In Tandem - And So to Bed


's an odd thing to be grateful to, a fish slice -

I've got this battered old one that has pride of place on every kitchen wall I've had since -

Why not start at the beginning?

Take a lot of stick from Ray, I do, about the things I like to eat. To hear him talk you wouldn't think he could pack down fish 'n chips like a boa constrictor taking on its monthly ration. Get the impression from hearing him lecture that he likes to toy with the occasional lentil or even ravish a radish if it's been a week since his last square meal, but that nothing so vulgar as real food ever passes those cupid-bow lips.

Dunno how long it took me to realise the amount of guile hidden behind that candid cherub's face; about an hour, I think. A hell of a lot longer than it ought to have done but Ray's good, give him his due. Bloody good. No wonder Cowley grabbed him up for the squad, couldn't let all that talent go to waste in the open and shut, justice being seen to be done world of the boys in blue. Three short months in the Drugs Squad 'n he had half the upper echelons ready to lick his feet and the other half foamin' at the mouth, the short cuts he took getting evidence. Think they handed him over to Cowley with a sigh of relief.

Course, Ray isn't admitting anything.

Anyhow, to get back to what I was saying.

We'd been on stakeout, boring as hell just sitting there in Jo Public's front bedroom about as welcome as a snowstorm in July, living for five days on a diet of sarnies - I'll swear he buys liver-sausage on purpose - 'n Pepsi 'n lack of sleep, so I was not impressed to arrive there to take over night-watchman from Allison and Jax to find they'd sewn everything up late that afternoon just after Ray and I'd left for a long-overdue break when the Cow'd realised that not even his two top agents could go for more than two or three days with less than three hours kip in twenty-four.

Be nice if they'd let us know, though, wouldn't it!

"You mean I dragged myself out of my nice warm bed for nothing?" Ray demanded, glaring at Allison, making no secret of his present disenchantment with life in general.

At least it wasn't us putting the front bedroom back to rights for the nagging old fuss-pot whose home we'd commandeered. First time I've ever had any sympathy with Ray's views on ex-army types, but then RSMs always have been in a class of their own.

"You dragged yourself out of bed - I like that!" I stared him down indignantly. "You'd still be in it if I hadn't done the decent thing 'n come 'n dug you out!"

Got the glare directed at me instead, force ten, and felt my spirits lifting. Come to think of it, the day had had its bright spots 'n that sopping, ice-cold kitchen sponge in the small of his back had been one of the better moments. I smiled seraphically.

"Dunno what you're looking so bleedin' cheerful for", he snarled at me. "Dunno 'bout you but I'm starvin' 'ungry an there's nowhere gonna be open this time on a Monday night."

He had a point there - we'd been relying on Jax laying in stocks for us, see us through the night. Groaning theatrically, I clutched at my middle, soothing the aching void I'd planned to fill with generous quantities of pork pie, cheese 'n pickle sarnies, 'n fruit 'n nut. Far as I could recall the cupboard was bare at Bodie Towers and this poor dog was gonna have to get through until morning on black tea or coffee and dry muesli.

I turned to CI5's Escoffier, scowling at me from under that bird nest he calls hair as though the whole disaster was my fault.

"How's the cuisine chez Doyle?" I demanded; eternally hopeful that's me. "Plenty of tinned snails and the odd gull's egg lying about, is there?"

"Not even a dry crust," he moaned. "When've I 'ad time for shoppin', you cretin? Been workin' same as you, 'aven't I!"

"Well you've been on the same job," I conceded dubiously. "Dunno about actually doin' any work, of course."

"If Little 'n Large have quite finished their cross-talk act," Allison suggested dryly, "some of us've got homes and beds to go to. Oh 'n by the way," he paused at the head of the stairs, "the Cow wants you in his office 7.30 sharp tomorrow morning." Then having put the final frost on our day he trotted off whistling blithely.

