by PR Zed
Written for the "Discovered on All Hallow's Eve" challenge on the discoveredinalj livejournal community.
With thanks to Slantedlight and m. butterfly for helpful beta comments. Bodie's poem is Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold.
Another night, another dead boring obbo watching an abandoned house with absolutely no one inside it. If Bodie had been prone to paranoia, he'd have sworn that Cowley had it in for them.
Then again, he was perfectly certain that Doyle did have it in for him. He'd been in a rotten mood for what seemed like ages. Three weeks, if Bodie was counting. Ever since that bloody Holly woman had left Doyle's life in rather spectacular fashion. Stupid cow. Left Bodie to pick up the pieces, except that Doyle didn't seem to want his pieces picked up. Just wanted to whinge and brood and occasionally flay the nearest person with his words. And that person was usually Bodie. Everyone else had the sense to stay well clear.
Bodie shifted in his seat and tried to decide if he wanted to make another attempt at yanking Doyle back from the brink, encourage him to re-join the world a little with a recent unexpected but tempting invitation. Trouble was, his fingers had been burned so often now, he wasn't certain he was quite ready to stick them back in the fire.
"What is it?" Doyle asked, a definite edge to his voice.
"Nothing," Bodie said immediately. "What makes you think there's anything?"
"Because you shifted. And you sighed."
"Did not." The denial was required, even if Doyle was right.
"Did too. So, spill it."
"All right." Bodie stretched and, much to his own annoyance, sighed again. "Saw Nicola the other night."
"She one of your tarts?" Doyle asked nastily.
"Nicola's dead posh, you dirty-minded sod."
"Then what's she doing hanging out with you?"
"Knows quality when she sees it, doesn't she?"
"Not if she thinks you're quality, she doesn't."
"Anyway," Bodie continued, refusing to be dragged into a slanging-match with Doyle. "She's invited me to a Halloween party."
"Oh yeah." Doyle was clearly bored by this information.
"Yeah. Mummy and daddy have given her the flat in Kensington for the occasion. It ought to be one for the books. Fancy dress with first-class booze, birds and buffet."
"Well, you enjoy yourself, mate."
"Was hoping you'd come with me. Set off my stunning good looks with your lack thereof."
"An invitation like that, how can I refuse?"
"I bloody well can." Doyle shifted uneasily in the car seat. "I'm not going to some naff party where a lot of Hooray Henrys and Sloane Rangers look down their noses at me just so you can wine and dine Natalie."
"Nicola," Bodie corrected automatically. "And anyway, I'm not wining and dining her. We're friends. That's all. Thought it'd be fun. Thought you might have fun."
"You've got a funny sense of fun, mate. No thanks."
"Jane's said she'll help out with costumes. She's wardrobe mistress at the National now."
"What's Jane doing even talking to you?"
"Unlike some people, I stay on good terms with former girlfriends. Makes life more manageable. No one to throw drinks in me face if I meet them unexpectedly." Bodie leaned over and elbowed Doyle lightly in the ribs. "Bet she could find something to make even a scruff like you look good."
"Gerroff, Bodie." Doyle elbowed him back. Hard.
"That hurt," Bodie said, using the wounded tone that he knew Doyle couldn't withstand. Usually.
"Serves you right." Doyle's voice didn't have an ounce of sympathy in it.
"You're an unfeeling bastard, Doyle."
"So I've been told."
"I reckon you owe me one now."
"What the hell for?"
"For damaging my delicate personage," Bodie said, rubbing his ribs with an aggrieved air.
"You're as delicate as a bull in a china shop."
"I've got feelings, same as the next bloke."
"If the next bloke is Genghis Khan."
"Christ, Doyle," Bodie said, giving up on exchanging even uncivil words with Doyle. He crossed his arms and stared at the house in front of them, wondering not for the first time why he put up with his partner's moods.
Twenty minutes went by without a word from either of them, which had to be something of a record, Bodie reckoned. And then Doyle finally cracked.
"Sorry," he said, and he actually sounded like he meant it. "Didn't mean to be such a bastard."
"'S'all right," Bodie said without any ill will. Holding a grudge against Doyle was like holding a grudge against lightning for striking. He couldn't help his nature, and his moods were over soon enough. You just had to learn to outlast his temper, and hope you weren't fried to a crisp by it.
"So, when's this party?" Doyle asked, and if his voice lacked a certain enthusiasm, Bodie wasn't going to complain.
