A Prequel to Old Friends
It had all started at noon, when they had reported back to Cowley and been sent to spend the rest of the day finishing up their paperwork. A secretary had handed Doyle several messages and hurried off. Bodie had been busy enjoying the rear view and had not at first paid attention to his partner. When he did look at Doyle, he was struck by the odd look on his face.
"What s up?" he had asked.
Ray had given him one of those inscrutable looks he sometimes favored, and had not answered. Bodie had locked gazes with him, waiting for him to break down and speak. It was a technique which usually worked well, and it did not fail him now. He knew by the way Ray's lips pursed that he would explain.
"Let's get some tea," Doyle said.
Bodie was willing. They collected a couple of the big mugs favored by a majority of CI5 agents - they held more and kept the contents warm longer -- and retreated to the small nook which had been assigned to them. Bodie waited expectantly.
"I won't be able to go tonight." They had a double date lined up with two nurses.
That unexpected beginning had Bodie's eyebrows approaching his hair. "What's up?" Bodie asked, suspiciously this time.
"I have to meet a grass tonight."
"Tonight?" Bodie was rather annoyed. It had taken several days to find a time when all of them could be free, and it had been thanks to his own golden tongue and fast maneuvering that tonight had been arranged.
Doyle nodded. "Sorry. Maybe they won't mind sharing you."
"I mind - the cost. Three meals at that posh place instead of two -- and then how do I shed one for the second part of the evening?" Bodie grumbled, even as he was pulling out his little black book and flicking through the pages for the right number.
"What? Can't handle two? Just big talk, was it?" Doyle teased.
"I can handle anything. The question is, what are YOU getting into and can you handle it?" Ray had been having some very bad luck with his grasses. First Benny had died, and then Colin had set him up and he'd almost had his head blown off.
"This one's safe enough."
"That's what you said about the last one. Do you remember what I said?"
"That you were coming with me next time. Don't bother. This one never hurt a fly."
"Ha." Bodie had no faith in those statements anymore. Anyone could be dangerous, under the right conditions.
"Bodie, I'm meeting this one in a gay bar. Not your sort of place at all!"
That was true enough. Bodie grinned and teased him, saying, "Oh? And is it yours?" He lifted his mug and took a deep drink.
One quiet word. Bodie choked on his tea, almost spraying it out but managing to contain it by a great effort.
"You're joking," Bodie said, mostly because it didn't look as if he were.
"No. Why are you so surprised? I told you about how I grew up, what I did, what I tried."
"You said that was all when you were a kid. Experimenting around."
"I lied. Partly. I...slip Sometimes."
"Not...often I just get this -- a NEED. For a man. I have a place I go. A health club, the owners call it. Exercise equipment. Steam room."
Bodie kept silent, trying to absorb it all in, keeping his face frozen because he was afraid to let his partner see how much this was affecting him.
"This place I go to -- there's a regular who passes on things he hears. Men talk, sometimes, in the steam rooms. He's gotten me a few good leads. Those rifles last May."
Bodie managed a nod.
"Funny thing is, I don't even know his name. He said...names are for lovers, not...."
"He's a...." Bodie began. Doyle interrupted him.
"No! He doesn't do it for money. He's just...lonely. Gave up looking for love. Mr. Right. Now, he...." Doyle's voice trailed away. Bodie waited.
"There are these small private rooms," Doyle said, "Where you can go f or a massage or just to relax after the steam room. It drains you out, leaves you lethargic. He used go into the rooms. Give the men what they wanted -- what he wanted, too -- and then, he said, because of the steam and the sex, some of them didn't mind it you stayed. Cuddled up, afterwards. Slept with him, even. It's sad, Bodie. Just -- to lay there, drowsing and pretending. That's all he wanted. He gave up on finding a real lover. It got so it hurt to keep on looking. So...."
"So what does it have to do with you?" Bodie practically barked.
"So one day he asked if I wanted a blow job, and I said yes. He's good. Seemed surprised when I returned the favor. I was half asleep, one arm over him, for the longest time, and when I sat up to go, he asked...he asked if I was interested in something more. I thought he meant sex, and told him I couldn't get it up again, and he offered me...tomorrow. It hurt to turn him down."
"Why did you?" Bodie asked.
"He's looking for love. I wasn't. I'm not the sort to lead someone along, making promises I don't intend to keep! I told him honestly, he accepted it, and that was that."
"Except you must have gone back. Done it again."
"The next time I was there, he overheard me asking some questions, and provided an answer we'd been looking for. I offered him money. He didn't take it. So I offered him what he did want."
"cuddles and kisses," Doyle countered at once, his defense of the man swift. "Somebody to stay until morning." He sighed. "And then I left him. Same as everyone else."
"Until the next time."
"until the next time. I didn't realize what was happening at first. That I was starting to make a habit of it. Told myself I was doing it as part of the job. I was. But I wasn't. I was just like him. Wanting something more. It became a regular thing, but I kept it strictly business. He'd leave a message if he had information for me. Most of it was useless to CI5, and I'd pass it on to the boys in blue." He took a deep breath, and said, "If there were any justice in this world, I would have fallen in love with him. But, I...never have fallen in love with a man. Just women. Funny, isn't it? Had plenty of chances, just...."
"Men don't fall in love with men." Bodie said.
Doyle laughed at him.
"I told him," Doyle said, when he got his breath back, "I wouldn't go to the club again. Wouldn't...be with him again. And he just took it. It was like kicking a puppy. But now he's sent this message, wants to meet at the pub. Maybe he has something good."
"Maybe he just wants to start up with you again," Bodie suggested. "Good thing I'm going with you."
"What?" Doyle's mouth remained open after the word escaped. Bodie told him it looked quite unattractive and advised him to close it. Slowly, Doyle did. "You can't be serious."
