Wearing Away Stone
by O Yardley
FIRST YEAR: December 24
Picking up the binoculars to resume his inspection of the stubbornly lifeless house opposite, Doyle said idly, "If you could have whatever you wanted tomorrow for Christmas, you know, money no object and all that, what would it be?"
Grinning, Bodie told him.
Doyle allowed his eyes to drift momentarily towards the irritating bastard Cowley had wished on him. Try to find a promising topic for conversation that could help alleviate the boredom of a job intended not to overtax the as yet unproven abilities of CI5's rawest recruits, and where did it get you?
"I was being serious," he growled, a little put out at the gleam in the blue eyes that watched him.
"So was I," Bodie assured him, his grin widening.
Oddly uncomfortable, Doyle shifted slightly on the rickety kitchen chair. "Idiot!" he muttered.
"That's me," Bodie agreed with offensive cheerfulness. "Have to be either daft or heroic to be willing to work with a stroppy little bugger like you, don't I?"
"And you've got a very poor taste in jokes too."
"If I was joking, yeah. But I reckon anyone fancying that arse has got very good taste indeed."
"Look here," Doyle said, irritated, "I know you're only trying to get me going..."
"What - on the job?" Bodie said, miming shock. "Nah, I'd have the decency to take you home with me first."
"Decency," Doyle said through gritted teeth, "seems to have very little to do with it."
"So you don't fancy the idea?"
"You catch on quickly," Doyle said, dripping sarcasm.
"Well, OK then." Bodie took pity on him. "What would you have? How about a whole bike, instead of all those bits I keep tripping over whenever I come round to pick you up?"
Doyle snorted in disgust. Trust this arrogant, over-dressed, over-bearing, smooth-talking egotist to miss the whole point of owning and restoring the Norton. Hours of contented pleasure he'd had with that, and hours more still to come. Finishing the job wasn't really the object.
"No." He shook his head. "What I'd really like is... Hey, look! Quick. Something's happening over there."
Bodie leapt for the camera.
The arrival of the dustmen having been duly recorded, they settled back to their surveillance in silence.
SECOND YEAR: December 24
"This is more like it!" Doyle prodded his partner ungently in the ribs as he passed him on his way to the board to extract the darts he had just thrown. "Nice cozy evening here with nothing on at the moment we've got to work on - always supposing nothing unexpected turns up, of course - couple of birds back at your place simmering away until we get home..."
"Just so long as nothing goes wrong tomorrow either," Bodie reminded him. "It isn't going to be much fun being here on our own all day. And I don't know about your bird, but Joy isn't too thrilled at having to go home first thing in the morning. I did suggest she and Karen spend the day at my place, but she just gave me a very fish-eyed look."
Doyle was determined to look on the bright side. "Still," he argued, "it's got to be better than last year, hasn't it? D'you remember? Stuck out in that freezing cold attic in Balham the whole of Christmas Eve and half the bloody night as well, because that pillock Hetherington never turned up, and the other chap - what was his name? - was so fussed looking for him he never thought to let 'em know at HQ."
"I remember," Bodie said grimly. "I could have told Cowley that pair'd never make the grade."
"Should've given him the benefit of your opinion then, shouldn't you?" Doyle sniggered.
"D'you remember something else?" Bodie said suddenly, pausing as he was about to throw and fixing Doyle with a piercing stare.
"Asking me what I'd like for Christmas if I could have whatever I wanted."
Doyle shook his head blankly. His memory of those eighteen chilly hours were of acquiring corns on his backside from an unforgiving chair and wondering whether his hands and feet would ever be warm again, but from the way Bodie was giving him that sly look out of the corner of his eye it was something he ought to...
His stomach lurched.
"Thought so," Bodie said with satisfaction, and threw the double he needed to win the game.
"You always have been good at pulling someone's leg," Doyle growled. "You'll have it cut off in your hand one of these days."
"Hand, mouth, arse," Bodie said, all innocence. "I'm not fussy."
"I can tell that," Doyle retorted acidly, wiping the score-board clean with more vigour than finesse. "Go on, it's your turn to go first."
"Is that an offer?" Bodie said hopefully. "Turn and turn about? Sounds fair to me. Perhaps I should have made it plain last year it was a reciprocal agreement I had in mind."