As I followed it downstairs even the back of my partner's head was radiating gloom and despondency; if he'd known the RSM was lyin' in wait ready to provide a right dressing down for CI5's numerous misdemeanours I daresay he'd've let me go first for once. As it was I crept past while Ray was trapped at the sitting room door and sneaked into the old boy's kitchen. Had milk in his fridge in bucketfuls -all week he'd been craftily helping himself to odd half-bottlesful of ours for his mangy old tomcat so I was less then conscience stricken about nickin' a pint of his now. The flea-ridden moggie was lyin' on top of the boiler and it opened a baleful eye at me which I ignored. Don't like drinking either tea or coffee without milk and if I was hungry enough I could even manage a bowlful of Sweden's revenge. Didn't have it in stock on my own account, you see; got it in one time for a bird who liked to expend a lot of energy in bed at night and needed careful refuelling to get her goin' again next morning.

Happy days.

Thought so at the time anyway.

's not only women who're privileged to change their minds, is it?

Ray must've shot out of the house in a hell of a hurry once the old bloke let him go because when I got out to my car he was sitting in the driving seat looking like a small thundercloud - realised all over again why I call him sunshine.

"Keys," he said curtly sticking his hand out of the window.

"What d'you need the keys for?"

He sighed, exaggeratedly patient. "This is your car, thicko."

"I know. So why're you driving it?"

Not that I had any real objection you understand, just that I like to get these little puzzles cleared up.

"Because we're goin' back to your place OK? Can I have the keys now?"

I got in and handed them over, resigned.

"Where'd you get that from?" he demanded, raising a respectful eyebrow at my bottle of milk.

"Liberated it from the moggie's clutches. My need was greater than his. Why're we goin back to my place?"

"Because it s the only one with a dry bed."

"Aah! Wet yours did you!" I shook my head tutting with disapproval. "Can't have you in mine if you can't control your bladder. Unless you wear a nappy of course," I conceded, prepared to meet him halfway.

Throwing me a look that said: 'ha ha very funny', he shot away from the kerb leaving about half a pound of my tyre-rubber on the road. Obviously not in the sunniest of moods, I thought, my own spirits rising in inverse proportion to his.

Predictably he started pokin' around in my cupboards the minute we got in, providing a running commentary on the uselessness of every packet and jar he unearthed. I didn't listen to more than one word in ten, just got the kettle to make tea, and nearly fell out of my skin when he loosed a yell of triumph right into my left ear.

I rubbed it peevishly. "D'you have to do that?"

"Do what? Look what I've found at the back of the freezer compartment."

Unexcited, I looked.

"Fish fingers? How the hell did they get in there?" I mused.

"How should I know if you don't? The way you con your birds into doin' your shopping - "

"But I don't like fish fingers."

"Good. All the more for me."

"Not bloody likely." I whipped the box out of his hand to make sure I'd get my fair share; give Ray an inch and he'll take advantage of you the rest of your life.

"You cook 'em then, if you're so keen,-"he said, grinning.

"All right - if you make the tea. D'you want anything with em?"

"What have you got?


"No thanks. I'll give it a miss."

"Or tomato sauce." I reached across him to scoop the fish slice off its hook.

"No HP?"

"Only fruity."

"Trust you." A Doyle-special plumbing-gurgle of amusement rattled the pans on their racks as he turned to rummage in the cupboard for the sauce bottle. "Ow! That bloody hurt, Bodie!"

I surveyed the fish slice in surprise and tested it experimentally on my own thigh. He was right, it did bloody hurt; the thing had a whippier action than I'd expected when I'd cracked it onto that temptingly protruded right buttock and I wouldn't have done it nearly so hard if I'd known.

"Sorry," I said, faintly guilty as I watched him rubbing his arse 'n sniffing pathetically. He had genuine tears in his eyes I noted, surprised. Was even more surprised at the rush of tenderness that flooded me, seeing them. I turned hurriedly to the fish fingers, giving them a careful attention quite out of proportion to their potential gastronomic excellence.

"You can wipe that smirk off your face," Ray said sourly as he slid gingerly, one-cheeked, onto a kitchen chair.

"Gotta sore bum, have you, petal?" I asked, earnestly.

The scowl I got in reply cheered me up no end.

We took our last mugs of tea into the bedroom, too tired to sit up any longer.

I made a token protest at the idea of him sharing my bed - purely as a matter of principle. I've no actual objection to sleeping with Ray; he doesn't snore, wriggle or hog all the bedding and his tendency to forget who you are and come hopefully over to see you in the middle of the night is easily handled with a prod in the ribs. His trouble always has been that he can't leave it alone, randy little toad.

