Keep the Homefires Burning
"You told your mother WHAT?" Bodie spluttered, the hand delivering the chip buttie to his mouth from en route to its destination, unnoticed a chip escaped from the bread. "You've gone round the bend, mate. What on earth did you tell her for?" He was absolutely stunned; his partner had calmly announced, in tones of one discussing the change in the weather, that he had, earlier that day, told his own mother that he had a male lover -- Bodie.
Looking at Bodie, Doyle decided that he had never seen him quite so disconcerted about anything before. Maybe he should have delivered the bombshell with a little more subtlety. "It's all right, Bodie. She didn't faint or anything." That had surprised him slightly. After all, having seen her only son work his way through at least fifteen years worth of female encounters, it must have been a shock.
"But... but... why?"
"I never meant to, Bodie. It's just that... well, she's not stupid. She knows me, and it must have been pretty obvious that I've been head over heels in love with a certain someone for ages."
"Little things, things that I hadn't realised I was doing."
"Like what, for God's sake?"
"She told me that I'd stopped mentioning a different girl's name everytime I went home, that I always spoke of doing things and going places with 'a friend'. Then that postcard I sent her from Devon, I put on it that 'we' were having a lovely time. After 6 months of waiting to hear this 'friend's' name she finally gave up waiting and asked me outright, then she asked me if I'd like to bring my friend up for the weekend next time I come home." Doyle smiled as he remembered the embarrassing conversation that had followed that innocent request. "I had to tell her, Bodie. She was all set to get the banns put up at the local church."
"Oh my God!"
"That's just what she said," Doyle chuckled.
"Then what?" Bodie demanded.
"She repeated the invitation to bring my friend home for a weekend."
"Just like that!"
Remembering the bottle of sherry that had seemingly vapourised, Doyle had to admit it hadn't quite been that easy.
"I'm sure you'll like her, Bodie, I've told her all about you."
Bodie pushed the remains of his supper away, for some strange reason he didn't feel hungry any more.
"I don't believe this, tell me you're pulling my leg. That's it, isn't it. You are pulling my leg -- aren't you?" For once, Bodie hoped that his partner really was utilizing his infamous, appalling sense of humour.
Ray Doyle just shook his head and playfully thumped his partner's leg.
"Come on, Bodie, say you'll come."
"You mean you haven't already gone and arranged a weekend!"
"No. Of course I haven't."
"What does she want to meet me for?" Bodie asked.
"Because I'm her only son. Her last remaining chick. Ever since my sister got married she's been waiting for me to get around to tying the nuptial knot. Failing that, I suppose she wants to see the reason why I never will." Doyle's eyes softened and he smiled coyly. "Besides, I'd like her to meet you properly."
"Please, Bodie... just one weekend. I'm sure it'll be all right and if it isn't I'll never ask you again. Please... I'd really like you to meet her."
Inwardly, Bodie just sighed and admitted defeat -- not that he'd tell Ray that just yet. His lover had some wonderful ways of persuading him to do things, in fact when Ray really put his mind to it, Bodie knew that there was nothing he could refuse him.
It was nearly two months before their next completely free weekend arrived.
Bodie felt quite calm about the whole thing even if he wasn't looking forward to it. At first he had to admit to himself that he really hadn't been too keen on the idea, but as time had gone by he'd come to accept it. It was going to happen. If it went well it would be terrific; if it turned out to be a disaster no doubt they'd survive, he felt secure enough to know that with or without his mother's approval, Doyle was his.
The first indication he had that Doyle was more nervous than he was about the whole thing, was on the Saturday morning as they packed an overnight bag.
"Where are your pyjamas?" Doyle asked his surprised partner.
"I don't wear them."
"Bodie, you must have at least one pair." From the back of his own drawer, Doyle pulled out a pair of extremely crumpled blue cotton pyjama trousers that, to Bodie's knowledge, hadn't seen the light of day for the past nine months.
"Ray," he said patiently, "You don't wear 'em either."
"I know that but I think we ought to this weekend," Doyle spoke primly.
"Why? I don't intend parading around your mother's house starkers -- and even if I did, I haven't got anything she hasn't seen before."
"All right, all right. If you're that bothered we'll stop off at Marks & Sparks and you can buy me a pair." Amazed, Bodie saw that his partner was deadly serious, now that he thought about it he realised that Ray had been getting increasingly twitchy ever since he'd telephoned his mother to say they could finally make it. There had been two other free weekends over the past months but on each occasion they had been on standby and Ray had decided against going home just in case they were called in -- which they weren't. Each time they had nearly gone Ray had been uptight and obviously relieved when they decided against it. Now, they had four days leave, the bags were packed and Mrs. Doyle was probably airing the guest room.
"You don't want to go, do you?" Direct as ever, Bodie opened the doors wide on his lover's problem. Doyle jumped, then fiddled with the strap on the holdall, giving it his undivided attention and refusing to look up.
"What makes you think that?" He spoke defensively. "Do you really want to go?"
"Yeah." Bodie's causal affirmative doused the remaining flicker of hope.
Bodie took the bag from Doyle's grip and pulled him into his arms, wrapping himself around the tense body.
"Look," Bodie rubbed his cheek against the silky cool hair, squeezing his lover against him. "We don't have to go anywhere you don't want to. She's your mother, Ray, you've already talked to her about us. If she didn't want to know any more she wouldn't have asked to meet me, would she?"
"Suppose not," mumbled an unsure voice into his shoulder. "Daft really but I feel so bloody stupid. Taking my lover home to meet my mother."
"Haven't you ever taken other people home to meet mum?"
"Never?" asked Bodie, surprised because the relationship Ray had with his mum was quite close.
"Not how you mean. Course she's met some of my girlfriends, but I've never taken any of them home to meet a prospective mother in law. Used to try to avoid girls meeting me mum anyway." Bodie didn't say anything but Ray could see the question forming in his mind. "Every time I'd turn up with a new girl or mention yet another name she'd always get this disapproving look in her eye. That's why she guessed there was something pretty serious going on behind the scenes -- I stopped talking about other girls."
