A Birdwatcher's Guide to Cornish Ghosts
Part 1 in the Birdwatcher's Guide to Cornish Ghosts series, followed by Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
The cold January wind whipped around him as he stood on the rocks, penetrating even his warm tweed jacket. He shivered as he packed up his fishing rod and catch - not bad today - and hopped gingerly over the boulders, trying to avoid the dampening spray, as wave after wave crashed in over the beach. He glanced up at the Cape. Not a day to climb up and admire the view, he'd probably get blown off.
Clambering up onto the path, he headed towards the bicycle he'd left leaning against the wall. Slinging his rod over his shoulder and placing the freshly caught mackerel in the basket, he pulled his collar up around his short dark hair, grasped the handlebars, and began the long push to the top of the hill.
The mournful cry of seagulls sailing in on the wind, followed him as he climbed. Out of breath, he stopped at the top to admire the view. It never ceased to thrill him; Cape Cornwall lay below, almost an island but not quite, surrounded by what was today a sea of wild and tempestuous moods. Huge white capped rollers surged in from far out on the ocean; the near gale whipping them into a frenzy, dashing them against the rugged cliffs and sending water and spray feet into the air. A sky of grey, ominous looking clouds hung over the whole scene creating a mood that was both sombre and exhilarating.
He glanced up towards the stony outcrop that was Carnglooze, briefly considered a quick foray up the steep path to see if the Peregrine Falcon was about and then decided against it. No self-respecting bird of prey would be out in this; he wasn't sure why he'd ventured out himself other than a fancy for some fresh fish for his supper. "Mazed" his housekeeper called him, as in completely mad. He'd often wondered if she might be right.
Mounting his bike, he began his meandering journey towards the village. Turn of the century Cornish lanes were not precisely known for the smooth ride they delivered. The term bone-shaker could have been coined down here, he reflected ruefully, as he peddled precariously along, wondering if a basket of fresh mackerel was worth this.
The village of St. Just was easier on his backside and he relaxed a little, waving to several acquaintances as he passed row upon row of miners' cottages. Once through the village, he turned onto the Land's End road - on the home stretch; he could almost smell the fish cooking. He turned again into the lane that led down to Nanquidno. It veered to the right at the bottom and he careered around it, past his housekeeper's cottage and on towards the very end of the lane and home.
He turned in at the granite farmhouse he was proud to call his own. The erstwhile owners had built themselves a brand new home and had been only too glad to sell their 18th century house to the gentleman from up country who wanted to watch birds. The gentleman, being a natural hoarder, had promptly filled every conceivable nook and cranny with books and objects of curiosity; it was no exaggeration to say that he loved his home of five years to distraction.
Installing his bicycle safely in an outbuilding for the night and bearing his catch, he dashed indoors to escape the winter chills. Bursting into the kitchen he found Mrs. Trembath standing over a boiling kettle. He threw the fish into the huge sink and moved quickly to stand by the range, warming his hands.
"Freezing out there!"
She eyed the fish and him with the same disdain.
"Yes, well, most folk got more sense than to go down there like that in the freezing cold after a few ol ' mackerel. Could've been drowned. Better folk than you 'ave y'know. Time you was married. Calm you down that would Mr. Bodie. Course, I know I'm wasting my breath. Rampagin' 'round the countryside on that infernal machine, frightening decent folk out of their lives. Reverend Curnow was only saying the other day..."
"Is that the kettle I can hear boiling?" Bodie cut her off before she had a chance to get into her stride. "Could really do with a cup of tea."
Making his way over to the sink he stared at the fish.
"There's too many there for me, I only need a couple. Would you like to take the rest back for you and Mr. Trembath's supper?"
Her expression softened visibly. It was something they never spoke about, but he knew from village gossip how hard her life had been. Her husband had been injured in a mining accident many years ago, a disaster for a man with a young family to support. Somehow she had managed to bring up her children with an invalid husband to tend, by taking in washing and "doing" for those who could afford to pay her. Now her five children were all in service, she herself was in her fifties and things were considerably easier. Her permanent position with Bodie at least gave her security and he knew small gifts of fish and such were gratefully received.
"Well, I'm sure that's very kind of you Mr. Bodie. Mr. Trembath loves a bit of fresh mackerel for his tea, he'll be delighted." She smiled, her gratitude genuine.
Bodie fetched some newspaper and wrapped the fish for her.
"Can you carry these up the lane?" He asked. "You're welcome to borrow my bicycle if you like?" And he grinned at her, winking mischievously.
"You watch yourself... winking at me... what next. Borrow your bicycle indeed. I should never be able to hold my head up in decent company again! Time you was married. That'd keep you out of mischief."
Bodie was having trouble containing his amusement. He handed her the fish.
"I can cook my own supper tonight Mrs. Trembath, you get home before it gets dark and the weather closes in."
She regarded him with tolerant affection in her eyes; she cared deeply, it was plain. And for Bodie, who had few people in his life who truly cared, her concern was precious.
Bodie sat much later, tucking into his excellent fish supper, a good fire blazing in the grate and Fantastic Tales open beside him. The wind roaring around the house suited his reading matter quite appropriately: a tale of weird happenings at sea during a storm. He shivered, glad that he was here, warm and cosy, not out there on the ocean on board a ship.
Clearing his supper dishes away and warming the milk for his cocoa, he listened to the noises his home made in the storm. Every house had them, it was said. It had taken him a while to get used to his. The creaks and groans had alarmed him at first, one sort in particular, but that happened seldom and he put it out of his mind.
Returning to the sitting room and his fire, he sat toasting his feet on the fender, contemplating his lot. He considered himself reasonably content. If not wealthy by some people's standards, he got by. His father had owned a small engineering factory near Liverpool and when his parents had died, he, the only surviving son, had come into enough money to give him independence. Supplementing his income with the occasional book about birds, he knew he was one of the lucky ones.
Except - it seemed churlish to complain - but William Bodie was not solitary by nature and he found, as time passed, he increasingly craved company. Perhaps Mrs.Trembath was right, perhaps he should marry. The prospect did not particularly appeal. More than aware for many years of his alternative tendencies, but ignorant of where to find the company he needed, he still resisted the idea of a conventional marriage, feeling sure he was not at all suited to it.
Lying in bed watching the shadows cast by the lamp on the walls and ceiling, he sighed inwardly. How would it feel waking up beside someone in the morning? Or snuggling up at night, warm and content. Passionate. Hot. He rolled over and relieved the ache as he always did, but it was no longer enough. When did it cease to be? He couldn't remember any more. Reaching for the spare pillow, before turning out the light, he wrapped his arms around it and fell into a deep sleep.
Making his way bumpily along the road to Penzance, Bodie stopped for a moment to enjoy the view. The gales of last night had subsided a little and the day was bright and sunny, if rather chilly. The Mount could be seen easily from here, nestling in the bay and surrounded by a sea of white horses, whipped up by the still strong winds. Shivering, he moved on, peddling hard to keep warm.
Once in the town he headed for his usual stomping ground, the private reference library situated in a quiet corner of Morrab Gardens. Stocked full of books local to Cornwall, the only qualification required for membership was that you were actively studying something connected to the county. For Bodie it was birdlife.
As he entered the building the distinctive smell of old books assaulted his senses. That which made Mrs. Trembath wrinkle her nose at home filled him with a sense of security. You knew where you were with books. They didn't get punctures or require conversation. Not only that, it was possible to forget time itself when immersed in the pages of a fascinating story; even loneliness became irrelevant. Books were good.
He spent the entire morning examining a beautiful volume of wildflowers endemic to Cornwall. The plates were wonderful, and he was miles away, captivated, when movement from across the room made him look up.
A man was struggling with a particularly large tome. Ever curious about his fellow man, Bodie studied him. Slight in build, odd features. Wide-set eyes - he couldn't fathom their colour from this distance - slightly disfigured cheekbone, beautiful mouth, all topped off with a mop of wild, brown curls. He shouldn't be at all handsome, not considering the odd combinations, but he was. He was stunning. The book was proving hard to handle, eventually the man mishandled it completely and it landed on his toe. Bodie watched him silently mouth an obscenity and grinned inwardly. The looks of an angel but not exactly pure in mind and spirit apparently.
He continued to snatch glimpses of him throughout the afternoon, wondering who he was and where he had come from. Himself a frequent visitor to the library - too frequent as his housekeeper was very fond of informing him - he was familiar with the vast majority of the regular users, worthies to a man most of them, but this was not one of them.
Towards the end of the afternoon, it was clear that the man was preparing to leave. Bodie rapidly replaced the books he was studying and gathered up his papers. He hung back while the man spoke to the Librarian; heard as he thanked the woman for her help, telling her he would be back tomorrow to use the same books and bestowing upon that fortunate lady a smile of such beauty, that Bodie was actually jealous. Trying to make himself inconspicuous, he followed the man at a distance. There was probably a law against this sort of thing, he told himself uneasily, but his curiosity got the better of his conscience and he continued with his pursuit.
The man turned into Chapel Street and stopped for a few minutes to admire the Egyptian House before entering a hotel almost opposite. So he was staying there? Bodie was not clear what he should do with this piece of information, but it might prove useful. Of more use, by far, was the knowledge that he would be at the library again tomorrow. He made a mental note to be there, come hell or high water.
Bodie was already ensconced in his usual place the next morning with Rarities of the Cornish Coast open in front of him, when the object of his admiration arrived. The peculiarities of the Red-necked Phalarope suddenly failed to hold his attention. The Librarian's eyes lit up as the door opened. No wonder, Bodie decided. The 'angel ' was a sight for sore eyes in his three-piece tweed suit fitting snugly over slim hips, his hair wind blown and his complexion bearing a healthy glow from the stiff breeze which was blowing outside.
He smiled broadly at the Librarian again. Bodie grudgingly wondered what she had done to deserve such luck. And then blessed her as she greeted the new arrival.
"Good morning , Mr. Doyle. How nice to see you again. The table over there is free if you wish it."
"Thank you. You're very kind," he replied, smiling at her again as he headed for the appointed table.
Doyle. His name was Doyle. He watched, mouth slightly agape, as the newcomer settled himself, taking off his jacket and glancing around. Bodie looked away quickly to avoid being caught ogling.
He waited a while before he chanced another look and when he did so, he found Mr. Doyle bending over to reach something off a lower shelf. Now that alone was worth his trip in this morning , puncture and all. He stuck his pen in his mouth, twiddling it round and round with his teeth, savouring the view of the delectable backside on display. Eyes narrowed, his imagination taking him to some far from respectable places, he was unaware for a moment that the man was now upright and returning his blatant stare. The pen fell out of his mouth and plunged headlong towards his notebook, splattering ink in all directions. Damn. He reached for the blotting paper and dabbed ineffectually at the mess. Luckily there was none on the book itself. Embarrassed, he stole a look at the cause of the mishap, who had reseated himself and was studiously leafing through the volume he had chosen, one hand clamped very firmly over his mouth.
Bodie tried valiantly after that to keep his mind on the work in hand. Tried. It was not easy. When tempted beyond endurance he scanned the whole of the room first, so that any surveillance would seem entirely accidental. It worked well, until one casual sweep found Doyle leaning against the shelves beside the window. Shafts of radiant sunlight fell on his hair and face, giving him an altogether magical air and Bodie's mouth fell open once again.
Rapt, he only surfaced when he noticed the man's quick sideways glance and twitch of lips. He knew.
Well he would wouldn't he? Looking like that. You would know the effect you had on people.
He stared, disconsolately, down at his writing, not seeing a word.
Even if it did turn out that he was not a "ladies' man" - unlikely in the extreme - you would have to be Apollo to catch and hold onto such a prize. Time to go.
Stop chasing after rainbows, Bodie.
He packed his things away, returned the books to the shelves, put on his jacket, and walked dejectedly towards the reception desk, his eyes fixed firmly ahead.
"Good-bye, Mr. Bodie." The Librarian, all teeth and fluttering eyelashes, called, as he passed. "We'll see you again soon I hope?"
"Oh." He halted, surprised. "Uh yes, I'm sure you will."
"Good." She enthused. "Splendid. We like to see our regular clientele here often don't we, Rose?"
Bodie turned to regard Rose, who bore no little resemblance to a picture he'd once seen of Geronimo and who gave the impression that she could inflict considerably more damage. She proceeded to prove it by bestowing on him a look of pure malice and he was hard-put to keep a very large grin from lighting up his face. Passing through the door he wondered if the lady knew she had the gift of cheering up the depressed.
On balance, he thought, probably not.
Two days elapsed before Bodie summoned up the courage to return. Convincing himself that he was no longer interested, he was sure he could now visit the library without further embarrassment. Of course, seating himself as close as he could to the table the other man tended to occupy was merely convenience. And watching the door so intently was just idle curiosity, he was merely seeing who was coming and going.
When a couple of hours had passed and Doyle had still not shown, he told himself he was not disappointed at all. And almost managed to believe it. Leaving to get some lunch at a local hostelry and resigning himself to never setting eyes on that captivating face again, it came as quite a shock to find the man seated at his usual table on his return. Gathering his wits and sitting down he fervently hoped his pleasure had not been too visible on his face.
Another afternoon of stealing surreptitious glances followed. God, but he was beautiful, such a kissable mouth. A body to wake up next to on a cold winter's morning. Doyle was leaning against one of the shelves, his hips thrust out and Bodie allowed his gaze to travel the length of him, undressing him mentally. His eyes fixed on the man's groin area, enjoying the contours until he realised that under the desk he had a very hard erection. Horrified he looked around for a solution to his embarrassing problem. Ah yes.
Doing his jacket up, he rose, walked through a door at the side into one of the maze of smaller rooms and continued on through several, until he was alone. The religious section. No-one came in here and he hid himself in a corner behind one of the shelves, where he was not visible to anyone entering. Undoing his jacket again, he slipped his hand down the front of his trousers, still watching and listening for intruders. He leaned a shoulder against the shelf and stroked and caressed his cock as it stood to attention. His legs began to feel weak with pleasure. The image of Doyle presented itself and Bodie imagined the joy of slipping his hand inside his trousers and stroking his hot shaft. Perhaps allowing a finger to probe the entrance to that enticing arse. Push inside even. The fantasy sent him over the edge and he came strongly into his hand, gasping , as semen poured over his fingers.
Recovering , he looked quickly around. Still silent as the grave. He wiped his hand on a handkerchief. Good God what was he doing? Masturbating in the library. Amongst the Bibles? What next? Jumping the beautiful vision and humping him on top of the desk with an audience of interested parties? Perhaps one or two might have some advice! He leaned his head against the shelf in despair. This simply had to stop. In a few short days he had turned from a perfectly well-adjusted, if somewhat lonely bachelor, into a lovesick schoolboy, groping himself in a public place. This time he had to leave and stay away. He leaned against the books, staring into an empty future.
Leaning his cycle against a large granite boulder, Bodie picked up his binoculars and strolled towards the makeshift bridge that crossed the stream at Cot Valley. Once across, he climbed the steep, grassy slope to the rocky outcrop which overlooked the incoming tide. Gazing out to sea through the glasses he made a mental note of the seabirds visible. Herring , Common and a solitary Great Black-Backed Gull and several Shags standing sentry on the rocks. Not exactly exciting.
He sighed deeply and sat heavily on a ledge. It was failing to inspire him this morning - this glorious coastline. Granted it was a dull day, but it had never mattered before; come rain, come shine, he had always found something here to interest him, but not for the past week. He knew he'd become listless, saw too that Mrs. Trembath was concerned, but had still not been able to stir himself into life.
He stretched his legs out in front of him and leaned back against the rock, looking out across the wide expanse of ocean. It seemed almost as sluggish as himself; no energy to create anything as grandiose as waves, it lapped indifferently against the shoreline.
Of course he knew what the problem was. He'd not been able to get a certain Mr. Doyle out of his head. Those strange eyes and that expressive mouth had firmly entrenched themselves into his subconscious, until little else occupied his thoughts. Was this love at first sight? It couldn't be. It took time to fall in love - real love - this had to be lust and the thought dismayed him. At thirty two he'd thought himself too mature for such shenanigans; a sensible, albeit light-hearted, adult should be. It appalled him to discover that he was just as susceptible as a callow youth, no matter how much he fought against it.
Well. Nothing doing here, nor up at the Cape for that matter. Ruefully he realised a legion of Roman Centurions could have marched past with Hadrian at their head, and he probably wouldn't have given them a second glance. A drink perhaps? The Star ought to be open by now. He glanced at his pocket-watch, almost twelve, perhaps a beer would lift his spirits.
Back at his bicycle, he dropped his binoculars into his saddlebag and began the long push to the top of the hill. Still trying, valiantly, to banish those eyes from his mind.
Pushing open the door, Bodie strolled into The Star's dark interior and approached the bar. Several men were already seated there, old codgers having a yarn, as the locals called it. Their version of a good gossip, as Bodie had discovered very soon after his arrival in the area. As he waited to be served, he could hear Old Will in full flow behind him.
