have to finish this all by tonight. I can’t be distracted now.”

“I’ll fucking help out, did you listen to me ?” Revy shouted into the phone. Sofiya was curling on the edge of her tongue, desperate to leap out and to say it her, to remind her that she knew.

The blonde was quiet before she breathed tensely, tapping something. “What do you know about running a criminal organization?”

“You wouldn’t fucking believe how much I know.” Revy joked, rubbing a wet eye with a shaking hand, mouth tugged downward. Taking a sloppy drink of the beer, a line of alcohol ran down her chin, dripping onto her stained tank top.

“I sure wouldn’t. But not tonight, not when this is all happening. I’m wasting time just talking to you.” Balalaika murmured, voice distant then growing closer.

Revy shook her head frantically. She wanted to pull the blonde close and do whatever, any action to bring her closer and touch her and kiss her, tug at her long hair and let her say what she needed to say, dragging it out of her if she had to. “Yeah, whatever.”

“Don’t disobey me.” She ordered.

“I won’t. I’ll let you be, Sis. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“I’ll talk to you in the morning, Rebecca. Good night, do not stay up too late.”

“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” Revy replied, smiling blearily, finishing the beer.

Balalaika chuckled, and then ended the call. Revy slid the keys into the ignition, and decided on what she was going to do. She had disobeyed  Balalaika, Sofiya, Sis, whoever she was before, and she certainly wasn't going to stop now. Let her get enraged. She didn't much care, but a car pulled up beside her and she saw Eda's sour face.  

Chapter Text

“So, what’s up your ass?” Eda snapped at her over the few glasses scattered between them, lips locked around a cigarette flickering to life. Sat at their usual table, no one batted an eye at Revy returning with the nun in tow, ordering two whiskeys at first, before Eda mentioned she had just gotten paid.

Revy ground her cigarette into the bottom of an empty glass. The amount she had drank made her feel like she was barely floating, her head light and her shoulders relaxed. Talking to Balalaika in the Plymouth, slumped over like a child was far behind her; words still lingering in her temples. Eda had drug her out of the car and into the bar, grumbling under her breath with quick glances back at her. “You always gotta start with that fucking question.”

“Yeah, Revy, I kinda fuckin’ do. You’ve been fucked up since you visited me at the church forever ago, and you tell me fucking nothing.” Eda’s glare went weak when someone walked past Revy, an arm nearly brushing her hair. “Oh, hold on. Did you see that guy? No, not that asshole. Him .”

The pointed finger directed Revy towards a dark-haired man at the bar, talking to another patron to the right. Her breath had caught when she saw pale blonde hair; the woman breaking the illusion by turning around and having olive-toned skin. She scoffed, swirling her tongue, tasting the remnants of the drink. “Looking for dick tonight? You only called me down so I could a fucking wingman? Again ?”

“Nah, deepest fucking apologies, not this week.” Eda rolled her eyes, shooting Revy a subdued glare. “I usually only do, if I get it in return. Nine times out of ten, they don’t give any back when you’re on the rag.”

“Nine out of ten?” Revy asked.

“Have to consider the outliers. Anyhow, you didn’t tell me about the shitstorm brewing in your head.”

Revy spun the glass around on the table. She watched it wobble to a stop, slumping back in her chair. Eda was waiting, impatiently, and Revy didn’t want to deliver. Throngs of words were jumbled in her throat, compressing her vocal chords and her need to breathe. If she could manage to stop thinking about it, maybe she could finally enjoy herself like she used to. Now it seemed like she always had to keep one eye behind her. “How do you… how the fuck do you deal being under a lot of pressure? Like one wrong move and shit falls flat?” She expected a seeking question.

Eda gnawed on her lip, corn silk hair waving behind her. “Damn, let me think. I’m not one to care too much about being pressured. Who gives a shit. But if I were that poor asshole… I’d have to just deal with it. If you can’t take the heat, stay outta the kitchen.”

“But if you have to stay like, under pressure, Eda. What the fuck do you do?”

“Lots of questions, huh Revy? Are you interviewing me?” A sly glint was in her eye.

Her head swam, and she flagged a waitress batting away a groping hand. “Fuck you.” The girl came over to them, eyes narrowed in annoyance. “We need two more whiskeys.” When the waitress left Revy kneaded her temples, elbows jammed onto the table, back hunched as if she was going to scream any second.

“Well, I mean, then you just gotta fucking deal. Like if you willingly put yourself there, you have to make do, and keep the pressure off you.” The nun leveled a look at Revy through her pink sunglasses. “Are you gonna bitch if I ask why?”

“Yeah.” Revy slammed her head down, staring at the darkness, searching for answers she already had. Nobody can know. Nobody nobody nobody, fuck fuck fuck fuck. It’ll be like this my whole shitty life. The fucking queen of Roanapour kisses me and somehow, my dumbass was enough to catch her attention and now I know her name is Sofiya, Eda. Her name’s Sofiya and she freaks the hell out when I say it like it’s the worst word in the shitty alphabet. Blearily, she sat back up and groaned. Up at the bar, a couple stood together, chatting, laughing, and kissing. Revy kept catching them in her peripheral vision; the man’s arm slung around the woman’s waist, so open with his affections because they had no need to care.

“Then I can’t help you. Is this about Rock?” Eda rebutted, forcing Revy out of her bleak thoughts.

She tapped a finger on the table, suppressing the self-inflicted rage inside. No matter where she turned she had to cause situations like this. It was inescapable. She glanced back at the couple and scoffed. “I’m not gonna fuck him. I changed my mind. He’s, fuck, Eda, you can have his ass; I told you.”

“I don’t have fucking Alzheimer's, Revy, but that don’t mean he still doesn’t hang around in your head.” She twirled a finger at her cheekbone.

“How about we just get drunk, Eda. I can only deal with getting fucked up tonight.” She admitted in defeat, taking in the surroundings, judging the people in the bar, wondering how many of Janet’s former employees lived in the city. Fuck, they could be anywhere. 

Eda refused to give up. “It’s about a person, though? I can read your face like a shitty book.”

“So what? You’re the slut who can’t keep her eyes off any guy with dark hair. I haven’t done shit with anybody, if I did you’d fucking know, you’re like a blonde Sherlock fucking Holmes.”

“Is it dangerous to be seen with this fucker or what? Do you have a target on your back just for fucking with somebody? Oh no, you saw that bullet-proof-vest kid at the grocery store, stop the presses.”

