Written for "Discovered in the Brandy Butter," on the discoveredinalj livejournal community, to the prompt of "Scottish Shortbread"
We're old enough for leavin' home
The old joanna and the old trombone
When the kitchen timer went off, Doyle was working his way through a mug of tea and the latest Guardian article on climate change. The sharp tring-tring was nearly drowned out by the flood of bright brass notes tumbling down the stairs from the first floor, and he paid no attention until the music from overhead broke off with a flat wet splutter. In the sudden silence, the timer's noise jabbed like a drill through his ears.
Doyle leaped up, grabbed two tea towels, slapped the timer with his left hand while yanking open the oven door with his right, and pulled the tray of shortbreads to safety from the top rack of the oven. Examining the contents critically from several angles, he lowered the hot pan to the cooling rack. Lightly and evenly browned, slightly crisp at the edges, not even Doyle's perfectionist eye could find fault with the finished product. Turning back to the oven, he moved the second tray from the lower rack to the upper, replacing it with the pan waiting on the counter.
"And that's your lot."
With quiet satisfaction, Doyle eyed the four batches of shortbread already ranged along the kitchen counters. Improvised pads of tea towels awaited the last two pans. Blithely ignoring the waiting pile of washing up, Doyle reset the timer and poured more tea. The horn music had resumed upstairs, and he couldn't hold back an indulgent grin. Only Bodie could make I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In sound like the Christmas Day in the Morning March. Cup of tea in hand, Doyle settled back on his chair, eyes closed, to enjoy the performance.
As far as Doyle had ever known during their years in CI5, Bodie's only musical ability was turning on the radio. Depending on the level of concentration he gave it, his own art had either been a mindless distraction, something to keep his hands busy while his mind was on other things, or, on those rare occasions when he could loose himself in it, a refuge for his battle-weary soul. Either way, it was something he couldn't imagine being without. He'd never had the illusion of being able to make a living as an artist, but just seeing his pencils and brushes scattered on the table when he got up in the morning was the reminder he needed that there was a different world out there, one in which people really could take joy in things like roses and lavender.
But Bodie--oh, Bodie had hummed and whistled and misquoted pop songs, but that was about as much interest as he'd ever shown in music. They'd been on their own over a year before Doyle had first noticed Bodie lingering in front of instrument shops, a slightly wistful look on his face.
I Saw Three Ships segued into The Boar's Head, Personait Hodie and finally into the up-tempo version of Salve Regina. Bodie the traditionalist, Doyle thought with another fond grin, as his fingers tapped in time on the table. For a man with such a wild youth, Bodie had proved to be old-fashioned about the oddest things.
By the time the music ended, this time with a cheerful ragtime flourish, the last tray of shortbread was nearly ready to come out of the oven, and Doyle was brewing more tea. He could picture the scene upstairs as clearly as if he were there. Bodie was as competent and meticulous about the care of his trumpet as he was with his guns. The mouth piece would be removed and dried, the whole instrument given a quick once over with a soft cloth, and then carefully placed in the lined instrument case.
Bodie had never lost the knack for moving quietly, but Doyle had had half a lifetime to practice being aware of his partner. When Bodie approached the kitchen, Doyle had his mug ready and waiting.
"Jesus, Ray, you leave any butter and flour down at Tesco's for the rest of the town?" Bodie paused in the kitchen doorway, surveying the array of baking with an expression between awed and amused. "How much did you say we'd bring?"
Doyle didn't answer for a moment, content just to take an appreciative look. Though his hair was now mainly silver and his half-glasses a permanent fixture, Bodie still moved with the old bounce, still straight enough to take a salute in the Paras if the occasion should arise. The solid lean lines of his back and shoulders could have belonged to a man twenty years younger.
"Ray?" Bodie waved his hands encouragingly.
"It was either shortbreads or spaghetti," Doyle replied with a grin. "And everybody likes old-fashioned shortbread."
