Being Human: Sleep of Reason [Hal/Rook] 6/? co-written w/ shirogiku

Jan 26, 2014 16:34

Title: “Sleep of Reason”
Author: shirogiku, Shaitanah
Rating: NC-17
Timeline: post-vampire revolution
Summary: Hal Yorke took three things from Rook: his job, his integrity and his faith. To get them back, Rook gambles everything he's got left. [Hal/Rook, Hal/Cutler]
Disclaimer: Being Human belongs to Toby Whithouse and the BBC.
A/N: Welcome to Part II where characters lose jobs, lives and occasional principles!

Part I. Chapter 1 | Part I. Chapter 2 | Part I. Chapter 3 | Part I. Chapter 4 | Part I. Chapter 5

Part II

Chapter 6

Cutler was in Rook's office besieging him about his public image and other miscellaneous matters.

He flinched into awareness at the snap of Cutler's fingers. “Excuse me, I was…”

He cast about for something that could have plausibly occupied his mind and spotted the obvious irregularity: an open pack of Jaffa cakes had appeared near the right corner of his desk.

Cutler snorted and finished for him: "Daydreaming. It happens.” He sounded downright malicious. “Perhaps you need another road trip. You never did share with the rest of the class how you’d spent your big adult weekend.”

Winter had turned into spring, if in name only, and Cutler was still bitter about the whole affair. That was the problem with their kind: short attention span pitted against the inability to let go.

Rook checked the desk drawer: Cutler had indeed been filching his emergency stash in front of him without him noticing.

He said through gritted teeth: “Back to the matters at hand, if you don't mind.”

"Oh, I expect your hand will be awfully busy in the near future... with signing all that paperwork.” Cutler paused theatrically. “Why, what did you think I was going to say?"

It couldn’t have escaped Cutler’s notice that ever since their return Hal had gone out of his way to keep Rook’s hands free of anything but paperwork.

Rook leaned over the desk, attempting to salvage the last biscuit, but the heinous pilferer evaded him. “Finders keepers, Dommy.”

“Not if they’re finders of Jaffa cakes that don’t belong to them.” He circled around the desk intently, armed with his pen.

Cutler took a step back, blinking. “Wait a moment, you’re not going to murder me over nibbles, are you?”

Rook said sweetly: “Isn’t that how family works, Cutler?”

Cutler held up the biscuit between them. “Look, the sponge is me.” Rook paused. “The jelly is you, I suppose. Tangy. And Hal’s the chocolate because he… keeps the family pressed tightly together, whether we want it or not.” Cutler grinned. “How do you like my metaphor? It’s absolutely not a thinly veiled hint at anything.”

Cutler could scarcely be seen wearing a tie to his day-to-day work. Perhaps he didn’t want to tempt people into gagging him with it.

Rook snatched the biscuit away and put it back into the pack, restoring it to its place in the drawer. He held up his palm. “And now the key, please.”

“You’re such a miser, Scrook.” Cutler let it drop with great reluctance. “You come over and listen to my music, don’t you? For free, no strings attached. And I don’t even make you watch me dance around to it.”

Rook locked the drawer. “If your dancing matches your singing, it’s not as much of a torture as you seem to believe.”

Cutler blinked again. “Oh my god, was that a compliment?”

“My biscuits are off-limits.” Rook fixed him with a flinty stare “The next time I catch you at it, you’ll wish you were repainting walls.”

He was referring to the incident during which he had been forced to mediate between Fergus and Cutler after Cutler's recruit had drawn something cubist on the palace wall, right on the eve of Hetty's return. Fergus had been shouting that he 'will fucking stake the pipsquad' and Cutler making speeches on the subject of ‘freedom of artistic expression’. Rook ended up personally supervising Cutler and his recruit repaint the wall.

“Well, that just means I won’t let you catch me.” Cutler winked.

After he left, Rook recalled another conversation - the one they’d had in November.

