DIGGING DEEPER

by elfin


The emergency stop was a surprise to the Janene the driving instructor.  They were in the middle of an empty track with nothing but concrete and grass on all four sides of the car.

Adjusting her seatbelt she looked over at the driver.

Inspector Pascoe's knuckles were white where he was grasping the steering wheel.  He was sitting forward slightly, arms trembling from the effort of holding the wheel even though they weren't going anywhere.

Dropping the clipboard to the passenger foot well, Janene pulled on the handbrake and cautiously reached across to cover the hand nearest to her.

"Peter?  It's all right.  Just let go."  With some relief she felt his fingers start to loosen their grip until it was just his palms resting on the wheel.  "What happened?"

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry, tell me what happened."

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Peter pulled on the handbrake, took the car out of gear and his feet off the pedals.  "Suddenly I was back there - under that bridge.  I saw the 4x4, I saw the pillar just before...."  He closed his eyes, swallowing.  "Sorry."

"Don’t be sorry!  Listen, I know this is going to sound like a strange thing coming from a Yorkshire woman to a Yorkshire copper - especially one of Dalziel's lot – but… have you had any therapy since the accident?  You know, spoken to someone."

Sitting back in the seat, Peter chuckled softly.  "No.  It was a car accident, that's all."

"One which almost killed you, one which left you hospitalised for eight weeks.  One which has changed your life completely."

"Not completely."

She was wise enough to know when to back off.  Picking her clipboard up off the floor, she said, "All right.  Want me to take over?"

"No.  No, I'm okay.  Thanks."

"Right then.  In your own time."

~

"What aren't you telling me, Sunbeam?"

Andy had known something was up from the moment Peter had dropped into the car when he'd picked him up at the driving school.

Peter had told him that it had gone well, that he hadn't hit a single cone through the precision handling course, hadn't missed a single turn on the skid pan.  He hadn't mentioned the unscheduled emergency stop on the track.

But Andy was still waiting for an answer when he pulled the Rover into the CID car park. 

"Peter?"

"Leave it, Andy!" 

The phrase was snapped out as they climbed from the car and in response to that, on top of the difficult morning he'd had, he slammed the door.

"Suit yourself."

If he hadn't have turned back to the car to lock it using the key fob the thought might never have struck him.  But he remembered the last bickering quarrel they’d had – just before Peter’s second seizure – and glanced at his partner's face to see the warning there - the suddenly vacant expression as Peter's eyes closed and he crumpled to the ground.

Two uniformed officers were passing and their lightening-fast reactions saved Peter from another head injury, catching him just before his skull came into hard contact with the concrete.

Obviously trained, one of the officers cradled Peter’s head and stayed out of the way as a convulsion jerked his left arm violently to one side and at the same time his left knee came up, scraping along the rough ground.

Andy joined them a second later but there was nothing to be done but ride it out with him.  Kneeling down he met the surprised look on the officer's face.

"You've seen this before?"

Both officers nodded.  "Yes, Sir.  One of the lads in the control room has epilepsy."

The man still standing almost had to jump out of the way as a flailing wrist hit his leg, a tremor jerking Peter's body once more before the seizure stopped abruptly.

Andy glanced at his watch, making note of the time before helping the second officer to roll Peter on to his side.  Taking his jacket off, he wadded it up as a make-shift pillow as the first officer lowered Peter's head, making sure he looked comfortable.

With a heartfelt sigh, Andy swept his hand over Peter's hair.  "You're all right, Sunbeam," he reassured, glancing up at the uniformed copper kneeling at Peter's head.  "What's your name?"

"PC Colin Jacks, Sir.  This is WPC Alice Jenkins."

Andy felt like apologising for not realising the second officer was a woman.  It wasn't a comment on her looks, more that his inspector had had his undivided attention, but he wisely decided to let it go.

"He's made a mess of his hand," Jenkins pointed out, and Andy looked down to see what she meant.

One of the convulsions had scraped the back of Peter's left hand over the ground by the looks of it.  It was badly grazed, dirty and bleeding in places, and Andy was obscurely reminded of injuries he used to get as a kid falling off his bike.

"He's had worse," Andy commented, only half-joking.  He continued to stroke Peter's hair until he felt a shift under his hand and blue eyes opened to take in the surroundings.  "Glad you could join us, Sunbeam," he said with forced cheer.  But Peter's face crumpled in dismay and he changed his tone, "All right, Peter, it's okay."

Glancing up at the two officers, Dalziel asked them if they could ask inside HQ for Sergeant Wield.  He thanked them, committing their names to memory. 

Once they were gone he helped Peter who was pushing himself to sit up.

