Hey all! I'm back!
Once again, sorry for the long delay in a new chapter. Now that I'm working as a freelance writer, writing Fanfiction has dropped to the back burner. Plus, yeah, I suppose being on chemotherapy doesn't help matters either...
Anyways, here's your new chapter, and I really hope you like this one. Please, please, please leave me a review! It is my writer's sustenance. :P
I still felt waterlogged.
My head throbbed, and my voice was hoarse, but I wasn't planning on talking much anyways.
It wasn't the first time a training exercise was a few seconds away from going foul in my experience, and it certainly wasn't the first time my fellow trainees and superiors had done absolutely nothing to intervene. We had all been there at one point. Many of us had the scars and medical records to prove it. For others, all that was left to show for it was a recently vacant dormitory and another dog tag to seal and store away.
Another failed Outcome agent, now putting truth to fact that they were legally dead.
The idea was to make things real. That we wouldn't receive any special treatment out in the field, so why should we now in training? And it did put an element of desperation in any exercise, that just wouldn't be there in a safe, controlled environment. You learned to see your opponent as more than just a sparring partner. You learned to see them as a threat. As your enemy. You or him.
And in that you learned. Learned to routinely unleash the beast inside you to conquer and win. Learned to operate on a level that helped you reach your full potential. Learned your limits, and how to leap over them and make new ones.
It was no new experience, to be left completely up to your own devices in a training exercise, but it still left me feeling bitter every time.
"….I don't understand how could they just leave us there to drown! What kind of animals are these people?! You nearly died!"
Aaron was still ranting. By now I had mostly tuned him out. Better not to encourage such vocalizations. The faster he learned to keep his mouth shut and internalize, the faster he learned to survive in this place.
Not that it had been a new lesson for me when I first came to Outcome. From the moment I was born, I was taught the importance of silence. The security in it.
Speak when spoken to. Stare down your enemies, don't talk them to death. Never show emotion. Silence is just another wall around your heart. All the better to keep it from breaking.
No, it was no new lesson to me—the cold edge of spy craft. Outcome, the real game for many, was but another playground for me. I had been born into espionage. Born for it. It was my purpose. My skill set. My life. Whether I wanted to live that life or not.
"Way to make an impression today, drama queen."
I tensed automatically, as beside me McCallen slammed down his tray on the table and slid in close on the bench. In front of me, Swift, Dunn, and Mhyen also took their seats along the long cafeteria table, Aaron falling silent in the presence of the other Outcome agents, while his eyes quickly flashed between them, and McCallen and I.
"Keep it up, sweetheart, and you'll have Lover Boy here eating out your hand," McCallen continued, casting a scathing look at Aaron while he speared a bite of sausage from his plate with his knife, popping it into his mouth with a smug smirk.
I kept silent, not falling for the bait, while before me Aaron tensed, also silent, unsure how to react. After all, he was the newbie - the man on unfamiliar turf.
"Leave 'em alone, Three," Swift grumbled from beside Aaron, reaching across the table to snag a packet of cheap raspberry jam, peeling off the cover and beginning to expertly spread it across the crust of his toast with his own personal switchblade.
"I'm Four, by the way," he continued, addressing Aaron who seemed to relax a little, though he still hadn't touched his food since the others arrived. "You can call me Vic though. Victor Swift. This here is Six, Lucy Mhyen, Eight, Curtis Dunn, and Three, Jack McCallen," he said, pointing to each member in turn around the table with the edge of his blade. "One, June Monroe, you've met."
Across the table, Aaron made brief eye contact. "Pleasure to meet you all," he said, after quietly clearing his throat. "I'm-"
"Aaron Cross, Outcome 05. We know," McCallen interrupted in a bored tone, "The pussy who couldn't fill out a pair of BDU's. I wonder, do you still piss yourself at night?"
There was a tense silence, broken only by McCallen's harsh chuckle, while across the table Aaron reddened and stared down at his plate, his knuckles going white around the fork he held in his hands.
For a moment, I wondered if he would use it. Make a move to stab Three in the eye. Not that he would get very far with the action. Such a movement was exactly what McCallen was waiting for, and I knew if Five so much as twitched, he would be face down on the table with a shattered wrist before anyone could blink.
