by Ellis Ward
Hushed and wan, first light crept slowly into Ray Doyle's bedroom. Outside his window, birdsong trilled, its clear, pure notes presumptuous in the grey stillness. Not a whisper of breeze stirred the fresh sprung leaves so greenly adorning the stately elm in the front garden. It was the time of suspension, before dawn relinquished its sovereignty to day; the preternatural time when body and mind were singularly one.
Amidst this calm, Ray Doyle awoke, warm and relaxed, sprawled heavily across the mattress, cozily ensconced in folds of cotton and wool. The bird's greeting echoed faintly in his head, easily recalled as it was soon repeated; but it was not the cause of his rousing. That had been triggered by something else; some subliminal, signature quality as well-known to him as the rustle of sheets that accompanied his shift from back to side.
No other's presence was as deeply fixed in his consciousness, encompassing every aspect of the other man's being. Doyle knew him unseen: the scent of him, the taste, the sound of his voice and measured tread of his footfalls, the glorious texture of each inch of his body; from the silken, thick hair on his head to the healthy solidness of his toenails. He had explored it all--and willingly learned it anew at every opportunity.
Certain that Bodie had been here, but puzzled as to why he had gone away without announcing himself, Doyle slowly unshuttered his eyes and gazed about the palely lit room. All was as it had been when he had climbed into bed the night before: the door was closed, curtains half-drawn to let in the morning, his clothing heaped on the tea-chest that stood at the foot of the bed. Blinking drowsily, a slight frown etched between dark brows, he scanned everything--and there on the bedside table, only a few feet away, he finally discovered that Bodie had brought him something.
The size of a small aubergine, it was a chocolate Easter egg. Apparently hollow, its two hemispheres were held together by a broad, blue ribbon, tied in a huge bow. Grinning to himself, Doyle wryly contemplated his partner's gift. The gesture was typically Bodie; who else would offer chocolate to a legendarily disinterested man as an incentive to re-open communication between them?
Not that Doyle had been the one to close Bodie out; just the opposite. Bodie had been broodingly introspective for several days following a fire-fight involving civilians. A young man had fallen to a bullet from Doyle's gun, which had resulted in Doyle being placed on suspension, and Bodie being relegated to Archives until the inquiry should reach a conclusion regarding Doyle's actions. While never happy when the instrument of another person's death, Doyle had no doubt that he had performed according to his brief as a CI5 operative--and as Bodie's partner. Had he hesitated, it would not now be the boy who was dead, but Bodie. There was no doubt in his mind at all that he had acted in the only way left open to him.
He had submitted his report both in writing and before Cowley, who had taken every word down on his tape machine. Following that, there had been nothing he could do but await judgment; a tedious situation he had coped with more than once. He had missed Bodie's company; even knowing that his partner was still at Cowley's beck and call. They had spoken a time or two on the telephone; awkward, uneasy conversations that Doyle had found hugely frustrating. Nor had he really expected Bodie to come round--even to visit, much less to spend the night. While their relationship was open knowledge within the Squad, it was not a topic to be flogged to the exuberant press, and there were too many of their kind nosing about to take any chances. Cowley had made that very clear to them when the matter had originally come up.
Still, being logical and civic-minded did not ease the loneliness of Doyle's nights; he was developing an ache for Bodie that was sorely testing his resolve to keep CI5 uppermost in his thoughts.
It was amazing, really, how much a bloke's life could change in a year.
Easter Sunday, a year ago: it had been a total muck up, in more ways than the literal. A routine minding op had gone horrendously wrong, and only Bodie and Doyle's swift actions had saved the remnants of the situation. While they had come out of it relatively unscathed, two of their attackers had been killed and the Canadian separatist under their protection had been injured. Arriving on the scene within moments, Cowley had demanded an immediate report. Muddied from an evasive dive into a puddle, Doyle had sharply informed his boss that he would have a shower and change first. Having been the one to bodily drag his partner to his feet, Bodie was in little better shape and had seconded Doyle's vehement words wholeheartedly. Thwarted, but unprepared to indulge in a public row, Cowley had conceded, arranging to meet them an hour later at HQ.
In the men's locker room, Doyle furiously stripped off, flinging his shirt onto the wooden bench. He slowed a little when he began to peel off his jeans. The sound of Bodie's hiss brought his head up. Following the line of the stony blue gaze, Doyle glanced down at his abdomen, unsurprised at the bright red welt that stretched from the inside right: rim of the pelvic bone halfway to the pubic hair arrowing toward his groin. Displaying his teeth in a mirthless smile, Doyle pressed a thumb under the flattened metal rivet which strengthened the seam of his change pocket, and said, "Deflected a bullet. Must've ricocheted or I'd be wearing this in my navel, I expect."
