Through the Heart
Don't know why they always draw Cupid as such a dimpled innocent. Look at what he's usually pictured doing, for Christ's sake: tryin' to shoot people with a bloody bow and arrow! Not the kind of behaviour you'd expect a reasonable person to get all sentimental about, even if the arrows aren't the kind that kill--most of the time. Do nearly as much damage sometimes, though: they can turn a bloke's life upside down and inside out. I found that out through personal experience.
It was a Monday. Doyle and I had had the weekend off, for once, and even though the day was promising to be grey and dreary as only February can be, I was feeling pretty good about life when I walked into Headquarters a good five minutes early. I found Doyle in the lounge, slurping from a cup of tea and making the kind of noise at it that always put me in mind of walking across a muddy field in a pair of wellies. He was wearing the same pair of tatty jeans I'd seen him in a hundred times before, and an old green tee-shirt which was starting to get short and wide the way they do when they've been through the wash too many times. From the toes of his well-worn trainers to the top of the disorderly tangle of his hair, he was the same Doyle I'd seen almost daily for the past three years, since Cowley had partnered us. There was nothing new about him, nothing out of the ordinary--but that day, I took one look at him and that was that. Never mind that it was against all common sense, never mind that it ran contrary to the way I'd always thought about myself; Doyle--scruffy, ill-tempered, contentious Doyle, whose wiry, angular form held nothing of the soft curves I'd always favoured--was suddenly exactly what I wanted. The ideas which came into my mind at the sight of him were the kind to make Mary Whitehouse turn purple and froth at the mouth. If I hadn't learned long ago to keep what I feel from showing on my face, they would have had me turning red, and possibly drooling as well, or maybe just panting. They were that kind of idea. The surprise of it was enough to make me dizzy--and it was not what I would have called a welcome discovery. I tried to tell myself that it had to be a momentary lapse into insanity, that if I were just to wait a moment, reason would return to me and everything would be as it had been before--but I knew it wasn't going to be that easy. I also knew that the very last thing I wanted to do was to let Doyle know anything about it. He was a good partner, the best I'd ever had, but I knew the brand of trouble I'd be in if he ever found out.
Doyle's a good mate. I know I can trust him to guard my back any time. He is, however, not what the insurance blokes would call a good risk in the area of emotional attachments--not that I am, either, but that wasn't what was bothering me at the moment. Doyle tends to take advantage of any edge he finds he has, under any circumstances; I think that's part of his problem when it comes to any kind of long-term relationship. Natural enough, that, but I didn't want him using what I'd just discovered against me. It's one thing to have him use me as some kind of beast of burden when he doesn't feel like carrying his share of whatever load; I don't much mind it--after all, I'm better built for it than he is. If Doyle were a racehorse, I'd be a Clydesdale. A good-looking Clydesdale, to be certain, but not the kind of fine-boned, quicksilver creature my partner is. And if it makes him feel better to act as if I don't have any finer feelings, that's all right, too. It's not like I advertise the few I do have. But I like Ray, and if he started to make my life difficult because of what he found out about how I felt about him, I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep likin' him.
He might decide he didn't like the idea of me having lustful thoughts over him, and thinking about that possibility, I couldn't quite decide which way he'd jump. Could be that he'd drop the subject cold, never mention it again, and also never quite be at ease with me again. I could see him doing that. On the other hand, with that relentless way he has about him sometimes, he might decide that it was the best joke he'd heard in years, and never let me hear the end of it. On the third hand--and when dealing with Doyle, it wouldn't hurt to have a spare hand up your sleeve sometimes, because he can take some handling--he might decide he liked the idea. And that, given him being the way he is, and me bein' the way I am, could all too easily lead to the kind of hell that I've seen too many people walk into willingly, with the cake and the nice suit and the white dress and the bells ringing and the presents and all that. There are a lot of couples out there who've spent their lives making each other miserable. I had no desire to emulate them.
