When I feel you close to me, what can I do but fall?
-Richard Thompson, "Keep Your Distance"
Ray Doyle studied the row of shirts hanging in the wardrobe. A month at the beach in May. Which ones should he take? The long-sleeved cotton shirts, definitely, in case the weather was normal for May. He tossed them towards his suitcase, which lay open on the bed, already half-full with socks, pants, jeans. It would never all fit.
And what if the weather turned out to be colder than normal this time of year? Doyle grabbed a bunch of checkered flannel shirts. Or it could be hotter than normal...he pulled out all his tees.
The suitcase wouldn't close.
He hadn't even packed his jackets yet. Doyle pawed through the choices. Sweater-jacket? Leather? Sports jacket?
As he stood there deliberating, the doorbell rang. Hell. He wasn't anywhere near ready yet.
He went out to the hallway intercom. "Yeah?"
"Your chariot awaits," Bodie replied.
Doyle buzzed him through. "Sorry, but I've got a bit more packing to do."
Bodie followed him into the bedroom. His gaze fell on the overstuffed suitcase. "It's one month, Ray, not a world cruise."
Doyle held up his white sweater-jacket. "Should I take this, or a leather one?"
"Take both." Bodie sat on the suitcase to close it. "Don't you have another suitcase?"
"Nope. Got a holdall." Doyle pulled out a small bag and stuffed the sweater in. He contemplated his collection of leather jackets. Three brown, one with a fleece collar, two black, one black with red and blue...then there were the eight different sports jackets.
Bodie stood up. "Why don't I just go wait in the lounge? I'll watch a movie or two while you finish." He strode towards the door.
Doyle picked up on the note of annoyance in Bodie's tone. "Look," he snapped, "it's not every day a person leaves Town for a month."
"Yeah, well it took me five minutes to pack. You'd think you didn't want to go anywhere."
"Well, maybe I don't!"
They stood staring at each other, tension rising. Then Doyle sank onto the bed, holding a bunched-up shirt. "Sorry." He hated this, hated the way they'd been snapping at each other over the past few months, ever since his release from hospital.
The long months of recovery from the shooting, and the intense physical therapy sessions had taken a toll on him, and Doyle knew he had taken out a lot of his frustrations on his partner. But he hated being coddled, being constantly treated with kid gloves, and that's what Bodie had done. It made Bodie an easy target for his anger.
This plan to get away from Town for awhile wasn't his idea. Dr. Kate Ross, the CI5 psychiatrist, had suggested he needed the change, needed to go somewhere to completely relax. With a minder, of course. Cowley and Bodie had both readily agreed with Kate's plan. Everyone seemed to think they knew what Doyle needed better than he did.
Cowley had fixed up the locale - a house on the southwest coast without any near neighbors, with private access to the beach. The modern home came with a fireplace, TV, VCR, stereo system, hot tub. To most people, staying there would be paradise. To Doyle, it was simply a different form of imprisonment. For he had felt trapped by his own insecurities ever since the day he'd allowed himself to be brought down by the would-be killer's bullets.
Bodie came back into the room. "Anything I can do to help out?"
Doyle nodded. "There's not that much more, really. Just need to throw my drawing supplies in a box. Can you take this down to the car?"
"Sure." Bodie picked up the suitcase. He hesitated, then put a hand on Doyle's shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. "We'll have a great time out there."
Doyle looked up at the familiar face of his best friend. "Yeah," he said, trying to muster some enthusiasm. He smiled. "I hear the Cow arranged to stock the place with booze."
"He did, indeed." Bodie grinned. "All the mod cons, eh?" He hefted the suitcase to the door. "See you downstairs in a few."
Doyle let out a long sigh as soon as he had gone. They had changed, no doubt about that. Everything had changed. Nothing in his life, his world, seemed certain anymore, and he wasn't quite sure why the unease had settled deep inside, and he didn't have a clue at all as to what to do about it.
He rummaged about for a box and filled it quickly with drawing tablets, pencils, charcoal, and odds and ends he might need. The last thing he picked up was the small notebook he'd bought that morning at the stationery shop. He wanted to leave it behind. Kate Ross had more or less ordered him to buy the thing, had told him to write something every day about anything he wanted, so long as he mentioned his feelings once in a while. He had angrily objected, telling her he didn't need any therapy. She claimed it wasn't, said that a journal was simply something she thought might help him get "back on track."
He could hardly deny that he had been off-kilter the past few months. He'd asked if she would want to read it when he got back. No, only if he wished her to. And then she told him she had asked Bodie to write in a journal, too.
Doyle look at the notebook for a few moments, wondering if Bodie would comply. Now, that would make interesting reading. He'd love to know what his tight-lipped, stoical friend would say if his guard were down, if he truly believed no one would ever read his innermost thoughts.
And what would Bodie think if he read Doyle's greatest secrets? Close mates though they were, he definitely did keep things back. There were parts of him that Bodie would never know, that no one would ever know.
He had always believed that was how it should be, that you had to keep some part of your life private, yours alone. It seemed to him that the more he gave of himself to others, the more open he felt, more vulnerable, less self- contained. He certainly wasn't the master of secrets that Bodie was, but he had his share.
Doyle dropped the notebook into the box. Maybe it was time to let a few things out into the open.
Bodie pulled off the main road onto a narrow, gravel-paved drive. A quarter-mile along, it ended in front of a one- story house sitting on flat, grassy land. On the far side of the house he could see beachfront, and about a hundred feet beyond, nothing but blue-gray water.
Doyle had been abnormally quiet during the ride. It felt odd, not having him chatting away. Bodie was so used to hearing his voice, even if only in idle banter, whenever they drove anywhere together. He had missed that a lot lately.
The camaraderie they once shared had gone, replaced by an unusual hesitancy, a strange dance in which they moved in close only to slap each other away. He had desperately wanted, ever since nearly losing Doyle, to do whatever the other man wanted of him, to care for him, to help him any way he could. But Doyle responded only with anger.
He brought his own suitcase and Doyle's holdall into the house, leaving Doyle to struggle with his box and overstuffed case himself. He dropped the bags in the entry way and ambled into the large living room. A sofa and loveseat flanked a massive fireplace, with the telly off in one corner. An entire wall was taken up by the stereo system and a liquor cabinet. The dark, wood-paneled walls were offset by a plush beige carpet.
The room opened up on one side to a brighter dining area, where a sliding glass door led onto a wide porch overlooking the beach. On the other side of the dining room, through a wide arch, stood the kitchen. He wandered back to the entry way, off which a hall led to the bedrooms and bath. A cozy enough place, if a bit lacking in distinctive decor. He wondered where the hot tub was hiding.
He found it at the very end of the house, sort of tacked on as an afterthought, a small room lined with glass walls. Nice touch. You could lay in the hot swirling water and watch the waves beyond.
Bodie walked back down the hallway to find Doyle ensconced in the larger of the two bedrooms, the one with the king- sized bed and the best view. "Sure you'll have enough room there?" he asked.
Doyle grinned as he patted the thick duvet. "Comfy looking, isn't it?"
"Very." Bodie glanced across the hall at the small bedroom opposite, the one with the regular size bed and a view of the gravel drive. "Don't suppose we could trade off each week?"
Doyle just kept on grinning.
Well, okay, here I am, dutifully writing in my journal. Hope this makes Kate happy.
And just what am I supposed to be putting down, that's what I'd like to know. We got to the house this afternoon. The lovely, private beach house where I can walk and jog and swim and get all that fresh air and sunlight everybody thinks I'm pining for.
I got news. It's pouring down rain.
Bodie's gone to the village to pick up the perishables. Everything else was nicely stocked, thanks. I nabbed the comfiest bed right off, irked him no end, that did. Now I'm relaxing at the dining room table, with a nice, hot cuppa and a view of wet, cold beach. Really cheers me up, that does.
Don't know what I'm going to write about in this notebook. Anything, Kate says, including how I'm feeling. I feel okay. Couldn't run a mile, but I bet I could jog up and down that beach for a spell. Providing it stops raining.
But I expect that's not what she meant. Wants to know how I'm feeling mentally, about the shooting, about what it's like to come so close to dying. Don't quite know how to go about that. Maybe like writing a letter to myself. Never write letters anymore, always ring people up. Much easier. Used to write to me mum regular, but never said much more than "Had a nice, boring day down in records. Didn't kill anybody. Say hi to Aunt Mary and Uncle Jack."
So, now I get to try writing something different than I've ever done before. Seems strange, just having this paper in front of me. Can natter easily enough, about nothing in particular. Like the house. And the beach, and the rain. Other stuff, though...well, just don't know where to start. Maybe if I just natter on, something will come of its own self.
Guess that's how people do this.
Wonder what Bodie's going to put down in his notebook tonight. Was real quiet on the drive out, thought I'd go nuts listening to all that silence. Tried a few openers, didn't get anywhere. Don't know what's up with us. Maybe it's good, being out here just by ourselves for a bit. Force us to get along, if nothing else.
Never cared much for the great outdoors. Like to ride me bike, do some cross-country stuff here and there, been fishing with Bodie a few times. More like fishing for barmaids, though. He could find a bird for the night if he was in the middle of the Sahara. Probably two birds, at that.
Can hear the car pulling up. Better put this away.
Sure wish it would stop raining.
Stupid idea, this. Still, I can humor the good doctor. Am not showing this to anyone, that's for sure. Put whatever I want in here. Burn it in the fireplace before we leave. Simple.
Had a great dinner tonight. Steak, potatoes, salad, good wine. Ray hardly touched his.
Can hear him snoring on the sofa. Bugger fell asleep in the middle of the Aubrey Hepburn movie he raved about all through the meal. Loves her. Can't see why. Too skinny by half.
So is he right now. Too thin, too pale. Can't stand seeing him like this. Lot better than a few months ago, but still, thought he'd bounce back quicker. Got so much fight in him, more fire and energy than most ten blokes combined. Don't ever cross him, you won't enjoy living with the results. The Cow told me that, more or less, when he teamed us all those years ago.
Always wondered what he told Doyle about me. Whatever it was, Ray sure didn't take to it. Was downright rude when we met, hardly said a civil word. Remember once, about a month into our partnership, after the hundredth time he'd told me where to stick it, I asked him what had happened to his mum.
He looked so surprised. "What are you on about?" he said.
"Well," I replied, "one of the duties of a mother is to teach her children good manners, so I figured you must not have had one."
He told me where to stick it, of course.
But next day, I noticed he was more polite. And the next day after, a bit more. And pretty soon, we were laughing over the whole mess.
Been seven years together. Both been hurt before, plenty of times. Always scares me. But never anything as bad as this. Ray survived, but it's like it drained all the life out of him anyway.
Wish to hell I knew how to get it back.
Well, that's plenty for tonight. Better think up a good place to hide this. Maybe in the cleaning supplies cupboard. Bugger'll never look in there.
Better go turn off the telly, too.
Doyle lay flat on his back on the sheet he'd spread out on the sand, his eyes closed against the sun. He was best pleased that it had not only chosen to shine today, but to do so with unusual warmth.
The beach itself was fairly small, maybe a hundred feet long, then it narrowed on either side to a two-foot stretch as the hills rose up. Their nearest neighbor lay two miles away, the closest village, five. Nice and private, all right.
It surprised him how little he missed the noise and bustle of the city. Maybe it had been subtly grinding him down. Doyle always thought he preferred lots of activity, lots of people about, lots of excitement. But lying here listening to the waves hit the sand, the terns crying in the distance, and letting the soft warm breeze drift over his naked body - well, it felt damn good.
Bodie had gone walking along the beach to search for seashells. He'd vanished down the narrow strip some time ago and Doyle was on the verge of worrying where he'd got to when he spotted the familiar figure out of the corner of his eye. Bodie was dressed about as casually as Doyle had ever seen him, in jeans and a tee-shirt. Much too warm for any clothes at all, though, as far as he was concerned.
"Oi." Bodie ambled up to him. "You're getting red in spots you won't enjoy much later on." He sat alongside him, legs spread out, and dumped a sack of shells and rocks onto the sheet.
Doyle rolled onto his stomach, propped up on his elbows. "What'd you find?"
Bodie held up a broken bit of cockleshell. "Lots of these."
"Great. You can glue 'em all together on some wood and make a picture frame."
"Don't mock. Used to do stuff like that when I was a kid."
Doyle tried to imagine a young Bodie doing anything even mildly creative. "You never."
"Did too." Bodie showed him a dull gray pebble with duller white specks. "Looked better wet, that did."
Doyle sighed and lay his head down on his arms. "Wake me up if you find any buried treasure chests, okay?"
"Ta very much."
He heard Bodie pawing through his horde. He supposed he could have shown more interest, but he honestly couldn't see the appeal of picking up a load of broken shells and ordinary rocks.
After a while, the rummaging sounds stopped. Doyle nudged Bodie's leg. "Hey. Why not get some sun? 's very relaxing."
"Yeah, why not."
This jarred Doyle so much he snapped his head up to see if Bodie were really going to take his clothes off. He'd certainly seen his partner in the altogether before, taking showers after workouts, but as a rule, Bodie bundled himself up so tight you'd think he'd been born wearing clothes.
Doyle watched as Bodie slowly stripped off the shirt. Then he bunched it up for a pillow and lay down.
"That's it?" Doyle asked, amused. "You really want to be half tan and half white?"
"Who's ever gonna know?"
"The next bird you connive into bed, for one."
"Nah," Bodie replied, "always do it with the lights down low."
Doyle laughed. "Go on, take 'em off. Nobody out here to take a gander, is there?"
Bodie sighed, but then he shrugged, and pulled off the rest of his clothes. "You happy now?"
"Nope. I need some lotion on me back. And so do you." Doyle tossed the suntan oil at him.
He lay back down, waiting for Bodie to rub the oil on.
There was a long pause, but then he felt Bodie's hands on him. He brusquely applied the oil in hurried strokes, which slowed as he reached Doyle's lower back.
"Go on," Doyle said, "don't want me bum to turn red."
"You can reach it yourself." Bodie tossed the lotion at his head.
"Coward." Doyle reached round to rub some oil on himself, then sat up. "Your turn."
Bodie groaned and lay down. "Think you're getting an abnormal amount of enjoyment out of this."
