From their place in the back of the room, Bodie and Doyle watched Cowley's replacement stride up to the podium. The man appeared to be everything the head of CI5 should be. Although middle-aged, he was tall, handsome and personable. Too bad the man was a total arse.
"Four more weeks," Doyle said under his breath to his partner.
"Three weeks, six days, three hours," Bodie corrected.
"Jesus." It was a prayer for deliverance, but the powers above were not listening today.
Bodie and Doyle reflected the feelings of every person on the squad. Even the secretaries had been reduced to prayer--and worse. In the two months Reginald Cornell had been in charge of the department, he had proved beyond a doubt that if someone could step into the old man's shoes, it wasn't this man.
"We've got a lead on the Comberson theft," the man announced in the plummy, cheerful tones everyone was beginning to hate. "The interrogation of Samuel Jones--conducted by our own agents 7.1 and 3.3, with, I must say, my own minor assistance--" he paused, as if for some sort of acknowledgment. None came, but it did not stop him. Across the room, two men sank down a bit lower in their chairs, but the speaker did not notice. "We've discovered a bit of marvellous timing, gentlemen. Mr Jones was to meet a contact and have certain information passed on to him. This person does not know Mr Jones. He does not know Mr Jones is in our custody! He only knows he will meet a dark-haired man wearing jeans and a leather jacket, and exchange a packet of money for a packet of papers. A courier, of sorts, you see. Our only difficulty is that we do not know the precise address of the meeting, only that it is to take place on a certain street. Therefore, we will deploy ten agents in the required dress, in ten different locations. The following men will stay behind for a briefing after this meeting."
He read off the list. Bodie and Doyle were both on it. Bodie glanced to the side, meeting Doyle's eyes. Slowly, a grin grew on Doyle's face.
"Leather and denim," Doyle said. "I bet you'll look a treat!"
"I look good in anything," Bodie said with an autocratic lift of his eyebrows.
"We'll find out, won't we?" Doyle kept just out of range of Bodie's reach by scooting his chair over a few inches. This, unfortunately, brought them to the attention of the speaker, who let his low opinion of Cowley's finest show on his fine patrician face. Doyle put on the appearance of intense interest, and the man went on to finish the meeting. Three times. At least with Cowley, when he was done, he was done. He didn't keep remembering items and calling everyone back again, the way Cornell did.
At last, ten agents and the acting head of CI5 were left in the room. Mr Cornell rapped for order, although no one was speaking.
"I've purchased ten leather jackets identical to the one Samuel Jones was wearing when we picked him up." He made a grand gesture, and a young man--one of his own personal staff of three--pushed into the room a garment rack holding the plastic swathed items in question. "I took your sizes from your files, so I anticipate the fit will be satisfactory. Please put on the jacket labelled with your name."
"Why doesn't he tell us to breathe while we're at it," Jax asked under his breath as he took down one of the coats, stripped off the plastic and shrugged into the new leather.
"Oh, yes. Suits you," Doyle teased as he pulled on his. He was looking at Bodie as he spoke. Just settling the coat on his shoulders made Bodie look different. Dangerous. "Very West Side Story," he told the others.
"Or we could start our own motorcycle gang," suggested Wolley. As he was the shortest and lightest of the squad, with an intellectual appearance, there was a general laugh.
"Attention, now. Your instructions. You are to enter the assigned location at nine in the evening, without a companion. Go to the bar and order a rum and coke." At the murmur of protest, he held up his hand. "It is the drink Jones prefers. We must be exact about this if we are to have any hope of success. Then you are to wait until a man comes up to you and tries to sell you an automobile. You will give the man the envelope you find in your pocket and take from him a key and a packet of papers. I need not remind you," he said, "that I expect nine of these packets returned to me by those of you not contacted. Are there any questions?"
"The address of the place I'm to go?" Jax asked, in that overly polite way he had adopted for dealing with their temporary boss.
"In the pocket of the jacket you're wearing, along with the money. You won't carry an R/T, but you may wish to carry a weapon, if you feel it can be adequately concealed."
A shoulder holster couldn't be concealed under the jacket unless it was zippered up, and this style was usually worn open inside a building. At least he realized that much. One could never take for granted what Cornell knew and didn't know.
"How long should we stay?" asked Wolley, settling his collar.
"Until closing time, if necessary." Cornell didn't say it, but the 'of course' rang through the room anyway. The man was given to a sarcastic, aristocratic tone at times.
Doyle wasn't going to ask the obvious question. Nor was Bodie. Or Wolley.
"Do we go tonight?" That was Jax, resigned to the position of sacrificial goat. He just wanted this farce of a briefing over with so he could go home. George Cowley had held his meetings in the morning. Reginald liked his at the end of the day, just before he headed home, regardless of the problems it created for other members of the staff.
"Friday evening! You are released to your usual duties until then. Good evening, gentlemen." He nodded and left, followed by the young man with the clothes rack and preceded by an equally earnest fellow who rushed ahead to open the door.
It was silent for a few moments--until the sounds of their superior's retreat had completely faded.
"Usual duties! I bet he doesn't even know what assignment I'm on!" Wolley said, and then he swore, for he had a look at the slip of paper he pulled from his pocket. "Clear across town from the obbo, damn him! I hope he's assigned someone to take over for me!"
An impolite snort of laughter from someone in the group expressed the general feeling.
"'ow much," Doyle said, exaggerating his speech just a bit for emphasis, "d'ye think?" He lifted up his arm, and Bodie pinched at the material like a fussy shopper to complete the scenario.
"Hundred quid?" Jax guessed.
"Twice that, sure," someone else suggested.
"The Cow is going to hit orbit," Doyle predicted.
"Which budget do you suppose he got this out of?" asked another.
