Author note: Holler up! I said I'd dedicate a chapter to Zion, so here it is! On a side note, much love, praise and cookies to my beloved beta Bubbles.
Three - Assistance Required
The Hub was gloomy. Flaming torches did their best to illuminate the darkness but it was hardly worth the effort. This was obviously somewhere where people came to avoid being seen, and to see those who avoided being heard. At the second set of doors a burly guard stopped Cathy's hesitant steps with an outstretched arm.
"What's your business, little lady?"
"I, er, er," stuttered Cathy. "Um, I—"
"Come on, don't waste my time, girl," the bulk of a man said. "This don't seem like the kind of place for the likes o' you."
"Er. Yes, er, right. I come looking for a friend, perhaps a scarecrow or a tin man to lead me on my way? You wouldn't be any of those now, would you, er, Simony?"
The man's face cracked into a grin. "The little lady knows her words, it'd seem. Enter 'n' find your companion, miss."
Cathy 's heart was jack hammering in her chest, but obviously the words she'd been told had worked – she was here.
Where was here? Cathy didn't know what, or who, she was meant to look for.
Simony tapped her on the shoulder. "You lookin' for the exit, little lady?"
Cathy gulped and nodded. Simony cast what could have been a resentful look over her. "I 'ope you make it, miss," he whispered, pointing towards a far off booth.
Cathy made her way over the filthy rushes and slid into the darkened booth. The shadowed figure beside her inclined its head.
"Do you really think you can help me?" said Cathy.
The figure inclined its head again.
"You can really get me out of here? You can get me into—" Cathy lowered her voice "—into Fictionpressland?"
"I can that," the figure said in a Yorkshire drawl. "But it'll cost you."
Bewildered, Cathy clutched at her satchel. "What do you mean, cost? I don't have any money, if that's what you're after!"
The woman sat forward, the large black hood on her head sliding off to reveal a shock of wavy purple hair. "What makes you think I'm after your money?" she asked, affronted. "I was only wondering if you could get a round in."
Without blinking, Cathy said, "A round?"
"Yeah," said the woman, "a round. Cider for preference."
"Sorry, let me just get this straight." Cathy fixed the woman with a pained expression. "You're going to smuggle me out of Fanfictionland and into Fictionpressland, and you want paying in cider?"
The woman raised her eyebrows. "Er, yes?"
The purple haired woman's name was Galadriel1010. That was how she said it: Galadriel-one-oh-one-oh.
"Is there any way I could shorten that?" Cathy asked, apologetic as she pushed another mug of cider across the table. "Only all those one-oh's make it a bit of a mouthful."
Galadriel1010 sipped at her cider. "I suppose you could call me Gallon. That's what they nicknamed me as in the RG."
"The 'RG'?" Cathy frowned. "What's that, some obscure fandom?"
Gallon let out a hoot of laughter. "Do you really not know anything about Fictionpressland?" Bemused, she continued, "The RG, or Review Game, is the largest organisation over there."
"But what does it—"
"Ladies?" Simony appeared, towering over them. "Last orders."
He winked at Gallon, who grinned and said, "I suppose one more couldn't hurt. With business like this, the less brain cells the better!"
"Same again, then, Gally?" Simony asked, his large hand hovering over her mug.
"Go on, might as well." Gallon tipped her head back, relaxing in the sudden quiet as most of The Hub's patrons headed home for the night.
"And you, little lady?" prompted Simony, startling Cathy out of her daze.
"Er, no," she mumbled. "I'm fine." Gallon and Simony exchanged a raised-eyebrow-type expression before he wandered back to the bar with their empty mugs. "Gally?" Cathy repeated.
"He called you Gally," said Cathy. "Can I use that instead of Gallon? I'll keep thinking of doubloons otherwise."
Gallon, now Gally, laughed. "Sure, go ahead."
"So, Gally, the Review Game? It's in Fictionpressland?"
"Yep. It's the biggest—"
"You said that bit."
Gally blinked. "Oh. Right. Well. Yes. The Review Game welcomes practically everyone, though not everyone stays. They have a handful of regulars."
"When you say everyone, are Twilighters included in that?"