"Nah. It's torture, pure torture." He put a good dollop of the thick, creamy liquid on his hands, then smoothly rubbed it into Bodie's back, going slowly, nearly turning it into a massage. He had wanted to touch him for so long... Doyle swallowed hard, very aware that he shouldn't be doing this, shouldn't be treading so close to disaster. But at the same time, he found it next to impossible to hold back. He wanted to touch him, caress the smooth, taut back much longer and more intimately; it hurt to want so strongly what he couldn't have, what he was given only the barest taste of.
Bodie had made no sound, no movement, not even a twitch during the entire process. Doyle finished with his back and paused, contemplating the firm white cheeks...should he? Could he? The temptation overpowered him. Better be quick about it, though. Doyle poured more oil on his hands and deftly slapped it across Bodie's bum in two rapid movements.
"Hey!" Bodie's whole body jerked.
Doyle lay back down. Ah, it had been all too tantalizingly brief. "What?"
"Don't give me that." Bodie eyed him out of one half-closed eye. "Knew it wasn't safe to go starkers around you."
"That's right." Doyle tried to keep it a joke, a bit of harmless teasing. "Can't take me eyes off you, darlin'."
"Yeah, well, that's 'cause I'm so gorgeous."
Doyle smiled. If Bodie could joke, then it was okay. He hadn't stepped over the line. At least, not yet.
In the early afternoon, after a light lunch, they went for a walk. Bodie had found an ordnance map of the area in the house, and pointed out the hiking path which led through the grassy hills to the ruins of a thirteenth-century priory about a mile-and-a-half away.
Bodie spied the ruins as they approached a slight rise. More of the building had collapsed than had been left standing, but there were still a few walls left, damaged by time and weather. There was no ceiling left at all, and the battered walls stood solemnly rising up to open sky.
Doyle had brought his sketchpad. He strolled about the grounds, strewn with broken brick and weeds. "Lonely place," he said.
"Quiet, too." Bodie glanced at the wispy clouds drifting overhead. Peaceful. Not a soul about, either.
"This looks good for sketching." Doyle brushed off an ancient stone bench near one of the crumbling walls. "You're not gonna get bored, are you?"
"Nah. Brought me book." Bodie ambled over to a grassy hillock. He'd never been much of a reader, and hadn't expected to find anything of interest in the house's one small bookcase, but was mildly surprised to find something right off. A history of World War I. He had read a few pages that morning on the beach and found it vivid and riveting.
Bodie got back into the book easily, and didn't notice the passage of time until his back began to feel stiff. He found a stopping place and glanced over at Doyle, who seemed engrossed in his drawing. He was good at art; Bodie had seen some of his work, and liked it a hell of a lot better than the junk that seemed popular in galleries these days. He had asked Doyle once, years ago, why he enjoyed drawing.
"Because I can lose myself in it," Doyle had replied.
Bodie sometimes wished he had something like that, something so absorbing it would drive the whole world away. When he wanted to not think about reality, he did any number of things - sports, drinking, sex...usually they worked, too. But sometimes he wanted something quieter, and he envied the peacefulness that had settled over Doyle as he drew.
He got up to stretch. They had a whole month ahead of them here. He wondered how they would fill the time. When he went on holiday, he liked to be active. Fishing, hiking, motoring about, pub crawls, flirting with the local birds...what was he supposed to do for a month out here in the middle of nowhere? He had no idea.
Bodie walked about the priory grounds for a bit, working the kink out of his back. Then he strolled over to Doyle's bench and sat down. "How's it going?"
"Oh, I'm done. Was just fiddling with it. Never know when to stop fussing." Doyle tilted the sketchpad his way.
To Bodie, it looked as if he'd drawn every brick in detail. "Wow. You ought to get that one framed."
"Yeah?" Doyle held it out at arm's length. "I dunno. It's not bad, I guess." He began to put things away in his bag. "Interesting place, this. Wouldn't mind coming back sometime. Did you have a good read?"
Bodie nodded. "Good book. Makes everything seem so real. Used to hear stories about the Great War, from my granddad. He fought in it."
"Did he?" Doyle finished packing, and they began the walk home.
"Yeah. Was a Lieutenant-Colonel. Fought in France near the end, survived four major battles there in 1918. He told me that one day in November, he was standing on a hill, looking out at the enemy line through his field glasses, and a mate of his was standing about a hundred feet away, when suddenly there was a whistle and boom, and he looked over and his mate was gone. Blown apart. A couple of hours later, they got the news that the armistice had been signed, and the war was over."
"You know, if it had been him instead, I might not be here today." Bodie smiled. "Twist of fate, eh?"
"There's millions of 'em," Doyle replied. "What-ifs, I mean. What if this had happened instead of that. Could drive you nuts thinking about it."
What if, Bodie thought, your would-be killer had gone back out the front door instead of the window, and never triggered the alarm... "Yeah, I reckon you're right," he said.
They walked slowly back to the house, and spent the evening in front of the TV, each writing from time to time in his journal. They didn't talk much at all.
Christ, it gave me a turn, walking up the beach and seeing him lying there like that. It was his chest. Can't ever get used to those scars, and they were still so ragged looking. The hair's trying to grow back, but having a tough time, just little scraggly tufts here and there. Couldn't look at him that way, so I lied, said he was burning, just so's he'd turn over.
He was odd this morning. Almost like he was flirting. Gave me an attack when he wanted oil rubbed over him, and then when he touched me...bloody hell, all that stroking and rubbing was making me hard right there, thank goodness I was lying on me stomach.
We're on the sofa now, it's evening, he's scribbling away in his notebook and me in mine. Wonder what he's writing about the beach. Or if he's even writing about today at all.
He doesn't touch me as a rule. Always enjoyed giving him a touch or a pat myself, here and there, now and then. Been doing it a lot more lately. At first, I felt like I just needed to, had to keep reassuring myself that he really was there with me, was really alive, that he was okay. But then...well, then it was 'cause I wanted him to know how much I cared about him, and then I just couldn't stop. Because I love him.
Oh, hell. Wasn't gonna write that down. Definitely have to burn this before we go home.
Been trying to get him to figure out how it is with me, without having to come right out and say it. Can't say it. Too scared. So I've been touching him more, still casual- like, but doing it so much more often he'd have to be numb not to notice. He must have noticed. But he keeps ignoring it, or worse, snapping at me for something totally unrelated. Never mentions it outright. Don't know what the hell he's thinking.
Probably that his best mate's gone round the bloody twist.
Can't help it if I want him all to myself, can I? Don't like it when he's not around, don't like it when he's off with some bird. Not that he has been, least, not since the shooting. Realized how I was feeling before then, anyway. Threw me for a loop, that did, when I figured it out. Took the longest time. Had been spending months feeling weird, out of sorts. Didn't know why. Was moody, irritable. Only perked up when Ray was around. Had plenty of birds, but wasn't enjoying any of them. Kept waking up the morning after, and thinking, why is there a stranger in my bed? Couldn't get rid of them fast enough.
Was happy at work, happy when Ray wanted to do something together off work. Started feeling miserable again whenever he went off on a date on his own. Started making rude comments about his taste in women. Don't know why he didn't thump me one.
Finally hit me one evening, about a week before the shooting. I thought he'd gone off, but he came round to my place, looking pretty down, and told me how his latest bird had dumped him an hour ago. We had a drink and talked. The more unhappy he looked, the more upset I felt, and suddenly I found myself thinking, he doesn't need them when he could have me... Nearly spilt my drink. But I knew it could be okay, if only he'd let me take hold of him, let me love him. I wanted to so badly. Shocked me no end.
Didn't go anywhere near him that night, of course. I'm not suicidal.
And a week later, he was lying in a pool of blood, dying on me. Changed things. Want him to know now. But can't quite work up the courage yet. Am hoping it'll come out of its own accord, being as how we're stuck here together for a spell, with nobody else to talk to. Want to wait for the right time, don't want to spoil his holiday. It's nice out here. Let him enjoy it.
Wish I knew what he was writing.
Can't write anything about today with him sitting right there, so close he could lean over and look if he wanted. Maybe I should move over to the loveseat. Nah, I'll just write about something else. What I'm supposed to write about. The shooting.
Should just start at the beginning, I guess. What I remember about being shot and all. Well, it hurt like hell. That's the main thing. Pain, and heat, and being real surprised. And Bodie being there, taking care of me. He was angry in the ambulance, kept shouting. Don't recall much after that 'til waking up in the hospital bed. Except one thing. Seems stupid, but what flashed through my mind while riding in the ambulance, right after thinking how good it felt knowing Bodie was with me, was somebody ought to put the groceries away. Like I said, stupid. There I was dying, and I was worrying over a sack of food. Maybe because it was something unfinished. I dunno. Not the sort of thought I'd like to have if it was my last, though. Glad I didn't say it out loud. Can just imagine the look that would've got out of Bodie. There he is screaming about who did it, and I say, Oh, by the way, could you go back and put the groceries away for me?
Anyway, what else I remember...not being able to move, that was the big thing. Tried a couple times, hurt so bad I nearly fainted. Learned to lie there in the bed and like it. All those bloody tubes everywhere...could've done without the one up me prick. Listening to the nurse empty it...seemed to go on forever sometimes, felt like blushing because it was making so much work for her. Was so glad when they took it out, though having a go in that funny- shaped urine bottle wasn't much better. Could've done without those bloody cold bedpans, too. Talk about embarrassing. Not much fun when you can't even clean yourself after.
Worst thing, though, next to the pain of breathing, was the itching. Not just on me chest, either. Itched all sorts of places. Hair, eyes, neck, feet, privates...and couldn't do a damn thing about it. Soon as I could talk again, when they took the tube out, first thing I asked was if someone could please scratch the inside of my left foot. The nurse laughed, but she did it. God, that felt so damn good.
Little things, that's what I remember. The beep and whir of the machines. The window, and how all I could see, when they bothered to leave the drapes open, was a dull gray rooftop and one spindly treetop and a tiny bit of gray sky, and how completely wonderful it was, because it was something other than the hospital room. Got so tired of lying there. Bodie came every day, sometimes in the evening, too, whenever he could. Always stayed as long as he could. Talked to me, read to me, or just sat there. Didn't matter. Needed him there.
Didn't want anyone else, though. Me mum came, but she made me feel so embarrassed, what with that tube dripping pee into the bag and all, and she kept asking how I felt, and of course I felt like shit, but all I could do was nod and smile. My brother came a couple times but it didn't take him long to figure out I didn't really want to see anybody, so he stopped.
Felt so muzzy all the time, too, from the pain killers. Just about drove me nuts, not remembering what day it was when I woke up, or who'd been to see me, or what anybody said. Couldn't stand not being able to think clearly, having to ask the nurses to tell me everything twice. I'd ask after Bodie, and they'd say he'd just been there, that I'd fallen asleep on him. So glad he put up with it all.
What I wanted more than anything else was to be in my own bed, with my own pillow, and nobody around.
Don't know why I'm writing all this. Wanted to put down something about what I was thinking, not all the physical stuff. Except that's what I did think about a lot. How long would it take to heal, when would I be able to move a bit, when could I piss on my own. It hurt so bad, just breathing, just lying there, I kept wondering if I'd ever remember what normal felt like.
Still don't know. I still feel tired in the afternoon. Didn't feel tired on the walk today, but did afterwards. It's been four months today. Doctor said six months before going back to work, and then only light duties. And twelve months before I'm ready for the Macklin Test. A whole year. Christ.
I've never been much good at sitting around. Like to keep moving, keep doing things. Don't know what to do when I haven't got anything to do.
Getting late. Nothing left to watch on the telly anyway. Guess it's time to go to bed, go tuck this under me pillow and get some sleep.
Doyle picked out a postcard showing the nearby coastline. He glanced over to the magazine rack, where Bodie stood pawing through the glossies. "Oi," he said as he ambled over, "the idea was to buy 'em and take 'em back, not read 'em here."
"Yeah, yeah." Bodie grabbed a few seemingly at random. "What'd you find, then?"
"Card for me mum."
"Such a good lad."
They paid for their purchases and continued their stroll along the village's one main street. They had already been to Boots for a few necessaries, and were now simply wandering about, stopping in to any shop which looked interesting.
A small bookshop beckoned. They spent the next hour going over its shelves, and Bodie came away with more military history books, while Doyle picked up a handful of mysteries. Then Bodie dragged him into a toy shop, and wound up talking him into going in on a pack of cards, a Scrabble game, and some jigsaw puzzles.
"Anything to pass the time," he said. "Or did you plan on spending a month lazing on the beach?"
"Don't know," Doyle replied. "Don't think puzzles and games and books are going to keep me happy, though."
"Better than nothing, mate."
"True." Doyle wondered, as they continued their walk down the street, just what people did do on long holidays. He sure as hell wasn't about to learn how to knit scarves.
"You know what I think?" Bodie asked.
"No, what do you think?"
"I think it's lunch time, and I think that's a pub coming up."
Doyle shoved his concern about boredom aside, and followed Bodie into the pub. It was a small, cozy place, and they found a table by the front window, where they could watch the passersby. They ordered sandwiches and pints.
"Hey, keep forgetting something," Bodie said as he munched on his ham and cheese. "You know what I spotted in the garage as we pulled out this morning? A badminton set."
"Yeah?" Doyle hadn't played the game since he was a kid. "You any good at it?"
"Nope. Are you?"
Doyle shook his head. "Should be great fun, then. Set it up on the beach?"
"Absolutely. Slipping and sliding on the sand will add a certain challenge."
"Betting on the outcome will, too," Doyle said. "A tenner says I beat you this afternoon, best of five."
Bodie grinned. "You're on."
They spent their lunch in a relaxed, companionable mood. Doyle relished the feeling, glad they were able to talk a bit about nothing in particular, and to not worry about sitting and eating quietly when they didn't have anything to say. The silences weren't strained, and the chatting wasn't tense. Just like old times. Maybe it really was as simple as getting away from the city.
"Good food," he said when he finished his sandwich.
"Might make a nice change, to come here once in a while."
Doyle nodded out the window at a restaurant across the street. "Should try that out, too. Maybe for dinner sometime."
"Yeah. Anything beats your cooking."
"What?" Doyle raised a shocked eyebrow. "My cooking? You're the one who thinks all vegetables should be boiled to death!"
