“I’m going to die.”
“Why are you laughing? I’m literally going to die. In an hour, you will have to take my cold, pale body to the morgue, dump me onto a shelf, slide me in, and explain to my dad just how it is that his son’s bodyguard managed to kill his only begotten.”
“Yer not gonna die.” Tora said flatly.
“The class is literally called Killer Fitness! What do you think they mean?!” Quincy threw up his hands.
“I believe they are using it *sarcastically,* Quince,” Erdene marched ahead of the two, her gym bag bouncing off her lean body, clad in a tank and leggings.
“He has a point,” Jacob shuffled up moodily. “I, too, suspect I may die. Especially since I haven’t worked out in like, ever.”
“Last time I worked out was when we ran all over Narin City to find Mr. Lam!” Poppy huffed as she ran to keep up with Tora and Quincy’s long strides.
“And how’d that turn out for ya?” Tora teased with a sidelong glance at Poppy.
Poppy blushed and pushed at Tora’s side. Tora caught her hand and brought it to his mouth, gently biting at her fingers.
“Tor-a!” Poppy’s blush grew deeper, and she snatched her hand away.
“If I don’t die from this class, you two will be the death of me,” Quincy exclaimed, rushing his hands to his heart. “I cannot believe the cuteness coming out of this iceberg!”
Poppy mumbled something.
“What’s that?” Jacob asked from behind.
“Not ice,” Poppy whispered.
“Not ice, you say?” Quincy leaned in closer.
“H-hot,” Poppy stuttered, looking down at the pavement.
A giant grin broke out on Tora’s face as his arm shot out and pulled Poppy to his side, where she buried her face.
“Hallelujah!” Quincy raised his arms up and threw his head back. “Thank the Lord for He has blessed us! I can’t WAIT to write this into my latest book!”
Jacob narrowed his eyes behind them. “Glad someone’s happy. I’m gonna faint of nerves.”
Tora scoffed as they opened the door to the gym, a large flat building. “Y’all are the biggest bunch of chickens I ever saw.”
Erdene whipped her head around, eyes flashing. “Hey, who you calling a chicken?”
Tora ducked his head. “Sorry.”
They checked in, and Tora led them to a room off the side, wide and spacious, with rows of mats and weights.
Jacob plopped down on a mat in the farthest back corner, his face grim as he picked up a weight warily. “This is not gonna be good.”
Poppy paled as she looked at all the weights. “Are we supposed to be using…” her voice faltered. “All of them?” Tora gave her a withering look.
“I, for one, will be using the lightest set only,” Quincy announced, picking up the orange set as though it weighed a thousand pounds. Tora now turned his withering look to him.
“Like heck you will.”
Quincy shot him a warning glance. “I am TRYING to make some people FEEL better, you witless savage!” he hissed.
Tora rolled his eyes. “You pansies can hang out in back. I’m going up front.”
Erdene was already there, doing some yoga stretches on her mat, her lithe body bent and graceful.
Poppy cautiously sat down on the mat near Jacob, eying the weights with a frightened look on her face. Quincy looked up at the front where Tora and Erdene were, but then looked back resolutely and sat down near Poppy.
“This is gonna be great!” he said cheerfully, stretching his arms above his head.
“I thought you said you were gonna die,” Jacob noted dryly from his corner.
“That was then. This is now! It’s a new world!” Quincy threw his arms out while bouncing on the heels of his feet. “Hey, look, sensei’s here!”
The instructor strode in, looking very much as all instructors do: blonde, perky, and with a great physique. Poppy looked down worriedly at her own love handles, but stopped when she caught Tora walking back towards her.
“What are you doing?” she whispered as he took the mat in front of her.
“Coming back to ya,” he grinned at her. “Sorry I left ya. Wasn’t thinking.”
Poppy smiled shyly. “Well, now I’ll get a great view, at the very least.”
Tora’s eyebrows rose. “Just like ya did on our first date at Alice’s when you made me take the stairs first and pretended it was cuz ya were scared, huh?”
Poppy’s mouth fell open. “Wha--how?” she spluttered.
Tora smirked as he turned to face the front of the room. “Can’t hide from me, hamster.”
“All right, everybody! Let’s get going! We’re going to start off with some nice stretches to get us in the zone.”