There was, after all, a reason McCallen was Three, and Cross was Five. It was a simple matter of training and instinct. A simple matter of who was the spider, and who was the fly.
I could see the gears in Aaron's head turning from across the table as he weighed his options, trying to decide whether he was going to revert to old habits and let the insults pass, or if he was going to be Outcome and stand up for himself - trying to decide if standing up for himself was even the Outcome thing to do.
Before he could come to a decision, however, I made it for him.
I told myself it was a matter of strategy. After the morning's exercise, I knew Byer and White would be prone to pairing Five and I up in the future, at which point he would be useless to me as a bruised pulp of broken bones. I told myself it was all for maintaining tactical advantage. I had the training, he didn't.
And it wasn't the first time I had disagreements to settle against Three.
"Take it back," I said in a calm, clear voice beside McCallen, my face a careful mask, drawing a surprised look from Aaron, and resigned sighs from Swift, Mhyen, and Dunn.
Beside me, McCallen shifted on the bench, turning to stare down on me with a look of slight surprise, but not displeasure. "Excuse me?"
"Take it back," I repeated again, turning to match his gaze fearlessly, my voice level. "Five is Outcome. One of us. You disgrace him, you disgrace the program. Apologize."
Another tense silence, in which a slow grin spread across McCallen's face, the both of us staring each other down.
He took the bait, like I knew he would. He never could resist. When given the choice of picking a fight with a weak new recruit, or with me, it was no secret McCallen would always, invariably choose me over any option.
The two of us had a bit of history.
"Here we go again," Swift sighed under his breath, picking up his plate and transferring it to the safety of his lap, while beside him Mhyen and Dunn scraped their bench back a foot or two from the table.
The sound echoed in the full cafeteria that had suddenly gone deathly silent in the past few seconds, the tension audibly rising in the room as everywhere standard CIA trainees paused in what they were doing to watch the inevitable outcome.
And right on cue, as if some soundless bell had suddenly gone off, both McCallen and I sprang into action.
His first move I had anticipated, having caught that slight twitch of the finger towards his knife on the table a second before he reached for it, and so when in the next instant he made a slash for my throat with blade, I had already flattened myself along the bench, his arm carving nothing but empty air.
A heartbeat after, and I had kicked off of him with my feet to propel my back along the bench, rolling off the end and to the floor as not half a second later the point of the knife drove into the bench where I had been but a moment before.
Now it was my turn, however, and while McCallen was temporarily hindered by his awkward position on the bench, I turned the whole thing over from my position on the floor, causing him to fall hard on his back, before he recovered and scrambled to his feet.
By that time, I was already up and on the offensive, snagging a silver steak knife from a nearby table and hurling it towards Three's chest, who was in full charge across the room. The blade never reached him, as I knew it wouldn't. The both of us were too good for that. When it came to spars like this, every action was merely an attempt to buy yourself an extra second. To be one move ahead of your opponent, like a fast-paced, life or death game of chess - always trying to add seconds and moves to your count until your opponent gets behind and the finishing blow is yours.
A swipe with his arm, and a mid-charge sidestep, and the knife clattered uselessly against the opposite wall, McCallen reaching me in the next moment and sending the both of us crashing back against the end of nearby table and into the wall, plates, silverware, and glasses clattering loudly to the floor, while the trainee onlookers scrambled to get out of the way.
A second before McCallen had reached me, I had managed to sidestep slightly while hooking a foot around his, so that by the time our backs hit the wall, at least some of his momentum had been dispersed and not all the breath left my lungs on impact. It still hurt like hell, which I swiftly repaid him for by a quick head butt to the bridge of his nose, briefly stunning him while I attempted to worm out of his grasp with a parting elbow to the kidneys.
Before I could step out of range, however, I felt the impact of McCallen's boot on my back as he kicked out, sending me stumbling forward into a bench and then to the floor.