"Mornin'," he mumbled at me, and slurped at his tea again.
I made myself move forward, feeding coins into the machine and taking the steaming cup it dispensed, while trying to pull my scattered wits together. I took a sip of the brownish brew, wondering for the thousandth time what unnatural ingredients had gone into its making, and turned around. "Mornin'," I answered.
Doyle cocked his head at me. "You sickening for something?"
"No," I answered. "Just wondering why I bother to drink this slop."
"Don't see a gun at your head." The pugnacious look on his face told me that he was in his usual cheery morning mood.
"Bodie, Doyle," Betty's clear voice came from the doorway, "Mr. Cowley would like to see you both in his office."
I dropped my still half-full cup into the bin, and watched as Doyle levered himself up from the chair he'd been slouched in. It wasn't so much the way his body was put together, as the way he moved it around, I decided.
"Got a smut on my nose, 'ave I?" he asked, brushing by me on his way to the door. "I know it's not me flies. Learned to make sure those were done up years ago, so no use your hoping to catch me out."
I shrugged. "If you say so. Learned that the same time you learned the polite way you drink your tea, did you?"
Doyle gave me that grin of his, and headed towards Cowley's office. I followed, not unwilling to do so.
There was a box on Cowley's desk, a little larger than a shoe box, done up in red foil with a white bow. I eyed it from where I stood, wondering what it held. Doyle craned forward a little, looking at its shiny exterior, but made no comment.
"3.7, 4.5," Cowley said, "sit down. There has been, according to information given to me, a threat of blackmail made against one of the members of Her Majesty's government."
"Blackmail?" Doyle said. "Not usually our responsibility, is it? The Police know well enough how to deal with it most of the time."
"Our responsibility is whatever I say it is, Doyle, but you're right. Under most circumstances, this matter would not be a matter for CI5's involvement. The particulars of this case, though, make it something we will pursue."
"Who's being blackmailed?" I asked. "And why?"
Cowley pushed his glasses up on his nose. "Who is Sir Gervaise Gainesworth. Why--" he paused, then lifted the lid from the box and pushed it forward. "This was sent to him yesterday. He feels that it is a threat." Cowley's voice went on as we looked in the box. "It was delivered to him at his office, by messenger, not through the post, and we have not yet been able to locate the messenger or his service."
Doyle saw the contents of the box at the same time I did. His eyebrows shot up under his fringe, and I saw him shake as he tried not to laugh. As for me, I was dumbfounded; what I saw was not what one would typically describe as a blackmail threat.
The box held a cleverly sculpted piece of chocolate. It wasn't a heart or a spray of roses or tulips or anything like that. It was a very realistic representation of an erect penis, larger than most blokes could hope to achieve, with a red ribbon bow tied around it. A little card lay beside it, with three words in fancy italic writing.
"Be My Valentine?!?" Doyle sputtered. "Are you sure this wasn't sent to the wrong person?"
"If it wasn't," I said, "I can see how he might see it as a threat. Been on and on in public recently about the evils of moral corruption, hasn't he? I get the impression he'd be happy to see public floggings for fornicators and unwed mothers, and summary hangings for homosexuals."
"Yeah," Doyle said, his voice turning thoughtful, "but exactly how is he making this out to be a threat to him? Is he worried that someone's going to try to use this to implicate him as one of the degenerates he's been talking about--or does he have something in his past that he's anxious to keep hidden?"
"Or his present," I suggested. "Never knew anyone to be quite so holier-than-thou as someone with a sordid skeleton or two in his closet." I paused. "But then if he's got something to hide, wouldn't he be more likely just to get rid of the evidence instead of calling anybody's attention to it by kicking up a fuss over a piece of chocolate? He could've simply thrown it right into the rubbish; it's not like he was dealing with something carved in stone. Chocolate's easy enough to break up into pieces, and if the pieces were small enough, it'd be hard to tell what the original shape had been. Or there's other ways he could have got rid of it. He could melt it down easily enough, and what's suspicious about a big blob of melted chocolate? Serve it over ice cream and have a party." I realised I was coming close to babbling and shut my mouth before Cowley could tell me to do it. Nothing like being distracted to lead a bloke to make a fool of himself.
