Winning the Pools


Doyle sighed as he watched yet another man skulk down the pavement, look furtively around and slip inside the varnished door of the building he and Bodie had been assigned to watch. Didn't really look like a bordello, but then, the higher-class ones rarely did. The light of the streetlamps reflected off the wet street and sparkled in the raindrops, pretty even through the darkened glass of the van's windows. Doyle appreciated the sight, but he would have preferred the night to have been less bone-chillingly cold. His wriggled the toes of his left foot, hoping to warm them. The toes, his sock and his shoe were all sodden from the puddle he'd trodden in earlier that evening, and numbness was creeping inexorably from toes to ankle.

"Could put a revolving door on that and save wear and tear on the hinges," Bodie commented. Doyle heard him stirring about, loading a fresh roll of ultra-high speed film into the camera.

Doyle made a noise expressive of agreement and slouched down a bit further where he sat, drawing his head as far as possible into the meagre warmth of the turned-up collar of his jacket.

After a while, the door they were watching opened again, and a different man came out, turning and walking quickly down the pavement as if to put as much distance behind him as possible.

"That's Ambrose Jackson in and out," Doyle observed. He fumbled with cold-stiffened fingers at his pencil and the pad of paper resting on his lap, recording the time in large letters he hoped he could decipher later in a better light. "Fifty-three minutes. Took 'is time about it. Though, the price he'll have been paying to get his end away, I can imagine he might want to."

"Fine, upstanding MP." Bodie's voice was a disapproving smile.

"From all accounts, his wife and kiddies think so," Doyle replied. "Remember those heartwarmin' photos of them all gathered around the family hearth for the holidays?"

"Mmm. What's that -- three we've spotted, out of that list Cowley gave us?"

"Between Mac, Lucas and us, yeah. Here. Other places -- who knows?"

"This is the only place the Cow got the word about," Bodie pointed out.

"Uh huh. You'd think people would get smarter, wouldn't you?"

"Never noticed that they do."

"Yeah. Or they wouldn't still be getting caught at this." Doyle's mouth turned down disgustedly. "Go off and screw around on your wife -- or husband -- and then decide to knuckle under to a touch of blackmail when someone finds out and threatens to tell all."

"Face it, Ray. It's a convenient lever to use. Time-honoured, y'might say."

"Huh. Wouldn't bother me nearly so much if it was just Jackson and that lot, but when his family find out they'll be hurt -- and they've done nothing to deserve it."

"If he's that kind of person, they're bound to find out some day," Bodie said. "Better soon than later, in my book."

"You mean you think the kids ought to know what he's been doing?" Doyle asked. "Can't wrap 'em in cotton wool, I know, but that's a bit harsh."

"Ought to know they can't count on him, at least. The sooner they find that out, the better." Bodie shifted about, his clothing making little rustling noises as he moved. He nudged Doyle, handing him a mug half-filled with steaming tea from the flask he'd brought with him. Doyle folded both hands about the curving warmth of the mug and inhaled gratefully, enjoying the moist warmth against his face before drinking the tea down. Bodie accepted the return of his cup and Doyle heard the sound of liquid being poured and sipped before Bodie continued speaking. "Can't count on other people. Kids ought to know that. Makes it easier to cope with what life is going to hand you."

"C'mon -- you don't mean that a seven year old kid ought to be taught that no one's to be trusted just because his father can't keep his trousers zipped!"

"Didn't say, trusted. Said, relied on."

"So, he's supposed to decide that he can't rely on anybody? Even his mother? She hasn't done anything to him. An' what about his friends?"

"Every kid learns that there's only so much a mother can do for him. Almost as soon as he's weaned, he's got to start doing things for himself. Can't count on her for everything, the way he did when he was tiny. Bigger he gets, the less he can expect from her. And friends? Friends move away, or he'll move away from them, or something will happen. Friends come and go. Best to stop dreaming about a perfect world and face up to it."

