"You're doing it wrong."
"What do you know about hair?" Jules snapped, her fingers combing through red hair. Katherine herself bit back a protest as the younger girl's nails caught, pulling tight, making Katherine feel like she was about to get a section of hair ripped out. "Shut up and let me work."
Katherine rolled her eyes, but fell silent as Jules deftly braided back her hair, the red locks twirled up into a bun, a thin braid wrapping around the base of it. Jules started to pin the atrocity together, the ends of said pins poking at Katherine's scalp.
Katherine watched it happen through the mirror, her eyes glittering in the dusk light that filtered in from the single window in the room. She was dressed in a layered black dress that hit the floor, the fabric light and weightless. She hated it, of course she did, who could fight in a freaking dress, but it was easier to fight in a long dress and flats then a short dress and heels, at least in her opinion. So she forced a fake smile that was practiced until it looked real, and bore it.
Jules was practically ready. If you asked Katherine, at least, although Jules certainly wouldn't agree. The girl wore her hair in a complex series of braids that ran across her scalp, and down her back, small glittering crystals woven into the style. Because the daughter of one of the richest men on the planet would of course do that, simply because she could.
Jules wasn't stereotypical, if you asked Katherine, not that anyone ever had. She was something of ditz at times, and a girly girl. She liked purple, but not pink. Spent more time practicing make-up than wearing it, usually using Katherine as her test subject. She wasn't rude, having been raised to have impeccable manners around just about everyone except Katherine, but could be entitled to things she probably shouldn't have been, and didn't seem to know what modesty really was, when it came to expensive things.
Katherine supposed that was probably stereotypical, but she didn't have that many people to compare Jules to anyways, so she held her tongue. Jules moved around to the front and started to apply makeup.
"Alright. The event starts at nine thirty, we'll be there slightly after that." Jules started to recite, as was customary. She liked to plan out the events as best she could, even if she never stuck to said plans. And tried to ditch Katherine at every turn possible, not that she ever managed to. At this point, it was more of an inside joke then any real effort. "We'll have to meet with the governor, make some chit chat with his significant other, probably. Marcus will be there, I'm sure, if he tries to make a pass we're leaving, you got it?"
"Close your eyes."
Katherine obeyed, feeling Jules finger on her eyelids, gently tapping at the skin. She was gentle, but not timid like the first time she'd done the powder, terrified to poke Katherine's eye out. She'd gotten over the fear fast enough.
"The speech is at quarter too, and we leave at eleven. That's an hour of mingling, we should be able to get a table at some point and perhaps something to drink."
Jules' fingers left Katherine's eyelids, and she opened her eyes, watching as the younger girl searched for lipstick. "You're not drinking anything alcoholic."
Jules' expression crinkled up in that way that Katherine associated with her trying to hide her embarrassment, as the she found a pale pink color to use. Jules took the cap off, reaching out for Katherine, who allowed her to apply the dry paste on her lips. "That was once, and I didn't even know what bubbly was. The better questions are why you knew, and why they served me it."
"I was briefed on any alcoholic drinks." Katherine answered after Jules had finished with the lipstick. "Am I done?"
"Best I'll manage. Alright, we need to get going soon."
Katherine rose from the chair as Jules started to dig through the walk-in closet, searching through her jewelry for something or other. Katherine herself wore no jewelry. Necklaces could be used to strangle her, while bracelets made noise and got in her way. Rings could tear fingers and skin.
Katherine stepped into the main bedroom, eyes gliding over the space, checking that no one was in the apartment - nobody was - and taking up a position by the door, waiting for Jules. Only a half minute later did the dark-skinned girl come out of the closet, wearing a wide band of glittering, clear crystals, held together by silver around her wrist, the clingy dark green dress making it halfway down her calves, and a pair of jet-black heels.
"Alright." Jules said, setting her expression, and reaching for the doors access panel. Katherine swatted her hand away, activating it herself, and gave Jules a look. Jules, in turn, gave her an innocent smile, and Katherine ignored it, walking into the main hallway. The entire floor was part of the apartment, which meant that technically Katherine was at her own house, and therefore not on guard duty, but she'd long ago learned that she was always on guard duty, even if she didn't want to be, didn't need to be, and nobody else wanted her to be. It was just what happened when you grew up in the mindset she had.
They entered the elevator, and Katherine's stomach, as always, plummeted with it.
"Excuse us." Katherine said brightly, taking up Jules' arm. "But I already promised Jules the first dance of the night, I'm so sorry."
She led the younger girl towards the dance floor, stepping onto the threshold, leading Jules as she was supposed to. The shorter girl let out a small hiss of a breath. "What was that?"
"I don't like him." Katherine muttered, starting to arrange their positions, so that they could dance, and keep up the lie she'd feed Antony. Jules blinked up at her. "He just… it's just something about him that feels off."
"And now I have to dance with you?"
"You should also know he's underage, and has had at least four glasses of wine already." Katherine added dutifully, as the two of them started to sway, moving in a slow circle, as the music hummed in the background, mixing with the clicking of heels on the dance floor and chatter of the gala. "I doubt your father would approve of such a match."
"Perhaps I don't care about what my father thinks." Jules retorted, allowing Katherine to guide her across the floor without resisting. "He doesn't like women being with women all that much either, and yet we're dancing."
"It's a cover Jules, not a courtship." Katherine said, mentally tracking the positions of the other dancers around them. "And besides. He cannot fire me. My contract lasts until one of us dies, remember?"
"Hard to forget." Jules spun around slowly, one hand above her head, fingers loosely holding onto Katherine's, skirt wrapping around her legs as she moved. The two started to sway again, taking up the same movement as before. "I'm stuck with you for another ten years."
