With Peter stretched out on the couch, dozing under the impressive impact of the painkillers he'd been prescribed, Andy was sitting close by in his favourite armchair, feet up on the leather footstool that had come with the new suite.
There wasn't much of a gap between the two items of furniture. What gap there was Andy had effectively closed by reaching across to the arm of the sofa, where Peter's head was rested against a cushion stuffed between the arm and the seat, and lazily playing with Peter's hair.
The touch wasn't sensual in any way, rather it was comforting. Or it was supposed to be. Andy hoped it was. Peter had been through enough stress without him inadvertently adding to it.
With the Wetherton Royal Infirmary's trauma unit decimated and the ward Peter had been on now non-existent in the soon-to-close hospital, Andy had paid for Peter to see a private consultant.
He needed time and rest. He may, the paid-by-the-hour consultant had warned him, at some future point need therapy and perhaps even a course of anti-depressants but he doubted it. Peter was a fighter, Andy told him, and the other man had agreed.
"Are you playing with my hair?"
The question, with its puzzled tone, brought a private smile to Andy's face. "Yes." He made sure his tone added the caveat, 'and don't you dare make anything of it.' "Do you need more painkillers?"
"No, thanks." Peter fell silent and Andy thought he'd gone back to sleep until he spoke again. "Shannon told me about the night they admitted me."
"Oh aye? Wasn't a lot she could have told you." But he kept his voice quiet and gentle. Peter maybe hadn't known Shannon very long, but Andy knew that she could have become important to him given time, that maybe she would have understood what drove him to work all hours if the same thing drove her. She might have had an understanding, a sympathy, that Ellie had never had.
He felt Peter move under his hand, worked out he was trying to sit up, and instead sat up himself. Heaving his now somewhat slimmer bulk from the chair he sat it down gingerly on the footstool from where he could see Peter and more importantly, Peter could see him and remain comfortable.
"Shannon told me you were there, that night. She said you were... upset."
Andy folded his arms on his knees and leaned forward. "Course I was there. And course I was upset. You should have seen the mess you made of yourself." He tried to smile, pass it off as a joke but it didn't quite work. It was all still too fresh in his mind.
"You really thought I was going to die?"
The disbelief in Peter's voice almost did make Andy laugh. "Still think you're immortal?" He shook his head slowly. "There's a reason you have a hole in your head, Sunbeam. It's not the latest trend in piercings, you know."
"A subdural hematoma, I know. But they operated, they drained it and I'm fine."
"You're bloody lucky. By all rights you shouldn't be fine. And you certainly weren't fine when I arrived at that hospital at three am. You were being rushed from pillar to post by some staff nurse who knew nothing. They needed an operator to do the CT scan but there wasn't one available. You were dying and no one cared! They left you in a corridor, Pete, a fucking corridor!"
The desperation and helplessness of that night washed over him again, as keenly as if he were back there. He could almost feel the awful chill of standing there, outside the deserted X-Ray department, staring at his friend lying just as helpless on the gurney in front of him. Peter, broken, surrounded by medical paraphernalia and not a doctor or nurse in sight. He remembered his own words, 'I'm here -'
"' -now, Peter.'" Andy lifted his head, oblivious until then to Peter talking. "I heard you. I thought everything I was remembering were dreams but Shannon explained I was likely to remember things I'd heard while I was in the coma, like my brain had stored it all for when I was ready to listen."
"Like an answering machine." Andy was still trying to find his balance again, thrown by everything that had happened.
"Somat like that. Thanks... for being there." Why were these moments always awkward for them? "For being with me."
Before, Andy had always been the one carted off in the ambulance to lie in the hospital bed; Peter had been with him after his heart attack, had been with him after the shooting - until he pulled through - apparently.
But being with Peter in the hospital, staying at his bedside, had nothing at all to do with repaying some perceived debt and everything to do with not being able to lose his closest friend.
"Like I could've been anywhere else with you in that state." He looked at Peter and Peter looked at him and they sat like that for a very long time.
"I remember you saying... you were glad it was you I'd told about that time in the states, with Rosie's bike."
Andy shook his head, bowing it. "Funny, you say these things to a lad you thinks asleep and not listening...." When Peter reached out a hand to squeeze his arm, he stared at it.
There seemed to be everything and nothing to say.
In the silence that followed, Peter's breathing steadied and slowed. His eyelids dropped closed and the stress of the pain he was in left his body. Then and only then did Andy carefully unfold his arms and cover Peter's hand with his own, wrapping his fingers loosely around it.
He sat like that for some time, glancing up now and again to make sure Peter was sleeping peacefully.
His recovery had been nothing short of miraculous, the consultant had told him after Peter's appointment. There was a myriad possible complications after surgery to remove an acute subdural hematoma. Everything from permanent brain damage, through impaired motor functions to loss of memory. They had to watch out for seizures, for any sign that something wasn't as it should be.
On top of that, there was the very real psychological trauma caused by him being on the phone when Shannon had crashed.
Something else, too. Something Andy hadn't told Peter. The consultant - and the Chief Constable - wanted him, Dalziel, to see a counsellor.
It was a suggestion he'd vetoed immediately but every time he recalled that first night at the hospital he felt a deathly chill take hold. What would his life be without Peter? How many times had Peter tried to tell him how much he meant and how many times had Andy deflected the confession?
Was this what it took for him to admit he needed Peter? Moreover, he needed Peter to need him.
The moment Mackenzie had stepped back the bed and instead of seeing the eyes closed and the breathing tube removed - instead of looking at his friend's lifeless body - he'd seen open eyes and a dazed smile... that had been the best, the greatest moment of his life. Never before he had felt such light-headed relief, such absolute joy at something so simple, so easy as a smile. Only he knew it wasn't simple, knew it hadn't been easy. Peter had battled the weakness and vulnerability of his battered and broken body to give him that smile.
So lost was he in the memory that when he finally glanced up again to check on Peter, it was like deja-vu. Deep blue eyes were watching him steadily.
And he realised he was still holding his friend's hand. He let go reluctantly, sliding his hand along Peter's arm before letting it come to rest on the edge of the sofa.
"Seeing you... lying there, your life in the hands of other people, people who weren't answering pagers, people who weren't there because they weren't being paid to be.... I realised.... I do my best to push you away, I always have done." He studied the light hairs on his arm, hoping he wasn't blushing or if he was, it couldn't be seen in the dimmed light. "But like I told Mackenzie, you're my friend as well as my colleague. And I can't... I can't lose you, Peter."
He didn't want to raise his head, see what must be a faintly mocking expression on Peter's face.
