Shadow and Ghost
Chapter 5: Close Confines
“What name did you just say?” Elder Thar’n-thwei’s voice sounded surprised and Set’rath was instantly nervous. He knew the elder well enough to know when the man got surprised the information was either really good or really bad.
“Kwei-kv’var-de.” Set’rath answered again. “The Bad Bloods repeated his name when talking to Ghost. They called her ‘his bastard’.”
“Is the woman a Hybrid?”
“Yes, she admitted to being his daughter.”
The Elder was silent for a time, Set’rath patiently waited for him to speak. “Deadly Shadow, I put you in charge of her care and training. If she is truly the daughter of Sly Hunter, then she will need more training than her age has allowed time for.”
“Yes sir.” Set’rath paused a moment hesitant to ask his next question.
Set’rath shook his head, always amazed how the elder knew when he had something on his mind when no one else could. “Elder, what is to become of Ghost?”
“That is a question only you can prepare her to answer.”
Set’rath did not like the implications of Elder Thar’n-thwei’s response. “Then her training will begin while we prepare to rendezvous with you in nine days.”
“Very good. Keep me informed of her progress.”
“Deadly Shadow, I do not need to remind you of the importance of the ship you travel on.”
Set’rath had already scanned and mapped the entire hunting ship preparing for this part of the report. “I have locked all doors to rooms holding evidence against the Bad Bloods. I have restricted our movement to the main hall, the mess, a guest living quarters, and the training room. The bridge I will access only on a limited basis. Everything we need to investigate will be safely intact and undisturbed while we travel.”
“I have no doubt. End communication.” There was a soft click as the com-link silenced.
Set’rath took a deep breath and relaxed for a brief moment while he processed his thoughts. His hand rested on the plain undecorated surface of the bio-mask he had worn on the planet. He itched to be wearing proper clothing and armor again. His personal craft was stored on the clan ship while he had been missing and his excitement was growing as he thought about finally being back aboard it. Perhaps a companion would not be so bad…
Shaking his head at the thought, he was too young to take a companion or even a single mate. From what he had heard about mated pairs with humans, the humans where monogamous and expected their mates to be as well. Being the center of one woman’s affection, both of you committing to each other no more mating out of obligation…that wouldn’t be so bad…would it? Mentally slapping himself about the thought and refusing to give himself an answer, he stalked off the bridge towards the training room to work off some tension. He had been given orders to train the hybrid and he would do just that and only that. His groin twitched arguing his last point and he growled in irritation. As he approached the room, he could hear Bhu’ja working out.
Bhu’ja wiped the sweat from her brow on the back of her wrist wraps and continued to pummel the punching dummy in the abdomen. Bouncing on the balls of her feet, she bent her knees like a spring and leapt into the air grabbing the dummy behind the neck and planting both knees into the sternum of the eight-foot target. As the dummy fell backwards, Bhu’ja somersaulted over the head to roll to her feet. Spinning around to slide a foot under its head, she began to lift it back to a standing position. Stopping abruptly in mid-lift she spotted Set’rath leaning against the doorframe with his arms casually crossed.
He was not wearing a bio-mask and had removed the gauntlets from his arms upon entering the training room. He stood with an air about him that was more than just a Blooded hunter and Bhu’ja wondered just what he was. His taught muscles roping his body, enhanced by the cream mottling of his markings reminded her of the jungle cats back on Earth, always ready to pounce on prey. And I have the distinct impression I’m about to become just that. He was a breath taking sight standing there in only his armored groin brief. Too bad I’m an abomination… Quickly changing her line of thinking and swallowing her apprehension, she continued to lift the dummy with her foot, standing it back up, all the while keeping an eye on Set’rath as he watched her. “Want to join?” She asked gesturing to the work out dummy.
“Perhaps, but I prefer a moving target.” Set’rath rushed her and began volleying punches at her. Bhu’ja dodged and ducked as he sent swing after swing in her direction. He then swept a foot under hers; she jumped it easy enough and danced out of the way. Set’rath circled slowly watching her gauge him. He noticed she had removed the other leg of her pants to match the length of the one he had ripped to get to her wound. She also had removed her jacket and hood, and now stood in front of him in a shirt he knew was called a tank top. As she cross-stepped keeping him in front of her as he circled, he noticed her markings ran down the sides of her thighs. He swung another kick at her that she back flipped away from; her stripes covered her shoulders and ran down the back of her arms. “We will be rendezvousing with my clan elder in nine of your twenty four hour days. I have been asked to make sure you are ready.”
“Ready for what?” Bhu’ja dropped her guard and Set’rath dropped and rolled landing an elbow into her solar plexus knocking her off her feet and onto her ass. She gasped gripping the newly bruised muscles.
Set’rath stood. “To make sure you are prepared for the challenges ahead of you.” He regarded hera moment before extending a hand. “Can you breathe alright?”
