Right Behind You
Bodie sank into the hot bathwater and hissed, like lava meeting the sea. The old iron and porcelain tub was cracked in places, and rusting. Steam rose as blood and grime scintillated off Bodie's skin, clouding the clear water and coloring it a soupy gray.
"Well, shit, if I'm not getting too fucking old." Bodie sloshed around a little. "Everything hurts, mate."
Doyle sank to the floor with his back to the tub, his long body folded into the compact space, his legs crossed. He rested his head on the rolled lip, looking up at the ceiling. "You're an old lion, Bodie," he murmured, "but you've still got your bite."
Doyle felt a gentle hand dig under his bush of hair, and closed his eyes. He vividly remembered the first time that hand touched his hair, how it dug and clutched, speaking volumes for its speechless owner. They'd lost Tommy that day, and Bodie, well...Bodie'd taken it harder than most, hadn't he? He'd not liked Tommy, thought him hard and unstable, and didn't hesitate to make his feelings on the subject known. But when Tommy went down, maybe only Doyle could tell, but Bodie took it personally...
Doyle was watching Bodie eat himself alive. He had a drink in one of his square expressive hands and the bottle in the other, while the light played off his chunky watch. Doyle thought it was a bit much, the cream colored turtleneck and that caramel leather jacket. Blokes having a drink at the local and no one needs to dress, yeah? But Bodie? Always had an eye out for a bird, that's what Doyle was thinking, when he could think of anything beside Tommy, and how he'd last seen him being loaded into a wagon with a red blanket over his face. Doyle hadn't dressed, except to keep from being arrested for indecent exposure. But Bodie looked fine. Maybe not his eyes, though.
"Here," said Doyle, "What's all this then, we got Lattimer, didn't we? You seem awfully gloomy for a man who helped bring down Lattimer."
"Yeah, but I still can't...fuck, Doyle. Tommy."
"I know." Doyle looked at his drink. "I know."
"I didn't like him, you know," said Bodie. "That's a fact."
"Yeah, so you mentioned," Doyle rolled his eyes.
"A man gets brittle looking for vengeance. Wanting a bit of his own back. A man gets to be good at the killing, and then he starts to like it. That was our Tommy."
"You make him sound like a monster, Bodie, surely--"
"He was a monster, wasn't he, like I am, and you are, if it comes to that. That's what a man gets from a life of killing in service of the Crown. Doing things no one else can do... No one else wants to do." He tipped his whiskey back and poured himself another from the bottle.
"So, the difference, mate, is liking it." Bodie took another drink, and Doyle wanted to slow him down, but found himself unequal to the task. Bodie was a runaway train this night, his usually locked down emotions roiling, looking for release. It shimmered off of him in waves.
Doyle leaned his head on one hand, toying with his own drink. "There was nothing to be done, Bodie."
"He didn't have to do it, Doyle."
"He did what thought he must, what we're all trained to do Bodie, I'd have done it." He sipped thoughtfully, "You know that, right?"
"I wish to heaven I didn't." Bodie closed his eyes. "It could have been you, Doyle. You bastard." He swallowed hard, and looked away.
"We're all right, Bodie." Doyle frowned, his eyebrows meeting in a 'v' over his hooded eyes. "We're all right."
Bodie put his hands on his face, rubbing, as if to erase the images he could still see in his head. "Come on, I've got to move," he picked up the bottle and tossed some coins on the table. Doyle followed him. Doyle acknowledged, if only to himself, that he always followed Bodie.
Once they emerged from the bar, the mist hit their skin and their breath came out as vapor. "Cold," said Doyle, hunching his shoulders.
"Here," Bodie handed him the bottle. He took a nip, then handed it back.
Bodie took it, and then drank from it, pulling his light leather jacket tighter. "Fucking Tommy. Don't you do that, Doyle, don't you ever--"
"What the hell are you on about now?" asked Doyle. He casually grabbed Bodies sleeve to slow him down, maybe turn him back so he could read his face. Bodie exploded into action. He yanked his arm out of Doyle's light grip and shoved him hard against the brick wall of the bar.
"Had to fucking put him in that wagon, Doyle. It would have been you, but for Tommy and his--"
"It could have been you as well, or hadn't that occurred to you."
"Yeah, well." Bodie started walking again, unsteady on his feet, not holding his liquor lightly, as he usually did. Doyle could see he was tired.
"I'm knackered Bodie," Doyle sighed, watching Bodie carefully. He scanned the crisp haircut and the broad planes of his face in the semi-darkness, took in the play of light and shadows from the street lamps. "You've got to be exhausted. Go home, Bodie. There will be always more to worry about tomorrow." He began to walk slowly down the empty street toward his place, and heard Bodie coming up behind him.
