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paranoia hits you heavy like a shot

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Surreptitiously, Sara adjusts her jacket to make sure the holster holding her gun is securely hidden as she follows Helena back into the ballroom. Her long purple dress sweeps across the marble floor as she walks a tad too swiftly, still drummed up on adrenaline.

"Grace and elegance," Sara murmurs into her mic just to annoy her and, sure enough, Helena turns to give her a dark look.

"Shut up or you'll be the one in the cocktail dress next time," Helena hisses. She grabs a champagne flute of the nearest tray, takes a sip, and carefully wipes the rim of the glass clean of purple lipstick and DNA with her gloved thumb.

Helena Bertinelli, aka the Huntress, is a very scary woman, but that is a threat Sara knows she will never make true on. Of the two of them, Helena is the one brought up among in money and excess, who can pull on a dress and heels and sweep through any party or gathering without raising the slightest suspicion or eyebrow whether she has an invite or not. Sara lacks the skill to make small-talk, to switch seamlessly between commanding a room and blending into the background, to move as if she belongs regardless of the crowd she's in, and so she plays the part of the bodyguard to Helena's influential heiress.

With the job done, Sara is slowly beginning to unwind. The mission is not yet complete obviously - it is always a wager between leaving too early and raise suspicion and over-staying long enough for the body to be found - but having the kill done and over with brings its own relief.

"Miss Raatko," Helena says suddenly with a blinding smile, snagging the attention of a dark-haired woman passing by.

The woman returns the smile. "Miss Bertinelli." She nods politely at Sara and their eyes catch and hold, Miss Raatko's smile transforming into an outright grin as Sara stares dumbly and time stretches endlessly around them.

"A pleasure to meet you," Miss Raatko says to Helena, eyes still on Sara and in the corner of her vision, Sara sees an amused leer spread across Helena's face and she thinks, fuck.

"How long have the two of you been married?"

Without even turning her head, Sara knows that Nyssa is looking to her, expecting the her to answer. She is usually the one who forgets, who misses anniversaries and buys birthday and Christmas presents at the absolute last minute.

Sara doesn't recall the exact date, it is true, but she does remember when they met. What is etched in her memory from that day is Nyssa. She was wearing red, her ebony hair falling loosely around her shoulders, framing her lovely face. Her dark eyes had followed Sara's every move and she had had an aggressive elegance in the way she had leaned in closer to Sara, close enough for Sara to breathe in her intoxicating scent, and placed a hand on her arm in an clear invitation. Sara remembers how the deep red lipstick on her lips had looked against her skin and how it was later smeared and smudged all over Sara's neck and mouth, how it had tasted on her tongue.

"Five years," she says, shifting a little in her seat. The ugly yellow upholstery is unwieldy and scratchy beneath her palms and her jeans make a faint rasping sound as she moves.

"And why are you here?" The counselor’s voice is cool and collected, smooth like glass, and something about it ticks Sara off. She knows it's her - knows that she's the one ruining this marriage, that she is destroying the best thing that's ever happened to her - and that marriage counseling will do squat to fix what's wrong. She has had enough of pretending at this point, but there is no turning back.

"To reconnect," Nyssa says. "I think both of us have lost sight of why we are doing this."

The counselor nods. "That is not unusual after a few years together," she says. "Everyday life sets in after a while and as a result your romantic life begins to suffer. When was the last time you had sex?"

Sara thinks back, but comes up empty. She has no idea. It must have weeks, perhaps even months.

Their first night together they barely made it to Nyssa's suite before they were fucking against the door, impatient hands ripping open and pulling garments away, the sound of threads tearing mingling with their moans and pants as Nyssa thrust her fingers inside of her, rough and eager.

They had been on the floor next, Sara stripping Nyssa's dress off completely, groaning at the sight of her divine body laid bare, of the clash of black lace against pale, freckled skin begging to be bruised from teeth and lips. Sara had been intent on taking her time, but Nyssa had surprised her, flipping her over with an unexpected show of strength, and trailed fiery kisses down her stomach, tongue licking tortuously slow into her.

They had made it to the bed eventually, after a detour against the desk, and again Sara had found herself pressed down by Nyssa's body, all lean muscle and soft breasts crushing her into the mattress. Nyssa had tied her wrist to the headboard with black silk and Sara had complied with a grin, chest heaving and cunt aching, secure in the knowledge that she could free herself in a fraction of a second.

When she tugged playfully at the restraints, however, they were done more securely than she would have expected. Not secure enough to actually pose a problem, not for her, but definitely somewhat of a challenge. With Nyssa's thighs framing her face and her hips rolling against her tongue, her puzzlement had quickly faded, swept away by the rush in her blood, the intimate taste of Nyssa in her mouth and the way her body curved as she groaned and leaned over to clutch at the headboard.

Sara glances at her wife, elegantly dresses in black pants and a white blouse, hair pulled back in a neat fishbone braid, legs crossed and her back ramrod straight, and suddenly wonders when she was able to look at her and think of anything but dragging her off to bed.

"I don't understand," she says, because she doesn't.

"Three months, five days," Nyssa says and Sara almost flinches. 25 December - Sara's birthday. Nyssa had been wearing new underwear and Sara can still recall the taste of her through the red lace on her tongue, thighs trembling and spasming around her as Sara worked her mercilessly, coaxing her into first one orgasm, quickly followed by another.

"I thought this was supposed to be your birthday," Nyssa had said after, still breathless.

