Chapter 6: Training and Commitment
Set’rath awoke feeling a heat pressed against his ribs. A feather light touch brushed across his chest. Opening his eyes and letting them adjust to the low light setting of the room he glanced down to find Bhu’ja curled into his ribs and his breathing softly disturbed a strand of her hair. He gingerly used a talon to move her hair behind her ear. The action exposed the wound across her cheek, and an over whelming sense of guilt flooded through him. Gently sliding out of bed, he went into the washroom, left his towel on the floor, and pulled on his armored briefs. Quietly exiting their quarters, he jogged to the training room and set into a morning work out to ease his building tension.
Awaking to an empty bed Bhu’ja, stretched and promptly climbed out leaving the sheet she had wrapped around herself. Dressing quickly she tied up her hair into a ponytail and wished for a brush, but did the best she could with her fingers. Seeing Set’rath’s towel on the floor she figured there was only one of two places he would be, and when she exited their room, she heard him down the hall in the training room.
When she entered, he was putting himself through a vigorous pace against a practice target drone hovering around the room. He leaped and spun, bounced and sprang at incredible speeds that Bhu’ja just stared gaping as she watched him. He was more than a deadly predator at that moment and she was mesmerized by his grace and agility. He vaulted into the air spinning a kick against the drone sending it to Bhu’ja’s feet. Stopping the rolling orb with her foot, she smiled at him. “I see someone has already had a fun morning.”
“Time to train.” He set up in a wide boxing like stance and gestured for her to square off with him. She did, but as he threw the first series of punches at her, she wished she had stayed in bed.
Bhu’ja impacted the training room floor and rolled to a stop at the base of the weapons table for the bazillinth time, truth was she had lost track of how many times Set’rath had tossed her across the room like a ragdoll. “Use my weight against me. Use my size to your advantage.” He barked, also for the bazillinth time.
Rolling to her feet, Bhu’ja had to dive into a somersault to avoid a kick to her ribs. Set’rath postured and circled her. He lunged and swung a left hook towards her chin. Ducking under his arm she grabbed his wrist and planted her heels into his hips, falling to her back she used his momentum to toss him to his back behind her. He grunted as he landed and quickly vaulted back to his feet and spun on her before she had gotten back to her feet. “Good, but you must be faster!” He growled at her as his axe kicked towards her chest. She barrel rolled out of the way and as he advanced, she swept a leg under his heels. He stepped over her leg and dropped a knee against her ribs grabbing her throat. Pulling her up to her feet. “You must keep your advantages, as soon as you lose one, I win.” He squeezed slightly emphasizing his point before releasing her.
She nodded and took up her stance again. Set’rath eyed her as he watched her stance falter. “Enough…for now. Have you eaten anything since we’ve been aboard?”
Her stomach rumbled and she blushed. “No.”
“Come, we eat now.” He marched out of the training room with Bhu’ja trailing after him. He entered a set of sliding doors to the mess and kitchen. The dining area was cramped and the kitchen was little more than a meat locker and small stove. “Sit.” He gestured to the table and Bhu’ja sat down and waited for him to return from the locker. He was taking longer than Bhu’ja would have expected and when he returned with a plate of steaming meat, he had a very guilty expression on his face.
Bhu’ja raised a brow at him. “Do I even want to ask, what that is?” He shook his head and Bhu’ja’s stomach did a flip-flop. “It’s human isn’t it?” When he didn’t answer she sighed. “Tell me you at least cut from the thigh.”
He looked relieved by her jest and set the plate between them on the table. Taking a seat across from her, he pulled a strip and ate as politely as he could. Bhu’ja’s stomach rumbled again and she figured as long as she didn’t think about what it came from, it could be edible. They sat in silence while they ate their fill. Now that her stomach was satiated, she regarded her traveling companion. “Set’rath?” He looked at her and waited for her to ask her question. “What are you preparing me for?”
“Meeting the clan.”
He studied her for a moment. “Your status will be questioned, and my honor will be challenged.”
Set’rath leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Because I am…your teacher.”
His hesitation did not go unnoticed but Bhu’ja let it slide and asked. “You hold that high of a status then?”
“Sei-i.” He confirmed matter of factly.
Biting her lower lip, she considered the ramification of her presence on him. Meeting his eyes, she smiled and flashed her fangs at him. “Then we don’t have time to rest.” Getting up quickly from the table, she bolted down the hall with Set’rath’s heavy footfalls echoing behind her. Entering the training room, she spun, squaring off with him again. He clicked in rapid response and began a new barrage of punches and kicks at her.
Bhu’ja hurt but refused to show it. Set’rath was in a position with his people that would not favor her and she’d be damned if she dishonored him or herself. Earth was no longer an option for a home. Set’rath and the other Yautjas where her last chance at a life, so with a do or die attitude she threw herself into his training instruction, straining to pick up everything he taught the first time around. By day three, he had pulled weapons out satisfied with her unarmed skills. Her knife handling impressed him and he admitted to himself that it was difficult to get past her blade. Set’rath introduced her to the wrist blades, which she caught onto quickly. The combat staff on the other hand was not her strong point and they concluded for now that that weapon would be set aside until a time when time was no longer a factor against them. He even helped clean up her whip work and taught her the Shurikens. Set’rath found great amusement in watching her try to catch them the first day she handled them.
By their sixth day in space, Bhu’ja’s training had gained momentum and Set’rath knew it was time to check in with Elder Thar’n-thwei. While Bhu’ja rested, he went to the bridge and sent a call to the Elder.
