Intended as a prequel to my "Night Morning" fic. Please review!
Dakin loved his car. Like everything else good in this world, from art to pasta, it was Italian. The fact that it was sleek, red, shiny, and purred as he sped didn't hurt either. If clients would respond like his car did, his life would be so much easier. He shook his head, trying not to think about clients on this particular Friday night as he sped down the street. The fact he had nothing to go home to didn't mean he should think about work.
Suddenly, tires squealed nearby. Dakin searched for the source, but didn't see the boxy grey van until it was nearly on top of him. The van slid sideways into the side of his car, pushing it to the shoulder before finally stopping. Dakin briefly checked himself for injuries before leaping out of his car. Theoretically, he needed insurance information. In reality, he was just furious.
"WHAT THE FUCK?" he screamed as he rounded the car and headed toward the van, where a tall redheaded woman climbed out of the driver's seat. "Do you think the road is your personal fucking bumper car park?"
The woman ran a hand through her short, cropped hair. "Shut it, you overpaid prat," she snapped, surveying the van for damage. There was a small dent in the van and both vehicles would need new paint, but overall it didn't seem too bad.
"Prat?" Dakin screamed, charging up to the woman. He heard the sound of metal hitting the pavement. He refused to look for the source, sure it was his bumper hitting the ground. "Do you have amnesia as well as an utter inability to drive properly? As I recall, cars are supposed to go forward-"
"You're just upset that your shiny toy got touched by someone else!" yelled the woman, looking down at him. "Not only is this piece of junk utterly destroyed-"
"-You're lucky that deathbeast didn't kill-"
"-Me? Why thanks for your concern-"
A soft voice interrupted their bickering match. "I think that's quite enough noise, don't you?"
The verbal combatants turned to face the voice. It was a youngish man, about a half-decade Dakin's senior, with dark hair and glasses. He wheeled himself over to the pair using his wheelchair.
"Tom, this insolent child has been yelling and just look at the-" began the redhead.
"It's alright," he interrupted. "I'm fine. The equipment is alright."
"That doesn't mean that this boy can go about screaming at people who have been through a trauma-"
"Julie," he interrupted again, this time more firmly. "I'm fine. It's alright."
He turned the chair to face Dakin. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, sir," answered Dakin automatically. He gasped slightly as he fully realized who he was talking to.
Evidently the man in the chair did too. "Dakin?"
"Unusual circumstances, huh?"
"Aren't they always?" Irwin smiled slightly. "Glad to see you're alright. Julie, could you call the studio and order a car for us?"
"Can you ride in a normal car, sir?" Dakin covered his mouth. He couldn't believe his curiosity and brashness. He was a polished lawyer now, not a schoolboy.
"How dare you, you insolent little-" began the redhead again.
"Julie, please. Mr. Dakin is an old friend. The studio will be worried if we're not back soon. Please?" He gave her a small smile and she nodded, kissing him on the cheek before heading down the block. "Yes, I can ride in a normal car. The van is just more convenient with all the equipment."
Dakin nodded. "For your program? I haven't had time to watch much, but I quite like it."
"Thank you," answered Irwin smoothly. "That tends to be the reaction I've gotten from my former students."
The younger man visibly flinched. "Are you… in touch with many of them?" It had been nearly a decade since he'd started at Oxford. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his old classmates.
"Scripps and I tend to run into each other at industry events. He brings Posner along sometimes. Dot and I correspond a bit as well, now that she's retired." He shrugged, as if to say I didn't expect you to.
"That's, um, nice. I'm glad. They quite liked you."
Irwin gave a little laugh, but said nothing. Dakin put his hands in his pockets and shuffled about a bit. A half-block away, Julie was telling the tale of her near death experience to a colleague at a payphone. The hand motions were grower ever larger.
"Is she always like that?" Dakin asked, staring slightly.
The older man sighed. "Only when it comes to me and deadlines. She likes to think she can make up for the lack of my legs and a staffing shortage all the time if she tries hard enough."
"Some people are always like that." He paused slightly, and then ventured the question that had been twisting in the base of his stomach since Irwin had entered the conversation. "Are you two happy together?"
Irwin seemed puzzled by the question, wrinkling his brow and reaching up a hand to rub his temple. "We work well together."
Dakin snorted. "Now that's a ringing endorsement."
The former teacher raised a dark eyebrow. "It's what I look for in an assistant."
"And a… companion?" He flinched inwardly at the awkward term.
