The Still of the Night
If Doyle had truly not meant to be found, he would never have left behind such obvious clues. Obvious to Bodie, at least.
The letter of resignation, of course, was known to everyone at HQ within hours of its receipt by George Cowley. The Old Man had been thoughtful enough to tell Bodie first, that was expected, but had clearly been surprised that Bodie hadn't already known. They shared everything, he and Doyle. Everything.
Not this time, though. The pain Bodie felt at the news had punched right through him, had sucked all sense from him, stunning in its sheer physical impact. He had stood dumbly in Cowley's office, staring at nothing, unable to speak, unable to even think. He remembered being offered a drink, vaguely recalled turning it down and stumbling from the room to walk in a daze down the corridor, not knowing where he was headed nor why nor what day it was nor anything at all except that he felt lost--abruptly, terribly stranded there, wherever he was, without any familiar anchor.
Thankfully, the feeling passed. Bodie always prided himself on keeping his strongest emotions closed away from the world, on being able to handle whatever life threw him, on not losing control. The empty ache remained inside, yet it couldn't keep him from thinking clearly for long. Doyle had resigned. All right. Deal with it. There's a problem, you handle it. That's how it always works.
So he went to find his partner, since they obviously needed to have a little chat. Doyle had a lot of nerve, making a decision that momentous without talking to him first. Well, Bodie was going to get his talk, all right. He had to know why. Doyle owed him that much. For seven years of friendship, he owed him that.
Not until Bodie actually walked into Doyle's flat did it belatedly occur to him that he might already know the reason.
Doyle wasn't there. Bodie had used his spare key to get in, had checked all the rooms, and found that a holdall and Doyle's favourite clothes were missing. He sank onto the sofa, the key dangling from its chain in his hands. Not just resigned, fled the coop... but why?
And without talking to him first.... Bodie knew then that it had to be him. Doyle had to have figured it out, after all this time. If the roles had been reversed, if Doyle had been the one to fall in love with him, and he had realised the truth, he would have done the very same thing. Fled. Denied. Avoided confrontation.
But then again, he would only do that if he felt something in return--why run away if a simple "thanks, but no thanks" would suffice? Was Doyle revolted by the notion, so much that he couldn't stand to see his partner? Bodie sat there, not knowing what to think or believe. Doyle had fled, he had resigned, he had very likely discovered Bodie's love for him, and for whatever reason, could not face him. Or he could be completely wrong about the reason for Doyle's sudden departure. Could be something else entirely. Wasn't as if there hadn't been a lot of things going on lately. Cook's death. Not long before that, Cowley's betrayal of them--or what Doyle insisted on calling a betrayal, with the Molner op. And before that, the shooting, Doyle nearly dying, taking so long to come back. How many disasters did it take before even the strongest of men let go of the will to keep on fighting?
Not Ray, though, surely not Ray Doyle. He didn't give up, he was never a quitter--he believed in what he was doing no matter what the cost, no matter how nasty the politics, no matter the losses--because Ray wasn't in it for his own sake. What affected him personally didn't damage the reason he kept on fighting--the need to help someone else, to protect the weak. No matter how many times he got knocked down, he always got back up, because he wasn't fighting just for himself. It couldn't be that, not a loss of faith in what he was doing. Had to be something else.
But if it had to do with him, if Doyle had found out about the truth of Bodie's feelings, that might have sent him away for a time, but it wouldn't have led to a resignation. Doyle would have simply asked for a new partner, or to go solo. He wouldn't give up his entire way of life and his belief in his work just because his damn fool of a partner fell in love with him. That was too plain foolish.
None of it made any sense. Bodie sighed and shook his head, tired of speculating, though more determined than ever to find the answer. Which meant finding Doyle.
A more thorough search of the flat led to one major clue. Doyle's art box, with its sketch book and pencils, was missing from its bedroom cupboard. He didn't draw often anymore, only when he had a chance to go to the countryside. He liked to draw natural scenes, especially in autumn. The leaves had begun to turn a fortnight ago.
And he had a favourite spot in the countryside, a cottage owned by an aunt and uncle. One look through Doyle's address book, followed by one quick call, confirmed that they had got a request from their nephew the day before to use the place, and had given permission.
