"Ready to go then sir?" Peter Pascoe asked as he popped his head around the door of his superior's office at the end of what had been just another routine day.

He allowed himself a brief moment of amusement now to look at Andy Dalziel from the safety of the far side of the room, where from he was comfortably aware that his superior would be less likely to notice his subtle smile. Only a few days previous his mood had reflected an entirely different set of circumstances however, and the subject of Dalziel's well being had caused a great deal of concern to all who knew and, each in their own way, cared for him… especially Peter, after an incident which by rights alone should never have been allowed to occur in, of all places, a police station. As if to emphasize this point Andy Dalziel turned stiffly to face his partner, with the same singularly affronted look upon his face which he always gave people when he wasn't happy about being disturbed.

The case they had, until recently, been working on had been particularly drawn out, spanning several tedious and often tiresome months, but both Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe had been relieved to see that it had finally been nearing its conclusion.

They had been interviewing their prime suspect in the case, a man already known to the police for several minor charges of varying criminal degree, when he had suddenly and inexplicably laid into Dalziel. The attack had been apparently born out of the same desperation which all known criminals feel when they realise that they are on the threshold of being caught. Though it were almost as if he may have had some personal vendetta against Dalziel as it were he who appeared as the sole target of this attack and his partner was left well alone. Yet despite the unexpected development the superintendent had somehow managed to dodge the first number of attempts made to assault him with surprising agility, but soon found himself to be no match for the fiery disposition of a violent temper, and, as the burly young man had lunged for Dalziel across the interview table for a second time Peter had immediately come to his aid, attempting to prise the agitated suspect from his superior, reaching urgently for the panic button as he had done so. The fact that the lawyer present – a tall, singularly slender build of a man, wearing a pin-stripped black and white suite which reminded Pascoe of a generously stuffed toy penguin – had done little to restrain his client, but had simply looked on anxiously at the chaos which ensued, had done little to endear him to the Mid-Yorkshire police. Finally however they had managed to restrain and subdue their suspect, adding an additional array of charges to the crimes already listed in his criminal record, amongst others, grievous bodily harm, assault upon a police officer, and, if Peter and the rest of the Mid-Yorkshire constabulary had had their way, and with the way that things appeared to have been progressing at the time, attempted murder. But this was not before Dalziel had caught his hand heavily against the table in the struggle, splitting and bursting his wrist and hand in several places in the process.

Now, to look at his superior, hand swathed in bandages which were a good deal neater than had the Superintendent applied them himself, and arm fixed tightly to the rest of his body with a sling, Pascoe suddenly realised his superior's reasons for not wanting to be disturbed. Struggling to add his signature to a report whilst trying to hold it steady upon the desk in front of him, he quickly replaced it inside his desk as Peter entered.

"You alright sir?" Pascoe enquired concernedly as he saw the look upon his superior's face.

"Fine." Dalziel nodded impatiently back. "You never heard of knocking?"


Peter worked to revise and correct his rather forward manner, seeing that Andy Dalziel was quite obviously not in the mood. Throughout the years that the two had known each other they had developed a friendship and sense of mutual respect which all would agree went above and beyond the line of duty, playing off each others strengths and inadequacies, sometimes in not so equal measure. But more often than not they knew when to leave the other well alone, and each give the right to privacy which all men crave at the end of the working day… they were best friends in the most loosely based sense of the word. They didn't spend a great deal of their personal time together, apart from to share the odd round of lagers at one or the other's local pub when they were working on a particularly demanding case, they would never dream of arranging pointless day trips out or, worse still, holidays together, and perish the thought that their families should become as involved with each other as some. Though Dalziel had always been very good to Peter and Ellie's young daughter Rosie, having no children of his own, and the two appeared to have developed quite a close bond over the years, their daughter having frequently been caught referring to the Superintendent as 'Uncle Andy' with much encouragement from her parents on this affair… but when it came down to the crunch both Peter Pascoe and Andy Dalziel knew that they could always rely on the other to help them out of a crisis.

Dalziel got to his feet, and, as Peter threw him his coat from the peg where it hung on the inner side of the office door he made no attempt to catch it, but simply watched as it slipped from the edge of the varnish clad desk where it landed an onto the floor.

Pascoe sighed frustratedly as his superior turned to look at him, eyebrows raised in apparent expectation. Though he had no idea what was expected of him, he was doing his best to accommodate his superior's fowl moods (more frequently occurring than usual) and accept the situation for what it was as best he possibly could, but he would be damned if he was going to let slip to Andy Dalziel any sign of his helplessness. So he calmly made his way over to retrieve the creased and crumpled coat from where it now lay.

