In God's Country
by Kitty Fisher
The road to Damascus, as far as William Bodie was concerned, was in the car park at Finchley Central station. Hardly the most exotic location for your world view to be unceremoniously turned upside down, but after thirty years of fairly cynical existence, it hardly came as a surprise. St Paul might get sun, sand, and Nubian dancing girls to ease his way onto the path of the righteous, but W.A.P. Bodie got rain, tarmac, and the acerbic tongue of Ray Doyle.
He leant against the Capri and shook his head. Who said life was fair?
Though it was hardly the path of the righteous he was heading for, that much was certain. The righteous would have taken one look at Doyle and scurried off in the opposite direction. Bodie on the other hand had been drawn like an iron filing to a magnet, prepared to put up with almost anything to keep their friendship alive.
And had never really wondered why.
Bodie wiped a slightly unsteady hand over his face. He felt out of kilter, as if the bones in his body no longer quite met. He was thankful that the action was all over, because he doubted if he could successfully put one foot in front of the other, let alone shoot at anything and hit it.
Perhaps he was coming down with flu.
Hunching both shoulders he muttered under his breath, blinked as rain momentarily caught on his lashes and admitted that this was nothing so prosaic as a simple virus. It was far more complicated than that.
Of all the places in the world, it had to be here. He glared at the innocent property of the London Transport Authority; a sodden car park in the back-end of London. Typical. And on a Sunday afternoon when, by rights, he should have been at home watching Liverpool beat the living daylights out of Spurs. Certainly not standing in the pouring rain getting wetter than wet and making distinctly unwelcome discoveries about himself.
In the four years of partnership with Ray Doyle, Bodie had learned more than a few things about that volatile individual. He had quickly mastered the art of anticipating his moods, heading off the worst of them when the Gods were smiling, making rapid and probably none too decorous retreats when they weren't. He'd played the game Doyle's way: given ground whenever Doyle seemed to need it, and taken more in the way of insult and aggravation than seemed possible.
In all that time, not once had he wondered what all this previously unsuspected gift of patience stemmed from. True, there had never been any doubt that all the effort was worthwhile. No doubt at all, and it had seemed as natural as breathing, but he'd never seen why. Never looked close enough. Only now, finally, did Bodie understand.
They did say that love was blind.
All things considered, it was rather surprising that he was still functioning at all.
"You all right?"
Doyle's voice made Bodie jump and reflexively his face tried to form a smile. Shifting uneasily and trying not to look too out of it, he dredged up a reply. "Yeah, I'm fine." Articulation at its finest. He swallowed and made another attempt: "Have they finished with you yet?"
"No. Bastards say it'll be another ten minutes."
"They said that half an hour ago."
Doyle sniffed. "I noticed."
"You know Cowley." Bodie shrugged slightly.
"Yeah, don't I just. Still, the sooner I get back, the sooner this'll be over." With a tired gesture Doyle wandered back to the group of sombrely dressed men standing under a circle of mournful umbrellas, where the CI5 controller was in deep conversation with various uniformed and plainclothes police.
Bodie took a deep breath. Doyle's jeans were soaked and every movement of muscle was visible through the thin, worn denim. It was indecent, the eroticism of it slamming into his consciousness as if he'd run smack into a brick wall. He tore his eyes away and tried to concentrate on the surroundings.
It was very difficult. It wasn't even as if the car park held any diversions, it was about as exciting as any other car park. It ran, gravel and weed strewn, past the station, following the wet-pewter line of the barbed-wire cordoned track for a good hundred yards before petering out in a mess of goods yard and filthy scrub land that, by some oversight of the developers, hadn't yet been built on. Unless rusting railway carriages set your heart aflutter, and Bodie found them about as interesting as the cracked tarmac, there was nothing to look at; nothing to distract his attention from the slim, soaked figure that stood, an unsuspecting siren to his senses, so close by.
It was impossible; there had been no inkling that this was the way his mind, libido, not to mention heart, were heading. Why Doyle? Why now?
Bodie tilted his head up and scowled at the sky.
The rain looked like it was set in for the duration. Closing his eyes he let it fall on his upturned face; a gentle, cold caress that if he concentrated might curb the thoughts that scurried frantically through his skull. Perhaps what he needed was a holiday; a month somewhere hot, with lots of sandy beach, ample beer and willing women. Perhaps that would cure this sudden madness.
Then he remembered.
Doyle had walked out of the storm of gunfire and grinned at him. It had been as much as Bodie was able not to hit him, or to kiss him. So many risks. Too many. Failure and death had slipped away by the skin of their teeth leaving Bodie's world shaken and curiously out of alignment.
How could he have been so stupid? And exactly when had friendship and trust turned so unexpectedly into love and desire? The moment Doyle had survived the impossible and walked grinning away from the carnage? Or was it before, long before that second when Bodie could have pushed the filthy, rain-soaked figure up against the nearest police car and fucked his brains out?
What little brains he had. To take those risks...
Bodie killed the thought, horrified. The only thing Doyle would take less kindly to than being told his partner had the hots for him, would be his partner turning into some sort of mother hen. Well, even more of a mother hen than before. It had never been easy to watch Doyle take risks.
He tilted his head forward, wiped his face on the back of an equally damp hand and swore, not just at the rain. What was it about Doyle anyway? He took a cautious survey, trying to be objective -- and failing miserably. He ground his teeth and fought the need to whisk Doyle away and do -- what? He wasn't sure.
Bodie sighed and made himself listen to Doyle telling his superiors exactly what he thought of the back-up, or lack of it, that he'd had on this case and about the sorry way the whole thing had been handled. He was being quite concise, all things considered. Despite everything, Bodie couldn't help but smile. Deference, tact, sanity when faced with superior officers, somehow the Good Faery had neglected to add those to the bounty of Doyle's gifts. Not that what he was saying wasn't true. Hell, the way he felt -- like a rag put one too many times through a wringer -- Bodie could have told the coppers a few home truths himself. Not that there was any need, a smile slipped across Bodie's face, Doyle was finding enough words without any help at all. He always could.
It was the other half of the partnership that had problems articulating emotion. This half. Bodie muttered to himself and wondered if there was any way Doyle would ever know. If there were any words that would make the explanation possible. He tried to imagine sitting down and calmly letting Doyle in on this particular secret. When the answer was probably a laugh in the face, the scenario didn't seem very likely.
No, silence was best. Maybe if he said nothing, then the feeling would just go away. He pushed away from the Capri, then changed his mind and stood still. Jamming both hands into his pockets he wished deeply that he was at home -- warm, dry, and preferably eight parts soused in a bottle.
Why were they still here, anyway? The I.R.A. cell they had just bagged was long gone, carted off in a couple of vans with heavy police escort. Perhaps if Doyle stopped talking, then Cowley would be able to send them off home.
He kicked miserably at a loose piece of tarmac, sending it skittering across to the ragged hedge of filthy trees. There was no anger in him. Once he'd known Doyle was safe, then all the desperate urgency that had driven him for the past two days had faded away. Now all he wanted was to go home and deal with the confusion that made every muscle in his body knot with tension. Yes, he wanted to go home.
He knew he should be wishing to be alone, but sense seemed to have deserted him and, anyway, after a month undercover, Doyle's flat would hold nothing edible and the immersion heater would certainly be switched off. And the first thing Doyle would be after was a shower with plenty of hot water.
Bodie closed his eyes and without any conscious thought, without any warning, his mind was full of the image of a naked, wet, and unaccountably aroused Ray Doyle. He flushed and turned away, averting his face and the lust that was undoubtedly painted all over it.
Okay, so perhaps Doyle's presence in his flat wasn't such a good idea after all.
But it was a worn and well loved ritual that after an op they stayed together and wound down in each other's company. That had been when their friendship was nice and simply that -- friendship. Who knew what it was now.
Bodie opened his eyes and stared at nothing, his face carved in unrelenting stone. It still was friendship -- it had to be. Perhaps this sudden overwhelming need was a simple reaction to Doyle's close-call with death.
Over-reacting again, Bodie? Maybe. He sighed.
And somehow, he was staring at Doyle. Straight-backed and slim-hipped, Doyle looked ratty as hell. Ripped jeans and a filthy shirt, both patched with rain and the spreading darkness of someone else's blood, might be the product of a day well spent, but they made Bodie's nose wrinkle fastidiously. Yet all the while the sane part of him was being genteel, another, newer, and far less particular part of his mind was reacting in a way that would have made Doyle blush.
Hell, it would have made anyone blush.
Why Doyle? Why now? The plaintive questions repeated themselves, filtering through all the new, painful thoughts that sat so uneasily with his sense of who he was and where he had got to in the world.
Then Doyle turned half towards him and smiled that crooked smile that only ever seemed to be aimed at Bodie, and any need for explanations was burned away, vaporised by delight.
Not that it would do.
The heat of pleasure died, leaving a pit of ice in Bodie's insides. There was no way that fancying your partner was allowed. Especially when that partner was Ray 'if you've got a skirt on lie down I want to talk to you' Doyle.
For a brief, glorious moment Bodie's wayward mind considered the idea of a frock. Then sanity prevailed and he actually laughed.
