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Love Among the Assassins

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For the life of her, Sara couldn’t remember his name. There was a figure of 800,000 in the local currency (about 10,000 dollars), gathered together by multiple people. Paid in to the League as the cost for dealing with an American businessman who’d arrived a year ago, and begun slave-mining resources, paying off officials and getting away with anything.

It was nothing big, something almost anyone in the League could handle. Still, Nyssa liked to keep in practise, and this was the only one available.

Though it was certainly something she could manage alone, and manage easily, there was no reason she couldn’t enjoy herself during: so where Nyssa went, so did Sara. It was, Sara reflected, a fairly twisted kind of date.

“He suspects people are after him,” Nyssa said, sitting in the shade of a tree, beside Sara.

For the moment, they weren’t in their typical assassin uniform. First step was always reconnaissance: learn the area, spot entrances and exits. Nyssa in a red dress, Sara in a pale blue shirt and jeans, both in leather jackets. Every inch a normal couple.

They sat outside their target’s mansion, playing at relaxing, chatting amiably, while scanning the place they’d soon have to break into.

Sara nodded. “I see them,” she said, answering Nyssa’s unspoken statement.

There was no need to elaborate on every thought. The target knew people were after him: obvious, from the guards hanging around doorways, and the plainclothes people taking oddly circuitous routes around the mansion. Hired guards.

He was afraid. Still, those guards were probably a waste of money.

“Not very good, are they?” Sara said. Her trained eyes could see several dozen possible entrances, none of which bore any indication of being watched.

“Amateurs,” Nyssa said, matter-of-factly. “It’s not really a surprise, they usually are. Which entrance do you want to go for?”

Sara tilted her head, thoughtfully regarding the place. There were plenty of possible entrances: one only needed to scale a couple of walls to make it to the roof, and smash through the skylight. No one was watching there: and generally speaking, skylights lead to rooms likely to be occupied by the homeowners.

No fun in taking the easy route, though.

The mansion was in the middle of a decent-sized garden, that formed a ring around the house itself. It wasn’t a huge garden, ten/twenty metres or so, but it was enough that it would be hard to cross unimpeded, if spotted.

Around the garden, there was a wall about twice the height of human: the only exception to that rule being along the front, where it was lowered to waist-height to allow people to look, and the gate at the front.

So the front was the easy entrance.

“For me,” Sara said, “Over the back wall, around the garden, in through the front door.”

Probably one of the harder routes. Would no doubt be spotted scaling the wall, then would have to fight off a few guards. Then head all the way around the house, and take the obvious route.

“Fun,” Nyssa said, smiling. “Think I’ll take the same. You go around the left, I’ll take the right?”

“It’s a plan,” Sara said. She squeezed Nyssa’s hand, smiling.

She felt the same thing, each time they prepared for a mission. A heady mix of excitement, and anticipation. There used to be fear, or at least more fear, but that was replaced by mild wariness. She knew not to become complacent.

In Nanda Parbat, there was a garden named Complacency. It was the cemetery.

“Next question,” Sara said, “Night, or now?”

“Dawn,” Nyssa said. “Cover of night for the kill, light if we stay around. Sound good?”

Sara nodded, and smiled.

A few more minutes sitting in place, idly observing the mansion. Without even sharing a word, they stood up as one, when they each decided there was no more to be gained from observation.

A few hours until they’d break in. Night was beginning to fall, and the nights were short in the season. Until then, they’d wait.

The League had booked them a hotel room, under a false name of course. It was a place to wait, to plan, and to prepare. They did enjoy their privacy.

When dawn neared, they changed. They’d only brought one case between them, within it being a handful of changes of clothes, the outfit preferred by League assassins, and a small arsenal of weaponry. Nyssa picked a bow and quiver, Sara her preferred bo-staff.

In these lands, the League was better known than it was elsewhere. Even if there was no official knowledge, people knew enough to recognize the distinctive outfits of a member of the League of Assassins. Sara and Nyssa walked, side-by-side down empty streets, and doors locked and windows shut around them.

