Bodie was tired. Tired in body, soul and spirit. He drove silently through the stormy night, the slow sweep of the windscreen wipers mimicking the weary beating of his own heart. It was all coming to an end, he thought dully. The worry that had been gnawing at him like a cancer was now an ever-present ache in his midriff. As the miles passed by he tried to reason with himself; he was not a superstitious man, but something deep inside recognised a chasm opening before him. If he fell into that chasm, Bodie knew he wouldn't survive. It would be a quick trip to nowhere before the ink was dry on his resignation; there would be no backward glances.
Fifty miles to Chelsea. Another hour to dwell on the man so deeply asleep beside him. Doyle had closed his eyes almost as soon as Bodie had pulled away from the scene of their recently completed and totally exhausting operation. It wasn't wholly unusual behaviour for his partner, but these days almost every move Ray made seemed fraught with double meaning to Bodie.
The traffic was light, which was not unusual, as it was well past midnight. Bodie drove mindlessly, wrestling with the demons that invaded his thoughts. How much longer he could go on this way he wasn't sure. Part of him longed to take matters into his own hands, to change his luck--CI5 be damned. That was the old Bodie, the one who laughed in the face of the devil and shared the story over a pint at his local. A rueful smile crossed his face as he realised that the old Bodie was long gone; good riddance, too, he thought with a touch of amazement. When had he realised there was more to life than survival? When had he decided to see this to its natural end? Did he owe Ray that much? Yeah, of course he did. Ray was his partner.
When had it all started? he wondered, flashing a glance at his partner as Doyle shifted in the seat beside him. That small frown which had recently become a permanent part of the elfin features had not faded; Bodie longed to ease whatever pain Ray felt obliged to reveal even in his sleep.
A good question, that, he thought. When had it all changed? Or had it always been there and it took that Ojuka op to bring it out? Could be. After all, when the thing had turned sour his only thought had been for Doyle's safety, the operation be damned. Not even the spectre of Cowley's formidable wrath had stopped Bodie from going in full tilt as the whole thing had disintegrated in front of him. He had braved that ire, both at the scene and later back at headquarters in private while Doyle had had his wrists and ribs seen to. Bodie had stood silently by in Cowley's office, letting the furious words pour over his bowed head; but he hadn't regretted his actions a bit. Still didn't. Cowley had finally seen the futility of his tirade and released Bodie with a frustrated shake of his head, giving Bodie a chance to find a quiet corner and slowly fall apart inside.
Now, months later, Bodie let the melancholy sound of the rain hitting the roof of the Capri lull him deeper into a sense of dark inevitability. Perhaps that had been the first time he had come face to face with his feelings towards Ray, he thought, feelings that had somehow managed to stay hidden even through the nightmare of Doyle's shooting.
Should have seen it then, Bodie thought bitterly. Been hiding it from yourself for some time, haven't you? He shook his head. Bloody ignorant fool.
A soft sigh caught his ear as Ray shifted again, green eyes opening briefly before closing with unutterable weariness. Oh, yes, Bodie, you knew then, didn't you? Couldn't quite come to terms with the idea that Ray Doyle had become more important to you than breathing, so you let things go on as usual: the work, the birds, the sameness of life as it had always been. Denial was an old friend in Bodie's world.
Then came the Ojuka op and Bodie's carefully constructed façade had crumbled. Suddenly it wasn't enough to just work with Doyle; time apart was time misspent as far as Bodie was concerned. Finally, late one night after leaving Louise's apartment after a perfunctory round of lovemaking, Bodie had found himself parked in front of Ray's flat, filled with a hopelessness and longing that frightened him.
He had broken it off with Louise the next day.
After that it became a matter of survival of a different sort. Maintaining a working relationship with Doyle came easy and Bodie took great satisfaction in that fact. The struggle ensued for Bodie when Ray kept on with his own life; still seeing that nurse Claire more often than not, but hardly averse to returning the odd flirtatious glance aimed his way. Bodie watched from the side, telling himself he was content with what he had and ignoring the pain Doyle's social life inevitably caused. Wasn't Ray's fault Bodie suddenly found abstinence more tolerable than a night spent looking to assuage a hunger that grew with each passing hour. Sometimes Bodie gave in to that hunger and simply took what was offered; it left him physically sated but made him sick at heart.
Bloody fool, he thought again, manoeuvering around the slower moving vehicle in front of him. It wasn't as if he'd never had a man before. Memories of the months in Angola had a nightmarish aspect to them now, but it was there he'd learned the pleasures of sex with another man. Oh, it hadn't been anything close to love--just a sharing of high-strung bodies that had needed something to take the edge off a desperate situation. Bodie had taken the experience for what it was and never looked back, sticking to women as soon as his return flight had landed at Heathrow.
Twenty miles outside of London Bodie indulged in a mirthless, silent chuckle. Well, to be honest, the first man he had noticed once back from Africa had been Ray Doyle. But that had been a clinical appreciation of Ray's attributes, rather than a personal sense of attraction. Their partnership had had a long way to go from the day Cowley had introduced them, both of them wary about letting down their guard enough to become friends. Bodie smiled slightly, a genuine smile of pleasure. Ah, but once those barriers had been eliminated, they'd worn their loyalty to each other like a second skin.
