"What's wrong?" Ray had asked me that several times but there was no response I could make or at least none I could make to him.
The atmosphere between us was tense, edgy. We'd been on stakeout for almost five days, living literally cheek by jowl in the back of a transit van and relieved only long enough to shower, sleep and eat. Boredom, interspersed with adrenalin filled highs then the boredom again. Under these conditions, being near Ray was making me as tight as a spring, curled and ready to snap.
The case concluded explosively and very messily. Having to sit around waiting for Cowley's gracious permission to retire for the day was the final straw. I bounced out of the building and screeched off in a swirl of bad temper and rubber tyres.
I was desperate for it and I was going to get it, quick and hard and none of that stupid messing about you have to go through usually. I knew a place, it was down by the Isle of Dogs, full of leery silent individuals with tattoos and short hair cuts. Paradise.
It took exactly four minutes to cop off--forget his name, Mick I think or Nick. Something like that. He was taller and bigger than me--just the ticket. He bought me a drink, which told me all I needed to know.
It was dusk, not entirely dark. We went down an alleyway, still cobbled in parts, it was that sort of area. Shoved up against the wall, face pressed into the crumbling red bricks of the warehouse, it was barbaric, fierce and fast and it hurt like hell.
He was not as long as me but broader and I was stretched wide to take it all. Flying on the pain, the brutal honesty of the coupling, the danger and the threat, I screamed my release into his muffling hands. It was horrible; it was magic. It was just what I needed.
Knackered and hurting, I managed to make it home, tumbled into the bath and then bed. Barely closed my eyes, when the doorbell went. Sod. Ignore it. It went again insistent. I staggered into my bathrobe then down the hall to peer through the spy-hole. His Majesty King Raymond, who else?
I opened the door, glad I'd been shagged within an inch of my life not two hours before; just see Cowley's face now, 'you raped your own partner on the doorstep Bodie?' So in he steps like he owns the planet, business as bloody usual.
"Disappeared a bit sharpish didn't you? What's the matter, got a hot date," and he grinned cheekily and sauntered, unasked, into my bedroom. Finding this empty, he came back into the hall and said cheerfully, "Thanks, milk and two sugars," and went into the living room and pegged out on my sofa (not taking his shoes off).
I followed and did a bit of a peg myself in the armchair. "Sod off or make it yourself and then sod off. But most of all sod off." I was shattered and without trying I fell asleep.
I woke up to find him trying to lever me out of the chair. He was puffing and panting and looking very red in the face. I'm no lightweight. "Whassa matter?" I managed.
"You berk, sleeping in the chair, you'll get your death like that. Get to bed fool," and he heaved again.
I shoved him off ungently and stood unaided. "There are times I hate you Ray Doyle," I said quite calmly, as if I'd just said something simple and obvious like the sky is blue.
"I know," he had the grace to look stupid, which made me feel better. "Where did you go? You look well fucked."
"Good guess," I answered, grimly amused. Absurdly, he blushed--he'd walked right into that one--and looked even more ashamed of himself. Feeling weary and not just in body, I managed to summon a smile and ruffled his hair quite gently. "No need to look so stricken Ray, worse things happen at sea."
"Yeah they do, in fact they've happened to me," that came out a bit more cynically than I had intended. He winced. For someone who cares so little about me, he hates it when there's any reference to those times. One day I asked him about it and he told me it was because he would feel the same for anyone. I didn't react to that until I got home and threw a milk bottle at the kitchen wall. It takes all sorts to make a world.
"Oh do push off sunshine, while I can still restrain myself from the caveman tactics you so deplore," and I salvaged something so we could get back to normal, skating over the issue with black humour and vulgarity, as I always always do.
"I just wanted to make sure you were--ok," he managed at last. He almost sounded concerned.
"Careful Ray, you might actually make me think you give a damn. You wouldn't want to get my hopes up would you? In any case, I'm big enough to take care of myself--and of you too when I need to."
"I thought we might go for a drink of something..." he trailed off in the face of my disbelief.
"What do you want Ray?" I asked, totally flummoxed.