Not until he heard,
"Now you know how I feel." Peter was regarding him with undisguised affection; smile genuine, eyes soft. "I wanted to tell you after you had your heart attack, but I couldn't find the words and you sent me packing. You told me you weren't family, that if I let anything happen to my Dad I would never forgive myself. But what do you think I'd have done if you'd died out there in that field?" Moving his hand a couple of inches along, he wrapped long fingers around Andy's wrist. "In fifteen years I'd barely spoken five words to my Dad. I've feel like I've spent most of my adult life with you."
Andy blinked, ready with the excuse he had something in his eye when he found himself blinking away a stray tear. He covered Peter's hand like it was the most natural gesture in the world. "You soft sod," he managed when he was certain he could speak without his voice cracking.
"You and me both, Andy."
Peter was asleep again within minutes, his exhausted system still trying to right itself. Andy stayed put for a long time, no longer worried about holding a man's hand, no longer so scared to face the barrage of emotion that he'd battled for control over in the hospital. He had time to work it all out, time while Peter recovered.
Tails You Win
"Wieldy, do you mind if we just...."
"Already heading in that direction, Sir."
Dalziel flashed a toothy grin at his loyal sergeant. "Thanks."
Wieldy's lack of response said no thanks were necessary. "How is he, Sir?"
"Still hobbling around the place, enjoying being waited on hand and foot." The smile faded from Andy's face and he turned his head to stare out of the window.
Wieldy waited, but when Dalziel didn't continue he said, "I'm sorry I wasn't here, Sir."
The unneeded apology brought the big man back from wherever he'd gone to momentarily. "Don't be daft, lad. You weren't to know. 'Sides, weren't it the first holiday you've had this decade? Edwin would've fed me my own testicles if I'd disturbed you."
In actual fact, Edwin had been as shell-shocked as Wieldy to return from their month-long vacation to find out that Peter Pascoe had almost been killed in a police car chase and Wieldy's boss had spent the last few weeks practically living at the hospital between shifts.
Wieldy drew the car up to the pavement outside the house that had been Andy's home for over twenty years, and Peter's for two of those.
"He's staying with me," Andy had explained during the long and unsurprisingly emotional briefing upon Wieldy's return to the office. "The consultant recommended he stayed somewhere someone could keep an eye on him. It was either me or his parents."
It hadn't even occurred to Wieldy that there had been a choice.
He followed his boss along the path and waited for Dalziel to let them in.
"Peter?" Andy kept his call quiet, in case his houseguest was sleeping. He peered into the lounge but when he didn't find Peter resting on the sofa, he headed upstairs, explaining as he went, "I'll just check he's okay."
Wieldy wisely hid his smile and remained in the hall, happy just to wait, glancing around, not naturally nosy but with a policeman's curiosity.
And his gaze fell on what he realised later was a chillingly familiar sight. Feet lying sideways on the floor, sticking out from the other side of the kitchen cupboards, visible through the open door.
"Sir!" was his first call as he ran, "Peter!" was his second.
Peter was lying on his front on the Lino floor, head turned towards the cupboards, eyes closed, blood drying around his mouth.
As Wieldy pressed two cold fingers to Peter's neck he could hear Dalziel's heavy footsteps like a herd of buffalo in a hurry on the stairs and just as he found a pulse his boss joined him in the kitchen.
Wield already had his mobile in his hand, number dialled. He moved to let Andy kneel in his place as the emergency call was answered.
"This is Sergeant Wield. I need an ambulance. 12 Worthington Crescent, Wetherton."
He gave clear, concise details as more questions were asked, listening to Dalziel's increasingly desperate pleas.
He was glad to end the call.
"Sir, they're on the way." Kneeling down on the other side, he checked Peter's pulse and his breathing again. He needed to give the big man something to do. "Sir? Do you have any blankets?"
Andy's head snapped up and for a moment he could see the conflict in the wide eyes. And then Andy nodded and got to his feet.
"We're here now, Pete," Wield reassured, listening to Dalziel's footsteps again on the stairs. "Ambulance is on its way. Don't worry, everything's fine now."
He heard a door open and close and a couple of seconds later, Andy was back with a dark blue blanket. He covered Peter carefully, seeming more in control now. Looking up at his sergeant he said, "Thanks."
Wieldy nodded, he didn't have to ask what for.
Andy settled on the kitchen floor cautiously, covering Peter's hand where it lay palm-up on the Lino. "Hang in there, Petal," he murmured, watching Wield's ministrations - constant checks on pulse and breathing.
"Looks like he collapsed, Sir, the way he's lying."
Andy nodded. Peter's left hand was turned palm-up, inches from his face, his right hand was trapped somewhere beneath him. He hadn't tried to brace himself against the fall.
"Did they mention anything?" Wield asked. "At the hospital, when he was released?"
He shook his head. No. But then, two of the three ward nurses were dead, the third one was in a coma, the doctor and consulting surgeon were both being held on a wide range of criminal charges. But the private consultant had mentioned potential complications. Andy wished he could remember what they were.
They sat for a long time, Andy reassuring Peter as he had done while he'd lain in hospital in a coma, Wield keeping up the constant checks.
And finally they heard the ambulance outside.
Wield let them in, quickly explaining Peter's status and gently moving Andy out of the way.
"He's recently had an operation to relieve an SDH, is that right?" Dalziel confirmed it, and gave some details, recognising the term from the hospital.
By the time he'd finished, Peter was being made comfortable on a stretcher, oxygen mask covering his nose and mouth.
"I have to go with him," Andy told his sergeant. "Can you cover...?"
"I'll follow the ambulance and make a couple of calls on the way, Sir." That he wasn't going to let Dalziel handle this alone a second time around was clear without being said.
Wield's phone rang just as he dropped into the driver's seat. He stared for a moment at the ambulance doors as they were closed, then he shook himself, slamming his mobile into the car phone cradle and answering the call as he started the engine.
"Sergeant?" Bez. The thorn in Wield's side since his return from vacation. The new guy. The man who had been with Dalziel while Peter was in hospital.
"What is it, Constable?"
Wield indicated and started after the ambulance.
Sirens blaring, lights flashing, he didn't stand a chance of keeping up unless he too declared an emergency using the temporary light in the passenger footwell. He hung back. He knew where they were headed.
"I was trying to get hold of the Superintendent. Is everything all right, Sir?"
"Everything's fine, son," he lied smoothly. Better to have the facts before letting them out onto the Wetherton CID grapevine. "What's up?"
Andy sat in the back of the ambulance, hanging on to the edge of the second cot as they hurtled through the mid-morning traffic.
