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MacKensie Davis [userpic]
*Eyes wide*
by MacKensie Davis (navbar)
at December 15th, 2008 (09:13 pm)
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Wow! Nice community. I bring you gift of fiction!

Title: On the Flip of a Coin (1/?)
Author: NavBar
Pairings: Ian/Paul
Fandom: HIGNFY
Notes: AU. That's the only way you can get these guys together. Set in a Thatcher-ruled 1998. Why 1998? Because Paul had great hair then. Brilliant hair. The hair should have its own credits. Anyway, I wrote way too much, so this'll have to be split into parts. It is LONG. Hope you like it! Comments = Love. If anyone  enjoys it, I'll continue.
 
X-posted to [info]britpanelslash

1978.

A young Ian Hislop held a hardback book in his hands, reading easily through the glow of the lamp beside him. The comfy chair settled easily beneath him, old and worn. In essence, he couldn't be happier. Well, there was one thing that could have made the day more relaxing.

The question that had been swimming around his head for almost three years now. He had kept putting it of, sure that /eventually/ he would come to a conclusion. But he just couldn't. Frustrated at his path of thought, which always seemed to travel him back to the same question, he closed the book, his thumb trapping the page.

Ian looked into the lamp light, and then into the fire which spat sparks at the grating. He realised he would never make a decision. It was better, he decided, to leave it up to chance.

He pulled a copper coin from his trousers, and held it on his thumb. Ian waited a second, then spoke softly.

"Oxford or Cambridge?" he said, and flicked the coin.

------

1998.

Telegraph, coffee and briefcase.

Ian had realised that his entire life could be summed up in those words. He constantly ran them through his head, making sure that he wouldn't forget anything. In truth, losing the drink or paper wouldn't be a disaster, but the government was cracking down on mislaid information, and Ian was to be damned before falling over such a simple hurdle.

He usually wouldn't have entered such a small shop to buy his paper, naturally preferring either waiting for a copy to become free on the train or buying from a supermarket, but Ian had to keep up with the news. Bad things were occurring, and Ian had to know which side was the best to be on.

The door tinkled behind him, and he tucked his newspaper underneath his arm. The London streets had that odd hotness which you only really feel in large towns. The sun and pollution was amazingly effective at keeping his coffee warm.

Ian straightened his suit, and took a single step forward. The street was deserted, the employed at work and the unemployed... wherever the unemployed spent their time. Ian looked up and down the road for any free taxis, but couldn't see one. He stuck out his hand on the off chance.

*BANG*

Ian felt a collision on his side. He spun around, his coffee hitting the floor before he could react. Trying heavily not to swear, he looked quickly across at who had bumped into him, hands gripping his briefcase.

The street was quiet, but there was a man in a black suit running impossibly fast across the road, quickly skidding around a corner when he reached it. Ian opened his mouth to shout at him, but before he could he felt another thud into his side. This time, the Telegraph was the casualty, landing in a puddle of recently spilt coffee.

This time Ian did swear, but the culprit stopped, skidding to a halt. Ian reached down and picked up his sopping paper, and scowled at the man in front of him.

He had medium-long brown hair, hinging on being unsuitably long. He was thin, looking as if he ran a lot. His brown eyes were wide in apology. Ian didn’t care what the eyes were telling him, scowling up at him.

"Sorry, mate! I didn't see'er there," said the man.

"Quite alright," replied Ian, with the impression that it certainly wasn't.

The man seemed to be jittery, looking back behind him to where the man had run off. His clothes were scruffy, and his hair badly combed. Ian felt the sudden urge to leave, but instead decided to look disgruntled. As a British citizen, Ian knew instinctively that dismissal was better than action. He brushed down his suit, looking up at the sincerely apologetic face.

"A friend of yours?" Ian asked, eyebrow raised.

"Nah," the man replied. "Well, I know the blighter pretty well. Bit of a rough git - but I know his address. And name, unless he lied t'me, that is."

The man's accent was heavy with London brogue. Ian felt like moving on, simply tipping his hat, but his nature had always been to inquire, and it wasn’t going to let him move away from an open enigma.

"Would he be likely to lie to you?" asked Ian, wiping some coffee off a sleeve.

The man shrugged, looking behind him casually. Ian rebuttoned one of his cuffs with a quick flick of one hand, something which he had become rather good at since university.

"Whayl," the stranger replied, the pronunciation of 'well' making Ian wince, "he is a criminal. Not exactly trustworthy, aren't they?"

"Criminal?" Ian asked, his head slightly tilted.