"It is," Sara had replied and kissed her. It had been a good day. Probably their last in a long, long while.

The counselor makes a note. "Okay," she says. "Let's talk about trust. Would you say that you are open and honest with each other? Sara?"

Sara has been trained to lie flawlessly, without a blip or a blink. It is an easy thing, looking Dr Malkovich in the eye and tell her that well, she may not tell Nyssa everything, but she isn't really keeping any secrets either because trust is obviously the foundation of any good relationship, but internally she despises herself for it.

They're invited to their neighbors for their monthly dinner party and on the long, quiet drive home from Dr Malkovich's office Sara thinks about talking Nyssa into canceling and staying in together, but one look at Nyssa's carefully blank face and she knows it's a bad idea. There will be nothing but icy silence between them tonight.

The Gregorys' dinner parties are always boring, but Sara knows the importance of keeping up appearances and they are usually tolerable with Nyssa there.

Tonight, Nyssa downs her wine with small, tight gulps, standing next to Sara but with her body and face turned away, looking out over the room, responding to everyone and everything with short sentences and clipped words. It is grueling and they leave shortly after coffee and dessert. Sara doesn't give a damn if they come across as rude.

When they are back home, Nyssa seems to have thawed a bit, allowing an arm around her waist as they walk together to the house, and Sara is just thinking about suggesting opening a bottle of wine and taking it out on the sundeck at the back of the house when her phone vibrates in her pocket.


She pulls it out to check the message. Nyssa huffs and disappears up the stairs.

Sara has always been good at staying under the radar, but her marriage demanded a proper cover, meaning that she now officially works fully in the close protection service (if she didn't know Waller had zero humor she would have thought the irony was deliberate). It is a good setup since it gives her a good reason for travels and weird hours and as an added bonus removes the need for unnecessary jargon or codes. You have a new assignment, the text reads. To be concluded at 23.00 hours.

Must be local, then. Sara sighs, pockets the phone. "Sorry, but I have to go into work, honey. See you tomorrow, all right?"

She waits but there is no reply. With a soft curse, she leaves.

As she leaves Mr Bellaire with two bullet-holes in his chest (Sara is known for her efficiency, not her finesse), she wonders if it is her work that is ruining their marriage. Perhaps all the blood she has spilled is finally taking its toll, spreading into her soul and staining it with darkness. Perhaps she is slowly losing her humanity, her ability to love, pulling further and further from Nyssa and what they share.

Nyssa is already fast asleep in their bed when she comes home and Sara kisses her forehead gently so as not to wake her. Despite the thoughts battling and whirling in her head, she is quickly guided into sleep by Nyssa's soft, steady breathing.

Nyssa wakes slowly, as if from a pleasant dream, and when she opens her eyes she finds that she is alone in her ridiculously gigantic hotel bed.

It is just as well, naturally, but even so a feeling of disappointment washes over her. Sexual entanglements, no matter how brief, complicates not only sole missions but her entire professional life, so as a rule she tries to steer clear of them. Occasionally, she does engage in them, however, but she had not expected last night to be quite so... thrilling.

Her disappointment is, if anything, just a clear indication that Sara's absence is the preferred alternative.

She sits up, luxuriating in the tender ache in her muscles and limbs, and swings her legs over the side of the bed. She is taking a bathrobe out of the closet when Sara steps in from the balcony, making Nyssa curse herself inwardly. How could she possibly have missed her presence on the balcony? Last night must have left her mind more addled than she would have expected. It is not a comforting thought.

"Morning," Sara says, leaning against the doorpost with her hands stuffed in her pockets. She is appearing nonchalant, but Nyssa easily reads the tension in her shoulders and face, interpreting it as the question it is.

"Good morning," Nyssa says, giving her nothing just to see what she will do. Sara does not strike her as the type to back down.

"I ordered some breakfast," Sara says, indicating the balcony with a tilt of her head. "You hungry?"

"I could eat," Nyssa says.

As she is about to step through the door, Sara stops her with a hand around her wrist and rises up to press a sweet kiss against her lips, and Nyssa realizes she cannot find it within herself to make an attempt to regain her senses and make Sara leave just yet.

Sara has already left when Nyssa wakes and she is torn between relief and disappointment. It is just as good that she is gone, really - they won't solve anything this day either and, furthermore, Nyssa needs time to work.

She makes a cup of tea and brings it upstairs into her office, tapping her finger in a very precise combination against the wall as she passes to reveal a large computer screen, sliding out from behind an ugly but expansive impressionist painting.

She reads through her latest assignment and taps her fingers impatiently against the desk. Nevada. Because another business trip is precisely what this marriage needs. She sighs heavily and takes a sip of her tea.

This was not how the assignment was supposed to unfold. Her father needed someone trustworthy in America, to oversee operations and handle the more delicate assignments. No matter how painful the prospect of being permanently separated from her father was, she had volunteered. Marriage had been the easiest option to secure a citizenship and provide a cover for herself. She had not planned for Sara, but she had been there, providing protection services for the elusive miss Bertinelli on a function where Nyssa had been doing reconnaissance on a mark and Nyssa had been completely taken off guard.

Sara had been a temptation Nyssa could not resist. She told herself it would be for one night only, but it had not ended with the night. Instead, they had spent most of the two weeks leading up to Nyssa's departure in each others' company. After that it hadn't taken long before Nyssa was assigned another mark in USA and against better judgment, she sought Sara out.

