Watching His Mouth
I knew he was do-able the first time I set eyes on him.
Admittedly, the eyes were giving me the hard-man stare, the full "I'm not impressed by you, Doyle, so you needn't think I am" bit. But his mouth... oh, his mouth was telling a different story altogether. You could see just looking at it, that mouth knew all about pleasure and pain and all the places in between and I knew - straight or bent or bi - he was do-able.
I was even more sure after I saw him out running. I'm not saying he doesn't grumble about it; we all grumble about it; it's bloody hard work; but underneath all that and the exercise high and the satisfaction when it's done; he loved it. Not the scenery, that's for sure, but the feel of himself, his body moving well within itself, muscle and breath and bone all working in harmony. He wasn't a... whatdyemacall'it?... narcissist; he was a sensualist.
He was also beautiful and in the early days I seriously considered going for it - wouldn't have been that difficult, with the right approach. All I'd have had to do was wait - for a day when we'd both escaped by the skin of our teeth and been left high as kites on adrenaline and the mere fact we were still alive or for some night when it had all gone horribly wrong and even hard men don't want to sleep alone. I could have gone for it then and, even after all this time, I don't reckon there's much doubt about what would've happened.
He was one hell of a temptation, I can tell you, especially as I hadn't been with a bloke in years, HM Constabulary tending to take a very dim view of that sort of thing.
But in the end I didn't - even in the early days I could tell we were going to make a hell of a team. It wasn't just that I found I could trust to him to watch my back (and vice versa) it was more that we started to ... sort of ... mesh. It got so that he only had to cock his chin and I knew he meant, "Watch out, chummy's round the corner with a .45". Sometimes it was even a bit weird - one of us would give the other the old nod and a wink and the next thing I knew we'd be acting on a plan neither of us could remember making. It's one thing to spend time with someone and start ending their sentences, everyone does that; but within a matter of days we'd begun to start 'em for each other too - one of us saying out loud what the other was thinking.
Well, you don't muck about with that sort of thing. I know half the squad thinks I keep me brains in me bollocks but even I know that there's nothing like sex for really fucking up a good team - so, like I said, I did nothing about it.
Didn't stop me thinking about it though; didn't stop me wanking about it either if you want to know the truth. Not all the time, of course, just sometimes, when the mood was right.
Though that was another odd thing. I mean, the one thing to be said for the do-it-yourself method is that you can have anything - whoever, whatever, however you want. Even stuff you normally wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. You want whips? You want chains? You want Chief Inspector Pierson of D. Division up against the wall of the holding cell in Bow Street nick? You can have it and no one any the wiser.
But when I thought of me and him it wasn't like that. It was... I dunno... easy. No strain, no stress, no fancy accessories, just me in a chair and him kneeling on the floor (not because I wanted to lord it over him - you just get the best angle that way). Just me and him and that mouth. Some nights ('specially, for some reason, when I'd dropped him off at his place and left him there on his own), some nights I only had to take hold of myself and imagine him kneeling there, that cropped black head and the milk-white arch of his shoulders between my knees and I'd be off like a rocket.
I made damn sure he never found out. I still wanted him but I'd decided against it. The sex would be glorious but, when we'd done that, I could see nothing but disaster afterwards. It was far too likely to end with him hating me (or himself and therefore me) or even worse, wanting more than I wanted to give him. There's always one who wants out before the other and that always leads to trouble. I wanted a quick fuck not a relationship. At least I thought that was what I wanted - stupid bastard.
So I settled for a damn good friend and glad to do so, because they're few and far between in my line.
Over the weeks and months I got to know him properly. It wasn't easy but, eventually, I got to know at least some of the Bodies that were wandering 'round in those bloody horrible outfits of his. There was the genuine hard man behind the glare and the big daft kid and the knight in shining armour and the damn good friend and the bloody good agent. I mean, he was good, is good, really good, best I ever worked with.
I've always found that sexy - people who are good at what they do. I knew a bird once, worked electronics for Special Branch and what she couldn't do with a directional mike wasn't worth doing. She wasn't that much to look at but, as soon as I saw her eavesdropping on someone during a band concert in Hyde Park, I fancied her something rotten. Same thing with him only more so.
