by O Yardley
"You go on in - I'll park the car." Bodie leaned across and opened the passenger door for his partner.
Doyle sent him a sidelong look of resignation. He'd been out of hospital now for four weeks and Bodie was still treating him like some sort of rare and delicate plant. Still, it wasn't worth making a fuss over - he'd grow out of it once Doyle was properly back at work again; even a week in Records had worked wonders. At least the silly bastard seemed to have stopped offering him chairs all the time.
He unclipped his seat-belt. "Okay. You meeting anyone?"
Bodie shook his head, gave a swift look over his shoulder and drove off to tangle with the intricacies of the car-park.
Doyle stood and watched for a moment, wondering about that. Bodie's love-life seemed to have taken a distinct down-turn of late and Doyle was all too guiltily aware that it was mostly his fault. He'd been a bit selfish, relying on Bodie the way he had and it was more than time he stood on his own two feet again. The trouble was, Bodie was such a comfortable person to have around when you felt under the weather, you didn't have to pretend with him and if you felt snappish he just shrugged and let you take it out on him.
Aware suddenly of the chill wind whistling round the corners of the pub, Doyle gave a little shiver and made his way inside.
The party was being held upstairs in a private room and Doyle couldn't help a mildly cynical grin as he made his way up the wide, curved staircase with its opulent crystal chandelier. Trust Della to find somewhere ostentatious like this to hold her farewell do - everyone else made do with an ordinary spit 'n sawdust local but Della's family were 'county'. Cowley knew her father, played golf with him occasionally.
There was a small but noisy group ahead of him at the top of the stairs where Della was holding court, greeting everyone with a limp hand and the highly favoured with a proffered cheek as well. Doyle couldn't help a chuckle recalling Bodie's comments on the only time he'd dated her. Starched knickers was among the politest as he recalled. He leaned his elbows on the bannisters, waiting for Bodie; that should get them past her without too much fuss since his partner had not been on her list of personal favourites after that disastrous evening.
Entering moments later, Bodie paused at the stairs' foot, looking up and wondering if Ray was okay. The poor little bugger still got tired so damn easily for all he tried to act as though he was a hundred per cent fit. Bodie could hardly believe there'd come a day when they could have a decent work-out together and he wasn't sure he'd be able to cope when it did, not looking at that skinny creature propping itself up at the half- landing, looking like some sort of elf with the chandelier glinting off that newly-washed auburn mop - Bodie had been furious when he'd found Ray fully intended to go out with his hair still only half-dry - and the green shirt and jacket topping the mole-skin trousers.
Ethereal - that was the word.
Faintly surprised at himself, Bodie started up the steps, gathering Doyle up on his way.
They greeted Della effusively, both of them ignoring the limp hand and going firmly for mouth instead of cheek. Della emerged looking dishevelled and with a distinctly animated if unfriendly glint in her eye.
The partners exchanged congratulatory grins and made for the bar, jauntily in step.
The room was dim, smoke lying in a blue haze in the spotlights. Bodie frowned. "Not enough chairs, you'll want to sit down."
Doyle chuckled. "Stop fussing. I promised I wouldn't stay long, anyway, remember?"
Bodie raised an admonitory eyebrow and the pair of them began to circulate, soon losing each other in the growing crush.
An hour and a half later Doyle was feeling definitely rough but couldn't see Bodie anywhere. He found himself a spare bit of wall and propped himself against it, hoping Bodie would remember that 11.00 pm deadline he'd set. It was nearly that now and although Doyle wouldn't admit it for the earth, he'd nearly had enough for the day. Thank god it was Saturday tomorrow and he could have a good, long lie-in.
"You all right, sunshine?"
Bodie's voice - full of concern. Doyle blinked, coming out of his reverie. "Fine - 'lo, Holly, how are you?"
The young woman on Bodie's arm gave him a broad smile and a smacking kiss. "Nice to see you on your feet again, Ray."
Bodie emitted an evil chuckle. "Shall I get you a drink?"
