Written for "Discovered in the Brandy Butter," on the discoveredinalj livejournal community, to the prompt of "Apricot Schnapps"
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
It'd been a bad day, one of the worst Bodie could remember. Innocent people had died, people who'd merely gone to work that day, driving a taxicab, selling newspapers, delivering packages. The bomb hadn't discriminated, and despite their best efforts, Bodie and Doyle had been seconds too late. Neither of them had come out unscathed, and it'd been two exhausted and hurting men that'd gone to Ray's flat after a visit to Casualty to have various wounds tended. A haggard-faced Cowley had taken their reports and sent them home, and by tacit agreement, they'd gone home together.
It was an innocuous movement on Bodie's part that had forever shifted their world off its axis. Ray had been standing at his kitchen sink, staring out the window, an untasted cup of tea cooling in one bruised and torn hand. Conversation between them had dwindled and died and Bodie, measuring out the last ounces of his fading energy, announced that he was going home. He'd murmured his goodbye and when Doyle failed to reply, had reached around him to set his own cup on the counter.
For some reason, Doyle had chosen that moment to rouse himself and take a step back. Bodie, turning away from the counter, saw the motion and instinctively flung out his arm, thinking Ray was going to collide with him. But instead of being startled and stepping aside, Ray had pressed into Bodie, and Bodie had found himself giving in to a previously undefined but suddenly undeniable impulse to wrap his arms around his partner.
As unexpected as that was, Bodie had been even more shocked when Ray had burrowed deeper into his impromptu embrace, trapping Bodie's arms beneath his own with desperate strength. Instinctively responding to Ray's devastatingly silent request, Bodie had tightened his hold, the sweet sensation of Ray's wiry frame nestling against him giving him the courage to take liberties he'd always wanted but had never allowed himself.
Carefully attuned to every breath and shudder, Bodie had curved his body around his partner's. His own scrapes and aches forgotten, he was acutely mindful of Ray's injuries as he lowered his chin to rest lightly against a rigid shoulder. They'd touched constantly and easily over the years, in every way imaginable except sexually, but this was somehow different. This was surrender and need and Ray was offering and asking.
Bodie was more than ready to oblige him. For longer than he could remember, he'd been caught up in a muddle of conflicting feelings where Ray Doyle was concerned. There was lust, certainly, but that particular burden had been Bodie's constant companion almost from the day they'd been teamed. Affection was always there, in large amounts, though circumstances often challenged that feeling. They lived in a world of raw edges and sharp corners and too often they got cut--or cut each other.
And there was loyalty. Unquestioned, immutable loyalty. Bodie had given it freely and never doubted it was returned in full measure.
But this was unlike any touch they'd ever shared. Ray was now almost limp in the circle of Bodie's arms, swaying them back and forth as his head rolled against Bodie's shoulder. The scents of sweat and blood and smoke brushed against Bodie's nose as he shifted Ray closer, ready for any sign from Ray that the moment had stretched too long, but no sign was forthcoming. Ray seemed content to remain in his kitchen forever, Bodie wrapped around him like a warm rug.
It wasn't enough for Bodie. Doyle was the more voluble of the pair but right then, with Ray so snugly secured, he needed to know why.
His first attempt at speech resulted in too many words clogging his throat. So many questions had flown through his mind in those first few minutes of physical connection--did it mean anything? Why now? Was Ray's unmistakable desire to be held a one-off--and would anyone have sufficed?
Before he could untangle his tongue--and his emotions--Ray shifted. Inexplicably caught off guard by the movement, Bodie tightened his hold, unwilling to face the inevitability of Ray's rejection, no matter how gentle. Just as swiftly he let go, fitting a mask of calm to his face as Ray slowly rotated to face him. He fully expected Ray to offer a sheepish apology or make a joke about it, to want to pretend the last few moments had never happened.
But Bodie was to receive another surprise that day. Ray slid his hand around Bodie's neck as his other hand landed on Bodie's shoulder, and without giving Bodie any warning, guided his head downward to press their lips together.
