Huge massive thanks to Slantedlight who really deserves co-authorship on this one. Yet again, she hauled my ass out of shark infested waters. And these were humourless sharks. Really nasty ones.
Written for the "Discovered on a Gangplank" challenge on the discovredinalj livejournal community, to celebrate international Talk Like a Pirate Day
Determinedly ignoring his smirking partner, Bodie kept his hands clasped behind him and his eyes front. The old man was in a stinking mood.
"Thanks to your stupidity, Special Branch are down five men for their security detail this weekend."
"Yes, sir." Like hell was it his fault. If Sinclair hadn't been trying to put one over on his boss then CI5 wouldn't have ended up involved in the first place. It was hardly Bodie's problem that their safehouse got pumped full of tear gas.
"The men in question were assigned to the daughter of the American Ambassador…" Cowley paused, glaring over his glasses at Bodie. "Something you find amusing, 3.7?"
And he wasn't even the one grinning. "No, sir."
"I should think not." The glasses were shoved back up. "This is no laughing matter. Major Carlisle is threatening to make a formal complaint."
Which would mean enough paperwork to sink the Titanic twice over. Bodie sighed under his breath. So much for Doyle's long planned dirty weekend in Brighton. Ray was never going to forgive him for this.
But the old man hadn't finished. "Luckily for you, he's offered a compromise."
"Sir?" Hope sprung eternal.
The glasses came off completely and were laid to one side. "You and 4.5 will take the place of his men, since it was your fault they're incapacitated in the first place."
And was so easily crushed.
"But, sir!" Oh now Doyle decided to be unimpressed. About time. "I wasn't even there."
"No," Cowley agreed, "but since the pair of you work as a team, I'm putting you on this together. Maybe you'll be a better influence on your partner in the future." Another pause. Bodie took the opportunity to squint out of the corner of his eye. Doyle's smirk was well and truly gone. Served him right. "Och, man, it's a party. There's not much that can go wrong."
Famous last words. Now the place was bound to end up the target for every lunatic fringe element London could conjure up.
"Is there a present danger, sir?" Bodie asked, already resigned to doing the job. Cowley ordered, Bodie jumped. That was the way of the world, however unfair it might be.
"Nothing explicit, but being what it is, Special Branch doesn't want to take any chances."
Glasses replaced, Cowley opened a file on his desk. "That will be all, gentlemen." Bodie headed for the door, hard on Doyle's heels and as eager to escape.
The second it closed behind them, Doyle turned on him, whispering heatedly, "What the bloody hell crawled up his backside?"
Bodie shook his head - Betty was well within hearing range - and began poking his partner in the direction of the lift. Grudgingly, Doyle gave way, still muttering at the unfairness of being punished when it was Bodie who'd been in the wrong.
"Look at it this way, sunshine," Bodie said, hitting the call button. "How bad can it be, eh? Guarding some American bird? And at a party, no less. If we're lucky the place'll be crawling with film stars." Not that Bodie would be on the prowl. He had eyes for no one but his partner these days.
Doyle grunted in response, swinging into the lift when it arrived. It looked like Bodie wasn't gonna be forgiven quite so fast.
The lift doors were almost closed when Betty appeared in the corridor waving a piece of paper. "Bodie? Doyle?" Doyle stuck his hand out and the doors shot open again. She handed him the sheet with a beatific smile. "You'll need this. Oh and a message from Mr Cowley. He says you'd both better be on your best behaviour. He doesn't want to hear any reports of bad language in front of the children."
"Children?" Bodie queried as the lift doors slid closed.
Doyle who'd been staring at the paper, glanced up with a baleful expression. "Yeah, fifty of 'em and we get to pick our costumes up tomorrow."
In front of him were tight leatherette trousers that were bound to give him a rash, a plain white shirt with a stain on the front, a long scarlet coat trimmed in tacky gold cord, and a stuffed parrot.
Ignoring the woman behind the counter, Bodie picked up the parrot and sniffed it suspiciously. Mothballs. Lovely. Well, Cowley had another think coming if he thought he was carrying that thing. It would get in the way if he had to pull his gun.
As far as the rest went, it was horrible.
He gave the trousers a despairing poke and fixed the shop assistant with his best 'indulge me' expression. "Got these in real leather?"
