. . . between wanting to love and loving is
the whole difference between life and death.
At 4:03 a.m. Bodie was still awake. He knew it was 4:03 because he had heard the digital clock flip into place 27 times since 3:36, the last time he looked at the clock. He had taken up counting clicks in the hope it would make him sleepy. It wasn't unusual for Bodie to be awake at 4:03 a.m., but not when he had to be bright and chipper at 7 a.m.
Not too long ago he might've fancied this assignment: a quiet week in the country, Doyle for company, reporting the comings and goings of the other occupants of the bed and breakfast. Cowley'd assigned the low priority stakeout like a king bestowing a tribute-as much as the miserly old sod could bring himself to give-for their success in the recent string of high-risk jobs; he ought to be grateful.
Doyle coughed in his sleep and Bodie felt his jaw clench. Just a few more nights, he told himself, then it was back to London and his own flat and his own bed. Where he could sleep. Alone.
Sleep. He turned onto his stomach and took a series of deep breaths. He had to relax, had to catch up on sleep, tonight. Sleep was a precious commodity in his profession, to be seized at every opportunity, and he took pride in his ability to sleep anytime, anywhere. Second nature by now. But these past few days the old formulas had all failed him, one by one.
He cast a resentful glance at Doyle beside him, dead to the world.
His partner was having a disgustingly great time, paying no mind to Bodie's restlessness (how typical!), wallowing in the unexpected leisure. Bodie knew this because he spent most of his time keeping a surreptitious eye on Doyle. There was nothing else to do, since he was certain no self-respecting criminal would come anywhere near such a determinedly middle-class retreat.
From outside came the light patter of rain. Bodie hunched the covers further up his back and buried his face deeper into the skimpy pillow.
He'd managed to avoid meeting Doyle's eyes; quite a feat considering no matter where he went, Doyle was nearby. Their room had only one bed and a miniature porcelain washstand; the dining area sat ten at most, the terrace six or seven and the garden was a fussily arranged rock-and-bush affair that provided no shelter from sun or curious eyes. He'd skipped out a few days ago for a night's fling with a Norwegian au pair girl on holiday, but Doyle's impudent smirk next morning made him wish he'd left it. Doyle wasn't as oblivious as he acted-Bodie was never entirely free of his clandestine observation.
Too bad CI5's resources didn't extend to separate rooms. Although he could pay for another room himself, or sleep on the floor, he didn't dare. That would mean calling attention to the problem. Which was exactly what Bodie most dreaded. Calling attention to it.
Doyle rolled across the invisible boundary down the centre of the bed. The curly head flopped against his shoulder. He shifted away, carefully so as not to wake his companion.
Doyle was his best mate. As if Doyle heard, his arm sneaked across Bodie's back and he sighed in satisfaction. Bodie turned his head and saw the shadowy outline of Doyle's face, lips parted to reveal the white glimmer of teeth. He shouldn't be nervous sharing a bed with him.
No, it was only the close quarters that gave him fits. Not to mention insomnia.
It was hard to think properly at 4:09 a.m.
One thing he was sure of: better to face exhaustion than risk a repeat of last night, when he woke to the smell of Doyle's hair in his face and the heat of Doyle's slender body wrapped in his arms.
A few months back such an incident would have gone unremarked, a common need for warmth and comfort. That was before everything had changed.
Just another ordinary job. A junior Minister's mysterious resignation, vital documents missing (weren't they always), and a blackmailer who tried to run for it, stopped dead by Doyle's aim. No danger, at least none to speak of.
Seconds after the young man hit the ground Bodie knelt beside his sprawled figure. He was dead all right, or would be very soon-the bullet had shattered the back of his head. Blood gushed from the wound and spread in a jagged circle. But as Bodie reached to check the man's pulse, his eyes opened.
He clutched Bodie's wrist with both hands. "Please," he said. "Not yet." His eyes opened wider, pleading. "I'm not ready." Then the grip relaxed and his head lolled over the kerb, fair hair spilling into the gutter.
Bodie watched him die, watched the last twitching reflexes, lost to the noise of car engines and running feet behind him, and wondered idly what had stirred him to those last words. What important matters left undone, what words left unsaid, who he'd left behind. And came to the same conclusion he always did.
You're never ready, son, he silently told the man.
Red rivulets flecked with white sought the cracks of the dingy London pavement, and as Bodie followed their course, he realised the unbearably brilliant specks were fragments of bone sailing downstream.
He rose to his feet as Cowley's Rover pulled up, rubbing his bruised wrist, and noticed the lonely side-street crowded all at once-by police, photographers, forensics men, and passer-by jostling one another; the scent of blood a lure for sensation-seekers and professionals alike.
His hands shook as he checked his gun and reloaded it.