"What's wrong with him?" he finally had to ask one of the ambulance crew who was busy checking the patient's vital signs.
"I'll leave that to the doctors," the young man told him with a smile. "But I'd say it was a seizure of some sort. The blood around his mouth, it's because he bit through his tongue."
A seizure. That had been one of the things the consultant had warned them about. It had struck a chord with Andy because of the case he'd just closed, effectively also closing the epilepsy ward of the WRI.
"Will he be all right?"
"He should be. It depends on the type of seizure, but he's in the best hands. Don't worry."
They slowed for a couple of seconds before speeding up again. "Why hasn't he woken up?"
"Again, I'm not sure. They'll do a CT scan as soon as we arrive."
'Some hopes,' but Andy kept the thought to himself.
The sight of the WRI, when the ambulance doors were opened, sent chills down Dalziel's spine.
There was a doctor there to meet them who introduced herself as Dr Carol Shelton. Dalziel didn't recognise her.
"He needs a CT scan," he told her, sounding for all the world like he knew exactly what he was talking about. Yet he still expected to be told to 'wait here and let us help him'. Instead, Shelton smiled at him and nodded.
"He does. I've read his notes and the radiologist is standing by. We'll take him straight there after a couple of minutes in triage just to assess his condition. Did you want to go with him?"
Somewhat taken aback by her manner, Andy could only nod dumbly.
He kept himself out of the way, staying out of triage, watching through the square of glass in the double doors as they investigated and assessed. No one seemed to be in too much of a hurry and Andy hoped that was a good sign. Dr Shelton came out to inform him they were off up to do the scan and Dalziel followed but as they worked he felt like a spare part.
He could hardly believe it was the same hospital.
When he finally wandered back to the waiting area to get a coffee, Wieldy was waiting there, patiently. Only when Dalziel saw him did he remember his sergeant's vow to follow on behind.
"Don't be, Sir. How is he?"
"They're doing a CT and an MRI."
"Has he woken up?"
"No. Not yet." Pressing three buttons in a practised order, Andy waited for the machine to deliver a cup of dark, watery coffee. The smell alone took him straight back to that night, the 2.30am phone call informing him of the accident, the drive across town, not too worried because the full details weren't known yet. He'd had no idea how serious it was until he'd seen the state Peter had been in, seen him lying there on the gurney, head immobilised, blood-covered face obscured by the oxygen mask.
He could remember his heart starting to pound through his ribcage in fear and the realisation hit him that his previously immortal partner just might not live through this.
"Why don't we sit down, Sir."
Andy came back to the present, glanced at Wield's hand on his arm and nodded once. He let himself be led over to the plastic seats and sat down before his legs gave way.
"Why is it," he asked, "that it takes something like this to make you realise... how much someone means to you?"
Wieldy didn't answer immediately, and Andy didn't think he was going to. It didn't matter. The question was mostly rhetorical anyway.
But after a long time, Wield said, "We take things for granted, Sir, assume they'll always be there. Especially the things - the people - we love."
Andy's expression was a momentary sideways glare, but it soon melted. "You and Peter, soft buggers the both of you."
Another hesitation, but Wield obviously needed to speak. "When you had your heart attack, it hit him hard. We both knew you were lying, about everything being okay, after the hospital appointment. But Pete didn't want to face it, didn't want to believe anything could happen to you."
With a tired sigh, Andy pushed his fingers into his hair. "For a while now there's been somat... but when I called him on it he wouldn't talk to me. Then... when I was in hospital he wanted to tell me and I pushed him away." Sitting forward he linked his fingers, staring somewhere between his hands and the floor, seeing only Peter lying unconscious in his kitchen, lying unconscious in a deserted corridor.... "I was scared, Wieldy. Scared of what he was going to say."
"Mr Dalziel?" Andy sat up as Dr Shelton approached. "Do you want to come with me?"
With a glance at Wield who nodded once to say he would wait right there, Andy rose and followed her.
"Is he okay?"
"You can see for yourself."
She led him back into the triage unit, to the end of the long, narrow room. White curtains were pulled around the last bed and she held one side open for Andy to step through.
Like the last time he'd expected the worst only to be met by the miraculous sight of Peter awake and smiling at him, this time was no less of a relief.
Upper body slightly elevated, Peter was lying on his back in the bed, still dressed but with his shirt undone, oxygen mask still covering his nose and mouth, face almost as white as the pillows. But his eyes tracked Andy from the corner of the curtains to the side of the bed and his fingers lifted from the mattress in welcome.
Without hesitation, Andy took them in both hands, holding on as tightly as he dare. "Peter...." The roughness of his own voice surprised him.
Dr Shelton stepped around to Peter's other side and carefully lifted the oxygen mask. "Take a couple of deep breaths for me," she instructed him.
He did as she said, watching her reaction to his efforts. Her smile, Andy thought, was more reassurance than either of them had received during the whole of their last stay at this hospital.
"That's good." Hanging the mask next to the bed and stopping the gas, she checked Peter's temperature and pulse rate. "It was a seizure," she finally explained to them both, "a side effect of the original injury."
Peter nodded once, slowly. As if he'd been expecting the news. Andy tried to ignore the sick feeling in his stomach. "Will he have another one?" He felt Peter's fingers tighten around his own.
"It's possible. It's up to you, Peter, where we go from here. We're going to keep you in for a couple of hours and run an EEG. That will tell us what type of seizure it was. After that you can choose to simply leave it and see if it happens again, or I can prescribe medication."
"For how long?"
"Most likely for a couple of years. Possibly longer."
The sick feeling turned to something stronger. Andy felt suddenly cold.
"There are other long-term options. VNS - Vagus Nerve Stimulation - like a pacemaker for your brain. But I would only suggest that if you're prone to seizures and we don't know yet that you are." She watched her patient turn to look at the man standing at his side. "Let's find out what type of seizure you had and we'll go from there, okay?" Peter nodded. "Someone will be along in a couple of minutes to take you to our out-patient ward."
"Can I go with him?"
But Peter answered before Shelton could.
"Go back to work, Andy," he instructed gently but firmly. "I'll call you when they let me go."
Not trusting his voice at that moment, Andy nodded, his movements jerky. "Mind you do." He let go of Peter's hand, the ghost of it still on his skin, and ducked out between the curtains.
He didn't hear the detail of the quiet exchange between doctor and patient, but Shelton caught up with him just outside triage.
"Mr Dalziel?" Andy slowed and turned. "Do you have a couple of minutes?"
Stepping into her office she offered him a cup of real coffee and told him to call her Carol. He remembered Mackenize's similar instruction.
"You're Peter's boss, is that right?"
