by O Yardley
Sequel to Rediscovered in a Graveyard and Loose Change by HG; see also Some Things Never Change
Bodie came clattering down the broad stairs at a speed which belied his more than seventy years, bellowing all the more loudly than ever now that Jedediah had grown so deaf. They'd tried to persuade him to give up work or possibly just work less hard but he was ever an obstinate and cantankerous old fool as both Doyle and Bodie told him frequently. Nearing ninety now, he was still fit and active, although Bertha showed more signs of her increasing age and spent long hours slumbering peacefully in a rocking chair in the kitchen where she had once held sole sway and still ruled with-a rod of iron although taking little active part.
"Has the hamper been taken down to the boat?" Bodie asked as Jedediah's bent figure appeared in the kitchen doorway.
"Aye. With enough food for an army," Jedediah said sourly.
Bodie grinned and thumped him on the shoulders. "Fishing's a hungry sport, old friend. You should come out with us and try it."
Jedediah shuddered. "Not I. Got more sense than to set foot in one o' they unchancy boats, I have. And so should you at your age, gadding about like you did when you was nobbut a boy."
"Some people never learn sense," a new voice said, its tone of resignation underlaid with laughter.
Jedediah swung round, slowly to be sure but his eyes held the old fire. "No, they don't, do un?" he agreed fiercely.
Doyle laughed. "Would you really change him - after all these years?" He gestured towards the white-haired but still vigorous figure of the master of Shambolt's Cove.
Jedediah glowered. "Ha' done, the pair o' ye. You're nobbut crazed yet and have less common sense than some childer I've met."
"You'll eat our catch though," Bodie said, grinning widely. He looked over at his lover. "All ready, Ray?"
Doyle nodded. "All ready."
They made their way down the steep cliff path to the cove together, to where the small lugger which had served them so well through their years as Cowley's agents, was moored to the tiny stone jetty.
It was a matter of moments only to set the single sail and row her out beyond the encircling rocks of the tiny harbour to open water. Once at their favoured spot they busied themselves with preparations and when the lines were set, sat back and consumed the lunch Bertha had packed up for them, both of them hungry after the morning's exertions.
When they had eaten their fill of the more than generous provisions, Doyle lay back contentedly, surveying the sky with a lazy eye.
"It's going to blow later."
Bodie looked down at him while making a small adjustment to the sail. "Setting up as a weather prophet are we? Taking over Jedediah's role? He'll not thank you!"
Doyle snorted. "At least I contrive occasionally to-get it right."
"So does Jedediah," Bodie said fairly. "I remember once, winter of '99 was it, or...."
Their eyes met in shared amusement of an old joke. Bodie left the mast again and came to sit at his lover's side, stretching his legs out with a sigh of relief.
"Knee painful?" Doyle asked softly.
Bodie nodded curtly, hating any reference to the aches and pains increasing age inevitably brought and looking affectionately down at the scrawny, gracelessly. sprawled figure.
Doyle had changed little over the years save to acquire and even leaner body - something Bodie would not have thought possible thirty years ago - and a goodly smattering of white in his still riotous albeit thinning curls, along with deeper lines etched around his eyes and mouth. Lines of laughter, happiness and a deep content.
Bodie leaned over and ran his fingers through the curls, curving his hand around the skull in a gentle caress. "Thank the Lord we neither of us have gone bald!"
Doyle chuckled. "But a shame I have never achieved your patrician white thatch. Most distingue! You are even beginning to grow a look of staid respectability to go with your venerable years."
"Heaven forfend." Bodie lay down, propping himself up on one elbow. "I am no more respectable now than I have ever been - would you care to test my lack of regard for the conventions?"
"A vessel this small is hardly the most suitable venue," Doyle told him loftily, with a superb disregard for the number of times this very boat had been the site of some highly unconventional activities.
Bodie just grinned and bent his head, savouring the soft touch of lips with as great a joy as had thrilled them through the years.
Doyle returned the caress with growing hunger, saying as their lips parted, "Do you think we shall ever tire of each other?"