"Yeah. And I'm the copper supposed to be stopping him," the man said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his badge and identification.

Ian flicked his gaze over the badge, reading 'Paul Martin' and glancing at the photo. It was a match to the man in front of him. Ian knew never to trust anyone, but it seemed like this man - Paul - was telling the truth. Unless it was a good fake.

Before Ian could inspect it further, Paul stuffed the badge back into his pocket.

"Oh,” Ian replied, and then thought a bit. “Shouldn't you be following him, then?"

"Whayl, yeah," Paul started, "but I had to stop and make sure you were alright. Her Majesty's service, after all. Though whether I belong to the actual Queen or Maggie Thatcher I'm not sure."

Paul winked, cracking a joke. Ian stiffened.

"I wouldn't joke about such things," Ian offered, strictly.

Paul blinked. Ian scouted Paul’s expression. It was one of confusion, which was odd. Everyone knew the laws, surely?

"Why?" Paul asked, still genuinely confused.

It was Ian's turn to fumble for identification now, reaching his House of Commons identity card in his coat pocket and shoving it into Paul’s face. The policeman's eyes went wide with realisation.

"Ian Hislop, MP?"

Ian nodded, putting the card delicately into his breast pocket. Ian decided to ignore the dismissive enunciation of ‘MP’, which Paul had dragged on for an exceedingly long time.

"Whayl," Paul whistled, running a hand through dark hair, "if I'd have known you were a bloody Conservative I wouldn't have stopped."

Ian scowled, not expecting that kind of reply. Paul raised an eyebrow, throwing down a challenge. Ian jumped at the opportunity to argue the toss.

"I think that is rather offensive," cut Ian. "And, if you don't mind me saying, your views could very easily get you in serious trouble."

Paul didn't seem bothered, casually shrugging his shoulders. Ian felt a little put off by that. He expected Paul, supposedly a lower class servant of the government, to shake his head, mumble an apology, and then leave. However, he didn’t.

"Mate, to be honest I couldn't give a flying toss," Paul finished.

Ian knew he should just walk away. Or, even better, ask to look at his identification and quote his number to the Home Sectary for immediate dismissal and imprisonment. But, he didn’t. Ian liked to argue. He liked a challenge. And Paul was a very apt contender.

"What makes you think that you can insult the government?" Ian hit the word ‘you’ with a dismissive bang, trying to hammer the ‘you’ and ‘us’ theme into the ground.

Paul didn’t seem to notice Ian’s crafted words, half-smiling and letting out a small word which meant an awful lot to a lot of people.

"Satire.”

Ian jumped, brutally replying with the deep voice he reserved for serious matters.

"That's illegal," he snapped. "Imprisonable offence."

"Ain't it good that I'm a copper then?" Paul replied. "I'd get the best digs."

Ian stood stunned. This man just didn't care at all. This was suicide. People had been ex... removed... for less.

"If you don't mind me," Paul started, putting on a posh accent with obvious intent to annoy, "I must depart towards the station as I am dreadfully worried about a certain guest of mine who may very well be urinating up a wall. Cheerio!"

Ian wanted to say something, but couldn't think of any words for his mouth to form. Paul ran off, following the trail of the criminal with a comedy turn which took him in a full three hundred and sixty turn. The images of an old Charlie Chaplin sprung to Ian’s mind from his days back at prep school. Before they had been removed from circulation, that was.

It was almost a full minute before Ian realised that he was staring where Paul had left. Ian quickly shook his head, looking down at his dripping, brown paper, and scowled.

Today was going to be a bad day.

---

One hour later.

Indeed, it looked like it was going to be. There were thousands of papers to go through, miles of video to check and a few hundred hours of radio to scower. Ian slammed his briefcase onto his desk, hitting the button and telling his secretary to hold all calls.

He sat down in the comfy chair, the one thing he had asked for when he came to office, and breathed out. The one thing Ian liked about his job was the office. It was bronzed wood, entirely carved to a perfect English standard. There were beautiful low lamps, paintings which he could stare at for hours and the top of the range computer. This was all topped off by a little placard arranged just on the inside of the door which read 'Ian Hislop MP: Minister of Communication' in gold lettering.

Ian sipped from the coffee which he had ordered the temp to go and get, and flicked through the pages of the paper he had ordered her to replace.

After a while, when the pace had lowered and most of the coffee had been drunk, he casually looked over the plans for the day. There wasn't much, just footage to check and so on. Although, to be honest, he wasn't sure whether he should look forward to his first meeting or not.