She wasn’t moved. "I'm afraid the costume you ordered comes with those trousers. Real leather is reserved for our deluxe package." If she peered down her nose any more, her eyes would cross.
Bodie winced but handed it over. If he had to attend this party looking like an idiot, he'd at least do it looking like a well-dressed idiot.
Now the saleswoman was all smiles. "What an excellent choice, sir." After a moment in the back, she returned with a hanger of plastic covered clothes that looked like they'd never been worn. This coat was blue with a scarlet lining, and the shirt had a lace frill. Thankfully, there was no parrot, but there was a hook.
The woman was talking again as she parcelled up the costume. "The trousers are real leather, sir, and the shirt is silk. Obviously five of the twenty pounds is a security deposit and any specialist cleaning will be added to the bill when the costume is returned. Would sir like the other costume upgraded as well?"
Did he? Bodie tapped the counter thoughtfully.
Let's see. Yesterday, Ray had stormed out of HQ, slammed into his car and taken off like the hounds of hell were after him, leaving Bodie without a lift home. Later that evening, when Bodie had called to make his peace, he'd been treated to a Doyle special that left his ears ringing for the next half an hour. And this morning he'd been ordered to go and pick up the costumes while Ray phoned the hotel to try - and Bodie had no trouble remembering the exact words - "to sort out the complete fuck up" Bodie had made of Doyle's love life.
Looking at the second costume laid out on the counter - a striped shirt, brown trousers and bandanna - Bodie made up his mind. "No, don't bother. He's a scruffy bugger, anyway."
He dropped Doyle's costume in his front hall, after ringing the bell and letting him know it was there, and then headed back to his own flat. On the apology front, the ball was well and truly out of his court and he was damned if he was going to crawl. Nope, after all that had been said and done, Ray would have to come to him.
The following day, Thursday, he was treated to the cold shoulder. Doyle laughed and joked with everyone in the squad room, and ignored Bodie completely. Not that it bothered him. Doyle was professional enough that if they did get called out, Bodie knew he'd put their spat behind them and it'd be business as usual, and he'd be damned if he was going to be blackmailed into apologising.
Finally, on Friday, he was greeted by a wide smile and he knew the sulk had worn off and he'd been forgiven.
"I did a bit of asking around," Ray was saying as he stirred Bodie's coffee. "The party's got a Peter Pan theme, which is how come we're done up as Captain Hook and his less-good-looking-brother. And we're not gonna be the only ones looking like idiots, all the Special Branch lads have to wear 'em."
That was something, at least.
Not convinced that his good books had been successfully wooed, Bodie merely grunted in reply, pretending to be immersed in the sports pages. Doyle raised an eyebrow at him, but continued talking. "Yeah, seems like every costume place in London is sold out. We were lucky they booked ahead."
And some of us were luckier than others.
Keeping his smug smile to himself, Bodie took his coffee and kept his eyes glued to the newspaper. And so it continued. Doyle attempted to make conversation, and Bodie pretended to be too busy to reply. By lunch, Bodie could tell that Doyle was on his final nerve, which broke when Murph invited Bodie out for a drink and he accepted. Since Doyle had asked earlier and been rebuffed, confrontation was inevitable.
"Fancy telling me what's got your knickers in such a twist?"
They were in the bog. Eschewing the resultant comments, Doyle had followed him in there.
Bodie shook, zipped and went to wash his hands. All in silence.
"Come on, mate. This isn't like you."
No, it wasn't. But Bodie was getting monumentally fed up with Doyle expecting him to be there whenever he regained his temper, however badly he might have treated Bodie in the meantime. It was about time the grumpy git got a taste of his own medicine.
"It's because I've been having a go, innit."
Apparently Doyle wasn't as oblivious as Bodie thought.
Bodie turned to leave, only to find Doyle between him and the door. Rather than speak, he raised his eyebrows.
"It's just… it took me ruddy ages to get Carol to agree to Brighton and…" The explanation trailed off in the face of Bodie's silence. "Look, I'm sorry, alright? I know it wasn't your fault we got dumped with this baby-sitting job."
Close, but no coconut. "And?"
"And I'm sorry I took it out on you, even if she did give me the elbow."
She'd dumped him? Inside Bodie was doing the tango. On the outside, he was the picture of sympathy. "She didn't."
