Sometimes, In Order To Survive
Bo walked away from the General, towards the barn. His cousin was somewhere around but he wasn't particularly interested in finding him. He didn't want to be alone, either, but he didn't have much of a choice. Ever since he'd asked Roscoe if they could change the way things were he'd found himself spending more time thinking about him, and wondering if he'd made a mistake.
It wasn't that Bo regretted his request. In the last two weeks he and Roscoe had managed to grab a few minutes, here and there, sometimes just to ask how the other was. It was nice, even if they hadn't been able to grab another embrace. Talking made it feel like they cared about each other, again.
But he found that he wanted to spend more of his time with Roscoe than he could. Just what his lover had warned him of -- needing more than they could have and making themselves feel worse as a result. He didn't quite feel worse -- missing Roscoe now wasn't as bad as it had been before, when there had been nothing to look forward to at all. But Bo found that he was starting to look for reasons to seek Roscoe out and that, he figured, would sooner or later get him into trouble.
He needed someone to talk to, but going to the only person he could talk with about this was exactly what he was trying not to do too much of. Bo turned his attention to the stalls and decided to get started on cleaning them. It wouldn't take his mind off his trouble, but it would keep him out of trouble while he worried over them.
He'd gotten the spare stall cleaned and was heading for the next one over when he heard someone walk in. He glanced up, and gave his cousin a grin. "Hey, Luke."
"Bo." Luke came over and leaned against the railing, giving Bo the once over. "You seen Jesse?"
"He went with Daisy into town about an hour ago. Why?" Luke looked serious; Bo stopped with his chores. "Something wrong, Luke?"
"Not exactly," his cousin replied. Bo didn't think he looked as if nothing were wrong. He frowned, waiting. Luke finally continued, "I need to talk to you, Bo. Been waiting for a chance when the others weren't around, in case... well, just in case."
"In case what?"
"In case they don't need to know about what I need to ask you."
"What do you need to ask me?" Bo rarely saw his cousin acting this way. It happened now and again, but generally Bo knew what sort of trouble had gotten him so worried.
"I reckon I ought to just come right out and say it... but I want you to know -- hell, Bo, it looked like.. I mean if it wasn't I don't... it don't matter if it was, of course--"
"Luke, what are you talking about?"
He watched his cousin take a deep breath, then Luke looked him in the eye. "I saw you and Roscoe."
Bo didn't say a word. He stared at his cousin in utter confusion -- the only time he and Roscoe had done anything that Luke could have seen and thought anything of, was when they'd kissed a couple weeks ago. And if Luke had seen that he wouldn't have waited this long to merely stumble over his tongue the way he was now. Luke'd had plenty of opportunity before now to yell at him. Bo repeated, "Saw us?" Maybe Luke meant he'd seen them one time when Bo said he'd been one place, when in fact he was somewhere else with Roscoe.
"Saw you. Kiss him." Luke looked uncomfortable as he said it.
Bo felt his world drop out from under his feet. He'd never, not since the first time he'd made a pass at the sheriff, thought about what he'd say if someone told him they knew. That is, he'd never thought up lies to explain it away -- he wasn't very good at that sort of thing unless it was just for fun, just for fooling Boss Hogg and the law. This was much more important, besides which, he'd never been able to lie to Luke.
Luke continued, "I reckon I have about a thousand questions, Bo. But the most important is -- was that what it looked like?" Luke stared directly at him, and Bo couldn't even fidget.
"What did it look like?" He tried to stall, anyhow.
"Looked like... you were serious."
"I was." He said it softly, unable to force himself to say it any louder. Even if the kiss hadn't been anything more than what it had been.
"What about Roscoe?" Luke asked.
Bo didn't understand why he was asking that, but he answered. "Yes."
Luke nodded, and seemed to relax. "I suppose the rest of it ain't any of my business." Bo felt himself growing more mystified. "I just wanted to know if it was serious, to let you know I knew, in case... well, in case you need anything."
"Like what?" This conversation wasn't going the way Bo would have expected it to. He'd never imagined telling Luke, but somehow he suspected if he had, he would have imagined a lot of yelling, and a lot of 'don't you ever do that again's.
"I don't know. An excuse to sneak off, someone to talk to. Anything. I just want you to know I don't care. I'm not sure I understand it, mind you, but I don't think that you're doing anything wrong. Mind you, I ain't so sure it's safe -- not just because it's Roscoe."
