Strings of Retaliation – 4a – Argument

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Gabriel and I tangoed like this when we set our association in motion. The power struggle had been fun. This staring contest wasn’t. Gabriel was sharp enough to know I would see through his diversion tactic. He should have stepped onto the dance floor with proper conviction.
“Help me or don’t, but don’t toe the line,” I growled.
“Because only you get to do that,” he whispered through clenched teeth. He took a deep breath, a sip of coffee and set his cup down, crossing his arm on the tabletop.
Asserting dominance. “Keep this up and I’ll do something we’ll both regret. And not in a kinky kind of way.”
“Fine,” he muttered. The single word, loaded with disappointment, bitch-slapped me. “I need the woman who can call me out on the Bureau’s politics without a hint. Not this blind brat.”
His levelled and cold voice steeled my burning rage into a deadly weapon. I gripped the sides of my chair to force me still; I refused to justify his insult by acting out.
“No psych evaluation. Rules I know will infuriate you.” He gradually raised his voice, his anger spilling over the dike of his usual composure. “Me telling you in no uncertain terms that a private chat would draw suspicion. Doesn’t anything ring an alarm?”
Despite all the rage boiling in me, I leaned back and shrugged. He threw his hands up in the air and took a deep breath.
“Is it my turn to throw a tantrum, already?” The simple taunt rolled off my tongue like a long awaited treat. It beat the brownies.
Gabriel sighed and shook his head. His face loosened from the tightness of anger to something I had seen often: defeat. Resignation.
“I’m calling off the op.” In one smooth move, he stood and straightened his jacket.
I stood in his way before he walked past me and left. “Sit down.”
“You need to disappear.” Gabriel moved to round me.
I gripped his arm firmly. “You can’t.”
Gabriel chuckled. “It’s the easy way.”
He jerked himself loose and moved to pass me again. I spun and slammed my left palm into his solar plexus. The shock knocked the air out of him and he stumbled backward against the table.
The China clattered.
“No.”
Gabriel squared himself in a defencive stance. “You can’t cut it.”
I threw a round kick toward his face. He blocked my shin with both his forearms. I threw a punch. He strafed to dodge, but hit my rising knee. He disengaged, windless for the second time.
“And I’m done living in hell for a wimp.” Without warning, he charged. His shoulder hit my ribcage and he flipped me over his back. I crashed into a chair.
His unexpectedly dirty manoeuvre put him between me and the door.
“Hmmm, guys?” Vexx said from the hallway.
“Stay out of this!” Gabriel and I belted.
“When you left, they wanted to sweep the operation under the rug,” Gabriel continued.
I grabbed a broken chair leg and used it as a baton. Under my assault, he stepped back and parried to hold his grounds in front of the door.
“And when I went to the bat for you —” Gabriel continued between two hits. He grabbed my baton arm and smashed it against the door frame. I dropped my weapon. Keeping his hold onto my arm, he flipped me around. My back hit the marble floor by the table and my head rang.
Square one.
“— When I saved both you and Vexx, they wanted to replace me on the case.”
I pulled myself to my feet. “Wouldn’t have made much of a difference, good little peon.”
I must have hit a nerve because he finally threw a punch — which hit me square on the jaw.
“No difference!” He bellowed. “I kept them from studying you!”
The PA system started playing What a Wonderful World.
Vexx, you’re next! was my first thought then came: EMP wave ran out of juice.
Another punch snapped me back to the here and now. I responded in kind, stopping only once I straddled Gabriel on the ground.
“You violated every inch of my life!”
With a strength his suit hid well, he lifted me off him and switched our places.
I should carpet all my floors, I thought as the shock rang through my spine.
“An Administration teacher instead of an implant.”
I struggled to get free. Old Me would have had his ass on a platter by now.
“A house instead of a cage.”
Vexx’s foot hit Gabriel’s shoulder and with that help, I managed to roll him off me and stood. He sat up and pulled a device out of his jacket. With the push a button, all the electronics died again.
“I chose to follow every other order knowing it would calm my bosses and piss you off. As I told them it would.” He prompted his arms up on his bent knees and his tone softened. “At least, it should have.”
The logic hit me right in the forehead. “Strengthening your position by proving your value through an accurate prediction of your asset’s behaviour,” I murmured.
“Then, I could give you some leeway. Say it was part of the negotiation to keep you on our side.”
“Why this, then?” I looked around at the mess.
“It’s one thing to let you walk in the shark tank. It’s a whole other to throw you in while you’re unconscious and bleeding.” Gabriel wiped some blood off his chin. “When all else failed, I hoped the idea of running would rekindle your flame.”
I hated every word, but I couldn’t pretend to try to understand the new me if I didn’t take his assessment in consideration. I sat on the floor, by the table.
I didn’t want to watch as the FBI gained control of the most powerful tech company on the globe and leveraged their army of silicon womb assassins. My brothers and sisters.
That’s why I instinctively refused to let Gabriel call off the op.
It wasn’t the first time Gabriel found one of my trigger. It didn’t get better with recurrences.
The plate of brownies had slid to the edge of the table after the various hits but miraculously hadn’t toppled over. I reached up and brought it to my lap with a sigh of resolve.
Vexx — a bit too cheerful for the circumstances — found a spot free of clutter and sat on the ground with us. “This dining room is cursed.”
Our chuckles lightened the heavy after-fight tension. I threw each of the boys a brownie.
We took a bite in sync.
And then another.
“So,” Vexx said, “where do we go from here?”
Gabriel gingerly patted his split lip. “The ER?”

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

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