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MacKensie Davis [userpic]
Next bit...
by MacKensie Davis (navbar)
at December 16th, 2008 (10:32 pm)
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Title: On the Flip of a Coin (2/?)
Author: NavBar
Pairings: Ian/Paul
Fandom: HIGNFY
Notes: Part two. In which the standard strange things occur.

Only half an hour later, the taxi had left Ian just outside the pub. Ian read the sign quickly, trying to look normal and not like an Oxbridge graduate entering his first real public house. Which, of course, he was. Ian pulled his black gloves off, stuffing them into his pockets. He knew that a hat would be a little over the top, but he still stuck to a suit. If someone asked him who he was, Ian would lie and say he was a civil servant.

The sign red 'the Red Rooster', but the red had been crossed out. Ian raised an eyebrow, wondering whether the sign had been doctored as one of the 'leftist-removals' that the new party leader had insisted on. Someone had hung another sign below, with an addition in spray paint.

‘The Blue-Red Rooster.

Or The Purple Rooster.

(If that isn't too royalist.)’

Ian frowned. It certainly didn't seem like his kind of place. Regardless, he moved towards the door, pushing it open.

The first thing that hit him was the noise. Apart from shouting and laughing, someone was hitting the keys on an out of tune piano in the corner. People were dancing, drinking and generally winding down a hard Thursday.

Ian walked through the crowd, trying to smile at everyone who caught his eye. Everyone seemed so cheerful, it was slightly unnerving. Ian was used to the very straight-laced, and didn't really know how to act when everyone was so free and uncaring. Ian quickly sat on a bar stool in the corner, and waited for the barman to come over.

He didn't take long. Over the noise and giggling, the barman tipped his hat as he moved over, rubbing a glass clean with a distinctly unclean apron.

"Y'alright?" He asked, a large grin forming as he surveyed his pub.

Ian nodded back, trying to look the right blend of enthusiastic and depressed.

"Yes, fine, thank you," Ian said, loudly.

"You're new, aren't you?"

"I've just moved here. Thought I'd have a look around."

The noise was increasing, dancing now getting wilder as people smacked their glasses on their tables in time to the beat. The barman looked fondly over the place.

"We're a family here, you'll fit in, don't worry," the barman said, flashing his blue eyes. "What can I get you then?"

"Bitter, please," Ian asked, already deciding any drink he usually would have ordered would have been a little out of place.

Ian reached quickly for his wallet. The barman quickly stopped him. Ian looked up, confused.

"I wouldn't flash cash around here," the barman advised, speaking quickly into Ian's ear. "A lot of people don't have anything. First drink's on me."

Ian thanked him, a little confused. Alcohol, like most things judged 'unnecessary', was heavily taxed. Ian hoped, for the manager’s sake, he didn’t give out free drinks too often.

The barman moved off to pour the drink, and Ian looked around. Then, he blinked. In one moment, something had suddenly hit Ian why he thought it was odd that everyone seemed to be so happy.

They had nothing.

They were all dirt poor. It was obvious. Ian was amazed he hadn't noticed the fact that most clothes were patched and hair was imperfectly pulled into bundles. Ian gratefully accepted the drink when it was given to him, and drank it slowly while looking around the pub, still astonished at his initial blindness.

Ian waited, sipping quietly and deciding that bitter wasn’t actually that bad. Even though the stuff could easily kill a horse, the atmosphere seemed to make everything a little better.

Just as Ian was getting used to the noise, it happened. Paul, not unsurprisingly as Ian had timed his own arrival for a few minutes before he came off duty, burst in. He was dressed smartly in a black suit with a pink shirt, obviously unchanged from work. The music suddenly stopped as he called out to the room, the audience’s eyes on their star of the show.

"What d'you do when your cottage is taking all your money and stopping you from working?" Paul started, the audience easy in his hands.

"What?" the entire pub replied.

"Thatch'er!"

The pub groaned and threw balled up tissue at him.

"Oi! I was working all day on that!" Paul complained.

"Work harder!" someone heckled.

"Will do, mon'commanant," Paul replied, grinning.

Ian's heart skipped a beat. If he told that joke at work, no matter how bad it was, Ian would have be kicked out and mysteriously disappear. Ian kicked himself mentally. He needed to toughen up.

A girl handed Paul a drink, and he winked a 'thank you' to her. The girl blushed underneath his sparkling smile. Paul downed the drink in one go, slammed the glass onto the table, offering his hand out for a dance. Paul cued the piano player with a flick of his hand.

