I first had this up here several years ago and then took it down for editing, fully intending to have it back up in a few weeks. Then life got in the way, but it's here now! As ever, the characters are property of Queen and Ben Elton.
The familiar coal grey suit threaded its way through the crowds of milling Bohemians. They were used to Khashoggi by now, even if very few of them truly accepted his presence. Big Macca hated him, Galileo resented him, Scaramouche tolerated him, and Meat... Well, no one knew how Meat felt about him. She was alternately civil to him and prone to ignoring him and yet at times she could be found drinking with him. Their relationship on any given day was anyone's guess; Pop, in all his wisdom and with fervent hopes that neither party found out about it, even had a pool going as to when one or other of them would finally snap and they would come to blows. Physical or verbal, he wasn't picky, just as long as it made for good watching. After holding out far longer than they'd expected, apparently preferring to drown both her sorrows and herself in a vat of vodka, Pop's wish had been granted, and during a spectacular argument the night before Meat had broken Khashoggi's nose with a right hook capable of felling a man twice her size. The Commander's nose had broken and would forever more retain a slight kink, and though he'd go to his grave before admitting it, he actually quite liked it and thought it made him look rather dashing.
For Khashoggi's part, he rather liked her, even if she didn't always like him. With Meat, he knew exactly where he stood and rather appreciated that fact. He'd handled some epic strops from the dearly departed Killer Queen and had subsequently concluded that he could take anything Meat chose to throw, or indeed hurl, his way. Tonight, however, was different. The Rhapsody had passed several weeks ago, and for the first time Khashoggi sought out Meat, rather than their paths crossing simply through chance. His stomach churned, and he found himself regretting the shot or two of finest aged Royal Lochnagar whisky he'd had for Dutch courage.
She was always there, right on the edge of his senses, a shadow in the background, just as she was at that moment; an ever-present whirl of blonde hair, fishnets and leather. She was always dancing, to a beat audible to none but her. It was rare that anyone approached her; on the one occasion she'd been confronted with her somewhat self-destructive behaviour, she'd replied that Brit had liked her to dance. Even now, weeks later, no one had an adequate response to that. They always watched her, but, truth be told, were too afraid to talk to her; she was volatile and they were wary of upsetting her and causing the final push that would undoubtedly topple her over the edge of the precipice.
All save one.
Khashoggi hadn't known Meat for very long, and in all likelihood, didn't know her at all; none of her actions had been quite as he'd expected, but, he was very observant. In his past line of work, he'd had to be. But that was all now being put to good use and from his observations, he'd conclusively deducted that for all Meat Loaf gave the appearance of loving and revelling in being the centre of everyone's attention, that was all it was; a cleverly constructed facade. Night after night, all eyes were upon her as she danced and drank away the hours until dawn came and exhaustion and alcohol finally overwhelmed her. Then, she'd sleep a fitful, troubled sleep and the cycle would begin again.
In addition to Khashoggi's observation skills, he was also endowed with a shrewd mind, and he was firmly of the opinion that, contradictory to her forthright nature though it was, Meat Loaf didn't actually like having everyone's eyes upon her. Not now, anyway, not after he'd killed her world. No, Khashoggi firmly believed that Meat was only acting as though she were the life and soul of the party. Once, maybe, she had been. But now, she only danced and drank because she didn't know what else to do. She'd been that way for so long it had become ingrained in her and she didn't know how else to behave, and had not the will to berate them for staring. She simply no longer cared.
Even now, she was there, swaying and rotating, arms lyrical to a silent tune, and as if on cue, her dance finished and Meat Loaf ducked out of the group, no doubt heading for the bar. Khashoggi found her in her allotted spot, perched on a bar stool at the far end of the bar, drawing slowly on a cigarette, a half-drunk something on the counter in front of her. Whether it was hers or someone else's was neither here nor there; if she wanted to drink it, she would. She blew out a cloud of smoke in his face as he walked over and then turned away. Khashoggi coughed slightly at the acrid smell, but otherwise ignored her action. He hated smoking and if anyone else had done that to him they would have been lectured, guaranteed. Meat Loaf was an exception to the rule; she was wilful and nothing anyone said, least of all Khashoggi, made the slightest difference to her.
Brit had been her exception. For him, she'd have done anything.
Cigarette propped awkwardly between the index and middle finger of her left hand she claimed the chipped tumbler with her right, a flick of her wrist swirling the alcohol once, twice, around the glass before she tipped her head back and drained the contents in one swift movement. Glossy pink lips smacked and a small red tongue licked a dribble of liquid from the corner of her mouth as she placed the glass back on the counter with a rather heavier thunk than was necessary.
He must have hesitated a moment too long, not expecting her to initiate conversation. But, initiate it she did, with a rather brusque "Well? What d'yeh want?" Despite the slight alcohol slur, her voice was cracked and far more gravelly than he remembered, though through disuse, fatigue or a cigarette too many, he could not tell.
It wasn't often that Khashoggi was rendered speechless, but he honestly hadn't been expecting her once spirited voice – Bohemians, give him your power! Make your last thoughts the Dream! - to have been reduced to something so, so lifeless. Apathy, it seemed, had bested her vivacious spirit. "I- I don't know," he cringed, regretting his choice of words as soon as they left his lips.
Meat Loaf snorted, "Yeh sound like Gaz. Of course you know. You always know."