Cowley placed the cover back on the box with a decisive movement. "Gainesworth may very well have decided to destroy this--had he not received it and opened it in front of several witnesses. It's also not impossible that he may have had it sent to himself, for his own reasons."
Trust the Cow to come up with something like that. I've long thought that it's a good thing he's on the side he's on; if he weren't, society would be dealing with a new Moriarty. He went on, "I want you two to find out where this chocolate came from, who sent it, and why. I have sent a small sample to be analysed by the lab, and the results should be ready by this afternoon, which ought to make your task less difficult. If you also are able to determine further details about Gainesworth's reasons for considering it a threat, I will not be displeased."
So the wind blew that way, did it? I couldn't help but speculate about what might have called Cowley's attention to this case in the first place. I could just imagine Gainesworth, the incensed choler of his face in vivid contrast to the sleek blond locks and blue eyes which made him so photogenic, waving his hands about and insisting to everyone within earshot that he'd find the deviate who'd sent him the chocolate--that he'd set CI5 on them! I could see him going to the Minister and insisting that the full resources of CI5 be called into action on his behalf. I could also imagine George Cowley's displeasure at being pressured into using CI5 for such a nugatory purpose. Gainesworth might well find that he had made a mistake. It didn't pay to call Cowley's attention to yourself if you had anything to hide.
That thought prompted me to shudder inwardly as I suddenly thought of the further complications which might ensue if anyone else ever found out that I had started seeing my partner as sexually attractive. I did not want to find myself in the position of trying to explain to Cowley what I didn't really understand myself. If you can give the Old Man a reason for doing something outrageous, he'll listen--occasionally. Somehow, I didn't think that explaining to him that my balls were doing my thinking for me would be sufficient excuse for this latest peccadillo of mine.
"What are you waiting for, Bodie?" Cowley said sharply. "On your bike."
I realised that Doyle was at the door, waiting for me, and that I'd been standing there ruminating far too long. "Yes, sir," I said, and took myself out of there smartly.
As we headed down to pick up Doyle's car--it was his turn to drive--he took me to task. "Not up to your usual standards, mate," he said.
I shrugged. "Wool-gathering, I suppose."
"Not that," he said, "though I did wonder what you thought you were doing, just standing there staring at that box. Meant the way you didn't come up with some sarky comment about that chocolate prick. Ordinarily, you'd have said something about it. Was surprised you were able to resist the temptation. On your good behaviour, are you?"
"Not exactly," I said. "Unlike some people, I don't always have to get everything I can out of a situation."
"Yeah, that's believable," Doyle said, "if I didn't know you. More likely you were just overwhelmed at the sight of that thing. Make you feel inadequate, did it?"
I raised my eyebrow at him. "It'd take more than a bit of chocolate to do that. Just think about the way it'd go all limp in the heat and then melt."
Doyle gave a filthy laugh. "Wonder if it's filled with marshmallow creme. Be more lifelike if it was."
"I am? Get in the car, partner, before I'm tempted to start explaining just who's warped around here--and why. You know I can give you chapter and verse."
Not wanting to argue the point right then, I got in the car and we drove off.
