Taste of Blood
by Elanor Smith
Dedicated to Elizabeth O'Shea who got me into Pros after ten years of gentle nudging. Thanks, Elizabeth (I think!). Set directly after Where the Jungle Ends.
"My place, I asked you to take me to my place. Dammit, Doyle, I don't need you nursemaiding me." With ill grace, Bodie disentangled himself from his curly-haired partner's support and eased himself onto the couch, careful to arrange his swollen and bruised right hand just so on his lap.
"Oh yeah? That why you're bleeding all over my couch, is it?" All excess energy and pent-up frustration, Doyle prowled into the tiny kitchen, grabbed two tumblers from the draining board and sloshed Scotch into both. Swigging back his own, he slammed the second on the table. "Dammit, Bodie," he swore, "what the hell were you playing at back there?"
Bodie's face shuttered immediately. "I didn't want you involved."
"'Vengeance is mine,' sayeth the ex-para? Krivas doesn't strike me as the type to stick to the Queensbury Rules. What if he'd had a knife or a second gun?"
Their eyes met for an instant and then Doyle was swinging away, pacing the tiny flat with barely suppressed rage and frustration. And something else too--fear. He grabbed a mug from the working top and hurled it against the far wall where it smashed gratifyingly. He felt a little better. Adding a kick to an empty crate of beer, he sucked in a deep breath and let it out, willing himself calm. "Okay," he said at last past the tightly clenched coils of rage in his belly, "I'll get the first aid kit."
Once he'd located the kit under the sink and filled a bowl with water he was calmer; he perched on the rickety coffee table in front of his idiot partner and indicated his tattered shirt with a jerk of the head. "Get it off."
"The shirt." He grabbed a generous wad of cotton wool and soaked it in TCP, deriving a modicum of satisfaction from the knowledge that the stuff would sting like hell. "Great symbolism by the way."
"Horses eat that. Red shirt--red symbolises violence and blood."
Bodie froze, his face turning stony like it always did when Doyle hit a nerve. "Learn that in your art class?"
"Along with how to draw a bird starkers, yeah. Shirt, Bodie."
Too much anger, too much adrenaline gone sour. "I wanna see what Krivas did to you."
"What are you, Florence Nightmare? I said leave it!"
Doyle erupted to his feet, barely stopping himself from hurling the TCP bottle after the mug. "I backed you up, you stubborn jackass, right to the hilt! One hundred percent--even when you were so stupid as to nail Benny instead of letting him lead us to Krivas, I trusted you."
"Forget it, sunshine. Sleep well." And with that, he headed for the stairs and his bedroom, giving the beer crate one more kick just for good measure; too wound up, too hurt, to hear Bodie calling after him.
It was less than an hour later when Doyle registered the bedroom door opening, a small shaft of light illuminating the hunched-over figure of his partner dithering in the hallway.
"What you want, Bodie?" he asked churlishly as he switched on the bedside light.
"Can't sleep, mate," Bodie said with the forced cheeriness he used to hide deeper emotions. "A camel's got fewer humps than that ratty couch of yours."
"Cost me an arm and a leg that did."
"Face it, you were robbed." Bodie shifted, emotionally as well as physically. "Hurts, Ray," he said in his patented little-boy-lost voice which worked on barmaids, CI5 secretaries and curly-haired partners.
"Manipulative bugger," Doyle replied, just so Bodie knew he wasn't taken in, "get over here."
Gently, carefully, Bodie lowered himself onto the bed. Despite the overly dramatic moans and grimaces, his face was pale and sheened with sweat. "I feel like I've gone five rounds with Muhammad Ali."
"He'd have fought fair. Dammit, Bodie!"
Bodie raised a hand before his volatile partner could launch into another hot-headed tirade. "Down, boy! I know, I know - I was a berk."
Hardly a gold engraved apology but it was enough. Doyle gave a curt nod and swung off the bed. "I'll get some ice."
"And more Scotch," Bodie called after him, "I need something to wash these bloody painkillers down with."
Doyle returned with the Scotch; he was clad only in his pyjama bottoms and, out of unconscious habit, Bodie found himself staring. In their rough and tumble relationship, it had seemed perfectly acceptable and natural to drape a pally arm round Doyle's shoulders, pinch his bottom playfully, or ruffle his hair. Over the months, however, the casual touches had become an obsession, his need to feel, to see, to be with Doyle a consuming ache.
"Here," Doyle said, shocking him from his reverie and Bodie jerked his eyes away from their contemplation of the man's chest. Creaking into a sitting position, he reached for the tumbler with his left hand, threw the tablets into his mouth and chugged them down macho fashion. He winced as the liquid scalded the deep cut where he'd bit the inside of his cheek.
"Tastes of blood," he said quietly, swilling the amber liquid round the glass.
Doyle perched on the edge of the bed, very close but not quite touching. "Yeah? Are we talking more symbolism here?" He took the glass from Bodie's hand, slid it onto the bedside table. "Lie down. Lemme see."
"Ooh, doctors and nurses, how kinky."
"Shut up." Removing the tattered remains of his friend's shirt, Doyle scanned his body, noting the splatter of bruises across his rib cage as well as the long shallow slash where Krivas' knife had cut him. Could have been worse, much worse, but Doyle still found himself shaking. He took a few deep breaths and dabbed at the cut with a sort of gruff gentleness, before binding a surgical dressing in place.
"Blood, you see," Bodie said into the quiet of the room. "Can't get away from it."
Doyle cast him a quick glance, unnerved by the other's grim wistfulness. He grabbed another wad of cotton wool, concentrated on cleansing all the other myriad scratches. "We are who we are," he said shortly, praying Bodie would leave it at that.
"Violent thugs, you mean?" Defensive or vulnerable, Doyle couldn't tell.
"If necessary. Is that what got you so narked?"
"Me? I wasn't the one who smashed his favourite 'a present from Torquay' mug into a million pieces."
"That's 'cos you were putting yourself at risk for no reason and freezing me out into the bargain. I want to know why."
"I wanted him dead, Doyle. Wanted to kill him for what he'd done. Made from the same mould, you see, so if he could do those things--"
"So could you," Doyle finished.
"In one. That's why I told you to keep out of it--because I didn't want you to see what I'd become."
"I know what you are. Always have. Ruthless, black 'n' white, that's my Bodie. Violent, yeah when you have to be, but you still know where the line is. Why d'you think I left him alone with you? I knew you'd do the right thing."
"Think you know me so well, don't you?" It sounded like a challenge, half desperation, half need. "Know about this, do you?" And Bodie had pulled Doyle towards him almost violently and was kissing him, deep and hard.
Doyle pulled away, licked his lips. Twinkling green eyes met confused blue ones. "Moron," he said affectionately, his fingers brushing Bodie's sore cheek. "Course I know. I was just waiting for you to catch up and work it out. You can be very slow sometimes."
Bodie acknowledged the dig with abundant sarcasm. "Careful, mate, I don't want to crack another rib with laughing too hard." He sobered, allowing his eyes to drift away from Doyle's smiling face to the ceiling; his cheeks suddenly felt hot. "Never been like this before," he confessed.
"With another guy?"
"Hardly that, Ray." He flicked Doyle a quick glance. "I mean vulnerable. Exposed."
That was Bodie all right, buttoned up and battened down, the sharp suits and polo neck jumpers which revealed not an inch of flesh adding to the illusion of impregnability. "Safe with me, sunshine." And to prove it, to seal the pact, Doyle kissed him, melding and melting their lips together. "See," he breathed, "no taste of blood now."
-- THE END --