"He's not like the way you know him," Bo mumbled, as he sat down on a stack of haybales. Luke was standing there, looking as honest and sincere as he'd ever known him to be. But what he was saying just didn't sound like him.
"I thought that might be the case," he heard his cousin saying. Then, "Bo?"
He looked up. "Are you telling me that it wouldn't bother you if I were in love with Roscoe?"
His cousin half-grinned. "I've spent the last two weeks trying to get ready to hear you say that and now that I have, I'm not so sure I was ready for it. But no, it doesn't bother me. It's... unexpected, that's for sure. But it doesn't bother me." Luke said the last very carefully, as if he were trying to say something he wasn't quite saying. When Bo simply kept staring at him in confusion, he added, "It doesn't bother me that you are interested in a man, and it doesn't -- mostly -- bother me that it's Roscoe. You know that if folks were to find out...."
Bo nodded, thinking it over. He wondered if he ought to try to explain how things really were between he and Roscoe. He looked away and just said, "Thanks, Luke."
"You're welcome. Can I--" Luke was interrupted by Jesse's voice calling from the CB in the General Lee. They both headed over, and Luke reached in and pulled the handset out.
"This is Luke, go ahead."
"Luke, you boys mind giving Daisy and I a hand? We've got a couple of bored lawmen on our tail seem to think we've been, I dunno, speeding or something. Who knows with these two?"
Luke grinned. "Where are you, Uncle Shepherd?" Bo was already heading around to the other side of the General.
"Coming down Pinewood Lane. If you hurry you can meet us just past Duncan's Bridge."
"Ten-four, Uncle Shepherd. On our way." Luke tossed the handset to Bo, and climbed in the car. Seconds later they were spinning tires in the dirt, heading out towards Duncan's Bridge.
Bo didn't say much as Luke drove. He was nervous -- and he had never felt nervous about a possibility of meeting up with Roscoe in front of someone else. He didn't like it, because he kept thinking what he ought to do was nothing and just treat Roscoe like he didn't mean anything to Bo. Granted, he probably wouldn't have the chance to do more than see Roscoe from the car; neither of them would probably even stop long enough to do or not do anything.
He looked over. "Yeah?"
"Are you gonna tell him?"
Bo turned back again. "Reckon I have to." He knew Roscoe wasn't going to like this, not at all.
"You want... if you want we can catch him. You can talk to him."
His cousin was sounding concerned, and normally Bo appreciated the way he always tried to help. "I don't know," he finally said. They were getting closer to Duncan's Bridge and Bo imagined he could almost hear Roscoe's siren.
"Well, if you do, just holler. We'll pull him over -- rather, let him pull us over."
Bo heard the grin in his cousin's voice. He didn't answer.
Two minutes later they could hear the sirens, then Daisy's jeep shot out from the road and zoomed past them. Luke spun the wheel and they got behind her, weaving for a moment to obscure the sight of her jeep vanishing into the treeline before heading off down the road. Roscoe was behind them, now, and Enos behind him.
Bo turned around and watched for a moment. "Why do you reckon they were after Jesse and Daisy anyhow?"
"I don't know," Luke answered. "Why don't you ask them?"
Bo realised Luke was going to keep after him to talk to Roscoe, give him one excuse after another until Bo took him up on the offer and talked. He braced himself as Luke took a sharp turn, and continued watching as Roscoe, then Enos, followed. Suddenly Daisy's jeep swung into the line behind Enos. Bo laughed.
"I think we caught 'em."
"I think you're right."
Bo turned around and grabbed the CB. "Hey, Daisy, now that we got 'em, what do you want to do with 'em?"
"Let's lose them in Briar's Cove," came the reply. The Cove was an area full of brambles, bushes, and springs. It would be easy for the jeep to navigate, and Luke could simply jump the General over the first spring and then head out of the Cove.
"Ten-four." Bo replaced the handset. "You heard her," he told Luke. He found himself feeling funny about it, though. He was relieved he wouldn't be able to stop and talk to Roscoe, and disappointed at the same. From the brief look Luke sent him, he suspected his cousin knew how he felt.
Luke led them towards the Cove and Roscoe and Enos kept right after them. Daisy seemed to be toying with Enos, pulling beside him then driving off, only to circle back around behind him. Bo figured Enos didn't mind -- he figured Daisy didn't, either. It was kind of ironic, really, that both of Hazzard's lawmen were in love with a Duke.
