Werewolves of London
Whatever thoughts were passing through Cowley's brain, he gave no outward sign of them. He said nothing, showed nothing, as he read the interview transcript a second time.
Bodie had told it twice, read it once, lived it once. Now he tried to read Cowley, but could glean nothing from the downbent head or the hands resting, fingers loosely curled, on the desktop.
Somewhere in the building the business of CI5 went on, but in the Controller's office the rustle of a turned page was loud in the silence. Bodie might have fancied time standing still in the room, if he were able to stop imagining a whiff of ozone in the air.
Their quiet, Cowley's and his own, had a pre-storm feel.
He turned his wrist slightly, enough to read his watch and no more, and Cowley's eyes flicked to him, a quick, pale gleam over the rims of his spectacles, then back to the transcript. Bodie wondered whether he ought to move. The chair's front edge was downright inhospitable to the backs of his thighs and long immobility urged he shift, seek a more comfortable position.
Thirty-five fucking minutes he'd been parked on the back of his lap and the old bastard hadn't offered him a drink. Did that signify?
Opting for the better part of valour, he didn't move.
Cowley came to the end, finally, and turned back to the first page. If he read it again, Bodie would scream. That'd make the Old Man jump and maybe loosen the stopper in his private stock, for medicinal purposes.
Might be worth trying.
Cowley shot his cuffs, laced his fingers together, rested his clasped hands on the typed transcript. He didn't raise his eyes to Bodie's.
"Tell me," he said.
Bodie was prepared for that moment. He had two memories of the event, the way he'd described it in the CI5 interview and in his statement to the police, and the way it had happened. There was no question which story he'd tell Cowley.
It was a good story, implausible enough to be true. Bodie told it well. He'd learned lying from the best, so his memory was clear and detailed, remarkably so for being hastily constructed. He was confident enough to be cautiously proud of his invention.
It even bore some resemblance to what had occurred.
"Oops," said Bodie as he relaxed his grip.
This can't be happening, said the other man's eyes in the moment before gravity claimed him.
He fell three stories with an illusory volition and grace, arms outflung, body arcing in toward the rust-red brick, a failing Icarus who might yet soar. The deep ornamental course beneath the third-floor windows stole the illusion, ruined the clean line of his drop, and interrupted his scream with the dry-stick snap of breaking bone.
Limbs flopping, he finished his fall with an ungainly aerial cartwheel. A loading platform received him with a sound reminiscent of a wet, smacking kiss.
"It's not the fall that kills you, sunshine," Bodie murmured, drawing back from the waist-high parapet, "it's the sudden stop." He tutted reprovingly as he got out his R/T. "Think I'll take the stairs."
True memory and false, the ends of the tales were the same. "The copper was there when I got to the alley."
"Panic, then. This fellow--" Cowley referred to the police report, a memory lapse Bodie reckoned was theatre "--this Peter Hill, panicked and fell."
Wondering what ought to show on his face, Bodie settled for impassivity. If he could use his eyes as his partner did, he'd use them on Cowley, be innocent, be troubled and bewildered. He wasn't certain he could pull off that effect and this was surely not the time to overshoot the mark or fall short of it. Instead he shifted his shoulders slightly, allowed a frown that was the merest narrowing of his eyes: a stir of protest.
"Well?" George Cowley knew all about the little ways the body reveals the workings of the mind. "What is it?"
"There's a parapet, sir, about three feet high--"
"Yes, sir." The wily old beggar hadn't referred to the report that time. "And Hill--looked to me, sir, as if he did it deliberately."
"Well--more pitched himself over, but yeah, essentially. That's how it looked."
Cowley steepled his fingers, rested his lips against them, studied Bodie for long moments. "Peter Hill...?"
Bodie shook his head in what he hoped was a perplexed fashion: dunno, sir; couldn't say, sir; really, sir, haven't the foggiest. He knew he shouldn't say it but couldn't resist: "Wouldn't know him if he fell on me. Sir."
Cowley snorted, surely expecting something of the sort from him. "Go home, 3.7."
Doyle didn't answer the buzzer. Incautiously, in the circumstances, Bodie used his key. Unsettled--not alarmed, exactly, but too edgy to play it safe, to try for a neighbour willing to admit him--he rejected the temperamental lift in favour of the stairs, two at a time.
He heard music in the corridor, steadily louder as he neared Doyle's door, and knew why the buzzer had gone unanswered. No point in knocking if he could hear it out in the hall; he let himself in, set the locks, and turned to the lounge.
Doyle was asleep on the settee.
The speakers poured out sinewy, swaggering blues at a volume constituting assault. How Doyle could sleep was a mystery...was he all right? A swift, comprehensive stock-taking, down the whole lean length of the man--no, not sleeping. One bare foot wagged, keeping the beat.
At times, and tonight was one of them, Doyle's presence, the fact of Doyle's continued existence, took him by the throat. Folding his arms, he leaned there in the open arch and gave himself a gift, a moment simply to look at Doyle.
Only one lamp was lit, and Doyle appeared startlingly young in the warm, forgiving light. He didn't look innocent; only when his versatile eyes were open did Doyle ever look innocent, and then only by design.
Beautiful, Bodie thought, as he always thought. He'd never understood why he found beauty in that rebuilt face, nor what in his partner spoke to his own need to give, what in Doyle urged him to find out everything that Doyle wanted, then go and get it for him.
Well, love. He loved Doyle, for whatever that was worth. Whatever that meant.
When Doyle's eyes opened, there was an instant in which Bodie shivered with a chill he would have liked to ascribe to what was to come. Then Doyle saw him and that ophidian cast was gone, if in fact it had been there at all.
No bloody wonder he was seeing things; it'd been a rough day.
Doyle's quick smile was pleased, his look all welcome, and Bodie let the sense of welcome, belonging, and Doyle fill and comfort him. His tension notched down. When he found himself trying to lip-read, he realized that Doyle was speaking, that he couldn't hear a word, that the music was so loud he felt it in his chest.
Doyle frowned, and Bodie knew he'd been found out. He had been read, his details recorded. He tapped a finger to his ear and recognized the exact moment his meaning was taken. Doyle shifted up, glanced to the window where the curtains were shut against the night, resettled himself with his back propped on one arm of the settee and his feet up on the other.
Bodie was already speaking when he switched off the stereo. "--to be deaf, Doyle, can't hear the names the neighbours call you."
"No need to bellow." Doyle tugged a magazine out from between the cushions and flipped it onto the coffee table. "You look like hell, Bodie, and you're out of uniform."
"Yeah, well, it's late, I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I'm suspended." That much came easily; he wasn't carrying and Doyle was as familiar with the possibilities as he was. The rest of what he had to say was hard. Difficult to confess being an idiot. Impossible to anticipate Doyle's reaction.
Unforgiving as lead, he could be.
"Get us a drink," Doyle ordered, "and tell me why you're underdressed."
He wanted a clear head. Doyle was on medication. Doyle knew all that as well as he did, though, so the drinks were to give him something to do, as well as for the benefit of whoever was out there. If anyone.
Didn't matter if anyone was, really, made no difference to what he could say, because he had to act on the assumption Cowley would be playing this by the rules. Made him fucking furious, though, not knowing who was there, where he'd be set up, if it'd be parabolics, directionals, if--oh.
"What a mess," he snapped as he crossed the room, which was tidy by any standards and pristine by Doyle's. "Don't you ever shovel this place out?"
"Shovelled Friday," Doyle said equably. "But I've been cooped up since. Suppose it is a bit cluttered."
He'd been counting on that understanding, product of his partner's quick thinking and their long partnership, yet suddenly he was absurdly grateful for all the levels of their communication. So, Doyle had swept the flat for electronics four days ago and hadn't been out of it since? No microphones, then, not inside. Doyle would have been thorough. As much as Bodie teased his partner for his paranoia, he admired it. Doyle was jealous of his privacy and even less trusting of Cowley than he was.
Doyle had left him room enough to sit side-to on the settee, facing Doyle, hip to hip but not quite touching. He liked the way Doyle lay there watching him, liked the way Doyle didn't move over. Liked the heat of him, that he could feel all down his right side.
