A/N: I know some of you were expecting humour and delight in Mishaptitude, but alas, this bloody thing just wouldn't leave me alone! It snuck into my mind during a particularly dull evening, and although I never consider killing anyone (honestly, I don't! xD), it was a plot bunny that simply wouldn't be ignored. If you think I'm all about light, happiness and sprinkles and that's what you're expecting of this, you should probably click that little red 'x' in the corner right now. Just warning ya! =D Lol. Read and review please, and if you like it (in a manner of speaking), I shall add the thoughts of the other three. Loooove you all! =D xxx
You are your own Devil, you are your own God
You fashioned the paths your footsteps have trod.
And no one can save you from Error or Sin
Until you have hark'd to the Spirit within.
Tieme Ranipiri (Or 'My Law'), Ancient Maori poem
It's almost funny, Gerry Standing thinks without a trace of humour, that despite being thrice a father and husband, once a grandpa and many times over a treasured friend, that the only person he can concentrate on in the face of certain death is his boss. UCOS are kneeling, hands above their heads, before a dusty brickwork panel on the rotting floor of a disused warehouse, and the scene is perversely poetic; the Met's final representation of the old school, having their collective consciousness extinguished in one of London's many forgotten relics.
He's about to die. He's been in this situation before, of course; they all have, growing as officers on a diet of rebellion, murder, rape, drug trafficking, kidnap, undercover operations and god only knew what else – but it's never been so hopeless. Every single other time, his colleagues have known his location, or there's been a paper trail that could discover his whereabouts, or there've been a indeterminate quantity of armed bastards just outside the door; here, there's nothing. No one has a clue where they are, and even if they did, they're all sufficiently incapable of confirming it.
It's a curious thing, he notes, to be stripped of hope; it's unfamiliar in the worse possible way. Every tale, from Pandora's Box through to Shrek has a core of warmth, of faith in rescue or human nature or the fact that things can improve.
Things can't improve here; things – them – can only be rendered lifeless, and the acknowledgement that no one's coming to save them is like something from one's worst nightmare; the stuff of unbridled terror, the kind of thing that set every cell in one's being quivering... a desperate, screaming, awful fear of the inevitable and the unknown. It was precisely the sort of thing that he'd so fervently promised his significantly younger children would never occur; that even if everything seemed lost, it wasn't.
Only, this time it was, and in death, clearly he was not only powerless, but also a bloody liar.
A sob slices through his anguish, and his eyes flicker to the woman that's invading his head in all her ballsy brilliance; a shock of blonde hair falls from her face a moment, and tears line her cheeks.
All really is lost if Sandra Pullman's allowing herself to cry. His peripheral vision vaguely notes that Brian, who is to the far right, and Jack, who is directly beside her, have also noticed their oblivious boss's pain, yet he doubts that it's affecting them quite the way it is him.
She doesn't deserve this. Hell, none of them do, but she's a vibrant tour de force, a tornado of energy, dedication and spirit with so much more life to lead than the rest of them; a stunning, solitary Ice Queen with a core of the hottest flame, simply waiting to be swept up and away to an exotic paradise where she's her own princess, where her heart can rule and her head can go to hell – where work means nothing compared to her personal life, where she can be entirely her beautiful, emotional, perfect self and drop the moody bitch act.
He realises far too late that the biggest regret of his life is that he's never going to get to be that Prince Charming that she so desires.
Their captors are sneering at them from somewhere above; laughing, jeering, mocking, sarcastically lamenting the loss of the old ways and genuinely welcoming a world of gangland culture, of deceit and drugs and worthless death, but he's hardly listening; he doesn't want to give them the satisfaction, and nor can he hear anything other than Sandra's desperate sobs and the unceremonious splitting of his own heart.
He hears loud and clear, however, when a pistol is cocked against his forehead, and his breath hitches. They're still taking the piss, the fucking bastards, and a flicker of his gaze to the right confirms his worst fear – that all four of them are being subjected to the same fate. His eyes fall closed and his respiration turns rapid, erratic, as regrets and people and unfulfilled desires stalk through his mind, and he can't help but wonder if this is the infamous 'life flashing before your eyes' sequence; he sees all three of his children from birth to adulthood in hyperspeed, their giggles and cuddles and dresses and first boyfriends interspersed with images of Emily, the woman he'd shared none of that with, but had grown to love almost as much. Gerry Junior climbs a slide and squeals in delight at the descent, and the scene melts as quickly as it came as the memory twists into the first time he held him in hospital...
The ex-wives flicker across his cerebral cortex, in their beauty and bravado; Jane in a wedding dress, downing champagne like it's going out of fashion, Carol sporting the world's most ridiculous and extroverted beehive...
He recalls his friends, his colleagues, his first day at UCOS; the thrill, the unshakeable feeling of returning home after an extended hiatus – the lunches out, the rapists, the cigarette breaks, the drug barons, the murderers, the dinners, pasta night, the frustrating yet divine feeling of mental taxation, of not quite knowing where to go but acknowledging that you're right on the edge of a breakthrough... he thinks of Jack, the most loyal, witty, charming soul he's ever come across, and of Brian; an eccentric, an outcast, who had found a home with a trio of rejects in the basement of the Met – a genius and a warm-hearted individual, desperate to be liked and eternally glad to finally be so. He contemplates momentarily what they must been thinking; of chances wasted, of wives they'll never see again or are about to be reunited with forever, of a son that'll never quite know how loved he is, of alcohol, of the good ol' days...
But mostly, he thinks of Sandra; of her voice, of her megawatt smile, of her gentle teasing; of her flirting, of her ingenuity, of her figure and fashion sense and truly rare appreciation of cuisine and its accompanying wines... of how much he loves her, how much he's always bloody loved her, and how much he detests himself somewhere deep within for never inviting her to a restaurant without their workmates.
A hand insistently clasps at his, and he finds Sandra staring at him urgently, crying silently, her gaze an inaudible vow; I'm so sorry I've led us here, I'm so sorry that I've left your kids without a father, I'm so sorry that I never responded to your advances, always instead wound you up... I'm so sorry that we never got a chance.
Her shimmering eyes promise the world, and he clings like a koala to the moral fibre that whatever afterlife they end up in – if there even bloody well is one – they'll face it together, perhaps as more than close friends.
He emits a choking gasp of his own as the nanoseconds tick by, the world frozen in a perpetual mist of terror as he waits, bizarrely impatient, for his own end and for the end of his friends, and he hopes against all hope that even when all hope's gone, the fact that he's always thought of religion as a load of bollocks isn't going to affect his eternity; he's a good bloke, surely it won't matter?
And of everything he has to be thankful for, amongst the innumerate number is pride; he IS a good bloke. He's a soft-hearted enigma through and through, and if that isn't enough to earn entrance to a Nirvana of Sandra, virgins, tobacco and the finest whiskey, then what the hell is?
Gerry Standing's final thought on planet Earth is of a terrified peace – that this is happening, but that his legacy will remain, and a swirl of noise, memories, women and mates that have been his life don't in any way make his end fitting, but that it could have been a hell of a lot worse.
He glances at Sandra, his gaze deep, and whispers his adoration as the promised bullet rips through his skull and he collapses to a fall he's never going to feel the impact of.