Especially after I got to know the... well... tenderness of him. Fr'instance, he hated what they did to that Cottingham woman. He really hated it. I knew it stank but he felt for her personally, the woman she was, the way she was forcing herself into that hotel to sleep with the bastard who'd stitched her up.
It's a sort of imaginative sympathy, I suppose. When Ann an' me split up, he was the only person I could bear to have round me for days. It wasn't so much what he said; he didn't say much. If he'd said anything about, "Plenty more where that came from", I think I'd have decked him. No, none of that. He just hung around. When I wanted to talk he listened, when I didn't he sat round the flat, reading my books and drinking my scotch. And when I wanted to go out, get legless and pound three kinds of shit out of somebody, we went down to a pub outside Reading where nobody knew us and had a glorious turn-up with the local chapter of the National Front.
See what I mean about imaginative sympathy? He didn't care who we clobbered but he knew I'd feel better about it in the morning if there was a bit of social conscience in with the mayhem.
After that I got interested in all the Bodies, sort of like a hobby. I wanted to know more and I knew there was no point in asking outright so I watched him, gathering up all the bits and pieces, counting all the different Bodies, enjoying them.
And every time I thought I'd cracked him, every time I thought I knew who and what he was, I'd get a bit more: an off-hand comment about Africa; a few lines of poetry; another glimpse of gentleness; another one of the Bodies peering out from under the big tough joker - the only Bodie he wanted the world to see.
To tell the truth it got a bit beyond a joke. I started to catch myself watching him. We'd be out on an obbo somewhere, stuck in some poor sod's bedroom or jammed into the Transit and I wouldn't be watching out for the madman of the week - I'd be watching him. His hands on the binoculars, the flash of white nape over his collar as he bent his head. And his mouth, always his mouth.
I started to dream about that mouth.
This went on for what seemed like ages and then, about six months ago, it all came to a head in a half-built council house on the Isle of Dogs. I can't even remember who we were after, if I ever knew, but there was three of them and they had shooters.
It didn't last long, me and Bodie and Murph an' Charlie drove them into the end house and, after a bit of argy bargy and a few shots exchanged, they gave up. All in a day's work and home before News at Ten for once. Only one of their shots hit the door frame I was stood next to and I picked up a splinter, bloody great big thing size of my thumb, smack in the ribs.
Luckily it missed me good jacket but it made a (literally) bloody mess of the T-shirt. I was leaning up against the plasterboard, effing and blinding and trying to get the jacket off before I got blood on the leather, and Bodie came trotting over to see how bad it was.
He bent down to look, gentle hands on my chest and belly and then he made some crack about, "Bloody 'ell, Doyle, you sure you're not really the rightful heir to the Romanovs? I've never seen anyone bleed as much as you do from a piddling little flesh wound." I was just about to make some crack back, when he looked up, worry and relief and adrenaline written all over his face.
I swear to god I almost kissed him. Right there an' then, in front of Murph an' Charlie and the three musketeers, I damn near took that face in my hands and kissed the mouth I'd been dreaming about for a year and a half.
I didn't of course but I must have gone all pale or something because he got worried. He dragged the coat off one of the bad guys, bundled me up in it and dragged me off to St Thomas's, where a doctor (who looked about 14) added his handiwork to my world famous collection of chest scars.
Usually that sort of thing hurts like hell and usually I'd have been howling like a dog by the time he'd finished (I leave the stoical bit to my partner) but I was too shocked to feel much.
It was partly sheer surprise - how the fucking hell had I managed to keep this from myself all this time? 'Cause this wasn't just one wet dream too many. This was love, real honest-to-god love, the plunging stomach, the dry mouth, the wet palms, the pounding heart - love and nothing but.
It was very nearly ridiculous - all the way to the hospital in the car I'd been shifting around like a cat on hot bricks. It felt like my skin had been brushed up the wrong way with a velvet glove, all the hairs stood on end and I could feel every fold and seam of my clothes from the inside and there was this... sort of... pull towards him. I felt like all I wanted to do was lean forward and touch him, just the back of his hand, to feel his skin and the life of him running underneath.
