The First of Many

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Chapter 35

“I don't care. I won't let you near them anymore,” Shadow growled.

"Shadow, it's not your decision. We can't be deployed together and not associate. Tex has been discharged, he's being sent home in just a couple of days. It's fine now.”

"Rosie, you need to stay away from Aedan. I really don't trust him," Hunter said.

“Well, I do!” she said petulantly.

“Look,” Mike said reasonably. “We just don't want you getting hurt again. If you ask me, that whole damn team is bad news. First there's this traitor business, then Tex mistakes you for a prostitute-”

“-He had every right to-”

“-dislocates your arm-”

“-because he was fighting me-”

“-and then tries to rape you. Any excuses for that? What, because you tempted him? Damn it, Rosie, you tempt most of us here every fucking day, none of us have tried to rape you yet!”

"Mike, stop trying to make my decisions for me. I trust Aedan and Snake, and that's that. You guys can just accept it or move out.”

“We're not making any decisions for you.”

“You're telling me I'm no longer allowed to even speak to half of the population of this base, Mike.”

"They're the traitors, we know it."

“Enough,” Hannah said shortly. “You aren't my father. I can speak to who I want, when I want. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go find Aedan. He said he'd spar with me today.” That said, she stood and stormed out of the room, in search of Aedan.

“Spar with me,” she demanded as she found him training.

Aedan raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“To make me forget my idiot teammates.”

“What'd they do?”

“None of your business. Just spar.”

Aedan accepted her offer and removed his assault vest and camp shirt, revealing a shirt that she decided clung to him in all the right ways.

Damn, Solomon, those arms...

Shut up.

Yeah, but those arms, though...

Shut. Up.

"If I do this, then you have to teach me how to shoot a crossbow," he said, jerking her out of her reverie.

She grinned. “The crossbow is a dark and ancient art passed down from generation to generation,” she warned.

“So, is that a yes or a no?”

“Fine. Just spar.”

“Sure,” he said. “But before we start, one rule: no playing dirty.”

Hannah raised one eyebrow in boredom. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, seriously,” Aedan said. “No kneeing me in the balls or any of that shit.”

“Does that rule out hair-pulling?” Hannah asked innocently.

Aedan cocked his head, thinking the question over, before shaking his head. “No,” he said, “That's fair game.”

“Biting?” Hannah asked.

Aedan raised an eyebrow. “What the Hell kind of sparring do you do?” he asked. “You bite?”

“I do what I have to,” she answered. “So, yes or no. Does biting count as playing dirty?”

Yes,” Aedan said emphatically. “When we spar, we do not bite. Any more clarifications?”

“No, that about covers it,” she said blithely.

They began sparring and Aedan again gained the advantage, but this time, something was different. Aedan seemed slower, much slower. She knocked him down and pinned him down to the ground.

Aedan recovered quickly, rearing back up before she could declare her victory. She snarled angrily and bit down hard on his arm, making him jump back in shock. “No biting,” he reminded in a growl.

“Whoops,” she answered unapologetically. “Sorry.”

They fought neck-and-neck before Aedan seemed to start losing steam. He slowly began to miss. Aedan wound up on the floor with Hannah on top of him.

“I win!” she said cheerily.

“What's with the good mood?”

“Shadow and Blade are really pissed at me.”

“Dare I ask why?”

“No,” she said. “You daren't. Come on, then, crossbow.”

The pair trooped off to the firing range. Hannah made a quick detour to her room to grab her crossbow before joining him there.

“Crossbows are easier than guns, if you know how to handle them,” she said, handing him the weapon. “Feel the weight in your hands. What's it like?”

"Much lighter than my R9. It has better handling." Aedan looked down the sight. "Scope's better, too."

Hannah grinned. “It came with a regular one, but I switched it out. This one's best, if you ask me. Anyway, because it's lighter, you'll want to be gentler with it. Don't brace yourself for recoil; there's hardly any. Shoot once, let me see how you do without advice.”

“Any arrows?”

“Magazine-fed. They're already in.”

He aimed and fired, missing the target by inches.

“Not bad,” Hannah said neutrally, “But there's two problems. You're aiming with the scope – don't do that, you'll always end up shooting low. Cock your head to the side and aim right down the shaft. Much easier than an R9, once you get the hang of it.”

“What else?”

“Your position is wrong,” she said. She gestured between them awkwardly. “Do you mind?” she asked.

“No, not at all,” he said, and she took her place behind him, pulling herself up so that she was in line with him. “Curve with me,” she ordered. “See? It's a straight line from here-” she tapped the top of his head, “-to here.” she placed a hand at his tailbone. “If you're even the slightest bit off on your posture, your aim will suffer. Try again.” She grasped his hips, pushing them forward slightly. Aedan found himself fighting a blush at the intimate contact. He aimed, fired, and missed by a mile in his nervousness.

Hannah sighed heavily. “We have a long way to go,” she muttered under her breath.

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