Shall Brothers Be...
by Anne Carr
Doyle watched the green landscape roll by as they traveled northwest across the English countryside from their London base. He could take note of each sheep or cow in the passing meadows as Bodie drove through the country lanes with rare patience and care.
"You really don't want to go, do you?" he asked baffled by his partner's choice of route through the picturesque panorama rather than his more normal. 'hounds of hell' dashes up the motorway.
"I should've thought that was obvious," was the subdued reply.
"Why?" Doyle asked, intrigued. "It's a happy occasion - a christening. Especially as it's your brother's first child; your first niece; your parents' first grandchild. it is a very special family occasion."
"Yeah, maybe that's what's wrong." He couldn't even begin to explain to Doyle the complex relationship he had with his family, knowing all too well that any amateur psychologist would have a field day. "We're not really a close family," he revealed. "Apart from Peter I haven't seen them for years. Hell, I wasn't even at Peter's wedding."
"All the more reason why you should be at his daughter's christening," Doyle argued in a voice he recognised as his own mother's persuasive tone, which was often used on sons reluctant to eat their greens. A tone he'd used often on Bodie since the telephone call a fortnight ago from his half brother.
At eleven a.m on the Sunday morning, Doyle had been making black coffee to neutralise the effects of the previous evening's drinking. He scraped the remains of the coffee granules from the jar wishing he was at this [missing] own fault and refused Bodie's invitation to stay the night. At home, he thought fondly, was a full jar of coffee, and no doubt, silence. The sound the of the telephone jarred his nerves, and he crossed the room in quick strides to silence it, croaking his partner's number into the receiver.
"Bodie?" a male voice queried.
"No," Doyle replied. There was a short pause while he pulled his brain together enough to ask, "who calling?"
"Peter Skellen." The voice sounded mildly imitated at the lack of reaction. "May I speak to my brother - please?"
Doyle placed the receiver down quietly on the glass-topped table. His brows furrowed as he attempted to collate the information he'd been given. On the phone was a Peter Skellen who wanted to talk to his brother, he looked around to the bedroom where William Andrew Philip Bodie slept - was he this Skellen's brother?
Closing in on the heap of bedclothes, Doyle considered anything was possible as a result of the dearth of information available on his partner's family background.
A muffled grumble from the mound that he prodded proved Bodie was awake. "Come on sunshine, someone who says he's your brother's on the phone."
The mound moved slightly as the voice mumbled, "If he thinks I'm getting out of my pit to talk to him - tell him to go...": The last words lost as Bodie burrowed deeper into the bed.
Doyle shook his head amused at his partner's impression of a hibernating mole. He returned to the telephone to pass the message on, pausing to grab a corner of the quilt as he did so, and gave it a powerful yank
"He's indisposed at the moment," Doyle announced while Bodie muttered that he'd like to dispose of his partner as he pulled the quilt back onto the bed. "Can I give him a message?"
"Yes. If he's not at Sam's christening, mother's coming up to London for him. Tell him," the voice warned, "that's not a threat but a promise."
With that, the call had ended and Doyle's first thoughts had been for his partner's life, sensing menace behind the cryptic message. When he repeated the information and his concern to Bodie, his partner whitened, explaining that it was much worse.
Doyle squinted out of the car window, checking the rectangular route signs against the scribbled note in his hand.
"His directions are: the church is first right after the traffic lights here, and then second on the left," he informed adding as an afterthought, "We can't miss it."
Bodie raised his expressive eyebrow at the statement. On more than one occasion, his partner's navigational skills had them going round in circles in strange towns. It was his belief that, if Ray Doyle was a typical example, to ask a policeman for directions was very unwise.
Nevertheless he followed the instructions he was given and was surprised to find the church loom out in front of them. There was no one outside the building, as by a fortunate combination of an unplanned detour of Doyle's and his own 'Sunday driver' tactics they were late and the ceremony had already begun.
"Come on," Doyle urged, waiting outside the car while Bodie diligently checked the handbrake, steering lock and lights before reluctantly climbing out of the Capri and following his partner inside the church.
Doyle hesitated at the inner doorway and Bodie crept passed him into the nearest pew. From their position at the rear of the church Doyle could see very little except the backs of several heads, while Bodie, behind the ornate pillar showed remarkable interest in the hymnal provided. He was relieved to find that his partner had the same difficulties as himself, in following the stand, sit, kneel pattern and was grateful when deference to one screaming infant the service moved along with respectful haste.
During the actual christening itself, Doyle was disappointed that neither of Samantha's parents took part in the ceremony, as Bodie explained that the godparents made the vows on the child's behalf. On listening to the words, Doyle thought that somehow his partner's own godparents hadn't quite managed to live up to those promises.
