Author's Note: This is the last story in my mini "That Moment a Good Guy Becomes a Villain" series, although this is more of a case of someone becoming an anti-villain. I had so much fun writing the interactions between these two characters and hope to write something like it in a more fleshed out setting one day. I hope you like it!
He didn't know anybody else would be there. It was his private crying spot. Until now, it was the one place he could hide when he needed to be alone.
That was why when he found a girl huddled under the tree, knees pressed against her chest, arms wrapped around her legs, head tucked under, and crying her eyes out, he didn't know what to do.
Wanting to give her some space, he tried to back away slowly and quietly. The plan immediately failed when he stepped on a twig, alerting her of his presence. She bolted upright and stared at him with her large blue eyes.
He knew her. Or more accurately, he knew who she was. They went to the same school, but they were neither classmates nor friends.
"I'm sorry," he said, nearly tripping over himself as he tried to leave, less quietly this time. "I'll go now."
"No," she requested, stopping him with how softly she spoke. "Stay, if you want. I'll be the one to leave."
Unable to look her in the eyes, he replied, "I don't know. I think you need to be alone right now more than I do."
"I don't want to be alone," she muttered quietly.
When she said nothing else nor moved, he decided to creep closer and sit under the same tree she was but a few feet away from her. Back pressed against the trunk, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. If he was being honest with himself, he didn't want to be alone either.
"We go to the same school," she said suddenly, cautiously, curiously.
"Yeah," was his only response.
A minute passed. "I have class with your brother."
A few more minutes. "Do you want me to leave?"
Opening his eyes, he looked at the girl. She was the outcast, and nobody he knew wanted to be her friend. It wouldn't surprise him if she didn't have any to speak of. Whenever he saw her around, she usually had such a pep to her that she didn't seem to care. Only now, she appeared to be extremely lonely.
Well, that made two of them.
"Stay." It was his turn to make the request. He added, "You're not the only one who needs to hide from the world for a little while."
"Doesn't my presence bother you?"
"Not as much as being alone would." He thought about it. "Actually, your being here doesn't bother me at all. It's nice to have someone around for once."
A small frown tainted her pretty face. "Aren't you scared of me?"
In a lot of ways, he was. This girl wasn't an outcast for no reason. Yet in this moment . . . "No," he finally said. "I think deep down, you're really nice, but nobody's ever given you the chance to prove it."
Glaring at her toes, the girl snarled, "Now I know you're messing with me. Nobody thinks I'm nice, and they don't have to know me to figure that one out."
"Do you really believe that," he challenged, "or have you been told that so many times you started to believe it?" No reply. "When I got hit square in the face during dodgeball in gym a year ago, you rushed up to me, helped me off the floor, and walked me to the nurse. Nobody else even asked if I was all right."
"You remembered that?" she asked, a hint of surprise in her voice. "Didn't that give you a concussion?"
"Yes for both," he answered. "I never really had the chance to thank you for it. Until now. Thank you."
"You're welcome." She sighed. "I'm sorry for sounding rude earlier. It's really hard to know who to trust."
"I understand. I really do. It's why I'm here."
She didn't ask what was wrong, and he didn't offer the explanation. Instead they sat in silence for a few more minutes. Somehow, her presence was comforting. He found himself scooting closer to her. She didn't shy away.
"I notice you sit alone at lunch," he said after another few minutes. "Would it be all right if I joined you Monday?"
She snorted. "What about your brother? Don't you usually sit with him and his group?"
"They will survive without me. I think you need a friend more."
To that, she had no response. Seeing something a few feet away, he stood and approached it. She asked where he was going, but he didn't answer.
After he plucked the white flower from a nearby bush, he walked back to her, extended the hand with the flower, and said, "Will you accept my humble offering of friendship?"
When she smiled, it was like watching the sunlight break through the clouds after a long, intense storm. "I do," she replied as she took the flower.
He smiled in return.
"I'm afraid I must be going now," she then said, rising to her feet. "Thank you, for sitting with me, talking with me, and . . ." She held the flower close to her chest. "Thank you," she repeated before leaning forward and pressing the gentlest of kisses on his cheek.
Before he could react, she was gone.
She never showed up at their school again.
He blinked, shoving back the memory. They were twelve then. Children. Innocent. Totally different people then they were now.
Yet whenever he beheld the young woman standing beside the Headmistress, he was washed with an intense wave of sadness.
Never at any point did he find out why she suddenly stopped going to school ten years ago. Nor did he know when she started training for her profession. He couldn't help but wonder who she would be right now if he did get to sit with her that promised Monday lunch. If they had ever had the chance to become friends. Would she still have become the assassin standing before his very eyes at this moment?
"This isn't what we agreed upon," the Headmistress said, eyes scanning the documents.
"No," his brother replied, ever so confident. "It's even better."
"For whom? You?"
"All of us. You see," and his brother delved into all the details.
Already he knew the ins and outs of this deal, so he didn't bother to pay attention. He wasn't there to seal the deal. Hell, he wasn't even there for moral support. It was all about appearances. The brothers were almost never seen apart in meetings such as this or professional gatherings, and it was always the case whether or not either of them liked it.
