Juri - Scout's Honour

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Description: Injured, desperate and on the run, every ally that Juri might have once had is now her mortal enemy. With few options left to her she is forced to turn to one of the few people in this world she thinks might have the ability to keep her hidden until she can recover, and a heart soft enough to do it. More pity him...

It felt like she'd been watching the cafe for an eternity. Lurking from a rooftop opposite as she waited for that annoying dobok to get out of there, the injuries she'd sustained didn't feel any better for the cold night air closing in on her. Her leg throbbed angrily, her shoulder complaining about the strain she'd put on it hauling herself up the drainpipe. She could barely even see across the street, and that alone pissed her off. This wasn't supposed to be difficult; she was meant to be better than this. Why the hell was she having such a hard time?

When the Kaphwan kid was out of there, she at last felt comfortable starting to make her move. Lowering herself back down to the pavement, bare heels skittered against the brickwork and her hands trembled with the effort of staying clenched around the drainpipe. People so rarely bothered to look up. Lucky for her, because if anyone had, she'd have been a sitting duck.

As fast as she could, she crossed the street, down the side alley, and was around the back of The Spilt Bean with as little time out in the open as she could manage. Every step hurt. But she made it, and in the next moment she was pulling the back door open and sliding through into warmth and light. The kitchen was tiny and not at all what she had been hoping to find. It was late night; tomorrow's pastries weren't prepared yet, and today's were all out the front. The tidy, cramped back room was more or less just a tiny box filled with raw ingredients. Her jaw clenched, and the woman grunted as she leant heavily against a counter.

"God damnit, Boy Scout. It'd have killed you to get a job at a proper restaurant?"

Her voice is a low hiss, but to look at her it's a wonder she's saying anything at all. The left side of her face is caked in blood, a rough strip of black cloth wound over the eye socket to shut down the malfunctioning prototype still burning its way inside her skull. Her bodysuit, once clearly a fancy custom-tailored outfit that had been designed just for her, is ripped and torn to reveal ugly bruises beneath. The way she holds herself, her left leg clearly could not support her weight. She was, in short, a sorry sight.

There was no mistaking who she was, though. Because despite all of those issues, there was still the distinctive hair. The arrogant sneer on her split lips. She was still Juri Han, one of the most wanted women in the world. And right now she was starting to pull open all the cupboards and drawers she can get her hands on, determined to try and find something she can use to deal with the aching hunger in her gut and her parched throat. There has to be something in here, right? So why is she only finding bags of flour, sugar and salt. What kind of bullshit bakery is this?

A night of slow sales and an overcast sky, Sugiwara left Rock in charge of closing up shop early. His friend Kim Jae Hoon was able to tear down the front-of-house displays, but when he offered to aid the Howard scion so that they might leave together, his help was refused. There's enough boring manager bullshit to keep him busy for an hour, and he hadn't even sorted the trash...

I mean, sure, he could have delegated and left that last bit to his Korean pal, but Rock didn't want to. He just needed to have some time to himself.

Officially off the clock so that he can take his sweet time, Rock enjoys his tunes loudly in the office. It's located next to the staff room, which is across from the bakery partition-- I should really draw a damn picture of the layout of this place. The point is, he doesn't hear the commotion happening in there until an alarm of gradually increasing intensity alerts him of a door left ajar.

Not the main entrance, as that had been locked properly long ago and not by him, but the last remaining door that Rock guesses he forgot to close.

With a bit of reluctance, but in acknowledgment that this is his job, the American teenager means to leave the office for a whole thirty seconds...

However, there's a significant amount of noise coming from the kitchen, like someone didn't know where anything was located and resorted to tearing through ALL of it. A homeless person? Burglar? Rock's confident in his ability to resolve this, no matter what the reason for the disturbance. His blonde head peeking around the corner, scarlet eyes widened at the sight.

