Story #6 in the Emma universe

The advent of agent Murphy was cause, I hear, for great rejoicing among the female CI5 operatives. Young, attractive, single, and best of all, new blood, Murphy became the ladies' pet lamb in those long-ago days. Cagey devil, he played the virgin so effectively for more than a year that he earned himself the title of the most quietly lethal operative ever to pass through the hallowed et cetera. He also earned himself a reserved place in several of the warmest beds in the city.

I asked him a couple of times what his secret was, but he'd just smile and say, "Didn't think you needed instruction from me, Bodie," or some such nonsense. On reflection, though, I realized that he'd told me exactly what I wanted to know. And too, he's a damned attractive man; to be honest, I'd found myself wondering. Still, it was only a bit of woolgathering during the slow times. I never seriously considered tripping Murph. At least not until the night that opportunity knocked so hard I just had to let it in.

By that time my relationship with Doyle had reached the stage of being almost domestic, and I was being conservative about my sexual activities for the most part. (Perhaps I'd better point out that it's been a long time since I was a virgin and I've enjoyed myself during those years in ways that might shock the vicar -- done a lot of things and had a lot of things done to me, not all of which did I enjoy or even consent to. But it comes down to this: there's almost nothing I won't try and almost nobody I won't bed with if the mood is right. Everybody's special, everybody has something to offer and everybody deserves to feel good. It's a bloody wonderful arrangement, I think.) Since I was content with the quantity and quality of the loving, I never roamed far from Doyle's bed. Funny thing is love. Still, we both had our birds -- Ray's always attracted them like a bush full of ripe blackberries -- though I was having less than I was inclined to let on. I'm not really possessive, not like young Raymond, so I don't mind him stepping out so long as he has some energy left for his partner.

On the weekend in question, he had a date to go climbing with some athletic bird who enjoyed scaling rocks. Not my idea of a scintillating weekend, but then our Ray is a Swiss Army knife sort of person. He tottered off on Friday under a pile of ropes and crampons and all that other gear they use -- God knows what it's all for. Myself, I think they use it in kinky sexual practices and never get out of base camp. He promised me he'd think about me when scaling to new heights and I, having planned to spend Saturday in bed, gave him the standard, two-fingered we-who-are-not-about-to-die-like-you-dumb- cruds salute and slouched back to my place to stare at the walls and feel a bit sorry for myself.

Of course, it was no way to spend a Friday night, and I realized that with my customary good sense well before closing time. So I hied myself off to a pub near HQ where the atmosphere was always cheerful. The place had become a second home for off-duty CI5 people -- a good place to go when your assignment got you down. There were about four operatives there as well as some of the clerical staff, all very boozy and loving. (CI5 people love each other as frequently as possible. It's easily the most incestuous organization in the country.) Murphy was there, one hand wrapped around a pint jar and one on Susie who was trying to be serious with him, only Murphy wasn't having any. He's a wicked man, is Murph and he was giving Susan the devil's own time without saying a word. The look on his face and the movement of his hand was more defeating than mere words. "I give up!" she said with a gesture of despair, picked up her purse and latched on to Chapman, an owlish, professor type who, if rumour was true, possessed a prodigious sexual capacity. (Kiss and tell is CI5's favourite team sport.) Lucky girl, I thought. He'll listen intently and then take you home and fuck you silly.

"You lost out there, mate," I observed as I sat beside Murph.

"I just wasn't in the mood to discuss anything. I owe her an apology. I was really rude." He sipped his drink thoughtfully. "What I really wanted was an uncomplicated lay," he confessed. "And Susan, bless her heart, is a complex woman. I could fall for her, but I don't bloody want to talk to her tonight. She hits too close to home on too many things." I was about to ask what he meant, but the look in his eyes warned me away. "Where's your other half?" he asked, peering around the bar.

"Scaling a rock face with some bird . . . or scaling a bird with a face like a rock, I dunno." I made a vague gesture towards what I suspected to be the West. Murphy giggled. I guess he was pretty boozy by that time. "How long have you been here?"

"Few hours. Everybody wants to talk tonight. Nobody wants to take me home." He put on sad-face and looked about twelve years old and I began to see why he was considered lethal.

"Don't try that on with me, mate. I'm immune to your shy village virgin act."

"Oh yeah? I've never given you the full treatment so how d'you know?"

"Because shy village virgins are not much fun and they usually have hulking great brothers or fathers."