"How about 'My Old Man's A Dustman?'" Paul asked.

"You do like the old ones, Paul," the girl smiled.

"That's what they say down in the rest home," Paul replied, but before the girl realised what he meant, Paul spun her around and started a quick waltz.

The crowd clapped and sang along with the piano. Even Ian found himself hitting the table and muttering along. It was infectious. The music suddenly started to speed up tempo, the girl and Paul whipping themselves around faster and faster. They were practically spinning, but suddenly they cut apart, Paul spinning her into a forward dip with a flick of his brown hair.

The crowd applauded, and Paul pulled her up. Their eyes never left each other, until Paul glanced suddenly over at Ian.

Ian stiffened. Paul's face still hadn't altered expression from the wild dancing, but his eyes glinted with recognition. Ian weighed up the choices. Either bolt, or face the music. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to have a choice. Paul quickly left the girl, walking smartly over to Ian. Ian downed the rest of his drink, bracing himself.

Paul nodded to the barman, who started to make what was obviously Paul's usual. He smiled at Ian, who waited for him to make the first move.

"Y'right?" Paul asked, leaning on the bar. "Nothing like a good mad dance to loosen the muscles."

Ian nodded, wondering when Paul would out him to the crowd.

"She seems nice," Ian offered.

"I bet she is," Paul said, looking over at the girl who was now dancing closely with a cloth capped man. "But, I wouldn't know."

"Really?" Ian replied. "I think the expression would be 'you're in there'."

Paul laughed at Ian's accent. Ian had to laugh back. Paul shook his head, smiling as he took his drink.

"Nah. I mean, yeah, obviously, but I'm... ah, how to put this."

Ian looked confused.

"Erm..." Paul thought, looking at the roof. "Ah, how t’put this to a learned man. Let's just say..."

Ian waited as Paul lowered his voice and lent into his face. His brown eyes shined as he spoke softly.

"I wear a green carnation..."

Ian shook himself away instinctively. Paul looked at him curiously, waiting to see how Ian would act. Ian's pulse rose considerably.

Homosexuality had been outlawed over two years ago. Every inch of Ian was screaming to run away and report it. It was disgusting, wrong and just... not right. As all those thoughts rushed around Ian's head, Paul still looked into Ian's eyes. Ian darted them away, and then back.

"Why on Earth are you telling me this?" Ian hissed. "I'm supposed to report this kind of information!"

"Heck, I'm a policeman," Paul said, finishing his drink. "I'm supposed to cuff myself, technically. I'm just not that kinky."

Ian finished his drink, and got up to leave. Paul grabbed his arm, and Ian looked down at where Paul's fingers clasped his suit. Paul tilted his head at him.

"Is the reason you're here anything to do with why that man has been following me for the past two weeks?"

Ian froze.

"No."

"You're lying," Paul said.

"Yes, I am," Ian admitted. "But if you don't move your fingers you will be assaulting an MP, which is a capital offence."

Ian said that severely, but Paul didn't seem to care.

"Listen, Ian," Paul said, not moving his hand. "If I tell anyone in this pub that you're government, you'll have over thirty ex-miners on you faster than a dog on a table leg."

Ian knew he was bluffing, but there wasn't anything he could do. Some people in the pub had spotted the altercation, and the barman came up behind them quickly.

"Paul? Is this gentleman bothering you?"

Ian's eyes went wide, but Paul didn't skip a beat.

"Nah, we were just leaving. Put his drink on my tab, will'ya Nick?" Paul winked. "You need to stop giving strangers free drinks - you'll kill this place."

The barman would have seen through the lie, but Paul had distracted him. Nick blushed.

Paul led Ian through the crowd and out the door, which Ian was quite happy to do. When they hit the cold streets outside, Ian breathed a sigh of relief. They could still hear the piano through the cracked blacked out windows, but it was so much quieter.

Paul's long hair flittered in the wind, and he pulled his jacket coat closer towards him. Ian noticed it was badly repaired, but didn't mention it. Paul had let go of Ian's arm, but Ian decided not to leave.

Ian looked up at Paul, who now looked very serious.

"Look, Ian. If you've got something against me, that's fine. But if you're going to call the government down on me at least give me a head start so I can get to France."

Paul said this so quietly, and so sternly, that Ian was worried. Paul looked serious, which was an odd expression on him. Ian dug his hands in his pockets, but didn't take his eyes off Paul.

"I swear,” Ian started, completely unsure in why he felt the need to be honest for a change, “there's no one after you."

