For Amanda, because she asked.
The autumn sun was sinking swiftly to the horizon as Doyle pulled into a parking space near Bodie's flat. Even before the drive back to London, it had been a long day, beginning with the death of the girl at the hotel, ending with the uncertainty of Murphy's words to him: You've a chance, sunshine--don't cock it up.
He had tried to think of other things as he and Bodie had traded the driving, neither of them in the best of shape. He had thought of Parker, of Madame Ojuka, of the likelihood of rain tomorrow, but always the words had come back to him, along with the uncertainty. There had been no mistaking Murphy, or the bleak determination in his eyes, but...why? And what in bloody hell was he going to do?
"Drink?" Bodie's voice startled him, although it was merely the customary offer.
A glance revealed the weariness riding Bodie, despite the kip he'd grabbed when Doyle had taken over the driving. His face was pale, bones seemingly sharply defined, and his eyes were shadowed, edged with red. Grieving for the loss of Murphy? Had it gone that deep?
"Yeah." He shut off the engine, jerking the key out of the ignition. They'd left the hire car at HQ, where they had picked up Doyle's Capri. Bodie's car was already being repaired; it had been taken to London before they'd finished with Ojuka and Avery. Doyle reached to open his door, but Bodie's hand on his arm stopped him.
"You couldn't have saved her, Ray."
Susceptible, as always, to that particular tone in Bodie's voice, Doyle's heart twisted. From habit, he hid his reaction. "Yeah. I know. Let's go."
They jogged up the short flight of steps to Bodie's building, Doyle waiting while Bodie dug around in his pockets for his keys. Doyle had been to see the on-duty medic at HQ, as ordered, and he and Bodie had filed their reports before leaving. They were cleared for two days off; two days to recover. Murphy, Doyle had noticed, was due back at HQ by early evening--should be there now--and then was on standby. Was Murphy regretting his decision?
They went up to Bodie's flat, the same routine as a week ago, a month ago, the same as always after a tense op. While Bodie set about making the flat more welcoming, Doyle retrieved two beers from the kitchen. He placed one can on the table in front of the sofa for Bodie. Popping the top on his own can, he carried it to the window, drawn by the gathering darkness outside.
You've a chance, sunshine--don't cock it up.
His words to Murphy, his promise of non-interference, returned to him. If Murphy and Bodie had broken up there'd been little hint of it from Bodie. But then, he always did hide the pain that cut deep, hid it even from Doyle. And this, perhaps above all else, Bodie would keep to himself. They'd never spoken of Murphy, or of any of the men Bodie saw. Nothing since the day, years ago, when Bodie had asked if he was interested in men, and Doyle had said no.
Murphy and he had had an understanding, sod it, had worked out their respective roles in Bodie's life. What the fuck was this, then?
Bodie returned and settled on the sofa, opening his beer. "Parker worked you over, did he?"
"Started to." Doyle pulled the curtain across the window. There was nothing unusual in Bodie's voice, no clue to his mood.
"I hate babysitting jobs."
"You and me both, mate." Doyle turned towards Bodie. "Cowley might not have appreciated your impatience this morning, but I did."
Bodie smile was hidden as he lifted his beer. "He'll thank me when he remembers how expensive it'd be to replace you, sunshine."
"Oh, yeah, I can see that's an overriding concern of his." Doyle drank from his can. "Do you reckon Ojuka's chances of getting help from us have improved?"
"Because of the embarrassment of Avery's involvement?" Bodie shrugged. "Who knows? His chances weren't great to begin with. Are you going to sit down? You're making me nervous."
Doyle walked from the window to the centre of the room, setting his can on the table. He had to know where things stood, what Bodie was thinking. "I'm hungry. Fancy a takeaway?"
Bodie was slow to respond, and Doyle's stomach tightened. "I thought you might want an early night."
"You've got plans?" Christ. Bodie didn't know. "Louise, is it?"
"Maybe. Nothing definite." After a moment, Bodie raised his eyes to Doyle.
It was like being scorched by a sudden flame--warmth and pain flaring in equal measure in Doyle. He knew that look, understood its import. Bodie would stay for as long as Doyle needed him, if he wanted it. It was an unspoken agreement between them, working both ways, but more often used by Doyle. And it was an unnecessary test tonight. "He's not coming."
With quiet precision, Bodie set his beer can down. "What are you on about?"
"I know, Bodie. About you and Murphy."
It had been years since Bodie had closed that quickly against him, had shown Doyle so little expression on his face. A slow burn started, deep in Doyle's gut. So, it had gone deep with Murphy. "There's more."
Rising smoothly to his feet, Bodie stepped away from the sofa. "What?"
"He's ending it."
Bodie laughed, a sharp sound, like gunfire. "No, he's not."
"Look, Doyle, this isn't--"
"Shut up. He told me."
Bodie narrowed his eyes. "Murphy talked to you about him and me? He knew you knew?"
"Good of you to let me in on it." Bodie stalked to the drinks cabinet and reached for the whisky bottle. Doyle stayed silent. "I don't know where you get your ideas, Doyle. Yeah, Murphy and I are together. So what? It doesn't concern you." He put the whisky bottle back down without pouring a drink.
Doyle took a breath before he spoke. "I'm not making this up. It's over."
Bodie swung around, brushing a glass off the cabinet. It shattered against the floor. "Like hell. He wanted me tonight. I spoke with him this morning."
Doyle folded his arms tightly, and leaned against the wall. "Call him."
"What the fuck are you playing at, Doyle?"
Without a word, Bodie walked past him to the telephone. He dialled, listened, then slowly hung up the receiver.
"You know he should be home by now."
Bodie refused to look at him. "Delayed."
Bodie pinned Doyle with his eyes. "You spoke with him for less than two minutes!"
Seeing the confusion under the anger, Doyle breathed out. He unfolded his arms and moved forward a step, but stopped at Bodie's expression. "I don't know what was in his mind. I thought...it was working."
"Did you want it over?" Surprised, Doyle's eyes locked with Bodie's, and he knew he couldn't hide his own ambivalence. "Damn you." Bodie turned away, heading for the door, grabbing his jacket from the sofa as he passed it.
Doyle followed quickly. "Bodie!" He put a hand on Bodie's arm, stopping him at the door. Bodie flung him off. "All right, all right. Just...call Control."
Bodie stared at him, his face cool and remote, his eyes not. Doyle held his ground. With a curse, Bodie shoved past Doyle and returned to the telephone. His back to Doyle, Bodie dialled the number. Doyle looked down at his clenched fists, forcing his fingers to loosen and relax.
"Yeah, this is 3.7. Can you give me 6.2's status? We were meant to be meeting. He did? I see. Yeah, no, I'll straighten it out with him myself. Cheers." Bodie set the receiver down.
Doyle gazed at the floor as the silence stretched.
"How long?" Bodie's voice was flat.
Warily, Doyle raised his eyes, but Bodie was still turned away from him.
"How long have you known?"
"From the beginning."
Bodie turned round. "It wasn't your concern."
It took a moment before he could answer. "No. But you are."
Bodie's eyes flickered, in a face as still as a marksman's hand. "Murphy volunteered for a courier run. He won't be back for two days."
Doyle nodded, feeling awkward and more uncertain than before. "Bodie...." But Bodie had already moved again, shrugging on his jacket as he reached the door. Doyle grabbed Bodie's wrist. "Where are you going?"
"Does it matter?"
"Yes." Bodie stood before him, arm muscles bunched, but he didn't break free from Doyle's hand. Doyle, nevertheless, tightened his grip. "You want to get drunk? I'll go with you. You want to pick a fight somewhere? I'll watch your back. I'm not watching you walk off alone." This wasn't going to be a repeat of the days after Marikka's death.
Bodie looked through him, radiating indifference, but Doyle felt the muscles under his hand ease slightly. "Suit yourself, then. You can drive." Bodie wrenched open the door and walked out. Doyle locked up the flat, then followed.
Receiving no direction from Bodie, Doyle drove them to a quiet pub he knew in Whitechapel. They ordered bitter at the bar, then found a secluded table, tucked into a windowless corner. Bodie drank his beer and contemplated the scarred surface of the table. Doyle studied the table menu.