The ceremony over, people began leaving the church, most by the door the CI5 men had entered from, while others from a side door by the altar. Bodie immersed himself again in the hymnal as the congregation trouped past them, before scanning the empty pews and quickly getting to his feet. With his eyes on the small knot of people at the far end of the aisle he pushed his partner onto the passage with a force that resulted in Doyle stumbling over the edge of the kneeler.
Bodie muttered an oath as the crashing sound of Doyle's fall brought heads turning in their direction.
"Billy," a delighted voice cried, before Bodie could hasten his partner to his feet and out into the aisle. There was a muttered threat in Doyle's ear as a middle-aged woman in an enormous brimmed hat bustled toward them. "Peter promised you'd be here, but I just didn't believe it." She swept past Doyle throwing her arms around her son's neck. The CI5 man succumbed to the small form, returning the embrace hesitantly, aware of another figure disengaging itself from the group ahead of them and approaching the reunion.
"Did you see Samantha?" Mrs. Bodie asked eagerly. "Such a lovely baby, everyone says so." She sniffed, one hand wiping at the corner of her eye while the other held on to her son's arm, as if she were frightened that if she loosened her grip he would disappear again. "They used to say the same about you - an adorable angel. I can still remember that bonny baby contest, everyone thought you were so lovely, you must be a little girl."
Bodie stole a cautious glance over his mother's head to his partner. The width of Doyle's grin was proof enough that he needed to extricate himself from the situation as quickly as possible.
"You're embarrassing the lad, love," cautioned a voice approaching them.
"Sir," Bodie said, suddenly feeling awkward.
Mrs. Bodie was aware of the strained silence between her son and her husband and quickly covered it with a smile reminiscent of Bodie's, asking, "And who's this?"
Bodie introduced his partner, adding, "We've only managed to get enough time off duty to get here for the service. We have to get back to London as soon as possible. I really don't like to keep our boss, Mr. Cowley, waiting."
"Oh no, Billy, you can't rush off again - it's been four years since we last saw you!" His mother wailed, "I simply will not have you disappearing again." Her tone was one that had brooked no arguments from disobedient sons in the past. "Jenny's so looking forward to meeting her elusive brother-in-law."
Before Bodie could give his well-rehearsed apologies, Doyle announced, "We don't actually have to be back in London until tonight, Bodie, I'm sure if we took the motorway this time, you could have a few hours with your family." Doyle tried to suppress a grin at the look of panic in his partner's eye. "I'll have a look around the town."
"You certainly will not, Mr. Doyle," Mrs. Bodie said firmly. "Jenny's laid on a lovely spread and I'm sure you can do with a little fattening up. Our Billy's always had a good appetite, Army lads always do. Were you ever in the Services?" She hooked her arm into both agents, ushering them toward the door giving her husband a glance backward saying, "I'll go with Billy to show him the way to Peter's, and you can take Mr. and Mrs. Tully in your car, okay?"
She propelled both Bodie and Doyle out of the church maintaining a virtual monologue as they walked towards the Capri. "Oh, is this your car, Billy? Such a lovely colour, much nicer than that motorbike you had." Doyle held the door open for her as Bodie threw himself into the driver's seat. "I thought that machine would be the death of me. I was always coming home to find bits of it scattered all over the house, how you ever managed to get anywhere on it when half the machine was disassembled in the kitchen I'll never know." She paused for a moment to collect her breath before continuing to Doyle. "You know it was the same with those drums, what the neighbours thought I'll never know."
Bodie concentrated on his driving, giving only a quarter of his attention to his back seat passenger, leaving his partner to make most of the appropriate noises, except when his mother pointed out little faults in his driving, like speeding though a built-up area at 31 mph.
Doyle himself was amused at the eulogy Mrs. Bodie gave on how perfect the Skellen's marriage was. The praise thinly veiling the [line missing]
Bodie parried the enquiries to easily [rest of line missing] on that horizon she turned her attention to Doyle's background. He had to admire her rapid-fire questioning that could have been straight from the CI5 interrogation manual and was amazed to hear himself discussing his sister and the kids, as they stopped outside the Skellen's married quarters.
Mrs. Bodie clambered out of the car rushing eagerly ahead of the CI5 agents to spread the news of her younger son's homecoming.
Bodie joined his partner outside the car, hissing over the roof, "Pin back your ears at twenty paces she can. Sorry about the cross- examination, mate."
Doyle grinned, raising his eyes heavenward, "Aren't mother's wonderful."