The attempted humour was utterly ignored. Bodie said flatly, "You should have that seen to, mate."
"Nah," Doyle replied cheerily. "'S not that bad. I'll just find someone to kiss It better." With that he removed the slip of elastIcated nylon that passed for underwear, and his socks, and took himself to one of the shower stalls.
He had only Just got the cold and hot water mixed to his satisfaction, when a large, imposing body slid in beside him. "Will I do?" Bodie asked, and dropped to his knees. Before Doyle could argue, a warm, wet tongue swathed a path from belly to groin, eradicating every vestige of pain and replacing it with luscious, unbelievable pleasure.
Afterward, Doyle wanted nothing more than to return the kindness, sparing no thought for what effect this unprecedented activity might have on their partnership--and friendship. With Bodie held limp in his arms a few minutes later, he experienced a curious sense of power and raw affection--and a very keen realization of responsibility, as well. In less than an hour, Doyle's mood had cannoned from one of barely leashed irascibility to one of buoyant optimism. If Bodie's introduction of sex to their relationship could achieve that, then, Doyle reasoned, it must be a good thing.
Within five minutes, the two men had towelled off and dressed, and reported to Cowley as ordered.
On the way back to Doyle's flat that night, neither commented directly on what had taken place. Yet Doyle did not question his own motives when he asked Bodie to stay.
Neither did Bodie: he stayed.
In the months that followed, they continued to have sex at every discreet opportunity. Their living arrangements went unchanged at first; sometimes they slept over, most often they did not. Entire days outside the job would pass when they saw each other not at all. Doyle never questioned his partner about what Bodie did then; he did not want to know if Bodie was still seeing other people.
For himself, life went on much as always--with one major alteration: the elimination of other sexual partners. Although Doyle might have felt compelled to deny it aloud, Bodie was all he needed. In fact, it galled him sometimes to realize that even when they had been apart for long spells at a time, he had no desire to look elsewhere: Bodie's attentions were worth waiting for.
In those first months, he didn't question where they were going or ultimately where they might end up. First and foremost, he trusted Bodie. Whatever happened, he knew Bodie would guard Doyle's heart every bit as efficiently as he guarded Doyle's back. That meant Bodie would not hurt him--even if only by not flaunting nights spent with other people.
Doyle could live with that. If, occasionally, he yearned for more, reality readily reminded him that he already had far in excess of anything he'd previously experienced. Yet he was also well aware that the day must come when he and Bodie discussed just what it was they were doing, for it certainly surpassed the expediency of a quick wank, and often damn near approached full-blown romance.
While they kept the depth of their relationship strictly separate from their job, it was not a secret to anyone who cared to look. Early on they had decided to be scrupulous in informing the stand-by dispatcher where they could be reached--and if that happened to be all night at one flat, then that was where they were listed. No one questioned them about it, but word soon spread that 4.5 and 3.7 were spending an inordinate amount of time in one another's company. Some mild ragging followed, but nothing they couldn't shrug off.
Until Cowley called them into his office one day in October.
Bodie and Doyle sat unmoving in the uncomfortable chairs situated before Cowley's desk. The details of their most recent assignment had been unceremoniously dropped on the polished rosewood surface only seconds before. Neither man had responded by word or gesture, either to their duties as outlined or the unambiguous dismissal of their presence.
Curtly, Cowley asked, "Questions? Three-seven? Four-five?"
Lips compressed, Bodie muttered, "Not a question, sir. Just--"
Doyle held his breath, staring down at the floor as he waited for Bodie to speak. Cowley had just outlined a "stud job" for Bodie, with Doyle acting as his liaison.
"I can't do it." Bodie sat stiffly upright, eyes fixed somewhere past Cowley's right shoulder.
"Can't do what, Bodie?" Cowley asked patiently.
"This op. You'll have to give it to someone else."
"Indeed?" Removing his glasses, Cowley murmured, "I don't recall this being an organization of optional participation."
"Sorry, sir," Bodie said. Chin lifted stubbornly, he went on, "I won't do it."
"I see." Head cocked contemplatively to one side, the controller of CI5 turned pale blue eyes on Doyle. "All right, then. Doyle, you'll take over Bodie's position. I'll find another agent--perhaps, Murphy--to take over--"
Doyle spoke sharply. "No, sir."
"I'd rather not."
"You'd 'rather not'." Cowley's apparent toleration dissolved in a burst of anger. "That is not how CI5 operates, gentlemen. Unless the pair of you have excellent reasons for refusing this--"
"Come off it!" Doyle exclaimed. "You know why we're refusing. You know Bodie and I are--" He brought himself to an abrupt stop, chagrined to have volunteered so much with so little provocation.
A tiny smile lurked at the corners of Cowley's mouth. "Yes, Doyle?"
When Doyle remained sullenly silent, Bodie said quietly, "It isn't something you'd ask of married operatives."