Luke took them over the first spring. Bo was jolted out of his thoughts by finding himself in mid-air, the familiar pull of gravity on him as the General leapt. They landed hard and Luke sent them back around; they caught sight of Daisy disappearing into the bushes. Enos followed and got stopped by the thicket. Bo saw the deputy lean out of his window to stare after Daisy.
Roscoe had tailed them towards the spring, but had slammed on his brakes rather than follow them over. The front tires had reached the edge of the mud, however, and it looked as though Roscoe was stuck. For a second the sight grew smaller as Luke headed away. Then unexpectedly, Bo said, "Stop."
"What?" Luke sounded surprised, but he stopped the car. Bo was climbing out before his cousin could say anything else. He didn't quite know what he was doing, but he couldn't leave Roscoe like that. He ran over, knowing Luke was probably following and knowing Roscoe's first words to him would be loud and angry ones -- yelling about getting him stuck, when he meant to be yelling about Bo's coming over.
Roscoe caught sight of him when he looked up from inspecting the front of his vehicle. "Bo! What are--" He stopped, looked behind Bo, then his face changed. "I'm gonna get you two for this!"
Bo slowed and glanced down at the tires. They looked pretty well stuck. He walked up to Roscoe, hearing Luke stopping some distance away behind him. Roscoe's expression was one of warning as Bo approached.
"It's all right, he knows."
Roscoe's face went pale. Then he frowned, and opened his mouth to yell again.
"I didn't tell him!" Bo put his hand on Roscoe's arm. "He saw us the other day. When I kissed you. He says he doesn't care." He waited.
Roscoe's face changed from shock, to disbelief. He was still upset, Bo could see, but Bo knew it was out of fear and not real anger. Roscoe looked at him, his expression closed the way it was when they met in public.
Bo told him, "I don't expect it to change anything. I just needed to let you know."
They stood there for several long moments. Finally Roscoe nodded. "I appreciate that, Bo." He looked over Bo's shoulder, stared for a bit, then apparently was satisfied with what he saw. He looked again at Bo. "Y'all should get on out of here." They could hear Enos pulling his car free of the brush -- soon he'd be over to help the sheriff get free, himself.
"I'll see you around," Bo offered. This wasn't what he wanted.
Roscoe nodded again. As Bo turned, he felt Roscoe take his arm. He stopped and looked back. Roscoe gave him a tiny smile and his lover's eyes shone at him. Bo smiled in return and headed off. Luke walked with him back to the General; glancing once over his shoulder at Roscoe, then climbing into the car.
As they drove away, Luke gave him a curious look. "Bo?"
There was a pause, then, "Was he all right? With me knowing, I mean?"
Bo turned to his cousin. "You saw him. He's okay with it."
Luke shook his head, then gave him a longer stare. "Is there something wrong? I mean, you two didn't act like... like you did last time I saw you."
Bo grinned. "When we didn't know we had someone watching us, you mean?"
Luke gave a laugh. "Yeah... sorry, Bo. I just worry about you, s'all."
"You don't have to worry about me, Luke." Bo turned back towards the window. "I'm doing all right. So is Roscoe."
A few days later everything had settled into an uneasy sort of routine. Roscoe was uneasy because he didn't quite like Luke knowing. Roscoe swore he trusted Bo's cousin, but he still felt uncomfortable. Bo thought maybe he was afraid Luke would judge them -- or, more likely, he knew Luke didn't really approve of his cousin being in love with the sheriff. Luke was uneasy because, well, his cousin was in love with the sheriff. After all the grief Roscoe and Boss Hogg had given the Duke family, Luke couldn't understand how it had happened. He hadn't asked about it, though Bo suspected he wanted to. There had never been a free moment for him to do so, however, with all the work they had to do on the farm, Daisy or Jesse or even Cooter were always nearby.
Bo was uneasy because wherever he went, he was with either Luke or Roscoe and their unease made him wish someone would do something to change things. And that left him where he'd been before. Not liking the way things were, but not at all wishing things would go back the way they'd been.
He wanted to sit and talk to Roscoe, the way they'd done years before on those long summer days. Bo had been able to talk about the things that troubled him, even things he'd been hesitant to talk about with Uncle Jesse. Roscoe had always listened, and together they'd nearly always been able to find if not an answer then a reason to accept things they way they were.
Right now, he needed that. An answer or a reason to stop wishing things would change. Most of all he just wanted to have the time and the freedom to sit and spend the day with the man he loved.