“You see, I don’t really like Hal,” Cutler had been saying conversationally. “And I’m not going to throw a hissy fit about you two having a spot of fun under a rock. Well, maybe a little - purely on principle. But the thing is I don’t actually mind Hal divvying up his amazing powers of making your life a living hell. How does the saying go? Misery loves bad company.”

“Technically speaking,” Rook had replied. “It was on a rock and in the general vicinity of rocks. But not under. And that’s all I’m going to disclose.”

* * *

Winter ended in a wet explosion of drizzle that painted bleary stains on misted over windows, making the city behind them look fantastically disheartening. Hetty was returning for the celebrations, which meant that Hal could most likely expect some nasty payback for the previous droll trick with the visa. He doubled his personal security just in case. Too bad he couldn't just clone Fergus.

Preparations for official events were perhaps the only thing Hal found drearier than the events themselves. Eventually his ennui got the best of him, and he decided to alleviate it by unexpectedly turning up at Cutler's quarters. Cutler was out, so Hal positioned himself on the bed with an issue of Regus's secretly published comics that Cutler secretly collected. He kept them in a shoebox under his bed, which was more than a little ridiculous but endearingly adolescent.

The protagonist, a quirky and overpowered vampire superhero bearing more than a passing resemblance to the author, was just about to single-handedly defeat an entire pack of werewolves standing between him and the shy, buxom librarian eager to find herself in his fervent embrace when Cutler entered the room and promptly froze on the doorstep.

“It's not what you think!” he blurted out.

“Oh, don't worry, I won't breathe a word to Regus.” Hal grinned. “I have to say his artwork has improved.” That girlfriend of his he had insisted on recruiting must be a real inspiration.

“Oh.” Cutler breathed out in relief. “Yes. Anyway, I only read it to accumulate joke material.”

“Of course.” Hal lowered his eyes back to the comic book as if he'd come here to read it. “He does draw better than your little plaything.”

Cutler scowled. “Like you understand modern art.” He demonstratively snatched the comic book away from Hal and put it back into his stash.

Hal gave him the look of utter shock.

“Did you just accuse me of not understanding art?”

Cutler stood with his arms akimbo. “Yes, I did. You're still stuck in the Middle Ages. In this day and age, voluptuous maidens and tortured saints aren’t art.” He failed to dodge the pillow that Hal sent flying in his face, and it muffled the next round of verbal projectiles. “Don't you have some other bed to invade?”

Hal huffed. First Cutler insulted him, then he told him to leave. What was the world coming to? He got off the bed and headed unhurriedly for the door.

“Hal, wait.” He felt Cutler’s grip on his forearm. “What are you really here for?”

“Well, I've already read all the books in the library and decided to raid your stash of trash novels and pulp comic books.” Hal turned around, looking at him with a playful smile.

Sometimes he did miss how uncomplicated Cutler was, especially compared to Rook. He seemed to have forgotten the punishment Hal had dealt him before leaving. Hal supposed he did miss him. That didn't excuse Cutler's actions of course, but Hal was willing to suspend any further chastisement for the time being.

Cutler trailed his hand down the front of Hal’s shirt, his fingers stopping at the belt buckle. He went down on his knees like a worshipper paying tributes. He always looked particularly good in this position, with that raw need in his eyes. Perhaps that was what really helped him get away with something every now and then. A cheeky comment here, a recruit there...

Cutler's mouth was hot and welcoming and his fingers dug into Hal’s thigh with a desperate need for ownership. Before long, he was straddling Hal, rocking his hips with growing urgency. Hal trailed his fingers down Cutler's spine, almost gently, making him tilt his head up, and bit his neck. Cutler was strangely silent today, but blood always spoke for itself.

Still, it was rewarding to hear Cutler say his name. No one ever did it quite like Cutler in the heat of passion. That was what he wanted from Rook, and he was not getting it. Then again, he enjoyed the differences between Cutler and Rook. Perhaps he shouldn't strive to eradicate them.