Cowley folded his hands on the desk in front of him. "Married, Bodie? I don't remember seeing a request for permission to wed from either of you."
Goaded beyond endurance, Doyle snarled hotly, "And you aren't bloody likely to! You know about us; you've probably known since the first time we--we...."
Unintimidated by Doyle's outraged glare, Cowley remarked mildly, "Not the first time, no."
"We've made no secret of it," Bodie said evenly. "But we haven't been stupid, either.'
"Aye. Surprisingly enough, you haven't," Cowley agreed. He looked steadily from one man to the other. "I'll rely on you to keep it that way." With that, he retrieved the two files and moved them to the bottom of the pile that stood on one side of his writing pad.
Bewildered and disquieted, Doyle asked, "So what do you want of us? Are you saying that--?"
With a peremptory wave of his hand, Cowley silenced him. "That's quite enough, Doyle." He took the top folder from the stack of files and opened it. "This next project will probably be no more to your liking, but for totally different reasons."
In a daze, the two agents heard the older man out, jotted down pertinent information, and were prompt to take their leave once dismissed.
Driving over the Thames heading south toward Gatwick a few minutes later, Doyle said unhappily to his unusually quiet companion, "So what d'you think that was all about?"
Shifting to a lower gear as traffic slowed, Bodie answered confidently, "It was a test. Cowley wants to know how much our sleeping together is going to affect our work."
"It won't. That is, if it was going to, it would've done by now."
"Hasn't it?" Bodie cast him a fleeting, unreadable look. "We just balked at an assignment we would never have quibbled over before."
Darkly surveying the choppy surface of the river, Doyle said, "So he'll have to ponce off some other blokes from now on." When only silence greeted this statement, he turned restively toward his partner. "D'you--? Does it bother you that it came out like that?"
To his surprise, Bodie grinned. "If it'll keep you out of someone else's bed, I'm hardly likely to complain, Ray."
As this was the first indication of possessiveness Bodie had exhibited, Doyle was somewhat taken aback. He ventured softly, "You don't have any reason to, mare." He hesitated. "And I think you should know: it goes both ways."
This announcement seemed to please Bodie. "Reckon I can handle that," he said equably, a hint of a smile belying his indifference.
Since then, they had settled into as much of a routine as their chosen mode of living would allow. Doyle was absurdly pleased with their arrangement, and sensed that Bodie was, as well--even though his partner's tendency toward closed-mouthedness had not changed. In all their years together, Bodie had rarely spoken about himself. Doyle attributed that to Bodie's background and the fact that there were unpleasant memories he'd rather never own up to, let alone discuss.
He had learned not to pry, hoping one day Bodie would open up to him without prompting. Yet, if that day never dawned, Doyle would not be unduly bothered. He had Bodie's devotion, which he suspected went far deeper than Bodie probably liked. Knowing Bodie as he did, Doyle fully recognized the worth of his partner's unquestioning gift. For reasons Doyle could not adequately explain to himself, Bodie had chosen him to be the most important person in his world, and would do anything to ensure Doyle's welfare. No matter how far gone he might be--in passion or rage--Bodie had never transgressed the boundary that demarcated Doyle's well-being from Doyle's discomfort.
This restraint gave Doyle a very real power over his partner; he acknowledged that fact, and determined never to misuse Bodie's vulnerability. Only as a result of a misunderstanding did he once fail in this ambition.
It was a bleak, cold day in January. In bed after a week apart, Bodie and Doyle were untouched by the cutting winter wind howling outside, diligently radiating a very special heat of their own making.
On his back, Doyle held his partner close to him, accommodating the strong, downward strokes that drove against his abdomen. Bodie pressed nearer, his mouth hot and wet against Doyle's throat, teeth stinging where they nipped tender skin. Legs wrapped around Bodie's waist, Doyle yearningly raised himself at the same moment that Bodie shifted up and bore down--and almost found himself impaled upon Bodie's passion.
Holding himself mercilessly still, Bodie raised his head, eyes raking Doyle's startled face. This, like love, was another aspect of their relationship that had yet to be discussed.
Uncertain how to respond, Doyle decided to turn the awkward moment into a joke. "Sorry, mate," he whispered hoarsely. "I'm saving that for the man I marry."
To Doyle's dismay, Bodie paled as though he had been struck. "Right," he said gruffly, and bent forward to cover Doyle's mouth in a long savage kiss. For an instant, Doyle tried to break free--but only for an instant. Where Bodie and lovemaking were concerned, he suffered a singular lack of control. No one had ever played him so expertly, nor taken him so high.