It was a loyalty tested often over the years, Bodie acknowledged in the cool darkness of the car. But each and every time they had remained standing while everything else fell away. Even the disaster that was Ann Holly had been survived, albeit with a great deal of ground to regain. But regain it they did, and up until Ray's shooting the days had passed in much the same way as before.
Christ. Bodie's hands tightened on the steering wheel as the unwelcome memories crowded in. Visions of milk and blood mixing obscenely on the carpet, the sound of the ambulance siren, the cold feel of Ray's hand in his as they rushed to hospital. Bodie's hard won impassivity had been abandoned, his thoughts only on Ray and the bastard that had shot him. Events had turned out so differently from what he'd first imagined, with Ray's assailant losing her own life in the cause of misguided patriotism. Aside from the impersonal regret of a life lost too young, Bodie had never given her another thought, his whole existence already beginning to revolve around Doyle's recovery.
The months spent watching Doyle suffer as he regained his health had defined Bodie's priorities nicely. The first priority was getting Ray well, both physically and mentally. Doyle was as tough as they came, but the trauma of the shooting had ensured them many sleepless nights, both together and apart. Bodie had often found himself losing at gin rummy or indulging Ray as he cheated shamelessly at Mastermind, usually at some godawful time of the night when the apparitions had become a little too real. Bodie'd become intimately acquainted with Doyle's sofa, soon leaving a change of clothes and a spare shaving kit to save a morning trip back to his own flat before work.
Second on Bodie's list was getting Ray back in shape for the demanding work of a CI5 agent. He took great pride in the fact that Doyle was declared fit for duty well before anyone else thought it possible. Even as they retrained with Macklin--Cowley having wisely decided that the professional partnership needed renewing as much as Ray's skills--Bodie knew Doyle was back in top form. Once past the gauntlet of Dr. Ross' psychological exams, life again resumed its pattern, waiting only for Doyle's close call at the hands of that sadistic South African to rend Bodie's world asunder for good.
It wasn't fair, Bodie thought despondently. These things don't happen to his kind. Coasting through life on his good looks and skills hadn't prepared Bodie for this sense of loss, of desolation, that was ever present now, even as the focus of his despair slept on unaware beside him.
After all, Bodie reminded himself, it was only pure speculation on his part that something was wrong. But ever since Doyle's last physical Ray had slowly, inexorably, been pulling away from him. Oh, not in the obvious ways. Doyle was still good for a pint and a game of darts after an assignment; the dirtiest joke was still not too ribald for him to tell. He was as sharp on the job as ever and there was no faulting his instinct or his reflexes. But shadows had taken up residence in the slanted green eyes, shadows that were effectively shutting Bodie out, leaving him bereft and confused. And scared.
At first Bodie thought it had to do with Cookie and the loss of the other CI5 members in the ambush not too long ago. Doyle had taken Cookie's death badly, no doubt feeling responsible for getting him involved in CI5 in the first place. Ray had a tendency towards guilt, an annoying trait Bodie often felt obliged to disarm. Bodie knew visiting Cook's widow June had been rough on his partner, so rough Ray couldn't talk about it afterwards except for a sad aside about a dog. After they had wrapped up that job Doyle had his physical and that's when things began to change. The shadows had taken up residence and Bodie was left with a feeling of coldness that struck him to the bone.
It's his heart, he thought bleakly. Has to be. Doyle looked tired all the time now, though he still performed his job flawlessly. But that great heart had taken two bullets and the damage had been extensive. It was nothing short of a miracle that Doyle had come back as far as he had. But everything has a way of catching up with you; Bodie knew that as well as anyone. And yet all he could do was sit back and watch as Ray slowly slipped away . . .
Bodie pulled up in front of Doyle's flat. There was no one about and the rain was finally easing back to a fine mist. Bodie turned off the engine and shifted towards his partner, who was still deeply asleep and curled tightly into the passenger seat, hands clenched and tucked close to his body. With a gesture filled with a mixture of all the fear and affection he been feeling, Bodie reached over, forcing himself to bypass the flawed cheek, to give the bony shoulder a gentle nudge.
The green eyes blinked sleepily as Doyle took in the dark, deserted street. He straightened in the seat and stretched before favouring Bodie with a slight smile. "Sorry, mate, didn't mean to be such lousy company." He yawned, revealing the chipped tooth that lent him an air of vulnerability Bodie found irresistible. "You want to come up for a cuppa? Or better yet, some of that Baileys I won off of Jax last month?"
Bodie smiled. "Berk. It's three o'clock in the bloody morning and the Cow expects our reports on his desk by ten. You, my lad, need your beauty sleep, much as it pains me to mention it."
"Do I now? Well, I can't hardly argue with that, can I?" Ray reached over to pull on the door handle and slipped outside, then laid his arm across the top of the car to lean in. "Ten o'clock, you say? God, Bodie, what did we do to deserve such a reprieve?" Ray's eyes caught the reflection from the streetlamp, momentarily leaving Bodie without a reply as he gazed at his partner.
Bodie gave himself a mental shake. "Don't know, let's just make the best of it, shall we? Off with you, sunshine, before the plods arrest you for loitering."
