No one bothered him when he used the corner of the gym.
Curt stretched his arms high above his head, cleared his mind, then started to do squats.
The gym was fairly quiet this time of day – well between scheduled training, and the voluntary, scheduled sessions that his peers coordinated.
Most would listen to music, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that – if he was distracted, then it was all the more likely that someone would creep up on him. That Petersen would shift in and-

He took one hand away from his head, and pressed it to his ribs, feeling that they were fine, that no knife had punctured-
The doors to the gym opened, and he heard stomping footsteps – for a single moment, he wondered if it was Taylor, but the person stomping wasn’t heavy enough to belong to six feet of solid muscle.
He did one more squat, then stopped and turned, aware that the footsteps were coming directly towards him.
Brian came towards him, fury on his face.
Curt required a towel, weights hidden in each end, and wrapped it around his neck, trying to look casual. He hadn’t done anything to earn the attention of the little wannabe-dictator in the last few days.
Even when Brian turned on him – which wasn’t infrequently – usually it was a snide comment, or a dirty trick whilst Mags wasn’t watching during practice.
Curt took a step back as Brian approached. He’d done nothing to let his cover drop, said nothing about his past to anyone. So far as his colleagues knew, he was nothing but a joke, a pathetic ex-Solstice wimp, he wasn’t a threat.
Brian took a swing at him – but the older man was too far away when the punch started, so he easily stepped back.
‘Hey, what the fuck?’ he asked, trying to push a little fear into his voice.
He could whip the towel from around his neck, stun Brian with one of the weights, then wrap it around the recruit’s neck and squeeze until-
‘You think you’re better than me?’ Brian asked, spit flying from his mouth.
Curt danced back out of Brian’s range, glad he’d picked a corner without any gym equipment to trip over. Situational awareness was always a major advantage.
Brian charged, head down, and shoulder out like he was playing footy.
He could dodge the hit. He could kill the recruit with very little effort. He could exert some effort, and maim the man like he’d considered after each little insult, each unnecessary reminder that he would always be Solstice, not Agency.
Curt closed his eyes, and took the hit, wind whuffing from his lungs as he was slammed into the wall of the gym.
Even now, it would be so easy. He could assert control, and take down the recruit.
Mags would probably even praise his technique.
‘You think you’re better than me?!’ Brian screamed again, lashing out with his leg as Curt slid to the floor. ‘You think you’re good enough to be aide?!’ Brian kicked him again, the toe of the steel-capped shoe digging painfully into his thigh.
Confusion mixed with anger. The only application had been so long ago that even Ryan had likely forgotten about it. The new application was still in progress, and the only person who knew was a dead newbie who had promised not to say anything.
He found it extremely unlikely that Stef’s ghost was haunting the Agency, dispensing minor secrets to assholes.
Brian balled a hand into a fist, lifted it high, and started to slam it down – where it was promptly stopped by a pretty, delicate hand, just a hint of pale nail polish on fingers that seemed to have no problem holding Brian’s angry fist in check.
‘Recruit,’ Jane said, the angry British accent immediately putting him in mind of a pissed-off Hogwart’s teacher. ‘Go find something else to do. You can expect a formal reprimand on-‘
Brian’s foot stamped. ‘This piece of shit started it!’
‘I’ll deal with Recruit O’Connor in an appropriate manner,’ she said. ‘Out.’
Brian was cut off as he was shifted away.
‘Give me your hand, Recruit,’ Jane said as she reached forward.
He hesitated for a moment – the idea of voluntarily touching an agent was so strange. There had been a handshake here and here – stiff, formal things that made his heart race. He was dirty, he was Solstice, and there was always the chance that they would decide to take offence to touching something like him.
His heart slowly beat its ways into his throat as he reached for Jane’s hand, and allowed her to help him to his feet.
Everything skewed as they shifted.
The small meeting room appeared – the one where they’d had their little post-midnight chat, the one where he did the majority of his paperwork.
‘Why were you letting that little cockmongrel get the best of you?’
He gave her a blank look. ‘He snuck up on me, ma’am, caught me by surprise.’ He leaned against the table, and started to rub his thigh, then pressed a hand against his chest. There’d be bruising, but either of the Parkers could deal with it in seconds. No lasting damage – except for perhaps the impression that the agents were on his side, rather on Brian’s side.
A dangerous perception, unless Jane intended to stick around and play guardian angel.
‘He…caught you by surprise?’ Jane asked, raising an eyebrow at him. ‘Recruit, if I were to pull a gun on you, right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get it out of my hands before I pulled the trigger.’
Curt flinched, even though the threat wasn’t real. ‘That’s different, ma’am, I don’t have to keep up appearances with you. You know what I am. They don’t. If I started to…publicly act the level of confidence that I was capable of, then things would be even more socially difficult than they currently are, and that would have scheduling impacts that I don’t want to feel responsible for. As it stands, although most aren’t happy with it, there are few Field recruits that outright refuse to work with me.’ He slumped against the table, working some heat into his thigh with his hand. ‘So that’s why I let myself get beat up by a cockmongrel, ma’am.’
‘What would you have done?’
He looked down at the ground. ‘That would depend if I was looking to disable, kill, or treat him like a Solstice should treat a recruit.’ He wrapped his arms across his chest. ‘I’m more than capable of all three options. But every time I don’t take an extreme action, I feel a little more like I deserve this uniform.’
He blushed at the admission, and hung his head a little lower. ‘If I be what I am capable of, then I won’t become who I want to be.’
[table id=15 /]