The problem with steam, Gene contemplated, feeling twitchy in his skin the way he hadn't since he was a thirteen year old lad, was that it made everything blur and soften. Vice was vice, but for his sins, it seemed so less anger-making amongst the ripples in the air.
On the other side of the room, Supermac was staring at him, lazily, like the cat that got the creamed canary.
"In another lifetime I might have said you were rather fetching, DCI Hunt."
"Another lifetime after reincarnation due to a nasty, unexpected head-wound?" Gene returned. There was less acid in his tone than he'd intended. It was the way Supermac curled his tongue around his words, made them velvet plush and caramel rich; a sticky situation. There was nothing Gene liked less than being bested at his own game.
Supermac's laughter was a low reverberation that felt like it went right through Gene's bones.
"You're not curious?"
"Depends on your definition, doesn't it?"
"Do I have to spell it out for you, Gene? I can offer you so much."
"Maybe I don't want it."
"Then you're a fool."
Gene's resolve strengthened. Even through the haze he could see the flash of anger in Supermac's eyes. It made him bold.
"Either you're with me or you're against me," Supermac warned.
Gene took the opportunity. He stood and sauntered across the room, dashing water onto the rocks before settling tight against Supermac's side.
"Why can't I be both?"
Gene Hunt and Superman in the steam room. LoM & A2A, gen, crack, PG, 291 words.
It was all Tyler and Drake's fault, he decided, as he pounded against the steel door. Only those two could get him sodding trapped in the control room of a steam engine hurtling towards the end of the railway line and a deep, dark ravine. All in the name of some lead for a piss-poor case that wouldn't even make the headlines. Smug, manipulative bastards.
"Calm down, please, Sir. I'll have you safe in a second."
"Really now? A second? You just wasted three seconds listening to my scorn. Get your arse into gear you underpanted, lily-livered, degenerate muscle-bound pissant, before this train goes bye bye and your credibility goes kaboom."
"Shut it and shove it, Supersnot. Either help or be tossed hindering."
"I'm not sure you understand how this works. You see, usually, I help and then you fawn over me, and then we both feel gratified because I did a good thing and you're still alive."
The sweat was running off Gene's brow and he was not best pleased. He blinked to get it out of his eyes. It made him ever so slightly less patient than normal.
"Yeah? Well, I'm not usual. This time all that's gonna happen is my foot up your jacksie."
"I'd break all your toes. Not by intention, you understand."
"It would be worth it. Look, I estimate we've got about two minutes, so for God's sake, do whatever it is you do."
"I already have."
"I lifted up the train and set it down safe near a diner when you blinked. It seemed... prudent."
Gene glanced out the window. Sure enough, the outside scenery was static. He rounded on the blue-lycra-clad bloke close by.
"No one likes a smart-arse."
For chamekke LoM wingfic :-P ...Where the bewingèd one isn't Gene or Sam. LoM & A2A, Sam/Annie, PG, weirdly angsty, 489 words.
It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. The new ones are always so confused, bringing with them emotional baggage that multiplies and manifests; becoming as real as any of them stuck here --- skin and sinew and feathers. It took her a long time to discover the key to making the whole thing work. She's had so many failures, she strives for perfection these days. If they can be called days.
It's all about the illusion of normal, the illusion of the mundane, the illusion of life. You start off pretending that this place the unwitting and unwilling find themselves in is everyday, regular, bound by rules and constraints. You act the innocent. "Thirty-three years in the future? That's where you're saying you're from? I think you should go to the hospital."
Then, as time wears on, you normalise oddities and contradictions. You pare back reality to reveal the lie, like peeling an apple. So busy making sure you have it all, that the spiral's intact, that the calculated coldness of the action doesn't even chill your bones anymore.
It has to be done. When she'd simply tell the truth, when she'd show them straight away, they'd send themselves to hell. A jump or a spark or a bullet. Never thought of the consequences. She doesn't know why there's the myth that there's nothing worse than limbo. Those who perpetuate it have clearly never witnessed eternal fires scorching eternal flesh.
It has to be done and it has to be slow, a relationship, not an instant revelation. It's hand-holding, smile-inducing, soft-kiss-to-the-lips, hand-on-her-chest, can-you-feel-my-heart-it-beats-for-you. And if it hurts at all, she ignores and forgets it soon enough. She's been here a while.
She gets to know him, she helps him fight the products of his subconscious, she becomes his confidante, until they're so close it doesn't take a leap. Not a hop, nor a skip. He trusts her now. That's the benefit of love.
She looses her ties and lets him see. He's amazed. Of course he's amazed. He asks a dozen questions, reaches out to touch. They've been alone a million times in what masquerades as seven years, but nothing has ever been this intimate --- not even the love-making.
His fingers stroke caresses that feel like humming in her soul. Every sweep of his hand is acceptance and warmth too long denied. He sees the whole of her now, for the first time since they met. He's so impressed with her majesty, the brown and the gold, how the fluorescent light glisters over her wings like sunset on the ocean, he doesn't even think about the implications.
But it has to be done. There's a choice to be made. He can cross over or he can stay to fight an endless battle in which there can never be a victor. When he makes the wrong choice, she pushes him through the door.
It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.