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Sea-change

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I don’t know what I want. Well, I want to get out of this bloody office before I die of heatstroke, that’s for sure. But other than that—I can’t settle to anything. I’ve been fidgety and restless for days, weeks, and it’s not like me. I’m not someone who can’t sit still. Hathaway has his moments, but not me. I like being steady. I like being focussed. I like knowing what I want to do. What I don’t like is not being able to keep my mind on anything and wanting to get up every time I sit down.

You’d think this bloody heatwave would have knocked me out, and it has in a way—I feel like a bit of limp lettuce in this office, specially in the afternoon—it’s hotter than the hobs of hell when the sun comes round to this side of the building. I’m overheated and I can’t get comfortable, and as soon as I try to settle to something, my mind’s off elsewhere.

It’s worst at night. It’s too hot to sleep so I just lie on top of the covers and . . . well, there have been stirrings—for the first time in a long time. Not that surprising maybe, given the number of half-dressed people strolling round Oxford. You can’t go anywhere without being surrounded by bare shoulders and midriffs. Not that I gawp, but at night when I can’t sleep, lying there on my side of the bed (creature of habit, me), I do get . . . thoughts. I don’t often feel like doing anything, but even this much interest is new. Well, new since Val . . . I thought I was done with all that. Bloody weather.

Wool-gathering again. Nothing to do—that’s my problem. My desk’s practically empty right now, which is a situation as rare as hens’ teeth and I know I should be happy about it. The good news is there hasn’t been a serious crime in weeks—no one’s got the energy. The bad news is that means me and Hathaway are cooped up in this office with its low ceilings and windows that don’t open—and certainly nothing as American as air conditioning. A few weeks back Hathaway managed to acquire a couple of desk fans which help a bit, but by early afternoon it just feels like they’re moving the hot, dusty air round. Maybe this is what being stranded in a desert feels like?

And there’s so little for us to do at this point we’re in danger of Innocent setting us to work on petty theft and disturbances of the peace. We’ll be back on the bloody beat at this rate. I’m bored with nothing to do but I don’t know what I want to do. It’s like being a sulky teenager again; a teenager someone has made wear a suit and tie. I’m a miserable, sweaty teenager in a miserable, sweaty suit.

Hathaway’s slouched behind his desk gazing vacantly into space—not something you see every day, I must say. You know it’s too hot when Hathaway starts looking clammy and wilted, and that happened three weeks ago. May was the hottest since records began and June’s shaping up to be even worse. Great.

Weirdly, he looks happy. More than happy, actually. If I was the type that uses fanciful words, I’d say blissful. Very odd—he’s hardly a bundle of joy at the best of times. Actually, he’s been a tetchy pain in the arse for weeks, but I can sympathise—he does even worse without meaningful occupation than I do: nothing to set that big old brain of his to work on, and that’s never good. So I can’t think what the hell he’s got to smile about, sitting in this bloody oven at two in the afternoon with nothing to do and at least three hours to get through before we can leave for the day.

He realises he’s being watched and scowls at me. “What?”

“Nothing.”

He makes a show of opening the file in front of him and starts to read but I’m not fooled. “You looked like you were miles away, James. Where were you off to? You seemed pretty pleased to be there, wherever it was.”

His cheeks get a bit of colour in them and he closes the file again with a look of resignation. “If you must know, I was swimming in the sea. It was very cold. Delicious.”

I can’t help smiling. He’s an unpredictable sod, I’ll give him that. “I’m sure it was delicious, Sergeant. Sounds a damned sight better than being stuck here. Just the small problem of Oxford being in the middle of the country. We’re unlikely to be able to visit Jericho-by-Sea anytime soon, even with what’s going on with the bloody climate.”