Andy nodded, sniffing the strong aroma of freshly brewed coffee from the cup cradled in his hands. He still felt colder than he'd felt in a long time, as if there wasn't enough heat in the world to warm him up.
Shelton sat down behind her desk. "But...."
"He's the closest thing I've got to family now," he told her truthfully.
"If he decides to wait and see if it happens again, there will be a few provisos. He won't be able to drive for obvious reasons - if he has a seizure behind the wheel he could hurt himself or someone else. Anyone he works with should be made aware of the possibility of a seizure and what to do in the event of him having one. I'll be giving him information on how to make his home as safe as possible for himself - I take it he lives alone?"
"Yes, although he's staying with me at the moment."
"That's good." She took a sip of her coffee. "If or when he starts taking the medication he'll be able to lead as close to a normal life as possible. This is going to take some time to sink in, you're going to have to give him that."
Andy stared into the brown darkness of his coffee. It was going to take him time too, he thought, and then thought how bloody selfish it sounded.
"Of course, there is one fairly serious impact of the medication I would prescribe." He looked up, ready for more bad news. "He would absolutely have to stay off the grapefruit juice." It was only luck that saved him from spitting coffee all over her desk. She was smiling. "It's true. Grape juice decreases its effectiveness. This is what I mean, Mr Dalziel -"
"- this is what I mean, Andy. He can lead a normal life, he just needs to be aware."
"Two men?" Dalziel clarified. "Two killers?"
The pathologist nodded. "That would be my interpretation, yes."
Bez stepped forward, looking at the wound on the body in more detail. "Or maybe...."
Dalziel's mobile interpreted him. Taking it from his jacket pocket he looked at the display and answered it.
Wieldy, standing close to the big man's shoulder, overheard the plaintive voice on the other end of the call.
"Andy? Please... could you come and get me?"
"Aye, Sunbeam. I'll be there in twenty minutes." Ending the call he looked up. "Gotta go. I'll leave this in your capable hands, Wieldy."
Wield was relieved Dalziel was out of earshot when Bez asked, "How do you get the boss at your beck and call like that?"
Andy found Peter sitting in the WRI's main reception. He knew there was something wrong but couldn't put his finger on it until he was standing in front the other man.
One hand in his coat pocket, the other waving about in the air, he asked - with finger movements to illustrate - "How did you get from the ward...?"
"Wheelchair," Peter explained. "They dumped me here. And my crutches...."
"Are at home." He sighed. "Come on then, Sunbeam. I'm parked just outside." Reaching his arm under Peter's shoulders he helped him to his right foot, making sure he kept the weight off his left. As Peter rose, Andy slipped his arm down until it was rested snugly around Peter's waist. "Lean on me."
He did, arm trembling slightly as he held onto Andy's ample waist and limped slowly and carefully.
They did well, setting a steady pace, but still Peter was relieved when they reached the car.
Only when they were on their way back toward Andy's house did he pluck up the courage to ask. "What did Carol say about EEG reading?" He glanced across to see Peter open his eyes. "Sorry, Sunbeam."
Peter smiled, face wan. But there was humour in his voice when he asked, "'Carol'?"
"First names terms already, Andy?" He sounded tired.
"Ney, she's only interested in you, Petal."
Peter turned his head to look out of the window, but when he started to speak again he was facing Andy. "It was a tonic-clonic seizure." Andy kept his gaze on the road, not daring to look away, to look at Peter. "I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon to see Dr Shelton."
Hearing the unspoken question, alongside the hope and the apology, Andy didn't make him ask it. "I'll take you."
When they reached Andy's home he gave Peter the choice of his light-weight metal crutches or the human one. He chose Andy.
He wanted a shower but Andy ran him a bath.
Only when Peter was happily shoulder-deep in hot, soapy water did the idea of him having another seizure hit Andy.
And he sat, for the half-an-hour Peter was bathing, on the top stair, listening for anything that sounded like a man in trouble.
The house was quiet except for the ticking of the clock in the hall.
Andy had finished the dishes from the evening meal he'd prepared to feed one very grateful house guest and had strolled back into the lounge to find said house guest stretched out on the sofa.
Peter's left ankle was hooked over the far arm, one cushion cradling his casted leg. The right was tucked under, knee bent.
At first Andy thought he was asleep, exhausted from the day's stress. But a second or two later a pained frown crossed the previously peaceful face and Peter arched his neck, raising one hand to rub it.
"Sit up a sec, lad," Andy instructed him. Peter looked back and up, regarding him sceptically but he did as he was told, scooting along the cushions to make room for the other man in one corner.
Andy tucked a second cushion between his thigh and the seat and coaxed Peter to lie back down, head and shoulders in his lap.
The arch of his neck was supported by the curve of Andy's leg and Peter closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, trying to settle.
Andy left it a couple of minutes before sliding large fingers around the back of Peter's neck, starting a gentle massage either side of the top of his spine.
Pressing in carefully, the purpose to just ease the tense muscles a little, he worked up to the base of his skull, along the tight muscles there, and back down.
It was a long time before his patient work was rewarded with a soft hum of grateful thanks. Then he shifted his attention to Peter's shoulders, moving out with his thumb along the left side, closest to him, back and across to the right with his index finger.
He kept his left arm beside him, hand tucked between Peter and the back of the sofa. He didn't want this to be a big deal, keeping the massage seemingly lazy while knowing exactly where to apply pressure to relieve Peter's clenching muscles.
They didn't talk, although Andy was desperate to make sure his friend and colleague wasn't anymore worried or scared than he needed to be. It still needed to sink in, he decided. Maybe Peter hadn't even acknowledged what was happening to him yet. He would make sure they talked soon. Peter wasn't going to go through this alone, Andy was determined of that.
The heat built under his fingers, the muscles finally starting to give in. Over the next hour he worked his fingers along Peter's shoulders, up and down his spine as far as he could reach.
Although nothing changed in his touched when he moved from exposed skin to that hidden by Peter's black ribbed sweater, it felt suddenly more intimate and he thought, just for a moment, he felt Peter tense up slightly before relaxing completely.
Eventually moving back up to the base of Peter's skull, Andy ran his thumb along the line of his throat to where it met his collarbone, the gesture almost made unconsciously. Peter hummed softly and turned his head just a fraction into the touch.
Andy didn't freeze, didn't feel like denying it this time. He cradled the back of Peter's neck in his large hand and squeezed once, gently. Dark eyes opened but it was when Peter's lips parted slightly that Andy leaned over and kissed him.
