A Dozen Red Roses
The kid was grungy--there was just no other word for it--dirty jeans, faded yellow t-shirt with holes. He'd seen better dressed bums. Steven Murphy took one look at him and prayed it wasn't one of Doyle's informers showing up, today of all days, to start trouble. At the sight of the oblong box in the kid's hand, he felt himself relax. 'Just flowers.' But then he tensed again, the flowers had already been delivered. He began to reach for his gun and finding it absent, the tux didn't lay well with it under his arm, he tensed for attack.
The young man, oblivious to Murphy's tension and seeing only him in the church lobby, came over and asked, "You Ray Doyle?"
"No, but I can take them to him."
"Fine by me. Sign here." Murphy scribbled his name and saw the boy to the door. The flower delivery van at the curb, that matched the name on the box, allowed him to relax a little. Six-two found himself wondering who would send Ray flowers on this of all days. His wedding day.
He cursed again his absent friend, 'Bodie, you son of a bitch, you should be here at his side, not me.' Cowley had supposedly sent his operative over to Northern Ireland on a consult with the SAS. Murphy couldn't believe that Bodie had agreed to be gone on this of all days--especially without a protest--but he had. Actually from what he could glean from the old man it'd been mostly Bodie's idea. What was even more puzzling was that Murphy had caught sight of three-seven last night at headquarters, skulking in and out. He'd obviously returned early, yet still he wasn't here to stand at his best friend's side as he got married.
It had made no sense to Murphy; ten years together in CI5, eight of them as partners, most of them as best friends, but the last year and a half had seen a change. Crime and terrorism had both been on the increase and as a result parliament had seen fit to expand CI5's budget. The larger organization had become too much for the old man to handle alone so he'd made Bodie and Doyle assistant controllers. Doyle in charge of criminal activity; Bodie handled terrorism and foreign government relations. And they'd done their new jobs brilliantly but their friendship had suffered. They just didn't have time to see each other any more. They couldn't even take vacations together, Cowley wanted one of them available at all times. Murphy remembered six months into their new jobs how they'd had a fight with Cowley about wanting to take a vacation at the same time. The Controller had won as usual but Murph was beginning to wonder if he really had.
Both Bodie and Doyle seemed to surrender to the inevitable--that they would no longer be able to spend much time together--but something seemed to go out of them at that point. The best Murph could find to describe it to himself when he tried, is that the laughter seemed to have left them. The length of their time together and their longevity on the squad had already been segregating factors. The new jobs and Cowley's determination to keep one of them available at all times only served to increase both men's isolation. The vacation was the final blow, after that they both were very alone. That was also about the time that Ray had started dating Shelia.
She was beautiful and worked for one of the district superintendents that four-five dealt with on a regular basis. Long flowing black hair, blue eyes, and a well rounded figure were her major assets and she'd done something no woman ever had: she'd got Ray Doyle to set a wedding date. In less than an hour's time she would walk down the aisle and become Mrs. Ray Doyle. And Murphy still couldn't figure out why the hell Bodie wasn't going to be there. He shrugged to himself and remembered the box he held.
Deciding to be on the safe side, he gently shook the box and then slipping the ribbon off, opened it. Inside he was surprised to find a dozen red roses. Feeling nosey but wanting to make sure that there was nothing on the card, perhaps from an old girlfriend, that might ruin Ray's day he opened it. Reading it quickly and looking at the signature he collapsed against a sturdy table and huffed loudly. The note read:
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine.
"Oh god! Damn it, Bodie, you fuckin' sod." He spoke angrily under his breath, "You've got piss poor timing. Why the hell couldn't you have done something before now!"
Wrapping the flowers back up, he debated throwing them into the nearest trash can but found he couldn't do it. He cracked open the door to the room Ray and the other groomsmen were waiting in and took a long hard look at his friend. Making up his mind, he shut the door and went to find Stuart.
Pacing from one end of the small room to the other did not seem to do much for calming his nerves. He'd be married soon. A very beautiful woman would soon walk down the aisle into his arms and become Mrs. Raymond Doyle. He wouldn't be alone any longer. 'So why the hell don't I feel happy, or at least content?' That thought only upset him more and he sped up his pacing.
"Hey, Ray." He looked up as Stuart called to him holding a box in his hands. "This just came for you. Want me to open it or put it aside for later."
"Bring it on over. Opening it will give me something else to do besides wearing a hole in the carpet." He sat on a folding metal chair, popped the plastic ribbon securing the box and lifted the lid to reveal a dozen red roses. "Now who the hell," he mumbled under his breath.