Realising how close to the car they still were, Andy unlocked it remotely and stood to open the door.  Gratefully, Peter eased himself up into the passenger seat, chest hitching once, covering his face with his hands.

Aching for him, Andy moved to stand in the open door, squeezing his shoulder, waiting until Wieldy found them.

"I'm taking Peter home," he told his sergeant.  "Call me if owt needs my immediate attention."

"Yes, Sir."

Andy closed the passenger door. 

"I'm going to try to get him an appointment with his doc," he continued, "I don't know when we'll be able to see her but could you make sure call out's covered?"

"No problem."  Wield looked as if he wanted to say more but didn't. 

Dropping into the driver's side, Andy waved at him before starting the engine and taking the Rover out of the car park. 

Slowing for the first set of traffic lights, he glanced over at Peter before reaching over and wrapping his hand gently around the back of Peter's neck.

“It’s all right, Sunbeam.  It’s okay.”  What else could he say?

~

Lateef was hovering around Dalziel's office door when Wield got back into the CID offices.

"Where's the Superintendent?"

Wieldy glanced at him.  "He's taken Inspector Pascoe home.  He had another seizure."  He carried on, heading for his desk. 

The DC followed him.  "Another one?  They need to change his medication."

Sorting through the papers on his desk, he asked, "Know a lot about epilepsy do you?"

"A bit."  He didn't elaborate.  "Look, Sir, if you don't mind me saying... they seem.... close."

Wield looked directly at him, eyes stony.  "Who do?"

"The boss and Inspector Pascoe."

"They are.  Dalziel's Godfather to Pete's little girl."

But Lateef was shaking his head.  "I know that.  But... I mean... they are living together."

"I'm not sure I'd say that," Wield chose his words carefully, playing for lightness.  "Pete lived in Dalziel's spare room for a while after his divorce and he lived there for a couple of months after the accident.  He has a flat across town."

"But he goes home every night with the boss."

"He can't drive.  Dalziel takes him home.  Do you have a problem with that?”

Lateef was regarding him with a distinct air of suspicion that he wasn't being told everything.  But he said, "No, Sir," and took the file he was carrying back to his own desk, pausing half way across the office.  "So who should I give this toxicology report to, Sir?"

~

The lunchtime traffic was thankfully light and they reached Worthington Road in twenty minutes, give or take.

"We need to get that hand of yours cleaned up," Andy instructed as he unlocked the front door.

Peter didn't respond and once inside, Andy turned to see the tears.

"Aw, Sunbeam...."  Taking a step forward he wrapped strong arms around his partner and held Peter as he cried into Andy's shoulder.

For a short time Peter let the anger, frustration and pain swamp him.  But not for long.  He quickly started to pull himself back together, lifting his head and swiping at his eyes roughly with the back of his hand.

"Sorry, Andy...."

"What for?"  He gave Peter some space, taking his coat off and hanging it up, loosening and removing his tie, undoing the top button on his shirt.  "Come on, let's take a look at that hand."


Peter perched dejectedly on the edge of the bath, trying not to wince as Andy ever-so-gently cleaned the grazes.

"I can't live like this," he said quietly, eventually.

Andy regarded him with sympathy.  He'd never seen his partner so down before.  "It's early days.  You have the give the pills chance to work."

"It's been over four months."

"So mebbe Tegretol isn’t suiting you."  That, strangely, brought a smile to Peter's face.  "What?"

"You.  You know more about all this than I do."

"Aye, well, one of us has to know what we're doing."  It didn't quite come off right.  "I’ll call the surgery and get you an appointment.”

“You don’t have to do all this.”

Deliberately evasive, Andy asked innocently, “Do all what?"

"Look after me.  Give up your life for me."

Andy chuckled.  "It's hardly that."  He checked the small wounds carefully.  "You'll be wanting a shower, I suppose?"  Peter nodded.  Carol had advised showers over baths until they had the epilepsy under control.  "No point in dressing it yet then.  I'll do it when you're drying.  And don't get soap in it - it'll sting like hell."

"Thanks."  Peter meant it.

Andy hesitated.  He wanted to say something more but he wasn't sure how to.  With an encouraging smile, he left Peter alone in the bathroom.

~

Peter buttoned pulled his shirt back on and started to button it up while Carol closed up the blood pressure gauge.

Sitting down in the chair facing her patient, she said, "Your blood pressure's a little low.  How have you been feeling?"

"Fine.  Apart from the seizures."

She nodded, picking up the small notebook they were using as a 'seizure diary' to record frequency and type.

"According to what you've written you've lost consciousness each time for around... three minutes."

"Andy's been timing it."

"He's been with you each time?"

"Except for the first time."

