The first day was interesting.
Jim had at least some exposure to the mechanics and logistics of moving in with a partner. And Ross had lived with Carter and Holmewood for the past six years so technically he should have had a clue. But apparently the two of them combined seemed to cancel each other out. That and the frankly mind-blowing thought of being able to shag anywhere at any time with no restrictions whatsoever appeared to have caused both of them to metamorphose into rambling idiots.
Not only that but the cottage itself was not without its quirks. They knew what they were getting into and there were already quotes for work that needed to be done, although they had taken the precaution of leaving themselves a month before they moved in to get the most important things like the plumbing and electrical wiring done. The cleaning company had given it a thorough detail from top to bottom and so they were assuming that when they walked up to the front door on their official moving in day, things would be fairly sorted out.
Jim closed the door of his car and looked up at the house that was now theirs. The words had a nice ring to them.
Their home. Theirs. His and Ross’.
He spent some time looking at the front, the whitewashed plaster setting off the thatched roof with the wildly overgrown rambling rose trailing up one side. The front garden was bordered on one side by a footpath that led down into the woodlands behind the house and a thick stand of trees on the other. Jim knew that the back garden was a stretch of flat lawn, the grass about a foot long by now, and then the woodland behind. He ran a critical eye over the windows, which had had the old wooden frames replaced with new ones, and then went to the front window and peered inside. The house was in darkness.
He heard the sound of the Land Rover and turned, watching Ross pull up behind his car. He was towing the trailer behind him that held their combined collection of boxes and Jim’s bike. There were more boxes in the back of the Land Rover and Jim’s GTI was packed with various bags. He smiled as Ross killed the engine and got out.
‘You got here quick.’ Ross said as he came towards him. He kissed Jim when he got to him and smiled. ‘Fucking boy racer.’
‘Not my fault you’ve got an old man’s car.’ Jim retorted.
‘I’ll have you know that is one of the finest examples of British engineering.’ Ross said. ‘Unlike your foreign car.’
‘Yeah.’ Jim grinned. ‘My foreign car that hasn’t failed an MOT in eleven years and never breaks down.’
‘Technicalities.’ Ross said. He stretched and yawned. Jim watched him with amusement.
‘You’ve only driven from Portsmouth.’ he said.
‘Yes, but I didn’t sleep very well.’ Ross rubbed his eyes. ‘It’s kind of hard to sleep with you three screeching like banshees until three in the morning.’ They’d spent the previous night crashing on the girls’ living room floor.
‘You could have stayed up.’ Jim said. ‘You missed the last two films.’
‘One was enough, thank you.’ Ross said. ‘And I had no urge to watch that stuff you dug up. It looked ancient.’
‘Caddyshack is a fucking classic, Ross.’ Jim said. ‘You just have no taste.’
‘I know. That’s why I’m with you.’ Ross laughed and narrowly avoided the swipe aimed at him. ‘Now stop dicking around looking at the flowers and help me unpack.’
‘No.’ Jim said. He held out a hand to Ross. ‘You got your keys?’ Ross frowned but dug them out of his pocket. They were on a keyring shaped like an anchor, a present Jim had given him the night before.
‘You forget yours?’ he asked.
‘No.’ Jim said. ‘But it will be easier to use yours.’ Then, without giving Ross any warning whatsoever, he bent over and heaved Ross over one shoulder, making him splutter in indignation.
‘Put me the fuck down!’ he said, trying to wriggle out of Jim’s grasp, but Jim simply held on and eventually Ross folded his arms and huffed.
‘You done?’ Jim asked and got a snort in reply. ‘Can we go in the house now?’
‘I should be the one doing the carrying.’ Ross muttered. ‘I’m older than you.’
‘By six fucking months.’ Jim replied. He gave Ross a slap on the backside, grinning when that set off a fresh bout of wriggling. ‘Let’s get you inside, Mrs Hawkins.’
‘Fuck you.’ Ross grumbled. ‘And you’re the one with the name badge, remember.’ He sighed as Jim carried him to the front door and then turned so he could unlock it, which was unsurprisingly difficult because he was hanging upside down. Finally he got the door open and Jim carried him into the front hall. The house wasn’t big, and it was old, but they had both loved it on first sight, Ross when he bought it and Jim when Ross had shown it to him. Of course it helped that Rose had had some insight. And it was only ten minutes’ walk to Kimmeridge Bay where Jim liked to go swimming and ten minutes’ drive to Lulworth Range. Jim’s boots resounded on the scarred wooden floor, and then he set Ross down. They looked around them and then caught each other’s eye and grinned like idiots. Jim reached out and smacked Ross in the stomach with the back of his hand, making him double over.