They entered the house gingerly aware from the noise coming from inside that what appeared to be half the Army camp, had squeezed into the tiny house.
"A trifle cramped," Bodie complained to his partner, "No wonder Skellen's moving to London, just to get away from all this lot, always did say you can't keep the Army from a party on base." His face suddenly brightened as he stopped in the doorway of the lounge.
"Hey, there are some many people, no one would notice if we split now."
"Un, uh" Doyle grinned looking past his partner's shoulder, "someone would."
From inside the room, Mrs. Bodie cleared a path for herself to her son, grabbing him by the hand into the company. "Isn't she lovely?" she breathed, cooing over the child in Jenny Skellen's arms.
"They both are," Bodie charmed, "But this family have always been known for their taste when it comes to the ladies."
"Peter was right," she answered, reacting to the same bright eyed look she knew so well in her husband. "I can see how you've earned the lady- killer reputation." She leaned closer whispering conspiratorially, "You wouldn't like to give Peter lessons would you?"
Doyle hung back from the conversation letting Bodie slip into the easy relationship he was establishing with his sister-in law. Retreating politely from the pair he took the opportunity to escape the throng of strangers to find one little room which he hoped would be empty.
At the top of the stairs he was faced with three closed doors, all identical. He tried the first door, finding it led to Samantha's nursery. Deciding he wasn't desperate enough to use the child's potty, he tried the next door. This was the Skellen's bedroom, its bed piled high with disguarded [discarded?] coats. He was just pulling the door closed again when his eye was caught by the dress uniform jacket peeping out from the improperly closed wardrobe. He stepped closer to examine the insignia, giving a low, whistle at the confirmation of the winged dagger.
Bodie, for obvious reasons had failed to mention that his brother was an officer, and for equally if less personal reasons that Skellen was an S.A.S. Captain. Doyle slipped out of the bedroom again, even more curious about the family that could boast of two sons good enough for the elite regiment.
Downstairs, Bodie had noticed his partner's absence. When Jenny's own mother had demanded both her daughter's attention and another hold of her new grandchild, he edged away looking for Doyle. Seeing his partner descending the stairs he squeezed his way past the bodies, heading towards him, until he was checked by an arm laid across his shoulder.
"Well baby brother, what d'you think of my family?"
"Better than you bloody well deserve, mate."
[missing word] Skellen agreed genuinely, his eyes watching his wife. "How about love's young dream," he asked scanning the room, "which is yours?"
Bodie eyes glittered mischievously, as he pointed straight-faced to Doyle now leaning by the door.
"Oh, very pretty," Skellen grinned, "But not my type."
Bodie elbowed his half-brother in the ribs. "That's Ray Doyle, my partner in CI5."
"What else!" Skellen replied with wide-eyed innocence approaching his bother's colleague.
A tap on his shoulder brought Doyle's attention around to a face he knew, or maybe would know in ten years time. The similarities between the half brothers was staggering. It was as if he was looking at the same man in two different stages of his life.
"You're with CI5 too," he heard the voice say. "I've heard a lot about it - gets a lot of respect." Skellen's face relaxed into a smile as his voice puzzled. "Which is why I can't understand how Bodie here got in, and manages to stay in."
Doyle could detect the air of friendly rivalry between the two men and was about to defend his partner until he caught the confident smirk. Bodie's certainty that he would play game and upstage his brother provoked Doyle's own impishness.
"Well, you see he got in by mistake," Doyle explained. "He actually answered the ad for the tea-boy but someone mixed him up with agents. You know top brass - hate to admit there's been a foul up, so they landed him on me, with orders to keep him out of trouble."
"Knew it had to be something like that," Skellen sniggered as his half-brother fumed, instantly aware of the closeness between his brother and this Ray Doyle. "Bodie always did need a keeper. Don't envy you the job. I had enough of it before I joined up. As soon as I left there was no one to get our little Billy out of the trouble he created."
"Hasn't changed much," Doyle started nodding toward Bodie, "The scrapes I've had to rescue him from. Sees himself as some sort of poor man's James Bond, I think."
Bodie tried breaking in the conversation, "Ahem."
"What our little Billy!" Skellen guffawed, ignoring Bodie, "Never."
"S'true," Doyle confirmed enjoying Bodie's discomfiture.
"And to think someone like that used to hero- worship me," Skellen's voice was suitably hallowed. "Just goes to show you I was right in clearing up that little misunderstanding behind the..."
"Peter!" Bodie elbowed his half-brother in the ribs as a warning.
Skellen's eyes widened, delighting in needling Bodie, knowing his brother would never let him finish recalling the incident but curious to see how he'd be stopped.
