On a September Afternoon
There were times when the job had its good moments, Bodie reflected as he lay back in the shade of the alders and gazed out across the water. Norfolk has his idea of the place to be if you had to do stakeout duty. Case of beer, three metre yacht tied up under the trees, fishing tackle plus tin of squirming maggots on one side of the impromptu camp site, picnic basket on the other side. All the scene required was a bevy of beautiful birds to be absolutely complete.
Unfortunately, it was work, not play, and there was only Ray. Ray had packed the fishing tackle and arranged for the picnic basket, Ray had hired the boat. Bodie had done the driving and grumbled a lot, remembering the Newcastle Brown Ale just in the nick of time. Still, all grumbles aside, the job had its good points, and not even the shortage of a couple of girls could entirely spoil it.
His shaded eyes took in Doyle's slim form where it sat by the water's edge, binoculars in one hand; he was clad only in faded jeans and the chain about his neck. His yellow tee-shirt was draped over the picnic basket, and he was picking up a golden tan, the sort of peachy, apricot tan that red haired people developed. Bodie glanced appreciatively from his friend's breeze tossed curls to his slim hips, noticing again that Ray was a very nice shape indeed. There were times when his fingers itched to apply themselves to that tightly packed little backside -- but this was not West Africa, and Doyle was not a 'pervo merc', and George Cowley did not like it when his agents, even of two different genders, got too familiar.
Bodie hid a smile and looked away: the last time he had touched a man in that way was over six years ago, anyway. Girls had just as much to offer, and on the streets of a city they were infinitely safer... His military career would not have lasted five minutes if he had carried on the life of the 'savage' which had been expedient in Angola, the Congo, Zaire. Still, there were times when he remembered what it was like to tumble a lean, hard, vibrant male between the sheets... And Ray seemed to remind him of that feeling frequently.
Idiot, he told himself sternly; you fancy him -- that's one thing; you let him know, he'll wind you up a crack in the teeth, and that's something else!
His train of thought was interrupted as Doyle spoke. "Damn! Can't see the house -- they've anchored a barge in midstream!"
He was talking about the Broads residence of Louis Dallasandro, a European playboy whose Mafia connections were legend. He was in England, ostensibly, on holiday; but when names like Zardini, Callas and Sciaparelli were also in England and in the general vicinity of Norfolk, there was suspicion enough to keep them under tight surveillance.
Pushing to his feet, Ray dropped the binoculars from his eyes. "Have to go down the bank a bit. Thirty yards'll do it."
"You want to move the whole lot?" Bodie wondered doubtfully "Boat and all?"
Doyle considered the magnitude of the job for a moment and shook his head. "Nah. They'll shift the barge again as soon as they've finished lunch -- you can smell 'em frying onions from here. I'll just wander along and keep an eye on the house till they shove off again." He gave Bodie a cheeky grin. "Leave something for me to eat, will you?"
"Here." Bodie tossed him an apple. "Don't talk to any strange men, Raymond."
With that, 3.7 leaned back on the tartan rug, folded his arms under his head and dozed -- until the sound of voices, carrying on the still air, drew his attention. Doyle had ambled no more than his estimated thirty yards from their picnic site and found himself a rotting log on which to perch. He lifted the binoculars, sunlight dappling his field of vision, and had been gazing at the expensive holiday home for less than ten minutes when a voice called him by name.
"Ray? Ray Doyle? I'll be damned -- it is you! Christ, you haven't changed a bit, you must have Peter Pan glands!"
It was a light, cheerful tenor voice that was familiar and Doyle turned toward it, his eyes lighting on a man of thirty, dark, tall, slimly built and deeply suntanned, with brown eyes about which fanned many laugh lines. He struggled with the image for no more than a tenth of a second before it all dropped back into place -- obviously Larry looked older, it was nearly eight years since the last time he had seen him. He came to his feet with a smile of utter delight. "Larry! Larry Reynolds -- you look just the same yourself!"
"Liar," Larry accused ecstatically, grabbing Ray by both hands and then pulling him into an embrace. "I've got started on my wrinkles and I've made the downpayment on my wheelchair, but you -- you look no damned different! You look good enough to eat as usual." He chuckled richly. "Come here, my long lost love, what about a smack for old times?"
