"Polls close at midnight, and we'll be broadcasting the results as they come in. With a number of independents standing alongside the main parties that have emerged in the wake of the Steele government's breakdown, opinions are likely to run high, whatever the results. But the process itself seems to have run remarkable smoothly -- thanks in no small part to the sterling efforts of the electoral committee, set up to help prevent any unfair practices. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Veidt?"
These are the kinds of questions Adrian is used to -- the kind he has always been able to answer without effort -- and he smiles as the camera swivels towards him. The interviewer turns in her seat, neat and trim in her tailored skirt suit, sleek, dark hair gleaming beneath the studio lights. Less than three months ago, she was a wanted woman. The studio itself is still at a halfway stage, somewhere between make-do and professionalism. They've found a few plush armchairs and a polished backdrop to sit in front of the cameras, but the building is only half-serviceable, the equipment mostly borrowed and mended, and the lights require constant maintenance in case they flicker and fail.
Adrian inclines his head, acknowledges the question gratefully. "I'm afraid it would be most unfair of us to take all the credit," he replies, gently. "The efforts of thousands of people throughout the country have contributed to making things happen so quickly. If anything, the fact we've been able to help make this happen without interference from Steele's remaining supporters is testament to the human determination to see things put right. The committee is a very small body, and may not even exist for much longer. This is far bigger than just us."
The interviewer nods, still smiling, and changes tack. "Of course, some of the people who helped out with the process had previously been members of the Steele government, or at least the Party. The claimed to be disillusioned, but were you happy about accepting their help? I mean-- did you never suspect they might try to undermine the whole process?"
A fair question, and Adrian doesn't allow himself to frown. He nods understandingly, instead. "Of course, we have had to use the utmost caution. But I don't think everybody who was taken in by Steele believed wholeheartedly in his repressive methods. Fear often leads people to do things they later regret, and they deserve the chance to make amends."
"Amends? Do you think that's even possible?"
"I'm not sure that I'm in a position to judge." He spreads his hands. "However. The majority of people who worked for Steele's government didn't commit acts of violence or intimidation, or arrest innocent people, or lock them in internment camps. But they stood by and allowed those things to happen. If they wish to make some attempt to alleviate the harm the Party caused -- well, I can't help feeling that they should be allowed to do so."
The interviewer still doesn't look entirely convinced, but her expression is less sharp-edged than it was a few moments ago, and she's nodding minutely.
Adrian leans forward fractionally, palms upwards, eyes earnest. "Former Party members have provided real help in some areas. Some of the people I met in the resistance movement have been heavily involved with efforts to reunite political prisoners with their families. I know they've gained some invaluable information from people who were involved with the Steele administration. For my own part, I can only say that I don't think redemption is ever impossible. At least, I hope not."
Apparently satisfied, the interviewer moves on. Adrian smiles, the same way he always has done on camera, good-humored and self-deprecating, and no-one in the world would ever know that this time it's real.
Well. Almost no-one.
Dan wakes briefly in the still-dark before morning, when Adrian climbs out of bed, and properly half an hour later, with the thin line of night between the curtains fading to gray pre-dawn and the smell of coffee from the kitchen becoming impossible to ignore. He stretches, then winces at the protest from his cramped muscles. Sleeping tangled up together has become habit, after all the months squeezed into spare bunks and tiny guest-rooms, and sometimes even hastily-cleared patches of floor, but it's one Dan doesn't mind holding on to, despite the occasional discomfort.
There are other habits that have been easier to break. Like keeping bags packed beside the front door ready for flight at an hour's notice, and glancing warily at any stranger who follows them down the street a block too far for comfort.
Dan crawls out from under the bedclothes and into pants and a t-shirt, and pads out into the kitchen. They've been here just under two months now. The apartment is modest, compared to the kinds of places Adrian used to live in, and even to Dan's old townhouse, but it's safe and peaceful, and it's theirs. Dan figures they probably won't stay there forever -- he'd be happier if he could keep Archie at home, instead of in a lock-up on the other side of town, for one thing -- but right now, he's never been quite so grateful for anywhere in his life.
The kitchen's empty, but there's a mug of coffee waiting for him on the counter, still just-about warm enough to be drinkable. That's okay. He knows where he'll find Adrian. Dan squints around for his glasses (which, for some obscure reason, he eventually finds on top of the refrigerator) and something to put on his feet, and lets himself out though their front door, clutching his mug in one hand.
The top floor of their building is ostensibly a storage space, but nobody ever goes up there, and there's an attic window that opens out onto the roof. It's easy enough to climb up there for anyone with a modicum of agility, and there's a ledge that's perfect for sitting on. Dan discovered that a couple of weeks after they moved in, and when they realized the place was disused, they appropriated one of the dusty old stepladders lying around up there as a makeshift staircase. The view is a mess of streets and traffic and people and lights, but from that height it's oddly peaceful. Back when he was patrolling, Dan used to find waiting around on rooftops kind of soothing. Now, he likes to sit up there when he's stressed out or tired, or just wants to go somewhere quiet for a while. He often finds Adrian up there, too; first thing in the morning, like this, or in the middle of the night when he hasn't been able to sleep.
