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beautiful and afraid of nothing

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Éponine is good at this, and Cosette is always a little surprised at just how good, at how she knows just how to toss her hair over her shoulder, just how to tug self-consciously on the hem of a sparkly little dress, just how cheap to buy her lipstick so it leaves red smears on the glass of her drinks that draws attention away from how much alcohol is still in them.

It's why she's the bait.

Tonight, the target is a man left over from an eighties company policy video, ill-fitting suit with shoulder pads and combover and a briefcase that he obviously doesn't need at the hotel bar, but which he must think marks him off as important. And he is important, or Éponine wouldn't be on the stool next to him, not looking at him but with her neck temptingly bared so he can see the long clean lines of it.

Cosette times it out almost to the exact moment that the man taps Éponine on the shoulder. He asks what she's drinking, she says something flirtatious and biting, something to put him off and draw him in at the same time (Cosette doesn't ask how she got so good at this game; if she knew the answers, she would have to—well, they have other things to be doing, more important work, so Cosette doesn't ask about the fifteen years they were out of contact). He fumes for three minutes, comes in again. Éponine graciously lets him order her a drink this time, and when it comes, she sips daintily and offers it to him, try it, you can't mean you haven't tried this kind of rum? It's so smooth, goes down so easy.

A man like this, he doesn't think Éponine really wants him, and Éponine knows it, plays up wanting his power, maybe, or his money. A night and a reward following that. The kind of games rich men play, and the kinds of games they think girls do.

I have a room upstairs, he's saying now, leaning into Éponine like he's telling a secret. Do you want to get out of here?

Éponine laughs, loud enough for Cosette to hear over in her corner, where she's drinking white wine instead of whiskey and blushing and stammering out denials whenever anyone offers to buy her a drink. I'm not that easy, she'll be saying, as she scoots in close, makes her hair a curtain between them and the rest of the room, so if he's smart enough to have a bodyguard (he isn't, or Cosette would be stumbling and dumping her drink in his lap and apologizing wide-eyed by now) nobody can read their lips. I'm not that easy, you'll have to tell me all of your secrets to get me up there.

They always tell Éponine their secrets like they won't tell Cosette, because Cosette looks too sweet and they worry they'll horrify her. They tell Éponine because they think they'll impress her.

It's another ten minutes before Éponine has the man just where she wants him, before he asks again, proprietary hand around her waist, if she'll come upstairs with him.

And this is where Éponine leans in, hand on his thigh while she imparts a secret: You see, I have a friend here with me, my best friend. Her voice will get quiet and breathy. She does it sometimes for Cosette to make her laugh. Here's where the targets always frown and lean back, and here's where Éponine will take him by the chin and open him up to the room again, turn his gaze over to Cosette in her corner. Cosette, like always, starts a little, and then she bites her lip, ducks her head, smooths down the unwrinkled cloth of the pretty blue sundress, makes herself the perfect foil to Éponine. My best friend is here, and well, she's a little shy, but we do everything together, Éponine is saying, purring.

This is where the target dies, and he doesn't even know it.

Cosette comes over when Éponine beckons, leaving her wine on the table and grabbing her purse. Her hand slips into Éponine's like a puzzle piece, and Éponine tugs her down until they're sharing a barstool, acting tipsier than she really is. Cosette gives the target her sweetest, shyest smile. “Are you—sorry, um, Éponine doesn't always … it's good to meet you.”

If he was dazzled by Éponine he's enchanted by Cosette. This kind of man always is. They never dare to approach her on their own, but when Éponine practically wraps her up as a present it turns them into wolves. “It's a pleasure, miss.” And now he remembers the last gasp of his chivalry, brought on by Cosette's little kitten heels and pink lip gloss. “Are you sure that you're ...”

They know how to soothe these qualms by now. It's as easy as Éponine brushing Cosette's hair away from her neck and giving her a filthy, tongue-filled kiss there, Cosette playing up her reaction, letting her head tip back, her eyelashes flutter, her hand clench on the arm of the target's jacket. “I'm sure,” she says when Éponine finishes, and then she ducks her head.