When at last he had his wits about him again, sheltering Bodie's head in the hollow of his shoulder, Doyle knew he should explain his words. He had not meant his silly statement to be taken as a rejection; in fact, despite a certain understandable apprehension, there had been the very real hope that Bodie would boldly stake his claim. Yet loving Bodie as he did, did not allow Doyle to place chains about his lover, and asking Bodie for long-term commitment would be an effective way of doing that. Cowardly allowing the moment to slip away, Doyle nestled nearer, kissing the damply waving hair on the crown of Bodie's head.
That had been three and a half months ago. In that time, Doyle had toyed with the idea of forcing a confrontation with Bodie regarding their feelings, desires and hopes for the future. It went no further than that, however, for Doyle accepted that he and Bodie would never have more than the present. What they shared suited both of them as near to perfection as any relationship could; given their individual personalities, perhaps more so. Foolish, really, to want more. And anyway, Doyle had to admit to himself that Bodie's love would never be any more substantial simply for having been spoken.
So why couldn't he leave it alone?
Surely it was not unreasonable to want some tangible token of their relationship--something a little more lasting than a chocolate Easter egg. Yawning hugely, Doyle shoved his pillow against the headboard and dragged himself up to rest against it. He'd hoped to give Bodie something on the anniversary date of their "first time." Cowley and Her Majesty's Government had conspired against him, however, as Bodie had been otherwise engaged scouring his arms contacts for information regarding a possible influx of specialized weapons, while Doyle had been consigned to a spell in Archives following up leads Bodie had suggested he research.
In a very short couple of weeks, of course, their respective roles had been virtually reversed, and it was Bodie who had been damned to haunt the computers whilst Doyle sat about, restlessly awaiting the outcome of the inquiry.
Tucking the duvet round him with one hand, he reached for the egg with the other. The fulsome aroma of chocolate was almost overwhelming in the cool morning air. Turning the egg this way and that to study the flowery details etched on the pregnant exterior, Doyle amused himself with the thought that only his devoutly areligious lover would favour Easter over all the special days of the year.
Gently tugging one end of the bow from its knot, Doyle wondered why Bodie had come and gone without so much as a 'hello.' It irritated him, for he longed to talk with his partner, to learn the cause of the edgy remoteness that had formed his mood over the last few days. Quite simply, he missed Bodie, far more than he would ever like to admit.
The ribbon came free and slithered to the duvet as Doyle lifted the top half of the egg to peer inside. Clucking softly to himself, he glanced over the array of smaller chocolates, identifying a half dozen different types in the first sweep.
At that moment the alarm on his bedside table went off, causing him to startle. The confectionery bowl tipped in his hand as he lunged over to switch the noise off, spilling sweets into his lap.
Amidst silence once more, Doyle righted himself and immediately set about restoring the errant chocolates to their home, cursing softly at the vision of huge, oily stains on the bedding. In his haste, he almost missed the glint of metal and the flare of bright colour, hidden as they were beneath the candy rabble. Worming his fingers between small variegated shapes, Doyle uncovered the astounding objects and plucked them out with the fastidiousness of a small child. Eyes over-wide and forest green, he stared at the pair of rings that emerged. Held together by an improbable tartan ribbon, one band was yellow gold with an emerald stone, the other white gold mounted with a garnet. Birthstones: emerald for May; garnet for January.
Heart in his throat, Doyle tried to swallow and found he could not. Recalling himself to his precarious state long enough to gather the rest of the chocolates into the two halves of the egg, he removed them to the bedside table. His attention immediately returned to the mystery of the rings.
What could Bodie mean by this?
Disgusted to find his hand unsteady, Doyle slid his finger into the yellow gold band, turning the emerald so that it sat squarely upright. The ring fit perfectly.
"You lunatic bastard," he whispered, and blinked roughly to combat the sharp stinging in his eyes.
In the next moment he was rising, bedclothes falling away from his hips like foam in the wake of a ship. He wrested the ring from his finger and set it, still joined to its mate, on the bedside table.
Bodie must have thought he would need time to think on this; to consider every possible ramification of such an offering. Well, he didn't. It was likely that Bodie had returned to his flat, there to await Doyle's certain visit. In that case, he wouldn't have long--
In the process of reaching for his jeans, Doyle went stock-still at the muted noise that came from below stairs. He couldn't be positive at this distance, but that had sounded very like the clunk of the oven door closing. And who else would be making free with his oven but Bodie?
Glancing round sharply, Doyle's gaze fell on the two hemispheres of the great chocolate egg, and the tartan-bound rings lying beside it. A slow smile stole across his mouth, echoing the speculative gleam in bright green eyes.
It was Bodie, of course. He stood in the dining room, facing out the large window, hands deep in the pockets of his leather jacket.
Unheard, Doyle entered the room, tightening the sash of the silk robe at his waist. His eyes rested fondly on his partner's back, taking in the defensive posture; the too-stiff lines drawn from neck to hip. He wanted to say, "It'll be all right, mate."
