There’s a long silence in which Grisham does not reply. She looks at Terra with her jaw set, her strong arms crossed over her chest, and a stony expression on her face. Grisham is taller and much broader than Terra, and though you can’t imagine her being easily provoked into a physical confrontation, she has to be sorely tempted.
Terra looks at you, as if to gauge your reaction. You look back at her, deeply unhappy. You don’t know what happened to the Terra you knew at the academy, but you’d like her back. The Terra you knew was gracious, composed, and above all, kind. This Terra is snarky, mean and domineering. Somehow that sentiment must be manifesting itself in your expression, because it seems to snap her back to reality.
“I’m sorry,” she says, drawing a deep breath. “I’m being an ass.”
Nobody contradicts her. Nobody says anything.
“Grisham, you don’t deserve to be spoken to that way,” Terra continues. “I don’t particularly enjoy being lectured on my care of my cadets, but you are not entirely incorrect. I will say, however, that you do not have the full picture. There is more to this matter than hair length and uniforms…”
“You noticed I got my hair cut?” You interrupt.
“I noticed, cadet,” she says with a flicker of a smile. “Regulation hair suits you.”
You feel pleased, in spite of how pissed off you still are, which is plenty.
“Thank you for looking after her, Grisham,” Terra says. “It was a weight off my mind knowing that at least one member of my unit was safe.”
Grisham nods curtly. She doesn’t seem to be buying Terra’s apology. “Why don’t you go upstairs and get some rest, ma’am,” she says. “You must be tired.”
Terra frowns slightly, then nods. “I am tired,” she admits. “Perhaps, after I sleep, we will come to some arrangement.”
“Maybe,” Grisham says, her tone as grim as ever. It makes the skin of your bottom tingle just to hear it. You would not like to be in Terra’s shoes right about now. Grisham might not be able to take Terra over her lap, but you’re pretty sure Terra isn’t going to get away with how she spoke to her before.
“I’m sorry, cadet,” Terra says to you. “I know how close you and Boris are, and I’m sorry I didn’t get him back to you in one piece.”
For the first time since her arrival, there is an air of vulnerable defeat in her gaze. It’s as if she feels her failure so deeply she tried to hide it by pushing Grisham around. It didn’t work and now she looks doubly bad, both for almost losing Boris, and then for being a total jerk.
“I’m going to get some rest,” she says, as if it were her idea. “I will see you both later.”
She turns toward the door and you can’t help yourself. You push up out of the chair, close the distance between you two and give her a tight hug. It’s usually you who needs the hugs, but this time Terra definitely needs one.
For a second, she seems stunned, then her arms wrap around you and she hugs you back tightly. “I’ll see you when I wake up,” she promises.
“Yes ma’am,” you reply. “I’ll be waiting.”
Terra’s eyes seem to get a little misty. “You’re a good girl,” she says fondly before walking out the door.
“She’s right,” Grisham agrees once the door closes behind her. “You’re a very good girl.”