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Sticks and Stones

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Jax almost drops his bag of grapes.

They're asleep, both of them. Doyle grey-faced on a hospital pillow, Bodie slumped and snoring in the chair he dragged up to Doyle's bedside.

That's not the surprising thing. The surprising thing is that they're holding hands. Dead asleep, but their fingers are locked together.

It's not a friendly touch. Not the way Jax would pat a mate's hand if he almost died, and yeah, maybe hold it for a second or two. This--they're not letting go. They're touching like it's normal for them. Like they're used to touching in their sleep.

Jesus Christ.

What Jax thinks of, standing there with the fucking South African grapes he overpaid for at the stall outside the hospital, is Bodie's voice saying spade. Not in front of Jax, never, but when Jax leaves the room out come the jokes, like Jax is deaf and stupid as well as black. Two spades walk into an Irish pub . . . What do you call a spade who's just won a thousand pounds?. Spade, darkie, nigger. Even kaffir, which he reckons Bodie picked up in Rhodesia.

And all the time, this.

Shirtlifter, poofter, arse bandit, uphill gardener. Queer. Fucking dirty queer.

The one thing Bodie's never made a joke about is queers. Jax didn't notice that before. He was too busy acting like he didn't know about the other jokes, the ones even Doyle--soft-hearted, Labour-voting, Thatcher-hating Doyle--laughed at.

A CI5 agent walks into a hospital room and sees two queers.

Who's the joke on now?

Jax doesn't hate queers. He's not a bigot. Not a fascist any more than Bodie is, underneath.

He leaves quietly so as not to wake them. But before he goes, he lays the grapes on the bed beside their joined hands.

Let them worry a little bit. Let them wonder who's saying what behind their backs.