Of Sunshine and Cemetaries
It was the kind of day where the sky was endless and pure, where the far fields were ripe and golden, where the heat sank into your bones and weighed you down. The kind of day that was good for wandering, for sunning and soaking, and for making lazy love.
Doyle surveyed the garden contentedly. They'd done the wandering, along narrow French lanes and a winding French river, and they'd even managed a bit of sunning and soaking after lunch, beer in hand, watching the village market with its colour and bustle. It had made Doyle very aware that they were far away from home, with no chance, let alone need, to be busy themselves. The biggest danger was that Bodie'd get sunburn.
It had been a tough few months. Few years. For the first time in a very long time he was enjoying sitting still, enjoying the lassitude of being on holiday. And he was glad that it was Bodie on the other side of the table, their knees occasionally bumping lazily as they turned in this direction or that, following the sun or the shade or a pretty pair of legs. They sat quietly, in a haze of warmth and alcohol and just being. Now and then one of the local characters caught their attention, and all they had to do was look at each other to share the amusement.
Yeah, thought Doyle, breathing in the scent of hot earth and dry grass and suntan oil, all that was left to make it a perfect day was the lazy love. He turned away from the country view, surveyed instead his partner, propped up against the smooth bark of a... an elm, Doyle thought vaguely. Bodie's legs stretched out in front of him, clad for once in blue jeans, his white cotton shirt untucked and loose. The history book he'd been reading had fallen to one side, fingers still holding it lightly, and Bodie's eyes were shut. He managed to look dishevelled and elegant at the same time.
No lazy love for him just yet. Unless... for a moment Doyle contemplated waking him. He imagined himself straddling those legs, bringing his hands to Bodie's face, leaning forward to kiss those lips. The press of Bodie against him. No. Bodie was tired, his eyes still dark and shadowed this morning. Let him sleep. Besides, Doyle wasn't quite ready to test their new relationship yet. It had happened once, just once, and though he knew he wanted it to happen again, while he ached for it to happen again, he wanted to know for certain that was what Bodie wanted too.
Wriggling in his jeans, Doyle turned his face back to the sun and closed his eyes. A week on holiday, together. Bodie's idea. It would happen, surely it would happen.
"Just five days after the defeat at Dunkirk, and the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from mainland Europe, Churchill ordered and approved plans for the creation of a "butcher and bolt" commando unit. Britain was in no position to launch a major military attack on the Germans, but it was felt that a successful series of small, spectacular raids would help to boost morale on the home front as well as among the military. These commandos would be small groups, who could land covertly in Nazi-occupied Western Europe, wreak havoc on vital targets, and leave as quickly as possible. Churchill called them "leopards", ready to spring at the throats of the Germans.
"Department MO9, later Combined Operations, was formed. It drew immediately from the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, broadening its nets in later years to take in recruits from the Royal Marines and even the police. Some 400 men passed the tough Commando training requirements, and formed the first battalions, known also as the Special Service for some years.
"Selection for the force was demanding. Not only extreme physical fitness, but the ability to act on their own initiative in the event of loss of the chain of command. Training included learning skills in survival, orienteering, close quarter combat, silent killing, signalling, amphibious and cliff assault, weapons and demolition. Most training took place in Scotland, far from the main arena of war, at Lochailort, Inveraray and later Achnacarry Castle. The training was conducted with live ammunition".
Doyle awoke to a shadow across the sun, and an incessant tickling in his ear. The hand he was lying on was benumbed with pins and needles, but with the other he snapped out, ready to break bones.
"Took you long enough. Good job it wasn't the KGB come for you."
"Bugger off, Bodie."
"Bugger off? That's the thanks I get for waking you gently with a feather instead of dumping cold water all over you?"
Doyle gave in to the inevitable and opened both eyes. He released Bodie's wrist, and turned over, rubbing his face tiredly, headache lurking somewhere in the back of his skull. Bloody afternoon drinking. He became aware of Bodie's gaze again -- not on his face, lower down.
"Nice dreams were they?"
"Bugger off, Bodie." Doyle said again, glancing downwards and sitting up. He refused to be embarrassed by nature's natural course. Had they been nice dreams? He remembered going to sleep thinking of... he felt his face flush, covered it with his hands again, then ran them back through his hair. Broken grass stems showered around him. He eyed Bodie disparagingly "Worse than a bloody five year old."
"Me?" Bodie asked, with his most innocent expression, "What have I done?"
"Now there's a question I wouldn't want answered."
"Scared you'll be overwhelmed?"
"Scared I'll find out why there really isn't an Easter bunny."
"You wound me. Although..." he paused a moment, patted his stomach, then rose on strong thighs. "Speaking of lapin, it's getting on for dinner." He tugged at Doyle's arm, grinning, "Shift yourself this way, sunshine, got a job for you."
Doyle stood and stretched, paused to scoop up his own book, and followed Bodie into the coolness of the tiny gite that was theirs for the week. They'd picked up a few supplies that morning in the village, half-minded to go out for dinner, but with no energy to make plans. At the last minute they'd been accosted by an old man with no teeth and a fine line in freshly caught and butchered rabbit, who eyed their bags of bread and cheese with caustic amusement, and pressed them not only into buying from him, but into purchasing a selection of vegetables from his wife.
"You realise we're gonna have to cook this now?" Doyle had said glumly at the time. Bodie had grinned back at him, raised his eyebrows, and steered them back to the small epicerie for a third bottle of red wine.
In the kitchen, Bodie was drinking a glass of water thirstily, with long swallows and his head tilted back. He finished, twisting to wipe his mouth on the shoulder of his shirt as he refilled the glass, passed it to Doyle.
"Ta. Toss you for cooking or cleaning?"
"Alright. Lets see what we've got here..." Bodie began pulling things out of the pantry: potatoes, carrots, garlic. Something white with a feathery green top. "Fennel," he said, to Doyle's enquiring eyebrow. "Call yourself a cook?"
"Foreign muck." Doyle retorted, knowing it wasn't really, partly to see what Bodie might reveal, partly just to wind him up. But Bodie was in a restless, playful mood, juggling potatoes, throwing one at Doyle's head instead of speaking again. Doyle caught it without effort, refused to throw it back. He ran more water, splashed it over his face, relishing the cold against his over-warm skin. Something was off, but he couldn't put his finger on it...
"Damn!" Bodie frowned at the empty bags on the counter, turned and rummaged through the pantry again.
"What's wrong? Forget the frogs legs?"
"Worse than that, my son. Forgot the Calvados."
