Dedication:
For Connie, because I love you and it was your birthday and I said I would and it was originally your idea and… and… you're special, so you shall have fics forevermore. *glompcuddle*

Disclaimer: Chix Verbil and any other recognized characters from the Underground belong to Eoin Colfer and all his publisher-types.
Author's Note: Some flamer - I can't remember who, I can't even remember whose fic it was in response to - once said something to the effect of "this is as implausible as Chix Verbil being gay!!1!!@!!11ELEVEN!" And, unfortunately, it was not for a fic of which I would have agreed with their assessment on it. I took it up as a challenge. And Connie (Ophelia who is Insane – ) thought up the 3rd Wonder of the AF fandom - Chix/Trouble/Grub (the first being Holly/Juliet (credited to Kitty Rainbow), the 2nd being "Artemis inserted the miracle of nanotechnology" (credited to Eoin Colfer conveniently not knowing just how dirty Biz's mind is)). I don't know what Connie was on at the time, but it was probably something quite good.
A/N 2: How about I just label this AU because no one will really believe me when I say this is completely reasonable in everything except the fact that I have Chix fly when in TAI they said he'd never fly again. Oh, I also have fairies saying fuck, but that's just because the mood, the emotion and scenes, can't be seen properly by abusing Irish for swear words. For one thing, people generally end up swearing about having to speak in Irish. I use fuck for the same reason as people say 'Shit' instead of 'Schweeps', it's just doesn't have the same effect to use a substitute.

If something is so improbable, then it is highly likely to be true. Those who talk most are hiding the most. Million in one chances crop up nine times out of ten...

It was on the grapevine within 20 minutes. Corporal Simons hearing it from Private Poliiski, who overheard Constables Stouse and Burgress talking about it when taking in some files to sign. Who'd found out from Dartt, who'd run into the cafeteria while Captain Wells was telling Corporal Daigan, who had heard it from Constable MacNain, who'd seen a copy of the accusation on Foaly's computer screen, who'd hacked into the Commander's records. Where there was a file reported by Private Katrien about an overheard moment of Grub Kelp's life. Which Root had only been reading for amusement's sake.

Imagine... Chix Verbil being gay?

The Grapevine really was a wonderful source of amusement.


lost in eyes, in bodies, in movement, in colours of black and green and skin and hair and darkness…

light…

lost…

As he walked through the doors of Police Plaza the secretary - by name of Joleen, or maybe it was Joanne - turned to watch him. This was in no way unusual, since all the girls were always watching Chix Verbil, Casanunda extraordinaire, the regular Casanova of the Underground. He gave her a dazzling smile and watched her melt. She blushed and lowered her gaze to her computer screen, but he felt her eyes on the back of his neck as he moved down the corridor. He grinned.

At the junction between the police workstations and the lifts for the main admin there was a small group of female personnel, all of whom Chix knew personally. He turned the grin towards them, focusing on a gorgeous corporal he'd been trying to gain the attentions of for about a month. They giggled then crowded in closer, whispering to each other. Their eyes flicked up towards him on occasion, the giggling continuing.

Chix strolled into the workstations, plucking his files from the manned office near the door.

"Hows you been, Thompson? How long are you stuck with desk duty?"

"Oh, Verbil! I didn't see you there." Thompson – a rather pathetic young pixie - blushed, meeting Chix's eyes then looking away again. Chix thought it slightly odd, but didn't put much on it – he generally didn't pay much attention to Thompson, since he was a boring person.

"At least you didn't manage to smell me, no' like that time after the sulfur pit collapse last month."

"Yeah. At least I couldn't smell you." Thompson was distracted, but Chix didn't really care.

"See ya round, 'kay. You need to join me and the guys sometime for a coffee." It was a shallow invitation, one of courtesy not desire for Thompson's presence.

"Yeah… Perhaps."

Chix moved on without another word, because another load of pathetic pleasantries was really unnecessary. He nodded at a few of the guys, a few of the girls. And, again, they blushed. He wondered vaguely whether he had something stuck on his forehead as he sat down at his cubicle.

