When Alan hands his keys over to the mechanic he almost flinches. Three hundred quid this is costing him. The aquatic decorative tiles for the bathroom will have to wait. The Lexus has to come first he supposes, as the dirty faced man chews his gum loudly and nods his head.
“Two weeks I reckon.”
“Two weeks!?” Alan repeats, astounded. “Some animals procreate and give birth in less than two weeks!”
The mechanic shrugs. “Yeah, well I gotta order all the parts ain't I.”
There's not much point in arguing with him, so Alan watches the car being driven off with a lump in his throat. He feels like a bereft sixth former again, at the bus stop without a license because his mother couldn't afford the driving lessons, whilst all his classmates drove past in their Ford Fiestas. Vulnerable. Helpless. Car-less.
He waits at the corner of the garage, with his arms crossed over his chest, his big coat barely doing anything against the cold November wind. He watches Lynn's cherry red Yaris halt to stop just ahead of him, wondering if she's going to drive up to where he's standing or whether she actually expects him to walk across the frozen over puddle to get to the passenger seat. Seems to be the latter.
He sinks into the seat and complains all the way to the static home. When she drops him off she tells him she'll be back to take him to work after dinner with Gordon. He scoffs but there's not much he can do.
When he checks the phone he has a missed call, and he does a double-take when the name pops up against the number. Dan Moody. Interesting. He ignores it.
The sound of the rain against the roof of the static home has Alan snoozing in front of re-runs of Columbo. In the distance there's a sound that bugs him until he wakes suddenly realising it's the phone. He rolls off the banquette, thudding onto the floor, before he crawls over to the phone and takes it off the hook, without checking the caller ID.
He groggily answers and is startled when he hears the voice on the other end of the line.
“Sir Alansworth of Partidgeshire, have I caught you in the act! You sound somewhat subdued.”
Alan is now fully awake, and he stumbles onto his feet and wipes the drool off the side of his mouth.
“Dan.” he says surprised. “No I uh...well I, didn't expect you to call here again.”
“I hope we didn't scare you off the other night, Alan.”
Alan shakes his head as if Dan can see him, stands up straight and tries to clear his throat. “No. No. No, not at all.” It was a lie and to try and distract the thought of it entering his mind, Alan picks up a pen to have something to fiddle with. But when he tugs it out of it's holder, the whole thing tumbles over and spills a dozen pens and pencils onto the floor.
“Yeah, I've just knocked my stationary holder onto the floor.”
“No, I mean, with us, is everything alright?”
Alan feels a lump in his throat and tries to swallow it before he speaks again. “'S fine.” he says quickly.
“So how's about a drink. Tomorrow night?”
“I can't. It's not that I don't want to,” he adds on quickly. “I mean I physically can't. I'm bereft of an automobile. The Lexus is in repair. Two weeks in repair if you can believe it! Three hundred pounds just to get the thing road safe again.”
“Unbelievable.” Alan smiles and for a moment things feel a bit more normal again. This is good. Talking to a man. Talking about cars. Maybe he has been spending too much time with Sonia and Lynne. “Yeah, Lynne's chauffeuring me to the studio and back in her Yaris.”
“Alan Partridge being driven around in a Toyota Yaris well I never. They're practically shopping trollies for spinsters.”
“That's exactly what I said!”
They both laugh, and Alan actually hears himself snorting down the phone.
“Wait a minute, your place is on the way to Kitchen Planet, why don't I pick you up from work and drop you off?”
“You are aware I finish at one o'clock in the morning?”
“Yeah but I do my stock takes at two, then the deliveries come in at three. The kitchen king never sleeps, Alan.”
Alan raises his eyebrows, almost impressed, even though he's not quite sure why. “Well...okay, if you're sure.”
“Hey it's no skin off my back.”
“Actually, I've always wanted to be a passenger in a Lexus. You know, enjoy the motions.”
“Moody's motions are here for you to enjoy any hour of the day.”
They both laugh again, and Alan's almost glad Dan's is a little louder so he doesn't hear Alan's stick in his throat.
