Joseph Chandler was quite comfortable with silence. He neither felt uncomfortable with prolonged silences, nor the need to fill them with small talk. Ray Miles was quite the opposite.
"This is a joke", the latter said with utter contempt. It was 12:30am on a Saturday… make that Sunday morning and the DI had taken his DS to observe a street. Because that's all they were doing. Watching a street! "Nothing's gonna happen. The woman was hysterical, she didn't know what she was talking about. There is not a murderer waiting to pounce. There is not a murderer living next door to her and the most we're gonna see tonight is a fox. If we're lucky."
Chandler continued to look out of the window at the dark, deserted street, all the while trying to block out Miles' continuous complaining. But after 15 minutes of the same groans and moans, he finally pulled his attention away from the street sign, barely visible in the darkness and turned to face his whinging partner.
"Look, Miles. We received a serious complaint. The very reason that she was hysterical at 11 in the morning is the reason we're here and, even if nothing happens, we can say we did our job and avoid any future call outs. Lets just try to see it out. We can clock off in a couple of hours."
"Bloody public. Think we're here to come running at every beck and call."
"well, we kind of are. It's our job." There was perhaps a little too much sarcasm in his voice, but after what seemed like an eternity of complaining, Joe was too tired to care.
"It is not our job. That's what we have uniforms for. Why does it have to be us?"
"Because it's our case and we are to follow through on it. We're detectives. We are detecting."
"We're fox watching. We might as well have a bloody tent! Even if something did happen, which it won't, we wouldn't see it anyway. Waste of time, that's what it is!"
Chandler let his head sink onto his hands, as he gently caressed his aching temples. He'd been at work since 7am and had been too busy to eat. His body was failing to keep him alert and he could feel his eyelids getting heavier with every utterance the DS made.
"Miles. Can we please just not make a long day even longer. I know you don't want to be here. Do you think I do either? But we're here, so lets not make it any more unbearable than it already is."
Miles was silent instantly. It wasn't very often the DI spoke out like that, and least of all to him. He wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or proud, but never the less, he took the point.
Another 5 minutes ticked by on the dashboard clock and Miles was ready to scream again with the lack of stimulation. He opened his mouth to speak but a quick glance at his boss, head resting on hand, looking worse for wear made him reach for the radio instead.
'...play the cards with spades to start.
And after he's been hooked I'll play the one that's on his heart
Oh, oh, oh, oh ,oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
I'll get him hot, show him what I got
Chandler grimaced at the woman's voice cutting through his drowsiness like a knife. He didn't know what the song was, but he wanted it out of his car. His finger pushed the off button with such force, it almost hurt, but he very calmly went back to his blissful state of silence, counting down the minutes 'till he could be reunited with his quiet, tidy flat.
Had the song not been so awful, Miles would have protested, but the DI's actions just saved him losing face by turning it off himself.
Still, seconds ticked by until once again, the seconds became minutes and the minutes seemed like hours. Not even the animals were awake any more and Miles could hear the tick, tick, ticking of Chandler's watch in the deadly silence.
As he sat there, bored out of his mind, his thoughts turned to his boss. He was still sitting with his elbow on the ledge of the door and his head rested sideways on that. His breathing was slow and deep and he looked almost ready to drift off.
He thought of getting home, sneaking by Judy to slowly crawl into bed without disturbing her. The warmth of the duvet on his cold body. The confortable pillow that would be there for his heavy head to rest on. But as he thought of that, he looked once more at the boss, still unmoved and wondered what must be going through his mind.
There would be no one there for him when he eventually got in. No one to sneak past, no one to watch sleeping, no one to wake up to. He started to feel sorry for him, until another thought crossed his mind. Was the DI actually happier like that?
The thought that any one could be happy living day in, day out in solitude. Having no one to drink tea with, no one to laugh with, or talk to was alien to him. Although he portrayed a tough exterior, due to the nature of his job, he couldn't imagine life without his wife and kids. But the Boss' mind was opaque. The more he tried to figure his DI out, the more lost and confused he found himself. Chandler the conundrum. Even after working together for over two years, he still remained a closed book to the team.
Some found it reassuring. Some found it disconcerting. Some found it endearing. But Miles. Miles found it annoying.
"Boss. Don't you ever get lonely in that big flat?" Blunt, but straight to the point. That was Ray.
The sudden enquiry snapped Chandler out of his trance like state and he turned his head to face his DS, keeping his body still.
Miles would have believed him, had he been looking out of the window, or on the phone, such was the sincerity of the answer, but his eyes revealed hidden, unspoken words. Past the blue iris' and the tiredness aching from them, his eyes gave a hint of sadness to accompany his sharp words.
And for that hint of emotion alone, the DS pressed on.
"Come on Sir. We have all night, literally. If we can't talk now, when can we?"
"Who says I want to talk?"
"No one. But I don't believe you're as happy on your own as you say you are. We've never seen you with a … partner," Miles chose his words carefully, "so we must assume you've been single for at least two years. Have you never thought about finding someone?"