Murphy laughed again, but it was different this time, sort of throaty and very sexy. "But what if I did try it?"

"You wouldn't stay virgin long," I told him with casual bluntness.

"That's what I've been wishing for all night. I'd be crazy to pass up the best offer so far."

A stunner that. I'd no idea that Murph was eclectic in his sexual preferences. His performances at CI5 parties (polite term that, they're more commonly called orgies by sulky non-participants) had been heterosexual, but that was no guarantee that he was strictly so. "Who said I was offering?" I asked with perhaps more sauciness than was necessary. I was intrigued, but I had to be sure of him.

"You might as well. I've already decided that you get to take me home tonight."

"Who says I want you?" His smile grew to wicked proportions as he glanced down at my lap. "I'd hoped you wouldn't notice," I said with dignity.

I dragged him back to my flat, discovering in the process that he wasn't nearly so drunk as I'd thought. "When's Ray due back?" he asked as he began to unbutton his shirt in my living room.

"Not half anxious, are you? He'll be back sometime tomorrow I expect."

"Is he likely to burst in on us and shoot us in a rage?"

"You've been reading too many of those lurid romances, lad. He's more likely to ask if he can play too."

"Then maybe I'll stick around."

"Murphy! What's gotten into you?" I demanded as he swaggered into the bedroom.

"Nothing yet, but hope springs eternal. Oh, nice bed, Bodie. It must have set you back a couple of hundred quid."

"It's not nice to speculate on the cost of the accommodations," I told him.

"Your old mum tell you that? C'mere." He pulled me down, half-undressed, on top of him. "Bodie, I need . . . " The amusement in his eyes gave way suddenly and there was something like despair in its place. Something was making him afraid and he was almost mad with it. "I need some intense loving tonight with no questions and no strings. Can you do it?"

"Helluva time to ask, but yes," I said and I did.

A new body is always special. The breath catches in you when you touch all the right spots, or when it touches your right spots, and it's like a mystery or a puzzle learning how to give it the right kind of pleasure. There's no kind of excitement like it. Murph was nice to touch and fondle and kiss and taste and sniff, which, while it turns Ray on wildly, just seemed to amuse Murphy. I catalogued him though, in the new-mown hay category, all clear and sweet-smelling like someone who bathes in a stream. "Birch soap," I said and his mouth dropped open. Of course I took shameless advantage of that, tasting him and the ale he'd been drinking a bit sour on his tongue, but not unpleasant. He's a moaner, is our Murphy, not loud like that cat in heat impersonation that Doyle gives in bed, but not conscious of the sounds he makes and not able not to make them. Nice. In fact, everything about Murphy was nice -- not spectacular, no fireworks or bells ringing or corks popping, but a good, friendly fuck, which is what I did to him on his insistence. I turned him over and licked down his spine to the small of the back where I did to him what Ray does to me to make me crazy, I sucked gently at the skin there. He liked it, but it didn't make him crazy. I moved lower with my mouth and rimmed him, secure in my conviction that Murphy was one of the most squeaky-clean human beings I'd ever had. He stuck his head in Ray's pillow and gave a yell muffled by the cloth.

I let him do the lube and he took a bit too long over the job for my comfort, putting the gel in places it didn't need to go and testing the result with his tongue. "If you want me to come all over your chest, you'll keep doing that," I warned as sternly as I could. He gave me a wanton sort of grin and promised that I could do that next time, but this time he wanted to get fucked through the floor. I pointed out that the neighbours would not be amused. Then I bent his legs up to his chest and entered him. No virgin was Murphy.

It was a long, lovely fuck, except that half the time he was a million miles away wrapped in his sensations. That's not a bad thing, and I do it myself, but lately I'd become used to being with Ray the whole time, and I like that feeling of oneness we get while we're making love, as if we're in each other's bodies as well as our own. Still I enjoyed Murphy and I know he enjoyed me because he made enough noise about it. And afterwards we sort of snuggled together, kissed a few times and fell asleep.

The next morning I woke to find him curled in a tiny ball across the bed from me. He'd kicked off the covers and was shivering in his sleep, so I hauled him across the sheet and pulled the duvet over him. He woke with a shout. "Easy, Sunshine."

"What time is it?"

"Six. Feel like talking about it?"

He deflated visibly. "It's stupid," he said, rubbing the skin on his arms that was all over goosebumps from cold. "I was depressed yesterday -- all day. I guess I got to thinking about my life and how I seem to be good at killing people and not much else."

