[Fandom] Repo! The Genetic Opera
[Notes/Summary] After Marni's death, Mag visits Nathan.
The street is silent even after she steps out of the car. A pale sky hangs above her, half-covered by drones and screens and rooftops. Every so often, her own face flickers on the screens, her own voice is music on the air. It's always felt a little like she is watching someone else – the person she can see now is hardly the body she lived in day-to-day without ever seeing – and today she does not recognise herself at all. The woman singing looks happy.
Tears feel cooler with her new eyes. She blinks them back, walks to the gate.
She didn't want to come and Rotti didn't think she should come: he will want to be left alone, with his grief, he won't want to be seen like that... he will know you miss her too, you don't need to say it.
Rotti would know, of course. He's buried more than one wife.
She doesn't know why she thought that.
She has to ring the bell several times before there is any sign of life, and several more before the gate swings open and she can walk up the path. Already the garden looks overgrown and faded. The lower half of the glass panel of the front door is smashed and has been boarded up.
Nathan is standing in the hallway. He looks exhausted. He looks far worse than that. Sometimes Mag wonders if everything looks more to her – if a sunset which screams beauty to her is average to those who were born with their sight – but her gaze meets Nathan’s through the glass and she wants to look away. Now she thinks Rotti might have been right. Why did she come? What can she say?
“May I come in?”
He nods, barely, and she steps over the threshold. The house is dark. It smells of disinfectant and that sends her back for a moment to the hospital, lying on thin crisp sheets with her eyes bandaged and numb and Marni squeezing her hand. It smells of disinfectant and under that of stale air.
What can she say? I’m sorry was what she thought she was here for, but that makes it sound like Nathan is the only one with the loss. Marni was her best friend. Nathan may have lost his wife and child but for Mag, Marni has always been there, a touch on the hand or the arm, a voice on the edge of laughter, a whisper at her ear. Marni knows Mag better than Mag herself does.
Nathan’s voice is very dry. He swallows and tries to speak again: “You must hate me.”
Mag is shaking her head automatically and at the same time she is wondering if the stupid, selfish thoughts that why did Nathan get to be with her at the end and not me – what if I had been there and could have done something are showing on her face. Nathan is barely looking at her. He stares out at the empty street and the sky. The pale light is reflected in his glasses, covering his eyes. “I tried to save her. I tried, I didn't want…” His voice shakes a little. He swallows it back: “What did Rotti tell you?”
“He said that she had an unexpected reaction to some medication. That she collapsed and there was nothing either of you could do.”
It sounds so calm when she quotes it like that. Well, why shouldn’t Rotti have been calm? Mag and Marni had laughed – a laugh with an edge to it, where if you make something funny it stops you being uneasy – about how Rotti had still been holding a torch for Marni, how he’d basically sobbed into his drink at her wedding – but more recently, the cloud around him had lifted. He’d wished her and Nathan all the best. He had cut himself loose from caring, when Mag and Nathan had not.
Nathan nods, slowly. He seems to slump, as if he’d been expecting something more.
“The… the child…” The words are slow, as if he is testing out what saying them will actually be like. “The child was… was lost too.”
Mag swallows back more tears. Marni pale and sweating, on a drip, in one of the bad times: you’ll be there, if I don’t make it? You’ll tell her how much I loved her? Do the mom things for me?
I promise. But I won't have to. You’ll be there to tell her yourself.
Marni had laughed. Of course… you can see everything with your up-to-the-minute GeneCo visual technology… Clutching her hand. I’ll believe you. But you promise, anyway?
Well, that came to nothing.
“If… if there’s anything I can do –” she begins, as if she is trying to remind Nathan that she was Marni’s friend, that Marni asked for her help, that somehow she can fix this –
Nathan is already shaking his head. “I… I’m fine. There’s nothing I… Rotti has… has helped. He’s been… he’s been… very good to me.” He’s trembling. “More than I deserve. He… he tried to… to fix things…”
It is like being blind again. Being blind and knowing there is something you don’t know, that what you are hearing is telling you more than you realise. Mag stares at him and he probably still isn’t used to being looked at from those eyes because he won’t meet their gaze. He swallows again.