Instead his eyes kept drifting back to the woman. The first time he saw her and realized who and what she was, he could have sworn his heart skipped a beat. He tried smiling at her. When her response was to narrow her eyes at him, he drew the conclusion that she didn't remember him as he remembered her.
Shoving away his disappointment, he listened as his brother argued why they should be the Headmistress's only business partner. After the deal was agreed to be settled on a future date and the brothers prepared to leave, he looked at the woman again. It appeared a corner of her lip twitched. However, he knew she had better control over her demeanor than that. This was no twitch. What she was really doing was showing him the smallest, quickest of half smiles.
"Would you mind stepping out for a bit?" his brother suddenly said, yanking him back to the moment.
He frowned. "What do you have to say that you can't say in front of me?"
Had this not been a professional setting, his brother would have rolled his eyes. "My word," he said, "you are really out of line today. Step outside, and I shall join you momentarily."
"Yes, brother," he muttered, the ever obedient younger brother. The two were practically identical, but their personalities proved just how different they really were.
As he left, he cast one last look at the woman. That secret twitch. His subtle nod in return.
Without having spoken in the last decade, they still somehow managed to come up with a secret language.
His brother was attending a meeting he was not invited to join. It didn't make sense when he was just as much an heir as his brother. There was no reason he shouldn't be present to whatever was so important his brother didn't waste a second leaving to make it on time.
As if his brother was ever late to anything.
Carrying a freshly brewed mug of tea with him to the sitting room, he sat in his chair and opened his book. He found pleasure in a cup of hot tea and a good book. This would keep his mind off whatever his brother was up to.
Or it would have if a knife didn't suddenly appear from behind and the blade pressed against his neck.
"I didn't hear you come in," he said, heart racing, when nothing happened.
"Most of my victims don't." It was a woman's voice. The woman.
"Why am I not dead yet?"
"What do you mean?"
"There's nothing stopping you from slitting my throat right here and now. Why haven't you yet?"
"Are you so eager to die?"
"More curious than anything."
"Curiosity killed the cat."
"And satisfaction brought it back."
Slowly the knife was removed, and the woman circled around so they could make direct eye contact. This was the closest they had ever been near each other. Well, the closest they had been since that day.
Just as slowly, he stood. He took a step, two steps towards the woman who could rip his heart out with her bare hands. They were the same height, staring at each other at eye level.
"I have to kill you," she said. Her demeanor was stoic, as if she was bored. Yet lightly laced in her tone was something that sounded like regret. "It's nothing personal. Only business."
"Who's your client?" he asked, names and faces already flashing in his mind.
She didn't miss a beat. "Your brother," she answered.
"What? No!" he exclaimed. "My brother would never—He loves me!"
Tilting her head slightly, she replied, "Maybe he does, and maybe he doesn't. However, with your father's cancer winning the battle, it seems he loves the idea of being sole heir much more."
"There's no way he would ever do this."
"Why do you think he asked you to leave that meeting early?" she challenged. "He was informing the Headmistress of his desire to take you out and requesting I be the one to do it."
He had to know. "Why you specifically?"
A shrug. "No special reason. Well, no special reason other than only I would be able to sneak in, do the deed, and sneak out undetected. If you tried to resist, it wouldn't matter that you're a man and I'm a woman: I would be the one to overcome the other."
Because I'm not human. She didn't say the words, but they were clear enough. Being what she was, something that wasn't exactly human, was the reason her preteen self had no friends in school.
If his brother really did want him dead, this was the assassin to do the task. She was the Headmistress's right hand. Nobody she killed would have justice sought for them. Nobody would condemn her publicly for her crimes. His brother could easily have him killed and never have to worry about any potential legal trouble it could cause.
She's wrong. My brother would never do this. Yet no matter how many times he repeated the words, he could never believe them. She had no reason to lie. His brother had every reason to want a pesky younger brother out of the way.
"Why are you telling me this?" he asked. "You could have simply ended my life before I even knew what was happening. Why stop to chat first before killing me any way you see fit?"
The woman sighed. It was the most emotion he had ever seen on her face since learning what she had become. "You were nice to me once," she answered softly. "Not even in my darkest moments had I forgotten the sliver of light you had shown me that day. There were times it was the only good I had left to hold on to. I suppose I wanted to thank you before I assassinated you."
"You don't need to thank me," he said. "I really did want to be your friend."
"And I really wanted to be yours," she replied. "Such a shame this is how it must end." To that, he had no response.
Not a moment passed before she muttered, "The reason I cried under the tree that day . . . Your brother had cut my arm with scissors and mocked my green blood in front of the entire class. I was humiliated. It was the painful reminder that no matter how human I appeared on the outside, I could never truly be human on the inside."
Processing the words, he tried to remember any other details from that day. The sadness of a twelve-year-old girl. How smug his brother had been over something he wouldn't confess.
"No," he said, a force to the word.
"No?" She cocked her head to the side. "In case you are unaware, if I do not kill you, I will be destroyed. As much as I wish I did not have to do this, I'd rather kill you and live than spare you and die."