"Doesn't matter. They'll all be empty before the old man gets back. Why did he have to pick now to get that bloody leg fixed?" Jax mourned.
"Not like he had a choice," Doyle reminded him.
"He'd put it off too many times already. The minister ordered it, practically," Wilcox said. That last part was rumour, but it was accepted as the probable truth by almost everyone.
"I had a date for Friday," Bodie said, changing the subject.
That brought on a chorus of similar complaints. The one advantage, if it could be called that, of Cornell's administration was that they kept much more to a traditional nine to five schedule. Compared to Cowley's run-run-run twenty hour days, it was almost a vacation, but there was a general longing for the good old days around the squad. Cowley would be back in only four weeks. On several calendars, there was a large red X marking the date.
The group broke up. They moved towards the exit, chattering, and did not notice the two who did not join them.
"The fair Angelina will just have to make do with the television," Doyle predicted. "Do her good, staying at home for once."
"That one won't stay at home," Bodie said, sadly.
"Look on the bright side. It's saved you a bundle," Doyle speculated.
"Cost me more later to make it up to her," Bodie disagreed, shaking his head.
"Can't see what you like about her." Doyle inclined his head in the direction of the door, and Bodie gathered up his own jacket which he had taken off to put on the leather one. They were in no hurry to leave, for there would be a bottleneck at the door as the agents checked out. No use hurrying just to wait in line.
"She's got class," Bodie said, taking up the conversation again.
"If you say so."
"Don't recognize it when you see it?" Bodie grinned.
"I wouldn't say that. By the way, I'm joining you for dinner," Doyle announced.
Bodie winked. "You've been doing that a lot. People will begin to talk."
"Only about how your taste has improved. Let's go."
By the time they visited their lockers and signed out, it was getting dark. A brisk fall wind chased them out to Bodie's car. Traffic was no better than usual, and it was a full hour later that they parked and made their way to a small dark pub. They ordered, ate and drank a few beers, and at eight they were in the dingy office of the owner, sitting on two chairs which had been damaged too much to continue service out in the main room, waiting for the phone to ring.
When it did, Bodie said hello and launched into the details of their day. His report was succinct, but punctuated by silences in which the man on the other end of the line gave advice or suggestions. George Cowley was supposed to be having a complete rest away from his work as his leg healed and he went through the therapy his doctor said he needed. Being Cowley, he had insured that he would not remain in ignorance of what was occurring during his convalescence. It probably did nothing to speed his recovery when he heard what his replacement was up to. It was not his place to criticize the man chosen by the Prime Minister herself, but Cowley's opinions were predictable and pithy, even when he didn't get specific.
Bodie did not tell him about the jackets, but he did tell about Jones and the scheme to intercept the information which Cornell had come up with.
"He smells a rodent," Bodie said when the call was over. It was never more than ten or fifteen minutes long, the time it took Cowley's nurse to get his hot milk before bed. The hot milk had a splash of brandy in it, the only alcohol permitted him, and Cowley endured it for that reason alone.
"Yeah, well, he's not the only one. What're we to do?"
"Same as before. Follow orders. Cowley can't countermand them, he's officially off the roll, but he can give suggestions. He says the same thing as before. Document everything." Bodie hated typing and had been doing a great deal of it after hours on the manual machine Cowley had given them before he left. That was one gift horse he should have looked in the mouth--and then shot.
"I'll pick you up in the morning," Doyle said, when Bodie let him off.
"Right," Bodie agreed, and drove off in his usual breakneck style. He went home, typed, bathed and went to bed. He was getting entirely too many full night's sleep of late. Unnatural.
Early mornings were normal, however. Doyle picked him up and they ate pastries and drank coffee in the car while worming their way through the morning traffic.
They discussed the roles they were to play the following night. They were not looking forward to it, exactly, but they had been assigned a series of less than exciting assignments ever since Cowley had gone and they were ready for more than dull routine. They had sat in court all day today to utter three sentences, escorted prisoners, done more than their share of duty in the files and records, and substituted for ailing fellow agents and driven visitors of varying importance. Today was to be more of the same.
"Mine isn't that far from yours," Doyle noted, as they compared slips of paper. "Not familiar with the area," he added, brow wrinkled as he tried to place it.
"What, not the beat you walked as a bobby?" Bodie wanted to know. "Thought you knew the whole Town like the back of your hand."
"I do. Which should tell you something about how well most people know the back of their hand. Why don't they say something realistic, like knowing something as well as you know your cock?"
"Because some people wouldn't know their own cock if it bit them and the rest are birds. Birds don't have 'em," Bodie explained kindly, before he slid the car through a space which should have been too small for it. Then he winked at Doyle, who rolled his eyes.
"Think the old man will call tonight?" Doyle asked, changing the subject.
"Maybe. Coming with me?"
That was their last exchange until they met again that evening at the lift.
"What happened to you?" was Doyle's first question. There was the beginning of a black eye blooming on the left side of Bodie's face.
"Door," Bodie said.
"You'll have a matching set if you keep that up." Doyle not only led the way out of the building, but he pushed Bodie into the car, slammed the door and slid into the driver's seat. Then he asked again, "What happened?"
"It was a door. Blown off its hinges. We found that nest of terrorists Mr Cornell told us wasn't there."
"Ah. Safely under lock and key?"
"Actually, no. Half of them got out the back and over the fence. Not enough backup."
"It's a problem with all of our recent jobs, or hadn't you noticed?" Doyle scowled, and said, "Nothing was said about backup in the bars and pubs tomorrow night, either. Can't just assume it will be there, can you?"
"No. On our own. Considering how often Cornell is right, what are you worried about? We won't have to worry because nobody will be there to pick up the money," he predicted. Bodie leaned his head against the back of his seat and gave an imperial wave. "Drive, James."