Instead of insulting the nun’s tanned face Revy remained quiet. A darkness was sticky in the back of her head, her mouth dry. Could Eda understand? She was sharper than she appeared to be, Revy gathered. The blue eyes behind those cheap pink sunglasses were strolling astute. The waitress returned with the drinks, setting them down before rushing away towards a group waving their hands in the air.

The nun shook her head, hair covering tanned shoulders. Taking a sip of a whiskey, she swallowed it slowly. “First off, I sleep with a guy roughly once a month, some are higher up on the totem pole, others are at the fucking bottom. When the deed is done, it’s a hundred percent done. There’s- well, there’s no hitmen being sent after me, you know, all that crap. Besides that, there’s one thing I’m also confused about.

“Eda can you just shut the fuck up before I-”

“You said before that you fucked chicks in prison.” Eda replied suspiciously. She set her drink on the table with a hard sound. “Are you thirteen? Roanapour doesn’t care who you fuck. Well shit, sometimes, if some bitch is fucking Ronny or Chang then people get interested. All those secrets.” The nun laughed to herself with a shake of her head, sunglasses falling down the bridge of her nose.

“That was prison.” Revy snapped. Once, she had been new meat and the only way to avoid a constant ass beating was to take what she could, doing what needed to be done and perhaps a part of her enjoyed that power; right escaping the other inmates left her alone with a spare few seeking her out. It wasn’t supposed to bother her. She didn’t have much in the way of morals anyway. Her stomach twisted regardless. Now she had had Balalaika’s mouth in between her legs, curling and touching her gently where no one else ever did. Was this ever supposed to happen to her? After all that she had done without remorse, there was a brutal veteran-turned-mafia-boss; a twisted metamorphosis, who wanted her. Revy’s resolve waned and she wanted to be with the Russian again so badly that her heart clenched and ached.

Hey! Hey! Don’t talk to my fucking girl, asshole !” A man yelled from afar, abandoning his drink and stepping towards someone who replied in a hushed tone. Eda cast a look at the scene, raising her eyebrows, then caught Revy’s nervousness plain on her face. She tilted her head back and nearly finished her drink.

“So you’re not gonna tell me.” The nun sounded drunk and annoyed. More secrets Revy was keeping, and she was noticing and that made Revy sweat and want to jump through the nearest window. Eda took one last sip of the whiskey, as if for strength to deal with her.. “Who the fuck am I gonna gossip about this shit to? If you don’t tell me now, you’ll feel like crap and go mental. I can tell Revy, what’s all this damn pressure you’re flapping your gums about?”

Revy nursed her abused bottom lip and stared off to the side, focusing on the sound of voices increasing in volume. Wringing her hands under the table, she drew her eyebrows together. Aside from the clamor they were quiet, Eda watching Revy intently like she was the one under a microscope. She adjusted her posture, returning her stare at the nun, fingers going to stroke her gun. They were still there, heavily hanging underneath her arms. For a moment she hadn’t even felt them. Maybe she was safe, for a spare few minutes from saying at least something . “When I was in Japan I was eating breakfast with-”

The same dark-haired man Eda had glanced at was thrown against their table, bouncing off and landing a few feet away, chest heaving and landing on his knees. Growling, he jumped to his feet and launched himself at the perpetrator. All the glasses, empty or not, flung off the table and smashed onto the ground; amber contents soaking into the splintered wood, glass shards sliding across the room.

“Fucking dumbass shit-for-brains !” Revy leaped up from her chair.

Eda opted to lean over, shaking a fist and yelling over the sound of fighting. “Get the fuck outta here, asshole! You spilled our fucking drinks, you wanna pay with your own organs you piece of shit?!”

The glass-covered man was given a punch to the eye from his assailant, and his girlfriend was behind him, hands cupped over her mouth in shock. “ Babe babe you’re killing him -” And he was; the boyfriend landed a hard kick to the man’s knee, knocking him to the floor, standing over him fuming, before reaching behind him and finishing his own personal cup. There was a murderous glare in his eye; not even the woman scratching at his arm could do anything. A crowd made an open space for them to continue fighting, cheering either on, some thrusting money of various origins in the air.

“Let’s go, Revy. I’m sick of this shit happening every time we go out drinkin’.” Eda slurred, stepping over the remnants of their night out, summarily ruined again. Revy spat on the floor, before pushing herself hazily to her feet. The alcohol had gotten to her, the countless whiskeys combined with the two beers Revy had neglected to tell Eda were swirling behind her eyes.

Bao started to yell over the crowd as beer bottles crashed on the floor and walls. Revy glanced over her shoulder at the mess, and chuckled quietly, joylessly, zoning in on the dark-haired man getting beaten to a pulp. Her hand flexed and she remembered Lucas’ face before she had ended his life. Would he be the last one? Revy chewed on the inside of her cheek. If there was any ounce of optimism inside her, she would have felt better about the internal question. Eda left first, swinging the door open haphazardly, back hunched. Revy caught it before it closed in her flushed face.

They were the only two outside. The breeze felt good pushing aside her hair, and Revy touched the snarls and then yanked her arm down, glaring at Eda, who pretended to not notice her foul mood. Revy couldn’t help but take in the surroundings like she had never seen the outside of Bao’s place before. 

“So, you were out eating toast and eggs with your sidepiece, was it? Which one of you picked up the bill?” Eda started, barely withholding a smirk at the stress rising up over her, enjoying the fact that Revy’s eyebrows were pinching together and an angry bare of her teeth.

“I’m not fucking a woman, bitch.” She lied.

“I was just fucking saying, dumbass, that if you were, who gives a shit. Are you fucking the president’s wife? No? Then who cares?” Eda lit herself a cigarette, fumes pushing out between her stark white teeth. She offered one to Revy, who snatched it out of her fingers quickly. The nun was skating so close to the truth, not even knowing it, and Revy broke into a cold sweat that only worsened her angrily drunken daze. Eda tossed her a lighter. “Get over yourself. Anyway, you were talking about a Japanese breakfast? What?”

The streetlights were reflecting off her pink glasses and Revy couldn’t see her eyes. Her failing restraint broke inside her and the words bubbled out. Eda knew clearly that what she had said wasn’t truthful in the slightest, and the nun was much smarter than she had given her credit for. “Just.. ugh… you know that I fucking kissed Rock in Japan… but like we were at dinner with Hotel Moscow, y’know… Fry Face and one of her guys or whatever the fuck, it was so fucking boring I wanted to die but… ah..” Revy kicked at a piece of trash on the ground. 