An hour later, after gathering a few things for himself, Bodie was in his car, driving out to Devon.
Doyle's cottage stood near the edge of a tiny hamlet known as Folly's Bottom, for reasons Bodie couldn't immediately fathom, as there was nothing resembling a bottom in evidence, nor anything inducing one to laughter, smirking, or any other sort of folly. It was simply a nestled group of lanes and houses, many old enough to still have thatched roofs, with a small, shallow stream trickling through the centre of town. One street contained the village's sole grocer, only druggist, and three pubs. Priorities, that's what country people had.
The surrounding area looked to be rolling hills and hedgerows, small farms and a copse or two, and atop the highest hill stood an aged church bedecked with scaffolding. A thin line of trees ambled alongside the village stream, orange and red leaves crisply fluttering in the afternoon breeze. An old gent in wellies stood in the middle of the stream, staring glumly at the reeds along the bank. Bodie asked him the way to the Doyle cottage, and was given a grunt and a shaky, pointing hand in return.
He found the place without trouble and pulled up beside Doyle's familiar white Escort. After shutting off the engine, he sat there, staring at the small, pristine white cottage. He had no clue what to do next. Get out, knock on the door, and say--what?
"Hello, Ray, heard you'd left CI5, thought I'd come thump some sense into you."
How about, "Ray, I know you know that I want you in my bed, so why don't you just hit me now and we can get back to work?"
No, that wasn't it. "Doyle, are you sick of the whole thing? Do you want to retire and take up gardening or something? Shall I just put a bullet through your brain right now and save you the trouble?"
Bodie found he was tapping the wheel, and stopped. He sighed, and opened the car door. There wasn't anything he could say, except one thing. He walked up to the porch to say it.
The door opened before he could knock. Well, it wasn't as if his car had arrived soundlessly. Doyle stood there, slightly rumpled, gorgeous as ever nevertheless, but with an air of sadness about him that hadn't been there before.
"Hello, Ray," Bodie said, swallowing hard. "I missed you."
Doyle stood there, staring dumbly at him. "Oh."
For the first time since they'd been teamed, Bodie felt awkward around Doyle, unsure of the solidity of the ground between them. He cleared his throat. "Was wondering if I could stay here for a day or two." He nodded towards his car. "Brought some clothes." Then, not quite knowing how to make Doyle feel comfortable around him if he did know how Bodie felt towards him, yet not wanting to give those feelings away if Doyle didn't know, he added simply, "If you've got some spare room, that is." He felt even more awkward as another silence followed. Bodie desperately wanted Doyle to say something, anything, but he just stood there. Bodie cleared his throat again. "If you don't mind, that is."
At long last, Doyle nodded, and said, softly, "All right. Get your gear, then."
Relief swept through Bodie as he turned back to his car and collected his belongings.
As long as they could have some time together, they had a chance to sort things out. Always worked best as a team, he and Doyle. Why should solving any troubles between them be any more difficult than fixing the entire world's ills?
Bodie stepped inside the cottage. The front room had a cosy look, all overstuffed chairs and sofa in tweeds, a thick, dark green carpet with hunting scenes, chunky bookcase crammed with paperback novels, Victorian lamps and paintings, a fireplace. Doyle's relatives had taste. Yet the place felt chilly and oddly empty; other than Doyle's presence itself, there was no sign he had settled into the house. The fireplace stood cold, the books looked untouched, the curtains were drawn to, the lamps were off.
"Does this cottage have any heat?" Bodie poked around and spotted a furnace round a corner. "Pilot's not on. Got any matches? Long ones?"
"Yeah, I'll get them." Doyle vanished into the kitchen, returning with the box. Bodie soon had the furnace going, and he cranked the thermometer up nice and high.
"That's better. Give me the grand tour now?"
"Grand isn't exactly the word, mate." Doyle led him through to the kitchen, a cramped room with a tiny worktop and small appliances. A solid oak table and chairs took up most of the space. A door opened to a narrow pantry stocked with tinned goods and staples. Everything in the kitchen stood neat and tidy.
Next he got a brief tour along the house's short hallway, off which stood two bedrooms with a bath in between. Doyle had taken the room with the bigger bed, a four-poster with enormous pillows. His holdall lay on the bed, unopened, and his art supplies box stood by the cupboard door, also unopened. What on earth had Doyle been doing since he got here? Absolutely nothing, by the look of things.