"You sure you're all right? You don't normally stand in the middle of nowhere and laugh to yourself." Suspicious and clearly far from happy, Doyle was standing very close. He'd found a blanket from somewhere and had wrapped it around his shoulders. There were goose-bumps texturing his forearms.
"Something jogged my funny-bone." Bodie wasn't laughing now.
"Go on then, share the joke. I could do with a giggle." Doyle morosely wiped a hand over his face, smearing God-knows-what filth across his face.
Sidetracked, Bodie quickly changed the subject. "What's that?"
"Don't be dense -- that." Bodie pointed at a bloodied rag that was tied around Doyle's arm, peeking out from under his pushed-back sleeve.
"Oh, that." Doyle shrugged. "I cut myself yesterday."
Bodie glared at him and tutted as he peremptorily took hold of the arm in question and, after a little difficulty that made Doyle swear colourfully, tugged the offending scrap of fabric off. It was thrown onto the tarmac without a second thought.
"Oy! That's my hanky!"
"I'll buy you a new one. Keep still." Bodie peered at the gash that sliced across the grubby, bone-cold arm. "Christ, you couldn't have got more dirt in this if you'd tried."
Doyle peered down with partisan interest. "Mmm, must've been when I was crawling around under the goods' vans. I thought it was probably bleeding enough to keep it clean."
The arm rested lightly against Bodie's own. He could feel the feathery, soft hairs that scattered across its surface. He could feel its chill under the sleek coating of rain, the slight tremor that was invisible to the eye, but transmitted itself into Bodie and made him shiver.
There didn't appear to be any oxygen left in the air.
It was as if time had lost all of its fluidity, and in that moment Bodie knew that whatever he imagined the change in his perception of Doyle might suggest, it was certainly not going to allow the status quo to remain the same.
"Christ, I'm knackered." Doyle swayed towards him and wiped his free hand over his eyes.
Immediately conscious that Doyle's exhaustion had finally won its battle with adrenalin, Bodie bit on a wave of confused emotion that seemed to be compounded of guilt, lust and shame. "Better get you home then, hadn't we?" Bodie pulled a sparkling and, miraculously, dry linen handkerchief from his top-pocket, flicked it open and wrapped it around the filthy arm. He concentrated hard on the simple action, refusing to admit that every brush of skin against his own, every touch of pore against pore made him sweat. He tried to concentrate, but his senses were swamped by input: the dampness beading across Doyle's unshaven face; the matted curls plastered to neck and skin; a trickle of rain slipping past the hairline, down across the battered cheekbone that drew the eye with such absurd enticement. Grime, blood, strength, grace, sex. Jesus.
Bodie dropped the arm as if it was fire, stepping back, almost tripping. He wanted to run as far away as possible. This wasn't something he'd asked for, or even dreamed he wanted. It was unfair. Very unfair.
He cleared his throat and avoided Doyle's eyes. "You should have got one of the ambulance men to look it over. You might need stitches."
"I had other things on my mind."
Like mouthing off to Cowley, Bodie thought, though the words died and he shivered as Doyle brushed past him, heading for the car.
An evening with Doyle. A surge of giddiness held him immobile. He couldn't do it. Couldn't. Even though part of him needed the normality, the rest of him was screaming in panic.
"Come on, Bodie."
Doyle was settling himself in the passenger seat, slamming the door. The future so easily mapped out.
Left with no choice, Bodie slid behind the wheel. After a pause, he finally met the red-rimmed eyes.
Doyle was frowning, the puzzlement that creased his brow a bright warning light to Bodie. He didn't want to discuss this, didn't want to talk about anything at all.
Doyle asked, "You all right?"
"Yeah," Bodie shook himself. "Just fine." But the smile wasn't enough to make either of them believe it.
Luckily for the inhabitants of North London, there were remarkably few people on the roads. Bodie earned a glare from the police who had cordoned off the car-park as he skidded out onto the high street, the silent admonition doing nothing to improve his driving for the rest of the journey. After about ten minutes, he screeched to a halt outside Doyle's flat.
"Here you are -- I'll see you later."
Doyle didn't move. Bodie could feel his eyes, slanted with curiosity, watch him obliquely. It made him want to scream. What he needed, or so Bodie ruthlessly told himself, was to be alone, to sort this out away from temptation. He turned away, the memory of the rub of skin against his arm searing through mind and body along with fierce disgust that he was behaving so selfishly.
"Are you pissed off with me after the way I went on to Cowley and the coppers?"
Trust Doyle, both feet first. Bodie ground his teeth and fixed his eyes on the trickle of rain against the window. "No, I'm pissed off with the weather, it's nothing to do with you."
He swallowed. "Yeah?"
"Don't be a prat, turn the engine off for a minute."
Reluctantly, he obeyed. In the sudden silence the rain sounded very loud. Bodie could hear his own heart as well. And the soft sound of Doyle's breathing. He blinked his eyes tight shut, then opened them as Doyle spoke.
"Bodie, what happened while I was away?"
Bodie shrugged. "You know, the usual."
"Yeah." Doyle turned, wiping his nose on the blanket. "So what's up?"
"What makes you think something's up? What--"
Doyle interrupted, his words sweeping right over Bodie's. "I know. And what's more, I know you'll tell me eventually. Some bird, is it?" He waited. "Or was it today? I am alive, you know."
Bodie felt himself flinch and gripped the steering wheel tight.
"Ah. Look, Bodie, you did everything you could. And I am alive. Feel."
Bodie looked at the thin hand that gripped his wrist; it felt like burning metal against his skin. His vocal cords seemed to have withered.
The shake that accompanied the word almost made the world spin. He wanted to take Doyle and shake him in turn, to punish him for being so close to death, for laughing in its face, for making him feel all these emotions that he didn't want to deal with. Most of all, he wanted to press his face to Doyle's skin and breath in its scent, its warmth, its life; to hold him and never let go.
He wasn't sure which shamed him most. Which frightened him most.
He turned at the sound of the passenger door opening. Then the weight was gone from his wrist. Doyle was out the door and standing in the rain before he could say anything. "If you feel like talking to me later, you know where I'll be. Though I'm so knackered I feel like I'll sleep for a week." Doyle straightened to fish in a pocket for his keys, they rattled in a hand shaking from both cold and reaction. "Oh, Cowley's given us both a week off." He peered back into the car, his face almost expressionless. "Come and see me, okay?"
Bodie nodded, refusing to see the puzzlement, the hurt under the exhaustion, wanting to believe that Doyle needed to be alone as much as he wanted to. He dredged up the will to speak. "Yeah, I'll be around. See you." The engine was turned over and the wheels rolling almost before Doyle had the door shut, as Bodie ran away.
It was only when he was dispiritedly climbing his own stairs that he realised exactly why it would have been sensible for Doyle come here; hot water and warmth. He paused and considered going back to Camden. A quick apology and Doyle could be here. Except that he'd still want to know what was going on. More tenacious than a terrier was Doyle. And Bodie suddenly knew he couldn't cope with being worried at. Not yet. Not until he'd sorted things out for himself. Not while he felt so ridiculously vulnerable.
The word almost made him spit. Shit, vulnerable wasn't a word he'd ever associated with himself. If this went any further, he'd be buying Doyle flowers and writing odes to the incomparable beauty of his eyes. Anyone would think that his new mission in life was to make Doyle sick with laughter.
With a shake of his head Bodie walked up the last few steps and let himself in, locking the door behind him. He stripped off his jacket and stopped. The air was cold. Frowning, he paced into the kitchen and stared at the boiler that ran the central-heating system. If it had gone wrong now, that would almost be justice. But no, what was wrong was that he hadn't turned it on. In the rush to be out of the house he must have turned it off, rather than leaving it on timer.
Leaning on the counter he laughed at himself. Justice indeed. For a moment he considered ringing Doyle to let him know that they both had freezing flats and no hot water. Then sanity prevailed. Reaching over, he turned both the heating and water switches to constant. After a second or two, the system clicked smoothly on.
Being electric, Doyle's would take a bit longer, but they were both in the same boat. It almost made him feel better.
It was in the half-light of dawn that Bodie awoke, tangled in sheets that were trying to strangle him, so deep in the ragged remains of the dream that he could have come at a touch. Breathing hard he pushed the linen away, lying sprawled as his mind made sense of reality.
He was alone.
A wave of desolation shook him to the depth of his being. He didn't need anyone, not like that. He couldn't. This had to be just carnal. He wanted Doyle; he was thinking -- dreaming -- through his balls.
In proof, a hand slipped down to cup the need at his groin, his erection was still hard, almost painful. He closed his eyes and without effort, the dream was there, waiting. Doyle wrapped in his arms, panting need and desire into the air, head twisted back as ecstasy ripped through him, crying out Bodie's name as he came.
Jaw ground shut, Bodie shuddered as his own body followed suit, seed spilling over his hand, spattering on his chest and belly.
After a long time he opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling, his eyes following the fine, meandering line of a crack in the plaster. The desolation was still there, weighting him to the sweaty sheets. He could feel the semen drying on his skin, cold.
This was wrong, all wrong. Where had that dream come from? And why was he so certain that fantasy would never be enough? He'd been so complacent. Life had been so even-keeled and simple, now all that had changed.
