Camille had never fought someone with super speed before. She’d expected the fast movements, obviously, and she knew enough about them to be aware that Sasha would be more resistant to injury than most. What Camille hadn’t anticipated was how hard her opponent could hit, which was unfortunate.
“Ooof.” Camille let out a guttural gasp as Sasha’s fist buried itself in her diaphragm. Before she had any semblance of a chance to recover, a quick jab to the cranium sent her tumbling to the floor. A punch like that should have at least cracked her attacker’s hand bones, but as she stared up at Sasha, it was clear the girl with pink-streaked hair had barely even felt it. Bitch.
“I have to say, I was expecting a little more,” Sasha chided. “I mean, I know you’re just a healer, but I would have thought all that time in Close Combat would have taught you a few tricks.”
Camille sucked in a slow breath that made her ribs ache. She’d hit the floor hard enough to bruise them, but she was pretty sure nothing was broken. Her head was largely okay; thankfully, Sasha had struck the densest part. Slowly, she staggered to her feet. These injuries would be nothing to heal, take almost no effort at all. That would work against her, unfortunately, and Camille was determined to strike her own version of victory.
“That why they sent down a heavy hitter? I have to say I’m surprised Chad was willing to squander such a strong fighter on little old me.”
“I convinced him. Captain or not, he understands the need to work out personal grudges with one’s fists.”
“So it’s a grudge now?”
“Not really,” Sasha replied. She flashed forward, moving too quickly for Camille to react, and swept the smaller girl’s legs while pushing back on her head. Camille was able to shift her weight mid-air to avoid a headfirst impact, but as she crunched to the ground, she knew something in her shoulder had broken. “I just thought we ought to have some girl-talk time.”
“How... sweet.” Camille barely got the words out as pain rippled through her. Either by mercy or sadism, Sasha backed off and allowed her to struggle to her feet once more. “I can only imagine what you’d do to someone who was actually dating your ex.”
“I don’t think it’s an issue we’ll have to deal with soon. I’ve already decided I want him back.”
“No? And here I thought you were kicking my ass for the cardio.” It was funny; for the first time she could remember, Camille wasn’t feeling self-conscious about her words. Maybe it was the pain, or maybe it was just a side effect of real battle. Either way, she found herself staring back at Sasha without any sense of shyness whatsoever. If anything, she wanted to confront her all the more. “Of course, that’s if he takes you back.”
“Don’t kid yourself, honey. You might have that damsel in distress thing that he eats up, but you could never be real competition for me.” To illustrate the point, Sasha closed the gap between them and delivered a series of quick blows to Camille’s torso. The small girl stayed standing longer than anyone would have expected, but a punch that shattered one of her ribs finally sent her back to the floor in a coughing fit of pain.
* * *
“I can’t believe you did this to her.” Vince’s hands were gripped into fists, the tips of his fingers turning white as they pressed tightly against the flesh of his palm. Had it been anyone else, Nick would have been truly concerned that he might swing at him. Since it was Vince, Nick was only moderately worried.
“Did this to her? The other team picked the opponent, you know.”
“But you’re the one who sent her out there alone!” Vince turned away from the fight to jab his best friend in the shoulder, eyes blazing with accusation. Nick stared right back at him, the cool glass covering his eyes a sharp contrast to fiery rage echoing through his friend’s.
“Do you realize how fucking condescending you sound when you say things like that?”
Vince was momentarily taken aback; he hadn’t expected Nick to go on the offensive. Nick took the opportunity to press on.
“Camille is not some puppy or flower to be watched over. She said it herself, she’s training to be a Hero. You think that path is paved with rainbows? It’s built on pain, sweat, and failure. Getting your ass kicked is part of this process. She knows it, I know it, and when it applies to anyone but females you know it too. Stop treating that girl with deference and treat her with the respect that a fellow warrior deserves.”
Vince glowered, but the wind had been plundered from his sails. Nick was right: Vince hadn’t objected when he volunteered to go up against Chad. He’d had faith his friend could handle whatever happened. It was wrong to put any less confidence in Camille. Nonetheless, as he turned back to what could barely be called a fight, Vince felt his hands tighten again. He had to watch her, he just didn’t have to like it.
* * *
Camille hacked up a phlegmy wad of blood before staggering to her feet. She was visibly swaying now; one of Sasha’s many attacks had probably injured her inner ear. The fight had been going on for only two minutes, but Camille felt like she was already at her breaking point. She had to end this, and soon.
“I’m impressed you keep getting up, even if I’m not sure what you’re expecting to accomplish,” Sasha complimented.
“Of course not. You wouldn’t understand why I can’t just lay down and lose. People like you have never been weak, or bullied. You’ve spent your whole life able to outrun or barrel through any problem.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“Not for you, I guess. But there are lessons that come from being knocked down, the most important of which is learning how to get back up.” Camille spat a pink loogie to the ground, her mouth still leaking blood that was beginning to coat her teeth. “That’s why you don’t deserve to be with Vince. Things got tough and you ran away.”
“He lied to me.”
“Boo fucking hoo. You made him feel like shit and broke his heart. He got through it, though, because Vince is more like me than you. He’s been weak. He’s been battered. He always gets back up. And so will I. So do your worst, bitch. It won’t change the fact that you blew it with the best man, hell, the best person, either of us will ever meet.”
The words were barely out of her mouth before Sasha’s punch collided with her teeth. This time the super-speed girl didn’t stop when Camille went down; instead she kept pressing the attack, smashing her opponent’s face and body over and over again.
“Enough,” Professor Fletcher’s voice blared through the room. “The winner of this match is Sasha Foster.”
“Hear that?” Sasha said, still clutching the small girl’s jacket collar in her hand. “I won.”
Camille looked back at her, then past her, to something over Sasha’s shoulder. Despite her face being coated in blood, a smile was still visible on Camille’s busted lips.
Sasha turned to follow Camille’s gaze. What stared back at her was Vince, watching from the team room with an expression Sasha had never seen on his face before: horror. Horror mixed with disgust. All of it aimed directly at her.
Camille saw realization dawn across her opponent’s face and felt a soft glow of accomplishment. It was her last sensation for some time, as the pain finally caught up to her and she slipped into sweet unconsciousness.