An icy chill raises the hair on his arms, his mind rewinding to a time at the hospital in a flash. She's ditched the crappy disguise, yet Rock would recognise his would-be assassin no matter how long it had been since he'd last seen her. Jaw firming, he lurches to do... something. Some kind of action. The handsome young man isn't sure what it was, since he doesn't exactly commit to it, and his shoulder bangs off those metal corner protectors instead.

Breath hisses through his clenched teeth, the element of surprise lost to him, although Rock didn't have a plan for what he'd do with it. He glares at this woman in her weakened state, not quite a fragile bird with broken wings. His brain processes the bruises, the one eye that is poorly wrapped...

She called him a 'boy scout', he thought. Lip curling with obvious dislike, the highschooler starts by folding his arms against the broad expanse of his chest, his back ramrod straight. Fingers grip the light material of his long-sleeved button-down. "Business must be slow if you're resorting to breaking into a fucking cafe, you know that? What's wrong, are there not enough comatose teenagers in this city for you to murder?" Rock will get to the part of kicking Juri Han's ass out, possibly calling the police, so who knows why he feels like he's humouring this chick right now.

The crash of metal has Juri whirling around, her injured leg raising into a protective stance on reflex, only for her to visibly relax when she sees who it is. Her good eye goes from hard, ready for violence, to soft in a moment. The arrogant sneer of hers grows into a broader smile. Around her, the kitchen is a mess; everything hauled open and in disarray, but as she lowers her leg to the ground and leans on one of the open drawers she is smiling. There isn't a single sign that the accusation hurt her.

"Oh, please." She drawls, "You survived, didn't you? You and your little friend. There's no need to be such a drama queen. The question you should be asking yourself is why I didn't come back to finish the job later."

She starts to take a step towards him ... and there's a brief flinch as she does. A moment where she grips the drawer tighter. She seems to think better of trying to do that again, and instead pulls herself straighter, the furniture repurposed into a makeshift crutch.

"...you're right, though." She continues after a moment. Her bright purple eye stares into the angry crimson across from her, and she lets her tongue slip over her lips. How to approach this. She needs to tug on his heartstrings just right or this could all go very badly for her.

"Business is dead. For me, at least." She raises her free hand, gesturing down the full length of her brutalised form. "You might say that me and the boss had a, disagreement, about my future prospects. Rather than throw me off a roof, he dropped a building on me. But I'm sure you can relate."

Her smile fades. The subtle teasing, mocking lilt which usually accompanies her words drops with it. "C'mon, Boy Scout." She says, "You aren't the sort who'd turn his back on a girl in trouble, right? I need food. Bandages. Somewhere to sleep. Just for a few days until I figure out what I'm going to do next. If I go into a hospital, I'm not coming out again."

She doesn't SAY she needs his help. She doesn't beg. She's too proud for that. She certainly doesn't admit that she has nobody to watch her back whilst she heals in the same way Rock had. But there's an earnestness in her which was completely absent in the hospital. There, she'd been some raving beast; driven only by the desire to hurt and cause as much suffering as she could.

That's not this girl at all. This girl looks far more like what she is; a nineteen-year-old who has managed to crawl her way out from Hell and had no idea where else she could go. There's a real tension in the air after she's put what she wants out there. Because for the first time since she had the Feng Shui Engine implanted... if he doesn't give her what she wants, she doesn't think she has any realistic chance of taking it from him.

Lines of tension ripple along his jawline from teeth clenched too tightly together, unappreciative of her cavalier indifference and casual arrogance. That their lives are insignificant in the eyes of Juri Han, or were until she needed him. Rock flinches at the exact same moment, but because his fighter's instinct almost interpreted the step toward him as hostile...

She says the kid can relate, and the most unfortunate thing is... he can.

What does he hate more than his upbringing, the fact that he shares blood with the likes of Geese Howard, or even himself? For the first time ever, from when he was a boy until now, standing here, clutching his sleeves so tightly that the material actually protests... Rock resents his mother. Marie always saw the good in him, and was the moderating influence on his morality.