"What did you tell her about me?" Bodie asked, his curiosity aroused even further when he saw his partner blush beautifully. "Come on, tell." He held Ray slightly away from him so he could see the flushed face and downswept eyes more clearly.
"She already knew what you looked like, she saw you once about a year ago when I was in hospital with some cracked ribs. She was a bit worried at first, she thought you looked so hard, menacing was the word she used." Ray looked up into the bright-eyed gaze that was watching him so closely, "but I told her you were a big softie at heart and that you love me nearly as much as I love you and that you're all that I want and you make me happy." Basically, that's what he had told his mother, but over the past two months he'd cringed as he tried to remember exactly what he had said, once his mother had recovered from the initial shock. He was pretty sure he'd used a lot more words and time just talking to her about Bodie, funny stories involving the pair of them, times when Bodie had saved his life, times when Bodie had needed him, or how much Bodie meant to him -- everything. He had a horrible feeling that he'd gushed on and on, his mother was probably expecting to meet a cross between Action Man, Tarzan, Prince Charming and Don Juan.
"Oh, and I told her that you like chocolate cake, swiss rolls and rhubarb crumble."
"Finally got down to the nitty gritty then."
"Well," Doyle teased, "she thought the chip butties were a bit excessive -- ouch!"
Sharp teeth latched on to his ear lobe, then a silky wet tongue caressed the small hurt. Eventually and rather reluctantly they drew apart. Doyle took a calming breath and retrieved the bag from the floor.
"Come on then, sooner we leave the sooner it'll be over then we can come back here for a few days on our own."
Together they left the flat and got into Doyle's car. Keying the ignition and steering the car away from the kerb Doyle added over his shoulder, "we can stop off in the High Street to get you some pyjamas."
Bodie leaned back against the settee and loosened his belt a few notches. He felt incredibly full, rather sleepy and very, very happy. Through the half opened door he could hear Ray and his mother clattering about in the kitchen as they cleared away the supper things.
Mrs. Doyle was, Bodie decided, a really wonderful woman. Their arrival earlier that morning had been a little tense but once polite formalities had been dispensed with they had settled down to the important business of dinner.
Totally unused to seeing Ray Doyle as anything other than partner, friend and lover, Bodie had found the transformation to that of the youngest son on passing over the threshold of his mother's house, absolutely delightful.
Unconscious of what her motherly instincts were doing to Bodie's sense of humour, the first meal successfully broke the ice as, with gentle motherly nagging Ray was encouraged to help himself to a generous portion of beans and carrots and, to Bodie's surprise, double the amount of potatoes his usually weight conscious lover allowed himself.
"I'm pleased to see that you have a healthy appetite, William," Mrs. Doyle said approvingly, looking at the plate before him piled high with meat pie and vegetables.
On the edge of his line of vision, Bodie could see Ray's shoulders shaking with suppressed mirth. William. He'd get Doyle for that one!
"All those ridiculous health foods this boy eats," went on Mrs. Doyle, "I just don't see that it can be good for him. Look at him! Skin and bone he is."
"Mum," Ray said reprovingly.
"Well," she continued undaunted by the embarrassed glare from her skinny son, "How can a grown man do a decent day's work on wholemeal bread, nuts and yoghurt?"
Diplomatically, Bodie gave a non-committal nod of agreement to Mrs. Doyle and an affectionate smile towards the uncomfortable son who had plainly given up trying to eat healthily on his mother's home ground.
Whilst his mother was in the kitchen removing a freshly baked pie from the oven, Ray leant back in his chair and loosened the belt on his jeans.
"You can laugh, William," he gave Bodie a knowing smirk, "by the time we leave here tomorrow we won't be able to walk. There's enough food out there to feed an army. It's always the same, she doesn't think I eat properly so the minute I walk through the front door she'd practically ramming stuff down my throat."
The novelty of seeing Ray Doyle being chided into having some custard on his fruit pie rounded a very enjoyable meal off.
The clattering in the kitchen was still going on and Bodie stretched his legs out in an effort to ease the almost uncomfortably bloated feeling. After the huge dinner, and afternoon snack of chocolate cake and tea followed by an enormous salad accompanied by even more cakes and a bowl of trifle, he was beginning to understand why, after a visit to his mother, Ray looked ill at the mere mention of food and existed on fruit juice and fresh air!
The noises from the kitchen were tapering off and Mrs. Doyle appeared at the doorway.
"Are you sure you've had enough to eat, William? There's plenty of cakes in the tin."
Bodie assured her that he really was full.
"Well, if you're sure -- but you will help yourself if you feel peckish won't you?"
Peckish? Bodie was beginning to wonder if he would ever feel hungry again. Ray hadn't been joking about the quantity of food. The food he'd consumed this afternoon and evening would have kept the third world going for a week at least. His thoughts drifted towards the sleek, elegant Capri parked outside, it was a good job they were only staying till tomorrow afternoon -- any longer and they would never squeeze into the car.
"It's all finished out there, Mum. Anything else you want me to do?" Ray called from the kitchen door.
"I don't think so, Love." She looked over at the clock sitting on the mantelpiece, "I'm going to go up to bed now but if you two want to stay up just make sure everything's locked up and switched off when you come up."
The two men exchanged slightly nervous looks.
"Dunno about Ray but I'm ready for bed now." Bodie managed to get the words out around an enormous yawn that wasn't entirely put on.
"Okay," Ray agreed, "I'll just lock the back door," and he ducked back into the kitchen.
"I'll show you where you're sleeping then."
Collecting their overnight bag from the bottom of the stairs, Bodie followed the woman up. On the small landing Mrs. Doyle hesitated and Bodie realised she was slightly flustered and for the first time all day seemed lost for words, it brought home to Bodie just how accommodating she'd been in making her son's openly declared lover welcome in her home.
