Waking from Dreams
"Waking From Dreams" is an alternate ending to the circuit story "There Has to be a Morning After" by Meg Lewtan. With thanks and apologies to Meg Lewtan. Published with Meg Lewtan's permission.
The sequel to this story is Chances Change
I wasn't talking about Ojuka, sir.
Arms crossed, Murphy leaned against the black car, his relaxed pose unrevealing of the tension within. There was nothing for him to do now except wait for Cowley to finish with the local police, and then to drive him and an uncharacteristically silent Ojuka to Gateways for the conference. Madame Ojuka and her co-conspirators were on their way to London; no such luck for them, as Cowley had deemed it politic to wait and explain matters to the local Chief Constable. After an initial objection, smoothly and rather ruthlessly handled by Cowley, Ojuka had gone to sit alone in the back of the car. Murphy's eyes travelled over the group by the door to Beachcroft, taking in the Chief Constable, his aide, Cowley, Doyle, and Bodie. With a caution as ingrained as it was unconscious, he didn't allow his gaze to dwell on the form of Bodie.
Doyle was speaking now; from his gestures, explaining the events at the hotel. A flash of white at the wrists where makeshift bandages had been placed over his burns. Bodie, Murphy noticed, was watching Doyle's every expression, his face impassive but his body...oh, his body was leaning ever-so-slightly toward his partner.
He's my partner, not my lover.
Bodie's voice, cool with what he had taken to be a natural restraint, explaining it to him that long-ago day in hospital. The day after the Barker op, when Murphy had been recovering from a bullet wound, and he had been seduced by the naked yearning in a pair of midnight blue eyes. The no-strings sexual relationship, begun so recently as opportunity and need combined, had exploded in a flash into a hope for a completion rarely dreamt of before.
Murphy's head dropped, eyes closing. From where did love grow? Friendship, affection, shared viewpoints, shared sex. It was there, all of it. An affinity of like to like. They understood each other's needs, and had a like-minded view of the job and its pressures. Progressing from a wary awareness to respect to affection and a true enjoyment of each other's company. Then, the night before Barker, the unacknowledged need that was nevertheless understood had blazed between them. His body's possession had been offered willingly to Bodie, and he had gloried in the man's power and grace, igniting an inferno that had left him seared. Marked.
But uncommitted until that hospital visit, and the revelation of a guarded hope shining through a lifetime of defensive barriers. Unexpressed in the cool face and the flippant voice before him, but there nonetheless. The beacon of that hope had set him alight and forged a determination to do whatever it took to keep Bodie with him. To create a future for both of them. Nothing in the nights shared over all these months had diminished that determination. Through the need for caution, through the dangers of each op, their relationship had grown and deepened, and steadied, until he'd begun to think even further ahead, to a time when caution would no longer be so very necessary.
I wasn't talking about Ojuka, sir.
Bodie would come to him tonight, or maybe tomorrow night. He always came after an op gone bad. The need for release was well-understood by them both: a celebration of victory snatched from death. Those nights when passion and violence ruled, albeit tempered by an undeniable, and unexpected, tenderness. The night after the Molner girl's death was a case in point. He'd been taken against the door in a fiercely satisfying frenzy, exorcising anger, terror, the sense of betrayal; proving survival with a wild joy. Later, in bed, they had come together again with gentleness and sweet care that was, in its own way, an affirmation. It was these moments, these nights, when he understood what it was he gave to Bodie that his partner never could. When he knew the odd threesome they created was a viable entity. Yet, he had never cared--or dared--to explore the hidden emotions roiling within his lover where Doyle was concerned. That, the one topic they never spoke of.
Murphy looked up at the sound of crunching gravel--into blue eyes set in a pale face. The clear concern for him in their depths pierced his heart like a needle through skin. Damn him.
"You all right, mate?" Bodie asked, and Murphy saw him resist an urge to reach out to him.
He wondered what Bodie would do if he took him in an embrace right here, in front of Cowley, Ojuka, the local police, and Doyle. He almost wanted to do it. But he had himself under control, and bitterness was a sorry excuse for action.
"Yes," he answered, his voice flat. "I'm not the one who's just been in a firefight, am I? Are they almost finished over there?"
Bodie glanced at the group, where the Chief Constable was now holding forth, to Doyle's undisguised disgust. "I'd give it another ten minutes or so."
Murphy looked to see if his gaze had fastened on any particular person, but he couldn't determine that. He thought not.
"You busy tomorrow night?" The usual question from Bodie, expressed lightly, but hiding nothing of the need. How long had it taken for the need to be expressed so openly?