“Yeah?” Eda goaded.

“Fuck, Eda, look at me like that again and I’ll knock your fucking teeth out.” Revy snapped with difficulty, fists by her side, muscles tight. Her throat seemed full of thorns. “In Japan, we were at breakfast, and we had to give our order, and I ordered toast and… I can’t do it, Eda. I can’t run my shit mouth and fuck everything over again.” Her drunkenness waned and she turned her shoulder towards the nun, teeth gnashing together.

“How badly did you fuck up?” She asked sternly, hands on her lips, snarky smile dipping into a seriousness that was out of character.

Revy swayed in her spot; her eyes fixed into staring at the unknown, thinking of Janet’s neck underneath her crushing grip, and the whites of Lucas’ eyes. “I really fucked up,” she admitted to Eda. It took a measure of sheer resolve to not let her voice quiver. She was still Two Hands , all guns and bravado and thin tank tops.

“Has anyone died because of what you did?”

“Ughhhh...” Revy groaned, face pink, neck bent, Her ponytail fell over one shoulder, the breeze hitting her back and chilling her hot skin.

The nun tapped her jaw and stared up at the moon. Deep in thought, the cigarette in her grasp dropped to the floor and she snuffed it out with the heel of her shoe. Adjusting her glasses, she made a move for another one. Her interest was piqued. “Was Rock involved in this shitshow? Shenhua? Sawyer?”

“Nah, and thank fuck they’re not.” For now, because you’re such a smart fucking bitch. She felt repulsed at herself. Now she stood there, neglected cigarette in her mouth and she forced herself to focus on the moon. The wind blew her bangs away from her forehead. Balalaika wasn’t here, she never was going to be here, they weren’t the couple on the street or in the bar or at the grocery store or swimming at the beach. Couple. Revy sucked on her cigarette.

A disappointed noise came from the back of Eda’s throat. “You can’t keep a damn secret, Revy? You were locked up like Fort Knox when I’d ask ya about that little salaryman.”

Revy ran a hand down her face, groaning. Her heart hammered in her chest.“I’m too drunk to talk anymore, alright? I’ll follow your shitty advice and deal with the pressure. But I’m not sleeping with a chick, got it? I’m gonna head back.”

“Sure, sure. Keep your secrets.” Eda replied to Revy’s back as the nun watched her skulk off, curiously. She remained there, blonde hair lit up by the streetlights, her halter top frayed and worn, surprisingly silent. “Remember, I could always try and help you out with this shit problem.” As long as there is something for me.

Revy glanced back at the nun, lower lip wanting to tremble like she was a stupid child again, but she sucked it in and remained calm. She was angry, more at herself than Eda; the alcohol made her mind numb and her eyes glassy. 

“Shouldn’t ignore a fucking offer to help, Revy. You never know when you’ll be offered another!” The nun called after her, cupping her hands around her mouth when Revy walked down the littered parking lot towards the Plymouth. No. No. I don’t need Eda’s fucking help. I was built to last. People already know, I don’t need to blurt it out to somebody else. God, I’m so fucking stupid-” Revy looked back to see the laughter behind the statement, but to her shock there was no sick mirth on Eda’s sharp features, only a slight quirk of a thin eyebrow. The nun went to her rusted vehicle without another word, nursing another cigarette, able to hide her drunken swagger. Revy wasn't lucky, landing a hard hand as she unlocked the door, breathing heavily and she was blissfully alone.

Pulling into the street, an eeriness settled on her body. Flicking the blinker on, she whipped her head both ways; the rearview mirror showed a half-empty parking lot, but she felt like there was someone in the backseat. She went to grab a gun, and looking over her shoulder slowly, she was no one there. The streets were near empty, aside from a few stragglers and women on their usual corners. Revy swallowed, reaching blindly for a cigarette to find the carton empty, her throat dry and head swimming in a ocean of alcohol and emptiness, and her eyes were salt-rimmed and she knew she had made a mistake. The dark-haired man was outside the bar, vomiting onto the sidewalk, on yellow weeds sticking out of the cracked cement, a bruise on his cheek that was darkening. He caught Revy’s stare, then bent down to continue emptying his stomach.

She doesn’t turn on the radio on the drive back.

 

A sharp ring forced Revy awake. Blinking slowly, she blearily took in the surroundings of her trashed bedroom, the bra hanging from the light, the overstuffed dresser with clean and dirty laundry alike. Her cell phone held up by an outstretched hand, that went limp as it rang, the item dropping onto the floor. When did she get back? Revy couldn’t remember for the life of her how she managed to return to her room, tired and heartbroken enough that she blacked out. Alcohol shouldn’t have this effect on her anymore. She lurched herself over the mattress and snatched the phone from the floor, flipping it open and holding it up to a ear, yawning.

“Who’s this?” She already knew.

“Rebecca, You just woke up?”

She snapped awake, a second yawn interrupted. A sleepy smile appeared on her face. Rubbing an eye, she stretched her legs out and shivered. “Oh, fuck, yeah Sis… it’s still morning out.”

“It’s the afternoon. Do you really just laze around all day when you’re not on a job?” The blonde teased tiredly, her voice smokey and soft with a tinge of her accent.

“Nah, I drink and I hang out with people and smoke, I do have a social life to upkeep , as you would say. La ti da .” Revy joked, noting the exhaustion. She wished they were in Balalaika's room, with a wide bed that Revy could drag her back into.

Balalaika laughed, an honest laugh that made Revy still. It was subdued and refined, but it wasn’t a chuckle, it was a laugh, and it was completely honest. “That’s so difficult, Rebecca. All those dinner parties to plan, it must be such a pain. I can just get a headache thinking about it.”

“You throw parties like that, Sis? Do you like, get down and get fucking wasted?”

“I can say with certainty that I do not do something as ridiculous as that. When I actually have some semblance of free time, my comrades and I chat together and have drinks. A girl as young as you would find it quite boring.” Balalaika said dryly. A lightness came to her voice, gently responding to Revy. Because it was a real conversation, one that Revy starved for.

“Is there music?”