It's a visible battle, tearing him apart in front of Juri because Rock has no ability to hide his emotions. Tempted to break her down further, leave her in the alley like the gutter trash she is, appealing to the side of him so unlike his father, that struggles to be anything but the tyrant he should have been, the blonde teen actually needs to look away for a moment.

Each breath is drawn slowly and steadily. If he could just ask Terry what he would do, knowing that the Legendary Wild Wolf must have had the same questions when Rock turned up on his doorstep...

"Why me?" Ah, isn't that answer obvious? He's NOT the sort of person to turn his back on a girl in need, as the Korean woman said.

That can't be all, Rock reasons. Bleeding hearts are everywhere, not only him. Choosing a guy like Jae Hoon wouldn't work, but did this freaky science experiment of a person make enemies out of literally all of her potential allies?

The crimson glare maintains its fierce intensity, not entirely dissimilar to a wary wild animal or a very stressed hedgehog. Rock presumes she doesn't have the strength to force him into anything he wouldn't want, like the scales have tipped in his favour in terms of raw power. It's why she needs his help without outright admitting it...


He's gonna get stabbed in the back.

He wants to reject her with every fibre of his being. The only thing Rock needs to say is that there's nothing he can do.

He should tell her where to go and how to get there for nearly killing his teammate in a previous King of Fighters tournament...

But the young American turns on his heel and strides coldly away. There's no leaving or dialling up the authorities, just a quiet return eventually with a tupperware container in one hand, bottle of water in the other. These items are passed to the darker-haired fighter and left in her possession, because this place is going to need to be tidied up and Rock's gonna be stuck doing it.

"Because you're a good man. And you're not a total idiot. Do you have any idea how rare that makes you?"

Juri is too tired to dissemble as much as she ordinarily would. It's a fairly insultingly phrased compliment, but she means it. Juri has, in her time, tangled with almost every fighter of note and more than a few of no appreciable skill whatsoever. She knows people who call themselves heroes rarely match up to the picture they paint for themselves; you can't be a truly worthy person without understanding the darkness and danger that lurks within it.

You can't be a hero unless you've met someone like her and come away with both your lives and your morals intact.

She doesn't care about the hurt and strain her presence clearly puts upon the poor guy. She doesn't make any attempt to lessen the burden; there's no offer to leave nor concession made to his obvious discomfort. If he wants her gone, he's going to have to reject her outright. Because she knows he won't do that. At least, not if she makes it as painful as possible for him to do so.

There's still a knife-edge in the air when he walks away from her. If she's misread this, it could all go so very wrong for her right now. She's worth over four hundred thousand dollars, and she's never been an easier scalp to claim. Just like you never really know if someone is a hero until they've been tested by darkness, you never really know how much they care about money until they have a huge amount of it staring them in the face if they're willing to sell their soul for it.

But he doesn't disappoint her, and that teasing smile returns at the same time he does. She takes the water and cracks it open, greedily gulping it down. God, she was parched. Fresh, cold, life-sustaining water makes her feel so much better. Even more so when she uses the last of it to start washing the blood from her face.

The ragged covering over her eye is lifted, and there's a sharp purple glow which leaks out from the gap beneath the fabric as she gingerly starts to clean that wound, get the dried mess off her face.

"I knew you'd understand." She says, as she hauls herself up more completely to sit on the counter. "Don't worry. I'm not about to do the whole, you and I are not so different, thing. We couldn't be more different. It's like a mirror, right?"

The water is rusty red and dripping. A small strip of fabric torn off the wreckage of her uniform to help soak it up. At least she's trying to keep it off the kitchen surfaces as much as she can.

"You could have gone my way, and you chose not to. I could have rejected him, but I didn't. You've got to admit, it's pretty funny that we both wound up in the same place after we faced our devils. Only you had friends to drag you out of the wreckage."

She might say that it's funny, but she doesn't sound like she's laughing. She sounds bitter. God. When did she become so pathetic? Babbling this self-pitying nonsense to the Boy Scout. She must have a concussion or something.