Bodie knew himself well enough to know that this was no temporary disease of the brain and balls. Doyle had been part and parcel of what was good in his life for a long time. That he'd suddenly woken up to exactly why that should be so just proved how little he had cared to probe their relationship, how careful he'd been to not allow himself to recognise the basic emotion that underpinned their friendship. At least on his part. As for Doyle, he couldn't be certain that there was anything else at all.
In fact, it seemed highly unlikely.
Rolling out of bed, he pulled off the sheets and threw them onto the floor. Standing by the stripped bed, Bodie ran a hand down his chest. Semen, a second skin, flaked, turning to dust as it floated to the floor. There seemed to be so much of it, as if he hadn't come so much in years.
He needed to know what Doyle would think and do. He needed that more than anything.
Yet there was nothing he was less likely to find out.
If only this really was just to do with sex. If it was, then charming his way into Doyle's bed wouldn't be that hard, would it? There had been more than a couple of occasions when there had been something there between them, some awareness that needed only a word or a slight touch to bring it to the surface. Doyle was the only man Bodie had ever flirted with, even if that flirtation had seemingly been done with a heavy dose of irony, of humorous bantering. Male sex in the past had never needed such subtleties. Yet Doyle was outrageously sensual at times. Indecently. He flaunted it, revelled in it in a way that left Bodie standing.
He also, as far as Bodie knew, only bedded women. But then as far as Doyle knew, Bodie only had eyes for women, too, and yet, there were all sorts of secrets in Bodie's past, so why not Doyle's?
With wishful thinking, anything was possible.
Easing the tightly bunched muscles of his shoulders, he wandered into the kitchen, putting the kettle on to boil, leaning absently against a unit as he waited, his thoughts on a different matter entirely. For, if he could get Doyle into bed, Bodie was certain enough of his own skills to know that they would both enjoy the experience once they got there.
It was the getting there that was a problem. But who was he kidding? That was only part of the problem. The rest was the fact that sex alone wouldn't be enough.
Well it should be; Doyle wasn't likely to take kindly to that, let alone a declaration of undying love. If that was what this was.
In his life, Bodie had given his love with the generosity of a miser. His youth had taught him lessons that had been quickly learned and never forgotten. Love was something that, if you were lucky, mothers gave to children. Adult love was something other people got conned by, believing the advertising that sold gold rings and a lifetime of social conformity. Bodie had no interest in either. Never had, never would. Or so he'd thought.
So where did that leave him now, now that his bowels were in a knot over a man he had no right to be thinking of in any way other than friendship? A simple, uncomplicated relationship that would leave no room for this intense need to know that Ray Doyle was close-by for the rest of their lives. It was crazy. Madness. A disease of the brain, body, and heart.
Well, if it was a disease, perhaps there was a cure.
The kettle was clouding steam into the air. He switched it off and considered options. Perhaps what he needed was a hefty dose of aversion therapy. Doyle, first thing in the morning. He thought of the heavy-eyed misanthrope that Doyle was until after four cups of tea and either breakfast or eleven o'clock, whichever came first. That should be enough to cure anything. And if it didn't? Well, it would prove something -- if only the distance he'd travelled down the 'road with no return'.
Mindlessly, with the inner sickness of a man waiting for the tumbrel to arrive outside his door, Bodie went through his morning routine. Then, showered and dressed, clean, but far from confident, he headed for the car.
A stop for the constituents of breakfast and he was standing at Doyle's door. He frowned at its peeling blue paintwork and hesitated, the weight of the bag heavy in his hand, the sound of distant traffic unheard. He looked around, took a deep breath, then, the scent of burning bridges wafting through the air, pressed Doyle's bell.
It was long time in being answered. Eventually a sleepy, undeniably irritated voice enquired through the intercom, "What is it?"
"Bodie?" There was what felt to Bodie an overly long silence. "What do you want?"
"I've brought us some breakfast. I thought you might be hungry."
The silence continued, then a gusting sigh was followed by the sound of the handset being replaced and the buzzer sounding that the door was open.
Wrapped in a dressing-gown, Doyle was leaning, arms folded across his chest, against the open door of his flat. He was very pale, obviously straight out of sleep. His expression was hardly welcoming.
"Morning! I thought you might need a proper breakfast." Bodie waved the carrier bag in the air as he bounded up the stairs. "Eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread and a few tomatoes on the side. How's that sound?" He stopped in front of Doyle and found himself suddenly bereft of speech.
"Bodie, do you know what time it is?"
Bodie hadn't a clue. He knew that Doyle was naked under the dark green cloth and that was just about all he could cope with. He struggled for self-possession, for recollection of the outside world. It had been daylight, hadn't it? He peered past Doyle's shoulder and saw that morning light was streaming in through a gap in the living-room curtains. He tried a watery grin, relieved that it wasn't accidentally the middle of the night. As for the real time, that was anybody's guess. He made a stab at it, "Breakfast time?"
"For the birds, maybe! It's seven-thirty, Bodie. I was intending on being asleep until at least lunch."
"Well, you can return to your beauty sleep after you've been fed. What did you have for dinner last night?"
"When I've been fed? What am I, some sort of pet? And as for dinner last night, it was tinned soup and a corned-beef sandwich. Without the bread. My fridge wasn't exactly stacked up and somebody wasn't in the mood for being sociable. Remember?"
"Yeah, sorry. But I've come to make up for being so rotten. So move out the way and I'll see about feeding you something decent." He waggled an eyebrow, Doyle's irascibility a normality that lifted his spirits. "You know you love my way with a sausage."
"God almighty! Innuendo at this time in the morning I can't cope with. Get in the kitchen and shut up!"
"Thank you, Master, thank you." Bodie tugged his non-existent forelock and made a quick beeline for the kitchen before Doyle could change his mind. He called over his shoulder, "Do you want some tea now, or wait 'til we eat?"
"Now. I suppose it might help me wake up." Yawning, Doyle had followed in Bodie's wake and was watching him unpack the bag. Bodie found it unnerving; Doyle seemed to be examining him with a cautious eye. To escape it he went to the sink and filled the kettle, taking slightly longer over it than he needed. He could hear Doyle moving around, his bare feet soft on the lino. In the old dressing-gown he should have looked a state, but Bodie's mind translated the reality into fantasy, and for a moment he was standing, staring into a space that held Doyle, wrapped in the shimmering opulence of a Rajah, slowly stripping off the layers of silk, baring skin inch by inch to be kissed, the taste of his skin salt on Bodie's tongue.
A hand tapped his shoulder. "I think you'll find it's full."
Ripped back to reality, Bodie stared dumbly at the kettle in his hands and the water that rushed over its sides in a great deluge. He jerked it away and hurriedly turned off the tap. "Sorry."
"Are you sure you're up to cooking a fry-up? I really don't want the flat left a smoking ruin."
"I'll do my best. Why don't you go and have a shower or something, let me get on with it."
"Am I putting you off?"
"No! I just don't like being watched."
"That's not what your birds say." Doyle raised an eyebrow as Bodie turned, a look of innocence plastered on his face. "I had a good chat with Tina, very interesting. And inventive." He backed away, a grin spread across his face. "I'm going, I'm going! Give me a shout when you're ready."
As Doyle padded away, Bodie leant on the cold metal of the sink and wondered if he was still sane. What was he doing here, anyway? Indulging some masochistic impulse that he'd never known he possessed? What did he want? Doyle in black leather and himself in chains being humiliated? He shivered. No, what he wanted was at the same time far more simple and far more complicated. He almost laughed. That sounded as if he knew what it was, as if he'd sorted it out in his own mind. Which he hadn't. Had he?
It was all ridiculous. He needed to just get on with life. A good start would be the breakfast. Straightening his shoulders he went and plugged in the kettle, then forced himself to concentrate on the cooking.
Doyle re-emerged just before everything was done. From his station at the cooker, Bodie watched out the corner of one eye as he set the table.
The body was the same: shoulders that surprised with their width; the fall of hair that looked as if it had been cut with a pair of blunt gardening shears, but in fact cost a fortune to maintain; smooth skin, pale now at the end of winter; startling grace; balance and strength, a masculinity that belied the light bones and long, curling hair.
He'd changed into jeans and an old sweatshirt, pushing the sleeves back over his wrists. A bandage peeked out from under the cotton. Bodie half turned and remembered with a stab of guilt. "How's the arm?"
"No problem. I cleaned it up last night and it's healing already." He paused and caught Bodie's frown. "I'm not telling porkies, scout's honour. You can check it up later if you want."
"I can look after myself, you know. God, you're a daft sod sometimes." He shook his head and, hands on hips, glared in exasperation at his partner.
To Bodie, he looked like the sum of a thousand dreams.
Wordless, he turned back and concentrated hard on the contents of the frying pan, turning the sausages even though they were already burnt enough for the most fastidious palate. He heard Doyle scrape a chair back and sit down.
Taking a cloth, Bodie took the warming plates out of the top oven and added the sausages to the mix already there. The eggs only took a few minutes and then he was serving the meal, Doyle merely voicing a soft, "Ta," as the laden plate was placed in front of him.
