|New Hot Fuzz fic: "Your Wildest Dreams" - Nicholas/Danny - NC17
||[Nov. 11th, 2008|11:05 pm]
(lives between pages)
Title: Your Wildest Dreams
Fandom: Hot Fuzz
Notes: This is my first attempt at a substantially longer story featuring these guys (as all of my previous efforts have been on the briefer end of the spectrum). The idea, however, has been floating around my flat for at least a few weeks. A little bit of codeine and a long Sunday lie-in finally made it click. Also note that the phrase in hospital is not missing a word - Brits cut the from this phrase altogether!
Summary: Fantasies are only dangerous when you start wishing they'll come true.
It was the worst subject they could've got onto, but Danny didn't know it at the time. Bullshit sessions 'round the station on slow days were mostly harmless. Doris always took it upon herself to find a suitable topic for discussion, which normally degenerated into swearing and bin-tossing in thirty seconds flat. Nicholas mostly kept to himself in the office, although he did occasionally poke his head into the room - to chide them, usually, but sometimes to participate. He had the advantage of shelter from the flying bins, of which Danny sometimes took advantage. The Andys ususally shot him dagger-glances through the glass, whereas Doris had taken to winking.
Danny tried not to think overmuch about that. It implied things.
The subject in question was Fisher's new calendar of pin-up girls. They looked to be mostly wholesome blonde and brunette types, not too anorexic, and none of them were starkers. Danny peered over Fisher's shoulder as he flipped through, catching Walker's muddled mutterings of approval as Saxon's amiable tail-wagging thwap-thwapped their shins. Doris, on her way to Nicholas's office with a clipboard, paused across the desk to peer at the images upside-down. She pointed to the one they were on at the minute, a ginger-haired lass, lying on her stomach, draped in rose chiffon.
"She's a real looker, isn't she? Wish I had that hair!"
Danny shrugged. "She's pretty enough."
"Nicearse," Walker said decisively.
"Reminds me of the wife when she was young," Fisher admitted.
"You lot are sad," Wainwright informed them, swaggering into the room with Cartwright on his heels. "If you've ever got a hankering for some real gems of pornography, you just pop on back to the office and we'll sort you out."
Danny cringed. "Too much information, that is!"
"Gotnoclass," said Walker, knowingly, and patted his arm.
"Nobody asked you," Doris said, sticking the pen behind her ear. "Besides, it figures you sods would need it all hangin' out. No bloody imagination!"
Being closest to the wall, Cartwright dropped fifty pence in the box on her behalf.
"Are you implying I can't fantasize without visual aids?" Wainwright asked, eyebrows raised. "Like hell I can't! I can picture you in nothing but your knickers down at the duck pond. How's that?"
"Doesn't count," Doris said, instantly smug, "considering it actually happened."
Danny squeezed his eyes shut. "Were you not paying attention when I said that's too much information?" Walker patted his arm again, and Saxon barked helpfully.
"Go on then, Doris," Cartwright challenged, not to be left out. "What's your fantasy?"
"Oh - we've gone all show and tell, have we?" laughed Fisher, nervously.
"If you like," said Wainwright, folding his arms across his chest. "Eh, Doris?"
Doris looked thoughtful for a few seconds, almost whimsical, and then mused: "There's nothing like a good, hot soak in the bath with a bottle of champagne and strawberries. I like to imagine some handsome American actor's feeding them to me!"
Wainwright looked put-out. "Which American actor?"
"Any American actor. Well, maybe not that chap who got shoved in the wood chipper."
"But Fargo's a classic!" Danny blurted, unable to remain silent any longer. "And you ought to've enjoyed that, seeing as it's about a brave policewoman. Er. Officer."
The Andys exchanged sly glances before fixing on Danny in perfect unison.
"What about you?" Cartwright asked. "Or didn't you pay attention in school when they got to that bit in biology?"
Danny bristled. "Just because I didn't take it in A-levels doesn't mean I don't know what goes where. Anyway, you aren't tripping all over yourself to contribute, either."
Wainwright nudged his partner helpfully. Uncomfortably, Cartwright cleared his throat.
"Involves this girl off a porno, plus rollerskates. Your turn!"
"Titsanarse," volunteered Walker, valiantly, as if to save Danny the trouble.
"Yeah, we know," Cartwright sighed. "But we're talking about Butterman here."
"Well," Fisher piped up, brightly, "if it's moral support he needs, I'm more than happy to admit that my ideal fantasy goes something like this - "
"We've seen the fucking calendar," Wainwright said, dropping a pound in the box. Danny had thought that Nicholas's inflation of the penalties would act as a deterrent, but that theory was dead in the water. "Come on, Danny-boy. We haven't got all day."
Danny sighed, realizing there was no way he was going to get out of this. He stared at the floor for a few seconds and considered Doris's example of the bath. The most Danny ever thought about in the shower was how tired he was on account of having stayed up all night watching movies with Nicholas - the occurrence of which was back to pre-explosion frequency, thank Grayskull - and if he did anything in the shower other than wash, well, he'd always assumed it was because nature bloody well intended him to. The only other showers he could think of were the ones he took at the station, and, nine times out of ten, Nicholas wasn't far off, chatting politely to the tiles because he never seemed able to meet anybody's eyes when they spoke to him there. Danny'd never been especially ill at ease in the changing room, and he had to admit Nicholas was nice to look at in an aesthetics-of-physical-form sort of way. The clasp of his chain always seemed to drift down to his gleaming, soap-slick collarbone, and it always took the last of Danny's resolve for him not to reach over and adjust it...