For precious seconds, Bodie was held still with shock. The kiss was warm and firm and entirely nonthreatening. While Bodie was still trying to catch up to this development, Ray was moving his mouth against his in a gentle caress that offered the very comfort Bodie was so anxious to give. The stroke of fingertips through the hair at the base of his neck broke him out of his immobility, and with a sound from his chest like the moan of a man in pain, he swept Ray closer and returned the kiss with unabashed fervor.
With Bodie's participation, the kiss deepened and altered, hitting a different level of emotion than Doyle's initial touch. Bodie clutched at the fabric of Ray's shirt where it gathered at the top of his trousers and swung them around until his hips were pressed against the counter's edge. Doyle fitted himself between Bodie's parted legs, his arms now locked around Bodie's neck.
It was within this tight plait of limbs that Ray finally broke the kiss. Bodie protested with an inarticulate sound and pressed his forehead to Ray's in an attempt to forestall what was sure to be a heart-stopping expression of regret for what had just occurred.
Yet it seemed that Ray had one more surprise up his tattered, blood-stained sleeve. He did not push Bodie away nor make any attempt to remove himself from Bodie's slackening grip.
"Bodie." The word was no more than a stirring of air touching Bodie's ear.
"You let me kiss you."
"Yeah, noticed that, did you?"
Uncertain laughter rocked them both. Bodie re-established his hold on his partner, the tendrils of warmth gathering in his belly telling him that they might survive this momentary madness.
"So what's this all about?" he murmured. That Ray had chosen that moment to lean most of his weight against Bodie had reassured him even more, and he'd awaited Ray's explanation with a calmer, yet still rapidly beating heart.
Ray had shaken his head and looked away, giving Bodie a close look at the still-forming bruise on Ray's cheekbone.
"Come on," Bodie urged. "Tell me you're so knackered that you mistook me for a bird in high heels and a short skirt and we can have a good laugh about it. Or you can tell me the truth. Just pick one, mate. The suspense is killing me."
Ray's responsive grin quickly faded. "Don't know if you want to hear it."
Bodie gave him a little shake. "Don't know that I have much choice."
"Right." Ray visibly gathered himself, then laid his palm against Bodie's face. "It's crazy, I know."
"Nothing unusual there. And?"
Ray's voice dropped to a gravelly whisper, his eyes locking with Bodie's. "We're running out of time, Bodie."
Bodie fought back a shiver. Ray could spew nonsense and make it sound like God's own truth, but there was a haunted cast to the oddly-shaped eyes as he continued.
"Those people that died today, they left things undone. Words unsaid. The people who loved them are wishing they'd kissed them goodbye this morning instead of nagging them about wiping the dirt off their shoes when they get home. They're thinking that if God would give them just one more chance, they'd say and do everything they could to let that person know that they loved them."
Bodie swallowed, fighting the growing lump in his throat. "Ray--"
Ray's hand drifted over Bodie's lips. "Let me finish. Then you can thump me or laugh at me, whichever you prefer."
"I'm fairly certain neither of those are going to happen, but go on."
"All right." To Bodie's dismay, Ray disentangled himself and took a step back, shoving his hands into his pockets. "I need more than this. More than nutters in camo blowing things up for some stupid cause they barely understand themselves. I need to know that some day I can put away the guns and the cars and the bloody awful feeling that I may not see you alive at the end of the day."
Bodie's hands curled into loose fists. "You'll have none of that as long as you work for our George," he said quietly. "That's also in the small print."
"There are certain things even Cowley can't control, though God knows he would if he could. And one of those things is what I want from you."
"Want?" After the past few minutes, Bodie doubted he could deny Ray anything.
Ray rubbed at his eyes, further irritating rims already reddened from smoke and exhaustion. "Promise me something."
Ray scowled at him, but it carried no heat. "Wait for me."
"Wait for you?" Fear put a crack in Bodie's voice. "Where are you going?"
Ray sidled closer to Bodie but did not touch him. Those changeable eyes were darker than Bodie could ever remember seeing them, drawing him further into an enchantment that now seemed years in the making yet still beyond his grasp.
