Loosening Up


Party Spirit series #3: After "Stakeout"

It was about half an hour later I started to shake.

Couldn't hide it, even though I tried. Saw the Cow glaring at me and even that didn't have any effect. Knew I'd have to ride it out then. Felt Bodie move closer to me and wondered which of us he was trying to comfort. Nice to have him near, though, whichever it was.

's not often you look annihilation in the face quite so cold-bloodedly.

Became uncomfortably aware of the sour smell of my own sweat and closed my eyes, longing for a hot shower and food in my empty, aching gut. I hate debriefing sessions at the best of times.

It was over in the end and Bodie and I were free to go, the two days freedom we were supposed to be enjoying already short six precious hours.

As we went downstairs he said: "Christ, but I'm hungry. How about you?"

"Starving," I agreed. I'd been helping Val dish up dinner when Cowley's call for us to get back on duty status ten minutes ago had broken up what promised to be a beautiful evening. Food'd be stone cold by now, matching the look on her face that had told me this was the end of yet another relationship. Haven't found a girl yet who'll put up with the hours I work for more than two or three months--Val had lasted five weeks and two days.

"You got any grub in?" I asked in afterthought. There wouldn't be anywhere open this time of night, that was for sure. Arms folded over my stomach, I was shivering now from the raw chill of the night as well as delayed panic.

"No. Was going to stay over at Sophie's for a couple of days but I've been given the push and told to leave her alone." He pulled a face. "And I turned the central heating off at my flat this morning--the place'll be like a morgue by now."

"Better come back with me then. I've got some frozen pizzas we can have."

Brightening visibly, he rubbed his hands. "You're on, mate. Get in and drive, I'll be right behind you.+

I opened some plonk while we were waiting for the pizzas to cook. Hadn't got any beer in and I felt the need for a drink.

"Help yourself and don't let the grub burn. I'm going to have a shower."

"Don't be too long," he yelled after me, "or you might just find your supper's been eaten."

Felt a little better when I'd finished showering; the pit of my stomach was still an aching void but I reckoned food would fix that, even thought the sensation wasn't precisely hunger. Never have been able to work out just how it is fright affects me--I do know it helps burying yourself deep in a warm, willing female body, but only at the time; afterwards, depression always sets in and a feeling of guilt at using her like that, just as a way to get rid of the horrors. Always have this feeling she must be able to tell it couldn't really have mattered less to me who I was fucking, that if anyone'd stopped me and asked my her name I probably wouldn't've been able to tell them anything about her except that she was moist and warm and filled up the empty space inside me.

Caught myself staring with vague intensity into a steamed-up mirror, a towel clutched comfortingly against my belly and felt more than a little foolish. Hurried to finish drying and shoved a bathrobe on over pyjama trousers. No point in getting dressed again with only Bodie around.

When I arrived in the kitchen I was met with his most charming smile. Instantly suspicious, I glared about me.

"That bottle was still half full when I left," I told him pointedly.

"'s OK, you've got two more. I checked." He handed me one of them--opened. "There you are. You look like you need it."

Possibly--but there was no need for him to say so. Besides, he wasn't looking too brilliant himself. I refrained from telling him the bags under his eyes were more like cabin trunks and grabbed a quick couple of glasses to catch up.

He half-threw a pizza my way and got stuck into his own without waiting for me to offer him a knife or fork. Was faintly surprised he'd bothered with a plate, the way he was wolfing it down. I followed him into the sitting room, acidly informing him I'd be grateful if he'd watch what he was doing and not slop cheese and tomato all over my armchair, slumping back in it like that while he ate.

There was a silence then for a few minutes, except for chomping jaws, punctuated by brief interludes of equally noisy drinking.


I held up the as-yet-unopened third bottle in silent enquiry and received a fervent nod and one of his genuine, 14-carat smiles when I promptly applied the corkscrew. So far we'd both been gulping it down as if it was tapwater but I was still uptight; wanted to get drunk; needed to. When I'd filled our glasses a sixth time I went and got a couple more bottles from my small stock of good stuff, which was all I had left now.

"Might help us loosen up," I said in response to his look, parking them on the coffee table beside him and myself back on the sofa. "Dunno about you but I'm still holding my breath."