Danny realized that Doris was looking at him intently. He cleared his throat.
"Oh, you know. As visuals go, I'm more into action flicks and stuff. I reckon I'm always looking forward to the next big release date - " letting his fingers glide up from the clasp and into Nicholas's dripping hair " - imagining the brilliant chase scenes - " and the startled light in Nicholas's eyes as he's pulled in close " - and the hot chicks," Danny finished lamely. "So...yeah. In conclusion, Bond girls are ace."
"Dare I ask?" ventured Nicholas, perplexed, peering around the corner.
"We're discussing fantasies," said Doris, eagerly. "Have you got any, Inspector?"
Nicholas's eyes moved from Danny to Doris, and then to the Andys, who were beside him. His critical gaze rested briefly on Fisher's calendar before shifting back to Danny.
"That's classified information," he said, gracing them all with something that might have been a half-smile. "Keep your voices down if you can help it. I'm waiting on an important call." And, just like that, he was gone.
"Bollocks," muttered Walker, mischievously. Saxon whined.
"Well, there you have it," Wainwright said. "God's own Angel has spoken. Get back to fucking work."
"That'll be two pounds, Detective," said Nicholas, loudly enough for everyone to hear.
"And your little dog, too," Cartwright sulked, shoving two pounds and ten pence into the box before following Wainwright back the hall. Walker was chuckling audibly.
"Just another day 'round the office," Doris said, shrugging, and moved on.
Danny lingered a few moments at Fisher's shoulder, but it wasn't because the page-flipping had resumed ("Nicetitsanarse"). It was because Nicholas was grinning at him through the glass, as if he suspected this had somehow been all Danny's fault.
Danny, on the other hand, was of the opinion that he ought to've called in sick.
* * *
Nicholas and Danny were the first ones to arrive at the station each day - or, rather, the old church hall that was serving as a station while the new one got built - and they were always the last ones to leave. Although the Andys had worked their tag-teaming practices back up to speed, they always fucked off slightly early if they could help it. They didn't dare cross Nicholas anymore, at least not in earnest. Danny reckoned that was why they rode him a little hard at times. If they couldn't get to the Inspector, they could at least get to Inspector's Pet. Danny didn't mind much anymore. Almost dying did wonders for one's outlook on life. Low-grade verbal abuse was pretty trivial.
At the moment, Danny was unbuttoning his shirt and pondering the way that Nicholas never seemed to leave his off for more than a few seconds. Rather than get distracted and stand there shirtless whilst talking, which Danny knew he did without blinking, Nicholas tended to leave his shirt on and hanging open like some kind of pitiful dressing-gown. And then when he'd managed to fish his street clothes out of his locker, he'd shrug out of it and into his other shirt as quickly as possible. In fact, he'd just done it, which was what had got Danny thinking about it in the first place. It was odd, just like the way Nicholas talked at the floor when they were showering.
Just as Danny was about to ask Nicholas if he got cold easily, Nicholas said, "What was that all about, anyway?"
Danny blinked, alarmed. "What was what all about?"
Nicholas tilted his head a little and smiled, that sort of affectionate don't-try-to-pull-one-over-on-me look. "Bond girls are ace," he mimicked.
"What of it?" Danny asked, mildly defensive, turning his attention on his locker. "They are, aren't they?" The weight of Nicholas's eyes made him shiver.
The ensuing silence indicated to Danny that Nicholas was doing his floundering-fish impression, the prospect of which was so interesting given the circumstances that Danny abruptly turned his head, only to miss it. Nicholas looked sheepish.
"Some of them are. But I meant the entire conversation, most of which I'm sure I should be glad I missed. I take it that this one's the calendar's fault, not Doris's?"
"Doris helped," Danny sighed, grinning. "She was on about champagne and strawberries in the bath. Also attractive American actors feeding them to her."
"Too much information, thank you," said Nicholas, busy buttoning up his shirt.
"D'you get cold easily?" Danny asked, opting for a change of subject.
Nicholas blinked at him, as if he didn't follow. "What? Sometimes. Why?"
"You dress quickly, s'all," Danny said, struggling a bit with his jumper. The residual pains in his chest and abdomen were subsiding by the day, but there were certain things he couldn't do without a firm reminder of all those months spent in hospital. He huffed, about to ask for help, but Nicholas's hands were already there, tugging the garment down until it covered all of him properly. And there was slightly less of him, too: he'd lost about a stone and a half on account of the entire ordeal. Where Danny had been somewhat pleased to learn this, Nicholas had been intensely concerned. Twenty-one pounds didn't just vanish overnight.
"You'd better be eating properly when I'm not watching," Nicholas said, quickly withdrawing his hands from Danny's hips. "On the other hand, you'd better not be living on take-away, either."
Danny slapped his stomach, poked it a few times, and shrugged. "I haven't gained it back, but I haven't lost any more, either. There, you satisfied?"
Nick nodded, smiling as he shoved his feet into his shoes. "Before long, I'll have you joining me on morning runs. It'd be good for you, maybe help with the occasional breathing issues." Nick looked worried again, all mother-hen-like. Either it suited him, or Danny had gone soft. If Nicholas had just left his hands where they'd been...
"Psssh, I think not," Danny informed him, bending too quickly to fish around in the bottom of the locker for his trainers. "That's too early for my blood. Next time you're up with the chickens, give 'em my regards! Oof. Ow."
Nicholas hauled Danny up - too brief, those arms sure and tight around Danny's ribcage - sat him down on the bench, and fetched the shoes for him. Put them on him, even, batting Danny's hands away when he tried to intervene in the tying process. Nicholas was teasing him, and having a good time of it, too. He'd double-knotted the laces, the cheeky fucker. Nicholas wasn't the goody-two-shoes he'd have you believe.
