A/N: Back by not-even-vaguely-popular demand! A sequel to my last LOTSW fanfic, Conversations, here is Conversations ii. Well, not a sequel exactly...in fact not really a sequel at all. Oh well...go read that one! Do it!
Sidney yet again wondered why, in the name of sanity itself, his cafe had been chosen as the base of operations for the three most gormless twallops he'd ever had the misfortune to encounter. So far, anyway.
It wasn't as though they spent vast hordes of cash on the premises. If they did, he might have found room in his heart not to entirely despise their urge to sit in his cafe for extended periods of time quite as much as he did. Maybe. It was a possibility.
But they didn't! Always the same, three cups of tea. If they felt like splashing out, they might order three buns as well. Not really enough to keep a cafe in business.
Even when they accepted the tea, all they did was gripe about how revolting it was. Yet they never left to find another cafe to malinger in.
Sid couldn't help a rueful grin sneaking onto his face. However much they irked him, he couldn't deny that something about those three idiots and their schemes was infinitely humorous. Somehow, the three of them managed to bounce off each other like they had been designed specifically for this purpose: to invent haphazard, daft, unworkable schemes. Or possibly to annoy and amuse all of their acquaintance in equal measure.
"Good 'morrow Sidney."
Sid was rudely jerked back to the present by the greeting and familiar sound of three pairs of boots followed by a door swinging shut with a high-pitched jingle.
He didn't look up from his paper. If he didn't look up, maybe they'd go away. That was the hope that kept him sane.
Foggy took a seat on their customary table, resting his walking stick against the tabletop and Compo flopped onto his chair. This left Clegg to approach the counter.
To Clegg, it always felt like he was the one funding the majority of their teas. He supposed it made sense really, with Compo squandering all his money on horses that never won and Foggy's severe allergy to actually paying for anything. Not that this made Clegg any more willing to do so however, even if he did get paid to be old. It just seemed oddly futile, paying for tea that was almost invariably described as "rat pee". Or the multiple encounters with Ivy, who he found terrifying, yet strangely less so than Marina. At least Ivy retaliated, rather than initiated. Whenever he thought of Marina, he felt the sudden impulse to run and hide somewhere far away, without any dangerous and volatile females.
"Three teas please Sidney." He began to count the coins in his palm, just as Sid finally deigned to glance up at his latest customer.
"Oh, it's you lot." He heaved a sigh and reluctantly dropped his paper as though he was being dragged away from the best thing in his life. Reaching for the teapot and pouring some of the dull liquid into three cups, he stretched out a hand for the money.
Clegg picked up two of the cups and Sid reluctantly hauled himself around the counter and out to the table.
"Ta." Compo grinned his partially-toothless grin which corresponded so well with his trousers.
Foggy accepted his own tea from Clegg with a nod; Sid loitered in the vicinity as had become normal practice. After all, if he had to put up with having these three in his cafe, he might as well listen to some of their conversations, which were on occasion rather amusing. As long as Foggy was not about to tell them a war story, in which case Sid would suddenly remember something he urgently needed to do in the kitchen.
Clegg slipped into his own seat and there was silence for a moment. Well, almost silence. Compo was slurping his tea like a vacuum cleaner with a particularly stubborn ball of fluff, and the three others watched him, partly out of sheer astonishment and partially disgust. Which reason was most prevalent, Clegg was never fully sure.
With a sigh of satisfaction, Compo replaced the cup. Foggy's face was a picture of infinite repulsion.
"He's like a human straw." Foggy Dewhurst shuddered, and turned to his own tea.
"'Ere, what 's thee trying to say?" Compo folded his arms.
Clegg interjected with an air of hesitation. "I think Foggy meant...uh..." The other three waited expectantly. Clegg raised his own tea and continued. "That...well...you're like a human straw." Having said this, he began to sip his own tea.
"You astound me Norm." Compo stared at Foggy, who ignored him as one would a persistent fly.
"Tis true enough." Sid grunted eyeing the now empty saucer with a disapproving expression. "You must be the only person to come in 'ere and inhale the tea."
Foggy returned from his brief voyage into the realms of his own mind- the only place he felt safe from the rabble, or to be more specific, Compo – and muttered something about falling standards in table manners and personal hygiene, sipping his own tea with some delicacy.
"Aw, shut it Dorothy!" Compo's own personal expression of disdain met Foggy's indignant scowl before breaking into an impression of a lady-like character sipping tea. Mostly consisting of thrusting his nose into the air and pursing his lips, dabbing at his mouth with an imaginary handkerchief.
"Will you stop that?" It wasn't really a question, but a command from the former chief sign writer. "You'll bring Sid's cafe into disrepute."
Sidney pretended not to care, airily waving a hand as he snuck a glance out of the window. It wasn't that he particularly minded, but rather that Ivy did. And when she minded, everyone would know about it.
Norman elbowed Compo gently, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "He's right, people might think there's something wrong with Sid's excellent brew."
"Excellent brew?" Compo snorted in utter disbelief. "Since when 'as any tea in 'ere been excellent?"
"If the tea's so bloody awful, why do you keep coming back?" Sid dashed to the defence of his beverages. First rule of cafe management: always stick up for your beverages. They need it. Despite his grumpy overtones, the question still managed to sound like marvelling aloud at some great mystery of existence. There wasn't that much else to do, really.
