Alone in the old storage room Kat hopped up and down, getting amped up for the imminent fight. The need was building inside her, growing hotter and more powerful the longer she waited. She needed to fight, to hurt, to feel that oh so glorious rush of violence and the absolute certainty that she was still alive.
From behind her came a chirping, her cellphone laying atop a gym bag. She’d already changed into suitable clothes, an old tanktop and sweatpants. Nothing to restrict movement or be grabbed by her opponent.
Grabbing the phone she read the message and bared her teeth, it was time.
The crowd was already producing a dull roar from the main room. The sound felt like a physical force as she opened the door. The current combatants were just finishing up, one man flopping ineffectually on the mat while the other was only marginally more hale, leaning forward with hands on thighs for support. Money was changing hands all around, people were screaming in celebration or derision.
This was it, this was the life.
“Kat!” Just like that her good mood crashed down. That damned voice. She whipped around. It was him. For a moment she had hoped it had been a cruel trick of her imagination.
“Just hear me out! I need to talk to you for a minute, please.” He held his hands up.
Kat grabbed him by the collar of his grungy denim jacket and hauled him into the storage room. She slammed him against the wall and then slammed the door. For a few moments they stared at each other.
“Forty seconds left.” She broke the silence.
“I want you. For a job. A good job, proper contracts, good pay.”
“Why exactly should I even consider it, coming from you?”
“Because…it will…if the boss is right, we stand a better than average chance of getting gangraped by demons.”
“Two to five year contract, fifty grand salary plus a share of forty percent of all gains from jobs, most expenses paid, plus a live-in office, apocalypse prophecy. If it doesn’t come true, that’s still a damn good option and it gives you a way into the industry. If it is true then we all die painful, fiery death. That’s pretty much exactly what you said you wanted, right?”
“Well there’s a prophecy about the Harbingers and apparently they’ve been spotted and–”
“That’s not what I meant!” She cut him off, “Why did you come back? Why do you keep doing this?”
“Sorry? That didn’t stop you from abandoning me! You left!” She shoved him back into the wall.
“You know damn well why I left. I didn’t want to hurt you, I still don’t.”
“But you did anyways, you hurt me more than anything I wanted you to do would.”
“I can’t do that for you. I care about you too much.”
“Yeah, you care so much that you walked the fuck away when I needed you most. Why the hell do you keep lying to yourself? You liked it.”
“I left because I do care. What you want…I can’t. I just can’t. Nobody deserves that.”
“I deserve it!” She screamed and slapped him, then looked at his face in confusion as though seeing him for the first time. “What the hell? Why do you have a bandaid, why is your nose busted up?”
“I hit my face on a window yesterday.”
The glare she gave him could have peeled paint off the wall.
“So what, you’re masochistic now?”
“I’m trying to stay low profile.”
“What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“No. You know what, just forget this. Enjoy the apocalypse.”
Steve turned around and started to open the door. Kat kicked the door shut, crushing his hand. Bone snapped audibly. Steve roared and spun around, backhanding her with his other hand. They fell to the ground, punching and clawing at each other. He was stronger, forcing her arms aside and grabbing her throat.
“Stop…lying…to…yourself!” She gasped out as he choked her.
“Fuck you!” He screamed in her face. With disgust he rolled off her and stood up.
“Heal it. Please.” She gasped, staring at his broken hand with conflicted anguish and hunger in her eyes. He looked down at his hand, the bone bent and giving his index finger an extra joint. The skin was torn open, exposing glistening muscle underneath. The wound was not bleeding, giving it an oddly artificial appearance.
“No.” He said, and turned to leave.
“Heal it. I’ll take the damned job just heal it!” She cried.
Slowly the blood flowed over the wound, ignoring gravity and the broken blood vessels. Gradually the wound closed and the bone straightened itself. In a few moments no trace remained.
Steve extended the hand to Kat, pulling her up off the ground, pulling her into a hug.
“I’m trying to keep some things private. This group doesn’t know about me. They don’t know about us. Not everything anyways, they know we fought in the pit, but that’s it. I’d like to keep it that way, I don’t need any complications right now.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t be who you want, who you think you need. You deserve better than that.” His head perked up, “They’re calling your name. Go. We can talk later.”
Kat threw the door open and stomped away, pushing through the crowd. She needed to hit something.
Steve leaned against the wall, banging his head. A moment later he did it again, harder. He was being stupid again. One minute with her and the entire last year fell apart. As soon as he saw her all the lies crumpled and he turned into an animal.
Before he knew what he was doing he punched the wall. Something in his hand snapped, probably the same bone that had just healed. Everything he had went into the next punch, no time to think except to punch until it stopped hurting.
Time gets a little weird when you’re experiencing mind-altering pain. It felt like hours later when he slumped to the ground. He was exhausted and his hands throbbed with a persistent dull ache. Even despite all his efforts to heal it the pain lingered. It was…clarifying. Everything was reduced down to a single issue. Things were simplified again, at least for a while.