He looked around for Doyle then, quickly spotting the faded yellow T-shirt and brown jacket among the crowd, and headed towards him.
Bodie gave his report to Cowley with clipped brevity, concealing his impatience when it was Doyle's turn and his partner insisted on recounting the entire incident in minute detail. Cowley said little, but he wore the air of man quite pleased with the results of his efforts. Andrews and Mill must have rescued the paperwork. His lip curled. What a way to earn a living-killing and dying for a few pieces of paper. He remembered thinking such thoughts before, but never so clearly.
In short order Cowley dismissed them, and he hustled Doyle off before Doyle could get started on his usual inquisition of the police pathologist. Doyle put up only token argument, surprisingly enough; he thumped Bodie on the back and skipped ahead to the car. Halfway inside, he poked his head up. "My place or yours?"
"Mine," Bodie said, "don't fancy tripping over your packing crates."
"For godsakes, don't remind me," Doyle groaned and slammed the car door. "Have you seen the size of the place he's stuck me in now? If I turn round in the bath I bang me head on the pipes."
Bodie sighed. He should've known better than to mention the subject. "Better watch where you put your head, then."
"Thanks," Doyle said. "Say, you're still in the same place, eh?"
Bodie refrained from pointing out that he'd only lived in his current flat two months; predictably, Doyle had complained for days about helping him move.
Doyle sniffed. "I don't know how the old man expects us to concentrate on the job when we're always being shuffled about like a pack of cards," he said. "S'ridiculous when you think about it."
"Yeah," Bodie said shortly.
"I mean, I nearly walked into a cupboard last night, dreamed it was the toilet. Well, that's where it used to be in my old place."
Despite himself Bodie snickered. "That's why they give us hazardous duty pay, you know."
"Oh, he's a riot," Doyle said. "Doesn't it bother you?"
Bodie shrugged, attention on manoeuvreing round a taxi blocking his lane. "I take things as they come, Doyle." He stomped on the accelerator as the signal ahead changed, barely making it through. "You got something on tonight?" he added, hoping to put an end to the discussion; no such luck.
"Nah," Doyle replied, "Denise chucked me out when I showed up late again Thursday. You?"
"Not in the mood."
Doyle shot him an odd look. "Was just as well," he muttered darkly, "since I had to spend all Friday packing up."
He was really warming to the topic, Bodie could tell. He wound the window down in an effort to muffle the impending tirade with slight success: Doyle raised his voice. The rest of the drive home he was treated to Doyle moaning about the condition of his new flat and about CI5's stinginess in general.
With relief he drew up to the kerb outside his block. He shut off the engine and got out the car, stood staring at the fussy ornamentation of the building in distaste. Done up in sham Edwardian style, it was crumbling and peeling here and there. Not his favourite CI5-provided housing; then, he'd lived in worse places. Nearly died in a few.
He wondered for a moment what it would be like, to work regular hours, come home every day to the same front door, spend each evening in cosy tranquillity, sleep every night in the same bed...Christ, he was letting Doyle get to him.
"Oi! Lot!" A sharp elbow dug into his ribs. "You're a regular pillar of salt."
He caught Doyle's wrist. "Thought I told you not to do that." A thousand times, at least.
Unperturbed, Doyle displayed a chip-tooth grin. His eyes crinkled at the corners. "Sorry."
"And it was Lot's wife turned to salt, moron."
"Not all of us had half a fancy education. Come on, mate, let us in, I'm dying of thirst." He assumed a pathetic expression.
"Should've drowned you at birth," Bodie grumbled, unlocking the door.
Doyle prodded him along through the entryway and made a beeline for the refrigerator. Bodie hung up his jacket and counted to five.
The howl of frustration came right on cue. Doyle emerged from the kitchen, hands on hips, radiating disapproval. "You're out of beer!"
Bodie smiled fondly at him. "Gulped it all yesterday, didn't you?" Doyle was a bloody pest; self-righteous, irritable, demanding, prone to fits of moodiness, mutable as the sky, yet somehow constant for all that; an anchor in a sea of endless change. Or perhaps it was only that he knew every nuance of those moods by now. His smile broadened as he inclined his head towards the whiskey on the sideboard.
Doyle smiled back uncertainly. "My son, you are very strange tonight." After a second, he went over and poured two drinks. "Make that strange, period."
"I beg your pardon," Bodie said in mock-affront, accepting the offered glass. "Unique is the word you were looking for, I believe."
After a brief squabble over who got the sofa, which Bodie won (well, it was his flat, wasn't it?) they settled in, as was their habit between girls, to unwind with a few drinks and some light conversation.
Trouble was, he didn't feel up to the usual patter. They sat in silence for several minutes.