"The Calvados! We can't be in Calvados and not have Calvados on our first night."
"We bloody can." Doyle retorted, not liking the speculative look Bodie threw his way. "Besides, last night was our first night."
"Doesn't count when you get in at gone eleven and collapse straight into bed."
"We've got wine."
"Yeah, but... Fine meal like this? Rabbit and your fancy veg, and wine and no dessert? The least you can do is get us some Calvados. It's only a little walk. Cut across the fields."
Doyle eyed him dubiously, half capitulated already. It would be good to get some fresh air. Then a long night, just the two of them, lingering over the fragrance of warmed apple...
"Ah, gwon mate..." Bodie had stilled, was looking at him, and suddenly the space between them came alive, was electric.
Everything fled his mind under that gaze. Doyle watched, mesmerised, as Bodie moved to stand in front of him, nearly close enough that they were touching. Nearly. The cotton of Bodie's shirt brushed against his own, and Bodie held his eyes. They'd been partners nearly six years, suddenly Bodie felt like a stranger. An exciting, promising stranger.
Bodie leaned his face forward to graze against Doyle's own, a caress barely there but for their breath sliding, meeting. He traced their cheeks together; Doyle felt lips whisper against his and away again. A tilting of skin against his own, a brush of eyelashes, and Bodie's voice low and soft at his ear.
A thousand breaths that he couldn't take, a thousand songs through his veins.
"... if you get the Calvados, I'll cook dinner..."
And then Bodie was pulling away from him, and the breath rushed back through his lungs, and he could hear birds singing loudly in the garden.
Bodie was still watching him, cool as a cucumber, teasing still. Christ, he wasn't used to this, to being the one seduced. He steadied himself consciously, met Bodie's measuring gaze, and tipped his head back. He was up for the game, Bodie wouldn't have it all his way.
"Calvados." He turned away and patted his hands down the back of his jeans slowly, ostensibly feeling for his wallet, knowing that Bodie was closely watching every inch of his movement.
"Calvados," Bodie repeated, voice set low.
"Your wish..." Doyle suggested, and with a final backward glance to where Bodie stood completely still again, he strode out the door.
"Ah William! Look, m'boy -- there's one. D'you see it? Good and fat, make a decent supper that one. Shall we bring it back for Annie to do up?"
He wasn't sure what the rabbit had to do with supper, but Grandfather seemed to like the idea, so he nodded and wriggled happily. He liked being out here with the two men, and the rabbit was big and fat. He wondered if Grandfather would let him stroke it, because it looked very soft and...
When the shot came he wasn't sure who was more surprised, himself or the rabbit. He startled, and knocked into grandfather's leg. His grandfather looked down at him, laughed. The rabbit had fallen over, and there was something wrong with it.
"Scare you, did it? Well, you'll get used to it. Get you one of your own when you're a bit bigger. You can be just like your father then, can't you?"
When the car passed him on his way to the village, Doyle hadn't thought much about it, except how annoyed the driver would be when it had to turn around again. The lane didn't go through to the main road, even though you could see it from the back of their garden. When the same car caused him to step again into the hedge nearly an hour later, eyes dazzled as he was forced into the still-bright evening sun, he cursed out loud, but he still didn't understand that something might be wrong. Probably stopped to ask for directions, paused to check out the age and the oddness of the gite. He wondered how Bodie's French would cope with that.
The walk had, as Bodie predicted, cleared the cobwebs from his head, and although his thoughts were still hazy, now they were the stuff of his fancies, of his fantasies, setting him up for an easy evening just the two of them, a heady anticipation of Bodie's next move, or maybe his.
Rich savoury smells greeted him from the kitchen, there was an open, already half-empty bottle of wine on the table, two glasses washed and upturned on the dishrack. He put the Calvados in the pantry, lifted the lid on the simmering pot, and gave the contents a quick stir and taste. Good. Bodie did well when he could be bothered.
It was quiet in the house. Bodie must be outside. He pottered about with herbs for a few minutes, wondered if it would still be warm enough to eat in the garden, on the small patio maybe, surrounded by the smells of a summer evening in the countryside. Be easier maybe, in the shadowed twilight. For things to take their course. Well. Easier for him, he admitted. Bodie didn't seem to be having a problem. His breath caught as he remembered being so close again, all of him, not just shoulders touching, arms brushing. All of him. All of Bodie.
He poured himself a glass of wine, wandered back outside and around the corner of the house. No Bodie. The sun was behind the row of yew in the back field now, the gite thrown unexpectedly into shadow, and it felt cooler. A slight breeze had picked up, and there were clouds in the distance. They'd have to eat inside after all. Maybe if they just used the lamps... Hell, he hoped the weather wasn't turning for the week. He'd wanted to see Giverny in the sunlight. Where there had been too much of it barely an hour ago, his t-shirt was now far too thin, and he headed back inside, upstairs for his jumper.
The first time he saw the photograph, the first time that he remembered, he was maybe six years old.
"This is your father. You're named after him. You'll grow up just like him, won't you?"
Will looked down at the young man in the photograph. He was wearing some kind of uniform, and standing very straight. He looked very serious, Will thought. Did he have to be serious like that? He wasn't sure he could be, because he always giggled when Peter pulled his silly faces at school.
"Maybe you can be just like him, one day..." his mother was whispering now, and she drew him into a fierce hug. She didn't do that very often, but Will liked it. She smelled like violets and roses, and her hair was soft. "Do that for me, William Andrew Phillip."
Bodie was in the bedroom, leaning back against the headboard of the double bed, book in hand again. And he seemed... unsettled. Doyle glanced at the cover of the book. "Life of a Leopard"- Africa again? Never zoology surely, he could at least be sure that wasn't something that had ever fascinated Bodie.
"Carrying keenness a bit far isn't it?" Doyle asked, pulling his jumper over his head, and tugging at the sleeves.
"Yer book. Must be good."
"Oh, yeah. It is." Bodie's most impenetrable face.
What had he disturbed..? Not Bodie having a wank, surely? Surely later... Had he got it wrong? Suddenly uncertain, unbalanced by this quiet man after his riot of dreaming on the way home, Doyle tried again, wanting to fill the awkwardness with noise, wanting whatever it was to be right again.
"You get that bloke sorted out alright?"
"The car. Nearly 'ad me over in the lane earlier."
"Thought you went across the fields?"
"Fancied taking me time. Besides, too hot still in the sun."