Things had been tense in the media ever since the government had decided unanimously to disband the morally corrupt BBC. Like their children in America, many younger business-orientated television companies had sprung up. This was good, but it did mean that all the footage needed to be checked to ensure it religiously followed the 'Biast of the Media' law of 1990.

That was Ian's job.

Ian's first meeting was one of the more common events in the day, but not with the most common person. Commonly, he would have to meet with producers and newscasters, mostly acting free-lance. Ian frowned. If there was one person who would stand up to him, it was this man.

And Paul, of course.

Ian couldn't understand why he kept thinking about the policeman. Paul had been rude, biased, abrasive and crass. Everything Ian was supposed to hate but, for some reason, it suddenly seemed very... refreshing.

Ian shook his head. Those were very disturbing thoughts. His job was all about censorship. If Ian starting preferring that sort of broadcasting, and missing it in the films he let through, he was sure to be fired.

Ian wondered whether this was all due to the fact that, like many of his fellow ministers, he hardly met with anyone outside parliament. He honestly couldn't remember when he had last talked to someone outside of the cabinet. Perhaps... perhaps the public opinion had changed. Perhaps the entire country was full of Paul Martins. That was an unsettling thought.

His secretary buzzed him out of his trail of thoughts.

"Mr Hislop? Your first appointment is here to see you."

Ian replied casually.

"Yes, very good. Send him in."

Ian stood up as the door opened. The man strode in, his hands clasped together. He was carefully suited, in the kind of look that told Ian this man had many suits, but only wore them only once. Typical of a newscaster, Ian assumed.

Although they were old friends, or rather, old acquaintances, Ian's smile was not returned. Ian held out his hand, which the man took.

"Angus," Ian said, nodding.

"Ian," Angus replied.

Ian indicated for Angus to take the seat on the opposite side of the desk. Angus quickly shifted down, clasping his hands together on the desk. Ian sat down more slowly.

"So,” Ian asked, liking the control a bit too much, “what do I owe the pleasure?"

Angus raised a quizzical eyebrow.

"The thing is, Hislop, I sent my report on Zimbabwae to you for... investigation over a week ago..."

Ian shuffled paper on his desk. Angus was pretty much the only man who could call him by his surname alone, but Ian always responded in the same suit. Although there paths had not directly crossed at University, they had always been familiar. Angus was one of the few who protested the fall of the BBC, but had now seen the error of his ways, and become a freelance newscaster.

"...and I still haven't got it back."

"Yes?" Ian replied.

"Well, I'm not sure if you're aware of this," started Angus in a voice layered with heavy sarcasm, "but news goes out of date awfully fast."

"I am well aware of that, Deayton," Ian replied, tapping his pen on the table. "The problem is, there is very... unsettling footage in your report."

"That tends to happen with mass genocide," Angus responded.

"Yes, quite. But these connections you keep making to our continuing trade links with African apartheid are frankly unacceptable."

Ian could tell Angus wanted to argue, but he also knew Angus knew it was futile. If you annoyed someone too much in the government over censorship, you were likely to lose the entirety of your footage in 'an unfortunate accident'.

Angus' lips went very thin.

"Very well, minister," Angus replied, his voice seething with restraint. "Am I allowed my footage back to make the alterations?"

Ian was about to say yes, pass it back - completely un edited - fully aware in the knowledge that when Angus had corrected the mistakes and returned it, it would be so out of date that no station would air it... but something stopped him.

"Angus," Ian started, letting the name ring for a few seconds.

Angus raised an eyebrow. Ian avoided his eyes.

"I could seal this programme with a stamp right now," Ian started, looking at the transcripts in his hands. "I've let through more libellous material in my time. However, I may need a little... help with something."

Angus' eyes widened. Ian knew that the footage, unedited and stamped with the official seal, would be worth almost three times what Angus would be paid for a censored copy. Money could do a lot of things, especially in a time like this.

But, Angus was no fool. He looked oddly at Ian, his head tilted.

"What would I have to help with?"

Ian lent forward on the desk, Angus lent in with him.

"How good are you,” Ian started, lowering his voice, “with private eye work?"

-------

Two weeks later.

"... so then he told me, that is to say, I told him, that this entire thing is complete, erm, and utter madness."

Ian nodded along, filtering out most of what Boris was saying in his ear. Boris was one of the back benchers, but enthusiastic none the least. Ian couldn't help but wonder whether, if the Conservative party had to do more publicity, Boris would have a more active role. As such, Boris was just something you tended to accept was there, not really pay any attention to. Like a leaky tap.