Compo's grin returned in full force. "To see our good pal Sid, o' course."
Foggy said nothing, but Clegg could've sworn that he noticed a minor rolling of the eyes over the rim of his teacup. Naturally, he said nothing, sampling the tea. Bearable, at least. Still with hints of "rat pee" however, so he decided to pace himself. There wasn't a rush in any case. There never was, unless Foggy had one of his "brilliant" ideas. Clegg's inner voice muttered a quick prayer, in the hopes that such a crisis might be averted. Foggy and ideas should never coincide.
"Save it." The cafe owner's voice returned to the usual bored monotone with a hint of sigh. The sort of voice that spoke of years spent in tedium, whiling away the time with other thoughts, but with constant interruptions. What if Newton had been constantly interrupted, Sid contemplated. If he had, he'd probably have ended up pretty similar to Sid himself. Perhaps he was in reality, a secret genius, worn down by life and ready to take over the world or create a machine to revolutionise the universe, if it weren't for the bloody interruptions.
Foggy cleared his throat and the smug smile that usually accompanied an idea that he thought was brilliant and everyone else thought was a danger to public health formed on his face.
Oh crikey. Clegg's mind recognised the signs, and his face took on an expression of apprehension. "What is it Foggy?" He asked, with more than a mild hint of trepidation. Why he didn't just change the subject he wasn't sure, but he had to admit that even Foggy's plans held some ounce of amusement, and that had to be better than sitting all day in Sid's cafe.
"I have booked us an expedition!" Foggy declared without further delay.
The moment the words sank in, Compo and Clegg both began to rise and reach for their coats. "Sit down, the pair of you! You haven't even heard where we're going yet!" Foggy protested, glowering at Compo as Clegg sank back into his seat with some minor unwillingness.
"The last time we went on an 'expedition' with thee, we ended up in a floating bog!" Compo barked, prompting memories of sailing a lavatory across miles of sea to reach a train station. Not as easy as it sounds. Clegg winced at the memory- not one of the moments he liked to dwell on in his life.
Sid sniggered, but stopped abruptly at the glares he received. Foggy took advantage of this pause to throw in his idea. "We are going Christmas shopping!"
Compo and Clegg exchanged glances. Could that really be it? Really, they had been expecting something much more lethal. It was late November, it even made some sort of sense. Clegg's suspicion rose. There had to be a catch.
"Where are we going Christmas shopping, Foggy?" He asked, every syllable betraying his inner anxiety.
Foggy's smirk grew. "We are going to Chichester."#
"Where the bloody hell's that?" Compo demanded, wondering if there was any such place in the whole of Yorkshire- or in his view, the world. "It's not in Lancashire is it? Foggy, we're told thee once, and we'll tell thee again, Lancashire is-"
"It isn't in Lancashire! Good god man, it's in Sussex! You did Geography at school didn't you?"
Compo scratched his head. "I think that was when I 'ad me ferrets with me."
"You brought your ferrets to school?" Clegg was incredulous.
"Oh aye, Norm."
"How did you get away with it?"
Compo shrugged, as much as one can in a suit several sizes too baggy. "They were well behaved in them days."
Foggy made a noise of mild disgust, disguising it with a sip of tea. Compo's eyes narrowed. "Norm, 'e's 'aving a go at my ferrets again!"
"Keep your voice down, would ya?" Sid glanced around furtively to see if any prospective customers had heard. "Scaring away prospective business, that's what you're doing."
"Yes, well anyway," Foggy endeavoured to continue. "We get the train down tomorrow, do some shopping in the centre, stay somewhere overnight, nip into town again in the morning and get the train back."
"Seems bloody pointless to me." Compo replied, folding his arms and swinging his boots up onto the table.
Sid positively fumed. "I've just cleaned that you dozy prawn! How am I meant to run a business if bloody great pillocks keep wiping your boots all over the place! You three are walking public health warnings, you know that?"
"What's that about boots on my tables?" The familiar tones of an irate Ivy echoed from the kitchen, and all three "prawns" moved with surprising agility and speed in the direction of the exit. The door banged shut behind them just as a pan-brandishing female came into view, and the trio trotted away into the streets.
"So we'll meet at 8- bring some lunch and we'll eat it on the train..." Foggy continued to spout plans at an alarming rate, and the other two dropped back a few paces to let him debate in peace.
"What d'you think Norm?"
Norman shrugged. "I suppose it's not as dangerous as usual. Maybe Foggy's plans are getting better."
Compo scoffed. "'S alright for thee! Thee's used to getting up at ridiculous hours!"
"Be fair, it could be earlier."
"Nah, I don't believe in time before eight in the morning." Compo tucked his hands into his pockets, sauntering with his customary swagger.
Clegg chuckled. "Cheer up, it'll give you an insight into all that geography you missed."
"'Ere, Norm, do they even have a Christmas down south?"
Foggy wheeled around to face them with a long-suffering expression on his face. "Of course they do! Come along that man, quick march!"
A/N: Haha! Not a one-shot. Shall be continued. Christmas spirit and all that. Review please!