Such Different Wants
Written for "Discovered in Temptation" on the discoveredinalj livejournal community, to the prompt "avarice"
I knew I had to have him as soon as I saw him.
It all came back so quickly, and more vividly than I would have expected, given the way we'd parted. Back then, it'd been all melodrama and stormy tears and me driving away in a snit. I'd been self-righteous and patronising, trying to hurt Ray the way he'd hurt me. Yet for all my damaged feelings and bruised pride, I'd fully expected him to come crawling back. He never did--and until this moment I don't think I ever forgave him for that.
Watching him sitting alone at his table, I realised that was irrelevant now. In the years since we'd parted, I'd grown up a bit. The pride that I'd once held on to so fiercely now seemed juvenile, especially in light of the choices I'd made since then. Compromise in order to gain what I wanted had become the rule, not the exception but seeing Ray brought forth a need I'd been experiencing less and less often as the aridness of my life increased. He reminded me of being young and untethered, able to make my own decisions, even if they were the wrong ones.
I kept up the pretence of listening as my current best friend Diane nattered on about her lover, her children, and her husband, in that order. Ray's own date was late; every few minutes he'd glance at his watch, then run his fingers over the silver band in a gesture very much like a caress. The thought made me shiver. I knew the touch of those hands, the gentle way he'd hold my head between his palms when he kissed me. Ray Doyle had been the most exciting lover I'd ever had, and I'd neglected to fully think through the consequences before I'd made my decision to finish it. For neither the first nor the last time in my life, expedience had taken precedence over expensive and irrational emotions. Aside from a few maudlin tears shed in late night indulgences of regret, I'd never looked back.
All these years later, things were quite different. I was married, content with my own apathetic husband and children who were well governed by outrageously expensive nannies. Lovers had become as interchangeable as shoes, but watching Ray from across the restaurant, I felt a swirl of erotic excitement begin to form in the pit of my stomach. Ray was no complacent lapdog, eager to shed the disguise of respectability in favour of a little illicit entertainment on my satin sheets. He'd be demanding, maybe even possessive, and I'd have to handle that part of him very carefully.
He shifted toward the front door when it opened, giving me a better view. God, he looked marvellous, as good as when we'd been together. He was wearing a jade green shirt with the buttons left almost indecently unfastened, but that only added to the attraction and he damn well knew it. Over the shirt was a cream silk blazer, and--typical Ray--I could see a hint of dark denim beneath the thick linen napkin draped over his knee. In one of the most expensive restaurants in the City, Ray was defying the dress code. Where once that may have annoyed me, now I found it only made him more desirable. My life was full of men who conformed to society's dictates--Ray was definitely not among them.
Could I do it? Could I get Ray back in my life? After all, I'd been the one to put an end to the affair and there'd been tears in his eyes when I told him it was over. Surely all that feeling wasn't totally gone? Yes, it had been several years, but Ray wasn't the kind of man who gave his heart easily. If I could tap in to the memory of all that we'd shared, I'd have him in my bed by the end of the week.
He glanced at his watch again, this time stroking his thumb over the circular face. I viewed him mostly in profile from where I was seated and I also had the benefit of being at a table a few steps higher than his, so the chances of him turning and seeing me were slim. Still listening to Diane with only half my attention and chiming in with the occasional comment, I sipped my gin and tonic and planned my strategy.
What did I know about Ray Doyle? I knew he liked to be needed and I could use that to my advantage; it'd worked before, though my motives had been more pure. In the time it took to order another drink and place our orders, I'd thought of half a dozen reasons to gain his attention and discarded them all. Ray was smart and wouldn't fall for anything that smacked of manipulation.
A failing marriage, on the other hand, might do nicely. I could certainly call on enough examples of my husband's neglect and cite the numerous liaisons he'd had without mentioning any of my own. While my situation wasn't enough to bring me to tears, I imagined I could summon up a sad memory or two in order to use them effectively.
That's when the thought crossed my mind that he could be married himself. That idea bothered me a great deal; if Ray was going to marry anyone, it should have been me, and I could hardly credit that he'd found someone he'd come to love as much. Since Diane was impatiently awaiting her second scotch and soda and the happy oblivion it represented, it was easy to concentrate on my plans. My chance to see if Ray was wearing a ring came when the waitress arrived with a menu. As Ray took it from her, it gave me a perfect view of his thankfully bare left hand. It also afforded me a reminder of how charming Ray could be; he gave the waitress one of his beautiful, flirty grins and said something so effective that she was practically shoving her cleavage in his face as she leaned over to point out a particular item.