The bar inside the House was packed with people, all Conservatives, of course. Most other parties had disbanded after the industries had closed, their main supporters leaving for Germany or America. Indeed, the Labour party and the LibDems had merged, using the old name of 'The Liberal Party'. And, even then, there were only three elected MPs of other parties in the House at all. And the new rules meant they hardly ever darkened the halls. Wigs and Tories. Just as it was supposed to be.

Ian had never really thought about the Parlimentary system in such detail, but now every other moment his mind was on it. It was... odd that there were no views from other parties. The word 'democracy' had not been spoken in the halls for a while. It had been such a natural progression, Ian supposed, that it had just past him by.

It was all down to Paul, of course. Ian wouldn't have second guessed a single word coming from his fellow MPs mouths before meeting him.

Mate, to be honest you couldn't give a flying toss.

"I say, what are you smiling at, old chap?"

Ian looked across, unaware he was grinning. Boris frowned. Ian wiped the smile from his face quickly, taking a sip of his drink.

"Oh, nothing. Just something amusing I remembered," Ian said, waving his hand dismissively.

"Oh, really? Practical jape?" Boris asked, leaning forward.

"Something to do with spilt coffee, yes..."

"Rather," Boris laughed. "When I was at Eton, we always dropped..."

Ian stood up quickly as his secretary entered the room. He had been waiting for Angus to get back to him for over a week. Ian politely nodded a good-bye to Boris, who started to continue his conversation at a man sitting quite close to him. Ian felt a little regret at setting Boris on some unsuspecting fellow Tory. And the man wasn't actually that bad. He was a new boy - Blair wasn't it?

The room was absolutely stuffed with the rich and powerful, playing card games or talking loudly about new laws. Ian would bet that no one in the room was under the age of thirty. It was still a wonderful place to be, smoky and dark red, with the portrait of Margret Thatcher beaming from the left wall.

The secretary waited for Ian to make it across the room of smoke and gin. She pulled her long brunette hair behind her ear, and delicately spoke.

"Mr. Deayton, sir."

Ian nodded, quickly moving to his office and straightening his suit as he did. The halls were deserted, but he still straightened his spine on the off chance that someone could see what he was about to do wasn't technically ministerial work.

Ian strode into the room, greeting Angus with his eyes. Angus had one hand in his trouser pockets, fiddling with something. In the other, Angus held a tape. He offered it to Ian and Ian quickly took it.

"I didn't edit it," Angus replied. "I'm sure you would want raw footage."

Ian nodded, not really listening anymore. He headed towards his desk.

"Thank you. Anything interesting?"

Angus shrugged his shoulders.

"What's unusual these days? He goes to work, he does his job, he drinks a pint at the pub, and then goes to sleep."

"Wife? Children?" Ian asked, looking up and he grabbed a notepad from one of his desk drawers.

"Lives alone," Angus said. His voice suddenly changed tact. "Hislop... what exactly was I following this man for?"

Ian stopped from placing the tape inside his computer. He bit his lip.

"That's... confidential," Ian lied.

Angus laughed, a short bark. Ian sworn in his head. If there was one thing Angus was not, it was stupid. He was sly, and quick. A great investigative reporter, which was why he was one of the only ones left in work.

"I doubt it,” Angus summarised. “If this was government work, you would have used internal affairs, not me."

Ian turned around, greeting Angus' eyes. Angus crossed his arms. Ian decided to wait until Angus spoke again.

"This man doesn't deserve whatever you are planning for him," Angus said, quietly.

"Oh really, Angus." Ian said, rolling his eyes. "You do exaggurate."

"Do I?" Angus replied, raising his voice a little. "Since this last week alone, three of my fellow reporters have disappeared without a trace. Another is in prison. Paxman finally made it to the US, not without being followed I may add.

"The press do not have freedom," Ian replied, reciting his mantra.

"No one does," Angus said, lowly. "Thanks to this government."

Ian was infuriated. It was one thing to question his methods, but not his party.

"We work for the individual."

"You work for a fascist state," Angus started.

"How dare you insult us like that!" Ian snapped, although a little nagging voice in his mind was telling him Angus had a point.

"'Us'? 'We'?" Angus started, accentuating with his hands. "Ian, please, think about this!"

"I do think!"

"No! You follow. What happened to the boy who tried to start a satirical magazine?"

"Don't mention that word!" Ian hissed.

Angus ran his hands through his hair in defeat.

"I give up, Ian," he admitted. "I'm moving. Tomorrow. With the proceeds from the film, which I am grateful for, I can finally cart the family away."

Ian was quiet. He started slowly.

"You have no faith in this country?"