Bodie took his own bag to the second bedroom, leaving Doyle to contemplate whatever it was he'd been so busy contemplating before his arrival. He took out his clothes, hung the shirts up, piled the rest neatly in the drawers. He found, on further exploration, that doors connected to the bath from each bedroom. That could be tricky. Wouldn't do to startle Doyle in his more vulnerable moments, not until he found out how much Doyle suspected. Bodie set his shaving kit on a shelf above the sink, then decided he was hungry. He'd had a long drive.
Back in the kitchen, he found some sausage rolls in the fridge, which he popped into the cooker for a warm up, then set a tea kettle on top. He spied Doyle lounging in the doorway, watching. "You want anything?"
"Tea's all. Had lunch."
Bodie looked at the sparkling clean sink, pristine worktop, the empty waste bin. "Where?"
Doyle straightened. "All right, put a sausage roll in for me, then."
"Have you eaten at all since you got here?"
"Only been here since last night."
So possibly no supper, and certainly no breakfast or lunch, and it was now two in the afternoon. Bodie put two more sausage rolls in the cooker. "You left town yesterday?" he asked as casually as he could manage. He hadn't got the news from Cowley until this morning.
Doyle thrust his hands in his pockets and resumed his lean against the door jamb. "Yeah, I left yesterday. Walked out, resigned, and didn't tell you." His tone had begun defiantly, but changed now, edged with uncertainty. "Didn't know how to do that."
Bodie searched through the cupboards for plates and cups. "It's not that hard, Doyle. You've been talking to me nearly every day for seven fucking years, you should know how it works by now." He grimaced as soon as he spoke; wrong, wrong, wrong. Don't start this out by being angry. He carefully took down two mugs and set them on the table. "I'm sorry, mate. But you know what I mean."
The kettle's whistle went off. He filled up the teapot.
"Yeah, I know what you mean." Doyle came into the kitchen, got the milk and sugar out, and finished setting the table. Bodie pulled out the sausage rolls and they sat down to eat.
They ate quietly for a while, Bodie not wanting to push the issue. He hadn't come here to irritate Doyle. He would get all the answers he wanted in time, but it was up to Doyle to begin the conversation. That's how things usually went with them. Doyle liked to talk; he enjoyed analysing things, liked to chew over the bigger questions while Bodie preferred to listen.
He smiled as he watched Doyle practically inhale three of the rolls in rapid succession, washing them down with great gulps of tea. Bodie refilled his mug and said, "Shall I put some more rolls in to heat up?"
Doyle sighed. "Nah, that's okay. Caught me out, all right. I was famished. Feel better now, though."
"Good." Bodie munched slowly on his own food, making it last. "I saw a few pubs in the village. Do you fancy a pint or two for afters? Or did you want to take out that sketch book of yours instead?"
Doyle shook his head. "I'd lose the light too soon. Better to start that in the morning. Pub sounds fine."
They finished off their meal, grabbed their jackets, and headed out, choosing to stroll the quarter-mile or so to one of the pubs. They kept to a path that weaved among the line of trees alongside the stream, Doyle pausing here and there to kick rocks ahead of him. When Bodie spied the old man in the wellies, he tugged Doyle's sleeve. "What's his story?" The fellow had moved a few yards from his previous spot, and stood staring at a new area of reeds.
"Oh, that's Professor Phyfe. Works at the college up the road a ways, biologist or something. Been studying stream life for decades, wrote huge tomes on it that nobody but his graduate students ever read. My uncle runs the nearest dry goods shop, sells him a new pair of wellies every spring."
"I always suspected the country was full of strange old codgers. Nice to have it confirmed."
"Place is full of 'em," Doyle agreed as they strolled along. "Not many young people about--they all move away to find the high life." He stopped briefly to send a particularly large pebble flying across the leaf-strewn path. "Or low life, sometimes."
"Never spent any time in a place like this," Bodie said. "Always been in big cities. Too quiet here. Makes me paranoid."
"Rubbish." Doyle came to a complete halt. "Here, just listen."
"What?" Bodie stopped in his tracks. "Listen to what?"
"Shh. Just shut your big gob and close your eyes and listen for a minute. Go on, you can do it."