With this Andy Dalziel made to move himself. "Its alright laddie." He spoke. "I don't need my arse wiping for me."

As he bent down however Pascoe noticed the deep sigh which emanated from his superior's form, as well as the grimace which accompanied it, though he said nothing, and Dalziel made no attempt to protest as he helped him on with his coat a moment or two later, but smiled in concealed appreciation.

To anybody who wasn't well acquainted with the outspoken, rough talking Superintendent they may very well have interpreted this as a mocking grin, but Andy Dalziel had never been very open about showing emotion, and on the few occasions when he had condescended to let go of himself even for a short while had never been very good at it.

He looked down at his watch. "Well, shall we go then?" He asked with rather more cheer than Pascoe would have expected after the rough welcome he had just received, the reason for which immediately became all too apparent. "I must compliment you Peter." Dalziel remarked in response to his Detective Inspector's somewhat perplexed stare, continuing with a look not unlike the cat who caught the mice only to go home and find a large saucer of cream waiting for him, as he observed this look morph into one of complete bewilderment at the undue comment. "At this rate we should make it in time to get a few drinks in before that good lady of yours, begins missing you."

"I'm not taking you to the pub." Pascoe remarked, putting his foot down at this immediately. "You're supposed to be resting. I'm taking you straight home, what you decide to do with yourself once we get there of course is entirely up to you, I can't make you follow the doctor's orders! But as far as I'm concerned the only tonic I will be guilty of having a hand in providing tonight will be the one which Mother Nature herself intended as we drive the scenic route home… the main roads closed I'm afraid." He explained as if in an afterthought.

The only response he got from Dalziel to this was a mild grunting sound, indicating his displeasure and apparent disappointment, although it didn't take long for the implications of what Peter had just said to sink in, and all this was momentarily put aside as more pressing matters became priority issue.

"What do you mean the main road's closed?" He asked. "What's going on there then?"

"Nobody seems entirely sure yet sir." Pascoe replied. "Travel control received an anonymous tip-off about a suspected gas leek a couple of hours ago, and the road was cordoned off. But we're still waiting to hear back from them whether this was founded or not."

"You seem to be in a rather unusual hurry to be off then." Dalziel remarked.

Peter smiled at this. "We have a date tonight." He revealed. "And its going to take twice as long to get back to your place if we're going to have to take the country lanes, so we'd better get a move on as I don't particularly want to think about her reaction if I'm late."

At this Andy Dalziel looked at his watch before fixing Pascoe with a rather severe stare as though silently reprimanding him for prioritising such trivial social pursuits over his time spent at the station, but then his stare softened.

"Come on then lad." He winked slyly at Peter. "Why didn't you tell me that in the first place? What are you waiting for? You don't want to keep the good lady waiting do you?"

Outside it was already dark and by the time they reached Pascoe's car both were drenched by the winter rain cloud which had been casting a dark shadow over Mid-Yorkshire for almost a week now. As they had left the police station Pascoe had reached for his umbrella, trying to share it between Dalziel and himself. But it was only meant for one person and soon they were both as soaked as if they hadn't been using it at all.

Clambering into the driver's seat Peter watched as Andy struggled stubbornly with his seatbelt, he had accepted the young Detective Inspector's assistance on with his coat earlier but now appeared reluctant to tolerate any further offer of help. In the end he resulted to snatching the seatbelt from Dalziel rather impatiently, prompting a not entirely uncharacteristic outburst from his superior.

"What was all that in aid of?" Dalziel complained.

"I've already told you I'm in a hurry." Pascoe responded. "I haven't got time for your pissing around tonight."

Dalziel opened his mouth at this as though about to form a response but judging by the look on his partner's face thought twice of it and sunk back into his seat, eyes rolling sarcastically as he did so. He could tell that this was another one of those times when it paid more to keep your mouth shut than it did to come back with some clever response, which would more than likely only result in him being kicked out of the car and back out into the rain anyway, with possibly Pascoe's umbrella the only thing between him and a second soaking.

As they pulled out of the station car park the rain beat more fiercely against the car's front window screen and Pascoe turned the heating up. As he did Dalziel sunk further back into his seat, the warmth making him feel drowsy after the chill of outside. A reconciling silence soon elapsed between them however, doing what the pair had long understood would put to right what talk could not, but the silent void which should have been filled by the sound of the car radio, had Pascoe not switched it off as soon as he started up the engine, soon became an encumbrance and uncomfortable as they turned away from civilisation and off into some of the darker, more rural country roads.

"Why don't you let me drive for a while?" Dalziel asked in an attempt to break the awkward silence, smiling teasingly as he said it, knowing the reaction it would provoke from his partner.