"This place doesn't change much." Doyle tapped the menu when Bodie glanced at him. "Same food they had years ago, when Syd brought me here. This used to be his local. Do you want something to eat?"
Bodie looked at him. "Feeling guilty?"
"Nah. Feeling pity."
For a moment Bodie's reaction hung in the balance, then he shook his head, his expression sour, but there was real, if reluctant, humour in his eyes.
Smiling, Doyle went to the bar to order. Maybe he'd read it wrong; maybe they'd get through this more easily than he'd thought back at the flat. It was just the shock of it--there would be time to work everything out smoothly.
Returning to the table, Doyle set out to distract Bodie, poking the conversation along whenever it looked to be flagging. Bodie was agreeable, rarely volunteering a subject, but willingly following Doyle's lead. When dinner arrived, Doyle relaxed even more in the face of Bodie's enthusiasm for the sausage and mash, onion gravy and peas. Feeling more optimistic than ever, Doyle splurged and bought treacle tart for pudding.
Finishing the meal at last, Bodie drained the rest of his beer before standing. "Thanks, mate."
Doyle rose quickly to his feet. "Where are we going?"
Bodie turned to him, and it was like lights up at the end of a performance, all illusion shattered. "Enough of this, Doyle."
Tension snapped through Doyle, as before a fight. "Where?"
Bodie raked him with dismissive eyes, but at least there was life in his face again. "You want to come along? Want to hold my hand?"
"I said as much."
"Fine." Bodie's eyes were challenging. "Soho."
Doyle kept his face expressionless. "Right. After you, mate."
It was a little less than an hour before they arrived at a crowded pub, after a nearly silent car ride. Rather grimly, Doyle followed Bodie into the smoky pub, filled with Friday evening revellers freed from day jobs. Doyle tapped Bodie on the arm.
Bodie nodded and disappeared through the crowd, heading towards the bar. Doyle snagged a small table with two chairs, glaring at the young blond man who had been about to appropriate one of the chairs for his table. The man shrugged an apology and edged away.
Doyle sat down and looked around. From Bodie's expression he'd half-expected to be led to a gay pub, with Bodie on a proving prowl. But, no, Bodie wasn't going to be that reckless, at least not this early in the evening. Or maybe it was just that Bodie knew it would take far more than that to be rid of Doyle.
And why not just leave him on his own? God knew that he'd refused Bodie's company in the past, when he'd wanted to be alone; had walked away from him. But Doyle also remembered the times he hadn't walked away. And, more than that, he'd learned the price they might both be asked to pay, if he left Bodie alone in this kind of mood. He hoped Murphy was having as lovely an evening as he was.
Bodie came back carrying two pints. With a sinking sensation, Doyle saw the frenetic energy in Bodie's face, the tiredness gone as if it had never existed. Bodie sat down but his eyes restlessly scanned the crowd, drawn to wherever the noise was loudest.
Doyle felt his own weariness like a heavy blanket surrounding him, smothering his movements. Every bruise Parker had inflicted was making its presence felt. His wrists, too, were stinging under the gauze wrapping. Jesus, what a day.
You've a chance, sunshine--don't cock it up.
Bodie's heart, given over to him. But he'd always had Bodie's heart. That was just the problem. He wished Murphy would shut up.
Doyle glanced around at the disgust in Bodie's tone. "What?"
Bodie nodded to his right. "Darts." An untrustworthy gleam stole into Bodie's eyes. "Do you want to play?"
Doyle took a look at the two men near the darts board--office workers by their looks--loudly proclaiming their victory over another team, celebrating with their friends. He sighed. "Any point to it?"
"Come on, be a mate. You and me against them?" Bodie bounced to his feet, glass in hand. "We'll clean up." He smiled broadly, then sauntered towards the darts board.
"As long as that's all we do," Doyle muttered, following him.
They won the first round, thanks to Doyle's steadiness. He looked upon Bodie's erratic play with a jaundiced eye, and, sure enough, in the second round Bodie was consistently lousy, and they lost--much to Bodie's vocal dismay.
One of the men they were playing--Paul--jostled Doyle's arm. "He always carry on like that?"
Doyle watched Bodie playing to the vocal crowd watching the match. "Yeah, he does."
"He might do better to concentrate on the game."
Doyle's eyes turned to Paul. "Thanks for the advice."
Paul leaned a little closer, the beer on his breath assaulting Doyle. "You're not bad. Haven't seen you here before?"
"Not my usual part of town. Your turn."
Paul smiled at him and went to take his place before the board. Bodie returned to Doyle's side.
"Shall we move in for the kill?"
"Had enough fun?"
Bodie's eyes glittered at him. "Not nearly."
They won the third round decisively; Bodie now making no secret of his abilities. Doyle bowed out of the demanded rematch, leaving Bodie to take on Paul and his partner on his own.
Their table was long gone, so Doyle wandered over to the bar, finishing the pint he had been nursing. He signalled to the barmaid, a pretty redhead.
"Same again?" she asked, smiling at him.
"No. Gin and tonic, please--and hold the gin."
She rolled her eyes and went to fill his order. Doyle eased an elbow onto the bar, turning so he could observe Bodie. It looked like Bodie had decided to keep his skills unleashed. Paul seemed only amused by it, but Stephen was glowering. Bodie, of course, looked delighted, and he smiled with singular charm at the girl sitting with Stephen's jacket.
"30p." The barmaid handed him the tonic water.
She looked to be about to say more, but was called away by another customer. Doyle stayed at the bar, idly watching the crowd. As the evening had progressed, the happy celebration of freedom had begun to turn high-spirited, even a bit frantic. Nothing unusual in that, nothing he hadn't seen before. These were lives lived in numbing routine seeking release and pleasure, wanting to bury the day's petty problems in sparkling gaiety, even if it was forced. None of them had been responsible for an innocent's death that morning.
Doyle's eyes strayed back to Bodie. Why was it that Bodie seemed more real than any other person in the crowd? Was it familiarity? Or was it the aura that hung about him? The sense that a hidden talent for darts was merely the shallows of all he could offer, if he chose. Doyle noticed that Paul was now lounging close to Bodie, basking in that aura as they watched Stephen play. Doyle turned away and lifted his glass to drink.
"You're keeping an eye on your mate?" It was the barmaid again, pushing her hair back from her forehead.
Doyle raised his eyebrows. "Yeah."
"I saw you playing darts." She smiled. "I've a nose for trouble. You get one, in this job."
"Yeah? Copper's instincts, those are."
She looked at him, a little dubiously. "You're a copper?"
He hid a smile as he drank. "Was one."
"Tossed you out, did they?" Her eyes were brown, and beginning to sparkle.
"Why do you say that?"
"I've never seen a copper that looked like you."
"You'd be surprised. Nah, I'm a civil servant these days. A quiet citizen."
"With a nutter for a friend."
He shrugged. "It keeps life a little interesting. Mind you, he's a civil servant, too."
"Poor lad. That would explain the desperate air."
He grinned. "And what about me?"
"You're drinking the tonic water. Lost a bet, did you?" She turned as another customer summoned her. Leaving a sweet grin with him, she crossed to the other side of the bar.
Doyle looked around for Bodie again, and watched him throw a dart. From the cheer, he gathered it was another bull's-eye. He turned back to the bar, contemplating his glass.
"Tonic water isn't much to drown your sorrows in." There was a soft smile in the barmaid's eyes now that drew an answering smile from Doyle.
He shrugged. "Responsibility's a bugger."
"Ah, so you tried to end it all, did you?" She pointed to the gauze bandages.
Doyle glanced at his wrists. "That? Nah, that was in the line of duty."
"Yeah. There I was, wrist deep in paperwork, with no way out. Came all over cuts."
"Dangerous work. So, who's looking after you, then?"
"Me." Bodie was suddenly there next to him, slinging an arm around Doyle's shoulders. "Your round, sunshine." He placed his empty pint on the bar.
"Oh, you've decided to join us, have you?" Doyle nodded at the barmaid's look of enquiry, and she left to fill another glass for Bodie.
Bodie's face filled with sorrow. "I've been neglecting you. But, look, I brought you my winnings." He dumped a handful of notes onto the bar counter.