She had never seriously considered using Sara for her mission, but then one day Sara, in the early hours of the morning in Nyssa's hotel bed, simply and unexpectedly proposed and Nyssa had found herself unable to give anything but a yes in reply.

She twists her wedding band, watching the white gold glint in the light shining in from the window. She still remembers exactly how she felt when Sara put it on her finger, the excited flutter in her stomach, the happiness swelling in her heart. She did not marry Sara out of necessity, but her life would have been so much easier if she had.

Killing, like everything else, is an art and Nyssa does it exceptionally well. She has never experienced regret for any life taken, has never spent a sleepless night thinking about dead eyes or slack faces. When she takes down her marks, she is a razor honed to its finest edge, a bowstring pulled taut, an arrowhead aimed perfectly for the heart. She is a weapon, carefully, expertly, coiled and ready to release the sudden, blaring eruption of violence at any moment.

Detonations properly set up and planted, Nyssa returns to her base to oversee the conclusion of the operation. Major explosives isn't her usual method of operation, but she knows the danger of having a signature kill well, and it is without a doubt the most suitable option for this particular assignment. Mr Slade Wilson and his guards will pass through during his prison transfer and none of them will be aware of what will hit them.

It is tedious work, watching the dusty road through her binoculars, but Nyssa has learned that patience is the most crucial part of any operation. Even the easiest hit requires meticulous preparation to ensure anonymity, survival and - most importantly - success.

Three black specks show up on the horizon. Nyssa does not relax, but she allows herself a miniscule smile at seeing the next part of her plan come into motion. Naturally, that is the exact moment the operation goes sideways.

She hears the sound of an engine and frowns because Wilson's car envoy is still too distant to be heard. Sweeping her binoculars over the surrounding desert, her eye lands on a white truck bounding through the hard-packed sand at breakneck speed.

"Tourists," Nyssa hisses through clenched teeth.

The truck narrowly misses to set off her explosives as its driver throws a U-turn and brakes. A lean shape steps out, evidently a woman, but she is too far away for Nyssa to make out any details. What she can see, however, is the bazooka resting on her shoulder, ready to strike.

Competition. Nyssa's eyes narrow, but there is little she can do with Wilson's convoy nearing her position, just seconds away from alerting her system and set off the rigged detonations. She tries to run facial recognition on the other assassin, but to no avail.

The only available course of action is to eliminate the outside threat, so she picks up her bow and selects an arrow from her quiver, handling it delicately. The tip is drenched in Tibetan pit viper venom and a mere brush against bare skin could prove fatal.

Nyssa pulls back the string, takes aim and fires with one, smooth movement. The exact moment the arrow leaves the string, however, the woman pulls the trigger, firing her monster of a weapon, and the recoil makes her move one step back and slightly to the side, out of the trajectory of Nyssa's arrow. It barely grazes her arm as it whizzes pass.

Nyssa curses in Arabic as she flings herself down, taking cover as the grenade sets of her detonation, causing a chain reaction that makes the very mountain behind her tremble. When the smoke clears, the valley lies deserted and Nyssa curses again. One mark just become two.

Sara's hair whips wildly around her head and she grins at Nyssa from behind her sunglasses. "Told you this was a great idea," she says, leaning against the railing with her back against the view.

"Yes," Nyssa says archly. "Pushing about in crowds is precisely what I intended to do with my time off."

The view from the Statue of Liberty is admittedly striking, but Nyssa is still not sure it makes up for the endless queuing to get up here in the first place.

Sara laughs and hooks her fingers into the pocket of Nyssa's slacks, pulling her up against her. "It is a national landmark and you are, after all, a tourist," she says.

She kisses Nyssa, again and again, until Nyssa acquiesces and leans against her, returning it.

"I have found that there are more preferable sights in the city," Nyssa says, "most of which I do not need to leave my room for."

"You are stuck in boardrooms and offices all day," Sara says, smiling at Nyssa's innuendo. "You need some fresh air."

Nyssa realizes exactly how thin the ice she is on is when Sara's easy acceptance of the lies Nyssa has fed her stings. It has been a week and she is already becoming dangerously committed to this beautiful wonder of a woman and for people like Nyssa any kind of commitment will most likely end in death.

"Tomorrow I'll take you rollerskating," Sara says and Nyssa cannot say no to her expectant face so she just kisses her anew and thinks that at least it is just for another week.

Sara wakes up in an unknown hotel and immediately rises, but her legs all but buckle underneath her, unable to support her weight. She sinks back down on the mattress with a frustrated groan.

"What happened?" she barks at Helena who is sitting calmly in an armchair checking over her crossbow.

"Poison," Helena says. "From a Tibetan pit viper. It seems like the antidote worked, at least - I wasn't sure it would."

"Great," Sara says. "But what the fuck happened?"

Helena looks up from the crossbow. "You fucked up," she says. "And your wife has called twice."

Sara sinks back against the pillows with another groan. "There was someone else there," she says, raking a hand through her hair. "Another assassin. Have you any idea who?

Helena shrugs. "I cleaned you up. I have enough on my hands without cleaning up your messes as well. Wilson is still out there."

"And I will take care of him." Sara sits back up. She needs to be out of her as soon as possible so she might as well start working on standing on her feet already. "But you know just as well as I do that Waller will have my head unless I find out who that other one was."

"I've sent the specs on the poison and the arrow to HQ," Helena says. "You'll have a name soon enough."