The Russian sighed in playful annoyance. A drawer opened and closed. She was locked up in her office; Revy hoped she had time to get a few hours of sleep. Of course, she could have agreed to Revy's offer and allowed her to show up in the middle of the night in a red classic car, like a literal bullseye. “ Quiet music, like from what we listened to a hundred years ago back… when we were younger. Like your age.”

“Music and drinking, it’s technically a party. Your men drink booze?” Revy twirled a strand of hair around a finger. She blushed when Balalaika mentioned her age, her smile growing on her face, and she was thankful no one was here to see it.

“There’s vodka, usual standbys. I’m not strict by any means.”

Embarrassed, she dropped the hand from touching her tangled locks. Smoothing her hand down her thigh, Revy bit her lip and stared out at the sea, scanning the horizon, imagining what it must be like. She thought of classical music, upholstered stiff chairs, and fifty people all in one sitting room. “Shit, soooo I’m right.”

“Yes, yes, I give up.” Balalaika replied. Her exasperation didn’t stop her from chuckling. Her tone shifted into that of a businesswoman. “Now, before you come to Hotel Moscow, I’ll need you to point out where you put the body.”

“...Uh, put the body?”

“Where you hid it.” Balalaika stated impatiently, tapping her nail on the desk.

Hid it. She swallowed. “Uh, on the parking lot near the beach. The one closest to that sunken tanker. On Phahurat Street.” As ambiguous as she could say it, Revy uneasily sat up, gnawing on one of her nails. Balalaika shuffled papers and her hair brushed the speaker.

“On?”

“Near there.” Revy nodded.

Balalaika hummed. “I’ll send someone to retrieve it. Can’t have one of his friends finding him. He followed you in a car, you said?”

“I didn’t think about the damn car.” She admitted, pinching the bridge of her nose, heart beating fast, and she felt faint. Speaking with Eda last night had her knowing that what she did was wrong. Not that killing Lucas was wrong- it was the actions after it. It was a beach that was neglected and littered with trash. She hadn’t seen anyone swim there in ages, not with the oil pooling from the rusted ship a hundred yards away.

“We’ll deal with that too, alright? I just… You…” She paused. “I’ll see you at three. I can give a half-hour, provided I can work while you’re visiting.”

Revy wanted to make a dirty joke, a flirt that Balalaika would smile to and reply in such a sultry way to cause her to melt, fingers traveling down underneath her underwear’s worn elastic and sink inside her, pretending-

“Three o’clock. I’ll be there, Sof- sis.”

“Thank you. Have some lunch beforehand, and that’s an order, Rebecca Mary Lee.”

“Yes ma’am.” Revy pinched her thigh for sounding so guilty. Her breath hitched when the blonde hung up, leaving her leaning into a cell phone. Setting it beside her after flipping it shut, Revy sat on her bed, looking down at her bruised knees. In the fridge, hopefully there were leftovers, otherwise she wouldn't bother with making something. Touching the mattress beside her, she had never been so lonely and angry waking up. Her clothes were crumpled on the floor. “It’ll only get worse from here,” Revy muttered to herself. “Shit, it has to.”

 

She was lucky enough for Rock to drive her to a nearby bar that was a few minutes away, giving that Revy would cut across by using side streets and alleys that she had memorized. They didn’t speak over the radio buzzing out advertisement after advertisement, with a spare song that she couldn’t make out. At the last minute Revy decided on bringing her guns, out of habit or out of safety. Outside the open window, it was a normal day outside, but she had to scan every face. The Plymouth was too recognizable. She should have ditched the car at the apartment after she shot the informant’s pelvis and head in.

Slamming the door behind her, she waited inside the bar until Rock was out of view, before sprinting to Hotel Moscow, bouncing off of broken sidewalks and pushing past civilians, avoiding a car taking a steep left turn, and skidding to a hard stop in front of the large glass doors of the building.

“Rebecca.” Balalaika greeted when Revy entered, raising her pale eyes to meet hers, busy at writing. The office smelled like cleaning supplies again, rich lemon making Revy’s nose crinkle. Sunlight poured from the windows, with one slightly cracked to let the cool breeze enter the room and tease the edges of spare documents. In the gold tinge Balalaika’s red suit was rich, as was her hair, the only thing about her that shined. Revy blushed and she turned soft, a hand going to her chest. The scars on the Russian were still brutally pink. Gaping, Revy made her way towards the wide desk and avoided the coffee table in her path, knee brushing the leather couch. She hated herself for zeroing on Balalaika, pathetically following her around, struck with an emotion that she wasn’t going to touch.

Hip bones grinding on the desk Revy smiled so hard her eyes crinkled. Balalaika set the fountain pen next to a folder and blinked as she gave a tired half-smile. Opening her mouth to speak, Revy fought to not touch her hair, held back in a ragged ponytail, wavy strands framing her tan face.

Balalaika cleared her throat. “It was good of you to come.”

“Fucking obviously I’d come.” Revy muttered, dragging her middle finger along the waxed wood, blushing. Pausing, she opted to brace herself over the desk, landing on an elbow before straightening. Taking the blonde’s face into her grasp, she leaned forward and suddenly kissed her as Balalaika was about to reply. The blonde kept her lips parted, gasping when Revy nuzzled her, fingers running up to tease the thick, brushed hair.

Revy swiped a tongue across her white teeth, tasting her, before delving in and mashing their lips together. The blonde leaned forward, palms on her desk, ignoring the reports in front of her. She tilted her head to the side and pushed Revy back, nudging with her nose, breathing sharply and nipping Revy’s top lip. The kiss was hungry, Balalaika refraining from clutching her, and Revy held her jaw still, feeling it flex and she moaned needily, mewling while the blonde was silent. Putmeonthedesktouchmytits , Revy rambled incoherently, going to pull up her ratty tank top before she was stopped with a large hand grabbing her thin wrist. Balalaika opened her eyes as she steadily pulled away. She settled back in her chair and cracked her knuckles, looking her up and down like the kiss didn’t happen. “We need to talk. Where did you dispose of the body?”

“At the beach parking lot. I told you.” Revy panted, wiping the saliva off of her mouth, fist lingering there to hide the nervous twitch. She fixed her wrinkled top and waited for the blonde.

