Fish & Chips (Cut & Run #3)


by Abigail Roux

Chapter 1

“HEY, Freddy, Scott, you got to check this out,” Special Agent Michelle Clancy said as she trotted into the free weights room of the FBI"s Baltimore field office gym.

“Busy,” Special Agent Fred Perrimore grunted as he strained with the barbell. His biceps bulged as he pressed up; sweat dotted the black skin along his closely shaved hairline.

“Believe me. It"s worth it,” Clancy told them in a singsong voice.

Her ponytail bobbed along behind her as she bounced on the tips of her toes excitedly, the bright red hair clashing with her freckles and the flushed pink of her face.

Special Agent Scott Alston looked up from where he stood spotting Perrimore. “What is it?” he asked impatiently. Clancy was too easily worked up for a five-year veteran, and Perrimore always took too much weight. If he dropped the bar when Alston wasn"t paying attention, there would be shit tons of paperwork to fill out.

“Garrett and Grady are beating the shit out of each other,” Clancy answered with something resembling relish.

“So?” Perrimore asked in a strained voice. His large arms trembled with the effort to raise the bar and plates. “They"re always doing that.”

He was right, but Alston"s eyes widened with the news. He began to grin even as he helped pull the bar up and hastily settle it into its cradle with a clank. No way did he want to miss this.

“What the hell, man?” Perrimore complained as he sat up and gave them both an exasperated glare. Alston was already following Clancy out of the room when he heard Perrimore protest, “But what"s the big deal? They"re always doing that!”

Clancy and Alston emerged into the main gym, where several small groups of agents had dropped what they were doing to gather around the center boxing ring. As Clancy and Alston hurried to watch through the ropes, a chorus of groans and cheers went up as one of the men slammed to the mat with an impact that actually shook the entire ring.

“Get up, Grady! You can"t take that shit from him!” one of the watching agents called out in amusement.

Alston shook his head and folded his arms, listening as someone nearby filled him in on the events that had led up to this.

The fight had started out as a simple sparring match between partners. Nothing special. Nothing for anyone to pay much attention to.

Several people in the main gym had been initially impressed that the newly arrived Special Agent Zane Garrett could hold his own with his temperamental, extremely well-trained partner, but that was about it.

Today"s event appeared to have started as a training session, with Ty giving Zane pointers and lessons in some particular technique.

If Zane was trying to learn from Ty, he"d gone to the right place.

Unfortunately, Ty wasn"t exactly mentor material. Everyone in the Baltimore office knew that Special Agent Ty Grady was good for one thing in the ring: embarrassing the hotshot rookies. If you really wanted to spar with him, you had to handicap him somehow. Alston personally preferred the knee-to-the-nuts-in-the-locker-room-prior-to-sparring method. That usually evened up the odds a little. Usually.

Heads began to turn when the gentle sparring, quips, and teasing between partners had become slightly more heated and the jabs had become true punches that caused the combatants to stagger back with each blow. It was common knowledge how difficult it was to work with Ty Grady. It had come as no surprise to anyone when Zane Garrett arrived that they were always at each other"s throats, especially when it turned out Zane was about as headstrong as Ty, which was really saying something. There was already a pool on how long the partnership would last.

“Now, come on, Grady. You taught me that move yourself,” Zane said as he backed away a couple steps, his wrapped fists still up and ready. His plain gray cotton T-shirt was soaked through with sweat and pulled across well-defined muscles as he shifted his shoulders. Alston had to admit Zane was a big dude and saw how he could be sort of intimidating. Not that it would matter a bit to Ty.

Ty rolled to his side and pushed himself up with a low groan. He wasn"t quite as tall or broad-shouldered as his partner, but he was solid from head to toe, still a big man in his own right. Alston was of the opinion that his attitude gave him a more imposing air than his bulk.

Every agent here knew Ty Grady through one avenue or another. And everyone knew he was just one twist short of a slinky.

He was wearing a white shirt with a picture of a scarecrow on it accompanied by the words “out standing in his field.” Not one of the watching agents gave it a second glance. It was, they all knew, his favorite shirt.

Ty looked up at his partner and snarled at him, seemingly unaware of the people watching and now placing bets on who would be the winner. He rolled his shoulders and began to circle again, taped fists up and close to his face. Zane moved in a mirror image, watching Ty intently.

“There"s no way Garrett can stay in too long with Grady,” Alston predicted. It wasn"t that he didn"t like Zane. He seemed like an okay guy. Maybe a little dull and straight-laced. But it was Ty he was fighting. The former Marine was on a short fuse on the best of days.

When he lost his temper, there was never any telling what would be rigged to blow by the end of the workday.

“He"s been in there twenty minutes already,” Clancy said, arms crossed as she watched.

“Yeah, but it didn"t get serious until a few minutes ago,” another agent told them.

“Garrett may surprise you,” Fred Perrimore said as he joined them. While he was built heavy and barrel-chested, Alston stood three inches taller than him at six feet, and they both towered over Clancy"s petite frame. “He"s got some moves.”

“Having „moves" and being trained to kill by the government are not the same thing,” Alston said with a derisive laugh.

As if to emphasize his point, Ty moved in a graceful series of feints, jabs, and an arcing roundhouse kick to send Zane to the mat with a resounding thump. He danced away lightly before Zane could touch him.

