Night Before the World Ends
by Lezlie Conch
It's very bad luck to draw the line
The night before the world ends.
We can draw the line some othertime
--John X. Doe and Exene Cervenko X from the album "Wild Gift" by Dewey Shell
The bare feet padding across the floor sounded faintly ominous in the absolute silence of the house. Chiding himself for catching his partner's mood, Bodie flipped the light off and headed back toward the pile of bedding that littered the hallway floor. He straightened his sleeping bag with a careless foot and settled into it with an air of finality he hoped wasn't lost on Doyle.
If the two of them were indeed President Parsali's last line of defense, the President would surely appreciate it if they managed to get some sleep. After all, the whole point of staying the night in the house had been to sleep on it, not that he'd had the chance. Maybe the next line of bionic gollies would come complete with an off switch.
Quiet minutes stretched into a lasting silence. Bodie pulled the covers a bit closer and allowed himself to relax, confident that Doyle had finally settled down. Used to his normally high-strung partner's behavior, he had still been a little surprised by him this evening. This Parsali thing really had the little bugger tied in knots. Doyle had been unstoppable, chattering away, jumping from one topic to another, each one weirder than the last. Still, it had been an enjoyable evening, just the two of them and no distractions. Doyle had even offered a rare glimpse into his early life.
That was what made the evening faintly disturbing. Doyle had been wound up, but he had talked about them, not the job. Doyle on a soapbox he was used to, not to mention used to tuning out. But tonight there had been no speeches about the futility of propping up Parsali's doomed government with a showy treaty ceremony, no railing about the hypocracy of their own government for supporting Parsali's bloody rise to power. No, tonight Doyle had seen them as technicians going up against technicians from the other side; no moral imperatives, no saving the world. Bodie decided he liked the head-in-the-clouds Doyle better. The idealism he spouted was irritating at times, but the thought of Doyle losing it altogether chilled him.
Bodie rolled over and bunched the lump of clothing that served as a pillow back to the proper height. Here it was, Finally quiet, and all he could do was lie here and think about Doyle's hang-ups. Well, no more.
He stretched as far as the confines of the sleeping bag would allow, feeling every muscle pull tight. slowly, he relaxed, pushing tonight's conversations and Doyle out of his mind. A sense of tension and anticipation that had been building for days took over, and he savored the sensations. He didn't dread tomorrow, he lived for it.
This was what it was all about for him, as he recalled his earlier conversation with Doyle. The line about money had been a glib remark aimed to distract. The last thing he wanted was a session of Doctor Doyle's instant analysis -- which always resulted in his being categorized as an amoral, psychotic killer. Doyle couldn't understand this in a million years.
That's why he had turned out the light. He didn't want to sleep, he wanted to be alone with his feelings, with the electric tension that sang through him, bringing him alive. He had given up trying to understand the whys and hows of it long ago. It wasn't a cheap danger high, that was Tommy McKay's suicidal specialty. Bodie was fond of living and had no intention of recklessly throwing his life away. Tomorrow was a test, and he was ready for it. The high came from being ready. It didn't matter what happened tomorrow, if anything.
Tonight it was all coming together. He was totally focused on the job; his reflexes honed to a fine edge, his instincts fully in play. Tomorrow Cowley could have a whole bloody regiment around the house, and it wouldn't mean a thing. Everything depended on being alert, spotting a sign, or sensing an intention. Seconds were an indulgence.
He ached to stake his claim on the house, but he couldn't move for fear of breaking the peace that had settled between him and Doyle. He had to content himself with closing his eyes and letting the house unfold in his memory.
He was prowling through the corridor, gun in hand, just enough pressure on the trigger that the slightest increase would fire it. Rounding the corner, he went through to the west wing. His eyes ticked over doors, seeing the rooms that lay behind them. He knew every room.
He moved to the stairs and paused, letting the feel of the house pervade his senses. He prowled down the steps to the small landing. He paused again, eyes scanning over the room below, seeking out odd nooks and crannies that could conceal a gun waiting to be picked up and used. Firing angles that offered a line on Parsali were calculated. He moved down the stairs and into the conference area, cataloging each feature of the room.
