(Let's Make Lots of Money)
(Based on the song of the same name by the Pet Shop Boys)
Bodie took a long pull on his beer and cast a glance around the pub. Three weeks since he'd left the army, honourably discharged after six uneventful years, and what did he have to show for any of it? The bright lights of London that had beckoned him away from mundane routine had not fulfilled their promise. He didn't quite know what he'd expected -- but it hadn't been boredom. Bodie was a man who liked to be occupied, and if that occupation earned him a bit of the ready, so much the better. But after three weeks in a tiny bedsit that cost him rent he felt due for a mansion, and having no prospects of a job with Thatcher's fledgling economy in such a bad way, Bodie was growing not only bored, but a little uneasy at how long his nest-egg was going to last him. He figured another seven weeks, more or less, depending. If the tedium didn't become terminal first.
A new arrival in the pub drew Bodie's attention, if only because the man so obviously felt that he didn't belong in such rough, working class surroundings. The wiry body and bruised ugly face were what Bodie had come to expect on London streets -- it was only the distaste at sinking below his self-proclaimed station in life that marked him out. The rest of the pub's patrons picked up on that and ignored the man utterly.
Before Bodie realised what was happening, the man was sliding into the seat opposite him, beer in hand, bestowing a chipped tooth grin on the only guy in the place who'd paid him any notice. 'Evening,' the man said. 'Ray Doyle,' he introduced himself.
'Bodie.' He nodded, and took another mouthful of beer.
'Lousy bloody evening,' was the observation. 'You live this end of town?'
'No,' Bodie said, which was the simple heartfelt truth, even though his bedsit was not three blocks away.
'Needn't watch my mouth then! Hunch of fucking idiots around here, mate, let me tell you. Wouldn't know a good thing if it bit them on the balls.'
The impassive mask that Bodie turned to the world faltered for one moment -- he blinked in surprise.
'Their loss,' Doyle assured him, assured himself. 'Mad lot -- offered them a good deal, fair as anyone could ask for. You know what scares them off? Brains. Knew I was going to make it, make it bigger than them, so they backed off. Wouldn't trust me. Going nowhere.'
Bodie made some expression that the other took as encouragement, and swallowed down the last of his beer.
Doyle looked him over, speculation firing in the wide set eyes. 'Maybe you can salvage what's left of my ruined evening, mate.'
Immediately wary, Bodie stared back. 'I can what?' he asked with an edge of threat in his voice.
'Marketable talents, skills; that's what I'm talking about,' Doyle was continuing, unaware that Bodie had taken him the wrong way entirely. 'Fulfilling needs. I'll bet you can help me out.'
'You've got ten seconds to take that back. Or I'll give you a matching set of cheek-bones.'
Doyle looked baffled for a long moment. And then he gave an amused and evil chuckle. 'You've a rich imagination, mate.' Doyle shook his head. 'Not that I hadn't thought about it, mind you. Handsome fellow like you must attract a lot of offers.'
'They're not usually stupid enough to try,' Bodie said grimly.
Laughing again, Doyle held his hands up, palms out to fend off any more misunderstandings. 'My car's just down the road -- broke. Why do you think I ventured in here, for chrissake? I need someone to fix my car.'
Bodie wrinkled his nose for a moment, looked away. He had better things to do. Or he wished he had. 'Call the Automobile Association,' Bodie advised.
'Bunch of fascists!'
Despite himself, Bodie's gaze shot back in surprise to his companion.
'I don't belong to anything, mate, or anyone. Who can you rely on, except yourself?'
Bodie shrugged. He'd relied on plenty of people in his time, obeyed authority without question, but where had it got him? Exactly where he was now.
'You know about cars?' Doyle asked him now.
'Some,' Bodie admitted.
'Knew this evening wouldn't be a total loss! How about it then? Help me out?'
'What do I get out of it?'
'Here's a man with a bit of savvy,' Doyle said appreciatively. 'You're learning already. Well...' He considered. 'I've not much of the ready on me right now --'
Bodie lifted his eyes eloquently to heaven.
'-- but I've enough to buy us a decent feed and a couple more ales. Anything else is negotiable.'
'Anything else?' Bodie protested. 'I don't take green stamps, you know.'
Doyle laughed out loud, a devilish sound that fitted with his street-hungry frame, his weird battered face. 'What do you take then?' he asked provocatively. 'I'm sure that imagination of yours could come up with something really worthwhile.'
Bodie stabbed a finger through the air towards his companion, but couldn't feel much anger. In fact, he was surprised to find himself mostly amused by Doyle's nerve. 'Watch yourself, mate,' Bodie warned, 'or you'll have more than a broke car.'
The man widened his eyes in mock fear.
'You do this often?' Bodie continued. 'Chatting up straight guys? No wonder someone worked you over.'
Doyle looked self-conscious for the briefest moment, before asserting, 'No harm in trying, gorgeous.' Then he offered, 'Want another beer?'
'No. Let's go see what's wrong with the car.' Bodie followed the lean frame as it wended its way through the mass of bodies between them and the door.
'This way,' Doyle indicated once outside, and they set off together, breaths fogging in the damp London air. 'I have no idea what's wrong with it,' he explained on the way. 'The damn thing just died on me -- and the petrol tank's full,' Doyle added, ruefully forestalling Bodie's next question. 'That's the one thing I've learned about cars to date -- they need petrol on a regular basis.' Then he was silent for a while, and it was only when Bodie was bent under his car's bonnet, obviously knowing what he was doing, that Doyle began talking again. 'Been thinking, you know. What I need is a partner. Someone who can fix cars, who can prevent me from getting beat up again. Look at this face -- not just bruised, it's scarred for life, no thanks to the National Health Service. And it wasn't much to begin with either. Not good for business. But a handsome guy like you...'
Bodie shot him an exasperated glare past one shoulder.
