You'll Be All Right on the Day
"Come on, Ray, one more lap," Bodie coaxed, but Doyle was hardly listening. He was doubled up against the iron railings surrounding the front entranceway of a house half a block from his own building; and he was gasping for air at last. One part of Bodie was delighted; he had pushed himself harder today than ever before in the two months since they had let him out of hospital and George Cowley had given him the official 'maybe'; you get yourself in shape, good enough to try for the physical, and I'll sign your application. No guarantees, no promises, just the offer of a try.
To even attempt the CI-5 physical, one had to be in the prime of physical condition; it was a grueling, three-day affair, comprising an endless list of tests, including psychological and emotional tests. Bodie passed it easily; there had only been one occasion on which he had come close to fouling it up, and he thought back to that episode bleakly as he stood watching Doyle pant for breath.
'The Eagles of Transylvania had killed his old, old friend at a bikers' rally. Anger, sheer fury, had pressured him into a suicidal situation, pitted one against a whole bunch of them in the forest, only the lust for vengeance blazing in him... And there was Doyle, wading in, splitting his knuckles yet again on Bodie's behalf.
Doyle had passed the physical test easily also, in the past; this was his turn to come close to a foul-up; indeed, as Bodie stood watching him, there was a genuine doubt in his mind as to whether he would be able to come even close. It had been a long haul back to fitness and health, but he had done it, clinging to his purpose with all the tenacity of a bulldog; he had pushed himself until it hurt day after day, fighting to stay alongside Bodie while Bodie deliberately cut speed to let him almost keep up, knowing that he was trying with everything he had.
But there were limits to everything; Bodie remembered the line out of Magnum Force. 'a man's gotta know his limitations'. Harry had been right, but it took a special kind of person to be so honest with himself, to admit to himself when he was beaten... "Doyle," Bodie said, with a real concern beginning in him, "you haven't hurt yourself, have you?" The other man struggled to straighten, clutching at his side. "Just got a bloody stitch," he panted, "I'll be all right." But he was pale, his skin waxy, sheened with the cold sweat, and Bodie was not convinced.
"Okay, forget the extra lap," he said, referring to the last circuit of the block on which Doyle's building stood, and trying to make light of it to cover his concern. "Let's go home."
Doyle nodded gratefully, coughing on a throat that was sore, "Damn! I was sure I could make it today."
"So you'll make it tomorrow," Bodie shrugged as they turned toward the building, walking slowly, two figures in blue and white track suits that were almost alone in the peace of the the early morning. It was the only time the street was quiet enough to permit this kind of torture to be indulged.
"The physical is in four weeks," Doyle muttered. "Look at me, Bodie - I"m a wreck!"
Bodie looked sidelong at his partner of ten years, and a wry smile widened his mouth; in fact, Doyle looked strikingly beautiful in the fragile sunlight of early morning. The run had brought up the colour in his cheeks, highlighting the honey-gold tan he was sporting after a long holiday away from the tedium of work. Work is a four-letter word, Bodie thought drily. It had been a nuisance, too; two weeks into Doyle's extended sick leave, he had had to return to work himself, and there had been great resentment in his attitude to it.
No one had noticed, he was sure; he had taken the greatest of care not to say or do anything that would draw the attention of Murphy, his new partner in the field, to his preoccupation with Ray - the Smurph was a good lad but had it in him to be a practical joker and a gossip. How would he react to the realisation that the guy with whom he rode around all shift was a -
Liberal as Bodie was, he had yet to grow accustomed to the term when it was applied to himself, or to Doyle. And in any event, it was not strictly true all the time. To begin with, there had been last night; from eight thirty to ten thirty they had been in front of the TV, vastly enjoying the programme, not because it was so brilliant in itself, but because it had starred a young actress whose looks were beyond description. They had commented on her on no few occasions, not surprised to discover that, when it came to women, they shared much the same tastes... But they had lain on the sofa to watch it, comfortable in a casual, affectionate embrace, and it had felt so right that, half way through the film's big romantic scene (which was less than steamy, since it had been made in 1958), Doyle lifted his head from Bodie's cushioning shoulder and looked down at him with a smile that was amused.