But something was intruding on his solitary reconnoiter -- someone. Across the room, in the exact position to cover what he couldn't, there was a shadowy figure. When he moved across the room the intruder shifted, providing perfect support. He'd been there all along backing him up.
It wasn't fair. Tonight was his; tomorrow was for the two of them. It seemed he could shut Doyle up, but not out. Damn him.
His fantasy and the high that fueled it evaporated, stripping the night of the magic he craved. He was back in a sleeping bag on a hard floor, facing the possibility of dying. Doyle had infiltrated every aspect of his life, and now he was around the corners of his dreams.
Doyle was awake. It was the same certainty that told Bodie which way Doyle would break in a chase. There were no signs, no restless movements or heavy sighs. That same certainty told him that Doyle would lie there all night, wide awake, demanding nothing of him.
Bloody martyr, that's what Doyle was. Bodie didn't owe him anything. His partnerly duty had been done. He'd listened, cajoled, and swapped stories. He tried to nurse this righteous indignation, but the anger he felt didn't last -- it never did when Doyle was the focus, despite ample provocation. However much he wanted to go to sleep, he knew he would first tackle whatever demons Doyle was wrestling. After all, he had helped them take hold.
The rapport that made them Cowley's choice for this job exacted a price, and it couldn't be turned off. Under normal circumstances their temperaments meshed well, rounding off each others' corners. Doyle's intensity needed Bodie's laconic approach to the job to keep him from getting too involved. And enough of Doyle's idealism managed to rub off so he just wasn't pulling the trigger on commission. Doyle kept him from giving up on the job when the drudge work threatened to overwhelm him.
But Bodie wasn't putting out his usual signals. He'd been fanning the excitement, reveling in it, but he'd pulled Doyle right along with him.
"Why don't you move your bag around this way?" Silence greeted the suggestion, but the awareness between them increased. Finally, he heard the rustling of blankets. The darkness of the room was broken only by the faint light of the security light outside. It was just enough light to see the outline of Doyle's body. He was sitting very still, just waiting.
Bodie felt the attraction between them. It had been building all night, strong enough to pull him back from his solitary journey. He needed to reach out, to make some type of contact, but he feared breaking the spell.
Magnets. The thought jumped into his mind. He and Ray were like the magnets that had held such fascination for him as a child. He'd always seemed to have some clinking around in his pockets. He had pulled them out the minute he was bored, or was sitting through the interminable time of penance for one offense or another. Plunking them down on the table, he would gently tap them, nudging them toward one another until the moment of magic would happen and they'd slide together.
But that didn't happen all the time. Sometimes he would urge them closer and closer; until quite arbitrarily, or so he thought at the time, they would refuse to move any closer. Putting a finger on each magnet he had pushed at them, but there had been a force pushing them apart. He felt the echo of that tingling force sometimes when he was around Doyle.
It was usually at the end of an op, after they had acted as a single unit. They would move closer and closer, but the same force that pushed those magnets apart did the same to them.
There was nothing pushing them apart tonight.
"I thought you wanted to sleep."
Bodie thumped the floor with his palm. "Just get down here."
Doyle lay down and rolled to his side so they were facing each other.
"What am I going to do with you?" The warmth Bodie felt tinged his words.
"Aren't you worried about what I might do to you?"
"Never have been, so why start now."
"You thing you're pretty good, don't you? Good at your work."
"Ah, but I don't consider it work. Maybe that's your trouble, Raymond."
A mock punch was aimed at his chest which he intercepted. He kept hold of Doyle's hand, ignoring the insistent tug. When Doyle relented, Bodie twined the thin fingers with his own, giving a squeeze of reassurance.
He pulled their joined hands toward his own body. Flipping their wrists, he pinned Doyle's hand to his chest, gently rubbing it over the intended target of the punch. There was still no resistance from Doyle, so he pulled the captured hand higher, moving it towards his face, holding it against his cheek.
Doyle's hand was no longer a passive passenger. It was gripping his almost painfully. The tension was echoed in Bodie's body. But the darkness hid Doyle's face and Bodie needed certainty.
Magnets. Bodie didn't have to wonder, he trusted the attraction. Tonight they were aligned.
Deliberately, Bodie pulled the hand down, caressing neck, shoulders, chest, and stomach. His breathing was faster and his grip on Doyle's hand now as intense as the one on his.
