Lick and a Promise
by O Yardley
Adam lay y-bounden, Bounden in a bond.
Four thousand winter thought he not too long
"This," Bodie said, casting a jaundiced eye over the small, striped tent, "promises to be a long, cold week, sunshine."
"Oh, I don't know," Doyle argued, more from the habit of disagreeing with his partner than from any real conviction that Bodie was wrong, "look on the bright side-we could get all the evidence Cowley wants this morning, have it all over by lunchtime and go round the pub."
Deeming this undeserving of comment, Bodie just glared at his partner. Doyle grinned back and bent to filter himself between the red and white nylon flaps, denim tautly stretched across his most visible feature.
Looking at it, Bodie shivered inside warmer cavalry twill, flooded with the longing that was growing stronger every day and that, terrifyingly, he knew Doyle was beginning to comprehend. He followed him in, entry swifter and more abrupt than anticipated.
"You might have told me there was a hole in here," he mentioned, considerably aggrieved to find himself sitting at the bottom of one, nose claiming intimate acquaintance with a size nine, tan cowboy boot.
"Dunno what you expect to find," Doyle retorted. "Can't mend the phones without getting at the lines, can you!"
Bodie struggled to right himself, finding the top of his spine not the easiest levering-up point.-
"But we," he put his finger unerringly on the flaw in Doyle's reasoning, are not here to mend the ruddy phones. And don't help me up, will you!"
"Oh, OK, I won't then," Doyle agreed amicably, opening the well-used toolbox commandeered from a mistrustful Murray and now containing binoculars, tripod and camera in lieu of its more usual load. "It's all in the cause of verisimilitude to lend an air of truth to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. Hurry up and move your fat head, will you, I haven't got room to set this up with you in the way."
Bodie straightened himself in dignified silence, shuffling about the tiny space, half an inch this way, half an inch that, until he finally achieved an uneasy compromise between comfort and working efficiency.
Doyle was much too close.
For something to say, he grumbled: "Dunno what sort of bee the Cow's got in his bonnet anyway. Anyone Irish these days and he's sniffing around 'em as if they were bitches on heat. It's no crime just to be Irish."
Long used to his partner's steady stream of complaints when tedious work was required, Doyle ignored this serenely. No need to remind Bodie of the tears in his eyes at the last scene of IRA Christmas carnage they'd attended, or of the fact it had been that wrecked window-display of blown-apart teddy-bears that had been the final straw, setting free one, large drop that trickled down his face to be dashed away with a muttered complaint about smoke from the still-smouldering fire. Hard man Bodie had his vulnerable points, same as Doyle did himself, only most of the time he hid them better and Doyle respected him for that.
Having finally come to the end of his baleful mutterings, Bodie lapsed Into an uncomfortable and unwilling silence, over-conscious of Doyle's warmth down his left side, of the occasional brush of an arm or leg sending his flesh into a helpless flurry of goosebumps. Longing to move away, certain that Doyle must be aware of his awareness, he dared not budge for fear of being too obvious and sat, too rigidly still to be natural, listening to Doyle's whispered commentary on what little he could see through the carefully arranged peephole overlooking the flat they were here to observe above the shops on the far side of the street.
When it was his turn to take over he was almost ostentatious about avoiding Doyle's touch, so sure had he become that Doyle must be able to read every wanton thought that had crept, half-hidden, into his fertile brain.
Doyle stretched his spine wordlessly, setting Bodie's responsively prickling along its length, and rummaged in the tool-box for the flask and cold pasty he'd had the forethought to bring along with him.
"Coffee?" Bodie sniffed ecstatically, lust temporarily abandoned for more important appetites. "Mate, you're brilliant. Why didn't I think of that?"
"'cause you're thick," Doyle told him, happily slurping.
Bodie's eye swivelled from the eyepiece to survey him loftily before returning to its task. "Well, where's mine, then?"