"Saturday." Bodie rubbed his hands together and began to lay out his plans. "Soon as we're off duty, I'll give Jane a call..."
"Ow," Bodie yelped. "That hurt."
"If you didn't wriggle like a worm on a hook, I wouldn't have stabbed you."
"I don't wriggle," Bodie said, hoping he didn't sound as petulant as he felt.
"You bloody do." Jane cuffed the back of Bodie's head. "Now, hold still or I'll stab you on purpose." The tiny redhead fell quiet as she resumed pinning the back of the jerkin Bodie had picked out.
The jerkin was part of a cavalier costume that had been used in some Restoration drama or other. Bodie thought he cut rather a dashing figure in it. He was conscious enough of his looks to notice the blue of the jerkin and trousers exactly matched his eyes, and he'd always fancied wearing the broad brimmed hat of the King's men, complete with ostrich feather. He was, however, beginning to wonder if he'd survive the fitting process.
"Prat," Jane said. "I'm remembering why I broke up with you."
"Broke me heart, you did."
"You don't have a heart to break," Jane said with a bright laugh.
"You should talk," Bodie said without any real spite, glad that he'd managed to stay friends with Jane. She'd been good in bed, but she was even better out of it: sharp-witted and not at all willing to let him get away with anything. Rather like his partner, come to think of it. And speaking of the stroppy little sod...
"Doyle been in? To pick out a costume?"
"Not yet." Jane tugged at his waistband and Bodie instinctively sucked in his stomach. Jane poked him in the ribs. "Don't do that, or it'll serve you right if I make the trousers too tight. You'll be bloody uncomfortable. Won't be able to eat any gâteaux."
"Can't have that," Bodie said, releasing his abdominal muscles, just a bit.
Jane resumed pinning the costume.
"I can't wait to get my hands on Doyle," Jane said, and if he couldn't see her face, Bodie could easily imagine the covetous look that went with the words.
"Oi, that's my mate you're talking about."
"Purely in a professional way, you bastard. Always reckoned he'd clean up rather nicely if he could be pried out of the tatty jeans and plaid shirts."
"Can't say I'd noticed," Bodie said in his best camp voice. He turned to bat his eyelashes at Jane. Birds always loved his lashes, though he was buggered if he knew why.
"Stop it, you." She forcibly turned his head around. "You certainly play up to the rumours, don't you?"
"What rumours?" Bodie feigned innocence.
"'Bout you and that urchin of a partner of yours." A final tug on his clothes and she moved in front of him. "That's better."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Bodie said haughtily. He'd heard the rumours. They both had. Didn't mean they had to make anything of them, though. Ray was his mate. Lot of bloody nonsense
"I'll just bet you don't," Jane said, but seemed as willing to drop the matter as Bodie was. "Right, get out of that lot and give me a couple of days. I should have it all ready for you by the end of the week."
"Thanks, love." Bodie dropped a chaste kiss on top of Jane's head. "You're a brick."
"You can just be thankful I'm between productions and have some time on my hands."
Bodie stripped down to vest and y-fronts, trying not to feel disappointed when Jane paid him as little attention as she would a shop dummy. He started pulling on his clothes.
"You going to tell me what costume Doyle picks?" he asked, anticipating ribbing Doyle for whatever sartorial blunder he stumbled into. Maybe that would jostle him out of the mood he'd been in.
"You want me to tell him what you're wearing?"
"Then I'm not telling you what he's wearing. Fair's fair." Jane swatted him playfully on the bum as he put on his jacket. "Now, get out of here and let me work in peace. I'll call you when it's all ready to be picked up."
Bodie left the National Theatre building and emerged onto the South Bank, enjoying the crisp autumn breeze that kissed his face. If Doyle were here, he thought, we could go for a pint. Assuming the rotten sod would want to. Bloody Ann Holly, walking out on Ray. She'd been lucky to have him. Anyone would be. She just hadn't been smart enough to realize it.
Well, good riddance to bad rubbish, Bodie thought as he headed back to where he'd parked the car, near the Old Vic. With luck, this fancy dress party was just what Doyle needed to put all thoughts of that bloody woman out of his head. Bodie would ply Doyle with drink and push him in the path of every beautiful woman in the place. There was no way he wouldn't pull by the end of the evening.
