The Valentine Situation


"Your Mum wants that Bodie and Doyle pair sorted out this Valentine's day, or else."

"Been trying all year, haven't I?" Cupid expostulated.

"She says try harder. Unfulfilled erotic potential doesn't pay the bills. She needs the clearance rate up, and says she'll disallow your claim for the darts else. She says -- and I don't know what she's on about -- that this is the ideal time because of Doyle's heating."

"Heating what?"

"She's your Mum, you ask her." Psyche considered her husband's troubled face and her heart melted. "Here, that Bodie one likes poetry: how's this for an idea?" She outlined a plan of action. "Fly along and see if one of the Muses can give us a hand. Erato does the love poetry, doesn't she? On your wings, god!"

"Flapping all the way, dear," he groaned obediently.

Erato was nursing a hangover of exquisitely classical proportions when Cupid thudded down beside her on Mount Helicon.

"Piss off," she snarled, "and watch where you're pointing that blasted arrow!" She hiccupped an iambic pentameter. "Mind you don't wake Calliope and Euterpe: they've been sick all over my Springtime For Frustrated Lovers collection. Don't know if it's honest criticism or last night's booze."

"Just a teeny favour, darling?" Cupid pouted winsomely.

"In your dreams." She massaged her temples. "Ough, that bitch Hebe and her Olympian Cocktail! It's that snippy little Ganymede and his newfangled vodka and gin and muck he talks her into mixing with perfectly good wine and nectar! Don't know why Jupiter puts up with him cruising the taverns and coming back with -- "

"Erato, dear -- "

"-- Great poisonous bottles of -- "

"Just one little shot of inspiration, darling -- and look what I've brought you! A whole flask of Heavenly Headache Helper and Stroppy Stomach Settler, worth three showers of gold and a sacrificial bull on the open market."

"Ooh!" Erato eyed it longingly. "I should know better than to get mixed up in your devious schemes, but ... who are you after this time?"

Cupid indicated two men in a dreary office. "They should have been loving each other senseless since last February," he explained, "but some weird cultural inhibition has been getting in the way."

"Really?" Erato took a lively interest in anthropological curiosities. Anything daft that kept lovers apart tended to be good for business.

"Something about closets."

"How peculiar! Do you have to get them into a wardrobe or something first, then?"

"No, I don't think so. It's metaphorical -- I hope. If you can just get a few lines of love poetry out of the dark one, it should all work very nicely. They really didn't even need me to dart them last year, but Mum hoped it would get them going. She seems to find them entertaining for some reason. Has a look at them for an hour every week. She's got Psyche nagging me too. A god can't get any peace on his own cloud."

"The quality will be abysmal," Erato warned him, "with his abilities and the way I'm feeling. Still, I owe Venus a favour or two, so mind you let her know -- if it works," she added prudently. She gathered a bolt of embarrassingly substandard Musefire and dropped it towards the dark one's brain. "Oops!" A little had splashed over to the other one.

"Can't hurt," Cupid said happily, "in fact, it could even be a definite plus." He winged away to cut a deal with Mercury for the next phase.

Erato gratefully swigged the contents of the flask. After a few trochaic belches she felt quite chipper and started to replace the Spring collection. Calliope and Euterpe woke up in extreme discomfort, resentfully noted the empty flask, and bided their time.

When Doyle wore unbecoming clothes, Bodie fantasised getting him out of them with all possible speed. When he liked what Doyle was wearing the fantasy ran a little differently, but with no less intensity, toward the same general conclusion. Today for some reason the fantasy seemed to be taking a doggerel turn.

On a shamelessly purloined sheet of CI5 paper he scribbled:

I love Ray in green,
I love Ray in red,
I'd love him in nothing
But my arms and my bed.

I love Ray in yellow,
I love Ray in white,
To love him in nothing
Would be my delight.

Blue wasn't Doyle's colour, but the jeans that clung so affectionately to his lower body deserved a verse of their own.

I love Ray in jeans
That fit like blue paint:
Love him when he's in them,
Love to when he ain't.