There was nothing sexual about the contact. It was what it was; a touch of lips to lips, a moment's hesitation, and then Andy lifted his head again and smiled what he hoped was an expression of affection - something he couldn't find the words for.
It might have gone no further than that had Peter closed his eyes again and allowed the warmth created by Andy's touch to envelope him. But instead, he sat up, planting one elbow on the seat between Andy's knees to support his head on one hand.
Reading the dark gaze and the warmth in Peter's smile as he looked at him, Andy wrapped his tired right hand around Peter's subtly trembling bicep and brought his left up to Peter's shoulder. He only had to duck his head a couple of inches to touch his mouth to Peter's. The hesitation that held him there was longer this time, and he felt the moist tip of Peter's tongue flick out to tentatively taste him.
Finding courage from somewhere, Andy closed his mouth momentarily over the tip, sucking gently on it before releasing it and licking his own tongue over Peter's bottom lip. Then he lifted his head and hoped his own expression wasn't quite as blatantly joyful as Peter's.
It was almost funny, although that would definitely have been a mood-killer, whatever the mood was.
Not sexual, not quite.
Peter leaned forward and for a thundering heartbeat Andy thought he was going to kiss him again. But instead he dropped his forehead to Andy's and closed his eyes.
And Andy realised that he didn't have to find the words because they weren't needed.
But he thought them.
'I love you, too.'
Tails You Win
"...and another thing, while I have your undivided attention. Inspector Pascoe will be returning to work this morning. Most of you know about the car crash. The head injury he sustained and the subsequent surgery has meant he's been left with a form of epilepsy. Now, he had a seizure a month ago and he hasn't had one since. The doctors, in their infinite wisdom, don't know if he's going to have another one. So, there are a couple of precautions we need to take. He can't drive, for obvious reasons. And we could try making this place a bit safer - don't leave murder weapons lying around on the desks, little things like that."
Dalziel was pleased at the nervous laugh he managed to conjure. Tough audience but it needed to be said. He'd learnt a lot himself over the last couple of months.
"If he does have a seizure, it won't be a pleasant sight but I can guarantee it'll be even less pleasant for him. So just make sure he's comfortable, make sure there's nothing lying around close by that he can hurt himself on, and keep people away. Treat him with dignity and remember that he's exactly the same person he was when you last saw him - a sharp, smart-ass, smooth-talking copper. Right. Get on with it."
Embarrassed, Peter glanced back at Wieldy when the assembled CID officers gave him a cheer as he walked into the Wetherton CID headquarters.
He was relieved when Dalziel rescued him with a holler from his office.
Making an effort not to hobble across the office, still consciously nervous about putting too much weight on his left leg, Peter made it into his boss' office. He was about to close the door with a self-conscious smile when he saw a stranger sitting in his - the - chair in front of Dalziel's desk.
Andy saw the flash of something he would have pegged as hurt if he hadn't thought he knew better.
"Peter, this is DC Parvez Lateef, 'Bez' to the rest of us. He joined us a couple of days before the accident."
'The accident', something he couldn't remember, days of his life defined only by vague, blurred images, jumbled words, partial phrases.
Andy had ousted Bez shooed him from the office and was telling Peter to sit down. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Just... this is the most I've done in a morning for the last four months. I'm already knackered!"
"Take it easy, okay? Don't over do it. You want to go home, get someone to take yer."
Peter was about to formulate a response when there was a hurried knock at the door and Wieldy poked his head around it. "Got another one, Sir."
Andy stood in the pathology lab with Spike at his side. Sending Peter off with Wieldy had been a decision taken on a whim but he'd instinctively known it was what Peter needed. Maybe what they needed.
Nothing had happened since the night after Peter had had the seizure. Even then the brief kisses had been all about reassurance and affection and nothing about sex. At least, he thought so.
Dr Mason strolled towards them. "Morning, Andy. It's a bit early, isn't it?" He flashed a quick smile. "How's Inspector Pascoe? Heard he was back at work."
"He's fine, thanks." 'Fine'. Peter had been complaining about how many times he'd used the word. He said he had no idea what else to say. In a way he was fine. He felt okay, tiring easily but it was only to be expected, Dr Shelton had said.
Bringing himself back to the here and now, Andy pointed to the covered body on the slab. "Same as before?"
"Not quite, no." Mason threw back the white plastic sheet. "I would say this one was shaved before he died."
Dalziel stared at the third hairless body to turn up in the last month. This one followed the pattern - male, young, well-built with short dark hair, stocky but not fat. Maybe he went to a gym somewhere, maybe the same one as the other two. But that lead had turned up nothing.
"What killed him?" Spike asked when her boss didn't.
"I'm not sure and I won't be until I've read the toxicology report. But if he was shaved while he was still alive I would say he'd already been drugged. There are no injuries, no cuts that I can see. He's been bound - thick rope from the marks on his ankles and wrists - but simply tying him up wouldn't mean he wouldn't wriggle about. There are no cuts. Maybe there was some other threat - maybe your killer uses an open razor and the threat of that was enough?"
"Is there any hair left on the body?" Andy enquired, eyes drawn to a part of the man's anatomy that he couldn't imagine ever taking a razor to no matter how safe the adverts claimed it was.
"None," Mason confirmed, "I'm told there's a product called 'Immac'. Hair removal without the blade or the hot wax. Apparently - according to one of the secretaries in the office - you slap it on, leave it for a couple of minutes and use a plastic spatula to remove it. I would say that - or something like it - was used on the more... intimate areas."
"Sounds less painful than any other method I've heard of."
"Takes time though, Sir," Spike put in.
"So our killer needs somewhere private, somewhere he or she can be alone with the victim, undisturbed."
"There's something else," Mason told them, turning the body on to its side. "Ever heard of 'Anal Bleaching'?"
"He ran this place?"
Wieldy nodded. "Edward Shire. Bought the gallery two years ago."
"Why's it called 'Dicks'?"
He chose not to share with Peter until they were inside. And by then, he didn't have to. The main gallery space was open and white. The photos on display were all black and whites, all blown up to near life-size. All of men. Men with other men.
"Edwin's had a couple of shows here," he explained, but he got a feeling his boss wasn't listening and he was right.
Peter was walking slowly around the gallery walls, taking in each one of the images with wide eyes. He stopped at a pair apart from the others. Two men facing one another, partly in shadow, mouths pressed together in a kiss, their arms crossed between them, each holding the other's erect cock. The second photo of the pair was a close up of their groins, showing the veins running their lengths, both grips slightly different, both loving.
It was a surprise when his own dick twitched. Not just because of the subject matter it seemed suddenly to be showing an interest in but because it was the first hint of an erection he'd had since the accident.