"I thought that you would both be more comfortable in here." She refused to catch his eye as she pushed the bedroom door open. "Before you say anything you're not putting me out." Finally gaining the strength to look at Bodie directly, she took a deep breath and managed a shaky smile. "When Ray told me about you I must admit that I was... surprised. But it was obvious to me that my son cares very deeply about you and... loves you... and is... committed to you..."
"It goes both ways. I love him too."
"Yes, I can see that, but what I really wanted to say was... was that as long as Ray is happy... I never imagined that things would turn out this way--"
"Neither did we," Bodie whispered conspiratorially causing both of them to chuckle, breaking the sombre mood.
"No," said Mrs. Doyle thoughtfully, "I don't suppose you did. Goodnight, William, sleep well."
Before Bodie could react, she planted a warm kiss on his cheek and turned away towards the spare bedroom.
When Ray finally bounded up the stairs, two at a time, he was surprised to see Bodie sitting on the end of his mother's bed.
"What are you doing here? Where's Mum?"
"Gone to bed."
"What?" Non-comprehension was written across the expressive face. "Bring the bag through to the other room, mate." Still not quite understanding, Ray turned to lead the way to his old bedroom next door, but Bodie dashed across the room and shut the door, manhandling his bemused love back towards the bed.
The nice big double bed.
"This is our room." A firm hand shoved Ray to sit down on it.
"No it's not. This is me Mum's room."
"For tonight, sunshine, this is our room."
To Bodie's surprise and delight Ray blushed, all parts of him that were visible turning various shades of pink and scarlet.
"Bodie..." Ray knew he was in trouble. Bodie had THAT look in his eye. It wasn't that he wasn't willing, just any minute now he knew that his mother was likely to come sailing through the door.
"Bodie... This is my mum's bed! What are you... Pack it in, Bodie... Bodie..."
His protests were cut off by the warm, insistent pressure of a pair of deliciously familiar lips.
Seeing the eyes slowly close and feeling the resistance melting away, Bodie pressed the smaller man down onto the mattress, following and covering him, prolonging the kiss until the moment of complete surrender when a pair of strong arms twined around his neck to hold him in position.
He was rapidly being borne away by his response to Bodie's touch. Ray's moans of pleasure and wanting were muffled by the soft weight of Bodie's lips and his whole body jerked and arched up from the bed as a knee grazed over his sensitive groin. When his lover's sure fingers began to remove the last impediment to touch, Ray made a last ditch effort to game some control over his body. He pushed Bodie away, his hands shaking as he held him off at arms length.
"Bodie, please..." he implored, "for heaven's sake, this is my mum's bed, we can't... not in here."
Dark eyes ranged over the exposed panting form. Ray's mind was obviously having some problem accepting what his body clearly wanted. Bodie knew that the trembling figure was, in a sense, beyond the point of no return, and it would be very easy to push his advantage home and finish it off, but he couldn't do that. It would be abusing the very special control he knew he had over his partner. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Bodie relaxed against the slim body and used his hands to calm the fire he had ignited.
"All right, Ray, s'all right." His own need firmly in check, Bodie soothed and petted Doyle. "Okay? You all right?" he asked, concerned because Ray was lying so still, just breathing deeply and trembling slightly in his arms.
"Yes... it's just..." He was annoyed with himself because he couldn't put how he felt into words. He pulled away out of Bodie's arms and stared up at the ceiling. "Bloody 'ell, Bodie. I just can't. Not in here. This is... was my mum and dad's bed. They slept in here. I can't believe she's really put us in here for the night."
"Well she has. She said that we'd probably be more comfortable in here."
"She really said that?"
"Really. Look, Ray, it's probably just her way of showing you that she really doesn't mind about us. She probably feels a bit strange about the whole thing, giving us this bed is just a gesture."
"You're right, of course," Doyle conceded, turning to look first at Bodie then down at himself. Apart from a slightly rumpled shirt, Bodie was still immaculately dressed whereas he was practically naked, his clothing disarrayed and pushed away.
"I look like I've been raped," he chuckled and sat up to discard the few clinging remainders of his clothes. Swiftly, Bodie did likewise and they both slipped under the covers.
"Wanna hear a secret?" Ray whispered across the darkened pillow as his partner switched off the lamp.
"What sort of secret?"
A slightly embarrassed chuckle fell on his ears as Ray suddenly doubted the wisdom of sharing a very special memory, then jumped in feet first; it would make tonight with Bodie extra special.
"Lost me virginity in this bed." The words tumbled out in a rush.
"You what?" said Bodie in shocked disbelief, "This bed, this room?"
"Then what the hell was all the fuss about a few minutes back?"
"My mother wasn't on the other side of the wall then, was she," said Doyle in a reproving tone.
"How did you manage it?" Bodie, curious as ever about Doyle's sex life, wanted to know. Ray began to expound on the basic theory of Birds, Bees and Gooseberry bushes when a hard dig in his ribs brought him up short.
"It was dead easy really. When I was about 17, Mum and dad went away on holiday for a fortnight they took my sister, Gina, with them leaving me here to hold the fort. Me and Carole had been going out for about six months then and it was bound to have happened sooner or later, only thing was we never had any time alone and she shared a bedroom with her sister and I could never keep Gina out of my room when I had someone in there, nosy little cow -- anyway, when mum and dad went away we thought we'd try it in style and came in here."
"What was it like?"
"Considering we were both beginners it was bloody awful but by the end of the fortnight we'd just about got the hang of it."
Bodie gently tugged Doyle towards him, conscious of a perverse pleasure in the knowledge that for his lover, this was where it all started.
"Let's see how much you've learnt since the last time you were here then."
Hands and lips ready, Bodie moved in to renew his advances.
"Ah... Bodie, there's just one more thing that I think you ought to know."
The embarrassed but mischievous look was back in the jade eyes.