"Apart from that man..." Paul added.

"No, not even him," Ian assured. "The government isn't after you."

Paul didn't look convinced. He shuffled his feet against the cold, and glanced away from Ian for a second. Ian didn't want Paul to be scared. It was... odd. Paul was exactly the kind of person the Tories were aching to be thrown behind bars, but Ian didn't want that to happen to him for some reason.

When Paul looked back at Ian, Ian decided to speak.

"Look, Paul," Ian started, as honestly as possible. "I swear apon everything I stand for that you have nothing to fear."

Paul snorted with a giggle.

"You must be kidding. I'm an outlandish satirist. I'm screwed."

"Can't you just... stop?" Ian asked. "Just quit all this. Keep your head down, work hard, and just live your life."

Paul smiled at Ian, shaking his head.

"You must live in a completely different world. There isn't a life to live here anymore," Paul said, looking up at the light polluted night. "Everyone's terrified to do anything. If I can't laugh, I'd go insane."

Ian didn't know how to reply. He felt so stupid. He'd been living his life completely oblivious to the pain suffered by everyone apart from him and his well-off toffy-nosed friends.

"I'm sorry," Ian said.

Paul cocked his head at him.

"Why? It ain't your fault."

"It is. It's my government. I just never knew any of this was happening. If I had just realised... maybe I could have done something, anything to make your lives a little better."

Ian was nearly shaking with rage at the indignity of it all. It wasn't 1914. This wasn't Russia. This was supposed to be England. You were supposed to be free, surely?

"When did the freedom stop?" Ian asked the sky.

Paul shrugged his shoulders, equally looking up.

"God knows. I wish I'd noticed."

Ian looked thoughtfully at Paul.

"You need to get out," he said, quickly.

Paul looked across at him, confused.

"What?"

"You need to get out of England. Leave for France, or the US. Wherever. Just leave the UK."

Paul snorted.

"I'd love too. But I don't have any money, or any family. We've been Londoners for so long, I've got no idea how to live outside this 'ell hole," Paul muttered, resigned.

"I have an idea," Ian said, Paul raising an eyebrow.

-----

Two days later.

Ian had managed to get hold of Angus before he left, which was very lucky. He had pleaded, and apologised, and when that didn't work Ian had threatened Angus with the secret service. Angus was arriving in ten minutes, and leaving the country in an hour.

Ian paced up and down his hall, begging for the doorbell to ring. He had called in three favours with fellow MPs. He had managed to coax a plane ticket, a fake passport and a stack of US dollars. It was hard to get foreign currency. No one seemed to leave or enter the country anymore, so there was little need. It wasn't as if you could just pop down the Post Office and change your money.

Ian snorted. Post Office? How archaic.

The bell rang, and Ian leapt to the door. He pulled it open. Paul stood on the doorstep, his face flustered. He was holding two suitcases, which looked desperate to burst. Ian stood aside to let Paul in.

Paul looked around and whistled.

"Nice digs," he said, impressed.

Ian wasn't listening, running the plan through his head.

"Right, I have your passport and money, Angus'll be here in a second. Have you got everything?"

"Everything I own," Paul said, kicking one of the suitcases.

It fell to the floor with a muffled thump, but Paul didn't seem to care. Ian had the sad feeling Paul didn't really have anything of worth. Paul looked up with a cheeky smile.

"Cheers for this. I really don't know how to thank you."

Ian's ears went red.

"It's no problem. Honestly."

"No one's ever been this nice to me before. Not unless they wanted something, or course," Paul replied.

The bell rang again, and Ian gratefully grabbed the door handle. Angus waited outside, and Ian could see a black car waiting down below.

Angus pulled his black gloves onto his hands distastefully.

"Hello, Hislop."

"Shut up, Deayton," Ian said, and let him in.

Angus looked Paul up and down, and extended a hand. Paul grabbed it thankfully.

"Thanks for this," Paul said. "I really needed 'elp."

Angus gave Ian a look of distaste. Ian felt like hitting him around the head with something. Paul didn't seem to notice, but picked up one of his bags. Angus turned to Ian.

"Right, here's the plan," Ian started, rehearsing what he had been thinking for the past two days. "I've got Paul a passport and some cash, about three thousand dollars, so you should make it easily through Heathrow. I've called in a favour with Brown - transport secretary - so he'll stop the mandatory background check. If you have any problems just quietly mention my name and I'll get someone to sort it out."

Angus and Paul nodded, following quickly.