"Get out of doing those reports then, wouldn't I?" Doyle moved to close the door but then abruptly leaned back inside.
"Night, Bodie," he said softly.
The door shut and Bodie watched as Ray quickly crossed the street and let himself into his building. He waited until he saw the light shining from Doyle's second storey flat before restarting the car and heading for his own bed.
The next morning found both of them at work on time, reports being diligently filed with Cowley's promise of an early start to the weekend resounding in their ears. Bodie tried to keep his eyes focussed on the work before him, but more often than not he found his gaze straying to his partner. If Doyle had got any sleep at all it wasn't reflected in his face; there were deepening lines around the sensitive mouth, a weary cast to the eyes. Even as Bodie dared another glance Doyle propped his head wearily on an upturned wrist. Not able to stand it anymore, Bodie took refuge in teasing. He reached over and nudged the supporting arm away from the curly head.
"Oi, Ray, you go out on the pull after I dropped you off last night? You've the look of a man badly in need of a week's sleep if you ask me." Bodie kept his tone light; Doyle could be damned prickly and as tired as he was that sharp tongue could draw blood.
But now Doyle only shook his head and sighed. "Oh, that'd be a rare trick. Was out as soon as me head hit the pillow. Glad that last op didn't muck up the weekend." Bodie watched as Ray rolled his shoulders slowly, twisting his head in an attempt to crack his neck.
"Oh?" Bodie tried to sound disinterested. "Got big plans, Don Juan?"
Doyle gave out a rough bark of a laugh. "Hardly. I've barely enough cash to buy a newspaper, let alone dinner and drinks for some bird I barely know."
"What about Claire? Surely she's up for a quiet dinner at her place or is she on nights again?" Bodie hated the pretence of being interested in Doyle's love life, but he knew it was expected of him to at least ask.
But this time, to his vast surprise, a flush of color came up in Ray's cheeks as he looked away, obviously embarrassed. "Didn't I tell you? Broke it off with her a while back. We, uh, didn't see eye to eye on quite a few things and after a while we decided to pass altogether."
Bodie didn't know what to say. He'd never really thought of Claire as anyone permanent in Ray's life--not like Ann Holly had threatened to be--but he was still caught off guard by Doyle's admission. He stifled the small thrill that flickered in his belly and put on a sympathetic face.
"Well, now, seems we've something in common. That little black book of mine has let me down--I might mention for the first time in recorded history--and I find myself at a loose end. Fancy a quick meal?"
Doyle shook his head. "Getting old, mate, when a quiet Friday night sounds so appealing." He perked up with an idea. "Hey, wanna take the bikes out tomorrow? Supposed to be good weather and I even think I can afford a tank of petrol."
Bodie tried to keep the enthusiasm from his voice, yet he still knew he sounded pleased. "Yeah, sounds good. If it's all right with you I'll just bring my gear over tonight and kip on your couch." He fixed Doyle with a stern gaze. "You will have something in for breakfast, won't you? Something substantial, not your usual stale bread and weak tea? I've got to keep my energy up if we're going out into the wilds."
Doyle rolled his eyes. "Jesus, Bodie, one time I offer you the heel of a loaf of bread and you'll never let me forget it. Let's do this then--you pick up whatever you fancy for breakfast on the way over tonight and I'll see to dinner. That way I'll hear no complaints--"
Murphy stuck his head through the doorway. "Hey! Bodie, Doyle, you've got a meeting with Westmoreland down in the armoury in half an hour!"
They quickly finished their paperwork and finalized their plans for the weekend before splitting up, Bodie to file their reports with Cowley's secretary and Doyle to the computer room for a check on another case in progress.
Oh, Bodie thought, it had been a day. He groaned as he and Ray led their bikes back to the clearing where they had parked the trailer. From one extreme to the other, hour after bloody hour. First the exhilaration of the ride, the hills giving them hours of physical release and testing their skills constantly. He relished the abuse he gave his body as he and Doyle rode for miles, going long periods of time without speaking. Just as on the job they communicated wordlessly, Doyle often lead him down another rutted trail with nothing but a flash of white teeth in a mud-covered face underneath the protective goggles. There was never a question but that Bodie would follow.
But as often as Bodie found himself reveling in the sheer fun of the day, he had many moments of discomfort watching Doyle ride hell for leather without a thought to his own skin. With his growing fear about Ray's health never far from his mind, Bodie found himself in a constant state of worry.
It escalated sharply at the end of the day as they loaded the bikes into the trailer. After locking down the tailgate, Doyle--not knowing Bodie was behind him and watching--placed his folded arms against the rough, unpainted wood. He leaned until his forehead rested on his wrists, sweatsoaked curls plastered against his neck. Bodie pulled out a towel from his holdall and draped it over Doyle's shoulder, then grabbed another to wipe his own face. Ray didn't move for a moment; Bodie was becoming concerned when Doyle finally straightened and pulled the towel off his shoulder.
"Thanks," he said quietly, not meeting Bodie's eyes.
Warning bells went off in Bodie's head. After a day of easy companionship Ray was withdrawing from him again before his eyes and he had no idea why.
