(A) First Time
"Come on, Ray, it wasn't your fault."
Bodie shoved a brimming glass of Scotch into his hand and then perched on the coffee table in front of him, knees bumping against his with the casual indifference of long familiarity as he continued,
"The kid was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if you'd managed to get a clear shot, there was no way that villain was going to let him ruin his getaway. I couldn't cover both of you, mate."
"You should have saved the kid," muttered Ray bitterly, voice hoarse with self-loathing and misery. "We're supposed to protect the innocent, after all."
"He would've been caught in the crossfire no matter what we'd done," was the stubborn reply. "You know that. Cowley said as much, and you know he wouldn't have spared either of us if he thought for a minute we stuffed up."
Ray shut his eyes briefly against the tears of anger and frustration, sighing heavily as he lifted his head to meet his partner's sympathetic gaze.
"I know, I know," he managed to say huskily. "But still an' all --"
"It wasn't your fault," repeated Bodie, reaching out to grip his shoulder firmly. "Ray, this isn't the first time someone's got in the way of a bullet, and it's sure as hell not going to be the last. We can't save everyone, and you know it."
Ray looked at him in mute suffering, unable to disguise his guilty misery, and Bodie's mouth tightened; long fingers suddenly moved from Ray's shoulder to brush away the stray tear that leaked out of one eye, then stroked his hair comfortingly.
"Ray... for God's sake, stop beating yourself up about it. I can't stand seeing you like this..."
Bodie's eyes were huge and very blue, glittering with worry and reflected pain; the sleek, dark head had dropped closer, voice softening almost to a croon, and his hand had tangled in the chestnut curls around his ear. Ray leaned into it without thinking, blindly seeking comfort, not even trying to draw away from the gentle, soothing caress; but as the midnight-dark eyes flickered momentarily to his mouth a burst of adrenaline slammed through his systems. Caught by the intensity of the surge, he couldn't breathe, couldn't move, as the thought flashed across his mind that his partner was considering kissing him.
Jesus God, he realised with another gut-wrenching shock, I want him to...
Bodie blinked suddenly, catching himself up with a little shake, and his fingers slipped free of Ray's hair as he began to sit back -- but Ray instinctively grabbed at the big hand, holding it where it was.
"No --" he blurted in a strangled whisper, not even sure of what he was protesting. "No..."
He wound his fingers between Bodie's automatically, almost unaware of what he was doing, lifting his chin slightly as he stared into the dark, fathomless eyes that held him rivetted... and slowly, oh so slowly, as if it hurt him, Bodie lowered his head again, lips parting as he drew closer. Ray was literally trembling with fear and anticipation -- what the bloody hell are we doing! -- but as Bodie let go a soft, half-whimpering sigh and pressed his lips almost delicately against his, the fear melted into irresistible curiosity, and his eyes closed in reflexive surrender.
Hot, he noted absently, much hotter than a woman... firm, mobile lips, and oh, so very gentle... Ray drifted for a moment, bemused by his partner's completely unexpected tenderness; but then, suddenly impatient, he pushed into the kiss urgently, opening his mouth in blatant suggestion -- only to lose all sense of reality when Bodie's other hand came up to cradle his face as he responded with a passion that shook Ray to the very core of his being. Every inch of his body caught fire; he realised distantly that every boast the dark-haired ex-soldier had ever made about his conquests was probably true, no woman would hold out against this kind of persuasion for very long -- Christ, he was turning to jelly!
Somehow, he managed to put his glass down without spilling it, curving his hand around the back of Bodie's head and holding him against any withdrawal as he did his very best to take control of the incredibly deep, sensual kiss that seemed to have gone on forever. For a moment he thought he had; the bruising pressure lessened, the near-painful grip on his hair eased as long fingers wound further into the riot of curls to brush the sensitive flesh at his nape -- but then they tightened again, and Ray groaned in defeat. There was a red haze behind his eyelids, and he was lost in sensation, stunned at the ferocity of his body's response to Bodie's tongue writhing brazenly in his mouth. He was trembling, oh sweet Christ, so badly, and his pulse was thundering -- there was no way Bodie couldn't know how this was affecting him.
But, he noted almost clinically, his partner's hands were shaking. So it was going both ways...
I don't want this to stop, Ray thought blindly, I want it to be forever -- but still, he managed to unwind his fingers from Bodie's and push them gently against the corner of that sensual mouth, knowing that he would understand 'enough, let me go now'. God, how often had he, himself, broken off kisses at that very same touch from women, knowing it wasn't a rejection but simply their need to hear him say how much he wanted them?
What do I want Bodie to say? What do I want to say? What do I want...
Those long, strong fingers trailed down the line of his jaw, finally slipping away at the precise instant the kiss broke, and his eyes snapped open in fright at the loss of contact ... only to see that fright mirrored in his partner's eyes as Bodie sat back carefully, visibly trembling. For a long moment they just stared at each other in silence, neither of them breathing, and then Bodie took a deep, deep breath.
