This convention sucks.
Her International Threateners & Silencers (HITS) has got to be the worst conference association name to reflect a global community of women assassins. Also, not the most clandestine for a supposedly under the radar long weekend event. The crystal chandeliers and gold ornate columns and ladies in black suits carrying large ‘musical instrument’ bags might as well blink in neon light with an arrow, LOOK HERE, KILLER WOMEN ON PREMISE.
Clarke scoffs at the life size vinyl banner stand—a travesty of black and gold with the gaudy HITS acronym in bold type centred over an inconspicuous, overly large crosshair—welcoming her into the hotel lobby. Next to it is a life size cutout of her arch-rival, flexing an arm like Rosie the Riveter while also finger-pointing like Uncle Sam, with the brazen caption, We’re Coming For You, blazoned across the bottom.
Pulling her phone out of her back pocket, she dials her asset handler, ready to yell at Raven as to why she thought this would be a good idea for Clarke to network. You’re new to the game, Clarke. You have to make connections if you want better assignments than misogynist CEOs. Bottom rung there, we want to be at least on the next rung, drug kingpins who traffic in schoolyards. What did Raven expect, that cocaine dealers would be handing out business cards, “here, me next”? She taps her foot impatiently as the agency switchboard puts her on hold, waiting for Rey to pick up. On the third ring, someone bumps into her shoulder causing her to drop the phone and call, toppling over her rolling carryon in the process.
With murderous intent, Clarke spins on her heels, prepared to dress-down whoever dared knock her off balanced. Her insult dies in her throat. Her equilibrium shifts on a completely different axis.
There, in a head-to-toe black catsuit, lush brown hair overflowing like a Pantene commercial, and a bow and arrow strapped across her back, stands the Night Archer. The real life version of the cardboard edition.
She’s more stunning in person than on the magazine cover of Axes and Ohs that Clarke has hidden in her drawer back at headquarters. This close at range, pouty lips are a thousand times more supple and pillow soft looking, eyes a mesmerising grey rather than green, and bone structure that should come with its own danger warning label. So infuriatingly attractive.
Naturally, Clarke hates her. Not least of which because she won Best Newcomer at last year’s industry awards gala for the record-breaking hit counts, while Clarke wasn’t even nominated. No one knows the Sky Slinger exists. Not many are aware of the virtues of a light sabre lasso.
While Clarke has been toiling in obscurity, maligned to the shadows, Glamour Shots has taken the international spotlight. Seeing her as the poster child for the association’s subversive recruitment campaign, Hey Good Looking, What You Got (Lethally) Cooking, aimed at introducing young girls to careers outside of the kitchen, was both admirable and aggravating. (And hot.)
“Whoa there,” the Night Archer says, a disarming smile curling the corner of her mouth, righting Clarke by the elbow, “careful to watch where you’re going.”
“Watch where I’m—” Clarke’s rebuttal is cut off by her phone’s vibrations, the screen lighting up on the travertine floor. Before she can reach down for it, Cat Woman Wannabe swipes it off the ground and is handing the device over.
If you were calling to leave the convention, then NO. Pull up your grandma panties and get some numbers.
Clarke flushes red reading the preview text that’s unmissable, faced up on an open palm. She snatches her phone from the cradle of (also unmissable) long fingers.
“Oh, are you here for HITS too?” The question comes with a cute, quirk of the head. It’s followed by a less than subtle once over of Clarke’s outfit, which is likely, understandably, the source of confusion.
Having wrongly assumed that this would be an undercover event where stealth is valued, the twin-set cardigan sweater and ankle-grazing chino pants complete with thick frame glasses seemed like an excellent wardrobe decision this morning. Nothing says unassuming like a PTA mom / librarian.
Rather than melt from mortification, Clarke leans into the aesthetic. She crosses her arms, straightens her back, lifts her chin.
The affirmation earns an unexpected smile. When Clarke doesn’t offer up further explanation about why she looks like a stepford wife, the same hand that’s still extended turns ninety degrees in a business-like gesture.
Purely out of professional politeness, and nothing to do with curiosity about skin softness, Clarke shakes it.
“Nice to meet you. Night Archer,” a finger breezily points to the cardboard cut-out, “that’s me. Or just Lexa when I’m not made of pasteboard paper, and am off the clock.”