You wouldn't believe the number of candy shops we found. By noon, I was growing tired of the smell of chocolate, as unlikely as that might seem to anyone who knows how I like the stuff. By the time we'd visited the third shop, Doyle and I had worked out our approach, and things went fairly quickly. First, I'd go in and purchase a variety of chocolates, the plain kind, without nuts or fillings or anything like that, to send to the lab for analysis. Then, Doyle would come in and tell the owner or the shopgirl that he wanted to buy a very special chocolate for his girlfriend, and ask if they made chocolates to order. No, he didn't ask for a big chocolate prick, though he sniggered at one point and suggested to me that he might, if sufficiently provoked by a surly response. Either the shop assistants were polite to him, or he decided that discretion was the better course, because I only ever heard him ask for a big chocolate heart with a name written on it. The name varied with the shop; I think Doyle was going through a mental list of old girlfriends. Some of the shops said they could do it, and we added those shops to the list we were keeping. To avoid ending up with several pounds of chocolate that he'd have to pay for himself, Doyle would then say that he was still shopping around for the best price he could find. Some of the shops couldn't offer custom-made chocolates, but offered instead a selection of already made up special items. A few of them were nearly as surprising as Gainesworth's chocolate. You wouldn't believe what an inventive and slightly twisted mind can do with moulded chocolate, piped icing, and a few bits of marzipan!
By the end of the day, the boot of the car was filled with little paper bags of chocolate. I'd sampled some of them for taste, early on, but I'd reached my limits well before noon, and had been almost glad to see the limp, past-their-prime sandwiches Doyle had found for our lunch. At least they weren't sweet--even if they managed it by being next to tasteless. Most of the bags were destined for the lab, but a few of them--the ones in their own little pile, over to the right side of the boot--contained items Doyle had not been able to resist when he'd been shown them. When we got back to Headquarters, he couldn't wait to dive into the boot to reclaim his prizes, leaning over to scoop them up--and incidentally sticking his bum up in the air for all to see. Wear-thinned denim stretched over taut muscle as he bent nearly double, a lure for eye and hand. I gritted my teeth and kept my hands to myself. I'd been doing that all day long, of course. Didn't seem to make much difference whether I was watching him bend over to unlock the car door, or watching him squirm around in the car seat until he was comfortable, or watching him turn the charm on some poor unsuspecting shopgirl, with his voice getting that husky note in it and his face and his body becoming enticement in action; I'd spent the day in a state of discomfort, and glad that my jacket was long enough to conceal it. It hadn't made it any easier that Doyle had seemed exceptionally easy to get along with all day long. If I'd been able to work up a good annoyance at him, it might done something to counter his appeal.
"Get those, will you?" he said, as he straightened up.
I looked at the collection of little white paper bags which were left, and bent to pick them up. Had a fine time juggling them all into my arms, but Doyle thoughtfully picked up the two bags I dropped, and stuffed them back under my chin, before jogging towards the elevators.
"Hurry up, slowcoach!" he called.
I gritted my teeth again and followed, wishing I'd worn a looser pair of cords. I dropped the chocolate off at the lab, letting the receptionist know that the samples were to be compared to the one they'd received that morning, and headed upstairs to check in. The board said that Doyle and I were free for the evening, and I breathed a sigh of relief, anticipating being able to go home and wank myself silly, but Doyle stuck his head out of the rest room before I could make good my escape.
"Bodie! Hold up a minute!" He came towards me. "You weren't leaving, were you?"
"It's been a long day, Doyle," I said.
"Yeah, I reckon it has, at that." He looked me up and down. "You're not planning to go out this evening, are you? C'mon back to my place. I'll cook dinner--I've a new recipe for lasagne I want to try out."
Doyle's pretty good in the kitchen when he wants to show off. I was hungry already after the miserable excuse for lunch we'd consumed hours before, and my mouth watered at the thought of cheese and tomato sauce and pasta, but I also had to consider the idea of having to watch Doyle for two or three more hours, seeing him moving around, cooking, eating--his mouth stretching wide to take in a forkful of food, tongue dabbing tomato sauce off his upper lip.
"All right." I'd never really appreciated the attractions of masochism before.