“Ok, see you tomorrow night then.” Dan says.
“Yeah. Well technically it'll be...Tuesday morning due to the-...anyway yeah see you...see you soon.”
When Alan hangs up he goes back over to the banquette and collapses onto it. The array of stationary on his floor is momentarily ignored.
At 12:50, Alan gets a call from reception, and Penny the new girl, tells him that “a man has come to collect him”.
“You know, that sounds very seedy, when you say it like that. He's a friend, I do actually know him. He's just...he's just doing me a favour whilst my car is in the garage.”
She responds with a monotone “Okay.”
“Can you just tell him I'll be down in ten?”
“He's already gone back to his car.”
“Right okay. Thanks?” And then he mutters a “Un-ber-loody-believable” under his breath once he hangs up.
He ends the show on Abba's Mamma Mia. And he ignores Dave on his way out, deciding he can use his freshly cutting anecdote on him another time. Instead he races through the lobby and out into the freezing cold car park, spotting Dan's Lexus in the empty lot, letting himself in.
“Good morning, Mr DJ.” Dan smiles as Alan settles into the seat.
The Swedish four-piece are emanating from his speakers and Alan looks over at Dan as he does up his seatbelt. “You were listening to the show?”
“Of course!” Dan says, as though it were obvious. “You know, I saw Abba at the Norfolk Palindrome in 1979. They were all on the brink of divorce then, but I mean you never would've known, it was a cracking show.”
As the chorus kicks in they both sing, “Mamma Mia, here I go again! My, my, how can I resist you? Mamma Mia, does it show again? My, my, just how much I've missed you!”
Dan laughs as he goes to pull out of the lot, but Alan continues, hand raised as he points up at Dan in the drivers seat.
“Yes, I've been broken hearted, blue since the day we parted. Why? Why? Did I ever let you go. Mamma Mia, now I really know. My, my, I could never let you go...”
The last line lingers between them as the song continues on the radio. After what feels like several seconds of very awkward silence, Dan's hand finally pushes down on the handbrake and they pull out of the car park.
It takes thirty-three minutes to drive from the studio to Alan's house. Tonight it takes forty-seven. It's that horrible sort of icy wet rain, that would've been snow had it been one or two degrees colder. Dan doesn't exactly drive slow, not when there's no other cars on the road, but he drives careful, and Alan- in a tired haze, finds himself staring at Dan's feet on the pedals, lit only every now and then by the motorway lights.
Blinking himself out of sleep, he mumbles “How's that clutch control?”
Dan looks over at him and smiles. “As smooth as a Roman slave girls' thighs.”
Alan chuckles, watching Dan's hand resting on his own thigh, the other on the steering wheel. “I should get you some driving gloves. I'll make a real chauffeur of you yet.” Alan yawns. “Dan, the chauffeur man.”
Dan laughs, and then out of no where he grabs Alan's wrist, making the other man jolt.
“Here, feel this.” he says, and for a horrifying second, Alan wonders where his hand is being led as Dan pulls it towards his lap. Alan's mouth goes dry, his throat clams up, and then there's a wave of relief when Dan wraps Alan's hand around the gear stick. “Put it into fourth.”
He almost forgets what changing gear entails with Dan's hand resting over his, firm but not too tight, just enough to feel the warmth of his skin seeping through to his own. But like muscle memory, Alan is pushing it down into fourth.
“Feel that?” Dan says, glancing over at him again with a toothy smile.
Alan nods, but he's not entirely sure what Dan is alluding too, and he's very aware that Dan's hand is still resting atop his own.
“Seamless.” Alan says, the word coming out a little croaky. At least he has the excuse that he's tired.
Alan's gaze fixates on their hands and it feels like he's watching through someone else's eyes as his hand slowly slips around the neck of the gear stick, and he doesn't know at this point, whose hand is leading whose. All he's aware of is Dan's fist clasping around his and the fact that it's much bigger and much warmer. For a second, Dan squeezes.