Clarke deliberates whether she should also disclose her moniker, which is still undergoing brand review. The alliteration is nice but not quite the intimidation factor she’s going for. First name should suffice for now until something more catchy and emblematic like ‘The Night Archer’ comes along. (Wonder Woman was already taken.)
Lexa laughs, the sound disgustingly pleasant. “A woman of mystery, I like it.” Clarke doesn’t realise they are still connected until Lexa lets go of her hand, stepping around her and towards the bank of elevators. “Alright, I’m gonna head up, catch some shut eye before the festivities begin,” then throwing over her shoulder as she walks away, “See you around, Cardigan.”
The elevator door shuts with a decisive ding before Clarke can form a response. Huffing, she tightens her grip on the handle of the carryon and makes an equally decisive move towards reception.
Grandma panties or not, there’s no way that’s the last impression Lexa will have of the menacing Sky Slinger.
“You have got to be kidding me.”
The words drop out of her mouth as soon as she opens the door to her suite and finds a lanky catsuit figure spread eagle facing down on one of two twin beds.
Clarke didn’t think her second chance at a first impression would come up this soon and in this way.
“Hey,” Clarke tries gently at first, then, “hey, hey!” hissing at Lexa to wake up. After no luck, she reaches out, intending to step up the rousing with poking her side.
Clarke should have known not to breach the personal space of an assassin. Without warning, wind is knocked out of her and Clarke is on her back on the mattress, vice gripped between strong legs as Lexa straddles her hips and pins Clarke’s hands above her head.
The display of strength does inconvenient things to Clarke’s ability to function, taking the force out of her indignation of being so easily (wo)manhandled.
“Oh, it’s you, Cardigan.” Lexa loosens her hold when she assesses the situation, looking down, and registers the pull of cotton riding up Clarke’s stomach. “What are you doing here?”
“Clarke,” she corrects, recovering a breath but losing another with the way Lexa is still pressed on top of her, their chests rising and falling in unison. “Get off me.”
Lexa complies, but in her haste to obey and disengage from their tangle of limbs, she accidentally gropes Clarke’s breast. A tumbling of sorrys fall forth as Lexa falls over the side of the bed.
“What am I doing here, what are you doing here?”
“Was trying to nap, in my room.”
“It’s gotta be a mistake,” Clarke says, sitting up and pulling out the keycard from her back pocket, rereading the room number. “We have to fix this.”
“What, you don’t want to share?” Lexa asks from her position still on the ground.
“No. I signed up for a singles deluxe conference package,” Clarke replies, emphasising the importance, then waving her hand at their drab surrounding, the paper thin curtains seeming to shrink from her scrutiny, “this is not even basic.”
Whatever opulence she saw downstairs never made its way up past the first floor.
Lexa shrugs, picking at the lint on the musty carpet. “I don’t know. It’s charming and understated.”
“Well, I’m less than charmed.” Clarke picks up the phone and dials reception. It rings endless. She hangs up and dials again.
“They’re probably swamped downstairs,” Lexa tells her unhelpfully. “It’s also why we were likely put together. I hear this year’s convention is over capacity, they’ve had to turn people away. The keynote speaker is a big draw.”
Clarke eyes her, unimpressed and unamused. “You’re the keynote speaker.”
“Like I said, big draw.”
Clarke looks away, not wanting to give more ammunition to that smile.
“Then shouldn’t you have gotten a better room?”
Before Lexa could answer, the call comes through. Minutes of making her case later, Clarke gets nowhere and no more than profuse apologies for the mix up and something about their system being down and causing havoc across the board. Ultimately, she’s informed, even if the technology is fixed, not much can be done about the room assignment because of the hotel’s fullness.
Clarke hangs up, distressed at the upending of calmness she was looking forward to with a nice bath, room service, and a glass of wine. She casts a furtive glance Lexa’s way, who has since moved on to the minibar, crouched in front of it and sifting through its inventory. There’s no way Clarke can spend a weekend with her direct competitor (and unadmitted crush).
“Hey, it’s not so bad. They’ve got a Macallan 12-year and Van Brunt Stillhouse. It’s a decent selection.”
“Not really into whiskey.”
“More for me,” Lexa says under her breath. More loudly, “What do you drink, Cardigan? I doubt they have peach schnapps but we can ask.”
Ignoring the fruity cocktail insult, Clarke asks, “Can’t you do something about this?”
