by PR Zed
Second in the "Matchlight" series, following Matchlight and followed by Proving Ground and Night Promises.
Thanks to Ancasta and PFL for helpful beta comments.
It was our second week undercover when I noticed it, the scent of stale tobacco clinging to Bodie's clothes.
He'd come by the barrow for his daily check-in, looking scruffier even than me on my worst day. I'd nearly teased him for it, but he looked so miserable I didn't have the heart. He's not quite the shop's dummy he'd been when we were first partnered, but he does have his standards. Then he leaned across the barrow to hand me 10 p for the pear he'd pocketed and I smelled the smoke. Before I could stop myself, I'd wrinkled my nose in distaste.
"Don't turn up your nose at me, Doyle," Bodie said, embarrassment mixing with defiance in his voice. "Not easy washing up in a squat."
"It's not that," I said quickly, not wanting to push him away from me any more than I had done. "You've started smoking, haven't you?"
"Not much to do, sitting in that squat all day." he said, evading my gaze. "Smoking gives me a reason to talk to the punters. Cadge a fag, lend them a match. It's just the job."
"You want to watch yourself. You end up like Anson and I'll ask for a new partner."
"Wouldn't want that now, would I?" Bodie's voice was his usual blend of sarcasm and arrogance, but there was something else. An undertone that might almost have been hurt. Or defeat. But I knew I couldn't acknowledge it. Let on to Bodie that I knew he had feelings and there were other things I'd have to admit to. Things I wasn't sure that either of us was ready for. Not just yet.
"No, you wouldn't," I said, keeping my tone light. "And neither would I. Now sling your 'ook, would you?" I gestured him away with a thumb. "I don't want any of our players knowing we're too friendly."
"No, we wouldn't want that." With a nod he was gone, and I was left feeling like I'd lost something I hadn't known was mine.
Didn't dwell on it, though. I pushed the feeling out of my head and got on with the job. Got close to Esther. Very close, if you know what I mean. She's a nice girl, smart as a whip, and unwilling to put up with any old bollocks from me. Couldn't resist that, just like I can't resist sharing a warm bed with a willing body. Weak of me, I know, but there it is.
Bodie didn't say anything about what he thought about Esther, but I could guess. He respected her, her abilities at least, but he closed right down around her. None of the Bodie charm was wasted on Esther.
I understood why, entirely too well.
You see, Bodie and I have an understanding: fuck each other when we like, when we need something rough, something hard. Something now. Nothing serious, just a bit of fun between mates. That's what I've told myself. Assumed that's what Bodie'd told himself as well. But then we went undercover and his eyes got brittle and I realized that it wasn't just a bit of fun for me. Hadn't been for a long time.
I've been thinking more and more about Bodie these last few weeks. About him stuck in that squat, smoking those bloody cigarettes alone in the dark. About him sleeping in a reeking old sleeping bag while I'm in a comfortable bed, breathing in Esther's scent. About the way he won't meet my eyes when I mention Esther. About him stuck out there on his own where I can't look out for him.
I can still feel the strength of his arms around me the last time we fucked. Can still feel his teeth on my throat, hear the sound of his voice as he came, see the look in his eyes of lust and longing and possibly something else. And I think maybe, just maybe, Bodie is all I need. All I want.
For good or ill, this bloody assignment will be wrapped up soon. Esther will be on a plane back to Hong Kong; Bodie will be back in his own flat. Me, I'll have a decision to make.
I could say nothing. Could keep things as they are. Could fuck Bodie when we're both willing, both need it. Could keep wondering if that's reproach I see in his eyes. Could keep lying to myself that none of it means anything.
But that would be taking the safe way out, the coward's way out. I've been a lot of things, not all of them nice, but I've never been a coward. Don't intend to start now.
Because there's no one more important to me than Bodie. No one. It's long past time I admit it and it's long past time he knew it. Long past time for me to worship his body like he deserves.
Not that I'll ever declare my undying love. Not my style. Not Bodie's either. If I did something that daft, he'd only think I was taking the piss. Much as he loves poetry, he doesn't trust words. I reckon there've been too many people over the years who've made him promises they never kept. But actions... Actions are concrete. Actions are tangible. Bodie believes in actions.
Over the years, his actions have told me a lot. He's kissed me, fed me, protected me, stroked me, fucked me and saved me. Bodie's done it all. For me.
About bloody time I did something for him.
Cowley's bound to give us a few days off when this is all over. I'll use the time to look after Bodie. I'll have him over, ply him with food and booze, make sure he's good and relaxed, and then I'll have him.
To have and to hold him forever, that's what I want. And if it takes forever for Bodie to believe in it, to believe in us, that's all right. Forever is what I'll give him.
-- THE END --