Helena is the most infuriating partner Sara has ever worked with, but she is also the most effective and completely indispensable, which is the main reason why Sara hasn't strangled her yet. "Thank you," she says. A brief pause. "The assassin used arrows."

"If I wanted you dead, I would just take a three-week vacation," Helena says archly.

"That's not what I meant," Sara says. She stands up again and this time her legs hold her weight, if reluctantly. "Are you familiar with any other hitmen using arrows?"

"Oh yes," Helena says, wiping the crossbow down with a cloth. "We have a Facebook group - Assassins for Arrows. I'll get right on scrolling through that." She rolls her eyes. "You will have better luck checking in with Felicity about that poison, trust me." She stands up, slinging the crossbow over her shoulder. "I got work to do. Fix your shit."

Just as Sara reaches for her phone, it starts playing "Highway to Hell" and she sends Helena a dark look.

"What?" Helena says, halfway out the door. "I was bored."

Sara throws an empty gun holster at her, but it hits the closing door with a smack and falls to the floor. With a sigh, she picks up the phone and accepts the call. "Felicity? Do you have anything for me?"

"Ye-es," Felicity says, drawing out the vowel, and Sara sighs heavily again. Despite working undercover for a top-secret organization, Felicity is as easy to read as an open book. Things are bad.

"What is it?"

"I have a name and address for the company that bought the virus," Felicity says. "You won't like it."

As it turns out, that is quite an understatement.

Sara's psych eval is scheduled at 11.00 hours but she arrives at HQ half an hour early and slinks inside the door to Felicity's office.

"Morning," she says, putting down a cup of iced coffee and a bagel on Felicity's desk. "You busy?"

"I am always busy," Felicity says. "But I usually make time for people who could snap my neck with a twist of their wrist."

"Nyssa Raatko," Sara says. "Could you run a check-up for me?"

"Nyssa Raatko," Felicity says with a raise of her eyebrows. "And who might this be? Are you freelancing? Should I let Waller know?"

"She isn't a mark," Sara says and rolls her eyes with a smile.

Felicity's eyes widen comically behind her glasses, even as her fingers start flying across her keyboard. "Are you telling me that the Black Canary actually has a life ? I can hardly believe it!"

"Just do the check-up, please," Sara says.

"Whoa," Felicity says after a brief glance at her screen. "I'll have to dig deeper of course, but this girl seems loaded. You can quit your day job, Sara."

"I'd make such a pretty house-wife," Sara says. "I have to go - I have a psych eval. Send over whatever you find, okay?"

"Will do," Felicity says. "Though I hope I won't find anything – you need a girlfriend and this one's hot. Thanks for the coffee!"

Sara waves at her over her shoulder, not even trying to hide the big grin splitting her face.

"Terminate the entire operation," her father says.

"I can salvage this," Nyssa assures him, heart clenching at the thought of leaving America. Her home. Sara.

"Find the other assassin, kill her, and your mark, then come home. That is an order, Nyssa."

"Goodbye, father," she says and ends the call.

She is running analysis on the footage from the desert, sitting quietly in her chair as she waits for the results. Her entire body is on full alert, waiting for any lead to chase after so that she can remedy this situation and have it over with.

She waits and waits until the computer finally chimes and leans forward eagerly as the one image is frozen and enlarged on the screen. For a second, Nyssa stops breathing. No.

But yes. The footage indisputably shows the face of her wife.

Nyssa allows one minute to collect herself before the swirl of emotions - pain, grief, rage, betrayal - has to be pushed aside to be dealt with at a more appropriate time. She needs a plan of attack, and quickly. Sara may already be dead from the venom, but Nyssa is not staking either her life or reputation on that. For now, Sara is her main imperative - compared to her Wilson is a mere nuisance, to be handled at a later time when the larger threat is out of the picture.

If Sara survived the poison, she may know who the other assassin was. Her base of operation and her house may both be compromised, but even so she needs to return home because regardless of whether Sara knows or not, that is were she most likely will be.

She pauses for a second, struck by the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. How is it even conceivable? How could she not have noticed, after all these years together?

It all makes perfect sense now, like a cipher unfolding once she has the key. The long and strange hours, the trips, the amount of work-out sessions Sara managed to cram into one week. Convenient, Nyssa had found it - Sara's odd habits giving her plenty of privacy and time for her own work. She laughs out loud at the foolishness of it all, ignoring the terrible, sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach as she readies herself to kill her wife.

Nyssa gasps as she steps inside her room and someone's arm closes around her waist and readies herself to throw her head back into her assailant's face when Sara's familiar and unique scent fills her nose. Immediately, Nyssa relaxes. She did give the hotel desk orders to let Sara in, but she had not expected her until tomorrow night. She says as much.

"I missed you," Sara murmurs into her hair.

"You should have called," Nyssa says. "I would have left the dinner early." She would not have of course - there was no dinner party, but Sara cannot know that.

"Wouldn't want your work to suffer," Sara says. Her hand is already sliding up Nyssa's leg and under her skirt and Nyssa tenses back up as she remembers the knife strapped to her thigh.

Nyssa twists around and kisses Sara. "Just give me one second," she whispers wetly into Sara's ear, the tip of her tongue lightly tracing the shell of it. "I promised a business associate to meet up for a drink later. I need to call and cancel."

Sara makes an impatient noise, her lips seeking out Nyssa's mouth again.

"You did not want my work to suffer, remember?" Nyssa says teasingly and slips out of Sara's arms. "I'll be back in a moment, habibti."