"You didn't bring any. You said so."
"We're partners. We share, don't we?" Bodie was hurt. "I'll bring some tomorrow," he promised rashly.
Doyle peered out of the flap behind him at the sky.
"Snowing?" Bodie asked gloomily.
"No. I was just trying to see if there was a pig flying past." He handed the replenished plastic cup to Bodie, mentally resolving not to rely on him for tomorrow's supply but to bring it himself and be sure of it.
Bodie put his lips to the spot where Doyle's had been only seconds before. The pit of his stomach lurched, aching. He drank quickly, gulping, burning his tongue and refused Doyle's offer to share the pasty bite and bite about.
The afternoon was very quiet.
Four thousand winters, thought Bodie. Far, far too long.
It was a relief to crawl out into the raw December night, stiff with cold and tension, when their relief radioed their arrival in the area Just as the shops were closing.
Good King Wenceslas looked out On the feast of Stephen
"Who was it here overnight?" Bodie asked as they approached the tiny tent just before dawn the next morning. Having at last fallen into a restless doze only a few short hours ago he was not at his best and brightest this morning.
"Lucas and Mac."
"Bet they were bloody frozen," Bodie said with satisfaction.
"You'd lose. They were using the van-parked it over there." Doyle indicated a spot which during the day had been occupied by a solid phalanx of Christmas trees over-flowing from a near-by florist's.
"Lucky buggers," Bodie moaned. "Won't be nearly so much fun thinking about 'em tonight when I'm all tucked up snuggy-buns 'n toasty warm."
"You know something," Doyle said with an air of discovery, "you're a rotten bastard."
Bodie grinned acknowledgement, smile fading as he cast a look up at the sky before committing himself to another day of painful proximity. "Just look at those clouds. If that's not snow on the way then I'm a Dutchman."
Doyle did not need to look, the leaden light telling its own story. "Come on then, Hans, come and stick your finger in the dyke with me," he said, vanishing into the dim depths once more.
Some people never learn.
Eyes again on the view (brown velvet this time) Bodie found himself at the bottom of the shallow hole for a second time.
Mournfully he picked himself up, disdaining the friendly hand and removing the offending object adhering to his left shoe with a revolted expression and a handy piece of broken slate.
"It's not that I mind people enjoying the fruits of love," he told the sniggering Doyle, "just that I wish they wouldn't throw the skins away where I want to sit down."
"Where's the coffee then?" Doyle asked when the hours had crawled by to lunchtime.
Bodie looked around guiltily. "Forgot it. Sorry. I'll go to the shop and buy us a can of coke, shall I?"
"In this weather I want a hot drink," Doyle told him firmly.
"If we had one of those brassieres like proper workmen I could boil it up for you."
Doyle afforded the witticism a groan and reached for his thermos flask.
"I brought two pies today," he said, offering one.
Bodie took it and ate without speaking, eyes fixed on the windows where there was still nothing and no one to be seen
"They've gone, you know," he said. "We're sitting here like a pair of chumps staring at an empty flat. They've gone back to the old country for their Christmas holidays. Oh shit!"
"What's the matter?" Doyle leaned forward, grabbing for the camera. "What's happening? Where?"
"It's snowing," Bodie informed him. Then, as he put the camera down with a disgusted glare: "Come on then, start taking your pretty piccies. London in the slush. You'll make a fortune floggin' those to Australian tourists next summer.
Nudging his arm ungently, Doyle said: "Coffee? Or would you rather go on insulting me?"
"I'll have coffee," Bodie elected, reserving the right to be as insulting as he liked in the privacy of his own head. Better that than some of the things he'd been planning to do to Doyle recently.
By late afternoon when they left their hideaway the snow was settling, turning the unromantic street into a country of fantasy, cold and remote. Oddly quiet.
"'Deep'n crisp'n even'," Bodie quoted, following in his partner's footsteps with meticulous precision. "You always were a heated little sod. Should be over in Forest Gate though, shouldn't we, not Camberwell."
