Beneath Your Station


Party Spirit series #20: After "It's Only a Beautiful Picture"

Christ! but the way he looked when I stuck my head in his car window: unshaven, dissolute...fucked out! I couldn't even look at him directly at first, couldn't identify my reaction either when I finally did; lust, yes, that was expected, my heart was hammering so loud with it I don't know why he couldn't hear it, but it took me a lot longer to see that I was also very, very angry. In fact it wasn't until after he almost let me get arrested along with Colonel Sangster's mob--which he seemed to think was funnier than Monty Python--and I got more furious than I'd any need or right to be that I realised I'd actually been mad at him all day.

He wasn't even apologetic afterwards, full of specious reasons why he didn't leap to my rescue right off but let them shove me in the back of a police car before he came and laid claim to me, but it all came down to his twisted sense of humour. Mine had left me; I had bruises on me bruises by that time through not being able to defend myself with the bleedin' handcuffs on, I was ready to throttle him and so livid I was almost incoherent. Partly I was still shaking from dealing with that foul brute of a dog and partly from wondering what the fuck he thought he was up to wavin' burnin' rags around in petrol fumes. He could've bloody killed himself, stupid sod, not to mention me as well, and there was no point in telling him so because he already knew it.

I was so angry I was dangerous and I had to hide it completely in case I buggered everything up; we had work to do, there'd be time to have it out with him when that was over...if I still wanted to.

Two days later I did still want to; knew he was bound to notice in the end, which he did. I'd got it all planned, of course, knew what I was going to say, how I was going to pick my hell!

Of all the places to start having an argument, stuck in a crowded underground train is one of the daftest. Standing nose to nose with total strangers while you try to bare your soul to a ratbag like Ray Doyle isn't a pastime I'd recommend to the easily embarrassed. It was a bad move on my part that had us travelling on the District line in the first place, his forbearance on the subject was aggravation number two. He didn't even swear when he realized I'd got us stranded out in the sticks without wheels and not a taxi to be had for love or money; he just stared around for a minute and then pointed.

"That way."

"What's that way?" I asked, falling in beside him.

"Underground station. Good job some of us know our London, innit!"

I ignored that one easily. Waiting twenty-five minutes for a train wasn't so good. Derailment further out, they said when we asked, there'd be one along soon. What they didn't say, of course, was it would be packed when it did arrive. Ray didn't even grumble, just got in, squeezed past the crowd milling round the doors, attached himself to one of the straps and stood there grinning at me. He's easy in his body, is Ray, all loose-limbed and 'look what I've got'. I've heard people accuse him of posing...suddenly I found I had another word for it, an uglier one: flaunting. That's what he was doing, showing off everything he's got so the world could admire it. The anger in me was stronger than ever. I leaned forward.

"Why don't you," I said viciously, "just take everything off, then they can all 'ave a proper look."

He turned, puzzled and half amused, took a good look at me and his face changed.

Yes, I thought, I'm serious, you little prick-tease, and you reckon you're in for trouble, don't you. Well, you could just be right about that. I've had nearly as much as I can take.

"What're you on about, Bodie?"

"Standing there, shoving your crotch in everyone's eyeballs like that. Not everyone's interested in what you've got, you know."

Mildly, he said, "I know. Never thought they were, did I."

"So give over then, for Christ's sake, you look like a Piccadilly tart. And stop looking at me like that in public, too."

"Looking at you like what?"

He pretended to sound surprised, at least it sounded put on to me. Maybe I'm not such a good judge as I always thought.

"All big eyes and wistful, like a bloody spaniel that's been kicked in the goolies."

He took a long breath. "Will you lower your voice! That old girl over there just glared at you."

"Let her glare. 'ope she enjoys it." I glowered round me giving everyone the benefit of my irritation. "You," I said, and my voice was carefully lowered, "are a soddin' little prick-tease."

"What?" His head came up at that, wide green eyes measuring me and finding me wanting.

"You heard."

"Yeah, I heard, and're 'avin' me on, aren't you," he said abruptly changing mood.


He stared at me some more, then he said, "No, you're not, are you. You bloody mean it."

"That's right. Show it off, don't you," I whispered fiercely, his curls tickling my cheek, "whenever you get the chance. Try'n get me goin'...give you a good laugh, does it, makin' a fool of me?"

He looked at his feet for a minute, eyes veiled from me, then he looked up. "No, I don't do that," he said simply. "I wouldn't do that to anyone, least of all to you."

"Christ! what a liar." I turned from him in disgust and he caught my arm, fingers bruising me through my cotton jacket.

"I said I don't do that, Bodie." I went to get hold of his hand to pull it away and he gripped harder than ever. "You bastard, listen to me!"