"When you get to Washington, it should be easy. British accents go down awfully well with the colonials. Then you can use Paul for anything you wish."

Angus raised a quizzical eyebrow and Paul gave an 'oooh' look. Ian quickly expanded.

"I mean work wise. I'm sure you can find something for Paul to do in your film thingy that'll start the cash flow, right Angus?"

Angus nodded, although it didn't look like he wanted to. Ian had the sneaking suspicion that Angus would dump Paul as soon as they crossed the boarder. But, even if he did, Paul seemed capable of holding his own. And, even then, Ian wasn't above sending the service after Deayton.

Paul grabbed his other bag and looked briskly at Angus, a cheery look on his face.

"I donna if I'll be any good at the technical stuff, but I'm good at metal work," Paul offered.

Angus smiled thinly at him.

"Quite."

Angus began to leave, but Paul slowed down. He turned around, looking at Ian. Ian shuffled nervously, unsure of what to do. Paul dropped his bag and ran towards Ian. Before Ian even knew what was happening, Paul had gripped him and forced him into a tight hug.

"Thank you so much, Ian," Paul whispered.

"Think nothing of it," Ian said, his voice re-breaking again.

Paul let go, beaming, and grabbed his hat. He turned to face Angus, who was looking quite disturbed at the event that had just taken place, and casually spoke.

"Don't worry, Angus. I don't do everyone up the wall."

Angus let Paul through, and then gritted his teeth at Ian.

"Don't think this makes us even, Ian," Angus said, fiddling with his sleeve. "You're still part of the problem, not the solution."

"I'm trying," Ian said, grabbing as much dignity back as possible after what had just happened. "And I'm sorry about this. If I could go back and make it better, I would."

"Yes, well," Angus finished.

Ian followed Angus out of the door, passing Paul's new passport and money into his hands. Angus slipped them into his suit.

Angus started to walk down the stairs that led from Ian's home and towards Paul who was leaning on the black car. Ian noticed that Angus' wife and herd of children were not in the vehicle, and supposed that he must have sent them ahead just in case this event caused a massive cock up.

Ian realised just how much he was relying on someone he really didn't trust to do something he really wasn't sure would work. It was a bit worrying. Ian dug his hands into his pocket, and felt a piece of paper. He pulled it out, confused, and realised it was his private phone number. It was a private line - an American cell phone that had been taken from some nosy journalists and hotwired to accept the British phone companies. Ian had ‘requested’ it a day earlier with the intent that only two people would ever know the number.

Ian quickly jumped down the steps, jumping at the car just before Angus got in the drivers seat. Ian handed the paper over Angus and towards Paul, who was sitting in the other seat. Angus pulled back, trying not to get in the way as Ian handed over the paper.

As Paul's hand touched Ian's fingers, and the hand that Ian was using not to fall onto Angus' lap hit Angus's right hand, which was resting on the dash, Paul's right fingers lightly grazed Angus's left hand, creating a circle.

Or rather, a circuit.

There was a white flash of light over Ian's eyes, and he suddenly felt the need to collapse, fast.

-----

Some time later.

"Ian?"

Ian screwed up his face, rubbing his eyes as he woke up. It suddenly occurred to him that he wasn't lying on something very smooth, and it felt unnaturally like pavement. Ian blinked in the light, and saw Paul's brown eyes staring down at him.

"Y'alright?" Paul asked, extending a hand.

Ian grabbed it, helping himself up.

"I think so," he said, smoothing down his suit.

Ian had realised that he was lying on the road outside his flat, and guessed he had collapsed. What he was confused about, however, was the lack of a car. Angus was on the other side of the road, whacking his mobile phone on his palm. He looked angry.

Ian stumbled, but Paul held him up.

"What happened?" Ian asked, still a little unsteady.

"Not a clue," Paul admitted, happily. "I woke up on the floor, woke up the natty ponce," Paul said, gesturing towards Angus, "and then saw you were still on the floor."

"So, all three of us passed out?" Ian asked, a little worried.

"It might have just been coincidence..." Paul offered, but Ian shook his head.

"Too unlikely," Ian summarised. "Especially considering what we were doing."

Paul looked worried. Ian rubbed his face, trying to wake himself up. Ian knew the government were not above using nerve gas, but he wasn't sure that they would attempt to assassinate an MP. That was, if it was an assassination attempt. Ian looked around, expecting someone to leap out and arrest them.

Angus walked over, slamming his phone onto his palm for the last time. He angrily shoved it into his pockets, looking daggers at Ian.