Settling himself, dealing with salt, pepper and ketchup, Bodie stared at his own plate without interest. But a glance from Doyle had him picking up knife and fork to dig in. Once he started eating hunger surprised him and the breakfast disappeared from both plates with equal speed, washed down with strong tea and assisted by a mound of bread, thickly buttered.
Afterwards, the silence was as companionable as it had ever been.
Finishing the last of his tea, Bodie sat back happily. This was right, this was how it should be. He closed his eyes and could easily have drifted off, his broken sleep leaving him tired. A tendril of thought slipped into his brain; an image. For a moment he couldn't pin it down, then he remembered the band they'd seen last month at the Palais, the lead singer dressed head to toe in skin tight leather, bare chest skimmed with silver and sweat, the flies of his trousers laced shut in a blatant invitation to rip the leather open. The clothes belonged to the singer, but Doyle was wearing them. That slender body skinned in leather, the waist-band barely skimming his hips, the promise cupped at his groin growing as Bodie watched, invitation wide in the witch-green eyes.
"Do you fancy a pint later?"
Pulled without warning from his reverie, Bodie panicked. "Yes. No!"
"That's agreed then. Come on Bodie, get it together!" Doyle ran a hand through his hair and frowned. "A pint, this evening. What do you think?"
"I can't -- I'm busy."
"What with? You can't have set a girl up this quickly, not even your love-sick harem would take kindly to being rung before seven in the morning. So tell me, what are you up to?"
"Nothing, tidying the flat -- I've been letting it go recently." Immediately Bodie wished the blatantly stupid lie unsaid and stood up, ostensibly to clear the table. Arousal from the fantasy still ran hot in his blood and he knew he had to move, to keep Doyle from seeing, from understanding.
Doyle had other ideas. "Bodie, you have a cleaning company to do your flat, same as I do. So what's the big secret? Let me guess, you're master-minding a bank robbery? No, maybe not. Plotting Cowley's assassination? No, he did come up with a wage rise last month so he must be in your good books. I know, you've taken to wearing women's clothes and you think I'll be shocked to see you in a twin-set and pearls; well you might be right there, I've always seen you as more of a black lace man, myself." He paused, a wicked look that somehow encompassed both curiosity and gentle malice glinting in his eyes. After a moment a look of theatrical comprehension dawned on his face and an accusing finger shot out towards Bodie. "No, I've got it, you've got a boyfriend coming round!"
Bodie's smile was pallid, his face stretching painfully with the effort. "Yeah, sussed again, knew you'd understand, Petal."
Bodie looked at Doyle and knew that he was being about as transparent as wet paper. He felt as if every movement was awkward, every word an error. Running with the joke had been the wrong thing to do, he wasn't good at this sort of prevarication.
And Doyle could read him like a book. When he spoke, the humour, the lightness, were completely absent from both voice and manner. "Bodie, do you want to tell me what's the matter?"
"Nothing's the matter. What makes you think that?"
"Everything about you since yesterday."
"There's nothing." Bodie turned and started putting away the condiments that had sat on the table. He listened as Doyle's chair moved back, felt in his bones as much as heard when he approached. There was nothing left to put in the cupboard, but he couldn't turn around.
"Bodie, I wish you'd talk to me." A sigh gusted past Bodie's ear. "Tell me?" A hand stroked lightly at his sleeve.
"Oh, I'll tell you." And Bodie turned, a flash-fire of resentment heating his blood, turning the need to anger and the passion to dust. "It's you."
Bodie nodded in satisfaction; innocent indignation was better than open-faced sympathy. "Yeah."
"What've I done?"
"I'm not sure I could begin to tell you."
"Bodie, I don't understand, you're going to have to tell me in plain English."
"How plain do you need it to be? The risks you took yesterday--"
"Oh, come off it! We both take risks. We have to or we don't get the job done."
"Not wild ones like that. You could have been killed!"
"Like on a hundred other occasions you could've been. What do you want? Us to give up CI5 and take up knitting?" Doyle was close, his own anger beginning to stir. "We've been here before Bodie, what's different now?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"The difference is that I love you."
When Bodie turned to face him, Doyle was standing quite still, arms folded tightly around his body. He was silently laughing.
It was too much. Blind with hurt and betrayal, his own as much as Doyle's, Bodie struck out, seeing almost in slow-motion as the compact body hit the wall and slid sprawling to the floor.
The rush of adrenalin was a release that almost made Bodie believe this was right. For a brief, wonderful moment he wanted Doyle to come at him, to fight, he wanted them to beat at each other until all the unwanted emotion was crushed and dead.
He took a step forward. Then saw the results of his folly.
Blood was dripping from Doyle's nose, spilling down his sweat-shirt, splashing in bright patterns on the floor. He was getting to his feet, his face very wary, very white under the blood.
Dizzy, Bodie shook his head, all anger seared away by desolation.
He was turning, heading for the door when Doyle's hand gripped his arm and held him still. He could have broken the grip, but that would have meant inflicting more pain and that was beyond him. Violence never settled anything like this. It never had and never would; quite why he had thought otherwise was a mystery.
"Ray..." Bodie croaked the name, his voice seemingly belonging to a stranger. There was so much to explain, to ask, to beg, but there were no words. None at all. They were dried to dust on a tongue that was cleaved to the roof of his mouth.
"It's all right. Hey, Bodie, it's all right." Doyle was in front of him, his eyes holding Bodie's, then his arms were there as well, wrapping around the stiff body, holding tight, taking the pain, holding as if they would never let go.
It was impossible not to relax into the offered comfort. Bodie closed his eyes and rested his head against Doyle's, feeling him breathe, feeling his life. The words were there, but he couldn't bring them past his throat, though hundreds of them were held inside him trying to escape, to tell the truth, to beg forgiveness for everything; for changing things, for the blood that was soaking onto his shoulder, making the cotton cling to his skin as it turned chill and grew cold.
Doyle must have felt some change in his muscles, for he straightened, gaining a little distance but not letting go, as if he feared that the lack of contact would bring Bodie to flight. He was smeared with blood, a mess. When he spoke his words were thickened. "I wasn't laughing at you. I was laughing at us."
Bodie shook his head. "It's all right, I can cope. I shouldn't have said anything."
"Then we'd never have known, would we?" There was something glinting under the blood that might have been the beginnings of a smile.
"What a couple of fools we've been. I've wanted you for ages."
Bodie was silent.
"Shocked? You're not alone with a ramshackle past you know." Doyle sniffed, then coughed and grimaced, commenting as if to the air: "I'll never get used to the taste of blood."
Bodie considered, his eyes firmly fixed on a splash of blood that uncannily resembled Australia. If superstition had been important he could have believed it a sign that the other side of the globe was exactly where he should be now. He blinked. "You fancy me."
"I suppose you could put it like that. Though I..."
Bodie wasn't listening. "You imagine it'd be good between the sheets?"
"Or anywhere else -- I've seen you at work, remember. Quite a turn on it was as well."
Bodie pushed away, breaking the last slight contact between them. Anger masked his face. "Is that all?"
Doyle's eyes narrowed with sudden caution, and he closed his mouth on one statement and replaced it with a question. "What more do you want?"
What? A good question indeed. Bodie made a negative movement with his head. "I love you."
"I love you, too." The tension that had held Doyle still was gone. "Don't be a berk -- you're my best mate. Do anything for you." Doyle shrugged as if embarrassment could take the deep meaning off his words. He moved a step closer.
Imperceptibly, Bodie moved away. "Even go to bed with me."
What Bodie thought finally permeated through Doyle's headache. "Bodie, for Christ's sake, what do you think I am? Some sort of martyr?"
"Sometimes. When you think it necessary."
"Don't be so stupid!"
"I'm not. And I don't want a mercy fuck. I promise you my balls won't fall off if I don't get my cock up your arse."
"That's a relief, isn't it, as I'm not sure that was on offer." Doyle stilled, a flicker of what looked like distaste pinching the skin around his eyes, tightly controlled anger flaring his nostrils, more words ready to spill from his mouth.
But Bodie was moving, backing away without hesitation or a second's more thought. Before he knew it he was at the door, running down the stairs as he shrugged into his jacket and then he was in the car, driving blindly in any direction that the road might choose to take him.
It led straight to a bottle. He'd had to wait for the first pub to open up for him, having to bang on the door hardly conducive to smoothing his temper, though once inside, and outside the first double scotch, it hadn't been so bad.
Once he was calm enough to realise where he was, he recognised the mean streets of the Elephant and Castle, just into south London, and laughed that the river had seemed enough of a barrier between himself and Doyle that he'd felt safe enough to stop just across it. He certainly hadn't come here for the ambience. The pub was seedy, dirt that would have the health inspectors rubbing their hands with glee coating almost everything in sight. But the staff hadn't cared about the dark, drying blood that stained his shirt and the glass was quite clean. Most importantly, the whisky wasn't watered down, sitting warm and numbing in his gut.
But not numbing enough.
He peered into the glass and shivered, the golden liquid a seer's pool that showed only truth. Bodie closed his eyes as if in pain, but the image remained. Doyle.
