The Cookie Sheet Factory

This little, confectionery business is the only bakery in all of Marlton Cove. Now, is that because the town does not need more than one pastry shop or because The Cookie Sheet is home to two of the world's finest mercenaries for hire? As long as there are contracts to be made, and enough pretty macarons to go around, who cares?

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2. Selecting a Recipe

 

Six Months Ago...

 

 

     "Well sorry if I'd rather be taking orders from you than lieutenant 'my life is so haaard! I'm too accomplished to be working here'.." Grumbling his opinion, as per usual. For a minute there, he thought he might've taken things too far, but surprisingly enough, she was chuckling this time instead of ignoring him altogether, which only further encouraged him to test the limits of his luck. "Okay, hear me out." Shifting his line of sight from the scope on his rifle to instead address his partner.

     Her gaze immediately snapped up from her floor-bound monitor the moment she noticed him scooting closer. "What do you think you're doing?" Sounding as shocked as she appeared. Before he could manage to say something that would get him shipped off for a record ninth time this year, she hastily flipped the switch on her device's communications module and scowled something fierce at him, sternly pointing her finger back to the window, as if commanding him to return to his post. "We've been tracking this guy for half an eternity, he's about to waltz right into our hands, and you want to make small talk?!" Really straining to keep her voice down, but he made it incredibly difficult to keep a cool head sometimes. She knew the expression he wore well: pleading eyes paired with a deceptively timid smile. "I'm being serious here!" Practically pleading herself; he had a habit of being unbearably stubborn when it was most inconvenient.

     For a brief period, he paused. They had a job to do, and he was blatantly disregarding that responsibility. This small, dilapidated apartment room had been their filthy home for almost four days now, lying in wait for their target to arrive on location. How many hours had he sat crouched in front of that window today? How many more hours had she spent building up an accurate case file just to find their target? Shrugging her efforts aside always left a bad taste in his mouth, and he was starting to wonder if he really should just drop it.

     "Maybe I don't want to leave, okay?" Her hand retreated to the warmth of her lap; the sigh that followed illuminated the air between them with a frozen cloud. "I mean.. I'm comfortable here, and I'm good at this. At least I'm needed." Of course, he had pretty much been dragged into her mess, and he had proved time and time again that respecting authority wasn't exactly his strong suit, but for her, this had been her life since before she could remember; she couldn't just up and leave. Besides, she had never asked him to tag along. If he was really so intent on going AWOL then he should just leave her out of it. "I like it here."

    His smile grew thin as he listened to her. "Bullshit. Not after everything we've been through." That, he was sure of.

     "Maybe if you'd stop getting into trouble every five minutes, you'd learn to like it too. Some of us are starting to think you actually prefer getting the shit beaten out of you."

    Low blow. He loathed being detained, but he would rather endure the punishment than suck up to those pricks in charge. Still, she chided him time and time again for his actions, diligently instructing him to follow rules and keep his head down. After his last major incident, keeping a low profile seemed rather appealing, but the directors loved pushing his buttons, and it would be a cold day in hell before he let them walk all over him. "I said I was sorry." Many times, none of which she had acknowledged. "I'll be better this time; I'm not going anywhere." Which, honestly, was more for his sake than hers. Sometimes he swore she would be totally unaffected if he simply up and vanished from her life. His heart wouldn't be able to handle such a scenario, nor its reverse.

    That goaded a sharp scoff from her. Easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, right? "And for how long this time?" Now she was the one mumbling, rolling her eyes to one side while anticipating his response. 

    The instant those loaded words trickled off her tongue, he brought his hands up to her face. With both palms holding her freckled cheeks captive, he brought her attention back to him. "Hey, hey, damn it, listen to me.." Only satisfied when she finally rolled her eyes back over to look at him. "You know I hate leaving you alone in that place. I don't piss them off on purpose; I'm not trying to get away from you. What is it going to take before you believe that?" He would be lying if he said this didn't somewhat feel like a dagger to his chest. They had been with each other for nearly five years, yet she still had the occasional doubt. Of course, his frequent disappearances probably weren't helping. "I've been by your side since Canden, so why is it still so hard for you to trust me?"

