Disclaimer: I do not own.

They do it in daylight, surrounded by Egyptian sand and well past city limits. The van is stopped nearby. Heat radiates upward in waves beading sweat. His head feels off-balance, too light atop his neck.

She looks him in the eye beforehand, calm and even. He isn't sure if she'll say something—they discussed this all beforehand. Talia has been perfectly transparent with him. If he doesn't take care of it now he'll have to later, because the alternative will render him useless and (most likely) dead. Completely practical. Of course he agreed.

She offered to let him choose the model. He'd paused and said surprise me, and neither of them missed the waver in his answer. Smoothly, silently, she'd put a hand over his. Her eyes were hazel, pupils empty and endless against the light, and it mercifully allowed him to take himself somewhere else.


Semi-automatic. SIG Pro, black, ribbed at the back. Not the same he's seen before. He wonders if she knew that, if it was deliberate.

Talia doesn't load. He'd asked about blanks, and she'd sighed. Do you really think you're ready, Bruce? It could have been embarrassing but at the time it was a relief. Now, with his pulse hammering against his ribs and up the confines of his throat he wonders (irrationally, he understands at the back of his mind that this is irrational) if it's because she did it earlier, when he wasn't watching. If he's missed something. If she's going to surprise him. If this is a test.

Half-cocked. Wouldn't fire if she did pull the trigger. If she dropped it. He repeats this to himself over and over again into the black terror dragging him back, down, away into the alley behind the theater as she raises the gun to eye level. Ten feet between them shrinks to five he smells the faint taint of trash on either side the street beyond is empty a shortcut to their car (his father voiced uncertainty about taking the Bentley his mother called him irrational this is irrational he's being irrational) and Talia hasn't said anything Talia wasn't there isn't there the end of the gun stretching back and he knows exactly who's holding it now.

He wants to take a step backward but his parents are behind him, mom's hand on his shoulder tightening he can feel her nails through his t-shirt, dad moves to block his view but he's seen Chill dirty stubble brown coat ragged ratty shaking he feels himself shaking steps back knees unscrewing he thinks he might sink into something but there is no escape from this moment you cannot outrun a gunshot rips through the air dad slides down and sideways throat torn open hollow red flesh moving briefly in the aftermath blood on mom who shrieks a screech high uncontrolled animal digging into his shoulder throwing him away aside a second blast roaring through the air but what he notices is the crack as her skull explodes backward and she crumples face caved in unrecognizable pink and gray scattering with bone fragments across the pavement.

"Take it, Bruce," she whispers through red lipstick under red crawling toward him pooling outward but it is Talia's voice and he finds himself staring through the barrel of the gun at her face his stomach lurches his breath hitches and he thinks he might be sick as the mechanics of this moment drag him forward into the hot empty metal that waits for him he is impossibly slow does not know if the next step will bring him to his knees the echo of gunshots at the back of his mind eyes glazed over in death he wants to run but cannot bring himself to leave the scene his hands shake uncontrollably the object in his hands is foreign forcelessly falls into his grip at contact passes through to hit the ground with a dull thud he barely registers.

Talia pulls him into her and he couldn't resist if he wanted to, her arms folding across his back as his legs bend forehead falling into her shoulder she eases him down murmuring words he can't decipher lungs ragged stuttering through him limbs paralyzed good-for-nothing training.

She tells him it's done. They both know he can never come back from this.