The food was as good as I'd hoped it would be, but unfortunately, being around my partner was as difficult as I'd feared. What made it more than just a matter of an ache in my balls was the fact that I still enjoyed Doyle's company. If not for the way that my hands itched to touch him and my body throbbed at that idea, I would have been entirely content spending my evening there with him. Doyle's wit was still as sharp, his sense of humour still as wicked as before I'd started seeing him as someone to desire, and I found that I resented being too distracted to be able to appreciate those things about him. Doesn't make a lot of sense, but that's the way it was. I took one last bite of lasagne, enjoying the way the spices blended through everything, enhancing the flavour, then drank the last of my wine and stood up.
"Got to go, Ray. Thanks for the dinner."
Doyle stood, too. He reached out to block my way, and grasped my forearm. "You don't think you're leaving here just like that, do you?"
"Your kitchen; your dishes. You can have the dishpan hands tonight," I said unfairly, shrugging his hand off and wanting only to be gone from there. Maybe a good night's sleep would put things back into some kind of perspective.
"It's not the bloody dishes I'm talking about," Doyle said. "Something's been bothering you all day and I want to know what it is. Are you in some kind of trouble?"
"It's nothing you need to know about," I snapped, too off-balance to deny that anything was wrong. The look of concern in my partner's eyes was just one more thing to make me wish I could go back to the way I'd felt yesterday.
"When it makes you act like this, it is something I need to know about. I thought that if I just let you alone that maybe you'd tell me, so I didn't push, earlier, but that didn't work, so now I'm asking. Won't you let me help?"
"Earlier?" I repeated, uneasily, wondering how much Doyle had picked up. We're so attuned to each other, usually, that I ought to have known that he'd realise something was wrong.
"You've been acting weird all day, ever since you came in to Headquarters this morning," he said. "You've been fidgety, and distracted, and just not yourself. Are you in some kind of trouble? Something you don't want Cowley to know about?"
"It's nothing to do with you," I said.
"And I told you that it is. Now, are you going to tell me about it, or do I have to find out for myself? Might take me a little while, but you know I can." He glared at me. That implacable determination of his would have been plain to a blind man, and once Doyle gets his teeth into something, he won't let go.
I could have lied to him, I suppose, but once you start lying about something really important, it'll never be the same to you. I'd pretty much proved to myself that things between Doyle and me were going to be different no matter how I tried to deny what I'd come to feel, and he meant enough to me that I didn't want to tarnish the memory of how it had been before. If a man's your friend, you owe it to yourself and to him to be honourable with him. That's what I told myself, anyway, but perhaps fatalism had as much to do with what I did as any of that.
"C'mon in and sit down, Doyle. You'll need to," I said, leading him into the lounge and pushing him at the armchair. I stood in front of him with my hands clasped behind me. Best to give it to him in its most unpalatable, unadulterated form. "I'm one of those people Gainesworth is so set against."
"I already knew that," Doyle said thoughtfully, after a pause.
"Well, you're no unwed mum, obviously, but fornication is something you've been practising since I've known you."
"Stop playing games, damn you! You know better than that."
"All right." Doyle looked up at me, his eyes like chips of green ice. "You're a homosexual, then? Kept it hidden pretty well up to now. All those birds were camouflage, were they?"
"Must have been."
Doyle was shaking his head. "I don't think so. If they were, you'd have said so straight out, just now. Tell me the rest of it. What haven't you told me?"
My mouth felt stiff, and my knees wanted to wobble. I took a big breath, and looking straight at him, I said, "It's you I fancy."
"Oh." He sat up a little straighter. "You sure about that?"
I had to laugh, though it wasn't really funny. "No mistaking it, sunshine. Willie doesn't stand up for just anyone, you know, and he's been at attention all day, whenever I look at you."
Doyle put his hands over his face and leaned forward, shaking his head.
"So?" I said, after what seemed an eternity, "Nothing to say? I don't believe it."
He straightened up, and there was the oddest expression on his face. "You've no idea, have you."
"About what?" I said impatiently. "Doyle, I just told you that I'd like to screw you. Aren't you going to take a swing at me or yell at me or something?"