Doyle couldn't have looked more hang-dog if he'd tried, hands shoved in his jacket pockets, shoulders slumped. "Yeah, Wednesday night after I called and cancelled."
"Not impressed, huh?"
"Could say that. Gave me the full 'never darken her door' routine."
That explained the mood. Buoyed up by his partner's misfortune, Bodie was magnanimous in victory. Slinging an arm round Doyle's shoulder's, he leaned in. "Know what you need, sunshine?"
"A night on the town with Uncle Bodie. We'll find ourselves a couple of willing birds, and wine and dine 'em `til they fall into our laps like a couple of ripe lovelies." That was the selling point. Bodie, however, had no intention of sharing Doyle with anyone.
"I dunno. It's the end of the month and I lost me deposit on-"
"All expenses paid," Bodie offered. "We'll eat at Mancino's, and you can kip at my place, so don't worry about paying for a taxi."
A crooked grin was aimed his way. "You're on. Thanks, mate." And with that Doyle sauntered off, leaving Bodie to wonder how forgiving Ray had just cost him half a week's wages.
"Twenny-four men on a dead man's chest!"
"`S fifteen," Bodie slurred, aiming for the keyhole and missing.
Stopping halfway through the yo ho ho, Doyle frowned blearily. "Wha' is?"
"Fifteen men… Onna dead man's ches'."
"Izzit?" That took deep thought from both of them. "Might be right, at that," Doyle said eventually. The key skidded across the door. Again. "Gimme that."
And the key was suddenly gone. Bodie stared at his empty hand, then at his partner. Doyle was bent over, his jeans clinging to his backside like an over-affectionate second skin, his tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth as he concentrated. It was all Bodie could do not to throw himself at him.
The world went arse over tit, leaving Doyle up on the ceiling. "What you doin' up there?" Bodie asked.
"Was gonna as' you the same thing, mate. `Cept, you're down, not up."
A disembodied hand floated towards him. Bodie grabbed it and hung on. It was entirely possible he'd drunk more than was good for him.
"Hup ya come."
After a dizzying few seconds, the world righted itself again, and he was in Ray's arms, their faces close together, alcohol breath-shared. They were leaning, like a card house, each balancing the other. Was a good metaphor, Bodie decided. A good metaphor for them and how they were. Leaning on each other. Like they were now. Like they should be more. Leaning on each other all the time, not just at work, but when they were off too.
The remainder of the thought got lost in an alcoholic fug, leaving only one word behind. "Bed?"
"Sounds good." Between them they managed to get the door closed and, while Bodie fiddled with the locks, Doyle wandered further into the flat. "Blankets?"
"Bed." `Cause that was where blankets belonged, and Bodie wasn't that much of a slob.
"That's the second pass you made at me." Doyle giggled and hiccuped. "Shoulda picked you up a bird, mate."
Tapping his nose - or trying to and missing - Bodie shook his head. "Ah-ha. Don't wanna bird, do I."
Perplexed didn't even start to describe the expression on Doyle's face. "Why?" Then the lights came on. "Oh, `ang on a minute, you're seeing someone. You shoulda said. `S not fair you bein' out onna," another hiccup, "onna Friday night wiv me, if there's someone-"
"There's not. Right where I wanna be." He was probably going to regret this in the morning, but right at this minute, Bodie could neither remember why, nor care. A couple of lurched steps up the hall took him back into Ray's arms.
"Bodie-mate. Never knew you cared."
"That's `cause I never tole you before."
Vague, but troubling memories drew Bodie from the surface of sleep. He recalled, somewhat fuzzily, getting back to his flat, but most of the night after that was a blank. Except for a nagging suspicion that he might have done something stupid.
Holding his head with both hands, he rolled over - and into the warm naked body sharing the bed with him.
Was that what he couldn't remember? Picking up some bird? He put out an enquiring hand and found a leg. A hairy leg. Christ, what had he brought home? Not a bloke, surely. He'd not done that since Keller and he…
He explored cautiously further up the leg, found a bum and ventured across. Two cheeks, crack, a well-lubed hole, balls. Damn! He must have been sloshed.