"Uh - no, thanks. I'm fine." Doyle held up his glass, still half full. It was the one he'd started out the evening with, which was more than one could say for Bodie, by the look of him. No one else would have guessed that he was probably well- oiled but Doyle knew his partner very well indeed and thought he'd been drinking heavily. Raising a mildly surprised eyebrow he made no comment for the moment, but if Bodie thought he was driving home with that lot under his belt, he could think again.
Their corner had been comparatively deserted for a while but now the tide of festivities seemed to have drifted their way and Doyle found himself firmly boxed in behind Bodie and Holly with no way of escape even if he'd wanted it. Quite happy merely to look on - he could stand a bit more of this provided he wasn't expected to be sociable - he propped his shoulders on the wall, stifling a yawn.
In front of him, the crowd edged closer, moved inexorably by those behind them and Doyle's view of the room - already poor due to dim light and cigarette haze - became blocked entirely by the broad, linen-clad shoulders of his partner, the back of his head and Holly's emphatic hairstyle.
Peeved, Doyle glared at the cropped hair but seeing the crush beyond Bodie, resigned himself to his fate and closed his eyes, yawning again.
Half asleep as he was, the first stealthy movement across his thigh went almost unnoticed; if he thought about it at all, he assumed it to be Holly's 50's style skirt brushing his leg; by the time he'd come awake enough to realise it was someone's hand and to sit up and take notice, the only face he could see between Bodie's half-turned-away shoulder and Holly's head, was George Cowley's. Doyle was prepared to take a lot of risks in the course of his job but requesting a young woman to stop groping him in Cowley's presence came low on his list of acceptable hazards. Besides, it wasn't a matter of enduring the touch, it was damned pleasant and was quietly reassuring him that he hadn't entirely lost all interest in sex since his near brush with death as he was beginning to fear he had. Quite on the contrary in fact, he was becoming definitely interested - to the point where it could become embarrassing if the room was not so comfortably dark. Gratified by the now more adventurous exploration, he shifted slightly to give the hand greater access, carefully keeping his expression down to nothing more than a fatuously beatific smile and doing his best to concentrate on what Cowley was saying, just in case he found himself included in the conversation.
Yes, the sensations were definitely pleasant, although Doyle was mildly surprised that Holly should be taking such a personal interest in him. She'd always had her eye on Murphy as far as he knew but he hadn't seen him here tonight - perhaps they'd split up and he was reaping the benefit, if so he had no complaint.
At first, the hand had been content to range slowly over the front of his body, brushing over the suede-soft warmth of his heavy, brushed cotton trousers, lingering infinitesimally over the soft swell of his sex, darting a light fingertip down its length, but now that it had him thoroughly interested it was taking him more seriously, the whole palm exerting pressure just where it was most wanted. Unthinking, he thrust his hips forward, claiming still more and was promptly given it, without hesitation. Doyle grinned - who'd have thought the demure Holly was such a little raver on the quiet!
"Don't you think so, lad?"
Doyle jumped; finding yourself addressed by Cowley all of a sudden like that was - under the circumstances - enough to give you a heart attack. The hand at his groin paused, giving him time to think. He leant forward, chin on Bodie's shoulder.
"Sorry, sir, I was miles away."
Cowley repeated his remark and Doyle gave it a hearty assent.
The hand resumed its groping passage. Doyle smiled again.
"Oh, there's Joy - I haven't seen her in weeks. 'Scuse me, fellas," Holly said brightly and dived into the crush which parted for her and then reformed, filling the tiny empty space at once.
Doyle squeaked - once - and froze.
Cowley eyed him with sympathetic concern: the lad still looked far too peaky. That had been a rotten business all round and they were lucky not to have lost him, but Bodie was looking after his partner satisfactorily, fussing round like a hen with one chick, Cowley thought in mild amusement. It would do the boy good to have someone to worry about; self-sufficiency was all very well but everyone needed some sort of anchorage.
Almost out on his feet with shock, Doyle finally managed to breathe again, head spinning, mind dazed, body paralysed.
Bodie? Bodie, groping him with such expertise? The stupid sod must be even drunker than he'd thought, Doyle thought affectionately, relying on the Cow's presence for Doyle's continued silence. He must have been laughing all over his fat face when Doyle responded so eagerly thinking it was Holly; he'd have to get his own back or he'd never hear the last of this.
