The Wish I Wish Tonight
Sincere thanks to PFL and Elizabeth O'Shea for the beta & Brit-check. Much appreciated.
Over the years they had seen many women killed -- killed by accident, murdered in cold blood, executed by necessity in the course of their duties. But until ten minutes ago, Doyle had managed to avoid killing one himself.
Oh, Bodie had no doubt he'd been prepared. Had no doubt Doyle had been ready to kill Inge Helmut to save him -- although in the end it had been Julie's bullet that sent Inge crashing into the wall, slumping and falling down the narrow staircase like a glassy-eyed broken doll. Doyle knew the odds, had to know eventually one of his targets was going to be of the feminine persuasion, but until now his luck had held. Partly because Bodie had silently taken it upon himself to dispatch any villainous birds that needed dispatching, thereby sparing Doyle's masochistic conscience a lot of unnecessary flaying and flogging of the Boy Detective. Until now Bodie had always managed to be the one in position to take that shot.
But today he hadn't been fast enough.
It didn't help that this fallen angel had a narrow white face and long red hair and looked a lot like that tiresome bitch Ann Holly.
And now Raymond Doyle, tough veteran of CI5 and man of action, was behind the barn quietly throwing up his guts -- which was where he'd been for the last seven minutes, and enough was enough.
"Doyle, you all right?" Bodie called, giving Doyle plenty of warning he was on the approach.
"Yeh," Doyle responded immediately if huskily.
And when Bodie rounded the corner of the barn Doyle was on his feet -- though leaning back against the wall. "Think I'm comin' down with flu," he said. He mopped his forehead with the sleeve of his leather jacket. His eyes met Bodie's briefly, and flicked away. "Everything under control?"
Well, that was what the Yanks called the sixty-four thousand dollar question, wasn't it? And never mind the exchange rate. Doyle was chalk-white and his eyes looked black, but he pushed away from the wall, moving past Bodie, cutting off anything Bodie might have said. And Bodie turned on heel and followed him back to the barnyard battleground.
It wasn't much of a mop up. Two dead former terrorists and an assortment of slaughtered farm animals. Bodie felt worse about the dead chickens and donkey than he did Hans and Alicia Hartzinger. It had all been unnecessary. He and Doyle hadn't had any idea who the Harts really were when they'd dropped in to question them about a former farmhand. Unfortunately -- or fortunately, depending on how you looked at it -- the mention of CI5 had sent the previously smiling, genial couple scrambling for automatic weapons.
As Bodie's old man used to say, The wicked man fleeth where no man pursueth. Man and wife in this case. And all the fresh-baked apple tarts in the world didn't change the fact that Alicia Hartzinger would have had no compunction removing Ray Doyle from this vale of tears if he hadn't managed to shoot first.
Less than ten minutes later it had all been over. Nothing left to say, really, although Bodie did his best with the local -- deeply shocked -- constabulary. Doyle was better at dealing with the plods, but this afternoon he couldn't be bothered, staring vacantly as Alicia Hartzinger's red-blanketed form was carted off.
"Terrible thing for the community," said Superintendent Baker for the third time, and Bodie barely managed to control his impatience -- with both this local yokel copper and Doyle who was acting like -- well, leave it. Doyle was all right. Too many shocks in too short a space of time, that was all. Starting with that Holly bitch walking out on him Friday last.
Really knocked the wind out of his sails, that had. Bodie had never seen him like this. Christ, maybe it was love.
And he hadn't helped matters by turning Doyle down a few hours later -- but he didn't want to think about that now. Beside the point, really. Whatever Doyle was brooding about it sure as hell wasn't because his partner and best friend had declined -- granted, maybe not as tactfully as he could have -- the drunken offer of a little rebound slap and tickle.