"If you didn't have that black eye, I'd give you one myself," Doyle grumbled, but he started the car and headed for the pub. "Sure you don't want to just go home?"
"I'm sure. Leave it, Doyle."
"If you fall face first into your sandwich, I'm going to leave you there," Doyle threatened mildly.
"You do that." Bodie closed his eyes to get a little rest in while he could. He woke up with a start when Doyle stopped the car. "Here already?" Bodie asked, struggling out of both the car and his sleep-induced fog.
"Yes. Move your rotting carcass in there." Doyle held the door open for him, then closed and locked it when Bodie at last vacated the spot.
"You say the sweetest things," Bodie said, in a feeble attempt at humour.
Doyle held the heavy wooden door of the pub open for him and did not answer, merely pushed him through it and towards their usual table. Bodie did not eat much, but Doyle did not comment, just hauled him back for his conversation with the old man. Cowley was pleased that the terrorists had been located, displeased that so many had got away, and had a great deal to say, but he cut the conversation short. No doubt his nurse had returned early.
Doyle drove Bodie home and left him with a wave, and Bodie went up to his flat and spent an entire hour in a hot tub of water before he crawled out, feeling much better. He didn't climb into bed at once, however. He went to his bureau, pulled open the bottom drawer and fetched out his only pair of jeans.
He had worn them twice before, both times when he was undercover. They were Levi Strauss, with buttons, and depending on when the last time he had been run through Macklin's mill, they were either tight, or extremely tight. He pulled them on, wincing as he was forced to put a little pressure on the bruise on his thigh. Holding his breath, he buttoned them up.
Tight. The four pounds he'd put on this month made a difference. He regretted the chocolate he'd craved last week. How did Doyle stand it? Little sod was always wearing jeans which looked as if they'd been painted on. One time having a little cock came in handy? He felt pity for Doyle. Bodie remembered the first time he'd seen his partner naked. In the shower, it was. Doyle had turned and Bodie had found himself staring. He hadn't said anything, though. For one thing, he hadn't known Doyle well at that point, and he didn't want to get his head removed--Doyle's temper was the first thing he had discovered about his new partner. For another, what could he say? It wasn't that it was tiny, or unusual. Nicely coloured and proportioned, in fact. Just a little under the average, the same way Bodie's was just a little above the average.
Bodie skinned out of the jeans and threw them over the chair. He had a black tee shirt he could wear with that, and his motorcycle boots. He packed it all into a bag, the leather jacket, money in pocket, draped over it. All ready for tomorrow night. Thank ghod he could wear normal clothing during the day. Twelve hours in those things and he'd loose his sunny disposition.
The bed felt good. That was all he had time to think before the nasty buzz of his alarm woke him up. He moved like a plodding elephant through his morning routine, for the damages he had acquired the day before were now vocal ones. Each muscle screamed as he forced it to obey. A hot shower muted most of them, and the rest of his aches settled down after a huge breakfast and two cups of coffee.
He and Doyle were going in separately this morning, so Bodie fought the traffic on his own, arriving with five minutes to spare and pulling up beside Doyle just as his partner was climbing from his gold car. Doyle grinned, a wide grin which showed the tooth he had chipped last year, and waited for him.
They proceeded into the quiet dullness which had characterized CI5 the last few months. Agents greeted each other with a few words and went out on the street if they could. Mr Cornell had a bad habit of hauling in the unwary for Sincere Talks of one sort or another. The man appreciated an audience, and if he did not have one, he found one.
Doyle had reports to type up, and he got right to them, bending over his manual typewriter with fingers curved as if he knew what he was doing. Bodie went down to trade in his gun for one which "felt better," and to sign out more ammunition for it. He put in some time on the range--it secretly irked him that Doyle was a better shot--and then he lingered to help Hansen unpack a new consignment of rifles. He went up to join Doyle for the noon meal.
In the afternoon, they won the privilege of unpacking office supplies. Every box and crate which was brought into CI5 went first to a small room where it was inspected, checked for bugs, and in some cases even x-rayed. Packing papers and cardboard cartons weren't brought in, but torn down and sent out again. Anything typed or written on which did not go to the clerks was shredded.
It was not a useless operation. Once a month, and sometimes more often, a bug, a bomb or some other device came to light. Most of them were planted by Cowley, and woe the agent who did not discover the hidden item! The other things had origins in China, Russia, the United States, or even other British agencies. Mr Willis was still the biggest local offender.
Mr Cowley had looked upon it as good training for his agents and had been no more than mildly amused at each discovery. It was doubtful that Mr Cornell understood that it was done at all.
They left early for the evening, going their separate ways. Cowley had not arranged to talk to him tonight and, to his surprise, Bodie missed it. He wondered if it were the chats which were so important, or the feeling of putting one over on the idiot who currently headed the office. To be part of George Cowley's unofficial network meant more than to be part of Cornell's official CI5.
Bodie ate only a bite before he dressed, mindful of the already tight jeans. Once dressed, he slid on the leather jacket. Nice. Supple blackness, with that new-leather smell still on it. Not the style he might have chosen, but once it was on, he admitted to himself that it suited him well. His wide shoulders looked wider, and his waist trimmer. As no one was about, he preened in front of the mirror for a moment, turning this way and that until he had seen himself from all angles.
Bodie arrived quietly ten minutes before the hour. He walked in close behind a group of loud, laughing men, letting it appear that he was with them at first while he looked over the place. It was busy, that he could tell right away. In the back, a group of men were clustered around a television. Some sort of board game occupied men in one comer. The bar was doing a brisk business. Bodie went to stand with the crowd there, and he eavesdropped shamelessly on the conversations of the men on all sides. He ordered what the man before him ordered, and found himself sipping a bland beer as he looked out over the room.