He sat down again and his face grew hard and determined. "Look, you can't just keep going off like this. You could get hurt--I mean, anything could happen to you."
"It's either that or explode, you smug little cock-tease."
"I know and that's why--well, I mean, it's not like I--look, what I'm trying to say is..." and he waffled off and looked at me expectantly, as if I should know what all this drivel meant.
"Can we get down to brass tacks here chum?" I asked, quite out of my depth.
"If you need it that bad, so bad you're prepared to do--that--to get it, then you can do it to me." He sat back, visibly proud of himself for getting this statement out of his system. It took a few moments for the penny to drop.
"You're prepared to sleep with me to save me from a fate worse than death?" I asked, to get things absolutely clear. He nodded emphatically, looking miserable, scared and triumphant all at once.
"What's brought this on?" I asked shrewdly. "Come on, spit it out. Why this noble martyr at the stake routine?"
"You're my best friend," he said, as if this explained it.
"Yeah so? Made no difference before, when I asked you."
"Bodie, you didn't ask if you'll remember, you grabbed."
"So I grabbed. I was hungry," I leered, "and I still am. So why now? Got the itch to experiment?"
"Could be," the defiance was stronger now; he looked every inch the hustler as he said this.
"And as you've got your own randy soldier on tap, as it were, you may as well kill two birds with one stone, that it?"
"Partly," he said and ran a hand through his curls. He has no idea what that does to me. I pulled my robe around me--chilled at this whole conversation. Sometimes, he hurts me more than I can bear.
I stared at a piece of fluff on the carpet for a long time and thought about it. What I wanted, more than anything, was to throw him to the ground and have my wicked way with him--and for him to want that as much as me. This offer was--unexpected. Sickening. Irresistible.
"Right then, let's get to it shall we?" I asked tonelessly and led the way. A strange look crossed his face--it would have made a cat laugh; 'I've really done it now'. In other circumstances, I may have felt sorry for him. As it was I hated him more at that moment than I have ever hated anyone in my whole life.
"Now?" he sounded almost scandalised.
"Yeah, good a time as any. I'm a bit shagged out still, but lets see what we can come up with, as it were," I was being callous and uncouth but it was either that or cry. He flinched away from whatever it was that my face showed at this moment but he followed me into the bedroom. He stood inside the door and watched wide eyed as I stripped off my robe and lay on the bed.
"You've not done this before?" I asked, but didn't wait for his answer. "Look, I'm too tired to play the sweet seduction of a virgin scene, so just strip off and let's get this over and done with then I can go back to sleep."
The bracing, matter of fact tone goaded him into action and he moved swiftly, pulling at his clothes. He's as lovely naked as I'd always expected him to be, hairy and warm looking.
He lay beside me and I turned on my side, got comfortable and reached out to stroke down his chest and abdomen. He was unaroused and obviously tense. I curled my hand around his penis, feeling its odd and heavy warmth. I studied it carefully, the colour, the texture of the skin, the sleeping power.
He had relaxed somewhat under the touch, gaining familiarity with the feel of another man. I felt no desire--hardly surprising when you consider he was doing this with all the enthusiasm of a visit to the dentist. I took advantage of it though and made a thorough, unemotional catalogue of Ray Doyle's naked body next to mine.
I had come like an express train when that pick-up had fucked me, so the excuse of being shagged out was partly true. I remained flaccid throughout the act and watched his cock harden, fill and then erupt as if it had nothing to do with me and I was watching something on a screen.
If I say so myself I am a rather good lover. He was shocked by his intense reaction to such expertise, I could tell. His eyes were very bright, almost peppermint green in this light and his chest heaved with his exertions. His curls were even curlier, tight with sweat. He made the most lovely sounds when he climaxed, a sort of sighing little catchy breath that was not quite a moan and not quite a groan. Very sexy.
I stroked his cooling semen into his stomach, the slickness became sticky as it dried and wiped my hands on my discarded robe.