'Come on, you've been called handsome before, sunshine. And I'm speaking purely professionally here. I've got the brains -- I could set up scams that would run like clockwork. And perfect crimes -- I could list you a dozen just crying out to happen right now. But you need more than brains and inspiration in this game, you need looks and muscle too. See -- you and me, ideal partnership.'
'Try the ignition,' Bodie said, letting Doyle's words run through the back of his mind.
Doyle complied, and when the motor wouldn't catch, moved back around to join Bodie again. 'Opportunities, that's what it's all about, mate. Have to know when to take them, that's the trick, or how to make them. And I do, believe me. You can tell I've had an education --'
'Spanner, thanks,' came Bodie's muffled voice. He reached out a hand but when the tool wasn't forthcoming, he extricated himself from the car's internal workings to find Doyle looking puzzled. Bodie found the spanner himself. 'Some education,' he muttered. 'Oxbridge, was it?'
'The Sorbonne, actually,' Doyle replied loftily. To Bodie's back, he continued with more urgency, 'You should think about this seriously. I know what I can be. The question is -- do you want to be there with me? Do you want to be rich?'
Bodie straightened, wiping his hands on a rag, eyeing the engine speculatively.
'Haven't got anything against money, have you?' Doyle asked with a touch of exasperation.
'No.' Bodie turned to consider his companion. 'Money's got something against me.'
Doyle laughed at the obvious retort. 'That's going to change, sunshine, I promise you.' He cocked one hip, with his arms still folded against the cold. 'Money,' Doyle pronounced, savouring the word; 'it makes the world go round, after all.'
'I thought that was love,' said Bodie.
The grin that greeted this was both lewd and delighted. 'Love, sweetheart, is the oil that eases its path.'
Bodie returned Doyle's gaze impassively. After a moment he said, 'Turn the ignition over.'
'Anytime,' Doyle replied, deliberately taking this as innuendo. But as Bodie's face drew into a glower, he laughed lightly and headed for the driver's door. This time the engine fired into life. 'Not just a pretty face!' Doyle declared. Bodie simply shrugged.
'Come on then. I owe you a feed.'
'Drive me over to my place -- it's not far. I want to clean up first.'
'All right.' Doyle slid into the car, waited for Bodie to close the bonnet and get in beside him. 'Where can you get a decent meal around here?' he asked between Bodie's terse directions.
'Italian place next door to me,' was the immediate reply. If the truth be known, the smells drifting from the restaurant to Bodie's bedsit each night had been driving him crazy. It wasn't that the place was overly expensive, but Bodie had not allowed himself the extravagance. He'd had some crazy plan to spend the last twenty pounds of his nest-egg there in a defiance that he wasn't used to feeling, but it seemed that it might not turn out that way now. When Doyle had parked the car opposite his block of flats, Bodie diffidently said, 'See: it's just over the road. I could meet you there.'
'No way,' Doyle came back. 'I'm not letting you out of my sight until I get an answer from you.'
'An answer to what?' Bodie asked slowly, climbing out of the car.
The other man followed him across the road, up the stairs to his door. 'You know very well what. Inundated with business propositions, are you?'
Bodie was silent. He let them in to his room, and headed for the sink. Switching on the lamp on the shelf above, he stripped off his jacket and sweater, and bent over to soap up his hands, face a picture of concentration.
Staying outside the pool of light around Bodie, Doyle hovered uncertainly. He had thought that Bodie would be an easy fish to land, that a simple offer, a few impressive promises would be enough to hook him. Having finally admitted to himself that he needed a partner some weeks ago, Doyle had been looking for one ever since. He knew exactly what he wanted, what was needed -- and Bodie was it. The only problem seemed to be convincing Bodie of that fact. Into the silence, Doyle now asked, 'What do you reckon?'
Bodie glanced at him as if to ask again, About what?
'I'm looking for a partner. Most blokes would leap at the chance -- opportunity of a lifetime, setting up with me.'
'A partner,' Bodie repeated heavily.
'A business partner, for scams and schemes and perfect crimes,' Doyle said. 'I'm tired of messing around with all the jerks out there -- I need a partner. It makes sense, Bodie.' After a long moment of silence, he cried out in frustration, 'What have you got going for you now? No job, no money, no plans, no friends, isn't that right? Come on, you're not so stupid that you're going to turn me down.'
The man straightened, began to slowly dry his hands on a bath towel. He looked directly across at Doyle. 'You keep coming on to me,' Bodie stated matter-of-factly. 'You mean it?'
For once, Doyle was at a loss for words. Either the man was going to beat him up, or he would say that he couldn't possibly work with a queer. And Doyle had thought he'd become resigned to both reactions by now. After a moment, he lamely said, 'Teasing you. Messing around.'
Bodie dropped the towel, pulled his T-shirt off over his head so that he was naked to the waist. 'Don't tease me,' he said.
'No,' Doyle agreed quietly. He took the few steps into the pool of light, to find the man with his eyes closed and face pale. 'You haven't done this before, have you?' he asked bluntly.
Bodie stirred a little, opened his eyes but avoided looking at the man standing no more than six inches away. He couldn't make up his mind which embarrassed him most -- that he was about to have sex with a man, or that he had no experience to weigh against Doyle's. It was amazing what lonely need could drive you to. 'Been in the army until three weeks ago,' he explained. 'Joined when I was sixteen.'
Considering this, Doyle let out a laugh. 'Is that a yes, you have or a no, you haven't?'
'No, I haven't.'
'Just what I thought.' Doyle grinned up at him. 'Glad you left the army, mate -- they're worse than the Automobile Association.' When the man didn't respond to his humour, Doyle let his face grow serious, and then he lifted his hands to run them over Bodie's beautifully built torso. He leant in for a kiss.