"Come on, Bodie, it was years ago, you're not still embarrassed about it?"
The tightening of Bodie's jaw muscle, increasing the belligerent pout indicated he was.
"I am your partner," Doyle reminded. "Surely you can trust me with these little childhood indiscretions."
At Bodie's disbelieving look to the other CI5 man, Skellen shrugged his shoulders, "Well, it was long time ago," he began. Seeing Bodie's fists ball threateningly, he had to half-turn from his victim to hide the grin that tugged at him. "And he was only a kid."
As he turned innocent eyed at his name, Bodie neatly stopped the conversation progressing with a swift punch to Skellen's jaw. Ruefully, he rubbed his chin, "Sorry pal," he apologised. "Only teasing" he held out his hand, grinning wickedly.
[missing words] the apology realising that Skellen had no intention to take the story further. He grinned back at his half-brother accepting the handshake, and was about to make a facetious remark at his expense when the world turned upside down.
Hitting the floor from the judo throw he belatedly remembered Peter never gave in that easily.
With a whoop, Bodie was on his feet crashing into Skellen and a mock fight ensued between the two men. Doyle stood well back, out of the way as they stumbled about in the narrow hallway, enjoying the rough and tumble.
"What in heaven's name is going on!" A voice behind them bellowed.
The reaction of both brothers was immediate; the brawl stopped and their expressions decidedly sheepish as they chorused, "Sorry," in unison.
"So I should think. Peter get in there and attend to your guests," he indicated the door behind. "And you, Billy, don't tell me you're still behaving like some hooligan. I should've thought the Army would've taught my son some discipline."
"Sir," Bodie answered abashed, still looking at the patterned carpet.
Mrs. Bodie thrust her way past Skellen to her husband. "Don't take on so, Bill, it's just the boys' high spirits." She grabbed both her husband's and her sons' arms dragging them back to the party, declaring it was time to play some games.
Mrs. Bodie appeared to be the only one who failed to notice how much space her announcement created. Skellen's colleagues, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, vanished in true S.A.S. style.
"Charades," muttered Doyle cringing back into his corner in horror. "No one can make a tough CI5 agent do anything he doesn't want to," he reminded himself fiercely, watching in amazement as Bodie docilely took a marked piece of paper from the small bowl his mother had thrust under his nose.
"No way they gonna' get me doing anything like that," he whispered to Peter pointedly a hair- raising five minutes later.
As Mrs. Bodie gather up the resulting debris, she sighed with relief that little Billy's charade was at last over. Neither she not Jenny could believe it when he had suddenly gone berserk flinging cushions, papers and any moveable object about in every direction as people cowered behind their hands and those of a nervous disposition behind each other, Doyle earned their undying gratitude for remembering a film they had recently seen, and correctly guessing the mime before Bodie completed the break up of the Skellen's home in his effort to portray, "Poltergeist."
"Knew you couldn't have changed that much, Billy," grumbled his father. "Just as disruptive as ever."
"Would've thought you'd've got it, Skellen," said Bodie grinning, unabashed at his father's reproof. "But you know what they say about officers, Doyle," he remarked, a distinct twinkle in his eye. "Pips on their uniforms represent the size of their brains!"
Doyle, reneging on his earlier assertion, hastily started an animated mime in an effort to draw the fire from any retaliatory action, as Mrs. Bodie told them to stop gabbing and concentrate on party games.
After a mentally exhausting hour and a half Bodie eventually managed to convince both of them and Doyle that it was time to go. Bodie heaved a large sigh of relief as he slipped into the driver's seat, smiling and waving goodbye to his family on the doorstep.
As the car's ignition roared alive, Mrs. Bodie turned to her husband [missing line] turned out to be a good boy, hasn't he?"
"Hmph," Bill Bodie answered, still refusing to admit any pride in his arrogant, rebellious, but much loved son.
"Bill," she chided, "You made Peter live up to the standards his own father, God bless his soul, had, and you demanded Billy matched up to Peter. And the boy has - give him his due."
"Yes," he agreed closing the door as the car sped off into the night. "He appears to be making out now." He grinned at his wife, his arm around her shoulder. "At least he's a better example than his bloody poofter of a cousin, Gavin."
Peter Skellen sniggered audibly as he overheard their last remark, his father eyed him suspiciously, wondering at the large smug grin plastered on his step-son's face. Maybe one day he'd be able to explain to his parents the reason for his grin, but for now he shuffled his way out of a sticky situation (well he was trained for this sort of rapid thinking), by reminding his parents of the last time Bodie and Gavin had met and the large black eye one of them had sported for weeks afterwards.
-- THE END --