"Got a signal?" 2Dads asks, craning his neck to get a better look at the phone in his XO's hand. She throws a patented Kate-McGregor-glare over her shoulder and shakes her head, illuminated only by the fluourescent light of the phone screen.
"No." She spits acidly, locking her phone with a small click and plunging them into darkness once more. "You?"
"My phone's dead." 2Dads murmurs, almost shamefully, waiting for the jokes about Gen Y and that this was the time he chose to not be glued to his phone.
"Great." Kate exhales heavily as 2Dads squints through the darkness at the tiny elevator. "Just great." He swallows the remark on his tongue about how he was really appreciating her optimism, knowing that here and now is certainly not the time. And then she says the five words that make him sure that the next few hours or so were going to be hell. "This. Is. All. Your. Fault." He hears her slide down the wall into a sitting position.
Truthfully, he'd been expecting her to say it earlier, when she first arrived to pick him up wearing her crazy silver heels and her most unimpressed look, or maybe when the elevator had ground to a halt several minutes earlier and the light had flickered out. But he can't help defend himself. "I didn't make the lift black-out." 2Dads mutters defensively, mostly because it was true. He was only to blame for everything that happened before that.
"No." Kate agrees through what sounds like gritted teeth. "But you did decide to get yourself stuck in the lockup in a foreign port, resulting in the need for me to come and bail you out at midnight." She pauses for a moment, then asks with something like confusion, concern, curiousity and fury all rolled into one terrifying package. "Where did you get the goat?" He can't help but smirk as she continues. "Actually, don't tell me. I don't want to know. Give me plausible deniability when the CO asks."
"You… you have to tell the CO, ma'am?" 2Dads begins tentatively, drawing himself in closer to the corner of the elevator.
"Of course I do, 2Dads. You can't honestly expect leniency from me here."
No, he couldn't. But that doesn't mean he isn't hoping for it. "X, I only did it because-"
"You know, I really don't want to hear it, 2Dads. I just… don't." He hears her sigh heavily again before the silence fills the elevator, the silence that seems to make everything seem loud, until he can hear the beating of his heart thumping like a drum, faster and faster.
"I'm sorry I ruined your date." He apologises with only the smallest hint of his usual smirk, as he too allows his body to slide down the wall.
"Excuse me?" He hears Kate ask in her best and most terrifying XO voice, but even so 2Dads feels the knot in his chest loosen just a little bit. She was talking. No silence. "What makes you think-"
"Well, I saw you when you arrived to get me." 2Dads begins, ticking off on his fingers. "Heels, nice dress, make-up. And that customs guy kept chatting you up whenever he saw you. Am I correct in guessing that you said yes to him?"
"Oh, for goodness' sake." Kate mumbles, her voice muffled, as if she has dropped her face into her hands. He notes that it's not a denial.
"Hey, I'm not complaining." 2Dads added. "And if I'm honest, X, you do scrub up nice. To be honest I think that's the only reason I got off on a warning." He's sure the only way to keep her talking is to aggravate her into it. "Unless you did it just for me. That sergeant couldn't stop looking at your-"
"-eyes. You're wearing mascara, right?" 2Dads finishes, with another smirk that is lost in the darkness.
Kate splutters. "Just… just shut up. I'm thinking about your punishment"
In spite of his relief that she is talking to him, 2Dads gulps. "Ma'am… what's my punishment going to be?"
"You want to talk about that now?"
"Thinking about life out of this elevator is very encouraging."
"You're assuming you're going to get out of here alive." She spits acidly at him. "And I haven't decided. Everything I think of seems so easy." Her voice is muffled again, nearly drowned out by the loud creak the elevator makes.
"Shit." 2Dads' hisses, flinching as the sound carries on for a few more seconds.
"Watch your language, Leader. This is your own fault." Kate hisses at him. But 2Dads barely acknowledges her chastisement.
"Are you supposed to jump or lay on the ground if the elevator starts to fall?" He racks his mind back, trying to remember all the movies that he's ever seen. Did they cover that on Mythbusters? Surely they must have.
"It's not going to fall, 2Dads." She says through what sounds like gritted teeth. "It's just a blackout."
"You don't know that." He presses. "It could be a fire… or an earthquake, or-"
"Did you feel an earthquake, Leader?"
"No." 2Dads admits. "But-"
"Do you smell smoke?"
"Would it even get in here yet?"
"Yes. There would be smoke and we'd feel the heat."
"But I can feel the heat."
"Because the air-con has gone with the blackout and it's near fifty-odd degrees outside!"
"But how much air do you think we've got?" 2Dads presses, staring at the elevator. "The lift's probably, what, two and a half metres high? Two wide? I don't remember how to work out the air. Do you? You're smart. Probably listened in class-"
"I do remember the maths. And I know you'll have a lot less if you don't shut up."
"I can't help it, X!" 2Dads cries, as the elevator gives another loud, screeching creak, like a giant fist outside was slowly warping and twisting the metal.
"You can! You can choose not to. Just like with these ridiculous practical jokes…" She drifts out again.
"It was a matter of principle, X-" 2Dads begins, but Kate cuts him off.
"You… you…" She splutters again. "No. Just no. How was that a matter of principle?"
"No!" She cuts him off again, shifting once more. "You know what, 2Dads? Maybe your bizarre story would make me feel those guys deserved it, but what you need to learn is that there is a difference between thinking someone deserves something and actually giving it to them. And quite frankly I don't want to hear the full story. So shut up and don't you dare speak until we are back on the ship or so help me I will kill you myself."
They lapse into silence for a little while, the only sound the creaking of the elevator. Was it getting more frequent? 2Dads digs his fingernails into his forearm and tries to imagine being somewhere else. The beach, with the cool air blowing on his face and the pitchblackclosinginonhim.
"Have you got any panadol?" Kate breaks the silence as she shifts again next to him, until 2Dads is fairly certain she's laying flat on her back. He wonders vaguely whether she's going to spend the whole time fidgeting before the elevator falls. Just his luck, stuck spending the last few hours of his life with his ants-in-her-pants XO. 2Dads doesn't answer at first, and he swears he can see Kate roll her eyes. "You can speak. I won't kill you."
"No." 2Dads replies simply. "Don't you have some in your bag? I thought girls…" Kate's heel stamps in protest on the floor of the elevator and 2Dads rushes to correct himself, "sorry. Women always came prepared. And don't stamp your feet please. Or else the whole lift's going to fall."
"My bag is on the ship." Kate groans, ignoring his last comment.
"Oh." 2Dads frowns, thinking back. "No, you were holding that… white and silver bag. The one that goes with your dress." He feels a rush of pride at having been able to remember the details, but as usual she dismisses his words.
"It's a clutch, 2Dads. I only brought my phone and wallet. Makeup."
