by Natasha Barry
The struggle was instinctive on Doyle's part, Bodie knew. His former partner wouldn't have memory of the particular skills he used to be expert in. Bodie was glad, even though he was the unfortunate recipient, Doyle's body recollected as much as it did. He didn't need to worry so, in that case. His "sunshine" could take care of himself.
Not that he needed to, with Bodie here.
"Calm down, sunshine," he said as he placed the chloroformed cloth against the other's gaping mouth. Startled, and slowly losing oxygen, Doyle had no choice but to intake the anesthetic.
The graceful slump was expected, and Bodie grinned as he hefted the slight- looking eleven stone weight, leaving for the transportation which awaited outside.
He leaned Doyle against the car, bracing him with a thigh placed carefully between the long legs. Bodie then opened the door, maneuvering the lax form into the back seat. Seeing Doyle was as comfortable as he could be, with a blanket draped over his form, he went behind the wheel to begin the journey which would take them to a new life.
It took two hours of driving to reach the country home Bodie purchased four months earlier. The last few months, he had spent getting the place ready for its new occupants. The old four-bedroomed home had been allowed to decay, but Bodie went to considerable expense in time and money to make it comfortable- not merely livable.
The smooth drive kept Doyle somewhat loose, and it was only when Bodie was laying him on his new bed that the thin form began to stir.
"Bodie," said Doyle upon recognizing him, momentarily disconcerted because of the drug and the new surroundings. "Where are we?"
"Your new home."
"This isn't my home," said Doyle, patient in handling this new situation.
Bodie reached behind the curly head to fluff the pillows. "Sure it is, sunshine. Bought it for you, didn't I?"
"A house? You bought me a house?" Doyle demanded, suddenly alert. "And why drag me here? If you wanted a visit so bad, couldn't you ask?"
"Are you hungry?"
"Stop patronizing me." Dole was quickly regaining his energy.
Bodie knew that tone. It meant settling one issue at a time. "Look," he began coaxingly, "London isn't a good place for you now. I know you're fine physically, but you still need to recover from the accident. A little rest and relaxation here in the beautiful countryside...what more could anyone want?"
But Doyle was taking it one step at a time. "Did you really buy me this house?"
Doyle made room as Bodie sat beside him. "It's in both our names."
"Why'd you kidnap me? You've really got a crazy sense of humor, mate."
"Wanted to surprise you. Also wanted to test your instincts. Pretty good Ray. If we can get the rest straightened out, welcome back to CI5."
"I don't think I want to be back in CI5."
"Aren't you hungry?"
"Don't want to listen to anything negative, do you? All right, beans on toast sounds okay."
Doyle held his head in weariness as Bodie prepared their meal. He had accompanied Bodie to the kitchen rather than remain upstairs because he wanted to see as much of his "home" as possible now he was in it. But he was tired and didn't bother to conceal the fact from Bodie. He was so protective anyway, was Bodie, Doyle soon realized it was a waste of effort trying to hide things from him.
"Where'd you get the money?" he asked as Bodie set a heaping dish before him. He knew he'd never finish it all. He never had much of and appetite.
"Not from the mob? You've an extravagant lifestyle, mate, and I know how you make."
"Before I was respectable."
"Respectable now, are you?" Doyle flashed back, always enjoying verbal exchanges with his partner.
"Swiss account," Bodie added to heighten the atmosphere of intrigue. Doyle was always curious about his nefarious background and it never hurt to entertain the bugger.
"Wow," breathed Doyle theatrically, playing it for all it was worth. "How are you going to hid this purchase from the government?" He offered his humble opinion helpfully. "A house is a big thing to hide."
"Well, I thought about doing something wonderful like putting the holding in name of a company that doesn't exist, but that would be more trouble than it's worth. What if something happened to me, for instance? I wouldn't want you stuck with complicated paperwork. Your brain power couldn't cope."
"You're a poor liar, Bodie."
It was the first time Doyle felt it necessary to mention the fact, and this only served to remind Bodie how Doyle had changed from the secretive, maddeningly charming, individual he'd known.
"So what is this?" continued Doyle. "I give up my flat , live here while you go off to work in the city, commuting weekends to remind yourself where you live? I thought that only happened in the movies?"
"But Doyle, my sweet, doesn't it sound lovely? You and me and our bourgeois lifestyle. Think of the dogs we can raise."
"Got any tea?" As Bodie muffled a "sorry" and got up to heat a kettle, Doyle complained, "My life is in London. What am I supposed to do out here all day? I'm city-bred. I only like the country every other weekend."
"You'll adapt," Bodie assured him, placing cream and sugar on the table. "Take up painting again. You know you've been wanting to. Talk about it all the time, and I always catch you peering in those shop windows. You're like orphan with his nose pressed against the glass." He liked the analogy and saw Doyle respond to it as well. "Look on the bright side: no traffic, no villains, no Cowley showing up once a week to take you to lunch or dinner." Doyle chuckled at that, for he'd voiced the complaint to Bodie often enough that it was nice to be reminded one wasn't forgotten, but Cowley always discoursed on matters Doyle wasn't concerned with. "Why don't you write that book you're always talking about?"