Truth to tell, Bodie wasn't sure why he had turned Doyle down -- considering how long he'd been hoping for a chance at that very thing. Practically since the day they were first teamed. Raymond Doyle -- as he well knew -- looked good enough to eat. And the feeling had been mutual. And they'd both been around enough to know -- but, the timing had never been quite right. Or perhaps they were both uneasy about what it might do to that delicately balanced, finely-tuned partnership of theirs. So despite that -- sometimes blazing -- awareness between them, despite their affection and respect for each other -- maybe even because of it -- they'd never got around to getting off with each other.
Not even close really. Until the night Ann shattered Doyle's previously bullet-proof heart into a million pieces -- and left Bodie to gather up the shards.
He was just glad that Alicia Hart or Hartzinger's superficial resemblance to Ann Holly hadn't frozen Doyle one second longer or it would be Doyle's corpse being loaded into the ambulance now -- instead of leaning against the Capri gazing hollow-eyed across the yard at Bodie.
He didn't look at all well.
They were finished here anyway. The whole bloody thing was so insignificant Cowley didn't even make the trip from London, instead squawking his instructions over the RT and ordering 3.7 and 4.5 back to HQ for debriefing and then to follow up new leads on their scarpered suspect.
Bodie thanked the superintendent for his help, referred further questions and communications to CI5 Controller George Cowley, and walked over to Doyle.
"Christ," Doyle said between gritted teeth, yanking open the passenger door and dropping heavily inside. *****
"A policeman's lot is not a happy one, Doyle."
Doyle grunted, unamused.
Bodie had relayed Cowley's instructions, brought Doyle up to speed on what insight the superintendent had to offer into the Hartzingers, and even offered a bit of neutral small talk when he ran out of more pertinent things to say. Doyle listened to it all in bleak-faced silence.
Not that Doyle had been a barrel of laughs all this long week, and frankly this mute, withdrawn stranger was beginning to get on Bodie's nerves. He missed Doyle. Missed the easy companionship, the instant understanding that typified their working relationship. He missed laughing with Doyle, even missed arguing with him. There had been a kind of force field around the other man for the past seven days and Bodie didn't like being kept on the outside of wherever Doyle was currently residing.
He missed touching Doyle: those casual brushes of shoulders and hands, the ruffling of curls, the occasional pat on that glorious bum. He hadn't realised how accustomed he was to using Doyle as his own shining flesh-and-blood worry stone.
"Nothing else you could have done, Ray," he said into a silence that was starting to feel uneasily familiar.
Doyle said tersely, "I know that." And gave another of those almost imperceptible shivers.
There was more that Bodie could -- and wanted to -- say but he left it, recognising the danger in Doyle's tone like a perfumier scents an elusive undernote. Instead he cranked up the heat and concentrated on his driving.
They were speeding through Buckland-in-the-Moor, and the afternoon had gone creamy-yellow -- soft-edged with the coming evening, soft and damp, fog rising from the tawny moor and a hint of woodsmoke in the air. The hedges beside the road were lush with berries, the trees turning autumn-gold.
Pretty countryside this, and in a moment Bodie would be reduced to saying so. Or mentioning the weather.
His stomach growled. Breakfast was a distant memory and lunch had consisted of a cup of tea and the two hot apple tarts Alicia Hart had served right before she morphed into something out of The Exorcist.
Weird to think of them, Hans and Alicia, living quietly in a Devonshire backwater raising chickens and vegetable marrows. Attending Parish Council meetings and going for drinks down at the pub. A pastoral life. Early to bed, early to rise. What were their dreams like? Had they forgotten all about the people on the plane they blew up?
Unthinking, fingers tapping lightly on the steering wheel, he remarked, "Say what you will, yon Alicia had a light hand with the pastry."
"Stop the car," Doyle said desperately. He barely waited for the wheels to come to a crunching halt on the gravel before he was on his knees in the wet autumn leaves being violently sick again.
"Doyle..." Bodie came round from his own side, squatting down beside Doyle's shaking form. He brushed the soft curls back from the quivering mouth. There was apparently nothing left to sick up, but Doyle's body kept trying -- in great wrenching dry heaves. "Jesus, mate," Bodie said softly.