"Next door," with a twist of his head, Ray indicated the wall by their heads," used to be my bedroom. Before my dad died I moved my bed over to be under the window, because sometimes I could hear them, my mum and dad... you know... at it."
"So?" Bodie wasn't too sure he knew what was coming next.
"So. Mum's put the bed back against this wall. There's only a very thin wall between her and us."
"So?" Bodie repeated.
"So. If she hears anything she'll think we're 'aving it off."
"Won't be wrong then, will she?"
Having, to his mind, already wasted enough time talking, Bodie resumed his assault with single-minded determination.
The radio turned down to play quietly so as not to disturb the sleepers upstairs, Maureen Doyle savoured her Sunday morning cuppa and allowed her thoughts to wander, musing at length over the fates and mysteries of life.
Not that the knowledge disturbed her, well not now anyway. Her early worries had been swept away as soon as she pictured the contented glow in her son's eyes as he'd talked to her about the man he loved. Over the past few years she had heard a lot about Bodie, if only she had known how important he was going to become to her child she would have listened harder.
Bodie, Mr. William Bodie, a man with presence, she thought to herself, powerful presence. Strong, but not just physically so, that strength would be needed for him to cope successfully with her Raymond. He'd been a wild child, not overly aggressive or violent, but once or twice they had, as parents, had to jerk back on the reins to restrain him. Ray needed that, a strong hand to hold him back sometime.
At least Ray had found someone capable of returning his love in the same measure. A faint blush crept over her cheeks and she tried to redirect her thoughts. To distract herself she poured another cup of tea. They'd always wondered why Raymond had insisted on having his bed under the window, neither she nor her late husband had realised how thin the dividing wall was!
The sound of the door chimes announced the arrival of a visitor. It was her daughter.
"Hello, mum, Frank's just taken the car to the wash at the garage down the road so I thought I'd pop in for a few minutes, he'll come by for me when he's finished."
"Come through to the kitchen, love, only Ray's upstairs and I think he's still asleep."
Instead of following her mother through to the kitchen though, Gina started up the stairs.
"It's half past ten and I've been up for hours, why's he still in bed!"
Used to keeping the peace between brother and sister, Mrs. Doyle stopped her daughter's progress and pushed her gently towards the kitchen.
"Leave him alone, Gina. Now come through and have a cup of tea, there's one in the pot." Somehow she just knew that Gina shouldn't be allowed to burst in on her brother. Ray would have to talk to her as soon as possible, it would be better coming from him -- not that her daughter would appreciate or understand how difficult Ray might find the conversation.
"What time is Lord Muck going to get up then?" Gina asked with sisterly disrespect as she helped herself to a cup of tea. "Have you got any biscuits?"
"I daresay they'll get up when they're ready," said Mrs. Doyle.
Mrs. Doyle started nervously, "What? Er... yes, Ray brought a... friend home with him." Getting up from the kitchen table she went over to look out of the window, trying to avoid the immediate sparkle of interest in her daughter's eyes. "Do you think it's going to rain, perhaps I ought to get the washing in off the line, just in case."
"It always rains when Frank washes the car," But Gina refused to be sidetracked. So, her little brother had brought a girl home. "What's it like? This... Friend of Raymond. It's been ages since he last brought a girl home."
"I'm not in the least bit surprised," snapped back her mother, "The way you prance about teasing him I'm sure I don't know why he ever brings anyone home."
But Gina ignored he mother's irritation and went on, "God, do you remember that last creature he arrived with? What was her name? No, I can't remember it either. Lord only knows where he digs them up from. I can't see what anyone sees in him."
"I expect he wonders what Frank finds so wonderful in you! Ray's your brother, dear, I'd be worried if you could see what other... people see in him." Mrs. Doyle stopped, terribly flustered. She had been about to say 'what other girls see in him' but all of a sudden it hadn't seemed the right thing to say.
A few spots of rain appeared on the window answering a silent prayer for deliverance from children with insatiable curiosities.
While her mother was busy rescuing the washing, Gina quickly refilled the pot and poured two fresh cups of tea. Frank would be arriving any moment to take her home and she had no intention of leaving without giving little Raymond's latest conquest the once over. Swiftly she laid a tray, cups, sugar and biscuits, and set off for the bedroom.
Balancing the tray on one arm she knocked loudly on the bedroom door and opened it straight away.
"Mum thought you might like--" The room was empty, only the unmade bed with a pink floral nightie strewn across it indicated that it had been occupied. Puzzled, Gina looked across to the bathroom, but that was empty too. Where the hell was the little sod, she asked herself. She looked again at the nightie, surely it was the one she'd bought her mother for Christmas last year? If mum slept in here that meant Ray and his friend slept in mum's bed. Mum giving up her bed was almost unheard of. What on earth had Ray done to convince her to allow them her bed? Suddenly, Gina recalled her mother's embarrassment in the kitchen. It was unusual for her to get so het up over anything her precious little Raymond did. Gina's mind was racing over the possibilities. Maybe he'd got married on the sly -- probably got some poor cow pregnant. Aunty Gina! It sounded awful.
More determined than ever to see Ray's girlfriend -- wife -- whatever, she backtracked along the landing and knocked on the right door. Again there was no answer and so she waltzed in, eyes wide open ready to memorize every little detail.
"Good morning, Raymond," she said brightly as the mound under the bedcovers moved slightly. "Mum thought you might like a cup of tea." Setting the tray down on the bedside table Gina brushed her hand against a small picture frame; bending to pick it up, out of the corner of her eye she saw someone sit up and the sprawl of her brother, flat on his back, eyes shut mouth open, revealed as the covers slipped down. Disregarding the more familiar sight, she turned her attention to his companion.
"Good morning, I'm Gina, Ray's sister. Mum thought you might like... a... cup... of..." Slowly Gina took in the sleepy blue eyes, dark stubbly growth around the pink tinged face and the bare muscular manly chest.
Recovering first, Bodie managed what he hoped was a blinding smile and introduced himself while nudging Ray with a painfully hard finger.