Once again he took refuge in jest. "Don't mention it, mate. You've more dirt on you than you left back on that road. Not that I'm much better, mind. But at least I've got the excuse of falling into that last mudpit you led us through, instead of going 'round it like someone whose name I won't mention. I don't wonder you didn't set me up for that one." He balled his towel and tossed it softly towards Ray's head. Doyle caught it and lobbed it back, a smile tugging at his mouth.
"That's half the fun, isn't it, seeing you dipped in mud." He leaned forward conspiratorially. "Hear it's very beneficial for the complexion." He widened his eyes as if he had just shared a state secret, then moved off to begin stripping out of his mud caked overall. Bodie rolled his eyes in exasperation but felt the unease building inside.
"All right then, home for a quick shower and then what? Pub? That new Italian place?" Bodie unzipped his own overall and began to shrug out of it. Doyle rolled his up and tossed into the trailer in front of the bikes, then leaned against the wheel well to pull on his trainers. Some of the weariness left his features as he nodded his head.
"Yeah, that sounds best, since I've nothing at home now that good ship Bodie ploughed his way through my pantry last night. " He straightened, stretching his arms high overhead, causing his yellow T-shirt to creep up and afford Bodie a glimpse of taut abdomen. Bodie swallowed and turned his gaze away, affecting a wounded expression.
"I can't help it you've the eating habits of a parakeet, mate. Could stand to build up a bit, you know, put some meat on those bones." He quickly finished changing, ignoring the contemptuous glance sent his way.
The easy give and take was sustained through the ride home, much to Bodie's relief. He wasn't sure how much more of Ray's moodiness he could take without revealing his own conflicted emotions.
Upon reaching Doyle's flat, they separated: Bodie upstairs to take the first shower while Ray took the bikes to the alley to hose them down. When Bodie got out of the shower, clean-shaven and wet-haired, he dressed in his trousers and shirt from the day before, first giving them a cautionary sniff before deciding they would do for quick supper.
He had just made himself comfortable on Ray's sofa, bare feet propped up on the coffee table as he perused the paper, when Ray came in.
Doyle took in the bare feet, the wrinkled newspaper and small glass of whisky in Bodie's hand and snorted. "Glad to see you've made yourself at home, mate. Anything else I can get you while I'm up?"
Bodie frowned playfully, then shook his head. "No, shouldn't think so." He downed his drink and set it aside. "That was the last of your Scotch, by the way. Do pick some up soon, won't you?"
Doyle shot him a look of feigned annoyance as he headed towards the bedroom. "So sorry, your ruddy highness. Get right on that, I will." Bodie smiled as he heard the shower start, refolding the paper and turning to recline fully on the sofa. He had just got comfortable when the phone rang.
"Bloody hell," he muttered, the sounds of running water forcing him to rise and answer Ray's phone. He hauled himself up with a groan, the warm shower having not quite erased the exertions of the day, and moved over to the phone on Ray's kitchen wall.
A light, feminine voice replied. "Ray?"
Bodie sighed. "No, sorry, he's indisposed right at the moment. Take a message?" He rolled his eyes at the exaggerated moan of disappointment on the other end of the line.
"Yes, please, tell him Anne-Marie called. The number is--"
"Hold on, hold on, I need something to write on." Bodie knew he sounded truculent but didn't care. He yanked out one drawer and found nothing but household odds and ends. The drawer below it yielded a biro and a folded sheet of paper that he grabbed and laid on the counter.
"Yeah, go on, give us the number, love." He wrote it down and ended the call, belatedly realising he might have written the number on something important. He put the biro down, picked up the paper and unfolded it.
It took a moment for his brain to make sense of what his eyes were telling him. When comprehension finally kicked in, he leaned against the wall near the phone, legs suddenly too shaky to hold him up by themselves. In a mind-numbing flash, his worst fears were realised.
What he held between trembling fingers was Ray's letter of resignation from CI5. It was concise, undated and made no mention of his partner.
Bodie closed his eyes and swallowed. He forced down the nascent feeling of panic, only to have it replaced by a cold, burgeoning anger. Clutching the letter in his hand, he stalked to Ray's bedroom to lean on the doorframe, waiting like a bird of prey for Ray to finish his ablutions. When the water was turned off Bodie crossed his arms, the paper dangling from his fingers.
The door to the bathroom opened, emitting a billow of steam into the hallway. Bodie watched, steely-eyed and unmoving, as Ray, clad only in jeans, took a towel and vigorously dried his hair.
The anger inside Bodie was swelling, a poisonous concoction of righteousness and hurt. Patiently he watched as Doyle finished drying off and finally emerged with the white towel draped around his neck.
Ray stopped abruptly when he saw Bodie. Although the leaning stance was casual in appearance Doyle had no problem reading the tension in his partner's face.
"Bodie, what's wrong?"
Bodie smiled, a small, lethal grin that made Ray shiver involuntarily.
"Wrong, Ray? Why don't you tell me?" Bodie uncrossed his arms and held up the letter. "Or was this none of my business? Maybe I'd just show up to work one day and Cowley'd introduce me to my new partner. That how you had it planned, Doyle? Quick escape, maybe send me a postcard to ease your conscience?"
Doyle paled. "Where'd you find that, Bodie? Been going through my things?" He pushed angrily past Bodie into the bedroom, rubbing at his hair with the towel.