Cutler slumped bonelessly on the bed. Hal watched the bedspread crease and fold around him, his skin smeared with blood and sweat. He smiled flippantly and then affected the most innocent expression he could muster under the circumstances.

“Does this mean you will write my speech for the anniversary?”

Cutler made a sound that was a cross between a snort and a sigh.

“I knew you had an ulterior motive.”

* * *

Whilst the year had seemed interminable, the anniversary was upon them like all such things: a little too quickly.

Rook sat on the windowsill with his legs stretched out. There was a parade planned and he was supposed to be present, but he was reluctant to face the music.

Hal showed up unexpectedly, addressing him a bright smile. He had been half hoping that Hal had forgotten where his office was. “Mr Home Secretary. How come you're not at the parade yet?”

“My lord.” He checked his watch. “I was just about to go, in fact.”

He hadn’t known Hal was so invested in the event as to herd his staff to it personally.

“Somebody hasn't been checking deliveries.” Hal poked around the things that had been sent in lately. Some were bribes, some were gifts. He fished out a small case and approached Rook, opening it to reveal a beautiful and expensive Rolex.

Rook’s eyes widened, and he said immediately: “I couldn't possibly!”

What was Hal playing at this time? Rook would be attending the parade either way, without any extravagant incentives, and he didn’t need to be recompensed for anything. But then Hal might have set his sights on some future event that Rook ought to start dreading.

“You don't like it?” Hal frowned. “I thought I had a good idea of what might be to your liking, but if it's not, I can change it.”

Rook sighed irritably. “It's not that, Hal. It's the fact of you giving me such a lavish present.”

Hal himself might not have come from Greece - but his gifts qualified as such.

“Rubbish.” Hal took off Rook's old watch and put the Rolex on. “It looks good on you.”

It was silvery to match his prefered grey clothes and had virtually no inlay unlike other garish models. It fit as though it had always been there - and much better than its predecessor.

“It’s very... tasteful.” And suspiciously tame, by Hal’s standards. He would even go so far as to say it was the most thoughtful, not to mention the most expensive gift he had ever received, regardless of Hal’s current agenda. “Thank you.”

“You're welcome.” Hal stood effectively blocking Rook's way, not letting him get off the sill. He leaned to look down at the street, pressing himself closer to Rook. “You've got a good view here. We shall be able to see it all when it begins. It's about to.”

“Oh dear, we are going to be late!” He attempted to steer Hal away. “Hal - I am very grateful and I shall get you something in return first thing in the morning - but we really should go.”

“We should?” Hal looked at him enigmatically. “Says who?”

Rook reminded him: “It is customary - and only appropriate - for the heads of state to be present during such events.”

“We shall be present. Eventually.” Hal craned out his neck for a better look. “Oh, look, there's the march. It's begun.”

“You’ve got a special talent for upsetting order.” Rook turned away and propped himself up on his knees to watch.

“So do you.” Hal’s hand trailed up Rook's hip, giving him shivers.

“Do I?” It occurred to him that he couldn't have assumed a more inviting position.


Hal pressed closer, winding his arms around Rook, and placed his hand on Rook's belt buckle.

Rook rested his palms against the glass, watching but not seeing anything.

Hal slipped his hand under the waistband of Rook's underwear. “Look at all those people down there. They're really none the worse for it. A bit more bloodshed, sure, but on the whole, humans always survive like the parasites they are.” He squeezed harder. “Adaptable to anything.”

Hal's words sank through his skin and spread underneath like poison. That, or fresh blood. He gritted his teeth and clenched his hands into fists. “Manipulation through fear and occasional boons. They’re already forgetting it used to be any different. I wouldn’t call the state they've been reduced to 'none the worse'.”

Hal pressed his lips to the back of his neck, as if counting the vertebrae. “Stop making excuses for them, Dominic. You were never one of them.”