Humouring him, Bodie did as instructed, ready to be bored silly. But after a few moments of silence, he detected sounds. Rustling of leaves, then something small and alive skittering through the undergrowth. A bird flew off, another sang nearby. The stream water splashed and gurgled, and somewhere a cow bell clanged. The air itself whispered through the dead and dying leaves all around them.
He let another minute pass, then opened his eyes and looked around. The trees looked different somehow, more alive, despite their falling leaves. It wasn't as if he hadn't spent plenty of time out in nature before, what with his years in African jungles, or training over a variety of rough terrains in the army, but that was nothing like this. There, his ears were attuned for danger, always on alert for the sounds of death. This was quieter listening, a place one could walk through in stillness, without cares.
"Yeah," he said. "I see what you mean."
"I got shuffled off here nearly every summer as a kid," Doyle replied. "Give me mum and dad a break, I guess. Used to come out here to draw. Trees once went back oh, five hundred feet or more, lots bigger then. Got lost sometimes." He hesitated, then added, "I liked getting lost out here." He gave Bodie's arm a gentle punch. "Come on, let's go get that pint, hm?"
They walked on through the trees, emerging near the village's centre, where they crossed a footbridge over the stream and strolled on down to a pub called Bottom's Up. Only in a place called Folly's Bottom would a name like that truly work well, Bodie thought. Even if it didn't have a bottom anywhere.
Bodie bought the first round, and they settled in at a thick square table. The only other customers were two grimy, mud-soaked men eating potpies in a corner. The bartender, a young fellow who barely looked to be drinking age, occupied himself with a small telly on the counter, engrossed in Coronation Street.
"Bet he runs off soon," Doyle predicted. "He'll be wanting to see the high life after watching that."
"You're sounding a tad cynical, Raymond, my son." Bodie studied him closely, searching that well-known face for clues to Doyle's interior. "When did that happen?"
Doyle suddenly found the table top fascinating, tracing old nicks and dents in the wood with his fingers. Nice hands, Bodie thought. Doyle had very nice hands. Wouldn't mind watching him trace the scars along my body.... He shook himself. Stop that. Not now, not yet.
Bodie took a long sip of his lager to calm his nerves. "Well?"
"Hm?" Doyle looked up. "Oh. That." He swallowed visibly. "You know what you're really asking, don't you?"
Bodie nodded. "'course I do. I'm asking why you ran away." He took another long sip. "Or if you really ran away." There, it was done, the time had come to dig out the answers.
"S'pose I did." Doyle looked off at the wall behind them; Bodie wished he would look him in the eyes. "The truth is, I'm tired. That's the main thing, anyway. I'm tired."
"All right," Bodie said softly, ready to understand, willing to follow Doyle's reasoning wherever it roamed. "What are you tired of?"
"Dying," Doyle replied.
Bodie blinked, caught by the unexpected answer. Then he remembered Cook, and the way Doyle had looked after telling June the news that her husband was dead. "You mean losing our own, is that it? We've been through it before, Ray. Comes with the territory, you know that. You've always known that. You--" He corrected that, because Doyle wasn't the only one who had lost friends over the years. "We got through it before."
"Yeah, too many times." Doyle finally looked at him, right at him, and the melancholy of his gaze tore into Bodie's heart. "I mean that I'm tired of dying a little at a time. The thing is, we hang out with our own kind, the ones who came into CI5 around the same time we did. We don't make friends with the newer recruits, we rarely have. And the more mates we lose from the old guard, the fewer faces I recognise when I walk down the corridors. It builds up, over the years. More and more losses, more and more strangers around me. 'Til there's only you and me left. And then what happens, Bodie? What happens after that?"
"We're next," Bodie supplied. "Then again, maybe you and me go on forever. You can't predict the future, Ray. So why worry about it?"
Doyle stared into his empty glass. "Think it's my round." He rose and strode across to the bar.
Bodie leaned back in his chair, wondering what to say. They had lived with the dangers of their work for so long, in CI5 and before CI5; they had fought on the streets, had faced death countless times, had known that special rush, each time death had been cheated. They didn't think about it, because you couldn't dwell on your own mortality too much in this game. That's when you'd start to lose your edge.