"If someone hadn't poured about a gallon of water into my bed this evening you wouldn't have to share your bleedin' bed," he said, dripping sarcasm and tea with equal abandon all over my bedroom carpet.

I sighed, heavily, and got into bed with a put-upon air.

"'n you c'n stop lookin' at me like a suffering spaniel," he said, sucking in his breath in a genteel wince as he oozed his way out of those denim second-skins. "I'm the one who's bloody sufferin', thanks to you."

"Serves you right. If you didn't wear your jeans tight enough to double as a truss they'd protect your best asset better. Flippin' 'eck!"

Eyes widening, conscience twangin' away like guitar strings, I surveyed the rectangular patch emerging from beneath skimpy, rainbow-striped briefs; must've caught him really hard to raise a mark like that: two prominent red weals contrasting the whitened area around them, the shape and contours of the offending weapon clearly defined.

Twisting himself into a contorted S, my victim tried to inspect his war wound, eyes bulging with the effort to see around the curve of his own buttock.

"Don't!" I averted my eyes. "You'll do yourself an injury craning your neck like that."

"I'll do myself an injury - I like that!"

"Ah, diddums, shall I kiss it better then?" I offered in shrill falsetto.

He lifted his chin off his shoulder, eyes meeting mine, devils glinting green.

"I might just hold you to that."

Ray can make a memo from Accounts sound sexy.

Trapped, I couldn't look away as he finished stripping off that eye-catchin' underwear and he paused, posed, half turned away with his hip thrust my way, technicolour dream-briefs dangling, one-fingered.

Gotta beautiful bum -

There's a mole, pale brown, just on the over-hang of the right cheek.

My mouth was watering.

An arc of moving rainbow floated down, distracting my eye, just missing the chair he'd honoured with his jeans and catching by one leg-hole to hang mutely deflated from the corner of the seat. Had a very odd appeal, empty like that. Sort of wistful air about them as if recalling past glories.

Next thing he's padding across the floor to my chest of drawers, rummaging for pyjamas 'n shivering a bit.

"'s cold in 'ere, innit? You gettin' mean with the central heating?" he complained, hauling out jacket as well as trousers and shoving the drawer back one-handed so it sat crookedly, a large wedge of white material, probably one of my dress shirts, hung over its lip like a protruding tongue.

I pointed it out with some severity; 's bad enough when he treats his own clothes like Oxfam rejects but I'm not havin' him do it to mine.

Couldn't help sniggering as he got into bed. I like my pyjamas on the big side, you see, hate feeling restricted in bed, and he looked like some pathetic scrap dressed in Dad's cast-offs.

Very wisely he didn't ask me what I was laughing at.

I took ages getting to sleep.

Couldn't get out of my mind the way he'd looked standing there unconcernedly naked like some piece of erotic statuary, Pan or Bacchus - only needed vine leaves drippin' over one eye - long line of his back flowing in a curve leading down -

I rolled onto my side and stared at the far wall, purposely keepin' my eyes off Doyle sleepin' with such dedication alongside me. Tried to stop thinkin' too - easier said than done, though. Couldn't believe the funny idea unexpectedly rolling about in my skull, the little shivers running through me just because I'd suddenly noticed Ray, really noticed him as a living, breathing, and above all sexual creature.

Well, yes, of course I could see he was always ripe with it, couldn't miss that unless you were blind and thick, but personally affected by it - no way! Me, prototype macho-man, lightin' up Blackpool illuminations at the sight of Doyle s bare bum - what was the world coming to? Mind you, purely as a concept, bisexuality never had bothered me but translate the idea into day-to-day reality 'n you couldn't picture yourself actually makin' it with any of your best mates. Hairy brutes, most of 'e,m and smelly to boot.

Dunno why it took me so long to see Ray was - different.

Made myself lie still 'n woo sleep. Even on the verge of fantasy I could picture the rat-like face that'd be the answer if I started makin' advances.

But then, just as I was dropping off I had a sudden, happy thought.

Pretty well every time I've shared a bed with Ray I've woken up with him comin' over to see me, still only half awake but rarin' to go just the same; if he did that tonight he was liable to get more of a welcome than he'd want once he'd surfaced enough to remember who he went to bed with.

Serve him right too, lecherous little bugger.

And then, flippin' lousy timing, I must've fallen asleep.

-- THE END --

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