"Sorry, must be another bloke. Got these friends in various states of distress, you understand."
"I'm not distressed," insisted Doyle. "In fact, I don't have to work again if I don't want to. My pension is quite adequate. If I don't overdue things, like buy homes in the country."
"Finish your meal. You're too thin."
"I'm precisely where I was before the accident."
"Really?" challenged Bodie, who considered his tough partner much too fragile- looking. Of course, Doyle always did look like that. The contradictory air of wistfulness combined with stolid strength was one of the qualities which ensured fatal attraction.
Doyle continued, blind to his partner's blank stare, "It's all muscle, which weighs more than fat. You'd know about fat, Bodie."
"You're a cruel partner, Doyle, but I'm here to save you anyway."
Doyle yawned and was determined not to eat another bite. "Where do I sleep, anyway? That room you dumped me in?"
Shrugged Doyle, "All right, I guess. Didn't look at it much. You'll be taking me back tomorrow, Bodie." With those instructions, he left the kitchen by way of the stairs.
When he'd finished his own plate, Bodie reached over to partake of Doyle's remaining portion.
He had much to think about, his plan on getting Doyle here already concluded. Now, with his partner's evident health, Bodie had to decide on the next step in his private campaign.
Fortunately, his specialty was tactics.
When Doyle awakened the next morning, he was surprised to find himself the only occupant of the house. And it was a big house, Bodie could easily be hiding within the walls, managing to be upstairs when Doyle was downstairs or in the basement when Doyle was in the attic. But Doyle kept a special watch on the kitchen, knowing that to be the obvious place for Bodie to sneak back to. Even if Bodie was hiding somewhere, and had taken the precaution of stacking up on food, he was bound to run low on provisions. That was just the way he was.
When light began to fade Doyle recognized Bodie's absence. He had no idea the nearest town was; in what direction or how distant. It wouldn't be bright to march off without any idea where he was going.
It also distressed him to realize they weren't on the phone and barely on the mains. The Kitchen, he'd been too preoccupied to notice earlier, was gas. And oil lamps were everywhere, though the electric lights seemed to work well enough. If he'd been in another frame of mind, he'd probably have thought the old-fashioned abode with the modern furniture charming, and a perfect get-away- from-it-all. As it was, he fought the comfortable ambiance of it to remind himself of its impracticalities.
A visit was fine, but why would Bodie want him to live here?
And where was Bodie? The Liverpudlian had kidnapped him then been careful to make himself scarce.
"This time he's really done it. I'm going to kill him," Doyle kept repeating, calmly for all the apparent vitriol.
Then another idea occurred to him: what if Bodie had gone out earlier with every intention of returning? He could be injured or dying, and all Doyle was moping about complaining for the lack of attention.
Soon, all Doyle felt was guilty, and this plainly wouldn't do. After all, no matter how everything came about, he was certainly the injured party.
And he wouldn't let Bodie tease him - whenever he returned - for letting him be the cause of another guilt trip.
Besides, Doyle couldn't help believing this was some weird dream he would shortly awaken from.
After preparing a light meal, his third of the day, Doyle decided a soak in a hot tub would do him good.
The bathroom was old-fashioned, just like the rest of the house, with the tub being an addition to the over-sized bathroom instead of built-in.
Bath salts were resting on a shelf next to the white curvature and Doyle threw those in, figuring he may as well enjoy the entire effect.
It was true you couldn't find this ambiance in city dwellings.
Actually, this place wouldn't be so bad in small doses, he mused without any conscious direction given to his thoughts. Since the accident, I don't have to worry about working anymore. Not unless I want to. I have all the time in the world.
The fragrant water working its magic put him into a light doze, and he knew enough to rise from its enervating effects before he succumbed completely.
So he grabbed one of the large towels hanging within reach and draped himself in it, feeling somewhat depraved at the luxury of it all.
There was only one thing missing to make this romantic fantasy complete - a- lover.
He shook off the loneliness while drying the wet tendrils of his hair. It wouldn't do to have him feeling sorry for himself. There were others in far worse situations.
Bringing the towel with him, for he didn't have his pajama bottoms - Bodie hadn't seen to packing any of his stuff, that much in a hurry he'd been - he settled into the king-sized bed and pulled the comforter over his shoulders.
Bodie entered to find brown reddish curls and one long-fingered hand escaping the nest of comforter and towel, but that was all. "Ray," he called softly, hesitant at waking him but needing the personal contact after a long day away from him.
The head slowly rose and became definable. "Bodie, where've you been?" The tone was too soft to be registering the anger Doyle would remember later.
"Had to go to the office, sunshine, remember?"
"Is it one of those days? I can't keep track of days anymore," he admitted wearily, struggling to keep his eyes open. "They all run together."
"Your holiday's been too long. Without something substantial to occupy your time with, anyway. Stay with me and I'll soon have you remembering the days."
"Forget it, Bodie." Now Doyle came completely awake. "I'm far too comfortable. Being an invalid isn't bad. and London has a lot to occupy my time with. Films, shows, museums. What does this place have?"
"Solitude, natural beauty. It could serve as a right inspiration for an ambitious artist."