"That's just it, isn't it? More tomorrow, and the day after." He caught up, and took his customary position, just a little ahead. "More still, until it's me in that wagon, or you, Doyle."
"Yeah, how's that different than yesterday? It's the job, Bodie. It's not like either one of us expects anything else, is it?"
The alcohol sloshed in Bodie's bottle as he waved his hand around. "I don't want it to be you, Doyle." Bodie stopped and turned to him. "Not you."
Doyle allowed himself to look at Bodie then, for just a second before he lowered his eyes, seized with worry over what Bodie might see there. His heart thundered in his chest. It wouldn't do for Bodie to see what he was thinking right then.
"Come on, you're going nowhere until you can think clearly again." He pulled the gate key out of his pocket with Bodie following. Doyle chewed his lower lip thoughtfully. "If you're set on drinking that whole bottle you can kip down on the couch."
"Thanks," Doyle opened the glass door and Bodie walked in first, heaving himself onto a kitchen chair. "Unsteady," he muttered.
"Tea coming." Doyle walked to the tiny kitchen and set water to boil.
Bodie leaned his head back. "Don't fuss Doyle."
"I always fuss. Fussing is required." He wiped his hands on a towel. "We've lost a comrade today. A friend."
"He was no friend of mine," Bodie said angrily.
"No, Doyle. Don't bother saying it. I haven't the finer feelings. You can say what you like, make all the damn tea in the world, and it still isn't--"
"Shut up, Bodie," Doyle said implacably.
"No... I won't." Bodie looked up and Doyle searched his face. "I can't get it out of my--"
"Shut up, Bodie," Doyle said again, and caught Bodie's hand in his, squeezing it so hard the knuckles on his own hand went white. "Don't."
Bodie sighed and looked away. "Then what. Fuck, what would I do?"
"There's other lads, Bodie. Fine operatives. Men who won't let you down. You have to--"
"I don't want them," Bodie said.
"But surely you would come to--"
"I don't want them," he said again. Doyle's heart skittered around in his chest, not beating, and then slammed against his ribcage in quick time. Bodie was looking at him with such confusion in his fine eyes, thought Doyle. Confusion, anger, and something else. Something Doyle knew Bodie couldn't, or wouldn't allow himself to define.
Bodie had been shocked all right, by Tommy's death. Shocked and guilty and thinking things through. Doyle hoped Bodie's usual lack of tact and sensitivity would return with a vengeance because... Bodie's hand squeezed Doyle's in return, harder. He pulled his hand away without thinking, and Bodie looked at his own, where Doyle's had been, like it didn't belong to him.
"What?" he asked.
"Nothing," Doyle said, getting up to get the tea. He busied himself in his kitchen, and came back with two steaming mugs. "Gotta get you sobered up, s'what we've got to do."
"Yeah," murmured Bodie, "yeah. Thanks."
"It'll settle, you'll see," said Doyle, "Things won't seem as bleak tomorrow."
"Yeah," Bodie agreed. "I've got your back, you know that. You can count on me." He was still drunk, and looked, Doyle thought, like someone who has already lost something.
Doyle cracked his sideways grin, his big teeth uneven behind generous lips. "I got yours too Bodie, though you're an unpredictable bastard."
Bodie closed his eyes for a long moment. "It's best I get home, Doyle."
"So soon? Will you be all right?"
"Yeah," said Bodie, getting to his feet. "I'll be fine." He put his mug in the kitchen and walked across the small flat. He turned at the door and inexplicably leaned his back against it. "Give us a kiss then, love," he said.
Doyle tilted his head back and laughed, buffeting Bodie's shoulder with his fist. "Right. You'd best take that jacket off and lie down before you fall." He started to move away, but Bodie's gaze held him. He didn't look amused. He looked dead serious. His eyes, which normally held hostility, radiated a wealth of uncertainty. They focused on Doyle, half defiant, half pleading, and all drunk.
"Bodie--" began Doyle, but Bodie put a hand over his lips.
"Sorry," he mumbled, "just a joke," and began to turn.
Doyle reached up to grab Bodie's hand in his. His heart was sending waves of blood to his face, it seemed, and he ground his teeth together while he tried to decide what to say. "Bodie," he began cautiously. "If you're just--"
"I'm not." Bodie's eyes were still narrow and dark on Doyle's. "I just can't seem to say the right--"
Doyle's hand gripped Bodie's tighter, and he brought it to his lips. He placed a kiss squarely in the palm of that large, capable hand, and folded the fingers over it.