Because that still happens, of course. There are still bad nights. The process of rebuilding a society is painstaking and frustrating -- doubly so when you're part of a coalition, not the one guy in charge, though he knows that Adrian wouldn't have it any other way, now -- and digging through what remains of the Party's files sometimes throws up things they'd both prefer not to have seen. So there are still times when Adrian is quiet for too long, fades out of the moment and goes to some miserable, walled-in little place that doesn't allow room for affection or comfort, and Dan has to sit him down and talk him out of it. And sometimes words won't do it, and all Dan can do is hold him fiercely close, or make love to him until the shadows are gone from his eyes.
But they're making progress. Adrian's at least given up on reminding Dan that he doesn't have to be here or do this, like it's some kind of obligation. Perhaps he's just being gracious, or perhaps he's finally accepted that Dan's with him because he wants to be, because, against all probability, Adrian makes him happy.
Dan isn't sure that it's the latter. But he can hope.
And he is happy, happier that he could ever have imagined himself being again, in the not-so-distant past. Things certainly aren't perfect -- a lot of the time they aren't even good -- but they're getting better. And he and Adrian are helping, and now they can do it without having to hide underground or look over their shoulders all the time. They have time to just be normal, do things like curl up on the couch together to watch the news, or sit up late drinking wine instead of cheap instant coffee, or sleep in on Sunday mornings without having to worry about who's on radio duty and whether there's anybody watching the back door.
Not that that last one happens more than once in a blue moon. Adrian's up before dawn most days, regardless. Right now, he's sitting on the window-ledge just like Dan expects, very straight but very still; his version of relaxed. He doesn't turn immediately at the sound of Dan's footsteps, but Shadow jumps down off his lap, finding his way to the floor via the top of an abandoned wardrobe and something that might once have been half a pool table. His paws leave delicate prints in the dust, and Dan wishes he'd thought to put something sturdier than carpet slippers on his feet. It's filthy up here, and the open window is letting in a stiff breeze.
He places his coffee on the top step of the ladder, and hauls himself up after it. Adrian glances round with a small, opaque smile -- the first sign he's given of being aware that Dan's here -- and moves his own, half-empty, mug to make room on the ledge. Then he turns back, wordlessly, to look out over the city.
Dan follows his gaze. The sky is smeared with orange, sunrise just starting to pick parts of the city out of darkness, turning the tops of the taller buildings pink. Including that of the Veidt building, which is clearly visible from their vantage point, recognizable even without the enormous logo and arcing purple lights -- and Dan realizes that that's what Adrian's been looking at.
It was officially returned to Adrian's ownership a month ago, but most of the floors are still being lent out as workspace to departments of the new local government that have outgrown their temporary offices, as well as a couple of the various volunteer groups that have sprung up to help undo the Party's work. The top floor, though, is still unoccupied. The Party had stripped out pretty much everything of monetary value, but obviously hadn't gotten round to converting it for their own purposes before everything fell apart.
"We could go back," Dan says, and regrets it as soon as the words are out of his mouth, even though when he thinks about it rationally he knows that just leaving it empty like that is a waste. "You could go back, I mean. And I could come with you. If you want."
Adrian blinks once, slowly, and looks at him with real curiosity.
"I mean, it is yours." Dan shrugs. "And you must miss it. After all, this isn't exactly..." He trails off, and just gestures vaguely down into the dusty attic instead.
Something in his expression must betray his unease with the idea, though, because Adrian reaches over to brush Dan's fingertips with his own, and waits for Dan to take his hand before speaking.
"Actually," he says, meditatively, "I was thinking of offering to have the top floor converted. The work Judith and Serkan are doing, reuniting people with their families-- well, it's very important, and there are more people coming forward each week. They have no shortage of volunteers. I think they could use the extra space. And besides-- " He runs his thumb across Dan's palm, and smiles. Properly, this time. "I think I prefer it here."
Dan raises his eyebrows, but the only reply he gets is a quirk of Adrian's lips, as though there's no further explanation needed. He frowns, searches Adrian's expression carefully (another habit he doesn't foresee letting go of anytime soon) but he can see no doubt or shadow there.
And sometimes it's better not to press things. Dan knows that, so he leaves it. And besides, he'd be lying if he pretended he wasn't relieved. Adrian's apartments always seemed kind of cold and impersonal to him, like a meticulous mock-up of the kind of place a successful businessman ought to live, and while all the Egyptian stuff was interesting, it wasn't what he'd call homely. And yeah, he knows the old Veidt building was destroyed in '85, that this one was finished a couple of years later and it isn't where Adrian did all his scheming, but the thought of living where Adrian did while everything was falling apart -- and before that, before he'd even realized his carefully-planned disasters weren't the answer -- makes Dan feel something twisting and unpleasant in his throat.
Adrian squeezes his hand, and takes a delicate sip of his cold coffee without betraying any distaste. But his fingers tremble fractionally over Dan's, and Dan's heart skips worriedly for a second. Then he remembers that it's fucking freezing. He's already starting to feel the chill through his dressing gown, and all Adrian's wearing is a light shirt. It's Sunday. They don't have to go anywhere, and frankly, sitting up in the cold like this is starting to feel ridiculous.
He raises his free hand, and brushes Adrian's cheek with his thumb. "Come back to bed?" he suggests. "It's early."
For a second, Adrian just leans, feline, into the touch, eyes slipping half-closed. "Why not?" he murmurs.
Dan smiles. There are a few pedestrians around even at this hour -- either very early, or very late going to bed -- but it's quiet, and the sun has not quite risen yet. They have plenty of time. The dawn is still breaking.