Jason landed with a thud on the padded training mat. Princess finished her movement by spinning around and planting her feet firmly on the mat, ready to deliver the punch that would take out her opponent if in a real battle.
"Jason, you dropped your left." Mark slowly walked around them, studying the fight. After the last near disaster of a mission, they all needed a build in confidence. A few good training rounds would certainly help, but they would need more.
"And then dropped on your butt," Princess finished, laughing down at Jason.
Jason swept his legs out. Princess was ready for it, jumping at the precise moment to avoid getting toppled by her sparring partner. Jason jerked his legs and arched his back, the force of the movement flipping him from flat on his back to back on his feet. In a blink of an eye the two were at it again.
Moving around each other. Feint, thrust, punch, duck, a flip out of the way. Close combat and almost quicker than the eye could watch thanks to the added speed and strength supplied by their cerabonic implants.
But not too quick for someone else with the same implants.
"Okay, time," Mark finally called. Both his G-2 and G-3 were still on their feet, neither having yielded the floor. But both were growing slower. They all still needed rest to recharge. To be ready for the next mission.
The two bowed to each other, chests heaving. Princess shook her head, pointing at Jason. "I nearly had you."
"In your dreams. I had you down twice," Jason instantly came back.
Mark folded his arms over his chest as he watched the two go at each other in their old teasing manner. The way they'd done since they were kids. "You both had the other several times, but you didn't make it stick. I'm guessing on purpose."
"Wouldn't have been fun if the fight had been over too fast." Jason shrugged, and turned away with a smirk even as Princess started to protest. "Anyway, I'm done. Have to go oversee the rebuilding of my car. Spectra won't find it so easy to take down the next time we meet if I have anything to do with it."
Princess stuck her tongue out at his back, crossing her own arms over her chest. "You mean not if Zark's new armor plating has anything to do with it."
"And who do you think is insisting it be used right now despite the naysayers? Me!" Jason shouted back at her without turning in her direction while on the way to the men's locker room.
Princess breathed heavy, shaking her head. She was winded, but she hadn't been down yet. After so many years in the fight, Mark found himself still amazed with her. She could hold her own. She could do what needed to be done when it needed to be done.
And despite that, it could also have been her in medical at the moment instead of Keyop. The shot from the new Spectran laser rifle had gone high, clipping the top of Keyop's helmet. Cracked it, rattled the little guy, but he would be fine after a night or two of observation.
Any one of them? With their height, they would have taken that shot full on to the chest. And probably come home in a casket. At the very least brought back in critical condition with a major injury.
New armor all around was a good idea, not just on Jason's car.
A shiver of dread went unbidden through Mark, chasing away the remainder of the heat from his own last training spar with Tiny.
He calmed himself with a deep breath. Then another. It helped, but he needed more. Something to focus on.
His attention remained on Princess, even though he knew it shouldn't. But she was in her full glory.
Dressed in a simple pair of purple shorts that were just loose enough to allow free movement. A tank top that fit over her curves like a second glove.
A small drop of perspiration gathered just below where her collarbones came together. Glistening in the overhead lights of G-Force's private training gym in Center Neptune.
The droplet reached critical mass, and started a slow trail down her chest. Pausing as she breathed in deeply, then suddenly plunging down as she breathed fully out in a cleansing breathe. The droplet disappeared into her cleavage, leaving a small line behind. A silvery trail leading…
…Leading to where he would love to explore himself. Instead of calming himself, he felt his heart rate climb. His breathing increase. Skin flushed and grew warm. Then hot.
All at the thought of tracing that fading line with soft fluttering fingertips, followed by his tongue. To bring his hands up to brush his thumbs along the underside of her breasts.
But that wouldn't be enough. There would still be too many barriers between them. Too many secrets hidden in that secret valley that the drop of sweat had entered, but he hadn't. His hands would have to push aside the sports bra. No, remove it. That along with the tank top. To free her dainty perky breasts so he could properly worship them with his hands and mouth. Somehow he just knew they would fit perfectly in his hands. He could practically feel the perfect weight of them in the palms of his hands.
Lord, he was jealous of that drop.
His name on her lips in the form of a question finally pierced the rush of thoughts and images overwhelming his brain. He started, eyes going up to gaze into her brilliant green eyes.
Good lord, what was he thinking?
She'd just been sparring with Jason. Not only keeping up, but matching him move for move. A force of power and grace that any enemy soldier had learned to fear and run away from if they wanted to live. A force of presence he was always aware of whenever she was near. Depending on it, secure in it, with no doubts, when they had a job to do.
She was his teammate. Friend. Bonded to him like the others in the fire of battle.
All of which he meant with all his heart and soul, and yet in his selfishness he wanted more. Craved more.
But he knew he didn't deserve or have a right to.
He cleared his throat, forcing himself to take a deep cleansing breath himself. "Sorry, Princess. What is it?"
"Want to have a go at it?"
His mind blanked, staring blankly into hers. Her wide innocent eyes, with not even a quirked smile to indicate she meant anything he instantly thought of at her question.
He mentally shook himself. Of course she didn't mean anything like that.
He forced himself to relax, dropping his arms from where they'd still been folded over his chest. "No, I think I'm done for the day. Shall we go visit Keyop?"
"Sounds like a plan. We should see about bringing some sweets with us. Keyop has been craving sugar ever since we came back."
Mark ran a hand through his still sweat-damp hair. Now wasn't the time. She didn't mean it that way. Good grief, he needed to get himself under control.
But it was getting harder and harder as time went on. They weren't kids any longer. They were full grown warriors, who could die at any time. Their individual clocks might run out at any time.
And he was tired of regrets.
Mark sighed as he headed for the locker room himself. Something needed to change, and soon. Question was, how? And how to do it without destroying the team.
Or himself and Princess.