Losing Grip


The alarm dragged him from his sleep. It felt as if he had only let his eyes close for a minute or so, and he was reluctant to leave his quiet land of unconsciousness. He couldn't remember what he'd dreamed about, and he liked that.

Pressing his face into the pillow, feeling his nose mash out of shape, Bodie struck out at the off-button without bothering to lift his head. Drawing his hand back under the warmth of the duvet, he let himself rest there safe for a moment, mind already running through all the things he needed to do to make himself half-decent for work. And beyond getting ready there was work--always work--then pub then bed again, if he was lucky, to do it all again the day after and forever more. And throughout it all--except that last one, obviously--was him.

A groan slipped past Bodie's lips before he could help it, muffled by the blankets over his face but still loud enough to cause him to start.

He frowned and hauled himself upright at once, straightening his shoulders and lifting his chin, blinking away all traces of sleep, unreasonably annoyed with himself for not wanting to wake up in the first place.

Pushing this thought to one side, he looked up and found himself already in the shower. He hadn't noticed and he didn't care that the water was ever so slightly too hot because it didn't make him feel any different. Nothing did.

He was in the kitchen now, nearly fully-dressed. Who'd have thought it? He would have marvelled at his body's exquisite automatic-pilot, but he didn't think to do so. He didn't think anything. He coasted about the kitchen, seeing and feeling nothing, just getting on with it. And he'd stopped being amazed by that a long time ago.

One slice in the toaster, then two. The blue flame under the kettle reminding him of camping with... He didn't need to remember who with. He wasn't there anymore, so it didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was him.

The sound of his front door slamming should have startled him, but he was already in the car.

The road made a thundering sound as it fell beneath the speeding tyres. If Bodie let his foot press harder on the pedal, the noise increased in pitch and volume. If he tilted his heel ever so slightly, it sank to a normal level again.

Bodie knew it was only because hours had gone by in complete silence that he was appreciating the acoustics of the Capri. But he was glad Doyle was quiet this morning. Perhaps not glad--glad would imply it was something he'd thought about, which it wasn't. He was just watching the road and listening to the sound of rubber on tarmac.

Because if he thought for even a second about why Doyle was being quiet--why he'd been quiet for the past couple of months, why days now stretched longer than years ever had, why they no longer looked each other in the eye while speaking anymore... Well, it didn't bear thinking about, did it?

Not that it bothered Bodie. Doyle was the one who analysed and re-analysed and fretted and angsted: Bodie didn't. Nothing touched him, nothing affected him. He'd always been here, and he always would. He had thought that, finally, he might have someone beside him for the rest of the trip but... But Doyle had made it clear that was not the case. Which was fine.

Bodie cleared his throat at the exact second Doyle shifted in the seat next to him, and they looked at each other for the first time in weeks, gazes crashing together accidentally. He felt his cheeks burst into flame and spent the rest of the trip glaring, unseeing, at a fleck of bird shit on the windscreen, while Doyle drummed The Beatles on door.

They reached wherever it was they were going--Bodie did know, but the information wasn't necessary by that point so he didn't need to think about it. Sitting next to Doyle, waiting for the informant, Bodie stared straight ahead. He did not think about how Doyle's thigh brushed against his own. He did not think about how tired he was. Or the fact that no matter what this informant said--no matter how desperate he was for dosh to get his next fix, how much they could beat out of him, or how much he owed how many people--it didn't affect them. Not really. They were just the cleaners. One shit looked the same as another, after all.

A smell of dead cat or wet arse filled the cafe as the safari jacket sat down across from them. Bodie sat back and let his brain get on with it until Doyle pinched the small roll of spare flesh above Bodie's waistband, minutes (or was it hours) later.

It felt good, the sudden surge of heat, the tiny prickle of pain snapping him away from reality and into them. But the welcome pain from Doyle's wicked little fingers melted away again before Bodie had a chance to really want it. The disappointment, the sudden aching craving for something he'd forgotten, mixed up with the resentment he felt at Doyle calling a halt to the sliding past of his day, made Bodie's voice harsh.

"Oi, stop that."

Instead of playing his part, instead of being Doyle, his partner's face fell and his hands stilled at once. The old Doyle--the Doyle before--would have carried on poking and prodding Bodie with a passion that would have increased proportionally to the reaction he gained, no matter what the reaction. The old Doyle wouldn't have been frightened off.

And that was the problem. But not Bodie's. Just a problem.