Bodie was standing up now, book tossed aside with a quick flick, pulling the covers straight across the pillow. "Well, shame to have no head for it... drinking at lunchtime..." A twist of his lips now, narrowed eyes, "Maybe you should stick to the lemonade tonight." Bodie jumped for the stairs suddenly, cuffing Doyle on the way, expecting him to follow, to engage with the joke.
Doyle looked after him. Had something happened just then? What had he missed? He glanced around the room, at the book, at the bed, at their cases lying on the single bed over in the corner. Everything was in place, just as he'd left it that morning. Pulling his jumper down over his hips, he headed back to the kitchen.
15th May 1943
Finally we have a little time to ourselves, and I promised myself that next time that happened I would write to you. Not much I can say, of course, but I am safe and well and so are most of the other chaps. We're buckling down -- not much choice as far as that goes -- and we manage to take it on the chin when something doesn't go our way. You'll have read, of course, about one thing and another in the papers. I'm pleased to say that I was involved in more than one of those little skirmishes, and we really are giving it to the Gerries.
I was very glad to hear Seb and Juliette's news. Do pass on congratulations to the proud parents from the proud uncle! By the look in his eye, I am sure that Patrick will be a credit to the family. A very handsome little fellow. I hope, always, that you are content enough waiting for me to return and I look forward to the day, not too long after we are married I hope, when I see such a photograph of you with our babe.
My dear, we are on the move again, orders have just come down. Some xxxxxxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxxxx xx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxx but of course we will plod on because we have to. The end will come, and I shall play my bit, and then we will be together at home. I will send this off today, although I know it is brief and barely worthy of a postage stamp. But I want to send you,
My love, always,
William A.P. Bodie (Cptn)
Dinner was relaxed, leisurely, and they had not only lamps but candles, at which Doyle managed a jibe or two about saving francs for the electric meter. Bodie looked suspiciously at him, then grinned and ordered him to lay the table. Comforted by the shadowed room, Doyle obeyed, poured wine, and even made a start on tidying up the amazing mess that was once the kitchen while Bodie dished up.
They chatted about this and that over the meal, avoiding CI5 where they could, naturally returning to it again and again. At one point Doyle managed to steer things from Liverpool FC to the Liverpool that Bodie grew up in, and there was only a brief pause before Bodie tried deflecting it to another, safer subject. A familiar game to them both, this hide and seek of Bodie's past, but Doyle was determined, one day, to hear real stories. No one joined the Merchant Navy when they were fourteen, not even back then.
"'Course they do," Bodie replied, a glint in his eye that was either amused or dangerous. Doyle couldn't tell which, in this light, but he decided he was willing to take a chance on it.
"They'd've had your guts for garters if they knew you were that young -- you'd never've got past any captain with half a brain."
"Well yeah," Bodie grinned, and Doyle could have kicked himself for leaving him an opening, "Never said the Captain had half a brain. Bastard stole my girl too. And when we got to Dakar..."
Not usually averse to hearing about Bodie's many girls, his trials, tribulations and in particular his techniques, Doyle found he didn't want to listen to this story. Not tonight. Somehow he was sure it wouldn't be true, and he didn't want lies between them tonight.
"Leave it out Bodie, they get taller. So - you never said - who was that bloke earlier? " he asked, clutching at the question he realised Bodie had never answered, "Your mate with the flash car?"
Interrupted mid-flow, Bodie frowned at him. "What bloke? Doyle..."
"Did anyone ever tell you that your imagination can get you into all sorts of trouble..?"
"What imagination? There was a..." Doyle paused. Bodie had put down his wine, had pushed back his chair and in two steps was standing in front of Doyle's own place. Doyle tried to stand, but Bodie pushed him gently back onto the seat, knelt down in front of him. Weaving fingers through Doyle's hair, Bodie kissed him first, and then he bent forward and rubbed his face across Doyle's aching groin, mouthed him through the soft nap of his moleskins, sent reason flooding from either of them.
They managed the stairs somehow, one at a slow time, mouths locked together the whole way, a tangle of arms undressing each other, of abandoned shoes and jumpers and shirts and vests. No quick fuck this, Doyle managed to think, eyes half closed. No post-op fumble and fuck, no quick comfort. This was the real thing, at last, and he wondered if he would die of it.
They paused at the doorway, Bodie pressing him hard enough against the jamb that he felt it bite into his back, scrape away skin. He shoved them away again, towards the bed, wanting it to last, wanting to draw it out until neither of them could stand it. With a moan he managed to separate them, turned Bodie and nudged him in the direction of the bathroom.
Drawing a shuddering breath, trying to slow himself, Doyle reached to pull down the covers on the bed, found himself back in Bodie's embrace instead. Strong arms crossed his stomach, and he was held immobile in a way no woman could ever manage. His arms caught by his sides, he was unable to retaliate when Bodie nuzzled again at his neck, under his ear, blowing hot breath across his skin, kissing him, marking him with sharp teeth. He moaned, pressed backwards and felt Bodie solid, hard, aroused. He writhed against him, but the advantage didn't last long. Bodie slid one arm down, pressed instead against Doyle's own cock, rubbed himself against Doyle's arse.
"Ray..." Bodie pulled them both onto the bed, tugged at the button to Doyle's jeans, and Doyle jerked back, suddenly sure he was going to come there and then if Bodie's hands didn't leave his body now. Bodie started to shrug out of his own trousers instead, left Doyle to sort himself out, before pulling them back together.
Doyle couldnít remember ever wanting anything so much before. Bodie had reached around to grasp his arse, was thrusting against him, mouth searching for his again. "Slow down..." Doyle managed, not sure he could now anyway, not sure that there was anything else in the world but the two of them like this forever.
"Ray," Bodie said again, leaving Doyle's lips and arching against him, so that Doyle opened his own eyes again, felt himself caught. "The thing is..." Bodie's hands squeezed at his buttocks, his fingers brushed between them. "I'm going to do this to you all night." And Doyle came, closing his eyes against Bodie's gaze, feeling Bodie come against him seconds later.
My dearest Felicia,
It's been a long time, and I was beginning to give up hope of ever getting a letter out to you, but Toby has promised me that he will catch the mail run with this and I must believe him. I hope you've been writing, I have to believe that you are still waiting for me. You, my darling, are what keeps me going over here. It seems I spend most of my days crawling through either mud or dust, but there are fewer Gerries since we got here, and we are advancing steadily.
There is bad news I'm afraid. Bodger and his crew didn't make it across. Got held up half way and had to ditch. You probably already know that Meeks and Richardson were caught on the beaches, and that Hillier came a cropper at Merville. Sometimes I feel as if I'm the only one left. That's not true of course, Percy made it back home, and I hear he's doing well. Beatrice says that he may even recover some sight, so that's good news.