He knocked back the drink and stood up. He felt stone cold sober. Perhaps the alcohol here was tampered with after all. He muttered under his breath and walked out onto the street, squinting at the sudden brightness when he hit the pavement. He glanced at his watch and almost refused to believe it when it said close to one o'clock. He hadn't been there that long, had he? But a clock hanging over the front of an old jewellers agreed. How many whiskies? He couldn't remember. Not enough to stop him driving. He walked to the Capri and slid behind the wheel.
Every time he relaxed, his thoughts went back to Doyle, either as he had been that morning, covered in blood, or shimmering like some siren in the mists of sexual heat.
Neither image made Bodie feel any better.
Besides, if it was love he was feeling then why were all the pictures that floated into his head of Doyle in various compromising sexual positions, or Doyle dressed unquestionably for sex? Was that the only way he was capable of showing affection and need, through a quick fuck?
But when Doyle had offered it he'd been horrified.
With a confused frown, Bodie pulled the car into a gap in the traffic and contemplated as he drove over Westminster Bridge.
Horrified because Doyle had offered what he wanted? No, that wasn't right. He could easily imagine holding that body, loving it to distraction, feeling the strength and the need that would match his own.
What he couldn't imagine was there being nothing else.
They could probably fit the odd bout of enthusiastic sex into their timetable without any problem at all. Though the loneliness would be no better. It might even be worse.
The simplicity of the word, and its fearsome meaning shook him. He didn't need anyone, didn't rely on anyone. Couldn't. People let you down.
Everyone except Doyle.
So where did that leave him? He asked the question without expecting, or even waiting for an answer. A parking space appeared right in front of him and he swerved into it, earning a barrage of horns from the cars behind. Hardened by long practise he ignored them. Climbing slightly unsteadily out, he was unsurprised to find himself in Dean Street, about five doors down from the drinking club he'd been visiting for years when he needed to really get wrecked.
At least the old homing instinct still worked. With a grunt of satisfaction he locked the car and headed to the one place he could be guaranteed the mercy of insensibility.
It was long past dark when he finally got home. He was on his feet, but only because he wouldn't let himself fall down and sleep in a gutter. The club landlord had taken away his car keys, so a taxi had deposited him unceremoniously at his door, though it had cost double to persuade the driver to make the journey, as he seemed more concerned with his upholstery and his fare's ability to make the journey without throwing up, than his work-load.
Slowly, he climbed the stairs, each step as steep as Everest. Finally he recognised his own door and began the search for his keys. He was doing so, muttering, when the door opened.
Reflexes shot to hell, Bodie could only peer myopically at the back-lit figure and slowly, unbelievingly, shake his head. "It isn't you."
"No? Well, I was me when I shaved this morning. Though a lot's happened since then, I'll grant you that."
"It can't be you. Are you haunting me?"
Doyle stepped back and pulled Bodie into the flat. "I'm not dead yet, you drunken berk, so how can I be haunting you?"
"Been seeing you all day. In my drink."
"Drinks, more like it." Doyle took a deep breath and regretted it. The fug of drink and stale smoke that was steaming off Bodie, making him cough.
"You should take something for that." Bodie nodded wisely and lurched into the wall. "Nasty."
"So'll the mess on the carpet be, if you're not careful. Come on, Cinderella, the bathroom's this way." He placed a guiding and supporting hand under Bodie's arm and began the slow process of persuading him to move.
"'m not going to make a mess. Taxi driver wen' on about the same thing. Don' know what you're all going on abou'."
"Trust us. We're sober."
"So 'm I!"
"Yeah, sober as a judge. Come on, idiot."
Doyle helped Bodie into the bathroom, stripped off his clothes with an impersonality that made him smile, made sure he didn't need to be sick, then guided him into bed. Tucking the sheets in carefully, Doyle saw how close Bodie was to insensibility. He risked placing a small kiss on the unshaven cheek.
Bodie looked straight at him. "I didn't mean to hit you." He reached up and touched a cold hand to Doyle's cheek. "Sorry."
"Doesn't matter. I'm okay."
"Yeah, me and Bo Derek." He grinned. "Go to sleep, you need your beauty sleep." He waited until the heavy-lidded eyes closed and the breathing evened out into a steady, subdued snore. "Bodie." Doyle sounded tired, exasperated, but his expression was gentle, close to compassion, affection. Love.
He ran a finger through the close-cropped hair and sighed, whispering to the insensible figure, "What do you really want of me, Bodie? If I admitted what I feel for you, would you believe me? Would you trust me like before? Would you still want me? I wish..." He didn't finish the sentence as Bodie stirred, mumbling something incoherent.
Doyle stood up, spent a few minutes arranging things, pottering about, placing a bowl by the bedside and a pint glass of water to hand. The discarded clothes were tossed into the laundry basket, though he fingered the dark stains marking the shirt before finally closing the lid. Standing at the bedroom door he waited, standing quite still while he listened. Then slowly, his hand reached out, sliding up the wall to carefully turn off the lights.
Slowly he made his way back to the door, leaving the hall light burning, just in case. Then, with a single backward glance, he opened the door and let himself out of the flat.
Bodie came out of sleep in the same way a man coshed would surface from unconsciousness; harried by dreams and greeted with pain. In fact, the pain in his head was so bad that, for a moment, he wondered if he had been attacked and was lying in an alley. He flexed a hand, feeling the smoothness of cotton and knew it was a bed he was lying on. A hospital? No, it was too quiet; there were no nurses pretending to be Florence Nightingale and hiding their true calling as latter-day Marquis de Sades. Though at least a nurse might have been able to end this misery. The way he ached, morphine wouldn't be too extreme a remedy.
He swallowed, regretting it immediately as his sense of taste kicked in and he knew he'd been eating ashes. Or something worse.
Water. He needed water. Opening one eye he peered out of it, finally focusing on what appeared to be his own bed-side table. There was a glass of what appeared to be water sitting on it.
He moved, reaching towards it and lifting his head. Which immediately tried to fall off. He groaned and forced himself to ignore the agony. The water was more important. He set his teeth and cautiously sat up, leaning back against the head-board with a sound close to a whimper. Finally holding the glass he drank it down, gasping from lack of breath at the end of it. He let his hand, glass and all, fall to one side, the gist of yesterday becoming clear in his mind.
He was never going to drink again.
From this day he would take the pledge, refuse the smallest drink and that way never again wake up with an entire chorus of blacksmiths hammering in his brain.
With a gurgle his stomach announced that the sudden presence of so much water was unacceptable. The churning made him stumble out of bed, cursing as he tripped over a bowl that he dimly recognised should have been in the kitchen and finally making it to the bathroom.
Afterwards, he felt a little better. Well enough to make it as far as the kitchen and the paracetamol.
Filling the kettle was a labour fit for Hercules, but he coped.
After a while, at the bottom of his second cup of sump-thick coffee, he remembered how to think, and wondered about the bowl by his bed and the glass of water. Dimly, he thought that Doyle had been here, but wasn't sure. Yesterday from mid-afternoon was a complete blank. The slight recollection of Doyle could have been from one of the dreams.
He groaned. Why did he have to keep dreaming? Whenever he'd been blind drunk before it had been as if a dream-world didn't exist. Now that he was awake he knew that the previous night comprised a constant succession of dreams, most of which, thank God, remained beyond his ability to remember in any clarity. Not that they were nightmares. No, certainly not that.
He leaned his head on his hands and hissed despair at the table-top.
It had been a dream that had woken him. A dream shocking in its intensity, in the severity of his reaction to it.
It had started in Africa. Heat, fear, sweat and the nerve-tingling edge of constant danger. Crawling through the jungle he'd been captured, fought blindly against the anonymous hands that held him remorselessly still. Blindfolded, hands cuffed before him, he'd been carried on strong shoulders through wild terrain, treated with all the care a collector would give a rare, valued species, allowed food and water, cared for.
He'd known he was to be sold as a slave. The captors had made no secret of that. He hadn't wanted to go. He'd fought and cursed, fear driving his need to escape.
The closer they'd come to their destination the worse the fear had become, the more driving the need to run.
Washed and pampered, still bound, he'd finally been placed before his new owner. That it was Doyle hadn't even surprised him in the dream. That he had suddenly worn the cuffs around his wrists as a badge of honour, of pride, had been so shocking that he'd woken.
The dream had been undeniably erotic; the state of his dark blue sheets had demonstrated that.
Bodie placed his hands flat on the table and examined them. It was almost as if he could still feel the bite of metal into their skin. He shivered.
As hands went they were presentable, capable. He could make love with a skill and subtlety that belied the callouses and the darker knowledge of death and pain. He imagined them touching Doyle's naked body.
A shudder skimmed through every sinew, centring on his groin. The image of Doyle from the dream was so erotic; almost naked, lit by firelight, oiled so his skin gleamed like burnished gold, his eyes sultry with a heat that had nothing to do with the either the nearness of the equator, or the fire that danced and crackled close by. Imperious as Caesar he had stood and arrogantly waited for his due.
Bodie groaned and lowered his head to the cold formica.
What was he going to do? Go back and grovel, crawl into Doyle's bed and accept the offer of sex as a momentary diversion? It would be good. He knew it would be that and more, but...