All men. Mostly young men. He added that to the fragments of conversation and to the way several men were giving him the eye and came up with two, two and then four. Bloody Cornell had sent him into a gay bar.
Should be thankful it's a nice clean place, he admonished himself as he took another look around. A stool at the bar became free and he hiked one buttock onto it, half sitting, which was all his tight jeans would allow him. The next thing which became clear was that he was not dressed correctly for staying in the background and not drawing attention to himself. He was getting the eye from more than one. Only a matter of time before he had company.
"Buy you another one of those?" asked a deep voice at his elbow, although it was obvious that only a third of Bodie's drink was gone.
"No, thanks. Waiting for a friend," Bodie added, when the other man opened his mouth to try another approach. The man shrugged and went in search of more willing company.
Men came and went Bodie bought himself another beer and watched the crowd. His butt was uncomfortable, and he finally gave in and boosted himself up to sit properly. No one who approached him wanted to sell a car. A few of them wondered if he had something else for sale and went away disappointed.
Bodie was beginning to wonder if all ten CI5 agents were in places like this, if it was all an elaborate joke for which Cornell had fallen. It was, unfortunately, all too easy to imagine such a thing happening.
"I'd ask if you come here often, but I know you don't."
Bodie turned his head to look at the speaker. Five nine, husky, blond, blue eyes, scar on his left hand near the wrist. He lifted his glass to his lips and didn't answer.
"So my next question is, what do I call you?" The stranger was not at all discouraged. He gave Bodie an attractive smile and waited.
"If I told you my name, you'd probably take it as encouragement. I'm not encouraging you." Bodie made eye contact, holding it for that extra second which would add weight to his message.
"Then what in the world are you doing here?" the man asked. He didn't appear discouraged by Bodie's words, and in fact, he had taken the stool to Bodie's right.
"Waiting." Bodie put down his empty glass and signalled for another.
"Ah? And not for me, that's clear. Well, never let it be said that I'm thick," he leaned forward and whispered, "although I am, actually, if you fancy that sort of thing?" And, in a louder voice he said, "If you change your mind, my name is Don, and I won't be too far away."
Bodie gave a polite nod and pretended interest in his new beer.
"Who are you waiting for?" asked the bartender. He was wiping up a few drops of beer from the polished surface at Bodie's elbow with a fresh white rag.
Bodie turned to look at the man directly. Five ten, lean, well-muscled, brown hair, brown eyes, luxurious moustache. The man was giving him a measuring look which did not quite hide a growing suspicion. In a minute, the man was going to come to a not-so-wrong conclusion, and everybody else would develop the same opinion afterwards from the way the barkeeper treated him.
"I'm waiting for a friend," Bodie said, and he let a smile touch his lips, the sensuous remembering smile that usually came onto his face when recalling Linda, or Claire.
An answering smile showed on the bartender's face. "Worth the wait, is he?" the man asked, polishing the counter with circular strokes, his eyes still wary.
"Yes." Bodie smiled warmly and took a deep drink while turning to look at a new group of men coming in the door.
"Late, is he?"
"Not very. Not sure when he can get away." The door opened again. The place was filling up, and the man stopped polishing to fill the orders being called out to him.
But he was back twenty minutes later. A second man had appeared behind the counter to assist him.
"Maybe he found somebody else." The man asked it casually, but there was both curiosity and suspicion behind it still.
Bodie shook his head, trying to project confidence. "No chance."
"That sure of him. Must be nice. What's his name?"
"Ray." Bodie closed his mouth, surprised.
Where the hell did that come from? Bodie paused, glass halfway to his mouth, and then had to force himself to bring it up to his lips normally. Ray was going to bust a gut laughing over this one. If Bodie was ever stupid enough to tell him, which he wasn't.
"Something special, your Ray?"
A man stood beside Bodie, waiting for his drink from the other bartender. "What a charming coincidence," he cooed. "My name is Ray. What's yours, handsome?"
Five seven, blond hair going grey, blue eyes, limp wrist.
"Unavailable," Bodie told him.
"Don't be difficult, sugar. I'm not asking for forever, you know. Just the next...."
"Move it, Jones," the bartender ordered. The Ray pouted, but he took his drink and moved.
"Jones?" Bodie asked.
"They're all Jones to me. Watch out for that one, though. He's got all seven varieties of syphilis, and he doesn't mind sharing."
"Charming," Bodie said, in imitation of that gentleman. He glanced at the clock. Only ten after ten. Not even half over. Worse, he was getting little reminders from his bladder that told him that four beers needed release in the immediate future. He held it for ten more minutes, then sighed and put down his empty glass. He nodded to the friendly bartender and snaked his way through the tangles and clusters of men to the door marked with the traditional circle and arrow. The door next to it was labelled with a question mark. He thought about opening it just to see what might be there, but decided he didn't want to know. He also admitted to himself that his bladder wasn't interested in any delays.
The room was full. He joined the line for the urinals. The man behind him pressed against him. Bodie applied an elbow and found there was suddenly more room. He decided that one reason for the delay was that one of the two stalls was being used from something other than the original purpose. By three men. Men who got vocal when hitting the high point. There was a moan and a curse and a "come on, dammit!" and then a shuddery sigh of ejaculation. Bodie ignored it, but another of the room's patrons applauded long and enthusiastically.
Bodie shuffled up to the urinal, freed his penis and pointed it at the white porcelain. The yellow strewn was joined by another. A white hand reached towards Bodie's cock. With a flick of his wrist, Bodie spattered a few warm drops onto the reaching hand. The message was understood. The hand was withdrawn. Bodie shook himself dry, tucked himself away, buttoned up and got out of there.