He put the drinks glasses on the table next to Doyle's magazine, turned the magazine his way--elephants, the cover was African elephants in a distinctive yellow border.
He drew a fortifying breath. "The name Peter Hill mean anything to you?"
A moment for thought. Then: "Don't think so. Should it?"
The inflection would sound just right on the tape, anyhow. He met Doyle's eyes, seeking confirmation of what he halfway suspected, that Doyle knew all about Peter Hill, but didn't get it.
"Dunno." His palms were sweating. There was no easy way to do this. "He's a drug dealer--strictly small-time, by his form. He played Humpty Dumpty off a very high wall today. The cops seem to think I might have helped him to it."
Doyle's brows knitted. In question, or in admonition? "Why?" His eyes went deep into Bodie's.
"Bad luck." Bodie shrugged, shook his head. "Worse timing." He raised a brow: Pay attention, Ray. "Heard from an informant with a line on Farrell's guns, one of your boys, actually--"
"Harry? 'bout time he came through."
"Yeah." Doyle was hearing him, thank Christ. "But his information didn't pan out. Said they might be stashed in a block slated for demolition, he'd heard Farrell was getting ready to move them because the building's coming down next month. I went right through the place. No weapons, no Farrell, nothing but sodding Peter Hill splattering himself all over the ground, and I wish he'd picked another day for it. Or another roof."
"What, he jumped? Killed himself?"
"God, I don't know--I thought so, yeah. Maybe. Anyway, he isn't a suicide."
Doyle's eyes narrowed, then opened wide in a stricken expression that made Bodie's stomach contract. "Yet?"
"Not just another pretty face, are you, 4.5?" Bodie's admiration was genuine. "Yeah, he's alive, or he was an hour ago. Don't know how long he'll stay that way. He's a mess, I know that--a PC found him before I'd got downstairs, and we called for the meat waggon. Scared us both shitless when we saw the corpse still breathing." His shudder of revulsion was also genuine. With PC Plod on the scene, he'd made sure to get himself good and gory. He hadn't enjoyed it. "Jesus, Ray, I don't know when I've seen a man look as dead as that." If the little bastard lives.... "Hill's in a coma, may never wake up. Won't, most likely. If he dies, I'm up the creek."
"Not one. Not a soul around."
Visibly, Doyle relaxed. Smiled, showing his teeth. "I don't get it. Why exactly are you suspended? Why are you a suspect? Last I looked, our mob wasn't in the pest-control business."
"Hill has injuries inconsistent with a fall. Knees smashed the wrong way, so the Casualty doctor says. Though how the hell he'd know.... Looked to me like every bone in Hill's body was broken--half of 'em were sticking out through his skin, for fuck's sake. The doctor says he was done over before he jumped. Or fell, or whatever it was he did."
The direction of Doyle's glance, dropping to his hands, angered him. Did his partner think he was a fucking idiot? There wasn't a mark on him.
Anger was a luxury they had no time for and, after that day's performance, a self-indulgence he had no right to. He let it go as quickly as it came, raised splay-fingered hands and displayed unmarked knuckles. "I didn't notice anything, but I never got near him. He was about fifty feet away when I opened the door. One look at me and he ran straight off the roof." A laugh, sharp, unamused: timing is everything. "Showed a fair turn of speed for a bloke whose kneebones weren't connected to his legbones."
He wasn't convinced he sounded like himself. All his tension had returned, settling under his skin, gathering along his spine. He needed Doyle to say something, do something, give him a sign--hell, draw him a map, one he could read his partner's reaction by.
"Cowley's suspended you...he's never buying this bullshit?"
"Nah, course not. But what choice has he got, Ray? The bloody doctor's making a stink, he won't back down and admit he's mistaken, and he's got the cops wondering--the Cow's cooperating with the investigation. Short of D notices all round, what else can he do?"
"He could try supporting his fucking agents," snapped Doyle. At once, with a rusty, reluctant-sounding chuckle--Doyle could sell ice to an Eskimo--he relented. "Assisting the police in their enquiries, is he? That's one for the books." He pinned Bodie with a look, direct, honest, urgent; his next words weren't only for their audience. "I don't give a shit what Cowley says, Bodie, you're not leaving here unarmed."
"Not to worry, Mum, there's a Browning in the car." He could safely say that much; Cowley would be rightfully disgusted if they didn't break certain regulations, and Doyle...Doyle gave him approval, assurance, benediction, in a warm-eyed gaze and a smile of surpassing sweetness. "Taped to the springs under the driver's seat," he amplified, basking in that regard. "And a Lama .25 tucked under my mattress."
"For bedbugs?" Doyle was openly grinning at him now, and Bodie was both unsurprised and terrified by how very much he wanted to take him to bed.
Did it show, that almost tidal surge of his blood? Could his partner see beneath the surface of him to what he wanted, what he needed? With Doyle, Bodie firmly believed, anything was possible. Was his need for Doyle concealed to any degree? He hadn't the crust he'd once had; his surface was thin and wearing thinner, eroding over time with exposure to Doyle, leaving him unnervingly open and unprotected.
Did Doyle see how bitterly ashamed he was to have let him down, not once but twice, and to have failed so miserably at order and atonement?
Revenge, whispered his conscience. He did have one. Sometimes it spoke to him in Cowley's voice--amusing or appalling him, depending--though more often in Doyle's.
Atonement, he insisted, contradicting that inner voice. Putting the partnership right. Balancing the books.
Trying to, at any rate. Now he was deeper than ever in debt. He felt Doyle as a holy weight, the force of his presence, the near-tangible sensation of Doyle's gaze on him, the burden of Doyle's trust.
How had he come to take on this heavy load of responsibility?
Wasn't his idea, was it.
Christ, he was Atlas. Bloody Atlas, carrying everything, holding up the world, and if his shoulders so much as twitched, he'd drop it all and everything would smash.
A sadly inadequate Atlas, and Doyle was no fucking feather.
The pressure of Doyle's hand, now, touching his arm--a light touch, to seem so heavy.
Doyle's fingers caught the edge of his watch-strap, pushed it up his wrist. "What?" But he could see the dried blood for himself. He'd cleaned up at HQ, changed clothes--by now the cops had the ones he was wearing. Hadn't thought to check his watch. "Aah, shit." He hated to bring his work home with him.
"Shower. You'll feel better. Then eat."
Heat gathered where Doyle's fingertips rested. "I should get home."
"I'll feed you first. Left-over Chinese?"
Doyle made a face of comic disgust. "Fresh yesterday. Go on, then. I'll heat it up for you."
He was in no hurry. He hadn't told Doyle all of it yet, there was that, and there was Doyle's body warmth, warming him. Like a fire on a wet winter night, Doyle was.
And there were Doyle's injuries besides. Cowley wanted those guns, had had him chasing rumours of Farrell for days. Barring the odd unsatisfactory phone call, he hadn't been able to monitor Doyle's recovery. He wanted to wait Doyle out, see how he was moving, if he showed signs his injuries were troubling him.
Doyle seemed prepared to wait him out instead. He sensed--knew--Bodie would be assessing his injuries. He wouldn't allow Bodie guilt. Selfish that way, he wanted all the guilt for himself. But finally he lost patience, giving Bodie a knowing look, prodding him with a stiffened forefinger. "Go on, Bodie."
"Go on," yelled Doyle, apparently unhurt and already scrambling to his feet. Bodie pounded past him. Cowley wanted Michael Farrell and Michael Farrell he would have, come hell, high water, or the heart attack Bodie was liable to suffer if Farrell didn't slow down. He must be half rabbit--and half clairvoyant, the way he'd taken to his heels before they'd got within a hundred feet of him.
Farrell slowed, turned and fired, showing poor aim and poorer judgement: that was six rounds, he was empty, and Bodie never liked to be shot at. He thought about shooting back, but Cowley preferred to interrogate live suspects and a glance over his shoulder showed him Doyle up and whole, resuming the chase. He dragged air into burning lungs, discovered a burst of speed left in rubbery legs, ran right up Farrell's heels.