    "I do.." Allowing her eyes to drape shut as she held onto his wrist with immense fondness, stroking the outside of his hand with her thumb. She knew the destructive force behind these hands; both had been woven with unimaginable brutality. Large, heavy fists controlled by an unpredictable mind. However, the insides were tender and affectionate; he was always gentle with her, a side of him that only she knew. "I trust you."

    She looked like she was about to fall asleep, and damn was it adorable. "You expect me to buy that? I heard you've been dreaming about Raymond again."

     The way he said it felt so icy. It had to have been Jennifer who'd spilled the beans. That blabbermouth, always trying to create needless drama. As she hesitantly peered open her eyes to examine his current expression, she promised to get even with that woman. "Everyone has nightmares; I can't help what happens while I sleep."

     "But you do decide who you tell, so why the hell didn't you tell me?"

     "Because I knew you would do something insane!" Glaring up at him with burning defiance. If she had said anything, his actions would have warranted more than just a couple days in solitary confinement.

     "Funny, seeing as how I've managed to keep my shit together so far." Only barely, having to grind down slightly on his teeth. It was a miracle that he hadn't bumped paths with Raymond in the last few days; sergeant or not, that unbearable eyesore was a dead man walking. "What did he do?"

     "Are you even listening to me? It was a bad dream, that's it."

     "So he gets off scot-free, with a promotion at that, drags you back into Marksmen, and you still want to try telling me that you actually enjoy being here? Keeping secrets from me, lying to yourself, for fuck's sake... It's like nothing's changed!"

    "Olensky is leaving the building, do you have eyes on him?"

     A way out, thank goodness. She tried reaching for the intercom, wanting desperately to turn away from him, but he promptly forced her gaze back towards his own, holding her face steady.

     "Why would you ever want to keep me in the dark about that? Why do you keep trying to shut me out?"

     "I'm not trying to shut you out, you idiot, I just don't want them to take you away from me!" Sounding more frustrated than anything else. "I don't need you to be my therapist or fucking babysitter! Maybe I'm remembering Raymond because you keep disappearing on me! Always getting detained or thrown into some new, soldier-reform program! You're out of control, and there are so many rumors going around base that one day...." Looking as far up as possible in order to keep the tears tucked far away; chuckling bitterly before she felt calm enough to meet his gaze once more. "...one day you're going to be too much of a liability."

     "Novelist, Olensky is leaving the building. Can you confirm his position?"

    "Please.." She could feel her heart beginning to pound against her chest, alarmed by her inaction. If she didn't answer this call they would be in a heap of trouble, but he wouldn't release her. It was as if he were absorbing the situation, staring at her as though, for once, he was genuinely at a loss for words. "I need to get thi---" But before she knew it, his lips were crushing against hers, along with all their soft, sweet comfort.

    "What, did you both fall asleep up in there? Say something before we miss our chance. None of us are taking the heat for your boyfriend if he chokes."

    Silence. The only matter to be concerned with was the sensation: the blanket of biting, late autumn air that surrounded them, the small oasis of warmth that their bodies provided each other with. When he broke the lock he had placed on her lips, he rested his forehead against her own, gently thumbing her cheeks as he watched them become stained. He loved her, would do absolutely anything for her, anything to prevent having her pried out from within his arms, but how was he expected to accomplish that while still trapped in the corporate clutches of an underground, military operation? As he studied her facial features, he tried to imagine any possibility where this wouldn't get ugly. Finally, the soundless room was jolted by his single question. "Do you trust me?"

    She had neither the desire nor willpower to speak. However, she did manage the slightest of nods.

     "Then run away with me."

 

 

 

 

 

     "Guys?"      

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