Two men were kissing at the end of the short corridor behind the dubious screen of a floor polisher and a mop bucket. Bodie turned his head so he didn't see them and returned to the main room. He snagged an empty chair from a table as he passed, and was going to place it where he could see the door, but a stool at the bar opened up and he opted for that instead. Someone else took the chair with a shout of thanks.
The bartender handed him a beer. Bodie nodded his thanks, pushed over his notes and took a deep swig. For some reason, his excursion had made him thirsty.
"What's your Ray look like? I'll tell you if he came in while you were gone," the bartender said.
"Notice everybody who comes in, do you?"
"If they look good, dangerous or flatfooted, yeah."
Bodie nodded. "He's just shorter than I am. Curls. Green eyes. Nice body."
"Can see why you wait. He's not here."
Bodie pretended disappointment, and then realized that he wasn't pretending at all. If you have to sit for three hours in a gay pub, do it with Ray Doyle. Ray would whisper outrageous things, commenting on who he saw and what they did. Ray would camp it up and make him laugh, and the time would pass at least twice as fast as it was now. Just turned ten thirty. Would this night ever end?
"My, you're a big fellow!"
Since this observation came from a man easily three inches taller and thirty pounds heavier than Bodie, it was an attention-getting line. Bodie shook his head. Brown hair, brown eyes. Broken nose.
"Sure you're not interested? I'm versatile," the man promised, with a smile that could melt ice.
"I'm taken," Bodie said with his own smile. "Sorry."
"I could be taken, too," the man persisted.
"Sorry," Bodie repeated. Did women have to put up with this kind of crap if they went to bars or pubs without a man? A wonder they went out at all.
"Your loss," the man said, and pushed off for greener pastures.
Bodie stiffened his jaws as a yawn tried to escape. Boring. He swallowed more beer.
The character of the clientele was changing now. Men had matched up and left, and the new men coming in had a harder look to them. It was an older group, as well, most of them Bodie's age or a bit more.
"I'm ready," a man told Bodie, shoving up against him boldly as he reached for the drink the bartender had just slid across the bar. He rubbed his groin against Bodie's leg, letting Bodie feel his hardness.
Bodie was not impressed. "Get lost," he advised the man rudely, and shoved him away. Five ten, heavy, and not with muscle. Blue eyes, small and unhappy.
"Here, now!" the man objected, his stance becoming aggressive.
"Be civil, the both of you," growled the bartender, "or I'll have you thrown out."
The man frowned but moved away.
Bodie wished he didn't have to endure the advances, but if he didn't allow any and all to speak to him, then he wouldn't be available for the contact he was here to make.
"Your Ray had better get here soon." The counter was being wiped down at Bodie's elbow again. "If he doesn't, leave. I'll give him a message, tell him where to meet you."
"Why?" Bodie wanted to know, most of his attention apparently on his drink.
"You're teasing them. Flaunting your body in those tight jeans, but turning 'em all down. Turning 'em all on, too, with that aloof act."
"Act?" Bodie's word told the other that it was no act.
The bartender stopped wiping the counter and gave up any pretence of work. He leaned closer. "So it's not an act. Doesn't matter. Anybody can see you're a hard man. But you start a fight in here and the boss is going to peel the skin off your body. And mine." He gave Bodie a deep glance.
"No fights," Bodie agreed.
"That's what you say now, but you've the look of a man who swings his fists when provoked." The man reached out and drew a thumb along the bruise under Bodie's eye.
"Not me. The most peaceful of men, that's me," Bodie insisted. "That was Ray, that was. Possessive bastard," he added in a warm tone, as if that characteristic was to be indulgently admired. Inside he was laughing at the thought of Doyle battering him to keep him in line. Bodie wasn't the type to endure that, nor was Doyle the type to do it.
"Possessive or not, if you're here at closing time, I'm taking you home with me," the bartender told him.
"I'll go to the funeral," Bodie told him, and he didn't make it light or funny.
"Hot-tempered, is he?"
"Regular pepper pot," Bodie agreed.
"Bet that makes things interesting in bed. Maybe he's the one I should take home with me!"
Bodie shrugged. "You could try."
"Works both ways, then, does it? Married him?"
"Yeah." The way he and Doyle had to live in each other's pockets sometimes, it felt like that. But imagine being married to Ray! Having to put up with his careless habits and his bear-in-the-morning temper, day in and day out! Course, he had been known to cook, and he shared the chores willingly enough. Could do worse, he joked to himself, and the smile which came to his lips only helped to foster the impression he was giving.
"He should keep you in polonecks and loose trousers, then, shouldn't he?"
Bodie, who had been tilting back the glass for the last of his beer, almost choked as his normal attire was described. His recovery was good, but the man gave him an odd look as he went to fetch another.
The next idiot who tried it on went for the direct approach. A large hand settled over the bulge in Bodie's jeans. "I've found what I want!"
Six two, broad shoulders, no neck, handsome face flushed red, topped by black hair. Big bones. Powerful. Bodie's hand closed on the man's wrist, hard, while he looked into the whisky brown eyes.
"No, you haven't. Unless what you want is an early grave." Bodie applied pressure, moving his thumb to the point between thumb and first finger that was sensitive.
The man twisted his hand free and smiled at him through narrowed eyes. "No. I want your arse."
"Sorry. It's already spoken for." The fiction came easily to his lips.
"Yeah. By me. Come on, tough man. I can give you what you want."
"Sorry." Bodie said it again, firmly. "I'm waiting for somebody."
"For the last two hours?" asked the man, scornfully. "He's not going to show! You've been stood up, sugar! If you want to score, you'll have to settle for the available talent. Me."
"No. I wanted somebody a little smarter. You can't even tell when you're not wanted."
The man was offended. "Are you calling me stupid?"
"Got it in one. Go play somewhere else." Bodie's voice was steel.