He appreciates the things that he has to do, able to put the whole space back together in almost the same amount of time it took Juri to rip it apart. Keeping busy means there's something else to focus on, or else Rock might bodily reject everything about this. Is he a good man? She's never met Terry.

Not an idiot? It remains to be seen.

Rock notes the need for a cleaning cloth, possibly a broom, but out of the corner of his eye watching her, what he brings over next is the first aid kit with just the rudimentary supplies. Bandages, bandaids, alcohol wipes, burn ointment... Some of it is more useful than others, except there's not enough, the supply limited to single incidents unless it involves small cuts.

I mean, how often is the injury in a cafe anything greater than the bite of a piece of paper?

Setting down the box atop the counter, the line is that Rock will not personally treat the woman. Doubtful Juri's pride would even allow it. The young American must be nothing more than a bug, after all. Unworthy, insignificant, and beneath her.

In and out of the room he goes, gathering the things that he'll be needing to take with him. While she gets to experience one of his famously prepared club sandwiches, Rock sweeps up spilled flour and sugar into a dustpan. His conversational skills are sorely lacking, so any exchange is one-sided, but it turns out there was a particular point he's been thinking on, holding onto it from all the way back when she was washing up. "Are we in the same place?" he asks, the brusque nature of his tenor far from pleasant, "You sound pretty salty for someone who didn't want those friends."

It's not a subtle jab.

Why is she even unloading on him like this?

Whatever, there's things to finish if they're ever going to get out of here.

Feeling guilty, he pulls out a cracked phone from his pocket to send a message, wondering if Jae can sort the trash come the morning. Rock also sets up a few other arrangements, such as a room, and an apology to his guardian for not coming home. He again glances at the Korean fighter, as it has occurred every minute or so. Her leg looks bad. Will she be able to double on his bike? Another sigh, the Howard prodigy raking a hand through his blonde hair, mussing it thoroughly.

"You think I didn't want friends? Tch."

The medical kit has helped. She's used all of it, and demolished fully half of the club sandwich along the way. It's a good sandwich. Between getting the blood off her face and getting some food and drink into her, she's actually starting to feel more alive again. Like she might actually pull through this after all. Her leg is still in a lot of pain; it had taken the worst of the battle by far, if you excluded the ocular damage of course. Now she finds herself wondering... did he leave her for dead, or did he let her crawl away?

"No offence, Boy Scout, but Shadaloo makes your Dad's enterprise look like a picnic and support group. The softest person in the whole damn bunch is the psycho boxer, and he's still a lunatic who will kill anyone he's asked to for an extra fifty bucks. Or try to, anyway."

It was true. The only camaraderie to be found within Shadaloo was found within the Dolls, and that was because they'd had their souls ripped out and replaced with obedience to their Master. They'd never liked her, and she'd known she could never trust them, either. They were more pieces of Vega than their own independent beings. The perfected version of what he'd tried to make her into. Really, they were the newer models, and it was only her raw strength that had seen her maintain a place in the organisation rather than being branded obsolete.

Until she'd made her move, that is. All the power she'd had. It should have been enough. She should have been able to crush him like the worm he is. But no. Always one step ahead. As though he could read her like a book.

She shakes her head, looks down at the half-eaten sandwich in her hand, and then sighs, heavily.

"You should know, there's a risk to helping me. His people might come after you if they figure it out. Not to mention all the people I've pissed off who want me dead for even better reasons. If you know somewhere safe and quiet to stash me, that's probably better than leading a gang of the worst freaks and assassins right to your door."

Her voice is very quiet as she speaks. Maybe for the first time since she managed to get to that rooftop she's now really letting her mind run with the implications of what has happened to her. She'd spent years building up her little web of deception and intrigue, biding her time for the perfect moment to strike. It wasn't supposed to be like this. She was supposed to gobble the big-chin bastard up, bones and all. Instead...