"So you did go out on a date." 2Dads murmurs. A second later a hand whacks him hard on the arm. "Ouch. Sorry. Geez." The elevator gave its loudest creak yet and 2Dads flinches. "Shit."
"2Dads!" He hears Kate move next to him once more, and the next time she speaks her voice sounds as though she's sitting up again. "Stop being so bloody dramatic."
"Well then, you pick a topic of conversation for the next few hours, because I think we're going to be in here for a while." 2Dads adds with a sort of half-hearted cheekiness. "We could talk about your hot date."
A few strands of her hair brush his arm as she moves her head, her next words muffled, as if her head was in her hands once more. "He is not a hot date."
"Aha!" Shouts 2Dads, keen to keep the conversation flowing. "So there was a date."
"Headache." Kate mutters. "Hurts. Quiet."
They fall into silence for only a few seconds before 2Dads pipes up again. "Got any plans for when we get back into port?" Kate doesn't dignify his question with a response. "I think I'm going to see my nieces. My sister Raina. She has two kids. Emma and Katie. Emma's ten and Katie's seven. I'll probably have to watch Frozen again but that's all good." Assuming we get out of here, he thinks darkly, but doesn't say it aloud. If I get out of here, I'll happily dress up as Elsa and sing with Em all day long. "Have you got nieces?"
"Why are you babbling, 2Dads?" Kate's exasperated voice comes from next to him. "Can't you just… for once in your life… shut up! It's like you can't handle not being the centre of attention. Can't you just handle the quiet?"
He doesn't answer immediately, but squints around at the darkness. "Not… not here." He murmurs. "Not dark and small and silent."
"What are you on about?"
"Nothing." 2Dads murmurs quickly. "I don't…" He trails off, not wanting to finish the sentence. "It sounds like…"
But Kate is smarter than that, and she shifts suddenly next to him, her elbow knocking his. "Sounds like what?" She presses. Now it's his turn to not answer. "Sounds like what?" She repeats, but her voice is softer this time, less annoyed.
2Dads stares down at his feet. "It sounds like the sub. The… the creaking. It's…" He takes a deep breath. "I'm trying to talk to you because I… I don't want to be stck in a small space with the threat of death looming in my head. The creaking, ticking, pressing in. I'm not doing it to piss you off." He bites his lip. "Go on. Make fun of me."
"I'm not going to make fun of you." Kate murmurs, and her voice is softer still, more Kate than X. "We're all scared of something."
"Oh yeah?" He challenges. "What's Lieutenant Kate McGregor scared of?" She doesn't answer immediately, and he presses on. "Look, X, can we just keep talking? The silence… I can't do it. Not here. Please."
Kate hesitates for a moment, then murmurs. "Okay. But nothing… personal."
"What do you mean?" 2Dads frowns. "What else am I going to talk to you about?"
"Why are you always so invested in my private life?" Kate groans.
"Because I know nothing about you." 2Dads answers quickly.
"There is a reason for that." Kate replies. "I'm trying to keep my private life private."
"But I have questions. Like… like, is Kate short for something?"
She groans, that sort of groan that he can imagine a teenager giving an overly involved mother. "You're serious, aren't you?"
"Well, no, it's not. I'm just Kate."
2Dads smiles a little in the dark. "I'm sure, X, that out of all the things you've ever been, 'just Kate' is not one of them."
She doesn't say anything in reply to that, but the next time she speaks her voice is softer, calmer. "So do I get to ask questions too?"
"You already know everything about me. You read the files."
"A file isn't everything." Kate replies.
"Well, sure then. Ask away."
"What… was…" There's a rapping, tapping sound next to him and 2Dads is sure that Kate is tapping her fingernails against the floor in frustration. "I don't know. I'm hopeless at this. Um… Kosov-Meyer? Why the double barrel?"
"Easy. Kosov is my Mum's last name. Meyer is my Dad's. I'm a bastard. They got married a few years after I was born." 2Dads breathes a sigh of relief at having gotten away with such a simple question, but he knows she'll try harder next time. He presses on with his own question. "Are you an only child?"
Kate immediately says, "Yes," and then follows it up with, "No."
"Which one?" He laughs, unable to help himself.
"I have a sister. Well, half-sister. Her name's Rebecca. She's ten years older than me." Kate answers.
2Dads frowns. "Why the no?"
Kate hesitates for a moment, then speaks. "Because it's not like we're best-buddy sisters. She lives in a different country, I think I've met her maybe three or four times. We're not close. At all."
"That's… weird. Do you… do you talk?"
"Not really." Kate dismisses his concerns, and 2Dads wonders whether he'll ever know the full story. He immediately regrets using the word weird and wonders vaguely whether she will keep talking to him now. But just as the thought crosses his mind she asks her next question. "What's your tag about?"
"My tag?" 2Dads repeats, genuinely thrown.
"The tag that you put on all those buildings. Your graffiti tag. There's a photo in your file. Looks like D-R-O-M-I or something."
"Oh. That." 2Dads inwardly cringes. Trust her to ask the questions that made him feel worse about himself. "Well, it's Promi. With a P. P – R – O – M – I. And… and fifteen-year-old me thought they were being really deep and in touch with their emotions. When promises end."
He hears Kate wince. "Ooh, that's bad." She says with a laugh that he hadn't been expecting.
"Tell me about it. You didn't have to explain it in court." 2Dads bites his lip as he considers his question. "So here's a real mystery. Who's the kid?"
"Kid?" Kate repeats.
"Wavy black hair. About twelve years old? There's a photo of you and her that's currently your phone wallpaper." In the dark, he feels her looking at him and shrugs. "I peeked over your shoulder while you were looking for reception."
"Of course you did." Kate sighs, more to herself than to him. "She's my goddaughter, Izzy."
"Goddaughter?" 2Dads repeats, thrown that she has a Godchild.
"Yes." She pauses for a moment. "You're trying to figure it out, aren't you? Who would be mad or sad enough to choose the Ice Queen Bitch to be Godmother to their girl?"
"No!" 2Dads protests. "Yes. No, I was wondering who her parents were. Whether I know them."
"You don't know him. For some inexplicable reason Malcom chose me to be a guardian to his kid. Luckily he's a corporate lawyer so the chances of something happening to him are minimal."
"How old is she?" 2Dads asks.
"Her… her mum's not around?"
"Louise? No. She took off. Left Iz with Mal and signed her rights away." The elevator gives a loud groaning creaking sound that 2Dads swears could have come from beyond the grave, and the words tumble from his mouth before he can fully comprehend them.
"I don't think you're an Ice Queen Bitch." He says. "Just so you know."
"That's what everyone calls me, 2Dads. Princess Perfect. Ice Queen. Bitch. That's what they've all called me. Since I joined the Navy. You included." His face reddens and he recalls just the other day, when she'd made him scrub out the head with a toothbrush, and he'd muttered the words under his breath. Cold-hearted bitch.