Not about to rise to the bait that easily, Doyle merely shook his head, laughing. "Go on, throw the darts," he advised, "before I throw up!"
"Oh well," Bodie said philosophically, "I suppose it would have been a bit difficult to explain to the girls."
THIRD YEAR: December 24
"This is the third bloody Christmas on the trot we've been on duty," Doyle grumbled, shivering as he climbed back into the car and handed over Bodie's ration of the mince pies and coke he'd been to purchase. "D'you think we might get some time off one of these days?"
"What for - good behaviour? If that's what you're hoping for I should think twice before you give the Old Man any more aggro," Bodie suggested, chuckling.
"What do you mean?" Doyle was all indignation.
"Telling a Cabinet Minister he ought to have his flies permanently sewn up wasn't the way Cowley would have approached the problem, you know." Bodie bit into one of the mince pies with an expression of controlled ecstasy.
"Sod it all," Doyle said disgustedly, "that kid was young enough to be his grand-daughter, the dirty old bugger."
"Talking of which," Bodie said, his tone ultra-smooth, "have you given any more thought to my proposal?"
"Proposal?" Doyle turned from his study of the A - Z. Finchley not being an area he knew too well, he didn't want to cock up this meeting with his snitch through not being sure of the one-way system. "What proposal?"
Bodie sighed, loud and long. "You lay your heart at someone's feet and he doesn't even remember from one year to the next," he said dolefully.
Casting his partner a look of baleful suspicion, Doyle said, "What are you on about?"
"Buggery," Bodie told him. "I thought we'd established that. You know - what I'd like for Christmas if I can have anything I want."
"You what?" Doyle's look of disbelief seared across the scant twelve inches separating the two men.
Bodie shook his head. "Sometimes I wonder about you."
"Makes two of us," Doyle hastened to assure him.
"I reckon it must be early senility, the way you can't remember things from one year to the next."
Wondering why Cowley had never seen fit to warn him of the insanity clearly prevailing in the Bodie family, Doyle said, "I haven't forgotten. I just can't believe you keep thinking I'm going to fall for it each year."
"Perfectly genuine offer," Bodie said, hurt. "Comes straight from the heart. Promise!"
"Comes straight from my left bullock," Doyle retorted, grinning. "And hurry up and finish that coke or we'll be late for the meet. You know Jeffson - he won't hang around waiting for me."
"Unlike some of us," Bodie muttered, but he drained the can as directed and set the car in motion.
FOURTH YEAR: December 18
"Four bloody Christmases on the trot we've been on duty," Bodie grumbled, giving the list displayed on the tinsel-decorated board a glare that ought, by rights, to have singed its edges.
Equally annoyed, Doyle did his best to be fair. "I suppose it's only right the married blokes get priority."
"Murphy's not married," Bodie argued unanswerably. "Nor are Lucas and McCabe, and they're all off. We're not even on stand-by again. I could cope with that. Oh God! d'you remember last year's Christmas dinner?"
Doyle shuddered. The canteen at HQ was never renowned for its gastronomical excellence; at Christmas, when it tended to be manned by some of the more inexperienced staff its standards fell to an all-year low.
"Tell you what," he said, brightening, "I'll bring in a cold chicken, shall I? And you bring some salad or something."
"Make it the other way round," Bodie agreed. Cold chicken he could buy at the deli without arousing comment, but bought salad would have Doyle moaning on at him for months afterwards. "I'll get mince pies as well," he promised.
"You're on!" Doyle said, the prospect of coming in to work that day already less unpleasant. They were unlikely to get called out; Christmas up to now had always proved uneventful. And a day spent in Bodie's company was never completely wasted. "Tell you what, come round Christmas Eve and bring the stuff, and then we can both have an extra ten minutes lie-in in the morning if neither of us has to turn out to collect the other."
"Bloody 'ell!" Doyle eyed the carrier bag with respect. "You're not expecting to get all that in my fridge, are you?"
"No need to bother with most of it," Bodie said nonchalantly. "Just so long as you can squeeze the bird in somehow."
"I can usually manage to squeeze a bird without much difficulty," Doyle said, waggling an eyebrow. "What else have you got in there?" he demanded, once the chicken was safely stowed.