Sometimes, when it's quiet, I look up at the stars and pretend that you are beside me. Do you remember that night by Alderley? I had no idea that you knew so many constellations, and I was overwhelmed by the clever girl I had chosen. I think I knew then that I wanted to marry you. It took me a long time to get around to asking, I know. Our wedding in May was the happiest day of my life, and I promise you that when all this is over I will sweep you away to resume our interrupted honeymoon. There are so many things I want to tell you.
I miss you darling,
Doyle woke to an empty space in the bed beside him, and Bodie's voice downstairs. He felt pleasantly exhausted, his body stretched and twisted as though he'd had a thorough work out. He remembered, and smiled into the pillow. He had.
They'd left the heavily flowered curtains open and the morning sun streamed relentlessly into the room. Even through closed eyes the world was orange. Maybe the rain had been headed off after all. Not often he got to lie in like this, it felt like he couldn't remember a day that Bodie hadn't been pounding on his door at... Who was Bodie talking to? Hadn't the gite owner had said they'd be left alone this week?
Wide awake now, Doyle slid out of bed, pulled his jeans on and padded to the top of the stairs. The only voice was Bodie's, long pauses between sentences. Was there a telephone in the kitchen? Strange he'd not heard it ring, he'd have sworn it would take more than a couple of days to break their Pavlovian habit of jumping to a distant bell or bleep. Silently he made his way downstairs, paused by the kitchen door which was pulled to, but not shut.
"No... No... Yes, I read them. It doesn't ... You've... No. I can't today... Yes, maybe so." A sigh. "And if I do? Will you leave it alone? ... Fine. Fine. Yes, I'll let you know."
The sound of receiver dropping heavily into cradle caused him to back up, to climb three stairs and make a show of leaping down and into the hallway. The kitchen door opened as he was mid-flight, and then he was face to face with Bodie.
"Who was that, then?" Doyle asked cheerfully, nodding to the kitchen.
"Who was what?"
Doyle's smile faded. "The phone. Heard you talking."
"You're imagining things again."
What was going on? "You were. I heard you." Christ, he sounded like a ten year old. "You were talking just now, I heard you."
"So I was talking to myself, big deal."
"You were on the phone..."
"Give it a rest, Doyle, we're supposed to be on holiday! Don't you ever take time off from checking up on the rest of the world?"
"I thought..." He paused. What had he thought, anyway? There was just that niggling at the back of his mind, the itch that something was wrong, but what could be wrong? So Bodie had phoned someone, big deal. But if it was so innocent then why...
"Ray..." Bodie dropped his head to his chest, linked his hands behind his head and then looked up again, "I'm sorry, I'm hungover and that was a wrong bloody number far too early for my liking." He stepped forward, let his arms fall, and smiled. "Come on, come back to bed..."
"What, even with a headache?"
"Oh that's just a myth. Best cure for a hangover..."
"Is that what you tell all your girls?"
Bodie reached for him, and Doyle wavered between his copper's instinct, between knowing that something was wrong, and his own body's betrayal. His body won.
Combined Operations Command, London
25th August, 1944
I am directed by Combined Operations Command to inform you that they have with great regret to confirm the telegram in which you were notified of the further news that your husband, Captain William Andrew Phillip Bodie, R.A, 097339, No.4 Commando, lost his life as the result of Special Operations on 29th July 1944.
His body was recovered and buried by Army personnel.
Combined Operations Command desire me to express their profound sympathy with you in your bereavement.
I am, Madam,
Your obedient Servant
For Combined Operations Command
Bodie seemed full of good spirits and charm for the rest of the day, insisting they drive up to Giverny in the hire car while the sun was shining. They could go see battlefields and cemeteries when it was raining. Doyle, wanting to shake off his earlier doubts, didn't argue, and they stopped to picnic on the way; left over rabbit, bread and cheese eaten in a meadow by a softly-running stream. Bodie bounced from one side of the stream to the other, threatened to throw Doyle in if he didn't cheer up, and generally played the fool to amuse them both.
Giverny was beautiful, a riot and race of colour and smell and heat. They wandered the straight paths of the Clos Normand, a profusion of foxgloves and delphiniums, of nasturtiums, clematis and sunflowers, of iron arches entwined with climbing roses. Doyle tried to imagine having all this to yourself, to be able to sit quietly, whenever you wanted, paintbrush in hand.
"Fancy this, do you?" Bodie asked, throwing himself down on a bench, leaning back and contemplating the flowers above him, arms stretched the length of the seat back, tapping the guidebook restlessly against the wood. It was the most natural thing in the world, Doyle thought, that Bodie had read his mind.
"Nah." Doyle sat beside him, felt Bodie's arm solid against his back, and closed his eyes to the sun. "Not really. Too..."
"Boring?" Bodie did it again.
Doyle snorted, "Well, would you really want to give up the glories of W14 for this?"
And Bodie, who had been all around the world and back, smirked across at him before punching him on the arm and jumping to his feet. "Not on your life, mate. Not on your life."
Doyle remained on the bench for a moment, content to watch Bodie walking away, a pale-clothed figure with the insouciance of a Frenchman, he thought. Running hands down his jeans, he followed him across the road, entered the dimmer world of the water gardens. They stopped along the path under a weeping willow, gazed across the soft waters.
Bodie rattled the guidebook at him. "It says here he used to 'ave someone clean those every morning," he said, nodding down to a few early water lilies floating, deeply pink, against the shadowed murk beneath, "They'd get dirty from the trains, and the gardener would go out and take the soot off every leaf before Monet got up and went out in his own boat."
Doyle eyed first the water lilies, then Bodie sceptically. "There's dedication to duty."
"True enough." Bodie held his gaze, and in the soft light of the water garden, Doyle saw bullets flying between them, blood against flesh, felt brick and concrete jar his body, and he felt Bodie at his back. And he knew. In another century, in another world, Bodie would have cleaned water lilies for him.
With the air warm around them, half-hidden by the heavy swathes of deep green garden, Bodie took his hand and drew Doyle to his side, kissed him furtively, mischievously, truly.
It was a perfect day.
Doyle wanted to believe it.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Monroe, at school, had told him how his mother had smiled and given him a whole guinea when he presented her with a bunch of roses for no reason at all. Will wasn't fussed about the money, but it was nice when his mother smiled, as though the sun had come out.