"You all right, Sir?"
He turned, hoping he didn't look as guilty as he felt. Wield looked from Peter to the picture and back again, a thoughtful expression on his face.
"Edwin has a copy of these, there're up in the bedroom."
"There're... interesting." He glanced back up.
"Didn't think they'd be your type of thing," Wieldy suggested gently.
"Well...." Peter shrugged, caught for a moment, then he was saved by the cheerful 'good morning' coming from a doorway at he back of the gallery. But he knew the conversation had only been shelved, not forgotten.
Peter sank into the seat in the Black Bull and gave thanks for Sergeant Wield. He was exhausted - feeling as if he'd done a week's work rather than just a morning.
Within a couple of minutes there was a pint of orange juice and lemonade in front of him and the promise of hot food in a couple of minutes.
"Is the no alcohol thing medical or by choice?"
Peter shrugged as Wieldy sat down. "Bit of both."
They talked about nothing until the food came and they were tucking into The Black Bull's finest Steak and Kidney Pie with thick gravy.
"So," Wield started, around his fork, "why the sudden interest in homoerotica?"
"I wouldn't call it an interest...." But even Peter recognised that jumping straight on the defensive wasn't going to save him. "I know, I know." He took a deep breath, finally admitting, "Andy."
Whatever he was expecting - surprise, shock, maybe even suspicion or at the very least suspension of belief - the other expression to cross Wield's face was a smile accompanied by a nod.
"Okay, why are you not surprised?"
"Nothing surprises me, Pete. Want to talk?"
"It's... it's not what you're thinking. Whatever you are thinking."
"I don't think anyone's going to accuse you of sleeping your way to the top."
"I'm not. I mean, I'm... not. I don't know, Wieldy. I don't know what this is. Since the accident he's been... different. Easier on me, backing off when before he would have just kept on about... whatever."
He paused, and Wield waited a beat before answering.
"It scared him. From what he's said it was touch and go for a day or two and the idea of losing you frightened him."
Peter nodded. "I know. That's all.... He's told me how much I mean to him and he's finally let me tell him too.... But... it's like there's something still missing and neither of us is sure what. We don't have any desperate urge to jump into bed together but when we touch... it's comforting, reassuring. I thought you might... understand."
Wield smiled a wry smile. "What I feel when I look at Edwin is what you feel when you look at long legs and big tits." Peter's eyes went wide, he didn't think he'd ever heard his colleague talk like that before. "It's about love but it's also about sex."
"I don't know if it can be with Andy. We've known each other so long I'd think we'd have to start seeing one another in a totally different light."
Wield chomped down on a decidedly determined piece of steak. "Take him out on a date," he suggested once his mouth was empty.
"What?" Try as he might, Peter couldn't keep the incredulous tone from his voice.
"Why not? Go for a drink or a meal, or to the pictures. Just... see each other in a different setting."
"Ever thought about marriage counciling?"
Wield shook his head. "No thanks, don't need it."
It took Peter a couple of hours of paperwork to pluck up the courage to ask his boss out on a date. He felt ridiculous even thinking about it, but what Wieldy had said had made some small amount of sense to him. So just after four, knowing Dalziel was alone in his office, he knocked on the door.
Andy looked up as the door opened, smiling broadly when he saw it was Peter. "Come in, Sunbeam." Peter closed the door behind him. "You okay? Shouldn't you have gone home by now?"
"Andy," he was gently chastised.
"Sorry. What's up?" Watching Peter approach his desk, hands in his pockets, Andy knew there was something not right.
"Do you... have plans, for tonight?"
He couldn't help his first reaction, which was to laugh. "Why, Sunshine, you asking me out?" But the expression on Peter's face only served to widen his smile and deepen his amusement. "Peter...?"
"Well, if you're gonna be like that, forget it!"
The sudden change in Peter's demeanour stunned him. "Petal...."
"Don't, 'Petal' me, Andy." Turning, he stormed out of the office and slammed the door.
Dalziel was already on his feet, utterly confused and with no idea what had just happened, when he heard a thud - like something heaving hitting the floor - followed by a cry and a commotion out in the corridor.
When he opened the door of his office he saw Peter on the floor, body convulsing in the grip of a seizure. Four or five of the CID officers were a couple of feet from him, obviously uncertain of what to do despite Dalziel's earlier briefing.
Crossing to his inspector in two heavy steps, Andy dropped to his knees as Wieldy got to them.
Making sure there was nothing close by for him to hurt himself on, Andy's hand hovered inches above Peter's arm as it jerked up and out, turning him in a thrashing movement onto his back. The sharp smell of urine struck Andy and he reached out to touch Wieldy's arm.
"Wieldy, get a blanket would you?" Then he looked up at the gathering crowd. "You lot, back to work. He'll be right in a couple of minutes and he won't appreciate an audience."
They scattered, relieved to be told to leave Andy thought. Not that it mattered.
Wieldy arrived with the blanket but held back. "Should we call an ambulance, Sir?" he asked, for once slightly out of his depth. Scared.
"Just give it a couple of minutes, see if it stops." Glancing at his watch, Andy started a countdown. Five minutes, Carol had said, then they needed to get him to a hospital. "He needs to ride it out if he can."
Peter's whole body was spasming. His mouth was open and he was gasping; shallow, panting breaths. His left leg stiffened then jerked once and Andy winced in sympathy.
As quickly as it had started, it eased. Andy waited until he thought the worst was over before gently rolling Peter on to his left side, drawing his head forward in case he vomited. Taking the blanket from Wieldy he covered him as best as he could.
Taking out his mobile he said, "He should be fine now, should wake up in ten, twenty minutes. But he'll need to see his doctor."
Carol had given him the number of the surgery she held twice a week where she saw her out-patients. The receptionist was able to put Dalziel straight through to her and she listened while he explained briefly what had happened. Wieldy waited, looking uncomfortable but at the same time hating himself for being so. He heard Dalziel agree to take Peter over to the hospital for six that evening.
As Andy ended the call, Peter opened his eyes.
Gently pushing damp hair from the sweat-soaked forehead, Andy smiled at him. "Welcome back, Sunbeam."
Peter looked up and pushed himself up on one shaking arm. "What happened?" He sniffed himself. "Andy?"
"You had a seizure, Peter." Reading the complex expression cross Peter's face, he asked calmly, "Do you still keep a change of clothing in your office?" Peter nodded once. "Come on then." Helping Peter to stand, letting the blanket drop, he walked beside him along to his office, closing the door behind them and pulling the blinds closed.
Peter dropped into the closest chair. "I feel sick, Andy," he complained softly.