Chix picked up the top file, speculating with a bit more of his distracted mind what was happening in the Plaza that he hadn't noticed, since no one would meet his eyes, the whispers were a bit quieter than usual and… the air was different - everyone was waiting for something to happen. They were looking at him, inexpertly pretending – still amateurs even after so many decades of gossip, he was much better at looking with no one knowing - that they weren't. And, as people unconsciously do when they feel eyes upon them, Chix ran a hand through his hair, questioning what about his presence was so out of place.

Jenny from the Traffic offices came over when Commandant Rockwell had passed by. She knelt beside Chix's desk so she couldn't be seen – incriminated - from other parts of the room. She looked around, scared that someone would see her. "Soo… What's it like?"

"What's what like?"

"You know, Chix…"

Chix's brow creased in confusion. "No, I don'. What?"

She giggled. "You must know what I'm talking about. Everyone's saying about how you and… Well, I can't believe that you'd do that. In the Commander's office as well! That would just be dirty."

"What did I do in the Commander's office, and who with?" Chix was nervous… His blood pressure was rising, pulsing in his wing where he had been shot by a Softnose a few years ago. Adrenaline was running through his body. He was worried, anxious. Transported back to his school days when he'd been so sure (unsure…) of himself that even the slightest inconsistency was enough to set him on edge; lately, he had been much less … paranoid, less aware. He'd learnt that no one really cares about other people, just so long as they are in some state of worse pain than the viewer's own, or so perfect as to be an idol. But the idols always mess up somehow, something always proves them fairy.

"Stop being silly, Chix." He almost wanted to point out that she was the one being 'silly'. "So… What's Cap. Kelp like?"

"A stickler for rules, but not all the time. Inventive. Hates his brother, but looks after him anyway. Tall, bit brainy, Retrieval One. A good commander?" He was panicking, and he only hoped that it wasn't showing on his face. He tried to breathe in and out as he'd normally do. It all seemed a lot harder to do that it usually was.

"That's not what I wanted to know, Chix. How's he at kissing? You know that he's got rules about dating within the Force, although if you and he were together then he obviously doesn't really adhere to them that strictly. Well—"

"We're…? That's ridiculous, Jenny! Of course it's ridiculous!" Inside he was shaking, crying… dancing like he was free, like none of the lies mattered anymore...

"I was only asking. No need to get nasty, Chix." She pouted, in that way he'd pretended to find adorable when they had been dating.

"I need ta talk with someone, Jenny. Bye." He got up from his seat. His uniform was stuck to his back with sweat.

He knew that his knees were shaking, but he tried to suppress it. Someone giggled - one of Jenny's friends most probably. He ignored them in favour of the promise of cold water to splash over his face and a toilet seat to sink down onto so his legs would no longer have to hold him up.

How did they know…?

……

touches, kisses, hormones… home. freedom. flying…

fallen.

crying.

trapped.

dying, because it's so hard to live.

……

"Hey, Chix. I heard from … gah, the new girl - I can't remember her name – that you'd done a disappearing act on Jenny. Some sorry excuse."

Chix looked over. He'd been staring, unseeing, at his own face in the mirror. He barely recognized himself. He didn't remember when he'd got the fashionable piercing at the top of his left ear done. He didn't remember going into the shop to buy that styling gel that held his hair in spikes to get the rascal look that every girl secretly craved. He didn't remember when he'd last shaved, but stubble was 'in' as well. He didn't know when he'd started sporting the expressions, the attitude, that he had. And… until recently, he hadn't realized that that wasn't the real him. He'd forgotten that it had all started small, innocent, temporary - but anything temporary seems to stay for 3 centuries.

He wished he knew who he really was, under all the acting. And it was so hard to find out. And even if he did, would that really be him? Could it be? Or was he now who he had always pretended to be? If he wasn't, could he change and have anyone believe it was real?

"Hey, Jack. What's up?"

"The rumour-mill. They're having a better time than Foaly in the Mud Man security systems over this you and Trouble Kelp thing. It's hilarious."

"It took me by surprise, personally." Surprise is an understatement… we had always been so careful.

"Well, it would, wouldn't it? Walked into work today and suddenly you were gay? It would be a shock for any system." Jack didn't manage to suppress a half-laugh, giving Chix a slap on the back; apparently not noticing the grey tinge his friend's face had taken. "Although, I had thought that you kept up with it all. The grapevine used to be your favourite pastime."