I'd put an end to that kind of behaviour straight away. When Ray was with me, he'd have to be mine alone. I wasn't going to share him while I had him--and I intended to keep him for as long as I could and hopefully make up for lost time. There were so many things we hadn't gotten around to doing, so many things left unsaid and untried. I'd often wanted to ask Ray how he came about that chip in his tooth--from my viewpoint today, I couldn't tell if he'd ever gotten round to having it fixed. While it had never actually bothered me, I couldn't see just living with it when it was something so easily mended. Maybe I'd broach the subject, once we were comfortable together.
The first course was being delivered to our table when someone approached Ray from behind. It was a tall man with dark, short-cropped hair, and something about him was familiar. He touched Ray on the shoulder and Ray turned toward him, looking up with such an open smile that I felt my heart begin to pulse madly. I remembered that smile, how Ray's entire face seemed to light up--and the need to repossess him deepened.
The dark-haired man turned and seated himself opposite Ray, and the slick, anticipatory warmth inside me twisted into a cold, hard knot. I knew that man, had shared dinner with him at Ray's table, when he'd so charmingly attempted to glean information about my father.
Partner, best friend--he was the one blight on the time Ray and I had shared, besides that damnable job. Oh, Bodie had been friendly enough, and he certainly was good-looking. I'd have to watch Diane closely, because after two drinks she'd be all over him--if she could focus long enough to find him. His chocolate leather jacket and pale blue polo neck were elegantly understated and suited the dining room's sophistication. If he turned his head, he'd see half the women in the room--and some of the men--watching him avidly. He was a stunner and he knew it, but he only had eyes for Ray.
And the feeling seemed to be mutual. They were leaning toward each other and smiling, breaking eye contact only when the waitress reappeared. Bodie chatted her up much the same as Ray had, with much the same result, but as soon as she was gone, they were back in their own little world.
I knew they were good friends, but their playfulness had always been slightly irritating. When they got going, it was as if I disappeared, and I'd been Ray's girlfriend, for God's sake. Nothing much seemed to have changed; as I watched, Ray stuck out his arm until his fist was practically beneath Bodie's nose. He gestured dramatically at the watch on his wrist, no doubt making a point about Bodie's tardiness. Bodie, looking deeply contrite, gathered Ray's fist in both hands and stuck his nose right on the watch face, eyes comically crossed. When Ray attempted to pull back, Bodie tightened his grip and guided Ray closer, still holding Ray's hand between his own. He said something, quite seriously, and Ray nodded and said something in reply. After a moment, Bodie released Ray, but not before slipping the watch off Ray's wrist and sliding it onto his own.
It was an odd thing to do, but I brushed it off as the culmination of a silly wager or some other childish game. They resumed their conversation as my now cold soup was removed, much to the consternation of my waiter, who knew who I was and more importantly, to whom I was married. I scarcely noticed as wine was poured and the main course served, the fabric of my imagination slowly filling itself with memories of Ray, memories that I freely embroidered with fantasies of what was to come. If I could just get rid of Bodie...
And just like that, it seemed to happen. Bodie'd risen from his seat and after a quiet word in Ray's ear, he left the restaurant without ordering. Ray seemed to settle into his chair, obviously in no rush to leave, and I felt my chance had come. I picked at my salad, biding my time and waiting for a break in Diane's monotonous soliloquy to excuse myself.
My streak of luck continued when the maitre d' came to our table and after giving me an anxious look, told Diane that there was a problem with her car. She blinked up at him uncomprehendingly, forcing him to explain that her car had gotten misplaced or confused with someone else's in the valet section, and they needed her to step outside for a moment and help sort things out.
Even in her alcoholic fog, Diane was already balking at the idea of leaving her companion, meaning her freshly delivered third scotch and not me. Trying not to sound too eager, I told her that the sooner she left the sooner she'd return, and of course the restaurant would prepare another poached salmon for her, given that hers would soon be cold. One glance from me toward the distressed waiter and he swiftly agreed, already removing her plate as she rose unsteadily to her feet. I didn't bother to watch her totter away on her four inch heels, because now Ray and I were both unaccompanied.
My heart pounding in my chest, I set aside my napkin and prepared to rise, rehearsing several opening lines that I might use. Before I could get to my feet, Bodie slid in to Diane's recently vacated chair.