"Maybe so, but at least I don't put oregano on everything in sight."
"Makes it taste better," Doyle protested. "All you dump on food is salt. That's boring, that is."
Bodie smiled. "Yeah. Okay, you win. Put oregano on the cucumbers, see if I care."
Doyle laughed. "I never. You're teasing."
Doyle finished off his drink, perfectly content for the first time in a long, long while.
He should've known it couldn't be that simple.
The unease returned that evening, as he sat in the hot tub, Bodie scant feet away. They had spent the afternoon on a few rousing games of badminton, resulting in a fresh new tenner for Doyle. After quick showers, they lingered over supper, then relaxed in front of the telly until Bodie came up with the hot tub idea. Doyle had forgotten it was there, but when reminded, he found the concept of lolling in hot, swirling water very appealing. The badminton, while not exhausting, had worn him down a bit, and a nice, long soak would be just the thing to ease his aching muscles.
But he wasn't so sure it was the right thing for easing his mind.
Bodie had certainly gotten used to exposing his usually well-clad body. He had stripped and hopped in the tub before Doyle even had one sock off. Doyle slowly finished undressing and stepped into the soothing water, careful not to get too close to the other man. Then he closed his eyes and lay his head back, letting the heat flow through him, soothed by the hot, steaming water.
They lay there quietly for a time. And then suddenly Bodie's foot brushed ever so slightly against his own.
Doyle opened one wary eye. Bodie lay there, arms spread along the rim, legs straight out, head back, looking relaxed and unaware. An accident, Doyle decided. After all, his own legs kept drifting, and the tub was small.
A few minutes later, Bodie's foot drifted along his calf. And when Doyle looked over, he saw the oddest little smile on Bodie's face. Accident, hell.
"Oi," he said, trying to sound casual, "you playin' footsies?"
"Um-hm," Bodie murmured lazily. "Thought you might be falling asleep over there."
"Well, I'm not." Flimsy excuse if he'd ever heard one. Doyle opened both eyes and gazed past Bodie through the glass walls at the beach beyond. The sun had set about an hour ago, and the darkening sky could barely be discerned from the midnight-blue water. "Nice out there."
Bodie craned his neck for a look. "Yeah. You get that view from your bedroom window, don't you? All I have is the gravel drive."
"Only time I'm in there is when I'm sleeping," Doyle replied. "Don't spend a lot of time looking at it then." He closed his eyes and drifted off again, not really wanting to talk or think about anything. He entered a lazy, half- awake, drowsy realm of utter relaxation. Could have stayed there forever, wouldn't matter at all.
Except that Bodie's foot kept up its occasional wanderings near his legs.
Bodie had been touching him an awful lot lately. Doyle had always enjoyed the random touch or pat, but these past few months...christ, Bodie had practically been all over him. And Doyle knew why. Because of the shooting. Bodie must believe he needed coddling, needed extra care and affection, just because he wasn't feeling a hundred percent. As if he couldn't handle feeling weak, and needed some kind of physical reassurance. It pissed him off, not only because he didn't want coddling, but because he wanted Bodie to touch him, only in a very different way. Not this way, not this "poor Doyle" fashion, but in a way he couldn't bring himself to speak of. He knew the reaction that would get, if he did. Bodie would probably deliver him to Dr. Ross's office personally.
Another brushing of the foot... Doyle drew his legs up under, essentially sitting cross-legged in the water.
"Oh, so you are awake, then."
"'Course I am," Doyle said irritably. "Keep your ruddy great toes to yourself."
Too tired to write much tonight. Long day. We had a nice time in the village, and played some badminton after. I won a tenner off Bodie. Hope he didn't let me win on purpose to make me feel like I was doing okay...nah, he wouldn't do that. Too fond of his money.
I felt a bit bored earlier today. So I tried to think what I'd be doing if I weren't here, if I were back in Town. Couldn't think of anything different. Reading, lazing about, getting my exercise, telly, pub lunches, going for walks. Long-term convalescing isn't very exciting no matter where you do it. Hope Bodie isn't going out of his mind here. He seems happy enough, but you never know with him.
Pretty soon I reckon we'll both be so bored we'll be longing to go back to work. Always enjoy complaining about being on the streets day after day, but now I'm finally being forced to stay off them for so long, it just feels weird. Never thought I'd miss it. But I do. Maybe because here, there aren't many surprises. Out there, you never really know what's going to happen. Gives life a certain thrill, that does. Keeps the adrenalin up.
Mine's totally non-existent right now. Gonna fall asleep with the pen in me hand if I don't stop.
Wonder if all this writing is doing any good?
Had a great pub lunch today in the village. Good sandwiches there. Have to go back soon.
Set up a badminton net on the beach. Let Doyle beat me. Should've seen the grin on his face when I paid off the bet. Worth every pound note.
Tested out the hot tub. Don't think I could've been more obvious, must've brushed against his leg half a dozen times. Downright blatant, in fact. Any bird with half a brain would've picked up on it in a second. Not Doyle. Or else he did pick up on my intentions and chose to ignore them. Which is highly annoying.
Or maybe he's trying to tell me, ever so subtly, to leave off before he's forced to tell me to go to hell. Don't know which would be worse, having him suffer in silence, ignoring me for who knows how long, or to just get it out in the open and over with. Let him tell me to go to hell, or punch me one. Just so long as I got a chance to say the truth, it wouldn't matter. Of course I don't want him to yell at me, or hit me, or leave. Want him to love me back. But a bloke's gotta be practical. I mean, how likely is it that your best mate will fall into your arms just because you want him to? Not very.
Sure wish he would, though. Haven't thought much on what I'm going to do when he doesn't. Don't want to think about it. Feel so close to him...can't imagine anyone else feeling this strongly about Ray. Can't see anyone else taking my place, loving him as much as I do. No one could. Don't want anyone else to try. Don't want him to let anyone in this close, don't want to be replaced...christ, I'm getting maudlin now. Can't help it. Means so much, him letting me into his life.
Want him to let me stay.
Bodie beat Doyle four games out of five the next morning, and got his tenner back. He pretended not to notice all the suspicious looks Doyle cast his way.
Afterwards, they went in for more sunbathing, getting the most out of the warm day.
"You let me win yesterday, didn't you?" Doyle accused. He lay on the towel, propped up on one elbow, staring down at Bodie.
"Nah. Just pure luck."
"Uh-huh." Doyle lay all the way down. "I'm not that out of shape, you know. You don't need to let me win, I can do fine on me own."
Bodie sighed. "It's only a bit of fun, Ray. Nothing to get worked up over."
"I'm not getting worked up."
Bodie opted not to answer that. The last thing he wanted was to fall into the same old argument they'd had half a dozen times over the past few months.
"But I don't need any special treatment," Doyle added. "So stop doing it."
"Fine," Bodie said with resignation. "You're gonna owe me a lot of money, then."
"Oh, is that right? You don't think I can win fair and square, do you?"
"We'll find out, won't we?"
"Yeah, we will."
Bodie rolled away from him onto his side. Stupid thing to argue over, as far as he was concerned. He was damn tired of the subject. Doyle had done it repeatedly, had pushed himself too hard during his recovery, tried to prove too soon that he could run as fast as before, or come through a workout with the same ease, or play a game of squash with the same energy. And each time he pushed too hard, he paid for it dearly. On at least three occasions he had collapsed, so exhausted and in such pain that a doctor had to be called. All he had succeeded in doing was setting his recovery back even farther.
It had scared Bodie, this relentless urge Doyle had to test his body to the limits. Because Ray didn't seem to know where the limits were anymore.
He had yelled at Doyle many times, argued against the over- strenuous workouts Ray kept coming up with. Doyle had gotten angry in turn, saying he wasn't made of glass, and then he would go off on a ten-mile jog to prove his point. And would barely make it home, in pain, unable to move without strain for days after. Bodie had grown tired of saying I told you so.
He was glad they had been taking it so easy out here. A few short walks, a little badminton, barely enough exercise to get a sweat going. Doyle could certainly do a lot more, but Bodie had wanted him to slow down a bit, wanted him to be more sensible. But he knew better than to expect Doyle to comply.
"Think I'll go for a good hike tomorrow," Doyle said. "Maybe try that path that goes along the cliffs south of here."
Like he was reading my mind, Bodie thought. "Sure. Could probably find some spots to sketch. And we could pack a picnic lunch."
"Gonna go by myself."
Bodie rolled over to face him. "Why?"
"'Cause I want to. We don't have to do everything together. Gonna get up each other's noses if we do."
"Maybe we already are," Bodie replied.
"Yeah. Maybe so." Doyle turned away on his side.
Bodie sighed and lay back, closing his eyes against the sun. Sometimes silence was the only way for them to deal with each other's moods. Whatever had gotten into Doyle would pass, given time.
At least, he hoped it would.
Doyle pawed through the few remaining puzzle pieces, searching for a bit of blue sky.
They had spent the afternoon keeping out of each other's way. Bodie had parked himself in front of the telly, and Doyle stayed in the dining room, working the jigsaw. Now it was getting on to supper time, and Doyle thought they probably ought to try talking again. He didn't feel angry or annoyed at Bodie, he simply felt somewhat smothered at times. He wanted Bodie to understand that his recovery, and whatever he chose to do physically, was up to him, that even if he made the wrong choices sometimes, they were nobody's responsibility but his own.
Doyle found the sky piece and put it in. Only a handful left. He quickly finished off the puzzle, a scene of a castle by a lake. It filled the center of the dining table.
Bodie suddenly appeared in the archway. "You hungry?"
"Yeah. Want to reheat that leftover casserole?"
"Sure. Very tasty, that."
Doyle started to break up the puzzle, but Bodie stopped him. "Leave it. We can eat on top of it. Looks nice there."
They ate their supper quietly, then retired to the living room. Bodie looked through the small video collection. "Want to test out the VCR?"
Doyle shrugged. "Why not? Anything good?"
"Looks like a lot of sci-fi thrillers." He pulled one out at random and popped it in.
They watched the rather mindless movie, which was, Doyle thought, a halfway decent version of the Hard-to-Destroy Alien Monster Turns Up On Earth To Cause Havoc plot. He and Bodie got into a running commentary duel, seeing who could come up with the most humorous asides. By the end of the film, they were both weak from laughing.
Doyle didn't want to move when the VCR switched off. He lay sprawled on the sofa, totally relaxed, and totally willing to let it last as long as possible.
"Gettin' late," Bodie observed.
"You goin' to bed soon?"
Neither one of them bothered moving.
"You written in your journal yet today?" Bodie asked.
"Nope. Have you?"
Doyle yawned and stretched, then fell back into his stuporous sprawl. "Don't think I will. Give it a day off."
"Yeah. Me, too."
There was a lengthy pause. Then Doyle said, as nonchalantly as he could, "So what've you been writing in yours?"
Bodie pursed his lips. "Oh, nothing much. Where we went, what we did. What we ate. You know, just stuff."
"Kate told me to write about how I was feeling," Doyle said, hoping his own openness would encourage Bodie. Not that he planned to be completely open. Just a little. "I'm sure she meant that I should write about the shooting." He hesitated, not having really spoken about it to Bodie before, not in any detail. "So I did. Not everything, there's lots more I need to get down. But a few things. Like what I remembered of it, and about being stuck in hospital." He took a calming breath. "And I wrote about you."
"Me?" Bodie sounded surprised. "What about me?"
"Just about you being there for me," Doyle said carefully. "How I didn't want anybody else around, except you." He looked over at Bodie. The man seemed deep in thought, head bent, hands clasped over his abdomen. "Meant a lot, knowing you were nearby. I know we've been getting on each other's nerves from time to time, worse than usual, anyway. Maybe it's 'cause we haven't been on the streets for so long. Always good for blowin' off a bit of steam, isn't it?"
Bodie slowly nodded. "Yeah. Could be. 'm not used to sitting around so much. But I wanted to take the office stint when Cowley offered it. Didn't want to be out there without you beside me."
Doyle smiled. He'd been glad of that, too. He would have worried too much if Bodie had been on the job during his long recovery, partnered with some stranger. Cowley had offered Bodie another option - office work, mixed with some field training sessions of new recruits. It kept him from being completely inactive while waiting for the day when Doyle would be ready for more intensive retraining. And it had been especially good of Cowley to let Bodie come out here with him. The Old Man had treated them very well.
"Wouldn't want to work with anyone else, either," Doyle said. "Don't even like it when the Cow throws us in with someone temporarily. Or when he sends us off on separate parts of an op."
"No," Bodie agreed. "Work best together, no doubt about that." He looked up. "What else did you write?"
Doyle tried to remember just what he had put down in the past few days. "Nothing much, really. Come on, what have you really been writing about?"
"Like I said, just mindless stuff. Don't know why Kate told me to bring one. I'm no good at 'Dear Diary' crap. My sister had one when we were kids, had this little lock and key. She wrote in it every night. Boy, the day me and Davy, that was the kid next door, stole it from under her pillow and picked open the lock. Oh, was that a treat. All this mushy stuff about the boy she had a crush on, and all her friends and their crushes, and who was kissing who and what it was like. And some pretty rude remarks about me. God, we got a laugh over that."
Doyle grinned. "Did you get caught?"
"'Course we got caught. Never was much good at breaking and entering. She turned about twenty shades of purple, and then promised us each fifty pee a week to keep quiet about the contents." Bodie rubbed his hands together. "Quite a profitable summer, that was. 'Til Davy's dad found out what was going on and put a stop to it."
"So if you happened to chance upon my journal," Doyle speculated, "would you read it?"
Bodie raised an eyebrow. "Who, me? Never. I have changed a bit since I was a kid, you know." He frowned. "Why, are you worried about something you put in there?"
"No," Doyle lied. "Not at all."
"So why couldn't I read it then, if I asked nice?"
Doyle felt the blush creeping into his cheeks and willed it away. "'Cause it's personal, that's why."
"Even from your best mate?" Bodie persisted.
"Yeah, well, would you let me read yours?" Best to turn the tables on him.
Bodie shook his head. "Not in a million years."
"Well, there you go, then. Even best mates can have some privacy."
"Guess so," Bodie said. "Might be a bit scary, to know everything going on in that head of yours."