His voice had risen and I was suddenly acutely aware of the attention we were getting, the whole carriage seemed to be turned our way, papers lowered, books abandoned, knitting lying idle. I swept the place with a fierce stare, gratified to see all pairs of eyes save one hurriedly looking away. The exception was Doyle, of course, and he was bristling like an enraged Pekinese. He stuck his face close to mine and hissed, "You matter to me, you prick, and don't you bloody forget it."

The train began to slow down at a station, a couple of blokes pushed between us making for the door. "Got a bloody... Sorry, love!" I moved back to let a girl get to one of the vacated seats, "...funny way..." her friend changed places to join her, "...of showing it then," I hissed back.

He gestured about him. "Hardly the place for demonstrations of affection, is it!"

The train stopped with a jerk, precipitating me forward and onto him. For a brief second we were almost embracing. I wrenched myself away as though I'd been burned. Even my face was hot.

"Oh, you don't agree," he said, and sniggered.

I straightened myself, fists balling. "What are you grinning at?" I snarled, half ready to hit him there and then.

He sniggered again. "Well, I said that this is 'ardly the place for public demonstrations and you came shooting into my arms right on cue, didn't you."

A crowd of schoolkids got on, yelling at the top of their voices, scruffling about in the centre isle around us. Ray was grinning, a big teasing grin that made me angrier than ever, itching to smash the look off his face, pummel it into pulp. He was always there with the come-ons, handing out those little flirty looks, offering invitations...the bastard had been doing it for years and I'd had more than enough...

Hang about, Bodie, back up! Years? Yeah, he's been doing it for years and I've never minded before, so why now? Why all of a sudden can't I take being on the receiving end? Ray hasn't changed so that must mean you have, and if it's you...

Everything fell into place as I suddenly perceived what a wally I'd been, what all that panic had meant when I thought he was dead... Of all the odd places to realise just how emotionally involved you were with someone. Never fall in love on the underground, I told myself, beginning to laugh, you might marry beneath your station!

"You," I said, twisting a hand into his lapel to haul him closer, "are the most irritating, infuriating, aggravating little sod on this earth."

He appeared pleased. "That good?"

I shook him a bit, just for emphasis, and shot a mile in the air when something prodded me hard on the buttocks. I swung round and found a bald-headed old codger, ninety if he was a day with a head that nodded like a dog on a parcel shelf, holding his stick raised all ready to have another go.

"Now then," he said, "you just behave yourself, you young hooligan! There's too much of this mugging going on these days. Too much, d'you hear me! A good spell in the army, that's what you need, teach you the meaning of discipline. Place is going to the pack, all these teddy boys and dyed hair and sex..."

Cross-eyed, Doyle came springing to my rescue. "It's all right, Grandpa, I can take care of myself and Giant Haystacks here. If he doesn't behave himself nicely I won't let him watch Blue Peter this evening." And then he got into conversation with the silly old fool, ignoring me completely while he listened to him rambling on about the lack of moral fibre in today's youth and how he personally won the Battle of Somme single-handed. He nearly missed his station, yakkin' on; almost cheered me up again that did. Ray helped him to the platform and got himself trapped by the leg leapin' back on as the doors closed. My ribs began to hurt.

"You going to dye your hair?" I asked, soon as he was back with me.

"Whatever for?"

"So you can 'ave sex, of course."

"Anything that turns you on, sweetheart," he said, shrilly falsetto.

It was a mistake, pitching his voice that high; it cut through all the racket of the train like a hot knife through butter just as there was a general lull in the chat. Six schoolboys looked our way, someone let out a 'wey-hey-hey!' and the whole lot fell about, nudging one another in the ribs and generally indulging in a lot of low sexual innuendo. Ray just grinned and turned his back on them.

"So what was biting you earlier?" he said curiously. "What had I done to get up that dainty schnozz this time?"

"Nothing really, I was just bein' a prat."

"Well, nothing new in that, is there. Go on, something was up; what was it?"

"Can't tell you here," I muttered.

"Why ever not."

"Because it's personal."

"No one's listening," he assured me, gesturing largely and clobbering a middle-aged lady just getting to her feet behind him who sat down again with a bump and dropped two carrier bags full of shopping; what looked like six pounds of apples rolled everywhere and the kids leapt into action picking them up for her. Three of them had huge bites taken out of them when we handed them back; their owner took it personally and was still carrying on after the doors shut on her and she fell out of sight.

"Will you answer the question," he persisted when this excitement had quietened, "before you alienate everyone in the compartment!"

"Me!" I said, outraged. "Me!"

"Yeah, you. Now, what was up?"

More bulldog than peke, I thought fondly, burying the urge to ruffle his curls. Once he gets a grip on something he never lets go.

"Just...I was wrong about something, that's all."

"You? Wrong? Never! What was it this time?"

"Well, what I said."

"What about?"

"What I said you were doing. You weren't. Least, not on purpose, anyway."

"What, gettin' you goin', you mean?"

"Ssh! Yeah."

