zaubra: (sit wall look sky)
abluestocking ([personal profile] zaubra) wrote2012-05-03 05:13 pm

FIC: The Ghost of Labour Past

Fandom: UK Politics
Title: The Ghost of Labour Past
Ship(s): gen (could be Tony Blair/Alastair Campbell if you squint)
Word Count: 1,508
Rating: G
Summary: Tony shows up on Alastair's doorstep with a proposition. (Can also be found here at the meme.)
Disclaimer: This is a creative work of fiction, composed of fictional characters inspired by the public personas of living people. No injury or disrespect is intended to the persons named. If you've found this by googling yourself or someone you know, stop playing on the Internet and go run the country.



The Ghost of Labour Past

There are certain things Alastair expects to find when he opens the door at early o’clock in the morning, and most of those things involve religious proselytisers or his mother-in-law.

“Hello,” says the Ghost of Labour Past, beaming beatifically at him. “I’m sorry to drop in like this, but I have a flight to Beirut at 11.”

Alastair scratches his bed-hair in bemusement. “You’d better come in.” His auto-pilot kicks in. “Tea?”

“Please,” Tony says.

The kitchen table is awash with papers. “Sorry about the mess,” Alastair calls over his shoulder, as he rummages in the cupboard for a clean cup. “Fiona’s away this week.”

Tony makes a noncommittal noise, and Alastair puts the kettle on.

When he turns around, Tony has one of the papers in his hands. Alastair palms the back of his neck. “Just a draft of something I’m writing to follow up on The Happy Depressive. It’s still a load of rubbish at the moment.”

Tony’s eyes crinkle, and Alastair turns back around to fix the tea.

“You’ve made quite the life for yourself,” Tony says, quietly.

“I try,” Alastair says, and sweeps some of the papers into an untidy stack to make room for Tony’s tea.

“How are the sales of the new book going?” Tony asks.

Alastair sinks down into one of the other chairs. His body still feels half-asleep, even though his brain leapt into full alertness the moment he saw who was on his doorstep. He is hyperaware of Tony watching him, Tony’s eyes over the lip of his cup. “Well enough. I didn’t write it for the money, though.” He leaves it there; Tony will either understand or not.

“Of course not,” Tony says, and raises the cup to his lips again. His eyes laugh. “You remembered how I like my tea.”

Alastair snorts. “It’s not like it’s been decades. I do have a memory.”

But when, his memory asks, was it last like this; Tony sitting at your kitchen table, you in pyjamas; not a single soul but the two of you, and nothing to fight for today...

“Five years,” Tony says, and sets his cup down. “And texting isn’t the same as seeing each other.”

“No,” Alastair agrees, watching as if from a great distance, as Tony leans forward across the table, his elbows resting on the crappy drafts of Alastair’s article, and fixes him with those eyes.

He beats Tony to the punch. “What’ve you come for, Tony?”

Tony’s smile has been so many things, over the years. It has been nervous, not reaching his eyes, his hands shaking; it has been uncomfortable, a rigid slash of teeth; it has been devastating, a shark moving in for the kill; it has been practised, a charmingly calculated vote-winner; it has been disarming, a warm embrace welcoming the recipient into the club.

Now Tony smiles, and it is the sun breaking through a cloud.

Alastair swallows, and watches the sun brighten.

“I’m here,” Tony says, “because I need you.”

~//~

“With the greatest of respect - and recognising that you used to be my boss - but have you gone completely barking?”

“Churchill did it,” Tony says, unflappably.

Alastair takes a deep breath. It’s that or start spluttering. “Churchill did not do it. Churchill was voted out of office, remained leader of his party, and came back six years later. He didn’t a) retire, or b) get replaced by someone else. Let alone two someones.”

“I value your input,” Tony says, his eyes earnest. “But these are all problems that can be overcome.”

Alastair’s legs suddenly feel weak. He stops pacing and drops into a chair again. “How exactly were you planning for this to work? Somehow get Cameron to make you a Lord and then launch a leadership campaign?”

Tony shrugs, a little rueful movement. “If needs must. Peter thinks...”

Peter’s in on this?” Alastair ruthlessly tamps down the strange feeling that starts somewhere deep in his belly. Is it jealousy, or dislike of being left out? He doesn’t quite know yet, but he knows that this is how it begins.