"They'd probably prefer spaghetti, after all the feeding up over Christmas. Not sure I could look another mince pie in the face right now."
"I'll hold you to that this evening, shall I?" Doyle turned away quickly, bending down to pull out the last batch of shortbread and shoving the oven door closed a bit too sharply. He set the pan on the counter with a thump.
"Easy, sunshine." Bodie's voice was soft, his hands gentle on Doyle's shoulders. "I'm used to it, y'know. Don't really miss too much any more."
"I know. Stupid, really." Doyle leaned back into the other man's warmth, his hands coming up to hold Bodie's. "Just doesn't feel fair, bein' Christmas and all."
"Look on the bright side." Bodie moved in a bit closer. "I'm still slim, handsome and--"
"Silver haired to go with the silver tongue." Doyle forced lightness into his voice. Over twenty years, and there were still days when having to make a joke of it could rip at his guts.
The bullet that had taken Bodie's career in CI5 had also taken his spleen, and a good chunk out of both his liver and stomach. For two months in hospital, he had complained, profanely and at length, about the unfairness of the restricted diet he was subjected to, probably for the rest of his life. Doyle, who knew it wasn't Swiss rolls and chip butties that were being mourned, had traded shout for shout and curse for curse, to the horror of everyone except Cowley.
"Bodie's been a fighter all his life. Coddle him, even if it's for his own good, and you'll kill him."
Their other champion, surprisingly enough, had been Kate Ross.
"Until Bodie accepts that his life is permanently changed, accepts it both intellectually and emotionally, he will be a danger to himself and to this organization. Since Doyle's the only person he even pretends to listen to, we might as well let 4.5 get on with it."
They had 'got on with it'. Bodie had learned to treat his diet like a training exercise, and stuck to it with stoic discipline. Doyle provided support, encouragement and when necessary, a kick in the backside. They'd learned to cook so every bite would provide maximum taste as well as health benefits. It was only at special occasions, such as the Christmas season, when everyone else was free to indulge, that Doyle felt anger and guilt over what Bodie had to pass by. Useless emotions, he knew, and Bodie would be the first to say so, but he couldn't help wishing that just once Bodie could freely sample some of the season's delights without consequences.
"What's that red stuff in these?" Bodie was pointing down into the pan in front of them, suspicion evident in his voice.
"Which? Oh, that's cranberries." Doyle took a quick glance over. "Those are cranberry and orange, those lemon and ginger, that one's chocolate, the rest are plain."
"Cranberries? In shortbread?" Bodie's suspicious tone hadn't eased. "Cowley must be turning in his grave."
"Probably would expect them to be soaked in a good malt first."
"There is only good malt," Bodie quoted.
Doyle chuckled, and then out of the corner of his eye saw Bodie's hand sneak around his waist towards the tray.
"Bodie, don't, that's--"
Swearing, Bodie stepped to the sink, shaking his hand and blowing on his fingers before sticking them under the cold water tap.
"Could've said," he grumbled.
"Glasses not working, then? You didn't just watch me take them out of the oven? Besides, didn't think you'd be daft enough to try making a grab right under me nose." Doyle reached for the dripping hand. "Let's see that."
There was slight redness on the pads of the thumb and two longest fingers. Doyle raised the hand to his mouth, bringing each damp finger in turn to his lips and gently kissing the slight heat he felt there.
"That better?" he murmured, looking up at Bodie through his lashes.
Bodie's eyes were very dark blue, and there was a flush of colour up the side of his neck. "Think my tongue's burned, too," he said huskily
"Lucky for you I know my first aid." Doyle stepped forward, sliding his arms around Bodie's waist. The kiss started slow and soft, but quickly turned deep and hot, Doyle savouring every one of Bodie's little purrs of pleasure and appreciation. When they parted, Doyle gave a little wiggle to make sure he could feel Bodie's arousal.
Bodie looked wistfully at the shortbread pan. "Wonder if there's any way I could get one of those down the front of me trousers?"