Doyle felt as if he'd been punched in the belly. When had this stopped being idle chat and become an explanation of Bodie's basic philosophy? For that's what it was. There was the unmistakable ring of hard-won certainty in his partner's voice, quite different from the cynical toughness he adopted so often. Didn't often catch Bodie expressing what he really felt; usually it was well-hidden behind a show of indifference, or the facade of black humour he was so adept at. But Doyle had thought he knew how Bodie viewed him: they were friends. Now he had to stop and wonder, how did Bodie fit him into his idea of friendship? Doyle wasn't sure, but the idea that friends were disposable -- off with the old, on with the new -- was something he did not like at all.

"An' --" Doyle stopped and cleared his throat, "when he grows up, he shouldn't ever get married either, right?"

"Not if he has a lick of sense. I'm not saying he shouldn't take a chance of a bit of fun now and again; feels good, and it doesn't hurt anyone, so long as y'make sure nobody's expecting more than just a good time. But people aren't meant to go together two by two for any length of time. Get a man and a woman who're married -- after a couple of years, he's chasing after anything in a skirt, and she's bonking the milkman twice a week. Or if they both stay on the straight and narrow, they mind up getting their kicks out of makin' each other miserable." Bodie gave a chuckle, a cheerful sound at odds with his words. "And you can't say it's just because men don't understand women and women don't understand men. I reckon you've seen as many queer couples as I have; most of them don't last six months."

Doyle felt compelled to protest. "Some people are happily married. A lot of them are. The country would fall apart if everybody was as bad as you say." The silence which greeted this was eloquent. "All right. You have a point there," Doyle admitted. "But if two people really care about each other --"

"For how long?" Bodie said quietly. "It doesn't last. Chances of that are about the same as winning the pools. A lucky few hit the jackpot, and the rest of the poor slobs spend their lives wishing and hoping and spending their time and money on something that'll never happen, and making themselves miserable in the process. They'd be better off playing it cool. Learn to rely on themselves; take life as it comes. Have some fun now and again. Find a job they can do, and do it well. Get a lot of satisfaction out of that."

"Yeah. Right." Doyle rubbed at the condensation on the inside of the window. Fogged up something terrible on a night like this; made it hard to see clearly. He sat there for a while, wondering why he felt so numb. Couldn't blame it all on the cold. Was a bleak outlook Bodie had, and Doyle was uncomfortably aware that he could persuade himself that it was accurate with very little effort. He caught hold of that thought and looked at it straight-on. No. The way he felt about Bodie, the friendship they shared, was refutation enough. Could Bodie be brought to see that?

"Where does that leave us, then?" he asked finally, unable to find a different way to broach the subject.

"Us?" Bodie turned towards him eyes unreadable in the gloom.

"Uh huh. Friends come and go. Are you going? Or am I? And when? You got it all planned out, do you?" Doyle couldn't help the edge of anger which crept into his voice.

"You know better than that. Things happen, that's all. You can't rely on them not happening." Bodie turned back to the window again. "I could get shot, or run over by a bus. Same could happen to you. Or you could fall in love with someone and move to Australia. Things happen. It's stupid to expect that they won't." His voice was flat and matter-of-fact.

"It's stupid if you spend your life expecting the worst!" Doyle hissed. He turned towards his partner and grabbed his shoulders, giving him a little shake before letting him go again. "That's all you're going to see if you never look for anything better in your life. Can't rely on people, my arse. Damn it, Bodie, I'm not going to let you write the last six years off like that, with 'friends come and go.' We're different. You can get rid of me that easily. I --"

"Don't want to get rid of you --" Bodie said quickly.

Doyle overrode him, anxious to make his point. "You stupid bugger, you rely on me every time we go on the streets. And don't tell me that's just the job. It goes deeper than that. You couldn't go out there and do what you do if you didn't trust me to watch your back. As for the rest of it, it's not that rare for people to be happy together. If they really know each other, and are willing to work at a little give and take, and don't go into it with a lot of unreal expectations -- hell! I reckon if we were a couple, we could make a go of it. Weird way to put it, I know, but --"

Bodie had gone utterly still. Doyle cut himself off, hearing with appalled apprehension what he had just said.

"Have you thought about us, that way?" Bodie asked. His breath was warm on Doyle's cheek; he hadn't realised just how close to each other they were sitting.

"Uhh. Once or twice." Doyle waited for the explosion, but it didn't come. Instead, he felt the fleeting brush of a chilly finger across his mouth.

