Stepping behind her, Finn wound his forearm around her neck, capturing her in a chokehold for her escape. Over her head, he glimpsed Fiearius staring dully at him before Leta used evasive tactics, striking his ribcage with her elbow and slipping from his grip.
From the sidelines, Fiearius scoffed, “That would never work.”
Leta’s face darkened, but she purposely looked away from Fiearius. Finn, however, was intrigued to see where this was going. “Oh?”
“She’s too weak,” he said bluntly, lifting his shoulder in a shrug. “If someone was actually trying to choke her, no way she could get out of it like that.”
At last, Leta gasped in insult and wheeled around. “Weak? Did you just call me weak?”
“All I’m saying is if someone twice your size is tryin’ to kill ya, no amount of fancy hand formations are gonna stop that,” Fiearius said simply, sounding actually serious about the topic. “Kick him in the balls, bite him, pull his hair, fight dirty. He’s gonna be. You’re gonna have to as well.” He gestured at Finn and a smirk pulled across his face. “No offense, mate. Just think all that special Carthian technique’s a bit bullshit out in the real world.”
“That’s funny coming from behind such a massive black eye,” Corra pointed out bluntly, raising a brow at him as she added sarcastically, “Oh captain, master of the fight.”
Leta kept her eyes on Fiearius for a beat longer, her mouth clenched tightly. “Thanks for the advice,” she muttered dryly, turning her back on him and facing Finn again. Clearly working to reign in her frustration, she inhaled sharply, “Let’s go again. Come at me this time.”
For a moment, Finn simply stared at her and lifted his eyebrows wearily. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be in the middle of this anymore … clearly, Fiearius was invested in her well being … but then again, she did sincerely want to learn …
Sighing, he nodded, and then crossed forward over the mat to seize her arms. This time, she reacted quicker than she ever had and pulled every move together: she twisted her wrist, wrenched away and effectively nailed a punch to his arm, sending him staggering back in surprise.
Finn steadied himself, grasping his shoulder. “Whoa,” he said, blinking slowly. “Fiear should piss you off more often,” he muttered, and Leta smiled uncertainly. “No, seriously, that was really, really good,” he assured her, and this time Leta’s grin sort of exploded all over her face.
“Definitely,” said Finn fervently, still feeling surprised but nonetheless impressed. “Guess you learn quickly. The whole crew can sleep a little better with skills like that next door.“
“Great, one less thing for me to worry about,” Fiearius interrupted suddenly, his voice bitter with sarcasm. “I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.” He pushed himself to his feet and started to leave the room, still somewhat unsteady on his feet — but nonetheless, his exit had an impact on at least one person in the room.
“What the hell’s wrong with him anyway?” snapped Corra impatiently, throwing her hands in the air.
“What isn’t wrong with him?” muttered Cyrus, rolling his eyes.
“Who knows,” Leta said quietly, pressing her fingers to her forehead. Finn was about to suggest they go for another round when she said, “Actually — actually I feel kind of tired. Dizzy. Let’s just call it a day, yeah?”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Later that night, Finn found himself in dire need of painkillers. Although he didn’t want to admit just how sore and achey he was after their stint in the cargo bay, he’d certainly earned an unpleasant reminder that he wasn’t a spry, fit twenty-two year old cadet anymore. Gods, he wasn’t even in his mid-twenties any longer. Was he really going to be twenty-nine soon? At least he was younger than Fiearius …
Grimacing to himself, Finn slowly wound his way downstairs toward the infirmary. When he stepped inside, he received a jolt of surprise — he wasn’t alone down here. Leta was leaning against one of the exam benches, intently regarding a slip of paper in her hands.
If he was surprised to have company, it was nothing compared to her reaction. Leta nearly jumped out of her skin, gaping at him as if he’d caught her undressed.
“Whoa, easy killer,” he laughed, wondering if she was still jumpy because of Ludo, as he crossed into the room.
“Yeah, hi,” she breathed, clasping one hand to her chest. Clearly flustered, she turned back to the counter, holding one hand across her forehead as her eyes darted around. “Do you — what is it you need?”
“Just some aspirin. I can get it,” said Finn, waving her off and approaching the cabinet beside her. But it was then he glanced sideways and noticed Leta wasn’t just startled; she was downright upset. Her eyes were red-rimmed and glassy, her voice hoarse from what must have been — crying. Was she crying alone down here?
She was doing her best to avoid his eyes, awkwardly straightening jars along the shelf. Finn slowly opened the cabinet and ventured, “You uh — you okay?”
Apparently, it was exactly the wrong thing to say. Leta’s hands gripped the counter and she gazed at the row of jars, her forehead scrunching, her eyes suddenly, horribly, filling with tears.
“Oh shit,” Finn breathed, closing the cabinet quickly, now downright alarmed. Female tears were horrible to witness, especially from her — usually, this woman was hard as stone.