A/N: Few things.
1, this is set after Rev #3, if not later (depends on Rev #5, not out at the time of writing)
2, I've given the Doctor a private boarding school education on the basis that he's spouting a lot of random classical knowledge in 'Human on the Inside'
3, Wouter is pronounce 'Vow-ter' and is the name of the only Dutch person I know. I'm not even sure if I've spelt it right.
Warnings: spoilers up to Rev #3, language, reference to slash
Rating: R (mostly for the language!)
Angie approached the Doctor, uncharacteristically nervous.
"Um." She raised her hand as well, and he turned to look at her. His eyes were glassy, but not bloodshot. "I have a confession."
"I... watched you. And your friend. Jack wanted me to make certain you weren't, uh..."
"Shooting up heroin?" the Doctor finished bitterly.
"Well, yeah. Anyway, I used the Carrier to hack into the security system at the hotel. And I watched you, you, you and him..."
"The Midnighter caught me at it," Angie went on. "I didn't mean to... I just-"
"Okay," the Doctor cut her off sharply. "I understand." He still looked dazed, maybe even more so, and he wasn't focusing on her. Sweat was beginning to bead on his forehead. "Thank you." He pushed passed Angie then, and walked swiftly down the corridor, almost hitting the wall at the far end.
"You look... perturbed." Apollo smirked and lent over the couch, where the Midnighter was sitting, staring at the opposite wall. Beneath his mask, his mouth was pulled down into a frown. Apollo squeezed his shoulder. "Penny for your thoughts?"
The Midnighter glanced sideways at him. "Guess what I caught our Engineer doing today."
"Hmm," Apollo pretended to ponder. "Making herself a man, with blond hair and a tan?"
The Midnighter snorted in amusement despite himself. His mood soured again. "She was using the Carrier to spy on the Doctor."
Apollo grimaced. "If it was anyone else," he admitted, "I'd take your line, but sometimes that man needs watching for his own good."
"He was having sex with another man."
Apollo blinked, hard.
"She was watching him have sex?" The blond man shook his head in confusion. Something occurred to him. "Just watching?" he confirmed hurriedly.
"Yes," the Midnighter said, though he sounded a little grudging.
"Well..." Apollo found himself staring at the window opposite, as his partner had been doing, in which they were both reflected against the dark red world outside. "The Doctor?" he said after a pause. "I never thought he... Well. Though why Angie would want to watch him is beyond me. Just thinking about him going at it is enough to make me limp for a week."
The Midnighter grimaced at the thought.
"Do you suppose she's ever..." Apollo let it hang, though they both knew what the words unspoken were. Both men found themselves supremely uncomfortable at the idea their time together might be aiding their teammate's time alone.
"We've never had any hint that the Doctor swung this way before," the Midnighter broke in eventually. "He's married, for fuck's sake."
"That doesn't exclude him from liking men too," Apollo chided him. "What, do you think he's drowning in sexual confusion? He's an adult. I can't say I've ever paid much attention to any of his affairs; he's probably been sleeping with men as long as we have."
"Hnnph." the Midnighter didn't seem convinced.
"Come on," Apollo soothed, rubbing his lover's shoulders. "Why don't you come to bed, before all this talk of the Doctor and sex in combination leave me completely impotent." He nuzzled the Midnighter's ear and pressed a warm kiss to his cheek before retreating.
The Midnighter had overheard Jack comment that the Doctor seemed to be permanently stoned at the moment. His behaviour was certainly suspicious, but the Midnighter could discover no trace of any illegal substance around him. It seemed to be some internal problem weighing so heavily on his mind as to force out almost everything else. It could be easily attributed to guilt over the deaths of his followers, but something Angie had said ("He's so awkward it's endearing. His shyness created suspense, I guess, and suddenly I found myself engrossed") made him suspect something else was bothering the Doctor.
He didn't like that man. He was a coward and a snivelling little shit, most of the time. This religion was just a way of boosting his ego, as far as the Midnighter was concerned. Hypocritical hippy, though and through. But vital to the team, and the fact that the Midnighter had tolerated his presence for almost seven years spoke for him, made him practically a friend by default. The only people the Midnighter enjoyed seeing suffer were those who hurt the people he cared about. He was actually a quite moral person, of sorts, and decided to take it upon himself to help the Doctor.
"I caught Angie using the Carrier to watch-"
"I know," the Doctor interrupted.
The two men regarded each other for a second. The Doctor had bags under his bloodshot eyes and two day's stubble decorating his sunken cheeks. He looked like it was taking all his magic to keep himself upright.
"Do. You. Want. To. Talk." Forced out between gritted teeth. Just because the Midnighter felt he had to do this didn't mean he wanted to. Every implant in his brain screamed for the Doctor to say no.