She handed the notebook back to him.  "How's he handling this?"

Peter smiled knowingly.  "He's worried.  But he is letting me out of his sight for hours at a time which is a good sign."

"Good."  Carol returned his smile.  "Sometimes dealing with other people dealing with it can be the most difficult part."  She paused, studying him for a second.  "There's a good support group in Wetherton.  They meet once a week at the arts centre.  It's for people with epilepsy and their families and friends - anyone who lives with it.  I'll give you the details."  Reaching back to grab a leaflet from the small pile in her 'out' tray, she added, "It might help sometimes to talk to people who understand what you're talking about."

Looking at it, not convinced, Peter thanked her.

"We'll get the results of the blood test back in a couple of days and we'll go from there.  Increase the dose as I said and come back in two weeks."  She watched him stand and lift his coat from the back of the chair.  "Sure you don't want me to take a look at that hand?"

He glanced at the white, sterile dressing, smiling.  "No, thanks.  I have my own personal nurse."

~

"I knew a T-totaller once.  Some fancy-pants solicitor, used to represent lords and ladies, liked old money."

"Used to?"

"Aye," Andy put down his pint and scratched his chin, "got run over by a Thwaites lorry one afternoon."

Peter rolled his eyes.  "He did not."

"Oh, all right.  But 'he's living happy as larry with 'is good lady wife in a big house in Whitby' isn't as good a punchline, is it?"

He winked at Peter who smiled in return.  Wieldy grinned at both of them, schooling his expression carefully the moment he had Andy's attention.  Lateef didn't seem to know what to make of the nonsense conversation that had stemmed from Peter refusing a pint in favour of a Melon and Cranberry 'J2O'.

Dalziel's response, ‘A bloody girl's drink', hadn't so much as raised an eyebrow on Wield or Pascoe, but Lateef had been taken aback by it.

He'd even gone to the lengths of defending the DI.  "He shouldn't be drinking alcohol.  It could make his condition worse."  He hadn't expected thanks, but neither had he expected his boss to make the comment,

"I think he fancies you, Peter."

Now they were seated around a table at the back of The Black Bull - the usual local CID haunt - Dalziel and Pascoe side by side, with Wield to Dalziel's left and Lateef to Pascoe's right.

It was an after-work ritual Lateef was having difficulty getting used to.  Sometimes Spike joined them, but she was skiing in Canada thanks to her new account boyfriend.

Not that this was every night.  Fridays and Saturdays mostly as long as nothing serious was going on.  Just a pint.  Then Sergeant Wield would head home to Enscombe, and the Superintendent would take his inspector home.

It was a strange clique as far as Lateef was concerned.

"So how's young Edwin?" Andy inquired of his sergeant.  "Haven't seen him in a while."

"He's working on an installation for Dicks."

Andy turned his mouth up in a frown.  "An installation?  What's one of those?  You mean he's plugging in a washing machine?"

Calling effortlessly on years of accumulated experience, Wield ignored him.  "It's titled, 'Orgy'."

Eyes lighting up, Dalziel was suddenly interested.  "Ooh - we'll have to see that."  The two sides of his boss never ceased to amaze Wield - the brash Yorkshireman living in absolute harmony with the man who cared so very deeply for Peter Pascoe.  The man Peter had so unexpectedly fallen in love with.

"Excuse me, sorry... who's Edwin?" 

Three sets of eyes fell on Lateef.  "My partner," Wield explained easily.

"He's an arty type," Andy added affectionately, making his approval obvious without having to say it outright.

The conversation moved on naturally to the strange commodity of modern art and ten minutes later Lateef finished his pint and bade the other three good night.

Only when he'd left the pub did Wieldy tell Andy and Peter about Lateef's earlier questioning of their domestic arrangements.

Andy brushed it off.  "The whole station knows we've been shacked up together on and off for years.  No one'll ever believe there's any hanky panky going on."

Peter frowned around his colourful drink.  "Why not?"

Wield hid his smile at Andy's wide-eyed expression behind his own glass.  "Because you're half my age, half my size and you’ve got twice my looks!  Besides," he winked at Wield, "you've got a reputation."

"What kind of reputation?  And I am not half your age or half your size!"

"Not arguing about your looks then!  The kind of reputation that would stop anyone except Wieldy here - who knows us both too well - from guessing that there was anything untoward going on between you and your erstwhile boss."

"You mean people think I'm a womaniser."

Andy couldn't help but laugh at the indifference in his partner's tone.  "You are, Peter!"

Peter sat up and smiled slowly.  "Not anymore."

The statement effectively disarmed Dalziel.  His expression softened and he looked as if he wanted to pull Peter into a hug right there in the unofficial home of Wetherton CID.

