The first time he sees her she is wearing red shoes. Her dress is black and her hair is scarlet, but it is her shoes that shine. Against the sparks thrown off by the sequins in her dress and the flash from her smile the shoes should appear dull. But they gleam, gleam like the fresh wetness of an open wound.

He tries to pin it on the beating he just took, head aching and arms trembling under his waistcoat. He tries to pin it on the lack of gin in his hand, to the bruises blossoming across his knuckles.

But mostly he blames it on the goddamn pulsing in his fingertips, the one that signals an instinct to fight, to hurt, to kill his way through life. It pulses, circling his heartbeat in a lover's chase. He thought he was past all that, but her red rock shoes call him back with ease. He thinks he sees her smirk as the gin slides into his aching fingers and his eyes slide past her shoes.

His gin disappears and he forgets about her shoes.

He sees her next at a battlefield, but it's more like a massacre. The bomb is a surprise, the dead bodies less so, and the haziness of his mind is unwanted.

The assignment was shot to hell, not that he particularly cares anymore. He is more concerned with leaving with all his body parts intact. People were dead, and he might join them if he cannot find the strength to leave, to move.

This is probably why she approached, all pale legs and flaming hair. Her shoes are black this time, but her eyes shine like the blood on her face. The small flecks appear as artful splashes on the pale canvas of her face. Her hand touches his hairline, short, light, and without real purpose, almost like a curiosity.

"I remember you." Her voice is low, sultry in a smoke and mirrors way. It reminds him of the shoes, the blood, and the past. "You kept staring at my shoes."

His attempt at speech only reveals a pained wheeze.

The thought makes her smile. Not the soft, love-struck quirk of the lips that a dame usually has. It's the curved edge of a sharpened blade, blood already lining the sides. It makes his fingers burn again, that same burn that surfaces at each kill since he saw those shoes.

She leaves him with that burn, one more intense than the inferno surrounding him.

He uses one burn to escape another.

It's her nails this time, wrapped around a glass across the length of smoke filled room. They look as if they are dipped in some unfortunate flat top's blood and given how they parted last time it's not a stretch to imagine.

Her dress is too short and too long all at one but her nails capture his attention instead. They tap lightly, without thought as she takes in the room, works the room. If he is sure of one thing, it is this; she knows exactly the effect she has on men and she uses it to for her own purposes and no one else's.

That's what her nails say.

Her dress, her soft curves, her beguiling smile and the light in her eyes, they ask a body to come closer into her arms. But her nails, her nails are a warning, a marker, telling of the peril that befalls one foolish enough to come within range of those delicate fingers.

Her nails are not nails so much as talons.

He watches her from the safety of the bar. She never makes a move towards him, content to toy with the fools that approach her. He thinks he sees a flash of teeth, and suppresses a shiver. Perhaps her nails won't be the only thing with blood on them tonight.

It was only fitting that it ends at a circus.

It was not his circus, but that was long gone and ignored. But it was a circus all the same and some things just cannot be burned entirely from memory. The big top looks the same, but the air inside feels different, light even.

There is no stink of fear and intimidation.

And yet his fingers still burn, muscle memory he supposes.

"I've been watching you."

He turns at her voice, hands relaxed between his knees and peers down the stands at her. She is wearing the shoes again. She is wearing red all over, luminous and glassy in the low lights. It should look hideous, but she is beautiful in the way that fire is, that blood is.

He feels his fingers pulse; he feels the burn increase from it.


On anyone else it would have been a smirk. Instead she arches one eyebrow as if to inform him how pointless she finds this question (they both know the answer). "You're not like the others. You fight who you are."

His inhale is a reflex, the breath before he releases a shot. "And who's that?"

She does not answer, just lounges with the cigarette flickering in her hand. He watches the cigarette in his hand and knows it was a mistake when something flies at his head, he assumes she is the one who throws it though he never sees. The case is black but he knows the contents before he opens it.

She gives him a short-range crossbow and he knows that she is giving him everything.

"Me." And this time the smile is real in the way that they are real. She burns like a fire, hot and cold and so very dangerous that he cannot help but step closer to the beauty of it all. His fingers burn, and for the first time he does not want them to stop.

It's only fitting that it began at a circus.

Author's Note: I'm not quite sure what this it (it was a try at Noir, but I passed go and owed $200 instead). I wanted it out of my files in any case.