Doyle reached out blindly, shoving Bodie away -- and nearly toppling over himself. "Just -- give me a minute --"
Bodie ignored that, steadying him, keeping his hair out of the way, and Doyle shuddered all over and tried again to cough up his heart and all accompanying organs. It was alarming, although Bodie was not easily alarmed; Doyle was drenched in a cold sweat Bodie could feel right through the thin cotton T-shirt and jeans, and the violence of the spasms wracking that skinny frame made him fear that Doyle was going to rupture something.
Maybe it was flu. Maybe it was food poisoning, although the only thing Bodie had seen Doyle eat in the last week was that single apple tart. Bodie had eaten two of them with no ill-effect.
He didn't quite know what to do. Was this a medical emergency? He could feel Doyle's heart pounding crazily against his arm. He loosed the long curls, rubbed Doyle's back with his free hand, feeling the bony ridge of spine.
Doyle swore shakily, pushed up and away. "'M fine."
Oh, yeah. Brilliant.
They rose together, Bodie offering a helping hand and Doyle reeling away from it, staggering the couple of steps to the Capri and falling back inside. Bodie went around to his side, slid back under the wheel and uneasily studied his partner.
After a moment Doyle lifted his head with an effort. "Why aren't we movin'?"
"Tryin' to think," Bodie said curtly.
On cue, Doyle snarled, "Terrific! We'll be here all night!"
Bodie snorted. Coming to a decision, he put the car in gear. Doyle bit back whatever charming thing he had been about to say next, and dropped back in his seat, closing his eyes once more. The long, fawn-coloured lashes curved against his pale cheeks. He looked truly pathetic.
Bodie drove, and eventually Doyle slipped into a twitchy doze.
They came at last to a picturesque little village whose major claim to fame seemed to be a twelfth century church with a ninety-two foot tower.
It was nearly dark by the time Bodie pulled up in front of a little place called the Two Bridges Inn, went inside and booked a room for the night. He returned to the car in time to find Doyle hauling himself out of the Capri.
"You never stopped for a bloody pint," he snarled -- clearly assuming Bodie had.
"You're right." Bodie gestured back with his thumb at the door. "Booked us a room. George can wait. We're both knackered, and the upholstery's 'ad all the excitement it can take for one day."
"Yours or the bloody Capri's'?" Doyle was staring owlishly up at him. In the amber light next to the entrance he looked colourless, his lips a little chapped, his eyes shadowed. Unbeautiful as only Doyle could be -- nor did he smell particularly fragrant, but meeting that shivery look Bodie felt a strange mix of possessive affection.
"Both. C'mon." He fastened a hand on Doyle's bony shoulder, steering him inside the inn.
It made no sense but he was abruptly glad to be spending the evening with Doyle, glad of this excuse. It had been a long week without his best mate, and maybe -- if Doyle wasn't too unwell -- they might manage to mend a bridge or two now that they were off the clock and forced to spend some down time in each other's company.
Their room offered a charming view of the twilight-shrouded moor through diamond-paned windows. The furniture -- including two double beds -- was dark and old and good, the furnishings featured comfortably faded cabbage roses. It was the kind of place you brought a new bird for a special weekend away. Doyle walked straight into the bathroom -- one of the inn's two featured "en suites" -- slamming the door behind him. The taps turned on a moment later drowning out whatever unpleasantness was happening within the fortress of solitude.
Bodie stood at the windows staring out at the single star shining bright in the indigo blue sky. Beneath the floorboards he could hear the cheerful homely noises of the taproom. He would go downstairs and have a pint once Doyle was settled to his satisfaction, but for now he enjoyed the quiet melancholy beauty of the darkening sky and the lonely land.
Star light, star bright... He smiled faintly. It was a long time since he had wished on a star. A long time since he had believed in wishes coming true.
The toilet flushed, the taps turned off, the door swung open, and Doyle said irritably, "Which bed d'you want?" He looked bloodless, his face and hair dripping from what must have been some impatient splashing of cold water.
"Take your pick. 'M goin' downstairs. Bring you up a cuppa, shall I?"
