Hideout

Characters: CORPORAL DANNY JENNINGS, early 20s SERGEANT STEVE HARRIS, late 20s STEVE struggles across the stage, dragging DANNY alongside him. Both in combat uniform, DANNY clasps a blood-soaked cloth to his side. STEVE:Come on, Jennings. Nearly there. DANNY pulls back, doubled up in pain. DANNY:I can’t, Sarge. STEVE:Yes, you bloody can. (grabs DANNY by the scruff of the neck) Now shift your arse, Corporal. STEVE pulls DANNY a few more steps. Then they both slump, exhausted, to the floor. DANNY:Jesus, it hurts! STEVE:Would you shut your racket, Corporal? Or do you want every sniper in ten miles to know we’re here? DANNY:Sorry, Sarge. They sit for a moment, catching their breath STEVE:We’ll be alright here for a bit. And Jonno’s gone for help, so they’ll be back for us in no time. (looks down at DANNY’s side) Now let’s have a look, you big girl’s blouse. STEVE cautiously lifts back the blood-soaked cloth. He turns away. Takes a breath. Then he presses the cloth back in place. STEVE:Just a scratch, man. Don’t know what you’re moaning about. Nurse Barton’ll have you patched up in no time. DANNY:Bedpan Barton? I’d rather take my chances with the snipers. (feeble laugh) Nah. Give me Nurse Waverley any day. STEVE:Nurse Waverley, eh? Didn’t think he was your type. DANNY smiles weakly at STEVE. DANNY:He’s not. DANNY edges towards STEVE. Kisses him. STEVE:You daft bastard, Danny. Why’d you have to go and get yourself shot? DANNY:I didn’t exactly do it on purpose, did I? STEVE:But we’re home on leave soon. I know I was taking you to see Mum and Dad, but there’s easier ways to avoid meeting your in-laws. DANNY laughs, then grimaces with pain. DANNY:Don’t. Please don’t make me laugh. STEVE:(anxious) Are you OK? DANNY:I’m fine. (puts on a smile) I’ll be back home before you at any rate. Getting spoilt rotten in some cosy hospital, while you’re stuck out here another ten days. STEVE:No need to rub it in. STEVE wraps his arm around DANNY, who sinks back against STEVE’s chest. Then a few moments’ silence. STEVE:You know I’d only booked us a holiday, don’t you? DANNY:You never. Taking me somewhere nice, are you? STEVE:Nowhere special. DANNY looks questioningly at STEVE. STEVE:Only Venice. DANNY:Venice? Shit, my timing’s crap. STEVE:It is, indeed, crap. Hope I can get my money back. DANNY:Charming. So were you going to go all soppy and serenade us in a gondola? STEVE:Well, if I waited for you to do something romantic, I’d be waiting a bloody long time. DANNY:I dunno. It was me arranged our last holiday. STEVE:I don’t think a dirty weekend in Manchester counts as a romantic break. DANNY:It was not a dirty weekend. STEVE:Did we see the outside of the hotel bedroom? DANNY:Fair point. It was great being together, though. I mean without the added company of a dozen sweaty blokes and the occasional passing bullet. STEVE:Sounds exactly like a dirty weekend in Manchester to me. They both laugh, DANNY grabbing his injured side. DANNY:I told you not to make me laugh. STEVE:(chuckling) I’m sorry. (looks away, a guilty expression) I really am sorry, Danny. DANNY:What for? You didn’t bloody shoot me. (quizzical look) Did you? STEVE:Don’t be daft. I mean I’m sorry for not saying yes. DANNY:Eh? STEVE:When you wanted us to leave. Do something different, get a normal life. I said no, and I’m so sorry. DANNY:Don’t be. STEVE:But if we’d left then, you wouldn’t be lying here now. DANNY:You’re right there. I’d be bored out of my skull in some godawful office job. We’re soldiers, Steve. It’s what we do. It’s what we’re good at. Or at least you are. I can’t imagine you doing anything else. And I want to be wherever you are. STEVE:(warmly) You soft git. (pulls himself together) But as it happens, I’ve been doing some thinking. DANNY:You get permission for that? STEVE:Seriously. I thought I might jack it all in, go to college. DANNY:Oh aye? You got hidden intellectual depths I don’t know about? STEVE:Hardly. More along the lines of a catering course. DANNY:(teasing) My boyfriend, the Michelin-starred chef? STEVE:Not quite. But I did think I could start with a little café somewhere. (embarrassed) It’s a stupid idea, isn’t it? DANNY:No, it’s not. It’s a fantastic