I Know What You Think I Am
They were on their third drink. Doubles. Sitting in a dark little corner of a dark little pub off a dark little alley, and after hours to boot, they toasted their survival with cheap alcohol and tried to unwind. The clientele here were taciturn men with unshaved faces decorated with unhappy looks. One of these men had tried to evict Bodie and Doyle from their table, but after Bodie offered to remove the man's balls and pin them to his ears, the crowd had left them alone.
It was clear that the place was used to hard men, to late night invasions of one sort or another. The man who served their drinks sported tattoos on his tattoos--no pretty barmaids here. He left them to their business, as he left others in other dark corners to theirs.
"I'm going to remember this place. Den of thieves," Doyle decided as he lifted his glass.
"You fit right in," Bodie said with a tight smile. Doyle looked rough. His curls were stiff with dried sweat, his eyes had dark circles under them, and his damaged cheekbone was more obvious, as it always was when he became exhausted. Bodie looked marginally better--but not much.
"I bet half these blokes are on wanted posters somewhere," Doyle said, taking another drink and then making a face. The last of the glass tasted no better than the first.
"Once a copper, always a copper, eh Doyle?" Bodie intoned, nose into his own booze.
"You've told me that before. Need to work up some original material, mate. I'm more than an ex-copper."
Bodie looked at Doyle. "I know what you are," he said.
Doyle grinned, an expression with just enough mirth in it to qualify--barely. "That's twice you've said something like that tonight. I was right. You need to work on your conversational skills."
Bodie ignored that. "Say it," he ordered. "What you said when I said that." He made contact with Doyle's green eyes.
Doyle understood him perfectly, despite his tiredness, despite having too much rotgut alcohol in his system. The adrenaline had faded from his blood. What was left to him was a mixture of recklessness and relief, combined with a growing exhaustion. They had not yet reached the point where they could go home, however. There was still enough fizz in their blood so that they could not go home, could not go to sleep. They needed to talk just a little more, to wind down. They had saved the world tonight, kept an atom bomb from turning London into a wasteland. Their boss had given them a pat on the head and told them to go home, telling them to get a good night's sleep because tomorrow they would have to deal with the mountain of paperwork this case had generated.
They had not gone home. Neither wanted to sit alone in his flat, thinking about how close they had come to eternity. They needed to talk, needed to come to terms with it, yet they had said little to each other beyond a few superficial comments. They allowed the pub to distract them while they unwound enough to function again.
"I know what you think I am," Doyle said.
"Uh?" Bodie had been absently staring at the doorway. A few of the patrons were reeling out the door. Then he nodded, remembering. "That's what you said in the bowling alley. It didn't make any sense." Bodie finished his drink and swallowed some of the water from one of the other none-too-clean glasses littering the table.
"Yes it does. You don't like it because it has too many meanings. You think I am a lot of things. Most of them aren't true," he added.
"The things I think or the things you are?" Bodie asked.
Doyle gave him a look.
"It's because you have too many secrets," Bodie said after a pause in which he lifted up his empty glass, stared at it, and then put it down again.
Doyle threw him a speaking look. "Got a few yourself, don't you?"
Bodie shook his head. "Me? Open book, I am."
"Oh? A primer, maybe? A, B, C and one, two, three!" Doyle found that humorous and laughed aloud. Several heads turned their way, but they ignored it.
"You," Bodie said, "are drunk. And changing the subject, as well."
"Which is?" Doyle pulled his face into seriousness, trying to appear sober. He failed.
"What you think I think you are." Bodie rubbed his eyes and thought about that, deciding that he had it right.
"What?" Doyle said, and Bodie didn't know if he didn't understand, or if he wanted to know what Bodie thought Doyle thought Bodie was. Or was that what Doyle thought Bodie thought....
Bodie gave it up. "We're discussing what you are," he decided. "What you are," he explained, "is an aggravating little sod."
"Right the first time," Doyle confessed, causing Bodie to lift his head at the unexpected agreement. He grinned at his friend, wide enough to show the chipped tooth, the pink tongue. "But what else?"
"What else am I, Bodie?"
"You already said that. Think of something else. About me," Doyle ordered.
"Ex-art student," Bodie said after a few seconds of intense thought.
"Ex-child?" Bodie was beginning to sound a bit desperate.
"How about something I still am, oh ex-merc, ex-army, ex-delinquent?"
Bodie sat up straighter. "Was right the first time. You are an annoying little sod."
Doyle nodded encouragingly. "Do go on."
Doyle aimed a loose fist at his partner's shoulder. "Now you're getting silly," Doyle chided him.
"So, confess. I'm not going to sit here all night," Bodie stated. He looked over at the bar, thought about another drink, but did nothing. It hadn't been that good to start with, and by now the appeal was waning.
"You'll be surprised," Doyle told him.
"Doyle!" Bodie put a lot of impatience into that one word.
Doyle chuckled. "I," he pronounced, "am in love."
Bodie gave that pronouncement a moment of respectful silence. Then he said, "I never would have guessed that. You've not gone all giddy, the way you did with what's-er-name." He didn't like saying her name. Hadn't liked her at all. Too grabby, that one. Possessive.
"So you were wrong." Doyle let a smirk show.
Bodie decided he had been wise to forgo more drinks. Wrong? He put on a good front and said, "I'm never wrong. Only mistaken, for a bit."