"I see no sign of it yet, I am glad to say." Bodie's eyes were alight with an ancient fire. "Of course, the pace has slowed somewhat - most noticeably in you..."
"If I have not taught you in thirty years that quality is of considerably more value than quantity," Doyle said with dignity, "then I have failed you dismally."
"You have never failed me." Bodie's gaze was soft with a tenderness he showed to no one else save his lover - not even Bertha had ever seen that look on her master's face.
Doyle lifted an arm and pulled him down into a loving hug, pressing their bodies together.
"Eager as ever," he said huskily.
"Yes. I also," Bodie agreed, chuckling at the disgusted look on Doyle's face at having his mild slur turned against him yet again.
His hand reached unerringly for the fastening of his lover's lower garments, sliding inside to seek cut the thrusting eager bulk and honour its needs, emitting tiny, pleasured gasps as the caress was swiftly reciprocated.
Afterwards, they lay in a familiar bundle, their arms contentedly about each other, legs entwined.
Bodie had fallen into a light doze, Doyle noted lovingly, and he gathered him even closer into a protective hug. He had been prone to drowsiness of late, waking sheepishly and looking around to see if Doyle had seen his lapse.
As if it mattered, Doyle thought, yawning fondly. If two such old friends, companions, lovers, could not fall asleep in each other's company as easily and naturally as if they were alone it was a pretty poor thing. As far as he was concerned, anything Bodie did was so near perfect he could find no fault.
Besotted old fool!
A small smile curved his lips and he drifted into sleep himself.
The afternoon was far advanced when he awoke again, uncertain what he'd heard at first until it came again.
A tiny, gasping cry, a choked whisper.
He cried the name aloud, seeing from the blueness around Bodie's mouth that this was serious.
Bodie's hand clutched at his chest as he struggled to breathe.
"Hurts... Christ, Ray, it hurts..."
"Don't try to talk. I'll get us back home."
"No," Bodie gasped, grunted with the pain. "No good. Just hold me."
Half blinded by tears, Doyle reached for him, lifting him gently.
"Bodie...don't go...not without me. I need, you, love."
"Sorry." Bodie's hand reached for his, gripping tightly. "So sorry. Hold me."
"I have got you." Doyle's voice had steadied now, responding to Bodie's unspoken need for calm. He cradled his lover, pulling him into his arms. "I've got you. I won't let go."
"Love you." A tiny thread of sound, so low Doyle could scarcely hear it.
"Love you, too," he answered, rocking him. "Love you so much."
There was a period of quiet broken only by Bodie's gasping breaths. Doyle's face was calm enough but his mouth was trembling.
"Are you feeling better?" he asked at last.
Bodie shook his head. "No. The pain..,getting worse. Ray, I don't want to leave you..."
Doyle could hear the desperate fear. "You won't be far ahead," he promised fiercely. "We go together - always have done - always will." He bent and kissed his lover with tender adoration, worshipping his face with loving lips.
"Love you," Bodie said again, and then was silent.
A few minutes later his hand clenched and then relaxed to lie limply in Doyle's frenzied grasp.
Doyle gave one, low, moaning cry and held him tighter, searching frantically for the now-stilled pulse.
When he could feel nothing, he hugged him again, more gently this time, then disentangled himself and sat upright.
They were about six miles from the shore and away to the east the sky was darkening ominously. He'd be lucky to reach sheltered water before the storm broke anyway.
He smiled, a small painful smile, bidding a silent and sorrowful farewell to those who would mourn their passing, then busied himself about the boat, setting the sail and lashing the tiller to take them out into the oncoming storm.
When he had done, he felt oddly peaceful and content. They had had a good life but they had spent long, unnecessary years apart. They would not separate needlessly now.
Moving stiffly, limbs cold in the freshening wind, he crept back to Bodie's side and gathered his lover close in his arms, laying his cheek upon the cold, white one in a loving caress.
"It's all right, Bodie love," he said soothingly. "Everything's all right now. We'll soon be together."
And he lay back to wait.
-- THE END --
Paper Circuit, probably c.1982