Bodie shook his head and took a step into the room. "Not at all, mate. Took a message from, um, let's see--" he made a big production of turning the paper around and reading the name. "Ah, yes, Anne-Marie, no doubt wants to invite you for tea at her mum's. I merely grabbed the nearest paper handy and lo and behold, this is what I found."
Doyle stared at him wordlessly for a moment and suddenly Bodie grew tired of baiting him. He crumpled the letter viciously and flung it across the room.
"God damn it, Ray, what the hell were you thinking? Don't you think you should have told me about this? Am I your bloody partner or aren't I?"
Doyle wiped his face with a corner of the towel, then settled his hands on his hips. "You're right, of course. I should have told you when I was thinking about it but I wasn't sure how. You're not the most approachable bloke, you know? And I didn't want to worry you if--"
"Worry me!" Bodie exploded. "Jesus, Ray, approachable or not, you should have come to me. Affects my life, too, you know!"
Ray looked away from Bodie, no longer able to meet the accusing eyes. He clutched at the towel like an anchor before forcing his gaze back to Bodie's.
"I know. I just didn't want you to feel like you had to fix things for me . . ."
That got Bodie's attention. He felt some of his anger drain away in the face of Ray's obvious pain.
He took a step closer. "Fix what things? What do you want from me, Ray?"
Doyle closed his eyes and gripped the towel tighter. "Jesus, Bodie don't--don't ask me that." His voice was uncharacteristically shaky, pitched low with an edge of desperation.
Bodie came alert, catching the tone. A slow ache began deep inside his chest, a sweet pain he ruthlessly ignored as he pushed Ray further.
"Why? Tell me why, Ray. I've got a right to know."
Doyle started to turn away but Bodie stopped him with the lightest of touches on his bare shoulder. With a deep sigh Doyle turned back to face him, hands held out in a gesture of defeat.
"All right. S'true, you have the right. Just don't know if I have the guts. It'll change everything." Green eyes gazed into blue, begging silently for a reprieve that was not granted.
"Too late, sunshine. It's changed already. Now tell me why you won't let me in." Bodie was acutely aware of their closeness; they stood facing each other with only a few feet between them, the afternoon sun slanting sharply through the bedroom window and warming their bare feet. "S'ok, Ray. Trust me. I won't let you down."
Doyle visibly relaxed at the softly spoken promise, but Bodie guessed it was more in resignation than relief. He watched anxiously as his partner took a deep breath and began.
"It was Cookie. Well, June, mostly. Telling her was bloody awful; she took it hard as you'd expect but she--ah, Christ." Doyle shut his eyes tightly and turned away. Bodie let him, his own sense of confusion growing at Ray's words. This wasn't what he expected at all. He followed Doyle to the window, where Ray was staring out blindly, arms now tight across his chest.
Bodie grasped Ray lightly by the shoulders and turned him so they faced each other again. "Go on, Ray. I'm listening."
Doyle sighed. "Yeah. So, after I gave her the bad news she said a few things. Oh, I know she was hurting and striking out at whatever was nearest but what she said--well, it was damned hard to hear." Doyle's eyes took on a far away look and Bodie had to restrain himself from shaking him in frustration.
"What did she say?"
Doyle brought his eyes back to Bodie's. "That it was ok for me to 'play cowboy', I believe was the term she used, because I had no one. I let her have a go, but I remember thinking, s'not true. I've got someone--I've got Bodie . . ." Ray swallowed hard. "But I don't, do I?"
Bodie stared at him, shock reverberating through every pore. He cleared his throat but his next words still came out hoarsely.
"Christ, Ray, of course you do. You've had me all along."
But Ray shook his head, dark curls catching the waning golden sunlight. "Sure, you're me best mate, we've been through--" he paused, eyes widening as he registered the wild expression growing on Bodie's face.
Bodie stepped closer, his heart beginning to pound and that sweet sensation again swelling in his chest. He ignored it as he responded carefully.
"Not like that."
"Not . . . not like what?"
Bodie was still confused. He reached up to run the back of his hand down Ray's broken cheek but checked himself when he saw Doyle flinch. "The letter, Ray. Why are you resigning?" He dropped his hand and waited.
Doyle wet his lips. "Wrote that after Cookie's funeral. You dropped me off after the pub; I was more than half pissed and the only thing I could think of to make meself feel better was quitting, running away. Next morning Cowley sent us up to Oxford after that East German defector and I--well, I guess I decided half a life was better than none at all. Always meant to throw the thing away but kept it around just in case--" he stopped abruptly as Bodie seized him by the upper arms, forcing him to take a step back.
Bodie held on tight. "Ray," he growled, "are you all right? Physically, I mean?"
Doyle blinked at him, startled by the abrupt change in his partner.
"Yeah, fine! Just had me physical, you know that. Passed with flying colours--"
Bodie let go, almost pushing Ray away but not giving him an inch of extra space. "Jesus, Ray! I've been worrying myself sick about you, watching you day after day, thinking that you're ill--you've been out of it, mate, you know that! What the hell has that all been about?"
"You been worryin'?" Ray asked. "What, you thought it was me heart?"