"Morning. I'm Bodie. Wake up, Raymond, you've got a nice hot cup of tea that your sister's very kindly brought you."
Still not properly awake, Doyle rolled onto the prodding finger, squashing Bodie's hand and cuddled up, his arm wrapping itself around Bodie's waist, dragging the bedcovers down and revealing that they were both obviously naked. But the situation was still salvageable -- right up to the moment Doyle sleepily nuzzled against Bodie's side, licking and kissing the lover's ribs and clearly saying, "'ave you over 'ot cuppa any mornin'."
"Ray!" Bodie shoved Doyle away and when the muzzy green pools finally opened, gave a definite 'no go' signal with his own. "Your sister's brought us a nice hot cup of tea."
"Ah. There you are," exclaimed a breathless Mrs. Doyle from the bedroom door, as she immediately took in the situation. "Good morning, boys. If you want any breakfast you had better get up soon because I want to get on with the dinner. Virginia, be a love and bring that tray back downstairs, then you can give me a hand folding the sheets off the line."
Recognising the hidden edge in her mother's voice, Gina retreated.
"You had absolutely no call to go upstairs. I'd already told you not to disturb them. Really, Virginia, I think it's about time you grew up and began to respect others people's privacy!"
The reprimand stung, but didn't silence Gina's outraged voice.
"Why put them in together, for pete's sake? Our Ray's not a... a... poof."
Seating herself at the kitchen table, Mrs. Doyle forced herself to stay calm. "Ray and... Bodie have been living together for some time," she said softly.
"Living together?" Gina asked. "You mean they share a flat?"
"No. Living together. They're... lovers."
There was a moment of stunned silence before Gina found her voice.
"Who is he? Where the hell did Ray pick him up?" Her whole mental picture of her brother had been shattered, and she was trying to understand and explain away her little brother's change of taste. "I know. It's some kind of undercover job he's working on. It isn't for real, it can't be. Our Ray? What about all those girlfriends. How many other men had he been going out with?" The way her mother sat so quietly, watching her work out her shock, finally convinced Gina that the whole sordid nightmare was really true. As the initial surprise wore off, Gina slumped down onto a chair. "I don't believe that this is happening. Our Raymond is upstairs in your bed with his... his boyfriend... and you... you don't seem to care! How can he do this to you?" Her mother's calm acceptance was even a greater shock than her first.
"Gina," Mrs. Doyle spoke firmly but softly. "I invited Bodie here. He is as welcome in my home as your Frank."
"But he's a man!"
"I had noticed, dear." Mrs. Doyle cut off her daughter's wailing protest. For the second time that morning the door chimes rang. It was Frank. Hoping that her husband would talk some sense into her mother, Gina quickly filled him in with all the details.
"...and he's upstairs right now. In mum's bed with some man. In my mother's bed! She's know about it for ages and hasn't told anyone."
But she didn't get the ally she had hoped for. Used to dealing with his highly excitable wife, Frank took it all in and when she paused expectantly, waiting for him to express his outrage, merely quirked an eyebrow in the direction of his mother in law and said, "Good luck to the pair of them. About time Ray settled down a bit."
"Frank!" Gina whined, "You're missing the point. Ray's never been... funny before this. He's normal, surely we would have noticed if he was... queer!"
"Gina, my Pet," Frank gave his wife a little hug and a kiss, "he's still Ray, he hasn't changed in any way. I mean, he's not going to suddenly appear wearing one of your mother's dresses, now is he?"
"How do we know that he won't?" asked Gina, appalled at the thought.
"Come on, love. You know that gay couples are as normal looking as everyone else. They don't all go around with limp wrists and handbags."
"I don't know any such thing," Gina protested.
"Oh, yes, you do." Frank smiled and played his trump card. "You know John and Colin?" He waited for a nod. "They live together."
"Everyone knows that. They've shared a flat for years."
"No. They actually live together. They're a couple, been together for nearly ten years."
"John and Colin." Gina decided that the whole world had gone mad. She had known John and Colin since her schooldays. She'd even invited them to her wedding.
The two men stared after the retreating women in stunned silence, only when they heard the sound of the kitchen door closing did Bodie jump up from the bed and shut their door.
"She did that on purpose, I know she did!" said Doyle, wide awake now.
Reaching for his clothes, Bodie began to dress.
"How d' you mean?"
"She's a nosy little cow," was all Ray said by way of explanation. "Mum promised she wasn't coming over this weekend," he continued woefully.
"You mean, if you'd known she was going to be here you wouldn't have brought me?" Bodie asked with a flash of insight.
"No. Yes." Rays disentangled himself from the sheets and stood up. "I dunno, probably not."
"--a nosy little cow." Bodie finished with a grin.
"Well... she is. She's a pain in the neck, you wouldn't believe half the things she's done to me in the past. You won't catch her passing up the opportunity to have a bit of fun with me as a victim." With a face like thunder, Ray snatched up the clothes that Bodie passed over to him. "God only knows what she'll make of this."
"...how can he do this to you..."
Gina's high pitched voice wafted up the stairs in the moment's silence. The two men exchanged looks, then Doyle dropped his eyes and began to dress.
"Now she's doing the horrified and hysterical bit," he said bitterly, "I know this was a mistake."
Bodie felt himself go cold. Did Ray really regret everything?
"I'm sorry." Somehow he managed to get the words past the lump in his throat.
"What?" Doyle's head snapped around at the choked apology and saw how Bodie had interpreted his remark; a few steps and he was holding Bodie, kissing him. "Not you, not us. I'm sorry, love, I didn't mean us."
At once, Bodie realised how daft he'd been to even think that but he allowed Ray to reassure him for a while longer. Standing together, they both froze as the doorbell rang out. Ray stiffened but remained in Bodie's arms, holding him tightly, then slumped against him as he identified the new voice.