Wieldy finished his pint in one.  "Better get going," he said innocuously.

Andy nodded.  "Us too."

Peter's smug grin could have lit up the whole town.

~

They didn't talk much in the car on the journey home, but it wasn't a difficult silence.

In the hall, Peter deliberately brushed his hand across Andy's shoulders as he passed, heading for the kitchen.

Until that night, a couple of nights ago, their relationship had been volatile, often emotional, very rarely physical.  By changing the nature of what was between them they'd changed the balance and what had been a very familiar, comfortable co-existence had been upset.  Now they had to find another equilibrium.

Upstairs, they stood facing one another on the landing. 

After a long couple of seconds, Peter held out his hand and Andy took it.  “I never made it easy, I know,” he started, “blamed you for everything; me and Ellie, my career grinding to a halt, anything I didn't want to take responsibility for.  Don't know why you let me get away with it for so long."

Gripping Peter's hand just a little tighter, Andy stroking his thumb along Peter's index finger, still amazed he had not only permission to touch but the right.  "I love you, Peter.  You could get away with anything.  And you've no idea how scary that is.  To have someone like you around.  Someone you'd give everything for, someone you'd die for."

Letting go of the warm hand, Andy kicked off his shoes and bent to retrieve them, padding into the bedroom.  He flicked on the light.

"I didn't see it coming," he continued, "didn't see you coming.  Couldn't tell you when I realised.  Just started... seeing you in a way I hadn't before."  He glanced back at Peter, still standing out on the landing.  "Sorry.  Getting all heavy on yer."

"Don't apologise."  Peter smiled self-consciously.  "I always wondered what gay men talked about while they got undressed for bed."

"Who are you calling gay?"

"Us, Andy."

"Gay's not right though, is it?  Bi-sexual I think you'll find.  Ask Wieldy.  Don't know about you, but a long pair of legs and a big pair of tits still turns my head 360."  He saw the slight hurt flit across Peter's face.  "You soft sod!  Come here."  Closing the gap, looking anywhere but at Andy, Peter stepped into the room.  "You know," he said, lifting Peter's hand and threading their fingers, "I thought, when this started, you'd be the one who'd deny us.  Not that I am doing or ever would - remember that - but...."  He shook his head when the words wouldn't form themselves.  "We should be having this conversation over a couple of single malts not the bedroom floor."

Peter shrugged.  "Why don't we then?"


A couple of minutes later they were comfortably ensconced on the sofa, each nursing a heavy crystal tumbler of whiskey.  It was the first sniff of alcohol Peter had taken since the accident.  He was vaguely wondering what kind of effect it was going to have on him despite the small measure.  He was warm and happy, sitting close to Andy, shoulders touching.

"That's why you made it so difficult for me, the first time I was living here, isn't it?  To get me to go back to Ellie."

"I knew by then... how I could feel about you, given the chance.  It were a surprise, I can tell you.  Only ever been one man in my life before and even he wasn't...."  Glancing at his partner, Andy smiled gently.  "It were a very long time ago, Sunbeam.  Long before your time.  Long before I was married even.  Never thought in a million years that at this age I'd be sharing me house and my bed with another man."

"And you think I did?"

"I don't know.  I actually wouldn't have guessed you had anything for guys."

"I don't.  I mean, I didn't.  Just you."

Andy stared at him for a second.  "What do you mean, just me?"

"Just you.  I've never been interested before."

"I'm the first guy you've... been with?"

"Yes," Peter confirmed needlessly. 

Rolling his eyes, Andy swallowed half his drink.  "Jesus.  No pressure or anything."

Peter chuckled.  "It's all right.  I won't be judging the entire male population based on your performance."

"Well that's a relief.  But just out of interest, do you know... anything about the mechanics of a man on man relationship."

He thought about it for a minute and shrugged.  "Garden looks great but you've never got any clean shirts?"

"Ha, ha."  But Andy had to smile.  "You know what I mean."

"Yeah, I know what you mean."  He sighed.  "I have to admit it's not something I've really thought about.  What we did the other night was good...."

"You know, for a modern man you're easily embarrassed when it comes to talking about sex."

"Never really had the opportunity."

"Oh, come on.  Ellie was a liberated woman."

"Which is why we didn't talk about it much.  We just got on with it."

"Then that's what we'll do.  I'm sure we'll figure it out eventually, we're detectives after all."

"Aye."  Tipping the amber liquid down his throat, feeling the oddly unfamiliar burn, he dropped the glass carefully to the carpet.  "Fancy taking another stab at it?"

Andy too finished his drink.  "Reckon I would."