Farrell dodged into a narrow alley, sliding on the rain-slicked tarmac. Bodie skidded, regained his balance, and charged after him.
"Bastard," panted Doyle, who had almost caught them up. "Should just shoot him."
Bodie made a grab for Farrell, snagged a handful of jacket, and jerked him to a staggering halt. Ducking under a flailing attempt to lay a revolver barrel over his ear, he pinned Farrell's arm under his own and hooked an ankle through his legs, fumbling for a better hold.
Farrell twisted and kicked; Bodie cursed, juggling weapon and struggling prisoner, and Doyle braced his hands on his knees and panted for air, head cocked to watch Bodie waltzing round and round with their prize.
"Hang on to him," Doyle wheezed. The rotten bugger was grinning, laughing at him. "I'm not running another step."
Exhilarated, Bodie laughed with him, looked round and the car was almost on top of him, engine winding up to a scream, tyres spinning and grabbing in the wet, a blur of chrome and glass: four linked rings across the grille, the driver nothing but two hands on the wheel and a shadow behind the rain-spotted windscreen. His own hands were full of wretched Michael Farrell, his feet tangled up with Farrell's--
Doyle hit them hard, sent them reeling aside. They went down in a heap, Bodie mostly on top of Farrell and still hanging on to his pistol, right arm numb from the angle his elbow struck the ground. The thump of metal striking yielding flesh echoed louder in his ears than the squeal of tyres biting on the turn into the street.
He raised his head, spotted Doyle crumpled at the base of a brick wall. He froze, crouched over Farrell, sick and helpless with dread. He couldn't make himself call out.
"Well," Doyle said, slowly and distinctly, and Bodie wondered if it were possible for a battle-hardened CI5 agent to faint with relief, "that wasn't very bright."
He stirred, gathering himself to rise, and subsided with a squeak that unlocked Bodie's muscles at last and sent him crawling to Doyle's side.
"You okay?" Stupid question. A blind man could see Doyle wasn't. He insisted on Bodie's helping him to roll over and sit up, and then he sat there propping up the wall, teeth set, pain-sweat mingling with the rain on his face. "Sit tight, I'll call--"
"No. Don't give me that look, Bodie, it's not bad. He only clipped me--"
"Only clipped you." A swell of anger followed relief, welcome heat flooding all the places inside that had gone cold. "Only threw you twenty feet, bounced your stupid head off a building."
"Ten, and my head's the one part of me that doesn't feel like shit. Who the hell was that?"
"Didn't get a look at him." Nor the number, he realized. Battle-hardened CI5 agent to irate Controller: It all happened so fast, sir. Not a pretty picture. "Friend of Farrell's?"
"Funny sort of friend, drove straight at--" Breaking off, Doyle sat quietly while Bodie used his sleeve to blot rain out of his eyes. "You'll have to fetch the car, I don't think I can walk it. Bodie, where's Farrell?"
Hell. He looked around the alley. "Buggered off."
Doyle groaned. "After we've chased him miles. Oh, the bastard."
In the bathroom, Bodie stared at his hands. He had a store of moments he didn't care to relive, last Thursday noon being the latest and not the least of them. He tried to block out the image of Doyle slumped on the greasy tarmac, but it lingered at the periphery of his consciousness and his hands wouldn't stop shaking. His shirt buttons defeated him.
Until he turned the water on, he could hear Doyle making a racket in the kitchen at the other end of the flat. When the music started, he heard it over the running water, heavy bass, assorted thumps and squawks. It got louder when Doyle opened the door, faded when he closed it behind him.
He was stalled, head resting against the wall, waiting for the heat from the steaming shower to untie his knots; now he felt Doyle's heat behind him, close. Doyle's breath was in his hair.
"You're not hurt?" He shook his head no, his forehead rolling back and forth on the wall. "Come here." Hands on his shoulders, Doyle urged him round, and he braced his back against the wall and watched Doyle's fingers begin his buttons, not meeting eyes with him.
"Peter Hill drive a blue Audi, does he?"
Bodie's hands weren't shaking now; they were fisted, nails cutting into his palms. He hated to be so transparent, even to this man. He nodded, letting a trapped breath go.
"What's his connection to Farrell?"
"No connection. Nothing to do with Farrell or us. Hill deals, that's all--he'd arranged to meet a customer. Three blokes came running at him, guns drawn--the idiot thought the Drugs Squad was dropping on him. He panicked."
"And left us chasing our tails, trying to figure where he fits in." Doyle must've been feeling better. He didn't wince or hesitate as he stripped Bodie and dropped each garment on the floor.
Bodie risked looking at him now. The light in here was brighter, whiter, not so flattering. The grey threading his hair showed, and the webs of fine lines, like the crazing of china, that spread from the outer corners of his eyes.
"Thought you hadn't seen the index."
"I didn't. Stupid little prick was set up in the same spot, can you believe that."
Doyle drew back far enough to focus a frown on him. "You never--"
"I wasn't about to see him off in the same damned alley--what d'you take me for? Was streets and streets away."
"A uniform sees you coming out of the building, that's common-and-garden bad luck. But why'd you make out Hill jumped?"
"Yeah, that was stupid," Bodie conceded. "Cowley caught it. No way he could miss it, really. There's a bloody wall all the way round the roof, waist-high on me, and Hill's five foot six. Thought an accidental fall might sound fishy.... I pulled the Old Man's leg, too. Dunno why."
"Play with fire, too, do you?" Using the side of his foot, Doyle scraped Bodie's discarded clothes into a pile. He must be hurting after all, Bodie realized, not protesting the treatment of clothes put on clean not two hours since. "Never mind. Cowley'd wonder if you didn't act the fool."
"I've really fucked it up, haven't I? If Hill talks, he'll bury me so fast and deep--"
"There's a thin chance he'll survive--"
"No." Doyle stopped shoving Bodie's clothes around; he cocked his head, met Bodie's gaze directly, and his green eyes didn't waver. "There isn't."
He latched onto Bodie's ears, held his head still, as if he thought Bodie would turn away. As if Doyle ever needed touch to hold his attention. Bodie felt his lips curve in unexpected amusement.
"Don't worry. We'll straighten it all out. Just--don't worry, Bodie."
"I--yes. All right." Bodie sighed as Doyle closed in to kiss him. Let it go. Don't worry. Ray said. And this was what he needed, this touch, this taste, this scent. Yes, God, yes, finally.
Doyle could be greedy. Sometimes desire and desperation wore the same shape: he could be rough, even ruthless on occasion. Tonight's Doyle was gentle. Tenderness was more dizzying than violent passion could be. Lips coaxed where Bodie anticipated demand. Fingers brushed like moths' wings on his face, his chest, moved delicately over his ribs with just enough pressure not to tickle. He couldn't take tickling. Doyle knew.
Breaking a soft kiss, Doyle asked, "You sure you're all right?" He nodded, leaned toward another kiss, but Doyle held him off with a look. "Bodie. There's nothing you have to prove, not to me. You must know that."
"Mmm-hmm," he agreed, giving Doyle what he needed, and was rewarded: Doyle's mouth plucked at his. Teeth closed lightly on his lower lip, a nip without sting, and released him. Thumbs drew matching circles over his hipbones.
Shivering, he leaned in, and Doyle pulled away, put a few inches between them. A long look, then, from eyes that could peel him away in layers. The concern buckling Doyle's brow turned inches into miles.
"I do know. Wasn't trying to prove anything." That might be a lie; Bodie wasn't sure. He could see Doyle wasn't sure, either, and hoped he was willing to let it go. He was unable to take his eyes off Doyle's, couldn't, until Doyle gave permission by looking away. Doyle didn't, and he didn't speak. Bodie had thought Cowley's office painfully quiet, but this silence of Doyle's--the shower spray was rushing, his heart pounding counterpoint to the muted thump of the music, yet he heard Doyle's silence over it all. Christ, Ray, say something.
"So it was an accident then."
"Yeah. In a way."
"Ah. The sort of accident any bloke might have when he's several storeys up and feeling a bit irritable?"
"Was just...practising a little retroactive birth control."