Doyle grunted. Apparently hearing his own curtness, he managed a "Ta." He undressed beside the nearest bed, nearly overbalancing as he tugged at a boot. The boot hit the floor with a thud they probably heard in the bar, and he turned his attention, yogi-like, to the next one.
Bodie left him to it.
Downstairs he called Cowley on the landline, letting him know they were stopping for the night, then turned his attention to cajoling a cup of ginger tea and a couple of cream crackers from the sceptical proprietress. These he carefully carried back to their room on a little tray, trying not to slosh tea on the crackers.
He found one lamp on and Doyle safely in bed having managed to avoid falling on any furniture and braining himself during his one-legged hopping striptease.
"How're you feeling?" Bodie asked.
"Felt better," Doyle admitted. Over the sheet pulled up to his chin, he offered a pale, uncertain smile. He looked quite astonishingly ugly, and Bodie had never felt fonder of him.
"Sit up and get this down your neck," he ordered.
Doyle bit off something rude, but sat up, wrestling the pillows behind him. His face twisted up in pained rejection as Bodie carefully lowered the tray to his lap, but Bodie wasn't fooled. Pretended to loathe it, but Bodie knew Doyle secretly liked being fussed over. Mostly because -- as far as Bodie could make out -- no one ever had. Which was yet another reason a chilly, prissy hag like Ann Holly was all wrong for Raymond. Very sweet nature, Ray had -- all things considered.
"What the hell's this?" Doyle inquired, declining to show that very sweet nature of his.
"Ginger tea. Good for nausea. Learned that in the Orient. Go on. Drink it down."
Doyle shook his head, then picked up the fragile china teacup like he'd never seen such a thing. It did look rather ridiculous in his thin, strong hand.
"It's called a cup," Bodie informed him. "This way you don't have to get out of bed to kneel on the floor and lap it up."
Doyle grinned, apparently pleased with this insult, and blew on the tea, which had already cooled considerably in its trip from kitchen to guest room.
"Down the hatch," Bodie advised. "It's stone cold now."
Doyle sipped cautiously as though he suspected Bodie of trying to poison him. Bodie stood at the foot of the bed, and wryly observed him. Despite his battered face and the silky sable pelt bisecting his chest, Doyle looked about ten, lashes lowered as he slurped, curls dishevelled.
Bodie was surprised to hear his own voice ask abruptly, "C'mon, Doyle. What's wrong? Tell father."
Doyle left off slurping -- which was a relief -- and said feebly, "Nothing's wrong. Don't feel well, s'all."
"Something's eatin' you," Bodie said. "Know you, don't I?"
"Think you do," Doyle said rather darkly.
Bodie had no idea how to answer that. He itched the bridge of his nose with the edge of this thumb, thinking it over.
Doyle nibbled the crackers with surprising delicacy, quietly finished off his tea, and handed the tray to Bodie who set it on the small table near the window.
The room was quite dark except for the little circle of light thrown by the bedside lamp. Doyle looked haggard in its mellow warmth, his expression indiscernible.
Bodie didn't understand the look -- but he didn't like it. He came over to the bed, sat down on the edge next to Doyle's feet, aware of Doyle straightening, suddenly tense. He didn't like that either.
He slapped his own thigh. "Give us your foot."
"Foot massage. Something else I learned in the Far East. It'll help. Straight up. C'mon."
"I'm all right," Doyle told him. "The tea helped."
"I won't tickle you," Bodie promised.
"Yeh, but I'm all right now." Doyle didn't actually clutch the blankets to his chest, but his reluctance to be touched was palpable, and the funniest part of it was the more Bodie could see Doyle didn't want his hands on him, the more Bodie wanted that exact thing. Ironic, considering how bluntly he'd passed on the opportunity a week ago.
"Reflexology," Bodie told him. "It's a science."
"My reflexes are fine. It's my stomach that's the problem."
"This'll take care of it. Word of honour."
There was a long undecided silence. Doyle made an exasperated sound and thrust one long hairy leg out from under the sheets and blankets. "Enjoy yourself, mate."