Bhu’ja looked up at him and glared. “Once I get over that last hit, yes I can breathe just fine.” Taking his offered hand, she let him help her stand.
“I can adjust the ship’s atmosphere for higher oxygen…” He offered.
“No.” She barked the answer quickly at him and he tilted his head surprised. “I won’t be able to breathe it for long if you do.” She explained. Looking down at her hand in his, she began to pull away, but his vise like grip prevented her from going too far. His fingers curling around her palm with his thumb caressing the top of her knuckles. Looking up into his eyes, she felt a rush of heat burn through her body. Oh not now! She blushed and his eyes narrowed. To justify her physical response she explained about her ability to breathe. “The older I get the more I need methane and the less I need oxygen, I can breathe the ship’s atmosphere just fine, but on that planet the oxygen rich air was slowly starting to suffocate me. One more hunting drop and I would not have had much fight left in me.
“Interesting.” He said it almost too low for Bhu’ja to hear, he had the look of someone thinking, and unaware they had spoken aloud. She cleared her throat and Set’rath released her hand abruptly. “Ready to try again?”
“Do I have a choice?” She asked sarcastically.
“No.” He swung a left hook at her.
Bhu’ja ducked just in time as his large arm went over her head. “I didn’t think so.” She knew taking on a full-grown male Yautja head on like this was a death wish. He father had beat that lesson into her often enough. Quickly looking around the room for the practice weapons, she sprinted towards them, followed closely by Set’rath.
She saw her weapons of choice and grabbed the handles of the two whips as she used the table to vault a back flip over Set’rath. Landing behind him she lashed out one of the practice whips and struck him across his shoulder blades with the leather tipped end. He roared and grabbed his weapons of choice, Shurikens.
Set’rath opened the practice blades and spun to face her. He held the fanned blades out and postured with his arms wide and clicked at her in anticipation of her next move. Bhu’ja flicked the lines like agitated snakes. They circled and on his cross-step, she flicked a line towards his foot, he deflected the line with a sweeping down strike allowing the Shuriken blades to catch the line before it could grab him. He spun yanking the end of the whip expecting to pull it from Bhu’ja’s hand. She somersaulted with the pull and flicked the line uncoiling the end from his Shuriken. Set’rath watched as she agitated the lines again, and admitted he had not expected her to know how to use the tails.
Throwing one of the Shurikens wide, he gauged her reaction to a rear attack as the shuriken spun around behind her. Bhu’ja turned to look at the spinning Shuriken and struck out with a line, disrupting its flight path and sending it skittering across the floor. Spinning back to Set’rath she knew she had done a fatal mistake. The blades of his second Shuriken pressed into her throat under her chin, and the back of his hand rested against the top of her breasts. Every time she inhaled, her flesh pressed against his. He leaned in towards her ear and repeated the words her father had always drilled. “Never take your eyes off your opponent.”
Bhu’ja nodded and dropped her eyes, showing proper respect to him as the superior fighter. Set’rath pulled the blades from her throat and took a step back. “Decent handling. Need more practice.” She looked up at him and he gestured to the whips. She coiled them and asked. “Are you willing to teach me to become better?”
Set’rath regarded her for a moment, he was already ordered to train her, but something about her asking made the order less important and her request the only thing that mattered. He nodded and she grinned. He quirked an upper mandible at her in his own crooked way of smiling before catching himself. Rolling his shoulders and tossing his dreads, he spoke in a rumble. “Time to rest, training will be hard.”
She nodded and placed the coiled whips back on the weapons table. “That I have no doubt, until later then.” She nodded at him respectfully and turned to leave the room. He watched as she exited feeling bewildered by her. Picking the Shuriken up from the floor, he retracted the blades and placed them on the table in the center of the whips. As he touched the coils, his mind raced. Nine days…only nine days. Taking a deep breath, he caught a faint scent lingering in the air, one he knew well from his trips home to mate, glancing at the doorway feeling for the first time off balance.
Bhu’ja left the training room feeling like she was running from him, and headed to the room Set’rath had pointed out to her for sleeping while aboard this barrowed ship. Entering the quarters she went straight to the washroom. Turning on the hot water and stripping without looking in the mirror, she stepped under the hot steaming rivulets. Pulling the tie from her braid and tossing it into the sink, she unwove the locks and drenched her head under the water. Bhu’ja tried to calm her body’s urges, but her mind would not cooperate. He had said nine days. Nine days alone with a moody mass of muscle that hits like a sledge hammer and toys with her reflexes. Not to mention my libido. Bhu’ja chuckled at her predicament and then cringed feeling the pain from his hit spider web through her chest. He had been going slow, testing her, when they had started sparing, but the speed he had shown when he hit her told her she was out of her league with this man.
Bhu’ja shook her head knowing he had not hit her that hard. ‘Yautjas don’t pull punches when they train…or court, you best remember that child.’ Her father’s voice echoed in memory.