"If they've got to cut me out of those, the blame's on you," Danny said, letting Nicholas help him to his feet. There weren't any words light enough to cover the fact that he wanted nothing more than for Nicholas to keep touching him, but he blundered on anyway. "And I can just picture you jogging along after the ambulance, too."
That was a mistake, because Nicholas looked as if he'd just been punched in the stomach. However, the fact he hadn't let go of Danny's hands suggested otherwise. He squeezed them, and Danny wondered if his knuckles were going to crack. Nicholas had strong hands for such a small bloke. Add to that the fact he'd had a knife shoved through one of them and it seemed all the more impressive.
"I understand that you're trying to lighten the mood, but I'd rather you didn't tempt fate," Nicholas said, searching Danny's eyes for comprehension. "We've only just got you back, and I'm not..." Nicholas stopped, suddenly all deer-in-the-headlights to go along with his floundering. He let go of Danny's hands and touched his forearms instead, not purely companionable and not quite a caress. "You're all I've got."
"Yeah," Danny said, his heart hammering hard enough to rattle the lockers. "You too."
Nick smiled, but it was somehow forced. "Good," he said, patting Danny's elbows before letting his hands drop to his sides. "Have you brought the car today?"
"No," Danny admitted. "I walked."
"That'll be why you're not gaining weight, I suspect." Nicholas sounded disapproving.
"Walking's not running, but it'll do. It makes me feel better, you know?"
"Yes," Nicholas said. "I'll walk you home, then."
And there were no words right enough, either, to describe the trouble Danny was in.
* * *
The next morning, Danny remembered his dreams vividly. He was pretty certain he'd had several, although the one in question had involved asking Nicholas in for coffee - this time with full knowledge of what he was after when he said it, and this time, Nicholas hadn't refused him on the grounds that the offer didn't include beer. Nicholas had followed Danny into his small kitchen, and they'd barely got to flipping the switch on the electric kettle when he'd pinned Danny against the counter and kissed him. The bits in the middle were blurry, but judging by his body's reaction, some part of his brain had recorded every scandalous detail. The vague impression of Nicholas's damp, flushed skin and slight, yet solid weight against him made Danny shudder.
For the first time in a couple of weeks, he did more than just wash in the shower - and unless Nicholas Angel was a force of nature, Danny very much doubted his previous reasoning. It was difficult enough to face the fact that he'd been wrong about not having fantasies, and more difficult still to own up to the fact that his were more vulnerable than everyone else's (unless everyone else had been lying, too).
When he arrived at the station, Nicholas bid him good morning and asked him if he'd slept well. Danny said yes, he had, and bit back the part where he'd wanted to add that it would've been even better if Nicholas had really been there beside him. Instead, he mumbled something about cold coffee and made a bee-line for his desk. Danny could hear silent floundering behind him, but Nicholas didn't follow more than a few steps before retreating back into the office. Dammit.
Doris, apparently, had been watching the entire exchange, because she was the one to appear instead of Nicholas, hovering nervously over Danny's desk with a half-eaten tea cake in her hand. She broke it and offered the un-gnawed bit to Danny.
"It's good for what ails you," she said. "I take it you didn't really sleep that well? Takes one to know one. Quite the insomniac, me, ever since school. Remember?"
"Yeah," Danny agreed, hesitantly accepting the tea cake. Nicholas would want him to eat it. "You always got yelled at for fallin' asleep during lessons. I felt especially bad," he added, mouth full, "'cause you couldn't seem to help it. Plus, Mrs. Cotter was a boring old hag. To this day, I think she's why I hate maths."
Doris pulled up a nearby chair and sat down across from him, grinning as she finished her half of the tea cake. "S'good, innit? Mum made 'em. There's more if you want."
"No thanks," Danny said, brushing his hands off. "Can't ruin all the good getting shot's done me. I reckon I'll be as fast as Nicholas before too long, what do you think?"
Doris frowned for a split second, then gave in and laughed with him. "I suppose so. You are looking better by the day." Her expression changed a little, almost guiltily. "Like yesterday, I guess - you took it all in stride. You always did, though."
"What, the Andys?" Danny rolled his eyes. "Wankers never change, no matter what their stripes. It was bizarre, though, in that they really got me to thinking."
Doris suddenly perked up. "About what?"
"You know," Danny said, casually starting to doodle on a stray piece of paper. "Fantasies an' everything. We all have 'em, don't we? And we all lie, too, when it comes down to it."
"Walker doesn't," Doris pointed out, giggling. "Wears his on his sleeve, he does!" She sobered abruptly, sighing. "Me too, I reckon. I've got no reason to lie about nothing, especially not strawberries, and I do fancy that Brad Pitt fellow."
Danny glanced up at her. "That's fair enough." The cartoon wouldn't cooperate.
"What about you? Do you really think about them Bond girls twenty-four-seven?"
"No," Danny admitted, scribbling out the caricature of Nicholas. He hadn't got the chin right. "It's more complicated than that, of course. No rollerskates, though!"
Doris laughed even louder, momentarily startling everyone in the room. Walker gave them a bewildered, yet interested look from the back corner, eyebrows raised. He was in the process of feeding Saxon a bit of tea cake.
"It takes all sorts," she said, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "Though Andy'll never live that one down, will he?" She sighed, shifting in her chair, which indicated to Danny that another question was coming. "So if not rollerskates, then...?"