"Hello, Ann," he said with a bright smile. "How've you been?"
"Very well, thank you," I replied automatically. Swiftly hiding my surprise, I opted for a vague response. "Bodie, isn't it?"
His smile widened, telling me he knew I'd recognised him straight away. He picked up Diane's scotch and inclined it toward me. "At your service," he replied, then took a sip of her drink.
"I see Ray's over there." I determined to find out his game as soon as possible while steadfastly ignoring his cheek. "I was just going over to say hello."
Bodie was the soul of amiability as he nodded. "He'd like that. He mentions you now and again, you know."
"Does he?" That was unexpected--and encouraging. If Ray felt strongly enough to talk about me with Bodie, then maybe those feelings were closer to the surface than I'd dreamed. "With affection, I hope."
Bodie took another sip of the scotch, taking just a few seconds too long to answer. "You might say that."
Deflated at the enigmatic response, I decided it was time to rid myself of this distraction. "Then I think I'll just join him while I wait for my friend to return." I pushed my chair back from the table. "If you'll excuse me?"
Bodie let me get all the way to my feet before dropping his bomb.
"Doyle's taken, you know."
I slowly sank back into my chair. "What?"
Bodie held up the glass to the light, contemplating the ice melting into the amber-coloured scotch. "Taken. As in, part of an exclusive relationship. Unavailable."
I pressed my hand to my throat, my fingers fluttering around the pearls I wore. "Really? I didn't see a wedding ring."
An unpleasant gleam deepened the colour of Bodie's rather remarkable blue eyes. "Noticed that, did you? Thought you had--you looked quite pleased there for a moment. Just remember--a wedding ring isn't necessarily a symbol of a permanent relationship." He looked pointedly at my left hand. "Is it?"
"I beg your pardon?" God, I disliked this man.
"Don't worry. You were quite discreet."
That's when I realized that Bodie had been watching me. It made sense, explaining his late arrival at Ray's table and the fact he'd come from the rear of the restaurant, not the front door where Ray would've seen him approaching. Unwillingly, I looked over my shoulder and across the dining room to see a small hallway lined with telephones, from where anyone would've had a perfect view of me--and of me watching Ray.
I dropped my hands to my lap and faced Bodie again. "You are mistaken. I was just pleased to see an old friend, that's all. Besides," I continued, his self-satisfied expression making me reckless, "if he isn't married, then he can't be all that 'taken', can he?"
Bodie's voice dropped to a confiding whisper. "Oh, he is. Trust me."
"Trust you?" Anger sharpened my tone and I struggled to suppress it. "You must be joking."
His expression eased from slightly menacing to slightly amused. "Guess I deserved that, didn't I?" He lifted the scotch and drained the glass, setting it down with exaggerated care. "Doesn't matter anyway. You can try it on with him, he won't mind. He won't take you back, but he'll be flattered just the same."
"What difference does it make to you?" I demanded. "Is his current girlfriend taking up too much of his time? That's how it was with us, wasn't it? You, always inviting yourself to dinner, coming for Ray at all hours of the day or night, dragging him off to God knows where."
It hardly seemed possible, but he grew even more smug. "It wasn't personal."
I gaped at him as muddled recollection gave way to blinding insight. "That's it, isn't it? It was always personal. You're jealous. You can't stand to see Ray happy, it breaks up your silly little boy's club." I crossed my arms over my chest and swept him with a searing glance. "God, you're pathetic."
Bodie had gone very still as he stared at me, then the tiniest grin twisted his lips. "Jealous?" he said quietly. "Greedy, more like. Pathetic? If you say so."
His complacency annoyed me, but also puzzled me. It was as though our conversation was being carried on two different levels, with Bodie in command of both. I glanced over to Ray's table, ready to dismiss Bodie and his warnings and find out for myself just how involved Ray was with this other woman--but Ray was gone.
I turned back to Bodie, furious that because of him I'd lost my chance of speaking with Ray. Disappointment swept through me and I'd just opened my mouth to give him a harsh rebuke when Ray himself appeared at the table, hands on hips as he directed a stern look toward his partner.
"There you are," he said. "Thought you'd gone to get something out of the car."
Bodie slipped his hand inside his jacket and pulled his wallet out just far enough to show its edge, then let it fall back inside. "And so I did. Then I saw Ann sitting here by herself and thought I should stop by and say hello."