The bum pushed back against his hand and he caressed it. Dare he open his eyes? What was he gonna find? Some leather queen he'd picked up down Soho? But no, he'd not been down Soho. He'd been to Mancino's with Ray and then… Then on to a pub. They'd laid a few on and then…
It wasn't quite levitation, but Bodie managed to be out of the bed and over on the other side of the room in less time than it took him to open his eyes. And when he did, he stared at the bed as if it contained his worst nightmare.
What it actually contained was his dearest wish – Ray Doyle, naked, and obviously not throwing a fit about being there. Which was more than he could say for himself.
Propped up on the pillow, Doyle returned his look, one eyebrow raised. "I'm presuming there's a reason you're over there, clutching your clothes like a virgin bride?"
"Erm," Bodie said, casual as you like. He wasn't fazed. He couldn't be fazed. Bodies didn't get fazed.
"That was intelligent. Can't say I'm surprised, though, not after last night."
There was more? More than him being in bed with Doyle? "What about last night?" he asked.
Doyle sat up, letting the sheets fall and proving that he was indeed completely nude. "You, rat-arsed." A frown skittered across Doyle's face. "Christ, don't tell me you don't bloody remember."
"Course I remember. We went out for a meal and then… and then…"
"And then you tied one on and made a pass at me." Doyle was climbing out of bed, reaching for his clothes. "S'pose I shoulda realised it was just the beer talking."
He had to do something, the set of Doyle's shoulders was eloquent in its anger, but shock had hold of his tongue, tying it in knots and refusing to let him speak.
It hadn't been the beer, he wanted to say. As he woke up more, the memories were starting to return. Throwing himself at Ray and confessing all. Ray's surprise and unexpected pleasure. The way they'd kissed, and the way that kiss had turned into all-out wrestling that left them half-naked and all-wanting on the hallway floor. Staggering to bed, finding the supplies, more kisses and then… and then…
"Ray?" God, please, look at me.
"Yeah?" Doyle sat down on the bed, slid one leg into his jeans.
That earned him a sigh and a sideways squint. "You want me to?"
"Don't sound so sure of yourself, mate."
"I fell asleep."
"We both fell asleep. Just in case you're worried about your virtue."
"But…" Never in his life had Bodie had such a problem talking about sex. It was his favourite subject - highly edited for certain ears, obviously - but he took great pleasure in sharing the details. Especially with Ray. So why couldn't he ask?
"We got as far as the prep and decided to try again this morning."
"Got it." Now he'd had a chance to look around, he noticed the opened tube of K-Y on the bedside table. On Ray's side, not his.
So Ray must've wanted it.
Of course he'd wanted it. Christ, how could he forget the husky tone in Ray's voice as Bodie's fingers found the right spot. The way his hips had jerked, the way his dick had pushed into Bodie's hair when he'd been trying to suck him off and missed.
That was when they'd given up. Bodie remembered now. Ray decided that if Bodie couldn't manage that, there was no way he was letting him near his arse, which, as Bodie had agreed, was a fair comment. 'Tomorrow,' Ray'd said. 'Wake me up by fucking me.'
That must have been what… When Bodie's hand had… And Doyle had pushed back against him. Shit.
Doyle had pulled his jeans up by now, but he hadn't moved any further, and was still sat on the bed with his back to Bodie, who supposed he should be grateful, under the circumstances. If Doyle'd been the one to jump a mile out of his bed, Bodie would have been up and out of the flat before humiliation could really kick in.
And why, precisely, was he reacting like this? Hadn't he wanted Doyle in his bed? Hadn't this been the stuff of his fantasies for months now?
So, once again, why, exactly, was he standing in the corner of his own bedroom when there was a naked Doyle in his bed?
Obviously because the old man was right. Bodie was stupid.
He shared the insight. "I'm stupid."
A sigh from the bed. "I'm not arguing, but why this time?"
Still Ray wasn't running. In fact, he seemed to be relaxing a bit. And was that a smile?
"Yeah?" That was more than a smile, it was a muffled snort.
"You laughing at me?"
"Would I?" Shaking shoulders.
Somehow that freed his limbs and he was able to move across the room, to slide across the bed and kneel behind Ray. "Yes, you bloody well would, you rotten sod."
Finally Doyle turned, openly laughing now. "Your face, when you realised it was me! Shoulda remembered it takes a while to get your brain cells lined up."
"Least I've got enough to organise."
