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Pale on Pale

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Krav Maga, as Sarah understands it, isn't so much a martial art as it is a series of techniques centered around killing the other person before they kill you. There's not a lot of showmanship in it. Just brutal efficiency. It should be called Kill Instead of Die, because that's all it does. 

Someone taught it to Helena. Sarah's going to put her money on Maggie Chen, since Tomas didn't seem the type to do much more than punch kids, and men can't teach combat to girls very well, anyway. 

Another name for Krav Maga could be Hope you don't have Any Fucking Qualms, because much of it involves gouged eyes and snapped joints and crushed scrotums and ruined windpipes. Sarah's seen Helena turn some poor bastard's shoulder blade and stomp his knee out at the same time. Sarah doesn't have any martial training outside of brawls, both sober and drunken, and she's always held up well in those, but fists and anger will only go so far against a fighting style used by the Israeli military. 

Fortunately, she and Helena are on the same side. 

Helena takes down security faster than Sarah could. They're on their way out, and Helena is ahead of her. She's a tank, Helena is. Graceless bulldozer with a knife. It's kind of beautiful. And disgusting. 

Sarah doesn't fool herself that Helena needs her help, not for this, so she ducks on through and runs for the exit. 

The last guard comes out of nowhere. 

Sarah doesn't think. She just moves. Behind her, she hears Helena cackle, a dry, rusty, witchy thing, a sound that should have come from Baba Yaga, not Sarah's own twin. She goes for her gun. 

The punch catches her in the jaw. 

Stars explode behind her eyes. The side of her face blooms with pain, Christmas lights flicking on to show her how much it hurts. She's been punched before, but never this hard. She hits the ground, she can't see, her gun is in her hand. There's a boot coming at her. There's a Taser. It - she shoots. At some point she must have pulled the hammer back. Pop. All she can think is die, goddamn. 

He does. He hits the ground, all two hundred pounds of him, and all there is is the pounding of Sarah's still-beating heart, the smell of his bowels opening, and the feeling of Helena's fingers on her shoulder. 

"Cестра," Helena says. 

Blood drips out of Sarah's mouth when she answers. "Hey, meathead," she says. Shaking. She's cold. Her ears are hot. Jesus Christ, how has she not gotten used to this yet? Her legs go out from under her when she tries to stand. That's fine. With luck, Helena will just chalk it up to her bad leg. "You - you hurt?" 

"Fleabite," says Helena. "And you? You are well?" 

No. There's something wrong with her - "Tooth." Sarah probes it with her tongue. Thank God she didn't bite her tongue off. "It's broken, or something. " 

Helena touches her mouth. "Can I see?" 

Sarah has never seen Helena wash her hands. "No." She pushes her. " 'N don't touch me without asking. Christ." She shoves her again. "Back up, yeah? Personal space."

Hands clasped, Helena watches her from a more respectful remove. "Okay." 

"Great." Sarah smooths her hair behind her ears. "Good job killin' those guards." 

Helena bows. 

 ***

Sarah's tooth is definitely broken. It's aching away in there like there's a nail embedded between her molars. It's probably something a dentist should look at. Can teeth get infected? The last thing she needs is to die from an untreated tooth shard. Some famous historical figure probably died from an infected tooth. 

"When I had broken teeth, I pulled it out," says Helena. "I can pull out yours." 

"With your hands?" 

"Pliers, Sarah." 

Sarah massages her jaw, thinking. Helena doesn't break eye contact. "Okay," she decides. "Fine." 

 ***

In the hotel room, Sarah ties her hair up. Spits out some more blood. Sits on the edge of her bed and watches dubiously as Helena settles into a crouch at the end of it, clicking the pliers like a crab. 

"Don't pull out the wrong one," Sarah warns, and then Helena says the weirdest - and grossest - thing she's said all day: 

"Don't worry, Sarah. I know your teeth very well." She shifts closer and parts Sarah's jaw with her fingers. God, Sarah hopes the metal on the pliers is rust. She knows it's probably not. She can still hope. 