Danny sighed and started to sketch Mr. Staker's swan, wings outstretched, with one of his trainers dangling by one lace from its beak. "Coffee that never gets drunk. Messing around in bed. Honestly, Doris, it's boring. Nothing fancy like your strawberries."
"Oh, I don't know about that," she said reassuringly, reaching over to pat his hand. "Strawberries ain't everybody's speed, and I'm sure even Bond girls like a nice, quiet evening at home with coffee and such. You like it cozy, is all. Familiar. There's nothin' wrong with that!"
"Nothintall," Walker cut in, supportively. "Sniceallright."
Danny smiled by way of thanks, although he was certain his cheeks were turning pink. The swan was looking lop-sided, as he'd thoroughly dropped his concentration in favor of imagining finally getting 'round to the coffee - only in bed, afterward, with Nicholas holding the mug for him and everything. He hadn't just gone soft; he was far gone.
Doris cleared her throat, ruining the moment.
"I'll let you get back to your Bond girls and coffee," she said, inexplicably glancing over at the office. Nicholas was on the phone, gesturing as he spoke, oblivious to everything else. "And your masterpiece," she added, then winked at him.
Walker gave him a rare thumbs-up, patting Saxon on the head.
Danny sighed and got back to his drawing, where, as it turned out, his other shoe and other items of clothing besides were strewn in the grass alongside the duck-pond. Additional garments and oddments were thrown in for good measure: running shorts, tube socks, and a conspicuously broken chain (its medal nowhere to be found).
* * *
The cartoon turned out well enough in the end that Danny decided he'd keep it. He hid it under the book of official rules and regulations in his bottom drawer, as he knew that nobody else in the station would nick his copy. Besides, they'd all got their own, as Nicholas had made a point of ordering enough for everybody. It was just that Danny had been far more vigilant in putting his to use. Like now, for instance.
When home-time rolled around, the first thing Fisher said was, "Anyone fancy a pint?"
There were general murmurs of agreement, one of which had come from the doorway, where Nicholas happened to be standing. He glanced at Danny expectantly.
Danny grinned at him, and then said to Fisher, "Why not?"
Nicholas had learned a thing or two about switching off that extended beyond the confines of Danny's couch. The pub was one space in which switching off was mandatory, and, rule-hound that he was, Nicholas now adhered to this statute (more or less) without question. Tonight, his poison was Continental, some Belgian affair with an unpronounceable name. Which Nicholas could of course pronounce flawlessly.
"Where do you learn this stuff, anyway?" Danny asked, trailing after him back to the table. Nicholas had taken one of the seats at the very end, and Danny had chosen to sit across from him rather than beside him. Danny preferred to be looking into Nicholas's eyes when they spoke. There was a natural directness in Nicholas's address, even when he was speaking to the shower tiles, and Danny had learned a thing or two about making sure he was its object.
Nicholas shrugged, taking a sip. "You can get Continental beers at most pubs in London. When there's so much variety at your disposal, why not try them all?"
"No, no," Danny said, shaking his head. "I mean how to say it."
"What, Maredsous Tripel? It's French. They speak several languages in Belgium, French being the simplest to get one's tongue around. If it were one of the Flemish names, you'd see me struggling!"
"Huh," Danny said, and took a sip of his cider. Just then, the Andys walked in.
"Starting without us, I see," said Cartwright, claiming the seat right next to Danny. He let his eyes drift from Danny over to Nicholas. "What're we drinking tonight, ladies?"
"It's too strong for you by far," said Nicholas, good-naturedly. "You'd do well to stick with lemonade. Of course, I've heard that the cranberry juice comes at a high recommendation."
Cartwright grinned in spite of himself, then went deadpan again at a glare from Wainwright, who'd just returned from the bar with two heaping pints of Guinness.
"What's so funny? Did the Inspector here dazzle you with his witty acumen?"
Cartwright cleared his throat and sat back, his seriousness still forced. "No, actually - we're back to discussing fantasies again, as luck would have it. After all, we never got to hear Nicholas's take on the matter, did we? Classified information ceases to be classified after hours. Everybody knows that."
Nicholas went from affable to scowling in half a second flat, and Danny wanted to crawl under the table. Wherever this was headed, it wasn't going to be pleasant.
"Whereas I thought the rule went something like 'Whatever happens at the station, stays at the station,'" said Doris, joining them out of nowhere. "Don't you knobs have anything better to do than bring your grievances along for a drink, too?"
"I think the Inspector missed that one when he made up the new swears list," tutted Wainwright. "What's the fine for phallic references, do you figure? A tenner?"
"Twenty if you keep this nonsense up," Nicholas said gravely. Danny could tell by the way he was squeezing the life out of his glass that there was something particular under his skin, but as to what, that was anybody's guess. Judging by Doris's nervous expression, it was plain as day to her. And however much Danny hated maths, he could put two and two together.
"C'mon, Nicholas," said Cartwright, already sounding more curious than malicious. "We've all been good sports and laid our souls bare - even Danny, here," he added, raising his glass in Danny's direction. Danny just nodded as if to say, sure, taking one for the team and all that, but the thought gave him no comfort. Because Nicholas was human, he'd turn out to have fantasies just like the rest of them. Unlike the rest of them, however, he was a rotten liar.
Nicholas stared into his glass for a few long seconds, then took a rather longer swig than was necessary. He made a face, but whether it was he actually didn't like what he was drinking or it was sensory overload, Danny couldn't be sure. When the moment passed, he put his glass down calmly on the nearest coaster and said, "I'm not much for magazines or those...films. I prefer it to be left to the imagination, thank you."