Rolling over onto my back as fast as I could, I turned just in time to catch Three's wrist as he drove the point of another steak knife down towards my throat. What followed in the next two seconds was a desperate battle on both ends. Force on force. One up, one down. It was a battle of strength, and therefore a battle I knew I would lose. Outcome or not, McCallen was stronger than me, simple as that. Slowly, painstakingly, the knife point was getting closer.
"Tap out, sweetheart," McCallen grunted, breathless but grinning. "Your boyfriend ain't worth it."
"Who are we kidding?" I shot back, also grinning and breathless, the knife point dropping perilously closer. "We do this for fun."
With a quick twist of my wrist, I forced the point of the blade slightly to the side before relaxing my hold, McCallen's hand instinctually crashing down as he continued to apply force. Crashing down straight into my mouth, whereupon I sunk my teeth into the exposed skin of his hand.
With a cry, McCallen instinctually dropped the knife, a stream of curses forming up in his throat I didn't give him a chance to deliver, as in the next instant my forehead once more connected with his already swollen nose. Quickly snatching up the fallen blade and clamping it in my teeth, I hooked my foot around one of McCallen's legs, while bringing my other knee up to wedge in between our bodies. Together, with the combined leverage, I managed to roll him off of me, and with a quick, sudden movement we very quickly changed places: myself now on top, legs straddling McCallen's back and pinning him down, while one hand was tangled in his hair, forcing his head back, and the other held the edge of the steak knife pressed tight against his exposed throat.
"Tap out, sweetheart," I quoted in a quiet whisper, breathing hard but victorious. "It's not worth it."
A second's hesitation, before I felt two quick taps on my thigh, McCallen's face hot and angry, but with a resigned patience. A professional respect. A fair fight. I won, he lost.
At his cooperation, I relaxed the pressure of my blade against his throat ever so slightly. A mutual sign of respect. A nod to him being a fair player, but still maintaining my dominance.
"Now you're going to take back those words you said against Five earlier," I instructed, using the same calm, level tone. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Aaron watching me intensely, eyes wide with shock from the fight, and the fact that I had started it for him.
Nothing personal. Simple tactics, I told myself again. You're no good to me in a hospital bed.
"I'm not gonna do that, One," McCallen grunted beneath me, his voice slightly muffled against the slick tile floor.
The pressure of the blade against his throat immediately resumed.
"I'm not gonna do that, unless Five gives me a reason to," McCallen quickly rectified. "He's in the program now. Let him fight his own battles. He's got to prove his worth, same as everyone in here. He's got to prove he's worthy of Outcome."
A moment of silence passed in the room as I considered this. Three had a point. Every single man and woman in that cafeteria had fought their way through the ranks. The respect they had, they earned well through blood, sweat, and tears. It was Outcome, after all. Outcome, and the damn CIA.
My point had been made too. I never cared for a bully, and while McCallen was more often than not a misogynist asshole, Outcome had at least taught him to have some dignity. I had won this time, fair and square, and now a certain professional courtesy was extended.
"Fair enough," I said with a nod, glancing over at Aaron who met my eyes. "But from now on, all respect will be given to Five unless he is found undeserving of it."
McCallen grunted, and I relaxed my hold, rising fluidly and stepping away just in case he got any last minute ideas of evening the score.
All around me, the cafeteria was returning to normal, trainees righting benches and turning back to their plates as if nothing had happened - though I did notice some of them pocketing bills with smug faces, while others grumbled under their breath. Paying up for lost bets on who would win.
Just another day in Outcome.
"What the hell was that?!" Beside me, Aaron fell into step, matching my furious pace stride for stride. "Why did you-"
"One more word, Five, and I'll break your arm," I interrupted, keeping my eyes fixed on where I was walking. "Shut up, follow me, and don't look back."
"Why? Where are we going?"
What part of shut up do you not understand?
"Doesn't matter where," I muttered. "What matters is we're late."
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Also, for those of you who follow my other Avengers fic, stay tuned for another one shot that will soon be appearing. I'm still taking plot requests, so if you have any ideas or funny scenes you want everyone's favorite heroes to enact, leave a review on that story (can be found on my profile) or PM me! I try to work in everyone's ideas as much as possible.
Until next time...