And then we missed the rest of the scene, Bodie remembered with a warm sensation, because I wound my fingers into his hair and kissed him, and I didn't care about missing the actress' big scene, because - and it was an admission they had made to themselves and each other two months before - I might fancy her, we both might for that matter, but I love him, and it makes a whole world of difference. He smiled at Doyle's gentle profile as they thumbed for the lift up to his flat; he had caught his breath quickly and was only rubbing at the stitched side with one hand. The colour in his cheeks was diminishing and he had mopped his face dry.
Having to work had been a great nuisance to Bodie, he would rather have taken it upon himself to coach Ray full time, but there was nothing he could have said, to Cowley or anyone else, to swing that. So, he came here before work returned after work... And often stayed over, Doyle's flat was like a second home to him; as they went inside he shut the door, reconnecting the CI-5 locks, and said, "You know, I've been thinking about letting the lease on my place lapse. I spend more time here than there, it makes more sense to move in here. If you'll have me," he added as an afterthought and with a wide grin.
"It's a bit late to start asking that!" Doyle said, peeling off his tracksuit top and mopping at himself with it. "And what would they all say back at Central?" He did a pretty credible impersonation of George Cowley: "Why, Bodie, you're not turning ginger on me, are you?"
Bodie laughed aloud. "You ought to be on the stage. Who cares what they might say at Central? I expect they'll start talking one day anyway; Murphy's given me the story of his love life every day for months now. He's waiting for me to do the kiss-and-tell routine, but I've clammed up tight. He knows I haven't been out with a girl since..."
"Since you opened up your heart and let the sunshine in," Doyle said quietly, quoting the old song. "And the sun just didn't happen to shine out of a bird in a microskirt, for a change."
They said no more for some time, and Bodie perched on the arm of a chair, watching Doyle fetch orange juice from the kitchen and fill two glasses. The scars had begun to silver out now, and they had been well done. Laser welds didn't leave big scars, which was as well, because he had two beauties, one in the middle of his chest, the other running across his back. Two scars, two bullets. He still ached, he could still barely manage to cough without twisting in pain, and when he sneezed it was as if he had been shot again, but that was to be expected; to get at the heart they had had to spread his ribs apart, and, though the ribs had not been broken, they would bother him for some time.
Bringing the orange juice, Doyle crossed to the chair where Bodie sat, handing him a glass and sipping at his own. There was a tense, preoccupied look on Bodie's face, and Doyle murmured, "You're really worried about what CI-5 might say if they found out?"
"That the Bisto kids grew up and fell in love?" Bodie shrugged. "I don't know. Cowley did his nut when they were hammering gays up north, remember." He chuckled. "How could I forget? That's the one and only time in my life I've had a cat-o'-nine-tails waved at me in earnest!"
"I remember," Doyle nodded. "I've kept the negatives, to prove it." He frowned speculatively at Bodie. "You're not kinky like that, are you? I mean, you can mail order an Indiana Jones whip -"
"I'm not kinky at all," Bodie said primly, and then met Doyle's eyes and laughed. "Well, who decides what's kinky anyway?" He got to his feet, cupping the other's chin in one palm, and did a very bad Maurice Chevalier: "Com wizz me to zee kasbah, cheri."
"Come with you where?" Doyle smiled, accepting the invitation to play.
But Bodie had become serious. "Remember that day, when they came busting into the office and shook out the cat, and you snapped the photos... They'd taken one look at us and thought they knew exactly what we were. These days, they'd be dead accurate."
"So?" Doyle pressed, and when Bodie did not answer he took his face between his palms, making him look at him. "You're beginning to regret it, aren't you?" he said quietly, his tone quiet and not steady.
"I didn't say that," Bodie whispered.
"But you meant it," Doyle said. He took his hands away, turning from Bodie and pacing to the window; he stood looking out at the street below, not really seeing it. "Yeah, I know what you mean; no sense in throwing away both our careers. Mine is finished, why junk yours too?"
"What are you talking about?" Bodie demanded.
"About the Cow and Murphy and the rest of them," Doyle said, not much above a whisper. "Cowley doesn't like his agents messing about with each other even when they're two different sexes. He'd hit the ceiling if he got wind of us. I'm on the scrap heap, but you've still got a career in front of you, if you break from me while you've got time, before the Smurph puts two and two together and gets it to three!"