He did not wait for Doyle's consent, catching his head and covering his mouth with a sweet, good natured kiss, as wicked as it was cheerful, as instantly intimate as it was unexpected. Ray blinked in surprise, returning it without thinking, bathed in the flood of memories as he and Larry clung together in delight for a few moments before letting the embrace go.
As he stepped back Ray was laughing. "You're just as randy as ever, I see -- age didn't mellow you."
"Oh, yes it did," Reynolds said with a sigh. "I married a girl from County Durham. I've got three kids and eight nieces and nephews, and two mortgages and a probable peptic ulcer and a used car yard... I gave up after you. Men, I mean." He clutched at his chest as if in agony. "The London Metropolitan Police Force broke my heart when it wooed you away... No, Ray, seriously, I went out looking for someone to love and found a cute little woman who's been a lovely wife. I've got three cute little 'bairns,' two girls and a son just a year old. I love the whole loony bunch of 'em, and her relatives too. But... Cor, seeing you right out of the blue, and half naked into the bargain... I don't half fancy you, Ray. Could fling you on the ground and sort you out in five minutes flat! What'cha doing with yourself these days? Married, or found yourself some nice, lucky bloke?"
"Neither," Doyle shrugged. "I'm with CI-5, and I'm living alone. Got a couple of nice girlfriends behind me, one on the line right now. I gave up men when I became a copper. Doesn't fit the image, you know, and since I like girls just as much, why bugger up my career?"
"Why indeed?" Larry's brown eyes roamed over Doyle's bare chest and he grinned suggestively. "Nah, you're right. Old affairs don't reheat well. Like leftover chicken soup -- all lumps and gristle. Jeez, it's been good seeing you again, though! We're staying up at the Three Oaks, Jill and the kids. Holidays, you know. Lots of money in used Nissans, Ray. I'd take you up there to meet the family and have supper, but you've got me at a disadvantage... All of a sudden these pants of mine are too tight, and the more I'm around you the worse it's going to get!"
"Same here -- and I'm at work, believe it or not," Doyle smiled. "Couldn't accept an invitation that'd take me away from that house -- I'm on stakeout duty." He offered his hand. "Great seeing you, Larry. If it's any consolation, I could jump your bones right here, Jill and the kids notwithstanding. Will I see you again?"
"I hope not," Reynolds laughed, "or I may have a hard time keeping my hands to myself! Kiss me goodbye, my love -- I'll try and phone you up sometime."
"Do that." Doyle hugged him tightly for just a moment, then pressed a kiss to Larry's lips that was brief but thorough. "Meet me here again in another eight years, eh?"
"Eight years? Christ, is it that long?" Larry was already moving, his gaze travelling wistfully over Ray's tanned and softly furry chest. He shut his eyes and shook his head. "Think of Jill and the kids -- think of Jill and the kids... I'll see you, Ray. I mean that. I will catch up with you again. Soon."
But Ray shook his own head as Larry disappeared: it would never happen. Not when Larry Reynolds had a nice family he was in love with, and when Raymond Doyle had a job against the world -- position, prospects, authority, all the things he had always wanted. He sank back to sit on the fallen tree, the memories lapping over his head, some happy, some sad, none unwelcome.
Thirty yards away, Bodie was stunned speechless. His jaw had dropped as he watched the stranger embrace his partner, it dropped further as he watched Doyle lean into the kiss with delight, and it stayed on his knees as he watched the two men repeat the kiss before the short scene was over and the stranger was gone. There was disbelief for a time -- he had a tough time convincing himself that he had seen it at all, but every detail was etched into his memory, and when the barge shoved off and Ray came ambling back up the bank toward him he was waiting for him with an expression that was a mixture of incredulity and hilarity.
Doyle took one look at Bodie's face and gave a groan. "You saw. Damn, I thought you were asleep."
"You little devil," Bodie grinned. "You bloody little twerp -- you never let on, not a word, not a sign!"
"Never let on what?" Doyle frowned.
"That you go with fellers!"
"I don't -- not in years. Not since I joined the Police... Look, I was just a kid, sharing a flat with a bunch of art students. You know what artists are like -- everybody knows what artists are like, don't they? Loose living, no morals... All right, six assorted delinquents sharing a flat in Harpendon can't be all that loose, but we... improvised a bit."