"Just a few extra goodies." Bodie tried to defend the carrier but wasn't quick enough.
"Nuts, chocolates, orange and lemon slices, one box of dates, ditto figs, bag of clementines, lychees, olives, peanuts and...crackers?" Doyle said, holding the last-mentioned item . "D'you intend us to get through this lot tomorrow, for Christ's sake?"
"It'll all get eaten," Bodie said easily. "And you never know - George might be there as well. He was lurking about last year."
"Yeah, I can just see him wearing a party hat and blowing a squeaker," Doyle agreed.
"We can always start on it this evening," Bodie suggested. He sniffed. "What's cooking?"
"Joint of bacon. Hot tonight with the girls, and then cold for breakfast in the morning."
"Girls?" Bodie looked taken aback. "You didn't say anything about girls." His own girl-friend of the moment had gone north to her parents and would be gone for over a week.
"That's 'cause I didn't know myself until this afternoon that Mandy was going to be free this evening. She thought she'd be working tonight, but she's swapped with one of the other nurses."
"You won't want me here if Mandy's coming," Bodie protested.
"It's OK - she's bringing a friend. And you needn't look like that. I've met Perry once and she's a smasher." Clearly seeing from Bodie's expression that his partner was not as keen on the idea as he'd expected him to be, Doyle said dubiously, "If you'd rather I rang up and put them off...but I expect they'll have left by now anyway."
Bodie sighed heavily. "Thought I was going to get you all to myself," he said lugubriously. "Every Christmas I keep hoping but..." He sighed again.
Doyle raised his eyes to heaven. "God knows what you'd do one year if I took you up on this," he said tartly. "Die from shock, I should think." "Oh no." Bodie shook his head, eyes gleaming. "I wouldn't do that."
Doyle was also shaking his head. "Sometimes I wonder about you."
"I've been wondering about you for years," Bodie said disconsolately, "but that's as far as it ever goes."
"Or ever likely to," Doyle told him, and was about to say more when the doorbell rang. "That'll be the girls," he said with a sense of reprieve. "Go and let them in. I want to get the spuds on to cook."
How long, O Lord , how long? His interest in matters Scottish not great to begin with, Doyle had OD'd on castles long before Bodie had completed his exhaustive inspection of the first they had visited. Now on their twelfth (or was it the fourteenth?) boredom had not just set in, it had concreted his soul. Thank God most of them were only ruins, though even at those Bodie seemed to need to check out every fallen stone: places like this one, with instantly forgettable memorabilia on show took forever. He propped a shoulder against a glass cabinet and tried not to look as though he was dozing.
An excited gabble of words brought his eyelids opens to find himself faced with an indignant middle-aged lady in fair-isle cardigan and half-moon glasses, and by the time she'd repeated herself twice, her accent more impenetrable as her wrath waxed, he finally understood her to be requesting him not to lean on the glass.
Bodie was on the far side of the room wearing his I'm not with that uncouth bugger look while he pored over a case of medals.
Doyle shot him a look of burning resentment, soothed the squawking female's ruffled feathers as best he could, and gave up on trying to appear even semi-interested. A quiet zizz in the car might enable him to speak to his partner without spoiling his enjoyment of their holiday.
He slunk out.
When Bodie arrived bearing two ice-cream cornets and hoping Doyle would not have spied him licking at each of them in turn as the contents melted in the unexpected May heat wave, it was to find that young man in the passenger seat, sound asleep and snoring gently. Bodie grinned lovingly at him in a way he would never have done were Doyle awake, and resigned himself without much anguish to eating both ices himself.
As he swallowed the last of the second one, he found himself the subject of an icy green glare.
"You might have bought me one," Doyle suggested.
"I did," Bodie assured him sunnily. "That was it. Was good stuff too; real cream. None of your synthetic rubbish," he added, tilting the driving mirror to see if any lingering traces remained around his mouth and trying, ineffectually, to remove them with his tongue at full stretch.
Doyle shuddered and passed him a handkerchief. "Unless you'd like a spit-wash," he offered, retaining it at the last moment when Bodie went to take it and releasing it with a grin at the ineffable look of disgust he was given. "No thank you, you keep it. I've got another. So where to now?" he added, over-brightly, once the ablutions were completed.