"Don't be an idiot," Bodie said dismissively, wishing Doyle would turn back and look at him, but Doyle was gazing blindly down at the street.
"I'm the one who's making sense," Ray murmured. "Look, go, will you, Bodie, before it hurts more than it does already! I'll see you around, we can keep in touch, for God's sake."
Bodie swallowed; he meant it. That was not Ray's tone of play, not the tone he used when he was acting out a part, or making a joke. He took a step forward, coming up behind him, watched him stiffen the whole length of his spine as he felt Bodie's hand on his back. "Leave you?" Bodie said softly. "Don't you know me better than that?" He stooped, his lips brushing Doyle's shoulder, finding the skin there hot and silky. "Ray?"
At last Ray turned back from the window, finding himself in Bodie's embrace as he did so; he lifted his head reluctantly, and when he did Bodie saw the glitter in his eyes. "Oh Ray, for God's sake, there's no need for that," he remonstrated gently. "Come on. You know me better - put the job before you? That's ridiculous!"
"It's sense," Doyle said quietly. "Cowley would tell you so."
Bodie's mouth tightened for a moment. "I'm not in love with Cowley!"
And that was what made the whole world of difference, Doyle knew; Bodie meant what he said - hang the whole lot of them, hang CI-5; if it came to a choice between love and duty, they could stuff duty. He had been a mercenary, he had faced this very problem countless times; to him, the answer was clear cut. Doyle had held back from his embrace until he heard those words, but as they were spoken he stepped forward, enfolded by Bodie and hugging him in return. He felt the light kisses on his closed eyelids, and then Bodie's lips sought his with a hunger they had not felt in some time, a familiar ache, the easing of which always seemed to weld them closer together. The bedroom was only a few steps away. They had been through the meat grinder together, lived and worked, somehow survived together, until they had been more like kin than work partners; how often had Doyle put his own life on the line for Bodie - and how often had the reverse been true? It took just an instant for a thousand memories to run like wildfire through Bodie's mind, and he knew how impossible it would be for him to abandon Doyle to whatever life chose to fling at him. If he failed the CI-5 physical he was on his own (and the pension he would be granted would be meagre), or polishing a chair with his duff as an administrator at Central. Fair enough; that was a decent job, Cowley would see to it that Ray prospered.
If Ray chose the tension and boredom of that kind of work, chose to be a pencil-pusher when he had been a warrior. Would he do that? Certainly, Cowley needed a partner to shoulder some of the burden - there was too much in it for one man, Bodie appreciated that. But would Doyle? And if he did take the job, they would be working together every day, under the watchful eyes of peers and superiors. It would be hard to keep up the innocent pretense - Doyle was acutely aware of this. There would be Bodie, lounging in a chair, one long leg crooked over the arm, the breadth of those shoulders emphasised by the straps of the shoulder holster, those blue eyes following his partner about, and Doyle just knew that they would look at each other and smile, remembering.
Recalling, independently but in unison, how it had been last night. Perhaps they would steal a kiss when they were alone and bored; more likely, they would never dare touch one another in public again and hesitate to smile. That would be the hardest part of it. Doyle drew his fingertips across Bodie's bare chest, watching him catch his breath at the touch; the white linen rustled about him as he lifted his head from the pillow, looking Bodie in the eye seriously. "You reckon I can pass the physical?"
"You just passed mine," Bodie murmured drowsily. "The official Bodie Seal of Excellence is upon you." He wriggled flat, fluffed the pillows under his head and invited Ray closer.
But Doyle did not move, still tracing on Bodie's chest. "You know what I mean."
With a sigh, Bodie put the drowsiness aside. "Point One: you told me you love me, and I was glad to believe you because I feel the same way, right so far?"
"Right." Doyle nodded, waiting, his eyes locking with Bodie's, and watching the other's expression soften as he looked up.
"You know, in this light you look just like Ingrid Bergman."
"That's a fairly Freudian remark," Doyle grinned. "I'm not a girl, and I don't want to be one."
"All I mean is, you're too beautiful to be stern with," Bodie amended. "Point Two: if you do pass the physical, we'll find a way to get around it at work. If you don't bat your eyelashes at me - like that! - and I try not to notice your legs, we'll get through."
Doyle lowered the offending lashes and tried not to smile. "Point Three?"