Doyle was about due for a break, for something good to happen to him, and Bodie was just the man to supply it.
Bodie arrived at Nicola's flat on Saturday to find the party in full swing, but no Doyle in sight. He greeted his hostess--Nicola was dressed as a fetching Nefertiti, with kohled eyes and a charmingly exposed midriff--and made the rounds of flappers and cowboys, princesses and musketeers, scoping out likely lovelies to put in Doyle's way. After half an hour, and several tumblers of Nicola's excellent Scotch, he began to worry that Doyle would be late. After an hour, he was beginning to wonder if Doyle would show at all.
He had to come. As stroppy as he'd been all week, Doyle had promised he'd come. And when he'd picked up his costume the previous evening, Jane had told him she was delivering Doyle's costume this very night. The cat with the canary look on her face had told him the costume must be a corker.
By ten, Bodie was toying with taking a taxi to Doyle's flat and dragging him bodily back to the party. But just as he'd decided to do it, there was a noticeable lull in the noise of the party. Bodie immediately turned to the source of the disruption, and found his partner entering the room.
Jane had been right about one thing, anyway. Doyle had cleaned up very nicely indeed.
He was wearing full Regency garb. A simple ivory waistcoat was topped by a green Chinese silk jacket and an elaborate neckcloth that Jane must have tied for him. Doyle could barely manage a regular tie, let alone a bowtie, and this neckcloth was a complicated affair that would have done Beau Brummell proud. His hair, longer than usual, he'd tied back with a black ribbon. His breeches were black, front buttoned and very, very tight. A pair of knee-high black riding boots, polished to a satiny sheen, provided the perfect finishing touch.
Bodie was stunned. Years they'd been together and he'd somehow failed to notice that Doyle was, well, bloody gorgeous. Standing at the edge of the crowd, scanning the guests for a familiar face, Doyle possessed a haughty demeanour that complemented his clothing perfectly. He turned his head and caught sight of Bodie, and his face transformed, going from haughty sneer to an open smile that Bodie found warmed him right through his middle and down to his unexpectedly rising cock. Bodie was abruptly glad that a cavalier's voluminous trousers and long jerkin could hide a multitude of sins.
It was as if he'd been blindsided by his own desire. All that time, weeks, months, years, and he hadn't realized how deep his affection for Doyle ran, hadn't realized that he lusted after the irritating sod. And now that the genie was out of the bottle, he was damned if he wanted to stuff it back in.
As he stood there, rooted to the spot by this unlooked for epiphany and struggling to decide what to do about it, Doyle strode easily over to join him, earning appreciative looks from the entire room.
"Well?" Doyle asked, glancing disparagingly down at his clothes. "What do you reckon? Jane insisted on choosing for me. Couldn't believe it when she dragged out this lot."
"You look..." Bodie struggled to find the right word.
"Ridiculous?" Doyle said with a wry twist of his mouth. "Absurd? Bloody stupid?"
"Edible," Bodie blurted out, then bit his lip in shock that he'd actually said it. Oh well, he thought, bracing himself for the inevitable explosion. As well to be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
Doyle's expression went from bemusement to anger in less time than it would take him to draw his gun under fire. His brows drew together and his lip pulled back in a vicious snarl. And Bodie knew without a doubt that Doyle thought he was only taking the mickey, was being heartlessly cruel so soon after Ann, and that he had so little time - seconds, less than a second, no time at all - to make it right between them.
But he couldn't do it here, in the middle of a room filled with people he barely knew. He grabbed Doyle's wrist and pulled him through the crowd of partygoers, relying on his strength and Doyle's surprise for his capitulation. Relying on the memory of a long-ago visit with Nicola, when she'd cheekily wanted to show off her new thug of a boyfriend to proper mama and stodgy papa, he dragged Doyle out to the hall and up the stairs to the first floor. He found Nicola's bedroom, all lace and chintz with a four-poster bed against one wall, pushed Doyle into the room, entered himself and locked the door behind him.
"What the hell are you playing at?" Doyle yelled, his eyes narrowed down to slits of green fire.
Bodie couldn't explain what had seized him, not in words. Instead he risked his life and moved in close, took Doyle's arms in a firm grip and kissed him. Doyle's mouth remained closed to him and he struggled in Bodie's grasp until finally Bodie relented and released him. Doyle immediately strode over to the window, and stood staring out into the darkness. Even with his back turned, Bodie could tell Doyle was strung tighter than a bowstring. Bodie watched him, unable to move, hoping only that he hadn't destroyed everything he had for something he'd only now realized he wanted.