Bodie resettled on the mattress, took Doyle's foot between his hands, placing his palm on the sole, and pushing the foot back to stretch the muscles. Then he flexed the foot forward toward himself. Doyle swallowed hard.
Bodie murmured, "Relax."
He stretched and flexed Doyle's foot a few times, then gently rotated it clockwise -- then counter-clockwise. It was the kind of thing a doctor might do -- or a physiotherapist -- they'd both had plenty of this kind of treatment, and yet somehow the fact that it was Doyle's foot and Bodie's hands made it...weirdly intimate.
Using both hands he massaged the top of Doyle's foot near the toes. Feeling all those delicate bones beneath the thin layer of skin -- funny to think of all that speed and agility and strength depending on those fragile links of bone and nerves and muscle. He could feel Doyle's tension humming like a live wire beneath his touch. A glance at Doyle's face showed his eyes shut -- closing Bodie out.
Bodie pressed his thumbs hard into the pressure point of Doyle's foot, feeling the tendons and muscles jerk. No one else in the world he'd have bothered to coax out of a sulk, but for Doyle he made the effort. "C'mon, mate," he cajoled. "Can't be that bad."
There was a long silence, then Doyle opened one eye, glared. "Right. You asked. The love of me life turned me down. All right? And so did the girl I asked to marry me."
Bodie's grin flickered and died as the full impact of that sank in. His hands stilled on Doyle's foot -- which Doyle withdrew.
"Funny," Bodie got out at last.
"Think so, do ya?" Doyle closed his eyes once more. It had the air of finality, of a door closing, blinds pulled, pavement rolled up for the night.
Bodie felt under the blankets for Doyle's other foot, pulled it onto his lap, and Doyle didn't resist.
Bodie continued to rub the long narrow foot, pushing carefully into the pressure points. Doyle's feet were surprisingly long and narrow -- graceful arches and well-shaped toes. Nails trimmed close, scrupulously clean and pink reminding Bodie of a well-scrubbed kid. Surprisingly elegant -- and if Bodie was sitting here thinking about how elegant Doyle's feet were he did have it bad.
But then he was sitting here rubbing Doyle's feet, so yeah. Safe to say he had it bad. He rubbed down the sole of Doyle's foot with his closed fist, top to bottom. Doyle murmured something.
"Hmm?" Bodie asked, his attention diverted.
"Feel better now," Doyle admitted, grudgingly without opening his eyes. "Think I'll sleep a bit."
He was relaxed, true enough. Bodie could felt it in the easy boneless foot lying trustingly in his lap. It went through his mind to scrape his thumb nail down Doyle's sole -- give him a sharp -- deserved -- tickle but he let it go. Doyle had been genuinely ill this afternoon; nothing funny about that.
Instead, he let go of Doyle's foot and Doyle pulled away, sliding back under the covers. Bodie patted his blanketed feet and rose.
"Yeah, you have a good sleep, mate."
No response. He thought Doyle might be already out. He turned on the light in the corner of the room, tilting the shade away from Doyle, turned out the bedside lamp, and went down to the bar where he had a couple of pints thinking over Doyle's strange comment.
Just the doyley llama's daft sense of humour. But Bodie couldn't get it out of his mind: Doyle's tone, his expression, the way he'd carried on all week for that matter. Closing Bodie out like Bodie had let him down in some terrible unexpected way.
And that bothered Bodie.
He'd been through plenty watching Doyle fall hard for the Holly woman -- trying to stay positive and optimistic the way a best mate should. Despite the fact he'd disliked Ann Holly on sight and thought her particularly wrong for Doyle. Way out of his depth with Ann. An Angelfish swimming with a barracuda.
Music from a radio playing distantly from somewhere behind the bar filtered into his consciousness. The Beatles. An oldie but goodie.
There are places I'll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all...
They pulled a nice pint here at the Two Bridges. The soothing flow of local talk ebbed and eddied around him, the little concerns of weather and livestock prices blended with the turned-down-low music. "In My Life." That's what that tune was called. He'd always liked that one.