"I didn't mean for you to hear that." He mumbles. "And I didn't really mean it."
"Sure." Kate murmurs in a disbelieving tone.
"I used to think that. And I get pissed when people tell me off. I was embarrassed. But I don't think that." He seeks out her silhouette, even though she can't see him. "I'm sorry, X. I'm sorry if that hurt you."
"You don't have to apolo-"
"No, I do." He gestures to her phone. "And I am. You're not cold-hearted, or icy, or anything like it. You've only got to look at that picture to see it." Kate taps her phone, and the image of her and Iz burns through the darkness, cheeks pressed together, identical grins on their face as the wind blew their hair over their faces. "Do you see her often?"
"I saw her last shore leave. She lives in Mission Beach, a few hours down. We went shopping together. She took the photo." Kate gives a small laugh as she continues to talk. "She's obsessed with monkeys. They're her favourite animal. You'd get along well with her."
"You look happy."
"She's a great kid." Kate agrees.
"No," 2Dads shakes his head. "I mean… you look… happy." A small silence follows, during which 2Dads is sure they're both immersed in deep thought. But as the space slowly presses in on him once more he hastens to strike up conversation again. "So how-"
"No." Kate cuts him off. "I'm fairly sure it's my turn to ask a question. You've asked about seventy."
"Fine then. Ask away."
"Will you reenlist when your contract runs up next year?"
The question is so unexpected, and yet so Kate McGregor. It still catches him by surprise though as he hastens to think about the decision he'd been putting off for so long. "I… I don't know yet." 2Dads settles on eventually. "I mean… on the one hand, it was always such a punishment being here. It was always like a sentence, you know." He shrugs. "Well, I guess it was. But then, on the other… the things that I've seen. The places I've gone. It's incredible." He shrugs. "Are you going to?"
"Am I going to what?"
"Of course." Kate answers quickly. "Why wouldn't I?"
2Dads hesitates for a moment, then says in a rush. "It just seems like out of the both of us, you're the one who isn't sure."
"I…" He hears her fingernails drumming against the floor of the elevator once more. "I… of course, I-"
"There's no one else here, X." 2Dads reminds her. "And I'm not going to say anything."
"You always say something." Kate points out, her voice a mixture of amusement and sadness.
"About stupid stuff, yes. Rumours. But facts… things that I know will hurt people… no. And I've told you enough in here too. I know you won't spill my secrets. So I'll do the same for you."
Kate's quiet for several seconds before speaking again. "What would I do? What else would I know? The Navy was… is… all I'm good at."
"But there's a difference between being good at something and enjoying it." He hesitates. "Is it the job that's getting you down, or the people on board?"
"What-" Kate moves again, and once more he feels the tickle of her hair on his arm. "What do you mean?"
2Dads hesitates for a moment, wondering if he should press on. But then he throws caution to the wind. "You're always so… so sad now. Since Swain and Jim died. Every time you speak to the boss it's with this… regret, I guess."
He hears her swallow heavily. "I didn't think anyone noticed." She takes a deep breath and says all in a rush. "It's going to sound really stupid."
"You never sound stupid." 2Dads laughs.
Kate gives a derisive snort of laughter. "I feel stupid. It's so ridiculous…" She trails off for a moment. "I went to Boost Juice the other day. I have one of those Vibe cards, so my name's on there. But when she called out Kate it took so long for me to realise that she was talking to me, you know? I've been X for so long, this Naval persona, that I barely know who I am anymore. I talk in 24 hour time, I haven't had a normal sleep cycle since I joined ADFA, and…" He hears something that he thinks just might be a shaky, suppressed sob, but he's not brave enough to say anything. "Jim… Jim was a chance at a normal life. A shore posting, a family. A husband and a dog and… and maybe a kid, you know? But then… I'm stuck and he doesn't want to commit to anything."
2Dads has a strong suspicion who he must be, but he's not stupid. And he knows that X hadn't meant to say it. And he's not going to bring it up if she doesn't. "You don't… you don't need a husband to take a shore posting." 2Dads points out tentatively. "Not if it's what you really want to do."
"I don't know what I want to do." Kate murmurs. "I just don't know. I try and move on and it doesn't…"
2Dads can't help but tease her a little. "Tonight wasn't the perfect date you imagined?"
She actually laughs this time. "No. He was so up himself. Kept going on about his greatest achievements."
"Did you kick his arse?"
"No. I took off to bail a crewmate out of lockup. Waste of a bloody dress."
"So was it the customs guy?"
"Yes." She admits. "The tool. And he kept calling me Katie. I hate people calling me that."
"The last straw, was it?"
"No. The last straw was when he said that people who stayed up late to watch the EPL should be forced into a small town together and educated on the ways of NRL."
"You watch the EPL?"
"When I was three I decided I wanted to play for a team. I didn't even care what team it was. I used to beg Mum to take me to their training grounds all the time and I'd watch all the teams train for hours."
"But…" 2Dads hesitates. "Isn't it played in England?"
"Yes." She admits, then murmurs almost reluctantly. "I lived there until I was nine."
"But… but you don't have an accent." 2Dads muses stupidly.
"I've also been in Australia for over twenty years. I lost it when I was a kid." She snickers appreciatively. "More to the point I faked an Australian accent until it became my real one. I hated being the outsider."
He has an image of a young Kate McGregor, pigtailed and shy, with a British accent. "Why'd you move?" He presses.
Kate remains silent and for a moment he's sure that she's not going to answer him. He mentally kicks himself. He was pushing too hard. But then as the silence starts to creep up on him once more she says, "My mother."
"Your mother?" He repeats, wondering whether he's going to get the full story.
"She moved you?"
Kate takes a few breaths, as if contemplating telling him. And then she says in a tumble, "She met a guy and followed him to Australia."
"Oh. She fell in love or something?" He questions.
Kate laughs, but it's a different kind of laugh. Harsh. "My mother falls in love all the time. Or at least, she convinced herself she had. No, she met a guy and a week later told me to pack a bag."
2Dads can't help but be appalled. "She… she just dragged you along?" 2Dads frowns in horror.
"Yes." Kate speaks with an air of forced non-chalance that doesn't quite mask the anger.
"I'm sorry." He expects some sort of dismissal of his words, but she appears to contemplate him.
"Thanks." She murmurs. He hears her stand up and move towards the other wall. "Geez, it's hot in here."
"Yeah. No AC anymore." 2Dads shrugs. "Maybe we'll die of heatstroke instead."
"Oh, but at least you'll be dying knowing all of my secrets." She says, and he swears he can hear her laugh.
"Like… three of them." He calculates, wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead.
"Yeah." Kate admits. "But three of my biggest secrets."
"Okay." 2Dads concedes. "But I still don't know your middle name."