He was already rock hard, but he didn't force anything. The breath he'd been holding hissed through his teeth when Doyle moved their joined hands lower, brushing his erection.
Lightening didn't smite them and the ground didn't swallow them up. He released Doyle's hand, unsure as to what he would do. He groaned and canted his hips as Doyle molded his hand around his aching hardness.
Free now to touch in return, Bodie copied Doyle's gesture. Beneath the soft well-worn denim, Doyle was as hard as he was. Impatient now, he unbuttoned the jeans and tugged them open. At his urging, Doyle lifted his hips to allow them to be skinned down his thighs. He took the bared cock in his hand, wrapping his fingers around the length.
Doyle's body went rigid at the touch. His arms wrapped around Bodie's back, trying to drag him closer, to force a harder contact. But Bodie didn't let him. His other hand had a firm grip on the sharp hipbone, anchoring Doyle with bruising force.
"Not yet, Ray." But his strangled whisper when unheeded. Doyle was on fire and that fire was consuming him as well. He pushed the fumbling fingers away from his zip, undoing it himself. His shirt was torn open and Doyle's skinny chest plastered itself against his.
"No, over this way. That's it. Yeah." Inelegantly, but efficiently, Bodie managed to get them positioned groin to groin before he was too far gone to think. Then he surrendered to it, letting his and Doyle's bodies writhe against each other. It didn't take long.
Doyle buried his face in Bodie's neck as his cock spasmed. Bodie heard him whisper something, but he was too close himself to understand what he was repeating over and over. Bodie just held onto him.
He waited as long as he could. Claiming the right by virtue of having waited for it, he pushed Doyle onto his back. He clamped his legs around Doyle's legs and pushed his cock between the sinewy thighs. Doyle's hands gripped his ass, encouraging his thrusts. He fought to slow down, to make it last, but it was impossible. The sensation of his cock gliding over Doyle's skin, brushing his semen slick balls was too intense. Molding himself against Doyle as tightly as he could, he climaxed.
Shakily, he managed to roll away from Doyle when he was able to move again at all. They lay side by side. Nowhere did his body touch Doyle's, but they had never been closer. They were back in synch.
To the casual observer, Bodie looked merely bored as he stood waiting to speak to George Cowley. Nothing in his manner even hinted that he had taken part in a heated gun battle less than two hours ago. Behind the bland mask, though, was impatience. This extensive post-mortem seemed pointless. Parsali was long gone, the treaty signed in the back of the limo that had sped him to the airport as the last shot had been fired. all this had been was a publicity show gone wrong.
"They were where?"
Bodie flinched at Cowley's tone of voice. the recipient of the question was the mechanical whiz who had wired the house. Cowley often threatened assignments in the Outer Hebrides, but usually settled for something less exotic. This sod had better start packing.
Bodie tuned out the remainder of the dressing down. Instead, he wondered where the hell Doyle had got to. The last time he'd seen him had been down by the pond when they'd pulled the body from the wreckage. Doyle had been too quiet and the attempt to draw him out had been bet with disinterest. He hadn't pressed because he had to know what was causing it. He needed to see Doyle's eyes to figure that out and those damned sunglasses had stayed firmly in place.
"I asked you where Doyle was, Bodie."
So much for the job well done speech. "He's still outside, sir."
"Murphy," Cowley snapped. "Go out and fetch Doyle."
Any intelligent man hearing Cowley's tone of voice would have been out the door before Cowley finished barking. Murphy just stood there shifting from foot to foot. "Umm, he's already left, sir."
Bodie shut his eyes and groaned inwardly. Stupid little prat. Only for you, Doyle. He opened his eyes and jumped into the jaws of death.
"You did give us two weeks leave upon the successful completion of the job, sir." There was just enough smugness in his reminder to get Cowley going. Even knowing what he was letting himself in for didn't completely prepare him for the chilled mercilessness of the eyes that locked onto him. Doyle was completely forgotten in favor of the closer target. Eyes straight ahead, Bodie listened to a ten minute lecture on the various meanings of the word success and how nothing in the op qualified, themselves included.
"Och, man, they were practically on top of you all night. Didn't you hear them? What were you doing?"