But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more...
No question he was in a melancholy mood tonight. It would have been better with Doyle sitting here beside him, elbows brushing, the occasional nudge of foot or knee, that comforting presence always in his peripheral vision. Well, perhaps not. Not this evening anyway. Not that Doyle held an exclusive on feeling lousy about topping men, women, and farm animals. He didn't generally make himself sick over it, though, and today had to be about more than the shooting -- or even shooting a woman who looked like an older version of Ann Holly. It had to be about more than Ann Holly.
The love of me life turned me down. And so did the girl I asked to marry me.
Just Doyle being funny, but the bruised look in those wide green eyes troubled Bodie.
He called for another pint.
When he let himself in the room, Doyle was still sleeping, frowning at his dreams, fingers twitching in sleep. For a moment Bodie watched him in the shadowy light; he bit back a grin, touched by something uncomfortably like tenderness.
But he should have known better than to stare at Doyle, even asleep. Doyle stilled, and Bodie knew almost to the instant that he became aware and started processing his surroundings. After a moment his eyes slowly opened. He stared at Bodie as though he couldn't quite place him.
Bodie said, "Catch any nice rabbits?"
Doyle's eyebrows drew together, then his mouth quirked. "Time's it?"
"After midnight." Bodie unbuckled his holster. All at once he was very tired, the beer hitting him.
"That why you're walking abroad with the rest of the undead?"
"Ha." Bodie pulled his black polo-neck over his head, tossed it over the chair near the little table. "How're you feeling now?"
Doyle yawned, offering an inspiring glimpse of fillings and tonsils. "Feel better. Feel all right. Tea helped. And the foot rub." He blinked sleepily at Bodie as Bodie unbuckled his belt. "Thanks."
Bodie grunted acknowledgement.
"Thirsty though." Abruptly, Doyle threw back the covers, padded over to the abandoned tea things and carried the cup into the bathroom. Bodie heard the taps running. He shoved his holster beneath the pillow on the other bed. Pulled back the duvet and slid between the sheets.
Clean sheets, a good mattress, Doyle -- still in one piece -- guzzling thirstily away in the bathroom. It didn't get much better than this. He folded his arms behind his head, studying the single shining star he could see through the parted curtains.
Doyle padded back into the room, paused at the table. "Want the light out?"
The light flicked out dousing the room in easeful darkness. The shadow that was Doyle climbed back into the bed next to Bodie's. The headboard knocked against the wall.
Bodie's eyes adjusted to the darkness; he'd always had excellent night vision. He watched the mound of Doyle rearrange itself a couple of times, mattress springs squeaking.
He could feel Doyle's wakefulness from across the few feet of floorboards and fluffy rugs.
"Doyle, about what you said before --" He turned his head, trying to read Doyle's face in the gloom.
He could hear the face Doyle was making in his voice. "Stupid. Don't know why I said it. Just feelin' poorly, s'all. Feelin' sorry for meself."
What he didn't say -- surprisingly -- was that it had been a joke.
"Yeah." Briefly Bodie considered the wisdom of his course. "The thing is...it's not like I wouldn't...not like I haven't --"
Nothing from Doyle. He could feel the frown in the silence.
The lamp between the beds switched on. "Was just what?" Yes, Doyle was definitely frowning. Well, no fear that Doyle didn't know what he was talking about or hadn't the same thing on his mind.
"Oh, I dunno. You'd had a skinful. I'd had a bit as well."
"You sayin' I didn't know what I was doin'? Or you didn't know what you were doing?"
"Not sure," Bodie admitted.
Doyle said evenly, "I knew what I was doing, Bodie. Hadn't had that much. Don't suppose I've ever had that much."
For a moment Bodie's eyes rested on the dent in Doyle's cheekbone. "Right then," he said, coming to a decision, "then I suppose what I'm sayin' is I wasn't sure how much you'd had. Wasn't sure why you were askin'. Didn't...fancy being anyone's... sloppy seconds."