"What's yours?" Kate asks. "You first."
"How very Russian."
He snorts, because it is. His mother was the most Australian Russian woman he had ever met, and yet naming her children was the one thing she had insisted on. "Well, what's yours?"
"Violet." She says, with an air of daring him to laugh.
"How very British." 2Dads smirks, and he can practically feel the sneer.
"My mother was a Violin player." Kate explains. "And she loved the colour. She wanted to name me Nicole after Niccolo Paganini, a famous violinist. But… apparently when I was born I had the same colour eyes as her mother, Catherine, so she named me after her. And I got Violet for a middle name."
There's a definite sneer in Kate's voice that makes 2Dads ask, "You don't like your grandmother?"
"Never met her." Kate says simply. "That's what I think is ridiculous. Catherine kicked my mother out of home when she fell pregnant with me and my mother never saw her again. And my mother named me after her." 2Dads opens his mouth to ask something but Kate beats him to it. "Have you got siblings?" She asks.
"I've got a sister, Raina, and a brother Tomas." Kate hums in affirmation and 2Dads presses on. "How did you meet the guy… Malcolm?"
"Oh. We went to high school together. He'd give me a lift in the mornings every day, even though he didn't know me. Said it was unchivalrous to allow a woman to walk by herself in the cold."
"He sounds like a nice guy." 2Dads begins slyly.
"A nice, engaged guy." Kate agrees, and 2Dads flushes, wondering whether his idea was that obvious. "His fiancée's a good friend too. And they're made for each other."
"So you never felt like that?" He asks, before mentally kicking himself. Did he seriously just ask her that? What were they, on the set of Sex & the City?
"I did, years ago. But he was with Louise and I was…" She swallows and carries on. "Well, it was the wrong time. And then… he's a mate. You know? He's just a mate." She pauses. "Ever been in love?"
"Oh, X. I fall in love all the time." He quips back. She laughs out loud before correcting him.
"No, I meant-"
"Yeah, I know what you meant." Now it's 2Dads' turn to tap anxiously on the elevator floor. "I think I loved Bomber." He admits. "I know I did. But I screwed that one up."
"You-" He hears Kate sit up next to him, and for the third time feels that brush of hair. "I thought… I thought she broke up with you. Met someone else or something. How's that your fault?"
"Yeah, well." 2Dads admits. "That's… that's what she told everyone. Technically…" 2Dads sighs, then reveals the secret he had kept for a year. "She lied."
"She what?" Kate splutters, unable to hide her shock.
"She… she didn't think that I was as… serious as she was. So she lied, to see what I'd do."
"And?" Kate asks, and he feels her lean forwards.
"And I did nothing, X. Didn't reply to her email. Didn't call. Didn't do all the things I should have. And by the time I got back to port it was too late. All her stuff was gone out of my place. All mine was in a garbage bag… And she was gone."
"Have you heard from her?" Kate asks.
"Nope. She changed her number, moved houses. Dropped out of contact from RO and everyone else on Hammersley. She's just… gone. Not that RO would tell me even if he did know where she was."
"When people you love leave you without an explanation…" Kate begins in a sad voice. "It's the worst."
2Dads knows that there's more to the story than she's letting on, and decides to push his luck. "You've been in love then?"
Kate laughed a humourless laugh. "I fall in love… when it's…" She thought for a moment. "When it's the most inconvenient of all. When all the odds are against anything working. I fell for Mal when he was with his pregnant girlfriend. Fell for-" She stops herself abruptly, breathing heavily. "Jim was… love. I loved him. He was easy to love. That was the whole appeal. It was easy, and I loved him. I just don't think I was in love with him. And I don't think I could have accepted his proposal." Kate laughs out loud again. "I can't believe I'm telling you this."
"Well, there's a lot of things I told you tonight that I've never told anyone." 2Dads agrees. "And when we get back on the ship you'll go back to hating me and everything will be back to normal."
"I don't hate you." Kate cries, affronted. "I think you make stupid decisions sometimes, but you're a good sailor."
"Yeah, well." He shrugs. "I stuff up all the time."
"Yeah," Kate admits. "But you have some brilliant ideas. You think outside the box." Kate sighs and voices another question. "Why'd you do it? All the graffiti and the trouble with the law?"
"A way to deal, I guess." 2Dads frowns. "Tomas came home one day and found Dad in bed with Mum's best friend. Tomas was so angry at Dad and at Mum for taking him back… he left. Moved in with a mate. Raina threw herself into dancing and I was just… I was convinced there was nothing else I could do." He shrugs, barely able to believe that he is telling her all of this. "Fell in with a bad crowd. Tagging buildings became the only way I felt I could be noticed. Heard. So I kept going."
"And why the Navy? Against all the other branches?"
2Dads smirks a little. "Against everything I'm still… scared of dying. I thought there was less of a chance of dying in the Navy. Less drama."
"And how's that working out for you?" Kate deadpans.
"Hey!" 2Dads protests. "You get into trouble more than I do!"
"I do not!" Kate argues back.
"A few kidnappers here, some cyanide there…"
"Croc poachers, corrupt captains, drug smugglers…" Kate retorts.
"Didn't you command a mutiny?"
Kate groans. "That guy was… unstable… to say the least."
"I hear he called you Little Missy. And survived."
"How do you hear this stuff?"
"Spider did a reenactment in the mess not long after I started." 2Dads informs her. "And according to Buffer, it was better than the one he did of you."
"Oh, shut up."
"No, I would have loved to have seen it. The real thing, I mean." He laughs.
"Just as well you didn't. Spider could barely keep a straight face. You would have… would have shouted out or something."
"I would have applauded you."
"My point exactly. Your career would have been over before it had started."
"He deserved it." 2Dads points out.
"He did." Kate agrees. "But there's the trick to surviving the Navy that you just don't seem to have yet. You need to be able to tell your superiors that they're being a dick without actually insulting them." She shifts again. "That and the correct way to stockpile confectionary."
"I do stockpile. But people steal it!"
"I know." Kate nods. "But if you hid them in a halfway decent place people wouldn't steal your chocolate. You still haven't even changed the location of your stash."
"Where else am I gonna hide it! I have no room and-" His eyes narrow. "How do you know where I hide the chocolate?"
"I found it." Kate tells him. "I really like Caramello Koalas."
2Dads opens his mouth to retort, but is cut off as the elevator creaks once more, louder than ever. 2Dads jumps, his foot jerking out from under him. A moment later he hears a hiss of pain and realises he must have kicked X.
"Shit. Sorry." He apologises. He hears Kate tap her fingernails on the elevator wall again. "How long until they get us out?" She groans.
"What's the time now?" 2Dads asks. He hears a shuffling next to him, and a moment later they're bathed in light as Kate's phone lights up.
