Title: Spring Chickens
Author: Corleone
Fandom: Chicken Run. Yes, really.
Pairing: Nick/Fetcher, among others
Rating: PG-13
Archive: Rareslash and Britslash, others please ask
Website: http://www.angelfire.com/vt/k9caporegimes 
Series/Sequel: Not at present, although I could be persuaded... (mainly
because I want to use the title 'Nobody Here But Us Chickens' and can't
think of another suitable fandom)
Feedback: Yes please. Send it to lorraine3500@nichols46.freeserve.co.uk 
Disclaimer: They belong to Nick Park and Aardman Productions, who would
probably have me shot if they could see what I was doing with their
characters. They have only themselves to blame, I didn't see a hint of
slash until Fetcher asked Nick to dance, then it was all over the screen
(the slash potential, I mean. Um.)
Notes: I couldn't resist this one, though I do apologise in advance. It's
set after the end of the film. 

Summary: In the noticeable absence of both roosters and female rats in
their new home, Ginger's merry little band make, err, alternative
arrangements...

Spring Chickens

by Corleone



Ah, Spring, when a young rat's fancy turns to thoughts of love.

Nick aimlessly scuffed the dirt on the riverbank along with a paw and
scowled to himself. Being a rat and therefore not likely to win any beauty
contests at the best of times, this made very little difference to his
overall appearance, but he felt like scowling. He was in a scowly sort of a
mood. Had been for some time, in fact, and it was rather annoying that
nobody seemed to have noticed.

It would be nice, he admitted, if anyone had taken an interest in why he
was so morose. Not that he wanted them to make a fuss because he wasn't a
dramatically inclined sort of rodent. Free and single, he'd always been a
solitary sort of guy, apart from Fetcher who didn't come into it on account
of being a dipstick and a mortal liability half the time, be better off
without him, really, only he'd promised the lad's mum he'd keep an eye on him.

But still, it would have been nice to get a maternal wing around the
shoulders and sat down for a comforting chat about why exactly he just
hadn't been too happy since they escaped the farm. What was the point of
going off on your own to sulk if nobody came after you to ask why and cheer
you up? And considering his important - no, his utterly vital role in
leading the chickens to their new home, he felt he deserved a spot of
attention now and again.

Fat chance. Four months on, and the stupid hens were still bubbling over
with euphoria at their new-found freedom. He could hear them cackling day
in, day out, right over on the other side of the island. Egg production was
through the roof - not that there were any roofs, or walls, or chicken
coops, this being the main reason for the high spirits they were in. Under
normal circumstances, back in the bad old days at Tweedy's farm, the
promise of eggs would have jollied Nick up no end, but even that small joy
had been denied to him these days. They just didn't taste the same any
more, not since the sorry experience of seeing Ginger and Rocky's oldest
hatching out of one. Eugh. Revolting stuff.

So they had finally escaped. Which was a good thing. Ginger and her lot
wouldn't be made into pies. Hooray. And they had this place all to
themselves. Nobody here but us chickens.

Except he was a rat.

And he didn't even like chickens much.

Especially these chickens, who cackled far too much for his money.

And he wasn't getting the admiration and/or respect he so richly deserved.

And it was springtime and the chances of finding a half-intelligent female
rat around here were, frankly, slim. He'd been scouring the place on and
off for the past four months, and there was no sign. Not so much as a
short-sighted dormouse.

He was so busy feeling sorry for himself and his catalogue of misfortunes
that he didn't notice he'd reached the end of the path, and so had a bit of
a shock when he walked straight into the mammoth wooden sign by the edge of
the river. He jumped back back, dolefully rubbing his nose and muttering
nasty things under his breath about people who put signs where innocent
mammals could injure themselves.

A small, dark head appeared over the top of the white sign, and the figure
cheerfully waved to him, almost managing to topple in the process. "Coo-ee!"

Nick shook his head. "Hello Fetcher," he called up wearily. "Come down from
there, will you? You're going to get yourself killed, y'pillock."