"You don't get to do all the cuddling you know," Peter joked quietly as Andy's arm tightened around him and he snuggled back against his lover's chest.

It was a few minutes before Andy responded.  Peter was almost asleep when he heard, "Still trying to get over almost losing you, Sunbeam.  Sometimes I think I'm okay and then it hits me again and I get this cold feeling all over.  Times then I need to touch yer, just to reassure myself you're still with me.  Even if we weren't sleeping together I'd still be feeling the same way."

Turning over, Peter told him, "I know," and kissed him.

Previously sated dicks stirred and Andy lifted his head, deepening the kiss, sliding his tongue over Peter's. 

"Up for round two?" he teased gently.

Peter grinned.  "Apparently so."

~

Closing the door behind him, Peter crossed Andy’s office and dropped into the chair in front of the desk, scratching his wrist.  “You wanted to see me?  Sorry, I was interviewing Noels.”

“I know you were – because I couldn’t face it.  I owe you one.  You all right?”

"Yeah – you must be using a new washing powder or something.”  Andy rolled his eyes.  “Anyway, you owe me two.  He's confessed." 

Andy's eyes widened and his face lit up.  "Not under duress, I hope."  Peter didn't dignify that with an answer and Dalziel grinned.  "Guess you've earned this then," taking an unfolded letter from his desk, he handed it over, "Chief Inspector Pascoe."

"Chief Inspector?"  Peter's own grin threatened to split his face.  He read the promotion letter in his hands.

"I've been pushing it through for months.  Then you went and drove into a concrete pillar and things got held up….  Congratulations, Sunbeam.  Nothing you don’t deserve.”

“Thanks.”  He looked at Andy, trying to put his joy and pleasure in his eyes.  He might have said more had Lateef not burst in on them with a single, pre-emptive knock. 

Andy glared at the young DC.  “What?”

“Sir, the crew digging up the Wetherton Road claim they’ve found a skeleton.”

Rolling his eyes, Dalziel sighed.  “Means those bloody road works will be there even longer.  Right, Chief Inspector, you can handle this one.  Take Lateef and Wieldy with you, it’ll do you good to start showing them who’s boss.”

“Yes, Sir.” 

Andy raised his eyebrows and mouthed the word ‘kinky’ at his partner just as Lateef turned his back on them.

Wieldy was at his desk when Peter tapped him on the shoulder.  “Coming to check out this skeleton?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” the sergeant responded with his usual apathy.

“Good.  Then I can buy you a drink afterwards.”

Standing, Wield regarded his colleague curiously.  “Something to celebrate?”

“Aye.”  Peter nodded, a little embarrassed.  “I’ve been promoted.”

Wield’s smile was absolutely genuine.  “Pete, that’s great!  Congratulations!”

“Thanks.”  He wanted to say something about Wieldy deserving it more than him but he couldn’t find words that wouldn’t be patronising or simply obvious.

Lateef was waiting for them and Wield took his car keys from his desk.  “Come on, then.  You can throw your weight around the road works, get our own back for that contra flow they’ve had in place for months.”

~

ACC Rebecca Fenning did have the good manners to knock on Dalziel’s door and wait for him to acknowledge her before entering.

He smiled widely when he saw who it was and sat back, gesturing for her to sit down.  “Hello, Rebecca.  It’s been a while.”

“Well, you’ve been staying out of trouble, Andy.”  She crossed then uncrossed her legs, leaning forward slightly.  “Look, how about you take me for a drink?”


“So what’s it all about that we can’t talk in my office?”

They sat in The Black Bull, Andy with a pint in front of him, Rebecca with a G&T.

“Andy… there’s been something said.  About you and Inspector – sorry, Chief Inspector - Pascoe.”

He was surprised to feel anger, rather than embarrassment, protective rather than afraid. 

This thing between them was one of the most incredible things to ever happen to him.  There was nothing he wouldn’t give up for Peter, including the job.  And that was maybe the most incredible thing of all.  Because he knew he would never have given that up for even his wife.

But all this he hid behind an open smile of bemusement.

”Like what?”

“You’re… co-habiting.”

He laughed.  “He’s sleeping in my spare room some nights, days he’s had seizures.  He just needs some reassurance.”

“Some TLC.”  Andy nodded and Rebecca smiled, sipping her drink.  “I appreciate you telling me that but it wasn’t an explanation – or an excuse – I was looking for.  There’s always been an unspoken something between you and Peter, ever since I’ve known you both anyway.”

“Oh.  Then what…?”

“I’m warning you.  Someone in your team’s been putting rumours about.  I don’t like that kind of behaviour in my force, Andy, and I guessing you feel the same way.”

