It's been a very long time since I wrote a fic, I know. Real life gets in the way of my imaginary life on Kelsall Street. Sev, I still owe you a domestic Joetina, and I promise to get that done soon. Hopefully by the end of the month.
I've been rewatching Bread just to get back into it, and this idea just stuck in my head, and I had to get it out. I thought it would also serve to help me get back into the swing of writing the characters before I embark on any more serious fics.
This one's based off a conversation between Billy and Adrian in Series 5, Episode 12 (or series 6 going by the erroneous DVD labels) when Billy discovered photos of Nellie and Derek, although it's set a year before the show starts.
'There's definitely somethin' funny going on.'
Adrian glanced up from his paper to be greeted with a view of Billy's backside as his younger brother leaned forward, peering out of the front window. He shook his head, straightened his tie and tried again to read.
'Definitely somethin' funny.'
The vein in Adrian's temple started to throb. He squinted at the words, forcing his way through the same sentence twice.
'Somethin' goin' on!'
'Oh, can you please sit down!' A slapping noise echoed through the parlour as Adrian dropped his paper to his lap. 'Is it too much to ask for a few minutes of peace before I go to work without bein' privy to your repetitive gob and snooping?!'
'I'm not snoopin'!' Billy turned around, giving Adrian as forbidding a stare as a baby-faced, pimply fifteen-year-old lacking in the height department could give, 'I'm just observing the world! I'm perceptive, that's what I am! I notice things.'
He stepped closer, jabbing himself in the chest, and Adrian's worst fears were confirmed when he noticed the camera in the lad's hand.
'I…' he said grandly, 'have theories.'
'Oh, God,' he groaned. 'Not again! How many times?! Just because you see someone standing near someone else, just because you are able to take pictures of people standing in the general vicinity of other people, doesn't mean you're catching people out in any sort of acts they shouldn't be partaking in!'
'Par-what? I'm gettin' evidence, that's what I'm doin'! There's people all around me havin' secret affairs! Remember that photo I developed of Jack and Phyllis Foyle? They were affairin'!'
'Oh, so talking is…' Adrian couldn't bring himself to use Billy's made-up word. He was, after all, an intellectual with A-levels in real estate. He had a certain image to uphold. '…havin' an affair, is it?! So I suppose that photo Mam took of you on the steps with Betty Carlisle is evidence of a torrid bout of adultery, then!'
Billy's face went blank for a moment. 'What's torrid?'
Adrian contemplated defining the word in a manner befitting his irritation, but a glance at his watch stopped him.
'I'm going to work,' he said pompously, smoothing down his jacket and folding his paper. 'To my – dignified—job, where I can, for a few precious hours, find refuge from the crass behaviour and general boorishness that has gone on in this house of late…'
'And all the affairin'.'
In his fury, Adrian felt the familiar itch that indicated his rash was returning.
'Mam should take that camera off you!' Adrian snatched up his briefcase, noting proudly to himself that he had struck the perfect balance between angry and elegant with the action. 'Honestly! Any more ridiculous revelations and my temper will be hangin' by a thread! Hangin' by a thread!'
'But Adrian! I need to expose our Joey!'
'I don't want to hear! Whoever our Joey has—or has not—been consorting with, that's his business! He doesn't need to be the victim of your camera, and your vicious little gob!' Straightening his collar, Adrian turned his back on his brother and stepped out into the street.
'…and not only are we a large family, in need of all the milk bottles to which we are entitled, with an aged Grandad who requires the calcium to keep his old bones going…' Joey's voice wafted up from the kerb, and Adrian glanced over his shoulder to see his eldest brother towering menacingly over the intimidated milkman, 'but we are a large, united family, and if we were to find out that you had been withholding from us the bottles to which our family is entitled, in order to resell them, well, we're not a family known for our patience…'
Oh, it was all too much. First he had to deal with Billy's wild fantasies, ridiculous words and unstoppable gob, then he had to witness Joey behaving like a mobster, and it wasn't even eight o'clock yet. It was difficult bearing the cross of being the only Boswell with integrity sometimes. Shaking his head, and comforting himself with the thought that a full day of real estate, honest work and conversation with colleagues as intelligent as he was awaited, he made his way to his car.
If he had waited a moment more, he would have missed it. But Adrian was not known for being a lucky fellow, and as he turned towards his car, he caught a horrifying glimpse of a camera poking through the parlour curtains, followed by a shock of curly hair and an infuriatingly smug young face peering out the window.
There's something funny going on! Billy mouthed triumphantly, gesturing in the direction of Joey and the milkman, and Adrian, in his annoyance, released the clutch and stalled the car.
'Right, you little bleeder!' Jack stormed into the kitchen, just in time to find Nellie clasping her hands for lunchtime prayers and Billy commencing his pre-prayer scoff. He grabbed the shirt collar of the latter, thrusting a small square of paper in his face.
'What's all this, then?'