Dalziel was just in time with the bin.
A couple of minutes later Peter had lost his lunch, but at least he wasn't the pale grey colour he'd been just after regaining consciousness.
"That it, Sunshine?"
"Yeah. I think." His voice was rough and there were tears in his eyes. "Sorry."
"Don't be daft, and don't apologise again. Now, where's that change of clothing?"
Andy left Peter for a couple of minutes to change. He cleaned out the bin in the gents and made sure Wieldy and the rest of them were okay before returning. He knocked on the frosted glass of the door, waiting. But there was no answer.
Worried, he pushed it open. Peter was wearing a clean pair of trousers and a fresh white shirt. He was sitting on the edge of his desk looking utterly beaten.
"You okay, Petal?"
He looked up, eyes filling with tears. "Not really."
Perching beside him, Andy put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it tightly before letting it drop down his back. "I've made you an appointment to see Carol at six. I can take you home first or you can hang around here for an hour."
Peter wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "I'll just stay here for a while, it that's okay."
"Why don't you crash on the sofa in my office?"
He hesitated but nodded. "Did the others... did they see it?"
Andy wished he had the courage and the right to just hold him, take the pain from his eyes and the fear from his voice. "A couple of them. And Wieldy. Not as together as I thought he'd be, Wieldy. Don't worry about it."
There was a note of hysteria in Peter's voice when he responded, "How can I not worry about it? I pissed myself!"
"Loss of bladder control is a symptom of the seizure, Peter, that's all. You go on, I'll deal with yout clothes and be with you in a minute, okay?"
Peter made a token protest before giving up and heading for the boss' office. Andy watched him go, hoping he was doing and saying the right things.
When he got to his office ten minutes later, with Peter's clothes in a bin bag, he found his inspector fast asleep on the sofa looking incredibly uncomfortable squashed up on the two-seater, but sleeping nonetheless.
Andy settled down to do some paperwork in the relative quiet that had settled, undisturbed until Wield knocked lightly on the door forty minutes later.
"How is he, Sir?"
"Come in, Wieldy."
"I'm sorry. I didn't... I could have reacted better, I know. It just... I'd never seen anyone have a seizure before...."
Dalziel reflected that he'd never seen his usually unflappable sergeant so out of sorts before either. "You can stop apologising and all," he said quietly. "I'll be taking him over to the WRI for six. Anything I should know about the case?"
Andy looked up from the recipe book as Peter padded into the kitchen.
"Hey, Sunbeam, how are yer feeling?"
"Better, thanks." He looked it too.
The appointment with Dr Shelton hadn't been an easy one. She'd prescribed a medication - Tegretol - the one he wasn't allowed grapefruit juice with, a low dose at first to be increased as his tolerance for it grew.
There was a list of possible side effects as long as Dalziel's arm along with a veritable library of reading material and a website offering everything from practical advice to support. She'd notified his GP and the private consultant Dalziel had taken him to after his hospital stay.
Peter had kept it together until they'd finally reached Andy's house. But he was upset, that was obvious, and Andy gave him the space he needed, hearing the bath running after half an hour.
That had been an hour ago. Now Peter sat himself at the breakfast bar, relaxed in loose jeans and a white sweater, damp hair all over the place from its rough towel dry. Andy gazed at him with affection. "You look about fifteen."
"Thanks, I think." He was smiling at least. "Thanks, seriously. Everything you've done...."
"I just hope she were right, that I didn't... cause the seizure."
"You heard what she said. My mood change could have been an early warning, that people react in all different ways."
"It wasn't all that early. Do yer remember anything about it?"
He took a deep breath and released it. "I remember shouting at you and storming out of your office. After that I remember waking up on the floor in the corridor and seeing you there. Again."
Andy checked the contents of the oven before closing the recipe book and moving to lean on the surface closer to where Peter was sitting.
"Before you stormed out of my office, you asked me out on a date. Do you remember that?"
Blushing, Peter nodded, glancing away. "Sorry about that. Blame Wieldy."
"Wieldy?" Andy needed that clarifying. "Why...?"
"It's a long story."
"You have twenty minutes until dinner."
"We went to the gallery that belonged to Edward Shire."
"Oh aye, 'Dicks'." He grinned. "Got interested in the pictures did you?"
"No. Yes. One."
Peter hesitated. "The one... with the two guys."
"That narrows it down."
"You've been there?"
"Aye." No further information was going to be forthcoming.
"It's at the back. The one with the two guys... facing each other... touching...."
"Holding one another's dicks, you mean?" Andy laughed gently. "Honestly, Peter. No one would believe you've been living in Yorkshire the last fifteen years!"
"Anyway," Peter continued pointedly, "Wieldy called me on it. So over lunch he wheedled it all out of me."
"Wheeled what out of you?" He thought he should feel guilty for winding Peter up like this, given the circumstances, but sometimes it was just too easy.
For his part, Peter was looking everywhere but at him. "Us," he confessed eventually.
"Us? Didn't know there was an 'us', Sunbeam." But the mischievous look in his eyes was reflected in Peter's as he tipped his head to one side.
"There's always been an 'us', hasn't there, Andy?" There seemed to be more, but Peter kept it to himself, sitting back slightly as he changed the subject, "Tell me about the seizure?"
Andy was surprised. "Didn't Carol spell it out for you?"
"Yes, she did, in medical terms. Tell me about it in physical terms. Tell me what happened."
Hesitantly, Andy did so, sticking to the truth but striving for the best words to describe it. Still, he had no clue of the image he was building in Peter's mind. He finished with, "It was a seizure, Peter. What did you expect?"
But Peter was looking away, shaking his head. Andy heard the phrase, "Very attractive," muttered under his breath.
"Now listen, Sunbeam. I've got a face like a horse's arse and yet you still kissed me that night. What's attractive isn't necessarily on the outside, you of all people should know better than that."
Peter's head snapped up and he demanded, "What does that mean?"
Andy smiled at the indignation. "It means, you're an educated bugger. Between you and me - because it's bad enough that my hard-earned reputation's down the toilet as it got around the station in a second and a half that I was kneeling on the floor of the corridor cuddling my inspector." Peter's half-smile was worth it. "What I saw when you were lying there convulsing was someone I love in pain. And that's never going to be attractive. But I love you all the more." Watching the emotion soften Peter's features, he smiled. "Sorry." The oven timer demanded his attention and he moved off to check on dinner.