He thought back to the time Doyle had been shot and nearly died, not that long ago really, and to a conversation he'd had with Cowley. "Have you ever thought of getting out?" the Old Man asked him. He had joked in response. Cowley wouldn't let him get away with it, asked him what he would do if he left. Bodie hadn't thought that far ahead, didn't want to. "Once you start wondering why...that's the time to get out," he'd said.
So here was Doyle, wondering why he was in the game, and trying to get out before the wondering itself would wind up getting him killed.
When Doyle returned with their second round, Bodie was ready with a question. "What you're saying," he said as he cradled the pint glass, "is that you've noticed you're mortal, is that right? 'Cause you were never scared of dying before."
"I'm not scared," Doyle replied. "Not for myself. I'm worried about those I care about, that's what sent me for a tumble. I kept thinking about June, when I told her about Cookie, when she was dying inside right there in front of me. Didn't want to think about that happening to the people I care about, wanted to keep being there for them, keep protecting them, keep loving them. Those are the things I don't want to see die when I die."
Doyle knew how to reach straight into his heart. Bodie sighed deeply and said, "I'd be lost, you know that. But I try my damnedest to believe it won't happen for a hell of a long time. You have to not think about it, have to shut it out."
"No, I don't," Doyle replied. "Not any more." His cheeks flushed and he gestured angrily. "I'm not as scared of a bullet as I am of dying inside, little by little, the way I have been, Bodie. I'm tired of 'getting through it'. I'm tired of shutting things out or pretending it's just part of the job, that it goes with the territory. When I stood there and told June that Cook was dead, when I listened to her raving, do you know how I felt? I felt numb. That's all. Numb and closed off, just as we have to be to survive. Well, I don't want to be that way anymore." He thrust his hand at his own chest. "I'm tired of killing everything that matters in here just so I can get through another day. I feel deader every day, and it scares the hell out of me, Bodie. What if I get so numb and dead inside that when the day comes that something happens to you, I don't feel anything anymore?"
"Don't talk like that." Bodie reached across the table to touch Doyle's sleeve. "You're not like that. I'm like that, Ray, that's my way of surviving, closing it all out. I've done it all my life, I'm used to it, I know how to make it work and still be alive inside. But that isn't the way for you. It can't be."
"No," Doyle said. "That's the whole point. I have to stop now, before it's too late."
It was Bodie's turn to look away; he couldn't handle that intense gaze any longer. He focused on his pint glass. Safety in inanimate objects. "You sure you just don't need a long holiday?"
"Had one," Doyle replied.
Bodie knew he meant the months of recuperation after the shooting. Plenty of time to think, true enough. Plenty of time to re-energise. Yet it hadn't done the trick. Bodie didn't know what to say. He found he had no arguments. Doyle was right, was doing what he had to do. Bodie looked up, feeling a sadness steal over him. "Why do you have to sound so damned reasonable?"
Doyle smiled softly. "I'm sorry, mate. I truly am sorry."
"Well." Bodie took a huge breath and slowly let it out. "All good things must come to an end, and all that." He tried smiling too, but faltered, coughing a small cough instead to cover the wave of emptiness rolling through him.
"Oi, watch it," Doyle said. "You're threatening to go maudlin on me. Can't have that."
"No." Bodie studied his glass. "Not on a pint and a half, anyway." He quickly drained his drink. "Come on, let's get completely sloshed."
Doyle nodded, and finished off his own glass, then shoved it across the table. "Right. Your round. Fiver says the kid there masquerading as a bartender gives us the boot before five o'clock."
"You're on. I bet we can stay unobnoxious 'til six." Bodie collected their glasses and ambled off to the bar, glad that they had walked here. At least they wouldn't kill anyone on the way back.
Or so he hoped.
"No, no, no, you've got it all wrong," Doyle said, waving his arms wildly from side to side. The motion threw his footing off-balance.
Bodie grabbed him, steering him clear of the stream bank. The path was decidedly trickier to navigate at dusk. He put Doyle back on the path. "I saw it again last month," he replied. "And that's what Orson Welles says, Doyle. Five hundred years of war in Italy, and you get da Vinci, and Michelangelo, and--um--and somebody else--"
"Medicis!" Doyle shouted to the trees. "You get the fucking Medicis!"
