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the shadow, it grows

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It goes without saying that whatever Sasha’s been called in here for, it’s something bad. You only have to come to headquarters when you’re being assigned something or once a kill is complete.

Or because your target should be dead but isn’t. Because you got too attached to your target and can’t even imagine why someone’s got an assassin on her in the first place. That’s what has Sasha here, in the main office, in front of Stephanie’s desk, what has Stephanie’s hard glare directed at her. There isn’t even anything she can say. There’s nothing.

“You’ve been taking too long. You’ve had weeks, almost a month on this target, and she still isn’t dead.” The last three words are each punctuated with a tap of Stephanie’s nails on the surface of her desk. Sasha almost flinches. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

You can’t talk back to Stephanie. Even Charlotte wouldn’t be able to get away with that.

“I’ve been looking for more information,” Sasha says. She knows it’s a poor excuse, hardly even an excuse in the first place. She is looking for information, though – kind of. She just wants to know why, wants to know who might have done this.

“What information is there to find?” Stephanie says, incredulous. “You’re just wasting time. If you spend much longer fucking around, I’ll put someone else on your target.”

Sasha swallows hard at that, trying her best not to let her fear about that show. Someone else means Charlotte, or one of the men, which means Alicia’s dead for sure. Sasha doesn’t want to kill her, of course not, but she definitely doesn’t want someone else doing it. They’re ruthless. Maybe she is as well, maybe she has to be to even have this job, but she can’t be that around Alicia. If it comes to it, which Sasha can only hope it won’t, she’ll make it quick, painless, easy.

“Go.” Stephanie’s voice is firm, cruel. “You know what you need to do.”

Sasha can’t get out of there fast enough. She gives a nod in response before she leaves, but once the door shuts behind her and there’s no-one to see her, she loses that composure, all too aware of how unevenly she’s breathing. Her heart is beating too hard, too fast, and she needs a few minutes to herself before she can face going outside again. Sasha heads down a floor and to the bathroom. She can hardly bear to look at her reflection in the mirror above the sinks, and that? That really says something about how uneasy she feels.

She wants to cry, or throw up, or both. Luckily, she manages avoiding the latter, but there are tears pricking up in her eyes, and soon enough, even though she’s trying her best to keep it all in, they start to spill over and won’t seem to stop.

Sasha doesn’t remember the last time she cried, the last time she felt so scared, so alone. There’s no-one she can talk to about this, no-one she can turn to. She doesn’t like having to rely on people, but not being able to open up to anyone about this is killing her.

She’s been in here for too long already, uses the rough paper hand towels in the bathroom to dry her tears. Sasha washes her face in the sink. Her skin feels raw, and her eyes are sore, and she hopes it isn’t obvious.

It’s just her luck that she passes Charlotte on her way out of the building. Charlotte’s fresh from a kill, a mission completed; Sasha can see it in the way she walks, even more poised and assertive than usual. She nods a greeting, sharp as ever.

“Finally got that kill from last month done?” she asks. Her tone is brisk, but there’s something snide about it.

“Something like that,” Sasha tells her.

“Something like that?” Charlotte echoes, raising her eyebrows like she knows it’s bullshit.

Sasha really, really hopes Charlotte can’t tell she’s been crying.

“I’m fine,” she says, indignant, and she stalks off home without another word.

She’ll see Alicia this evening, an escape from the blood and secrecy of her job even though it’s the only reason they’ve even met, though it really shouldn’t be that, shouldn’t be an escape. Sasha shouldn’t be treating it like that.

When Sasha arrives at Alicia’s later on, Alicia almost immediately asks her what’s wrong, because of course she can sense that something is. Sasha tells her it’s nothing and gets a frown in response, but luckily, there are no more questions. She hopes Alicia believes her more than she believes herself.

Alicia frowns, but it seems to work, and she launches into a story about her day as she fixes them drinks. Sasha nods along and reacts when she’s supposed to, and it feels like she’s acting again, wearing a mask like she did at the beginning. This time, though, it isn’t because she’s trying to get closer for a kill, but because she doesn’t want Alicia to suspect she’s anything other than one hundred percent OK.

“So?” Alicia says after a while, once she seems to have finished speaking. Her eyes are on Sasha’s, expectant, and she’s smiling that smile, the one that first pulled Sasha in, possibly the reason they’re even here in the first place. She’s so oblivious to everything that’s going on in Sasha’s head, and it hurts. “What about you?”

Sasha sighs, rolls her eyes like she’s had the most boring, ordinary day in the world, and slips into a spiral of lies once more. She isn’t even paying attention to her own words, but Alicia seems to be, listening like Sasha’s boring fake day is the most important thing in the world.

The whole situation is hopeless, and Sasha knows it, but Alicia’s hand on hers has her determined that she has to at least try. She’ll find a way out of it. She has to.