Doyle snickered, his step against Bodie and into his arms dispelling the last of his uncertainty. He was forgiven, if Doyle believed there was anything to forgive.
Kisses, long and wet, to his mouth, then drifting down his throat, his chest, his belly, as Doyle went slowly to his knees on Bodie's heaped-up clothes. Bodie grinned. Always thinking ahead, his partner.
"Foot." A kiss to his thigh. A tap on his ankle. "Your other left."
He obliged, and Doyle tugged off his sock, tossed it over one shoulder. Following its flight, he caught sight of their reflection in the fogging mirror and feasted his eyes, lifting his foot on cue for the removal of his second sock, beguiled by his reflected self, cock hard, balls ripe with anticipation, alternately revealed and concealed by Doyle's movements. Him naked, Doyle dressed, kneeling at his feet--
"Look hot, do we?" He could hear a grin in Doyle's voice. Lips on his skin again--he could feel Doyle's words. "We must do. You're breathin' like a landed fish."
"Oh, yeah? What're you planning for an encore, now you've torn my clothes off?"
Taking him in hand, Doyle dispensed with further preliminaries. "None of your yowling," he warned, then sucked him in deep.
Bodie banged his head back against the wall. He cursed softly, closing one hand in Doyle's hair. As if he ever yowled. Breathe like a landed fish, oh, no question. His was the low, guttural voice, then, too, the helplessly groaned "Yes, yes, yes," because Doyle certainly wasn't doing any talking. Clever fingers, clever mouth, demanding and so fucking efficient--
Doyle took him to the heights, spun him down into a vortex of dark, shuddery sensation, set him beside himself. His eyes went crazy, leaping from the rapt concentration on Doyle's foreshortened face to their reflection in the misted mirror, back to Doyle, mouth insistent on him now. So soon? Doyle glanced up, damp strands of hair clinging to his temples, eyes hot with power and delight.
No time flat, Bodie thought, and, No yowling, and he was fighting a choke of laughter as he came, muscles locked, hands braced on Doyle's shoulders. He tried to keep his grip light, take his own weight, fighting the fierce pleasure of release to stay mindful of Doyle's injuries.
He hadn't realized how much the whole beshitted day had stayed with him, how it'd settled in his bones, until the rush of sweet relief, aftermath of the burden's lifting. He straightened, savouring his lack of tension, his utter relaxation, and sighed happily, arching his spine against the wall.
Doyle stayed down, hands easing up and down the backs of his thighs, head resting heavy at his groin. "Long day?"
"Long day," Bodie agreed. He felt better--felt good, now. Pleasantly tired, but ready for anything. Christ, but Doyle was a miracle worker.
He wished Doyle would stand up and kiss him, now, when kisses might have nothing to do with sex. Not that he had anything against sex.... He wished Doyle had pinned his wrists, held them against the wall while he sucked him; he liked that, it made him feel more naked and more--
More Doyle's responsibility.
It wasn't fair to Doyle, the way he always craved more and more of him, as if Doyle's touch fell into a well of need so deep that Bodie had never felt it hit bottom. Those accomplished hands were caressing him, soothing away the last of the day, and heat grew wherever they touched. He wanted to be held and held down, to be anchored by the reassuring weight of Doyle's body.
He caught at Doyle's wrists, his fingers loose bracelets over spare flesh and prominent bone. "I want you in me." He waited for Doyle to look up, eager for the raw burn of lust that would kindle in his eyes.
But Doyle sighed, hair brushing over Bodie's skin. He pressed one palm to Bodie's left thigh, his left cheek to the right. "Not tonight."
"God, Ray--" The refusal rocked him. Doyle didn't deny him anything he wanted; that didn't happen. "We can be quiet.... We can stay in here." He was begging. He didn't care. "I need you to fuck me in the worst way."
"You're in luck, then." Doyle turned his scratchy cheek, set his lips to Bodie's thigh--glanced up, eyes lighting not with sexual heat but with wry humour. "'cause that's just how I'd do it."
Shit. Bodie got his hands under Doyle's arms, helped him to stand. "What the hell were you doing on your knees?"
He should've phrased that some other way; he sensed the oncoming grin before it materialized. "You're hurting," he accused, forestalling whatever distraction Doyle's dirty mind had concocted. "Thought you were feeling better."
"I am." He raised a brow, waiting, and Doyle conceded the point with a small, cautious shrug. "Just not all better."
Carefully pulling him close, he cupped a hand to Doyle's groin and found him soft. Doyle's lips were beautifully responsive to Bodie's kiss, his hands moved at once to frame Bodie's face, but he didn't press the contours of his body to Bodie's and his cock stayed lax, quiescent.
"Liar. Feel that bad, do you?"
"No, just--" At his narrow-eyed look, Doyle blinked, began again. "Suppose I do feel...well, shitty, actually."
"Didn't take any. I hate 'em, they make me fuzzy."
"I'll do you six ways from Sunday, I promise, soon as I limber up."
"Don't like to let you down, mate, I'm--"
"Shut up," he said to stop Doyle's words, softening his own with a kiss. "Apologizing? Don't be thick."
"You need me tonight." Doyle would be working up a head of steam soon enough. "And I'm laid up."
Doyle hated being hurt--reckoned he might miss something, Bodie believed. Bodie hated his being hurt. He hated stupid little pricks like Peter Hill. And he hated knowing Turner might be out there in the road right now, or Murphy or Fischer or that busybody Lucas, with a mike trained on Doyle's flat, wondering at his marathon shower. He bloody hated skulking in here when he should be snug in Doyle's bed.
"Yeah, I need you." Let him get well underway and Doyle could make it from Sophocles to Sartre without drawing breath; Bodie was too raw, too needy himself, to deal with a guilt-drenched Doyle tonight. "And here you are, same as always."
Heading him off was a matter of knowing what buttons to push: soppy declarations always got to Doyle. Watching his eyes brighten, his mouth soften, Bodie added cheap manipulation to today's long list. One more thing to feel bad for, later.
"Love you." Doyle kissed him, lightly, beside the mouth. Nothing at all to do with sex, that one. "Go on, then, get wet if you're going to. They'll be thinking you've gone down the drain."
A smile was required, so he produced one as his partner left his arms, then curled his lip when Doyle opened the door and the music intruded, not the same song as before but easily as loathsome. "What in God's name is that?"
"A classic." A broad, happy grin from Doyle, so guileless Bodie knew he'd practised it for years. "Think himself will like the tapes?"
"Bound to. Go rattle some dishes, you heartless bugger, and shut that filthy racket down."
"'The green face,'" Doyle read, "'inquisitively cocked, seemed intelligent, supercilious--even disdainful. Of course, the entomologist side of me resisted such human analogies. Yet to a mantis's victims, that cold and steady gaze is the visage of death, a hypnotic stare that is the final apparition to many a small creature before it is trapped in a spiny embrace and soon consumed.'"
"Says you, who shouldn't, seein' your mouth's full. Listen to this: 'As mating proceeds, the female clutches the male around the neck and begins to feed on his head. Though now--'"
"Once dated her sister."
Doyle snorted, went on, "'Though now decapitated, the male has a nervous system that enables him to continue mating, sometimes for hours.'" He closed the magazine, keeping his place with one finger between the pages, and fanned Bodie with it, wide-eyed with exaggerated astonishment. "What? Nothing to say to that?"
"I'm eating," Bodie protested, very much on his dignity.
Doyle jeered and continued, watching Bodie eat while he read aloud and kept up both ends of a desultory conversation. Bodie listened to his voice, not his words, and watched Doyle watch him. Mostly, he studied Doyle's eyes and wondered what Doyle was thinking about him.
Doyle's eyes were an indeterminate green. They went to grey-gold in certain lights, in the grip of certain emotions. His inner conflicts played themselves out there for anyone to see who had the knack of reading them. All these years partners, eight months lovers, and Bodie could only guess at what was colouring those eyes now.