The grin on Bodie's face split it from ear to ear. "You bloody little --"
"You already said that." Doyle assumed a pained expression. "Look, if I've offended your puritanical streak I apologise. That was Larry Reynolds. He was a sculptor, and a good 'un. Then he went into used cars and got married -- three kids. But we lived together --"
"You damned well slept together too!"
"I said I apologise if I've rubbed your fur up the wrong way," Ray said stiffly. "I don't go with blokes anymore, so your virtue's safe with me, sunshine. I'm not going to make a grab for you."
There was a brief, pregnant pause, then Bodie said disconsolately, "Christ, I wish you would."
"You what?" Ray shot a startled glance at him.
"I said I wish you'd make a grab for me."
"But you don't go with fellers!" Doyle protested indignantly. "We've been working together for years, you've never once looked at another man."
"You haven't noticed my eye on you, then... Not very observant for a copper, are you, Ray?"
Colour flushed up in Doyle's face. "All right, let's have it. When did you ever make it with blokes? If you're pulling my leg I'll flatten you."
But Bodie shrugged blandly. "In Africa. Everyone was doing it, it was either that or live like a monk for six months at a time -- and there's too much pressure under my cork for that, you know me. When I got out of Africa and was in the forces -- 2 Para, 3 Para, GSG-9, the SAS, I switched back to girls -- wouldn't make much sense to get cashiered by dating lads when the lasses are so nice too. So I stuck to girls... But that didn't stop me looking, did it?"
"At me," Doyle concluded, and sighed. "Yeah, all right. That makes sense." He chuckled. "I've been looking at you, too. Never noticed? Tried not to make it obvious, but there it is. You're nice to look at, Bodie."
"So are you," Bodie growled. There was an understatement. "I'm nice to touch, too, so they tell me," he added.
Ray shot a startled glance at him. "You're not making a pass at me, are you?"
"Why not?" Bodie demanded, surprised by Ray's startlement. "You're not a virgin, neither am I. What's wrong with the two us us hitting the same sack?"
"Well, nothing, I suppose," Doyle admitted, "so long as Cowley didn't find out about it." He gave Bodie a speculative glance from beneath lowered lashes. "You any good?"
"Bit out of practise, I expect. Haven't got it up for a man in a long time... Well, no, that' not strictly true... I get aroused a fair bit around you, but it's not like I get it up for you, just because of you."
Involuntarily, Doyle's eyes went to Bodie's lower body, and he smiled. "You're on the simmer right now, aren't you?"
"I cannot tell a lie," Bodie sighed. "Wouldn't like to kiss me like you kissed old what's his name, would you?"
The laugh emanating from Doyle's chest was gentle. "As a matter of fact, my lad, I would. Come over here, in the shade, behind the tree. We can still see the house from there, but nobody'll see us." He sat down on one corner of the rug and watched Bodie alight beside him. "How do you like it? Kissing."
"Whatever," Bodie shrugged. "I'm easy to please."
It was the first time in years that either of them had considered another man as an object of desire and the thrill was almost unbearable, for all their banter. There had always been an intense physical awareness between them which they had taken for granted without admitting it, but there had never been anything overtly sexual in their touching before. Bodie leaned forward, his lips moistened and parted, and watched Ray's finely moulded face as he also leaned toward the kiss. When their lips met it was like an electric shock -- not at all like kissing Larry just now, or Fiona last night, Doyle thought. Not at all like kissing Linda yesterday. Bodie realised, only then becoming really aware of how much he had wanted to do this, and for how long. Ray's tongue in his mouth stole his breath away, and he reached out to hold him, crushing the smaller, lighter Doyle in a punishing embrace that tumbled them over until they lay in the nook between the tree's woody roots.
Panting under Bodie's considerable weight as the kiss broke, Doyle felt the gravel beneath him cutting into his bare back and ignored it. His voice was deep and husky. "Hey, you do that well. Once more, with feeling." He reached up, pulling Bodie's dark head down and inviting his tongue into his mouth.
Bodie heaved an agonised groan as he lifted his head again. "You reckon anyone can see us here?"
