The force of their argument ran down like a battery run toy car, ending in an inglorious splutter of energy before it died away altogether.
"Right. Well, that's it, then," said Bodie into the silence. "It's over."
"Yes, I suppose it is," agreed Doyle, who was staring with dedication at the floor.
"We both agreed that when the fire burned itself out we'd go our separate ways without making any big deal about it." Bodie's voice held the defensive note of a man who had all his arguments marshalled.
His statement met with no rebuttal, just more silence, until Doyle said, "Yes."
"I didn't expect it to last this long."
"No, you made that much obvious from the first. It's been seven months," Doyle added to the opposite wall.
"Is that all?" Bodie frowned. "I thought it was longer."
"No. Seven months. I thought the time went quickly." Doyle turned away to pour himself a drink. After a moment he thought to offer Bodie one; he was careful to avoid physical contact when he handed Bodie his glass.
"I suppose it did go quickly. In a way." Bodie took a mouthful of scotch, his swallow audible in the quiet of the room. "Us splitting up won't make any difference to the team of course."
"Won't it?" Doyle looked up but Bodie's attention was on the gleaming black leather of his shoes.
"I hope not. I don't see why it should. Us becoming lovers didn't muck up our work, so why should the fact we've stopped - being lovers, I mean."
"I dunno. I've never gone to bed with a partner before - or worked with an ex-lover." His back to the room, Doyle stared out of the window, his untouched drink in his hand.
"You don't think it will work?"
"How the fuck should I know! You're the one who keeps telling me what's going to happen next. Like we're some bloody military campaign!" Aware of the ignominious shake in his voice Doyle fell silent.
Setting his glass down with an audible click, Bodie moved to stand behind him. He stood close enough to become aware of Doyle's warmth. "You don't want this to end?"
"Do you?" Doyle returned.
"I thought you did," Bodie said with care.
"So you decided to get in first."
"Someone had to say something. Why do you always have to dump the blame on me?" demanded Bodie.
"Habit, I expect." An unhappy slump to his shoulders, Doyle sounded tired beyond bearing.
"You don't want me to go?" There was an odd constriction tightening Bodie's throat and chest.
"I never do."
"Oh." Taken aback and not knowing where to go from here, Bodie fiddled with the edge of his jacket, curling and flattening it before curling it in an ever tighter roll.
"You'll ruin your jacket if you keep playing with the leather that way," Doyle told him as he turned, that the first thing which came into his head.
Bodie shrugged. "I've had a while."
"So you don't want it any more?"
"I want it!" Bodie's ferocity made both men pause.
Doyle took an audible breath. "I remember being with you when you bought that jacket. From that shop off Regent Street. You'd just come off that undercover job at the squat. The bloke behind the counter took one whiff and wanted to throw you out."
"So you told him you were my personal assistant and that I was some method actor seeking to perfect my craft." A reminiscent smile lit Bodie's eyes as he picked up the memory of the evening he and Doyle had shared after they'd left the shop. The jacket, too, was only months old, if worn in places. Jackets could be replaced. "I don't want to leave," Bodie announced with flat conviction.
Drowning in the intensity of the gaze levelled at him, Bodie nodded. "All right." He slumped onto the sofa for some much needed support and waited for Doyle to take up the conversational burden. Nothing happened.
"It might be a good idea if we kept a few things at each other's flats. Make it easier for when we want to spend the night together. More convenient," said Bodie, trying to project an air of confidence.
Breath leaking from him when he heard the first breach in Bodie's formidable defences, Doyle was beyond toning down the glow of happiness which was melting the lump of misery within him.
"Much," he agreed, more content with this small beginning than he would have believed possible.
"Unless - " Bodie swirled the scotch around the base of the tumbler. "I suppose there might come a time when we won't need two flats. When we just share one all the time, I mean."
"Whatever you want."
"Eh?" Knowing as well as anyone else in CI5 who made the decisions in this partnership, Bodie stared at his companion. He was disconcerted when he realised Doyle was serious.
"I meant it. I've waited seven months to hear you say you'd like us to live together. If the time's still not right - Well, I've waited this long, I can wait some more. If I have to."
"But for how long?" It was only one of Bodie's fears for their future.
Perching on the sturdy coffee table, so close that his knees brushed Bodie's, Doyle's gaze was a caress. "As long as it takes."
"You're the most impatient bugger I've ever met," Bodie scoffed in an attempt to camouflage the rush of emotion which ambushed him.
"Not when it's something I really want. Think about it," Doyle encouraged.
Staring at his partner's denim covered knees, Bodie did so. As the realisation sank in, he raised astonished eyes.
"I didn't think... That's to say, earlier, I thought... That's why I've been so... I want to live with you. Now. And I want us to come out so we can stop pretending to everyone. I want us to go public."
Terrified of getting this wrong, as he did so often when it mattered most, Doyle cocked his head, relying on flippancy to see them through.
"I dunno if Cowley will go for too much publicity. It's not allowed in public. Two blokes. Two of anyone, come to that. Or even one person. In fact sex of any kind in a public place is out. Just as well, I suppose. We'd be out of a job if everyone decided to make love instead of war."
Undeceived, Bodie leant forward to rest his forearms on his lover's shoulders. "Then you'll do it?"
"Silly sod." Doyle's roughened voice was husky. "Of course I will. I bloody love you, don't I. Oh, come here." Despite his impatience, his kiss was gossamer light, but with a longing that melted his partner.
"Well," said Doyle, after a lengthy tactile pause. His mouth still hovered above Bodie's, lips tingling from the enthusiasm with which he had been met. "I should have knocked some sense into you months ago."
Rueful affection on his face, Bodie brushed Doyle's broken cheekbone with his knuckles. "You can make up for lost time now. I was afraid you'd got tired of me. That the fire had gone out."
"Fires do," said Doyle, still gentle because of the anxiety only now fading from Bodie's face. "But any kid of six can start one with a piece of glass and a drop of sunshine. What we've got will last longer than that. Doesn't mean there's no heat though."
There was no arguing with that kind of certainty and for the first time in months Bodie didn't try, content just to hold Doyle close.
"Already got all the sunshine I need, thank you."
-- THE END --
Writted 23rd January, 1991
Published in HG Collected 1, Doghouse Press, 2000