She hurries into the bathroom and rips the knife loose from around her leg and hides it under the bath tub, inwardly cursing herself for her stupidity. This cannot continue, she thinks, but she knows that she will not have the strength to end it.

Sara pushes their front door open slowly and cautiously. "Honey? Are you home?" Her nerves are so frayed that she almost jumps as Nyssa steps into the hall, a bottle of wine in one hand, two glasses in the other.

"Dinner is served," she says, leaning over to peck Sara on the cheek. Sara only just manages to remain still rather than leaning away.

"Great," Sara says, following Nyssa into the dinner room. In the light of her world-shattering revelation, she cannot help but look at her wife anew, seeing things she has never before noticed or paid much attention to. She has always taken Nyssa's carefully considered movements as her being somewhat uptight, but now she sees the impeccable control with which she carries herself, as if there is something inside her just waiting to be released at the slightest provocation.

Nyssa pulls out her chair for her and as Sara sits down, Nyssa surprises her with a kiss full on the lips, the touch more heated than any they have shared for weeks. Hope laces through Sara for a second - it isn't true, it's just a stupid mistake, everything will go back to normal - but then Nyssa steps back and picks up the bread knife and Sara just knows. Her heart stops beating for a second, but Nyssa simply cuts the bread, the sharp blade dancing through the air. There is a dangerous beauty to her handling of the that speaks of experience and skill. Sara doubts it has always been this obvious and the only thing it can mean is that Nyssa knows, but she does not know if Sara knows.

Sara shifts in her seat. She is used to dangerous games, but thrown off by her own undeniable arousal to her wife's blatant display. For some reason, Nyssa has never seemed more beautiful.

"How was your day?" Sara asks, reaching for the bowl of potatoes in an attempt to divert her thoughts.

"Terrible," Nyssa says as she sits down. "There was a mix-up at work. But it will be sorted out soon enough."

"Funny," Sara says, even though it isn't, not at all, "almost the same thing happened to me today."

She fills her plate with potatoes, meat, vegetables, knowing that each spoonful might potentially hold her death. "This looks really good," she says, lifting her fork but hesitating to take a bite.

Nyssa smiles.

I have to kill her, Sara thinks. She looks down her plate, then back at her wife.

"Wine!" she says as she spots the bottle on the table. "I'll pour you some, sweetheart."

"Thank you," Nyssa says and she is achingly lovely with that enigmatic half-smile still on her lips, every familiar freckle clearly visible even in the dusky light.

I can't do this without knowing, Sara thinks and drops the bottle.

The movement is almost too quick for her to see, but Nyssa catches the it, as if on a sheer, pure reflex.

So this is it, Sara thinks and Nyssa looks her right into the eyes for a fraction of a second before dropping the bottle, leaving the wine to splatter scarlet across the carpet.

I love you,” Sara says. She is drunk on champagne and white wine and Nyssa has to steady her with an arm around her shoulders as they walk from the party. Not that she minds – Sara is wearing a beautiful black dress for the evening and Nyssa cannot wait to get her back to her hotel room and strip her out of it.

I know,” Nyssa says, placing a gentle kiss against her cheek. “I love you too, hayati.”

Sara is silent for the entire duration of the cab ride, but when Nyssa unlocks the hotel door and guides her to the bed to sit down, she says, “You are all I have,” and Nyssa pauses in bending down to remove her shoes.

She does not know what to say, but Sara continues of her own volition. “My family are all dead,” she says quietly, sounding sad and hurt and very far from her usual self. “Did I tell you that? You are my home now, Nyssa.”

Nyssa helps Sara out of her dress and under the covers. She strips off her own dress and lies down next to her, letting Sara curl up against her chest. “I love you,” Nyssa repeats, because she does not know what else to say.

I know,” Sara replies.

Bows and arrows are difficult to hide, but Nyssa keeps one in her closet, behind her dresses where Sara would never look. It is not the most suitable weapon for this kind of struggle, but she is in need of something long-range and she has never favored guns. They are too loud and too messy.

"Honey?" she calls, holding the bow at the ready in front of her as she steps soundlessly into the hallway. No answer. "Sara?"

The sudden squeal of tires cutting through the night surprises her; she had not thought that Sara would run. She drops the bow, pretending that the feeling spreading through her is not relief, and begins to plan her next move.

I think you are an idiot,” Helena says. To anyone watching her it would seem as if she is looking straight at Sara over the rim of her cup, but her attention is firmly fixed on the mark on the other side of the coffee shop.

I'm aware,” Sara says and digs into her cupcake. She especially likes going undercover when it allows her to cheat on her diet.

About this Nyssa thing, I mean,” Helena clarifies impatiently. “It will end badly.”

You are entitled to your opinion,” Sara says. “I'll marry her anyway.”

Helena is silent for a second. “I had a fiancee, you know,” she then says and Sara looks up from her treat. No, she had not known. She knows next to nothing about Helena, despite the fact that they have been working together for more than three years.

Where is he now?” she asks.

Dead,” Helena says flatly and something in her tone urges Sara to ask, “Did you kill him?”

Helena shrugs. “I might as well have. You may believe that you can figure out a way to keep your job separate and make this work, but you won't. At the end of the day, there is only one way this will end and it won't be with both of you alive.”

Helena laughs. "Oh, boy," she says. "Best speed it up, or Waller will do much worse than decapitate you." She laughs again, shaking her head.