Doyle sighed. "Cleaned them out, did you?" He glanced round to see Paul in close discussion with a smouldering Stephen, while their friends--two women and another man--urged them to a table.
"Like taking candy, mate." Bodie happily accepted the pint the barmaid brought back for him. He then leaned close to Doyle, nuzzling his ear, and whispering, "Are you planning on fucking her?" Bodie's arm still lay heavy across Doyle's back.
Doyle looked up in time to see the brilliant, feral smile Bodie directed at the barmaid. She turned away, picking up a cloth to wipe down the bar at the other end. He winced. "Not now." He took another swallow of tonic water. "Enjoying yourself?" He didn't restrain the acid in his tones.
Bodie grinned at him as he removed his arm, and rested his elbows on the bar, shoulder-to-shoulder with Doyle. "If I'm not getting any, then neither are you."
Doyle turned his head to eye Bodie. "That's carrying partnership a bit far. C'mon, let's find a table."
They found one next to a boisterous group of two men and three women, obviously celebrating a birthday. Bodie and Doyle were silent as they settled into their chairs, and Doyle closed his eyes for a moment, letting the tiredness wash over him.
Bodie placed his arms on the table, shoulders slumped, as if all the energy were draining away. "What did he tell you?" After a moment of silence, Bodie raised his eyes to Doyle's. "Murphy."
Doyle swallowed. "I told you."
"Not what he said."
Doyle hesitated, controlling his inner turmoil. "Does it matter so much?"
Bodie gazed at him, then looked away. "No, I suppose not."
Doyle eased his grip on his glass, rubbing a finger along the top. "He said...something about not being able to give you all that you needed."
Bodie was quiet for a long moment. "Well. He's proven that right, hasn't he?" Abruptly, he drank down the rest of his beer, then stood. "I'm going to the bog. Order us another, will you?"
Doyle watched Bodie stride away, reading the tension in Bodie's body as easily as he read it on the job. More alcohol wasn't going to help--Bodie's controls were already slipping, and he could be a dangerous drunk, if the mood took him that way. Nevertheless, Doyle made his way to the bar and ordered another bitter. It was only a half hour or so until closing, and then he'd find a way to get Bodie back home.
When Bodie returned, seating himself at the table, Doyle handed him his drink and announced it was his turn for the loo. Bodie nodded, but as Doyle stood, he grabbed Doyle's arm to pull him close. "Go home, Ray. You know what it is I want tonight."
Doyle stared into turbulent blue eyes. "Yeah. I know. It doesn't matter."
Bodie's expression flickered, changing to something Doyle didn't recognise. "Doesn't it?" For a moment the facade faltered, and Doyle saw an aching hunger in Bodie's eyes that seared him before it was gone. Bodie let go of his arm. "I doubt it. Go on, then."
Shaken, Doyle took a step away, only to be stopped by Bodie's voice.
"And hurry, or I'll start without you." Bodie smiled, sharp and brittle.
"I'm sticking with you. Remember that." Doyle turned and walked away. There was no one else in the loo, as Doyle used the facilities. He gazed at himself in the mirror while he washed his hands, trying to read his own mind, to find some answers. The safest course would be to get Bodie too drunk to resist, and bundle him off home. But that would take more time, perhaps too much. The next safest would be to find a willing bird for the night, one who could handle Bodie in this mood. But he didn't fancy the search, or the complications. The rash course? Take what he knew he could get.
He met his eyes in the mirror. And that wouldn't be protecting Bodie, would it?
Methodically, Doyle dried his hands and headed back to their table. The barmaid intercepted him as he entered the main room.
"Time to rein him in, love." She nodded her head towards a restive group by the far wall.
Doyle took a look and saw Bodie, a wide smile on his face, confronting the darts man, Stephen. Sitting next to Bodie, glaring at Stephen was the blonde woman Doyle had assumed was Stephen's girlfriend. Swearing under his breath, Doyle moved quickly towards the group.
"And what if I do?" The girl was speaking to Stephen, strident voice rising high. "It's none of your business! Shove off!"
"You heard her, sunshine." Bodie smiled into Stephen's face. "Piss off."
Stephen went for Bodie just as Doyle arrived.
Doyle blocked Stephen's blow, then shoved him towards Paul and another man. "Keep him." He then rounded on Bodie. "C'mon, we're leaving."
"Oh, c'mon Ray, I was just starting to have some fun!" He turned towards the girl and gave her a quick kiss.
Doyle grabbed Bodie, hearing the struggle behind him. "Fun's over, Butch. Move!" He shoved Bodie towards the door, and got him out of the pub. The street outside was wet, the air cold after the fug of the pub. Doyle breathed it in, feeling his head clear with the shock of it.
Bodie was quiet beside him, hands shoved in to the pockets of his coat. Doyle pushed him in the direction of the car park. "Did you even want her?"
"Yeah, until morning. Then what?"
"What the fuck does it matter, Doyle?"
Doyle shrugged. "Nothing." He turned in to the narrow alley that led to the car park. Bodie kept walking on the street. "Oi." Doyle walked back out to join Bodie. "Car's this way."
Bodie's voice was mild, but nevertheless implacable. "Look. You've done your duty, all right? I'll see you in the morning." Bodie started off again, but Doyle grabbed his arm.
"You're drunk, mate. Let's go home."
Bodie jerked his arm free. "What is this, Doyle? Guilt?"
"You tell me. You're the one wanted it over between Murphy and me."
Doyle took a step back. "I didn't."
Moving in close, Bodie crowded him. "Didn't you? I can tell when you're lying, Doyle. Bothered you, did it?"
"I didn't interfere!"
"Then why was it he wanted me one moment and then, after speaking to you, he ended it? Why?"
"Ask him! Hell of a lot of influence you think I have, mate. It's between you and him."
Doyle's anger seemed to cool Bodie, to give him footing to resist. "I'm going to find someone to fuck, Doyle. Got it? So push off." He turned away.
With a growl of pure frustration, Doyle grabbed him and propelled him into the alley, the very ease of it proving that he was right about Bodie's condition. Bodie swung on him, but Doyle jabbed him in the gut, his prods keeping Bodie moving until they were far enough into the alley to be away from the street. He pushed Bodie against the wall. "And you think you're capable, do you?"
"I'm not that drunk."
"Drunk enough. Do you think I don't know where you're headed? A bird won't do for you tonight, will it?"
Bodie was utterly still for a moment, then he lashed out at Doyle, shoving him off balance, and off his feet to the ground. "So what? You know what I am!"
Doyle pushed himself to his knees. "Yeah. I know what you are. You're the bloody fool whose back I guard!"
Bodie glowered at him, but then he stretched out a hand to pull Doyle to his feet. "All right. But, you know--"
"Yeah, I know! Your balls are in bloody knots because you're hurting and you want to prove something. Fine! But you're not in any shape to do it tonight--not after last night and not after all that booze. And if I have to shoot you to keep you out of it, I will. Don't bloody push me!" Doyle glared at him, then he bent to wipe off the mud on his jeans.
A long moment passed. "Cowley's not going to like it if you shoot me."
Bodie grinned. "All right."
"You can do without it for one sodding night!"
"All right! Anyway, it's three nights."
Doyle squinted up at him, then straightened. "I might've known. I thought you looked shagged out when Cowley called us to meet Ojuka."
Bodie looked disgustingly self-satisfied. "Yeah." Doyle turned away, but Bodie touched his hand, stopping him. "Thanks."
Doyle shrugged. "Can we go now?"
"Yeah." But Bodie didn't move, just stood there against the wall, and his eyes closed.
Doyle moved closer to him, and put a hand on his shoulder. "I do understand. For what it's worth." He didn't know what else to say, there was too much tangled up inside him to get anything else out.
Bodie opened his eyes and, somehow, Doyle found his fingers reaching to Bodie's cheek, his thumb brushing his jaw. Blinking, his breath catching, Doyle snatched his hand back. Before he could turn away, Bodie captured his hand, pulling Doyle back. "Ray?"
Doyle tried to shake his head, to take a step back, but Bodie's fingers were on his face now, stroking gently down and over his lips, before falling away. Doyle shivered, but he didn't pull back. His heart took up a painful, hammering rhythm.