And he heard himself answering, "Tonight would be better."
He watched as Bodie sent another glance to the group by the door, and this time he thought he understood the look. "Not tonight. Doyle 'n me have to write our reports for Cowley." A tinge of humour in the quiet voice: "For some reason we're not his favourite lads at the moment." Murphy felt the pressure on his chest deepen a bit.
"You mean you aren't."
An easy shrug. "No."
"Later then," Murphy said abruptly. "After the reports are in."
"Maybe," Bodie replied, but his face was closing. "I can't promise it."
"Try," Murphy told him, damning himself as he said it.
Bodie opened his mouth to reply, his eyes gone intent and questioning, when a hail from Cowley interrupted him. There was no misinterpreting the impatience of Cowley's gesture, but Bodie paused long enough to nod once at Murphy before starting back to the others.
Murphy watched him walk across the drive, unable as always to keep the beauty of the man from affecting him. Smooth and powerful as a jungle cat, compact muscles kept in superb condition. That, however, was just a part of the appeal to him. Underneath all the cool competency, the self-sufficient, almost arrogant, manner and the easy jocularity--underneath it all lay a heart and a soul seeking a place for rest, a place for himself. Murphy had seen that after the Barker op; had vowed to earn it for himself. He watched as Bodie again took his place next to Doyle, a hand reaching out gently to steady the slighter form as it made room for him. Murphy turned away.
Is Doyle in there?
The question flitted through his mind, and he pondered, tracking the reference. Early on, soon after he'd arrived...Franklin's voice...yes....
"...No one expected him, not even the Cow. And believe me, it was almost worth the shove just to see Cowley's expression when Bodie stalked in, all menacing glower." Jack Franklin's voice gave the syllables a proper amount of theatrical embellishment. And he sipped from his tea to give his audience a moment to appreciate it.
"He never did," Murphy protested. "They were on their own, 'didn't exist,' you said."
"Yes, but Bodie doesn't play by the rules, does he, my dear fellow. And he was angry--remember Charlie had been injured. He tracked Cowley down--don't ask me how he did it--and demanded help."
"Couldn't handle it?" Murphy asked, wondering at the reputation of the reputed top team of CI5. Wondered, too, what exactly he'd gotten himself into with this mob.
"Didn't see any reason to," Franklin corrected.
"So what'd Cowley do?"
"He explained the facts of life to our blue-eyed boy. I doubt it would have been enough, but by then Bodie'd been diverted."
"He'd been watching the monitors--they had them at each of the so-called safe houses where the meetings were taking place. He saw them closing in on number two. 'Is Doyle in there?' he demanded. And off he went, almost before the 'Yes' had cleared the air."
"He had a job to finish." Murphy nodded.
"He had a partner to back up," Franklin said, his voice suddenly very serious. "Remember that about your partner, Murphy my lad. He's the only one you can count on in this job, this world--ever."
Partners. Franklin had assumed he'd be partnered, and was preparing him for it, but Cowley had never assigned him one permanently. And Murphy had been content to work solo or temporarily with others. Even after he and Bodie had become lovers he'd never wanted to upset the status quo, although he knew he and Bodie would work well as a team on the streets. As quickly as the thought crossed his mind, he was back to the day when he'd first worked with Bodie--trying to prevent an assassination by looking for bowler hats and briefcases. By then he'd been with CI5 long enough to appreciate the reputations of Bodie and Doyle; to look forward to observing one of the pair at work. Quite aside from the obvious skills they possessed, he'd admired the dedication evident in every move, and their ability to give everything toward the completion of the goal Cowley assigned. When Bodie had gone into the bank in a desperate gamble with time, he had only proven everything Murphy had ever heard of him.
Dedicated to the job, worked well in a team--but you had to earn his trust first. Murphy was reminded of what he had overheard later that night:
Slumped on a bench in the overheated pub, drunkenly considering his options for the rest of the night, Murphy idly listened to the conversation around him. Good party. Funny joke, that bit with the Superman watch....
"Admirin' your pressie, then?" Doyle's voice. Murphy rolled an eye in that direction and saw the curly-haired man slouched comfortably next to his partner. The two agents had been temporarily left to themselves.
"Knew it was your idea," Bodie said gloomily, adjusting the sling supporting his broken arm.
"'Course," Doyle conceded.
"D'you have any idea how much that other watch cost, eh?"
"Priced 'em," Doyle replied. "This one was far more appropriate. And cheaper."