"Tha's right." Bodie wished his tongue could keep up with his brain. That was always the most annoying result of drinking too much. Brain still worked fine, nothing else did. "Right. The fucking Medicis. And after five hundred years of peace in Switzerland, all you wind up with is better tasting chocolate." He frowned. Somehow that suddenly didn't seem right.
"He did not tell Joseph Cotton anything at all about Swiss chocolate." Doyle weaved into a bush and spent a few moments extricating himself. "You've always had Swiss chocolate on the brain. You'd eat Swiss roll for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you could."
"Would not." Bodie found a large tree in his way and couldn't figure out how it had got into the middle of the path. Eventually, Doyle came and rescued him. "Oh," Bodie said when he stood firmly on the winding trail once more. "Shouldn't make these things so narrow. Not to mention treacherous." He boldly strode forward, thankful they had been booted out of the Bottom's Up before the sun completely set.
"Would too," Doyle said.
"Would not." What the hell were they arguing about?
"Would," Doyle repeated.
"Fine, then I would." This was ridiculous. Where the hell was the damn cottage, anyway? Bodie swore they had passed it once already, or else he was seeing things.
Doyle abruptly stopped, and Bodie ran smack into him. He moaned, rubbing at his slightly wounded nose. "What? "
Doyle turned around, grabbed him by the arms, and yelled, "Cuckoo clocks!" in his face.
Bodie wiped Doyle's saliva off. "I beg your pardon?" he said with what he felt was a tone entirely too generous and forgiving.
"The fucking Swiss!" Doyle explained, arms doing their windmill imitation again. "Five hundred years of peace, and all they produced was the fucking cuckoo clock!"
"Oh." So they were still arguing over The Third Man. Made as much sense as anything else. "And the Italians produced da Vinci."
"And the fucking Medicis."
"Right." Doyle seemed inordinately proud of all this recall of a simple movie scene. "Produced from war. From battles and corruption and evil and--and--" Doyle lost steam. "Well, you know."
Bodie carefully turned Doyle around and steered him down the path. "Cottage ahead, Raymond. I spy, with my little eye, something white with a thatched roof."
"Peace is boring," Doyle replied.
"That's right." Bodie kept steering.
"Utter chaos--that's the interesting stuff, you see."
Bodie aimed Doyle along the drive, past their cars. "Chaos," he said as they stumbled up the porch steps, "is what my head will be experiencing in the morning. And I doubt I'll consider it interesting."
"Pragmatist," Doyle muttered. The door was unlocked. They staggered inside.
Bodie let go of Doyle and veered towards his bedroom. "Sleep, Doyle," he called out. "That's where peace is, Doyle. In sweet, glorious sleep." He collapsed onto his bed, and tugged his shoes and socks off.
And we all bloody well need it, every bloody day, he thought before he fell into a ragged slumber.
When Bodie awoke, he was momentarily confused by the darkness. He glanced at the bedside clock--just past midnight. Why the hell did he feel so wide awake? Then he remembered how bloody early he'd gone to bed. No wonder.
He felt remarkably good, considering. Bodie stretched, rose, and padded into the bath to relieve himself of a very full bladder. Then he stood there, bare feet on the cool tile floor, looking at the door to Doyle's bedroom, which stood ajar. Was Doyle up as well? Bodie stayed still and listened. At first he couldn't hear anything, only the unnerving quiet, but he waited, patient, willing to let his surroundings speak to him as the woods had spoken earlier. He was rewarded, after another minute, with a soft creaking of furniture, the clink of china, and a drawn-out sigh.
He gently pushed the door open and slipped into Doyle's room. In the darkness he picked out a figure sprawled in an armchair by the large window. The aroma of coffee drifted into his nostrils.
Bodie crossed to stand behind the chair, and looked out the tall window. Pale moonlight cast a faint glow upon a dark line of trees that stood stark and motionless. Nothing else lay beyond the window. Bodie watched for a long time, and nothing moved, nothing changed; the night had settled firmly on the earth.
He gazed down at the top of Doyle's head, at the cup of coffee in his hands, at the shimmering robe he wore that was loosely tied and falling open at the knees, revealing the slim length of his thighs. He shivered, so tempted to reach down and rest his hands on Doyle's shoulders, to then slip them beneath the robe and stroke through the soft hair of his chest. And to roam even further, to touch those thighs.... Bodie bit his lip, aching to hold, yet so afraid to reach out.