"Told you I wasn't," he said, satisfied, and smiled at me. A real smile, no half measures. My heart began hammering again and I made a unilateral decision concerning certain activities to be indulged in later that evening. Had a feeling there'd be no trouble persuading the partner I had in mind to cooperate.

About half the carriage got out at the next stop, barging past and being a bloody nuisance. All I wanted after all was the opportunity to gaze my fill at the face I liked best in the world and I didn't think it was too much to ask. When they'd gone there was space and plenty to spare and I stood hanging onto the strap and staring at him, wondering what it was that made him look so ruddy marvellous to me and deciding it was mostly because I liked him so much and that all the sexual attraction came a long way albeit a very important second. The sex was terrific, that he exudes sex appeal without effort was a bonus, but what mattered to me and always would was that he was Ray Doyle. All the rest could change without warning, that never would.

A lot of rushing about drew my attention from Doyle; two of the boys were larking around, one of them trailing the scarf he'd snatched from the other's neck and running up the carriage with it, dodging round the passengers standing by the doors. At the same moment I realised the train was pulling into Westminster station; I nudged Doyle who was standing there half asleep with a soppy expression on his mug and made for the exit, head turned to make sure he was following.

The bloody kid's satchel caught me right in the bollocks.

"Fat lot of help you were," I complained as we turned into Whitehall, "just propping yourself up on the wall, laughing your fat head off. Came close to losing my breakfast, I did."

"I know, could tell. Beautiful shade of green, you were. Reminded me of the time I helped clear out someone's pond one summer. Still look a mite queasy," he added, eyeing me up and down and grinning from ear to ear like an idiot.

I eyed him back. " look..." I choked it off, not wanting to endure his laughter just at that moment, imaging his reaction to what I was thinking right that minute at the sight of him bathed in summer sunshine, loose jacket sleeves pushed up, that bloody fliratious look in his eye again. He'd even looked at me like that under Cowley's nose the other day when the three of us were discussing Colonel Jeremy Sangster. He'd had his hair cut since we'd been to the Shaws for that infamous weekend and it was curling tightly round his forehead so that he looked...contained, almost secretive, and he frightened me. How the hell could I ever tell him what I wanted, what I was feeling? It'd be like putting your head in a lion's mouth and invitin' it to breakfast.

Covered it with a leer-lust was easy to handle.

"You look fuckable," I told him, and saw him shiver.

"Your place or mine?" was all he said though, and he ran his tongue over his lips.

The rest of the day lasted a century. Nearly went bananas hanging on through the borin' business of debriefing. Got so fidgety in the end Cowley made some sarcastic comment about me havin' a date to go to. Dunno what I looked like when he said it but the old bugger went bright scarlet and hurried on to the next topic.

We were released eventually, phoned in an order for a Chinese meal which we collected on the way to his place.

"Put it in the oven," I suggested hopefully, clearing my throat.

"Not on your nelly! We eat're going to need the energy," he said, grinning at me.

D'you know when it cam to it I couldn't do it...for all he was willing. Told myself I was being bloody stupid but I knew I couldn't do it until I was ready to let him have me again. Plenty of other ways, I told myself, and tried several of them while I shuffled ideas around in my head about how I was going to tell him without making him laugh...

Trouble was I came far too soon...a few seconds after he did. Probably due to all the cooperation I was getting.

"Thought you wanted..." he paused, head on one side.

I hung mine, shame-faced. "I did. Must be losing my grip. Didn't mean that to happen, just yet, did I."

"Oh well, next time..." His voice was heavy with promise.

"Yeah, next time. But..."

"But what?"

I lied. "C'n I have an hour's zizz first? I'm knackered."

"Getting old, that's all. Come on then, get into bed."

I lay a cold six inches apart from him until I couldn't bear it any longer.


"Yeah, what d'you want?"


"Still here."

"Ray..." I put out a tentative hand and laid it on his ribs and got the courage to say it all in a rush, "...give us a cuddle!"

He chucked, not unkindly, and his arms were oddly gentle; I kept thinking he was going to say something but he didn't, and I'd just nerved myself up to opening my mouth when his bloody phone rang demanding us back at H.Q. as of half an hour ago.

Of all the flamin' hours to have to go clambering into wetsuits...wonder if soddin' Cowley's got our bedrooms bugged after all! Maybe he thought a nice cold swim'd cool me ardour. Hasn't ever taken a good long look at Doyle in a wetsuit? No, scrub that leaves a nasty taste.

I didn't want to get out of his bed in the first place and I sure as hell didn't want complications in my personal life either, but seeing Keller out of the blue like that shook me up more than I'd have thought. The looks Doyle kept giving me weren't exactly reassuring...dunno what he was thinking, his thought processes have always been beyond me, but I don't think it was very flattering. And then I got sent off with Keller and had to make do with just the sound of that rough and sexy voice once a day to keep me going. I don't suppose he'll ever know just what it meant to me to have even that brief bit of contact.

My God, but I've got it bad!

-- THE END --

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