What did he know of his partner, really, after all this time? Only what he could see, and he sometimes feared that, like everyone else, he saw only what Doyle elected to show him. Stingy with his details, Doyle was. Bodie knew little of his life before CI5--a word here, a word there, a few stories from his days with the Met.... What he didn't say ought to be as revealing as what he did--would be, with most men. Not this one. Bodie'd spilled his guts, mostly, but Doyle had never been similarly forthcoming. His partner had been raised by wolves, for all he could say different.
The conceit pleased him, and he played with it in his head. Doyle as lone wolf--that, not so much ever, and never nowadays. The Met, CI5: by nature, he was as much a pack animal as Bodie--more, maybe. But Doyle was less domesticated than he'd claim to be; his partner was housebroken but by no means tame, and far too prone to biting to be safely fed from the hand. Like the wolf on the fold...Doyle, his wolf in idealist's clothing.
He washed down a mouthful with a swallow of beer and interrupted. "Wolves mate for life, don't they?"
Doyle gave him a blank look. "How the hell should I know?"
"No wolves in there?"
"Jordan. El Nino." He held up the magazine, showing Bodie the cover. "Elephants. Insects--Mantidae."
Bodie nodded and went back to plying his fork while Doyle murmured on. The words were for the ears out in the road, for the tape turning on its spindles; he let the expedient words go, listened only to the lulling voice.
It wasn't always easy, being here with Doyle, though it was the only place he cared to be. When they were apart--not often or for long, these days--he believed in the improbable and was content. But when they were together, it seemed unlikely Doyle loved him. He was everything Bodie wanted, now, and Bodie knew his own luck with love: it was seldom good, and never good for long. So he had his doubts...not that Doyle believed he loved him, for Doyle would never lie to him, not in that; but that Doyle was deceiving himself--that, he could well believe. Why would Doyle love him?
I love you. Doyle had said so, emphatically and with a frequency that almost convinced him. Bodie'd said, Love you for your mind, don't I, and, Love it when you're whorish, and, on more than one heated occasion, Oh, God, Ray, I fucking love it when you do that, or some variation expressing similar sentiments.
He'd never said, I love you. Doyle knew, though. He must do.
When Doyle stood, tossing down his magazine, and took the dishes to the sink, Bodie was vaguely surprised. He didn't recall emptying his plate. "Must've been hungrier than I thought."
"You will be again before long."
A don't-be-thick look, while Doyle ran water and clattered cutlery. "Chinese food."
"Oh. Right." Come in Ray Doyle's wicked mouth and you were hungry again in half an hour. "Well...time I was off." He tried to think what else he should say, going, while he watched Doyle make a production out of washing a plate, a mug, and three glasses. Nothing occurred to him. Tonight of all nights, he wanted to stay.
Doyle carried his emotions so near the surface that Bodie often imagined he could see them stirring beneath his skin, but tonight he couldn't read them. He was reduced to deciphering body language, feeling the fool for seeking clues in the way his partner did the washing-up.
He'd gone through with it, had chucked Peter Hill off that roof, knowing he could control the situation, recognizing the moment he could limit the damage but enjoying--taking satisfaction in--his decision to go ahead. For there had been a decision. He'd made it in cold blood.
Remedial redress, as they said in the Paras. Hill, stupid fucker, hadn't even known who it was he'd hurt. He hadn't represented any further threat.
Neither had Krivas, nor those idiot bikers. Not that that had stopped Doyle.
Bodie couldn't always predict what Doyle would feel guilty for, but he had an idea this business today could set him off. If Doyle thought Hill went over the edge for some perceived inequity, he'd be sleeping alone for as long as it took Doyle to put the breast-beating and the self-recriminations to rest.
Never mind Doyle would be dead wrong, never mind he'd decided on punitive action, plain and simple, he wanted to stay to head off any such notion Doyle might get. And for himself. He wanted Doyle to wrap him up, cover him, hold him away from the night.
In sleep, Doyle fought him off--he didn't allow that closeness. It was enough to lie beside him in the dark, though, close enough to touch him with an outstretched hand, listening to him breathe, matching the rhythm of his own breaths to Doyle's.
Tonight it would be more than enough.
"Time I was off," he repeated, because marching up to Cowley's mobile listening post, tearing the doors off, and shooting everyone inside wasn't a realistic alternative.
Frowning a little, Doyle abandoned the dishes to accompany him to the door. A warm, still-damp clasp of his hand, a pressure meant to reassure. "I've got to see the physio tomorrow. Meet for a drink after?"
"Could do, if I don't get a better offer meanwhile. Where?"
"I'll call you."
A last brush of Doyle's fingers over his and he was on the other side of the door, listening as the locks engaged and after, until the music knocked him away. It accompanied him to the stairs and halfway down them: Doyle having his fun. The neighbours must be loving it.
It was cold, pissing down rain. He sat shivering in the car while the rough idle smoothed out, wishing the unseen surveillance team to hell and himself back upstairs. While he waited for the demister to do some good, he fished the pistol out from under the seat, checked the clip, pocketed it.
Fully dressed, he felt better, and halfway to his place, when he spotted the tail, he was put out only by the driver's clumsiness. Wouldn't Cowley raise the roof if he could see that.
Another night, another frame of mind, he'd make his watcher work for it. Tonight he hadn't the spirit for tag. He drove directly to his flat, wedged the Capri into the only spot in sight--pleased the incompetent bugger would have to park elsewhere and stand out in the wet--and jogged through the rain to his door.
His flat was cold, faintly shut-up smelling. His sheets felt clammy; it was too quiet; the bed was too big: he couldn't sleep. Doyle told him not to worry, though, so he had nothing to do but lie awake wishing he were elsewhere.
He paced the pavement, braved the two steps to the door, had a hand hovering over the bell when he lost his bottle.
Two days, forty-eight hours--fifty, he amended after checking his watch: if Doyle didn't make him jump through hoops for those two days, it'd be a minor miracle. Those two days....
For years he'd danced around Doyle, leaning in, leaning away; he'd pushed and pulled and patted at the man, hoping for just this eventuality, and he'd run off when it was offered him. And now he was outside clucking and scratching.
He could easily hate Doyle for those fifty hours. He'd spent most of that time hating him for dicing with the thing he most valued. For turning it inside out, exposing its delicate guts--showing him it wasn't what he'd firmly believed it to be.
Back down on the pavement, he paced some more, to and fro in front of Doyle's flat, wondering if cowardice kept him there, or only a perfectly natural reluctance to lose what he had. Only he didn't have it, did he. Not anymore. The refuge of not knowing was no longer available to him. But once through that door and even the precious illusion would be gone. Reluctance or cowardice, it made no difference. All he could do was make a choice.
Wanting Doyle was old news. Loving Doyle--he hadn't chosen; there'd been nothing voluntary about that. He couldn't think of a single point at which he might have done differently and stopped himself. Being with Doyle--he'd had two days (fifty hours fifty hours) to think and hadn't managed to make up his mind.
He could still put off the decision, could go away and think some more. Once he pushed the bell, though, he'd have to decide in a hurry: yes or no, and then everything else would be out of his hands. It was like HALOing at night. You checked for the ring and you stepped out into black hurtling nothing; you plunged towards a hungry earth you couldn't even see and you clutched that fucking ring for dear life.
And you were scared shitless. Inevitably there came that moment you knew the chute was going to fail. But no, the ring worked and you floated safely to the ground, and all the way down and right up until the next jump, you congratulated yourself you'd won out over gravity. Next time you'd be shit-scared all over again, but you'd check for that ring. And you'd leap. It was up to you when you used the ring, but once you stepped out of the aeroplane, everything else was far beyond your control.
No one ever really beat gravity. He hadn't splattered himself across the landscape yet, but as he mounted the steps and pushed the button, he was thinking there was always a first time.
Doyle let him in, pulled back into the living room, leaving him the narrow entry hall out of consideration or a diffidence Bodie hadn't anticipated and couldn't interpret. More like Doyle to get between his prey and the escape route.
He'd kept Doyle waiting, and the wait had left its mark. In Doyle's solemn, uncertain eyes, foreshadowed by defeat, he saw how long those fifty hours had been. His indecision had hurt, and he couldn't bear to have done that. He opened his mouth to say something that would repair the damage and didn't know what to say. Christ, Doyle had fretted himself to a frazzle; he looked...Doyle's chute hadn't opened yet.