"Yeah. Shan't be sorry when my heart slows down a bit either," he agreed, one of those funny eyebrows shooting around the way they do sometimes. "If I never get that close to an atom bomb again it'll be too soon. I'm surprised me hands're steady enough to get the food into me mouth and not go stuffing it in me lug'ole instead."

I'd had a few near-misses myself. I took a huge mouthful and said around the edges of it: "Fright makes you hungry too, does it?"

One of the things I like about Bodie is he doesn't try and kid you he's never afraid. "Expend a lot of nervous energy when you're scared," he said thickly, tidying up a dribble of topping from his chin with a capable fingertip. "Besides, all I've had to eat since breakfast is a sandwich and two cans of coke and I don't know about you, but I'm a growing lad." He had his beady eyes on my pizza. "You going to finish that?"

"Yes!" Hurriedly shifted my plate out of his reach. "Well, most of it, anyway. I'll let you know if there's any going spare."

"You do that." Another glass of plonk went down and he emptied the third bottle. Good claret the next one would be and neither of us would care. I didn't consider it a waste as I drew both corks in quick succession; if it made me feel better it was money well spent.

"Just letting it breathe a bit," I explained. No point in treating it like rubbish even if we were too far gone to appreciate its merits.

He swallowed the last of his grub, eyed what I had left hungrily but picked up his glass instead. "You do realise I'm already too drunk to drive, don't you!"

"That's all right; stay the night," I offered without thinking; I ignored the small, involuntary thump my heart gave as I realised what I'd said.

Couldn't help remembering what we'd done, could I. Even though we'd never talked about it, never exchanged a conscious look, always behaved as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened between us. I couldn't forget it--and I was willing to bet he couldn't either.

Was afraid to look at him now in case he could read what I was thinking of; was even more afraid not to in case I missed something I ought to see. Learnt early on not to let Bodie get the upper hand because he never lets you forget it.

"Sounds like an offer I can't refuse," he said, equally careless. "You're on, mate. I'm stoppin'!" He stuck his lips out at me as he took another drink, half defiantly, as if he expected some kind of comment.

"OK." I was off-hand about it. Casual. Probably too casual as I tried to decide whether or not to suggest it had better be back to the sofa for him this time. Might look too pointed if I did. On the other hand, seeing what had happened the only two times we'd actually shared a bed it might look as though I had an ulterior motive in getting him in with me if I didn't.

Suddenly wasn't hungry any more; pushed my plate his way. "Here you are, hollow-legs. Have it if you want it."

His eyes lit up like a kid's. "Ta, mate. You sure?"

"Wouldn't offer if I wasn't," I said tartly, snitching the new bottle away from his grasp.

Look, I told myself, the way we're both knocking back this stuff we could share a bed with Bo Derek and not notice. Incapable, that's what we'll be, both of us, so no point in getting all optimistic.

Was I optimistic? I didn't know. Still had a lot of very ambivalent thoughts about those two nights--well, not the first one, perhaps, as I didn't exactly blame myself for that time; didn't blame Bodie either; it'd just sort of happened before either of us knew what we were doing. But that last time, that had been all my doing, wanting to comfort him, banish the lost, aching look and the horror lurking behind his eyes. God knows what that bastard Krivas had done to Bodie's girl but it gave the poor devil the shakes just to remember it.

Takes a hell of a lot to give my partner the shakes.

I took another pull at my drink and slid a look his way. He was chewing slower now, the food maybe even touching the sides on the way down, eyes closed with a fatuous expression of bliss. Hard to believe he was the same man who'd lain and cried in my arms.

Very comforting, sex can be. There wasn't anything I could say or do that'd bring his girl back for him, but at least I'd shown him I cared enough to want him to feel good.

He made it good for me, too. Very generous, is Bodie.

But just like the first time we hadn't spoken about it--then or since.

's always surprised me he never made anything of what happened after the Christmas party. Kept expecting it--that either he'd start in with the innuendos or else...wasn't sure what, sort of distance himself somehow, draw away from me, but he hadn't; he'd gone on behaving just as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, no different at all.

Bloody good thing, too. Cowley'll separate partners if you give him a bloody good reason to, but you have to go into details, chapter and verse, as to why you want out, and it'd better not be something he considers trivial or avoidable. Just once or twice I'd tried to picture explaining that we were having problems because in the middle of one night Bodie and I had woken up and taken a fancy to each other.