All right, Bodie thought optimistically. Scansion could do with a bit of fixing, last line could be more elegant, but still ... If Doyle really were his lover he might manage something sublime, but both prospects seemed remote.

He remembered it was February the fourteenth and doodled a heart below the verses.

He sighed as inspiration dried up. He stole a look at his partner, scowling over a report. Rough. Bodie saw Doyle's face as smooth or rough, and it could change from one to the other in a moment, from young-looking smooth to harsh, creased, frowning rough that seemed to add years.

Smooth was sometimes nearly beautiful. Rough was almost ugly, at times all the way ugly. Rough invited Bodie's fingers to stroke away the troubled lines into smoothness; smooth invited his lips to celebrate with kisses. Attempting either would doubtless invite Doyle's fist to establish painful contact with his nose.

"Doyle! Bodie!"

Bodie prudently folded the paper into his shirt pocket for private destruction, and followed his partner to answer the summons. A final couplet suggested itself:

I think that I shall never see
An arse like that of Raymond D.

Cupid signalled to Mercury, who delivered a nicely calibrated dose of lethe to Bodie's brain, and poetry and paper were for the moment forgotten.

"Ah, there you are." Cowley's mood was sour. There was a sheet of paper unaccounted for in the supply requisitions and he suspected his instructions about re-using staples were being disregarded. "Doyle, what's the address of that warehouse your informant mentioned three years ago come Tuesday fortnight?"

"Just a moment, sir," Doyle said apologetically, and fished out his CI5-issue notepad.

"Memories like sieves, you youngsters," Cowley muttered.

Instructions were given concerning a stakeout of the warehouse, during which a second dose of lethe ensured that Doyle's notepad stayed forgotten on Cowley's desk rather than being stowed in his pocket.

"Sign here." Mercury held out his clipboard. "No charge: those two work for Cowley, so it's professional trickster courtesy. This little gadget I borrowed will block the R/T, so stay alert."

"Thank you." Cupid contemplated his departing flight. Silly little wings. He flexed his own complacently. All very well to say size wasn't important, but who had the God of Love job, after all? "Hey," he yelled, suddenly remembering. "We need some more Alka-Seltzer and a couple of dozen flasks!"

Cowley discovered the notepad and, in the interests of security, read Doyle's shopping list. Grim-faced, he instructed Accounting to deduct the cost of that page from Doyle's salary. If the man was really squandering his exorbitant remuneration on reckless luxuries like lavatory rolls instead of using cut-up newspaper like any normal person, he could certainly afford his own stationery.

"No bloody heat," Doyle groused. "No soddin' hot water! Had to boil kettles and wash in the sink. Bloody near froze my ... "

"When are they fixing it?" No wonder he looked rough, Bodie thought, happily visualising Doyle in the bath. No bubblebath: that just spoiled the view. Or the shower would be nice: rivulets of water cascading down his ...

"Tomorrow, earliest. This weather I need a good hot soak after work." He glared through the car window at the relentless sleet that was starting to freeze on the ground.

"Haven't you got a nice bird lined up for Valentine's? Get a bath at her place?"

Doyle sniffed. "Don't seem to be clickin' with birds lately. Who are you shaggin' these days, then?"

Bodie muttered something that might have been a name or might not and dug in his pocket for a Kit-Kat. Chocolate-covered wafer was a reliable consolation, and Doyle cheered up slightly after eating the half that Bodie offered him.

A good mate, Bodie, Doyle thought. Trouble was, that didn't seem enough these days. Desires he had been ruthlessly repressing for most of his sexually active life had been boiling up again over the last year or so, and he was starting to think seriously about asking to be re-teamed.

Oh, the temptation of Bodie's dark strength, his incredible blue eyes, his arrogant mouth, the sheer Bodie-ness of him! Doyle was afraid that he would lose control and, at the very least, commit aggravated sexual harassment. Fantasies were all very well, but the solid, sexy presence of their subject in such close proximity so much of the time was chewing great lumps out of his sanity.