"I'm not an artist. I paint, Bodie. There is a difference. And what am I supposed to do with all this solitude? Privacy is fine at the end of a tension- filled day. What do I need twenty-four hours of it for?"
"To help recover." Bodie sighed, allowing the love he felt for his partner to change his features to something softer, more adoring. "I need to take care of you, Ray."
One of the strongest flaws to his character was Doyle's inability to resist a plea from the heart. He quickly decided the disadvantages to the situation would soon become apparent to Bodie, in the meantime it was wiser and certainly more empathetic to let Bodie have his way. "All right, Bodie. You can have me for awhile." His natural independence wouldn't allow himself to commit further.
"Wish you meant that, love."
"What do you mean?"
"Just that I've missed the closeness we shared."
"We're friends." Distending his prominent lower lip, the unwary sleeper blew upwards to dislodge some curls that had strayed onto his forehead. He didn't understand what Bodie was getting at, but he wasn't going to let it worry him.
"And that's all." As Bodie felt the tears spring to his eyes, he turned away quickly. He didn't want Doyle like this, out of pity. For he was sure Doyle didn't desire him, didn't crave the closeness of physical touch, but his partner was the type of man who would surrender nearly all to anyone he cared for.
It was a fault Bodie shared. Only he cared for a few people, while Doyle always walked about with his heart leading the way.
Though Bodie didn't begrudge anyone a little manipulation to encourage romance, and he often practiced it himself, the idea of manipulating his partner struck him raw.
Doyle asked the obvious. "What else is there?" Sighing, "I'm tired, Bodie. Can we talk about it in the morning?"
"It's not that late," chuckled Bodie, returning to contemplate the splendid beauty of his friend.
He looked like something the gypsies would kidnap, all bundled up, wiping sleep from his eyes.
Bodie took pity on him. "Tomorrow, then. You need your beauty sleep, mate." As was customary, Doyle overlooked the insult and closed his eyes in relief when Bodie had gone, door closing behind him.
It didn't bother him Bodie thought him plain or even ugly. His experienced partner did have a handsome face and set high standards in comparing himself to other men. Doyle's own features were erratic though sensual. Inclined to be perverse, then suddenly sublime. People were either immediately attracted or repelled, depending on their own mood - or Doyle's.
Without exception, women were attracted, for Doyle had never suffered difficulty in gaining the feminine interest he required.
Remembering some of his more recent conquests with fondness, Doyle crept off to sleep.
Next morning, Doyle nearly tripped over the bags neatly stacked at the bottom of the living room stairs. He looked up to find Bodie surveying him.
"Wanted to make sure you saw them."
"Couldn't miss 'em, could I?" rebuked Doyle, shaking his head in wonder. "You're really moving me in?"
"Wiping his hands on a dishtowel, Bodie replied, "You got it, sunshine. Thought I explained all that."
"Bodie - " started Doyle, only to be halted by the arrival of a bowl of porridge. He noticed his efficient partner had also already laid the table with cream and sugar. "Nice," he commented, brought up short. He wondered if this was some new game of Bodie's, taking him by surprise. "But we still have to talk."
"Anytime." To remind him, Bodie offered dampeningly, "I was all set last night." He felt self-conscious though, of the quick guilt which suffused his partner's features. But at least is served to distract Doyle from the vitriol he was no doubt about to unleash. "Better eat before it gets could." He also brought the orange juice from the counter, where it had sat to gain something resembling room temperature.
"You're spoiling me for something," insisted Doyle between mouthfuls.
"Whom else would I spoil? Besides, I want you healthy. I've gotten a little bored talking to myself during stakeouts."
Doyle pointed out, "We used to take turns sacking out."
"But I could always watch you turning over, looking like something the cat dragged in. Awful pitiful you are, when you're sleeping."
Shrugged Doyle, "You're the only one who's complained."
"So how do you feel?"
"I'm fine, and you know it. Don't know why you're going to all this trouble." He thought of something. "Unless I was an excuse to buy yourself some property."
"Would I bother? Besides, I told you the house is in both our names. Now if you don't mind, I think I'd prefer it if we started referring to our house as "home." "
"I can't stay for longer than a visit," Doyle clarified once again, but conceded, "Maybe come down weekends with you. But I'm a city boy. I'd be bored to death out here. Go stark raving mad. What am I supposed to do here all week?"
"Get you strength back. Keep yourself in shape so when the time comes you can step back into your old job. Most importantly, just stay out of trouble."
"I can tell you're enjoying this. Always wanted me out-of-the-way, didn't you? It's a wonder you accepted me as your partner at all, feeling the way you do. I'm not Wexford china, you know. Never have been."
"Never thought you were. Not after the first five minutes, anyway. But you're not yourself now, are you? You need a bit of looking after. It's why the Cow and I have been hounding you so much lately. It wasn't just to gratify your ego or make you feel wanted." Before he betrayed to much, Bodie hurried on, "It's been nearly a year now, and whatever was supposed to happen in London obviously hasn't. Maybe a total change of scenery and a lower pace lifestyle will help you regain what you've lost."
It sounded logical and eminently practical. To his own dismay, Doyle found his indignant anger evaporating. Perhaps a short stay of a couple of months more or less wouldn't be remiss. Could even do some good. And it would be nice being a complete person again. According to his own inner clock, it was more than time for him to be his normal self. "I'll stay. Just for awhile."
