by O Yardley
Party Spirit series #10: After "Man Without A Past"
Shook me up, hearing Crabbe call out 'Arthur' the way he did. Came echoing up the stairwell at me like some banshee wail. Sounded like a lost soul ...
I said as much to Doyle one day on my way in to see Claire with the obligatory grapes and flowers -- not that they were getting me anywhere with her but it seemed churlish to stop bringing 'em just because she was packin' me in.
He stared at me for a minute, snitched a handful of grapes from the bag I'd put down on his bed, and then said: "Yeah, well, those two got their kicks in all unsavoury ways."
It hadn't occurred to me until then that Ray's injuries might be anything except straightforward brutality and I sat down on his bed with something of a thump: guess I must have let my jaw hang a bit too, because he started to grin and then to chortle, clutching at his ribs and moanin' at me to stop makin' him laugh because it bloody hurt.
"Well what do you mean, then?" I asked. "Thought maybe they'd ... you know ..."
"Raped me? Nah! But little Arthur got off on pain. 'ad an orgasm a couple of times when 'e'd been 'ittin' me."
"Wanna talk about it?" Sometimes it wasn't a good idea not to get the horrors off your chest. I had some grapes myself while he thought about it, finally shaking his head.
"Nah, hasn't been bothering me any."
"OK then." I got up.
"Where you off to?"
"Going to see Claire, aren't I. Don't think I came to see you, do you?" I got to my bag of grapes before he could snitch any more and made my way to the door, pausing outside to chat up that pert little blonde Staff Nurse. Claire was on the way out and I believe in being on with the new in good time.
"Where're we going?" he asked as I took a left turn at the lights."This isn't the way to my place."
"No. Taking you to mine. Look, don't knock it, mate. They wouldn't 've let you out for another three days, let alone this evening, if I hadn't offered to make sure you wouldn't get up to anything stupid."
Didn't think it likely actually, not the way he was looking. Death warmed up made it sound too upbeat. I wasn't surprised when he didn't argue: don't think he had any energy.
"What they bin doin' to you today?" I asked him. "Those physios been 'avin' a go, 'ave they?"
"What, the physio-terrorists? Yeah. Think I snapped a couple of good ribs'n ruptured me spleen."
"Oh well, if that's all ..."
But when I got him inside I suggested he went straight to bed and I'd bring him a cup of tea.
"Rather 'ave a beer," he said hopefully, and he went right away.
Worried me, that did.
I don't like seeing Ray under the weather: everything droops -- his hair, his shoulders, the corners of his mouth and his prick most of all! I knew he'd come out of his depression after the Coogan affair when he rolled me into that ditch and had his wicked way with me. Worth it, even if I did have trouble getting the mud out of my jacket. I wanted to talk to him about it but I didn't know how to start or what to say. Telling him how good it had been sounded soggy and didn't begin to explain how I'd felt, knowing I'd made him perk up that much. Worth all the funny looks I got from our conservative cousins. Breathtakin'.
I made the tea but drank both mugfulls myself, his Lordship being fast asleep and snuggled so far under the bedclothes he looked like a tortoise in retreat.
Next morning was a definite improvement.
"Tea!" he said, hauling himself upright. "And the waiter's a bit of an improvement on the old slag who used to come around with the trolley every morning. Every bit of 50, and that was only round the hips. What are you staring at?"
"You. I didn't know you'd had any surgery."
"Surgery? I 'aven't."
"But ... well, what caused all the bald patches on your chest then?"
" Bloody Sister got a bit brutal with the Elastoplast ..."
I winced in unison. "You look a lot brighter this morning."
"Good night's sleep, that's what does it," he said, sucking down his tea with a noise like a bilge pump at full throttle. "Night staff in hospitals don't know what quiet means. You'd think they'd at least wear soft shoes, but not them. And they clash trolleys around at 2.00 am. and start emptying bins in the sluice at 4.00."
"Aah! Well, you can stay there all day of you like. Have a shower when you want. Cowley wants me in today but after that I'm on stand-by for three days."
I could see him perk up. Did wonders for my ego knowing I'd be welcome company.