Alan makes a small noise that sounds a little like a dog that's just had it's paw trodden on, and he tries to disguise it with a cough, tugging his hand out of Dan's grasp and faces away from him, staring out of the dark wet window. He shifts in his seat and focuses on the steady sound of the Lexus motor beneath him.
Somewhere between now and home, he drifts off.
The clock on the dashboard reads 2:00 in bright red digital numerals and Alan is aware that they've been driving around the A ring road for a little under an hour, but he doesn't quiz Dan about it and he doesn't ask him if he's worried about missing his delivery.
He doesn't ask because they're too busy laughing over Quentin Letts' latest Daily Mail sketch, and Alan is making Dan laugh so much he's lurching the car and almost stalls three times in quick succession.
Somewhere in the background, Clifton's “nightclub” is playing on the radio and Alan starts gossiping about the DJ's latest brush with the law. Dan listens intently, shaking his head and tutting in all the right places.
“I met Clifton once, at the 'Annual Norwich Bowls Society' bash. He was as drunk as a skunk on Malibu punch and he was hanging off this beautiful Ugandan woman, club secretary I think she was. Anyway he balls'd up his chances by making some racist joke about two African men and a cockney pie maker who take a trip up to Durham in a Ford Fiesta-”
“I told him that joke!” Alan says quickly, without thinking. “The absolute bastard. That's what he does you know, he's like a petty thief, stealing my best lines yet he's the one that gets the invites to the socials.”
Dan looks over at Alan and raises an eyebrow.
“You're right, it was a terrible joke though.”
Dan smiles before looking back out towards the road. “Actually I think I found it so funny I had to hide behind the cake tier at the buffet table.”
“Well it's nice to know that even before we met I was making you laugh. That's the power of the Partridge right there.”
Around three AM, Dan pulls into Alan's driveway and at this point Alan's wondering whether he should invite him in for a nightcap. Or a morning cap. Either way he knows he has some cans of Director's Bitter chilling in his fridge. But there's something that stops him from wanting Dan to see the static home and maybe it's because he's seen Dan's house. All that space, fresh soft carpets and shiny kitchen work tops...
“You're going to miss your stock delivery.” Alan notes, as he points at the clock, but Dan shrugs and waves a hand as he huffs out a sigh.
“The night-manager will deal with it in my absence.”
Alan nods his head. If he had a night-manager why on earth did Dan need to even be there in the first place? The question is about to come out of his mouth, when suddenly Dan leans over and nearly covers Alan's body with his own.
To Alan's own surprise he doesn't pull back immediately, but instead he lurches forward and his lips come into contact with Dan's. But almost as soon as they touch, Alan notices in the corner of his eye, Dan's hand on the car door handle by his arm. Then it dawns on him very quickly that Dan wasn't going in for what he thought and he snaps his head back.
They freeze for what seems like an eternity. Dan hasn't moved and Alan is scared to open his mouth because he can still feel Dan's breath against his lips.
“You were...just...” Alan stops, not quite sure how to continue.
“Opening the door.” Dan finishes for him, but it's barely a whisper.
Alan's fists clench at his side because there's only two ways out of this. He crawls out of the car and never ever sees Dan again for as long as he lives, or... he kisses him again. Neither of those options really settle well with him but his stomach is doing somersaults and he's almost certain that if he doesn't do something very quickly he's going to be sick in his lap.
“Goodnight, Alan.” Dan says, voice soft, and he's chewing his bottom lip as his eyes scan over Alan's face and it's that same sort of look he gave him that night when Ceri's hand was trying to get as far up his leg as possible.
Alan's face moves a fraction closer to Dan's and when their lips gently brush, somewhere in the back of Alan's mind, his sanity gets the better of him and he pulls away as the back of his head smacks into the headrest.
“'Night.” Alan manages as he fumbles with his seatbelt, practically tumbling out of the car and almost running back into the safety of the four walls of his tiny home. He listens to Dan's car drive off the gravel and waits until the engine is completely out of ear shot before he strips off all his clothes and jumps into a very cold shower.
“What's this I hear about Mr Alan Partridge being picked up by a tall dark handsome stranger every night for the past week?”