"That's good. Eat up," prodded Bodie.
"I keep telling you, I'm my normal weight."
"How come you don't look it?" argued Bodie.
"Maybe your eyes need cleaning. Tried any detergent lately?"
Over the next few weeks, with Bodie commuting between home and work rather than staying in the country only on weekends, and Doyle setting up shop in the garden, they achieved an amicable - even complacent - partnership of a different kind.
Bodie tested Doyle - his reflexes, his alertness, his cunning - by coming up with inventive games: usually a variation of an old favorite, like hide-and- seek. Only in this one whomever was "it" carried an empty gun and it was up to the "hider" to disarm "it" before "it" "killed" the "hider."
They were both satisfied with the results. Doyle had stayed in shape, though he hadn't partaken of practice or training in several months.
On the weekend schedules were hand-to-hand combat and target shooting.
Though Bodie was weary after a day spent working an assignment - currently an especially cushy one, playing escort to a dignitary - he was always energized when it was time to find his way home.
What had also become a ritual was their nightly conversational sessions. After dinner had been cleared and the other entertainment was done, Doyle would go upstairs to bed while Bodie showered. Then Bodie would peek in on Doyle, one of his secret pleasures, and if Doyle was asleep, he would leave him with only a smile. But if Doyle was awake, as was happening more often, they would talk some more, with Bodie beside him on the bed while Doyle made himself comfortable.
This was Bodie's favorite time of day. At night, with the bedclothes surrounding his partner's relaxed form, and their voices mixing in contemplative softness.
The serenity was hitherto unknown to Bodie, and he would do anything to keep from losing it. Even defy George Cowley - the man he most respected after Doyle- and risk his position at CI5.
Since Cowley was aware he and Doyle were living together in the outskirts, Bodie was counting on Cowley's sense of fair-play - occasionally virtually non- existent - to keep him working day- shifts.
He didn't want anything disrupting his scheduled hours with Doyle. He also didn't know how much longer he could take CI5 without the tantalizing presence of his partner holding him fast. Though Bodie had found a home with the mob after years of wandering, that home was irrevocably linked in his own mind to Doyle.
Without his partner these past months, CI5 had simply become a thing to report to, rather that be part of.
The subtle threat was there, for Cowley either to ignore or provoke. Since it was unlikely Cowley wanted to lose his services - even Bodie knew he was the controller's "pet" though Doyle had been heir apparent - Bodie was confident at maintaining his uncomplicated working schedule.
After all, Cowley could take the chance of challenging Bodie, and consequently lose both him and Doyle, or he could sit back and let nature - or, in this case, Bodie - take its course and keep a lock on Bodie and possibly regain Doyle. The Bodie/Doyle partnership was too valuable to surrender just because you wanted one aspect to work night-shifts or three day stretches, when the others were competent to do the same job, only not as well.
And there was the recently transplanted Doyle, who would no doubt go stir crazy if his only link with the outside world were to suddenly disappear for longer than a day. Disrupting Doyle's health further wouldn't do anyone any good, let alone Cowley, who was a closet fretter and was still curious as to who would replace him as CI5 controller when the time came and Doyle was no longer available.
Because he was a "fretter" - and he also missed the lad, though he wouldn't admit it for the world - Cowley paid a visit to the Bodie/Doyle abode one afternoon, carefully arriving after lunch so his host wouldn't feel obligated to attend him.
The shock of the front door announcing a visitor was so unusual that Doyle didn't recognize it at first. He simply took it for wood falling in the distance. Then he realized the voice above the din and he proceeded down the stairs.
Without trepidation, only with curiosity, he opened the door. "Sir," he said in some surprise though he knew only one person outside himself and Bodie knew where they were living.
But it could have been a postman or a handyman at the door.
'Doyle." greeted Cowley with a little more warmth than was customary. But he had missed the curly-haired agent he had made a point of visiting once a week. Then Bode had come along and whisked Doyle away.
"Come in, sir."
Cowley still hadn't accustomed himself to the near-formality of Doyle's address. He and Doyle, always carefully respective of each other, had been casual to marked degree in the past. But ever since the accident...
"What can I get you, sir?"
"I'll see if Bodie's brought any in, He and I stick to wine for the most part," Doyle explained. "Just about shovels milk into me, as well. Have a seat anywhere."
Cowley took advantage of Doyle's absence to poke around the living room. "Nice place," he commented loud enough for Doyle to hear in what Cowley assumed to be the kitchen. "Are you gong to do more work on it?"
Doyle returned, only one glass in hand and that he presented to his visitor. "Don't think so. It's about perfect. Bodie took a lot of care in bringing it together."
"He's good for you." As they sat across from each other, Doyle looking pleased but vaguely on edge, Cowley continued, "He thinks a lot of you to have gone to all this trouble. It'll work out for the two of you in the end, I know it."
"Yes, sir." Doyle was puzzled, but swore not to show it. What was Cowley on about? The house in both his and Bodie's names?
"He's always had a possessive streak when it came to you. Protective, as well. I always had to warn him about letting it show. But that isn't necessary any longer, I suppose. Whether you return to work or not, it's a fait accompli."
