I crept up the creaky stairs toward my apartment door. Walking on silent feet across the torn and yellowed carpet of the stairs. The hallway reeked of cigarettes and burnt foil. The scent became stronger as I passed certain doors. It burned my nose and I tried not to inhale too deeply, creeping up to my door.
I rested my hand on the gold doorknob of apartment twenty-one. The door was so thin it hardly offered protection from anything other than sight. Chipped green paint peeled and cracked down and a large dent curved the bottom left corner, making the door slightly difficult to close all the way.
I paused, taking a breath at my door. I didn’t need to look up to see my neighbor approaching his door as well. Apartment twenty-two. The scent of sweat and blood filled my nose as he breezed past me on silent feet, filling the space to my left. I knew I smelled the same, worse probably but now was not the time to care.
Only when I saw Arrow’s scarred hand rest on his own door knob did I dare look up at him. He looked down at me, his full lips a thin line, his thick dark eyebrows lowered into an intense stare. His eyes were hard but swam with questions that we both knew we didn’t have the time to voice right now. I offered him a soft smile and dipped my chin. He only dipped his chin back, throwing me a hard stare before breezing into his apartment on silent feet, the door clicking shut behind him. I knew what that look meant. Stick to the plan. So, I did.
I breezed into my own apartment, tugging the door shut behind me and immediately, I stripped the soiled clothes from my body. As they hit the floor I realized more dirt and blood had covered them than I thought. I tried not to gag at the crusted lumps of blood that clotted to my discarded shirt. I kicked it, so it folded in on itself and I couldn’t see it. Rushing to the bathroom I threw myself into the shower, quicker than I ever had, rinsed the dirt from my skin and my hair.
I still smelled of death and earth as I stepped out of the shower but my skin looked clean enough to fake. If all went according to plan, I wasn’t done getting dirty yet tonight. I glanced at the clock on my wall and rushed to clasp a bra around me and pull a white tank top over myself, the fabric becoming slightly see-through with the water still on my skin. I pulled on a pair of jeans and left my feet bare.
I strapped daggers around my middle and pulled a jacket over it. Just loose enough to hide the weapons and I stole one more glance at the clock.
My heart thundered in my throat and my hands turned slick. I grabbed the plastic cup from my counter and emptied a bottle of whiskey into it. With the cup in hand I dashed for my back door. I took a deep breath to steady myself as I whipped the door open and stumbled onto the balcony.
A low whistle came from my side and I grinned, sloppy and without restraint.
“How graceful, Summer.” Arrow teased from his balcony. I looked up at him through my lashes and smirked, wiping at the corner of my mouth.
“Always.” I scoffed, catching my foot on an uneven piece of wood as I walked to the edge of my balcony. Arrow leaned over the railing, a cup gripped in his fist. I could smell the tequila from here. The muscles in his arms shifted as he lifted his cup to his lips and took a drink. He blew out a dramatic breath and grinned at me.
“Looks like I have some catching up to do.” I mimicked his pose and leaned my forearms on the railing.
“Looks like you do.” I lifted the cup to my lips and pressed my tongue between my lips not letting a drop of alcohol through. “I thought you were supposed to meet me hours ago. Did you get caught up with something?”
“Someone.” He corrected, with a wink.
“Ah, does she have a name?” I tried to keep the bite out of my voice, I really did but even for show, the thought of him with someone else bothered me.
“Not one I remember.” He turned toward the stretch of trees below us and sighed. “But it seemed like you entertained yourself just fine in my absence.” I held my cup up to him and took another pretend drink. “You’re going to drink yourself sick, Summer.”
“This is my distraction.” Another drink. “Taking nameless women to your bed is yours.”
“Are you…Jealous?” He teased and I could tell part of the question was genuine despite our acting.
“Of you fucking your way through the city? Not particularly.”
“That’s not what it sounds like to me Summer.”
“Then get your hearing checked, Arrow, because that’s not what I’m saying.” I shot him a glare but his lips only curled into a smirk.
“So, it doesn’t bother you?” He asked, running his hand through his thick dark hair. I wanted to do the same with mine, a nervous habit but it was pulled into a braid down my back. Partially because it was so disgusting and I didn’t have time to wash it and partially because it would keep it out of my face.
I only scowled at Arrow. “Knowing that I was just fucking a random woman, wouldn’t bother you?” I rolled my eyes and pressed my cup to my lips, tempted to take a real drink. “Would it bother you knowing that I didn’t want to meet you at the time I said because I was too busy with my tongue between her thighs?” I ground my teeth together, attempting to keep my face neutral. I didn’t want him to know it bothered me. This is all make believe anyway. “Look at me, Summer.” He demanded. I only turned my head toward the trees, letting the scent of pine and earth waft toward me on a cool breeze. “Summer,” He taunted. “Look at me.” Without thinking about it, I turned to look at him. “Would it bother you, Summer? Knowing that I left you out here waiting for me because I was buried so deep inside someone that I forgot my own name?” My blood boiled and I knew it showed on my face. “What if I told you that she let me fu-”
“Would you be upset if I told you I got tired of waiting for you to show up on the balcony that I decided to call over a man?” His mouth paused half way open and he tilted his head at my words like he couldn’t comprehend them. “What if I told you that I was so desperate for someone that I didn’t even take my clothes all the way off or bring him to my room. I let him have me on my kitchen counter. Then again against the wall in my hallway.” A muscle ticked in his jaw and I saw that it bothered him. Something like triumph faced through my blood and I smiled at him. “What if I told you, Arrow, that he insisted I sit on-”
“Summer.” His voice was cautious.