Gathering up every scrap of self-control he owned, he pressed closer to Bodie, trapping that exploring hand neatly over his now full-engorged prick, and engaged Cowley in an earnest discussion of the latest rounds in the Open at St. Andrew's. His left hand, safely unseen, slid - knuckles first, thumbnail neatly provided emphasis - down the seam of those well-cut cords.
He felt the responsive shudder right through his own body and grinned evilly. Serve the bastard right, getting him going right out in public like this.
Somehow, the extreme unlikelihood that it should happen anywhere at all, never mind in public, never occurred to him until much, much later.
They stayed like that, quite still save for Bodie's gently working fingers and Doyle's questing thumb, until Cowley had exhausted all he had to say on the topic of golf and finally turned to go.
Alone again - in a manner of speaking - their hands stilled.
Joke over, Doyle wondered - or was it getting just that little bit too serious, perhaps?
Bodie half turned, looking over his shoulder.
"Time to take you home, Cinders. Don't want those elegant moleskins turning back into your usual rags, do we?"
Doyle glared balefully. "You leave my moleskins alone."
It could have been phrased better; he knew he was going red, he could feel the hot tide creeping up his neck, but Bodie only cackled evilly and began to push his way through the crowd.
Silly, drunken idiot, Doyle thought tenderly, following obediently, pleased to feel that hard-throbbing urgency ebbing swiftly away. After all, he'd got to get downstairs without attracting unwanted attention - he'd had all of that he needed for one day.
But was it so unwanted? Finding out it was Bodie hadn't prevented his response as it surely ought to have done, had only increased the pleasure, heightening it with the added lure of the forbidden.
He shivered, a lance of arousal jolting him.
Bodie put an arm round him.
"Nope. Goose walking over my grave," lied Doyle.
But Bodie left his arm where it was and Doyle didn't argue.
They wove their way across the car park together, holding each other up. Anyone seeing them would think one of them was drunk, but Doyle was no longer quite so sure how drunk Bodie was.
"Shall I drive?" he asked when they reached the car. They were neither of them proud and cheerfully handed over to each other if they were over the legal limit.
Bodie shook his head. "Nah. I've only had a couple. Get in."
Doyle did so. "I can fasten me own ruddy seat-belt," he announced belligerently, suddenly not quite sure what he'd do if Bodie leant across him to fix it.
"Suit yourself. Be independent. See if I care." Bodie flounced his way round the car, grinning like a maniac.
As he twisted to clip his own belt in, Doyle laid a hand on his arm. This corner of the car park was dark under a low, spreading tree. There was no one about.
Bodie turned further, his face enquiring.
"Shut your door," Doyle said quietly.
As the overhead light went out, his hands reached up, cupping the dear, worried face, fingers sliding into the cropped hair, finding it surprisingly silky. Then he pulled him close, their lips meeting in soft acceptance of suddenly acknowledged needs.
"Take me home, Bodie," Doyle said quietly. "We have some unfinished business to attend to."
Bodie knew his lips were shaking - the rest of his body was so why should they be privileged to be left out? - but he was way past caring. Ever since he'd looked up and seen Doyle on those bloody stairs, looking like something out of a woodland fantasy, he hadn't been able to take his eyes off him. All the time they'd spent trotting round that damned room, pinkies up, doing the pretty for Della pretentious Pettigrew, his gaze followed Doyle in a sort of hungry longing.
Ray still needed looking after, he told himself fiercely. He never knew when he was beaten and never gave up, not even when the odds were stacked high against him. It was what had frightened him so much when he'd found that still figure, lying in its own, pooling blood. Ray hadn't even twitched, had made no sign he'd even seen him. Bodie had never been so bloody terrified in his life as he had then, feeling everything that had come to mean so much being torn out of the deepest recesses of his very being...like having a tooth pulled from your soul.