"What the fuck did you want to do that for?" Doyle's voice sounded thin and far away.
"Dunno," Bodie said.
"That's no fucking answer."
"Because you're beautiful?" Bodie took a step toward the window. "Because I fancy you?"
"That's not enough, Bodie," Doyle said with certainty.
"Because I care about you."
"Still not enough."
"How about because I think I fuckin' love you?"
Doyle whirled on him then, rage visible in his face, his posture.
"Well, then think again, Bodie. I'm not very lovable, in case you hadn't noticed."
With those words, Bodie felt his control snap, felt a boiling anger race through him. Three steps brought him over to Doyle's side, and before Doyle could move away, Bodie grabbed him by the arm.
"In case you haven't noticed, Ray, I'm not Ann." He shook Doyle once, roughly. "I'm not going to judge you. I'm not going to hold you to some impossible standard and then walk away when you don't meet it."
"You fucking bastard." But the words were spoken softly, more in defeat than defiance, and they cracked something deep within Bodie that might have been his heart.
"Ah, Ray," he said, gathering Doyle unresisting into his arms. He could feel him trembling like a wild thing in his embrace, all the restrained power of the man threatening to tear him apart. "'M not going to hurt you. Wouldn't do it." He stroked a hand across the bowed head, enjoying the feel of the curls under his calloused fingers. "Couldn't do it. Not for the world."
"Bodie," Doyle said, and this time the word was nearly a sob.
Knowing without a doubt that this time Doyle wouldn't resist, he kissed him again. Doyle's lips parted under his and they shared breath and heat. The moment stretched between them, the calm before the storm, and Bodie's only thoughts were for the feeling of Doyle's face under his palm, the quick beating of Doyle's heart against his chest. But soon enough, the storm broke on their shores and calm erupted into chaos.
Doyle clutched him tightly, deepening the kiss, crushing their bodies together, and suddenly there were too many clothes between them. With trembling fingers, Bodie undid Doyle's neckcloth, unbuttoned his waistcoat while Doyle did the same with his jerkin. Bodie had just enough presence of mind to make sure jacket and jerkin were thrown across the room, far from any chance of damage. Jane had threatened his life if any harm came to the clothes. He could only imagine her reaction if he appeared with semen-stained velvet and silk.
Bodie pulled Doyle's fine lawn shirt over his head, running his hands eagerly over exposed flesh. Doyle opened the front of Bodie's shirt and pushed it over his shoulders, encumbering his arms in linen and lace. Boots and shoes were shoved off, then Doyle grabbed Bodie and pulled him back until they collapsed on the bed. More scrambling, and then they were both out of trousers. But when he tried to shuck off his shirt, Doyle's hands on his stopped him.
"Don't," Doyle said, his eyes dark and unreadable. "I like you in that."
A low rumble in his throat was the only answer Bodie could make as he took Doyle's mouth with his own again.
Sensation overwhelmed him: the taste of Doyle's mouth, the smell of his sweat, the heat of his cock against Bodie's. They both moved and strained and pushed and gasped until Bodie felt his balls tighten, precursor to the waves of pleasure that crashed over him, threatened to drown him until he clutched Doyle tighter, his rescuer, his saviour. Then Doyle was coming too, gasping in Bodie's ear, sound without words.
When their breathing had slowed, Bodie finally rolled onto his side, but he kept one arm around Doyle. They lay together, sounds from the party on the floor below filling the silence of the room. They were still until the sensation of cooling semen on his belly forced Bodie to move, to search out a box of tissues. He returned to the bed, cleaned them up, did the best he could with his shirt and the bedspread, and then stood again.
It was only then that Doyle moved, sitting up on the edge of the bed and wrapping his arms around Bodie's middle. Doyle's hands held him tightly, but his face was strangely impassive, unreadable. It was that remote expression that made Bodie's legs weak. He dropped to his knees and slid his arms around Doyle until his hands clutched tightly at Doyle's shoulders. He buried his face in Doyle's chest, keeping his eyes clenched tightly shut, the terrible image of Doyle's face already burned into his memory.
Bodie felt a kiss to the top of his head, and then the hands clutching his head released him.
"C'mon," Doyle said quietly. "We should get ourselves sorted."