Bodie was staring at him, eyes dark, and then he was closer, and his voice was nothing but a whisper: "Let me...just...." And then his lips were on Doyle's, cool and soft, and dangerous as a loaded gun.
Doyle made a sound, of protest--or desire--he didn't know, all he knew was that it was Bodie's mouth on his, Bodie's hands sweeping to his back, Bodie's need bringing him close.
Bodie broke the kiss, but he held tightly to Doyle, and his voice was ragged in Doyle's ears. "Ah, Christ, Doyle." He kissed Doyle's neck, his face, his lips again, deeply, before trailing back to Doyle's ear. "I want you. Always have. Please. Never talk about it again, promise."
"Bodie--" Doyle gasped as one of Bodie's hands found him, and discovered his arousal.
Bodie's voice was sweetly pleading. "Walk on the wild side with me, Ray. Just once. Together." And then Bodie was kissing him again, gently, coaxingly, enticing him to surrender. And Doyle found himself nodding, his own arms reaching now for Bodie.
At the touch of Doyle's hands, Bodie trembled, and his mouth turned hungry, demanding, his hands cupping Doyle's bum, stroking there. His tongue pushed into Doyle's mouth, filling him, promising him. And then it wasn't Bodie's control that broke, it was Doyle's.
With a groan he pushed back, shoved Bodie against the alley wall, and pressed up against him, his hands taking control, his tongue exploring Bodie's mouth, his hunger searing Bodie with his need. Bodie opened for him, chest heaving, moans spurring Doyle on. He could feel the hard bulk of Bodie's cock through his trousers, the heat of him even through cloth. Doyle made short work of clasp and zip, freeing his hand to grasp Bodie, to stroke him, to feel the surge of power it gave him to do this for Bodie.
One-handed, he opened Bodie's jacket and pushed the poloneck up. Ending the kiss, Doyle's mouth moved to Bodie's chest, to the nipples that sprang to life under his tongue. But inborn caution warned him that they were being too loud, that he had to control Bodie, so Doyle returned to Bodie's mouth, swallowing the groan as his fingers sent Bodie flying.
Doyle pulled back, his eyes pinning Bodie to the wall. "Don't make a sound, you hear me? Not one sound." He waited until Bodie nodded, and then Doyle dropped to his knees, and he took Bodie's cock in his mouth. True to his word, Bodie stayed silent, all his muscles tensing for control, all his reaction expressed in his body. He thrust into Doyle's mouth, shuddering uncontrollably, fingers clenched on Doyle's head. Remembering old skills, Doyle accepted the movement, mouth and tongue working for Bodie, one hand grasping Bodie's thigh, the other cradling his balls, pushing back towards his arse. Bodie was going to give everything to him, was going to be his; belonged to him.
Too wild, too hungry for any restraint, Bodie gave it up to him in scant moments, emptying himself into Doyle, with Doyle finding his own release in the devastating completeness of Bodie's surrender. Collapsing, Bodie's cock slipping from his mouth, Doyle braced his hands against the ground as he struggled for breath. He could hear Bodie panting above him as he leant against the wall. To himself, Doyle smiled.
A hand settled on his head, quivered, and then Doyle gasped as Bodie's fingers tightened in his hair and yanked his head up sharply. The pain of it brought tears into his eyes.
"You've done that before." Bodie's voice was guttural, nearly unrecognisable, and he was staring down at Doyle, his face a pale blur until Doyle blinked. There was nothing Doyle could say to that dawning look of betrayal on Bodie's face, except for the truth.
"You lied to me." It wasn't a question, wasn't even a statement of anger, Bodie's tone too bleak for any emotion. Abruptly, Bodie released his hold on Doyle.
Doyle scrambled to his feet as Bodie tucked himself away and zipped his jacket. "Bodie."
Bodie just looked at him. And so captured was Doyle by that look that he never saw the fist that felled him. He didn't see anything except the emptiness in Bodie's eyes, and he heard only the sound of Bodie's steps walking away from him, echoing in the alley.
Doyle stayed where he was, kneeling, waiting for his heart to slow, for the pain to go away. He shouldn't be finding it so hard to breathe; get over it. He forced in a long breath, and concentrated on the feel of the gritty pavement beneath his hands. In his head he went back to the conversation they'd had so long ago. It had come at the end of a long night on obbo duty, when they'd known they'd be going in soon to take the men they'd observed. After checking their guns there had been little else to do but to wait for orders, and to talk. Bodie, in keeping with the conversation in the night, had suddenly asked him:
"You ever fancied a bloke, Doyle?"
"Plenty of birds around."
"True. But variety is the spice of life, they say."
"That's experience speaking?"
"Yeah. Bother you, does it?"
"Nah, to each their own, mate. Just not interested."
It had been an instinctive response, the disinterest a perfected cover from years on the force. Self-protection was more important than any fleeting attraction. Looking into the devil-may-care eyes of his partner, Doyle had made the only choice possible for him, for them, for what they were building in those early years. He hadn't regretted it. Not until....
He heard footsteps approaching, but kept his head down a moment longer, struggling for composure. Only slowly did the meaning of the sounds penetrate: more than one set of footsteps. Doyle looked up, just as a blow caught him on his face, sending him sprawling.
"Well, if it isn't the fairy." Stephen, and one of his friends from the pub--no sign of Paul. Doyle tried to gain his feet, but a kick landed in the same place that Parker had hit him. He gasped, curling into the pain.
"Where's the boyfriend, petal?"
"Sod off." They were both kicking him now, as he curled into a ball, trying to protect his head and his gut, trying to move closer to the wall. They were drunk, their movements lacking in co-ordination, and therein lay his chance.
"He should've known better than to leave you on your own. We'll take what he owes us out of you." Stephen had paused to speak, giving Doyle the moment he needed to set himself. He grabbed Stephen's foot as it arced towards him, pulling and twisting him off balance.
Doyle scrambled to his feet, his back against the wall, his mind clearing of all save the trained movements he needed to survive. They rushed him, and Doyle put Stephen down, while deflecting his friend, taking pleasure in releasing his anger, in giving full rein to his vicious temper. The fight didn't last nearly long enough, once he'd gained his feet. He shook his head at the two men who lay groaning at his feet. "Amateurs." Doyle left them, moving slowly down the alleyway towards the car park. It must've been closing time, he thought hazily. As he turned the corner at the end of the alley he heard voices behind him, raised in concern.
Doyle made his way to where he'd left his car, unsurprised, in the end, to find it missing. Hot-wiring his car was the least of the possibilities Bodie might find to punish him with. Wearily, Doyle turned away and plodded towards the pavement. He'd walk. He didn't fancy trying to find a tube station or a bus; he didn't want to try to explain to strangers the condition he was in. Better to walk. He turned right along Frith Street, aiming himself at Bodie's flat.
A cold fog had infiltrated the streets as they'd been in the pub, matching the mood Doyle was in: hiding from others, hiding from himself, cold pervading all. He kept walking, knowing nothing else to do. Thoughts circled through his mind, endlessly, exhausting him as he chased them down, only to find there were no answers, anyway.
You've a chance, sunshine--don't cock it up.
Doyle choked on a laugh. He didn't think anyone could have cocked it up quite so spectacularly. Ironic, too, given that he'd rather thought that Murphy wouldn't make it, that he'd blow it with Bodie. Doyle stopped walking for a moment at the thought. Yeah. He hadn't expected it to last, even as he'd seen the...settled contentment in Bodie, in those early months. He wanted a solid relationship, Bodie did, despite appearances. He wanted it more than Doyle ever had. Bodie had tried with Murphy; Murphy had certainly tried with Bodie. So whose fault was it that it hadn't lasted?
Doyle set forward again, dodging cars as he crossed streets, keeping a wary eye on any passers-by. He wouldn't make it through any more fights tonight, couldn't run to save himself from Macklin. He hadn't a hope of finding Bodie. He'd been with Bodie longer than with anyone else in his adult life. Watching out for Bodie was instinctive. Murphy hadn't questioned it--he must've known that Doyle would protect that above all else. So, how was it that Doyle had, quite possibly, thrown it all away tonight in a moment of ungoverned desire?