Taking the card out, he read it and sucked in his breath, suddenly finding it hard to breathe. 'Damn you, you sonofabitch.' All the pain he'd kept buried because of Bodie's desertion on this of all days, suddenly came to the fore. His hands squeezed the box and he fought to keep from hurling it across the room, he managed to restrain himself. Doyle refused to let Bodie spoil the day any further than he already had by his absence. He carefully tucked the card into the inner pocket of his tux, next to Shelia's wedding ring, and placed the flowers on an unoccupied chair.
Murphy watched him from the doorway. Ray had begun his pacing again but this time, it was different. Instead of just back and forth along one line, he would veer to the chair with the flowers. First he'd just looked, then he began to stroke the petals, and finally he'd picked one up and was absentmindedly running it back and forth between his hands. 'It's now or never,' Murph decided.
Walking over to Doyle, he spoke before the other man had a chance. "So, one of your old girlfriends trying to talk you out of getting married?"
Ray looked up, startled. "What makes you think that?"
Murphy nodded down at the flowers. "Red roses are for true love. Figured everyone knew that, Ray. So if a girl's sending you red roses on your wedding day--unless it's Shelia, of course--she must be trying to tell you something. Don't you think?"
Doyle opened his mouth to object but snapped it shut before saying anything. He glared at Murphy's grin and went back to his pacing, the blood red rose still clutched in his hand. It didn't take too many more turns around the room before he stopped, looked up, letting the hand holding the rose drop to his side. He clenched it so harshly that the stem broke in two and blood welled up from several thorn pricks. As a few drops of blood ran down his fingers, he stared, rivetted at their movement. Then looking up at Murphy he said, "There's something I've got to do."
Bodie sat on his couch in his dark sitting room carefully counting his drinks. He had vowed to himself that he wouldn't get drunk today and so was making sure that he consumed no more than two an hour. That should be enough to dull the pain without a disgusting display of inebriation on his part. The plan was sound, but unfortunately he was finding that he needed more than two drinks an hour to numb the ache he felt.
A loud buzz sounded in the apartment. 'Must be the take away.' He got up and pushed the button to let the delivery person in. 'Don't know how the hell I'm going to eat. Feel like throwing up.' Walking over towards the door, he stumbled across the watch that he'd thrown against the wall over an hour ago. Just as Ray should have been finishing his wedding vows. They'd be at the reception now.... 'Damn it, Bodie, get a grip, you're only making it worse on yourself.' He slammed his fist into the door frame and spoke aloud, "Screw not getting drunk."
He started to turn back to take a drink directly out of the bottle but was stopped by the sound of his door buzzer. "Bloody hell. That was fast." Turning back to get the food, he yanked open the door, anxious to get rid of the kid so that he could start working on a proper drunk.
Ray Doyle stood there a box of flowers in his hands. Trying to breathe, Bodie found he had nothing left to form words. He realized that he must be drunker than he thought because this couldn't be happening.
Seeing that his partner was in shock, Ray motioned with his head and asked, "Can I come in, mate? Think we need to talk." Realizing that if he waited for Bodie he'd be waiting 'til the last trumpet sounded, he pushed past the dark haired man, then turned and pulled him into the flat slamming and locking the door behind them.
'Can't ever remember you this shaken up, mate. Well, no matter, I'm not exactly steady meself,' Doyle pondered to himself as he guided Bodie over to the couch and pushed him down on it. He sat close beside him and spoke.
"Nice flowers. You trying to tell me something?" It'd been a bitch of a day and he was in no mood to tread gently.
His mouth opened but no sound came out; his mouth shut. Drawing a deep breath, Bodie finally managed to ask what was upper most in his mind.
"Aren't you supposed to be at the reception? What are you doing here?"
A spark of irritation flared in Doyle's eyes. "Might ask you the same question since you told me that you absolutely had to be in Belfast for at least another week." Seeing that Bodie wouldn't look at him Ray decided to let the issue drop; if they were ever going to get this straightened out, now was not the time for recriminations.
"I'm not at the reception because I'm not the most popular of men right now." Seeing Bodie's questioning look, Ray gave in, "Called it off."
Bodie looked angry. "She didn't! How could she do that to--"
"She didn't. I did. Found I loved someone more. Found that they loved me. Couldn't marry her knowing that--now could I?"
Doyle hadn't thought that his partner could look any more stunned but apparently he could. Bodie gaped at him then turned away to look straight ahead at nothing; his jaw clenched, his eyes squeezed shut, he swallowed hard and a single tear rolled slowly down his cheek. Ray raised his hand and with one gentle finger lingeringly brushed the tear away. "You could have told me." Four-five reached down and took one of Bodie's hands into both of his. He held tight, "You should have told me."
"Didn't know. Not till you announced that you were engaged. Then it was too damn late for undying declarations. Cursed the Cow for separating us and cursed myself for letting him. Never should have let him win about the vacations. Felt so alone after that."
