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Unexpected weakness

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Disclaimer : I don’t own Claymore

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Ever since he had joined the group known as the 'Ghosts of Pieta', Raki had been paying quite a bit of attention to the interaction between its members. After all, he could still remember how Clare had been treated by her own peers due to her rank back then. One would have thought Claymore stick together, but actually, there was a lot of tension among them, and while some of them were friends, they were most often cold and distant even to each other.

Knowing that you might have to end a friend's life by her own request could be a powerful deterrent to form lasting bonds.

Nonetheless, when he had met the Ghosts, he had been surprised by the way they acted. Instead of a group thrown together, they acted like a close yet still somewhat distant family. More surprisingly considering he knew three of their members. Helen was almost as loud and outspoken as he remembered, but the demeaning tone she used back then had changed into a more teasing one. Deneve was still aloof at first glance, but he knew she would be there should any of them needed her.

SMACK

"Ow!" Helen whined as he hit her hand with the wooden spoon he was holding before she could swipe any of the dinner.

"Wait till it's done." Raki scolded as he held his 'weapon' threateningly.

Near the entrance of the cave, their camp for tonight instead of a clearing, he heard Cynthia giggle openly, and Yuma smother a chuckle. Somehow, he knew Tabitha was smiling a little, and Deneve and Clare were fighting theirs back.

"Please." Helen begged, complete with the puppy dog eyes. Now that would ruin Claymores' reputation if this ever got out.

"No! And don’t try to steal the pot. I'd rather avoid a repeat of last time."

"Don't we all." Miria deadpanned.

"I don't think Clare minded. At least not the aftermath." Helen pointed.

Clare had to fight back her arrogant smirk at the memory of the lengthy session of hot lovemaking which had followed that incident.

"And do I need to remind you," Miria started again, narrowing her eyes at the couple, "the mess that aftermath led us in."

"Aww, Miria-nee, you're no fun." Helen complained.

Raki grinned as he returned to his task as 'logistics and support executive'.

Alright, he returned to preparing the food for the assembled hybrids.

Once again, his thought wandered to the assembled warriors he was traveling with. Among the three he had not known beforehand, Cynthia and Yuma were unusual for Claymores. Cynthia was always cheerful, optimistic and smiling, and all over, fun to be with and a good friend. Considering the hardships the life of a warrior entailed, she had to have great strength of character to keep a positive outlook.

Yuma was almost her complete opposite. Never in his life would he have imagined an insecure warrior of all things. Due to their superhuman abilities, humans considered Claymores with awe and fear. Consequently, it would make sense for any warrior to have a sense of superiority toward them. Yet even around him, Yuma acted meekly. Hell, he could not recall Clare ever feeling inadequate, and she was the supposed weakest at her time.

Tabitha was still a little hesitant around him, as if she did not know how to react to a friendly human. Sadly enough, this was the norm among Claymores, then again, his own behavior toward them was not quite ordinary.

And finally, Miria, the undisputed leader of the group. He had to admit, Miria was the only one who actually intimidated him. Like the rest of her subordinates, Miria was attractive, strong and sharp, yet she was different from them. He had met her twice when he was traveling with Clare as a child, and back then he had been unable to put that difference in words. Seeing Miria again after having spent time with Isley, he could now identify what made her so intriguing.

While he realized his trust for Clare stemmed from his adoration as a child and the hardships they had gone through together, Miria, just like Isley, was dripping with charisma. Trusting them, for lack of a better word, felt right. They were both natural leaders who had a way to make even complete strangers trust them, defer to them, respect them. Instinctively, and even though he was not a warrior, and therefore outside of her authority, Raki had put himself under her orders without even being requested to.

 

Still, Helen was right, Miria was no fun. Always serious, always focused, never allowing herself to relax even a little, never letting herself caught off guard. The pressure of being the leader he guessed.

Speaking of off guard however, Raki had managed to land a single hit on her during sparring today. Now, it was a rule among the warriors that they had to restrain themselves to around his level for practice, but he was nonetheless proud to be able to hold his own if it came to pure skill. Apparently, Miria had underestimated his progress, allowing the human man to deliver a long and fairly deep cut to her stomach. Nothing serious for a Claymore, but still quite painful.

"By the way, Miria." he called. "Could you give me your shirt for a moment?"

Deafening silence.

"Excuse me Raki… did you just ask me to take off my clothes?" Miria asked.

"Clare, it looks like you're no longer enough for him." Helen jested.

Clare gritted her teeth but refrained from speaking. Her last humiliation had warned her against jumping to conclusions.

Raki looked puzzled for a moment before his eyes widened in realization. "Oh no, it's not what you think. I just want to mend that cut." he amended.