"Wish you were under the fountain," Doyle retorted, quickening his pace.
Deck the falls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la la la la la
Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la la la la la
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa la la la
Next morning Bodie was bearing a plastic carrier bag and the sort of held-in smirk that made Doyle instantly suspicious.
"What've you got in there?" he demanded.
Bodie snatched it back from the questing hand. "Never you mind. You'll find out soon enough."
"You've remembered some lunch," Doyle said, astounded. The guilty look reassured him that life had not taken this sudden, startling turn for the better.
"Er... no," Bodie said unnecessarily.
Eyes glued to the binoculars he became aware of stealthy movement behind him, the rustle of plastic.
"What are you up to back there?"
A large hand caught his turning head and held it firmly averted. "You keep your eyes on the job, mate. Never you mind what I'm up to."
Unable to press the point while keeping the flat under surveillance, Doyle bided his time. When he turned to hand over- "Tada!" Bodie sang the notes with a flourish that nearly took Doyle's eye
Out-the one the holly hanging overhead had missed.
"Couldn't have got a bigger bunch, could you?" Doyle said plaintively, ducking to avoid tangling his hair among its prickly leaves.
"Not in here," Bodie replied with some truth, taking over the watch.
"And where's the mistletoe then?"
Sweetness honeyed Doyle's tone, panicking Bodie. It wasn't that he hadn't thought about it, just that he had this yellow streak all the way down to his heels.
"...be a waste..." muttered Bodie, knuckles white as he adjusted the focus on the binoculars.
Doyle stared at him for a long time but said nothing.
At lunch time he told Bodie to help himself first to coffee, flicking little glances out of the corner of his eye at him while he drank and handing the glasses over speedily once the last drop had been finished. Attention caught, Bodie did his best not to stare furtively but act naturally. All the same, his eyes kept sliding that way.
Doyle filled the cup, turned it with deliberation and set his mouth to the side Bodie had drunk from, gazing on Bodie all the while.
Mortified, Bodie wanted to die.
The little toad knew and was teasing him with it.
Damn him! Oh, damn him!
"'tis the season to be jolly'," carolled Doyle, "Fa la la la la... Don we now our gay apparel, Fa la la..."
"Oh, shut your face!" his partner snarled.
Goodwill seemed about to take a nosedive.
Here we come a wassailing among the leaves so green
Here we come a wassailing so fair to be seen
Love and joy cam to you and to you your wassail too
"Bloody snowing again, Bodie said during the following morning. Armed truce best described the atmosphere between them since he'd taken out his fright and subsequent bad temper on his partner for the whole of the previous afternoon. Doyle's scowl had eventually taken on and outmatched Bodie's brooding anger, neither man prepared to be the first to give in and behave in a civilised manner.
"No, is it?" Doyle marvelled.
Bodie gritted his teeth and breathed heavily out through his nose. No one he'd ever known could be as irritating as Doyle could when he set his mind to it. Maddening. Aggravating. Infuriating. And that was only on his good days...
Still, to be fair, it must be off-putting to realise your partner'd started fancying you something chronic. Couldn't blame him for getting the wind up. Only for teasing, for not understanding how serious it was; how much it hurt.
He maintained an icy quiet until lunchtime when he produced his olive
"Oy! That's my thermos you've got there," Doyle said, ears pricked.
"Yeah. Thought it was time I made a small contribution, Bodie said awkwardly, handing the spiked coffee over.
"What? Oh, very nice." Doyle mellowed visibly. "Pinch this from Cowley, did you? Cor!" he drained the last drop. "Warms the cockles of yer 'eart, that does."
"Want some more?" Bodie held up the hip flask. "Plenty here if you do."
"Better not. Warmed cockles is one thing, drunk in charge of a G.P.O. tent is just not on. Save it for knocking-off time."