"Grew up a little, I think. Realised none of it was true or something." But this is…

Jack snorted. "Of course none of it's true! That's the whole point, Chix. Real stories aren't nearly interesting enough. Why do you think the tabloids sell so much better than Time? This latest is extremely inventive."

"What's the full story? I think I might need to know." He tried to make his tone light, but he knew he was failing. Jack didn't seem to notice.

"Wait to you hear, it's a laugh. Well, Constable Fern heard from Private Grace, who heard from… um… I can't quite remember who. Doesn't really matter. Well—"

"Just, what's been said?" Chix's hands were still gripping the sides of the basin, so the half-hopeful, mostly-scared shaking wasn't obvious.

"Oh, Chairman Cahartez caught you having wild monkey sex with Trouble and Grub Kelp, on top of Root's desk – so hot you were all giving off magical discharges. And I think Foaly was taping it as well - for use on his secret, on-the-side, porn industry. He's deleted the original file because Root caught him wanking off to it, but we think he managed to save a copy to disk, which right now Corporal Pine is trying to find so that Foaly can't get the pictures on the internet and ruin your reputation. Oh, and you and the Kelps are undergoing a Court Marshall for indecent behavior while on duty, but Grub will probably get off because he wasn't on duty, he'd only stayed behind for the purpose of your little gathering… orgy. Although then he and Trouble will have problems for the whole matter of incest and stuff, but Grub was actually adopted (by you and Trouble) and so there's only the matter of the two of you being his legal guardians."

Jack paused, taking in a labourous breath. "It's a great one, isn't it, Chix. Almost worthy of one you thought up yourself. There hasn't been one this inventive since two months ago when Lilli Frond was being possessed by the spirit of her dead Ancestor."

"And having his babies." Chix's voice was hollow, resounding with personal doom.

"Yeah, that was it."

"The disc of the wild monkey sex will ruin my reputation any more than the rumour will?"

"Obviously. Seeing you yelling out Trouble's name in ecstasy would be high-quality merchandise. We can only speculate as it is now." He doesn't make me scream… He makes me cry.

"Fuck off, Jack."

"Ah, come on. It's not like anyone would believe it. You're Chix! Straighter than a ruler. Straighter than my grandpa, and he had 23 children. You're so straight people go cross-eyed looking at you. No one would believe Chix 'the chaser of chix' Verbil to be of the homosexual fraternity."

Chix had been so strung, now he was in the lapse of depression. He looked back at what had to technically be called his reflection, but only because there were no other sprites in the vicinity. "Right. Yeah, no one would believe that, would they?"

"Not a chance in hell, Chix, me bro." Jack gave a reassuring grin, angling it so that Chix could see in the mirror.

"Seriously, Chix, it'll all brush over. And maybe it'll improve your rep even. Cap. Kelp is extremely hard to get – he's got rules about dating people in the Force."

"I know."

"And all the girls seem to like guys together; don't know why. Well, I wouldn't say no to watching Lilli and Short together, but that's different."

If Chix had been feeling less like himself he would have laughed. "Not really."

"Well, probably not. But they'd be hot. Whereas, Kelp… And you. Grub too. Ick! Nuh-uh." Jack regrouped his thoughts, trying to find his train of thought, "well, anyway, it'll all be forgotten as soon as Root gets a girlfriend or something."

"Like that's ever going to happen."

"See? There are some rumours that just can't be believed."

"Yeah, some things are just completely unbelievable, aren't they?"

"That's the spirit, Chix! Are you coming out now?"

"I… I might stay in here for a while, or go out for a fly or something. I don't want to be asked how well Kelp kisses again."

"Don't worry, Chix, no one really believes you're a fag. Who could believe that? Although, since we're on the topic… how well does Kelp kiss?"

Chix faked a faux grin. "Oh, beautifully. Passionately. Perfect amount of lips and tongue. He makes me feel like I'm flying inside. Really, very well."

"Eww! Chix! Stop that – it's gross."

Chix hid the pain, hid the pain that he'd been hiding for years – he had practice. Sometimes he wanted to scream. "You asked. I could have said fuck off, but I thought I'd be more inventive."

"I get the point. If I don't leave now you'll start drawing graphic drawings of gay sex mechanics in the fog on the mirror. I think I'll leave if it's all the same to you."