Part of her is already wondering who it will be. The Dolls, maybe? That weirdo FANG? Balrog? She doubted it'd be Sagat or Vega himself. They'd both see it as beneath them, in very different ways, to hunt down wounded prey. But Balrog... oh, that smug son of a bitch would just love the excuse to try and take a slice out of her.

"I don't suppose you know any of your Dad's old hidey holes? Maybe we can make them think I've run into his arms, instead of yours. That'd be good."

'You think I didn't want friends?'

"Yeah, kinda."

As Rock remembers it, she set the tone during their previous meeting by turning up uninvited and attempting to murder not just him, but also his teammate. This doesn't even take into account the numerous others who were injured in that single targeted attack...

However, the blonde teenager hates that he gets it. The only child of the most noteworthy crime lord in all of Southtown, if Geese Howard doesn't already own practically everything in the city, it's damn near close. Rock knew of the assassins leisurely perusing the hallways of his childhood home, and there were mercenaries of questionable allegiances who would threaten to slit his throat for any perceived transgression.

Sometimes to reach one person, you need to go through the hundreds protecting them.

Juri's justification is irrelevant, whether it's for business or pleasure. It makes sense given his difficult upbringing...

But that does not mean Rock agrees.

One canine is sent driving into the full flesh of his lower lip as his mouth snarls. Any harder, the Howard scion would bite clean through. The silence he cultivates only exists because Rock would prefer to avoid rattling his resolve by reliving the past. Coldly though she put it, yes, he is alive, even quite well... for now.

And yet, he's still got zero tolerance for her shit.

It reddens Rock's cheeks to be so brazenly labelled a 'boy scout' directly to his face, but at least she has the audacity to say it once Juri has finished her munching, mulling, and mending, albeit not entirely in that sequential order. "You think I don't know that?" he snaps icily, "I was already thinking of somewhere else to take you..."

Pieces begin to gradually slide into place until the puzzle is completed.

"Oh, this is great. Just great."

If it hadn't angered him so much, the young prodigy may have flung back his head and laughed. He forms fists at his sides because he knows that this isn't the time to lose his composure. What could he possibly do with his rage, nonetheless? Terry explicitly taught him when it was appropriate to hit others, and punching walls is nothing more than a wasteful expenditure of energy... "Let me make this very clear, because it seems to me you were thinking you've struck gold," Rock inhales, the beat he takes enough to organise his thoughts. "It wasn't like some family fun night when that asshole threw me off a fucking tower. He disowned me when I was about twelve, and he occasionally shows up from time to time to remind me that I'm still considered property..."

"Human property doesn't get any rights," Rock sneers definitively, but not at her. An innocent teapot is chosen by the furious crimson gaze to visually dunk on. "Geese is an arrogant bastard who would assume he doesn't need a hideout, but I have no clue. I couldn't give a shit, either."

While the vast majority of his tantrum has been worked through, maintaining the tension his lean physique requires to stay mad is more energy than it's worth. The handsome American highschooler eventually adopts a relaxed slouch, shoulders hiking to shrug. "Would you rather that I drop you off on his doorstep? Because I can." Although he dares to hope she'd consider the offer, Rock can smell the money, and money talks. It appeals to him not at all, but $405,000 is not insignificant pocket change for turning over a single vulnerable Korean woman.

In good conscience, he wouldn't be able to let her go without reminding Juri that she still has her original plan. This physically sickens Rock, but it's the right thing to do... "I'm barely handling things on my own, but if you'd rather try your luck with me, I'll help you, for better or for worse."

"And if they kill me? At least it'd interfere with that man's fucking plans for a minute."

Maybe if she were in better condition, Juri would be able to see why it is she's pissed the guy off. As it is, though, she's left confused. Too caught up in her own pity party to really understand the root cause of Rock's. When he threatens to turn her over to his Dad for real, she sucks her teeth and closes her eye. Rolling the conversation back in her mind isn't easy. Everything just hurts too much for her to pay all that much attention the first time around. This was so much easier when the Feng Shui Engine helped to sharpen her senses and keep her focused; now the damn thing was just a constant source of buzzing static at the back of her brain. Not exactly helpful when trying to piece together a puzzle.