Oh, yeah, Doyle thought, much more than you imagine. "Scare myself some days," he said. "Don't know where some thoughts come from at times."
"Yeah," Bodie replied. "Me, too." He slowly pushed himself off the sofa. "Night, sunshine. Sleep well."
Doyle watched him amble down the hallway. He stayed in his comfortable sprawl for a long time, nearly falling asleep right there on the sofa.
The weather turned cool overnight, and at breakfast Bodie found himself gazing out at a gray, cloud-covered sky.
He waited until Doyle had finished eating and was sipping a second cup of tea, hoping the food had made him feel full and comfortable. Then he cleared his throat. "You still going for your long walk?"
"Yeah. Why not?"
Bodie gestured at the glass door. "Looks like rain."
Doyle shrugged. "So I'll take a jacket."
"What about your sketch pad?"
"Oh, I don't need to take it. Mainly just wanted the exercise."
Bodie gave up. He wasn't going to talk Doyle out of going. "When are you heading out?"
"In about an hour," Doyle said. "Should be back by late afternoon. You won't get bored, now, will you?"
"Nah. Gonna finish me World War I book."
An hour later Doyle pulled on his brown leather jacket and left. Bodie read for a while, though he glanced out the window more often than he glanced at the page. The clouds had turned darker, and were rolling steadily in towards land.
So Doyle would get wet. Certainly wasn't worth worrying over. Bodie got up to do a bit of straightening, then he fixed himself a mid-morning snack of a muffin and coffee. He sat at the dining table, facing the sliding glass door. Surely Doyle would see how dark it was getting out there, and turn back. Surely he wasn't so stubborn that he'd want to get soaked just to prove his point. Whatever his point was.
After finishing his snack, Bodie returned to the living room and picked up his book. He couldn't remember where he'd left off, or what he'd read earlier. He tossed it aside and searched about for one of the magazines he'd bought in the village. He idly flipped through its pages, but nothing caught his attention. Sighing, he turned on the telly. Nothing there, either. Could always watch another video...he knelt by the cabinet to scan the titles. Wouldn't be as much fun without Doyle there to trade comments with.
Bodie gave up on stimulating his mind. He shoved the coffee table out of the way and went through his calisthenics routine, working up a good sweat. He did a lot of long, slow stretching movements both before and after, and managed to kill a whole hour.
A nice, hot shower took care of another twenty minutes. Then he went into his bedroom, still naked and damp, and lay down on the duvet on his back. He closed his eyes and ran his fingers lightly up and down his chest, stroking himself, and trying to picture what it would feel like if Ray Doyle were touching him instead.
What if that slim, muscular body were pressed up close to his, those smooth, competent hands caressing his flesh...Bodie gasped as the first flush of heat rose within him. Ray would press his thigh against his, would rub his body along his, would touch and stroke him, firm and tender at the same time. And then he would lean in to kiss him, while his fingers played up and down Bodie's torso...he circled his nipples, rubbing and pinching them into hardness, longing for another's touch, wishing it were so.
His cock grew hard and thick and hot. Bodie began to stroke it, slowly at first, then faster and stronger. If Ray were doing this for him, it would be so good, so fierce, so loving...he moaned, wanting to feel him, wanting to taste the other man's body, striving to envision them together, here, now, urging each other on, burning with each other's heat.
Desire caught him up in its wings and he lost all sense of time and place, soaring high on a vision of power and strength and need, of two merging into one, of one potent force rising within, urgent for release.
Ray...please...I want you so much... Bodie cried out Ray's name as he came, spilling over his hands, the sheer joy of it blending with a bittersweet return to reality and the knowledge that he was utterly alone.
He lay there for some time afterwards, unmoving, staring blankly at the ceiling. Christ, I have to tell him...can't go on like this.
But he couldn't. Not if it meant Ray might leave him forever, not if it left him truly alone. Anything would be better than that kind of emptiness.
Hell, how was he going to survive the next few weeks, so near to the man he had fallen in love with, and yet so unable to love him.
As Bodie lay there wondering, he heard the pattering of rain against the window.
Doyle cursed when the first large, fat raindrop hit his face.
He had hiked a good three miles in an hour, enjoying the dramatic views from the cliff top, of rocky beaches far below and gray, choppy water beyond. The wind had picked up, but it wasn't cold, so he had kept going. A light misty drizzle started, and his unprotected hair got a bit damp, not enough to turn back. Another hour of hiking and he no longer knew how far he'd gone, maybe six miles altogether, maybe seven. And that was when the dark clouds rolled in over the land, and the rain came pelting down.
With it, the wind kicked in with a vengeance, blowing so strong as to push him about when he tried walking into it. He quickly realized how foolhardy it would be to go on, though he had wanted very much to reach a spot on the ordnance map marked "cairn ruins", eight miles from the house. He had seen no sign of anything like that, and now that he was getting completely soaked, he'd better turn back.
Fortunately, that put the wind behind him. Doyle trudged along the narrow path, arms wrapped round his chest, swearing against the vagaries of coastal weather. He heard the crash of waves below, and looked out to see a seething, churning mass of water crashing into the cliffs. Good thing he wasn't anywhere near the beach.
Not that the top of the cliff was much better. The rain turned rapidly into pummeling sheets of water, lashing into him as he picked up his pace to a jog. His hair was one matted clump, and rivulets ran down his face. His clothes couldn't keep it out, and soon his pants were clinging wetly to his legs, and while his leather jacket offered some protection, he couldn't keep the huge drops from his neck, and they ran down inside his jacket collar, soaking his shirt beneath.
He had worn the only pair of shoes he'd brought along, a pair of trainers. It took but a few minutes for them to become thoroughly water-logged. And he still had a good hour-and-a-half of walking ahead of him.
Bodie would be waiting for him, he knew, with a scowl and one of his "I told you this would happen" looks. Fine. So he'd made a slight error in judgment, so what? Could happen to anybody. Wasn't as if he were putting himself in any danger out here. Was only a little bad weather.
Half an hour later, he began to have doubts about that. The storm had turned even uglier, and he had seen lightning flashes in the distance. The thunder came close on the flashes, huge booms that rattled him more than he cared to admit. There was no shelter, no houses, not a soul anywhere in sight. Even the roadway stood a few miles off. The land was slightly rolling but fairly flat and definitely treeless, so if the lightning came nearer and was looking for the tallest thing around to hit...well, he was it.
Doyle kept moving as fast as he could. The dirt path had turned muddy, so he tried sticking to the grass alongside it. But the long grass held hidden dangers, rocks and sudden dips, and after a few trips and one fall, he returned to the path, slogging along, resigned to a slower pace. He was glad, at least, that he'd left his sketchpad at the house. It would've been ruined.
The lightning flashed closer, crackling through the black clouds. Unfair, he suddenly thought. He damn well hadn't gone through what he'd gone through in his life just to be stupidly struck down in some freak thunderstorm. Of all the idiotic ends he could possibly imagine, this had to be the most pointless. Except maybe being hit by a meteor. Did that ever really happen? Houses sometimes got hit by ice falling off airplane wings, he'd heard of that once. Or satellite debris...
Doyle shook himself. Honestly, how his mind could wander. He glanced at the clouds. Dark, swiftly moving, and still pouring down rain.
The next thunderclap came so loud and so suddenly that he tripped over his own feet and fell flat on his face on the muddy path.
Doyle slowly sat up, wiping water and dirt from his face. "Fuck," he shouted at the universe in general and the storm in particular. He was tired, sore, wet, and filthy. He wanted very much to hit something very hard. Instead, he picked up a small rock and hurled it with great force over the cliff edge. Senseless, but it made him feel marginally better.
"This would never happen in Town," he muttered as he got to his feet and trod onward. "Wouldn't be bloody well stuck in the middle of nowhere, anyway." He kicked at a stone. "Nice private beach house. Nice, relaxing holiday. Nice countryside with lovely views. Faugh."
Doyle kept up his random muttering nearly all the way back to the house. During the last half-hour of his hike the clouds lightened and the rain let up a bit, settling into a mild drizzle. The storm was over by the time he stumbled through the front door.
Surprised that Bodie wasn't there on the doorstep to meet him, scowl at the ready, Doyle paused to glance at the garage. Empty. Oh, hell, Bodie had gone looking for him. Terrific.
Well, there wasn't anything he could do about that. He headed to the bath, stripping off his muddy clothing as he went, letting everything drop in the hallway, too exhausted to care.
The hot shower felt so damn good. It didn't quite revive him, but it helped. A bite to eat, cup of coffee, and a rest on the sofa should finish the job.
He heard the car pull up outside, or rather, screech to a stop, as he donned a robe. He took a deep breath and stepped into the hallway, prepared for the worst.
Bodie barrelled through the front door. He halted at the sight of him. "Ray! For God's sake, where have you - " He took in the line of clothing scattered along the carpet.
"Got a bit soaked," Doyle said casually, hoping to make light of the fiasco.
"Soaked?" Bodie angrily strode towards him. "You idiot! You could've been hurt out there in that! I've been up and down that damn road for the past hour looking for you." He paused to jab a finger at Doyle's chest. "Why the hell didn't you head for the roadway to try for a ride?"
"It was miles away!" Doyle slapped his hand aside. "Would've taken just as long. And it wasn't that fucking dangerous. For chrissakes, go play your over-protective games on someone else." He stormed past Bodie into the living room.
"Oh, that's gratitude for you!" Bodie followed. "All I did was what I'd expect a mate to do for me, if I was stuck out there. If that's being over-protective, then you've got a hell of a lot to learn."
Doyle paced in front of the sofa. "Yeah, well, there's more going on, though, isn't there? What's with all the touching lately? It's not just today, it's not just you chasing after me. All this extra affection, all this damn coddling. I don't need it." He waved his arm at the room. "And this place. I sure as hell didn't want to come out here, but no, you and Kate and Cowley hatched the whole thing up for me, more coddling, just because you think I've been stressed."
Bodie stayed in the doorway, hands on his hips. "Oh, that's rich. So you don't need any of this, 'cause you're not stressed, is that right? What would you call it, then, when you flip out over every little muddle or mishap? What have you been doing the past few months but snapping at everybody who comes near, and lashing out at everything in your way? You've been damn near impossible to be around. I've lost count of the times you've yelled at me for no damn good reason."
"No good reason?" Doyle stopped pacing to stare at him. "What would you know about it? How the hell would you know what I've been feeling? Christ, what would you know about feelings at all? They just bounce right off you." He knew, even in his anger, that he wasn't being fair, but couldn't control himself. "Sure, you can have a good laugh down at the local, or get pissed off when an op goes wrong, but the deeper stuff, no, you don't want anything to do with that. So how the hell would you know what it feels like to come that close - " He snapped his fingers. " - to losing everything you ever cared about in the world? You haven't got anything to care about. At least, you sure as hell don't show it. Well, I'm sorry, but I do show my feelings, and if you can't handle that, then maybe you should just leave me the fuck alone."
Bodie stood there for a moment, fists clenched. Then he slowly nodded. "Right." He turned on his heel and reached the front door in three strides.
Doyle raced across the room. "Where're you goin'?"
"Out. Like you want." Bodie headed to the car.
Doyle watched him practically rip the car door off as he got in, slam it shut, and turn the engine on with a roar. Then he tore off down the drive.
Great. He shut the front door and walked over to the sofa, sinking onto it with a tremendous sigh. Why had he gone and said those things? Why had he been so angry? Doyle rubbed his hands across his eyes. He was tired. Too damn tired to make any sense of what had happened. Maybe it was just four months of frustration boiling over at once, at precisely the wrong moment. Maybe his anger at himself during the storm had carried over into other areas. Or maybe it was something else, some deeper problem between them that he couldn't put a name to yet.
Eventually he rose and went to the kitchen to make a pot of tea. As he sat on the sofa drinking the soothing liquid, he wondered where Bodie had gone and when he'd be back. There was never a doubt in his mind that he would come back to the house. They both just needed a little time to calm down. And then he'd need to find something to say to make things right again.
Bodie sat at the bar counter, drinking his pint. He had chugged the first one down, but now he felt calmer, and sipped the second one slowly. His anger had turned more on himself than Doyle, even though Doyle had said some stupid things, things he must have known weren't true. But that was typical, Doyle blurting out whatever was on his mind without thinking it through. Letting his emotions rule the day. That feisty temperament had, in fact, always appealed to Bodie, so opposite his own, so fascinating to observe. Most times he enjoyed Doyle's moods, deriving a vicarious thrill from his antics. But that was because most times, Doyle's upbeat moods were more frequent than the downbeat ones, and the dark was exciting only because he knew it would be chased away by the light. Now, that certainty had vanished, and Bodie worried, with a deep, gnawing fear, that Doyle's darker emotions were fighting to win out for good.
That had been a pretty low blow. You haven't got anything to care about. Christ, Ray knew better than that. He knew Bodie cared about him, knew he would give his life for him in a second. Did he really need proof of that? Did he really need Bodie to show his feelings, and how was he supposed to do so? What did he want, a hug every morning? No, he'd been busy complaining about Bodie touching him too much. So what? What else could he do besides simply be there for Doyle whenever he needed someone to talk to?
"You want any supper, dear?" The bar maid interrupted his thoughts. "Just starting up the food now."
He hadn't eaten since breakfast. "Yeah, I'd like one of those ham sandwiches, if you've got one."
"Be right back with it. Got some lovely barley soup going, too."
Bodie ordered a bowl. The food came quickly, and he ate with great deliberation, making it last as long as possible. No sense in going back to the house too soon. Give it another hour, at least. When he finished his meal, he ordered another pint and set about nursing it.
Someone to talk to...someone to be there when you needed them... That was what friendship was all about, wasn't it? Someone in your life who didn't necessarily want anything from you, except your company. A rarity these days, he thought, to find someone who wasn't angling for something, who wasn't thinking of the bottom line, who didn't make any demands.
The most important thing, in a friendship that would last, was to know you could say anything to each other, that you could talk over any opinions, give way to any emotion, voice any fear. And to know that you need never worry about approval, because a friend didn't judge you by your words. Listened, yes. Responded, argued, joked, agreed - but never stood above in judgment. Because a good friend, a true friend, would always look beyond the words for the heart of the one who spoke them.