"Right. Gay porn, here I come."

At the door Jack turned back. "I worry about you Chix, really I do." He grinned, waved, and left the bathroom, possibly to spread the fact that Chix draws erotic art of his and the Kelp brothers' secret meetings. And he couldn't even do decent stick-figures.

Chix left as well, listening at the door until he was sure that no one was passing, because he didn't want to lie anymore. He hated it. And he hated telling the truth, pretending it was lies. Although that was the only freedom he got, the only time he could be real, if only in a masked – fake - way.

He flew.

Flying was a passable shadow of freedom, and freedom was what he craved above anything else.

……

drowning in life and death and the water, the dark-tinted, swirling lies…

… that which has been his protector.

……

"Chix?" A hand on his shoulder. A small hand, rather disproportionate to the rest of the body. It was a beautiful hand. Graceful, helpful, yet passionate about others.

He turned. The unfallen tears that always existed - had always existed - for years, for decades, just under the surface of his eyes, half-way to the forefront of his mind, were shining again. They often shone, but never fell. Almost never.

One tear fell.

Chix leaned into the beautiful hand, not scared that someone would see. No one else knew of this place, above where the clouds would be if clouds existed Underground.

He was high enough, just high enough, to be unseen from below. It was the physical high, the counterpart to the drugs he took in his youth… not so very long ago, not in time. It was a long time since them in his mind. But time had been stretching lately; dragging out like it was being pulled along behind a fast moving car. But he was tied to something 30 klicks back, it was only everyone else who was moving.

"Are you alright, Chix?"

He nodded, and another tear fell. He bit his lip; he'd once learnt how to not let the tears fall, how to not care, but it didn't seem to be working the way it used to.

"I'm fine, Trouble. I swear. I'll be alright. Don't worry about me." Trouble shook his head, wrapping himself around his lover, pulling him down, away from the edge, to rest between his legs on the rough ledge like he would do to his brother.

"It'll be alright, Chix, love. No one believes anything they hear in Police Plaza. Most people don't even care about it. Who would care who soandso was supposedly fucking at the Beltane work party while drunk?"

"I thought it was wild monkey sex with you and Grub on Root's desk, with Foaly recording it for private porn racketeering on the side. Found by the Chairman, of course."

"See? It's ridiculous." Trouble tried to smile, but he knew that words were often useless, they only reassured the speaker than nothing more was needed, when they were painfully inadequate.

"But they do believe it. I used to. Well, it's not belief… It's acceptance. Acceptance of what people say to be right, what people want to see. Because that makes us feel normal." Chix paused, "or maybe it's not about normal, more about feeling better about your own petty fears, issues? Or maybe Fairity is comprised of idiotic perverts who can't mind their own business."

"Does it matter if they think that? Does it still matter to you?"

"I… I would like to say it didn't - I know that it shouldn't – but… it does. Terribly. Painfully. I've spent so long trying to be like them, I can't give it all up like that. They've rubbed off on me." Chix turned slightly, resting his cheek against Trouble's chest. Trouble ran a finger over his temple and down the side of his face. Somehow, it felt so much more real than when his girlfriend had done something like that. There were no lies making use of his senses, dulling it all because it was shrouded in wrongness.

"I'm here for you, Chix. You don't have to be like them, not if you know that you're better than that. And you are better. You're so much better."

"Can I really be? Isn't the one who wants to be part of that stereotype worse, more at fault, than the one who simply is it? Those who idolize, if they want it with all their heart and soul and mind…"

"You simply wanted a place in the world, a place where you could be liked and respected, have a voice that people would want to listen to."

"The secret worlds are better. They are silent. They don't judge you. The people care."

"I know. And you are better, Chix. You're not one of them, and you never really have been."

"I wish you were right. But you're not." He turned slightly, grinning the grin of someone condemning their own actions, knowing better, at a time when that doesn't matter anymore, because the important time has passed them by already.

"I can only try, Chix. I can only try."

"It was Grub, wasn't it?"

"Yes. He probably didn't mean for it to get this far, because he doesn't want to embarrass me. He probably just wanted someone to talk to. He wanted me to tell you he's sorry."