Turning his face away to avoid the intimacy of it, Bodie shut his eyes again, felt expectancy ripple through him as Doyle's mouth settled on his throat. He let out a long breath as the lips and teeth and tongue worked a hungry path from collar-bone to nipple to waist. Then Doyle was kneeling, easing Bodie's belt and fly open with eagerly fumbling fingers.
It was the best blow job that Bodie had ever had. For a timeless while, he floated through the haze of sensations, making no effort to quicken or to slow their effect, or to return Doyle's attentions, barely even anticipating...
The orgasm shocked him out of passivity. His fingers curled through Doyle's hair, seemingly of their own accord, clutched the man to him. Then, as the first waves receded, Bodie bent to gather Doyle up and tumble him over onto the bed. He tore at Doyle's jeans, had them pulled open within seconds, and fastened his mouth around the strainingly erect penis.
What Bodie lacked in acquired skill, he more than made up for in hungry determination. As Doyle gave a hoarse shout, Bodie wound his arms around the slim hips and buttocks, hung on as the man seemed to struggle to get away from him. Doyle's hands found Bodie's shoulders, dug in with bruising intensity. Another hoarse cry, and Bodie was drinking Doyle's hot seed, greedily swallowing it down. When the man finally stilled, Bodie let him go, and pulled himself up to lie heavily by him, close on the narrow bed.
It was Doyle who broke the silence at last. 'If you haven't done this before, then why tonight? Why me?'
Bodie shrugged as well as he was able in the cramped quarters. 'It just happened that way.'
'You'll be telling me it was fate next,' Doyle scoffed.
Turning to consider him, Bodie said, 'You've been looking for a partner, right? Sooner or later you were bound to find one.'
'Partner?' Doyle exclaimed. 'I was looking for a business partner.'
'Sounded like a good pick up line to me.'
'You turned down every advance I made! I was only mucking about, anyway.'
'But I still fixed your car.'
'Why?' Doyle lifted himself up on one elbow to better see Bodie's face. 'What do you want from me?' he asked, all banter gone.
Bodie looked uncomfortable. 'You were right -- no friends here in London. Been lonely, haven't I?' Then he added, bluntly though truthfully, 'Haven't had it away for over seven weeks, either. I've been counting them.'
'That's it?' Doyle ruefully shook his head. 'I've been had. Doesn't happen often, sunshine.'
'I never conned you.'
'Credit where credit's due.' Doyle moved to climb out of the bed but Bodie grabbed hold around his waist and dragged him back into a close embrace. 'I've got better things to do, mate,' Doyle informed him.
'You need a partner,' Bodie said, lips in the curly hair over one ear. 'So, I'm it.'
Doyle tried unsuccessfully to twist away. 'Damn you, you got what you wanted. Let me go.' When the man wouldn't, he added in exasperation, 'You weren't interested, remember? I talked until I was blue in the face, and you barely even listened.'
'I was listening. Scams and schemes and perfect crimes.'
'What do you want from me?' Doyle repeated wearily.
'You're going to make us both rich.'
'I can do it, you know.'
'But not on your own, sunshine,' Bodie said quietly.
'Not on my own,' Doyle agreed, sinking back with a sigh. Bodie's arms enfolded him, reminding Doyle of the strength that he needed to back him up. 'You're serious now?'
'Yeah. Only it's a package deal.' Bodie waited until Doyle's gaze met his. 'Partners on the street, and partners in the sack.'
'How poetic.' But the sarcasm was belied by the spark of interest in Doyle's eyes.
Satisfied and scared in equal measure, Bodie sat up to take the weird beautiful face in both hands, and he leant in to kiss the man full on the mouth to seal the agreement.
'It's working then?' Mrs Porter asked in disbelief. Bodie held up his wet and soapy hands as proof. 'Silly question,' the woman observed to herself. 'Come through when you're cleaned up, love. I saved you a slice or two of that Swiss roll.'
'Thanks.' Bodie stood behind the counter of the bakery while he wolfed down the cake and swallowed a cup of tea. Mrs. Porter's was his favourite stop and, consequently, the place he felt least comfortable. When she rang open the till, he glanced away.
'Here's this week's fifty, son.' She watched him take it and push it into his hip pocket with the rest. 'You're one with a conscience, aren't you?' The woman laughed as Bodie grimaced, having thought she'd seen them all in her sixty years. Well, you earn that fifty. What do you think a plumber would have charged me for what you just fixed? Or someone to do my telly last week? You, and even that Mr Doyle, are a sight better than the punks that used to rule the roost around here, let me tell you. Nasty pieces of work, they were.'
Bodie put down his empty cup, and flexed his fist, remembering those punks. They'd been quite tame, actually, faced with a man trained in unarmed combat who was not above playing street-dirty.
'You mark my words -- none of us could afford to open for business on the right side of town. And having you around here is a necessity.'
Giving her his best smile, Bodie made his way to the door. 'See you next week.'
'See you, love.'
Next door was a take away, then a grocer's -- the proprietors were all ready for him with their fifty pound notes. It was when Bodie reached the news-agency and gift shop on the corner of Maple Street that he found Doyle, haggling with old Mr Armitage over the price of some merchandise Doyle was trying to off-load.
'If they're not stolen, then why is the price so low?' Armitage was asking in a weary but reasonable tone, pushing his glasses back up his long nose.
'I bought them directly from the manufacturers in Taiwan,' Doyle was explaining with less patience. 'No middle man, no cost hikes. Look, I'm a business man, that means you can trust me.'
'Oh yes?' Armitage prompted. Both he and Bodie waited to hear the reasoning behind that one.
'What's to distrust in the profit motive?' Doyle asked, looking the picture of injured innocence. 'You can see right through me, you know exactly what I'm after. And it makes no business sense to roll a valuable long term colleague such as yourself.'
Armitage looked heavenward. Bodie, who knew the goods had been lifted from a Clapham warehouse the previous month, did not let his poker face so much as flicker.
