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20p For The Bus Fare

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“Keep it coming, keep it coming, keep it coming,” shouted Lee and Lance beckoning the Land Rover that trundled sickly towards them. “Stop!”
A man emerged from the car with a gormless smile to greet the two mechanics. “Hallo! So good of you to see to me when I’m in a spot of bother.”
An amused Lee shook the man’s extended hand. “No trouble sir! What’s up with the motor then?” Lance studied the customer from behind his superior. It was uncanny how much the man resembled Lee. He was tall, unmistakably posh and, Lance noted especially, handsome in a rugged sort of way except for an astonishing set of buck teeth that were prevalent when he smiled. Which seemed to be often.
“Oh, well I was rather hoping you could tell me that,” replied the customer cheerfully, “I just bought the thing for a fishing escapade in the Lake District when it just stopped abruptly after two days.”
Lee looked the car over for a minute and then confided the obvious to Lance. “No petrol, “ he whispered. He then tutted dramatically, “yeah’ dear oh dear! Your motor’s knackered! Will need days to get to root of problem!” The man’s brows furrowed momentarily at the bad news, “oh golly that is bad news I’m glad you told me! What a bloody nice bloke you are!” he proclaimed. He smiled again. Lance wandered up to him, “‘ere ‘aven’t you got enormous chompers,” he remarked matter-of-factly. Lee gave Lance a jab, “LANCE you can’t just talk about the man’s bugs bunny like pearly whites in front of him! You gotta be suave about it and say sommin’ like “‘aven’t you got a prominent smile sir!” Lance seemed to absorb Lee’s every word attentively, he nodded turning to the client. “‘aven’t you got a prominent smile sir!” He exclaimed back to him. The man looked taken aback as he gushed. “Oh gosh, really? You flatterer you!” blushing slightly, he extended his hand to the smaller man, “Hallo, Tim, Tim Nice-But-Dim” Lance eagerly reciprocated, “Nah, that ain’t me, Lance is my name. ow d’you do?”
Lee shook his head bemusedly at this exchange then excused himself to Tim as he pulled Lance to one side for a moment. “Look Lance, do us a favour will you?” Lee insisted, attempting to gain Lee’s focus. “Yeah, course Lee wha?” Lance replied instantly. “Right, I want you to take the gentleman away from the garage for a while, a couple of hours at least, this Rover’s got *80 grand’s* worth of parts here I’ll strip them and sell them easy, bosh” Lee was clearly excited by the prospect, but Lance looked unsure, “isn’t that like stealing?” He inquired quizzically. Lee rolled his eyes, “the motor needs fixing donnit? ‘Ow can we fix it if we don’t strip it down first?,” He saw Lance still looking unsure. “Look Don’t worry mate,” Lee placed a reassuring arm around him, “we’ll replace it with cheaper parts simple, then he won’t have to pay so much will he!” Lance eased, “oh I see that’s alright then innit!” He chuffed at how silly he could be, then frowned again, “um…where should I take him?” He asked hesitantly. Lee rolled his eyes, “I don’t know mate!,” he cried, “Anywhere! Down the pub or something” Lance was amazed by such a genius idea, “Pub, right!” Lee suppressed a sigh and then stared directly at Lance. Pronouncing every word very carefully, Lee stressed, “Just keep him out. Do not let him out of your sight. I do not want him coming in here all day, got it?”
Lance nodded obediently, giving an enthusiastic thumbs up. To Lee’s amusement, Lance swaggered up to Tim. Tim, who had started drawing pictures on the rover’s frosted glass, turned to face Lance with a cheeky grin. For reasons he couldn’t work out, he suddenly felt rather shy. He’d only ever asked girls down to the pub before…and Lee -though no asking was involved they just like went. “Sorry,” Tim mumbled apologetically, “probably should be taking more of an interest in the state of the rover shouldn’t I? Never did know as much as you chaps obviously do on the topic haha.” Lance felt the need to frantically dismiss his worries, placing a hand on his shoulder, “Nah, don’t worry about it mate. Don’t look like it’ll be fixed for another couple of days anyway um…listen,” Lance didn’t know how to say it, “I- um, I love- NO” his eyes widened, a blush appeared at the notion that he’d almost used his killer chat-up line on him. Tim stared at him obliviously. Lance spoke very fast, “y-you seem like a decent bloke so um d’you fancy going down to the pub for a drink? Y’know take your mind off the pain of a broken motor maybe haha” feeling breathless, he grinned nervously up at him. Tim’s face brightened at the thought, “Oh brill! A top notch idea Lance. I’m sure I can leave the car to your mate-“ Lee swooped in, ready to hurry them away from the garage, “Of course you can squire! Leave it all to me and I promise you’ll get the quote you deserve.”