Groping in his pocket Bodie took out the pamphlet Doyle was learning to hate and unfolded it, saying regretfully, "I suppose we ought to give the ones up in Caithness and Sutherland a miss."
"Yes, we should," Doyle agreed too quickly. "Well, we haven't really got time to do it all," he added, doing his best to look disappointed about it.
"Then it's down the Great Glen to Urquahart," Bodie conceded. "You never know, we might see Nessie on the way - make ourselves famous."
"You know - the Loch Ness monster."
"Are we going near Loch Ness then?"
Bodie sighed exaggeratedly. "Only from one end to the other...eventually," he amended, Urquahart being somewhere near the middle.
"Is that far?" Doyle was looking forward to a rest, a shower, several long, cold drinks and a good [missing text] - not necessarily in that order.
"Far enough for today. We can look for a B and B in Drumnadrochit."
"In where? Nowhere's called Drumnawhatsit," Doyle protested.
"Up here places are even called Auchtermuchty," Bodie said, giving both soft ch sounds their full value and more.
"Thanks, but I did have a shower last might," Doyle informed him politely.
"Oh, it was you left hair all over the soap, was it?" Bodie started the engine, drowning Doyle's reply.
Having consumed a satisfying plateful of salmon, new potatoes, peas and a fresh side salad, Doyle was feeling mellow as they strolled back up the hill from the pub to their modest Bannock and Bothy perched high above the loch. His partner however, had a certain edginess about him that Doyle was at a loss to account for.
"What's up with you? Got a bone stuck in your throat? You're not usually this quiet."
"Actually," Bodie flicked him a quick, assessing glance, "I was wondering whether you'd rather we started for home tomorrow instead of going on."
"Whatever for?" Doyle said, astonished.
"Well," Bodie's shoulders lifted and fell, "you're not enjoying this as much as I am, are you?"
Doyle chuckled throatily. "You noticed, did you? Nah, who wants to go back to London? Last time I saw the weather report they were having rain and gales and God knows what else down south. 'n this anti-cyclone up here's going to be around a day or two longer, maybe even a week. Let's take advantage of it while we can. What did you say?"
"Nothing," Bodie muttered, going faintly pink about the ears.
Doyle studied them curiously, but said nothing. Bodie went even pinker.
"So where are you going tomorrow?" Doyle asked.
"Where would you like to go?" Bodie countered.
"You're the boss. I only came along to keep you company," Doyle reminded him, his girl-friend having let him down at the last moment, and Bodie's having refused point-blank to accompany him once she'd a) absorbed the fact that Bodie wasn't going to the south of France as she wanted and b) been told what he did have planned for them.
"I'm not sure I trust you when you're this co-operative," Bodie growled, but he could not cover his pleasure.
"Just as a matter of curiosity, how many castles are there in Scotland?" Doyle asked, opening the squeaking gate of Tigh na Drochit.
"Over a thousand," Bodie said casually.
"Over a thousand?" Doyle's howl echoed the gate's protesting squeal as it swung shut. "And if I know him," he moaned to a nearby rowan tree, "he's going to look at every bloody last one!"
"Can't have more than one last one," Bodie reproved him with dignity. "But yeah, I wouldn't mind doing that eventually. Take a good few years though. You couldn't do it all in a fortnight."
"You certainly couldn't," Doyle said faintly, holding a hand to his head.
"Knew you weren't enjoying it that much," Bodie said. "Are you sure you don't want to go home? I could drive you back to Inverness. You can get a train from there."
"Nah." Doyle walked on up the long path. "I can always sit in the car and read a book if I get bored. Could even go looking for a nice bit of crumpet to keep us company these long evenings."
The look Bodie offered his retreating back was not enthusiastic. Catching sight of it reflected in the clear glass of the bungalow's front door, Doyle raised an eyebrow in mild surprise but said nothing.
Two days later, a mile or two outside Oban, Doyle broke into cackles of unrefined laughter as Bodie signalled to turn off to the right to yet another ancient pile.
"Dunstuffing," he hooted. "What sort of a name is that? Finished with the rape and pillage, did they, and settled down to a life of respectability?"