"Cah you thee with tooth ih ith?" 

"I see it." The pliers tighten on it, and the pain that shoots through Sarah's jaw is blinding. She squeezes her eyes shut. It hurts. 

Helena licks her lips. "Shh," she whispers. There's a light in her eyes that makes Sarah nervous. Don't do anything fucking crazy, she wills Helena, and then - 

Helena pulls. 

Half of the tooth comes out in a pull of red, and Sarah can't help it. She shrieks. 

"Still more," says Helena. "Ready?" 

"Do it." 

The pliers yank. Sarah cusses. The blood pumps into the pit of her mouth, fresh and thick, like a head wound, which she supposes it is. The ache in her jaw hasn't gone anywhere. It's closer, though. Sharper. 

Helena's turning the pliers over in her hand. The blood's pretty in the low light. Almost purply. The twin fragments of Sarah's molar shine in the same way. Sarah isn't her watching her very closely. She should be. She really should be. 

"Sarah." 

Sarah holds her cheek. "Yeah?" 

Helena croaks, "Can I have another tooth?" 

And then Sarah looks at her. That's not good at all, the way Helena is looking back. One of her eyes is hidden behind a fall of curls; the other one is wide and dark and very fixed on Sarah's mouth. Click click, go the pliers, which might not actually be pliers in the purest sense, but some kind of plier-pincer hybrid tool. 

"No." Sarah turns away. "You can keep the oth - " 

Helena's fingers tangle in her hair and yank her head back. No, Sarah thinks, and hits Helena in the temple, and Helena flinches, eyes bright, but doesn't let go. The pliers force their way into her mouth, striking her teeth and rasping against her gums. They aren't gentle. Something like a gash opens in the pink of her mouth. And Helena crawls into her lap. She should have caught the gleam in Helena's eyes. They're too bright, like animal eyeshine. 

"Leh me go." Her voice is as firm as it can be with the pliers in her mouth. Her heart shudders in her chest. Helena is tightening around another tooth, on the top, this time. " 'Elena - " She lifts her hand, thinking maybe if she's fast enough she can force Helena's out of her mouth - but Helena's eyes are bright as a god playing a game, and Sarah drops it. Better to try another way. She wraps her fingers around Helena's knee, instead. 

Helena's tongue pushes against the corner of her mouth. "Sarah. Please. Just one more, to keep, please." 

Sarah can't speak. She summons as much threatening malice into her skull as she can, and she glares, right into Helena's eyes. 

Helena presses her lips together. "Please." 

At least she's asking. Sarah holds onto that. She glares at her, wordless. Her eyes are ice. Her heart is ice, too, pumping cool blood through frozen veins. Everything is still. No. 

Helena leans over her. Her hair shadows everything out. Her stomach growls, and this close to her, as close as they'd been when Sarah had screamed I'M NOT BETH and bandied Helena down from killing her that first time, Sarah can feel it. Helena is lighter than she should be, too. Her bones might be hollow, like a bird's, or an angel's. Angels have to fly, too, don't they? Maybe the God-magic takes care of that. Sarah's not the expert. 

Helena presses her forehead against Sarah's. Her hand cups Sarah's cheek. In and out she breaths, ragged and deep. 

Helena closes her eyes. 

Sarah doesn't realize Helena took the pliers out of her mouth until she taps them against Sarah's nose, smiling, serene. 

Bloody fucking hell. Jesus fucking Christ. 

The ache in her jaw is worse, somehow, and she shoves Helena to the floor and stands up. Her eyes blur. God, fuck, no, she can't cry. She can't cry here. She can't cry in front of Helena. No one's ever seen her cry but Felix. Her shoulders shake. 

She feels like she's had a brush with death. 

There's a tentative touch at the back of her knee. "I am sorry, Sarah," comes Helena's voice. "I didn't want - I didn't mean to make you scared. For this, I apologize." Stroking the back of her thigh. "This was godless of me to do. I'm sorry." 

Sarah turns her head, quivering, and kicks her in the mouth.