Rook shuddered, and whispered in a raw voice: “It had rather been my tragedy.”

“No, it hadn't been. Imagine being part of the cattle. A dumb, obedient animal.” Hal nipped at his neck. “Ripe for the slaughter.”

“As opposed to ripe for this?” He turned to glare at Hal.

But if he were to be completely honest with himself, he had rarely thought much of anyone. Humanity was difficult to appreciate on the individual scale.

“This is just something that brings us both pleasure.” He could hear the smirk in Hal’s voice as the hand moved slower and then faster again.

He swallowed a soft moan. “Too much.”

Hal whispered against his skin: “There is no such thing as ‘too much’. Only ‘not enough’.”

Rook reached behind himself and gripped Hal's thigh. “Show me.”

Hal pulled him down from the sill and undressed him briskly. Music from the parade thundered below the window like a tide. He had lived his entire life holding something back. Perhaps he should try the opposite, for once.

Hal sank his teeth into Rook’s shoulder, the drumbeat from below rolling through their bodies. That was vampire gentleness.

Outside, the world looked a bit like The Wall, evoking instinctive trepidation, perfectly matched by what Rook had just consented to.

* * *

The parade continued - and would continue until Hal arrived. Back at the stand, Hetty found it amusing that Hal was suddenly missing - along with the Home Secretary. She muttered, loud enough for those closest to her to hear: "They must be shagging. Either that, or Hal's afraid of me."

Cutler muttered under his breath: “Both. Definitely both.” He stepped forward and delivered the speech. He had written it, so the world needed to hear it.

* * *

Hal had gone still, struggling to catch his breath.

Rook turned around abruptly, not giving Hal any time to recompose himself. His knees buckled, but it paid off tenfold. Hal’s eyes were wide and gleaming and his lips parted, satisfaction and yet more hunger written all over him. He cupped the back of Rook’s head and pulled him into a fierce kiss.

It might not be the most pleasurable of their trysts but it was certainly educational. Rook trailed his hands down the sides of Hal's face, along his shoulders and arms, feeling muscle and tendon and bone. He had to remind himself that Hal wasn’t the consolation prize he sometimes appeared to be.

Hal slammed him against the wall without breaking the kiss. Whatever had come over him, Rook had caused it. He had made Hal lose all the pretenses, if only for a short while. It had to count.

His fangs grazed Hal's tongue, the taste of blood never leaving their mouths. His limbs tightened around Hal, holding him close, keeping him trapped.

Hal moaned. He was still mostly dressed in comparison and Rook tore at his clothes, heedless of the damage. Hal didn’t seem to care.

He shoved at Hal, pushing him away, and Hal flung most of his things off the desk. Paperwork scattered all over the floor, pens and paper clips raining down. Oh, he shouldn't have done that.

Hal pulled himself up to sit on the desk, lay back and parted his legs invitingly. His face was more animated than Rook had ever seen it.

Rook snarled, his eyes black and his fangs out. If they were keeping a score - and of course they were - Rook was going to win this round.

* * *

“I was told you had missed the parade." Mr Snow's voice was as calm and ingratiating as ever. Hal couldn't figure out whether Snow was angry or not.

“I was delayed.”

They had apparently fallen asleep. An explosion of fireworks had jolted him awake. He had tiptoed over to the window and peeked out. The sky had been painted a deep, appetizing shade of red.

"I'm sure the circumstances were very demanding." Hal suppressed a snort. They had been, very much so. "You have had your fun with Hetty, by the way. I don't want you to send her away again."

“She is trying to kill one of my most trusted lieutenants,” Hal protested.

"It's up to you to protect him then. Hetty stays."

Hal put down the receiver and cursed. Vindictive little bitch, Hetty was. If the circumstances had been different, perhaps they would have even got along.