"Not going anywhere without you. That's the promise I want. That when all this is over, one way or another, you'll be waiting."
Bodie considered the request. Friendship for Doyle would always be there and required no special commitment. Ray was asking for more, but how much more?
"Why wait at all?" Bodie couldn't see the logic of putting off something they both obviously wanted so badly. At least he knew he did--Ray's feelings on the subject were still a mystery. "We only have today, like everyone else."
"But we're not like everyone else," Ray sighed. "Listen to me. How many bombs have we faced? How many terrorists? Face it, we have no odds in this game anymore. We're only surviving by sheer dumb luck."
"So let's change the odds." It was a reckless suggestion, but in the moment, Bodie meant it. "One letter, two signatures, farewell drink with the mob and we're done."
Ray stared at him, and for a brief moment, Bodie thought he'd convinced him. Then his eyes clouded and he dropped his gaze.
"Too much unfinished business. We both have responsibilities and I'm not talking about the job."
Bodie didn't pretend to misunderstand. "It only takes a phone call to break a date."
"Or break a heart."
"Ray, it's not like that with her."
"Six months. I've been counting. Longest you've been with a girl since I've known you."
Bodie shrugged. "She's convenient and doesn't ask a lot of questions. They're usually hunting around for curtains and asking to meet your family after a week or two, so it's been a nice change."
"Jesus, Bodie. That's a bit cold, even for you."
"Look, I've never made her or any other woman the kind of promise you're asking from me. And Christ knows I don't expect you to be convenient and you ask more questions than the bloody Inquisition, so call me a cold-hearted bastard all you want. I'm still saying yes to you."
A reluctant smile had lifted one corner of Ray's mouth. "I don't know but that almost sounds like a declaration of love, mate. 'Course I'll expect the real thing from you some day."
"Sounds like you've got this all worked out."
Ray's face softened at the slightly aggrieved comment. "Thought I did. All except the last part."
"Erm, the kissing part. Wasn't too sure how you felt about kissing a bloke."
"Oh, that. I rather liked that part. Would actually like to try it again, but first, I have a question."
"Only one? Hardly up to your typical standards of interrogation."
"Don't change the subject. You want me to wait. Because I'm a masochist, I agreed. How long?"
Bodie rubbed at his chin. "That doesn't exactly narrow it down. How do I know you'll still feel the way you do today?"
"You won't have to worry about that."
"Bodie," Ray remonstrated gently, "it's not as if I woke up this morning and decided the only future I wanted was a future with you in it. It just took something like to today to remind me that we may have very little future left between the two of us."
"Then we'll go to Cowley and tell him we're resigning. If he wants us to stay, he'll have to take us on our terms."
"Who's the the brave lad, then." Ray shook his head. "Whatever we decide, it will have to wait until this job is over. Cowley won't thank us if we drag our marital problems into work with us."
Bodie ignored the hopeful twinge caused by the casual mention of marriage. "And when this wait of yours is over, provided we're both still alive and functioning, what shall you give me for a reward?"
That's when they both knew that Bodie had surrendered with hardly a shot being fired.
"Yeah, my pressie for agreeing to this grand scheme."
Ray insinuated his arms around Bodie's waist and Bodie enfolded him automatically. This rough-edged, curly-headed slice of heaven had just put him through hell, and it was no surprise that he'd loved nearly every minute of it.
"Me, you berk. That'll have to do, won't it."
"And just what makes you think I'll oblige you?"
For the first time, Ray's smile was blatantly flirtatious, and the glimpse of that one imperfect tooth did what it always did, causing Bodie's usually stalwart heart to double its pace. But a glimpse was all he was allowed before Ray brought their lips together, and once again Bodie was helpless in the wake of his own wholehearted enthusiasm.
"That's how I know, you bastard," Ray whispered against Bodie's mouth. "You kissed back."