“What’re we doing, after?” Sara said, conversationally. “Heading straight back, or is there anything you want to see or do here?”

“A few things,” Nyssa said. She glanced sideways: smiled beneath the cloth that covered most of her face. “You’re used to wining and dining, are you not? We may not have the best facilities for it, back in Nanda Parbat, but there’s no harm in getting something while we’re here.”

They walked past the side of the garden walls, turning a corner, heading to the back. Sara nodded, smiled; and realizing that her expression couldn’t be seen below her veil, “Thank you.”

“Anything for you,” Nyssa said, only slightly playfully.

Without a word more, each leapt, effortlessly scaling the otherwise flat wall, and landing at the back of the garden. A shared glance: then they moved apart from each other, melting into the shadows and slipping around the grand mansion.

Each were spotted as vague movements. Before any of the countless guards could react, however, they were too close. The best managed to get one or two blows in, each one blocked.

Under a minute later, Sara reached the front door of the mansion, only slightly out of breath. Nyssa was already there, resting one hand on the doorway, giving every indication of having been there a while. Or at least, a few seconds, taking the opportunity to tease Sara.

“Shell we enter?” Nyssa spoke, playful.

“Surprised you haven’t already,” Sara said. “Waiting for me to carry you over the threshold?”

“The other way around, I’m sure,” Nyssa pulled her bow off her back, and held it to her side, ready to use it.

“I don’t think so,” Sara said. “It’s the one that wears the dress, who gets carried, right? I stick to jeans.”

“Or it’s the one in white,” Nyssa said. “I’ve seen that wig you play around with. Close enough.”

“A wig isn’t a dress,” a smile.

“And a dress isn’t a wedding dress,” Nyssa said. “How about, I’m the stronger one, so I can actually carry you?”

“I’m not that heavy,” a chuckle. “Know you’re not, either.”

“How about this?” Nyssa tilted her head. “Whoever neutralizes the most in there gets to do the carrying.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Sara said. She smiled, despite knowing Nyssa was more practised at this.

“Last thing, spotted a wine cellar through a window. If you end up going in there, try not to break any of the good stuff.”

“Got it,” Sara said, and grinned again. “Sure you don’t want me to carry you over the threshold?”

“Fortunately, I think I can manage myself.”

It was Nyssa who kicked the door in, firing arrows to deal with the by-now aware guards at a distance. Sara wielded her staff expertly, taking care of anyone nearby, stragglers, or occasionally jabbing at any who neared Nyssa, from a distance.

There was something exhilarating about this. The teamwork, the exertion (however slight), the sense of actually achieving something.

She knew Nyssa felt the same. She was the one who’d introduced Sara to the feeling. The rush, soon untainted by fear, and the sheer enjoyment.

Of course, it was more fun when the guards could last more than a few seconds. Then they could work together properly, switch targets; put them off guard, and just work together properly. As it was, Sara was beginning to feel she had just to walk down the hall for them to fall, dead of unconscious.

The entry hall was clear, as were corridors, and countless grand rooms. Nyssa had been the one to peer into the wine cellar, only finding one person hiding there, and shooting them through an empty wine rack.

“Found him,” Nyssa called, peering into one of the many bedrooms. A moment later, and Sara was at her side.

The businessman, their target. One of the easier kills too: less practised than Nyssa, Sara still sometime struggled when the target was someone she personally might have liked. This one, however, was positively loathsome.

Even beyond the stories told, she could see him, quaking beneath the bed-sheets. He was obviously going to beg for mercy: a plea somewhat ruined by the visible bulge of a weapon beneath the sheet.

“P-please,” he began. Nyssa rolled her eyes, and fired one arrow at his hand: he cried out, certainly unable to wield the gun now. Eyes wide, he shuffled away, pressed himself against the wall, as if he could fall through it. “Who- who are you?”

Sara regarded him, somewhat dispassionately. Once, she’d been frightened like that. Shaking, barely able to talk. No longer.