Hal met with Fergus and told him Hetty was staying. Then he decided to pay Mr Home Secretary a visit. Rook was out. Hal lowered himself into the chair and waited. The office held no traces of what had transpired last night. All the writing utensils were aligned in perfect symmetry, leaving nothing for Hal to tinker with. The window was open and the room was well-aired. Rook was very good at eliminating the evidence.

The man himself presented a no less orderly picture upon his entrance. He paused for a moment, hovering on the doorstep, then shut the door carefully and wished Hal a good morning.

“There is nothing good about it, I assure you,” Hal said dryly, and continued without a preamble: “I want you to get rid of Hetty. I don't care how you're going to do it, just get it done. Make it an internal security matter or something. I will not have her on my soil longer than it takes to stake her.”

“I'll see what I can do, my lord,” Rook answered. “It might take some time.” Knowing Rook, he needed most of it to consider if Hal was setting him up to take the fall for Hetty's potential demise.

“Time is of the essence, Dominic. I have known Fergus for over one hundred and fifty years and he has been nothing but loyal. I don't intend to lose him now over some stupid argument.” Hal added: “I don't care if you have her killed or shipped off to Antarctica. Just as long as she is not here.”

He left without another word.

He had to admit he was curious how Rook would go about solving this problem. If he pinned Hetty's death on the resistance, Hal could use it as an excuse to tighten the screws on the resettlement camps. If he pinned it on someone on the inside, he would have to present the scapegoat for the inevitable retribution. Rook’s narcoleptic conscience might actually protest against that. It would be ideal if Hetty were simply to be swept under the rug. No witnesses, no evidence, and a cold trail.

Hetty’s favourite hobby had always been to pose as a human child, and these days she had to take trips to the countryside for such quality entertainment. Within the week that followed someone appeared to have conveniently tipped off one of the werewolf groups that weren't allied with the human resistance. That, in Hal's opinion, was genius. Nothing pointed at the Home Office's involvement, no shadows were cast on Hal himself. It was an accident - and Hal appreciated most of all that the last time he had seen Hetty she had been wearing a red dress. A charming modern retelling of The Little Red Riding Hood. He summoned Rook to his quarters.

“You look tired, Dominic.”

Rook had dark circles under his eyes that gave him quite a vampiric look.

“I feel fine, thank you.”

Hal approached him and brushed his fingers over the knot of Rook's tie.

“Efficient as always. Is there anything you can't do?”

Rook chuckled, startled. “Not outside of my work, no.” It must be nice to have his efforts appreciated.

“It's good that you're not shielding yourself with false modesty.” Hal slipped his hand into his pocket and held a familiar stopwatch out to Rook. Rook's fingers curled around the watch and he put it back into his own pocket, where it belonged.

“Thank you.”

Hal nodded. “You're welcome.” He returned to his desk. “Go eat something. Or someone. You justify the myths that claim vampires are ghoulish creatures.”

He let Rook go without any tricks this time. Even he occasionally had to actually work. Besides, he wanted Dominic to come back on his own terms. Hal had already figured out that letting Dominic think that something was his idea usually yielded remarkable results.

* * *

Rook's office had been invaded in his absence - a disturbing pattern right there. He clearly needed a more diligent PA.

"So, you can make people disappear just like that, Mr Copperfield?" Cutler snapped his fingers, spinning about in Rook's executive chair.

Rook gave him a dark look. “You’re still here, are you not, Cutler?”

"Don't worry, mate, your little secret is safe with me.” Cutler made a show of zipping up his mouth. It was a shame Rook couldn’t actually make that happen. “Personally, I think it was rather crafty. Never liked the snotty bitch anyway."

Rook hadn’t expected any different from him. He pulled out his stopwatch. “You have got one minute to make yourself scarce, Cutler.”

“Oh, that’s a new one.” Cutler got up and peered at it curiously. “A bit of a step down from the Rolex but then, can’t have all the cars and yachts at once, right?” Rook moved the watch out of Cutler’s reach when he attempted to touch it. “No, it must be a souvenir from the good old triple-D days. Feeling nostalgic again?”