Having become very good at hiding the effect Ray Doyle had on him generally, the specific reactions he experienced this evening were dealt with efficiently. Bodie became high on a mixture of danger, fear of discovery, anticipation and bravado, but he didn't dare go near that skinny frame until he saw it slump against the wall, the mouth drooping a little plaintively from a combination of weakness and tiredness. He wanted to wrap him up then, keep him safely tucked up where nothing could hurt him.
He found himself there beside him, no recollection of crossing the room with Holly in tow - a nice kid but she talked too much, and how anyone could think Murphy was so bloody marvellous when there was Ray Doyle around was beyond his comprehension - but the blinding smile of welcome he received was full and fair reward for his concern.
Feeling higher than he'd ever felt on alcohol, aware that Ray was the most potent drug he'd ever met and that he was by now hopelessly addicted, he couldn't move for a while, stuck to the spot as though he'd grown roots and afraid to try and move in case he broke the spell that Ray had woven round him. When he came to his senses again, he was deep in conversation with Holly and a couple of others, his back to Ray, unable to turn round and check on him without knocking someone's drink for six.
He stretched out a surreptitious hand, encountered the firm warmth of a thigh beneath those pale green moleskins and without volition his fingers curved round it lovingly. Doyle stirred restlessly and for a moment Bodie froze, but then he remembered Holly's voluminous skirt and secure in the knowledge that no one could see him, gave way to his sudden urge to seek out that gentle swelling beneath the cloth.
These bloody trousers had always driven him crazy, he thought hazily, wondering if Ray realised just how they emphasised his maleness, revealing where it nestled in lax comfort against the top of his left thigh.
Breath caught in his throat, heart jumping like a newly- formed frog trying to leave its pond, Bodie fingered the softness sensually, willing it to harden for him and wanting to shout his victory to the world when he felt the first, slow pulsing begin.
Beaming beatifically at the room in general, he greeted Cowley's arrival with a spirited effusiveness that made his dour boss raise a mild eyebrow at him. What they talked about Bodie had no idea then or later, but he must have carried his own part in the conversation reasonably well or the Cow would surely have made one of his sarky comments.
Feeling as though he'd been handed the moon as a gift, Bodie continued to probe and entice, welcoming the first, tiny thrust of those hips with an even stronger pressure, feeling his own body throb into readiness and infinitely grateful for dark trousers, dim lighting, and the genteel crush of party-relaxed bodies.
Then - Holly left and Bodie heard Doyle emit a tiny whimper and go dead still.
Oh, Christ, he'd thought it was her providing the illicit pleasure.
Bodie wanted to die.
What was Ray going to do - thump him here and now and walk out or save it up for later and kill him in private?
Doyle moved, coming even closer, trapping Bodie's hand so that he couldn't pull it away from where it lay, curved round the now fully-firm bulk of the engorged organ. Then a sliding sensation down the seam of his cords right to the base of his spine and beyond, right down between his thighs and back up again, nearly made Bodie betray them both with a groan of pure, animal pleasure.
It became a challenge then, maintaining the subtle exchange of physical gratification while continuing to talk soberly and coherently to their boss.
When Cowley finally walked away, Bodie didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Fantasy was over and now, reality would have to be faced, condemnation and accusation accepted. Bodie wasn't sure Ray would acknowledge the pleasurable side of it, wasn't sure he could himself, come to that. It had been a joke, a put- on that hadn't gone quite as planned.
Only it hadn't been, Bodie conceded miserably.
Schooling his expression, he turned, knowing it was time to take Ray home before he fell asleep here.
Somehow he made it to the car, arm round his partner, who was feeling the cold, camping things up a little to help them find the right perspective for the whole situation.
Then, when he got into the car, those long, gentle fingers curving round his skull, pulling him close and he was shaking... shaking...
He managed a jerky nod. "Ray, I..."
"Don't talk - not here." Doyle gave a half-smile. "Get us home. I'm dead on my feet."
Knowing it was true, Bodie did not push to apologise or explain now, particularly since he didn't know how he was going to do either and even whether it was necessary. Ray could still be putting him on, and they were both capable of carrying a joke to extremes. He drove his newly-precious burden safely home.