“I don’t want to be in the zone,” Jacob said moodily as he imitated the instructor, bending over with his knees straight and trying to touch the ground with his hands.
“This should be easy for ya, given that yer five foot nothin’,” Tora whispered at Poppy from his upside down position.
“Hey!” he glared at Quincy, who had slapped Tora’s butt from his own bent position.
“Never criticize a lady’s appearance!” Quincy hissed. “Didn’t my books teach you anything?”
“I ain’t criticizing,” Tora retorted. “I like shorty over here.”
An upside down Poppy returned her hand to its place on the mat.
Tora reached back and touched his butt with a grin. “Ya know, I liked that. Do it again, shawt-”
Slap! Poppy tried, but this time Tora’s hand caught hers. Off balance, Poppy stumbled, face-planting straight into Tora’s posterior.
“Now that’s what I’m talking ‘bout,” Tora smirked as he helped Poppy up.
“We are so gonna get kicked out of this class,” Jacob shook his head as he stretched his legs out in front of him, trying valiantly to reach his toes.
Quincy reached his toes easily, his blonde hair falling over his eyes as he leaned forward.
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect us! Whoops, forgot to tie my hair up!”
Poppy started, “Do you need a-”
Quincy whipped out a neon yellow mini-scrunchy from his pocket. “No need! A gentleman never leaves home without it,” he announced as he tied the front of his hair into a mini-geyser sprouting from the top of his head.
“Gentleman?” Tora snorted. “You sure don’t look like a gentleman now.”
“Says the man who wears a strawberry hair tie religiously,” Quincy preened as he locked his left arm over his crooked right and looked to the left.
“Touché,” muttered Jacob.
“All right, everyone!” the instructor called out. “Ready to get into this for real?”
“Do you mean, ready to die? Cuz I’m not.” Jacob groused.
“Have no fear!” Quincy flashed Jacob a grin across Poppy. “You may expire several times, but your friends here will revive you!”
“I do NOT want mouth to mouth from Tora, just putting it out there,” huffed Jacob as he began jogging in place.
“I… hate…. jogging…” breathed Poppy as she bounced up and down.
“Why? It shows off yer… ya know,” Tora winked as he jogged easily, his massive frame staying ramrod straight.
Slap! Quincy and Poppy’s hands nearly intersected as they slapped a separate buttock.
“Gonna make you… take my manners class… that I give at the youth center…. You big lump…” Quincy threatened as his blonde mini-tree flounced up and down.
“Look at Erdene there, showing off,” Jacob noted as he began doing squats like the instructor.
Erdene’s squats extended all the way to the ground, her shapely posterior extending into the air.
“I’ll bet Shing wishes he was here to see that,” Poppy grimaced as she bent down and straightened.
“Trust me, he sees it enough,” Tora scoffed as he leaned down on his thick thighs.
“Wait, you talk to Shing? You have a social life?!” Quincy exclaimed as he lunged, following the next step from the instructor.
“Who said I talked to him?” Tora grinned as he swung his foot out ahead of him.
“How? You’d better not be spying on him!” Quincy frowned at Tora’s back.
“Let’s just say Pinkie isn’t too happy about being left behind and blabbers a lot,” Tora grunted as he lifted the heaviest set of black weights from the floor.
“Wait, we’re doing the weights now?” Poppy examined the weights with a look of panic.
“We’re doing the weights now,” Jacob repeated gloomily as he picked up the orange weights. “You would think it would be good enough to just do lunges, but no, we *have* to add weights to them!”
“Have no fear, my frightened friend!” Quincy called brightly as he picked up the purple weights. “You can do this! If you could survive stealing Erdene’s chips, you can survive anything!”
“I didn’t steal Erdene’s chips!” Jacob protested as he extended the weights over his head. “I don’t know how they landed up at my desk!”
A stifled laugh burst out of Tora.
Quincy gave him a suspicious glance as he curled the purple weights up to his shoulder. “Wait a minute…” he peered at Tora through narrowed eyes. “You mean to say that-” but cut himself off from a look from Tora.
Poppy, completely oblivious of the exchange, huffed out as she tried valiantly to lift her weights. “Hey, Quincy, didn’t you say you’d be using the lightest weights?”