“About what?” Lexa stands up, setting a shortlist of mini bottles aside on the night table.
“This,” Clarke waves an erratic hand behind her, mostly at the twin beds.
With a devilish grin, Lexa goes over and starts pushing the side of one bed. The wood squeaks ominously.
Clarke is aghast. “What are you doing?”
“Pushing the beds together,” Lexa says through a grunt, like duh, obviously. “That’s the problem, right? One bed is too small.”
“That is not the problem,” Clarke says through tight lips, not sure if Lexa is being purposefully obtuse. “And that is not the solution.”
“Seems pretty resolved to me.” Lexa plops back down on the conjoined mattresses, star fishing. Then sits back up, bounces on it, testing its give. By what measure of satisfaction that elicits the resultant smile, Clarke doesn’t want to consider. Her panic is rising at the thought of sharing close quarters with Lexa.
“We can’t both stay here.”
“You heard the man, not much you can do about it.”
“Maybe I can’t, but you can.”
“Why me, how?”
“I don’t know, play the keynote card?” She asks, desperate.
Lexa looks up at her and must see something of her desperation. “You really don’t want to share?”
Clarke slowly shakes her head.
Something akin to a flash of hurt crosses Lexa’s face but it’s gone as fast as it came. Lexa nods, gathering up the miniature bottles to place back on the rack in the fridge.
“I’ll go downstairs and see, okay?”
It’s said with such gentle kindness, despite the hint of disappointment sitting at the corner of her eyes, that Clarke almost feels bad for making the request.
Her regret is forgotten twenty minutes later when she enters the upgraded accommodation. Clarke sighs relieved, it’s a vast improvement. Higher floor, substantially larger floor area. Gone are the twin beds, in their place is a plush, queen size one. There’s a lounge area with a state-of-the-are media console and luxury amenities, including a crackling fireplace. The curtains here are thick and satin shiny and the thread count several thousands above downy cotton. Lexa must have really worked her VIP status.
Clarke is grateful and gives a rueful thought to the assassin as she unpacks her suitcase. A part of her wonders what it would have been like to share the same space over three days, whether she is now missing out on learning directly from a respected colleague in the industry, or at the very least, making a friend. (At the most, what else those thighs could have been doing earlier to Clarke.)
Those thoughts accompany her into the bathroom while readying for a shower, however, they are barely entertained before she hears the suite door click open. Scrambling to cover herself to intercept housekeeping, “Sorry could you come back?” is only half way out when in strolls the subject of her fantasising.
The duffle bag drops to the floor just as Clarke’s towel does too, snagging on the bathroom door handle on her way out.
Lexa gawks while Clarke’s mouth opens and closes like a fish.
“Where’s your cardigan?” is breathily asked and a rush of blood travels the length of Clarke’s nude body. When Lexa registers what’s said, she slaps a hand over her eyes and promptly turns around facing the front door.
Lexa blindly reaches for the hotel phone on the console table. It’s a short call.
“Oh.” Lexa says after hanging up with reception, sounding guilty.
“What do you mean, oh?” Clarke asks, stood frozen in place in shock.
“Uh, looks like they upgraded both of us, also giving me what I should have gotten.”
“This is the opposite of what I told you to do.”
“I told them to give you the least basic room, like you asked!” Lexa argues, defending, whipping around to make eye contact but then right back just as quickly catching sight of Clarke’s still naked upper half. “I fixed it. This is their best suite that’s available which also happens to be the keynote suite. You didn’t want charming and understated, so here. Also, could you put your cardigan back on, please?”
Clarke looks over to where it presently lies atop the queen duvet. She gulps at the realisation of what, minutes ago had been an upgrade, may now be her downfall.
There’s only one bed.
“For starters, that’s impossible,” Clarke says, laughing. “There’s no way that happened.”
Lexa puts her hands up to show she’s not hiding anything. Only speaking truth. “It did! I was following the wrong guy for ages. I nearly took out an innocent headmaster instead of the head of the mafia.”
“But, you’re Best Newcomer who leave opponents quivering,” Clarke playfully mocks, adding air quotes for good measure. “That’s such a rookie mistake. Isn’t that Assassins 101, know your target?”
“Well, some targets are hard to read. Looks can be deceiving, Cardigan,” Lexa answers, hanging onto the word for a significant beat. It’s not lost on either of them what Lexa’s held gaze means. “Some people are surprising.”