Pausing while he decided whether he needed to turn right again or go straight on, Bodie mumbled, "They were bloody lucky then. Some of us never get the chance to start stuffing the ones we want."
"What did you say?" Doyle demanded, his laughter having drowned out most of this comment.
"I said it's called Dunstaffnage," Bodie said with ringing clarity.
Having made sense of what Bodie had murmured even as he asked him to repeat it, Doyle was only too happy to go along with this cop-out. Bodie's four-times-repeated Christmas request was not something he had ever taken seriously in the past, but he was beginning to wonder if he ought to have done.
"Bet it's not pronounced that way," he said, trying to grin naturally. "You know what Gaelic's like."
"And it's Gahlick, not Gaylick," Bodie informed him loftily, swinging the car into a space facing some trees.
"I know you say it is," Doyle retorted. "No, don't switch off."
"You planning on driving off without me?" Bodie said, frowning suspiciously.
"No. I'm just going to move so I'm facing the water instead of a lot of trees. Want something to look at while I'm waiting for you, don't I?"
Watching his partner's retreating back, Doyle was frowning in his turn. This holiday was providing him with considerable food for thought concerning his relationship with Bodie. For a start there was his own willingness to tag along, the lack both of female company and any real interest in Scottish history notwithstanding; and then there was the inescapable fact that neither of them had made any push to find themselves a bird along the way. It could be that they were both of them getting too old for one-night stands to be appealing but, painfully honest with himself as always, Doyle knew it wasn't that that had held him back - it was his inner conviction that it would somehow hurt Bodie if he slipped off on his own for a night simply to ship a tail on some willing female. Plus, of course. there was that stupid joke Bodie always brought up at Christmas...
At which point Doyle shut his thoughts down hurriedly. Honest with himself he might be, but that didn't mean he had to deal with something until he was good and ready to do so.
FIFTH YEAR : December 24
His arrangements complete down to the last sprig of holly, Doyle cast a satisfied eye over his living-room and went to have a shower before Bodie arrived, the tingle of anticipation down his spine assuring him he was not going to regret what he had planned. Once he had become certain Bodie wanted him he had thought long and hard about it, knowing that once it had happened both their lives would be irrevocably changed. It hadn't taken long to admit that the idea was beginning to excite and intrigue him: what had been harder to acknowledge was that he had stipulations to make before he agreed, stipulations he was not at all sure Bodie would want to go along with.
He was still brooding over this when the doorbell rang.
Eyes alight, Doyle stood back and let Bodie absorb the full impact.
Some minutes later Bodie managed to get sufficient control over his mouth to risk speech.
"Bloody 'ell, Balmoral in miniature." he said unsteadily. "I...I've never seen tartan paper chains before. Where the hell did you get them?"
"Nice, aren't they?" Doyle agreed. Indeed, catching sight of them had been the inspiration for the whole room.
"And tartan bows all over everywhere too," Bodie said,rotating to take it all in.
"Thought you'd appreciate it, the way you've been nattering on about Scotland ever since we got back," Doyle told him with dignity. "If I'd known all you were going to do was laugh..."
"Who's laughing?" Bodie demanded, clenching his jaw to stop it shaking. "And a tartan tablecloth," he discovered. "And napkins to match. How...how quaint!"
"You don't like it," Doyle mourned, his grin spreading from ear to ear.
"It's...it's...it's 'orrible!" Bodie said faintly, his eye just caught the heap of tartan-wrapped presents beneath the tiny tree. Well. at least if the gifts he had brought were only wrapped in boring old Father Christmas paper, the contents of the bottle among them were authentically Scotch. "Luxury tartan crackers an' all," he marvelled, picking up the box and inspecting it. "Oh, very nice too." He pointed to the illustration of the contents. "Hope you get the one with the pearl necklace in. It'll make a change from that tatty old bit of silver chain."
"You wait," Doyle threatened. "You just wait, that's all."
Bodie eyed him nervously, but Doyle only smiled back - a most unreassuring sight.
Dropping into the nearest armchair, Bodie said weakly, "Bring me flesh and bring me wine, page! I need strengthening for all this."
"You want supper, you can help get it," Doyle said, retreating to the kitchen.