"I think I'll last longer than that." Katherine murmured softly, eyes flickering over the crowd around them, still moving flawlessly. Jules' bracelet glittered, reflecting the lights above and around them onto the people around them, as her lips parted slightly, voice catching in her throat, no sound coming out. "Relax Jules. Nothing will happen to you. Nothing will happen to your mother, or your father. My family guards yours with our lives."
"Perhaps I don't want you to do that."
Barely whispered. Katherine's mind fitted the repercussions of those words together within half a second, and she nodded, the undercut she'd shaved into her hair cold, the short hairs tickling her neck.
"Perhaps it won't come to that." she whispered the words back, just as quietly as Jules had said her own words. "This is our legacy. This has happened for generations. It is widely known your family has the best security on this planet, or any other. It would be akin to suicide to attack."
Jules said nothing, even as Katherine spun her around by one hand again, the two of them circling each other, palm to palm, free hands tucked behind their backs. They switched directions, flawlessly. They'd danced together before. The way Jules had learned was through Katherine, since no instructor was talented enough for the girl, yet not safe enough for her either.
Perhaps Jules was far too sheltered, Katherine mused silently, her eyes shifting, noticing someone on the fringes of the crowd. Then another person. Without hesitating, she changed their dance up again, until they were swaying once more, one of Katherine's hands light on Jules' hip, the other clasping her hand. Katherine took a breath, looking over Jules shoulder, locating another set of the people she'd noticed.
She spun them around gracefully, so that her back was to one group, but a pair of dancers was between the second group and Jules. "Don't panic."
Jules eyes widened, lips parting, but Katherine gave an ever so slight shake of her head, and the brunette fell silent. They swayed, Katherine making sure she was between one set of the people and Jules, and a set of dancers was between Jules' back and the other set.
"Might not be here for us."
Katherine carefully guided them towards the tables, and spun Jules around a final time, giving her a small bow. Jules curtsied in return, and Katherine straightened, placing a hand on Jules' back, at the base of her spine, herding her towards the tables. It was more crowded, and closer to an exit. The gun hidden in the folds of Katherine's dress was cold against her leg.
Katherine leaned in, whispering into Jules' ear. "Alright. Laugh at something I said."
Jules let out a convincing giggle, pressing against Katherine. The ginger smiled, letting acting lessons take over her facial expressions as she led Jules towards the washrooms. Towards the exit. They'd been through it before. Safety was more important than appearances. At least for Jules; less-so for her father.
They were stopped by one of the waiters, who started to open his mouth to speak, but Jules made a gagging noise, covering her mouth with one hand, and his jaw clicked shut. He stepped aside. "Ladies are to the right."
"Of course." Katherine said, keeping up her act, and they entered the hallway. It was far quieter, and Katherine took note of the cameras and the doors they passed. Jules' heels clicked on the floor, and Katherine took a left turn, heading towards the exit.
After a short flight of stairs, they took a right, exiting into the cold night air. It was dark, and then there was a familiar click. Katherine dropped the act, pushing Jules to the right and behind her, forcing the brunette's back against the wall.
Her eyes adjusted to the shadows within moments, and she let out a small breath, assessing. Three. Handguns with silencers. A threat, more than anything. Barely anyone used silencers. And they were complete idiots, wearing black and masks and no armor. Considering what she'd noticed in the gala, it was somewhat disappointing. Although she'd rather be disappointed than caught off-guard.
"Katherine Stone." one of the would-be kidnappers said, and Katherine tensed, ever so slightly at her name. "I must say, you're quite talented. I didn't expect you to actually notice our men. But I suppose being the daughter of Mason Stone would notice them, wouldn't she?"
Katherine kept silent, one hand moving towards her gun, still hidden in the folds of dress. The speaker took note of the motion, and the safety clicked off his gun. Less stupid then she'd thought then. "Ah, ah, ah. Unless you want to follow your great-grandfather's footsteps in protecting this bitch's family, you'll stay still."
Katherine froze, and one foot shifted back, into a more ready stance. Three men. More on the way soon, if they weren't already. Kidnapping seemed likely. Capturing the bodyguard of Jules Moss would be an achievement in itself, but if said guard was a Stone, like Katherine was, it was something akin to a miracle. Or… no. Doubtful. But all three of them lined up with a darker possibility, one that Katherine thought had been snuffed out with protests and reforms nearly a century and a half earlier.
They had no panic button or silent alarm she could set off. No escape route that was carefully planned out. The handgun Katherine had on her only had twelve shots. Three attackers, close range. She could take out one, potentially take a hit, they'd focus on her, use one of them -
Step forwards, and grab the barrel from below, shove upwards. Same time, pull out own handgun, aim, safety off, fire. Kick into the chest, send them back into the wall, twist and bring a foot around. Knock the gun from their hands, the other foot comes around, into the shoulder. Aim, pull, recoil. Duck, twist, sweep the leg. Fire.
- Jules was pressed against the wall, gasping for breath. Katherine was crouched on the ground, both hands holding the black handgun steady. Something she didn't like using. It was a coward's weapon. So easy to just end a life with. You didn't need hours of training. Of skill. You could just pull and it was over, the ringing in your ears the only sound in the world that mattered in the end.
But her hands were steady. Her breaths were even and slow, calm and collected, the three would-be kidnappers around her were coughing and gasping for air. For a moment, Katherine was still, and then she started to move once more, every motion precise and practiced, not quite aware of what was happening as she did so. She was just doing it -
Pick up the guns. Safety on. Disarm. Discard the bullets. Take apart. Scatter. Study the assailants. That one's dead, through the skull. That one might make it. That one will for sure. Take out the phone. Dial the number. Say the words.
- and she didn't notice the blood that stained her skin as she did.