"So this 'ere young curate, bit wet behind the ears like, looks at the drowned sailor on the beach and says to Granfer ' What is the procedure? ' And Granfer says, quick's a flash ' Sarch 'is pockets!' "
Old Will cackled delightedly and his companion laughed heartily in unison.
Bodie smiled to himself. These tales the locals enjoyed entertaining the rare tourist with were definitely to be taken with a pinch of salt. He wouldn't exactly have called them lies, but the idea was to elicit as many pints of beer out of the hapless victim as possible. This victim though, judging by his laughter, seemed to be enjoying himself hugely and Bodie turned to observe the man. His head snapped back immediately in horror. He fervently hoped the colour of his face was lost in the gloom; he was sure it must be scarlet.
Doyle. His heart was beating out a tattoo. The landlord approached and Bodie had to make a very rapid decision. Run? Or stay and brazen it out? "Good mornin' Mr. Bodie, what can I do for 'ee today 'en?"
The voices behind him had fallen silent and Bodie knew his name had been recognised. No use hoping otherwise, in a county full of 'Pens' and 'Tres', 'Bodie' stuck out like a sore thumb.
He steeled himself. "A pint of Cornish please, Tom."
The landlord grinned. "Dunno why I bothers to ask, knows what you like eh, Mr. Bodie?"
Bodie smiled wanly at him as the man pulled the pint. Next problem. Where to go? Stay at the bar, down the drink quickly and then make a run for it? Or slink quietly away into a corner and hope his presence went unnoticed? Tom handed him the drink and Bodie paid. He stared into the brown liquid hoping to find a solution to his quandary there. No such luck. Coming to a decision he grasped the glass, and, keeping his back to the two men seated behind, sidled towards the empty table near the door. He seated himself without looking up, folded his arms and kept his gaze locked firmly on his pint.
He was doing well, his beer glass half-empty, when Doyle got up and walked to the bar for refills. Bodie, miles away, noticed the movement out of the corner of his eye, and, unthinking , looked up. Oh. Was it possible for someone to get more gorgeous in the space of a week? He surely had. Bodie feasted his eyes like a man starved of nourishment. Rivetted, he stared, until inevitably the observed became aware and returned his regard. At that moment Bodie realised he was lost. If he couldn't bring this to fruition -and the possibility had to be remote - then he might as well save himself a lot of agony and launch himself off the cliffs at Carnglooze. Feeling as though the stuffing had been knocked right out of him, he finished his beer and left.
Outside once again, he stood his bicycle upright and was about to move off when a voice hailed him. He turned to see Mrs. Trembath, who had just emerged from the Bakers in the square accompanied by another woman. Bodie struggled to recall her name, knowing that she and his housekeeper were friends. Olds? Opie? He was saved the trouble.
"Mrs. Oates and I were just discussing ways to tempt your appetite, Mr. Bodie."
Which probably meant the whole village was by now convinced he going into a decline.
"Really? And what conclusion did you come to, Mrs. Trembath?"
"Well, we reckon a nice bit of boiled fish is what you need."
Bodie's stomach rebelled. He ate most things but the Cornish delectation for boiled fish passed him by completely and he frowned at her.
"I think I would prefer one of your pasties to be frank. No beating one on a cold winter's day, eh?"
And it was no more than the truth: she baked a pasty fit to tempt the Gods. Mrs. Oates smiled.
"He's right you know Jane, you bake a pasty fit for a King. Well, I mustn't stand round here chatting; my gentleman will want feeding, so I must get on. Got a new guest Mr. Bodie, from up-country, like you. Studyin' the history of Cornwall he is. Interested in yarns about the old days and such."
Mrs. Oates took in paying guests. Widowed when her husband was lost at sea some years ago, she needed the income. Life was still terribly hard for many in these parts, Bodie reflected sadly. Which was probably why tourism was beginning to make a small but significant impact on the region. It wasn't that the locals necessarily wanted the influx of strangers into their midst, but the extra money they brought with them was a life-saver to many.
The woman moved off after bidding them both good-bye. Bodie's mood had lifted and he couldn't help grinning mischievously at his housekeeper.
"Are you walking Mrs. Trembath? Why don't you perch on the handlebars here and I'll give you a lift?"
In reply she merely poked him soundly in the chest with one bony finger and declared. "Time you was married."
"Yes, I'm sure you're right," he replied, winking. "Keep me out of mischief." But sadly I don't think he'll have me, Mrs. Trembath.
Bodie was tucking into the wished for pasty, the idea of the boiled fish having been mercifully, abandoned. His housekeeper was clearing up ready to go home.
Putting on her coat she commented, "I hope Mr. Doyle's enjoying his pasty as much as you."
Bodie's mouth, already gaping to take a fork-full of pastry and potato, stayed open. "Who?"
"Mr. Doyle, my friend Mrs. Oate's new paying guest. Been down in Penzance for a couple of weeks, but says he's done all he can down there now and wants to look at this area."
Bodie was experiencing some odd feelings. Oh my. He was getting slow. Why had that possibility not occurred to him?
"How long will he be staying, does she know?"
"Oh, quite some while he thought. Had a feeling , he told her, that things could get very interestin' up here. St. Just! Wonder where he got that there notion? Ain't nothin' out of the way 'appened here since Parson Trethewey, God rest 'is soul, was found sound asleep one mornin' on ol' mother Matthews' grave. Swore blind he'd bin dragged out of 'is bed in the dead o' night by persons unknown. Hmph." She added. "Had more than a passin' fancy for a droppa whiskey did the old Parson." She sniffed disapprovingly. "Well, I haven't got time to stand round 'ere gassin', now you make sure you finish that, don't want you wastin' away now do we?"
Bodie didn't think the danger was particularly imminent, but he smiled anyway and assured her that he would eat the whole thing. It was not exactly a hardship, though he had yet to be tempted into the local habit of soaking the thick pasty crust in one's cup of tea before it was eaten. There were limits...
After she'd gone he reflected on how odd life was. What was he to make of this turn of events? And, more to the point what should he do? It would be nigh on impossible to avoid this man, the village was small and everyone knew everyone else's business. If Bodie started to act strangely, it was sure to be commented on.
Still undecided as to whether this was a good or a bad thing he settled at last in front of the fire, with the latest Sherlock Holmes novel "The Hound of the Baskervilles." It had arrived in the post that morning , and Bodie anticipated a darn good read.
"More books," Mrs. Trembath had accused, when she'd handed it to him. "Time you was married."
The Hound of the Baskervilles had Bodie so enthralled, that when he had to go out in the morning , he'd popped it into his pocket to read on his excursion. His housekeeper had subjected him to one of her looks but for once he'd beaten her to it.
"I know. It's time I wuz married." He imitated her broad Cornish accent. "But Mrs. Trembath, you're already married. And how could I possibly love another?" He grinned wickedly, winking and blowing her a kiss.
She feigned outrage and pushed him out of the door.
"Take your antics out where only God's creatures can see them. Though lord knows what they poor devils have done to deserve it. Daft as a brush and gettin' worse...." And she shut the door on him, cutting off her tirade prematurely. Bodie laughed to himself as fetched his cycle. It was as well that they both enjoyed the game so much.
In the event it had proved far too cold to sit anywhere outside and read. He'd spent a little time up on Chapel Carn Brae watching a flock of Goldfinches and a Song Thrush, nothing out of the ordinary but he never failed to appreciate the beautiful mottled markings on the solitary, if common, bird. The wind was sharp and penetrating , however, and even a stunning view which encompassed a good bit of the West Penwith peninsula and even out to the Scilly Isles on a clear day, failed to keep him up there for long.
Twelve noon, therefore, found him sitting cosily in The Star once more, beside a roaring log fire, with a pint in front of him and his head deep into Sherlock Holmes' amazing adventures on Dartmoor.
So oblivious was he that when another glass was placed beside his on the table and a voice asked. "Would you mind if I share the fire?" His only reply was "Mmm, please do."
Only dimly aware of the other person, he read on, until the landlord's voice interrupted Dr.Watson's ever incorrect conclusions.
"Bit nippy today Mr. Doyle?"
Doyle? His eyes stopped focussing on the words and very slowly rose over the top of the book to see who was sharing at the table with him.
"Yes it is," Doyle was answering Tom, "didn't realise it got this cold down here. Palm trees in Penzance don't exactly conjure up the image of cold weather."
"Oh, we do 'ave our moments, as 'undreds of wrecks 'round the coast will testify."
The landlord moved off to serve another customer.
Bodie was staring. He knew it was rude but he couldn't help it. Eventually the other man spoke to him. "What are you reading that has you so engrossed?"
He found himself struck dumb.
Answer him you fool. The book. Tell him about the book.
"Uh." He paused, and like all who hesitate, knew for certain he was lost. To his embarrassment, he had to look at the cover to jog his memory. And then it was a close run thing as to whether he could read what was written there. "Sherlock Holmes," he managed to get out.
"Oh. Is that the latest?" Doyle inquired.
The title. Tell him the title Bodie.
"What's it called?" Doyle persevered.
Bodie looked at the book once again for inspiration.
Say something or he'll think you've escaped from the local lunatic asylum.
Gathering his wits, he finally replied. " ' The Hound of the Baskervilles. ' It's just out. Brand new. Can't put it down. Sorry, didn't mean to be obtuse."
"Can I look?"
"Of course." Proud that he had actually managed to string several coherent words together, Bodie handed the man the book.
"Ray Doyle." He offered as he took the volume. "That's me." He explained when Bodie looked blankly at him.
"Yes I know."
Fool. Don't let him think you tried to find out his name. Things are bad enough already.
"Yes, uh, you're staying with Mrs. Oates, she's a friend of my housekeeper."
Nice one. Thinking at last.
"I see. You must be the gentleman from up country who owns the farmhouse at Nan something or other?"
"Nanquidno. Yes that's me, William Bodie, friends just call me Bodie. The house is my pride and joy, along with my trusty bicycle." Bodie grinned. Not bad...
"And your Sherlock Holmes novels?" Doyle smiled back at him.
Bodie gazed dreamily into those beautiful eyes. Oddly enough he still wasn't quite sure what colour they were.
"Green," he murmured.
"I beg your pardon?" Doyle was frowning at him
"Oh, sorry. I said yes, I've got quite a collection of Sherlock Holmes novels. Got a taste for the weird and fantastic." Bodie sat up and tried to pay attention.
"Just literature or literally?"
It was an odd question Bodie decided.
"I've never really thought about it," he replied, eventually. "In my line of work I don't come across the weird and fantastic very often."
"What is your line of work?"
He seemed determined to find out as much as he could about Bodie.
"Ornithology. I gallivant around the countryside on my devil's machine. Haven't you heard?"
Doyle laughed. "Yes, I had heard something of the sort. In fact when a chap over at Sancreed said he'd been knocked flying by a screaming phantom one night, I wondered if it might be you on your cycle."
"Thanks a lot! What would I be doing over there at that time?" Bodie asked, indignantly.
Doyle cleared his throat, delicately. "Don't think that's any of my business is it?" He winked conspiratorially, a distinctly wicked grin lighting up his face.
Talk about barking up the wrong tree.
"I thought you were an historian? I didn't think that involved listening to wild stories conjured up by old codgers looking for a free pint."
"As a matter of fact it was their local bobby that it happened to. Scared him witless. And I'm not exactly an Historian." Doyle confessed.
He leaned back as a very large Ploughman's Lunch was placed in front of him. Another was placed in front of Bodie and he looked at it, surprised.
"Thought you might like to join me," Doyle explained. "I hear food is another of your major preoccupations, along with staying unmarried?"
"Thank you. Very civil of you." He tucked in but gave Doyle a pointed look. "You seem to know rather a lot about me."
"Not really, just Mrs. Oates' opinion of Mrs. Trembath's theory on men who fail to look for a good woman to domesticate them."
"Which is?" Bodie took a large mouthful of bread and cheese.
"They agree with each other wholeheartedly. Shouldn't be allowed apparently. Hanging offense if they had their way."
Bodie sniggered. "I never would have guessed. So tell me. What exactly is it that you do?"
"Ah. Well I sort of collate information." He looked guardedly at Bodie as he ate.
"What sort of information?" Bodie was chasing a large pickled onion around the plate with his fork, trying to stop it shooting across the room and taking someone's eye out. In the end he picked it up with his fingers and took a bite, only to find his eyes watering uncontrollably. He'd forgotten how potent the landlord's wife liked to make her pickles. He blew his nose, blinking back the tears. If he wasn't careful, the man was going to think he was a complete idiot.
"Paranormal manifestations," Doyle was saying.
"What? You mean like ghosts and so forth. Hauntings? Figments of people's over active imaginations?" Bodie allowed his scorn to show.
"How can you be interested in the wierd and fantastic and believe that?"
"Oh come on, admit it," Bodie teased. "How many witnesses to these 'ghoulies and ghosties and long leggetty beasties' are on their way home from the local public house?"
"A few." Doyle admitted. "Quite a lot can easily be explained away. It's the ones that can't which are interesting. Did you know about the phantom dog , over in one of the coves, near Land's End?"
Bodie, vastly enjoying the other man's company and delighted to discover that he was rather quirky, shook his head. "No, but I'd bet one of my housekeeper's pasties that you're planning to tell me."
Doyle grinned, and through mouthfuls of crusty bread, tasty cheese and crisp apple, began to tell the tale.
"Chap from Sennen told me all about it when I was over there the other day. Apparently it all started when a sixteenth century Emperor of China sent over a pair of Pekinese dogs, by ship, in the care of one of his daughters."
Bodie looked at him sceptically.
"The Chinese got all over the place back then you know." Doyle protested, vehemently. "Anyway, a dog and a bitch made the journey, the bitch being kept in an ivory box, and during the voyage she gave birth to pups. Lion dogs of China they used to call them - Pekineses that is. Very exclusive. Only the Royal family were allowed to own them."
" So, uh, what were they sent over here for?"
Doyle shrugged. "Not sure, but my guess would be for Queen Elizabeth."
"Mmmm." Bodie nodded, putting some cheese onto his fork and carefully avoiding the lethal pickled onion. "Makes sense I suppose."
"Right. But as they approached Land's End a violent storm blew up. The crew - well, you know sailors, superstitious lot, all of them - blamed this oriental girl for the storm. So they broke into her cabin and threw her and the dogs overboard, but not before one of the sailors had been bitten by one of the dogs."
"Serve him right." Bodie gulped at his beer.
"Exactly." Doyle's eyes widened in agreement. "So the body of the girl and the ivory box was washed ashore in this little cove. But the locals wouldn't go anywhere near the girl because they thought, with her oriental complexion, that she was a foreign demon."
"Hmmm, not sure the reaction would be that different even now." Bodie raised an eyebrow.
Doyle nodded. "Anyone from the other side of the River Tamar needs a passport? You come up against that?"
Bodie took a deep breath and did a cruel but accurate imitation of the local dialect.
"Do 'em 'ave baths whur 'ee do cum frum, Mr. Bodie?"
Doyle sat back and laughed heartily and Bodie watched, entranced. He came to his senses at last, wiping his eyes and blowing his nose, but still grinning broadly.
"Where was I? Oh yes. Well when they did at last pluck up courage to investigate the ivory box, all the dogs were dead, except for one, which died as they stood there. So they buried the girl and the dogs there in the cove. Meanwhile, word arrived that the sailor who had been bitten had died, and rumours began to spread that the grave should be avoided because it was guarded by the ghost of one of the dogs."
The wide smile that had been on Bodie's face turned into a mischievous grin. "You ever thought of writing for the Penny Dreadfuls?"
Doyle feigned hurt pride. "Well if you really don't want to hear, I'll shut up."
"No, no, I enjoy a good yarn as much as anyone, just as long as I'm not expected to actually believe it!"
"Hmph, you'll have to change your tune if you continue to associate with me." Doyle continued to pretend to be indignant.
Bodie fervently hoped it would be so. He was staring into those green eyes again and wondering where all this was going to lead him. "Well, let's hear the rest then, assuming there is more?"
Doyle looked pointedly at him and sniffed. "Not sure I feel like telling you."
"Oh come on, you can't leave me in the lurch like this!"
Stunned, Bodie watched as Doyle lowered his eyelids, regarded him in what could only be described as a seductive manner and replied. "No, I wouldn't imagine you're used to such treatment."
Several seconds later, Bodie closed his mouth, having realised that it had been gaping open for rather longer than was decent. Trying to cover his confusion, he returned to the safety of the story.
"So, what happened?"
Doyle kept silent, watching him. It occurred to Bodie for the first time that if he continued to associate with this man, he might not get it all his own way.
"Come on, tell me." He badly needed a return to normality.
Sighing long-sufferingly, Doyle leaned forward on the table.
