((Excerpt from Book 3: Seraphim PINION.))
“You need to eat.”
In Rey’s other hand was a bowl she must have found in the hotel’s storage. Inside was a swimming red substance that made Faye ill just looking at it.
“Tomato soup,” Rey said. “You’re malnourished, so you should start with liquids before you eat again.”
“I don’t want your soup. I’m not hungry.” She pushed the bowl away, nauseated by the smell of it. Her hyperactive senses left her woozy.
“Don’t care what that injection did to you — you can’t do this to yourself.”
“Yeah? And why do you care so much?”
Rey didn’t answer right away. “You’re not allowed to starve.”
Faye shot upright from the couch, forcing herself to stand on her two feet. Rey took a step back as Faye marched forward, standing on her toes to get in the other woman’s face. “What makes you think I’ll starve to death, huh? What makes you think I’ll even die at all? I’m not me!”
“I’M NOT ME,” Faye shrieked, throwing the bowl out of Rey’s hand. Red soup spilled across the floor, soaking the carpet.
Her outburst did not leave Rey daunted. “Am going to have to make another one now.”
She went to leave, until Faye seized the scar-faced woman by the wrist. She shoved her back, around the coffee table and towards the fireplace.
“Why?” Faye hissed with another shove. “Why do you keep coming back to me like some stupid puppy? Do you think I’m your responsibility now or something?” She pushed the other woman forward again, and again. “I’M NOT!”
Rey was not retaliating. Her hands were out at her sides, taking every attack Faye sent her way. Each time she didn’t even stumble, almost as though she was purposefully allowing Faye to blow off steam.
“Just because you killed Isobel does not make me your problem!”
Rey wasn’t looking Faye in the eye anymore, as if she couldn’t. Her head hung low, her own skinny neck appearing to shrink, perhaps trying to hide her trembling chin. Faye couldn’t see it through her tunnel vision, her adrenaline boiling up from inside that made her want to rip the other woman’s jaw off. Beat her senseless. Scream. Thrash.
Yes, she would do all of these things with reckless abandon. She pushed the woman up against the wall, throwing her fist into Rey’s stomach first. She lurched forward, an arm over where Faye’s punch had landed, putting herself into a position where she could go for the face this time.
A bruise appeared clocked over Rey’s left eye. Faye shook, panting, reeling another fist back to punch her in the face repeatedly. Again and again.
Not once did the other woman fight back. Rey took every hit to her face, chest, gut. Within a minute, she had a swollen eye, a bruised cheek, and a cut lip. Those were the only injuries that Faye could see on the surface, since she doubted that she could dent the material that made her so damned heavy.
Squinting through her right eye, Rey gasped and dropped to the floor. Blood spat from her mouth, her teeth bright and red. She hacked up some more, coughing and choking.
And then Faye realized what she had done.
What she had become.
“Oh my God...” Faye stumbled back, almost tripping over her own hurried feet. She fell, the back of her legs hitting the coffee table. Her knees gave way, the rest of her collapsing on her butt. Faye shifted to crab-walk farther from Rey, only stopping at the couch.
Was that her just then? Was that Faye Elms, or was that another beast?
Spitting more red fluids, Rey just smiled through her swollen, bloodied face. “What was it they called you in the Corps?” Her head dropped into her hands. “The Red Fox, was it?”
Faye hadn’t heard that name in a long time. It was her name when she had been enlisted with the Red Rifles, a high op military unit that specialized in sniping and guerilla warfare.
Rey must have known this, because they were enemies during that war.
Right now, she shouldn’t be serving Faye soup; they should be trying to kill each other. Faye was just trying to restore the natural order of what they were.
But in the end, it didn’t help. It didn’t sate the hungry animal in her heart; neither did it bring back her wife. Isobel was still dead, and the Salamander no longer existed for Faye to hate.
“Found this.” Rey reached into the back of her cargo pants, and pulled out what appeared to be a classic revolver. She spun the cylinder, showing Faye the bullets inside before slamming it shut and slid it across the floor.
The old gun stopped at Faye’s foot.
When she looked back at Rey again, she was still smiling. “If your intent is to kill, remember, you need to aim here,” Rey said, pointing to her heart with an unsteady hand. Her voice was shaky, her lip trembling and voice wavered. “If you’re going to do it, then you may as well do it here, right? In the country where Isobel died. You can finally say that you killed the Salamander.”
More blood trickled down her serene smile. She bore the face of someone who not only was willing to die, but begged for it.
“Did everything that needed to be done. Don’t need to live anymore. Consider this a final gift to you.” She nodded at the gun on the floor. “Go on. Take it.”
Slowly, Faye leaned forward, seizing the gun by the grip.
She looked at it from one side to the other, and laughed. “Funny. One of the first guns I ever shot looked something like this. It belonged to my friend’s father. He collected all kinds of firearms.”
With a new sense of resolve, she rose to her feet. Her eyes closed, watching the face of the girl she knew as a child in the back of her mind.
It was the memory she hadn’t thought of in a long time. She summoned up the image of the sweet-faced girl she had met in Junior High.
“Her name was Reika. I suppose you could say that she’s the reason I turned out the way I am. Why I really joined the military.” She looked down at the revolver in her hand, squeezing the grip. It felt good. It felt right. “I liked the power of a gun. Even though people thought I was far too old fashioned, I never let that stop me.”
“It’s who you are.” Rey smirked through her injuries.
“And what about you?” Faye asked, taking steady strides towards Rey while she spoke. “Who are you? Rey or the Salamander?”
“Honestly?” Rey sent her a half-lidded, tired look. “What’s even the difference anymore?”