And if that heart were in pain...a good friend would see it, sooner or later. Would know that angry words came from somewhere else, not from deep within, but from a surface temporarily marred. He had tried to look beyond the surface of Doyle's frustration, had tried to see the layers underneath. He knew there was pain down there, far down, maybe so far that even Ray hadn't found its source, was too focused on the anger to even know how to look for anything else. But he would. It might take a long while, but someday he'd know that taking the pain out on his best friend wasn't going to make it go away.
Bodie wished he could help him, wished he knew where the real trouble lay. The shooting, yes, that was obvious. But how had it changed him? How would you know what it feels like to almost lose everything... That was certainly a big clue. He knew a little about that. He'd been close to death before, plenty of times. Of course he knew what it felt like. Of course he'd had something to lose. And what was left, afterwards, was the need to focus on the important things in life, to find out why your life was worth living. And to enjoy every moment to the hilt.
Maybe Ray didn't know yet what to focus on. Maybe he knew now that every moment needed to be savored, but perhaps he had no idea what choices were on the plate.
That, Bodie thought, would scare the hell out of Doyle. Not knowing what was important, not knowing what he was living for.
No wonder he didn't want to look too deep within. No wonder he hadn't been looking into his own heart. He wasn't afraid of what he'd find there. He was afraid of what he wouldn't find.
Bodie let out a long sigh. He was speculating like mad. Pushing his own thoughts onto Doyle's. A year or so ago, he hadn't known what he was living for, either. Except to have a good time. And he had definitely been searching, been wondering. And then he had fallen in love with Ray Doyle, and there had found his answer.
Living for love wasn't such a bad way to go.
He only hoped, with all his heart, that he would find a way to change his dreaming into truth.
Been sitting up waiting for Bodie, think I'm going to have to give up soon.
Christ, what a day.
Got caught in a thunderstorm, got angry over it, took it out on Bodie. Sometimes I wonder why he puts up with me. I'm not always very patient, to put it mildly. Like to say what I'm feeling, no matter who it might hurt or annoy. It's got me into trouble enough times, you'd think I'd learn. No. Never even try counting to ten first.
Don't reckon there are too many careers I could've done well in with my temper. Police work, CI5, that's a natural place to wind up, gives me plenty of chances to blow off steam. 'Course, the job also gives me plenty of reasons to need blowing off. Still, I would never have made a good shopkeeper or bank clerk. Nice to know that if something gives me aggro, I can always go off to the range and shoot holes through everything in sight.
Wish I hadn't yelled at Bodie tonight.
Can't exactly go shooting out here, though. Had to take it out somehow. Just wish I hadn't picked my best mate as the target.
When I was lying in hospital, going back and forth between living and dying, there were these images. Don't know if you'd call them dreams, or visions, or what. Just stuff I remember thinking over, things that seemed to pull me one way or another. Kept wondering about the job, mainly, about what I was doing and what it was for, was it worth it, was I doing any good. Guess I thought it did make a difference in the end, because I'm still here.
But it bothers me, that all I really remember is mulling over my job. Yeah, it's important, but not enough. Didn't I think about people I loved, didn't I want them to pull me back, too? No family, no friends, no women from my life...where were they in those visions?
Bodie was there. Briefly. Remember flashing back to the first time we met. And he was there again later, saying something about the job, encouraging me to stick with it. The damn job again. Couldn't I have seen Bodie just as a friend? As my best mate? Couldn't Bodie have helped pull me back from the darkness with different words, words of affection? Where the hell, in those moments, was the love in my life?
Made me so sad, afterwards, when it first hit me. I know some people care for me, but maybe I never cared enough back. Maybe I never made anyone important enough in my life. Never wanted to risk losing something that meant too much...doesn't make sense, does it? Take so many risks with my life - out on the streets, every damn day, taking a chance at dying, at losing everything. But I won't take a chance on loving someone. So bloody stupid.
Going to have to stop now. Too tired to hold the pen up anymore.
Feel a bit tipsy tonight. Going to try writing something anyway. Not a good day. Yelled at Ray. Wanted to apologize but he was in bed when I got home, snoring away. Must be beat. He got caught in a storm, had to slog through it for miles. Hope he knows what it was he was trying to prove.
So, it's been an interesting week. Well, five days. Wonder if I should ring Cowley, tell him it's not working out all that great. We're supposed to be relaxing, not chewing each other out.
We rarely do, really. That is, get angry at each other. Sometimes yell when an op goes wrong, when we get frustrated, but that's just surface stuff. Always know it doesn't mean anything.
He did punch me once, over Ann Holly. He got far too serious about that one. Never did understand why. Not his usual type at all. The punch wasn't such a big deal. I egged him on, pretty much deserved it. Was pretty angry myself, wanted him to get angry back. Doesn't usually take much to set him off. It's a wonder he hasn't let loose on me more often.
We would never have lasted as partners as long as we have if we'd constantly been harping on each other. You can't really work that closely with someone, day in and day out, without eventually being annoyed by little quirks and habits, without getting on each other's nerves. We handle it by teasing. If you can make a joke out of something that's bugging you, suddenly it doesn't seem quite so important.
Reckon we've lost a bit of that lately, being able to laugh. Too damn touchy, both of us.
Had a long think at the pub tonight. About friendship and other stuff. Good mates have to be able to talk, have to be there to listen. Thought that's what we had. But I wonder if we do talk, if we've ever really been that open with each other. Never was much good at telling anyone how I feel, what's locked up inside. Don't tell him, either. Not often, anyway. Don't know that I listen all that well, can't say I've ever asked him to talk things out with me. Maybe that's what he meant when he said I didn't show that I cared. Maybe he's been needing to tell me how he feels, and I've been shutting him out. Turning him aside with a smile, deflecting every attempt with a joke.
Well, there's some deep insights for Dr. Ross. Bet she'd be impressed. Too bad she'll never get to read this.
In the middle of the night, Bodie woke to go to the toilet, courtesy of all the lager he had downed. On his return, he heard odd sounds from behind Doyle's door. He paused to listen, curious.
Creaking bed springs and low moans...Bodie smiled, imagining Doyle was up to a bit of private amusement, just as he had earlier in the day. He fervently wished he knew what Doyle was thinking about, what images he conjured up to help the process along. Would he ever possibly think about him?
Suddenly a sharp cry came from behind the closed door, and then Bodie, his ear pressed up against it, heard Doyle shouting, "No, no!" over and over.
What the hell? Bodie debated opening the door. The longer he listened, the less it sounded like a little harmless wanking off and the more it sounded as if Doyle were suffering a nightmare. But what if he were wrong...
Well, he hadn't been a CI5 agent all these years for nothing. He could certainly enter someone's bedroom in the middle of the night without being heard.
Bodie cautiously opened the door and slipped inside. Doyle was sitting up on the bed, arms clasped around his drawn-up knees, head lowered. He was taking in great gulping breaths. The bedcovers were a tangled mess.
Now what? Throwing caution aside, Bodie moved to the bed, speaking Ray's name softly. Doyle looked up as he slid onto the mattress beside him and reached out to lay a hand on his trembling shoulder. "You okay?"
Doyle lowered his head onto his arms. He let out a huge sigh. "Bad dream, that's all."
Bodie drew close behind him and wrapped his arms around his back, hugging him tightly. He was relieved that Doyle didn't pull away. "You want to tell me about it?"
"Can't." Doyle shook his head. "Never remember them."
"Them? You've had others?"
"Yeah. Quite a few."
"Well, no wonder you're always tired in the afternoon," Bodie said. "You're not getting a good night's sleep." He released his hold on Doyle, and began stroking his back and neck, massaging the taut muscles. "You're tight as a board, mate." He tried to keep it light and casual, not wanting Doyle to get angry at him again for touching him.
Doyle seemed to be relaxing into the massage. "Bodie..."
"Anytime." Bodie intensified the strokes, working deeper into the flesh, taking Doyle's thanks as an acceptance of this greater intimacy. "Must've over-worked your muscles a bit today, with that hike of yours."
"Yeah, I did." Doyle let out a deep breath. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. Didn't mean what I said."
"I know." Bodie was pleased to hear the admission, though. "It's okay. 'm used to you bein' stroppy. Such an endearing trait." He left off his caress of Doyle's back to ruffle his hair. "Feel better now?"
Doyle twisted round, stretching his back. "Yeah, I do." He looked steadily at Bodie. "Sorry I woke you up."
"Nah, was up anyway." Bodie gave a little cough. "Drank too much at the pub."
"Figured that's where you went."
Bodie shrugged. "Needed to get away for a bit." He paused, not quite sure what he wanted to say about his evening. "Had a nice, long think there."
Doyle looked expectant. "And?"
"Hm? Oh, and I thought..." He didn't know exactly how to put it. "Well, I thought, maybe we weren't talking enough."
"I don't know. Anything. Everything." Bodie shrugged again. "Whatever's on our minds. Just so we don't hold stuff back and wind up yelling at each other later. You know."
Doyle smiled. "Anything?"
Bodie frowned, wondering what was on Ray's mind. "Yeah...I guess so."
"Including your cooking?"
"My wha - " Bodie stared at him a moment, then burst out laughing. "You idiot! You're not still irked at what I said earlier?"
Doyle laughed with him. "Nah, just teasing."
"I should hope so." He had been right, they had needed more laughter together. It felt damn good. He snaked his hands round Doyle's waist and tickled him.
"Oi!" Doyle slapped at his hands, while trying to get a tickle in of his own. Before long, they were in a full- fledged wrestling match, limbs entangled with each other and the bed clothes. Bodie desperately tried to avoid Doyle's roving fingers, as he was extra sensitive to tickling, and felt he was on the losing end until he suddenly found a pillow and grabbed it, aiming it squarely at Doyle's head. Doyle snatched up the other pillow to retaliate.
Fifteen minutes of intense exertion later, they both gave up simultaneously, falling into exhausted sprawls across the mattress, panting.
Bodie didn't feel like climbing off the bed to go back to his own room. And the bed was certainly huge enough for the two of them... "Hey," he said when he'd got his breath, "you mind if I fall asleep here?"
"Go ahead," Doyle murmured, already sounding half-asleep himself. "Just don't hog the covers."
"What covers?" They were mostly at the end of the bed in a crumpled heap, or on the floor. Not that it really mattered; it was warm enough in the room without them.
"Um," was the only reply he got before Doyle's light snores filled the air.
Doyle woke to the sound of someone snoring.
He looked across the bed. Bodie lay there on his stomach, face buried in a pillow, mouth half open, the snores erupting in a rhythmic flux. Doyle gazed at the length of Bodie's nude form, taking in its smoothness, the muscularity. He wanted to reach over and run his hands along the back, along those thighs. Wanted to touch and hold him, wanted to love him.
Mustn't dwell on that... Doyle looked away. It had been comforting, knowing Bodie was there all night. He hadn't had any more bad dreams. He could just imagine, though, what Bodie would say if he suggested keeping up these sleeping arrangements.
He heard a soft snuffling and turned to see Bodie shifting, waking up. Bodie blinked, looked momentarily confused, then smiled. "Mornin'," he said, stretching. "Sleep well?"
"Really well," Doyle replied. "Thanks for staying. I think it helped."
"Slept better myself," Bodie said. "This is a comfy bed. Not like that lumpy rock I got stuck with."
Doyle frowned. It was a clear opening, an easy step towards inviting Bodie to share from now on. But it would be so damn dangerous to have him right there, every night. So tempting. Was he willing to risk it?
Yes, he decided after only a moment's hesitation. He swallowed hard and said carefully, "Well, you know, we could share the bed. Plenty of room. Might help keep my nightmares away, too, having you nearby." He nervously awaited Bodie's response.
After a lengthy silence, Bodie nodded. "Yeah, could try it."
"Okay." Doyle let out a huge yawn. Then he sat up to stretch. "I'm going for the bath."
"All yours mate." Bodie closed his eyes. "Need a bit more rest myself."
Doyle was glad he left the implication unspoken, that it had been a long night. As he climbed out of bed, he felt very relieved that it was over.
The sun and warmth returned by mid-morning, so they went down to the beach. Doyle took his sketchpad and sat some feet away from Bodie, positioning himself so that Bodie lay between him and the house. Then he set about sketching.
"Hey," Bodie called out, "you're not drawing me, are you?"
"Nah," Doyle lied, "I'm sketching the house." He actually did put down a quick drawing of the building, but as soon as Bodie looked relaxed and unsuspicious, he started a second drawing. There was simply no way he could resist the chance to capture that gorgeous body on paper.
He spent a very enjoyable hour working on the drawing, striving to get the figure just right, the likeness as close as possible. The hardest part was capturing the play of light and shadow on the pale flesh. When he felt satisfied, he returned to the sketch of the house, rapidly filling in details.
A few minutes later Bodie stretched and sat up. "Can I see?"
"Sure." Doyle moved his towel next to Bodie's and showed him the house drawing.
"Not bad. Looks a little rough."
"Yeah, I know. Couldn't quite get into it." Doyle set the pad aside. He lay down on his back, soaking up the sun.
They had both lain there for a quarter hour when Bodie suddenly said, "Can we talk?"
A tremor ran through Doyle, and he wasn't sure why. "What do you want to talk about?"
"Stuff we don't know about each other," Bodie replied. "Things we've never told, things we've kept inside."
Doyle glanced over at him. Bodie's eyes were shut, and his body looked as if it were trembling slightly. Doyle had always thought it would be next to impossible to break beneath the hard shell around his partner, the barrier he had carefully built to keep the world out. Now Bodie was breaking the shell himself, offering everything to him. Doyle wasn't sure what he had done to deserve this, but he felt extraordinarily grateful. It must have taken a tremendous effort for Bodie to take this step.
"All right," he said softly, closing his own eyes, somehow feeling safer in not looking at Bodie. He decided to reward his friend's openness by offering to go first. "What would you like to know?"
"Lots," Bodie replied. "But we can start with something simple. I'd like to know how you got that cheekbone."
"What?" Doyle was surprised; he was sure he must have talked about that before. "I never told you?"
"Nope. But then, I never asked."
Well, he didn't mind going over the story again. Especially as there wasn't much to tell. "I don't really know," he said. "Went out drinking one night, woke up the next morning in hospital. Couldn't remember what happened."