Doyle whooped with laughter. He was halfway to his knees when the laugh suddenly disintegrated into a wheezy hacking cough that left him doubled up, chest heaving helplessly. His lungs felt clogged with sand, the air he was struggling to pull in finding no place to leave its oxygen, escaping without having done him any good. Dimly he was aware of Bodie gripping him under the arms and hoisting him into a chair.
Knowing that he wasn't going to suffocate, wasn't really dying, didn't make his body's instinctive panic any easier to take. All the training about calming himself, taking slow and shallow breaths, concentrating on the oxygen he was getting instead of what he wasn't--none of that did much good when his lungs were screaming for air.
Suddenly Bodie was back, pressing the inhaler into Doyle's hand, steadying it to his lips while he triggered a puff. The relief was nearly instantaneous, and Doyle wondered dizzily how much of it came from the medication, and how much from feeling Bodie's solid warmth beside him. Understanding without words, Bodie stayed there, kneeling beside the chair, his forehead resting against Doyle's shoulder, his hand gently rubbing Doyle's chest, until the vent took effect, and Doyle's breathing eased.
Though it felt like his hand weighed fifty pounds, Doyle forced himself to raise it far enough to pet Bodie's hair reassuringly.
"Feeling better?" Bodie's voice was studiously calm, but under his hand, Doyle could feel a galloping pulse beat. Bodie always took his spells badly.
"Yeah." Doyle cautiously took a deep breath, and grinned with relief when there was no wheeze to it. "Hope that first aid wasn't urgent, though." He glanced apologetically down at Bodie's groin.
"We'll see who makes it through triage first," Bodie said dryly. "Anything you need?"
"Couldn't half fancy a drink."
"Orange juice or ginger beer?"
"No booze when you're on the puff, sunshine." Bodie was smiling, but his eyes were implacable.
"Bloody juice, then. Christ, your guts, my lungs--I hate getting old," Doyle grumbled, pushing himself to his feet.
"Do what I always do," Bodie said as he reached into the fridge.
"Yeah? What's that?"
"Think about the alternative."
Doyle took the proffered glass and drank thirstily. "Not sure there's any alternatives I like. Besides, you wouldn't last without me, would you?"
"Ha. They'd be queuin' up at the door if I didn't have you to beat them away." Bodie's voice was full of amusement, but the cautiously emphatic hug he enveloped Doyle in told its own story. "C'mon, leave all this. Let's sit down for a bit."
Doyle hesitated, tempted. "I need to put the shortbreads away before they dry out."
"I need a cuddle to help me get over the trauma of being denied first aid." Bodie pouted slightly. "And denied shortbreads, of course." Long practice moved him back just far enough to avoid Doyle's elbow.
"Tell you what, mate. Get the tins down for me, and then you can have--"
"Raymond on the table?" Bodie rubbed his hands gleefully.
Eyebrows raised, Doyle considered the table. "Right there in the shortbread crumbs?"
"Lick 'em off you. Best of both worlds, innit?"
Doyle was filling the last tin when he noticed he was no longer having to dodge fingers alternately attempting to filch shortbreads and distract him with caresses. Turning, he saw Bodie sprawled across the table, propped up on one elbow, unbuttoning his shirt with the other hand.
Doyle raised his eyebrows. "Bodie on the table?"
"Just getting comfortable." Bodie waved a hand in his direction. "I haven't watched you strip off for me in a while. Give us a show. New Year's pressie."
"Think you deserve a pressie, do you?" Doyle pulled the hem of his shirt out of his jeans and slid down the zipper a teasing inch.
"The best for the best." Bodie's smile widened. "They say the way you start on New Year's Day is the way the rest of the year will go."
"Baking shortbread and fucking on the kitchen table?" Doyle smiled back, and lowered the zip a bit more. "Worse ways to pass the time."
Listen now, right here
Gonna be a beautiful year.
-- THE END --