The trouble was he didn't seem to have the knack of either picking roses or avoiding their vicious thorns. The stems didn't want to break, they were all woody inside somehow, and no matter how he tried to avoid them the thorns found their way across his palms and around his fingers. By the time his mother came across him, as she wandered through the garden giving Nanny her instructions for the week, the rosebushes were a mass of bent and broken stalks, and the skin hung in strips from his bloodied hands.
It was Nanny who tidied him up, who covered his hands in merchurochrome and bandages and threw the tattered flowers in the rubbish bin. Then she took him to see Mother.
"William Andrew Phillip, whatever were you thinking? My bushes are devastated and... " She broke off with a slight shake of her head, regarding him tiredly, and Will dropped his eyes. He'd let her down again. He knew without looking that she had no more words for him this day. And maybe, just maybe, he was running out of tomorrows.
"Oh, take him away, Nanny, do. And do try to keep him out of the way."
When Will glanced back one last time before Nanny ushered him from the room, she was looking at the photograph again.
It was well and truly dark as their Renault pulled through the gateway of the gite, but despite that the air was warm and still, as though sullen with the end of the day. Climbing stiffly from the car, Doyle paused. Over the fading diesel of the exhaust, was still the scent of dry grass, and of honeysuckle from the hedges. He breathed in appreciatively, wondered if you could overdose on smells, wondered why he never noticed this sort of thing at home.
In the bright kitchen Doyle found Bodie opening a bottle of wine and agreeably picked up a couple of glasses from the cupboard. He paused for a moment, watching his partner's gaze roaming speculatively around the room. Looking thoughtful he turned to rummage in the pantry and emerged with brie and crackers.
"This do you?"
Doyle nodded and gestured to the door. "Outside?"
"Fancy a bit of star-gazing do we?" Bodie asked waggling his eyebrows suggestively, and Doyle managed to kick him nicely as he went by.
They set up on the grass, reclined back and listened to the night-time rustlings and chirrupings of the country above the crunching of cheese and crackers. As his eyes adjusted the skies came alive, and Doyle found himself ... in awe, that was it. He was actually in awe.
A snatch of verse came to him as he gazed at the heavens, "'And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by...' What's that from then, oh poet laureate?"
"'I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by...' Masefield."
"Huh." It never ceased to amaze him how Bodie could come out with this stuff, seemingly at whim. "D'you fancy going down to the seas again, then?"
"Eh?" For a moment he had visions of Bodie fed up with Cowley's machinations and hiring onto some freighter bound for foreign climes. He looked over in the moonlight to see Bodie looking back at him, amused.
"My turn tomorrow. The Beaches. D-day, remember?"
"Oh yeah." History had never been his strong subject. Couldn't see the point when there was so much now to worry about. "Where is it again?"
"By the sea. Don't worry, you can eat glaces and dangle your feet in the pretty water."
"Moron." He turned his attention back to the sky, squinted. "What's that sort of white streak there then?"
"Is it bollocks."
"'S truth. That's the Milky Way. Can't see it back home, too many lights."
"Can barely see the moon back home," Doyle agreed, secretly impressed.
"Go on then, what constellations do you know?"
"The Plough," Doyle said immediately, confident that at least he'd get that one right.
"It is!" Bloody Bodie, thinking he was too thick to know even that, "There..." he pointed to the stars, tracing them out in the air.
"Nope, sorry sunshine. 'S not actually a constellation, that. It's an asterism."
"An asterism. A constellation is made up of stars in the same group. An asterism just looks like the stars are close together, but they could be millions of light years apart."
"How do you know all this? And don't tell me merchant navy."
"We did actually have a bit of astronomy," Bodie sniffed, "But no, me mum told me..."
Odd thing for his mum to know, Doyle thought. "How did she... oi! Where're you off to?"
"For a piss Ray, is that okay?"
Doyle waved him off, pretending not to hear the hard note that had somehow crept into Bodie's voice. The same old subject, out of bounds. Having slid down to lie flat on the ground as they contemplated the stars, he tipped his head to take a sip of wine. He wished it would cool down again, it was great having proper summer heat in the day, but he'd never liked it at night.
Was good to lie flat out though, to stretch... his left hand caught Bodie's still-full glass, for a moment he thought he'd make the save, fingers scrabbling at the stem, but he'd have been better not trying. The base flicked back, and rather than fall harmlessly onto the grass the wine splashed not only up his arm, but down his face and onto his chest as well.
Cursing softly, he sat up, felt drips running down his cheeks. He actually managed to lick some off, half laughing, before pulling up the bottom of his t-shirt to wipe it away properly. Shame Bodie'd gone inside... And then he realised what he'd just done. His favourite green t-shirt. Bloody hell.
Cold water for red wine, wasn't it? No, salt. Stripping off as he went, he strode back to the lights of the gite. Stopped abruptly outside the door as he heard, again, Bodie talking.
"No... No... Yes, I will meet you... No... Love has nothing to do with it... Fine... Banneville-la-Campagne... Make it around three..."
What was going on? Who was Bodie meeting? And love...
This time, when the door opened in his face, he stood still, didn't move, didn't blink. Bodie froze, his eyes taking in the scrunched shirt in Doyle's hands, perhaps an errant drop of wine clinging tenaciously to his hair. His face was stone, all but unfathomable. One thing Doyle could fathom -- it wasn't happy.
"Well?" he asked softly, and wasn't at all surprised when Bodie stepped around him, and strode down the lane into the night.
Doyle scrubbed at his shirt mechanically, forgetting the salt, forgetting hot or cold, becoming lost in a froth of harsh bubbles. When it seemed to be clean he carefully took it upstairs, hung it over a towel rail, and let it drip freely onto the floor. With nothing else to do, he sat down on the edge of the bath and leaned forwards, covered his face with his hands.
What was Bodie up to?
More importantly, why wouldn't he explain what was going on? If it was such a big secret, why invite Doyle along in the first place? If he couldn't trust him, why start this... this thing, and why pretend he gave a damn at all? It was real, Doyle would swear his life on it -- did swear his life on it, every day. The way they reacted to each other...
The way they reacted to each other. Just before the car came to the gite yesterday. Last night, when he'd asked about it again. This morning after the phone call. No. Coincidence. Just coincidence... Not coincidence.
He rubbed tiredly at his eyes, leaned back against the tiled walls and stared away at nothing, seeing Bodie's face in front of him again, angry, full of denial. What had Bodie said on the phone this morning? He'd read them. Read what? Something he'd brought with him, or something..? Something that bloke had passed on.