"I can't believe this," Sara says. As the adrenaline and shock recedes, disbelief sets in instead. "I've lived with her for five years. We are married. How is it even possible to hide something like this?"

"You did," Helena points out, throwing an pillow at Sara's face. Sara doesn't even bother trying to catch it. "And if what Felicity dug up on her is true, Nyssa is at least twice as good as you are. She's part of the League. Hell, she's next in line to head the League. You married Raa's al Ghul's daughter, you idiot. Fuck, Sara. You do know that you've been played, right?"

"No," Sara says, because that can't be true. Nyssa may have stopped loving her, but she did love her once, of that she is sure.

"Oh, come on." Helena hands Sara a glass filled to the brim with amber liquid. Sara downs the whiskey in two deep, burning gulps. "She just so happens to come over here on a business trip and stumble over you? It was all planned out. I imagine taking out A.R.G.U.S is pretty high on the Leagues wishlist. You're a perfect little back door, partner. Next girl you pick up, let Felicity vet her first, okay?"

"Felicity did vet her," Sara mutters, suddenly feeling nauseous and not from the whiskey. She jumps as her phone rings, knowing who it is without checking the caller ID.

"It appears we have a problem," Waller says and if Sara didn't already know how fucked she is, this phone call is certainly confirmation enough.

"I will take care of it," she says grimly. 'Till death do us part, Nyssa had promised on their wedding day. Yeah, Sara thinks, better prepare to fulfill that promise, honey.

"This situation should never had arisen in the first place," Waller says. "The moment it is done, you're coming down to my office. Understood?"

"Understood," Sara replies.

Sara finds her back-up base.

Nyssa is so wound up, trying to collect any information or tech she might need and destroy the rest, that the sound of the buzzer is enough to make her start and drop the blade she is holding. Deliberation lasts for a brief second before she decides to answer.


"Hi, honey," Sara says and her voice is calm, easy, a little bit cheerful. It is time to finish this, is what she is really saying.

"I've brought lunch," she continues.

"How lovely," Nyssa says as she crushes the hard-drive she keeps any sensitive material on underneath her boot.

"Are you going to buzz me in?"

"Absolutely, my dear." Thirty seconds. Nyssa pushes the button, grabs her bow and puts it across her chest. She takes her bag and pushes another, hidden, button on the wall, incinerating the computer mainframe. The window opens at a touch of her hand and she un-spools the black rope she has hidden in the corner of it. Ten seconds.

She is on the windowsill, about to take the leap, when Sara bursts through the door, an assault rifle ready in her hands and another strapped to her back.

Inwardly, Nyssa curses. She may despise guns, but that does not mean they do not have their uses. With the range on that gun, Sara can easily pick Nyssa off on the other side of the building.

"I apologize, but we will have to reschedule that meal," Nyssa says and jumps. She makes an easy target and she expects Sara to fire, braces for it even, but she lands on the roof of the neighboring building unscathed.

Turning around, she sees Sara leaning a knee against the windowsill, looking down at her.

"Chickenshit!" she yells, loud enough for the word to echo between the buildings.

Nyssa doesn't deign that worthy of an answer, so she just turns and hurries off the roof, still counting down in her head.

Three. Two.


Behind her, the entire top floor of the complex explodes in a gargantuan, flaming cloud.

Sara barely registers the odd look the hostess gives her as she steps into the restaurant. She has cleaned and dressed up, but didn't bother to try and cover the red slash across her cheek.

Nyssa is here, exactly where she knew she would be, her back to Sara and a glass of champagne in her hand.

"Seems fitting," Sara says as she is close enough. Nyssa doesn't startle, but she does tense up, a rippling tensing of the muscles in her back. "I proposed to you here."

"Not quite here," Nyssa says, looking up at her as Sara sits down.

"Well, up there," Sara says, indicating the rooms above the hotel restaurant with a nod of her head. It had been in the morning, Nyssa's ebony hair spread out across the pillow and her body over the bed, Sara's mouth tasting every inch of her skin, Nyssa laughing deep and blissful as her tongue tickled across her ribs.

She forces the memories aside. They're all false anyway, she thinks. All lies.

Calmly, she places her gun in her lap, hides it under the napkin. Nyssa can tell, she knows, and she wonders what her wife is packing. Not a gun, in any case.

"Should we battle it out here?" she asks flippantly, grip tightening around the handle.

Nyssa smiles. "Unlike you, I prefer clean kills." Nonchalantly she takes her eyes off Sara to glance around the restaurant. "Observers complicate matters." She looks back at Sara and her smile widens. "Dance with me."

"Vipers should be kept at a distance," Sara says, a barb meant to cut deep, but she does take the hand Nyssa holds out, abandoning the gun in her seat against better judgment.

It is a mistake, she realizes the moment they're on the dance floor and she takes Nyssa's hand in hers as they line up. She hates the way Nyssa's body feels against her, how familiar the way their bodies fit together is. Goosebumps spread across Sara's skin from where Nyssa's hand is resting against her waist.

Through her form-fitting dress, Sara can easily feel the knife strapped to her thigh. As Sara slips her hand inside to remove it, Nyssa's breathing catch even as she busies herself with locating and dislodging the gun hidden underneath Sara's jacket.

"You can stop playing now," Sara says, finding a small blade strapped to the inside of Nyssa's arm.


"Your cover is blown, honey. Lay off the act."

Nyssa pauses, almost imperceptibly, but Sara notices.