Doyle repeated, "Yes, sir," even more confused. "Are you sure you wouldn't want anything else? We're well stocked. No meats for sandwiches, though. Bodie has gone vegetarian."
Since this wasn't the sort of thing one announced, Cowley hadn't any idea. "You are an influence, aren't you?"
Doyle gave a slight smile of pride. He'd been vegetarian for years, and Bodie ignored the condition until recently. Then Bodie said something about a brand new life to go with the house, and he cut down on sweets and liquor and started a healthier diet.
He was always home every night for dinner and bed. It only now occurred to Doyle that Bodie must have surrendered more than a portion of his appetite. Still reeling from discovering there was something about his favorite operative he didn't know, Cowley stated, "It's a long drive, but I had lunch on the way. I should be back long before dinner." His dinner wasn't until eight or so, and he had never subscribed to the English custom of taking tea. Perhaps because he was a Scotsman...perhaps there was too much to do in a day to take the time. "You're my best team. I couldn't keep from seeing how things were any longer."
"We're happy," Doyle shrugged. "It gets a little boring now and then. But keeping a place like this clean, and the meals prepared, takes a lot of time. I'll be going back to London soon, though." He only knew the decision when he voiced it. Cowley seemed to sense it, as well.
"You've told Bodie?"
"Not yet. I'd rather you not mention it. But I don't think the great experiment is working out. I'm not in any better shape than before I left. Rather, before he kidnapped me. Is my place still available?"
"Of course. As per our agreement. I haven't let your flat. It was my understanding only a few items of clothing had been removed in all this time."
"No. Bodie brought albums and some other things."
"What have you been doing to relax?"
"Most evenings it's records or books. Bodie's a fine one for reading. No television or videos. It's gotten so I can't remember what a movie looks like. Only a vague memory, know what I mean?"
"You have electricity. Why not TV?"
"Doesn't suit the place somehow," offered Doyle vaguely. "Too charming for that, I suppose."
"You seem well-adjusted and happy. Why do you want to leave?"
Knowing he could trust this man with his life - and his health - he let himself speak automatically, as one does with a psychiatrist. "I feel trapped somehow. As if nothing ever changes. Life seems to stand still here. Maybe that's good, but not for me. I'm having more trouble keeping tack of the days passing than I did when I was home. This can't be right," he concluded, freshly uneasy and aware he'd been hiding the truth from himself as long as he'd been here.
He would have to hurt Bodie and leave this sanctuary before much time passed. That was clear by his own desperate tones. How to disappoint Bodie? And why did he almost feel fear at the prospect?
It wasn't a long visit. Cowley, aware of part to what occupied young Doyle's mind, kept the conversation light and impersonal as Doyle gave him the tour. If Cowley was surprised at his agents having separate bedrooms, he didn't show it, just took it as fact.
Perhaps both men - strong individuals - needed their own quarters to retreat to, even in a house this size.
The tour was completed by a circling of the grounds, then Doyle led Cowley to his car and watched as the vehicle made its turn and left.
The cloud of dust that rose seemed a hazy reminder of his months of confusion.
With the departure of his former employer, he felt as if he were casting out his one chance of escape.
When Bodie returned that evening, it was to a silent house - one devoid of classical music or contemporary rock - and a subdued housemate.
"What's up, sunshine?" he immediately inquired, knowing it was better to let Doyle get whatever it was out of his system rather that allowing it to fester to an uncontrollable mass.
"Nothing," denied Doyle, not ready for the showdown he was sure would ensue once his decision was known. After all, Bodie claimed to have bought the house for him. It didn't matter that Doyle hadn't authorized it. He did bear responsibility. Somehow, he should have known what his partner was up to.
Maybe now the house was fixed up nicely it would fetch a good price. He'd hate to see Bodie out of pocket on this one.
But he didn't plan to give Bodie the news as yet. It was better to wait. Possibly when Bodie had settled after a fine dinner...
"Yeah?" Bodie allowed the skepticism to show on his normally superior face. "That's what they all say. And you know me better that to think I'd fall for that "Who, me?" act."
"It's not time," Doyle advised, knowing Bodie always trusted his judgment.
"After dinner then?" Bodie asked and Doyle nodded. What's to eat?"
"Your favorite." Why had he fixed that particular entree this evening anyway? To soften the pain, to feed a hearty meal to the condemned man? Or was it merely automatic reflex, since he had this menu planned days earlier, making out a list of items Bodie was to bring back from his weekly visit to the store?
"Yum, yum to anything you make."
"So pleased with the service."
"Nothing. It's all ready. Just has to be dished out."
Doyle rose to gather the food from the oven where it had been keeping warm for the past fifteen minutes. Bodie was regular as clockwork, and Doyle timed his meals exactly.
As usual, Bodie was pouring the wine Doyle had put out. "Nice vintage, this."
"We both like dry wines," Doyle responded without thought.
The next few moments were silent ones, and Bodie finally surrendered to the mood by fighting to break free of it. "How about a trip to the coast this weekend?" he asked as the green eyes continued to gaze into lentil soup, rather than the warmer cast of receptive blue eyes.