"Hey, you casting aspersions on my intelligence?"
"Nothing wrong with your intelligence, it's the brain behind it that worries me."
Not what he should be saying, a nonsense conversation, but lovely for all that. It felt like forever since they'd been this easy with each other, and now there was the added bonus that maybe they could do it in bed. Together. Naked. He reached out a hand, snaked it around Doyle's waist and hauled him up by the belt loops so that they were facing each other, both kneeling.
"Bo-die, have you seen the time?"
Bodie leaned up a little to squint over his shoulder at the clock. Ten forty-five. "Doesn't start `til three. Got plenty of time."
"Except we're supposed to be at the house by one, and me costume's still at my place." Doyle was pulling away, reaching for his shirt.
Collapsing back, Bodie sighed. So close - he'd thought Doyle wanted it just as much as he did - and yet so far away. His mouth fell into a pout, and he closed his eyes.
Abruptly the bed gave, as Doyle kneeled beside him again. "Keep it for tonight, eh? Take our time? Do it sober and clear-headed."
Soft lips, surrounded by morning stubble, brushed across his cheek and he reached out again, unwilling to let Ray go until the promise was made more solid. The bed creaked as Ray pushed him back into the pillow, bringing their mouths together. Unlike the night before, this kiss was careful, and it was full of promise. Bodie opened to it, letting happiness seep back in, revelling in the way Ray's tongue met his. He felt himself melt inside, recognising that this was real, that Ray was in his bed, that after all this time, the world, and Ray, had finally caught up to his dreams.
With a last suck on his bottom lip, Ray started to pull away. "Hmm, gotta go."
Bodie grunted, and yanked him back for another. It seemed too much to expect that they could recreate this level of casual intimacy later. Something would go wrong. Bound to. That was the way Bodie's life went. So he wasn't about to let go of this without a bit of a fight.
The trouble was, Doyle did. Fight, that is. Pressing one hand on Bodie's chest, he sat up breathing hard. "Christ, Bodie, if I don't go now…" He didn't have to finish. They both knew what him staying would lead to. "Later, okay? Party should be over by six, then back to my place."
Bodie nodded dumbly. The promise was there. He could wait for later, if he had to.
He watched as Ray wriggled sinuously off his bed, shot him the sort of smile that melted him all over again, and wondered how he was going to survive the whole day in Ray's company without being able to touch him.
Ten fifty. Seven hours left. The tick of the clock was loud, and suddenly very, very slow.
"Avast ye, matey! Prepare to be board…" The tip of Bodie's cutlass - eighteenth century genuine replica - dipped to the ground as the door opened. His jaw followed it. So did his eyes as he started at the boots.
Black boots. Highly polished, calf hugging, soft leather knee boots. With heels. And further up? Striped trousers that, despite being baggy managed to cling to every, single, line and curve, and… bulge. He swallowed before he found himself actually drooling.
And above them? A white shirt, artfully draped and open to the navel, held in tenuous control by a waistcoat embroidered with green and gold.
Where was the scabby costume that had lain across the counter, all ready to become part of Bodie's campaign of revenge?
Regretfully, and bidding a fond farewell to the nipple he'd been ogling, he hauled his gaze a little higher, to meet unshaven skin and a pair of amused eyes.
"You-" Bodie cleared his throat and did his best to stand up straight - not easy in his condition. "You upgraded."
"No thanks to you, mate," Doyle snorted as he turned back into the flat, treating Bodie to a view of his bum-hugging trews. "Cost me an extra tenner, this lot did."
It took a moment for that to sink in, given the scenery, but eventually it did. Only cost him…? "Ten quid?" Bodie spat as he followed him in. "She charged me twenty. And cleaning on top."
"Well, got an honest face, me."
Doyle leaned against the door, hips stuck out and everything on display. Bodie couldn't imagine anything further from honest. On the other hand, this get-up surpassed jeans, dinner jacket and even leathers as far as jaw-droppingly sexy went. Apparently Ray was born to be a pirate. Who'd have guessed?
"Turned out she had this put to one-side for a bloke who canceled. Bit of luck, going in when I did." Doyle was busy pulling on a belt complete with scabbard. A shining sword was added to the costume, his gun slid into the shoulder holster cunningly concealed under the waistcoat.
Bodie watched with rapt attention as every addition enhanced the overall effect.