"Don't think so," Ray panted, gazing up at Bodie's dark, smouldery features. "Don't reckon anyone would have seen."
"Great," Bodie grunted.
A moment later Doyle felt the fingers, busy at his belt. "Hey, Bodie --"
"Have a heart," Bodie coaxed, kissing Ray's hot chest and licking at his nipples until Doyle muttered a breathless oath.
"Bodie!" Ray protested as he heard the churr of unmeshing metal and some of the pressure of the denim at his groin released. "Not here!"
"But no one can see us, you said," Bodie groaned.
"But, Bodie, we --" Doyle broke off with a gasp as Bodie's strong hand slipped inside his clothing and encircled him. "Oh, Christ." The pulling, gripping hand coaxed his arousal to fever pitch in moments. "All right, you half wit. Get off me, let me undress. If this goes wrong, you tell the Cow about it." As Bodie rolled off him he scrambled to his feet, finishing the task of stripping and then ducking back into their nook. He gave Bodie a look that was almost annoyed. "Get your bloody clothes off, you clot. Can't take all day about it. The longer we take the more dangerous it's going to be!" We watched Bodie undress with real appreciation: he had never seen Bodie in the raw in a state of intense arousal before, and it was impressive. To say the least. Annoyance quelled in him and his voice was soft and throaty. "What do you like? Top? Bottom?"
As Bodie tucked himself into the nook he smothered Doyle with a kiss. "I'm not fussy... But you'd better take me this time. Don't reckon I could hold back if I took you, and I don't want to spoil it."
"What makes you think I can?" Doyle muttered. He caught Bodie's solid frame in a bear hug. "Jesus, you're fantastic, built like a brick wall. Hot." He pressed a kiss to the hollow of Bodie's throat, felt the pulse jumping there. "I'll try not to spoil it, but I'm getting close myself," he added, already out of breath. "Come on, help me here -- whichever way you want to do it."
Bodie cupped his face and kissed him, then rolled over, spreading his knees, waiting with clenched teeth while Ray lubricated them both with their slight premature release. The deft, light fingers were a torture and he bit off a cry, waiting now with his breath caught in his throat for the solid shove of Doyle's entry, a sensation he had not felt is so long that he had nearly forgotten what it felt like at all. When it came, it shook him from head to foot and his pulse hammered in his ears. Ray's voice sobbed with effort and fingers clutched at his back.
"Ray, oh, Ray," Bodie moaned, blind and deaf, in that moment consumed by the torrent of sensation as Doyle began to work hard, "Ray..."
Close as he had been, Doyle managed to hang onto control longer than he had thought, and when they came it was nearly in unison, as if Ray's shudders of release were enough to trigger Bodie's, as if the knowledge that he was helplessly blown on the winds of orgasm was enough to nudge Bodie over the edge. The strength poured out of Ray's slight, hot body and he let himself go down on top of Bodie, his cheek against Bodie's left shoulder blade, pulling air into his lungs and riding out the exquisite high until it dissipated, bit by bit.
It was half a minute before Bodie began to stir, rolling over and clutching Doyle against his chest. "Jesus," he panted, "you're full of surprises, sunshine. You've got a real talent for this, haven't you? I'm bloody jealous of what's his name, I can tell you."
"Larry. His name's Larry," Doyle murmured, muffled against Bodie's hard, smooth chest."
"My ex-lover, from eight long years ago," Ray murmured huskily.
"Yeah. And here's your new lover," Bodie said quietly.
It took a moment for the sense of what he had said to sink in, then Ray lifted his tousled head. "You mean you want to make a relationship out of it?"
"Relationship?" Bodie made a hurt face. "We already have a relationship, and a bloody nice one at that. Best friends are hard to come by... Good lovers are just as rare. You put the two together, and you've got something special."
Doyle's expression softened. "Yeah," he said, smiling. "You are nice to touch. I used to try imagining what it'd be like to touch you like that."
"So why didn't you say something, you idiot?"
"I thought you'd knock my teeth out," Ray admitted drily, chuckling. "Never figured you for a flaming bisexual!"
"Or you." Bodie grinned. "Old foibles, eh?" He tousled Doyle's hair with surprising tenderness. "It was good, Ray. Want to roll over for me now?"