"Really?" Doyle asked in surprise. During the weeks he'd been here, Bodie had been most determined he not leave. Hadn't even wanted him going to the village to fetch supplies, in fact. Claimed it was easier for Bodie to pick up items while commuting and too much effort for Doyle to walk those few miles when he would be better concentrating on getting well. So Bodie's suggestion of an excursion caught him off-guard, and he wondered what prompted it. "Why now?" he asked suspiciously.
"You deserve a reward. All the hard work you've put in to regain your health, never complaining - much - at the restricted life you have with me. I know this country life isn't what you're used to."
"It hasn't been that much a restriction," Doyle found himself saying, always affected by the other's little-boy-lost look. "For the most part, it's worked out. I'm healthier physically, probably as good as when I stopped working...
"That's good, but it wasn't my main reason for bringing you here. So a few days away may help, may not. I doubt it can hurt, though. I'll clear it with Cowley tomorrow. He knows we've never stayed home much in the past."
"He was here," Doyle suddenly remembered.
"Who?" Intent on his plans, it took Bodie a moment to realize Doyle had spoken.
"Cowley. Wanted to see how I was getting on, I suppose."
"So that's what brought this on."
"What do you mean?"
Bodie felt as if he'd won a minor victory. "Seeing another face reminded you you've seen too much of mine."
"That's not it," Doyle disavowed while he wondered if Bodie was correct. After all, he had been relatively content in this new and simple life until his former employer had stopped by. Was it a case of having been reminded to what might have been? But then, Cowley had said some peculiar things while he'd been conversing with him. Things he still wondered about.
He and Bodie had always been close, nearly inseparable to hear others tell it, but wasn't it unusual for two former partners to live in such close proximity with each other? Yet Cowley seemed to take their solitude from the world for granted. Had he and Bodie been such close friend that the world - rather, the world that knew of them - took them for granted?
Doyle's eyes were lifted now, but they had that hazy look they often did when he was troubled or concerned. And when Doyle was worried, Bodie was. It had become and automatic reflex, honed to fine perfection over the years. "You'll have to tell me what's bothering you, sunshine. How else so you expect me to set it to rights?" Charmed as usual by Bodie's stolid assurance, Doyle grinned, easing the tension which had been into play within moments of Bodie's arrival. "I'm not quite sure myself," he admitted, shame-faced. "Seems silly. All that worrying this afternoon and now this."
"I always take care of things," Bodie assured him, confident the crisis was past.
That reminded Doyle of part of what bothered him. "Yes, you do. It's unfair of me, to allow you to do so much." He quickly proposed, before the other could interject, "Perhaps I should leave for the weekend, and you stay in town. That'll be a break for both of us."
He was managing things all wrong, Bodie could see that clearly. A careful tactician not given to headlong dashes, he thought quickly and came to the conclusion a dignified retreat was in order. "If that's what you want. Promise to be back on Monday? Remember," he joked, "I have CI5 resources to call upon if you're not here."
Feeling his heart lift just a fraction, Doyle breathed a sigh of relief. "I'll be here." Maybe he only needed a little time anyway from the routine he and Bodie had developed, is what he assured himself. Either way, he would know soon enough, on the following Monday.
He couldn't remember having been to Liverpool before. Of course, Liverpool was an odd choice for a weekend. But Bodie was from Liverpool, and so were the Beatles. With that thought, Doyle assured himself the place had something with which to recommend itself.
Besides, who'd - especially Bodie - would look for him in Liverpool? His privacy was veritably guaranteed.
So he hit the official Beatles landmarks, even surprised himself by purchasing a few photos, but mostly he kept to the shoreline, enjoying the feel of the salt wind across his face, curling his hair.
It was odd, now he thought about it, he'd never made it this far north before.
"Think I'll try for Alaska next," he proposed to himself. "Be ambitious for once. Stay too close to home, I always have. Makes me a dreary boy."
He was deep in a conversation with a local when the sixth sense of knowing you're being watched caught up with him. It was a sense cops of all varieties honed to perfection, and extension of their own awareness, even their own identity. Perhaps men had an advantage on women in this, for boys were taught to answer the summons of a feminine tap at the opposite window.
It amused Doyle to contemplate how few occasions there were when a pretty girl had managed to escape his sight.
It was what made him confident of his own conclusion and what prompted his casual wariness as he continued to walk.
If he were going to catch the culprit, whomever it was with whatever reason for following him, he'd have to fake him out and turn the tables. To do that, he'd would have to lure his adversary into a false sense of security.
Maybe those doctors and Cowley were right. Instincts were never forgotten though training may be,.
So, without turning his head, he paused to glance into a few shop windows and stopped for a coffee. After twenty minutes of coffee, he naturally grew bored at merely watching the passersby and sought to become one with them.
He still hadn't determined who his follower was, and had been hoping the individual would have grown bored with his dawdling at the cafe and continued onto fresher game.
Unfortunately, he immediately sensed the renewal of scrutiny. That erased all possibility of and accidental shadowing, and made Doyle a prime target.
Was the person, sex still undisclosed, attracted to Doyle's jean-clad figure and working up courage to approach him? Or was the individual someone from his past it would be better he not become reacquainted with?
