Hint 3. If In Doubt - Pizza & Wine
I’m all cuddled up on the sofa in my duvet when Alex fumbles his key from the front door and slams two steaming pizza boxes down on the coffee table.
“You OK, May-May?”
I nod, not saying anything.
“I punched Docklen,” he says with a grin.
“No,” he laughs. “Didn’t have to. Margarita. Pepperoni,” he clarifies, pointing to the pizza boxes in turn.
“I’ll have the pepperoni,” I say.
“No you bloody won’t.”
“Why didn’t you need to punch Docklen?” I ask, helping myself to a slice of margarita. It’s the only flavour I eat.
“Because Ripley was livid, absolutely destroyed the guy. I don’t think Docklen got a word in edgeways. On his second day. Right in front of the entire station. It was painful.”
I’m very used to being shouted at by Ripley myself but it’s usually behind closed doors and I know he respects me really. Ripley must be really pissed to scream at Docklen like that on just his second day.
“He was weirdly nice to me this morning,” I say, munching thoughtfully on my pizza.
“Really? Ripley? That’s not what it looked like when you walked out. I thought you were going to cry.”
“I nearly did. I’m off the street until Ripley ‘sees fit’. He said it wasn’t likely to be before the end of the month.”
“Ouch.” Alex cringes sympathetically. “Here, wait. I have something for that.”
He dives over the back of the sofa, returning with a plastic shopping bag hanging from his arm. In much the same way as he introduced the pizza, Alex pulls the first bottle from the bag, displaying it on the cushion between us. “Wine,” he says before pulling out the second bottle, “and wine.”
“I’ll have the wine please,” I say.
Alex stands, reaching his arms up above his head in one massive body stretch before sauntering over to the kitchen to grab a pair of plastic wine glasses. He’s easily six two so his fingertips just about brush the ceiling as he does it.
Plopping back onto the sofa at my side, Alex waves a breadknife and a corkscrew under my nose. “Kamikaze or classic?” He asks.
“Last time we tried cutting the top off a wine bottle, I had to take you to the ER.”
“So… kamikaze? Practice makes perfect.”
Alex lines the breadknife up against the neck of the wine bottle and I squeal.
“Alright, alright. We’ll go classic.” He laughs, dropping the breadknife next to our half eaten pizza. “Spoilsport.”
The doorbell rings just as I finish my final slice of pizza, contemplating whether or not Alex will notice if I wipe my greasy fingers on the duvet. Rolling his head lazily along the back of the sofa so he can look at me, Alex groans.
“I’ve been getting up and doing stuff for you all evening. Go get the door.”
“Why should I get it? It’s not for me. It’s probably one of your hundred girlfriends.”
“Not likely. The harem has strict instructions to text before an impromptu arrival of polygamous depravity.”
“Oh yes, my bad. It’s probably one of my zero boyfriends then.”
Alex rolls his eyes but gets up anyway. He presses his eye to the spy hole before opening the door and whoever it is that he sees gives him great pleasure.
“Oh ho,” he chuckles, “looks like it’s one of your boyfriends after all. Should we leave him to stew out there a little longer?”
I don’t have time to reply before Alex has turned the handle, swinging our front door wide open.
“Good evening, Inspector Docklen,” he says without a trace of insincerity.
I bolt upright, shedding my duvet. My head lurches woozily but I ignore it, waiting for the brief dizziness to pass.
“We’re off duty now, Sergeant Higgs, you can call me Jack.”
“In that case, Jack,” Alex replies, all genuine friendliness even thought I know it's fake. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Maya’s injured - from saving your life, I believe - so we’re not taking guests. She needs rest and recuperation.”
“No, Alex,” I interrupt, quickly patting down my hair before squeezing past him to address Docklen at the door. “Inspector Docklen can say what he came here to say, he went to all this trouble after all.”
Alex narrows his eyes at me suspiciously.
“Just wait one second,” he says to Docklen, holding up a finger and closing the door quite politely, but very firmly, in his face.
When we have our privacy, Alex stares down at me intensely, as though he’s trying to convey some kind of telepathic message.
“Don’t fuck him,” he whispers eventually.
“What?! I’m not going to fuck him, Alex. Jesus, is that what you think of me?”
“No it’s just that you’ve only known him a day and he’s already gotten you into so much trouble. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from living with Maya Kurtis it’s that whenever I think you can’t cock things up anymore you always find a way to turn a major situation into a royal fuck up.”
“Gee, thanks for that.”
