On the nine o'clock news an oil tanker lay on its side in the waves.

Doyle, hiding behind the rim of his mug, waited gloomily for the first shot of gummed-up seabirds struggling on the shore. The North Sea was sloshing against the tanker, rocking it slightly as the helicopters hovered above. He blinked his eyes, almost seasick. The sound was turned down but he could distinctly hear water. His head turned stiffly.

"You alright in there?"

No answer.

Doyle got to his feet, still slightly transfixed by the waves breaking over the deck. Looking away from the screen, he leant on the bathroom door.

"Come in number six, your time is up."

No reply except another slop of water.

Doyle pushed open the door with the mug.

Bodie was lying full-length under a mass of foam, steam rising from the glittering surface, his black head slicked and wet, eyes closed, one hand holding a tall glass with what looked like half a lemon floating around in it.

“Yes?” he said, without opening his eyes.


“In one piece,” Bodie said. “Ta very much.”

The thanks were replete with meaning. He still did not open his eyes. His big toe curled around the hot tap. As he broke the surface of the foam slightly, shifting position, Doyle noted that Dreissinger's lot hadn't just slapped him around a bit. He'd been given a good kicking as well. Enough to warrant a trip to A and E, although of course he'd have to be spitting his guts out before he agreed to that.

"You'll shrivel up, you know. If you stay in there much longer."

The hint of an eyebrow. "I'll take my chances." An arm extended the glass towards him. "Thank you, Jeeves."

Doyle took it, shaking his head. "Any tonic in there at all?"

"Nah," Bodie said, his eyes opening at last and focusing straight on him. "Just the gin." Doyle could hardly credit it. Bedroom eyes. Even in the bath. "So tell me, what did his Cowness have to say?"

Doyle's wrath, temporarily obscured by the stricken tanker, came back to him with full force.

"You don't want to know, mate. You really don't want to know."

"I really do want to know, Doyle. You were yacking on the phone with him for long enough."

“Oh, he only flaming well thinks I was out of order ... you know, trying to stop some maniac blowing himself to smithereens. You ... apparently .... were doing the decent thing."

"It was rather decent of me, wasn't it," Bodie said. "Come on, Doyle. He’s got a point."

“Yeah, he’s got a fucking point. I don’t know what fucking point it is, but he’s got it alright.”

"Feeling a bit grouchy are we?"

"He just did a loop for Christ's sake. You ... you got a hero-gram and I got fucking hammered."

"Life is unfair, Raymond, don't you know? Forget about all that. Do me a favour would you?"

Doyle feebly flapped his heated feelings against the solid, cool wall of Bodie at his most phlegmatic. "A refill?" he hazarded.

"I think I've mislaid the soap," Bodie said. He squeaked his toe against the tap.

"Oh," said Doyle. "The soap." He put aside the glass and mug on the floor, rolled up one sleeve and shuffled to the side of the bath, plunging his hand into the still-hot water. Bodie watched him, smiling pleasantly.

"No, sorry, can't seem to find it." Doyle swished his hand around and then shrugged apologetically. "Hold on, wait a minute ..." He mimed a look of surprise. "Here it is," and his hand closed around Bodie. Solid, cool, phlegmatic, and already rock hard. Bodie did not move a muscle.

"Playing games are we?" Doyle muttered, not sure if he was cross or turned on. Bodie was giving him that look. That go-on-make-me-react look. Doyle straightened his arm, tightened his grip, because that always did the trick, and slid his hand north very slowly. Not a blink, not a swallow, not the slightest tremor. Doyle realised that if he was really cross he would have stopped right then. But he didn't want to stop. He wanted the reaction. He needed something in particular right now, after believing he was about to lose Bodie to fifteen pounds of dynamite in the middle of a field. He needed the dreamy look. The little cloud drifting across that cocky, gimlet stare. Grunts and gasps and expletives he could do without. It was the look he needed.

Bodie resisted. They had to fight these battles, these wars of attrition, because Doyle set himself up for it and Bodie knew no other way. The resistance pooled warmly in his chest, stomach and groin.

"This what they teach you in the army?" Doyle said. He worked slowly, because Bodie was a slow burner. Eventually, he hoped, Bodie's head would drop back slightly. That haze would enter his eyes. "Give it up, sergeant," he said. Go on, Bodie, give in. Give in, for a change. It's not torture. It's not the SAS. It's normal. You can do it.

Bodie enjoyed Doyle's efforts. He could have given in. Easy. Opened the floodgates, let it all out, given the poor sod the satisfaction. It was Christmas and birthdays all in one to give Doyle satisfaction. But he wouldn't do it. It was still too close, the feel of the explosives bumping gently against his chest, the certainty that he was going to blow, the unholy overdose of adrenaline that had fuelled his legs as he tried to get away, that unwelcome feeling that actually he wanted it to blow ... take him away ... just as long as Ray wasn't anywhere in the vicinity.

Doyle sensed when Bodie had stopped playing the game. Only from the slightest diminution of his stare, however. There was no other movement. Doyle uncurled his fingers and let his hand wander.

"You can clean out my belly button fluff if you like," Bodie said.

Doyle flicked him sharply with a forefinger. A wince. A definite tightening of muscle.

So ... a little tender, after all. You hurt me, I hurt you.

"I'm not grovelling around on the bleedin' floor for you anymore," Doyle said, well on his high horse. He rose to his feet, beginning to unbutton his shirt, wet up to the shoulder. Turning away and padding out he heard the water pouring down off Bodie's body as he stood up in the bath. Then the sticky sound of his wet feet on the lino. He got out of his shirt staring at the telly screen again. The Test scorecard glimmered at him. Two hundred and forty seven for eight .... I don't bloody believe it.

Bodie passed in front of his eyeline. The light from the screen showed up black bruises. Great snarling swirls of them. All over.

Bodie glared at him. "I'm fucking knackered, Doyle. You coming to bed, or what?"

The fatigue had finally got to him. A massive slap in the kisser that was the flipside of everything that had happened today. His nostrils flared slightly in irritation at his own weakness. Without waiting for a reply he moved next door and Doyle heard him lowering himself by degrees on to the bed, mumbling "bugger, shit and sod" through his teeth as he did so.

Doyle slid gently off his high horse. He dropped his shirt on the floor, switched off the telly and turned out the bathroom light.

Bodie was flat out, the sheet round his waist, eyes shut. Doyle clunked his belt loudly as he took off his jeans, watching the chest rising and falling, a little too fast to convince him that Bodie was anywhere near relaxed enough to sleep. He crawled in, seeking his position, laying his right arm lightly over the squared hips. Bodie growled a little and shifted the arm up across his chest with a hand.

Doyle stayed very still, sensing that the war was in abeyance. It could so easily have been one of those messy nights, with him left alone and wounded on the battlefield. But tonight ... something rare.

The hand remained on top of Doyle's, tense at first -- to stop it being snatched away -- and then calm. The breathing evened out.

A little miracle in SW11. Bodie had given in.

-- THE END --

August 2006

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