This wasn't any ordinary pirate. This wasn't even Errol Flynn - Bodie's personal benchmark for men who swashed his buckle. This… this rough-jawed, tousle-haired, disreputable sea-dog was the version that inhabited the dreams of teenage girls. And played a starring role in more than a few of Bodie's fantasies too.
"You ready then?"
Thankful for the concealing nature of his thigh length coat, Bodie followed him out, feet dragging, feeling like a slightly dowdy cousin. He glanced at the clock on the way. Twelve-thirty. Today was going to be worse than he'd imagined.
"Thank Christ I dumped the parrot," Bodie muttered, casting a less than sympathetic eye in the direction of the Special Branch chap who was busy doing his 'Polly want a biscuit,' routine for yet another gaggle of kids. Twenty minutes into the party and already Bodie was at breaking point.
"Don't be rotten. They're enjoying themselves."
"Alright for them." And it was all right for Doyle too. He liked kids. Bodie, on the other hand, hadn't particularly enjoyed being one and didn't see why he should tolerate the mucky buggers now.
A tug on his coat tail made him look down, and down again, into a hopeful jam-smeared face. The body below was squirming in a very particular way, spare hand clasping the front of grubby trousers.
"There's something stuck to me leg." He supposed he'd better not try shaking it off.
"Oh, for god's sake, Bodie."
The something stuck became something wet. A wail rent the air.
"Oh for god's sake Bodie!"
"S'mine! Give it back!"
"No you give it back!"
"I hate you!"
"I hate you more!"
"Come on, you two, break it up and leave the nice pirate alone."
Bodie reclaimed both his hands and watched appreciatively as Ray squatted down between the two children, the urge to reach for his Browning immediately allayed. Those trousers really were something.
"What I wanna know is, where the hell are all the parents?"
Ray, who'd just returned from yet another loo run, shrugged. "Be at meetings, I expect. Most of this lot probably have nannies or au pairs on an afternoon off. Unpaid babysitters, we are, mate."
"Then they wonder," Bodie grumbled. "In twenty years we'll be hauling half this lot in."
"Yeah, but in another twenty, they’ll be the ones giving the orders."
"Hey, you, I wanna drink!"
"Ray, there's another one."
Doyle glanced up from the small knee he was cleaning of grit. "Forget it, Bodie, I'm busy. Deal with it yourself."
Exchanging glares with a minute red-haired girl with fairy wings, Bodie suppressed a shudder. "Drinks are over there," he tried, gesturing to one of many tables groaning under the weight of assorted food and drink.
"Tinkerbell doesn't pour her own drinks. She's a fairy," she answered with folded arms and a cock of her head that spoke volumes about what a little madam she was.
"Then ask someone nicely to pour it for you." He wasn't going to lose his temper. He wasn't. It was just that kids, especially in high concentrations, gave him the heebie-jeebies. He never knew what to say to them. Cowley himself was less intimidating.
"No, you didn't."
"Did so!" accompanied by a stamped foot.
"If you're a fairy, what's the magic word?"
The glare wattage increased. Bodie matched it, crossing his own arms. It was a close run thing, but finally the kid folded. She rolled her eyes. "Please can I have a drink."
Bodie allowed himself a smug grin. "Course you can. Go find someone to pour it for- Ow! Bloody little bitch!" She'd kicked him in the shin before running off.
"Now, now. No bad language in front of the kids, remember."
"It's not my fault they won't do as I tell 'em."
"That's `cause they know you're scared. S'like dogs, mate. You've gotta look 'em in the eye and not back down."
Fucking hell, that hurt. "Easy for you to say"
Doyle looked at him. "Well, used to big kids, aren't I?"
Bodie rubbed his shin and didn't deign to reply.
"Are you Captain Hook?"
Bodie was watching again, this time while Doyle chatted to a gaggle of the little monsters. They were just over halfway through the afternoon and he was finally hopeful that they might escape unscathed.
Next time he'd volunteer for that stint in the Hebrides as his punishment.
"Not me," Doyle was saying, "I can tell you who is, but you have to keep it a secret because he's here in disguise."
Several pairs of eyes grew rounder. "Disguise?"
"Yeah. He's pretending to be someone else. Which one of you can remember what colour coat Captain Hook wore?"