“They were vague directions, we couldn’t find the body, I had them search for an hour. This group is good, They can find a body buried, or thrown in the sea, I’ve used their talents many times and they’re never empty-handed. So, are you just that good?” Balalaika moved her chair away from the desk. Her legs were crossed, hands neatly folded in her lap. Cheeks flushed a light pink, she waited for Revy, patiently flicking her icy eyes up and down.

Revy stared at the floor to escape the intensity of Balalaika’s blue eyes staring right through her. “Sis, I get it.”

“You need to listen properly. You can complain all you want and say ‘I’m not one of your men’. When I say something that could possibly relate to anyone seeing us together, take that into account. What happened yesterday could have ended worse, had you not spotted the idiot.” Balalaika shook her head, taking the heat off of Revy and noticing the buildings outside sheathed in afternoon light. “Say he followed you to the bar, waiting in his vehicle or at the other side of that… establishment . Then I call you, and you drive here, alone, at night. We have to look at options of what could have happened. Because it will happen again. That’s just how the world works.”

She gulped, the arousal in her voice diminishing into guilt. “Listen, sis, I made sure he was gone. That’s it. I won’t make any shitty excuses.”

“Gone.” Balalaika chuckled darkly and reached for the black pen, moving to continue writing. Her neat scrawl verged on cursive, her English proper and clean. Revy stood stiff, arms crossed, Balalaika continuing her work calmly. A minute went by and she finished, setting the expensive pen down on the desk aggressively and the placidness died. “Rebecca… Tell me honestly, did you knowingly leave the corpse there?”

“Yeah.”

Balalaika swore in Russian, long lines of dialogue Revy didn’t understand, phrases pulled together quickly and harshly. Stress ran over her body, her eyes going blank, her mouth snapping shut. The blonde stood up abruptly, chair sliding roughly away from her, scratching against the waxed floor. “I knew it. The body is gone, then. As I suspected.”

“I shot the fucker's head in.” Revy protested weakly, crossing her arms to subconsciously protect herself. She restrained herself from taking a step away to the door. “I wasn’t thinking-”

“You weren’t thinking. Of course you weren’t thinking. Janet was just the tip of the iceberg, she ran a business, most likely more complex than either of us thought… I waited to see if someone else was going to contact me, send me another damn cigar. Instead of me, they go to you. Wise move. Don’t give me that look, answer me .” Balalaika hissed, with eyes narrowed and towering over her.

“I really fucking sorry, am I-” Revy’s eyes stung, tears wanting to betray her, and she squeezed them closed, successfully hiding them back. “-I just… wanted it to die with Janet I wanted to leave and forget that dick. You’re fucking right, are you goddamned happy? I wasn’t thinking. I admit it.”

“No, I’m not happy. A part of me knew that the only evidence left will be blood spatter. You’ll start thinking when they have you tied up in a warehouse, doing whatever they can to you; maybe to get at me, maybe just for revenge for that whore.” The blonde remarked joylessly, touching a temple with long fingers. Her face twisted in mild anguish at Revy’s quick tears.

Revy threw her hands up in the air, chest heaving and her legs spread apart. “You always have to go to me getting fucked up. You always gotta imply they’re gonna fucking rip me to shreds. I can take care of myself, I told you you’re mine and I would fucking protect you!”

“Because this is Roanapour. This is how mafias operate, how Chang and all the rest of them do business. You are blind.” The blonde gestured to the window, hair swinging to the side, her gaze deadly and tight.

“I’ve lived here longer than you have, I know what you mean. I’m just trying to fucking say that I fucked up bad, but we can make this work, we have made it this far, and Janet is dead. I’ll kill as many as I can.”

“It doesn’t matter how many you can kill, Rebecca. You can bathe Roanapour in the blood of half of its civilians, if you’d like-”

“I’d kill a hundred fuckers just to spend more time with you, and you fucking know it.” Revy jabbed a pointer finger in the blonde’s direction. Briefly, she wondered what Eda’s advice could have been.

Let me get a word in-” Balalaika warned.

“Would you save me, if that happened? If I got kidnapped by some assholes?” Revy scanned Balalaika, noting the hesitation in the blonde’s pause of her angry gestures, her jaw clenching and eyes averting from hers. Wheezing, Revy tripped backwards, managing to keep herself upright; her legs wanted to give out from under her, bones and muscle and blood melting into a pulsating mess. Her face reddened, anger rolling up inside her and charging out through harsh breathing and hard eyes.

The blonde was tense, muscles tight and her arms shook minutely. They were both angry, and frustrated, and seething, and tired. She was close to wrapping her hands around Revy’s throat, to shut her up for a spare few seconds. “ Damn it Rebecca-”

“Sis! Fucking tell me yes or no . You say you care about me!”

“Rebecca, shut your mouth .” Balalaika’s fury paused for a brief moment, enough for her eyes to shine like glass, then quickly returning to corpse-like dullness. Rounding the desk, her heels snapped on the floor towards Revy. Paper contents whirled off the desk as she slid past them and went to her, palms open and her shoulders wide and so tall.

She reared back and wheezed, holding an arm up, forgetting about her guns or her strength or her ability to run fast. Like she was powerless again in the face of the first man she killed. “Don’t get near me, get the hell away from me-”

The blonde came closer, barely composed, hiding a sense of fury that Revy could never comprehend, so visceral it was that Balalaika’s eyes almost looked fully alive. “Don’t you ever speak like that to me again. Do you understand me? Don’t you ever talk in such a way to me. I have dealt with enough . Nights spent rearranging to make room for you to come, countless excuses to my comrades so they don’t know anything about this. I tell you this all the damn time, Rebecca. And I have had it. I know this is difficult for both of us. I can raze cities to their very foundations, yet us being together is a different battle entirely.” Before Revy could spin around to face her, the blonde snatched her towards her, her chest pressing into Revy’s shoulders.

“Fuck, listen...” Revy said calmly as she could manage. “I just want us to be fucking safe, for once in our lives.

“If you want to be safe, you can say you want to end this right now. Say it and this will be done and over with, and I will work as hard as I can to make all evidence of this disappear.” Her accent was heavy, like it was begging to switch from English to her native language.

Revy barely heard her over the sound of her fast breaths, the room around her zeroing out and leaving her dizzy. What was real to her was Balalaika’s body supporting her, large hands gripping her wrists and managing to hold her steady.

“Is this you trying to make me end it first, huh?”

