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Finn winced as sweat settled into a fresh wound on his face. He really shouldn’t be bothered by these little cuts, but they pricked and stung whereas the rest of his body only ached dully. His fingers crept along dented steel, exploring several new hollows earned this afternoon. It was funny about those, after a few years he’d no longer felt the hits that caused such damage and, in fact, was often surprised at the extent of it later. He shed his fighting suit on the front step piecemeal feeling lighter with every buckle and strap he unlaced.

In the distance, a thinning column of smoke reached up to the sky. Car alarms brayed and disoriented dogs barked loudly searching for temporarily displaced masters. Really, he’d tried this time to minimize the damage to the town …but some things just didn’t change, even after fifteen years.

Finn sat on the front step and ran a hand through is unruly brown hair, a smile touching the corners of his lips briefly. He looked out over the town, at the smoke wrapped sun setting quickly beyond Darkmouth as though even it was tired of destruction. The distinctive wailing died out, the alarms silenced one by one as battle-weary-by-proximity villagers thumbed key fobs from their living rooms.

Finn leaned against the concrete railing, closed his eyes, and thought back…


"It just isn’t fair.” Emmie sighed, arms crossed over her chest, curly red hair spread out in a halo on the wild grass under them. Finn watched her chew at the corner of her lip and tried to push away the weird feeling, something like panic, he felt thinking about never seeing her in the golden afternoon sunlight again.

“Yeah…I know it’s not.” He said and let his eyes drop a bit to the bunch of dandelions Emmie absentmindedly clutched in one hand. She worried the six or seven of them a bit and clumps of fluff were suddenly cast off. They floated up lazily, crossing to Finn as if dancing. He looked back at Emmie and caught her studying his face. This time neither of them looked away. Finn’s cheeks felt hot and the rest of his body felt heavy…as if the soft grass was trying to absorb him.

After years under virtual house arrest in Darkmouth, the council had decided it was time for Steve and Emmie to move on, reassigning them to a blighted village up the coast after its resident legend hunter had suffered an ...unfortunate accident.

Not that life in the house she shared with her father and Finn's family was without strife. At times the atmosphere was tense, like a late afternoon storm was brewing in the living room.

Bored one summer afternoon, her father again refusing to teach her some of the more intense fighting moves, Emmie had picked her way through town toward the beach. She strolled through tall grass, the quiet swish of it against her jeans melding with the wind off the sea in her ears. She picked yellow buttercups and dandelions on her way through, humming to herself.

Reaching the edge of the dunes, Emmie looked down to see Finn and his father sparring in the sand in their fighting suits. Hugo was trying to teach Finn some kind of defensive motion involving a forearm grab. She quickly dropped out of sight, a plan coming to her almost instantly.

For two years now, every other day, Emmie had stolen down to the dunes close by the little beach as near to Finn and Hugo as she could get. Father and son trained while Emmie did her best to learn from a distance, mimicking Hugo’s moves as best she could. The beach was windy and most of what Hugo said was carried further down the beach, away from her. Emmie sort of counted that a blessing. sometimes Hugo could be rather abrupt with Finn, which made her a bit cross. He’d gotten better about it recently but old habits were hard to break.

They’d grown up these last years, Emmie freckling and growing tall in the afternoon sun, Finn gaining muscle and a tan…and a few scars from the odd rogue rock he landed on. They were left alone in school, shamed by their own governing body into something of a strange social limbo. Even the Savage twins had left off harassing Finn after the novelty of his father being removed as the village’s legend hunter had worn off.

Now Emmie rolled on her side and propped herself up on one elbow, her face only inches from his, her eyes shiny and round. Finn didn’t dare move. He felt halved. The glorious desperate panic of something big about to sweep everything away in a second making his fingers tingle.

Dandelion fluff landed in her hair, stark white on coppery red curls. Finn reached out without thinking to…brush it away? Or maybe he just wanted to be part of it. Part of the great clashing adventure that was Emmie’s hair…her face, her hand…

And suddenly that halo of red blocked out the sun and everything else. Her wet lips touched his dry ones. His fingers closed on instinct, but he was not really thinking about her hair anymore.

Altogether Finn felt this whole kissing business was a bit strange… but he liked the touch of her nose as it just brushed his own, and when her hand settled warm and heavy on his chest, his heart trip hammered under it somewhere. He counted them both lucky then that he hadn’t opened a gateway in a few years.

Down the hill, someone’s car alarm went off. Emmie leaned back a bit. “Was that…you?” Finn honestly didn’t know. All he could do was grin up at her.

When she pulled away the strand of hair he’d curled around his fingers unspooled and bounced back home.

"You're sure you can’t stay?” Finn asked, new feelings trying to keep themselves out of his voice.

Just then there was a loud crack of thunder and the sky opened wide. They were soaked to the skin in seconds.


 
Far off in the distance the last car alarm was finally silenced. Finn stretched in the quiet.

Playful sarcasm broke the brief silence. "You are not gonna believe the day I had at work.” She came striding up the walk, hair a glorious mess shoved this way and that, and plopped noisily next to him on the front step.

"Mrs. Brady sorted out, then?”
“Yeah,” she bent to unsnap the latches at her knees, then continued. “Two manticores on her roof dispatched, one very scared kitty rescued from the tree in her garden.”

Finn bent closer. He could indeed see scratch marks on her breastplate. “Deadly,” he said totally deadpan, finger tracing a particularly deep gash over her heart. She laughed and smacked his hand away.

"Thought those car alarms would never stop screeching. I guess you ran a few of them through broken road?”

Finn nodded. “Although I don’t really mind the car alarms,” he said reaching an arm around her waist and pulling her close. “They always remind me of….something.” Softly….so softly gazing into her eyes, a different kind of heat coloring their cheeks now.

"What was that again?” He asked her, smiling a little at her girlish giggle. “Huh…seems like I should remember.”

"Oh, well…Let me give you a hint.” Emmie leaned up and kissed him. This time there was no inexperienced jangle of emotions…just comfortable love. And a well tempered desire. Finn’s tongue touched her bottom lip very gently, desire stirring a little closer to the surface. He felt her lips part…

And then the front door opened. “Mama, mama! I drew you chasing a Minotaur. He’s so afraid you’re gonna desiccate him his nose ring is shaking!”

Finn smiled against her lips, felt her linger just a half second longer and then pull away.

As Emmie exclaimed over the colorful construction paper creation, Finn again looked out over Darkmouth. From here his blighted village was indistinguishable from any other normal village that didn’t experience the odd passel of monsters invading and causing chaos. The sun had run from the smoke streaked sky now, but in the summer gloaming he thought Darkmouth looked friendly.

A good place to be.

For now.