"My brother-in-law, Frank." He told Bodie. Before the trio of voices were closed out by the kitchen door, Gina could be heard launching on the newly discovered skeleton in the family closet.
"Just how big is your family, Ray?" Bodie asked breaking into a smile.
"Huge. There's hundreds of us." He gloomily exaggerated.
"Not all going to come calling this morning are they?" Bodie injected what he hoped was the right amount of horror into his voice.
"Bloody 'ope not." Beneath his head, Ray could feel Bodie's shoulders shaking and guessed correctly that the fiasco had touched his partner's funny bone. "They'd never all fit in the kitchen!"
Both openly laughing, they drew apart. Smiling ruefully, Doyle finished pulling his clothes on. "Oh well, are you ready to be exposed to my ever loving sister as the object of my lust?"
"How do you know that she doesn't think you're the object of my lust?"
The startled eyes clearly showed that they hadn't anticipated that particular twist, but Bodie didn't give him the chance to dwell on it, instead he deftly tucked Ray's shirt tail into his trousers, smoothed the collar and flicked an imaginary speck of dust from his shoulder.
"You'll do -- just remember to keep your collar up and they'll never see it." Ray's hand flew up to his neck, his expression one of absolute horror.
"You didn't! What the--"
"You're right, I didn't." Bodie stepped back just in time to avoid the ungentle right hander. "Come on, sunshine, if we hang about up here any longer she'll think I'm having my wicked way with you." Grabbing Doyle by the hand he began to drag the unwilling body towards the door. "Come on, Ray. Stiff upper lip and all that. Remember you're British! And if she says anything nasty, I'll hit her with your handbag." Bodie pouted beautifully, blew his love a kiss and artfully draped his stunned partner's arm over his.
Doyle snatched his arm back. "You're nuts. Don't you dare start... queening about like some... some..."
"Poofter." Bodie dutifully supplied the word.
"Don't muck about, Bodie. Please." Doyle was really worried now. If Gina was up to her normal form she'd irritate Bodie no end -- and if Bodie got shirty... "Mum'll know you're only fooling around but Gina'd take it seriously."
"You two don't get on that well do you." It was more of an observation than a question. It had been pretty obvious that Ray hadn't been too keen on meeting his sister -- especially now that Bodie was on the scene.
"She's a domineering, overpowering, two-faced, evil-mouthed, vicious, sarcastic, nosy, interfering little cow and I can't stand her."
"Strange that. Especially when you have so much in common."
Doyle's chin almost hit his chest. It took him a moment to recover from the calmly delivered insult and for a second or two Bodie wondered if perhaps he'd said the wrong thing -- but strangely enough Ray hadn't taken offence, in fact he was almost laughing.
"That's what mum says," Doyle laughed self-consciously, but then looked worriedly up at Bodie, "but I'm not that bad, not as bad as her. Am I?"
"You have your moments, lover. Wouldn't be you otherwise. And stop putting off the inevitable, come on."
Home, sweet home, Bodie thought to himself. From down the hall he could hear Ray filling the kettle and clanking the cups and spoons in the kitchen.
"Do you want anything to eat?"
Inwardly Bodie just groaned as he remembered the two tins of cakes Mrs. Doyle had forced on them.
"What do you think!" Bodie shouted back.
"Just thought I'd ask."
Bodie knew he wouldn't want to eat anything for ages, not until tomorrow morning at least. He rubbed the flat of his hand over his waistline. It just wasn't fair he decided. He'd not eaten any more -- well, not that much more -- than Ray, but he was willing to bet he'd put on pounds -- as well as unwanted inches. Catching sight of his profile in the bedroom mirror, Bodie frowned. He tugged the bottom of his shirt out from the tight waistband and pulled the silky fabric down over his hips. That looked better -- at least it didn't look quite so bad. Have to go on a diet soon, he thought.
Refusing to dwell on such depressing thoughts, Bodie tipped the contents of their bag out on the bed so that he could put everything away. The green Marks and Spencer bag still held the unused paisley pyjamas that Ray had insisted on buying. Beneath it were Doyle's own blue cotton trousers. After putting all the other bits and pieces in the right places Bodie took the pyjamas, old and new, into the living room where Doyle was sitting watching the evening news, coffee ready.
Bodie carelessly draped the blue cotton over his partner's head and chucked the cellophane-wrapped packet onto his lap.
"What do you want me to do with those?"
Doyle snatched the trousers off his head and thrust them both into Bodie's hands.
"D' you really want me to tell you?" he snapped irritably.
Bodie sat down on the settee next to Doyle and laid a hand on denim clad knee. Immediately Doyle leant forward and picked up Bodie's coffee cup, passed it over and then sat back, shifting his position so that it would be awkward for Bodie to touch him without also moving. The snub was poorly disguised.
Bodie bit down hard on what he would have dearly loved to say, knowing that Ray was still in a foul mood. He'd always wondered where Ray had developed his acid tongue and biting witticisms. Well, now he knew. Little Raymond and Sweet Virginia had been practising on each other for years. All day, mother, husband and lover had watched entranced as the siblings sparred with each other. It had been quite an education. Each barb had been directed with such skill, and retaliation had been swift, but subtle, so much so that and unknowing observer would be oblivious to the real meaning beneath the disguise of conversation.
Already mentally exhausted by the trial of sitting on the sidelines while the battle had raged politely over the dinner table, the limit of Bodie's patience was finally exceeded.
"You can really be a right Prat, sometime, Doyle," he announced with the air of a person who has made a monumental discovery. "You asked for it, you really did."
Doyle turned to face him, his eyes blazing disagreement but he remained silent, his expression indicating that Bodie's comment did not merit consideration -- let alone a reply.
"Okay." Bodie decided to drag it all out in the open -- give Doyle half a chance and he'd brood on it for weeks. "Okay, your sister can be a right Prat as well. You make a good pair. I agree with your mother and Frank, the reason you two don't get on is because you're too much like each other."
"Thanks very much," said Doyle acidly.