Surprising and unexpected.
Clarke didn’t expect to be spending her Friday night settled cross-legged on the floor in front of a fireplace at a five-star hotel sharing stories with the rising star in the world of employed murderers. But after getting over herself and accepting of their roommate fate, Clarke put clothes back on and Lexa changed into sweats, something less sleek and slippery, deciding to make the most of circumstances to get to know one another.
Clarke didn’t expect how much her tiny crush would mushroom in the face of an infectious laugh and affecting storytelling or how she’d gravitate to a soft smile. How simply nice of a person Lexa is despite a ruthless reputation. After two mini chardonnays and now onto a third tiny merlot, Clarke has taken a new liking to charming and understated. (And has also started reconsidering her stance on whiskey, wondering how its warmth would be different from the taste of rose-coloured lips.)
Somewhere in the ballroom several floors below, there’s a meet-and-greet for conference goers, a social to kick things off before Saturday and Sunday’s talks, seminars, and workshops. Neither of them have made a move to leave their room, Lexa seemingly just as content to contain her mingling to a private twosome affair.
“Let’s play a game,” Lexa suggests, eyes twinkling. “Twenty questions.”
Clarke groans. “That’s so juvenile.”
“It’s not, Cardigan. Get to know your target, right?”
“Oh, am I a target now?” Clarke asks, swallowing thickly feeling the uptick of her heart.
“If you want,” Lexa says, steadying her gaze for a moment before looking down and finding interest in the carpet pattern.
“Fine. Favourite band?”
“Of course.” Clarke laughs. “I walked into that one.”
“Yours?” Lexa asks, smiling proud of her quick wit.
Clarke twirls a blonde strand of hair around her finger, raises a shameless, golden eyebrow. She has no idea if this qualifies as quality flirting but, with liquid courage freely flowing through her system, it’s too much fun to be self-conscious.
Lexa laughs, parroting, “Of course.”
“Alright, favourite song?” Clarke asks.
“Kill for Love.”
“Lexa, you’re killing me here,” Clarke whines, burying her head into the pillow on her lap. “That can not be a real song title.”
“It is!” Lexa looks offended that Clarke doesn’t know the song. “I don’t know why you don’t believe anything I say.”
“Maybe because you’re a contracted spy who deceives people for a living.”
Clarke’s breath hitches when Lexa suddenly leans forward to reach for her phone behind Clarke’s back on the couch, the spice of her perfume making her head spin more than the alcohol already has. While Lexa scrolls through her playlist, Clarke takes a fortifying sip of wine, drowning the dregs of her plastic cup. The adorable scrunch of eyebrows and bite of lip of Lexa’s concentrated face adds another fire log to the warm feeling that’s little to do with her growing
“Here,” Lexa says triumphant, pressing play on the found track. A grainy synth-pop fills the air, it’s paired with the dreamy and atmospheric vocals of the female lead. The insomniac, driving beat paints an evocative picture, both of a rush to the head and an existential ache. Clarke has to admit, the song is gorgeous. The lyrics hit a particular resonant note.
Everybody’s got a secret to hide
But I’d kill for love.
“It’s really catchy,” Clarke concedes, then a bit more brave, probes, “Is that your secret?”
With how sweet Lexa has been with her attention on Clarke, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think Lexa’s professional motivation lies fairly close to her archery kin, Cupid.
“Maybe.” Lexa drawls, playing coy before turning the table to ask, “What’s yours?”
Does she confess now about her infatuation or later when it becomes unmanageable, is a difficult choice when the subject of her secret is looking at her in such an expectant way. Eyes dropping to her lips before stealing away, caught, like they have for the past two hours. When Clarke stalls too long to answer, Lexa kindly gives her an out. “Favourite song, that is.”
“Easy,” Clarke replies immediately. She starts humming, “One way or another, I’m going to find you.” They both burst out laughing, sides hurting as she sings the Blondie anthem louder, with verve, “I’m gonna get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya.”
Eighteen more questions and her smile hasn’t left. It only drops when they finally decide to call it a night and the reality of their sleeping arrangement makes itself obvious in the goosebumps forming on her forearm that’s a hair graze away from Lexa’s.