Left standing outside the garage, Tim nudged Lance gently, “I say, what a bloody nice bloke.”
-
Lance entered the pub and held the door open for Tim who stumbled in behind him. Waltzing up to the bar, “‘Allo mate! Make mine a pint and-,“ it dawned on Lance that he hadn’t the faintest idea what Tim’s usual was. “What you ‘aving then?” he asked. Tim looked puzzled by this question, “oh crumbs, I hadn’t given it much thought I’ve never frequented this establishment before what do they sell?” It was Lance’s turn to be baffled, “uh-well, it’s a pub innit! They got pubby drinks don’t they!” This fascinated Tim, “Do they really. Well, I say treat me like one of the people you normally invite to go down the pub with you. I’ll have what they’re having!” Tim proclaimed proudly. Lance blinked. He’d only ever invited girls. Hesitantly, he turned back to the barman, “and a cream duh-mintay mate cheers.”

They waited for their drinks in an awkward silence. Frequently exchanging polite grins. Lance wasn’t sure how he was meant to keep Tim engaged all night. He had to get the ball rolling, “Um- so what is it you do then?” Lance mustered the courage to ask. Tim looked delighted to engage, “oh, I dabble in this and that you know. Mostly I’m at the Foreign Office. Snore, snore haha.” Lance nodded in interest, “oh right! What do you do with Foreign offices then? Decorate them and that? What makes a French Office different to a British Office then?” Tim stared blankly back. “Hahaha I’m afraid your knowledge of foreign affairs may be a bit over my head. I just seem to shake hands a lot and drink copious amounts of wine! It’s bloody dreary.” On that note, their drinks had arrived. As he handed Tim’s drink to him, Lance forgot himself again, “Here you are darli-“ unfortunately, this time it didn’t slip under Tim’s radar. “Oh I-“ Tim floundered for words, blushing. “TIM. Here you go Tim,” Lance interjected immediately. Tim clumsily retrieved his cocktail. “yah, many thanks…” he mumbled, confused. After some time, Lance thought he’d start the conversation again. He didn’t want to let Lee down. “So, this fishing escapade in the Lake District who were you going with? Your girlfriend or wha?” Lance felt sure that talking about the man’s girl would take their minds of the awkwardness of earlier. “Oh, hardly,” replied Tim with a hopeless look, “I’ve never been much good with girls actually.” Lance nodded in understanding, “Nah, I know what you mean! Me too I never know what to say to ‘em. I’m hopeless with girls!” Tim shook his head sympathetically, “That’s ruddy rough luck, so you’ve only got the chappy at the garage at the moment then?” Lance’s eyes widened, “Well, yeah but not in the way a girl would be in my life!” he cried. Tim didn’t pick up on Lance’s alarm. “You poor old bugger, it’s a shame too seeing as you’re quite an attractive bloke.” Lance felt flustered again. “Yeah, thanks, anyway,” steering the subject away from whatever this was, “if you wanna talk to girls though, I think you have to start with a cracking story to entice them, you know to bring ‘em in!” He explained expressively. “A story,” Tim was amazed, like he’d never considered such advice before, “Wow. Well, what sort of story do you tell, maybe I can riff off that.”
Lance felt himself relax at last. He smiled, eager to retell his iconic tale that he’d only recited to Lee this morning.