In silent acknowledgement that he hadn't reprimanded her, as she had half expected, Meat leant over and stubbed the cigarette out.
"Yeh can sit down yeh know." Almost instantly, Khashoggi sat. Meat laughed throatily, "You're so... automated. Relax. Talk to me."
The drink must have loosened her tongue, for Khashoggi had not, despite all his observations, expected her to be so... friendly. It was disconcerting; he'd murdered her boyfriend, in cold blood, the little voice at the back of his mind added, sounding suspiciously like Meat's drunken rant the night before; she was meant to be the epitome of frosty hostility. Apparently, though, punching him had been cathartic and cleansing and she was willing to let the past remain in the past.
Khashoggi nodded and swallowed, not entirely sure if he was doing the right thing. "Spit it out," Meat said, impatiently, adding after a moment's thought, "I'm not going to punch you again, don't worry."
Khashoggi nodded, a slight quirk of the head, in tacit acknowledgement of her almost apology. "I wanted to thank you." Meat's quizzical expression prompted him to continue, "It struck me earlier that I've never thanked you before, and I thought I probably should."
Meat shrugged incredulously, "Why? What've yeh got t' thank me for?"
Had such a gesture not been beneath him, Khashoggi would have shrugged, but as it was, he settled for the honest explanation; likely the best thing, given the circumstances. "You could have had me kicked out in less than a heartbeat, with nothing more than a look. And you know that, don't you?"
Of course she knew. For all the appearance of Galileo being their leader, where he was concerned, it was universally accepted that Meat had the deciding vote. The second she said that she wanted him out, he would be gone, no questions asked. Without waiting for an answer, he ploughed on, "And yet, you haven't, and you've let me stay. Why?"
Meat blinked, once, eyelashes thick with clumping mascara, liberally applied eyeshadow and eyeliner rimming her emerald eyes. Twirling her glass, Meat played for time. The Commander's admission was something she had half expected, yet was unprepared for.
"Because it's what Brit would have done."
Khashoggi blinked and was saved the problem of thinking of an adequate reply when Meat continued, "Why'd you come here?" Many people had asked Khashoggi why he was there, and his answer had always been evasive, never the whole truth, never a lie.
"May I get you another?" Khashoggi asked, nodding towards her now empty glass.
He hesitated and with a shake of her head, apparently tired of his company, Meat hopped off the stool, rounded the edge of the bar and ducked down behind it. Khashoggi heard the distinctive clinking of glass before a small hand produced two empty, mostly clean glasses. They were followed by a dark, dusty bottle, two peculiarly shaped spoons and a dish of sugar cubes. Then, Meat herself appeared with a third glass which she proceeded to fill with water from a rickety, ancient tap, before sitting on the barman's stool in front of Khashoggi.
"Well?" Meat prompted, somewhat bluntly as she deftly poured a healthy measure from the dusty bottle into each of the empty glasses. It wasn't what she'd been drinking before – that had been clear, but this was a violent green. "P'raps this'll loosen that tongue of yours."
Khashoggi blinked and decided he didn't want to know what it was.
"I wanted to apologise, and I do." His mouth was strangely dry as he spoke and he paused, willing himself the courage to continue. He'd never been one to suffer from nerves and he wasn't going to start now.
Meat's actions stilled and he went on, "I'm... I'm sorrier than I can express without seeming trite for what- everything I've done."
"That's not what I meant, and you know it."
Khashoggi winced; clearly, he wasn't going to be able to fob her off with half-truths and fumbled answers. He hesitated. In truth, he didn't know why he was there. All he knew was that after Wembley, he had to follow them- there was nowhere else for him to go. What he wouldn't say though, was that he had been captivated by the life-hardened blonde. All through the short time she had been in the police cells he had watched her, trying to make sense of her. He knew he hadn't come close to understanding her by the time the Bohemians were sent to the Seven Seas, and after that he had attempted to put her out of his mind. Then, Wembley had happened and they had been pushed back into contact.
"I don't know, really." Meat clearly didn't believe him as she took one of the sugar cubes and balanced it over spoon on the glass. "Because I'm mad?" Khashoggi said, half attempting a joke, half truthful. "Your... friend-"
"Brit," Meat snapped. She sloshed some of the water over the sugar cube. A small sigh, and she softened her tone, "His name was Brit."
Khashoggi gulped, knowing he was treading on thin ice, "-Brit died because of me, and I had to at least try to make amends for that." He gave a half smile and continued, "And the Vibe, it's infectious, it draws you in and doesn't let you go."
He was still being evasive, but Meat knew it was the closest they'd come to a truthful response. Just as Khashoggi couldn't explain why he had followed her, she couldn't, or wouldn't, explain why she let him.
As appeased as she could be, she pushed the other glass to Khashoggi, who peered at the glass and its contents curiously.
She quirked an eyebrow at him and smirked. "Yeh've not louched before, 'ave yeh?"
Khashoggi didn't know what she meant and squinted sceptically at his glass.
"It won't poison yeh," Meat laughed. "Try it."
She took a sip of hers and sighen contentedly. Encouraged, Khashoggi took his glass and peered more closely at it. The liquid had changed colour and he said the first thing that came into his head.
"It's the same colour as your eyes."
Meat chuckled, a sad half laugh. "Tha's what Brit said."