"What're we having?" Bodie stopped short in the doorway. "It's not going to be haggis, is it?"
"No, course not," Doyle said scornfully.
Bodie padded eagerly in.
"We're having that tomorrow instead of turkey - with turnips!"
Shuddering visibly, Bodie brightened on seeing what Doyle had uncovered.
"Bloody hell - a whole cheese?"
"It's only a four pound truckle," Doyle said defensively, "and the way you eat..
"I'm not complaining," Bodie hastened to assure him. "Got any pickles to go with it?"
Doyle opened a cupboard door and gestured largely.
Eyes gleaming in anticipation, Bodie said, "I see you've been putting my small contribution to good use."
Since Bodie's small contribution had been a very generous cheque indeed, Doyle had gone to town on things Bodie would like. There was a box of crystallised fruit hidden away that had cost a fortune, and would have to be paid for in the way of a good long run come Boxing Day. Doyle was presuming (on four years' bitter experience) that Bodie would hog more than his share in the course of Christmas Day.
"Um..." Bodie peered into the cardboard box, bulging with packets, boxes and jars, that was standing on the wk surface. "Er...are we expecting anyone else?"
Up to now no mention had been made of girl-friends by either of them. But then they hadn't been mentioned last year either.
Ostensibly occupied in slicing the top off the cheese to make a lid for it while was being eaten, Doyle shrugged. "Depends."
"Whether or not you want to invite anyone."
"Oh." Bodie's tone gave nothing away, but Doyle knew Bodie was not sorry they were to be on their own. Girl-friends had seemed to matter less and less of late. He caught Bodie's eye on him and coloured faintly.
"Biscuits are in the tin over there." He pointed. "Or would you rather have bread?"
"Oh, if it's down to what I'd rather have..." Bodie's eyes swept appreciatively over him. "Um...biscuits or you."
Doyle stepped back, chagrined and not a little dismayed. "Help yourself then."
Bodie said gravely, "Not without an invitation, mate. That's rape, that is. But if you would only say yes one of these years..."
"Ah!" Striving not to look self conscious, Doyle said, "I thought for a moment you were going to pass up the opportunity for your usual Christmas Eve proposal."
Bodie smiled faintly. "Touch of panic, that's all. I have a feeling you're starting to take me seriously."
"I take this very seriously," Doyle agreed, cutting himself a generous portion of cheddar. "I don't know what you had in mind, three years ago, but I'm not having any one-night stands with you because it wouldn't bloody well work. If we start anything, we make a commitment and all that entails." He passed the knife to Bodie.
"Commitment?" Bodie questioned, pausing, knife poised.
"Don't suppose you've ever considered a dirty word like that, have you?" Doyle said tartly. "Got left out of your dictionary, didn't it?"
"Same as goodwill got left out of yours," Bodie retorted, attacking the cheese with some ferocity. "And this is supposed to be the season of it, too! Haven't you ever heard of giving someone the benefit of the doubt?"
"So what did you mean that first Christmas - anything? Or nothing?"
"Then? Just a quick tumble, probably." Bodie slid him a sideways look, mouth curving upwards slightly. "Put you in your place, like. But then I got to know you better - and I found it was more than just that I fancied that arse! In spite of what you think of me, I started to get serious. Had to keep it as a joke though, just in case. And," he added, eyes kindling, "I wouldn't start anything with you, now, if we didn't know exactly what we were getting into and what we both want out of it. Crazy, that'd be. End up getting ourselves killed if we don't have things sorted out."
"Yeah." Doyle nodded agreement and helped himself liberally to mustard pickle before pushing the jar Bodie's way. When both their plates were loaded, he led the way back to the living-room.
"You wouldn't go to all this trouble," Bodie waved a hand encompassing the tartan-decorated room, "unless you cared."
He sat down, popped the can of lager he was carrying and took a hearty swig, gazing challengingly at Doyle over it as he did so .
"I care," Doyle agreed. "But you already knew that."
"Yes, I knew." Bodie lowered the can and smiled fleetingly. "What I didn't know was whether you cared the way I do. I'm glad I persisted."
"Well you know what they say about constant drips." Doyle grinned. "You qualify on both counts!"