"Well, you know human nature, greed always takes precedence. From time to time some local man would convince himself that this chest was full of treasure and go and dig for it." Doyle's voice dropped to a whisper. "But each time, invisible teeth closed upon the hands or ankles and invariably the grave-robber died soon after. Eventually, even the greedy left the haunted cove alone, and the last recorded incident was in the 1850's. A boy was playing on the beach and discovered a piece of carved ivory in the sand. As he reached for it, he felt something bite him, but there was nothing there. He had teeth marks on his arm though, and a few days later........."
"He was dead?" Bodie supplied. "And how many pints of beer did this little gem cost you?" He inquired, innocently.
"Oh ye of little faith." Doyle chastised him.
Bodie spluttered. "You wuz robbed pardner!" He supplied in his best Buffalo Bill imitation. "Have you been to look at this cove?"
"No. The old codger who told me couldn't remember which one it was." Doyle seemed mildly disgusted. "Anyway. Slight problem."
"What about them?"
"They're very high."
"So?" Bodie thought that was pretty obvious.
Doyle looked rather embarrassed. "Can't stand heights. Petrified in fact."
So, he had an Achilles Heel? Not perfect after all. Bodie was oddly touched by the revelation.
"Oh well," he reassured the now slightly vulnerable man opposite him, "we all have our aversions."
"So what's yours?" Doyle asked, a smile flitting across his face.
"Boiled fish." Bodie replied without hesitation, and shuddered.
Standing beside Bodie's bicycle, outside in the square, the two men regarded each other awkwardly. Doyle looked down at Bodie's method of transport.
"Nice. Convenient too I would think?" He ran his hand over the shiny bell standing proud of the handlebars.
"Yes. When she's in the mood."
"Better call her Mabel then."
"Yes. Mabel she'll get me to the top of the hill, Mabel she won't."
Bodie's face lit up with a huge grin at this evidence of his new friend's terrible sense of humour.
"I think that's about the worst joke I've ever heard, Doyle." He began to laugh.
"If it's that bad, why are you laughing?" Doyle was displaying a huge toothy grin.
"At the sheer awfulness of it. Hope you haven't got any more like that? Don't think I could stand it."
"That would depend on how well you plan on getting to know me." Doyle's grin was fading rapidly to be replaced by a look of steady intensity.
"I spend a lot of time wandering around cliff tops." Bodie warned him quietly.
"And I listen to a lot of ridic...er... unusual stories." Doyle countered. "Not to mention the jokes."
Bodie was wondering if it was possible to feel happier. "We'll have to get you one of these," he suggested, looking fondly at his cycle. He glanced up to find Doyle frowning , though his expression cleared quickly.
"All right. Won't be easy to find though, eh? Not many about I'm sure. Anyway, don't mind walking really...." His voice trailed off.
"As a matter of fact I think we might be in luck." Bodie smiled, punching him lightly on the shoulder. "I'm fairly sure I saw a second-hand one advertised in the Cornishman yesterday. Come on, we'll go back to my place and check."
"Oh. Good." Doyle replied. "Excellent. Wonderful."
The newspaper was spread over the table and Bodie was poring over the small ads. The door opened and Mrs. Trembath returned from giving her husband his lunch. The sight of the two men brought her up sharp. Bodie looked up, smiled and then went back to his search. Mrs. Trembath sighed.
"Well, I'll make a guess shall I? I'm thinking you must be Mr. Doyle? I'm Jane Trembath. Mrs. Oates, your new landlady, is a good friend to me."
Doyle smiled warmly and held out his hand. "I'm extremely pleased to meet you at last. I've heard a lot about you."
She smiled back. "Would you like a nice cup of tea? And a saffron bun?"
"Tea would be nice," Doyle replied. "But no cake for me thanks, we've just eaten."
"I'll go and put the kettle on then. Least there are some folk left who still know their manners," she said pointedly as she turned towards the kitchen.
"Don't forget the buns." A voice muttered distractedly from behind them.
Mrs. Trembath looked knowingly at Doyle. He grinned as he watched her leave, sighing long-sufferingly
"Got it!" Bodie yelled. "St. Buryan. Knew I'd seen it. Here we are. ' Gentleman's bicycle for sale, good condition, one guinea '. A fair price, not too cheap, not too dear. What do you think?"
"There's a telephone number. I'll phone them," Bodie continued, ignoring Doyle. Picking up the receiver he asked the operator for the number and within moments was talking to the wife of the owner of the advertised bicycle. Yes, it was still for sale, and if they liked they could come and see it tomorrow? Bodie informed her that would be an excellent arrangement and hung up.
"Tomorrow morning. It's the vicar who is selling. We'll have to leave fairly early as we'll have to walk there, pushing my cycle. Hopefully though we'll be able ride back." He beamed at Doyle.
Mrs. Trembath came in with the tea tray just then. She placed it on the table as Bodie folded the newspaper. "I do hope," she commented, "that this employer of mine, is not leadin' you into temptation, Mr. Doyle?"
"It's not falling into temptation that I'm worried about, Mrs. Trembath," he replied, frowning at her.
"So this is St. Buryan?" Doyle stood in the middle of the village and looked around. It wasn't much. The church stood tall and proud in the centre, surrounded by sundry cottages, houses and the ubiquitous public house.
"The locals just call it 'Buryan'," Bodie told him. "It's pretty high, so when the weather's bad it's one of the bleakest spots in the area."
"I can well believe it. Perhaps we ought not to get separated. Quite like my head where it is."
Bodie snorted and strode off determinedly, in the direction of the Vicarage. "Come on Doyle, let's find you a bicycle."
The parlour maid answered the door and Bodie told her their business; they were asked to wait while she fetched someone. He smiled confidently at Doyle and punched him playfully on the shoulder.
"It's downhill all the way home from here. Great way to christen a new bicycle, eh?" He rubbed his hands together, gleefully.
So this was happiness? Real, honest to goodness joy? He tucked his hands into his pockets and grinned at Doyle, who was looking at him strangely.
"What?" he asked, still floating in a sea of contentment.
Doyle smiled gently at him, but shook his head. "Nothing."
He opened his mouth to insist on more, but the vicar's wife appeared. Suddenly they were engrossed in inspecting the bicycle, and it went out of his head.
It seemed that the Vicar was no longer able to use his much loved machine, due to chronic Arthritis. Bodie felt inordinately sorry for him, offering up a silent prayer that he personally would never come to that. He had looked after his bicycle though and it was worth the guinea he was asking for it. Left to consider, Bodie gave Doyle his opinion and waited for him to make up his mind. He found himself on the receiving end of that strange look once again, opened his mouth to ask why, but before he could do so, Doyle had left him to search out the Vicar's wife once more.
When Doyle returned he grasped the machine.
"Well. This appears to be mine." He looked doubtfully down at it, as though wondering what he'd done.
Bodie almost jumped for joy, grabbed Doyle's head in both hands and thoroughly ruffled his hair.
"Come on. Last one home's a sissy."
He jumped on his cycle and was about to pedal off, when Doyle stopped him.
"There's just one thing Bodie."
"Uh. I was just wondering. Perhaps you could teach me how to ride the thing before we set off?"
The smell of beef stew filled the kitchen. Bodie's stomach was telling him he was famished but he was otherwise engaged for the moment. Behind him a censorious voice was giving him her frank opinion.
"Could've been killed! Madness. Madness! Killed, he could've been. Killed!"
"He's all right Mrs. Trembath, just a few cuts and bruises. He only fell off, er, a couple of times. It was the corner by your cottage that did the most damage. Tell her you're still in the land of the living will you, Doyle?"
"I'm still in the land of the living." Doyle recited, parrot-fashion. "How long will it hurt for?" He directed a pleading gaze at Bodie, milking it for all it was worth.
A cup of hot, sweet tea was placed in front of Doyle. "'ere you are my 'andsome. You drink that, it'll do 'ee good." Mrs. Trembath told him, patting him on the shoulder. He smiled at her gratefully. It was quite apparent to Bodie that his housekeeper had fallen for the act hook line and sinker.
"Where's mine?" He looked at his housekeeper, dumbfounded. "Don't I get tea and sympathy?"
It was as well looks couldn't kill because the one he got in return would have been terminal. Feeling more than a little hard done by, he fetched his own.
Mrs. Trembath returned to the stove to put dumplings in the stew and Bodie looked again at Doyle's injuries. True he had a couple of bruises and a graze on his face. But nothing to get upset about. He took the cloth again, and holding the exotic face, he bathed it as gently as he could. Hooded eyes looked deep into his as though reading his soul. His thumb brushed soft lips and set his hand tingling. He continued to dab at the cut, attempting not to drown in that gaze or react too obviously to Doyle's close proximity.
His mouth is made to kiss. Wonder how he tastes....
Doyle moistened his lips with his tongue.
I want that inside my mouth.
Stop this, Bodie.
"You'll live." Bodie tried for normality, clearing his throat.
"No thanks to someone I could mention." The indignant housekeeper muttered. "Now, how about a nice bit of stew Mr. Doyle, warm 'ee up a bit, put a bit of meat on your bones - you're a mite skinny for my liking."
"Sounds very nice thank you, I'm quite hungry." Doyle told her.
"Yes, well," she said, looking daggers at Bodie, "you work up an appetite when you're forced onto a machine that you can't control."
"He didn't actually bother to mention that, Mrs. Trembath. Might have been useful you know." Bodie countered, staring pointedly at Doyle. He received a wink in reply, which caused his mouth to drop open idiotically. He propped his hands on his hips, glared, half-amused, half-annoyed, and then grinned, realising too late that he'd been beaten at his own game. Turning away he shook his head, disbelieving.
Food. He rubbed his hands together enthusiastically. Walking over to the saucepan on the range and lifting the lid, he stuck his nose inside and took a long appreciative sniff.
"How long before it's ready? I'm starving."
"I've never known you not be hungry," his housekeeper replied. "Oh, 'cept for last week when you was moochin' about the place like last night's leftovers."
Her words made Bodie flinch. He turned his back to them, positive that he had coloured and hoping that Doyle would not be curious enough to ask what she meant.
The housekeeper begun to lay the table, clattering the cutlery and crockery noisily
Bodie leaned against the windowsill and stared out at a day that had deteriorated since their morning excursion. Huge grey clouds scudded over the surrounding hills, the wind had risen and rain was surely on the way. It was a bleak picture. As he watched, a small figure dashed through the open entrance to his property. One of the local urchins; it was common for people hereabouts to use them as messenger-boys for a ha'penny payment, providing them with pocket money and the locals with a useful service.
Mrs. Trembath answered the urgent knock. She returned shortly to raid the cake tin of two saffron buns, extra reward for the boy's time and effort, and sent him on his way.
Coming back into the room she explained. "Young Jack Curnow, from over Tregeseal way. Mrs. Oates sent him. She had word from her sister, Maudie, over Ludgvan, this morning that their brother John, who lives with them, has been took very ill. She's had to go right away and don't know when she'll be able to come back." A worried frown settled on her face.
Doyle looked concerned. "Do you think it's serious? I hope he'll be all right."
"The boy didn't know," she replied, "but for her to be called away like this, it must be."
"On one of the farms working isn't he, Mrs. Trembath?" Bodie asked. "Anything could have happened."
She sighed. "Farm accidents, Fishing accidents, Mining accidents. Sometimes seems like the good Lord is determined to rob us of our men-folk. Still, I suppose he must have good reason, but it do make 'ee wonder."
It was the first time, since he had known her, that Bodie had ever heard her question her faith. He was shocked and moved to where she was still preparing the table. He touched her gently on the arm and squeezed, reassuringly.
"We can manage now, Mrs. Trembath. It's getting rough out there, you get home and spend the afternoon with Mr. Trembath. We can cobble something together, between us, for supper tonight."
"But Mr. Doyle...."
".......can stay here with me until Mrs. Oates returns," he interjected. "I'll look after him."
"Like 'ee did this morning I suppose."
"He's quite safe with me!"
A snort from beside them made them look down at Doyle, still seated at the table.
"If you get woken up at three in the morning by someone banging your door down, you will let me in won't you, Mrs. Trembath?"
Bodie was helping her on with her coat. He looked up quickly. "And what's that supposed to mean? You're safe for at least a fortnight, it's not a full moon until the 23rd." He pulled a ridiculous face and Doyle laughed.
Dumbfounded, the housekeeper looked from one to the other. "You know, I do believe that you two might be every bit as bad as each other!"
Bodie grinned, winked, and before she had time to stop him, placed a very noisy, wet kiss on her cheek. Pushing him away severely she began. "It's high time..."
".... you wuz married," they finished for her in unison.
"Hmmm." She looked from Doyle to Bodie. "Somethin' tells me the St. Just maids are quite safe."
Lunch had been excellent. The last Bodie remembered for at least an hour, was watching Doyle poring delightedly over his small collection of Cornish History books. The next thing he knew he was waking up, stretched out on the couch, with his head buried deep in a very comfortable cushion. As far as he could see, his companion hadn't noticed his awakening, so he watched surreptitiously from beneath lowered eyelids.
Doyle was sprawled out in one of Bodie's huge, body-hugging armchairs. A blazing fire had rendered the room beautifully warm, so he had discarded his jacket and tie and opened his shirt at the neck to reveal a sprinkling of chest hair. The waistcoat of his tweed suit was also open and it was obvious that Ray Doyle had very little spare flesh to hide. As was the fashion, his tweed trousers were tight. He sat with one leg dangling over the arm of the chair and Bodie allowed his gaze to rest on the area thus displayed for his gratification. Or not. He had no idea whether the pose was intentional, but beggars couldn't be choosers and a starving man needed sustenance. His eyes fed greedily on the contours of Doyle's groin.
He rose, mentally, to sit with him in the chair, undoing Doyle's fly buttons and settling his hand inside to surround and caress the hot shaft. He imagined that tight little arse pressing back against his own arousal, and the gentle, but urgent, rhythm as they pleasured each other. Too late he realised that his thoughts had taken him beyond the point of no return, he stiffened, held his breath and closed his eyes as warm fluid gushed out of his cock into his trousers.
It sent him back to sleep, temporarily. When he awoke, Doyle looked up. "Recovered?"
"What?" Bodie was momentarily horrified. He'd seen.
"From that huge lunch."
Relief washed over Bodie. "Oh. That. Uh, yes."
"Why, what did you think I meant?" Amusement was lurking behind Doyle's eyes and Bodie was uneasy once again.
"Nothing. Have you found anything of interest?" He stretched himself, luxuriously, on the couch, his body languorous from the combination of heat from the fire and sexual release.
"Mmm, yes, you have Robert Hunt's 'Popular Romances of the West of England '. Quite rare and certainly food for thought.... talking of which, what was that about you losing your appetite and falling into a decline last week? You seemed all right when I saw you in the library."
"You noticed me in the library?" Bodie was somewhat surprised. He propped himself up on one elbow.
"Yes. You stick out from the crowd. You're neither a horsey-faced spinster nor an academic in his dotage, studying the Fugous of Cornwall."
Bodie grinned. "The man-made caves? No-one really knows what they were for you know, ritual, storing food, it's anybodies guess but this is the only part of England where they exist. I can tell you where a few of them are but the best is over at Carn Euny."
Bodie told him - pleased that he had so neatly diverted Doyle's attention from his original question.
"Not far, near Sancreed. Only about half an hour on our bicycles." He looked away. "If you're willing to chance it again?"
Doyle treated him to a playful grin. "Not sure. What's Mrs. Trembath going to say when you bring me back looking like I've done ten rounds with a prize-fighter again?"
"Time you wuz married! A nice maid would be the makin' of 'ee!" Bodie mimicked.
Doyle chuckled. "I think you're safe. Sounded to me, earlier, like she'd realised she might be barking up the wrong tree."
The comment was made matter-of-factly and Doyle did not even look up as he said it, but its impact left Bodie reeling. Was he suggesting what Bodie thought he was implying? Impossible. Even in this day and age no-one ever hinted openly that anything other than a male/female union existed or was acceptable. He had to have misunderstood. Unable to think of a reply, he left the comment hanging and then found himself further startled, when he caught the very slightest of sideways glances from the man sprawled in the armchair.
They sat companionably, beside the fire in the evening. Bodie had made them a supper of cold beef and fresh bread with Mrs. Trembath's delicious homemade apple chutney as an accompaniment. A dish of left-over rhubarb crumble finished the meal very nicely and Bodie sat back replete and content.
"I'll go and make a bed up for you later."
"A bed?" Doyle looked as though it were a foreign conception.
"Yes." Bodie yawned. "It's customary to sleep in one, where I come from anyway. Can't speak for where you were dragged up of course, but even down here in darkest Cornwall, they can usually come up with a place to lay your head for the night."
Doyle was chuckling at the absurdity. "No, I meant, is it necessary to go to the trouble?"
"Well, what do you have in mind? Dossing on the kitchen table? It's a bit hard but you're very welcome. You'll have to move though, when Mrs. Trembath arrives in the morning. She likes it free to use when she's cooking. I could ask her to work round you I suppose, but she'll only moan, you know what she's like...."
"Excuse me," Doyle interrupted. "I assume you have a bed?"
"Yes, I find it a better option than the kitchen table, personally, but far be it for me to stand in your way...."