"Did the earth move for you my darling one?" I asked through a yawn and feeling quite proud of my indifference I rolled over. "See you at work on Monday then," I managed before I fell into the welcome arms of sleep.
I know intellectually that Ray can't help it, that he's not responsible for how I feel about him. I taunt him about it anyway--about the only pleasure I get these days--making him wince with guilt, telling him he's a prick-tease when, as far as he's concerned, he was trying to be kind. His nearness that time broke my heart but you can be damn sure I didn't let him know it. It's not a very noble thing to do to someone is it? But love isn't a very noble emotion I've found.
Ray didn't take it well. The sex part scared him I think; I know his reaction to it scared him. Mr Hetero Super Straight all his life and he gets the best sexual thrill of all time from being wanked by another man. If I had finally confessed the love that dare not speak it's name and all that, I reckon he'd have cracked up totally--well, imagine.
I love him--yet I hate what that love does to me. The only way I can cope is if we both act as if it's just lust, just sexual craving or whatever. You see, if Ray found out about my real feelings for him...if he knew, oh if he knew--he'd have it all then. It would make him powerful you see, give him the edge over me every single time. Give anyone that kind of power, let them know they can hurt you and it would take a saint not to kick you in the teeth. Saint Ray? Don't think so somehow.
Ray would be awfully flattered knowing that someone thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread. Yeah, who wouldn't be? I wouldn't know of course, it's never going to happen to me is it?
Funny, all those daft thoughts. Everything's taken out of my hands now. It's all down to the fickle finger of fate really and I can't complain. Actually I could, but it wouldn't get me anywhere. I had a good innings I suppose, for someone in my line of country. The bullets didn't hurt at all; well not much.
The blood felt warm at first and then cold as it seeped down my back from the bullet holes. I lay down to stop myself feeling sick and to try to slow the blood loss. Every little helps. So they say. Can't feel the blood seeping now. Not sure if that's a good sign or not.
Is it getting dark? Thought it was still early. I'd look at my watch but I can't be bothered to raise my arm. Sooner or later, makes no never mind to me.
Wish I could say goodbye though. Me mam, poor cow. And our Geraldine. Franky on my first ship, Cowley even, a few other odds and sods, fragments of a shattered life.
I wonder if Ray will miss me--wonder and hope. That's nasty but true nonetheless. Quite pathetic, to waste your last minutes on earth in childishness. Ya-boo-sucks to you with nobs on. I just hope you miss me when I'm gone sunshine, when it's too late and I'm bloody glad, you bastard.
Definitely getting darker. Funny, I can still feel the sun. I think I'll take a short nap, nothing to stay awake for is there? There's a noise coming from somewhere, someone calling my name? I can't make it out and don't care much anyway.
Who'd have thought it would be so easy? I'm ready now, prepared for that one moment of fear before the end and then there'll be no more of that for ever.
Tired can't begin to describe how I felt. Through to the bone, wrung out with it. I could sleep for ever; I'd be happy to lie around for the rest of my days just napping.
Could blame the drugs I suppose. The bullets had needed some major excavations to get them dug out of my back and what with the blood loss and everything, I knew it would be a long haul.
Seeing Doyle sat there day after day with his hang-dog expression radiating guilt didn't help. We'd get the old martyr at the stake routine again now would we? Bodie's prize for not dying is a carefully rationed offer of affection, is that it? I could read him like a book.
I almost cared. Even my desire for Doyle was too much effort by this stage; I loved him like crazy but to be honest, beyond the rather tawdry sexual thrill-seeking, he would rather have red hot skewers poked into his eyes. End of story.
Still you've got to hand it to him, for someone who doesn't give a toss he acted pretty concerned. Two visits every day, lots of pressies, bright bed-side chatter to cheer the ailing patient. Between the drugs, the illness and my own emotions, I was about ready to kill him. Or myself. Go away, I pleaded inwardly, just make him go away please.
Release of sorts came from the most unlikely quarter. I was shunted off into the wilds of Derbyshire for some tender loving care--doctors' orders. Thanks God, I didn't know you cared.
