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Write about an awkward moment where someone almost touched (gasp!) your daemon.

Taking this as a jumping-off point. 'Awkward' isn't the word I'd use to describe it. And I'm killing the 'almost'. Because Gene's life really was that fucked up. I hope that's okay. (Meh, if not, I'll probably write for another one as well anyway.)



His dad was drunk more often than not. That's the main thing he remembers from his childhood. The crack of a belt and a bellow and a thrown bottle, shattering in the corner.

It was Gene's job, cleaning it up. Every morning, when his dad was sleeping it off, he'd creep into the tiny living room, Alana small and mouse-shaped beside him. He'd take the broom and the dustpan, and silently sweep up the broken glass. His mum might've done it if she hadn't been visiting her sister (and those visits lasted for months sometimes, always with her saying how sorry she was she didn't take the boys with her, but there wasn't room), Stu might've if he were ever home, but most nights it was him and his old man, so he was the one who'd clean it up before it hurt anyone.

He just had to be quiet about it. He knew his dad wouldn't say nothing about him doing a nancy thing like housework so long as he didn't have to see it. So he'd try and move quiet as the mouse beside him, listening close for 'Lana's whisper of Over here, or You missed a bit.

But there was the one night, when he dropped the dustpan. Didn't mean to, just tripped in the dark, and there was a crash of broken glass. He said a swearword he learned from his dad, and then he froze, because he could hear movement in the bedroom, slow and shuffling and angry. "Quick, sweep it up!" Alana whispered, hiding behind his ankles, and he tried. Really he did.

Went to his knees in the glass, sweeping up quick as he could, but not quick enough.

The light from the bedroom dazzled his eyes, made the glass on the floor glitter, and near his knees it was red like cherries. He didn't look up, didn't want to see the shadow looming over him. Knew what was coming anyway, and seeing it wouldn't change anything, so he kept sweeping, even half-blind.

"Work all day, and this is what I get?" came the question. Questions first, and not hitting, but Gene listened for the clink of a buckle anyway, because it'd be coming, one way or the other. His dad believed in discipline.

Just at the edge of his vision, Lysandra, his father's daemon, was making her wobbly way towards Alana. She was a lean, rangy grayhound, beautiful in better days, or so he'd heard. Now she just looked as old, tired, and beaten down as his dad did.

"Answer me, boy." The old man's voice was still foggier than it should've been, and that meant it wasn't sleep; it was the drink still in him, still eating him up inside and making him crazy.

"Yessir. I'm sorry, Dad. Just cleaning up." Short sentences. Just what he needed to say, nothing more. Stu taught him that one. Just until he was big enough to defend himself, he said. 'Lana took the form of a sparrow, flying in little circles around them both.

"Cleaning up. Waking me in the middle of the night so I can find you doing 'ousework like some bender. This want you want to do, Gene-me-lad? Play the woman?"

"No sir. Sorry. Just there's no one else to pick it up, with Mum gone. Might hurt someone." And he knew right away that the whole thing was a complete cock-up (another phrase courtesy of his father) when he said it, because you weren't supposed to mention Mum when she wasn't there.

A huge, meaty hand grabbed him by the collar, pulling him roughly to his feet. "If your whore of a mum was any kind of woman, she'd be 'ere to do 'er duty to us! But that's no reason for 'er not being around to turn you into some fairy!" And he kept lifting, until Gene's feet left the floor.

"Leggo! Dad, le--" Gene struggled and fell to the ground as Alana flew at his dad's face. She'd pull away, she'd have to, she wouldn't just touch a person...

But even as 'Lana pulled out of her dive, his dad reached up. And then he. And then. He.

Lysandra screamed, one word, and he'd never heard her talk before, ever. The word was Don't.

He didn't have words to describe what happened, what it felt like to have someone touch his daemon like that. Even if it was just his dad, especially if it was his dad. It hurt, something touching inside him that shouldn't be, that he didn't want. More than hurt. Made him feel sick and scared and ashamed for reasons he didn't yet know existed.

And next thing he knew was his old man looking down at him with absolute horror. "I didn't... I... Gene, I'm..." But his face changed a moment later, back to the usual hard lines, and if he'd had a moment of remorse, it was gone just after.

"You brought it on yourself." Alexander Hunt turned to make his way back to the bedroom. "Leave the glass."

Gene just stayed on the floor, Alana shivering in his hands, with his knees stinging and the broken glass stained like cherries, and a heavy, sick feeling in his gut.

And then there was darkness.
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Gene Hunt

April 2009

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