He'd lied to Bodie. His first and most successful lie. God, he never knew he could be so convincing--better than any undercover work he'd ever done. What was he to have done? Said to Bodie, "Hey, mate, remember that stuff I told you about not being interested in men? Well, it was all a bluff. How about dumping Murphy and going to bed with me, eh?" Impossible. Yet he still felt the gut-searing sting of the moment he had realised Bodie and Murphy were together.
But he could've lived with the balance they had found. He'd grown to be content enough, sublimating his need, knowing his place was secure in Bodie's life. Murphy hadn't touched that, couldn't touch that--to his credit, he hadn't tried. Doyle could've lived with that--it was safe. Stable. Why in sodding hell had Murphy gone and blown it up for all of them?
He didn't want to think about Bodie's face when he'd walked away.
With no idea of the time, Doyle eventually found himself standing outside Bodie's block. There were no lights in Bodie's window, only one light shining in any of the windows facing the street. He trudged up the steps to the entry, and pressed the buzzer for Bodie's flat. Two minutes later he admitted defeat. So, Bodie hadn't come home. It wasn't hard to guess where he'd gone, what he was doing to forget Murphy. To forget Doyle.
Too tired for rage, or even worry, Doyle simply slumped down where he was in the porch. He'd wait. There was nothing else to do. And if Bodie wanted it over between them, thought he couldn't work with Doyle anymore, then it'd be best to know right away. He wasn't going to wait the whole sodding weekend to find out. Doyle was well aware of his limits when it came to that particular rack.
At least he'd been able to touch Bodie once. A small, fierce sort of pride sparked within him at the thought. Yeah, he'd blown it. Yeah, he could've lived without ever touching him, but, whatever happened now, he'd remember the hunger, and the way Bodie had given himself up to him. He'd remember that.
Doyle closed his eyes, leaning against the cold brick in the corner of the entrance. He wrapped his arms around himself, and settled to wait.
It seemed only minutes later that a voice invaded the peace he'd found. Doyle struggled to evade it, but the voice was relentless.
Doyle opened his eyes, groggy and disoriented. It was lighter than it had been, a dim greyness relieving the black of night. And it was Bodie bending over him, shaking him roughly. "Yeah. I'm here."
"I can see that." Bodie stepped away from him, his face in shadow. Just as well--he doubted he'd be able to read anything from Bodie's face. Bodie seemed contained, well-controlled; sober. "How long have you been here?"
Doyle looked around, trying to shake his head. "Dunno."
"C'mon." Gentleness had entered Bodie's voice, and Doyle suddenly wanted none of that.
"Where?" He resisted Bodie's efforts to help him to stand.
Bodie sighed. "My place. I assume that's why you're here." He waited a moment, but when Doyle didn't move, he reached down and dragged him to his feet. "Move it, Ray. I'm not putting up with this."
"Bleeding dictator." But Doyle allowed himself to be chivvied into the building and up the stairs to Bodie's flat. He thought he might have fallen, but for the iron grip on his arm.
All too soon he was left on his own, in the middle of Bodie's living room. Slowly, he unzipped his jacket while he tried to remember what he'd wanted to say to Bodie. How he wanted to handle this. All he could remember was the need to be here. Hadn't there been a plan?
Bodie came back into the room, still dressed in his green poloneck and cords. The paleness in his face made the red around his eyes stand out, the red of his lips, too. He looked like he'd been kissed. Doyle wrapped his arms around himself, clamping down on any comment. He'd forgotten what it'd been like before Murphy.
"You're freezing, Doyle. What were you thinking?" He'd been right, there was nothing for him to read in Bodie's face.
"Some sod took my car."
Bodie stripped the jacket from Doyle. "Yeah, well, there are such things as taxis, you know. Come on." Bodie started across the room, then swung back as Doyle didn't move. Stepping back, Bodie grabbed Doyle's hand and towed Doyle after him. "I know what you're thinking, but you can fight with me later. Just shut up for now." Bodie pulled him into the bathroom.
Doyle blinked in the sudden glare, as Bodie flipped the light on. "Christ, you could warn someone!"
"What the fuck happened to you?"
Doyle squinted at the change of tone, trying see Bodie more clearly.
A hand grabbed his shoulder, another lifted his chin up in the light. "I didn't do all that. Who did?"
Doyle knocked Bodie's hand away. "Just leave it."
For a moment it looked as if Bodie would argue, but then he nodded once, sharply. "We'll talk about it later. Strip. I'll get the shower going for you."
"I can take care of myself!"
Bodie rounded on him. "Don't push me, Doyle. I've had it up to here with you. Just shut up and do as you're told." He swung back to the shower, giving the knob a vicious twist.
Silently, Doyle shed his clothes, and then allowed Bodie to bundle him into the shower. He slowly relaxed under the heat, finding he could breathe deeply again, feeling the cold leave his bones. It didn't seem to do as much for the cold fear in his heart.
When he emerged from the shower he found a dressing gown waiting for him. He pulled it on, then left the bathroom. Bodie came to meet him with a cup of tea, and the first aid kit. Knowing better than to argue, Doyle allowed Bodie to guide him to the bed. With closed eyes, he sipped his tea and allowed Bodie to get on with it. He'd have demanded the same in Bodie's place, after all--the need to check. A little warmth stole into him at the thought; stubborn hope.
"You should be checked in hospital."
Doyle didn't open his eyes. "They didn't connect that well. It was over soon enough."
Silence for a moment, except for Bodie closing the kit. "The bastards with the darts?"
Doyle slowly nodded. He just wanted to sit there, drifting.
The cup was taken from his hand, and then Bodie was urging him to lie down, to sink beneath the cover of the duvet. Doyle forced his eyes open, finding the room darkened, the only light seeping in through the blind at the window. "Bodie?" Doyle struggled to focus.
"Go to sleep."
Doyle reached out quickly, fumbling in the darkness, until he found Bodie's arm. "Stay."
A breath of air gusted across his cheek. "Where would I go?" Gently, but firmly, Bodie broke Doyle's hold on his arm.
"Where did you go?"
"For a drive. Move over." Doyle shifted in the bed, and Bodie climbed in next to him. So close, yet as self-contained as in the worst of Doyle's memories of him.
Doyle wanted to question Bodie, wanted to make him promise to stay, wanted to touch him. But there were no reassurances to be had. They shared the bed, but nothing else, as Doyle fell into the abyss of sleep.
Doyle opened his eyes, taking a moment to orient himself. Bodie's flat. And the memories tumbled in with the thought, bright and clear and just as difficult as they'd been last night. The room was still darkened, although there was enough light filtering through the blind to make him aware it had to be well-advanced into morning. Doyle rolled onto his back, considering. Bodie wasn't in the room, but he could hear distant sounds, and he could smell bacon frying. So, he had a bit of a reprieve, a little time to decide on his course of action. It was a pity he didn't have a clue about what to do.
Bodie had taken him in last night; start there. Bodie had taken him in, had tended to him, and had put him to bed. Bodie had kept his distance, too. Well, he would. Betrayal might be something Bodie was used to, but, for that very reason, he was less likely to forgive. There was little choice, then, open to Doyle. He'd follow Bodie's lead, and hope that the partnership survived, that Bodie understood he wouldn't lie to him on the job. It seemed a rather frail hope.
Doyle climbed out of bed, wincing at the stiffness in muscles and tendons. He stretched to ease the worst of it, then rummaged in Bodie's wardrobe for clothes to wear. They both left changes of clothing in each other's flats, never knowing when they'd need them because of the job. Doyle dressed, went to the loo, and then followed his nose to the kitchen.
Bodie glanced around as Doyle entered the room, a quick, all-encompassing scrutiny, then he turned back to the bacon. "Sit down, the toast is already on the table."
Doyle sat. Already he was tired of that unapproachable look to Bodie's face, the careful control he hadn't seen in years. Damn Murphy, anyway.
"Did you sleep well?" Bodie's voice was perfectly pitched--for a host to a guest.
Doyle's baleful glare was wasted on Bodie's back. There was no need to rub it in, he understood the point. Doyle reached for a piece of toast. "Oh, yes, the accommodations were delightful."