“Oh, I do.  Believe me.  Thank you, Rebecca, I appreciate….”  He was interrupted by his mobile ringing at its uniquely irritating pitch.  “Sorry.”  She shook her head, drinking while he pulled it from his jacket pocket and glanced at the screen.  “I hate these things.”  Pressing the Receive button, he put the phone to his ear.  “Wieldy?”

“Sir?”

He could hear a car engine and the sound of general traffic in the background.  “What’s up?”

“Sir, we’re heading for Wetherton General Hospital.” 

The meaning of the old adage ‘blood running cold’ suddenly became all too clear – the same feeling he’d known that first night at the hospital, the same feeling he’d known all those years ago when Wieldy had told him Rosie was in a coma with meningitis.

He was already on his feet, the ACC watching him.  “What happened?”

“Peter had a seizure but it was only for a second, no convulsions.  He just… dropped.  Unconscious.  But he didn’t wake up again.  I rang for an ambulance after ten minutes.  We’re following it.”

Andy was heading out of the pub, being all but chased by the ACC.  “Why didn’t you go in the ambulance with him?” he asked his sergeant, trying not to panic.

Wieldy was keeping calm, voice level.  “I needed to call you, Sir.  I couldn’t do that from the ambulance.  We’re right behind it, don’t worry.”

“Don’t worry?”  He was worried sick.  “I’ll meet you there, Wield.”

“Wetherton General,” Wieldy repeated, “not the infirmary.”

“I heard you the first time!”  He ended the call, dropping the phone into his jacket pocket. Crossing the busy road he was running by the time he reached the CID car park.

“Andy?”  Rebecca was behind him, walking as quickly as she could in her A-line skirt.  “Is everything all right?”

He turned when he reached the Rover.  “Sorry, Ma’am.  It’s Peter – he’s on his way to hospital.  He collapsed….  I have to go.”

“Just drive carefully, Andy.  You’ll be no good to him if you’re lying in the bed next to him.”

~

Lateef was waiting for him at the entrance to the hospital but he brushed past the DC and hurried inside.  Only when he realised he had no idea where he was going did he turn to the young man calling his name.

“Where is he?”

“I’ll take you to him, Sir.”  Lateef started to lead the way down a corridor away from reception.  “Dr Mason says the skeleton has only been in the ground a couple of days, Sir,” he said as they walked.  Dalziel looked around him, searching for Peter.  “The foreman didn’t appreciate us stopping them from working but we’ve shutdown the site for a couple of days.”  Andy wasn’t hearing him.

“Superintendent Dalziel?”  A man stepped out of nowhere, stethoscope around his neck, clipboard grasped to his chest.  He held out his hand.  “Dr David Bedford.”

“I want to see Peter.”

“I know you do.  But give me a second?”  Andy stopped, swallowed and nodded.  “Peter’s unconscious, he hasn’t regained consciousness since he had the seizure…” he checked his watch, “…just over forty minutes ago.  In addition to that he has a rash over around forty percent of his body.  My guess would be that it’s an allergic reaction from the AED he’s been taking but we’re running a blood test to confirm that.  In a couple of minutes we’re taking him down for an MRI and a CT, then we’ll bring him back up here, get him settled and run an EEG.”

Andy tried to take it all in.  “He’s in a coma?”

“No.  He’s unconscious.  There’s a difference.  We’re expecting him to wake up any time and we’re being very careful to make sure we don’t scare him when he does.  I’ve spoke to Dr Carol Shelton over at the WRI, she’s told me what I need to know about his case and she’s told me you’re the best person to be with him so could I ask you to come with us when we go down to Radiology?”

Nodding, Andy reiterated, “I want to see him.”

“Of course.”


Wieldy was standing just inside the drawn curtains around Peter’s bed which was in what seemed to Andy to be just an extension of a corridor.  At least he hadn’t been abandoned.

There was a nurse taking his blood pressure, an ECG monitoring his pulse and heart rate.  But his eyes were closed and he was incredibly still.

“Peter….”  Leaning down, Andy covered his partner’s hand where it rested over his chest.  He could see the vivid red rash along both arms and remembered Peter complaining about the washing powder earlier on.  “Peter?  Come on, Sunbeam.  You’ve got a job to do.”  He tried to keep the emotion from his voice, tried to keep positive and upbeat.  But it hurt to see Peter lying there again, surrounded by medical equipment, nurses and doctors prodding and poking him.  Undressing him. 

He wanted it all to go away.

“Peter….  Please, Petal.  Please just wake up.”


They came to take him to Radiology and Andy followed the small entourage, keeping Peter’s face in sight, willing him to open his eyes.