The deal was eventually struck, Armitage handed over his fifty to Bodie, and Doyle followed his partner out into the street.
'See why I need you?' Doyle asked angrily when they were a block away from the shops and heading for Doyle's flat. 'God knows what they see when they look at me. But you -- to the men, you're dependable, strong, trustworthy. The decent, solid type. To the women, you're all that and gorgeous too. Hell, the men probably think you're gorgeous as well, for that matter,' he ended in a grumble. Looking up at Bodie's impassive face, Doyle asked nastily, 'Get a few perks on the job that way, do you? No wonder they all fork out the money every bloody week.'
Bodie, to a trained eye, looked furious. But he'd quickly learnt, two months ago, not to react to Doyle's taunts. The man would fling out insults at random in a mood like this -- but, perhaps partly because of their unpredictability, they always hit their mark.
'You know what Armitage let drop?' Doyle continued conversationally now he had Bodie fuming. 'That you fixed old Penhall's locks the other day. For free. How wonderfully noble of you.'
Having been expecting this for a while, Bodie silently followed his partner around the next corner and into Doyle's block of flats, listening with one ear to the man's tirade. It was only when they were alone again, that Bodie interrupted. 'Yeah, I fixed them. He wouldn't be able to pay us if he had a burglar in the front door one night, would he?'
'You really take the cake, don't you?' Doyle stood, hands on hips, looking Bodie up and down. 'I set this up sweet, let you run it, and what happens? Christ'. What do you think this is -- a protection racket or bob-a-fucking-job week?'
'I earn the money for you,' Bodie said sullenly. And he enjoyed himself, if the truth be known -- all he usually admitted to himself was that the boredom and loneliness he'd found when he first came to London had now vanished. But it was difficult not to feel as ridiculous as Doyle obviously thought he was, having it all out in the open like this.
'If I wanted to earn my keep through your honest labours, I wouldn't have set this up, would I?' Doyle was saying, as angry as Bodie had ever seen him. 'If I wanted to have you out there doing unpaid charity work, I'd apply for a bloody grant from the government! You're missing the whole damn point of the exercise.'
'The only point is that you get your money. Here,' Bodie handed over the latest takings. 'You've got nothing to complain about.'
'Maybe I have better things for you to be doing.'
'You wanted them to trust me.' Bodie shrugged. 'I made it so they do.'
'Some tough guy you are.' Doyle turned away from him, tossed the money down on his desk, and poured himself a scotch. 'Stop wasting our time.'
'Look,' Bodie returned angrily, 'the cops found those stolen televisions at the Brunswicks' place, and they never let on about you. Who's protecting who around here?'
'What do you expect? You think your people want those punks back? They were no business men.' Doyle bore Bodie's scowl for a long moment. 'Sometimes I wonder about you, sunshine.' Doyle leant back against the desk and, frowning, stared up at his partner. 'What are you in this for?' he asked.
Bodie stepped close to him, eyes glittering. He reached behind Doyle to take two fifty pound notes from the pile. 'This,' he said, pocketing them. 'And this,' he added, cupping Doyle's genitals through the denim of his jeans.
'Don't,' Doyle murmured as Bodie's hand began a teasing slide.
'Why stop now just when I'm getting good at it?'
Bodie stepped even closer, and Doyle slumped against him, wound his arms around the comfortable waist, tucked his head into Bodie's shoulder. 'You were always good at it,' Doyle mumbled. Which was only the truth. Doyle supposed that it was a case of Bodie knowing what he liked, and applying that. 'Good with your hands, aren't you?' Doyle continued. Talking during sex with Bodie kept the illusion of intimacy. 'Truly light-fingered, sunshine. Good with fixing locks and busted televisions, and lifting loot, and jerking me off.'
The gentleness of Bodie's touch tore the sweetest climax from him. Doyle moaned, burying his face, himself in Bodie's warmth. Feeling first Bodie's cheek, then his mouth press into his hair, Doyle let his head drop back. 'Kiss me, Bodie,' he asked wistfully.
The man didn't refuse; it was as if he didn't even hear. Bodie stepped away, and knelt on the floor pulling Doyle down to kneel before him. Face expressionless, Bodie undid his own fly, and sat back on his heels with his legs spread as wide as his jeans would allow. Doyle complied with the unspoken request, bent to take Bodie's beautiful cock in his mouth. Tension, excitement were betrayed in the powerful thighs pushing up against Doyle, in the demanding hands stroking up his spine, in the cry Bodie voiced unaware every time he exhaled. And for a while Doyle thought that that was enough, more than enough.
But, with Bodie's last helpless yell still echoing in his ears, Doyle was alone. He could still taste Bodie's seed, could still feel the warmth of his own orgasm, and yet Bodie had walked out without a word, with barely a glance.
Doyle staggered to his feet, found his hand close around something solid from the desk -- the paperweight Bodie had laughingly presented him with one day -- the worn out third gear from the car. He spun and threw the damn thing at the door.
'We've someone to burgle,' Doyle announced in Bodie's bedsit the next night, having let himself in. 'Get your blacks on.'
'Who?' Bodie asked, shaking his head to clear the cobwebs. He must have fallen asleep while watching the television -- its static was the only light in the room.
'Never you mind. Come on, get a move on.'
Bodie scrambled off the bed, and went to put the kettle on. 'You know I don't like to operate that way,' he objected mildly.
'I know. I also know what I'm doing. And you're coming along for the ride, like it or not.'
'I don't like it,' Bodie repeated.
'Bad luck. Come on, you don't have time for a cup of tea.'
But Bodie stood by the hotplate, waiting patiently for the water to boil. 'Tell me about the job,' he asked after a while.
'I'd know my way round the place blindfolded.' Doyle eyed his partner wearily. 'Look, this is important to me. I know exactly what I'm after, I know where the alarms are, I know that the owners are away for a few nights. You're just coming along to watch my back and carry the loot.'
