The teeth closed in around her collarbone and she screamed as it crushed beneath them. Her shaking hands were holding his head in her hands, tears falling from her golden eyes and into his black curls. Just like he had done to her bicep, just like he had done to her shoulder, he pulled the flesh from her body, tearing it away. She breathed out in a shudder as he raised his face to hers. He pressed his forehead to hers as he chewed, her blood dripping down his lips and onto her chest.
His hands eased her sweater further down her arms to her elbows, and his hand stroked her other shoulder gently. She tried not to cry harder as his blue eyes met hers and she saw the joy in them. She’d never seen him look so purely happy before. Not at any point in their time together had he ever been so content as he was eating pieces of her. And Sam couldn’t stop him. She wouldn’t, even as he swallowed the piece of her he had ripped away. She wouldn’t, even as his hands stroked her unmarred skin. She just tightened her fingers in his curls and rested her face against his as she cried.
“Don’t cry, Sam. I’m just showing you how much I love you. Isn’t this what you wanted, sweetheart?”
There was a dull throbbing in her head. It was unrelated to the pain in her arms, to the bite marks that marred her skin. Wait. Her arms? He had only taken bites out of one of them. She looked back up at him and saw that he was foggy, loose, and quickly fading. She blinked, and when she opened her eyes, Todd wasn’t in front of Sam. Instead, she found herself looking at the wall of what appeared to be a warehouse.
She groaned and looked around. Empty warehouse, almost completely cleaned out of everything. Some pieces of furniture and a few scattered crates remained, and Sam was tied to a fucking chair. She looked at her arms and saw where they were constricted by the zip ties– in the same spots Todd had taken bites out of her in her dream. Thank god that had just been a nightmare. She would think about that later. Right then, she had a bigger problem.
She was, after all, tied to a fucking chair. She could just remember walking in the door to her apartment and changing from her work sweats and into a more casual turtleneck and jeans– which she was still wearing, thank god– and then… nothing. A rag to her face, maybe? Shit, had she been chloroformed?
With frustration apparent in her voice, Sam called out, “Is anyone there? Maybe someone who tied me to a fucking chair?”
Noticing details has always served Flora well. Being detail-oriented had been just as important in her old job as in her new line. Instead, her work was now much more dangerous than being an engineer at a nuclear reactor. People were more unpredictable than uranium; and much more explosive. She could already tell the redhead was a firecracker with a short fuse.
Flora had spent almost two weeks trying to track down Cryptid. It was a wonder SLATE had hired out the job, the man was nearly impossible to track. The people he was close to, however, were almost too easy to find. Then Flora simply watched and waited. She was patient. After another week of investigation, she put her plan into action. It was later in the day and was waiting near the woman's apartment. Disassembling her atomic structure was almost second nature by now, and breaking into the apartment and kidnapping Pheonix had been too easy. Flora had sighed and left a note for Cryptid.
Flora looked up from her spot in the warehouse as her captive stirred, still zip-tied to the chair. Without revealing her face, which was concealed by a black gaiter, she walked around the chair where Sam could see her and took a seat on a nearby pallet. Sam would see a small, slender, female figure dressed in black, with a wicked knife strapped to her belt.
"Relax," Flora ordered, but not unkindly. Her voice was more tired than anything. "I'm not going to hurt you, and regardless, it should be over soon..."
Sam paused for half a beat before she gave the small woman a sharp smile. Her head tilted to the side in a quick jerky motion, almost like a bird. Her freshly cut bangs fell in her face, obscuring her scrunched-up brows. With a quick once over, Sam turned her attention away from the woman and onto the warehouse. She craned her head as far as she could while she spoke, trying to find the exits and to see if anyone else was there.
“Oh, good, I was worried this might take a while. You see, I have a lot of plans, and being tied to a chair really puts a damper on them. You wanna tell me who hired you to snatch me up like a small child walking home from school?”
There didn’t appear to be anyone else in the building, so she turned her attention back to the figure dressed in all black. She flashed a charming smile, her award-winning smile that normally got her whatever she wanted from others, and tugged against her restraints. No give. Just snug enough to be a bitch to squeeze through, not tight enough to cut into her skin. That was bad. Sam might have been strong, but she wasn’t strong enough to rip out of these, especially not given she wasn’t able to eat after work. Already the effects of that were catching up to her.
She kept the grin on her face. Well, if she couldn’t squeeze her way out, and she was going to be stuck here for however long it took Todd to notice she was missing, then she might as well have fun with it. Todd would come for her, once he realized she hadn’t just run an errand. They were supposed to be patrolling that night together. And right now, with the fact that they were pretending they didn’t both know–
Her heart stopped for a moment. What if Todd thought that Sam was running away? What if he thought she was leaving him? God, would he think that? Was that possible? He thought she was going to kill him– would he actually think that Sam would run away, though? She didn’t want to think about that. She didn’t want to think about what Todd would assume. There was no way he would think that she had just left. He knew her better than that. Todd knew her better than– than–
He thought she was going to kill him, though. There was no telling what he might think. So instead of focusing on that, she turned her focus back on the woman in front of her. She could warp the plastic of the zip ties. It would take some time, but she could do it. Subtlety was going to be the key here. If she alerted the other woman as to her actions, she could get knocked out again. She started to raise the temperature across her body.
It was hard to tell if Sam was putting on a facade to keep her fears at bay, or was genuinely having fun with this. Either way, Flora wasn't one to be easily charmed by a smile and batting of lashes.