‘Tag, you’re it.’ he laughed and then took off heading down the hall and up the stairs.
‘Wanker!’ Ross shouted after him before bursting into laughter and chasing him down the hall. Jim was halfway up the stairs by the time Ross got to the foot of them, and he bounded up two at a time until he got to the top, hearing Jim’s low breathless giggles coming from the room that would be their new bedroom.
There was a lot of discussion over respective heights. There had been measuring and confirmation that Ross was exactly four inches taller than Jim was. But now those four extra inches made a difference. And in his excitement, Ross had completely forgotten that the cottage he’d bought for him and his paramour was dated to the eighteenth century. And this meant low hanging beams.
Jim heard the howl and immediately jumped up off their unmade bed and hurtled onto the landing to find Ross sitting on the floor, hand to his head and gritting his teeth in pain.
‘What the fuck?’ he exclaimed only for Ross to point an accusing finger at the low hanging lintel that crossed the entrance to the landing.
‘That’s fucking coming the fuck down.’ he gritted out.
The water was thankfully connected and Jim dug a dish cloth from the kitchen box and an ice pack from the coolbox that would double up as their fridge until the fridge was delivered the next day. He wet the cloth and then wrapped the ice pack in it and went to where Ross was sitting on their kitchen table (a thankfully very sturdy oak affair donated by Rose from the pub storeroom). He pressed it gently to the now egg sized bump on Ross’ forehead and looked at him critically.
‘I still think we should take you to A & E.’ he said and Ross grimaced at the cold.
‘No.’ he said. ‘I know what a concussion feels like, and this is just a bad bump. I’ll be fine and I’m not missing our first night in our house.’ Jim sighed in resignation.
‘All right, but the second you feel dizzy or nauseous off we fucking go.’ he said. ‘You’re going to have to remember that or there’s going to be a lot of these.’
‘Bloody dwarf ancestors that’s what.’ Ross muttered. ‘Why the fuck was everyone so short back then.’ He saw Jim open his mouth to deliver a no doubt very academic explanation and waved him off. ‘That was a rhetorical question, Jim. I really don’t want to fucking know.’ He sighed. ‘It’s all right for you, you fucking duck instinctively.’
‘And you sit cramped up in fucking tanks.’ Jim replied, smiling at the grumpy face. ‘How the hell you do this is beyond me.’ He removed the ice pack and have the bump a butterfly soft kiss. ‘Silly boy.’ He placed the pack in Ross’ hand and pressed it back in place. ‘Keep that on until it gets warm, then we’ll change it out for a cold one.’
‘Where are you going?’ Ross asked, a little plaintively.
‘To unpack, unless you’re planning on living like this.’ Jim said grinning. He left Ross on the table and started a steady march between the house and the car, carrying the boxes from the trailer and the Land Rover, then grabbing the bags from the back of his car. He was sweating by the time he’d finished and came into the kitchen with the coolbox, heaving it up onto the table next to Ross and opening it, fishing out a beer and then knocking the cap off with the edge of the table. Ross smiled at that. He’d taught Jim the trick when they’d first lived together for those two months which now seemed so far away, although it was only a year before. He handed Ross the beer and then opened a second one for himself. ‘How’s the head?’
‘Hurts like a motherfucker.’ Ross winced as he lowered the ice pack for Jim to have a look.
‘You’re going to have one hell of a bruise tomorrow. No headboard banging for you tonight, Poldark.’
‘Fuck off again.’ Ross retorted. ‘We’re breaking in that fucking bed, even if I have to hold you down and ride you.’
‘Now that is a very interesting prospect.’ Jim grinned. ‘But maybe we should see how you feel.’ He looked around and then located the light switch but when he went to turn it on there was a distinct lack of illumination. ‘Uh, Ross? Did you call Southern Electric?’
‘What for?’ Ross asked, seemingly unconcerned.
‘So that we have that wonderful modern convenience known as electricity?’ Jim said. ‘It’s pretty dark and I don’t really feel like stumbling around the house.’
‘You were supposed to do that.’ Ross said. ‘I was in charge of water and council tax and you were supposed to do electricity and Sky.’
‘No.’ Jim shook his head. ‘Look.’ He dug his phone out of his pocket and scrolled to his notebook and opened the list he had on there. ‘See? Jim’s shit is get the Sky set up, buy the fridge and get the broadband sorted. Ross’ shit is sort out the utilities.’ He waved the phone at Ross, who grabbed it from him and frowned at it.