"I..." Something flashed, deep within the Doctor's eyes. It seemed to break through the glaze that had coated them for days now. "Would you like some coffee?" he asked.
They walked together in silence down the long corridors of the Carrier. The Midnighter was amused to find he was actually curious to see the Doctor's chambers. It wasn't that the Doctor was a particularly private man, more that the rest of the Authority were simply uninterested. The Midnighter couldn't imagine what the rooms might look like, despite the suggestions his implants threw up.
It managed to match a wide range of offered scenarios. The scheme seemed to be 'ooh, cool'. It was... juvenile. Like a teenaged boy had been allowed to run amok with a limitless budget. There were egg chairs and neon lights and marble tables and a huge gothic four-poster bed. A fully stocked bar took up one wall.
The Doctor gestured to a Parisian café table and chairs, reaching behind the bar to grab two tall coffee mugs. He placed them on the table and waved his hand at them, filling one with steaming black coffee and the other with a sickly looking green liquid. The Midnighter stared at it.
"Green tea," the Doctor explained. "Less caffeine, more anti-oxidants. Not that I'm sure what they are."
"You always struck me as someone who'd take any caffeine they could get," the Midnighter told him.
The Doctor shrugged one shoulder-edly. "I don't dare any more. Time was I though four espressos was a perfectly reasonable breakfast. The doctor was rather alarmed that I was having heart palpitations at nineteen." He grimaced down at the tea. "You know, it wasn't until last month that I discovered you weren't meant to put milk in it. Shen pointed that out to me."
"I wouldn't have known," the Midnighter said dismissively. He sipped his own coffee cautiously. Looking up, he saw the Doctor watching him hopefully. He forced a smile to placate him while he wondered suspiciously how the skinny man had known how he took his coffee.
The Doctor wrapped his hands around his tea and stared into it, shifting in his seat. Even without the hundreds of sensors picking up on heart beat and perspiration and agitated brainwaves, the Midnighter would have known he was nervous.
"How long have you been seeing this man?"
The Doctor started, spilling tea and scalding his hands. He obviously hadn't expected the Midnighter to be so blunt.
"I've known him since I was eleven. We went to school together." The Doctor sucked at his fingers absently. "It was an all male boarding school."
The Midnighter nodded.
"I... I always said that gender was irrelevant. That I'd fall for whoever, whenever. I always felt that sexuality was fluid, you know?"
The Doctor swallowed and picked at his fingers. He looked at the Midnighter, swallowed again, and stared at his tea.
"Fuck," he said miserably.
When he seemed disinclined to continue, the Midnighter decided to press him. "At school, were you ever involved with this young man?"
"Wouter? Yes, sort of. He's gay. But... well, if every guy who experimented at school, or in prison, or in the navy, or whatever, was gay... well, we wouldn't have to worry about over population, you know? I never... I want to say I never thought of another guy like that," the Doctor sighed. "I guess I never wanted to take action, anyway. But Wouter appears again, and we talk, and suddenly he's got his mouth on my neck and his nipples are pierced and he's talking about love and, and...."
The Midnighter continued to stare at him, apparently unimpressed.
"I just always said gender didn't matter," the Doctor said, voice getting higher and more pleading with each word. "I always said, and, and, and now it does. It does. I never... It does. I don't want to be someone for whom it does!" He was shaking violently and his eyes were unfocused. The small metal table was swimming in tea. "I can't... I can't keep thinking about it. I can't be that person, but I can't stop being that person, and I'm scared!"
"Scared?" The Midnighter drank the last of his coffee and leant back in the high chair, eyes locked to the Doctor's, slowly drawing him back.
"I... yes." The Doctor looked confused for a moment. "I feel like my mind is about to cave again. I can't afford to go back there, especially not now."
"Yeah. I've had a nervous breakdown before." The Doctor cocked his head to one side, a wry smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "You didn't know that," he accused mildly.
"No. When was this?"
"Before I joined the Authority. I used to own a large software company, created it in my teens and made myself a millionaire. The pressure of running it got to me, though. Ended up spending a year or so in a mental institute. I... that's what I've been hiding from, in the heroin." He spoke softly. "Did Jenny never tell any of you? I was just trying to avoid going back to that place in my head. You can't imagine being incapacitated by your own mind, against your will."
"She allowed someone with a history of mental breakdown on the team?" the Midnighter murmured, still not entirely believing it.
"I never had any training, like the rest of you. I was just a suit. The first time I had to kill... Jenny kept me sane, barely. No matter what the justification I can't just... I'm not like the rest of you, I suppose. Ironically," he added, each word weighted with the knowledge that it wasn't at all ironic, "that's why I have these powers."
The Midnighter nodded slowly.