"Me, me!" Arms waved and little legs jumped up and down.
"Go on then."
"It was red."
"That's right. And what did he have as a hand?"
"A big nasty hook."
"So if he's in disguise, he wouldn't have either of those things, would he?"
The eyes got wider and even rounder. "Noooo," came the chorus of small voices.
"And if I tell you, what are you gonna do?"
"We aff to feed 'im to the croc-o-dile."
"Yeah, `cause Captain Hook is a bad man."
"So, you wanna know who he is?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah!"
Ray spun round and pointed at Bodie. "He's right there and he heard me and he's coming to get you!"
Bodie flinched, but the kids screamed en masse and immediately scattered in all directions, leaving Ray bent over double laughing.
"An' I thought I was the cruel one. Gonna give them nightmares."
"Give anyone nightmares, you would. Kids like a good scare. Should stop 'em from bothering you an' all."
"You sure it's nightmares I'll be giving you tonight?" Bodie leered, with more hope now than conviction. Bloody tiring, kids were.
Although he woke up a little when Ray bent over him to reach for the hot dogs.
"'Ere, this one's yours."
"What do I want that for?"
"Because it needs the loo and it's your turn. Cooper wants one of us up at the front gate for when the parents start arriving,"
"I'll do that."
"No, you blo- ruddy well won't. Come on, Bodie. Fair's fair."
"Don't even know where the loo is."
"Easiest one's inside. Up the main staircase and round to the left. And remember your manners. Leave the silver alone and no sliding down the banisters."
"What, in there?" Bodie eyed the mansion dubiously. "With all the old scrotes and Lady Havershams having their tea party?"
"Oh don't be such a wimp, Bodie."
"Yeah, well, if I see a kid on a trike…"
What the hell was Ray up to? He'd been gone for ages and, far from scaring the kids off, his little tale had earned Bodie his own personal audience. Right now there was a group of about twenty of the little… dears… huddled a few yards away, whispering and pointing. Bodie shifted uncomfortably. Where was a nice terrorist raid when you needed one?
"Are you ree-ally Captain Hook," a small voice said.
Bodie looked down. It was the same little red-head who'd kicked him in the shins. "Might be," he answered, hedging his bets.
The crowd came closer, jostling and nudging. "Ree-ally, ree-ally?"
They wanted proof. Hands clasped behind him and rocking on his heels, Bodie looked down his nose at them. The question was, how much could he get away with before someone accused him of needless cruelty to small, irritating animals?
Captain Hook. All he could remember was the stuff Doyle had already covered. Although… His hand drifted into his pocket, closing on the plastic hook that came as part of his costume.
The kids continued gathering. He felt like the wolf waiting for the piggies to get just close enough.
"Argh!" he yelled, leaping into a stance and brandishing his hooked hand. "I'll tie ye all to me mainmast and 'ave ya keel-hauled for good measure!"
Again the kids screamed, scattering in all directions.
Smugly, Bodie leaned back against the wall and folded his arms. That was more like it. Horrible little bilge-rats.
Ray still wasn't back and Bodie was starting to get jittery. There were a few other pirates around, but most had drifted off towards the perimeter, unofficially nominating Bodie as chief child-wrangler. He wondered what Cowley would say if he just happened to abandon his charges for, say, the fire alarm that just might go off if he didn't see another adult in the next five minutes.
With blackly perfect timing, a scream split the air. He spun. There - from the direction of the ornamental pool. Bodie was running before he was consciously aware of it, his body on automatic as he drew his gun. Shit. He hadn't really meant it about terrorists, not with this many kids about.
Bursting through the bushes, he came to an abrupt halt. The pond was empty, except for ever-widening ripples racing to lap at its edges. Something was in there though, and he stepped closer, peering into the murky depths. With a piercing cry, a figure broke the surface, small and terrified. It was the little red-haired girl, the fairy, her dress dragging her down, waterlogged wings wrapping themselves around her arms as she struggled desperately to free herself.
Without stopping to think, he waded in after her. The water wasn't deep after all, hardly more than up to his thighs, but it was dirty and cold and it stank like bloody hell. His foot snagged on something sharp - the same thing that had caught the girl? - pitching him forward. He recovered with a curse, caught sight of the girl going under for the third time, and reached out to scoop her up. How had she got so far out, anyway?