Bodie threw up his hands. "Of course, you idiot! Damn it, Ray, was all this about June hurting your bloody feelings?" Bodie knew his anger was out of proportion but it was fuelled by relief--and disappointment.
Doyle bristled, his own anger beginning to rise. It made him careless. "No, it bloody well isn't about that! It's about--it's about you and all the times . . . oh, Bodie, leave it be! No good can come from this!" He clenched his fists and balanced on the balls of his feet, as if prepared to flee.
"No, I won't," Bodie replied in a voice filled with soft menace. He knew his nerves were stretched as far as he could possibly withstand. Ray's half-uttered confession had burrowed under his skin and there was no stopping Bodie now. "I'll have it from you now, Doyle, or we're done. No more hiding."
"You're a fine one to talk, mate," Ray snarled. "You've been hiding all your life, haven't you? Same chapter, different verse for you, isn't it, being in CI5? When are you gonna quit this mob, then? Maybe it was me all along would show up to work and find a new partner to break in."
"Oh, sod off, Ray! I never gave you cause to think--"
"Like hell you didn't! What was all that with King Billy then, eh? You think it was a picnic, seeing Cowley holding a gun to your head?" The last was uttered in a voice of angry bewilderment, as if Ray had just realised what an abhorrent memory it was.
Bodie stared at him, hard-pressed to deny the allegation. He'd been out of control then, shutting Ray out in an attempt to prevent his partner from seeing the ugliness that dwelt inside the ex-merc. He took a deep breath and made another attempt to get at the truth. He felt as if his future had been reduced to the next few minutes, distilled down to the elemental wanting of the man who stood uncertainly before him.
"No, I know it wasn't. But Ray, this isn't getting us anywhere. Look, I'm here, I'm not goin' anywhere. I'll ask you again--what do you want from me?" He stepped close to Ray, reaching up to toy with the end of the white towel still draped around Doyle's neck.
Doyle took a shaky breath and forced himself to meet Bodie's eyes again. "Christ, Bodie," he whispered, "I want it all. Question is, what are you willing to give?"
Bodie's hand stilled where it touched the end of the towel. Then Ray's eyes drifted shut as the towel was carefully, gently pulled off his shoulders. The white fabric drifted to the floor unnoticed as Bodie slowly walked around Doyle with the air of a large, predatory cat. When he was directly behind Ray, Bodie used the tips of his fingers to frame Ray's waist, just above jeans that rested snugly on slim hips. A shudder ran through Doyle at the intimate touch, his flat abdominal muscles flinching slightly. Beyond that he made no move, eyes still closed.
Bodie paused, his own eyes shutting briefly as he contemplated his next step. Ray's skin was tantalisingly warm under his fingers, the clean scent of him filling Bodie with a feeling closer to pain than pleasure. Here it is, Bodie, old son, he thought distractedly, don't fuck it up--your future depends upon it.
Taking a deep breath, Bodie leaned over Doyle's right shoulder to whisper into a curl-covered ear.
"What will I give you? Mighty serious question, that. Ready for the answer, Ray?" Nimble fingers drifted slowly forward to carefully undo the top button of Ray's jeans. Bodie smiled slightly when Ray made no move to stop him, revelling in Doyle's sharply indrawn breath. Then he slid his hands upward to the curve of Ray's ribcage, settling there with an air of propriety. He moved to Ray's other ear, still using his hands as the only point of contact. "Be sure, Ray. Be very sure. If you've a mind to back out, do it now. Won't be any going back after this. Do you understand? Are you ready to take everything I have to give?" He held his breath, waiting for Ray's response, only to hold himself from sagging in relief as Ray brought his hands up to cover his own, threading their fingers together.
"Oh, Bodie," he breathed, voice catching, "don't poke fun at me. I've waited too damn long--" He stopped as Bodie suddenly turned him around, strong arms pinning Ray to his chest.
"Not nearly as long I have, mate," he muttered, just before his mouth descended on Ray's in a rush of passion and longing that had been held back for too long. But even in the heat of the moment Bodie never forgot the man his arms; his entire being was focussed on Ray's response. At the first gesture of denial Bodie knew he would be out of the door, the most important relationship in his life irretrievably broken.
And yet--Ray's arms were reaching around him, pulling him impossibly closer. Bodie tilted his head to slant his mouth against Ray's, running his tongue against Ray's lower lip, begging to be let in. A low rumble emerged from deep within Bodie's chest as Ray opened his mouth to him, allowing his tongue entry into the velvety warmth.
Bodie slid a trembling hand up Ray's back and tangled it in the still damp curls. He broke off the kiss and rested his head against Ray's temple to catch his breath, before descending again on the arched curve of Ray's neck. Ray's hands were clutching at his back, pulling himself further into Bodie's embrace.
Bodie's blood pounded through his veins as he fed on the sweet skin at Ray's shoulder. It was intoxicating, this freedom to taste, to touch. The hand not threaded through the auburn curls slid down Ray's back, pausing only briefly to caress the scars before letting his fingers dip beneath the waistband of Ray's jeans and briefs, which were just loose enough to allow him to brush the soft skin at the base of Ray's spine. When he heard Ray moan he answered with a growl of his own, reclaiming Ray's lips in a fierce kiss. Ray met him move for move, allowing Bodie's tongue entrance again, then quickly claiming his own place inside Bodie's mouth. This kiss was gentle and rough by turns as they discovered the many textures and flavours between them, trying to learn too much at once. Both of them shuddered when their hips met, the combined heat from their arousal escalating dangerously.