After the scans – and Andy couldn’t work out how anyone could sleep through the noise of the huge machine – they took him up to a small in-patients ward and started an EEG.

Through it all, Andy waited for him to wake up.


Wieldy put a plastic cup of coffee down next to Andy’s chair and pulled up a seat on the other side of Peter’s bed. 

Andy was holding Peter’s hand between both of his, stroking his fingers.  He’d been talking to him almost constantly, about anything and everything he could think of.  He had no idea what time it was when his sergeant brought the coffee, how long it had been since he’d sat down, pulled the curtains and started to speak.

“Pete told me about his promotion,” Wield said quietly.

“Aye, he had to tell someone.”  Andy smiled.

“I’m happy for him.  He deserves it.”

Andy sighed softly.  ”Don’t know much further he’ll climb with the way things are now.  I mean, if the wrong people find out about us.  You know, Wield, Lad, I’ve tried to get you to Inspector.  You and Peter should be neck and neck in the rankings.”

“Thank you, Sir.  But you just worry about Peter, don’t worry about me.”

“Don’t… worry about me… either.”

Andy was out of his seat as quickly as Wield, who went to find a doctor or a nurse.

“Peter… you’re all right, Petal.  You’re…”

“…in hospital.  Starting to become a habit, Andy.”

Try as he might, this time the tears wouldn’t stay in his eyes.  They slid over his face and he wiped them away harshly.

“Hey….”  Peter lifted a trembling hand with some considerable effort, touched his Andy’s face.  “I’m fine… just needed some sleep.”

~

They kept him in over night. 

Wieldy gave Andy a lift home to change while they settled Peter on a general ward and ran him back to the hospital via the station.  Dalziel found the ACC in her office on the top floor and gave her a brief update on her new DCI’s condition.  She told him to take whatever time he needed, to look after Peter.  Andy thanked her whole-heartedly.  Right then, he wasn’t sure he could work.  He wasn’t sure he cared any longer.

Peter woke from a light sleep when Andy dropped into the chair next to his bed.  It was gone ten pm and the rest of the ward was quiet.  Andy had pulled the curtains around the bed, giving them both the illusion of privacy.

“Sorry,” was the first thing Peter said when he saw his partner.

”What fer?” he whispered so as not to disturb the rest of the ward.

“All this.”  Peter lowered his voice too.  “Putting you through it.  Wasting people’s time.”

“Stop talking crap.  You’re not wasting anyone’s time.  You had an allergic reaction to the Tegretol.  It wasn’t my washing powder after all.”

“So what now?”

“I don’t know.  I rang Carol, she’s coming to see you tomorrow before you go home.  She said something about alternatives but I don’t know what she meant specifically.”

Peter closed his eyes for a few seconds, waking up again half an hour later.  Andy was still sitting, holding his hand, smiling gently.

“Sorry.”

“You say that one more time and I’m going to order you a bed bath.”

“Promises, promises.”  He squeezed Andy’s hand.  “What time is it?”

“Coming up to eleven.”

“Go home, get some sleep.  You don’t have to stay, I’ll be fine.”

Andy nodded.  “I know.  I will, in a little while.  I’ll bring you some clean clothes in first thing.”

“Thanks.  I guess my suit….”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Did Wieldy tell you what happened?”

“Is that you asking what did happen, or do you remember?”

”I don’t remember.”

“You were interviewing the construction worker who found the skeleton under the Wetherton Road.  According to him, your arm twitched, your face went blank and you just dropped to the ground.  Four of them caught you before you hit your head on anything.  Wieldy did everything he should have done but when you didn’t wake up he called an ambulance.”

“And I ended up here.”

“Aye.  Look, it’ll take time, that’s all.  We’ll get there.”

Peter just looked at him for a time.  “Not sure I could have faced all this without you,” he murmured.

“You're a strong one, Peter.  And a stubborn bastard.  Now rest that body of yours.  Carol’s going to kill me when she finds out how much sleep I’ve been depriving you, one way or the other.”


Half an hour later, Andy rose, stretched, leaned over and kissed Peter’s forehead.  He’d thought his partner was asleep so it was a surprise when his head moved upwards to snag a proper kiss.  Andy responded willingly.  It was only a couple of seconds but he had to adjust his trousers afterwards so that he didn’t embarrass himself on the way out of the hospital.

“Cheat,” he accused Peter affectionately.

“At least now if the urge takes you when you get home, you’ll be thinking of me.”

“I’d have been thinking about you anyway.  I’ll miss you.  I’m getting used to having a warm body in my bed.”

“Well no picking up a spare on your way home.”