Alan pauses as the tea bag in his hand drops into the empty mug. He turns to see Dave Clifton, leaning against the door frame of the small kitchenette. He's fifteen minutes early, which makes an unwelcome change. Alan had put on a six minute mix of Duran Duran's New Moon on Monday on play on purpose so he could come and make a cup of tea in peace, not so he could have Dave barking down his ear about business that didn't concern him.
“Who says he's handsome.”
“Penny at reception.”
Alan rolls his eyes. “She'd find a tractor attractive.”
“Are they really paying you that much you can afford a private driver now then?”
Alan shrugs and turns his back to Dave, pouring the boiling water into his mug, watching the water turn brown. “Something like that.”
“And here I was thinking you were on the brink of a hot scandal. I should've known better I suppose. You're hardly that exciting are you, Alan?” Dave laughs loudly, jumping forward and playfully punching Alan in the arm.
For a second Alan wonders if he'd still have a job at Radio Norwich if he were to turn and throw the boiling hot tea in Dave's face. That'd wipe the smug smile off his chops. Instead he mutters a “very funny” through clenched teeth, and listens to Dave's laugh echo through the studio corridor.
“Can you stop?” Alan asks nervously. He knew he shouldn't have had that tea fifteen minutes before he clocked off. It's his curse he can't leave a cup of tea unfinished, but now the repercussions means he's sitting cross-legged in Dan's passenger seat, bladder set to blow.
“Are you okay?” Dan says, and Alan is mildly aware that he's probably sweating.
“I just. I just really need a slash. I don't think I can hold it for the next twenty minutes.”
Dan pulls off into a lay by, which is suitably dark and conveniently bushy. Alan slips out of the car, hearing the seatbelt warning ring out as Dan keeps the engine running.
It feels like it's minus a thousand degrees celsius in contrast to the warm car, as Alan just about manages a few hops some metres away, before he pulls himself free from his trousers, relieving himself onto the frozen muddy ground. He wonders if Dan is watching him in the side view mirror, and turns his back slightly, away from view, just to be sure.
Maybe there's a part of him that wants Dan to see... but see what exactly? As Alan looks down at himself, it's not like he's at his proudest right now. Not with that freezing breeze coming off the North Sea. He sighs, white misty breath swirling out of his mouth as he shakes himself off and tucks himself away.
As he slips back into the passenger seat, Alan shivers, settling into the warmth of the soft leathery interior.
“Better?” Dan asks, with a wry smile. Alan nods before Dan's pulling off his own seatbelt. “You've made me want to go now. There's some anti-bac wipes in the glove compartment if you need them.”
Alan cocks his head. “A man well prepared.”
“Well, you never know where a late night drive is going to take you.”
Alan's hand pauses on the compartment lock as Dan opens the door, and a gust of cold air fills the car. “What does that mean?” he asks, but Dan's already shut the driver's door behind him.
When Alan pulls the glove compartment open an array of things fall out and in his scrambling to catch them he doesn't see what they are until he's gathered them all into his lap. Once they all catch his eye, his mind doesn't quite know how to process them. The condoms are a given, for a man like Dan anyway. The bottle of lubricant was slightly less expected, the handcuffs even more so. Amongst all that there's a pack of Wrigley's extra gum and two medium sized Toblerone's.
Not fancying the idea of Dan finding him with all this in his lap (despite it all belonging to him) Alan rushes to shove it all back inside the glove compartment as quickly as he can possibly manage. He slams the glove compartment shut just as Dan opens the door.
“Did you find them?” Dan asks.
“Very fucking funny!” Alan bursts, and he only realises then that he's panting.
“Yes, very funny Alan, look in the glove compartment, find my collection of sex objects.”
“Sex objects? What a few condoms and some lube? Surely you're not that prudish Alan.”
“Oh, fuck off!” as he goes to undo his seatbelt, hand-eye coordination fails him and he finds himself clambering for about twenty seconds trying to unhook it from it's lock. Finally free from it's confinement, Alan rips it off and gets out of the car.