"You didn't say you wanted to screw me. You said you've been tenting your pants when you look at me. Not the same thing at all. Could be you're just over-sexed. Don't go jumping to conclusions, mate."
"Uh-huh. So, you think you want me." He rose from the chair, standing less than two feet away from me. I could feel the warmth of his breath as he spoke. "You want to touch me, do you? You want to put your hands on me and your prick in me? Is that what you want?"
"Ray, please!" I was so hard it nearly hurt. How I kept from reaching for him, I don't know.
"I'm right here. What's stopping you, then?"
"I don't want it that bad." Talking seemed like a very complex task right then; I found it difficult to say those few words.
He glanced down. "From here it looks like you do," he said coolly.
"I don't. Not bad enough to spoil everything else."
"I see. But you'll let me spoil things. Give me every opportunity to do so. Did you want me to blow up at you?"
"No. Not exactly. Thought it might be better, though."
"How so?" he asked.
"Look at us, Ray! It's not like we're either of us likely to be happy that way for very long!" I turned away from him.
"Shhh. It's all right." His hands came to rest upon my shoulders, and he turned me back around. "I'm sorry." He moved in close and put his arms around me. I could feel him against me. It was terrible and wonderful, and then as he murmured in my ear, it was only wonderful, and I leaned against him and put my arms around him and held him--and felt him hard, too, against my erection.
"Didn't mean to make you hurt, Bodie. It's all right; c'mon, touch me. Wanted you for ages. Didn't ever say anything 'cause I didn't think it could work, but now I think it might." He backed up, pulling me with him, and somehow we made it into the bedroom without tripping over anything.
"Might work?" I mumbled, caught between disbelief and wonder as his nimble fingers worked at my belt buckle.
He looked up, a lop-sided smile tugging at his mouth. "Might work is the best it gets, mate. No one ever gets a guarantee." He knelt down on the carpet beside the bed, drawing my cords down my thighs, and then carefully pulling my pants down after them. He put his mouth on my cock and used his tongue to devastating effect. I yelled, came, and collapsed sideways on the bed.
I felt my shoes and socks being taken off, and my trousers and pants pulled off after them. I wriggled my toes. The mattress sagged as Doyle climbed onto the bed beside me, and I opened my eyes. Doyle stuck his face down near mine and looked at me expectantly. I smiled at him.
"That better, then?" he asked
"You know it is." I put a hand behind his head and pulled. When his mouth met mine, I kissed him, greedily, and he kissed me back. His mouth was generous and giving, and I found myself craving it again even as I parted from it.
"You're good at that, too," I said.
"Thanks." He moved restlessly.
"Can't promise I'll be as good."
He shrugged. "What am I supposed to say to that, you berk? Can't know unless you try. If you don't want--"
I shut him up by kissing him again, and then set about finding out if I could rely upon beginners' luck once more in my life. It may have been that, or it may have been the sincere wish I had to make him feel what I had felt, and to know that I was willing and eager to share this with him, but though I felt clumsy at first, and the taste of him in my mouth was one I would probably not have delighted in before that day, knowing that it was Doyle made all the difference and I found that the experience itself was one to be ranked with the most enjoyable in my memory. Better yet, I knew Doyle as I'd known no other. The sound of his voice, moaning in anguished pleasure, and then raised in an urgent cry as his control broke utterly, was a potent spur to my efforts. I had long known how it was to work with my partner on the street, each of us depending upon the other, communicating by a glance or a gesture or sometimes seemingly by thought alone; this present shared endeavour gave me the same kind of exhilaration. To feel the eagerness with which he responded to my every touch, the way he surged to meet each stroke of my tongue, was a joy beyond simple physical delectation. At the end, his grip on my shoulders was painfully strong, but I could not have cared less for that discomfort; it was far outweighed by the knowledge that I could make him feel this way.
I listened to his panting breaths, and stroked along his sweating flanks, and felt myself to be a fortunate mortal, indeed.