idea. You’re a brilliant cook. What you can’t do with a tin of tomatoes is not worth knowing. (beat) So do I have a place in this master plan of yours? STEVE:I’ll need someone to wash the dishes, won’t I? DANNY:Cheers. STEVE:Nah. I thought you could work front of house. DANNY:I’ll be maître d’, will I? STEVE:Something like that. Meeting and greeting. Keeping the customers happy. DANNY:You reckon I could make people happy? STEVE:You make me happy. DANNY:(looks up at STEVE) Now who’s being a soft git? (beat) So where are we opening this gastronomic paradise? STEVE:I don’t know. Some sleepy village in the country? DANNY shifts painfully around, tries to make himself comfortable. DANNY:I wouldn’t mind a slightly quieter life than this, but that might be pushing my boredom levels a bit too far. How about London? STEVE:London? Do you know how much it costs to live down there? DANNY:All right then. What about Manchester? We’ve both got mates round there. STEVE:Maybe. DANNY:We can flog fancy coffee to those media execs. “Skinny soya latte to go” and all that. STEVE:Sounds like a plan to me. We’d better start saving then. No more going out clubbing when we’re back on leave. DANNY:You’re too old to be out clubbing anyway. STEVE:Do you mind? I’m only a couple of years older than you. DANNY:Don’t worry, man. I’ll push you round in your wheelchair when you’re doddery and grey. STEVE:I think it’s me who’ll be pushing the wheelchair for a while, don’t you? DANNY gives STEVE a wry look. Then he chuckles to himself. DANNY:Can you imagine old Harry’s face when he finds out we’re running a teashop? STEVE:I assume you’re referring to Sergeant Major Gregson? DANNY:He’d throw a fit if he even knew we were together. STEVE:No, he wouldn’t. And besides, I’m pretty sure he already knows. DANNY:(alarmed) How? I haven’t told him. Have you? STEVE:’Course not. But old Harry doesn’t miss a thing. DANNY:Why hasn’t he said anything? I bet he’s got a few choice words for people like us. STEVE:Harry’s not so bad. DANNY:Have you been on the wrong end of a Gregson ear-bashing? STEVE:Hasn’t everyone? But he’s a good bloke is Harry. DANNY:You reckon? STEVE:You remember when Pete’s kid got sick, and they didn’t know if she’d pull through? DANNY:God, he was a complete wreck. STEVE:I know, and I heard Harry talking to him one night. And he couldn’t have been more understanding, more gentle, if he’d been his own mum. DANNY:I don’t believe it. STEVE:You’d better. He might scream and shout like your worst bloody nightmare, but for some strange reason he really cares about us lot. DANNY:Who’d have thought it? Harry Gregson has a heart. (amused shake of the head) Well, in that case he can be guest of honour on our opening day. And his first drink’s on the house. STEVE:(trying not to laugh) As long as it’s not a cappuccino. DANNY:Not with that bloody ’tache of his. They both laugh. Then STEVE winces guiltily. STEVE:Sorry. DANNY:It’s okay. It doesn’t feel quite so bad now. STEVE:There you go. Told you it was just a scratch. DANNY:Flamin’ cold though, isn’t it? DANNY shivers, huddles closer to STEVE. DANNY:Do you honestly think it’ll work, though? STEVE:What’s that? DANNY:Us two. Working together. Living together. STEVE:’Course it’ll work. If we can make it out here, I’m sure we’ll survive the mean streets of Manchester. DANNY:But after living with God knows how many other lads—all the banter, all the noise, all the madness—it’ll just be you and me, every day. And you might not like me very much in the real world, Steve. You might get a little bit tired of me. STEVE looks affectionately down at DANNY. STEVE:To completely misquote some bloke whose name I can’t even remember, “The day I’m tired of you is the day I’m tired of life”. They move closer, almost kiss. DANNY suddenly pulls away. DANNY:What was that? STEVE:I do believe that was the sound of one seriously armoured vehicle. DANNY:One of ours? STEVE:One of ours. DANNY:Oh thank God. Now give us a kiss before they get here. I don’t think snogging’s allowed on your sick bed. STEVE:Especially if Bedpan Barton’s on duty. As STEVE wraps his arms closer around him, DANNY falls silently against STEVE’s chest. Blackout

Helen Foster