"My phone's dead. No signal. Is this your lot?" Angus growled, looking at Ian.

"I have no idea!" Ian protested. "Honestly!"

"Yeah? And then where is my car?" Angus asked. "You were the only one who knew this was going on. Well, you and him."

Paul looked offended.

"Me? Why the hell would I blab about this? I'm the one trying to leave, ain't I?" Paul retaliated.

Paul and Angus started to steam at each other, and Ian felt the need to stop it before it had a chance to start.

"Shut up!" Ian interjected. Paul and Angus looked across at him. "Look, arguing isn't going to solve anything. The best thing to do is to get you two on that plane."

"What? So we can be arrested at the airport?" Angus snapped.

"If we were going to be arrested, don't you think we would have woken up in a determent camp, not on the road minus a car?" Ian said, gesturing.

Angus couldn't think of anything to argue back with, and instead silently fumed. Paul turned to Ian, ignoring Angus.

"I think you're right. If we're screwed, we're screwed. We might as well try."

Ian nodded, but had an amendment.

"I think we might want to call by my office," Ian started. "You can come in as a police escort, and no one will mind Angus. Apart from me, of course. I can ask if anything's afoot."

Paul nodded slowly, but he looked a little nervous. Angus just seemed pissed off at the whole event. Ian was sure it wasn't really Angus being a git on purpose, but he was just worried about his family. Well, maybe.

They started to walk towards the main road, as it was always easier to catch a taxi from a more obvious place. Angus stayed behind Paul and Ian, still trying to get a signal on his phone. Ian looked up at Paul, who was looking oddly at the sky.

"What's the matter?" Ian asked, trying to see what Paul was looking at.

"Nothing much," Paul said, unconvincingly. "It just seems... weird."

"What, the conking out?"

"No, the city," Paul frowned. "I've lived in this city all my life, and I've never seen the air this clear."

Ian shrugged.

"Maybe it's just a nice day?" Ian suggested.

"Hmm..." Paul wondered aloud.

Ian looked around as they walked onto a main road. It was thick with people. Absolutely every inch of space was packed with breathing people. Ian had never seen London this bad. His first thought was that there had been a riot, or an explosion. Some massive event to pull everyone out of their work and homes.

Ian noticed both Angus and Paul looking confused. Angus had stopped fiddling with his phone, and looking startled at the crowd. Paul walked forward, then back.

"Ian..." Paul started. "I don't recognise this street. And that's fucking weird, 'cause I know every street in London. I've been arrested on most of 'em in my youth."

Ian listened, too confused to ask any questions.

"It looks the same as..." Paul trailed off, tracing it with his finger, "but none of the shops..."

Angus grabbed Ian's arm.

"Hislop," Angus whispered, "something's not right."

Ian could only nod.

"We need to get to Parliament," Angus said. "Whatever's going on, I can bet it's going on there."

Ian was inclined to agree, but he wasn't going to risk the snaking crowd to get a taxi. Paul looked like he would, but then he stopped dead. Angus followed Paul's eyes, and spoke quietly.

"Oh my sainted aunt," he whispered.

There, in all its former glory, was the curling question mark building of the only thing Margret Thatcher feared. The British Broadcasting Corporation. The three letters blazoned out on the sunny sky, daring anyone to take them down. BBC.

Ian's eyes went wide. It was... impossible. Absolutely impossible. Ian had been at the destruction, he had seen the building fall. Hell, he had even kicked the foundation stone for a joke. There were only flats left, two towers on each side. It was completely, entirely and pointlessly stupid to deny that the building hadn't been destroyed.

But there it was.

Angus ran towards it, Paul quickly following. Ian found himself going alongside for some reason, attracted to the amazing impossibility. Angus bolted into the car park, used to the building from his days working there.

Angus climbed over the barrier without a thought, and Paul jumped over it like a shot. Ian was more careful, walking in between the small gap. It was as if they were children climbing a tree. Only when they reached a bolted door asking for an access card did they stop.

Angus looked at the door, obviously itching to get inside. His hands felt over the handle, desperate for it to open, but knowing it wouldn't. All three were out of breath, only Paul breathing slightly more steadily.

"HOW?" Angus mouthed, barely making any noise. "How, how, how, and, again, HOW?"

Paul looked around the car park, startled at everything.

"Those cars are German!" he shouted, pointing at a green BMW.

Ian couldn't see anything. Everything was a red haze of confusion. None of this was possible. Absolutely nothing.

"Dorothy," Paul said, turning to Ian with a wicked grin on his face. "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."