It always came back to but. And the 'but' was made up of love and necessity and a passionate need to know that Doyle was there forever. Despite, or maybe because of, the dream and what it implied, Bodie realised he wanted an acknowledgement from Doyle that this was it; that this was the fixed rock upon which their lives were to be constructed.
Bodie sighed as he realised that this necessity had been in him for a long time. Seeing Doyle so close to death might have been the spark that had illuminated the need, but it hadn't created it. It been growing for years.
Rousing himself he made another coffee and drank it so hot that it almost scalded.
Sex and love, commitment and desire. So he needed everything. So what? So did most people.
Most people chose more conventional partners than Ray Doyle.
He finish the mug and poured another, stirring sugar in without thought or calculation.
As relationships went, it would need more work than most. And getting Doyle to see it was the right thing was a monumental task before they'd even got that far. And Cowley.
He winced as if in pain. There were permutations and undercurrents here that it would take forever to sort out.
Yet it wasn't as if they were young for what they did. If Cowley threw them out he'd only be anticipating the natural order of things by a couple of years at most.
But rationalising was all well and good. It did nothing to alleviate the pit of fear that encompassed everything from seeing Doyle, to leaving CI5, via the circuitous route of people's reactions and the difficulty of two men living together. Not to mention the possibility of Doyle not being interested.
He sipped the coffee, looking thoughtful, as if he was calculating a long and complex equation. Then, like smoothed linen, his expression cleared.
He might be afraid, but there was no longer any doubt.
Tonight. He'd go round to Doyle's tonight and they would talk it out. He'd explain, tying his fists away if necessary.
A wide yawn cracked his jaw. Tonight -- after he'd slept for at least another couple of hours.
Decision made, he relaxed, realising that the pain-killers had finally taken the edge off the ache in his head. With a sigh of relief he finished the coffee and wandered back to bed.
Curled up under the duvet, on the verge of sleep, he wondered if Doyle really had been there. If, and perhaps more importantly, why?
He was still niggling at the conundrum when sleep finally ambushed him, and the dreams were there, welcoming him with a warmth that made his lips curve gently into a smile.
It was seven o'clock in the evening by the time Bodie was standing outside Doyle's block of flats. He was washed, tidied, wearing clothes that were casual, chosen not for any reason other than because once upon a time Doyle had commented upon them, whistling in approval at the black trousers and fine wool polo-neck.
He was, without doubt, the most nervous he had ever been in all his life. The thought of articulating what needed to be said had almost had him spinning the wheel to turn back for the entire journey across London.
The panic that had made him run from Doyle, from himself, was still there, yet it was under control, tethered by the simplicity of need that he'd finally allowed himself to recognise.
Now all it required was Doyle to unaccountably, miraculously feel the same.
Not a likely occurrence, true. Yet, despite everything, hope had taken residence and didn't seem to want to be evicted.
And even if he didn't feel the same, maybe he'd at least be sympathetic. He had been yesterday. Before Bodie made a complete balls-up of things.
Bodie remembered the hug, recreated it in his mind until he could almost feel the blood seeping onto his shoulder. After the way he'd behaved, Bodie could have expected to be punched, or verbally flayed. Instead he'd been held and given comfort, sympathy, everything he hadn't deserved.
Now, all there was left was to find if they were still on offer.
He rang the bell.
"Hello?" There was the sound of some unidentifiable music behind the voice.
"Ray, it's me, can I come in?"
There was no reply except the sound of the buzzer releasing the door. Walking up the stairs he swallowed hard, his mouth dry, unaccountably so. Doyle was again standing in the doorway to his flat. His face was expressionless. Some sort of cello music filled the air.
"Hello, Ray. I think we need to talk." Bodie held out a bottle of wine and waited the long moment until Doyle reached to take it.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?"
Bodie immediately thought Doyle meant their discussion. Then he realised he meant the wine. He knew Bodie had been drunk.
"Oh. I thought I'd imagined you were at my place last night."
"No, I was there. Come in."
Bodie followed him into the living-room, watching as he turned off the music, rummaged in a drawer for the corkscrew. The room was chaotically furnished, as if Doyle had visited jumble sales rather than the more usual stores. Piles of records tilted by the stereo, books were everywhere, mixed with curious souvenirs; rubbish and treasure indiscriminately intermingled. It felt very much like a home. Quiet and sure in its centre was Doyle.
Bodie slid both hands into his pockets and nodded at the wine as Doyle pulled its cork. "I expect the hair of the dog will do me good."
"Been a rough day?"
"You'd had a skinful, that's for certain. What time did you start?"
"When I left here."
Doyle gave a silent whistle. "You always could drink most people under the table. You went to that club in Dean Street."
"What did you do with the car?" Doyle reached for two glasses from a selection on the side.
"Left it there. I picked it up today with addition of two tickets."
"You were lucky it wasn't towed away."
"I know. Thanks." He took the glass that was offered and sniffed the wine. His stomach turned over, but steadied at the first sip.
"Yeah." Bodie cleared his throat. "How long did you wait at my place?"
"Most of the evening. You'd forgotten to set the Ansaphone. Control was worried."
"Is that the only reason you went?"
"No. I told them you were okay, then decided I'd better be certain." Doyle sighed and went to sit on the big, old sofa, settling into the feather filled cushions, cradling his untouched glass in his hands. His voice was almost without expression, as if he was reading aloud from a text. "When you weren't at home I did some ringing around. Tracked you down after a while. The bloke at the club was surprisingly helpful."
"Did you arrange the cab?"
"It seemed safer than letting you drive. Cowley would have been very unhappy if you'd killed yourself."
"Or anybody else for that matter."
Bodie hesitated, then went and sat at the opposite end of the sofa, curling one arm along its back, watching. Wondering. Doyle was barefoot, wearing faded jeans and a worn collarless shirt. The darker skin of his nipples was clear through the thin white cotton. Bodie shivered.
And Doyle turned and looked him straight in the eye. "Bodie, what are you most frightened of?"
Glib answers almost poured out of his mouth, but he stopped them, giving in to the truth that he knew would be spoken now or never at all. "I'm frightened that if I love you I'll lose you."
"I see." Doyle took a long drink of his wine, wiping a finger over his mouth as he finished. "Don't you trust yourself? Or is it me?"
"Both of us. You see, I want more than just the occasional nice fuck. I love you." Bodie shivered, but it was too late to go back. "I reckon I must want you in every way there is to want someone. I've never felt like this before, and it's bloody hard, as I know you don't feel the same." He swallowed, dry-mouthed. "I don't want to end up hating you."
"You mean after we'd slept together and you made a joke of it, or went off and fucked anyone you felt like? Yes, I'd hate you. I can't bear to think of you loving anyone else. I'd kill them."
"Even a woman."
Wide-eyed, Bodie almost nodded, then he shook his head and turned away. "I don't know. All I know is that I had to tell you. I think I must have loved you for a long time, but it only hit me yesterday."
"After which you hit me."
"I'm sorry." Bodie closed his eyes, then opened them, his gaze fixed again on Doyle. He was still sitting exactly the same way as before, his face calm, untroubled. "I knew what I wanted, but I couldn't cope."
"And you thought I was laughing at you."
"With reason. Bull in a china shop, that's me. I couldn't find the words or..." he shrugged.
"Yeah. And the queer jokes probably didn't help. Sorry." Doyle considered for a moment. "If I'd been a woman, you'd have known exactly what to say. Wouldn't you?"
"Suppose so, maybe. But you're not and I've never tried to tell a woman, let alone a bloke, that I loved him and would he mind saying yes when I proposed please."
"Is that what you were doing?"
"It's what I'm doing now." Bodie saw the start of shock that skimmed through Doyle and he went on in a hurry. "I know you don't feel the same, but I thought we could try it and see what happens."
Doyle was silent for the space of ten heart beats, then he slowly slid the few feet that separated them, capturing Bodie's free hand with his own and shaking it in mild exasperation. "Why didn't you say all this yesterday?"
Bodie saw the swollen skin where his fist had impacted. He put his glass on the sofa arm and reached out, touching the bruise very lightly. "I hit you instead."
"I hated you, me, all of it. What I wanted was for Sunday never to have happened." He stilled the hand, leaving it cupping Doyle's face, half-expecting it to be pushed away. "I wanted to be free."
"No. Whether you like it or not, you've got me under lock and key. Sorry, I did fight it, you know. I didn't want to have to think -- let alone say -- any of this. I feel a fool."
"God, you are daft." Doyle twisted down and put his glass on the floor. Then, without any effort and without a murmur he leant forward and placed a gentle kiss just on the tight-drawn mouth. He was smiling. "Daft."
"Don't say a word," he admonished. "Did you listen to what I said to you yesterday? Did you, or did you hear what you wanted to?"
"Be quiet, the question was rhetorical. I'm sorry I laughed when I did, but it was relief as much as anything. And a bit of amusement, I grant you that." He flashed a smile and shifted slightly. "Remember what I said? I said I'd wanted you. Now, that clearly had only one meaning in your mind, but it doesn't in mine. I want you, William Bodie, and if you haven't known that I've loved you for a least the last year, then you must be blind as a fucking bat. So there."
Bodie stared into the so-close eyes, seeing wry amusement, pain and what could only be the love he'd always been too blinkered to see. He tried to say something, but in the end could only mutter, "Ray..." as he pulled Doyle into a kiss.