"Good, good." Bodie opened the box of eggs on the worktop. "Two eggs or three?"
"Two." Doyle slathered more butter on his toast than he had intended.
"Scrambled or fried?"
"Tomatoes and mushrooms, or--"
"Bodie!" Doyle dropped his toast on his plate.
Bodie turned round to face him, eyebrows raised. "What?"
"I'm sorry about last night, all right?"
"Which part of last night?"
"Bloody all of it!" Doyle gritted his teeth.
"It was good sausage and mash."
Doyle ran his hand through his hair. "Look. I'm sorry. You know what bloody for. It just...."
"Got out of hand?"
Doyle sighed. "Yeah."
Bodie turned back to the cooker, cracking eggs open with expert precision. "Why did you lie to me?"
Doyle studied his hands. "It seemed simplest." He darted a quick look at Bodie, but found only Bodie's back again.
"You've been with men."
"In my youth. Before the police."
"No." Strung taut, all Doyle wanted was to find the safest way to preserve what they had. "Technically, maybe I'm bi, but I prefer women."
"I see." Bodie poked at the eggs.
"It seemed simplest?" Bodie pulled two plates from the oven, already containing mushrooms and tomatoes.
"Yeah." Doyle watched as Bodie added bacon and eggs to the plates.
"I appreciate your honesty, Doyle."
"Bodie, dammit, I--"
Bodie brought the plates to the table. "Eat your breakfast, we're leaving soon."
Warily, Doyle looked at him. "Where're we going?"
"Heaton. We'll do a run, then shooting, then, if we're up to it, a workout."
As easy as that? A return to normal?
Bodie nattered on. "You know we've been lax lately. It's time to put in some training hours."
Doyle tried to read Bodie's face, but found nothing there but innocuous enthusiasm. "All right."
Bodie nodded, then tucked into his eggs with evident relish.
It was a start, Doyle thought. A start that felt too much like an end.
Heaton was an estate, located north-west of London, converted for use by the security services. As long as there weren't any training sessions scheduled, the agents were allowed to use its facilities on their own. It was peaceful and secluded, yet close enough to London to be within easy reach. They checked in with Sammy at the gatehouse, finding that they'd have the place to themselves after about two that afternoon.
They'd changed into tracksuits at the flat, bringing a bag with their clothes for later. Gradually, during a car ride that had been perfectly normal, Doyle had talked himself into relaxing, pushing away his disquiet. This sort of thing he understood, after all--bury it and carry on as if nothing had happened. Don't bring any of it up again. He and Bodie were experts at that.
Bodie set their route and pace for the run, choosing to begin through the remnants of the formal garden. It was a fine day, warmer than the day before, with more sun and less wind. Doyle enjoyed the run, although Bodie seemed content to keep the pace relatively slow and steady. It had felt good to stretch beforehand, and as he fell into the smooth cadence of the run, he let his mind drift from all concerns, concentrating instead on breathing and on moving easily. Beside him, Bodie was running well within himself, and seemed disinclined to carry on any conversation. They ran through the gardens, skirted the overgrown rose hedge, then out along open fields to the wall surrounding the estate, and followed the well-worn path to the inside of the wall.
All right, so Bodie knew Doyle was bi. That would cause some difficulty, perhaps, but Doyle was glad, in a way, to have it out in the open; to have nothing hidden between them. And for once, Doyle thought, time was his ally. Take some time to get used to Bodie knowing about him, see how it went. And maybe he'd learn to be sure of his own heart, to be sure of what was best for them.
In a better frame of mind, now that he could comfortably put off any decisions, Doyle contentedly followed Bodie on a detour to the gatehouse and to the outside pump that served as a halfway marker as well as a stopping point for water. They took turns working the pump and drinking, keeping in motion so that they would be ready to run again.
"Good day for it, eh?" Doyle stretched a kink out of his shoulder.
Bodie glanced at him. "Yeah." He splashed some of the water on his face and the back of his neck.
Doyle, watching him, suddenly realised what had been niggling at him all during the car ride and the run. In every way but one, Bodie had been the same as always. Perhaps a bit quieter than usual, true, but the same jokes, the same complaints, the same matey punches and companionship. But there was a difference. Not once, not since that all-encompassing look in the kitchen, had Bodie given him his full attention. Doyle had expected a certain distance, a resurrection of walls for the breach of trust he had caused. He hadn't expected...disinterest?
"Oi!" Doyle waited until Bodie looked at him. "What have you got planned after this workout you've promised me?"
Bodie shrugged. "Dunno. Might make an early night of it." Bodie bent to retie his trainer.
No way in hell was he going to be just ignored. Doyle decided on the direct approach. He walked over to Bodie and nudged him, feeling a surge of satisfaction as Bodie instantly stepped away from Doyle. Forget about avoiding the issue. "So, where did you go last night?"
"Nowhere. Just drove around." Bodie occupied himself with hanging the tin cup back on the base of the pump. Then he turned back to Doyle and smiled, the same faintly impersonal smile that he'd been hiding behind since they'd left his flat. "Shall we go?"
"Yeah." Doyle took off, running at a faster pace than before. Bodie kept up with him at first, then gradually dropped back. Doyle slowed his own pace until they were running side-by-side. Once again, Doyle tried to force the pace, but again the choice became one of going ahead or staying with Bodie. Frustrated, Doyle stayed with Bodie. Throughout the rest of the run, Doyle flung comments at Bodie, and found, as before, that Bodie cut the conversation short each time. By the time they approached the old stables, where shower facilities and lockers had been installed, Doyle was on a short fuse.
It didn't help that there was nothing to point to as a complaint, nothing concrete that couldn't be explained away easily enough. But Doyle knew the difference, and he knew he wasn't going to put up with it for long. It was dangerous if your partner wasn't fully aware of you, if he wasn't paying proper attention. It was that very awareness of each other that had made them into Cowley's top team.
Doyle sifted through plans in his head while he undressed at the lockers, trying to find the best way to break through to Bodie without landing himself in it. Touch had worked at the water pump, but he wanted Bodie to make the first move, then Doyle would smash through that reserve. Once he had Bodie's full attention he'd calmly point out the dangers of inattention. Satisfied with this plan, Doyle put it into immediate action. He'd always known how to draw Bodie's touch, and, after all, it was for Bodie's own good.
Doyle followed Bodie into the communal shower, taking the shower head directly across from the one Bodie had selected. Bodie's back was turned to him as he worked a lather into his hair. Doyle turned on the shower, taking a moment to delight in the feel of water washing away the sweat of the run. He closed his eyes, letting his head fall back to expose his face to the spray.
"I see the bruises have come up. Not even a mother could love you, looking like that, Doyle."
Doyle smiled into the spray. As easy as that; Bodie's voice had not been lacking in interest. He took his time, running his hands over himself before turning to reach for the soap. Let Bodie have a thorough butcher's. Senses alert, Doyle was very aware of Bodie moving across the floor to him. Soap in hand, Doyle turned round and was suddenly enveloped in Bodie's arms, Bodie's lips on his, tongue in his mouth, as the water cascaded down on them.
Belatedly, Doyle realised his mistake. Brought to aching hardness in a flash, he remembered, at the same time, his words of the morning. He'd broken through to Bodie, but at what price? Taken so quickly, he couldn't control his reaction to Bodie's tongue, or to Bodie's hands on his body. Bodie backed him up against the wall, the shock of the cool tile an added stimulus to Doyle. He couldn't stifle the moan as Bodie's mouth left him.
"Well." Bodie's voice was rough, but it was his again, the one Doyle knew as his own. "At least I know the truth now."
Doyle looked into Bodie's eyes and what he saw there stilled his heart for a moment, before it began to pump again in surging beats. "Wait--"
Bodie shook his head, his expression almost gentle, if you could ally gentleness with that hard determination in Bodie's eyes. "It's too late for that now. The cat's out of the bag. When you offer, I'm going to take."
Doyle laboured for oxygen in the short breaths he couldn't seem to regulate. "What about when you offer?"
Bodie kissed him, with such perfect control that Doyle felt resentment flare, along with desire. "I won't be offering. Not like this." Bodie's hand slipped from Doyle's shoulder, down his back, to his waist and then to Doyle's cock. Doyle closed his eyes. "You came last night, didn't you?" Doyle didn't answer, and Bodie's hand slid along his cock. "Didn't you?"