"Why not? One," he ticked off on his fingers, "after last time, Cowley will kill us both if you go off alone and anything goes wrong."
"The last time we had a problem with a grass, it was YOUR grass, and he shot at us," Doyle reminded him.
Bodie ignored him. "Two, one look at my handsome face and he will give up forever the idea of having you for himself, Just let him think you're claimed. Then he can get over you and get on with his life. Kinder, wouldn't you say?" Then he said, "And three, if you think I'm letting you go alone into a gay pub, you're nuts. you're a backslider, Ray? Like cigarettes, is it? Say you've given them up, but keep sneaking around back for a secret smoke? That's stupid, and you should know it."
Doyle nodded, although Bodie couldn't tell if he was agreeing that it was stupid, or agreeing that he was unable to kick the habit.
"It's dangerous, you know that. You can't get ahead in this business if you don't play it smart. Gay pubs and clubs and steam rooms - that's not smart. You want a poke, speak up. I'll give it to you."
Doyle looked at him, mouth open, stunned. Bodie reached out and gently pushed up on the dropped chin until Doyle's lips met again. "Don't look so surprised," Bodie said. "Did you think I'd never done it with a man? Some of what they say about mercs is true, you know. Out in the bush, no women around -- a man will take what he can get. I've done it."
"But not had it done to you, if I know you."
"Never appealed," Bodie admitted, too casually. He knew, by the way Doyle was staring at him, that his partner was wondering just what exactly that ambiguous phrase meant.
"No," Doyle said. "It wouldn't, would it. Well, thanks for the offer, mate, but I'm turning you down."
"what!" Bodie said, his abrupt movement sloshing his long- ago-abandoned tea over the desk.
"I'm not that stupid," Doyle told him. Besides, it's always equal, with me and my lovers. I'm not anyone's bottom, Bodie. Believe in equality, I do"
"That's not what it sounded like -- with your anonymous friend, there. Was it equal between the two of you?"
"No. But he's not my partner. Or competitive, or big. Besides," he said, looking at Bodie as if he were looking clear through into the bones, "I bet you don't cuddle." Doyle's eyes met his. "The man's right, you know."
"About what's important. If you don't cuddle, then I might as well be doing it to myself. Might as well keep on with women - - they don't mind it at all if you snuggle up afterwards, even if it doesn't mean anything. And if you do cuddle, then we're both in deep trouble, Bodie. I don't need to fall in love with somebody who can't love me back."
"You said you'd never loved a man."
"I didn't say I couldn't."
"You could love me?" Bodie said, his voice sounding funny even to his own ears.
"I'm not putting it to the test."
"You could love me," Bodie said, slowly, as if trying to understand.
"As you point out yourself, you've got looks, and more brains than you habitually use, and charm."
"So why aren't you already in love with me?" Bodie said, managing a joking tone.
"Because you're loud, domineering and straight," Doyle said, matching his tone, "and you screw around like a tomcat."
"You'd want me soft, submissive and bent? And faithful?"
Doyle swallowed, hard, his eyes glazing as he dealt with that image. No. If that attracted him, then he would have fallen for a certain informer. He wondered now if there was a reason he had never made an effort to find out the man's name. Holding him away. Keeping him a stranger.
"Doyle?" Bodie asked impatiently.
"That's all? Just 'no'?"
"I'm sorry I ever brought this UP!" Doyle exploded, and stomped off, the door slamming back against the wall in a way that made Bodie wince. He got up to follow him, wondering about himself. Had he really offered to bed Doyle? Was he really going to go to a gay pub tonight with Doyle? Why did he feel so strongly that he had to warn off this other man? Jealous?
And, he realized, during his conversation and argument with Doyle, his cock had thickened. He imagined Doyle, naked, spread out, waiting for him, wanting him, and practically staggered back against the wall with the force of his hot blood reaction. Unconsciously, his hand curled above his hardness, as if protecting it. From what?
He snatched his hand away, breathing deeply and thinking of ice and lakes and anything that wasn't Ray Doyle, until he had himself under control. Ray Doyle. Stick it into that man, and you were offering your own ass in return. Thrust up into that warm body, and the ring that held you tightest wouldn't be the ring of muscle, it'd be the invisible one that went around your finger. And maybe through your nose.
Sleep with Doyle and walk away, and you'd better keep walking. Sleep with him and stay to cuddle, and you'd be there forever.
Was there any circumstance which would cause him to walk away from Doyle? Were they going to remain partners forever? Of course not. New jobs, changes, came up in life without warning. Five years from now, Bodie would be off on a new job. That was the way it was for him, always had been.
Then why could he not imagine a job where Ray wasn't his partner? Why did it hurt to think of turning his back and leaving Ray behind?
Very clearly, Bodie could see the threads of his various futures, see what would happen asa result of each choice he might or might not make. He knew he would go to the pub tonight. Knew that afterward, he would be alone with Doyle. Knew that he might just lean forward, and kiss him, and take him home, and make love to him all night.
Or he might not.
He knew that it would always be between them, always be waiting. The choice. Go or stay. Nothing or everything.
How would it feel to look into the eyes of a man who had made love to Ray Doyle? He would find out tonight.
He would find out quite a bit tonight. It was as if he were at the fulcrum, poised on the edge of something big and not knowing which way things would tip. Tomorrow, he might have a lover. Tomorrow, he might be looking for another job.
But before tomorrow, there was tonight. Bodie reached into the pocket of his jacket, his fingers finding his little black book, while with the other hand he reached for the phone. First things first. Cancel his date. And then....
-- THE END --
Originally published in Old Friends, Chained-to-the-Typewriter Press, c.1994