Chapter 10:What Just Happened?

A/N: I know! Two updates in as many weeks! I feel so proud. lol. I'm in between grad classes right now, and the sun's out so the little ones can play and I can write. Huzzah!

*Steph's P.O.V.*

I'm back in Tank's office for the second time in two days. I feel like I'm back in high school getting sent to the principal's office everyday for talking to Mary Lou instead of working. I walked in behind Lester and flung myself in an open chair in front of Tank's desk. I'm slumped practically in half, as if I might be able to hide if I contort my body in just the right way. I can't seem to shake this feeling that I'm already failing somehow. I don't know how this has gone pear-shaped so quickly….

"Thanks for giving us a moment of your time, Tank. I just wanted to go over the changes I'm making to Steph's cardio training plan. I'm removing almost all running from her weekly goals and adding in a variety of options until she decides which ones she likes best. She's already proven she's capable of running when needed, and I don't think it's necessary to torture her just because it's the easiest way to maintain cardio-respiratory fitness. Obviously, she's still need to run with her group so she doesn't lose that team cohesiveness, but other than that I don't think it's needed." Wow, I guess Les wasn't kidding around. He really isn't going to make me do any more running than is absolutely necessary. Though I am super curious about what he meant by team cohesiveness. I have a team?

I glance up at Tank to see how he's taking the news. I hope he isn't too pissed at me for having to have a special plan. He doesn't seem to be mad, though. His face isn't the easiest to read, but he seems to be receptive to what Les was saying and doesn't seem to mind the change in plans. Huh. Maybe I haven't screwed up too badly yet after all.

Tank looked thoughtful for a few moments before he replied, "That seems more than reasonable. I assume there is a legitimate reason you don't want to run, and I trust you to know what's best for you. As long as you maintain your fitness levels, I don't have a problem with you utilizing the other options we have. That's what they're there for anyway."

I'm surprised. "That's it? You don't even want to know why? Don't you need some sort of justification so that Ranger doesn't think you're going easy on me?"

They both laugh quietly before Tank answered me saying, "No, Steph. You may be reluctant to run on a regular basis, but Les wouldn't take no for an answer unless it was for a good reason. Plus, there's so many options available, there really isn't any reason you should force yourself to do something you don't like just because it's what everyone else does. Easier doesn't always mean better if it's torturing you. We all trust you to know what's good for you and what needs to be changed." He smiled at me and waited until I gave him a small smile back before continuing. "You have your reasons, and it's obviously something you would prefer to keep to yourself or you would've told me from the beginning. Don't worry, I'm not offended. You just keep on going and this will all work out in the end. We're here for you."

While he was talking Les got up from his chair to stand behind me. He didn't crowd me, just stood close as a show of support. It was unexpected but nice. After Tank finished, Les patted me on the shoulder before saying, "Well, now that we've gotten that cleared up, how about we head to the showers and get cleaned up! We can share and save water?" He leaned towards me with an exaggerated wink.

Tank snorted and said, "Don't let Ranger hear you proposition Beautiful into a shared shower. I'm pretty sure he'll assign you mat time for the rest of the month." Tank and I both laughed as Les paled and a look of terror crossed his face. That'll teach him to try and sweet talk me.

I stood up from my chair and slung my arm around Les's shoulders. "C'mon, bud. We'll go get cleaned up in separate showers, and you'll get to keep you head attached to your body. I have some FTAs to track down after this and I'm starving. I'm thinking shower then lunch then desk time. Sound good?" He nods and we file out of Tank's office. He didn't even acknowledge our departure, his attention already shifted back to whatever he had been working on before we interrupted. I closed the door behind me and followed Les to the elevators. He got off on five, but I continued up to seven to Ranger's private apartment. Any cleanup I need to do at the office will have to be done in Ranger's apartment because the gym doesn't have showers or locker rooms, just bathrooms. With most of the men living on site, there wasn't enough of a need to have that much space taken up. They added a nice sparing area instead. This has the added benefit of sufficient padding for Ranger's punishments.

Twenty minutes later, I'm clean and headed down to the break room where I'm meeting Lester for lunch. I walked into the small space and noticed a couple of guys I don't know sitting at one of the small tables that are spaced evenly around the room. I nod at them before walking over to the small buffet of food spread out over one of the counters by the fridge. Ella really puts out a nice spread. There's sandwiches, fresh fruit, a tureen of soup, and even some admittedly delicious looking salads that she keeps stocked in the fridge beside the water bottles. I'm debating the age old question of soup or salad when Les walks in. I wave in his general direction without turning around. I finally decided on a sandwich with a bowl of what turns out to be vegetable soup. I assembled my tray of food and snagged a water bottle out of the fridge before walking over to the table Les was sitting at. He had already picked out his food and was already halfway done eating. He smirked at me, but I don't acknowledge his amusement at my expense. I'm serous about what I eat for lunch, so sue me.

We sit in companionable silence eating out lunch and before you know it we're both done and throwing away our trash. I glance around the room, but the other guys are long gone. I guess I'll find out who they were later, then. I smile slightly at Les before nodding towards the door. I began walking before he had time to answer, but I know he's with me. It's not like he has anything better to do just then. He walks with me to my cubicle and swings his arm in a sweeping gesture towards my chair.

"Your throne, Milady!" He bows slightly and grins up at me. Yeah, because that's not suspicious. I glare at him before glancing around my desk. I don't see any obvious booby traps so I look under my chair. Sure enough, someone had removed the adjustment bar so that when I sat on it, I would go plummeting to the ground. I rolled my eyes before straightening back up.

"Seriously? A collapsing chair is the best you guys could come up with? What are we in the third grade?" I smirk and wait for the realization to his him. Not only did I not fall for their trap, I also insulted their pranking skills while I was at it.

Les stared at me with his mouth slightly open. His facial expression seemed to waffle between disappointment and anger and it was hilarious! I stared at him pointedly and waiting until he realized I wanted something. "What? Do you want an apology?"

I laughed quietly and said, "No….I'm waiting on you to fix my chair back before I just go and steal yours." He laughed finally before reaching behind my monitor to reveal the bar off of my chair. He bent down and stuck it back in place before standing up and grinning at me once more. "Oh no. You're not getting off that easily. You sit in it first. I want to make sure it's not permanently broken before I try it out."

He sighed but flopped into the desk chair without saying anything else. I think he was too upset with his failed prank to worry about his own chances of falling on his ass. He wiggled his butt around in the chair and spun it around a couple of times before glancing at my with his eyebrows raised.

"Yeah, okay. I guess it's fine now. Thanks for fixing it back for me. Now scram! I've got a lot of searches to run and so little time!"

He laughed as he got up from my chair and ruffled my hair as I sat down. He walked away chuckling to himself about my snarky behavior, but I couldn't even work up a good mad. I'm just so glad I caught the prank before the trap was sprung. It really gives me an edge over the competition. That's 1-me, Merry Men-0. I settled into my chair and pulled up the various search programs. Time to start tracking this asshole down. Maybe this time around he won't throw garbage at me. Well, a girl can hope.