They'd parted after one last, lingering kiss at the door. Ray had offered Bodie the use of his couch, an offer Bodie had rejected with a silent tilt of one expressive eyebrow. Cowley expected them at dawn, so it was with a wounded sense of service beyond the call of duty that Bodie let himself out of Ray's building, exhilarated, confused, and anxious for Ray to declare that his wait was over.
Then the one future that Ray had dreaded most had arrived. The next day, Doyle had been knocked over a pile of broken concrete at Wembley and had shattered the bones in his right knee. Several operations and innumerable doctor's consultations later, it was clear to all of them that Ray was permanently off the streets. Cowley had tried to convince him to stay on in an administrative position, but Doyle, without consulting Bodie, had refused.
In between worrying about his partner and completing his own assignments, Bodie had done as he'd promised and broken it off with his current girlfriend. She'd taken it well and Bodie had been grateful for that, but it'd hardly mattered. Ray's injury, the end of his career and the unfulfilled promise of that terrible, wonderful day inhabited his every waking thought. Ray had been stoic throughout the ordeal of his surgeries and seemingly endless physio, but as it became clear that his days as 4.5 were over, Bodie had felt his withdrawal. He tried to understand Ray's desire for space and had granted it to the best of his ability, knowing that come the day they had to face up once again to their feelings, Ray would think it was noble and right to let Bodie out of his promise.
Bodie had no such benevolent aspirations. He didn't care about the circumstances that had led to his promise, nor did he intend to break that promise just because Ray thought he had less to offer him. He hadn't fallen in love with 4.5, a number that now held no meaning, and he was ready to bully his way into Ray's new life if he had no other choice. Christmas had come and gone in a blur of festive activity that even Ray had enjoyed, although he'd been careful to keep his distance from Bodie. Bodie, understanding the tactics of delay when engaged with an adversary, had chosen his time to confront Ray and lay claim to the vow they'd both made.
It was the one party that he'd had to talk Ray into attending, a private CI5 affair given by a pair of newer agents that had the audacity to remind Bodie of himself and Ray at a younger age. He hadn't really wanted to go either, but he'd had an ulterior motive. He wanted Ray to see that CI5 would carry on without either of them, except Ray wasn't aware of that particular fact. He did know that Bodie had attended a meeting with Cowley earlier in the day and had acted quite unconcerned about it, not fooling Bodie a bit.
He'd offered to pick him up for the party but Ray had forcefully declined, determined to be as independent as possible. Bodie had taken it in stride, expecting nothing less but not allowing Ray's misplaced belligerence to dissuade him from his own single-purposed objective of reminding Ray that their future had arrived.
Everything had been going according to plan. Bodie kept an unobtrusive eye on the man he still considered his partner, watching him mingle with old friends and new. He observed the exact moment when Doyle's smile went from genuine to painted on, and when the proud set of the broad shoulders began to droop. What he failed to see was Ray's exit from the party, but a quick reconnaissance of the coat pile in the bedroom revealed that Ray's leather coat and knit scarf were gone.
Swearing softly, Bodie gathered his own coat and after a brief foray into the host's kitchen, set out in pursuit of his partner.
He found him sitting on a park bench, jean-clad legs stretched out across the gravel path, booted feet crossed at the ankles. A nearby lamp offered enough light for Bodie to see the preoccupied frown on Ray's face, but he wasn't deterred. Limp, tobacco-colored leaves drifted around the solitary figure, some landing on the slatted surface beside him, a space just large enough for Bodie to fill. Ray acknowledged his presence with a sidelong glance and a crooked smile before resuming his study of the brackish pond that curved around them, giving them an isthmus of privacy in a park already scarce of people in the chill twilight.
Bodie copied the casual pose, deliberately jostling Ray's elbow as he settled into the bench's unforgiving angles.
"Fancy meeting you here." Bodie kept his tone light as he set his purloined bottle on the ground beside his shoe. "Come here often?"
The shadows around them were deepening and the air was taking on a frost-sharpened edge. Bodie was aware of his surroundings, the people hurrying along as they sought warmer environs and the raw scent of frozen earth, but his entire attention was focused on the man at his side.