"How big is it?" Doyle stopped him once again.
Bodie stared silently back him, the truth dawning. "It's a double bed," he replied, quietly.
"Well, why don't I save you the trouble of all that bed-making and Mrs. Trembath the extra washing and share yours?"
Tell him no.
"I probably snore."
"I daresay I'll have heard worse."
"Move around in my sleep a lot, too."
"And me. We can compare bruises in the morning, eh?" Doyle grinned.
"All right," Bodie agreed, reluctantly.
"That's settled then."
Bodie knew it was anything but.
Staring at his reflection in the bedroom mirror, Bodie knew he had to say something before it was too late. Easier said than done. What was he supposed to say? Look, don't take this personally, but it's quite possible I may molest you in the middle of the night? Or even better: If you happen to wake up in the morning with my prick pushing you out of bed, don't worry, it's only me wanting to fuck your brains out.
He turned as Doyle came into the room shrouded in one of Bodie's nightshirts.
"Bit big." He grinned. "Enough room for thee, me and the Archbishop of Canterbury in here."
"I think he prefers Rugby players. Look Doyle..."
He watched wide-eyed as the other man pulled back the bedclothes. Just about to jump in he stopped.
"Oh. Uh, which side do you normally sleep on?"
"The right," Bodie answered. "Doyle...."
Doyle hopped in and sat up, pulling up the bedclothes.
"Come on Bodie, hurry up. It's bloody freezing in here, stop catching flies with your mouth and get in."
Bodie stood staring at him for several moments and then resigned himself to his fate. He climbed into bed and the two men sat, side-by-side, arms folded, lost in their own thoughts. Bodie stole sideways glances at Doyle. Suddenly the situation seemed comical; they must look ridiculous sitting there. He fought hard to keep the silly smile off his face, but didn't entirely succeed.
"How far is Tregeseal?" Doyle asked him. "And what's funny?"
"Nothing. Er, it's on the outskirts of St. Just. Why? Don't tell me. There's a ghost down there. Thought we were going to St. Euny tomorrow?"
"Thought we might leave that for another day, when I'm a bit more practised in the art of bicycle riding." Doyle smiled ruefully. "And if this place is not far it might be more suited to my inexperience."
"Yes and no, is the answer to that. You'll career all the way down at break-neck speed, but the real danger will be from exhaustion when pushing your cycle back up again. And there's not much down there anyway, just a few miners' cottages."
"Hmm. Someone said the road was haunted by a coach and horses."
"Never!" Bodie scoffed.
"Yes. A woman who lives there told me. Said she'd heard it twenty times or more. Comes down the main road from Pendeen, turns in at the corner and comes to a halt outside her farmhouse."
"Oh yes, what's she selling?" Bodie smirked. "Sure it's not her customers bein' delivered?"
"Does your mind reside permanently in the gutter, Bodie?"
"Very sorry." Bodie replied contritely. "Has it ever occurred to you that this is a strange way to pass the time, Doyle?"
"Are you accusing me of being peculiar?"
"I didn't say that. But yes." Bodie grinned.
"Oh." Doyle looked hurt. "I suppose you might have a point."
He lay down, looking thoughtful. He turned, facing Bodie, and tucked the bedclothes snugly around himself. Bodie did likewise, realising with a start that, for the first time, there would someone there with him in bed next morning when he woke.
"So tell me," Bodie asked. "How many hauntings have you actually experienced?"
Doyle looked embarrassed. "To tell you the truth, none."
"No. Not sensitive enough I suppose. Some people are, some people aren't. Luck of the draw. Doesn't stop me having a fascination for the subject though or writing about it."
"It also makes you an impartial observer, doesn't it?"Bodie added.
"Think I'm far too immersed in the whole thing to be called impartial; believe anything anybody told me I would. Spend a fortune on beer that never passes my own lips."
Doyle was wriggling about, obviously not quite comfortable. Bodie was thinking how nice it would be to cuddle up. To be held. Touched. In those places. He made a conscious effort to stop the train of thought and watched as his bedfellow continued to wriggle.
"I hope you're not planning to fidget like that all night, Doyle?" He yawned. Hopefully if he was tired enough he would sleep well and not be distracted by the warm body beside him. "Have you quite finished?"
It appeared he had, as he all but disappeared under the blankets and eiderdown. Bodie reached over and turned out the oil-lamp. "Good-night." Doyle's muffled reply was somewhat lost. Smiling to himself, Bodie turned over and closed his eyes.
He was in luck. Although waking a couple of times in the night when Doyle moved, it didn't rouse him long enough to worry about the other man's proximity. So in his view, he'd slept well.
The situation was slightly different when Bodie awoke in the morning, however. At first, still half asleep, he simply could not understand why he couldn't move. He was wedged in somehow and decided an elbow would be the most efficient device to dislodge whatever had him trapped. As the elbow connected with something hard and a sleepy grunt assaulted his ears, he became fully awake. Doyle.
Don't move. Let him shift first.
Unfortunately, his bed-partner didn't seem inclined to do so. In fact, Bodie had the distinct impression that he had gone back to sleep. He couldn't see behind him but it felt like a head full of curls was fast asleep behind his right shoulder. Bodie smiled. Well, he had always wondered how it would be to share a bed. Here was the reality. He realised he desperately wanted to turn over and look. If an elbow in the ribs hadn't fully wakened him, perhaps moving wouldn't either? Nothing ventured. Very slowly he turned. The sleeping-beauty stirred, moved slightly, and Bodie took full advantage by quickly finishing the manoeuvre. Doyle slumbered on.
Bodie snuggled into the bedclothes and relaxed, his eyes fixed on Doyle. Hair in disarray and unshaven, he still managed to look beautiful. Several buttons were now undone at his neck and his chest-hair peeped out. Bodie felt his early morning erection straining. As quietly as possible he reached for it, feeling the thrill as his hand closed around the heat. He pumped gently, enjoying sheer sensation, his breathing becoming ragged.
Suddenly he stopped, alarmed. Doyle had turned over completely now and had his back to Bodie. Some surreptitious wriggling was taking place followed by a bare arse rubbing against his cock. Fascinated, he ran his hand over its silky smoothness, an exploratory finger slid down the tempting crack and pushed in, to touch and tease at the puckered entrance. A sharp intake of breath signalled the other man's pleasure. Bodie could feel movement - he was handling himself . The thought sent shock-waves throughout his body. Tentatively, he pushed his finger inside, fascinated by the tightness and the heat he found there. He palmed his own erection once more, his excitement rising. He withdrew his finger and pushed again, experiencing something close to ecstasy as a guttural groan escaped Doyle's lips. A gasp followed shortly, and Bodie knew he had orgasmed, as anal muscles tightened around his finger. Aroused beyond control, his own release was suddenly unstoppable, erupting onto soft, down-covered skin, hot, sticky and completely wonderful.
He was immediately comatose and knew nothing until much later when he awoke to an empty bed. Sitting up, he rubbed at his eyes, yawning as the door opened and Doyle entered, bearing a tray.
He deposited it on the dressing table, hopped into bed, reached for it and placed it between them.
"Thought you might like some breakfast." Doyle explained.
Bodie stared, bemused, at the tray and then at Doyle. Mugs of steaming hot tea accompanied a plate of toast and a dish of marmalade.
"Hungry?" Doyle asked him, buttering a slice and handing it to Bodie, on a plate. "Oh yes, sorry, you're always hungry aren't you? Get your teeth round this then. Watch the crumbs, I don't want to be digging them out of my personal places in the middle of the bloody night thank you."
Bodie was still struggling with his amusement as he took the proffered plate. Balancing it precariously on his knees, he helped himself to a large dollop of marmalade and spread it thickly on his slice of toast. It was a difficult process to smile and chew at the same time but he managed it. Beside him, Doyle was fidgeting himself into a more comfortable position, using his backside to create a niche in the pillows behind them.
"Quite comfy?" Bodie inquired, not straining himself to remove his smile.
"Mmm, think so." Doyle gave a satisfied sigh.
"Are you making fun of me?" Doyle eyed him suspiciously.
"Now would I?"
Doyle appeared to give this due consideration. "Er. Yes. Probably." He frowned.
Bodie decided, all things considered, and toast crumbs not withstanding, happiness was a glorious thing.
A couple of hours later saw the two men cycling towards the village of St. Just. Bodie had promised Doyle a look at Tregeseal, for what it was worth, and Mrs. Trembath had requested some ground ginger from the grocer's shop. She was planning to make Cornish gingerbread biscuits that afternoon, so Bodie was only too happy to oblige. Doyle, after one or two practise runs that morning , had quickly become quite proficient on his bicycle and Bodie ventured to suggest a day-trip to Lamorna the next morning.
"How long will it take to get there?" Doyle asked, looking doubtful.
"Not that long if we cut across country, through St. Buryan. An hour and a half perhaps." Bodie told him. "Thought we could show you the fugou in the woods at Trewoofe. We can have a look to see if the snowdrops are out in Lamorna valley and I can see which of my feathered friends are around in the cove. How about it? Weather permitting of course, you never quite know what the Cornish climate's going to throw at you. One moment it can be brilliant sunshine, the next a fog can descend and you can't see your hand in front of your face."
"Well that sounds like a barrel of laughs." Doyle answered, dubiously. "And at what stage do they send out the search party?"
"You just have to be a bit careful about having warm clothes with you and telling someone where you're going." Bodie tried to allay his fears.
"Well, I'm game if you are." Doyle took his eyes off the road to answer Bodie, and wobbled precariously.
Bodie guffawed. "Watch it Doyle, if you fall off through not concentrating , you can do the explaining to Mrs. Trembath!"
"Thanks," Doyle replied, "good of you."
They travelled on in silence and Bodie became lost in his thoughts. His mind returned to the events of the early morning. Doyle had not mentioned what had happened; not referred to it in any way in fact. While Bodie had not exactly wanted a blow-by-blow discussion, he had expected something. The feeling was akin to existing in limbo. What was their situation? What was Doyle feeling? Why had he hopped into Bodie's bed so enthusiastically? Did the physical act which occurred this morning mean anything to him, or was it just a purely a sexual release?
Glancing across at him, Bodie wished he was telepathic. He needed the answers to so many questions, preferably before he fell head over heels in love. Although he was honest enough to admit it might soon be too late. The man was captivating. Bodie could still hardly keep his eyes off him. An energetic, imp-like being who moved with such fluidic grace that his eyes could not help but follow him everywhere. What if he didn't care? The capacity for hurt, here, was frightening. A sensible person with an ounce of self-preservation would take a step back from this. Bodie knew, with inevitable certainty, that he would not.
Their errand complete and the ginger stored safely away in Bodie's saddlebag , they set off once more towards the outskirts of the village. Pausing at the top of the hill to look down into the valley, Doyle stated the obvious.
"It looks like a long push back up the hill."
"Mmm. Actually there's no need now, to go back up to the village. If we follow the Tregeseal lane it brings us out onto the main Penzance road, easier on both of us." Bodie replied. "Come on then."
They reached the bottom in one piece, but Bodie noticed that Doyle's face was several shades paler than it had been at the top. Nudging him he joked, "If you think that was bad, just wait till I take you down Paul Hill at Newlyn. It's haunted by all the people who never made it." He sniggered loudly.
"Delightful. Have you always taken such malicious pleasure in other people's misfortunes?"
"Certainly. Man and boy. I take great pride in my ability - honed to perfection over many years."
Grinning , Bodie climbed back on his cycle. "Where now?"
"Along here I think. I just wanted to take a look at the area. A woman from one of the farmhouses told me the tale." Doyle answered.
"Yes, well, there are days down here when it's so bleak that anything's possible. You only have to look at the terrain."
Bodie stopped to survey the scenery. A row of miners' cottages lay behind them. All around, windswept moorland, with little more vegetation than heather and scrubby gorse, was in evidence. One or two bright yellow flowers sat atop the gorse, as though challenging the wind to deny them an existence. It should have been ugly, but strangely, Bodie had never found it so. Its barren beauty held a very special place in his heart. Looking across at Doyle, his hair blowing back off his face, and a very definite fascination present in his eyes, he desperately hoped they were of one mind.
What happened next shocked him to the core. Miles away in his own little daydream, he was suddenly aware of something else on the road. His mind registered the rapid clip-clop of horses' hooves and the clattering of wheels. Close. Too close! Terrified, he knew for certain that if he didn't get himself and Doyle out of the way, they would both be killed. Desperation fuelled his actions. He dropped his bicycle and lunged for Doyle, pushing him to the ground and landing heavily on top of him. Heather and sodden moss cushioned their fall, but dignified it was not.
Breathless, shocked and very frightened, Bodie gradually came to his senses. He looked down at the man he had pinned to the ground beneath him.
Doyle spoke incisively. "Did you have a reason for that or did you just experience an overwhelming urge to be friendly?"
Bodie looked up tentatively. Nothing. No horses. No carriage. Apart from the constant moaning of the wind - silence. He brought his eyes down to meet Doyle's once again.
"Sorry. Must have lost my footing , overbalanced. Cycle's a bit heavy, happens sometimes."
He rose to his feet and reached down to help Doyle up. The other man was watching him closely. Brushing himself off, he kept his eyes firmly fixed on Bodie's face as though certain he'd not heard the truth. Bodie picked up their cycles, avoiding that penetrating stare.
"Are you all right to ride?" he asked, "I take it you've seen enough? Mrs. Trembath will be waiting for her ginger. Never knowingly prevent a good woman from cooking , that's my motto." He met Doyle's eyes at last, willing him not to push for answers. The other man was mercifully perceptive it seemed. He took the cycle from Bodie and smiled.
"Then we'd better get back before malnutrition sets in, eh?"
"Yes, that saddlebag of mine is sadly lacking in flavour." Bodie sighed . "Not that I'm fussy you understand, but a man has to draw the line somewhere."
Doyle regarded him tolerantly. "Thought your line was drawn at boiled fish? Or is it horses that scare you?" He added quietly, looking away as though voicing an after-thought.
Pretending he'd not heard, Bodie mounted his bicycle and the two men pedalled off in the direction of home.
"How many of those have you eaten?"
"A lot I hope." Bodie answered, through a mouthful of biscuit. Mrs. Trembath liked to put far too much ginger in her gingerbreads. The result brought tears to your eyes and certainly cleared your nasal passages.
"End up too fat to move, you will."
"Nope, get too much exercise. I work it all off pedalling my infernal machine." He crossed his eyes, stupidly, and got the reaction he wanted when Doyle giggled. It was a small amount of power, his ability to amuse this fascinating man, but it was his and he savoured it. Like owning something precious you could only use occasionally, in case it wore out from over-use.
Doyle slurped noisily at his tea and stared into the fire. Bodie felt sure he must be wondering about the events of the morning.
Give him something else to think about.
"Have you never thought of getting married?" He asked.
Doyle came out of his reverie and stared at Bodie as though he had been asked to address the local Mothers' Union on illegitimate births.
"Well how have you managed to get away with it?" Bodie persevered. "Good looking chap like you - must have attracted quite a bit of attention from the fair sex."
"I'm weird. You'd be amazed how that puts them off. Ask why their dead granny, in the chair by the fire, forgot to put her teeth in and they soon leave you alone," Doyle confided.
Bodie laughed at the ridiculous image conjured up.
"So. You think I'm good looking do you?" Green eyes regarded him steadily.
Suddenly this wasn't going the way Bodie had planned.
"Uh. Well." He hesitated, searching for the right words. "I think that, uh, most people would say so. Yes." He cleared his throat. Attempting to cover his embarrassment, he reached for his tea. He focussed on the fire not daring to look at his inquisitor.
"That's not quite what I asked." Doyle answered him, quietly.
Bodie looked away from hypnotic flames, into hypnotic eyes. Out of the frying pan, into the fire. He swallowed hard, momentarily drowning as something deep inside was born. Stunned at how rapidly it ran amok through every fibre of his being , he dragged his eyes away eventually and stared into his tea.
"Too late, too late," the maiden cried. His father was always saying it. Bodie had never had any idea where it came from, and anyway, knowing his father, it was probably misquoted. Who else would tell you that Othello was a play by Charles Dickens? But for him it was frighteningly apt. It was now too late. Too late to lie to himself. Too late to run away. Whether Raymond Doyle left or stayed, Bodie's life would never be the same again.
He stared, unable to speak, into his cup. Aware of movement, he looked up to see Doyle rising from the armchair. Bodie blinked, wide-eyed at him, steeling himself for what was to come.
"I'll get us some more tea." Doyle put a hand on Bodie's shoulder and gave it the gentlest of squeezes. Leaning down, he placed his mouth close to his ear and whispered, "And ginger biscuits."
Bodie watched him leave, wondering what his wide smile signified. He laughed to himself, despite feeling more vulnerable than ever before. Hope springs eternal. Another of his father's daft sayings. True though...
Such a beautiful day.
Someone ought to write a song Bodie reflected. All this beauty and only us to appreciate it.