"I've known for a long time," Doyle said, arching his neck to look back up at him.
Bodie swallowed. He could feel the words wrap round him, twisting around his soul like reeds in the marsh, pulling him down. He didn't need to ask what Doyle meant.
"A year," Doyle went on softly, "maybe longer. Little things at first, the little touches here and there coming more and more often, the little smiles, the way you watched me. How jealous you were of Ann, how happy you were when she left. The way you kept setting up more and more double-dates, keeping an eye on everything I did. But I never knew for sure until that night on the stairway. A few months back, when we were watching Ojuka, when we shot the killers in the hotel. I shot the bloke coming in behind you, and you looked up at me, and it was there in your eyes. No escaping it. There's only one reason for a man to look at another man that way."
Because Doyle wasn't angry, Bodie took a chance. He slid his arms onto Doyle's shoulders. "I can't help how I feel. I love you."
Hell. He'd said it. He waited, helpless, knowing that if Doyle sent him away, he wouldn't be able to leave. Because when the world comes crashing in, you don't have any reason to go anywhere, for there's nowhere else to go....
Doyle set his cup aside. Then he lowered his head, turned his cheek to press it against the hand resting on his right shoulder. "All this time, I never said a word, and do you know why? I didn't want anything to fuck up our work. It meant more to me, the fact that we worked so well together, than anything else. And the work meant more to me than anything else." He paused. "Well, then that changed."
Oh. Yes, Bodie thought, it had changed. So that was why Doyle had fled. Not because he couldn't tell Bodie he had left CI5, but because of what leaving CI5 meant. "You didn't have any excuse any more. No reason not to tell me you knew, no reason not to react...." And could that also mean that Doyle felt the same for him in return? Doyle hadn't wanted it to affect the work, yet it wouldn't do anything of the sort unless Doyle wanted the relationship as much as he did, wanted to love him in return. Only a partnership that turned into a physical relationship could have been dangerous. "You wanted it, too," Bodie said.
In one small word, Bodie heard the whole world become his. Yes. The answer had always been yes.... He moved then, freed his hands from Doyle's shoulders, came round the chair to face him, to kneel in front of him, between Doyle's open thighs, upon which he rested his forearms. "Did you leave CI5 because you were tired of dying, or did you leave because you were tired of not being able to love?"
Doyle reached out and touched his fingers to Bodie's face, caressing his cheek. "Aren't they the same thing?"
Bodie smiled. "I reckon they are." He put his lips to Doyle's fingers, kissed them. "Do you have any idea how much I want to touch you, everywhere I can?"
Doyle pushed up from the chair, taking hold of Bodie's arms as he rose, lifting him up, turning him towards the bed. "There's an excellent place for this sort of thing, you know."
"Mm." Bodie followed him to the bed, tugging his shirt off as he went. "Don't know if I can take this, Ray. Not after dreaming about it for so long."
Doyle threw the covers back, then turned to face him. He put his hand on Bodie's bare chest, stroked downward to the waistband of his trousers. He undid the belt buckle, slowly rolled the zip down. "This is real, mate. Gotta be better than dreaming."
Oh, yes.... Fire shot through him, a trembling heat that quivered along his thighs and up through the small of his back to race along his spine. "Yes," he rasped, "never got a rush like this in my dreams." Adrenaline rush, that's what it was--heat and fear and lust and love, all mixed together and driving him wild. He grabbed a fistful of Doyle's robe and yanked it hard, freeing Doyle's body as he flung the robe to the floor. He took in the lithe form, the tensed, sleek muscles, the smooth flat abdomen, the firm cock jutting from tufts of dark brown hair. And all of it his. He ran his tongue around his lips.
Doyle pulled Bodie's trousers down and he stepped out of them, kicked them aside. Only his pants remained, the evidence of his erection pressing hard against the cotton. Doyle touched the cloth, and Bodie's cock twitched and tingled in response, and his hips thrust forward for more. Doyle shoved his body against his, one hand stroking Bodie's cock through the cotton, and brought his lips to Bodie's, opening quickly to a full and wrenching kiss. As they explored each other's mouths, their hands explored each other's flesh, and as they pressed ever harder against each other, the heat rose until Bodie couldn't take it any more, and broke away. He swiftly divested himself of his pants and pulled Doyle onto the bed.