"Never knew you thought so highly of me," Bodie said in suddenly rapturous tones. "Think I'm a superman, do you?"
A snort. "Made of steel, that's you."
"And can keep going all night." Bodie leered.
"So can rabbits--and no one's ever accused them of havin' brains, either."
"All right," Bodie said, as if to head off any further comment.
"It's a bloody reminder, that's what." Vehemently.
"Why'd you go up alone? Murphy's a good lad."
"Just leave it, Doyle."
"Glory-seeking idiot. Don't you dare try that with me."
"Too bloody right you wouldn't." A pause. "Can't let you out on your own, can I? Why'd you leave Murphy behind, then?"
"He wasn't you."
A longer pause. "Dumb crud." But all the animosity was gone from Doyle's voice.
"So you keep telling me." A rally then, in Bodie's voice: "But don't forget, Raymond, I know of a few juicy little escapades you've pulled--"
Doyle interrupted, jumping to his feet and tugging on his partner's good arm with what Murphy considered far too much energy after an evening of companionable drinking. "C'mon. If you're going to start reminiscing let's get you away from this lot."
He's my partner, not my lover.
Partners: an odd breed. They trusted their lives to each other every day; almost like a marriage he'd heard it said. Murphy looked quickly at the group by the door, then away again. Good mates. Everything to each other but lovers. Bodie was well-known around the squad for his blow-ups when Doyle was in danger. And Doyle reacted just as strongly in his own way--witness his assault on the Empire Society when Bodie had been injured. Rumour had it Bodie had once accused Cowley himself of incompetence, had even threatened to resign--over Doyle. Cause enough for concern that day in hospital, when the look in Bodie's eyes had offered them a future. When he had seemed to promise so much if only Murphy would reach for it. And he'd reassured Murphy immediately when asked about Doyle: "What about him? He's my partner, not my lover and he made his views plain a long time ago when we discussed the subject. He's not interested in men."
But, Murphy thought to himself now, that wasn't really the question, was it?
Doyle. It had taken Murphy much longer to come to understand the man--if he even could claim that now. He had long respected Doyle's abilities, the skills and the intelligence that made him such an asset to the squad, and to Cowley. Working with Doyle was never easy, never relaxed--but somehow, for all that, very satisfying. He trusted Doyle on the job as he trusted only Cowley and Bodie. But away from the job.... Often cool and remote with his colleagues--more easily able to offer comfort to a stranger than to one of their own--Doyle walked his own independent path. Yearning, it seemed, for a normal life, though that was inevitably at odds with his profession--Ann Holly an infamous example. He would, on occasion, put in an appearance at one of the social gatherings, often from Bodie's prompting. When he wanted to, he could enliven any group with his sharp-edged but hilarious observations. Yet, he could turn that same sharp tongue on any of them, flay with an all-too-accurate comment. And his temper was legendary enough to keep all but a few at a safe distance, even on his good days. Those few, though--Bodie, Cowley, Jax, Stuart, Murphy himself now--were a testimony far more meaningful than any amount of 'liking' or social acceptance.
Gradually, with the increased contact with Doyle through Bodie, Murphy had come to see why Bodie had given his trust and his loyalty to Doyle. And he found himself, little by little, coming to like Doyle for his own sake, even to enjoy the double-act when Bodie and Doyle were together. Their working relationship was superb and he was glad that Bodie was so well looked-after in their day-to-day job. They each had their place in Bodie's life; no need for jealousy or contention.
Another memory came to him: about a month after the start of his life with Bodie. He and Bodie had arranged to go to a pub that night, ostensibly for pints and darts, though both knew they would be going home together. The arrangements had been made right in the rest room--lending an air of illicit danger to the whole affair that, in retrospect, was mildly embarrassing. But, God, in those early days.... Doyle had wished them well, declining an offer from Bodie to join them, for which Murphy had been grateful. As they had departed the rest room, Bodie had turned off for a visit to the bog, and Murphy had found himself the recipient of a coolly assessing green-eyed glare. He didn't think he had blanched, but the hairs on his neck had risen.
A long moment later, and Doyle had spoken, his voice low: "You've a chance, sunshine--don't cock it up."
An innocent enough sentence; nothing to remark about if overheard in the hallway. But the accompanying look had been enough: Doyle knew. It had taken a bit longer--well after Doyle had turned and walked down the hall--to recognise it for what it had been: almost a blessing. A declaration of non-interference. From the one man who could have interfered.
But then, there are more ways than one to bind a man to you.
I wasn't talking about Ojuka, sir.