Doesn't bear contemplating, does it.

"...too late for the telly."

Bodie's voice broke into my reverie, making me jump about a mile and spill my wine.

He said: "Christ, your nerves are shot to hell, aren't they!"

Sympathetic. Unmocking.

My throat was tight as I said: "Just as well I'd changed for the night." I watched beige towelling slowly absorb crimson liquid and offered it a quiet, "Cheers!", before I asked Bodie what he'd said.

"Just that I suppose it's too late for there to be anything on the telly now."

"Too late?" I thought about it. "Yeah, must be. Didn't get away from HQ till gone three, did we!"

"Didn't we?" Since we were off duty he was as vague about the actual time as I was. We had nothing to get up for unless something fresh broke out and we were called in again, but I reckoned even Cowley ought to recognise our need for rest after what we'd been through tonight. Can't think why I have this incurable optimistic streak.

"Pity, that. Could just fancy sitting here watching something mindless on the box, couldn't you?"

It certainly wasn't a bad way to unwind. Not as good as a bird, of course, but sometimes it had to do as a very poor substitute.

"Maybe we ought to get one of those video things," I suggested. "Can watch what you want when you want to then. You can hire tapes of films as well. Even get the odd blue movie to watch, if that's what takes your fancy."

"Get that disgustin' smirk off your face," he said shortly.

If it was meant as a reprimand it'd've been more effective if he hadn't been wearing a grin that practically split his head in half.

"It's quite a thought, though. If you bought yourself a video I wouldn't have to put up with you moaning every time you have to miss the Muppets, would I!"

"Well, I like the Muppets." He was on the defensive at once.

"Know that, don't I--the number of times I've 'ad to listen to you rabbitin' on about it. Listen, mate," I took another long swallow and fixed him with a piercing eye over the rim of my glass, "tomorrow, you go out'n fix yourself up with a video'n then you record the flamin' Muppets and watch them all night if you want to. How about that?"

He shovelled in the last piece of pizza and started licking his fingers clean while he chewed it--revolting sight--eyeing me all the while in a considering kind of way.

"You don't fool me, you know, Doyle. All this altruism'n thought for others--why don't you get yourself a video, Bodie, do yourself a favour--what you really mean is you want one to play with but you're too tight-fisted to buy one yourself."

"You guessed," I said, disappointed. "Oh well, it was worth a try."

"You are." He nodded with an air of resigned patience.

"I'm what?"

"Trying. Very trying."

Poised in midswallow I stared at him.

"Annoy you, do I?" I enquired affably.

"Like no one else," he agreed. "Look at you tonight, losing your rag and making an exhibition of yourself just because some bloke chooses to be offensive about your bowling ability."

I scowled. "It was a perfectly good shot'n he knew it as well as I did. He just wanted a fight."

"Got one as I recall," Bodie commented. "Vicious little brute, you are, when you get going."

Well, he'd held me down forcibly enough to pervent my having it out with that surly bastard the first time; suddenly remembered those broad, blunt fingers pulling at me, clutching my thigh and stroking at my neck.

I shivered.

Felt the sofa cushions move under me as Bodie came to sit beside me, his arm comforting and heavy over my shoulders. "I was only teasing, mate. Stupid bugger got what he deserved. Should've picked someone his own size!"

Protective isn't in it on occasions. There've been times I've felt like killing him for it.

This wasn't one of them.

Was shivering again. Leant forward and put my glass down on the table before I had an accident with it.

"Feeling bad still?" he asked quietly.

Didn't know what to say. If I said no I'd be lying and Bodie wouldn't believe me anyway, but if I said yes I'd be less than honest because the way I was shaking now had nothing to do with the stresses we'd endured earlier on.

Mumbled something fatuous about being OK in a minute and he tightened his arm, pulling me into him so that my nose was buried under the white stripe on his cardigan collar.

"That tickles!" I rubbed my nose on his chest, provoking a strong protest and a demand to know why I didn't use my handkerchief.

"'aven't got one." I shiffed deliberately, then lifted the hem of my robe to scrub my itching snotterbox with that.

"Revolting little toad," he said, getting even more affectionate with my right shoulder.

Was nothing going to shift him, I wondered.

