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SS 1st assignment - desk job

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Posted - 09/26/2007 :  05:35:06  Show Profile
The Night of the Fragmentation
by Penstroker

Artemus Gordon was livid. Not angry, not upset, not annoyed, not even furious. Livid.

Before Jim West could even turn from shutting their hotel room door, Artie had whirled around, “Good Heavens Jim! What kind of hair-brained plan was that? A monkey with a Ouija board could’ve formulated a better strategy.”

“Calm down Artie,” Jim replied as he set his bag on the bed, amusement tugging at his lips. “I don’t see what you’re fussing about.” He began ticking off on his fingers, “The bad guys are in jail, the country is safe and except for a bruise or two, we are both fine.”

“Yeah, this time,” his partner retorted hotly.

“Listen Artie,” Jim began patiently, “I can’t run to you for your ‘wise counsel’ every time a situation gets hairy. You’ll just have to trust me to use my judgment and make snap decisions during the mission.”

“Well, what if I don’t?” bristled Artemus, “You’ve always been a daredevil, but ever since you botched that mission in the summer of sixty-nine, your risk taking has catapulted off the charts. Time and time again I’ve plunged into the fire after you. Somebody is going to get hurt and I don’t want it to be me.”

Jim’s nostrils flared at the slur, “Adam’s death was not my fault. I think you need to remember your place. I’m the senior partner here and you take your orders from me. If you don’t like it, feel free to take it up with Colonel Richmond again.”

“You think I can’t stop this thing we’ve started? Well, I can,” Artie affirmed.

Jim’s eyes narrowed angrily, “And just what do you mean by that?”

“Do I have to say the words?” the older man threatened as he stepped towards his partner.

“Yeah Gordon, I think you better,” West growled as he matched Artie’s movement.

Toe-to-toe neither agent flinched at the turmoil of emotions that warred in each other’s eyes, although Jim thought for just a moment that he saw a flicker of sorrowful regret in his opponent’s brown orbs. The tension ratcheted up another notch at Artemus’ next words.

“I am fed up with your superiority complex and I am tired of taking orders from you. It’s only love of my country and its president that have kept me here this long. For once, I need to think of myself first. You may not believe them, but these words come straight from the heart. I QUIT!”

“Fine,” retorted Jim, “What have you done for me lately?”

“What have I done for you?” sputtered Artemus, genuine astonishment coloring his voice, “Everything I do, I do it for you: the disguises, the research, the lab experiments. It’s all for the purpose of keeping you alive.”

Jim’s voice hardened, “I keep myself alive. I don’t need anyone else’s help, especially yours.” He pivoted on his heel, breathing deeply to dispel the rage that had caused him to not only clench his fists, but to contemplate striking his partner. He realized he was holding his control in check only by a tenuous thread.

“Get out,” West growled, a combination of menace and warning dripping from every syllable.

Artie complied without another word, grabbing his saddlebags from the chair he had flung them over. Jim flinched as he heard the door behind him slam and a few minutes later, heard a familiar voice urge his horse down the street. West rubbed his face with his hands as the hoof beats faded off into the distance.

It wasn’t just the oppressive heat of the night that kept a pensive Jim West from sleeping. Replaying their argument time and again, he pondered his own responses to his partner’s legitimate concerns. Did he really mean to drive away his partner, friend and brother? When he realized the truth, it cut like a knife to his heart. Artie wasn’t concerned about his own safety, but for Jim’s.

In the dark of the lonely hotel, the sleepless agent admitted to himself that not only had he failed to consult his partner as he should, but he relied too much on Artie’s last minute rescues from situations Jim never should’ve placed himself in. ‘We need to talk,’ Jim mused to himself as he finally settled into a thankfully dreamless slumber, ‘I hope I can find an opportunity to ask him to please forgive me.’

Two weeks later, Jim heard a timid knock on the Wanderer’s parlor door. Before he could reply, the door swung open and his absent partner peered around the corner.

“May I come in?” queried Artie nervously.

Jim folded his newspaper and placed it on the table. He rose from his seat and motioned Artie in.

There was a moment of awkward silence. Artie shifted and cleared his throat nervously, eyes darting around the room, never settling on Jim’s face, apparently afraid of what he would find there.

Taking pity on his noticeably anxious partner, Jim broke the silence, “Your plan worked brilliantly. Dr. Kingston and his henchmen were really fooled into believing we’d split up. The look on their faces when you came out of hiding to arrest them was priceless.”

Artie smiled thinly at the rare complement and replied, “In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the best plan. I think I got a little over enthusiastic there towards the end of our performance.”

“Maybe we both did,” West acknowledged, “but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a solid plan. I’m glad you recognized one of the doctor’s informants in the hotel lobby. Because of his eavesdropping at our door, he was able to carry the news of our argument back to his employer just as we had hoped. I gave them the opportunity to capture me, knowing you would be there to back me up.” It was a heartfelt statement. Despite the words that lay between them, James West had never regretted or doubted his decision years ago in gifting Artemus Gordon with that rare and precious commodity, his trust. During his whole imprisonment, he never once doubted that his partner would save him, yet once again.

“Jim,” Artie mustered the courage to meet his friend’s green-eyed gaze, “If it’s all the same to you, let’s not use that plan again except in emergencies. I immersed myself in our performance so much that I let my emotions take over. I said a lot of things in the heat of the moment and I wanted to apologize. Forgive me?”

To Artemus’ horror, Jim nodded negatively. Crushed, Artie spun around towards the door. Before he could reach it, a strong grip on his shoulder stopped his momentum and he found himself face to face again with his partner.

Jim stared deeply into the emotion filled chocolate brown eyes. He chided gently, “You didn’t let me finish. I’m not saying I won’t forgive you. I already have. I just won’t let you take all the blame in this. I realize that at times I have taken advantage of you and forced you into situations that neither you nor I had any business being in. I was hoping that we could learn from this and you would agree to give our partnership another chance.”

Unable to answer verbally due to a rather large lump in his throat, Artie nodded his affirmation. Jim clasped his friend’s arms, his relieved smile chasing away the last of the dark emotions from both their souls.

"The Queen of Angst"

"I guess simple girls like me should just never leave home." Laurie in TNOT Casual Killers
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