It was a nice place, almost preternaturally quiet. Autumn in the Peak District--rather smashing weather we had too. I slept a lot, ate a lot, thought a lot.
It sobers you, this kind of thing. Makes you realise what's important and what isn't. Perspective, that's the word. I thought about Ray a lot. Naturally. About Ray as he really is: how he had visited twice every day while I was ill; how subdued he'd seemed, how quiet. How I missed him, constantly, every second.
If--when--I got back on the squad, I was going to have to sort this out, cost what it may. And he could kick me in the teeth if he wanted to, but at least I'd know where I stood.
I contemplated the shambles my life had been and knew it had to change.
I'd been 'convalescing' for nearly a month. A lovely little William & Mary manor house it was, deep in the countryside. The silent day room was cosy and welcome. I liked it here. Then the door opened, slammed shut and Ray Doyle walked towards me with a face like thunder.
I was astounded--and didn't hide the fact. Why was he here, I asked, was I recalled to duty for some reason? Or did he need some information on one of our cases? It was like a bolt from the blue when I realised.
He started to talk, haltingly at first and then with greater confidence and freedom. I looked out the window the whole time and part of me listened and part of me didn't.
He'd been afraid for me, missed me, couldn't live without me. Hoped it wasn't too late, but he wanted me now, as much as I had wanted him. Sorry he'd been a prat, hadn't realised until now. Sorry. He said that quite a lot. Then he just petered out and wiped the back of his hand across his eyes in a touching gesture of defeat and stared at me defiantly.
I nodded understandingly and said something like "Oh," then stared out the window again. Ray gave a prodigious sniff and reached out clumsily. He touched my cheek lightly; the flinch was instinctive. He pulled away at once and mumbled something and fled.
I watched the shadows of the clouds cross the green hills and didn't think about anything.
I phoned the one inn the village could boast--yes, a Mr Doyle had reserved a room for the weekend, would I like to leave a message. No thanks. It took me nearly two hours to walk four miles to the village--two hours, I ask you. I was pretty disgusted with myself for that performance. I did have an excuse though, I was still quite ill.
It was scorching hot for September, a real Indian summer shimmering over the dozy green countryside. The roads were dusty, the sky a wide hot glare. If anything, it got hotter as the sun got lower. The village had one street and the inn was easy to find, a crude painting of the Duke himself proclaimed "The Grosvenor Arms".
I think it was probably the only time in my life I've gone into a pub and not bought a drink. I hadn't come there for a drink, I'd come there for Ray.
He was sat over in the far corner, a full plate of bread and cheese before him and a two thirds full pint glass. He looked miserable and lonely and quite ravishing. All the evening sunlight seemed tangled in his hair.
He saw me at once and his face blazed. I sat down opposite to him, my back to the rest of the bar. "Hello," I stated unnecessarily and a slow smile began to grow inside me. He was serious, looking at me very intently and the blaze of joy had dimmed somewhat.
"You look awful. You walked the whole way?" he asked.
"No ice skated, what do you think?"
"Why?" he asked and I was silent for a while. That is always the question, isn't it? As my silence continued, he took a long pull from his drink and began to fidget, suddenly ill at ease and nervy.
"I don't know why really," I answered at last, looking him straight in the eye. "The doctors say I'll be here another two months at least." I threw in that information and watched him react. His body grew still and he didn't move at all for a while and then as slow as a glacier, his eyes found mine. I've never seen him look like that and I had thought I knew him in all his moods. Bereaved is the only word to describe it.
It's mean, isn't it? To find joy in another's sorrow? There's even a word for it, in German I think.
"Will you miss me?" I asked; even to myself my voice sounded tender. He nodded once, tightly. "Aww, sunshine," and I smiled at him--come to think of it the first time I'd smiled for a long time. "You've got a room here?" I asked, not needing to wait for the reply and got up and waited, expectantly.
Mechanically, he drained his pint (waste not want not, that's my Ray) and then led the way. The room was a small single, rather over-chintzy but cool and clean. I eased off my shoes and jacket and lowered myself onto the bed with a sigh--I was wiped out.