He liked the thudding sound his feet made as they slammed against the pavement. Gave him a rhythm, like the heartbeat he couldn't feel.

Bodie knew he'd always said that he hated running, but he couldn't quite remember if that was some sort of bizarre affectation he had made up years ago, or if it was real. Not that he thought about it all that deeply. No point, is there. People saw it and assumed it was him--whether it was or it wasn't was no concern of his.

They'd caught up with them, now, and Doyle had dived right, behind a set of bins, feral to a fault. The informant had been playing them false, and the trap should have surprised Bodie, but it hadn't. The fact they'd run had. Bodie knew he could put the fright up anyone when he had his scary face on. But he hadn't known he had. No one had said anything; but, then again, why would they?

"It's like trying to catch a butterfly."

That's what Doyle had said as they chased them. He couldn't have been saying it to Bodie, though, because Bodie didn't care.

Bodie felt the neck snap under his fingers. The smooth shift of bone structure that meant another butterfly lay, still and crumpled, in the palm of his hand.

The gunshot to his right echoed throughout the alleyway.

He reached down, armpit pressed against the slippery coldness of the side, and wrapped his hand awkwardly around the mug. He very nearly introduced his knee to the tap, but managed to twist away from the collision just in time, the water crashing against his back at the jerking movement with a satisfying 'swoosh' sound.

Bodie would have smiled, but his chin rested on the porcelain rim of the bath, affording no movement.

Letting himself rest there a minute, body twisted absurdly out of shape in the water, Bodie breathed in the muggy air of the bathroom. He felt his back twinge with the added pressure, and his chest pressed harder against the side momentarily, before the volume was lost as he let out the purposefully-explosive sigh.

Staying here, in this moment, felt good. He could feel everything: from the goose bumps beginning to rise on the small of his back, to the sudden tingling of the muscle underneath his shoulder blade, to the searing heat steadily drifting into the palm of his hand. He knew where everything was behind his bathroom door. He could control everything and make it nothing.

Bodie watched in vague surprise as water sluiced unexpectedly down his arm, trickled over his knuckles and into the murky brown water in the mug. There might have been blood in that tiny droplet, another man's blood.

He drank it anyway, sinking back into the lukewarm water he'd been sitting in since Cowley sent them home, watching the stain on the white paint peeling above his wet feet.

Bodie wished his new windows had curtains.

He could put some up, but he'd probably be moving sooner rather than later and there didn't seem to be much point in even unpacking the boxes anymore. Once again they cluttered up his hallway, in ever decreasing numbers, and this time, Bodie couldn't even bring himself to put them in the right rooms.

He'd do it when he ran out of clothes.

The sun shone brightly behind the window pane, ignoring him. Bodie lay in his bed, towel loose and pooled about his waist underneath the blankets, and watched the outside world go past as if it were a film tape, letting the sound of too-fast cars fill his ears, drowning out anything else that might have been there.

Bodie was too hot all of a sudden; he could feel the sweat beginning to pool in his freshly-washed armpits, the hot waves crashing over him steadily. He could have kicked the blanket off, but he couldn't be bothered. It was sort of good to feel something, anything.

He wanted to wish Ray was with him, coiled safe around him... but he wouldn't allow it. He would not.

Bodie's chest ached, but that didn't feel too good. He pushed himself upright for the second time that day, and didn't think about how he'd quite like to go to sleep and never get up again. It was becoming harder to wake up in the mornings. The pub was getting harder to go to. His smiles were becoming harder to mean and Bodie did not like it. Life was hard, that was life. He was hard, because his life was harder, and nothing got to him, ever. Not even.... No, nothing.

Dressed now, and walking towards the door, Bodie noticed how much his feet dragged and how the nothing in the pit of his stomach had turned into something rather more like dread. But he needed to go to the pub. Doyle would already have been waiting--not for him, just for a sounding board to spout his woes out onto. Bodie didn't have any woes, so he was the best tool.

He needed to take Doyle out. Doyle, who had killed a man today and who thought too much. Bodie had killed, too, but he was just Bodie. It didn't matter to Bodie. Because Bodie knew how to keep his mind empty and his thoughts clear of life.

It was all okay if he kept his mind empty.

That was the thought that got him home from the pub, birdless, every night now. The thought that had kept him going since he was that spotty fourteen-year old watching as Liverpool slipped slowly away from him, away into nothing more than a black dot on the horizon, desperate to get away from himself.