They sat in the lounge and ate in front of the tele, watching the news. The murder case they were investigating had reached the nationals a week ago and up until the discovery of the Edward Shire's body late on the previous night it was becoming 'old news'. Andy had learnt from past experience that unless there were bairns involved, a dead body soon lost its charmed place at the lofty heights of the BBC, ITV or Sky News bulletins. The local rags typically didn't leave until someone was arrested. And even then they were known to hang around for a while just in case the police had cocked it up.
There was a shot of Dalziel at the third crime scene in the early hours of the morning. He'd called Wieldy out, then later had sent his sergeant to pick Peter up for his first day back at work.
"Christ, I look fat!" Andy commented as they watched him giving a very brief status and progress report to the assembled press before leaving the scene.
"You look great," Peter corrected him. "How much weight have you lost anyway?"
Andy shrugged. "Don't know, don't use the scales."
It was a lie, Peter knew, but he didn't push it. "I meant to mention the haircut."
Andy had succumbed to the lure of Edwin's high street hairdresser friend two days before the accident.
"It looks good."
"Stop taking the piss, you. Just remember who's feeding that hungry mouth of yours at the moment."
Peter rolled his eyes and went back to his food.
When the news finished, he turned off the television and reached for a couple of the leaflets from the small pile they'd brought back from the hospital.
"Do you want a hand with the dishes?" he called through to the kitchen when he heard the water running.
"No, lad, you just put you feet up."
For a while, early on in their partnership, he'd had trouble working out when his boss was being serious and when he was using the cutting wit of sarcasm. Now, though, it was just a matter of tone.
Peter did as he was told, swinging his legs up onto the sofa, wriggling until he was comfortably propped up in one corner. His leg was aching and he wondered if he'd perhaps hurt it in the fall or during the convulsions. He thought about taking something for it, but he wasn't sure he wanted to add any more chemicals to the concoction already in his bloodstream from the Tegretol.
Opening the top leaflet, he started to read about mood and behavioural changes in Epilepsy sufferers.
After a couple of minutes he closed it again. It was probably time to admit he was scared, he thought, dropping his head back against the cushion.
His gaze caught on the familiar, framed photos on the mantelpiece - Andy with his godson, Andy with his sister Harriet when they were kids, Andy with Rosie, Peter with Rosie. None of Ellie, he realised with a slight smile. But there was one of Andy, Peter and Rosie, taken by a stranger at Latimer's Zoo a couple of years ago when Rosie had been over for half-term.
His abiding memory of the day was one of laughter. Rosie had held his hand for most of the long walk around the animal enclosures, Andy had made her laugh by imitating the inmates.
"What are you smiling at, Sunbeam?" Peter glanced back as Andy strolled back into the lounge and stood, looking around for something.
"That photo, us with Rosie at the zoo."
Looking over at it, Andy nodded. "Aye, it were a good day."
"I was thinking..." he paused for the traditional comment but for once one wasn't forthcoming, "...next time I go over there, you could come with me. If we can wangle it at work."
He thought perhaps Andy would decline, citing those very problems it would create at work as the reason. But instead his face lit up.
"Are you serious?"
"I'd love to, Peter." The seriousness of his tone despite the joy there too gave Peter pause. Did he leave Andy out of his life with Rosie, what little there was of it? Was it habit, held over from a difficult time when he'd pushed Andy out of every aspect of his life, more or less?
"She'd love to see her Uncle Andy."
His smile was blinding. "I'd love to see her. I miss her. Not as much as you do, obviously, but.... Thanks."
Time to change the subject before they both ended up blubbing. "Are you... looking for something?"
Andy stopped glancing around and shook his head. "Nothing in particular. You need anything?"
Peter hesitated. It wasn't exactly what Andy had meant by asking but it was what he needed. "Reassurance?"
Whatever it was he'd been searching, its importance was lost next to Peter's plaintive plea. "Sunbeam...." He pulled up the stool, but before he could sit down, Peter said, "no" and sat up, shifting to make room for Andy to sit behind him.
Then he leaned back and Andy's arm came around him like they always sat this way. He felt a kiss pressed to the back of his head and tears in his hair.
Peter pushed his hand under the big man's, linking their fingers, holding without speaking.
A minute or so later, Andy lifted his head and wiped his eyes and nose on the sleeve of his shirt. "Sorry."
Peter turned his head, looking back over his shoulder. "Don't apologise."
"Great reassurer I am!"
"Stop!" Settling back, Peter let Andy's stomach and chest take his weight, cushioning his head in the hollow of the other's shoulder.
With only the barest of hesitations, Andy wrapped his other arm around Peter too, resting his face against the fine hair - almost blond in the dim light.
"Why didn't you call Ellie, when I was in hospital? What stopped you?"
He didn't need to think about it. He knew. The old couple that had passed him in the corridor while he'd been on the phone.
"I was trying to get her number in America from the girl at the station. While I was waiting, this elderly couple passed me. I looked at them and I thought... Ellie didn't belong there, didn't deserve to be there. She'd hurt you...." He shook his head, taking a deep breath and releasing it. "It just sounds selfish now. And Rosie... she deserved to know."
"You did the right thing, Andy. Ellie wouldn't have been able to tell Rosie until she knew, one way or the other."
"I didn't know who to call, Peter. I just knew I wanted to be the one who was with you. God knows what they must 'ave thought, young lad like you with only your colleague - your boss - sitting at yer bedside."
"I don't care what they thought, Andy. I'm glad you were there."
Andy tightened his arms for a second. "God, lad, it's shook me up has this. I used to say, 'feelings and me, we have this understanding. They try to bother me, I don't let them.' I tried to keep everything hidden, buried, was good at it too. Until that phone call, until I saw you lying there.... It felt like my heart was being ripped out of me, like you were paying the price for me acting like I didn't care all this time."
Peter squeezed Andy's arm gently. "You've shown it a lot more than I have." There was an apology in there somewhere, he just hoped Andy would hear it.
"Listen, Peter, there's something I want to tell you and I don't want you to say anything, I just want you to know. I love you. I have done for a very long time and I reckon I will for a long time to come." There was no doubting Andy's meaning.
Peter shifted and Andy loosened his hold, bracing himself for whatever was coming. But Peter just wanted to see Andy's face.
"It's all right, Petal," he assured, "I know I'm not your type."
But Peter was just staring at him. "I don't know if I'd say that. I just... I need a bit of time to sort myself out."
Andy could barely believe it. "...Whatever you need, Peter, for however long."
Peter nodded and slowly a grin spread across his face. "So Ellie was right, in the end."
Andy resisted the sudden urge to run his fingers through Peter's hair, stunned by the happiness in his eyes. "You've lost me, lad."
"She always said you fancied me."
Surprised, Andy threw his head back and laughed. "Aye, Sunbeam, for once she were right."