"Don't be stupid, we both know you're no child" Flora said coldly, pausing a moment before deciding to respond to the woman, hating the way the word "child" tasted in her mouth. "Perhaps you should be a bit more cautious when you go out beating up criminals or whatever- and certainly more cautious about the company you keep."
Pheonix had to be smart enough to know she wouldn't talk about who had hired her for this job. She was just choosing to be annoying on purpose. Flora made a mental note to bring a gag next time. She wasn't used to working with the living and was quite out of her usual element. Usually by now she'd be gone, leaving nothing behind but a body.
Flora could feel a headache coming on, and hoped this would be over soon. Cryptid had to show...
“Oh, so it’s not me you’re after. Well, that gives me a very short list of who you’re actually after.” There was a sharpness to her voice that hadn’t been there before. She cranked the heat up another notch and kept pulling on the zip ties. She just needed enough to pull them apart far enough to slip out. That should be easy, even if they were the heavy-duty ones. Plastic like this wasn’t meant to be exposed to heat like hers. She could melt it, given time and space. She kept talking, trying to distract the woman as the temperature around her slowly rose.
“Wouldn’t be Wolf. He’s not well-known enough, and he’s not a well-known enough associate of mine. Wouldn’t be the World, though that would be hilarious if it were. Prick deserves people trying to capture him. Wouldn’t be that zombie guy, I only saw him twice. If it were the Wolfhound, you would have gone after him directly. He’s as subtle as I am.”
She shifted her arms, trying to roll them apart. The ties weren’t giving yet, but they were bending with her now instead of staying stiff and rigid. That was a good start. Then, she paused, going still. She closed her eyes and cursed under her breath. She had to get out now, because–
“That leaves Cryptid. Of course, you’d have some kind of contract on Cryptid. And I’m certainly good bait, given I’m his partner. It’s too bad that he’s exactly the kind of guy to go rushing in to save me. Otherwise, you and I could have spent the whole night playing games. Wouldn’t that have been fun? After all, you’re such a talker, I’m sure we could have the best conversations.”
Sam smiled, tilting her head to the side so her perfect curls, perfect despite being dragged halfway across town in what she was sure was the back of a van, shifted to the side and tumbled down over her shoulder. A subtle motion to get them out of the way so melted plastic wouldn’t get on them. She shifted her arms again, and they flexed more with her, but they still didn’t give. She’d have to turn the heat up further. She let her temperature raise to almost one hundred and ten, concentrating the heat in her arms.
“Do you ever shut up?” Flora snapped irritated. As much as she despised her usual work, she decided she wasn’t cut out for dealing with living bodies.
Despise wasn’t the right word. Of course Flora didn’t enjoy killing, and she wasn’t cruel about it either. She took life, but she didn’t take it lightly. But there was also a quiet pride she took in her skill, like anyone with a natural talent might have.
Flora tugged at her collar. The usually chilly warehouse was growing quite warm…Of course. Every Phoenix was born of fire.
Underneath her gaiter, concealed from view, Flora frowned deeply. Sam clearly didn’t appreciate the work she put into kidnapping her, or aware of the precautions and prep she had done to the warehouse beforehand.
Flora was in plain view of Sam when she spoke next, “Careful, Ms. Walsh-“
And then she vanished.
Her body reformed behind Sam’s chair, out of sight. For that she was glad, considering the sharp pain in her spine, causing her to drop to a knee. Flora took a deep breath and seized the nearby bucket, fueled by annoyance and necessity in equal measure, dumping the ice cold contents over Sam’s head.
“- Next time I’ll have to resort to lethal measures.”
The moment the woman disappeared, Sam tensed up. She’d had a smart-ass reply for the woman, but now, she was scanning the warehouse as thoroughly as she could. That was, until the icy water hit her head. She gasped in a sharp breath, her concentration broken. The water cooled the ties back off, making them rigid once more. She blew water off her face, feeling it slide over her curls before soaking into the bottoms of them. Her clothes were drenched through.
With a groan, she pulled against her restraints, trying to break them. But they were too thick, and held strong now that the cold water had shrunk them back down. Sam stomped her feet in frustration and glared up from under her lashes and out the corner of her eyes at the woman. There was a mean smile on her face now as water dripped down it. She let her warmth out a bit, not enough to fuck with the ties, but enough to speed up her drying.
“You know, if you wanted me wet, a little dirty talk was all that you needed.” Though she said the words, they carried no weight. She didn’t mean it at all and was simply speaking out of habit. Things she normally would have said before Todd. She shook her head, flinging water every which way.
“Watch your mouth!” Flora corrected reflexively, taking herself by surprise.
She sounded exactly as sharp as she had when Cecil had said “shit” for the first time, resulting in a lengthy conversation with Boris about why he couldn’t swear in front their toddler anymore. The pain of the memory cut through the weary aches she had become accustomed to.
Flora stiffened after a moment, uncomfortable with Sam’s statement. The idea to cut out the woman’s tongue was becoming more enticing. She absentmindedly scratched at her left bicep where her PICC line was, and tried to gather her thoughts.
“I’m struggling to see what Cryptid found appealing in you,” Flora muttered, exhaling heavily. She glanced at the watch on her wrist, debating how long she could wait before being forced to take medication.
Flora teleported again, if only to put distance between herself and her captive, settling on the rafters of the warehouse where she could still hear and see everything, and she pulled down her gaiter to breathe better.