"Mend the cut?" Miria repeated as she looked down at the damaged garment.

"It makes sense I guess. Not like we can easily replace it while on the run." Yuma pointed.

"And I doubt we can ask a handler. Not that I want to see one of these creeps." Deneve added.

Raki shrugged. "Unless you want to keep it that way, but if you do, it is likely to rip completely sooner or later. And I don’t think you'd enjoy prancing around topless."

Out of the corner of her eye, Miria saw Tabitha blush a little.

"And what makes you think I can't do it myself?" Miria asked with narrowed eyes. The question was answered by a giggle from Cynthia and a laugh from Helen.

"Miria, the one and only time we attempted to repair our clothes, we ended up with more punctures than after a fight with an Awakened. After that, we simply decided to make new ones as necessary." Helen turned to Raki. "Speaking of which kid, how do you know how to sew?"

"Well, I did not have people to replace my clothes back then."

"He cooks, he cleans, he sews, he's good in bed… Clare, are you sure you…"

"NO!" Clare exclaimed before Helen could finish her question. She was sick and tired of her companions (alright, mostly Helen) making the moves on her man.

"I don't think it's a good idea." Miria stated, though there was none of her usual steel in her voice. She almost sounded ashamed. "I know you don't care about the scars, but I'd rather avoid exposing this."

Even though they considered themselves warriors first and foremost, and did not care among themselves, Miria did not feel comfortable enough to expose herself in front of Raki even for the briefest moment. She knew it was illogic as Raki worshipped Clare's body daily (much to Clare's delight), but she feared that if the young man saw a Claymore without the veil of adoration, it would ruin his opinion of them and cause him to leave the group. And Miria could not deny that ever since he had joined them, his little attentions and honest friendship had made their lives far more pleasant.

Raki guessed what Miria meant, and he sighed in frustration. He could not allow himself to be more forceful, Miria would probably clam up and curse herself for her moment of vulnerability. Still, he was serious about the cloth needing repairs. That cut was pretty serious and might leave her stomach exposed if it got worse. And while he doubted he would react negatively, other people would not be as accepting.

"Helen, could you watch the food for me?" he asked as he rummaged through his pack, pulling out a needle and some strong thread. "Miria, just stand up will you?"

That shocked everyone as Helen was not the person anyone here would trust with the food.

"Deneve, could you watch Helen so we still have something to eat when I'm done?"

Okay, now that sounded better.

After a confused Miria complied, the young man sat in front of her, examining the cut.

"I'll do it like this." he grinned up at her. "But I still need to put my hand under your top."

Somewhat touched by the thoughtfulness, Miria felt the need to reaffirm her authority after her minor slip. "Touch anything you're not supposed to and I cut off your hand." she mock-threatened.

"Clare would be upset. She really likes my hands on her."

"I did not need to know that." Miria huffed, annoyed at not having the last word in their little argument. The irony that she, the leader, had lost to Raki on a domestic matter was not lost on her.

His smile turning apologetic, Raki carefully slipped his hand under her top through the bottom, pulling the skin-tight fabric away so he could work without risking stabbing Miria. He idly noticed that her face faintly contorted in what he assumed discomfort when his hand touched her bare skin under the cloth.

The cut was long, extending almost all the way across Miria's midsection, so he had to move his hand as he sewed the damaged top back together, the taut abdominal muscles jumping under his touch. A strangled sound from Miria caused him to look up at her face. To his surprise, her eyes were shut and her lips were pressed together as if she was repressing some reaction, and her face twitched in synch with his hand. Now he could understand her being uncomfortable, but he knew her enough to know she would not be showing it if it was the case.

"Am I hurting you?" he asked concernedly. He knew from Clare that a Claymore's scars did not hurt, but he had to make sure.

"No!" It was kind of hard to believe considering she looked like she had swallowed a living frog.

Raki's brown furrowed in concentration as he tried to make sense of Miria's reaction while keeping up his work. She was holding something back, but what? It could not be pain, so it had to be…

His eyes widened as he understood what Miria's problem was, but he forced his grin back.

"Miria?" he asked, the mischievous undertone not lost on her.

"Yes?"

"Are you ticklish?"

"What are you talkEEAAAKKKKKKKK!!" Miria's denial was cut off as Raki abruptly poked her stomach harder, forcing her sentence to end with a very un-Miria-like squeak. The high-pitched sound drew everyone's attention to the former Number Six.

"You ARE!" Raki shouted in glee, glad to finally see her mask cracking just a little.

"Don’t be ridiculAACCKKKKKK!" This time Raki's right hand, which had discarded his tools, joined his left under the cloth and mimicked its ministrations. The effect was instantaneous as Miria desperately tried to get away even as her countenance cracked further, and a giggle made its way out of her throat.