Bodie's passion-fogged brain took a moment to clear when Ray insinuated his arms between them, placing his hands firmly on Bodie's upper arms and pushing him slightly away. Bodie took a step back, the searing pain of separation almost causing him to gasp. He forced himself to look at Ray, afraid to see the cold-eyed rejection he had feared so much.
But to his overwhelming relief, Ray only reached up with both hands and gently grasped his ears, the gentlest of smiles just crinkling the skin around his eyes. Bodie held his breath as Ray pulled his head towards him to press a soft kiss at the corner of Bodie's mouth, then leaned back. Ray's hand moved to caress his cheek, but Bodie caught it and pressed his lips to the warm palm. He wrapped long fingers around Ray's thin wrists and guided his arms until he was wrapped in Ray's embrace once again. Amazed by the tenderness that filled him, Bodie rested his forehead briefly against Ray's, then pulled back, hands resting lightly on Ray's shoulders.
That's when Bodie saw it, the love that had eluded him all his life, right there in the eyes of the man who was soon to become so much more than his partner. He broke into a rare, sweet smile that faded as Doyle's hands pulled his shirt out from his slacks and slid up his to caress his back. He gave a small moan when Ray leaned in to run his tongue down Bodie's throat, then nuzzled the delicate skin behind his ear.
"All right, Bodie," Ray whispered, a tone of affectionate wickedness creeping into his voice, "I'm ready."
Bodie tightened his hold, the heart-stopping certainty that Ray was his growing with each passing minute. He cocked an arrogant eyebrow, lips quirking in amusement.
"Ready for what, sunshine?"
"Oh, everything," Ray murmured against Bodie's neck.
Bodie's eyes narrowed at the sensuality in Ray's voice. Then a disturbing thought intruded, causing him to stop and pull back. Ray gave a soft moan of displeasure, sobering as he raised his head and looked into Bodie's concerned eyes.
"What? Did I do something wrong?"
"God, no, Ray, it's just . . . you've never been with a bloke, have you?"
Sudden wariness veiled the green eyes. Ray stiffened and made to move away but was held immobile by the strong, encircling arms. "No, I haven't. Is that a problem?"
Bodie reached up and caressed Ray's forehead with his thumb. "'Course not. Bother you that I have?"
Ray frowned. "Well, no, not exactly. I mean, someone has to know what they're doing, I suppose." He sighed and leaned his head against Bodie's shoulder. "I've just no idea what to do and I'm a bit afraid of disappointing you." He gave a muffled chuckle as he turned his face into the crook of Bodie's neck. "Not afraid of much, but this has me petrified. Sorry."
Bodie tightened his arms around Ray, eyes lifting to the ceiling in a heady rush of relief and resurgent desire. "Idiot. Never happen. Here." He pulled Ray's hands from where they rested at the small of his back and brought them around between them, brushing his open mouth across both knuckles. "Let me make love to you, Ray," he whispered, smiling into Ray's eyes. "I'll make it good for you, I swear. No worries."
Bodie was rewarded with a shaky chuckle. "Says you, mate." Ray pressed a kiss to his jaw. "Now, where were we?"
"Not where we need to be, angelfish." With a quick twist of his wrists, he pulled Ray over to the bed, both of them laughing as they fell in a tangle of arms and legs. Bodie manoeuvered himself on top, knees bracing Ray's hips tightly. The laughter died away as Ray watched Bodie, eyes heavy with desire, as Bodie quickly unbuttoned his shirt and tossed it aside. Bodie evaded the hands that reached up to caress his chest, brushing them aside to lean in and steal a searing, open-mouthed kiss. Ray's hands moved around to embrace the newly revealed skin and Bodie shuddered, his desire escalating as Ray glided his hands down his smooth chest, pausing to rub the pads of his thumbs over Bodie's tightening nipples.
A luscious, desperate urgency began to grow inside Bodie. The need to feel Ray naked beneath him became all consuming as he rose off the bed to divest himself of his remaining clothes. That done, he sat next to Doyle and quickly finished unbuttoning Ray's jeans and pulled them off, leaving only the black briefs. Bodie took one last check of Ray's passion-glazed eyes, searching for any sign of holding back. Doyle, sensing Bodie's hesitation, sat up and wrapped one arm around Bodie's neck, pulling him into a hungry, soul-reaching kiss. Bodie moaned into Ray's open mouth as he grabbed the broad shoulders and rolled until Ray was on top of him. He spread his legs and Ray fitted himself between them, the thin layer of cotton rubbing evocatively at their highly sensitised groins. Bodie closed his eyes, wanting to lose himself in the incredible reality of Ray's warm skin on his. He caressed Ray's back with both hands in a long sweep, coming to the elastic waistband and slipping his hands underneath. Oh God, he thought brokenly as his fingers brushed the silken surface of Ray's backside, how did I ever live without this? Christ, don't let me do without it ever again . . .