'Want a cuppa?' Bodie asked.
Doyle let out a groan and sank down to sit on the bed. 'Why not? We've got all bloody night.'
As the tea was stewing, Bodie stripped down to his underwear, then rummaged around for his dark jeans, his black sweater. 'So who are we doing over tonight?' he asked again when he was dressed.
'It doesn't matter,' Doyle said irritably.
'It does to you.' Bodie handed him a cup of tea, sat beside him, put a hand on Doyle's knee to gently shake a little sense into him.
Bodie was none the wiser, however, when the pair broke into a mansion in Chelsea that was obviously full to bursting with old money. 'Just the silver,' was Doyle's only instruction. 'All the silver.'
After a while, Bodie started reading the inscriptions, and put two and two together. 'They're your family!' he hissed at Doyle.
'I divorced them,' was the cool reply. 'But I didn't care for the terms of the settlement.'
'What the hell?' Bodie sounded admiring and bewildered. And angry.
'Just starting to redress an injustice. Someday,' Doyle continued with heavy sarcasm, 'this was all meant to be mine.'
'You're rich!' Bodie accused. 'Where's the country estate?'
'They're rich.' Doyle turned to regard him. 'And it's most of Wiltshire. I wasn't lying about the Sorbonne, you know. I didn't go there on welfare.'
'So why not hang about?' Bodie sounded genuinely interested.
'Christ, we're not going into all that now. Use your imagination. And while it's ticking over, I've disabled the alarm on this cabinet -- grab the goods.'
'I know,' Bodie said after another sackfull. 'They didn't like you being queer.'
Doyle let out a laugh. 'No, they didn't like me being queer,' he said evenly. 'Not one little bit. And that was on top of everything else.' Then he muttered, 'It went both ways -- I didn't much like them all being straight.'
Securing the last of the silver, Bodie seemed lost in thought. 'I didn't last that long at home. Left to join the army as soon as I could.'
'I wanted the education,' Doyle said in the same matter-of-fact tone as Bodie had used. 'So I stuck it as long as it took.'
'And now you're nicking their silver.' Bodie grinned. 'Will they know it was you?'
'Come here, sunshine.' He held his hands out to Doyle, then pulled him over to the richest looking sofa in the room. 'What do they usually do in here?'
'Have tea and socialise.'
'Time to spice it up a little, eh?'
'Whatever you say.' Doyle found himself pushed back to sprawl across the sofa, then Bodie was leaning over him, his grin so mischievous that Doyle was dazed for a moment. And then was stunned as Bodie's mouth settled on his, for the first time since the night they'd met, in an impudent kiss. Bodie's hands were fumbling at Doyle's jeans, then he knelt to enthusiastically give Doyle an incredibly efficient blow job.
In the haze afterwards, Doyle asked, 'You want to do this on your family's sofa too?'
'No...' Bodie said softly. 'On my mum's kitchen table.' They shared a happily malicious chuckle, and then Doyle lifted his arms, wanting to hold his partner close for a few minutes. But Bodie grabbed his hands and hauled him up from the sofa. 'Let's go. Dawn will beat us home at this rate.'
'Bodie...' Doyle sounded exasperated. He'd been going to thank the man. No one had ever touched him in this house before, not with any warmth, not with any joy. 'Forget it,' he ended up saying. 'Let's get this stuff loaded in the car.'
'So why the silver?' Bodie asked as he drove them home.
'You know Kirsty?'
'Mmm...' Bodie certainly did. She was the youngest and most eligible of the shopkeepers that he 'protected'. Also one of the most vulnerable, as she was a jeweller and silversmith.
Doyle cast Bodie an unreadable look. 'She's going to melt it all down -- you're going to help her, make sure she doesn't accidentally forget a piece. And don't go distracting her.' Doyle turned to glare out of the side window. 'She's expecting you at nine this morning.'
'No rest for the wicked,' Bodie observed.
'Didn't figure you needed the beauty sleep,' Doyle said sarcastically. 'Anyhow, we get rid of the evidence before they even know it's missing. And Kirsty gets to make a hell of a lot of trinkets.'
'Just in time for the fair down the river next month,' Bodie mused. 'And we get...?'
'Thirty per cent of the sale price.'
Bodie cocked an eyebrow. 'Generous of you.'
'Doing me a kindness, isn't she?' Doyle observed heavily. 'Getting rid of my cumbersome family heirlooms.'
The pair reached Doyle's flat, and carried the bags of silverware upstairs in the gloom before dawn.
'Kip here?' Bodie asked. It was the only time they'd ever slept together -- on the way to or home from an operation, fully clothed, for the sake of convenience.
'I suppose,' Doyle said grudgingly. They lay together on Doyle's double bed, barely touching. Then Bodie turned to take Doyle's hands in his, pull them to his groin. Doyle snapped, 'What now?'
'Thought you might return the favour. You got me going back there.'
'I'm so terribly sorry,' Doyle said in an excessively reasonable tone before snapping again. 'Just do me a favour and suffer in silence, will you?'
'Come on, be a mate.'
'For chrissake, go jerk yourself off. What the hell's the difference between my hand and yours anyway?'
Bodie looked over at him in the dawn light, face set hard. 'Nothing.'
'Get the fuck out of here, Bodie.'
The man climbed off the bed, shrugged on his jacket. 'Nine o'clock, you said.'
'Yeah. You'll have to let yourself in to get the goods. I won't be here.'
'Be nice spending the day with Kirsty,' Bodie said flatly. As he closed the door behind him, he heard the thud of a solid object hitting the wood panels, and he smiled humourlessly.
It took Bodie almost two late movies on the television and more than five cans of beer to broach the subject. 'I can't keep my place on anymore. I can't afford it.'
