Fourteen

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Going to work felt stifling, and Gabriel found himself fidgeting at his desk and counting down the minutes until he was able to leave for the day. It was extremely hard to focus on the work laid before him because when compared to everything else, it seemed so trivial.

So pointless.

How could people waste away their lives in a cubicle, pushing papers around for eight hours a day, when there was so much going on in the real world? There were battles being fought every day, people dying and giving their all so that the general public would be able to wake up every morning and live their normal lives. It was almost irritating.

On Friday afternoon, just as he was leaving for the day, Douglas came up to him. He looked serious, maybe even a little worried. "Gabe," he said and laid a hand upon his shoulder. "How are you doing?"

"Fine," Gabriel said curtly, eyeing the obtrusive body part on his shoulder.

"It must have been an awful accident," Douglas went on, the very persona of concern. It took Gabriel a moment to realize that his boss was talking about the story he'd given to explain away the stitches on his neck.

"And I think that perhaps," Douglas hesitated for just a second, " you could use some time."

"What?" Gabriel's eyes flew to Douglas' face. Was this guy serious? "What do you mean?" he asked cautiously.

"You look pretty rough, Gabe. And you haven't been yourself lately. I think maybe you should take a week off. You haven't taken any time off since you started here eight months ago. You deserve that much, at least."

"But I'm fine!" Gabriel protested. "I don't need any time off."

"Gabriel," the hand on his shoulder squeezed. "Go home. Get some rest. All right? We'll see you in a week."

And with that, Douglas turned and walked away, leaving no room for any more protests. Baffled, Gabriel stood there like an idiot for a while. Lydia came and went, giving him only a sympathetic smile as she passed by. For once, she did not invade his space. It was obvious that she too thought he needed to be left alone, to be given some time to do . . . whatever it was they thought he should do.

Get some rest. That's what everyone told him. Get some rest. As if that would fix anything. Biting back a frustrated growl, he grabbed his things from his desk and left.

XxX

In the end, he did what he was told. Because really, what else was one supposed to do with a whole week off?

He tried going to the Embassy to see if he could volunteer at the service desks as a translator, but even they turned him down. Rene must have told them to do so, he thought darkly. With that option gone, there was nothing else for him to do except sack out on the couch and watch tv.

That was how he ended up sprawled across his couch in nothing but a pair of shorts, one hand trailing lazily in a heap of empty Doritos bags, the other tapping idly against the remote that lay on his bare chest. Some B-grade sci-fi movie was on the screen, with terrible cgi monsters tearing apart a human colony on the moon. Even the acting was bad, but Gabriel couldn't quite bring himself to bother changing the channel. It was the kind of movie you watched with your brain turned off, and that suited him just fine.

The doorbell chose that moment to ring.

It rang a couple more times while he stumbled from the couch and made his way across his house, feet crunching in the empty chip bags and candy wrappers that littered the floor. As he passed the kitchen, the faint scent of decaying trash reached his nose. He grimaced, but forgot about it as the bell rang once again.

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