He waited while the other rat shimmied down the side to the ground, then
cheerfully dusted himself off. This was less successful than might have
been hoped; he seemed to be covered in some sort of sticky red liquid. Nick
was concerned for a moment that it was blood, then caught the scent and
realised his mistake. Paint. Lots of it. He wrinkled his nose in disgust.

Fetcher nodded proudly to the sign. "Good, eh?"

At a loss to what his young companion was talking about, Nick walked around
to the front of the structure and craned his neck to look up at it. He
looked so high he nearly fell over backwards, but regained his balance, and
hoped Fetch hadn't noticed. The lad respected him. Wouldn't do to look daft
in front of him.

The red words were sloppily painted, but easy enough to read. " 'Chikin
Sanctuary'," Nick mouthed as he made out the words. Probably lucky the
sanctuary bit was already painted on, he thought. We'd never see Fetcher
again. Death by red paint. 

Somebody had been teaching him recently. Probably that Mac one. He knew
from experience she'd have her work cut out. Oh, he was willing enough to
learn, but the materials just weren't there. Chikin. Dear oh dear oh dear.

Aloud he said, "that's lovely, Fetch. Really nice. Very, ah, bright."

"It was Mr. Fowler's idea," he said brightly. "He said it would give the
lady chickens…" His brow wrinkled in supreme effort. "Give them A Sense of
Com-mew-inty. Like people had in the war, he said."

"It was a very nice idea, yes." To his own surprise he added, "I was just…
walking about here. D'you, err, want to come? You can get that muck washed
off you."

"Yeah, that'd be good."

It came to something when the company of a dozy twit like Fetcher, nice
though he was, was the highlight of his day. Nick sunk further into self-pity.

They walked in silence for a while, until they came to the part of the back
where the river flowed into a little hollow. Fetcher jumped down into the
tiny pool, and Nick sat on the bank, dangling his tiny legs over the edge.
He let his mind wander as he watched the water start to run red. It had
been doing a lot of that these days. He was worried it might find somewhere
more appealing and not come back. 

At the same time he was absently regarding Fetcher. He'd lost weight in the
last month or so. Quite a good figure starting to emerge there. Nick patted
his own ample tummy jealously.

Nice long tail on him. Good colour of fur. Legs not too bad either…

He mentally slapped himself. Nonononono, entirely wrong sort of thing to be
thinking

The other rat was jabbering on about something or other, whick Nick paid no
attention to until he became aware of his own name being said.

"Nick. Nick. Nick."

He shook himself out of it. "What is it, Fetch?"

There was a brief pause. Astonishing, he thought. He nearly makes it look
like he's actually thinking. 

Then Fetcher said, "Mrs. Bunty is a lady chicken."

This seemed to be about the extent of it. "Yes, she's a lady chicken."

"And Mrs. Babs is also a lady chicken?"

"On another flipping planet, but a lady chicken, yeah."

"Oh." He went on with cleaning off his fur.

"Why did you ask that, then?"

"Nothing."

"Come on, you're confused about something." Talk about stating the blooming
obvious, he thought. Confusion was Fetch's normal state of mind.

Then Fetcher told him what he saw on the hill.

Nick listened, and nearly fell into the red pool himself. When the story
was finished, it took him a minute to get his breath back.

"And you're wondering about, err, that."

"Yep."

"Your mum never said anything about it? Your dad? No, no, silly me, course
they wouldn't have, leave it all up to me…" 

The younger rat had hopped out of the pool and was sitting beside him now,
regarding him with large, innocent eyes.

"Well," he plunged ahead, "nearly all of the chickens around here are he…
lady chickens. There's only old Fowler, and the stress would probably be
too much for his heart at his age, or Rocky. And quite frankly Ginger would
have his giblets for garters if he so much as clucked at another hen. So I
would guess that Babs and Bunty have come to…" he cast around for a polite
term, "alternative arrangements. D'you understand?" he finished weakly.

"Oh, that's fine," Fetcher said happily, and jumped to his feet. "I'm going
to tell Mr. Fowler I finished the sign."

"Yes, that's right, you go and do that, lad, I'll see you back home…" He
watched Fetcher's retreating back for a while, then sighed heavily. Babs
and Bunty, eh? The mind boggled.