Balalaika stiffened at the name or the way Revy tiredly stated it, her hold tightening, resting a cheek on Revy’s scalp. They both breathed together, Revy feeling the rise of the blonde’s chest on her back, lips on the top of her head and simply standing there, shoulders bending around Revy. “It certainly would take the guilt from me.”

“Are you not interested in me anymore?” Revy turned her head, trying her best to take her in. Balalaika’s face was out of her line of sight, still buried in her hair, focused on breathing evenly. “I’m causing way too much fucking trouble than I’m worth, huh? You wouldn’t be the first.”

Balalaika stayed still as a statue, as unyielding as marble. For her sake, Revy refused to try and get a good look at the blonde. She had already been pulled through too much, Revy noted. All because of her. Carefully, she pulled her wrists from Balalaika, shoulder grazing the Russian’s chest as Revy turned so she could hug her, fingers weaving themselves in flaxen hair. One hand traveled up to grip at Balalaika’s shoulder blade.

“Shit. I’m not going to be the bitch who’s going to make us break up.” Revy said gently, rubbing her forehead on Balalaika’s collarbones. “I fucked up, but I’m not gonna leave you.” Tears wanted to streak down her cheeks again; she began to shake, sucking her bottom lip in between her teeth to stop them. “You’re mine. You can’t leave me.”

“It would be smart for us to separate.” Balalaika confessed.

Revy froze, her chest beginning to heave again, drawing in air that wasn’t working and her mind was going numb and wanting to venture into the dark space. The deep blackness beckoned her openly, wanting to fill her brain with nothing except finding her guns and loading them and seeing the whites of people’s eyes. The blonde was leaving her untouched and unkissed and perhaps, maybe, almost, nearly, disgustingly, unloved. The foreign word had her wriggling away from Balalaika’s torturous warmth. What the fuck what the fuck she turned hard into Balalaika’s torso, huddling into the crook of a pale throat and hiding there, blunt nails digging into her and refusing to let go. “I’m so fucking stupid I’m fucking sorry, I just fucking said don’t leave me fucking shut up and listen to me Sis, listen to me for one fucking minute, I don’t wanna b-”

The term breakup was rather embarrassing. Revy’s cheeks would have flared red if she had cared in the moment. They clung together, Balalaika’s arms locked tight and Revy was as close as she could possibly get. “What we have will always be kept in the dark. In a way, though, it will be just ours, interestingly enough. Things will get very hard, more so than now.” The Russian said thickly, accent wavering. “I understand what you’re saying, however. A stupid choice on my part, one that I would... regret.”

Revy kissed Balalaika’s long throat, lips brushing the thick scar. I like you. She breathed in her perfume, her shampoo, the blonde was warm and living to the touch. But she still refused to look up at her. Instead Revy thought of Japan, of the cool touch to her forehead, the porn dvd lying in a garbage heap, saffron she kept forgetting to give her, a white shirt, green lingerie in the uppermost dresser, and photographs that were most likely forever out of reach; all stained in her mind.

“It would be a stupid choice,” Revy agreed quietly, whispering into milk-pale flesh. “But fuck being careful, I’m going to track these fuckers down.”

Chapter Text

Revy’s boots pounded against the pavement as she left, the glass door swinging behind her, closing with a gusty slam. The hopelessness she had been wallowing in was now a ruthlessness that she had involuntarily borrowed from Balalaika. Roanapur was surrounded by a polluted glaze that was smeared across the sky, and the whole city seemed so indifferent. She walked briskly down the sidewalk, ignoring the vendors trying to shove rotten peaches and mangoes in her face.

Get outta my way ,” she heard herself saying. Her eyes were on the road, on the rusted cars driving past. It was mostly Hotel Moscow cars returning, or customers leaving. The car, they probably took the fucking car. But she didn’t see the vehicle, which didn’t relax her in the slightest. She saw shadows everywhere. One slip of Revy so much as touching Balalaika’s hand, and it was over. Over.

She stopped at a corner where two sidewalks met, beginning to pace back and forth a step, hand patting her jean pocket. The phone weighed ten pounds, a harmful reminder of what could happen; Revy wanted to smash it underneath a car’s wheel. Her fingers coiled into a tight fist. What could Dutch do? What could Rock do? Benny ? She snarled in regret. The loneliness sank like a stone in her stomach, and she brought the cell phone to her face.

Shutting her eyes, she took a deep breath and flipped it open, blinking rapidly as she went down her contacts, and exhaling, she hit a number and waited, her heart reverting to it’s large, fast pumping of blood. She can envision it squeezing down her veins, circling back. Civilians were muttering to themselves or to others as they passed by.

The phone rang until it was about to go into voicemail when it was picked up. “Who is this?”

“It’s me, can I talk to you real quick?” Revy asked, glancing down at the scar on her right kneecap, a perfect slit, a twin on the other side. 

“Uh, sure, sure. What the hell do you want? I literally saw your depressed face last night, fuck.” Eda yawned quietly, muffling it.

“Can you look some shit up for me? I need information on where Greenback’s little business is.”

The nun chuckled. Revy heard the creak of a wooden stool, and echoing footsteps going down stairs. A priest near her was chanting in echoing Latin, fading away as Eda continued on. “Why? Can’t you just I don’t know, ask Benny ?”

Eda ,” Revy snapped into the phone, a tremor running through her. “I need your help . Don’t ask any fucking questions.”

She sighed loudly in response, muttering to herself, pretending to mull it over in her head. Like when she had the chance, she wasn’t going to relentlessly ask. “Fuck, fine. Do I get paid from this? You keep dragging me into your problems , I deserve some compensation.”

“I have no fucking clue. No .” Was there any sort of reward stashed away? Thousands upon thousands of counterfeit bills, pressed and sharp, each one more convincing from the last? Eda might pounce. Revy waited for herself to grow greedy for the cash.

“A favor, then?” Eda asked slyly. “This is starting to sound like I need to do actual work.”

Revy stomped her foot on the cement. “Jesus fuck, Eda, listen, do you have info-”

“Ugh, this’ll be easier if you come to the Church. I’ll see you later.” She hung up and Revy stood there, fuming, the plastic creaking in her hand. She had inadvertently trapped herself, willingly giving herself over to deal with the nun’s sarcastic demands. A blast of a car horn caused her to shake out of it, and looking up, she saw a familiar establishment. The Yellow Flag was a block ahead, blending seamlessly into the brown building eating it up. 