Doyle had wrapped himself round the armchair as if he intended becoming part of it, legs slung over the side. He drank slowly and meditatively, swinging one foot in time to some inner rhythm. His boot thudded against the chair, over and over, a series of soft dull thumps until Bodie wanted to scream.
"I'm knackered," Doyle announced. Thump. "Got to get rid of some books; I'm sick of hauling them." Thump. Thump.
"Knock it off," Bodie snapped.
Doyle gave him a brief glare, but mercifully, his foot stilled. Then he sighed. "Yeah, yeah. No point dwelling on it."
There was a pause, then Doyle cackled. "Pretty good, eh? Dwelling on it..."
Bodie drooped his eyelids to disdainful slits.
Doyle's giggles subsided. "No sense of humour, you." He sat up straight and stretched. "One good thing in the new place, though."
"Really? What does she look like?" Bodie asked, taking his cue dutifully enough. He concentrated on holding his end up as Doyle regaled him with a convoluted story about his attempts to chat up his new downstairs neighbor, complete with lecherous and detailed descriptions of her charms.
But he lost the thread somewhere along the line. He could only see, with gut-wrenching vividness, blood-reddened blond hair, only feel the grim certainty that next time it might be him lying on the street dying and not ready to.
He drained his glass. His imagination was working overtime, a very bad habit to get into in his line of work. You had to die some day; best in action, quick and clean, no long-drawn out suffering. No, that wasn't what was bothering him. He was as ready as he would ever be.
Or was he?
Doyle's voice flowed on, eddying round his thoughts. He'd got his affairs straight on joining CI5, as required. He hadn't given it further thought, really. He didn't care what happened to his body, he had no money-no one to leave it to anyway-the burial would go on his last expense chit. Funeral wreath, courtesy George Cowley.
Bodie glanced up, startled. "What?"
Doyle looked pale and fragile in the lamplight. Smudges stood out on his forehead. "I said, sweet thoughts, are they?"
"No," Bodie said simply. He got up to pour himself another drink.
Doyle nodded. His mood changed; he was alert now, scenting the disturbance beneath the smooth surface of Bodie's manner. Bodie was acutely aware of cool measured scrutiny following him as he filled his glass and sat back down.
"Yeah, fine." Was Doyle ready? He didn't want to ask.
Early on they had arrived at a tacit agreement never to refer to the details of their work off-duty. Some things were best left forever unsaid, kept decently cloaked in banalities. "S'good this," Doyle said after a moment, gesturing expansively. "Cosy."
Tomorrow it could happen. One or both of them, gone for good. A brief vision of life without Doyle at his side rose up before him. He set his glass down. The drink had lost its savour.
Today he must speak the unspeakable, acknowledge the undercurrent that guided his life.
"Been through some rough patches together, haven't we?"
After a curious glance, Doyle nodded. "You might say that."
"It adds up after a while," Bodie said. "I've been thinking-" He glanced longingly at the sideboard. "We're good mates, aren't we?"
"We watch each other's backs."
"No. Not like that."
Doyle leaned over and set his glass next to Bodie's. He slid to the floor between the low table and sofa, dropped to one knee, folding his body so he half-knelt, half-crouched. The position seemed impossible but Bodie hardly noticed, accustomed to the boneless grace animating Doyle's every movement. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong." Bodie fidgeted with his collar, pulling it away from his neck. He felt obscurely threatened by Doyle's closeness. He hadn't a clue it would be so difficult.
"What is it then?"
"Nothing. That is-" He cut himself short. Was this really necessary? Doyle understood how he felt.
Get your affairs in order.
Doyle gazed attentively up at him.
"I wanted to tell you-you're important to me."
"Well, nobody knows me like you do."
Doyle tilted his head in enquiry.
Bodie fumbled around for words. "I mean-What I mean is-well, damn it, you know what I mean."
"I think... I think you're closer to me than anyone has ever been." In an agony of embarrassment, he looked at the ground. For all the apparent simplicity, it was the most excruciating confession he had ever made in his life.
He risked a glance at Doyle and looked directly into wide-set eyes.
Should've kept his mouth shut.
Oh, it was all right for Doyle to know how he felt, he didn't mind it. But he hated seeing his feelings mirrored back to him on Doyle's face, ugly in all their pitiful vulnerability. Degrading to have them so paraded, the way Doyle was looking at him.
"I know," Doyle said. "It's the same for me." His eyes gleamed as brightly as the silver chain round his neck.
He bent forward and pressed his mouth to Bodie's.
Bodie went rigid. Shocked, he let himself be kissed, an idle corner of his mind approving Doyle's technique, intrigued by the odd mixture of firmness and gentleness. He wouldn't have thought another man's mouth would be so soft-what the-he'd never thought about another man's mouth at all-didn't want to think about another man's mouth. His arm came up and shoved Doyle away. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Doyle grinned, his peculiar lopsided grin. "You're not that thick." And would have kissed him again, but Bodie grabbed his shoulder and held him off.