Wainwright rolled his eyes. "We already know the definition of a fantasy, thanks. It's a description we're after. As in, a description of yours. For instance, Cartwright here evidently has a thing for rollerskates - "
"Awreadyheardit," said Walker from the opposite end of the table, shaking his head.
" - and me, I've got a thing for lacy knickers. On women, I mean. So," Wainwright concluded, "what do you, Inspector Nicholas Angel, have a thing for?"
"Besides plants," Cartwright added. "Although, plants are nice. My nan has - "
Wainwright elbowed him into silence and sat back, glowering formidably.
Up until that point, Danny hoped he had been giving Nicholas something to focus on so he didn't lose his cool and go off on one of those tight-arsed lectures. However, it was clear that Nicholas's cool was, by that point, virtually non-existent. He fixed Wainwright with an icy, piercing stare and said, "What part of my wish to refrain from participating in this insipid conversation don't you understand?"
"Probably the part where you use too many big words," said Danny, snickering. He desperately hoped that some humor would serve to diffuse the situation, but he could tell that Cartwright was only just getting started.
"Fair enough," Cartwright said, both hands in the air. "I'll just use my imagination, and believe me, it ain't pretty."
"Since you've declined to be a good sport," Wainwright said, "I suppose we could just go back and take a closer look at Sergeant Butterman. He's a fascinating case."
Danny felt his palms clam up, and it wasn't the chill from his glass, either. The flash of rage in Nicholas's eyes before he turned and let Wainwright have it was truly something. It was like the look he got when he took aim to shoot at something, only sharper and ten times as fierce. And Nicholas Angel never missed.
"If you think there's anything you can possibly tell me about Danny that I don't already know, then you're a presumptuous fucker and absolutely wrong. Furthermore, if there's anything I don't appreciate, it's this passive-aggressive bullying methodology you've got going. If there's something you'd like to say to my face when we're off the clock, then you should just bloody well say it and clear the air. Got it?"
The Andys, too stunned to answer, just nodded. Danny was in awe of Nicholas's occasional ability to scare the living daylights out of people. It wasn't so much what he said, either - it was mostly in the delivery and in the slightly mad look he wore while he was at it. After all, his reputation had recently hit another glass ceiling.
"Tellemlad," said Walker, approvingly. Saxon sat not far off, idly panting.
"Cheers!" said Doris, raising her glass. Even though nobody quite understood what they were toasting, they were all more than happy to comply. Danny couldn't help but notice that Nicholas didn't bother to clink glasses with anybody but him, which was reassuring. As usual, Fisher found a way of making things awkward.
"Seeing as I never got to speak my piece..."
Thirty-five minutes and several more rounds later, everyone had heard far more than they'd ever wanted to know about Fisher and the missus. Danny thought he'd read all he could stand to read in the local paper, what with Fisher constantly chatting to the reporters about this, that, and the other thing, but he'd clearly been wrong. Across the table, Nicholas was looking either bored or tired, or possibly both. He got a sort of pleasant, droopy-eyed look about him when he'd had one too many pints.
Danny mouthed, Wanna go?
Yeah, Nicholas replied, barely audible.
Somehow, they managed to make an exit with minimal fuss. Doris, by then fairly well in her cups, insisted on hugging them good night. Cartwright was stonily silent, but Wainwright waved drunkenly. Walker gave a sort of tipsy salute.
Once they were outside, Danny blurted, "It's a good job the Turners are still on holiday!"
"I imagine so," said Nicholas, scanning the empty high street out of habit. "They've been spared the worst nonsense we've had to endure since that rash of stink-bombs from the teenage offspring of a few irked parishioners."
"They weren't using the hall. I can't understand why they got bent out of shape."
Nicholas sighed, shoving his hands deep in his pockets, "Let's get you home."
"Why? I won't turn into a pumpkin or anything," Danny replied, keeping his pace deliberately slow. "This is the best weather we've had all month. Let's enjoy it, yeah?"
"If you insist," said Nicholas, trying to sound put-upon and failing miserably.
They walked in companionable silence for a while, taking in the sounds of a not-quite-sleeping village. Reassuring, that life could go on as normal in spite of the horrors they'd been through. Danny was busy trying to pick out what BBC program was drifting through someone's nearby open window when Nicholas spoke.
"I doubt they would've been interested anyway."
Danny snapped out of it. "In what?"
Nicholas laughed. "My fantasies, such as they are. And I take it you're not really that obsessed with Bond girls, are you, admirable though they may be?"
It was Danny's turn to laugh. "No, not really. There are plenty of other things in the world worth wanting!"
"Such as?" Nicholas asked, raising his eyebrows. So fucking earnest.
"Things I can't have," answered Danny, simply, looking him square in the eye.
"Ah," he replied, but didn't look away. "That's...familiar."
Danny nodded and glanced down at his feet, fighting the urge to smile.
"Funny, but you kind of get used to it, don't you?"
"I'm not sure I ever will. Hey, this is your stop."
Before Danny could ask him what he'd meant by it, Nicholas had clapped him briefly on the shoulder with a murmured good night and started on his way. It said more than Danny ever could have and, strangely, gave him hope. That was all he needed, really.
* * *
What Danny was about to do was going to take every last ounce of courage he had. There wasn't much he could do to prepare for it, either. Asking Doris for help was a double-edged sword. Usually, you got what you wanted, but you also ended up tolerating the worst of her quirks in the process – that would be the chattiness. Danny had the feeling that too much information wasn't even going to cover it.