Even though it was obviously far too early for spring , the climate down here threw up these occasional glorious days in the first month or two of the year. Riding along, Bodie lifted his face to the sunshine and drank in its warmth. A soft breeze ruffled his hair and he breathed deeply. Some days, it was enough just to be alive.
"You were up early, this morning." Doyle's words interrupted his carefree thoughts.
He searched for a reply, a convincing lie. "Yes. Beautiful day, shame to waste it lying in bed."
"Oh. I suppose you've got a point."
Yes and lying there, spread-eagled all over the bed, as you were, where wouldn't I have liked to put it.
"Best part of the day, the early morning." Bodie answered him. Deliver us from temptation. Bodie wondered if there was anywhere on earth he could hide from the temptation he was faced with. Was there any point in trying? The answer eluded him.
"What's the plan for the morning then, Bodie?"
"I thought we'd cycle down to the cove and eat the doorsteps Mrs. Trembath made us for lunch, up on the cliffs. If we can move after those, I'll be surprised, so a snooze might be in order then. This afternoon we'll have a look at Trewoofe before heading back. That suit you?" Bodie asked.
The answering smile Doyle bestowed upon him brought perfection to an already wonderful day.
Dropping rapidly into the Lamorna valley, the landscape took on an altogether different appearance. Gone were the windswept fields and hedgerows, to be replaced by dense woodland, yet another face of this beguiling county. They took the road for the cove and came to a halt to take in the scene. The woodland floor was a carpet of pure white, as though snow had fallen the night before; snowdrops in their thousands. The effect was magical. No words seemed adequate, so they stood and appreciated the beauty in rapt silence; the only noise to disturb the peace - the monotonous drone of a wood pigeon high in the trees.
They pedalled on down the lane at a leisurely pace, taking in the lush meadows, sturdy granite cottages and high, surrounding hills. A fast flowing stream meandered and crashed through it all, until it, like they, emerged exultant at the cove itself.
The small harbour looked as though it had been there since time immemorial, forming a protective arc, as it did around several unoccupied fishing boats. Today the sea wore its benign face, the slight swell washing against the stone and surrounding rocks and causing the boats to bob gently up and down.
The two men propped their bicycles against the wall. Bodie groped in his saddle bag for his binoculars and Doyle sauntered off towards the harbour wall. He watched as Doyle, like most new visitors to the area, stood hypnotised by the motion of the waves against the shoreline. The bright sun made the water sparkle like a thousand diamonds, its colour reflecting the vivid blue of the sky. The cries of the ever present gulls filled the air; their raucous screams were, somehow, necessary to complete the scene. How could this be Cornwall without the omnipresent seagulls?
Bodie took his binoculars and scanned the rocks. The unseasonably warm weather had brought out flying insects and Bodie noted rock pipits, stonechats and grey wagtails among the birds eating their fill. He watched a lone fulmar gliding along the cliff edge, and out to sea, a flock of teal sunning themselves in the winter sunshine.
"What are they?" Doyle's voice beside him startled Bodie.
"Teal," he supplied.
"Are they unusual?"
"Not really, but then I'm a bird-watcher, not a twitcher. I'm interested in even the common varieties. There's always something new to learn. Shall we grab our lunch and stroll up the cliff path?"
"How high is it?" Doyle inquired doubtfully.
"Oh, I forgot that. Er, I think you'll be fine. I'll hold your hand if you get scared." Grinning , he walked off. "Come on."
They found a sheltered hollow on the other side of the headland and settled down in the grass to eat lunch. Mrs. Trembath had eyed Doyle up and down and put in an extra slice of Heavy cake, which Bodie ate with relish. Doyle watched, amused.
"A county full of women happy to say they bake a cake that's heavy. Explain that, if you will, Bodie?"
"Don't ask me, I just eat it." Bodie replied, finishing the last mouthful and washing it down with a slurp of tea.
"Yes, I had noticed." Doyle looked out to sea, grinning broadly. He reached over to pick up Bodie's binoculars and scanned the horizon.
"See anything interesting?" Bodie asked him.
"How would I know?" Doyle answered him. "They've all got feathers and they all fly, that's as much as I know about birds."
"Idiot," Bodie berated him, lying back in the grass and closing his eyes.
"Anybody much come up here? Apart from us mad foo... er, intrepid explorers?" Doyle carefully put the glasses back where he had found them.
Bodie sniggered. "Hardly. The locals think anyone who comes up here has too much time on their hands. And in the depths of January the place is not exactly alive with tourists. So it's all right to have a nap," he relaxed into the grass, smiling contentedly, "no-one's going to catch you."
"Wasn't exactly what I was thinking about." Doyle's voice was quiet.
Bodie's eyes snapped open to find he had moved closer and was leaning over him, propping himself up on one elbow. Before he realised what was happening , the man had rolled over on top of him and they were lying together, staring into each other's eyes.
Doyle was the first one to speak. "If you have any idea how to go about this, then this is the time to say."
Bodie was astonished. "What do you mean? You've never...."
"Er, nor have I," he confessed. "Um. Why haven't you, er, you know..." He hesitated, not sure how to word the rather intrusive question.
"Told you," Doyle tried to explain "I'm not exactly normal. In more ways than one. It's not something you advertise is it? What's your excuse?"
Bodie was rather enjoying the intimate contact. He opened his legs and pushed upwards, then removed his arms from behind his head to grasp Doyle around the waist, pulling him down and crushing them together once more. The sensation was quite intoxicating.
"Do I need one?" he muttered, feeling slightly drunk.
"Oh that." Doyle was now rocking back and forth without any prompting from Bodie, a far-away look in his eyes " 'S talk about it later, eh?"
"The bloody Queen of Sheba! Me. Kiss me. Now please."
Doyle obliged. Bodie had no idea whether, as kisses went, it was good or bad. But enthusiasm must count for something and they both had it in abundance. It was wet, it was hot, it was mobile and above all, it was intensely satisfying. He groped around in the vicinity of his flies, trying to free the caged animal which was threatening to tear its way out of his trousers. Another hand was there, helping him, and suddenly his own heat met another. Their cocks, it seemed, were magnetically attracted and the two men wriggled together, enjoying the sensation.
His arousal almost beyond bearing , Bodie suddenly needed the feel of that mouth on his again. Entwining his fingers in windblown curls he pulled Doyle towards him. He parted soft lips roughly with his tongue and used it piston-like while Doyle sucked. Perhaps experience wasn't everything. A groan from deep within the other man's throat alerted Bodie to his imminent release. It arrived only a fraction of a second before his own and the two men clung together, gasping , as their juices mingled; wet, sticky, messy even, but by far the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to Bodie.
They lay sated and content for a long time. Bodie had a suspicion that his face wore the soppiest of smug grins but could not summon the energy to remove it. He kissed Doyle's odd cheekbone, the tip of his nose and the corner of his mouth, making the man smile dreamily.
"That was good." Doyle sighed. "You've got a stupid grin on your face."
"Have I?" Bodie replied.
"Just thought you might like to know."
"Short of surgery, I don't see any way of removing it. Usually when you go for a walk on the cliffs you look at scenery or flowers or birds or something. You don't expect to lose your innocence. Not safe anywhere these days," he teased.
His answer was a very sound poke in the ribs from a bony finger and he sniggered. His amusement faded as Doyle's finger found the puddle of semen. Stirring it experimentally, Doyle held the finger up to examine it and then licked it. Apparently it met with his approval because he sucked it clean and went back for more. Holding it aloft again, he pointed towards Bodie's mouth, touched his lips and pushed inside. Bodie tasted the fluid. Their combined essences had a salty flavour. He lifted his mouth, signalling he wanted to be kissed and Doyle treated him to a slow, lazy exploration of the nooks and crannies of his mouth. A delicious lethargy was creeping over him. He fought it half-heartedly, but with another sated body resting comfortably, in his arms it was a losing battle.
When he awoke, Bodie was momentarily disorientated. Something was tickling his cheek. Doyle's curls. When the salt-smell of the sea assaulted his nostrils and a gull screamed nearby, he realised belatedly where he was. He shook the slumbering body and a sleepy head raised itself to peer groggily into his eyes. Eyelids at half-mast, lips slightly swollen from their exuberant kissing, Bodie informed himself that he'd never woken to a better sight.
"We're going to catch our deaths on this cliff-top with all our assets exposed to the elements," he warned. "Better make a move."
Doyle rolled away and got unsteadily to his feet, leaving Bodie feeling totally bereft. Telling himself he was a complete fool, he stood up and returned his own particular asset to it's home. A place for everything, and everything in its place. Bodie could hear his mother saying it now. He doubted though, that she was referring to his cock and he grinned at the sheer ludicrousness of the notion. His parents had been the very epitome of middle-class Victorian values and he wondered what they would have thought of what he had just done. He sighed inwardly, they would probably have thought a ritual stoning too good for him, son or no son. Looking across at Doyle, having a fidget before they headed back, he wondered how anyone could know him and not love him. So much for 'goodwill to all men'.
Back at the cove, Doyle turned briefly to survey the scene.
"Beautiful. I'd like to come here again."
"I come here quite often, so that's not a problem. Of course, I suppose it depends on how long you plan to stay." It was the first time that Bodie had managed to put his fear into words.
Doyle smiled enigmatically. "Can't leave, can I?"
Bodie frowned, his expression questioning.
Doyle grinned at him, holding his bicycle. He rattled it noisily. "Bought a devil's machine, haven't I? Got to get me money's worth."
Bodie's eyes came close to filling up. He jumped onto his cycle to hide his over-flowing emotions and peddled a few yards before belatedly realising that the lane out of Lamorna was, for the most part, up hill and rather steep. He got off and smiled ruefully at Doyle, who was just catching him up.
"See what you mean about plenty of exercise," Doyle muttered as he walked past. "How'd you fancy Norfolk?"
They sat on a gate near the main road getting their breath back. A lone magpie squawked among the trees and the wood-pigeon had not moved since the morning it seemed.
"Where's the second magpie?" Doyle looked around. "Unlucky to see just one."
"You don't believe that rubbish do you, Doyle? Superstitious nonsense." Bodie scoffed.
"One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy," Doyle recited.
"Down here they say ' One is a sign of anger, two is a sign of mirth, three is a sign of a wedding, four is the sign of birth ', " Bodie corrected him.
"I think I like that better," Doyle reflected. "Ah, there's another, we're safe now."
Bodie grinned. "Come on, before we see one more, because I personally have no plans to get married."
Doyle sighed, melodramatically, as he picked up his cycle. "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride...."
They crossed the road and entered the muddy track that led into the woods at Trewoofe. A small stone bridge covered in the moss of ages crossed the stream and they followed the path across it, walking deeper into the trees. Bodie suggested they leave their cycles against a tree while they took a quick look at the fugou. There was not a lot to be seen, but Doyle investigated the overgrown entrance, which had caved in some time ago.
"Story goes that a previous owner of the house went raving mad after he saw the apparition of a coven of witches in there." Bodie was openly derisive. "Takes some imagination to think up a story like that."
Doyle laughed. "Believe you me, I've heard worse in my time."
As they made their way back to the path, they could hear a dog barking somewhere nearby. Bodie looked around. "That's Rascal, the owner's dog. Old Mr. Harvey must be around somewhere."
They strolled up towards the house and suddenly found themselves being greeted by a black Labrador lolloping along the path. Tail wagging delightedly, he jumped up at Bodie, to whom he was obviously no stranger.
"Hello, Rascal. Pleased to see me, eh?"
In imminent danger of being licked to death, the onslaught was only halted when his owner arrived.
"Rascal! Heel!" The dog obeyed instantly but sat whimpering while Bodie introduced his friend to John Harvey.
"I brought Doyle to have a look at your fugou, John."
"Ah yes. It's a bit overgrown now, but still of interest to folk that like that sort of thing. Don't go down there much myself, bit of a creepy place."
Doyle smiled. "So Bodie was telling me. Where did such a story originate?"
"In the local public house, with the intake of one or two pints too many I shouldn't wonder." John answered, laughing. "Isn't that right Rascal?" He scratched the dog's head. Rascal proceeded to lean against his owner's leg and gaze soulfully up at him. A case of mutual worship, Bodie decided, pleased for the man; the loss of his wife two years ago had hit him hard.
They strolled around the gardens, still attractive despite the time of year. Snowdrops were in flower here also, carpeting the ground, and two small children, a boy and a girl, were picking them. The girl held a large posy in her tight little fist; their mother would, doubtless, be delighted with the blooms that would cheer the house in the middle of winter. Bodie smiled, remembering his own forays into the countryside to pick bluebells or daffodils in the spring. John and Doyle had strolled on, still discussing the lurid tale of the witches in the fugou, Doyle listening intently.
Bodie stooped to give Rascal a pat and then crouched on one knee, in order to stroke him properly. Caressing the dog's soft, velvety ears, he received several more licks in gratitude. The story finished, Doyle and John rejoined him.
"He's good company for you, now that you're on your own, John." Bodie commented. "I bet your grandchildren are having fun playing with him?"
John frowned. "Grandchildren, Bodie? My grandchildren live up in Plymouth, my son is a schoolteacher up there. I'm sure I've told you?"
"Well, yes," Bodie replied "But I assumed the family must be staying with you, when I saw the children over there picking flowers by the old millpond?"
John looked hard at Bodie. "No, it's term-time, no holidays now until Easter. No children live close enough to be in my garden picking flowers, Bodie. You must have seen the children that were drowned fifty years ago. I've never seen them myself, but a few friends have..."
"No!" Bodie was sure the panic must have been evident in his voice. "These were real children, I'm quite sure. Anyway, it's time we were off. We want to be home before it gets dark. Bye, Rascal," he said, ruffling the dog's head
"Bodie, what did you see?" Doyle was transfixed.
"Just some village children picking some flowers, that's all, nothing to make a fuss over, Doyle. Come on, it's time we were off. See you again soon, I expect, John." He shook the man's hand warmly, before striding off.
He was halfway to the cycles before Doyle caught up with him.
"Bodie! Wait! Listen to me, will you? What did you see? Tell me!"
"I told you, two village urchins picking flowers. Nothing more, nothing less. Now can we forget it, Doyle?" Bodie refused to stop walking and Doyle had to lengthen his stride to keep up with him.
"Rubbish, Bodie. Stop lying to me. You saw something that neither John nor I saw. Now what was it?" He was practically shouting. "Bodie!"
Bodie turned on him, livid. "Will you stop whining like a spoilt child, Doyle? Do you do this a lot? Because if so, you'd better tell me now, before you become a permanent fixture in my house! Wouldn't want to suddenly find yourself on the street, after you've pushed me too far, once too often, would you?" He spat the words out.
Doyle was instantly silent. The two men stood facing each other, one of them unsure if he was more frightened than angry, or vice versa, the other bearing the look of one who had been irreparably hurt by cruel words. Doyle's stunned eyes were fixed on Bodie in disbelief. He took a step back and then walked, without comment, to where the bicycles still stood. Picking up his own, he proceeded along the path to the main road without looking back.
They rode home in total silence. Bodie was quite, quite numb. He couldn't even begin to measure the harm he had just done to their fledgling relationship, let alone anything else.
Bloody fool. He knew it.
They reached home as dusk began to fall. Doyle entered the kitchen ahead of Bodie. Mrs. Trembath was just putting the finishing touches to an apple tart and looked up as they came in.
"Well, well, if it isn't Sherlock 'olmes and Dr. Watson. Did 'ee see John 'arvey's old crones then?"
Doyle stopped in his tracks and stared at her, Bodie looked from him to her and back again. Were his lips twitching? Yes. The huge toothy grin fought to stay hidden but it was a losing battle and eventually Doyle had to laugh out loud.
Grinning ruefully, he replied. "Uh, no, Mrs. Trembath those weren't the spirits on parade today, apparently. But you'll have to ask Bodie here for confirmation of that. If you can get him to tell you." He looked accusingly at Bodie, who flinched inwardly.
She bent to put the pie into the oven. "So, which ones were on display?" She straightened as she spoke, looking expectantly at her employer. Both were waiting for him to speak.
Bodie took a deep breath and capitulated. "The two children that drowned in the millpond at Trewoofe about fifty years ago. Picking flowers they were, beautiful children."
His housekeeper nodded sadly. "Their mother went mad you know?" Had to lock her up in the end, poor soul. Only those that have lost a child themselves, understand what 'tis like. You can't know otherwise, you can be sorry - sympathise and all - but you can't really know."
Bodie nodded. "I know. It's tragic."
"It's a true story then?" Doyle seemed surprised.
"Oh yes." Mrs. Trembath replied. "The children were picking flowers for their mother's birthday. The little girl slipped and fell into the water and her brother tried to save her. They found their bodies floating face down in the pond a few hours later. Terrible, terrible thing. It do make 'ee wonder I'm sure..."
She trailed off, embarrassed. "Well, it's getting dark and I'll be off, if that's all right with you, Mr. Bodie? There's a nice drop of beef broth there, for your supper, some cold meat and that apple tart will be ready in half an hour. Now, is there anything else you want me to do before I go?"