Doyle looked across at his partner, frowning. 'You're asking for more money? I told you, after our last little investment was such a flop, we need to build up some capital.'
Bodie swallowed hard. 'I want to move in here with you. Makes sense.'
'Not to me, it doesn't.' Doyle turned back to face the television, stretched out in a sprawl that was no longer relaxed. 'I know what you'd expect. Well, I wasn't put on this earth just to provide you with an alternative to your right hand.'
Bodie's cheeks were paler than ever. He made a half-hearted grab at Doyle, but the man twisted away and moved back out of arm's reach.
'So it only took a month without my tender ministrations to get you this desperate. Wonders will never cease. What's wrong -- isn't your Kirsty coming across?'
'That's none of your business.'
'I must say, I didn't credit her with the intelligence to repel your advances.'
'Shut up about her.'
'Smarter than me, even,' Doyle reflected. 'Thought you showed a lot of promise at first, I did. How humbling to be so incredibly wrong about someone.'
Bodie's face was so pale and fixed that he would have looked lifeless without the flash of his eyes. Doyle made the mistake of turning his gaze away, and was tackled from behind. The pair rolled off the sofa and hit the floor hard, Doyle struggling at once.
'Damn you,' Doyle hissed from under Bodie's not inconsiderable weight. 'You don't have to prove you're stronger than me. You don't have to prove you can hurt me.'
Bodie visibly winced, and his arms tightened around Doyle. 'Don't want to hurt you,' he said miserably.
'What the hell do you want then?'
'Want you to listen to me.'
After a moment, Bodie repeated, 'I want to move in here with you.'
'Is that all? I already gave you my answer. And it's non-negotiable.'
Before Doyle suspected him, Bodie bent his head, settled his mouth at the base of Doyle's neck, ran one of his hands down to the angular hip, the slim thigh. For a timeless moment, Doyle accepted the caresses, even let out a groan. Then he tried pushing Bodie away again.
'Get off me, you great moron. I don't want you.'
'Yes, you do,' Bodie mumbled, moving a little to one side to let his hand slip to Doyle's groin and the obvious evidence of his excitement.
'An involuntary reaction, a bad habit that I'm breaking. I don't want you anymore, Bodie. I don't want my body wanting you. Enough's enough.'
Bodie met the man's gaze, and found that he didn't have it in him to match Doyle's cold determination. Wordlessly, he rolled off his partner, and lay back on the floor while Doyle clambered to his feet.
'Go home, Bodie.' And he did.
'Why so glum this morning, Bodie?' Kirsty asked.
Bodie shrugged, looking over a display of jewellery by the counter. 'Did you make these?'
'No, they're African. Beautiful, aren't they?'
'Always wanted to go to Africa,' the man mused.
'Didn't you go overseas with the army?'
'Northern Ireland and Germany.'
'Glad you survived Ireland, I imagine that would have been pretty nasty. What was Germany like?'
'Lots of beer.' Bodie smiled. 'And the women were nice -- all plump and cuddly.'
Kirsty, who was pleasingly plump herself, returned his smile. 'I knew there was a reason why I liked you,' she commented. Then she bent back over the ring she was repairing. 'So, you like your women plump and your men skinny, eh?' When the silence stretched too long, Kirsty looked up to see Bodie thoroughly embarrassed. 'Sorry, love, was it meant to be a secret? Well,' she continued, uncomfortably trying to explain herself, 'everyone knows about Mr. Doyle. He's queer just about every which way they come. And it's always been pretty obvious what he thinks about you. Can't blame him for that.'
Bodie just frowned, having lost any certainty he'd had about Doyle the previous night. Enough's enough.
'He likes you, dummy.'
'I guess he used to, Kirsty.'
'He still does. Why ever do you think I never chatted you up myself?' When Bodie remained obviously unconvinced, Kirsty rolled her eyes heavenward. 'Typical men. Can't see what's right under your noses, let alone talk about it. Makes me wonder how gays ever manage relationships. I'm sure lesbians have a far easier time of it.'
Bodie choked on a laugh. 'I wouldn't have a clue.'
'You go see him and muddle it out the best you can,' was Kirsty's advice.
'He's having lunch down the cafe with a guy who can arrange false ID.'
Kirsty groaned. 'I don't want to know. But before you go, love, I finished that chain for you.' She reached over her work-table to find it in a drawer. 'Hope it's what you wanted.'
'It's what I wanted,' Bodie said simply, running it through his fingers. Then he held it out to her. 'Help me put it on.'
She stepped close and reached her arms around his neck to join the clasp. He leant in to kiss her on the cheek, and for a moment they held each other, both needing a little warmth and neither wanting it from anyone else.
'What do I owe you?' Bodie asked as they pulled apart.
'Heavens, don't worry about that. It didn't cost me more than a little of my time to make -- the silver is the last of your Mr. Doyle's family heirlooms.'
Bodie eyed Kirsty for a moment, wondering if she'd figured out the true story behind her generous supply of precious metal. From the look on her face, she had. They burst out laughing together.
'I'm sure his family would be so proud of you wearing that,' Kirsty observed. And they laughed some more.
When Bodie arrived at the cafe, he walked up behind Doyle so quietly that the man wasn't aware he was there. Doyle's companion, however, immediately stopped talking, and gazed up at Bodie mistrustfully.
Doyle looked around to see why. 'Don't worry about him,' he said to the other man. 'Not that he's meant to be here. He works for me.'
'With you,' Bodie corrected him flatly. He pulled a chair over and sat down.
'With me,' Doyle echoed, casting him an unfriendly glance. 'Murphy, this is Bodie.'
Murphy, at least, was polite if just as dismissive. 'Pleased to meet you,' he said while shaking hands. The two looked each other over, neither of them expecting to find anything to impress, and then Murphy's attention returned to Doyle. 'So, I can arrange the licence for tomorrow afternoon, but the passport will take longer. I'll let you know when I see you tomorrow.'
