As with all of Zaedah's bouts of silliness, seek not a reason. None exists. For Dr Who in appreciation of her genius and for D.I. for her friendship!

Nicotine Hypnosis

He'd been chewing gum at seven in the morning. It had been the sight that greeted Natalie on a day brimming with the rewarding potential of frostbite and papercuts. Not unusually, a team eager to return home would spend one hour on reports and then swiftly sacrifice small farm animals to bring about an epidemic. For as much as they were in it together, Natalie considered moving her burnt offering selection up the food chain to include Miles.

Trident, a most innocuous piece of artificially-flavored stickiness, waits in its best silver attire for the call to service on the dreaded documentation-to-the-brass day. The habit made spontaneous appearances and tended to herald a snippy man. Not known for politeness, the tragically handsome blonde could turn into Lucifer's seditious nephew when forced to write a biography of the disease of the week. Having to issue defenses of his methods baked no congeniality into his daily cookie.

As complicated as her supervisor was, the reason for the gum, in all its red 40 lake glory, was far from complex; Connor wanted a smoke.

An addiction born in a war zone and by all accounts left there, the cravings coincided with the microscopic downtime fraught with reports. That and abject boredom. Never an anxious smoker, Stephen had lit up to the rigors of military monotony; as with many soldiers, the likelihood of death-by-missile was seen as a suitable excuse for ignoring the very sensible Surgeon General. Tedium between firefights had been the downfall of a physician that made his living knowing better. But in all the time she'd known him, Nat had never seen him succumb to the 'come hither' of nicotine.

Must be some good gum.

Unfortunately, his distraction was becoming hers, producing a line of thought promising all the safety of ambling through a minefield during an earthquake. Natalie's issue with the harmless sticky stuff was this: sorbitol, xylitol and glycerine, while individually tame, combined to invoke a hypnotic effect. The strong jaw working its argument-toned muscles, creating a hollow below his cheekbone, gave the all-American, superhero jawline more prominence. And damned if it didn't draw her like a strip tease. Because, Lord knows, Natalie needed more incentive to watch his mouth. Documentation day had nothing inherently provocative to recommend it, but she never walked into the building without a fruity pack stashed in her purse. Just in case he ran out.

Of course, the pathologist had seen enough charred lungs to disapprove of Connor's desire to engage in a decimation of his natural perfection. Which wasn't to say a handful of brain cells still loitering in high school couldn't summon an evocative image of him leaning against a muscle car with a cigarette perched between his lips. And yes, that sort of daydreaming while typing led to a rather substantial task for the spellchecker. Not that he'd ever confirmed the explanation Powell had provided a few years ago for the gum compulsion, but she found it enticing that Connor was capable of an almost childish penchant on occasion. Except that he's turned a mundane chewing action into something superbly sexy.

She'd heard that people were granted a set breaking point; a preordained line that, once crossed, brings about the ruin of a rational person's sanity. Standing unseen in his doorway while Connor dug through a manila folder and chewed was as ruinous as Waterloo because here was the line and there she was skipping over the threshold. But her horoscope, giving the thumbs up for romantic chaos, was fresh in her mind when she stole Stephen's gum from him.

The hard way.