"Andy…" Pascoe sighed despairingly at this, but as he turned to notice the expression upon the Superintendent's face he too broke into a smile. "You within a barge pole's distance of my car at the best of times would be too close for comfort. I'm not going to let you behind the driver's seat with your arm in such an incapacitated state."

"What's wrong with my driving?" Dalziel asked.

"Nothing…" Peter responded, before adding under his breath. "If you happen to be an avid fan of Blackpool Pleasure Beach."

As they turned into another much narrower country lane than the one they had previously been travelling on their eyes were drawn towards the silhouette of an old farmhouse set far off on the horizon, at least a couple of miles away. They could just make out the thick clouds of smoke emanating from a crooked chimney set against the inky sky.

"Looks cosy." Dalziel remarked, thinking longingly of his own humble bachelor pad, and yet equally how adequately it served his own simple needs.

"Yeah." Pascoe remarked absentmindedly, momentarily distracted by thoughts of bygone times when Ellie would have once been waiting for him at home, before this same stream of conscious thought led him back to the here and now. "How are you feeling by the way?" He asked, turning to his superior.

"Fine." Dalziel responded. "Really Peter will you stop fussing. It was just a little scratch."

"Andy it was more than just a little scratch, you had us all really worried for a time… OH I DON'T BELIEVE IT, NOT TONIGHT!" Pascoe suddenly trailed off as, without warning, muddy brown water was immediately thrown up from all sides as they plunged into a deep, pot-hole sourced puddle. The rain had been pelting down so hard against the windscreen that neither had noticed it beyond the murky sheath of water which had been a constant burden to their vision since they had left the police station.

"What's the problem?" Dalziel frowned as the car immediately juddered to an abrupt halt.

"That's all we need!" Pascoe snapped, hardly registering the Superintendent's question as he thumped the steering wheel in his frustration.

"I'll get out and have a look shall I?" Andy volunteered, wrenching off his seatbelt as he said so, eager for some excitement to season the routine of light duties and paper work which had been the source of many boredom filled days and sleepless nights since he had received his injury. But with this Peter Pascoe was instantly re-awakened to the fact that there were more pressing issues on hand than the one which had immediately sprung to mind as the sound of the car engine dying met with their hearing… which had been that he was now going to be late for his dinner date, and had swiftly drifted towards the resulting bollocking he was likely to receive later.

He sighed despairingly. "No, I'll go." He said, proceeding to undo his own seatbelt and unlock the car door before Andy Dalziel even had a chance to protest at this. Although as Pascoe stepped out into the miserable scene which awaited him outside and he was permitted his first glance at the thick grounding of badly churned mud and rain water, Dalziel couldn't help but consider that he had had a very lucky escape. "I'll be back in a minute." Pascoe explained impatiently to the Superintendent. "Don't go anywhere!"

Dalziel gave him a look in response which communicated something along the lines of 'and where would I be going?' and with that the Detective Inspector had gone.

Andy caught brief glimpses of his silhouette patrolling the perimeter of the car on a number of consecutive occasions, bending down out of sight, presumably to check the functioning of the cars internal mechanisms, before resurfacing somewhere else.

Whilst Pascoe, now caked in soft clay and mud, and thoroughly soaked through, stood in thought for a moment with the realisation that there was now no way they were going to get the car re-started tonight. With a sinking feeling to the pit of his diaphragm it quickly dawned on him that he had no change of clothes and, cold, and beginning to shiver as he now was, realised that spending the night camped out in the car could no longer be counted as an option for either of them if he wanted to completely avoid hyperthermia. Silently cursing himself for the haste at which he had left the warm shelter of his vehicle therefore, he glanced down at the display on his mobile phone, depressingly sure of what he would find… no signal, the components now so clogged with water that he doubted it would ever work properly again.

When suddenly he heard the crack of breaking twigs and foliage behind him, accompanied by a distinguishable shuffling sound, giving him the unnerving sensation that he was being watched. He turned around quickly, but could see nothing or nobody around to justify his alarm, and tried to relax into a more rational state, convincing himself that it had probably just been some poor waterlogged animal trying to find shelter from the unforgiving downpour.

As he turned around to make his way back to the front of the car however something else caught his attention… the house which both he and Dalziel had seen earlier a few miles hike back from the road. The smoke emitted from its ageing chimney was coming thicker now, and the potential promise of civilisation proved to be almost too much for Pascoe, without even so much as a towel to dry the soaking strands of hair now plastered to his forehead and stop the constant drip of water they were now sending cascading down his face a plan began to form in his mind.