"Anybody ever tell you," an exhausted voice said to me, "that grinning like that makes you look like the Cheshire Cat?"
"No one," I answered. "Doubt anyone's ever seen me grinning quite like this before."
"Ahh. C'mon up here, will you," Doyle said. "I want to say my thank you's properly."
I scrambled up to lie beside him, and we shared more than a few lazy kisses before dozing off.
Sleeping partly clothed, on top of the bedclothes, in February, is not one of the most comfortable experiences in the world; I woke again before long. Doyle moved sleepily to my urging, and allowed himself to be divested of the rest of his clothing. Moved by a faint remembrance of the necessities of the real world awaiting us on the morrow, I set the alarm clock before stripping off my poloneck and getting Doyle and me settled under the covers. Vastly content, with warmth all around and my partner within reach, I pulled him closer to me and settled down to sleep.
We woke during the night, several times. It couldn't have been past eleven when Doyle awakened me the first time. I'd defy anyone to sleep through being touched up that way. Not that I minded in the least. The feel of his wiry little body against me, and the slide and thrust of his hardness matching mine were intoxicating. Drunk on Doyle, I gave in to the temptation to touch him as I had imagined doing, my palms learning the textures of him and the shapes--from hard and bony to lushly curved to the fine arching strength of him. And all the time, he was touching me, too, hungrily, as if he found as much pleasure in it as I. The rest of the night was much the same; we couldn't seem to get enough of each other.
When the alarm went off at five-thirty, I knew that I may as well get up, because otherwise I was beyond rising. I sat up, thumped the clock to shut it up, and pushed the covers down. Chilly air settled over us in their place. A rash of gooseflesh prickled the skin of Doyle's back, and I ran a hand across it, pausing over a pattern of darkened bruises on the curve of his lower back. My fingertips matched them exactly.
"No good your doin' that," Doyle said sleepily into the pillow. "I'm done for. 'Ave to use a splint if you're really set on it, and even then...." His voice trailed off.
"Nah," I said, patting a buttock. "Just remembering past glories."
"Mmmm." He rolled onto his side and rubbed a hand over my breastbone, then downward. "Uh-huh." He half-rolled, half-fell out of bed, and staggered to the bathroom. I think his eyes were still closed. He came back out ten minutes later, looking much more awake. "Yours," he said, shrugging into a short towelling robe, and left the room. I heard sounds coming from the kitchen as I cleaned myself up and scrubbed at my teeth with his toothpaste. Coming back into the bedroom, I took one look at the bedclothes and stripped them off, leaving them in a pile in one corner while I made the bed up with fresh linen from the cupboard.
There was a mug of tea waiting on the table for me in the kitchen. Doyle was at the sink, up to his elbows in soapsuds. I picked up my tea, took a scalding swallow from it, then grabbed a tea towel and joined him, drying dishes as he washed.
"You feeling domesticated or something?" he asked.
I took a sidelong look at his face. It bore a carefully neutral expression. I put a finger on his chin and turned it in my direction. "I could be. D'you think I might have to keep it up for long?"
"I told you last night: there aren't any guarantees," he said, his voice level and very serious. "Any assurances you get in something like this can't come from any contract you sign or solemn vows you make. They come through what's in the hearts of both people involved. You know that as well as I do." He took a deep breath. "A thing like this can last only as long as we both want it to. As far as I'm concerned, it could last a long time. How about you?"
I rubbed my thumb across his lips, and they parted just a bit, making the idea of kissing him irresistible, so I did. "So long as you're mine, then I'm yours, sunshine." Hell, most couples started out with less between them than we already had, and some of them didn't end up making each other miserable. Maybe we'd have a chance. "But you've a hell of a line in romantic commitment, Doyle. 'No guarantees' isn't what I'd call immortal prose."
"You're one to talk! 'Willie's at attention'!?! Think I may have to have that engraved on something."