Alex’s eyes narrow further, not giving in just yet, and I sigh.
“Alex, you heard what he said on the television. He threw me under the bus and now I’m benched for the foreseeable future: all his fault. Trust me, if I could boot him out the door and just be done with it, I would. However, I can’t and we have to work with each other. I’m only talking to him to see if I can get an apology. If Ripley catches us bickering, he’ll just keep adding weeks onto my sentence. Maybe if he can see us being responsible and professional he’ll decide I’m OK to start doing my job properly again.”
“Alright.” Alex grins. “You go girl.” He wrenches the door open, revealing a slightly irritated Docklen. “Sorry, mate, she’s all yours.”
I don’t really want to let Docklen into my house so I step out into the cold corridor, pulling the door to and wrapping my arms around my waist. Docklen’s eyes immediately make a single pass of my body, from top to bottom with absolutely no shame. He takes in my tiny PJ shorts and old T-shirt with a small smile.
“Cute,” he says.
“If you’re going to be like that,” I say, already reaching for the door handle, “then I’m not interested.”
“Wait,” Docklen lurches forwards, grabbing hold of my wrist and spinning me gently back round to face him. “I’m a liability, I get it.”
“You’re an idiot, that’s what you are.”
Docklen chuckles, releasing my wrist and running a hand through his hair. He’s changed out of his police uniform, wearing just a pair of jeans and a jacket. It suits him, very casual but the material highlights the important bits, like his shoulders and his hips and his washboard stomach.
“I am an idiot,” he says, “probably. Ripley made me see that today. You’re the only person that doesn’t hate me for being young and successful.”
“Yeah, I hate you because you’re a dick.”
Docklen laughs again, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“I wanted to say sorry, Maya. All that stuff about me making you look pathetic on tv… I didn’t mean it. I got carried away. I’m not used to working in a team - it wasn’t like that at my old station, it was cut throat. But everyone here’s really cool and I’m worried I’ve ruined it already. They definitely don’t think you’re pathetic. They know full well that I’d be dead if it wasn’t for you - your housemate made sure of that - and now they won’t let me forget it.”
I smile at the thought of Alex standing up for me even when I’m not there. Docklen takes it the wrong way, though.
“So we’re cool?” He asks.
“No, we’re definitely not cool,” I reply, “but I accept your apology.” I turn away, grabbing the door handle. “Goodnight, Inspector Docklen.”
“Goodnight, Sergeant Kurtis,” he replies. “On Thursday we’ll start again, yeah? Clean slate.”
“Sure, whatever, just don’t get in the way. If you stop me getting back on the street, I’ll kill you.”
“Getting back on the street?”
“Oh, you don’t know? Ripley benched me. Indefinitely. Paperwork until my eyes bleed.”
Docklen laughs. “Guess I should be sorry for that one too, then?”
“You should be. It’s your fault. Now seriously: Goodnight.”
He laughs again and, this time, I can’t help but smile.
“Night, Maya!” Docklen turns away. Sauntering off down the corridor, he throws a jaunty, one-armed wave over his head as he leaves. “Try and avoid watching my arse, if you please.”
“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t want to make myself sick,” I reply with a smirk but it’s too late. I’m already looking. Obviously. I’d be stupid to deny myself a view like that.
Alex squeals as I walk back into the flat, tripping backwards over the chair he’s set-up against the door.
“What the hell are you doing?” I ask.
He checks his shirt before he replies, making sure he hasn’t dripped a single drop of wine over himself. The boy has his priorities. I notice the level in the bottle is severely reduced from when I left.
Alex points to the spy hole in the door then gestures to his ear with glee.
“Turns out,” he says, “our door is thin as paper.”
I wish he wasn’t so proud of himself.
“So you heard everything?”
“Heard everything, saw everything. Better than the tv.”
I sigh, rubbing my eyes.
“Do you think he heard all that stuff about you telling me not to fuck him?”
“Probably,” Alex giggles. “I wouldn’t worry about it though. Inspector Docklen wants to kiss you so bad.”
I scrunch my face up angrily, snatching the glass of wine from his hand.
“Go to bed, Higgs,” I say, “It’s a Monday night and you’re already wasted.”
Alex winks, turning on his heel without complaint.
“Don’t make the next episode without me!”
I mime being sick as Alex shuts the bedroom door behind him. I throw myself onto the sofa, taking a thoughtful sip of Alex’s wine. Only when I’m absolutely certain he’s gone and he’s not coming out until morning do I let myself smile.
Jack Docklen wants to kiss me so bad.