'Jack!' Nellie scolded. 'There's no need for violence when we're about to say prayers!'
'I said,' Jack ignored his Mam, 'what—is—this?!'
'Come on, now, cut all that,' Joey leaned across the table, snatching the paper away and examining it. 'Oh, God, not that photo of Jack and Phyllis Forsyth again, son! Just because we have a camera, and just because people happen to stand around in close proximity to one another, it doesn't give you licence to go around takin' pictures you can spread rumours with!'
'He was at it this morning, as well,' Adrian piped up.
'Aw, hey, son.'
Billy, who had stuffed a forkful of mashed potato into his mouth and was concentrating more on eating than his telling-off, looked confused.
'That's evidence, that,' he said, spraying bits of food all over Adrian.
'If my dignity at this table wasn't hangin' by a thread as it was—'
'One grievance at a time, son,' Joey said, shaking his head. 'One grievance at a time. We'll sort out this photography business out first. Now, sunshine, if you can't use that camera responsibly, and keep that hole in the centre of your face shut when you come across a photograph you think is incriminatin'…'
'That has summat to do with criminals, doesn't it?'
'Yes, Billy, it does…if you can't be responsible, son, we'll have to take that camera off you.'
'Eh! You can't do that! It's mine!'
'It is not yours!' Nellie snapped, dropping her fork to her plate. 'That camera belonged to your father—it's one of the few decent possessions he owned…or it was, before he went off with that…that huge-chested Irish—'
'—well he's gone now, so that makes it mine, doesn't it?' Billy interrupted, before the word tart could echo through the kitchen, 'I am his son and heir, after all, aren't I?'
'Typically, an heir is the eldest son,' Adrian said, eager to contribute to the conversation in a manner which showed off his large body of general knowledge, 'which means if Dad were to bequeath anything to anyone, it would go to Joey. And I think I speak for us all when I say it's most relieving to know things are arranged that way and the most prized objects belonging to this family won't find themselves in your incapable hands.'
'I don't know about that,' Billy raised one eyebrow, and Adrian dreaded whatever words were about to parade from his brother's gob, 'I don't know that we'd want someone lookin' after Dad's stuff who has funny goings-on with the milkman!'
Nellie's fork fell to her plate for the second time as she began vigorously Crossing herself.
'The milkman?! Oh, Joey!'
'There is nothin' going on with me and the milkman—where do you get these ideas from, son?!'
'I saw 'im!' Billy shouted, addressing the table at large, 'I saw 'im on the street this mornin', consorting with the milkman! Adultering!'
'If you had thought to ask, son,' Joey said, somehow managing to remain calm (Adrian would have to ask him how he did that), 'you would have known that I had a frank discussion with the milkman about him cheatin' us out of two pints yesterday.'
'Never know what they're up to, these milkmen,' Nellie said, having immediately calmed. 'They think we just won't notice if they slip items from our order and resell them, but they don't have to deal with a starving grandad, do they?'
'Then why,' Billy insisted, jamming his finger under Joey's nose, 'were you leanin' towards him?'
'That's what people do in conversation,' said Jack. 'They lean towards each other and talk to each other. Not like you, leapin' up and shoutin' at the sky.'
Billy slumped his head to his hand, defeated.
'Nothin' interesting ever goes on in this 'ouse. I thought I'd been really perceptive.'
Joey smiled, reaching out and nudging him.
'Well, instead of spying on other people, tryin' to force the excitement, go out there into the world and make summat exciting happen for yourself, eh?'
Billy raised his head to nod, his curls flopping about his face, and then, with a grimace, handed over the camera.
'Yeah. You're right, Joey. I will. Yeah.'
Knowing the conversation was coming to an end, and eating could recommence, Adrian hastened to serve himself a scoop of carrots before his younger brother turned his attentions to taking the lion's share and soiling the remainder. And, just as he had predicted, half a second later, Billy's hands had dived into the depths of the vegetable dish.
'Eh, Adrian! You'll never guess what I just saw!'
Well, so much for Billy's resolution. They'd had a whole two days without any snooping. While this was a record, it was true, Adrian had been hoping the tranquillity and lack of Billy-gossip might have lasted just one more. He had almost pulled his thread back together.
'It's an outrage! A scandal!' Billy burst through the vestibule into the parlour, the unmistakeable shape of the camera hanging from around his neck. 'Just wait til I get these pictures developed! I'll prove to all of you! There's affairin' goin' on in this family, I said! And now I have proof! Real proof!'
It would have been easy for Adrian to break down, scream and shout, storm away from Billy. But he still had to arrive at work with some appearance of dignity, and so, bottling up his irritation as best he could, he simply stood, slapped down his paper dramatically (well, he was artistic after all; leaving without one temperamental action wouldn't be authentic) and walked out the front door.
'But Adrian!' he heard the yell waft up the street as he pressed on, determined not to listen. 'There's somethin' going on between our Joey and the DHSS lady!'