"STOP IMMEDIATELY!" Miria ordered/squealed, feeling her knees grow weak under the sweet torture. Much to her private dismay, she had always been very ticklish, and now someone had found her weakness. Every poke on her stomach felt like he was triggering the nerves that commanded her to laugh, and she could already feel her resistance crumbling.

Damn it! She was Phantom Miria! The leader of the Ghosts of Pieta, and the one who had sworn to avenge the souls of her fallen comrades! She could be stabbed by an Awakened and not cry out! She should not be laughing from some stupid human reaction! And yet, despite what she thought, she could do nothing as her body kept betraying her, leaving her at Raki's mercy.

Raki on the other hand was torn. Sure, he had no obligation to obey, but he was aware that if he continued, he would probably be crossing a few lines with Miria, something she might not forgive him. But Miria needed this. She needed to let go of her worries for just a moment and simply laugh. She needed to stop being a warrior and be a person for a little while. And she needed to understand she did not have to be the commander all the time, and that she could drop her guard at times around her comrades and friends.

"Nope!" he beamed at her, something that nearly made her heart stop, and poked her again. "You are long overdue for some loosening up, doctor's orders. And I have just the cure for you! TICKLE TORTURE!"

Miria shrieked.

"Think of it as payback for you kicking my ass when we spar, oh mighty Miria!"

Renewing his assault, it did not take him long to have Miria on the floor, writhing and squirming as she tried to escape the pleasurable torment, and her unrestrained crystalline laugh filling the cave as she begged for mercy under his renewed assault. Begging that went unheeded as he ruthlessly kept attacking her sensitive spots, causing her to laugh louder and louder.

Not even Ophelia was this sadistic. Scratch that, Raki was worse than Riful, Miria decided amidst the chaos that was her mind at the moment.

Helen had completely forgotten about the food, standing with her jaw to the floor as she witnessed the momentous event of Miria reduced to uncontrollable peals of laughter. The rest of the Ghosts had reactions ranging from shock, disbelief and amazement. Shock at Miria's reaction, disbelief at what had caused it, and amazement that Raki had been brave (or stupid) enough to dare do something even Helen would never have.

"I can't believe it." Cynthia whispered.

"Captain…" Tabitha blushed at the sight of Miria's face-splitting smile and tears of mirth.

"Maybe we should stop him…" Yuma suggested, seeing Raki's victim starting to hyperventilate.

"No, let him, big sis needs that." Helen replied, her expression turning sour. "Damn! All those times I've tried to cheer her up, all those pranks… and all it took was THIS!"

"Well, Captain did enjoy those snowball fights we had in the North." Tabitha supplied.

"Only because she kicked our collective asses every single time." Helen shivered at the memory of having snow shoved down her pants. "Look at her! She's louder than Forty Seven when the kid's screwing her!"

Clare frowned at that. She was proud that Raki had dared to break Miria's barriers, but at the same time, the sheer familiarity he was displaying made her feel a little less special. And as much as she hated to admit, Miria was indeed pretty loud, even if the nature of the sounds Raki was wrenching out of her was completely different from those Clare was making at night. 'Note to self : ask Raki to make me scream louder.' she thought, knowing perfectly how hard Raki would work to grant her wish.

"This is madness." Deneve deadpanned as she took in the chaos.

"Madness? THIS. IS. MIRIA!!" Helen roared, pointing at said warrior who looked on the verge of a seizure.

"And what exactly are you going to do about it?" Clare asked.

Without answering, Helen grabbed Cynthia and walked to the struggling pair. "Kid." she called.

"Yes?"

"Let her go."

"Aw, why?" Raki pouted, though he could see a glint in the short-haired warrior's eyes.

Even as Raki finally released her and stood up, all Miria could do was pant in order to try and regain some oxygen into her abused lungs. Ten minutes of non-stop laughter had turned her muscles to jelly, left her throat raw, and her brain was trying to recover from the endorphin rush it had just experienced.

Thank God Helen had saved her.

"So I can do it myself!" Helen shouted before pouncing on the helpless Number Six, her hands resuming the treatment Raki had just administered.

"EEEKKKKKKKKKKKKK!" Apparently, Miria could still squeal in response. Damn you Helen!

"Come on pigtails! Gimme a hand!" Helen called, fighting to keep Miria pinned as her victim kicked at her. A couple of blows landed, drawing a wince from her. "Ouch! Well, if you want to play rough, big sis…" Helen leered down at the struggling/laughing Miria.

"Look for other spots. Try her feet." Raki advised before going back with the others.

