Chapter 4: Everybody Knows

The snake is poised and is held by your noise
You charm the life out of demons
You kept me there with the web of your hair
And everybody knows your fate, honey, everybody knows your fate.

That evening was the first clause in the Great Arrangement. Officially, the Arrangement had never been made. Neither one of us signed anything. No one set ground rules. In fact, the first person to even refer to it as the Great Arrangement was Spike. The Usual Suspects, and by that I meant Vicious, Spike, the boys and I, were going over what was essentially a raid. Someone owed us some money they weren't kind enough to pay, so we were going to go in and confiscate the couple million woolongs worth of drugs he had seemed to purchase with said money. If he happened to get shot in the process, oh well. Not to sound na•ve, but the guys were generally right about the kind of people we killed. I'm not saying they were all unfeeling monsters but I will say that very few elderly fruit stand owners trying to put their kids through college were harmed in the making of this picture. The people we killed were generally like us, which meant we had better shoot before they shot first. By my third job, I was almost entirely over the shaking thing.

But while we were going over the plans, I happened to make eye contact with Vicious. I didn't think anything of it, but apparently whatever the hell we did in that half a second was pretty obvious because Spike flagged me down on the way to the car. "You two are having sex," he observed casually, cigarette hanging out his mouth.

"What makes you say that?" I asked. Not in a defensive way, mind you. I was more curious than anything else.

"Well, are you?"

"What are we girlfriends now?"

"I just think it's kinda weird, that's all," he shrugged. "It would be very unprofessional. Boinking a co-worker."


"I dunno. Whatever the kids are calling it these days. I generally concern myself with getting it rather than what to call it," he said easily. I rolled my eyes. The quintessential Frat Boy Spike, ladies and gentleman.

"It would only be unprofessional if we let it," I said. And I believed that. I still do, actually.

"Ah. The Great Arrangement," he sighed. "Many have fallen to its false hopes and shiny promises."

"Look, Spike. Boobs!" I pointed cheerily in the other direction.

"Where!?" he cried, though his tone was half-mocking.

And so the annoying buzzing of Frat Boy Spike was vanquished for at least a few minutes. He was right though. It was sort of an arrangement. I wouldn't exactly qualify us as a friend with benefits sort of thing. I guess we were partners. Every partnership is based on giving one what the other needs, and vice versa. We both needed to connect with something in a purely recreational way. There was something sobering about being with another person after the grisly escapades we went through every night. We kept each other human, kept each other alert. Reminded each other that we were still mortal, with all the included frailties. In our line of work, that was easy to forget.

But that was the extent of our partnership. The last thing any of us wanted was to be tied with those sorts of strings, not when a stray bullet can sever them at any given moment. It was dangerous to become attached and so we kept a respectful distance during the business hours. It wasn't that we didn't care for each other at all. I came to care for him just as he and Spike began to care for each other, and even how Spike and I watched each other's backs. But there was a connection there. A sort of closeness that was born out of our distance. We both accepted each other for what we were and expected nothing more. There is something rare and beautiful about that.

Over the years, people assumed that we were a couple. We never told anyone of the Arrangement, but people caught on. There were little subtle changes that people picked up on. Small little things like the certain looks and knowing glances that come with intimacy. But there were lines we never crossed, ones far more dangerous than simply leaping into bed. And I was happy.

I had a job I came to enjoy, great friends and I had taken a lover completely suitable for my needs at the time. Of course, whenever a person can pause, look around, and discover they are truly happy, they can go right ahead and document that moment as the beginning of the end.



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