"Come on, Bodie-" He twisted in Bodie's grip.
Too shaky to struggle, Bodie let him go. "Don't ever do that again," he said, barely more than a whisper.
A dozen emotions flitted across Doyle's face with dizzying speed, far too fast for Bodie's still spinning mind to sort out. Angry, confused, ashamed maybe. The colour of his eyes shifted from green to grey and back again, then he blew out his breath in a long stream and raised his eyebrows. His lips trembled a little before settling into a rueful smile. "And here was me thinking you were leading me on."
"Where did you get that idea?"
"Well, when you said, I'm the closest one to you, you meant"
"Nothing like that," Bodie said. Nothing so trivial.
Doyle frowned, eyes narrowed on Bodie's, then his gaze shifted nervously towards the window. "Sorry."
Bodie willed his pulse to slow. Doyle was given to rash impulsive behaviour at times; nothing to get so excited about. "I suppose you'll be telling me next you don't know what came over you," he said in a half-hearted attempt at humour.
"Well, no. That is, I guess, I've been considering it for awhile now and I reckoned from what you said that you had been as well."
"You've been considering What do you mean, you've been considering it?"
With a shrug, Doyle turned to look at him again. "Yeah. Seemed obvious once it occurred to me. We already argue like a married couple, an' all the rest. Might as well go to bed together and have some of the fun."
Bodie's stomach seemed to twist round itself. "One of your more disgusting ideas, Doyle."
"Oh, for chrissakes, Bodie," Doyle said crossly. He leaned against the sofa and stretched out his legs. "It's not as though I asked you to dress up like a chicken. Lots of guys do it, you know, must be something in it. At least you won't pack me in because I have to work late." He pushed his hair off his forehead and sighed. "I don't know. I just thought-you know, having somebody I didn't have to pretend with, someone who already knows me for what I am-"
"Well, you can stop thinking about it. I like girls."
"Yeah, me too," Doyle said, "but what we feel makes it different."
"You speak for yourself, mate." Bodie stood up, quickly, put space between them. He paced back and forth, keeping the sofa as a barrier against the stranger who had stolen Doyle's body, the stranger who made his most precious feelings seem somehow cheap and ordinary. "Why, Doyle, why?" He was painfully conscious of the pathetic sound his voice made.
There was no reply.
Bodie stopped pacing and looked down at him. Doyle sat watching him with wary eyes, unusually still and silent. Wilful copper strands curled loosely down his brow and hung over his eye, in defiance of his efforts to brush them clear.
After a minute, Doyle held up his hand. "Listen, it doesn't matter. Temporary insanity, OK?" He sat up and began picking threads loose from the hem of his jeans.
Bodie's gaze strayed across Doyle's face, around the soft yellow cotton clinging to his shoulders and the delicate curve of bicep to hands tanned and weathered by the sun, and dwelt there, fascinated by the flex and shift of tendons as Doyle started tugging on the carpet. For the span of a heartbeat he considered it; sex with Doyle. He wasn't unattractive, actually, and he did care for him-no, never, Doyle must be mad to ever "Oh, no. There's got to be a reason."
Doyle drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around himself as if he were cold. Hunched over thus, he looked brittle; all angles and hair. "You know me, inside and out, practically read my mind. And I know you, what you like, food, clothes, cars, all of it. I'll bet I know what gets you going, too." He paused, gave Bodie a lingering assessment from top to toe.
Bodie resisted the urge to squirm. "Obviously not, if you think it's fellas."
"All right, I get the point," Doyle said. "The-great-lover has hang-ups about sex." He slashed the air with his hand. "Forget it."
"What is the matter with you? You bump your head on that cupboard last night?"
Wrong move. Doyle's face went white and he gathered himself in even tighter. Bodie took an instinctive step back.
Steady, Bodie told himself, steady on. Reason with him. "Look, Ray, just because we're close is no cause to jump into bed," he said. "We're friends, partners, good mates. Why do we need anything else? Why muck up what we've got?"
"How the hell do you know?"
"I love you, you moron."
"Bloody hell, Ray, we're not queer."
Doyle's chin lifted and his brows knit together. "No."
"You ever been with a guy, then?"
A shake of the head.
"Any idea what it's like?"
Another headshake, curls flying.
"Then how you can you possibly want me to fuck you?" Bodie snarled.
"I've got an imagination, haven't I?" Doyle snapped back. "And you're quick to be talking about fucking me. I rather fancied it the other way, meself."