“Well, first of all, this bird and I went to the pub. Yeah, and I had beef burgers, chips and beans. 2 beef burgers, 27 chips and 104 baked beans. I mean, Couple beef burgers, almost 30 chips and about 100 beans. And I said, ‘oh look 104 baked beans. Last time I brought a bird ‘ere I had 125, 27 beans though, which is two more than last time-“ perhaps it was the boyish way in which he told it, but Tim had gotten completely enraptured by Lance’s tale.
“Really?!” Tim exclaimed with astonishment. Lance smiled shyly. His stories never went down nearly as well with the girls if he was honest., “Yeh,” Lance nodded. Tim’s mind was still taking in his story, “So, I suppose what you *lost* in beans, you *gained* in chips!” He declared. Lance eyes widened in delight, “Exactly!” Tim had gotten what he was saying. He told Lee it was a winner. Tim rested his head in his hand, looking reflective, “Fascinating!”
Lance was overwhelmed by Tim’s outpouring of praise. “Yeh,” he replied with a shrug. Tim’s eyes found his, “What an interesting bloke you are,” his sincerity deepened Lance’s blush, “D’You know, my sister she counts peas.” Tim offered excitedly. Lance was pleased that his story was receiving such engagement, “Really?” he asked genuinely curious to learn of other people who shared his enthusiasm.
“True,” Tim stated matter-of-factly. Lance was enjoying this conversation now, “Blimey, I’d like to meet her. What’s her name?” Tim began fiddling with his cufflinks absent-mindedly, “Oh Melonia,” he replied without looking up. Lance’s smile flickered, “Oh,” wouldn’t it be a coincidence if it was the same Melonia he’d taken out the other night. There was a date that hadn’t gone well.
They sat in satisfied silence for a few more minutes, then Tim downed his drink.
“Right Lance,” he smiled warmly at his new found friend, “this was absolutely wizard, but I should probably be heading off,” he straightened his jacket as he got up. Lance would’ve thanked him for the talk and sent him on his way, but then he remembered his duty. “Don’t let him out of your sight.”
Lance huffed at this chore, then ran to stall Tim. “Y-you sure about that mate? You won’t ‘ave another drink?,” he reached out and grabbed at his arm. When Tim turned to look at him they ended up unexpectedly close to each other. “Oh-“ Tim was surprised, Lance let go, and stared at his shoes. “If you want mate…no pressure,” Lance muttered. Tim just smiled innocently and rested a hand on his shoulder, “Thanks awfully, but I really should push off and check on the rover.” Lance tutted, this was harder than he thought. After thanking Lance sincerely, Tim made his exit from the pub. Lance followed him out into the cold evening air.
-
Outside the pub, Lance ran up to meet Tim at the pedestrian crossing. He stood awkwardly next to him, hands in his pockets. Tim didn’t notice Lance at first, when finally he spotted him his cheer was so genuine that one would have believed that they had reunited after spending 2 months apart and not, in fact, 2 minutes. “Oh, how funny to find you here! Are you going this way too, oh I suppose you would be going in my direction seeing as you work at the garage haha!” Tim conversed pleasantly. Lance sighed, fidgeting not knowing how to manoeuvre him away from Lee and the car. “Yeah,” Lance began distractedly, “listen mate, being honest I really don’t think that motor’s going to be ready for yonks.” Tim nodded, but didn’t change course. Lance then decided to be a bit more forceful. “‘Ere mate,” he grabbed hold of Tim’s arm again and pulled gently, persuading him away from the lights, “why don’t you get ‘ome before it gets too late ey? Get the bus coz you’ve got no car to use right now have ya?” To Lance’s relief Tim allowed himself to be walked ever so slowly towards the bus stop. “I say, I suppose you’re right Lance. I hadn’t thought about how I’d get home. What a clever bunch of lads you mechanics are!” Tim concluded. Lance gave a clumsy smile as he continued to pull at Tim’s arm as they walked, “Yeah no worries,” replied Lance hastily to the compliments which seemed to be second nature out of Tim’s mouth.

Lance was out of breath when they finally found the bus stop. He’d not thought to let go of Tim’s arm. “Well, ‘ere we are Tim. Shouldn’t be too long now,” Lance assured him cheerfully. Pleased with himself for succeeding in his mission. Tim smiled in response, focusing down the road for this supposed bus. “Splendid, you’re a great sport for seeing me home,” Tim stressed gratefully. He looked down at Lance who, standing as close as he was, blushed again. Lance shrugged humbly. Tim drew his attention back to the road ahead with a vacant smile. Then he frowned and his face contorted. Lance’s grip was broken as Tim frisked at himself frantically. He laughed nervously as he remembered he never carried cash. Tim turned to Lance with a hesitant expression. Lance looked up at him with big eyes, unsure of what the problem was. “Tell me,” Tim began sheepishly, “could you lend me 20p for the bus home.” Lance gasped at the proposition. A line straight out of his playbook. He coughed and sputtered as his face turned deep pink. He wanted to back out, to run back to the garage to have a good laugh at the situation, but he’d frozen in place. If Lance thought about it, casting his mind back to Lee’s demand, “Do Not Let Him Out Of Your Sight,” leaving him at the bus stop would go against this clear rule after all. Lance’s loyalty had never faltered and wasn’t going to now under quite challenging circumstances. So, the brave man, though not meeting his eye, took hold of Tim’s hand. “I’d love to,” he managed to say. Lance didn’t even stop to see the confused expression on Tim’s face before using the courage he’d mustered to lean in closer and kiss him. Tim made a startled noise as Lance backed him into the polycarbonate wall of the bus shelter. He didn’t think to push Lance away though. The kiss was frantic and inexperienced. Their teeth clashed as they moved clumsily against one another. Tim’s eyes fluttered shut. Lance was demanding, holding firmly onto Tim who’d seemingly lost himself under Lance’s spell. Lance was only grateful that the experience was so enjoyable. Adamant that they remain like this for as long as they could, he was more serious about the task at hand than he’d ever been about anything. The cloud lifted when Tim moaned hoarsely into him. Lance and Tim pulled apart breathlessly. They shyly met each other’s eyes. Lance’s head was dizzy, he laughed idiotically at the situation he’d gotten himself into. Tim, deadly embarrassed by revealing his pleasure too much, many a similar thing had happened to him at school and it’d always been merely a practical joke on him, returned the laugh. “Haha, crikey,” Tim snorted, his clumsy smile returning as firmly as before, “I always thought my first snog would be with a piece of totty,” Tim exclaimed with staggered breath. They both sniggered, still leaning against each other. “Yeah, so did I,” confessed Lance, “funny how things work out init?”
They then proceeded to talk comfortably about football, the weather, the rubbish on the telly - all the things they’d never be able to talk about with girls. The bus approached in time and Tim glanced at Lance longingly. Coyly, Tim grasped Lance’s hand this time and dragged him towards the bus. “I, uh, think you’re coming with me.”