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survival (and what comes after)

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She’s a masterful surgeon; it isn’t like she can’t suture a gash without success. Really, if the fucker knew even half of what she was capable of, he wouldn’t have tried to stab her. Sure, she’ll be sore for a few days and there’s going to be a rigid line of flesh where he cut her, but she’s alive, and that’s really all that matters here. 

Mary lies on the floor of that studio for what feels like hours before dragging herself to her phone. Calling the police is out of the question, she realizes, but she needs further medical assistance than just her shaky, half-assed sutures. 

“Lance,” she wheezes, chest expanding violently and painfully around the wound. There’s a clatter on the other line, voices indistinct and loud. Heavy breathing, curses, a few more words and then – 

“Mary, goddammit. What’s wrong, where are you? Are you –”

Billy’s voice.

“Billy, shut up. I need…” she needs help. She laughs around the next words, and the irony is almost as painful as the gash in her abdomen, now. “I need a surgeon.”

She can sense the look of anguish on Billy’s face, probably mixed with a fair amount of worry and some disgust thrown in. If she’s asking for a surgeon, if she laughs like she’s crazy (he said he doesn’t think she is, but she knows he’s not sure), then he can’t be blamed for being creeped out.

“I’m sending Lance. I’m sending…that guy who helped you with the freaky twins? He good?”

“F-fine,” she wheezes, and there’s darkness creeping in on the edges of her vision now, pulsing with the slowing beat of her heart. “Hurry, please.”

They make it, of course. She never had a doubt. Lance lifts her up and carries her to the table, making soft, comforting noises when she groans or cries out in pain. She asks him if he brought her a shake and he laughs a little, sounding broken. He brushes a thumb over her cheekbone, collecting the wet tracks of tears and blood that are mixed on her face.

“I’ll buy you a whole damn farm of cows if you get outta this, Mary, and you’ll have all the fuckin’ milkshakes you could ever want.”

Laughing hurts too much, but she does it anyway.

“Jesus fuck.” She hears, and turns her head a little. Billy stands beside the table, hands threaded through his hair, frazzled and sticking up in every direction. She remembers the first time she’d seen him, the sleazy looking strip club owner, and thinks of how that perception has changed. From seedy to terrifying strip club owner who keeps torture victims in his basement, to friend and ally to…she’s not sure. Friends don’t ask friends to toss away their lives and start fresh in new cities – that’s not a platonic request, really.

“I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch,” he grinds out through his teeth, fists slamming on the table next to her arm. His body count is ridiculous, she guesses, but wonders how many more might be on that list in her honor. Sweet, loyal Billy. 

“Yeah? Took care of it already,” she rasps, and Lance says something to him that she can’t hear. Billy wraps her hand up in his, and she thinks it might have been too tight, but she can’t feel anything now so it doesn’t matter. Her feet and fingers are numb, and she knows immediately she’s going into shock, and she’s still bleeding and this is not good. But then another familiar face appears in her fuzzy vision, wearing a blue mask.

“How are the twins?” she asks, and then blacks out.

She wakes in the club, mouth feeling like coffin and everything aching. There’s a heavy layer of gauze wrapped around her middle, coming just under her breasts and tight around her waist. No pain, really, but that’s what painkillers do. And how weird it is to be on the receiving end of this, under the knife and in recovery. She feels…vulnerable. Small. Her life at the hands of someone else, and she realizes that her patients must have felt the same. Suddenly she’s glad that her professionalism had been mixed with kindness and sincerity. Cold, evil men like Walsh and Grant…she’d rather have died than be at their mercy and their instruments. 

Shaking those morose thoughts with a little jerk of her shoulders, Mary glances around the room. It’s surprisingly lit for once, not like her interview, not like the time she’d walked in on – well. Billy’s lying on the little l-shaped couch, curled under her big leopard fur coat, face serene and soft while he sleeps. She feels her lips twitch up in a little smile. When had she first realized he was in love with her? When had he first realized it, she wonders. Billy hardly seemed like the person to settle down, to commit himself to any one woman, but here they were, and there they’d been, talking about running off to LA.

“When I said I’d think about it, I meant it,” she says to the quiet room, voice hoarse from disuse and thick with an emotion she’d rather not reflect on. He wakes with a start, shooting up on his knees and head whipping about until his eyes settle on her. He blinks, blearily, before his expression hardens. Her heart flips a little, staring so intensely at each other like this.

Wrong dick in your mouth, she’d told that stripper, and she realizes right now that…she had meant it.

“You – fuck, Mary. You’re all right?”

Shrugging is painful, so she doesn’t do it. Instead she gives him a little smile, hoping it doesn’t betray anything more that she’s feeling besides her thankfulness.

“Most of me, anyway,” she teases, tilting her head thoughtfully as he strides over. “Can’t say I wanna go through that again, but yeah. Peachy.”

“Fuck, Mary.” He repeats, but now there’s a duality of chastisement and amusement instead of plain worry.

“Maybe later,” she shoots back, letting her eyes slip close and enjoying the feel of his rough hands cupping her face.

And then weeks pass. She heals, eventually, and then they’re in his car, suitcases piled into the trunk and windows rolled down. She’s wearing her hair in a ponytail, wearing a bright red sundress, laughing at his jokes and his nervousness when he slips a palm tentatively up her thigh. She lets him, just like she lets him fuck her into a luxury mattress later that night and lets him make her pancakes in the morning and lets herself forget for awhile. 

It’s nice. It’s cliché. She doesn’t care.

Maybe she’ll go back, maybe she’ll continue her work; maybe he’ll go back to the club, maybe he’ll keep fucking with people who cross him. Maybe they’ll talk about the gentleness and ardor in the way he runs his fingers down the scar between her breasts. Maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe this will last, maybe it won’t, maybe she’ll cry about it if it doesn’t, and maybe she’ll just be glad that it happened.

But she doesn’t - can't - let herself worry about those things. All she knows is that she’s happy, carefree, even, and it feels damn good.