"What an arrogant sod you are." Doyle leaned back in his chair, stretching his long legs. The tension of the evening was still with him.
"With who?" Bodie thought to ask.
"Whom, Bodie. Whom."
"Fuck you. Who?" Bodie stretched as well. Even his kinks had kinks. Doyle's were probably worse--he'd had to crouch over that bomb, holding steady, for what seemed like hours.
"Oh, some big, dark-haired macho bruiser with a shortage of brains to go with his excess of beauty," Doyle joked.
"Doyle, you haven't given me a straight answer all night," Bodie complained bitterly, and then he watched as Doyle surrendered to a case of the giggles. Both of them had reached their limit, Bodie decided. "Doyle?"
Doyle forced himself to squash the hilarity. "I did!"
"I asked you for a straight answer and you gave me one that was bent!"
Doyle ran his fingers through his hair, absently rubbing the scalp. "Progress," Doyle murmured. "Shows you use your head for more than a place to park your hair."
"I know what you are," Bodie said with a snarl of discovery. "You're a pain in the arse!"
Doyle nodded sagely.
"And an uncooperative bugger, too," 3.7 added.
Doyle nodded again, lips twitching as he tried not to laugh aloud.
Bodie took a closer look at him. "You've got that little smirk. And a nasty gleam in your eye as well. Have you something you want to confess?"
"Not I. What could I possibly want to confess? You know what I am. Told me that yourself."
"I know what you're going to be," Bodie warned, waving a fist under Doyle's nose.
"A victim of senseless violence?" Doyle guessed.
"Dead." The threat would have been more effective if Bodie hadn't gone a little cross-eyed right then. The man at the bar was pointedly looking at the clock, and then over at the few remaining customers.
"Eventually. But not, thanks to the two of us, in the near future. And not by your hand, either. You look like you need to get home and into bed."
"I," Bodie told him, "am fine. You're the one...." He stopped as Doyle stood up. "Are we going then? I wanted another drink."
"You've got better at home, sugar buns." Doyle made sure he was moving away as he said the last two words.
"You are looking for an early grave!"
"Or someplace else dark and cozy. Come on, let's go find a taxi--if there is one here on the doorstep of nowhere."
"Doyle?" Bodie began as he stood up.
"What?" Doyle replied cautiously.
"We've established what you are. Do you know what I am?"
Bodie ignored that. "I am not as dumb as you think I am. I'm not as drunk as you think I am, either."
"Pity. There go my plans," Doyle said, pretending to mourn.
"And I've just figured out what you're not."
"Not?" Doyle encouraged, as they headed towards the door.
"Joking. You're not joking, and you're not what I thought you were," he announced, and then paused to draw in a great lungful of air which, if it was not in the category of fresh, was at least fresher than that back in the pub.
No taxi. Doyle popped back in to call for one, and Bodie patiently held up the wall while he waited.
"So, what am I?" Doyle asked, as he rejoined Bodie.
"Bent. And interested."
Doyle stood a little straighter and became very still.
"Told you I wasn't as stupid as you thought," Bodie said with some triumph. He wasn't dumb. Pretty drunk, though.
"I know what I am. Question is," Doyle said slowly, "what are you?"
"Adaptable," Bodie declared. "And willing to learn."
That told Bodie nothing. He stepped closer. "Am I wrong?" he asked, keeping most of the worry out of his voice.
"No, you're not wrong. But you are drunk."
So Doyle had noticed. Well, come to that, Doyle had had a few himself. "I'm better drunk than most men are sober, Doyle. You know that."
"Yes. But I'm never having you blame me in our golden years, saying I took advantage of you. Never let it be said that I lured the young innocent to his doom!"
Bodie smothered a laugh. Young innocent?
The taxi arrived. The young driver moved them from point A to point B with a minimum of time and conversation. His passengers, prevented from continuing their discussion, were mostly silent. They arrived at Doyle's place first, and as Doyle was getting out, Bodie was thrusting several bills towards the driver.
"This isn't your place. This is my place," Doyle pointed out as Bodie joined him at the door.
"I know that. How much did you have to drink?" Bodie asked solicitously.
"Not as much as you. Bodie..." he protested as Bodie pushed by him and went in.
"I have to be here," Bodie explained earnestly as he shed his coat.
"Because...." Bodie paused.
"Too drunk to find your way home," Doyle suggested, less than kindly.
"No. It's that I have to be there."
Doyle wrinkled his brow in thought as he shrugged out of his own coat. "There?"
"When you wake up."
Doyle repeated, "You have to be there when I wake up? Why?"
"Because, it will be morning. We will be sober. And rested. All I will have to do is wake up, not wake up, shower, get dressed, and drive over and all the rest of it."
"You said not tonight. You said you don't want us to regret it. You said you didn't want to take advantage of me. Isn't that what you said?"
Doyle agreed. "That's what I said."
"So, I'll be right there when you wake up. So all you'll have to do is roll over, and there I'll be. Then I can prove to you. Because I know what you are. And I know what you think I am."
"What do you think I think you are?" Doyle asked, hoping that he had that sentence right.
Bodie leaned forward. "Ready," he whispered. "And willing."
"And able?" Doyle asked with a small smile as he gazed fondly at Bodie.
"That we will find out. First thing in the morning," Bodie said.
"Maybe sooner," Doyle said softly, and he carefully locked the door.
-- THE END --
Originally published in To Friends, Chained to the Typewriter Press, 1993