"Jesus," Bodie muttered. "You honestly don't know?"
"I remember being in the pub, but that's about it. The police talked with the barkeep and some of the others who were there that night. All they could say was that I'd been fairly well sloshed, and had left by myself shortly before closing. A bus driver stopping for a pee found me in an alley 'bout half an hour later, beat up. My wallet was gone, so they figured it was a mugging gone wrong. Probably I got feisty and tried to fight, but couldn't do anything useful 'cause I was too drunk. They never found out who did it."
"That must be awful," Bodie said softly. "To never know what actually happened."
To Doyle, it was ancient history. Yes, it had been painful, and it had taken a long time to get used to his flawed face, but it was also something he had accepted and dealt with years ago. "Don't ever think about it anymore."
"How old were you?"
"Nineteen. Joined the police a year later."
"Why I'd join?" Doyle thought the question over. "Well, I s'pose the beating had a bit to do with it. Wanting to get back, or get something of my own back. I know I was still angry then, still needed to do something. Didn't matter if it was them or not, I mean, the ones who had done me over, just so's I got to stop someone, anyone, from doing the same thing to somebody else. But that wasn't the main reason. Least, I don't think it was." He thought back to that time, so many years ago. It seemed as if it weren't even him; his younger self was such a stranger to him. So much had happened since he was twenty, so many changes. "I was a bit wild when I was young, think I've told you about that a little. Got into trouble a lot, got into street fights, didn't have much sense. My dad wanted me to go to work for him when I left school, stay out of trouble. Construction work. Didn't have any appeal for me. Got forced into it for a while, but dad could see it wasn't on. So he sent me off to London to work for my uncle Jack, who ran a small grocery shop in Chelsea." Doyle laughed softly. "Remember that op we worked on with Esther? Where I went undercover in the market? Selling fruit comes naturally to me, runs in the family."
"Yeah," Bodie replied. "Thought you looked good in that mackintosh. Serving people suits you."
"So then what?"
"Oh, I got bored, of course. Wouldn't you?"
"Probably. Though there are days when I wonder if a quiet, relaxing, boring job wouldn't make a nice change."
"You might say that now," Doyle said, "but would you have said it at seventeen?"
"Nah. But then, at seventeen, I was busy having adventures and seein' the world."
Doyle had once wondered, after hearing about Bodie's mercenary days, army days, and SAS days, if he'd ever had a boring moment in his entire life. "Never had the travel bug myself."
Doyle smiled. Even this small trip, only a few hours drive from Town, had been mildly annoying to him. "Well, I like me home comforts." He paused, trying to recall where he'd left off in his rather drawn-out reply to Bodie's question. Oh, yeah, he'd been bored selling groceries. "Anyway, I got friendly with a group of art students in the neighborhood. Always liked to sketch, though it was never more than a hobby. One of my new friends found me a job at an art supply shop, and I jumped at it. Worked there a couple years, really liked it a lot. Not the job, so much as the people around me. Good mob. Knew how to have a fun time, and right then, I was definitely into making life one big party."
"And that's what led to that drunken night at the pub you don't remember?"
"We all enjoyed pub-crawling," Doyle replied. He felt so distanced from that life, as if he were relating a story about someone else. Perfectly normal, he thought, to have a wild period when you were young, and then grow out of it, to find whatever you really wanted to do with your life.
He felt a poke in his ribs and opened his eyes to find Bodie propped on an elbow, peering at him with a curious expression.
"How come you never told me any of this before?"
Doyle shrugged. "Don't know. Didn't think it was important, I guess. Or interesting."
"Well, it is. Go on, you still haven't joined the force yet."
"Oh, yeah, that." Doyle smiled. "Not much good at answering questions, am I?"
Bodie smiled back. "You do elaborate, but that's all right. It's very entertaining."
"Don't worry, when I'm done, you can entertain me."
"With the truth," Doyle added, well aware of Bodie's tendency to exaggerate his past. "Right?"
"Cross my heart," Bodie said. He lay down again, on his stomach, nestling his head on his arms. "I swear, if you ever catch me out in a fib, you can have my entire collection of framed Playmates of the Year photos. Priceless, that is."
Doyle snorted. "Be a bit soiled, won't they?"
Bodie groaned. "That's disgustin'."
"Yeah, I know." Doyle grinned, then rolled over onto his stomach as well. "Where was I?"
"Smokin' dope and havin' orgies with the art students," Bodie promptly replied.
"How'd you know?" Doyle said smoothly.
He got an elbow in his ribs. "No fair. You didn't really?"
"Not entirely. No orgies, but we did smoke pot now and then. All my friends were paranoid around coppers 'cause of that. But I'd got into the habit of chatting with the local beat cops whenever they came round to check on the shops. So I liked them. One summer there was a rash of burglaries, some of my mates' flats were broken into. They were scared to say anything to the police. So I sort of acted as a go- between, passing on information and helping out. The police nabbed the burglary ring, and I got some of my friends' stuff back for them. They grew less leery and more friendly towards the coppers in our neighborhood after that. Good place to live back then. First time I ever felt as if I belonged someplace. A sort of community. We always tried to help each other out whenever we could, you know?" He sighed. A part of him missed that feeling of belonging, a feeling he had never truly had again anywhere else. "After the mugging, one of the beat cops I'd made friends with came to see me. He felt bad about not finding the blokes who did it. We wound up talking a lot over the next few weeks, about his work and how good it made him feel to help people in trouble, and how frustrated he felt when he couldn't do anything, and how important it all was to him. Got me thinking about what I'd been doing with my life, about the trouble I'd caused over the years, and how it hadn't gotten me anywhere I wanted to be. And about how great it had felt when I'd been able to help my friends, and well, lots of other stuff I can't really remember now. Pretty soon, I was asking how to join the force. I just thought, maybe I should try doing some good in the world, that if more people tried to help others out, like we did in our little neighborhood, that we'd all be better off."
"Idealist," Bodie muttered.
"Hey, I was twenty," Doyle replied.
"And now? You've still got a streak of idealism in you, Ray."
Doyle turned his head towards Bodie. "Not like that. I'll never feel that naive again. Be stupid to feel like that, knowing what I know now."
"And what's that?"
"That the world is one hell of a fucked-up place, and there isn't a lot you can do about it."
Bodie raised his head. "No, that's what I say. You don't say things like that."
Doyle had been surprised himself at the bitterness in his own voice. "Don't know where that came from."
"Maybe," Bodie said quietly, "from being hurt one too many times."
"Maybe." Doyle let out another long, deep sigh. "You know, I don't know what I want anymore. Used to seem pretty simple. Now I just don't know...spent so many years trying to make other people's lives better, and maybe it kept me from thinking about my own life. But I've been thinking about it a lot lately. About what's important, about what matters to me. And I'm not sure I know." He stopped, not willing to go on with any further revelations. The whole point of all this, after all, was to get Bodie to open up. And it was damn well his turn. "Tell me something," he said. "What's the most important thing in your life? What's the one thing you couldn't live without?"
The silence he got in response lasted so long, he thought Bodie had fallen asleep. But then, at last, Bodie spoke.
"Friendship," he replied.
Not sure what he had expected, Doyle turned the word over and over in his mind. "Not love?"
"They're not mutually exclusive."
Startled, Doyle propped himself on his elbows to stare at Bodie, but he had lowered his head onto his arms again and his eyes were closed. "No," Doyle said after a while, "I reckon they're not."
"Never talked like this with anyone before," Bodie replied. "Feels odd."
Doyle went back to a more restful position. "I know what you mean. Saying all this stuff out loud, when it's always been private - makes me nervous. Almost like you were reading my journal."
"Can I read it?"
"No." Doyle didn't hesitate.
"'Cause it isn't finished yet," Doyle said.
"Well, do keep me posted."
"Yeah, okay." Doyle closed his eyes. He thought over Bodie's response to his question. Friendship. This was the same man who always used to say, I believe in me, the most self-contained, self-reliant person he had ever known. Bodie gave off such a strong impression of solitariness, of not needing anyone. Yet friendship was the one thing he couldn't live without? Was that friendship in general, or did Bodie mean his friendship in particular?
"You asleep?" Bodie muttered.
"No." He paused, wondering how to phrase his question. Perhaps if he just got Bodie talking in general, something would come up that gave a clue to the change in him. "It's your turn to talk. Tell me how you wound up in Africa. You never give any details about that, just vague hints."
Bodie responded by shifting about and mumbling.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing. Just not comfortable. Sand's lumpy right here."
"Uh-huh. You're stalling."
"Am not." Bodie finished his rearrangements and settled down again. "Isn't really much to tell though. Joined the Merchant Navy at seventeen, wound up in Dakar three years later, decided I was tired of being seasick. Met a bloke in a pub who was recruiting for a little fracas in the Congo. Paid well, so I went."
Doyle might have known he'd cut out all the interesting parts. "No, I mean, what made you leave Britain in the first place?"
"Oh, that." Bodie paused. "Well, I wanted some adventure. I'd already been in brawls in most of the pubs in Liverpool. Needed to find some new ones."
"Not good enough," Doyle persisted. "Try again."
Bodie made what sounded very much like a growl. "What do you want, me life history?"
"Yeah," Doyle said. "That'd be good for a start. What about your family? All I know for sure is that you've got an older sister."
"Oh, christ. Do we have to go through all that stuff?"
Doyle rolled over onto to his side. "You're the one who wanted to talk. About everything."
"I know. But it's just not that interesting."
"Yeah, that's exactly what I said about my story, and look how bloody fascinating you found it." Doyle was not about to let Bodie off the hook. He prodded him in the shoulder. "Go on, you can do it. What did your father do for a livin'?"
"All right, all right. He didn't do anything."
Doyle blinked. "Eh?"
"He died before I was born. Didn't even know he had a kid. It was a fling, my mother was very married. She was a nurse, and she took to this young intern one summer...well, he went off afterwards, she found out she was preggers, tried to find him, but turned out he was dead."
Bodie didn't answer. "She knew it was his kid, 'cause her husband was off on a two-month business trip to the States at the time in question, as they say. Helluva row when he got back and found out."
"Bodie," Doyle said pointedly, "you're holding back again. How did he die?"
There came another lengthy pause. Finally Bodie said, so softly Doyle almost didn't catch the words, "He killed himself."
"Jesus. I'm sorry."
"Nah." Bodie let out a sigh. "Should tell you everything, want to tell you. Just never told anyone that before. Didn't find out myself until I was in my teens, and started asking too many questions. All I know is, he took his father's army pistol one day and shot himself, and it wasn't an accident. Nobody knew why. He was an only child, and his name was Philip Matthews, and his family came from Kent. That's all I know. My mother was Irish through and through, and her maiden name was Bodie. Her husband divorced her, and didn't want anything to do with me, or my sister, either. Rid himself of the whole lot. Mum took her name again, and she raised us by herself. And I was quite a handful, probably a lot like you were. Loved running around the streets of Liverpool, loved getting into trouble. Caused her no end of grief."
"She never married again?" Doyle asked. He found it amazing that Bodie could call this story uninteresting.
"No. She had a couple long-term boyfriends, but no, she never married again. Mind you, she still might. She's been dropping fairly heavy hints the past few months about a bloke she met last year. Widower. Runs a sweets shop." Bodie chuckled. "I'd go visit more often if she landed him. What about your mum? She ever talk about marrying again?"
"No." Doyle's father had died three years ago. "Don't think she ever will." He didn't really want to dwell on the subject. He sat up, drew his knees to his chin, and wrapped his arms round his legs. "So you were a wild kid," he said, returning to the matter he was most intrigued by. "You said once you left school at fourteen."
"Not exactly," Bodie replied. "I mean, not exactly left. Got the boot. Sent to remand school. Ran away from there a few times, kept getting sent back. At sixteen, nobody could hold me anymore. Took off to London, hung out with a cousin there. Got in plenty of trouble, lots of pub brawls." He paused. "Hey, you know, it's a wonder we didn't run into each other. You would've been what, nineteen then?"
Doyle laughed. "Didn't mug any drunks, did you?" He said it in a teasing tone, knowing instinctively that Bodie wouldn't have been that out of control.
"Now there's a scary thought," Bodie replied. "Nah, wasn't that bad. Still, I knew a few blokes who were."
"Yeah," Doyle said, "so did I. Lucky to get through those years alive."
"Me, too. Hasn't gotten much better, though, has it? Still putting ourselves in danger every day."
"Yeah, but we're better armed now."
"Go on, then."
"Hm? Oh, well, there's not much else. Ran around on the streets for a year, and then my cousin up and joined the merchant navy. Talked me into coming along. I did it for the money. Not that it paid that well, but at seventeen, it was like a gold mine. Regretted it, let me tell you. The ocean and me did not get along. So I stuck it as long as I could, and then jumped ship in Dakar."
No mention, during that recital, of any strong friendships. "You were pretty much a loner all your life, weren't you?"
"I reckon," Bodie replied. "Never close to my family, no close mates. Learned to always look after number one first. Seemed to work best that way."
"And how does it work now?" Doyle asked, intensely curious.
Bodie's voice went very soft again. "Four months ago, I thought you were going to die on me. I've never felt that empty in my whole life."
Doyle shivered. He didn't know what to say, so he didn't say anything.
"I tried to imagine," Bodie went on, "what life would be like without you around. And I couldn't do it. Not used to feeling anything that strongly. Scared the hell out of me. Knowing that it wasn't just number one anymore. Knowing that I cared so much about someone else, it would be like a part of me died if they died. Guess I've changed."
Oh, yeah, Doyle thought, and in a big way. And so have I. He found it hard to stop trembling. "You mean that much to me too, you know." It was as close as he dared come to expressing love for his friend. "Don't know how I'd get by without you."
"Thanks," Bodie said simply.
"Know how you feel, though," Doyle added. "About being scared. Keep wanting to make sure, now that I've found something that matters so much, that I don't lose it, don't wind up destroying it somehow." He knew, at that moment, that he wanted Bodie's love to be the most important thing in his life, that it was the one thing he had been searching for. And he couldn't risk losing it, didn't dare tell Bodie how deep it ran, how much he wanted him, in every way. He couldn't bear the thought that Bodie might turn away from him if he really knew everything Doyle was thinking, knew all his secrets, all of his private thoughts. No, not unless he felt, for certain, that Bodie would love him still even if he spoke of his desires...then, only then, could he risk saying what lay in his heart.