But how could he, before he knew precisely what Bodie was up to?
Instead, he asked very quietly, "What're you doing here skulking about?" The least hint of stifled movement assured him that Bodie had not expected him down so soon. Doyle went on, "D'you know what time it is?"
Smoothly pivoting on heel, Bodie faced him with a noncommittal expression. "Sure. Thought you might want a run."
"A run? Not today, mate; I've got something else lined up." Doyle raked a hand through his hair, which only added to the disorder of already tumbled curls. He sniffed exaggeratedly. "What's that, then? Smells good."
Searching blue eyes slid away. "Something for the day," Bodie replied colourlessly. "Coffee, too. Help yourself."
"You're too kind, sunshine," Doyle said with affectionate sarcasm. Stepping haltingly past his partner, he pushed his way into the kitchen. Surrounded by the close warmth therein, he was assailed by the beguiling scent of freshly heated hot cross buns. "Christ, Bodie," he exclaimed with unfeigned delight, snatching one off the baking tin, which was cooling on the sideboard. "You're a hero."
Bodie propped himself against the wall, head cocked to one side. "Are you all right?"
Taking a huge bite out of a very warm roll, Doyle mumbled, "Perfectly."
"You're walking funny."
"Am not." Doyle collected a mug from the cupboard and filled it with fragrant, steaming coffee.
"You're imagining things. Didn't you have any of these? They're fantastic." He bent over to pull the jug of milk out of the refrigerator.
"I had one," Bodie replied unenthusiastically.
"Only one!" Doyle sloshed a goodly amount of milk into his cup. "You sickening for something?"
Broad shoulders twitched in an abbreviated shrug. "And a few on the way over."
"Now there's a surprise," Doyle chided, taking another huge mouthful of sweet bread, and following it with a long, appreciative drink of coffee. His gaze went distant and as inconspicuously as possible he shifted from one leg to the other, inelegantly twisting his hips as he did so.
Attention riveted, Bodie unfolded his arms and straightened up. "Ray? What---?"
With an insouciance that disputed the adrenaline rushing in his veins, Doyle slid a hand under the hem of his robe. Careful to leave his nether regions clearly in view, he tucked a finger into his pants and made a few adjustments. Glancing up innocently, he raised his hand to his mouth and lapped at the single, brown-daubed digit with the tip of his tongue.
Bodie stared as though he'd been poleaxed.
"Hmm," Doyle murmured throatily. "Cadbury's finest."
Within seconds, Bodie stood before him, uninhibitedly pulling the flaps of Doyle's robe apart. He gripped the elasticated band of his underwear with both hands and drew it away from Doyle's skin, staring down into chocolate-scented depths.
"Bit personal, that," Doyle pointed out, unperturbed.
"Jesus," Bodie breathed. He bent over and pushed his face into the intimate realm where several small, melting chocolates surrounded Doyle's genitals. Doyle moaned as the other man's tongue rasped over him, not with a lover's unselfish adoration, but with the feral urgency of someone too long unfed. His knees buckled and he was forced to cling to Bodie's shoulders for support. It was soon more than he could bear, the snuffling, slurping sounds as arousing as the all-encompassing attentions of Bodie's wanton mouth. Before he could utter anything intelligible, Bodie had burrowed deeper, probing at the joining of groin and inner thigh, his nose nudging imperatively at Doyle's testicles. There came a startling crunching sound, and Doyle squeaked, his fingers digging into Bodie's back.
Licking his lips, Bodie surfaced just long enough to inform Doyle reassuringly, "Hazelnuts," before returning to his self-appointed task.
"Stop, Bodie." Doyle seized his lover's head between both hands. "Bodie, please. I can't--" He tugged sharply to emphasize his sincerity, even though it was one of the hardest things he'd ever done.
Bodie paused to lift heavy-lidded eyes to his partner. "What's wrong, Ray?"
"No more. Need you to stop."
Bodie tipped his head toward Doyle's tumescence. "I don't think mind and body are in agreement here."
"Too bloody true," Doyle groaned. He pulled at Bodie's upper arms until the other man stood alongside him. "But I want to talk to you, and I can't think while you're down there chewing away at me."
Bodie grinned seraphically. "Hell of a place to store your choccies, mate."
Doyle leaned heavily against his partner's stolid frame. "So I've just learned." He scanned Bodie's relaxed, open features. "You're a mess," he said without reproach, wiping a finger over a small brown smudge on Bodie's chin. "Speaking of chocolates--you know why gay blokes are called chocolate bandits, don't you?"
"That's the reason you made me sto--? All right, all right." This, as Doyle glared at him. Some of the humour went out of Bodie's face. "Yeah, of course I do. And all those other stupid names like turd burglars and gutstickers: because we--" He broke off abruptly, more than a little taken aback as the probable significance of Doyle's question registered. "You've never stuck something up there, Doyle?"