“I think that means it's time to go,” says Éponine, with a smile that's almost too sharp.

They're all quiet as he settles the bar tab and asks for a bottle of their very nicest red to be sent up to his room in two hours. If he weren't the kind of man who paints a target on his back, maybe he would be asking more about them than that they're young and seemingly willing, or he would be confirming their consent, asking what they like to do. Once or twice, a target has done that (it makes Éponine flinch, but never Cosette. Cosette only flinches when they cry), but she already knew this one wouldn't.

In the elevator, Cosette kisses the target. He stinks of alcohol and of that certain kind of expensive cologne that all smells the same even if it's custom-made. He's clumsy and his mouth is too-wet and Cosette sighs into it anyway, her arms coming around his neck while Éponine kisses at her shoulder from behind. They kiss their way through the ride, and then in the hallway upstairs (rich red carpet, cream walls, the picture of a hundred thousand ostentatiously fancy hotels) Éponine slams the target against the wall, takes his mouth and ravages it, until he must be so hard that he can't think at all. It's their job to make sure he isn't suspicious at all.

Éponine filches the keycard from his pocket, a maneuver Cosette can't cure her of, and she's the one to let them into the room when they get there. It isn't the penthouse, even though he could easily afford it, but it is nice, and the bed is big enough for all three of them.

They know the game here as well: Éponine making jokes about the minibar and then sprawling on the bed with her skirt rucked up around her hips, making little happy noises at the thread count of the sheets (their second time, Cosette pinned her against a wall afterwards, told her she couldn't make the noises she really makes when she's having sex or Cosette will never be able to think during a job, so the noises now are ones Cosette can handle. They're work noises), Cosette twisting her hands in front of her, making aborted reaches for the zipper of her dress while she talks about internships and both of them pretend Éponine isn't turning them on.

And always, always, the target breaks first. Always says “Sweetheart, let me help you with your dress” to Cosette, always undoes the zipper like it's an honor, always pretends he isn't turned on by the plain white cotton of her underwear, always undresses her while she moves pliantly and lets her breath catch and shudder. They're all the same man, or might as well be.

“Come to bed,” says Éponine.

They always start with Éponine. Boring, boring. They like Cosette naked, all pale skin and angel hair and doe eyes, but they like to try to take Éponine apart, take the mocking look out of her eyes. This one pushes up her skirt and has the courage to rip her panties off her, and Cosette is the one to press a condom into his hand. As though Éponine will just let him fuck her, as easy as that.

Sure enough, Éponine pushes him over to his back, strips him carelessly out of his expensive suit. She whispers something in his ear, one of three things. When the target moves his thumb over Éponine's mouth and then looks at Cosette's, it's clear which one Éponine's chosen for tonight.

Cosette takes the condom back and fumbles the packet open. It takes more concentration to be bad at it, but that's the part she plays. “I should put this on you—you don't mind, do you?” He shakes his head, struck dumb, and Cosette lets her hair fall forward to cover her face while she does it. His version of hard isn't very hard. No wonder Éponine decided to blow him instead of fucking him. When the condom is on and her expression is schooled, Cosette looks back up the bed, where Éponine is licking a playful path down the target's chest. “I haven't done this very much,” she whispers, almost apologetic, and oh yes, they always like this too. “Éponine has told me I should get better, you don't mind if she teaches me a little, do you?”

“Not at all,” he says, dazed, mouth open, so stupid. Cosette almost wants to let him live another day just to see how he thinks he'll pay them back for making him feel important tonight, but it's bound to be something boring (pretty clothes, pretty jewelry, pretty credit cards, Cosette doesn't care for any of that).

Éponine comes down to join her, to give her an open-mouthed, showy kiss. Not too much tongue, not too much passion. They're teasing him, they can't be here just for each other. He likes it, though, and Cosette dares a soft little nip to Éponine's lip, a promise for later. “Teach me,” she says in a whisper that isn't a whisper but will sound like it to the target.