One more tight squeeze of the man in his embrace, and Bodie released his grip. Bodie nodded, trying not to read his own fears into Doyle's aloof expression. He stood, and pulled Doyle up from the bed with an offered hand, enjoying the feel of warm flesh in his grasp, and grieving for it when it was removed.
They dressed slowly and methodically, neither saying a word. Bodie was lost in thought, realizing that everything had changed, but not sure what they'd become. He was only sure of one thing: he didn't want to go back to what they'd had before, not if it meant losing the one aspect of Doyle's life he'd never been part of before.
But looking at Doyle, his face shut down, his actions mechanical, lacklustre even, Bodie wondered if he'd perhaps lost him already.
Doyle shrugged into the waistcoat and jacket and then picked up his neckcloth from where it had landed on the floor. He looked at the piece of fabric as if it were a poisonous snake, ready to strike.
"I'll never get this tied again," he said mournfully. "Jane came over specially to help me with it."
"Stick it in your pocket."
"They'll know what we were up to," Doyle said neutrally. "You weren't exactly subtle dragging me out of there."
"Do you care?"
"Dunno," Doyle said with a noncommittal shrug.
"Well, I don't." Bodie said, sure that he spoke the truth, hoping that it was this sort of bravery and courage that would win Doyle to him. "I couldn't give a toss what any of that lot think."
"Yeah. I care what one person thinks, and that's the moody sod in this room with me right now." Bodie told himself that Doyle's baleful expression brightened slightly at that, but it could have been just his imagination. Time to find out. "What does he think?" Bodie trailed a finger across Doyle's cheek.
"Who?" Doyle didn't look up.
"You, you thick bastard. What do you think?"
"I don't know what I think," Doyle exploded, his passion at last breaking through that dreadful passivity. Bodie was almost relieved. Fire he could fight.
"Look, Doyle. I'm not asking for an avowal of undying love," Bodie said, letting his temper show and ignoring the fact that he seemed to be hoping for exactly that. "I just want to know if you'd like to give it a whirl. See if we can make it work."
"As propositions go, that leaves something to be desired, Bodie." Doyle's words were discouraging, but Bodie thought he saw a flash of humour behind the fire in Doyle's eyes.
"Sorry, Ray. I only read poetry. I don't write it. I'm not going to compose an ode to your tangled curls."
"I'd be worried if you did," Doyle snorted. And then there was a shifty look in his eyes, a look that banished the fire completely and simultaneously encouraged Bodie and made him more nervous. "What if you were to pinch poetry? If you stole someone else's words, what would you say?"
It was on the tip of his tongue to make a joke, but Bodie restrained himself. Too much depended on the next few minutes. He didn't want to cock it up. So he searched his memory for the perfect passage, the exact turn of phrase to convince this arrogant, ruthless, moody, infuriating man that they were worth taking a chance on. And then it came to him, the one poem he thought might work, one that contained something of the truth of their world, as well as his feelings.
"How 'bout this?" he asked. And he began to recite Matthew Arnold's words:
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain
For a long minute after his last words had faded to stillness, Doyle stood, looking at him in silence, and Bodie wondered if he had misjudged, chosen badly.
"Bloody hell, Bodie," Doyle whispered finally, and then he moved closer, brushed a finger across Bodie's lips, his throat. "You really are a dark horse, aren't you?" And then Doyle kissed him, a light touch of the lips, but one that held all the promise Bodie could have hoped for.
When Doyle pulled away, Bodie nearly whimpered from the lack, but then he really looked at his partner's face. All impassivity, all aloofness had been erased, and the bad temper of the last few weeks was entirely missing. In their place was a wonder, a delight that was an echo of Bodie's feelings.
"You don't want to go back down to that party, do you?" Doyle asked.
Bodie shook his head, words now somehow beyond him.
"My place?" Doyle asked.
"Your place," Bodie managed, his voice gone husky with want.
"C'mon, then," Doyle said, pulling at his wrist. And this time he was the one leading the way, pulling them down the stairs and through the front hall, unregarded by everyone but Nicola, who saw them out with a wicked wink.
As they emerged onto the street in their costumes, the cavalier and the Regency toff, the clear dark night shining with more stars than London's skies usually granted them, Bodie felt as though he were himself at long last. Felt certain for the first time in weeks, in months, possibly in years, that things were finally as they should be.
-- THE END --