"0243 hours" She reports, locking the phone once more. The image of her and Izzy remains burnt onto his eyelids, blinding him.
"What time did we get in here?" He asks.
"Hmmm…" Kate thinks. "I got here just before midnight. But I was waiting until about 0145 hours and we were filling out paperwork until 0200."
"Aww… X. You waited for almost two hours for me?" 2Dads cooed. A moment later he felt a hand whack him on the shoulder again. "Ouch! That's… abuse of power or something isn't it? I could have you court-marshalled."
"So you saw it was me, did you?" Kate challenges, and he swears that she's smirking. "And yes, I did. Because even the prospect of sitting in a foreign lock-up for hours on end was more promising than my sexist date."
"X, I think that's the sweetest thing you've ever said to me."
And then out of the quiet there's a hammering on the elevator doors, and they both leap to their feet and move over.
"Hello?" Kate calls out, her voice echoing around the walls. "Can you hear me?"
"Hello?" 2Dads shouts.
They press their ears to the door and hear a reply, muffled from the thick elevator doors but still audible. "Yes!"
"Thank God." Kate mumbles under her breath.
"Two." 2Dads calls back. "Can you get us out?"
"We try. One hour."
"An hour?!" Kate repeats, then mumbles. "But I'm hungry."
"Yes. Maybe more. Any hurt?"
"No." They chorus.
"An hour." Kate repeats, moving back to her original position and sliding down the wall once more.
"Sorry, X." 2Dads murmurs. "If I hadn't-"
"Just forget it, 2Dads. We're here. For an hour." Kate exhales loudly. "Why couldn't it have been two?"
"We're sceduled to sail at 0400 hours. We needed to sail with the tide. We might have gotten an extra day on shore." 2Dads smiles at her logic. "Not that you would have needed it, 2Dads." Kate adds.
"Haven't you ever pranked anyone, X?" 2Dads presses. "Come on. You must have."
"Of course I have." Kate quips. "I was just smart enough not to get caught."
"What'd you do?" 2Dads asks, so eager to hear the stories of the side of his XO he has never known.
"I… I bought thirty alarm clocks and set them all to go at different times through the night. Hid them all through a guy's house."
"What were you expecting?"
"I dunno. Not that. That is awesome! Did it work?"
"Yeah. It also cost me a bomb for all the clocks. Very expensive."
"Wow!" 2Dads whistles appreciatively. "Who was that on?"
"Just some guy at school who used to make Mal's life horrible. He threw a party while his parents were away so I snuck in and hid them all the next morning while he was passed out drunk." 2Dads grins appreciatively. Kate sighs deeply. "Alright, go ahead."
"Go ahead and what?" 2Dads frowns, puzzled.
"Go ahead and give me the story of what happened tonight. Of what this man possibly did to you to warrant the series of events that led us here tonight."
2Dads hesitates, then shakes his head, even though he knows that she can't see him.
"No, it was…" He takes a deep breath. "It was stupid, and I don't know why I thought it was a good idea."
"What?!" Kate shifts once more. "No crazy story, no determined explanations?"
"No. I've got nothing to defend myself, Ma'am." He says, holding his breath and waiting for the outburst. But it never comes.
Instead she moves once more next to him and breaks the silence. "I hope they get the doors open soon. It's so hot." He hears a strange sound from next to him and frowns.
"What are you doing?"
"Tying my hair up." Kate mumbles, and a moment later he hears the snap of what he assumes must be an elastic band.
"I like you with your hair down." 2Dads murmurs.
"You can't even see me." Kate grumbles. "And I don't like it. Guys don't seem to understand just how uncomfortable it is to have hair out all the time."
"Really?" 2Dads frowns, turning to where (he thinks) Kate is sitting.
"Yes, really." Kate answers back. "I can't wear lipgloss with my hair out, because every single strand of hair will get stuck in that gloss. I find my hair everywhere. I have to cut it out of the vacuum cleaner every week I'm home. And it knots. It's hot, and it sticks together. Like, all the time." Kate groans again. "And my head hurts!"
"You're totally hungover!" 2Dads cries, earning a hiss from Kate.
"I don't know. Maybe. I had a few wines and a few shots of something when he wouldn't shut up. Now I have a headache. So speak. Quietly."
"We're sailing in a few hours."
"I'm not drunk, 2Dads. I can think perfectly."
"You do that often? Show up to work hungover?"
"Once before, after I went out drinking with Mal and then got crash-sailed."
"You broken any other rules?"
"Oh, yeah. Boring stuff. I've jaywalked and… and stuff like that." Kate falls into silence for a moment before continuing. "I had a fake ID."
"You had a fake ID?" 2Dads repeats, eyes goggling. "You?"
"There was a band I really wanted to see and it was in a club and so I saw a guy at school who sorted it out."
He hesitates for a minute. "Have you ever broken frat rules?"
"What makes you ask that?"
"Because… because everything that happened with Bomber, and you looked… you looked like you understood."
"I guess… technically… I did." 2Dads eyes widen, and he wonders for one moment whether he just might get the explanation. But then she adds, "I didn't know he was in the Navy though."
"When did you find out?"
"When I rolled into Watson's Bay a few weeks later."
"You have no idea."
"Navy sucks for relationships. You spend so much time with people that you can't help but develop feelings for them."
"And the only people who understand the long hours and all of that are Navy." He feels a pat on the back. "Get out while you still can."
"And do what?"
"You're smart. Good with electronics. Do something with that. You have other options."
"So do you."
"Like what?" Kate snorts. "The Navy was the only thing I was ever good at. Don't need a navigator on shore. Or a sharpshooter or anything else I do here." He wants to say something, something encouraging. But she is right, and he can't think of a single point to correct her. "And most days I still love my job." Kate adds. "I like to think I can help people. That I can make a difference. I am happy, most of the time."
"I won't love my job when the boss finds me tomorrow. This-" He waves a hand to indicate the elevator, even though he knows she can't see, "-will be all my fault. I'll be on bilge scrubbing duties until my grandchildren take over."
"Only if he finds out." Kate sighs. "I'm not going to tell him."
"Because… because you respected me enough not to give me some half-baked crappy excuse." Kate pauses. "But this is the last time I bail you out. And you owe me."
"Well, next time you want to get wasted, X, I'm right there with you. Got your back."
"Great." Kate chuckles, her laughter echoing around the room, before the silence falls again just in time for a growl to echo around the elevator.
"Was that your stomach?" 2Dads laughs.
"Shut up." Kate whines in a voice so unlike anything he has heard from her before. "I'm hungry."
"So am I." 2Dads agrees.
"I could go a beef kebab now." Kate presses. 2Dads chuckles.
"You must be drunk if you're thinking about kebabs."
"I'm just a sucker for kebabs. They're the best."