As he slams the door shut, Dan rolls down his window and shouts after him. “Alan, where are you going!?”
“I'm walking home!” Alan shouts back as he walks ahead, lit only by the cars headlights.
“Oh come on, don't be ridiculous, it's over five miles of road and field! Besides it's minus-five out here and it's half one in the morning. Get back in the car.”
Alan stops walking, but not because he doesn't want to, because he's suddenly finding it hard to breath. His chest tightens, the cold air being sucked into his lungs doing nothing to help. He takes a few steps back and holds onto the side of the car bonnet, steadying himself as he hunches over. He swallows, closing his eyes as he tries to steady his breathing, but the more he thinks about it, the thicker the air feels and the lighter his head gets.
He feels a hand on his bicep, and if he had the strength he'd wrench it away, but he has no feeling left in his legs, and he can just about hear his heart pounding faster with every passing second.
“Alan. What's wrong?”
Dan's voice in his ear somehow makes things a little easier. One of his hands comes off the cold exterior of the car hood and he wafts it in front of his face.
“Come on, calm down. Tell me what's wrong.”
Alan shakes his head, pointing at his throat. He closes his eyes and mouth and takes in one long deep breath through his nose. Out through the mouth. In through the nose. Repeat. That's what the Doctor told him. Out through the mouth, in through the...bloody hell though, it's not helping.
“I can't...” he manages. “I can't breathe...”
“Let's get you back in the car, come on.”
Dan tugs at Alan's arm and pulls him towards him, leading Alan back to the safety of the Lexus' backseat door. With one arm still around him, Dan pulls the handle and gently pushes Alan inside. Instead of getting into the drivers seat however, Dan shuffles in next to him.
A few shorts breaths later and Alan is almost back to normal. He still sounds like he's run a marathon, his head is spinning and his mouth is as dry as the Sahara desert but at least now he's back in the car and his head rolls back falling against the edge of the seat. After a few seconds he's blinking into focus to some sort of normality, only none of this feels normal, Dan's arm around his shoulders and Alan's hand grasping Dan's knee. Finally what he's wanted to say comes out in a bunch of jumbled breathless words;
“We're going to have sex aren't we?”
Dan lets out a snort. “Not if you don't want to.”
Alan's head turns and he meets Dan's gaze.
“I don't know.” he whispers. He's aware that Dan's face is moving towards his very slowly and that his hand hasn't moved from Dan's knee. If anything it keeps moving further up his thigh as Dan inches closer. Just as it reaches that point, and before Dan's lips can cover Alan's, Alan speaks again.
“You don't really oversee a stock delivery at Kitchen Planet at two in the morning do you?”
Dan shakes his head. “No of course not.”
Alan gives Dan a small nervous smile. “Your engine is still running.”
Dan sighs and pulls back from Alan. “So it is.”
As Dan removes himself from the backseat and gets into the drivers, Alan is left in the back alone, suddenly feeling very bereft of body heat. The hand that was moments ago, millimetres from Dan's crotch flexes in his lap. He lays back fully and curls up across the three seats as Dan pulls out of the lay-by and back on to the main road.
“Will you not take me home yet?” Alan pipes up from the back. “Just... I don't know... drive around for a bit.”
He catches Dan's eyes in the rear view mirror. “Yeah, sure.”
Alan falls asleep within five minutes, to the sound of Dan's foot against the accelerator.
The weekend lasts a lifetime. In fact Alan doesn't think he's ever experienced one so long. Sonia calls a couple of times, asks if he wants her to come and visit, but he tells her he's a busy. He even resorts to considering church with Lynn on Sunday morning, but he decides quickly that the last thing he needs right now is some sort of divine intervention from God.
He could call Dan. The option is there but, why hasn't Dan called him first? They'd spent a week now driving through Norwich in the early hours of the morning and now in the broad daylight of a boring weekend, was there nothing they could do?