"Thought so." With a final pull on Doyle's cock, Bodie lifted his hand, and cupped Doyle's face. "It's very simple, Ray. I want it all. Not all you'll give me--all you are."
Doyle blinked, struggling to bring his body back under his own control, his resentment growing. "That's not on offer."
Apparently unaffected by that, Bodie shrugged. "Too bad." He dropped a quick kiss on Doyle's mouth, then abruptly pulled away. "Finish up and we'll go to the shooting range." Bodie swung round and walked away, grabbing a towel from the hook near the door.
"Blackmail, Bodie?" Doyle did nothing to hide the bitter anger he felt growing in him, all his plans in shambles round his feet.
Bodie turned. "More an evening of accounts. A level playing field."
"What happened to you taking when I come on to you?"
For a long moment Bodie studied him. "That won't work. I won't settle. And you're not the only one who guards his partner, Doyle. Hurry up." Bodie disappeared into the locker room.
Thoughtfully, Doyle finished with his shower, pretending not to notice the way his hands trembled. All right, disinterest wasn't the problem. The real problem was far more dangerous.
You've a chance, sunshine--don't cock it up.
Had Murphy been reading Doyle as accurately as he'd read Bodie? All you are. Doyle hadn't allowed a level playing field in years, he didn't know if he could, even for Bodie. All along, he'd known he'd have to do that, even before Bodie had demanded it, if he allowed this to happen. They'd kill each other, otherwise; might kill each other even with it. And he had a responsibility for Bodie above even himself.
Doyle found Bodie waiting for him beside the lockers. Bodie was quiet as Doyle dressed, but it wasn't the blank silence of yesterday, or even the distant but comfortable silence from earlier in the day. There was an expectant quality to the way Bodie stood by the door, arms crossed. Bodie's eyes were on the floor, but Doyle knew he was aware of every movement. Predator circling predator. He dressed quickly and joined Bodie at the door.
"Rifles first?" Bodie led him towards the shooting range, at the far end of the gardens.
Never as comfortable with rifles as with handguns, Doyle, to his frustration, found that he was struggling from the first shot. He couldn't seem to settle, to find the place inside himself that made hitting his target nearly instinctive. He managed to place his shots correctly, but he was off-centre on every one. Sourly, he noticed that Bodie was having no difficulty at all, his efforts all smoothly efficient as he sighted and pulled the trigger.
Doyle reloaded. "So, how much of you would I get?"
Bodie glanced at him, then raised the rifle to his shoulder. "Equal exchange." He fired. Dead centre hit.
"Oh, like you and Murphy?"
"I see. There are limits to this 'all'?"
Bodie rounded on him, and Doyle smiled. Bodie scowled. "No, not like Murphy and me, all right? Satisfied?"
Doyle turned towards the target and lifted his rifle. "Yeah." He sighted and fired, improving on his last shot.
Bodie's next shot landed slightly wide of centre. He reached for more ammunition. "Thinking about it, are you?"
"I didn't say that."
Bodie merely grinned at him before he finished loading and then did a clean jerk and fire. Bull's-eye. Doyle bared his teeth at him and did his best to keep up. He'd show the bugger on the handgun range.
But when they switched over to handguns, Bodie proposed an alternative to their usual target shooting. From inside the garden shed, Bodie retrieved a familiar box of beer cans, half-filled with pebbles to give them some weight, and well-dented.
Doyle raised his brows. "What's the wager?" There was something elementally satisfying about a shootout involving cans lined up on a fence.
"Simple enough. Seven cans, farthest fence. You shoot until you miss, then it's my turn."
"And the forfeit?"
Bodie looked at him. "You give me an honest answer to any question I ask."
Doyle narrowed his eyes, but he held Bodie's look. "And what if you miss?"
Bodie grinned and, inevitably, Doyle's stomach turned over. "You get a kiss." There was such absurdly optimistic hope in Bodie's voice that Doyle had to turn away to hide his expression. Daft sod. Playing with fire wasn't the half of it.
"Hardly equal, mate." He looked away, then back directly at Bodie. "All right, I'll do it like this. If you miss, you forfeit one of your questions."
"And we only play with two cans." Doyle smiled.
"Three, but I go first."
Bodie hesitated, then nodded. "All right. I'll set them up."
Sombrely, Doyle watched as Bodie walked down to the far fence, cans in hand. At that distance they'd both be hard-pressed to make a hit, although they were both capable of it. He'd always been the better of the two of them at handguns, but he wasn't shooting his best today. As he tracked Bodie's progress, Doyle felt a familiar spark along his nerves. There was no question of the desire he felt, no question, either, of the value he placed on Bodie's happiness.
Doyle was checking his gun when Bodie arrived back at his side. Bodie checked his own gun carefully, then gestured for Doyle to begin the match. Doyle settled into place, measuring the distance before raising his gun, one hand supporting his wrist as he aimed. Doyle held his breath, squeezed the trigger, and watched as the can stayed firmly on the fence. He lowered his hands, scowling.
Bodie nodded as Doyle relinquished his place, and he took up the position. Doyle watched as Bodie took careful aim, seeming to hold still for an eternity, before he fired. Across the garden, the can skittered off the fence.
"Right." Bodie lowered his arm, and turned towards Doyle. "First question. Did you interfere with Murphy and me?"
Doyle, expecting something altogether different, blinked at him. "No." The uncertainty he glimpsed in Bodie's face struck him hard, and he found himself explaining. "I didn't. You were content, like you were building something. And, besides...."
"You were happy yourself with the status quo." Bodie finished the sentence, his expression unreadable. "But then, if you'd wanted me yourself, you had years before Murphy came along."
"Not years. And not exactly happy." Doyle shook his head at Bodie's doubt. "You know, I'd forgotten that conversation. Or, at least, I never had any reason to think you were looking for more than quick relief. Not until Murphy, and not then until I saw you trying to juggle the two of us." Doyle hesitated. "I could've killed you, for about an hour, after I realised."
A faint grin played around Bodie's mouth. "And Murphy?"
"A bit longer."
"You could have interfered."
"Sodding responsibility." Doyle gestured, rather helplessly. "You seemed happy." If Bodie kept looking at him like that, Doyle was going to gut him. "Are you ready for the next round? And it's only supposed to be one bleedin' question!"
Bodie looked wounded. "I only asked one! Ah, and it's my turn to go first." He smiled, took his position, fired, and missed. The smile disappeared.
Smirking, Doyle shoved him over, took careful aim, and watched with some satisfaction as the can flew from its perch. He glanced at Bodie and saw the tightening in his jaw, before Bodie nodded at him.
"Go on, then. Last can."
Doyle nodded, then set himself. He glanced again at Bodie, who was watching him impassively. Doyle turned back, squared himself to the target, took aim, and fired. He missed, although he'd have sworn it was by no more than a hair's breadth. Beside him, he heard Bodie release his breath. "Your turn."
Bodie took his place, and fired true. Doyle watched the last can topple, then braced himself before he turned to face Bodie.
"What are you really afraid of?"
"The way you feel about me." A quick answer, spoken from the heart.
Bodie showed no emotion as he nodded, standing there as tense as Doyle had ever seen him before an op. "Because you don't feel enough in return?"
"That's two questions." How could he explain?
"Answer the fucking question, Doyle!"
He had to push the words out through a constricted throat, and all that came was a whisper: "Yes." Doyle waited for Bodie's response, waited for him to say something, do something, anything--hit him, kiss him--anything to break the frozen silence. In the end, he was forced to do it himself. "Maybe. I don't know."
Bodie's expression shifted at that, but it still told Doyle nothing. As well as he knew Bodie, he couldn't always decipher him. "I can't help you with that." Bodie flipped the safety on his gun, and tucked it away in his shoulder holster. He gave Doyle a long, hard look, then he pivoted and walked away.
"You know where to find me."
At that, Bodie stopped, and he swung round. After a moment he spoke, quietly. "That's safe. I'll see you later." Bodie nodded at him, then turned and walked steadily away.