But the man was all nerve still. "Told you, Bodie, it's up to you. Whatever you want, that's what we'll do. Whatever you need."
For a long time--years, now--he'd needed to be what Doyle wanted him to be. For once, though, he knew exactly what that was. "I need--" The words came strangled, rough; he had to clear his throat and begin again. "Need you to come to me, Ray, 'cause I don't think I can peel myself off this door."
Without hesitation, Doyle came to him. Bodie shaped a palm to his face, took one last look--this is the way it used to be--and jumped.
Doyle's kiss was sweeter than revenge. There went the last of his initiative and his control. His mouth was all Doyle's to lick at, to breathe into. He was all Doyle's to move here and there, Doyle's to arrange and regulate. Doyle drew him down the hall and into the bedroom and stripped them both, slowed by passion and playfulness and the way he got distracted at each stage of Bodie's undress. Doyle pushed him back onto the bed, moved over and onto him in a sprawl that seemed careless but fitted them together at mouth, belly, cock. Doyle said his name, settled in the spread of his legs, kissed him breathless.
Then Doyle levered himself up on one elbow and grinned down into his panting befuddlement. "Afraid we've hit the limit of my practical knowledge, mate."
Bodie blinked up at him, stupid with arousal and, when meaning soaked through, unexpectedly choke-y; it got right to some place left open and vulnerable in him, that he should have all the experience and his partner, it seemed, only enthusiasm and the inclination. And the courage.
"I'm looking forward to frequent practice," Doyle continued with a heavy, happy leer. "Plan on acquiring the necessary expertise in no time, but at present it's all theoretical from here on. So if you'd prefer to take over--?"
"No." He shook his head, laughing. He'd done it, defied gravity and won, and the prize, the floating down, was the very best part. "No, you go right on, Ray. You're doing fine."
Towards morning, he lay listening to Doyle's breathing, deep and regular and quiet. He longed to pull him close, to assay the textures of his body, relish soft skin over wire-like muscle, press a palm over the beat of his heart. But Doyle wouldn't permit it; already, he'd learned his partner drew away from contact in his sleep. Too new, he reasoned, contenting himself with inhaling the scents of sleep-sweat and herbal shampoo and soaking up Doyle's equatorial heat. The rest would come in time.
This first night in Doyle's bed--first of many, Bodie hoped--wasn't turning out as he'd expected.
Doyle's physical strength was a match for his own. That had surprised him, when he'd found it out. They'd contested over...something; he forgot what: it'd been years ago. His partner was finer-boned, but those bones might as well be made of stainless steel. So he'd considered how he'd handle it, if battle lines were drawn--hadn't settled on what he'd do, but over the past two days he'd given it some thought.
But it had been love, not war.
Give Doyle an inch, he'd take a long-term lease, then post a To Let notice. That was just Doyle being Doyle, and couldn't be helped; there was nothing to be done about it. He'd known, if he wasn't careful, he'd get too comfortable, and a certain look would cross Doyle's face, the one that said, "You're in the palm of my hand, I can do anything I like with you, I own you."
Oh, he'd got more than comfortable; he'd got lost in Doyle's bed, given himself away entirely. And Doyle--Ray Doyle, a man to step aside for--had shivered frantically, closed those knowing eyes as if it were too much to look at him at all, and mumbled sweet nothings to his collarbone.
God, they were good.
His partner, a man of strange tastes apparently, thought he was worth waiting for. He knew he'd never hear a word about those two days. But he knew, too, that he'd regret them forever. Pay for them, if he could. He thought he ought.
Coach and Horses: the faded sign said this was the place. The music was loud, the patrons louder, and the air was blue with smoke. Bodie forged through the crowd, scanning for Doyle, and spotted him, eventually, in sole possession of two chairs and a table not much bigger than a handkerchief.
He relaxed at the sight of his partner, Doyle abstracted, seemingly, one finger tapping on his glass, otherwise immobile, a faint smile on his face. Abstraction or no, Bodie gained his attention by doing nothing, then, once he had it, raised an interrogatory brow and mimed taking a drink. Doyle refused with a headshake.
He collected a drink and fought his way, through the tide of bodies running strong to barward, to Doyle's table, where he found no Doyle. The table was still free--someday he must learn that trick; wouldn't mind adding it to his own repertoire--and Doyle's drink was still there. Bodie sniffed, sipped, discovered a tonic and lime that had never been introduced to a gin bottle, and wondered if he shouldn't've asked for Scotch.
Doyle hadn't gone any farther than the jukebox, where he was pressing buttons as if his pockets were lined with change. Bodie watched him return, gauging his recovery by his walk, the way he resumed his seat: better than yesterday, not so far along as Bodie would like.
"I'm fine," Doyle said, and, covered by a martial rattle of drums loud and sudden enough to make Bodie start: "Had a look at your transcripts."
"Jesus H. Christ." Bodie shook his head, openly admiring. "How'd you manage that?"
A self-contented Buddha's smile, secretive and serene together. "Friends in high places."
"Low ones as well?"
The smile became a full-strength grin, one Bodie was absurdly pleased to have provoked. There'd be no explanations made, no glimpse offered of Doyle's methods. Doyle would protect him from the details. Having come a long way the last few months, he was agreeable to that. "The interviews are okay. Good, all things considered. You're a cool one, Bodie."
"'s what I've been telling you for years."
"Harry?" Doyle waited for his nod. "Met you right here, about this time Tuesday night. Place was crowded, right? Like it is now."
He'd looked the pub over pretty thoroughly on his way in, but he did it again, committing it to memory. Yellowed paint, scarred wood, tired gold leatherette; dulled chrome and finger-marked glass. He put seedy, skinny Harry in Doyle's chair, old tweed coat and once-white shirt, nicotine-stained fingers nervously crushing his soft cap. No one could be expected to remember Harry--he was perfect, borderline invisible.
"Seems your precipitous friend has passed on."
Jesus. His eyes snapped to Doyle's. Wanting to look six ways at once, he forced himself not to make a move that might come across guiltily self-conscious. The Wurlitzer was cranked up, blaring out pipes and drums, the crowd was setting up a din, and Doyle was still smiling, more Mona Lisa than Buddha now. No need of his heart's trying to climb up his throat, then; he swallowed it down, poured shitty bar-brand whisky after it. "You know how to wake a feller up, don't you."
Doyle--inappropriately, Bodie felt--Doyle was having fun. His eyes sparkled; his fingers tapped out a rhythm livelier than the music's beat. "Don't worry. You're listening to the best security money can buy, mate."
"Yeah, all ten pee of it."
"Forty," countered Doyle, feigning wounded indignation. "No expense spared."
"What about that know-it-all doctor? Don't suppose he's had a change of heart."
"Won't matter if he hasn't.... If he has sense, he'll keep his clever notions to himself. Our man's doing the post."
"Ah." CI5's tame consultant pathologist, sympathetic to George Cowley and his Irregulars. When the Home Office laid on the leading expert for the post-mortem, no shit stuck to Cowley's department. "And the Old Man?"
"Will hear what he wants to hear, see no more than he has to see. Same as always."
Sketchy, but not shaky: Bodie reckoned it'd hold together. They'd built successful ops on flimsier foundations. "As easy as that. You've been busy as a box of kittens, sunshine." He heard himself sounding sour, wanted the words back before they were all the way out of his mouth, but too late, they were past recalling. Doyle blinked in what he knew for honest surprise, then went stiff and wary.
Furious with himself, he floundered for a change of subject. "You see the physio?"
"Yeah. He did everything but put the boot in, the bloody sadist. See the quack tomorrow, torture sessions to begin day after tomorrow, if he okays it." Doyle turned his glass slowly between his palms, fascinated, apparently, by the shuddering surface of his ginless tonic. "I've an alibi, if that's what you're asking."