“Oh, yes,” Tony says, smiling. “Actually, I’m not entirely sure whose idea it originally was. He thinks that Cameron could be easily persuaded, but that it would be better to work behind the scenes for Lords reform rather than to be appointed directly.”

Against his will, Alastair finds himself thinking about the logistics. “I suppose Cameron would be happy to have Labour tearing itself apart. Particularly with the coalition in as much trouble as it is currently. And he might be able to talk his backbenchers into it if he secretly hinted that you were planning to start a war within Labour.”

Tony’s eyes beam approvingly. “Exactly. Might I perhaps have another cup of your excellent tea?”

“And once you were in place, you’d double-cross Cameron and refuse to give him the bloodbath he’d be expecting,” Alastair says slowly, making tea like an automaton. “Which means that you’d somehow have to talk Ed into stepping down in your favour.”

Tony sits at Alastair’s table, in Alastair’s chair, his fingers steepled under his chin, the sun lighting the back of his head, his security waiting outside in his car; sits, and waits.

“And you’d have to somehow keep David from running, and everyone else for that matter.”

Tony sits, quiet and still.

“And...the public!” Alastair can hear the rising strain in his own voice. “Do you remember what it was like? Because I remember what it was like!”

Tony accepts the cup that Alastair holds out to him. Their hands brush, and Alastair finds himself strangely loath to draw away, held in place by something in Tony’s eyes.

“I remember what it was like,” Tony says, “in 1997.”

The spell breaks, and Alastair turns away, brings a hand up to scrub at his face. “1997 was a long time ago. We’re old, Tony, we’re yesterday’s news.”

“Apart, we may be yesterday’s news. Together, we can be tomorrow’s.”

Alastair laughs, his shoulders gone strangely bunchy. “God, you need a scriptwriter.”

Tony laughs with him. It’s not a sound Alastair has ever forgotten; it unlocks something in his brain, and he finds himself turning, smiling, as if in a dream.

“If I told you that Peter and I can take care of the Milibands,” Tony says, his fingers curling around the handle of his untouched cup of tea, “could you take care of the public?”

Alastair swallows. “Fiona won’t...”

“Could you?”

“I can’t...you can’t... we...”

“Could you?”

“Of course I could,” Alastair bursts out, and whether it’s surety, or bravado, or annoyance, he’s not entirely sure, but he can’t stay strong forever, not against the deepest addiction he’s ever faced, not against Tony Blair. “It’s not a matter of could.” He gestures, hands clenching, arms reaching wide. “This is insane.”

“Do you think Ed Miliband can win the next election?” Tony asks, calmly.

“No.” That answer comes immediately. It’s not a hard question.

“Do you think I can?”

“I think you’re mental,” Alastair says, bluntly. The frankness sets something off, and suddenly he feels wild, as if he can say anything, things he’d never have dared in the old days. “I think you’ve gone completely fucking crazy. You were a great Prime Minister, and I’m proud to have been there with you, but those days are over. You can’t get them back. You’ll tear the party apart and we’ll have a fucking civil war.”

“Are you finished?” Tony asks, when Alastair stops.

Alastair laughs and turns his head, so that he doesn’t have to look at Tony’s face. “Yes, I’m finished.”

“Ed will step down quietly,” Tony says. “He’ll know it’s best for the party. And David won’t run.”

“In what universe do you live in?” Alastair asks, his face still turned away. “Unless you’ve got blackmail material on them, I don’t see...” He trails off.

“I’m more popular with the public than you might think,” Tony says, sailing on. “Private polls show some surprising numbers. And I know I could capitalise on the shambles of Cameron’s government. Ed’s wasting golden opportunities, but I wouldn’t. We wouldn’t.”

“And the Brownites?” Alastair should have thrown Tony out of the house by now. He knows it.

“Let Peter manage the Party,” Tony says. There’s a clink of a teacup in a saucer, and the sound of Tony getting up. His voice is nearer when he continues, “Focus on making Britain love us again.”

Alastair breathes through his mouth, sucking air in, looking at the grain in his hardwood floor. Somewhere outside, the faint sound of a siren filters in through the windows.

A hand descends on his shoulder, the lightest of touches. “You know we could do it, Alastair. You know we could.”

And the thing is –

tony's scent in his nostrils, tony’s hand on his shoulder, tony’s voice ringing in his ears, tony’s smile lingering in his mind’s eye, tony’s unshakeable belief resounding in the air between them

– Alastair thinks they could too.

He turns, his mouth opening for the answer.

~//~