Lips close to Bodie's ear, Doyle whispered meaningfully, "Was hoping I could leave that to you, mate."
Bodie pulled a little away so he could stare hard into Doyle's eyes. "Are you saying--?"
"Yep." Doyle raised his hand, the fingers guarding his palm unfurling to reveal the two rings, no longer linked by the tartan ribbon. "Been saving meself remember?"
Lowering his head so that Doyle could not see his expression, Bodie commented, "'For the man you marry.' I remember." Dark blue eyes flicked up. "Was afraid you didn't mean me."
Doyle flinched. "Because I said that? I ... Well, I was just trying to make a joke of it; didn't mean to put you off." He offered a crooked smile. "I wouldn't've stopped you, if you'd tried to carry on."
A brow lifted skeptically. "Even without marriage?" Bodie asked sardonically.
That elicited a snort. "'Course. You don't have to say you love me for me to go to bed with you, Bodie." Doyle rubbed his stubbled cheek against Bodie's smooth jaw. "In case you haven't noticed."
Blunt-tipped fingers slid into richly auburn curls. "I had. But you really do want to be permanently exclusive with me?"
"Just us; no more whoring around?"
Doyle pinned his partner with a haughty gaze. "I haven't slept with anyone else since last Easter."
"No?" This news appeared to discomfit Bodie. "I... Well, I--"
"Never mind, Bodie," Doyle said firmly, folding his arms around the other man. "We didn't make any prom--"
"Raymond, Raymond," Bodie interrupted admonishingly. "You can be shockingly thick sometimes, y'know that?" He put a finger alongside Doyle's cheek, lightly stroking the bristly skin. "For eight years, I lusted after you. Now that I've got you, d'you seriously believe I'd make do with anything less?"
A little overcome, Doyle countered, "You never made out it was that big a deal."
Bodie kissed the tip of his nose. "Neither did you, as I recall."
"Didn't know for sure what you wanted then," Doyle confessed.
"And you do now?"
A knowing certainty spread across Doyle's face. "Other than me on my knees? Yeah, I think I can puzzle it out."
Bodie propped his forehead against Doyle's. "And what do you want, Ray?"
"That's easy," Doyle replied promptly, taking advantage of Bodie's closeness to rub enticingly against him. "You. Just you."
"You're not asking for much," Bodie said wryly. "I mean, take a long look: this is as good as it gets."
"Stop fishing; you'll do." He took Bodie's left hand in his and held it between them. Poising the ring with the blood-red stone between forefinger and thumb, he began solemnly, 'With this ring, I--" Self-conscious, he broke into a grin. "Well, y'know, Bodie: the lot." He slid the white gold band smoothly onto Bodie's last finger but one.
"Such a way with words you have, Doyle." Bodie smothered a laugh. He gestured to Doyle to pass him the other ring, which Doyle immediately did, trying, but failing, to cover a flush that lit both of his cheeks with a rosy slow.
Imitating his partner's actions with aplomb, Bodie grasped Doyle's hand and guided the emerald ring onto one slim finger. "Okay, then: the lot, mate."
Doyle snickered, the sound suddenly lost in Bodie's seeking mouth. The kiss was long and lush, and hungrily savoured by both men.
When it broke at last, Bodie said breathlessly, "Sure cuts down on the ceremony that way."
Doyle waggled his brows lewdly. "Why waste time on words, when we can--?"
"Don't say it," Bodie implored dramatically. "Mannerless lout."
"Would I?" Doyle simpered, pulling Bodie toward the door. "So... Who's having a dip in the fudge pot first, then?"
Grimacing grotesquely to keep from breaking into a smile, Bodie complained, "Jesus, Doyle. Isn't this the least bit romantic to you?"
Doyle stopped at the foot of the stairs and gave Bodie a crushing hug. "Better than romantic, Bodie; this is real." He conferred a sweetly loving kiss on Bodie's parted lips.
Upstairs in the bedroom, however, Doyle hesitated in the removal of his robe, furtively watching Bodie slip off his shirt and trousers. His earlier arousal had quite gone by the time Bodie's genitals, heavy with anticipation, came into view. Discarding his robe all at once, Doyle climbed onto the bed and scooted beneath the covers.
Naked, save for his socks, Bodie sat on the edge of the mattress nearer Doyle and began to strip them off, as well. "We don't have to do this, Ray," Bodie said, his voice low and filled with understanding.
The breath caught in Doyle's throat, briefly interfering with his ability to speak. "I--"
Bodie tossed the second sock onto the chair next to its mate. Making no effort to touch Doyle, he angled sideways to face him. "It bothers you, doesn't it?"