The Doctor seemed to notice the mess on his table and cleaned it with a flash of purple light before setting his mug down. The Midnighter allowed him to top up his coffee again.
"I've been... sensitive, recently." The Doctor went on, leaning his elbows on the table and resting his chin on his hands. "All my followers dying. Wouter put his finger on it. He always had a knack for that." He paused, biting his lip. "We kill people. We kill people in the name of building a better world."
"Yes," the Midnighter said.
"Well... so did Hitler."
They stared at each other.
"This is different," the Midnighter said eventually, but he sounded none to certain, even to himself.
"There's a lot of people out there who don't see the difference."
The Midnighter stared at the coffee for a long moment.
"Doctor, do you agree with what Jack is doing at the moment?"
The Doctor shifted in his seat and looked everywhere but at the Midnighter. "Well, I... I mean, obviously, sometimes I... but, well. Yes. Well."
"Doctor, you fucking pussy," the Midnighter exploded at him. "Stop fucking pussy footing around!"
The Doctor frowned at him resentfully. "Jeroen," he said softly. "If you're going to swear at me, at least use my name."
"Jeroen, you fucking pussy," the Midnighter said. "Look, either you're with him, or you're against. You can't just fucking sit here and talk shit about what we're doing unless you're willing to fucking do something about it."
Jeroen leant back in his chair. The mug turned into an espresso cup as he raised it to his lips. The Midnighter could smell the nervous sweat pouring off him, but he was outwardly composed.
"I don't like Jack, on a personal level," Jeroen said quietly. "Recently, what I've seen has raised that dislike to new heights. While I've never had cause to really doubt his leadership before, I'm very concerned as to where all this is going. Listening to him badmouth his own country upsets me. Watching him disregard those who have died worries me." He drank the espresso in one swallow, and filled the cup again.
The Midnighter watched him closely.
"I was visited from the future. Our future, if we continue on this path. It's not good."
"I see." The Doctor stared at his espresso. "What did Apollo say when you told him?"
"I... Oh." The Doctor's eyes went wide behind the rose-tinted goggles. "Oh."
"You are going to take Jenny," the Midnighter chose to reveal. After a pause he added, with much less self control, "Take her sooner than later, please. She doesn't need to see what happens."
"To you? Or Apollo?" the Doctor asked.
"To me," the Midnighter confirmed. "I intend to prevent it, though."
Jeroen took another shot of espresso to the back of his throat. He coughed, briefly.
"I'm with you," he said, voice hoarse. "If action is needed, I'll take it." He saw the sceptical look on the Midnighter's face. "I will," he insisted quietly. "I don't want to, I won't want to, but I'll do what I have to. If I really was as self-serving as the rest of you think I am I'd have quit the Authority as soon as Jenny died. I've no friends here, no respect, no trust, but I'm as close to omnipotent as imaginable and no matter what I want, I can't shuck that responsibility."
The Midnighter nodded.
"The Doctor seems to have bucked up," Apollo commented while he watched his partner stretched. "Did you talk to him?"
"Are you going to tell me what about?" Apollo smiled.
"I... helped him put things in perspective," the Midnighter said.
"Angie told me that boyfriend of his is 'quite the hottie'."
The Midnighter paused for a moment, one leg stretched up past his shoulder, balancing on the other. Apollo admired him while he thought.
"He isn't the coward I thought he was," the Midnighter said. "I doubt he's got the self-confidence to hang on to this 'hottie', though." He paused, and added grudgingly, "makes alright coffee."
Jeroen stretched out on the bed, running one hand up and down Wouter's back.
"You know," Wouter said, "you haven't really changed that much. I was expecting you to be all prima donna and proud. Earth gives you unlimited powers, but you're still convinced you're not worth the time of day."
Jeroen smiled, in part at the pleasure of having someone to speak his native tongue with.
"I don't know," he said softly. "I'm not the overachiever I used to be."
"With good reason! I imagine nervous breakdowns are no fun at all."
"No, not really." Jeroen leant back against the head of the bed. "I guess it made me more self-conscious. After all, when something breaks under pressure, it's usually a sign of a flaw in the design."
"You're not a computer program. Or a bridge." Wouter critically studied an imperfectly painted nail. "Sometimes it's just a question of time. Well, actually it's always a question of time, isn't it? Even plastic breaks down eventually." He flashed Jeroen a grin and wiggled encouragingly under the caressing hand. "I'll miss you when I'm back in Amsterdam, but otherwise I'll be glad to be gone. No offence, but this place still has a taint of police state to me. Can't say I ever trusted America's claim to be the land of the free, but right now, with all the riots and deaths, it's not a place to speak your mind."
"It will break down, eventually."
"Which, the mind or the state?"