"So have I. More than once or twice." There was silence for a long moment, then Bodie added, "D'you want to come back to my place this morning after we're done here?"

Doyle didn't answer immediately; he wanted to be able to mark this moment in his memory in years to come, for he knew what was really being asked of him. "Uh huh. I do," he said, and heard the quiet gust of Bodie's exhalation.

The rest of the obbo was unremarkable, but Doyle felt a thrumming excitement which made every mundane detail seem unforgettable. Sitting in the dark with his partner, hearing the rain on the roof of the van and the soft sound of Bodie's breathing, almost unbearably conscious of Bodie's presence beside him, Doyle was still aware of the cold, of the way his foot was a lump of insensate flesh within his shoe -- and he couldn't keep from grinning like a maniac.

Morning dawned dim and grey, the clouds a leaden ceiling over the city -- and a leaky one at that. The rain fell steadily, never increasing to a downpour, but never slackening to less than a steady sprinkle. Lucas and McCabe arrived to take up the watch -- daytime was not as busy as night for the business they were watching, but when the odd customer did show up, he was not turned away. Leaving the van, and gratefully stretching muscles cramped by a night's inaction, Bodie and Doyle climbed into the car their replacements had arrived in, and headed back to headquarters to write up their reports.

It was close to ten o'clock before they finished, and nearly eleven before they got to Bodie's flat. The traffic had been more congested than usual with seemingly everyone out and about, shopping for the holiday season. Once inside the flat, with the locks and security system dealt with, Bodie turned up the thermostat to take the chill from the air and waved Doyle towards the kitchen.

"See what you can find for breakfast, sunshine," he said, and disappeared into the bathroom. The sound of the shower came faintly through the door. Doyle took a half-step in that direction, then reconsidered and went to see what surprises Bodie's refrigerator might hold.

A pot of tea and two bowls of oatmeal were steaming on the table when Bodie rejoined him. His hair was damp, showing the marks of the comb he had used upon it, but a little more wavy than one usually saw. Barefoot, clad in a dark blue robe which reached below his knees, Bodie paused at the table, giving Doyle a questioning look.

"Thought a light breakfast might be a good idea," Doyle said, noting the sparkle which entered his partner's eyes at that. "Seein' as you had four of those doughnuts Jax brought in to work this morning. And you can do the washing up afterwards while I bathe."

"And then --?" Bodie said.

"Then we go to bed and you let me show you some of the things I thought up when you were singin' away in the shower just now."

Bodie smiled gleefully. "Only if you let me show you why I was singing."

"Okay," Doyle said in happy agreement.

It wasn't perfect when they came together, but Doyle didn't think that either of them had expected it to be. Natural enough that they should be a little awkward with each other, that their timing should be a little off. After all, it had taken them a couple of months working together as partners before they'd begun to feel at ease with each other; this was not so very different. Doyle rubbed his hand across his belly, feeling the tug of drying stickiness, and aware of a bone-deep contentment, for though it had not been perfect, it had been warm and affectionate and far more that satisfactory.

Bodie heaved a deep sigh and levered himself up on his elbow, staring down at him. "What're you grinning at now? Still laughing about the way I --"

Doyle shut his mouth for him with a kiss, long and leisurely. "No," he said eventually, subsiding onto Bodie's chest and murmuring into his ear. "I was just thinking that with a little practise, we're going to be very good at that. An' I've got the feeling that we're going to get more than just a little practise."

Bodie stroked down his back, fingers playing across his skin with the finesse of a concert pianist, but he didn't reply.

Doyle raised his head and peered at him. "Aren't we?"

Bodie blinked, blue eyes gleaming at him from beneath heavy lids. "Practise -- certainly. Every chance we get."


"And what?"

"Do you think I was right?"

"Of course. About what?"

"Nit," Doyle said. "About us. Making a go of it, that is. You're not going to be waiting for this to go wrong, are you?" He waited for his partner's answer with a little more anxiety than he let show in his expression.

Bodie grabbed him in a hug which threatened to suffocate him. When he could breathe again, Doyle said, "I take it that means no?"

Bodie nodded. "I'm smart enough to know when I've won the pools, mate."

-- THE END --

Originally published in Full Circle 3.5 (Professionals Outtakes), Nut Hatch Collective, 1995

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