Ian's voice was so quiet that he was surprised he had said anything at all. Angus turned to him, and looked him with brown eyes which told Ian, for once, Angus wasn't going to lie.

"I lost faith," Angus started, shaking, "the moment Stephen and Sandi had to move for fear of becoming second class citizens because of their sexual orientation. I lost faith the moment that my wife had to say a tearful goodbye to Rik and Ade, because they were so prosecuted for their stand ups debasing Thatcher, that they feared for their safety. I lost faith the moment that I realised that this corrupt, broken and disgusting government could ruin everything I ever thought was good."

Ian stood their, speechless. Angus' face was red, his throat tight.

"This country is not a country. This is a barren wasteland of the dead and dying."

Ian couldn't respond. Angus turned sharply away, reaching for the door handle. Ian managed to find his voice just in time.

"Wait!"

Angus turned back around. Ian was blinking heavily.

"I... I don't want to hurt him," Ian started, gesturing towards the tape.

"Yeah?" Angus started. "Well, you're not helping him."

The door slammed shut. Ian shook. He felt like he was going to throw up.

------

Four hours later.

Ian didn't watch the tape at the office. Apart from his nerves about being caught, he was too shaken up by Deayton's words to even think about what he was about to do. He waffled through work, giving everyone apart from him the actual tasks to do. Ian didn't usually lay so heavy into the civil servants, but today was one of those days where he just didn't want to anything at all.

When he thought he had spent enough time doing nothing to make it seem that he had done something, he bolted quickly into a black cab. All the way home he flicked the tape around in his hands, trying not to think about what Angus had said.

His flat was spacious, nice and as well decorated as his office. Ian had two other houses in the country, but he hadn't spent much time there. Even though most of his fellow MPs would take any opportunity to get out of the smoky city, for some reason Ian preferred to stay within the home of news. Ian hated feeling unconnected.

After making some toast and trying not to play the tape... he played the tape. Ian stuck it into his computer, letting the reel play as his drank a glass of wine.

Angus was a good cameraman. Either that or he had hired someone else. The shots were clear, switching to infrared at night. Ian lent forward on his elbows, trying to spot Paul.

He had to laugh as he saw Paul stagger home, helped by two men supporting at his arms. Angus had thought ahead, putting time, date and location signatures on the various screens. Paul's address was shown on screen, and Ian recognised it as being inside one of the more seedier and lower parts of London, which explained the broken crates and destroyed pavement.

Parts of London like this almost looked Victorian. There were no people on the streets, of course, as most of them would be shoved off into housing. There was no council housing left, all privatised, but the independent businesses would get grants for the homeless they kept off the streets, and fines for those that left.

Sounded good in theory, but when one of the housing estates had been raided and it was found out that the homeless were being used for cheap slave labour, there was a little difficulty on Ian's end making sure the media didn't get a hold of the story. Not that it mattered. If they did, the secret service would make sure their editor would 'secretly disappear'.

Ian continued to watch as Paul's friends padded him down for his keys. The sound of cats screeching was outdone by Paul's insistent baying of 'show me the way to go home'. One of the men, with blonde hair and glasses, finally found the errant keys, and pulled them out of his trousers.

"Oooh err, matron!" Paul laughed.

Ian smiled in spite of himself.

Paul's friends hurtled him under the street lamp. Judging by their own unsteadiness, Ian theorised all three of them had been drinking heavily. The blonde forced the keys into the downstairs flat, kicking the door open. Paul staggered inside, waving goodbye to his friends as he fell up the stairs.

Ian watched the entirety of the tape, and noted the important details on a notepad. It was as Angus said. He would go to the station, do sterling work, go to a pub, then drink himself stupid. The day after, it would all repeat.

When it was done, Ian switched off the tape. He wasn't sure how to judge it. It was certainly nothing like what his night would usually be. Even though Angus couldn't get cameras inside the pub, the evening seemed to be a giant meeting of people just like Paul.

Ian was a little worried. If this was going on around the country, then the Conservative party may have a little uprising on their hands. Ian finished looked at his watch. It shone 'nine pm' back at him. Ian stood up, downed his glass, grabbed one of his black coats and left.

Comments

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: December 15th, 2008 09:44 pm (UTC)

That was wonderful.
Definitely something a bit different but so well written.
I like how you've written them both - it's totally believable. And so sweet how Ian can't stop thinking about Paul.


Posted by: Lucy (moochy1)
Posted at: December 15th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)

By the way that comment was me not logging in.

Posted by: MacKensie Davis (navbar)
Posted at: December 16th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
pic#82977813

Thank you very much!

I like different, it's, erm, different? :P

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