“There’s nothing you can do,” he says, and the plain misery in his voice hurts to hear. “It’s over. Please don’t… please don’t feel you owe me anything. You were her friend, not mine. Rotti will be keeping you busy enough, I’m sure.”
Mag doesn’t stay long after that. There doesn’t seem to be much point. In the car, being driven back to her apartments, buildings and screens sliding by above her, she stares out at the empty sky. She feels as though she saw something without knowing what it was. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t call it back to mind now.
[Title] Maze of Silence
[Fandom] Blake’s 7 / Portal
[Notes/Summary] Post-series (spoilers for Blake's 7) Avon finds himself with a possible new ally.
Avon finds himself in the now.
One of many. A group composed of refugees, criminals, smugglers, and lunatics. No, not that one. He doesn’t know the names of any of this group. They are just rats, in hiding on a cargo ship, hitching a ride away from the Federation hotspot they found themselves in.
He found himself standing over Blake’s corpse with a gun in his hand and he found himself the only one alive and he found himself behind bars with no one left to betray.
He found himself caught up in someone else’s escape and he found himself sleeping rough and he found himself following when one of the other tramps said, We should get out of here – they’re doing clean-up, we’ll be shipped off to a mine if we’re lucky – I heard the Lazarus is looking the other way, we get on that we make it to Bravo Sigma at least –
And now he finds himself among endless corridors of corrugated shipping containers, orange and blue and green. The only light is from far above, lost in a web of girders. People keep away from him. He thinks he might have done something at some point that makes people wary. Well, no harm in that.
The people are a stinking mass that watch him and sometimes, when someone’s had a drink, try to talk to him, but mainly just watch and whisper.
Food runs low. Barter turns into outright theft. Avon became used to hunger, at some point, so he doesn’t bother to get involved with these games. Once, the thought in his head Vila would be a useful person to have around, Vila can find food anywhere comes so loud that it’s like someone else said it in his ear. That’s not a good sign. He doesn’t think about them. About any of them.
Someone else is there. Someone who runs along the tops of the shipping containers, clambers between them like they are giant steps. He is listening to other people talk about her. Someone says, she’d be a good friend for you. Never talks, never trusts anyone. You’re like twins.
Avon hadn’t realised that he wasn’t talking. He had assumed he just didn’t remember doing so.
He hears her, the clank and clatter of her footsteps, the gasp as she lands.
Perhaps she’s heard the gossip too. At any rate, he finds himself… dizzy, and dry-mouthed, and wondering why he didn’t end it sooner, why he has left himself to starve, which is slow and uncomfortable and undignified, a stupid way to go – and being a shrivelled corpse to trip over in the dark leaves you still here –
He is sitting with his back against metal and he hears it shudder as she runs along it. The shuddering stops.
He finds himself looking up at her. A wary gaze. Brown eyes. She holds a bottle of water to his lips.
He hadn’t realised quite how thirsty he was.
She doesn’t run. She stays sitting with him in the half-dark. Every so often, she gives him some of her water. She is constantly watchful. Whenever she hears anything that could actually be a person – as opposed to the endless creaks and groans of the walls and the containers and the ship flying through empty blackness – she is on her feet, poised to run or to climb.
He finds himself conscious again. She has shared her food with him, too. Small bites of synthetic freeze-dried somethings. She is sitting next to him. He turns to look at her and she meets his eyes with an expression that doesn’t hope for anything. It just says, This is how things are. They could be worse.
A Federation laboratory, someone said. She was like a rat in a maze. Or, a place where something went wrong. She should have died. She never speaks. She hasn’t got a name. All she ever does is run and hide.
It’s only now someone else is there that he realises how silent everything is. Aboard the Liberator no one would ever stop talking, about freedom and justice or the best place to find illegal blaster components or the tricky landings they pulled off or how much they could do with a drink and didn’t want to die.
He doesn’t want to speak and hear no one to talk back.
He wonders if that’s why she doesn’t talk, too.
In the darkness, they’re coming back. He wakes thinking he can see them. He sleeps and fires the shot over and over and over. On the outside he is nothing. Every so often, she makes him eat and drink. Sometimes he sees pity in her eyes but if she catches him looking, she hides it. He thinks she knows some of what happened. She can trace scars along his hands and arms. She has fewer. A knot of tissue on one arm from a bullet. Tiny silver specks, perhaps from sparks. She’s never warm.