Bodie swore under his breath. "You mean to tell me you fantasised about-oh, Christ, I'm going to be sick," then urgently, "You don't know what you're talking about."
With another shrug, Doyle conceded. He hugged his knees even more tightly.
"Can't you just drop it? I'm sorry, OK? I shouldn't have said anything."
"Oh, great," Bodie said, "what, it was all some kind of send up? Well, I'm not laughing."
Doyle glowered up at him like a cornered animal.
"Don't tell me you didn't mean it after all?"
"Too bloody right I meant it," Doyle's voice rose as the suppressed fury erupted, "An' I don't give a tinker's damn what I know about or don't know, I think I can manage. You mean more to me than anyone else does, or is likely to, and that's enough for me." He sniffed. "Seems phony, us loving each other the way we do, not taking that last plunge. Pretending we're just good mates-I'd die for you, Bodie, you know that; my god, it could happen tomorrow, one or both of us."
Shut up, Bodie thought, please, oh, please let him shut up. His heart was tearing along like a speedboat at full throttle. He clenched his fists, opened them again and wiped his hands against his trousers.
"Maybe it's weird, I know, but I want to be as close to you as I can get while I still have the chance and what the hell is wrong with that?" Doyle said and to Bodie's horror tears started up in Doyle's eyes. "You do love me, that's what you were saying before, wasn't it? Wasn't it?"
Bodie stared at him in dumb misery. All his life he carefully shrouded his sorrows, his joys, his loves and hopes, all the feelings that make a man weak, in a protective veil of unconcern. But now Doyle was ripping the veil, inch by merciless inch, focussing the blistering intensity of his gaze on things fit only for darkness.
"Wassamatter, afraid you'll like it?"
"Not likely." Yet in an instant's flashing intuition, he knew he could overcome his gut revulsion, could even find it arousing, all of Doyle's sleek sensuality and ferociousness unbound.
"You worried someone will find out?"
"It's the job, then, you think we won't be able to work together anymore."
Under Doyle's persistent grilling, Bodie felt himself sinking into the sudden morass of his own emotions. "How the hell should I know?"
"Then what is it?" Doyle cried, equal parts angry frustration and bewildered entreaty. "What do you want from me?"
"I-" Bodie began and stopped. If Doyle didn't understand, then he had no idea of what to say to him. How to tell Doyle what he wanted-cherished-the safe harbour of understanding and acceptance, mellowed with affection. Quiet, cosy, predictable. Heart-stopping excitement they got on the job, shared danger and thrills enough for any appetite; romance and glamour from birds; he didn't need any more than that.
He knew Doyle was waiting, seconds ticking by, but his throat was dry and his mind was empty of everything except the ignoble desire to leave and be done with this.
Behind the cover of the private barricade he'd made of his own body, Doyle eyed him with growing contempt. "Why the hell am I even bothering? I thought a lot of things about you, but never that you would run scared."
The barb hit home; stung him into speech. "I'm not afraid." He paused to give Doyle a look of calculated indifference. "I just don't fancy the idea-or you for that matter. Sorry you can't believe that."
"That's crap. You tell me the truth, tell me why not," Doyle demanded, jumping up and advancing on him until his flushed face was inches from Bodie's. "I want to know why not?"
"You are out of your fucking mind," Bodie shouted, no longer able to contain himself. "I already have you poking about in my head all the time, what makes you think-" He broke off as Doyle's eyebrows went up. He'd said too much, humiliated himself beyond salvage. "Leave it out, Ray, drop it."
"You can't not talk about it."
Bodie turned, intending to walk off, but Doyle grabbed his arm.
"Bodie, will you just listen a minute-"
"Not another word. The answer is no, no, and no. Now shut up."
Doyle gazed into his eyes a long time, then looked down, as if embarrassed by what he saw there. "Yeah, right." He let go Bodie's hand and brushed himself off. He smiled shakily. "Listen, flip on the radio. I want to catch the horses, OK?"
Bodie swallowed. "Ray-"
"Just do it, Bodie."
There was an hysterical undertone to his voice.
After a moment, Bodie obeyed.
For the rest of the evening, Doyle behaved exactly as he had always done and the time was spent as hundreds of others before, in low-key conversation, a few more drinks and peaceful silences. Only the silence was no longer peaceful, not for Bodie anyway.
He desperately wanted to forget it had ever happened, and he couldn't. He kept watching Doyle, wondering, but whenever Doyle's eyes lifted to his, he glanced away.
The radio gave the sign-off signal. Doyle yawned. "Time for me to be in bed," he said. He collected his jacket. "Pick you up tomorrow?" His expression was indecipherable.
"Yeah," Bodie said, "the usual time."
They said goodnight on that note.