'That's fine. Where shall we meet?'
'You know the White Lion? Meet me there at opening time in the evening.'
Doyle looked across at Murphy steadily, at the lazy sensuality of the man. 'Then we might have dinner, if you're free.'
Murphy laughed. 'I'm not free, Ray. But I'm comfortably within your price range, I'd say.' He stood and shook hands with Doyle, then Bodie again, before walking out.
A strained silence lengthened. Doyle sat staring fixedly at his half-finished cup of tea, praying that Bodie liked jealous scenes as little as he did.
'What do you need a fake passport for?'
As that was about the last thing Doyle had expected to hear, he was startled into providing a civil answer. 'Just in case I need out of Britain in a hurry.'
'On your own,' Bodie observed.
'On my own. '
'Need to talk to you,' Bodie said. 'Ray.'
Doyle shot him a look, trying to read the man. It was the first time that his partner had ever used his first name. 'We don't have anything to say to each other. Bodie.'
'We have plenty to say.'
Sighing, rarely able to resist Bodie when he insisted, Doyle said, 'All right, let's get this over with.' He called the waiter over to pay her, and then the pair walked back to Doyle's flat in silence. Doyle closed the door behind them, leant back against it. 'What is it, Bodie?'
After a long moment, Bodie asked sullenly, 'What's Murphy got that I haven't?'
'For chrissake! What do you think? He's gay.'
'You're straight, remember? You're no good for me, Bodie. I've learnt my lesson -- you stick to your girlfriend, and I'll stick to guys like Murphy.'
'Kirsty's not my girlfriend.'
'What's that bloody chain around your neck then?' Doyle yelled.
Bodie cast him an exasperated look. 'It's not what you think.'
'And where have I heard that line before?'
'She said --'
'I don't want to know! You've put me through enough. You're straight. Christ, you're not even a bleeding crim, are you? Fucking boy scout out of his depth.'
'We've done all right,' Bodie said defensively.
Doyle shook his head. 'I don't know what the hell you think you've been playing at, but I'm getting sick of the game.'
'It's not been a game.'
'Whatever it's been, it's strictly business from now on. All the rest -- Well, you've survived a month without me, haven't you? I can't see that you've got anything to complain about. So just accept it -- I'm no longer available at your convenience.'
'No.' Bodie closed his eyes against Doyle's bitterness, determined to get the truth out. 'The rest -- it's just not what I'm used to.'
'Hell, after two months of my cock in your hands, in your mouth? What does it take for you to get used to it?'
'Not used to having someone around.'
'And when that someone's a man...' Doyle sighed, ran his fingers back through his hair, suddenly feeling very tired. 'Twice the trouble.'
'You want it too,' Bodie said. He looked across at Doyle, certain again. 'Listen to yourself. You want it.'
'Just a habit I'm kicking. Like giving up smoking.'
'You never managed to quit that.'
'I'm getting there,' Doyle said grimly.
'For god's sake, Doyle, it doesn't have to be like this.'
'What can it be like then? This was all your idea, sunshine. Partners in the sack, you said. What the hell did you have in mind?'
Bodie swallowed hard before answering. 'A little relief. And companionship.'
'Is that all? Then why the melodrama now?'
'I want you. Ray.'
'Turned you queer, have I?' Doyle taunted, stalking closer.
Bodie's jaw set, but he said, 'Whatever that means. Yes.'
'I don't believe it for a minute.' Doyle stood in front of him, too close for comfort. 'Even if you jerk me off and suck me for the rest of your life, you won't ever be queer.'
'Try me,' said Bodie. 'I'm game.'
'Is that some kind of dare?' Doyle asked incredulously.
Bodie took Doyle's face in his hands, and kissed him hard on the mouth. It was a passionate kiss, full of accumulated anger, frustrated need. Doyle couldn't help but respond in kind. He let out a moan as Bodie pulled away, and locked his arms around the man's waist, while Bodie let his hands fall to Doyle's shoulders.
'The first time you kissed me,' Doyle said slowly, gaze holding Bodie's, 'it was only to make sure I was interested. The second time...'
Bodie leant closer so that their foreheads touched, expression as serious, as bemused as his partner's.
'...was only to stick two fingers up at my family.'
'Liked that, didn't you?' Bodie murmured.
'Yeah,' Doyle admitted. 'So what was the third time for?'
'Because I want you, you great idiot,' Bodie said. He slid his arms under Doyle's, and began waltzing the man around, heading haphazardly towards the bed. 'And because you want me -- who else could keep that car of yours on the road?'
Doyle refused to be distracted. 'If you want me... you take it all.'
'Whatever you say.'
Doyle laughed. 'We don't have to fuck each other, stop looking so scared. I mean, god... the simple things. Like you holding me sometimes after you've sent me into orbit. Like us sharing a bed occasionally. And do you realise that we've never actually both had all our clothes off at the same time?'
'I realise,' Bodie said with flat amusement.
'So. What do you say?'
'I'm the one who wanted to move in with you,' Bodie pointed out.
Doyle stared at his partner for a moment. 'That wasn't just the money?'
'It wasn't just the money, Ray.'
'Then in a couple of hours, sweetheart,' Doyle said lightly, 'we'll get in that bomb of a car of mine, and go pack your suitcases.'
'In a couple of hours?' Bodie murmured, lifting an eyebrow. 'Whatever are we going to do in the meantime?'
Doyle tripped Bodie over onto the bed. 'Use that famous imagination of yours,' he advised with a grin.
Kirsty packed up the last of the jewellery she was taking to the fair, while Bodie carried boxes and display cases and the table they'd borrowed from Mrs Porter out to the truck that Mr Armitage had lent them for the day. The pair didn't talk much, but Kirsty eyed Bodie with a knowing smile, Bodie's expression being caught somewhere between surprise and contentment.
