Playing Cowboy


Post "No Stone"

Bodie was still waiting. He'd been sitting in Doyle's flat, half-watching the game, half-watching Ray for the past hour and the little golli still hadn't told him what was wrong. Ray had never been very good at keeping his feelings secret. If Bodie let him alone, he'd almost always tell him what was wrong. But only Bodie. Everyone else, he'd just let know how miserable he was.

"She's right, you know," Doyle said suddenly.

"What?" Bodie had long ago gotten used to Doyle starting conversations in the middle. He still had trouble following the man's train of thought sometimes, though. "You mean the bird on the telly? Of course she's right, that's the score."

"Not her, you twit. June Cook."

Bodie waited several beats before prompting, "Well, what'd she say?"

Doyle sighed, continuing to stare into the distance, as he'd been doing all night. "When I told her about Cookie, she was real upset, as I'm sure you can imagine." He looked down at the lager he held in his hand. "She said it didn't matter for me, if I died. I don't have a wife or kids--no one. I can go on playing cowboy for the rest of my miserable life."

Bodie looked down at his feet. So that was it. Loneliness was rearing its ugly head at Ray yet again. He should've known. Bodie had never expected to have as much as he did. To have a mate like Ray went far beyond what he'd ever hoped for in his life. A life which had taught him that loneliness was a normal--and preferable--state.

But Doyle had always wanted someone.

And he'd thought Doyle had someone.

"Well, she's wrong about you not having anyone. You've got me." He smiled his best smug smile. "Besides, you couldn't be a cowboy."

Doyle looked puzzled. "Why not?"

"You'd look horrible in the hat."

Doyle gave his partner one of his 'You are extremely weird, Bodie,' looks and said, "Mind like a steel slinky, you have."

They smiled at each other for a moment before Doyle turned sad again. Realizing that Ray needed some solid reassurance and never quite sure how to give it, Bodie moved closer to him on the settee.

"Look, Ray, she was wrong. You do have people who care about you. You've got me and the Cow and all the guys in the Squad."

"It's not the same, Bodie." Doyle put down his beer and got up despondently to stand in front of his bookcase. Bodie wasn't sure of what else he could say, so hid behind humour.

"If this is a proposal, sunshine, you really should...."

"Dammit, Bodie, it's not funny!" Doyle whirled around to look at his partner angrily. "Why do you always have to turn everything into a bloody joke?!"

"Doyle..." Bodie started.

"Some things just aren't funny," Doyle went on, too caught up in his own anger to notice Bodie's temper was rising as well--and too hurt to care.

"Doyle, if you'll just shut up a minute--"

"Why? So you can have more fun?" Doyle shouted. "You don't care about anything, do you? You can't feel anything! That's why you hide behind your pathetic sense of humour! Better go back to Africa, mate, 'cause I think you left behind more than your tolerance for blacks!"

"I don't care, eh?" Bodie got up and was shouting at Doyle just as loudly. He had only picked up that habit in the last few years. Normally, he turned quiet when he got angry, but when he was arguing with Ray or Cowley, he had to shout just to be heard. "Well, let me tell you something, Doyle, I do care!"

"Oh, really?" Doyle barked sarcastically.

"Yeah, really. As a matter of fact, I love you! If you don't like it, that's tough 'cause no amount of your whining is going to change my mind!"

With that, Bodie stormed out of the flat, slamming the door behind him.

"Well, you want to know something?" Doyle shouted after him, stomping to the door and throwing it open to shout down the hall. "I love you, too!" He then slammed the door again, marched to his bedroom, and slammed that door.

Bodie was almost to his flat, travelling at a much faster speed than what was generally thought of as safe and considerably beyond legal, when he suddenly realized what he'd said.

"Oh, shit," he said quietly, as he stopped the car in front of his building. He got out of the car and walked to his flat in a much calmer state than he had evinced so far. Actually, he was closer to being in shock. It sank into his brain completely, about the time he sank into the settee, that he'd really let it out this time.

He stared off into the distance as he thought about what he'd admitted. Not, in all his sickly sweet, romantic dreams, had he ever thought it would come out this way. Even in some of his kinkier ones, if there was screaming, it sure as hell wasn't about anything June Cook would say. No, it definitely had not turned out the way Bodie had pictured it, but since when did anything involving his partner do so?

Not that he had even actually planned on telling him. Ever.

Doyle'd be really mad by now. Of course he'd want a new partner. Bodie thought, briefly, that Ray might even quit CI5 altogether, particularly in light of how he'd been feeling about the job lately, but he knew Ray wouldn't take things that far. Sarky little git that Doyle was, he'd cut off his nose to spite his face, staying on with a different partner just to prove to Bodie and everyone else that he didn't need him.

Bodie would, of course, go it alone. He'd work solo for a while, but even he had to acknowledge that it had been too many years since he'd worked without a partner for a great length of time to really ever be good at it again. So he'd probably be booted off the Squad and eventually end up in Shepherd's Bush, raising half a dozen cats in a broken-down old flat, spending his days singing to a budgie he kept in a cage....

Bodie shook his head and got up. He'd definitely been around Doyle too long.

He saw that he had three options: get drunk while banging his head against the wall and think about throwing himself into the river; throw himself into the river; or go to bed and save the option of throwing himself into the river for later.

He went to bed.

When he woke up, Bodie found a naked Ray Doyle sitting on the edge of his bed. He said the first thing that came into his mind.

"Oil or mud?"

Ray looked at him, confused.

"Well, if you're going to challenge me to a wrestling match, I refuse anything else."

Doyle smiled broadly at him, yet with a certain amount of shyness, a trait Bodie didn't normally associate with him. "Nah, we'd get the sheets messy."

"I'm not necessarily opposed to that," Bodie murmured under his breath. In what he hoped was a more normal voice, he said, "May I take it from your attire that all is forgiven and you assumed that my proclaimed love was not of the brotherly variety?"

Very few people would have been able to see the shock and confusion of Bodie's emotions behind his mask of flippancy. Fortunately, one of them was currently staring at him.

"May I take it from your remark," Doyle started slowly, "that you didn't hear my reply?"

With an inner start, Bodie suddenly realized he had. Actually, he would have been surprised if the Cow, who was currently at a conference in Leeds, hadn't heard Doyle's reply. "Well, you said a lot of nasty things yesterday." Could it really be this easy?

Doyle leaned down closer to Bodie. "And I meant them, too," he said from deep in his throat.

Bodie's eyes started to sparkle the way they always did when he was truly, evilly, happy. "Same here." He waited for Doyle to get a little closer, then said, "Still want to play cowboy, eh?" In his own way, he loved torturing himself almost as much as Doyle did.

Ray pulled back a little, a flicker of irritation on his face. "If I did, at least I could shoot you." He pursed his lips in thought for a moment. "I'd have to break your leg first, of course."

Bodie sat up part way in outrage. "What, now I'm your bloody horse?!"

Doyle surprised Bodie by pushing him back down and straddling his hips. "Hi-ho, Silver."

-- THE END --

Originally published in Chalk and Cheese 10, Whatever You Do, Don't Press! (Agent With Style), 1992

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