"Yeah, they are pretty good." 2Dads concedes. "Although, I am more partial to a good slice of pizza." Kate doesn't reply, shifting once again. "Don't you ever just sit still?" 2Dads murmurs as her arm knocks against his.
"I can't." Kate hisses. "It's too bloody hot and I can't get comfortable."
"You've been fidgeting the whole time we've been in here." He points out. "Every few minutes I can hear your dress swishing."
"Can you blame me in this stupid dress? My back's sore and my head is pounding."
"Here." 2Dads picks up his discarded hoodie and balls it up, throwing it in the direction he thinks she is sitting. A muffled yelp a moment later confirms his hit. "Stick it behind your back."
"Thanks." She mumbles, and they drift into silence once more. 2Dads racks his brain, trying to think of something to say. But everything that occurs to him seems stupid. The easy conversation that had flowed between them before was gone.
"Got any music on your phone?" 2Dads queries after a few moments.
"Yeah." Kate nods, unlocking the phone once more and opening the music section.
"Who have you got?" 2Dads asks, peering over her shoulder until she throws him the McGregor glare once more and he backs away. "Sorry."
"Birds of Tokyo, Cutting Crew-"
"Cutting Crew?!" 2Dads interrupts, disgusted.
"Hey," Kate holds a hand up. "I will not hear anything negative about the Cutting Crew. Just Died in Your Arms got me through some hard times."
"Pass. Who else?"
"Fleetwood Mac, Florence and the Machine-"
"Who have you got that I would like?" 2Dads cuts in, earning himself another whack on the arm.
"You look!" She sighs, flinging the phone at him.
2Dads catches it deftly and scrolls through her list of artists. A few names jump out at him, and after flicking through all the choices of music, he selects a Franz Ferdinand album, and The Fallen begins to play.
"Your music's so commercial." He complains. "There's barely anything good here." 2Dads flicks into her playlist option and clicks onto her Most Played playlist. He has just enough time to note that the music she seems to like is what he would put in his crap playlist, before the phone is snatched from his grasp.
"Oh, sorry for not catering to your musical needs. I should have thought more carefully about my music choices, knowing that I was about to be stuck in an elevator with you." Kate replies sarcastically. "I'm the only child of a young, clueless single mother. She used to throw me in front of the TV to watch Top of the Pops or Countdown whenever she went out. Everything I knew was commercialised."
This statement wipes the smile off his face, making him feel terrible. "Sorry." He mumbles. "Were you… were you alone a lot?" 2Dads asks, hesitantly this time, because even though he knows they're sharing secrets, her family is the one thing that she seems most upset about.
Kate's silent for so long that he's sure that she wasn't going to answer, but then she breaks the silence. "I was thinking about lying, like I always used to." She admits. "People used to always ask me that. Teachers and my Dad, whenever he could be bothered to call." Kate inhales deeply. "Yeah, I was alone a lot of the time. Most of the time actually."
"Was it just you and your mum?" He asks.
"Yeah." Kate nods. "Her and my Dad were never really together. He was married, you know. Years older than her. After she got pregnant with me she was sure that he would leave his wife. But they had a kid too, my sister, so he stayed. Broke Mum's heart. Though I don't know what she expected."
In the light of Kate's phone screen, he sees the dark, disgusted look on her face, and he wonders vaguely whether she's ever told anyone this before. "We lived in this tiny flat in Thamesmead. It was so disgusting. Housing commission. We only had one room, and we didn't have a bed so Mum and I camped out on this filthy mattress. At night you could hear all the bugs scuttling around. She worked at a pub so she'd leave the house at four in the afternoon and she wouldn't come back until three in the morning. She used to give me money to go and get chips from the corner store but I hated walking through our estate with my mum, let alone by myself. So I'd hide the money and swear that one day I'd buy us a new place."
The light on Kate's phone goes out, and she stops talking. "You don't… have to tell me." 2Dads begins hesitantly. "I mean… you can if you want. But if you-"
"I think I'm going to keep going." She whispers, more to herself than to him. "I've never told anyone. Not even Mike." 2Dads head jerks up, wondering if he has heard correctly. Sure, he has always suspected that there was… something… there with his Commanding Officer and X, but to hear her say that…
She doesn't appear to notice what she had said though, and 2Dads knows that he will never bring it up. "Well then, I'll listen." He smiles, even if she can't see him. He feels a sense of pride, that he was the one that she was choosing to tell. She was beautiful, and there was the thing with the boss, he was sure. Plus Dutchy had some strange little best-friend/crush sort of thing going on but it was him that she was telling.
"She was only eighteen when she had me. She was still a kid herself and she had no clue what to do. She'd get home from work drunk a lot of the time and she'd sleep until I'd get home from school and wake her. And then she started bringing guys home. She'd wake me up, telling me to move to the lounge. And then, she'd come home less and less. Some nights not at all, and I used to stay up waiting for her. I'd fall asleep the next day in class. I always looked a mess."
He can see her, in his minds eye, all messy blonde hair and dirty, creased school dresses, and he feels the ache of sorrow and guilt. He'd been so set on his life being terrible, so he'd gone out and drawn on buildings, but compared to her, it seemed he lived a charmed life. "Eventually, a woman came to the house and asked me how often I was alone for." Kate continues. "I stalled, lied. Told her that Mum was at the shops. But they kept coming back, and soon I was taken into care and sent to Dad's. That was when his wife and daughter found out I existed. The wife left. Mum was hopeful. Thought it meant…" Kate takes a deep breath and says all in a rush, "She thought it meant that they'd get back together. But Dad didn't want her. Didn't want me either, when Mum got custody back. He told her and then… and then, she picked me up from school and told me to pack a bag. We hopped on a plane with an opal miner."
"Just like that?" He asks.
"Just like that." Kate agrees.
"That sucks." 2Dads observes. "Was she… was she better here?"
"For a while." Kate admits. "She tried, at least. She told me Dad didn't want me. That he'd given her money to take me somewhere new and give me a good life. I still don't know where she got that money. She stayed at home. We moved in with Bob, the opal miner. He was nice. Did… Dad stuff with me, I guess. But that relationship ended. Mum was never any good at dating nice guys. And then… she started drinking again. Staying out. Meeting random guys. We went into housing commission again. Better than the UK, but still scary. I'd get sick all the time. School was my only escape. And Countdown. Music seemed to be the only thing that made her Mum again. She went out and bought a cheap violin and taught me how to play. And I was good. I used to pour my heart into that until her boyfriend broke it. And after that… I poured my heart into escaping instead. I used to run and swim a lot. Push my body to the limits, so that I could get away."