"If you don't pass the physical, there's a dozen other things you can do. Like, paint. I've seen your work, don't run yourself down. There's a lot worse than you earning a good living at it. Okay, I'll still be with CI-5, but I can move right in here - I'm practically living here as it is! Then it's no business of CI-5's what we do together, because we're not both on the payroll. Right?"
"Right," Doyle murmured in agreement. He lay down flat, regarding the ceiling above. "Three days of testing. I"m not looking forward to it."
"You'll be all right," Bodie said, forcing a cheerful tone.
"I suppose you'll come and hold my hand," Doyle said wryly.
"I wish I could," Bodie said, and meant it. "You know, I'd started to think I'd forgotten how to feel love anymore. I've been in love twice, only twice before. Once in Africa, and Krivas shot her. Then again, the actress, you watched her die that day." He turned his head on the pillow, meeting Doyle's eyes. "I loved them both, but not like you. When I'm with you it burns me up... If I could get into your skin and be you I'd be happy."
It was a feeling Ray knew well. "It'll get easier to live with in time. The fire goes out of any relationship with time; the love's supposed to remain."
Something in his tone caught at Bodie, and his heart turned painfully in his chest. Desire kindled in him once again but it was gently and tenderly that he lifted himself to straddle the slim, tautly muscled body beside him. "Either way, pass it or lose out, it makes no difference. We'll sort it out."
The certainty with which he spoke was infectious; whether from it, or from the other's warm physical contact, Doyle felt greatly cheered at last. He reached up, locking his hands behind Bodie's neck and pulling. "Kiss me, Bodie, before I bite a chunk out of you."
"I'll manage better than that," Bodie said softly, stooping to the task and touching Ray's mouth with an intimate, fierce expression of his feelings. He lifted his head as the kiss broke, looking down into the face he thought of as one of the most beautiful he had ever seen, so artlessly sensual, the eyes still closed, the lips still parted, and sighed. "But this is the last time till after the whole show's over," he added, watching Ray's expression become discomfited. "I know, four weeks sounds like a long time, but if you're going to be an athlete, act like one. They do not muck about on the nights before a big match, do they? And this is the biggest match you've played in years." He let his own smile become a little wicked. "But, until then -"
George Cowley was nodding appreciatively at what he read on the papers in his left hand when Bodie and Murphy knocked and entered his office. They were there to collect their new assignment and the boss set it out tersely for them before they even had time to think about sitting down. The mass marketing of heroin as a fund raising enterprise to pay for the guns to fight a terrorist-style street war within the city of London was not a new occurrence, but its lack of novelty made it no less deadly.
There had been a tip-off from an informant; not much to go on, but Cowley's infallible nose for trouble had begun to twitch. "On your bikes," he told Bodie and Murphy as he finished the monologue in which all the salient data had been pieced together like the shards of a complex jigsaw. Murphy had gone on ahead and Bodie was halfway through the door when Cowley called him back. "Oh, Bodie, you might like to see this." He was wearing a guardedly pleasant expression and waving a sheet paper. "Doyle's reports to date. He's shaping up well. A little underweight, blood pressure good, pulse a little high - but that's the anxiety of the test showing. I'd say he's shaping up better than expected."
Bodie smiled in delight. "The bionic golly rides again."
"Not yet," Cowley said sternly. "They're not finished with him yet. Psycho and reflex testing couldn't have worked out better, oxygen transfer, ATP, cardio, endocrine, it all looks good, but the last tests are still going on." He glanced at his watch. "About now, as a matter of fact."
"He'll do it," Bodie said positively. "He's been working damned hard. It's exhausting just watching him."
It was no exaggeration. Doyle had dragged himself home exhausted on two consecutive nights, worn too ragged to play even if Bodie had suggested it. Instead, he showered, ate a little and collapsed on the bed under Bodie's strong, massaging hands, content to have his aches and pains platonically eased away, and then sleep like the dead within the other's warm, muscular embrace. Today was the third day of his passage through CI-5's version of Purgatory; Bodie had woken him with a kiss and a glass of grapefruit juice, and tomorrow... Tomorrow was another day.
These were the longest three days in any year, but they were also a very necessary evil. CI-5 could not afford to carry passengers, and sending out field agents who were physically below par was as good as sending men out to be killed. Bodie's thoughts went with Doyle as he slammed the door of the silver Capri and pulled out of the garage, past Cowley's red four-door, which was up on the lift getting its brakes looked at.