Rook watched the seconds tick away impassively.

“Fancy that, now he's all high and mighty again!" Cutler brushed past him, murmuring, "Not so long ago you were, well, a rookie."

Rook didn't deign a comment. “Time's up, Cutler.” He took Cutler by the scruff of his shirt and dragged him out. “You shouldn't enter my office uninvited.” He closed the door on Cutler’s comeback.

He returned to his desk. Cutler had repositioned everything but the pencil stand by an inch. Crafty. He started putting everything back in order.

When he sat down, something sharp bit into his thigh. “Cutler!” It was a set of pins.

At least there hadn’t been any glue involved. His optimism lasted until he opened the desk drawers and discovered a minefield of ‘souvenirs’, ranging from peanut shells to cigarette ashes to used bubble gum. “Oh, for God's sake!”

He jolted to his feet and stormed off to the window, lighting a cigarette. He couldn't work in these conditions! And this after the trying clean-up!

Cutler's domestic terrorism disrupted his entire day and he left early, retreating into the library. On the way, he was struck by a terrible suspicion about the origin of his earlier laptop troubles.

* * *

"How very convenient," Snow remarked when Hal recounted to him the circumstances of Hetty's demise. "And how very tragic. She was such a lovely girl."

Lovely wasn't the first word Hal would choose to describe Hetty, but he didn't argue.

“Where are you these days?”

"It's a surprise."

Hal cautiously checked the corridor, just in case Snow was standing outside his door. Snow laughed.

"No, Hal, I am not that transparent."

The conversation had made Hal completely paranoid. He stationed secret police everywhere, and only half of it was on the alert for the resistance, while the other half was supposed to report to him if Snow should appear. Snow's surprise visits were really getting on Hal's nerves. The Old One had liked Hetty, and even though Hal did everything he could to convince him it had been an accident, he wondered if there was some retribution in store for him regardless.

To calm his frazzled nerves Hal withdrew into the library. It was empty; lately Regus had been rather neglectful of his duties in favour of romance. There was a sofa in the corner of the room heaped up with plaid blankets. Hal burrowed into them with a tattered copy of Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler from his personal collection and read quietly until his solitude was disturbed by Rook. The man clearly hadn’t noticed him and Hal didn’t bother catching his attention.

Looking around, Rook snatched a colourful book from a shelf and settled down to read in one of the chairs by Regus's desk. Hal quietly peeked out of blankets. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? He burrowed back in, making sure that even if he spoke, it would be difficult to tell at once where his voice was coming from. He waited for a few minutes until Rook was sufficiently immersed in the book, and then remarked:

“Your taste in literature seems to be degrading, Dominic. Should I be concerned?”

Rook started. “Goodness!” He looked around and fixed his gaze on the talking pile of blankets. “Now I know whom Cutler inherited his fondness for pranks from. If I find any more bubble gum in my office, I might blow up the blood storage myself.”

Hal's head emerged from the pile. “Bubble gum?” He laughed. “That's adorable. But I'll have you know that as much as I enjoy unsettling you, I wasn't specifically waiting for you here.”

“You meant 'deplorable', surely.” Rook sighed and waved the book in mid-air. “Not a word of this to anyone.” He put it aside and walked up to the sofa. Hal shuffled aside, letting him sit down.

Rook removed his jacket and his vest and set them aside. He seemed overwrought, and determined not to show it. It made his eyes even brighter. He turned to Hal, every bit an army commander leading a thousand men into battle, and kissed him hastily. Hal raised his eyebrows, feigning surprise. Well, feigning ninety per cent of surprise. The rest was genuine. He carefully put the book away and gave Rook a daring look.

“I think we could put that stopwatch of yours to some creative use.”

Rook pulled the item out of his pocket, a startled smile tugging at his lips. “I'm open to suggestions.”