It was long and serene and spoke more clearly than a thousand words. There was little passion, merely acceptance and fulfilled longing and the sensation of being in the still eye of a whirlwind. When their mouths slid apart they still held close, touching where they could, hands entwined.
After a while, his voice drowsy, Doyle said, "Cowley knows." He grinned as Bodie jumped.
"Yeah, it came up after my last session with the shrink. I told him I was dealing with it and, no, I hadn't said anything to you and, yes, I could still work with you, and what more did he want, for God's sake. He didn't want to lose me -- flattering that -- and it turned out he trusted me."
"But what did he say?" Bodie couldn't bring the scene into his mind; the dour presbyterian discussing sex between his employees.
"Not a lot. Quite a concise way with words has our boss when he wants. And like I said, he knew I wasn't going to do anything stupid. I suppose I got used to the idea over a long period of time. I didn't wake up one day and think -- that's it, I've got to have Bodie to have and to hold forever. It sort of crept up on me, and by the time I really knew what my mind was up to, I was resigned to it."
"How come you didn't say something?"
"Because I wasn't sure about you; insanity isn't necessarily catching. I did hope you might one day feel the same, but I couldn't risk what we had just to find out." He grinned suddenly and poked Bodie in the ribs. "Thank God you didn't have such idiotic scruples."
Bodie just looked dazed and shook his head.
They sat together for a long time, quite content. Then Doyle's stomach gave a loud rumble. He patted it, tilting his head at Bodie, "Sorry. I've been off my food, what with one thing and another."
"Did you get any shopping done?"
"Yes, but I didn't feel much like eating it."
There was no need to explain why. Bodie sat up. "I think it's dinner time. What culinary delights did you stock up on?"
Bodie groaned. "That sounds ominous, probably bean-sprouts and some weird tea. We'll go out and eat, how's that?"
Sprawled on the sofa, eyes slightly hooded, content and relaxed as a cat, Doyle stretched and gave a wide yawn. "No, I don't remember getting any bean-sprouts, and I was only buying those teas to impress Cynthia, and she was ages ago. But there must be something here to tempt you."
"You could say that." Bodie tutted at the unsubtle invitation and offered a hand to his partner. "But I think you should have something to eat first. You might faint half-way through, otherwise. Come on."
"But if I did, I'm sure you'd think of something to wake me up." The grin was pure sex, salacity laid bare. He took Bodie's offered hand and let himself be pulled upright, hugged intemperately. When their mouths met it was no longer in contentment, passion flaring between them like fire, incinerating every other need, every other thought.
Pressed tight, body to body, giddy with intensity they fell back onto the sofa, where awkward, half on the floor, they fought with buttons and zips, mouth clinging to mouth as if to let go would be the end of the world. Oblivious to everything but the scent and feel and taste of hurriedly bared skin, they murmured each others' names. And because there was oxygen left only for breath, grew silent, their breathing running fast and light around the deep kiss that was trying to join them soul to soul. Half clothed, they touched what skin was in reach, pushing naked groin against naked groin, biting and clawing and scratching until with a soft cry that belonged to both, yet neither, they arched into need, pitched past perception, and blind, as one, they came.
Neck in a crick, almost incapable of breathing because of Bodie's weight, Doyle was the first to move. He groaned and poked a sharp finger upwards into Bodie's ribs. "If you want to repeat that at all, ever, you'd better get off now."
"Sorry." And Bodie awkwardly righted himself, kneeling up, clutching at straggling clothing, attempting to tuck himself away as he tried to believe he wasn't dreaming.
"Hey! Don't do that. Let me have a look."
"Mmm, didn't get a chance before. Want to know what I've got for myself."
"But I'm all sweaty. And sticky."
"Very nice. Come on Bodie, let the horse see the water."
"Jesus." Bodie raised his eyes to heaven, but lowered his hands. At Doyle's gentle touch he closed his eyes and groaned.
Doyle whistled. "Very nice. And I think it likes me too." He grinned wickedly up, then ducked back to leave a kiss on the weight that was growing in his hand. At that moment his own stomach gave a loud and indignant growl. "But I think we'd better eat, or you might have to practise something closer to necrophilia."
Bodie pulled him up and held on tight. "Never say that. I want you alive, Ray Doyle, alive."
"Hey, it was a joke. All right? I'm hungry, that's all." He wriggled in Bodie's grip, pulling back until he could see into the dark blue eyes. He almost said something, then only smiled, saying, "Let's go and see what delights I've got in the kitchen."
Bodie nodded, tucking himself away despite the awkwardness caused by a dick that didn't seem to know when to lie down.
"You have to let go first. And I think you'll find that much easier with two hands."
Bodie obeyed, realising as he zipped himself up that Doyle had stood up and began to strip off the remains of his clothes. "Just out of curiosity, what are you doing?"
"Taking my clothes off."
"Well I never. And there I was thinking you were mixing cement."
"Not indoors. I make it a rule never to mix cement indoors." He peeled off the second sock and grinned. "I thought I'd be more comfortable in my dressing-gown." Hands resting on skinny hips he raised an eyebrow. "You can borrow my spare one if you want -- it is clean."
"No, I'll be fine." Bodie stood up.
"I thought you'd say that." He stood very close, affection and amusement darting like minnows in the depths of his eyes. "I love you, William Bodie, but if it kills me I'll have you wandering happily naked around this flat one day."
"I don't mind being naked," Bodie protested.
"No. As long as you're either in bed or in the bath."
"Must have been all that puritanical upbringing." Doyle pressed the naked length of his body to Bodie. "I don't mind at all."
"I suppose you fancy one of those nudist beaches."
"With you? Yeah. But then I fancy anything that gets you out of your clothes. You've a beautiful body."
"Ray..." Bodie half laughed, disbelief warring with the transparent appreciation on Doyle's face. "How can you accept all this so easily? I can't believe that I'm here, that I can touch you, that we did what we just did." He ran a finger down a naked arm, watching as goosebumps trailed in its wake and Doyle shivered. "That I can do that."
"I've dreamed of you, wanted you for so long, that now I've got you, all I've got room for is," Doyle shrugged, "happiness, I suppose you'd call it."
"Yes, I'd call it that, too. Kiss me?"
And Doyle did.
Dinner was strange affair consisting of fish-fingers, pitta-breads and a salad concocted from the odds-and-ends of about ten different vegetables. There was cheese and a bottle of wine unearthed from the depths of a cupboard; a label neither of them would have bought and must have been left behind after one of Doyle's intermittent parties. Hardly Bodie's meal of choice, but one he was more than content with as the companion of his choice sat opposite throughout.
They discussed everything, though it might have been nothing, as much as Bodie could ever remember afterwards of the long conversation. They touched without need whenever possible, the slight brush of hand against hand or foot against foot a mystery that gave more than contentment.
When the last scrap of cheese was gone and the wine and coffee drunk, they closed the kitchen door on the mess behind it -- the dishes could wait for the morning -- and went into the bedroom. Doyle sloughed off his robe and headed for the bathroom, returning damp and warm, wrapping himself around a protesting Bodie.
"Dirtier the better, that's my motto."
"Well we can be as dirty as you want, after I've had a shower."
"Idiot." Doyle spoke the word with warm affection. "So I don't suppose I'll ever interest you in a spot of mud-wrestling."
Bodie gave a snort of laughter. "I expect you could talk me into it if you tried hard enough." There didn't seen to be much Bodie wouldn't do for Doyle when he thought about it. Either do or at least think seriously about. It was strange to realise so late in life what love really meant.
"What are you thinking?"
"That I love you."
They held a long look that ended in a gentle kiss.
"Go to bed, I'll be with you in a bit."
"Don't slip down the plug-hole."
"I won't." Bodie grinned. "Warm up the bed for me."
"At last, a reason I was born." Doyle's voice wavered theatrically as he turned towards the bed. "Give me rose petals to strew, give me grapes to peel, give me--"
"I'll give you a hiding if you're not careful."
"Ooh, promises, promises. Hurry back, Butch, or I'll have fainted dead away in anticipation."
Watching the way the lines and curves of Doyle's body moved as he slid enticingly under the duvet made sure that Bodie was quite prepared to hurry. But even so, when he returned, washed, teeth-clean, fully deodorised, he was greeted by the gentle sound of Doyle asleep.
Careful not to disturb, Bodie climbed into bed and, only touching Doyle with a reassuring hand, lay quite still.
The events of the past few days had been so chaotic, so incredible that now all everything was resolved he couldn't quite believe it. And it was. The war that had set him out to find peace in the bottom of a bottle was over. He'd run up a white flag and, instead of defeat, been given victory.
He stroked Doyle's skin, took in a breath of air laden with the scent of his shampoo and of his skin. This was Doyle. They were sharing a bed. They had made love and would probably do so again, as soon as Doyle woke up. It was all here; friendship, love, laughter. For as long as they could make it last. There was nothing else he could ask for.
He watched the sleeper, the face quite clear in the light cast from the bed-side lamp, still tired, still lined by the remains of tension left by the long days and nights of the undercover operation. For all that, he was beautiful. Not handsome, downright ugly on occasions, yet quite, quite beautiful.
