In for a Penny
by O Yardley
Party Spirit series #22: After "Discovered in a Graveyard"
I felt numb when I found him. Then frantic...everything happening in slow motion. Thought he'd die on me on his sitting room floor. Thought he'd die in the ambulance...operating theatre... After that, when I had time I felt sick, and finally, when I knew he was going to make it, euphoric. Floated about in a daze when I was working and spent what little time I could manage at the hospital just making him laugh for the pure delight of it and to hell with complaints about his stitches. Suffering, I told him, is good for the soul. Never mind I knew otherwise. A hospital ward's no place for confidences. Could hear every word from the visitors at the next beds, and when they didn't have any their occupants had nothing to do but listen to Ray and me, which they used to, interrupting us every five minutes to ask me how their favorite team was doing or could I please ask a nurse for a bottle. Dunno why they 'ave bells, nurses never seem to answer 'em.
Irritated the hell out of me watching some slip of a kid mauling Ray around when I knew I could get him comfortable in half the time. Had to sit on my hands not to interfere sometimes.
He came home to my place; for one thing he was going to have to be moved and he wasn't up to dealing with that just yet and so most of his stuff was in storage, and for another he wasn't going to be ready to cope on his own for a good while. Cowley had had me working my socks off since it happened so visits to Ray had been precious few and far between; then, when I'd started mentally calling the old bastard all the names under the sun and gettin' ready to go and have it out with him he took the wind out of my sails by giving me time off 'to help your partner get back into the swing of things'. And then he muttered something about getting no proper work out of me anyway so to have as long as it took. In a little while it sank in I was cheaper than a convalescent home, plus I'd be going through retraining with him as well but a little rain has to fall into every life. All in all things were going my way so I was surprised to find myself so depressed once he was out of hospital. Didn't seem right me walking around like a wet week on the Costa del Sol when I ought to be singing and dancing and letting off fireworks.
He got tired so easily at first; one minute he'd be fine, fooling around, giving a hand with the cooking or whatever, and the next he'd be slumped in a chair looking like...looking like...say it, Bodie! looking like death. Bothered me no end even though I knew from bitter experience to be discreet, tip-toed round him trying to pretend I hadn't noticed the blue look round his mouth or the fact he was bathed in sweat and surreptitiously leaning on something taking a breather. One of the things that took it out of him was bathing, and I nearly had heart failure myself when I went in there for the first evening to see what he was up to as he'd been gone for ages and found him fast asleep and the water gone cold. Took me a long time to get him warm. I don't own a hot water bottle and when I said I'd nip out to an all-night chemist's to get one he made a vulgar and physically impossible suggestion. Still, it gave me a good excuse to cuddle up to him in bed. Didn't want to ask for it, you see, in case he thought I was making advances and I knew it was much too soon for him to be feeling randy. Actually I didn't even have any twinges that way myself and that was a new experience, not wanting it when I was perfectly fit and healthy. Realised I'd never been this much in love before, not so that what he was feeling was more important to me that what I was. Came close to crying that night, holding him close to me, listening to the steady rush of his breathing and feeling the beat of his heart under my hand.
Concentrated on looking after him, my own feelings were so muddled and unexpected I couldn't talk to him about anything personal. Went out walking with him, and running when the time came for that. Drives himself hard, does Ray, and won't accept compromise. Nearly kills him that Macklin's six inches taller and three stone heavier than he is, nearly kills himself trying to pretend it isn't so. Wasn't looking forward to watching him do it all over again so I didn't argue too much when he mapped out what he was determined to do in the way of preparation. He didn't know, but I'd had a long chat with his consultant, found out exactly what the do's and don'ts were in his regime in relation to his tenacity, guts and sheer bloody cussedness. He was testing himself all the time--and me to see how far I'd let him go--but not yet to the limit as even he could tell he wasn't up to fell-running, and we walked London's parks and commons, a little further and faster each time until we were doing quite a lot of gentle jogging, then we'd come back to the flat where he'd sleep for a couple of hours while I got on with things domestic. We talked a lot but it was always about trivialities: CI5 gossip, last night's TV, tomorrow's menu...it was good, being with him, but there was always this vague feeling of dissatisfaction, of something missing, and I couldn't for the life of me think what it was.
I'd been given the go-ahead to let him run properly a lot earlier than I'd expected, and knowing from past experience that Ray always heals quickly and well and that doctors err on the side of caution as a matter of principle I didn't argue when he wanted to go flat out, but my heart was in my mouth when we set off and I watched him like a hawk for signs of distress; he seemed to be OK but I'd have had him back in that hospital before he could blink if I'd thought it was necessary. I wasn't taking any chances, I made him warm up and warm down thoroughly, and ran him a bath afterwards to help any stiffness. While he was lying there soaking I took him in a mug of coffee and stayed for a much-needed pee.
Tucking myself neatly away I turned as I zipped myself up and found him staring at me.
"Whassamatter--smut on my nose?" I asked, peering down.
"You don't need to check up on me every five minutes," he complained, "I've no intention of kicking the bucket just yet, you know."
"Can I have that in writing? Weren't intending to let yourself get shot, I suppose. Went out and forgot to reset the alarm, didn't you. Daresay you didn't mean to do that, either."