"I know the feeling, Murph. I think we all do."

"That's what I was talking to Susan about. Well," he amended with a half smile, "she was talking to me about it. I didn't want to talk last night though, I wanted . . . "

"To get laid," I offered. "This may depress you even more, mate, but your reaction is classic. It's called reaffirming life or somesuch and it's the commonest excuse for the off-duty antics of this organization." He was still sort of curled up and remote, so I pulled him into my arms and kissed him, urging his mouth open.

"You really ought to let me brush my teeth first," he mumbled around my tongue. "I taste awful to me." I broke the kiss. "I can't imagine how I must taste to you."

"Acceptable," I assured him. "Anything else?"

"Yeah. I almost got killed yesterday and it scared me." I nodded but said nothing. "I couldn't help but think that I was stuck in a world where I had to shoot first and make damn sure I killed the other guy because he was bloody well going to kill me otherwise. That's depressing, Bodie."

"You're too civilized, just like Ray."

"And you're not?"

"Jungle cat," I murmured, letting my heat soak into him.

"Crap," he said succinctly. "You're not nearly the cynic you'd like people to think you are. Underneath that brick outhouse exterior is Pollyanna Bodie."

I couldn't stifle the whoop of laughter that caused. The image of myself in white ruffles and blonde curls with blue ribbons finished me off. "I'll have to use you for character reference."

"I'm serious!"

"After that speech? Not bloody likely."

"Now I know how Susan felt. I really do owe her an apology. I'm hungry. What's to eat?"

After breakfast we made love again and he showered and left, leaving me to wonder if I ought to tell Ray or not. I wasn't at all sure how he'd take the news, and since Murph looked to be a one-off it hardly seemed worth the potential unpleasantness. Ray and I tended to steer clear of co-workers in one-on-one situations. Group things were different because they were nice and friendly and completely casual.

I told him anyway. I spent the day sure that I wasn't going to, but at the last moment I realized that I'd rather it came from me than from someone else. He wasn't pleased.

"I suppose you two deserve some congratulations for finally getting to it. You've been sniffing round each other long enough." Ray can be a right bitch queen when he puts his mind to it. "I'll tell you straightaway that if you keep on with it, I'm going to assume that I'm free to entertain myself in any way I want to."

"Since when haven't you?" I asked, a bit more arch than I'd planned. I was discovering all sorts of interesting little warty thoughts hidden away. He gave me one of those 'oh, don't start' looks of his and went off to take a shower, leaving me to stew in my own juices. It must have been the longest shower in history.

When he emerged, towelling his hair, mother naked and appealingly pink and gold from the hot water and a vigorous towelling, he was all smiles. "This is a stupid argument, Bodie. If you want to sleep with Murphy, it's okay."

"Ray . . . is that you?" I asked.

"Bodie, stop being such a prat and fix us some tea. I'm going to get dressed."

"I'd rather help you dress first."

"Not a chance. I'd never get my tea."

He came to the table fully dressed. He was even wearing shoes, and the message was clear: if I slept with Murphy, I wasn't going to sleep with Ray. "I don't want to sleep with Murphy," I told him.

He raised one eyebrow in an infuriating imitation of me. "Oh, really? You just did it on a bet, then?"

I thought it would be wise to keep my mouth shut as he was obviously looking for a fight. I drank my tea and stood up. "I'll go now and leave you to your beauty sleep. See you tomorrow morning." His mouth dropped open only this time I didn't go for it. I just smiled benignly and left. It did my poor heart good to see him speechless for once.

The next day he was pleasant if a little reserved, but the subject didn't seem to be weighing heavily on the partnership and that was, in the final analysis, the most important thing. It was also why, when Murphy appeared in the door of the common room and announced, "I think I'm pregnant," I felt like blue murder. Fortunately he dropped the subject immediately and the rest of the company had a good giggle and went on to other things. Ray had a look on his face that meant mayhem, so I decided to make myself scarce for the rest of the afternoon. It wasn't likely that they'd get into it in public, but I didn't want to be there if they started getting bitchy with each other.

About teatime I wandered back into the common room. Murph was there reading the paper. "Don't you do any bleeding work?" I asked him.

"Not if I can help it."

"Get maternity leave yet?"

"Only if I make Cowley godfather. I plan to flog the story to News of the World."