When he finally did return to the warm comfort of the vehicle however, revelling in the warm blast of air which hit him as he opened the door on the drivers side though making no attempt to get back in, he was pleased to see that at least Dalziel had, for once, done as he had asked of him. If not somewhat annoyed to see upon his face the look of surprised amusement at his own expense… he realised all too well how ridiculous he must look, but equally this was nothing compared to how cold and miserable he was currently feeling.

"What the hell have you been doing out there?" Dalziel asked, struggling to stifle a weak laugh as he observed the appearance of the young Detective Inspector beside him, smeared in what could easily have passed for standard Army issue greasepaint and dripping dirty water, finally settling for a compromising snort instead.

"Mud wrestling with the local wildlife, what do you think?" Pascoe snapped back at him, his patience promptly waning now as the cold, coupled with the discomfort of his rain sodden clothing, began to get to him. "I've been trying to find out the reason why this bloody car won't start!"

"And… what's the verdict?" Dalziel asked.

"The engine's flooded." Pascoe explained. "We won't be going any further tonight I'm afraid."

If nothing else at least this seemed to have a desirable effect upon Dalziel he thought as the Superintendent's mocking smile soon turned into an apprehensive and then disheartened frown. But Pascoe found that he couldn't maintain the feelings of anger he felt bubbling over towards his superior for very long, as concern quickly came flooding through and with it a sense of unease, calming his ill-temper.

"So what are we going to do now?" Dalziel asked.

"That house…" Pascoe sighed thoughtfully, before another more concerning thought of, to the passive observer, an indistinguishable nature appeared to occur to him and he changed the course of the conversation. "But first how are you feeling?"

"Cold, wet, a little tired." Dalziel explained beginning to show the first signs of impatience himself as he relayed the information. "A little like yourself I suppose… but you sound like you might have a plan laddie?"

"Maybe…" Pascoe admitted, fixing the Superintendent with a deep stare as though wanting to be entirely sure of his superior's genuine well being before continuing… not taking what he told him to be the face value truth. As Dalziel appeared to notice this however he wisely changed the course of the conversation.

"Are you really sure that you're alright sir?" Peter asked.

"I'd be a lot better for not having to spend the night out in this wilderness." Dalziel snapped. "It's bloody worse than camping, at least then you get a sleeping bag and a few chocolate biscuits for your trouble. Now will you please get on with it?"

"Alright." Pascoe sighed, not entirely sure that he was doing the right thing. "I'm going to hike up to that cottage we saw earlier. There's more smoke coming from the chimney now, and there's bound to be a phone we can use to call for help. We could be waiting here all night for somebody to come along and not encounter another living soul, and if the occupants are hospitable enough we may at least spend the evening dry and warm."

"Why didn't you just think to use your mobile?" Dalziel asked, although it was a futile question relayed in such a tone and manner as to convey that there was little hope to be found in these words.

"Signals flat." Pascoe explained, and as though to confirm that his worst suspicions had been realised, with this Dalziel rolled back into his seat, closing his eyes against that darkness outside as if in hope they he may for a while forget that any of this was happening.

"Mine to." He revealed. "I checked it whilst you were off playing at 'Rambo' out there… but if you think I'm going to stay here in this pissing rain and cold whilst you go gallivanting off with the prospect of hospitality and possibly warm accommodation for the night you're a few currents short of a Christmas cake."

"Yes sir," Pascoe sighed, though as he assisted Dalziel from the car a few moments later he realised that he had never genuinely intended to leave the Superintendent behind. Insistent that at least his bandages should be kept dry until there came another opportunity for them to be changed later he ensured that this time it was he who received unchallenged access to the umbrella.

"You're not going to get very far in this weather without some form of protection lad." Dalziel, who had noticed that Pascoe had already began to shiver and his teeth chatter under the weight of the freezing waterlogged jacket against his skin, suddenly stated. "You think being a police officer makes you immortal? If anything it only serves to make you more foolhardy… take this."

At this Dalziel, with significant exertion and difficulty, removed his coat and draped it over the young Detective Inspector's shoulders without even giving him the chance to protest. Peter felt the effect almost immediately.

"Thank you sir." He smiled gratefully. "Though are you sure you're really up to this?"

But the moment had already passed, and the only response he received for his concerns was an indifferent grunt as Dalziel began to make his way in the direction he assumed they needed to start heading, taking the umbrella with him.

Pascoe rolled his eyes and sighed despairingly, though with little alternative option laid open to him set off in suit.

Pulling the coat more tightly around him as he walked neither he nor Dalziel noticed the figure watching them from the obscurity and shadow of the bushes near the roadside as they went.