"Fuck you," Sara says. Having it confirmed that their life, their marriage, them, had all been a sham is like a knife twisting in her gut. Despite herself, she had hoped. She hates herself for ever believing in Nyssa's lies and even more for letting those angry, hurt words slip out, revealing her weakness and stupidity.

"Excuse me," Nyssa says and untangle herself from Sara's embrace.

The anger burns off quickly, leaving Sara numb as she watches Nyssa climb the stairs up to the women's restroom, each step bringing her closer to the bomb Sara placed there before sitting down at Nyssa's table. Her wife isn't the only one who can play with fire.

But as she turns to leave, Nyssa is somehow there, smirking at her from over her shoulder, calmly leaving the restaurant. Sara stares after her and then her bomb goes off.

Nyssa knows that returning to their house is a foolish move at this point. However, there is equipment there she might be in need of later, she tells herself as she puts the car in a higher gear, rushing through the night on the rain-slick roads.

She is fast, but somehow Sara was faster, she realizes as she soundlessly climbs in through a window on the second floor and hears quiet steps and the soft but unmistakable click of a gun being loaded from the living room downstairs. It is fitting, she supposes, that it will end here, within these walls.

Barely even daring to breathe, she slides the closet door open and grabs another bow and quiver of arrows. Ghosting down the stairs, she removes a special arrow from the quiver and places it against the string, listening intently. The faint sound of footfalls ceases and Nyssa fires without so much as a second of hesitation. The explosive tip of the arrow blows a whole in the wall and with the speed of a striking snake, Nyssa fires two more arrows through it.

There is a muffled groan of pain and the sound of a gun clattering to the floor, but Nyssa is neither stupid nor reckless enough to buy that, which is why she manages to duck in time as a series of shot is fired back at her, whistling over her head and hitting the wall behind her.

She fires another arrow before rolling down the stairs and running in the direction of the dinner room.

Sara has at least a semi-automatic gun as well as a sub-machine, Nyssa learns as she runs through the dinner room and it is all but pulverized behind her. A terrible weapon for an assassin, really, but she cannot argue with its apparent effectiveness.

She slides into the kitchen and drops behind the breakfast bar, deactivating the locking mechanism on the hidden drawer with a swipe of her thumb. As she pulls it out, her ring knives shine dully in the light of the street lamps.

She picks up three and volleys them away one by one as Sara appears in the doorway, forcing her to duck and retreat.

"If you fail to hit me with that monstrosity of yours, your aim needs some improvement," Nyssa calls out, hoping to goad Sara into moving prematurely.

"I'll get on that, once I've finished up here," Sara grits out, and with a stab of unwelcome fear and concern, Nyssa wonders if she is injured. Annoyed at herself and her rampant emotions, she fires a second exploding arrow, immediately followed by a third.

"You will run out of arrows and knives before I run out of bullets, honey," Sara says and she may be right about that, but lack of weapons does not leave Nyssa defenseless.

To distract Sara she throws another knife at her before ripping loose the gas tube, spilling as much as she can across the breakfast bar as she angles it upwards and waits for Sara to retaliate.

Sara pulls the trigger and Nyssa is thrown back by the shock wave as half of the kitchen erupts in heat and flame. She lands on her feet and sidesteps the inferno to rush out the kitchen door and, with the element of surprise on her side, manages to knock both guns from Sara's hands. She follows up with a blow to Sara's head, but Sara parries and hits back, catching Nyssa's chin with an uppercut. Momentarily stunned, Nyssa stumbles a bit as she aims another punch and Sara grabs her fist, twists her arm and headbutts her.

The back of Nyssa's head hits a doorpost and she gasps in pain, but kicks out with both legs, throwing Sara to the floor.

They are evenly matched - Nyssa has several inches on Sara and more skill, but Sara is heavier and moves with a heavy-set defensive determination that Nyssa finds hard to get a grip on.

Sara slams Nyssa face-first up against the wall, but Nyssa shoves an elbow in her ribs and turns, bringing her knee up to aim a kick into her stomach. Sara doubles over and Nyssa runs a few step to the left, reaching for Sara's discarded gun, and...

She whips around, finger on the trigger, only to come face to face with Sara holding her bow, arrow ready and aimed straight at her.

Time slows to a crawl and stills. Nyssa's chest heave from exertion and Sarah's eyes bore mercilessly into hers, giving nothing away, her grip steady on the bow. The tip of the arrow is pointing straight at Nyssa's heart, like a fatal promise.

The seconds tick by and Nyssa feels her arm wavering, the weight of the gun straining her tired muscles to their breaking point, and she knows that she has to take the shot now, now, and put an end to this, finally.

The string of the bow slackens with a slight twang and it is only her life-long exercise in control that keeps Nyssa's finger from jerking on the trigger and firing prematurely. Sara drops the arrow, throws it aside as if it disgusts her.

"Do you want it?" she says, spreading her arms, the bow hanging limply from her hand. "It's yours."

"No," Nyssa says harshly. "Don't." It would be so easy - one squeeze of the trigger and this situation would be solved forever. Everything would be as it once was.

Sara steps closer and Nyssa grits her teeth, gun still trained on Sara's head. One shot. She has accomplished worse.

Sara's hand closes around Nyssa's on the handle of the gun, doing nothing but holding on to her, waiting her out.

Ever so slowly, Nyssa lowers her hand, the weapon slipping from her fingers. It is not a conscious decision, but it is a decision nevertheless.

