Takes place after MS#39.
Taylor stared at the roof of his gym, particularly at the bottles he’d managed to embed there without them shattering – an act of careful control of force. So far, he was losing, as Grigori had managed to implant more bottles.
Most of the bottles he’d thrown had either smashed on impact, or hit somewhere near his target. Like the floor.
He considered his thoughts for a moment, only one conclusion coming to his clouded mind.
Grigori, one bleacher row above him turned to look down at him. ‘No you aren’t.’
‘No, no, no,’ Grigori said, handing him another bottle. ‘You’re more fun when you’re drunk.’
He lifted a hand and stared at it, counted the fingers thrice, then let it fall heavily on his chest, his other hand automatically opening the bottle.
‘How many?’ Grigori asked.
‘Still the correct amount.’
‘See? Not drunk!’
He sat up and leaned his head back against the other agent. ‘No, I’m drunk. I’m impaired.’
‘It’s two in the morning,’ Grigori argued, ‘there isn’t exactly a lot you need to be doing right now. Me, me on the other hand, I could numerous things to do at this hour in the morning.’
Grigori stifled a giggle, the shaking sensation going right through his head and amplifying his headache. ‘He made a funny!’ Grigori announced to the empty gym. ‘Only a little funny,’ he said, dropping his head back down, ‘but you’re learning! I’ll teach you some better jokes later.’
He chugged down half the bottle before looking up. ‘I have training to do in a few hours.’
‘Let Magnolia do it,’ Grigori said, ‘you let her when you’re busy, correct? Well, you’re busy.’
He stared at the bottle. ‘This is just self-indulgent crap,’ he muttered, ‘doesn’t change anything.’
‘Taylor,’ Grigori said, rolling back onto his back, ‘you’re alive, can’t you take some comfort in that? I mean, if you want to take comfort in something else, or in someone else, just say the word. Me? I’m just happy I didn’t have to watch you get vaporised.’
He finished off the bottle and threw it at the ceiling. It missed, and landed on the far side of the gym, behind some dusty pieces of equipment. ‘I’m not here to make you happy.’
‘I know. If you were, you’d be naked.’
‘I’m not here to make you happy.’
‘Doesn’t matter, you do anyway.’
He reached for another bottle, and simply held the cool glass to his forehead. ‘I wouldn’t be here if I was strong. I was too weak to-’
‘You held yourself back from making a terrible mistake, it wasn’t weakness.’
‘I wanted her dead. I want her dead. I wanted to choke the life from her…and watch her not get back up. She-’ He tapped the bottle against the edge of the bleacher. ‘I want her dead. I want her dead. I want her dead.’
‘Transfer,’ Grigori said, ‘come work for me.’
‘No,’ he said, staring across at the open expanse of his darkened gym. ‘Can’t.’
‘Why not? I’m a reasonable boss.’
‘Stop it.’ He stood and stumbled off the bleachers, bottle in hand. His faithful punching bag waited for abuse, and he did not disappoint, slamming his free hand into it again and again. With a flick of his thumb, he opened the bottle, and hit the bag again, drops of the bitter faerie beer spilling over his blood-splattered uniform.
Grigori stood on the other side of the swinging bag, batting it aside as it came near his head. ‘Why not? You’ve never given me a reasonable answer, not like this is the first time I’ve made this offer.’
He hit the bag again. ‘My duty is not as lax as yours.’
Grigori hit the bag, sending it hurtling back toward him. ‘I don’t get you.’
‘You can do your duty,’ he said, stepping aside and letting the bag spin for a minute. ‘Wherever you are. You have an entire country. I can’t do that. My duty is to the city. I can’t leave here. If I’m not here, I’m not an agent. If I leave here, I’m useless, and may as well be dead.’
‘You seemed to do fine when you were crawling through mud during the war.’
‘Come on, you-’
‘I’m staying here. Least until one of Ryan’s mistakes-’
‘You’re one of those mistakes, and sometimes I’m glad he made you.’
‘No you aren’t.’
‘Then explain why I put up with your bullshit,’ Grigori said, taking a swig from the bottle in his hand. ‘Or are you too drunk?’
He stared at his fingers for a moment. ‘Still the the correct amount.’
‘Surely the city doesn’t-’
‘It’s all I have left,’ he said, staring at the punching bag. ‘The only scrap I have from before I was a mistake. I leave, and I have nothing.’
‘It might be good for you,’ Grigori said. ‘Sever the ties. Give up on what you have here, get the fresh start you need.’
‘Gods, fine, I guess I’ll just have to keep visiting you.’
He dropped his empty bottle, his knees buckling to let his join it on the floor. The Russian caught him before he slammed into the polished wood, and with a grunt, he felt himself being thrown over a broad shoulder. ‘Put me down,’ he ordered.
‘Sure, soon as you can walk.’
‘I can crawl,’ he muttered.
‘Stop being such a stubborn son of a bitch.’ There was the sound of a bottle being dropped, and they began to move in the direction of his office. ‘And rely on the people around you.’
‘You see that? That’s being stubborn, stop it.’
They stopped moving, and he heard a door being kicked. A minute later, he was deposited onto his bed, which he didn’t remember requiring. He reeled from the new angle for a moment, nearly snarling at the impairing alcohol in his veins.
He felt a tug at his boot, and adjusted his head to see Grigori removing his shoes.
‘I can do it myself,’ he said with a grunt.
‘I know,’ Grigori said, tossing the boot over his shoulder, and moving onto the next. His other boot was tossed away without care.
‘How much did I drink?’
‘You’re going to sleep it off,’ Grigori said as he pulled his belt away. ‘I’ll talk to that hot piece of ass you call a recruit and inform her she’ll be taking the morning training.’
With a tug, his pants came away, leaving him in navy underwear, which were soon plucked away as well.
‘I have a better constitution than you,’ Grigori said, now pulling at the buttons on his jacket. ‘I’ll be functional before you. I’ll come get you in the morning, until then, just…relax. No one is going to be asking anything of you…not at the moment. Trust me.’
‘Trust me,’ Grigori ordered as his shirt was pulled away, leaving him completely naked.
A required blanket was dropped over him. ‘Do you need a bedtime story?’ Grigori asked with a grin. ‘I’m good at the voices.’
‘Tell me the story of you leaving me, so I can get some damn sleep.’
‘As you wish,’ Grigori said, finding space on the bed to sit. ‘A long time, in a kingdom far, far away-’
He sat up a little and gave the Russian a shove. ‘Get out.’
‘Goodnight,’ Grigori said, with a wink as he stood.
‘Goodnight,’ he growled. ‘And tell Magnolia-’
‘I think I know what I need to tell her,’ Grigori said. ‘Sleep.’
He watched Grigori leave, locking the door behind him, off to see Magnolia. Off to tell her to take over because of his weakness. Off too- He growled at the ceiling, and engaged his sleep program, letting unconsciousness take him away from thoughts of-
Takes place after MS#39.