But Doyle shook his head. "Not now. Got a job to do, sunshine." He got to his knees, reaching for his clothes and pulling a handkerchief from the back pocket of his jeans. "My legs feel like rubber, damn you!"
"No kidding?" Ray shot a speculative glance at him as he heard the mischief in Bodie's tone. "Later, then? There's a dozen things I'd like to do with you."
"Just how kinky are yoy mate?" Ray demanded, dabbing away the sticky aftermath of lovemaking. "I'm not into the S&M."
The taller, darker man looked indignant. "Neither am I. I was just remembering the things we used to do, and thinking how nice it would be to do 'em all over again, with you."
As he pulled on his jeans Ray muttered an oath. "Damn, that's a bit tender, still. What about you, Bodie?"
As yet Bodie had not moved. He tried his muscles one by one and chuckled. "Bit sore, bit stiff. I'm bigger than you are, so it's not all that bad... But I'm going to make you stiff and smart if we're not careful."
Doyle was lacing his tennis shoes. "So we'll be careful. Just don't cripple me, all right? You're a big, bad lad, with the accent on the 'big,' you know."
"And you're built like a greyhound," Bodie observed. "Jeez, are you ever."
"Get your clothes on, you half wit," Ray grinned, tossing black slacks and underwear at him. "We're on the job till six, and back here again at six in the morning."
"Plays hell with your love life," Bodie said glibly. "Or it did." Then he yawned. "Could do with ten minutes' kip, Ray."
"You and me both," Doyle agreed. "All right, you catch your forty winks first." He reached for the binoculars and laughed. "The Cow'd do his nut if he knew."
"I won't tell if you won't," Bodie suggested, sprawling on the tartan rug and closing his eyes. "Damn, that was good. Still feels good inside." He gave Doyle's lean, hard body a look of fond appraisal. "Hidden depths to you, my lad. I'd like to plumb them all. I'd like to make it good for you, if you'll let me."
"It was good." Ray said, glancing back at him. "You had me exhausted in the first three minutes. Go to sleep, Bodie, or grab these glasses and let me sleep for a bit. Can hardly keep my eyes open."
In answer, Bodie let his eyelids fall heavily, listening to the rhythms of his body, which we still keeping time to the vibrant surges of loving. To say that it felt 'good' was a vast understatement; his mind and imagination were suddenly filled with Ray and he recognised the shift in his affections. The old fraternal bond was gone, and in its place was something at once simpler and infinitely more complex.
At six, when their relief arrived, they unfurled the sail boat's single sheet and Bodie took the tiller, steering out into midstream and tacking to and fro with the evening breeze until the General Havelock Hotel came into view. Doyle stepped lightly onto the creaking woodwork of the ancient landing, tying it up, and they wandered into the Hotel's busy dining room. It was six thirty and passing trade had filled it with red- faced tourists. Only a few tables were free, and Ray made tracks for the one in the secluded corner, under the dark, oaken beams, a feature left over from this old building's 'Jamaica Inn' days, long ago.
He yawned as he seated himself and Bodie smiled at him, eyes half closed, expression sultry. "You sound ready for bed."
The innocent remark registered as a kick in Ray's pulse rate and he hid a grin. "Stow it, Bodie, there's too many people here."
"Ah, they can't hear us." Bodie sat down and shuffled closer, along the bench seat against the wall. "Glad we got the day shift. Wouldn't fancy being out in the wilds at night."
"No? I thought you Paras were game for anything."
"Game for a bit of slap'n'tickle, maybe," Bodie murmured, studying Ray's gentle profile, watching the attractive blush come up about his left cheek. "Coy, aren't you?"
"I'll give you it, mate," Doyle muttered, exasperated.
But Bodie only chuckled. "You already did. My turn next."
"Bloody hell," Doyle breathed. For a time he seemed to be searching for words, and when he spoke his voice was taut, as if he was annoyed. "How about if I told you I don't like being regarded as a sex toy? I like to feel for the person I sleep with. I like fondness and comfort, not just sex for the sake of it. How's that, Bodie?"
Bodie blinked. "Hey, Ray, I was just joking about."