The faint chatter of birds awakening drummed a soft counterpoint to a pre-dawn rain. Bodie rolled onto his side. Forget it ever happened. Well, he'd tried. How could he forget with the constant prickling in the back of his neck, with Doyle's unspoken disapproval following him everywhere?
Not that Doyle ever said boo. Which was nerve-racking; totally unlike the man he knew. All prepared to argue the matter out and convince Doyle to see reason, he was left to conduct the debate in the privacy of his mind, to defend himself against silent accusations.
Worse, now and again, he felt Doyle's cool gaze turn speculative. It was mortifying, to wonder what Doyle was thinking at such moments. Whoever knew what Doyle thought?
Was Doyle imagining them in a passionate embrace? Kissing? Sucking each other?
Unwanted pictures popped into his head at awkward times during the passing of the weeks, making his cheeks burn with shame. He felt as if he had been stripped naked, exposed for all the world to see. For Doyle to see.
For himself to see.
Bodie punched the pillow into shape, hardly caring if he woke Doyle any more. Bloody sparrows outside were jabbering loud enough to raise the dead any case. Anger and guilt coiled and fought through his guts, striking at his heart; anger at the way Doyle and his ludicrous proposition spoilt his comfort, guilt because Doyle in his haphazard way had hit upon the truth: the idea frightened him badly.
And why shouldn't it? Instinctively Bodie knew the price of over-involvement and feared it. Lay yourself too far on the line and you drowned in your fears, ended up clutching frantically for reassurance, choking out every last drop of feeling in your desperation to be saved and in the end draining love of any strength until it whimpered and died. What he and Doyle had was good; close, solid. Correction. Had been. Why did Doyle have to go and ruin everything?
No longer could he bask in the warmth of shared affection and memories, or relax and lose himself in Doyle's company, ever vigilant lest he give Doyle false hope, or let him think Bodie had changed his mind.
Bodie wasn't about to change his mind.
And yet, he felt Doyle drifting away from him, imperceptibly, little by little, closing himself off in ways only Bodie would notice. Invisible scars left in the wake cut across their partnership, festering neglected. Bodie longed for the old wordless, unblemished intimacy.
He'd mentioned that to Doyle last week, pretending nostalgia for his youth.
"The good old days weren't so hot," Doyle said flatly.
"They were good enough for you then," Bodie said, irritated that Doyle had to find every casual comment scope for a pointed remark.
"Yeah. But life moves on, y'know. Progress."
"What makes you so sure you're progressing?"
Doyle shrugged. "The old days are gone, dead. They're dinosaurs. Even if I wanted 'em back, they're out of reach. And I don't want the old days back, I wouldn't fit there anymore. It's evolution."
"Mmm," was all Bodie said, while his mind cried out, yes, but does it have to evolve into this?
He turned on his back and stretched, yawning. Dawn had slunk into the small room through the drapes while he wasn't looking, and the goddamned sparrows (or whatever they were) had got into a fight by the sound of it. That was progress.
Might as well have given this queer bit of Doyle's a go from day one, he thought blackly, it could hardly be worse. No, no, that wasn't the answer. It wasn't as if Doyle had said a thing, or reproached him in so many words. At times he was almost himself again and Bodie forgot for a while. Doyle would come round, things would be like before.
And the moon was made of green cheese.
All right, fine, he loved Doyle, so what of it? That was enough for him. So why couldn't he give Doyle what he wanted, it wasn't so much to ask, was it? There were days he almost thought he might, might be able to unravel the tight knot of resistance in his stomach; it never happened. He didn't want to and Doyle couldn't make him.
Now, anger flared again, at Doyle, at himself. No matter the subject was not mentioned, that life went on as it always had, things would never be the same, ever. His safe harbour proved to be laced with mines. All the secret pleasure he used to take in touching Doyle, casually, egging him with girls, sharing the odd bed or floor during a stakeout, the smell of his hair; all these things, ruined for him, tainted with forbidden fantasies.
Forbidden memories. Last night
He shut his eyes tightly against the encroaching sun. Deep within his mind, a hard core of honour forced him to admit that more than anything he was terrified Doyle was right, about all of it.
Tendrils of thought wrapped around his dreams, together with the glue-like awareness he was not alone in the bed. Not to worry, his groggy reason told him, only the habit of cuddling his girls.
Sunk deep in the quagmire of sleep, he nevertheless knew that the body he cradled was not a girl, but Doyle. He drew him closer, wondering at how delicate and fragile Doyle felt there at the waist; his hand slid up over Doyle's chest, to the solidity of muscle. Pressing down with the heel of his hand, he touched Doyle's nipple, against the soft centre of his palm felt it harden.