"I see." Doyle's green eyes were narrowed and glinting, so he probably did.
"Silly, I know." He offered it hopefully. He could see Doyle beginning to get angry, although he wasn't exactly sure why. The anger gave him hope, though, and he wasn't sure why that should be either.
Doyle said slowly and carefully, "You think I kissed you because Ann threw me over?"
I kissed you.
Until that moment he'd forgotten about the kiss. Blanked it out completely. Total amnesia like in a bad spy film. And how could that be because that kiss -- for one instant -- had rocked his world.
That press of Doyle's mouth on his, Doyle's mouth cool and soft and tasting of lager and something intimately and intrinsically Doyle.
Not shy exactly...but tentative. Hopeful maybe? But trusting too. Doyle confident he wasn't going to be handed his teeth back like so many marbles in a game he'd lost. Because of course Doyle knew -- knew his kisses would -- should -- be welcome here. But Bodie inexplicably, after the first delighted shock of response, had astonished them both by rejecting Doyle. Shoving him away before Doyle had even half-whispered his suggestion of what they could do with the rest of the night.
And for one unbearable instant Doyle had looked appallingly hurt. And bewildered. And then angry. Very angry.
But by the time Bodie saw him again, the following Monday, he had all his emotions under control. Under lock and key. In a chilly Swiss bank account, combination lost forever.
Or perhaps merely misplaced. Because Doyle did appear angry again. And anger after the frozen indifference of the past week was a huge improvement.
"Well, why did you kiss me?" Bodie asked in a tone of great reasonableness -- sparing a fleeting hope that the walls of this old place were as thick as they appeared to be.
"Because I'm stupid," Doyle said, and just like that the anger was gone. He sounded tired. "Because I thought you wanted it. Because I wanted it."
"I did want it."
"Could've fooled me, mate." Doyle was lying on his side, head propped on hand, and the detached part of Bodie's brain registered that pose and was even vaguely amused by it -- classic Doyle even lying down. "Almost broke my arm, shoving me away."
"Was your impeccable sense of timing more than anything, sunshine. Nobody likes to feel second best."
Doyle said slowly, "So...if I were to kiss you now...?"
And the relief of this comfortable -- rational -- discussion of long-time partners and two good mates suddenly crumbled away, like ground giving beneath Bodie's feet, the empty aching sky where there should be solid earth. His heart sped up the way it did before a fight -- and that was certainly part of it, the knowledge that it could go so wrong, that he and Doyle could end up at war instead of...lovers.
Because that was what was at stake here. The promise and the threat. The promise of something so precious, so unique he was afraid to put a name to it -- "love" barely covered it -- and the threat of what it would do to them if it went wrong. It would destroy them.
"You'd better be damn sure it's what you want," Bodie said, and the harshness in his voice surprised him.
It didn't seem to surprise Doyle, though, or worry him. He threw back the covers, and two steps later slipped in beside Bodie, and Bodie was instinctively moving over, moving away from the heat and energy that was Doyle. Not that there was anywhere to go -- not that he really wanted to go far.
"Miraculous recovery, innit?" he managed.
"Nah." Doyle's curls smelled faintly of gun smoke and perspiration and...apples. "Throw up again if you turn me down. On you."
Bodie shook his head at this romantic declaration, but he thought that beneath the joking Doyle was probably telling the truth. For all his cool under fire, his tough confidence on the job, Doyle had a funny vulnerable streak. And an emotionally stressed Doyle was a Doyle who didn't eat and didn't sleep. And a week of not sleeping and not eating...was enough to get them both killed.
"C'mere," Bodie said roughly.
Doyle's arms wound around him with wiry strength, and it was only then that Bodie realised Doyle was shivering. His own arms wrapped around Doyle's thinly muscled back, pulling him close. Doyle's head bumped into the naked curve of his neck and shoulder, and he could feel the softness of Doyle's mouth and eyelashes, the bristle of his jaw.