Ugh. Oh. Okay. She gets it now.

When she opens her eye again, the young woman's mouth is twisted into a displeased frown. The last thing she wanted was to feel any kind of actual empathy for the Boy Scout. She hadn't been lying when she'd said that they were nothing alike; but the more the bastard talks, the more it feels like the difference between the two of them is that his personal devil hadn't succeeded in ripping out his soul where hers very much had.

Disgusting. Why did he have to share all that with her? Wasn't he embarrassed? Tch. The last thing she needed was to start thinking of him as a human being.

"Okay, okay, calm down." She says, waving her hand in a vaguely placating way, "Nobody's going to fucking die. We're survivors. We're, better, than them." The word 'better' has never been spoken with such acid-laced venom before. She just needs to hold onto that. The deep-seated hatred at the core of her being for both her old boss and Rock's father; the disdain she has for the old men who run this disgusted, failed wreck of a world.

"I honestly don't know WHAT you know about who I used to work for. And obviously, my assumptions have pissed you off. So, let's just dial all that back."

Another deep breath and she looks down at the remaining half of the sandwich she hasn't yet eaten.

"Tell me more about the trouble you're in." She says, slowly. "The next 72 hours are going to be the key. My body should heal by then. If we can just stay ahead of the pack for that long, then... then we'll start to have options again."

God damnit. Here she was, thinking that whatever trouble the young Howard scion was dealing with would be some stupid high school drama or family squabbles. This just became a hundred times more complicated. But equally, she didn't have a lot of options here. She either rolled the dice with him, or she limped back off into Southtown and hoped Shadaloo's agents didn't spy her.

This absolutely had nothing to do with the fact that he, too, knew what it was like to be treated like a tool rather than a person.

Her fingers tighten on the box, and it takes a visible effort of will for her, but she holds the container out towards him, looking in the other direction as she does.

"And eat something, too. You're no good to me if you're hungry."

Well, it wasn't a threat, but if her heart's desire was to try the Southtown Syndicate, what grounds would there be to stop her beyond an antiquated sense of morality? He knows that the suggestion is undesirable, but since it's not for the reasons that Rock himself might think, he doesn't inquire as to why.

The uptight hedgehog of a young man acquiesces to the request despite her feeble attempts to placate him because of all she contains in that frown. Rock wasn't terribly agitated to begin with, and he is now less so. If the whole situation didn't require the bristly aspects of his personality in self-defence, he may have laughed out loud. Dial what back? Has Juri spent so long stroking her own ego and convincing herself that her shit doesn't stink that she's unable to read even an obvious open book?


However, what follows blindsides him, even more so than the initial shock of discovering the woman rooting through the bakery...

He's been given a wide berth to discuss issues of relevance.

"Look, they've always got an eye on me." 'They'? There's an inference that it's not just one, but multiple. Rock feels haunted by superstition, as if a name would summon its owner. He'd really hate to encounter Kain almost as much as the bastard who fathered him. "If YOU can't be recognised, I doubt anyone will care."

So, whether she appreciates the gesture or not, he's got a solution. Having retrieved his backpack earlier from the break room, the change of clothes the teenage prodigy would have worn home is removed, folded almost perfectly and freshly laundered like Rock Howard would make the best wife someday. He just keeps his things tidy, okay?

And makes delicious food.

Which, hey, the damaged femme fatale offers the remaining half of the sandwich that he had neglected, most likely due to being 'too busy'. Her gesture of good will, unspoiled by the turn of the head, is so remarkably human that Rock actually and honestly smiles. Not something overt or dazzling, but an unintentional subtle shift of his lips in a positive way. The expression lasts for a heartbeat when he realises what's happening, pushing back featherlight strands of blonde. After that, the look is neutral.

