Andrew felt himself waking up and fought it. He lost rather quickly. With supreme effort he tried to unglue his eyelids. He blinked red-eyed in the dim light that signified it was the wee small hours of the afternoon. He was suddenly aware that this was not his bed. It was a familiar bed, and by familiar it didn’t fall into either category of girlfriend or one of his drunken mates. Instead he recognized the leaded windows and oak-beamed ceiling of Jeremy Bates’s house. How the hell had he wound up here? Jeremy was an old friend to be sure, although they hadn’t worked together in ages, but why here? HOW here?
He’d left the bike at the flat, he was sure of that. He couldn’t remember getting on the train last night and taking the Northern Line to Golders Green (that would have involved two transfers!). Nor could he remember stumbling down Finchley Road trying to look sober. That walk would have taken hours at any rate. Had he really gotten THAT pissed last night? That wasn’t like him. Realizing he was fully clothed, Andrew stuck his large clumsy hands in his pockets to look for clues.
When he pulled out the ring, he remembered. Sasha had left him.
Kicked him out, come to think of it—that was a first. He wondered what protocol was for getting his stuff back. Most of it was Sasha’s and a lot of it wasn’t worth bothering over, but he really wanted his motorcycle helmet, and the commemorative 1966 World Cup Champions mug that had been a gift from his Uncle Arthur. Maybe Jeremy knew how the standard “I’m-really-sorry-and-I-know-you-said-you-never-wanted-to-see-me-again-but-can-I-pop-in-and-get-my-rubbish” transaction went. Did he have to bring a “second?”
He thought more about Sasha and fought back the tears that sprang to his eyes. It wasn’t too hard; he’d had a lot of practice after 36 years.
Unable to go back to sleep, and not sure he wanted to in any case, Andrew wound his way down the narrow staircase. He heard a clattering in the kitchen and made his way towards the large and very old dining table, currently set for one.
Jeremy was in the kitchen, heating up baked beans in a saucepan. Two pieces of bread suffering from third-degree burns were smoking pathetically on a chipped plate. Andrew managed a half-grin. Only Jeremy could have buggered up beans on toast.
“’Morning,” said Andrew by way of greeting.
“Afternoon more like,” said Jeremy kindly in his polished clipped tones. “No —tell a lie — it’s almost evening. Gloaming perhaps?”
“Twilight?” suggested Andrew with a grin.
“Hur hur hur,” answered Jeremy, rolling his eyes
“You’re going to ask me what happened last night and how you got here,” said Jeremy. It wasn’t a question.
“Yes please,” mumbled Andrew.
“I found you this morning while I was getting the paper. You were at the street corner trying to bash in a postbox. You kept screaming, ‘this bloody thing took my money and won’t give me a Kitkat.’ Sound familiar now?”
“I…well…” Jeremy looked uneasy and suddenly became interested in the caramelizing beans in the saucepan. “I called Sasha to come and get you… and…” He faded into silence as he poured the beans over the gluten-based charcoal briquettes.
“Yeah. We broke it off,” finished Andrew. He watched Jeremy try to chisel the remainder of his beans out of the pot with a lemon zester.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Jeremy.
Andrew frowned. “No you’re not,” he countered. “You never liked her.”
Jeremy had the pained expression of one determined to make a clean breast of it. “She was an illiterate chav with more piercings than brain cells who thought that the greatest contribution to modern civilization was Heinz’s line of microwavable puddings.”
Andrew was shocked and hurt by this statement but one bald fact stood out: “SO AM I!!” he blurted out.
“You’re literate,” sniffed Jeremy taking his sad plate to the dining room.
“Yeah, but I don’t read if I can help it,” said Andrew.
“That’s because you need glasses.”
“And there’s no cause to complain about microwaves when you can’t be fussed to buy one,”
“Nasty horrible things. Ruining food,” muttered Jeremy. He winced momentarily as his tooth came down hard on a petrified bean. “Well as far as girls go, you’ve done a lot better than Sasha.”
“You’ve never liked any of them, Jer.”
Jeremy seemed loath to admit this and didn’t sound convincing when he said, “Christine. I liked Christine.”
“No you didn’t” snorted Andrew.
“Well her tattoos were spelled correctly at least,” said Jeremy loftily. “So what happened with Sasha?”
Andrew let his head rest on the cool table and said nothing for a minute. “The same reason all the others left,” he said.
Jeremy dabbed at his chin with a napkin for a moment before regarding Andrew. “Ah,” he said softly.
“I just wish one of them would give me a chance,” Andrew said to the table.
“They can’t help it. You mention your line of work to anyone and they all think you’re a loony.”
“Or that I watch too much Torchwood.”
“It’s just a show.”
“On the wireless?”
“No. I keep telling you, Jer. People don’t do shows on the wireless anymore… nor do they call it a wireless,” he added.
“So what did Sasha say?” asked Jeremy, ignoring him.
“She said, ‘How in the hell after all this time can you come out and say such utter plonk? Telling me you were seeing another girl woulda been more honest than this rubbish about bein’ a vampire hunter!’”
“Ouch. So she just thought you were a rake then.”
“A louse, a cad, a…” Jeremy snapped his fingers, looking for a less-dated word. “ A ‘player’?”
“ Yeah. One of those. I’ll admit it’s a first. Usually they call an ambulance and I’m under surveillance for a few days.”
“Until I fetch you and say you’ve been off your pills.”
“Yeah, we need a new cover story by the way. You don’t look old enough to be my dad anymore.”
“On the contrary— you don’t look young enough to be my son anymore. It’s not my fault you keep aging,” said Jeremy lightly.
“With this face? I look nothing like you, you ugly sasquatch,” said Jeremy.
“Lover?” joked Andrew batting his eyes.
Jeremy grunted and flashed him an annoyed look. “NO. Call me something else, please.”
“What do you call a vampire that teams up with a vampire hunter?” mused Andrew.
“MENTAL,” was Jeremy’s answer. “Welcome back, partner.”
Andrew didn’t answer; his mind was occupied elsewhere.