"Ray!" Bodie was abruptly all business. The door of the warehouse they were watching had opened, and a veritable procession of jeeps was emerging.

Doyle grabbed the R/T, which suddenly refused to function.

"Write the numbers down, quick!" Bodie urged.

Doyle groped for his notepad. "Left it in -- shit -- " He looked round desperately, plucked the folded paper from Bodie's shirt pocket and scribbled the numbers in an empty patch as Bodie read them off.

"Right," said Bodie gleefully. "Let's see who that lot belongs to."

The R/T was all sweet compliance again.

Psyche confessed: "I don't understand quite what's happening." Venus had invited her to share that week's viewing of her problem pair, and she was rapidly becoming engrossed but bewildered.

"Don't worry, dear," said her mother-in-law, "neither do I most of the time. I just find them fun to watch."

"Do they always go tearing about like that?" Psyche asked in fascination. "Aren't they rather noisy?"

"Oh yes. I think that tyre-screeching sound is a kind of territorial compulsion: they don't seem to be able to start or stop without it. Now, watch, and they'll hit some of those other men, they're very good at that, and then they'll shoot a few -- such a lucky thing most of the other people with guns aren't very accurate -- and -- oh dear, poor Doyle seems to have fallen into that ditch full of icy slush. Is that part of my son's scheme?"

"I expect so. Yes, look, there's an arrow sticking in the ground: he must have fired it just in front of his foot, to trip him up."

"Well, I'm not signing off on that one if he tries to claim it. He'd better go and retrieve it later. The very idea! Ah, the back-ups are here, so Bodie can get Doyle into the car -- "

"And give him a nice cuddle to warm him up?" Psyche was pleased with the prospect. She listened in fascination to the vocabulary-enriching invective pouring from Doyle's half-frozen mouth.

"He'll turn the heater on, but that's as far as it will go." Venus sighed. "I do hope Cupid's got this properly in hand!"

"What's a f-f-f-fuckinell?" Psyche wondered.

"Christ," Doyle's teeth chattered, "I'm gonna get soddin' pneumonia in a minute!"

"Nice hot bath and a good swig of scotch, you'll be fine," Bodie reassured him, privately disconcerted by the blue tinge around Doyle's trembling lips. He fantasised briefly about restoring their normal colour with a protracted application of his own warm mouth and tongue, then, settling for reality, checked that the heater was on its highest setting.

"Can't get a fuckin' hot bath!" Doyle snarled, tucking his hands into his jacket pockets in the hope of preserving a trace of body-warmth. His fingers encountered paper, and he was momentarily distracted. He had glimpsed something odd written there while he was jotting down the jeep numbers.

"Oh, right, your heating. Well, better come back to my place: hot water, scotch, all the comforts of home."

Doyle sucked in a lungful of warm air, and examined the invitation for pitfalls. Bodie's flat. Warm. Full of sofas and carpets and warm beds and warm Bodie....

"Cook you dinner too," Bodie tempted.

What the hell, Doyle thought. I can manage a bath and dinner without raping him, even supposing there's anything left down there not been flash-frozen.

"Ta, mate," he shivered. " 'Aven't 'ad a good plate of cholesterol and chips for weeks!"

"Do you some deep-fried sugar cubes for afters," Bodie declared rashly.

Doyle managed a quivering smile. "I'll want honey on 'em, you know."

"Golden syrup, anyway," Bodie promised.

Wonderful to be warm: warm in hot water, blissfully soaking the chill out of his bones. Warm and dry, swathed in a Bodie-scented dressing gown, his own clothes drying in the airing cupboard. Warm in the kitchen, shamelessly devouring the calorie-laden meal Bodie had produced.

Doyle felt wrapped in warmth, luxuriating in the unaccustomed sensation of being cared for. And the verses he had looked at as many times as he'd had privacy to do so kindled yet another warmth, flickering from loins to heart.

He had wondered at first if the verses were one of Bodie's elaborate set-ups. Perhaps they weren't Bodie's at all. Perhaps a bird who fancied him but was too shy to approach him directly had entrusted the paper to Bodie. It was Bodie's writing, though. Perhaps the bird had sprained her wrist and had dictated the verses.