As with all the items from before, Juri receives the folded articles as they are set down, laid either on top of the medical kit or not, depending on where it's at. His other hand gently presses the reusable plastic container back into hers. "I'll have to stop for food if you need a couple of days to recover. Just eat; I can order something to go." Although Rock is guessing, he's quite convinced that her previous meal didn't occur in the last twelve hours. Don't worry about him.

Unwilling to assist with the bandaging, Rock is also not about to lift a finger to help Juri get dressed. She can have all the privacy she wants from the Howard scion, but he'd prefer to be uninvolved. The fairer sex makes him uncomfortable, yet her actions prior have led to a dissociation between the person and gender in this specific isolated incident. Possessing no desire to re-establish the connection, this is easier and risks less of his compassion once she's able to stab him in the back.

It's unfortunate that he can be trusted implicitly, but not the reverse.

It's probably for the best that Rock isn't seeing Juri as a woman in this moment. Whilst she is far from coy about her proclivities, Juri is a sadist. She likes inflicting pain. Taking it? That's the ultimate turn-off. Her mind honestly couldn't be further from romantic pursuits right now. In fact, she's having difficulty enough dissecting what the blonde is actually trying to get at with her. It's annoying. She's sure that ordinarily he'd be an open book. But everything feels more difficult to her right now, and that's probably not going to change any time soon.

"Fine." She says, stuffing the rest of the turkey sandwich into her mouth in a few wide bites. She discards the Tupperware and then picks up the clothing, regarding it sceptically. This is definitely not her style, and part of her wants to protest that. Even the stupid nurse disguise had at least had a bit of flare to it. This is just... boring.

But being boring is probably a good thing right now.

So the psychopath sighs and strips out of her clothing, with much wincing and groaning, and a vague effort made to ensure that Rock doesn't violate her dignity too much as she does so. The new disguise is at least convincing. There's not a soul on the planet who could look at the girl in the shapeless mass with the hood up and imagine that it is Juri Han under there. It's so unimaginably far from her usual, flamboyant, style.

"You can look again now." She says, as she slides back onto the counter so that she can take the weight off her injured leg. It's only been a matter of hours, but she's already so sick of this. It is like every movement is a tiny reminder of her failure; her weakness. If she'd been stronger she wouldn't be in pain. If she'd been better, she'd be on top of the world rather than crawling around in the gutter with all these worms.

But she'll get on top again. Oh yes.

"If they've got eyes on you, you need to pluck them out." She says, her voice low and perhaps a little more miserable than it was before. "But we can talk about that when I've recovered, maybe. The blood loss is making me emotional. Right now, I need to stay focused on the moment to moment, it's not the right time to go big picture."

Because the big picture she had been working on... well. That's mostly in tatters. But not entirely. It'd be easy to fall completely into despair, but if she focuses on the small victories she's still got something to hold on to. Rock IS helping her. She knows where to find the other people in the world who want to bring that smirking bastard down. If Vega did let her live, she's still got the tools she needs to make him regret that decision. She just needs to make sure she lives long enough to gather them all up.

I'm trying to picture Juri pursuing a romantic interest, but the thought does not compute. Although Rock is a kid with zero experience and a particular proclivity for avoiding women in most situations, in comparison to her, he's like Giacomo Casanova.

That's simply politeness on my part. I could get mean, but I won't.

He takes note of her reaction, the manner in which she accepts the articles offered, and an admonishment to the tune of looking a gift horse in the mouth battles its way to the backs of his teeth. However, Rock is astonished by having to swallow it, as he was never expecting the haughty prototype Doll to accept anything less than breaking himself to provide for her. Isn't it curious how far the once-mighty Juri has fallen!

She needn't suspect him of invading her privacy because during the initial stages of disrobing, the American teenager decides he's got better things to do. Rock leaves her to dress down, finishing the last of the work that he can before switching off the lights and locking the office. He returns with a stunning specimen of a sports bike, a CBR954RR FireBlade, but he doesn't wheel it directly into the room since there's not actually enough space to accommodate it.