Bo looked up, surprised. He was washing up the dishes from lunch; Daisy had gone to work at the Boar's Nest, Jesse had gone to see a friend a few farms over. As soon as Bo realised he and Luke were there alone, he understood the tone in Luke's voice. He just wasn't sure what he was supposed to say. "About what?"
Luke leaned against the kitchen counter, taking cleaned dishes from the rack and drying them. "About you and Roscoe. And don't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about."
"Luke, I don't -- I mean, I do... but what do you want to hear first?"
He saw a brief grin as Luke replied, "Anything. You name it, I got a question about it. I told you before there's things that are none of my business. But Bo, it's driving me crazy. I need to -- well, I want to know how. And why, and when, and...." He gave Bo an apologetic look. "I just don't understand it, Bo. Why Roscoe? How, for god's sake, did you ever manage to fall in love with him?"
Bo concentrated for a moment on the plate he was washing. When he handed it over to Luke, he said, "I don't know how or why, Luke. I just know I did. But--" He looked up. "It was a long time ago. I fell in love with him when I was in high school. While you were gone."
Luke stared at him, and he could tell how completely he'd dumbfounded his cousin. It was almost funny, seeing that expression of disbelief and surprise. Bo picked up another plate and continued washing. A few moments later Luke asked, "Did...you.... Are you telling me you two have been together for eight years?"
Bo shook his head with a sad smile. "No. We were only together a year or so. He broke it off the summer after I graduated."
There was more silence. When Luke spoke again the disbelief was shadowed by sympathy. "So you just got back together?" His words were doubtful.
Again Bo shook his head. "We ain't back together, Luke. We just agreed to, well, talk once in a while. When we had the chance. Stop pretending there had never been anything between us." He looked up out of the window, and could see a spray of flowers recently bloomed. He remembered Daisy planting them last year; he'd teased her because she'd sent him into town three times to get the right packet of seeds.
"Oh." Luke reached over and took the plate from him, and set it on the rack. "I'm sorry, Bo. I didn't realise...."
Bo shrugged and set a handful of silverware in the rack. "I guess I should have explained when you brought it up the first time."
"Are you gonna try and get back together?"
Bo stopped his washing and didn't answer. When he looked over at Luke he found his cousin watching him. He tried to answer, but he couldn't.
"Bo, why don't you, if you want to? What's stopping you?" Luke asked suddenly.
The encouragement startled him. He still didn't know what to say, however. He wanted things to change, but he wasn't sure that getting back together was the answer. Or the reason. It occurred to him, though, that maybe he did finally have someone to talk to.
"Same reason we broke up," he finally said. "If we get together, eventually someone's gonna figure it out. It's hard enough pretending when nothing's going on. If we was to.... folks would find out. You know as well as I do what they'd do. And it wouldn't just be Roscoe's job at stake."
"It that the only reason?"
"It's enough, ain't it?" Bo asked sharply.
"Reckon it is." Luke kept quiet for a while.
They finished with the dishes and Bo set the pots in to soak. He dried off his hands and glanced towards his cousin. "Have to go into town and pick up those new saw blades."
"You want me along?" Luke had never asked that question before.
Bo nodded. "I don't plan on seeing him. You might as well."
Luke reached out and stopped him, as he started to walk past. "Bo? Is there anything I can do?"
He looked at Luke for a moment, considering. "You might remember that he ain't who you see. Sometimes I think even he forgets. But who you see ain't the man I know. It ain't the man I'm in love with. He's more than what he pretends to be."
Luke nodded. "I think I know what you mean. Every once in a while.... well, let's just say I think I've seen the man you're talking about."
Bo started to smile. "He's a lot nicer. And not nearly as clumsy. I've seen him hit a rabbit at 20 paces with a stone this big," he held up his hand, fingers a few inches apart. He followed Luke out of the house, heading towards the General Lee. He continued speaking. "He taught me how to spin a car on ice. Went up to Wallace when I was seventeen and the roads were all iced over. Showed me how to spin the car, and pull it back out."
"Where'd he learn to do that?" Luke stopped beside the passenger door, letting Bo take the driver's seat.
"When he was in the army. He was stationed in Wisconsin for awhile, and a friend of his taught him." Bo swerved around the chickens gathered in the drive and headed towards the road. "And you know when he smiles, when he's really happy about something, he looks just like he did the first time when I kissed him." Luke started laughing, and Bo looked over. "What?"