Carefully avoiding the vicinity of his own hotel, Doyle made the rounds another fifteen minutes.
His shadow remained with him.
Stealth and cunning was obviously called for.
Doyle allowed himself to appear suspicious and hesitant, turning his head this way and that, as if he were looking for something. Then he ducked into a clothes shop he knew had an opposite entrance. He concealed himself among the racks and was satisfied but disturbed when Bodie came off the street after him, immediately heading for the back door, which Doyle let his shadow to believe he would make his escape through.
So Bodie hadn't trusted him on his own, after all.
When he got to his hotel, he wasn't surprised to find Bodie in the foyer waiting for him. Silently, Doyle handed over his key in a gesture of fury, allowing Bodie to follow him up the short stairs.
His room was the third on the second level, and they didn't say a word to each other until the door was closed and they were comfortably seated upon the bed.
"I suppose you think I should apologize," began Bodie hesitantly. He knew what was required, but he was never good at apologizing. He considered himself seldom wrong.
"For not leaving me on my own?" scoffed Doyle, skeptically wondering if Bodie was somehow going to turn this whole thing around and make himself the injured party.
Bodie interjected defensively, "I was worried, okay?"
"How old am I, Bodie?"
"Doesn't make any difference now, does it? You're nearly a babe-in-the-woods. Someone's got to protect you. I figure it's my job. Partners for life, you know."
Doyle sighed, for it was impossible to maintain anger at a man who had only your best interests at heart. Even if the did keep screwing things up. "I'm not a constant target. No one from my past is likely to show up here. Most of the villains are locked away somewhere and I'm not allowed in suspicious districts or company. All this per Cowley's instructions. But in normal situations I can take care of myself. I was in London months before you took me under your wing."
"No way, Doyle," declared Bodie unconditionally.
"What do you mean?"
There were times his "sunshine" could be so dense. Nearly speechless with vexation, Bodie blurted, "You'd better get reacquainted with your mirror while you're shaking hands with other things. You've always been a target for more than vengeance happy criminals."
Doyle laughed. "That's funny coming from you. You know, I thought you were on of those suspicious characters following me about. Looking for a chance at my tender arse, maybe?"
"Why not?" Bodie saw the humor to it as well.
"Yeah." Doyle stopped laughing. "Relieved me no tend to discover it was Only you. Here I was trying to remember the address for the nearest stationhouse. I didn't know who it was, or if he had backup."
"Well, it served to remind you of the inherent dangers."
"You're not going to apologize at all, are you?"
Doyle tried again. "The great experiment failed. Why don't you take me back to London and you can get on with your life and I can get back to the movies?"
Bodie slowly shook his head. "What you don't understand, sunshine is I've been watching you all along. Kept track of every hour of your day. Cowley's had his eye on you as well." As Doyle made to object, Bodie explained, "Can't help worrying about you. You're in a totally vulnerable position at the moment. That's why I took you away from all that. Gave you more privacy, and room to keep yourself in shape without worrying whether the guy next to you is some devil from you past you simply can't put a name to. Let's face it, mate, you'd have been better off with a life like mine. Nefarious though it was, it had cleaner individuals in it."
The slight body jerked from the bed as Doyle went to gaze out the window. Every word Bodie spoke was true, he knew it, because Bodie rarely lied to him regarding something important.
So Cowley, with CI5 authority, had surreptitiously kept tabs on his best agent. No wonder he wasn't upset by Bodie's moving them both to the country. Doyle was safe and out of harm's way. Bodie was happy and leading a well-adjusted lifestyle without taking time out for his usual convoluted personal life.
Cowley had always been a conservative gentleman, never countenancing either of their well-regimented girlfriends. With his favorite team running on a sexless treadmill, the controller of CI5 didn't have to worry over the possible distractions and hindrances to getting a job well done. In the past, both Bodie and Doyle had allowed their personal and professional lives to overlap to and admittedly ridiculous extent.
The Cow must be rubbing his hands together in sheer joy at the current situation.
But Doyle's grin faltered to a frown as he suspected Cowley's strange dialogue from days earlier was meant to infer rather more than two partners keeping each other occupied.
Perhaps Bodie could explain what was going on - if anything was - and how Cowley apparently gained such an erroneous impression of their living arrangements?
That answered one question he hadn't thought to ask: Cowley may be conservative, but he wasn't so conservative as to restrict sexual relations between consenting adults. Most Bible thumpers were just the opposite.
As Doyle turned suddenly to ask Bodie to fill him in on the latest rumors floating around headquarters, he caught the unguarded look in the blue eyes as the dark agent's gaze was forced from their contemplation of Doyle's legs. Or was it his arse the smoldering desire was fixed upon?
It didn't really matter, did it?
"Bodie?" began Doyle as Bodie interrupted, having caught the knowing gleam in Doyle's predatory eyes and knowing he'd slipped. Problem was, his self-discipline was shot to hell since he was given license to worry Doyle's constant presence. It wasn't like normal duty, when he was constantly on guard against betraying himself, and only let his control waver when his partner was under immediate threat.
So he said brightly, "I'm famished. How 'bout you?" and moved to the door.