The chatter and liveliness of their evening has turned into stilted silence as they lay stiffly next to one another, both staring blankly up at the ceiling. Both in pyjamas that are short on imagination and in Lexa’s case, long on exposed legs.
Clarke has never been so self-aware of where all her limbs are, not even while on stakeouts in enemy territory. Lexa, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have taken a breath since they brushed their teeth and awkwardly flipped a coin for which side of the bed to claim before slipping in under silk sheets.
By tacit agreement and an undeniable pull, they both gravitated to the centre, leaving plenty of unnecessary room on either of their sides. Now, they lay a single pinky swipe away from touching.
The tension heightens by an amplitude of ten thousand butterflies when Lexa does exactly that, sweeping the back of Clarke’s hand with her pinky finger.
Taking that as encouragement, Clarke works up the courage to say something. Just as she opens with, “Lexa, what you said about target,” at the same time, Lexa says, “I have a newfound appreciation for sweater sets. A certain sex appeal I had not given due consideration before, a glaring oversight—” overlapping with, “and whether I want to be yours.”
There’s a muttering of, “This is ridiculous,” and then for the second time in the same night, Clarke finds herself on her back, Lexa on top.
“I have the biggest crush on the Sky Slinger,” is not what she thought Lexa would say, distracted as Clarke is by their renewed closeness.
“You do?” Clarke asks, bewildered by the turn of events. “Wait, you know who I am?”
“How could I not? You singlehandedly took down that ring of corporate development warlords who’ve been pouring concrete over the glass ceiling.”
“I didn’t think anyone noticed.”
“I did. I’ve been keeping tabs on you since Polis Academy,” Lexa confesses. “We were in the same archery class.”
“I quit that class. I quit Polis.” Clarke says, taking in the new information.
“I know, you transferred to Arkadia.”
“They have better lassos there. Diana Prince heads the program.”
Lexa nods, like weaponry inventory and professor credentials are the most important points to focus on of this revelation. “You left before I got a chance to compliment you on your form. Really great curves.” At Clarke’s widened eyes, Lexa amends clumsily, “Recurve! Really great recurve technique.”
“Anyway, I’m a fan. The only reason I said yes to this conference is because I saw that you were running a session on Murder and Misogyny.”
“Yeah, How to Get Away with Murdering Misogynists,” Clarke recites the subtitle of her paper, “A feminist fatale perspective.”
Lexa is looking at her with so much awe, Clarke has the greatest urge to ask reception to bring a podium up to their suite so she can give her presentation to an audience of one. Curiously, the glaze of enamour is clouded by a sheen of perceptible guilt.
“So, uh, the suite mix-up might not have been all that accidental. The first one anyway, the second I can’t take credit for but nonetheless am grateful.”
“You organised this?” Clarke asks, waving a trapped hand between them. Lexa blushes pink. “The room assignment, why you weren’t in a keynote suite at first? The run-in?”
Lexa nods, muttering, “T’was planned.”
Clarke’s eyes bulge, recalling the title of Lexa’s keynote, Intimate Enemies: within range, how to get close to difficult targets. She remembers the abstract describing, ‘know how to create the opportune opening,’ as a learning outcome. “OMG, I was a target!”
“A romantic target, not a murderous one!” Lexa emphasises the distinction. “Like, I wasn’t going to kill you. Just wanted to take you on a date.”
Her voice bleeds such sincerity that Clarke can’t fault the extraness of her effort.
“That’s a really extreme way to ask someone out.”
Lexa’s gaze softens, tinged by the same sweetness that Clarke has indelibly fallen for.
“You’re not someone.”
At that, Clarke is left with no choice but to grab Lexa by the back of the neck and pull her down for a kiss.
There aren’t many words exchanged after that. Instead, it’s kisses and sighs and moans, and getting to know each other in twenty different (corporeal and carnal) ways. Lexa is as skilled with making Clarke quiver as she is with a quiver of arrows. Her accuracy is breathtakingly on target.
By the seventh orgasm, Lexa has Clarke thoroughly convinced that she is deadly serious about killing for love.
The next morning, blissfully sore waking up in Lexa’s arms, soft lips pressed into the crook of her neck and shoulder, Clarke reaches over for her phone and texts Raven nine meaningful digits. She doesn’t have to wait long for a reply.
It’s with the biggest smile that Clarke taps out her response before closing her eyes again and burrowing back into the warmth.
I got a number.