Ray spared him a look of patent disbelief, then turned to me. "Ann," he said, enough warmth in his voice to rekindle my hopes. Leaning down, he dropped a light kiss on my cheek. "How are you?"
"Fine," I replied. I suppressed my frustration with Bodie's continued presence and gave Ray a brilliant smile that was immediately wasted as Ray turned back toward Bodie.
"That your handiwork, sunshine?" He jerked his thumb toward the restaurant's front door where several people had cornered the maitre d', waving their valet parking tickets under his nose.
Bodie raised one eyebrow, obviously affronted. "Not me, mate. Been sitting here like an angel, haven't I?" He winked at me as if inviting me to agree, something I wasn't inclined to do. Instead, I touched Ray lightly on his hand to regain his attention. He turned toward me and I indicated the chair Bodie was still occupying.
"Why don't you join me?"
Bodie, for once, took his cue and rose to his feet, giving me a little bow in farewell.
"I'll just see if I can lend a hand with the parking situation," he told Ray with mock docility.
"That's very civic-minded of you."
"We live but to serve."
They were at it again, playing to each other, their never-ending private conversation continuing right in front of me. I almost looked away, but if I had, I would've missed what came next. Ray had his back to me, but I had a perfect view of Bodie. He was looking at Ray, a frown between his eyes as if he'd asked a question. I don't think Ray replied verbally--I heard nothing--but as I watched he reached out and took Bodie's wrist in a firm clasp, giving it a small shake before releasing it. The clouds cleared from Bodie's eyes and the tense planes of his face softened. His question apparently answered, he pulled back the sleeve of his jacket and looked at the watch he'd taken from Ray, then looked at me.
"Nice seeing you again," he said, patently insincere, and then left Ray and I alone.
I took a deep breath as Ray sat down in the chair beside me. Bodie was gone and I had to regroup, but Ray's proximity was making it difficult. Now that I had his full attention, I could see he hadn't repaired that chipped tooth, but it hardly mattered. Ray was still so striking, so at ease within his own skin, that my body began to react as hazy memories of our affair sharpened with painful clarity.
"It's good to see you, Ray." It was a trite phrase, but it gave us a place to start. "You're looking well." Remarkably well, but I kept that to myself.
"You, too. Marriage seems to agree with you." He grinned at me and I floundered a bit, both flattered and annoyed at his assessment.
"Yes, two, but I'm not--"
"Any snaps? I'd love to see them."
Discussing my children with a prospective lover was the last thing I wanted to do. Nor did I want Ray to see me as a mere housewife, so I made an excuse of having left them in another purse. That was followed by an awkward moment of silence as I searched for a way to broach the subject of Ray's love life.
"I have to apologise for Bodie," Ray said abruptly. He inclined his head toward the growing crowd at the door, even though Bodie was not to be seen. "He's always trying to make things easier for me, whether I like him to or not."
Eager to deflect the conversation to the subject of Ray's current girlfriend, I simply nodded. "He did seem anxious to tell me about your relationship."
To my utter surprise, Ray blushed, his eyes widening in shock. "He did?"
Feeling it was time to show Ray that I was a concerned, if not entirely uninterested friend, I reached across the table and took his hand in mine. "Yes, and I'm so thrilled for you."
His eyes widened even further. "You are?"
"Of course I am." I looked down at our joined hands, injecting a mournful tone into my voice. "I'm glad you've found someone. Not all of us are so lucky."
Utterly missing my point, Ray was still contemplating Bodie's apparent transgression. "That mad bastard," he muttered, sounding simultaneously aggravated and admiring. His glance at me was filled with wariness. "You're taking it rather well."
I retracted my hand. "Why wouldn't I? If you are truly happy, that's all that matters."
"Happy?" he repeated. His guarded expression faded into dazed wonder as he fixed his gaze on something I couldn't see. "Yeah," he murmured, almost as if he was just realising it himself. "I am."
My heart sank. This was a Ray I didn't recognize. He was more than happy, that term far too tepid to describe the air of deep contentment that surrounded him. It was in every movement of his hands, in the ease of his smile and the relaxed set of his shoulders. I'm not an imaginative person, but even in the few minutes we'd been together, I knew I could never have been what this woman was to Ray. It was really quite lovely, and if it broke my heart a little, I reminded myself that I'd been right to call it off in the first place. Cold comfort, but I had enough charity left in my soul to be just a little bit glad for him in return.