"Well, he gets added in and suddenly it's a threesome." Chix's lower lip was trembling once again. "I hate this. I hate this fucking world with it's fucking rules, and the damn idiots! 'Don't worry, Chix, no one really believes you're a fag. Who could believe that?'"

Chix was crying. Yelling and crying and so tired. Tired of the jokes and the falsities, the people and the personas… the cages and prison bars of society, masquerading as freedom.

Trouble knew what Chix hated. Of course, he did. He hoped his presence would help, but there wasn't much else he could do. He pressed cold, tired lips to a green-tinged temple.

"It'll be okay, Chix. Not good, but alright. Things can't exist in a state of intense emotion, intense thoughts for very long at all – people simply get tired of the energy needed to sustain that. Then… normalcy."

"Whatever the hell that is, Trouble."

"You won't do anything stupid, will you, Chix?" Trouble was still worried, but it was less defined now.

"Nothing stupid."

"Good." They sat, silenced, for a minute, an hour. "We should get back to the Plaza. We'll be missed."

"I know." Chix pulled himself to his feet, turning around to lend a hand to Trouble. He hovered slightly in the air as Trouble started the motor on his mechanical wings, listing to the right because of the healed wound through his wing.

They flew in silence, hands straining to grasp but mind overruling. As they approached the Plaza Chix gave in, reaching out, clasping Trouble's hand. It was given a squeeze then released.

"Meet me at my place tonight?" Chix nodded. "Good. You go in first. And I'll start a rumour about Holly Short and Artemis Fowl to draw the attention away from us, okay?"

The comment got a slight grin from Chix, for there really did exist a relationship that was more bizarre in concept than the one he was involved in. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. I'll tell Holly you started it." ……

people looked through the bars of his cell, wondering why he couldn't escape. their gazes burnt…
…and he tried, tried so hard, to get away. nothing worked, nothing at all… they didn't even know. it hurt. he pretended to be strong enough, strong enough so that he wouldn't care anymore. it made them all feel better. their welcoming arms, betrayed by smiles that spoke of fear, confusion, enclosed around him. …dragged him down, until all he could do was breathe, and that took too much effort.

he wondered what it was like to be one of them. they seemed to enjoy themselves. they gave the impression of freedom.

he thought it was a good idea, but he had never understood it.

……

Trouble was seriously considering who he should tell to start a rumour, not really having been involved in the grapevine before; the story had reached the relatively sensible ranks and offices on the higher floors – the captains, officers, management. And even though the majority didn't know who Chix Verbil was, and didn't really put much value on such rumours anyway, he got a few laughs when passing in the corridors. And that irritated him more than if they had believed it, for nothing is impossible, only improbable. And there has to be a universe where the event with the million-one odds occurred, because if not they are not odds at all and the world is governed by rules.

He decided to get a coffee, then he'd probably go to Foaly, because Foaly was likely to be able to spread something faster than he could hack into the latest closed system.

But something was making his stomach curl, performing a complicated choreography as his intuition was set racing. Something was happening, he wasn't where he was supposed to be. He started to run down the corridors, heading for the cafeteria.

"Why not? Why is it impossible? Nothing is impossible! Henderson wanted to be a puppeteer when he was a kid! Jackson collects insects! Why can't I know what a word with 3 sylables means without getting out a Read Aloud, 123 Dictionary? Why do we all have to be interested in the latest match, but no one can read the front half of the paper as well? I hate this fucking idea of right!

"Why can't I be gay? Why not? Because I didn't say anything when Chris made that joke about the gay guys farting? Because I didn't retch when you thought some bimbo with breasts bigger than her head was attractive? Because I hid, because I knew none of you would understand? Because you're all bigoted bastards, necks scrubbed red as you listen to the dogma spread by old men as they fly around in their hoverchairs! That's why I can't be gay! Isn't it? It's so fucking unbelievable because … things like this happen to 'Other People', not anyone close enough to actually know. So you've sat next to me for years without getting any 'odd' glances? I bet you all think you're getting odd glances now, I've put the fear of the unknown into you, haven't I?"

Someone said something, but Trouble was still a few meters from the door and didn't know what it was, or who had said it.

"I don't fucking care! There's more to life than boob jobs and cheap sex. And, by the way, Jenny, you were a fucking horrible fuck!"