Once there, something - apprehension? shame? he wasn't quite sure at all - kept him glued to his seat.
Doyle unclipped his belt and gave him an enigmatic look. "You're coming in."
It wasn't a question. Bodie shook his head. "No - I'm..."
"You're coming in," Doyle repeated. "I need you."
So Bodie got out of his car and followed him inside like an obedient child, his brain still not properly in gear.
In the hallway Doyle suddenly reached for him as the front door closed, melting against him. "Oh, Christ, Bodie," he said crossly. "I'm so damned tired."
"Yeah, I know. Get to bed."
Doyle nodded wearily, sliding his hand down Bodie's arm to tangle their fingers firmly together.
That wasn't a question either.
If either of them had any sense, Bodie would leave, go home and forget this whole thing, let the cold light of morning cool them before they met again.
But neither of them seemed to have any sense.
Bodie followed his partner numbly, not saying a word, giving a helping hand with the sleepy removal of clothes, attending to the brushing of teeth, the last visit to the bog to be sure no harm came to this out-on-its-feet bundle as it loped unsteadily backwards and forwards.
Once he had him safely tucked in he bent over and planted a butterfly-soft kiss on the tip of his nose.
Doyle grinned sleepily, patting the spare side of his large bed. "Get in."
"Okay. Just lemme pick a few things up first."
"Get in." Doyle repeated with sleepy determination.
"Okay." Bodie gave in, pulled off the last sock that had somehow got overlooked, and climbed in beside him.
One warm arm reached out, draped over his ribs and a skinny body wriggled closer, burying its head in the curve of Bodie's neck.
"Too tired," their owner said peevishly. "Just you wait till the morning, Bodie."
"Promises," his partner said unsteadily, "promises."
And then the room was quiet save for steady, contented breathing.
It was a strange and beautiful night, Doyle thought, coming slowly and sensually awake in the early dawn. He had slept well, very well, relaxed and unworried against the powerful body. He'd woken several times but never restlessly, always knowing exactly where he was, who was beside him and what was - inevitably - to come, and it had always felt so right to be there, lying snugly against Bodie, hearing the quiet snuffle of his breathing and feeling its damp warmth on his skin. Once or twice he'd known Bodie was awake too but there was no urgency in the knowledge, merely a sleepy content in his presence.
Now they stirred against each other, a slow, perfect stretching, letting the moment build.
Bodie waited for those mutable green eyes to open and latch on to his, ready to share whatever was going - it had been like that for so long now. They were so aware of one another, always on the watch for approval or amusement.
"Dammitall," Bodie muttered in delighted realisation into the cloud of curls tickling his face, "we've been bloody flirting with each other for years."
Doyle gave a tiny, choked chuckle. "Fool. Cowley would've noticed."
"Why should he if we haven't?" Bodie demanded.
Doyle tilted his head back so he could see his partner's face. "You can be so bright sometimes," he said admiringly. "Haven't you ever noticed that Cowley always knows what you're going to do before you do it?"
Bodie's grip tightened. "For god's sake, shut up. You're putting me right off what I'm trying to get my nerve up for."
"Oh, yeah? What's that?"
Meeting those suddenly serious eyes, Doyle felt his confidence falter for the first time.
"Bodie - do we really want this?"
Bodie never hesitated. "I want it."
It was now or never. Doyle knew he could say, no, he didn't want it, and Bodie would draw back and leave him free forever - but there would never be a second chance and Doyle couldn't risk that.
"So do I - so what were you thinking about doing?"
Bodie propped himself up on one elbow. "Some serious kissing?"
Doyle ran a finger over the heavy, blue stubble. "We'll cut each other to ribbons."
"I don't care."
But their eyes were still searching the other's face.
Doyle said shakily, "Why don't we stop pratting around talking about it, Bodie? It can't usually take you this long."
"No." Bodie's tone was rueful but still he did not move.
"New to you too?" Doyle put the thought into words.
Doyle's sleep-swollen eyes closed slowly and opened again, a leaven of humour in them finally easing the situation. "Come 'ere," he muttered, winding himself round Bodie in shaky certainty, "come and have your evil way with me, will you?"