"Don't mention it," replied Bodie with grim amusement. "You didn't exactly help much, did you. I mean, you could've walked into the kitchen and said, 'Hello, this is Bodie,' and let them make what they wanted of it. But oh no..."
Bodie stood up and threw the pyjamas across the room where they landed with some force in the rubbish basket, "...you had to make a production out of it." He turned and stared down at Doyle who had suddenly become very interested in the contents of his coffee mug. "And you were worried about ME fooling around. What on earth possessed you to make you say that?"
Doyle mumbled something into his mug.
"What was that? If you've got something to say, say it!" Bodie bellowed.
"I said," Doyle enunciated each word slowly with exaggerated care, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
"What?" asked Bodie. "Hello Freckles, meet my new boyfriend."
On entering the kitchen, Bodie had been all ready to behave well, to react to the unexpected arrivals with tact and diplomacy -- after all, it was Ray's family, but Doyle's almost casual greeting had really set the cat among the pigeons.
"I mean... Freckles?" Bodie asked, smiling a little as he recalled the way Gina's eyes had nearly popped out of her head when they'd walked through the door.
Sensing the shift in Bodie's mood, Doyle risked looking up and smiled ruefully into the twinkling blue eyes.
"She really hates that."
"I never saw any freckles."
"'Cos she's got an inch of make up over them, that's why. She's covered in 'em. Always gets her going, that does."
"Why do you do it?"
Doyle opened his mouth to speak, closed it opened it again but still didn't say anything, he finally shrugged his shoulders and laughed quietly.
"God knows. Always have. Dunno why exactly. We've always rubbed each other the wrong way."
"Do you always tear each other up like that?"
"Nah, not always, she's not that bad, sometimes. I suppose she's not a bad old stick really, she's okay if you know how to handle her." Ray leant back against the settee and laughed out loud. "We can be very civilized sometimes. That gets people really worried then. The family just sit around waiting for the explosion." He stretched out a hand and gently tugged on Bodie's fingers, "I think she liked you though."
"How could you tell?"
"Kissed you goodbye didn't she. And of course you made her day by asking her what she thought of her big brother."
"What?" Bodie didn't understand the amused glitter in the jade eyes.
"Bloody hell! I thought you were just being tactful," said Doyle amazed that anyone could have made such a fundamental mistake. "She's nine years older than me. That big depression over London last month was Dear Gina hitting forty!"
"Forty, you're joking."
"Nah. Gina's my big sister."
"It's a big age gap isn't it. Afterthought or an accident?"
"What?" For a moment Doyle was puzzled, "Oh, very funny. I'll have you know my parents worked bloody hard to get me. Me dad always said that the years between Gina and me almost wore him out. But, all the best things in life are worth waiting for, aren't they." He gave the fingers another squeeze, and smiled invitingly, tugging Bodie to sit down beside him. As soon as Bodie had made himself comfortable against the cushions, Doyle twisted round to stretch out along the sofa leaning against the comfortable bulk of his partner. Automatically, Bodie's arm slipped around his shoulders, and his hand carelessly stroked the warm skin left bare by Ray's sleeveless tee shirt.
Adjusting himself to accommodate the lean and somewhat body bony frame, Bodie buried his face in the cool silky curls, then tipped Doyle back across his arm and kissed the inviting mouth, a slow lingering kiss that by degrees became more intense as they relaxed the inhibitions that the weekend had forced on them.
"Been wanting to do that since yesterday morning." Bodie whispered as they parted, then traced a tongue tip around the parted lips, Doyle's eyes opened, hazy beguiling emerald pools.
"What stopped you?" he asked breathlessly.
"Well," Bodie bent his head down and gently nibbled on a handy earlobe, "if I'd given in to my instincts and kissed you like that I'd've wanted to do this..." He ran his tongue around the delicate skin behind Ray's ears, "And then I'd've wanted to do this..." Transferring his attentions back to the waiting mouth he took complete possession of it, kissing Doyle deeply. He finally broke off the kiss and drew back a little, drinking in the rosy flush that reflected his own rising excitement. The heavy lids finally lifted up and Doyle gazed at him.
"And then what would you have wanted to do?" he asked expectantly and just a little breathless.
"Well," Bodie lifted his head and looked around the room, "If we could change our venue I just might be prepared to demonstrate."
Doyle snuggled back even further into Bodie's arms. "Why move? I've just got nice and comfy. Sofa cramping your style is it?" he teased.
"It's my style that'd get cramp, sunshine." Bodie ruffled the curly topped head and heaved himself up, tipping the relaxed sprawl to the floor.
"Ouch," Doyle moaned, rubbing an abused buttock, "That hurt."
"Aw. Get up and I'll rub it better." Bodie stood over Doyle and cautiously extended a hand to help him to his feet, his caution proved wise for instead of using the proffered hand as a lever, Ray tugged downwards.
"Why not come down here and rub it better?"
Bodie resisted the impulse to respond to the sexual purr barely hidden by the invitation.
"Come on, Gorgeous, I can think of somewhere much more comfortable to play doctors." He pulled the hand still holding his and grunted. "Bloody hell, you've put on weight."
Rolling over onto his knees, Ray finally stood up.
"So what? Me mum'll still love me when I'm fat and forty." Suddenly the light in the green eyes flared and glowed. "Will you?"
"Course I will," Bodie said confidently "Promised Gina I would didn't I and I don't fancy being in her bad books."
"Oh shit! Does that mean what I think it does?" Bodie just nodded in reply. "I thought you two were taking a long time to wash up. Third degree was it?"
"You ought to tell Cowley about her! Christ, I was really sweating by the time she'd finished grilling me about my intentions, prospects and sexual inclination..."
"What?" asked Doyle worriedly.
"Wanted to know how long we've been lovers, how long your mum's known about us, if the Dept. knows about us. Do either of us mess around with other blokes. The only thing she didn't ask was how often and who does what to who."
