Carthage walked beside the guard.
Awkward silence dwelled in the air between them.
Carthage desperately searched for a conversation starter. “Uhh, great weapon.”
The guard sniffed. “Give me a machine gun and then we can talk about how great it is.”
How am I supposed to respond to that? I’ve never even held a gun before.
“Oh, machine gun is great.” He very quietly wanted to throttle himself. “I–I mean if you have to have a gun, I guess. I mean, uhh might as well go with something like that.”
The guard scoffed. “You don’t know a thing about guns, do you?”
Am I being that obvious?
“Well, I am a scientist. I’m more into needles and syringes and—”
“Oh. You’re one of those.”
Carthage’s mouth dropped open. “I beg your pardon, but one of those what?”
“Useless. Needle-pusher. You make it sound like being a scientist is a bad thing.”
The guard shrugged. “It’s a soft job. A woman could do it.”
Well, this conversation is going further and further downhill. No, it’s actually past that point. It’s just plain jumping off the cliff.
“I don’t think I have anything more to say to you.”
“Good.” The guard stopped at a door along the wall. “Because here’s Caten’s office.” He knocked on the door in a sporadic pattern.
The door opened.
Another masked guard stood on the other side of the door. He had broad shoulders and, without saying a word, gave off the vibe that he could pummel someone to death with his bare hands. “What is it?”
Carthage frowned at the guard’s derisive drawl.
“—-wants to see Caten. He says he’s from The Institute.”
“The one that burned down?”
Carthage cleared his throat. “Yes. I would like to talk to Mark Caten. If that wouldn’t be too much trouble.”
“About what?” the second guard asked.
“A business proposition.”
A third guard poked his masked head around the corner. “Oh. He isn’t very cute. Soooo disappointed.”
I should leave.
But no. I can do this. I can deal with these—-
“Hmm. But if he did something different with his hair…” The third guard stepped into Carthage’s space and twirled several strands of Carthage’s hair around his fingers. “Maybe if he colored it something fun. Tsk. No, that won’t work. He doesn’t look like a fun person.”
I should definitely leave.
“Dave.” The second guard said sternly.
“Sorry.” Dave released his hair and retreated into the room.
The second guard gave Dave a long look before turning his attention back to Carthage. “Tell me about this proposition of yours.”
Carthage stiffened his posture. “I’d rather talk to Mark Caten about it.”
The second guard didn’t respond. He stepped into Carthage’s space and frisked him.
“Oh, come on! I’ve already gone through this alrea—-Hey! Hands off!”
“Sorry, but you could have something hidden in there.”
“Why do you all think I’d hide a weapon in such a—-HEY! Enough already! I’m not armed!”
The second guard took a couple of steps back. “You certainly aren’t. Take him inside. I need to talk to Dave in private.”
The other guard scoffed. “Yeah, I bet you do.” He gave Carthage a slight shove. “Come on.”
Carthage followed him into the room.
Hank entered the room and leaned his weapon against the wall. “Hey, babe.”
Dave sparked to attention.
“While they’re all distracted, come with me.”
Dave leaned his weapon against the wall and followed him out of the room.
Hank closed the door behind him. He removed his mask and set it on the floor. “Why do you always have to do that?”
“What?” Dave removed his mask and put it next to Hank’s mask.
“Flirt with other guys like that.”
“I don’t know. It just comes naturally to me.” He hunched his shoulders and bowed his head. “I’m sorry if it hurts you.”
Hank’s posture softened. “Hey. Don’t get all down, babe. I’m not mad at you. Just frustrated.” He ran his hands through his lover’s mouse-brown hair. “If you’re gonna flirt with someone, let it be me and only me.”
Dave gently guided Hank’s left hand down to his mouth and kissed his open palm.
It was a simple, innocent gesture, but it nearly sent Hank tumbling down to his knees. “I love you, babe. I wanna scoop you up football-style and run away with you.”
Dave quickly raised his head. “Ah!”
“Who knows? I might just do that after we get off of work tonight.”
“You’re so romantic!” Dave threw his arms around Hank’s neck. “I love you soooo much!”
Hank laughed and hugged him. “Love you too, babe. But we really should be getting back to work.”
“I know, but I don’t wanna.”
“Neither do I, but what can you do?”
Dave licked Hank’s earlobe. “Can we fire Mark Caten and get a new boss?”
“Sorry, babe, but I don’t think it works that way.”
“It was worth the asking.”