Bodie grinned and decided not to inform Doyle of that one just yet. Love was one thing, to realise the depth of possessive need that went hand-in-hand with it could be something else entirely. Or maybe not. Maybe he was conjuring difficulties out of thin air.
Accept every day as it comes. He'd lived for a long time with that maxim. It had always been proved right. The future always took care of itself for good or bad and worrying made not a blind bit of difference.
With a wry nod to Fate, Bodie settled down. Wary of every movement he reached over to turn the light off. In the darkness he listened to Doyle's even breathing and closed his eyes. This was perfect, this was really all he'd ever wanted. Strange that simply to sleep with someone in the same bed could be so important, so like coming home, so like having a passport to life in God's own country.
His breath steadied, deepened, thoughts grew vague and sleep came like a drug, stealing from the shadows.
When Bodie first awoke it was with the sparrows. Morning was still young and he turned slightly, settling more tightly against Doyle who had slid close during sleep. He sighed and let himself drift back.
He dreamed sporadically, without coherence, more a matter of sense and image, of ambience and delight than anything specific he could ever remember afterwards. Though whatever the dreams were really about they were undeniably arousing.
This time he awoke with Doyle giving a low, dirty chuckle into his right ear. "I always wondered why women make such a song and dance about this." He ran a finger up the extent of Bodie's erection and smiled at the response. "It doesn't matter it's just a biological quirk, it seems more like a personal compliment."
"But it is, it is." Bodie pulled Doyle close, burrowing his face into the curling hair, feeling delight as Doyle's equally hard cock slid against his own. He gained enough space to grin, "I see what you mean. Compliments all round."
"Mutual admiration society."
"I've got no argument with that."
A haze seemed to fall over Doyle's eyes as he tilted his head and Bodie took the offer up in a kiss. It was a long exploration that left him scant of breath and acutely aware of a different bodily need.
"I need a piss."
"Bloody typical." He raised an exasperated eyebrow then uncurled himself. "Off you go then."
Bodie dropped a quick kiss on the curve of a shoulder then he was gone.
He was standing, eyes half-closed in relief when footsteps sounded over the noise of water. The flow stopped as if cut with scissors. "Doyle!"
"Aha! The great detective at work." He walked around to the bath and perched on its edge, moving a towel to cushion himself.
"What do you think you're up to?"
"Well, I decided that it was better to have a piss now rather than half way through what I hope we'll be doing whenever you get back into bed." Doyle took a pointed look at what Bodie still held aimed at the toilet bowl. "If you're thinking of finishing this side of Christmas, of course."
"You're putting me off."
"Am I? Shall I help?" He reached over, hand heading groin-wards.
"Don't be shy, I've got one too, you know."
"Yeah, so've half the population of London, I don't invite them into the toilet to give me a hand either."
"All right! But I could have made it very good..." And with a loud slap to Bodie's bare backside he sauntered out of the bathroom. At the door he paused. "I could try imitating the sound of running water."
"Ray, just go away."
"I know when I'm not wanted. I'll go and make some tea."
This time he really did leave. Bodie sighed and concentrated, finally managing to complete the simple task he'd gone into the bathroom for.
When he returned to the bedroom, there was a mug of tea on the bed-side table and Doyle was sitting up in bed.
"You can have the bathroom now."
"'s all right. I used the sink." He slurped some tea and gestured to the small basin in the corner of the room. He also saw the look on Bodie's face. "Don't worry, I washed it down with plenty of hot water. As I didn't know how long you'd be, it was either that or go out of the window. Which I don't think the neighbours would have approved of."
"God, you can be crude sometimes." Bodie sniffed in mock horror.
"No more than you! I remember that little incident with the stripper and Murphy, when--"
"All right, all right! Maybe I'm not exactly Snow White."
"Not even after she drifted, mate." Doyle wriggled over, giving Bodie room to get in. "And if you continue to pout like that I'll prove it."
"I wasn't pouting!"
"I'll buy you a mirror for your birthday."
"There it goes again!"
"Put that cup of tea down and then we'll see who's pouting."
"Is that a threat or promise?"
"Depends what turns you on."
The atmosphere changed as if a switch had been flicked.
Bodie took the cup from Doyle's unresisting fingers and laid it aside. Then he asked, quite carefully, "What does turn you on?"
Bodie swallowed hard and reached out. Doyle was in his arms before he'd finished the movement. They kissed, sliding down to lie flat, rapt in each other.
The kiss broke when Doyle's fingers found a nipple and Bodie gasped out loud as his senses swam in confusion. It was too much too soon, and he took Doyle's hands, holding them tight to the sheets above his head, smiling as Doyle growled but didn't really resist, and began a gentle exploration.
Bodie kissed the fine skin at his lover's neck, biting tenderly as Doyle responded, then harder when it wasn't enough. His mouth travelled south, leaving a trail of saliva from throat to armpit to nipple. He bit there and wondered if the neighbours were home as Doyle cried out with pleasure. Sensitive, so sensitive. He grinned and followed the arrow of silky hair that pointed south; celestial navigation for beginners.
Crouched on the sheets, Bodie's eyes lifted. He watched Doyle swallow and say, "You don't have to. Not if you don't want..."
The rest was lost as the warmth of Bodie's mouth encompassed his cock.
Bodie tasted the essence of Doyle and shuddered, taking the long, slender spear of flesh deep into his throat. It had been a long time, but some skills are never forgotten. Breathing around it, laving its veined skin with his tongue, he wanted everything it could give. As it swelled and jerked against the roof of his mouth, there was nothing left to want but Doyle's seed, the first emerging taste of it an aphrodisiac to his senses.
But Doyle had other ideas and he was twisting, pulling away, manhandling Bodie until they were face to face. "I don't want to come yet." He was breathing erratically, his eyes glazed, the pupils wide, almost encompassing the green. "Not yet, and I will, you're too good."
"'s been a long time."
Doyle shook his head, slowly. "You've lost none of the knack. But I want..."
"What?" Bodie didn't understand Doyle's hesitation. This was a man embarrassed by nothing, ever. He ran a thumb over the dark skin around one nipple, delighting as the slim body arched against the touch.
"What do you want?" Bodie hard, the need in his own groin concentrating as Doyle whimpered. Come was dripping from his cock and he in turn gasped as fingers skimmed his flesh to pinch the tightness of his nipples.
All eyes and need, Doyle finally answered. "To see you, to watch you."
"Then fuck me."
"Fuck me. Watch me while I come."
There was massage oil on the bed-side table. Bodie didn't wait for an answer, he reached for it, uncapped it and slowly rubbed a handful onto Doyle's weeping cock. Then he curled back, all the while watching Doyle while Doyle watched and slicked the oil onto his own most hidden, secret skin.
When he pushed a finger inside, Doyle groaned and warned, "Bodie, I won't last long."
"Neither will I." Bodie pushed the recapped oil to one side. "Come on, fuck me." And he settled back, holding a hand under each knee, offering himself.
And Doyle was over him, kissing his mouth as his cock searched for entry. He was sweating, his face shiny, fine hairs clinging damply to his skin. "Bodie, I love you."
Bodie was half way through a reply when the cock slid inside him and all coherence burned away in a shaft of pain that was followed immediately by desperate pleasure. He shuddered a silent gasp into the air.
"You're so sexy, I could watch you for hours." Doyle whispered, pushing again, biting his lip as Bodie threw back his head; the abandon heady. "Sexy, so fucking sexy..." His voice was unsteady, the words blending, their meaning merely a counterpoint to the desperate escalation of desire that bound them together.
Bodie was lost. He could hear the voice, but all he knew was the length of flesh deep in his body. Doyle, this was Doyle. Wanton, he pushed, driving him deeper, revelling as skin slapped against skin and the rhythm increased. Reaching up he twined his fingers in Doyle's hair, pulling their mouths back into contact. Not a kiss. Neither of them had the breath, the energy, the need for anything other than this most intimate of touches, until with a choking cry, Bodie stiffened, his back arching away from the sweat soaked sheets and he came, shuddering wildly, taking Doyle with him as he found release.
The delight in waking was as intense as any he had ever known. Turning his head, Bodie smiled, acknowledging the eyes that were sleepily watching him. "All right?"
"Yeah. What about you?"
Obedient, Bodie slid into the waiting arms and smiled as the duvet was tucked around them. He savoured the moment, sighing in contentment. The world would demand attention soon enough and there were probably a thousand things he should have been worrying about, but at that moment he didn't give a damn for any of them. He stroked a near bit of Doyle's skin, murmuring in sleepy admiration. This was all he wanted. Nothing else.
Bodie raised his head at Doyle's words. "What for?"
Doyle grinned, "Now who's crude."
"Damn, you found out."
"I'll leave you no secrets, William Bodie. None at all."
"You'll have fun finding out a few of them." Bodie grinned back.
"Take a while will it, finding the answer to all those deep and dark mysteries?"
"That's all right then. I needed a hobby." Doyle nodded in contentment.
"Better than train-spotting."
"More fun, anyway."
"And it'll keep me off the streets."
"It had better, " Bodie growled and captured Doyle's mouth with his own, silencing him in the way he would come to know was better than any other.
-- THE END --