"No, damn it, it isn't. Ray--" Long-fingered hands turned the glass back the other way. Studying the sprinkle of dark hair on Doyle's wrists below the cuffs of his jacket, Bodie unclenched his own hands, released his breath in a long, deliberate exhalation, letting go his exasperation and the dregs of his brief flash of fury. Choral voices twined through pipe-skirl: the music sank to a close, and the sounds of talk and laughter reminded him there were people in earshot. "You're all right? All ways?" Doyle's head came up, just enough for him to peer out from under his hair at Bodie, then enough to face him straight on. His eyes held a slow-growing warmth, and Bodie, trapped, could only return his gaze.
The same song began, drums punctuating a twining, wordless vocal.
This was one of those rare occasions when he looked at Doyle and knew he was seeing the man laid bare--open, transparent, everything he felt on view. Maybe, he thought, his imagination slipped its leash now and again, or maybe you had to study Doyle from a certain angle, the same vantage he had now.
Doyle could protect himself. When he must, Doyle could protect them both. He wished Doyle could trust him to do the same. It was a delicate enough balance, their working partnership, without the complications being lovers entailed. He'd always been confident of holding up his end, carrying his weight, right up to the moment he'd discovered Doyle's thumb on the scale.
Bodily fluids and the lower half of Krivas's face had run like a river. He'd twisted and thrashed, smearing the evidence of a painful and protracted death across the dun-coloured concrete floor of the workshop.
Bodie's stomach sloshed uneasily. He looked away from the scene-of-crime photos to Doyle, who, head cocked, one eye narrowed, was studying them as if contemplating works of macabre art.
"Some kind of acid?"
Doyle flicked a finger against a photograph and sniggered. "Concrete cleaner, I hope." Bodie's stomach rolled again.
Cowley frowned. "Aluminium cleaner."
"He drank it?"
"Not voluntarily," Doyle said, pointing. "Unless he stuck the shiv between his own ribs as well. Belt-and-braces sort, was he?"
There was something...off, in Doyle; he was, Bodie thought, enjoying himself in some perverse fashion. He felt strangely distanced from his partner, as if he'd gone straight on while Doyle had taken an unexpected turn down an unknown road. He tried and failed to catch Doyle's eyes, which was probably just as well, Cowley's office being no place to ask directions.
"A dispute between inmates," Cowley said, "or so the police believe. We'll be informed of all developments in their investigation, of course, but I doubt they'll find anything to interest CI5."
"Witnesses?" He ignored Doyle's incredulous snort. "Sir?"
"All off in the exercise yard walking their guide dogs." Doyle slapped the file closed, offered it back to Bodie, then, at his refusal, dropped it on Cowley's desk. "Works out well--tidy, really."
"Mmm." Doyle's coldly satisfied glance crossed his, veered away. "Only his insides to scrape together, not his discharge grant."
A grunt of protest from Cowley and they were dismissed. Left flat-footed and goose-fleshed outside the boss's door, Bodie had to hop: Doyle was at the stairs, and, by the time he caught up, halfway down them.
Bodie matched his pace all the way out the door, across the car park, where pale, cloud-filtered sunlight struck up off puddles and wet paving, shedding light but little warmth. Doyle had to slow long enough to dig his keys out of a tight pocket and Bodie beat him to his car. He planted himself against it, back propped on the driver's-side door, folded his arms and glared at Doyle over them, his best impression of an immoveable object.
By years' experience, by observation and--he tried to be honest with himself, when there was no disadvantage in it--by obsession, he knew his partner, or believed he did. Now Doyle, half-smiling mouth and defensive body-talk, wouldn't quite meet his eyes.
"Funny, isn't it?"
"Krivas does years in Parkhurst, doesn't even stub his toe. He's not in the Scrubs three weeks--"
"And maybe he stepped on the wrong toe." Doyle spun his key-ring on his finger. "Move over, will you."
He stayed where he was. "You finally have that personality transplant? Where's the saintly Raymond I know and love?" The jab was clumsy, but pissing Doyle off seldom required finesse. If he could make Doyle angry enough to be careless, he might fathom that taut, vicious satisfaction, so very much not the reaction he would have predicted. "No outrage? No armchair philosophy? No lecture on law and order?"
"Law and order?" Doyle lost his temper, if it were truly lost and not advisedly mislaid, not in heat but coolly. "Law and order's a lot like peace and quiet, isn't it. Not always the same thing. Sometimes it comes down to law or order, Bodie. Tell me you looked at those pictures and didn't wish there was more you could do to him."
"Tell me you didn't," he countered, feeling inexplicably harried. He didn't believe it was carelessness he was seeing. Right under his nose, Doyle had managed to turn the tables on him, transforming him from pursuer to pursued in a hunt he didn't quite comprehend.
Evidently Doyle understood more than he did. "Yes," he said with savage emphasis. "Oh, yes. Krivas was a special case, mate."
Ex-copper, the cold thought touched him. He swatted it away like a fly, but it came buzzing back. He knew people, Doyle did--it surprised Bodie, still, the people his partner knew, the favours he could call in. One hand washing the other, I'll scratch your back and you'll scratch mine...
He felt a little ill, for the risks he could, without much stretch, picture Doyle running, and a lot lost, for needing an operator's manual to read his own partner. "What did you do?"
Chin rising, spine stiffening, Doyle imitated, not at all convincingly, a truthful man. "Not a bloody thing."
That was all he'd get, he knew, unless he pushed Doyle harder than he was prepared to push. What did it take, anyway, to arrange a stubbed toe? A telephone call?
Past events suddenly presented themselves to him in a new light. Willis? He'd hated the son of a bitch, true enough, but he wouldn't wish Willis's fate on his worst--well. On anyone. Those bikers--King Billy's boys? They weren't all dead, that lot, but he reckoned a couple of them wished they were.
Doyle was an imaginative bugger. Bodie had always faintly envied him that.
"I'll do something soon enough," Doyle said through gritted teeth, "if you don't get out of my way."
Manual or no manual, Bodie wasn't afraid of Ray Doyle. Especially not when the man still wouldn't look at him. "Does Cowley know?"
"Don't be fucking stupid." He didn't, Bodie noted, ask, "Does Cowley know what?"
"Oh, Christ." The comebacks.... "What the hell, Ray?"
Doyle had that defiant, admitting-nothing set to his jaw; getting anything out of the stubborn shit could be like pulling teeth. He twirled his keys round his finger again and let them slap into his palm, closed his fist over them, silencing their jangle. Bodie rolled his hand, an impatient, get-on-with-it gesture, saw the decision in Doyle before he shrugged and spoke.
"I watch your back just like you watch mine. The same way, Bodie."
Yeah, so what. By the slight drop of his shoulders, the way his weight shifted without his having moved, the gentled line of his mouth, Doyle had revealed something extraordinary, something enormous. Bodie didn't see how. They covered each other, they'd done that for years.
Bodie waited, but Doyle didn't offer to expand on his declaration. He seemed content to let silence drift between them, overlaying and gradually muffling the traffic noise that beat on Bodie's awareness like distant surf. The expression on his face--he puzzled through a final few seconds' blissful ignorance, dredging up the memory of when and where he'd seen that look of Doyle's before, then pitched off the crumbling edge of all that was sure and comfortable. A spike of pure panic drove into him, set his heart pounding, his blood roaring in his ears. An ominous fear assailed him, that this moment would live on in his head, forever lurking and waiting for sunshine after rain or the scent of damp air laden with the stink of car exhaust to summon up afresh the shock of acquiring knowledge he couldn't unlearn. It was his own fault. He'd broken a cardinal rule of lovers' quarrels and dealing with Doyle: Don't ask the question unless you can handle knowing the answer.
Doyle, never much for touching, put out a hand; he fended it away. "Fuck, Doyle. What--fuck."
"You never--" He broke off, having no idea what to say, which way to go to get out of this. Too late to pretend ignorance, he'd missed his moment, and very likely too late to deny he bent that way. Events had spun too quickly out of control--out of his control, he acknowledged, suspecting Doyle of absolute confidence and running rings around him. He wasn't prepared for this eventuality. He'd always pictured Doyle angry, repulsed; because it was beyond the realm of the possible, he'd never seriously considered what he'd feel if Doyle wanted him.