But he doesn't call. And Dan doesn't call him. And without Dan, Alan really doesn't have anywhere to go.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, they drive for almost double the time it takes to get to Alan's house. He doesn't question Dan about why he takes the turning on to the A47 or why they're driving through Damgate. In fact, Alan doesn't really say much at all. He sits quietly and watches Dan drive, until they reach the edge of the coast in Caister-on-Sea.
The conversation never really starts because it's Alan who lurches forward first, and he knows it has to be him, because if it isn't then it will never happen, and maybe Dan will get sick of him and leave him out here on this cold baron beach to wallow in his own self-piteous desire. So a part of it, he decides, is because he has no choice. The other part is because he wants to, and oh God he wants to so much.
He doesn't know what the hell he's doing, but he knows it feels good, and he knows Dan's hands stroke him in the right places and the kisses are nice and they feel right. He knows that beneath his trousers, Dan is hard and ready and that he can bring Dan off with his mouth and somehow Alan just knows that.
So he stretches out across the seat and he doesn't care that it's messy or that his elbow is crushed between his belly and the handbrake, he just goes for it and it must be okay judging by the sounds Dan makes above him and the way he pulls his hair and says Alan's name when he comes in his mouth.
The next night Dan makes a joke that the chair Alan is sat in stretches all the way back until you're horizontal. Alan huffs in disbelief, but Dan promises him it's true and an hour later he makes good on that promise because he's fucking Alan from behind, on his horizontal passenger seat, whilst Alan grips the headrest of the back seat. He's mildly aware that Dan's hands are bruising his hips, but it's ok in light of the amount of blinding pleasure that's being administered through his body. He doesn't dwell too much on the noises he's making either, because Dan's already said he likes hearing them and he seems to be a bit of a masochist for that, so Alan purposely makes a big deal out of it.
His forehead rhythmically hits the interior of the backseat as Dan works relentlessly behind him. His long legs managed to slot rather comfortably into the footwell as he knelt on the edge of the passenger seat and Alan wonders if Dan has tested this method before.
He decides quickly that he'd rather not explore the thought of Dan having anyone else like this, and he's not sure why but it makes his chest tighten a little.
It takes them a while to recover- for Alan longer, as he rolls onto his side and pulls his trousers up awkwardly. By the time Dan drops him home, the sun is rising. He hobbles across his drive and knows somewhere in the back of his mind, that Dan is watching him from the Lexus with a sense of accomplishment.
“So you pick the car up tomorrow then?”
Alan let's out a small 'mm-hmm' as he focuses on the cat's eyes that line the road.
“Well, if you're ever feeling a little too tired to drive, and you fancy a lift...” Dan trails off and they look at each other for a moment..
“You know twenty percent of car crashes are caused by fatigue. Terrible really when you think about the percentage of people that are night drivers. HGV's and police mostly. Does Ceri know that you do this?”
Alan hardly leaves a space between the question, before he continues with another one. “I mean, does she think you're off receiving kitchen cabinets at two a.m as well, or is she okay with all of this considering you're both... your understanding or whatever you call it.”
He watches Dan's profile as the man smirks. “She probably thinks I'm out shagging another bird.”
“I suppose...” Alan swallows, “I suppose you kind of are. I mean, a partridge is a bird.”
Dan finds that exceptionally funny, and so does Alan really, but he doesn't laugh.
They drive around aimlessly, find a hidden patch of deep dark hidden woods somewhere so Dan can have his way with Alan until the man's practically whimpering that he can't take anymore... and then it's literally time for Dan to actually go into work.
“I think I might walk from here, actually.” Alan says, tongue between his teeth as he watches Dan tie up the full and used condom.
“Really? Do you even know how to get back from here on foot?”
“Yeah, one mile up across that field there and I'm practically home and dry. In the figurative sense and the literal.”
“If you're sure.”
“Look at it out there, not a cloud in the sky! A proper English winter's morning.”
Dan lets him out because he knows once Alan's made up his mind, the man's not for turning.
He watches Dan drive away and walks up onto the road and keeps watching until the car disappears from view.
The reality of course, was that he had no idea where he was, but the woods looked welcoming and empty, and hell- he needed a good scream.