Shoving her phone away, Revy avoided a car as she rushed across the street, ignoring the sounds of horns and a few people yelling in the distance. Rock was sitting at the bar conveniently when Revy searched for him, enjoying a bourbon with a few unknown men. She didn’t care. Tugging at his arm, he followed her from his chair, coerced.

He didn’t bother to ask questions, and Revy was thankful for it. His attention was on her momentarily, in random intervals, for a majority of the ride. She didn’t find herself worrying about it. Her mind was swirling with determined ideas, searching the buildings as they drove towards the bridge. Fingers tapping on her thigh, Revy nursed a cigarette, licking dry lips and the ash blew away in the wind. 

Wind fluffed their hair when they drove across the bridge, filling the car with a loud howl that made her fingers dart towards bringing the window up, but then Rock might want to talk, and she couldn’t focus while hearing his voice. She twisted on the radio just to hear more advertisements in Thai, with a few instances of reedy rock music. Rock glanced at her again.

“Revy?” He asked when hot tires met white gravel. Revy tossed her second cigarette out of the window, settling on saving her third one to calm her nerves later. He sighed, and his foot leaned into the brake. “I can’t keep being your chauffeur.”

“Most of the time we’ve only got the Plymouth, Rock. Thought you’d notice that by now.” Revy said. There wasn’t any vitriol or anger. She wanted to save that.

Eyes narrowed, he flicked some of his own ash out of the window. The breeze edged it along, looking like dust particles in the sun. “I’ll be busy tonight. You’re going to have to find another ride.”

“Sure. Eda’s car still works.”

“For the week.”

A smile broke on her face. “Fuck, maybe for an hour. If that car breaks again near the apartment I’m gonna beat her ass.”

Shrugging, he looked at the church for a moment, cigarette back in his mouth. “That was a flat tire.”

It had been, and then some. “Never seen a car break an ACL before.” Dutch had joked.

“Next time it’ll be life-threatening, mark my damn words.” Revy’s eyes met Rock’s, dark and full of life and her stomach went queasy. This simple banter, few words thrown back and forth with an underlying sense of I know you . Perhaps Rock could still be who he once was, sometimes. His eyes went blank with Garcia. Chang had filled his head with thoughts of power and Yukio twisting his soul beyond the grave as if she was still sitting there at that festival. Her hand hovered over the car handle, and she slowly pushed open the door, sliding out into the heat, sunlight raining down upon her shoulders.

“Eh, I’m pretty sure you both can handle it.” Rock said. The shift was positioned into drive, and Revy lazily waved at him as she started to walk towards the massive double doors, hearing the purr of the Plymouth move past her, rounding the driveway and pulling into the clean road. The stones crunched under her boots, the grass still a toxic green, even with the changing seasons. The meticulous gardens were in bloom, and far off, the same vehicles were parked, with a few men surrounding it, cases being opened and closed on the truck beds.

Eda opened the door when Revy came close, leaning and gesturing for her to get inside, wavering in the light breeze, cheeks flushed and glasses perched low on her nose. Revy wiped a sheen of sweat from her forehead. “Damn, thanks for the welcome.”

“No problem, your fucking majesty.”

Scoffing, Revy mopped her bangs out of her eye’s way at the false gesture of politeness. “You said you could help with getting info?”

“Obviously, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have invited you over, now would I?” The nun replied, smoke curling out between her teeth. “You’re lucky, too. The computer’s up and running, finally .”

Revy cocked an eyebrow warily, hands on her hips as she entered. “ That computer?”

“Remember? Broke during that rat-water shit.” Eda let the door close, a gust of wind easing it’s way inside as the wood slammed shut. 

“Eda, fuck you for even reminding me.” She forgot about playing nice, a ghost of foul drink in the back of her throat.

A laugh exploded from the nun before she could stop it. “You forgot? Here I was, thinkin’ I drank more.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Revy urged, exhaling hard through her nose, trying to bring Eda back to earth, unable to see the expression hidden behind cheap sunglasses. “You said you’d actually help me?”

“Some guy came in and fixed this piece of junk. After five phone calls, mind you. But the job got done quick .” Eda yawned around her cigarette. Waving a lazy hand, she coaxed Revy to follow her past the pews, a bible lay abandoned on the seat of one. Eda swayed slightly as she walked, which she could turn sexy at a bar, but here, it was purely a sign of how deep she had gotten into her glasses. The lean on her right leg seemed forced, the left more natural.

The church was eerily cool, stained glass painting the plain floors. A flash of yellow draped itself across Revy’s boot as they headed to the back, past the worn altar. “What do you have on them?”

The nun pushed open a rounded door, holding it for a spare second so Revy could catch it with a palm. The small room contained several file locked file cabinets, with a desk pushed against the wall, a beaten computer on top. It was missing a few keys, Revy recalled, when she had followed Rock into here a few times before. We hardly have uses for computers, Yolanda once said amicably. Rock had found that particularly humorous.

“First off, you came at the right time for this too. How lucky.” Eda’s sunglasses flashed, a small smirk on her pointed face. She strutted to a file cabinet and smoothly opened the top drawer. Revy had grown used to folders, and she stayed still, arms crossed, dreading the contents. Looking over her shoulder, the nun held it out, habit shifting to the side. “Here. Take a good look. It’s not-” Revy went to receive the folder when Eda stepped away. She shook her head, sighing, exasperated. “Now wait, I’m not just gonna give it to you. What’s the deal?”

Revy’s hand twitched forward angrily. “Eda I fucking said-”

“Yeah, you did. But this whole situation sounds like you might screw with major shit.”

“What makes you care about this shithole? It’s not gonna involve the church. It’s a piece of paper, Eda.” Revy reached to rip it out of Eda’s manicured hands. The church had information on how much of Roanapour? When did it end and the religion began? “You got dealings with them?”

“They’re everywhere, you kidding me? Haven’t met any of ‘em in person, though. Seems like a waste of time.” Eda relented, for the moment. She adjusted her leather holster around her waist. “You focusing on somebody? You owe me an explanation, fuck the no-questions shit.”

Revy stared at her. She shifted away, towards the window, arms crossed.

“Hey, you’re never this quiet about what pisses you off.”

“Shut up, let me look at this.” Aside from a few pages documenting what they were generally interested in, the second to last showed a list of fifth locations, spread far out across Roanapour, Revy judged by the street names. 