"What's wrong? You all right?" He smoothed a light hand down the long bony ridge of Doyle's spine, brushed the soft cotton of the briefs covering his taut, muscular buttocks.
"Nervous," Doyle admitted. He laughed, softly, but there was an edge in the sound.
That admission of weakness helped. A lot.
"Nah. It's just us together," Bodie told him -- not missing the irony that he was now the one reassuring Doyle. But the truth was they were reassuring each other, together in this as in all things. He bent his head and found Doyle's mouth, tasted moist heat and hunger. Doyle was kissing him like he was starving, like he needed this contact to survive -- mouth-to-mouth and no doubt about it.
Reluctantly, Bodie released him, and Doyle pulled away panting -- only to latch on again. It was sweet and feverish and a little desperate. It was beyond anything Bodie had dreamed -- most definitely beyond his control. Spinning out of Doyle's control too, if Doyle had been hoping to manipulate him into something, which seemed unlikely given the way Doyle was shaking. He was hard too, no mistaking the aggressive thrust poking its way through the fly of the soft cotton briefs.
Well, that was tit for tat. Bodie's own arousal was like a heat seeking missile, locked onto Doyle. He jumped a little as Doyle's cold fingers fastened on the waistband of his briefs, tugging, and Bodie returned the favour the best he could with Doyle already humping against him.
This wasn't going to last long. Laughing, he tore his mouth away and gasped, "You're going to have me out of the bed."
"Have you any way I can get you," Doyle returned. He nipped the side of Bodie's throat, a pleasurable sting, and Bodie sucked in a sharp breath. He used his strength to push Doyle back a little, but only a little -- giving himself some wiggle room as he stroked thin-fleshed skin over strong bones, caressing -- getting as much pleasure from touching Doyle as he was giving. Doyle wriggled close, and Bodie wrapped his arms around him rolling Doyle on top of himself. Doyle made a satisfying bony weight all down the length of him, Bodie's legs moving to accommodate Doyle's knees, cocks poking each other's bellies.
Doyle arched back for a moment, staring at Bodie's face. His eyes were wide and slightly dazed. "How the hell could you think you'd ever come second to anyone...?"
Put like that it did seem ridiculous. Of course they came first for each other. Did it really have to be said? Well, maybe sometimes.
"Thought you were in love with Ann."
"So did I." Doyle grimaced. "Not quite the same thing, is it?" He bit the finger Bodie reached to smooth away the line between his brows. "Shouldn't have to change yourself to be lovable."
"Did she want you to change?" Bodie could hear the dryness in voice.
"That, yeh." Doyle shrugged. A funny smile tugged at his mouth. "I was thinking how I'd have wanted her to change." The chipped tooth showed. "Be more like you."
Bodie started laughing, and Doyle joined in, hips and bellies and cocks rubbing pleasantly against each other.
After a moment the giggles died away and they began to move in unison with slow, delicious friction that gradually broke and ran into something hot and fierce and frantic. Doyle licked a bead of sweat from Bodie's temple. Bodie nuzzled the hollow beneath Doyle's ear. It was so strange but so familiar.
Doyle gasped, "How?"
"Just like that..."
And then Doyle went taut as a bowstring, trembling as a wet slickness spread between their bodies. He made a sound that was half-laugh, half-sob -- but by then Bodie's focus was on his own coming, the exquisite clench and release, the squirt of liquid silk mingling with Doyle's seed. Oh yes. At ease, gentlemen... Hot and spent and satisfied they rested in each other's arms.
After a time, Bodie shifted. Doyle mumbled protest.
"Just turning out the light." He reached across and snapped it out and the tranquil darkness floated down on them. Doyle nestled closer, one hard, muscular arm wrapped around Bodie's chest, his breathing evening out, already drifting into sleep.
Bodie used his chin to brush down the curls tickling his nose. He smiled to himself. Maybe it settled something. Maybe not. No regrets though, regardless of what the morning held.
Through the parting in the curtains the stars were bright and big -- like cartoon stars. They seemed to be smiling.
-- THE END --