They rolled around, frantically stroking and kissing and grappling for purchase in a frenzied need to possess and to be consumed. Bodie rolled Doyle onto his back and straddled him, thrusting his cock against his belly, and against Doyle's thick, solid cock in return, leaning over him, darting down to his chest with his mouth to take nips at his flesh, panting, hungry. Doyle bucked up with his hips, hard muscle pumping against Bodie's thighs. Then he wrapped his arms tight around Bodie's waist and pulled him flat against him, chest to chest, face to face, tightly-pressed cocks thrusting together as one. Bodie moaned as he strained to get even closer, to forge their bodies together, one aching fire trapped within and between them, one merging of sheer desire. He loved, he drew in, he gave forth, and then he went over the edge of desire and came, crying out as he jerked madly, shooting the warm liquid into Doyle's belly, unseeing, unhearing, unaware of anything save release.
As the end of his own release neared, he felt Doyle thrust up beneath him, felt him come, felt the touch of trembling need rise and fall beneath him. And then the rush was gone, and sanity returned, and Bodie relaxed, still breathing roughly but more slowly with each breath.
He fell onto his side, stretched out alongside Doyle, whose own breathing gradually calmed to a slow, even rhythm. Bodie kissed him lightly on the lips, then reached across him to grab some tissues from the bed stand. He gently daubed up their bellies and tossed the tissues away.
"Pragmatist," Doyle murmured.
"That's what you want, Ray," he replied. "After all, how would you survive without me around?"
"Don't know if I could." Doyle pulled the covers up around them, and turned his body into Bodie's embrace. "Don't ever want to try."
"Don't have to," Bodie said, and with that, any question of permanency was answered. This was the way they were going to be from now on.
"Good." Doyle draped an arm across Bodie's chest and rested his head on his shoulder. "You know, you never said a thing about your own future. Not one word."
"I know." The one thing Bodie hadn't wanted to do, when Doyle was explaining his reasons for leaving, was to accuse him of ruining his life in the bargain. No recriminations, no accusations, no "if you go, then I have to go, too" statements of blame. Doyle had to know, though, that his leaving CI5 would affect him strongly, might lead to the end of Bodie's work there, too. "Didn't want to make you feel guilty. You do that very well on your own, anyway."
"Thanks." Doyle let his lips drift over Bodie's neck. "Do you know what you want to do?"
"No," Bodie replied quite honestly. "I don't. I still like the job. It would hardly be the same without you there, but I just don't know if I can leave yet. I'll need some time to figure things out." He brushed his fingers through Doyle's hair. "Whatever happens, Ray, we'll be together. That's the main thing."
"Yeah," Doyle said. "That always was the main thing. You and me against the world, the Mobile Ghetto--"
"--the Bisto Kids."
"The double act."
"Chalk and Cheese."
"Never far apart," Doyle finished. "There, I told you we were gonna wind up getting maudlin."
"That's not maudlin," Bodie protested. "Just plain old sentimental." And he found that he didn't mind. If there was one person in the world he could feel comfortable getting sentimental around, it was Ray Doyle. "Can make up for it later if you like. Practice getting up each other's noses over breakfast or something. Keep a hand in."
"You're on." Doyle looked at the bedside clock. "Be a while 'til then. And I'm not tired enough to sleep."
Bodie smiled, more than willing to take the hint. "Neither am I." He wanted to make love to Doyle more slowly this time, though, more thoroughly. He wanted to revel in it, in this new luxury, this pleasure he had never thought to have.
He trailed his fingers softly along Doyle's flank. "Let's be different this time," he said. "I think we did it the interesting way last time--fast and full of fury."
Doyle caught on. "That the Italian way?"
"Right. So now we should try it the Swiss way. Slow and easy and calmer, more drawn out."
"The peaceful way, you mean."
Bodie nodded. "And trust me, Ray, the way you and I do things, peace will never be boring."
"I trust you," Doyle replied, and began their next adventure with a kiss.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Roses and Lavender, Allamagoosa Press, 1997