Rook made quite the opponent in every field Hal engaged him in. The pupil was clearly trying to surpass the teacher. Hal half-detested and half-enjoyed the fact that Rook was so eager to throw Hal’s own dirty moves back at him, but there was nothing surprising about it: he acquired this boldness the same way he had acquired his fangs.

“I remember we talked about going to France,” said Hal, afterwards. He stood on his knees on the sofa, caught Rook by the wrist and pulled him closer, effectively interfering with his attempts to get dressed. “How about next weekend? Unless...” He sucked on Rook's earlobe playfully. “You've got other plans and I can't...” he swept his tongue over the rim of Rook's ear, “change your mind.”

Behind them something fell. Hal looked over Rook's shoulder and saw Regus who accidentally dropped a stack of papers. The Vampire Recorder paled and hunched his shoulders.

"I'm sorry, I'm just.... I'm gonna... go," he mumbled, and withdrew as swiftly as though he had had magical aid. Hal burst out laughing.

“Oh, people will talk.”

“They have been talking ever since we failed to show up at that parade,” Rook pointed out crossly. Doubtless he belonged to those men who hated it when their private life became public, but here it was a consequence of having a private life.

“No, Dominic, they have been talking since I recruited you.” Hal sat back on the sofa, unabashedly naked. “Guessing, wondering, gambling. It keeps them entertained. You know, since we sort of... ate most of Hollywood.”

Rook pursed his lips. He couldn't argue with that.

“I never cared for Hollywood either way.”

“Remind me to further your cultural education when I've got a spare minute. Mind you, Hollywood as it was when we started this glorious revolution fully deserved its fate.” Hal wrinkled his nose. “But if you are unfamiliar with the Golden Age, then... we shall have to correct that unfortunate mistake.”

“Fair enough. Rook splayed his fingers over Hal's chest and whispered into his ear: “Always looking forward to getting... educated.”

* * *

If there was something to be said for the blood storage room at the Château Fangs, it was a perfect spot for an ambush.

Regus puttered in, took a bottle and drank like someone was going to take it away from him any second now.

“Burn the libraries down!” Cutler jumped from out of the corner, grinning smugly, a half-empty bottle in his hands. Every superhero needed a supervillain and suchlike, never mind that Cutler deserved a whole league better.

Regus dropped the bottle. “Fuck me! Don't do that, you bloody wanker!”

“Ouch.” He laughed. “What got you so worked up, Team Edward? You look like something’s just scared the living daylights out of you.” He would have been pleased if it had been him.

Regus glowered at him, then sighed. “You know how sometimes the blokes here see things they aren't supposed to see or talk about stuff they aren't supposed to talk about - and then the staff complains that the hoover has malfunctioned because there's unexpectedly too much dust everywhere?”

Cutler rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure. So?” Just because they were living la vida Gestapo now didn’t mean he had to spend his every waking moment quivering in fear.

“So I just saw something and I'm wondering how mad Hal's gonna be.” Regus gulped down half of the bottle.

“Hmm…” He pretended to ponder over it. “That entirely depends on the swing of his mood.”

If someone ever asked him to explain the regime in three words or less, that was what he would say: Hal’s mood swings.

“Yeah, well, not my fault that he's got his bedroom shenanigans going on in my library!” Regus pursed his lips. “I work there. It's my work place. Do I come to his office to have sex? No, I don't!”

“I’d like see you try... “ Hal had never had any qualms about taking his fun to Cutler’s, but that was ancient history. “Hang on, shenanigans with whom?”

“What do you think? Hal version 2.0, who else?” Regus cradled the bottle nervously in his hands.

“Fucking hell!”

That was so below the belt that he almost suspected Regus of having him on, except the old geek didn't have the wits to. Well, he had just floored him with that lovely nickname, Hal version 2.0, but that hadn’t been intentional so it didn’t count.