"No," said Irwin with surprising sternness. "Just an assistant."
Dakin blushed. "Oh. I'm sorry. She just…" He shrugged.
"She's affectionate. We've worked together since she started at the BBC. Sometimes it feels like we're the only ones they're working at all."
The lawyer laughed. "I know the feeling. I keep waiting to walk in on my secretary and the senior partner. The number of breaks they take suggests he has shocking stamina."
The two laughed for a moment, suddenly completely at ease. Then Julie returned, shooting Dakin a loathing glare. "Well, I can get a car here relatively soon, but it'll take forever to load the equipment into it and we have to do a triple equipment check to make sure nothing was broken before we check it in and then we'll have to file an incident report and I still haven't worked out a tow and it might be pretty crammed in the car-"
"Do you both have to be there for the paperwork and checks?" asked Dakin suddenly.
"That's none of your business," snapped Julie. "Now, as I was saying, I don't know who they're going to send out and if it's Daryl in his tiny little car it might take a few trips and-"
"I can take some of it," offered Dakin suddenly. He bit his lip but the words kept coming out. "I can take Irwin and some of the equipment and he can get started on the paperwork and you can follow with the rest-"
"Dr. Irwin does not do paperwork on a Friday night!" screeched Julie. "I am responsible-"
"Julie," said Irwin in the same soft tone he had silenced her with earlier. "It's a good idea."
"I don't care if it solves world hunger! You have plans and-"
"They can wait til tomorrow," he said patiently. "Dakin, are you sure you don't mind? I'm sure you have somewhere to be."
Dakin shrugged. "Nothing that can't wait til later."
"Still no sodding datebook?" teased Irwin.
"Tom!" Julie was plainly horrified, although Dakin couldn't discern if it was Irwin's language or his agreement to the plan that was the issue.
"I'll see you at the studio, Julie. With any luck, we'll both be done before midnight and can get a well deserved rest." Abashed, Julie nodded. She opened the back doors of the van and began loading camera equipment into Dakin's car. She then helped Irwin into the passenger's seat, folding his chair and stowing it in the back seat. Dakin couldn't help wanting to shove her when she left her hand on Irwin once he was safely in the car.
He quickly went round to the driver's seat and started the car. It still made the same beautiful noise as always. "Ready to go?" he asked.
Irwin nodded gratefully. "Do you know the way to the BBC station?"
"I've got something of an idea. You'll correct me if I get off track?"
Irwin smirked slightly. "Always."
Dakin laughed and nudged him slightly with his elbow. "Tosser."
"Prat," shot back his former teacher with affection. The two sat in amicable silence. Halfway there, Irwin reached for the dash and turned on the radio. Normally, Dakin would have been furiously annoyed. No one manipulated his car. Somehow, Irwin touching it seemed like the most natural gesture in the world.
"Here we are," announced Dakin quietly when they reached the studio lot. A few scrawny boys who looked just out of university approached the car. Irwin waved at them. "I didn't know you hired children," he teased.
"They give the place some life," replied Irwin. He rolled the window down and instructed them where the equipment should go. One of them reached for the back seat and Irwin's chair.
"I've got that!" called Dakin, who got out of the car and brought it around to Irwin's door. "How does this usually work?" he whispered when Irwin opened the door.
"Just give me your arms. I can lift myself into it." Dakin nodded and complied. It felt strangely nice to help his teacher into the chair that had once so terrified him. "Thank you. It was good to see you." Irwin sat there for a moment, and then wheeled himself towards the building entrance.
He was nearly to the door when Dakin called out. "What're you doing tonight?"
Irwin smirked. "Well, I thought I might log some equipment and check it for damages."
Dakin nearly smacked himself in the head. "What about after that?" He strode toward Irwin before he lost his nerve. "What about a drink afterward?"
"It's nearly eleven and I have to do a shoot tomorrow. I'm sorry." Irwin did look genuinely sorry. Dejected, even. He opened the door and wheeled himself inside.
Dakin caught the door just in time. "What about a drink while you work? There's a shop just around the corner. I can grab a case and help you."
Irwin wheeled around and smiled. The full, grateful, brilliant, inspired smile Dakin remembered from school. "I suppose I could use someone to carry things to inventory until Julie gets back."
He grinned. "I suppose I could do that."
"Then go get us some beer and get this out of the subjunctive," replied Irwin.
"Yes, sir," replied Dakin cockily. He jaunted the entire way to the store in a way he hadn't since that last day of school so many years ago.