Doyle's tone brooked no denial. "I'm stuffed, and so are you. Now sit down."
Knowing there was no way to combat Doyle when he was in this frame of mind, Bodie decided to make the best of things. But he wouldn't assist the proceedings along. He'd make the little bugger work for all he got.
Doyle remained standing though he was capable of intimidating nearly everyone of greater height or experience. Even Cowley on one or two notable occasions.
"I told you Cowley came round the other day?" As Bodie nodded obediently, Doyle continued, "He said some funny things."
"Did he? Like what?" Bodie asked in all innocence.
"He seemed to assume our relations included conjugal."
"How do you feel about that?"
"I'm not sure," admitted Doyle, never having consciously considered any man - even his partner and friend - in a romantic light. But Bodie was exceptionally handsome, and they were the closest of friends.
And Bodie was all the family he had really. But like all family they did tend to get on each other's nerves after a while.
Seeing as how Doyle wasn't helping him, again Bodie tried to make it out the door. He said calmly, "Let me know when you are sure."
Doyle caught up with him. "Don't you have a preference?"
"Well? Won't you try to persuade me?"
He could see Doyle was expecting - hoping - the decision would be taken out of his hands. There was security in that, but Bodie wouldn't help his friend ignore all his responsibilities. If Doyle was prepared to call Bodie on this, he was compelled to make his own decision. "You just reminded me how old you are. You also resent interference in your life. So how we proceed is entirely up to you. Sorry, sunshine," he said softly just before he closed the door gently behind him.
As Doyle began fuming on Bodie's typical behavior - dropping something heavy in Doyle's lap and then slinking away to enjoy himself while he was left to worry - he suddenly realized he didn't know where he could locate his errant partner later. After his temper had cooled down, that is. For all he knew, Bodie could be returning home.
But was that where he wanted Bodie?
He didn't want to remain indoors any more than Bodie, so he relocked his door, pocketing the key, and left to take another look in the local windows.
If he saw Bodie on the way, all the better. But he wouldn't deliberately look for him.
He had a decision to make, and it would be one that would affect his entire life.
He was deep into the pros and cons of the situation when he heard a voice call out, "Ray! Ray Doyle!" He turned to see a short man with shorter hair rapidly approaching. There was a grin on the face, so Doyle relaxed and waited. "What you doing here, old son?"
"Seeing the sights," Doyle responded as the other gent grabbed his hand. He looked at the man carefully, and the stranger's brown eyes confirmed their harmlessness.
"Haven't seen you in years. Not since the Met. You went to CI5, didn't you?"
"Leave-of absence," explained Doyle.
"Lucky dog. You don't look ill?" the man gently probed, seemingly unaware of the other's restrained manner. But he remembered to drop Doyle's hand after a quick shake.
"Healing," was how Doyle answered. If the man knew of CI5, he'd know the risk of asking questions which oughtn't be.
"Good, good. I'm here with the wife and kids, myself. We have family in these parts, otherwise we wouldn't bother. Liverpool - not exactly a balmy location, is it?"
"I'm enjoying myself. Makes a change from London."
"I bet it does. Me, I was raised here. I still find London strange. All those years walking a beat, as well....See here, the wife's calling me. Good to see you again, Ray."
"Good to see you," returned Doyle and the man turned and disappeared. Doyle wasn't interested enough to try for a glimpse of the missus.
He decided he'd had enough of Liverpool.
When he returned to his hotel, Bodie was waiting.
"How'd you get in?" He didn't think Bodie would break-in, but you never knew.
"They saw me arrive with you earlier and let me in to wait. Told them I needed a rest."
"That was obliging."
"So, how was your day? Since I left, I mean?"
"Good. Met someone I used to know."
Immediately Bodie's face adopted a pinched expression. "What happened? he demanded, eyes searching the lean body for clues.
"He was a friend."
Immediately Bodie breathed a sigh of relief. But he wasn't happy. The stranger and his unexpected recognition of Doyle was what he and Cowley were trying to prevent. "How is Liverpool otherwise?"
"I'd rather be home."
"Back to London then?"
It took a moment for the decision to sink in, but when it did the blue eyes shone as Bodie fought to control tears of happiness.
Having fortified himself to accepting Doyle's rejection, this surrender came as welcome - and nearly uncontrollable - release. He should have reminded himself earlier, while he favored himself with a portion of his employer's favorite brand of malt scotch at the local, that his partner was full of surprises.
Before Doyle could change his mind, Bodie began gathering his gear.
"Only half the week at our house. I want to spend partial weeks in London," declared Dole as they were on their way. "I've got a flat, I want to use it. We can stay together in London, as well." The sexual aspects he wasn't allowing himself to consider in detail. It was enough for him that Bodie cared for him and he loved Bodie in return. If his love wasn't the romantic love it should be, he felt it soon would be.
He'd seen Bodie when he was exercising his technique at seduction, and he was looking forward to it being practiced upon himself.
"What brought all this on?" Bodie asked finally, feeling they'd gotten far enough on their way to ensure Doyle's unchanging mind.
"I don't know," admitted Doyle. " I was talking to that guy who knew me, and I realized I didn't know him, didn't want to know him, only wished you were beside me.
-- THE END --