The morning was repetitive and endless. At noon he wheeled the car into the parking space behind a van from which wafted the tantalising aroma of frying onions. A phone box stood a dozen yards away, and while Murphy went to order up hot dogs, chips, pastries and coffee, Bodie sauntered into the glass cubicle. He could have used the RT, but then the whole call would have gone through the dispatcher and been recorded. He was dubious about the wisdom of that.
He punched up the seven-digit number and, when reception answered said, "Extension 314, Pauline." "Bodie, is it? What are you doing on the phone?" she asked cheerfully.
"I left the RT in the car, didn't I?" He made a joke of it. "Short term memory's always the first to go. Come on, Paulie, give me 314, I need a word or two with Ray."
He made it sound like business and the woman did not question it. Bodie waited, and when the extension phone rang it was Dr Jim Cooper who answered; then he asked for Doyle. "He's just finishing the duress-BP finals," Cooper said. "Here he comes now."
"How's he look?" Bodie asked tensely.
"Oh, about five foot ten - "
"Test-wise, you clown!"
"Rest BP is 120/85, which couldn't be better, high stress BP is 155/95, which is great too," Cooper told him, "but his pulse is really too high. Up to 110 under duress."
"Duress? What kind of duress?" Bodie muttered. He knew what kind of torture chamber Cooper's lab could become.
"110, blackout, laser target acquisition reflex testing - "
"And his bloody reaction time?"
"Like greased lightning," Cooper admitted. "He's working a damned sight harder here than he'll ever have to on the street, so the elevated pulse doesn't matter too much. Also, he's still taking digitalis, so it's largely irrevelant..." He paused, addressing his next words to the approaching test subject. "Hey, Ray, I've got Bodie here for you."
The phone clattered, there was a pause as Doyle waited for Cooper to get out of earshot, then he murmured, close by the mouthpiece, "Speak to me, Bodie, I'd kill to hear your voice." He sounded husky, breathless. It was probably the aftermath of testing, but it was the way he often sounded after making love, murmuring meaningless endearments as they came down from the rapturous high. Just listening to him, Bodie felt himself grow hard.
"So how are they treating you?" he asked quietly.
"With asbestos gloves and tongs," Doyle muttered. "I've been up-tight - you know me, when I get my Irish up - "
"And your best feature, too," Bodie quipped softly.
"When I"m annoyed, I mean." Doyle corrected drily.
Bodie could hear the smile in his voice. "Don't get me going; I'm only wearing workout suit bottoms, you know. You want to make it obvious to them?"
"That you've had an erotic phone call?" Bodie gave Murphy a wave as he returned from the van and spread the food out on the car's hot bonnet. "Look, love, stick it out. This is the last day, come hell or high water. What time will they be finished with you?"
"Three, four," Doyle sighed. "I'll be home before you ... What are you doing, Bodie?"
"Not much," Bodie admitted. "Tedious job, long day. I'll bring you a bottle of bubbly and drink your health in it. One way or the other, it's over today." There was a long pause; he could hear Ray's breathing, and if he closed his eyes he could imagine being close enough to reach out and touch him.
Anxiety drew his innards into a tight knot. "I have to go," he murmured. "Take it easy, Ray. Give them their pound of flesh ... The Cow's really pleased with your results."
"Really?" Doyle sounded honestly surprised. "He just looks at me as if I'm a haggis that's been in the fridge three weeks too long and gone green and mouldy! I'll ... Talk to you later, Bodie."
"Among other, less academic pastimes," Bodie added pointedly, and hung up the phone with a profound reluctance.
The shower was running when he slammed the door of Doyle's flat and reconnected the locks. There was a brown paper bag under his arm, and from it he took a bottle of genuine French champagne, very light, white and dry. The way Doyle liked it. He preferred the sweeter wines himself, but this was Doyle's evening, not his, and he could drink all the sweet champagne he wanted later. He put the bottle in the fridge right under the freezer to chill it and ambled toward the bathroom.
Clouds of steam billowed from the shower stall and he peered into the fog, for a moment unable to see his partner; then he realized that Ray was sitting on the floor under the hot cascade, his head back against the wall, his hair plastered flat to his head, his eyes shut, as if he was asleep.
