"Busted," Alex sighed, and one by one they walked into the room, trying very hard not to look guilty. Tess succeeded the best, and walked over to Jay. He rose and politely shook her hand, wiping some blood off on his drawstring pants first.
"Nice technique," she said, looking him up and down. "I take it you give private lessons?"
"Certainly," he said, with an inviting smile and bright eyes. "Do you have any prior experience?"
She preened modestly. "Karate, judo, aikido, that sort of thing. Been thinking about kung fu."
Her friends looked at her in astonishment. She'd never mentioned anything about this before.
He grinned. "You'll have to come in for an assessment."
She smirked. "Definitely."
"Oh god," Alex whimpered. "They're flirting."
"Shut up Alex," Maria said, fascinated. It was like watching a wildlife documentary on weird mating rituals.
Max, on the other hand, hadn't noticed. He had followed Liz over to the wall, where she set the poles back in place and was grabbing some water bottles. Without looking she tossed one over her head and Jay caught it without a break in his conversation with Tess, who was commenting on his unstructured combat style.
"Oh, that's for Liz. I put together a regimen that uses her size to an advantage."
They continued chatting as the others followed Max over to Liz.
"So," Maria began. "Meditating, huh?" She didn't bother to hide her hurt.
Instantly Liz was at her side. "I'm sorry, Maria. I didn't mean to lie to you. It just sort of happened."
"Who is he?" Max asked, trying desperately to sound as though he wasn't aching with an all-consuming jealousy. "What is he?"
"My cure for insomnia," Liz joked with a fond look over at her instructor, and then sighed as her friends froze, obviously misinterpreting her remark.
"You guys!" She said in disgust. "I was having trouble sleeping, and I thought exercise might help, and one day I saw a sign advertising martial arts lessons and it just went from there."
"Oh," Max said, and had the grace to look guilty, but she glared at him a little anyways, forgetting for a moment that he was supposed to think she was interested in other guys.
Isabel came to his rescue. "What is it that you do? I mean, they don't teach this stuff at the 'Y'."
Liz casually described her workouts a little as she gave them a tour. "Well, my program is really a mish-mash of a bunch of traditional ones, but what you saw today incorporated elements of 'ninjutsu', like 'oseijutsu', which are pinning techniques, 'jojutsu', or staff and cane fighting, and 'shoten no jutsu', which is that cool bit where I get to run up the wall." She couldn't resist showing off her recently acquired knowledge, and decided not to tell them that she'd learned the phrases only the day before. In fact, she wasn't even sure of the correct pronunciation, but she hoped none of them would pick up on that.
It worked; they were duly impressed. "You're a ninja?" Michael blurted out, and she laughed when they all looked at her with wide eyes. "Hardly!" she laughed modestly. "I'm only just getting the basics to a lot of this stuff now."
Very quietly, Isabel persisted. "Where are you going with all if this? Really?"
Liz chewed her lip, but decided it was time to be honest. "I thought maybe I wouldn't feel so useless to you guys if I could fight," she said bluntly.
In unison, Max, Isabel and Michael told her: "you're not useless" even as Maria, Alex and Kyle said: "sign me up," and the seven of them exchanged surprised looks.
But this wasn't the place to discuss this, so Maria asked what she told her parents and Liz entertained them with the story of how she demonstrated her "self-defence" techniques.
Their laughs slowed to a chuckle, though, when Liz pulled out the first aid kit. And stopped altogether when she pulled open the top of her bodysuit to reveal a sports bra and a colourful assortment of bruises and scrapes. She looked up from cleaning her wounds to find her friends pale and looking faintly nauseous. "What?"
"Liz, babe, what the hell are you doing to yourself?" Maria choked out, and Max instinctively raised his hand to heal her.
"No, Max!" Liz and Michael hissed at the same time, and Isabel grabbed his hand. Everyone checked to see if Jay had noticed, but he was deep in conversation with Tess over by the windows.
Max hung his head, embarrassed to be so obvious, but Liz took pity on him. "Thanks anyway, Max," she smiled, and he perked up for a moment before both remembered that they weren't supposed to be comforting each other and stepped apart.
"It's okay," she continued normally. "It looks worse than it is. And when I'm fighting, I barely notice at all. It's a real rush."
As if the thought just occurred to her, she looked at her friends.
"You know, you should all be training too," she suggested casually. "Everything, the fighting, the spy stuff. I recommend starting with the fighting."
They spoke as one. "Spy stuff?"
She nodded smugly. Oh yeah. She had them now.
"Father, you should have seen them," Liz giggled, remembering their first few group lessons fondly. "John had to assess everyone's physical skill level first, and Terry was pretty advanced so she and I went off to spar together while he tried determined their strengths and weaknesses."
"Ah, Terry would be ..."
"Malcolm's alien wife, right. And you can imagine, we weren't exactly friends, so we were pretty rough on each other. Although," she reflected, "to be fair, she didn't cheat and use her powers, so we were pretty evenly matched. She even taught me some interesting moves that John hadn't gotten around to, although I had to teach her to think outside the lines, to bend the rules a little."
"Why did you have to do that?"
"Because in real life," and Liz's voice flattened, "your enemies aren't polite. They fight dirty. And if you don't know how to handle those kind of moves, you die."
There was silence as they both thought about that.
Liz thought about all the times she pulled back slightly because the enemy looked deceptively weak but then took full advantage of her hesitation and almost beat her.
The priest thought about how to encourage the girl to speak. He wanted to hear the rest of the story, no matter how outrageous it became.
"And how did your other friends fare?" he asked, finally.
|I'm No Buffy, Chapter:||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10|
|DC Slash||Harry Potter||Ros. Hetero||Ros. Slash||Ros. Other|