Ray canted his head toward the bottle. "What's that?"
"Not sure." Bodie grabbed the bottle by its neck and hoisted it close to his eyes. "Apricot schnapps," he said, turning the label so Ray could see it.
Ray's face folded into a disapproving scrunch. "Foul stuff, that. Why'd you bring it?"
Bodie shrugged and cracked open the top. "It was the first thing I grabbed on my way out the door." He took a sip and grimaced. "Next time I steal something, I'll be more particular."
He offered the bottle to Ray, who took it after a brief pause. He raised the bottle to his lips and took a large swallow, followed by a discreet cough in his elbow. Wedging the bottle on the bench between their thighs, Ray settled back into the bench and cleared his throat.
"Five years," he muttered. He scratched absently at his ribs, at a spot just beneath his heart. "Five years and a month, give or take. Was late autumn, anyway."
Bodie squinted up into the darkening sky, not bothering to pretend that he wasn't following Ray's train of thought. "Don't recall," he lied.
Ray nodded, both of them knowing why Bodie shied away from a subject that could no longer be avoided. "What did the Cow offer you?"
Brushing away bits of leaf that had skidded onto his sleeve, Bodie kept his tone light. "Pick of the lot. New or old, my choice."
"Very nice," Ray said approvingly. "Decided yet?"
"New lads are young, can get them to do all the footwork."
Ray snorted. "They'll wet themselves first time anyone says boo."
"On the other hand," Bodie continued, "an experienced agent won't have to be trained."
"Don't be so sure of yourself, sunshine. I'm not sure anyone who knows you would have you."
Bodie grunted, stretching one arm behind Doyle. Brushing another errant leaf from Ray's shoulder, he shifted into the corner of the bench. He was patient, content to let Doyle guide the conversation until they circled round to the truth that lay before them.
That moment came sooner than he'd expected.
"I won't hold you to it."
Baldly stated, Bodie was still aware of the turmoil of emotion behind the simple words. He'd figured Doyle would eventually suggest the one sacrifice neither of them wanted and was ready with his reply.
"Sorry, Doyle. A promise is a promise and all that."
Unsurprisingly, Doyle began arguing against the one thing of which Bodie was most sure. "Was a while ago, mate. Things have changed."
"I haven't. Neither have you, despite the hardware holding your knee together." Bodie glanced at him. "And it wasn't that long ago. I remember the circumstances quite clearly, even if you don't."
"I remember." It was only a whisper, barely heard above the wind that stirred the trees, but for Bodie it was the clarion call of his future.
"Then the deal stands."
Ray turned to him, meeting Bodie's eyes for the first time since he arrived. "It's your life, Bodie. Cowley will give you anything you want--"
"Stop it, Ray." Bodie stood up abruptly and stepped onto the path. Throwing Cowley at him was useless, but for some reason, Ray thought invoking the name had more power than it did. "If you want out, tell me. Just don't try and convince me it's what I want."
He heard the crunch of rock beneath Doyle's heels as Ray struggled to his feet. Fighting back his natural instinct, Bodie stayed where he was and waited until Ray joined him at the water's edge, where they stood shoulder to shoulder.
"It was a daft idea, waiting."
Bodie shrugged. "Not one of your brightest moments, but I agreed to it, so what exactly does that make me? Besides, it hardly matters now, does it? You're off the squad, I've resigned, and it's time we--"
A strong hand clamped around his elbow and swung him around. Ray's eyes were wide, disbelieving. "You what?"
Bodie fitted his fingers around Ray's wrist and pulled him off. "You heard the first time. It's your knee that's gotten you early retirement, not your hearing. I quit."
Bodie had no intention of staying without Doyle. Not only had he made a promise, he'd found he'd finally lost his taste for the dirty business he'd participating in for so long. He freely chose an uncertain future with Ray over the sure thing Cowley had offered, and now they were facing that future and each other in the murky half-light of a late December evening.
Ray tilted his head to allow a windblown curl to fall away from his eyes. "I didn't think you'd walk away so quickly."
