by Vanzetti

"It will be dangerous," Sark comments, surprised by his own words. There should be no need to be honest with her. "And I understand that chronic pain is a side-effect of the procedure."

She makes a dismissive noise, as if he should know better than to think her afraid of danger or pain. He should know better. She's lying on her stomach, her head propped up on her elbows, staring at the photographs. "I'll have to grow my hair out."

He resists the urge to go lie next to her, to run his hand over her short hair. In the privacy of his mind, he considers the shape of her head perfect. "Do you think you can pull it off?" Make it sound like a challenge. She's never been able to resist a challenge--isn't that why she's here, lying on his bed? He suspects that her presence in his life is the result of a wager she made with herself, although he's never learned the terms of the bet. They met on a hit, got along well enough to pick things up when they met again a few months later, and somehow, without Sark really noticing, that led to something else. An understanding, he supposes, although he doesn't understand it himself.

As he knew she would, she sniffs. "Of course." The pictures spill across the bed: a woman smiling as she lifts a fork to her mouth, laughing at a comment, at work over a stove. Floor plans: an apartment, a restaurant, stores the woman was known to frequent. Lists of likes and dislikes, transcripts of conversations. Minutiae, really. "What a strange way to live," she says, echoing his thoughts. "So... enclosed. So predictable."

"Most people are predictable," he points out.

She rolls onto her side and smiles up at him. "We aren't."

Weren't they, though? He knew that he would bring this proposal to her as soon as it was made, he knew right away that she would do it. Something sets them apart: trained to be killers, freed from the tedium of everyday morality, he once thought. He is only beginning to guess how tightly that training has bound them.

She watches him think. "You don't like the idea?"

Again, he is surprised by the urge to be honest with her. "I prefer you as yourself."

She laughs. He wonders if this Calfo woman has as lovely a laugh. "Don't be stupid," she says. "I'll still be me." She stands and walks over to him, each step deliberate and enticing. "Admit it. It will be a kick." Her hands are already unbuttoning his shirt. "Like making love to a stranger for the first time. A new body, but still me."

He kisses her, because she expects it, because she will take it as agreement, because he doesn't know any other way to answer her. She is right, he tells himself. It will be a kick.


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