Doyle gave his head a definite shake, saying, "No, I--" But the acceptance in rich blue eyes gazing so tenderly upon him aborted the lie unspoken. "Yeah," he breathed. "A bit."
Reaching out, Bodie cupped his partner's round, wilful face with one large hand. "So why push it? I'm not complaining."
A lop-sided grin took some of the uncertainty from Doyle's expression. "Fucking's what you do, isn't it--when you get married." He turned his mouth into Bodie's palm, giving it a slow lick.
"It's what other people do, you mean. We can do what we like."
Doyle pulled Bodie's hand away. "Do you want to fuck me, then?"
There was no point in denying it; Bodie nodded. "But I don't have to. Not if it puts you off."
Baring his teeth, Doyle reminded him smartly, "You know better than to try and coddle me, Bodie. I'm here because I want to be."
Bodie smiled very softly and bent over his partner. "I guess I still find that a little difficult to believe. Love you, Ray."
Since this was something Bodie had only ever mumbled at the height of passion before, Doyle soaked the words up, their essence suffusing him with a soul-deep warmth. He curled forward and rested his cheek against Bodie's thigh. "Feeling's mutual." He tipped his head back and looked up into Bodie's face, unaware of the picture of soft invitation he made. Eyes slanted half-shut, mouth relaxed and still a little swollen from Bodie's kisses, he was everything Bodie had ever desired. And now he was Bodie's for the taking.
"You go first," Doyle said huskily.
Bodie's heart-rate took off. Schooling his voice to normality with an effort, he argued, "Why me?"
"Why not?" Doyle said with impeccable logic. "You bought the rings--even though I will pay you back for the one."
Bodie leant forward, cradling Doyle's shoulders in his arms as he laid the slighter man flat on his back upon the mattress. "'Course you will."
He kissed Doyle with loving thoroughness, hands coursing over starkly pronounced collarbone and ribs, thumbs gently arcing over tightly contracted nipples. His mouth touched Doyle's eyelids, the tip of his nose, then trailed across his jaw to the velvet curve of the nearest earlobe. Downward he moved, mouthing and licking silken flesh, reveling in the sleep-concentrated taste of the man he loved. With fingers spread wide over Doyle's ribcage, his hands rode the inhalations which raised the bony chest high, then dropped with the outgoing breaths that formed the vulnerable trough of the concave abdomen.
Doyle was squirming by the time his partner reached his belly, hips heaving upward to redirect that moist, quicksilver pressure toward the source of greatest need. But Bodie was taking his time, each touch worshipfully bestowed. "Bo-die," Doyle begged, his hands pushing against the solid shoulders to force his partner lower.
He gasped his relief when Bodie finally obliged him, insides roiling with molten pressure. This was the gentle, knowing lover he was familiar with, taking him so effortlessly toward his goal. When Bodie broke away without warning, Doyle growled his frustration.
"Hang about, mate," Bodie reassured him. He stretched to his full length to get at the drawer in Doyle's bedside table. "Should've had this ready," he muttered, his voice endearingly hoarse and the slightest bit trembly.
Doyle opened his eyes, taking in the sight of his pale-skinned partner kneeling beside him, engaged in a struggle with the small cap to the tube of lubricant. His heated gaze dropped to the column of lust rising between Bodie's thighs, long and thick and very intimidating. The thought of that shoved up his arse gave him a shiver and raised tiny prickles all over.
Bodie caught him staring as he squeezed a goodly portion of clear gel onto his fingers. Unsmiling, he said, "It's not too late to say 'no.'"
Reading those blue eyes as though they were a long-favoured book, Doyle simply shook his head. "Been too late for a long time. Just get on with it, will you?" He turned onto his side, back toward Bodie, one leg crooked upward.
A warm mouth pressed against the nape of his neck at the same time that a cool, slick finger probed between his buttocks.
"About those rings," Doyle whispered raggedly.
"Yeah?" Bodie's teeth tugged at an earlobe.
"You did keep the receipt, didn't you?"
A series of quick warm breaths against Doyle's shoulder betrayed Bodie's amusement. "Yes."
"Cost that much, did they?" A finger pushed into him, stilling the air in Doyle's lungs. With his entire being concentrated on that intrusive presence, he was taken aback when a tentative resurgence of interest sparked in his groin.
"You can afford it," Bodie assured him, adding another finger to the first, and working them both carefully for a moment. He crept closer until his body covered Doyle's like a second skin. "The best doesn't come cheap, y'know." He pulled his hand free.
Misinterpreting the removal of Bodie's fingers, Doyle pushed himself backward, seeking to restore Bodie's touch. "The best won't come at all, if it doesn't put itself where--" He froze as Bodie entered him, biting his lip until he tasted blood.
"You--were--saying?" Bodie grunted.