He didn't make allowances at all--he just ate me up, consuming fire all around me and I gave myself up to it, to him, let him take the lead, do what he wanted, whatever he wanted. He hurt me and I loved it; his hunger now a sweet, flattering assurance of my power. I'm only human after all.
I held him when I could and suddenly he was calm. He buried his head on my shoulder and apologised fervently for hurting me. "Sorry, sorry baby, sorry, I want you so much, so much," a litany of endearment and desire and I soaked it all up, like rain water on dry grass.
He kissed me then, on the lips, firm and equal pressure, his full lovely mouth seeking mine. When his tongue flickered out to stroke across my lips, I think I cried out; something wanton and needing. He pulled back and smiled, arrogant and lazily self assured, just the way I love him to be. But burning under that, his eyes were glowing like sparks, deeply green.
There's no mistaking the genuine article is there? The look of love, no doubt about it. All for me--and worth it, all worth it.
"I liked that," I said, happy and tired and ready to fall asleep at any minute.
"What?" he asked and bent to kiss me again.
"When you called me baby," I sighed, "I thought that was rather sweet."
"What's wrong?" I asked him over and over again, but he ignored me. And anyway, I knew what was wrong.
He was tense, edgy. Bodie's hell to live with sometimes, times like now. Stakeout--which he hates. A long, seemingly pointless stakeout--which he hates even more. Let's face it, he's not the easiest person in the world. But there was more to it than that, more to it than just 'the bloody job'. There was me. And him.
Made me feel awful when I first found out; I don't know, squirmy inside. Bodie's such a macho bugger, you don't expect it do you? Hard as nails inside and out I'd have said.
I'd no idea, none at all. But it all came out one night after too much drink and too much work. 'I want you' he said. Out loud, just like that. I knew he meant 'want' as in 'get your togs off I'm going up your arse'.
He tried to pounce but he was so drunk (needed the Dutch courage I suppose) that I managed to fend him off quite easily. I was a bit ruffled after all this as you might expect. Set him straight, in words of one syllable. It was awful, honest. I couldn't even tell anyone. I mean, it was a total joke but there's no way I could ever expose any one to that kind of ridicule. Poor sod.
And when I saw how he reacted, I felt so guilty. He used to storm off sometimes and come back hours later with a very strange look on his face. Anything could have happened to him on those little slumming trips, anything at all. I'm only grateful I didn't wind up down at the mortuary, having to identify just another body they'd pulled out the river.
The 'bloody job' ended bloodily, as they tend to. He bolted off like a bat out of hell, off to do whatever it is he does. There are some pictures I do not want in my mind. The picture of what Bodie gets up to with his 'bits of rough' is one of them.
I scouted round later, the usual pubs. No sign. I tried back at his flat and to my surprise he opened the door; he was disreputable, blue-chinned and roguish in a much too short bathrobe and he let me in with reluctance and bad grace.
"Disappeared a bit sharpish didn't you? What's the matter, got a hot date," I tried to be cheerful, but it came out all wrong. I winced. Play on his hospitality I thought and ordered: "Milk and two sugars," and made myself comfortable in the living room.
That didn't work either, he just sat right down as well and dozed off, blatantly naked beneath the robe. It's always cold in Bodie's living room, I've mentioned it to him before but he does nothing about the central heating. Torn between amusement and exasperation, I tried to get him back to bed.
God alone knows what he'd been up to; he was out for the count. I levered and puffed and panted a bit. No go. At last, he woke up of his own accord and got a bit shirty.
I was trying to be nice--for once--and he throws it back in my teeth. Bastard. So I got shirty right back. I know I can be stroppy but I'm worse with him, knowing what I know about him, knowing how he feels about me.
He stood there, all sleepy and somehow vulnerable and giving me hell: I don't know, something seemed to be crawling and melting inside my stomach, settling like cold rice pudding. So I opened my big fat mouth.
"If you need it that bad, so bad you're prepared to do--that--to get it, then you can do it to me."