"So what are we committing ourselves to?" Bodie asked, balancing mustard pickle on top of cheese and biscuit and halting momentarily with it on the way to his mouth. "Cleaving unto each other so long as we both shall live? That sort of thing?"
Doyle pulled a dubious face. "Sounds all right for starters, I suppose, but I had something rather more permanent in mind. And exclusive."
"Exclusive? I didn't know you knew what that meant."
"Cheeky bastard." Doyle glared frostily across at his partner, the dignity of his bearing marred only by the large yellow smear adorning the tip of his nose. "You can talk!"
"Yeah, OK." Bodie laid his unfinished meal aside suddenly, got up, strode across to Doyle and took his plate away, dragged him up out of his chair and kissed him until they were both breathless, hearts racing. Then, still without speaking, he pushed him back down, handed back his supper, went to his own chair and carried on eating.
"I'd say that was worth repeating at fairly frequent intervals for the rest of our lives, wouldn't you?" he said at last with creditable calm.
Not often lost for words, Doyle simply nodded.
"Gay sex bother you at all?" Bodie enquired, in the same conversational tone.
This time Doyle mutely shook his head.
"Limited. Was a long time ago," Doyle said somewhat numbly. "Didn't put me off exactly, in fact I rather liked it, but I never found anyone else I'd even consider until... how about you?"
"I've always been bi," Bodie said casually. "But very, very careful. There's not been anyone, ever, since I got back to this country. You were the only one tempting enough for me to want to take the risks."
"We'll have to go on being very, very careful," Doyle said slowly. "If Cowley ever finds out... "
"Yes, exactly," Bodie agreed. "Means we won't be able to move in together."
"Considering we already spend half our time at each other's place... "
Bodie's smile grew. "Told you I was careful, didn't I? I decided over three years ago that I'd better make sure we established the right sort of pattern while there was nothing going on between us. That way we'd know how much we could get away with if it ever happened the way I wanted it to. I reckon we can carry on the way we are and no one will think anything about it. Take the odd bird out for a double date, maybe, but neither of us has had a regular bird for months and no one's noticed."
"Permanent undercover stuff?" Doyle quirked an eyebrow.
"You could call it that." Bodie's chuckle was distinctly lascivious.
"So when you've finished stuffing your face," Doyle said, eyes glinting, "we could go and start getting undercover if you like."
"Start stuffing each other instead, eh? I have every intention of doing so, provided I'm welcome."
"You're welcome," Doyle confirmed, adding, "Were you really that sure of me, making those sort of plans over three years ago?"
"Good God, no! Just optimistic," Bodie assured him.
Knowing now that it was going to happen, Doyle had no more doubts. The future was never certain, of course, but it seemed as though he and Bodie both wanted the same thing from the relationship, and they could make a go of it if they both worked at it. He finished his supper unhurriedly and carried both their plates into the kitchen.
"Bed?" he asked, turning to find Bodie closer behind him that he'd thought.
"If there's nothing else you'd rather be doing," Bodie said. with extreme politeness.
"Not a thing," Doyle said airily. His mouth was trembling slightly.
"Me neither. You scared too?" Bodie sounded breathless.
"Just a bit. Feels right though "
"Course it is. And stop worrying, everything will be OK," Bodie assured him with spurious confidence.
"D'you want a shower?"
"Had one earlier."
"Me too. But..."
"But what?" Bodie asked patiently as Doyle hesitated in the bedroom doorway.
"Look - every year you've said this is what you want for Christmas," Doyle said, his mouth quivering into a grin despite his best efforts to control it. "Well, you can't have a Christmas present if it isn't wrapped up properly. You carry on and get into bed and I'll be in in a minute."
"What the hell are you up to?"
"You'll see," Doyle promised him, and vanished into the bathroom.
Bodie was lying propped up on the pillows when Doyle finally appeared, a dressing-gown tightly clutched across his chest. His legs were bare.
Bodie frowned. "Have you been tying your prick up in paper and sellotape?" he demanded, wincing. "It's going to hurt like hell when I rip it off you, for God's sake." But he couldn't help an evil leer.
Silently, Doyle shook his head, his grin spreading from ear to ear. Then, slowly, he removed the gown and revealed the "wrapping" in all its glory.
It was a tartan.
-- THE END --