Ray broke away from Bodie's lips and rested his head against the broad shoulder, panting.
"Jesus, Bodie," he gasped. "I can't, I want--"
"Sshh, I know, love, I know," Bodie whispered, turning Ray onto his back and hooking his fingers in the briefs as he sat up and swept them off. Before Ray had a chance to react, Bodie covered him, taking his mouth in a devouring kiss. Ray cried out beneath him as the heat between them increased, Bodie rocking them in a hard, intoxicating rhythm.
It was too much, too fast. Bodie knew it, felt the oncoming rush of release and tried to pull back. He so desperately wanted it to be good for Ray. He drew his head back to stare into Ray's eyes, startled to see them glistening with moisture.
"Ray?" he breathed. "All right?"
Ray blinked, the tears making tracks down his temples. Then, to Bodie's profound relief, he smiled.
"Love you, Bodie," he ground out, then his eyes slammed shut and he came in long, staggering waves. The incredibly erotic sight of Doyle lost in his ecstasy and the silky, warm fluid now covering his chest combined to overcome Bodie's last defence and he was lost. He flung his head back and howled his release, clutching Ray to him in a punishing, possessive embrace.
When he could reason again, Bodie found himself collapsed on top of his partner, Ray's broad hands brushing soothingly up and down his back as he whispered nonsensical, comforting words. Bodie pulled back and propped himself on his elbow on Ray's right side, using his other hand to push the sweaty curls out of Ray's eyes.
"So, what's this, then?" Bodie teased gently, running a finger through the little track of moisture at Ray's temple.
Doyle turned his gaze away, cheeks warming in embarrassment. "Sorry 'bout that. Don't know what came over me. Won't happen again--"
Bodie chuckled and leaned in to lick the small trickle. "It damn well better, mate. I've not gone to all this trouble to be handed me hat at the end of the night, now have I?" He punctuated the light remark by drawing his finger down Ray's nose, pausing to outline Ray's lips with his fingertip. Ray smiled and reached around Bodie, repositioning them until he was wrapped in Bodie's arms, curly head resting on his warm shoulder. Bodie threaded his fingers through the hair at Ray's nape with one hand, the other coming up to caress Ray's arm.
"No, course not," Ray replied, a hint of amusement in his roughened voice. "I'll feed you breakfast first, provided I can find something worth eating." He paused. "Bodie?"
Bodie's eyes had been drifting shut but snapped open at the uncertain tone in Ray's voice. He pressed a kiss to Ray's forehead.
Ray paused, bringing a hand up to stroke Bodie's chest. "You meant it, that part about giving me everything?"
"'Course I meant it, don't be daft. Why?"
Ray pressed his palm against Bodie's heart, raising his head to meet Bodie's concerned gaze.
"Did that mean this, too?" he whispered, eyes revealing everything to his lover.
Bodie smiled indulgently, lifting his head to nuzzle his lips against Ray's flawed cheek. "Haven't figured it out yet, have you, love? Didn't I tell you before all the fireworks began? You've had me wrapped around your paint-stained little finger for years; you're only just catching up."
Ray ignored the teasing tone, a frown forming between his brows. "Am I? Catching up to what, then?"
The smile faded as Bodie realised Ray still wasn't convinced. He brought his hands up to frame Ray's face, forcing their eyes to meet.
"The fact that I love you, Raymond Doyle," he said quietly. "The fact that come the end of the day I want us together, job or no job. And let's not forget the fact that I've only just begun making love to you and have every intention of spending the rest of my life following that particularly delightful pursuit." A rueful smile tugged at his lips. "Have I left anything out?" He let out a small yelp as Doyle poked him in the ribs.
"If you have, I'll be sure you're the first to know." Ray snuggled back down into Bodie's arms and yawned.
"Worn you out, have I?" Bodie reached over and turned off the bed lamp, then grabbed Ray's wandering hand before it had a chance to pinch him again. "A bit of sleep will do us both good, I believe, before I let you buy me dinner."
Ray grunted but didn't reply. There were a few minutes of silence in the semi-darkness. Bodie was just on the edge of sleep when Ray spoke again.
"Did mention that I loved you, too, didn't I?"
Bodie paused before replying, momentarily overwhelmed by the wonder that infused him from his head to down to his toes. "Yeah, you did. Might make you repeat it a few times, though. You've always told me I'm a bit slow." He brushed his hand over Ray's eyes. "Go to sleep, Ray."
Ray muttered something incomprehensible before succumbing to slumber. Bodie lay awake a few minutes longer, resting his hand over Ray's where it lay on his chest. Funny thing, he thought drowsily. For so long he'd been worried about the state of Ray's heart, thinking it wasn't completely mended. Turns out he wasn't even half-right; two hearts had been healed tonight and two hearts were now irretrievably bound together, all the stronger for the joining.
-- THE END --
9 May 2000
NOTE: This story was inspired by The Ojuka Situation. There was just something about the way Bodie and Doyle interacted in that episode that made me sit up and really pay attention. Coming so late in the series it seemed to personify the partnership as it had grown over the years. I guess I just felt something had to give . . .
For Aithine: Thank you, sunshine - uh, did I mention this was all your fault?