This morning I'd been picked up by my best mate and occasional fantasy fuck, and I was being driven home by the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
The man who had never shown the slightest sign of wanting to spend the rest of his life with me.
Unrequited love. They write songs about it, they write poems about it. They never tell you how fucking humiliating it is.
I want to be with him all the time - if I didn't stop myself I'd follow him around like a lost dog. I want to spend all my time with him on duty and off, I want to lie awake and watch him sleep, I want to make him eat properly, I want to burn that godawful gray leather jacket and buy him some decent clothes, I want to teach him to play chess and I want to find out how he's managed to avoid learning all these years, I want to draw him from life, I want to know about Africa, I want to tell him the truth about my first and I want to hear about his and most of all I want to hear that I'm his last.
And of course there's sex. I always knew he was beautiful but now I see him sometimes and he stops my heart, the easy, unforced grace of him, that sudden grin, the predatory menace he can switch on and off at will, the odd purity of his violence which hardly ever contains any real anger. The other day we were on a recce and the only vantage point for the lock-up we were interested in was the bathroom of a house opposite. I was looking out of the tiny window when he came and leant up against me to have a look too, his shoulder against my back, one hip resting against mine, one hand on my shoulder, his breath moving my hair. By the time he moved away, I was so hard it hurt.
And I couldn't even lock myself in the bathroom and take myself off, because I've lost that as well. Now I know I love him, using him like that seems almost... well.... sacrilegious; as well as rubbing my nose in the fact that I'm never going to have him for real. I've even lost the fantasy seduction because that sort of "all blokes together" thing only really works if there's no emotional involvement and, now I love him, there's no way I could keep the right tone of voice or find the right words.
Instead I have the dreams. Oh I don't dream we're together - no, that would be too easy. I dream that he's dead, or that he's found some woman who's perfect for him, with the wit and strength to take him on at his own level. I don't even dream about us in bed anymore - I dream that he's waiting for me somewhere but I can't find him, the lift won't stop at the right floor or the numbers are missing off the doors. I dream I've asked him and he's revolted or angry or (worst of all) laughs.
P'raps it's a judgment. I feel like I ought to write to Annaliese and apologize - You were right Lies, it's hell. Poor old Annaliese, tried to force love and, when that didn't work, tried to buy it. All the undignified little shifts and tricks she used are coming back to haunt me now because I come so close to using them myself. The other day I caught myself pretending I'd turned my ankle, just so he'd give me an arm back to the car, just so I could touch him for a few minutes.
Sometimes I get so angry with him I want to grab him by the collar and yell in his face, "I love you, you son of a bitch, why don't you love me?" Which is bloody unfair because he does love me, in his way. The man would die for me, I know that; I don't think there's much he wouldn't do for me. We're so damn close to having it all and so fucking far away.
It's the squad that keeps me going. The work we do is so difficult that most of the time it takes all I've got to stay on top of it. It's the quiet moments that wear me down, in the car or on stakeout, when I have to sit there and laugh at his jokes and boast about some girl or other, trying to remember the name of the one I'm supposed to be with this week because most of the women I'm talking about don't exist.
I've been leading the double life for six months now. It hasn't got any easier except that I've learned how to control it. I know now that I can do it. I can keep the truth from him and I can keep it for as long as we've got. I'm here for the duration.
In fact that only thing that would make me go is... Well, I remember once hearing him tell someone, "Doyle couldn't keep a secret to save his life", but I'm keeping this one because - if he finds out - I've got to go. I won't stay for his anger, I won't stay for his pity and most of all I won't stay for a mercy fuck.
So I was resigned to it, the long haul, I had no expectations except more of the same until one of us got ourselves killed. I'd killed off hope a long time ago.
Only, yesterday I think I caught him watching me and I might be wrong but I think he was watching my mouth.
-- THE END --
Originally published in No Holds Barred 16, Kathleen Resch, 1997