Ray leaned over, placed an arm around his friend's shoulders and pulled him close. "No more. We spend time together--including vacations or we resign. Simple as that." Bodie leaned into the embrace and brought his arm up around the shorter man's waist pulling him close.
"And if he doesn't like it?"
"Then we resign. I take it I am more important to you than the bloody job?" Ray asked.
"You know you are, sunshine. You have been for a long time." Bodie smiled for what seemed like the first time in years.
"Good, that's settled then. So, are we going to live in your place or mine?" Ray asked, wanting to get the practicalities out of the way before getting to the good stuff. He let his gaze slide down to his blue-eyed partner's groin.
"Let's get a two bedroom flat. Should be able to afford it with both of us paying and it'll be nice having the extra space." Bodie let his gaze wander towards Doyle's good bits as well. "Enough talk."
"Yeah," Doyle concurred.
He kissed Bodie and slowly leaned back encouraging the other man to lay on top of him. Maybe someday he'd take time to contemplate the strangeness of the sensations assaulting him, not having been with a man since his art school days, but right now it was Bodie and it didn't feel anything but perfect.
The security doorbell buzzed; the pizza had finally arrived.
"S'what's that?" Doyle asked as he bit his partner's earlobe.
"Pizza! You were going to calmly eat pizza while I got married?" Doyle sounded slightly offended.
"Wasn't going to calmly do anything but was trying to take my mind off things."
"Did it work?"
"Nah. I'd just decided to give up and get drunk when you showed up. Thought you were the pizza man."
The buzzer sounded twice again. The boy was obviously getting impatient. Doyle rolled Bodie off of him and started to push up. Bodie grabbed his arm and pleaded, "Forget it. Got all I need here."
"Well I don't, I'm starving. Haven't eaten since noon yesterday. Told myself that it was just nerves. Was nerves all right. Knew deep down that I was making the biggest mistake of my life." Doyle pushed the button to let the man in and meeting him at the door, gave him twenty quid for a fifteen quid bill.
Seeing his partner's generosity, Bodie teased, "Must be love if you're handing out five quid tips."
Ray just grinned, "Come on and eat. I'd be willing to bet from the looks of you, that it's been days since you had a decent meal. This might not qualify but it's all we've got and I want you up for tonight."
They finished quickly and they both found that they were up for things just fine.
Ray had two weeks off for a honeymoon and Bodie was determined to join him. He rung Cowley up bright and early Sunday morning. His boss was none to pleased, he'd just flown in late the night before--actually early Sunday morning, the plane having been delayed by weather--from a week long anti-terrorist conference in Geneva. After only three hours of sleep he was not in a very receptive mood. Bodie's statement that he was taking two weeks off did not meet with his approval. The CI5 controller complained, refused and finally shouted, 'no way; didn't Bodie realize that Doyle was away on his honeymoon?'
Bodie took great delight in informing him that that was the whole point; a honeymoon was no fun without both of the interested parties present, and that if the CI5 controller didn't like it, he could fire them when they got back, but they were going. That had poleaxed George Cowley so bad, that he had been unable to speak. By the time he got his voice back, Bodie had rung off and they were out the door on their way to catch the cruise ship that Ray had bought tickets on. Being a thorough and thrifty CI5 agent he'd made sure that he was the one who ended up with the honeymoon tickets--he'd paid for them after all.
Bright and early Monday morning, George Cowley called Murphy in to inform him that due to three-seven's unexpected absence, he would be the liaison to the African delegations arriving in two days. He was also placed in charge of making sure all of Bodie's security plans were in place.
At the end of the briefing Alpha One queried, "You don't seem surprised at three-seven's sudden absence?"
Murphy smiled, shaking his head before elaborating, "I was confused when Bodie arranged to be out of town for Doyle's wedding. I was surprised when he sent Doyle a dozen red roses less than an hour before the ceremony on Saturday. I was shocked when less the twenty minutes later, four-five called off the wedding and harried out of the church like the devil was after him. After that I sort of expected three-seven's absence, especially since Ray made sure that he had both cruise tickets before he left the church."
"I see. It seems I overestimated my ability to separate them or perhaps underestimated their attatchment."
Murphy was shocked that Cowley would admit it but not surprised at his knowledge. 'So the only thing that surprised the old fox was that they finally got the courage to act on what they felt--not the fact that they felt it.'
"Will you be replacing them?"
"Ach. The Home Secretary is going to be giving me holy hell if they aren't discreet, but no, I won't be replacing them. Dismissed."
Murphy smiled as he left the controllers office. Things were working out just fine. He acquired an evil smirk as an idea occurred to him, 'Shelia's quite pretty. I wonder.... Couldn't hurt.'
by Ben Jonson
Drink to me only with thine eyes.
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.
I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be;
But thou thereon didst only breathe
And sent'st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear
Not of itself but thee!
-- THE END --