"Bought you a mince pie too," Bodie offered. "Home made."
"By your own fair hand? Never knew you could cook, sunshine."
"Strictly Cordon Charred, that's me. Nah, get 'em at the deli down the road. Mrs Finkelbaum makes 'em every year. Come on, give me those while you're eating."
Alive to everything Doyle did these days Bodie could have wished he wouldn't chew quite so close to his ear. Intimacy was one thing; personal bodily functions another.
Inexplicably cheered though by the chomping jaws, Bodie's gaze roved over the blank windows and immovable door with renewed liveliness but little expectancy.
Having shared the last mince pie 'and, drained the rest of Bodie's hip flask just before finishing their stint for the day, Bodie felt confident enough to ask:
"You coming out with the mob tonight, Ray?"
Various celebrations were held in and around C15 over the Christmas period; by far the most popular with the male members of staff was the unofficial annual pub crawl-merriment and mayhem that stopped just short of irresponsibility. One tiny step over that invisible line and the Cow had a say in the matter.
"Why not?" Doyle replied equably. "After a week of doing nothing all day it'll be a change to see some action-even if it's only seeing you get safe home."
"I can drink you under the table any day of the week, mate."
"True," Doyle agreed sadly. "Lucky that some of us know our limitations, innit!"
"Never found I have any," Bodie lied cheerfully.
It was a good evening. The best yet.
Mellowed and at peace even within himself, Bodie let himself into his flat soon after midnight, humming tunelessly but happily:
"'Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too...'"
In the bleak mid-winter frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Bodie, woken in the frozen pre-dawn by the extreme cold, was surprised to find his duvet still drawn cosily up about his ears, and shivered his way across the carpet to close his bedroom window and switch his central heating on ahead of its programmed time.
Thermal undies today, old son, if you know what's good for you. Wonder if Doyle's got anything warm to wear? Probably put that ruddy tartan scarf round his neck and keep complaining about heat-stroke.
But for a wonder Doyle was feeling the cold too.
"'s not only the frosty wind making moan," Bodie told him eventually. "OK, so it's cold enough to freeze hell but it won't make it any warmer if you keep grumbling about it. Put some underwear on next time. You'll be surprised."
"What d'you mean?" Doyle demanded, head turning from the binoculars long enough to survey Bodie from head to foot. "I've got red flannelette on under this lot and I'm still bloody frozen."
"Thought you were looking fatter than usual," Bodie said with satisfaction. Ignoring this sally Doyle said dolefully: "Feel as though there's a cold shower all down me back."
Shuddering at the idea Bodie cast caution to the winds and crept closer to his shaking partner, opening his parka to wrap it around Doyle's sides while offering the warmth of his own body down the chilly back. Doyle sighed and leaned into the comfort.
Nearly an hour went by.
"Red flannelette," Bodie said suddenly. "I'll bet that's itchy."
Doyle grinned to himself. "Yeah. 'tis." He wriggled.
Breath catching, Bodie said: "Come on, change-over time."
"I'm OK for a bit longer if you like."
"You only want to carry on having your back warmed. Come on, 's my turn." Bodie whipped his resisting partner away from the binoculars. As Doyle slid aside to let him take his place he added daringly: 'n it's my turn for the human hot water bottle too.
He didn't really think Doyle would oblige and nearly fell out of his skin as two, always surprising powerful arms crept about his waist, pulling him close.
Oh, that's nice. So very, very nice.
Oh shit! Had he said that aloud?
Breath held, he waited for sarcasm; rejection.
Half an hour later the slackened grip around his middle and heavy weight on his shoulder reinforced the message of the slowed but still forceful breathing down his neck.
Ridiculously content, Bodie let his sleeping love lie for the best part. of two hours, until a gentle flex of muscles told him it was time to put dreams aside and face waking reality.
"I've been asleep," Doyle announced unnecessarily.