"You said it's not personal, correct?" he asked, ignoring her. "This is all just business?"
"Yes, it is," she said carefully.
"Then how about we have our own business deal?" he suggested.
"What do you mean?"
"What do you want, more than anything?"
"I'm afraid I don't understand."
"Haven't you ever wanted anything?" His features softened. "Do you know how to want anything for yourself?"
"No," she said, and at this her mask cracked. There was a pain in her eyes. The ice-hearted assassin flaked away to reveal the hurting girl underneath. The girl he met under the tree that day never truly disappeared. She was buried under the pressures to become what her creators wanted her to be.
"I have a suggested," he said. "If you like it, let's see what we can do."
Her features again hardened. "And if I don't?"
"Kill me," he said the words with finality. "I won't make this hard for you. Do what needs to be done, and return to your life as it is." When she said nothing, he ended the comment with, "Your choice."
She looked at her toes, took a deep breath, and when she looked up again, she glared at him.
"My poor brother was so confused to see me off to some meeting he wasn't invited to," the brother of the target told the Headmistress as she took a sip of her tea.
"How ruthless of you to ask me to use my personal assassin to take him out," the Headmistress replied. "How can you as good as kill your own brother for no reason other than to be named sole heir?"
"My brother isn't fit to run a business," the man said. "He's too kind-hearted for his own good. He doesn't know this, but I have caught him smiling at your assassin more than once. I wouldn't be surprised if he thought of her as human."
"I made her, and I can personally assure you that my creation isn't human." The Headmistress chuckled. "It took a long time to remove useless things such as compassion and sympathy from her. She's as emotionless as a machine, and that's what makes her the perfect assassin. No matter what, no matter the target, she always gets the job done in a timely manner." As soon as those words left her mouth, there was a buzz to indicate someone was at the door. "Well, speak of the devil. Let's see what my little monster has for us this evening."
The woman stalked into the office, a sack swinging by her side. She stopped in front of the brother and the Headmistress. Her eyes flickered to the man then back to the Headmistress. No twitch of the lip for the brother. Her gaze was stone cold.
"Well?" the Headmistress prompted.
Without a word, the woman produced a human head from the sack. It was her target all right. She still produced his ring, but the jewelry was unnecessary.
"Did he go down fighting?" his brother asked, a satisfied smirk on his face. He didn't have to ask. Not when the woman didn't have a drop of blood on her.
"No," the woman answered. "The poor bastard thought he could talk me out of killing him. As you can see, his plan didn't work."
"You did well," the Headmistress said, nodding her approval. "Looks as if we'll only have one brother to work with now."
"You always had one," the brother corrected. "My little brother was only ever for show. There wasn't anything else he was useful for."
After he paid the Headmistress and promised to return the following week in order to renegotiate their trade deal, the brother walked alone from her office to his car across the street. Normally he had a driver, but not this night. In his rush to get out of the house before his unwitting brother suspected anything, he opted to drive himself over waiting for someone else to do the basic task for him.
"She believed it," a voice said, coming from behind. "After you left, she again praised me for a job well done and said she was relieved to be rid of that eye sore."
"Funny," he muttered, turning around to face the woman, "I always thought I was the better-looking brother."
The woman shrugged, making no comment on it. "Now what?" she asked. "Do you truly plan to live out the rest of your life as your brother?"
"Unfortunately, yes," he answered, his shoulders sagging slightly. This was why he parked across the building and not in the parking garage: the Headmistress's cameras could not capture this unusual exchange from there.
Tilting her head to the side, the woman said, "You are twice the man your brother could ever be."
"I found out he wanted to kill me and suggested you kill him instead. I'm not exactly a good guy either."
"Who said anything about being a good guy? Perhaps you can now use your brother's power to correct his previous unethical behavior."
"You're right," he answered, not wanting to think about the meeting his brother went on the night the woman warned him of her job to assassinate him. It was a trade deal, but not the kind he ever thought his brother would orchestrate. He would put a stop on the boat before it set sail, taking all those young girls with it.
"I want to help you," she then said.
He blinked. "I know this is possible because of you, but please don't think you have to do any more killing for me. You're not my weapon."
"I don't want to be your weapon," she corrected. Slowly she extended her hand, and he saw a white flower wrapped in her long fingers. "You offered me your friendship once," she said slowly. "Now I offer my services to you. The Headmistress believes I'm not human, that she tortured the only good in me out. She's wrong, and I won't listen to her anymore. Together, we can right the wrongs those closest to us caused. We will have to be careful, and we can't change anything overnight, but we don't have to be the monsters our situations forced us to become."
Reaching out, he accepted the flower. Then he surprised her by leaning forward and kissing her cheek. It wasn't until he pulled away he realized he should have been grateful instinct didn't kick in her and she broke his arm when she saw him getting close.
"We will never be good guys again," he whispered.
"I was never good," she responded. "I won't mind doing some questionable things to get a good outcome."
"Perfect. Neither do I." He smiled, ready to feed the darkness inside of him that wanted those who did evil to suffer. Maybe that made him just as evil, but he didn't care.
Especially not when the woman smiled in return.