He stood abruptly, turned his head to the door, thinking. Bodie had sent him out for the Calvados, had been hiding upstairs rather than outside, or even in the kitchen. There had been two glasses on the dishrack. He swallowed, made himself move past it. So someone else had been here, someone Bodie didn't want to talk about, and he'd left something for Bodie to read. Something that he didn't want to tell Doyle about, something that had left him with an air of guilt, of secrecy, when Doyle came back.
The house was silent as he crossed the landing to the bedroom, although just then he wasn't sure he cared whether Bodie came across him searching his possessions or not. He switched on the overhead light in the bedroom, and both lamps, and looked around, hands on hips. The obvious places first, wardrobe, drawers, bed. Nothing, of course. Did Bodie think he'd look? Or did he have faith that Doyle would leave him his privacy, above all else? You shouldn't have lied to me, Bodie.
There was a combination lock on Bodie's suitcase, which Doyle opened with ease, but nothing inside. It didn't have to be in the bedroom, but somehow he knew it was. It was the one place Bodie would hear Doyle coming, every time, the one place he could withdraw to with the excuse of fetching something from the wardrobe, or a pocket. Nothing in the curtains, nothing under the rugs, no loose floorboards... And Doyle looked up and saw it.
In the corner of the room, right above the ornate, cushioned chair upon which Doyle had spread half his clothes, was the hatch to the attic. It was a small square of wood, doing nothing more than resting on a thin ledge running around the opening itself, and it lifted silently when Doyle pressed upwards with both hands. He gazed into the darkness. It was too high to climb into, almost too narrow, certainly to do so furtively, quietly. He paused for a moment, looking around the empty, innocent space, and then tipped his hands slightly, angling the square of wood downwards. There was the rustle of sliding papers.
He stopped their slide with one hand, managed to grasp them all together, and skewed the wood so that it would rest above the hatch, leaving it open. He stepped from the chair and sat down on it instead, gazed at the documents in his hand. A large envelope, stuffed full of other, smaller envelopes, marked with the single initial "B" in ornate black ink.
On top of the smaller envelopes was a long thin box, deep blue velvet, the type that might hold jewellery. Breathing steadily, Doyle opened the clasp. A watch. An antique watch, gold. He gazed at it for a moment, slid it back into the envelope.
The other thing was the book that Bodie had been reading, The Life of A Leopard by Michael Rondat. Tucked inside it was a photograph, of a tall, handsome man maybe his own age, maybe a little older. He was carelessly elegant, leaning against a tree and laughing at something the photographer had said, looking directly into the camera. It was a black and white picture, but Doyle felt the force of his personality, was drawn to those eyes. Absently he turned it over. With love, P 1982.
Not possible. "Nothing to do with love", Bodie had said. Who was this man?
A door slammed downstairs, and he jumped, nearly dropped the envelope and its precious contents. He hesitated. Did he wait for Bodie? Confront him? Bodie, through whose belongings he had just searched, through whose secrets he was rifling. Bodie, who wouldn't answer a straight, innocent question about his days growing up, who had strode into the dark at the sight of Doyle's face at the kitchen door. No.
With half an ear on the sounds downstairs, on the creak of plumbing, the clank of glass, the tread of feet, Doyle returned the documents to their hiding place, stripped off the rest of his clothes, and went to the bathroom to clean his teeth. By the time Bodie pushed open the door to the bedroom, he was in bed, a single sheet pulled crisply about him, no matter the heat of the night. The lamp was on. He was not reading.
Bodie leaned against the doorframe, arms by his sides, looking half-defeated, rebellious yet. Their eyes met.
"It's not you, Doyle. I promise, it's got nothing to do with you."
Doyle wanted to believe him. He wanted to hit him. He wanted to hate him. He didn't want to lose him. And so he nodded, and tried not to see the picture of the other man livid behind his eyes, and he reached for Bodie.
They came hard, and they came fast, and then they lay half-tangled together, sticky in the heat. Bodie fell asleep with his face turned to Doyle, one hand cupped under Doyle's arm, fingers gripping tightly enough that there would be bruises in the morning. Doyle lay awake, watching the rise and fall of Bodie's chest, and wondered why they were there together at all. When the storm finally broke and cooler air sliced through the window, he pulled the duvet around them both and watched the lightening flash shadows across the walls until dawn washed it all away, and then he slept.
The rain left the world refreshingly cooler, though still blue-skied, still endlessly summer. They spent the day in a whirl of beaches and memorials and cemeteries. Doyle discovered more than he had ever imagined knowing about the first and second world wars, some of it from the various guidebooks, most of it from Bodie. Some of what Bodie told him came from Life of a Leopard, which Bodie carried tucked into a jacket pocket.
Bodie was trying hard to act normally, teasing him about his cursory examination of the wartime relics, and Doyle in turn taunted him about his "unnatural interest". Now and then, as they stared out to sea at the ruins of the Mulberry Harbours, or stood side by side, reading the seemingly endless lists of names on an obelisk or an archway, Doyle wondered if Bodie was about to say something more, something that would let him in, explain why they stood beside each other, so far away. He never did.
As promised, Bodie bought him ice cream and they splashed in the waters of La Manche -- the English Channel Bodie insisted, with a fine line in English yobbery.
Doyle was waiting for three o clock.
But when three o clock came they were on the road, at three-fifteen they were drinking coffee outside an apparently random patisserie and at three forty-five it seemed that they were on the way home. Perhaps Bodie had given up on it after all. Perhaps the man was some crazed stalker from his merc days, and Bodie wanted nothing more than to avoid him. Perhaps "love has nothing to do with it" was the truth, after all, and the writing on the photograph was coincidence. Perhaps he had not, after all, been speaking to someone else about Doyle. The sun was hot through the car windows, the fields and villages blurred past him, and Bodie was, for once, driving rather sedately. Doyle's eyes closed.
When he awoke the shush of the car tyres on asphalt had stopped, the car had stopped, and Bodie was nowhere to be seen. Cursing under his breath, Doyle clambered out, hot and sticky and irritable. They were parked in front of yet another cemetery. Banneville-la-Campagne.
There were half a dozen other cars beside them, and as Doyle stood looking around another vehicle pulled up and disgorged a white-haired couple, who walked slowly but gracefully up the long path towards the entrance. Doyle strode past them, eventually through a pair of black wrought iron gates, and along the hedge-shrouded path into the cemetery itself. Partly concealed in the shadows of a green-covered arbour, he paused to get his bearings.
To his left was a rectangular stone building. It would be, he now knew, lined with names, and somewhere in its shade would be an elderly caretaker, perhaps prickly, perhaps friendly, perhaps garrulous about the memories entrusted to his care. Doyle had no wish to make his acquaintance on this visit.
