Thursday, February 18, 2010

[RP] An Involuntary Reassignment [PG-13]

Staying up all night with the writing bug: not always a good idea, especially on a school night, but what can you do?

"I respectfully decline, sir."

Late summer in the Outlands, such as it was, always brought sticky-hot temperatures to Hellfire Peninsula (there are only three seasons in Hellfire, as the old saying goes: summer, late summer, and son-of-a-bitch), and the barracks at Honor Hold were sweltering. Lieutenant-Commander Rowsell raked a hand through his hair (these days far more salt than pepper), sweat forming it into wild peaks that, when paired with the look of woeful exasperation stamped on his typically dignified features, made him look as unsettled and pissed-off as she felt.

"You can't decline. The paperwork's done. You've been promoted." He dropped a thick sheaf of parchment on his desk to illustrate. The top sheet was heavy, embossed with the seal of Stormwind and signed by both the acting field marshal and Force Commander Trollbane.

"That's shit."

"Sergeant Harker--"

"Corporal Harker, sir."

His lips disappeared, pressed into the thin white line she knew and hated. Standing, he planted his hands on his broad, immaculately-polished desk and leaned forward, dropping his voice to a low rumble. "Shut the door."

Crossing the office with purpose, Brijania locked the door behind her, killing the light draft that was the room's only source of relief from the choking heat. She snapped back to attention before him, her blonde hair dark and matted with sweat, undershirt stuck miserably to her body. For the first time in eight years she disregarded his gesture, the extended open palm that had been their signal that she could come forward and be frank, even intimate. She may as well have slapped him. When he was distressed, she noted, he actually looked his age.

Old, even.

"Bri. Don't be like that."

"Easy for you to say," she spat, trembling with rage and something else she couldn't or wouldn't identify. "You're not the one takin' the 'needs o' the Kingdom' right up the arse."

"You've been a corporal for over a decade, Bri. You're fast approaching the point where the powers that be take offense to a terminal lack of motivation."

"Funny that, you didn't seem to give two shits when you were fucking me."

"For the love of the Light, Bri, keep your voice down." Rowsell held his breath and listened for footsteps, the rustle of clothing, anything that might betray an unsolicited ear.

As far as he knew, everyone in the administrative wing and most everyone else on regular duty was released early for the midday heat. Only a skeleton crew remained on the noon watch, a duty for which buck privates and corporals, the workhorses of the post-Sargeras era, drew short straws, bartering and gambling them away at every opportunity. Still, a patrol might wander by and catch enough to start a wildfire of gossip and a fraternization suit that would make last year's infidelity scandal look like child's play. In that case, the logistics officer and his assistant had gotten off with a slap on the wrist and a minor reassignment. This was a bit more complicated.

"I've worked my arse off for you, spare me your fuckin' motivation. You said keepin' low would protect me. You said
you'd protect me, no matter what. And stop calling me that." Her chest heaved, and she realized a little too late that she was about to cry. He must have seen it in her face, because he skirted the desk between them and sat on the edge, his once-crisp uniform as wilted and tired as he looked, and spread his hands in an expression of surrender. Brijania closed her eyes. A line of sweat trickled off her brow and merged with the hot salt on her cheek. A second soon appeared, the burning drops falling from her chin, the tip of her nose.

"Bri." His voice was firm, but not unkind. "At ease, love. Come now."

She brought her hands to her face, refusing the comfort she knew he wanted her to take, the comfort he knew she wouldn't. It was over. Her fingers went white, pressing against her wet, contorting face, willing herself to speak calmly, to put on a stony mask of
I-don't-care. It didn't come. "How long've I got?" she choked through her hands.

"You're to report in two weeks." He exhaled, bracing himself for the worst of it. "Ship leaves port four days from now, out of Stormwind. You've got 48 hours to pack and run through logistics."

"Why not Carter? Or Lambeck? Gerald Bitch-in-Boots Kinley's been dyin' to get out o' here since day fuckin' one, for Light's sake. Why the hell not one o' them?"

"I didn't have a choice."

She batted his hand off her arm and took a step back. "Bullshit. You're the personnel officer, it's all y--"

He cut her off. "Bonnie knows."

The fight went out of her at once. His arms were around her, but she hardly felt them as he led her to the austere sofa where they'd worked, talked, and done any number of things of questionable morality and legality. The stifling hot-box that served as Barrett Rowsell's command center was suddenly cold, and her damp clothes chilled her to the bone.

"She's got me on the wall, Bri. She was set on going straight to the liaison marshal up at Shattrath unless I reassigned you. You know what that means, don't you? Stripped rank, prison, fines. Time in the stocks. For both of us, though I think we both know they'd be harder on you than on me. I'm not going to let it happen." There was a brief pause. She supposed he expected her to respond, but when she elected to keep her mouth shut (a skill he had always appreciated) he added quietly, "She's not bluffing, either. She has a list of witnesses who'd testify if she asked, and a barrister on retainer."

The grim set of his jaw was telling; in it she saw what she already knew, and where she stood.

Bonnie Rowsell was a veteran of her husband's first ambitious, then harrowing career; she bore his three children (now grown and close to Brijania's own age); she wanted desperately to return to her homeland but, to her credit, had waited with a greater reserve of patience than Bri had ever seen in an officer's wife. When it came right down to the heart of it, he was fiercely loyal to the woman, and if Bonnie was dissatisfied with the integrity of their marriage, he would attempt to repair it. He certainly cared for the young woman in his arms (perhaps not so young anymore, but still nigh thirty years his junior), he might want her, even love her. But after all was said and done, it was an affair. Bonnie was family, and family came first.

Brijania Faye Harker was on her own.

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