"From the job, Ray." Bodie wanted to touch him, to offer him some small comfort, but that privilege had yet to be granted. "Look," he continued, "let's stop talking in riddles. Four weeks, three days and some odd hours ago you made a proposal. I accepted. If I'm not--if this isn't what you want, say it. The ink probably isn't dry on my resignation, so if you didn't mean it, now would be a good time to mention it."
"Jesus." Ray turned and limped away, revealing to Bodie's knowledgeable eye a newly evident stiffness in the lean hips. After a deep sigh, Ray turned and walked back to poke Bodie in the shoulder with the rubber tip of his cane. "I meant it, you bastard. Every fucking word. Especially the last bit--do you remember that?"
"Remember it?" Bodie closed his eyes, almost lightheaded with relief. "I'm counting on it." He opened his eyes and fixed Ray with stern glare that was only partially faked. "Did you really think I'd give up so easily? That you putting some stupid deadline on us was going to make me lose interest? Damn it, Ray, I don't like being tested."
"Wasn't meant to be a test, you moron. But," and he ground to a stop, the hollow aggravation that had propelled him giving way to frustration as he stared helplessly at Bodie.
Bodie took a step closer to him. "What?" He asked it gently, weeks of breathless waiting culminating in this moment. It was dark, and getting colder, but Bodie didn't notice. He wanted only one thing and only Doyle could give it to him.
"I wanted to walk away that day."
Cold fear clutched at Bodie's chest. "Walk?" From me?
"Yeah. Was ready to give Cowley notice and to hell with the job."
"Why didn't you?"
Ray's mouth twisted into a wry smile. "D'you recall what I said to you? About waiting?"
"Every ruddy word. You said, and I quote, not long," Bodie reminded him. It was hard to read Doyle's expression in the dark, so he pressed on. "It's been too damn long. Past time for us to get on with it, don't you agree?"
Head lowered, Ray pounded the ground with his cane. "Take a good look, Bodie. You know what the doctors said. It'll be years before I can walk without this damn cane, if ever."
"All right, so your marathon days are over. It was bound to happen eventually, to both of us. You were just first."
"Yeah, but you're not--"
"That's enough," Bodie barked, then sighed. "If you want me to say it, I'll say it. You still want me, I'm yours. I don't give a fuck about your knee and I don't care what you can and can't do. But if you've changed your mind, for God's sake say so. My feet are freezing."
Ray stared at him before a reluctant smile creased his face. "I haven't changed my mind. And if you'd changed yours, you wouldn't be the Bodie I know and love."
"So what was all this nonsense about then? 'I won't hold you to it, Bodie'," he mocked indignantly. "'Things change, Bodie. Cowley will kiss your toes to keep you, Bodie'."
"Well, he offered to, didn't he?"
"Don't know if it qualifies as an offer to kiss my toes, but he did say he'd let me shine his ghillie brogues every other Sunday if I behave."
Doyle looked suitably impressed. "And you turned that down? Must be love, then."
"Must be, otherwise I'd have left you to hobble home on your own three feet instead of offering you a ride back to my flat."
"Your flat?" Ray balked automatically. "Why your flat?"
"Because, Raymond my lad, thirty-one days is thirty days and twenty-three hours too long to wait. Also, so you can try once more to explain the labyrinthine workings of that twisted mind of yours." He took Ray's elbow and guided him around to begin their slow progress down the park path. "And then, after I've failed yet again to fathom your reasoning, we'll try communicating on an altogether different plane, one that I am sure will lead to perfect understanding for both of us."
Ray jerked his elbow out of Bodie's grasp, then slid his hand firmly into the cup of Bodie's palm. "I'll use small words, I promise."
They continued to bait each other on the long, careful walk back to the car. Once inside, when Ray pointed out yet another perfectly good reason why he'd offered Bodie every chance to back out of his agreement, Bodie grabbed him gently round the neck and pulled him in for a heated kiss that was full of another, infinitely more compelling sort of promise.
-- THE END --