Chapter Twenty Three

 

Chapter Twenty Three

Jacques waited until Zena had turned a corner before he looked at Sheen. She met his eyes, lowered her eyebrows, and lifted her chin.

Jacques thought about letting it go and walking away, but adrenaline was flowing through his veins and he felt powerful, so he marched over to Sheen and took her by the shoulders. “What is wrong with you?”

“What’s wrong with ME?”

“Why do you have to pick fights just when things were going well?”

She shook herself loose of his hold. “First of all, you didn’t even see the beginning, so don’t talk. Second, since when are things going well? And third, it’s absolutely none of your business.” She folded her arms.

“Of course it’s my business. I’m supposed to facilitate, not break up fights. I’ve spent so much time babysitting the rest of you that I don’t get a word in myself.”

“So don’t babysit us. Let it work itself out.”

“Nothing’s going to be fixed until you admit that you’re part of the problem. You hear me, Sheena?”

What right has he to call me that, she thought. “I hear you. But—“ quick, what’s the but?

                “But nothing,” he said just as she found one, “You act like an adult or you’re off the Council.” There I’ve got a nerve, he thought with relish.

“You can’t.”

“Try me.”

They stood in stalemate for a minute, Sheen trying to decide how much to push her luck and Jacques waiting, breathing in the brief draw.

“Are you going to have this conversation with Zena?”

Now how do I phrase this exactly? “Only if she really came here to fight with you.”

Sheen gave away her guilt by looking away. “No, but she had the attitude for it.”

“Zena always has the attitude for it. I don’t blame her.” Sheen opened her mouth. Desperate to get his thought out, he put his hand over it.  “But if she wanted a fight with you, she wouldn’t come here. She’d stay on her home territory. I don’t know why she came, but you must have provoked her.” He moved his hand, afraid that Sheen would bite him if he kept her muzzled much longer.

“If she didn’t come so easy to provoke,”

“Do you know how important her cooperation is? She has the most dangerous area, and we’ll need her help to keep it under control. I know you want attention to your area, but you’ve got to learn to deal with it. Now, can I leave without you doing something drastic?”

“You’re such a mind reader, can’t you tell?”

“I take that as a yes,” he said curtly and walked away.

***

Sheen’s first instinct was to throw a temper tantrum inside her home, but by the time she convinced herself that she didn’t care if anyone heard and that she could pull a silent one, the fun was really gone out of it. So she tried sulking on her bed anyway.

Jacques has no reason to scold me like a child, she thought furiously, I’m not a child. She curled inside that fact until she remembered that she had very recently considered throwing a temper tantrum, even with no one to hear. Well, it isn’t his job. Just because he hasn’t cracked yet, I get a tongue-lashing for one fight. Alright, more than one. At least he didn’t carry me around this time. That was embarrassing. I wonder how many people noticed? But he should have been grateful. I did it for him, after all. Any normal person would have at least felt some satisfaction. Shoot, any normal person would have joined me.

She thought nasty thoughts toward Jacques for what felt like hours of guilty pleasure until her brain started to rebel. He’s not that bad. He at least tries to have a moral compass. And he’s brave. He didn’t want to be on the Council before the draft, but he stepped up. You’ve gotta give him credit for that. An even smaller and more suppressed voice added, and he’s attractive.

Shut up, she ordered both voices, you’re interrupting a very nice hate-session. But the struggle for her opinions was long and hard, and by the time she got up to take a walk, frustrated by all the contradictory thinking, she wasn’t entirely sure which side had won.

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