Finally Bodie said, 'Yes, mum, we muddled things out.'
'About time too.'
'You're not wrong there.' Bodie shot his companion a grin. 'No wonder the frustrating little sod has a bashed in cheek-bone.'
'Now what sort of thing is that to say about your other half?' the woman teased.
'It's only the truth.' Bodie added sentimentally, 'Was going to give him a dent in the other one myself, the first night I met him.'
'Idiots, the pair of you,' Kirsty said fondly.
She locked up the shop, and they drove down through the next suburb to the fair being held by the river. Once Kirsty's wares were set up, with customers already flocking around, Bodie wandered off around the other stalls.
Doyle showed up, and bought them both hot dogs and beer, while excitedly rattling on about some new scam he'd dreamt up. Bodie allowed himself to ruffle the man's hair in public. Doyle even let him. It was a beautiful spring day -- the sky looked blue rather than its usual London grey. Bodie smiled.
And, unheeding, dropped his hot dog and beer can. Through the crowds, he could just see three punks standing over Kirsty, obviously giving her a hard time. Bodie tore over, leaving behind a bewildered Doyle.
'You! I told you all to stay away from these people,' Bodie cried out angrily as he reached Kirsty's stall.
'Told us to stay away from the shops,' one of the punks replied, before casually pushing one of the display cases over onto the grass. The glass in it shattered.
Bodie walked around to lean over the younger man, all barely leashed anger, easily intimidating him physically. 'Don't get smart with me, Einstein,' he advised. 'I meant the shops, the people, their homes, all their worldly goods and chattels. And you know it.'
'Think you're pretty tough, don't you?' the punk taunted with little conviction.
'I know I'm pretty tough, and you know it too, from last time we met.' Bodie sighed and shook his head. 'Look, why don't you go play somewhere else? You're not wanted here.'
The punk scowled and took a step back. 'Jumped up bully boy. One dark night, when you least expect it...'
'You're going to find me, are you? You wish,' said Bodie, cocking one sardonic eyebrow.
Swinging his right fist, the punk leapt at Bodie and the fight was on. The other two joined the fray, along with Kirsty who happily kicked a few shins. Within moments, one of the punks was sprawled out on the ground, and the others were hanging back well out of arm's reach.
'Get out of here,' Bodie growled, impatient now rather than angry, as the two still standing helped to lever their mate up off the grass.
It was only when Kirsty came to Bodie's side with a handkerchief that he realised he'd ended up with a cut across one temple. 'You all right, love?' Kirsty was asking. Mrs. Porter, who'd arrived in the middle of all the fuss, began tidying up the broken case.
'Yeah, fine.' Bodie watched the punks suddenly start running, and wondered why.
'What's all this then?' came another voice.
Bodie turned to see a police officer by him. Doyle was hovering a little way behind the cop, with his hackles up.
Kirsty quickly said, 'Those men were causing trouble. My friend here was helping me out. They threw the first punch.'
'Did they now? And your name, sir?'
He only hesitated a moment. 'Bodie. William Andrew Philip Bodie.' Doyle, who favoured anonymity when dealing with the law, grimaced at him from over the cop's shoulder.
That was trickier. 'I was in the army.'
Which the police officer wasn't necessarily happy about. 'Is that where you learned to fight, sir?' At Bodie's nod, he asked, 'And your occupation now?'
'I don't have a job as such...' Bodie began after a moment.
Mrs Porter stepped in. 'He works for us, doing odd jobs. The shops up past Maple Street.'
'Heats the dole,' Bodie added.
The cop appeared satisfied for now. 'We'd prefer it if you left the keeping of the peace to us next time, sir.' As he left, he observed, 'You'd better have that looked at. Good afternoon.'
Doyle came forward at last, and peered up at the cut, which was still bleeding. 'I'd better take you to outpatients, sweetheart.'
'It's going to need stitches,' Mrs. Porter agreed, replacing Kirsty's blood soaked handkerchief with her own clean one.
Bodie groaned. He hated hospitals.
'Don't worry,' Doyle said. 'I'll hold your hand through it all. If I don't swoon when they bring the needle out.'
Laughter greeted this declaration. Mrs. Porter said. 'Get on with you then. I'll sit here with Kirsty for the afternoon.'
'We'll be back by four,' Bodie promised. 'Have to help you pack up.'
'Thanks, Bodie,' Kirsty said. 'And thanks for running those kids off.'
'No problems. Thank you both for backing me up.'
Doyle interrupted impatiently. 'Come on, before you drop dead from loss of blood.'
Sighing, Bodie walked with him back to the road, the friendly arm around his waist providing support he was beginning to need. 'Promise you'll hold my hand?' he asked plaintively as he eased into Doyle's car.
Driving off, Doyle said, 'Promise. Then I'll help you with Kirsty's stuff -- you won't be much good for fetching and carrying. And then we've got to meet Murphy.'
Bodie eyed Doyle warily. 'We?'
'Got to get you a passport too, now, don't we?' Doyle asked with a cheeky grin. 'Not going to leave you behind if I make a run for it, sunshine. You're too useful by half.'
'What for?' Bodie asked indignantly.
Doyle's grin never faltered. 'This, that, and the other.' He added in a low voice as they pulled up at some traffic lights, 'Especially the other.' Doyle took the opportunity to look across at his partner. 'Especially after last night. I mean, why stop now just when you're getting good at it?'
'Cheeky sod,' Bodie complained. But he returned his mate's grin. 'Still, you won't mind if I keep practising...?'
'I won't mind.' The lights turned green and Doyle drove off. 'You sound like you're getting delirious,' he observed, barely able to sound serious himself.
Bodie didn't even try, and smiled goofily. 'Whatever it is, it's nice.'
'Heaven preserve us!'
-- THE END --
Originally published in Other Times and Places 2, OTP Press, 1991