"You're telling me you seduced him?"
"What's so funny about that?"
"Nothing," Luke shook his head, still chuckling. "It just wasn't at all what I was thinking."
"What were you thinking?" Bo narrowed his eyes.
"Well, come on, Bo. He's older'n you, and you were only seventeen. Usually it happens the other way around."
"If I'd waited for it to happen the other way around, he'd never have done it." Bo frowned. Then he smiled slyly. "That's why I kissed him."
"You really..." Luke looked at him, amazed. "You did! Bo, you have to tell me. Where were you? What on earth possessed you to kiss him? What'd he do?"
Bo smiled at his cousin's growing excitement and interest. As they drove towards town he told Luke everything that had happened that day. As he talked, he shared other things he'd done, other things he'd discovered about his lover. Bo told him how Roscoe had helped him with his water project, how he'd been the one to talk him into confessing his role in the destruction of Old Mike Masters' barn -- the senior kids had been partying there one night with homemade booze and no supervision. Someone had brought some fireworks, and the next morning there had been nothing but a burnt-out frame. As punishment, the kids had had to rebuild the barn. Bo hadn't actually set fire to anything, he hadn't done anything to stop his friends, either.
Luke already knew about Masters' barn -- Bo'd told his cousin about it soon after it had happened. He'd never, until now, explained why he'd finally told Jesse and Mike Masters he had been there. Luke listened quietly as he talked, laughing sometimes and expressing disbelief. As they entered town Bo stopped telling stories.
When he pulled into the parking lot beside the hardware store, Luke tapped him on the shoulder and nodded.
"I know." Bo had seen Roscoe's car parked behind a truck in the adjacent lot.
For a moment it looked like Luke was going to suggest something; when Bo just waited, Luke sighed. "Come on, then. Let's go get those blades."
Bo climbed out of the car and headed for the store. There were a lot of places to stop and talk to Roscoe, even about something no one would find suspicious, but the middle of town was not one of them. He'd learned that the hard way, eight years ago.
He began browsing the aisles, as Luke went over to talk to Agel Brown, the store owner. There were a lot of things he'd love to get, some they could use around the farm and some it would just be nice to have. They couldn't afford any of it, so Bo contented himself to looking, and wanting. It was an hour later that Luke found him, blades in hand.
"Find anything we need?" his cousin asked as they left the store.
"Depends. You wanna get a socket wrench to replace the one you broke last week?"
"I broke? Who was it set the darn thing down on top of the tire?"
"I was. But you're the one that--" Bo stopped. Roscoe was standing by the General, writing out a ticket. He had to work very hard to keep himself from smiling. Beside him, Luke sighed, shaking his head. "At least now I know how you manage to get more tickets than I do."
"Yeah, but I don't have to pay 'em. Roscoe doesn't turn 'em in half the time."
"He what?" Luke gaped at him. Then he frowned, not hiding his grin. "That ain't fair."
"Ain't supposed to be fair, Luke." They'd walked up behind Roscoe where they stood, waiting. When the sheriff had finished writing, he looked up and tore the ticket out of the book. He handed it over with a stern glare. Bo accepted it, now letting himself smile. "Hello, Roscoe." It sounded like he was teasing the lawman. He -- and now Luke -- could see the answering hello in Roscoe's expression.
"You Dukes stay out of trouble, you hear?"
"You know us, Roscoe," Luke replied when Bo didn't say anything.
Roscoe looked at Luke, and Bo saw the hidden smile widen. "In that case, you better keep an eye out."
"Always do." Bo stepped out of Roscoe's way. He felt a brief touch on his arm, and bit his lower lip. He waited until Roscoe was getting into his vehicle before jumping through the General's open window. He sat there, trying not to grin, as Luke came around and slid in beside him.
After another moment, Luke asked, "What are we waiting for?"
Bo opened the ticket and looked at it. When he'd read it, he finally smiled.
"What's it say?" Bo handed it over. Luke read it, then gave him a confused look. "It's just a regular ticket, except we haven't been charged with anything. He's filled out everything else but that."
"I know." Bo started the engine, gave the Dixie horn a blast, and looked back at Luke. He felt like yelling, like taking the car down a clear road at a hundred miles an hour and into the air. "It's just how he says it, sometimes." He drove out of the lot at a much slower speed than he wanted, and merged into the traffic.
"That he loves me."