For a split second he was tempted to tell the old man exactly what he'd been doing. Instead he silently waited for the fairness he'd come to expect from Cowley to reassert itself. He wasn't disappointed.
"It wasn't your fault, Bodie. You did a fine job, you and Doyle. When you see Doyle, though, you might want to remind him that all leaves, promised or not, do not begin until I say so. Is that understood?"
The drive back to town was long. He refused on principal to call it lonely, but the empty seat beside him was not ignorable. They always spent the aftermath of an op together. Even if they were too tired to see straight, they managed to end up together. But then again, last night had not been the traditional start of an op either.
Was that why Doyle pulled the disappearing act? Leave it to Doyle to complicate something as basic as sex. Last night had felt good, and it certainly did the trick for Doyle. He'd been the personification of super agent the next morning. There had been a pristine silence between them as they had prepared their equipment, a harmony that had been palpable.
They'd pulled off the job, too. The plan had been brilliant, but they'd been better. so why the hell had Doyle run out on their victory?
Traffic demanded his full attention, which he gave with relief for the rest of the trip. The spot in front of his flat was vacant. He unloaded the car, automatically piling Doyle's stuff in his arms just as he had lugged it all into the mansion.
The emptiness he felt upon entering the musty silence of his flat fed a growing resentment. He didn't want to be alone. He shouldn't need to tell Doyle that.
Sorting the pile of junk and putting his things away filled too few minutes. Even the drink he fixed didn't help. He sat in front of the television, absently watching what happened to be on.
Unbidden, his gaze kept wandering to the neat pile he'd made of Doyle's jumbled belongings. Before he could change his mind, he grabbed the phone and dialed Doyle's number. He let it ring twenty times which was enough to drive the little bastard crazy if he was home but not answering. He redialed and got a busy signal.
His anger at that little ploy lasted long enough to load Doyle's stuff back into the car and get halfway to his flat before he had to think about why he was going to Doyle. But once he was outside the flat, seeing Doyle's car in its usual place, the anger faded to a bitter confusion. He had no idea what he was going to say.
"Hey mate, thought you might need the dirty underwear in your bag. By the way , you can get this nasty stain out of your sleeping bag if you soak it in the right detergent."
"Ta, mate. Why don't you stay and we'll tear off a quick one."
Knowing it wasn't going to be that easy, Bodie got out of the car, grabbed Doyle's things, and rang the bell. It took so long for Doyle to answer that Bodie thought he wasn't going to bother.
"Took you long enough," he snapped in response to the curt "Yeah?" from the intercom. "Well, let me up, I've got an armload." There was a noticeable delay before the lock clicked admission. He maneuvered up the narrow steps and promptly dropped the burden inside the door.
"Where the hell are you?" The room was lit only by the sunlight that managed to sneak through the draperies. The stereo was going full blast.
"Thanks for bringing my gear."
Bodie heard dismissal in the voice that answered. Eyes now accustomed to the gloom followed the path of the sound. Doyle was curled in the bamboo chair with the huge pillow, the one Bodie always thought was trying to tip him over. Doyle's concentration on the music was so complete that Bodie knew it was pretense. If Doyle thought he was going to get rid of him that easily he was mistaken.
"Cowley didn't appreciate your little disappearing act, Sunshine," Bodie informed him as if that was all that prompted his visit.
Doyle uncurled slightly, actually deigning to look at him. "Tough."
Bodie's desire to stay was rising in direct proportion to Doyle's obvious desire for him to leave. Relieved to finally have some course to take, Bodie waded in with relish. "Can't you turn that down?"
"It's only on side two."
"How many sides are there?"
"Four. And I'm listenin' to all of them."
Bodie shuddered as the guitars screeched dramatically. He didn't recognize the group, but it sounded depressing as hell. With Doyle it was either classical or rock, no in between. Two could play this game. He helped himself to a beer. His polite offer to get Doyle one was ignored. Bodie settled on the nearby and much steadier settee. He gave the impression of a man content to savor what he was hearing. He closed his eyes, took a drink, and relaxed.
Bodie could feel Doyle's gaze flaying him. His anger was palpable, but Bodie ignored it. The music, that was giving a generous description, continued for another ten minutes before Doyle broke the stalemate. Amused, Bodie watched him jerk out of the chair and grab the needle from the record. The loud scratch this produced was evidence of how annoyed Doyle was.