Catching Doris on her lunch break would be the hard part, given she wasn't particularly a creature of habit. She tended to eat whenever she was hungry, and that could mean 11:30 AM on one day and 2:00 PM on another. Danny stuck close to his desk, seeing as it wasn't that far from Doris's, and kept an eye out. Every once in a while, he'd catch Nicholas regarding him rather pensively from the office. They hadn't exchanged words yet, as Nicholas had arrived so early as to be clear of the lockers before Danny got there. Given the awkwardness of the night before, Danny supposed he could understand. Nicholas was learning unsettling things about himself, too.
As Danny was about to decide he'd had it, that he ought to just bite the bullet and confront Nicholas without a clear plan of action, Doris finally returned to her desk and rummaged around in the bottom drawer for her purse. It was one o'clock.
"Where you going?" asked Danny, casually.
"The corner shop for a sandwich, then maybe the duck-pond. It's a nice day, and I haven't eaten outside in a while."
"Fancy some company?" Danny swallowed. He couldn't lose his nerve now.
Doris smiled brightly. "Sure!"
They sat in silence for the first few minutes, contemplating the waterfowl over their chicken and mayo. A pair of black swans had migrated in from out of town that spring and decided to stay. The five cygnets were getting big. Mr. Staker's ordinary swan had already got loose several times and picked some fights with the proud parents.
"They mate for life, you know," Doris said at length. "Isn't it sweet?"
Danny nodded, chewing carefully. "Nice of 'im to stick around and help raise the kids."
"There was a time when I expected I'd have several by now," she sighed. "Funny, how things change!"
Danny took a deep breath and nodded. He should at least be grateful that the segue was practically being handed to him on a silver platter. With a side of swans, even. They'd gained an almost heraldic significance in his personal mythology. Swans were tough little fuckers – and brave.
"What about you?" Doris asked. "Is this how you figured your life would turn out?"
"Yes and no," Danny said, and thought, Now or never. "Yes, in that I always knew I'd never leave Sandford. No, in that I never thought I'd have a fighting chance at somebody I might want to spend the rest of my life with."
Doris's eyes went wide for only a moment. Her look of surprise was replaced by a soft, knowing one, as if she'd seen this coming for a very long time.
"But I don't know what to do," Danny went on, helplessly. "I don't know where to start. This is more than just a fantasy, it turns out, and a hundred times more important!"
"I know you," Doris said, placing a reassuring hand on his arm. "You wouldn't be thinking this way if you didn't know he was feeling the same."
"There's the thing, though," replied Danny, frustrated. "I only suspect he does. There was this sort of…moment last night, but he got scared and walked away. I was waiting, Doris. I was ready. I'd even said all the right stuff – or so I'd thought." Danny shook his head and tossed what was left of his sandwich to the swans.
Doris ate what was left of hers, brushing the crumbs off her lap. "Maybe you weren't clear enough. He's one of those literal types, isn't he? If it's my advice you're after, I'd say just snog him next time you get the chance. That'll get the message across!"
"But what if I'm wrong?" Danny asked. "Things could get ugly."
Doris gave him a mildly reproachful look. "Things are already looking ugly, if you want my honest opinion. Besides, I was hoping neither of you would report for duty today – I had a bet going with Andy! Lost me ten quid, you lot did."
Danny rummaged in his pocket and produced a rumpled tenner.
"For your trouble," he said, grinning apologetically.
"Danny! Put that away. I wouldn't dream of taking your money. Just do me a favor and don't show up to work tomorrow, all right? Walker's got twenty riding on you. Forty-eight hours, he said. We think."
Danny blinked incredulously. "When was all this?"
"Last night, of course. After you hauled the Inspector out of there looking like you had a mind to try everything on him that Fisher had been on about, plus more!"
Danny covered his face and groaned. "Remind me never to think I'm subtle. Ever again."
"It's fine," Doris said, patting him on the back. "Just do me another favor and put that miserable bastard out of his misery, would you? He's been ever so snippy!"
"Yeah, 'kay," sighed Danny, looking to the swans for courage. "I'll try."
* * *
If Nicholas had wondered where Danny and Doris had buggered off to for an hour and a half, he wasn't bothering to ask. The rest of the day passed in blissful redundancy, except for the part where Saxon made off with Andy's yogurt and a messy ten-minute chase ensued. Doris was pretty sure they wouldn't get those berry-stains out of the carpet until somebody could find a hoover with shampooing capabilities. Nick stood there frowning, clearly imagining another plague of stink-bombs.
By the time it was five-thirty, everyone except the three of them, Walker, and Saxon had left for the pub. Nicholas looked to be busy with some piece of paperwork or another, too intent on his task for Danny's taste. Doris gave him a meaningful look.
"Get him out of here, why don't you?" she whispered. "Walker 'n' me will finish up!"
Danny stood up, mustering his resolve. Swans, he told himself. Think swans.
Much to Danny's relief, Nicholas looked more startled than annoyed when he walked into the office. He fiddled with his pen for a few more seconds, then put it down.
"Thought we might get on home," Danny suggested, forcing a calm smile. "It's going on six."
Nicholas glanced at the clock and looked even more startled. "That time already?"
"Come on," Danny said, grabbing the clipboard from in front of him and shoving it in one of the side drawers. "Whatever it is, it'll keep till tomorrow!"
"Purchase orders on some supplies for the new station," Nicholas admitted, rising, removing his jacket from the back of his chair. "It's bloody dull, is what."
Even though the changing room was empty, they changed in relative silence. Nicholas's eyes were fixed on the floor the entire time – not just when they were in various states of undress. Danny wanted to watch Nicholas's every move, but he thought it the better part of valor not to (considering what he was about to do them both).