Decided to call his bluff. Let my head sag until it rested against his and then relaxed into the hug.

It felt good. A bit too good maybe.

And there we sat, like Darby and Joan, not saying a word for all of ten minutes.

At the end of that time I didn't feel any better but I did feel exceedingly content. Was quite sorry when he moved, taking his arm away so he could stretch acrosss the table for his wine.

"'s good, this!"

"Should be--it cost enough."

"What? Oh, the wine! Want some more, do you?"

"Yeah. Wanna get smashed." The hollow sensation was back, making me feel morose and unsettled.

That smudged-in eyebrow quirked my way and then he grinned companionably. "Not a bad idea. Think I'm nicely on the way already."

"You?" I scoffed. "Sober as a bleedin' judge, you are."

"I wouldn't bet on it, sunshine. Not the way you hate to lose your money."

I'll admit I'm not a natural gambler like he is, but the way he said that was plain insulting. Kept my gaze on him while I poured myself some more wine, giving myself time to think up a suitably snide riposte.

He was looking very Bodieish; arrogant and laidback, taking my inspection quite quite calmly as if it was only right and proper people should stare at him that way. I didn't care for the cardigan he was wearing though, think the girl-friend must have given it to him because it isn't his usual sort of style. The patterned shirt was him, all right, and the ruddy poloneck .

"D'you have some sort of skin fetish?" I asked him pettishly, tucking a finger down into the roll-neck and pulling it away to peer inside.

He squirmed and lifted his shoulder, trapping my hand. "Don't. That tickles. What d'you mean, a skin fetish?"

"The way you never let anyone see any of yours. Cover yourself up like some Victorian maiden lady who's terrified men'll go mad with lust if she lets any of 'em get so much as a glimpse of her ankles."

He dropped his eyelids at me. "'s not that unreasonable, is it? After all, I don't know that I want men going mad with lust for me. Could be embarrassing. Go on, get your fingers out of me collar."

I wasn't letting him off the hook that lightly. As I slid my hand away I said: "I reckon you've got some kind of hang-up about your body, hiding it all the time, the way you do."

"I do not hide it..."

"Yes, you do. Layer upon layer of cloth all up to your neck. I'l bet you've even got a chilpruf vest on under that lot, as well."

"Red flannel longjohns actually, with a button-down flap at the back."

"Dead kinky," I approved. "Like to 'ave a look at them, I would."

The eyelids drooped even further and his lips curled into a smile. "You be a good boy then, and maybe I'll take you with me when I go to the launderette next time."

I took another sip of wine and chewed on a dubious lower lip. "Not sure I can take that much excitement, mate."

He stretched, complacent as a cat, and leant back with his hands linked behind his head. "High living, sunshine, there's nothing to beat it. Course, it's not really your scene, I suppose, sophistication'n savoir faire not being your strong suit."

I nodded a sad confirmation, waited until he sat up again to drink and had his attention fully on the wine he was busily tipping down his gullet, then slid a hand between him and the sofa back to make a minute inspection of his bum.

There was a minor volcanic eruption.

"Will you stop spraying my carpet with that claret, you ungrateful bugger!" I requested severely. "If you really want to wash it, drink some 1001 and do the job properly."

He stopped choking long enough to splutter out: "Stop groping me then."

Bitterly offended, I was. Groping him indeed! As if I would!

"I was only trying to feel where the buttons on the flap were," I informed him with due dignity.

"Well, don't bother." He reached his hand back and grabbed my wrist; got strong fingers, he has, could feel 'em bruising me.

"Knew you 'ad a 'ang-up about your body," I said smugly.

"Haven't." He leant back again, staying cool.

"Ah, easy to say that." Topped my glass up and wriggled back into the corner of the sofa, tucking my legs up in front of me. "Look at you now, all twitchy just 'cause we're talking about it."

"Am not twitchy."

"Yes, you are. You've gone all pink'n selfconscious." Had another long swallow, watching him over the glass, not taking my eyes off him, hoping he'd rise. Hoped he'd make it soon, because I wasn't going to be able to keep a straight face very much longer.

Sooner than I expected even he moved, but not, as I expected, to sit modestly up and concentrate on drinking; instead, he simply raised an eyebrow in lazy challenge and then arched his back with the sexiest little wriggle I've ever seen.