Chandler turned back to face the window. He didn't even know the answer himself, how was he supposed to tell Miles something he was unsure of himself. He sighed and took in a deep breathe, his mind working to find the words.
"Yeah, I've heard that before. Do you mean you're in a relationship?"
"No, I … I mean the situation. It's complicated."
Miles wasn't sure what to think. On one hand he was too confused as to what the DI meant to try to press it further, but on the other… Chandler never spoke about his personal life to anyone. Maybe this would be a chance to pry open a few pages of the closed book that was his boss. He made his mind up, if not just for him, then for the team. He had to try and understand the man leading their enquiries a little better after all this time, and he didn't know when he'd get another chance.
"Ok. Well, complicated how?"
"If I could un-complicate it enough to tell you, it wouldn't be complicated, would it?"
He knew the DI well enough to know how touchy he got when he was stressed, so Miles took another route.
"Alright. How many relationships have you been in since you became a DI?"
Chandler looked back, shocked at the blunt question.
"You sure know how to start a conversation."
"Well, someone has to, and I bet it ain't gonna be you."
"I wonder why."
"I'm not sitting here in silence for the next hour, and if it's something I can help with, then you might as well tell me. I'll just keep naggin' you otherwise!" There was a smirk on Miles' face and Chandler appreciated the friendly tone. He thought about how far they'd come from the day he joined. Miles hated his guts, but now… now he guessed they were friends.
"I don't know."
It was ambitious, granted. But Joe didn't really want to give the real answer. The real answer being a big fat zero.
"What does it matter?"
Both men were turned completely towards each other now, both having given up watching phantoms.
"'cause. I see you, sittin' in that pokey office of yours from the second you get in, sometimes, to the moment you leave. I can see what a job like that can do a person. Being a detective is no picnic. It's stressful work and if you carry that into your own life, it's no wonder you can't relax and find someone."
Chandler rubbed his eyes, the tiredness still creeping in, despite the conversation. Miles had a good point. Or, at least he would if he were right. But he was only half right.
"It's not …" He took a breathe .." It's not the job. I mean, just the job."
Miles immediately felt a pang of regret. He wanted the DI to open up as much as the next bloke, and although he wouldn't admit to it, maybe slightly more, but he hoped this wasn't going where he thought it might be.
"You mean … 'issues'?", he said as subtly as he could.
"What? NO!" Miles felt slightly relieved. "No, not like that."
The confusion was back and the car fell silent again while both men thought.
"How then?" Miles asked as carefully as he could.
Joe rubbed his hands, uncomfortable at the new level of intimacy. He wasn't one for conversation, and this was one he didn't really want to have. At least Miles knew some of the story. That would make this quicker… he hoped.
Chandler thought of how best to proceed, only divulging what he had to to keep Miles happy. He turned back to face the window.
"You see that street sign?" Miles leant round Chandler's strapped in body and squinted to try to make out the darkened object.
"Do you see what's wrong with it?"
Miles looked up at Chandler's face, wondering what was wrong with him, but on seeing the DI's focused eyes, he turned back to the sign.
"No. It's a sign."
Chandler rubbed his eyes again, aware of what he was about to say. His only solace was that at least Miles really already knew.
"The T is crooked." He continued to stare out of the window, not wanting to look the DS in the eyes.
"What? How can you even see that in this light?"
"I see it, because I'm looking for it." He looked out of the corner of his eye, to see Miles with a confused face staring at him.
"You're looking for wonky T's?"
He sighed, he knew this was a bad idea.
"Yes. And crooked M's and Q's. I'm not actively seeking them, but I see them all. I'm always looking for imperfections, not because I choose to, but because I can't help not to. I've been staring at that T over there for the last 2 hours. All I can think about is going and sorting it. Hell, the only thing that's stopped me trying is that we're meant to be under cover."
Miles was still staring, uncertain.
"The point is, if I can't let go of a letter on a street sign, how am I ever supposed to overlook imperfections in my own home. You know me. The thought of someone moving everything around, living in my flat, using my things…" He lowered his head. The thought was getting to him even now. "I tried it once. A relationship. After 2 weeks of coming back to a home that wasn't my own, I couldn't bare it. Of course, it went downhill and they'd had enough after 3 weeks. I can't do that again."
He looked Miles in the eyes once more, and Miles understood.
He couldn't make things better. He couldn't help Chandler. But he could try. His voice softer now, he spoke up.
"That just means you haven't found the right person. You're right. I do know you. I know you're tidy. I know your burden but I also know that you can't spend the rest of your life alone. You just have to find the person who makes those things seem less significant. As soon as you find them, my bet is you won't mind so much. You never know. You might even be happy."
The two men stopped talking and the world went silent again. Chandler knew it wouldn't be as simple as Miles thought, but maybe… maybe it could happen. But Chandler's moment of contemplation was interrupted as the DS he was used to came thundering back.
"Are you gonna drive me home then. I'm bloody freezing."