As soon as he speaks, the rot will set in, the way it always does.
Besides, if he did speak, and she spoke back, each of them would see the other for what they are, which is, no doubt, flawed and broken and stupid. So he stays silent. She stays with him.
[Title] Everyone Has Limits
[Fandom] Malory Towers / Harry Potter
[Rating] PG-13 for non-graphic torture
[Notes/Summary] Set during Deathly Hallows. Alicia is confident she can cope with the difficulties of being at Hogwarts. The others aren't so sure.
Alicia opens her eyes. Above her is the Gryffindor common room ceiling. Warm wooden rafters. A few faded forgotten Quidditch decorations.
Neville and Ginny and Mary-Lou are all crowded round her, staring at her, looking as worn out and wretched as if someone has died. Maybe someone has. Alicia clutches at memory, trying to work out if she knows who, if it’s someone she can afford to care about.
No. Not a death. Something –
I was –
Her mind is swampy. Bits of the day stick up from it. Cold porridge at breakfast. Still no owl from Mother. Muggle Studies first thing, and…
“Are you all right?” Neville says, keeping his voice low as if she’ll be frightened of him.
Alicia starts to say, “Yes, I think so,” but has to stop, try and clear her throat. Her voice is hoarse even when she finishes the sentence. Mary-Lou is scrambling up to fetch some water. Her face is red, her eyes swimming with tears. They were sitting next to each other in class. They were sitting in class –
That stupid Carrow woman said to me, Stand up, and –
Alicia shivers and it rips through her as if she has a fever. Her mouth hurts, tastes of blood. She’s bitten her tongue.
“It’s okay,” Neville says, hastily. “It’s okay. They said… they said you’d… learnt your lesson. They’re not going to… they’re not…”
“They’re not coming after us,” Ginny says. “I mean, we’re supposed to be in Transfiguration now but I don’t think anyone cares.”
Alicia nods. Yes. Sometimes things happen to people and they’re not in the next class, or not there for the rest of the day, or sometimes you never see them again. Realising that she is the one who is not there and this is the disappearing is making her feel dizzy.
“Why were you such an idiot?” Ginny snaps, the words bursting out of her like she’s been waiting to say them for hours. Mary-Lou and Neville are both staring at her in shock but she practically shoves them away: “It was like you were trying to make Alecto notice you! Muggle Studies isn’t that boring!”
Alicia wonders if she can scramble out of the chair and just walk away. She isn’t sure. Her legs feel wobbly, and collapsing onto the floor wouldn’t make anything better. Besides, it would suggest she thought Ginny was right.
Shrugging, she says, “She started picking on me and I didn’t see why I needed to pretend she was talking any sense. You know I don’t suffer fools gladly.”
Ginny actually lets out a shriek of frustration, leaps to her feet. “Could you stop being Nothing-Bothers-Me-Alicia for one minute? Don’t you think we’re kind of beyond that?”
“Stop it,” Mary-Lou whispers, and Ginny does, because it’s Mary-Lou asking.
“We know what you’re like,” Neville says. “But you don’t… you can’t… you made her really angry. I mean… I thought she was just going to keep doing it until – until –”
He’s gone white. Alicia stares at him.
“Crucio on its own doesn’t kill you,” she says, and wonders why she sounds like the one who’s missing something.
“It does other things,” Neville says, flatly. “You think you can just keep going because you’re strong and you’ll just put up with it but… it doesn’t work that way. Not if they keep on. Just – stop thinking you can take it. We’ve got to… we’ve got to protect ourselves, okay?”
“Right,” Ginny says, prodding her hard in the arm. “I don’t see you flying your broom into a wall just because otherwise you’re weak. So just keep your head down. Act like you’re traumatised.” She runs her hands over her face, into her hair. “I hate it too, all right? But I thought you might be dead, I thought maybe your heart had just stopped or something and don’t you ever scare me like that again, you don’t want to know what I’ll do to you.”
Mary-Lou is silent, just squeezing Alicia’s shoulder. It’s later, when the two of them are alone in the corridor attempting to make it to supper, that she whispers, “I’m sorry.”