Felt my jaw dropping; what he did next sent it rocketing down until it rested on my chest.

Still sipping away at my claret from time to time, he slid his free hand down his front, opening cardigan buttons with languid flicks of finger and thumb, pushing it carefully aside when the last one had been dealt with; then, eyes burning into my face as he made sure I was not missing a thing, the powerful hand roamed over his stomach, caressing purposefully, before moving down to the juncture of hip and thigh where it paused, its only movement a steady brushing of his thumb against the visibly enlarged swelling at his crotch.

Sexy bastard, blatantly touching himself up like that; my eyes widened as I watched him; knew very well I was talking through my hat when I tried to irritate him by accusing him of having a hang-up, but I didn't expect him to be quite so flagrantly immodest.

Took another hurried gulp of plonk. What was it I'd told myself not half an hour past--that we'd both be too drunk for sleeping together to be a problem? The way he was getting me turned on I was going to be in trouble before I could even get to the comparative privacy of the bed.

Couldn't stand it in the end; was so breathless I felt I was suffocationg and had tried to tug my collar away from my throat before I recalled I had no longer got one on.

Then I had to readjust myself inside my pyjamas because I'd got myself trapped in an ever-hardening twist against the seam and it was fast becoming painful.

Bodie's eyes followed my hand and the pointed tip of a sexy tongue flickered around his lips.

OK, Bodie, if that's what you want, you can have it.

Reckless isn't in it when I've enough alcohol inside me.

With slow deliberation I moved my hand until its position mirrored his and began to copy every tiny move he made as sensuously and voluptuously as I could.

Christ, but I was high--on booze and fear and the extra intoxication of abandoning oneself to the forbidden, thrusting aside all the unwritten rules of 'normal' behaviour.

His mouth parted; for one, awful moment I thought he was going to speak, say something that might shatter the mood and make us selfconscious, but it was only to smile--not one of his arrogant, cocky smirks or even the rather shy sort he gives you if you've done something he appreciates but hadn't really expected; no, this was a full-blooded, happy/delighted, glorious Bodie-particular, guaranteed to stun at sixty paces.

That finished me. From that point on he could have make me do anything he wanted. I'd never felt out of control in a sexual situation before and if it had been anyone else but Bodie I'd've lit out of there faster than light, scared half to death at what I might let happen to me, but over the eighteen or twenty months we'd known each other I'd developed a trust in my big, dependable partner that I'd never had in anyone since I realised, around the age of three, that it was stupid to rely on the promises anyone made you, least of all your parents.

Gulping with excitement I untied my pyjama belt just half a second behind him and parted the opening as he slid his zip down two or three inches, heart thudding into overdrive as our fingers disappeared beneath the cloth, lurching with disappointment as his reappeared once he'd adjusted himself comfortably within the restriction of his clothes. Then he moved from his sitting position to kneel up, facing me, and slowly began to unbutton his shirt and slide it off his shoulders, caressing himself sexily all the while and imitated in every interesting detail by his faithful shadow.

Yes, even the poloneck came off, revealing a broad, pale, near-hairless chest with neat, pale-brown nipples, expectantly peaked.

Stripped to the waist we knelt and faced each other, pausing before the next move; the look in his eye told me _he_ wasn't giving up and I certainly wasn't going to be the first to back down. It wasn't entirely pride or determination not to be beaten; it had a hell of a lot more to do with the fact that I was having a whole lot of fun.

Found him looking at me in a questioning way and wondered what he wanted; got my answer in the slow approach of his curled fingers towards my chest, hovering a hairsbreadth away until my tiny nod of consent.

He can be so gentle.

The backs of those fingers skimmed over me, leaving a wake of sensitised skin longing for their return and I offered my own caress in exchange, gaining a brief, almost shy upward flicker of his eyes from their absorption with my nipples.

We took our time, learning one another with detailed care and before long our hands undertook what our minds had long known they would do. Eyes locked, unable to look away even had I wanted to, my hand crept to the front of his body, to his opened waistband and inside it while his hand searched for me.

Kneeling upon a soft surface as we both were our balance was a little precarious, so I propped my left arm on his right shoulder, curling it around his neck and laying my head close to his; he copied me, holding me up while I supported him. I don't even remember pushing clothing out of our way but one or the other of us must have done it because its hampering folds were no longer there.