To Bodie.

Yeah, right!

Bodie was gratified by how much better Doyle was looking after a proper meal of fat and starch. The rough lines of his face had softened to a sweet smoothness that made Bodie pray he could get through the evening without committing some outrage that would alienate Doyle forever.

"You'd better stay here tonight," he said. "No point getting chilled again. You can have the bed, it's warmer in there. I'll kip on the sofa. Don't want any arguments, sunshine."

If that's not love ... Doyle thought hazily, who knew from a couple of nights on Bodie's sofa in the past just how much discomfort was involved. It was the final prod he needed to resolve to stake his claim. Now or never. After all, he wasn't getting any younger. Leaving his notepad on Cowley's desk: senility was obviously setting in.

Bodie went to have a shower, and Doyle found a pen and added four lines above Bodie's verses.

He was surprised by his unsuspected facility: perhaps an ice-cold soaking sparked the creative process. Perhaps he would after all realise his cherished secret vision of astonishing the world with a sequel to "Eskimo Nell". He would dedicate it to Bodie.

"Can't read it from here," Euterpe complained. "Time you went to Argus for a checkup," Calliope told her. "Here, let me look.

Bodie in my arms
And Bodie in my heart:
Let this be the night
Our life of love will start.

"Couldn't ask for a better emetic than that," Euterpe proclaimed queasily. She spread out the new Springtime collection left unguarded by unwary Erato. "Ready, Cal?"

A few vengeful moments later, Calliope tossed the empty Heavenly Headache Helper container, mute evidence of Erato's perfidy, to its unpleasant destination, and pulled out her hip flask of Falernian to rinse her mouth.

"Don't think I ever tackled an Eskimo epic," she said thoughtfully, passing the Falernian to Euterpe.

"Give it a go," Euterpe enthused, "and I'll do you a flute accompaniment. Be nice for Saturnalia. See if we can get Ganymede to do his striptease between the cantos. Love that thing he does with the eagle feather!"

"Inspirational," Calliope sighed happily.

Bodie emerged from the shower wrapped in a towel, since Doyle had his dressing gown. He liked the sight of Doyle wearing it: the dark red suited him, warmed his skin, touched his curls with auburn highlights. He loved the idea of the soft wool enfolding Doyle's naked body as it usually did his own, caressing his skin...

The dressing gown was on the sofa but Doyle wasn't. There was a light in the bedroom, shining from the slightly open door. A sheet of paper lay on top of the dressing gown, and memory suddenly came thundering back.

Oh christ! He'd written that rubbish and put the paper in his shirt pocket for safety, and Doyle had grabbed it to write on -- how could he have forgotten? How the hell could he not at least have snatched it away as soon as Doyle's need was met? What was he going to do now?

Fearfully he picked it up, wondering if Doyle might be persuaded to think it a joke, not to take bitter offence...

There were four new lines, in Doyle's handwriting.

He stood staring at the words, reading them over and over with emotional rather than aesthetic disbelief, until he was jolted by the sound of Doyle's imperious summons.

"Oi, Bodie, stop prattin' about and get in 'ere!"

He stood in the bedroom doorway and gazed in wonder at the sight of Doyle sprawling naked against heaped-up pillows, eyes alight with hopeful welcome.

"Ray?" he croaked.

"In nothin' but your arms and your bed. I've done the nothin' and the bed part, but I'm still waitin' for the arms, mate!" Doyle extended his own, and Bodie went into them, and warmth turned into fire from heaven.

Psyche poured fresh cups of tea and pushed the plate of ambrosia biscuits toward Erato.

Erato sipped happily. "This stuff is certainly easier on the system than Hebe's concoctions. Ganymede fetched it, you said?"

"A few weeks ago. He was telling Jupiter something about a tearoom in a cottage, I think, I wasn't really following, but it seemed to be annoying Juno, so he brought her some to try next time he was there. How's the writer's block?"