“Nyssa,” Nyssa spoke, “Heir to the demon.”

She smiled, and the target’s eyes widened further. Then Nyssa stepped aside, silently allowing Sara the kill. It was a strange kind of gift, but a gift nonetheless. Sara knew she still needed more practise; more than once, she’d hesitated at taking a life. She couldn’t afford that.

“Ta-er al-Asfer,” Sara spoke, using her League name, identifying herself to the target. Then, a sideways smile to Nyssa: “In-law to the demon.”

In one fluid motion, Sara reached sideways, plucked an arrow from Nyssa’s quiver, and threw it hard enough to pierce the target’s throat. One last convulsion, a failed gasp, and it was done.

A moment of silence, of tension.

Sara had to wonder when she’d become so comfortable taking a life. Once, she’d never have considered it. Now it was casual: if not as easy as breathing, then getting close to it.

Then Nyssa exhaled, and lowered the cloth over her mouth. “Nice throw,” she said, remarkably conversationally.

“Thanks,” Sara said, lowering her own veil. Nyssa chuckled.

“In-law to the demon, though?” she said. Sara smiled.

“Technically,” a shrug, “What about ‘heir to the demon’?”

“It’s true.”

“Sure, but you always say that,” Sara sat on a table, not bothered by the corpse. “Every time you meet someone.”

A shrug. “How many did you get?” Nyssa said.

“Fourteen,” Sara said. “Fifteen including him.”

“Fifteen too here,” Nyssa said. “Nicely done. As I gave you the last though, let’s say that only counts as half. I-”

Mid-sentence, Sara reaches across, pulling back Nyssa’s bow and quickly aiming and firing a shot through the open doorway. A cry, as one of the last guards fell back.

“Sixteen,” Sara said, smiling. “Fifteen and a half. Still one better.”

Nyssa shook her head, muttering a playful insult, and laughing. Not many people could claim they’d beaten Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, even in such a light-hearted contest.

“You win,” she said, leaning down to kiss Sara, before sitting beside her on the table. “Want a drink? I saw a good vintage.”

Sara nodded; Nyssa briefly left. After a few seconds, Sara left the room, not as used to dead bodies as Nyssa seemed to be.

Just as she was about to move to the next bedroom across, there was a noise from downstairs. Probably a handful more guards. Sara didn’t worry about Nyssa, knowing she could take care of herself, but she didn’t want to fall behind in their mini-contest.

Leaping over the banisters, Sara landed, to see Nyssa holding two wine-glasses by their stems, between her fingers, in one hand. In the other, she held a bottle of what looked like red wine. Holding them aloft, she seemed to have just disarmed two guards with well-placed kicks.

As she kicked one unconscious, Sara swung her staff at the second. A thud, and they crumpled.

“No getting ahead,” Sara said, not quite out of breath.

“No falling behind,” Nyssa said, before throwing the wine bottle to Sara. “Saw a balcony upstairs. Want to watch the sunrise?”

It was almost impressive, Sara reflected as she caught the bottle, how quickly Nyssa could go from cold-blooded killer to girlfriend thinking up dates. Then again, it was almost a necessity: work at the League didn’t exactly give priority to love lives.

Still, they’d found a way, and kept on finding ways. The dead would hardly miss their wine, so neither of them was especially adverse to pouring themselves a drink at the target’s expense.

Nyssa came down hard on grave-robbers, as Sara had learnt long ago. She only took consumables; never trinkets, or memorabilia. Families, friends might want them, even if a lot of the targets weren’t the sort to have such people.

Who’d miss a couple of glasses of red though?

Once on the balcony, Nyssa poured two glasses, and sat on a fold-up chair, beside Sara. It was still night, though neither of them really noticed the cold.

Slowly, the sun began to peek over the horizon. It was an oddly calming sight, after all that had happened.

Slowly, more of the city came into view, the first red rays illuminating it. The two assassins relaxed, and watched. If there were any guards still in the mansion, they were keeping their distance. Unsurprising.