Grinning sweetly, Cynthia caught Miria's right leg and slowly, almost sensually peeled off Miria's boot. The grin turned evil when she started running her fingers under the sole of Miria's right foot. Immediately, Miria began trashing under the double assault.

"TRAITORS!! **laugh** MUTINY!! **gasp** LET **pant** ME **shriek** GO!!" Miria commanded brokenly, flailing her arms in an attempt to beat Helen away. "WHY MEEE.. EEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!" she finished with a higher-pitched squawk.

"Oh, a new spot?" Helen laughed evilly as she pushed her assault on the newly discovered sensitive point. "This is revenge! Revenge for the snowball fights! Revenge for the snow in my pants! For being woken up with melted snow! I've been waiting for this for YEARS! Finally, the invincible Miria's weakness has been found!" Her triumphant laugh was cut by Miria's fist colliding with her face by chance, though not hard enough to throw her off. "Ouch! Taby! Get her arms!" Helen ordered.

"I'm not sure…" Tabitha replied hesitantly.

"Come on! Which do you prefer? A smiling, laughing Miria or a serious grim one?"

"TABITHA! DON'T YOU DARE…" Once again Miria could not finish as her laughter increased. Suddenly, her wrists were grabbed and her arms were pinned above her. Through her misty eyes, she saw her most loyal follower smiling apologetically at her.

"Sorry Captain, but I think you need this."

'Et tu, Tabitha!' Miria thought dejectedly, finally giving up and abandoning any semblance of holding back, allowing years of pent-up emotions to escape in the form of unrestrained sounds of hilarity.

Raki sat next to Clare, feeling oddly satisfied with himself at the spectacle of the four smiling warriors. Looking at Clare, he saw she had a small smile on her face.

"That was very nice of you. You do realize that Miria might be a little angry for a few days though, don’t you?" she asked.

"I'll deal with it." Raki shrugged.

There was a moment of comfortable silence between the two, only broken by Miria and her tormenters' laughs. Deneve and Yuma were quietly watching too, and even Deneve's lips were noticeably curled up.

"There is one thing that bugs me however." Clare stated, moving closer to him.

"What would that be?"

"You made Miria scream louder than me."

"Oh?" Raki smiled before drawing Clare closer to him, ending up with him hugging her from behind with his arms around her shoulders. "Does my goddess feel jealous?"

Clare leaned back, enjoying the closeness and warmth. "A little." she admitted.

He blew some hot air on the back of her neck, causing a delightful shiver to go down her spine. "Do you want this? Do you want to scream like Miria is screaming right now?" He tightened his hold, pressing her fully against his chest, and his arms dropped from her shoulders to her slender waist.

Yuma looked worriedly at the pair, noticing that things seemed to get steamier between them by the second. She hoped they would have the decency to leave if they decided to get busy. Deneve on the other hand noticed peculiar glint in Raki's eyes, one that she had seen often enough with Helen and sent alarms in her mind.

"Do you?" Raki repeated, nibbling on Clare's earlobe.

"Yessssss…" Clare hissed in response. "Make me scream just like Miria is now."

"It is a good thing you're asking," the young man started as he slipped his hands under Clare's top from below, coming to rest on her stomach. "Because I was wondering…"

"What?" Clare asked, her eyes dropping closed from his gentle touch.

"Is it just Miria, or are ALL Claymores ticklish?" he finished with mischief dripping from his voice.

Clare's eyes shot open as she realized what he intended. Before she could jump away however, he started torturing her like he had Miria. Instantly, Clare began giggling at the unfamiliar sensation, struggling to escape his hold.

"Come on you two!" Raki called at Yuma and Deneve without pausing his actions. "Don’t be strangers! Give me a hand!"

Yuma looked unsure, and Deneve crossed her arms over her chest. "Why exactly should we?"

Raki smirked at her even as he fought to keep his newest prey from breaking free. "Because if you don’t, you'll be my next test subject. After all, you need a good laugh too…"

Deneve actually paled at the idea.

"… hell, I might even ask Helen and Cynthia for help." he finished.

Eyes wide in panic, Deneve could only order Yuma to remove Clare's boots while she hurriedly joined Raki in restraining her.

That night, they all had to skip dinner as the food got burnt beyond recognition.

Ultimately, no one cared.

Author note :

This one is a UFO in the Unexpeted series, since it does not use the sex Yoki gimmick, but it's one of my favourite. It stemmed from a conversation on a forum about Miria being too serious, so I couldn’t help but wonder what would loosen her up. I liked the idea of her being ticklish, as it is a typically human weakness, and it causes a pretty much uncontrollable response. Also, this was the start of my habit of "torturing" Miria - she's one of my favourite Claymores, but she needs to lighten up.