"Like a baby," Bodie agreed. "Dribbled all down my neck, you have."
"Thought it needed washing," his partner told him, sounding somewhat less alert than a hibernating sloth. He stretched luxuriously, subtle changes of pressure up and down Bodie's supporting body.
He waited for the earth to stop moving.
"Nearly time to knock off. You gonna take over here?"
"What's the time?" Doyle struggled to look at his watch and said guiltily:
"Bloody hell, I've been asleep ages."
"I know." Martyrdom personified, Bodie sighed. "I don't mind."
Understatement of the century, that.
"Yet what I can I give him-Give my heart!"
See a mid the winter's snow
Born for us on Earth below
See the tender lamb appear
"Bit warmer today, innit," Doyle commented cheerfully, settling himself down into the huddled bunch of limbs that was fast becoming routine.
Inclined to sulk like a child whose favourite cuddly toy has been forcibly wrenched from his arms, Bodie agreed that, yes it was warmer, adding hopefully:
"But not much."
"Had this brilliant idea last night," Doyle confided, digging deep inside the toolbox. "How to keep warm today."
Yeah? Bodie brightened. He'd had a few ideas along those lines himself during the night. Could Doyle actually be-... Something was thrust into his hand, something hot and yielding to gentle pressure. "What the hell...?" It was a baked potato.
"Put it in your pocket, warm your hands on it. Then you can eat it for lunch."
Bodie just stared at his partner; sometimes Doyle had the most revolting notions.
But come lunchtime he was so hungry from the smell of the darned thing that he ate it, finding it surprisingly good even near-cold.
Then, just as the shops were beginning to close and the last of the weary Christmas shoppers were sloshing their way home through the ever-wetter streets, Bodie suddenly said:
"Bloody hell. Get that camera. Quick! "It's McGuire. He just looked out of the window. I'll swear it was him. Ye... there he is again. Get him?"
Yeah," Doyle said, clicking away with all the fervour of Lord Lichfield at a Royal Garden Party. "I think so."
"You'd better have, or the Old Man'll dock your Christmas bonus and mine as well," Bodie prophesied. "Look out, the door's opening."
"Soddin' 'ell," said Doyle with reverent eloquence. "That's Nolan with him. Doing their father Christmas 'turn by-the look of the load they're carrying. Nice little parcels to leave on a lot of unsuspecting doorsteps. Doing evil by stealth."
Bodie was active on the R/T, rapping out the information that would ensure the couple would be under constant surveillance until they could be caught red-handed. Neither he nor Doyle could move out under their very noses just in case they were subsequently spotted following them and panicked the men into premature and fatal action, and to move in on them too soon could be equally fatal. Also, those bags could be merely what they seemed: innocent decoys while the real action took place elsewhere. It wouldn't be the first time C15 had had egg on its face
Grinning from ear to ear Doyle flung out an arm, barely missing the swinging holly, and recited:
"'See amid the winter's slush, Hidden in the Christmas rush, See the terrorist appears, Waited for bloody years'."
"Very nice, Doyle," the Cow's voice came drily from the still-open R/T.
"Can we come back to HQ now, sir?" Bodie pleaded. "It's ruddy freezing out here."
"No, Bodie, you wait there in case anything goes wrong or there's anyone else hidden away in that flat we should know about. Alpha out."
Closing his mouth over the protest his boss had cut into with the unerring expertise of one who had known agent 3.7 for some years, Bodie looked glumly at Doyle, barely visible now except as a palish blob beside him.
"He'll 'ave us 'ere all night just for the 'ell of it," Doyle agreed.
Bodie came to a decision. "Give us that thermos, I'll go and get it filled up at that café along the street. It's still open.
He returned with coffee and two toasted bacon sandwiches. Bodie stared at his, pretended it was Doyle and ate it with an expression of foolish ecstasy; then he poured coffee and raised it to his lips.