“What is it bothering you, Arrow? Does it get under your sink to hear about-”
“Summer.” His voice had gone down to a lethal whisper. “I think someone is watching us.” The words sent a chill down my spine and our eyes snapped to meet each other. We knew what we had to do. What we were doing this for and all the tension from only a few seconds ago vanished.
As our eyes locked we didn’t need to speak to know we were thinking the same things. I counted down in my head, slowly setting my cup onto the railing. I wiggled my toes against the rough wood and my lips curved into a smile, mirroring Arrow’s.
My warped apartment door swung off it’s hinges, smacking the ground with a ground shaking thud. I held my eyes with his for another moment. Just long enough to take in everything about him and then I turned toward the railing and launched myself off it. Falling through the air, the cool fall air whipped at my skin, making my eyes water but I knew where my mark was and I knew how to hit it.
With expert skill, my legs wrapped around one of the assassins on the ground, waiting to hear of the victory from the ones sent to hunt us upstairs. A choked noise came from his throat and all the air rushed from his body but my hand had already grabbed his head, twisting his neck to an unnatural angle until it snapped. His body hadn’t hit the ground before I launched myself from his body, my feet landing flat in the moist soil. Most people would wear boots to run through the forest but I would rather feel it.
I dug my toes into the ground and launched into a sprint through the trees. I didn’t get two steps before I heard another unmistakeable crack of bones and a faint scent of blood and tequila. I didn’t need to look back to know Arrow was on my heels.
I howled into the wind as I ran. Freeing and full of life. I knew we had them. This job was as good as done. We trapped them. They were hired to kill us and us, them, we set a trap for them. The drunk friends on the balcony. Guards down, we were sitting ducks. Until we weren’t.
Arrows howl answered mine and my teeth froze against the wind as I grinned. We were nearing the clearing we had chosen. I scanned the area, taking note of the trees and when we passed the one I had marked with nothing other than a mental image, I flung my body again. Feeling every muscle shift and strain. Finally my hands gripped the bark of the tree branch, scraping at my already raw skin. I didn’t give myself time to think, I wrapped my legs around the branch and flung my body into the tree, crouching silently.
I sucked in lungfuls of air, clearing my head before the fight. The sounds of footsteps against wet soil crept in around us. There were more than we thought. But there was nothing we could do about it now. We had to act now.
As soon as the first bodies appeared in the clearing we unleashed ourselves upon them. I could only hear the hissing of Arrow’s blade and scent when I stepped where he had already been but I never saw him. Not truly, as we filled the clearing with lifeless bodies. We slaughtered through the ranks that had been sent to retrieve our heads. When finally no one else came for me, I lifted my blade in the air, waiting for the last person but there were no more.
I took a step back, my muddy heel catching on the back of Arrow’s shoe as we stood back to back, waiting for any more hidden assassins to jump out of the woods.
I felt Arrow shift behind me but I still didn’t drop my position. Not until a hand appeared over my shoulder offering a lit cigarette to me. The hand was caked in blood and dirt and I was grateful for it when my own reached out looking the same.
Inhaling the thick smoke into my lungs, I let it steady my breathing. Slow inhales and exhales, examining the bodies we had torn apart.
“Good job, Summer.” This broke me out of my fog and i turned around the look at Arrow. He gave me a half-hearted smile and I returned it.
“Back at you.” We walked over to a tree branch that had fallen and sat down on it. My legs were sore and ached with every movement. I could already tell my feet were torn apart, even through the mud caked onto them but I couldn’t feel it yet. Not with this amount of adrenaline.
“Well, we finished the job.”
“We did.” I inhaled another lungful of smoke. “It’s almost too easy at this point.”
“Still a rush.”
“It is.” I paused and the quiet seemed to fill my head. “It’s just that-” I cut myself off with a sigh. “Don’t you wish you were good at something else?”
“Like what? Painting?”
“No just-” I groaned “Don’t you ever wish that you did something good for the world? I don’t know. Sometimes I just feel like my only purpose is to kill people-” I didn’t finish that thought either.
“I know what you mean.” He bumped my shoulder with his own. “But if it’s any consolation, we are the good guys.”
“Do we only think we’re the good guys because we are on our own side?” He thought about it for a minute, staring up at the canopy of trees.
“No.” He shook his head. “I think we are the good guys because the people we are hired to kill hurt people.”
“But then we kill them?”
“We aren’t murdering innocent people, Summer.”
“I know.” I ran my bloody hands down my face and sighed. “Sometimes I just think I’m too used to it. I don’t want to forget where to draw the line.”
“How do you know that?”
His fingers gripped the underside of my chin and he tugged my face toward him. Reluctantly, I looked over.
“Because you are a good person, Summer. The best I’ve ever met.” His eyes were full of nothing but truth and I sighed. I opened my mouth to respond but he leaned down pressing his lips softly to mine. His mouth was warm and soft and tasted good despite the faint taste of blood on our lips. He pulled back slightly and stared at me, a question that he didn’t dare voice, in his eyes. I answered by pressing my mouth to his again.
Arrow’s thumb brushed over my cheek as he pulled back again. Staring at me with a softness that was never in the eyes of a killer. His mouth quirked up at the side and he whispered.
“Summer?” My only response was a slight dip of my chin. “Someone’s watching.” Our smiles were predatory as we awaited our next kills.