Sara sipped at her mind, feeling the adrenaline rush of the kill dissipate, bit by bit. That was something else she’d yet to get used to; from what she’d gathered form Nyssa, she seemed to get a rush far, far less. She was used to all this.

“Beautiful,” Sara said, softly.

She looked, briefly, sideways. Nyssa had almost finished her glass, as she bathed in the crimson light. Nyssa shifted on her chair, pulling her hood back, and shaking her dark hair free.

Sara echoed the action, pulling her blonde hair around, over her shoulder. Nyssa turned to her, the smile on her face genuine, and fond. Rare, also, from what Sara had gathered. Apparently Nyssa smiled for few people; Sara felt privileged to be one of those few.

“I prefer the sunset,” Nyssa said.

She put her now-empty wineglass on the stone floor of the balcony. Sara finished hers, and paused.

“Refill?” she said, gesturing to the bottle. It was still just over halfway full.

“I’d prefer to keep full command of my senses,” Nyssa said.

“Big bad heir to the demon can’t hold her alcohol?” Sara said, teasing.

“I could,” Nyssa said. “It’s better to be certain.”

“You can look after me, then,” Sara said, pouring herself a second glass. “If I pass out, you get to carry me over the threshold after all.”

Nyssa chuckled; Sara put the bottle down, the idly knocked it onto its side, and let it roll back into the house.

She wouldn’t want more than a second glass, either. After all, she’d had the same training as Nyssa: even with her resistance to drunkenness from years and years back in Starling City, she didn’t want anything to cloud her judgement, however slightly.

Three glasses between them would do nothing notable, however.

“Sho,” Sara slurred her words rather dramatically, “Why’sh yoush prefer the shunshet?”

Nyssa raised her eyebrows, somewhat incredulous. Sara laughed.

“Kidding,” a smile. “Still sober here. Why’d you prefer the sunset, though? Rises are meant to be the more romantic.”

“They end in darkness,” Nyssa said. “A far more comforting finish than the sunrise.”

Quiet, for a moment. Sara’s gaze left Nyssa, returning to the increasing light, the flare of white setting the line of sky above the horizon aflame. It might not be as spectacular as the sunsets Nyssa seemed to prefer, but it certainly was enough to take Sara’s breath away.

“This is good too though, right?” Sara said. She sipped from her glass.

“Unquestionably,” Nyssa said.

An exhalation. Sara shifted in her seat, relaxed. The rush had all but gone completely, now. There was a buzz that might have been its aftereffects, or might have been the alcohol. That was all.

“What time’s the plane back?” Sara said.

“So eager to leave,” Nyssa said. Sara shook her head.

“Just want to know how much time we have here. Away from the League.”

“We’re never away,” Nyssa said: a pause. “The flight leaves at three, in the afternoon. We’ll be alone until then.”

Half a day more together. Then back to Nanda Parbat, and training, and everything else the hidden city that the League called home entailed. Sara sighed; then altered her expression. She wouldn’t let the future ruin the now.

It wasn’t that she disliked the city. She couldn’t: it was the only place she could call home, now. It was just, her time stopped being her own, there.

Not wanting to stare at the sunrise any longer, Sara turn, and found Nyssa’s eyes fixed firmly on her. She smiled; drank half the wine remaining.

“You’re staring,” Sara said.

Her tone was playful; Nyssa noticed. A smirk. She didn’t seem at all distracted by the array of shades as the sun rose in the distance; only in the sights that light illuminated.

“Ta-er a-Asfer,” Nyssa spoke. Whispered.

Canary. As always, when Nyssa said her new name, Sara shivered. A sip of wine, and she put down her empty glass.

“There’s not much point in sitting out for the sunrise if you’re not going to look at it,” Sara said. She couldn’t complain though; she did love it when Nyssa wore that smirk.

“My yellow bird,” Nyssa said. “You are a far more beautiful sight.”