By the time Des had made his way back to the conference room, the rest of his team, along with Chuck, had already reassembled inside. They were sitting around the big table waiting for him.
Des walked in slowly, stopped, and looked around at them. “No fire,” he said quietly, shaking his head. “Just a test.”
“We kinda figured,” said Matt.
Chuck, his face dark and his tone serious, couldn’t hold himself back. “OK, Des. Before we were interrupted, I was about to. . . .”
“Chuck, I’m sorry to interrupt you again,” Des said purposefully, “but I have to something to say.”
“Don’t you think,” interjected Spec, the last person Des thought he’d hear from at a moment like this, “that you’ve said enough, Des? Maybe you should listen to Chuck first.”
“Well, maybe I should, Spec,” Des responded, with a tone that made it clear he was not going to take his advice. “But I have to get this off my chest now.”
“Okaaaayyy,” said Chuck. “Go ahead.”
Des took a deep breath and spoke with a firmness and authenticity that none of them had ever heard from him before.
“I owe you all an apology,” he stated clearly, with a sense of finality. The room grew very still. “Since the day I got here, I’ve been disrespectful. I’ve been rude, arrogant, abrupt, dismissive, distracted, condescending, and a whole lot more. In short—and this is the most accurate word I can use—I’ve been an asshole. I’ve been that way to you, too, Chuck.”
“That’s true,” Chuck concurred, nodding gently.
“There’s no question ...