"That one's for thinking on," he said, lifting his chin as though he were expecting Bodie to hit it. "The next one, I'll put wherever you want." One thick eyebrow rose. "Love."
Bodie's eyes closed just for a second, it seemed, and when they opened, Doyle saw something in them he never expected, something that made his gut clench and frosted his balls and made the blood surge into his cock. Bodie gripped his shoulders and pushed him to his knees. Doyle took the hint. He unfastened Bodie's thick belt, admitting to himself as he did so that this wasn't the first time he'd thought of doing this. He'd wanted this, wanted Bodie, with every cell in his body since they'd met, regardless of how inconvenient, regardless of how dangerous. He wanted this.
Bodie, made an inarticulate sound as Doyle mouthed his cock through his shorts. All the air in the room seemed to disappear as Doyle's body caught fire, at last, at last, freeing Bodie's cock into his waiting hands. He licked up the underside, wrapping his lips around Bodie's cock and taking him deep, then slid a hand up inside his thigh to grab his balls in a soft, yet uncompromising hold. He slid a finger back on the smooth skin behind them to the small pucker of sensitive flesh, and that earned him a healthy growl as Bodie arched into his mouth.
Doyle grinned around the thick cock in his mouth. He hollowed his cheeks, hardly knowing what to think, acting strictly on the demands of his body.
"Ray," Bodie breathed, like a long sigh, his hands creeping into Doyle's hair, digging through the curls and anchoring onto his head. He fucked Doyle's mouth as if it belonged to a street boy, and Doyle took it, took him deep until he was coming down Doyle's throat, grunting his pleasure and slipping, sliding down the door a little until Doyle braced his legs.
Doyle rose to his feet, his full lips bruised, dark, and swollen. Bodie's hands relaxed on Doyle's head, changing from a death grip into something like a caress, but far less gentle. He pulled Doyle to him and took his mouth while one hand worked Doyle's belt buckle, and as the kiss grew deeper, Bodie found Doyle's cock, pushing aside fabric until he had it in his strong grip.
"Bodie." Doyle smiled against Bodie's lips. "Yeah... Yes." Doyle moved his head to one side so he could gasp for air as Bodie did unspeakable things with his hands. As he felt his balls tighten, Doyle leaned over and bit Bodie, clamping down hard with his outsized teeth on the junction of flesh beneath Bodie's shirt where his neck met his shoulder. He came in Bodie's hand, and watched, mesmerized, as Bodie brought his fingers to his mouth and licked them, not taking his eyes off Doyle.
Bodie pulled Doyle in again for a kiss, this time mingling the flavor of their seed together as they clutched each other and fought for deeper access and more skin.
Bodie broke the kiss and leaned his head against the door. "You know, don't you?"
"I do," said Doyle, hands fumbling his clothes back into place.
A slow smile stretched Bodie's lips. "You're a clever one, you are," he said.
Doyle waved away the remark, fastening Bodies trousers and his belt as well.
Bodie turned and opened the door, looking out, and then back at Doyle. "I'll be coming again soon," he said.
A half smile formed on Doyle's lips. "I'll be right behind you," he kept his laughter hidden, except in his eyes.
"The hell you will." Bodie tugged his jacket cuffs. His hand shot out and caught Doyle to him for a final, rough kiss. "Tomorrow then," he said, stepping into the hall.
"Tomorrow it is," Doyle replied.
Doyle moved his head under Bodie's hand, enjoying the caress of those thick fingers. His hair, he knew, was getting threads of coarse, wiry gray in it. Bodie's had gone a distinguished silver at the temples, damn him. He leaned into the massage, like a cat, and almost purred.
"Think it's time we hung it up?" asked Bodie. "Almost lost one today. Almost bought it."
"The blood you wore home wasn't yours Bodie, that's the important thing," Doyle said quietly.
"Or yours Ray."
Doyle looked over, that strange smile on his lips he reserved only for Bodie. "Still worried about that are you?"
"Always," said Bodie.
"Don't have a lot of damned faith after ten years."
"No faith at all in my good luck," Bodie stroked Doyle's hair gently. "Can't see why fortune favored me."
"Fortune didn't favor you, I did." Doyle's mouth lifted into his imperfect smile, and Bodie exhaled a deep sigh.
"Tea'll be ready," said Doyle standing up.
"I'm coming." Bodie sloshed to standing in the tub, water sluicing off his fine hairy body. Doyle always enjoyed the sight.
"I'll be right behind you," he said, his eyes going soft and lazy and promising.
"The hell you will," said Bodie, smiling back.
-- THE END --