"No, we'll be fine, you go on before it gets too dark," he told her. Fetching her coat, he helped her on with it. "Don't hang around, I think it's going to be a rough night."
She bid them both goodnight and left.
An awkward silence slipped into the vacuum. Neither man wanted to look at the other. Bodie busied himself laying the table, prolonging the activity to avoid facing his friend.
Eventually Doyle spoke. "Tomorrow I'll try to find somewhere else to stay in the village."
Bodie's world came crashing down around his ears.
"If I can just stay tonight, I'll have the couch, try to keep out of your way." Doyle continued.
Panic seized Bodie by the throat.
Well say something to stop him!
"It's all right. You should have said, that's all - told me I was being a bloody nuisance. I know I can be, never know when to let a thing go, that's my problem. You should have said...."
For God's sake...
"There must be someone else that takes in people, mustn't there? Don't really want to move on yet..."
"You stupid bastard, will you listen to me!" Bodie was almost shouting.
Doyle shut-up, frowning at Bodie. "What? We need to get this sorted, Bodie. We can't carry on like this."
Bodie took a very deep breath, letting it out slowly. "I don't want you to go."
"Yes you do. You said..."
"I know what I said." Bodie cut him off abruptly. "I didn't mean it. I was upset, I get scared when these things happen to me. I don't like it. Don't need it. I'm sorry." Bodie felt as though he were fighting for his life. "Please Doyle. Surely you know...." he stopped, afraid to reveal too much.
"Know what? I'm not bloody psychic, you know? Much as I'd like to be."
Bodie shoved his hands into his pockets and looked away, his mouth set. Doyle moved to stand in front of him.
"How much I..." Bodie hesitated, searching for the right words, "care about you? Sorry. I'm not very good at this. Not enough practise." He was silent while he considered. "No practise at all, actually." He smiled shyly.
Doyle was still standing in front of him, a thoughtful expression on his face. At last he spoke. "Do you know what I thought when I first saw you in the library?"
Bodie shook his head.
"I thought that if there was some way I could have you, I'd never deny the existence of God again. Know any good hymns?"
"I didn't think you'd even noticed me," Bodie answered quietly.
"Notice you? Hell's Bells, Bodie, don't you use a mirror? The Pope himself would have a tough time choosing between you and eternal salvation. Will that spoil?"
"What? The soup? No. Why?"
"Upstairs. Or we could use the kitchen table." Doyle raised his eyebrows suggestively. "Thought we might experiment some more."
Bodie was already steering Doyle towards the stairs.
Bodie closed the curtains in his bedroom and lit the oil-lamp. Doyle, kneeling on the bed, sat back on his haunches and slowly began to undo his fly buttons. Bodie joined him, kneeling likewise but with one leg either side of Doyle's - as close as he could get. He watched mesmerised as Doyle pulled his cock from inside his trousers, already semi-erect, and proceeded to arouse himself to full erection. Bodie reached out to touch the soft head, and felt his own cock straining to be free.
Doyle eyed him seductively, grinning. "Let's see yours then? Shown you mine."
Bodie sniggered, glad that the tension had been eased. He undid his own flies and brought his cock out for inspection.
"Nice." Doyle reached out a finger and ran it the length of the shaft.
"So's that," Bodie whispered. "Do it again."
Doyle took his penis and used that instead, running it up and down and squeezing the other man's balls gently.
"We'll sing a few hymns later. Take your clothes off."
Naked and once again kneeling on the bed, they both spent a while openly admiring each other's bodies, running hands over chests, thighs and stomachs. Eventually Bodie moved back to his former position, with one knee either side of Doyle's. Placing his hands under Doyle's thighs he rubbed their cocks rhythmically together until both of them were breathing raggedly.
"Like that," Doyle whispered. He held a hand up to his mouth, filled his fingers with saliva and very gently massaged it into the velvety head of Bodie's cock. Bodie gasped.
"Told you, we'll have a bible meetin' after." Doyle grinned. "Will you, uh...can you...I mean, if you uh..."
"Tell me." Bodie encouraged hoarsely.
"Use your tongue. Lick me. If you can. If you can't it's all right. I understand."
Bodie looked deep into green eyes, smiled wickedly and then dipped his head and gave the tip of Doyle's cock a very hot, wet, open mouthed kiss. The head was gleaming when he stopped, looked wickedly up at his lover and then bent to take the cock right into his mouth, sucking noisily. Doyle groaned deeply. Bodie allowed the prick to slip out of his mouth, nibbling gently at it with his teeth and exploring with his tongue, before taking it in once again. Doyle was fast losing control, uttering incoherent, whimpering little noises. Bodie reached forward and squeezed his balls in time with his lover's thrusts and the man was lost. His head back, Doyle screamed his release, spurting milky fluid into the more than willing mouth.
Doyle collapsed back onto the pillows. Bodie wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and lay down beside his lover, watching as his breathing steadied. Eventually he opened his eyes to observe Bodie, who was once again given the gift of a half-asleep Doyle to indulge his fantasies.
"I wonder how I could keep you looking like that." He smiled dreamily.
"Tongue exercises," Doyle replied."Keep it mobile and you can have me, body and soul."
Bodie stuck his tongue out, wiggled it, crossed his eyes and, as usual, succeeded in making Doyle giggle.
"You can keep your soul, for now anyway, I might change my mind later," Bodie leered. "But if this is on offer," he added, running his hand from Doyle's groin, up across his stomach to play lazily in his chest-hair, "I wouldn't refuse."
"What would you like?" Doyle asked him from under lowered lids.
"To eat you, as a matter of fact," Bodie murmured, nibbling Doyle's chin and ear lobe.
"No, I think it's my turn."
"To feed. Lie on your back."
Bodie did as he was told, sighing in complete contentment as Doyle turned and began to lick and suck at his neck. It felt very, very good. Things improved further as a wet tongue found his ear and traced patterns both inside and out. His cock reacted and he turned slightly, taking Doyle's hand and guiding it to touch him. He groaned as he was stroked and pumped, shivering with intense excitement. His chin was grasped and a hot mouth was suddenly open for exploration. Bodie took blatant advantage and indulged to the full his newly found passion for noisy wet kissing , sucking and probing until he began to wonder if, in fact, he could eat this intoxicating man.
Needing more, at last, he rolled Doyle on to his back. Sitting astride a chest of a million fantasies he leaned forward until the head of his cock was touching Doyle's beautiful lips. It played there for a moment, tracing the contours of his lover's mouth until it obligingly opened, gaining him admittance. He watched entranced as his prick slid in and out of that wet orifice, groaning at the sensation of Doyle's tongue on his most sensitive of parts.
Suddenly he felt hands on his arse cheeks, separating and exploring. He squirmed in intense pleasure. Heard himself ask for more and waited only a mere moment before a finger arrived at the entrance to his anus and penetrated. He stopped moving to enjoy a moment of complete ecstasy until the movement of Doyle's insistent finger became too much. He felt the rush as his cock filled, releasing its load and cascading into a warm, wet, place which in his considered opinion, was closer to heaven on earth than anything he had ever experienced.
When he woke he was cradled within safe, protective arms.
"Nice?" A voice was saying as his face was nuzzled, his lips tenderly kissed.
"Think that's the understatement of the century," Bodie murmured, still affected by the intensity of what they'd done. "Do you think it makes any difference...uh... I mean, I wonder..." He stopped, unsure of himself.
"Does what make any difference?" Doyle asked him softly, stroking his back. "Don't think I've ever seen eyelashes that long before. Your eyes look drugged. Are you drugged with me Bodie?" He placed two kisses, one each on the soft skin under Bodie's eyes. "Beautiful, you are."
"I was going to say," Bodie embarrassed, tried again "that I wondered, if how you feel about someone would affect the love-making? Make it better than it might otherwise be?"
Doyle seemed to give it due consideration. "I think so, yes."
"Come on, tell me."
Bodie gazed into the eyes, so close to his, on the pillow. In for a penny. "It's just that I don't think I've known you long enough."
"To fall in love."
"I think I have. How can that be possible? I've always thought that love at first sight was really lust at first sight. But what we just did together meant more to me than anything I've ever done. So what does it mean?" Bodie was genuinely confused.
Doyle smiled at him. "I can't even pretend to know the answer to that. I just know I took one look at those beautiful deep blue eyes of yours and was lost at sea. Next thing I know, I'm staring at your back in The Star and wondering if I really have got a guardian angel. Talk about luck. People round here are only to glad to talk about their neighbours, so in the space of a few minutes, after you'd left..."
"Deciding to chuck myself off the cliff at Carnglooze," Bodie interrupted, " because I knew I'd never be able to have you."
"Changed your mind, eh? Unless I'm in bed with the ghost of William Bodie," Doyle teased. "So after you'd gone, I was soon informed of where exactly you lived, that you were single and didn't appear to be looking for a wife - right down to your appetite for Cornish Pasties, who cuts your hair and what colour socks you wear. Did you realise that you have no secrets from the good folk of St.Just?"
"Yes, I did suspect as much." Bodie raised his eyes heavenwards.
"And that they all think Mrs. Trembath should give you more boiled fish to calm you down?"
"What?" Bodie laughed. "Get on!"
" 'S true. No more Cornish Pasties for you! Fattening." He taunted, poking Bodie's well padded midriff and rolling onto his back laughing delightedly.
Bodie propped himself up on one elbow and grinned down at him. He waited until Doyle had finished laughing at his own humour - he seemed to possess a surprisingly dirty laugh for one with such an angelic appearance - and then rolled over on top of him.
Doyle looked up at him from under lowered lashes. " 'Ello. You seem to be making a habit of this. Have you got a reason or are you just madly attracted to my magnetic personality?"
"You mean a reason other than the coach and horses that just drove through here? Yes, I like the way you feel underneath me." Bodie leaned over to turn out the oil-lamp before allowing his full weight to press down onto his lover.
"Ooof! You weigh a ton, you do," Doyle complained.
"What tired of me already? Thou art fickle my sweet." Bodie settled himself happily, his head resting on the pillow beside his lover. "Nice this, eh?"
A few seconds silence, then a voice spoke in his ear.
"I can't breathe."
Bodie sighed contentedly. "I can."
"Afraid of the dark, sweetheart? 'S all right I'll protect you." And he wrapped himself around Doyle.
Another moment's silence.
"I still can't breathe."
"Well," Bodie yawned, "sometimes we have to wait for the little luxuries in life."
A finger was poking him in the waist "Oi. A kiss in exchange for air, how about it?"
Bodie sighed dramatically. "You're very demanding, do you know that, Doyle?"
He felt a hand on the back of his head and soft lips exploring his own, very thoroughly. A tongue flicked in and out, playfully tracing the shape of his mouth. All the while Bodie listened to the noises their loving emitted into the silence of the night.
Breathless and gasping, they parted at last. Bodie slipped off of his squashed lover but stayed close, wrapping his arms around him from behind and moulding his shape to that of Doyle's. He soon slept soundly, his blissful smile still intact.
Scraping the burnt offerings into the rubbish - all that remained of Mrs. Trembath's apple pie after it had been left cooking all night - Bodie sighed. Terrible shame, he reflected, the pudding looked like it would have been delicious. Still, he'd been otherwise engaged last night it had been worth the sad loss of the tart. They had woken again in the early hours, made love slowly in that blissful half-aware state and then slept entwined until the dawn. Bodie had been woken then by Doyle's gentle explorations and they had rolled together, frantic for release, exchanging hot urgent kisses and coming noisily, but altogether very satisfyingly in the pale light of the early morning.
Bodie wondered if it could get any better. Before he'd had only a vague sense of what he might have been missing. Now that he knew the completeness of loving, the joy of shared physical passion, he doubted he would ever be happy again without it. He covered the damning pie to hide the evidence and went back inside. Doyle was in the kitchen staring at a dish of eggs from the local farm.
"Mrs. Trembath will be here soon, she'll do us some breakfast." Bodie told him.
As he passed he was unable to resist the temptation to pat Doyle's exquisite rear-end, snug in tight tweed trousers. Doyle turned to look at him and leered, wiggling the offending backside seductively.
"What would you like to do today?" Bodie asked him, returning to stand indecently close and running his hand from Doyle's waist, down one buttock and back up the other, squeezing as he went.
He turned his head to look at Bodie. "Well. Some more of that would be nice. Can't get enough at the moment, I'm permanently hard." He moved to allow Bodie to observe the evidence. "And your housekeeper about to walk through that door any minute," he added.
The perpetrator sniggered, put his mouth to Doyle's ear as though to whisper a national secret and poked his wet tongue inside instead. Doyle visibly shuddered, a far away smile lighting up his face as he encouraged the exploration.
"Like that do you?" Bodie's voice was soft and insistent in his ear. "Where else would you like me to put my tongue? Mmmm?"
Doyle turned his head to regard Bodie. "Well let's see. We could start..."
He stopped as the door opened and the two men parted instantly as Mrs. Trembath swept in.
"Right then, my 'andsomes, what would 'ee like for breakfast this morning then? Bit of bacon, some nice scrambled eggs and plenty of toast? Oh good, I see 'ee've got the kettle on. Tis proper breezy out today so I'll get your bit of washin' done this mornin', Mr. Bodie."
Bodie rubbed his hands together enthusiastically. "Breakfast sounds excellent Mrs. Trembath. Any chance of a sausage to go with it?"
"Er, not for me," Doyle interjected. "Just some eggs and toast will do me nicely."
Mrs. Trembath scrutinised Doyle critically as she cracked eggs. He was found more than a little wanting it appeared. "I'll give 'ee an extra egg then. An' you make sure you eat plenty of toast."
Bodie came to stand beside Doyle and nudged him, grinning wickedly. "It's not good for her reputation you see, Doyle."
"What isn't?" His partner frowned.
"You. Walking around looking like your last square meal was beyond living memory and folk knowing that Mrs. Trembath is cooking for you. Now me - well everyone can see I'm well looked after," he said, poking his own midriff. "No-one could say I was half-starved, could they?"
"They certainly couldn't," Doyle replied wryly. "A credit to you, he is, Mrs. Trembath."
Mrs. Trembath looked up from the sizzling frying pan and smiled proudly at Bodie. Doyle turned away to hide a very broad grin.
Pleasantly fortified by the breakfast they'd consumed - Mrs. Trembath had even managed to foist a slice of bacon upon Doyle eventually - they strolled down the lane to the small cove at Nanquidno.
His housekeeper had been right, there was strong wind blowing; huge rollers, dashing against ancient rocks along the length of the beach, gave evidence to the fact. Out to sea, white-capped waves crashed over The Brisons, standing angular and jagged above a boiling ocean. The spray seemed to hang motionless for an infinitesimal moment, until gravity or the wind, whichever won the never-ending struggle, took it on its final journey. Mother Nature in one of her more exhilarating moods. Bodie never failed to be excited and thrilled by the spectacle.
"What are the birds out there on the rocks?" Doyle asked.
"Guillemots and razorbills - members of the auk family," Bodie informed him, peering through his binoculars.
"All look like gulls to me." Doyle shrugged.
"Think that makes you gullible then," Bodie answered.
He was poked by an elbow. "That's worse than one of mine."
"Yeah. Thought you might like some company."
Doyle grinned at him in response and then tilted his head to let the wind blow through his hair. They stood on the grassy slopes above the small cove, having decided not to brave the beach, but rather enjoy a stroll along the path towards Sennen Cove.
"Do you like this?" Bodie asked, tentatively.
Doyle nodded in reply. "It's elemental , you can imagine the dawn of creation being like this somehow. You can see why there are so many myths and legends attached to the area. It's wonderful. Why?"
Bodie hesitated. "Nothing really. I was just wondering what it would take, to uh, make you stay here. With me."
Doyle smiled at him enigmatically and began to stroll on. Bodie followed him. Reaching the end of the stretch, they rounded a small headland and climbed behind a rocky spur to shelter from the wind. They leaned forward onto a chest-high rock to survey the view, Bodie snuggled in behind Doyle, one arm either side of his lover.
"It's just that I'm not sure what I'll do if you leave," he tried to explain. God he sounded pathetic. "I mean..."
"Mrs. Trembath come up here often, does she?"
"Eh? Listen Doyle, I'm opening my heart to you here. I don't do this for everyone you know."
"No-one, you said, or have you suddenly remembered a couple of others?" Doyle grinned at him.
Bodie stared at him idiotically, sure he was the victim of one of Doyle's gentle gibes.
"What I mean is," Doyle whispered in his ear, "if you feel like carrying on where we left off in the kitchen, there's not a soul to see us behind this rock and my backside is screaming out for the feel of your hands all over it."
" 'S all you want me for. Sex, sex, sex." Bodie made a show of being offended. Then grinned gleefully, "Thank God."