He hoped Fetcher hadn't noticed the rather disconcerting way his tail was
suddenly standing on end.

**

'Back home' was a ramshackle sort of camp under a fallen branch the two
rats had claimed soon after arriving at Chikin Sanctuary. It was a nice
enough little place, but nothing fancy. There was a bed of sorts at either
end, made from leaves and grass and feathers and scraps of material and
tattered newspapers, the beds separated enough to give the pair of them a
bit of space from each other when they needed it. And boy, did Nick need it
sometimes. 

He was lying on his back on his own pile of bedding, staring past the
branch to the night sky. Marvellous, insomnia was what he really needed.

Fetcher was apparently not similarly afflicted. Soft snoring rose from a
little way away.

Nick had a go at counting sheep, then chickens, and most definitely did not
think for one moment about Fetcher standing in the pool.

All wet.

And dripping.

And with his tail…

Oh, bugger.

**

There was only one place on the island to go if you fancied a spot of
company at some unearthly hour of the morning, and only one being that
company was likely to be with. Nick was relieved to spy the familiar shape
at the top of one of the trees, and with some effort hauled himself onto
the branch beside her.

They just sat for a while, then Ginger said, "can't sleep?"

"Nah. Million and one thoughts goin' through my head. Planning out the
wheeling and dealing, ducking and diving. You know how it is."

"Mmm."

"Hows about you?"

"Oh, I've been doing this for a long time. I got into the habit back on the
farm. Nowadays it's the only bit of peace I get, what with Rocky and the
chicks to look after."

"Sorry, I'll leave you to it, shall I?"

"It's all right."

They stared out into the darkness. Somewhere nearby an owl hooted and it
took an effort for Nick not to jump out of his skin. He shifted closer to
the reassuring warmth of the chicken beside him.

"I used to dream about this," she said softly.

"Sitting up a tree in the middle of the night with a rat?"

"Freedom. Green grass beneath my feet and a blue sky and being able to go
wherever I want. It was my obsession. I thought of nothing else. It made
life bearable."

"Oh."

"Didn't you want that?"

He shrugged, as far as it was possible without actually falling thirty feet
to a nasty death. "I wasn't doing too badly back at the farm. The chances
of me being made into a pie were slim, frankly."

"With Mrs. Tweedy running the place, you could have easily gone out of
there in a pastry."

"Fair enough. I do think about it sometimes, though," he admitted. "You
know. Being back there. Back to normality."

"You almost sound like you miss it." There was a faint accusation to the tone.

"Ah, but it wasn't the same for me and Fetcher, was it? We had it all
right. Back there, I was a rat who could get things. Now you lot don't need
me, do you?"

"We'll always be very grateful for what you did for us."

Nick ignored her, caught up in the past. "The run of the barns, so long as
Ma Tweedy or the dogs didn't catch up with us, plenty of cheese once you
worked out how to get round the traps and even Fetcher managed that one,
sometimes eggs, or kitchen scraps, or bits of roast chic…"

Even in near-total darkness, Ginger's glare could have frozen Vesuvius.

"Anyway," he said hurriedly, "no sense in dwelling in the past, all done
and dusted now, haha, best just to forget and enjoy all this lovely
freedom. I'll leave you to your, ah, meditation, shall I?" He felt around
for the best way down, then remembered something. "Incidentally, not that
it's any of my business, what's this young Fetcher tells me about Babs and
Bunty?"

"What about them?" She was still upset about that chicken remark, he knew.

"Come on. You must have an inkling what your sapphic sisters are getting up
to, they live three feet away from you and Rocky."

"What Babs and Bunty and the rest do is entirely their own business."

"The rest?" Now, this was interesting. "Been going on for years, hasn't it?
Bet you lot got up to all sorts after lights-out back at Stalag Tweedy. I
sometimes wondered why there were so many feathers lying about the place."

There was a drawn-out silence and for a minute he thought he'd deeply
offended her. But she sounded almost amused as she said, "we did have our
moments. Tried to make the whole thing just a bit more bearably, and we do
have, well, urges after all. Personally, I'm always going to be terribly
fond of Mac. Don't breathe a word to Rocky, though. I'm sure it'd be
devastating to his male pride."