There was a crash as he knocked over the hat stand trying to get out of the flat--it had been standing by the front door of the flat when he'd arrived. It wasn't his; none of this was his. This wasn't his life. Bodie's life was funny and exciting and full of entertainment and birds and friendship. It made him proud to be a part of the right side, for once. This wasn't his life. This bloodbath couldn't be him, really. Could it?

With a gasp of breath, Bodie righted the hat stand. He wouldn't know, would he? How would he ever know?

Shaking his head, he took a deeper breath. None of it mattered. It was all okay if he just kept his mind empty.

If he didn't think about those agents falling all around them. The hopeless scum on the street, smiling up at them as they pulled the trigger. How close he'd come to losing himself in that jungle. How holding a gun made him feel. How sometimes he wanted to beat the shit out of Cowley for saving him. The pain he sometimes got in his chest when he thought too much. The startling stutter of gunfire. How frightened he used to feel. The snap of bones. The way his heart jumped every time he thought it was them this time. How disgusted he looked whenever he glanced at Bodie these days. The crash of flesh on flesh...

Bodie screwed his eyes up tight against it all, as tight as he could, until bright spots flashed up on the lids. Dazzling and burning, they swam across his blind vision in technicolor. He focused his mind and all his will on them, watching as the pure white melted away and was lost to the darkness, making them melt away.

The blackness began to swell along with the pain in the back of his head, and Bodie slowly opened his eyes to find himself sitting cross-legged on the floor by his own sofa.

He felt like he was burning from the inside out, like the air all around him was suddenly so hot he couldn't catch his breath. Everything was pushing on his internal organs, twisting his insides and grabbing hold of his chest, and he couldn't hold back. He couldn't hold anything back. He was suffocating in everything he refused to let himself remember.

He realised he was crying with about as much enthusiasm as he might have noticed his shoelace was untied.

It was just that his cheeks were wet, and unless Doyle had finally given in at the pub and taken to spitting in his eyes--he so often looked like he wanted to--and he'd not noticed, there was only one reason for it.

Sick with the shame of it all, Bodie rubbed furiously at his traitorous eyes with the cuff of his shirt, desperate to stop them leaking. But it just made it worse, and he didn't know what to do. He always knew what to do. His heart hammered in his chest, quicker than in any car chase, faster than under any fire. Bodie glared at the carpet beneath his shoes, trying to calm himself down. He was over-tired, he was... upset. It was fine. Not pathetic. Not pathetic at all.

Bodie took a deep, wet breath, but a sob escaped instead, and he realised he was beyond all help. He put his hands firmly over his eyes and tried to get it over with as soon as physically possible.

The sound of his front door slamming should have startled him, but he didn't even notice. Didn't notice anything, until a hand balled into a fist on his knee, and he knew--he just fucking knew--it was him.

And he felt some small part of him, something deep inside his chest, shrivel up and die at the touch. He never, ever wanted to take his hands away from his eyes. Never wanted to see that expression change to anything even close to pity. He'd rather Doyle never spoke to him again than even attempt to be sympathetic. He could take his bleeding heart and shove it up his arse, because Bodie did not need it. He did not.

But, he was still crying somehow, and it was getting worse because he was there, and the tears were going right down his neck, and no one should see this, no one. Especially not him.

And the hand moved from his knee, to rub up his side and then slid around his shoulders, until Doyle was suddenly wrapped around him, holding him tighter than anyone had before, pressing himself into Bodie, as if that way he could take some of whatever was making Bodie cry away from him. It was a strong bear-hug, and Bodie could feel every inch of wiry muscle bracing his back.

Doyle didn't say anything--if he had, Bodie knew he'd have run away, run away and never, ever come back. But he didn't--not a word, not a mutter, just his steady gin-breath drifting across the back of Bodie's neck, and his curls tickling his ear.

Somehow, Doyle knew Bodie well enough to know not to do anything when he'd lost his grip, just to be there to see it.

And behind his hands, pressed as they were against Doyle's collarbone, Bodie was glad someone had finally seen him. Doyle's hands began to rub up and down his back soothingly, and Bodie's wet gasps slowed to something more human-sounding, but he couldn't pull away from Doyle's chest, because that would make it real.

The hands stopped abruptly, and Bodie missed them. A touch to his wrists was all it took--this Bodie was submissive--and Doyle drew his hands down for him. And as soon as he saw those familiar green eyes--open wide in surprise, but as strong and as sure as ever--Bodie knew suddenly that Doyle had seen him all along.

-- THE END --

June 2007

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