She sighed in silent confusion over her father’s words and Set’rath’s actions. So what does it mean when one does…twice? She rubbed her throat where the practice Shuriken had pressed.
Grabbing a strange soap-like bar, she lathered and washed, relieved, finally getting free of sweat and grime. As she rubbed her hands over her body, rinsing the foam off her skin, she contemplated relieving the sexual tension involuntarily building up every time she laid eyes on Set’rath. She frowned as a sobering thought entered her mind. At least I would not kill him during sex. As her hand rubbed over the wounds on her thigh, she winced and any thought of possibly seducing him exited her mind as quickly as it had entered. Of course, he may just kill me instead. She told herself sarcastically. Turning off the water and grabbing a towel, she dried off quickly then re-hung the towel. She gathered her clothes from the floor and tossed them into the sink to hand wash the tattered garments. These ain’t going to last long…
Set’rath knew he should have told her they would be sharing the room as the other three living quarters had evidence that needed to be preserved, but as he stood silently watching Bhu’ja, standing naked in front of the sink washing her clothes, he was at a loss for words. Once she was satisfied with the garments, he watched as she wrung them out and hung them around the washroom to dry. Set’rath held his breathe as she turned to exit but stopped suddenly as she caught her reflection in the mirror. Turning her cheek to get a better look at the wounds that marred her, she gently traced each line. Her eyes held back so much emotion; he wondered what was going through her mind. It wasn’t in his nature to ask, but staring at a woman currently without a home or people and now quite possibly with a bounty on her head, all to restore her father’s honor, he wanted to.
Bhu’ja intrigued him and he knew he would be lying if he tried to deny the attraction building between them. It is close to mating season. He tried to justify, but then dismissed the reasoning. Sure mating had its good points, but the women who pursued him only wanted his status, and then wanted nothing more from him. Set’rath frowned inwardly at himself. Could the Elder really have hinted to…He felt absurd but standing there starring at Bhu’ja, he began to wonder if he should consider a mate. She was a capable fighter and with his training, she could become even better.
However, Bhu’ja was not a Yautja female; she was a hybrid, who was small like a human, reactive like a human, and with most of the features of a human. But she also is Yautja, fights bravely, with a beauty and grace I have never seen before. His chest tightened and he had to adjust his groin as he continued to watch her examine her wounds and his patch job.
Bhu’ja turned to walk out of the washroom and stopped abruptly. Set’rath expected her to try to cover herself like a human would, but instead she stared at him straight on and placed her hands on her hips. “What are you doing in here?”
He cleared his throat eyeing her lazily from head to toe. “We share this room.”
Her eyes widened. “What?”
“The other rooms hold evidence and I was ordered to lock them. This is the only room we could use to sleep and wash.” Rolling his shoulders and tossing his dreads, he approached her and heard her breath catch when he was close enough to feel her body heat against his chest. He looked down and paused next to her, Bhu’ja tilted her chin in his direction. Her eyes where guarded as she watched him curiously, but she stood her ground as his seven and half feet towered over her. He raised a hand slowly and watched a visible shiver run over her body as he gently rubbed the back of a knuckle against her wounded cheek. “These will lesson with time.” Dropping his hand and without further contact entered the washroom to shower, leaving a stunned and naked Bhu’ja in the doorway.
As the water started, Bhu’ja risked a curious glance over her shoulder and was greeted with an eyeful of sculpted muscle. Suddenly feeling very vulnerable, she went over to the large bed and grabbed a sheet from the bed to wrap around herself. Tying it off above her breasts, she sat down on the edge of the bed and waited for Set’rath to come out of the washroom.
She did not have to wait long for the water to cease and a damp Yautja male to exit with a towel tied around his waist. Damn he is stunning .Bhu’ja blushed when he flexed his pectoral muscles at her. And I was just caught staring. Taking a deep breath and unsuccessfully pretending she was not ogling him she asked. “Uhm, how are we doing the sleeping arrangements?”
Set’rath quirked his mandibles in his unmistakable lopsided grin. “Take the wall side.” He rumbled, with a hint of amusement in his voice.
“Wall? Wait, what?” He is not saying that we. He gave her a look that confirmed her question. Oh fuck me, he is. “Fine. Just don’t squish me.” She climbed in keeping an eye on him.
“I would not.” He purred, amused by her jest and watched as she positioned herself close to the wall to give him most of the room. She had laid down with her back to him and he frowned, feeling a little rejected that she didn’t face him. He settled himself next to her, lying on his back. “You are safe with me.” C’jit that was random. He glanced at her and noticed her markings traced her spine disappearing under the sheet she had wrapped around herself and suppressed the urge to touch them.
Bhu’ja looked over her shoulder and gave him a shy guarded smile. “I…I know. Sleep well.”