Spread in front of the shelter were rows and rows of graves. Some of the stones would have more than one name and Doyle had surprised himself earlier in the day by being touched at this. As ever the headstones were arranged in pristine lines, the grass around them clipped and trimmed. Each line of stones was planted in front with brightly coloured flowers, or some other carefully tended plant. The paths were set straight, the hedge that ran around the boundary ordered and tidy. It was as if, Doyle thought, this was someone's idea of the perfect heaven with nothing out of place, nothing chaotic, or loud or random. It was peaceful; it certainly was that.
In the distance to his right, on the opposite side of the cemetery, was a tall stone cross, stark white against the blue sky. Standing in front of it was Bodie, and the man from the photograph. As Doyle watched, half-hidden in the shadows, they began to stride back through the gravestones towards him.
The man was tall, taller than Bodie, and he walked with a long confident stride. He was older, Doyle guessed, late thirties, early forties. He wore a suit, casual but with the line of expensive, good tailoring. And he was good looking. Dark hair, an even face, an elegance of movement - he had bearing. He had... Doyle hesitated. There was something more, something... what did they call it? Elan. He had élan. Even from so far away he could see it, just as the other tourists turned towards the two men together, drawn by such intangible force passing close by them.
The men turned abruptly between another row of headstones, walking away from Doyle's vantage point, the sun on their backs. There was nowhere Doyle could go without stepping into the open, no way he could get closer without them seeing him. And although he had every right to be there, although Bodie had after all brought him, Doyle found that he did not want to be seen, did not want to interrupt them. They stopped in front of one of the graves, stood looking at it. For a moment they were still, and then the man turned to Bodie and began to speak.
Too far away to hear, Doyle could see only that the other man was gesticulating passionately about something. He must be French, no Englishman would be so free with his arms, with his body, not here among the quiet of the graves. Except that Bodie was shaking his head, just as vehemently, just as passionately.
Finally the other man lowered his arms, lowered his head. He reached out to Bodie, took his shoulders firmly in his hands, and kissed either cheek. It was just a custom, Doyle told himself, feeling his face tighten, his fists clench, it was just a French custom. But the other man didn't let go of Bodie at once. He looked long into his face before turning, gently, and walking away from him.
Doyle watched as Bodie half-raised an arm, as if to call the man back, and then lowered it again. In despair? In loss? Doyle wanted to run, to leap across the headstones and to pound the pristine grass. He wanted to put his own hands on Bodie, to look into that face and see what was written there. He did none of those things. He closed his eyes, in the dark shadow of the arbour, and waited for the man to pass by him.
"Whatever you think, it's not true."
"No?" He kept his eyes shut. He didn't care for the stark sunlight and blue skies right now.
"Patrice. His name is Patrice."
"I don't care what his name is..."
"He's my cousin, Doyle."
Silence. His heart was pounding, his face and eyes tight. More lies? Or the truth this time? No way to know... He opened his eyes, stared down at Bodie's feet, at the smart black boots.
"Cousin." He couldn't look up, not yet. "I thought you didn't have any family."
"So did I. He's not a first cousin. Second or something."
"Look, it's not really any of my business."
"No. But since you followed me in you'd better see it through. Since you're spying on me now."
He sighed, turned to Bodie at last. Bodie looked grim, his eyes dark-shadowed again as though the worries of the world had settled behind them. "Not spying. But why such a big secret? If there's nothing wrong?"
"It's not... it's something from a long time ago. Before Africa even. Something I had to handle on my own."
Doyle smiled humourlessly. "Since when did you ever handle anything on your own? Remember?"
"Yeah. Yeah I remember. But itís not like that."
"Show me the picture."
"How do you..?" Bodie broke off, his face closed again. He clenched his fists.
But Bodie was striding away again, not looking back.
They drove home to the gite in silence, Bodie slammed the door of the Renault, leaving Doyle sitting there in the twilight. Doyle followed, slowly, with no idea what would come next for either of them.
Bodie was upstairs when he entered the kitchen, and he paused at the door. The one thing he would not allow... But you didn't allow Bodie anything. No, damn him. The one thing he would not allow was Bodie packing his case and walking out that door without explaining things. He took out the Calvados, never even opened on that first night, and two glasses, and sat down at the table to wait.
But when Bodie came down, he was not carrying his suitcase, but the envelope. Taking out the jewellery case first, he threw it onto the table, so that the letters inside slid out and fanned across the worn wood.
"Did you find that as well, then?"
Doyle nodded. "I didn't read them Bodie."
"You just had a quick look and jumped to conclusions? Is that it?"
"No... Maybe..." he shrugged, Bodie knew him, even now Bodie knew him. But that didn't make it okay, that didn't explain anything. "I don't understand why you invited me along if you were going to go to all the trouble of sneaking around behind my back!"
"I didn't..." Bodie's turn to pause, and then his voice softened. "I wanted you along, Ray. I needed you to be here."
"Look in the envelope." Bodie sat down, poured them both a drink, and slid the letters closer to him. "Read them, Ray."
The first thing he noticed was that the letters were, after all, old. The paper was flimsy, yellowed, and the writing faded. The second thing he noticed was the signature at the bottom of most of them: William A.P Bodie. The third thing he noticed was that Bodie was drinking the Calvados far too fast.
"This was your father?"
Bodie took another swallow of the brandy, and selected a worn newspaper clipping from the pile of paper, shoved it at Doyle. Captain William Andrew Phillip Bodie, decorated posthumously with the Military Cross, had died a few months after the D-day landings, in 1944.
"Call me thick..."
"Thick." Doyle interrupted, automatically, obligingly, gently.
"... but I didn't work it out until I was twelve. He wasn't my real dad at all. Couldn't've been, could he? He'd been dead two years by the time I was born. But my Mum told me he was. All my life. Even after I'd figured it out she wouldn't admit otherwise."
Silence spread again. Bodie was contemplating his hands, and Doyle was careful not to look at him this time. "So who was your real dad then?"
"Dunno. I never asked. She never told me. It was too... Too hard to make her talk about anything much if she wasn't in the mood. She'd tell me about him though, all the time." He shifted in his seat, stared out over the shining blue sea. "Got fed up with it eventually, messed around at school enough that they threw me out."
"That's not in your record."
"It wasn't official. Officially I left school. She didn't know what to do with me then. Her father wanted me in some military academy, but she wouldn't have that. Not after what had happened to him. It was me suggested the merchant navy."