And Doyle sighed. "Yeah, I know you were. But... I'm not as simple as that, sunshine. Oh, all right, I can turn on as fast as the next guy, and I know what I'm doing in bed -- these days, who doesn't? But I like... I dunno. I don't like getting mauled without some kind of love." He studied the checkered table cloth with an intense frown. "I know, you think I'm mad, but it's how I am. I get off on knowing that somebody cares about me. That's what attracted me to Larry, all those years ago."
"And you think I don't care?" Bodie said huskily. "We've been closer than brothers for four years, that counts for nothing at all?"
"Counts for a lot," Ray said defensively, "until you start wanting to tumble me in bed, and then... All right, you're bloody attractive. But there's got to be more to it than that, or we might as well start doing one night stands with every attractive face we see!" He sighed. "Just slow down, will you? You bowled me right off my feet back there -- I don't even know what I feel yet, really."
There was a strained silence as they picked at the food, basket chicken, fruit and icecream, lager and lime, and it was after seven when they climbed the staircase to their rooms, on the second floor. Two rooms, adjoining, no connecting door; they stood in the deserted passage outside and Bodie watched the expressions of confusion chase across Doyle's mobile, sensitive face. He had the key to his room in his hand and his eyes cast down.
"Ray?" Bodie murmured at length. "Come on, what's wrong? You regret what we did thisafternoon, don't you?"
"No," Doyle admitted, "but... Oh, hell." He raised his eyes and forced a smile. "You'd better come in. We have to talk, don't we?"
"Yeah," Bodie agreed, following him into the room, "I think we do at that."
The bed was a double with a yellow coverlet and four thick pillows. As he saw it he could not help thinking about lying there with Ray's hard, hot body against him, and he checked himself... Doyle was right. It was all too easy to regard the other as little more than a sexual commodity -- and that would wreck a four year friendship quicker than it took to tell. George Cowley was wise when he discouraged his agents from playing together: teams could get broken this way, and broken for good.
With a deep sigh Ray sat on the foot of the bed, drawing up his knees and locking his arms about them. The evening sunlight found its way in through the open windows, making his hair redder, softening his features until he looked like a kid again, and his voice was very low. "I've been thinking, Bodie -- about us. How it felt when they knifed you, in the cockpit --"
"How it felt when you were shot, the big Russian," Bodie nodded. "I came into the garage at a gallop, all I saw was you on the ground. Christ, at first I thought you were dead."
"Like you, you great clown, when they bounced you off the car after the payoff that time; you didn't see me get bounced off a car six months later, did you?"
"No," Bodie said softly, "but I was there when the glued you back together. Four broken ribs. You were black and blue -- almost as bad as the time the Empire Society had hold of you."
"Yeah." Ray nodded deeply. "We've been through the meat grinder together, haven't we? Four years -- feels more like forty."
"Maudlin, Ray?" Bodie asked gently.
"No, just thinking... about how much you mean to me." The green eyes were absolutely guileless -- he meant exactly what he had said. "I'd go out and die for you. I expect you'd do the same for me, it goes with the job. Friendship, partnership; brotherhood? Oh, don't look at me like that, Bodie! I'm serious."
"I know you are, sunshine." Bodie smothered a wry smile. "I was just watching you trying to psychoanalyse yourself. You don't have to do that. You know your problem? You're terrified."
"Of what?" Ray demanded indignantly. "Of sex? Don't kid yourself, buster."
"Of yourself," Bodie corrected. "And of me."
"Afraid of you? Don't be an idiot. Since when was I ever afraid of you?"
Bodie's smile warmed by degrees. "Since you let yourself feel how much you wanted to me. Since you discovered how we are, together. You take a once-in-a-lifetime friendship and add a bit of honest lust, and you get... Go on, add it up yourself."
"You get love," Doyle murmured, and closed his eyes. "Damn! If this doesn't flush us down the drain we'll be bloody lucky." He sighed heavily. "Yeah, all right, I know. I know it adds up to love, which is why it hurt me a bit when I started to feel like a toy you wanted to play with."
"I still want to play with you," Bodie said gently. "You're so beautiful, so nice, so familiar -- you're not a stranger, you're my best mate. You know who I am, what I do, how I think, what I want. I don't have to make apologies to you for who I am, and what. I can tell you I want you and you'll know I mean it: I want you, my very own bionic golly, Ray Doyle. And nobody else will do."