“Hands ain"t the only things that hit, Garrett,” Ty said in a low voice, a slight smirk curling his lips.

Zane rolled into a crouch and twisted as he stood, his heel connecting with the back of Ty"s knee, forcing it to collapse as he punched Ty in the kidney.

Clancy winced. “I"m thinking Garrett can kick ass just fine,” she murmured.

They watched as Ty fell to his knees with a grunt of anger and pain, and then he just as quickly rolled and struck out, taking Zane"s legs out from under him, catching Zane"s knees between his two calves like a pair of scissors. The crowd groaned when Zane hit the mat a second time, and Ty pounced on him, getting an arm around his neck and rolling him up between his knees, trying to immobilize him.

“Should we stop this before Ty snaps his neck?” Clancy asked in morbid amusement. She and Alston shared a look, Alston privately thinking that he wouldn"t put it past Ty to do it. They shrugged at each other negligently, but then both winced when Zane somehow rocked forward and pulled Ty half over his shoulder before shoving him off to one side. Ty rolled away nimbly and sprang to his feet almost instantly.

“We need walls, partner,” Zane sniped as he got to his feet.

“Something for you to splat against.”

Ty shook his head and reached up to the strap of the protective headgear required in the ring. He yanked at it and ripped the padded helmet off, tossing it over the ropes to land at the feet of several of the agents watching. He didn"t say anything to Zane, just held out one taped hand and gestured for him to bring it.

“Oh f**k, we"re going to have to fill out paperwork about this too,” Alston muttered to himself.

Zane"s eyes narrowed, and he cocked his head to one side before doing the same, pulling off his own helmet and sending it skidding off the mat to thunk to the floor. “What"s wrong, Grady?” he asked ruefully, raising his fists. “Cat got your tongue?”

Everyone watching groaned at the verbal jab. They"d all heard the story of what had happened to Ty and Zane in the mountains of West Virginia. Ty merely smirked without attacking. One of the fists he held up and ready was badly scarred from the cougar bite he"d received several weeks ago and the two subsequent surgeries he"d undergone to fix the damage. Zane"s taunt was a low blow.

Without warning, Zane lunged, leading with his left shoulder to shove all his weight into Ty, propelling him toward the ropes. It seemed to be what Ty had been waiting for, though, because he planted a foot and used Zane"s momentum to lift him completely off his feet and slam him down into the mat. The entire ring shook again, and a loud groan rippled through the audience.

This time when Zane was down, Ty didn"t try to merely immobilize him. He got in four or five rapid punches to the midsection before one wicked left to Zane"s unprotected face.

Shouts of protest came from the crowd, but no one moved to stop it. Zane balled up and took the clearly painful hits, and when Ty reared back for a last shot, Zane got one knee pulled back and shoved a foot into Ty"s gut, hard, before he started scrambling away from him. Ty stumbled backward, but then he attacked again, too quickly for Zane to get away.

“I think he"s getting pissed,” Alston observed drily.

“If Ty was pissed, Garrett"d be dead already,” Perrimore pointed out in a flat voice.

Another round of pained groans went up from the small crowd of watching agents as Ty tackled Zane and straddled him, pinning him with his knees.

“That hurt, dammit!” Ty growled at his partner as he held him to the mat by his neck.

“Fuck you, Meow Mix,” Zane hissed back as he got one hand on Ty"s shoulder—the arm holding him down—having just enough arm length to keep Ty from totally throttling him. He balled up his other fist and punched Ty in the gut. Everyone heard the thump of fist hitting solid muscle, but it didn"t dislodge him.

Ty turned his shoulder, slamming his elbow against the side of Zane"s head before grabbing him by the neck again with one hand and using the other hand to fend off Zane"s attempts at retaliation.

Anyone who knew Ty knew that he wasn"t trying to kill his partner, though. Cause brain damage, maybe. But not kill him.

“Guys, this is too much,” Clancy finally objected as she raised both her hands.

“You gonna get in there to separate them?” Alston asked incredulously as he watched Zane continue to fight off Ty"s other hand while bucking under him, trying to throw him off.

Clancy shook her head, and they watched in morbid amusement as Zane finally, somehow, got some leverage. The two men rolled across the mat in a badly orchestrated tumble, each man too stubborn to release the other as they grappled.

“What the hell is going on here?” an irritated voice bellowed from the doorway of the main gym.

The crowd of agents scattered. Ty and Zane stopped mid-throttle, looking up at their superior like two kids caught roughhousing in the living room.

Alston edged away toward the weight room, stopping just behind the doorway to peer around the corner with Clancy and two other curious agents.

In the middle of the ring, Ty turned his head to look at Special Agent in Charge Dan McCoy, who was glowering at them from several yards away. “Hey, Mac,” Ty greeted innocently as he straddled his bleeding partner. “Come down to work the glutes?” he asked with a sincere c**k of his head.

Zane gasped for air and rapped his knuckles hard against Ty"s chest as he finally pried Ty"s fingers from his throat.

“You two, my office, now,” McCoy ordered as he pointed his finger at them. “If you can kick the shit out of each other, then you"re ready for your next assignment,” he muttered as he turned and stalked away.

As soon as McCoy was gone, someone from somewhere in the cavernous workout room wolf-whistled at Ty and Zane and proceeded to applaud the performance they"d given.

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