No sooner had they finished dressing and made their way outside - Danny had done his level best to ignore Doris's unabashed look of encouragement - than Nicholas said, stiffly, "I'd like to apologize."
"Danny glanced over at him idly, as if this was news. "For what?"
"My silence," Nicholas responded, chagrined. "And for walking out on you last night. There would have been plenty of time to watch your new film."
Danny shrugged, grateful that Nicholas seemed to be meeting his eyes again. "It's all right. Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, in all its campy glory, can wait." He offered Nicholas a teasing smile. "Come to think of it, that one might hit a little too close to home!"
Sounding relieved, Nicholas laughed, "I've heard as much." A light rain started to fall.
"It's brilliant, though," Danny said, brushing a few raindrops off his nose. "The blood effects make my fork trick look absolutely pathetic. I remember goin' to see it at the cinema with Dad. He didn't even blink at the beheadings."
There were a few moments of awkward silence, punctuated only by the gathering strength of the rain and Nicholas drawing a sudden, labored breath as a flash of lightning illuminated his face. "Last time I went to the cinema, I was twenty."
"You're joking!" said Danny, astonished. "And that's how many years ago now - at least ten or twelve?"
"Almost sixteen," Nicholas admitted, biting his lip. "I'm one sad fucker, aren't I?"
"I must've sensed the gaping void in your life from day one," Danny said, shocked to find that his clothes were getting soaked. Fortunately, they were practically on his doorstep. He searched his pockets for the keys and added, as if off-handedly, "Listen - if you're not in the mood for a film this week, I understand. You've got a lot on your plate, what with stink-bomb attacks and arranging the new station. But won't you at least some in for coffee? I've got Doris's mum's leftover tea cakes, Cadbury's hot cocoa mix if you prefer it, and I think some green tea that you left here last week."
By the end of Danny's carefully executed monologue, Nicholas was smiling more freely than he had in at least a year - and in spite of the rain, which he normally hated. The hope that Danny had felt the night before, so fragile and tenuous, blossomed into something almost tangible. Perhaps Nicholas was thinking of the swans, too.
"You've made me an offer I can't refuse. Half a cup won't kill me, I suppose!" Nicholas had to raise his voice to make himself heard over a sudden clap of thunder.
"That's right," Danny said, his heart pounding as he unlocked the gate, then the front door, and let them in. "We'll fill up the other half with Cadbury's, and then you'll have a mocha. It pays to live dangerously once in a while. You taught me that."
"Then I've been a bad influence," Nicholas said, leaving his sodden shoes at the door. No matter how many times Danny witnessed it, Nicholas's thoughtful gesture got to him every time. Far gone - had he said far gone? He must be on the moon by now.
"Actually," Danny said, tossing his wet jacket over the nearest box, "you've done me a world of good." He wiped some stray droplets off his forehead and looked Nicholas up and down for emphasis, only to find that the poor sod was just as soaked as he was. Whatever powers Nicholas Angel might have possessed, built-in waterproofing was not one of them. He looked so pathetic that Danny couldn't help laughing.
"You're no Sahara yourself at the moment," he informed Danny sourly.
"Just wait a second," Danny said, struggling to bring his breath back under control. There were the pains again - faint, yet insistent. "I'll get us towels," he said, clamping one hand to his side, heading back the hall to his bathroom. He'd scarcely managed to get the lights on and the closet door open when he realized Nicholas was hovering in the doorway, looking pale as a ghost and as frightened as if he'd seen one.
"What?" Danny asked, tugging down two towels with his free hand. They weren't folded, but they were clean. He held the bundle out to Nicholas and said, "Here."
"You're hurting," said Nicholas, blankly, grabbing both of the towels. He tossed them on the floor and grabbed Danny instead, moving Danny's hand aside with the insistent pressure of his own. "What is it? What does it feel like?" His voice had risen to a note of panic that Danny was sure he'd heard before, but he couldn't recall when. Nicholas was almost shaking him. "Danny, listen, if this continues - "
And there it was, right on cue: the astonished light in Nicholas's eyes as Danny's fingers found their way into his dripping hair. The water wasn't as warm as Danny had imagined it would be, but then, one could hardly expect perfection in the details.
"Nicholas, I'm fine," Danny said. "It's already gone. The doctor said that's normal. It just helps if I put a bit of pressure on, that's all. You've seen me do it at work, yeah?"
"I..." Nicholas was floundering at him, his eyes fixed on Danny's mouth. "Ah. I see."
Sheepishly, Danny grinned at him. No sense in trying to hide it now.
"Also, you can kiss me if you like. I wouldn't mind that one bit. Of course, if you'd mind it, then that's a different story altogether and we can just forget I even - "
Judging by the way Nicholas was kissing him, forgetting Danny had even mentioned it was not an option. And seeing as Nicholas's arms were exactly where they needed to be - sure and tight around Danny's ribcage, drifting lower by the second - Danny decided he'd be sacrificing at least half of his sandwich as thanks to the swans for the rest of his lunchbreak-occupied life. He'd also buy Doris a box of chocolate-covered strawberries, because her suggestion of starting off with a snog? Was spot on.
* * *
Danny had expected the undressing part to be a lot more awkward, but because their clothes were by that point truly disgusting, it seemed like a non-issue even for Nicholas. Instead of staring at the floor, he let his eyes rest on whatever part of Danny he happened to be uncovering to the low bedroom light. He lingered over Danny's scars almost reverently, kissing an uneven line from Danny's chest down to his hip. Suddenly, not having made his bed that morning mattered very little. Nicholas had got Danny's trousers unzipped, and his breath against Danny's skin was shaky.