“About time you checked in.” Elder Thar’n-thwei answered gruffly.
“My apologies for the delay. Ghost has been excelling in training and she shows promise.”
“So in short you where too distracted to call sooner.” Thar’n-thwei sounded amused, and if Set’rath could have blushed, that would have been the moment.
“She can handle tails exceptionally well as with hand and wrist blades. The combat staff needs a lot more training. I have been teaching her how to throw and fight with Shurikens as well…”
Thar’n-thwei cut him off. “I have no doubt she can hold her own if challenged. I am more concerned about you.”
“Yes. The mating cycle is coming up and you are being asked about.” The elder sounded conversational, but Set’rath bristled anyway, as he continued to speak. “Have you answered your previous question to me yet?”
“I…I…” Set’rath found himself stuttering for an answer. Truth was he had been trying not to think about Bhu’ja in such a manner. He needed to focus on her training not whether she would take him as a mate. As it was, it was difficult sleeping in the same room on the same bed with her. Every morning she was curled against him and it was becoming increasingly difficult to remain a gentleman with her. He longed to touch, but she always fell asleep with her back to him never inviting him to cross that line, so when he would awaken to find her against him he would get up and workout. “Sir, I…”
“You haven’t asked her yet?”
“No.” He admitted.
“And why in the name of Paya not? I can hear it in your voice, you fancy her.”
Set’rath frowned at the com. “She intrigues me.”
“Enough to pair bond?”
He clicked with audible irritation at the elder’s line of questioning. “Yes sir.”
“Then why have you not asked?” Thar’n-thwei sounded irritated.
“She hasn’t shown interest.” A sound like crumpling paper came through the link and Set’rath realized the elder was laughing. “Sir…Am I missing something?”
“Yes boy you are, she is only half Yautja.”
“She thinks like an ooman.” There was a brief pause and the elder continued. “Go talk to her and inform me of your decisions.”
Set’rath clicked his mandibles tightly together. “Yes Sir.”
“Good, now when we rendezvous, I will come aboard first. I want to talk to her before you usher her to your craft.” The request came as no surprise to Set’rath.
“Yes Sir. I will dock and await your visit.”
“Good, until then.” Elder Thar’n-thwei disconnected the comlink.
Set’rath sat on the bridge for long while contemplating the elder’s request, or order, he was unsure what to call it. Tha’n-thwei was acting very strange about Bhu’ja and Set’rath was growing uneasy about the situation he now found himself. He admitted he wanted a pair bond and had always envied the couples that chose to become such. No more breeding out of obligation. The thought was highly appealing to him but the question was would Bhu’ja agree?
Finally getting up he headed to the training room. He had expected it to be empty but Bhu’ja was there practicing with the Shurikens and the floating drone. He watched as she tossed and re-caught the rotating blades only to re-volley them towards the drone again. A second drone floated around to her blind spot. He watched as she kept an eye on the drone in front of her and threw a Shuriken to circle and hit the drone behind her re-catching it without looking. He puffed up with pride watching how well she had caught onto his training.
“You just going to stand there or are you going to join me?”
Set’rath started realizing he had been lost in thought and had not seen the last drone fall. He nodded and entered the room. “We need to talk.”
Bhu’ja raised a brow at him but nodded and placed the practice Shurikens back on the table and turned to him. “Want to talk here or over something to eat?”
“I don’t wish to eat. Let’s walk.” He waited for her to come up next to him and they entered the halls of the ship side by side. He was silent for a few minutes as he decided how to start in with what Thar’n-thwei had ordered him to talk about. “My clan chief wishes to great you before we exit this ship when we rendezvous with the clan ship.”
“I assumed as much. Does this bother you? Wasn’t this why you’ve been kicking my ass all week, to prepare me for introduction to the clan?” She eyed him curiously.
“Elder Strong Blood wished me to…”
“Wait.” Bhu’ja stopped and grabbed his elbow pulling him up short. “Did you just say Thar’n-thwei?”
“Sei’i.” Set’rath cast her a curious glance.
“Could it really be him?” She had a distracted look while lost in a memory.
“Do you know him?” Could this be why the elder seems vested in what happens to her?
Bhu’ja started, shaking herself from her memories and shrugged. “Maybe, it was twenty years ago. After my father was murdered, a friend of my father’s named Strong Blood helped my mother and I return to Earth.”
Set’rath’s eyes widened in surprise. “Twenty years ago? Wait, how old are you?”
“Don’t you know a lady never talks about her age?” Bhu’ja giggled at his indignant look. “I’m kidding. I’m eighty three.”
“You do not look like an eighty three year old ooman.”
“I’m not fully human. Remember?” She countered.
They continued walking the halls. Set’rath was growing increasingly agitated and Bhu’ja touched his elbow again. “What is wrong? What did Thar’n-thwei ask of you?”
“He wanted us to discuss…”
“A pair bond with each other.” She finished for him and he shot her another surprised look. Smiling sheepishly, she confessed. “I went to find you to start our training and over heard part of your conversation.”
“Are you asking out of obligation to keep me safe within the clan, or do you truly want me as your one and only mate?” She continued to walk not looking at him until he grabbed her shoulder and pinned her roughly against the wall. Pressing a knee between her thighs, he lifted her up to his eye level and purred when her hands wrapped over his shoulders caressing the back of his neck under his dreads. His hands rested against her ass as he guided her legs around his hips.
“I want you.” He rumbled low, caressing her jaw line with his lower mandibles.
“Then my answer is yes.”