Their lips met, unpractised but willing, nibbling rather than passionate in this first, tentative trial, letting the sensations build without forcing them, content for the pace to be slow. Soon, that was not enough though, and the movements grew surer, the slow glide of free hands more adventurous. Unhurried at first, they explored the planes of back and arms, the hollow of collar-bones, the more intimate touch of nipple and ticklish underarm, enjoying the tremors they could cause in each other by the sliding of fingernails over sensitive nerve endings. Their hips pressed forward, thighs lifting to twine legs, hardening sexes touching in firework sparks of arousal, then upper bodies locked by straining arms and fully opened, intimate mouths, their free hands sought each other out, caressing and holding, exchanging pleasured sunbursts of pure joy, growing in urgency, reaching greedily for the peak and finding it - only seconds apart. The low gasp of Bodie's breathless climax filled Doyle's mouth, the suddenly still body held, bow-string tight against him, the quick ripple under his hand sending him over the edge and beyond...
"Bodie," Doyle whispered the name, still so caught up in the glory that he cared for nothing. "D'you know something?"
"Uh huh," Bodie grunted, his mouth still not back in working order, his limbs uncoordinated, heavy with ecstasy.
"I used to think about you...making it with a girl. Always wondered what you'd be like."
A long pause. Then: "Not quite like that."
Doyle chuckled, conscious now of the sticky and all-too- rapidly cooling liquid covering their bellies. "I'll get us a towel."
Bodie opened an eye, wanting to watch the lean body moving. Unaware of the anything but detached stare, Doyle encountered it on his way back and faltered visibly. Bodie's face broke into an uncomplicated smile of happiness, accepting the dropped end of the offered towel and drying himself off while Doyle did the same at his end.
Bodie tossed the material aside and held up a hand. "Cummere."
Doyle obediently did so, sinking down into an embrace that was already familiar and homely.
"I lost a girlfriend once through you," Bodie said conversationally.
"You what?" Doyle lifted a sleepy head to stare in undisguised astonishment.
Bodie grinned. "Yeah - we went out in a foursome, finished up back at my place. She complained I never stopped looking at you all evening. We had a hell of a row when we went upstairs because I suggested we ask you and your bird up as well."
Doyle grinned delightedly. "I bet you were bloody unsubtle."
"Certainly not," Bodie said, shocked. "What d'you think I said - I've always had this deep, dark fantasy about watching Ray getting his end away?"
"And had you?"
"Had I what?"
"Had this deep, dark fantasy?"
"You were bloody unsubtle," Doyle said in happy certainty.
Bodie grinned again, tightening his arms.
Doyle shifted so he could nibble an earlobe, explore the recess of an ear with his tongue, enjoying Bodie's responsive wriggle. "I've still got all sorts of things I want to do to you," he whispered breathily.
"Oh yeah?" Bodie tried to sound uninterested, but every twitch of his muscles betrayed him.
"Yeah. Wanna hear about 'em?"
"You wanna tell me so I suppose I can bear it."
So Doyle described a few in graphic detail while Bodie listened, his feigned indifference slipping with every word.
"So - " he said at last, "stop talking and get on with it. We've got time to try at least six of those before lunch if you don't waste it by talking."
Doyle leaned up over him. "Only six?" he said in surprise. "God, I don't think much of your stamina."
"When I flag," Bodie promised him, "you can carry on without me."
"Bodie," Doyle's voice was suddenly sober. "Why did you do it? Last night, I mean."
"Dunno." Bodie was embarrassed. "I didn't mean to - I was just making sure you were okay behind me."
"I thought it was Holly," Doyle chuckled.
"I know. Would you rather it had been?" Bodie didn't mind asking, he had a shrewd idea of the answer, remembering how things had escalated once she had disappeared into the crowd.
"You know bloody well I wouldn't."
Their eyes met, content for the moment to make their promises silently. Today was for physical pleasure, for the slow learning of each other; they had the rest of their lives for the words that would keep them together. They both knew already that those words would be spoken, they knew each other too well for pretences. Courtship was over and it was time, finally, to get serious.
-- THE END --