"Get up here," Danny said, tugging at Nicholas's shoulders, finding his voice strained. "You don't have to go doing that. Take it slow. We'll figure this out soon enough."
"It's not so much the figuring I'm worried about," Nicholas said, tugging on Danny's trouser legs until he'd managed to remove them. "There," he said, tossing them off the bed as carelessly as he'd discarded the towels, which they hadn't bothered to use. He'd been completely naked for about five minutes, no small thanks to Danny's help.
"Like the shorts?" Danny asked, trying to lighten the mood. Nicholas was so unbelievably serious all of a sudden, as if Danny had started clutching his side again. He picked at the light cotton fabric, straightening a bit of it so that Nicholas could make out the design. "I thought they might be appropriate. You know, just in case."
Nicholas squinted at the shamrocks, horseshoes, and dice, then smiled weakly.
"Gag gift from the Andys a few birthdays back?" he ventured, his fingers drifting tantalizingly close to the spot he'd only just accidentally hit a few seconds ago.
"From Doris, actually," Danny confessed, slightly embarrassed. "We had this wager going when we were at school - in sixth form," he explained, squirming a little as Nicholas's unsteady fingers finally unbuttoned him. "Whichever one of us got lucky first was supposed to buy the other something stupid to...um...commemorate the occasion." Nicholas was currently tugging the stupid something off of him, so the anecdote suddenly mattered even less than the rumpled sheets. Far less.
"However juvenile the intention, I'm sure you could call it some form of insight," Nicholas said with obvious effort, his eyes fixed on Danny's as he let his hand drift down to stroke him. And then, very hesitantly, "Is - is this - "
"Fuck, Nicholas," Danny hissed. "Get up here."
And then there was this, too, something Danny only half remembered from his dream. Nicholas weighed more in real life, but not nearly so much that it was uncomfortable, even considering the annoyance of his scars. It was on account of those, Danny was sure, that Nicholas needed so much coaxing, but all it took was that first hushed moment of contact and yes, Nicholas was murmuring in his ear: "Danny, yes."
Whatever happened during the next five minutes, it was mostly a blur of kisses and sweat and discovering that Nicholas, bless him, was all angles. By the time they had settled, Danny had somehow ended up on top. And it was just as well, because it took only a split second to realize that looking down on Nicholas like that was exactly where he needed to be. The backs of Nicholas's thighs tensed under Danny's trembling hands, and without any more warning than a strangled cry, Nicholas was coming.
If that was the price of finishing last, Danny was willing to pay it.
Some time later - although how much later, Danny wasn't sure - some banging around in the kitchen woke him up. Danny stretched and found that the sheets were firmly stuck to him from chest to ankles. He was just awake enough to get himself mostly untangled, although he was still drowsy enough for it to prove a losing battle. He flopped back against the damp pillows, drifting in and out of consciousness. Something smelled lovely, and at some point the mattress dipped and something very, very hot was precariously close to his face. He started awake with a gasp.
"Careful," Nicholas said, setting the mug against Danny's lips. "It's coffee."
Dazedly, Danny took a tentative sip. Nicholas didn't make a half bad brew. Also, the part of his brain that had gone to the moon was on sentimental overload and he thought that he might, quite possibly, cry.
"Can you hold that for a second? Good. Mine's on the counter." And Nicholas was gone again, but only for a second, just like he'd promised. Getting comfortable again whilst holding scalding liquids in equally scalding mugs wasn't easy, but they managed it. Nicholas was wrapped in something he'd evidently pulled from the back of the closet. Danny was sure he hadn't seen that particular bathrobe in years. Danny wanted to say something, but he'd burned his tongue and there was just enough sugar in his coffee.
Nicholas sipped his coffee in silence, staring at Danny's hand on his thigh as if he couldn't believe it was there, never mind what they'd been doing for the past hour.
Danny found the presence of mind to set his mug down on the bedside table.
"Look at me," he said to Nicholas, shifting cautiously so as not to cause a spill.
Nicholas glanced up hesitantly, his teeth latched firmly onto the rim of his mug.
"That's going to crack your enamel, or whatever the dentist calls it," Danny told him, taking hold of the mug and pulling it away from him. He set it over on the table, then reached over to tilt Nicholas's chin up. He was pretty sure he could draw it now.
"I am," said Nicholas, softly. "Looking at you, I mean."
Danny sucked in his breath, willing the twinge to pass. It was nearly too much, Nicholas here beside him, flushed and rain-mussed and ridiculously beautiful. He was going to act on this impulse whether it was a good idea or not, because Nicholas had brought him coffee in bed. His days of even considering Bond girls were over.
"I - " can't fucking believe I'm about to say this " - love you. I mean it."
Nicholas looked as if he'd been punched in the stomach again, only ten times harder.
"Those are strong words, Danny," he said. His voice was so low it might fade away.
"And you're a thick sort when it comes down to it, so I've got to be as clear as I can." Danny pulled him in close - no shower this time, unless a stray tear counted - and didn't dare look into his eyes. It was a terrible thing to say, but it was true.
Fortunately, Nicholas agreed. He was nodding against Danny's shoulder, his breath coming in either half-sobs or short bursts of laughter. A bit of both, Danny reckoned, and kissed the top of Nicholas's bedraggled head. He could just make out what Nicholas was saying, and it was exactly what he'd been hoping to hear.
"I mean it, too, Danny. I really do."
- Continue to companion piece: All Bets Are Off -