Doyle watched Bodie disappear into the garden while, mechanically, he took care of his own gun. That's safe. All of you. That's safe. But was it? How much of their partnership was made from the undercurrents that had now been so ruthlessly exposed? What was the price of the awareness between them, that gave them that extra edge? Could they go back? Could he stand aside as Bodie found another lover and tried, as he'd tried with Murphy, to juggle both partnership and love? Others found a way to do that, why not them? But other partnerships weren't theirs--Murphy had seen that. All right, but they could manage. Doyle had been willing to try it with Murphy, to try to share Bodie. Did he want to go back to that?
But the alternative?
They could take it slowly, give it time, see if what Doyle felt stayed the course. But the only fair way to do that would be with no commitments, no tying Bodie to him, while he tested himself. So, Bodie would have to be free to find another, to find someone who could give him everything, and then they'd be back to where they'd been with Murphy. Unless Bodie chose the easier route, and cut Doyle from his life. That's safe. How long did they really have as partners?
Too late, too late, it sang along his nerves, bringing him sharply aware, as in a firefight, as in his partnership. He didn't want to go back, didn't want Murphy to take back the words he'd spoken. He didn't want what they'd had. Doyle stumbled forward, then fell into a run, gaining speed as desperation took hold. Bodie was walking away, would drive away, would never open this door again. Once rejected, already betrayed, Bodie could only be certain now that he'd never known Doyle as well as he'd thought. Doyle had already sliced through Bodie's heart, and still Bodie had held it out for him to mangle. Daft sod. The fool. No one would ever look after Bodie as well as Doyle would. No one.
Doyle flew across the garden, jumped a low hedge to take him round the other way, opposite to the way Bodie had gone, past the showers, through the rose garden and to the car park. He ran faster than he had earlier, faster than he ever had, except for the day he'd chased Bodie with a bomb strapped to his back.
It was only as he burst into the car park, and saw Bodie next to the Capri, one hand on the roof, his head bent, that Doyle realised he had no idea what he would say. He slowed as Bodie straightened and turned towards him, his face all guarded impassiveness. Doyle wanted to kiss him. He contented himself with a touch on Bodie's arm, while he struggled to speak and to recover his breath.
"Not going to...nick my car again...are you?"
"If you will be careless with it." Bodie's tone was completely neutral.
"Here." Doyle dug a hand into his jeans pocket, retrieving his key. He held it out to Bodie. "Half my worldly goods, right?"
Bodie's hand, reaching for the key, stopped, and his eyes met Doyle's. "It's not yours." He seemed almost unaware of his words, his eyes still fastened to Doyle's, a smile growing in them that had been too-long absent.
Doyle flipped the key to Bodie. "Did you collect our stuff?"
Bodie caught the key, and now the smile reached his mouth as well. "Uh, no."
Doyle sighed and spun around to retrace his steps. "Well? Come on, I'm not doing it by myself!"
They grabbed their bags from the locker room, then, at Doyle's insistence, went back to the shooting range to collect the cans and put them away in the garden shed.
Doyle watched as Bodie stored the box of cans away on a low shelf. "You're not going to let me run rough-shod over you, are you?"
Bodie turned round, after a final shove to the box. "Very likely."
"Maniac," Doyle grumbled. "Come here." Bodie obliged and Doyle pulled him close for a searching kiss, finding at least some of his answers there. He broke the kiss, but kept his hands on Bodie's shoulders. "Level playing field?"
Bodie brought a hand up to cradle the back of Doyle's neck. "You do it on the job, you can do it at home, too."
Doyle nodded, scared to death, but in the face of Bodie's courage, what else could he do? Through surrender, through responsibility, he'd guard Bodie's heart and let the consequences fall as they may. And, after all, who better was there to guard Doyle?
"Let's go home, Ray."
"I thought you promised me a workout?"
"I did. If we were both up to it, I said. I think we are." His hand moved from Doyle's neck in a thorough examination of Doyle's state of fitness.
"You also said you wanted an early night." Doyle was having trouble keeping his voice steady. "I reckon I'll join you in that."
"Good." Bodie kissed him quickly, then pushed Doyle towards the door. "I was rather hoping you would."
Later that night, Doyle lay contentedly in Bodie's arms, contemplating where twenty-four hours had brought them. Twenty-four hours and years of partnership. They'd gone back to Bodie's flat, picking up an Indian on their way home. And then, after chicken madras, tandoori king prawns, pilau rice and poppadoms, they'd gone to bed and Bodie had shown him why the risk was worth it. From the relaxed sprawl by his side, he reckoned he'd given Bodie an equal measure.
"I did wonder if it was rebound," he murmured into Bodie's ear.
"Rebound." Doyle thumped Bodie on his arm to gain his attention. "But, then again, if that's rebound, I reckon I can live with it."
Bodie peered at him through one eye, before turning his head into Doyle's shoulder again. "That's good. I doubt I'm up to proving anything to you right now." He added, with a bit more energy: "Ask again, in about an hour."
"I'm going to be asleep in an hour."
"Hmm. Poor old man."
Doyle absently rubbed along Bodie's arm. "I am sorry."
With a gusting sigh, Bodie rolled over onto his back. "Now he wants to talk." He turned on his side, one hand propped his head up, while the other settled on Doyle's flank. "For what, in particular?"
"Not telling you I'm bi."
Bodie shrugged. "You stopped all that when you joined the police?"
"So you wouldn't have taken me up on the offer."
"Oh, is that what you were doing?" Doyle looked amazed.
Bodie punched him. Then he gently traced the colourful bruising on Doyle's chest and stomach. "Anyway, you paid for that, didn't you?"
"It had its compensations." Doyle dropped a kiss on Bodie's shoulder, and then noticed Bodie's stillness and the sombre cast to his expression. With a slight sense of wonder, he recognised the rights he had now. "What is it?"
Bodie looked at him quickly, then away. He stroked down Doyle's side, eyes following the progress of his hand.
"It's just...you knew what I felt for you, and you knew when I took up with Murphy. I didn't know about you--"
"Of course you did."
Bodie's eyes met his. "How do you mean?"
"Well, for starters you didn't seem to believe me when I told you, just this morning, that I preferred women."
Bodie smiled slightly. "No, but I was rather grateful that you chose to push me in the shower."
"I pushed you?"
Leaning over, Bodie kissed him thoroughly. "And very nice it was, too."
"Sod." Doyle cuffed him, then traced a finger down Bodie's nose and onto his cheek. "Anyway, before that, too. You knew. You could've pushed it back then."
"No. We wouldn't have stood a chance." Bodie frowned a little, as he studied his hand on Doyle. "What did Murphy say to you?"
Doyle stilled and then he sighed. "It won't make much sense to you. He said: 'You've a chance, sunshine--don't cock it up.' It's the same thing I said to him, when I knew you two were together."
Bodie grinned. "Ah, the sound of true love." His hand was very gentle as he caressed Doyle.
"Do you remember that night after Diana Molner died?"
"'course. I still have a remnant of the hangover."
"That's when I reckoned I could live with you and Murphy being together. You stayed with me that night."
Bodie shook his head. "Both blind as bats."
"And grateful to Murphy."
Doyle leaned forward and kissed Bodie, pushing him onto his back, and taking his time with the kiss. He knew, from the lack of urgency in the hands caressing his back, that Bodie believed him now, that they truly did have all the time that CI5 and Cowley would allow. Grateful, indeed.
Eventually, Doyle broke the kiss, then began a slow exploration of Bodie's chest and rib cage.
"Doyle." Bodie was a little breathless, to Doyle's delight.
"Did you miss on purpose?"
"What?" Doyle raised his head.
"That last can."
Slowly, Doyle grinned. "Ah, well, that's for me to know and you--Bodie, watch it, that's--" Doyle scrambled away but was caught by Bodie, his hands relentless. A moment later, breathless himself, Doyle found their positions completely reversed.
"You were saying?" Bodie smiled down at him.
"Do your worst." Doyle tilted his head back as he thrust into the warmth of Bodie covering him, sliding their cocks together.
Bodie took him up on the invitation. And later, when Doyle would have told him anything, Bodie appeared to have forgotten the question.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Roses and Lavender 5, Allamagoosa Press, October 2001