Trouble made it through the door, although a crowd had gathered, as they were likely to do if they were given 31 seconds. Chix was alone. Privates, corporals, constables leaving him in his spotlighted circle – entertainment in the Plaza was better than Mud Man soaps. Jenny was irate, but almost in tears - he'd said she was the best he'd ever had. No one really noticed who the newcomer was, because the crowd wasn't individuals, it was a mob, a singlised entity.

"You promised me you wouldn't do anything stupid, Chix."

Chix didn't even turn around, not surprised to hear the voice of his lover coming from the doorway.

"This isn't stupid. This is right. People shouldn't be scared of what others think - not until they become sheep, following whoever seems cool at the time. I shouldn't have been. Not like this. We're… we've all turned human. Or worse, because we are trying in imitate them, not just being that in the first."

"I'm not Mud Man!" yelled most of the crowd, at least those who had recovered from the image of Chix Verbil with silent tears streaming down his cheeks enough to follow the speech.

"None of it should fucking matter! This is child's stuff. Child-like bullying and peer pressure as someone urges you to try a smoke. We're all in our hundreds! You should be mature enough to cope with 'minorities'."

"Chix, it wasn't about quee—homosexuals - it was about the idea of you and Kelp. I mean…"

"Like hell it was! You're a horrible liar, Jack. You don't even pretend to be politically correct. Mud Men – most of them, some of them… - at least stumble over themselves when they've said something wrong about blacks or Jews or gays. They realize when they're insensitive pricks. You… you're not human, you're fey. Like cats, like our ancestors, who put fear into the humans so completely that we created suspicion, made humans nail horseshoes over their doors. We're cruel, selfish bastards, not caring for anything more than memememe, only mesmerizing people with glamoured projections of what everyone thinks we should be."

"You're making no sense, Verbil. That idiot Kelp's fucked you in the ear by mistake!"

"You've just never bothered to read any of the legends, Dunegal. It's all in the history. You won't find it in fucking Playelf, tattooed on some fuckwit's breast."

"Calm down, Chix. Come on, come here." And people noticed Trouble, because he was moving through the crowd with his command face on – the one that gave orders and reprimands, the one that they instinctively respected, because some things are ingrained into a soul by genetics as well as environment. And they wondered, those who hadn't kept up with the conversation, whether the grapevine had been telling a truth. They felt it spoiled the whole idea slightly.

"Come on, Chix. No need to do this." Trouble broached the magic circle drawn in invisible chalk that separated Chix from his colleges. He reached out a hand, cupping Chix's pale cheek – pale even though the anger was making his adrenaline rise and his fists clench. Chix shuddered, clutching himself to his lover. He was sobbing, dry, heaving sobs, muffled by Trouble's uniform. He opened one eye, scared, scared as he'd always been, as he was once again. But the anger was still there. He moved his head and kissed Trouble, as deeply as it was possible to do, all the while glaring over the muscled shoulder, daring his 'friends' to break this up because it disgusted them.

No one did anything to stop them. They were stunned. Jenny was sobbing; Amanda rubbed her back in sympathy.

Chix grinned, maniacally, felt by Trouble against his mouth. It was the grin of a cat, the grin of one of the fey. One who's succeeded, and doesn't give a damn about other people's opinions and feelings.

He spun on his heel, practically dragging Trouble from the room. They ended up in a little used corridor, with only a fire-exit at the end. And Chix collapsed against Trouble, tears streaming, flowing, without even having a moment of pause when he hiccupped occasionally. Trouble rubbed his back, soothing the sobs.

"It feels good, doesn't it? To get it all off your chest where it has been squashing your soul for so long."

Chix nodded. "It feels fucking fantastic."


Private Amanda Fern told Sherbil, who told Sanders, who got the message through to the grapevine hotline, so anyone could phone in to Sergeant Violet Folens and get the latest, although only after they'd revealed something else they'd heard so it could be added to the Grapevine files. It was a momentous day – the grapevine had never been so correct, although they didn't bother to edit out the Commander's desk, Grub Kelp, or Chairman Cahartez. Violet considered adding in Mummy, but was told not to by her commander. Her real commander, the one who had control over the Grapevine, his baby.

Foaly had been just as amazed as everyone else.

If something is so improbable, then it is highly likely to be true. Those who talk most are hiding the most. Million in one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

And who would have thought?