‘Fuck.’ he said. ‘I may have gotten things confused.’ He looked despondent. ‘Sorry, babe.’
‘That’s okay.’ Jim said. ‘Not a train smash. We can call them tomorrow and get it sorted. I’ve got a torch around here somewhere, and I’m pretty sure we have some candles in the kitchen box.’
‘We do?’ Ross asked.
‘Always be prepared.’ Jim said going to one of the boxes and starting to dig around.
‘I thought you were a Sea Cadet, not a Scout.’ Ross laughed and Jim held up two fingers at him.
‘I am about to provide you with fucking light and you’re being snippy.’ he said. ‘I should just drop you down the fucking well.’
‘There’s a well?’ Ross asked and Jim looked at him in disbelief.
‘Did you even read the property brochure beyond ‘It is a house’?’ he asked and then made a victorious noise and held up a pack of candles and a box of matches. ‘Which box are the plates in?’
‘Not sure.’ Ross said. The plates were another donation from Rose that Ross had gone to pick up the week before. ‘She’s already sealed it so I kind of just put it in with the rest. He saw the horrified look on Jim’s face at his lack of system. ‘They must be around here somewhere.’
‘Fuck’s sake.’ Jim got up. He went to Ross, ripping open the pack of candles and handing one to Ross, then put the others on the table. ‘We need to find the one with my stuff in, the torch will be in there. And the plates so we can stick the candles to them. You’ve clearly never been through a blackout before.’ He opened the matches and lit the candle. ‘You’re just going to have to follow me around until we find what we’re looking for.’
So for the next twenty minutes that’s what they did, Jim going from room to room and checking the boxes, looking for the unmarked one from Rose and the one that had his stuff in. Ross wandered along after him, candle in one hand held up in a manner befitting a housekeeper in a bad horror film.
In fact that was what set it off. After they’d finished their beers, they searched upstairs and downstairs for the unmarked box and then finally found it in the far corner of the living room, under another one. Jim dug his bosun’s knife out of his pocket where it habitually resided when he wasn’t on ship, flicked the blade open and cut the tape. he peered into the depths of the box. It was completely dark now and he motioned for Ross to come closer.
‘Aziz, light!’ he intoned and then started giggling hysterically. Ross sighed and shook his head. He’d pretty much gotten used to missing at least half of the conversation because of Jim’s habit of talking in obscure film references but this one he knew. Jim loved the Fifth Element with a passion he didn’t understand in the slightest but he liked Bruce Willis and he had to admit the film had its moments.
‘Funny.’ he replied and moved so that the candle was closer and Jim could see what he was doing. Jim stood up, a saucer in hand and took the candle from him, tilting it so molten wax ran onto the surface of the saucer and then stuck the candle to it.
‘See?’ he said. ‘Instant candlestick.’ Ross raised his eyebrows at him and gave him a disgusted look.
‘You’re enjoying this.’ he said accusingly and Jim smiled.
‘So what if I am?’ he asked. ‘Aren’t you happy?’
‘No.’ Ross grumbled. ‘My head hurts, we have no electricity and you’re going to be making candle puns for the rest of the night.’
‘Aha!.’ Jim was now digging in another box after cutting it open. He came out with a black Maglite, one of the big ones, and flipped it in a series of turns before catching it neatly. Then he switched it on and the powerful beam lit up the living room. ‘I knew it was here somewhere.’
‘So what do I do with this then?’ Ross nodded at the candle. Jim shrugged.
‘Put it back in the kitchen.’ he said and then their eyes met and the corners of Jim’s mouth started twitching madly and Ross could see he was desperately holding it on. He sighed again, making it sound as exasperated as possibly, but chuckling on the inside. Jim was so very predictable sometimes. Fortunately he knew this reference as well.
‘Oh, for fuck’s sake.’ he said. ‘Just fucking say it so we can move the bloody hell on.’ Jim shook his head.
‘No.’ he said. ‘I’ll be good.’ He was visibly biting the insides of his cheeks and his eyes were sparkling.
‘Idiot.’ Ross said and walked out of the living room. Just as he got into the hall Jim called to him.
‘Put the candle back!’ There was the sound of frantic laughter.
‘You are ridiculous!’ Ross replied even louder, going into the kitchen.
‘I love you.’ Jim shouted. Ross smiled.
‘I love you too.’ he shouted back.