"Why'd you do that? It was just gettin' good."
Doyle's eyes were angry slits as he shoved the album into the cover and threw it at Bodie. "Take it home and listen to it."
Bodie batted the album away. It fell to the floor, where it was immediately forgotten. Bodie stood and faced Doyle. He could see the tenseness radiating from T-shirt and jean clad body.
"Why did you run off today?" The anger in Bodie's voice contrasted with the hurt in his eyes.
Doyle just shrugged his shoulders. He was looking at Bodie with a clinical disinterest that hurt Bodie more than the anger.
"You know, I'm getting really tired of your little post battle dramas, Doyle. Have your delicate sensibilities been offended? Christ, I can just see you riding back with the bodies, racked with guilt for taking out two hired killers. I'm glad I missed the performance."
As Doyle turned away from him, Bodie grabbed his upper arm. "Don't you walk away from me again."
Doyle tried to wrench away, but failed. He swung his free arm around, aiming a blow at Bodie's face, but Bodie caught his hand. Identical thoughts froze them. It was an accidental repetition of the gesture that had begun their lovemaking.
"Is this why, Ray?" Bodie pulled him closer. "Is this why you're putting us both through hell? Because you and I had it off?"
Doyle kept his eyes away from Bodie's demanding ones, refusing to be baited.
"Why did you wait so long to decide you didn't like it, Ray. It didn't seem to bother you this morning, and don't try to tell me it bothered you last night, lover, because you bit my bloody arm half off."
Doyle was shaking with rage as he pulled himself free. "This morning I was an animal, Bodie, primed to kill. Animals rut when they smell blood."
Before Bodie could protest, Doyle was off and running.
"I'll tell you why I left today, Bodie. I'd shot that man, the gun was still warm in my hand, and I didn't feel anything. It was like coming out of a trance. I just stared at the gun, trying to muster up some regret, some sorrow, but there wasn't any."
The same old words, the same regrets. Bodie refused to spout the formula words of comfort. So he just let him talk.
"Do you remember what I asked you after I killed Paul Coogan? Do you know what this job has made of me, what it's made of you? We're killers, Bodie. Cowley just puts us on the scent, teaches us the floorplan and lets us loose. I've given the job enough."
Bodie clapped his hands. "And now you've sacrificed your virginity on the alter of animal lust. All because of the job. You can do better than that. Maybe you were crawling all over me because I drugged your coffee?"
"I knew you wouldn't understand," Doyle said with disgust.
"Oh, yeah, big dumb Bodie, too insensitive to breathe the same air as you. Guess again, Sunshine. I know what you're doing and it won't work."
Years of resentment fueled his words, compelling Doyle to listen. "I'm so sick of hearing you blame this job for everything wrong in your life. This job hasn't turned you into anything. You make it sound like I could give your gun to anybody on the street, teach them to shoot, and they could do your job. Well they can't. You're good at your job because you've got a talent for killing. You've got it Ray, sharper than any of those bastard losers I worked with in Africa. They're nursery material compared to you. You're one of the animals, Sunshine. Welcome to the zoo."
He'd said too much. Half-way through he'd realized it, but he'd kept at him. Doyle had already jumped into his own coffin. He'd taken the offered nails and pounded them in for him.
"I know that, Bodie. I've lost the fight. Christ, I used to come home and throw up after having to kill someone. It doesn't even faze me anymore."
Doyle looked so lost standing there. Bodie took the chilled hands in his. "Of course it does, Ray, or we wouldn't be standing here tearing each other apart. But you never seem to think that it takes something out of me as well. I can never tell you though, because you're usually so upset, I feel stupid adding to it. We all feel it, Ray, and we all have our ways of dealing with it."
Bodie had to smile at the calculating look in those cat eyes. Doyle would make it, he was a survivor. And if Doyle made it, he'd make it.
"There are other ways to keep the job from touching you, Ray. You've been torturing yourself and me to prove you're still human. There are other ways of holding on to yourself. Hold onto someone else instead. I've been doing it for years."
He wrapped his arms around Doyle. It took awhile, but the gesture was returned. Magnets -- put two strong ones in the same vicinity, in the right way and there's no choice. They go together.
-- THE END --