Erato sighed. "It's been a terrible year. Calliope and Euterpe have these chronic stomach upsets. If this tea-stuff suits them a bit better, I may be able to get back to work."

"Well, Cupid was so grateful for your help with Those Two that he asked Mercury to steal you this." She passed over a small device. "You press this, and talk into here, then press this, and -- "

"Oh my!" Erato was entranced. "No parchment to get -- spoiled. I can just keep it tucked in my tunic all the time."

"And when you need more of these little battery thingies, Cupid will get them for you, very reasonably."

"Oh, will he! I suppose it's worth it if I can start production again. It's working out all right with Those Two, is it?"

"Well, look."

They peered Earthward, into a bedroom where Those Two twined in an ecstatic full-body reverse kiss.

"Not bad for a whole year," Psyche cooed. "Looks as if they might be set for life. We get a bonus for that, you know."

"I think it's getting me going," Erato announced excitedly. "Press this one, you said? Wait a minute, let me just get rid of the gunk first." She dislodged a congealed blob of decayed Musefire, which plummeted down into Doyle's love-sodden brain. "Oh dear. I'll be getting stick from Environmental. Well, let's see what he comes up with. Apart from that!"

"Where the devil is my new cassette recorder?" Cowley fumed. "Somebody's been at the malt, as well! Betty, were Doyle and Bodie in here today?"

"No, sir. It's their day off."

Betty was reluctant to mention to her boss the divinely handsome visitor, a delicious interlude on an otherwise uneventful Valentine's Day, who had somehow charmed her into letting him spend a few moments alone in Cowley's office. Besides, she was embarrassed about that weird hallucination of tiny wings on his hat and sandals ... sandals, in this horrible February weather? She shivered at the thought. The heating was set at "hibernation". She'd help herself to another wee dram when Cowley next left his office. Perhaps the vision of wings had something to do with her desperate attempts to keep warm during these days of budgetary crisis.

Wistfully she remembered the time when Bodie and Doyle could be relied upon to raise her blood temperature with lecherous insinuations at least once a day. There had been some curious changes in those two over the last year or so.

She wrapped her blanket more tightly around herself, pulled on a second pair of gloves, and resumed her seemingly endless task of tracking that missing sheet of paper.

"Oi," Doyle said dreamily, emerging from a doze, "I just thought of a poem for our anniversary." He lifted his head from its resting place on Bodie's thigh, bestowed a valedictory swipe of his tongue upon the temporarily debilitated object of his recent attentions, and shifted around into the warm embrace of Bodie's arms.

"More than I have," Bodie confessed ruefully. "Used to think I'd be able to write something really good if you only loved me back, but --"

"Well, I do love your back," Doyle teased. His hands cupped the portion he loved most deeply and often. "And your front." He caressed a favourite feature. "All of you." One hand came to rest over Bodie's strong heartbeat. "This most of all."

"Ahhh," murmured Erato and Psyche in happy approval.

Erato pressed the record button.

How do I love thee!
Let me count the --

"It's been done, dear," Psyche reminded her.

"Has it? Oh well." She stopped the recorder. "Let's have another cup of tea. We didn't hear his poem yet. I hope it doesn't upset Calliope and Euterpe as much as the last one."

"Got you, who needs poetry?" Bodie said fondly.

"There's gratitude for you!" Erato huffed. "Talk about a toothless serpent's child!"

Bodie caught his breath, astonished by the effectiveness of Doyle's again-roving fingers. "Let's hear it, then."

"Hang about. Still in the throes of decomposition." Doyle pondered for a moment while Bodie helpfully nibbled his earlobe. "How's this, then?

My love heaved me out of a ditch full of slush,
It was just my Saint Valentine's luck;
And now when I kiss him my heart turns to mush -- "

"Well?" Bodie prompted after a long, affection-filled pause.

"Can't think what rhymes with luck." Doyle uttered a deep dirty chuckle. "Bet you can, though," and he wrapped himself around his lover in confident expectation of having all his needs, poetic and otherwise, amply fulfilled.

-- THE END --

February 1999.
This version has been re-edited.

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