"You're a very sexy eater," Doyle said suddenly, startling him so that most of the coffee went down his neck instead of into his mouth. He choked.
"Wha-what did you say?" he asked weakly. Had Doyle somehow known what he was thinking? "Oh, damn!"
"Spilled coffee all down me neck. Bugger it," he scrabbled about, more coffee spilling over his fingers. "Can't find my handkerchief under all these bloody clothes." he explained in answer to Doyle's repeated question.
"Useless idiot," Doyle told him with rough affection. "Cummere!" And before Bodie knew what was happening his poloneck was pulled firmly aside and Doyle's tongue began lapping in long, lingering, imperious swathes over his chin and down his neck, destroying him
"Oy!" He was being shaken and patted soothin9ly both at the same time. "Shut up, will you! Keep making that noise and. you'll have half the population coming in to see if they can join in the orgy."
"What noise?" Bodie said, confused.
"Like that, do you? Having your neck licked."
'Like' it? Did he 'like' bliss?
"Yeah. 'S nice"
"Good. I'll do it again then."
And Doyle proceeded to do just that, the soup filling Bodie's bones refusing to cooperate and let him push his partner off as he knew he should.
Doyle was right, someone was making a noise, a low moaning growl of helpless pleasure. With a huge effort, he stopped. He peered into the darkness, trying to see Doyle's face.
A finger came up to his lips.
"Don't," Doyle begged. Bodie would have said his tone was humble, if he had deemed that to be possible. "Know I shouldn't have done it, not here. Not now. Meant to wait. I'm sorry."
"What?" Bodie's brain was still in neutral, refusing to assimilate events.
"It is what you want, isn't it?" Doyle said anxiously. "Haven't been reading you wrong, have I? Was so sure you wanted it too, but then the other day, when I started trying to show you it was OK by me, you backed off. Told myself you were scared. Knew I was, you see. But..."
Doyle, normally a smooth talker second only to Bodie himself, faltered into unnatural silence...
It was broken by the R/T. With a small shock, Bodie realised it was the third time he'd heard it. He thumbed it, hand shaking.
"3.7, 4.5, you're needed. Trafalgar Square. On the double!"
Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely love divine
Love came down at Christmas
What with one excitement after another it was almost dawn when they finally left HQ, ordered to go home and go to bed. For once, Bodie had every intention of following orders to the letter, provided he hadn't been dreaming the previous evening.
They'd come in Doyle's car and made for it together through the drizzle that was fast removing the last Vestiges of snow. Key in the lock, Doyle paused and looked over the rain-spotted roof.
"You want to go back to your place?"
The car park was ill lit at the best of times and Bodie couldn't read his partner's face at all.
"Yeah," he agreed guardedly. Then, in a sudden burst of recklessness he added: "That is if you're coming in with me, of course. Sleeping with me," he said, wanting no misunderstanding.
Even in the half light he could see Doyle's shoulders relax.
"So I wasn't wrong," he said, soft as a purr.
"Absolutely one hundred percent correct," Bodie confirmed. "Or if you weren't I'll set you right about the bits you missed."
He caught the gleam of eyes, quickly veiled. "I'll look forward to that," Doyle said, getting his door open and reaching over to let Bodie in.
Sliding into the passenger seat Bodie wished desperately they were somewhere more private than the C15 car park, but this was unquestionably not the time or place to demonstrate the things he'd been brooding over for so long. He decided on a compromise. It was Christmas after all. No one could fault him for singing carols, could they! With a fine disregard for the earliness of the hour he burst into melody as Doyle set the car moving.
"'Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine...
"That's all very well," Doyle said when Bodie had sung all he knew (about half a verse and la-la the rest), "but if you really want to sing carols I can think of a much more appropriate one than that." And he too began to sing.
Bodie recognised the fine old favourite after the first two notes and joyously raised his voice also, knowing that everything was undoubtedly, indubitably and perfectly all right.
Oh Come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
-- THE END --