Diane chose that moment to return, her good spirits restored. I made quick introductions as Ray rose to his feet and held out the chair, giving her the chance to look him up and down appreciatively before she turned to me with an excited flourish of her hand.
"My God, Ann, there was the most good-looking man in the car park." She sat down and reached for her glass. Finding it empty, she waved it at the waiter and then resumed her story. "Those stupid valets had somehow gotten the keys confused, but there was this wonderful man who got them all sorted out in no time. Handed my keys back to me personally."
"This man," Ray asked, "he wasn't tall, dark and insufferable, by any chance?"
Diane peered up at him and ran a hand through her hair, fluffing it in reflexive flirtation. "Insuf--handsome, oh, yes! Wearing the most perfect leather jacket, too. I'd love to see what he was hiding beneath it." She blinked in sudden comprehension. "Do you know him?"
"I do, I'm sorry to say." Ray bit his lip, a picture of regret. "Hope he didn't give you the wrong impression."
"He's taken, you see. Quite unavailable."
Diane's little pout of disappointment would have been amusing had it not been for the odd feeling that Ray's warning evoked in me. It was nearly exactly how Bodie had described him, and I realized the words had been said over and over, a phrase they probably used to protect each other from all outsiders. I had no idea regarding the significance of this revelation, but I felt it instinctively to be true, and as I looked up at Ray I also knew beyond a doubt that my chance with him had passed. He had someone now, and I was faced with finding a new lover or making another go of my marriage.
That was a decision for another time. Ray was holding out his hand to me and after a brief hesitation, I took it. We murmured cordial goodbyes and then he strode toward the restaurant door and out of my life. The incipient pricking sensation behind my eyes faded as I watched Diane bend nearly double in order to watch Ray from behind; it was an inspiring view, and as I reached for my wineglass, I resolved to tell her all about Ray and how I'd almost married him. Of course, I'd wait until she was well into her fourth scotch--while there was a strong desire in me to reminisce about my old lover, there was no need for her to remember my story.
I may be greedy, but I'm not stupid.
Ray rolled over, drowsily expecting to be supported by Bodie's warm, hard curves and instead finding only a jumble of cool sheets. Coming awake, he shifted on to his back and covered his eyes with his forearm, a resigned sigh escaping before he could prevent it. He thought he'd avoided the postmortem on their chance meeting with Ann Holly, but since an off-duty Bodie could sleep through anything short of a freight train ploughing through their bedroom, the odds were good he'd replayed the event and found something to worry about.
Bodie had sworn on Cowley's head that he hadn't instigated the confusion with the car keys just so he could warn Ann off after spotting her in the restaurant. Considering the collateral of Bodie's oath, Ray had loudly voiced his doubts, meanwhile ruthlessly suppressing the illicit thrill of Bodie's covert expression of possessiveness. They'd had a good laugh when Ray finally figured out that Bodie hadn't told Ann that they were lovers, even though Bodie, once realising the misunderstanding, had played out the joke until Ray had caught on. In fact, they'd seemed so in tune on the matter that Ray had suggested they dine elsewhere and then dropped the subject entirely. Dinner at a less expensive but equally intimate restaurant close by served the purpose of celebrating their anniversary just as well, and by the time they reached the flat they shared, Ray had forgotten Ann and was looking forward to a passion-drenched night spent in the arms of the unexpected love of his life.
And Bodie had done everything within his power to make the night a memorable one, in ways Ray found unexpected and touching. He hadn't blamed Bodie for forgetting the watch Ray had given him that morning in honour of their chosen anniversary, the date signifying the day Ray had shown up at Bodie's flat with a ragged confession of undying love hopelessly entwined with a searing indictment of Bodie's dubious charms. Bodie had an explanation ready, stating bluntly that the watch, having such meaning attached to it, would be distracting during a long day on the job when distractions could get him killed, and Ray had understood without question.
What he hadn't expected was Bodie's gift in return. When handed the discreetly wrapped box during coffee and brandy, Ray had scornfully accused Bodie of running out some time during the day and buying the first thing he'd seen. What he found inside the box spoke of more thoughtfulness than he'd dreamed, a receipt for a subscription to a West End theatre that Ray loved but rarely visited due to the cost.
Ray had been speechless, not only from the generosity of the gift but from the depth of the heart that had planned it. They'd stared at each other through the nimbus of soft candlelight, their eyes promising a more intimate way to demonstrate their feelings at a later time. Then Bodie had teased him about something and eased them out of the moment and they'd finished their meal quickly, both too aware of needs that required privacy as soon as possible.