I didn't expect his reaction. To be honest, I thought he'd just sweep me up in his arms like Clark Gable did to Vivien Leigh in that film and carry me off to bed. As it was, he stared like a stuck pig.
Well so much for the big seduction scene. Here I was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice all on his account--fat lump--and what do I get? The patented Bodie fish-eye stare.
But I knew he'd agree, he'd wanted me too long. And he did agree eventually, after a bit more of the fish-eye treatment and he strolled off to the bedroom and lay down.
Part of me was outside the whole situation, watching as if this was happening on a screen to somebody else. But when he touched me...every single cliche you've ever thought of--volcanoes, fireworks, waves crashing onto rocky shores. Scary.
"If he doesn't die, I'll do anything." I said that to myself all the way to the hospital and all the time I sat in the waiting room expecting every minute to be given the news. I was braced up ready for it. Prepared. If he doesn't die, I'll do anything.
I don't know who I was saying it to--God or the Fates or just Cowley. I only believe in one of that lot anyway.
It was supposed to be just another operation--instead it was a total cock-up from start to finish. The terrorists scattered and it took all our resources to gather them up, most of it across rough country. Then we took a head-count and old blue eyes was missing. It took me four hours to find him.
I'd practically walked over him, lying in a ditch and unconscious. His clothes were covered with what seemed like most of Hampshire. But there he was, large as life. Ha ha. He was awfully pale, no pulse I could feel but he wasn't cold so he couldn't be dead. I hoped.
Well, one of us is bound to croak one of these days. Happens to be him first, that's all. It would be tough and it was a facer but I'd get over it. We were partners, good pals, but--
The door swung open. My heart shifted in my chest, but it was just the cleaning lady. I looked at my watch, it was half past five. Morning or evening? I looked outside. Morning.
It's not like it would be if it was me in there is it? Bodie'd be going spare if it was me all shot up. Poor bastard, he's got it bad.
The door swings open again--another cleaning lady? No, someone in a white coat and serious expression this time.
I'm prepared for the 'we did everything we could' speech. I'm ok, really I am. I can't stand up. My face is wet. I can't stand up for God's sake. Why can't I stand up? It's not like I love him or anything, he's the bloody poofter round here, not me; if he doesn't die, I'll do anything.
I'd had quite a few assignments with Murphy lately and we'd done well. I knew The Supreme Leader was thinking about making it permanent depending on the doctor's final reports on the wounded hero.
Bodie had lived--of course. One life down, eight go. But he was ill, would be ill for a long time.
I hate hospitals. He was very poorly, mostly unconscious. I don't know why I bothered to go so often, twice every day. Even when he was awake he could barely speak. He was as weak and wretched as a half drowned kitten. It didn't suit him.
I brought him books he didn't read and grapes he didn't eat. I tried to talk but he got tired so quickly, I could see the chats weren't doing him any good. I visited anyway and ended up sitting by his bed in silence.
About ten days of that and then he was gone. Leaving HQ one night, Cowley called me back. "Going to St Mary's?" he asked and without waiting for an answer said: "Bodie's not there, we've had him moved to a convalescent home. The doctors' recommended it."
I nodded and smiled and said something inane in reply and went off home. It didn't matter. He'd be better off there, somewhere quiet and green. Get his strength back. I wasn't bothered. Not a bit.
That's that then, I told myself. Get it sorted out Ray, it was just a bit of an experiment, that's all. You don't fancy men, remember? Which is true. I don't. I fancied Bodie. I gave up at this stage and went out, got drunk and picked up some woman to screw myself senseless. I was a man, a real man, not some big softy pining away over another fella.
I was determined not to ask where this home was, but Betty told me anyway; the Peak District. "Nice," I acknowledged. I know the Peaks a bit, a Derbyshire childhood and all that. Buxton, Chatsworth, that sort of thing. Not been back for a while actually. Maybe the next long weekend I could motor up, just potter about the lanes and such.
I believed all this rubbish you know, told myself it was no more than idle curiosity and the desire for a country weekend that was sending me haring up the M1 on a Friday with the rest of the lunatics. The roads were hot, dusty and full of bad tempered idiots who thought they could drive.