Kate shifts in her spot once more, and as she speaks again 2Dads summises she's laying down once more. "I was three months out from finishing highschool when we had a fight. I came home to find Mum with a black eye. The bruises were nothing new. Several of her boyfriends used both of us as a punching bag and the latest was no exception. But this was the first time he'd hit her where anyone could see. I told her to leave. To get rid of him. Go to the cops. But she refused, and he came home and heard me…" 2Dads closes his eyes, knowing where the story was going. "He broke four of my ribs before getting bored and walking away. And all my mother could say was that I should be more careful. I left. I stayed with Mal and his family until I finished high school and then… joined the Navy."
"Did you guys make up?" 2Dads asks.
"No." Kate grinds out forcefully, and the word sends shivers down 2Dads' spine. "He beat her to death a year later."
"I'm sorry." 2Dads offers. "I know that it doesn't make up for it, but I'm sorry that happened to you."
"Thanks." Kate murmurs. "I do wonder though… if I'd stayed…"
"If you'd stayed, you'd both have been killed."
"But I shouldn't have left her." Kate repeats.
"You wouldn't have joined the Navy. The world… think of all the people you've saved. Mia, that kid that got kidnapped. And… all those women who were sex slaves on the boat. All those people whatshisface was going to hurt with his crabs…" 2Dads phrases the words like that, hoping she'll pick up on the joke, and as he hears her snort with laughter he knows that she did.
"Rick Gallagher?" She answers after. 2Dads can't resist a little jab.
"Yeah. Your ex-boyfriend as I recall."
Kate gives a half-laugh, half-groan. "Yes. Not one of my best choices." She pauses for a moment. "Not one of my worst, either, come to that."
"Yes, well disastrous relationship aside, you still saved those people."
"It was Mike who didn't trust him." She murmurs.
"Jealousy can do that." 2Dads smirks, not really thinking about what he is saying until it's out of his mouth and he's staring at Kate in terror.
"What?!" Kate leaps up, and a moment later the torch on her phone lights up to reveal her shocked face as she stares at him. "What did you say?"
2Dads takes in her expression. "N… nothing…" He murmurs, blinking in the bright light.
"No… I…" She starts pacing (or as much as she can in that confined space), shuffling half a step up and back and sending the light dancing around the elevator. "There's nothing going on… I'm not… Mike-"
"X-" He tries, standing too.
"-and I aren't… we're not… it's just-"
"It's just that you're in love with each other." 2Dads cuts her off. She freezes and drops the phone with a clatter. The light spirals like they're at a rave before the phone lands screen down, the light still shining.
"2Dads-" Kate begins. "You can't say anything. We haven't done anything-"
"I know." 2Dads assures her. "X, I know. Shit, I shouldn't have said anything. It's none of my business-"
"It's just… it's-" He's never seen her so terrified before. No one, not the gun smugglers, terrorists, kidnappers or rapists has ever made her look this scared. In the light from her phone, laying abandoned on the floor of the elevator, he can see her flicking her fingers and fidgetting with the hem of her dress.
"It's not just anything." He protests, surprising even himself as he lowers his voice, standing up too so that he can stand right in front of her, effectively stopping her pacing. "I've seen him, when you're on a boarding. The fear on his face as he watches. And I saw you, when the sub blew and you thought Gorski'd killed him. You love him, and he loves you."
"It won't work." Kate shakes her head. "He doesn't want to leave the ship." She slides down the wall, pulling her knees up to her chest and talking to her toes. "He doesn't want the same things I want."
"X, believe me when I say, he does want you. He can hardly keep his eyes off you."
"But he won't leave the ship. Won't ask Maxine for his shore posting back."
"So why don't you leave?" 2Dads suggests. "I mean, you've said yourself that you weren't enjoying it as much. And you've also said that you wanted to make some mini-McGregors in the future-"
"You've got to be kidding me." Kate groans, burying her face in her hands again.
"Just think about it. If you leave the ship, then you've done all you can. And the boss can make his own choice. If it doesn't work out, you can further your career and you've got time on shore to meet new people. If it does, then it does. And you're set."
"Are you trying to get rid of me?" Kate grumbles.
"No." 2Dads shakes his head. "But I know that regretting something you didn't do is worse than regretting something you did."
"That actually makes sense." Kate admits, looking up. "Oh, shit. Did you just sort out ten years of angst with one minute?"
"I've never heard you swear before." 2Dads murmurs, dazedly.
"I am a sailor." Kate points out.
"Fine. Wait, ten years?" 2Dads repeats.
"Never mind." Kate waves a hand impatiently as 2Dads absorbs this latest information.
"He was the guy at Watson's Bay?" He guesses. Kate's eyes widen once more before she nods.
"Yes." Kate admits.
2Dads mentally calculates. "He wouldn't have been in your class though… he'd have been-" 2Dads turns to her, eyes wide. "He was your instructor!"
"Yes." Kate agrees. "You can't tell anyone. It'd screw both of our careers."
"I won't." 2Dads promises, and he means it. He doesn't intend on repeating anything she's said in this elevator.
"Well… thanks." She whispers.
2Dads smothers a smile. "Getting posted to your ex's ship, hey? Someone up there must be having a laugh at you."
"I bet it's my mother." Kate spits out, and 2Dads laughs. "You know," Kate began, "I see Bomber's car parked outside a restaurant on the esplanade quite a bit. Maybe she's working there."
2Dads perks up for a second, staring at her with something like hope in his eyes. But then reality catches up with him and he sinks down in his seat once more. "She won't want to talk to me anyway, X."
"You don't know that." Kate sighs.
"Yes, I do. She was so mad."
"But how would you know?" Kate began. "Someone very wise once told me that regretting something you didn't do is worse than regretting something you did."
"Wise?" He smirks.
"Mildly." Kate humours him.
"Wow, thanks X." 2Dads gushes. "You say the sweetest things."
They fall into silence once more as the elevator creaks, and the happiness he has been feeling quickly evaporates. "Shit." He hisses again, absentmindedly bracing himself against the side of the elevator.
Kate lets out a frustrated sound somewhere in between a growl and a whine and shifts once more. "I'm so hungry."
"I'll shout you a kebab when all this is over." 2Dads promises. He knows she's only talking because he doesn't like the silence, and for that, he's grateful.
"I'll hold you to that." Kate agrees. "Seeing as I have no cash whatsoever." She turns the phone over to check the time, then shrugs and flicks it back again, so that the torch shines up and illuminates them both. "Tell me about your weirdest experience in the Navy."
"Mine?" 2Dads repeats. "Come on. You've got to have better stories than I do."
"I probably do, but you've been getting way too much info out of me. You know all my sordid secrets."
"Only because you told me."
"So now I asked you something. Answer."
"Fine… um… I guess…" 2Dads racks his brain for something not only weird, but interesting enough to warrant talking about. "I don't know. I can't think of anything."
"Nothing?" Kate presses. "Come on."
"Um… okay… wait!" 2Dads straightens up. "My first toga party."
"Toga party?" Kate repeats.