Ray sat up and scrubbed his hands over his face, twinges and aches attesting to the activities of the past hours. He welcomed their presence, since every sensation was overlaid with the spine-softening lethargy of the well-loved. They both had the next day off and Ray had been looking forward to a nice lie-in, but with Bodie running around loose in the flat, he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep until he'd found--and rooted out--the source of Bodie's unease.
The scent of gun oil hit him as he belted his dressing gown but it gave him no insight into the sometimes labyrinthine workings of his partner's mind. Stepping over discarded clothing and still damp towels, he followed his nose until reaching the kitchen threshold, then leaned a shoulder against the door frame to take in the picture before him. Two guns sat glistening in the sickly cast of the overhead light, both of them resting on squares of dull orange chamois. Aluminium rods and stacks of cloth patches were neatly lined up beside bore brushes and a large bottle of Hoppe's, a pile of oily rags cast off to one side. Both guns were Ray's, the larger calibre his usual weapon for the job and the smaller calibre he kept at home for backup.
Barefoot and bare-chested, dressed in a pair of brown cords, Bodie was diligently cleaning Ray's third gun, the .25 he strapped to his ankle on occasion. Ray had cleaned all three guns only the day before, right beside Bodie as he'd cleaned his own, so they both knew there was no reason for Bodie to be so absorbed in the task at 4:00 am.
Bodie's weapons were not to be seen.
Faced with this unusual scenario, Ray opted for a nonchalant approach, treating the night-time cleaning as a common ritual. Bodie knew he was there, acknowledging Ray's presence with a swift glance before blowing lightly through an empty magazine and setting it aside. Ray grabbed the chair next to him and sat down, crossing his arms on the scarred surface and then laying his head down on his forearms, his face turned toward Bodie.
Bodie glanced over at him and then glanced again, his mouth twitching.
"Oi." He tapped Ray on his ear with one of the aluminium rods. "You come out here to watch me work or wake the neighbours with your snoring?"
Ray yawned and settled his head more comfortably. "Done yours already?"
Bodie's lips tightened. "They're fine, just cleaned 'em yesterday."
"Know that. Did yours same time I did mine, didn't I?"
"So, did I miss a spot or is Hoppe's your newest aphrodisiac?"
Bodie's snorted disdainfully. "I don't think either of us will need to resort to that anytime soon, mate."
"Too right." Ray's dreamy tone implied total agreement. "Another night like this one might just kill me."
Though Ray meant the words lightly, their effect on Bodie was palpable. The rod was slammed to the table, its impact forcing Ray to raise his head and blink sleepily in Bodie's direction.
"Not funny." Bodie's expression was stony and Ray gathered his wits, trying to make any connection that would make Bodie's strange nocturnal behaviour understandable. Swallowing, he decided to broach the only subject that made sense.
"Did Ann say something to you?"
"No." The response was abrupt and had the ring of falsehood to it.
"Drop it, Ray. I'm almost done here. Go back to bed."
"No," Ray said slowly. "Don't think I can. Not after last night. We just spent hours making love and now I find you cleaning my guns in the middle of the night. My guns, Bodie, not yours. Maybe there's something Freudian in there but I'm too knackered to figure it out. If it wasn't Ann, then what's wrong?"
Bodie set aside the tools and slumped against the back of the chair. Black stubble darkened his jaw and shadowed his throat, a nice complement to the reddish bruises that Ray's mouth had lovingly placed there earlier. There was a smear of oil on his cheek, and observing it brought a lump to Ray's throat. He'd seen Bodie bloody, beaten, covered in mud, drenched in foetid waters and worse, but the vulnerability represented by that one shiny smudge made Ray's chest tighten with the kind of aggravated tenderness only Bodie could evoke in him.
Bodie grabbed a clean rag and rubbed his hands with it before rising to his feet. He fled to the far side of the kitchen to pause in front of the sink, giving Ray his back as he stared out the window into the blank greyness of pre-dawn.
"I never expected this," he said, so softly Ray had to strain to hear. He rose to his feet and stuffed his hands in the pocket of his dressing gown, still uncertain of Bodie's mood but determined to find its cause. He approached the rigid figure at an angle and when Bodie didn't move, he turned around and rested his hips against the counter's edge.
Bodie looked at him from the corner of his eye and shrugged. "This," he replied, encompassing everything and nothing at the same time.