Why had he gone up on that chimney with Bodie? Cowley had forbidden any overt action. Had it been the afterglow from the night before--a desire to do anything his new lover asked? No. It had been an eagerness to break the deadlock with Barker, to--admit it--receive an approving smile from the man who pulled all their strings. And even more, it had been the realisation that, finally, Bodie trusted him enough to bring him along on his play. To bring him along as if he'd been Doyle.
That feeling was, perhaps, even better than all the passion of the night before--that simple trust, never given lightly. Embedded within it was a confidence that Murphy would hold up his end, that between them they might tilt against the impossible. The combination of trust, ambition, and dedication had swept aside all objections to the risky climb--and Murphy had gone willingly. That it had ended in blood and disgrace was nothing next to the fact that Bodie respected his abilities. That Bodie would risk him in the interest of the job. As he risked Doyle.
Funny that, how love was marked by Bodie's willingness to risk. Love between himself and Bodie; partnership between Doyle and Bodie. Both necessary to Bodie and neither conflicting with the demands of an op or the job.
Or so he had believed.
Is Doyle in there?
Come on, Murphy. You're the best damned climber in the squad.
Doyle's in there, y'know!
Pass me the rifle, for Christ's sake!
I wasn't talking about Ojuka, sir.
A slight movement in his peripheral vision jerked his head up. The group by the door was finally breaking up. Murphy's eyes were drawn further up as the sun, fitful all day, broke through the grey clouds. He looked around, taking in the normality surrounding him: the wind ruffling hair and collars, the songbirds hailing the glint of sun, the cars and the police and the men walking toward him. Everything exactly as it always had been; everything indescribably different as if a cataclysm had struck. A cataclysm invisible to every soul but one.
Cowley was growling as he, Bodie, and Doyle came closer, stopping by the hire car brought to the house by a local policeman. "I'll want those reports straight away. Doyle, check in with the medical staff when you arrive."
Doyle's resigned murmur of "Yes, sir," was overridden by Cowley.
"Bodie, I'll have a word with you in my office, when I get back from this conference." He ignored Bodie's grimace with practised ease. "And take damn good care of that hire car you've got. I've enough trouble with your 'requisitioning' it without any further damages. Understood?"
"Sir," the Chief Constable called from across the drive. "Mr. Cowley?"
Cowley glanced around at the summons and noted the equipment one of the locals had brought to his superior. Bodie's surveillance binoculars, thought Murphy. Gesturing for Bodie to accompany him, Cowley went across to the waiting men.
Murphy walked to where Doyle waited by the hire car. Could a man be blamed for never realising his heart had already been claimed? Never given to self-analysis, was Bodie.
"Okay, mate?" Murphy asked, as Doyle leaned with customary fluidity on the hire car.
"Yeah," Doyle answered, but his face twisted. "Bloody cock-up."
"Happens," Murphy commented, and fell silent.
Abruptly, Doyle said, "That girl back there--"
"Dead," Murphy confirmed, knowing that Doyle already knew yet still hoped. And they were both of them silent. Murphy looked at him, seeing the deceptive build, the abundant hair, the oddness of eye and cheekbone. All hiding, within, a compassionate and idealistic nature dangerous in this line of work. And Murphy wondered at the fickleness of fate that would lead to the pairing of the cool ex-mercenary and the mercurial ex-copper. Wondered if Doyle knew what he had so casually rejected all those uncounted years before; wondered what it had cost him to promise non-interference.
Murphy found himself speaking without prior thought or intent, acting solely on instinct: "You've a chance, sunshine--don't cock it up."
And Murphy was gone, striding down the drive to meet Cowley at the car, ignoring the glance Bodie sent his way. The world was tilting oddly around him and he relished the familiar feel of the car beneath him as he settled behind the wheel. In moments, they were on their way to Gateways. One part of Murphy's mind concentrated on the road; the other occupied itself with snippets of conversation, glimpses of scenes from the past, desperately holding at bay a dreadful emptiness. All along the way they passed motorists and pedestrians caught up in their own concerns, their own victories and their own tragedies--oblivious to the lives passing by so quickly in the black car. And always before his mind's eye was the stunned expression in a pair of expressive green eyes.
Bodie and he met again in the rest room a couple of days later, when the ache that felt physical but wasn't had receded to little more than a dull, constant throb. And he added a second memory to that of the green eyes. This, of a pair of midnight blue, holding a new serenity in their depths that marked a soul's completion. Along with gratitude to a friend.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Roses and Lavender 1, Allamagoosa Press, May 1997