"Yeah." 2Dads continues. "We'd just finished a day of training and I was… bored and angry and homesick, in my room staring out the window and then this girl ran out of one of the dorms wearing a bedsheet. And I had a bit of a perve. Figured she must have been doing a walk of shame sort of thing. But then more people ran past and I asked someone."
"How did you not know what a toga party was?"
"I knew what a toga party was. I'd just thought they only existed in America. I figured the Navy was just going to be years of boredom. That was the first day I decided I might actually like the defence force."
"Of course it was." Kate laughs.
"What about you? What was your weirdest experience?"
"Oh, definitely the pirate."
"The what?!" 2Dads repeats. "Hate to break it to you, X. But pirates in these waters don't count as either weird or funny."
"No, these pirates were a bunch of high school troublemaker dropouts out to make a quick buck. Only thing was, they didn't quite understand the concept of a modern pirate, and although they had the machetes, they also had eyepatches and bandanas and one of the idiots even brought a bird."
"No, I'm not. They tried to attack three boats, and all the occupants couldn't stop laughing as they recounted the description. Caught the idiots later that afternoon. Not the sharpest pencils in the box."
2Dads whistles appreciatively. "That would've been funny." He tips his head. "So what-" Dads begins, but he's cut off as the light flickers on in the elevator, batheing them in bright light. He looks to Kate, who is already turning the torch off on her phone.
"Ever the practical one." He points out, as she returns the phone to her lap. She looks just as she had when she had stormed into the police station hours ago, except for a rosiness in her cheeks that had definitely not been there before. Her hair was in a high ponytail, and he was stuck with the observation of how nice she looked, so free from all the Navy dress codes and regulations.
He stands, but Kate remains sitting, merely raising an eyebrow at him. "The realist in me is fairly sure that we're not getting out that easily."
2Dads pulls a face at her, however as the minutes tick on he's forced to admit she's right, and he takes the seat next to her again. "So what are you doing next shoreleave?" He asks.
"Buying a dress." Kate answers back. "For Mal's wedding. Might take Iz." She shrugs, and moves around once more, curling her legs underneath her.
"Were you this fidgety as a girl, too?" 2Dads smirks.
"Probably." She admits. "I always hated sitting still and doing nothing. I need to be moving."
"Are you on any social media?"
"Facebook, although I keep deleting my profile and then reactivating it. Usually just use it to talk to Mal and Iz. I have Snapchat for some inexplicaple reason, Izzy's doing. She loves to send me all these stupid selfie snapchats."
"I'm on snapchat, X."
"Of course you are."
"What's your username?"
"You have to know that I'm not telling you that. Considering how much you get drunk-"
"You think I'll send you dirty snapchats?"
"How should I know?" Kate smirks. "I'd like to think that you're not sending anyone a dirty snapchat. Take it from a woman, there is nothing attractive about a dick pic."
2Dads can't help but laugh. His X has such a great sense of humour when she loosens up, and he loves it. "What about Facebook? Would you accept my friend request?"
"I barely go on it, 2Dads. You'd just trawl through all my photos and then be bored again."
"So what have you got to lose?"
"If your photos don't maintain your dignity, then maybe you shouldn't have snapchat either." He quips.
The lights flicker, but remain on.
"You got any games on your phone? I bet you're a farmville girl."
"No! That's the only time my sister ever communicates with me is to send me those stupid notifications." Kate adopts a high, girlish voice. "Rebecca Brimshaw has invited you to play Farmville. Rebecca Brimshaw has invited you to play Zombie Wars."
"So what do you play?"
"Puzzles. Sudoku. Logic Puzzles. Boring stuff."
"No action games? First person shooters?"
"No. I have played them but I'm pretty rubbish at them. I'm good at the racing games though. Have you played Crash Team Racing?"
"Yeah! Iz has that. I like playing stuff with groups. But I couldn't sit there and play a game like that by myself."
"Hammersley should have a game night." 2Dads announces, holding his arms open wide at her like he was holding the idea to show her.
"Are you kidding? No!"
"Why not?!" He protests.
"Because…" Kate smirks, "you're such a baby when you lose."
"Oh, you're on, X. When we get back to the ship, we're playing against each other."
"On what? Please tell me you didn't sneak your XBox on board."
"No. But we have both got iPhones. Lightsaber battle."
"Well, I win by default then." Kate throws her hands up in the air.
"How do you figure that?" 2Dads exclaims.
"Because you should always have your lightsaber with you in a lightsaber battle. As I understand it, the force in you is low in battery power."
"Ooh, burn." 2Dads admits. "Okay, fine, Miss Perfect."
"Oh, sorry. I understand you're normally referred to as Princess."
"You know, I've got books on my phone? I could be reading, but I'm sitting here talking to you. You could be nice to-" But Kate's words are cut off as a loud scraping from the doors fills the elevator. Kate leaps to her feet, pressing her back firmly against the wall as they both stare at the door. Above, the light flickers and dies.
"Shit." 2Dads hisses. "Shit, shit, shit-"
"It's okay." Kate assures him. He hears a scuffling from somewhere next to him and a moment later there's a faint light from Kate's phone torch again. The scraping continues, and the whole elevator shakes.
And then, there's a crack in the doors. Small, and then growing larger and larger until they can see a face peering in at them, high above them. The elevator looks stuck between floors, the man crouched at about neck height above them. But the doors are finally open, and 2Dads catches a small breath of cool air. The man reaches his hand down into the elevator. "Hand." He calls. "Take hand."
And although there's nothing 2Dads wants to do more than take the hand and get the hell out of here, he moves his hand instead to the small of Kate's back and pushes her forwards lightly. "You go first." He says.
Kate turns to him, mouth open and ready to argue, but he pushes her forwards again and then, figuring he's already in trouble, seizes her around the waist and lifts her higher. Her phone falls from her grasp with a clatter, and he prays that he hasn't just broken it. He can't deal with that on top of everything else.
"2Dads!" She cries. "Put me down!"
"Just take his damn hand, X." He hisses back at her, marvelling at how light she is. She does, scrambling through the gap with the help from the man at the top. He stoops to pick up her phone, stowing it safely in his pocket before taking the man's hand too.
He's deposited beside Kate, still wearing her crazy heels and her trademark glare. She opens her mouth to say something but he cuts her off. "X, we could have the discussion about how I invaded your personal space. Or we can move on and I'll shout you a kebab."
He sees the smile form as she tips her head, considering him. "Beef." She says eventually. "I want a beef kebab."
"Your wish is my command." He agrees, pulling her phone from his pocket and slapping it into her open palm. "But let's take the stairs."
I just wanted it noted that my brother, Joshua, wanted me to name this story Lifted Spirits, because Kate was mildly tipsy on spirits and they were in an elevator. I couldn't do it though. But I wanted you all to see the punny household I live in.