Andy laughed.  “Wouldn’t ever match up, Peter.”  Kissing him once again, letting his mouth linger on his partner’s, he whispered, “Good night, Love.”

Closing his eyes again, Peter was almost asleep when he replied, “Night, Andy.”

~

Dalziel arrived back at seven, before breakfast had reached the ward, and found Peter not only awake but more than happy to change out of the hospital gown and into the loose jeans and warm black ribbed sweater Andy had brought in.

“Thanks for doing this,” he tried again but Andy waved his thanks and unspoken apology away.

“If you’re worried about the case, which I know you’re not, Wieldy’s taking Lateef with him to the Path lab this morning to get Dr Brown’s report.”  And for a second, something clicked into place in Andy’s mind.  “He wouldn’t….”

“Who wouldn’t what?”

But Dr Shelton’s arrival interrupted his internal revelation.


They sat, Carol perched on the bed, Peter crossed legged in front of her, Andy in the visitor’s chair watching his partner absently rubbing his leg over the site of the break.  He silently promised a massage tonight, relax all those aching muscles.

“In a couple of days we should get the results of the barrage of tests they ran on you yesterday.  But it’s safe to say that you had an allergic reaction to the Tegretol or more likely its base ingredient carbamazepine.  Can I have a look at the rash?”

Tilting his head in reluctant submission, Peter lifted his sweater.  The vivid red of the previous day was easing now but it was still obvious against the patches of pale skin.

“Okay.  There are two things we can do.  We can try you on another type of AED.  There’s Phenobarbital, which I didn’t prescribe initially because it can make you very sleepy for the first couple of months and in your job I’d have thought that would be quite a dangerous side-effect.  The last thing I wanted to do was make your life any more difficult that it already is.  There’s Diastat, but that’s administered anally and that usually puts men of your age off it.”  She winked, watching Andy and Peter wince as one.  “There are many different drugs to be honest with you.  But I think you should consider VNS – Vagus Nerve Stimulation.  Usually I wouldn’t suggest it so early on in treatment but for you I think it might be the best bet.”

She explained what it was – a sort of pacemaker for the brain – all about the surgery and the possible side-effects.  “You’d need to take all the precautions of someone with a cardiac pacemaker.  The jury’s still out on the mobile phone effect but it’s best to be aware of it.

“It’s not the final solution, Peter.  It doesn’t guarantee to stop seizures but it does have a high success rate and there are no allergic side-effects.  I think it would suit your lifestyle and I think you’d benefit from it.  But you need to think about it and you need to make your own decision.  If you’d rather try another sort of drug, we’ll do that instead.”

Peter sat quietly for a minute or so and they let him, giving him the time he needed right at that moment.  “How long is the waiting list?” he asked eventually.

“Ah, well.  If you rely on the NHS, you’re looking at six months.  But if you go privately, you could be admitted within a couple of days.  It would be an overnighter because I don’t know too many doctors in the UK happy to perform the procedure until local and not general – besides, it’s not something you’d really want to be awake through.  After that, a couple of days rest and you can go straight back to work.  If you want me to look into the costs….”

“No,” Andy sat forward, “that’s not an issue,” he stated confidently.  “If Peter wants this thing, we’ll go private and get it done.”

Peter glanced at Andy, surprised.  But he wisely decided to wait until they got home before starting that particular conversation.

“Okay.  Look into it and I’ll make an appointment to see you tomorrow, Peter, if that’s all right?”  He nodded.  “There’s not much point in you hanging around here, then, if you’re feeling okay?”  Another nod.  “Then I’ll speak to David before I leave and get you discharged.  But go home, at least for today.  You’re putting your system through the ringer at the moment, Peter, give it a break and get some rest.”  She stood.  “A word, Andy?”

He pulled a face for Peter’s benefit and followed her out of the ward, leaving Peter to put his shoes on.  “You sound just like my ACC,” he commented once they were out in the corridor.

“Sorry.”

“Want to yell at me for not looking after him?”

“Why would I do that?  I’m sure you’re looking after him as best you can, Andy.  I doubt he follows orders without question.  Truth is, it’s best to let him find his own balance.  No, I just wanted to make sure you’re all right.  All this can’t be easy, watching someone you love suffering like this.”

They stopped walking.  Andy pulled his hands from his pockets and gestured uselessly.  “I just… there’s nothing I can do for him.”

“You’re doing more than you know.  Just stay positive and that’ll be the best for him.  Call me if you need to talk, okay?”  She smiled at him, and if he didn’t know better, if he didn’t know for certain that she knew and him and Peter, he would have read it in a very different way and be asking her out for a drink without hesitation.

Instead he just thanked her and back-tracked to the ward where Peter was waiting for him, more than ready to leave.