As if in sleep, Doyle sighed. On automatic pilot, Bodie let his finger trail across and round the soft circle, tracing out the boundary of skin from areola, to the hard puckered centre-Desire seized him, the terrible desire to lick that nipple, to taste the salt taste of Doyle. His cock stiffened in an instant, and Doyle shifted, skin grazing over every suddenly hypersensitive nerve.
Doyle pressed harder against him, jolting him to his senses. He couldn't be feeling this, wouldn't give in-he closed his eyes, but not before he glimpsed the slitted gleam of Doyle's eyes in the dark.
Bodie tried to let his hand slide naturally away, the action no more than unconscious night behaviour, but Doyle grabbed his hand and held it there, making slow circles-Stronger than he looks, Bodie thought abstractedly-gradually his hand was led down Doyle's chest, to the waistband of his pyjamas.
Mumbling something incoherent Bodie pulled away and lay on his back, heart pounding the breath from his lungs, but Doyle followed and now it was his hand on Bodie's chest drawing a one-fingered line down the centre-Christ was Doyle really going to do it?
There was a tug at his own pyjamas, rearranging, and cool air fluttered across his groin.
He lay paralysed as Doyle's finger found his cock, trailed down the shaft, joined by a second finger and a third until Doyle's hand enclosed him completely and began to stroke.
It was all Bodie could do not to move, his body reacting as if it had been starved of this touch for two years instead of two days, glorying in the strength of Doyle's grip, the same strength that could withstand the recoil of a pistol, palm rising up his shaft to gather the moisture at the tip, only to glide like silk down the length of him; it was too much too exquisite, before he could stop himself he thrust hard into Doyle's welcoming hand and moaned in helpless pleasure.
Doyle scooted nearer, damp with sweat, closing in till his face was in Bodie's shoulder, his own erection pushing at Bodie's hip and Bodie could hear the low growl of his voice, "S'good-I knew it would be-ah, Bodie," and his tongue flickered across Bodie's ear, mouth moving to his cheek. He slung one leg over Bodie's and inched closer till he was half on top of Bodie.
He had to stop this, had to had to had to, before Doyle kissed him like Bodie knew he was going to, but before he could move Doyle's mouth was on his, Doyle's tongue licked softly at his lips and Bodie's mouth opened to him, drinking from him hot, hotter than he he'd ever been in all his life.
Doyle's lips moved on, nuzzled damply at his throat, searching, pausing to kiss here and there, until they found his nipple and settled in gently to suckle, while his fingers began a delicate examination of Bodie's cock.
Bodie squeezed his eyes tightly shut and dug his fingers into the mattress. He fought the flood of arousal as a hand explored his thighs, caressed his balls, returned to cover his erection.
"Tell me how you like it," Doyle murmured, "this way?" gripping Bodie's cock hard, "or like this," thumb rubbing slowly round the head, making Bodie stifle a whimper.
"Yeah, whatever you need, want to make it sweet for you," and his mouth sought Bodie's again.
Blood pounded thick and hot through his veins, liquid molasses, both sweeter and fiercer than any wet dream he'd ever had and his mind latched on to that like a drowning man to a life preserver; this was only a dream, only a dream, you might do anything in a dream and it didn't count
He rolled abruptly and jerked Doyle into his arms, kissing him savagely now, sliding fabric away to touch Doyle's cock in turn, making a fist for Doyle to thrust into, slipping a hand round his arse to probe the cleft, daring no more than a brush. It was enough; Doyle was clutching at him, coming all over his fingers.
"Bodie," Doyle repeated over and over until every breath left him and he was limp in Bodie's arms.
Bodie listened to Doyle's heartbeat and prayed bleakly for him to fall asleep, unsurprised when his prayers fell on deaf ears and Doyle's hand found him again.
He surrendered to the inevitable.
His arousal flared into an unbearable ache as Doyle's knowing touch tapped a dark vein of desire till now masked by simple camaraderie.
Oh, and it felt wonderful, the strong, sliding grip. He tried to focus on that, on his own sensations, to hide from the knowledge of whose hand stroked him so sweetly, but with the length of Doyle's body moulded to his, chest hair tickling his breastbone and Doyle kissing him, he could hide from nothing, least of all the shame of his unadmitted passion for Doyle.
Doyle pulled him closer, whispered roughly, "You want me to suck you off?" and at Bodie's involuntary flinch, "I want to."
No, Bodie begged silently, no more.
"Been thinkin' about it," Doyle went on, "how you would feel in my mouth," and Bodie burst into orgasm, thanking whatever gods had heard that it was over.
There was a sudden flurry of wings and the sparrow-noises faded and with them, the last of the night. Too drained to be grateful for the silence, Bodie began a series of slow deliberate breaths; he could at least get some rest now that sleep was gone forever.
"Bodie?" Doyle's voice was low, pitched to reach across the bed to Bodie and no further.