"Engraved on your arse if you're not careful, mate," I warned him. "Keep in mind, I wasn't exactly thinking clearly at the time."
"So long as you are, now."
"Clear as crystal," I promised.
We got to Headquarters a few minutes late, because I had to stop at my flat to get something to wear. I was not going to go around all day in one of Doyle's tee-shirts, however much he said he liked the idea when he saw me in it. The reports from the lab were back, matching the chocolate we'd bought from Treadway's Confections with the chocolate Gainesworth had received--but there was a note attached the folder the reports were in, telling us to report to Cowley's office as soon as we arrived.
Bubbling with curiosity, I led the way there. Cowley was seated at his desk, as usual, with that indefinable glint in his eye that he gets when he's achieved something to his satisfaction.
"Bodie, sit down--and you too, Doyle. You will not need to pursue any further the identity of the person who sent Gainesworth the chocolate. The matter is in hand."
I leaned forward and raised my eyebrows enquiringly; I didn't quite dare to ask straight out. Cowley shares things like that as and when he sees fit.
Doyle sometimes sees things a little differently than I do. "In hand?" he asked.
"Yes." Cowley leaned back in his chair. "I'll not need to remind you two that things that you learn here are to be kept strictly confidential--no matter how titillating
the details may be."
I nodded solemnly, and saw Doyle's head bobbing up and down like one of those little dolls with its head on a spring.
"Well," Cowley's voice slipped north of the border, acquiring more of that Gael lilt than it usually held, "it seems that Gainesworth's executive assistant, a Mr. Kenneth Clay, has conceived an affection for him which exceeds that usually seen in such cases. He imbibed over-freely on Friday evening, and impulsively and incautiously arranged for a token of his affection to be delivered to his employer."
I winced. I didn't know the unfortunate Mr. Clay, but I felt a certain sympathy for him, under the circumstances.
"Gainesworth was, as you might imagine, not pleased to discover this, but I was able to present the entire situation to him in such a way that he understood that certain features of it might tend to reflect unfavourably upon him if they became widely known. Mr. Clay is no longer employed, but he will be able to seek future employment in the knowledge that his references will reflect his excellent work, and not a brief lapse of judgement."
I had to grin. Could just see the Cow pointing out to Gainesworth--oh so delicately--the embarrassing potential if all the details got out. I'd wager he'd had him squirming in his boots before he was done. Would have been a subtle kind of lesson for Gainesworth--not to try to push his weight around in future, especially where CI5 was involved!
"It sounds as if the whole matter is wrapped up, then," I said, and was unable to resist adding, "but I do have one question: Did Gainesworth get his chocolate back?"
"Bodie!" Doyle said to me through gritted teeth. Then, he turned back to Cowley. "Sorry, sir. Think all that chocolate yesterday must've gone to his brain. I'll take 'im away now and see he gets his blood sugar checked. If you don't mind?" He stood, grabbed me by the arm and practically dragged me from the office. I didn't resist very much; I was weak with trying not to laugh.
"You imbecile!" he said, once we'd reached the safety of the corridor. "What did you think you were doing?"
I shrugged at him, and tweaked at a curl. Felt all silky, it did.
"And there'll be none of that around here, unless you want to try to think up a good explanation for Dr. Ross."
I took my hand away from his hair and sighed. "All right. But just you wait."
Doyle said, "I will." Then, he laughed. "Know what I'd tell Ross, though."
"You're back to normal." And he sniggered and fled down the corridor, keeping safely just ahead of me, until we reached the rest room and I knew I had to keep my hands to myself. It was a little frustrating, but I amused myself by remembering that we'd be going home again in a few hours, and making a few plans for what we might do then--assisted by the memory of those exotic chocolates Doyle had purchased the day before. I've never hesitated to borrow a good idea or two!
-- THE END --
2/4/96 - 2/11/96
Originally published in Syndicated ImagesM/b>, Entropy Express, 1985