Bodie frowned at him; the hot water had turned his skin a glowing pink, and his long, slim legs were stretched out before him, knees slightly bent. The muscles were ridged in his thighs, close under the skin since he had lost weight he could barely afford to lose. "That bad?" Bodie asked quietly.
Doyle stirred, opening his eyes, and he smiled as he looked up at Bodie's frown. The expression was like sunlight on an overcast day, warming Bodie right down to his toes. "Bad enough," he admitted, "but tomorrow I can do what the hell I like." He made a move to get up and groaned. "If I live that long."
As he got to his feet Bodie reached in, turning off the water, and handed him a vast, fluffy white towel. He patted at his glowing skin with it and then rubbed at his hair, his eyes heavy with drowsiness. Bodie watched him with a half smile; he obviously had no idea how tantalisingly seductive he looked. And he smelt wonderful; he liked Island Spice soap and Camomile shampoo, and the two scents together were a powerful aphrodisiac when added to Ray's existing attributes.
They had stepped out of the steamy, sodden bathroom when he noticed the look on Bodie's face. He searched vainly for a quip and sighed instead, dropping his eyes and pulling his fingers through his wet hair to straighten it about his forehead. The towel was tucked loosely about his slim hips, very white against the gold of his tan, and Bodie thought he looked like a water sprite caught in an act of lust and feeling contrite. He couldn't have stopped his embracing arms to save his life.
"I'm wet, I'm going to get you soaked," Ray protested as he felt Bodie's clothes go limp and damp against him, but his breath was being hugged out of him, and then Bodie's tongue was in his mouth and he could say no more.
Bodie passed his hands over Ray's satiny skin and grunted. His muscles were like rocks after the day's vicious exertion, and when he moved it was only stiffly, as if he hurt. Bodie drew back, crooking one brow at him. "Did they drive you this hard, or did you drive yourself?"
"Bit of both," Ray admitted. He shrugged, embarrassed. "I ... had to know what I was capable of, physically. I mean, if I'm going to go out as your back up, I'd better bloody well be there when you need me!"
"Need you?" Bodie said throatily. "Now there's an understatement."
He watched Ray's pupils dilate as they looked at each other, and then Ray's damp arm slid about his neck, pulling his head towards a kiss that was hungry and less than gentle. Bodie propelled him into the bedroom and gave him a shove that dumped him on the green quilt. "Bodie!" he protested with a grin.
"So what hurts most?" Bodie asked softly, lifting the towel away as it came loose. "Shoulders, back, or everything in general?"
"Right shoulder, right leg," Ray told him, watching him take off his damp shirt and reach for the bottle of apricot oil that stood on the table at the bedside.
Bodie thickened both hands with the sweet oil and smiled gently at him. "So turn over, love. You've got muscles like bricks, it's no wonder you hurt."
Always extremely physical all his life, Bodie knew more than a little about first aid in sport, and his strong fingers were deft, persistent, effective. He worked all over Ray's back until he was groaning with the simple pleasure of it, then went on to his legs. He had been working himself hard; if he had played a game of football, he could have extended himself no more, but under Bodie's ministering the muscles gradually softened, and as they did Ray relaxed thoroughly.
As he felt the deep relaxation set in, Bodie's hands moved upwards, drawn to the soft, fluid curves of Ray's slim buttocks. Still slick with the oil, his hands caressed, teasingly light, until Doyle moaned and turned himself over with one lithe roll that revealed his arousal and invited Bodie's fingers to play elsewhere. As his back arched with pleasure, Bodie slid down onto the quilt beside him, covering his mouth with a deep, demanding kiss, and a moment later he felt Ray shudder against him and chuckled. "You've been looking forward to that, haven't you?"
Breathlessly, Doyle nodded, his eyes following every curve of Bodie's torso; colour leapt in his cheeks and his damp hair looked very dark, A water sprite, Bodie thought again as he got to his feet and undressed quickly. Ray sat up as his partner's weight sank the bedsprings beside him, wanting to be held tightly and biting deeply into Bodie's shoulder as they tumbled each other over and began to rock together in their practiced and now easy rhythm. Ray had shaved under the shower; his face was as smooth as a boy's, and Bodie knotted his fingers into the damp curls, revelling in every caress, every kiss, until Doyle came again, triggering his own exhausting release.