Still chuckling he quickly undid the buttons on his lover's trousers. He slid his hands inside and squeezed and caressed exquisite buttocks. Doyle groaned in his arms as Bodie allowed one finger to run the length of the dark crack, finally teasing at the entrance to the man's anus.
"Like that?" He whispered.
"Yeah. Bit more," Doyle encouraged. "Let me feel your cock against my cheeks, too."
Bodie obliged, tucking his prick between Doyle's legs where the tip nudged his balls.
"Is that good?" he whispered, placing a kiss on Doyle's neck, nibbling at his earlobe and probing his ear with a tongue wet with saliva. The man in his arms was gurgling with pleasure.
Bodie continued to play at the entrance to Doyle's anus. "Shall I push in?"
"Yes. Do it. Really deep. And hard. Want to feel it right up inside me." Doyle pleaded, hoarsely.
Bodie pushed. Heat engulfed his finger and he felt muscles tighten at the alien invasion. Strange, incoherent mutterings were coming from Doyle and Bodie felt his own excitement rising to fever pitch. He reached around to grasp Doyle's prick, wondering at it's heat in the chilly temperatures. His finger was a piston now; a pumping machine that plundered his lover's arse, each thrust resulting in wild elemental cries from Doyle which rose and were carried away by the ceaseless wind.
How it happened he never knew. Had Doyle really screamed "Fuck me, Bodie"? Perhaps. It hardly mattered how or why; suddenly he was inside. The invader was no longer an indifferent finger but a thick, thrusting cock, hungry for gratification and taking what it needed without mercy. Out of control he was only dimly aware of someone crying out, of something warm and wet spilling over his hand; until his own world exploded and the blackness came.
Whose voice was that shouting?
Who was holding him up?
What was he saying?
"Bodie. Bodie. Are you all right?"
He blinked, unseeing, trying to focus.
"I'm fine. I think I must have passed out."
Doyle leaned his head against Bodie's shoulder and breathed a sigh of relief.
"You scared me. Sure you're all right?"
"Yes." Bodie grinned, nervously. "That was fantastic.... but .... God, Doyle, are you all right? I'm sorry, I just spiralled out of control, couldn't stop. Does it hurt?"
"It's a bit tender but I'm fine...."
"Are you sure, if I've hurt you..."
"No. Shhhh Bodie. I wanted it. If I hadn't, you'd have found yourself in a heap on the bloody ground. I needed it, do you hear me? I wanted you to fuck me. Yeah, it's a bit sore and will probably hurt like hell later, but it was worth it. Amazing, absolutely bloody amazing."
He was making Bodie's heart beat faster - if that was possible after his exertions - with his boyish grin. They laughed and hugged, and Bodie wondered how he had ever lived without this. How had he not realised that he was merely existing? Yes, he had been prone to loneliness but nothing in his experience had prepared him for the tumult of feelings that washed over him every time he merely looked at Doyle, let alone made love with him.
"Oi." A soft voice in his ear put an end to his soul searching. "Penny for them?"
"Just wondering how I didn't know it was possible to feel like this."
Doyle's smile was gentle. "Don't question it, Bodie. Just rejoice. Call it luck, call it fate, call it what the bloody hell you like - but just be glad."
As they walked back along the cliff path Bodie calmly decided that he was undoubtedly the luckiest man alive. He looked up as the noisy screams of soaring gulls reached his ears. A Sparrow Hawk was being harried; ever territorial, they drove intruders away mercilessly. Bodie shivered in the cold, penetrating wind, pulled his collar up and dashed to catch up with Doyle, wondering as he ran, what lunch-time delights lay in store for a hungry man and the love of his life.
A week later, Bodie was gazing distractedly out of the kitchen window, half watching a flock of noisy starlings devouring some beef fat Mrs. Trembath had thrown out for them, half not. They reminded him of schoolchildren playing in the playground, raucously squawking at each other and chasing away individuals they didn't like the look of. He liked their spirit. Other birds were supposedly more interesting or more dignified, a starling was a pain in the backside and proud of it. A bit like Ray Doyle really. He grinned as two fought relentlessly over a morsel, the victor making away with its prize, only to have it snatched from its beak by a sneak thief. Life was like that, he reflected, but God have mercy upon anyone who tried to take Doyle away from him. Grimly he realised that he would fight to the death to keep the man who had come to mean the world to him.
His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of the man in question, who came to stand beside him. Their shoulders made contact and Bodie experienced the now familiar thrill that any sort of physical contact with Doyle brought. They exchanged gentle smiles, their eyes locking for just a fraction too long. Bodie glanced sideways at his housekeeper, to find her rolling out a huge strip of pastry but watching them curiously. She looked away to sprinkle flour over the rolling-pin but glanced momentarily their way once more, before recommencing battle with the recalcitrant pastry. Apparently it could be 'proper stubborn' at times.
He wondered what she was thinking. Realistically, she must have guessed how the land lay. Strong feelings were difficult to mask and he was honest enough to admit that sometimes they didn't try very hard.
It must also be clear to her that the original 'one bed for convenience' arrangement was still being adhered to, despite the now predicted eight weeks absence of Mrs. Oates. It was impossible that she, or any other good Cornish Methodist, would approve, so she must be turning a blind eye. The thought saddened him. Why was their love not as good as any other? So much in this lunatic world that needed putting right and still the masses found time to vilify those that were different. Bodie sighed deeply.
The clank of the kettle brought him round sharply. Mrs. Trembath was filling it at the sink.
"Seems to me a cup of tea might cheer you up a bit, Mr. Bodie. That and the meat pie I'm makin' for your supper," she added.
"Oh well, never mind Bodie," Doyle sympathised "perhaps tomorrow night, eh?"
He stared, bewildered, at the other man. "What?"
"The boiled fish. You said you fancied some boiled fish for tea tonight but thought Mrs. Trembath might be offended if you suggested it," Doyle replied.
Bodie had to hand it to him, he was standing there looking like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Envisaging an endless supply of the despised fish suppers, he felt duty bound to protest.
"I did not!"
Doyle moved to where Mrs. Trembath was putting the finishing touches to the pie and whispered loudly. "He's too embarrassed to say really, Mrs. Trembath, but he told me you do the best boiled fish in Cornwall."
"Oh, sorry. Have I got it wrong? You don't like the way she prepares it?"
Bodie realised he'd been beaten, cornered, no way out of this one. The housekeeper looked from one to the other.
"I do believe," she declared, "that where pullin' legs is concerned, you and Mr. Bodie be every bit as bad as one another. It's my opinion," she continued, "that you do probably deserve each other."
She brushed egg yolk over the pastry and went to put it in the oven. Bodie poured the tea, a large, contented grin in place on his face. Some saffron buns were placed on a plate and he helped himself. Mrs. Trembath offered the plate to Doyle, who shook his head. The plate remained where it was in mid-air - the housekeeper regarding him sternly. He took one. Bodie almost choked on his tea. She gave Doyle another pointed look as she walked away and Bodie had to cover his mouth with his hand to hide his amusement. Revenge was doubly sweet when someone else did the deed for you, albeit unawares.
Peace descended while tea and buns were consumed. Doyle attempted to avoid a second cake but found his willpower, once again, no match for a determined nurturer.
Eventually he broke the silence. "How old is this house?"
"Why?" Bodie asked, his mouth full of cake.
"Just curious. Wondered how much history was attached to it." Doyle looked speculatively around the kitchen.
Bodie exchanged a quick glance with Mrs. Trembath. "It was built in the sixteen hundreds by a family called Trewhella." He volunteered. "Rum lot by all accounts, you name it, they were mixed up in it."
Doyle's eyes lit up and Bodie sighed inwardly.
"Really? Any interesting stories?" Doyle prompted.
Bodie caught his housekeeper's eye once again and looked away quickly. "Never heard any, no. You'd have to ask the locals, they might know more than me."
"You mean in a village like this no-one has forced information about your house onto you? I find that very difficult to believe, Bodie." Doyle was regarding him with what appeared to be a healthy dose of scepticism.
"They know I'm not interested in exaggerated tales." Bodie avoided looking at him.
"So there is something?" Doyle's voice was quiet.
Bodie stood to put his cup in the sink.
"Not every old house has a headless monk floating round the cellar or a poltergeist in the drawing room, Doyle," he replied.
"Ghosts and poltergeists, they're different manifestations." Doyle enlightened him.
"If you say so. Now, are we going up to the village or not?"
Doyle went to fetch his jacket, directing an appraising look at his lover as he passed him. Bodie's steady gaze met his housekeeper's as she leaned against the range, warming herself. She shook her head knowingly as he did up the buttons on his own jacket. Refusing to be drawn, he was glad when Doyle reappeared and they left to collect their bicycles.
They lay in bed in the early hours, two nights later. Both tired after a long day in Penzance, they had made love slowly, savouring each others' bodies. The still, moonless night had lulled them to sleep almost immediately, so it was with a start that Bodie woke to the sound of Doyle's hushed voice.
"That noise. It sounded like a door opening. Did you lock up before we came to bed?" Doyle asked, concerned.
"Of course not, no-one locks their doors around here. It was nothing, go back to sleep."
"I know I heard something."
Bodie snuggled up. "Forget it." He closed his eyes and tried to drop off again. It was not to be.
"There it is again."
Bodie was determined to ignore him and snored loudly, feigning sleep.
"Be quiet, Bodie." Doyle hissed.
Bodie took a deep breath and sighed. They listened together. Nothing.
"You're imagining things, do you know that? There's a place for people like you, y'know."
The words were no sooner out of his mouth when the creaking of a door shattered the stillness. Bodie's blood ran cold. Knowing exactly what would happen next, he waited. Doyle stiffened beside him and he put a steadying hand on his chest.
"It's all right. Just be quiet and don't move."
A heavy footstep landed on the first stair. It echoed, hollowly, around the entire house and Doyle inhaled sharply. Bodie tightened his hold. A second boot landed on the next step, and another moments later. Whatever was coming up the stairs appeared to be struggling with something bulky. The two men lay listening as the intruder progressed slowly, Bodie wondered if Doyle could hear his heart beating, smell his fear. He pressed his body to the other man's and held on, waiting.
About half-way - it was always the same - and tonight was no exception. The loud bump made Doyle jump out of his skin. Worse was to come. The footsteps recommenced their climb but accompanying them the sound of something being dragged behind. A sack? Some item of furniture? A body. The head thudded sickeningly against each and every step and Bodie had to fight the urge run screaming from the room.
At last, after what seemed an agonising wait, the intruder gained the top of the stairs. Doyle's hand came to rest on Bodie's arm and gripped it tight. As the object was dragged slowly towards their room, Bodie's blood went from cold to curdled. The hand on his arm tightened and from somewhere he found the courage to whisper.
" 'S all right."
The darkness seemed to close in around them as their visitor approached the bedroom door. They both held their breath - and let it out as it walked on past. The passage continued to echo with the sound of the foot-falls until suddenly they halted. All was quiet for a moment until the sound of a key in a lock assaulted their ears. A door creaked open; the burden it seemed was being dragged inside by their unearthly visitor. It closed again and silence once more descended.
The two men remained still and listening for many minutes until Bodie, exhaling noisily with relief, allowed his head to fall onto Doyle's shoulder. Beside him, his partner stirred. Suddenly the room was illuminated as Doyle turned on the oil-lamp.
Bodie sat up as accusing eyes turned to confront him.
"So." Doyle began. "I presume I wouldn't be jumping to wild conclusions if I were to assume that a complete stranger had not, in reality, just walked through your house bearing a corpse?"
Bodie felt obliged to concede this small point. "Er. No."
"Right. Alternatives. Mrs. Trembath woke in the middle of the night, suddenly remembered she'd left a rug out on the line and came back to put it away? Your friendly local axe-murderer is using your house to hide the mutilated bodies? We're both dreaming the same hideous dream? Or. Your house is haunted."
Bodie cleared his throat. "The second one has quite a nice ring to it, don't you think?"
"Preferable to being haunted in your book, eh?" The look directed at him was quelling to say the very least.
"Might be as well to check the passage." Bodie suddenly felt the need to escape that penetrating gaze.
He got out of bed and padded towards the door. Halting in front of it, he paused, not at all keen to leave the safety of the bedroom for the unwelcoming dark of the passageway outside. A creaking of the bedsprings alerted him to the fact that his accuser was joining him and he felt childishly relieved. Doyle was carrying the lamp and together they opened the door and ventured out.
They stood eventually at the end of the corridor, staring at the wall. The light cast weird, fantastic shadows of the two men and Bodie shivered involuntarily.
"That's funny," Doyle observed " I could have sworn that whatever it was, went through a door somewhere round about here."
"There isn't one." Bodie stated the obvious.
"I can bloody see that for myself." Doyle snapped. He tapped on the wall. "Seems solid enough."
"It is. Can we go back to bed now, I'm freezing." Bodie grumbled. "We can investigate in the morning."
"You mean you've not done so, up to now?" His partner stared at him, incredulous.
"Because I don't believe in meddling in things we don't understand."
Doyle nodded slowly. "Is that why you decided not to tell me about it?"
Bodie stared impassively back at him. The green eyes held his own. He tried to read the message written there but all he could see was weary disappointment. He wished fervently that he had not been the cause of it but knew with utmost certainty that he had.
William Andrew Philip - you're a bloody fool.
"Let's go back to bed." Doyle sounded suddenly exhausted.
Bodie trudged back to the room behind him. Climbing back into bed and expecting an inquisition, he was surprised when his partner merely reached to turn out the lamp and settled himself under the bedclothes. He lay down as close as he dared, eventually steeling himself to reach out and touch his silent lover. There was no response. Not for the first time, Bodie wondered how he could possibly mend this rift and what he would do should the man decide he had tolerated enough. For the rest of the night the answer eluded him completely.
When Bodie woke the next morning the bed was empty apart from himself. He had fallen asleep eventually, his numbness succumbing to tiredness, and it looked as though he had slept quite late. Washing and dressing hurriedly, he dashed downstairs to find Mrs. Trembath alone in the kitchen.
"Where's Doyle?" He asked, trying to hide the panic in his voice.
She was stirring a saucepan of something - for once Bodie was indifferent to its contents - and kept her eyes on the task in hand.
"Of course," she began, "anyone else would've told him. But no, you gotta be independent like, 'fraid to let anyone know everythin' in case it gives them some terrible power over you. Now what are you goin' to do? How're you fixin' to put this right, eh? It's goin' to take more than a magic wand or one of them smiles of yours, I don't mind tellin' you."
"Where is he?" Bodie's face was a cold mask.
"I'm sure I've no idea."
She sniffed haughtily. "Said he had some thinkin' to do. Better leave well alone in my opinion."
"Was he walking or did he take his bicycle?"
"If you mean that infernal machine, yes he took it, but he didn't say which way he intended to go. And you had better have something warm inside you before go beltin' off looking for him."
Her words fell on deaf ears. Bodie pulled on his coat as he opened the door, and had gone before he had even heard the last word.
It was mid-afternoon before Bodie found Doyle. He had spent the rest of the morning scouring their usual haunts and becoming increasingly desperate. How he had ended up in the vicinity of Sancreed he never really knew or why he'd thought to check that Doyle had not ventured up to the fugou at Carn Euny. Why should he? It was somewhere they had planned to go together eventually, but, nevertheless....
And it was here, propped against a hedge, that he found the man's bicycle. He breathed a very deep sigh of relief; his over active imagination had Doyle dead at the bottom of a cliff. Bodie placed his machine next to the other and set off past the few isolated houses, towards the fields that led to the fugou. It was barely a ten minute walk but the keen wind, cold and piercing , made it seem much longer.
When he arrived the place was deserted. The remains of the iron-age settlement had never really interested Bodie that much, his rare visits had been to watch birds but the view was quite acceptable also. Today he had no interest in scenery at all, or birds. Where was Doyle? Had he wandered off across the moor? Bodie prayed it was not the case. It would be dark in just over an hour and the bleak landscape was not a place to be lost in the hours of darkness.
He shouted several times. No answer. He climbed over the rocky remains of the village to the top, where the fugou was situated and, taking care, sat down. The fogou was a ruin but one entrance was intact and dropped right down into the interior, about ten foot of sheer wall forming a circular trap. It had not been closed off and was quite frankly a danger to life and limb.
His thoughts came to a halt there and then. Heart thumping, he turned and stared at the gaping hole to one side of him. It couldn't be. Doyle wouldn't be that careless. Not really believing it, he moved to stare down into the dark interior. Crouching down, he peered into the gloom, trying in vain to see.
"Doyle? Are you there? Doyle!"
He groped for the box of matches in his pocket, it wouldn't provide much light, but it might just be sufficient. Lighting one, he leaned into the chasm, waving his arm to light up the darkness. It went out. Leaning in precariously now he lit another and just made out a huddled shape lying on the ground at the bottom.
Was it him? He shouted again as loud as he could. The shape moved and groaned, it had to be Doyle.
Thinking back much later, he really had no idea why he did what he did next. Common sense should have told him to go for help. But sensible wasn't how Bodie was feeling. His only need was to get to the man he loved and help him. So he sat on the edge of the fugou, swivelled, lowered himself until he clung by his fingertips, and dropped into the depths of a very dark hole.