"Do what he says, Pat. It's as he said. He's waiting for someone." The bartender handed Bodie his beer and gave one to Pat as well. "You don't want to annoy his Ray. Regular madman, he is."
Pat took the bribe of the beer, gave Bodie an intense look, and pushed off into the crowd. Only then did Bodie let his grin escape.
"Know Ray, do you?" he asked, knowing there was no way it was possible, but wanting to hear what the man would say.
"Only by reputation. Is that him, at the door?"
Bodie's head turned, a feeling of anticipation warming him. It all went away as he saw the bloke being pointed out. "Nah. Ray's slimmer. Got a way of walking you can't miss." Bodie had never tried to put it into words before, that liquid way of moving that Ray gave to almost anything he did.
"Sounds better and better. Where'd you find a paragon like that?" The bartender brought a tray of glasses over so that he could dry them while he talked. The other man behind the bar, a wrinkled and wiry man of Cowley's age and build, gave a disgusted look but made no protest.
"Just turned around one day and there he was," Bodie cheerfully lied. "Didn't like him much at first. He's not easy to know. Wants everything his own way," he added, remembering.
"Everything?" An eyebrow went up, signalling all sorts of erotic implications.
Bodie didn't deny it. Let the man think what he liked. He'd already been useful.
"Top man, is he?"
That was a bit further than Bodie wanted to take it, and he threw the man a look which said it wasn't any of his business.
Any more questions which might have been forthcoming died unborn when, over in the corner, a fight started. Two big men taking wild swings at each other, with the predictable result of damaging and annoying the other patrons. Within seconds there was a knot of punching and cursing, which was moving towards the center of the room, where there was more room to swing.
"Bloody hell," the barman moaned with irritated resignation. He reached under the counter and touched a button, and then picked up a truncheon wrapped in padding and tape and came around the counter. He began shouting for order, laying about with his weapon to good effect.
Bodie planned to stay out of it. Not only was he still feeling a variety of aches and twinges from his encounter with the flying door, but this one wasn't his fight. It would be just his luck if he missed his contact because of it, and Cornell wouldn't be kind at all. He'd already expressed a scorn for Cowley's evaluation of 3.7 and 4.5 as the best team in CI5.
But then some bastard hit the barman from behind, causing him to fall to his knees, and Bodie resented it enough to push off from the bar, take hold of the burly man who'd done the deed, and administer a well-deserved thump. Unfortunately, this put him right in the middle of the fight. Also unfortunately, Bodie started enjoying it. For once, he was not up against trained bully boys, soldiers, or foreign agents with nasty tricks. Plain old John Q. Public, against which a CI5 agent had distinct advantages.
Which is not to say he found it easy. Any notion he had about delicate or effeminate fairies was swept away in the maelstrom of flailing fists. He was keeping himself to the centre of the room, at the barman's back, at first, but as they were moved with the flow of the bodies, he found himself a few minutes later, much closer to the far wall--and to the centre of the fight.
A wild swing meant for the barman connected with Bodie's head, causing him to stagger up against the wall. Shaking his head to clear it, he heard something--a shout--which caused him to raise his head suddenly.
Ray. At the door, Ray Doyle stood, hands on hips, evaluating the wild scene. With a resigned shake of his head, he waded in.
In action, Ray Doyle was poetry. He was fast, smooth, deadly. He took out one man with a snap kick even as his hands put two more on the floor. All the while he was calling for the group to break it up in his best copper's voice, authority laced with steel promise of immediate doom to any who did not obey.
Something odd happened to Bodie as he sagged against the wall, watching his partner. His eyes were on the wild curls, on the flashing leather-clad arms and the smooth action of the long legs and booted feet, and a thought came to him.
Hot on the heels of that thought came another so shattering, so startling, so unexpected that Bodie stood upright, mouth dropping open. He never even saw the fist which slid off one man's jaw and landed solidly against his shoulder, pushing him back again with enough force to cause his head to thump against the wall.
He saw stars, but the idea which had transfixed him did not leave his brain, but rattled about, gaining a reality and growing with every breath he gasped for. Oxygen deprivation, he told himself, knowing that was a lie. It's just a case of suggestibility all because he'd spent an evening in this place, was his second thought, but that was a lie, too. The truth thudded in his temple with the pulse of his blood.
Love/want/need/adore...Ray Doyle? Scruffy, irritating, aggravating, argumentative Ray Doyle? The impossibility of the truth, as much as the effects of the blow, caused him to start slowly sliding down the wall. He was aware that Ray had increased his furious action, that he was coming this direction, a human tornado of destruction. He was even aware that most of what he felt was on his face. He just couldn't manage to make himself care about anything much except the wild beauty of Ray Doyle's face.
The button the barman had pushed had brought two big bouncers, who had started in on the group from the direction of the back room. The crowd was starting to falter, to know that the fun was over and that it was time to fade away if retribution was to be avoided. In less than a minute the fight had dissolved. The barman was directing the bouncers as to which patrons were to be tossed out into the street. Already, the old man at the bar had resumed dispensing drinks. Bodie had slipped down as far as he could and was stretched out, mostly supported by the wall. He watched, bemused, as Ray, worried, angry, came down to his level, straddling his sprawled form, grabbed him by the leather jacket and thrust his belligerent face to Bodie's.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Doyle hissed, giving Bodie a little shake. But then he faltered, the unusual expression on Bodie's face giving him pause. "Bodie?"
Bodie couldn't yet answer. His throat was dry. He tried to smile, but he could tell from the look on Doyle's face that it wasn't a total success.
"Bodie?" This time there was confusion and hesitation, and something else, in Doyle's voice.
