Chapter 40: Fighting It Off

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“The key is to leverage your weight. So move your back foot and then drive forward — “

“Like this?”

“Nah, that’s too slow. See how easy I can sidestep you? Here, start again and try more like this — “

No sooner had the words left Finn’s mouth when, in a flash, a heavy fist thudded into his shoulder, sending him back into the wall. Pain throbbed in his arm, and he was stunned at how exactly, that had happened. Quite abruptly, he was at the mercy of his attacker, who just happened to be a scrawny girl, currently beaming nervously at him.

Thankfully, this was practice.

“Alright,” Finn grunted darkly, straightening up off the wall and rubbing his sore arm. “That was actually pretty damn good … “

A chorus of cheers and applause rang around the room — with the ship in flight and entertainment scarce, most of the crew was sitting around to watch. Corra, Cyrus, Maya, even Fiearius sat nearby, although Fiearius only rolled his eyes as Leta let out a rather girlish squeal of excitement. Her reaction was almost endearing enough to make Finn forget about the bruises he was going to develop thanks to her little brainstorm entitled Combat Training.

Really, she hadn’t give him much choice in the matter anyway. That morning, after barely talking to him since he came aboard, Leta had marched up to him in the dining hall, to his confusion. Finn thought perhaps she was finally warming up to his jokingly flirtatious advances. Instead, she’d held out a gun and a knife and said, “I need to learn self-defense. You were in the military, weren’t you? So can you teach me?”

Finn was startled. The first thing he did was take the knife and gun from her and place them safely out of reach. Then, (he couldn’t help himself), he’d grinned his most charming grin and said he wouldn’t mind at all getting physical with her.

It was a comment he regretted now that she was getting better with the punching.

“Another round then?” Leta pressed, stepping back from him, her green eyes bright and impossibly eager. It was rather obvious why this was so important to her: only three days ago, she’d shared a ship with Ludo.

In the after aftermath of his death, the Dionysian’s crew was quite subdued. No one was sorry Ludo was gone, but mealtimes were quiet, the deckhands seemed jumpier than usual, and Fiearius was more absent than ever.

Until now, at least. Now, the crew members seemed to be stirring again, cheering Leta on in her self-defense course. And she had picked the right person to ask: after his brief stint in the Carthian ranks, Finn knew these mechanics backwards and forwards and it was almost fun to recall them all, the good ole days …

Still, he wasn’t sure he liked this game much anymore now that she was getting good at it.

“Yeah, yeah, let’s go again,” he grumbled good-naturedly, rubbing his neck and circling around their makeshift training mat that took up half of the floor in the cargo bay. “Try and come at me this time, yeah?”

“Bring him down, Leta!” shouted Corra from her spot atop a nearby crate as Leta stretched her arms, getting ready.

The only person not urging for Finn’s demise was Fiearius, who observed from a corner of the room with a scowl on his face. Still beaten and bruised, he lounged back with his legs up, drinking a bottle of beer. For some reason, he seemed to find the whole event rather irritating.

“Don’t let her get too cocky, mate, next thing ya know, she’ll be startin’ to think she can actually win against somebody,” Fiearius called loudly.

Finn laughed, then arched his eyebrows at Leta in challenge. “Oho, you going to let him talk about you like that?”

“Who?” said Leta dismissively, planting her hands on her hips and pursed her lips in a clear effort to ignore Fiearius’ presence in the room. In her stead, Cyrus provided his brother a sharp glare and said shortly, “Stop.”

“Hey, just lookin’ out for her well being,” Fiearius defended with a careless shrug. “Best not to spread any misconceptions.”

If Fiearius was attempting to distract Leta, she was doing her best to fight it and keep her dignity. She kept her gaze determinedly away from him as she walked sideways around the perimeter of the mat, eyeing Finn readily. In one motion she crossed forward and aimed for his shoulder but Finn, his reflexes snapping awake, caught her punch and closed his fingers around her fist.

“Not bad,” said Finn, although Leta frowned at him as she broke away, “but you don’t have plans to attack anyone anyway, right? So — “

“What? Have you met her?” Fiearius intervened.

” — so let’s try some more defensive stuff,” Finn finished. Then he caught Fiearius’ eye and smirked knowingly, suddenly starting to really understand. He’d known Fiearius for three years — it simply wasn’t like his friend to pay this much attention to one member of his crew. Particularly a doctor. Didn’t Fiearius hate all doctors?

All but one, it would seem. He sure as hell didn’t seem happy that Finn had her permission to put his hands all over her.

“Okay, so you’ll come at me, I’ll try to block?” Leta suggested briskly, disregarding Fiearius as she paced the mat with her hands on her hips. “Or maybe — actually, come here, I want to practice breaking from a hold again, so just grab me real quick.”

Finn could feel Fiearius watching him closely. A grin spread across his face as he agreed, “Ah, yeah. Good idea.”

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