The day's exertions had taken their toll of Ray and he was panting on the verge of sleep when Bodie kissed him lightly and sat up; he gave the water sprite a fond, wondering smile, watching him fight to stay awake, and tousled his hair gently. "Catch ten or fifteen winks, love. I'll go and open the bubbly. He pulled on his robe, a Chinese garment, black, with dragons embroidered on the back, and padded barefoot into the kitchen with a yawn. He was drained himself - from the anxieties of wondering how Ray would perform in Cooper's merciless clutches, and then from the act of love itself, but he was far from spent; desire still simmered in him, banishing the drowsiness as he popped the cork without spilling a drop of the expensive liquid and collected a couple of long-stemmed glasses.
As he appeared Ray sat up, curling his long legs under him and pulling the backs of his knuckles across his eyes, an oddly vulnerable gesture. He peered at the label on the bottle. "Last of the big spenders, are you? How much did that cost?"
"Special offer at the Supermarket, 70p for a box of three," Bodie lied with a grin. He poured two glasses but held Ray's out of reach, taking a mouthful of the priceless sparkling white himself. Doyle had opened his mouth to protest at the teasing and demand his glass when Bodie stooped toward him, pressing his lips to Ray's and parting them. Icy champagne gushed through the kiss, and they swallowed, then Bodie drew back with a smile. "Congratulations on passing through your baptism of fire with top marks," he murmured, his eyes darkening as they locked with Doyle's. He held out the still half full glass for Ray to take it from him, but his partner shook his head with a fascinated expression.
"Forget the glass, Bodie," he said huskily, watching the other blink and chuckle, then take another mouthful of the chilly liquid and bend toward him to repeat the cool-lipped, sparkling kiss. As it broke they both laughed. "Tastes better that way," Doyle said drily. "Gives a whole new meaning to getting drunk!" Then Bodie's words sank in and he frowned.
"Did you say I - I passed?"
"With all flags flying," Bodie grinned, switching the empty glass for the full one. "I got the pontification from Cowley before I left; your sick leave is up in two days. You draw your gun from Armoury and get back in the car, sunshine." He reached for Doyle's hand, squeezing it tightly. "I told you you could do it."
Doyle collapsed onto his belly with a groan, burying his face in the pillows. He felt Bodie's weight press him down, and he wanted to laugh aloud in joy and in love.
"Ray?" Bodie's breath was hot on the back of his neck. "Say something."
"Hallelujah!" Doyle's voice was muffled against the pillow, and then he did laugh. "Jesus, I did it, I did it!" He turned his face out of the padding, the better to breathe, his profile flushed and happy, "Do you want me again?"
"I've wanted you for days," Bodie muttered honestly.
"Then take me, sweetheart, please - I'm yours," Ray managed, panting under Bodie's weight and still laughing, thrilling to the wet kisses on his back and the studied caresses that could make him sigh or make him scream with equal ease. Bodie's name was on his lips, whispered, then called aloud as they strained against each other; and then Bodie rolled him over and lifted him onto his chest, wanting to see his face and taste his mouth.
They slept like that, contented, exhausted, high on success and the wonderful certainty of reciprocated love. It was going to be as it had been, Doyle thought as he drifted into sleep. On the fringes of dream he lived through the nightmare of the shooting and the hospital again, through the painful convalescence, the realisation that the ache in his chest was Bodie, the devastating realisation that love wore Bodie's face. It played itself out in a few seconds, supplanted by the glow of success, health and the warm, rosy afterglow of fulfillment.
No, it would never be exactly the same as it had been; now, there were the two of them, there was the endless delight of Bodie, and the complimentary delight of the knowledge that Bodie ached to have him so much sometimes that he could barely speak. What would CI-5 say, if ever they were discovered?
There was a wise old saying: the only real mistake is getting caught ... And he and Bodie were wiser than that. George Cowley had known them both for years - perhaps he would look at them and suspect, and perhaps young Murphy would suspect, but these were friends and colleagues who would look at them and see the love and appreciate it for what it was. And envy them?
Doyle snuggled closer into Bodie's embrace with a sigh of utter content.
-- THE END --