Party Spirit series #2: After "Where the Jungle Ends"

's a funny thing, sex. Wish I understood it.

I mean, why the hell should I wake up one night'n find myself gazing at skinny, battered-faced Ray Doyle as though he was something the tooth-fairy had left lying there for me?

Broke all the rules that night, both of us. Our own, George Cowley's, society's... scared the hell out of me for a while. Thought I'd buggered up a good working relationship but we seemed to survive. Sometimes think we could survive almost anything so long as the two of us were in it together.

Must've been all that alcohol we'd drunk. That'n being used to dossing down with an accommmodating bird after a party. Well, makes sense, doesn't it? Dunno what else would've got me so bloody eager I was prepared to risk having Ray Doyle take me apart with his bare hands.

Had the nous to shut him up afterwards though, before he could say anything. Last thing we needed was a lot of agonising and soul-searching about what we'd done. It'd been good, bloody good, leave it at that and forget it.

Well, it seemed reasonable at the time.

Worked OK too--didn't make any difference to the way we got along; at work it was very much business as usual which was just as well all things considered or Cowley would've had something to say, particularly if he ever found out why.

Christ--what an 'orrible thought!

Out of working hours--well, just once I caught a twinkle in Ray's eye I couldn't account for any other way but it cound've been just my mind putting its own interpretation on a perfectly innocent look.

Tried not to think about it at all. Knew it'd be dangerous, dwelling on it. Make it too important, see. Trouble is he's such a sensual little sod. Bad for anyone's concentration, he is.

Had a lot of double dates that winter. Good fun, most of 'em. Those that weren't soon got the push. When they didn't drop us first for standing 'em up for the umpteenth time.

Took to ribbing each other a lot, camping around trying to get a rise. More than usual, I mean. Got up Cowley's nose no end so we did it twice as much.

Then we had that brush with my old mate Krivas.

Nearly got my fool self killed tackling the bastard on my own--but I didn't kill him the way I'd planned to all those years before. Think Cowley must've had a civilising influence on me after all.

And Ray.

The two of 'em laughed themselves sick when I staggered back into view after I'd finally got the cuffs on him. Felt sick myself but I wasn't laughing. Kept seeing Judy's face while I was bashing him half to death and I couldn't get her out of my mind again on the way home.

Ray must've seen there was something up because he insisted on coming home with me--checking I was OK. Doing his good partner act, I told myself. Nothing more. Mind you, I wasn't sorry to have a bit of moral support running the gauntlet from the car to my flat. Krivas'd done a pretty good job making sure I'd never wear any of those clothes again. Even had a split in me Y-fronts that hadn't been there that morning.

Never realised before what a comfortable sofa I had in that particular flat. Once I got sat down on it I didn't want to get up again. Might've been there still if Ray hadn't kept nagging at me, telling me I was bleeding all over the cushions.

Well, they were my cushions.

Until CI5 moved me on again.

I got up'n made for the bathroom; I was feeling every bruise, stiffening nicely. Ached all over. Not only physical. Judy's face was there again, the way it'd looked the last time I'd seen it.

He followed me, helped me strip off what was left of the clothes I'd gone to work in.

"So she was beautiful, your girl?"

He said it softly, undoing the fastening on my waistband for me because my fingers were swollen and clumsy, half the knuckles skinned.

Bloody uncanny, the way he reads my mind sometimes.

"Yes--no." I shrugged. What did it matter either way. I pushed his hands away. "Not when Krivas'd finished with her."

He didn't say anything. Just put his arms around me.

Hadn't cried since I was a kid. Wasn't going to now if I could help it. He let me go just in time; can be very sensitive, can our Ray. Got me under the shower where a few extra drops of wet wouldn't show and went off to rustle up some supper.

He didn't say much while we ate but I could feel him watching me. Made me a bit twitchy if you must know, but I didn't let on. He probably knew anyway.

By half past ten I'd had it, ready to drop. Felt about a hundred and two as I got up off that sofa and hobbled my way to the bedroom, Ray hovering like a broody hen, holding me up with an arm slung aroung my waist. Well, it did me no harm and he seemed to want to. I got my dressing gown off and chucked it vaguely in the direction of a chair; almost bit my tongue with the shock when he meekly picked it up and hung it on its peg behind the door. I was halfway into bed before I realised he was sitting down on the end of it taking his shoes off.

How the hell did he know I was dreading being left on my own?

I just stared at him, so grateful I didn't know what to say without sounding stupid. Ended up saying nothing; just lay there with my eyes shut feeling him staring at me even after he'd put the light out. Felt for his hand and held it rather hard.

"If he hadn't killed her I'd've had to do it for her sake."

Dunno where the words came from; hadn't meant to say them.

I added: "She'd never have lived--what he did to her before he shot her."

I didn't feel him move but his free arm was over me, holding tightly.

"Let it out, Bodie," he told me. "Let it out."

But I couldn't--not when it happened and not now. I could feel myself sort of tearing inside and it was hard to breathe except in long, shuddering gulps. Buried my face on his shoulder; noted vaguely it was wet but it wasn't important.

Lay like that for a long time, not thinking.

It's odd--you wouldn't expect rough, tough, belligerent Ray Doyle to be as gentle and caring as he was that night, cuddling me softly against him and making soothing little nonsense noises in my ear. His body is very comforting. Sexy as well.

Took me a while to realise I'd noticed that.

Yeah, I can be slow sometimes.

Pulled away when I finally caught on but he pulled me back. I could see his eyes gleaming in the darkness but not his expression. His hand floated over my face, brushed at my cheekbones before laying one finger over my lips, telling me to shut up.

And then he made love to me.

No other way to put what he did, however sloppy it sounds.

Wasn't sloppy--was beautiful. Right and beautiful and just what I needed.

Couldn't tell him so. Couldn't say a word. Knew I'd start snivelling if I did.

I drifted with it, letting it happen. Wanting it to happen. Making it good for him as well.

Like sliding into quicksand, I thought hazily. No way to fight it; no way to escape. Just got to let go. Let it take you down.

But you can't build on quicksand.

The inconsequential thought came with climax, laying melancholy through me, rippling out to my fingertips.

Clung on to Ray as I fell the last inch into sleep, too worn out to care about anything more. Had had enough for one day.

He was bright as a button next morning. Chirpy. Almost defying me to make any comment on what we'd done.

I could've hit him.

Ate a huge breakfast instead. Very soothing, stuffing your face with food. Ignored all his snide remarks about our comparative sizes.

One of these days, I promised myself as I swallowed my last mouthful of toast, I'd sit on his head for him, demonstrating the advantage of not being built like an animated pipe-cleaner. Could be fun at that, feeling him under me power. I restrained myself from leering like a pantomime villain at the thought.

He had the insufferable gall to check me over before he let me out of my own front door; making sure I was presentable, he said.

I looked him up and down and shook my head sadly.

"Offer you the contents of a well-stocked wardrobe and what do you choose? A tacky old T-shirt I used when I did a bit of decorating at a bird's flat, and a pair of jeans that got into the whites wash by mistake!"

Ruined three perfectly good shirts while going streaky, those had, besides shrinking enough to raise my voice a couple of octaves. I hadn't even bothered to press them and it showed.

He flicked my cheek.

"You should wear midnight blue," he said, batting his eyelashes at me shamelessly. "Match your eyes, that would." He paused, got the door open and framed himself in it, poised for flight. "Well, one of 'em, anyway. Next week it'll need to be sickly green and bilious yellow, of course!"

He was halfway to the car before I caught him.

-- THE END --
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