In movies, here's where the dashing rogue would coyly toss his helmet to the lady of interest, but this is real life, so Rock respectfully delivers the headgear by hand. Crimson to match the prodigy's irises, a single white stripe runs from the visor to the rear, where a symbolic black star is airbrushed at the centre. The Wild Wolf's motif has clearly been adopted by his biggest fan.

Evident that the handsome youth hadn't planned to ride double today, there isn't a lecture brewing about putting safety first because Rock at least recognises the hypocrisy in doing so. Instead, he tries to communicate reason through his silence, pointedly staring at the hairstyle almost too bedraggled to be identifiable, but her microbangs are unable to adequately conceal enough of that face...

A face so well known, the highschooler would bet money he isn't the only person who'd recognise her.

"Put that on, too."

Arguments are dismissed with an eye roll, one so dramatic that it's a wonder he doesn't immediately lose consciousness. Gathering her last mess, the tupperware container returns to his bag. Rock considers just what he is supposed to do with the rag pile Juri abandoned? All of it is swiftly bundled into some plastic wrap and chucked inside the backpack to be dealt with later.

The irony of mothering a grown-ass adult is not lost on the Howard scion, and his sigh is of long-lasting suffering.


According to the tightness of his skin around the eyes, he's squinting, listening to the organisation of her thoughts while fastening padded straps across the broad width of his chest. Juri doesn't comprehend how that's all easier said than done. Rock lacks the requisite resources to reach them, among other things...

But at the end of it, wouldn't he be just the same?

Combing fingers through the featherlight strands of his sun-kissed hair, they settle back into stylish disarray. The young man checks his pockets for the essentials like his wallet, keys, and his phone before encouraging her to follow him to the motorcycle with a simple gesture. No, Rock won't be letting the assassin drive. Not in a million years, not ever. "Just... make sure you hold onto me, okay?"

Prototype Doll. Tch. As though the meek, empty husks that came after her could ever compare to Juri Han. It's a comparison she has had drawn for her multiple times, and it is one she has rejected just as frequently. Vega might flatter himself that he has iterated on the techniques used to empower her, but her current state is evidence enough that they were very different processes. She might not have come out on top in her battle with him, but it was HER battle. She was not a tool to be wielded by him, nor was she freed by the intervention of fate or the machinations of his own better half. She is who she has always been, who she will always be; she is her own monster, and she'll own that even if it is the very same fact that means Rock will never be able to trust her.

"My hero. Don't worry. I'll hold tight and I'll never let go."

There's an unpleasant sneer in Juri's voice as she takes in both the bike and the helmet, and finds them lacking. If SHE had a motorbike and a helmet, they'd both be MUCH cooler than that. But they were what her White Knight had to hand, and the fact is that she doesn't have either of those things. Or anything. So she can carp a little to show her distaste, but she's in no position to turn down the help. Nor does she kvetch about the necessity of hiding her face. For all her many and copious flaws, Juri is not an idiot. She has spent years working as an assassin; she knows how to spot and trail people. She also knows that if it is Balrog who is on their tail, it'll take more than a helmet and a change of clothes to turn that disgusting Spaniard off their scent. But now wasn't the time to think about that; most likely Vega would continue to underestimate her.

That was the way her life always went. People didn't take her seriously; they assumed that she was too young to be a threat, too inexperienced to know what she was doing, or too much a lackey of greater powers to see the bigger picture. They thought of her as impulsive, motivated by her instincts and transitory desires to indulge one appetite to the next as the whim arose. That was what let her weave her web to begin with.

And as she slides into place behind Rock on his oh-so-precious FireBlade, the woman takes a firm grip around his midsection. Rebuilding was going to be a pain in the ass. The first threads were going to be brittle and weak; it wouldn't take more than a wrongly-timed breath to break the strand that connected her to the Boy Scout...

... but she knew better than most that the strongest nets needed to be built strand by painstaking strand.

Log created on 02:07:07 08/13/2022 by Juri, and last modified on 16:03:50 08/24/2022.