The Small Print


After "Involvement." Thanks to Izzy for the beta.

"It's in the small print, sunshine."

Doyle studied the depth of his pint glass and considered whether or not to take the conversational bait. None of this mess was actually Bodie's fault, but that didn't mean he felt like talking to him right now. Truth be told, he had almost forgotten he was there. But there he most certainly was, drinking steadily and until that point, silently beside him. In other words, reading his mood as perfectly as ever. He had simply walked them up to the bar, bought him two pints in quick succession and left him to it. Not completely, though. If Doyle had bothered to concentrate on anything outside his own misery, he would have felt Bodie's arm, shoulder to elbow, pressed lightly against his at the bar.

Now he felt it as Bodie shifted his weight and absurdly his eyes stung. He closed them briefly and his heart jack-hammered back to the squeal of Ann Holly's tyres, her tear-stained face at the wheel, and the flight or fight instinct that had paralysed him when Bodie first walked up. He had thrown that arm off then; now he thought he might fall without it. He inhaled slowly and took another mouthful, feeling the alcohol ease his pulse down. He couldn't sort any of it out right now. Just couldn't.

He was sure he didn't care, but he heard himself ask.

"What is?"

"The checking out of any potential spouses." Bodie's voice was decidedly matter-of-fact, the minefield he was stepping into clearly of no concern. "Apparently," he pressed closer, as if imparting gossip, "it's so that Cowley can smile benevolently when we ask his permission."

That got Doyle's attention.

"When we ask his what?"

"Oh, did you not know that, petal?" Bodie took another drink. "That's in the small print, too." He tried but failed to catch the barman's attention. "Great, innit? There we are on bended knee in front of some bird, only we've got to look over her shoulder to see if George bloody Cowley is smiling benevolently or not."

Doyle made no rejoinder and went back to the depths of his glass. "Well, at least you'll never have that problem." Said with the smallest curve of a lip.

Bodie did the only thing he could under the circumstances. He drew back and whacked Doyle on the shoulder, full of indignation. "Toe rag." He sniffed, almost genuinely put out. "Cowley said the same bloody thing."

Despite himself Doyle allowed a moment's respite. Only a blunt ex-merc could do this and get away with it. Only Bodie could step into the firing line, defend himself, and get a joke out of his self-pitying partner all in the same breath.

Doyle couldn't help it, he looked across with genuine affection. "Don't exactly call a spade a gardening implement, do you?"

"Do what?"

"Never mind, just get us another and don't talk about the sodding small print anymore."

Much later, on a sofa he wasn't sure of, Doyle felt someone taking off his shoes. He squinted, but the shape moving around him wouldn't stay still and his head hurt to focus. It came to him when a soft curse reached his ears and his head hurt a little less. Bodie's flat, Bodie's sofa, and now Bodie's extra duvet thrown over him. Something twitched at the edge of his mind, but the haze of alcohol and exhaustion had him. He was being pulled down, separated from the pain he'd drowned all night.

Almost. Conscious thought struggled through, unbidden.

Ann. He had to go. What if she phoned him and he wasn't there?


"Hafta go-"

The transition from thought to corresponding action was not easy, and Doyle began trying to free himself from a duvet that was suddenly far too heavy. Stupid and slow with alcohol, it took him a good few seconds to grasp that it was Bodie, not beer, which was making the duvet difficult to escape from. Bodie was using it and a forearm across his chest to pin him in place.

Doyle growled something incoherent.

"If you're going to be sick, or take a leak, I'll let you up." Bodie's tone was cool, dispassionate and his arm never moved. "But if you think I'm pouring you into a cab this time of night, you've got another thing coming."

Fucking Bodie. Making this so difficult. Why couldn't he understand and just let him the fuck go? Using frustration to fuel him through the alcohol, he brought his legs up behind Bodie in an attempt to buck him off the side off the sofa where he was perched.

All that did was snap the last of Bodie's strained patience.

"She is not coming back, mate!" Up close and personal, he twisted with Doyle as his partner tried to avoid him. "So you've got nowhere to go right now. You can cook her as many bloody meals as you want, and it's never gonna get someone like her past the job. Ever!"

They both paused, breathing heavily and Doyle felt the last 'ever' like a slap through his senses. He had managed to pull himself up a little in Bodie's hold and now he stilled, head down, willing the room to stop spinning so that he could close his eyes and think.

It stopped and he found himself listening.

"She's not okay with what you do, and she'll never see who you are because of it. So do us both a favour, mate, and just leave it." Bodie's tone had quietened and Doyle swallowed at the tremor he heard. It should have occurred to him before then that Bodie had not come out of this debacle unscathed.

"Stop giving me grief, Doyle, and just bloody well stay."

And just like that the storm was over. Doyle sank back onto the pillow with the back of his arm over his eyes in an attempt to recover his emotional stability unseen. Bodie had the grace to release his grip and let him. He stayed where he was, though. Again, just quietly leaving him to it. Doyle knew with a certainty he wasn't quite sure what to do with, that if he reached out with the arm not covering his eyes and found his partner, Bodie would let him hold on all night. That was what he had to get him through this. That was what he had almost discarded. He took a deeper breath and knew he had to fix it.

Their way. His and Bodie's.

"Not a dog, y'know."

He could almost hear Bodie working it out.

"Sure about that, are we? Look an awful lot like something shaggy with a bone between its teeth."

Doyle's arm was still across his eyes, but he heard the relief in his partner's voice and knew that he had finally done something right that awful day. He knew it even more when he felt a hand ruffle through his hair as Bodie moved to click the light off behind them and leave.

Now he did reach out, with the hand that had covered his eyes. This meant that as his hand found a wrist, his eyes found Bodie's.

He spoke quickly, afraid his emotions would come to the surface again if he lingered.

"Thanks. For tonight…for everything."

For a second, Bodie's face was unreadable as he searched Doyle's. He must have found whatever he was looking for, because he nodded slowly, then let a smile form. Doyle let his wrist go.

"Don't have much choice, do I?"

Anticipating Doyle's question to that, Bodie leaned in on his way up to finally click the lamp off and head for bed. The answer to it was a whisper, so close that Doyle felt his breath brush a curl.

"It's in the small print, sunshine."

-- THE END --

March 2006

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