Seven

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Hours later, he stood in a small office giving his report to the acting Officer on duty. By then, he had cleaned the blood off his uniform and gathered himself together. He calmly recited what had happened, even though his mind was still trying to process what he had seen.

A part of him was glad that Rufus was off duty, because he didn't feel like telling him that yet another agent had fallen. And he didn't really want to admit that yes, maybe some Sigari were evil. Exactly as Hal had suspected.

The acting Officer, a quiet man with a tired, yet sharp gaze, asked a few questions and Gabriel answered them all without hesitation. The man had clearly gone through this routine a thousand times before. His questions were brief and to the point, designed to gather the most important details as efficiently as possible.

Finally the man sighed heavily, signalling that he was finished with his debriefing. Gabriel took the opportunity to ask his own question.

"Will he be all right?"

The officer gave a small smile, the kind of smile someone did to try and put someone at ease even though there was nothing good going on. "Our physician has stabilized Erik. He will most likely survive, but he will never be able to return to his role as an Agent."

He'd expected that, but he still felt that twinge of sympathy, of regret. If he maybe had stepped in sooner, then Erik wouldn't have been in the mess. He lowered his gaze. "I see. Thank you."

"No, thank you, Val," the officer said quietly, his expression sincere, yet so very weary. "I'm glad that you were able to bring him back. I've already informed his assigned Embassy as well. They pass on their gratitude as well."

Gabriel only offered a small salute. "Sir." There was more he wanted to say, but didn't. That dark anger still burned slowly like simmering coals, and he knew that if he ever saw Karos or Jei again, he wouldn't hold himself back.

***

Yawning, Gabriel walked into the office Monday morning. He looked around with bleary eyes, seeing the familiar, dull place that was the same as always. Lydia beamed at him, her smile too bright and sunny for first thing on a Monday. She was just coming out of the lunch room with a fresh mug of coffee.

"Morning, Gabby. How was your weekend?"

He just looked at her blankly. That was a question he didn't dare answer truthfully. What would she say if he told her he'd just watched limbs get chopped off and was unable to do anything but stand by and watch? Or if he told her how he wanted to tear the arms off of a certain scarred Sigari and stuff them down his throat? That probably wouldn't go down very well.

Regardless, he was completely exhausted. Sleep hadn't come very easily since then. What little he had gotten had been riddled with nightmares.

He shrugged tiredly. "Fine, I guess."

Lydia arched a brow. Then she reached out and put her coffee mug in his hands. The heat of it seeped into his fingers. "Here. You look like you need it more than I do. Don't worry - I didn't drink out of it yet."

"Uh ... " He was completely taken aback by the kind gesture. Lydia just waved him off, heading back inside the lunch room to grab another cup. Unsure of what else to do, Gabriel wandered over to his desk with the coffee.

Not particularly motivated to work at the moment, he went on the net and looked up the weather for the day. It was going to be a blistering hot day with a dry wind. Compared to the cold snowy atmosphere he'd been in a day ago, it was a welcome change. Whether it was going to be rainy or sunny, cold or hot, he didn't care. It was just something to do.

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