"Don't mention my name. I'm in enough trouble about this already."

"Oh, don't I know it? I got a proper lecture, didn't I?"

I groaned and put my head down on the table. "Oh, Ray, Ray, Ray . . ."

"Oh, it's always Ray, Ray, Ray and never Murph, Murph, Murph." He folded up his paper. "Not to worry, Bodie, I told him that if he didn't like it, that was tough."

"Well, that was diplomatic of you."

"I also told him that I was willing to share you."

"Oh, God, my life is over."

"And I told him that if he was interested in getting in on the action, he'd bring you around to my place a week from tomorrow and we'd party." He got up and pulled on his jacket. "I'm off, lover. See you tomorrow."

It was my turn to have my mouth drop open.

When it was time for me to push off for home, I felt a certain amount of trepidation at the prospect of driving back with Ray. I resolved not to fight with him no matter what. He was reserved, but by no means unfriendly, and when he got into the car he said, "We ought to talk about this."

He was right, of course, and I told him so, but at the same time, I didn't really want to talk about it. I thought that this was becoming far more complicated than it needed to be. I agreed and we went to my place.

"I thought a lot about this situation today," Ray said. "Bodie, we never discussed the idea of fidelity and I don't know how to feel about what happened. I know I never mind . . . well, mostly never, when you go with girls." He started the tea while I sliced bread for toast.

"When do you mind about the girls?" I asked, curious to see if his feelings corresponded to mine.

He thought about that for a while and said: "I guess I mind most when I don't have a date." It was admirably honest and corresponded exactly with the way I felt about things. "That's selfish, innit?" I shook my head. "Anyway, I wanted to kill Murphy. I thought about murdering you too, but I knew I couldn't live without you." Now that was a surprising admission. It was the closest thing to a declaration of love that I'd ever heard Ray make, with me or with anyone else. "I think that part of the problem is that I've never gotten on with Murph and I've been jealous of you two. I didn't want you to get to be friends because I guess I thought you'd care more about him than you do me." Damn stupid, silly . . . " He's more like you, Bodie, more outgoing, friendlier . . . When you said you'd been to bed with him I felt our whole relationship sort of shudder and begin to crumble and I was really scared. But I can't hold on to what we've got by trying to tie you to the bed, can I?"

"Sounds like an interesting thought," I said, more than a little embarrassed at the emotion I heard in his voice. I think I'm more afraid of seeing Ray lose it than of losing it myself. I put the bread on and got the butter out of the refrigerator.

"Anyway, I think we ought to decide what our boundaries are right now, and abide by them so we don't have any more of this nonsense." He sounded relieved to be through the speech. He was tossing the ball to me now.

"You're right. So, what's acceptable? Or maybe I should ask what's off-limits?"

"Birds okay with you?" I nodded.

"You sure?" he asked.

"Want it in writing?"

"Other men?"

I opened my mouth to say that anything was okay with me so long as Ray agreed, but I had a sudden vision of Ray in bed with some other man and my insides knotted. As I said, a lot of surprising warty thoughts were surfacing over this mess. "I don't know. How do you feel about it?" I asked as calmly as I could, buttering the toast and setting out the jam pot.

"Are they important if they're casual?" he asked. "I mean if they're not friends or co-workers?" The kettle began its maddening whistle.

"Casual pick-ups? I don't hang about in those kinds of bars thank you very much, and I don't make it a habit to sleep with a lot of men. If I do it, they'll be somewhat important."

Ray nodded. "Yeah, me too."

"They won't be as important as you are," I said, risking a little of the emotion I had locked away with his name on it.

"Really?" he asked, looking about ten. "Am I important?"

"You're my sodding partner! That makes you the most important person in my life, you dumb crud!" I thought he looked pleased as he set the teapot on the table between us. We ate in silence and I realized just how domestic we really were. It was a little like Darby and Joan discussing open marriage and the thought was ludicrous, though I didn't feel inclined to laugh. "Ray, I don't want to put any limits on us. I don't know if our relationship is ready for fidelity. If we have to bloody discuss it, we're just not ready."

"Think we'll ever be?"

"Depends on if we want it, doesn't it?"

"So many men, so little time," he said with a buttery grin and we both began to laugh, that sort of relieved laughter that is first cousin to hysteria. "So," he said, helping himself to another slice of toast and another cup of tea. "What are you doing a week from tomorrow?" Adaptable lad.

-- THE END --

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