He landed heavily, rolling onto his side and taking a moment to recover himself. He groped for the heap on the floor and located it. Lighting another match he rolled it over and found himself looking at a Doyle - scratched, grazed and bloody. How had this happened? He must have fallen in. Stupid, stupid. How could he have been so careless?
Bodie patted him urgently on the face.
"Doyle, Doyle, it's me Bodie. Come on, wake-up we have to get you out of here."
It took several minutes but eventually his perseverance paid off and Doyle groaned. Bodie couldn't see if his eyes were open. He was hoping his own eyes would get used to the gloom, but it wasn't happening yet.
"Are you all right Doyle? Can you hear me? Doyle!"
"Stop shouting." The man's voice was a hoarse whisper. "Of course I'm not all right, you idiot. Fell into this bloody hole, didn't I?"
It appeared there was not much wrong with his spirit. Physically it might be a different matter.
"Well, how the hell did you manage that?" Bodie's tone was accusatory.
"I don't know, do I? One minute I was leaning in, trying to see inside, the next you were slapping me across the face."
"I didn't slap you, I tapped you - and stop moaning, you're damn lucky I'm here. You could have died down here you know and not have been found for months." Bodie's voice caught as he considered the possibility.
"Yes, well, before you break out the champagne, we're still down here don't forget. We still have to get out," Doyle reminded him. "How did you know where to look?"
"I didn't, I've been looking for you all day. What the hell are you doing over here?" Bodie replied, exasperated.
"It was just somewhere to go while I thought about what the hell I'm going to do with you."
Bodie desperately wished he could see Doyle's expression in the dark. It was amazing how much people relied on seeing each other's faces.
"What do you mean, 'do with me' ? Aren't you leaving?"
Doyle snorted and then winced audibly at some unknown pain. "Think you're going to get rid of me that easily do you? Well think again. Here, help me to sit up. See if we can get me propped against the wall."
It took several minutes, during which Bodie was provided with ample evidence that there was no way Doyle was going to be able to climb out of their prison. He had done some damage to his leg and one arm was painful to the touch judging by the language that ensued when Bodie gripped it.
Their predicament was serious. Already it was almost dark, too dark for him to climb out safely; even in daylight that was going to be ambitious. Cursing himself for his stupidity in running blindly to the rescue instead of fetching help, he felt for the now crucial box of matches. He lit one, mainly to confirm his fears: the wall was indeed precipitous, and further more, there was nothing down here with which to fuel a fire.
He scrabbled around picking up a few odd twigs, which, if he was lucky, might provide them with a few minutes light, but heat and warmth, no. It would be up to Bodie to keep Doyle warm.
"Penny for 'em?" Doyle's voice echoed in their strange surroundings.
Bodie tried the 'count your blessings' angle. "Well, we're protected from the worst elements of the weather down here..."
"Cosy," Doyle agreed.
".....and," Bodie continued, "you've got me, could be worse."
"Could be better too. Mrs. Trembath's boiled fish is sounding better by the minute." Doyle observed wryly.
Bodie grinned. "Not sure I'd go that far."
"Will she raise the alarm that we're missing?"
"Yes." Bodie was certain that she would.
"She won't know where to start looking - we're miles from home. She'll probably think we're out on a cliff somewhere or worse, down a mine shaft."
"I suppose we should be grateful that we're not." Doyle didn't sound grateful.
"Small mercies," Bodie concurred.
"Big ones probably. Ever been down a tin mine?"
"No and never want to, I've seen what it does to some of the men who have no choice, poor beggars." Bodie visited his housekeeper's husband on occasions and always came away with an overwhelming sense of injustice that men had to do such things in order to feed their families.
He groped back around the wall to Doyle and sat down beside him. Looking up at the sky he saw it was almost dark, so it must be around five in the afternoon. They would not be found until morning, that much was certain, and quite possibly not even then. He might have to attempt the climb, was sure he would have to in fact; the prospect filled him with apprehension.
In the meantime he had a job to do - keep Doyle warm. As if on cue, the man shivered. Bodie made him lean forward, though even that was painful for him, and slipped an arm around his back, pulling him against his own solid body. Luckily they were both wearing very stout woollen tweed jackets, Bodie had a feeling that they were going to be put severely to the test that night. Still, he had heard that men climbed mountains in them. Hope springs eternal - now why should he think of that? Goin' soft you are Bodie. He leaned his head against Doyle's.
"We'll be fine, I know we will."
"Wish I had your confidence."
"I've got enough for both of us."
Bodie could not remember being so cold. He had no idea what time it was but it had to be somewhere in the early hours of the morning. The two men lay cocooned and wrapped around each other. He'd lost count of the times he'd rubbed both their limbs to keep the circulation going. Several times he'd managed to light small twigs to give them a few blessed minutes of light.
Beside him Doyle stirred.
" 'S all right," Bodie reassured him, "I'm here.
Doyle had dozed, on and off, for hours. He hadn't complained but Bodie knew full well that his leg was becoming increasingly painful. He tightened his hold on him, rubbing his back and breathing warm air onto his hands.
"Cold." Doyle's voice was a mere whisper.
"I know. Try to hold on. Got years of bicycle riding in us yet."
Doyle let out a small laugh. Bodie imagined those peculiar teeth and wished he could see them. He kissed the end of his lover's nose, his cheek, and then, gently, his mouth and set about rubbing his back and thighs again.
"Yes?" He was slightly breathless from the exertion.
"Love you, y'know?"
"Hope you're not getting all sentimental on me, Doyle." Bodie grinned in the dark.
"Just wanted you to know. I don't think I've told you, and I thought I should."
Bodie hugged him close. "Tell you what, you can prove it in that nice warm bed of ours when we get out of here."
"I just thought, if..."
Bodie cut him off. "When we get out, I want to find out what you feel like inside me. Do you hear? Nothing's happening to you until then. So any dead grannies or grandpas you've got, forming a queue to welcome you into the after-life, well, they can just go and bloody whistle. Hear me? You're mine."
He rejoiced silently as Doyle sniggered into his neck.
"Believe in all that, do you?" The man answered him, when he'd finished.
"What do you think you see then?"
"I wish I didn't see anything and can't explain why I do," Bodie answered.
"I think you're what's called 'sensitive' to such things." Doyle explained. "Why wouldn't you tell me? Because you hate it so much?"
Bodie was silent for a long moment.
Doyle's head emerged from the comfort of his partner's neck.
"Because," he searched for the right words, "I thought you might choose to stay with me because of that and not because you love me."
There, it was out. With what repercussions? He held his breath. The silence was tangible. Bodie could practically hear his lover taking in the full implications of this revelation.
Eventually Doyle spoke. "I should have told you how I really felt. I was stupid. No excuse. I thought it was clever to keep you dangling - wondering - not quite sure where you stood. Sorry."
"It does. It matters a lot! Besides causing you pain, or at the very least, confusion, we actually wouldn't be here in this hell-hole if I'd been straight with you."
"Yeah, well, perhaps. Well. Definitely I suppose. But uh, with an arse like yours, I'll forgive you anything." Bodie sniggered.
He received a thump in reply and the two men tussled until a yelp of pain from Doyle brought proceedings sharply to a halt.
They snuggled together again and Bodie listened as Doyle's breathing became regular. Before he was completely asleep he put his mouth next to Doyle's ear.
"You would not believe what it feels like to be inside you," he whispered.
He felt a breath of air against his neck and warm lips stretch into a smile. An answering squeeze was all the response he needed.
He awoke from a doze a while later, annoyed at having allowed himself to drift off. Checking on Doyle, he found him sleeping. His hands and face were still cold but his breathing was even and untroubled and to his relief he appeared to be fine.
Having been completely focussed on Doyle, nothing else had penetrated his consciousness. When it did he received a severe shock. People. A fire. Activity all around him. He watched mesmerised as children played, women cooked and men strolled in and out of the picture. No noise or sound, just a silently moving tableau. From what? How could these people be in here? They must know of another way out. He sat up to shout for help - and was plunged, once again, into darkness, the whole image dissolving instantly in front of his eyes.
Doyle stirred and Bodie lay down again. Taking him into his arms he kissed his face and gently reassured him. Was it his imagination or had the temperature risen? The air from above didn't feel quite as cold now. He huddled into his sleeping partner and lay contemplating the future until falling eventually into a deep sleep.
Sounds were penetrating Bodie's dream. He wished these iron-age villagers would keep their dog under control. Noisy brute. Someone was shaking him.
"What?" he muttered. "Tell those people to keep their dog quiet. Some of us are trying to sleep."
"Bloody hell, Bodie, wake-up! We've been found. Get up and shout."
Bodie was instantly awake, on his feet and yelling at the top of his voice. The barking was coming ever nearer until suddenly a black head appeared, peering down at them.
"Rascal!" Bodie yelled. "Get John, go on boy, get help!"
The dog disappeared, came back and went again - all the time barking enthusiastically at the new game. They could hear a voice and then Rascal was back accompanied by his owner. John Harvey peered into the hole.
"Is that you, Bodie? And Mr. Doyle? Everyone for miles around is out scouring the countryside for you two. Most folk have got you dead at the bottom of Botallack mine. Are you both all right?"
"Yes John, we're alive and kicking, but Doyle has some injuries, can you go for help?"
"I'll be back in a short while, you just hang on, we'll have you out of there in no time."
He left and the two men were once again alone. Bodie sat down and grinned in the general direction of Doyle.
"Saved," he said.
"Good for Rascal, eh?" Doyle agreed. "Perhaps he'd like Mrs. Trembath's next boiled fish effort."
Start as you mean to go on. It just popped into Bodie's head in his mother's voice. Go on then, tell him.
"Something happened in the middle of the night."
Doyle tutted. "Honestly Bodie, there's a time and a place, is that all you think about?"
Bodie chuckled. "Not that, you idiot. It was probably a dream."
"Yes I've heard that can happen, very messy..."
"I'm trying to be serious here. Like I said, something strange happened. I think I was dreaming, but all the same, it was odd," he reflected.
"This is you we're talking about, odd's your middle name. Chances are it happened," Doyle contradicted him.
"Thanks. Well, anyway, I woke up - or thought I did - and found the place full of iron-age villagers."
"Here on holiday? Cornwall is nice this time of year..." Doyle interrupted.
"Sorry. What else?" Doyle probed.
"Nothing. There they were, going about their business and me lying here watching them. So I sat up and they promptly disappeared. Not very exciting I know, but I just thought... seeing as I've been keeping these things from you... I should tell you." He sounded uncertain, even to himself.
The kiss when it landed on his cheek, made him jump.
"What was that for?"
Bodie grinned and although he couldn't actually see it, he knew that Doyle was grinning too.
Mrs. Trembath was fussing around Doyle, plumping up the pillows behind his head. Bodie sat at the foot of the bed watching, silently amused. She'd arrived with a basin full of warm water to 'wash his face' - code, as every patient who ever lived knew - for a full body wash. Doyle had given him a pointed look which spoke volumes, so he pretended not to notice. 'The patient' continued to give him the full benefit of his indignant glare and Bodie, purposely obtuse to the end, smiled at him cheerfully. It was only at the last moment, as she was about to begin her ministrations, that Bodie stopped her.
"I'll do that if you like, Mrs. Trembath, I'm sure you've got plenty of other things you could be getting on with."
She did not seem at all sure he could be trusted with the task. "Well, make sure you do behind his ears."
"I'll be glad to, if I can find them." He made a play of rifling through the brown curls in desperate search of the missing items. Doyle slapped him away with almost feline fury, his eyes flashing; a strange thrill hit Bodie in the stomach.
Mrs. Trembath handed Bodie the face-cloth, cautiously. He winked at her and she left them to it, closing the door behind her.
"Let's have a look at you then." Bodie pushed his sleeves up emphatically, wiggling his eyebrows and leering as he rinsed the cloth.
"You just watch it," Doyle warned him. "I'm delicate I am. Need careful handling. Wouldn't like you to bite off more than you can chew."
"Careful handling eh? Mmmm. And which bit would you most like me to handle? I can fulfil all requests but I have to warn you, I don't do feet. Feet and me - we don't get on. Had a bad experience in a funeral parlour years ago. Never recovered...."
"What are you wittering on about?" Doyle was eying the face-cloth doubtfully.
"Keep telling you. Feet. I was all right until the undertaker took Uncle Alfred's shoes off..."
"Yes, all right." Doyle stopped him from delivering the gory details " I don't think I want to hear any more thank you."
"Just thought you might like me to tell you all about it, with your taste for the macabre." Bodie's lips twitched mischievously.
"Well let's just say the curiosity won't kill me if you don't, shall we?"
A smug look in place, Bodie set about tending to his partner's ablutions. Doyle's cuts and bruises had turned out to be quite extensive, along with a badly sprained ankle and a broken arm. The doctor had advised plenty of bed-rest, which had not pleased his patient in the slightest.
He gently washed the damaged face. It was clearly hurting, the cuts stung at every touch so he placed little kisses here, there and everywhere but most of all on Doyle's generous lips. He could tell that the kisses were going some way to make up for the discomfort by the soppy smile the man was wearing.
"When I'm better..." Doyle began.
"You'll be keeping that promise." Bodie finished for him.
"What promise?" Doyle apparently had no idea what he was talking about.
Bodie placed his mouth next to his lover's ear. "Your cock," he whispered. "I want it inside me - all of it - up my arse and fucking me stupid. I want them to hear my screams in the village as you shaft me into the mattress, I want you to come so hard in me that it's in danger of coming out of my mouth. If I can't walk the next day, then you'll have done it right."
Doyle's mouth dropped open in astonishment.
"Quite the shy, retiring little virgin aren't we? There's a cure for that y'know?"
"Mmmm," Bodie muttered, "and it's dangling between your legs. So hurry up and get better so I can have it where I want it."
"Hmph." Doyle turned his head away in a mock huff. "Seems to me you only want me for one thing."
"Yes, but sadly it turns out you can't play Yankee Doodle on the harmonica, so I'll have to make do with your body instead. Mother said there'd be times I'd have to make sacrifices..."
Some while later, scrubbed clean and sitting up in bed, Doyle was fit to receive visitors. Rascal bounded in, followed by John Harvey. The dog went to climb up on the bed, but John stopped him and he had to be content with resting his head on the bed beside Doyle and staring soulfully up at him.
Bodie grinned impishly. "It's love I think, John. Recognises a fellow dumb animal I expect."
"Oi, you. Dogs are very discerning. I feel privileged to have Rascal as a fan." Doyle scratched the dog's head and caressed his ears. "Good boy, aren't you? Saved us didn't you, Rascal? Dogs are psychic you know?"
Bodie snorted. "Yes, of course."
"It's true." Doyle replied, indignantly.
"There are quite a few stories of dogs sensing things that people can't." John admitted. "My old mother swore blind our old Blackie could see my father, after he died. He used to walk down to the farm gate with him every day, after lunch, looking up at him like. And after he passed away the old dog still did it, looking up at something that wasn't there. What do you make of that?"
"Strange," Bodie concurred.
John shook his head. "The world is full of peculiar little tales like that. Every family could tell you one, I reckon."
"I would certainly agree with that," Doyle added. Rascal woofed softly, contributing his two-pennyworth to the conversation and they all laughed.
A little later John got up to leave. He reached over to shake Doyle's hand.
"Be staying in the area now, I hope? Don't be a stranger, we like company Rascal and me, come over with Bodie any time."
"I will yes, and thank you for everything."
Doyle gave the dog a last hug before they both took their leave.
The two men were alone once more and Doyle sank back into the pillows.
"You're tired. I'm going to leave you to have a sleep before dinner." Bodie stood and ruffled the curly head of hair.
"Can't keep my eyes open. Bloody silly." Doyle rubbed at them, blinking hard.
"No it's not, you've been through quite an ordeal," Bodie told him as he gestured to his partner to lie down.
"Been thinking about all these stories I've been picking up down here. They'd fill a book. Well nearly. I could spend some time collecting a few more. You and me, cycling 'round the villages of West Penwith. How about it, eh?"
"How about you getting some sleep first?"
"We could call it Spooks of Cornwall, no, Cornish Ghosts and Hauntings, no..... got it!" he proclaimed triumphantly, "A Birdwatcher's Guide to Cornish Ghosts. How's that?"
Bodie deposited the bedclothes unceremoniously over the top of his head and walked towards the door, shaking his head in disbelief. A muffled voice followed him. "Not to mention an investigation into why something drags a corpse up your stairs every time the fancy takes it."
Bodie paused in the doorway and grinned. Many things in this life were much over-rated. Peace and quiet were two of them, celibacy a third. But not love, not even when you found yourself head-over heels with an awkward, contrary little bugger. All things considered - and toast-crumbs notwithstanding - he knew he would never again want it any other way.
-- THE END --
Originally published in More Priority A-3, IDP Press, 2000