"Don't worry," Bodie said, "you won't get rid of me easily, mate. We're stuck with each other for life."
Doyle smiled. "Yeah? You mean that?"
"'Course I do." Bodie sat up and did some stretching. "Christ, I'm gettin' sentimental in my old age."
"It suits you," Doyle replied. He gave Bodie's knee a playful slap. "Come on, we've had enough seriousness for one day. What do you say we go for a drive? Maybe find something new, maybe check out the pub lunch at the next village over."
"You're on." Bodie got to his feet, then held out a hand to pull Doyle up. "Better get dressed first, though. Don't want to go frightening the locals."
Doyle gazed pointedly at Bodie's genitals. "Or the sheep."
"Why you - " Bodie lunged for him.
Doyle deftly avoided his grasp, and Bodie chased him all the way into the house.
Had a good day today, sunning on the beach. Talked a lot. Went for a drive in the afternoon, explored a few of the local towns. Had a great lunch. Good dinner, too, back at the house. Been teasing Ray about his cooking, but he makes terrific spaghetti.
Brought the Scrabble board out later. Ray's always been better at word games than me, so I knew not to make any bets, which turned out to be a wise move. Bastard beat me by fifty points.
It's our lounging-in-the-living-room-in-front-of-the-telly- while-writing-in-our-journals time. He's scribbling away like mad over there. Wonder if he's jotting down notes on what I told him today, about my father, and how my mother raised me alone and all. Glad I told him, glad he told me about himself. Funny, the things we didn't know about each other, being best mates. But then, it didn't seem to matter that much before, back when I was busy denying that I was attached to anyone. Easy come, easy go, that's my style. Only this friendship didn't come so easy. Hasn't always been smooth. Been through a lot together, we have.
Maybe it was the job that got us together, but I'd like to think we would stay together with or without it. Don't know how many more years we've got out there, on the streets, but not many. And then...well, I don't know exactly. Some blokes go into private stuff, security or detective work. Could stay on in CI5, doing something a bit less dangerous. But then, Cowley won't stick around forever, he's bound to up and retire one of these years. Can't really see working for anyone else. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Get to sleep in the same bed again tonight...couldn't believe he let me stay last night, couldn't believe he offered to share. Felt nice, lying there, knowing he was close by. Wish I could just sort of accidentally move even closer, maybe pretend I was asleep and restless, kind of naturally seek out someone to put an arm around... Wonder what he'd do?
Well, better not try it tonight. Would like at least one more night of peaceful sleeping, just lying there, being close to him. Don't want to spoil it yet.
Got to thinking about my family today, thanks to Bodie's probing. Been thinking about my dad tonight, and about things I've never told anyone, things it might be good to write down.
When my dad died, it came as quite a shock, though thinking on it later, we all sort of wondered how come we hadn't been prepared, seeing as how the signs were all there. He drank a bit too much, smoked a bit too much, had a hefty paunch, was taking stuff for his blood pressure. Still, he was younger than Cowley at the time, by a few years. Heart attack. Happens to other people and you say, Yeah, well, look at his lifestyle. Happens to somebody you know, and you say, Christ, why didn't we see it coming.
Dad was a construction worker. He loved building things, making things, loved showing me and my brother how to build play houses and stuff. Didn't get along that well with people, though. Had a temper, just like me. So when they kept trying to push him up into being a supervisor, he kept resisting. But finally the money was too big to turn down, so he took it on, and shortly after that, he started taking the blood pressure tablets. You live like that for years and years, it wears you down so much faster...I guess we should've known, but when the call came, I couldn't believe it. Early morning it was, and me and the bird I'd brought home were just waking up when the phone rang. It was me mum, but she was crying so hard she wasn't making any sense. Then Jack came on the line and just blurted it out. Dad's dead. His heart. You better get up here.
Couldn't do anything. Was numb. And there was this strange girl in my bed...she tried to say something, tried to help, but the last thing I wanted was to talk about it to somebody who didn't even know him. Who didn't even know me. She finally picked up on that, got out of there. First thing I did was get dressed and drive over to Bodie's.
He'd met my family plenty of times over the years. He liked my dad a lot. Thank God he was alone that morning. He let me cry on his shoulder. Don't know any other bloke who'd ever let me do that. It helped. It really did help.
Mum took a long, long time to come back from whatever deep place she'd fallen into. She's doing okay now. But it'd kill her if anything happened to me, I know it would.
Don't know what Bodie would do. Reckon he'd quit the job, though, he's like that. Loyal, but not to Cowley. Just to himself and one or two others here and there in his life.
If anything ever happened to him...well, I think I'd go find that deep place and crawl right in.
Don't know if I'd ever come out again, either.
"Shit." Doyle fell flat on the sand, badminton racket extended. Missed again. This was becoming downright embarrassing.
"That makes three," Bodie said. "You want to pay up now, or just run a tab 'til the end of the month?"
"Very amusing," Doyle replied as he dragged himself to his feet. He brushed the sand off his pants. "Can we stop now?"
"Ah, don't you want a chance to get even?"
"No." Doyle felt more worn out than he expected to feel after a mere hour of exercise, even if, given the way they played, it had been a rather intense, non-stop workout. "I want a chance to soak in the hot tub instead."
Bodie grinned. "Good plan."
They were soon lolling in the steaming tub. Doyle enjoyed relaxing there; the heat and swirling water tended to soothe away his worries. And he did worry, about getting back to normal physical shape in general and about returning to the squad in particular. He needed to work out a lot more often and a lot harder if it was going to happen anytime soon. Certainly he had to do more than play a few games on the beach.
"Think we should go for a walk this afternoon," he said. "Nice long one."
"We?" Bodie asked. "Not going to go off by yourself this time?"
Doyle shook his head. "Had enough of that."
"Good. More fun to do things together. How long is 'long'?"
"Oh, I don't know. Enough to get a good sweat going. Feel like I need to get moving more. Still far too out of shape. Should be getting more exercise out here, even if I am supposed to be relaxing." He smiled. "'Sides, I can't keep letting you slaughter me at badminton, can I?"
"Not unless you want to go broke," Bodie replied.
"Wouldn't take much," Doyle said, mulling over the rather sad state of his finances. Disability pay only covered the basics.
"That bad?" Bodie asked.
"Yeah. No savings, no backup, reduced income. Never dreamed I'd be out of work this long. Don't much care for it, I can tell you."
Bodie frowned. "Why didn't you say something? I'd've helped out. Still will, if it comes to that."
"Couldn't," Doyle said. "Too embarrassed."
"Honestly, I'm not your mum. That's what mates are for."
"What, to sponge off each other?"
"Oh, for chrissake's." Bodie splashed some water his way.
"Oi, stop that!" Doyle splashed back.
Bodie quickly gave up. "Then you stop being idiotic. It's not sponging to get a bit of help when you're down. You'd do the same for me." He paused, brow creased. "Wouldn't you?"
Doyle laughed. "Nah, I'd let you pick out a nice park bench instead."
"Thought so." Bodie smiled. "Come on, promise you'll let me know if you need anything, okay?"
"Yeah, okay." He doubted he would; with practice, he could be frugal enough to get by until he was back on the Squad, and back to real pay. But it felt good to have Bodie make the offer. And good to know that he could always count on him to be there, no matter what happened. "Thanks."
Doyle lay his head back and closed his eyes, happy to lie there and soak up the warmth.
Bodie came round the bend in the stream and saw Doyle lying flat on his back beneath the willow tree, looking very much asleep.
They had wandered rather aimlessly for a few hours, along a narrow, untraveled road winding between the low hills and farmlands, until spotting an ancient church, which Doyle wanted to sketch. Afterwards, they found a path leading behind the church and down to a tree-lined stream, where they stopped beneath a willow for a late picnic lunch. Then Doyle set about sketching again, while Bodie went for a stroll along the bank.
He's worn out again, he thought as he came up to their picnic spot. Poor bastard. As he plopped down onto the grass, Bodie spied Doyle's sketchpad lying to one side. Curious to see what he'd drawn, Bodie began flipping through its pages.
His hand froze when he spied a nude figure, very obviously his own. Christ, when had...he thought back to the day before, when Doyle had claimed he was only drawing the house. No wonder the result had looked sketchy. The sneaky bastard had been busy drawing him instead.
What surprised him most was the care Doyle had lavished on the drawing, the attention to capturing his form, and the detailed nature of the rendering. Very detailed. He'd been lying on his back... Bodie couldn't help wondering if Doyle's interest had been totally artistic. And if it hadn't, what exactly did that mean?
Doyle stirred beside him. Bodie hastily shut the sketchpad and dropped it where he'd found it.
"Um." Doyle opened his eyes, yawned, and stretched. "Hi, there." He slowly sat up. "Find anything interesting?"
"Couple of noisy ducks." Bodie reached for the pack he'd brought their lunch in, mostly empty now. "Want to finish off the bread and cheese?"
"Nah, you have it."
Bodie quietly ate. He made surreptitious glances at the sketchpad, wondering how to find out more about that drawing. What would Doyle do if he tried to look at it? And how could he do so without letting on that he'd already seen it? Something casual, some natural move, that's what he should try. He finished the bread and cheese and brushed off his hands, then leaned over to pick up the sketchpad. "Can I see what you drew today?"
"No!" Doyle snatched it from his hands so fast Bodie thought he'd been singed.
"Hey, I only wanted a look, what's the matter?" He attempted to sound genuinely surprised. Inside, he felt very excited by Doyle's swift retrieval of the sketchpad; obviously, he was worried about Bodie viewing the contents.
Doyle opened the pad away from Bodie's prying eyes, to a few sketches at the end. "Nothing. There's some stuff in here that's not very good, that's all. Don't want anyone to see it." He showed Bodie a drawing of the old church they had stopped at earlier, keeping a firm grip on the pad.
"Yeah, very nice. What else?"
Doyle allowed him to see two more drawings, one of the churchyard, and one of the riverbank. "That's it." He quickly shut the sketchpad.
"Don't know why you're so worried about me seeing the rest," Bodie said, putting a miffed tone in his voice. "I'm not the art critic for the Times, you know. Never realized you were so sensitive."
"I'm not," Doyle protested. "Just no point in looking at 'em all."
"Okay, okay." Bodie lay back, enjoying the late afternoon sunlight filtering through the tree leaves. So Ray didn't want him to see the nude drawing. Had, in fact, gotten terribly anxious that he not see it. The question was, why?
If it were simply an artistic rendering, done solely from an interest in the human body and the chance to draw something other than the house or the beach, then why had he lied about it in the first place, and why was he so keen on hiding it? But if it had been drawn for some other reason... Bodie found himself biting his lower lip, and stopped. Another reason...could Doyle actually find him attractive? Could he possibly want him?
Christ...if only that were true. Bodie sighed, positive that he was engaging in wishful thinking. One little drawing couldn't mean that much. On the other hand, Doyle's abrupt reaction just now could mean everything.
Time to do some testing. Tonight he would try draping an arm round Doyle in his sleep, and if he were tossed out of bed as a result, he'd simply claim it had been accidental, and that would be that. But if he weren't tossed out...ah, if only he could lie there holding Ray, if only he could let Ray see how much he loved him, everything would be all right.
"What's up?" Doyle's soft voice floated to him.
"Hm?" Bodie was still half caught in dreams.
"You were sighing. Not falling asleep, are you?"
"No." He reluctantly sat up and stretched. "Suppose we'd better head back."
"Yeah," Doyle replied, "I reckon we'd better."
Feel in an odd mood tonight. As if something were in the air. No sign of another storm, though.
Must just be my imagination.
Bodie's been awfully quiet. Didn't talk much during our long walk back to the house, didn't talk much during dinner, and afterwards he headed right to his favorite spot on the sofa to watch the telly. Now he's writing in his journal. Wonder where he hides it during the day. Want to read it so damn bad.
Want to touch him so damn bad right now...been building up over the past week, thinking about him so much, being so close, sleeping in the same damn bed, and getting an eyeful whenever we're sunbathing or in the hot tub. About to drive me round the bloody twist. It's not just lust...well, okay, there's definitely lust involved here, but - I don't know, what I want most is to hold him tight, and never let him go. Sounds soppy, but there it is. Can't help myself.
Been searching for something all my life, didn't know what it was until now. Thought I was living, doing just fine, until the day those bullets tore into me, and left me lying there, not knowing anything for certain at all. Does wonders for you, nearly getting killed.
What I've finally figured out is that next time, because I'm not exactly immortal and sooner or later there's gonna be a next time, I don't want to see images of CI5 or whatever job I'm doing at the time, and I don't want to be worrying over whether I've spent my life doing anybody any good, and I don't want to die feeling so terribly alone. 'Course, I'm not planning on taking anybody with me, but somewhere in there, I want to be thinking about somebody I truly loved, want somebody to know I loved them, want to know for myself that I didn't spend my time here making things right for everybody else and not making anything right for me. Is that selfish? Don't care if it is. I've done my bit. And when it comes down to the end, I don't want all the strangers I helped in my lifetime to be standing around holding my hand. I want just one person there, only one. Bodie.
Christ, it's amazing he doesn't know by now how I'm feeling...I swear my thoughts are so strong you could read them all the way to London without straining. In fact, you'd probably need ear plugs to keep them out.
And what if he doesn't want to know...well, then I guess I'll keep on loving him anyway. Because that's the only way I'll die happy.
He's looking awful peculiar tonight. Kind of got this glazed eye thing going. Keeps gazing off into the distance, too. What the bloody hell is he thinking about? Food? Sex?
Nah, he's probably just trying to work out his budget for the next month.
Been awful quiet lately. He didn't say anything on the walk home, or at dinner. Wonder if he's worried about that drawing. Maybe he's worried I'm going to find the sketchpad unprotected and sneak a peak. Well, I already did, didn't I? So he's perfectly justified in worrying about that. If he had any sense, he'd tear it up, or hide it somewhere. Sort of like being caught with porno pictures by your folks. Only a bit classier, seeing as how it's art.