He reached for the soap and began rubbing it idly over his chest, over the pink scar and regrowing hair. "Bloody stupid," he agreed tonelessly, "thought you'd get round to saying so sooner or later."
"Well, what d'you expect? My best mate does something so basically fucking idiotic...what'm I supposed to do...cheer?"
"You could try remembering you're not perfect." His tone held venom, angering me.
"At least I take elementary safety precautions!" I yelled. I didn't mean to yell.
"Ah! Knew you were pissed off with me," he said and he grinned, and then he slip under the water.
My heart stopped.
Soaked myself hauling him out; hung over the edge of the bath with my arms around him, fingers digging into slippery flesh desperate to keep hold of him. Took a second or two for what he was saying to penetrate the panic.
"Bodie, what the sweet fuckin' 'ell're you doin'? I'm only tryin' to wash my hair, you wally. Bodie? Bodie, you're hurting me wounds...let go, will you. Bodie!"
Wash his hair? So why was he bleeding? He wasn't bleeding...of course he wasn't bleeding, he was here and warm and alive under my hands where he had to be...
"Ray," I said, and my voice was all odd, not working properly, "oh christ! Ray, I've been so scared. Never been so scared before, not for so long, not day after day after day and you lyin' there..."
I tried to stop; burblin' on's not a habit of mine but my tongue suddenly seemed to have a life all of its own.
"Can't lose you," I heard myself say, and a whole lot more besides that made me cringe. Slack-mouthed fool, rabbitting on and on about being petrified the last time I'd thought he was dead and what it meant to me having him for a partner and how I'd never thought I'd owe Cowley for pairing the two of us in the first place... Heard myself say it all and squirmed all through and still couldn't get myself to shut up.
I was soaking wet by the time I'd ground to a halt and I can't recommend squatting on the floor cuddling someone lying down in a bath as either comfortable or romantic and the edge of the bath was cutting into me armpit with the weight of his head on my forearm. Our faces were very close.
"What are you trying to say?" he said into the silence.
Truth time. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I put my cheek against his.
"I'm trying to tell you...need to say it in case it gets...gets too late. Wasn't going to say this, any of it, until I knew what the hell I'm on about, but I....I think I love you."
His head turned as he stared up at me. "You think?"
Inaccurate, but it was my own defence, my only way out if he started to laugh.
Pulling himself up he reached out for the shampoo bottle on the soap rack. "Let me know when you're sure, won't you, then I'll know what to say."
The way he said it scared me; couldn't make out what he was thinking. Wanted to run away. Grabbed the shampoo bottle instead. Could make myself useful if I couldn't make him love me back.
"Come on, give it here. Won't be the first time I've washed that mop for you."
As I scrubbed at his scalp he said, "Long time ago, that was. I'd forgotten."
"Yeah." I grinned to myself, wondering why there'd been no retribution at the time. "And you never said a word about me ringing whats'ername an' putting her off. Thought you'd have some horrible revenge up your sleeve."
"Didn't it," he began, squinting up at me, "ever occur to you I'd rather 'ave...ah shit! Bodie, it's gone...gone in me bloody eye." And he heaved around, groping for the taps and sending great waves of water up and down the bath and all over me. I now had a soggy lap as well as a soaking wet jacket. I complained loudly.
"Will you shut up," he snarled, "and gimme a bloody towel. I'm in agony and all you can do is moan on about a few drops of water."
"A few drops! A few drops! 'm sitting here in the middle of Niagara Falls I'll have you know." But I wetted the corner of a towel and handed it to him.
I wanted to say a lot more but as I opened my mouth I saw he was starting to fade badly, that blue look around his lips. This wasn't the time for heart to heart confidences either.
Spent most of the rest of the day in make-work, keeping an eye on him at the same time and panicking quietly. Maybe I'd let him do too much. It'd be all my fault if he keeled over now. All my fault and no one else to blame. I should never have let him do so much.
He came good by the evening and beat the crap out of me at backgammon.
Got him really worried, folding his clothes up for him when he got ready for bed. He stood there staring at me, mouth open, for all of ten seconds.
"You're tired," I said roughly. "Look like a dead chrysanthemum."
"'ope I don't smell like one." He wrinkled his nose.
In bed he wriggled close. "Feel up to a bit of the other?" he asked me, running a hand between my legs. "Reckon you do, yeah. Nothing too strenuous though, if you don't mind."
Head spinning, I tried to regain control. "Ray...'s too soon. Much too soon."
"Not for me it isn't," he whispered, and put my hand onto his cock.
I pleasured him gently, so caught up in the sweetness between us I could scarcely breathe let alone talk, and brought him softly to climax cupped in my palms. Came myself in the rush of his breath over my lips, soft pulses that poured richly from me, throbbing through my body to leave me boneless and sated. Didn't even spoil the mood dealing with the prosaics of mopping up and settling down, and I held him contentedly as his breathing deepened.
In the night I surfaced and found him awake, drowsy and warm in a soft, relaxed curl.
"You know something," he mumbled throatily, so low I wasn't sure I'd actually heard or if I was making the words take the shape I wanted, "I think I love you too," and he went back to sleep.
-- THE END --