"I'm sorry, Bodie. Why didn't you tell her to mind her own business?"
"Because I didn't want to get her back up, she was only asking 'cos she cares about you. Besides," Bodie finished, his voice laden with a heavy irony, "I was daft enough to think you'd realise what was happening and come and rescue me."
"Ah... well, reason I didn't was because I was having similar problems with mum and Frank, or rather Frank was asking the questions mum would have liked to ask if she could've found the courage."
Bodie drew the smaller man into his arms, inhaling sharply as the warm body pressed and moulded itself to him.
"Get the seal of approval did we?" he asked breathlessly as Ray latched onto his throat, licking and caressing the bared skin with eager lips and a hot silky tongue.
"Didn't ask for one."
Bodie felt the slim body tense slightly as his mind identified the defensive response. Circuits clicked, whirred and connected. A light flashed on inside his head. Of course, he thought angrily, furious with himself for not having recognised what had been happening. No, they hadn't asked for approval. They hadn't received any either. Cowley had been less than enthusiastic when they'd broken the news to him, what the Old Man's personal thoughts on the subject were had never been revealed to them, but they'd kept their promise to him, so far their relationship had never jeopardised any operations or the department's credibility. Through necessity they'd tried to keep the news quiet while not exactly secret, but over the past few months it had become clear that the truth was out all over the squad.
The department's attitude was what they'd expected, no more and no less, and Bodie knew that neither of them gave a damn about other people's reactions as long as they didn't interfere with the job. They were good, the best Cowley had, their relationship was probably what helped to make them so good and fortunately people seemed to have realised that and accepted it... but not approved.
Families, Bodie supposed were different. Of course he had family, somewhere, but not in his life like Ray's were. There was nothing he could do. Absolutely nothing. Helpless to give Ray the one thing he really wanted, Bodie bent his head and kissed the tight line of compressed lips, parting them with an insistent tongue tip and claiming the welcoming mouth. A wave of overwhelming need to cherish and protect the precious being that had become vital to his very existence pressed in on him. The force of emotion drained the strength from his body and he gently bore them both down to the carpet, the comforts of the bedroom suddenly a million miles away and nothing compared to the immediate presence of a tangle of arms, legs and Ray Doyle.
The quiet plop of the post falling onto the mat fell on two pairs of not very awake ears. Bodie peered over the rim of his tea mug.
"Postman," he croaked then winced as his head protested the effort.
"You can go," said Doyle generously.
"In a minute," Bodie whispered half heartedly, he was in no condition to argue.
"You look awful."
"Looks like it."
"Love you too, mate."
"Yeah. Me too. Likewise." Bodie yawned and stretched -- very gingerly, he didn't feel like being adventurous. "Good night."
"Goodnight," said Doyle.
"No. A good night. Last night."
"Oh, yeah. Great. 'Ave to do it again sometime."
"We will won't we," Bodie said sleepily, "next year. Anniversaries have a habit of cropping up on the same day every year y'know."
"I know. Happy anniversary, Bodie." Ray smiled indulgently at his sleepy companion. "Can we go to bed now, I'm really knackered."
Forcing his eyes open, Bodie looked across and found he had to agree. Knackered was one way of describing how Ray looked, there were other words but none of them were strictly true as the opportunity hadn't presented itself.
They'd finished rounding up the Taylor assignment at about 1 o'clock this morning and had joined the impromptu celebration in the squad room. The atmosphere had been wonderfully relaxed, the high of a successful operation still singing through all present, and surprisingly, for the first time ever, the other agents had tentatively questioned them about the strength of their commitment to each other. The questions were politely phrased and could have easily been ignored without causing offence but they were answered with a quiet confidence which emboldened their curious workmates. A casual question had caused the post op celebration to develop into a full blown, rip roaring drinking session which had gone on until the arrival of the early morning office workers.
"You mean today," McCabe had repeated. "You really mean that a year ago today you two actually..." He had tactfully tailed off, unsure how far the couple in question was prepared to go.
Bodie was past caring by the time and Doyle had just managed to stop blushing.
"That's right." Said Bodie, totally unconcerned. "March 21st. First day of Spring and all that. Right after Ray had been cleared by the doctor and Ojuka and Avery and been dealt with, we went home and--"
"Bodie!" A fresh blush started rising over Doyle's cheeks and the room dissolved into a good humoured uproar.
After that the squad had set about making its top teams first anniversary a truly memorable occasion. As someone had pointed out. "It's only fair after all, seeing as we didn't get an invite to the wedding."
Coming back to the present, Bodie looked across at his mate, Doyle was slumped in the armchair, his eyes closed and his cup balanced at a precarious angle.
"Come on, Bright Eyes, lets go to bed." Hauling himself up, Bodie removed the other mans cup and helped the sleepy bundle to its feet. "D' you reckon four hours sleep is going to be enough to recharge your batteries?"
"A week should do it nicely." Doyle mumbled sleepily as he was propelled in the direction of the bedroom.
Passing through the hallway, Doyle detoured to pick up the morning post. The letters, there were two, each bore both of their names which was unusual. Ray passed one over his equally puzzled partner, then ripped his envelope open, his mouth forming a silent 'O' of astonishment as he read the greeting inside the card.
Bodie held out the card he'd opened. The greetings were nothing special, not to anyone else, but Bodie knew at once the cards were meant to signify the approval Ray hadn't known he'd needed.
In silence they walked slowly through to the bedroom, undressed and crept between the sheets, their bodies craving for the sleep they'd been denied for too long. They met in the centre of the bed, a merging of two bodies as they fitted together, a comfortable relaxed, sleepy tangle of arms and legs. A small sigh and the sleepy brush of warm breath on his shoulder and Bodie knew that Ray was already asleep, a gentle smile on his face.
"Sweet dreams, sunshine," Bodie whispered, knowing that thanks to Gina, Frank and his mothers anniversary cards they would be. "Happy anniversary, love."
Bodie was asleep.
-- THE END --