He swept her up in his arms, high above the surface, and held her to his chest. She clutched at him, coughing up water, but sobbing at the same time and clearly more scared than hurt now she was free.
"It's alright, love," he crooned without thinking, holding her closer. "I've got you. You're safe, it's alright."
A gaggle of children lined the edge of the pool as he hauled them, in a deluge of water, onto the safety of the lawn.
A woman, older and well-spoken, appeared from nowhere, snatching the child from him. "Good lord! What on earth happened?"
"She fell in. It's alright, she's okay. Just got a bit of nasty scare."
He might as well not have spoken. The woman ignored him completely, setting the girl on her feet and hauling her away by her arm towards the house, where a group of vaguely interested adults seemed to be gathering. Poor little bugger.
"Captain Hook, is she gonna be okay?" All dressed in green with a rubber sword at his waist, the little boy had to be Peter Pan, despite the American accent.
Bodie patted him on the head. "Yeah, I think so. But tell the others to steer clear of the pool. It's too dangerous to be playing there."
"We weren't playing. Jessie-Lee was gonna drown you."
"She… what?" Just when Bodie was starting to think that kids might be halfway human after all.
"We thought you were Captain Hook, see, so we were gonna tie you up and drown you in the water. With him." The kid pointed at a more than life-size sculpture of a crocodile standing next to the pond.
The kid jumped. "That's my mom. Gotta go. Thanks for saving my sister."
Bodie watched as short legs propelled their owner across the lawn. Well, at least one of them had some manners.
And in a strange sort of a way, considering the fact that he was drenched and cold and smelling of he didn't like to think what, the kids had done him a favour. Adults milled at the entrance to the house, reclaiming their charges and organising clothes while the kids protested loudly. It seemed the accident had brought the party to an early close.
At bloody last. Bodie wandered over to the food tables and began helping himself. After what he'd been through, he reckoned he deserved a bit of a treat.
"Thought I might find you 'ere," Ray's voice came from behind. "It's winding up. Reckon we can make a move soon."
Not about to forgive his partner for his vanishing act quite so quickly, Bodie sniffed. "Decided to come back have we? You missed all the excitement."
"I heard. Did your knight in shining armour bit." He wrinkled his nose. "Though it's more like knight in slimy bilge water. Christ, that stinks."
For the first time, Bodie glanced down at himself, at first curiously, then with increasing horror. Slick mud coated his boots and leather trousers. The silk shirt, so pristinely white before, was now splattered a mucky shade of green. The coat, as well as boasting a long tear round the sleeve, had bits of water-lily clinging to the fabric. And the silvery trails right where Tinkerbell had leant on his chest? He didn't want to know.
"Fuck, it's ruined!"
Doyle plucked at the rip. "It'll be alright. Give it a bit of TLC and it'll be right as…" Half the sleeve fell off in his hand. "Maybe not." He shrugged. "Look on the bright side, maybe the old man'll pay for it since you saved that kid from drowning."
They stared at each other for a second, then shook their heads.
Bodie sighed, mentally kissed another twenty quid goodbye. "S'ppose we'd better be going, then."
"Yeah, lets get the hell out of here. Special Branch can mop up. Besides," Doyle eyed him up and down, "I don't think you'd do much for cultural relations just at the moment."
Bodie opened his mouth to protest, closing it without a word when he breathed in pond scum and other un-named horrors.
"Ah, never mind, mate. Look on the other bright side…"
"There's another bright side?"
Doyle cocked his head to one side, considering. "We get to go home." He took a step closer, though there was no one anywhere near them. "I might even let you keel haul me."
"Dunno," Bodie shrugged, put on his best hard-done-by face "Not sure I'm in the mood now."
Doyle's eyes widened in disbelief.
"All this running around, chasing after snot-nosed little brats. You try being Captain Hook for hours on end…"
"What?" They started across the now-empty lawn towards the car park.
"You know what happened to Captain Hook in the end, don't you?"
Bodie eyed him warily, not sure whether to be distrustful or expectant. "What?"
"Was eaten by the crocodile, wasn't he?" And Doyle grinned, teeth gleaming, lips stretched wide.
And with a wild cry, Bodie took off across the grass, his partner in hot pursuit.
-- THE END --