The gun hits the floor with a thump and Sara's hand cup her neck, her mouth surprisingly gentle against Nyssa's as she reaches up to kiss her. Nyssa closes her eyes as she pulls Sara to her, eradicating the distance between them. Something - porcelain or glass, perhaps - crunch beneath their feet as they move together. The kiss grows in intensity, Sara making an choked off noise as Nyssa catches her lip between her teeth, deepening it. Again, Nyssa's back hits the wall again and the weight of Sara's body pressing up against her is welcome - familiar, yet new and exhilarating all the same.

Her fingers dig into the meat of Sara's biceps and the sound of tearing fabric rips through the air as Sara pulls up her dress too high, too quick. Nyssa shoves Sara back with rough hands and drags her t-shirt up and off, bringing her bra with it. Her hands fall to Sara's belt buckle, but Sara steps back in close, putting her mouth against Nyssa's neck, kissing down over her collarbones, catching a drop of blood with her tongue from a small cut there. There is a bruise blooming across Sara's ribs and Nyssa's fingers press down gently, causing Sara to gasp and arch against her, even closer, as if she is trying to slip beneath Nyssa's skin.

It has been far too long.

Sara's hands trap Nyssa's wrists, but Nyssa twists free and pushes Sara against the opposite wall. The pale expanse of her chest and stomach rise and sink beneath Nyssa's mouth as Nyssa drops to her knees and Nyssa's fingers eagerly follow the ridges of her abdominal muscles, with the taste of Sara's sweat salty and heady on her tongue. Nyssa is suddenly struck by the strength and the beauty of her, every straining, lovely muscle and sinew honed to kill, to survive, to always come out on top.

Sara works her buckle and zipper open herself as Nyssa kisses her stomach, tongue slipping into her belly-button and teeth scraping over the curve of a revealed hipbone. Hooking her fingers in the waistband of Sara's panties, she pulls them down, Sara lifting a leg to let her get them off. Sara's knee hook over her shoulder and Nyssa buries her face against her cunt, inhaling in the intimate scent of her, astounded by the fact that she has gone without this for so many months.

"I will take you apart," she promises Sara serenely, taking hold of her hips and letting her breath ghost over the the swollen folds of her cunt, Sara's thighs trembling violently in anticipation.

Sara traces the ridges of Nyssa's spine, one by one, with her finger as she kisses her shoulder, neck, and jaw, seeking to re-memorize every single curve and angle, freckle and weak spot. Nyssa's eyes are closed and her lips are pulled into that soft, content smile that makes Sara's stomach twist with wonder and love and from knowing that she is the one making Nyssa feel that good.

"Full disclosure," Nyssa murmurs and her voice is deep and heady, like rich, dark wine. "I did not set out to seduce you and marry you. I did not wish to bring you into this. However, when you proposed, I was all but powerless to say no."

Sara places a kiss behind her ear, which makes her shiver. "I love you," she says simply, and something settles, safe and familiar, in her chest at those words.

Nyssa rolls over in her arms and the kiss she initiates is long and unhurried, an invitation to get lost and keep the world at bay for a moment. Sara accepts it willingly, eager to shut out anything that isn't her wife, sated and relaxed, in their bed for the foreseeable future.

But she is cruelly ripped back into reality by the ringing of her phone, still cheerfully playing AC/DC. Annoyed, she grabs it off the floor, swiping her thumb across the screen to answer on autopilot.

"Sara," Felicity says, "you have a major problem."

"What?" Sara says, wondering what could possibly be worse than the mess she and Nyssa are already in.

"Slade Wilson was a plant," Felicity says and that jerks Sara out of her lingering lethargy, making her sit up straight in bed. Nyssa makes a displeased sound.

"A plant?" Her brain is already running through every possible scenario - what was the plant for, by whom was it placed - what was its purpose?

"A.R.G.U.S knows - al Ghul knows," Felicity says. "They found out about the two of you and set this up, an attempt to have you take each other out and solve both their problems." A pause. "Is it... uh, solved?"

Sara looks down at Nyssa, who has figured out enough to know what is going on judging on her carefully masked, nonplussed face.

"Not in a way that would make Waller happy," Sara says slowly. She is struggling to come up with a plan, any way out of this for them, but a sudden exhaustion eclipses her mind. She was nineteen when Waller signed her up - ever since she has been loyal, she has done her job and done it good, and for what? Having her previous colleagues sent out to kill her and her wife?

"Good. Or well bad, but good." Felicity says, sounding relieved. She likes Nyssa, Sara knows. Felicity is too good for this business, she really is. "If you split and run, you might have a chance. A small one, but it's something at least."

"Not an option," Sara says.

"They're coming for you."

"Thank you for the warning."


"Bye, Felicity." She ends the call. "They're coming," she tells Nyssa, unnecessary though it may be. "A.R.G.U.S and..."

"My father," Nyssa fills in, eyes downcast.

"Yes." She takes Nyssa's hand and squeezes it hard. "My family thinks I'm dead," she says. "You still have your father. I know..." She re-thinks that and starts over. "If what you have told me is true, your father is the only family you have left. If..."

"No," Nyssa says, her tone final. "You are my family, Sara. I will not leave you."

"Running it is, then," Sara says, and even though it means the end of their life as they know it, she smiles.

"The world is vast," Nyssa says, returning the smile. "Easy to get lost in.”

“Let's go make a new life,” Sara says.