"I need another drink," he husked, voice rough with emotion, getting up abruptly and stalking out into the kitchen.
Ray sat forward on the sofa, elbows on knees as he dropped his head and screwed his eyes tight shut. His heart was still hammering; he couldn't quite believe that it had actually happened, that they had just shared a passionate kiss. And oh God, it had been passionate... no woman had ever got a reaction like that out of him, he realised dismally. Only Bodie.
His hand shook as he picked up his Scotch and downed it in one gulp, baring his teeth in a reflexive snarl as the spirit burned his throat.
Oh God, Bodie, what have we done...
Bodie came back into the living room with the bottle and filled Ray's glass up as well, then resumed his perch on the coffee table, lacing his fingers around his own glass and looking steadily into his eyes. He appeared calm, but there was a pulse beating at one temple, fast and hard; and in a man who had a resting pulse of 42 beats per minute even on a bad day, that meant pretty profound tension, Ray thought wildly.
"How long has this been brewing, then, d'you think," he finally managed, his voice shaking; Bodie was silent for a moment, then he sighed heavily, slumping a little and looking down into his drink as he said in a voice softer and more gentle than Ray had ever heard from him,
"For me? The day we met. At the sports club, remember?"
His smile was tender, and a little sad as he looked up again, his face open and vulnerable.
"You were standing at the bar, beside some gorgeous long-legged blonde piece in a tennis skirt... but it was your arse I couldn't take my eyes off. And when you turned around and smiled at me with that mouth..."
He reached out carefully to touch Ray's perfect Cupid's Bow, fingers pressing lightly before he drew back and sighed again.
"I knew then, I think. I just didn't want to admit it. You?"
Ray shook his head slowly in disbelief; Bodie had been fighting it for that long? Why hadn't he seen, why hadn't he realised?
Or had he... and just ignored it?
And so when did I notice him, he wondered bleakly. Oh, his artist's eye had acknowledged the dark, smouldering good looks from the very start... but his innate honesty threw up the precise moment he'd become physically aware of his partner.
"At Macklin's," he said finally. "The second time we got sent there. We'd had the shit kicked out of us for two days, and he'd just that moment decided we'd had enough. We were flat on our backs..."
He closed his eyes briefly as the memory came flooding back into his mind as if it were yesterday; lying bruised, aching, and exhausted on Macklin's training floor with Bodie sprawled brokenly beside him, both of them whimpering like hurt children.
"He went off to make coffee, and I said I didn't want bloody coffee, I just wanted to sleep for a month... and you rolled onto your side, put your arm across my chest, and said 'I'm with you, and right here's just fine.' And then --"
He swallowed hard, remembering.
"Then you smiled at me. And you were so tired your eyes were black, like pits -- Christ, I fell in right up to my neck. I couldn't breathe..."
"I remember that," said Bodie softly. "You looked like hell, and I hurt all over... I felt so miserable for both of us I was too tired to be careful about touching you. And then bloody Macklin came back and made some crack about us curling up together like the 'Babes in the Wood' that got right up your nose, and you threw me off."
Ray stared at him dumbly, his eyes beginning to burn with incipient tears; the look in Bodie's was wistful but understanding, and it all but broke his heart.
"I'm sorry, mate," he said quietly. "I wasn't ready to admit it either." He looked down into his glass, unable to meet his partner's steady gaze, and silence fell again as they both finally acknowledged there was more between them than friendship. This had to be dealt with, right here, right now. They had to decide how they were going to handle it... to decide how much, or even if they wanted it.
Ray cleared his throat noisily, took a swig of Scotch and then, trying to keep his voice level, said,
"So, what are we going to do?"
"Well, I reckon we've got two choices," replied Bodie crisply, and Ray looked up in startlement at the no-nonsense tone of voice. "We can call it a spontaneous, silly reaction to a moment of extreme stress, tell ourselves it'll never happen again, and carry on like before."
His midnight eyes were suddenly jewel-hard and brittle, mouth set and firm, and Ray's heart plummeted; he opened his mouth to reply, but Bodie shushed him.
"Or," he continued, "we accept it, let it happen, and see if we can make it work." He tossed back the contents of his glass, grimacing at the sting of the fiery liquor, and coughed before adding flatly,
"But whatever we do, we have to be damn sure we mean it."
He gazed across the twelve inches of space between them, his darkly handsome face closed and solemn, and Ray swallowed hard, feeling the topsy-turvy world take another lurch to the left. He should have known it wasn't going to be so easy. Bodie was so damn male that the thought of being with a man, even his best friend and partner, was probably more than he could deal with. Well then, he would let him make the decision, and if he decided they should pretend nothing had happened, he'd just have to live with it...
... and try to forget how his blood had turned to fire when Bodie's mouth had opened on his.