"They're a bit touchy about that," said Gally. "They'll let in reformed Twilighters, the ones that aren't so hard core. The difference between saying the books are alright and proclaiming Edward Cullen the 'hawtest thing evar!'. Catch my drift?"
Simony brought Gally's drink and left without saying a word. Gally watched him with saddened eyes.
"He lost his sister to the Twilighters," she told Cathy, "not one month ago. He never could understand why."
Cathy picked at the edge of the table, not sure of what to say. Gally spared her. Draining the final dregs of her cider, the purple haired woman stood and gestured to Cathy.
"Come on," said Gally. "Long day tomorrow. You can crash at mine, not safe to wander the streets at this time of night."
Cathy offered her a weak smile. Suddenly it was as if her life was like tap-dancing on quicksand. "Thanks," she whispered.
Half an hour of walking later, Cathy's complaints of foot ache reached an almighty high.
"And then the stones! I never could figure out how stones get into your shoes, 'cause it's not as if there are any holes underneath for them to—"
"What do you think?" asked Gally.
Cathy stared some more. "It's nice."
Gally shrugged, shoving her key into the lock. Cathy followed her inside.
"This is the kitchen," said Gally. Cathy looked around. It was indeed a kitchen. Gally started up the stairs on the other side of the small room and Cathy trailed after her.
"Bathroom. Living room. Bedroom. Cosy, nay?"
"It's," Cathy searched for the right word, settling for "nice?"
"Not much but it's home." Gally smiled and said, "Scoot on into the living room, I've got a fold out sofa you can sleep on."
Cathy thanked her, walking into the indicated room. She boggled when Gally turned on the light.
"This is," Cathy began. "This is... What is all of this?"
Behind her, Gally laughed. "I kind of gather Torchwood stories together. Sort them into lists, like. Sorry it's such a mess."
Cathy walked around the paper-filled room, picking up pages at random. "Solstice Zero, Just Gabz, Kausingkayn, Liquid Lash – what kind of names are these?"
Gally gave her a Look. "They're name names. I hate to say it, Cath, but you're the one with the odd name around here. I mean—" Gally looked her up and down. "Cathy, it's so dull!"
Cathy returned the Look.
"Dull-ish?" tried Gally.
The sounds of typing drifted along the hall. Cathy folded her pillow over her head to block out the sound of Gally in her room. Standing up and peeking through the curtains, Cathy saw lights on inside practically all the houses on the street. Did no one sleep in this place?!
Cathy turned, staring at her makeshift bed on the floor, contemplating diving under the covers and staying there for all eternity. She was wide awake now, damnit: there was no way she could fall asleep again.
Cathy picked up one of the small bound notebooks that lay next to the sofa-bed. It had a strange swirly pattern on it that hurt her eyes. "More Than Words," murmured Cathy, reading the cover, "by Liquid Lash."
"You like dark chocolate?" Gally's voice drifted from the doorway.
Cathy looked up, startled. The notebook dropped from her hands. "I guess?"
"How do you feel about guy-on-guy action?"
Cathy's eyes went wide. "Where is this going?"
"You won't like much of what's in this room if you don't," Gally said, smiling slightly. "Torchwood doesn't exactly do hetero."
Cathy looked from her to the notebook. "You mean that has—" Cathy searched for the right phrase, blushing furiously.
"That one," said Gally, walking over and picking the swirl covered notebook, "does not. Just a bit of mild bondage and use of dark chocolate." Gally waggled her eyebrows. "All fun."
Cathy's "No!" came so quickly that Gally laughed. "I'll just leave it here then, shall I?" she said.
"You can leave it where you want!" hooted Cathy. "I'm not touching it."
"I believe you," said Gally, eyes twinkling. "Just don't take out the bookmark, alright?"
Cathy scowled at her. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight," said Gally. She doffed an imaginary cap and left the room.
Cathy continued to scowl at the closed doorway, resolutely not wanting the read the notebook. She didn't want to. She didn't. Her curiosity wasn't piqued one damned bit. Not one!
Cathy lasted all of ten seconds, then the notebook was open on her lap.
Author note: I can pimp my fanfiction stories if I want to. OhyesIcan!