"You must be Ray," said a warm masculine voice. "You're certainly all he said you were," the man added, with admiration. "I'm Joe Calbury. Is he hurt?"
Doyle looked at the man he still held by one hand on the leather jacket. "Nah," he said, standing up and pulling Bodie with him. He let go of the jacket and straightened his own. Bodie leaned against the wall, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and mentally taking inventory of his bumps and bruises, but all the while staring at Doyle.
"He was a help to me. One on the house, for both of you?" the man offered. Doyle draped Bodie's arm over his shoulder to help him over to the bar, scowling when Joe made to offer support on Bodie's other side. "Oops. Forgot. He did say you were possessive," the barman said, and backed off. Keeping a reasonable distance between them, he led the way. Doyle let Bodie sag onto a stool, took the one next to him, and when a glass was put into his hand, he took a sip. Fighting was dry work.
Doyle let the taste of the drink register, then looked at the glass with respect. "Has he been swilling these all night?"
"No, it's just been beer with him." Joe had filled a glass for himself, despite house policy. Fighting was dry work.
"Quite a few, by the looks of him."
"Half-dozen over two, three hours? Should be nothing to a nice big lad like him."
Bodie roused enough to take control of his face, which went back to his usual bland neutrality, and the conversation. "Stop talking about me as if I weren't here!"
"Oh, back with the living, are you?" Doyle wanted to know.
Bodie ignored that, took a swallow of his drink and looked more cheerful at once, which is why he squawked when Ray took it out of his hand. "That's mine!"
"Not if you were hit hard in the head, it's not!"
"I wasn't! Not hard, anyway. Just momentarily dazed. I'm fine now!"
"You...." Doyle did not get to finish his sentence, for Joe interrupted.
"Claws in, dears. Look, Ray, why don't you take him home and tuck him into bed? Good night's sleep is what he needs." As the barman spoke, Bodie took his glass from Doyle and drained most of it in one quick swallow. "You can make up in the morning," he added with a wink.
Ray took a swallow of his own drink, his eyes measuring the other man, not asking any of the questions running around in his brain. Some sign of them must have registered on his face, for Calbury leaned forward as if to talk privately to Doyle.
"Word to the wise, sugar. He had to beat back the wolves all night. If you want to keep this treasure for yourself, you'd better stop sending him out alone in black leather and tight jeans."
"I'll keep it in mind," Doyle said, and finished off his drink. "Come on, Bodie."
"Is that his name? Bodie? Well, gents, thanks for the help, and come back again some time, but try to come together, eh?" With a wink for the double meaning, he collected their glasses and turned back to his work.
Bodie went meekly, and because of the stiffness in his back, slowly. Moving helped, though, and by the time they were outside, he had straightened up and was moving more normally.
"Wait. It's not midnight yet," Bodie realized. He turned wearily to go back in.
"Berk. That's why I'm here. It's called off. All just a ploy to make CI5 look stupid. We all ended up in leather in what might be called questionable establishments. Yours wasn't so bad. Mine had chains decorating the walls!"
"You mean I stood there and put up with that shit for nothing?" Bodie stood a little straighter. "I'll strangle that little...."
"Too late. They're already working on him. Experts this time, not Mr Bloody-Stupid Cornell. And speaking of idiots, what possessed you to tell that man we were lovers?"
Bodie shrugged. "I thought it would keep them off me if I said I was waiting for someone."
"You. Surprised me when I looked up and saw you were actually there!"
Doyle began moving down the street. Quite slowly, he said, "That wasn't just surprise I saw on your face."
"Yeah, well, sorry."
Doyle pretended he didn't hear. "Just exactly what was that I saw on your face?"
Bodie said nothing. He was heading for his car, but they reached Doyle's first, and Doyle halted him by putting a hand on his arm.
"Just for a second, Bodie, I thought it looked like you were lusting after my body."
"Just for a second, you were right. But don't worry about it. I got over it quickly," Bodie told him. It wasn't lust Doyle had seen on his face, but how do you explain something like sudden unnatural love to a man like Doyle? Especially when it made no sense to Bodie either. Love? Ray? What a stupid thing to imagine. If he didn't have this strange longing sitting in his chest even now, he would never believe it could happen. Lust, maybe. But not this.
"Yeah. Sure. You know how it is. In a fight. Gets your blood going. Just the excitement."
"I do know how it is. Just for a minute, as I was hauling you to your feet...."
When Doyle didn't go on, Bodie made an encouraging, questioning sound.
"We were face to face, and I almost kissed you. Of course, I also felt like punching you in the face, so I guess you're lucky I suppressed all my reactions. A pub fight! Hell, Bodie, you know better than that! Cowley will...."
"Cowley won't know, will he? He's still in hospital! And I don't give a fuck what Cornell thinks. I didn't start the fight, and I helped restore order. It's what we're supposed to do, isn't it?" Bodie demanded.
"Just as well I didn't kiss you, but I should have punched you in the nose," Doyle said. "Get in. I'm driving you home."
"You're in no shape to drive. Get in, Bodie. Might as well, because you're in no shape to argue!"
Bodie did as he was told. It was not worth arguing about, and he felt like a regiment had marched over him. Doyle got in, started the car and began driving. Neither of them spoke for quite a while. Then, out of the dark silence, Bodie spoke.
"You almost kissed me?"
Doyle braked for a group of laughing people and then answered. "It was the look on your face. As if that's what you expected. Wanted."
"I did," Bodie confessed. "All the atmosphere in that place," he tried to explain to himself, to Doyle. "You should have heard what they were doing in the stalls. Sounded like somebody was being sucked and screwed at the same time.
"That turned you on?" Doyle wanted to know.
"The sounds would have turned anybody on."
"Sounds are one thing. Ever been fucked?"
Bodie turned his head sharply towards Doyle. "No!"