Furious betrayal wouldn't've been his first guess.
"You might have said. Since you knew."
"Bodie--what would I say? It's not just about wanting, not for a long time now, and it's never been just about me. I know how you feel. Dunno what you think about how you feel."
That made a twisted kind of sense. He desperately wished it didn't. "You should have said something," he insisted.
"You needn't let on I've said anything now."
Without the car to prop him up, he might've keeled over at the sheer absurdity of Doyle, an unlikely Pandora, offering to stuff the plague of knowledge back in the box. "I can't just--look, I'll think it over, let you know..."
All eyes, hardened layers of self-protection conspicuous by their absence, Doyle reached out his hand again, drew it back without waiting for him to shy away. "It's up to you, Bodie, has been all along. Nothing's changed, not really."
He wanted to laugh at that, but he was afraid that, if he did, stopping would be a struggle. He was still falling, dropping away from every last one of his certainties, and the prospect of regaining his footing looked bleak, when his best chance lay in the man who'd shattered the bedrock out from under him, the same stranger he'd trusted to break any fall. He was steady enough to step away from the car, though, badly wanting Doyle gone. After a barely perceptible hesitation Doyle got in, wound down the window, looked up and out at him with a vast affection that struck at his belly, not his heart: he wanted to puke, and wouldn't Doyle find that reassuring.
"What makes you think I won't go straight to Cowley?" Rage, betrayal...hurt, with a sick edge to it: he wanted to hit back at Doyle, match him wound for wound. "How d'you know I won't shop you?"
"Ah, mate, I know you won't." Sympathetic, infinitely patient: how maddening, how contrary and how bloody typical, that Doyle's concern would be for how he felt, not for what he might do. Bodie wanted to grab a fistful of hair, drag him out of the car by it and beat the shit out of him. "I trust you, Bodie. Doubt I'd be in love with you if I didn't."
What a terrible thing for Doyle to say. It deflected his fury, left in its place a physical pain so acute Bodie longed to curl up around it, to ease it. By now he should know better than to quarrel with his partner. Every truly bitter flare-up between them ended this way, because he let himself forget that Doyle was more dangerous showing his throat than with a gun in his hands.
Retreat seemed the safest course. Bodie took a shaky step back, stopped, made himself stand his ground when his feet wanted to take another. Backing up was no longer an option; he'd missed his moment there, too. Untended, left directionless, the last of his anger had dissolved, and beyond pain, he was baffled as to precisely what he felt. Appalled, maybe, that Doyle could be entirely honest with him and not expect anything, not complicity, not even honesty, in return.
"Look," he said, from somewhere finding a voice. He had to speak or they'd be frozen in the car park forever. "I'll come by your place. Later. All right?"
That must have been all right with Doyle. Drained and dizzy and weak, very determinedly not thinking about the enormity of what he'd just lost, Bodie stood in the car park and watched his partner drive away.
The song's airy structure collapsed, precarious balance overset by a power chord. Bodie winced, his temples giving a warning twinge. How many times was the damned thing going to repeat? He couldn't keep ahead of the music or keep it tuned out, and its random intrusions unsettled him. The pieces of the song didn't seem to belong to a coherent whole.
Doyle left his question. "You'll be back on duty by Friday. Made plans for after? I'm going to cook."
"Oh, yeah? I may as well turn up, then."
"Good. Surveillance'll be down tomorrow."
"What about tomorrow night?" Friday felt too far off. He needed--sooner. "Ray?"
"I should be up to strenuous cooking by Friday." A hot-eyed look raised Bodie's skin temperature. "Tomorrow's out, sorry. Have a few loose ends to tie, some errands to run."
Doyle said this so casually, as though he were making offhand conversation out of any words at all. An oily chill slid through Bodie's gut, Doyle heating him up one minute, freezing him the next, Atropos with a Swiss Army knife. He watched his knuckles go white on the empty glass in his sweat-greased grip--why didn't he remember polishing off his drink? Ray Doyle's first rule of knife-fighting: bring a gun. "Loose ends and errands like what?"
"Go round the shops--the cupboard's bare, mate. See the doctor." Still studiedly casual. "Known associates and LKA."
Nobody would make connections or draw conclusions if Peter Hill's nearest and dearest started dropping like flies, and Bodie was the Queen Mum. His chair creaked sharply, loud in a brief quiet passage of the infernal music, as he gathered himself to protest.
Doyle's hand nudged his. "I'm only going to look."
Close scrutiny of his partner's face revealed nothing more sinister than a gently amused indulgence that made Bodie's heart do funny things. Doyle sometimes wore that expression during sex, and his employing it now meant Bodie was willing to sit here forever.
Doyle hurried him. "Go home, Bodie, you look all in. Call from HQ tomorrow, and I'll ring you there Friday, okay? Come on, Friday dinnertime, you can keep out of trouble till then."
Of course he could, it was only forty-eight hours. Getting slowly to his feet, he stored up enough of Doyle to get him through the next two days. Velvet cord jacket in a deep wine colour--Bodie'd always liked that one--ruffled hair, beard-shadowed jaw: shaving was for blokes who worked. Clear, untroubled eyes, mouth soft and relaxed--by the look of him, Doyle had been sleeping the sleep of the just and the innocent.
None of the pain of the last week showed, and Bodie rated the strenuous after-dinner cooking a better-than-even chance. "Hey. Almost forgot to ask." He made his wink as heavily, lewdly playful as he could. No observer could take it for anything but a joke, the same calculated mock-flirtatiousness he'd levelled at his partner for years. "What's on the menu Friday?"
Doyle treated him to a cock-lifting chuckle. "Scaloppini," he announced, "al vino bianco."
Bodie rolled his eyes and groaned, and Doyle added, "Con funghi," curling the ends of an imaginary moustache. It tickled Bodie that Doyle would believe he was laughing at the comic-opera accent and not at the prospect of one of the awful messes his partner fondly imagined he could cook.
Friday morning, as he did most mornings, Bodie minutely examined his reflection while lathering his throat and face, scanning for any sign of encroaching grey hair. None yet, thank God. Doyle was sexy with those silver-threaded temples--Doyle was sexy, full stop--but going grey would only age him.
Chin raised, he made a tight mouth, scraped along the underside of his jaw, first the left side, then the right. A shallow, almost bloodless nick reminded him, for the third morning running, to pick up some razor blades. He took extra care above his upper lip.
After shaving, he rinsed his razor, tapped it dry on the basin's edge, and patted on Antaeus, flinching from the tiny sting. Another careful examination of the glass assured him he was the same as always: showered and shaved, combed and curried, a stubborn lick of curl subdued. Steady-eyed, he hoped, nothing showing that shouldn't be, and otherwise presentable. Not bad-looking. Doyle occasionally called him gorgeous, but he'd always put that down to the beholder's eye--and the booze; Doyle was usually a drink or three along before the compliments came out.
Worrying was Doyle's department and Bodie whistled happily while dressing, knowing he could safely leave him to it. There were perks to having standards he couldn't hope to meet. Doyle believed in roses and lavender, law and order, justice. Duplication of effort was inefficient, so he didn't try to live up to Doyle, just relied on him to know where right ended and wrong began. They were partners, after all, and Cowley must've had his reasons, good reasons, for putting them together. As long as he carried his weight, did his share, Bodie could face himself in the mirror.
He wasn't perfect. If Doyle felt things too deeply, well, sometimes he didn't feel deeply enough. He didn't keep a close enough eye on Doyle, should take better care of him, really. Should tell him how he felt, too--Doyle deserved to hear it, and the longer Bodie let it go unsaid, the harder he'd find it to say. He had his faults. Hell, no one knew that better than he did. But when he looked in the mirror, mostly he liked what he saw.
He could meet his own eyes, morning after morning, because Doyle loved him. And Ray Doyle was a good man.
-- THE END --
Doyle's reading material:
Ross, Edward S., Author-Photographer and Kuhm, Dwight, Photographer. "Mantids, the Praying Predators". National Geographic, February 1984, pp. 268-280