"With love or with lust?" Ray smiled.
And Bodie managed a chuckle. "Bit of both. Oh, hell, Ray, where does friendship end and love begin? Who knows? Who cares? Love burns itself out in six months, friendship can last for life -- maybe we've got our priorities the wrong way 'round! Maybe friendship is more important." He shrugged. "Add a little honest lust, and you get... Us. And that's what got you worried. You haven't got the guts to let it happen. Cut loose for once in your life and love someone. Because I'm a bloke, is that it? 'Cause it's dangerous -- the job, and all?"
"Maybe," Doyle admitted. "And because I know how footloose and fickle you are. Sleep with me for three months, then amble away and pick up some bird -- or another feller, now you've got back into the AC/DC line." He shrugged. "I'm not a toy, no matter how much you might want to play with me. And I don't want to get my fingers burned. I'm not a silly kid anymore, Bodie; old wolves get cautious."
"So we play it slow," Bodie said softly. "Slow, cautious, careful. No faster than if we were strangers."
"And when your fickle streak takes over?" Ray demanded.
"You've been just as bloody fickle," Bodie grinned. "You think it's going to hurt me any less when you chase off after a pair of long legs in a tight skirt and leave me watching the telly all night?"
They shot a startled glance at one another and then laughed. "Christ," Doyle said as they sobered, "at this rate we might make it last a year or two."
"Or ten," Bodie expanded. "Or until the day comes when one of us gets knifed or bounced off a car and doesn't make it."
Doyle's face twisted. "That's the other thing that's got me scared. Too scared to let go and let it happen, because you could get blown away tomorrow. Or I could, and it's all over."
"Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die," Bodie quoted blandly. "It's been no different for a million years of human history, sunshine. What makes you think we're so different that they ought to rewrite the rules to suit us?" It was an answer that was inarguable. Doyle scrubbed tiredly at his eyes and lay back, stretching out across the foot of the bed. Bodie looked down at him for a long time, coming to stand beside the carved wood of the footboard. "Ray?" The green eyes were dark with dilated pupils as they looked up at him. Bodie swallowed hard. "Slow and cautious, we said. I'll go away and leave you, if you want me to. There's always tomorrow, next week, next month, if I live that long with the frustration."
Half closed, Doyle's eyes travelled over his partner's muscular frame, and a smile lifted the corners of his mouth. "But you want me now, don't you?"
"Yes," Bodie admitted simply. "But it doesn't matter. I can wait. The last thing in this world I want to do is push you into something you'll regret... I'd sooner have you as my best friend than as my enemy."
"Enemy?" The auburn curls rustled on the coverlet as Ray shook his head. "No, sunshine. Not your enemy, even if you did break my poor old heart for me." He held up one arm in invitation, and Bodie sank down onto the bed beside him, feeling Ray's hands flutter about him with a thrill. "But don't you think you own me, Bodie. I know you -- what you want you take. Well, that may be true everywhere else, but not this time. This time, you ask."
"And if I ask, you'll give?" Bodie wondered huskily.
"If I can," Doyle said slowly, seriously.
"Can I kiss you now?"
Ray chuckled. "I wish you would.
It was slow, gentle and deep; arousal stirred strongly in both of them but they curbed it, wanting to make the most of everything they had. Bodie's tongue in his mouth was welcome and Doyle relaxed, aware that only their lips touched as yet -- Bodie held his weight on his palms. When the kiss broke he lifted his head only a fraction, his mouth barely parting from Ray's own. "I'd like to undress you," he said, little above a whisper. Doyle merely nodded.
This time there was nothing frantic about it until they were both naked and kneeling on the yellow coverlet. Doyle's hands cupping Bodie's face as they kissed again, Bodie's hands stroking between Ray's thighs, finding the tender and sensitive areas with studied caresses he knew must drive him wild. He could feel the wildness beginning in the erratic movements of his tongue in the kiss and the low, feral growls that stirred in his throat, and against his will he took his hands away.
The kiss broke and Doyle gasped in a breath. "What -- what d'you stop for?"
"To give you time," Bodie said, clenching his teeth against the ache of his own powerful desire. "Everything you said was right, Ray. I believe that. If you told me to get lost right now I'd go."