Afterwards, slumped in a tangled heap against the sofa back with him, I was suddenly, desperately tired, almost asleep; his hands cupped my face, turning it up so our eyes met.

Smiled at him sleepily.

"You're out on your feet, sunshine. Let's go to bed."

"What feet?" I mumbled. "Thought I was lying down."

"Dunno whether you're on your arse or your elbow," he said, a laugh in his voice. "Come on, stand up."

He hauled me upright, grabbing at my slipping pyjama trousers with one hand and his cords with the other; holding mine securely by the tie he wriggled out of his and abandoned them; then, having tied the cord for me he prodded me into movement, propelling me towards the bed.

I slept like a log.

He was up when I woke and I could hear him mangling 'Penny Lane' in the shower as I lay there trying to ignore the queasy sensation in my stomach and the dull ache behind my eyes. How come he was so bleedin' chirpy when I felt like something dragged home by the cat? Life just wasn't fair. I burrowed down deeper, shutting out a day I wasn't ready to face. Stupid bugger'd opened the curtains. I moaned to myself; what the hell had he wanted to go and do that for?

Curled up even tighter when I heard him come back but he didn't take the hint.

An intrusive finger tweaked the duvet from my feeble clutch and I could feel him peering at me.

"God, you look 'orrible, first thing."

"Don't 'ave to look, do you! Why don't you bugger off and leave me alone?"

"And sunny-natured to match your face," he told me, his tone admiring.

"Believe it!" I muttered, willing him to go away.

Felt a fingertip rest lightly between my brows. "You scowl like that'n you'll give yourself a headache."

I opened an eye and found him closer than I thought, kneeling beside the bed with his face only inches away.

"Is that how I got it?" I demanded with heavy sarcasm, "I must remember that," and I closed my lids again dismissively.

Felt the bed shake as he levered himself upright, heard his footsteps making for the door and breathed a sigh of relief he'd taken the hint.

Two minutes later he was back. I groaned--ostentatiously.

"Here, drink this!"

"Piss off, Bodie!"

Should've known it's not that easy to get rid of the persistent so and so.

"Sit up and drink this. Come on--before I pour it in the bed."

He would, too.

Snarling (to myself) I struggled upright and viewed the bubbling glass suspiciously.

"What is it?"

"What d'you think? Strychnine, of course."

"Just what I need," I conceded, taking the glass from him.

"You'll feel better in a minute. I did. I'm gonna make us some tea. OK?"

"OK," I confirmed. Anything to get rid of him.

But as the headache receded and I felt up to crawling to the shower, memory came properly back and I faced myself in the bathroom mirror with embarrassment and incipient panic.

It wasn't that I'd been so drunk I hadn't been able to recall what we'd done--the sense of lassitude that comes with satiety had been too strong to let me forget that, not to mention the warm feeling of closeness--but I had forgotten just how deliberately and blatantly we'd set about turning each other on and in the cold light of day it was difficult to believe I could behave like that.

Didn't want to leave the warm security of the shower.

But everything about him was so ordinary and everyday when I walked in to the kitchen, resisting the temptation to sidle in on tiptoe, that it was easy to be natural myself. I was so relieved I even felt up to eating some of the huge rack of toast he'd made.

Helping myself to a third slice I froze, hand in mid-air, when he suddenly said in a calm, placid voice: "Ray, d'you want to talk about it?"

Made myself move, buttering the toast and spooning marmalade onto it, quelling a rising sense of pure panic with a veneer of normality.


Wasn't true.

I did want to talk but I was too ruddy scared. We'd done OK up to now by keeping quiet. No point in buggering everything by a lot of soul-searching now.

Didn't look up.

Then he said casually: "Think I'll go round to Sophie's, take her some flowers. You never know your luck, she might just soften up enough to forgive me for running out on her yesterday evening."

"Good idea," I agreed, grateful to be let off so easily. "I'll try the same with Val."

As it turned out, we were both successful. Hope Bodie enjoyed the rest of his leave as much as I did mine. From the smug look on his face and the blue lines under his eyes next time I saw him, it looked as though it had been pretty good.

Business as usual.

We get along OK, my partner and I.

-- THE END --

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