Team, 45

There Is Very Much Such a Thing as the Calm before the Storm, and it’s Often Filled with Flirting

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“You know, I was more flattered at your offer to join you before I realized that you were extending similar offers to just everyone you met,” Beatrice said, sitting down beside Cal to eat lunch. They’d left Techen’s Stand this morning with Gavin’s group in tow, bringing their total party to fifteen people. It was a bit unwieldly.

“I didn’t realize when I saw you pouting in that inn that I didn’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel,” Cal said back, not looking at her. “If I’d realized I’d be getting a bunch of knights, I’d have let you drink yourself to death back there.”

“I don’t think you would have. You’re a bleeding heart. It’s one of the many, many weaknesses that you cram into such a small package.”

“And being a bitch is one of yours,” Cal said, leaning back. “At least we have each other to point out our weaknesses.”

“Have you ever noticed that you only ever insult me on the basis of my gender?” Beatrice asked him, tone casual.

Cal frowned, looking over at her now. They were sitting on some rocks, the whole procession stopped to eat. They were making good time, considering how many of them their party now contained. “I don’t.”

“Bitch is a pretty female word last time I checked.”

“It’s a non-gendered insult. I’m using it in a way that implicates the many, many flaws in the matrix of unpleasantness that passes for your personality. I don’t care that you’re a girl.” Cal’s issue with Beatrice had nothing to do with her being a woman and everything to do with her being the worst.

“But have you ever used it in reference to a man?” Beatrice asked, smirking.

“Well…” Cal looked away. “Okay well, that is a fair point. You’re an asshole, then, if that makes you feel less discriminated against.”

Beatrice laughed, and punched Cal in the arm. “See? Bleeding fucking heart. It takes two seconds to make you feel bad for someone you don’t even like.”

“Oh…” Cal felt himself go red, and he huffed. “Fuck you.”

“As if you’d know what to do with a woman.”

Cal rolled his eyes. “Having boyfriends didn’t make me forget how women work. I’ve been with your kind before. You’re not that mysterious.”

“I’m actually surprised,” Beatrice said, snorting. “I didn’t know you liked women.”

“I like everyone,” Cal told her. “Or at least I don’t pick who I liked based on which bath they use. Just so happens that Wes and Mick happen to be guys.”

“And Sully.”

“And Sully,” Cal admitted. There was no harm in admitting it.

“And Joey.”

Cal frowned. “I know you haven’t met Travis, but I don’t think he’d like that very much.”

“Hm. I notice you’re not saying you wouldn’t like it, though.”

Cal blushed again, glancing over at Joey, who was grappling with Owen in a small area that was kept clear. It wasn’t entirely clear what they were doing—possibly trying to kill each other—but they seemed to be having fun. “I…guess I wouldn’t…object.”

“Hm. Your team is looking more and more like a brothel floor. You only hire people you want to fuck, don’t you?”

“Hired you, didn’t I?”

Beatrice leaned against Cal. “See, that can be taken either as a yes or a no depending on how you want to interpret all your aggression towards me.”

“Fuck off,” Cal told her, scowling. Ew. “As if anyone would want to fuck you.”

“I recall you saying you wanted to just a few minutes ago.”

“You’re fired. I’m keeping Lillian. She’s useful. But you’re fired.”

Beatrice laughed. “Seriously, though. What I actually came here to say was I’m glad. That you gave me a chance. I know I screwed up a lot. Made your life hard.”

Cal shrugged, resisting the urge to tell her he hadn’t meant anything by it. “It was nice to have a less competent rival to compete with. Made us look really good by comparison. You weren’t that bad.”

“Sorry I tied you to a tree.”

“No, you aren’t. But even if you were, I’d untied myself before you were even over the hill.”

“Which time?”

“Both times.” Cal smirked at her. “Sorry you fell for taking the wrong stone.” He smirked. “We still made bank on that job.”

“Yeah,” Beatrice laughed. “I knew we should have taken both of them. Decided to be dramatic instead of sensible. It got stolen from the guy I sold it to anyway. He sent me to find it but we never did.”

“Yeah,” Cal said, still smiling. “I know. The guy I was working for was the one who stole it, or at least the one who ended up with it after.”

“Nice,” Beatrice said, punching Cal again, but more gently. “Small fucking world. They say there are more in that set, you know. Five in total. They’re probably super valuable all together.”

Cal nodded, thinking about that. The purple stone had had the power to do what it had done in the swamp, he didn’t like thinking about what the others might do, especially together. “Guess that’s why people are collecting them. My guy had a second one. And your guy sent you after another, you said.”

“Yeah,” Beatrice said, reaching to her belt for a flask that Cal noticed wasn’t there. “That was fucking stupid of me to take. Don’t underestimate witches. Fuck.”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to…”

“No, no, it’s fine. Not your fault.” Beatrice sighed. “They were good people, Boris and Adi. Anyway. All this has given me something to do other than sit around and angst about them. So thanks for that.”

“Thank my bleeding heart,” Cal told her, and Beatrice rolled her eyes. “Seriously. I’m glad you’re doing better.”

“Yeah. And hey, maybe we’ll all die on this rescue mission of yours. But at least it’ll be impressive.”

“And I’ll come back,” Cal added.

“You lucky bitch.”

Cal laughed, accepting that. He saw Joey, finished fighting Owen, coming over to join them with a wide grin on his face. He was all flushed and sweaty, and Cal swore he had part of a boner in his pants. “Someone enjoyed all that wrestling.”

“Maybe you’ve got some competition in Sir Owen the Dragonslayer,” Beatrice teased.

“Eh. I could take him,” Cal said, though he couldn’t and he also didn’t feel the need to.

“You keep on telling yourself that, little guy.”

“Listen. Just when I was starting to think you might not be the total worst…”

Beatrice punched him again. “Stop hitting on me or I’ll make Lillian throw you off a cliff.”

“As if Lillian wouldn’t take my side,” Cal said. He wasn’t the worst, which made him preferable to Beatrice right away.

“I don’t know. She didn’t bang your brains out two nights in a row. Oh, maybe that’s your problem. Boyfriends gone, all horny and lonely by yourself, are you?”

“He is,” Joey said, sitting down on Cal’s other side. “Me and Sully tried to talk to him about it but it didn’t work. He’s stubborn.”

Cal rolled his eyes. “At least I’m not getting hard from wrestling with my archnemesis.”

“No, but you are over here flirting with her from what I could see.” Joey did look down between his legs with a strange expression on his face though, as if he hadn’t noticed that.

“You know what, we’ve gone back to that thing where everyone gangs up on me, and I think we ought to stop that.”

“Yeah, he only likes that in bed,” Beatrice said, not missing a beat.

“You’re such a bitch,” Cal muttered, going back to his lunch and trying not to smile. He was feeling better, more confident, safer than he had been for a while now. Everything was going great. If only Wes and Mick were already back, everything would be perfect.

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