"What do you want to do," he asked baldly, unable to soften it, dreading the answer, and for a long count of ten Bodie remained silent, eyes glittering as they caught the light. Incredibly long, thick lashes quivered as he held Ray's stare unblinking; then once more that hand came out, long fingers brushing stray curls off his brow, and his face softened again, eyes hooding as they flicked down to rest suggestively on his half-parted lips.
"I want to let it happen," he growled. "I want us to be together."
Ray gasped soundlessly at the surge of relief and joy that boiled up from somewhere deep in his gut, catching Bodie's hand in his and holding it to his cheek.
"So do I," he admitted huskily. "God help me, but so do I."
"Well, then," whispered Bodie, eyes blazing with sudden triumph as he raised his other hand to hold Ray's face and draw him closer, "I suppose that makes it official."
Ray's eyes closed automatically as their lips met, and once more he felt his senses draining away into a ball of flame. Where -- or from whom - he had learned, Ray had no idea, but Bodie was without a doubt an absolute grand master at kissing; no wonder he was never without at least three women on call. It was like drinking fire, and he gave himself up to it completely, winding his fingers between Bodie's possessively and holding tight.
Deep as it was the kiss finally broke naturally as his partner slid forward off the table, knees pressing against his, and pushed him firmly back against the cushions before shifting to sit with one hip wedged between his spread thighs; Ray obligingly shifted position and bent one leg around his waist so that they were pressed firmly together, Bodie half-sprawled on top of him. It wasn't the first time they'd been tangled like this, it happened often enough on the practise floor -- but this was certainly the first time there had been any intent to be intimate, and as Ray hooked a hand around Bodie's neck to draw him into another kiss, he realised half-hysterically just how many chances they'd missed. His arms folded instinctively around the broad shoulders, holding him close and responding passionately to the demands of that wonderfully mobile mouth, gooseflesh prickling over his body as strong fingers lightly stroked the soft place under his jaw.
This time it took a long, long time for them to surface, and Ray purred in contentment as Bodie nuzzled at his throat with lazy sensuality, half-dazed at just how natural, how right, it felt to be lying half on his back with his legs wrapped around another man's hips.
No, he amended suddenly, it only felt right because they were Bodie's hips. That was the difference...
"This isn't so hard," he murmured, turning his head slightly to press a kiss on the dark hair where it brushed against his cheek.
"Speak for yourself, mate," was the muffled rejoinder, and Ray blinked as Bodie moved suggestively against him, manifestly aroused -- and then started chuckling evilly. It took Ray a second to catch on, and then he groaned as he realised what he'd said and fell back against the cushions giggling helplessly, and for a few moments they shook against each other with laughter.
"That's not what I meant, and you damn well know it," Ray managed finally, wiping tears of hilarity and relief from his cheeks. "It just seems so bloody natural, is all."
He curved a hand around the back of Bodie's head, fingers moving caressingly against the smooth, wavy dark hair, and sighed as those glorious eyes twinkled at him in understanding.
"Then again," he added casually, his heart skipping a beat or three, "it might be pretty short-lived unless one of us knows what the hell we're supposed to do next."
Bodie's smile became wolfish, and he shifted his weight very deliberately between Ray's thighs.
"Well, I was a teenager in the navy after all ... and in Africa, we were stuck out in the jungle for months at a time with no women in sight."
Ray regarded him steadily, not sure if he was serious, but Bodie only grinned at him, unrepentant.
"I've also got a very fertile imagination," he continued smugly. "What about you?"
Ray took a deep breath, suddenly afraid; it had been a very, very long time ago, but...
"I was an art student, remember," he said quietly, trailing a finger down his partner's perfect jawline, then across the pouty lower lip. "There was a lot of it about at the time."
Pain flared briefly in the midnight eyes; Ray couldn't believe how much it hurt him to see his intended lover realise he might not be first, even though he was the elder.
His lover. Oh, God...
He took another shaky breath.
"It meant nothing, Bodie," he promised softly, meaning it, stroking the dark head. "I was only a kid. We were all at it back then, with anything that moved. And it was a very long time ago..." he took a loose grip on Bodie's throat, shaking him lightly. "Besides, what about your sailors?"
He deliberately didn't go near the mercenary years, because he had a horrible feeling he really didn't want to know; he understood without being told that there were dark places in Bodie's soul that even he couldn't reach, and he didn't want any more shadows falling between them.
"Yeah, well, I was a kid too," was Bodie's half-surly response, but then the tension went out of his powerful body and he grinned cheekily. "Still, like riding a bike, really. Once learned, never forgotten."
He sobered abruptly, his face intent, almost apprehensive.
"Ray. You are sure about this?"
Ray took the handsome face between his hands, holding him there as he stared steadily into the midnight-blue wells of his eyes, vertigo assailing him as he fell in up to his gills as he had three years ago... except this time, he welcomed it eagerly.
"Oh, yes, Bodie, mate," he promised softly, wrapping his legs firmly around his partner's lean waist and holding him there as he drew him down for another kiss. "I'm very sure..."
-- THE END --