Alicia's heart pounds, but her voice is perfectly steady as she says, “Donkey. You don’t have anything to be sorry for.”
“I know what you did,” Mary-Lou says. “She was about to start talking to me, and you…”
Mary-Lou always sitting with her head bowed, staring desperately at her book. As if that will save her. Alicia itches to shake her.
Alecto Carrow stops at the end of their desk, her latest disgusting sentence ending in a question. Mary-Lou, next to Alicia, is trembling.
What else can Alicia do but say, Well, you could put it that way. But you wouldn’t, if you’d ever met a Muggle. Don’t you know that?
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
There are red crescents scratched into her palms.
“You know just what I’m talking about,” Mary-Lou says. “You can… you can pretend all you want that you don’t. Fine. I… I’m just saying, next time, you can’t do that. If I have to… if they… I’ll be all right. If it happens. It… it hurts and then it’s over and I’ll be all right. You don’t need to…”
Alicia can remember herself screaming, over and over, Please. Please stop. Please stop. She doesn’t think she’s ever said that before. She doesn’t beg people.
She shrugs. “If it makes you feel better, I’ll try to be a little less me. No more silly risks. Now let’s get to dinner before we get stuck with the leftovers.”
Mary-Lou nods. When they’re almost at the Great Hall doors – to make sure Mary-Lou won’t have time to respond – Alicia whispers in her ear, “Don’t get any stupid ideas about getting yourself hurt to pay me back. It’s not – you’re not quite all right after.” Mary-Lou flinches against her, but Alicia has already pushed the door open.
[Title] Butter Side Up
[Fandom] Inception / Red Dwarf
[Notes/Summary] After the events of canon, Cobb finds a new line of work. This time it's getting people out of dreams.
Cobb can always tell when it’s Better Than Life. The world has a sheen to it. Every sunset feels like one to watch from the top of a hill. Every glass of water’s deliciously cool. It’s always a great song playing on the radio.
And the toast always lands butter side up. This is the best way to get it through to people that they’re stuck in an immersive and illegal video game. You get them to a kitchen and drop toast after piece of toast. People start listening to you once you’ve done this with ten or so.
Not that it’s just his skill with toast letting him carve out a niche for himself as part of the addiction control team. These days he can smile and mean it, and he’s got a convincing smile. He’s got practice getting people to trust him. He’s never getting sucked into the game himself, no matter how many times it starts to shape itself around his mind and he gets the call from Mal that she’s alive, that it was a mistake, she’s on her way if he’ll just wait for her…
And he can say to the people they send him in to bring back, Look, I get it. Being able to shape your own world is the most addictive drug there is. I’ve been there and mean it. Some of them, the ones who’ve got someone to go back to, he can talk them through how the version of their husband or kids isn’t the one they’ve left behind. He’s almost sure that’s true. James and Philippa show up in the game, too, sometimes, as it tries to shape itself into something resembling his real life, but better. He’s positive that the game versions are just a little too clean, too cheerful, too smart. That even if he wasn’t expecting it, he’d be able to tell.
Some people, of course, don’t have much to go back to. The ones who are homeless or starving or just living with nothing. Of course he gives them the spiel about how the addiction workers will help them rebuild their lives, how a journey of a thousand miles, etc, etc, but sometimes, the ones who aren’t buying it (and why should they?) he tells them about dreaming. That if you know where to look, you can get the means to dream up your own world. That you’re not killing yourself like you are in this game. That you’re just asleep. Putting them onto the methadone equivalent. At least then they can wake in between, eat something, and won’t throw themselves down stairs in the real world thinking they’re diving into an Olympic-size pool or whatever.
Some of them still don’t buy it. These are the ones who don’t believe it’s a game at all, who’ll swear blind this is their life and this is their kids. Some of them, the game even starts screwing with the toast trick. Makes a few fall butter side down because what they want most at this moment is not to question the nature of the reality they’ve found themselves in.
Cobb knows a few ways to reach them. The world will manufacture him the kit to get into a dream within this dream. Ideas can be planted. But he's not going to go down that road again. The game is a game and no matter how tight its grip on its victims, he knows he can beat it. Throw dreams into the mix, and you might never wake up.