"Ever been sucked by a man?"
Bodie sat in silence. Doyle waited. At last, Bodie said, "Once. In Africa. We were going crazy with the waiting. Somebody suggested it. I don't know who. I didn't complain when somebody started on me."
"Did you do it in return?" Doyle asked.
"No. Look, Doyle, just drop it!"
"Why not?" Bodie asked bluntly.
"Because it's best to know if you're going to get an unpleasant surprise."
"Pardon?" Bodie shook his head to try to clear the faint buzz out of his ears. He wasn't quite sure he understood what was being said. Or at least, what was meant.
"I did almost kiss you," Doyle muttered, almost to himself.
Bodie, lulled by the sound of the motor and his own tiredness, said nothing. The darkness lured him into a doze. He woke when Doyle set the brake. "Where are we?" Bodie asked, straightening up.
"But," Bodie began again.
"Mine, Bodie, because your place doesn't have the ginger."
"The what?" Bodie got out of the car, moving on automatic pilot, and followed Doyle, who had locked the car and was leading the way up the steps.
"Ginger. Go to the bathroom, take off all your clothes."
"Ginger?" Bodie was still back at the first part of the sentence.
"Just do it," Doyle ordered, locking up and heading for the kitchen. Bodie went to the bathroom, sitting for a long time slumped on the toilet, clearing his system, before he cleaned himself. Just after he flushed, Doyle bustled in, arms full, and started the bath water running.
"What," Bodie said, eyeing the dish in Doyle's hand, "is that?"
"Grated ginger root." He proceeded to toss it into the hot water, causing the sharp smell of it to intensify. He stirred it around well, testing the water, and when the tub was full, he ordered, "Get in."
"In that?" Bodie protested. "What am I, the main ingredient in soup?"
"Not quite. You'll like this, Bodie. Just the thing for sore muscles. Do you need help?"
"No, I don't need any bloody help," Bodie said, and cautiously he stepped in, and then lowered his body into the water. "It's hot!" he complained.
"It has to be. Now, lean back and relax."
Bodie obeyed him, but after a moment, he looked at Doyle. "You're still here."
"I have to be. If you're not used to it, you can get too relaxed. Don't want you to drown, do we?"
Bodie just closed his eyes and relaxed. The hot water was wonderful, and the smell and the steam and the.... "What are you doing?" he asked suddenly. Doyle was draping a towel soaked in the hot water over the parts of his knees which were above water.
"Helps if you're completely immersed, but this is second best. Close your eyes and lean back, Bodie."
So he did, and when Doyle shook him awake forty minutes later, he was so groggy he could barely force himself up--but he felt much better. He came alert as he felt a hand on his toes.
"What are you doing now?" he asked.
"Fitting in this special screen on the drain. Don't want these bits of ginger in the pipes. Cause problems." Once the filter was in place, he helped Bodie out, dried him, and sent him to bed while he cleaned up.
In the bedroom, Bodie sat on the edge of the bed, wanting the warmth of the covers, but thinking instead about how he was crawling into Doyle's bed. He'd shared a bed with his partner before, both on the job and on occasions when he didn't want to drink and drive. No different from before, right?
But it was.
He just wanted.
"Why aren't you in bed?" Doyle came through, hands full of soggy ginger, on his way to the kitchen to dispose of it.
Bodie didn't answer, but when Doyle came back, he was under the blankets, head turned away from the light, eyes closed. The overhead light snapped out. There were the sounds of Doyle, undressing, and then the dip of the bed.
One part of his brain said, you're in bed with a man, get up. Go home. Another part of it shocked him deeply, because the thought came clearly. He's small. It wouldn't hurt much if he put it up me. A shiver went up his spine.
"What," Bodie said, rolling onto his back because it was impolite to hold a conversation with your back to that person. Or was it because it brought him closer to Doyle?
"Hold still." And then Doyle kissed him.
What little will to resist Bodie might have had melted like sugar in hot tea. His arms went around Doyle's nakedness, and he lifted his mouth to him and let Doyle have whatever he wanted to take. He pulled Doyle on top of him, feeling every inch where their skin touched, and made his legs into a cradle or a cage, holding Doyle between them.
Their lips parted with a small sound. Bodie lifted his head to recapture them, but Doyle pushed him down. "What I saw in your eyes tonight, Bodie...." He held his partner's head with steady hands, fingers lightly brushing cheek and jaw line. Then he took another kiss, making it even deeper, and thrusting with his groin as the kiss caused them both to thicken. Bodie shivered. Doyle held him close and whispered soothing things while rubbing against him, and when Bodie put a hand down he found Doyle sporting a shaft as big, if not bigger, than his own.
"But..." he faltered.
"Surprises the birds, too," Doyle whispered in his ear, the hot breath tickling Bodie, causing him to squirm, with delightful side effects. "Amazing transformation, isn't it? And you should see what I can do with it," he promised.
"It won't fit," Bodie agonized, half relieved, half terrified.
"Yes, it will," Doyle darkly promised. "But not tonight. I've got things...things just as good as the ginger, things to make it easy. But not yet. We're not ready for it. We're just beginning, Bodie. I know what you want, Bodie. I saw your face, I know what you were thinking. You want something more than a quick fuck, don't you, Bodie?" Doyle thrust his cock against Bodie's belly and took Bodie's hand, wrapping it so that both cocks were held by both hands. He was panting, hard. "Bodie?"
Then Bodie decided he did not want to talk, that his mouth was wasted on words which could be said later. He kissed, using all his skill. Later on, he'd say it. Later on, when they were both sure, he'd say 'I love you' to Ray. Or maybe he wouldn't. Something about the way Ray was kissing him told him that Ray already knew all about it.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Leather and Blue Jeans, PAL Press, 1993