I got caught once. My mother took us to her brother's house for Christmas, and I was an overdeveloped twelve, and my cousin Roddy was fourteen, and he had this big stack of girlie mags he'd stole from his dad. Kinky stuff with lots of leather and whips. Mum always said Uncle Bill was a perv, but she never elaborated. Anyway, I took a couple of the magazines to my room and locked the door and went to it.
Didn't take long before I'd made a mess of the sheets. Overdeveloped, all right. Heard somebody coming along the hallway, and got scared. How was I going to explain the sticky bed covers? Bunched them all up in a big ball. There was a loud knocking on the door, and my aunt yelling at me to open up. So I stuffed the magazines in with a bunch of comics I'd brought with me. When I opened the door, she came storming in, all flushed, and mum right behind her. They'd just caught my cousin jerking off in the bog. The idiot. Mum took one look at the bunched-up bed covers and started smacking me. I tried to say I'd spilled milk on them, but she had to go and notice there wasn't a glass anywhere in the room. Then Aunt Mabel grabbed the comic books and flipped through the pile, like she knew right away where people hid dirty magazines. They both set about tearing into me so bad you'd have thought I'd smashed the family car into the house and then set them both on fire.
Didn't stop me from wanking off, either. Just got more careful about it in future.
Always found it quite relaxing. Earlier, the day we had the big storm here, I had a bit of a go while thinking about Ray. Never done that before, that is, never thought of a man while doing myself. Liked it a lot. Very exciting, imagining him touching me. Be a hell of a lot better, though, if it were real.
Don't know what's going to happen tonight, but the more I think about the way he must have sat there on the beach that day, drawing me, looking at me, practically touching me with his eyes, the more I want to take the chance that he wants to make it real, too.
Otherwise, I'm going to spend the rest of my life dreaming.
Would rather spend it awake.
Bodie couldn't relax.
They had gone to bed an hour ago, and Doyle had fallen into sleep almost immediately, his light snores penetrating the air. Bodie lay close by, watching him. When should he try the arm move...should he wait until the middle of the night, so it would seem more plausible for him to have been tossing and turning about and just sort of happened to wind up closer...or should he simply go for it now? Maybe Doyle wouldn't even notice, being so soundly asleep, and then he could lay there with his arm around him for hours.
As he debated, the choice was suddenly taken away. Doyle stirred, moaning. But he didn't wake, didn't open his eyes. Bodie watched, transfixed, as Doyle shook his head from side to side on the pillow, one hand tightly clutching the bed covers. The moaning increased, then turned to wild, frightening shouts.
"No! Bodie - no!" He repeated it frantically as his body writhed uncontrollably.
Bodie put a hand on Doyle's shoulder, shaking it. "Ray, wake up!"
"No - " Doyle's eyes stayed tightly shut. "Help him...please...not Bodie - "
"Ray! I'm right here!" He sat up, pulling Doyle to him, and wrapped his arms around him.
"Bodie...don't go, don't leave me. I love you - "
Bodie gasped at the words. He held Doyle tighter, shook him gently. "For god's sake, wake up."
Doyle's tense body relaxed in his hold, and then he took in a great heaving breath and his eyes flew open. "Bodie?" He grabbed at Bodie's arms, hurting him with the sheer strength of his grasp. "Oh, God, are you really there?"
"Yeah, I'm here. It's okay." Bodie brushed Doyle's brow, ran his hand down his back, stroked him gently. "You were having a dream. It's okay now. It's over."
Doyle sank against his chest, breathing hard. "It was so clear this time." He shuddered. "I remember it...I saw you, shot, like I was. God, Bodie - "
"Hey, don't. It's all right."
"No, it isn't!" Doyle pushed away, staring at him, eyes wide. Then he clasped Bodie by the shoulders. "You were dying on me, don't you see? I saw you in the operating theater, saw them tearing you open, all the blood, so damn real, and I couldn't do anything. Never had a chance to tell you - " He stopped abruptly.
That you love me, Bodie finished mentally. He had heard it. Ray had said it in his nightmare. Would he say it out loud, and did it mean what he wanted it to mean, what he needed it to mean so very badly? "Ray..." He brushed his fingertips over Doyle's cheek.
Doyle didn't move, didn't release his grip on Bodie. "What?"
Bodie let out a sigh. "You can tell me anything. Anything." He swallowed hard. "Please."
Doyle stared at him for the longest time, then let go of his hold. He nodded slowly, then took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I love you."
Bodie couldn't control the trembling in his body. He hesitated, hoping Doyle wasn't simply getting over- sentimental about their partnership, hoping this was truly what he'd been dreaming about. He placed a hand on Doyle's chest. "Do you mean love as in friendship," he said tentatively, desperately trying to hold back his fear, "or as in wanting to be lovers?"
Doyle smiled, and it was the most beautiful thing Bodie had ever seen. "They're not mutually exclusive." He took Bodie's hand in his and kissed it.
"Oh, God..." Bodie pulled him close, hugging him, running his hands over his back. "I'm an idiot," he muttered, relief and joy flooding through him. "And so are you. Why the hell didn't you say anything earlier?"
"Why didn't you?"
"Thought you'd thump me."
"So did I."
Bodie kissed his forehead, then his nose. He hesitated again, but before he could make the decision, Doyle did it for him, his lips touching his, opening, drawing him into a fierce, all-encompassing kiss.
Bodie felt as though he were drowning in fire. He collapsed onto his back, pulling Doyle down on top of him, never breaking the kiss until he couldn't take the heat of it any longer. He broke away, caressing Doyle wherever he could reach. "More?" he breathed.
Doyle rubbed against him, arousal evident. "More...yes...more of everything..."
Bodie set about to love him, not always sure what he was doing, but doing it with a passion he had not imagined possible. Doyle responded with a fierce energy, and together they found a rhythm that further enflamed them both.
They moved against each other, stroking and thrusting their bodies against each other's flesh, mouths roaming over every surface. The tempo built until all control was lost, and then Bodie was lost in a haze of release, aware only in the vaguest sense of Doyle's own release seconds after. And then it was over, far too soon, passion fallen away. Bodie relaxed, sprawled across the huge bed, Doyle lying lightly against his side.
He gently ran his fingers along Doyle's upper arm. "Hey."
"Hm?" Doyle nestled closer, resting his head on Bodie's shoulder.
"I love you."
Doyle raised his head briefly to plant a kiss on Bodie's chest, then resettled. "Good."
Bodie smiled at this response; he didn't need more, having already heard Doyle's own declaration earlier. "You always this talkative afterwards?"
"Um-hm." Doyle flung an arm across Bodie's chest. "Just wanna lie here, just wanna hold you."
"Sounds fine to me." Bodie wrapped an arm around him in return. "Can't believe I'm not dreamin' this."
"Want me to pinch you?"
"Nah, that's okay." Nonetheless, Bodie still had trouble believing that what he had wanted for so long was finally his. And it amazed him that Doyle had wanted the very same thing. "Ray?"
"How did this happen?"
Doyle sighed, warm breath tickling Bodie's skin. "Can we talk about it tomorrow? I'll let you know everything."
"Yeah. Gonna let you read my journal."
"Oh." Bodie suppressed an urge to demand it right then and there, pushing his intense curiosity aside. "Okay." He kissed Doyle's forehead. "Tomorrow."
He closed his eyes, and he listened to Doyle's soft breathing for a long time before falling into sleep.
"I remember what he told me about you," Doyle said.
Bodie looked up from his reading. "Who?"
"Cowley. When we were first teamed. You wrote about it in here, 'bout how rude I was to you afterwards."
"Oh, that." Bodie had given Doyle his own journal in exchange for Doyle's, and they both sat on the sofa, poring over the contents. "So what did he tell you that put you in such a bad mood?"
Doyle could recall that fateful morning in Cowley's office with great clarity. "He told me you had asked to be teamed with someone who was also ex-Army, someone who had 'real' fighting experience."
Bodie laughed. "I did do that. No wonder you were angry."
"Thought you were an arrogant bastard."
"You probably still do."
"Yeah," Doyle agreed, "sometimes. You reckon the Cow got me pissed off at you on purpose?"
"You ever know Cowley not to do something like that on purpose?" Bodie asked. "Maybe he wanted to put you in a fighting mood, make you give it your all."
Doyle didn't doubt it. Cowley's words had definitely put him on edge during their training together as a team, made him more eager to prove himself, more determined to show everyone, especially his elitist partner, that he could do the job. "Whatever his reason, he got the right results. You finally figured out I wasn't going to tuck me tail between me legs and run back to the Met."
"True enough," Bodie replied. "Earned a lot of respect from me, with that spirit of yours. Glad he thought of teaming us together."
Doyle smiled. "Worked out well, didn't it? Better not let on to im how well."
"Don't worry, I won't."
They both resumed their reading. A few minutes later, Doyle chuckled.
"Got to the bit where you explain why you kept touching me so much," Doyle said. "And I never picked up on the real reason for it. I thought you were just overdoing the coddling act. Got it completely wrong, didn't I?"
"No," Bodie replied, "I was just too scared to say what I really wanted to say, so I tried another method. Not your fault if I wasn't much good at getting the message across."
"Well, from now on, you can play footsies in the hot tub anytime you like."
After some more reading, Bodie suddenly whistled. "Jesus, Ray. I had no idea."
Doyle thought he knew where Bodie was at in his journal. "Is that the part about those images I saw, when I was in hospital?"
Bodie nodded. "You wanted to know why it was mainly the job pulling you back towards life. And where were the people who loved you. Is that when you knew?"
"Knew that I wanted to love you?" Doyle asked. "Sort of, in the back of my mind. Wasn't 'til yesterday, though, that I realized it was the most important thing in my life, that I wanted to be able to die remembering that I had loved you."
Bodie reached out to brush Doyle's cheek. "So do I."
"Go on," Doyle said, "read the rest."
Doyle quietly finished reading the last of what Bodie had written. He smiled when he hit the part where Bodie admitted having snuck a look at his sketchpad, about seeing the nude drawing. He might have known. Always was a sneaky sod. "Well," he said, closing the notebook, "that was terribly enlightening. Didn't know you had a good wank over me while I was out battling the thunderstorm."
Bodie flushed. He shut Doyle's journal. "Couldn't help it. Couldn't stop thinking about you."
Doyle lay a hand on Bodie's thigh and gave it a light squeeze. "Can have the real thing from now on."
"Always?" Bodie's eyes searched his, a yearning deep within.
"Always," Doyle replied.
The smile that lit Bodie's face sent a tremor of sheer joy through Doyle. He leaned over to kiss him, gently, loving, full of promise. When he pulled away, he said, "And to think I wondered what people do on long holidays."
"Oh my God." Bodie's eyes widened, and a grin split his face. "We've got three more weeks out here!"
"All by ourselves," Doyle added happily.
"You know, I think we can find ways to fill the time."
"Too right." Before putting this concept to the test, however, Doyle glanced down at the journal in Bodie's lap. "You done with that?"
"Yeah. Loved every word."
"Don't need 'em anymore though, do we?" Doyle eyed the fireplace. The weather had turned cooler that morning, and they could certainly do with a blaze.
"Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?" Bodie asked.
Doyle rose and crossed to the fireplace. He checked the flue. "Why not? Wouldn't want 'em to fall into anyone else's hands, and they've served their purpose."
Bodie raised an eyebrow. "What, to get us together? Don't expect that's what Kate had in mind, mate."
"No," Doyle said as he grabbed some wood from the firebox and neatly stacked it on the grate. "I mean, it helped get us talking more. Helped get the private stuff out in the open." He gathered up a few newspapers and crumpled them, stuffing them between the logs. "Got any matches?"
"There's some in the kitchen." Bodie hopped off the sofa. When he returned with the box of matches, he sat down beside Doyle on the rug before the hearth. "Can I write one more entry first?"
"Sure." Doyle struck a match and got the fire going. "That's not a bad idea. One last entry each, and we don't get to read what we wrote."
"No," Bodie agreed. "I want to put something in there that will stay private forever." He picked up the notebook and a pen. "I still need to keep a little bit of mystery in my life."
"Reckon we all do," Doyle replied. He opened his journal to a clean page.
That's the way I feel right now. And if I have anything to do with it, that's the way I'm going to go on feeling, for the rest of my life.
Ray Doyle is the most incredible person. Bet he doesn't even know how gorgeous he is, or how amazingly sexy, or how funny he can be at times, or how feisty. No, wait, I'm sure he knows about the feistiness. But anyway, there he is, in all his glory, just sitting there being wonderful, and he loves me. Wow.
It's nice knowing I can be as soppy as I want to be, because in a little while, these words will go up in flame. That's okay. They're still written in my heart.
I love him. Think I always have.
Know I always will.
Not all that long ago, I was feeling pretty miserable about my life. About not knowing what I needed most in my life. About not having someone to love.
Sat around and contemplated things a lot. Wrote in this journal a lot. Didn't do the one thing I know how to do really well - take action. I'm not saying all this thinking and writing didn't do any good. No, it's been great. Damn good idea Kate had. She'll never know how good. But when all the thinking and pondering and wondering is said and done, the fact is, the outside world hasn't changed. Fine thing to go about changing yourself, but if it doesn't have any effect on anything else...well, it just sort of sits there, a fine thing that nobody but you is ever going to know about.
So I had a good time doing this. And now I'm going to put all this pondering to good use.
Going to love someone. And I'm not going to worry over it a lot, not about to fret or reflect on it every chance I get. No, maybe do that sometimes, but most of the time, I'm just going to let my actions speak for themselves. By loving Bodie with everything I've got. And then some.
That's all I really need to ponder over from here on.
Bodie tossed the last piece of paper into the fire. He watched it twist, burning, bits of the flame turning blue for a moment, then bright orange again as the paper crumpled into black, then disappeared.
He leaned back on the hearth rug. "Well, that's that."
Doyle had already ripped his journal apart and thrown it piece by piece into the fire. "Felt good." He watched the flames settle into a steadier pattern. Then he turned to gaze down at Bodie. "You look comfy there."
"Nice rug," Bodie replied. "Very thick."
"Tell me something."
Doyle moved in on Bodie, straddling him. "You ever made love on a rug in front of a fire?"
Bodie grinned. "Not yet."
Doyle smiled back. "Think we should do something about that."
And they did.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Truth To Tell, Deathless Pros Press, 1995.