But Doyle could not answer, shocked at the sensation of being filled, at the ripping discomfort, at the incongruous lick of pleasure that shot into his wilted manhood from deep inside. Bodie did that, he realized, with some disbelief.
"Ray?" Bodie asked roughly. "You want me to stop? Am I hurting--"
Dragged out of his self-centered reverie, Doyle snarled, "No! It's--Christ, Bodie, just do it, will yo--! Ah!" Fe muffled the wholly involuntary cry by turning his face into the pillow. Bodie had done as instructed, with barely controlled fervour. Torn between awareness of his partner's groaning rapture, and his own unforeseen responsiveness, Doyle was just beginning to soar to the rhythm of his partner's movements, when Bodie gasped aloud and gave one, hard final thrust--and left Doyle suspended and fiercely aching.
"Bodie!" So far gone that he could do nothing else, Doyle let go his death-grip on Bodie's thigh and reached frantically between his own legs--there to collide with Bodie's square-cut hand, which batted his shaking fingers away.
Taken into Bodie's warm and sure grasp, Doyle quickly regained lost ground. In fact, it was over almost at once; yet for all its brevity it was cataclysmic as any sexual release he had ever known. And then he was cradled in Bodie's arms for long, boneless moments of recovery.
He was drowsing when Bodie gently separated them. After a quick mop-up with tissues, Bodie manhandled Doyle back into his arms, taking his mouth in a lingering kiss. "Sorry, mate," he whispered. "Didn't mean to leave you behind."
Doyle conjured a ghostly chuckle. "Almost didn't. I'll want to try that again--when you're not so fast off the mark."
A relieved sigh brushed across Doyle's cheek. "My bedroom credibility is in ashes," Bodie acknowledged. "Couldn't help meself, mate."
Propping himself up so he could take in Bodie's expression, Doyle was unprepared for the guileless, trusting facade that greeted him. "I won't tell," he vowed, making no effort to conceal his affection. "You look bloody-well shagged out. Have a little kip, why don't you? I'll be here."
Bodie curved his arms around his partner and dragged him close again. "And then it's your turn. I'm looking forward to that."
Doyle gave a sinuous wriggle. "Yeah. With chocolates."
"What?" Alarm flickered in Bodie's sleepy eyes.
"Like you did to me," Doyle said, his voice low and sultry. "That was something, mate. You're going to like it. Promise."
Bodie shuddered. "Christ, my very own chocolate bandit."
Wrinkling his nose, Doyle applied his teeth to Bodie's earlobe, then soothed the tiny hurt with the silken swab of a penitent tongue. "Nah, you're the one with the sweet tooth. I'll have to be your...chutney ferret."
"Skinny thing like you? Chuff adder, more like."
"Then you," Doyle retorted, a wide grin on his face, "can be my windjammer, as well."
Bodie pursed his lips with counterfeit primness. "How about dead-eye dick, instead?"
"Arse brigand, more like," Doyle chortled.
"Enough!" Bodie entreated, his voice laced with irrepressible humour.
Settling back down, Doyle murmured, "Haven't thanked you for the choccies yet, y'know."
"Doyle." The tone was one of warning.
"'M serious. Best Easter pressie I've ever had."
Bodie squeezed him tightly. "Me, too. Thought it'd make a good anniversary gift."
"Anniversary?" Doyle shook his head. "That was three weeks ago, Bodie. March 26th, remember?"
"'Course, I do. Which was Easter, last year. It's Easter today, right?"
"And we've been busy." He made himself comfortable upon Bodie's shoulder. "I've missed you."
"And you. Would've been round sooner, but I had to get my courage up." Bodie took a deep breath. "By the way: you're off suspension. The Cow wants you in tomorrow at 0800 hours, sharpish."
"Great," Doyle said drily. "Just when I was getting used to being a man of leisure." He brought Bodie's face down to meet his lips. After a slow, languid kiss, he said hopefully, "You think we might learn how to talk more, y'know, about us?"
"Is that yes or no?"
Not satisfied with this less than decisive response, Doyle decided to employ more unignorable tactics.
A blue eye shot open as a gliding tongue tip and soft lips mounted a ticklish assault on Bodie's left nipple. "God, Doyle!" Bodie grabbed thick clumps of hair in both hands and carefully pulled Doyle's head away from his chest. "Worst than a bloody dog with a bone, you are." His fingers, distracted as always by Doyle's lush hair, began to wander. "Okay, I'll try. That's the best I can do." He swung a thumb down to caress the pleased smile forming on Doyle's mouth. "What about that kip you suggested?"
Doyle shook his head free and stared intently into Bodie's eyes.
"Like that, is it?" Bodie asked indulgently. "All right, then." He rolled heavily onto his back, arms and legs spreadeagled. "Bring on the chocolates, sunshine."
Doyle did not require a second invitation.
-- THE END --