"Going to have to be a bit more specific." Ray's tone was gently inquisitive. He wanted to offer comfort but unsure of its reception, hoped it was only a matter of time before Bodie would let him in.
Bodie grasped the edge of the sink and bowed his head. "She said I was jealous."
"Jealous?" Ray echoed. "Of who?"
A reluctant smile came and went on Bodie's lips. "Of your girlfriend. The one she thought I was warning her about."
Ray was confused. "The one that doesn't exist?"
"Told her I wasn't jealous," Bodie went on. He lifted his gaze to the ceiling. "I said I was greedy."
Without looking at him, Bodie slid his hand around Ray's waist and guided him into his arms, pulling him sideways until Bodie's back was to the counter and Ray was situated between his legs. He buried his face in the crook of Ray's shoulder and Ray held him close, glad to have gotten this far but still in the dark regarding Bodie's swift mood changes.
"Christ, Ray." Bodie's voice roughened with equal parts laughter and pain. "I didn't know the half of it."
Finally, Ray understood. Bodie had lived his life based on the premise that any moment could be his last. If pressed, he'd admit he'd even reveled in it, using it to propel himself through the most horrific situations, sure in the knowledge that he had nothing to lose and no one to leave behind.
Now Bodie had learned that life had handed him something at once so precious and so terrifying that the thought of making do with anything less had driven him from the warmth of their bed to try and control the one thing he knew he was best at--the defence of his partner's life.
As Ray clutched Bodie closer, he wondered why he hadn't seen it coming. Maybe it'd taken meeting Ann for Bodie to realize how close they'd come to having nothing at all, for surely Ray would have left the streets--and Bodie--if Ann had stayed in his life. One last try at understanding, one less fateful confrontation, and the track of their lives would have been very different.
And so very empty.
The smooth, strong planes of Bodie's back were cool beneath Ray's hands as he pushed further into Bodie's encompassing embrace. For Ray, seeing Ann had been hardly worth noting, there was nothing she represented that Ray missed or desired. But Bodie had seen a threat in her, not in the past she shared with Ray but as a reminder that fate was all too ready to take everything from them.
He pulled back until he could see Bodie's face. Black lashes remained resolutely shuttered over eyes that could give too much away, so Ray leaned forward and pressed a warm kiss to Bodie's lips. As he responded to Ray's coaxing mouth Bodie began to relax, and Ray felt the constriction around his own heart begin to loosen.
"You're cold, love," he murmured. "Come back to bed."
Nimble fingers were tugging at the ties of Ray's dressing gown as their mouths battled in tender competition. Bodie manoeuvered his hands beneath the folds of fabric, large palms taking their time as they glided over the sharp edges of Ray's hipbones before meeting up at the small of his back.
"Better?" Ray whispered against Bodie's mouth.
"Perfect," Bodie managed before once more slipping his tongue into Ray's mouth. Ray insinuated his hands between them and gave Bodie a little push. They were both breathless, smiling a little, eyes finally meeting with rueful understanding.
"Not that," Ray said with feigned severity. He stroked his thumb across the smear still evident on Bodie's cheek and then wiped his hand against Bodie's thigh, masking the surreptitious cleaning by turning it into a teasing caress.
"I know." Bodie sighed and pressed his forehead to Ray's. "It'll get easier."
"Not likely." Ray placed his palms over Bodie's ears and tilted his head back. "But easy or hard, we're in it together. Right?"
"Right," Bodie agreed instantly, his good soldier demeanor overshadowed by the gleam in his eyes as he stole one more kiss. With an air of resolution, he stepped away from Ray and gestured toward the table. "I'll finish with the guns before--"
Ray wrapped his hand around Bodie's arm and gave it a tug. "I'm not planning on shooting anyone tonight. Are you?" Bodie's eloquently arched eyebrow was a sufficient answer. "Didn't think so. Throw a rag over 'em, they'll keep 'til morning. I won't."
Bodie shook his head as he allowed himself be led into the bedroom. "Soft-headed, that's what I am, letting you talk me into leaving a job undone."
"Only one thing left undone as far as I'm concerned." Ray let the dressing gown slide to the floor and turned around. "And I'll give you about fifty years to get it right."
Bodie, having been reminded of the far different future that could have been his, set about doing exactly that.
You must say what you want.
I want to be the man
and I am who will love you
when your hair is white.
--Robert Bly, Such Different Wants
-- THE END --