"... the merchant navy? Seemed like a good idea at the time. No." Bodie paused and Doyle heard him taking a breath, "That's not true. My mate Peter joined, his parents signed him up to School in Anglesey. That's why I wanted to go. And we were fourteen. Didn't get signed onto a ship until we were sixteen though. You were right Professor, they wouldn't' have looked at us then, not without our papers."
Doyle stared through the papers on the table, love letters written by a young soldier to his wartime sweetheart, a photograph of a boy younger than he and Bodie were now. "Your mum..."
"Died three months ago. I hadn't spoken to her in over fifteen years. No point. She never told me anything I wanted to hear, anything that wasn't a pack of lies." Bodie took a breath, poured himself another drink and topped up the glass that Doyle had barely touched. "But that was when Patrice got in touch, started insisting that we meet, that he give me this lot."
"Why, if he wasn't your real dad?"
"Dunno. Seemed to think it made no difference whether he was or not. Eventually I said I'd take it just to shut him up. Besides," Bodie looked up at him from under his lashes, one eyebrow raised, "He offered me free use of this place. I figured we deserved a rest. Thought I could kill two birds with one stone."
"And then?" Doyle prompted, feeling a little like Hercule Poirot at the end of some bizarre, twisted mystery.
"Well then it wasn't enough that I had the letters, and his watch, I had to see the grave too." Bodie rummaged again among the envelopes, drew out another photograph, this time a headstone. It was taken a long time before the arbour had been planted, before the hedges had grown, but it was a headstone at Banneville-la-Campagne, and it recorded, again, the death of W.A.P. Bodie. Doyle felt his flesh rise in goosebumps, and Bodie managed a half-laugh. "Imagine how I felt."
"I still don't understand why you just didn't tell me."
"It was ancient history, worse than school and Liverpool and family... And he's not even my real dad. Didn't see the point. Nothing to do with us now." He paused. "I shouldn't have let it get to me, I shouldn't have taken it out on you."
"You didn't, not really. Was probably my fault." Bodie raised an eyebrow at him again, and Doyle snorted. "Nah, you're right, it's your fault."
"Although I blame you for the fact that there's nothing left to eat in this place. And I'm hungry."
Doyle half-smiled, rifled through the papers and photographs on the table. He didn't find any of a young Bodie, and he wondered where those pictures were, the proud mother, the wilful -- knowing Bodie -- child.
There was a picture of two couples together, laughing on a beach somewhere. He recognised the young soldier, out of uniform this time, and held it out to Bodie. "Your mum?"
"The blonde one. The other woman is Juliette, Patrice's mother. The bloke is his father, Sebastian."
"William's brother. Your uncle," Doyle suggested.
Bodie shrugged. "They divorced a few years after the war. That's when Juliette brought Patrice back here, and then he was killed serving in Egypt. Patrice never knew him. Probably why he was so hung up on my... on him."
A lot to know about a family you're not interested in, Doyle thought, but he didn't say it out loud. Most of the other pictures were of William Bodie, and Doyle considered them carefully. He didn't look unlike Bodie in fact, both dark haired and evenly featured, although his Bodie was solid whereas this one was much more finely boned, slim even. But not so strange to think for a long time that he might be your dad.
"What do you want from me, Bodie?" he asked suddenly, looking up from the pictures. "Do you want anything, really?"
"The only time," Doyle continued in a rush, making himself say it because he had to know, "The only times you touched me were when you wanted to distract me. So I need to know..."
"That's not true!" Bodie exclaimed, and then because he was Bodie he tipped his head and twisted his mouth in a wry grin. "Well, maybe it is, but it was as good an excuse as any."
"Did you need an excuse?" Doyle watched him warily, wanting to see every movement of his eyes, every stillness of his face. Wanting to see the truth.
Bodie held his gaze, and let the grin stretch, "Not at Giverny."
And Doyle felt the warmth rush through him as he remembered standing by the water, Bodie's eyes looking deep into his own then too, and his lips, his lips...
"Don't need an excuse now either," Bodie said, pushing his chair back and bending to hook two fingers down the front of Doyle's shirt, "Or do I?"
Doyle shook his head mutely, let Bodie pull him up so that they stood face to face, close enough to kiss, not quite doing it. Instead Bodie bent his head and began to undo Doyle's shirt; slowly, letting his fingers glide down over warm skin between each flick of a button. Doyle's breath came in small shudders, and by the time Bodie had undone the last one he was so turned on he barely knew what to do with himself.
"So fast Ray," Bodie whispered, "Every time I touch you..."
"And whose fault is that?" Doyle managed to ask, his hands reaching up to grasp Bodie by the hair, to hold him still long enough to kiss.
"Your fault for being so bloody... Ray?"
Doyle stood still, staring hard at Bodie's face. He pulled back slightly. Surely not? Surely...
He ran a thumb over Bodie's cheek, kissed him quickly and turned back to the table.
"Doyle, what the hell..?"
There. The picture of the couples on the beach. He squinted at it in the light, wanting to make sure... Yes.
Bodie took the picture, frowning, but studied it just the same. "What? " he asked, clearly bewildered, "Doyle..."
Doyle stood close beside him, close enough that Bodie's arm, holding the photograph, pressed against his chest. "Sebastian," he said, "His..."
"...eyebrows." Bodie finished, his face smoothing in amazement, "No, that's stupid..."
"Why? Why is it? You said they got divorced..."
Doyle twisted around, looked over Bodie's shoulder so that he could see the picture again. Sebastian gazed, laughing, out of the photo, as dark as his brother William, but stockier of build, and with the same strange twist to his eyebrows as Bodie.
"Clearly 'ad a way with the women, too..." Doyle said lightly, "Like father, like..."
"Bugger off, Doyle." But Bodie was still staring at the photo, as though it could speak, as though it would answer every question his mother had refused him.
"Bet we could find out." Doyle said, feeling determined. He may not waste any love on his own family, but at least he knew who they were. "Go down Kew, see what..."
"Nah." Bodie let the picture fall back to the table, turned around and slid his hands up the back of Doyle's shirt, pulled him close. "Not worth the bother. Ancient history." He leaned forward and buried his face in Doyle's hair, "Although I was right about one thing." He breathed across Doyle's ear, then lowered his head and bit his neck, gently at first, then harder, marking him. Doyle didn't care.
"Whass that then?" he managed.
"Told you I needed you here," Bodie said, lifting his head away, smiling as Doyle moaned in protest. "Come on sunshine," he nodded his head towards the stairs. "And bring the bottle with you. Never did tell you what I wanted to do with that Calvados..."
-- THE END --