Quincy’s mouth flew open. “Oh, yes, I did!” He quickly dropped the purple set on the floor and lifted up the orange set easily.
He leaned back over to Quincy, masking it in the sideways arm lunge the instructor was now having them do, and muttered, “Ya don’t have to hold yerself down just to make Poppy and Jacob feel better. They’ll survive.”
A conflicted look passed over Quincy’s face like a shadow, but he quickly set his mouth resolutely. “This class is for them,” he whispered as he swung back to Tora in his own sideways arm lunge. “I can work out later.”
Tora shook his head with his eyebrows furrowed, and returned to his place.
“Alright, next up, pushups!” the instructor called out from the front of the room.
Jacob paled. “Shoot me,” he expelled as he dropped down on all fours.
“Be glad to,” Tora muttered as he slowly lowered himself.
“Tora!” Poppy cried out indignantly as she picked herself up for her first pushup, resting on her knees.
“Can’t hit my butt now, can ya?” Tora teased.
“No, but I can!” Quincy reached out one arm while the other held him suspended close to the floor.
“You touch my butt again and people will really start believing I’m gay, Mr. Troll Doll,” Tora flicked his head in Quincy’s direction, sending some hair flying out of his messy bun.
“Wait, you’re not?” Poppy opened her eyes wide as she leaned her elbows down on the ground, taking a break.
“You and yerr brilliant jokes,” Tora growled.
“Brilliant? I’m not luminescent.” Poppy said innocently as she struggled with another pushup.
Quincy tittered as Jacob grumbled, “That would be the flash from my camera as it goes off, capturing the last picture I’ll ever take: the stupid instructor with her permanent grin, working us all to death.”
“Speaking of, she’s lookin’ at us now,” Tora grunted under his breath.
“Oh!” Quincy brightened. “It must be because of our excellent form!” He beamed as his whole body grew straighter and more energetic.
“What form?” mumbled Jacob, who at that point was entirely flat on the ground, speaking with his cheek pressed against the mat.
“Fer once, I agree with Jacob,” said Tora, eyeing Poppy, whose face was bright red as she strained mightily to push herself up one last time.
“Well, we’ve got Erdene up there to represent us,” Quincy noted, looking at Erdene, who somehow executed her pushups lithely, a focused look on concentration on her face.
“What do you think she’s thinking about?” asked Jacob.
“Oh, she told me that she blanks out her mind whenever she works out,” Poppy explained, collapsing into child’s pose. “She likes to live in the moment.”
“I’m living in the moment,” Jacob retorted, wiping his face. “I’m so in the moment that my heart is about to explode.”
“Is it?!” Quincy looked over in concern. “Don’t push yourself too hard!”
“He’s literally lying on the floor, Quincy,” Tora noted wryly, moving onto his back for some situps.
“Well, I’ll help you!” Quincy sprang over to Jacob, flapping his towel over his face, creating a breeze.
“Ok, stop, stop - I’m not an Egyptian princess!” Jacob protested as he sat up.
“I just don’t want you to have a heart attack!” Quincy insisted as he jumped back to his mat and threw himself on his back.
“Your books give me a heart attack,” Poppy muttered under her breath.
“What was that?” Quincy looked over.
“Nothing!” Poppy and Tora sang out simultaneously.
A half hour later, with the instructor having animatedly told them that class was over and to “love the pain” and that they were rockstars, Erdene joined them at the back of the room. Tora was sitting cross legged and trying to pull a sweaty Poppy onto his lap. “I’m gross!” she squealed.
Quincy was bouncing up to the front of the room to thank the instructor, and Jacob was lying flat on his back, spread-eagled, pale and unmoving.
Erdene was glowing in her usual manner. “So… who’s ready to do this again?” she asked, stretching forward and extending her arm and leg to a half moon position.
“Never.” Jacob gasped from the floor.
“Sure!” Poppy returned brightly, nestled in Tora’s arms.
“Too easy,” Tora countered.
“Hey!” Poppy pulled his face down by his hair, lifting her own.
Tora relented, his forehead on Poppy’s. “Fine,” he grumbled softly. “We’ll do it again.”
Quincy bound back, fishing in his pockets until he proudly flourished some coupons.
“Did anyone say… Mint chocolate chip ice cream??”