"Go? Go where?" Doyle said thickly.
"Back to my room, and groan a lot," Bodie admitted. His tone filled with mock-dread. "You're not going to tell me to shove off, are you, mate?"
In answer, Doyle lay down, catching Bodie's wide shoulders and taking him down with him. "I'll tell you what to shove, and where," he said, wriggling flat on his back.
Bodie swallowed, looking down into Ray's lovely face. "I'm getting pretty steamed up, Ray. If you want to back out after this you may have to hit me," he warned.
There was a growl in Doyle's voice and his eyes were feverishly bright. "I'll hit you if you don't get on with it! You've got me aching on the inside and on fire outside -- you trying to make me suffer? For Christ's sake, do it, Bodie!"
It was all Bodie had been waiting to hear. He performed the task of lubricating them both, using the jelly intended to prevent chapped lips out on the water, and he watched Ray's face twist as he touched moistened fingertips to the knot of muscle between the softness of his buttocks; then he lifted Doyle's knees, maneuvering between them, moving carefully and holding his breath. Ray's voice sobbed in his throat as he was pierced, deeply, completely, and then Bodie's weight was on him and he lifted his knees further, unable to feel the tendons pulling as he spread himself wider than would have been comfortable, had he been aware of it -- he was aware only of the flood of sensation as Bodie moved inside of him, up slowly, down quickly, strokes that grew harder as they began to work together, building the rhythm to a pace that was exhausting, until it was all over in the few moments of unbelievable release and Bodie's muscles failed him, dumping him onto the coverlet as soon as he had climbed off his panting lover.
For some time neither of them spoke, and then it was Doyle who fished for tissues to swab the sticky dampness from Bodie's stomach, his own essences, and from his own legs, Bodie's seed, before the yellow coverlet could become too messy. Bodie watched him from below heavy lids. "Wanna know something? This is the first time I've ever done it in bed -- with a bloke, I mean."
"On a bed," Ray corrected. "So where d'you do it?"
"On the ground. Under a tree. In a bark hut, or a bivouac, in a stream, in the sea."
"Outdoorsy type," Ray observed, flopping face down and groaning. "Oh, Christ."
"Not hurt, are you?" Bodie asked, the concern sharpening his tone.
"I feel like a sore shishkebob," Ray said drily. "I think I've pulled a couple of tendons off my pelvis. Goddamn it, how am I going to explain that to the physio? Tell him I slipped in the boat?"
"Be honest," Bodie suggested, drawing one finger down the curve of Doyle's back, counting the knots and making him shiver each time a vertibra was marked out. "Tell him you were making love. You don't have to say what page out of the Karma Sutra the gyration was on, or who you were doing it with, do you?"
"Suppose not," Ray smiled, cheek against the pillow. "Was good, Bodie. You're not that far out of practise, mate."
"Like riding a bike," Bodie chuckled drowsily. "Once you learn how to fall off, you never forget. Jeez, you're nice, Ray. I mean, all of you. Can I sleep here tonight? I just want to cuddle up with you now. You know. Don't fancy the thought of walking off and sleeping alone after this."
"Course." Ray let his eyes close. "You're nice yourself, Bodie... Thanks."
"For making love?"
"For asking. Call me an idiot if you want, but that meant a lot to me."
"You're not an idiot," Bodie said, yawning as he kissed the back of Doyle's neck before flopping down on the fringe of sleep. "You're clever. Too clever to go barging into something that'd destroy us. So long as both of us always know for sure what we want, what we need, we'll be okay. We'll do fine."
"'Till death do us join,'" Doyle murmured.
It was the motto of the Paras.
Bodie pried open one eye, looking at his lover's sleeping face and wondering if he knew what he had said. Till death do us join. That remark, made as he drifted into dream, came right out of his subconscious, and it said quite clearly that he wanted it to be forever, that this loving of theirs had always been there, deep down inside, waiting for a chance to express itself... And that the death they both feared would come to the other would not be enough to end it.
"'Till death do us join,'" Bodie echoed, setting his head down close beside Doyle's and surrendering to the tugs of drowsiness at last. "I just hope you know what that means, Ray, love. Forever's a bloody long time." He closed his eyes. "I'm glad to say."
-- THE END --
January 5th, 1986