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I Need A Hero

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It seemed that fate really wanted Tegan to get to her new job on time. No sooner had Aunt Vanessa's car bumped to a halt, than a gleaming sports car pulled up directly behind it and disgorged a blond, handsome man in immaculate pilot's uniform.

"Damsels in distress?" he asked. "Hop on board. No need to thank me, all part of the service."

To be strictly accurate, by the time she parted from Captain Rimmer at the airport entrance she was a few minutes behind schedule. But given how they'd spent those minutes, she was in no mood to complain.

Captain 'Ace' Rimmer, it quickly became apparent, was the subject of a number of rumours among her fellow cabin crew, some more justified than others. That he'd subdued a hijacker with his bare hands was... plausible, she supposed. Likewise the numerous tales of his romantic exploits among her colleagues.

On the other hand, she was quite sure he hadn't captured a dangerous terrorist on the Barnet bypass after stopping to help two innocent strangers whose car had succumbed to a puncture. She'd been one of those innocent strangers, and if there'd been anyone dodgy hanging about, she'd definitely have noticed.

After the first time Tegan served on Captain Rimmer's plane, she was more inclined to believe the rumours. It took quite a pilot to restart all four engines in midair, without showing so much as a twinge of uncertainty. Then he'd followed that up with a textbook emergency landing and emerged as cool as a cucumber.

"If that's how you thank me for saving your life, I'm impressed," he commented, later that night.

Laughing, Tegan kissed him. "You want me to do it again, you'll have to save my life again."

That part turned out not to be a problem.

It was when Tegan's cousin went missing in Amsterdam that her vague doubts about Captain Rimmer began to crystallise. It wasn't that his behaviour could be faulted; when the city was being invaded by chicken men from another dimension, you could do with a hero who had your back. But she was beginning to find his insouciance unnerving.

"Doesn't it bother you?" she asked.

"Bother me?" he repeated.

"All this stuff. It's pretty weird, I'd say."

He paused to shoot down a shambling figure in overalls, who'd been creeping up behind Tegan. "I've seen worse."

Hope I don't, Tegan thought.

Working under Captain Rimmer was, Tegan had to admit, an education. If he hadn't taken an interest in her, she was sure she'd never have found herself attending a masked ball. Then again, she wouldn't have found herself climbing out of an upstairs window with their host's teenage daughter while the building went up in flames.

"Jump!" a familiar voice called up to them. "I'll catch you!"

He did, of course, with hardly a jolt.

"What a guy," Miss Talbot breathed, seemingly inclined to melt into his arms on the spot. "You're so lucky, Tegan."

Tegan wondered if she was.

She felt his flight jacket being draped round her shoulders. "Tegan, you're shivering."

"I'm not cold," Tegan said. "I... just can't go on doing this."

"Pity. In my opinion, you're a good hostess."

"I didn't mean that." Tegan gestured at the scorched fuselage, the fire engines, the bewildered passengers. "It's like... danger follows you wherever you go. I can't keep up."

He patted her on the back. "No hard feelings. Keep the jacket if you like." He rose to his feet. "Smoke me a kipper. I'll be back for breakfast."

Tegan watched him as he strode away into the sunset.