They were ambivalently away from the headquarters of the separate mobs, surrounded by storefronts and abandoned factories. The closest one to the apartment was on Apsara street, a mere thirty minute drive. Revy ground her teeth, molars bumping over one another, the paper wrinkling, numbers and letters pushing together. The guy at the bar, vomiting outside, hair in his eyes and he bent, and it was like he was any other drunk but Revy refused to stop thinking about him. She imagined his bruised face at any one of the locations, probably musing over his coworker found in that parking lot, car keys still in his blood-splattered jean pocket.

“....hello?"

Revy jerked up. “What?”

“You need the address for….” Eda prompted.

“I’m going to shoot the fucking place up. That’s what I’m gonna do.” Revy bursted out, anger strangling her vocal chords, clenching the paper before relaxing. “One of them fucking tailed me for some fucking reason.”

“What information would you even have to fucking offer? Must have been a mistake, following you into traffic.”

Revy wanted to rip her hair out. Every word she said felt like a heavy mistake she was going to regret. “It doesn’t matter.”

“A bit of tasteful revenge… Think it’ll be easy?” Eda had the decency to laugh, her eyes merry but underneath that, she was inscrutable as always.

“Hell no. This shit is always harder than it has to be. Fucking hate this city.” Revy said under her breath, spitting out a half-truth. She had to have enjoyed Roanapur to stay this long, for as disgusting as it was, it had the decency to be honest about its corpses. New York swept them up as soon as they fell. Sometimes.

“Heh. It’s always interesting, never fair.” She mused. “Revy, that philosophical tidbit is great and all, but I’m coming with.”

Fuck. “Get the hell out of here, Eda.”

“I helped your ass, and I’m coming the fuck with. Come on, it’ll be like old times. Plus, you’re probably gonna need some backup.”

“You’ll get in the way-” Revy lied, before her eyes widened and she decided to stop herself before the nun latched onto that.

Eda crossed her arms, leaning on the desk. She decided to stay blessedly quiet, mulling over Revy’s desperate words. She didn’t leap at the rushed sentence, instead tapping her fingers on a tanned arm, like she was the one making the decision.  “Don’t be stupid, Revy. I’m going with you and that’s… well, heh, that’s final.”

She had a creeping suspicion that it wasn’t just Eda wanting to come along to help. But she needed it anyway, right? “Fine,” she decided. “But I’m the one calling the shots.” Groaning, she tossed the folder, crumpled papers tucked away inside, bumping up the manilla, onto the cluttered desk. “We’ll leave at sundown.”

Revy had half a bottle of whiskey before they slipped into Eda’s abused car, at twilight. Eda finished what was left, and together they smoked a packet of cigarettes, unevenly sorted out, and Revy kept a sharp eye on the clock. Every minute until the sunset dragged by, and she busied herself by cleaning her guns and checking the ammo, once, twice, until they gleamed. 13 Apsara Street, 13 Apsara Street, 13 - she repeated in her mind, until the two numbers jumbled together and the words next. Eda thumbed through the folder, legs propped on the altar, before tossing it to the side, bored. “Shit, what a boring operation Greenback’s got,” she had muttered, reaching for the open chip bag between them.

The time rolled around, dead slow, and Revy sat up in her chair, hand slammed on the altar. “Shit, it's finally time to head out.”

“Huh?” Eda slurred. “For what, again?”

“What we were fucking waiting for.”

The beaten, neglected, old car whirred to life, Revy feeling the tires rush over stones underneath her feet as Eda careened onto the road, the axles squeaking, noticeable effort in the way the steering wheel turned. Revy impatiently leaned her head out of the window, hair pushed back, eyes squinting at the orange sunlight pouring over. She pushed a boot against the dashboard, every muscle in her wired tight and ready for a fight that she’d have to wait half an hour for.

They hid the car a street behind, separated by a row of crumbling buildings with boarded up doors, trash littering the sidewalks. Waiting  in an alley beside a reeking dumpster, Eda was tapping her foot, so out of place in her nun’s habit in such a disgusting environment. She had a skeptical look on her face, craning her neck at the building. Revy shut the nun’s rusted car door after ripping her thighs off the torn leather, the air humid and thick. 

“Alright, let’s see what we’re working with.” Revy said. Fuck, I just want this shit over with .

“Yeah, back door, in and out, quick and easy.” Eda replied seriously, as if the drive had wiped her clean of her drunken stupor. “I mean, literally, it should be easy anyway.”

Revy rolled her eyes and scoffed. A few weaponless people with their arms above their heads, escaping like chickens with their heads cut off. “Yeah, a bunch of I.T. assholes.”

“Waste of bullets if you ask me.” The nun admitted. “Can’t you just, I don’t know, cut the internet, and they’d all go rabid and tear each other apart?”

Kicking a soup can away from her, she twisted around and stared at Eda, raising an eyebrow high. Shaking her head, Revy breathily laughed and crept along the wall. She was appearing as casual as she always was, a relaxed party-girl who was suddenly sober. Revy caught a glimpse of the storefront next to the target. “I fucking wish.”

“I mean, she’s dead, so… I doubt they’re worth anything. I mean, sure there’s information, but you don’t even know what the word serendipity means.”

Revy whipped around to face Eda, eyes bugging out of her head. A cold sweat erupted down her back, her ponytail uncomfortably lank. A twitch of her own mouth had Revy nauseous, like she was wordlessly confessing.  “So what? I’m supposed to fucking send them flowers? Who gives a shit about one more victim.”

Eda’s pink glasses pointed dagger-sharp, and she tutted as if Revy was a whining child. “You think people just ignore every corpse? Her employees, coworkers, whatever, keep limping around, asking for shit nobody seems to know. With all that computer know-how, you think they’d be using that to research more. They’re getting lazy.”

Lazy? Lazy? A guy fucking tailed me and I was stupid enough to leave his body to rot in the sunshine. They’re getting brave. “I get it, I fucking get it, shut it Eda .” Revy hissed. “But, fuck, yeah she’s dead. Look at you, putting that brain to good use.”

“You got any clue why?”

“Yeah, some asshole finally got sick of her shit- wait.” Revy held an arm out to stop Eda from moving past her, thumping against her hard torso. Revy felt so cold, the weather’s warmth draping itself over her body a mere distraction. A silvery car drove past the alley, the driver loudly talking, its rickety engine rumbling as it turned at the street’s end. “Am I the on