He swore he hadn't been doing anything silly during the day but he was looking bloody knackered when I got in soon after 7.00 with a couple of boxes of chicken and chips.
"Aren't you going to see Claire?" he asked, opening his box and laying in to the chips as though he hadn't been fed for a month.
"No." I sprinkled salt liberally on a drumstick and took a bite.
"Said she didn't want to see me again."
I swallowed and repeated it.
"Didn't like the grapes I took her on Tuesday."
"Why not? They were smashin'," he declared, all indignation.
"Not all covered in the pips you'd spat into the bag, they weren't. Put her right off."
And he didn't even have the decency to look apologetic, just sniggered and refused to give me any of his chips.
We had a thoroughly lazy time the next day. I woke early and since it was obviously going to be a scorcher bustled about a bit and got a picnic organised, and we drove out to Richmond to have lunch in the Park and spend several hours just lying around, soaking up the sun. On the way home we stopped at a supermarket for supplies, Ray having decided he wanted a decent home-cooked meal for a change after all that hospital food, and went home to prepare a gourmet dinner for two: cooking's a lot more fun if there're two of you involved. Afterwards we had real coffee and brandy and sat and watched TV in companionable silence.
Finishing the last of his brandy Ray put his glass down and pulled a face.
"What's up -- pain somewhere?"
"Nah, just thinking of all that washing-up."
"Do it tomorrow. Don't let it spoil a good evening."
"Well, I'm not going out there ..."
"In that case I think I'll get off to bed. That OK with you."
I watched him go, a small niggle of worry forming. We'd both been pretty lucky over the years: plenty of injuries but so far nothing that kept us out of the running for more than a few weeks at most. It couldn't last. Even if it was only old age that finally caught up with us, slowing us up, making us less resilient, less able to ignore the bumps and bruises. Ray's three years older than I am and he looked ....
Oh for christ's sake, Bodie! Sitting there getting maudlin, worrying about old age and wrinkles when you're still in the prime of life. Lack of female company, that was the problem: too long between birds and you start to get twitchy. Poured myself another brandy.
Pulled up short inside the bedroom door. Ray'd gone to sleep with the bedside lamp on and its golden light was spilling over him from an angle which emphasised those bare patches on his chest. Lying on my bed, bollock-naked, he looked like a teddy bear loved half to death.
I felt odd, a bit light-headed. Too much brandy, I thought vaguely, staring to strip off my shirt. Was going to slip into bed and pull the sheet up to cover the pair of us: found myself stroking him, rubbing my hand over those stubbled ribs. Then I tasted his nipples ...
By the time I got to his belly-button he was awake and taking notice.
"Lie still," I told him. "Lie still."
Didn't know what I was going to do until I had my tongue on him, hard already, arching up over the concave stomach, reaching out to me. A small seeping drop touched my tongue, bitter and salt and sweet to my senses.
I took him in.
Talk abut vocal! I might have had some idea what he was jabbering on about if he hadn't had his hands clamped so tight over my ears. And the way he was heaving around I soon stopped worrying about his fitness. Wasn't worrying about anything actually, just enjoying myself. Amazing, the things you find yourself enjoying that you'd never think you could.
Ray, sounding shy?
I lifted my head.
"Not a bad way to wake up, that," he said.
"Might be quite nice going to sleep on it, too," I suggested. He bent his head. "You up to it?" I thought to ask. The head came up again, the face disdainful. I wasn't in a mood to argue.
It was as good as I remembered it from last time; better than any bird I'd ever had do it, because he wasn't scared he might hurt me, knew just what I could take and how long for. Could get addicted to this, I thought as I lay in head-spinning satiety, too drained even to raise a smile.
He went home the next morning after the washing-up. Said something about having to get his laundry done but I had a feeling he was running away. I wasn't sorry; needed a bit of breathing space myself. He'd lain in my arms all night and a lot of the time I knew he was awake as well. Once, I started to say something but before I'd done more than draw breath he murmured "Sh! Go to sleep!" so I shut my mouth again. Dunno what I was going to say anyway.
But one of these days we'll have to talk.
-- THE END --
Excerpt from "Bodie's Book of Words To Live By" - "The only two things in life that really matter are light chocolate and dark chocolate." Anonymous.