Oh Christ, Bodie thought. He concentrated on keeping his breathing even and regular.
"Come on, man, I know you're awake. You've been awake for hours now."
Calm and self-assured, with no trace of impatience, the words struck terror in Bodie's heart.
He mumbled and turned on his side, with his back to Doyle.
The clock clicked over.
There was a gentle twitch of the covers and the bed dipped. He felt Doyle's chest press to his back and breath across his cheek.
He fought the panicky urge to push away and leap from the bed and go anywhere, as long as it was far from Doyle, but he was supposed to be asleep, remember?
Doyle sighed. His arm slipped across Bodie's belly, hugged him close, but he made no further move. Bodie forced himself to relax.
"I just want you to know I won't make you talk about it," Doyle said.
The soft-voiced words were meant to reassure, he knew.
He gave up the pretense of sleep. "It won't change anything," he said hollowly.
"Of course it won't," Doyle's voice faintly surprised. Fingers rubbed softly across his chest, undemanding, hesitant, as if asking permission. Bodie froze again, every sense strained, impaled between desire and fear that Doyle would continue, that he would not continue, afraid if he hung back, he would lose Doyle, afraid if he went on he would lose himself.
He turned in Doyle's arms and gathered him close and hid his eyes from the cruel morning light in the shelter of Doyle's hair.
He awoke to the sound of Doyle yanking the curtains open and a dash of sunlight on his face.
"Rise and shine, Father Time."
He opened his eyes to see Doyle bent over, cramming clothes and whatnot into his carryall, closed them hastily again.
Doyle snapped his fingers. "Come on, wake up, Bodie, or do I have dump a bucket of water over you?" There was a loud rasp as he zipped the bag closed.
Abandoning sleep, Bodie yawned ostentatiously, ruined when Doyle thumped the edge of the bed.
"Get a move on, I'm not packing up your stuff as well," Doyle ordered.
Bodie sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He looked around the tiny room with its green fleur-de-lis wallpaper, at Doyle scrabbling under the bed for something, the glorious normality of Doyle's ill temper.
Doyle emerged from under the bed with a pair of socks. He unzipped the holdall, stuffed them in and dug out his electric razor.
"Where are we going?" If you don't mind my asking?" amazed that his voice too sounded altogether normal. He gritted his teeth as the razor started buzzing.
"Back to London."
"Oh, what earth-shattering crisis is it now?"
"No crisis," Doyle said in disgust. "Accommodations sold the flat block I live in; I have to be out by tomorrow." He grinned, cheek creasing. "Looks like you're lumbered with me for the next few days, sunshine."
Bodie's heart quickened. His gaze met Doyle's and held it steady for an instant, nerving himself up-for what?-then Doyle lowered his eyes. A hint of red stole across his cheeks.
Bodie stared at him, assailed by the uneasy impression of seeing him through a mist. He ought to say something, break the awkward silence. A dozen half-formed sentences floated through his mind, words of comfort, acceptance, promise, but he couldn't bring himself to utter them.
Doyle twisted his watch band back and forth. He could say something, Bodie thought in annoyance-Well, what was there to say, after all? He shook his head as if to clear it, and the moment thinned and faded, like mist under the morning sun.
"Yeah, well, don't you go throwing your grubby clothes all over my nice clean bedroom," Bodie said at last.
Doyle tossed his head. "Didn't I tell you? Cowley's assigned you valet duty until I'm on me own again."
Bodie snickered, more in relief at the ready renewal of the old banter than at Doyle's alleged wit. The secret failure coiling around his heart, of grief for an unknown loss, eased furtively away, and he let those feelings slither down into the dark where they belonged.
He dressed and packed before Doyle had put the shaver away. He made the bed with brisk efficiency and sat on the edge. Idly casting about for some other occupation while waiting, he spotted Doyle's sunglasses on the bedside table and pocketed them.
"I saw that," Doyle said.
"Saw what?" Bodie said.
"Hand 'em over."
With an air of studied nonchalance, Bodie complied. Really, there was no problem, he thought, he could handle Doyle.
"Time to go," Doyle announced and sauntered out, Bodie right behind him. "Flip you for who drives."
Bodie glanced over his shoulder. The door stood ajar. "Hang about." He trotted back to the room and dropped his bag, extracted the key from his pocket. The inside of the room looked dim all at once in contrast to the brightness outside. Everything was in order, tucked out of sight, as it should be. After a brief scan-just in case he had left anything undone-he closed the door and locked it, watching the metal glint dully in the sunlight, bemused by the creep of shadows across the knob as his hand moved.
"Keep your shirt on, I'm coming." He sighed and reshouldered his bag, then turned his back on the door and hurried to rejoin Doyle.
-- THE END --