“Here, like this,” says Éponine, a deliberate tease, and licks at his cock. Cosette mirrors her action on the other side, makes sure it seems hesitant, makes sure she wrinkles her nose a little at the familiar taste of latex. Éponine keeps showing her, and Cosette keeps following, their tongues slipping and meeting, lips touching around his cock. He gasps, he clutches the sheets. He holds Éponine down but won't do the same thing to Cosette, and Cosette plays at arousal. “Try to put it all in your mouth, sweetie,” says Éponine.

Cosette gives it a doubtful look and doesn't laugh. “It's a little big,” she says, soft and embarrassed and little-girl sweet.

“Just try,” says Éponine, and Cosette does, makes a point of only getting halfway before pulling off. He looks like she's torturing him. “Fine, I'll do it,” says Éponine, and she does, makes a point of taking him the whole way.

They take turns until the condom is slippery with their spit, and until it seems like he can't stand just sitting back any longer. These men have too much pride for that, the middle-aged ones. The young ones are happy enough to lay back and get their cocks sucked, but they're harder to fool. “Will you fuck me?” Cosette asks before he has to ask. It's best never to make them ask, it's best to look prettily up through her lashes so they think she wants to be taught. “Please?”

“Of course.” He's stupidly, incongruously courtly. He puts her on her back like they always do. He caresses her sides and her breasts like they always do. He lets Éponine kiss her. They always let her do that much. He fucks her, and she pretends ecstasy, she pretends discomfort, she pretends everything he wants from her until he comes faster than he would ever admit he would and pulls out of her, telling her sweetly that she did well and looking around like he's not sure what to do about Éponine now that he's so generously bestowed his orgasm on Cosette.

Cosette extracts herself while he's at loose ends, murmuring excuses about needing to clean up. She goes to her purse instead. She always carries the bigger purse, and that's for a reason. Right now, Éponine will be whispering to him again while he reclines, post-coital, and wonders if he'll have to eat Éponine out for chivalry's sake. You never told me all your secrets, only a very few, Éponine will be saying. That isn't very fair, now is it? And he'll say something off-putting, something condescending—there, there's the low murmur of his voice, and Cosette takes out their favorite knives, hiding them behind her back like a surprise present. “Well then,” Éponine says, no longer bothering to whisper, voice cool and sharp. “It's a good thing I already know all of them, isn't it?”

This one is too stupid to even be alarmed as Cosette falls into the movements of this well-practiced dance. He only looks up in stupid, surprised betrayal when Cosette slides her knife through his ribs, spearing his heart because she knows this, she knows this better than anything, and she watches his eyes (already unfocusing, already drifting away) catch the flash of silver as Éponine's knife arcs through the air, and then Éponine is sitting up, slitting his throat as easy as breathing, raising a pillow against the arterial spray.

Cosette's palms are bloody when she lifts them from his chest, and Éponine reaches across the body to draw her close, to give her a kiss that's just for them, all the passion and none of the teasing, all the love they can't have when they're putting on a show. Cosette leaves handprints on Éponine's dress, but that's why Éponine wears red.

“We have another hour or so before the wine is delivered,” says Cosette, breathing the words into her mouth. “That's time to clean up and get out with a little time to spare as well.”

“Pity, this one actually had good taste in wine.” Éponine climbs off the bed, and Cosette follows. Neither of them wants the target in the middle, and Cosette grabs Éponine close to kiss her again, to have everything they can't have when they're killing men who deserve it. “How much time is a little time to spare?” Éponine asks when they separate.

“Enough,” says Cosette, and pulls her down to the floor. “We can still be in Prague by tomorrow night. A few weeks off, maybe?”

“A few weeks off,” Éponine agrees, and slides her leg between Cosette's to let her ride it fast and frantic and wanting it forever, wanting her like she'll never want anyone else. Cosette comes with a whisper of Éponine's name on her lips, and she offers her leg in return, her hands still too dirty to be much use. Éponine comes easy, always does after they've killed someone, but she's still the first to recover, to stand up and get their supplies out of Cosette's purse.

They clean up with the ease of practice, and Cosette takes Éponine's arm as they leave, in no hurry despite the fact that they're sure to be on some security footage somewhere. They're good at this, after all.