Chickens, Nick thought in a sort of dazed bewilderment as he climbed
carefully to safe ground. Gawd almighty. It just went to show, you never
could tell with chickens.

**

"Nick. Nick. Nick."

Typical. The first time all night he felt himself drifting off to sleep and
Fetcher was suddenly wide away and wanting to chat. He opened his eyes
blearily and blinked twice. A dark shape was standing over him.

"Fetcher, I told you what to do if you had a bad dream.."

"I've been having a think," he whispered loudly.

"First time for everything, I suppose."

"What?"

"Never mind. What is it?"

"I want to make alternative arrangements."

Nick nearly asked him what he was blethering about, then his mind was
dragged back to the talk they'd had by the pool, and he could fell himself
blush under his fur. Surely the lad couldn't mean…

"Only I've been thinking about it ages and I fancy giving it a go. How
about it?"

He's been thinking about it ages - so that's what the dancing bit was about
back at Tweedy's farm, he realised. And here he was thinking that was just
innocent, naïve Fetcher.

"Come on Nick, give us a go, 's freezing out here."

Nick stared for a very long time at the black, rat-shaped outline against
the sky. He tried to think of a nice way to say that wasn't the best idea
in the world, that they'd only regret it in the morning and at the end of
the day they were both blokes, for goodness sake. And Fetcher's mam would
raise all hell the next time the saw her, and that wasn't a sight he was
falling over himself to see.

In the end, what he said was, "yeah, go on then," and moved over.

After a while there was a lot of squeaking from under the old branch. And
quite a bit of giggling as well. And possibly, once or twice, a cry of
"yes! YES!"

Up on the hill, more than one chicken was quite rudely awakened. But since
they were up anyway, and somebody seemed to be enjoying themselves
immensely, most of them decided it was better to join them than beat them.
So that was all right.

**

Fowler, previously of the Royal Air Force and currently stationed to
protect and serve the vulnerable ladies of the Chikin Sanctuary, hauled
himself onto his customary spot on the fallen branch and waited for
sunrise. He cleared his throat self-importantly, modestly acknowledging
that he was about to perform his single most important duty of the day. The
hens had very nicely suggested he might like to give his voice a bit of a
rest, now they were away from the farm and all, but he had been stalwart.
Fowler was a rooster who knew where his duty lay.

Ah, dawn. Time to get started. He drew himself up to his full height.

"COCK-A-DOODLE… my word."

In the first light he had caught sight of something below him, and craned
his neck forward to get a better view. 

Amazing. A two-headed rat. You didn't get many of those these days.

It took a moment for the truth to sink in, and when it did he spluttered in
absolute outrage.

"A disgrace! An outright disgrace! I'll have you both court-martialed for
this, you see if I don't!" he howled.

An eye opened and swivelled sleepily towards him. He could just about tell
that it belonged to the fat rodent whose name escaped him.

"What are you mithering about now, you silly old fool?"

This was just too much. "You, sir, are addressing a superior officer and
this conduct will not be tolerated!" He was growing distinctly hot under
the feathers. 

"Oh, cluck off, will you? Just 'cause you never let Rocky the Randy Rooster
get your medals off, don't go denying the rest of us a spot of fun."

Fowler spluttered and shouted and generally caused a fuss, until his
protests became loud enough to rouse the rest. Eventually Ginger appeared
to calm things down, looking none the worse for her late night in the tree.
Nick was still half-asleep, despite the noise, but he couldf still swear
she was trying to keep from laughing.

"Come on, Fowler, leave them to it, you can help me feed the chicks."

The rooster allowed himself to be led away, though not without throwing a
dark glance or two back in Nick and Fetcher's direction.

When all was quiet again, Nick settled back down, snuggling down next to
Fetcher and throwing his tail over him. He hadn't so much as stirred in all
the excitement. He noted again that bloke he might be, but not a half bad
looking one at that. None too bright, obviously, but the words 'innocent'
and 'naïve' certainly didn't apply. Not after last night. Phew.

He thought, as he drifted happily back to sleep, that alternative
arrangements were the best thing since boiled eggs.

END


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