I pulled in at a service station and bought myself a sandwich that I couldn't eat. I felt sick, dizzy, like I was going down with flu or something. Why was I doing this? I didn't know.
But, I'd made my bed, now I must lie on it--only problem was I wanted to lie on it with Bodie.
I stopped feeling sick after a while. I found the village without any trouble (oh so casual, Betty dear where is this place actually?).
It was quiet. Lovely open views. The air didn't smell of anything except air. There was only one pub but I got a room easily, cheap rate because of the weekend and the lateness of the season--even so it was abominably hot for late September. I got directions from the girl behind the desk and set off to find "The Hollys".
This turned out to be a very pretty William & Mary manor house, exclusive and horridly expensive. Yeah well sod the oranges I thought, I was more interested in William & Ray.
It was only when we came face to face, I realised the awful truth. I was in love. I've never been closer to tears in my whole life.
I was very calm as I drove away from Bodie. It had been a complete mess--I'd practically bawled my eyes out. Seeing him sat in that quiet room, all alone with a wistful, almost desolate air, my insides warmed into a fierce tenderness I had never felt before.
I reached the village, parked outside the pub and went in. It was quiet; weekend trade always is in places like this when the schools have gone back, but it made the pub more cool and welcoming. "A nice single" the girl behind the counter had promised and it was. A bit chintzy but spotlessly clean.
Later, I went down to the bar and tried to eat some bread and cheese but I couldn't, which was a pity since the cheese was local and probably fabulous. Evening time and the locals drifted in. The air filled with blue haze and the happy chatter of real people living ordinary lives.
Out of the evening sunlight that streamed in through the open door--there he was, large as life and twice as lovely.
He'd walked--mad bastard--all the way from the manor house (a good four miles) in his condition through the dust of this heatwave. I looked straight into his eyes but they revealed nothing. He sat opposite me and I knew I'd been waiting for this moment all my life, waiting for this man out of all the world.
The doctors had told him he'd be here for two months he said, and he didn't sound at all concerned. I don't think I've ever been more miserable. I was out of my head as it was--two months? I'd be a basket case.
Through my own misery, I could sense his joy. Getting his pound of flesh eh? But suddenly his eyes were warm, and kind, and alight with mischief and a million others things. I gazed and gazed and loved him. We reached my room together, the small room seeming even smaller with Bodie's large presence.
I made him sit down on the bed and filled a few painful minutes by being practical. The effort had exhausted him and he was silent and somehow tender. I eased off his jacket and his shoes.
He was thinner and it didn't suit him. I promised inwardly I would never rag him about being fat again. A sleek pampered Bodie was preferable to a thin tired Bodie any day of the week.
He lay back upon the pillow, drained. I kicked off my shoes and I didn't quite have the courage to rest my head on his shoulder. And anyway, poor lamb, he should be resting on mine. It was ready, anytime he was.
But the feel of him beside me was too much. Thin and ill as he was, he was still a hefty piece of machinery. And damn sexy incidentally.
I was fierce, ruthless with wanting him. He didn't seem to mind at all but after the first fine careless rapture, I calmed down enough to speak, to reassure him.
"Oh baby," I whispered and his face crumpled in shock at that endearment, not a term you normally associate with Bodie, "baby, baby" and I coaxed him like you would a fractious child and unwrapped him gently.
Then I kissed him and it gave me a shameful sense of my own power to touch him like this, so blatantly.
I moved my hand to stroke his cheek, feeling the stubble of his beard, the slack skin of the invalid. His eyes were wide and profoundly blue, his face hollow with tiredness and emotion.
He smiled, triumphant and self assured--just the way I love him. Smug little thing I mused, and kissed him again.
"I like that," he stated. I teased him, wanting more specifics, ready to play along with whatever it was he wanted. Sleep was claiming him even as I looked.
"When you called me baby," he sighed, "I thought that was rather sweet."
-- THE END --
Originally published in Uncharted Waters 12, Crevichon Press, 1995