“Hello, details, please? What exactly were they doing?”

“Having sex, duh! Look, I didn't stay to watch. But Hal was very-very naked and it looked like they'd had a few rounds before I walked in.”

Cutler tossed his bottle into the bin in barely suppressed fury, and said through gritted teeth: “Well, good luck not getting hoovered.”

He turned around and knocked down a row of bottles like they were bowling pins before stalking off.

He was going to give Hal a piece of his mind and not even his Nazi routines or his new wonderboy were going to stop him.

Hal was in bed, sleeping like a log, and Cutler stopped himself just short of dragging him out of it or hitting him with one of those expensive bedside lamps.

“So what's next on the agenda? Screwing at the parade and not instead of it? On top of a Union Jack, perhaps?”

Hal opened his eyes lazily. “That's a very delayed reaction, I should say. The parade was a long time ago.”

“The library was today and people are talking.” Cutler's eyes bore into Hal accusingly. He had expected more sense, if not from Hal, then from the other one. “You think you've got him eating out of your hand?” He snorted derisively. Hal tended to forget people weren’t actually his toy collection in the attic. “What's really happening here is he's waiting for a chance to stab you in the back. How do you know you won't end up like Snotty? They're already calling him ‘Hal 2.0.’! The upgraded version!”

Hal laughed. “Is that so? ‘Hal 2.0’? I'm flattered. Is that why you're here, yelling at me? Because they don't call you that?”

Cutler struggled with the age-old anger flaring up inside him. He thought he had got wise. Apparently not. Hal could still corner him with nothing but words.

He didn’t want to be Hal 2.0. He didn’t want to hide from phone calls from Mr I-Ate-My-Dentist and pretend starved humans tasted just as good.

He didn’t want the fear, the banners, the pomp.

Yeah, right.

He said through gritted teeth: “You might have found your ideal recruit this time. And one day you might just find yourself disappeared, this time for good. That’s all.” He turned to leave.

“That would be touching if it came from anyone but you.” Hal turned his back on him. “Next time would you please hold your emotional eruption until such time as I was not asleep? Oh, and Cutler? Make sure the Eurostar express is ready for the weekend. I'm going to Paris.”

“What? What do you mean 'coming from anyone but me’?” He didn't get his reply so he hissed: “Buy your bloody honeymoon tickets yourself!”

He took care to slam the door on his way out.

The next morning he showed up at the anteroom that passed for his office, habitually late, and found the frame of his diploma peeking out of a cardboard box.

Some suited-up bimbo was warming his seat.

“The hell? Who’re you?”

She looked up, unperturbed. “Karen.” She pointed at the nameplate. “I'm Lord Hal's PA. Do you have an appointment?”

Cutler was struck speechless with sheer disbelief. Finally, he stuttered: “N-no, sorry, wrong room.” He glanced at Hal’s door. “Have a nice day.”

He had probably made it sound like DIAF.

He grabbed the box and fled, going over his belongings obsessively. Hal’s reaction to his car models sprang to mind, another sore spot. He should have known everything was going to hell when Hal sneered at his collection and refused to let him keep it here. If Hal expected him to beg the nightmarish job back, he was in for a disappointment.

He stormed back, ignoring the bimbo’s bewildered look, and grabbed a stapler. “This stapler? Mine. Oh, and don’t cut yourself on the mouse mat.” She had no right to touch his things.

He wandered outside of the palace grounds and sat down on the kerb, rocking back and forth, a lump in his throat. His eyes prickled. It wasn’t about any one thing - he just hated the circus his life had turned into.

He took out his diploma, fogged it up with his breath and wiped it off with his sleeve.

ch: fergus, sleep of reason, being human, fanfiction, ch: mr snow, ch: nick cutler, slash, ch: hal yorke, ch: regus, shirogiku, p: hal/cutler, ch: hettie, p: hal/rook, tv, ch: dominic rook

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